Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pireaus Blues

Location:310 Brunswick Street
Phone: 03 9417 0222
Cuisine: Greek

The Food and The Experience:
Brunswick Street is one of those quirky streets in Melbourne where there's a foray of good cafes, restaurants, bars combined with all this arts/craft/shopping. It's a vibrant location and it's busy busy busy (always).
So there's no surprise when you come across a place like Pireaus Blues (frankly I'm glad that I'm typing this up and not having to discuss this because I'm not even sure how exactly one pronounces "Pireaus") because it's a GEM.
It reminds me of Hellenic Replublic without the flashy decor and the celebrity chef, or perhaps this is what Hellenic Republic is trying to replicate however to some degree more modern.

Prior to heading out Pireaus Blues, no it wasn't a place I just happily stumbled upon after an awesome day of emptying out my bank balance on Brunswick street (a friend had suggested that we try such a place), we had checked out their lunch menu online and were pretty excited to try out their express lunch banquet.

Apparently this "lunch" menu did not exist as we were told by their "apparently" long time serving very arrogant employee who wanted to argue us out of getting this express banquet. There is NOTHING worse when the waiter argues with you, then tries to justify with "ive worked here 5 years and NO ONE has ever ordered this! this does not exist", only to be proved otherwise (we live in a technological world where mobile phones can access the internet that says otherwise) and needless to say we got what we wanted.

As with anything Greek (well at a Greek restaurant anyway), you can't go pass an assortments of dips. These dips were served with Pita bread. Frankly, we couldn't get enough of the dips and it was OH SO FABOLOUS and extremely tasty.
I'm a tad bias, I love dips (provided it's of the vegetable kind i.e caspicums and the like).
As this was being shared between 3 people, it was plentiful.

Then the Loukaniko(greek word for sausage) came out. I have to say, I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but I couldn't help myself either. You know when your brain says "nah, its not that great" but your tummy says "to hell with that, just eat it!?!? eat it?!?!?" I'm sure months on, my thighs are still carrying some of that Loukaniko as we speak. HAHAHAHAH. It was made better having copious amounts of dips left to slather over the sausage... and eating it with the pita bread.

I used to think that I was a massive fan of Saganaki and then I went to Hellenic Republic and the experience put me off so bad that I became hesitant to eat the damn thing, mainly because I can't stand the smell of hardcore cheese, it makes my nose want to put my partners dirty stinky socks up my nose just to eradicate another bad smell.
Fortunately Pireaus Blues' Saganaki was nothing of the sort, it didn't have a strong taste of cheese and it tasted well frankly just beautiful. It was like a party amongst my tastebud, the taste of cheese noticeable was not repugnant and didn't scare the daylights out of me.
You know your heart breaks when you have one triangle piece to share with 2 other people and you have to savour every moment like it's the last piece on earth (well as part of the banquet there wasn't anymore unless we decided to order more)

The lemon lamb, the calamari and the greek salad came out and oh man.... where does one start? The lemon lamb was succulent, tender and each bite was yum yum. I tend to steer away from lamb dishes when I'm eating out, mainly because a lot of places (i.e Maze) don't actually marinate their meats, and just like strong cheese, I really cant stand the smell of lamb on its on. But here at Pireaus Blues, they certainly got something right.
The calamari was lightly crumbed, the kinda stuff you wished people consistently did but always got it wrong but this place surely didn't. And the salad? Well there's nothing much I can say about salad, it's just a salad! LOL

And for dessert, we got ice-cream to share. There's nothing really to scream about the ice cream.

The overall experience was an absolute positive one when it came to food. It's very rare that I can walk away from a restaurant going "wow" that was pretty good.
It's just a shame that the waiter who was such a smart ass to us, kind of left a bad taste to the experience. But until I find a better and perhaps a cheaper alternative than the $29.95 I paid for the banquet experience, I'd be surely going back, especially if I'm in the area

Pireaus Blues on Urbanspoon

Flower drum

Location:17 Market Ln, Melbourne Vic

Phone: 9662 3655
Time: Dinner
Price: Expensive
Cuisine:Cantonese cuisine

What got dished out:
Our first dish from their banquet menu was an assortment of dumplings. These dumplings were pretty much standard dumplings one would acquire at your standard yum cha place. It wasn't the best, nor was it all that bad. I don't know what I was expecting, okay I lied, when I saw dumplings, i thought "oh wow, it's going to be awesome", it wasn't that, it was "oh, this is so shark fin house style, except less rude and more pretentious"

 S.A King George Whiting (entree) came out and it was fish that definately deserved a second helping. For someone who doesn't like fish, I did like the fish, the batter was light, it was tasty (okay maybe a little less salt) but still very tasty

