Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reverse Dinner - Luxbite and Dainty Sichuan

I like desserts, and as I've said many times, when I go out to a restaurant, I always look at the dessert menu so I can make room for it. However, even then I sometimes over eat during the savoury courses and don't have room for dessert, a tragedy. So when I-Hua suggested a reverse dinner, I went "Genius, I'm in". I'm sure I remember seeing on The Supersizers that they did reverse dinners in the Elizabethan era (I'm probably making this up but go with my assertion for the sake of this story haha) and hence it was a long time tradition. The plan for the reverse dinner was to try out the Luxbite dessert degustation and then head over to Dainty Sichuan to eat our savouries. Others who were also excited about the reverse dinner were Daisy and Bryan, with the now famous Kate from Lune Croissanterie joining us for the main dinner.

Firstly our dinner started at Luxbite, where we drooled over all the macarons and cakes displayed before sitting down for our two course dessert degustation. First up, we tried a delicious fruit, jelly and meringue starter. It was light and refreshing and a great dish. Then it was onto a banana layer cake and a banana souffle. Wow, both desserts were excellent, especially the souffle. It was light and had such a great flavour. I really enjoyed it and wish it was available all the time.

After having our wonderful dessert, it was time for some spicy food at Dainty Sichuan. We ordered way too much food for the 7 of us and the table was heaving with spicy food everywhere. Thanks to Bernard and Yen who recommended some dishes, we had an awesome dinner. It still took a while to decide what to order when we all wanted to try everything. The first dish that we had was the Lamb Ribs as recommended. The ribs were so so good. Tender and crispy served with eggnets. An excellent dish.

A massive bowl of fish in spicy chili oil "soup" was also very good. The fish was tender and yes, it was spicy, but probably not as spicy as it looks in the photo. Although, by the end of the night, it was getting rather spicy and our mouths were so numb from the Sichuan peppers.

We ordered the famous Fried Eggplant, and they were excellent. Crispy, soft and with a sugary glaze, it was an addictive dish. Spicy Chicken and Spicy Pork (not pictured) as well as Stir Fried Beans (not pictured) were all great dishes. I loved the thin layers of pork in the spicy sauce and the drier chicken was really addictive too. The beans were a real highlight and the smokey wok breath gave the beans a wonderful flavour.

Lastly we had the Fried Pork dish as recommended. This was my favourite dish of the night amongst all the great dishes. Eaten with the spicy chili and dipping sauce wrapped in lettuce, this was a real winner.

I loved everything we tried and would definitely go back to eat more. Everything was hot, but for me it was at a tolerable (albeit sweat inducing) level. There was a lot of "sssssssssss" going on as the chili started to affect our tongues but it just made us want more of the spicy food. I'd highly recommend ordering some soy milk to help dull down all the spiciness. Service wise, food was served quickly and the waiters were surprisingly friendly for an Asian restaurant. The ambiance in the restaurant was boisterous and it was very very loud. I wouldn't expect any less and this type of place is right up my alley. A great cheap, delicious and fun meal.

Dainty Sichuan on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Meringue with Raspberry Cream Cake - Great Flavours and Presentation

I love baking, and one of my favourite shows on TV is The Great British Bake Off after Cherrie alerted me to it. It's such a brilliant show and the things they bake on it look so good. So Cherrie decided to host a Great British Bake Off Party, with other fellow fans of the show Michele, Lianne, Daisy, Ling and myself. We all had to bake a savoury and sweet item to bring and share.

For my sweet bake I decided to make the Chocolate Brownie Meringue with Raspberry Cream. The cake looked really stunning from the recipe photo and as it turned out, was as good in real life. This cake is a meringue plus base type cake similar to the Vanilla Meringue Cake with Cinnamon Sugared Almonds cake I've baked before. Unlike the other cake which is all baked at once, this cake is baked separately for the two layers. The layers sandwich a simple raspberry cream filling and is served with chopped nuts.

