Nuffnang Ads

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bites: Plain Bread @ Bread In Common, Fremantle

Bread In Common on Pakenham Street is a name I often hear where iconic dining is concerned in Fremantle along with the likes of Cicerello’s and Little Creatures bar.  It actually surprises me to hear that this fairly new eatery had already achieved a reputable status in Fremantle over a short period. Just before Yobi and his girlfriend headed to Cicerello’s I decided that we should all have some light brunch here to understand what the hype was.  

Walking in, I liked the interior which was quite simple but carried a lot of substance.  I noticed how well the wood on wood combination and the light bulbs presented in a minimalistic cable X bulb combination worked nicely together!


To start, we could go no further than the homemade bread with two dips.  One was a sausage dip while the other was a zucchini sesame one.   I had also asked the other bread staples which was butter and olive oil.  It was an all out affair on this one.
The bread here have all the perks of a homemade bread but unfortunately that was where it all ended.  It was simply nothing outstanding and felt all too plain.  The centre of the bread was not as expected.  But more disappointingly were the dips which were really quite mediocre.  Between the two, the zucchini one was more outstanding than the other sausage one.  Taste wise, I would not be such a hard critique but considering the price we paid for what I perceive as “1 large table spoon” of each, it was really quite disappointing.  I think Brika does a better deal with their dip when you have size X price X taste considered in the equation.

Our shared meal was a poached salmon with cauliflower, goji berries and some herbs scattered around the top.  While the salmon was poached to perfection, everything else in this dish could not be anymore boring than white paper.  The salmon carried little seasoning which was good to enjoy the delicate protein, but when it came to remainder of the plate, that cauliflower finely diced to act as a staple carbohydrate was absolutely terrible.  In fact, a little too raw for my liking.  I preference would be to have it blanched longer to make it soft and fluffy.  Basic seasoning of salt and pepper would have been much appreciated.

But hey, it was not the end of the world.  The duck fat roasted potatoes was probably the second best dish I have had this weekend.  It was bloody good.  Loved the bits of caramelised garlic that came with the potato.  Bloody sweet.  Homemade ketchup was a nice touch that did not carry the same artificial sweetness the bottled ones do.  Over all, this had to be my biggest like walking away from this place ;0!

The service here was OK but hardly commendable.  On that not so busy Saturday, we asked two different waiters thrice for a refill of bread to come with our non-existent butter and olive oil with a constant reminder that an order had already been placed before.  It took them a long time only to appear with two orders of bread which we could not finish.  With more than 80% approval and 800 odd likes, I was expecting a whole lot more from Bread In Common.  I do not believe that I am asking for  a lot.  Simple plating  with a balance between substance and value would definitely have sufficed.  Yay or Nay?  Definitely nay for me.

Bread In Common on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bites: A Malaysian Brunch @ the Sarapan, Victoria Park.

My week home was a very Asian one.  Starting with a yummy lunch at JBento, I was then invited to try out PappaRich, Northbridge and on Sunday, I ended up at Sarapan in Victoria Park with my ex-colleagues.  This was my second time here at 1 Leonard Street, Victoria Park and this training ground is easily the Silicon Valley for upcoming food entrepreneurs.  This pop up named Sarapan which translates to breakfast in Malay, operates every Saturday and Sunday from 7.30am until 12pm for late brunch.  Wake up early and step in to the basic staples a Mamak place in Malaysia would have like Roti, Nasi Lemak, Soft Boiled Eggs and toast.

The front counter was filled with all the little Malaysian snacks from biscuits to chocolate but I ultimately  settled for the one I liked best, the “Kuih”.
Served as a duo of Kuih Lapis and Kuih Talam, I was happy to see them here.  A rare treat down under if you ask me.  More importantly, the Kuih Lapis had all the lovely colours and the richness of the coconut milk.  Meanwhile, the Kuih Talam had the fragrant Pandan flavour  it should always have. Taste wise, it ticked all the boxes but felt firmer than what I would have back home.  Eating this brought back memories of my childhood where I would normally peel our layer by layer :)!  Unfortunately, it did not happen here as I was unable to peel either of the Kuih out layer by layer as I would back home.  Perhaps it is time to grow up lol.

After having the Milo Dinosaur at PappaRich, I decided to have something else.  This time a warm Teh Tarik for breakfast.  Just what I needed on a cool Sunday morning.
A little short on the bubbly froth but down right delicious in flavour.  At times, it lacked the potency of the red tea like the ones I usually have in Malaysia but being so far away, it was easily something I could live without.

