January 12, 2010

Sorrento - Fish Fetish, The Continental Hotel

Whew! How's everybody holding up through the heatwave?! Hope you are all staying hydrated and slip, slop slapping! Keeping in our prayers, the CFA firefighters and volunteers who are out there battling every fire blazing around Australia, especially in Victoria; their bravery and compassion are greatly admired. Visit the CFA website for fire updates and information.

Yesterday, we drove along the Mornington Peninsula, to Sorrento, for a day of enjoyment at the beach, splashing about in the sea while soaking up our daily dose of Vitamin D under the glorious rays of the sun.

Fish Fetish
Shop 2/27 Ocean Beach Road,
Sorrento, VIC 3943
(03) 5984 1479
Food: Fish and Chips
Date visited: 10th January 2010

First stop, of course, was lunch! :) About a minute's drive from the back beach, Fish Fetish serves fresh and delicious fish and chips at great prices. For $25, we got the Fisherman's Basket for Two, which includes 2 x Fish Of The Day (Blue Grenadier), 2 x Calamari Rings, 2 x Prawns, 2 x Scallops and Chips with 4 sachets of Tartare Sauce.

We enjoyed our delicious catch of fish and chips on the beach, which turned out to be a great challenge with a huge flock of seagulls zoning in on us at all angles!

Fisherman's Basket for Two - Even though the batter was thick, it still managed be very crispy and full of flavour with fresh and juicy seafood inside - a great combination! The chips were nicely chunky... and addictive too!

Delicate, sweet, succulent and moist flesh of the flakey Blue Grenadier

The Continental Hotel
1-21 Ocean Beach Road,
Sorrento, VIC 3942
(03) 5984 2201
Food: Breakfast, Cafe, Modern Australian, Meditteranean and Asian

After hours of sun bathing and jumping ferocious waves as the tide swept in, it was time to fuel up our hungry stomachs! This time, at The Continental Hotel, which interestingly multi-functions as a Backpacker Hotel, weekly Nite Club, Caterer, Function Room and Restaurant.

The food served here has great Mediterranean and Asian influence, with options ranging from Grilled Sicilian Lamb, to Spanish-style Paella and Roast Pumpkin Thai Curry. Presentation is colouful and eye-catching but doesn't satisfy the tastebuds enough to want to return for a second visit.

Saganaki with Grilled Artichoke, Preserved Lemon and a Rocket Salad

Can't go wrong with a refreshing salad served alongside golden brown, salty cheese and tangy lemon.

Paella Valencia with Chorizo, Prawns, Scallops, Chicken and Mussels, finished with Saffron, Burnt Lemon and Herbs 

The rice was very soggy and extremely filling with the seafood mushed about inside. The mussels (after being cooked) were the tiniest I've come across!

Pan-seared Canadian Scallops on Spinach Cake and Sweet Potato Ginger Puree, garnished with Salmon Tempura Nori Rounds

As the special  of the day, we were very excited to try this dish, eyeing it off the tables of other diners who had ordered it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a great disappointment :( The scallops were strangely squishy (best word I can think of to describe the texture) and bland. If I really had to decide, the tempura garnish would have to be the best part.

Mesmerised by the brilliant, crimson hues along the horizon.

January 9, 2010


Level 3, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre,
Cnr Swanston and LaTrobe Sreets,
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9663 1940
Food: Japanese, Sushi Train
Website: www.tomodachi.com.au
Date visited: 6th August 2008

Tomodachi prides itself on its featured sushi train, while also accommodating with an a la carte menu of Japanese classics like bento boxes, sashimi and rice and sizzling dishes. After the initial excitement of sitting by their sushi train, playfully choosing dishes at my own free will, I was left with a hefty bill and a not very satiated tummy. I've since decided that based on the many times that I've dined here, nothing spectacular stands out, but Tomodachi IS convenient for a quick lunch at the sushi train while shopping or an appetizing dinner that isn't too expensive in the a la carte dining area. Their wasabi oysters are worth a try, as well as the soft shell crab sushi rolls. Here are a few dishes:

 From left: Chicken Teriyaki with Garden Salad; BBQ Beef on Sizzling Plate; Takoyaki (octopus dumplings); Agedashi Tofu

Soft Shell Crab Bento Box - with agedashi tofu, california sushi, miso-dressed salad and fresh fruit.
Unagi Bento Box - with tempura lotus root, takoyaki, salmon sushi, miso-dressed salad and fresh fruit.

