Sunday, August 30, 2009

J Kitchen at the Coast

J Kitchen
Center Arcade, 3131 Surfers Paradise Boulevard

Those who live in Brisbane know that it's getting quite Summery these days. If these last few days of Winter are a taste of what is to come Dec, Jan and Feb, I'd say with a good degree of confidence that we're in for a scorcher.

On this plus side, this means sunny skies and time for the beach. On the down side, pants are losing out in favor of skirts and everything is getting shorter. In other words, it's becoming increasingly unsuitable to hide extra lumps and bumps behind layers of clothing. Hot weather fashion is unforgiving. Time to watch what I eat.

Last weekend, my parents decided I was just too bored for my own good. A trip to the Gold Coast was announced and off we went. For some reason, the traffic along Gold Coast Highway was beyond atrocious so that by the time we got there, all we wanted to do was have lunch.

I remembered this little arcade of Asian eateries when I was last at the coast so that's where we headed. After tossing up between a few joints, we settled for J Kitchen, which is a casual Japanese-style eatery.

Now, I'm quite sure I remember the name of this place right; besides, it's in the photos and on the menu. But, no matter how hard I Google, I can't find an address for it.

Lucky for you, I'm infinitely resourceful. I remembered a bubble tea shop I tried that was located near J Kitchen. I found its address and learnt that this arcade of Asian eateries is actually called Center Arcade on Surfer's Paradise Boulevard. Smart, huh? There's also Thai, Cantonese and Chinese all in the same joint so it's worthwhile to checkout if you're after cheap Asian food.

When we entered, there were no empty seats except a 'reserved' table. The ladies assured us that we could take that table... so we did. The menu is huge and full of photos but it's a bit embarrassing that the page I took a photo of has so many 'not available' stickers on it.

Between us, we ordered a 2 rice dishes and a noodle dish to share.

Vegetable and seafood noodle stew

Mum's noodle dish came first. I'm having trouble remembering the exact title of the dish but it's a noodle stew with lots of veggies, some seafood bits and pieces and mushrooms. She's quite cynical about Japanese food but thought this dish was pretty tasty. I thought it was sort of average.

Special eel rice

Dad had chosen the special eel rice. It was a bit like a mix between a fried rice and a heavy porridge. This dish was full of flavor and had quite a good portion of eel. Out of the 3 menu choices, this was my favorite.

Sukiyaki rice

My pick was the sukiyaki-don. I've really enjoyed hotpot-style sukiyaki in the past. This is pretty much the rice version. The sweet soy beef on top of the dish tasted alright - just a bit dry. I like the onion (perfectly matches the flavors of sukiyaki) and egg. The rice underneath was plain and boring so I left it alone.

Miso soup

Each menu item comes in 'regular' size or 'large'. Regular is already pretty massive so I recommend you choose that, unless you're REALLY hungry. Our rice dishes also came with complimentary miso soup.

The service at J Kitchen was fast and the waiters spoke Japanese to each other. This is somewhat reassuring for authenticity. The layout is cute and food is affordable.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bit slow...

Hi there,

I realize my updates have been few and far in between of late. I moved house quite recently and have just dived head first into loads of uni work so it's a bit hard to find time to cook and eat out. I had a few cooking disasters because I've got to get used to using the BIG OVEN (as opposed to my little portable one) but I promise to get back on the horse.

There are a few posts waiting to be done up but I'm missing some photos for whatever reason so they're NEARLY there. Just keep checking!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family Meals

Dinner with the Parents
Guest Chefs

I dug up some photos from a few weeks back when my parents decided to cook up a feast for me. My memory is a bit hazy but I THINK the occasion was uni-related so possibly, end of exams.

It was during the cooler Winter days and we had just tried the lamb hot pot from Newway a week before. Dad figured he could do better so that's what he set out to do.

Our meal consisted of grilled scallops, a braised goat dish and stir-fried sandcrab.

Braised goat hot pot

I'll give it to him - dad's goat dish absolutely owned over the version we had at Neway. The goat pieces were tender and falling apart and the skin had become gelatinous and sticky: perfect for winter. Great flavor balance too - he used star anise, peppercorns and Chinese five spice (though the exact quantities are 'secret').

Stir-fried sandcrab with ginger and shallots

I'm not crazy about sandcrab so no comments there but we can agree that the photo looks appetizing.

Baked scallops with pork mince

No idea what mum was doing with the scallops but there was pork mince on there... not exactly a match made in heaven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Antarctic Circle

Antarctic Circle
Shop 1, 2898 Logan Road, Underwood

I have quite a history with Antarctic Circle. My family and I started going there ages back, near when it first opened up. We are quite the bunch of carnivores (myself included) and everyone got really excited about this new-fangled 'wagyu' meat. Now, every 2nd cafe/restaurant/bistro on the block does something with wagyu which goes to show how long ago I mean.

At the time, the oily aroma of sizzling wagyu brought a tear to our eyes. We hadn't seen steak THAT thick and THAT fatty before. The steaks come out raw on the stone and you could literally trace the white marbling throughout. Sounds slightly gross but it smells and tastes like caveman heaven.

On the many occasions that I've eaten at Antarctic Circle, I've tried different grades of wagyu, I've tried the hot pot and also the new pork meat they have. Nothing really stacked up to the meat itself which IMO is what makes the restaurant unique. You could argue that other restaurants have wagyu steaks too but really, the best way to bring out the qualities of a top grade wagyu steak is to eat it au naturale. Minimal embellishments - let the meat speak for itself. Antarctic Circle did just that.

When my uncle's family came, this was another restaurant that dad wanted to show them because we've had such good experiences in the past. Most of us ordered the steak but mum and I were getting dizzy from all the feasting so we opted for the fish fillet hot pots.

We ordered a couple of jugs of sour plum juice to drink. If you're not sure what that's like, it's sort of sour, salty, sweet and 'dry' all in liquid form. Sounds odd but when chilled, is REALLY refreshing. I think it's a nice compliment to 'heavy' food like steak.

Sour plum juice

There are a few different cuts of steak to chose from. Each comes with appetizers: a thick slice of garlic bread, salad and a bowl of puff pastry soup.

Garlic bread slice

Salad with thousand island dressing

Creamy corn soup with puff pastry

If you order the hot pot, you get an individual pot to use. From the many soup bases to chose from, I picked the 'sour' base and mum picked the 'herbal' one. We ended up getting them mixed up so I got the herbal one. It had strong Chinese medicine flavors which might be 'eargh' for some but I quite liked it. There is a huge platter of veggies plus various fish balls, meat balls etc. We also got a big plate of fish. You can use the egg as dip or chuck it in the hot pot. There's even a bowl of rice.

Hot pot goodies (with the pot in background)

Raw fish fillet - to cook in the hot pot

Raw eggs - do with it as you please

I think the hot pot is a really nice idea for Winter because it's steamy and bubbling. Though there's a lot of food included with each individual serve, it's quite healthy and oil-free.

Chips and steak on a slab

As I mentioned before, the steaks come on a big, super-heated stone slab. They're raw to begin with and they are effectively cooked at the table on the stone. You have to cut and turn the pieces yourself though the staff are good at explaining and showing how it's done.

Charlie chopping up his steak; man, that looks uber rare to me

The steaks also come with a side of chips or spaghetti, veggies and some sauce (mushroom or pepper).

The main comment coming from my folks was that the steaks weren't as 'fatty' and fragrant as they used to be. From memory, they are cheaper too and so my dad theorized that maybe Antarctic circle decided there is less of a market for the really marbled wagyu meat, because everyone is more health-conscious, and so they changed their tactics. Who knows. The steaks were still tasty but not so much of a standout and more similar to steaks you get from anywhere else.

We ordered dessert for afters - everyone got a deep fried ice-cream. Regular readers know I'm fanatic about deep fried ice-cream. So long as it's the type I like (crunchy sponge cake outer layer, not the coconut outer layer), it's always going to be awesome to me. And yes, these ones were awesome.

Fried ice-cream ball with chocolate sauce

Inside of fried ice-cream

The general consensus from my party of 10 was that the steaks aren't as outstanding as they were in the past. That might be considered a good thing to healthy folk who don't want to see a steak that is 70% white when brought out. I'd probably recommend steaks elsewhere because if you're not going to get a 'special' steak, why waste effort cooking it yourself? The restaurant gets really smokey (poor ventilation) so you might as well spare the hassle. On the other hand, the individual hot pots are good value for money so I might head back for that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse

1 comment:
Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse

It's steak and it's crab... therefore, it must be good. Going back a few weeks, I became somewhat obsessed with Singapore chili flavored things. Ideally, I would have liked the crab version but due to monetary constraints, I settled for chili bug. I had it at Obsession and Adam's Oriental. Both dishes were awesome. All the same, it made me crave the real deal - the Singapore chili crab, if only because I knew there'd be more meat.

Through all my research, I found out that Kingsleys on Eagle Street Pier did a Singaporean Chili mud crab. That nugget of knowledge was filed away until the other day when I was called upon to recommend another restaurant for my family members. There are lots of big boys in my uncle's family and they like their steak. This seemed to be an intuitive choice.

When I made the booking online, I requested a table with a view. They managed to secure just that, a long table on the balcony overlooking Brisbane River and the Story Bridge. Just gorgeous.

My mum was freezing for some reason (I didn't think it was that cold) but they had those big heater things and our waiter was just lovely, moving them around to keep my fussy family defrosted.

I went with our waiters recommendations so we ordered a mud crab to share as an entree and individual mains plus some sides of salad and potato.

House bread and butter

We got some complimentary bread and butter to start with. The loaves were warm and fresh and just gorgeous with the butter. Later on, when the crab came out, my family commented that it would have been nice to save the bread till then to dip into the chili sauce.

