Thursday, February 21, 2008

De Definition Der Meeresfrüchte - I've Been Translated

So I was looking up other people's reviews about the first So You Think You Can Dance live show on Google. I then come across my own article about it via the Technorati site. Under my articles were other blog reactions to my personal blog. Needless to say, there aren't many reactions. Most of which are links from my food blog to my personal blog when certain food outings cross link with other activities. I did find one blog that caught my eye. It was some foreign language blog. Upon clicking on the link, I found that someone had my Great Ocean Road post, translated it and posted it on their site. You can see their post here.

I have now officially been translated. I don't know whether I am flattered that they have gone to the effort to translate what I wrote, or angry that they have posted my entire article. He/she/they did link to me but the photos and text are mine, albeit in another language. I used Altavista Babelfish (remember Altavista, they were the Google of their time, ahh how the Internet has changed so quickly) and cut and paste the text in. Basically, the translation comes out pretty accurately what I wrote, with some expected grammatical errors.

I don't know whether the site is profiting off my post or not. It seems like he/she collects holiday experiences from other blogs and translates them into German. There are a lot of spam ads on the page for pills, so maybe they do make money from my work. I wonder what the laws are about translation of stuff. Does copyright still cover translated text. I know that many Asian artists cover Western songs all the time. I wonder if they seek permission of the Western artist to cover the song or they just do it since there is a small chance that the Western artist will ever hear the song?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sichuan Restaurant

A friend from overseas was visiting so a group of us went to eat hot pot, such is our traditional catch up meal. We went to Sichuan Restaurant on Carrington Road in Box Hill. This place offered an all you can eat type hot pot, much like many other hot pot houses like Little Lamb and Golden House.

We were seated in a small private room, which was good and bad. It was good because we were extremely loud and were isolated mostly from the noise outside. The bad part was that it was really really hard to attract the waitresses to get some service. Our first order of food arrived rather quickly. But the second order took an eternity, which left us just sitting there watching the pot of soup boil dry while being extremely hungry.

In regards to the actual food types available, the $23 all you can eat meal doesn't offer much. There was only a few choices of meats and simple vegetables. You also get to choose cold dishes. We chose some marinated beef, which we got. Then another plate came out and even though we started to eat it already, a waitress came and said it was for the wrong table and took it away. Seeing as it is all you can eat and we already started eating it, why would you take it away.

The service was pretty shocking. One waitress spilt two beers since she poured it so that there was so much froth, which meant the froth overflowed. So we lost a big part of the beer, which she didn't bother to replace. And like I said earlier, getting their attention to order more food was really really hard. Even when we did order it, we waited and waited. Only when we got sick of waiting did we find out that they had lost our order form.

This place offers nothing special. So for the same price as Little Lamb, the food is much worse with less variety and the service is terrible. Little Lamb, back when they had opened for less than 3 months, had really good service the 4 times I went. It could be that they were eager to please since they were newly opened. I haven't been back in a while so can't vouch for how the service is now. But the food is definitely better. You can even get dessert.

Overall Rating: 11/20, It's good value if compared to non all you can eat hot pot places. But for the same price, you can get better food and service at Little Lamb, about 200 metres down the road.

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.

Sichuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Chopping Block

The Chopping Block is the latest reality cooking show on TV. I always love cooking shows as I'm so fascinated to see the inner workings of a restaurant. Sometimes I think I should take on a part time job as a waiter at a top notch restaurant just so I can see how the chef works. But then I remember how tough it is to be a waiter and I relax back into my couch to watch a reality cooking show.

I watched the first season of My Restaurant Rules religiously. It was fresh and exciting. I wanted the Melbourne restaurant to win. I too, like many people, entertained the thought of going to the restaurant just to see what is was like. But it was so hard to get a booking and didn't make it there. I have watched other shows like Jamie's Kitchen, Hell's Kitchen and Ramsay's Kitchen (I can't remember the exact names but one show was where he yelled at staff in his own kitchen and the other show was where he yelled at restaurant owners that he was trying to help), Roco's (I think, about an American chef's restaurant), A French Odyssey etc etc. The list goes on and on. I can't remember half the show names but I do love the dynamics that occur between people in the kitchen when things get stressful.

The Chopping Block is like a My Restaurant Rules in one episode. There are less tears but it still has a bit of heat. The format is fun but not as strong as a whole series that follows contestants throughout their ordeal. I like the part where Matt Moran physically goes to the restaurants and help the contestants to improve it. However, it all feels a bit too rushed. You don't get to know the people too well, so don't care too much. The fact that it's all over in about a week doesn't show you the determination of the contestants. And that one man judges the restaurants without any breakdown of the scoring criteria cheapens it a bit. But I still like the show and will continue watching for a bit of light entertainment. That's if it is still on TV in a few weeks time. Apparently, it didn't rate so well last week.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I am loving Japanese food lately so decided to try another place. Upon the suggestion of ElegantGourmand from Tummy Rumbles, I decided to try out Shoya. I rang up to book a table on Friday not really expecting to be able to get a table. I rang for Shira Nui on a Tuesday and they said they were full. As it turns out, I was able to get a table at Shoya.

So come Saturday, Kin, Jo and I headed off to Market Lane in the city nice and early as we were anticipating how good Shoya would be. Their online menu sounded fantastic. We entered the restaurant which is right next to Flower Drum and opposite Hofbrauhaus in the lane. There was dim lighting as we entered the small first floor. The place was beautifully decorated, with the Sake on display on a stylish multilayer shelf. We were lead up the stairs, and then up some more, to the third level where we were seated at a table opposite the sushi bar.

Upon sitting, the beautiful, but slightly aloof feeling Japanese waitress asked what we wanted to drink. We had no idea what drinks there were so asked for a drinks menu. I don't know why restaurants don't offer you a drinks menu first before asking for your drink order. After bringing us drinks menu, we asked another waitress for her suggestion in regards to sake. This waitress was a lot warmer and suggested the Hokkiazan I think. The sake was really good, but also rather expensive at $42 for 240ml. And this was one of the cheaper sakes on the menu. It was at this stage that we knew this wasn't going to be a cheap meal. Anyway, we said to each other, "what the heck, it's Chinese New Year, let's splurge this week and not go out for a month".

With drinks out of the way, we started to peruse the menu. It was at this stage that the routine of the night started. The cold but beautiful waitress came over and suggested that we have sashimi to start. We definitely wanted sashimi but hadn't really had time to look at the menu. She kept insisting that we try the Omakase Platter. The menu didn't have a clear description of how many pieces and the price. Maybe they are used to Japanese businessman who don't care about the price and just keep ordering, but we're just junior engineers who don't make that much. We wanted to know how much food we were getting so we could plan what else to eat. In the end, she couldn't really tell us, but we ordered it anyway.

The Sashimi Platter was fantastic. The various types of fish tasted so great and yet all so different. Each had their own texture. I wished I had asked what was what before I gulped it all down. But there were oily fish, smooth fish, stronger flavoured fish, scallops, squid, lobster etc. There is definitely no argument that the sashimi is great. But it is fairly expensive at $85 for this platter.

As soon as we were finished, a waitress rushed up to us and asked "do you want to order more food". Easy on. We were browsing throgh the menu already. That was the main problem we had all night. Either they were too eager to please or they were pushy and trying to upsell to us at every stage. It lacked that comfortable feeling. Whilst the service at Koko in Crown Casino was equally professional, it did not feel pushy at any stage. It was much slicker and more comfortable. Here, whenever we looked anywhere, someone would ask us if we wanted to order more food or drinks.

We ordered the Roast Duck with miso sauce. I liked the miso sauce that went with the duck in this dish. The spicy noodles was good too.

The Shoya signature dish of Quail Egg wrapped in "softy surround" scallop with mushroom was a fizzer. It tasted like a quail egg fried in some batter. Also, they really should get in someone to write their menu better. It was really hard to follow. I don't mind simple English, but when I can't understand it, that's where I draw the line.

The Beef Tataki looked like they may have used Wagyu, I'm not sure. But the beef definitely had a lot of oil through it. Unfortunately, it didn't have much in the way of flavour and tasted worse than my own Beef Tataki concotion at home. The best part of the dish was the salad dressing. I still haven't found a Beef Tataki better than the amazing one at Horoki.

The Pork Loin turned out to be Tonkatsu. From the menu description, I was imagining that it was a slow stewed casserole piece of juicy pork with miso sauce and worchester sauce. Instead, just a tonkatsu slapped on a plate with salad, at a very high price. It tasted good, but didn't taste any different from much cheaper ones I've had before.

From reading the dessert menu, I was ultra excited. I love love love desserts so wanted to try everything. Unfortunately, not one dessert was good. The Sea Urchin Cheesecake sounded interesting on paper, but that's where it should remain. The sea urchin does not go with the cheesecake at all.

The Dessert Platter again sounded great but not one thing was even half decent. The Black Sesame Panna Cotta looked bad and tasted it too. It tasted really strange. The Chocolate Pudding with Sake was really weird too. There were some peppercorns at the top and I bit into them and it was awful. I spat the whole mouthful out. Lastly, the Jelly type thing with red bean was tasteless. My mum makes way better red bean jelly, for one twentieth of the price.

