Monday, October 29, 2007

Ishiya Stonegrill

So after some confusion over plans on where to eat on Saturday night, we finally sorted ourselves out and all met at Patrick's house. We decided to go to the city to eat at this new Korean place that Dennis had tried. Unfortunately, it was fully booked that night. The state of Melbourne dining is just phenomenal at the moment. You seriously can't just rock up to a restaurant anymore without getting the fully booked response. Even when you do try to book, it's still full unless you give two weeks notice.

Anyway, back to the meal. So we decided to walk back to Ishiya Stonegrill which we drove past. Kevin had eaten there previously and said that it was good. When we got to Ishiya, we were getting ready with more options in case it was full. Luckily, there was a couple of tables left.

We were seated and given drinks menu immediately. I had a bench seat that had a cushion even, very comfortable indeed. They also had proper napkins, I always like that. The other three got teas, iced and green, which they said was really good. My honeydrew juice was also really good. It tasted fresh rather than powdered.

With the meal menu, the waitress thoroughly explained how it all worked. Her presentation was very impress indeed, she must have repeated those words so many times that she didn't miss a beat. We all wanted to get the stonegrill meats. Then, the special of Wagyu beef caught our attention. When we asked what grade it was, a reply of 7 sealed the deal. So Dennis, Patrick and myself got the Wagyu stonegrill while Kevin got the Porterhouse stonegrill. The meals come with a sushi and sashimi entree already. However, the other special of oysters from four regions around Australia got Dennis and I, so we got that too.

The oysters arrived. This waitress didn't explain which one was which. Not to matter, we dug in anyway. They did all taste slightly different, and I preferred the small one the best. I think that's the Coffin Bay one? I have no idea. Two were from Tasmania and two were from South Australia. Anyone have a clue which oyster regions there are in those places?

The Sushi and Sashimi entrees then arrived. It looked great, but our resident Sashimi expert Patrick immediately said the fish was not good. Patrick has been a Sushi/Sashimi chef for 5 years, so he knows his fish. He said that the cut was all wrong and there was lots of fat still on the salmon. Also, it didn't look too fresh. He ate the first piece and confirmed his initial assessment. I tried my fish and yep, all were not good. Every fish didn't have that nice sweet flavour of fresh fish. The texture was also all wrong, almost crumbly. I walked past the kitchen and saw that all the fish had already been pre-sliced and were sitting in cling wrapped dishes. That would explain the texture. It probably has come in and out of the fridge quite a few times.

Not to worry, we were here for the stonegrill meats. The Wagyu arrived with much fan fare on a trolley. The waiter then slapped the meats onto the stonegrill, which are heated to 400 degrees we were told. It started to sizzle like crazy and there was smoke everywhere. When the grills were place on the table, the oil from the meat was splattering everywhere. We dug in immediately. I wanted to try what fairly raw Wagyu tasted like.

I can say definitely that I love Wagyu. Previously, I had only eaten small amounts of it as a small entree or part of sushi. However, to eat a whole slab is such a joy. The flavours of the meat are fantastic, but I love the texture so much. You pop a piece into your mouth and it seriously is so smooth and not chewy at all. It falls apart around your teeth and the juices ooze out. Delicious, I'm definitely eating more Wagyu in future, even with its high prices. I must try what grade 9 is like one day.

Despite being really full, we still wanted to try dessert. We shared this Truffle Ball with Ice Cream. The truffle ball was huge and quite good. Eaten with the chocolate, it provided a nice mix.

The Belgian Cinnamon Waffle with Green Tea Ice Cream was also quite good. The waffle was a bit dry and the cinnamon was a bit too strong, but eaten with the green tea ice cream and red beans, it tasted better.

The atmosphere inside is good. It's not too big an area and doesn't get too loud, but still has some atmosphere. I like the decor, fairly simple but easy on the eye. The lighting is also soft without being dark. They did have this cool counter thing at the front where the wine was stored.

The service was good on the whole. There were some strange things such as bringing out only 3 drinks and then going back for a fourth. Also, water took two requests to get. Otherwise it was efficient.

Overall Rating: 15/20, The Wagyu tasted fantastic just cooked simply on the stonegrill. I think the price of $65 was good value for the whole 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.

