Friday, 27 February 2009

Cafe Vue

Oh that Mr Bennett sure knows how to please. Catering for the lunchtime fatties in all of us, the ever evolving gourmet menu at his “ass” end food empire begs us to return for multiple eats. This time, there’s a Yorkshire pudding, a very buttery pastry like scroll served with a slice of roast wagyu, mash and gravy. French onion and cheesey gruyere croutons complete the meal. The Vue burger is still there, it might be small but it is more than mighty and will add inches to the waistline. A bargain for the quality you receive, though too many visits to this fine café will probably mean larger pants shopping for you.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? Normanby Chambers, 430 Little Collins St, Melbourne, VIC

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Café Kasturi

Café Kasturi is my Lanny Boggs of George St. Always there but never gave it a chance. That was until I got an A1 Top Side hot tip from a workmate who is quite fond of the joint. Don’t be fooled by the green signed frontage with the Ikea tables and chairs that are unseated, for there’s a stylishly modern upstairs section with white table clothes. Pleasant on the food front, a split Malaysian and Thai menu at low low prices. A little stingy with the chicken in the grilled satay sticks served with rice cubes and a nutty peanut sauce. Sambal prawns a bit more generous but worthy of the price, chilli bite that gently slaps the mouth. Typically tender beef rendang burns the food cavity a little more that’s both rich and vibrant. Desserts stereotypically Asian, apple or banana fritter and vanilla ice-cream, more interesting is the sago pudding sweetened by palm sugar with a coconut and syrup pour over. The quiet ones you’ve got to look out for, I’d go back with a smile on my face.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 767 - 769 George St, Haymarket, NSW
What? Dishes under $15

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Yummy Kitchen

From the archives... Presenting T's review from the now defunct Yummy Kitchen.


Taste: 6.5/10
Presentation: 6/10
Service: 7/10
Atmosphere/Entertainment: 7/10
Overall: 6/10
Probability of return within 6 months: 55%

We ate: Szechuan fried rice, Lion’s head meatballs, Sizzling Mongolian beef, Shanghai dumplings

The impetus for visiting this newly opened restaurant came down to pure intrigue. From afar, the oversized sign bearing the name “Yummy Kitchen” gave us the indication that this restaurant was yet another standard Chinese cuisine eating place, however, on closer inspection, there was more to this place than first met our eyes. Peering in through dark windows of the unopened restaurant, an aesthetically pleasing décor was apparent – open spaces, good quality furniture, and a large and homely bar. Questions immediately started buzzing in my head: What was their angle? What sort of food would they serve? What would the service be like? These questions could only be answered by eating there – and so it was.

Entering Yummy Kitchen produced a strangely unique experience. I was stunned, that a restaurant clearly specialising in Shanghai cuisine would take so much care in the layout and design of the dining room. While the restaurant was visually appealing on the inside, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic – I was brought back 15 years in time to a typical Sunday afternoon walking through Ikea looking for furniture; and that smell, you know the smell of furniture freshly unpacked from the box? It’s not an overly disgusting smell, however, it made for an amusing eating experience, and at times I almost believed I was eating in the Ikea café.

Fist impressions aside, there were more important issues to resolve at this point. As usual, we had two bottles of red wine that we were keen to enjoy. As we entered, the question was asked: BYO? Much confusion followed this simple question, although the result was us being seated and being allowed to drink our wine free of corkage charge. How strange. Subsequently we came to the conclusion that the did not have a BYO licence and were in fact doing something illegal, nevertheless, the managers desire for our business seemed to easily outweigh his obligations to the law.

Soon after, we met our waitress for the evening, a lovely and highly enthusiastic young woman who unfortunately mistook our request for “three spoons” as “three sprites.” However, she definitely scored points for personality and subservience. The second waiter, who was equally as enthusiastic, had apparently never poured wine from a bottle before – mind you, this did not quell his determination to complete the task even after my rice bowl and wine glass received equal portions of wine. Despite these interesting, and at times, baffling encounters, the level of service was excellent compared with what we have become accustomed to at most Chinese restaurants.

As the food arrived, we came to understand why the manager had insisted on pulling up another table along side our four seater table – the plates were ridiculously big. Not that I have anything against using oversized crockery; in many cases I find it quite enjoyable. However, the issue at hand was that we had come in with the mindset that this would be a traditional Chinese style meal, and therefore we would be sharing dishes. In reality it was not a difficult obstacle to overcome, more than anything it added to our already heightened state of amusement for the evening. The three dishes we ordered exceeded expectations (our expectations were quite low however). The flavours were traditional, without going overboard on their use of star anise. The meatballs were well cooked and flavoursome, while the dumplings were a light and refreshing change to our regular dumpling intake.

Being highly altruistic individuals, our dinner conversation had consisted of the potential for Yummy Kitchen to succeed in the highly competitive and multicultural Glen Waverley market. Our conclusion was that although they had earned points on many levels, the lack of a clear business positioning strategy could ultimately lead to their demise. Yummy Kitchen has tried to cater for both the Western and Eastern cultures abundant in Glen Waverley, however, with so many existing Asian restaurants on this strip it will be hard to break into the market. However, the outlook need not be so gloomy. Removal of the confusing sign at the front of the restaurant, and perhaps even considering a name change, while the restaurant is still young, could potentially improve its chance of success in the long term.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bungalow 8

Ah BUNGAS! One of few places on King Street Wharf that I haven’t boycotted. All the brown and wood of the place give that island, resort, beach bar kind of feel. It helps to have plenty of couch booths and tables facing a part of Sydney Harbour in the covered air to chillax. By night, they fire up the Survivor torches and spin tracks for a bit of a boogie woogie.

