Monday, April 30, 2012

Chez Dre (Melbourne) - ♕♕♕♕♕

  Chez Dre has a Pastry Chef who used to train in Paris and you can totally see the heart put into the food here.  I think I liked their desserts and pastries the most.   The croissant across several visits can either be drop dead gorgeous,  but on 2 occasions was a little bit too sweet,  but that flaky layering and even baking is addictive.    Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the best croissant in Melbourne if it tasted more balanced consistently,  although Innocent Bystander’s one is also very lovely.



Down an Alley,
It’s very close to South Melbourne Market.




Communal Table on one of the days..






Cake Selections -



More Cakes -




Signature Eclairs -
The choux pastry here is slightly different,  and they pipe the pastry cream on top here.  The Salted Caramel one is always sold out early.




Pastries look the Bomb here -
Must order.  One of the best I’ve had in the world..
Bar the sweetness you encounter in the croissant sometimes..




Coffees -
Most were roasted by coffee institution The Maling Room




Coffee Station.
It’s the typical Synesso combo setup.



Scrambled Eggs Croissant -
This one was really lovely with just cooked eggs.

Ham Hock and Poached Eggs Sandwich,  with Gruyere Cheese,
Pea Puree and Herb Oil  ~  $16.5



Morrocan Baked Eggs, Spicy Herb Lamb Sausages, 
Minted Yoghurt and Warm Baguette ~ $17.5
The Lamb sausages have a lot of herb!   Liked the baguette.




Encore of Scrambled Eggs Croissant – $9.5
*Croissant a little too sweet this time, 
the eggs a bit overcooked but more quantity.




Macarons -
Texture was a bit too meringue hard this time.  Heard they have improved..




Salted Caramel Éclair -
This is very gorgeously good and the whole crunchy external texture… WOW!  Had a Vanilla one on another day which I didn’t take a photo of and that was a little too sweet for me. 



Apricot & Passionfruit cake with Hazelnut Mousse -
Liked this.



Milk Chocolate,  Blackcurrant Mousse -
With Blackcurrant cream and Praline Crunch.   This was a very interesting combination of flavours and textures.   Thoughtful dessert.



Lemon Tart -
Looking smart and very good quality.


Chocolate Tart -
This is awesome,  and one of the best IF NOT the best chocolate tart I have had. The surprising layers of different chocolate textures beats many flatter tarts out there.  Wish I could eat one right now!!




Cherry Lime Chocolate Mousse, Caramelized Almonds and Lime Zest -
Interesting combo.




Chocolate Éclair -
Also very good.  Most people like the Salted Caramel one the most,  and don’t really enjoy the Vanilla version here.




Jasmine Tea Cream, Milk Chocolate Mousse,  Flourless Chocolate Biscuit -
Wasn’t a big fan of this,  don’t usually think Jasmine tea works with chocolate.  But the flavours were balanced enough.



Vanilla Yoghurt Mousse, Raspberry Jelly and Pistachio Biscuit -
This worked wonderfully together as a package.  Liked dried Raspberry and white chocolate flower on top.   This was a summery dessert!




Beautiful Looking Patissier’s Croissant -
Very even with a shiny egg-wash top,  flaky layers. 
Probably needs more salt,  or less sweetness on some occasions.






Caffe Latte -
This Symmetry blend is quite dark bold with some minerality,  and slightly earthy.


Cappuccino -
Some of the fews we have had over several visits.   To be honest I didn’t think this coffee worked so well with the food here.  The flavours kind of overpowered the delicate pastries. 




Another Cappuccino -
Tasted consistent enough here.   But might become better with slight tweaks to suit the food?




Nice Courtyard -
It is always very crowded.
Lovely Patisserie Café and has one of the best ‘symmetrical’ and ‘neater’ looking pastries in Melbourne.  Not if you know what I mean by that -  it is very modern style,  but of course there are still the many shops doing traditional style pastries.    The hot food is not as impressive as the pastries for now. 




