Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Dinner @ Mr Shabu Shabu

I first dined at Mr Shabu Shabu in New Acton about 3 years ago and remembered it was a good cheap meal. I went back with some friends for a pre-show dinner and knew I'd want another shabu shabu as it was a freezing night. Shabu shabu is a dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in a broth.

That night, I ordered the pork shabu shabu ($14.50). Everything came out together (impressive as there were 8 of us) so we didn't wait long before tucking into our meals. A black iron pot filled with broth sits on a portable burner and is lit underneath with some kind of blue gel that burns slowly, keeping your broth constantly hot. There were about 6 slices of pork meat, vermicelli noodles hidden underneath, enoki and Chinese mushrooms, cold seaweed salad, a vegetable spring roll, bowl of rice and a peanutty satay sauce.
The broth is quite transparent and there was cabbage and carrots already steaming inside. Similar to a Chinese steamboat dinner, you cook your meat and vegetables in the broth. Note: don't cook it ALL at once. One thin slice only takes about 30 seconds to cook and there's not much room to place your cooked meat and veg in the small bowls provided. The good thing is you can take your time since your broth is always hot. I love the tartness of the seaweed salad and wanted more. The spring roll is very plain but is a nice crunchy element to the meal.
I couldn't remember how big a serving it was (before it came out) and ordered a few more items to make sure I was full ;p The shabu shabu doesn't come with noodles so I ordered a side of udon ($2), as well as gyoza ($3) and salmon sashimi ($4.50). I was surprised to see a whole bowl filled with udon and small cubes of tofu - great value for only $2.
The gyoza came in a serve of three with a bit of soy sauce drizzled on top. These were crunchy on the outside and the filling was stuffed with cabbage and chives.
I was happy with the three large thick-cut slices of beautiful salmon sashimi.
Most of the others ordered a shabu shabu variety too (chicken or beef). My partner ordered the beef but noticed he only received three slices. The same condiments were provided.
Marbly beef
V ordered the sashimi set ($14.80) with thick cuts of tuna and salmon sashimi, rice, seaweed salad and a spring roll.
Another friend ordered the teriyaki chicken set ($14.80) which came with rice, seaweed salad and a spring roll.
D ordered the beef ramen ($11.80) which had enoki mushrooms, slices of radish, corn kernels and some seaweed.
Other items on the menu include various 'don' sets, ramen and udon dishes, nigiri sushi and Asian flavoured ice creams such as green tea, black sesame and red bean. Our large group were seated in the front half of the restaurant. There are additional tables in the back section too.
Simple fit out, friendly and quick service, and cheap food that warms you up on a cold night. What more can you ask for?

Foodgasm 8/10
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Saturday, 23 August 2014

First look @ Black Fire (Braddon)

I'd been eagerly waiting for Black Fire Restaurant in Braddon to open its doors. Specialising in authentic Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, the dinner and dessert menu was up on the website before the restaurant was even open causing me some serious hunger pangs. Located on Mort Street in the Habitat apartment complex (next to the Pita Pit and around the corner from Bentspoke Brewing Co), many passerbys were peering in to view the latest addition to the Braddon food scene.
Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed were the beautiful rustic looking chandeliers that gave off a warm glow making the space feel completely inviting.  The decor is modern rustic with multiple textures used - exposed brick, transparent glass, wooden panelling and don't forget the indoor plants. The front counter includes a bar area with wine, cocktails, scotch, rum and more available on the drinks menu. A large coffee machine against the window enticed people off the street to order a take away coffee.
A black board hangs on the back wall above the kitchen ready to be written on with the day's specials. The stacked wooden logs on the back shelf are ready to be used in the wood fire oven. My friend V found out from one of the builders that there is another back room to the restaurant, perhaps for larger group bookings.
The dinner menu is split into first (entrees) and second (main) courses. There are several temptations on offer. The entrees should suit most budgets with dishes ranging from $4 to $26. Mains include freshly made pasta, arroz caldoso, and duck breast ranging from $24 to $30. Then there are a range of meat dishes cooked on the open fire roast and wood fire oven such as the 8 hours slow roasted suckling pig ($36), 8 hours slow roasted lamb ($36) and the Angus fillet tenderloin ($36). Looks like you can also order a whole roasted animal for the larger groups (I'm guessing this needs to be pre-ordered). Everything from the open fire roast and wood fire oven comes with sauce and a side or salad.