But before all the dancing, the crowd needs a feed, which is what the kitchen is for. Pretty much your standard pub grub, tweaked slightly for the ever so slightly more up market types that graze the venue. Pepper steak is garnished with sweet potato crisps, thickly beer battered fish and equally thick cut chips with gourmet greens separated, suspiciously Bird’s Eye crumbed salt and pepper squid also comes with the same chippies to a generous chicken Caesar salad. Fish pie satisfies, diced firm white fish fillet chunks cooked in a thick white sauce carried in a bowl and lid of baked crispy pastry.

So it sounds like a decent place for booze and not bad for grub either. What’s the catch? The unfortunate KSW premium.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? King Street Wharf, 8 The Promenade, Sydney, NSW
What? Bar Meals under $20

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bertoni Casalinga

The behemoth Italian café that is Bertoni has brought “IT”, the local from Balmain and Mosman, into the fiery hellhole depths of the Sydney CBD. Revered by all and sundry, its reputation built on exporting meals under $15 (cheaper take away) straight to hungry mouths wanting simple, fresh Italian flavours. Could this be the saviour for city workfolk seeking a sit down lunch that’s quality and reasonably priced?

Reasonable prices is what you’ll pay, if you’re willing to twiddle your fingers while you wait for a seat, or wriggle through to the counter to place an order. A menu of antipasti, primi e secondi, insalati, roloti and panini is scrawled proudly on blackboard behind the windows that houses most of the food. Whilst the promise that everything is made on premises daily by “mamma”, one can’t help but feel a little let down when a portion of what’s on display is merely reheated and plated up. Panini, lightly toasted sandwiching prosciutto, tomato and provolone, disappointed as the Italian flatbread was more Turkish thick which didn’t allow to the flavours of the ingredients to come through. Tortellini con ragu of veal and chicken could have spent a little longer in the saucepan heating, the texture of the ground meat inside the floury pasta parcels grainy. That aside, the tomato used in the superb lasagne, spaghetti meatballs and Pasta Bertoni of salami, sausage & eggplant was tangy fresh and provide much better options.

It’s not perfect, but I really shouldn’t be so picky though, I’m just glad Bertoni exists in the city to give us a much better option for lunch than most.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 262 Kent St, Sydney, NSW
What? Under $15 (less take away)

Left to Right : Lasagne, Panini, Tortellini, Pasta Bertoni, Spaghetti Meatballs

Friday, 6 February 2009

Berowra Waters Inn

Toys with a Happy Meal. A 7th blade that escorts the 6th that keeps the 5th warm in the new Gillette HcaM7000 Fusion for the closest shave ever. Kevin Rudd’s promises. That gimmick to attract customers. It is the thing that immediately differentiates and defines Berowra Waters Inn. That majestic boat ride from the wharf to the restaurant, that has housed many of Sydney’s finest chefs, on the shores of the Hawkesbury.

And majestic the food certainly is, complementing the calm and tranquillity of the surrounds. The décor is extremely stripped back and relaxed, letting the serenity of the environment speak volumes. Let the inner Homer Simpson glutton take over, choosing from 4, 5 or 6 courses for a DIY degustation depending on how many flavours you’d like. The portions are scaled up or down but be assured you will leave suitably satisfied. Already envisaging future trips to try everything, the decision is tough as you work your way though the light but beautiful combination Hiramasa Kingfish, Mud Crab and apple, textured by toasted hazelnuts or the chucky thick medallions of grilled scallops, who’s sweetness is accentuated by a lovely rich pea risotto. On the heavier side of things, the slice of roast duck breast, fat rendered into the pinkish meat, accompanied by a filo wrap of duck leg confit ended with a very rich foie gras stuffed dated that whilst was pleasant, perhaps shadowed the Donald. Luxurious Korabuta Pork Loin was more successful with a Madeira Jus. Eclipsing that, mini steaks of Wagyu Sirloin seared and blotted with the finest and freshest pepper berries, grinded and flavour released upon mushing with the chompers. Such simplicity yet so utterly Aussie, a nod to what the gourmet Mick Dundee would prep to impress on the banks of the Hawkesbury.

It is said that this venue has had its ups and downs, but fortunately for the foodie world, chef Dietmar Swayere has resurrected this venue to a stratosphere worthy of its surrounds.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Public Wharves (water access only - call for pickup), Berowra Waters, NSW
What? 4 courses $125, 5 for $135, 6 for $150

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Bellevue Hotel

Walk through this old man’s pub to find a very country bistro residing at the back. In line with the pub, it seems like a favourite of the middle aged and older brigade, seeking old school soul food. There’s nothing pretentious about the menu or the place with the simple drawings framed on the walls of a room filled with square tables draped in white table clothes topped with glossy butchers paper and bentwood chairs. The counter allows peeks into the kitchen to see what’s cooking.

And what is cookin? Wagyu beef sausages, brilliantly crisp on the outside, juicy and fatty flavoursome on the inside with a pool of onion gravy, mashed spud and a tangy beetroot relish. Best snags I’ve had in the harbour city. Steak diane, scotch fillet with red wine and eschalot butter, corned wagyu in a white sauce continue the red meat choices. The kitchen shows equal skill with the things with fins from the water, a blocky fillet of barramundi pan fried with skin on has a blanket of salty prosciutto, sautéed sliced fennel with a pea puree that makes for a delicious main special. Though the crowd does make you feel a little aged, you can trust their years experience to find great food here.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 159 Hargrave St, Paddington, NSW
What? Mains average $28

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