Tuesday, November 29, 2011

328 Katong Laska - (Singapore)

  I think it took me some time to warm up to the famous 328 Katong Laksa,  as for some reason may be I held too high a hope,  and instantly reacted in a way that I needed to become acclimatized to the hastily put together presentation of the famous ‘broken noodles’ laksa.   Or naturally I thought the broth will be more orange in colour than pale white!   Yet as I spooned in mouthful after mouthful of this Singaporean style Laksa bowl I began to realise that this really is done very well indeed.  The look of the noodles might not be overly attractive,  but it’s the taste which really matters in the end and it is definitely fragrant and attractive.




Corner Store -
With their Otah grill on 1 side…
Something that is a must order when eating Laksa.

Otah (Otak-Otak) -
The slightly sweet spiced fish cake is wrapped and grilled inside a banana leaf,  and today’s version is made from Mackerel fish.  This was decent but a little flat in taste ~  6/10




Katong Laksa with Prawns and Clams -  SGD $5.0
Katong Laksa is a Singaporean specialty version of a laksa, which borrows from the Peranankan Style Malaysian-Chinese Laksa but a little thinner in viscosity,  and comes with already cut-up rice noodles!  As such, this broken noodles bowl is readily eaten with only a spoon for convenience.   The 328 Katong Laksa is definitely special as despite the pale colour of the broth it has been infused with pre-fried dried shrimps together with Sambal paste,  coconut milk and also evaporated milk.   It is quite a prawny broth and reminds me of Prawn Mee.   This also comes with proper Clams and chopped up Laksa Leaves,  both of which someone takes for granted but hardly found elsewhere and which gives it that distinctively refreshing lemony and minty fragrance.   A lot of shops in Singapore just give out Dried Coriander instead of Laksa leaves as I discovered,  which is a little disappointing.  But not here, where the distinctive Laksa leave aroma can be really tasted through the soup   ~     8.5/10



Chili Paste -
The Laksa here isn’t that hot by default,  the lady owner deliberately made it this way to be just balanced according to her.   You can however still fine-tune that final bit of the formula yourself according to your own wish.   This Sambal chili paste can be added liberally and is quite powerful and hot.  Adjust the taste to your own intents as you wish…! 




Their other expanded Outlet down the road -
A little bit cleaner there, but not as busy as the original store…
Wonder if the quality can be maintained across the board

Price: SGD $5 to $7 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2
Opening Hours -
Mon to Sun -  8.30am to 9pm

Address:  No. 216, East Coast Rd, Katong, 455210 Singapore
Ph: 9732 8163

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Café Cre Asion - (Sydney)

  Japanese owner Yu has worked in some famous pastry kitchens in Sydney,  especially at 2 Hatted Universal.   His macaron offerings are unique and often comes with a sensible Japanese twist and surprise element.   There are many weirdly flavoured macarons being sold around the world -  but for me the macaron structure and texture itself must be pretty spot on first as a priority,  whereas the flavours side should follow afterwards to enhance this experience!   Café Cre Asion definitely passed with flying colours and have got both parts of the equation very right indeed..



Surprisingly found in a side street corner,
and without a big signage either! 




Many interesting and seasonal flavours available -
Not all of them are Japanese influenced but the best ones are probably just these ?



Ordered Salted Caramel, Jasmine, Kinako, Hoji Cha, Pistachio ..



Pistachio =  Good spread of grinded Pistachio adorn the shell, it was quite decent
Hoji Cha tea =  a little weak in the tea flavour but quite likeable


Jasmine Tea =  this has a good chinese Jasmine tea like flavour to it,
very addictive and refreshing.   The Kinako powder flavoured one was also very uniquely Japanese.  The macaron shells in general are slightly crisp outside but without being too thick in the baked batter,  the inside meanwhile is slightly moist and chewy.  Very good macaron structure and surprising to find!