My brunch here was a serve of pipping hot Nasi Lemak.  The good news is, the Nasi Lemak at Sarapan came out looking like a champion.  A massive drum stick marinated in their special spices and deep fried sat alongside the hardboiled egg, some crisp anchovy-peanut combination, sambal and a mound of rice.  

This $11.50 Nasi Lemak might not look like much from the photos.  But believe me, it really fills.  Comparing the various Nasi Lemak I have had in town, the one at Sarapan aces its rice in every category.  Fragrance, cooking, and  taste.  Comparing the rice at Sarapan and PappaRich, the former wins hands down with each grain not only full in shape, but perfect in moisture.  On the other hand, the one at PappaRich was respectable but a little damp for my liking.  Moving on, the sambal at Sarapan in Victoria Park was full on Malay with pieces of anchovy in the sweetish chill concoction and more importantly, the pairing as a whole was very authentic.  I as a Nasi Lemak snob could not ask for more. Satisfied!

Last shared dish was a serve of Roti Telur (Egg) and plain Roti.  I liked the way the Roti came out with all the authentic sauces I would usually get in Malaysia.  A sauce of curry chicken and dhal served with a spoon of sambal.  However, I would not mind a last bit of "slap and slam" treatment the locals usually give the Roti back home as it normally crisps up the Roti.

Happy?  Definitely.  This little pop up gets my vote for several things including a fuss free - queue-less meal with a quality that is hard to beat.  Operating in this little indie training ground also meant that the dishes came out feeling more home cooked than its other commercialised kitchens.  While I am less strict when visiting places like this, Sarapan is a sound contestant for unique brunches in town.  Some of you might question my judgement here ahahaha especially with the Nasi Lemak.  But Nasi Lemak in Malaysia is not a dish dominated by a single race back home, rather, it is something perfected by every chef who loves the dish in a different way.  With the countless rendition of this classic staple, one Nasi Lemak can differ significantly from another but have equally amount of fans.  Such is the story of this humble rice dish.  More importantly, Sarapan like JBento might be the starting of something big in town.  Victoria Park, you have done it again ;)!

Sarapan on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bites: Spring Time Decadence @ Harvest Espresso, Victoria Park

The last time I dined at Harvest Espresso, I felt happy but not quite the rockstar feeling I got from their menu in the past.  Coincidentally, Heston Blumenthal the world’s most popular gastronomy celebrity has priced his Fat Duck degustation at Crown Melbourne at a jaw dropping $525.  This had me thinking of Harvest Espresso’s Spring Menu just released last week and I soon realised that you can feel awesome for some really small dollars.

Just look at this beauty.

It did not take long for XL to decide what she wanted.  Spending the last few months in Melbourne did not lure her away from the temptation of re-visiting her favourite brunch place in Perth while she was in town last week.  The mushrooms were her choice.
Perfectly sautéed Mushrooms ($19.50) served with two slices of rye arrived looking exceptional.  Each mouthful had the juicy mushrooms bursting in flavour with a mild sweetness from the tarragon cream.  Absolutely stunning.  Just what Spring needed.  

I decided to call the melt-in-your-mouth Beef Tongue ($21.50) served atop a creamy Polenta cake, all of which came dressed to impress.
It looked so damn refined sitting there.  I will be honest. I get bored when something is too simple and when its complicated like that I really enjoy it although I do not understand what I am eating.  But was I buggered?   Hell no.  The textures from the crumbs to the creamy polenta with the jus of the beef tongue, it all simply worked.

At the end of the meal, I feel the same like I would have felt after a degustation.  Filled to the bream, and  extremely satisfied.  This time around, with my pockets still full.  Harvest Espresso’s spring menu certainly adds colour to Spring with their great flavours and sophisticated pairing.  It is probably close to 2 or perhaps 3 years now since Harvest Espresso first started.  No signs of complacency.  Truly a great brunch spot!

Harvest Espresso on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bites: My Malaysian Feast @ PappaRich, Northbridge

When I was younger, mom and dad got me most of the thing I wanted as a kid. I had the Donkey Kong on my N64, Sonic to go with the Sega MegaDrive and all the PlayStation games I wanted. In exchange for good results of course which involves hours of text book grinding.  This was what an invitation to PappaRich, Northbridge felt like after being hard at work for a long time, and by long, I mean really long.  Walking into PappaRich, I witnessed familiar sights that quickly got my senses excited.  Finger pulling roti action followed by curry dipping.  Damn it was good.