As part of the 4 course "tasting" banquet, FlowerDrum had "peking" duck as part of their menu, and oddily enough it was part of their "main course", seriously speaking, I'm not quite sure how peking duck can be considered as a main unless of course they're going to feed me an entire duck itself.(which they didn't). I can't say that the duck was the best thing ever, because it wasn't. It wasn't a total disappointment like my Quanjude experience, but I must add, at the time, I hadn't gone to QuanJude yet, and at the time, I thought my experience at flower drum was somewhat ordinary and a total disappointment, seriously I expected a lot more from a classy, top end restaurant, especially when it came to peking duck. In all honesty, for half the price (which would have fed a table of 4 people) i could have gotten much better peking duck elsewhere. Actually, i didn't just think this experience was THAT ordinary, i thought it was VERY ordinary, and to some degree, annoyed. (and then i went to quanjude for peking duck, and realised that flowerdrum had someone who beat them to making very ordinary duck)

The "Grain Fed Eye Fillet with Black Pepper sauce" had a mixed response from our table. Everybody was impressed because you got a choice of " how you wanted your meat cooked, medium/nuked etc etc)  Frankly it wasn't a winner because nobody was all that impressed with it, including myself. You know when your gut feeling says "stay away" and you don't listen, it's at this point you want to kick yourself in the nuts (if you had some that is), well it was for that very moment.
Don't get me wrong, the meat was nice and succulent and very tender but what was the biggest let down of them all had to be the sauce. Even if I was a fan of the sauce, it would have been nothing but a disappoitment, it was like an array of wtf-ness bouncing off my tongue, it just didn't taste right and no matter how much coke or chinese tea i consumed, i couldn't really get rid of the peppery or lack thereof taste out of my mouth.
On the menu it also stated "seasonal vegetables" and as you can see in my photo, apparently the only seasonal vegetable showing happened to be some bok choy. Seriously WTF!??! no broccoli? no beans? no carrots? someone can't be telling me that the only thing in season is bok choy, (probably the cheapest crap on the market at the time)... don't worry, i found this hilarious, of the crappy kind.

We had a choice of desserts, and of course I decided on the mango crepe thing (sorry can't remember the exact name of the dessert), and to it's credit, it was very tasty. However, I've had something similar (at a yum cha place) where they did something similar and they added whipped cream inside the crepe and mango (it was far more delish). I guess, if I hadn't been spoilt and eaten something like that, the dessert served on the day would have been given the two thumbs up.
So in many ways, if you're not like me, and you happen to NOT like whipped cream in anything, this is for you.


My thoughts:
I've been to Flower drum on several occasions before, all of which had been several years ago. Some of the things don't change, for example the impeccable service and the high price tag for every single dish.
The service which everybody always comments on is to some degree creepy, borderline stealth/ninja like. What the heck am I talking about? This is perhaps the only place I know where the waiters are already pouring tea into your cups just as it's half full. The moment you move to stand up to go to the toilet, someone's already there to push your chair out, and fold your napkin.
Which basically means it can be unnerving knowing that someones staring at you to watch your every move.
The one thing I won't complain is that the staff can actually speak English, not broken English, or Foblish (you know when an asian puts a twang to english and at times, you're not sure if they're speaking english or their own language but it sounds like something that you think you understand, and you nod your head politely because you don't want to embarass them or yourself).
Don't get me wrong, other Asian restaurants should look at Flowerdrum and use it as an example, especially to those who have a lot of Western customers, you need to have FLUENT and comprehendable staff  and are FRIENDLY. But I guess, when restaurants only want to pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys working.

My biggest disappointment had to be the steak, mainly due to the fact that many years ago, I had cantonese steak at Flower Drum, and I have to say, it has to be the best cantonese steak I've had in Melbourne (that one experience made me order cantonese steak at every chinese restaurant i knew). Needless to say, I was disappointed with every cantonese steak I ordered after that which meant that I would put Flower Drum in a revered status of "awesomeness", but like most things, it's only a distant memory, and when you go back and be as crushed as you were with this experience you start to question "perhaps it wasn't as awesome as it was"

Another thing that puts me off Flower Drum is the high cut price charged for the food, sure, some of it's tasty, some of it's OMG, but for what you pay for at Flower Drum, you could probably eat out at a simple chinese restaurant for the same amount of money spent for an entire week (probably including lunch and dinner).
So I guess the people who are going to frequent such an establishment would be people who have bucket loads of money (literally they shit out money when they go to the toilet), those who want to be served properly at when at a chinese restaurant (i mean how often are we subjected to bad service?) or want an experience of a different kind.

Speaking of toilets, the biggest let down for flowerdrum has to be the toilets, I'm quite sure what the male toilets were like, but the female toilets were a tad WTF? especially for a place that's a hatted restaurant, (these days a lot of restaurants ensure that the toilets are nice, clean and uncluttered), Flowerdrum's experience is a total mess. The female toilet seems to be the dumping ground of the restaurant's unwanted tables and chairs, it's like going to a different world altogether, you've got a beautiful restaurant front, lovely staff, and then you got the toilet. It's almost like going to one of those Chinese restaurants in the 'burbs and having to go down some dark alleyway to go to an outside toilet that reeks of dead meat. Thankfully the toilet at Flowerdrum isn't as bad as that, but i guess if they had that option, it would go that way. Don't get me wrong, the toilet wasn't dirty or unhygenic, it was just unsightly with all the furniture being dumped there.

Overall, the food wasn't spectacular, and for $99 I paid, I felt ripped off. I expected more, I expected my socks to be spinning off my feet or something like that, it didn't.
Would I go back to FlowerDrum? Well, lets put it this way, not unless someone else was happy to foot the bill because my bank account says NO to FlowerDrum.

Flower Drum on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Outback Jack Bar and Grill

Location:Knox City Shopping Centre, Burwood Hwy, Wantirna South
Phone: 03 9801 6305
Time: Dinner Time
Price: Not exactly CHEAP
Cuisine Type:Steak House

What got dished out:

I ordered a medium rare angus porterhouse steak with potato and sour cream, mushroom sauce and it came with a side of salad.
The salad looked old and tired, something that looked like it had been sitting outside all day and screaming out "I need to be eaten.... like 5 hours ago" The potato was also a disappointment as I had expected something that was going to be fresh and hot, it was hot but it looked like it's salad friend... tired looking.
The steak fared no better, I have a tendency to order medium rare because some chefs have a tendency to dish out "nuked" when you order medium and I never want to risk that chance.. I'm not a big fan of well done steak, seriously if i wanted to eat something that was almost rubbery/leathery and broke my jaw chewing, I'd start cutting up my handbag.
Needless to say, the people at good ol' Outback Jack didn't give me a medium rare steak, it was VERY medium borderlining to well done.
I would have forgiven them had the mushroom sauce I ordered tasted less packet like, almost something you'd get from a packet of GRAVOX (except theirs was well stirred and no lumps.. because thats what mine usually comes out looking like with plenty of lumps). Needless to say the steak wasn't exactly all that inviting, it wasn't anything special, it was more dry than anything else, I always expect my steak to be succelent and juicy, of course I got none of that.

Then there was the steak burger and to be honest when it comes to steak burgers this one didn't top the list of "seriously want seconds", it was the average burger with extremely dry, borderlining old chips with the bun which mostly likely had seen better days. Had the chips been freshly cooked in that "oh so bad oil" and the bun been nicely fresh, this would have been a burger where i would have given a two thumbs up. except it scored a perfect two thumbs down. Nothing wrong with the steak per se but it's a steak burger therefore everything else with it needed to support the steak.
The biggest highlight of my meal had to be the serving of the corn which we had ordered as a side dish. It was freshly cooked, juicy and succulent. All it needed was butter to melt all over it and the whole thing would have been PERFECT. It was such a shame that Outback Jack couldn't implement it to the rest of what we had ordered.
Had I gone to a Vegetarian place to eat, I would have scored them 10/10 for the corn, but this was a steak house and the only thing they got right was this corn...
And so, I took my time to enjoy the corn and wished that my steak and potato had been as awesome as this.

My thoughts:
One of my pet hates is when someone advertises that they make the "best" steaks and that they have the "biggest selection of steaks" and then they don't deliver. I'm not sure if they do have the biggest selection of steaks, if it's not cooked properly then it's a mute point. You could a very small selection however cook it to perfection and you have a winner.

My other problem with the place was that, as I had mentioned, everything seemed to be almost "old", and not exactly fresh. The salad wasn't on the fresh side, the chips were probably a batch that had been cooked for 5 orders ago and frankly the bread was more or less a day or two old. Being an extremely busy place, you'd think everything they'd dish out would be extremely on the fresh side, but it wasn't... which leads me to the next thing, this place is in a shopping centre, so it was almost as if it was like "shopping centre" rubbish where the food had been sitting there for ages and ages and ages....(and then some sucker buys it), I expected more from Outback Jacks, yet it disappointed me so.