Price: AUD $10 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon-Fri    7.30am – 4pm
Sat          8.30am-4pm

Address: 21 Alberta Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Ph:  TBA

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Toby’s Estate - (Sydney)

  Toby’s Estate originated from Sydney and is one of the more commercialised coffee distributors but to me it remains one of the best independent coffee roasters.   The Pott’s Point located café is easily accessible and used to be one of my coffee joints whenever I was up here for work or conferences (and I knew little about coffee back then),  not to mention it’s close to Fratelli Fresh as well as King’s Cross which makes it triple the fun to visit here.   Nowadays,  Toby’s Estate can also be found in Melbourne on Exihibition street and also their coffee has made their way to Eat Right in Hong Kong’s SOHO area.   



Some Single Origins -
The range is not extensive compared to the best cafes,
but they mainly concentrate on the Fairtrade and Organic beans ..

Coffee Station -
A Kees Van Der Westen built and very sexy Mirage machine,
a rare sight indeed.  Looks similar to a Mistral,  which shares similarities and even quality of cup..




Tap Water -
Saw this at a few places,  and if you’re in Hong Kong,
Café Corridor also carries one !




Cappuccino ‘House Organic Fairtrade Blend’ -
The barista said this was drinking well on the day.   It was very good indeed,
with a big fruity body punching through the milk and very different to most Sydney coffees,  it kind of reminds me of the coffees drank at 18 Grams in Hong Kong,  but very well balanced.   ~   9/10




Espresso -
Pulled as Double-Ristretti,  the barista on duty as well as some others I’ve met really preach this method,  as it is said that there is otherwise no point as it’s wasting the compacted density of flavours from 2 espresso shots.   I think aside from shots pulled on The Slayer machine  I tend to disagree with this as the beginning of the shot is often too sour and filled with bubbly crema, then the shot is stopped before it begins to extract the sweeter part of the espresso which adds to the overall complexity.  And with the availability of so many P/P enabled machines nowadays,  I think a split shot is often more interesting to me at least.   This cup was very viscous and pulled slightly slower than normal as explained, and has a bright acidity beneath,  it was addictive and so thick, but bordering on being too wild as it really wakes up your senses.   This cup to me was UNIQUE and surprisingly balanced for what it is,  respect!  ~   9/10




A very professional Café -
Good to revisit here again,  despite their other bigger premises and outlets.
Quality of the coffee was definitely world class,  even more than almost all the cafes I’ve tried to Sydney on this trip…  They never tried to take a step backwards to satisfy everyone but took strides in supporting and continuing in what they believe in is the way to go in the future…




Price: AUD $7 per person
Coffee:  ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address:  81 Macleay Street, Potts Point,  Sydney NSW 2011
Ph: (02) 8356 9264

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Song Huong - (St Albans, Melbourne)

  Vietnamese restaurants in Australia in general all serve pretty much the same food.  There aren’t many shops which go out of their way to create or recreate some special signature dishes  except for the odd shop or two that tries to make a break through and cook up some Regional Dishes pretty well!   Despite most restaurants serving mostly the same dishes,  some of these shops cheat and use a lot of MSG to make up for the flavours and profit  or sometimes simply doesn’t know how to cook professionally.     The key difference between one shop and another often lies in the final execution.     It reminds me of eating Chinese food in Melbourne -  the execution is sometimes quite decent compared to even Hong Kong and China  if you’re lucky enough to find your favourite spots,  but it tends to lose out in its spread of food selections as the shops only concentrate on a few proven winning recipes.   At the end of the day the Menus are all going to look the same,  but the taste of the food can still taste quite different!


Friends are highly addicted to the Bun Bo Hue & other dishes at Song Huong,
Which is around 30-40 minutes drive away in St Albans!

Chili and Chili Paste -



Logan Drink  (Nhan Nhuc) -
Decent here and not overly sweetish.




3 Coloured Drink (Che 3 Mau) -
No comment as didn’t drink this,
but it looks right in proportion at least,  unlike some other shops..



