Saturday, 31 December 2011

Middle Fish and only in the middle of the day!!

Ok ... I've had Thai food numerous times throughout my life, but I can't honestly say if any of it has ever been authentic. So I'm not going to enter into any discussions about authenticity in this review. I am however Asian, and can generally spot versions that I would consider westernised and limpid. Thankfully, Middle Fish treats their customers with respect.

First things first, as a general rule of thumb, capsicum, baby corn and large chunks of onion are not ingredients that are widely used in South East Asian cooking. If something is labelled spicy, then it really should be spicy. And if ever you run a store in Singapore and serve about a half a teaspoon of chilli sauce/sambal on the plate, you might as well close shop and re-appraise your business plan.

My favourite Thai Dishes are Tom yam, green curry, and the infinite varieties of Laab, none of which I had when we visited this amazing space (have a wander round when you're there) in Carlton. NB: they are not open for dinner - 10am-4pm. I wanted to check out the specials.

Already being heralded as as Melbourne's answer to Sydney's superior Thai cuisine, this newly minted Thai eatery pulls no punches.

We began our afternoon's repast with Iced coffees (the new summer hit) served in these gorgeous pressed metal bowls. We then chose from the Try This section of the menu. I stupidly did not take note of the actual names and descriptions, but we had Items 1 and 2.

M had a Southern Thai style fish which is cooked in Coconut milk and tasted so much like Serondeng that I was immediately transported to my childhood with the first mouthful. Accompanying this was a bowl of Kang Kong and onion, a bowl of pickled carrot with beanshoots and a plate of noodles for soakage.

I had a Northern Thai style dish of spicy minced pork that was served with a Goldfish shaped mound of rice and various raw and blanched vegetables. If you can't take the heat, then this is not the dish for you. I on the other hand was in heaven.

My only concern with the food is that if you are going to serve raw veg, they really need to be fresh. My broccolli was slightly blackened round the stems, and the snake beans should really have been cooked. Simply put, they were not fresh.

But all in all, the food was homestyled and absolutely delicious. What a wonderful addition to Melbourne's culinary scene, and one I hope will last the distance. Oh and for those Singaporeans out there, be warned, there's no aircon.

Middle Fish on Urbanspoon

Pimms Galore!!

Ok ... since its like fucking 35 degrees outside, I think its perfect weather to see in the New Year with Pimms!!!

Its the new thing. And I recommend heading out to Gertrude Street with friends and having a Pimms jug at Rue de Fleurus, where Claypots used to be.

We had a boozy afternoon with our dear friend P, who I am trying to con into guest blogging since he's going all fancy and spending NYE at Vue de Monde. I want him to post on the canapes and cocktails and the clientele ... but I'm feeling the cop out already even before the night has begun.

You may also like to consider some charcuterie and a negroni over at the Gertrude Street Enoteca. Its not the sort of weather for wine or anything involving a stove top or oven.

Happy New Year's Everyone!!!

Christmas Eve dinner - Braised Duck

Ok ... having baulked at the price of the smallest goose to be had (about 100 bucks), we decided on the next best alternative, a plump $17 whole duck from Little Saigon.

I hooked out a Teochew Braised Duck recipe online (great blog btw) which involved a slow braise with fairly straightforward ingredients. Boy did the final product pack a punch!

The recipe also includes instructions for an accompanying chilli sauce. I'm not really a fan of sour, particularly of the citrus variety, but it went extremely well with the richness of the duck.

I cooked mine for about 3 hours, although I think I may lessen the cooking time in future. I like a bit of give where my poultry is concerned (I think its the Asian in me). You could get away with about an hour and a half. But its worth the effort spooning the sauce over the parts of the duck not immersed in the cooking liquid. And definitely make sure you turn the bird over once.

If ever you have friends who bemoan the fact that they can't cook but are eager to wow some friends/family, tell them to try this. Its relatively simple but the results are complex in flavour and texture.

We served ours with some chicken rice and some pickled vegetables. The pickle was a quick soak in rice vinegar salt and sugar. The chicken rice was cooked in the rice cooker with a couple of teaspoons of bottled chicken rice sauce - I recommend Uncle Sun Hainan Chicken rice mix.

This is how you do Christmas dinner folks! Oh and thanks to a rather backhanded kris kringle (long story), we enjoyed a bottle of Andrew Glaetzer's Annaperenna, which is super hard to get and is probably worth more than $50 a pop. But oh so yummy!

On our way to Christmas Eve

Ok ... in the lead up to Christmas, M and I did brunch at The Premises in Kensington. If I had the wherewithall, I would move to Bellair Street, Kensington in a flash. This little corner has seen a number of cafes and shops come and go. The Premises is a relatively new addition and is the cutest little cafe out. The coffee is great and the food is good, which is really all you need to know. And I love the luxury of a brunch, particularly on a weekday, with the madness of the weekend kept firmly in check.