The worst bit about this was that what we ordered didn't even fill us up... and so I left not only disappointed but also hungry but too afraid to order anymore.
To be honest it was an upgrade from La Porchetta (not that theres anything wrong with their steak) and the alternative was having steak at Hogs Breath (I hate that place) but it Outback Jack surely wouldnt and couldnt compare to the likes of Squires Loft.
The most interesting thing about this is that Outback Jack is planning to open up a store in Docklands, i hope for their sake that it's nowhere in the vicinity of the Squires Loft chain (although the best store is still Toorak Rd), because the reality is, it might just die on its ass, sure the people down in Knox will be happy to eat it (considering the alternative is Hogs Breath) but I don't think the rest of Melbourne would...
Unless of course, you like the tacky stuff that Outback Jack's got going for itself (think TGI FRIDAYS) but instead you have this massive crocodile(or maybe alligator) hanging off the roof. If you like the novelty then you'd like the place, however novelty only works for about 5 seconds with me, if the food just can't deliver, they could have a real crocodile on show and I still wouldn't go back...

(yes thats a croc hanging off the roof, scary stuff... if you were a 3 year old and just woke up... from your nap)

Outback Jacks on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Location:2/168 Bourke St Melbourne
Phone:(03) 9663 0033
Time: Mid Afternoon
Cuisine Type:Desserts galore
Price: $6 bucks onwards
What got dished out:
My sister thought she'd be daring and order the dessert called "Golddigger" which comprised of ice shavings,lychee, mango,jelly syrup, oranges and mango sorbet.
The best thing about this was the mango sorbet, the most disappointing thing about this was the ice shavings..
Well calling it ice shavings would be misleading because what should have been ice shavings or finely crushed ice, wasn't exactly like that. The ice were small little ball size, not huge but not exactly small, and this dessert definately needed something that was finely crushed to compliment on what it had to offer, and thus it became a disappointment. I guess almost like in real life, golddiggers, only ever lead to disappointments,whether looking for real gold or dating someone who's after all of your money.

I wished the cookies and cream was as delightful as it looked but it wasn't to be, there wasn't anything interesting about it, it tasted just like any other ordinary cookies and cream ice-cream that could be purchased basically anywhere and everywhere. Actually my complaint was that it should have been a lot more creamier or milkier or something. But not as bland and basic as this. Oh how basic it was...

And then there was this, and for the life of me, I can't remember what this damn dish was called, but it had plethora of good things to offer or what looked liked good things to offer.
I was impressed that the strawberries were ripe and sweet, when they come out on any dish sour,i age as i make the face of a 90 year old enjoying their dinner eating sour strawberries.
But no fear, I wasn't disappointed, the lemon  icecream(the white icecream pictured) did that for me. Oh, Lordy was it sour or what! It was an odd mix of mango sorbet and green tea and this lemon ice-cream. You went from bland-ness (green tea) to sweet (mango) to absolutely sour (lemon). I guess they covered everything but frankly it's a weird combination of ice-creams to jam together, kinda like the person making this thinking to themselves "now, how do i really screw up customers tastebuds!!?!?! ooo I know, let's shove mango, green tea and lemon icecream together, that will sure get them!"
I liked the crepes, nice and think but the pancakes were a bit on the thick side. No amount of cream and jam could mask how terrible the pancakes were. I think they should leave the terrible pancakes to the pancake specialist (the guys that make them 24/7) and just stick to the crepes.

My thoughts:
There was a LOT of hype when this store first opened in Melbourne, considering there's not exactly a place anywhere in Melbourne that offers so many different types of desserts. I mean there are a few but they usually charge an arm and a leg (i.e pancake parlour.. btw can someone ask them to give back my leg.. im still missing it from my last visit), it's no wonder it's basically packed to the brim with people.

The biggest complaint that I would have about Passionflower is that it's slow and the service is beyond a joke. The staff aren't just slow, they're VERY slow to serve you, it's kinda like they're too dumbstruck and they don't know what exactly they're supposed  to do with themselves. It's quite simple really, you see people, you get them a table, and you take their order and when the order is ready, you quickly serve it as ice-cream melts. I know, I should make a career out of it or something, but alas waitering pays peanuts, so really i shouldn't complain about service or lack thereof.

But it's not just the waitering staff that are slow, the orders also come out slow. I'm not sure if it's because it's new and they don;t have the hang of it yet, or that the person who's making the order doesn't know his menu back to front that they're struggling but hey, as a customer, i really don't care, I'm ordering ice-cream, it's not something from Ezard where there's like 20 or so ingredients to use. having to wait 15minutes for 3 scoops of ice-cream is tad slopey. I hope this improves because if it doesn't, eventually customers get sick of waiting and end up leaving, no matter how great the ice-cream is.

All I can say is," I "hope" it improves" but judging with what goes on in Sydney, there's not much hope really because "slow" is really part of the business model at Passionflower. And considering Sydney people stereotypically are "on the go go" type people and are meant to be all on time constraints, it's a wonder how they have the time to sit down and enjoy their desserts. They're lucky that the ice-cream is nice, they've got someone who's controlling the menu who's creative and they happen to be in "asian-centric" locations. Asians for whatever reason have a crazy sweet tooth and love their sweets like you wouldn't believe. (i really wonder what the diabetes rate is amongst asians...) And for those who weren't aware, Passionflower really started up in Sydney and if they didn't get it right up there, they sure ain't ever going to get it right down in Melbourne... like i said.. "HOPE"

Is Passionflower really worth it? Not if you order anything particularly fancy like what I mentioned above, however if I stuck to the usual simple thing I always get- mango sorbet in a waffle basket, then i'd be utterly satisfied. These guys have the BEST mango sorbet going around in terms of whats available out there in the ice-cream scene, and believe me, I'd know, I love ice-cream, i'd eat it even if it's -3degrees outside.  I've taken friends and made them order that exact dessert and everybody's impressed, walking away with the belief that Passionflower is indeed the best dessert house going around town, unfortunately for those who have ordered anything else off the menu have walked away feeling disappointed.(tough luck, because they just don't listen).

I hope for it's sake that it's able to exist in Melbourne, I know it works in Sydney but Melbourne is a totally different kettle of fish altogether. It would be such a disappointment if it died, because really paying for flights to sydney to get decent mango sorbet would really bite..

Passionflower on Urbanspoon


Address: 299 Queen Street, Melbourne Vic (parking is a total bitch around this area... street parking is until 8.30pm M-F,of course that's not the restaurants fault. The paid parking right next door closes at 9pm sharp... so be careful)
Telephone: 03 9670 0091
Cuisine Type: Chinese.
Time: Dinner

What we ate:
The first dish that came out as part of the banquet was the seafood San Choi Bao. I have to admit, it was one of the most interesting San Choi Bao's I've had in a long time. Mainly because it had an addition of what looked like pine nuts (I'm not exactly sure what they were) but it made the dish all the more nicer to eat plus it didn't have that awful stench of seafood that some restaurants are unable to mask. The San Choi Bao was a decent size, actually it was abnormally large, larger than what most asian restaurants tend to dish up and that's always a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

It's no surprise when the next dish came out, I passed it off to the next person to eat the second  piece because frankly I'm not the biggest fan of dumplings (yes i do have an extremely long list of "not a big fan of" foods).
I can't say the Steamed Shanghai Crab Meat dumplings was bad, I just can't say that it's ALL that great either. (plus the person on my right loved dumplings way more than i did.. it's only fair to let someone else enjoy something that i find quite ordinary to eat).
To be honest, I really can't say that I could taste the "crab" inside the meat dumplings, but really I am only to blame, I only ate one, and i did so in one gulp (okay i chewed it slighly). The only way I knew they used REAL crabs and not something that was "fake" was when my friend had some crab shells in hers.

The reality was, I probably should have ate those dumplings because the next dish that came out, nearly made me sick. There's nothing wrong with it per se, it's more or less an acquired taste, okay more or less, if you had lost all sense of taste, it would have been the best dish ever made in the history of man kind. Actually, it's not just your sense of taste, your sense of smell would have to be eradicated completely as well as your tastebuds  for you to completely enjoy the "Stir Fried King Prawn with Goose Liver Pate". I'm not sure what exactly was stir fried because this dish looked like it was deep fried in Goose Liver Pate.
Don't get me wrong, I love Goose liver Pate because usually it's actually quite nice as a condiment  or as a dip but it was a strange combination with the prawn.
I'm also hesitant when seafood comes out and there's a strong smell of garlic, that's always an indication that there's something quite wrong with the seafood, i.e not being fresh. But you see, this dish DEFINATELY needs the strong garlic smell, and the reason for this is that it's strong to mask a more sinister smell, the smell of duck. It's not a nice cute smell (although how anything can have a cute smell is beyond me, but it's a nice adjective to use). Yes, the smell and taste of goose was just overbearing, it's kinda like shoving your nose into a dead duck and smelling it. What made it worse was that they gave us 3 in a serving, I ate one two many and happily donated the other 2, to someone else who's sense of smell and taste obviously didn't exist.