Ishiya Stone Grill on Urbanspoon

Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Once again, I turned to Ellie of Kitchen Wench for a dessert recipe to cook. This time, I liked the sound of devilishly decandent dark chocolate biscuits. I chose to use hazelnuts in the biscuit.

These biscuits are indeed really rich and chocolaty. Using good chocolate is a must as that's the foundation of the biscuit. I like the texture of this biscuit, not too dry. The nuts really give it that extra oomph I think.

Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

200g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
60g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium eggs
220g plain (all-purpose) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
200g good quality chocolate chips

*Optional: 80g chopped nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts would work nicely here

1. Melt the chocolate bain-marie style, stirring occasionaly till melted and smooth. Set aside to slightly cool.

2. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla till just combined, then beat in the luke-warm chocolate. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder, then slowly add to the chocolate mixture, mixing well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Add the choc chips (and nuts, if you’re using them) and mix till well combined.

4. Cover mixture with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 mins - 1 hour, till firm. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

5. Roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and flatten slightly, and place 5 cm apart on a lined tray. Place bowl of mixture back in the fridge (and whenever not in immediate use) and bake tray for 15-18 minutes or till biscuits are mostly firm to the touch and slightly cracked on top.

6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and enjoy with a glass of cold milk. Stores in an airtight container for up to a week

Monday, October 22, 2007

Horoki - Part 3

I asked my friends Emmanuel and John to go for dinner on Saturday. Upon Emmanuel's strict regulation, I had to find a place around $25. So Horoki popped into my head immediately as it always cost about that much when I went previously. The fact that the food is fantastic and I gave it rave reviews helped to make it an easy choice.

Emmanuel drove by in his new snazzy Skyline to give John and I a lift. The night was really warm actually and having the sunroof open is just so cool. I love the feeling of the air blowing my hair around.

As I have written in my previous posts, Horoki is a tiny restaurant in Liverpool Street. This year, they have made it from the Cheap Eats guide last year into the Good Food Guide this year with a score of 13. Well the previous two times, I gave it a score of 16. I'm much more lenient with my scoring. However, I think I will have to change my score this time. More on that later.

When I eat here, there are two must have dishes. The first is the Daikon Sashimi Salad. The second is the Beef Tartar. I didn't bother taking more photos of it since it still looks the same. To read about those dishes, go to the previous post I did. I can happily say that both dishes are still fantastic, with the Daikon Sashimi Salad being my favourite salad of all time so far. The Beef Tartar is also the best I have ever tasted. Maybe when I try some Wagyu Tartar I might change my mind. But for now, both these dishes are brilliant in their simplicity and stunning flavours. Even John and Emmanuel were pleasantly surprised how good the dishes were. They both were a bit icky about eating raw beef, but I kept insisting. In the end, they both liked it.

We then got some "mains" dishes. Horoki doesn't really do mains, just a lot of tiny dishes, but these were closer to mains than entrees. Emmanuel chose the Duck with Eggplant. I wasn't a huge fan of this last time, but it was better this time. The duck tasted better and I knew not to dip too much of the sauce, which was quite sweet.

John chose the Lamb Cutlets, which is new to the menu. The cutlets were excellent, so soft and dripped with a tangy sweet sauce. The mash was really good too, very creamy.

I chose the Horoki Fried Rice as I really like their "Nasi Goreng" style fried rice. This is better than any Nasi Goreng I've tasted though, even the Nasi Goreng I had in Malaysia. I love the spicy flavours and the chunks of meat they put in that add a lot of flavour. Even the prawn cracker adds another dimension to the flavours.

Finally, we all agreed on the Japanese Style Spaghetti. This place is really not a traditional Japanese restaurant. It's all about fusion food here, with everything having a slight touch of Japanese. The spaghetti too was good, nice and firm with lots of meat and vegetables.

Service as usual was good. The authentic Japanese waitresses were polite and efficient. Even when Emmanuel asked one of them if she was related to the other waitress, she just smiled and said that quite a few customers thought that.

So what was wrong this time. The food is still fantastic and there's even more choice now. My problem is that since they have now made the Good Food Guide, they have jacked up all their prices. I didn't pay too much attention to the prices when I was looking at the menu. When we got the bill and it was $40 each, I was a little surprised. As John said, that's still a good price, but compared to previously, it's not as good value. I dug deep into my memory and was sure most things was cheaper. When I got home and looked at photos of the menu I had taken previously, it affirmed that indeed the prices had gone up. And quite dramatically too. With most things going up between $2-$4. That's like 20-40% for some dishes that used to cost $10. Even the sake we had gone up $1 from last time. So this time, I'm going to drop their score by 1 point as it's not as good value for money. For this higher price, they are now competing with other Japanese restaurants for my business. Previously they would have been a no-brainer due to the exceptional value.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Food and service still excellent but not as good value for money anymore.

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.

After dinner, we dropped by the ever popular Koko Black for some drinks and dessert. We all got the Ice Chocolate, which was delcious but so decadantly rich that by the end of it, we were moaning a bit. We also shared the Belgian Spoil. Despite my insistance that "I'm really full and can't eat anymore", I ended up eating most of the Spoil. It was all really rich and gooooooood.

Just as an aide, here are some other interesting things. I really liked how eerie this church looked at night so I took a photo. I wonder if the Rose Line and Cryptex are inside this church???

Last but not least, here is photographic proof of Stalactites closed. Stalactites being closed is a real rarity. They are open 24 hours a day and never close throughout the year. I think I read an article somewhere that said they have only closed like 4 times in the past 20 years. I've only ever seen them closed once when they were doing renovations. This time, I'm not sure why they are closed, but I snapped a photo anyway. This is the gastronomic equivalent of taking a photo of Loch Ness or Big Foot hahahaha.

Horoki Casual Dining Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Search For Super Parma

For Friday lunch, we went back to The Boundary Hotel again. If you had read my previous review where I said it was too expensive, you would question why we would want to go back. Well it turns out that after some investigation from John, there are two sections to the boundary hotel. The TAB/pub part serves cheap food. So we went there this time.

The interior is a very small pub, with screens everywhere for watching the races. You go up to the counter to make orders and they give you a number. Upon seeing the Parma and Pot special for $12, I couldn't resist. I just hoped that my parma wasn't going to be laced with marijuana and instead I was getting a pot of beer hahaha. Of course it was beer, but I was just trying to create some drama in this post.

Usually I'm not a big fan of Parmigana's. I tend to find the crumbs too dry, the tomatoe sauce on it too overpowering and the cheese also too strong in flavour. But for such a cheap price, I was willing to give it a go. Anyway, my Parma arrived and it was huge. It sat on a bed of chips and vegetables. I dug into it and surprise, surprise, it was really good. Everything about it was good. Even the ham was good.

Eating the Parma reminded me of my friend Adrian and how he kept telling me about this website all about Parmas. Adrian's really into his Parmas so had heard about this website that reviews every single Parma in Melbourne. A quick Goggle search came up with Search For A Super Parma. They have rated so many Parmas from all over Victoria. I looked up the Boundary Hotel, not really thinking it would be there. But it was, ranked number 25 on the Official Standings list. Not bad seeing as the list goes to 217. Back at our old work place, we used to eat the Parma at the Notting Hill Pub. That Parma was even better, and indeed it was ranked at number 18. The other other Parma we used to eat was at Wheelers Hill Pub. That one was so overpriced and not good. Well, the Wheeler's Hill Pub comes in at a lowly 116. The site is great for real Parma lovers, or just a very fun browse for the rest of us. Maybe I need to go to the Leveson Hotel now and try what the best Parma in Victoria tastes like.

Lawsuit Muffins

I was thinking of not baking anything for Cake Friday this week since I didn't find any recipes I really wanted to try. So I thought I would go through one of my favourite blogs for recipes, Kitchen Wench, and look for something. I stumbled across these Lawsuit Muffins. The name intrigued me already so I read on. It turns out that Ellie had got the recipe from my other favourite food blog for recipes, Cream Puffs in Venice. Ivonne from Cream Puffs had first written about these Lawsuit Muffins, as she had named them, from a recipe from Marcy Goldman. To read the full story of why she has named them Lawsuit Muffins, go read Ivonne's post.

