Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Grateful for small victories at Small Victories

Ok ... I was all excited about moving from my antiquated 3G iphone to iphone 4 (yes minus the sibilance) with its touch-to-focus screen. But the flash photos are so bright and queasy looking, and have this yellowish tinge which somehow reminds me of the detritus of liposuction.

And what a greeaaat way to start a blog post about food!!

We recently caught up with our good friends for a mid-week impromptu dinner (some amongst our party are lucky enough to enjoy a surfeit of holidays) at Small Victories.

Not quite a year old, this unassuming eatery on Rathdowne Street (which is fast becoming a mecca for foodies and not-so-hip hipsters), is already garnering praise from the uber cool sub-set of Melbourne foodie culture - the Melbourne brunchers!

I can't really comment on Small Victories' brunch offerings as we were there for dinner - its the same sharing plate palaver - but the prices aren't going to give you a wedgie.

We began with a plate of the Ewes Milkc Cheese Croquettes served with Honey ($9). I've written about my inability to computate savoury and sweet together in an equation before, so this tasted like one of those indian milk sweets, usually served in thick sugar syrup, to me. Or like something you would eat to break your fast (for those of you who are in the habit of fasting for religious purposes). Very jarring for me! But I believe that for those without this mental handicap, the combination of the milk cheese was nicely complimented by the smoky sweet flavour of the honey.

Another starter was the Poon Boon Lamb Ribs served with Sesame Salt, Black Tahini and Quince Aioli ($16). The Lamb rib was cooked to perfection, but I'm not sure that the added flavours in the tahini and Aioli really gelled that well. I didn't quite like the lamb with the Aioli, and the Black Tahini on its own lacked a little bit of character. So I'm a little unsure of this dish.

The crowning glory of the "smalls" was the Korean Fried Chicken ($16). This was great and very well balanced. The accompanying sweet syrupy sauce was not overpowering, and you got the perfect umami hit from the batter and crunch of the chicken skin. Will certainly come back for this.

Moving onto the mains, we shared the Char Grilled Quail Breast served with Cherry Escabache, Buckwheat Brioche and Pistachio Crisp ($26). Quail was ignored once, then was briefly on-trend, and now it seems to be receeding quietly in favour. But I think it should become as much a staple on menus as duck was. It is so versatile a meat, and this dish, despite its colourful menu description, is a simple dish with simple flavours. The brioche which had more a texture of stale bread crouton pieces before they are fried was a great touch. And helped to mop up all the yummy juices on the plate.

We also had the Fish of the day (sorry I can't remember what it was) served with celery, scallion (hhmm!!!) and raisin ($26). The Fish itself was cooked to perfection, and celery always lends a heady aromatic counterpoint to white meat, but those raisins were, to put it mildly, off! Unless you are partial to a handful of fishy flavoured raisins, in which case, go for your life. But don't be put off by the raisins, as they do not overpower the dish. You can simply put them to the side and enjoy the rest of it.

For sides, we ordered the Heirloom Tomatoes served with Quark, Basil and Rye Crisp ($14) and the Duck Fat Potatoes served with garlic and herbs ($10). KH commented that for the price and the timbre of the establishment, she found the heirloom tomatoes surprisingly lacking in flavour. I agree in part. If I was putting this dish together I probably would have stuck to one kind of tomato as opposed to using a smattering of different types. Individually their flavours shone through, together ... not so much.

Fat Potatoes in duck fact? Need I say more?

I can't in all honesty say I would be rushing back for dinner. I'd probably treat this more of a casual place to drop by perhaps for a light lunch, a bit of brunch, or as the day comes to a close, a few sharing plates to help with the alcohol. But if you haven't been, then its worth checking out. Don't forget the Korean Fried Chicken!!

Small Victories on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Masak Masak - are we playing yet?

Ok ... panic stations!! Less than 2 weeks to go before we step on that Emirates flight to Barcelona, and I still haven't quite worked out our itinerary. I think we are going to have to wing it at some stage! Anyhoo, we still had time to check up on a couple of new eateries, the first one being Small Victories, which I will blog about shortly. The second is the 6 week old Masak Masak on 230 Smith Street, Fitzroy, which I will post about now.

News about a new Malaysian restuarant opening in reasonably close proximity is always met with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Excitement because it is easily ranked as our favourite cuisine, and general consensus is you have to travel farther afield to get the genuine deal. Trepidation because by and large the end result is always slightly dissappointing, or at best, the quality is uneven.

So Masak Masak is unfortunately not likely to buck the trend.

The term Masak Masak, apart from being a rather fey children's game, also refers to the general art of cooking. But do not attempt to corelate the 2 as Malaysian cooking is far from child's play, especially when you want to get it right.

The staff at this establishment all seem frightfully young, which in itself, is not a bad thing. But I get the feeling that in terms of traditional cooking they are further away from the ancestral practices of cooking from scratch, and have grown up with store bought flavours and 21st century fusion. (oh and lard free hawker centre food - I mean really!! What's the point!)