To sum up, I think that I won't be returning here again. The sashimi was fantastic, some of the best I've ever tasted. But that alone will not bring me back. I think that the prices are just too expensive (about $110 each with drinks included in that). The Tonkatsu is so way overpriced. The signature dish of quail egg didn't taste like much. The desserts were really bad. The food simply does not match the prices. While for $100 we felt like we had had a dining experience at Koko with so much variety and totally delicious dishes, here, we spent more yet felt like we had a cheap dirty meal of little substance.

The atmosphere in there was rather quiet for a Saturday. The tables weren't filled until right at the end when we left, a few other tables were filled. The bar seats only saw a three customers whilst we were there. I'm not sure whether it was Chinese New Year that meant it was so quiet. I would have thought they would be overflowing with customers on Chinese New Year.

The service felt way too cold and slightly pushy for my liking. You can have professional service that is stil warm, even slightly warm would have been ok. We felt like we were being upsold on a lot of things, and we didn't like it. The constant insistence to try the sashimi platter and more sake and more dishes was just a bit too much. The floor manager was trying to sell the degustation to the next table and kept insisting, you should order this, we can change this for you etc etc.

Overall Rating: 12/20, The sashimi is amazingly good, but way too many other faults for me to return there again.

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.

Shoya Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Barassi's Mountain View Hotel

I went to Barassi's Mountain View Hotel with Keiran for dinner before we went to theTwenty20 match between Australia and India at the 'G.
Barassi's Hotel is located on Bridge Road, right opposite Vlado's. It's a huge pub going for like 3 levels or something.

Keiran had planned ahead and booked a table so that we would have somewhere to eat amongst the million other people there also having their meals before the match. We arrived slightly late, but a table with Keiran's name on a piece of paper could be seen. I didn't know that you could book tables at pubs and then instead of just placing a reserved sign, they went to the trouble of actually making a booking placard. I found that really professional and took a photo of it, along with Keiran.

The menu showed typical pub style food. There were a few other style dishes but nothing too fancy. We both decided to have the Beef Burger, which sounded very enticing. Whilst we waited, Keiran downed his Guiness while I had my James Squire Golden Ale. The golden ale was great, slightly sweet and lots of flavour.

The food arrived fairly quickly. It smelt and looked really good. It tasted even better. The beef pattie was good quality beef and had lots of great flavour without oozing fat everywhere. The bun was the right crunchiness and the bacon was cooked so it was slightly crispy. What really made the burger pop for me was the mixture of tomato sauce and their special chutney. It just made the whole burger mesh together and taste fantastic. The chips were crispy and not oily.

The atmosphere in the pub is rather boisterous, as you would expect. It's a pub crowd and it can get fairly noisy. The pub is clean and has a nice feel. The food was good quality food that isn't expensive. It's great for a quick bite.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Good quality pub food at good prices. Great for a quick bite.

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, February 10, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year - Year of The Rat

This post is slightly late, but officially, Chinese New Year runs for like 15 days until the full moon is gone. When I was young, Chinese New Year in Vietnam is huge. The whole country stops basically and celebrates the event. It is getting bigger and bigger each year here in Australia as the Asian population increases, but nothing will match the celebrations in Asia.

For our family, we celebrate Chinese New Year by eating. We also visit relatives and friends, but eating is a huge part of it. There is lots of little candied treats, like candied coconut, lotus, sweet potato etc.

On New Year's night, we had a big meal of lobster. Lobster is very expensive so we don't get to eat it often, but Chinese New Year is one time to splurge a little. The lobster was bought live from a fish shop in Box Hill. It was a massive 3kg beast, flapping about all lively still. We killed it by putting it into the fridge and letting it go into a sleep. I hear that is the most humane way to kill them. But since I can't communicate with a lobster, I can only assume that is the case.

Mum cooked the lobster with ginger, spring onion, chilli, soy sauce and oyster sauce. The flavours of the lobster made the noodles taste so good. She also did some lobster sashimi, equally fantastic with soy and wasabi. I stuffed myself with lobster until I could eat no more. The meat was so firm and sweet. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

I hope everyone has a Happy Chinese New Year. May the new year bring you luck and fortune, good health for you and your family and lots of joy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Korea Gardens - Part 2

Korea Gardens a good Korean restaurant that happens to also be close to where I live. Hence my friends and I go there quite often. We went there this time for a quick meal before going to watch Cloverfield. Just a note of caution, if you are going to watch Cloverfield, don't eat too much. The hand held style of the movie made me so nauseous.

