Monday, November 29, 2010

Vue Restaurant at Pacific Golf Course

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Vue Restaurant at Pacific Golf Course
430 Pine Mountain Rd, Carindale

Today was an interesting today. I got my car (aka a lump of metal that barely runs) serviced for the first time. While we were waiting, grandpa took us to the Pacific Golf Course to get signed up.

How strange.

I did mention to him that I was moving to Toowoomba and would perhaps not benefit greatly from a membership at a local Brisbane golf club... but he insisted.

We sat around enjoying the view. It was actually very nice. The weather was great today and a golf course is always, well, green and smooth.

After lounging around for 2hrs or so, during which time the topic of golf was covered at least 3 times, we finally made it to lunch time.

I was going to order from the daily special list but then decided I was too hungry to wait so opted for a sandwich, which I assumed would be quick. What I didn't take into account was that grandpa ordered the braised lamb which we were told would take 20min. I was tummy-grumbling in despair but luckily it didn't end up taking that long.

My first impression of the food was WOAH... BIG. My mind flipped to this Weight Watchers ad played on The Circle where they were talking about how serving sizes these days are much bigger than in the old days and how this contributes to our over-eating.

Special of the day - braised lamb rump with sweet potato and potato mash

Grandpa split his lamb up so we could all have a taste. I thought it was tender in parts but overall, very lean and tough. I like braised lamb to be melty in texture. The sweet potato mash was nice but the green veggies were just plain steamed and boring. I did point out that this was healthy though.

Pacific club sandwich on two levels with chicken, mayonnaise, bacon, lettuce and tomato with chips and petite salad

My sandwich had 3 layers of bread and was thus also huge. It was a bit dry because there wasn't enough sauce. The bacon was cooked perfectly to my liking (crunchy but not burnt).

Sandwich cross-section

I thought the chips were very good and polished off the whole lot. I quite liked the salad too... it was pleasantly fresh and a welcome change to the dryness of the sandwich and the heaviness of the chips.

Lamb souvlaki wrap with tomato, lettuce and tzatziki with chips

Grandma chose the lamb souvlaki wrap. She said it was OK but not outstanding. The wrap was too chewy for her liking; she prefers a soft wrap. The souvlaki also came with chips but privately, I thought my chips were nicer. Is that just a placebo thing? I assume they were from the same batch so maybe I'm crazy.

It was an interesting experience sitting at the golf course people-watching the seniors. The food wasn't bad and now, as an official member :p, I am entitled to some awesome discounts!

Hungry Kittens now has a new Facebook page!

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Ahhh technology...

I can admit unabashedly that Facebook is part of my life. I am one of those people that opens up then Facebook App on my iPhone even when I already have Facebook loaded up on my computer.

It then makes sense that my beloved food blog should have its own Facebook page so that readers who, like me, are Facebook addicts can get notified of new posts via their favorite social network website. This idea was suggested to me by a fan of this blog (thanks again Idrhys) and I put it into action right away.

If you like this blog and enjoy reading my posts, please click 'Like' to show your support. I ADORE going out to eat, cooking and writing reviews and it's great to know that others are following along.

Everyone feel free to write on my wall and give suggestions, either about the blog, the page, restaurants you think are good (or not so good) or recipes you're digging right now.

Food is social (and messy)

To me, food is such a social activity, whether you're eating out or cooking at home. Brisbane is still (as I write) a relatively small town and we don't have as much of a foodie network as say, Sydney or Melbourne. Let's change that and get in touch with others who have similar interests. Restaurant reviews, like many things (including where to get your hair cut or your car serviced), is best spread through word of mouth. Similarly, recipes are open to improvements and adjustments.

So everyone, let's get talking :D.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

6 course degustation at O Bar & Grill

O Bar & Grill Restaurant

It seems as though everything I'm blogging these days is for some kind of celebration or other. It's just that time of the year I suppose! Mum found these Spreets deals for O Bar & Grill and bought vouchers for 6 people. She then delegated the task of booking to me. Apparently I was supposed to wait until after graduation (yes, this is another graduation event) but I got hasty.

