Friday, March 29, 2013

Birthday Weekend in Sydney Day 1 - Dinner at Il Baretto

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Il Baretto

It is absolutely typical of me to stretch my birthday out for as long as possible to maximize benefits/excuses. As well as a preluding one-week buffer of "Oh, it's my birthday, I can eat what I want" and a celebratory party with friends one whole month after the actual date, I gave myself a 3 day long weekend in Sydney crammed full of food excursions.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Cheeky Bean Espresso Bar

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The Cheeky Bean Espresso Bar
206A Montague Rd, West End

I found mention of Cheeky Bean on The Weekender so one day when I was in need of coffee, I decided to seek it out. It was an easy walking distance from Marc's place in South Brisbane but the morning was drizzly so I took the easy option and drove.

For some reason I had pictured a full blown cafe but Cheeky Bean Espresso Bar is very much a hole-in-the-wall coffee vendor. There are some stools lining the wall outside if you want to stop and read a paper but I personally need more space to linger and relax in public so I ended up taking my purchases back to my car and sipping/eating there.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lunch at Gramercy

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Gramercy Espresso and Eats
200 Edward Street, Wintergarden Laneway, Brisbane CBD

Sometimes, I think of my desire to try any particular food venue as the product of a Strike System. When I see the name of a cafe or restaurant mentioned online, that's the first strike. If I see it again on an alternative source, that's strike two. If it's then mentioned any more times within the space of a week, the venue gets instantly skyrocketed to the top of my 'To Try' list.

Gramercy is one such venue. It was a relative new-comer to my list, since I first heard of it only 2 weeks ago. However, I ended up going there ahead of many cafes that I've been meaning to try for a long, long time, simply because I spotted it mentioned in a variety of sources over a short period of time. My internal hype generator went overboard and I found myself unjustifiably excited over what turned out to be a small, inner city cafe.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Burger Urge in West End

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Burger Urge
3/156 Boundary Street, West End

Marc and I are big burger fans so it was strange that we hadn't been to a Burger Urge, especially the one that was just up the road in West End. One of the reasons would be that a few times we walked by it in the past, it looked closed. We usually don't go wandering all the way down there unless we really have no idea what we want to eat and are going by impulse alone. It was on another of 'those' kinds of days where the only thing we knew for sure was that we were hungry; for what, we couldn't say, so we strolled along, saw Burger Urge, and this time, it was open.

It's hard for me to critique any of these gourmet burger venues without comparing them to Grill'd. Burger Urge is decked out more grungy and urban than Grill'd. The tables had pink neons and the walls were plastered with event posters. Metal mesh grills and (oddly) hanging ferns completed the look.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dinner at DoDoMi

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DoDoMi Korean Restaurant
154 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane

Sometimes it is the most accessible restaurants that elude you because you simply forget they exist. I was very pleased when one evening, I was in the mood for something meaty but too lazy to travel for it and remembered a local Korean restaurant we hadn't yet tried. Korean BBQ instantly sprang to mind.

DoDoMi is located in a big corporate-looking building so you probably wouldn't think to go there unless you've walked past several times before and peered in or you Googled the place first. I had only seen it from the outside and expected it to be smallish, maybe like an eatery. The restaurant turned out to be fairly large and spacious.

Stomp Espresso for Breakfast

Stomp Espresso
109 Holland Road, Brisbane

I don't see how it is that I've driven past this cafe so many times in the past without even thinking to stop by. It's en route between Marc's place and my mum and dad's so I literally see it all the time. My theory is that once I'm out of the inner suburbs, it just doesn't occur to me to keep an eye out for good cafes. I think I was actually starving one morning and NEEDED to get food so I pulled over at Stomp and headed in.

If ever I thought that cute, tasteful cafes with un-boring menus are only in existance in Paddington and the likes, I was about to be proven wrong. Stomp was all those things and pet-friendly too to boot. I've even gone so far as to take photos of the vintage table to remind myself how I want to decorate my home in Toowoomba.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oldtown Kitchen for Lunch

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Oldtown Kitchen
221/247 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley

I eat at a fairly culturally diverse range of restaurants but something that isn't too frequent in my dining agenda is Malaysian cuisine. Because of this, when I eat Malaysian food, my mind goes straight to my trip to KL and Boreo last year. This was even more so the case with Oldtown Kitchen because Marc and I went to a restaurant called Old China Cafe and the names are similar.