M had the homestyle white beans with fetta and pesto.

I had the old poach eggs and we both ordered bacon and haloumi as extras.

Check it out if you're ever in the hood. I'm dying to go back and try the slow roasted pulled pork.


The Post Christmas Deluge begins

Ok ... so now that the festive season is over, its time to knuckle down and squeeze in some reportage in between the unbuttoned trousers, gastric fevers, liver and lung perforations. Frankly speaking I'm over all this christmas goodwill and cheer, and would like nothing better than to get into my trakkie shorts and curl up on the couch with a bowl of clear chicken broth ... but there's NYE to come!!! So lets push on.

Firstly, wasn't the Christmas Day Hail amazing!! If those nuggets weren't so worryingly big, we could have pretended it was snow.

Still it was a lovely Christmas Day over at D's. Its always good to catch up with friends you only see about once a year.

M trumped with his curry puffs and plum puds.

He also added Sugee Tea Cakes to his party repertoire.

And over at J & CC's on Boxing Day, my lemongrass curry was apparently the "star" and "very excellent"! But my culinary nemesis DV surprised everyone with a sweet, his amazing trifle!

To top it all off, M gave me an automatic Coffee machine and he scored a Kenwood Patissier Mixer (in white though, the saga of a red one and my tanty at Good Guy's perhaps should be for another post).

Before we leave Christmas 2011 well and truly in the past, I will tell you about our amazing Christmas Eve repast ... thats coming up soon.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas Y'all

Ok ... I have been remiss and left it to the very last minute to wish you and yours a happy happy Christmas. I'm basting (well not right at this moment of course) a duck in my "dutch" oven ready for tonight's Christmas Eve repast. M is busy scraping out Curry Puffs from the oven tray in preparation for Christmas and Boxing day festivities ... and for these few moments, all seems right with the world.

See you in the New Year!! 2012 is going to be genius!! I know it!!

Friday, 23 December 2011

New Beginnings - Architecture and Symbolism

Ok ... while M is in the kitchen grappling with the finer points of a well fought and earned Sugee Cake recipe, I'm taking this opportunity to put the horse before the cart and talk about New Year's resolutions. Well, what I wanted to actually talk about is symbolism and karma. Just this very day, the finishing touches were made on a brand spanking new roof for our house.

It has taken 2 weeks and a couple of nail biting decisions to get to this point, and I must say it looks (a) like its always been there and (b) absolutely stunning!! Now I can't wait for the rains to sluice all that residual tradie dirt off so that our house can trully work her new weave ... I think the rest of her outfit is going to look a little shabby in comparison!

Anyhoo, we are hoping this clears all that bad juju accumulated over the last few months like a bundle of burning Sage (its my new thing from American Horror Story). And I think its already working. The house feels lighter somehow, like its finally been allowed to exhale (don't roll your eyes at me) and so I know that M's Sugee cake will come out light as a feather, and that all my New Year's resolutions will come true.

Or I could be totally deluded in 2012 ... which means nothings really changed.

(C'mon you know you want to, ready? Everybody say "shoop shoop be doop")

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Walking a gastronomic and literary Drawbridge - Lunch at The Moat

Ok ... ever since its launch at the final episode of The Slap (Anouk's my favourite btw) extravaganza over at the Wheeler Centre, I have walked past and looked down at the literary crowd sipping and munching the leisurely hours away on garden furniture and fake turf, waiting patiently for my chance to partake of all that erudite goodness (or fakeness where I'm involved). Finally the opportunity presented itself when we had to throw a Thank You lunch for our IT saviour from the Netherlands.

So on a lovely Thursday afternoon, we descended on The Moat in our motley fashion and esconced ourselves at the large table by the door, isolated from the rest of the hoi polloi, who were thankfully tucked away in the main dining area, protected from our effusive and somewhat risque conversation. All I will say about this is that the Dutch have funny names and that Layla has a loud voice.

Anyhoo, the food, simply put, was amazing!!!

I had the Mount Leira cured lamb with chickpea puree, lemon cheek (see postscript below), olive and rosemary bread. In texture and flavour the lamb was like pastrami. The chickpea puree tasted like a cross between aioli, welsh rarebit and hollandaise and the olive bread, sliced thinly, was the perfect foil for a surprisingly light repast. Simple fare, and simply wonderful.

Quinoa obviously is still all the rage. The Moat's offering is a Quinoa salad, served with tomato, cucumber, spanish onion, toasted seeds, coriander, mint and honey dressing with the optional cumin poached free range chicken.

The combination of the toasted seed (possibly mustard) and mint with the sweet hint of honey was delicious. Definitely worth sampling when you visit.