This place has really good banchan. My favourite is definitely the kimchi, but I also like their potatoes and marinated cucumber.

The Beef Bulgogi here is good too. It's got a touch of sweetness but not too much.

The Spicy Pork needs to be more spicy I reckon, but otherwise it's not too bad. I usually prefer the spicy octopus instead.

We tried the Flounder which we haven't tried before. The fish tasted very good, with a spicy sharp sauce. The meat was firm and had flavour.

I kept pushing for the Raw Marinated Crab because it sounded very interesting. I used to eat Salted Crab as a kid and really liked that. This was something similar, with the crab marinated in some salt solution and then the chilli type sauce slapped over it when served I guess. The already salty crab became even more salty with the sauce. It made it all hard to eat too much. The first few bites were really good, but we couldn't eat much more of it. A tiny bit of this would be enough to go with a whole bowl of rice, or better still, congee, just like when I used to eat the salted crab with congee. Mmmmm, that would have went well together.

The Seafood Hot Pot had prawns, fish and swimmer crab. I liked the spicy broth and drank about 4 bowls of it.

The upstairs dining area with the large windows give a nice and light feeling to the place. The decor is simple and so is the service. Nothing fancy here. Just good food at good prices. Our meal came to under $25 each, and we were stuffed to the max. We didn't even finish the Hot Pot or Marinated Crab.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food is good and cheap.

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.

Hodori Korean Garden on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 03, 2008

McKinnon Hotel - John's Last Day

It was John's last day at work, so as usual there was a going away lunch. Of late, we have been going to the McKinnon Hotel as its one of only two large pub places around. The Boundary Hotel has been tried a few times and that aint so great. But after this last meal at the McKinnon Hotel, I think we can probably drop this place too.

Anyway, back to John. John has been at the company quite a while and one of the first people I got to know when I joined the company. Despite our obvious age differences, I talk to John a lot. We are both fascinated by photography, gadgets, food (particularly chocolate) and just general technology stuff. I'm going to miss talking to John. Hopefully he will come and join us occasionally for Friday lunches.

John's farewell lunch has been one of the biggest, with two whole tables of work mates wishing him well in retirement.

To the actual food at the McKinnon Hotel. The food here is priced slightly high in my opinion, but not as much as the Boundary Hotel. This place does sort of a mix of all types of cuisine, from a Thai Salad to pasta to steaks. However, it doesn't seem to do any of them well. I sometimes think pubs should concentrate on a few dishes and do those well. A good burger can be equally satisfying as some fancy dish.

The first two times I ate here, I tried the Lamb Shanks and the Chicken Risotto. Both dishes were below par. The lamb shanks lacked flavour and was served with some awful vegetables that was served with every other dish. The risotto was all clumpy and again lacked flavour. This time, I went for the Linguine Marinara. I actually felt like a Spaghetti Bolognese but noticed they didn't have that. Or a carbonara. So I had to settle for the marinara, which I usually don't mind. My request to have them omit the mussels (I really don't like mussels) was met with, the marinara is a pre-mix. Oh no, not a good sign already. The waitress told me, "you can pick them out when you get the dish". Which made me think, why can't they pick them out for me before they add the seafood to the pasta.

When my dish came, it didn't look like the marinara I expected. I always thought marinaras had a tomato base. Anyway, I gave it a try. The McKinnon Hotel are definitely consistent. This dish totally lacked flavour. I added a bit of salt and instantly the flavour lifted. But still it was not good. The fish was foul and really smelt. I didn't touch the mussels. The tiny tiny prawns added no flavour whatsoever. The two piece of calamari I ate. I asked everyone else how their meals were going. Mark's Seafood Basket had grilled prawns that were totally overdone and calamari as chewy as tyres. Jessie's fish and chips had such a heavy batter that you couldn't taste the fish. Esther's Ceasar Salad was so soggy that she didn't hardly touch any of the lettuce and left half the salad in the bowl.

The food here is pretty bad. The restaurant is nice and bright, except for where we always get seated, the large table. There, it is very dark and has a terrible feel.

Overall Rating: 10/20, Food not 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.

Australia Day BBQ

Obviously, this Australia Day BBQ, or more accurately, the Australia Day Public Holiday BBQ was over a week ago. But as usual, I'm late on my posting, so here it is. A group of work mates and I had a BBQ at Grant's Picnic Ground in Mount Dandenong.

It was a perfect day for a BBQ, being warm but not overly hot. The location was also great, not many flies. However, it was extremely crowded. It seemed everyone else had the same idea to have a BBQ there. Luckily, John got there early to battle for a picnic table. Once we finally found a parking, we started to cook all the food.