Baking the cake twice is more work but boy oh boy, this cake is amazing. The brownie base is still moist and contrasts with the meringue which has hazelnuts through it. Combined with the simple raspberry cream which helps to cut through the other layers, all the flavours and textures make for a great tasting, and looking, cake. Even the nuts on top add another flavour profile.

As usual, some tips to help you get the best bake:

* I underbaked the brownies a bit and then put the meringue over it for the second bake. This meant the brownies layer turned out really moist.

* As with any meringue, add in the sugar slowly and keep beating until the whites are very stiff.

* As it's such a simple cake, good chocolate really ensures the best outcome.

* Fresh raspberries are usually really expensive but if you can get your hands on some, it's preferred. Else use frozen raspberries.

* Roasting nuts can go terribly wrong if you don't watch it. Nuts burn really quickly so be careful. Getting the skin off hazelnuts is a pain but the flavour really adds significantly to this cake.

Chocolate Brownie Meringue with Raspberry Cream


For the brownie base

200g/7oz good-quality dark chocolate roughly chopped
200g/7oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
250g/8¾oz icing sugar
3 free-range eggs
110g/4oz plain flour

For the meringue topping

4 free-range egg whites
200g/7oz caster sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
100g/3½oz hazelnuts, roasted, chopped

For the filling

300ml/10½fl oz whipping cream
100g//3½oz icing sugar
200g/7oz raspberries

To serve

handful hazelnuts, chopped
handful pistachios, chopped


1) Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Grease and line two 23cm/9in sandwich tins

2) For the brownie base, melt 180g/6¼oz of the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan over simmering water. Chop the remaining chocolate and set aside.

3) Meanwhile, cream the butter and icing sugar together in a separate bowl until light, creamy and fluffy. Slowly whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.

4) Gradually beat in the flour until the mixture is very smooth. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and fold it into the mixture, then fold in the chopped chocolate.

5) Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared sandwich tins and bake for 10-12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

6) Meanwhile for the meringue topping, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Slowly whisk the sugar until smooth and glossy, then fold in the chopped hazelnuts with a metal spoon.

7) Spoon the meringue topping onto the cooked brownie base. Use a palette knife to smooth the meringue mixture in one sandwich tin and use a skewer to make peaks in the meringue mixture in the other tin.

8) Return the sandwich tins to the oven for a further 30 minutes, or until the meringue is golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Carefully remove the cakes from the tin and set aside to cool completely on a wire rack.

9) For the filling, whip the cream and icing sugar together in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Fold in the raspberries.

10) To assemble, place the flat meringue brownie, meringue-side down onto a cake stand or large plate, spoon over the raspberry cream and top with the remaining cake, brownie-side down. Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts and pistachios.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fa-Fah - You Want Pork With Your Pork?

Asians love pork. Fact. If you're Asian and you don't love pork, you're out of the Asian club. Get out. Now. I think from as young as I can remember, any special occasion demands pork, usually in the form or roast pork. From births to weddings to even funerals, bring out the roast pork. I've always loved pork from a young age. As I was exposed to pork and chicken the most living in Vietnam, I obviously came to love them. Only as I grew up in Australia did I start to appreciate beef, and then finally lamb. While I love roast pork, I tend to dislike char siu. Only in Hong Kong do I love the char siu, which is fatty and has that sweeter flavour. When I got an invite to try out Fa-Fah, I was told they do good pork dishes, including char siu. As I'm always willing to give anything a try, I accepted the invite.

Fa-Fah is another new restaurant that has opened up at Chadstone. I remember the days when the only options at Chadstone were food court stuff or Hungry Jacks or Pancake Parlour. Now there's my beloved Papparich, there's Miam Miam, there's Oriental Teahouse and now Fa-Fah to round out the Asian eateries. The space inside Fa-Fah looks good. I like the decor and it felt inviting. The large open kitchen has become the norm and it's good to see what the chefs are up to. We were greeted by the waitresses, who were very friendly to the point of almost being over the top friendly. We got in our drinks order and picked some items off the decent sized menu which consisted of various roast meats, noodles and rice dishes. There's enough variety to cater to most people and the prices are on the cheaper end.

As I was there to try the roast pork and char siu, we ordered that as a starter. To my delight, the roast pork was really good, with thin crispy skin and soft meat. An even better surprise, the char siu was actually good. I wouldn't go as far as saying they're as great as in Hong Kong, but I did like it. It was in the Hong Kong style with a fattier cut and slathered in a sweet honey type glaze. Strangely it was served with mustard. I tried the combination and didn't like it at all but my work mate loved it and said it was so innovative. You can go and decide for yourself. We also shared a Vinegar Pork dish and some glass noodles. The vinegar pork was awesome. Such great flavours of sweet, salty and sour. This was our favourite dish of the day. The glass noodles were also good, with a nice sour tang.

The Prawns Wrapped in Bacon sounded really good but when we tasted it, it wasn't bad but if anything, the bacon took away from the prawns rather than enhance it. I think if it was just the prawns fried in the batter, it would've been really good. In the background you can see my avocado drink, which was really good. Made fresh with real avocados, it was really refreshing.

This is a good solid place for a cheap meal and I would definitely return. I was impressed with the pork dishes and would definitely order those again. If you're in the Chadstone shopping centre area, I'd recommend you pop in for a meal as the food is good and the atmosphere is relaxing. You'll leave with change from a $20 easily so it's really good value.

We dined courtesy of Fa-Fah.

Fa-fah on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Mossgreen Tea Rooms - High Tea With a Side of Art

Apparently, real men don't eat quiche. Similarly, high tea is something that's associated with women. I contend that good food is good food and men and women can enjoy it. Hence when I got invited to attend a high tea at Mossgreen Tea Rooms, I happily accepted. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love cakes, so I was really looking forward to the high tea. I attended the high tea with Michele, Agnes, I-Hua and Aaron, Lianne and Daisy.

Mossgreen Tea Rooms is part art gallery and part restaurant. It adjoins the Mossgreen Art Gallery where you can find lots of interesting and beautiful art pieces to buy. The tea rooms are decorated with lots of works as well, all of which you can buy. It makes the space interesting and constantly evolving, which I love. I was thoroughly intrigued by the various art work and they made a great backdrop to the high tea. The high tea itself is catered by Peter Rowland Catering and consisted of savoury and sweet items as well as your choice of tea. I decided to go with the Mossgreen Tea Room Signature Tea, which unfortunately was not to my liking. The lemongrass and other spices in it made it taste a lot like a tom yum soup, which is not a good thing in a tea. Despite the questionable tea, I absolutely adored the Wedgewood China that the tea was served in and wanted to steal them. Look how stunning the crockery is. Things just taste better served in and on good crockery.

Luckily, the high tea items themselves were much nicer. The savoury sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber and ham I believe were all pretty good. The best items were the quiche and especially the pithivier, which was excellent. The sweet items were pretty good too, with chocolate cakes, banana cake, Swiss rolls, poppyseed cakes and macarons. The chocolate layer cake with jelly was good and the poppyseed cake was really amazing and my favourite for the day. The macarons had good flavour but (and I know it sounds silly) was too sweet. I've eaten many macarons and the good ones aren't sickly sweet somehow. Lastly, the scones looked really tempting but unfortunately maybe due to the small size, they were more like bread rolls.

The service was friendly with an air of class to match the whole atmosphere. People were all happily eating their food and drinking tea with their pinkies raised while enjoying the setting. The whole thing makes for a very relaxing and enjoyable high tea experience. I wouldn't say that every item of food was great but for $48 for the high tea experience, it's worth trying.

I was invited by Q Strategies and dined courtesy of Mossgreen Tea Rooms.

Mossgreen Tearooms on Urbanspoon