Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Only two restaurants in Australia made it to the World's Top 50 Restaurants, both of which are in Sydney. Yesterday, I visited Quay, ranked #27, the highest in Australia, surpassing Tetsuya's (perhaps the more well known of the two).

The location is breathtaking. I can only imagine how magnificent it would be at night, with the shimmering lights, water and Australia's iconic harbour bridge. But, even during the day, the openness of the restaurant leaves you feeling a little indulgent.The restaurant itself, is on the upper level of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, in Circular Quay (same location as the Opera House). The space is what I would say understated, with the view being the hero.

Before I continue however, let me make something very very clear, Quay Restaurant, is not for the faint hearted and your pockets need to be deep...very deep. This my friend, is where the platinum cards come out to play. This restaurant is perhaps one of Australia's most expensive restaurants - lunch with some drinks, was the equivalent to a degustation dinner in Melbourne.

Starting off with a complimentary shooter of salmon sashimi, which came with creme fraiche and microherbs. Simple but nothing new.

I opted for their regular menu, as they also offer their full 7 course degustation, which I thought was a bit much for lunch. Sea pearls came as 4 spherical balls of things of the sea. Their menu has smoked eel, tuna, sea scallop, abalone and octopus as the features. I really can't remember all the elements, but sashimi style scallops were brillaint.

For mains I elected to go with a roasted mulloway with a mish mash of flowers, currants and bits and pieces. Presentation, in my opinion, was brilliant. The mulloway itself, was cooked to absolute perfection, beautifully crisp outside with the perfect amount of seasoning, and the flesh itself, succulent and moist. This without a doubt, is up there with best fish dish I've ever eaten. The photos speak for themselves in regards to the visuals of each dish. Intricate, contemporary with a wow factor that is not often seen.

The pomme puree - freaken amazing. It tasted like potato. It tasted so much like potato that sometimes even a real potato doesn't taste as good. I don't know how to describe it.It epitomises what potato should taste like.

Dessert was a surprise, a strawberry guava and custard apple snow egg, was a spherical meringue with a crisp caramel coating, and a custard-like centre, surrounded by ice, or "snow, with a fruity base. To clarify, I am not a fan of meringue, pavlova, or anything with "sugar and egg". But this was stunning.

At a place like Quay, you'd hope, and in fact, expect service that is flawless in every aspect. But, there was something a bit mechanical, but to too proper that did not seem to tick the boxes for effortless service. To be fair, it was technically great, but I didn't feel immediately at ease. For example, at Jacques Reymond, you are made to feel instantly welcome. Ezard, accomodating and personable, but I felt Quay lacked this element. Something that is more tacit and not so clear that I can pinpoint.

But what do I know? It has been ranked #27 in the World, and really, that speaks volumes rather than my random rant.

Overall, Quay is, most definitely, a destination restaurant. An occasion restaurant for the most special of occasions. But please bring your Platinum card,...


Quay Restaurant, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney

Monday, May 24, 2010

Healesville Hotel

Well, I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping to have lunch at the main dining room, but apparently they are closed on Monday and Tuesdays, with only the bar open. Having said that though, you'd have to expect that the food, coming from the same kitchen, would also deliver something excellent.

Healesville is really only 35-40mins away from home, so it really isn't that far to travel. But often, life and things like work, get in the way of me enjoying things around my area. But not today, today I decided that I would make the effort, as work has been banished from my calendar (I even opted NOT to take my work mobile...I only made one call today, so that was a great outcome), and I had time to run errands and find my way to Healesville for lunch.

Having being disappointed that the main restaurant was closed, I still sat myself down and ordered from the bar menu. I opted for the K&B Chorizo Bake, which came served with an egg, beans and caramelised onions throughout. It was more an iron-bowl of pork mince with a slight kick that was so so warm. The skies were grey and the air cold. I don't know what else could've been better.

You know that feeling you get when you are starting to relax? That feeling doesn't happen very often with me, but today, I felt relaxed. Just having lunch, taking my time, looking forward to visiting the Kennedy and Wilson chocolate shop to get their famous 81% cocoa cat tongues (no, not made of real cat tongues). This is what holiday is all about, too bad I only have 1 day left... *cough**cough*.

Healesville Hotel, 256 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Canton Lake

Canton Lake is like, no sorry, is one of those dodgy looking chinese restaurants in an asian dominated suburb. Make no mistake, it isn't glamorous. You would know, as you are a dedicated reader of my blog, that I've raved about this place on many many occasions. We discovered it by chance, when we wanted a quick meal somewhere in Box Hill, but was sick of the usual places we would visit as they were becoming very underwhelming.

From the outside, you can't really see in, other than from the usual fanfare of peking duck, roast pork, charsiu (BBQ pork) and the like hanging in front of a glass window that severely needs cleaning. Upon entering the restaurant, again, underwhelming. A tank with live crustaceans and barramundi floating around, hanging on for dear life. In high summer, the air conditioning desperately and dramatically fails to cool the place, and in deep winter the heating is barely noticeable.

Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, at Canton Lake, it is all about the food. The crockerly is worn, with some even chipped. But when we first ate at Canton Lake, we were all very very impressed. As chinese food is all about balance, this place has managed to deliver beyond its visuals. Service is generally good, friendly, and is definitely a place where the locals eat. This place is not a destination restaurant, it is the type of place that you wish was around the corner because the food, just comforts. That's it.

I remember a dish, crisp duck with a sweet and sour sauce, perhaps mandarin duck or something, the skin was like glass and the meat oooooozing with juice. That was not dinner, that my friend, was a memory in the making. As I have ashamedly confessed that I am a sweet and sour fan (yeah, shut up, don't judge me), they do a PHENOMENAL, sweet and sour pork fillet. It is not your typical balls of batter you get at 99% of places, it has a thin, crisp batter coating, and the sweet and sour is just acidic, but not too acidic. I kid you not, this is one of the few chinese dishes I CRAVE for.

Other winners at Canton Lake are their shellfish dishes. Either lobster with ginger, shallots and noodles or mudcrabs with the same. More often than not, it is perfectly balanced. This place, when it reaches its highs, outstrips many of the chinese restaurants around the Doncaster/Box Hill area - and at a fraction of the price. Why pay double for the same thing elsewhere if you're just after a quick feed?

This place also works so so well as a takeaway as well (don't go for the "take away menu" though, order from the proper restaurant menu). Their charsiu (BBQ pork), is also brilliant. Yes, I have waited for their dinner service to start just to order take away. I am one of those people that waits for things to open....

Canton Lake, 529 Station St, Box Hill

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I just want to start by making a somewhat controversial statement, Launceston is a hole. I really really dislike Launceston, but I don't know why I keep visiting. To be fair though, I never intend to stay very long but rather a passing stop to pick up essential provisions for a trip into the wide open spaces of Tasmania. Tasmania, I do like. I really like.

However, today, my freaken flight was delayed for TWO hours, because of "fog". I didn't see any fog when we landed. It must've magically disappeared into thin air or something. I just think they're excuses. Surely in this day and age, a pilot can land a plane without visuals right? Surely that is possible now.

Anyway, I digress. After wasting a whole day, pondering around the "town", I will call it the "town", I remembered when I was there a few years ago, quite a few years ago, like 5, I had eaten at a place called Novaro's. Even though I had no idea what it was called, I knew I'd recognise it when I saw it, and given how small this "town" is, I found it fairly quickly.

Novaro's is an italian restaurant, that almost has a feeling of someone's home. It really is that small. But I really really love the size of it. However, I ate at 5.30pm, I don't know if this sentiment would be repeated if it was packed, busy, and loud. When I arrived, the manager/owners, must've have been having their dinner, because they had to get up to open the doors.

For entrees, I had a slow cooked pork belly with lemon sauteed scallops and for mains I had their signature rabbit ravioli with burnt butter and sage. The pork belly and scallops was meltingly soft, and the sweetness of the marmalade, scallops and pork was a really good start to dinner. I was pleasently surprised at how much I enjoyed it. For mains, the ravioli consisted of three generous sized parcels of rabbit mince in a buttery sauce. The pasta itself, could have been more yielding. Funnily, the side salad that came with it, a rocket, balsamic, parmesan and pear salad was brilliant. Brilliant I say.

Dessert was slightly disappointing, with from what I gather as being store bought ice cream, and a pudding that was slightly too sweet.

In spite of all the little things, I really like Novaro's. I would go back, again and again. Given I was able to have dinner in less than an hr before my flight, I was pretty impressed. But then again, 5.30 isn't really peak hour is it.


Novaro's, 28 Brisbane St, Launceston

Friday, May 14, 2010

Embrasse Restaurant

The day finally arrived where our entire department went out for lunch, I suppose it was our manager's way of rewarding the team for the challenges we've faced this year.