Oven-baked Desiree and Sweet Potato Chips

A trip to the local fruit and veg market saw me snatch up a bargain of fresh, firm and brightly hued Desirees and Sweet Potatoes. It must have been a craving, because I immediately envisaged a batch of super tasty, chunky, crispy baked chips, steaming hot out of the oven. Fortunately, mum was buying BBQ Chicken for dinner, so the Desiree and Sweet Potato Chips I was hoping to bake would make the perfect accompaniment :)

Glowing Desiree Potatoes and Taut-skinned Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6:
- 4 desiree potatoes
- 4 sweet potates
- Rice bran oil

For the spiced salt seasoning:
- 1 tbs sweet paprika
- 1 tbs ground cumin
- ½ tsp cayenne (or more if you prefer it to be spicy)
- Course sea salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 230°C. Bring the desiree potatoes to the boil in salted water, and parboil for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into thick wedges or rounds. 

To make the spiced salt seasoning, combine the paprika, cumin and cayenne in a small bowl. Add plenty of salt and pepper, to taste.

Once the potatoes have finished parboiling, drain and cut into thick wedges, leaving the skin on. It didn't occur to me at the time, but at this point, shake the cut potatoes in a colander to roughen them up around the edges - this will produce a crispier coating when roasting. Arrange the desiree and sweet potato pieces in a single layer on a baking tray, brush with rice bran oil, then sprinkle over the seasoning.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until your desired golden brown colour is achieved. Carefully remove the tray from the oven, use tongs to turn each wedge over to the opposite side, brush with more oil and sprinkle over the seasoning again.

Return the tray to the oven, and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the chips are crispy on the outside with a fluffy centre. Serve immediatey!

Oven-Baked Spiced Desiree Chips

Oven-baked Spiced Sweet Potato Chips

January 7, 2010

Izakaya Den

Basement, 114 Russell Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9654 2977
Food: Modern Japanese, Bar
Website: www.izakayaden.com.au
Date visited: 6th January 2010

I am very happy today! I've found a favourite dining spot! :) It is the new Izakaya Den. This wonderous eatery is reminiscent of a Japanese-style tapas bar, encouraging diners to order from an extensive list of imported beers, sake, plum wine and liquors while sharing mouth-watering dishes. 'Izakaya' is actually Japanese for a street-food stall for quick snacking and drinking. This phenomenon of casual dining, often at communal tables, is picking up in Melbourne, and I'm eager to discover what other places are yet to emerge.

It is very easy to miss the entrance of Izakaya Den, marked only by a camouflaging sign printed with 'Den' and the Japanese Kanji word for 'Izakaya.' After descending a set of wooden stairs and turning left through glass sliding doors, we were immediately greeted by a waiter, who kindly seated us at one of the high black tables in the elongated basement. Within these initial few moments, we were already in awe of the scene unveiling before our eyes.

Dark, cutting-edge furnishings filled the interior; Funky, urban music was pumping through the speakers; Diners were abuzz with conversation over drinks and dishes of Japanese food; Waiters, dressed in black, were discreetly moving about; and the day's specials were projected onto the wall in flashes of light and colour. Best of all, Japanese chefs, in black attire and flashy bandannas were situated at their cooking stations busily preparing food to order, the source of the heavenly aroma wafting through the air.

Everybody has a clear view of the them, charcoal grilling morsels of ox tongue and quail, stir-frying mushrooms, expertly slicing tuna fillets into sashimi and adding the final touches of wispy spring onion to dishes. It is such a great concept, being able to watch your order go through to the chefs and see every move they make to perfect your dish before it is served. The menu is incredibly refined with pure, clean flavours of elegant simplicity. All the dishes we ordered tasted sensational, it really is a challenge to pick a fault in the experience. Izakaya Den is what the Melbourne vibe is all about. Highly recommended!

 Fresh Salmon Roll, Pickled Kombu and Ponzu - it may sound crazy, but these tiny bite-sized pieces of heaven were so good it felt like they melted in my mouth as we devoured them!

