Just a quick restaurant review from our trip down to Sorrento a couple weekends ago, with a slight focus on the beach side town as well. We went down there (mainly for emmy to go shopping) but also to see what else was interesting, I knew it was down Mornington Peninsula way but didn’t realise exactly where it was, quite close to a couple of very nice places, Point Nepean to the west, and Cape Schanck to the southeast.
But as a day trip, we didn’t really have time to visit any other place since we left quite late in the morning, we had some lunch, emmy did some shopping, we wandered along the beach for a bit, and then went home. So, about lunch, we went to Buckley’s Chance which seems to be the go-to cafe in the area, as emmy went there a few weeks ago and didn’t remember that it was the same place until we got there.
Let’s start with the food, I ordered a pulled pork burger (has a pickled cabbage salad and chips on the side), emmy got fish and chips (so boring!), and we got some fried eggs on toast for Oscar. Well, it turns out that we didn’t need the eggs since Oscar just needed chips. My burger was great, the pickled cabbage was a perfect complement to the pork which was very nice and tender. I didn’t try the fish, but the chips were okay, not Grill’d but acceptable I also got an orange juice which was quite substantial, emmy went with a hot choc, nothing special about the beverages but they were reasonable.
One thing that we did notice was the lack of water, we weren’t offered water at any point and it seems like a bit of an oversight, not sure if that is normal for them, but some water would definitely have been good, especially at the end of the meal. Overall, good meal, a bit pricey but that’s pretty normal considering it’s a tourist town.
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The final leg of our journey through Vietnam, well, it was broken into two legs as we hit Saigon first, then Phu Quoc, then went back to Saigon, but for the purposes of this recap here we are. To be honest, I didn’t take many pictures in Saigon, but that doesn’t mean that we were super lazy, just a little bit. We did venture out to eat some good things, as well as do some shopping (or at least I stood around while emmy perused the shops). I did manage to drive emmy’s uncle’s BMW through a few blocks of District 2, which was quite funny. But mostly, for me, I got to eat a bunch of nice dishes, we ventured out to District 1 most of the time, and wandered up some pretty old buildings, where all the cool, trendy fashion stores (and coffee shops) seem to be nowadays.
I got to enjoy a bunch of new dishes like Bun Cha Ca (fish cake noodle soup) which was awesome! As well as all the regular favourites, so good, no complaints from me that’s for sure, as you can see from the number of food pictures compared to the number of tourist shots. Saigon is definitely a foodie paradise, just so much variety, and very good quality, and the prices, so, so cheap. Popeyes Chicken is basically everywhere and like what KFC should be, spicy deep fried chicken (the chickens must be quite big, cos the pieces weren’t small like KFC). A lot of trendy coffee shops selling all sorts of cakes and desserts, as well as restaurants with foreign themes like the American BBQ place we went to. I love Vietnamese food so the fact that around every corner there is something good and cheap to eat is definitely my idea of paradise.
You probably couldn’t tell but my last picture is from Boxing Day, which is five days before we were supposed to leave for Singapore. Turned out that I had contracted Dengue Fever (probably in Phu Quoc) and was incapacitated for a week or so. So I can comment on the medical system of a foreign country for the first time! I stayed at an international clinic (spent a total of three nights over the course of five days in the clinic) on a drip, taking painkillers to keep my temperature at a manageable level. That wasn’t fun, but at least I had a private room and my insurance (eventually) covered the costs, and once I started feeling better and got some appetite, I got a skin rash which was really irritating! At least I got to eat pho ga the last couple days as that was pretty much all I wanted (could) to eat :D.
We were staying with family so nothing to report on accommodation, but in terms of transport, I can safely say that the way to go (if you can speak Vietnamese) is uber, it’s much cheaper than taxis and seems to be pretty available and on time in most places. Probably the only time it might be an issue is late at night and if you’re not in the central city area. The cars we rode in were all quite new and in good condition (and clean), at least as good as taxis, usually better.
So we ended up staying a few nights extra in Vietnam, didn’t go to SIngapore, and went straight back to Australia where I had a few more days to recover before heading back to work, and settling our new house! Very hectic period for us, but it’s mostly settled down now, and I can (hopefully) get back to posting some more stuff on here, and not just foodie posts too, although I hope to be able to keep that up to some degree. We went to Sorrento last week, but I don’t have much to report (I might do a short restaurant review), this week we’ve gone up to Mount Dandenong (Sky High Observatory) for a bit, so I will post some pictures (and laughs) from that later this week.
