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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Melbourne: Perfect Steaks @ Rockpool Bar and Grill, Crown Melbourne

Rockpool Bar and Grill in Perth was my first massive steak crush.  Between its bolder flavoured grain-fed or the more mellow, lighter tasting grass-fed beef, there was always something for everyone.  As Australia’s first internationally acclaimed restaurant, I have always wondered how does Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne compare to the one back home in Perth.  On a cool Sunday night, I decide to take a trip to Bovine Heaven.  Whilst I have no pictures of the entrance, the original Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne sports the same long hallway graced by cuts of beef being dry-aged.  A true sight to behold!  Its interior was darker than the establishment in Perth but sets the mood for a good night out.

But food beyond anything else is key to my verdict of any restaurant.  Why should it not be after all?  Our starter was a Wagyu Bolognese.  A classic favourite since my first trip to Rockpool back in Perth!  Here, the waiter takes courtesy of plating a main size one into two appetiser sized ones to avoid the fuss of splitting.
With no questions, the mince melts in your mouth whilst the sauce was just perfect.  But the pasta was not as thin as the one in Perth!  

The grain-fed rib eye.
Its dark red middle is symbolic of why dry-aged beef is such a priceless commodity among foodies and beef lovers alike!  The flavour is just yums and the way Rockpool cooks the steak always elevates the joy of eating it.  At Rockpool, a perfectly charred steak that never fails to hit the sweet spot is a norm.  Tender, cooked to order and the temperature of frying the steak is just spot on!  For my condiments, I chose the Dijon Mustard and Harissa as both help bring the best out of the steak!  But if you are not a fan of mild mustard, the spice laden Harissa might just be your thing.

No meal at Rockpool is ever complete without its famed Mac n Cheese side.  And what can I say?  Fat on fat on fat?  Nobody got time for concerns!  It was yummy!  But for some reason though, the charm it first had on me 3 years ago had seemed to worn off.  It no longer felt all that special.. and I wonder why!

We also ordered a side of chopped salad which looked absolutely rubbish after being tossed in the dressing but here is a picture of the oven-roasted pumpkin and sweet potatoes topped with a roasted garlic yoghurt.  This was really nice! It was my second time having it at Rockpool and I still cannot get over the way the garlicky condiment harmonises with the sweet edible tuber!

A sweet ending of what I can only remember now as some sort of cheese cake with strawberries, meringue and what I believe instead of a biscuit base, was grated coconut?  Hahaha I really was so full at this point that sharing a dessert was all my stomach can afford.  
But I have to say, it was an impressive slice this one.  I was quite hesitant to follow XL’s choice of cake because cheesecakes had always been a fairly “heavy” dessert but this felt nothing like the conventional cheesecakes!  Instead it was rather refreshing and led the dinner to a good ending!

A meal at any Rockpool establishment comes with a tag that most find unjustifiable.  But coming here once a year for that once in a blue moon treat makes a lot of sense to me.  You get the prime service, absolutely delicious steaks and over all, an amazing meal.  The food here does not carry the cues of modern molecular gastronomy and lacks the necessary elements of surprise of fine dining but what Rockpool does is make the classic staples like steak & chips, absolutely spectacular.  I mean after all lets be honest to ourselves, how many times have you been served an absolutely rubbish $30 steak? 1 too many I’d say.

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Melbourne: An Italian Affair @ Kaprica, Carlton

What does a graffiti-laden-facade 1 man kitchen bring to the student suburb Carlton? Authentic pizzas and minimalistic pastas!  Housed in a shop opposite the Lincoln Square skate park, Kaprica sits quietly in its spot only to be revealed by buzz of patrons buy pulling stringy mozzarella apart and twirling their pastas.  Needless to say, I was one of them.

That day we ordered a couple of pastas to go around the table and a pizza to share. To start was a serve of garlic and chill prawns topped with parsley.  Unlike most prawns that come out in a cream based sauce, these were panfried an topped with crispy bits of garlic and chilli that was a mix of salty fragrant goodness!
With the bread that came as a starter, I mopped up the tasty oil that has been infused with the flavours of garlic and chilli.  Quite a joy it was!

Next up was a pork sausage, with fennel and chilli pizza.  The pastry at Kaprica is thin, light and fluffy.  Every bite into the pizza was not greeted by a hard crust but a crisp one and when you tear it apart, you know it has been made just right.  Despite it being a fairly large pizza, I could have easily ate the whole thing by myself :P!
The toppings on the pizza was not over the top.  Instead it capitalised on quality produce like homemade sausages and fresh herbs.  Kaprica’s home made sausages were absolutely more-ish.  Have it paired with the little bits of pungent onions and chilli sprinkled on the top and the pizza experience became even better !!  Also, I do not know how Kaprica does its tomato base but it was highly commendable.  It struck the right balance between its acidity and sweetness.  

