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Sunday, April 17, 2016

House of Crabs Melbourne - Get Ready To Get Dirty

I absolutely love crabs. When I eat crabs, I pick out every last little bit of meat and sit in the restaurant for ages. My hands are all dirty and I'm enjoying every bit of it. I've become quite a good crab meat picker and know all the tricks to getting every last part. So when I was invited to House of Crabs Melbourne, I was so excited. I had walked past the Sydney store when I was going to Porteno in Sydney and had vowed to go back one day. So it was so exciting they are now open in Melbourne.

House of Crabs in Melbourne is actually situated under the Newmarket Hotel. You walk down two flights of stairs to be greeted by this loud assortment of things. It's typical of the crab houses that I've been to in America and I think the decor is fun and cool.

The staff are really fun and introduce you to how things work and also get the ball rolling with drinks. We started with their signature Lagerita, which is a lager mixed with a margarita. It's actually really good despite the strange sounding combination. We also get to play a game of snap with the waitress in which she lets us win a free shot of tequila, which you have with a torched marshmallow. Again, strange but actually quite nice. As the night wears on though, the service isn't quite as efficient or fun as it started. Energies start to flag and faces start to become more wooden. It's a shame given how much fun it started off with and the mood that generates.

Onto the food. We had starters of fresh oysters and the highly recommended lobster donut. The oysters were nice enough, without being the freshest I've tasted. The lobster donut had good flavour but to be honest, it couldn't been just potatoes in the middle and it wouldn't had the same taste. The lobster flavour is lost completely and all you get is mayonnaise.

With the crab, we got the Alaskan King Crab and the Spanner Crab. We also shared a side dish of Grilled Balmain Bugs. All the crab comes in bags which the wait staff then pour onto the table, sauce and all. It's a great way to eat crab as you have lots of space to make a mess and pick out all the meat. The Alaskan King Crab was much easier to peel and you get large chunks of meat. Served in the lemon pepper sauce, it was really good. The spanner crab took more work but the flesh was so sweet and in the cajun sauce, it took was so good. So the main dishes of the crabs were really yum. The Balmain bugs came out undercooked in my opinion the first time. The exterior basically had a quick blowtorch it seemed with the meat still raw inside. I like raw seafood but in this occasion, I wanted grilled seafood. So I asked for it to be cooked more, to which I was informed the chef said it was cooked the right way. I insisted that the bugs be "overcooked" then. The dish came back and it was delicious.

Overall I had an enjoyable and delicious experience. I will say that this meal would be on the pricey side for dining out. I understand that crabs are experience so you have to factor that into your consideration when choosing to come here. Unless you're going to eat lots of other items besides the crab, the meal costs will start to add up. And why would you come here if not to experience the hero ingredient of the crab. I'd come here occasionally to have a great night out and slowly enjoy lots of different types of crabs.

My guest and I dined courtesy of the restaurant.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Ozone Kitchen at Westfield Knox

I've been to Westfield Knox a lot of times in the past. I used to go to the buffet place across the road for food before heading into Westfield Knox for some shopping or a movie. There wasn't much eating options inside the shopping centre itself many years ago. But then slowly but surely the Knox Ozone area popped up. The Knox Ozone was a whole area of newer, more exciting eateries. Well, now Westfield Knox have added yet another element to the Knox Ozone, called the Ozone Kitchen.

I attended the launch of Ozone Kitchen, which aims to serve the best Melbourne food for the shopping centre customers. The kitchen provides a space for chefs to experiment new recipes and trends, starting with Matteo Bruno from Meatball and Wine Bar, who's serving up pork and veal meatballs and waygu sliders from March 10-13. After Matteo, a host of other chefs will serve up their dishes in the permanent Ozone Kitchen.

The Ozone Kitchen is basically a shipping container and other recycled material that has been transformed into this little cool area with food and drinks. I love the fake grass as it gives it such a nice feel. The row of lights dangling above also give it a great feel. It has a nice indoor/outdoor setup as the semi open area allows you to see the foot traffic go past. The little kitchen area is big enough for 3-4 chefs to work their magic while the bar area on the other side (great idea so everyone doesn't just crowd in the one area trying to buy food or drinks) has 1-2 bartenders to serve a variety of drinks.

I got the chance to speak to Matteo about his involvement with Ozone Kitchen. He said that he wanted to showcase his food in the Eastern Suburbs, which thus far he doesn't have one of his Meatballs and Wine Bar in yet. I found out that he used to work in film and television, with shows that sometimes involved food. He gravitated towards food and eventually chose that as a career. His Italian background meant that he chose to do something with meat, finally settling on meatballs. And given he lived in Flinders Lane, he thought that was the perfect spot to open his first restaurant, so conveniently located near his house.

The meatballs I got to try at the Ozone Kitchen were all good. The pork and veal meatball was good, but for me the wagyu meatball was super delicious and the highlight with a good mix of flavours. The pulled beef sliders were also really nice. Throw in some nice cocktails and wines and beers and it was a fun relaxing event. The DJ spinning some tunes in the corner played some cool songs too to keep a good atmosphere in that area. So when you're next at Westfield Knox, pop into the Ozone Kitchen and see what foods and drinks they're serving up. It will be a good pre-movie stop or just a casual spot to catch up with friends.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

400 Gradi Essendon - Great Place Out West

The ever increasing suburban sprawl means that there is a demand for good restaurants further and further out away from the city. Out South East, North, and now West is being serviced by proprietors who can see the increasing demand and are willing to take a risk and believe in the quality of their goods to attract an audience. This is the case with 400 Gradi Essendon. 400 Gradi already has a strong name thanks to Johnny Di Francesco winning the world's best pizza for his Margherita pizza, but it's still a risk to open up in a further out location. But the customers near Essendon clearly appreciate the simple, high quality food.

I love the fitout at Essendon, with the modern look feeling really relaxed. The men running the show there, Amando at front of house and Kosta (Johnny's brother in law and co-owner) really do a great job working the room, ensuring everyone is looked after and always smiling and having some fun with customers. That's what I like to see at restaurants.

Food wise, everything we tried was really good. A cured meats and cheese platter was huge and we struggled to finish all the beautiful items. We had to save room for all the other foods you know, such as the meatballs, which were seriously good. Perfect texture and a great sauce.

For the main part of the meal, we went for the three Ps, pizza, pasta and potatoes. Obviously the margherita pizza was really good. The crab spaghettini had good flavours and the pasta a good texture. I'd probably like my pasta just the tiniest bit softer, but that's just my own preference. The potatoes were excellent and so crunchy outside whilst being so soft inside.

Lastly for dessert, it was a super decadent chocolate fondant and some Zero Gradi gelato. The perfectly cooked fondant was so good in it's simplicity, and the gelato were all really nice. The margherita gelato (which initially I thought was going to be savoury sweet) is actually very good and just contains elements with colours that replicate the margherita pizza. A good fun gelato.

Overall I had a great time and loved the food. Parking was really easy along the side street and the service and ambiance were all very good. I highly recommend you go along if you live out West.


My guest and I dined courtesy of the restaurant.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tassal Salmon Rashers - Perfect For Breakfast

I was asked whether I wanted to try the new range of Tassal salmon and cook up some recipe ideas. I love salmon, so was really excited to try the Tassal Salmon Rashers. Tassal Salmon Rashers are a thicker cut smoked salmon that you can eat for breakfast in a variety of ways. The salmon is smoked in Beechwood from Tasmanian grown Atlantic Salmon. You can eat the rashers as is, with just the smoking, or cooked quickly. As you know, salmon is a great source of Omega-3 and protein so definitely worth eating more of it.

When I opened the packet of Tassal Salmon Rashers, I got the smell of the smoking and could see how beautifully coloured the salmon was. I decided to try the salmon rashers in two ways, smoked as is and also cooking it.


For my first dish, I had to eat the Tassal Salmon Rashers with my favourite soft boiled eggs. I toasted some bread, put on the salmon and put on my soft boiled egg. Some cooked tomatoes and a few wedges of salmon finished off the dish. It was so easy to prepare this dish and took only a few minutes. It was absolutely delicious. The salmon has a great texture with the thicker cut, with a good bite. The smoking is perfect and I like the peppercorns rubbed on it. Smoked salmon goes perfectly with eggs so this is a great dish.

The second dish I made was to cook the Tassal Salmon Rashers quickly in a pan, only about 2 minutes so that it stays moist. Then I added some quickly boiled fresh asparagus and sprinkled over some feta and there is a fast and delicious breakfast. When cooked, the Tassal Salmon Rashers takes on a very different flavour. The smokiness is still there and almost more intense. Both ways of eating the salmon rashers are delicious and I'd definitely recommend you try them. So easy to use and so tasty.

