Monday, May 28, 2007

Legality of Taking Food Photos In Restaurants

How do you know when your blog has made it in the Food Blogosphere? Is it when you get a threatening email from the head chef/owner of a restaurant telling you to remove a review you did of their restaurant. If it is, then "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to I Eat Therefore I Am".

First let me set up the story and then go on to discuss the legality of taking food photos in restaurants. I got an email today supposedly from Matt McConnell, head chef and owner of Bar Lourinha. I had been to Bar Lourinha not too long ago and had written a review. Please go and read the review here first before you read on so I don't bias your judgement.

So you've read the review hopefully, sounds quite fair right. I didn't love the place but didn't say anything defamatory. I gave my honest opinion and even recommended people should still go if they like crowded places. Well, apparently Matt doesn't like my review or objects to something within it.

Here is the email I got from Matt.

To whom it may concern,

please take us off your web site!!!! Firstly we are horrified that you thought it would be okay to take photos of our food in our restaurant without our permission, if you do not take this ridiculous information of your web site in the next three days I am prepared to seek legal advice and sue you. You have breached a million different copyright laws and should be very careful.

Concerned owner,

bar lourinhn√£
37 little collins st,
melbourne+61 3 9663 7890

My initial thought was that it was more spam email. But then the email address is quite convincing. It's not your typical yahoo or hotmail account, but that of a large ISP with Matt's name as the address and his full name as the person sending it.

So if it really is from Bar Lourinha, firstly I'm honoured that a)they read my blog, and b)that they even care what I write about them. This blog isn't that widely read and even if it was a totally terrible review, it would not come close to influencing as many people as the glowing review from The Age's John Lethlean.

If this is just a joke, its pretty elaborate whoever's done it. Maybe its his PR team trying to generate more buzz for the restaurant. That's very good work if it is because I find it totally hilarioius. It's worked too because here I am talking about the issue and giving them more publicity. However, I think they may have targeted the wrong blog, they should have chosen an even more popular blog.

Anyway, the issue I have with Matt is that he could have nicely asked me to take down the photos, in which case I would have. But to threaten me with all these legal jargon and bring in the law for what I see is such a non-issue is unbelievable. I've sent a reply asking him what is exactly wrong with my photos and review. I haven't claimed that I saw dead rats in their kitchen and then went and photographed it. I have merely photographed the food, of which I have paid for, and posted it on the web, like a million other food bloggers. Is his objection to my review due to it not being totally glowing? If his objection is purely due to the photos, I'm sorry to say that I feel I am well within my rights to photograph the food and then post it.

From the quick research that I have done, it would seem that once a photograph is taken, as long as its not defamatory and not used to generate revenue, the owner of the photos has copyright on it and can do as they wish. Even if there was a sign in the restaurant saying "No Photograph", they have the right to kick me out, but still not take my photograph from me. There was no sign at all in the restaurant telling me not to take photos. If there was, I wouldn't have taken any photos. You can't change the rules afterwards and tell someone they can't take photos of your restaurant without them knowing at the time.

Generally when I take photos in restaurants, I just take photos of the food and the restaurant in general. I don't take too many of the whole place with flash as that would disturb people. I also don't zoom in on individual people and invade their privacy. It's always photos of the crowd in general, my friends/family and I, and of the plates of food. Whether restaurants like it or not, with the rise of digital cameras (every phone now has a fairly good camera even) the number of people taking photos will just keep increasing. Here is a great article about food photography and some of the issues that may arise.

As for opinion regarding the legality of taking photos in restaurants, most people's opinion is that it is legal. I would need to speak to an IP lawyer to be sure, but some replies at eGullet forums from lawyers would suggest that it is totally within a person's legal rights to take photos of their food. For some resources about the legality in Australia, take a look at this website. From reading it, my interpretation is that I am totally within my right to take the photos and post them on my blog.

What is your opinion on this issue? I'm not going to step down and remove the photos unless its the last course of action before going to the courts or if I get an apology. I don't like being bullied, especially when I don't think I have done anything wrong.