Next was a mushroom fettuccine in a cream based sauce XL’s friend’s choice.
Its approach was simple, slices of plump swiss mushrooms, silky pasta, lashings of cream and a generous grating of parmesan.  Despite looking rather heavy, the pasta as a whole was really yummy and light.  Even more so when shared amongst the table.  It was a bit of a surprise win this one!

Gnocchi Napolitana was XL’s order.  
Fluffy little pillows that were cooked just spot on.  Neither was it mushy on the outside or doughy on the inside.  I quite enjoyed the flavours on the plate but is not quite sure whether I could eat the whole plate by myself. Sure, the  over all flavours were quite traditional and basic but the tomato sauce-cheese combination just did not seem substantially interesting enough for me down it solo!

Fettuccini alle Vongole was Mei and Hendra’s choice for the table.
The briny flavours of the clam brings a whiff of the sea to plate.  Imagining the little pieces of fleshy clams paired with a sweet white wine sauce and freshly chopped parsley almost made this dish the winner of the night.  But twirling my fork through the noodles, I soon found a systematic error.  The food in Kaprica needed more salt.  Perhaps my taste buds have been polluted by the heavily flavoured food I have had in the last few days but a tad more salt would be very nice!

Simple, traditional and satisfying are three words I would use to describe the food at Kaprica. There is no try hard, sugar-coated dishes but instead, honest dishes that keeps the meal simple. But do not worry, the handwritten  menu at Kaprica changes depending on what’s in season so it remains simple but never boring :)!  Simply sublime.  This was another great introduction by XL’s friend KK. 

Kaprica on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2014

Melbourne: Palatial Wagyu @ Guhng, McKillop St.

Whilst my blog have promoted Melbourne for it phenomenal brunch fare, there is also another side to this global city.  During my trip, I had a very good Korean meal at Guhng, a Korean barbecue place hidden on the charming McKillop St. Walking in I was impressed by this multi-level establishment fitted with a Korean themed interior that was neither modern or traditional but rather, a combination  of both with a calm mood lighting through the venue. On every table, an adjustable vent is fitted to ensure their patrons do not walk out smelling like the barbecue they had.
But looks are only as good as its taste.  We scanned the menu and quickly found a few things we were really keen to try.  

First up was Andrew’s request for something “authentic” the seafood tteokbokki (rice cake).
Taste wise it was decent and the seafood content was generous.  Nonetheless, coming thousands of kilometres from home, I was not the most impressed by the “authentic” rice cake dish :P!  

Korean Barbecue tend to be quite generic.  You would usually have a few marinated choices, some pork belly slices, chicken tight and such.  The menu at Guhng was no different.  But we set our eyes on the Wagyu which was a handsome $39 for 200 grams.  We ordered one serve at first but ultimately ended with two.
The wagyu at Guhng had no marbling grade whatsoever but it melted in our mouths like butter.  No way this was healthy but the mental joy was absolute.  My Korean BBQ ways were groomed by my mom since I was younger.  It would be a large leafy lettuce, some garlic slices, chill bean paste and that lovely slab of meat.  The mild spiciness paired with the pungent garlic sure kicked ass when eaten together with this yummy beef. With 200 grams in each serve, it was nowhere near enough but with some lettuce leaf followed with another serve, it was a good really feed.

Trying to be a little fancier, we ordered scallops to be barbecued.  Sadly, it as an utter waste.
This was cooked a little over, its presentation was a little lacklustre but more disappointingly, Guhng lacked that special finish for the sea’s best protein.  Wasabi and soy was their best condiment but it did not complement the scallops at all!  Not recommended!  Got extra dough?  Definitely a 3rd round of Wagyu haha!   


Our last meat was the pork belly without any marinade.  It was a classic but rather typical to the extent that there was definitely nothing to shout about.  But nothing wrong either.  Looking back, the post from top to bottom might sound a little sad because the only dish I had portrayed to enjoy was the Wagyu.  But do not be fooled.  The meal here was tonight was nice. This is probably the best upmarket Korean I have been to to-date and deservingly so.   To add to the delight, Guhng also serves various rice wine concoctions that were absolutely sensational.  We ordered a jug of berry delight.  Each sip contains creamy yoghurt and bits of berries berries with the slightest hint of alcohol.  This was an easy beverage for non-drinkers like myself.  As a whole, Guhng was easily a place I will return for my Korean fare anytime but do not expect it to be that superb value for money place like Chick-In :P!

Guhng on Urbanspoon