Price: AUD $10 – $25 per person
Food: ♕♕♕♕♕ 
Coffee:  ♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours:

Mon – Sun  7.30am - 4.30pm

Address:  (rear of) 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3205

Ph: (03) 9690 2688

Sunday, April 29, 2012

翠竹閣 Bamboo House (Melbourne) - ♕♕♕♕♕

  Bamboo House is a great restaurant,  it has been good for the last 25 years I have been visiting.   I actually rate it above Flower Drum in Melbourne in terms of regional Chinese cuisine.    One could interpret it as gradually falling behind it’s time but I have my reservations on thinking that way,  since Chinese food history spans across thousands of years in history,  and in its macro window across the globe, has probably remained stagnant for a few decades, except for the very few pioneers who carry vision..    But that is where I think Bamboo House excels.   It is sturdy,  and in comparison young apprentice chefs in China can’t always keep up with the old tested chefs’ skills,  the masters are often quite conservative to share their years of accumulated technical knowledge to just any apprentice chef.  It doesn’t really trickle down to the next generation.   The kitchen at Bamboo House however has maintained a certain standard for so many years,  it’s still predominantly run by the same kitchen team who have arrived in from Hong Kong since decades ago & well trained.    On the executional side of things  the food has been so consistently impressive I still use here as a benchmark to pick up on flaws in  Shanghainese and Northern Chinese cuisines when I dine in Hong Kong and China itself.    That often involves comparing it directly against Michelin 1 or 2 star awarded restaurants such as 夜上海 Ye Shanghai in HK or Shanghai Gardern 紫玉蘭, and to this day it is proving its worth     The Tea & Sugar Smoked Duck (樟茶鴨) is  gorgeously prepared and has set a standard so high,  thus far I have been unable to find a replacement in Hong Kong.   The same applies with their Fried Beef Pot Sticker Dumplings (牛肉鍋貼),  which has been so perfect every time with flowing juices inside and are always fried evenly crispy,  it is just amazing food and reminds you not to fix what is never broken.   


   The No.1 rule when ordering at Bamboo House is that one must always order the most Authentic dishes via a la carte selection.   The tasting menu is there to cater for Western diners’ palates.    Which means no duck feet,  no smoked fishes,  but always including a Peking Duck and Asparagus with scallops and X.O. Sauce!     These are stereotyped Chinese food which are more Cantonese than Northern cuisine,  why bother coming here to dine instead of Plume?    Tell the staff you want the best of the best and the most authentic dishes NOT set up for Westerners.   You have to come here with an opened mind and venture out to explore. 




Appetizer Platter of Goose Webs, 
Smoked Beancurd Skin Roll, 
Marinated Jelly Fish  & Deep Fried Smoked Fish -
The goose web is the only weakest link here as it seemed a little thin and bleached than crunchy enough.  The smoked fish has always been of very very high quality,  even better than 80% of the ones I eat in Asia,  a mean feat.   The Smoked Beancurd Skin roll is another must order,   right up there with the best of international standards.  The jellyfish is nicely supported by a subtle sesame oil.   Half great and half mediocre on this particular night.  It’s usually better ~  7.5/10



Spring Onion Cakes -
The one here is good,  and once again I really struggle to find such high executional quality here in HK.  And don’t forget I have been dining in hundreds of times to know its consistency.   There is little wonder why Bamboo House is the only Chinese restaurant in Melbourne that I always miss a lot.   The spring onions are abundant and the flaky pastry is fried well but not oily,  and overall well seasoned.  ~  9/10



This is a decent Basket Pressed Shiraz.  B.Y.O.  -
Seemed a little muted from the past vintages,  but the characters are still there.




Beef Pot Stickers -
This has always been the best pot stickers I’ve eaten in my life for the last 20+ years and even today remains to be so.
  The bottom is crispy,  the skin is thin,  and that juice flowing inside is subtly herbed is simply amazing stuff.   This standard can’t even be found in China or Hong Kong   ~   12/10  


Minced Pork with Pickles,  served in Sesame Pastry -
Another Signature dish here but not found on the banquet menus,  and a typical Shanghainese and surrounding regional dish.   The meat is thickly grounded and well seasoned in a viscous sauce,  which is the true essence of Shanghainese cuisine with it’s lavishly thick coating of sweetened soy base sauce.   The pastry pockets were nicely done and aromatic.  Nothing to be faulted and again one of the best versions I have eaten.  Perfectly balanced.  ~  9/10


