Friday, December 21, 2012

Fairfield Park Boathouse, Fairfield

To fulfill a challenge (and perhaps in an attempt to make me happy), P planned for us to undertake a series of activities selected for my sake. One of those activities involved the age-old tradition of taking afternoon tea.

Fairfield Park is a secluded oasis situated less than fifteen minutes away from the CBD and amidst the urban sprawl. We fed ducks in the nearby river and contemplated the rowing boats before we came for afternoon tea at the Boathouse. Retaining the charms of a bygone era, the Boathouse is an old building which now houses the cafe serving coffee and tea, and cakes and biscuits and most importantly, scones! There is also another vendor serving savory options and hot foods.

We chose a spot outside on the veranda overlooking the river, enjoying the sunshine, a mild breeze and easy conversations. Sitting there, it was as if time stood still and that moment could have been infinite. 

As we waited for our fresh scones, we indulged in some childish scribbling and this masterpiece was the result of our collaborative efforts: a five tiered embellished tree surrounded by presents, guarded by a roly poly ball of furry intelligence, in front of a blazing fire made of real wood, with stockings plentifully filled with treats and a hunting rifle to complete the scene. Merry Christmas everyone!

Fairfield Park Boathouse & Tea Gardens on Urbanspoon

Cafe Rosamond, Fitzroy

I'm not usually in the habit of writing immediate reviews. However my visit tonight to Cafe Rosamond for their Dessert Night warranted me undertaking such an endeavor. The primary reason is that I am wary that I would forget the multitude of flavors and ingredients presented to us.  

This difficulty occurs because there was no menu on Dessert Night, and the main ingredients and dominant flavours are verbally communicated by the staff as each course is served. At the beginning of the night, patrons are asked to select from one, two or three course, with test tubes served as a starter. We decided to share the three course option between the two of us, but with a separate test tube each. 

The test tubes were delightfully fun to consume and tonight's was inspired by the classic apple crumble. Perhaps the best way to describe them would be to liken them to oversized dessert straws, through which we suck up the apple jelly, the vanilla custard and the sweet crumble. Also, because it was close to Christmas and because tonight was the last Dessert Night of 2012, we were also served creamy and rich eggnog which complemented the test tubes wonderfully.

Our first course relied on a coupling between berry and lavender to create a harmonious and admirable entree. The flavours were mostly mellow and the parts which made up this dish were mostly soft and malleable. 

The main course was a bit more ambitious and attempted a polygamous marriage of hazelnut, coconut, lemon, and caramel. It was an intriguing mix which was surprisingly refreshing and light.

The third course, which was dominated by the juxtaposing of chocolate against balsamic vinegar, was perhaps my favourite for the night. This was strong, unapologetic and hypnotizing.

Overall, tonight was an interesting and memorable experience. My tastebuds were enticed and my palate was challenged. I was really impressed by the brave and unconventional combination of flavours and the strange and eclectic utilisation of ingredients. The array of different techniques employed to create the many elements in each course were wide ranging and showcased both skill and confidence. However, even so, the first course and the third course felt very similar both in terms of presentation and technique. Also, it is worth noting that the $50 price tag is pretty hefty and the portion sizes weren't exactly overwhelming, which was great for the calorie count but left me wanting. 

Café Rosamond on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Golden Fields, St Kilda

This belongs to that new wave of Asian fusion restaurants which seems to have captured the hearts and souls and eager mouths of Melbourne. Secretly I am proud of the influx of Asian influence on Australian cuisine. However, I am also usually quite hesitant to have great expectations because I'm never sure whether their claim to fame is because they are actually very good, or rather because they are regarded as exotic and different and therefore interesting. 

Overall, Golden Fields performed well. Their signature lobster rolls were memorably delicious and devastatingly addictive. They were just too good and we obsessively mulled over how we could replicate these at home.

For mains, we deferred to the daily special as all of us are quite obsessed with pork belly. The pork belly was pretty perfect, although we find the portion size to be a bit small. Although each serve was recommended for sharing between two, I could have easily finished the whole thing by myself. Thus it was unsurprising that the boys grumbled a bit about this. 

