Posts in Category: reviews

Japan 2016: Pottery class with Shigeru Sensei

Kyoto pottery: My finished products

My finished products

The first part of Emmy’s birthday series involved a pottery class with Shigeru sensei (40 years of pottery making experience!), Emmy found this one herself as she wanted to try something really authentic for her birthday, and of course I wasn’t going to miss out. This was a very personal experience as it was a private class with just Shigeru sensei and the two of us. Located near Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, his studio is in some back street that may as well have been underground, there’s no way we would’ve found it based on the address alone, so it’s a good thing he came out to the entrance of the shrine to lead us to the studio. The shrine itself was quite nice and had quite a number of trees showing there Autumn colours, I didn’t get any pictures as we were on the clock a bit and I didn’t want to hold us up.

It was quite good because Shigeru sensei gave us a little bit of a guided tour through the shrine grounds and explained the correct way to pray/wish and what most people go to the shrine for (academic success FTW!) before leading us through a bit of a maze of small streets to his studio.

Pottery: Display room

Display room

He has a little presentation room at the front of the studio and lead us to the back where the magic happens. First we had some theory about the different techniques used in moulding and shaping the clay before we jumped in and started wedging. I wasn’t very good so spiral wedging ended up just squishing the same part over and over, but Emmy’s was better and she got some spiral pattern going on her clay. Once our clay had been wedged appropriately we took a morning tea break and enjoyed some yummy mochi and green tea, all served on some of Shigeru sensei’s custom creations I’m sure. Actually, the mochi was really, really nice, soft and sweet, but not too sweet (and its green colouring was actually from some kind of grass which apparently random old people pull out in random areas around the city). And the tea was a blended green tea with rice.

Pottery: Shigeru sensei getting started

Shigeru sensei getting started

After that sweet break it was back to the grind, and Shigeru sensei explained the differences between the Japanese pottery wheel and the western pottery wheel before showing us what we needed to do to turn our blobs of clay into works of art.

Pottery: Shigeru sensei working his magic

Shigeru sensei working his magic

He makes it looks so easy and explains it in words but also helps guide you as the clay spins around, ever the novice my clay didn’t “die” properly and tried to leap off the wheel before Shigeru sensei captured it and we had another go at killing it and moulding some dtraCorp special art.

Eventually, I (with a very large amount of help) had completed my three pieces, a tea bowl, a bowl for all seasons, and a sake cup, and it was Emmy’s turn to turn some dirt into a work of art. Either Emmy is a natural, or listens and follows instructions very well, or I’m just a complete tragic, because she seemed to have a lot more control of the clay than I did. She was going so well that Shigeru sensei decided to show her a technique of trimming some clay off the top, this didn’t go so well and we lost quite a bit of clay in the process :D. Never fear though, we moved on and completed three more pieces although a disappointed Emmy worked her last item a bit too much and it ended up being a bowl instead of a cup.

So we ended up with six items ready to be baked and glazed as Shigeru sensei sees fit, all going well in a couple months they’ll all arrive (we have to pay for shipping on top of the class fee) looking completely different from how we left them :D. If not all, we should get at least three or four of them and the others will be left to return to the Earth from where they came (or back into the clay pile for future students!).

  • Pottery: Shelves of student work
    Shelves of student work
  • Pottery: Lesson 1
    Lesson 1
  • Pottery: Shaping the clay
    Shaping the clay
  • Pottery: Cutting the bowl
    Cutting the bowl
  • Pottery: Finished and ready to bake
    Finished and ready to bake
  • Pottery: Killing the clay
    Killing the clay
  • Pottery: Unfinished products
    Unfinished products
  • Pottery: Moulding the clay
    Moulding the clay
  • Kyoto pottery: Sake bottle
    Sake bottle
  • Kyoto pottery: Tea bowl, sake cup, all seasons bowl
    Tea bowl, sake cup, all seasons bowl

Shigeru sensei was kind enough to walk us back to the bus stop and lend us an umbrella (as we’d neglected to take one out) so that we could head to Nishiki market for some afternoon snacking. This was a great experience and I would think that we’ll definitely do it again next time we are in Kyoto, it’s not only fun and informative, but you get something out of it (as in some artisan pottery) at the end as well. Two thumbs up, definite recommendation!