V and I went in for lunch filled with excitement at what this establishment could offer. I really wanted to try the suckling pig but that wasn't available on the lunch menu (darn, next time!). Lunch is similar to the dinner menu but with a few items left off. I started with the charcoal scallop, light horseradish bechamel with radish and tarragon gremolata ($5 a piece). This scallop was fat, juicy and cooked to perfection. I absolutely loved the charcoal hit, zesty gremolata and creamy bechamel. A good start to lunch.
For the mains, we ordered the slow roasted Wagyu skirt steak ($28). The menu states Black Angus and Wagyu are certified pure breed, over 36 months old and dry aged for 30 days. I'm not much of a meat eater (until recently) so I don't really understand what that means but was willing to find out. This came out in a hot pan served on top of a wooden board with plenty of red wine mushroom gravy.
A steak knife is simply unnecessary as the beef was so tender and fell apart easily. This was full of rich beef flavour that you could not mistake it for any other meat. I found that while very tender, the beef was a little dry (I guess because it is dry aged beef) but all that sauce was fantastic to provide extra flavour and moisture to the steak. The chef advised that this steak only comes medium cooked due to the slow roasting process.
We chose the Alubias white beans with chilli as the accompanying side to the steak (included in the price of the steak). I'm not sure what flavourings were on the beans but these tasted great. No chilli though.
Another main was the Wagyu osso bucco ($26) slow braised in vegetables and red wine that comes with taroz of mashed yellow potatoes and green beans. This came out in a huge dish with several pieces of Wagyu to satisfy most meat lovers. It looked different to what I imagined and I couldn't see any vegetables. When I tasted the sauce, I realised the vegetables and red wine had been puréed. Similar to the skirt steak, this meat was perfectly tender and fell apart with the touch of my fork. The purée was delicious and added depth to the dish. The chef pointed out to try the bone marrow which is gooey and looks like fat but is apparently good for you. V liked it as it tastes similar to ox-tail.
The accompanying mashed potato was lovely and I liked the crunchy green beans on top to break up all that meat.
We couldn't not get dessert after perusing the dessert menu for the last few weeks. The banana cake with dulce de leche, pomegranate maple syrup with tempranillo poached pear and chocolate flakes ($13) was ordered. The wobbly component caught my eye when this came out as I didn't think flan was included. Smooth, creamy and wobbly, this was the only sweet item on the plate. The dulce de leche was salted which I didn't like so much. Tempranillo is a type of grape native to Spain used to make wines so the poached pear was soaked in it. Since I don't drink, I found this quite bitter. The banana cake was more like a muffin - not too sweet but pretty average tasting. I think I'd prefer it served warm. The pomegranate maple syrup was another sour element on the plate. There are a few strong flavours in this dessert and I didn't find it as enjoyable as I would've hoped. I definitely prefer my desserts to be sweet rather than sour/salty.
Another dessert was the chocolate indulgence double mousse on a wild fennel and white chocolate silk with a raspberry and butter toasted almond tart ($13). The mousse is a winner - rich and thick. The tart was filled with raspberry goodness but again, I would've preferred if it was served warm. The wafer-like white object is caramelised white chocolate which V and I both loved - sticky, chewy, and toffee-like that gets stuck between your teeth. Mixed with the white chocolate 'silk' this dessert is so bad for you but you just want to finish it all.
Service is fantastic and we got to chat about the food with our waiter. One of the chefs is Italian and has worked in Italy, Spain and several other countries around the world bringing all his culinary wisdom to Black Fire. All dishes have been carefully prepared and you can expect yummy things from the wood fire oven, charcoal grill and open fire roast as the chefs have been trained to cook on wood fire. Black Fire has a great philosophy of using fresh and sustainable produce and to be as organic as possible. Fruit and vegetables come from organic farms in Cooma while seafood comes in daily from the Sydney fish market.

Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will definitely be going back for that 8hr slow roasted suckling pig and the freshly made pasta. I'm advised that the breakfast menu below (how good does it sound?) is served until about 3pm on weekends so put this on your list of brunch spots to check out in Braddon.

See Black Fire's Facebook page and website for more details. Bookings are recommended especially for dinner as they have a few fully booked out nights ahead.