We also found it a bit odd that the freshly shucked oysters that we'd ordered arrived after our mains were cleared away. All of us didn't relish the idea of slippery oysters followed by dessert. Perhaps, influenced by this perplexing turn of service, the boys chose more lobster rolls for 'dessert'. Actually, who am I kidding, the lobsters were just THAT good.

As for the actual desserts, they were needless to say, divine! I loved both equally. Luckily for the boys, we were happy to share the calorie count.

Golden Fields on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Fussy Connoisseur of Simple Foods

Eating with P has taught me to consider many aspects of food that I did not used to think about. 

P eats quickly and preferably in blissful silence, whereas I have a tendency to savor every bite and maintain appropriate levels of chit-chat between each bite. 

For him, eating is about energy - he eats because he needs to and consumes food in an efficient and methodical manner. On the other hand, I had grown accustomed to treating each occasion of eating as occasions. I eat out of obligation, appropriateness or even curiosity. In fact, I can hardly remember the last time I ate out of hunger. 

P is a fussy eater. He also prefers simple foods that are comforting, familiar and uncomplicated. In many ways, he is much more discerning about his food than I am. For me, I'll eat most things that land on my plate. If it's good, I'll eat it and then rave about it, if it's not that great, I'll probably still eat it and then rant about it. 

After almost a year of eating with him, I've compiled some of P's favorite and trusted places where he can be guaranteed a quick, easy, and simple meal. 

1. P loves pho, and there is only one place where he can find pho made to his liking. The main reason is that Saigon Pho is one of the few places who offers pho with grilled chicken. As odd as that is to me and the populace at large, it is the only topping that P will ever have with his pho. To be fair, the pho here is quite good and I've also grown to like this place for its clean premises, efficient service and friendly owners. 

But most of all, I think I like coming here because it makes him happy. 

Saigon Pho (Carlton) on Urbanspoon

2. Recently, P shared one of his all time favorite eateries with me. The fact that P even keeps such places surprised me. Frankly, I should have been affronted by the fact that it took him this long to trust me with such intimate details of his eating preferences.

Marios Cafe on Urbanspoon

3. For something that is convenient and easy, P always takes me to Qube. It's a local cafe near his place and we come here when we are lacking the mental rigor and/or emotional capacity to contemplate and/or debate other options. The food is usually pretty alright, the service passable and the prices tolerable. The menu contains most of the usual suspects, although the specials board usually offers some creative choices. There is also a tempting selection of desserts that we are always and forever promising each other that we will try.

Cafe Qube on Urbanspoon

4. P has just only very recently given his tick of approval to Spicy Fish, after we came here to satisfy his dumpling cravings. He confessed that he had been longing for dumplings since I'd gotten him hooked on them in Shanghai. Since then, he has tried to satiate his cravings, but has been mostly unsuccessful. Thus we both agreed that my guidance on this quest for epicurean fulfillment would be highly fitting. We had an enjoyable meal interjected with rounds of 13, and we left Spicy Fish happy.

Spicy Fish on Urbanspoon

The European

There are memories like these which still have the power to trigger a twinge. They remind me of how carelessly and recklessly I destroyed something that could have been good. That is why, The European continues to serve as a bittersweet reminder of TOTGA and what could have been.

The European has become a Melbourne institution and it would be hard to imagine this end of the CBD without its omnipresent presence and its patrons crowding the sidewalks. There is a vast selection of wines and we shared half a bottle between us. The food menu is also quite extensive and we were spoilt for choice. On this occasion, we picked a few things to share and these pork belly parcels were a standout.

The European on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ludlow, Southbank

The Ludlow reminds me of a balanced mix between its South Bank neighbors, World and Left Bank. It possess both casual cool and corporate chic. The space has been set up to accommodate an array of occasions, and there are a range of seating options. Staff were friendly and helpful and the other patrons looked pleasant enough. 

However I remember that the food was not very memorable, and my salad was especially average. Perhaps I was merely receiving my comeuppance for ordering salads, but it was something that I could have whipped up at home on a lazy day. 