The booking wasn't easy to get because I kept getting either a busy line or no one picking up. When I finally did get through, the lady couldn't hear half of what I was saying because someone else was trying to call and so the phone was beeping.

From that, I inferred that the restaurant was completely booked out until the end of the year and that we were lucky to get a table at all.

My family and I went in separate cars and both cars got lost along the way. We haven't been to or heard of Sanctuary Cove before but it is a hub of boutique stores, galleries and restaurants, situated at the end of a weird, quiet road lined with nice greenery and mansions. Walking through Sanctuary Cove, you see a LOT of nice, expensive cars (hardly any cars without personalized plates) and you find yourself asking philosophical questions like 'is it ever possible to have too much money?'

Byron and I got to the restaurant first and were placed at an outdoor table next to the live music. It wasn't as annoying as I thought because the guy just played a bit of Spanish guitar, nothing too blaring. The restaurant was much quieter than what I predicted and it makes me wonder why they don't have time to answer a phone call.

Glass of white

We were given a glass of wine (white for us) to sip while waiting for the other guests.

Red for mum and granddad

When my family finally got there (they were more lost than us), we could get the courses started.

Grilled ciabatta with garlic and thyme

First up was a simple toasted bread. It was supposed to be garlic bread but the garlic flavor was very subtle. I personally prefer this because I can't stand overpowering garlic but others might find it bland. Later on, we worked out that the bread was counted as a 'course' too, something I don't necessarily agree with.

King prawn salad of green paw paw, Asian herbs and nam jim

The first entree was a prawn salad with mint and green paw paw. This salad really needed some kind of dressing to pick it up. Boiled prawns are so boring on their own! The green paw paw salad wasn't bad though I admit to thinking the whole time that it was fennel (mum planted that idea in my head). I guess I'd fail at the taste test segment of MasterChef. Byron even pointed out to me 'fennel is usually much stronger' and I made up some quack about how young and old fennel taste different. Let us never speak of this again.

Five spices pork belly with nashi pear, pickled ginger salad and pear puree

The second entree was the pork belly. Let me just mention now that each plate/serving was rather small. I think my photos are misleading because I zoomed in to get the detail... they look rather big!

Close-up of pork

Remember this is a degustation and each course was just enough to taste. The pork belly was GOOD. The crackling was crunchy and the meat was tender and nicely seasoned. I liked the pear puree too; it went really well with the pork.

Wild river barramundi with braised fennel, fine herb salad and blood orange butter sauce

Next came the mains. We started with a seared barramundi. The fish was delicious! Very often, fish cooked in a Western style is dry and woody. This was lovely and juicy and not at all overcooked. The skin was extremely crispy too. I liked the braised fennel and Byron hated it. We both thought the prawn was a bit bait-like (dirty and fishy).

Grain-fed eye fillet with truffle and chive mash and vegetables

The steak was something I was really looking forward to because I haven't had a nice lump of meat to myself for a long, long time.

Steak cross-section

This steak was good! It was 'cool' (I think the plates had been sitting for a while before being brought out) but that aside, the steak was tender and tasty. We weren't asked how we would like the steak but they were all about a medium, which is my preference anyway. I liked the truffle mash too - not very silky but it had an earthy, rustic appeal.

Vanilla bean panna cotta shot, Persian fairy floss and chocolate brownie

For dessert, we had 3 mini items on a plate. The shot glass confused us because we didn't know if we should eat or drink it. It contained a vanilla bean panna cotta with strawberry jelly and fresh basil. It was silky, smooth with a rich vanilla flavor. Byron wanted a big pot of this stuff.

The Persian fairy floss was too small to appreciate and the chocolate brownie had a tart-like texture... it was a bit bland and dry for my liking.