Yes, I have to admit, my photo taking skills are almost mediocre because looking at this next dish, even I'm like "wtf" is that.. because whatever it is, it's not exactly appetizing at all.. but the fact is, the steamed wild barramundi fillet with ginger and shallot really was that appetizing (well much more than what the photo depicts). Although it could have done with a little bit more sauce.
I'm not exactly sure what the difference is between wild barramundi and one that is farmed, I can't say that it taste much more juicier, or perhaps my palate isn't as twisted advanced to completely comprehend that this was a "mind blowing" dish, actually if i said that it was, I'd be lying. This dish was made to the same standard that could be found at 99% of chinese restaurants in Melbourne. 
 And then the Peking duck came out, and this is the stuff that apparently makes QuanJude, Quanjude. They even claim that they are the Peking duck specialist, considering they have a very successful restaurant in China (where lots of people apparently rave on how awesome the place is) I was expecting big things when it came to the peking duck... and that's all they have: a claim, unfortunately with nothing to back themselves up with because frankly what they dished up on the day wasn't anything better than what I had eaten anywhere else. In fact what I had that day, I found the duck to be quite dry and was completely disappointed. Seriously, I was hoping for something that screamed awesomeness, i expected awesome because scrawled on their front window stated that i should be blown away, (okay it didn't say that literally) maybe I was wrong, maybe these guys were specialist at making ordinary duck, just like what you could get anywhere else. It's either the standard in Melbourne is exceptionally good  or that  it's average, i'm not exactly sure which one it is. I guess I need to make that trip to China afterall to have my socks blown away and come back here and tell you guys exactly what to expect from Peking Duck, but with what's available here in Melbourne, Quanjude is really in a sea of averages.

The "Special Fried Rice" and the "Wok Fried Eye Fillet with Kung Po Sauce" came out together. I have to say, I was quite impressed with the Eye Fillet dish, it wasn' the beef that was exciting, it was the sauce. They should rename the dish to "eye fillet with Kung POW" because the POW just gets you in the mouth, yes, the sauce is just that good, unfortunately let down by an overcooked piece of tired steak. Had it been cooked medium to medium rare with perhaps the freshest piece of steak, this would have probably been THE best dish ever.
I'm not sure what the addition of the cashew nuts were supposed to do but I like cashew nuts nonetheless and happily ate mine and stole anyone elses when they weren't looking.
The special fried rice wasn't anything exciting but it wasn't bad. I usually facepalm when I get dished up very ordinary fried rice because if you can't get this dish right, there's not much hope with anything else. The fried rice got a passing mark.

The last thing to come out to us was the Fried Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce. I'm not exactly sure how a place like this could plate this up to make it look more prettier and make it somehow a little bit more desireable to eat.
I wish I could say that this was absolutely fabolous because it wasn't. There was nothing wrong with the ice-cream or the batter (in fact I have to give them 2 props to making it nice) but my poor tastebuds were having an awful time dealing with the strawberry sauce. I half suspected that they either got the strawberry sauce on special hence why it was part of the menu, but to give you an idea to exactly what it tasted like, imagine someone shoving a spoonful of XXL strawberry jam in your mouth (you know the stuff you get from the supermarket). It was overkill.

My Thoughts: 
I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed with this restaurant. Perhaps I had such a high expectation of this place because my friend kept referring to this place as "poor mans Flowerdrum" and in all seriousness, a comparison such as that isn't exactly fair. Flowerdrum had a $99 banquet and this place was $68, it wasn't exactly on the cheap side either. The usual poor man still wouldn't be able to afford to come to QuanJude and frankly had he gone, he would be on the same boat as myself.. sitting in utter disappointment.
Sure there were some great dishes, the San Choi Bao was pretty decent but really, not many people go to restaurants eating San Choi Bao, actually for whatever reason there is some kind of stigma on ordering this dish when you are asian, apparently this is what westerners order... I HATE this stigma because i actually enjoy eating san choi bao's and i don't care it's because im asian, i'm going to eat it anyway and no ones going to stop me.
However for the price that we coughed up, considering there was 7 of us, and at $68 each for a banquet, I couldn't say it was value for money because it wasn't. I couldn't say that it was awesome like a hatted restaurant because it wasn't. For a total of $476 we could have gotten a lot more dishes elsewhere that were average or have paid half the price for the same type of food elsewhere.
Maybe the hefty price we paid was to cover the costs of the furnishing because the decor of the place was decked out as if I was sitting in the imperial kingdom all the way in China, at some point you'd expect the emporer or the emporess to step out and tell you to like their dish or have your heads chopped off.
I might as well have sat in China because it seemed if you didn't speak the required Mandarin, communication with the waitering staff was almost a joke.I have nothing against people who's English is not their first language however it becomes problematic when these same people have to try to service the English speaking community and with their heavy accents, it's anyone's guess to what exactly was being said.

I don't think I'd be going back to Quanjude in such a hurry, not unless I have at least 10 of my friends who go and come back raving about the place because frankly it's going to be on my list of "not really going back unless i really have to" and I know I won't have to.. so i can breathe easy. 


Quanjude Peking Duck on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ZenZero Blu

Location:32 Best Street, cnr St Georges Road
Phone:03 9481 3393
Cuisine Type: Vegetarian/Mediterranean
Price: from $3-$20

What got dished out:

This was the first thing that came out as part of the Vegetarian Degustation menu to share.
We had Spanish & Australian Olives with Coriander and macadamia; Beetroot dip served with charred roti bread.
Personally I didn't like the Olives at all, the smaller ones were really bitter and we weren't sure which ones were the Spanish ones and which ones were the Australian ones.
The dips on the other hand were a nice surprise, I warmed up quickly to the Macadamia/Coriander one a lot quicker than I did to the beetroot.

The second dish that came out was Pumpkin cream and Basil Soup. I was impressed when it came out looking the way it did (as you see it in the photo) but I couldn't help agree with a user on my FourSquare app commented that it "tasted like something from a can" because it definately did taste like something served from a can.
But at least i can safely say that it was a nice "canned" soup, although I don't think it was from a can as the waitress claimed that everything made was fresh. I hope she didn't mean they "freshly opened up a new can for us". I also find it quite disappointing when "pumpkin" soup is served as part of any Vegatarian meal, It's almost like a palm off. You know Vegetarians have more exciting tastebuds than just pumpkin soup, and they don't just eat pumpkins... arghz

We were then served "Warm breaded dutch goats cheese with zucchini" which was a nice surprise. I didn't mind the goats cheese so much because I usually make interesting faces when I have to eat this. For some reason I just can't get my tastebuds to like goat's cheese.
What I really liked about this was the bread, it was nice and crispy and it was the only thing that was making this dish work.
I loved the fact that these were quite small although in the photo they look like large servings, in reality it's on a small plate.
It was a good thing I didn't have to share this because I don't think I would have been sharing this with my friend.

I was disappointed with the "porcini mushroom and pumpkin arancini ,tomoato sugo and salsa verde" in short arancini's served.
I was struggling to eat the first one, let alone having to go onto the second one.

There was just wayyyy to much stuffing and frankly by this stage I was starting to get completely full.

By the time the salad came out I was completely and utterly full. It didn't meant that I stopped eating altogether. The salad was interesting to say the least. I could taste the orangy-zest marinade over it which was quite nice, the walnuts and sesame was different, but I didn't appreciate the pumpkin or the greenery(rocket)..Seriously everytime someone puts rocket into my salad, it always reminds me of the weeds my dad used to pull out of the garden. *shudders*

When I say the salad was interesting, what I meant was it was much better than the next dish (Risotto with Peas and Cheese) that came out at the same time as the salad.
Coming from a Vietnamese background, Risotto's are somewhat hard to eat because the rice is something I'm used to. I have come across great Risotto, this was not it. In fact it didn't even meet the good catergory.
The first thing that came to mind besides "this is such an ugly dish" was "OMG it smells". The cheese was a heavy pugnant smell. It was so bad, I wished I had lost my sense of smell as the abuse on the nose was so bad I wanted to vomit. Actually, it smelt like stale vomit. You can guess that I only had a little bit and pushed the dish as possible from myself.

When the dessert came out, I was hesitant to even try it considering the last dish happened to be so bad. I had lost complete hope. Surprisingly the Pear and Chocolate Crumble was so devine, it melted in my mouth... and I was in heaven!
The apple did crumble in my mouth :P and the chocolate was nice, warm and milky!

I was saddened that the dessert was so small, although the photo makes it look like it's a large serving, and heck I wished it was a very large serving because frankly I could have eaten it even if it were the same size as a large dish.

My thoughts:
This set us back at the cost of $32, in terms of dining standards, actually degustation standards, that's extremely cheap.
However, like any degustation experiences, there are usually some hits and misses. This place had very few hits but a lot more misses.
I was impressed that they even offered a Vegetarian experience as there aren't that many places that I know of that even bother with degustation targeting at Vegetarians...
Perhaps I was deluded thinking that like with any other "degustation' experiences that the food would interesting in fact an exercise to give the restaraunt the opportunity to showcase their techniques, a small introduction to what's on off.
However thedishes were very unimaginative and very un-original. Very typical vegetarian food palm offs that restaurants like to throw together when they're stuck with a vegetarian and the chef is at the back screaming "what do we do? what do we serve?!!?!? ahhh pumpkin soup!?!?!"