Bar Lourinhã, Melbourne CBD

We were only here briefly one Sunday afternoon, on our way to dinner elsewhere. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves enough to want to come back and sample more of their delights, and experience the full menu. Tucked away at the top end of Little Collins St, Bar Lourinha has a subtle kind of charm. 

I had been drawn here by their infamous lardo soldiers and sure enough they were absolutely and gobsmackingly amazing. Their awesomeness can be contributed to them being simultaneously crunchiness and juicy with fat. Even the thought of them has made me lick my lips as I recall their unforgettable decadence.

Bar Lourinhã on Urbanspoon

San Choi, Kew

Dinners with family friends always leads to inevitable bouts of food coma. San Choi is an all time favourite because the food is reliable and we never grow tired of their signature dishes. There are private dining rooms and our family friends seem to find this familiar feature comforting. (In the earlier days, they used to be oh-so-confuddled by the scarcity of private dining rooms in the fine restaurants of Melbourne.) In addition, the kitchen is usually quite accommodating and has cooked to order.

Some of our favourites include the deep fried pig trotters, the steamed fish and San Choi is also very good at cooking lobsters and/or crabs. I recall when one of our family friends felt particularly ravenous a few months back and decided to order both. Personally I prefer the taste of lobster meat, but San Choi employs a vermecelli base with its crabs which makes for an interesting change from the usual.

San Choi on Kew on Urbanspoon

The Merrywell, Southbank

Eating and drinking at The Merrywell on a sunny afternoon made me merry. After introducing the guys to one another, they soon became engrossed in their discussion of various big ideas. This suited me just fine, as I was left to eat and drink to my heart's content.

The Merrywell brought back many fond memories of America. The food is unapologetically fattening and the portions are obnoxiously large. All that greasy deliciousness washed down with swigs of sweet fizziness made me so content. 

It was hard to pick a favorite but Y is a huge fan of the fries and it was actually his cravings which had brought us to The Merrywell. The chicken was of course for P, and he steadfastly ate most of it without acknowledging the fact. As for the onion rings, they were perhaps one of the best that I have ever had in Melbourne. I was only too sad that the guys became too full, too quickly, and didn't want to stick around for a round of burgers. 

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon

Ora Cafe, Kew

One otherwise fine morning, I awoke to a decidedly indecent image of crispy pork belly on my Facebook newsfeed. Crispy pork belly at breakfast?! Really, it was sinful! I was affronted by this explicit depiction of a feast to which I had not been privy to and Ora was forever burned into my memory. 

So a few weeks later, when E invited me to breakfast with him at Ora, a little part of me relished in the satisfaction of finally being vindicated. I arrived in eager anticipation, but alas, there were no offerings of crispy pork belly on the specials board that morning. In fact, it was an unusually hectic Monday morning and the specials board hadn't even been written up - as a small business, this was totally understandable. 

In the end, I finally decided on the Walnut Eggs as I was curious about the bird's nest component of the dish. As a truly Asian-Asian, references to 'bird's nest' tend to be interpreted literally. However on this occasion, 'bird's nest' referred to strands of lightly spiced and lightly fried vermicelli made into an edible basket merely meant to resemble a bird's nest. This was filled with a refreshing salad of bright leaves and stems which enhanced the dish's poignancy. The eggs had been hard boiled to perfection and then crumbed with a spicy coating. Their yolks ran beautifully when cut and toast soldiers were provided for mopping it all up. 

Overall, I was quite pleased with my dish although I felt a little tug on the heartstrings when I looked over at the table next to us and saw that the bird's nest component of my neighbor's dish was much much more substantial than mine. Actually, who am I kidding, I experienced massive food envy and raged on the inside.

As I was paying, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the sweet temptations displayed on the counter, and bought one of the doughnuts and a cupcake. The cupcake looked fairly decent and tasted fairly decent but it was still not worth the $5 price tag. The doughnut on the other hand was pretty disappointing as the filling did not even go halfway down and I had to eat it with copious amounts of Nutella to make up for the lack of sweetness. 

Ora Cafe on Urbanspoon