P.S. Off topic, but I should mention it, don’t let the gritty nature of Shigeru sensei’s studio workshop fool you, his rest room is in full working order and provides all of the Japanese comforts required for peaceful Zen time in the loo.

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Japan 2016: Himeji Castle

Moving right along, we didn’t really plan much for this day, it was the day before Emmy’s birthday and my original plan was to head north to Sanzen-in and Enkoji for the day as the weather was good. But we decided to take it somewhat easy and just head to Kyoto station in the morning before spending the afternoon at Himeji Castle. I planned Himeji Castle to be a whole day trip but under advice from Emmy we decided it was only a half day site. We didn’t visit Himeji on our first trip because it was still being renovated at the time.

Himeji Castle

We gave ourselves about three hours to spend at the castle (plus one hour each way on the shinkansen) which we hoped would be enough to also visit the garden, but it turned out that we only had time to visit the main keep and the west bailey. The garden was closed by the time we finished wandering the main keep so we just had a stroll through the west bailey instead. It’s a nice castle but having now seen three of the national treasure castles of Japan (Hikone and Matsumoto) I think I can safely say that I’m over visiting castles. I really think Matsumoto is a more pleasant experience and is more photogenic with it’s large moat. The inside of the castle is largely the same and only the views are different, perhaps the castle might have looked nicer from the garden, we’ll probably never know.

  • Moat outside Himerji Castle
    Moat outside Himerji Castle
  • Himeji Castle
    Himeji Castle
  • Himeji Castle
    Himeji Castle
  • Himeji Castle
    Himeji Castle
  • Himeji Castle
    Himeji Castle
  • Himeji Castle: View from the top
    View from the top
  • Himeji Castle
    Himeji Castle

We didn’t get a chance to see anything else in Himeji aside from the station and the wide boulevard from the station, it seems like a nice town and even has quite a few shops to keep the ladies interested. Don’t quote me but I’m pretty certain that this was the last castle that we’ll ever visit (as in buy the ticket and go up to the top of the main keep), but it was a nice one to go out on. You never know we might stop by in cherry blossom season or something but all the views would definitely be from the outside. It was also a bit unfortunate that the weather was so clear because some dramatic clouds would definitely have spruced up the pictures.

That’s it, it was a pretty easy day, next up, Emmy’s birthday which I’ll split into a couple posts because we did some cool things that need their own articles, really fun stuff.

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Japan 2016: Kyoto – Arashiyama and Kiyomizu Dera

Arashiyama

Arashiyama: Ghost in the bamboo forest

Ghost in the bamboo forest

After arriving at our Kyoto airbnb at about 6.30pm on a Saturday evening we were pretty tired and just wanted to settle in a bit, so we didn’t do anything but plan the next day. Having checked the weather forecast and our own plans for Kyoto we decided to head to Arashiyama for the morning/day trying to take it at a slower pace. One of the places that we didn’t visit our first time around in Kyoto, the bamboo forest of Arashiyama has been on my wishlist ever since.

Originally, the plan was to visit Arashiyama and Koko Dera which are both on the western side of Kyoto, but we visited Tenryuji in Arashiyama and that took up quite a bit of time, so we left it at that for the west. I’m not really sure if we saw all of the bamboo forest as it didn’t seem to be that big (just a few lanes) before we came across Tenryuji and decided to visit for some temple goodness.

Tenryuji

Arashiyama: Tenryuji, Cleansing water

Cleansing water

This was a very popular temple and it was easy to see why, it had a beautiful pond with viewing area, and a nice easy strolling garden. The koyo was starting to show around the pond giving some amazing photo opportunities, which everyone was lapping up.

Arashiyama: Tenryuji, giant bonsai

Tenryuji, giant bonsai

The garden was full of colourful flowers and some very well maintained trees, I like to call them giant bonsai for lack of a better term (I am not well versed enough to know what to google to find the actual tree type), and also some mossy areas. But certainly the highlight was the pond with zen garden and viewing platform.

We decided that that was enough sightseeing in this area and headed back to central Kyoto, grabbing some treats along the way (the hot red bean cakey things are always a winner) before deciding to head to Kiyomizu Dera and sannenzaka/ninenzaka for the afternoon rush.

Kiyomizu Dera

I don’t know if it was because it was Sunday or not, but Kiyomizu Dera was absolutely jam packed to the rafters, making the whole experience a little bit less than ideal. We’ve been to Kiyomizu Dera three times now and only once it wasn’t bursting with visitors (and that was due to it pouring rain and basically causing a new river to flow through Kyoto), so maybe it’s like that everyday when the weather is good.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Kiyomizu Dera, it has the beautiful view of Kyoto as well as the tree cover (still green when we visited, again…) but the temple and grounds themselves aren’t that impressive. I guess sometimes you just need that one thing that trumps all others, and at Kiyomizu Dera the view is quite spectacular despite the lack of Autumn colours. We also left before the sun set so we had a pretty high in the sky sun making it hard to take the best of pictures.

  • Arashiyama: Bamboo abstract?
    Bamboo abstract?
  • Arashiyama: Tenryuji, bright flower
    Tenryuji, bright flower
  • Arashiyama: Tenryuji, big fish in the pond
    Tenryuji, big fish in the pond
  • Arashiyama: Tenryuji, mirror pond
    Tenryuji, mirror pond
  • Kiyomizu Dera, still green
    Kiyomizu Dera, still green
  • The road to kiyomizu dera
    The road to kiyomizu dera
  • Kiyomizu Dera: Lantern on ninenzaka
    Lantern on ninenzaka

Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka

We headed back down the narrow road toward home (bustling as always, which can make for a nice people motion blur shot), but as always, took the detour down these antique streets which genuinely are quite charming. Full of shops selling souvenirs and other goods, as well as services like pottery classes and restaurants it’s definitely a must-visit for its looks as well as what is behinds its doors. We got to the end of the street and walked out on to the main road and realised that it was very near the supermarket that our airbnb host had showed us the previous day, making it very close to where we were staying. So we were staying super close (15 minutes or so walking) to Kiyomizu Dera, Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka, and Gion, I’ll have more on our accommodation later.

Next up, we visit Himeji Castle for a chill Monday.

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Japan 2016: Hiroshima and Miyajima

We only spent one night in Hiroshima, and one morning in Miyajima but we packed in quite a bit. We arrived at Narita Airport on a Friday morning and immediately proceeded to transport ourselves for six and a half hours across the country, and even this didn’t quite go as planned as there was some kind of delay on the train lines (even Japan is not immune). So arriving at Narita at 9am, we didn’t manage to leave until about 11.30am and didn’t get to Hiroshima until about 6pm, tired, sweaty, and smelly. So it was dinner time and we went out and looked for some grub heading back to plan out the day ahead.

Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style

Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style

At the station we decided to try Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style, which is basically Okonomiyaki with noodles fried in. It was okay, not great, probably regular Okonomiyaki is more to my liking. The noodles just end up making the pancake fall apart everywhere. But anyway, that was our take on Hiroshima dining, we didn’t spend enough time to try anything else other than instant noodles.

What did we do?

So the plan we decided on with our very precious time, was to visit the nuclear dome and the peace park in the morning then get down to Miyajima for a wander before jumping on a shinkansen to Kyoto in the afternoon. When we woke up the next morning, some of our party had noticed that a lot of people had been streaming past the building where we were staying all morning. So as we were heading to the station with all of our luggage, we saw the streams and streams of people dressed in red walking the other way. They were supporters of the local baseball team, the Hiroshima Carps, it turns out that Hiroshima is a big baseball town, and they had just won the central league championship, this merited a parade and celebration, and we had arrived just in time to see it, but we decided not to.

Without much time, we put our luggage into a locker at the station and caught the first bus to the nuclear dome, we didn’t plan on visiting the museum as that was most likely going to be depressing and take quite some time. We meandered around the dome building and then made our way across the bridge to the Peace Park (which was quite pleasant). We were a little disappointed that the Autumn colours had not arrived yet, but turns out we got it wrong, and Autumn moves from north to south, so Hiroshima is probably colouring right about now! Little did we know that the baseball parade meant that the bus stops on the park side were not operating and we had to go back to the dome bus stop to get back to the train station to get the train to the ferry station to Miyajima, oops.

  • Floating Torii, Miyajima
    Floating Torii, Miyajima
  • Floating Torii, Miyajima
    Floating Torii, Miyajima
  • Hiroshima baseball champions parade
    Hiroshima baseball champions parade
  • Autumn is coming, Hiroshima War Memorial Peace Park
    Autumn is coming, Hiroshima War Memorial Peace Park
  • Nuclear Dome, Hiroshima
    Nuclear Dome, Hiroshima

The ferry to Miyajima is quite a short ride and once on the island we decided to split up with the rest of the group and meet back in a couple hours.

Deer looking for a feed

Deer looking for a feed

Oysters are a local specialty on Miyajima so we had to try those, even with pesky deer roaming the streets looking for a free feed. This one was nosing around sleeping Oscar and me even though we didn’t have any food, I had to shoo it away before it woke up the little master. On to Itsukushima shrine and the floating torii, it’s quite a nice place to visit and I do wish we had more time there, in my head I have it planned out for next time when we visit Kyushu only. We’ll go and stay in Miyajima for one night and maybe Hiroshima as well (or just visit the Japanese garden there) so that we can walk around the trails around Mount Misen and get all of the best views of the torii with peak light. There are a lot of tourists there during the day, one would imagine in the later afternoon and evening, even in the early morning there would be much less people and a calmer atmosphere.

This was truly a hectic day and half, and travelling to Kyoto as well meant that this second day was as rushed as the first (albeit with some sight-seeing mixed in). We did a fair bit in Kyoto too, so I’ll probably break that up into several posts (possibly one for each day), see ya next time!

Accommodation

We stayed at an airbnb which was so-so, clean (obviously) and with wifi, but nothing great, weird traditional bathroom. I won’t bother linking to it since it was nothing special and you can find anything that will be the same or better.

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Spilt Milk: Breakfast

So we had a baby shower to get to over the weekend, scheduled for 1pm which is a bit of an awkward time when you have a toddler who has to have lunch and a nap. We were actually wanting to go to Left Field, which is an amazingly popular cafe in Carnegie, but driving past and seeing how busy it was and the queues streaming into the street with more people seemingly appearing everywhere, we decided that we had neither the time, nor the patience to wait. We went to another cafe in Carnegie closer to the main strip that we’ve been to before, Spilt Milk. I only had a very vague memory of this place from the last time (about two years ago), and afterwards I can now safely say I know why.

  • Poached eggs with bacon: Spilt Milk
    Poached eggs with bacon
  • Chilli Eggs: Spilt Milk
    Chilli Eggs

The food on the menu is peculiarly named, with each dish going by the name of an animal, maybe to make ordering easier. Emmy had the chilli eggs (I can’t remember the animal name) while I went with the donkey aka poached eggs with bacon. Reading the menu, the prices were a bit lower than I’m used to, and then when the meals came out, I could see why, they’re quite small and (for me) more suitable for a pure (first meal of the day) breakfast than a brunch/lunch meal. The chilli eggs looked all right, and while my poached eggs were over cooked, it didn’t ruin the meal, the aioli was quite tasty. I doubt that we’ll be going back to this place though if we can remember this meal, nothing special, and small-ish portions.

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Son of Tucci: brunch

Another week, another foodie post, you get the idea, this has basically become a foodie blog over the past year, I guess that’s where the big bucks are. This cafe is pretty close to our place, like five minutes drive and we didn’t even know it existed. Fortunately for us our friends visiting from Adelaide had brunch here a couple weeks ago and recommended it to us. They also recommended another place to us which I’m sure we’ll visit in the future at some point as well.

  • Brunch: Reuben
    Reuben
  • Brunch: Fruit juice
    Fruit juice
  • Brunch: Sweet potato corn fritters
    Sweet potato corn fritters

Straight into the food, emmy ordered the sweet potato corn fritters which come with poached eggs, she didn’t offer me any so I can only presume that they were indeed very well done. I did have a little crumb from the corn fritters and it was very crunchy indeed, always a good thing. She had a hot chocolate with that, it was on the slightly bitter side which is our preference, so two thumbs up right there.

Having had breakfast not long before we left for brunch, I didn’t feel up for the burger and chips, so I took it easy and settled for the ruben sandwich, a nicely toasted sanga with all those nice salty cold cut meats, cheese, mustard and some pickles on top. I know what you’re thinking, that sounds bloody amazing, and yep, it seems like something that would be pretty hard to stuff up, one more thumb up from me. Look at it, this is obviously a very subdued version but that was perfect for how I was feeling. I also ordered the red rita juice there that had beetroot, ginger, apple, and some other fruity thing blended in, nice and sour, with a bit of sweetness too.

Oscar loved his mushrooms and bread, the scrambled eggs not so much, but I don’t think that was anything to do with the eggs, just his preference on the day. If we had a regular, this would probably be it, I’m sure when we’re feeling lazy this will probably be the place that I vote for. There are a bunch of other sandwiches I need to try (as well as the burger), and probably the eggs benedict too (although it’s ham not salmon).

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Signature Lunch at Komeyui, plus I got married!

On Saturday, it finally happened, I drove to the city on CityLink, oh, and also I got married to my lovely Emmy, but this post isn’t about that (for the most part). I’m here to do another foodie blog, this time one of our favourite go-to Japanese restaurants, Komeyui in Port Melbourne. So without further ado let’s get into it, this was our wedding reception of sorts (just lunch after the simple ceremony at the Old Treasury Building), I was hoping that they would do omakase for lunch, but we had to settle for the Signature Lunch set. This set consisted of five courses:

  1. Sashimi
  2. Agedashi tofu
  3. Steak
  4. Sushi/chirashi
  5. Dessert

Sashimi

Sashimi course, Komeyui Signature Lunch set

Sashimi course

The first course was a sashimi course consisting of scallops, prawns, tuna belly, salmon, squid (I think), and I can only guess the white fish (possibly kingfish as it is quite common). The winner here I would have to say were the scallops, they were so tender, tuna belly is always a winner, and the squid had a really nice texture. I’m not sure if the prawn was cooked at all, maybe cured a little bit, they were great, and the wasabi was a bit different too, not the normal green one but some kind of (looks like cooked tuna) tan/brown colour, quite mild. I love sashimi :D. Of course those that can’t or won’t eat raw fish got their sashimi replaced with some cooked dish, looked like crayfish and prawns (but I can’t remember), it looked really good too, actually, we had one that does not eat seafood, but I can’t remember what he got.

Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi course, Komeyui Signature Lunch set

Agedashi

Follow that great selection with one of my favourite vegetarian dishes, agedashi tofu, the skin has such nice texture and the tofu inside was so soft and creamy, perfect agedashi tofu, no doubt. The sauce was rich and perfectly complimented the fluffy tofu.

Wagyu Sirloin Steak

Steak course, Komeyui Signature Lunch set

Steak course

On to the main dish, if you can call it that, it was almost like four mains and a dessert. Perfectly cooked wagyu steak (sirloin is Scotch fillet right?) with some crunchy edamame on the side, the edamame was actually really good, it had a really nice fragrance, perhaps grilled with the steak. Keep in mind I had just had steak the previous Wednesday so it was still fresh on my mind, I certainly wouldn’t have minded if the Komeyui chef was cooking my steak at Stefans either :D. I guess I needed to savour it, I probably won’t have steak again for six months as is my tendency.

Sushi

  • Chirashi, Komeyui Signature Lunch set
    Chirashi
  • Sushi course, Komeyui Signature Lunch set
    Sushi course

On to the sushi course which everyone got (except for our non-seafood lover, he got tempura veggies which looked good too!), and the hits just kept coming, I really can’t say enough about this place, they know what they’re doing. I was the lone black sheep, I chose the chirashi which is pretty much the same thing, but instead of bite-sized portions it is one long line of rice with the fish on top. Unfortunately, I’m no fish connoiseur so I can’t tell you what was on it, sea urchin at least, there was salmon roe in the sushi as well as a separate piece of salmon, the chirashi and the cooked sushi (for the non-raw fish lovers) had clam, but as for the rest of the fish, I wouldn’t bother guessing, they were either white or pink fish as you can see for yourself. No complaints from me, but I think I’d go with the sushi instead of chirashi next time, just a bit easier to eat and generally looks more appetising.

