Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Grain Store, Melbourne CBD

The Grain Store is a relatively new entrant to the Melbourne food scene and it recently shot up the ranks at Urbanspoon. I was lucky enough to receive 4 invitations to the store opening and came by on a Friday night to be wined and dined. Thus, a full disclaimer is appropriate at this point to dispel any notions of potential impropriety.

Located at the other end of the city, The Grain Store adds a streak of cheeriness to the otherwise quiet  end of Flinders Lane. We arrived after a long trek from the other end of the CBD and we were thirsty and hungry when we were greeted by a very handsome and very well dressed doorman who ticked our names off his list and ushered us in.

There were plenty of drinks to go around and the staff were diligent in topping up our glasses. We enjoyed the wine and the bubbly and amused ourselves with The Grain Store's very inspired menu. There were a number of intriguing items that I would love to come back to try and we all agreed that it would make for a fantastic lazy weekend hangout. At the same time, the space is versatile and one could definitely imagine its appeal as a chic dining option and/or an after work hotspot.

Soon enough, we saw platters of food being circulated around the room. The canape selection was both thoughtful and extensive. Unfortunately, we sat closer to the bar than to the kitchen, and we did not get the chance to sample as much food as there were going around. 

At the conclusion of the event, we were all sent away with some sweet delights, and these delicious cookies and brownies certainly gave us reasons to revisit The Grain Store. 

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cru Food and Wine Bar, Dallas TX

Cru means a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized superior quality and thus it is no surprise that Cru is the chosen name for a series of wine bars in Texas. The space is dark and intimate and the services is comprehensive but unintrusive. In other words, it was a perfect place for a date - and this was certainly the case as all of the tables were filled with couples or prospectable couples (including ours, I suppose). 

M was still slightly distraught over a missent work email and let me have free reign over the menu. For entrees we shared a majestically rich cheese fondue, a slightly more delicate crab cake and a palate cleansing beetroot beets, kale and goats cheese salad. Our entrees were paired with a sweet 2011 Riesling from Germany that I really enjoyed. 

From there, we progressed onto mains of sea bass for M and short spare ribs for me. Which is to say that we made it really difficult for the sommelier to choose wine flights for us. He did rather well enough to please M with both his own set of three AND mine - which was good enough for me as I'm quite indifferent towards my wine, and especially reds whereas M is rather excitable on the topic. His coffee table reading consists of The Economist, TIME, The Wine Enthusiast and a copy of the Wine Guide 2013.

We finished with the molten chocolate cake which was superbly oozilicious and its sweet richness complemented the remaining glasses of reds. 

Cru a Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Gui, Dallas TX

The original intention had been stuff our faces at Gui's before going to watch the Rangers, but M's work caused havoc with his best intentions and we ended up ordering takeout for the night so that he could his slides. 

Gui was really busy when we walked in with the restaurant almost full as well as a few other patrons waiting for their takeaway takeout orders at the bar. They told us that our orders would take about 20 mins so we went for a walk around the block (en route Starbucks of course!). 

When we came back, our order still wasn't ready, but the staff did keep checking on it and were persistently apologetic about its delay. It was finally all done after about another 20 mins of waiting and they were nice enough to give us some complimentary edamame to make up for the lateness. When we unpacked the food, I was gobsmacked by how much of it there was, no wonder I received a very very affirmative nod when I asked if I had ordered enough for two people. 

My favourite would have to the be the sashimi combo which consisted of a huge amount of chunky, varietally diverse, good quality, fresh fish. Meanwhile, the spicy dragon roll was pretty intense and tantalisingly set my mouth on fire after consumption, and the popcorn lobster roll sitting in the background was also goddamn gobsmackingly good! 

Gui Korean Japanese Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Brunetti, Carlton

I’d always taken it as gospel that Brunetti’s was a heralded institution representing sweet delights and irresistible temptations. Until I visited their Carlton store for the first time a few months ago, I had not fully appreciated the full extent of the Brunetti enterprise. The full selection of more than hundreds of cakes, pastries, biscuits, and other sweet offerings made me realise just why Brunetti's has earned its reputation.

We arrived one night after I’d finished work early and even at 10:30, the place was buzzing with people. When I expressed my wonderment, P told me that it was usually even busier and we were lucky that we could secure a table without too much searching.  

There were endless rows and rows of delicious offerings and my mind boggled at the choices. I was so overwhelmed, that I ended up with some rather tame options. The cannoli is an old-time favorite and this one was quite good. The outside was crisp and the custard soft - although, my personal preference would have been for the custard to be slightly more creamy and less gelatinous. Given their Italian heritage, I was intrigued at the rather extensive selections of macaron flavours and chose three for assessment. To their credit, the flavours were distinguishable and they were well-made. The last item that shall have to remain nameless for now as I can't quite remember what it was called. But it was definitely my favourite and reminded me of a vanilla slice. It is essentially puff pastry enclosed around a substantive amount of custard, and glazed with sweet sweet icing - irresistible!

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hotaru, Melbourne CBD

This bustling sushi train joint is ubiquitously located upstairs at 200 Bourke Street. Customers take a set of non-descript elevators from next to the bubble-cup shop and arrive amongst a myriad of mostly empty shop fronts. If not for the line of people flowing out the door and around the corner, it would have taken us far longer to stumble upon the tucked away entrance.

At $3/plate for the majority of the menu, it’s easy to understand its popularity.  We were quite lucky to get seated soon after our arrival as there were only the two of us and we didn’t mind sitting at the bar. It was P’s first time at sushi train, but I was giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to snatch plates off the train tracks. We were in prime location to do this as we were seated close to the sushi chefs and the plates had to travel past us to get to the rest of the restaurant.

In quick succession, I had procured about three plates of freshly prepared sushi for immediate consumption, and had also used the touch screen (oh YES! YES! YES!) in front of us to order more food. The quality and standard of the offerings were both outstanding given that most plates were reasonably priced at $3. Of course, there are pricier and more substantive items on the menu, and even those represent good money for value. The service is more than adequate and more than what I would expect from a place that utilised touch screens. After an hour of binge consumption, P threatened call it quits when the towering stack of plates threatened to topple over. Even my evil eyes weren’t enough to convince P otherwise.  

After terse negotiations, he reluctantly agreed to dessert as the desserts don’t come on plates that could be added to the plate stack, and therefore, ratio decidendi for ceasing consumption was not applicable to those instances

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon