Friday, 30 August 2013

Its about time for a music post and Babes, the booty don't lie!!!!

Ok ... its been some time since I've done a music roundup. Mainly because the current music scene is more miss than hit and I'm hard pressed to find an album already released that is worthy of more than a sentence or two of my time.

So rather than review what has been, let's talk about what it is yet to come.

First up, Solange ... gurl ... that True EP was how long ago?? When's the album going to drop already? We need us some lo-fi, bedroom studio, shanty ass town honest soul to counter all this overblown auto-tuned twinky twerking soft porn that passes for R&B/Pop these days!

Still while you're messing about in the basement, Janelle Monae's sophomore is about to drop. And my pre-order that comes with a special edition 7" is already in the bag. I can't wait. Could there be a cooler song this year than Q.U.E.E.N.? I think not, and the Badu cameo just racks up the cool quotient even higher.

I'm not entirely convinced by second single Dance Apocalyptic, but there has always been a real sense of music erudition behind Janelle's songwriting craft. And she must have a crack production and engineering team behind her, as Archandroid was breathtaking in parts. So I'm looking forward to a rewarding album listening experience.

Next up, MIA - you ain't short of a bob or two, just release the damn thing yourself if the label is dragging its chain. Bad Girls was eons ago, and Bring the Noize with its dubstep sensibilities is already starting to sound a little dated. So its time to two step up methinks.

Kanye's discovered 90s techno, so lets aciiieeeed it up MIA!

And finally in the guilty pleasure corner, I'm really loving the new Fantasia/Kelly/Missy collab! But as with all neo-soul/r&b acts these days, they run out of the posts absolutely banging, but then the album drops and its full of by-the-way mid tempo to slow numbers, reeking of exhaustion before it even makes the finishing line. (did you know that Brandy released a newie late last year btw?)

I was going to mention GaGa, but that junket is pretty much in full swing. I'm not super sold on the video for Applause, I think she's worked with better directors in the past. But I loved the VMA performance, and this little teaser of new song "Swine" sounds very very promising indeed.

But I don't really get into this whole album as app trend (see Bjork). I want the CD/DVD combo thanks.

As an aside, I know this has been a deliberate forward looking exercise, but I've just rediscovered The Three Degrees' 3D from 1979 - what an amazing album!! You should definitely check it out sometime. Standby, Bodycheck!!!

Will Cronut make it into the Oxford Dictionary as did twerk, derp and ... seriously what the?

Ok ... so I had my first (and probably last) Cronut - what is this again? ... a cross between a croissant and a doughnut (or is it donut?) ... this thing is fried isn't it? ... and is the cheap cream filling mandatory? Hhmm ...


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Shop Ramen - so glad you have permanent digs now!

Ok ... simply put, Shop Ramen is a Shop that serves Ramen. She now has a permanent address ... conveniently located (well for me anyways) on 329 Smith Street ... the Johnston Street end.

I'm tempted to leave it at just that and allow your tastebuds to do the rest ... in keeping with Japanese restraint and minimalism.

If I was of cleverer or more creative stock, I'd caligraph a sign that says - no more chatter - just go- or I'd haiku something that will persuade you in syllables.

And then stick a bunch of beautifully crafted pictures on that will make the mind salivate and the eye hunger for sustenance.

Instead, let me just point out two things ... handmade noodles and perfectly balanced broth.

So there was an occasion, as there usually is these days ... a colleague's birthday. Our office is a short tram ride away or an enervating 20min walk in the bracing cold ... we split the diff and did both.

Its your standard Melbourne café fitout ... simple clean lines, muted colours and a hint of distress. There is a large communal table which is where we were sat at ... right next to the pasta machine ... churning out single serves of pale ramen noodles.

The menu is small - 3 types of Ramen a couple of Gua Baos and oddly enough a couple of shakes. There was also a Peach Pie looking absolutely delectable at the counter, which we thought we might have as a treat, but were too full to even attempt a shared slice at the end of our meal.

GA had the Pork Belly Bun ($3.80) which looked fluffier and more succulent than the one recently imbibed at Wonderbao. GA attested to its moistness and flavour ... giving it a big thumbs up.

 I crossed fingers and threw caution to the wind (ever so slightly lactose intolerant) and ordered the Salted Caramel Coconut Shake ($7.00). Perhaps a little less coconuty than I would have liked but a whole lot of salted caramel goodness which more than made up for it. Served with an old fashioned Wax straw which almost didn't last the distance.

As for the noodles, I had the Pork Belly Shoyu ($13) which arrived at the table with a piece of seaweed, fat pieces of juicy belly pork, King Oyster mushrooms, and garnished with spring onions, fresh watercress leaves and a softly boiled egg. The dark clear stock (chicken and dashi) was a perfect balance of flavours ... although I think some might find this a little too light compared to the char-siu style offerings found elsewhere.

Along with the usual Japanese chilli flake sprinkles, there was a bottle at each table of what looked like chilli infused oil. It was the perfect condiment to the noodles. Slightly vinegary with a bit of a kick.

AW's Dan Dan Ramen (also $13) was equally attractive. Hers had beef brisket, pickles, celery and also peanuts. She gave hers a big thumbs up too! Definitely one I will be trying at my next visit, which I hope will be very soon.

I think its high time I watch Tampopo again.

Shop Ramen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Spreading out in Spotswood!

Ok I mentioned Candied's custard doughnut in my previous post, so it behooves me to show you a little pic of what it looked like ...

We went back there on the weekend for a quick bite and discovered their Scambled Egg and Bacon brioche bun. When Toula delivered these marvellous little morseld to our sunny window ledge, she brought with her a bottle of Sriracha Chilli Sauce and encouraged us to give it a try. Slightly non-plussed we looked up in wonder at each other for the minutest of seconds, and dove right in with relish ... I mean us and spicy ... like a horse and carriage!

And let me tell you, the next time you have scrambled egg and bacon in a brioche bun, it is mandatory that there's a splodge of hot sauce on the side!

They didn't have any custard doughnuts left (l'horreur!) so I picked what I hoped would be the next best thing ... a salted caramel butter tart!! I don't have the literary capacity to aptly describe what this tasted like. Tired words like orgiastic, amazing, delicious, scrumptious ... they simply will not do. I need a Lawrentian paragraph with swirling brooks, suppurating limbs (ok slightly distasteful) and interlaced branches silhouetted against a caramel sky!! In other words, absolute heaven and as much of a must have as the custard doughnut.

Talking about suppuration, cafes and design shops are popping up everywhere along this strip of Spotswood near the railway line. Time and Constitution did not allow for another cafe visit, but this pop up design store certainly caught our eye and warranted a quick squizz.

Quazi design has recently taken up residence in what looks like an old Mechanics workshop here on Hudson's road. Its all bare cement floors and danish style crafted furniture, although the owners here have a penchant for Australian made furniture salvaged from hard rubbish days in Melbourne's, shall we say, more established suburbs.

M was on the verge of flipping out his hard-earneds on what could have very well been our new dinner setting. But commonsense prevailed. Damn us and our practicalities!! It was pretty and I still want!

Australian made and re-upholstered in Swedish fabric. Its so us it hurts! If you love this sort of retro refit modernist style, you should certainly check this store out. And the prices are surprisingly not stupid!

If you haven't quite made it yet, ditch the already overcrowded scene in Seddon and Yazzas and head towards the bridge. There's lots to discover down on Hudson's.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

5 Senses has invaded the neighbourhood at 6 Grams

Ok ... so 5 senses has invaded the neighbourhood ... its been a long time coming and couldn't be better placed than in a cafe that is all the best types of Melbourne and with a soupcon of culinary pedigree thrown in.

As most of the best things are, we discovered 6 Grams purely by accident, toodling down Rosamund Road towards Harvey Norman to check out an alternative Samsung Mobie for M.

I don't even remember what was there before but lets just mark time and provenance with this newly opened cafe in Maidstone/Maribyrnong - you can split the difference. By the time we got done with our errands, the kitchen was closed, so nothing off the a la carte menu was available, but there's plenty on offer in the display cabinet to satisfy both sweet and savoury tooth alike.

I mentioned culinary pedigree before ... well rumour has it (flick out your elizabethan fans girls and lets chat behind the brocade curtains) that there is a familial connection with the Abysinnian in Flemo. So needless to say, breakfast is of a slight middle eastern/north african bent (geo-politics ain't my strong point, so apologies if I offend).

The $6.00 pizzas looked nice so I chose the one with sausage on it. Perfect thin crust and a well balanced topping - this is what I would classify as the perfect lunch/snackage dish.

M was taken by the home-made sourdough bread so decided to opt for the simple ham, cheese, tomato combo to allow the bread its de mille close-up. He was not dissappointed - I like my bread, oddly enough, less bready, and by that I mean doughy.