Tuna Tataki with Garlic Soy - the three along the right are served on a spicy mayo, whereas the three behind are on a bed of wasabi-spiced mayo.

Ox Tongue with Spring Onion - By far the best tasting ox tongue I have eaten - thick and tender slices that ooze with juice at every bite.

Sesame Stir-fried Japanese Mushrooms - This dish was prepared directly in front of us. I watched as the chef browned the tofu, then added the king oyster mushrooms, followed by the shiitake, enoki and black fungus, which were expertly flambeed together.

Jumbo Quail with Sansho Pepper - This was served with garlic shoots, pickled in black vinegar that perfectly complimented the earthy, charcoal flavours of the quail.

Fuji Apple Millefeuille - Delicate, deep-fried layers of Fuji apple with bursts of refreshing apple sorbet

Ginger Creme Brulee - with a candied ginger garnish. Subtle notes of ginger through a smooth and creamy custard.

January 6, 2010

Shoya Restaurant

25 Market Lane,
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9650 0848
Food: Modern Japanese, Smokeless BBQ
Website: www.shoya.com.au
Date visited: 5th January 2010

After much deliberation, Shoya was our choice for dinner last night. Walking in, we were greeted by the waiters with 'Irasshaimase!' (Welcome!) and promptly escorted to our table. On the way, we saw that the restaurant is split into different sections for Japanese Style BBQ, Traditional Floor Seating, A La Carte Dining, a Sushi Bar and a Karaoke Room. The decor was dark, elegant and modern with bursts of Japanese prints and bonsai plants.

It seems that the atmosphere Shoya strives to create is quite formal, with a gentle murmur of conversation coming from diners at other tables and between staff members. The waiters were friendly and extremely polite, but not as assertive or knowledgeable about the menu as you'd hope in such an upmarket Japanese restaurant. There was also something about the service that just appeared clumsy - they made a positive and professional first impression, but then the service slowly deteriorated as the night went on. On a brighter note, the food is to be applauded, tasting so fresh, exquisite and beautifully presented.

Sashimi Moriawase 

Tuna, Scallop (with gold leaf), Salmon, King Dory, King Fish. This dish was served in an impressive, hollow ice orb that slowly melted as we divulged into the bright-fleshed sashimi. The succulent scallop was a standout.

Tasmanian Oysters, Natural and with Ponzu Dressing - Fresh tasting morsels combined with the tangy, citrus flavours of ponzu is a match made in heaven!

Salmon Carpaccio 

Sea salted cured salmon, thinly sliced served with salmon roe, shaved black truffle, sour plum sauce and wasabi mousse. To eat, you simply roll each slice up with chopsticks, enveloping the delicate toppings scattered over. The tiny bits salmon skin added crispy bursts of flavour!

Nama Shii Hotate 

Shoya's signature quail egg, surrounded by mashed scallops, topped with a whole shiitake mushroom and then lightly deep-fried. Sensational dish, tasting even better with a sprinkle of the Sansho Pepper and squeeze of lemon juice!

Tempura Udon - Thick and slightly chewy noodles in a hot, enriching broth with perfectly battered tempura

Scampi Kinokoyaki

Another Shoya signature dish of grilled scampi topped with Japanese mushrooms and delicate miso paste. Sweet and tender scampi flesh, but very messy to eat. I wasn't provided with a bowl to discard the shells in and when I started to place them on an empty plate (from another dish) the waitress cleared it away, so I resorted to leaving them on Damo's tempura plate. I think I just needed a knife and fork, instead of chopsticks, to make removing the meat a more pleasant experience!

Kani Cheese Miso 

Interesting, but delicious combination of parmesan cheese mixed into a traditional miso soup. Tasted much like a seafood bisque. Once again, a VERY messy dish - When we used the crab cracker to split open the claws and legs, juice from the soup splattered everywhere, and our hands were all sticky from handling the crab!

Creamy Green Tea Ice-Cream with Red Bean

January 5, 2010

Crispy Skin Salmon with a Rocket, Gorgonzola and Apple Salad

Tonight's dinner was quick and effortless to prepare, using everything that was already in our fridge at home. Mum bought two ginormous, bright coloured fillets of salmon, with the skin intact - my first thought? Crispy Skin!!! As salmon is naturally packed with delicious goodness and flavour, I simply cooked it with a bit of seasoning for the skin, and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. To go alongside the fish, I also made a refreshing rocket, Gorgonzola and apple salad.

