Sunday, February 26, 2012

Deep Fried Food Party + Giveaway Cuisinart Deep Fryer

I don't know many people who don't like deep fried food. Fatty, oily, crispy, golden and juicy. And those are just adjectives that describe me. Much more can be said for deep fried food. So when I was approached by Brad from Kitchenware Direct to review any product I wanted, I picked a deep fryer. After a bit of research, I chose the Cuisinart Deep Fryer as I believed it was the sturdiest and most reliable. This particular fryer holds 4 litres of oil and 1kg of food. I had previous disasters with deep frying in the past where I have learned that hot oil and skin do not mix. It's not quite as bad as Kat's experience where the whole kitchen went up in flames. Hence I was très excité (sounds more posh in French) to try out the fryer.

As it turned out, the gluttony moons aligned and at the same time that I was wondering what to make with the deep fryer, Agnes was blogging about her sensational Thomas Keller Fried Chicken. So I asked Agnes to join me for a Deep Fried Food Party. We rounded up a few more people so we could taste more food. After much assurance to Kat that we won't all end up in food comas such as from the previous deep fried food party she attended, we worked out who would make what and it was on.

Here is the Cuisinart Deep Fryer being tested. It's pretty simple, which is good. You flick a switch to turn it on. You set a temperature and time, the green light goes on when the oil has reached the set temperature, and then you lower the food in the basket into the oil. The lid gets put on while frying to stop oil splashes and you can watch the food through the two glass slots on the lid. When the food is done, you can lift the basket and place on a stand to let the oil drip off without taking the lid off, which is very hand.

First up, we have the mentioned Thomas Keller Fried Chicken, which was indeed awesome. The mix of spices, a super crispy batter and tender meat made for excellent fried chicken. It was served with Kewpie mayonnaise, the perfect accompaniment. You can see in the background that there are some snow peas covered in fried oil and some other brown thing on the right, coated fried mushrooms which were both done by I-Hua.

I made Lobak for this party, which was perfectly cooked. The lobak were super crispy and tasted really good, especially with some sweet chili sauce.

Kat made Thai Chicken Wings (middle section of wing split into halves) which were zingy and again beautifully crisped. She also made a simple Thai salad to try to help balance out all the fried food. I also contributed a Vietnamese Prawn Salad to again lighten the meal.

The last fried item I present to you is Sicilian Donuts from Agnes. Balls of dough with sultanas were fried and then dusted in sugar. They were quite nice but not as light and fluffy as I had expected when I think of donuts. I think I prefer a normal donut more.

Kat made some Bread and Butter pudding, which was good, but with a bit too much nutmeg.

Last but not least to finish off this calorie overloaded meal, I made an amazing (yes I don't mind self praise) Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie from an adapted recipe that Viviane emailed me. I served the brownie with some raspberries and vanilla ice cream and they were O for ORSM. We washed down all the food with a magnum of wine that April brought.

We really put the deep fryer through the paces and fried a variety of items at different temperatures. The fryer passed the test with glowing colours, easily frying the lobak in about 5 minutes and even the chicken didn't take too long. The set temperatures really keep the oil nice and consistent and hence the food also come out consistent. Cleaning was also not very hard, as the heating element lifts out and can be cleaned over the sink. The metal basin can then be completely submerged in water and washed.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you can now do one of two things, 1)express your disgust at the amount of fried food that we ate, or 2)express your delight at wonderful fried food and want a deep fryer of your own. If you are part of the second camp, here's the good news. You can win a Cuisinart Deep Fryer of your own.



Thank you to everyone who entered. I'm surprised at the number of people who wanted to fry the chocolate brownies. You're all nuts :-)

Anyway, the winner from the random draw is Karen Neo. Congratulations Karen, I shall be contacting you about the prize.

Up for grabs is one Cuisinart Deep Fryer. Fried chicken and lobak are not included in the giveaway.


Just leave a comment.

I like flattery but that won't increase your chances of winning, but don't let that stop you from telling me how good I am. I will pick a winner randomly.


Have I shouted that loud enough yet? If I can't contact you to inform you that you have won, I'm redrawing the prize. You can leave your Twitter, blog or email contacts. If you don't want to publish your email, please email me at and let me know which comment was yours.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Australian readers only. Delivery of the prize is only to an Australian address.
- Competition closes Sunday March 4th 9pm AEST. The winners will be announced on Monday March 5th and published on this same post.
- I will contact the winner directly.

