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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bites: The 7am breakfast, Architect & Heroes @ Subiaco

Waking up between 5 and 6 in the morning during my holidays sounds like an absolute waste after a long period of grinding.  Nevertheless, the term breakfast soon becomes something very relevant and interestingly rewarding.  My first morning at home was a breakfast date with my sister at Architects and Heroes.  This geek themed hipster-ish place in Subiaco has a cosy fit out which walls are graced by the many characters in comics.

My morning staple switches between a choice of tea or chocolate.  In this instance, it was the latter and I was glad to have ordered the hot chocolate here.  It is easily one of the best cocoa drink in town if not the best.  It tasted mildly sweet with a good cocoa intensity and more importantly, a smooth creamy consistency.  Give me a cup any day and I will gladly drink it up. 

Almond Croissant, what is there to dislike?

My initial choice for breakfast was the steak but the kitchen ran out of cooking oil or something. Taking a second look at the menu, I decided to go with a serve of green eggs.
Taste wise, the green eggs were really nice and the eggs were cooked well.  It was a shame that the yolks were not runnier.  My biggest dislike though was probably how the layout & presentation did not complement the eating.  I would have liked the slabs of ham placed on the toast before letting the eggs lay sexily on the toast and have the lot oozing with the green sauce.  Why the whinge?  The sauce was distributed quite poorly across the board leaving the dish quite dry at the end. =/!

Architect & Heroes is a promising cafe with heaps of potential left to tap.  Just not that morning whilst I was there.  As is, a little boring.  But with more attention to detail, and some TLC amongst the elements on the plate, this suburban eatery can propel itself to heroic proportions.  But its ok, most heroes never looked cool in their first costume anyway!  Better luck next time :P!

Architects and Heroes on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bites: Modern Izakaya @ Bonsai Restaurant & Lounge, Northbridge.

During Halloween the canteen tried serving Teriyaki, I never knew a dish could be so relevant to a theme until I ate the Teriyaki Chicken they made. It surely was Halloween.  To help regain some comfort, I revisited one of the best Modern Izakaya in town, Bonsai.  Located on Roe St, this is my go to place which I visit for modern Japanese fusion that never leaves you walking out with a limp wallet.  My recent meal here was no different.

To start, we ordered a chicken salad topped with crispy wanton skin (extra $1.00).  Looking back at my previous posts, I labelled the salad here as a “convert” and this time around, it was not different.  This was simply my kind of salad; flavourfully robust, juicy, and fresh.  Always add the crispy wanton skin as it gives the salad a good crunch that matches with the fresh bite of the cabbage.

Next up was the Aburi salmon nigiri topped with a dollop of red miso.  Having the salmon blow torched gave the fish a really nice smokey fragrance while making it more tender too.  The Aburi here never fails to satisfy although this time around it could have been a torched a little more evenly.

A dish of seared scallops! Nom nom nom!  These little beauties were seared to perfection.  Loved the topping which Bonsai does for them lovelies.  It complements this dish well.

Some might consider the crab claws a little bit of a dud.  It is true, they are.  But when you bite into Bonsai's version of it, you will know why it is not.  So any perception you might have thinking that it is similar to the artificial ones bought from the oriental shop can now be discarded.  
Keep calm, dip into mayo.

Buta no Kakuni is a classic favourite of mine when I go to Japanese restaurants.  Braised for hours in a broth made from a mix of Mirin and soy, the humble pork belly is made into a melt-in-your mouth protein with a darkish brown appearance.  Its flavours are not meant to be overly salty or sweet but aim is to strike a good balance between them.  Here the sauce was all the rave but the pork felt lacking.  It was still hard and was not soft through.   It is in this aspect that Bonsai failed to deliver.  

For the mains we started with a crispy skin duck;
It was crispy skin with no doubt,while the duck itself was cooked to perfection with the middle slightly pinkish leaving it tender.  Equally impressive was its presentation which was pretty damn nice.  Looking on at the pictures I have taken, it was clear Bonsai was not there to make good food. But rather good looking ones too.  Imagine a manicured plant, because that is after all, the art of Bonsai.