I love 5 senses coffee and 6 Grams uses a Dark Horse blend - so good we had seconds. Besides we needed that second cup to drown the Custard filled doughnut, which sadly I have to report was not great. Not when you have those orgiastic NYC style ones at Candied on offer. But here's hoping that this was an isolated dud.

So while its still not quite within walking distance, its almost 1 verse and a chorus by car down the road. Although sometimes its a 12" remix when you're battling the Knifepoint traffic (seriously folks ... there are better things to do on the weekend!).

Also, amazingly enough, right next door there's another cafe opening called Food By Miranda! Soft launch soon, but officially opening 2nd September. And Miranda is a local Footscray girl, so its mandatory that we show support. However, Miranda, girlfriend, we need to talk about those opening hours - Weekdays only - 9 to 3 was it? That ain't going to cut it.

But you can hire Miranda for your next catering do! (click on link above).

And how do I know all this, well Miranda saw us papping the street, so she hoyed us in and gave us the low down hoe down!! And a mini tour to boot. Judging from the smells coming from the kitchen, even if it was just roasted pumpkins, I have high hopes for the quality of the food here. And Miranda is a card! We love her already.

So you know what, things are looking up Westies!!!

 6 Grams on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Oh Em Gee! Hanging out with a pro at Wonderbao!

Ok ... I think I'm too old to fangirl, but if I wasn't, I'd be like a tweenie at his first Vidcon in line to meet his favourite youtuber!! And if that sentence made absolutely no sense to you, count your blessings and stop praying so hard as hope has returned to the human race.

I am taking a bit of poetic licence here as I have met this lovely gentleman before, but it was great to see Fatboo of the wonderful Lets Get Fat Together blog in action.

After slyly positing myself as a potential new brunch buddy, I was surprised to see an email in my yahoo suggesting a time and place! Wonderbao was mooted as a possible venue and I concurred having not sampled this particular brand of foodchain fusion.

Please note this isn't your standard Yum Cha Char Siu Bao simply split in 2 ... just in case you were wondering. The Bao in Wonderbao actually refers to Gua Bao, a dish that I didn't think would be something the Western palate would take to, considering that the stewed pork belly filling can be a tad porky and that the scent and hit of the preserved vegetables could also be a little too confronting.

But considering that this is another venture riding the Melbourne blink-and-you-miss-it-down-an-alleyway-with-food-truck-in-tow train, things are suitably modified for mass consumption. In other words, the standard Braised Pork Belly Gua Bao ($3.80) is a sweeter offering to its traditional counterpart, and easily the best of the bunch of three ... of which we had said Braised Pork, Roast Pork Belly ($3.80) and the Fried Silky Tofu ($3.80).

These are 2 bite numbers so don't even bother if you're just going to order the one. Me and Fatboo shared the lot and also ordered hot homemade Soya Milk ($2.80) for liquid refreshment.

Served in a take away coffee cup that first sip transported me back to my old primary school days, paying 10 cents for a glass at the tuckshop drinks stall during recess. It helped that both Fatboo and I share the same cultural background and ethos. In fact we discovered so many confluxes of taste and ideas that its likely true what they say about shared cultural genes, or great minds thinking alike if you may ... or fuck it whatever adage you wish to insert here at this stage.

So great minds thought their way onto ordering the sweet versions of Wonderbao's ... erm ... baos. We opted to share the Nai Wang Bao (egg custard) and the Taro Bao, both $1.70 a pop.

The egg custard bao is pretty much what you would expect any pastry with egg custard in it ... awesome! Although I must say that this type of bao does benefit from being served directly from a steaming basket at Yum Cha - i.e. best served warm, as opposed to lukewarm.

The Taro Bao was like eating Bubur Cha Cha in a bun ... yummy! By the way Bubur Cha Cha is not that hard to make ... and you can certainly find the ingredients in a number of Asian provision shops these days.

So what's my final take on Wonderbao ... well, I enjoyed it,  and the company certainly added to the experience. And if it was a little bit closer to my work, I would probably visit this place more often. Its the sort of snack sized meal I like for lunch. And at the end of the day, its fun and full of flavour. And I think that's what Wonderbao is really all about.

Oh and the Yeo's packet drinks in the fridge are listed on the menu as F.O.B. drinks ... bless! Maybe that should read as PNG drinks from now on. (Totally Inappropriate Temasek!)

