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Showing posts with label Tapas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tapas. Show all posts

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bites: Sensational Izakaya @ Ichirin, Leeming.

It is another beautiful day for dining out in sunny Perth.  It was my sister’s birthday and her Japanese cravings kicked in.  After scouting around she decided on eating at Ichirin, a small suburban Izakaya in the southern suburb of Leeming.  

It is not my first time here and I know that Ichirin serves pretty decent food for good value.  Whether its a crunchy Karaage or Fresh Sashimi you crave for, Ichirin has it all.  Do note though that if you are coming in for their Omakase Menu aka “Trust the Chef”, that you book at least 2 nights in advance.  As we did not make it for the Omakase, dinner was going to be a simple Izakaya meal.  To start was some skilfully plated sashimi before going to a favourite of mine, the Agedashi Tofu.  Simply crisp on the outside and sitting in a bath of soy, radish and finely grated ginger.  Lean and tasty.

Then we go on to Ichirin’s Sashimi Carpaccio. Consisting of thinly sliced fish cook, this dish was almost like a Ceviche in the sense that the salmon that came out look slightly cooked by the Citrus Yuzu and Miso mixture.  Refreshing in every bite, one simply could not stop with one bite.  Then we stopped having the raw stuff as my dad calls it and move on to the more conventional warm dishes.  The usual suspects made their appearance such as the Chicken Karaage and Gyoza.

As simple as it seems, Ichirin’s execution of these classics were people-proof favourites.  Both juicy and moist on the inside, it was hard to fault.  But if I had to pick the winner, it would be the Gyoza as it skin was cooked spot on and the mince on the inside was sensationally seasoned.  The Karaage on the other hand, despite packing a load of crunch lacked an essential bite of ginger.  Still it was very good.

But my seafood odyssea has not ended yet.  This time with a sensational plate of octopus.  At this point we did not expect the meal to get better only to be surprised by a melt in your mouth octopus.  I looked on Ichirin’s website but could not find the name.

Not to be forgotten is the superb Teriyaki Beef Fillet.  The marriage between a balanced Teriyaki sauce and a tender beef makes for heaven in mouth when paired with fluffy steamed rice.  This was no different. 

After finishing the night with some Matcha Ice Cream topped with Azuki (red beans), we were on our way home from Ichirin.  A count of how many dishes we had, I had actually ordered about 9-10 dishes for the table with the crispy squid and tempura prawns not shown above.  Was it too much?  Definitely not as the Izakaya dining style consist of small plate in a social environment so you get more variety throughout the meal. The bill price at Ichirin? A very fair  $170 with two bowls of ice cream and rice for a group of 4.

Ichirin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris: Fine Tapas @ L'Avant Comptoir, Odeón

After an absolutely rubbish steak by a random restaurant at Eiffel tower the night before, I was more determined than ever to have a proper meal.  My research game was strong and brought me to a little tapas bar in town called L'Avant Comptoir in Odeón.  

Hidden behind a takeaway Creperie, this is a stand only tapas place and strictly no reservations.  How to order?  L'Avant Comptoir’s standard menu is hung from the ceiling with a price and picture while everything seasonal is written in chalk on a small blackboard.  

Note that L'Avant Comptoir only has one sommelier, maître d and waiter so its a one man show at the counter.  He (Mr Eric) remembers everyone better than you do, so if you feel ignored it is because someone else is waiting before you.
This rule applies no matter how sure you are that you were the first in line lol.

Bread, butter and condiments are communal (and seriously good too) so do not freak out should someone reach over your shoulder to take a slice of bread or smear butter from your tray haha.  

The tapas at L'Avant Comptoir is simple, interesting and extremely flavourful.  My first dish was a bowl of super sweet shell fish right which was a seasonal special off the black board. 

Cooked in a tomato based sauce with wine and finished with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, the shell fish was faultless.  Sweet, juicy and mildly briny, this was a great finger food.

The second dish I got was a classic favourite for the table, creamy potato croquettes with bits of yummy ham.

Creamy potato on the inside, crisp on the outside makes the croquette a tapas that is hard to beat.   Its seasoning too was balanced and really quite tasty!

The Jamon de Paris at L'Avant Comptoir to share with paprika and horseradish.

Its hard to explain how a humble ham can make an good lunch become an amazing lunch.  But if you appreciate your ham slightly juicy but not wet, mildly salted and intense in flavour, then you will enjoy this a lot!  A pinch of horseradish drops a load of kick so do not put too much! 

