Hola amigos! Como estas? Can you tell I’m going through a Mexican phase. It all started on my Melbourne trip over the Australia Day weekend where I finally got to try Mamasitas. Now this restaurant is meant to be the bees’ knees of Mexican food in Melbourne. I’ve tried Mexican before in Melbourne at the Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda and was very impressed with their quinoa salad which I have now replicated at home. The food at Newmarket for a pub was on another level. It was by no means pub grub. The dishes were packed with fresh flavours and the pub’s fit out had that whole Melbourne industrial look going on. Now it was Mamasitas turn. Last time I was in Melbourne this was a failed expedition because the waiting time was so long and we ended up eating at Chin Chins at 11pm instead (so so so so delicious). Now I know why there is such a long wait…the space is tiny. This time round I learnt my lesson and had lunch at the awkward afternoon time of 3pm. The service was fantastic. The waitress patiently answered all our questions (and there were a lot of them). She recommended we try their signature dish….corn on the cob. I know such a simple dish is their signature. It was bang on delicious. The parmesan cheese and buttery corn with a squeeze of lime was amazing. The meal was off to a great start. Next were the tostadas aka Mexican canapés. Imagine a corn chip topped with chicken, avocado and cheese. To be honest for the price you pay it’s not worth it. Get yourself a taco instead. The chicken also had a weird tuna like texture and taste. It did not win us over. The soft shell tacos with the pork filling were delicious. We should have stopped there. The mushroom quesadilla was bland with a capital B. No amount of salsa or spicy sauce could redeem it. So Mamasita was both a hit and a miss. I would still go back just for the corn and the caramel popcorn ice cream. Even though I was about to catch up with a friend at Hopetoun Tearooms, I could not stop myself from ordering dessert at Mamasitas. There were more ice creams going around then drinks. It probably was the time of day, possibly too early for tequila o’clock. I’m just relieved that I finally got to try Mamasita. Another Mexican that I walked by in Melbourne was Guzman y Gomez, which has recently opened with much hype thanks to a free burrito day. As you all know I don’t wait in lines so I was happy to wait a few days and pay to try it out. Watch out for my next treat as my Mexican love affair continues.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
I’m corny…corny, corny, corny
Tostadas = Mexican canapes = waste of stomach space
Pork tacos with a squeeze of lime…delish
Don’t bother with the quesadilla.
I’d come back just for the corn and popcorn icecream!
It was a weird weather day and I was feeling the effects. The cloudy sky was making me grumpy and it was 4pm and I was still without lunch. How hard is it to find a place open for lunch at 4pm on Sunday? As I found in Mt Lawley in my hangry (hungry + angry) mood it was very difficult. Before relegating to Grill’d (which is spreading like hives with new outlets in the city and Scarborough) my brother and dad stumbled further down the arcade to find Mr Munchies Sushi. This was a great option for my gluten free sister. Now Mr Munchies Sushi is fairly new and well hidden from the Beaufort strip. It’s easily to get trapped at Grill’d or Gelare and if you don’t take those couple extra steps you might not even know it’s there. I was happy to have a break from burgers and meet Mr Munchies. Here you can customise your sushi in four easy steps. First choose your meal, a sushi roll or salad. Then choose your base from beef, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna and other delights like octopus and eel. You can also add a stuffing like cucumber, carrot, lettuce and cheesecake (whatever that is). But wait there’s more. There’s also toppings like sesame seeds, garlic chips and fried shallots to choose from and don’t forget the array of sauces including wasabi aioli, sweet teriyaki and mayonnaise. Mr Munchies is like the Subway for sushi. If this is too confusing for you then you will be happy to know that Mr Munchies also has a set menu. Today we chose two sushi rolls from the set menu. The crunchy spider roll had deep fried soft shell crab, lettuce and cucumber. This was a tasty number and the crab serving was quite generous. The seafood roll also was generous in its portions including salmon, steamed prawn, cucumber and topped with fresh tuna flakes. Don’t you hate when the star of a dish you order ends up only being a supporting act when the plate is in front of you. You won’t feel like that at Mr Munchies. Plus you get to see them make the sushi right in front of your eyes. My brother again went off the beaten track taking the customised option with a pork katsu base and who knows what else he put in there. I didn’t try to find out. For my sister the customised option is fantastic because the sushi is made to order you can pick and choose. The problem with many fast food sushi outlets is that it’s all premade and once you rule out all the teriyaki and katsu options there isn’t much to play with besides vegetarian. It’s the sauce that’s usually the gluten carrier. She got grilled salmon with carrot and avocado and the smile on her face says it all. She was a happy chappy. I changed my tune too once I had food in my stomach. My dad who isn’t the biggest sushi fan enjoyed being the only diners at this restaurant. His main problem with sushi is that there is not enough sauce for him. He was happy with the extra step in adding sauce to your sushi. That didn’t stop him from pouring soy sauce over his sushi pieces. Mr Munchies is still quite new so it’s a hidden gem for the sushi-lovers out there. If you get the munchies at 4pm on a Sunday then meet Mr Munchies for your sushi fix.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
The spider roll (no actual spiders are in this sushi)
Suzy’s special salmon sushi
The star of this sushi is the seafood!