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Son In Law

I went along to Son In Law in Collingwood for dinner recently with a friend. The restaurant is a small place, neatly tucked on Johnston street among a number of other eateries. The fitout is really nice and fun, with bright pops of colour being used to accent various features. The room is divided into a few different sections with some seating street level, seating a few steps up the stairs and some seat out in the courtyard. The room had a really good feeling and even when it got loud, I still felt like I was eavesdropping on my neighbours conversation at my table.


We shared a number of dishes, which included
* Son in law eggs
* Grilled chicken skewers
* Fried barramundi fillets
* Crispy soft shell crab and tiger prawn curry
* Twice cooked crispy pork belly
* Papaya salad
* Steamed coconut pandan pudding

The food was all really delicious but for me the clear star of the show are the son in law eggs. I guess that's where the restaurant name comes from. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the flavours added to it were super delicious. I'd recommend ordering two serves of it. The grilled chicken had a good smokey flavour and the barramundi fillets good crunch. The other dish I especially loved, and at $16 I think is a bargain, was the soft shell crab and prawn curry. Wonderfully crispy and flavoursome soft shell crab with a great curry. You can never go wrong with crispy pork belly and these were so good with a great sauce. The papaya salad wasn't the best one I've ever had and could have used more intensity in the dressing. Finally, I had to try the puddings and they were sweet and tasty.

The staff are very efficiently and polite. They were helpful in explaining the food and also telling me some recommendations they had. Overall, I had a really good time and ate some very tasty food. I'd definitely come back for more.



My guest and I dined courtesy of the restaurant

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Syracuse

There are lots of modern restaurant fitouts with exposed brick walls, metallic drain pipes and industrial lighting which are all very beautiful. There aren't many grand classical fitouts anymore but Syracuse is one of those places. The room is absolutely beautiful with the ornate details and super high ceiling. It has an air of grace and grandeur.


I haven't been back to Syracuse in a while (there's always something new and exciting to try right) so it was interesting to see how it was. Upon looking at the classical menu, we decided to try the following dishes:

David Blackmore pastrami and bresaola
Grilled octopus, aioli, chorizo oil and brioche crumbs
Duck liver brûlée and grilled sourdough
Dobson's potato gnocchi, porcini mushroom, sorrel sauce and truffled pecorino
Lamb shoulder and cracked wheat salad, broad beans and freeze dried yogurt
Vanilla crème brûlée with PX macerated prunes
Milk chocolate parfait, salted caramel, hazelnut and popcorn crumble

The David Blackmore cured meats were really good and a great way to start the meal. I was looking forward to the grilled octopus as not many restaurants serve it and it's one of my favourite dishes. However, this grilled octopus was a bit mushy in texture and not very distinct in flavour. Far better was the duck liver brulee, with a smooth pate and a nice crispy top.

Onto the mains, neither of us much enjoyed the gnocchi. We found it a bit stodgy and I found it extremely sour, although my dining companion didn't think it too sour. The lamb shoulder salad was much nicer and we both enjoyed the flavours. However, I wish it was made clearer on the menu that it was a cold salad. I was expecting nice hot lamb with a warm salad so felt a bit disappointed.

Desserts were pretty good in flavour but both extremely sweet. The brulee top was a bit thick and the custard a bit curdled so the textures weren't spot on. The parfait was nice but very sweet so if you have a super sweet tooth, this is for you.

I really liked the space and more refined ambiance of the room. The service was friendly and efficient. I think this is a great place to have a meal where you can enjoy the conversation with your dining companion.


My guest and I dine courtesy of the restaurant.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Eat Now Online Food Ordering

This is a sponsored post.

You're frantically searching every corner of the fridge. Nope, there's no leftovers. You don't have anything in the house to cook dinner, not even your trusty Indo Mee packets. You could go out to eat, but you're all comfortable in your tracky pants and you have five episodes of House of Cards to watch on Netflix waiting for you. You have two choices, eat chocolate for dinner, or order takeaway. In the old days, you would go to look at all the takeaway menus magnetised to the fridge and make a decision on whether you wanted pizza or Chinese. That process has been modernised with the introduction of online food ordering. Eat Now is Australia's Number One Online Ordering site and allows you to decide between pizza or Chinese food when you want to eat a restaurant meal at home.

I trialled the Eat Now online ordering system one Friday night when I just wanted to go home and relax on my couch. I signed up for an account, which was really straight forward. The obligatory name, address, email and phone number got me an account immediately. That took about three minutes to do. From there, I got onto the main page, which is really simple and allows you to start your search by entering the location you want to search around.


