Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pork Barrel

Location: King George Terrace, Parkes, ACT
Phone: (02) 6273 1455
Cuisine: Cafe, Modern Australian

Usually the location of Friday night drinks, Pork Barrel also serves up an array of amazing wood-fired pizzas as well as a more modest selection of various mains on their specials board.

On this one occasion, I ordered a risotto with chorizo, olives and Parmesan cheese:

Risotto with chorizo, olives and Parmesan

My first thoughts when this dish was served to me was how huge the serve was! Then there was the beautiful aromas of the chorizo, tomato based sauce and the Parmesan cheese. The risotto itself was well-cooked and the chorizo was full of flavour. The flavours of the dish were also quite balanced despite most of the ingredients having strong flavours of their own.

One of the more impressive risottos I've had, and all for only $18.

Pizzas are generally half-price for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so it's worth giving it a go. We went there for a divisional lunch and the meal ended up costing us around $7 a head.

Drink-wise, happy hour is between 5pm and 6pm, and from memory features cheap beers. Having never had a beer there before, I can't vouch for the quality, but it is a post-work watering hole and thus I gather the beer is at least decently drinkable - if beer is your kind of thing.

Overall Impression: 9/10
Pork Barrel Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spicy Ginger Cafe

Location: 25 Childers Street, Canberra, ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6162 1708 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (02) 6162 1708      end_of_the_skype_highlightingLink:
Cuisine: Chinese, Sichuan

We sort of stumbled across the place accidentally - we were actually headed to Shanghai Dumpling Cafe which was completely full and at a friend's recommendation, we headed to the place next door. No regrets!

Pork belly

This was the first dish out, a simple pork belly dish. There's a reason why the Chinese aren't renowned for their pork belly - it was simply stir-fried in a way which does not capture the beautiful textures of the meat. The dish was, however, well flavoured and a welcome break from all the spicy food we had ordered.

Spicy pork ribs

This was recommended to us by a waiter, who suggested it as a replacement of a chilli pork dish we had contemplated ordering. And the waiter wasn't wrong - the pork was crispy on the outside and coated in a mouthwatering spice mixture. The meat was still somewhat juicy, albeit a little dry from the frying.

Garlic eggplant claypot

This eggplant was amazing, and comes second only to the eggplant dish at Dainty Sichuan in Melbourne (which reminds me that I still need to review Dainty's). The eggplant was soft and but still had some shape - the results of deep frying in hot oil. The sauce had a distinct sweet chilli and garlic flavour, but there was definitely a good combination of sweet, sour and spiciness.

Deep fried chicken with dried bullet chillies

I remember ordering a similar dish to this at Dainty Sichuan, but it was served in a wok. This was unfortunately no match for its predecessor. The chicken was a little overcooked and quite dry. The flavours were still amazing and the dish itself was quite spicy (you should be able to tell from all the chillis in the picture). Probably would not order this again - there are plenty of chilli chicken dishes to choose from.

Prices are a little upmarket from the usual small Asian eatery, but for Canberra standards, the price was pretty decent. Four dishes plus rice between five people cost us about $18 each. Not a bad deal for a cold night out.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10

Tien Vietnamese Restaurant

Location: 19-27 Woolley Street, Dickson, ACT
Phone: 02 6162 1988
Cuisine: Vietnamese

Located on one of the main restaurant strips in Canberra, Tien in Dickson was pretty impressive. Especially since I had lowered all expectations of what Canberra's version of Vietnamese food would be.

For entrée, we ordered a fried marinated quail to share:

Fried marinated quail

The quail impressed! The skin was beautifully crispy and had the wonderful aromas of wok-fire and lemongrass. The meat was sweet, juicy and succulent. The quail had been marinated very well, and with the spice mix and a squeeze of lemon, there was an amazing combination of sweet, salt and tang.

Onto the main, a traditional Vietnamese com tam bi suon cha:

Com tam bi suon cha
(broken rice with grilled pork, fried egg, steamed pork and shredded pork)

The presentation of this dish was probably one of the prettiest I have ever seen this dish presented. As for the food, it was pretty average - the same as one would expect to get in Springvale, Footscray or Richmond. The pork had a nice smoky grilled flavour to it, and the egg was done perfectly. The steamed pork was a little bland and had an odd texture - generally it is quite smooth, but this erred on the the lumpy side. The fish sauce definitely had a nice punch to it.

The bonus was the broth, which I had thought perhaps they would omit up here in Canberra, but after the main dish arrived, they brought it out. Oversalted, but I had definitely missed the flavour of the spring onions and fried shallots.

Pricewise, it was expensive for Melbourne standards, but quite average for Canberra standards. The serving sizes were generous, but dishes that would cost $7-$8 in Melbourne, were in the $12-$14 range.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Tien Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Badger Creek Blueberry Farm Winery & Cafe

Location: 11 Garnook Grove, Badger Creek
Cuisine: Cafe style food

Driving up and around the Dandenongs, we had seen a 'Blueberry farm' sign. So we thought we would check it out. We ended up at the Badger Creek Blueberry Farm Winery & Cafe!
Had lovely iced coffees together and then realised there were blueberry smoothies on offer but it was too late! Will definitely have to try them the next time I'm in Healesville!
Overall Impression: 6/10
What a lovely cafe! Really wish we had more time there to actually pick some blueberries.