The degustation concept was hit and miss for us. We go bored/annoyed at having to wait for a long time between each course until finally, mum and I asked them to bring the courses out quicker. I personally like having a small amount of many different things so I can try more and the majority of us felt full by the end of it. Byron said he kept digesting faster than the food was brought out so he ended up still hungry, but he is special.

The sizing between different serves of the same item was inconsistent. Mum kept getting the smallest of everything and compared to the large pieces, it was about half the size. We didn't like the prawn entree but the rest of the food was of good bistro (not fine dining) standard. The top 3 went to the fish, pork belly and steak, in that order (as voted on by the entire table).

The atmosphere at O Bar was pleasant and it has a modern/contemporary decor. We liked sitting by the water and perving on the expensive yachts. The service was friendly but at times disorganized (we were given steak knives and then another set of steak knives). We liked most of the food we were served in the degustation.

O Bar & Grill Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pre-graduation graduation dinner at the UQ Customs House

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UQ Customs House

Graduation day is looming and our year got together for one final formal celebration before we don the cloaks and hats and wave uni goodbye forever (except for those crazies who want to pursue post-grad of course).

Our oral path lecturer not-so-kindly pointed out that having a celebratory dinner before we've graduated is a bit presumptuous but we weren't to let those fearful thoughts deter us.

Ceiling shot

The graduation dinner is for final year students, parents, partners and staff. We had it at the Customs House which is a University of Queensland owned building. I've always thought of it as a restaurant because I had dinner there once with my family but am now seeing it more in the light of a function hall. I know my food photos are a bit stark and unappealing because I had to use flash in the dark room.

Malibu and pineapple

We got there for predrinks and canapes first before being led into the Long Room for our meal.

Crusty bread and butter

Bread and butter were ready on our tables when we got there. It was a rustic bread roll with pre-peppered butter. Byron really loaded up his bread roll with butter. He claims this is the proper way to butter bread. REALLY??

The way the food was arranged is typical of these kinds of events. Three courses were brought out with 2 versions of each course alternating around the table.

Citrus cured Tasmanian salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, soft herbs and champaign vinaigrette with salmon roe

For entrees, I got the cured salmon and avocado dish. It was slightly under-seasoned but very fresh and light. A great way to start the meal.

Salad of smoked chicken, gourmet leaves, asparagus, marinated capsicum and honey mustard dressing

Byron had the smoked chicken salad. I'm not sure if it's just because we were hungry but he RAVED about the salad. Even the next day, he was still going on about it. I had a nibble of the chicken and it made me think of smoked ham (in a good way). He said the capsicum was amazing and quote 'they did something to it. It wasn't regular capsicum'. Well, the menu says 'marinated' so maybe that's where the magic happened.

Seared barramundi on braised leeks, potato gratin, asparagus, confit tomato butter sauce

My main was the seared barramundi. Unfortunately the flesh was a bit dry but the skin was tasty. I loved the tomato butter sauce though and the dish definitely lacked after I used the sauce up. The potato gratin was nice too.

Panfried eye fillet, pont neuf potato, glazed turned vegetables, cognac scented jus

Byron's main was the pan-fried eye fillet. We thought they did a good job on the steak because it wasn't overcooked or dry (rare at mass catering events). I didn't think much of the big potato chips though.

By the time dessert rolled by, we had up-ended a fair amount of alcoholic drinks and food was no longer on my mind.

Individual chocolate tart with toffeed apple and sauce Anglaise

The chocolate tart was rich and very bitter but in my mind not outstanding. I nearly broke my tooth on the toffee apple which is ironic since it was a dentistry event (someone was bound to crack that lame joke sooner or later).

Soft pavlova with Chantilly cream, strawberries and passionfruit coulis

I didn't think much of the pavlova at all. The meringue component was very average but I did enjoy the strawberries.

We had a great time at the Customs House and thought their catering was of consistent high standards. The service was fast and friendly and the venue was gorgeous too. It really makes me want to go back to try dinner at their restaurant section again.
Customs House on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

Veggie Breakfast Fry-up

Veggie Breakfast Fry-up
Home Cooking

I haven't done a breakfast post in a while! Part of that is because I've just forgotten about them and also because during exam time, my eating got really erratic and breakfast was often missed.