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Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Matcha parfait @ Chanoma Cafe Sydney

I'd seen photos of a matcha parfait on reviews about Chanoma Cafe in Sydney and put this on my list of places to try on my next visit to Sydney. Located at Regents Place on George Street, there are quite a few other restaurants and cafes in the complex.
I had a look at the menu outside to decide which parfait I wanted. There are several matcha options to choose from with hot and cold drinks, and soft serve ice cream being a popular choice.
Surprisingly, they also sell hot dogs. It was 3pm and I wasn't hungry enough to have a hot dog, so I'll have to try them out another time.
The cafe itself is quite small with limited seating available. Some 'greenery' has been brought inside with glass decals of foliage hanging down from the ceiling.
The kitchen is tiny and narrow too. I ordered the chocolate matcha parfait ($9.50) and got a seat outside.
Diners can peek into the window and watch everything being made.
It took less than 5 minutes for my parfait to come out. It was piled high with various items - matcha ice cream, sweet red bean paste, chopped up fruit, rice cakes, pocky, cornflakes (yep cornflakes), whipped cream, chocolate sauce and topped with a waffle cone as decoration.
It looked pretty impressive! I didn't think I'd finish it all but I did :) The matcha ice cream is beautiful and I found it easy to just keep digging in and eating all the different elements.
At first I thought the cornflakes would be a little strange in the parfait, but I loved the crunchy texture it gave to the parfait. A brilliant idea.
The parfait used really simple ingredients, hence it was made so quickly, looked great and tasted good too. Worth a try especially if you love green tea and green tea ice cream.

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Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

BrodDogs by Brodburger

A few weeks ago, Canberra burger institution Brodburger opened up its second venture, BrodDogs, in its distinctive red van in Belconnen. Selling gourmet hotdogs, BrodDogs made an appearance back in February at the Canberra National Multicultural Festival and it must've taken off from there!

BrodDogs is located on the top floor carpark of Westfield Belconnen towards the entrance (near Fernwood).
There are 8 broddogs to choose from and the majority give you a choice of dog - vienna frankfurt, spicy kransky or pork free dogs. You could have all sorts of combinations with a variety of extras such as chilli beef, pork belly, seasoned popcorn cauliflower and coleslaw. You can even make it a double dog for an extra $3.50. It's great to see that all dogs are gluten-free and there are gluten-free buns for $1.50. The Veggie dog is the only choice for vegetarians and this can also be made vegan.
The Veggie dog ($8.50) consisted of seasoned fried popcorn cauliflower and eggplant, fondue cheese sauce, topped with sweet potato ribbons and shaved gruyere cheese. The cauliflower is covered in some brown sauce which I can't ascertain as it's not overly powerful or salty. I love the crispy sweet potato ribbons on top. It really is drowned in fondue cheesy sauce. Yum!
The white hotdog bun was so soft and fresh.
The New Yorker ($9) consists of your choice of dog (I chose the spicy kransky) with sauerkraut, triple smoked pork belly, corn relish and American mustard.
There was a mild amount of spiciness from the kransky which had bits of chilli in it. The corn relish  is drizzled on as the first layer at the bottom of the bun. This sweet relish is a good accompaniment to balance out the vinegary sauerkraut and salty dog. I couldn't tell whether the pork belly was smoked let alone triple smoked so that didn't add much value for me.
The BrodDog ($10.50) comes with your choice of dog (in this case the Vienna frankfurt), bacon, coleslaw, pickles, ketchup, corn relish, topped with sweet potato ribbons with shaved gruyere cheese. Packed with so many toppings, this is definitely a winner. I loved the crunchy coleslaw, the zing from the pickles (and I don't usually like pickles) and the yummy frankfurt. The generous serving of shaved gruyere looks so soft and delicate, and tastes delicious.
Lots of mayonnaise and tomato sauce on this dog.
With 5 versions of chips available, I chose the cheesy chips ($6.50) smothered in fondue cheese and grated gruyere cheese. I'd closed the bag this comes in as I was taking this home with me so the chips got a little soggy because of that. Definitely an indulgence, these chips were great. Chips and two types of cheese? You can't go wrong.
There are no tables or chairs, but most people prop their food on the ledge (with not the best view) looking over some cars and bins below or take it back into the plaza food court. Both times I went between 12-1 and only waited 10-15 minutes before my number was called out. One broddog is enough to nicely fill you. Similarly to Brodburger, I think BrodDogs will gain a loyal following. I wonder if they'll bring BrodDogs to Kingston?