Mud Crab

From This:

To This:

I absolutely love eating crab, especially mud crabs as they have the best texture and flavour in my opinion. They are definitely a luxury as they are quite expensive. So right now when they are in season and cheapest at about $25 per kilo is the best time to eat them. Cooking them like the Chinese restaurants with ginger, spring onion, shallots, chilli, garlic, soy sauce and oyster sauce is one way to serve them. I also like them steamed and then served with just lemon and pepper to taste the sweetness of the crab meat.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kimchi Friends

My friend Dennis and I popped into Kimchi Friends for a quick dinner before going to watch a movie at Chastone shopping centre. Kimchi Friends is located on Warrigal Road opposite Holmesglen station. It is a tiny takeaway type place that caters for students mainly. You can definitely tell this from the type of meal they serve.

Dennis ordered the Beef Bulgogi, which came with steamed rice for $8.50. I ordered the Bim Bam Bab, which at $7.50 is a steal. You get to pour your own rice tea, which was actually served in very nice porcelain cups. With every meal, you get a bowl of miso soup, and your own little dishes of various condiments, such as kimchi, marinated fish cakes and marinated bean shoots.

My Bim Bam Bab was good, although it would have been even better if it was served in one of those steaming bowls so that the rice on the edge keeps cooking and goes nice and crispy. But you can't expect too much for what you're paying. Otherwise, I liked it and the spicy sauce.

So next time you're about to watch a movie at Chadstone, don't eat at the food court there where a Big Mac meal will cost you the same amount. Drive a short way down to Kimchi Friends and eat a much nicer meal, in my opinion anyway. Some of you may actually prefer McDonalds, or as I prefer to call it, McProcessed Lardonalds.

Food Fit For A Couch Potato

So what do you do when you're not feeling so great mentally and physically. First you say no to going out on Friday when your friends ring to ask you. Then you get yourself comfy and plonk yourself on the couch and turn on the footy. Next, you grab yourself some yummy food and wine and eat your way through the footy match.

I got myself a nice piece of Misssssiiiisssssiiiipppppi (spelling possibly incorrect) mud cake with some ice cream and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Then I proceeded to slowly eat the cake and drink my wine.

Then, I raid the fridge for more food. I saw some salsa and sour cream and then eyed an avocado on the kitchen bench. A quick search through the panty found what I was looking for, corn chips. I had myself all the ingredients for nachos, including cheese in the fridge. So I combined everything on a plate, chucked it under the grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese and "voila", I had nachos. I ate the nachos with my fingers, and made sure I licked every finger clean.

After all the eating, my mind was a little clearer (possibly due to the two glasses of wine) and I was very full. May I suggest you all do this occasionally as its a good exercise for clearing the mind. But don't do it too much or your waistline is going to expand quite quickly.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sorry, We're Fully Booked

Don't you just hate it when you hear the words "Sorry, we're fully booked" when trying to book a table. Melbourne may be one of the food capitals of the world, with so many varities of food on offer. And the people of Melbourne have fully embraced going out to eat, which is a good thing as it means more restaurants will open and the quality gets better due to competition. However, the downside is that its so hard to get a table at a good restaurant unless you plan well ahead, and I'm talking up to a month here sometimes. Its descriminatory to those like myself who don't plan more than a few days in advance.

My latest episode involved trying to get a table at Movida, for like the 6th time all up for a hit rate of 1, not a good result. I was really good this time and rang a whole week in advanced, still to no avail. I wish I knew someone and could have name dropped like the people who Mellie sat next to at Movida. I wouldn't drink till I vomitted though. Anyway I digress. Small popular places like Movida mean you have to book so far in advance it's not funny. Some of us, mainly myself and my friends, are just not organised enough to book way in advance and then guarantee we can make that date. The last time, we tried really hard and had to book a whole month in advance for Movida. It was worth the wait though.

Its so hard to just spontaneously go, "Lets eat here this week". You have to plan out everything to ensure that you get a table at most good restaurants. Recently, I've had trouble trying to get tables at quite a few places, here's a few I can remember:

*Crown Conservatory - a week and a half I rang in advance and still no table. The best they could do was 3 weeks later, which was past the occasion that I wanted, hence didn't book.
*Horoki - Rang a week in advance and could only get a table for 9pm the second time round. First time there, told to come and there "should be a table", upon which we waited about 40 minutes until nearly 9pm before there was a table.
*Rumi - first two attempts were totally booked. Third attempt, rang a week in advance and got a table at 6pm, "sharp" they said.
*Shira Nui - Third time lucky, got a table there by just rocking up early on a weekday.
*Bar Lourinha - Full but told if I turn up late, there might be a table, a 50 minute wait followed until we got seated.

There are other places I haven't been able to get a table to yet and am still trying. I know one place I definitely won't be getting a book at is Tempura Hajime.

These long waiting list take all of the spontaneity out of life. I guess I just have to plan far in advance and convince all my friends to also plan far in advance. We then need to lock in dates to our calendars and uphold to those promises so that we can go eat at some of these restaurants.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Banana Fritter

Who doesn't love a banana fritter with some ice cream. It seems to be the quintessential dessert at Chinese restaurants, but I'm not sure where that comes from. There weren't any banana fritters with ice cream to be seen when I was in Chinea and Hong Kong for holiday.

Anyway, they're are so easy to make and totally delicous. The easiest batter is just to use plain flour and add enough beer to get the consistency you want. This batter is very light and crispy.

Other batters that you can use range from commercial Tempura mixes in Asian grocery stores, a mixture of self raising flour with some corn flour and water, and any other variation you wish to try.

Here is one using the commercial Tempura batter. It was a bit heavy for my liking and I prefer the beer batter more. The small bananas (forget which type they are) work better than the large ones. These ones tend to be ultra sweet and not have that slightly sour flavour once you fry them. Remember to use good clean oil for the best flavour.

Serve with lots of ice cream and nuts, honey, cream or anything else you can think of. Chocolate sauce made from melted chocolate is a personal favourite.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


This week, it was Phuong's birthday so we went to Thanasis for some Greek food. Thanasis is located on Poath Road in Murrumbeena. Again, Jo knew the owner as he was a client of hers at the pharmacy. So despite the place being booked out, we managed to squeeze in.

The restaurant is fairly small and was decorated with paintings of Greece. Otherwise the decor was fairly simple. There was a small bar at the back of the restaurant and a small dance floor area where the band was.

Here we are, from back left, Paul and I and in from front left, Kin, Jo and birthday girl Phuong.

The restaurant was fully packed that night with a couple of other birthday parties going on. It was extremely noisy and we had to speak quite loudly to each other to be heard. When the band kicked in, the noise levels were a bit too loud for talking but not for dancing. There were people doing Greek dances on the dance floor. Even the waitress danced with plates of food as she was walking past to serve the food.

The only choice for food that night was the banquet, which was fine for us since that was what we were going to get. There was an endless stream of food and despite waiting for the meat all night, by the time it came, I was already pretty much full and just managed to stuff a few pieces down.

So the food started with some dips, vine wrapped parcels and some antipasto of beans, roasted capsicum and beetroot. The bread was nice and warm and crispy and went really well with the green dip that I liked most. It had garlic in it and something else I can't identify.

Next up was fried eggplant, fried zucchini (just out of the left of photo), sanganaki (fried cheese just out of right of photo). The sanganaki was too salty and didn't have that nice melted cheese texture of other places. Instead it was still very hard. I didn't mind the fried zucchini and eggplant but they're still vegetables and I don't like vegetables that much.

The obligatory Greek salad, two plates of it. It was good.

The Grilled Octopus was totally delicious. It was way better than the Grilled Octopus at Bar Lourinha, with a massive serving and not costing $14 a plate. The Grilled Calamari was also very good, being tender rather than chewy usually.

There was mussels, which I don't eat so can't tell you how they were. Also served at the same time as the mussels (not shown in photo) was Fried Calamari and Grilled Fish. I was starting to get sick of fish and calamari so only had small pieces. The Fried Calamari was good but the Grilled Fish wasn't

The Oysters Kilpatrick were delicious. The Grilled Prawns were good and the Whitebait was nice.

After heaps and heaps of food already, the Meat Platter arrived. It was huge and we could tell we wouldn't come close to finishing eat. Everyone had eaten way too much bread at the start and also all that other food we had completely finished. I tried a lamb cutlet (good), sausage (too spicy and not good), chicken (good), beef rissole (not bad), piece of lamb (good). Then I was done for the night, with just enough room left for dessert. We took away a whole box of meat afterwards.

Finally, dessert was totally delicious Turkish Delights and Baklava. The Turkish Delights were the rose water ones that I'm used to, but the rose water flavour wasn't too overpowering and the sugar around it tasted different and really good. The other Turkish Delight flavour was nuts in something else. It was yellow in colour, does anyone know what flavour that is? That was really good too. The Baklava was excellent. It was sweet like most places, but the nut flavour really came through. We had some Greek coffee with desserts to help break up the sweetness.

Service was very good. They were attentive without being overbearing so we still had time to eat our food. Things were brought out in a nice timely fashion. When we asked for things, we got them. Plates were changed and water constantly being brought out without having to ask.

Overall, the food was good without any spectacular dish. There was a lot of food for the banquet and great value for money. The service was really good and the atmosphere was bustling. It got a bit loud towards the end for conversation but you can enjoy the dancing and singing.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food was good service excellent. Party atmosphere.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


This Friday's work lunch was at Shanika's. John had suggested we go eat Italian, so we racked our brains trying to think of someplace close to our work that was good. Steve suggested a place in Mount Waverley. We didn't know the exact location so just drove there and we saw Shanika's, which we assume is the place Steve was talking about.

Shanika's looked very fancy but we saw a menu outside which showed $9.50 lunches so went inside. Only then did we find out that those were the take away prices. They had some "light lunch" meals, which were around the $15 mark. Most people ended up ordering from the light lunch menu.

Shanika's looked very nice in terms of decor. They had all these paintings on the wall. I forget what they're called but its those 3-D type murals that trick your brain. Below is a scene supposedly looking out of a window, the people, Jessie and Keiran, are real hahaha.

Here's Tin getting a glass of wine poured for himself.

The trickest painting of all was the one of another small window. We all thought that it was unfinished and that the painter had stuck up a poster of how the finished work should look. Keiran kept saying, "Its finished, go and bring that poster to me." We all got tricked because the masking tape holding the "poster" looked so real. Finally Emmanuel walked over for a closer inspection. It turns out the poster part of the painting is really painted on a poster, which is then stuck onto the wall. The shadows around the poster are painted on.

Despite the lovely murals, the service was very slow. We were the only group in the restaurant when we were first seated. The one waitress took our orders and with 3 of us ordering the same thing, that effectively cut down the meals to only 5 different dishes. After about 30 minutes, the meals arrived. The serving sizes weren't that generous either. I ordered the Siciliana, which was pasta with sausages, salami and olives. It was ok but quite spicy, which I didn't mind but John and Emmanuel found hot. Jessie was extremely disappointed with her ravioli which didn't contain any meat inside. Trung liked his Fettucini while Jeffrey liked his Risotto. Tin, despite hating fish, ordered the special, which was a whole baby snapper. He said he misheard the special and thought it was something else. It was also very expensive at $30 for a lunch meal in the outer suburbs. He didn't like it.

I got the Chocolate Pudding for dessert, which was nice. The chocolate sauce and berries went well with it.

Despite the nice murals, I don't think we will be going back here for lunch. It's quite expensive and service was very slow. The meals were ok but we can get similar for cheaper and faster.

Overall Rating: 10/20, Food was ok but too expensive and slow for a lunch meal.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Creme Brulee

I've always loved eating Creme Brulee and thought it was hard to make. However, after some Google searching, I found a recipe and it sounded so easy. Funnily enough, its from a site called Cooking For Engineers and this is their recipe. It's apparently a site for people with analytical minds who like to cook. That sounds like me.

Here was the results.

So how is it I hear you ask. Firstly it tasted nice. It is extremely rich and one serving is definitely enough. I found it a little too sweet, so next time I will add less sugar. It had a nice smooth texture but I think the oven temperature was too low and the Creme Brulee cooked for a bit too long and got a little lumpy near the surface. This affected the texture at the top a little.

Secondly, I served it with some cream and pomegranate since it was the only fruit in the fridge besides oranges so I was willing to experiment. It worked really well. The pomegranate help to cut the sweetness and worked really nicely.

Lastly, I didn't have a blow torch so I tried to get that crisp toffee crust by putting it under the grill. The grill just isn't hot enough to burn the sugar quickly to give a nice burnt toffee crust. I definitely need to go and buy a blow torch. I can also use the blow torch to make those fantastic salmon sushi that I had at Shira Nui. The outside of the sushi had this beautiful charred flavour with just some pepper and the inside was still raw, perfect.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Little Lamb

There is a yet another hot pot restaurant that just opened in Box Hill, Little Lamb. I had thought it was the same franchise as the one in Hong Kong, which I went to when I was there on holiday. It was excellent so I suggested that we go eat there. Dennis made the arrangements and Patrick, Kevin, Candy and I joined him for dinner there. It turned out Little Lamb is a franchise from China, rather than the Hong Kong one which is Little Sheep. I would have known they were different if we knew the English name originally, but we only knew the Chinese name, which was so similar. Little Lamb is xiao mei yang (little sheep tail) while Little Sheep is xiao fei yang (little fat sheep).

We walked into the restaurant on the corner of Station Street and Whitehorse Road, which used to be the New Shanghai Dumpling place. Once you step in, the smell of the hot pot soup hits you like a jab from Mohammed Ali. It was everywhere and took a while to get used to. I could smell though that this soup would be good already. The herbal medicines in the soup wasn't as strong as some places.

We were shown a table upstairs and seated at a table with a induction hot plate. This was a good sign already for a few reasons. Firstly, the pot would be boiling fast as induction hot plates are very efficient compared to the gas ones where we sit around waiting forever and need to get the gas changed constantly. I could go into the physics of induction but it would take up the whole post, so its better if you click on the link (if you're a geek and want to know) and read it at Wikipedia. You can then follow the link to induction cookers, or click here if you're too lazy. Second advantage of having an induction hot plate is that it was embedded into the table, meaning the actual pot itself was not too high and we could see what was inside it.

After ordering our drinks (the soy drink is very nice), we ticked as many boxes on the election like green sheet as we could. We ticked as many boxes above, below and around the line as we could. The dilemma with buffets is whether to grab as much as you can so you don't miss out on anything or be conservative and try a few things to see how big the serving sizes were. We went the order everything route as we were all starving and saw the serving sizes from other tables. Oh I forgot to mention that you can choose to have buffet ($20) or a la carte. Obviously we chose buffet. This would turn out to be a very wise move.

So here is the ying yang (mixed) soup that we chose. Don't worry, the hot soup looks more threatening than it is. It wasn't too hot, well for me anyway. Too hot is when my lips start to expand in size like I've had botox injections. The soup here was only mild and I didn't even need water to suppress the spiciness. The soup was very nice, with a good mixture of herbal medicine to provide flavour without making it too overpowering.

There was a lot of dishes you can order from. Our favourites were the beef, lamb, abalone mushroom, fish balls, rice sticks, squid and various vegetables. The various types of balls here are quite good. They're not your generice supermarket flour types. They acutally tasted like they were hand made and contained some ingredients of what they were labelled as. The fish and squid balls were definitely good. The beef balls were a bit mince like, which I didn't like but some others did. The beef and lamb slices were very good. We ordered 11 plates of beef and 5 of lamb all up.

They even had desserts, amazing. We had peanut and sesame dumplings and these taro and red bean Chinese pancakes. The dumplings were great, with the peanut one better in my opinion. These Chinese pancakes (guo bing) were extremely delicious. The taro one was better as the skin tasted nicer and the filling was beautifully sweet.

All up, I can definitely recommend this place. The service was very fast and accomodating. Either due to it still being new and hence trying to provide better service, or if the service really is that good, I don't know. The hot pot soup, almost the single most important thing in hot pot, is very nice. The second most important thing, the dishes, were also good. Unlimited servings of beef and lamb so we don't have to push one tiny plate around and say "I'm full, you eat it" anymore. We ate till we couldn't eat anymore. The hand made balls were nice. There was quite a few choices for various other things. Finally, the best thing was that they had these delicious desserts as part of the buffet as well.

I think the buffet option is definitely the way to go. There's slightly more choices in the a la carte section but having buffet does not limit you from ordering from the a la carte menu, so you can have the best of both worlds. We worked out that had we chose a la carte, we would each be looking at about $40 instead of $20. This is about right as at other hot pot places, we do spend about that much.

A last word of warning. Wear clothes that are easy to wash and you don't mind getting a bit oily and smelling like Chinese herbal medicine. Dennis and I were prepared from previous hot pot experiences and wore jumpers that we were ready to wash anyway. The steam from the hot pot gets into your clothes and skin really well. You don't smell it until you leave and then its everywhere. Even my camera smells of hot pot now.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food and service is very good. Fantastic value for money if you get the buffet.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

New Royal Garden

For Friday lunch this week, we decided to go eat Yum Cha. There's a few options for Yum Cha around our work place. There's Imperial Kingdom, Ocean King or New Royal Garden. We decided on New Royal Garden as we hadn't been in a while.

New Royal Garden is located on the corner of Blackburn Road and High Street Road. It looks like any other Yum Cha place, with the usual roast duck, bbq pork and roast pork hanging out in the reception area. The walls were decorated with Chinese paintings.

We started ordering everything that came past. With six people (John, Keiran, Tin, Trung, Jessie and myself), we had the perfect number for yum cha. Since each dish mostly contain 3 pieces, we either get two serves so everyone can try one or one serve if some people don't want to try some things.

The actual dishes at New Royal Garden is ok. There is nothing here that I particular love, but also nothing that I hate. Everything is ok. The range is not extremely large. They serve the stock standard yum cha dishes. What attracts us to it, besides being close, is that its fast and fairly cheap as yum cha goes. It cost $15 for each of us and we were totally full.

Service is quite good, with request for chilli sauce quickly given three times. Desserts orders were also acknowledged and a cart was pulled over for us.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is ok with nothing that I particularly liked nor hated. Service is quite good. Prices are very good.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Home Made Sushi

So I'm currently going through a Japanese food phase. I can't seem to get enough of sushi and sashimi. Recently, I had discoverd that you can buy soft shell crab from the Asian groceries. This made me think of the excellent soft shell crab sushi rolls that I had at Koko. So I tried making some soft shell crab sushi rolls amongst other more common types.

Here is the results. The sushi rolls taste as good as they look. There's a couple of variety on the plate. The various different combinations I chose were:
* Salmon sashimi, carrot and cucumber
* Cooked prawn, avocado and cucumber
* Salmon sashimi, cooked prawn, avocado, carrot and cucumber
* Soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber and carrot

Just a few simple ingredients and you mix and match. The soft shell crab sushi tasted wonderful with a little dab of Japanese mayo and optional lemon. The other rolls tasted good with mayo too but I prefer them with soy sauce and extra hot wasabi.

Monday, May 07, 2007


So after supposedly not celebrating my birthday previous on Friday at Saha or on Saturday at Bar Lourinha, my dad says to me on Sunday, "So where do you want to go to eat tonight to celebrate your birthday." Never one to disrepect my parents or miss out on a meal, I suggested Yamagata Japanese buffet which we hadn't gone back to in a while.

Yamagata Japanese Teppanyaki is located in Doncaster. It also has buffet for $33 on Fridays and Sundays. The restaurant interior is fairly looking but you go for the unlimited sushi, sashimi and other Japanese dishes. The service here is shocking, but was actually quite good that night. Usually they forget your orders or it takes a while for things to arrive. You order the dishes by filling out a form which you then give to the waitress. I've been here so many times that I've mastered the art. Basically once you sit down, you quickly fill out the form and put in the largest order of the night. This way when the food trickles in (on this night, it positively flooded in) you are eating throughout the night. Then you order more throughout the night as required.

Here are the "skinnies" of my family, dad and my sister Tu.

Contrast that to the "fatties" of our household, mum and myself, who happen to be shown eating by coincidence.

The food at Yamagata is quite good. The variety of sushi and sashimi is large and the quality of the fish is good. In fact, its better than a lot of restaurants that charge a lot more, with Sakura immediately coming to mind. The sushi and sashimi arrive very quickly.

My other favourites such as the raw beef and seaweed salad also come very quickly. This place has some of the best seaweed salad I've eaten at any Japanese restaurant. At Sakura for instance, they charge about $8 for a tiny bowl of crappy seaweed salad. Here, I ate three bowls of seaweed salad by myself and two plates of raw beef, totally satisfying my seaweed and raw beef fetish.

They also have a lot of other hot dishes, some of which you can sort of see in the photo with mum and I. I like their wagyu beef, tempura prawns and vegetables, grilled mackerel, Japanese fish, pippies, fried tofu, fried rice, teriyaki beef, fried chicken and fried pork.

Overall its good value for money I think. Nothing is exceptional but its good for buffet as everything is quite nice and edible. You can eat one particular thing that you like and fill up on that, such as how I love to eat raw beef, seaweed salad, sushi and sashimi.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food is good. Service is terrible so order quickly and a lot when you first sit down to ensure you get your food throughout the night.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bar Lourinha

After going to Saha the previous day to sort of celebrate my upcoming birthday that I don't really celebrate, again some friends and I had another excuse to eat out. This time, I chose to go to Bar Lourinha on Little Collins Street after reading Serenity Later's blog post where one of the dishes was described as a "tastebud orgy". How can you resist that? So Dennis, Patrick, Kevin, Candy and myself went there on Saturday.

