Archive for the ‘Eating Out’ Category

05
Oct
2013

Singapore


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How to sum up a country in a single blog post ? It’d be fairly audacious of me to even attempt such a thing, especially after a single visit, but this is a blog, and if you can’t be self important and all knowing on a blog then where can you be ?

So I received an email last year that piqued my interest. It was from a girl called Venetia and she was inviting me to come to Singapore and visit the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Now I’m not sure if my stance on accepting freebies is particularly well known, but I generally decline most of the emails I get sent due to lack of interest or lack of time.

As of now however, I have discovered my breaking point. International travel. If you as a marketing/pr person are willing to fly me to another country and show me all the good things there are to do there, I will more than likely accept, whilst still writing what I genuinely think about the place… slowly, perhaps a year or so later.

What made the decision a little easier was that Singapore has been a destination on my radar for a long time. I have an uncle and aunt there who were recently married in Perth, and so it’s almost a shameful secret that I hadn’t been already. The Marina Bay Sands invited me for a culinary tour of the restaurants within the complex, along with a group of other Australian bloggers who were a lot more diligent than I am about writing about it. (Hey Helen, Jen, and Lizzie), as well as groups from Malaysia and Indonesia. The tour started on Monday and so Marcela and I arrived on the Friday beforehand to acquaint ourselves with this most curious of cities, and eat as much dodgy hawker food as possible.

So on the plane we jumped and a quick 5 hour flight red eye from PER -> SIN landed at us at Changi Airport at 6am, where even so early in the morning the humidity welcoming party was waiting for us the second the electronic doors slid open. Like a big hug from a sweaty Aunty you don’t really remember, but are sure you’ll end up liking. Then straight into a taxi and back to my uncles place on the East Coast where my plans for hitting the hawkers for breakfast faded as quickly as my head hit the pillow for a “quick nap”.

Of course it didn’t take us long to get into the swing of things. An MRT ride into Orchard Road and then a visit to Newton Circus for Oyster Omelet and Black Carrot Cake (actually rice cake fried with sweet black soy sauce), and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with lemon. Perfect.


Later that evening we were taken to the East Coast Park outpost of the famous Jumbo Seafood chain for chilli and black pepper crab and plenty of cold Tiger beer to wash it down.
I have never been a big beer drinker, but sitting outside, dripping with sweat, my lips slightly stinging from sucking all the flesh out of perfectly cooked crab drenched in a spicy tomato sauce… beer has never made more sense.


The next day for lunch we did some covert surveillance of the Marina Bay Sands and visited the dumpling empire that is Din Tai Fung for as many dumplings as we could manage. What’s not to like about an army of face mask clad dumpling ninjas rolling and stuffing every dumpling with military precision inside a glass cage ?


We then decided to head out of the touristy zones and explore an area called Tiong Bahru. This is a suburb that has traditionally been very local, but is undergoing something of a gentrification of late, with trendy cafes and bars popping up in formerly nondescript shopping centres. We tried that much loved “King of Fruit” the durian at a small market near the MRT stop. After watching a safety gloved young man deftly hack his way through a large pile of them, he eventually noticed the curious looking tourists and asked if we’d like to try. I’ve had durian before, but first time for Marcela. We’re both in the “interesting, but not for me” camp it would seem. My theory is that you have to have grown up with the stuff to really get a taste for it, but then the signs on the MRT saying “No Durian allowed” would seem to indicate that not everyone is a fan in Singapore either.

From Tiong Bahru MRT station we wandered around in circles for a while before eventually finding a little cafe getting a decent rep of late Fourty Hands. I had heard the specialty coffee scene in Singapore was a little dire up until a few years ago, but that is all changing. Micro roasters, and committed espresso lovers seem to be flocking in droves and setting up interesting and thoughtful places that break the mold of the typical Starbucks style chains.


Forty Hands felt like being in Fremantle, Surry Hills, or Fitzroy… Funky lighting, graffiti, Synesso espresso machine, latte art, and importantly quality coffee flown in by Five Senses from Perth roasted fresh each week… And Australian cider in the fridge. Definitely worth checking out when you need a little taste of home.