Thanks to Kitchenware Direct for providing the prizes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mr Mason

I often wonder where restaurant names come from. Is it from the head chef, the owners, or some other person? Did the restaurant name mean something to someone at some point or is it just some random title that they thought sounded nice. I know that even the best of them get it wrong sometimes, such as at Vue de Monde where the "de" should be "du" so it meant "view of the world" in French. As it stands, it's meaningless. Musicians are famous for naming albums with obscure titles, such as Mylo Xyloto, but usually there's tonnes of press coverage to find the meaning. With restaurants, I haven't really read too many accounts of why a restaurant is named such. This long intro brings me to my point (I'm long winded), which is where the name Mr Mason comes from and what it means? Is it from Jane Eyre, or Harry Potter or the name of a previous owner, or their second cousin on their mother's side? Who knows, but it's interesting to ponder, for me anyway.

I was invited to Mr Mason to try out their French inspired menu. Upon arriving, I saw that the restaurant is divided into three sections. There was a lounge/bar area, a dining area and an outdoor area. The whole environment was very relaxing and I liked how the space was divided. A friendly waitresses greeted us and took our drinks orders before returning to take our food orders.

For entrees, we chose the Oysters with Vinaigrette and the Charcuterie Platter. Both plates arrived at once, and this was when the shortcoming of the table was highlighted. The tables are far too small for two diners and could hardly hold two averaged sized plates let alone two big platters of oysters and charcuterie. We shuffled everything and managed to place the plates on the table, albeit hanging a bit over the edge.

Onto the actual food, I liked the oysters, with a zingy vinaigrette. I also liked the plate with the M on it, as that's what got me thinking about the restaurant name. My first association with M is James Bond, and I chuckled at the thought of James Bond saying "I'll have my oysters stirred, not shaken".

The Charcuterie Platter was also good, and very filling. There were huge slabs of pate, terrines, beef slices and condiments served with a towering stack of bread. After finishing this, we were quite full already.

The John Dory fish was cooked well and tasted good. The witlof salad served with it was also nice.

A Lamb Rump with potato dumplings was quite nice. I found the lamb soft, although others I've heard from did find the lamb rather chewy. I didn't like the potato dumplings at all though. They tasted quite bad with a strong flour-ey taste.

Dessert for me, was a clear highlight. A Raspberry Creme Brulee was super smooth, had a thin crackling sugar top and the flavours of the raspberry in the brulee was perfect.

Service wise, it was efficient but felt a bit forced. The waitresses was trying so hard to please that it became a tad awkward at times when she kept asking how the food was. I liked the ambiance in the restaurant and their was a jovial mood. The food is quite good and worth trying out.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Food is nice and ambiance enjoyable.

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

My guest and I dined complimentary of Mr Mason.

Mr Mason on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ocha - A Bit Dull

Many many moons ago, I had made a booking with my fellow food bloggers, Danny, Mellie and Anna to go to Ocha for dinner at it's old smaller location. However, I had decided to help out a friend fix his computer that day. And if you've ever tried to fix a computer, a task that you think will take two hours inevitably takes eight hours. I made the cardinal sin of changing something when everything was already working. The conclusion of the computer fixing story ended well, I managed to get everything running. However, that was many hours later, well past the booking time of my table at Ocha.

Fast forward many moons and when my friend Hien and I were looking for a restaurant to dine at, I suggested Ocha. At it's new location, it is still extremely busy but we managed to get a seat at the bar, which was fine with us. I had read a lot about the amazing sushi at Ocha so that was a must order for me. We shared the Sashimi Platter and I have to say that I was disappointed. The fish all tasted rather dull and didn't have much flavour. Even the seared fish didn't really taste of anything. Hien was also of the same opinion.

A special dish of the day was a Beef Tataki of wagyu. The meat texture was good and flavours were also nice. This was my favourite savoury dish of the day. A Katifi Wrapped Scampi was really bland and boring, the katifi totally masking any flavour of the scampi. Tempura Vegetables were ok, the batter was light and crisp but didn't add much flavour to the rather plain tasting vegetable. Lastly a Seared Beef was served simply with some bean shoots. It tasted ok but just lacked some flavour.

While the savoury dishes were rather dull, desserts were much better. Simple Red Bean Ice Cream was creamy and beautiful. The Raspberry and White Chocolate Pudding was a strange mix but really worked nicely.