We were extremely excited at the prospect of having Satay from a customised brazier. And Masak Masak's offering comes with cubes of ketupat, raw onion and cucumber (pieces not slices). So 2 big ticks let down by a limpid and unexiciting satay sauce. And let's face it, its the satay sauce that makes the dish.

Their homestyle Otak Otak was closer to its origins, but needed a bit more of a Kafir lime leaf boost. But they came in cute banana leaf wrapped parcels, showing a little bit of skill.

As far as I know, not many other places serve Roti John. A curious dish melding the orient with her colonial past, its essentially a baguette (of the sweet shiny kind) grilled with egg and minced meat (usually lamb), and eaten with tomato sauce. Greasy, eggy, meaty, yummy! The perfect snack.

Masak Masak's offering bucks the religious trend and serves their's with a thick slab of Bak Kuah and crispy lettuce. I'm all for fusion and I'm all for Bak Kuah, but I'd wish they would tweak the menu listing and advise customers that this is their version of a much loved hawker dish. Thats my only gripe, as this dish is moreish and something I would come back for. (Incidentally, in Singapore, you usually find Roti John at Malay run stores, and Bak Kuah is made out of pork ... in-te-rest-ing!)

For mains, we shared the Kon Loh Mee and some Fried Kai Lan (sorry I seem to have lost my photos for these). You have 2 options with the wontons, either fried or served in a soup. Ours came in a soup which was a little tasteless, but some people may prefer their broth that way.

The Noodles themselves had the requisite flavour of Kon Loh mee, but the dish was missing slices of Char Siu, and I would have preferred the noodles a little less lighter in colour and washed in the sauce, rather than cooked or mixed too well in it. Not sure if I'm being clear but there is a difference, at least in my head.

The Fried Kai Lan was served with crispy fried garlic chips, which was a nice touch. And stemmage was suitably crispy.

Masak masak, in summary, is worth checking out. There are some dishes that are not usually found in other Malaysian establishments, and its always worth trying something new.

Masak Masak on Urbanspoon

AA and the Red Light Bunk

Ok ... there was a time when life was all make-believe and teenage daydreams even though we were on the very cusp of adulthood and some of us had experienced things best left for a little later in life. In the meantime in that corner room with the branches of an old tropical hardwood shading the inside from prying eyes, we re-enacted magazine story scenarios accompanied by the latest whatever-tunes we were into, and wondered what it would be like if the other occupants of our floor crashed our little drag soirees.

My drag name was Annie Anus (crass I know)! I won't reveal the extended byline of my gay-de-plume, but one of my favourite numbers was this ... (and I only mimed the chorus really).

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sometimes its the simple things in life ... a lunchtime snack

Ok ... sometimes when you're a little peckish but its too late for brunch, a "light" and savoury snack can be the most perfect thing in the world ... Gozleme served with hummus, chilli and garlic sauces at Fitzroy kebabs ...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Rational Suicide - About Life, Death and Happiness

Ok ... so having to face the possible early termination of a family pet has made me an even more stalwart advocate of Voluntary Euthanasia. Whichever way you cut it, its not an easy decision to make. It was heartening to read the article on Beverley Broadbent in the Age recently. A vibrant still vital 83 year old who decided to take her own life "rationally" in February this year. I trully hope that I will have the luxury of that choice when my time comes. Although I'm inferring that Beverley did come from a slightly elevated social strata (most certainly higher than I'll ever reach) and therefore exposed to a wider range of opportunities. But I'm sure there will be some kind of hotline for me, well at least I hope to get to it before I am totally incapacitated and imprisoned in some godawful facility where I'm once again treated like a child and deemed a social outcast due to my sexuality.

Still, our cat has seemingly turned a corner and is playing the cute card to the max! Although, he isn't quite able to clean himself as well as he once did. And so navigates his way through rooms covered in towels in a fug of stale piss and shit. But still, totes adorbs as they say. We are grateful for every second of his life that remains. Lets just hope and pray that any deterioration that may occur, happens when we're back from our holiday. The same thing applies, unfortunately, to my mother.

And then there's that! 3 weeks in Europe in Spring. I'm hoping that the trip, amongst other things, will rejuvenate the old creative writing cells, well at least the paltry few that I possess. It will at least give me something to write about. And new experiences! God! In an effort to economise in lieu of said impending holiday, we have pretty much hermetically sealed our daily routine from home to work to home to shops to occasional dinner out again local or at mates'. 

 Ciacci Palace - our apartment in Rome

But not long to go peops! And then I will be one of those godawful bores shoving endless photos (and possible videos) and travel soundbites down your already overstuffed broadband pipe. But suck it up. I haven't been on a proper holiday for ages, so you will allow me this little indulgence.

Besides which, I've been watching all these "youtuber" videos of mainly youthful gay americans who spruik up their daily lives and have hundreds of subscribers eagerly lapping up every mundane detail (yours truly included). So if they (admittedly they seem to lead amazingly busy lives) can do it, so can fucking I!

So stay tuned all those who haven't quite jumped ship yet. I will make it as painless as possible. Meanwhile here's something to be excited about.

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