The next day we hit up Chinatown. Strolling down the laneways packed with vendors selling every conceivable crappy nick nack and tshirt you could imagine, we found solace and refreshment in the form of whole coconuts cut open for us, and the awesomeness that is Bak Kwa. If you’re uninitiated Bak Kwa is thin slices of pork mixed with a sweet spicy marinated, cooked, cut into squares, then basted with more sauce and fried. It is the stuff of legend and I could die happy with a giant pile of it as my last meal.


Not done eating, we then made the short walk to the Maxwell Hawker Centre for the famous Tian, Tian chicken rice. As popularised by Anthony Bourdain and every other blogger under the sun. Now I’m sure how much better the Tian, Tian chicken rice is than the other 3 or 4 chicken rice places in Maxwells, but it was good. For $3.50 you get a plate of supremely succelent steamed chicken, intensely flavoured rice, and a trio of sauces – chilli, ginger, sweet soy, as well as bowl of the chicken broth and a few veges to make things look respectable. Chicken rice is (one of) Singapore’s national dishes and rightly so, this was fantastic.


More photos of eating around Singapore and the actual Marina Bay Sands hotel to come…

31
Jan
2012

Monogram Caffe

Tags: , ,
Posted in Cafe, Coffee, Eating Out, Review

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I first met Thomas Greene at Boucla in Subiaco. As a newish blogger back then I was rather delighted when he told me he’d been reading my blog and really enjoyed my photos. “I like this man!” Was my immediate and rather cheap response to essentially any form of flattery (seriously, it’s not hard at all people). After chatting to Tom for a while I realised we shared a few things in common. He was a photographer too, and a very fine one at that, having taken trips abroad to places like Egypt to embed himself in life there and explore photojournalism. He also made a damn fine coffee.

After that I saw him at many of the usual suspects, Cantina in Mt Lawley, Mini Espresso in the CBD. It was always comforting seeing Tom behind the coffee machine because I knew whatever the reputation of coffee from that venue, his would be good.

He’s not a geek mind you (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the kind of thoughtful person who puts a lot more effort into his craft than he lets on. I have no doubt his primary school report cards would have been full of such words as diligent, conscientious, and considerate.

Such is the approach he’s taken to his latest venture at Monogram Caffe @ The Grove Library in Peppermint Grove. It’s essentially a pop up coffee stand given a permanent place to live inside the library that Tom has given his own unique style.
An elegant wooden bench which conjures both art deco and Nordic stylings, Tom wheels it out at the start of the day, and back in at the end. It’s a one man show as he goes about his craft making fine coffees for extremely lucky library visitors and those in the know.

The coffee is a special blend of Fiori beans, worked out in collaboration with the fine gentlemen at Lowdown Espresso, and with Tom’s delicate touch it really sings. He has fresh cakes and home made sweet things to go along with the coffee and I can think of few things more pleasant than sitting down with a good book, a lemon tart, and a perfectly made flat white, and then returning the book afterwards because I’m too cheap to buy it…

Monogram Caffe
Inside The Grove Library
1 Leake St, Peppermint Grove, at the Cnr of Stirling Hwy.
Sundays to Fridays

09
Dec
2011

Five Bar


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There’s nothing like heading to a bar where you know you’re going to get looked after, where the drinks are quality, the food nourishing, and the vibe relaxed. Such are the experiences I’ve always had at Five Bar in Mt Lawley.

So it was really no surprise that when asked where I’d like to be interviewed for the food blogging story on 730 ABC recently, Five Bar was the spot I chose.

I love the place because the menu is simple and well thought out, featuring all the kinds of things I like to eat. Steak tartare, rare roast beef sandwiches, marinated octopus, and some consistently well made (and fat) hand cut chips. The selection of craft beers and ciders is impressive, and the light filtering in through the big louvered windows up the back makes it feel like you’re outside while you’re still indoors.

I am slightly biased towards this place because bar manager Macca is a lovely (and very huggable) chap who has very good taste in booze, as I was introduced to at 399. The staff on the floor led by Pia and Emma are welcoming and professional, and if you’re smart you’ll head there on a week night where there’s just a little bit more breathing room to spread out on the lounges and benches.

The great thing about Five is that it’s a constantly evolving venue. With new beers, wines, and ciders being added to the list on a regular basis. Recently they’ve had another of my favourite people, Jerry Fraser – Oyster shucker extraordinaire, doing Sunday afternoons there. Cool drinks and fresh oysters are about the perfect proposition to me.

Five Bar
560 Beaufort Street
Mount Lawley

30
Sep
2011

Interview with 730 ABC

Now I’m not exactly a shrinking violet or a wall flower (as many of my friends will attest) but it was with a little trepidation recently, that I agreed to be interviewed for a story on food blogging to be screened ON TV. What to wear ? How do I do my hair ? How to stop from sounding like an idiot or offending someone ? It was a tricky prospect.

Of course I’ve always got plenty to say when it comes to food blogging and media, and the changing face of the industry in our fair little city of Perth, so It really didn’t take long to settle into the swing of things.

The piece was put together by Claire Nichols for the ABC’s WA edition of 730, and she did a great job. Along with myself she talked to Mei of Libertine Eats and Liz from Breakfast in Perth about their food blogging endeavours and experiences, and how they got into this crazy game. She also got some mainstream media opinion from Rob Broadfield who was actually rather friendly for once (I’m looking forward to reading his future blog).

He talked about the need for transparency in blogging and his dislike for anonymous bloggers who have nobody to hold them to account. I tend to agree with him on certain points. Good content comes from being informed and doing your research. Uninformed opinion is a slap in the face to restauranteurs and the industry and doesn’t do your reputation or your readers any good. Having said that though, the gist of his comments were towards things said on Urbanspoon, whose “reviews” at times, can be about as helpful as reading the comments on an Andrew Bolt article when it comes to informed and reasonable opinion.

I’d also take issue with his remarks that restauranteurs hate bloggers. I’ve always had rather positive experiences when I’ve chatted to restauranteurs and most of them have been very appreciative of the exposure they’ve had online. Smart owners and chefs should realise that bloggers can be very good for business when dealt with properly (which does not include banning photos or writing spiteful comments in response to unfavourable reviews). I’m also going to take a stab and say that in terms of popularity – the owners of places he’s panned in the past aren’t going to be sending him Christmas cards anytime soon.

In the end I think good content is good content. I’m just as happy to get my information from a blogger I trust, as I am a well known newspaper or magazine critic. If someone makes the effort to know their stuff, has a love of food and a way with words, that’s all I really need. That I write a blog is simply the medium I most often choose to get my words out there, and the one that suits me the best.

And what can I say, blogging has been very good to me. It’s given me the opportunity to write for professional publications, it’s led to my photography appearing in exhibitions and magazines, and it inadvertently led me to meet my wife, which are all what I’d call fairly significantly moments.

So here’s the interview, I hope you enjoy it, and keep your eye out for a quick glimpse of the wonderful Jerry Fraser who joined Marcela and I for a quick lunch at the excellent Five Bar in Mt Lawley (post on them coming soon).

19
Jul
2011

Nahm Thai


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Perhaps Perthís closest equivalent to the fine dining Thai restaurants of Sydney. Nahm Thai is one of the few places that tries to take style and atmosphere seriously in it’s quest to elevate the understanding of Thai food away from Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry. Chef Kevin Pham takes influence from the likes of David Thompson in his recreation of classic Thai dishes.

Firstly I should point out that I like the place. The food is rich and vibrant, there is clear cheffyness to the presentation, and the produce is a world apart from your average Thai place. It’s also nice not to eat Thai food off a plastic tablecloth occasionally, and having 3 different curries that have been made ahead of time and had the <insert meat here> treatment is not something I’ll ever miss either.

Service is a bit of a let down though. The wait staff are dressed in uniforms vaguely reminiscent of bell boys, and usher you to tables in hushed tones, but most give off a clumsy backpacker-waiters-on-holiday feel. Very eager young types struggling in vain for descriptions of dishes and wine, and then sending the food to the wrong table. The menu is barely readable in the dim lighting, and I really wish someone would clean the large overhead lights of dead bugs on a more regular basis.

The food ultimately shines however. Red duck curry with lychees, crispy pork hock with chilli, and crispy egg net with shredded duck are all fantastic, so are the galloping horses (pineapple, duck, scallop) and the sticky rice dessert with mango and sago pudding give me hope that a decent dessert is able to be had in an Asian restaurant that doesn’t involve frying ice cream.