Not being a regular Valley-goer, I'm not familiar with all the Asian restaurants around. Even so, I was surprised to see Oldtown on Urbanspoon with such a high rating because I'd never heard of it before. The restaurant is located in the McWhirters building, accessible from both the street and the shopping centre. It's split-level with plenty of tables available.

Oli for Lunch and Cake

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Olio Cafe and Bar

Date: Friday the 8th of March
Scenario: Queen Street Mall gunman

I had just finished my impromptu lunch of banh mi from Kim Than and the city was still in lockdown. My car radio was reporting the news play by play and suddenly it was announced that the gunman had been shot. My original plan for the day pre-incident was to meet Marc in the city but with all this going on, I wasn't sure whether to wait around or to bugger off. Marc suggested that they were evacuating the city but he didn't know how long that would take.

I decided to set up camp at South Bank Parklands, grab a drink and enjoy myself. My reasoning was that worst comes to worst, if the city folk were not released any time soon, at least I would have still had a drink.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Crazy for Banh Mi - Kim Than Bakery

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Kim Than Bakery
81 Vulture Street, West End

I've been losing my mind over banhi mi and the only cure seems to be... more banh mi. Having said that, it doesn't eliminate my craving, it simply makes me want MORE BANH MI.

Ever since my first taste of this seemingly simplistic Vietnamese pork roll from The Roll Shop in the city, I've been wanting more. My dedication to my blog detracts me from sampling the same location more than once within a short time span so the best solution was to stick to my plan of eating banh mi... but researching other locations. I was going to try some other venues in the city but the Queen Street Mall gunman incident happened exactly when I was planning to have lunch so I had to pull over at West End and rethink my plans. Luckily, there happens to be just a spot in West End that is reknowned for their banh mi.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dinner at Thai on High, Toowoomba

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Thai on High
3/52 High Street, Rangeville

After living in Toowoomba for 2+ years now, I've accepted the fact that I've eaten just about everywhere worth eating. Or HAVE I? One weekend, Byron told me he went to this new Thai restaurant (we don't know if it's actually new or if we just hadn't known about it before) with a group of friends. He was so taken by it that when I got back home after a weekend in Brisbane, we went there for dinner, which was his second consecutive visit there in as many days.

I was confused when I first heard "Thai on High" because I swear that's a Thai restaurant in Brisbane. Google reveals it to be located in Highgate Hill. I don't think these two restaurants are affiliated.

Thai on High in Toowoomba is located in the High Street Plaza. It's a large restaurant for local standards and has a neat fitout. We took up a small table near the window and started looking up the menu.

Breakfast at Five Sisters Art House Cafe

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Five Sisters Art House Cafe

This post dates back a few months and I figured I should quickly write it up before I forget what I tasted. I was on Urbanspoon looking up places to get breakfast around West End and South Brisbane. My goal is to eventually exhaust the location then complain about there being nowhere new to try :p. I found Five Sisters mentioned with good ratings but unfortunately it doesn't open on weekends so at the time, when I was working 5 days a week in Toowoomba, that ruled it out as an option.

One weekend, I happened to have an appointment in Brisbane on Monday so I figured I may as well take the opportunity to try Five Sisters. When I got there I nearly thought it was closed anyway because you have to walk through a narrow alleyway to get to the side of the building where the cafe is located. It's a strange sort of environment because it feels like someone's private courtyard. I was there very early in the morning too so there weren't many other people around and I kept thinking I was doing something wrong.

NEW Chef's Best Range from Domino's

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Domino's Chef's Best Pizza Range

I know that not everyone is thrilled with the trend of 'gourmetifying' food. You see it in hot dog stands, ice-cream parlours, sauce ranges and even snacks. To some, it's capitalizing on the hype generated from the age of TV chefs and cooking programs. To me, it's simply a matter of otherwise average food made better.