I know, I know, that's bad, unhealthy, irresponsible, a form of eating sin rarara. The fact is, busy people often miss breakfast or get up so early that they're just not hungry at the time.
Soon as the stressful period was over, I treated myself to my version of a healthy, fulfilling breakfast.

As with any breakfast set meal, the components are entirely interchangeable/optional. To be honest I would have put meat on my plate if I had any but I made to with what was available in the fridge and am happy with the results. It didn't taste 'lacking' in any way. Trust me, coming from a self-professed meat eater, you won't miss the bacon.
I did put an egg on. I like poached eggs. You might prefer without.

I heated up my frying pan with some olive oil and cooked the tomatoes (skin side down first then flipped them once), mushrooms and asparagus at the same time. A sprinkle of salt, black pepper and dried Italian herbs was all I used in terms of seasoning. When veggies were done, I flicked in a tiny knob of butter to make things interesting... it does enhance the flavor and gives everything a glossy coat. But again, you can skip that step.

The toast was done in a toaster and I poached the egg while I was cooking the vegetables. I was going to use the oiled glad wrap trick but I forgot to line a cup with glad wrap when I cracked the egg in it. Instead, I used the boiling water vortex technique and amazingly, it actually worked! My first non-cheating poached egg.

This is my idea of an awesome breakfast. Lots of components, all your food pyramid requirements and so tasty too. It's easy enough to make and I find cooking a proper breakfast sort of therapeutic. I guess when the usual is just to have an instant coffee on the run, taking the time to do it properly feels like your spoiling yourself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Noodle City

Noodle City
359 Ruthven St, Toowoomba

Given that I have the advantage of knowing a local (Byron), it should follow that I get some inside info on where the goods are.

Having said that, Byron didn't exactly exude confidence with his recommendations, preluding everything with 'I haven't been there for years. It might not still be open'.

I nearly walked right past Noodle City. It's a small shop on a main street but I don't know if it was the time we were there but for whatever reason, the street was mostly deserted. Noodle City did have a fair few people inside ordering takeaway though.

We were promised that a) it was nothing like Noodle Box (which I find boring) and b) that it was awesome.

The menu contains a lot of the standard noodle shop offerings. You order and watch them pick out the ingredients and cook the meal in front of you. That's pretty standard for these kinds of shops.

At the end, your food is packed into a little takeaway box. I say packed because they really jam pack the stuff. Honesty when I saw the boxes I thought 'hmm... tiny' but they are WEIGHTY. And none of us (including 2 boys) could finish our boxes.

Hokkien box

I had ordered the Hokkien box which had a combination of meat and veg in a flavorsome sauce with thick egg noodle. The different types of meat were in abundance and I was wondering where all the flavor was until I realized the sauce sinks to the bottom. Stir it up and you'll have no complaints.

Singaporean noodle box

Byron ordered a Singapore noodle box which had a mild curry flavor, a combination of meat and rice noodles. It was nice but we both preferred my one.

Hot box

Hien chose a hot box and he started by saying 'this isn't hot enough to be called a hot box'. His next complaint was that it had 'too much flavor'. I'm not sure I know what that means o.O.

We had plenty of left overs and decided it's possible to share one box between 2, making Noodle City extremely great value. Though the shop was small, the staff were very friendly and the food comes out fresh and quick. A word of warning: those small takeaway boxes are not to be underestimated.

House hunting and pizza feasting in Toowoomba

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La Porchetta for pizza OD
200A Hume Street, Toowoomba

So, everyone... I am moving to Toowoomba. My food blog is still going to be Brisbane-based but I'm going to sneak in the odd Toowoomba review, starting today.

Driving to Toowoomba

I've been going up and back quite often these days to try and secure accommodation. House inspections are fun for like... a day and then the novelty wears off when you realize how competitive it is and how much paperwork is involved.


