Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spice Temple II

It has been almost a year since my last visit to the Spice Temple and I wonder why it has been such a long interlude between visits. You know you're onto a winner when you see me blog about a place twice...so another year, another dinner.

Despite only receiving 1 "chef's hat", the food here in my opinion is some of the best Chinese to be had. This place stands apart from the rest by deviating from the so so boring, Cantonese cuisine that is more often than not branded as "Chinese". Yes Cantonese cuisine is Chinese, but seriously, it gets pretty damn boring sometimes.

Firstly, the restaurant space is dark but the silouhettes of coloured glass looking onto Southbank create the perfect space for a dinner. It is indeed, a super sexy space. Secondly, the service was effortless and impeccable, all done with a smile (I know, WTF?! waiters and waitresses smiling, WTF! indeed) It is interesting that the Neil Perry empire could have such different restaurants as my last visits to Rockpool left me less than impressed. But I am so glad, the Spice Temple works.

The kitchen, was phenomenally fast which suited us just fine, if not better than fine. So, this was majorly bonus points for Spice Temple!

I won't talk about the food too much as I've posted about this place before, all you need to know is that everything we ordered was what it should have been. No mismatches in flavours or textures. We ended up ordering their tingling prawns, steamed eggplant, crispy pork belly with smoked tofu, shanghai style tofu and crab soup, hot and numbing crispy pork, green lip abalone with mushrooms, steamed lobster with ginger and shallots, choy sum with garlic, and a few desserts.

Notable mentions go to the cold eggplant dish, shanghai style crab and tofu soup and the "hot and numbing" crispy duck. They are serious about the hot and numbing, probably more than last time (or maybe my tolerance has dropped) but damn, was it delicious. Oh and of course, if you can't deal with "heat", don't order the hot and spicy dishes - they aren't being dramatic when they say it's hot. I do note that their lobster this time round was much much better than what I remember. Much better. I don't understand where all the bitching and moaning  about this place in other reviews comes from - because, this place is ace.

Indeed, I do love the Spice Temple and so should you.

Spice Temple, Crown Casino Complex, Melbourne
Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 6, 2012


Well, MissChu is allegedly the queen of rice paper rolls (as per their slogan) so you really should expect phenomenal rice paper rolls.

I have to disclaim my bias here, and say we (as in others in my family) do brilliant rice paper rolls. As in, just as good as place..if not better, so I knew, it'd take an epic effort to wow me, especially on rice paper rolls.

The positives is that I don't think there is any other place like this in Melbourne, not that I know of anyway, so they've got that niche covered. However, they seemed pre-prepared. This is great for lunch time, but for a dinner type meal, I think it was a bit "meh". Why am I so critical I hear you ask!? Well, rice paper rolls are just THAT much better when they're freshly rolled because they start to dry up very quickly. The one I had, the skin was getting dry, but the fillings were delicious.

A lot of places fill them with vermicilli and a few herbs and a tiny slither of meat. Which really is quite disappointing. MissChu certainly has the balance right.
Their cocktails are interesting as well, using the classic, "Frozen Fresh Young Coconut" juices that you can get at an asian supermarket as the basis for their cocktails. Pretty nice, but beware diabetics.

I think in summary, it is an ok place to get a quick bite in the CBD. Yes they do good rice paper rolls, but I must admit, I won't be waking up in a cold sweat thinking about them.

But if you know how to make rice paper rolls, don't expect a revelation. Oh, the use of immigration photos as their wall paper...is a bit ......errr.. seriously?!?  On that note, we went to New Gold Mountain and there were also photos of random people on the wall as you walk up the dark dark stairs, which was a bit unnerving...

MissChu, 297 Exhibition St, Melbourne

MissChu on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Le Sausage

Another food truck, like the Taco Truck and the Beatbox Kitchen, but not related to either.

They do sausages and chips. They do great sausages and great chips. What else can I say? Only down side is that the bread they use, I'm not a fan of it. I don't know why...it just doesn't seem to "work" as well as I think it could. But what do I know?

Did I say they do some mean chips?

Around Moreland I suppose

Le Sausage Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Yeah well, I drove ALL THE WAY to St Kilda to try this place out...clearly I have nothing better to do.

Should I mention, I really hate St Kilda? On my way there, two (not one, but two), deros were crossing the road and I had to swerve so I didn't hit them...Yes, you get that everywhere, but you had to be there to get it.

Monk Bodhi Dharma serves only vegetarian and vegan food. No eggs for a breakfast menu, which was a good change to make people move beyond eggs I suppose. It's in the oddest of locations, sort of in the "rear" of some shops (aka Safeway) and stuff so you know they're doing well if they draw in the crowds - and they do.

And if you think Brunswick is full of hipsters, this place is next level kinda stuff. Maybe it's because their coffee is meant to be amazing and hipsters drink a lot of coffee? That's my guess...but I didn't have an espresso based coffee, but I did try their pourover. It was good, but it hasn't changed my life. I don't think I'll wakeup at 3am thinking "coffee" like I did the other day. It happens people. But I would totally go back...if I lived in St Kilda.

For food, I started with a raw smoothie - I really don't know what a raw smoothie involves but I'm going to have to assume it wasn't cooked..., and it was meant to be vegan (I don't know what that means...but anyway) and it was filled with strawberries and perhaps basil. When they brought it out though they assumed it was for my friend Betty (of Betty's Bodies)......I'd totally drink a strawberry smoothie with a straw, I have no shame. Just because Betty looks like a strawberry smoothie drinker!! (sorry Betty). For food, I had the umami mushrooms which was mushrooms on a corn bread-type-of-thing with feta cheese, so it was clearly not vegan and couldn't claim a VEGAN day - so more power to those who can. Nevertheless, it was delicious. Who would've thought?!

Worth the try if you are local, or if you can be bothered driving all the way to St Kilda, and if you're a vegetarian or vegan.

Monk Bodhi Dharma, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
Monk Bodhi Dharma on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 3, 2012


I have been to Babka so many times. So so many times.

Sometimes, just to eat their lemon tart. Their famous lemon tart, with a creme brulee top is something you'd push people onto the road for. Ok, that was a bit harsh and unnecessary, but it's that good.

But Babka is more than a tart producer. They have great breads and do a pretty good breakfast if you're into that stuff.

Like an omlette with mushrooms and avocado. I don't know what they do with their mushrooms but it's so good. Maybe it's the oil, the fat, the herbs. WHO knows, and WHO cares?

Sydney has the Bourke Street Bakery, Melbourne has Babka. And yes, you need to eat their lemon tart, a whole one too.

358 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Babka Bakery Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Amber @ the Mandarin Oriental

Well, it's been almost a month since my trip to the Kong, and I still haven't bothered to post about our dinner at Amber, at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. At number 37, it was the only restaurant in Hong Kong to make it onto the San Pelligrino World's Top 50 (we tried to get into Sun Tung Lok, a 3 Michelin star restaurant as well, but they were fully booked - I suppose, next time we need to be more organised).

Firstly, the space is so sexy. It is indeed a sexy space. Dark, architectually stunning and of course, perfectly laid out. It was indeed a fitting space. Service, was impeccable.

I'm not going to lie, my memory is a bit shaky regarding the food, given we averaged about 5-6 hours sleep per night over the course of 10 days and our dinner @ Amber was the last night before we left. We were undoubtedly exhausted.

So I'll just post the pretty pictures and refer to the menu and say some nasty things (ok not so nasty).

We started with canapes and amuse bouches, which consisted of a croquette, jelly things, a pumpkin soup and other stuff which I can't remember. It was all very nice. The soup was good, but I did get a bit of an ego when someone said "David, it tastes just like your pumpkin soup".

The first official dish was a sea urchin "in a lobster jell-O with cauliflower, caviar crispy seaweed waffles" Surprisingly, the sea urchin wasn't as overpowering as I was expecting - the other ingredients seemed to temper it out. All in all quite a light dish to start.

The next dish was Tasmanian salmon "confit & smoked" with avocado, horseradish & granny smith apple". This was ok. It wasn't phenomenal, as lets face it, we eat salmon to death in Australia, and Tasmanian Salmon? The smoke was quite strong...like burnt, but hey, who am I to judge?!

The dish on the right was a Red Amadai, with "fennel & orange confit, ‘bottarga’ grated new potatoes ‘bouillabaisse’ & manni olive oil emulsion". The fish itself was immaculately seasoned and cooked, but they "roasted" it with scales on. Seriously guys, this is NOT cool. I'm all for new textures and stuff....but SCALES? Now, that I will pass judgement on.

Due to my lack of attention to the degustation menu a foie gras dish made it onto the menu. I felt incredibly guilty for this as ultimately the production of foie gras employs incredibly cruel farming practices. Something I vehemently disagree with. So lesson learnt, next time read all the dishes before ordering the degustation.

Savouries finished with a kagoshima wagyu beef "oven roasted" with purée of ‘forgotten’ shallots. We asked for medium rare, but damn, this was almost mooing. The actual sauce or "jus" was was delicious, but those forgotten shallots must've really been forgotten. I don't think anyone on our table was able to eat those forgotten shallots.

 Instead of cheese courses, we asked for a substitution which was a pineapple with "olive oil caviar". Very smart use of technique to spherify the olive oil which was basically "capsules" of oil when placed in your mouth dissolves. Surprisingly, pineapple and olive oil go quite well together.

The first dessert consisted of clementines "sorbet with florentine’s & confit zest, a semi fredo inspired after ‘calissons de provençe’". This was delicious. The second being a chocolate souffle made with  abinao 85% chocolate. Souffle is souffle. We've all had great souffle and this was another great souffle.

Of course, with all top tier restaurants, we finished off with petit fours which were all fantastic.

All in all, Amber @ the Landmark Mandarin Oriental is a nice dining experience. The space and service well and truly will meet your expectations. The food however, with some high-end ingredients, at times missed the mark. Try it if you're near Central, but please, don't book flights to the Kong just for this.

Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
15 Queens Road Central, The Landmark, Central Hong Kong.