Dragon Boat Palace

Location: 149 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Cuisine: Chinese

For someone who doesn't enjoy Yum Cha, I sure do end up having it quite a lot. And this time, it was of the all-you-can-eat variety...

We went all out and ate til we had to unbuckle our belts!

Overall Impression: 5.3/10
I do apologize for the decimal place... but I liked Chinatown's Dragon Boat just a tad better. It just had a nicer ambience, I think. And the all-you-can-eat style yum cha at Dragon Boat Palace meant, everyone was engulfing everything pretty quickly so the waiters were under a lot more pressure. So, you end up being surrounded by really stressed people. And then you start feeling really stressed... So, maybe thats why I didn't think the ambience was as good.
Dragon Boat Palace on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dragon Boat

Location: Chinatown, Melbourne
Cuisine: Chinese

I've never really been a Yum Cha fan. And no, Dragon Boat hasn't changed my mind.
But everybody else in my family loves it so we decided to check out the newly refurbished Dragon Boat in Chinatown.

The service was quick. Given it was very busy, the waiters did very well.

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Great variety and good service. Highly recommended if you want to get your 'Yum Cha' on.
Dragon Boat on Urbanspoon


Location: Crown Casino, Southbank
Cuisine: Modern Australian

Veal shank
slow-cooked veal served with mashed potatoes and vegetables
This is the second time that I've had the Veal Shank and its as delicious as ever. My plate was licked clean. The veal was bursting with flavour and falling off the bone. The mash was deliciously buttery =) The only down side was the vegetables. They had simply been boiled and then tossed on the plate but I really didn't mind since the Veal and the mash was sooo good.

My friends had steak and said it was tender and cooked to perfection.

Overall Impression: 6/10
Great for a casual catch-up dinner! Service was pretty good. Waiters served us crusty white bread upon arrival with a smile. Food arrived promptly and was yummy =)
Margo;s on Urbanspoon

Match Bar & Grill

Location: 249 Little Lonsdale Street
Cuisine: Bar

Its weird but everytime we can't figure out where to go for drinks, we end up here...
Decent cocktails..

Pretty lights...

Beautiful view of the State Library...

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Its pretty average, for Melbourne standards but its just so conveniently located. Just off Swanston St in QV, I guess its not a bad choice.
Match Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Atrium Bar

Location: Queensbridge Street entrance, Crown Casino, Southbank.
Cuisine: Bar

Was here during one of Atrium Bar's 'Unwind Fridays'.

From left: 'Mai Tai' and 'Basil Me Jack'
Both DELICIOUS. The 'Basil Me Jack' tasted like a very good mojito! YUM

Complimentary canapes...
This photo was taken after we had engulfed the steamed pork buns...
$8 Feature Cocktails
Melon Sour
Summer Punch
Japanese Slipper
Pear and Hazelnut Martini
Strawberry Sorbet
Brandy Alexander
Mai Tai
Fluffy Duck
Strawberry, Mango or melon Daiquiris
Mark Twain
Basil Me Jack

Overall Impression: 6.5/10
Location wise? Probably not the best. Its at one of the entrances to the casino...the one closest to the Atrium, to be exact. But this detail quickly fades into the background once you've sampled one of their $8 cocktails. Deliciously amazing! And they are VERY generous with the alcohol bit of the cocktail too. The complimentary canapes will surprise you (in a good way... Having said that, I did have low expectations). Live music on the baby grand piano wasn't too bad either ;)

Healesville Hotel

Location: 256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
Cuisine: Pub Restaurant
We decided to try Healesville Hotel as it was once hatted.

Shepherd's Pie
slow cooked lamb with vegetables, minted peas and rocket

Parmesan crumbed Chicken Schnitzel
roasted tomato, crispy bacon, cos and thick chips
Overall Impression: 5/10
Decent pub food. Nice and relaxed ambience.
Healesville Hotel on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Marrakech Cocktail Bar

Location: 25 Bank Place, Melbourne CBD
Cuisine: Finger food

Overall Impression: 5/10
Suitable for after work drinks. Nice and cosy but has a lively buzz about it. Be sure to try the Pizzette With Olive,White Anchovie And Provolone!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Strand

Cuisine: Seafood, Modern Australian

Freshly Baked Crusty Campagne Baguette with Cannellini Bean, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Aged Balsamic
Beautiful bread to start. I've never had to pay for bread at any fine dining restaurant but for $3, this was well worth it =)

Whole Baked Snapper, Piquant Red Curry Sauce, Fried Shallots and Pickled Watermelon
The pickled watermelon was a miss. I suspect they were trying to do some 'fusion' thing by having the pickled watermelon. Traditionally, curry is served with raita, a Pakistani and Indian condiment based on yoghurt and used as a sauce or dip. So, maybe they thought instead of raita, which is sour, let's go with something else that is sour like.. umm.. pickled watermelon?
Let's not.
Oven Roasted NT Wild Barramundi Fillet Crusted with Peanut, Corriander Pesto, Sauteed Mustard Cress with Soy Ginger Dressing
The barramundi was beautifully fresh. Nice and simple.

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Prompt service. Great location that overlooks the harbour.
The Strand on Urbanspoon