In terms of service, I couldn't fault the waitering staff other than they were too friendly and started chit chatting to us about their lives. For first-timers this is a bit too much, for regulars I'm sure it's fine if you had built that rapport.

Overall I'm still reserved. I'm not sure if I like it as of yet, just the Risotto alone is enough for me not to go back, but the dessert and the dips were winners for me something that could potentially draw me back.

I've been told they do change their degustation menus on a regular basis, perhaps another opportunity to try it all over again. For those who are reading this, they also do have a "meat" degustation as well. One I would be interested to try ... maybe

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

David & Camy Noodle Restaurant

Location:590 Station St, Box Hill 3128
Phone: 03 9898 8398
Time: Dinner
Cuisine Type: Chinese
Price: Under $15

What got dished out:

We ordered Hot and Sour Soup (forgot the price sorry) assuming that it was going to be a small bowl, I know the photo doesn't help because you can't be sure if the camera's made it bigger. But trust me, you could make a full meal out of this. We had two smaller bowls and we still couldn't finish this soup off. Actually we couldn't finish it because I didn't want anymore, it wasn't that GREAT. I'm not a big fan of Hot and Sour soup, (this was my second time eating this) and this soup confirmed it. Personally I think there's something weird about hot and sour soup and I can't get my tastebud to like it.
However the soup we had was quite disappointing, it was sour but it wasn't hot (spicy wise) and it wasn't hot as in (heat wise) either.
They should have called it "sour soup"

We ordered Pan-fried Pork dumplings (around $8 bucks) and steamed beef dumplings($8 bucks), I can't remember exactly how many they give you ( I think 16 of each) but the pan fried ones were a lot nicer than the steamed ones we got.
Actually anything fried is generally a lot nicer to eat.
We didn't do the beef dumplings any justice by asking them to be steamed. I'm not sure why anyone would want steamed dumplings (I guess because it's healthier) but I thought having two fried dishes would be a tad too much to eat (and not healthy for one's heart).

For whatever reason, I came to the conclusion that it was better to steam beef then pork. I have this fear of eating raw pork, not that the restaurant would serve raw pork. Pork is actually hard to cook and if not well cooked, you can end up in all kinds of trouble (actually I'm not sure about this, but I'm not going to dispute what my mother's been telling me for years, perhaps scare tactics, i'm not sure)..

I think if we hadn't ordered the soup we would have been able to polish the lot off quite easily, however we did the best that we could. Leaving a couple left on the plate. Needless to say the dumplings were pretty awesome.

My thoughts:
It seems to operate a dumpling place in Melbourne, the prerequisite is that everything in the restaurant has to be greasy, the tables, the chairs, and the food. Whenever I go to these places, I always finding myself having to clean my bowls, my chopsticks and cringe when the plates of food come out because really, if they couldn't keep the bowls and chopsticks clean, what are the chances that my food is on a clean plate?(actually don't answer that), David and Camy's is no different.

Service is another sore point about these places. It's bad enough that you have to get their attention but you also need to get your plates, your chopsticks, your bowls and your sauces. (actually David & Camy's are a little bit better, those things are already on the table waiting for you to clean) but nonetheless I still had to get the sauces and other bowls on my own. (Whilst I'm at it, I might as well get everyone else's order too right?)

In truth, I like David and Camy's not because it's marginally cleaner than a lot of the other dumpling places that are available, the food itself is good (the dumplings), I've never eaten anything else they have (okay once i did order noodles). However it's a place I haven't frequented much of the years due to two reasons:
1. I once dated a boyfriend who LOVED dumplings and was so obsessed with it, he ordered enough to feed a village. Needless to say I ate as much as I could and was so sick of the sight of dumplings, just the thought made me want to throw up.
2. It wasn't years after that I managed to get over that nauseating feeling of the first experience, however when I was ready to tackle dumplings, I was fortunate enough to date someone who's mother made dumplings. And let me tell you, there is NOTHING better than home cooked dumplings, especially the awesome ones. I literally could eat plates and plates of her dumplings. Suffice to say, I am no longer with this person and those dumplings are no longer available to me. Thus the next best thing is David & Camy's, they're not as awesome as those home cooked dumplings I was getting but heck, they're pretty darn good.

So if I'd ever need a dumpling fix, I'd be going back to David & Camy's, I know it won't be often because I just need to get over the grease factor first.

David & Camy Noodle Restaurant on Urbanspoon