Spring Rolls (Cha Gio Tom) -  AUD 6
These were fried a little uneven,  also missing some decent mint herbs.
Ok only.   ~   6/10


Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (順化牛肉粉) -  AUD 9
This was definitely very good.  There was a rather hot beefy soup base and the depth of the soup suggests this was made properly by boiling down a lot of natural ingredients,  as there was no detectable MSG unlike some other versions in town I’ve tried.  This does not have a lot of prawns or lemongrass flavour however!    Came with plenty of shredded lettuce and bean sprouts to put into the noodles.  However this did not come with much needed herbs…  basically the same as to be found in a Pho,  mainly Thai Basil and Culantro.  


Came with Pig’s Blood,  Trotter,  Beef Slices, Tendons, etc -
All sliced thinly and very decent. This was a very good bun bo hue. 
Next time,  remember to bring some proper herbs yourself too ! 
~  8.5/10




XO Sauce Stirred Fried Pippies with added Noodles (Ngheu Xao Sot XO) -  AUD $23
This was more of a Chinese dish,  and done decently well as the pippies were plump and fresh,
with a medium-hot sauce and slightly herbed.    ~  8/10

Crispy Skin Fried Chicken with Tomato Rice (Cam Do Ga Chien Don) – AUD 9
Chicken in Australia is generally considered pretty bad by Hong Kong or Southern Chinese standards,  as most people who grew up eating HK/Chinese chicken are so used to the different chicken DNA,  feeding program as well as having them freshly slaughtered whenever possible.  The texture and especially chicken taste is a lot stronger in HK than Melbourne in general (and even then the Chinese say the same > HK,  or even Singapore).   I think most immigrants eat chickens here with this firmly in mind when it comes to expectations.  Having said that,  this chicken definitely was EXCELLENT by local standards.  The skin was crispy and the meat was moist, just don’t expect too much chicken flavours like the ones in China.   The tomato rice was simple but cooked well and addictive.  Along with the Bun Bo Hue,  this is going to be another missed dish soon !   ~    8.5/10




Price: AUD $15-18 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2  to ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon to Sun.    Unknown hours

Address:  71 Alfrieda St, St Albans, Melbourne Victoria 3021
Ph:  03 9356 0567

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pho Hung Vuong - (Melbourne)

  Almost everyone in Australia love eating Pho -  and Melbourne is known to be a pho city,  with so many shops lying in the Vietnamese community suburbs  (Springvale, Richmond, Footscray, St Albans with some shops in the City).    Everybody have their own preferred Pho -  but so do I.   A really good bowl of pho must have a balanced broth,  made primarily with beef, beef bones and chicken as well as subtle spices.  The variety of meat, tripes and tendons need to be sliced thinly and tasty in a Pho Bo Dac Biet.   Most importantly,  the soup should finally be spiked up with the right mixture of herbs and a squeeze of lemon or lime,  and may be a touch of chili.  


Pho Hung Vuong in Springvale -
They also have a shop in Richmond and Footscray,  this brand is amongst the better pho shops,
as recommended by both local Vietnamese customers and nearby vendors…

A Visit to the Local Vietnamese Grocery Market Stall is essential -
As mentioned in the Pho Chu The (now renamed to I Love Pho 264) review, 
not a single Pho shop in Melbourne gives out a very essential herb,  that will make the pho become alive and more fragrant.    According to fellow international foodies,  this is what makes Australian Phos fall behind those bowls being served at similarly well known and famous Pho towns in the world, such as those found in Canada,  Paris, Vietnam and also a singular shop in HK.   Customers should be responsible for pushing this idea forward,  if you love your country and your phos!   Insist on a change. Sad smile


The Herbs Section -

Culantro,  or Mexican Coriander/Cilantro (Ngo Gai)  -  
Around 80 Cents to $2.0 a bunch
As a city quite well known for it’s Pho shops,   it is surprising to see that 0% of the shops in town bother to provide this very essential herb to the customers.   One of the shop owners in another shop I subsequently visited saw me carrying-in this herb to the shop,  and instantly gave me the thumbs up and commented that this is a very good herb for a pho bo.   I asked him then why he doesn’t provide it to his customers?  He cited reasons of it being too expensive to provide in Melbourne,  but he also mentioned that in Vietnam every pho shop will provide this by default on top of the Thai Basil.  It’s smell in the soup is almost spicy yet lemony, with the tips being the spiciest in an exotic way.   A Pho without Culantro is seriously  never going to be alive,  as a fellow foodie in HK who has tried phos world wide also agree –  even the best Pho shops in Paris provide them by default.     So buy some for yourself to make a comparison,  just for fun ! 




Condiments -  Thai Basil, Cut Chili,  Lemon (prefer Lime),  Bean Sprouts
Every Pho shop in Melbourne provides the same combination, but minus the essential Culantro, 
with the exception of a particular 1 Hatted Restaurant,
which even gave out the wrong herb altogether without understanding its usage…




Pho Dac Biet with the lot –  AUD $9.0
A quick test of the Broth before putting in the herbs.  It was slightly beefy but a little too onion-y sweet,  it’s one of the better ones around town but a little one dimensional compared to the best and no hint of spice was present.    The beef arrived looking rare which is a good thing.   The other components such as a tripe,  beef balls,  peppered sausage and brisket were also it’s weak point as they’re a little tough to eat.     ~    6.9/10



Throw in the Thai Basil and the self bought Culantro, on top of the Spring Onion  -
Vietnamese food is often complimented by a variety of herbs,  especially mint leaves.  The whole concept behind a bowl of pho is that it should be well balanced between beef bone and chicken broth,  the various spices added,  the herbs contributing the final grassy aroma, etc.  



Rice Noodles -
Not bad,  but not as smooth as some other shops.   They’re all similar enough in quality anyway,  but after doing direct comparisons there are slight advantages in some other shops!



Logan Drink (Nhan Nhuc) -
This was a little too sweet as there is not enough of the watery drink,  but too much ice. 
Am I suppose to wait for the ice to melt then dilute the drink?  Don’t think so,  as other shops don’t have this problem.


Specialises in Pho,  and nothing else!
The one here was edible and nearly recommendable - but there are 2 to 3 shops which have a convincingly more sophisticated Pho in town for now,  but none are perfect unfortunately ! This probably just lies outside of the Podium !





Price: AUD $10 -12 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕ 1/2  to  ♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon - Sun    10am - 9pm

Address: Shop 2 / 15 Balmoral Avenue, Springvale, Melbourne Victoria 3171.
Ph: (03) 9558 5147

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dead Man Espresso - (Melbourne)

  There are too many cafes to choose from,  I mean just within the few blocks here there’s already my other favourite cafes or pastry shop -  such as St Ali, Chez Dre as well as Sweet Hearts Café.   And throughout Victoria and Melbourne,  one can imagine how many more choices are there for us to choose from.   A filter system has naturally evolved and developed by itself,  much like a warning system to instinctively tell me the ones I should visit or avoid!   Naturally, one starts to have a feel on how attractive the menu recipes might turn out in reality,  or knowing who roasts their coffee beans might help!     Deadman Espresso passed this initial test by virtue of having a strong roaster behind their supplies called Seven Seeds,  and looking back at the beginning they even carried their own Deadman coffee blend (but unfortunately has reverted back to the normal Seven Seeds or Brother Baba Budan and De Clieu blend due to a lack of availability of these particular beans).    On the menu  items such as olive oil, bacon or bread are listed with the suppliers’ names,  and they even make a Hanger Steak!   These clues give the customers reassurance and enough confidence for me have revisited here 3 times,  to see how good they can get !




Found in South Melbourne -




P1220282-1Friendly Staff and Beautiful Room inside -


Menu – And Specials are on the Daily Board
Some of the food has heart put into the recipe but remains simple enough,
albeit they’re not as complex as say the food served in Duchess of Spotswood and Auction Rooms,  and a few others.  But it is still decent food quality.