I do have to agree with Ellie and Ivonne and say these are definitely "kick ass" muffins. In fact, I would also agree and say these are the best muffins I have tried. These muffins are so deadly that maybe you will get sued for making people hooked to them. I can say that I couldn't stop eating them, and I'm serious here. There are usually a couple of things that I can't stop eating. Chocolate is one of them, along with fruits like cherries, lychees to name a couple and strangely, green mangoes with dipping sauce. Well now I can add these muffins to the list. What does it for me with these muffins is that the texture is great, but its the streusel topping that I love so much. It goes so well with the muffin that I can't stop eating them.

The muffins look a bit ugly, but they are seriously good. People were hesitant to try them at first. I choose to use blueberries as my fruit of choice, and they added this blue/green colour to the muffin when baked. Combined with the brown topping, it didn't look so good. I'll let you use your imagination to decide what they look like. However, once people tried one, they went back for seconds. In fact, I hadn't brought enough muffins to work as everyone wanted seconds, and late comers missed out entirely even. Such is the deliciousness (is that a word) of these muffins. As Ivonne wrote, the key to this recipe is the reaction between the buttermilk, baking powder and baking soda to create this lovely texture.

So some tips for a good bake:

* Do not overmix the batter as the muffins will be tough rather than soft and fluffy.
* I find all types of fruits work, even those with more moisture in them. They all bake into a beautiful soft texture.
* The nut streusel topping is sensational so I'd highly recommend you make it. You can chop the nuts finely for a finer crumb or more roughly for more texture.
* Don't overfill the muffin tins as the muffins really rise and the streusel topping wall fall over the side and onto your oven.

Lawsuit Muffin

Nut Streusel Topping

1 tbsp chilled unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts/pecans

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl till you have a crumbly mixture
2. Set aside if using immediately, or store in the fridge till you want to use it.

Muffin Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp grated citrus zest or 2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour *
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 3/4 - 2 cups fruit (if using large fruits you may want to coarsely chop them)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C ^ and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Mix together flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb soda in a bowl then set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, citrus zest/lemon juice and egg. Once combined, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix till combined but do not overmix. Once combined gently add the fruit and mix in. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes and check the batter consistency - if it is still quite watery then add a little more flour as the batter should be quite stiff and hold it’s shape.
5. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and fill pretty much to the top. Don’t do anything silly like smooth the tops over as muffins look tastier when their tops are messily puffed! Sprinkle whichever streusel topping you’re using evenly on top of each muffin and make sure they are well covered as when they cook they expand a lot and suddenly there isn’t as much streusel as you thought there was!
6. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 160 degrees C^ and bake for another 10 minutes. When the muffins are done they will spring back when lightly touched.
7. Let the muffins cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Madame SouSou

Madame SouSou is a tiny French restaurant located on the Bohemian Brunswick Street. The restaurant front is a very small door that you would walk right past if you weren't specifically looking for it. Once you step inside, the smell that hit me reminded me instantly of a deli. I think it was the strong cheese smell that got me first. The interior is an ecletic collection of artwork all over the place. I didn't know where to look first.

We get lead to our table, which have comfortable couch type seating with cushions on one side and wooden chairs on the other. Fresh crisp tablecloth and napkins are folded neatly folded on the table. We get asked whether we want to see a drinks list and if we want water. A good start in terms of service that gets better throughout the night. We say we want water and to see the wine list. Iced water arrives with our wine list. After perusing all the French wine, we settle for an '03 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux region. It's incredibly smooth but not as flavoursome as I would have liked.

The waiter sees me snapping photos everywhere so asks if I would like him to help take a photo of the restaurant. We say yes and he helps take a shot. Our water is also so attentive that when he sees Kin coughing like mad for some reason, he brings over a complimentary warm lemon and honey drink. That's service.

After taking our orders, since I had given the orders, he asks to see who is eating what. This way so that he can set up cutlery and when the food arrives, he even brings it to the right person. Our waiter is definitely on the ball. I'm not sure if the overall service is quite that good. A different waiter that we ask to take our order seemed a bit out of it. At the end of the night, that other waiter who walked past and was clearing our plate said "So it was good yeah" in this slurred speech. A total contrast to our utterly professional waiter who occasionally made a few jokes with us as well.