Both my sister and I have not gone back to Malaysia for over a year now but seeing the many varieties listed on the menu did not send us into a limbo because we already knew what we missed from home. In this instance, I was definitely choosing things I wanted rather than the poor marketing Malaysia does in making the world think we only drink Teh Tarik and eat Roti.
For our drinks I called the Milo Dinosaur while my sister had the Soy Bean milk with Cincau.  Malaysia makes some of the best Iced Milo and this was no different.  My drink definitely brings back all the adolescent memories where Iced Milo was a staple at the breakfast table or as a beverage before bed.  Needless to say it was delicious.  The Iced Milo was richer than usual which meant calorie alert but who can resist drinking this with the little bits of biteable Milo Chunks!  Sister's drink was also yummy with PappaRich blending the Soy Bean milk with ice giving it a slushy style treatment.

First up were the chicken satay, our first appetizer.
The lure of this chicken pieces marinated in lemon grass, and Turmeric is easily a global phenomenon.  I doubt  there is any other food on a stick that drives a crowd as crazy as satay in Australia.  The satay at PappaRich was a very close imitation of the product back home.  Perhaps even better then some stalls in Malaysia.  The only criticism was not in its taste but rather, its texture.  In Malaysia, you get layers of lean meat and skin making the whole eating experience juicy and tender with little juicy explosion of  seasoned lard.  PappaRich makes it a lot leaner which, as a healthier alternative was a bloody tasty treat.  While eating satay I usually take turns between cucumber chunks and onion slices before dunking it into the yummy peanut sauce.  Did it the way I do back home.  Yums!

Whatever healthy benefits I got from the former was all lost when I decided to call this cheeky little creation PappaRich had.  Deep fried chicken skin, the second appetizer.
What is there to say here?  So damn good.  Crispy, and salty with a mild peppery note.  One little warning, it takes two person a lot of skill and capacity to finish one serve!  My sister and I barely finished half.  Also, this is something to be eaten quickly as starts becoming chewy once cold!  So grab a couple more friends to come and this would be an absolute table favourite.

Sister's dinner that night was Pappa's Special Briyani.
There is a lot to take in when you see the plate arrive.  In the middle, you have the fragrant rice so carefully prepared with cardamon, cloves and other herbs.  Meanwhile, the side sports some perfectly grilled egg plants, delicious chicken and sambal prawns.  Sister was extremely satisfied with the egg plants and grilled chicken which she happily finished.  But when it came to the prawns she asked me to "try".  An evil trick to have me finish things she does not like.  So where did it go wrong?  Closing my eyes and re-winding back to my last awesome Sambal Prawn.  I remember how all the Mak Cik preparing this at the stalls in Malaysia never lacked the essential Malaysian ingredients which enhances the flavour of the prawn.  At PappaRich, perhaps all it needed was more tamarind and maybe more shrimp paste/belachan to give the sambal coating a rich and more flavourful consistency.  Was this a big disappointment to the dish as a whole?  Definitely not.  In fact, most would probably just ignore it altogether.

My main was the Nasi Lemak, a staple food of mine back in Malaysia.
The most important component of this dish lies in the name itself, "Nasi Lemak".  Rich and fragrant, the rice which is cooked in coconut milk has to be prepared to perfection to pass my test.  The rice test?  Each grain is whole, firm and fluffy. At PappaRich, the rice was prepared with enough respect to be liked.  The sambal was good. It felt more Malay rather than Indian or Chinese.  But then again, every sambal in Malaysia is different up to a level where it is not based on district or region but rather the chef itself.   Curry chicken was yummy but I was hoping for maybe a piece or two of potato with it because curry chicken with potato is yummy!  The half an egg was ok, but I was hoping to get maybe two halves because egg and Nasi Lemak are like two peas in a pod.  An awesome pairing that feels incomplete without each other.

To end the night we ordered a dessert which was something totally random which we just hmmm felt like it?  Banana fritters with ice cream.   The fritters were a little unripe for my sister's liking but I thought that it was OK.  As the Vanilla Ice Cream was out of stock, we opted for the premium chocolate for an extra dollar.  I have to say, it was every bit worth that extra dollar especially when you see hints of gooey chocolate fudge sitting between the creamy ice cream.

My cravings for proper Asian Malaysian food has been satisfied.  PappaRich is a quality addition to Northbridge replacing an EXTREMELY hideous Vietnamese place called Saigon.  Its quality was pretty damn close to home and I really hope it stays the same because everything we ordered was really quite nice.  Is this home?  Perhaps not, but considering I am thousand of miles away from home, I cannot complain for sure. Visit any day to see a snaking queue goes on to say a lot about PappaRich in Northbridge.  Expectations is one, and the other is the number of people who love Malaysian food.   Compared to PappaRich in Malaysia, the fit out in PappaRich Northbridge is a class above the rest and the ambience was really good although the noise is deplorable.  Definitely a new hangout place should they decide to open till late on Fridays and Saturdays! I would be there for supper at 1am :)!
Also, if it is true, a little bird has told me that another branch will be opening in Carousel Mall in Cannington.  True or False?   Only time will tell.  Thanks for the invite PappaRich Northbridge.

Papparich Northbridge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bites: Bento Feast @ JBento, Victoria Park

Its my 4th time back in Perth only to be greeted by gloomy clouds and torrential rain.  Nevertheless, this was a good opportunity for me to be at home and get updated on the eateries in town which I have yet to dine at.  Naturally, the eateries within the vicinity of my area was my first search which landed me at part-time/pop-up eatery called Jbento. Operating 5 days a week, Monday to Friday from 11.30-2.30pm, Jbento serves Japanese/Korean inspired lunch boxes. Scanning the menu from top to toe, Jbento offers a whole array of Japanese delights like the all time favourites the Kaarage, Teriyaki, and Tempura with some even more premium traditional Japanese food like the simply grilled mackerel and miso butter steak.  If you are a big fan of the Korean culture, be delighted to see the likes Bulgogi and its spicy pork rendition the Jaeyuk Bokkum on the menu.
For the penny-wise, JBento happily takes the pinch off the pocket by catering free tea, so rock up the counter, pay for your food and start mixing your very own drink of macha.  Have it strong or subtle, I was happy that it was a premium free unlike Taka’s infamous brown tea which was back then, a varsity staple.

After ordering, the food does not take long to come and we got ours after about 5-10 minutes.  Initial impressions were positive.  I found that the dishes might sound very typical or simple if you would like, but came out with enough swag to impress.  It felt complete.  A serve of meat, three simple salads; one green, a marinate seaweed and a potato salad with two mounds of rice shaped and topped with rice seasoning.  Packed in a neat bento box, it was a beauty.
YH’s choice, the Spicy Pork Bulgogi or Jaeyuk Bokkum ($10.90) was first out.  Thin slices of pork coated in a sticky sauce that is sweet, spicy and salty had Korea written all over it with a personal touch of the chefs at JBento.  Least to say, I was happy.  The Bento Boxes at JBento also has three little salads on the side to cool the heat down while keeping the meal balanced. These together with the customary Bento shaped rice made this very nicely composed meal.
My choice of meal at JBento was the Miso Butter Steak Bento Box ($14.90).  While more pricey that its Teriyaki and Kaarage counterpart, the Miso Butter was a good enough reason for this order.
Expect tender pieces of chunky steak cooked to medium and topped by a knob of tantalising Miso butter.  Just watching it melt over the steak was sensational.  The whiff of butter through the dish made the end felt a little oily but the taste of Miso Butter was so rich and yummy.  I really enjoyed this.

Ever since Fuji closed in Victoria Park 4 years ago, I spend much time looking up and down the Albany Highway strip for a good Japanese only to drive away empty handed or go home disappointed.  I daresay that the quality Jbento bring to the table is superb despite only eating here once.  Do not get me wrong, nothing here reinvents the old but a touch of class in its presentation while acing the basic fundamentals make this a great quick bite.  In addition to that, the Bento Boxes are well priced and moderate in size but high in satisfaction.  Definitely a place that will join my list of places for a quick bite within the precinct.  Great stuff!

JBento on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 8, 2014

Melbourne Trip: Mount Buller Resort and Vietnamese Dinner at Pho Hung, Preston

Mount Buller was my last retreat in Melbourne before getting back to the daily grind. Going right after XL finished work meant that dinner had to come first. Naturally, I was more concerned about being stranded on the way up more than anything else.  When I think of comfort food in freezing cold weather, nothing beats a bowl of piping hot Pho.  For that we stopped by a suburban Vietnamese place in Preston called Pho Hung. 