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

Monday, 5 August 2013

There better be truffle and lobster in that Lobak at $13.80 a pop - Lunch at Nyonya House Point Cook

Ok ... the elusive Malaysian restaurant, as much a search for the holy grail as finding authentic Thai in Melbourne, but that doesn't mean we stop trying. So it was with great delight and anticipation when we clocked Kenny's review of Nyonya House in Point Cook, and pointed our car in a direction it is unaccustomed to for what we were hoping was a Chomp Chomp equivalent in our general neck of the woods.

In amongst the large and varied menu were two items we were eager to test - Chwee Kuei and Cheong Fan. I've written about my nostalgic love affair with Chwee Kuei before. There's not a lot that can beat these delightful steamed rice cakes topped with preserved vegetables and smothered (usually) in chilli sauce for the perfect savoury snack. Nyonya House's offering has the right ingredients, but comes across as a little too clean and clinical. I was hoping for a little more grease and that nutty hint of an over preponderance of sesame and chilli oil. But still, unless you're prepared to make your own, not a lot of places serve this market style dish. So you should check it out.

There are 2 main types of hawker style Cheong Fan from Singapore. There is the old Capitol Cinema Cheong Fan which is essentially Dry Wonton Noodles using the rice noodle roll (i.e. Cheong Fan) instead of egg noodles. Then there is the plain Chee Cheong Fan which is simply the noodle roll dressed with Chinese plum sauce and sesame seeds - yet another one of those magical savoury snacks that this region is so good at producing. The Hong Kong style Cheong Fan (a staple Yum Cha offering) is a lot cleaner in flavor, and the Penang style adds Prawn paste for an extra umami hit. The Cheong Fan here at Nyonya House had a bit too much sauce for my liking, which added a richness to the dish that quickly palled after a few bites. But if you haven't had this before, again I encourage you to try it.

We started our meal with a couple of fried chicken wings which combined with the chilli sauce that you shouldn't forget to ask for (hhmm!) was the perfect starter for all the other "starters" to come. I do love me a fried chicken wing - you could simply immerse a wing in a deep fryer without any kind of flavouring and I'd still eat it with relish. So you may say plain, I say yummy!

We ordered the Kuih Kak our of curiosity. I'm not familiar with the name of this dish but its was described by our helpful waiter as Char Kway Teow using cubed rice cake instead of the standard flat rice noodle. It sort of looked like Chai Tow Kuay, but again, it ended up being a tad on the gluggy side. So maybe stick to the normal Char Kway Teow in future. No point messing with a tried and true formula.

When I asked whether they had Teh Tarik (or pulled tea) on the menu, M piped up with his usual "do you serve Teh Alia (ginger tea)" routine,. Again our friendly waiter said that if its not on the menu you can always ask. In other words, Teh Alia is not on the menu, so you will have to ask. I think they use ginger drink powder though, so be mindful of that.

And finally, we also had an entrée size serve of the Roti Jala - yet another childhood favourite. These lacy egg crepes are perfect for soaking up some curry goodness. Nyonya House's offering is miles ahead of the ones at Chilli Padi - whose cooks seem to think that it has to be served crispy! And the chicken curry was delicious.

Although on reflection our quest for the elusive Malaysian restaurant still continues, this little blip on the road to perfection is worth checking out. There are still quite a few possibilities to look further into, like the Tang Hoon Fishball Noodles, Sago Pudding and Bubur Cha Cha. A repeat visit is definitely on the cards.

We drove into Sanctuary Lakes (what the?! by the way) and took stock of directions before deciding to take the road less travelled via Altona into Williamstown and back home.

Some things in life are obviously imbued with an aesthetic beauty like a bunch of Jonquils in a vase, or a clutch of Pomeranian puppies in a pet store window, but sometimes glamour can be found in the vast industrial terrains in suburban backwaters ... question is ... can anyone really live here.

Nyonya House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Hashtag Winter - from darkness to light, murky to bright Part II - The Eye!

Ok ... the eye ... in the sky ... looking at you ...

I stood transfixed by this animated eye staring at me from across busy Gertrude street ...

I couldn't look away as it held me in its shadowy gaze and slowly started to close its lid ...

So slowly it seemed like it was flicking me the side-eye ...

And for the briefest moment it felt like it would close for eternity ... but then it lifted its lid and poured tears down the side of the building ...

Then I let go of the breath I had held so tightly a few moments ago ...

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