Bar Lourinha, and it was just that, an extremely small bar, was very busy. We had to wait about 50 minutes since we didn't book, but we had come this far and would eat in there if we had to wait all night. It was extremely dimly lit and the noise levels were unbelievable. Being such a small place and crammed with so many people, you literally had to shout to be heard. We were seated at these chest height tables where you actually had to share a long table with other patrons, a rarity in Melbourne.

Bar Lourinha serves small tapas so we ordered nearly all of them from the menu. I had read one review on some restaurant rating site where someone said that the serving sizes were generous and filling. Let me just clear that up before we start, don't let my photos decieve you, the dishes were, in my opinion, very small. It is on a par with Movida in terms of sizes of dishes and pricing. However, the quality (or more accurately, Thanh's like of the food) is a different issue. More on that later.

The Yellowtail Kingfish "Pancetta" was ok but not fantastic. The fish itself was kind of bland and the lemon oil didn't add to it that much.

The Wagyu "Carne Cruda" and Shave Horse Radish was again good but not great. The raw wagyu was not as flavoursome as other wagyu I've tasted. For a great, let me emphasis GREAT, raw beef, you have to go and try the one at Horoki. It blows this one out of the water and is cheaper too. Not that this one was bad, but just not great.

Probably my favourite savoury dish of the night, was the night's special of Veal with Fennel. The veal had great flavours and I really liked the sauce.

The Twice Cooked Octopus had great texture and the flavour was ok. But I have to compare it to the Paprika Octopus with Potato at Movida which was just superb and similarly priced.

The Spiced Chickpea and Spinach salad was done very well. The chickpeas were cooked right through till they were nice and soft and the spiced flavour was interesting, if slightly too salty. Compared to the Chickpea Salad at La Paella, which was excellent, this one was again give the ok by me. Do you start to see a pattern emerging?

The sausages again were, you guessed it, ok but not great. Compared to the sensational sausages at Lazar's, these ones were very bland. The Lazar's sausages were, and still are, the best I've ever eaten. It totally gave me that "wow, mmm, this is fantastic" reaction both times I went there.

Ok so we finally came to the Roasted "Tastebud Orgy" Mushroom with Garlic Cream. I have to say that they were good, but I wouldn't quite go as far as saying they were a "tastebud orgy". However, one dish later on I would use those terms to describe. Do I have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation?

The Chicken "Piri Piri" Winglets was given the "Did they forget to flavour this" comment from Patrick. He said that in contrast to all the other dishes that were so strong all night, this dish was almost flavourless. I would have to agree. It tasted like the chicken wings that I throw on the BBQ with a drizzling of lemon. Seriously, my mum marinates much better wings and for $14, she makes 3 kgs of it and I stuff myself until I cannot eat anymore.

The Chorizo with apple cider went into one of those "thats very different" category. I did like it and found the apple nice.

Desserts sounded great, but were hit and miss again. The Spiced Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse were a definite miss. It was actually disgusting and we each took one small spoon and that was all that was eaten of it. The Spiced Chocolate tasted like mouthwash, but worse. And since it was all over the mousse, we couldn't even remove it and just eat the mousse.

Ok finally, the one dish of the night that was a "tastebud orgy" was this beauty. The Pomegranate Cream with Pistachio Praline. This dish was divine. It was sort of like a firm panna cotta with some really beautiful flavour. But, when eaten in a whole mouthful with the pomegranate and the pisatchio praline, I kid you not, it was just amazing. We all finished this dish off extremely quickly.

The Donuts with Custard, that's what I'm calling them anyway since I forgot the name, was ok. The outer dough was very sweet and the custard type thing inside was ok. It had some honey jam on the plate which went well with the donuts.

The Churros with Chocolate Sauce was one thing that is better than Movida. The churros itself had better texture (is a bit softer and not overly crunchy) and the Chocolate Sauce is also better.

The place itself is ok, but I think its actually a bit too crowded and noisy for a meal. It was quite uncomfortable sitting so packed together and hard to eat. Talking was very hard and we found ourselves shouting across the small table to be heard. Service was very good, almost too good. Candy said she was very self conscious since the waiters would literally hover behind us and watch us finish the last things on the plate before they would remove the plate. In fact sometimes, we hadn't finished what was on the plate and they would start taking it away which meant we actually had to stop them and feel sort of silly since we wanted that last piece of sausage or that piece or the salad with the wagyu.

The cost for the meal wasn't expensive but neither is it cheap. For the same cost roughly, $40 each here compared to $46 at Movida where we got a French wine as well, I enjoyed it ten times more at Movida in terms of atmosphere and food. So I guess you can guess that I will be going back to Movida for my Spanish food in future. However, Bar Lourinha is far from bad, and if you like that crowded bar type environment, do give it a try.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food and service ok. Atmosphere a bit too crowded and noisy for my liking.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.


My birthday is coming up soon, so I went to a small dinner with friends just to sort of celebrate. I don't really celebrate my birthday but we just use our birthdays as an excuse to visit some fancy restaurant which we normally wouldn't justify spending so much money at. Jo had suggested a Tunisian restaurant in Highett called Saha, which her employees husband runs so we would get good service. So Jo, Kin, Paul, Phuong and myself went there on Friday for a meal.

The interior of Saha is very nice. It had lot of great decorations around the room. The room itself was this very high ceilinged room with wooden floor boards, rendered walls and sparsely laid tables. It definitely had the right feel to it.

I wasn't really expecting a present, but I did get one. And what present would to give to me, well food related of course, chocolate to be precise. Jo had gone and got me a smaller version of the Patchi Chocolate Tower from the Melbourne Wicked Sunday Coffee and Chocolate festival, knowing how I love Patchi Chocolates and think they are the best. The chocolate tower looks so nice, I don't think I will eat it for a week or two.

For entrees we got the Bread with Three Dips. The bread was deliciously crunchy and the dips were great too. I really liked the spicy salsa and the tahini. I don't like olives so didn't find the olive and anchovy dip that nice.

The Filo Pastry Parcels were awesome. The stuffing of spiced prawns, shallots and parsley wored very well.

I'm not a huge fan of cheeses, but these Cheese Parcels with three different cheeses and a tomato based napoli type sauce were extremely smooth and such an interesting blend of flavours.

As usual, we each picked a mains and then shared them, meaning we could try as many things and expand our taste horizons. Jo picked the day's special which was a Cod Fillet with Fennel. Something strange is happening to me lately, since I'm finding that I actually enjoy a lot of the fish dishes. This dish was done really well with the fish firm and full of spicy flavours.

Phoung and I both picked the other days special, the Goat Tagine. The goat was cooked till it was very soft and falling off the bone. It was quite good, not as nice as at Pireaus Blue in Brunswick, but good nonetheless. The peas and artichoke provided a nice sweet contrast to the meat.

Kin chose the Saha Roast Beef. The beef was cooked till it was so beautifully soft, but still maintaining its juicy-ness. It had some spicy flavours to it, like pepper but slightly different. The potato mash was so smooth and creamy that I could feel all the butter going to my waistline but it was worth it.

Finally, Paul got the Veal with Couscous. This was also a great dish, with the veal again being nice and tender. The sauce was my favourite of all the dishes.

Desserts sounded so good on the menu that I had very high expectations. Some of the dishes lived up to it, but others weren't so good. The Chocolate Mousse with Coconut Base was good. The mousse was ok but too sweet and a bit too soft. When eaten with the coconut base though, it was much better.

The creme brulee was good as well, but again probably too soft for my liking. The figs at the bottom of it was a nice surprise.

The best dessert by far was the Ice Cream with Halva, Pistachios and Turkish Delights. What a mouthful of interesting and delicious flavours. We all kept going back for more and finished that one off very quickly.

The most disappointing dessert was the Parfait with Berry Coulis. I was expecting a French type parfait but instead get an American version of a parfait, which was just basically vanilla ice cream with some wafers.

The service was very good. We were seated and our wine opened and poured for us. Menus were given immediately, with specials explained clearly. Food arrived altogether and we were given time to eat and plates were removed once it was clear that we were finished. The one small annoyance was that the waiter, and owner, who was great all night, came back from a smoke break and immediately served our table. He then proceeded to blow a huge mouthful of smoke at me, and the smell was so strong. His cigarettes must have been very strong ones.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Great interior and service. The food was good with a few great dishes.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.