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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bites: Malaysian Delights @ Nasi Lemak Korner, South Perth

Asian food is my go to after a long stint on site.  This time around, I organised a meet up with my fellow Hatchies at Nasi Lemak Korner.  Located on the ever evolving eating scene on Preston Street, this Malaysian joint has been around for awhile now.  At least a year! Maybe even two.  Having heard numerous reviews regarding its pricing has held me back a bit, but that’s alright I am finally here. 

Looking at the menu, you get all the local favourites like Beef Rendang, Chicken Curry, Ayam Masak Merah and other Malaysian goodies.  Amongst the table of four, we ordered to share;

3 Nasi Lemak 

The basics were really the basics.  As you would expect, you get a perfectly steamed rice with no “over” or “under”-cooked bull crap here.  Just good old, fluffy coconut rice served with its traditional accompaniments of hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, anchovies, cucumber and sambal (sauteed chilli paste). While it was a decent bite I would have loved some blanched “kangkung” or water morning glory.  To go with the Nasi Lemak we had the Beef Rendang and Sambal Chicken.

A whole serve of Beef Rendang (~$16)

These tender beef pieces are a trademark accompaniment of Nasi Lemak.  Slow cooked in coconut milk for hours, these tenders chunk of meat will fall apart effortlessly in your mouth.  While the grated coconut help made the sauce the real deal, I could not help but wonder whether the chefs might want to turn their salt level down one notch.  Also, while it was fragrant I like mine with more finely sliced up kaffir lime leaf which gives any Malaysian Beef Rendang that final kick of flavour. 

A whole serve of Sambal Chicken (~$16).

Another classic Malaysian dish that truly makes any rice dish go up one notch in flavour.  Tender chicken sauteed in caramelised onions in a rich tomato chilli blend.  Absolutely delicious. It's balanced dish. Slightly sweet due to the tomatoes but not too sweet, the heat mild and the flavour of the dish really went well with the Nasi Lemak. 

Last but not least, Mamak Mee Goreng. While the Nasi Lemak served was pretty good, it was the Mamak Mee Goreng that got my tongue wagging. This more-ish dish of noodles was cooked to perfection. Its recipe stayed true to the original recipe with little pieces of fried batter, beancurd and potato cooked together with the egg noodle! 

It's savoury almost tangy flavours were reminiscent of the good old Malaysian noodles typically served by the road side stalls. It reminded me of my childhood days when dad used to go out and pack fried noodles for my sister and I from an Indian restaurant not too far from the beach resort we used to go to in Malaysia.  Even more impressive was the wok fried flavours that is rarely present in the Australian Hawker food scene. 

Over all, I was sufficiently impressed by the quality of food at Nasi Lemak Korner and that made me wonder; why is the rating for Nasi Lemak Korner so low on Zomato? Sure the price range was not the cheapest and neither was it easy to get a table, but the food was sufficiently satisfying! By comparison, the popular Pappa Rich charges some $15.90 for a miserable plate of Nasi Lemak and parking in Northbridge is now $4 an hour. That's a big step up from the $13 Pappa Rich’s started on. Other popular options in town for me are Old Cathay and Sarapan. Both of which are nice with the latter having a consistency issue.

Nasi Lemak Korner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bites: A Succulent Pulled Pork and Amazing Pancake Brunch @ Cafe 2TwentyFour, Belmont

With soaring brunch prices and cliché menus hoarding the brunch scene, Cafe 2TwentyFour is an unlikely but welcoming find.  Pardon me for my ignorance but I reckon Cafe 2TwentyFour  has been around for awhile now.  From Monster Shakes to the usual brunch menu, I was expecting something boring. But it was not.  To start were some hot drinks for the table.  Coffee for parents and Matcha Latte for myself.

My Matcha Latte was yummy! A little bit on the sweet side but every bit fragrant.  Not as grassy as I would like it to be but it reminded me of ones I had in Starbucks when I was in Europe :)! Good times!!

First up was my Pulled Pork Benedict ($19).

This was my second Aussie brunch in the last 8 months and while tbsp. set a starting level of what the Perth brunch scene has evolved to, I was keen to see what others had to offer.   Cafe 2TwentyFour did not disappoint.  The Pulled Pork was succulent and the marinate was joy.  But it was not the succulent meat that had me thrilled but rather the spices that were used.   I have had so many pulled meat lathered in boring brown braise so I will be fair that this is a much welcomed change!  It was almost like a Mexican pulled pork!  How can you not be excited?  Wilted spinach was obligatory but not in any way necessary.  I guess it makes the dish healthy? ha ha..  The Hollandaise  sauce was also another element well executed. Silky, and rich on the tongue, it was also enough acidity to maintain a fresh yet indulgent finish to bring the meal together.  Good!

Next was mom’s favourite the Ricotta Pancakes with Ice Cream, Caramelised Bananas, Bacon and Salted Caramel $17.

When it hit the table I was not too convinced about the looks.  I actually thought it would not be fluffy at one point.  But I was proved all wrong.  In fact, it probably tasted better than it looked.  The salted caramel, with those fluffy hot cakes were sensational.  Add that bacon for a salty punch and crisp to elevate the joy! 

If you had asked me how much I enjoyed the brunch here?  I would say the two dishes were lip-smackingly delicious.  The bill on the meal? A modest sub-$50 one. Parking is a bliss in the complex and the sitting area was pleasant on a mild winter’s day.  Seeing the day go by, I was there for about an hour enjoying the good food and spending time with my parents.  Will I come here again?  I definitely would.  Oh by the way no hipsters serving food here ;)

Cafe 224 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bites: A bountiful brunch @ tbsp. , Bayswater

I came to tbsp. a couple weeks back for a fulfilling pre fly-back-to-work meal and that is exactly what I got.  Located in Maylands, the venue at 8am was lifely and the service attentive with its crew dedicated enough to explain the techniques behind its dishes.   I am finally here.

To start was a doughnut to share.  This one in its classic O-shape coated with a berry frosting and to finish were some dehydrated berries.
Initial impressions, perfect. It looked sensational.  But for me, that it where it all ends because besides the frosting and the berries, I look for a certain fluffiness when I eat my doughnuts.  And I got none.  For me, my doughnut experience starts with that outer brownish layer that’s slightly more bitey than the inner bits.  When I get inside, I expect a slightly yellow fluff as I pull it apart.  Here it was fluffy in the way of a crumbled sponge.  It did not have the mild elasticity.  The doughnut here was a miss.  It was far from the runny ones I have been seeing on Instagram which means I will need to revisit one day because this could be a one-off technical fault.

Next up was the Chorizo toast.  I think that is what its called.

A yummy looking dish.  Here, scarce is not an applicable word as you can see chunks of chorizo strewn all across the plate in a very good way.  You get that runny onsen egg for some TLC coating of all the elements to bring it together.  As simple as it looked, my mate enjoyed it heaps.

My choice for the day was none other than the infamous Brisket Benedict.

This calorie monster hit several sweet spots.  The onions were fantastic. Caramelised through, the onions were rich in its natural sweetness.  The brisket was also another high point, it was tender and absolutely delicious.  The seasoning was flavourful from all the marinade and not overly cloying despite being fatty.  Eggs I had no complain, as they were typical.  With everything on the plate, the Hollandaise was almost a home run but I felt like an additional notch of acidity would have help lifted the heaviness of the meal.  Or maybe, do it the Asian way and spike it with some Sriratcha for additional kick.  But for me, what made this meal difficult was the bread.  The bread in itself was faultless do not get me wrong.  But for some reason, there was a ton of oil gushing out from the bread.  This was where I died.  But once the bread was away, I was good again.   Perhaps it was the juicy fattiness of the pulled brisket.  If that was the case then tbsp. is better of straining it away and using small quantities to toast the bread where required.

tbsp. was a nice bite but I’m was not overly wow-ed because I find the Spicy Beef Benedict at Typika in Claremont to be equally good.  And to think of it, that was back in 2013!!  You would expect 3 years to make a difference haha.  In saying that though, because tbsp. is nearer to home, I reckon its a much easier location to get to.  Over all, the food was above average, the environment was nice and parking was not too difficult.  Would I come back? Definitely yes, to try their other doughnuts.  But for me, the highlight was the customers service.  While you rarely get much interaction at brunch cafes, that little explanation about the doughnut was enough to convince me that the people at tbsp. cared!

tbsp. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Istanbul: Modern traditions @ Neolokal, Karakoy

After a day at Princes’ Island, we returned to the mainland.  This time landing on the North side port the Kabatas Seaport, which was unfortunately on the wrong side of where we needed to be.  But I was pumped.  Tonight’s meal stretches beyond the norms of skewers, rotisserie and other basic food served around town.  The dinner tonight is going to be at Neolokal.  A dining institute that seeks to show gratitude to mother nature and her produce by serving genuine products using traditional techniques.  This way, the finest details are not missed and tradition preserved. As the head chef says “if we do not protect our food, the generations to come will not have anything left in their hands”.

Tonight my colleagues and I feasted on a shared course that stretched the evening.   Straight from the menu:

But before we started; was a serve of rye fermented with yeast the same age as the restaurant.

BUTTER; parsley, olive oil & shiitake powder

HOUMUS & fresh herbs, tahini “piyaz” cream

PASTRAMI & DRIED MEAT raki & fig jam and fig vinegar cream

FRIED MUSSELS, walnut dip and poached onion salad

MARINATED BLACK SEABASS with strawberry raki terrine, fennel salad and salicorn

SURPRISE GARDEN TASTES, from our garden with vegan and vegetarian options

“MÜCVER” fritters with shrimp and salicorn, turmeric & pepper & salicorn yogurt

TARAMASALATA & HADDOCK, bottarga powder, raki beets

“KISIR & TARTAR”, turnip, mustard and turmeric & cauliflower pickle

Beet & “KARGI TULUM”, cheese, purslane

LAVENDER OCTOPUS, lemony potato cream, lemon zest and orange powder

The appetisers were an interesting journey with mixed emotions with some very obvious hits and misses. My favourites that night were the Hummus, Pastrami and the Beets.  All of which were executed flawlessly.  The Hummus for example boasted a stunning presentation but never for once lost its flavours.  Instead new textures were introduced with the fresh herb “garden” and crisps.  The Beets on the other hand play a strong fusion between an Aussie favourite and the traditional cheese which was an Istanbul produce.  Sweet,earthy and tart, the salad knocked me off my socks.

For the mains we shared:

BLACK SEABASS, zucchini & flower, baby potatoes & lentil

LAMB SHANK, üveyik wheat pilaf cooked with apple and onions, apple pickles & crisps

"KATMER" & "TİRİT", “tarhana” yogurt cream, dried “tarhana”

BEEF, pulled tacos <-- I made this up, I did not get a name for it haha.
The mains for me did not leave a lasting impression.  The lamb shank and pulled beef were especially poor in execution.  These two had very minimal seasoning and did little to highlight it usually tender flesh.  I wanted a little more flair from the Turkish mob. Perhaps a hint of smokiness to match with a melt in your mouth shank.  Or, a juicy pulled beef with a garlicky chilli yoghurt.  It might be just me but I wanted flavour. I wanted the meat to be better.  For this part of the course, I enjoy the fish heaps!  Even the vegetarian Katmer & Tirit, a by-product of leftover bread was creative and equally impressive in presentation.  Meat, shame on you lol.

BAKLAVA AND WALNUT CANDY, ricotta pistacchio & walnut cream, molasses tahini halva

Rose, coffee, cardamom PUDDING and meringue

YASEMIN’S CAKE berries and pistacchio croquant, pudding cream

The dessert bit of the dinner was a definite happy ending.  The cake is a recipe by the chef’s mom, Yasmine and was handed down to him. For me, it was delicious. A soft fluffy inside topped with a luscious butter-cream like coating.  It was a little sweet but extremely pleasing.  This was yummy!  The Baklava on the other hand looked stunning.  I have never seen something so well presented before.  More importantly, its nothing like any Baklava you have ever had.  This was not overly sweet, the crushed pistachios still fragrant and pastry crisp.

Overall, the meal at Neolokal met my expectations in Istanbul.  The food is different in many ways yet tasty.  Some of my colleagues found that several dishes had been altered so much that the essence of its main ingredient seemed lost.  While that was true, it is common for this style of dining that an element sometimes loses its original form to better pair with is surrounding.  In other words, it adapts.  The service at Neolokal was good and attentive, without a single moment of neglect.  Even when I was confused, the maitre’d would gladly answer my questions.  The finer details of fine dining is fused with tradition in this leading culinary institute.  Its flavours are bold, renditions modern and ingredients international.   No wonder the word Neolokal stems from the English word, the New Local.

The night finished with a long walk through Istiklal Avenue and across the bridge. A good 5km work out back to the hotel but it was every bit joy.  Istanbul is an amazing city.
So much to offer both day and night as you would expect from a big city.  Sure the booze scene is not as vibrant as its Western counter-part but who needs booze :P?!

My joker colleagues by the plant market: