Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aria Brisbane

Aria Brisbane
Eagle Street Pier, 1 Eagle Street Brisbane

Being an avid MasterChef Australia fan, I nearly flipped out after hearing that Matt Moran was opening an Aria restaurant in Brisbane. Sure, I knew about the restaurant in Sydney and it's amazing reputation, and I've seen Matt on OTHER shows (i.e. The Chopping Block) but what I was REALLY excited about was the chocolate tart from the finals.

It didn't really take me long to find time and make a booking. Unlike doing assignments and studying for end of semester exams, I can never be too busy/tired/lazy for a nice restaurant.

The restaurant is located on Eagle Street Pier, where the old Pier Nine was. The interior is classy, subtle and dim (which might be nice for the romantic type but not for me because I want good lighting for my piccies) and there's an impressive panoramic glass wall lining the riverside.

A really friendly waiter came and explained the 'specials' for today, which included an entree and main. I had already done my research online and knew what the day-to-day menu comprised of but was totally thrown off target with the specials. Incidentally, I ended up choosing one of them :D.

We decided to skip entrees and opted for a main each, with the intention of sharing dessert.

Amuse bouche

They start off with amuse bouche which was a cold, savory mushroom soup.

Complimentary bread and butter

Then, there's the complimentary bread and butter. The bread rolls were a bit too chewy for my liking but not bad either. I prefer bread served warm and crusty.

200g Blackmore Wagyu tri-tip, marble score 9+, 600 days grain fed, served with grilled asparagus, potato batons and bone marrow

Mains didn't take too long to arrive. I had ordered the Blackmore wagyu tri-tip which was explained to me as the 'bottom part of the sirloin', and it came with grilled asparagus, potato batons and bone marrow.

Steak cross-section with bone marrow bits

I got the steak served medium rare, as recommended. SO GOOD. REALLY AMAZING. I've sure had my fair share of steaks from over the place. One of the best, I reckon. It's really filling because the wagyu is 9+ grade so the 200g is more than enough. Loved the sauce... bit unenthused about the asparagus and potato though. I couldn't figure out what the bone marrow was, let my friend try it and he said (and I quote) 'that's a slab of fat... I think it was meant to melt over the beef'. I nearly died!

Luckily the waiter verified what it actually was and I can now sleep soundly at night knowing I don't have a nugget of pure fat trying to digest in my stomach.

Roasted cornfed breast with grilled cotechino sausage, cavolo nero and green olives

My friend ordered the chicken dish. It took at LEAST 15min to arrive at that point because he was so freaking indecisive. We normally all steer clear chicken dishes due to the boredom factor (sorry chicken fans! I hope Inhams doesn't send me a box of chicken essence). I asked for some feedback and the comments regarding the chicken are (my comments in brackets):
  • juicy, firm, moist
  • tasted like an expensive cut of chicken (lol at that one)
  • sauce tasted like lemon tart (I can vouche for that)
  • very unique
  • suitable garnish of large cut bacon and olive slices
That review is probably more thought out than mine. Maybe I should hire a bunch of cronies to write for me...

After the mains, we were feeling pretty confident about the quality so rather than sharing desserts, we picked one each. By which, I really mean that I picked 2 that I wanted to try. The chocolate tart was a given but I had read reviews about the banoffee which sounded promising.

Valhorna chocolate - rich chocolate délice with chocolate sorbet

Based on appearance, the chocolate tart wasn't as 'refined' as the one on MasterChef. I guess Matt Moran himself wasn't around to go the route of 100% perfection. It was REALLY chocolatey. The tart was chocolate x 1000000 concentrated as was the chocolate sorbet and macarons. Bit of overkill for me but not to say it's not great in its decadence.

Banoffee - banana brulee with caramel, almond praline and toasted almond milk ice cream

I have to agree with those who say the banoffee is better. It's basically a special take on creme brulee. There's a 'banana brulee' slab topped with little banana pieces that have delicate toffee tops. Also on the plate is some crumbled almond praline, a smear of thick caramel, almond milk ice-cream and mmm... it all matches up like GENIUS. Yeh! Btw banoffee = banana + toffee.

I had a great time at Aria. Lovely service, nice environment. Sure the prices are a bit on the high end of the scale but it's backed up with excellent quality and unlike the really snooty places, serving sizes are very reasonable. The steak was fantastic and that banoffee dessert has likewise left an impression.