Pork katsu sushi with the weird and wondeful extras that only my brother would choose.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Beaufort, carrot, cucumber, gluten free, katsu, Mr Munchies, mt lawley, pork, salmon, sashimi, seaweed, sushi, tuna, wasabi
This week has been lots of fun. Why? My cousins came back from a Sydney holiday and it was catch up time. If you put three of us in a room how can you not have fun, we truly are the life of the party. It was decided that we should catch up over ribs and chicken wings at one of our favourite haunts…Tony Romas. Whenever I miss the USA it’s great to have Tony Romas nearby for a taste of the American south. Another awesome place for ribs is Hippo Creek which has a South African twist. When I am in Sydney I can’t go past Hurricanes for its delicious ribs and where you get to wear bibs. It’s like they know me because five minutes into eating fiery chicken wings at Tony Romas the Hurricanes’ bibs would have been handy. It was my rookie mistake for wearing a white t-shirt to a ribs place. My cousins are the Tony Romas experts, they are VIP customers and arrive to a free mocktail everytime. Yes a mocktail, we are children at heart and why ruin a perfectly delicious berry drink with alcohol. The sugar high is enough for us. Warning Tony is a busy man especially Friday and Saturday nights so even though I was hanging with the VIP rollers (my cousins) we still had to wait thirty minutes for a table. The experts already knew what to order so as soon as we sat down the waitress had our order down without us looking at the menus:
-FIRE WINGS: Jumbo wings in Tony Roma’s famous spicy BBQ sauce.
-GRILLED CHICKEN & FIRE-ROASTED VEGETABLE SALAD: A savory mix of grilled chicken, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, red peppers and chives blended with chopped greens. Served with tomato pesto vinaigrette dressing and toasted cheddar flatbread.
-THE ORIGINAL BABY BACK RIBS: Tender, lean pork loin meat, basted with Tony Roma’s Original BBQ sauce.
The complimentary warm bread with herb butter was gone within seconds of being put down on the table. This does take me back to the USA because most places give you complimentary bread…think of places like Applebees, Outback Jack (to go with the Australia theme they give you damper) and all those chain-style restaurants (there are too many to name). In the small college town I lived in back in 2008, Bloomington had pretty much all the chain restaurants despite having a population of less than 80,000. Names like Cheeseburger Paradise, Steak ‘n’ Shake, Buffalo Wild Wings were few of many chains in B-town. A big shout to my friend Elise who introduced me to the world of Bdubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) and I still can’t get over the side of celery and ranch…so American. The fiery chicken wings at Tony Romas remind me of that day I first met Bdubs, it was also the same day I drove in the USA for the first time. Don’t worry I was in the right lane. The fiery chicken wings at Tony Romas aren’t too hot to handle but still pack in heaps of flavour. I enjoyed it so much I saved some on my white t-shirt for later. The warm chicken salad had that Tex/Mex touch with cheesy tortilla bread and I enjoyed the tangy dressing with the roasted vegetables. It wasn’t amazing but it added a healthy touch to this saucy meal. The smoky ribs never fail to be messy and as such I had my lipstick smeared over my face like a moustache. Another rookie error on my behalf, bright lipstick and ribs do not make a fashion statement. Thank goodness for the wet wipes because I really needed to clean myself up after eating like a caveman. For the final American touch to this meal and please don’t judge us but we do love our 30 cent cones from McDonalds. Ok yes I can see you reading this shaking your head. Just know that a 30 cent cone tastes so much better than a 50 cent cone and don’t get me started on the math for how much you can save. So we went to our trusty McDonalds drive through and for the first time the 30 cent cone failed us. I know why, I went crazy and ordered the 50 cent flake so my cone was now 80 cents. This defeats the purpose and joy of a 30 cent cone. The cones we received were tragic and not generous in serving at all. The creaminess we were used to was replaced with icy bits and in two bites it was gone. I think our 30 cent cone phase is officially over, we finally learnt our lesson. So in a nutshell if you feel like visiting the USA but chickened out on buying $700 return tickets from Perth to Hawaii like I did then head over to Tony Romas for some delicious southern cooking.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Make your meal healthy…get a salad (with cheesy tortillas for the calcium of course)
Smokey ribs……honest to goodness eating with hands meal.
firey chicken wings…great for my Bdub cravings.
so disappointing…it makes me sad just looking at them.
What am I on about this time? Besides loving food I do love a good musical so I couldn’t help myself with using song lyrics from Moulin Rouge. Ahh I can hear you say ‘I was wondering where that was from’. It’s a shame you can’t shazam words to find out songs, it would be handy. Now before I change this blog to be about things you can’t remember let’s get straight to the food. It was a cold and rainy Tuesday night, a night like no other. Why? My dad was outside the house on a weeknight, a very rare sighting. You have a greater chance of seeing a leprechaun or the lochness monster than my dad on a weeknight away from his couch and the 7pm ABC news. No tonight was different as I asked him to come along to this work function, which was near the Mount Lawley area and so how could we not have dinner on the Beaufort St strip. I actually think it’s illegal to just drive through Mount Lawley without stopping for at least a coffee. Now my dad likes the simple things in life, growing up the family weekend treat was Hungry Jacks so I do have a soft spot for the bacon deluxe and grilled chicken burger. While dad is the breadwinner in the family I have been given the new role of choosing the restaurants for the weekend treat. After a very unsuccessful outing on Saturday night at Tamarind in Mt Hawthorn (not enough vegetables and too salty for the parents) I had to redeem myself. My confidence was shot. So when my dad mentioned he felt like spaghetti I was really wary of taking him to any Italian restaurant. I didn’t want to fail again; I have a reputation after all so the restaurant of choice was Cantina 663. My dad was in shock at how busy it was and the fact on a rainy Tuesday night we had to wait 20 minutes for a table. He couldn’t believe it. I had to tell him that not everyone here watches the 7pm ABC news. In my dad’s defence he gets up at 5am everyday and is still working as a labourer in his 60’s. He’s been doing it for over 35 years and I am so proud of him. I hope I’m active as him when I get to his age. He gets home at around 5.30 and still has energy to tend to his beloved garden. So you have to understand that by 8pm at night he doesn’t want to be eating dinner, he wants to be asleep on his couch. So I have been ranting on for awhile now and have made no mention of food so here I go. Cantina has been hit and miss with me over the years mainly for its service. The restaurant gets so busy even this Tuesday night that the waitstaff might not be the friendliest beasts. Most of the waitstaff have accents and its fun trying to guess them. The menu isn’t for easy reading, I didn’t know what half the things were on the menu. So we asked the questions and then ordered three mains including:
-gnocchi with black sugo, roasted chilli and cuttlefish
-slow cooked lamb, piperade, crisp buckwheat and pecerino
-porcini and pork belly ragu pappardelle
Did you know what any of that was? Neither did I. This was a fantastic learning experience. Cantina change the menu seasonally and my favourite gnocchi combination they do with carrot, walnut, radicchio, gorgonzola was changed for cuttlefish and black sugo. What is black sugo? Good question. I still don’t know the answer to that one and I even googled it. They must have made it up. I am going back there just to find out and because the dish was delicious. My brother ordered the pork belly dish and I had food envy. I love pasta sheets more than gnocchi and so it didn’t take us long before we swapped. My dad loved his slow cooked lamb and all three of us kept trading off our plates to try all the meals. Sharing is caring after all. Dad’s verdict, he loved Cantina and can’t wait to take mum there. Cantina is perfect for a date night with it’s dark interior and romantic candle-lit ambience. Though it was too late for dessert this time, it’s definitely on the radar next time. I’m just so excited that my dad enjoyed a place I chose so my bad run has ended. It was a HUGE gamble, the food at Cantina is a bit left of centre and the menu can sound pretentious. Dad recommends they have an English translation on the menu. I had to break it to him that the menu was in English with some fancy words thrown in. The waiters though rushed off their feet do take the time to translate the menu to the everyday punter. It reminds me of the hard to read specials at Billy Kwongs in Surry Hills. The waiters automatically know you are going to ask them to read the menu for you; the menu is more of a novelty. Overall, Cantina impressed my dad and that impressed me. He is a tough critic, I mean really how can you blame him. Once you try my mum’s cooking you will know what I mean. I’ll make sure to share with you my mum’s opinion on Cantina once we convince her to go.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Gnocchi with cuttlefish and black sugo, which my brother thought was delicious but we don’t know what it is. Any ideas?
Absolutely delicious…the photo does not do this justice. If you like fresh pasta then you will love this dish!
My brother is tall so he likes to take photos that are really up high to prove to everyone he’s very tall. That might not be his reasoning but he did the same thing to my graduation photos. Yes I’m holding a grudge. This is the lamb dish but it’s hard to tell from way up there (he’s 6ft 3 – much taller than his 5ft twin sister, that’s me by the way).
My palate continues to develop as I try the finer things in life. If you asked me 2 years ago what a truffle was I would say chocolate. Now I know the other kind…the funghi variety. So what’s the big deal about this dirty mound that dogs sniff for in the ground? Well in France it’s a HUGE deal and in Western Australia’s burgeoning truffle history it warrants its own festival. Potentially in five years time Western Australia will contribute to 50% of truffle supply in the world. So yes truffles are a big deal. I had the fantastic opportunity of exploring this delicacy even further at the Mundaring Truffle Festival Long Lunch joined by the wonderful company of my dad, mum and sister Suzy. It’s a rare occasion that the family enjoy five courses let alone have truffle as the hero of the dishes. Despite my dad’s initial disappointment that this truffle festival wasn’t a chocolate-a-thon, the excitement of olive oil on the table and fresh bread opened up the appetites. Here is the French-themed menu devised by Perth’s finest French chefs:
-Pork and truffle terrine served with a brioche (Xavier Pique – La Petite Ardoise
-Free range chicken breast, poached in a court boullion, set with a truffled veloute sauce and served cold in contrast with the chestnuts and truffle soup served hot. (Cedric Porcher – Jean Pierre Sancho Boulangerie Pattisserie)
-Lamb scotch fillet slow braised with wine and root vegetables, refreshed with green vegetables and truffles (Alain Fabregues – The Loose Box Restaurant)
-Fondant caramelised apples, served as a dome with a truffle cream centre and a gateau Breton base (Emmanuel Mollois – Le Bistro Des Artistes)
First cab off the rank was the pork and truffle terrine. Now I’ve had a few terrines in my time, which is a meat loaf similar to a pate made with coarsely chopped meats. One word to describe it….meaty. Yes I know not the most eloquent describing word. I am not the biggest terrine fan but that didn’t stop me from demolishing my plate. The accompanying brioche is a favourite of mine from Jean Pierre Sancho and is a must-have item at any breakfast catch up with the cousins there. The next course had the most amazing chestnut soup. The combination of the chestnut and truffles had me scraping the bowl to the embarrassment of my parents. The chicken boullion was dry and I think to blame is the mass catering required for this event that left it overcooked. I would have preferred eating the soup solo instead of using it to add flavour to the chicken. By the time the cute little hotpot was served I was on the brink of a food coma. The smell of the truffles when the lid was removed was earthy and heavenly. From the small mouthfuls I ate I found the Alain Fabregues dish charming just like the chef. He is a Mundaring favourite with the Loose Box restaurant being one of the most admired in Western Australia. I have not yet had the delight to the eat there but don’t worry it’s on my long lists of places to treat. Now my favourite course today had to be dessert. I absolutely love apple tart tartin and it’s one of the French dishes I have been able to conquer successfully. Actually it’s almost become a signature of mine except I haven’t it made in awhile. This dome version of a tart tartin overcame the challenge of matching truffle with sugar. Emmanuel Mollois who has joined forces with Alain Fabregues to continue the French revolution in Perth with Le Bistro Des Artistes made this challenge look like a walk in the park. The creme brulee style centre with the dash of truffle gave the dish earthiness that softened the overwhelming caramel. It stopped the sticky sweet feeling but it couldn’t stop the eventuating food coma. Finally, this all French menu finished with a cheese course. When the cheese platter was put on our table we were overwhelmed by the kilo of cheese in front of us. The stand out was the creamy brie with a truffle centre. Unfortunately this plate was left virtually untouched and mum was complaining that we should have taken it home with us. At that stage I don’t think we could have smelt, stared or carried anything else let alone our own bodies. Overall, the hero of today was the truffle and yes my palate is now more welcoming to this delicacy. But if I had a choice between truffle the chocolate compared to the funghi…my sweet tooth wins out every time. I guess I’m not that refined after all but that can change as I continue treating.
THE FOOD JOURNEY
Thanks mum and dad for joining the food journey.
An elegant touch to a long table lunch in the middle of the bush.
I recommend the brioche from Jean Pierre Sancho.
Amazing chestnut soup.
Slow braised lamb scotch fillet = a warming winter dish.
An apple tart tartin transformed into a dome.
Ending the meal the French way…with cheese.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Alain Fabregues, apples, Emmanuel Mollois, festival, french, lamb, Le Bistro de artistes, Loose Box, lunch, mundaring, pork, terrine, truffle
I made it! Finally after 3 failed attempts I walked through the doors of La Cholita, in Northbridge and got a seat in the waiting/bar area. Technically it’s not a bar area due to their liquor license so you have to always be seated but it is a bar area because then you can only order half the things off the menu (from starters to tostadas). Also you can’t order a drink unless you order food – confused yes me too. As my usual self was half an hour late my wait was much less than my friends who kindly and patiently got us in the cue to move 15 metres to another table. To be honest the waiting/bar area was more comfortable with it’s cushiony seats and I love my booths so would have been happy to play out the meal there. Alas, no we moved to the fashionable end of the room where you sit on uncomfortable stools. Why does fashion and comfort not go hand in hand? Let’s start off with the sangria, which came out in a lovely punch bowl reminiscent of house parties circa 1990s. My friend Fran is a sangria expert thanks to her dad’s signature sangria recipe. Papa’s sangria is amazing, the colour is this beautiful reddish/purpleish/pinkish and it looks as it tastes, amazing! It transports you on a hot summer’s night to a small bar in Italy where the locals know everyone’s name and everyone is drinking their sangria and just talking about how delicious it is. We don’t have to go all the way to Italy for that as this takes place in Fran’s living room but that’s Papa’s sangria, so rustic and homely that you do feel like your in that bar where Papa first learnt how to make it. Fran’s verdict, La Cholita’s sangria was too zesty, which made it not as easy to drink. She found it that difficult that she didn’t finish it. I didn’t mind the extra tanginess but if I had a choice between Papa and La Cholita in the battle for the best Sangria, Papa would win hands down like a red cloth to a raging bull. In my last blog I spoke about this Tex/Mex phase taking hold of Melbourne and finally catching on in Perth. La Cholita is a great concept with an extensive Tequila list and a variety of what appears to be authentic Mexican food items. However, what I need to understand from La Cholita which goes back to what I was saying in the beginning – is it a bar or a restaurant? Because the list of tequila was far longer than the list of food items. I’ll answer this as I dissect the food. We first started off with starters (funny that) – the guacamole dip was yummy with smashing of avocado but it lacked the kick of lemon juice. The salsa dip was also tasty but could have had the wow factor by adding chopped chilli. The octopus was pleasantly chargrilled giving it an awesome earthy flavour and the potato was a nice accompaniment. That was my favourite dish of the night. From here it takes a nose dive, one of the flavour kind. We each ordered a taco – I was so happy to reunite with my pork and pineapple combination from m 2008 Cabo San Lucas trip. I was not disappointed. I wish I had ordered 3 more of those than ordering the ‘big things’ off the menu. The chicken was probably the biggest disappointment. My friend Kristen who had been to La Cholita a couple times before remembered a different chicken to the one we had. She was the first to say the dreaded word no restaurant owner/chef wants to hear, BLAND. We all had to agree with her and out came the chilli sauces, we may have emptied the bottle. A part of me thinks they have dumbed down the flavours, thinking us Perthians can’t take the heat but in doing so that chicken is left drowning in a watered down paste. The beef was cooked medium with a salsa to accompany but it didn’t transport me to Mexico. Those flavours reminded me that I was still in Perth, paying a lot for Mexican food. The sides of rice, tortilla and refried beans were summed up by my friend Kirsty, it was just like Old El Paso that you get from the supermarket. I felt let down. I am confused at what La Cholita is trying to be – what is the point of having a waiting area when the restaurant area only has an extra 8 items. As I said, La Cholita is a great small bar concept with a restaurant license. I understand Perth liquor licences are complicated and this is possibly the only licence that would let them operate. BUT the menu speaks like a small bar menu. I wonder if we got the chef on the wrong night, maybe he wasn’t tasting the food he was putting out. All I will say is when I go for Mexican food, I want that explosion, that zing, that wow factor that Mexican food is known for. I don’t want to be piling on sauces and condiments because the chef forgot to. I like that this Tex/Mex phase is starting in Perth but would I wait an hour for a table just to order from 8 extra items, probably not. You might see my bum in the waiting area in the comfort of a booth but it will be awhile before I sit uncomfortably in those stools again. I’m looking forward to trying another addition with El Publico, hitting up the Beaufort strip. Hopefully it packs in flavours and not just the crowds unlike its amigo La Cholita.