The last main we ordered to share was the Teriyaki Wagyu Steak.
This has always been a favourite of mine since my second visit to Bonsai a couple years back.  With a  choice of how you want it cooked, we asked for medium rare and that is exactly what we got.  Topped with shavings of mildy pickled onions, they complemented the tender beef.  But the highlight of it all was the sauce.  A quality Teriyaki base with a subtle butter flavour made this dish simply sensational.  A dish which have been recognised by my peers, friends and family for not being 1 dimensional.Bonsai, you’ve done it again.  Thank you for the great hospitality and delicious food. 

The Bonsai Restaurant & Cafe Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bites: A Chinese Banquet @ Northbridge Chinese Restaurant, Roe St.

Northbridge Chinese Restaurant also known as Lok Fook by the Chinese population in Perth is a popular Chinese restaurant on Roe St.  While it is popular, this place draws a host of criticisms from me in the past for its arrogant lady boss, incompetent service and inconsistent food quality.  Earlier this year, it became known to me that the chefs took ownership of the restaurants and so my family decided to have a family dinner here after a long time of being away.  Under the new management, Northbridge Chinese Restaurant is a fair bit different now that is has a level of service which is more acceptable.

That night we had two tables of 8, one for the youngsters and the other for the oldies :P!  Since it was a special treat for my parents as well as my two aunties who traveled from Singapore and Sydney, it was an all out banquet for the family.

The first dish to reach was an “egg drop" Chinese mushroom soup  The thick gelatinous soup did not quite tickle my fancy but was a decent start to the meal.  It is probably just me, but I have a preference that other than the good old Shark’s Fin soup with crab meat, I prefer Cantonese style soups which are thinner in consistency yet potent in the sweetness of its ingredients like pork ribs, lotus root, peanuts, dates and a host of other herbs.

Scallops on shell steamed with emperor soy, glass noodles, topped with crispy garlic oil and finely chopped scallions.  Scallops are always a treat when served not the table. This was no different.  The sweet protein of the sea when cooked to perfection is a no brainer.  Here it was  prepared simple, yet delicious but a tad overcooked.  Thinking of the perfect scallops, I feel the need to revisit Marea in NYC.  The scallops at Marea had to be the best I have ever had.  See this post here to get what I mean :P!

Next up was another dish that involved some intense finger action.  Snow crabs tossed in a salted egg sauce.  It is not hard understand why people go crazy over snow crabs.  Its large chunk of flesh from the claw easily overwhelms that of any other shellfish on earth.  Add a fragrant garlicky salted egg sauce to the equation and boy it was good.

At this point of the dinner, the chef probably thought that it was a good time to give our palates a rest and cooked up a piping hot serve of garlic Kailan.  A basic dish that never fails to satisfy. Easily cooked at home, but never the same, restaurants tend to use a bigger “burner”  resulting in a drier vegetable dish.  At home, most garlic kailan usually comes out watery!
Next was up was the boys favourite, the Pai Kuat Wong or the Emperor Ribs.  Crispy deep fried meaty ribs coat in a sticky sweet fruity sauce is a dish that tastes very similar to the Peking Ribs with the exception of the mayonnaise.  

Next was another deep fried dish @@!  It was a very unhealthy night but hey, once in a blue moon right? haha.  The last one was a fusion between an aubergine and a prawn/chicken paste of some sort.  I have to say, I was not the biggest fan of the dish for the sole reason of it being way too oily.  Aubergine is quite a spongy vegetable.  It absorbs things well.  Oil in particular. So deep fry something like that and oh that oil! Just a couple of days back we had another Chinese meal two doors down and they served their specialty chicken skin and prawn paste dish which was absolutely moreish when compared to this.

To end were the complementary fruits and sago in coconut milk.  Neither were particularly impressive but who am I to complain when the word complimentary is involved :P!
The meal at the Northbridge Chinese Restaurant was a very good one.  It is actually the second time I am visiting the place in the last 2 months as I had another big family dinner here when my relatives were here from Canada.  Altogether as a family, we were worried initially when we made the booking due to the poor the place rating it had on Urbanspoon.   Nonetheless, two successful dinners has shown that the new management is not short of skills when it comes to preparing quality Chinese.  This in itself is a good reason to come back.  But for everything else Chinese especially Chinese Roast, I would stray no further than my favourite HK Barbecue or Good Fortune :)!