Sweet and Sour Grouper Fish -  *Off Menu Item
This is of a typical dish although usually made with different DNA fishes in China,  and Shanghai 1930 also serves a similar version which was slightly better.   We ordered this Grouper version, previously refrigerated since we forgot to pre-advance order just to cater for an older family member’s needs,  and the kitchen did not fail this test at all.   The end result was still satisfactory and done as good as you could find it anywhere else.   ~  9/10




Tea Smoked Duck with White Buns 
(By Default comes boneless,  but insist on the Bone-In version.) -
Their Peking duck might be famous,  but this other version is the real Piece de Resistance here and which the Bamboo House kitchen is very proud of.  Here I made a blooper as over the years my aunties have been ordering the menu,  and I never realised the Smoked Duck is boneless unless otherwise requested.   I don’t like bones that much but I think they have a reason to be there on this occasion.  If you want the bones left intact you have to ask in advance,  and the kitchen knows this is the best way.   The Skin is smoky and crispy,  the duck is cooked perfectly right but the bones and crevice is where all the flavours got slightly lost.   Always order this Bone-In is my only advice.  There is no other way,  as you will be into your true experience of your life,  I bet even the French didn’t see this coming.  Trust me for once, order this duck.  ~  8/10



Mermaid’s Tresses (干燒二鬆桃仁),  with added Honeyed Walnuts -
The fried green leaves with conpoy is another signature dish here and only recommended to revisiting Chinese customers for some reason.    The added honey coated walnuts costs another AUD $10 additional dollars but is well worth it and is the only way to go,  but surprisingly not recommended by the staff by default.   I think they should.  It is in these minor details where they become too hesitant to be persistent in recommending the right dishes, knowing the customers might not understand.  Too polite.   They are not doing their kitchen team inside enough justice as to what they are capable of cooking!    In fact this particular dish used to be much more popular in HK, but has gradually becoming phrased out as well except 1-2 restaurants still selling old Pekinese style cuisine.  Which makes it another reason to treasure Bamboo House, before the staff and kitchen end up in retirement.   ~    9/10




Price: AUD $40 – $50 per person
Food: ♕♕♕♕♕  (Execution and adherence to proven formulas is the key here.  If some of the 1-2 Michelin Starred restaurants in HK are being awarded as such,   my recent revisit suggests this Melbourne Institute is just waiting to be upgraded to 1 or 2 hatted status in The Good Food Guide.  You need to know what exactly to order as a regular customer however,  the staff are too polite to point it out usually.)

Opening Hours:

Mon – Fri   Lunch and Dinner
Sat – Sun  Dinner only

Address:  47 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000, Victoria, Australia

Ph: (03) 9662 1565

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pierre Gagnaire & Bordeaux Cuisine, Le French Gourmay Preview (Hong Kong) -

  Michelin 2 Stars

Pierre Gagnaire is in town doing a Bordeaux inspired cuisine as a preview meal.  Later on during Le French Gourmay in May 2012,   5 of the dishes from this preview dinner will be presented as a fixed 5 Courses menu.    The preview menu during April is 8 courses versus the 5 dishes in May,  which is slightly unexpected,  but regardless we did take the opportunity to come earlier to try out more food courses.    The meal came to around $2200 per person in the end for your info,   I thought some of the dishes were quite fun and great indeed but I would have been happier if some dishes paid more attention to some blunders.    Some items weren’t co-relatable  to the menu descriptions.    For example,  a Duck Crackling dish as described on the menu,  turned out to be a duck terrine with shiitake mushroom!   A Apple Compote arrived at the table appearing as an Apple Crisp instead.   And the Chartrons Apple Tart wasn’t really a tart anymore no matter how you view it.    I remain baffled by the randomness.    You could call it artistic,  or you could call it Pierre Gagnaire’s latest style.   Some dishes were quite enjoyable however,  but the randomness and the mediocre ones really distracted from the overall experience on the whole.