Iced cream

Dessert, Komeyui Signature Lunch set

Iced cream

Finally, dessert, this picture is actually of Emmy and my special dessert, it had a sparkler in it which I wasn’t able to capture because it fizzled out while I was busy moving glasses out of the way to take my picture :p. Still, you can see that they’ve gone out of their way to spurce up the regular dessert for us (not that we mentioned what the occasion was), it was basically the same as everyone elses except that we got some extra fruit, and our iced cream was on the side rather than in the pastry. I’m not sure if we were the only ones that got some green tea coated chocolate, which went great with the salted caramel iced cream. What a great way to end the meal, I was definitely full after that and I’m pretty sure everyone else was and if there was anybody unhappy with their meal I sure didn’t notice.

I certainly didn’t hear my dad saying that they were Chinese people running the restaurant this time! SMH

Bonus Drinks

Coedo, Shikkoku, Komeyui Signature Lunch set

Coedo, Shikkoku

Of course it was our special day and I had to have a nice drink to celebrate, and that I did, some black lager from Saitama, which is near Tokyo I believe, Coedo Shikkoku it’s called, and well, as with everything else on the table this was a pleasure to down, it wasn’t cheap that’s for sure, but that was a big reason why we didn’t want a big wedding, so that we could enjoy (perhaps) a higher quality meal with loved ones rather than something that could be mediocre due to stretching a kitchen.

Wedding

Yeah, we did do that too, a small affair in the Thomas Hyde Room at the Old Treasury Building on Spring St in the CBD. Originally we were thinking of not inviting our parents and just taking a couple of witnesses, but we thought it would be better to take them despite the added hassle of transport. The morning was a little stressful with Emmy DIY-ing her hair and makeup it seemed that we were running late, so we jumped on the Monash Freeway (toll road) and cruised into town, only to realise halfway in that we’d left our passports (required for identification purposes apparently) at home. So there we were, sitting in the car on the freeway fretting about whether to turn around or carry on.

Beauty and the BEAST!

Beauty and the BEAST!

We were on time but if I had to turn around, we would definitely be way late, so in the end I dropped Emmy off to check with the office and they said it was not an issue, so no problems, and a lot of unnecessary stress. Everything went pretty well, I managed to hold myself together (I had to let out a little chuckle at one point to keep myself from losing it all together) and got through all the lines and signing of papers without shedding a single tear. We managed to wrangle our photographer into coming to lunch at Komeyui and taking some photos for us at the beach afterwards. We got a bunch of very nice photos, the weather held up despite the forecast all week predicting showers on Saturday, and maybe some of us ended up getting sunburnt even.

So now I’m a member of the exclusive Tran Pham Clan and life goes on pretty much as it was, but with a bit more debt than before :O. And we also have another anniversary date to remember, my suggestion of going to Komeyui to celebrate annually got shot down pretty fast, so maybe not until we kill some more debt. See you again in a few months after I visit another restaurant (;*^_^*;). Finally, apologies to all the single ladies out there, but this chicken has met his tiger!

Update

I’ve replaced some of my crummy pictures (taken with my phone) with some much nicer ones (probably hard to tell which ones I know :D) taken by our photographer for the day, Chealse.

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Peking Duck at Quanjude, Hoi’s too

Peking Duck at Quanjude

Peking Duck at Quanjude

A couple of weeks ago we went to this Peking Duck restaurant in the city, apparently it’s a franchise in China, and this was the first branch in Australia. I’ve seen this place a few times as we drove to Queen St a fair bit to park the car when visiting the CBD, but never knew that it was actually a duck restaurant. It’s quite a large space, well, it’s like a two level place but they’ve removed the second floor so it just has a really high ceiling. The setting is nice and the service more upscale than your regular duck restaurant (i.e. Old Kingdom or Simon’s) but it’s not fine dining.

Quanjude

We were six people and ordered two ducks and some fried rice (as two had already eaten something), whereas normally you’d order one duck between two (if it was done three ways), this was supposedly duck done two ways, but we did not get the duck soup (apparently all of the duck bones were bagged for take away by our Chinese speaking companions). The plum sauce, cucumber, and spring onions were individually portioned and more than enough for each of us. The duck however, was sliced a bit too thinly and at that point it is not clear how many slices you should put into your own crepe. I started off with two slices, but then we had leftover duck so I upped it to three slices of duck to each pancake, so in the end it seemed like two bigger slices or three smaller slices per crepe was right, whereas at Simon’s it might just be one slice or two smaller slices to a crepe.

The duck itself was pretty good but the skin lacked the crispness that we’ve enjoyed at Old Kingdom and Simon’s, there was a side dish of fried duck fat which was a novelty. Dip it in a bit of sugar and you have quite the treat, but really, this duck meal was left a bit wanting (the fried rice wasn’t anything to write home about either), it was also about $15 bucks more expensive (78$) than Old Kingdom or Simon’s so that was definitely a thumbs down. On a side note worth noting, there was no need to pre-order the duck as is usually the case at Simon’s and Old Kingdom.

Hoi’s Kitchen

We had some friends over from Adelaide on the weekend and as is our custom, we tried to wow them with something that they might not have tried in Adelaide (or might not even have). We weren’t able to get a preferred time slot (with our kids) so we had to settle with Hoi’s in Camberwell (near our work), we weren’t too sure about it as it’s usually just a take away/quick and dirty lunch place, that has re-branded in the past year or two as a Peking Duck restaurant. But it was our only option on short notice, we ordered two ducks over the phone (for five adults), but we were actually all still quite full from lunch, and then one of the adults dropped out.

Peking Duck at Hoi's

Peking Duck at Hoi’s

We managed to order duck three ways here, so the regular Peking duck with crepes, stir-fry duck bone (really it’s other pieces of duck that have meat on the bone), and some duck fried rice, there are also options of duck and tofu soup, and crispy noodles with duck among others. So they provide a few extra options over the other duck restaurants. The duck was sliced better here and the skin was crispier, there were also a couple of drumsticks on a plate that I happily chomped down, yes, the duck was much better here.

They did however, skimp on the sauce and vegies, and when we asked for a sauce re-fill the waiter was very stingy and only half-filled the dish. We ended up only getting one duck which was probably a good thing because we weren’t hungry enough to take a second (we didn’t bother asking about it), even if we took it with us. So food, quite good, service horrible (not to mention my toddler was messing around on his high chair and the tray collapsed sending him sprawling on the floor!) but not unexpected, at 76$ for everything including a couple of beers and tea, the value was better than Quanjude. But I’d rate it lower than Old Kingdom and Simon’s for quality of food, but they are trying, and giving the extra options (something like six or seven total) is definitely a positive. So, next time our friends come over we’ll either have to take them to Simon’s or work out something else to wow them with, we’ll probably have six months to a year :D.

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Steak at Stefan’s Charcoal Grill

This site has almost become a monthly food review blog, but any way, this time I went out with some of the Mighty Boys to eat some old fashioned steak (having missed out on the grand final with a disappointing semi-final loss). We’ve been to this place (in suburban Balwyn) before and it has a pretty good reputation for well cooked, quality steak. The owner, Stefan, grills the steak on his custom grill and has been doing so for what I would guess to be quite a long time. Good on him, still doing what he enjoys I bet, and doing a hell of a job of it I might add. Maybe surprisingly, or probably not, the menu does not have any wagyu or fancy stuff like that (is Angus fancy?). It’s a pretty simple menu, with all the regular cuts, New York cut on request, and you can order a three course menu consisting of entree (soup or sausage), steak, and dessert (apple strudel, black forest cake, or crepes), it also comes with a side of salad and chips. There is also some bread with butter to keep you occupied until the cooked food arrives.

Angus Scotch Fillet

Angus Scotch Fillet

I was just going to have the regular scotch fillet (my go-to cut), but everyone else went for Angus, so I had to follow as my social programming commands me to, and got the Angus Scotch. The sausage came out first (vegetable soup? yeah right… although, maybe next time) and it went down nice and fast with the aide of some tasty mustard. The garden salad is nothing special but it’s dressed well and provides enough salad-y side. The chips are standard steak chips but they’re always a treat with steak! The steak comes out, nicely grilled, and cooked to perfection (medium rare of course!), a beautiful tasty chunk of beef. Somehow I ate and sliced my scotch up so that the last piece left was just fat, well, I’m currently trying to add a bit of bulk so I just downed it for all the flavour it was. It wasn’t wagyu, but a perfectly cooked angus scotch is nothing to sneeze at.

I was pretty full at this point, but the dessert comes with the meal, so I downed the lemon crepes with aplomb, will try the walnut crepes next time on recommendation. Look, it’s a great steak and a definite recommendation because Stefan clearly knows his steak and how to cook it, also, on a Wednesday night I don’t reckon there’s much chance he’s going to make any mistakes due to being busy (which might be the case for some places), I can’t wait for next time :D. The restaurant is nothing to write home about but it’s a nice quiet place and you can see Stefan standing over the grill doing what he does best.

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Entrecote: Happy 5th Anniversary!

Is it just me, or do I start every post with, “It’s been a while” or something to that effect? Any way I’m here now, and I’m posting a food review of a French restaurant that I visited with emmy last week to celebrate our fifth anniversary of being together.

Croquettes

Croquettes

I’d read a couple of reviews of this place, and even though I’m not a massive fan of French cuisine, I had a bit of a hankering for steak and chips, and well, there is sort of only one main on the menu at Entrecote (South Yarra), and wouldn’t you know it, Steak Frites. Obviously we didn’t just have steak and chips, although the apparently limitless fries could make that a reasonable option (although you’d have to be a bit of a dick to do that), we did manage to fit in an entree, and also a dessert. We just went with a couple of recommendations for drinks, I had some red wine from Burgundy which was quite nice, and emmy went with a lemony cocktail, France 75 or something, no issues yet! We started with the “King Louis Boulettes” which are croquettes with spiced beef and some other substance (mashed potato-like) in them, the filling was so fluffy and the crunchy exterior very well done.

Following that up with the steak (porterhouse) and fries, with a side of leafy salad (radish, lettuce, and walnuts with vinaigrette). The salad was simple but very well executed, the crunchy lettuce and walnuts great with the dressing. The fries were straight outta Maccas, nothing wrong with that, maccas chips are great, maybe not as fried/crunchy as maccas but shoestring fries are hard to get wrong, and these were good.

  • Steak Frites
    Steak Frites
  • Leafy salad
    Leafy salad

My steak (medium rare) was a little dry and over cooked on one edge (fortunately the side I started on), but after a couple slices the tender section appeared and the rest was in my tummy in no time. The buttery herb sauce works on this steak and I had no complaints, also mixed in some French mustard which is always a winner with steak. I was full, but sacrificed what space remained in my stomach to help out emmy by finishing off the last couple pieces of her steak.

Profiteroles

Profiteroles

We couldn’t leave without ordering dessert, everything looked great, but having had a great lemon tart only the day before, we decided on the chocolate profiteroles. Covered in dark chocolate, both melted and chips, and with a vanilla iced cream centre, these totally hit the spot, even though the spot was nothing but a tiny little speck of air that was being squished from all sides by steak and chips!

That’s it, we were done, could barely move, and ready to doze off into food coma heaven. There were a lot of things we didn’t try that I would’ve liked to, but it was probably a good thing we didn’t over indulge as we were both ready to explode/collapse/pass out (in that order) after a great meal. Chicken liver parfait, steak tartare, smoked salmon, escargot, maybe next time. I’d rate this one over Bistro Thierry, but we didn’t get steak there, and we also ordered too much and ate too much bread – Entrecote don’t serve bread, free or any, for a French restaurant that seems bizarre – so I’d be willing to give Bistro Thierry another try. This place? Put it at the top of the French restaurant list (that’s my list of two) and I’ll be happy to go back and enjoy some of the other dishes, they also do breakfast and lunch, hmmm.

Oh, and something that doesn’t usually rate a mention from Asians (or maybe it’s just me), the table service was very good, very attentive, cleaning up very quickly and getting our food out in reasonable time (we were to get kicked in two hours, so I guess they couldn’t dawdle too much). I’ll also take some time to mention the atmosphere and appearance as well since I’m here, nice, charming, romantic, although a little squeezy, stick to the iphone camera as the focus light of any decent camera might be a bit too much for anyone to bare ;).

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