Aria Brisbane on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 26, 2009

3 Courses (sorta) at the City Markets

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Jan Power's Farmer's Market revisited for MORE GOODNESS
Dining Out

I'm hoping it's not too soon for another market thread but given that I didn't actually go into detail re: specific stall recs, I think I'm safe?

There are occasions, as we probably all have experienced, where I wander around not knowing what I feel like eating and then, having settled for something out of convenience, I see something and think 'ARGH. That is SO what I wanted'.

This happened a few times with me about the Jan Powers Farmer's Market in Brisbane City (Brisbane Square, George St)... after clinic, I grab some food and THEN remember that the markets are on and that I've missed out on getting something from there instead.

One time a couple of weeks back, I was fortunate enough to be reminded of the markets in time for dinner so I had a ball going through and picking out things that looked good.

Ended up having myself a bit of a 3-courser though two of the items are sweet (being the sweet tooth that I am, I couldn't resist) so you decide which is 'entree'.

Having been to the markets a few times now, I notice that you have the regular stalls but there's a bit of alternation going on too. Not sure if it's because I just didn't see it before but on this day, I spotted for the first time a French bakery stall with piles of pastries, croissants (along with prevalence, it's one of those words I can never spell right) and breads.

Chocolate croissant

A well-made chocolate croissant is not something to be underestimated. I didn't even think twice about lining up and trying one. They were quite cheap - huge puffy croissant for $4. It was warm when I got it... very exciting.

Chocolate croissant interior

Verdict is: this is a bloody awesome croissant. Butter pastry flakes that are light and delicate with a warm, chocolatey interior. So good. I'm dying right now just typing about it.

After that, I was on a life high and also felt like something savory. Investigated for a bit (so much to chose from!) and settled for an organic beef sausage sizzle. There might be a stigma associated with sausage sizzles being a lazy way of raising money etc but I don't think it can be denied that they taste good?

Organic beef sausage sizzle

Quite the tasty

The beef sausage is full-flavored and very juicy (slash fatty/oily so be careful if you're watching your weight), served in some wholegrain bread with grilled onions and your choice of sauce. Greasy, yes but so satisfying all the same.

I was probably full at this point and should have headed home but sometimes you can be really convincing to yourself. I figured, if I'm onto such a good thing, why stop? Plus, I was back in the mood for something sweet and I did spot an ice-cream stall...

I chose 2 flavors in a cup (pistachio and Tobelerone). Pistachio is one of my favorite ice-cream flavors so I've had enough to pass judgement. This was one of the more 'artificial' tasting ones. The Tobelerone didn't taste like Tobelerone but just generally chocolatey and pretty good.

Pistachio and Tobelerone

Flavor criticism aside, I have to say that the texture of this ice-cream is amongst the best I've ever had. It's like when you get thick, non-fat-reduced Greek yogurt and compare that to Ski Light. This ice-cream was just beyond creamy - in a very, very good way. The plus is that they also claim to have less fat content than regular ice-cream. Any excuse will do, right? :D

The markets are really great for having a quick, tasty meal, any time of the day (as long as it's Wednesday). If you're sick of the conventional CBD dining options, this really expands your choices. You can take my recommendations on board but even if not, there are plenty of others to try.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Little Singapore in the City

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Little Singapore

Little Singapore is the first of those super successful Sunnybank eateries (incl Little Hong Kong, Malaya Corner, Vietnam Corner and Sunnybank Oriental) that has transposed into the CBD. Perhaps it's a bit odd but I haven't ever been to the Sunnybank location but I've tried Little Singapore in the city twice.

Last night, I went with a group of girlfriends, 2 of whom live in the city so being in their neck of the woods, I trust all recs.

Having been insomniac for the couple of weeks (exam stress + general state of anxiety about life = zombie-ing around on zero sleep), I've pretty much lost my appetite.

Explains the lack of posts recently.

BUT, I've gotten wonderful EXPERT reviews of the food from my girls so this post will be SUPER informative and awesome.

Little Singapore is located on Charlotte St, which late-night eaters might know better as 'the street with Pancake Manor on it'. I remember the first time I went there (this was ages ago by the way), there was some ridiculous police barricade that coincidentally blocked off all access to Little Singapore, minus ONE path that happened to be an excruciatingly long path.

Last night, there was no such atrocity so we made it in there all good and easy.

The menu is quite extensive... in that there are a lot to chose from, though I found myself constantly checking the back of the menu to see if there was more. Not really because I wanted more to chose from; maybe I just like double-sided menus. Multiple pages are better. This applies more to casual eateries than say, fine dining but there's just something interactive about being able to flip pages to see MORE.

We ordered a dish each to try.

Wonton noodle soup minus the noodles and with extra wontons

I heard great things about the wontons so that was the first thing I sampled. They're different to what we make at home but really fat, juicy and filled with chunky bits of prawn. So much better than the super-processed, package variety that's basically mush in a wonton wrapper.

Beef and tomato rice

The beef and tomato rice was really homely and tasty. Great flavors and a generous serving of meat and veg. For those who haven't tried anything like this before, you'll be surprised at how complimentary a tart/tangy fruit like tomato is with beef. And it's one of those dishes (like curry) that are made to be eaten with rice so don't forget to stir it up.

Ipoh chicken noodle soup

I ordered the Ipoh chicken noodle soup. No idea what Ipoh chicken means but after doing a quick Google search, I think it's a region? The chicken is quite plain, like what you get in Hainan chicken rice. The soup base is ordinary but I liked how they used pho noodles (the flat, rice noodles).

Seafood stir-fried noodles

The seafood stir-fried noodles looked really yum. The dish comprised of a bed of crispy fried noodles topped with various seafood/veggies and soaked in sauce. Huge serving too. These guys pile it up, no joking around.

The service was pretty good... and food comes out quite quickly too. Or maybe time passes quicker when you're in a group and chatting. Either way, Little Singapore is a great spot for some quick, inexpensive Asian food in the city. The environment's a bit nicer than your standard cafeteria-style eatery too, which is a bonus.

Little Singapore on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Home Cooking

It's such lazy, hot weather. So much so that I've stopped trying to avoid conforming with the masses of people whinging about the heat.

This is me having a whinge...



(no that wasn't a secret code; I was merely stamping angrily at my keyboard, at random)

My dog was so inanimate in the heat that he started collecting fallen flowers on his back

Moving on... so, lazy times call for easy food preparation. Something clean and fast.

Solution = Bill Granger's "Feed Me Now". I found a recipe for Japanese oyakodon, which is a dish of chicken and egg in sweet soy. The steps looked so easy and I was blessed by having all the ingredients at the ready. I divided the recipe below by 4 to make a quick lunch for myself.

Serves 4

  • 400ml dashi stock (I used dashi powder + water)
  • 125ml soy sauce (use dark if you want a darker color to your chicken)
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 chicken things, boned, skinned and diced (or 2-3 skinless chicken breast fillets)
  • 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • steamed rice and finely sliced spring onion to serve

1. Pour dashi into a medium saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Stir to combine.
2. Add the onion and chicken and simmer gently for 5min.3. Increase the heat, bring to the boil and gently pour in the beaten eggs. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2min.4. To serve, divide the rice between 4 deep serving bowls.5. Spoon the chicken, broth and egg over evenly until the rice is moistened. Sprinkle with finely sliced spring onion or shredded nori.

And then you mix it up...


I loved how this dish turned out. The sauce had a great flavor - sweet and salty.

The flavors and textures work so good all mixed together

I've had oyakodon in Japanese eateries before and this tastes almost exactly the same. The best part was how quick it was to pull everything together. This is definitely one to keep up my sleeve.

Wisteria blooms = summer looms

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chocolate Soldier

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Chocolate Soldier
275 George St, Brisbane CBD

It's always exciting when new things pop up in Brisbane. My friend told me about Chocolate Soldier and my ears pricked up because, well chocolate anything already sounds promising. When we went, she was going through a brownie phase and ordered a blueberry brownie. From memory, it tasted pretty good but I know one sample isn't enough for me.

Soon , I went back to investigate further. (For the sake of knowledge, obviously).

In fact, I have been a total of 3 times. On each occasion, I stop by to get an item or 2. I've finally eaten enough from Chocolate Soldier to be able to give an adequate review.

Usually, I walk past in the mornings and order something take-away. To get into Chocolate Soldier, you brave these huge revolving doors. I'm not a fan of revolving doors.