A search for my suburb of Keysborough threw up a number of options. There was a variety of choices but obviously not as plentiful as in the city, where the Melbourne CBD food delivery options are huge. I decided on Thai and clicked into the restaurant to selection my meals.


There was so many choices and it took me a while to finally decide on what I wanted, adding things to the order and removing them a number of times. I finally chose a variety of options and then proceeded to decide on whether I wanted to pickup or get delivery. As the restaurant is on my way home from work, I decided to save myself the delivery fee and pick it up. I submitted my order and got a confirmation screen, email, and eventually an sms. With this particular restaurant, there was only one payment option of cash, but for other restaurants you can use card and Paypal as well.


I turned up at the restaurant at the time I selected and my order was waiting for me. I paid and took the food home. The whole process was really seamless. I transferred the food onto plates and bowls and made myself comfortable in front of the TV and enjoyed my meal.


The advantage of the Eat Now online ordering system is that it is a centralised location for all your food ordering. I also found it easier to take my time and tick whatever items I wanted and then process my order. Being able to see the costs in real time as I added each item is also one of the advantages I like as it's hard to get a running total over the phone talking to a restaurant. Placing orders over the phone can also result in some mistakes from time to time due to hearing the wrong thing.

An improvement that can be made to the system is to have photos of each item. This would give it an even bigger advantage over ordering on the phone as sometimes it's hard to visualise what a dish is like, or the amount of food, by just looking at the menu text if it's a new restaurant you have not tried. Otherwise, the system worked well and I didn't encounter any issues. The ability to leave a review about the restaurant and experience will also help to improve the system. I would recommend using Eat Now as it is the same cost as ordering directly but has made it easier as you can pre-order any time of the day, not have to wait on the phone, and you can oscillate in your selection when tempted by too many items and the phone operator won't get annoyed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Smoky BBQ Food Using Heat Beads Chimney Booster

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I love BBQ food. I currently own a gas BBQ, which I use a lot to cook chicken wings, sausages, lamb cutlets and beef skewers. It's a good BBQ but definitely not as tasty as when the meat is cooked over coals. I used to have this tiny coal BBQ which did great satay sticks with a beautiful smoky flavour, but the pain in trying to get the coals lit meant I only used it at most twice a year. I made a big fuss when I would use it as it would take all day and was just a pain that the benefits of the flavour was not enough to make me use it often. Hence I'm am over the moon with what Heat Beads have come up with. Their new Heat Beads BBQ Chimney is such a simple design but a massive game changer in my mind. As an engineer, I'm totally in love with the design and the funcationality that I'm surprised no one has done it sooner. Gone are the days where I'm lighting a newspaper and some twigs to put under the coals and then fanning it constantly to get the coals lit. Now, it's so easy to get the BBQ fuel lit. All you do is place four Heat Beads Firelighter onto the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney Booster, light the Firelighters, place the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney with BBQ Briquettes over the top, turn on the booster (it uses 4 x AA batteries) and voila, in 12 minutes, all the BBQ Briquettes are completely lit. You then just pour the Briquettes into your BBQ (a Weber Kettle BBQ in this case) and start cooking.

Just watching this short video and you will see how easy it is. You can see teh full range of Heat Beads products here.


Being the engineer that I am, I actually timed how long it took to lig the BBQ Briquettes and it was 12 minutes plus minus 10 seconds. Obviously if conditions are different (more wind for example) it may be faster or slower give or take a minute. You know when the top Briquettes turn grey, it's all ready to go. From that point, the fun starts. You now can cook a million different things on the BBQ. Depending on what the items are, you can cook over direct heat or indirect heat. I tried a mixture of both.


My first test was to start with my favourite thing, chicken wings. There is no better thin in the my mind than smoky chicken wings. All I did was take the raw chicken wings and put it into the BBQ over indirect heat. Closed the lid of the BBQ and 30 minutes later they were all done. I brushed the wings with some Louisianna Hot Sauce mixture and put them over the direct heat for a minute or so just to help the sauce become stickier. The chicken wings were simply amazing and so tender. My mum couldn't believe it as normally we cook the wings until they're a bit burnt and dry on the gas BBQ.

Next up, I tried some pork ribs. Again I cooked it over the indirect heat for about an hour before coating it in a layer of BBQ sauce and cooking over direct heat for a minute. A second layer of BBQ sauce and some more cooking resulted in really beautiful ribs. The ribs are more like a pork chop texture if you cook for an hour. If you want the meat falling off the bone, another hour to hour and a half would do the trick.