I brought my Thai Chicken Wings and Hummingbird Cupcakes. There were also lamb chops, sausages, beef patties, three types of salads, vegetable skewers, fruit, mango pudding and more cupcakes.

Chef Trung who did a great job cooking the meat all day.

Not a moment was missed by our photographer Jeffrey, with his DSLR and 400mm lens. I tried my best to capture the essence of the day on my tiny Sony V1 camera.

After eating, we needed a nice drink so I shared my red wine with baby Phi while he shared some of his milk with me.

There was also double trouble with Trung and his twin posing for photos with Mark's twin boys.

Finally, there was some bird spotting. I could only manage this meagre photo of the rosellas, unlike Jeffrey, who got such close up shots of the birds.

Thai Chicken Wings

Besides preparing the Hummingbird Cupcakes for the Australia Day BBQ, I also needed to do something with chicken wings. I had been meaning to try Ellie's Chilli Lime Chicken Wings for ages, so now was the perfect chance. I love the middle section of the wing, skin on (yes its not as healthy but just doesn't taste as good without the skin).

The marinate was easy to make. I just smoothered the wings with it and left it to marinate overnight, turning it once to make sure all wings got the full marinate. I also cut a slit between the two wing bones so that the marinate could seep through the skin. The verdict on the wings is that they're very nice. They have the sharp tang of the lime and spicyness of the chilli that I love. I put in less chilli as I wasn't sure if everyone could handle hot. Next time when I'm making it for myself, I'm going to treble the chilli for sure. I would also add an extra spoon of sugar for a touch more sweetness. I was also lazy so didn't make the sauce to pour over it. Next time I will try that as well.

Chilli Lime Chicken Wings


8 medium chicken wings (approx 1kg)
6 coriander stalks
6 garlic cloves
1 small red (thai/birds eye) chilli
1 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Chilli Lime Sauce
100g caster sugar
125ml white vinegar
1 small red (Thai/birds eye) chilli, finely sliced
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped

To serve:
Lime wedges

1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the coriander stalks, garlic, salt and sugar till you have a rough paste. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and oil and stir to combine well. Rub this into the chicken, making sure to get it into each cut, and then store the chicken in the fridge overnight to marinate.

2. Heat the oven to 220 degrees C, then place the chicken on a foil-lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, turning over after 15 minutes. Once they’re done, turn the grill on to about 200 degrees C and give the chicken a good blasting till they are crisp and golden on both sides (anywhere from 5-15 minutes) . Pour the chilli lime sauce over the wings and serve with some lime wedges as a wonderful finger food.

3. Making the chilli lime sauce - Heat the sugar, vinegar and sliced chilli in a saucepan and stir till the sugar has dissolved. Bring it to a boil and allow it to bubble and reduce down till it is slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and coriander leaves, then set aside and allow to cool and for coriander to become infused in the sauce.

Hummingbird Cupcake With Cream Cheese Frosting

I wanted to make some sort of cupcake for the Australian Day public holiday BBQ I was going to. A quick Google search of cupcakes and once again I was back at one of my favourite cupcake blogs Cupcake Bakeshop. I browsed through the recipe index and decided on making the Hummingbird Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

The cupcake looked very easy to make, and it turned out that way. You basically chuck together the wet and dry ingredients, mix and then bake. The cupcakes turned out really nice. The flavour is a nice combinations of the crunch of pecan nuts, the fragrance of the banana and the occasional burst of pineapple. It is moist and not overly sweet. Despite my hatred of piping, seeing all the beautifully decorated on the Cupcake Bakeshop blog inspired me to try piping my cream cheese onto the hummingbird cupcakes. The piping turned out ok. The first few were a disaster so I just ended up spreading the cream cheese on those ones.

Hummingbird Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
200ml can crushed pineapple, with liquid
2 mashed bananas
1 cup coursely chopped pecans

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt with a whisk in a good sized bowl.
2. Beat eggs.
3. Add oil and vanilla to beaten eggs and mix until somewhat combined.
4. Add egg/oil/vanilla mixture to flour/sugar/baking soda/cinnamon/salt mixture.
5. Mix together pineapple, bananas, pecans until combined.
6. Add to the rest of ingredients and stir to combine.

Bake at 350 degrees for ~25 minutes until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

250g Softened Cream Cheese
80g Softened Butter
1 tbsp Vanilla Essence
1 cups Icing Sugar (add more or less icing to your liking)

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Mix in vanilla essence and icing sugar until the desired sweetness.