Monday, June 27, 2011

Eat Street 2011

If you take over 40 top Melbourne restaurants and wineries and throw them together into one massive event, what do you get? You get the wonderful event known as Eat Street. Eat Street is run by the Australian Childhood Foundation, which is a not-for-profit organisation that supports children and families devastated by abuse, family violence and neglect. Eat Street is one of their annual fundraising events. The concept is in it's 12th year and all goods and services on the night are donated by the various participating restaurants, wineries and corporations.

This year's event, like last year, was held at the Sofitel Hotel on Collins Street. There was approximately 800 guests, who enjoyed themselves grazing on the delectable food and drinks spread over three different areas. The main Grand Ballroom had the stage for the auction of donated items, the upstairs room had a cosier intimate feel with a live band, and the hall area had a more relaxed open vibe to it. All three ares were lined with culinary stars and their restaurant stalls, along with fabulous beer and wine producers.

I wandered my way through all three areas sampling fine food from such restaurants as The Press Club, No35, Coda, Maha Bar & Grill, PM24, The Point, Verge, Taxi and pastry shops like Le Petit Gateau and Burch & Purchese. The food was all sensational, but for me two items stood out. Firstly, I couldn't go past (actually I went past three times to have repeated servings) the Mushroom Forest dessert from Nic Poleart at Embrasse. Visually stunning and with flavours to match. The constrast of the mousse, meringue, chocolate dirt, chocolate curl and granita was worth every calorie of my one-day-of-processed-sugar-a-week diet. Nic also made the most divine violet macarons, which I adored. You know about my obsession with violet flavours, especially in macarons.

My favourite savoury dish of the night was from one of my favourite restaurants, The Point. The Wagyu Cigars were crispy, tender and flavoursome and just so mooreish. Sous chef Ben was there frying them up and doing a great job.

I tasted a host of other amazing dishes, some of which I remembered to photograph below. I also sampled a variety of drinks, from the always excellent Moet and Chandon Brut to the slightly strange Blueberry Beer and Acai Vodka.

And what's a food event without some chef stalking, ummmm, spotting. I managed to get a snap with my bro Pierrick Boyer from Le Petit Gateau, Ian Burch from Burch & Purchese and my mate Scott Pickett from The Point.

It's was a super fun night and all for an amazing cause. The event was run very smoothly, the food and drinks were sensational, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable and the cause, a great one. I would highly recommend you go along next year and enjoy the event yourself. It's like the World's best buffet, where a ticket to the event gives you access to unlimited dishes from some of Melbourne's best restaurants.

Thanks to AMPR Public Relations for providing me with a media pass.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


400 Bridge Rd
Richmond, VIC 3121
Ph: 9428 3918

I've wanted to go to Maedaya for a while now. I love any type of BBQ and my friend Nelly kept telling me how great Maedaya was and how she is constantly eating there. Also, Maedaya does a big range of sake, which I really love. So one night, 8 of us went to Maedaya to sample the food. I believe that you can only book for a large group in the upstairs dining area and that has a slightly different menu to the downstairs dining area. Whereas you can only get the yakitori and tapas in the downstairs area, you can order the BBQ upstairs. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

As we walk through the downstairs area, I notice how it's setup for small groups. Orders are made and then prepped by the open kitchen that dominates the small long room. As you go upstairs, the dining area is very bare with big long wooden tables that can sit multiple groups. The setup with the large table help to facilitate the sharing that the menu demands. We start our meal by ordering some sake (I can't remember which one) to share. The sake was really good and was a sweeter type, served cold as we wanted. We shared 3 serves of the Sashimi Salad, which was really fresh and delicious. It was also huge and great value for money. The Beef Tataki was quite nice too, with the meat tender and sauce sharp.

The main event was the BBQ Meat and Yakitori. A couple of serves of the Maedaya Platter and various items such as Ox Tongue, Pork Belly, Chicken Thigh, Pork Loin, Beef Topside and Beef Rump were grilled on the coal fired BBQ. The staff come and help you turn the meat but as it gets busier, you'll have to tend to the meat yourself sometimes. All the items were delicious, and I really liked the ox tongue, pork belly and beef rump. Lots of yakitori were also consumed by our group. Various types of chicken, pork and beef were served on skewers for easy consumption. Surprisingly, the cheese bacon rolls weren't that great, but the chicken thigh skewers were delicious.