Anyway, our plan today was to arrive in Toowoomba and eat. This might sound like an uber touristy thing to do but the first thing I did upon arriving was go to the information desk and ask for a local map. It wasn't actually for myself... my grandpa who lives in China is obsessed with maps and requested one specially so he would get to know my new area without physically visiting.

While I was at the info desk, I grabbed some food brochures and Hien was particularly attracted to the Italian restaurant La Porchetta.

It was only a quick drive away... honestly, everything in Toowoomba is a quick drive away from everywhere else. It's so refreshing, I love it! I am so looking forward to NOT spending 40min driving to and from clinic every day.

We got to La Porchetta and thought it was closed. Hien persisted and pushed the door which opened obligingly. Turns it it was open just a bit early for business to kick in... I'm not sure how busy they normally get but there were a few people getting takeaway in the time that we were there.

The way La Porchetta is set out kinda reminds me of a cafeteria. The whole time, I kept wishing they'd put on some music or brighten the lights so that it felt more alive.

The menu is huge though. Usually Italian restaurants give 5-6 options for pasta and the same amount of variation in pizza. This one had a little booklet that we could leaf through. I was stumped because everything seemed cheap and I was hungry for everything.

We ordered a tomato and mozzarella entree plus a large super special pizza (the flavor is called 'Super Special'; I'm not just calling it that). There was a bit of a misunderstanding because I thought Hien was getting a pasta for himself but he thought we were sharing the pizza. I should've known a large was enough for the both of us but I stupidly asked for another item: the three cheese foccacia. It was the special of the day and I had been eying it on the blackboard since we got there.

Tomato mozzarella and basil

The tomato and mozzarella was a super-sized version of the nowadays common 'bocconcini and cherry tomato' thing that lots of bistros do. I've never actually tried this combination myself but must say now I understand why so many restaurants/chefs do it... the bland cheese, tangy and sweet tomato and aromatic basil just work so perfectly together. This is simplicity at its best. I would definitely keep this in mind for future dinner parties. Hien couldn't get enough of this dish and announced that it was his 'new favorite thing in the world'. Yes, he is a bit dramatic.

Three cheese foccacia

The three cheese foccacia wasn't really a foccacia but in all other regards, it was exactly as I expected: extreme cheesiness. I knew it would hit the spot when I pulled a slice away and the oozy cheese tendrils draped across the whole plate. At the time, we didn't have any knives (the waitress remembered and offered some later on but by then, I was accustomed to using my hands like the true bogan I am :D) so I tried to maneuver everything with 2 forks.

Two fork technique for dealing with molten cheese threads

Honestly? I couldn't taste 3 distinct cheese types but even more importantly, I didn't give a rats. This kind of food will probably trigger a heart attack in anyone remotely health conscious but doesn't everyone have their cheese-craving days? When you get that urge, this is what you need.

By the time our super supreme pizza came, we were a bit pizza-ed out. We sort of looked at it and thought 'o.m.g.'

Large super special

It seemed way too much for 2 people to handle, even without the previous tummy fillers, we wouldn't have managed. The large doesn't muck around... it's very large. Not just in terms of diameter but height too!

Check out the sheer 'volume' of each slice

They packed on a LOT of stuff: ham, olives, anchovies (these were optional), capsicum, mushrooms and more cheese :D. I did feel sick after having a couple of slices but right now, typing this, I could go for another hehe.

The service at La Porchetta was great. The waitress was so friendly and obliged in giving me directions to one of the real estate offices. Though the place was quite and the ambiance... well, there is no real 'ambiance'. But the food was decent and it was hella cheap for a whole lot of stuff.

How did my house-hunting go? Success! We did go to one property where we were met by a pregnant black kitty. I asked 'is this a good omen?' and Hien looks at me and says '... it's a BLACK CAT'. I'm not superstitious or anything but in any case, I ended up with a different house :).
La Porchetta Toowoomba on Urbanspoon