AS ordered the Pickled Ratatouille Verrine (boom! boom!) served with a vanilla and shallot dressing and Persian fetta mousse. I didn't get to try this but the ratatouille came in the cutest little jar.

AW had the Farmer's Plate which consisted of ham hock broth, cucumber and apple relish, cheese and bread. The ham hock broth reminded me of M's bacon soup at the Duchess, although there were certainly copious chunks of smoked ham in the bowl here. The apple and cucumber relish had a slight green tea smoked japanese cucumber mouthfeel (I finally worked this ridiculous phrase into a post!!) and was a revelation.

But I have to say hands down the dish of the day was L's Sicilian eggplant stew with toasted almonds and oregano aioli. TDF peops TDF and a Must order when you go.

PS : a cheek of lemon is actually just a slice of lemon ... hello??!!

Its beginning to look alot like Christmas - 2011 Pt 2

Ok ... I was a victim of a Tinsel Attack!! Bless!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Its beginning to look alot like Christmas - 2011

Ok ... our first dinner of the festive season came with something rather special in a beautifully wrapped box. The prettiest Christmas present I have ever seen, and most probably the yummiest .... a selection of delicious baked goods all lovingly crafted by our bestie DK!:

And guess what, soon after this picture was taken, I DROPPED THE FUCKING BOX!!!!! Words cannot describe how absolutely mortified I was. I cried ... and then I died.

Merry bloody Christmas!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Chin Up at Chin Chin's

Ok ... Benjamin Cooper and his "european" mullet are everywhere these days, and there's a rumour (which perhaps is substantiated) that his painfully cool city establishment recently turned away about 900 hungry punters in one day. Oh but I have been dying to go there and I finally had my chance courtesy of a work Christmas function.

So we shut down the office at midday and took a leisurely stroll across to Chin Chin on Flinders Lane, where I promptly started preceedings off with a Lychee cocktail (from a dizzying array of drinks choices housed in a book with the words XXX R18+ Adults Only playfully inscribed on the cover in Gaffa tape) - made with Gin and Prosecco and served with a whole frozen lychee smothered in crushed rose petals, something to look forward to at the end of your drink.

Watched over by a neon bunny, I tried my best to order from an extensive menu in order to suit the requirements and sensitivies of our large group of 10. In other words, I didn't entirely get to sample the sorts of dishes I would normally go for (meaning ingredients and/or combinations I am unfamiliar with).

We started with a number of "Little Somethings".

First off was the Kingfish Sashimi served with Lime, Chilli, Coconut & Thai Basil. A little heavy handed with the lime juice, but the sashimi itself was succulent and tender with a more than pleasant herby hit from the Thai Basil.

Given the rest of the available choices in this section, you may want to hold off on the Kingfish Sashimi which lets face it you're hardly likely to be uncognizant of. But you definitely should order the Spicy Corn and Coriander Fritters. Its served with Iceburg lettuce cups, each with a sliver of ginger at the bottom (hate to be the kitchen hand that has to select the cups and assemble the pile!!) and an absolutely TDF Chilli Jam. You wrap each fritter in the iceberg, slosh on the chilli jam and munch - number one, peops, number one!!

And of course, we had to have the Chilli Salt chicken wings that came to the table covered in chilli slices and coriander with a squeeze of lemon on the side. They weren't kidding about the salt! But how could you abandon the humble fried chicken wing? How could you turn your back on all that crunchy, fatty deliciousness. KFC lovers were emerging from the closet left right and centre. Chin Chin's version is fairly straightforward, but the soya sauce, chilli, sugar and lime dipping sauce accompanying these beautiful morsels help cut through the saltiness to enhance the juicy white flesh underneath the crunch.

We also had the Wok Fried Salt and Pepper squid served with that quintessential Thai dipping sauce, Nuoc Chum. I know its almost passe, but this is a must have. Perfectly executed.

Our final starter was the DIY Fresh Spring Rolls. Ok lets just take a step back for a minute and let me break it down for you. I think there were quite a few nervous nellies amongst our party who were secretly climbing the walls thinking "what the hell is this place?" "And you call this food?" "I don't even understand the menu!" So the words Spring and Rolls were like beacons of light and a sudden gush of wind to miners trapped underground.

However, when the DIY spring rolls finally arrived a-table, I could feel the side-eyes and the "hold up bitches". Coz this was no cigar shaped roll of crispy fried goodness, no this was soft peking duck style skins and cut vegetables arranged in little piles ready for you to do your own folding!! Brilliant!! (well at least for some of us at that table ... oh god Licio & Rach!! I really miss you at times like these). In addition to the cucumber, pickled radish, carrot and bean shoots, there were also tampon (sorry! - best way to describe this) shaped pieces of golden freshly fried bean curd. The accompanying peanut sauce was delicious. Not too sweet and not too salty.

More drinks ensued including a number of alarmingly expensive bottles of champagne (we have no monetary provisions for trifle matters like salary increases and bonuses, but in the immortal (sic) words of Beyonce - "we like to party"!!). Then it was time for the mains.

Again, not really what I would have selected from the menu but this was the "United Colours of Benneton" of grazing. First up was L's choice of the Wild Salmon wrapped in Banana leaf in a red curry sauce. This was everything you would want in a Banana leaf wrapped grilled fish with the added bonus of being wonderfully scented with tiny slivers of kafir lime leaf chiffonade.

Heading up the vego components we had the Dry Curry "Pad Ped' with Stir fried vegetables and spice crusted organic Tofu. I only had a couple of mouthfuls of this so its hard for me to fully review it, but what I had tasted competent.

The second vegetarian dish was the Yellow Pumpkin Curry. I don't really do pumpkin, but I actually enjoyed this. And surprisingly it wasn't too rich. I might just try and track this recipe down. Or at least attempt a yellow curry paste from scratch and cook pumpkin and tofu in it.

Completing the circle of curries was the Masaman Curry of Coconut Braised Hopkins River Beef brisket, served with Pink Fur Apple Potatoes (your guess is as good as mine) and Crispy shallots. In one word - Delectable. The beef was super tender and the Masaman itself was well balanced. Again, if I was with my usual dining "kakis", this would not be my choice from the Curry options ... that would have to be the "Scud City" Jungle Curry.

To cut all that coconut richness, we ordered a Salad of Organic Silken Tofu with Thai Basil and a hot,sweet bitter dressing. Didn't really taste the bitter, but by this stage I think I was beginning to get slightly tofu-d out! There are much more interesting salad options (steamed spanner crab and chicken, cuttlefish and glass noodle, hot and sour duck liver to name a few) but I wasn't prepared to push the envelope too far.

To bulk up the protein, we ordered the Caramelised Sticky Pork, which funnily enough, could have been alot stickier. The flavour was there, but the meat itself was dry. In fact, I'd almost forgotten to actually blog about this until I was checking through my photos and found a pic of it there. Avoid.

The highlight, ironically, was the choice of one of the fussiest amongst us who asked for the Chin Chin special rice served with Crab, Pineapple, Chicken and Coriander. I had to double check the Crab bit with her, but as it turned out, this simple dish was the most memorable for me.

For sides we had Roti and (I couldn't really go past this) the Son in Law eggs. I always have time for Son in Law eggs. These were good, although if pushed I would say the eggs at Easy Tiger are far superior.

I don't quite know how we managed this but we did have dessert. And really, even if you have to tickle the old epiglottis like a pro to make some room, you simply must order the Palm Sugar Ice Cream Sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup. HEA-ven!! Its frozen palm sugar ... hello! what more could you want!

We also ordered a platter of sweet things to share which had a a White chocolate with a lime and coriander filling (surprisingly tasty), a cinnamon and ginger spice cake (the standout on the plate) and Pandan pudding, which didn't really gel on the first mouthful and paled in comparison with the other 2.

And at A's insistence we had the Three Colour Pudding - layers of sweet beans with pandan infused tapioca, caramel and coconut crushed ice ... basically a fancy Ice Chendol ... and I'd rather have the heartland (a nod to fatbooo) version in my hometown, Singapore.

We had to vacate our reserved big table (you can book if you are 10 or more in your party - there's only one table this size, so you will have to be organised) for the next booking so we took our drinks downstairs to the Gogo bar.

The Gogo bar is a cavernous space that just screams piano black!! It has an LA feel to it, and so do most of the Clientele. The only difference is true to Melbourne form, one of its entrances is via an alleyway. The drinks are expensive. So perhaps its a venue option best reserved for a charity date who you want to ketok (pardon my singlish).

We finished our night of muted debauchery with the lovely (I can't believe she's back!!) RS at the Everleigh on Gertrude Street, above the now defunct palace of mediocrity, Dante's. I honestly thought, given its hipster speakeasy references, we would be knocking the waxed facial hair, suspenders and brogues, and jaunty caps aside to get at the bar ... but everything was surprisingly muted and if a little lacklustre. However, for old timers like myself, there's something comforting about sitting back and being able to converse without having to strain forward and lip read. And I like the idea of allowing the bartender to design a cocktail ($18 a pop - so maybe not the place to go to get sloshed) based on your choice of flavours and spirits.

Here's my final word, assuming you have made it so far after such a long and tedious post: Chin Chin is a fun place with an amazing get up and prime location, but there are better offerings of this kind of modernist Thai/Vietnamese/Malaysian shtick to be had out there. I'm still more of a Long Grain and borderline Ginger Boy fan.

But you should check it out for yourself and see what the fuss is all about ... after all that is the Melbourne thing to do!
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