Before our entrees were served, we were given a complimentary palatte cleanser. It consisted of pancetta, goats cheese, leek and olive oil. It had a slight tang to it as well so probably had lemon. It was very nice indeed.

For entrees, we get the Goats Cheese Tortellini. The goats cheese isn't too strong and the tortellini tastes great. It's paired with a beetroot puree and balsamic vinegar. It must be Modern French food since I didn't know the French used beetroot.

The Souffle with Crab is everyone's favourite entree. It was so light and fluffy and infused with lots of blue swimmer crab meat and leek gratin. The souffle itself had two different textures, in the centre where it was a bit firmer and outside which was softer. This probably is the result of the twice baking process I guess.

The tasting platter looked the most impressive and tasted good too. I like the Terrine with sausage in the centre was to my liking, but no one else really fancied it. The beetroot salad was refreshing. They must buy beetroot in bulk and hence use it on a lot of things. The Lamb Puff was delicous, with lots of lamb bits wrapped in a light puffy shell. The tomato soup was presented nicely in a shot glass.

For mains, Paul got the Fish of the Day, Atlantic Salmon. He said it was too dry and nothing too special. I'm not a fan of fish in general, especially cooked fish so passed on trying it out.

My Roast Lamb wrapped in Tunisian Brik Pastry was one of the best mains. Brik pastry is made from sheets of thin dough, like filo. The lamb was really soft inside and fell apart as I broke the pastry. The beans, pancetta, sausage and thyme made for a very hearty meal.

Jo's main of Twice Roasted Duck was the other fantastic dish. The duck meat was really good, with a good crisp to the skin. But I really liked the sauce of sour cherries that gave it a nice edge. It also made it look so amazing, with that glaze sparkling under the camera flash.

Kin's Grilled Sirloin Steak was good in terms of the meat texture. It was wonderfully soft as he asked for it medium rare. However, the Madame SouSou secret sauce didn't really do it for me.

For sides, we got Beetroot Salad. Like I said earlier, they must buy beetroot in bulk. The salad was strange, with the goats cheese so overpowering and the rocket not working too well with it. The baby potatoes in duck fat wasn't as duck fatty as I was hoping. It tasted like normal roast potatoe. Finally, the grilled zuchinni was fairly normal.

We were so full by this stage but couldn't resist dessert. Jo got the Rhubarb with a lemon sauce and crispy pastry. It was too sour for my liking, even when eaten with the vanilla ice cream.

Paul's classic cCaramelise Apple Tart was simplicity done well. Everything tasted really fresh and good.

Kin and I shared the Chocolate Tasting Plate. Starting from bottom right and going clockwise, we had Mascarpone Cheese with Cinnamon and Pistachio. Then we have a Chocolate Fondant, which was my favourite. I loved the gooey chocolate in the centre. Two white chocolate Toblerone type things had a smooth chocolate filling. The Chocolate Mousse Tart was ultra rich as well. Finally, the Creme Brulee was nice too, but a bit firmer than usual. I like Creme Brulee's more softer and melt in your mouth.

As I have written at the start, service here was really good. The atmosphere was also very good. The lighting it kept fairly low, but not so low that you can't see your food or your own hand. For such a small place, the noise levels get quite high. There was a constant buzz in there all night, but it wasn't too loud that you can't hear your friends. The only slight disappointment was that we weren't able to use our Connoisseur Card, despite the book saying that the restaurant took it.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Food good and service really good. Prices are at the higher end, but the overall dining experience is worth it.

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.

Madame Sousou on Urbanspoon

Banoffee Pie

I first heard about Banoffee Pie from my blog friend over in Wales, Afrobev. He's since stopped blogging but his legacy of his love for Banoffee Pie lives on in this post. This dessert is definitely as decadent as it looks and sounds from the ingredients. There are a couple of main variations as to how it's made, mainly to do with the caramel. Some recipes call for boiling a whole can of unopened condensed milk for a couple of hours. However, being the lazy person that I am, I took the easier option to make the caramel. I boiled my condensed milk with butter and sugar and I found the results very nice still.