For the Salad:
- Rocket
- Gorgonzola
- Pink Lady apple, peeled and cut into thin strips
- Walnuts, toasted and broken into pieces
(Fresh figs, quartered, also go well in this salad)

For the Salad Dressing:
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp walnut oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients (depending on how much salad you are making, you may need to halve or double the amount l used) and set aside. Arrange the rocket on a serving dish, followed by the apples and figs (if using), then crumble over the Gorgonzola cheese. Finally, scatter over the walnuts, and drizzle with the reserved dressing.

For the salmon, rub sea salt and cracked black pepper over the salmon's skin to help it crisp up with flavour. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a frying pan and place down the fillet, with the the flesh facing up. You should hear a loud sizzling noise as you do so, indicating that the pan is hot enough to seal the skin's juices to crisp it up.

Cook the salmon for a few minutes until you can see that it is cooked half-way up from the bottom. Then flip it over and cook with the flesh side down for a couple more minutes. When only the centre is still slightly raw (as pictured below) remove from the heat and rest on a serving plate for a minute or two - This allows it to finish cooking. Squeeze over fresh lemon juice before serving.

 Crispy Skin Salmon with a Rocket, Gorgonzola and Apple Salad

Herb-crusted Salmon with a Rocket, Gorgonzola and Apple Salad

We had some parsley sprigs in the fridge, so I chopped up the leaves. After removing the salmon from the frying pan, I squeezed lemon juice over it and immediately scattered over the parsley. It stayed on!

Narai Thai

597 Grimshaw Street,
Bundoora, VIC 3083
(03) 9467 1204
(Also at: 214 St.Georges Road, Northcote VIC 3070)
Food: Thai
Website: www.naraithai.com.au
Dates visited: 1st June 2009, 29th December 2009

Last week, we dropped by Narai Thai for a very satisfying dinner. One of the first things that caught my attention as we entered the restaurant was the absence of the traditional, rustic Thai serving dishes and bowls found in most other Thai restaurants - they use plain white plates and bowls to serve the food. It just made me feel like I was eating in a normal cafe and that not much consideration was given to create an authentic feel. The great thing here is that the staff are always polite and helpful, which always makes a dining experience that little bit more enjoyable. However, I would still prefer to dine at Sontaya, which is just around the corner on Plenty Road.

Thom Yum Soup - invigorating spicy, hot and sour Thai flavours with prawns

Goong Hom Pla - deep-fried marinated King Prawns in puff pastry with a sweet and sour sauce; Charcoal Grilled Coconut and Satay Chicken/Beef with Peanut Sauce; Thai Beancurd Soup with Vegetables - The broth had clean flavours through it, tasting very light and healthy

Gai Yang - Charcoal-grilled chicken cooked with honey, chilli, garlic, pepper, lemongrass and red wine. The meat was quite dry and really needed some sort of sauce to juicen and flavour it up

Yum Pla Murg - Thai style warm calamari and mint salad; the calamari was surprisingly easy to chew through!

Gang Keon Whan - Green curry paste cooked in coconut milk with vegetables and prawns. The vegies were too chunky and overpowered the delicate flavours of the green curry. I have also never been a fan of enjoying capsicum in Thai curries - especially when it still has that raw taste to it, like in this dish!

 Gang Keon Whan - A second visit to Narai Thai saw a much improved version of the same green curry that we ordered previously. Just the right amount of vegetables and more broth!

 Cant get enough of their creamy coconut rice! Perfect accompaniment to the saucy Green Curry.

January 4, 2010

Pizza Puff Pastries

Today, I finally managed to use up all the ingredients left over from New Year's Eve (except the cheeses) in little puff pastry treats. I had lots of fun, creating different shapes and combinations. Once again, eggwash (lightly beaten egg with milk) was brushed over the exposed pastry to achieve a deep golden brown finish.

Three Cheese - Gorgonzola, Goat's Feta, Parmesan and Parsley

 Vegetarian - Tofu, Beans, Chinese Mushroom and Parsley

 Savoury - Ham, Olive, Parmesan and Parsley

Golden Brown Pizza Puff Pastries