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All right, on to the next part of our journey, after about a week in Saigon (I’ll get to that in the next post), we flew out to Phu Quoc, an island paradise to the southwest of Vietnams mainland, it’s actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but I guess the poor Cambodians lost that one too. It’s a short flight, probably less than an hour, and from the airport we got a taxi to our hotel, four star Famiana Beach Resort, which is next door to five star Salinda Resort (where I wanted to stay). We decided to stay in this area as it was not too far from the city centre of Duong Dong which is the main city on the island, we just didn’t want to be anywhere too remote. The plan was basically to relax, and not do too much, maybe do one day of touring, and two days of chilling by the beach, we had three nights there in total.
The private hotel beach was very nice, and was probably the highlight of the trip, especially since taking little Oscar around makes things a little difficult, he also decided that he was in a tantrum throwing mood most of the time there, so that was fun. The sea waters were quite calm and the beach clean, the sand nice and soft under foot, and if the waves were too powerful (lol), then the hotel had a nice swimming pool to relax in as well. I thought that the hotel was good, breakfast buffet was solid and well rounded, and service quite diligent, emmy didn’t think that the “Resort” title was justified though.
For our day trip, we just jumped on a stock standard south island tour, which visited a pearl farm (boring), a buddhist temple of some description, Sao Beach (whether it was any better than our hotel beach, I’m not sure), a Prisoner of War camp (called Coconut Tree Prison), and a fish sauce factory – where you can buy fish sauce but apparently you can’t fly with it, so I’m not sure what the point of buying it is – before heading home a bit after lunch time. That was it for visiting stuff, I didn’t even get a tropical sunset picture, I left the room too late the one chance I had to get a tropical sunrise picture and had to settle for some boats on the horizon shots.
We were so ridiculously lazy that we ate at the hotel one lunch time, and probably across the road at the local restaurants every other time except twice where we ventured to the city centre and had crab at the crab restaurant, and another time we had dinner at a seafood restaurant (with rats running around nearby!). The food was actually quite nice generally, expensive (relatively speaking), but there’s a good variety of Vietnamese island food and regular Vietnamese food.
The Crab Restaurant was pretty hipster-y but good quality nonetheless, and one of the restaurants across the road from the hotel we ordered Canh Chua Ca (sour fish soup) and it was very nice, just like home made (which is a good thing). I didn’t really rate Phu Quoc the island that highly for things to do (although having a toddler can alter your perception), but I certainly wouldn’t complain about the food. There are probably a lot of fun things to do there if you’re not looking after a 20-month old little monster, and/or you’re not super lazy, good place to chill at least. Next up, back to Saigon to finish off our trip, our stay there was interesting to say the least.
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We had a short stop in Da Nang, just one night before heading down to Saigon, it’s really close to Hoi An, only thirty minutes drive, basically along the coast. If we had more time it would definitely have been worth paying a visit to the beach, looked like quite a nice coast line and some nice beaches as we drove past the myriad resorts. We however, were staying on the riverside so no beach for us, and we were too lazy to go to the beach anyway. We did manage to visit a big open air seafood restaurant, for lots of yummy fresh seafood, and also hired a taxi for a ride up Chessboard Point, which is a hill/mountain that provides a really nice view of the city and sea. There are also some rare endangered monkeys (pretty sure they are just macaques but who knows) that live in the mountain forests but you can only see them in the early morning apparently (we were there mid-morning). On the way back down to Da Nang, we also went past the very fancy Intercontinental Hotel (six stars!) and also visited a big Buddhist temple that has a big statue of the Guanyin, but that place wasn’t particularly great.
We stayed at Brilliant Hotel which was quite central and right next to the river, our room had a very good view of the river and several of the bridges that span the river, which light up at night and provide spectacular nightly light shows. There was a bit of a safety concern with the room as the windows could be opened (with the handles also being within reach of small children) and no real protection against such things happening. The hotel has a rooftop bar which has a pretty spectacular view of the city and is open at night for anyone to go up and snap some pictures (without the need to purchase anything). There is also a swimming pool and small gym, the pool is nice (very stuffy though) and the breakfast buffet had a pretty big selection of local and foreign dishes, pretty good all around.