Singapore chili mud crab (flown in live from NT)

The crab didn't take as long as I expected. It was quite a hefty mud crab! Granddad reckons that only restaurants can get prime stock like this. We had a piece each and boy, the mud crab sure got a good reception. Most of my family folks have only had mud crab the Chinese style, stir-fried with ginger and shallots, over a bed of noodles. This combination of tomato, chili of garlic flavors went down really well. There was even talk of doggy bagging the bowl of sauce but it didn't get to that point (thankfully).

Our selection of steaks came:

New York striploin - 120 day grain-fed, Riverine Premium Beef, marble score 2+

King crab carpet bag - crab meat & tarragon butter with bèarnaise

Scotch fillet rib eye - 120 day grain-fed, Riverine Premium Beef, marble score 2+

3 types of mustard to compliment the steaks

Though there were 9 people at our table, most chose the King Crab Carpet Bag steak so I don't have that many pics to share. My granddad declared that the carpet bag was very 'unique' because it combined crab and steak in one. He was impressed.

Inside of the carpet bag steak - revealing the crab meat

Mine was the NY striploin. It was cooked beautifully - perfect coloring in the inside.

Cross-section of the striploin

I liked the plain dipping sauce but also indulged in a bit of hot English mustard.

Warm butternut pumpkin, baby Swiss chard & chilli vinaigrette

Baked cheese potato gratin

Even the sides got compliments. My mum said the mixed salad had a nice dressing. I personally liked the pumpkin salad best. My cousin adored the baked potato (which was indulgent but indeed very tasty).

By the time dessert rolled around, we were all quite happy with the food at Kingsleys. Rather than choosing between the dessert options, I opted for the easy way out by ordering EVERY dessert item to share and taste. Definitely spoiling the table :).

Chocolate Ooze - with bourbon vanilla bean ice-cream

White Chocolate steamed pudding - raspberries & vanilla bean anglaise

Strawberries Romanoff - vanilla ice-cream & brandy snap

Banoffee tart - with caramel sauce

Creme brulee - with freshly baked biscuit

Out of our medley of desserts, my favorite was the banoffee tart though the strawberry basket was nice and fresh in its own way. A bit let down by the white chocolate pudding though you could say it's not very sweet and hence, better for the members of the group who don't like OTT desserts.

Overall, great experience. Loved the view. Wonderful waiter (he did such a good job coordinating the table, considering how confused and undecided my family members are; plus he wasn't half bad looking either :p) and excellent food.

Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chai Fan (Bok Choi Rice)

Chai Fan (Bok Choi Rice)
Home Cooking

When I feel like I need vegetables, I order salad or I made savory muffins/pancakes. When my parents feel like they need vegetables, they make 'chai fan'. I'm not sure if this is a specific Shanghainese thing or more trans-China but it's a meal staple, it's nutritious and it tastes good.

I'll run through the method that my mum uses but apparently, there's a lot of estimation because the technique is 'touchy'. Up to a certain point, the steps are straight forward and then, when you're adding water, call on your risotto instincts because the principle is very much the same: add water gradually until the rice is just cooked.

The basic ingredients are bok choi and rice. My family likes to add a bit of salted meat (dad salts and dries the meat himself) but obviously this is not available to everyone. Another tasty addition is Chinese sausage i.e. lap chong. You can buy these from any Asian supermarket - they look like thin salami sticks.

Chai Fan (Bok Choi Rice)
Serves 4-5

  • 2 bundles of bok choi (approx 750g)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cups of rice (uncooked)
  • 250g salted meat (or the same weight in lap cheong)
Salted meat


1. Chop the bok choi up - it doesn't have to be too fine.2. In a large wok, heat the vegetable oil and toss the bok choi in. Add the salted meat or lap choeng and stir-fry till the boy choi is wilted and the meat is just starting to change color (lap cheong won't change color but the fat inside will begin to render).
3. Add the rice and keep stir-frying until the rice granules start to go opaque white.4. At this point, transfer the whole lot into a rice cooker and add about 1 cup of water. Close the lid and flick the rice cooker on.
5. Once the rice cooker switches to 'warm' (as in, it thinks it's finished cooking), add a little more water (approx 1/3 cup at a time) and flick the switch again to 'on'.
6. Repeat this until the rice is cooked - might take 30min or even a bit longer. This is the tricky part because you don't want it to over-cook and become gluggy. The rice tastes best if the granules are still reasonably separated but you also don't want hard bits of uncooked rice. Adding the water gradually is the best way to do it (like when making risotto) but it's time-consuming and difficult to get right.
7. Once the rice is cooked, serve as is - no need for any dishes to accompany it. Usually, you don't need to add salt because the meat is salty but if you are doing a pure vegetarian version, you might want to add a bit of salt at the beginning in the wok.

All ready to serve

The success of chai fan really depends on the rice-cooking stage. The last time mum made this (when I took these photos), it turned out really yum. It's surprising how you can make something as boring as rice and bok choi taste so good. Chai fan is probably real 'peasant' food because it's cheap and simple but sometimes, you gotta think that they have the right idea.

Close-up (color is a bit off because of my camera)