I used oatmeal biscuits for the base and they worked really well. The oatmeal gave it a nice crunch and my work mates thought it was nuts that I put in the base. I also added some nuts over the top, which wasn't in the recipe originally. I find that nuts and banana go so well together, so sprinkled about half a cup of crushed cashew nuts.

Banoffee Pie

For the base:
100g butter, melted
250g oatmeal biscuits

For the caramel:
100g butter
100g dark brown soft sugar
397g can condensed milk

4 small bananas
284ml thickened cream, lightly whipped
cocoa powder, for dusting
1/2 cup chopped cashew nuts for sprinkling

You will also need:
20cm spring form cake tin, greased and based lined

To make the base, crush the biscuits until as finely crumb as you like, then tip into a bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Press the mixture into the base and 4cm up the sides of the tin. Chill the base while you make the filling.

To make the filling: place the butter and sugar into a non-stick saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Add the condensed milk and bring gently to the boil, stirring continuously to make the caramel. As soon as it thickens, remove from the heat. Spread the filling over the biscuit base, cool, and then leave to chill for about 1 hour, until firm.

To serve, remove the pie from the tin and place on a serving plate. Slice the bananas; fold half of them into the softly whipped cream and spoon over the toffee base. Decorate with the remaining bananas and sprinkle with crushed nuts. Dust liberally with the cocoa.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Join The Blogger's Banquet

Ed over at Tomato is trying to organise a gathering of food bloggers. Check out his post for details.

If it goes ahead, I'm going to go, so I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

That's Fig-gin' Digusting

My work mates and I were walking around our office business park when we spotted another work mate walking the other way. He was holding a fig in his hand. That's quite rare as it's almost impossible to buy fresh fig. He showed us the tree in the car park that he had just picked the fruit from.

We were all interested and looked at the tree and wondered if we could pick some more. I was even thinking of making a fig cheesecake or something. Anyway, the figs were way too high and all looked really raw still. So most of us kept walking.

Wei, Jessie and Hien had walked the other way. Anyway, Hien must have gone back to the fig tree and picked some fruits. She had given one to John. Having never eaten a fig, he dug into one full on. Just as I was at Hien's desk talking to her, John pops around and goes "You know that fig you gave me Hien, it's full of ants." Ugggg. He went and got the evidence and showed us. Indeed, the fig was teeming with ant type things with wings. Totally disgusting looking. John went and tried to wash his mouth out since he had eaten quite a few of them. Hien kept saying "I wonder how they got in, there's no apparent hole". No matter how they got in, it's still not a nice feeling eating them.

Regarding the actual fig, it was far from ripe. I know because I used to have a fig tree at my old house. When the figs are really ripe, the fleshy meat inside is so sweet and full of syrup. I used to like eating them with a spoon. I didn't like the taste of the skin, but apparently you can eat the skin too.

Just out of interest, I looked up figs on the Internet, Wikipedia to be exact. What I bet you didn't know is that a fig is actually a syconium: an involuted (nearly closed) receptacle with many small flowers arranged on the inner surface. So we're actually eating the flower of the tree rather than the fruit.

I recently made my first ever fig dessert, these fig and pistachi biscuits. I loved them and had found the recipe from Cream Puffs in Venice. For more fig recipes, go to Ivonne's Sugar High Friday post where there are tonnes of recipes using figs.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Ri Rang

A Ri Rang is a Korean BBQ restaurant located on North Road in Bentleigh. We picked this place from the Entertainment Book. When we arrived, Kin noted that it looked more like a strip joint than a restaurant. The neon lights at the front window was a bit dodgy, considering it was in a tiny strip of shops where everything else was closed and all dark. We ventured inside and up the small flight of stairs to a raised restaurant. It wasn't very busy at all, with only a few tables occupied.

We contemplated the banquet but decided on ordering dishes instead. I picked the seafood entree for starters. I was expecting the usual huge plate of pancake like at most Korean restaurants. Instead, three tiny panckes arrived. That was a slight disappointment, but I dug into it as I was really hungry. It wasn't that good, with minimal seafood flavour.

I also picked the Korean Style Sushi as I really wanted to eat sushi. How silly am I though, ordering sushi at a Korean restaurant. The sushi turned out to be all salmon sushi and it definitely was not good, bad in fact. The fish was not fresh at all and the rice was so sour it was hard to eat. If that's how Korean style sushi is like, I hate it.

Paul ordered a Spicy Squid dish. It had the usual Korean spicy sauce with a hint of sweetness. It was ok, but a bit too sweet and not spicy enough for my liking.

Finally, we got meats to BBQ. I picked the Beef Ribs and Kin picked the Spicy Chicken. The plates of meat were less than we expected so we all decided that we would eat more rice.

We stuck the meats on the BBQ hotplate to cook. It cooked quite quickly and produced lots of smoke. Obviously we all ended up smelling like a BBQ ourselves. The chicken was good, with the spicy flavours working well with the tenderness of the BBQ meat. The beef ribs were also good, having the usual sweet type sauce on them.

The service was a bit hit and miss. They bring out the tea and pour it for us, which is good. Next though, the waitress proceeds to spill soy sauce all over me, which is bad. The same waitress also broke a martini style glass with ice cream in it at another table. The service was also a bit slow in bringing us rice. We just sat there waiting for rice while the meats were ready to eat, so that was bad. Then another waitress comes and helps cut up the beef ribs for us, which is good.

In terms of food, I think I won't be coming back to this place. It's not exactly cheap and I don't think you get value for what you pay. The BBQ meats were good, but its the same at all other Korean BBQ restaurants. The other dishes such as the pancake and sushi don't exactly make me want to come back. The other point that really irked me was having to pay for kimchi. Instead of getting 5 to 8 small dishes of free kimchi/condiments, we got nothing. Finally we asked for some kimchi, which we found we got charged $4 for a small bowl that wasn't even refilled. Kimchi costs so little, you would think they would give it free. I think I know why though. Whereas other restaurants are really run by Koreans who make all the condiments themselves, despite the owners initial Korean greeting, I heard her speaking in Mandarin later to her waitresses. So this place probably doesn't make their own kimchi and has to buy it.

Overall Rating: 10/20, The BBQ meats was good but other food not so good. Service a bit patchy. No free kimchi is a definite no no at a Korean restaurant.

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.

Korean A-Ri-Rang Barbeque Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Banana Cake

Is this recipe the best banana cake ever? Well a lot of people at Exclusively Food blog seem to think so. I have to agree that is an extremely good banana cake, definitely better than the banana cakes you buy from cafes. My work mates all agreed as well and gobbled it down.

The process of using a food blender to make this cake means that the banana is completely pulverised and the flavour is spread throughout the cake, giving it a strong banana flavour. The only change I would make is to use even more banana next time, but leaving some mashed banana to put into the batter at the last minute, so there would be chunks of banana in the cake when you ate it.

Finally as a tip, it was really hard to try and process the flour into the mixture using the food processor. I just used an electric beater and mixed the flour in like that. The texture of the cake still tasted good I thought so I don't think it made any difference.

Banana Cake

You will need about 2-3 large bananas for this recipe.

125g butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt with the flour)
330g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
280g (1 very slightly rounded cup) very ripe, mashed banana
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence)
2 large eggs (we use eggs with a minimum weight of 59g)
100ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) buttermilk
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius fan-forced. If you don't have a fan-forced oven, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 22cm diameter springform pan.

Place butter, sugar, banana, vanilla and eggs in a food processor.

Process for about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of processor. Add buttermilk and pulse to combine.

Sift flour, salt (if using) and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl. Add flour mixture to food processor and process until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer or knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave cake to cool on a wire rack.

Spread cooled cake with cream cheese icing. Store cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Icing
90g cream cheese, softened
45g butter, softened
210g (1 2/3 cups) icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add lemon juice and beat to combine. Spread icing over top and sides of cooled cake.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Can't Believe It's Real Butter

I was just at the supermarket tonight buying some butter for the cake which I was going to make. As usual, I was faced with the same conundrum, which butter to buy. I'm one of those people who isn't too health conscious and doesn't use butter in their baking. I love the taste and texture that only butter can produce. It just isn't the same without butter. So for me, the question isn't whether to buy "I can't believe it's not butter" butter, but which brand of butter to buy.

You see, there's a saying that "you shouldn't use wine that you're not willing to drink". Well, does the same saying go for butter. My problem is that the home brand butter only costs about $1 per 250g. All the branded butter go from about $2 per 250g up to $4 for the special Tasmanian butter. I know that when I use the butter to eat, I definitely prefer the branded stuff. It's just smoother and taste better. But when I'm putting it into a cake, is there any difference?

I haven't done any side by side testing of the butter put into two separate batches of the same cake, so I really don't know whether the branded stuff makes the cakes taste any better. Usually, my theory is that I will use the cheaper home brand butter if the cake is a rich heavy cake. I think that the other flavours will mask the flavour of the butter anyway. But if it's a like cake, then I will use the more expensive butter since the flavours might come through. That's just my own theory.

Has anyone done tests to see if home brand butter works just as well as the branded stuff. The price difference is quite substantial, 100% more in fact. So if the effect is the same, then obviously I would rather use the cheaper stuff. As for fake butter or margarine in cakes, NOT IN MY KITCHEN. :-)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Coal Fired BBQ

I love to eat meat, hence it goes to say that I love BBQs. Gas fired BBQs are good, but nothing beats coal fired BBQs. The flavour of the meat when using coal is just ten times better. It's just a bit harder to get a coal bbq going and then cleaning up afterwards. I think it's worth it though for that extra dimension in flavour and tenderness of the meat.

So I was starting up the little small coal BBQ I have on Sunday. Then it starts to rain, and rain hard as well. Luckily, I was under the cover of the patio. I love watching rain fall, so it was excellent to be sitting under the patio eating my BBQ while the wind and rain was swirling all around me. It was perfect, with the light starting to fade, the trees all swaying and looking up at the purple flowers under the patio.

The beef skewers and chicken wings are cooking quickly on the coal. I love chicken wings the most since the texture of the meat is amazing. It's so smooth and the flavours are wonderful. The skin also adds oil which just keeps it all so moist. As for the beef skewers, they take a bit of time to thread, but worth the effort. The meat remains moist and its so convenient to hold. You just slide the meat off the skewers by gripping them with your teeth.

Here is my chicken wing lollipop which I eat ungracefully and then spit out the bone. As Ellie at Kitchen Wench noted, no one can eat chicken wings elegantly. But for a chicken wing lover like me, looking elegant is the last thing on my mind when I'm chomping down on my yummy chicken wing.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

I was looking to make a really easy dessert. When I spotted this Chocolate Cherry Cupcake recipe on the Domestic Goddess Nigella's website, I thought I would give them a go. The reviews from others was that the cupcakes were decadently delicious. I agree with them, these cupcakes are very rich and nice. I did lick my fingers when I tried the frosting, but not half as sensually as Nigella does it on her show. She is definitely sexing up cooking, although it is starting to become a bit over the top. How many close up shots can they possibly do of her licking a spoon seductively with a voice montage claiming how the cream is so smooth and feels like velvet on her tongue. Ok, I could watch about 5 shots per episode hehehehe.

Anyway, back to the cupcakes. It was extremely easy to make, taking about half an hour from start to having them in the oven. The frosting was also easy. I made it while the cupcakes were baking and then frosted the cupcakes when they had cooled a bit.

I will definitely make these again, but with a minor change. I found it a bit too sweet. Possibly I got the wrong jam. The recipe said to use Morello cherry jam, but the supermarket only had Black cherry jam, which was sweetened with grape juice. I think if I just use canned cherries next time, it would taste a lot better with the slight sour flavours contrasting with the richness of the cupcake and frosting. I didn't bother decorating with a cherry on top either.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g morello cherry jam
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
12-bun muffin tin and papers

For the icing:
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
12 natural-coloured glace cherries

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon and when all is pretty well amalgamated stir in the flour.

Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in their tin and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and then whisk – by hand or electrically – till thick and smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon, and stand a cherry in the centre of each.