For starters, a generous serve of rice paper rolls stuffed with pork.   Mix your own concoction of Siracha and Sweet Sauce before dipping them in :)!

Pho Hung’s house specialty is mixed tender chicken and beef pho.  It was a super generous serve.  I like the tender slices of meat paired with the silky smooth noodles. Just chewing the beef followed by a spoonful of warm tasty beef broth made this a rewarding exercise.  Whilst it was really yummy, the flavour of the broth was less potent that the ones I have had in Perth.  My perception maintains that Perth still has the best Vietnamese Pho in town haha.
The food quality here was good from start to end.  A very typical Vietnamese restaurant which stands as a classic rather than a contemporary but still every bit pleasing. Service here is prompt and necessary rather than overwhelming but more importantly, the price here is superbly decent.

Our night drive to Mount Buller was scary and challenging altogether.  Endurance is key despite the short drive because unlike driving on a normal road, the path up the mountain was steep and snowy.  Put extremely low visibility and tight corners into the equation and one would require a high level of concentration.  But when you are up there, the views were every bit rewarding!
The view from our lodge's balcony.  Absolutely stunning views.

The last picture from the resort before driving home :)!

Pho Hung on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Melbourne Trip: Winter Food Festival @ Luna 1878, Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne might be famous for laneway cafes, but Melbourne's rich culture is easily its next best feature.  For a foodie like myself, I was lucky to be there at a time when the Luna 1878 was held.  Every Wednesday night at Queen Victoria Market  visitors to the market are greeted with an amazing smell right from the door step.

Walking in, I was super excited to see all the different vendors come to promote their nationality.  Naturally, as a Malaysian, my first stop was at Mamak.  Fresh from the kitchen was a serve of Roti Telur and an Ayam Goreng.
The fried chicken was a reminisce of my eating trip with my ex-colleagues to Sydney last year.  Superbly more-ish especially in the chilly weather!   Have it together with the Roti Telur and some curry.  So  damn good! 

Walking on,  I was got all excited again when I saw a large pig getting all crisped up over a charcoal grill.  Initially, I mistook it for the Indonesian Babi Guling, but quickly realised it was a Filipino vendor called Hoy Pinoy.

Regardless of what it was, the roasted pig is always worth a try.  Thankfully, the pork was crisp and the meat was flavourful.  It came with a nice pickled vegetables.  The same delicious kind you get with the HK Barbecued restaurants in town.  All together it was quite a joy.  But I have to say, the rice was wet and I did hated that.  

Next stop was a cup of mulled wine.  Hearing so much about the drink, I wanted to try it although I am no big fan of alcohol.  This did not differ.  Despite the notes of orange peel and spices, it was still every bit bitter! 

But it was ok.  XL wandered away and unexpectedly returns with a serve of Italian grilled squid from 400 Gradi.   Weird choice but it was pretty nice.  Could have been a lot more tender!  But I had come to terms that these were not calamari tubes.  Instead, they were little octopuses which are  chewy as usual!

Wanting to finish our night with something warm, we ended up at the soup factory for a bread bowl filled with potato and leek soup.  Yummy!

Slowly scrapping the little bits of soup from the corners of the bowl was simply joyful.  Soaked with the soup it sits in, the bread made the whole experience very moreish.  Put Melbourne's chilly winter into the equation and the wonders that come is nothing you would not expect. :)!

Apple strudel was our dessert that night.  The Austrian strudel is denser than the usual Corica strudel but pack an amazing flavour to its crust.  But the fillings of custard and apples were a little lacklustre.  Ultimately, there are no better strudels than the one from Corica's in Perth!

Strudel for dessert anyone?  

By the end of the night we were so full we could barely walk across back to the apartment.  The Luna Night Market was an exceptional host for dinner last night.  So many different types of food were on and the pictures I took were barely half of the vendors that participated in the event.  There were tonnes of other Indian, Mexican and American establishment that were setup for business.  Whilst I definitely enjoyed it, many people might find the prices here a little steep which it really is by Melbourne standards.  But if you want a place that has it all and is looking for a great festival feeling, definitely come to Luna 1878 at Queen Victoria Market.