Nahm Thai
223 Bulwer St
Perth
Phone: (08) 9328 7500

19
Jul
2011

The Prophet


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The Prophet is a Victoria Park institution and one of the few notable Lebanese restaurants in the city that do something other than kebabs. Jihad Moussallem has been serving up free bread with his own secret recipe garlic sauce and pickled vegetables for longer than Iíve been around, and one day I’m going to find out how and make millions.

The only thing that changes on the menu are the prices, which are still stubbornly set in the 90s. Their hummus is some of the freshest and most beautifully presented I’ve seen, and what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up for in consistency. The shish tawook (garlic chicken skewer) is a staple and the loubiah beans rich and hearty. Traditional kibbeh (raw minced lamb and bulgur) may be an acquired taste, but the baklava and Lebanese coffee to finish will win anyone over.

Every time I drive past The Prophet I feel a little bad about not frequenting it more often, and then I get a glimpse inside and see the place heaving on a Tuesday night with happy diners making the most of the delicious and cheap food and those three all important letter B-Y-O. There’s always a buzz about the place, to the point where you can never guarantee you’re going to get a seat on any given night of the week.

If you haven’t been yet, go say hi soon.

The Prophet
907 Albany Highway
East Victoria Park, 6101
Tel: (08) 9361 1101

28
Sep
2010

Andaluz Bar & Tapas


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Scallops & Pork belly @ Andaluz Pouring Vouvray @ Andaluz

This post is a timely reminder that context is everything in dining.

So I’m just going to come out and say it. I really did not enjoy Andaluz the first time I went. It was a Friday night, it was busy, full of well suited business types and lawyer lookalikes. The people who no doubt keep most of the inner city bars afloat, but whose presence inevitably makes me cringe as their conversations turn to the share market, Bali, getting tickets to Pink for their missus, and whatever else it is that cashed up bogans and stockbrokers like to talk about.

I was squished into a small table and had to shout to be heard above the din. The waitress was sweet but clueless and felt like she needed to explain what jamon was to me. And here was me thinking my “I know what jamon is, where it comes from, and can quote you a thousand facts about it” face was so obvious. In short, I wrote it off as one of those places that people with too much money who work in the city would go to in the hope that some of its coolness will rub off on them.

Skip forward a few months and a friend was going out on a Thursday night and invited me along, “Sure I’ll give it a another shot” I thought. The crowd had suddenly changed into a group of people who looked like they could all have their own restaurant review blogs if they weren’t too busy being good-looking and having intellectual conversations with musicians and artists. Suddenly the menu had come to life as well. Looking at it in a new light, it was so much more interesting, the wine list extensive and thoughtful, the food more interesting. Clearly I still didn’t fit it, but we were heading in the right direction.

You see, I had thought Andaluz was yet another in a long line of places to join the awful tapas band wagon. So many places in Perth (and around the world) have popped up calling themselves tapas bars, when they are in actual fact nothing more than schlocky Spanglish joints with little to no creativity, some mention of chorizo on the menu, and prices through the roof for tiny plates of nothing special.

My general reaction to hearing about a new place serving tapas or tapas-like dishes is one of casual skepticism. I actually don’t mind eating that way if it’s done well. Being greedy and adventurous by nature, I love being able to try 8 things on the menu instead of just one. But so often the combination of those 8 dishes does not add up to the value of one very well made dish of the non-tapas variety.

Andaluz Lamp The chaise @ Andaluz

Suffice to say however, I’ve changed my mind. Many subsequent visits to Andaluz have been excellent nights. Interesting seasonal changes abound with solid staples. The seared scallops on confit pork cheeks are outstanding and have been getting better every time I’ve been, and the duck albondigas (meatballs) are sublime. If you’re feeling rich you can splash on freshly shaved jamon by the gram (a dangerous road to go down because you’ll just want more).

The wine list is parochially Spanish without resorting to the same boring bottles you find all over town. You can still find the few odd Australian/French/Italian wines that fit into the style of the food they’re doing, but it’s pretty much Spain all the way. Thoughtfully chosen interesting expressions from a wide cross-section of Spain’s best wines.

So next time you find yourself in a place that doesn’t float your culinary boat on first glance, take a step back, think about the night, think about the crowd, think about the menu. Whilst you can’t always expect miraculous changes, it’s amazing what a difference a day can make.

Andaluz Bar and Tapas
Basement level
21 Howard Street, Perth
T: 08 9481 0092
www.andaluzbar.com.au

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