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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bites: Hearty Pho @ Urban Bowl, Perth.

Northbridge has always been the holy grail of the Vietnamese cuisine.  With household names like Tra Vinh, Phong Vinh and Phi Yen making mouths salivate with their signature Pho, lemon grass chops and curries, these places are almost no brainers.   But if it is only Pho that you are looking for, there is a little somewhere more central in the city with similar credibility on its cover. This small unsuspecting cafe is called Urban Bowl.   

Coming in at 10am after finishing my medical, they were still serving their signature poached eggs on baguette for breakfast. But my stomach was craving else.  Something soupy, piping hot and all in all, something to fight the winter chill like a bowl of Pho.  Nothing does it better than a bowl of piping hot Pho with beef balls and sliced beef.  Lunch time officially starts at 11am but for the kid in shorts and tee-shirt, the chef was happy to accommodate me.  
Where do I even start?  I had not had Pho in such a long time that I was swept of my feet from my first mouth.  Simple pleasures like the rich broth paired with the fine slices of shallots were  absolutely amazing in this bowl of soupy goodness.  Noodles were cooked to standard and dipping the balls in my favourite mix of sweet sauce and Sriracha was sensational.  Mid-way through the bowl,I also realised the finer details aced by Urban Bowl.  Its the cooked beef slices and they were super tender and meaty just the way I like it!

At $12.50, it is easily one of the better eats in town justified by their location paired with generous servings of meat balls and sliced beef.  If you are ever in the city, you would probably already know about it.  But for those who are passing by, Urban Bowl just beneath the Exchange Plaza serves one of the best Pho in town.  Just in time for winter :)!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bites: The Perfect Schnitzel breakfast @ Mary Street Bakery, Highgate

When Mary Street Bakery first opened, and if you had ask me whether it was one of my top breakfast destinations, it would have been an outright no.  Trying their bakery goods, I was barely impressed by Mary Street Bakery’s cold-dense doughnuts, and mediocre tarts.  But this time around, Mary Street Bakery has found their grounding.

To start was the salted caramel doughnut and a pistachio-rose water doughnut.
Of the two, it was the Pistachio-Rose Water doughnut that came out tops.  It was the waitress’s favourite and ours too.  It appealed in all the right spots thanks to its fluffy texture, unique flavour and fragrance.  Meanwhile, we decided to try another salted caramel doughnut as we really like our salted caramel.  Unfortunately it did not satisfy our palate as much as the other.  Felt like another case of substance abuse and a “just because” everyone else is making salted caramel doughnuts case.

YH’s choice of breakfast was the Old English bacon sandwich with fried egg and HP Sauce served with a side of extra mushrooms.
The simplicity of such a dish is astounding yet the satisfaction from it can be significant if executed right.  Thick cut bacon, smoked HP sauce and the perfect fried egg.  Just when everything has clicked in place, the most unexpected disappointment kicked in.  The bread.  YH commented how he had to bite so hard it was impossible to eat.  Instead of taking a bite, he was tearing the sandwich to half and his teeth would soon start to ache.  To a certain extent he must have felt as though the sandwich came with free dental service when the crust started flossing his teeth. On the bright side, once the crust was peeled off, it was really enjoyable!  You get the runny yolk, crispy bacon and sweet shrooms all working together. 

My choice for breakfast that morning was the Pork Schnitzel on a base of creamed corn served with Kimchee and Egg.
I simply loved it.  Over the past few brunches, I have had a few dishes that sported creamed corn such as the one in Hylin but Mary Street Bakery pulled it off the best.  Its pairing was sensational and the chemistry was just right.  Crispy pork Schnitzel, earthy yet ripe corn puree and the fermented Kimchee.  All in all, simply immaculate.  It worked, it really did.  I had no criticism whatsoever.  The size was right, the flavours where there and damn it was lovely.  For $20?  Take my money!

The brunch at Mary Street Bakery certaintly had its hits and misses.  Like all experiences, you only remember the peaks and troughs but rarely the “OKs”.  Today, I will be walking away with the peaks.  From my perfect Pistachio-Rose water doughnut to the sensational Schnitzel, I was a happy kid by the time the meal ended.  So for this visit to Mary Street Bakery, a definite thumbs up.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Siem Reap: A fine journey of temples and food.

Siem Reap is a little city North of Cambodia that relies very heavily on tourism.  Well-known for its magnificent Angkor Temples and night life at Pub Street, I found that Siem Reap had a lot more to offer than just that especially for foodies like me.The Khmer cuisine by itself is a little lacklustre due to the moderate use of spices and seasoning.  Being sandwiched by Thailand and Vietnam, i.e two of the greatest countries for foodies does not help either.

But look a little deeper and you will realise that there are several places in town that pay a little more attention detail and infuses techniques not known to traditional Khmer cooks to create a sensory pleasing journey.

Asia’s 50th best restaurant is helmed by Joannes Riviere who seeks to re-creates the Khmer cuisine with a touch of French.  The flavours throughout the meal were very crisp.  The finish was clean and there were not lingering/overpowering flavours from the usual suspects of fine dining.

Mie Cafe was on my itinerary as an option, and not an essential until I dined at the restaurant. From the zesty salad course to the skimpy dish of grilled prawn with butter and the rich chocolate fondant at the end, it was just heaven on earth for Mie.
Course 1; Carpaccio of snake head fish with Cambodian spices, grapefruit and hazelnut oil dressing served with poached egg tempura at Mie Cafe. They say first impressions are the most lasting.

A  social enterprise aimed at helping the vulnerable by teaching them an important life skill. As Haven's tagline suggests, “where helping taste good”.  That is because for most parts of the meal, it really was!  

The menu looked suspiciously Thai but the food from these two regions are fairly intertwined making it hard to tell them apart without tasting.  While I could not find the Khmer inspiration in the dishes here, it was safe to say that Touich Restaurant Bar presented to me some very well-executed dishes that regarded the Thai cuisine in the most respectable manner.  That is, by presenting it with quality and authenticity.

One of my last photos of the trip at the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in South East Asian and home to more than 1,000 different villages


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Siem Reap: The Last Dinner of the Trip @ Touich Restaurant Bar

After having several French inspired Khmer dining, I decided to sample the local palate of traditional Khmer cuisine.  My meal at Khmer Kitchen (un-blogged) in the heart of Siem Reap was pretty decent, with a subtler, more balanced flavour that tended to be a little less exciting than its South East Asian counter part Thailand.  But what happens when you bring the cuisine one notch up?  Touich Restaurant Bar served my last dinner in Cambodia.  The menu looked suspiciously Thai but the food from these two regions are fairly intertwined its hard to tell them apart without tasting.

Eventually, we succumbed to the Thai cuisines on offer along with a lovely dish from the grill.  To start was a Tom Yam Soup and Mango Salad.
The Mango salad was absolutely sensational!  Sweet, sour and salty came together with the crunchy vegetables to whet the appetite.  Several juicy shrimps added short notes of seafood flavour but it was hardly as impactful as the mint and basil in the salad.  The zesty flavour the the lime was hard to dislike too.  Very good.

The Tom Yam was supposed to be a main but we called it as an appetiser anyway!  I have to say, whilst this was not the best  Tom Yam I have ever had, this little pot was laden with ingredients.  From Galangal  to Coriander to lemon grass, onion and the list goes on.  It is as if the chef decided to pull every herb in her cook book and give it a go.  To finish were some very coarsely cut up squid and prawns for protein. The product was very close to being sensational but perhaps the heat could be turned up!  For the best Tom Yam, nothing beats the one I had at Chatuchak Market in Thailand.   

JH’s dish after due diligence was the Stir Fried Scallops and Prawns  $10.50 USD.  It was Trip Advisor’s recommendation.
There were heaps of scallops in this dish but with most of them being very small in size, there was hardly any excitement.  It was after all the very similar to the Basil stir fry which we had at Haven Training Kitchen called the Lok Lak and something we ordered the night before too.  I think the both of us definitely could not recommend this dish to anyone. 

The last dish for the night was the Salt Baked Snapper $11.50 USD.  When the fish came out coated in a crusty layer of salt, I was sold.  Strangely enough reminded me of the Bangkok with the boys last year! Smashing fun.
The waiter offered to peel the skin off which we gladly accepted.  As the skin pilled off part by part, the moist flesh was revealed.  This was the beauty of the salt baked fish.  Juicy on the inside, but flavoured so very tenderly by the salt on the outside.  And the real killer lies in the sauce served on the size.  A zesty, garlicky sauce with a punch of sugar and a dash of acidity from the lime.  Sensational all together!

The meal at Touich Restaurant Bar was every bit satisfying.  It was a little over $30 USD for the two of us and we were filled to the brim!  So full it was hard getting back to the hotel.  While I could not find the Khmer inspiration in the dishes, it was safe to say that Touich Restaurant Bar in Siem Reap presented to me some very well-executed dishes that regarded the Thai cuisine in the most respectable manner.  That is, by presenting it with quality and authenticity. Was it a weird choice of restaurant to be dining at considering I was in Cambodia?  Well, maybe yes, but any regrets?   Definitely NO.

Do note that the seating is outdoor only.  In hotter and wetter seasons, mosquitoes are quite apparent so the restaurant offers free repellants.