Sitting at the front bar, we were quite cut off from the rest of the restaurant. I didn't mind this and rather enjoyed the quieter space as the main restaurant was really noisy. Being at the bar area, service was really good and the wait staff were very friendly.

I won't be rushing back to Ocha as there are so many other wonderful Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. Maybe I ordered the wrong items but I found the food a bit dull.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food was ok, nothing excellent that would make me rush back for more.

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.

Ocha on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Counting House at Mornington

Like most Australians, I love to visit beach side towns during Summer and enjoy the sun, sand and surf. By surf I just meant the water as I couldn't surf to save myself. One thing that I tend to find missing from beach side towns, is good fine food. Oily fish and chips eaten on the pier is great, but sometimes I wish there were some higher end food, as I do like fine dining. When I received an invite to try out The Counting House, a French inspired restaurant, I happily accepted and was really looking forward to it.

The Counting House is located on the esplanade of Mornington, which as co-owner Max Griffin (who also owns Bar Humbug) informed me, is considered a regional location. My friend Andy and I arrived a bit earlier than the booking time so we could look around Mornington a bit. The views of the bay are really beautiful and there's some nice beach to enjoy as well.

The Counting House restaurant resides in a heritage listed building that used to be a bank, hence the name. The building is beautiful both outside and in. I love the classic look of the interior architecture and the decor, while modern, has been given a vintage feel that really works. The black and white touches add that touch of Francais.

The head chef at The Counting House is Gavin Ong, who also co-owns the restaurant. Gavin has an impressive resume having worked with the likes of Marco Pierre-White, Curtis Stone and Jacques Reymond. His food here is simple French fare with classic techniques. We tried an assortment of dishes off the menu to gauge a feel for the food.

For entrees, we tried a Courgette Stuffed with Feta and Leek, Potato Fondant Stuffed with Mince and Grilled Prawn, Pork Belly with Witlof and Vinegar Reduction. The courgette and potato fondant were quite good but lacked bite from a strong flavour that tied the whole dish together. The pork belly was better in this sense as the vinegar reduction helped give the dish a zing but for my liking that could have been amped up even more. The pork belly was soft and tender and cooked well, as with the other entrees.

For mains, we had a Roast Duck with Plum and Lamb Racks with Herb Crust and Eggplant puree. The roast duck was cooked very well, with pink tender meat and crispy skin. The duck by itself was good but I didn't think it went that well with the sour plum. The best savoury dish was without a doubt the lamb racks. They were perfectly cooked and the crust had so much flavour. The sauce had a strong flavour and the eggplant puree worked well. I would have happily just eaten this dish for entrees and mains.

For dessert, we shared a Lemon Curd Chocolate Cup with Nut Brittle and a Bread and Butter Pudding with Clotted Cream. The lemon curd in the chocolate cup with fresh fruit was really nice. However, it was overshadowed by the amazing bread and butter pudding. The pudding was served cold and hence didn't feel that heavy. I know clotted cream is very heavy but it really worked in small doses with the pudding.

The service was good, with the wait staff working well to make sure the whole restaurant were kept happy. They had a good mix of smart service but still remaining fun. The ambiance in the restaurant was boisterous and enjoyable. The wooden floors don't help with noise reduction but it wasn't at a level where you couldn't hear your dining companion. The tables are also spaced quite generously, although I would like the lighting a bit brighter. Overall, I had a good time and some of the food was very good. There is definitely potential at this restaurant and worth trying out.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Some good food and a nice dining space.

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

My guest and I dined courtesy of The Counting House.

Counting House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tao Tao House - Good Yum Cha

Egg tarts. That was the premise that was to bring together many food bloggers for yum cha and then to sample a variety of egg tarts from bakeries all over Melbourne. However, due to one thing or another, everyone couldn't make it. Instead of cancelling the event, Agnes, Allan and myself still went to Tao Tao House to have the yum cha. As was customary, I couldn't find the restaurant and had to ring Agnes to give me directions. I thought it was called Tao Tao so was having troubles finding it on Google. And of course no one ever researches where they are going beforehand anymore, assuming that Google Maps will save them on the day.

Tao Tao House is owned by ex-Flower Drum chef Jason Au, which carries with it some pressure. I'm pleased to say that the food lived up to my expectations, especially the most amazing dish of the day, Spicy Beef Tendons. This dish is so good that I would go back just on the strength of this dish alone. We all loved it and got another serving after we quickly ate the first.

The dim sum in general were all of a high standard. Items like siu mia, char siu bao and char siu rolls which I don't usually like, were good. Chicken feet was excellent, as was the fried prawn rolls. Of the two steamed rice rolls, the prawns were good but the beef and mushrooms was the only dish of the day that I disliked. It just tasted super weird.

Steamed dumplings all had great thin skin and good filling. Har gow were superb and other steamed items like chive dumplings, corn and prawn dumplings, bean curd wrapped chicken and fish paste on burn curd were all good.

I thought we would end our meals with some egg tarts, but Allan had other ideas. While we still got the egg tarts, which were very good, Allan also ordered mango pancakes, mochi ice cream balls and custard buns. All were excellent, especially the mochi ice cream balls and custard buns.

The restaurant was surprisingly quiet during the early sitting that we dined. This may have led to better service, but I think the normal service would be good still as the wait staff all seemed clued-in. The room itself is nicely decorated and has a regal Chinese feel with good furniture and decorations. The food carts were rolled out quite quickly and explained clearly, which I like as it's hard to guess what's what sometimes. Price wise, it wasn't any more expensive than other places and was fair for about $25 per person. I would definitely go back to have more yum cha at Tao Tao House, and be ordering two of that tendon dish every time.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Good yum cha in a very nicely decorated 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.

Tao Tao House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 04, 2012

La Belle Miette - Some Of The Best Macarons In Melbourne

The macaron craze is still going extremely strong in Melbourne, so much so that even the two major supermarket chains are selling macarons. I had previously written about how Luxbite may have some of the best macarons in Melbourne. La Belle Miette would also have to be a major contender for the best macarons in Melbourne. Every food blogger and his dog has already written about La Belle Miette but I'll weigh in with my few opinions as well.

The wonderful I-Hua helped me buy every flavour in the store and even took photos so I knew which one were which. The macarons looked perfect in terms of shape, feet, colour, size and smoothness. The vibrant colours are beautiful and the fillings sandwiched right to the edge but not overflowing.

While the way a macaron looks is important, how it tastes is key. And the La Belle macarons do taste very good. The texture on every one was either excellent or good. Flavour wise, there were some that I completely loved, while some flavours weren't to my liking. The flavours come down more to preference rather than being executed badly.

Violet & Blueberry
Cherry Blossom & Sake - little bit dry
Pimm's & Pomegranate
Hazelnut Belle Miette
Pink Grapefruit

From the awesome ones, the most awesome is without a doubt the violet and blueberry. I'm totally obsessed with the violet flavour, especially in macarons so this one really appealed to me. The addition of the blueberry gave it another excellent dimension.

The Cherry Blossom & Sake, Pimms & Pomegranate and Pink Grapefruit had very fragrant fruity flavours that you can sort of identify but are unsure what they are at the same time. I loved them.

The Hazelnut was probably the biggest surprise. Hazelnut macarons from other places tend to be rather dull in flavour but this one was really prominent and the chocolate was so indulgent and wonderful.

"Bastille" - Kir Royale. Moet et Chandon & Cassis
Strawberry & Vanilla
Fleur de Sel Caramel
72% Cocoa Chocolate

All these flavours were really great, all tasting very distinctive. I was impressed that the strawberry and vanilla didn't taste fake and sickly. The fleur de sel caramel could have had a touch more salt, which would have made it even more to my liking.


Pistachio and Rose are two classic flavours that most places do horribly. Both can be far too overpowering and fake in taste when done wrong. Only Pierre Herme has managed to master these two flavours to my liking. The La Belle efforts were good but still a tad overpowering for me.

Olive Oil & Vanilla
Lemon Citron
Mariage Freres Earl Grey Tea

These macarons were executed well but I don't like these flavours in general. Again I refer to the master Pierre and his use of olive oil. Even with Pierre's olive oil macaron, it was only ok to me. This La Belle olive oil one was far too pungent for me. I've never been a fan of lemon in any dessert and it has to be done extremely well for me to like it. The Earl Grey, loved most by quite a few people, was my most disliked. The tea flavour was true but really did not agree with me.

La Belle Miette clearly does amazing macarons. Overall, rating all their macarons as a collective, I would say they do the best macarons in Melbourne due to their consistency across all macarons. As for singular macarons, while the violet and blueberry is sensational, I still prefer the Luxbite creme brulee a bit more.

La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon