Monday, December 15, 2014

Taste of Shanghai, Ashfield

The number of dumpling houses available in Ashfield seem to be endless and choosing where to eat can be quite a process! In the end, we choose Taste of Shanghai as we've never been there before...it's as good a system as any.


For some reason I had it in my head that Taste of Shanghai was a "fancy place". I'm pleased to report that it's NOT. It's your standard "casual" Ashfield dumpling joint and I really like it! Service is fast, efficient and polite(ish). We arrive at noon, just before the rush hits. But 12.30pm the place is packed!  The tables are a notch up from the usual laminex tables...and the clientele are a mix of locals, families, oldies, couples. The majority of the patrons are Asian which Aussies like us always take as a great sign of how good, and authentic, a place is. If a Chinese restaurant is full of Aussies I suggest you RUN away (unless you're in a country town like the ones I grew up in of course)!


Lunch kicks off with a pot of hot FREE tea! Imagine the uproar if places like this ever start charging for their tea!


Although we're here for the dumplings we also have to order a side of Lebanese Cucumber ($7.80) that is doused with a heafy splosh of garlic and vinaigrette. I love cucumber prepared in this way, so simple, so tasty and so refreshing when you're about to inhale a tonne of meaty dumplings! It's also a pretty simple dish to make at home and it's become a staple in our house.


I also just have to order another of my favourite dishes - stir fried green beans with pork mince ($15.80). This is a another dish that I've learned to master at home (thanks to a recipe emailed to me by Shez)...it's quite simple to make and super tasty. Whilst this restaurant version is a bit more oily than my homemade attempt, I think the flavour of this version is slightly better than mine - is it salt, MSG? I have no idea but it's delish.


Dumpling time! Taste of Shanghai isn't purely a dumpling joint so you'll find LOTS of other stuff on the menu. It's hard for us to stay focused but we pull through in the end and order a serve of pan-fried pork dumplings ($9.80 for 8 pcs). These dumplings are excellent - just look how crispy that pan-fried bottom is. They were very tasty too - sometimes I'm not in love with the strong flavour of pork dumplings, but this was lovely and mild, and well seasoned.


And last but not least a serve of pork and chive dumplings ($8.80 for 12 pieces). These steamed dumplings never look as tempting as their crispy-bottomed brothers, but they are lovely in their own way..and we feel quite virtuous and healthy eating these.


Taste of Shanghai is at 264 Liverpool Road, Ashfield.

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 08, 2014

Overnight in Canberra

Over the October long weekend Dave + I made a last minute decision to hop in the car and spend a night in Canberra for no particular reason other than to get out of town. As usual we stayed at the lovely East Hotel (we first stayed there during the Human Brochure weekend and fell IN LOVE with the place)!


Smoque

Before we checked into the hotel we made a beeline to Smoque for some good ole American style BBQ right in the centre of town.


There's a lot on offer on the menu so in order to try and get a taste of most things we ordered a Combo Platter, namely the Trifecta ($39.00) filled with pulled pork, pork ribs, brisket and a choice of one side (we chose red cabbage coleslaw and added a side of "Mexican Street corn" for $3.90).


Our cornbread was a bit of a (dry) write off but the pork ribs were the shinning star on the platter - super tasty, moist with a great smokey flavour (they do their smoking off site in case you're wondering why the restaurant doesn't smell smokey at all). The brisket was also quite good, but the pork ribs won the day for me.


Because I can't help myself when buffalo wings are on the menu we ordered a side of these too. They were FANTASTIC - super flavourful with a slightly spicy, sticky sauce. And the blue cheese sauce was spectacular...I could eat this all day, every day!


Of course all of this was washed down with a Miller's brewski - though isn't Miller's Canadian, not American?


Smoque is at Baileys Arcade, Shop 2, 131 London Circuit, Canberra. Phone them on 6162 3350.

Smoque on Urbanspoon

Addicted to Fabric

After lunch we went and checked into the hotel and then Dave dropped me off at Addicted to Fabric to catch up with some Canberra sewing ladies I've become friends with; and he headed off to the War Memorial.



I love fabric shopping and this is a pretty great shop! I'm not sure if there are a lot of fabric stores in Canberra, and this is a food blog so why would you give a hoot, right? But just in case you do...I bought this lovely fabric that I hope to make into a dress soon - the bodice using one side and the skirt using the other.

Parlour Wine Room

I decided I wanted to go somewhere a little bit fancy for dinner and we decided to check out Parlour Wine Room, in the New Action area - which offers Spanish style tapas dishes in a luxe, old school style dining room.  It was a bit hard to find this place from the address but it's actually inside the Peppers Gallery Hotel - at the back.


When we first arrived we were sat at one of the lovely chesterfield lounges but after sitting there for a drink (Negroni for me, beer for Dave) I needed to move to a "proper table" as my back couldn't handle sitting on the sofa.


The menu has a number of raciones, or small plates, so we start off with a few of things over (another) cocktail. Nearly everything in this part of the menu appeals to me so it's really hard to pick just a few things...

Pork Crack ($8) - really good, air puffed pork rind.
Cider battered anchovies ($7) - Brilliant! The batter was thick and crisp, almost like a dagwood batter. Perfect for the salty anchovies and creamy, spicy sauce.
Smoked pork butter with bread ($2). This was good, but not as good as the chicken crackling butter we had at Jamie's Fifteen in London last year.
Moving right along to the larger Tapas plates. We initially ordered three of these these but as they weren't overly large and I needed just *one more* to finish off the night. The descriptions of each item is fairly light-on (which is the trend de jour I think with many modern restaurants) so we choose by simply going with the ingredients that sound good to us (those we could identify that is)!

House code, ancient grains, baby turnips + aoili ($19) - very tasty, though I found our cod overly salty. Loved the crunch of the grains and the creamy aoili.
Dusted calamari, squid ink, black garlic romesco, almonds ($17) - really nice, great seasoning on the calamari.
Twice cooked crispy pork belly, px glaze, fried onion, hazelnut ($18) - very delicious, excellent pork though I did find our  glaze a tad salty and thick...it overpowered the pork in a way.
Carrot + onion escabeche, labneh, crushed seeds ($15) - really loved this dish, light, refreshing and delicate flavours.
The Parlour Room is at 16 Kendall Lane, Newacton Pavilion, Canberra. Phone them on 6257 7325.

Parlour Wine Room on Urbanspoon

Me + Mrs Jones

The next morning we decided to head over to Kingston and revisit Me + Mrs Jones. Afterwards we wandered around the area and I spied another great looking cafe, Penny University that I'm keen to try next visit.


There seems to be a few more places to brunch/lunch in Kingston since our last visit so we have no trouble getting a table this time around.  We promptly order coffees and a juice whilst studying the menu.


Dave ordered the Spanish Eggs ($18.00) that was a fry up of A fry up of chorizo, smoked spec,
roast capsicum, olives, roquette and scrambled eggs, served with romesco sauce and linseed toast. It was packed with flavour and to be honest I had BIG breakfast envy!


In comparison to Dave's tasty, flavour packed breakfast I found my Breakfast Quesadilla ($17.00) a little bland.  Squashed between two tortilla warps was a bevy of scrambled eggs and manchego cheese, served with sides of smashed avocado, braised black beans and and house made hot sauce.  I think this dish would've worked better for me if the sauce and beans were inside the Quesailla to give a bit of moisture to this mix - like the Spanish Eggs above which were a medley of flavours and textures all mixed together..


Me + Mrs Jones is at 26 Giles St, Kingston ACT. Phone them on 6162 3355.

Me & Mrs Jones on Urbanspoon

After breakfast we checked out a HUGE craft market that happened to be on during the same weekend we were visiting. I think (ok, I know for a fact) Dave found this SUPER boring but I loved it. It's always inspiring to see others people's creative endeavors. 


We also decided to for a spin before lunch and check out some of the embassy's and fancy houses nearby. Whilst we thought this was fun the AFP, and the guards at the American Embassy didn't seem too impressed at first.  Still...it's a free country and we continue on our merry way picking our favourite embassay's and houses.


Jamie's Italian

Although we have Jamie's Italian in Sydney, Dave was keen to go here for lunch as he'd seen Pavlova on the specials board when we walked past the day before.


Although we been to Jamie's Italian in Edinburgh I really wanted Dave to try Jamie's "famous polenta chips" ($8.50). I LOVE these crispy fried polenta chips that are sprinkled with rosemary and parmesan.


I always love to have a salad when I'm eating pasta. The simple green salad ($7.00) was really lovely, though I found the plating a bit awkward as dressing spilled off the plate. Anyway, our salad of  roundhead and babygem lettuce with a lemony yoghurt, tarragon and  basil dressing went perfect with my pasta, "Jools' favourite tuna fusilli" ($13.50 for a small serve).  I really loved this dish - sustainable tuna, slow-cooked tomatoes, garlic, herbs and cinnamon with crunchy, herby breadcrumbs. I really like the addition of bread crumbs and might try this in my pastas at home.  I'm not sure why Dave forsook Pasta, but he seemed very happy with his Tuscan Wild Boar Sausage ($25.00).


And the Pavlova you may ask? It was more of a Meringue but still pretty good!


Jamie's Italian is at 125 Bunda Street, Civic, ACT (Canberra Centre, under the Dendy Cinema).  Phone them on 6268 0400.

Me & Mrs Jones on Urbanspoon

---

And that my friends is the end of our overnight trip to Canberra. I keep hearing people say how boring Canberra is...and to them I say YOU ARE WRONG! There is loads of great food to be had, wineries to visit, galleries to explore, shopping to be had and friends to meet.


Until next time...

Monday, December 01, 2014

Pink Salt, Double Bay

Miss Piggy and Dave dined as guests of Pink Salt.

If you are as old as I am and remember watching My Restaurant Rules back in 2005, then you’ll remember the birth of the restaurant, Pink Salt. I think this was one of the first “reality shows” I ever watched and I REALLY loved it (I was also gutted the stopped the show after just two seasons). Whilst I never got to dine at Pink Salt whilst they were (briefly) in Manly I’ve finally made it to Pink Salt nearly 10 years after they first opened!


The restaurant has recently undergone a major refurb. Prior to its sleek, warm interior we’re told that this place gave new definition to the work PINK! A quick Google Search will confirm this, but gone is the pink overload and in its place is a fit out that is chic, comfortable and that feels just a little bit suave French bistro.


Pink salt has recently launched its Spring menu and that’s what we’re here to try. We ask if the chef, Mark Williamsom - formerly from Bondi Hardware, the Botanist and Bayswater Diner – would mind sending out a selection of dishes for us. I think this is:

a) a good strategy for lazy buffoons like us;
b) a great way for the restaurant to showcase the dishes they feel best highlights their menu; and,
c) lets me focus more on the cocktails at hand!


Speaking of cocktails, I’m also a bit lazy in this respect and ask the restaurant manager for his suggestions. I LOVE both of the cocktails he sends out for me. The Pomegranate and Malibu Mojito is fresh and light and crammed with fresh pomegranate muddled with brown sugar, fresh mint, Malibu coconut rum and topped with a super zesty grapefruit soda. Perfect Spring drink if there ever was one.



I also LOVED the Blood Orange Amaretto Sour that is a sweet, yet sour mix of Dissarno, fresh blood orange juice, gomme and fluffy egg white on top. This of course is topped off with a sweet, Maraschino cherry. Oh yeah, Dave had a beer. It was beery…and not a cocktail so let’s not talk about that.


The menu is split into a few different sections. We start off with a few offerings from the “Fare to Share” section.  First up is a delectable Charcuterie Board ($29) that is almost overflowing with delicious sopressa, bresaola and truffle prosciutto.  All of these beautiful meats are served with wholgrain mustard, pickles, charred Brasserie Bread. We told by Pink Salt owner, Evan, that all of the charcuterie comes from Pino’s Dulce Vita in Rockdale which is quite renowned for fine quality meats and charcuterie. Only the best in Double Bay folks, only the best.


Dave was a bit...upset when I asked the chef to send out some dishes for us. He was worried the popcorn chicken would pass us by. Lucky for him the chef had his back and a plate of hot, crisply battered chicken makes its way to our table accompanied by shreds of fresh chilli and a tongue tingling sriracha aioli ($15).


We also try a lovely, fresh salad of grilled haloumi (yum) that sits next to a pile of delicately sliced kale, quinoa, pomegranate and hazelnuts ($17). It seems to blow Dave's mind a little that kale can be used for something other than kale chips (which we both kinda agree really are a poor substitute for a packet of Smiths Crisps).  We both really liked this salad - it felt sooooo healthy - and we even talked about (perhaps) trying to replicate it at home....especially now that pomegranates are in season.


We now move onto the “Larger plates". The blue eye cod has the most lovely, crispy skin yet the fish is still moist and tender. If you're wondering what could possibly make crispy skin better, well the addition of bacon crumbs lifts it to a WHOLE new (tasty) level! The fish is served a top a celeriac mash with a side of fresh, crunchy asparagus ($33).

We were both really hoping the chef would send out the pork belly, and he does! HURRAH!  Our luscious, fatty pork belly has a lovely crisp lid on it and is served with a side of savoy cabbage and grilled pear. The carrot mash really stands out in this dish, both in terms of its vibrant colour but also because of its sweet flavour and creamy texture ($29).




Moving along to the “sweet”section of the menu, we didn't really have room for dessert, but when it's for the blog we need to step up to the challenge, right?  I really loved how light and summery the
buttermilk panacotta, milk crumb, strawberry sorbet ($15) was. Perfect for the hot weather we are having - the flavours are tart, sweet and cooling.



The white chocolate brownie, chocolate ice-cream, raspberry sauce ($15) was probably Dave's favourite of the two desserts we tried. At first glance the brownie looks quite dense, but it is actually very soft and light.


Double Bay really is a lovely suburb and I think it's experiencing a bit of a renaissance after a few tough years where businesses and hotels shut down. The area is now buzzing again and Pink Salt is a great spot to sit, eat, relax and watch the passing parade.


Pink Salt is at 2/53 Cross St, Double Bay.  Phone them on 9328 1664.

Pink Salt on Urbanspoon

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