The cafe is located in the foyer of a large office building. There are a few indoor tables and some on the outside too. Chocolate Soldier offers a selection of breads, cakes, pastries and drinks. They offer savory items at lunch too. And of course, chocolate.

The mornings tend to be quite busy. The staff are energetic and robust. I haven't really had issues with the service but on 2 occasions, I sat down without any cutlery and no one offered to bring me some. Once, I had gotten take-away (they just assumed I wanted take-away because I didn't specify, even though I had actually wanted to eat there). Another time, I was actually eating there so I thought it was weird that they brought out a plate of banana bread without any cutlery.


The coffee is quite good. Strong and consistent. They offer Campos coffee.

Buttered raisin toast

When I ordered the raisin toast, I thought it was a bit costly but you actually get 2 slices. I had them buttered and at first, the salted butter seemed like a nice contrast but then, it got distracting.

Toasted banana bread

The banana bread is lovely - it's different to the one from Bar Merlo.

Banana bread texture shot

This one is much denser and moist. More like the type I make at home. It's quite a hefty slice too. I really liked it but couldn't finish it.

Pistachio and lemon syrup cake

Chocolate Soldier also has lots of gorgeous little cakes. I tried the pistachio lemon cake. It was cheaper than I expected but tasted great!

Sticky, gooey goodness

The cake was sticky and moist (soaked in syrup) with a strong lemon flavor. The pistachio and zest on top not only looked great but complimented the cake perfectly.

I would love to try a few more of their desserts... I spotted an individual carrot cake on display there. It was about the size of a cupcake. Would've been perfect for a mid-day treat.

Maybe next time...

Chocolate Soldier on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beijing House

Beijing House
1/45 Queen St, Brisbane CBD

I never really notice the Chinese restaurants in Brisbane CBD. Regional logic tells you that if it's authentic Asian you're after, you'll be better off in Sunnybank or the Valley. If anyone had asked me, I would have vaguely described one or two that I had seen along Queen St Mall.

Beijing House is one of those restaurants. It was quite random really; I was walking past with my friend and we were on our way to Cafe 21 in the casino when he got distracted by the lunch special signs at Beijing House. So, we decided to try that instead.

To complicate things, I was on my vegetarian diet at the time.

Prawn toast and spring rolls - entree for lunch special

Honey chicken lunch special

Vegetable and cashew stir-fry lunch special

I didn't get a really good impression of Beijing House at the time. The food was pretty mediocre though on the plus side it was inexpensive.

More recently, I returned to Beijing House with my family to have yum cha. It was an informal moon festival celebration. My grandma had eaten yum cha there with some of her casino buddies and claimed it wasn't bad so we decided to give it a go as an alternative to always heading to Landmark.

This time, Beijing House was much busier. They have this deal where all yum cha items are $3.80 which saves you thinking about whether it's a 'big', 'medium' or 'small' plate.

We chose a few yum cha dishes...


Little dragon buns

Braised chicken feet

Steamed veggie dumplings

Pork and black bean

Prawn dumplings

Crispy glutinous rice balls with meat filling

BBQ pork ho fun rolls

Fried savory taro cake

Liu Sha Bao

Inside of Liu Sha Bao

The food standards were quite good. They tasted fresh as opposed to lukewarm and 'from yesterday'. The one that stood out for me was the yellow buns that had this filling... I think it was a mix of egg yolk and possibly a bean paste but overall, it was sweet with an interesting grainy texture. I've never had that in any other yum cha place before and it was really nice.

On top of the yum cha food, we also ordered a braised pork shoulder and some hand-made dumplings.

Waitress carving the pork

Braised pork shoulder all carved up

The pork shoulder looked lovely - shiny, fatty and succulent. Unfortunately, the flavor was a bit underwhelming (not sweet enough for our liking) and also didn't penetrate the meat. In other words, the meat was a bit bland.

Pork and cabbage dumplings with vinegar dipping sauce

The dumplings were quite good. They were rustic in appearance but had a bit of soup inside when you burst them open. The filling is mostly meat with a tiny bit of Chinese cabbage.

All in all, Beijing House provides decent yum cha. If you're in the city and need the fix, it's just as good as those Sunnybank restaurants that offer the same thing. I just wouldn't get their lunch specials again.

Beijing House on Urbanspoon