Caffe Latte -
Like most 7 Seeds related cafes,  the default blend is mildly sweet and barely manages to cut through the milk.   This coffee was made very well and in fact better than my many coffees at Brother Baba Budan,  which is a big statement as BBB has been a coffee temple for many years.    7.5/10

Potato Rosti with Herbs, Poached Egg, Smoked Salmon and Avocado -  $17.50
Proud Mary’s potato rosti is ordered by many customers,  but the version here beat a few of the ones I’ve tried locally.   It is more crispier instead of wet, and slightly herbed.   The herbs made the dish colourful,  but the poached egg was decent.  Rosti was a big winner however!    ~   8/10

House Blend Espresso -
I do like this blend as it is quite approachable,
balanced well between all the variables of sourness, bitterness, sweetness and the chocolate and molasse undertone.   It’s an everyday type of espresso!  ~   8/10



Panama Esmeralda Mario Enero Lot #1  (Chemex drip with Metal Filter) -
I’ve had this batch of beans numerous times to know where its potential lies by now.  You’ll notice I also order some similar single origin beans via more than 1 method in a café,  and then do the same at other cafes.   This is more because it is educational for me, as I need to single out the variables and learn what can affect the outcome the most!   Eg. this hand dripped Panama is slightly missing its desired,  very bold aroma of berries and pollen alike, but in the mouth it was smooth.   A little muted for its potential ~   6.5/10

Panama Esmeralda Mario Enero  #2 (Aeropress) -
The above coffee uses a metal filter which is unusual for certain purists,  as it lets more sediments through and drips a bit fast,  but hand drip aficionadas will say it is the best for a delicate coffee.  It’s never conclusive,  unless you 'throw away’ all biases and explore it from scratch.   This Aeropress version of the same beans definitely smelled much better than the above Chemex-Metal version.   But then again,  have both of these been ‘dialled in’ and is using the right water temp, dosage and grind size, etc?   Coffee is such a complex and sensitive thing..    ~   8/10



Espresso:  Nicaragua Limoncillo Estate ‘Javanica’ -
Unlike the other Limoncillos I’ve posted on this blog or on facebook,  this is not the same batch. Instead of the equally amazing Paca-Mara hybrid bean,   this from the same estate is the Javanica lot cultivar (Java and Ethiopian Longbean DNA).   Not your typical Java bean,  this has a sweeter and brighter citrus note and bigger body.   As an espresso as roasted by Seven Seeds and pulled on this day,  it was a lovely shot but wasn’t overly impressive despite the bean having been a COE #2 a few years ago.  May be another roast, another method?   ~  8/10



Smoked Salmon Bruschetta,  Baby Leaves, Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes,
Blood Orange & Poached Egg -  $16.50
The food elements used here can overlap a bit,  but I liked the idea of having so much salad in my egg dish.  The blood orange unfortunately were nowhere to be seen,  but on the other hand even the tomatoes were paired with torn basil.  It’s these little details that count!   This was decent enough and the missing oranges would have been the key to its success ~   6.9/10


Potato Rosti with Istra Bacon instead -
Same dish as the 1st Salmon one above, 
the rosti were still good but slightly less crunchy than another day.  The bacon were tasty and not too salty.  I like how they’re not overly covered with fat strips either ~    7.5/10


Potato Rosti -
One of the best I’ve tried in Melbourne,
and worth coming for this…

Cappuccino without Chocolate Powder - 
I’ve had this a few times,  and it is just like their caffe latte,  quite sweetishly mild but approachable.    At least it has some coffee taste,  unlike the one at Brother Baba Budan which tastes mostly of milk.   ~   7/10



Price: AUD $22  per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕   (recipes were ok only but food executed and presented well! Rosti is great!)
Coffee: ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon to Sat 7:00 am - 4:00 pm.
Sun 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

  35 Market St, South Melbourne,  Victoria
Ph: 03 9686 2255


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