I've been outspoken about my lack of interest in conventional, fast food pizza on this blog several times before. Overall, when I think of pizza, I want fresh ingredients and a thin and crispy base. Italian-style. That's not to say there's no place in my life for the heartier, speedier and cheaper comfort food variety offered by the big name pizza chains. My issue with the usual products available from likes of Pizza Hut and Domino's is a) the lack of interesting topping choices and b) the lack of quality ingredients. That's why even when I dial a pizza, I incline towards Pizza Capers for its menu options, which ends up being near as expensive as just going out to buy a 'proper' pizza anyway.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dinner at Ann Gyoza Bar

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ANN Gyoza Bar

At some point in the last 2 weeks, I came to the realization that the Fortitude Valley wasn't all that far from South Brisbane. Of course, as a woman it depends on your choice of footwear but with a comfy, worn-in pair of thongs, it's a breeze of a walk.

All the food venues at The Emporium, New Farm and James Street that seemed a world away suddenly felt very easily achievable. Rather than being deterred by the distance (recall that we're accustomed to traversing within a 1-suburb radius of West End + South Bank + CBD), I insisted that we try Ann Gyoza Bar for dinner on Thursday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tassels for Lunch

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Tassels Cafe Bar Catering

As someone who meticulously plans every food excursion and in fact, every single detail of my life (I have mild OCD, no joke), I grasp onto these examples of why spontaneity doesn't work. Marc and I headed to Hamilton for lunch with no clear vision of what we wanted to find there. I was in the mood for Malaysian, which granted is a rather specific craving, but when we got there, I eased off my expectations and we still didn't come across anything that felt 'right'.

We ended up backtracking to where we had parked because I noticed that Tassels proclaimed 'sandwiches' to be part of their offerings and I LOVE sandwiches. It's about as far from Malaysian as you can get but I'm ALWAYS in the mood for a sandwich. I was unsure if this cafe would be too 'girly' for Marc (it's pink and it is called Tassels) but by this point he was too hungry to give a bum.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spicy Feast at Sichuan Bang Bang

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Sichuan Bang Bang

Sichuan is one of those words I never know how to spell. Sometimes there's a Z. Sometimes it's 'shi' instead of 'si'. It's bloody confusing! For this post, I'll adopt the spelling that the restaurant itself uses, which seems like the safest bet. Despite all those academic struggles, Sichuan cuisine encompasses some of my favorite flavors EVER. Spicy, numbing, savory and hints of sweetness. It's food that packs a punch. I found about Sichuan Bang Bang on The Urban List. It sounded so good that I wanted to visit right away but then I discovered that it was located in Kenmore, a part of Brisbane that I rarely visit.

Marc and I don't normally drive anywhere for dinner but I lured him out with the promise of spicy food. We ended up lost and late. I was fuming and ready to give up thinking we weren't going to get a table because we had missed our reservation. We got there 15 minutes late and the small restaurant seemed packed but luckily someone else had just finished so they were able to fit us in.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Breakfast at Campos

Campos Coffee
11 Wandoo Street, Fortitude Valley

In my old age, I'm getting more and more frequently plagued by back pain. Much of my recent days off have been spent in an array of chiropractic clinics, both in Toowoomba and Brisbane. My new indulgent activity of choice is getting massages; in my dream life, I'd spend entire days doing multiple 3 hour sessions back to back (pun?) with snack breaks in between. When I saw a Thai massage deal on Travelzoo, I couldn't resist... and ended up purchasing 2!

I booked myself in for the massage special around 9ish on a Saturday morning. It was in the valley so I figured I'd make an excursion of it and head in for breakfast first. My original plan was to catch a bus and walk around. As I was walking to the bus station, it started raining so I went back to my car to get my umbrella and then though "why not just drive?" As a result, I got to the valley much earlier than anticipated and had to use all my time-killing skills to keep myself occupied. Breakfast took up a decent chunk of that.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Has Beans for Coffee

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Has Beans
Samuel Village, 152 Boundary Road, Camp Hill

When the majority of my food outings are centralized around South Brisbane and the Brisbane CBD, it's refreshing to get the opportunity to try something in the 'burbs. I was staying at mum and dad's place in Carindale one night so I started Googling popular breakfast destinations nearby. I found a couple around Camp Hill so I plucked one at random and ended up at Has Beans.