We had some great food at the seafood restaurant, really fresh and tasty, loud and busy place, great atmosphere. I think if we could spend a bit more time in Da Nang we wouldn’t be disappointed. Good food, beaches, and some other touristy things nearby, I think that there were more places nearby that had nice views of the surrounds. There are a lot of pretty spectacular bridges that span the river that flows through Da Nang, and more night views of them would definitely be worth it. That’s it for this time, I won’t do two separate posts for Saigon, so next stop will be Phu Quoc, then I’ll lump all of the Saigon stuff in one post after that.
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Moving on to central Vietnam, we flew down to Da Nang before driving to Hoi An to stay for a couple nights. We were pretty lame, didn’t really have a plan of what we were going to do apart from visit the old town. Apparently there is a beach near Hoi An but we wouldn’t know, it was hot, really hot, coming from Hanoi and quite draining of our collective energies :D. We managed to stroll through the old town on one afternoon/evening catching most of the tourist sites around there, the bridge, the Cantonese assembly hall (but not the Fukien one I think, I don’t remember). We saw enough lanterns to last a lifetime, and even bought a couple that are sitting in boxes in the garage catching dust. It’s quite a nice town, picturesque and calm.
On our second day we decided to to go and check out some tailors as Hoi An is quite famous for it, we went to a couple of recommended places, and ended up at Bebe 3. I ended up getting a slim fit suit (which is hanging in the wardrobe as clean as the day I bought it lol), I think I had three fittings and the suit was delivered to our hotel before we checked out the next morning. I squeezed in a shirt and got a tie for free as part of a discount offer provided by the hotel all for 250$ USD.
Emmy got a dress from the same place, a very nice dress that she also hasn’t worn yet (we’re waiting for a special occasion). On top of that emmy wanted to check out another tailor (across the road from Bebe) to spread the wealth and make sure that we weren’t pigeon-holing ourselves into one store (Bebe was definitely better though) and picked up a blazer for about 100$ USD. All of these shops are quite pushy and trying to sell you stuff, but I personally preferred Bebe as they were asking in a nice way, and the customer service was friendlier. The girls (they’re all girls that work at these places) at the other place just don’t seem to have any training in hospitality or something, not cheaper and service not as good.
Really though, the most important part of any trip is the food, amirite? Hoi An is also quite famous for its cuisine, which we very happily indulged in. A couple of famous dishes, Mi Quang and Cao Lau, both noodle dishes, one from the country and one from the city (I forget which), and both were delicious, even though the places we visited were quite random and we wouldn’t know how to get back to the same ones if we went back. The two places we went to, I don’t think you’d find them in a guide book or anything, we pretty much just walked along some street a bit down from where the tailors shops are and found the first place that was open for Cao Lau. The Mi Quang place we asked the hotel for a recommendation and they sent us on a taxi ride to the outskirts of town it seemed, some restaurant along the highway or something.
Other than that, we also went to the recommended place for Hoianese chicken rice which is quite similar to Hainanese chicken rice :D, it was quite good too. A couple of random-ish places we tried, the vegetarian restaurant that was the only restaurant open apparently the day we arrived, somewhere further from town, certainly nothing special unless you wanted the really local feel, and the Banh Mi “restaurant” where we got some local Hoi An bread rolls, they were okay but I much prefer the Saigon style ones that you get at Nhu Lan in Footscray :D.
Finally, the accommodation, we stayed at Little Boutique Hotel which is quite central, right on the canal, and about a ten minute walk from the old town. This was a very nice hotel, first class service, a nice little swimming pool, and a very nice room, luxurious even. Apparently there was a free beach shuttle, but we never bothered going to the beach, too much shopping to do :D.
They gave us a lot of great helpful advice and the buffet breakfast was very well stocked with a great variety of Vietnamese and western regulars. They arranged for a shuttle service to take us to our hotel in Da Nang which was convenient, I mean we had to pay for it, but still, door to door, can’t argue with that. Very highly recommended, we’ll stay there next time we need some fancy clothes ;). And with that we’ll be moving on to Da Nang, I was going to include both central cities in this post, but Hoi An really took over.
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Man, it’s been desolate here, and is this long overdue, like three months, I am so lazy, but here I am now, ready to kick start a new year of dtraCorp madness. We started our trip to Vietnam by heading to the north, emmy’s home town and birth place, Hanoi (the capital). We never planned to do much there (I think we had three days there including a night in Vinh to take care of some family business), other than eat some good food. So this post is going to pretty much be food, and some reviews of our accommodation and transport.
We stayed at a hotel called Lucky Hotel in Hanoi, which wasn’t great, and I certainly wouldn’t have picked it if it was my choice, but it wasn’t the worst place I’ve stayed in, that’s for sure. Dark and not particularly clean (not dirty, just not sparkling or anything) with pretty basic amenities, the positive is that it is quite centrally located (near Hoan Kiem Lake). We travelled by train (the north-south train from Hanoi to Saigon) down to Vinh, the train is on time when leaving Hanoi and we also got quite a clean one heading south for the six hour train journey. It went quite smoothly and arrived at a reasonable time I think.
In Vinh, we stayed at the Saigon Kiem Lien Hotel which is actually a four star hotel, so was a reasonable quality, but I don’t think that it’s had any work done since it was opened as it was starting to show it’s age a bit. Still, better than the Lucky Hotel in Hanoi, and very reasonably priced too (not that I paid for anything), we didn’t do anything in Vinh other than drive out to the ancestral cemetery and do some of that stuff, before getting the train (this train was old and creaky and ran late) back to Hanoi the next day.
I don’t have a picture of the wonton noodles that emmy’s cousin took out to eat, but not a big deal, they were yummy, we were out and about a lot, so other than home cooking at emmy’s aunties’ place, we ate a lot of sticky rice (quite good) wrapped in paper while travelling around. And so that’s it for the first of this series, I’ll be back tomorrow (or more probably the day after) with the next in this series, Hoi An and Da Nang.
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Well, this is a very late post because we tried this place out for emmy’s birthday (her birthday tradition is to try a new authentic Japanese restaurant) which was in November, so apologies for holding out so long on this delicious (but expensive) sushi restaurant. The head chef at Minamishima used to work at Kenzan, so the quality had to be pretty high. This post will be easy but also a little boring, we took pictures (thanks to my photographer, emmy :)) of every one of the fifteen dishes as well as the extra dessert that we ordered (which we totally shouldn’t have but we did because we’re gluttons), and I took notes on all of them especially so that I could post them here. So without further ado, the pictures (I’ll number them so that you can easily match the picture to the description):
I don’t know how we ended up with 18 dishes, it was only meant to be 15, but any way, super expensive but it probably was the best sushi that we’ve ever had, maybe we can try something similar in Japan next time, if we sell our functional and healthy organs. That’s it for now, we just went to Shoya for Valentines Day, so expect another post about that soon (hopefully a little more fun).
Note: I forgot to mention that Minamishima came over and had a chat with us (can’t remember when during the meal), told us that he was from the central region near where we visited in July, seemed like a nice bloke, emmy tried to impress him by speaking some Japanese :D, maybe he gave us some extra tuna belly for that (we got three pieces if I remember correctly).
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I interrupt the Japan review posts with a restaurant review, I’ve been wanting to try out Hanabishi for a very long time, and finally decided that our (emmy and my) fourth anniversary dinner was as good a time as any. Hanabishi is a fine dining Japanese restaurant that has been around for 30 years or so (I think) and has achieved many awards. So even though we’d been eating real, authentic Japanese food for two weeks, emmy needed a hotpot fix, and turns out the Japanese do hotpot as well. There are two options (as far as I’m aware) when it comes to Japanese hotpot, sukiyaki – which is a pot of sweet saucy soup that you don’t actually drink, or shabu shabu – which is more along the lines of a traditional hotpot whereby you do drink the soup, it’s a dashi broth, we went with sukiyaki (because I didn’t know which was which beforehand). I’m pretty sure I would go with shabu shabu every time, I didn’t realise how sweet the sukiyaki sauce is.
Looking at the menu, I always wanted to try one of the set menus (which are quite varied and cover everything), but emmy was craving hotpot, so that’s what we went with, plus some sashimi and dessert as well.
There was a Tasmanian sea urchin sashimi special, so we thought we’d give it a go since we’re both really starting to enjoy the texture of this strange seafood. Well, it was really fresh and very smooth, no fishy smell or taste (as you’d expect from a restaurant with such a reputation), I don’t know how people in the know would eat this, but for me, definitely needs wasabi and a good lathering of soy sauce to get the most out of it.
On to the sashi set (entree) which has kingfish, tuna, salmon, and salmon tartare, it’s always great to eat really nice, fresh sashimi, the salmon was a bit ridiculous, they were sliced quite thickly but the samon was just falling apart (flaking?) when picked up, great stuff, I love sashimi, I’ll leave it at that.
Now for the main, sukiyaki with wagyu beef slices, spinach, and udon on the side, as well as wombok, mushroom and onions in the broth. The beef was great, I really don’t think you even need the premium grade stuff (says the person that didn’t want to pay for it), it is so rich, the broth is probably a little too sweet for my taste, but then you’re not meant to drink it, still, if I had my time over again, I’d go with the shabu shabu, I like udon in broth.
Finally, we have the dessert platter (small one for two) which contains a little bit of everything (except for the three other dishes you get in the larger selection). We got some chocolate cake, egg tart, coconut sorbet, anmitsu (fruit and jelly), green tea creme brulee, and a green tea mousse. Each dessert by itself cost about $15 dollars (I’m guessing that they’d be larger portions), and the platter cost $33 by itself so we got try a bit of everything for the price of two desserts (we usually only ever share one dessert). How do you pick a favourite, creme brulee I guess, I’m a big flan/creme brulee fan now, and it’s one of my favourites (along with iced cream), the chocolate cake covert in chocolate sauce was a bit soggy or wet for my liking, I liked the anmitsu second best along with the coconut sorbet I would say.
Just for a piece of high judgement, I would like to mention the couple that were sitting on the table next to us, it was quite entertaining for us, as they ordered a lot of food, shabu shabu (premium wagyu), a dozen oysters, sea urchin, grilled fish with rice. Now I am the type that will ignore people at the table and play on my phone occasionally, but if these two weren’t arguing about something or another, or eating, they were staring at their phones (maybe they were instant messaging each other, I don’t know), and to top it off, they had udon and spinach left over, which they requested to take away! Udon, maybe you could make a case (not really), but spinach?!?! Really? I guess it’s better than throwing the food in the rubbish bin, but maybe don’t over order next time.
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Happy Birthday me, 33, just like my number, and multiplying each digit together equals my birthday. Any way, moving on, my better half surprised (as if I didn’t know) me with dinner at a fancy French restaurant, something that we haven’t done before. Bistro Thierry in Prahran is pretty French, from waiters with French accents (mostly) to all the pots and pans, baguettes to escargot, and creme brulee. We each ordered an entree along with a main, and a glass of wine (as chosen by the waiter) and shared the dessert as we usually do. This being a French restaurant, of course we also ordered some traditional French Fries.
I had the steak tartare, while Huyen (her name is not em or emmy) had escargot, I would have to say that the steak tartare was the highlight of the meal for me, beautifully tender and a very flavoursome vinegarette on top. The escargot were yum, but the sauce was probably a bit rich, very buttery, the snails were cleaner (no grit) than the ones we ate in Vietnam, but the sauce was too overpowering.
On to the mains, emmy had one of the fish of the day, pan seared snapper on black rice, she just told me that it was good but did not have any wow factor. Meanwhile, I went with duck confit, it was good except that the skin crackling on top was just too salty. The french fries were good (although we probably should have gone with a salad instead), as were the baguettes on the table.
For dessert we ordered the creme brulee (not pictured) as we tend to do, I liked it, but it wasn’t anything special, I wonder if there is anything that can make it really stand out. That’s it, good service, good atmosphere, food a little pricey, and tending toward being a bit rich (that’s French cuisine I guess), a good meal, but I don’t think that I’d put French food up there in my favourite cuisines.
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Yeah, it’s been a while since I posted anything, busy I guess, and even this is a re-post from my old site, but it’s too good not to appear here. So I learnt this recipe while I was in Peru (not when I went to Mexico ha!), and from our tour guide on the Inca Jungle Trek of all people. We were pretty much at the last stop before hitting Machu Picchu, and had stopped for lunch before making our way to Aguas Calientes for the night (and Machu Picchu in the dark early morning). We only had crackers, but this was avocado (aguacate) country, so for our entree to lunch, our guide made a quick guacamole dip. I’m sure everyone has their own twist on guacamole, it’s a very simple dip/sauce to make, but I thought I’d throw mine in the mix.
The ingredients are as follows:
The following are optional extras:
I’ve tried this guacamole with both corn chips and with chicken tortillas, and for my personal tastes, it was really good, I was very happy to say the least, because it was the first time I actually made it, for the chicken tortillas, and I was working from memory. Give it a go, but I think avocados are seasonable fruit, so don’t bother if the avocados aren’t in season I guess. That’s a fast, easy dip for chips and chicken based tortillas/tacos. One avocado is about right for a pack of corn chips (180g I think).
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