Northbridge Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bites: American Barbecue @ Old Faithful Bar, Perth

Another RNR and a great meet up with some good old friends at the Old Faithful.  Here, one experiences American community dining where barbecue and alcohol becomes best friends. The bar and food area are separated so do not try getting your food from the bar.

The selection for drinks include a strong selection of whiskey. But a noob like me goes no further than the bourbon chocolate milkshake without the bourbon Need less to say, the bartender surprised that I am having no alcohol whilst most was always trying to get more.  In terms of flavour it was so chocolate-ty with a rich malt taste that reminded me of an old childhood drink called Horlicks. The only thing a little surprising was that with or without the bourbon, the shake still costs $14 which was on the pricey side. 

Food come straight from the counter, so do not expect table service.  The first attempt at ordering my food did not go to well because it seemed like a lot of the things we wanted was not available. No chicken wings, and no hot links. A problem that requires better management attention prior to service for sure. In saying that we managed to get our food sorted eventually. 

A shared platter of Big Sur came looking absolutely delicious.  Needless to say I was drooling!
One element aced without question by Old Faithful was the smokiness in each meat that was executed to a perfect intensity of the.  Brisket was juicy and the belly was exactly as you expect it to be, a little bit fatty, intertwined with the meat and at the same time it was all very juicy. No meat to my surprise was overcooked and dry. Everything here was superbly tender.  But other than that, the food did not go past the first base. Different textures were present as I went from the pork to the beef but I did not quite find them tasting substantially different enough (besides the smokiness) to make a big impact with the exception of the pulled pork which tasted sublime with the shaved onions and bread. Very happy with that! More importantly, among all the meat on the platter I enjoyed the bbq chicken the best. Tender, and superbly flavoured. Niceeeee!!!

On the other tray we ordered some sides to share. Blood sausages, corn bread topped with maple butter, deviled eggs and some pork chunks.  Most of my friends felt faint at the thought of the blood sausages but I am a big fan of this meaty coagulation.  More importantly, where it counts most Old Faithful had aced.  It was very well-seasoned and I enjoyed it. The serve of pork chunks were essentially deep fried breaded pork tossed in what felt like a mild hot sauce. Not bad but beware of chunks that contains nothing but fat. I love some juicy bits but a whole chunk of fat was a bit of a put off. 

Next were the devilled eggs which were a bit of an odd ball requested by Bel. I have to say though, it was a surprise win because the yolks were mixed together really well resulting in a fluffy filling for the egg white. Yummy :)!
Corn bread was, presumably meant to be a carb to go with the meat but it was not well received at the table. It tasted like day old muffin without sugar. I really could not make out what it was meant to be.  Eventually between wasting food and shoving it into our mouths, we went with the latter haha. 

At the end of the meal we received two cookies in place of two serves of pork crackle which had ran out.  The cookies were a nice gesture to compensate us for the lack of organization but it was not anything special or worth shouting about. 

Thinking back, I'm not sure how the math worked out and most of the table was confused too because a serve of pork crackle was around $9 while a cookie was $3.80. Presumably this was just a consolation prize and they had given us extra pieces of meat to make up for the difference paid for the crackling. Or at least I am hoping so because getting ripped of is not my idea of a good evening out!

Old Faithful is a nice addition to town especially in the bar scene where the staples are usually a boring chicken parmigiana, burger, steak or fish & chips. The venue was noisy as hell so be prepared for a battle of speaking on top of one another. Hey its a bar no? There was no dampener or opened windows to reduce the noise. Instead, the walls are graced by polished concrete and random art.  Saying all this it was a nice visit but it felt more of an afternoon venue after work rather than a late night one. Also, be prepared to smell like smoke when you are done. The venue was really smoky! Good thing though, the guy in the kicthen which I shall name 'butcher' looked super badass.

Old Faithful Bar & BBQ on Urbanspoon