Badoit Sparkling Water -  $105
Seriously over priced bottle of water.
Water is a necessity,  not a premium product especially when this is just a Badoit water not some exotic elixir portion claiming to have healing powers.    Water is not worth this premium,  and they ran out of stock on the Chateldon which I actually ordered first.  Ordering warm water next time just to save myself some money.. Smile  




(Rear) Parmesan Biscuit with Radish and Anchovies,  with Olives and Eggplant Tapenade. 
Whisky and Beer jelly
was however unbalanced and in your face,  and more gimmicky than really enjoyable,  not getting it at all.    The best amuse bouche was the Cheesy Gougere.   Overall not as impressive as usual dinner starters,  despite ordering the same Tasting course.   We chose lunch time for ease of taking photos under better lighting conditions.   If you want a better overall experience from start to finish though, insist on coming during dinner.    ~   5/10




Bread  -
The bread basket has welcomed lately a thin crispy bread which was good.  The Au Lait milk bread was still great,  and the cheesy roll totally awesome.  The small baguette does pale in comparison to Macau’s Robuchon au Dome though,  not much flavours,  but crispy outside.    ~  7/10




Butters -
The Lunch butter is different from Dinner Butters.  Totally understandable due to the different price range.   But like the amuse bouches above,  we are actually paying for our Full Bordeaux Experience at exactly the same price during lunch as well as dinner,  and we are trying to arrive at lunch time just to take better photos.   So shouldn’t it have the same pre-starters as visiting at night if it is exactly the same course and same price range??    Thanks to the staff for bringing out to us the final Bordier’s normal and seaweed butter,  without us making additional request.   Totally appreciate this impeccable and smart service.  Professional!    ~  8/10




2005 Chateau Perenne, Bordeaux Wine -  $140 a glass
With a Bordeaux Tasting Menu,  on theory it should be paired with their only available Bordeaux wine by the glass.  The Full Wine Pairing course is more interesting but I can’t take it all in during lunch time,  I’ll try it during dinner.




Button Mushroom Jelly, Sliced Button Mushroom, 
Iced Potato Soup with Horseradish,  Aquitaine Caviar - 
The Caviar was quite neutral in taste and not that salty, good.  The Mushroom duxelle was slightly missing the mushroom flavours.  The various methods of treating the mushrooms was appreciated more for texture variation than for taste,  and the horseradish component flashed across once but didn’t appear again.  The latter part had me in a mystique. Nice cold soup.  ~  6.9/10



 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACountry Style Bordelais -
Grenier Medocain,  Duck Crackling & 
Black Pudding w Apple Compote with Golden Grapes.
The Grenier Medocain is similar to an Andouillette tripes sausage and came with Sauterne braised radish.     The Duck Crackling became a chopped duck terrine with shiitake mushrooms ~  not understanding the terminology here?   The apple compote with golden grapes also  turned out to be a apple crisp Confused smile ~  5/10




Grenier Medocain -
I liked this a lot,  but it was over-powered by the pile of Sauterne braised radish beneath a little..   Could have been more thickly sliced portions wise or have a few more pieces to cover the top  ~ 7/10



Duck Crackling -
Why we asked,   is a duck crackling as described on the menu becoming a duck terrine and shiitake mushroom?  This tasted a little benign and carrying not enough duck meat or duck liver flavour like too.   A bit over shadowed by the shiitake mushrooms taste.   ~  5/10




Black Pudding with Apple Compote and Golden Grapes -
The black pudding was too mild and missing the bloods taste,  not only that but rather gritty and stringy.   The apple compote promised wasn’t a compote but a dehydrated apple crisp.   I think this would work very well in the ideal situation but this time it was an epic fail in execution and taste.    It simply didn’t work at all and I could find better in Melbourne’s cafes easily   ~  3/10




Hi Pierre -
What a nice guy indeed and all smiley.   Probably a little random with his food plays,  some people like this serendipitous and artistic style,  some might prefer some sort of continuity.  I am in the middle somewhere!




Oyster in Oyster Broth with Graves White Wine, 
Slow Simmered Leek and Shallot,
Brioche toast and Tricandille Bordelaise -
This was nice,  but can do with more oyster broth flavour.   The oyster texture was perfectly executed & only slightly cooked.   The Tricandille Bordelaise sausage is also tripes based,  and this had a stronger organs smell but surprisingly didn’t clash with the oyster.  Liked this a lot,  bar the weakish oyster broth.  ~   9/10




Plain Duck Liver Terrine,
Caramelized Pear Segment flavoured with Espelette Pepper, 
Cannele with Aged Balsamic (Canele), Celeriac in Mustard Sauce -
The cannele/canele looked a bit wrong,  I am surprised they were allowed out of the kitchen.  The texture was more like an over-baked Yorkshire pudding with vanilla seeds.   The Duck Liver Terrine texture was slightly too melty and wasn’t sliced very cleanly either.  Room for improvement    ~  6/10




Bordelaise Style Lamprey Eel,  Velvety Spinach Soup with Sorrel -
Not sure if it’s the sorrel or more citrus added.  Initially this was quite acidic,  and I had to add some sea salt and gamble on whether this would balance things.  Luckily it worked.   The French imported red eel texture was more like sardines as it was quite lean and flaky,  but I liked the overall dish composition so much.   ~   9/10




Heart of Beef Fillet, Bordelaise-style Chopped Cepe Mushrooms with Bread Crumbs & Roquette,  Bone Marrow,  Beetroot Syrup with Foie Gras and Mustard.
Ordered as Medium-Rare against my will of rare by default for eye fillet. 
Apparently in French cooking,   ordering rare will turn out to be blue.  Interesting.  Let’s see what happens..



Some others’ plates were better,  but mine was too dried out and over-cooked. 
The staff happily cooked me another one,  and I really think eye fillets aren’t so easily messed up.




This 2nd returned dish was much much better,  and surprisingly had grill marks on it.  It was moist inside and even had more beef flavours.   We already suspected the above dish was ‘roasted’ due to colours and crust appearance and had probably dried out in the oven.  This freshly grilled piece was much better and everyone on the table also tasted it just to compare.  It was like day and night,  the 1st piece my knife struggled to cut through it,  the 2nd piece the knife glided through like cutting through butter.  They should stick to just grilling this piece of muscle than roasting it for whatever reasons.  This 2nd piece was awesome.  The 1st piece was far from this level..    ~   9/10



Difference of night and day. 
Was way better when cooked this way than slow roasting…
It was tender and moist.  Unlike the dried out pieces we ate before and had to return.




Thinly sliced 36 months Comte,
White Chocolate Pearls, 
Sauternes Jelly and Chopped Vegetables -
This was pretty good as a cheese course.   The aged Comte was still only semi-hard but not crystalized salty .   Really balanced,  instead of being too quirky.   ~  7/10




Armagnac Ice Cream,  Bitter Fruit Marmalade with Berries -
A refreshing dessert.  We couldn’t find much Armagnac taste in the ice cream however. 
~  6.9/10




Apple Chartrons Tart with Sponge, Frozen Grapes,  Blackcurrant Juice,  Lime Foam -
This is a modern interpretation of this Bordeaux creation and the apple was cooked mille feuille style.   Honestly I like playful food sometimes but I just didn’t think this worked this time.    An Apple Tart should at least have some sort of expected flaky pastry to be shown somewhere right?    ~  4/10



Chocolate Cake with Ganache, with Chocolate Ice Cream and some Gianduja paste -
This is not on the printed menu but came as an extra course and tasted brilliant by itself.   But the recipe seemed like what you can find in a cake shop or at a buffet dinner.      ~   7/10




A glass of Lillet comped by the restaurant,
as a tasting...  Thanks.




The meal had it’s Ups and Downs,  much like most Haute Cuisine meals.
That’s always a Given.
Unlike downstairs Mandarin Bar and Grill (1 Star) which is honestly one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong over several visits,  if not also in the world, when even their lowest performing dishes are usually still above-average grade over at dinner..   Some of the lows encountered at this Pierre meal could benefit from passing through a more stringently controlled and QC’ed kitchen!    I thought some of the Bordeaux inspired dishes were exquisite and educational,  if they could fix some of the weaknesses and the Menu description inconsistencies.    It could become a very good Le French Gourmay experience if they are open to criticism.   I did really liked some individual dishes here,  after all.  The weaker dishes however was a little unexpected..  Hope they can change and improve in time for Le French Gourmay.





Price:   $1688 + 10%.   Total paid around $2200.
Ease of Access:  4/5  (2 mins from Central MTR exit)
Food: ♕♕  to  ♕♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours -
Mon to Fri:  12:00am - 00:00am
Sat: 19:00pm - 00:00am


Address: 中環干諾道中5號香港文華東方酒店25樓
25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central
Ph: 2825 4001


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