Worth checking out. BrodDogs is open Tuesday to Sunday. There's no dedicated website at this stage but the Brodburger Facebook page has some updates.

Foodgasm 7.5/10

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Checking out new Braddon bar @ Hopscotch

The newest drinking spot to open in Canberra is Hopscotch located at 5 Lonsdale Street in Braddon. I could see the neon arrow pointing to the bar from Cooyong Street. Hopscotch's name comes from the bar selling both hops (beer) and scotch (whiskey). And there is a lot of scotch whiskey in the drinks menu - Canadian whiskey, Irish whiskey, French whiskey, so much whiskey! There are also wines, beers, ciders and a short cocktail list.

The first thing you see is the large outdoor beer garden with wooden picnic style tables and sun umbrellas. Hopscotch will be hosting Sunday sessions with a whole pig/s roasting outdoors. Ahh this is going to be great in summer!
I like the large mural outside above the BBQ pit where I'm assuming the whole pig on a spit will be roasted. The Canberra Times reports the mural was created by a 16 year old street artist.
Green foliage peeks through above the bi-fold windows providing a glimpse of nature before opening up onto the beer garden in the warmer months.
The long bar to the side displays a glorious array of whiskey and spirits.
Art work is dotted around the bar. I like this one of a firefighter near the entrance.
There's a slight warehouse feel with a mix of exposed piping and brickwork, aluminium sheeting, large downlights and the colour scheme used. But it still remains cosy and hip.
The black back wall shows off the Hopscotch sign.
The menu (available on the Hopscotch website) is inspired by everything BBQ with an Argentine wood-fired grill imported from the US. The menu states a mixture of iron bark and red gum is used to impart a light smoke flavour to meals. There are bar snacks available if you just want something small or a whole list of mains, sides and desserts. There's no indication of gluten-free options so better check with the staff.
Orders are taken at the bar. When I asked whether mocktails could be made, it was a general 'no it's not on the menu' which was disappointing. It's not that hard to mix soda and juice - oh well. There are cups and jugs of water at one end of the bar which you can help yourself to. After placing our food order, it only took about 15 minutes for our entree to arrive. A friend and I shared the Tajin spiced calamari ($15) with kimchi slaw and fried onions. These are large cuts of delicious, soft and fresh calamari, not your usual small rings. I loved the light coating of spices which didn't over power the calamari and allowed the natural calamari goodness to shine through. I enjoyed the crunchy kimchi slaw that has a real kick to it.
I ordered the Jamaican jerk chicken with jalapeno corn bread, pineapple salsa and avocado ($27) for my main. This huge chunk of chicken was succulent and slightly charred on the outside. The corn bread had sliced jalapenos and cheese melted on top - spicy but I liked it. The pineapple salsa was divine providing a hit of fresh sweetness to the dish. Yum!
My friend was happy with her Argentine slow cooked brisket with red chimmi churri, soft maize and smoked eshallots. A large slab of meat that she didn't end up finishing.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Hopscotch. The vibe is lively with people enjoying an after work drink and there's enough space to sit comfortably. It is a gastropub so expect it to be a little noisy inside, particularly with live music playing every weekend. All tables were taken by around 7pm so it's certainly popular already! The menu looks good and I'm keen to go back for a Sunday session and to try out more dishes from the menu. 

*Edit - 14 August 2014 - So I went back for more food! This time I decided on two bar snacks for dinner rather than a whole main. I chose the honey mustard glazed pork with fennel scratchings and a side of ranch dressing ($15). Large chunks of mouth watering succulent pork - wow! It's coated in its own fatty oil (you'll notice a bit of oil soaking up the paper at the bottom of the basket) but it's so tasty you won't care. The scratchings are crunchy and perfect. Delish.
The wood-fired crab and corn quesadilla with avocado, sour cream and salsa ($16) comes in a serve of two. The quesadilla is served warm and filled with what seems like creamed corn with a hint of crab. I layered on the avocado, sour cream and salsa as it just didn't have enough flavour for my liking.
My friend who would like to be referred to as Mr STTA ordered the gluten-free version of the warm lamb salad consisting of pulled lamb, BBQ vegetables, fetta, roquette and gremolata vinegar ($18). He really loved this and mentioned it was something simple made extremely well. Staff are still learning the ropes so it took a few minutes for them to figure out if it could be made gluten-free or not but they're very friendly and happy to check.
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Foodgasm 7.5/10
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