The next week, I was so enthused that I threw everything at the BBQ. Again I got the Heat Beads BBQ Chimney Booster out, loaded it with the Firelighters and lit them, loaded up the BBQ Chimney with BBQ Briquettes and turned on the chimney. Second attempt, again about 12 minutes. On this week's menu was more seafood orientated. So there was prawns (5-10 minutes on direct heat), blue swimmer crabs (I lost track of time on this one but around 30 minutes I feel on indirect heat), Chinese lup cheong (just a few minutes on direct heat), corn (forgot to time) and Vietnamese pork skewers (15-20 minutes on indirect heat and finished off for a minute or so on direct heat for a bit of charring).

The food was all so good. I'm not a big fan of prawns but these BBQ ones were smoky goodness and really juicy still. The crabs were excellent. Normally I boil the crabs and they're a bit waterlogged but these weren't at all. My favourite by far were the chicken wings, pork ribs and Vietnamese pork skewers. These really benefit from the indirect heat as they didn't dry out at all and stayed super juicy and tender. The smoky flavour also really shines through in these items and I love it so much.


Once all the cooking is well and truly done, I used the cleaning brush to scrub the BBQ metal plate while there is still heat. All the black bits come right off so easily. Then when the Briquettes have all burnt out, you can just pour them into the bin, making sure they're completely cold as you don't want to start a fire in your bin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sake Restaurant at Hamer Hall - Delicious Food With a View

Sake Restaurant has been somewhere I've wanted to go after reading April's blog post about it. You know the story, so many new places in Melbourne that you tend to never get round to visiting the older places. So when I got an invite to try it, I was really excited to go. Sake is located in Hamer Hall of the Arts Centre and somewhere lots of people go for pre-show meals. It's also great for a lingering meal as the setting is so beautiful. Right next to the Yarra River, the restaurant gives you stunning views as there are floor to ceiling windows to maximise that view.

Photo courtesy of Thrive PR.

The style of food served at Sake is what you would say is modern Japanese. Use of classic Japanese flavours and techniques to create both traditional dishes and some newer dishes. My friend and I sampled a few different items from the different sections of the menu to get a feel for the overall food style.

We had the following food:
Sushi set
Kingfish jalapeño with yuzu soy
Pacific oysters served 3 ways
Chicken karaage with spicy mayo
Miso-cream scallops with baby corn and asparagus
12 hour braised pork belly with 64°C egg and truffle oil scallions
Seaweed salad
Momo umeshu - poached peach, blood peach fool, candy shards, shaved granita
Goma - caramelized white chocolate, chocolate mousse, sesame praline, sesame ice cream

Everything was of a really high standard and I liked it. Starting with the entrees, the sushi was very fresh and clean. The kingfish with jalapeno was a nice take on a fish dish, with great flavours. I absolutely loved the oysters served three ways, each very different and delicious. Lastly, the chicken karaage was beautifully crispy.

For the mains, the scallops were the real highlight. Plump, perfectly cooked scallops was served in this really silky cream. We both loved this dish. As for the braised pork belly, I rather liked it as it had a very distinctive flavour, but my friend wasn't as keen on it. To go with the mains, we had a seaweed salad, which was like none I've had before. Five styles of really different seaweed was presented, four of the five I liked. Really interesting to taste them back to back and see how different they were and the different flavours you can taste.

For desserts, they were both really different but both good. I think I got the better dessert of the peach with refreshing granita but my friend hates poached fruit so definitely thought she got the better dessert with the chocolate mousse and sesame ice cream. We were both happy thinking we got the better dish, so no food envy.

Service wise, our waitress was lovely and funny too. She made some jokes at the right time while helping us to navigate the menu and provide suggestions, such as the delicious sake I had. I love staff who can do this as they help to make the dining experience even better.

The ambiance in the restaurant is good, although as they always says, some seats are better than others. We were right in the corner that felt as if it was slightly disjointed from the rest of the room. There were three lonely tables there and I was envious of the people near the window. But you know, someone has to have the less than optimal tables at a restaurant so that's ok. Our seats meant we could be really loud and laugh and no one would notice.

All in all, I had a really great dining experience there and would recommend it for a special occasion, a casual meet up or a pre-show meal. Somehow the setup of the space lends itself to all these things, which is a real plus.

My friend and I dined courtesy of the restaurant.


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