Everyone knows, when food and people are involved, we enter dangerous territory, and the selection process for the restaurant was no exception. Anyway, Embrasse Restaurant won out as one of my colleagues was adamant that it was phenomenal and the majority voted for it. For $45, you get 3 courses and a glass of wine, with coffee and petit fours to finish. To me, anything under $50 is freaken amazing value.

Set in Drummond St in Carlton, I didn't love the location. Parking would be a b****, but we caught a taxi so it wasn't so much of an issue (*note that I said WOULD be). The restaurant itself however, is solidly designed. In fact, it has homey feel to it, and is a perfect destination for a winter's day.

We were placed upstairs, in the private dining room, however, there was no one else upstairs. Service, was for a big group, pretty good, but there wasn't much to it really. However, it is what you'd really expect from any half decent restaurant.

For starters, I had the Daylesford beetroots with cured ham and burnt carrot puree. Four pieces of beautifully cooked beetroots (different varieties of beetroot), set on a smear of carrot puree. The cured ham bursts with flavour with amazing depth and complexity.

For main, I had Bendigo chicken with mushrooms - succulent and tender and simple. Nothing more to be said. Aligot and Cos lettuce sides were also ordered. The aligot is a cheesy, stringy, gooey, unfreaken believable mash. Think winter warmers, think comfort, think cosy, think anti-depressant food, that is what the aligot is - I simply need to find out how its made and make it. * Note, this will probably break your daily calorie intake in 2 mouthfuls.

Dessert, however, was superb. I had the chocolate parfait with meringue, gateaux and mint. I was expecting your typical parfait - nothing amazing. But this, I repeat, this, was brilliant. Crumbs of gateaux, setting the landscape of the ground, with the meringue sitting as the stem of the "mushroom" and the parfait the cap. Crisp biscuits adding to the landscape of twigs and logs. Green granita made from mint, representing the moss of the forest.

As it was lunch, we were limited in our menu selections. From the offering, however, I am so so excited, about when I visit for dinner. I can't wait to revisit Embrasse for their full menu.


Embrasse Restaurant, 312 Drummond St, Carlton

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gills Diner

Gill's Diner, sitting in a little alley way behind Galleria in Melbourne's CBD, is perhaps one of my little favourite places that I never seem to visit enough.

I discovered Gill's quite some time ago, when I used to frequent the Commercial Bakery for coffee. For those of you that aren't familiar of Gill's Diner, it is set in a refurbished warehouse, with the section closest to the main street being the bakery and the back section a diner.

From memory, the first time I had ever been to Gill's was basically late one night and we just wanted coffee, but ended up ordering their churros. After being super impressed, I must've returned for dinner some time later. Dinner then became lunches which became more dinners...and you get the picture.

Very rarely does a place evoke so many sensory memories, such as the unbelievably good "hand cut spaghetti marinara", which was surprisingly was so so luxurious when I first had it. Unfortunately, their "recipe" has changed and is no longer the same when I first had it. Or the almost sugar like balsamic dressed rocket and parmesan salad, which was acidic, bitter yet so dammnn good. These things have drawn me back to this place as the weather gets colder and I dream of some classic classic food.

For dinner last night, we started with the farmhouse terrine and mushroom bruschetta. The terrine is something that I always look forward to - and I am generally not a massive fan of terrine. With mains, I had the marinara, although beautifully cooked, I still yearn for that dish that I first tried some years ago. Desert was a trio of ice creams. Can I just say, I need to freaken get an ice cream machine and just make awesome ice cream? Because I don't think you can ever compare proper ice cream with the supermarket stuff.


Gills Diner, 360 Little Collins St, Enter via Gills Alley, Melbourne CBD

Gills Diner on Urbanspoon


My first experience of Rumi was probably 12 months ago, with some people from work. But I had forgotten about this place until another colleague had mentioned that they had a brilliant dinner there and what good value it was. So I decided to revisit this place, and good value? It is damn good value.

We opted for the 5 course table banquet menu for $45pp. Where else do you get 5 courses for $45?!?!
For me, highlights were the cheese filled cigars, quail, fried baby prawns and the rice. I can't really remember the exact composition of each course, but several dishes - with a mix of meat and vegetables were presented for four courses. With the final course being of course, tea and turkish delight.

Overall, Rumi provides exceptional value for money, and I would happily, happily eat there over and over again.

 Oh yeah, their pomegranate cocktail is freaken dangerous but awesome, it goes down like sugar water!!


Rumi, 116 Lygon St, Brunswick East.

Rumi on Urbanspoon