What surprised and slightly disappointed me is that Has Beans is almost entirely a coffee vendor with hardly any breakfast options. I suppose it all worked out alright because I was going out for lunch and dinner later on in the day anyway and didn't need a big breakfast. The shop front is small and the pace is fast. I 'dined in' at one of the small outside tables. There weren't many sit-down customers but there was an ongoing supply of people buying takeaway coffee. It was interesting because it had an inner city vibe to it, with the rush of people linging up and coffee orders being yelled out, but it was (in my mind) the middle of nowhere with hardly any commercial buildings in sight.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Dark Chocolatier

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The Dark Chocolatier
156 Adelaide Street, Brisbane CBD

What happens when you give a girl 4 hours to kill in the city?  I spent a good chunk of time indulging in a whole body massage (the guys at Massage Philosophy, Myer Centre are THE BEST) and then proceeded to shop, before finally stopping for coffee and chocolates. I could not even think up a more awesome way to spend my day off (besides throwing some booze into the mix, which happened later on in the night).

I had noticed The Dark Chocolatier on my wanderings around Brisbane and took up the opportunity to try it. It's a store that mostly sells variety chocolate by weight but also does coffee. The shop stocks chocolate by the Noosa Chocolate Factory, which specialises in coated chocolates. I perched up on their long bench and ordered a latte and their chocolate tasting platter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Steamed for Dumplings at Lunch

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When I first saw Steamed mentioned on the blogosphere, it brought me back down memory lane. The little dumpling shop is located on Turbot Street, where I did uni for 5 years. I haven't been in around there for a while! Even when I get the chance to have lunch in the Brisbane CBD these days, I rarely venture that far from Queen Street Mall. However, the promise of handmade dumplings was more than enough to lure me north.

We had a tiny bit of difficulty finding Steamed because when I see 'Turbot Street', I automatically think of the Dental School and that's where I started heading towards. It was only when I was across the street from my old home of high stress, unpaid clinical hours that I realized there would be no food shops around there. I whipped out Google Maps and backtracked a bit to find Steamed amongst a row of other small takeaway stores. The shop is TINY. There's a counter where you order and there's one (yes, ONE) big table that takes up the whole shop front. A bunch of business men were seated around munching on dumplings.

Kokoro for Dinner

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Kokoro Bistro

I was flipping through The Weekend Edition online to divert from my usual sources of dining inspiration (aka Urbanspoon and The Urban List). I jotted down some new cafes to try and then stumbled across a review of a new Japanese restaurant in Paddington. I wasn't interested at first because it seems to me that Marc and I have been to plenty of Japanese restaurants recently... until... I saw a mention of avocado macaron.

WEeooooOOoooOohhh!!!! Whilst the macaron phase might be teetering towards the end of its popularity streak, I haven't been able to produce a batch successfully so I still find them cool and mysterious, not to mention tasty too. Add a mention of avocado and I'm THERE. Avocado smoothies are my downfall at Asian beverage outlets and I sort of imagined an avo-flavored macaron to be along that vein. I didn't even bother looking at the rest of the menu before I made the booking.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Breakfast and Lunch at Glow Espresso

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Glow Espresso

My mate Zen mentioned Glow Espresso to me a couple of times before they opened. We never successfully made it there but I happened to pass Glow on my wanderings one morning so I stopped in for breakfast. That was over two months ago and since then, I have been trying to gather enough material to write another post. The opportunity came up when Marc and I went to watch Django Unchained at South Bank Cinemas and needed something quick for lunch. I popped into Glow to grab a takeaway baguette.

My breakfast experience the more relaxed of my two visits to Glow. I was up really early and most other cafes were still closed but Glow was already in service. I parked myself at one of the window seats and basked in sunshine. There was a generous supply of inside tables, as well as a few outside for those wishing to embrace the elements.