My fancy pants attempt at L'Avant Comptoir before dessert was a Foie Gras Meringue with Citrus Jam.  

Creamy, fragrant and a sweet altogether in one bite.  What can I say?  Wow.  It will be overwhelming for those who dislike the richer things in life but this was a seriously interesting morsel.  If I had one criticism, it would be that the macaron could be a little thicker!  I think there was more Foie Gras than Meringue in this dish haha.

There is no better way to end a great meal but with a sweet ending and when in Paris, eat Burnt Cream or Creme Brûlée.

The twist?  Creme Brûlée at L'Avant Comptoir is not a really sweet dessert but instead is velvety smooth and simply fragrant.  You could smell the burnt sugar the moment the dessert hits the table.  After hearing the beautiful crust break, its time to explore the beautiful cream.  Spiked with a little coffee, the cream has an aromatic kick that paired perfectly with the burnt sugar.   An amazing dessert over all. 

The wines were pretty good too according to the boys.  I thought it was OK but nothing life changing.  No discrimination of prices between per glass and per bottle, so do not hesitate to try all the different wines L'Avant Comptoir has to offer :)!

The L'Avant Comptoir was packed at 1pm and several patrons who waited to get in were visibly frustrated by the lack or service or rather no service.  So be sure to come 5-10 minute before they open at 12 or risk having to wait.  The more popular sitting restaurant next door L'Comptoir St Germain Bistro had people waiting in line since 11.30am!!  Paris is a big city with plenty of good food.  But it has plenty of people too.  So queues are a norm and bookings essential where possible.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Bites: Modern Dining @ St. Michael, Mount Lawley

Sitting in the place of Jacksons, WA’s legendary status degustation spot, St. Michaels is the new kid on the Beaufort Strip.  While I never knew the exact details of the owners, I did know that St. Michaels were the brainchild of the Red Cabbage establishment which hmmm did not provide me with much confident at all.  Do not get me wrong, Red Cabbage is a fine place but  I was not the keenest person after being scarred by the lacklustre of creativity from my first attempt there.  However, my sister was keen to give this place a chance and so I went anyway.  For those who are not aware, St. Michaels is now open for dinner which had just happened a couple weeks back ;)

However, because no one knew they were open for nights, we were one of the only two tables that night.  I loved being treated as if I had booked the whole place but really, it was just pure luck haha.  The dining style here is a choice of a la-carte tapas or degustation but we went for the degustation which was a no-brainer considering the $89 tag will be quickly surpassed if orders were done a la-carte.

After enjoying some crisp lavosh and bread with whipped vegemite butter, my attention turned to St Michael’s first course, the cold pickled vegetables and Bresola.
Highly acidic on the first bite, I quickly grew fond of this setup.  The musky beefy Bresola paired with the sour-sweet roots  made summer dining a bliss.  The taste was fresh and crisp.  A meal that left a very clean feel to the palate.

Australian seafood is a major highlight during the summer.  St. Michael brings the flavours of South America to plate in this dish of seared scallops.
The perfectly seared scallops were of a decent size but not massively huge. But where flavours were concerned, the dish was well-composed with the tasty salsa and sweet almost buttery charred corn complementing the fresh scallops.  Likeable at every aspect, there was a certain predictability about this setup that might have made the experience all a little too “common”.

The next dish was something a little more special with pumpkin puree, orecchiette and pecorino making their way to the table.
On the plate was pureed pumpkin with little pasta shells called orecchiette and roasted pumpkin, topped with fragrant pecorino cheese.  Sweet, a little cheesy with some pasta is how I would describe this one.  It was quite basic and could easily have been a really good dish.  However, there was an inconsistency across the plate with the doneness of the pasta.  Some were a little soft whilst a few were hard with a few sitting al dente in the middle.  I honestly did not mind it but sitting on the Jacksons’ spot where I had previously dined commands a lot of integrity :P!

The next dish of quail, carrot puree and deep fried crumbled ricotta was absolutely gold.
Cooked spot on, the quail was perfectly pink in the middle and superbly tender.  Then comes the silky gel-like carrot puree that was just sensationally seasoned.  Not too sweet, or salty, but just nicely ripe in the middle!  One its own or together, the crumbed ricotta is every kids dream snack.  Fluffy in the middle, crispy on the outside but more important, delicious. To finish was some popped buckwheat to give the dish a crunch.   Have all the elements at once and you would be thoroughly impressed.

After grazing through the appetisers, the plat de résistance arrived.  It was a dish of lamb. My first bite quickly reminded me of the lamb & scallops dish at Nine Fine Food in Highgate.  The lamb was slow cooked and pulled apart before being formed and temporarily pan fried to caramelise the outsides.  The fat contents were definitely pretty high with this one as it literally melted in my mouth!  Little bits of nifty tricks to break the norm like the mint jelly was quite a joy to have.  To sum it up, the lambs falls into the category which I call “same but different” and I like it.

After resting my buds for a bit, our maitre d introduced me to the pre-dessert course.  Described as being neither savoury or sweet, the dish consisted of a thin carrot cake slice topped with celeriac ganache, little mounds of blue cheese, pear sorbet and poached pear.
I do not know where to start because this was literally my "dish of the night".  Its description falls way short in explaining how delicious this combination was. The spongy carrot cake with a tart almost sweet blue cheese paired with the refreshing sorbet was simply genius.  Add the crunchy walnuts and juicy pears to the equation and it was even better.  This was an exemplary reinvention of the cheese course where one has blue cheese with pear, candied nuts and crackers.

Last but not least was a dessert course after an oatmeal palate cleanser.  Themed parsnip, and honey, this was an all vegetarian dessert.
Parsnip sponge, and parsnip sorbet on cornflakes with honey drizzled all over.  To end the night, it was quite right.  Refreshing, light and over all quite easy to eat without leaving one feeling as if he/she had just eating a block of  meat.  Now, if only it was a little less salty!  For some reason the sponge has salt in it, which I found to be unnecessary because the cornflakes itself already has some salt.  Not a major fault but something that could have been easily prevented for sure.

At the end of the night, I enjoyed the meal at St. Michael quite a fair bit.  Unlike its more established sibling Red Cabbage, I found myself more enticed to the creations at St. Michael.  Dishes like the scallops as well as the lamb were rather predictable in flavour but still, faultless in all ways.  The carrot slice with the walnuts, pear condiments and blue cheese were exemplary in reinventing the classic blue cheese plate.  In saying that, there were a few errors which displeased me especially with the last dessert being quite salty or the pasta dish being inconsistently prepared but otherwise it was good.  Nonetheless, this has got to be one of the better $89 dollars spent in 2014!

St Michael 6003 on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bites: Tapas Brunch @ Duende, Leederville

Breakfast is all about enterprising takes on the usual suspects (bacon, sausage, and eggs).  Whilst some people love sticking to the usuals, I am totally the opposite.  Last week I met up with Jordo, Bel and David for breakfast in Duende. This place known for its Tapas during dinner serves breakfast in a similar way which starts as early as 8am.
The drinks were the standard fare.  You name it, they have it.  Juices, hot chocolates, pots of teas and different concoctions of coffee.

Big time coffee drinker/critique Bel dissess the coffee here. She calls it very “typical” and not very good.  Drinkable nonetheless.  But that was ok as it did not concern me in any way.  The word coffee never quite made it to my dictionary - something most or all of you would know :P!
The interesting part for me will always the food.  

First up were the Jamon & Leak Croquettas with Manchego.  Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? Checked.  Flavour? Checked.  I am not quite sure how Duende does it, but our first course not only looked sensational but tasted very good.
The potato in the croquettes had great texture with the Manchego giving the dish a lovely fragrant.  After that I tasted the little pieces of Jamon giving me a slight sensation of saltiness.  You could say that that we all agreed that this dish was brilliant as we kept going back to the plate to scoop the Manchego sauce on the croquettes.  Simply stunning.  

My concern about the pairing of a strong cheese sauce with deep fried croquettes so early in the morning was put to rest. 

Simple pleasures at its best would be the best way to describe the next dish.  Sautéed mushrooms, rocket salad and toast.  To describe, buttery sweet mushrooms with a hint of parsley.  Each mouth full is usually greeted by the variety of textures coming from all the different mushrooms.  Some mushrooms were smooth, and some a little more spongy/chewy. Sounds like the perfect dish to have when you are all holed up on your couch in a cold winter’s day!

“Today’s Special”  - Pulled Pork Potato Cake was one of our other orders.  This felt to me like a reinterpretation of a bubble and squeak.  It was OK but felt a little flat because the pulled pork was not very flavoursome .  In fact, the sauce unlike the Machengo just did not feel impactful.  I was hoping for something a bit more flavoursome =/.
We also had an order of corn cakes which was yummy.  Another simple yet hearty dish.  Last but not least were the salted cod tortillas.  Not my personal favourite but it was ok.  I think it felt a little dry.

The food as Duende was a little bit of a mixed bag.  We had the good, the ok and the bad.  Fortunately, none was really bad.  A little fixing of sauce would have easily made all the difference.  But more importantly for me is to come away from a breakfast not consisting of the usual suspects.  With respect to that requirement, Duende excels.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bites: Greek Meze @ Brika, Northbridge.

Over the weekends,  my friends and I decided to meet up over dinner with Brika capturing our mind instantly.  Set in the fringes of Northbridge, Brika has a lovely eating space that can get quite cozy for two if quiet.  But considering the intent of festivity most people have in mind with alcohol, it is almost never.  The eating style is communal and for our chirpy group of 7 this was a perfect spot.  Fans might even liken it to Duende, Cantina 663, and Old Crow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe way we started was very typical of the cuisine in the region.  We skipped the cured meats and olives but feasted on dips like the Tatziki, $7 (cucumber, garlic & yoghurt) and the Taramasalata, $8 (mullet roe dip).  Both of which were rather good with the warmed Pita slices, $4 for a serve of 6.  The way the dips were prepared were rather unconventional with the dips having more bulk than having a runny consistency.  This almost made the Pita and dips a meal of its own.  If only the Taramasalata was not so salty.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next up was the Spanakopita ($14).  Prepared in an unconventional way, this felt like the Greek’s rendition of the Asian Spring Rolls except for its filling which consisted of spinach, leek and a variety of cheeses.  Each bite into these little pastries were greeted with a crunch followed by layers of flavors derived from the mixture of spinach and cheese.  The leak though, was less obvious and almost felt non-existent at time.  This was pretty yums but everyone one found this a little salty. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next deep one were the Kolokithakia or Zucchini Fritters ($8), another house favourite according to the waitress.  Comparing this to the Spanakopita, I preferred this one more.  Who knew that Zucchini could ever taste so good!?  Flavors were well balanced, and felt fresh despite being deep fried.  After having this, I would rather put a Zucchini in the hands of a  Brika chef rather than any other chef.  These were just yummy! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Next up was the Saganaki ($12) which was a serve of pan fried cheese.  Perceived as a Haloumi on first sight, it turned out to be another type of cheese called the Kefalograviera.  It had a beautiful crust but a much saltier consistency.  The many serves of Pita which I ordered definitely played a crucial role in us finishing the two serves of cheese which I mistook to be something else.  To be honest, my vocabulary was ridiculed as I scanned the small plate dishes on the menu that I simply ordered two serves of almost everything haha.  Slightly chewy with a hit of saltiness in each bite followed by a mild acidity from the lemon.  A man once said that if you prepare something simple, it had to be spot on.  I am not sure how spot on pan-fried cheese can be.  Perhaps this is too simple?  Maybe a herb spice blend to top it all?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whilst the shared plates were a mixed bag ranging from yummy to OK, I was really chuffed with my choice of meat for the night. I chose the lamb which was absolutely moorish.  The seasoning used kept the dish very basic. Salt, pepper and to finish, a sprinkling of herbs. Essentially, it was all about celebrating the piece of quality  meat on the plate.  Slow cooked to perfection, it fell off the bone effortlessly.  Every tiny scrape with the fork is guaranteed to tear the tender flesh apart.  Such joy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was the other dish of octopus we ordered.  At first sight, it felt like the perfect way to celebrate the protein.  Sitting on the plate, it looked plump and well-charred on its edges.  To put it simply, it looked sensational all around.  However, it was only halfway there for me.  Yes the octopus was very tender and juicy, but there beautiful smoky flavors to complement the charred edges was missing.  I expected a stronger hint of smokiness and a mild crunch, the same one I get from Kanta every time I go there.  I do not know is whether a modern grill or a charcoal grill was used to prepare this dish but one thing I know for sure is that a conventional charcoal grill is hard to beat when it comes to flavors.   To sum it all, it was rather pedestrian.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhilst we had many others that night, I was lazy to snap a photo of everything.  The fish was pretty decent and so were the sausages.  As for the prawn dish, it came in a rich tomato braise that was moreish with the Pita!  The quantity of the prawns though, were rather questionable. All in all, the meal at Brika was satisfying although it does not quite reach my Nirvana just yet.  I see great potential in Brika and with its already large fan base, I have no doubt that the quality Brika brings will be more than enough for most. 

As for the price, it cost us just $250 for a group of 7 without drinks.  This includes 3 pitas, 3 dips, 6 shared plate and 7 serves of meat.  Bloody hell this was by all means great value for Perth.  Very very good in fact!  One more thing to love is the ease of parking.  Unlike the stupid central Northbridge/Perth, the parking at Brika is easy and boy that is a massive plus point.  Ask yourself this question, how many times have you been 20 minutes early to a dinner only to be 10 minutes late thanks to the horrendous parking? 

To end, I want to say that creativity like happiness can be something viral. The rise of food entrepreneurs in Perth is in full force over the last two years.  This has paved the way for many food vans, festivals and eateries. Such is the story of Brika, the result of people who dare bring paper concepts to reality.  And boy I am thankful.



Brika on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bites: Five Bar @ Mount Lawley

Mount Lawley has always been a treasure throve for foodies.  From my epic fine dining at Jackson’s to the best tapas at Cantina’s 663, there was very little to hate on this happening street.  In fact, if budget is a concern do not be put off by the likes of Must Wine Bar, Beaufort Street Merchant or Jackson’s as there are plenty of others in town that could feed for $20 or less.  I spent student days eating at a little Japanese shop called Tan PoPo while I discovered Mr Munchies Sushi’s a year or two ago.  And now, Five Bar on 560 Beaufort Street was my latest haunt.  Believe it or not, it was definitely a place that can feed for a moderate amount of money.  Here is my lunch experience.
First up were the Ham Hock & Cheddar Croquettes with Chutney  for $12.  Golden brown croquettes are best enjoyed right away.  It was crispy with a subtle hint of smokiness from the ham hock bits.  More decadent were the occasional bites of gooey melted cheddar :)!   My only dislike was the chutney.  When eaten it had a bitter taste instead of a fruity bite @@!
Next up was the Beef Tartare with Horseradish, shallots and brioche for $17.  While my beef intake has been quite occasional, coming across such a promising dish felt too hard to give a miss.  Fortunately the beef tartare was absolutely moreish with all the bits of pickle giving it a very intense flavor which was a mix of salty, sweet and sour.  Having the tartare with some horseradish and a sprinkling of shallot was a perfect pairing.
P1050017Beef Tartare with Horseradish, shallots and brioche.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFIVE’S Philly Steak Sandwich was around $15.  It was a nice bread with decent chunks of steak and caramelized onions all held together by a slab of melted cheese.  Now, if only we could get a little more sauce in there?! The first bite was good, but by the second one it turned bland.  More flavor and more sauce please!   This could have been a bad ass sandwich that could turn the biggest bread haters to lovers.
FIVE’S Bahn Mi Roll ($13) was another bread dish shared amongst the three of us that day. Hoisin pulled pork, coriander, mayo and chili in a ciabatta. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACould this Five Bar’s rendition on the classic Bahn Mi best its predecessors?  It really depends on how you feel a Bahn Mi should be.  For me the combination used at Five Bar lacked the necessary flavors which I dubbed the South East Asian kick.  A kick where each mouthful should bowl you over with a salty, sweet, and sour flavor with hint of heat.  Not to mention a refreshing bite that keeps you wanting more and more! I liked the coriander and chili bits but found the pork a little unenthusiastic and the use of the hoisin sauce unnecessary for such a bread classic as it feels a little cloying.  Or perhaps unnatural.  
Last but not least on the table were Noona’s Meatballs ($14)
P1050038At Five Bar, a serve of Noona’s will get you 6 tasty meatballs topped with a rich tomato sauce, cheese and a sprinkling of herbs.  Honestly, was would there be to complain about?  Simple pleasures for sure!  Worth ordering! But I wished they would have given a few toasted ciabatta on the side with a little more sauce to go with as it was not very filling for $14.  Saying that, I remember the yummy meal I had at Ace Pizza awhile ago! 
Our bill totaled to $96 dollars including a few rounds of drinks for my companions, but the meal itself would have been slightly over $60.  If you are an OK sized eater like myself, it is definitely enough to fill you up.  While there were a few ups and downs throughout the meal, I would thoroughly recommend the croquettes, beef tartare and meatballs which were delicious!  In terms of bread, I could have tried Five Bar’s highly rated Reuben Sandwich instead of the Bahn Mi or the Philly Steak.  But as I am a trigger happy person when it comes to ordering, I have no regret whatsoever.  Despite disliking the Bahn Mi or the Philly Steak, they were hardly a bad eat and would fall in the upper end of my “OK” scale.  Service was prompt and the environment at Five Bar is so laid back on a Sunday afternoon it feels right to come in and chill out.  There is also a pool/snooker table if you are keen.
Five Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bites: Duende @ Leederville

Many times have I stood at the queue in Sayers  only to point to the café opposite the road, insisting that we should try it one day instead of repetitively queuing up here.  Little did I know that the café was actually Duende, one of the restaurants that my blogger friends ChompChomp and more noticeably Queen of Bad Timing’s love dining at.  Coming in on a Sunday evening, the crowd seemed quite relaxed and it was not as busy as I expected.  Duende’s interior is simple but nothing overly loud or bold.  Then again, I am not critic when it comes to fashion!  The waitresses and waiters were all dressed casually or hipster-ish if you prefer but more importantly, the service here felt impeccable.  However, despite the sweltering 40 degree heat earlier that day, the cheeky waitress tried sitting us by the door only to be rejected by Bel.  Thank god we did not sit there!  Might have died.

Water was quick to come and our orders were taken as soon as Jordo arrived.  Tapas seems to be rather high on my list in the past few weeks.  Whether it was going to be Mexican, Spanish, Australian or Japanese, the concept of shared plate seems to get everyone’s nod of approval.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst thing to hit the table was the tomato and olive oil dip.  Despite looking like any other dip, this tasted so fine. Char-grilled bread went perfectly with the dip but those meager 4 slices barely started the meal.  Thank god we also had some more bread from the Jamon which the folks happily used to mopped up any remnants of tomato and olive oil dip OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe jamon was quite a bargain on first sight, but was it the best cured meat I have tasted? Definitely not.  But go on, give it a try ;)!

Next up was a waitress favorite.  One of the orders I typically do when I run into a dead end.  This was the grilled eggplant, haloumi and pepper salad. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pan-fried Haloumi was in full glory here.  Pan-fried delicious with its outer bits mildly crisp and perfectly browned.  The eggplant was grilled nicely and that went well with the salty haloumi and peppers.  My non-critique companions had a comment and it was that the dish as a whole tasted very much like a pizza.

Next up was Bel’s recommendation! The beetroot, goats curd, walnuts and honey.  Needless to say, I became instantly attached to this dish in my first bite.  The earthy yet juicy beetroots went so well with the walnuts and salty crumbs.  Not to mention the tangy goat’s curd that was in between a cheese and a yoghurt was seriously refreshing.  Also, who can forget the honey in the dish.  It just did wonders here.  This dish for me could be an appetizer, a main or a dessert.  Simply full of flavors.  The earthiness, the sugary-salty feel, and the nuttiness with a refreshing curd as well as textures that pleases the mouth.  So many things happening at the same time, but so well synchronized.  This was definitely my favorite dish of the night!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another pick for the night was the braised goat with cous cous.  If you love eating, you will love your goat.  If there was goat curry vs lamb, I would always pick the former despite it being more bony.  There is something about the unexplained gamey taste of the meat that does so well when cooked in curries.  And do not be too quick to judge me, I am no curry addict. But here, the flavors just did not seem to set off any explosions in my mouth.  Never mind the goat.  Lets talk cous cous.  Is it just me or is cous cous best served with a thick sauce that screams Mediterranean flavors or something with tomato in it.  My take on this is that if the sauce were to be watery, all you get is some mushy cous cous unless you get into it the moment it is served.  Pretty sure everyone like me, enjoy a cous cous that is light and fluffy.  Sadly the one we had was gluggy @@! Disappointment kept adding up for this dish. I declare it a write off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next up were the patata bravas.   It was too good to miss especially after reading the reviews of this around town.  Sadly my picture in no way justifies this dish.  It might be just chopped up deep fried potatoes but they were bloody good.  And hence, I officially translate its names to “Bravo Potatoes”.  The crispy potato bites were fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside and the generous seasoning of paprika was simply sensational.  The sauce that came with it had my friends thinking whether there were any peppers in there but for me, it was so fresh I could not care less.  Yums! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The last dish to hit the table was the Pork Belly with coriander, pine nuts, pomegranate and fennel slaw.  Again, so many things happening in one dish but did they all work together?  But never mind that, let the pork belly be the focus for now.  We had 5 people around the table and there were already some expectations set when we walk into a restaurant and have pork belly.  Needless to say, crispy skin came tops followed by a melt in your mouth meat.  So did Duende deliver?PC150055IMHO, no.  However, it was close to doing both.  The pork belly was tender and close to melt but not quite there.  Its skin after detaching the top and scrapping of the still hard lard, cracked like shards but it did not quite go all the way.  I was left with sticky bits up my tooth because of that.  The fennel slaw had a mild seasoning that is hard to complement either so hmmmm not the best and we found that the coriander lacked seasoning.  Honestly, I would have been really pleased with just the pork belly and a well-seasoned coriander salad alone.  Nevertheless, there was something that the whole table agreed on; that the grapes in this dish were extremely delicious.  If that counts ahah.


After we finished our food, I was rather full but the table said they could eat more.  So we ordered 5 desserts.  Needless to say, we really overestimated ourselves.  Sadly, it was already 7-ish that time and to get drinks and desserts to the table took them a whopping 25 minutes.  In comparison, all 10 of our tapas only took like 20 minutes to hit the table.  But that’s ok.  We had time for some photos. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABel and her boyfie


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         AC, Jordo and I.  A crew of retarded yet extremely fun people.

When the desserts came, I was chuffed.  Everything looked so pretty.  First up was the cream catalana or simply, crème brulee with biscotti.    The cream here was velvety smooth.  The hint of vanilla was just spot on but it was the sugar layer that disappointed us.  It felt a little too thick and not blow torched enough.  This resulted in a chewy sugar layer that stuck to our tooths.  While this was in no way perfect, it was not bad either!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next was the doughnut balls with condensed milk ice cream.  When it hit the table and I took a photo, it looked sensational.  Sugar coated – deep fried goodies looked like the ultimate no-fuss dessert tapas.  It was easy to share but was it easy to eat?  Probably one of the most obvious things was the sugar coating.  It was a tad over considering it was served with a condensed milk ice cream.  Nevertheless, it is something I could live with as the sugar easily dusts off! However, in each doughnut ball was an overpowering saltiness that seemed to smash my buds as I chew more and more.  For a while I thought perhaps a lump of salt got caught in my doughnut only.  Apparently not, as my friends voiced a similar problem with theirs.  Probably a one-off mistake as no one else online has encountered a similar problem!
PC150072Then comes its merits.  I loved the ice cream. Spiced condensed milk ice cream was genius!  Nothing new, but just delicious.  Served semi-melted, it was everything an ice cream should be.  Creamy, silky smooth, and despite expecting it to be overly sweet, the use of spices totally help make it just nice. Was it cinnamon?  Or maybe cardamom?  I do not know, the sugar and salt distorted my senses!  Despite flaws in the doughnut, I would definitely order this dessert when I return!  Very promising!

However, despite hearing rave reviews about the doughnut balls with condensed milk ice-cream, it was only second best that night.  Believe or not, it was a gluten-free dessert that blew me off my socks at Duende.   In fact, I think my gluten-intolerant buddy Chompchomp is going to be pleased to know about more GF treats in town!  The flourless chocolate and orange cake was totally awesome that night.  And please excuse the clotted cream, it was totally unnecessary.  I’d rather a scoop of ice cream please!  To simply put it together, the chocolate was super moist, RICH and not overly sweet.   Orange puree was fragrant and added another dimension to the dish.  A little bit like eating Lindt’s Dark Chocolate with Orange, with the exception that this was super moist!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Duende in a nutshell was a superb eating place.  But the use of square tables means like all other tapas places, unless you are actively on your foot, keep the group small to about 6 people to enjoy a good conversation.  If seated outside, it might be a little more romantic.  But honestly, the noise here just kills the mood.  But if it’s a drink, and some great bites you are looking for, definitely keep Duende in mind.  This restaurant sits pretty high at the top along with the likes of Cantina 663 and Old Crow. Or if it is Japanese, Bonsai and Ha-Lu!  So much too love! Not to mention, if it was not for the overkill on the desserts, food alone would have been only been $40 max.  Now, tell me what is not to like!  No wonder it is Queen of Bad Timing’s favorite too!


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