Look at Eliott with his winning smile and new camera.

With dessert, we basically got everything on the menu. The Taiyaki looked beautiful and got oooohs from everyone when it arrived. Unfortunately it was probably the weakest dessert. It was very dry and didn't taste very good. Instead the Soy Milk Pannacotta was sensational. Smooth, creamy and a good level of sweetness. You can't go wrong with an assortment of ice cream and the Trifle had good lashing of ice cream amongst cream, fruit and red bean. The Daifuku was quite good, with a strawberry and red bean flavour available. The Dango (sweet rice cake) was hard and dry and no one liked it. We did love the Green Tea Jelly things. I'm not sure what it was called by they were like Turkish delights but with a green tea flavour.

The service was friendly and good. As with most Japanese restaurants, all requests were serviced with a polite bow and smile. The atmosphere in the upstairs area was buzzing. It was full of boisterous laughter and people enjoying their food. The space could feel a bit empty with the very sparse layout but with people packed in there, it feels very cosy.

The food is fairly simple stuff, but very tasty. Obviously the BBQ relies on good quality meats and I think that it is. There are good yakitoris and lots of tapas, hot pots and salads. I really liked some of the desserts, which are a bit different to the usual serving of just ice cream. The price is very fair and I would definitely go back to try more food and sake.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Good BBQ meats, great salads and a huge range of sake.

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.

Maedaya on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Casa Pepe Spanish Catering

Casa Pepe Catering
Mobile: 0403 085 242

I first met Noemi Garcia at this year's inaugural SBS Food Journey Festival. Basically, a slightly negative critique of her food at the festival resulted in a group of food bloggers dining at her house. You can read the full story here. What I can say is that I applaud Noemi for wanting to prove herself and it takes a brave and strong person to take this risk. We all make mistakes, but people who try to correct them are the ones who get my respect.

So let me give you some background about Noemi. She's of Spanish heritage and started her catering company, Casa Pepe, a couple of years ago. She found that her passion for food kept nagging at her, and although she enjoyed her social worker job, she felt that she needed to pursue this aspect of her life. Noemi took a big risk and put all her money into her catering company and quit her job. The food she serves is of Spanish heritage, from family recipes that she inherited from her family. The name of the catering company is even derived from her father Pepe.

When we arrive to Noemi's home, she leads us to a beautifully decorated table. We sit down and chat while Noemi tells us that she will be in the kitchen preparing the food. We start off with some Pizza, Spanish style. The pizza was excellent, with a thin crispy crust and beautiful grilled vegetables. I'm sure my regular readers will know that I do not like vegetables but I lapped up this pizza. The next item we had were Tarts with Cheese and Quince. Everyone eats quince paste with cheese already, so why no one has put them into a tart is beyond me. But the combination works beautifully. You first taste the cheese and then eventually you hit the quince paste at the bottom to finish on a sweet-ish note. The Fried Calamari was also excellent, crispy but still soft.

When we finally arrived at the main event of the night, we all gasped. It looked absolutely amazing and smelled so good. I dug the first spoon into the paella and had a taste. Perfection. The rice was full of flavour, with individual soft grains and great burnt bits at the bottom which I love. The chicken pieces were soft and the prawns full of flavour and still bouncy. I don't eat mussels but the others tell me they were really fresh. It was a huge pan of paella and I was shocked that the six of us managed to eat through all of it. It was that good. We also had it with the fresh tomatoes which Noemi said is how it is traditionally eaten. From this dish alone, Noemi proved that she can definitely cook, and cook well. It turns out the the SBS festival was her first major festival, there was lots of confusion with the organisation of the festival, which is why the food may not be at it's normal best with such conditions. But this meal showed how good the food can be. We finished off the wonderful meal with a divine dessert, a Pedro Ximinez ice cream that Noemi made, with nougat swirled through it. Look at all the food bloggers snapping at the food, so funny.

We all had a great night and it was fantastic to hear from Noemi about herself and her dreams. I'm so happy that Noemi got to prove to us that she can cook great food. I'll definitely be looking out for her Casa Pepe stall at the next festival. Now I just need to find a reason to hire her for a catering function. If you need a function catered for, I can't recommend Noemi highly enough. You will just fall in love with the food.

Thank you Noemi for hosting us and treating us to such fantastic food.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Behind The Scenes at The Point Restaurant For Saturday 18th Dinner Service

Dear readers, I have some super exciting news to share. Fresh from my "work" stint at Steer Bar and Grill boot camp, I have been allowed to stalk, ummmm, I mean observe one of my favourite chefs Scott Pickett, executive chef at The Point Albert Park, work a busy Saturday night dinner shift.

I shall be the reporter "on the ground", so to speak, and following Scott's every move, even when he goes to the toilet. Oh wait, I've just re-read my conditions for the night and it states that I can't follow Scott into the toilet. But apart from that, I'll be live tweeting and Facebooking his every move for the night, from the smallest scratch to the slightest mis-chop. I might even turn my attention temporarily to the other talented chefs in the two kitchens while they serve such glorious food such as what I previously ate here, here, here and here.

This is going to be so exciting, watching how a Two Hatted restaurant operates in full swing. The Saturday dinner service would have to be the busiest of the week, and to see how the team handle it and produce all those intricate and exquisite food is a rare treat that most of us won't get to see. I have been given full access *muahahahaha* and I shall make sure that I make my presence felt by shoving cameras up the chefs faces and asking them tricky questions, all for you, my dearest readers. I shall also make sure I stick my fingers into every single dish to maintain quality control over what comes out of the kitchen. If I feel that the wagyu grade 9+ steak is not up to scratch, I will make sure I eat it all and not let it out of the kitchen to the paying customers.

I hope you will join me during my live tweets and Facebook updates

What: My behind the scene stint in The Point Albert Park restaurant kitchen
When: Saturday 18th June from 5pm onwards
How: Please leave any questions you want to ask Scott or the other chefs in the comments section and I shall get you answers. Yes, Scott is married already.

Follow my tweets and Facebook by using the following links.
* ieatblog Twitter account
* I Eat Therefore I Am Facebook Page

Good Food and Wine Show 2011

Dear readers, I have failed you this year at the Good Food and Wine Show. For me, this year's show was about only one thing, Poh. I've loved Poh the moment I saw her during her first audition on series 1 of Masterchef, when she made some awful dish and was going to not get through the audition, until she was given a second chance and made those amazing cubic noodles that became her trademark. I've watched and loved Poh during the first season of Poh's Kitchen, so imagine how excited I was to get to meet her at this year's Good Food and Wine Show. I was dazed by her charm and laugh that I forgot to take notice of other things at the show.

So there I am smiling as big as possible to match Poh's glorious smile.

Poh looking beautiful in her quirky outfit.

There may have been some cooking demonstrations at the event this year. This photo seems to show it was the case, but all I could see was Poh. Apparently I was told that you could also do coffee sampling at this futuristic looking stand, and the usual wine tasting at stands that were made to have a country feel. Also at this year's show, people were telling me that there were lots of food stalls that offered a variety of food and drink samples, but I didn't see Poh eating anything, so I'm not sure if everyone was just trying to trick me.

At this year's show, there was also apparently some Masterclasses held by Masterchef judges George and Gary. Were they really there? I may have a faint recollection, or was I just associating them with the show since Poh was on Masterchef. I think it was probably the latter.

As you can see my dear readers, I have failed you in writing a comprehensive review of the happenings at this year's show and I bow my head in shame. I can only hope to redeem myself slightly by directing you to these wonderful blog posts about the show and everything else that supposedly was happening there.
The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua
Kimba's Kitchen
Almost Always Ravenous
Food Rehab
Iron Chef Shellie
Sweet Cherrie Pie

Thanks to Ogilvy Public Relations for inviting me to the show and allowing me to meet Poh.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Harry's Restaurant at Stamford Plaza Hotel

111 Little Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: 9659 1000
Website: Harry's Restaurant at Stamford Plaza Hotel

A good hotel restaurant? Oxymoron? That's what I used to think, but I have been categorically proven wrong. I'm really happy about that as there's no reason why hotel restaurants cannot be quality establishments. My reversal of opinion came when I was invited to visit Harry's Restaurant at Stamford Plaza Hotel. I've walked past the Stamdford Plaza Hotel quite a few times and always dreamed of staying there one day. I never noticed that there was a restaurant, which is a great shame, as I have been missing out on some good food.

Harry's Restaurant is a weird space. It sits in the lobby area of the Stamford Plaza Hotel, with one wall consisting of windows that look into the foyer area. The lighting at night is very dark in the restaurant (one of my pet hates) and with the sparse setting, feels kind of strange. It sort of sits between a cafe style setting and a restaurant. According to the staff, the space is multi use so you can see why there is such a setup. On this particular night, I got to meet Harry's Restaurant's new head chef, Jacky Poon. Jacky comes from Singapore and brings with him a wealth of experience. He is full of enthusiasm and happily chatted with me all night. His passion to cook good food is mixed with the reality that it's not an easy profession. It's good to hear such honesty. It made Jacky's words about how he wants to improve the standards at the restaurant really ring true in my ears. Jacky is introducing a new Singaporean/Malaysian style menu that will compliment the usual menu. I only tasted one element of that new menu, but it was fantastic.

For entrees, my friend Hien and I shared Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Foam and Appleslaw, Curry Puffs and Pea Soup with Coconut Cream. The scallops were cooked perfectly and tasted sensational with the cauliflower foam. The appleslaw was tart and acidic, exactly what was needed. The Curry Puffs, which are actually the restaurant's signature dish, was superb. The puffs are made according to the Chairman's wife's recipe. The Chairman used to own shipping companies before starting a chain of hotels. His wife made these puffs originally and they are still served to dignitaries, but you can taste them for the cost of an entree. Finally, I was surprised how great the pea soup was by the addition of the coconut cream. I don't think I've tasted this flavour combination before but it works a treat.

For mains, one of the dishes we got was the Lamb Rump, with pea puree, Asian greens and Chrysanthemum foam. I exaggerate not when I say the lamb was perfect. It was tender and full of flavour. Again, the simple addition of the Chrysanthemum foam made this dish just that bit special and something I haven't eaten before. This was an inspired addition by chef Jacky. The mash and puree were creamy smooth, and even the greens I didn't mind.

The Seafood Risotto with Char Grilled Morton Bay Bugs was also delicious. The bug was cooked very well and the meat still nice and firm, unlike at some hotel restaurants and pubs where the bug meat is literally breaking apart in front of your eyes from being cooked earlier and sitting in the kitchen all day waiting to be reheated. Risotto, and steaks, are my litmus test of how well a restaurant can cook food. Again, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the risotto was. The rice was cooked to the required consistency, still firm but yet soft. Simple additions of salmon flakes and prawns, plus a fantastic stock, made it so moreish I couldn't stop eating it. I love, and applaud, simple food done so well.

By this point, I was already super impressed with the food. I was hoping that dessert would live up to the same standards. When Jacky suggested their house special of the Chocolate Explosion, my heart sank a little. I was expecting some awful chocolate concoction that would taste of bland cheap chocolate. Instead, I was greeted with this stunning beauty. A ball of chocolate mousse is surrounded by stewed pears, which is then housed in a chocolate ball which is blinged up with a massive piece of gold leaf. A small cup of melted chocolate is then poured over the whole thing. The best couverture chocolate is used in this dessert and it shows. With a dessert like this, you can't hide and the best ingredients must be used. It is worth every cent of the $25 it costs to taste the contrast of the cold soft mousse centre, the cold sweet soft pear, the cold crunchy chocolate shell and finally the oozing warm chocolate river. It was Pear-fection. Seriously, an amazing dessert.

The service is serviceable and the staff are efficient and friendly. The ambiance in the restaurant is quiet and soft. It's not dead quite but this is probably the type of restaurant you want to go with a smaller group, rather than say a group of 10 people. It has an intimate feel and I like the strange layout where you stare out into the bright foyer while sitting in the dark restaurant. It feels a bit exclusive.

It's not often that a restaurant exceeds my expectations by so much. I know that I don't think highly of hotel restaurants in general, but I think I'll have to make exceptions. Harry's Restaurant does excellent food that I would definitely go back to as a dining location. The restaurant is open to the general public, but it's hard to get people to go due to that stigma of the "bad hotel restaurant" reputation. I would encourage you to set aside those prejudices and to give Harry's a go. I think you will be extremely surprised at how good the food is, with slight Asian touches mixed in with traditional Western dishes done extremely well. You can also sample the Singaporean/Malaysian menu which chef Jacky says I have to go back and try. I think I'll have to take up that offer and pop back to try this other menu.

Thanks to Tyrrell Publicity & Promotions for the invite and my guest and I dine courtesy of Stamford Plaza Hotel.