The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Archive of ‘Queensland Foodie Adventures’ category

Review: Mario’s Italian (Gold Coast, QLD)

The Oasis
Victoria Avenue
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 1899
http://www.mariosrestaurant.com.au/

Let’s continue with the theme of restaurants to avoid when in Gold Coast with Mario’s Italian in Broadbeach. Don’t worry, I’ll be spreading some cheerful Gold Coast love in due course – I just want to get the less than fantastic restaurants out of the way while I’m on roll.

So, my Melbourne friend Tim was in town for a visit one weekend – not to see me particularly but to watch his beloved Collingwood Magpies take on the Suns. I can totally understand; after all, Nick Maxwell is worth the flight up to OOL and not the friend of 12 years. It’s all good.

We were in Broadbeach one afternoon, checking out some beach babes waves when we worked up a bit of an appetite. This was at an awkward time of day too (as in, way too late for lunch but too early for dinner) so a lot of Broadbeach’s restaurants were closed. Frustrated, we decided to settle on the next restaurant that was open – and it happened to be Mario’s. Now, I’m not one to fork out money for a mediocre meal at an Aussie-Italian restaurant (those places seem annoyingly popular in Gold Coast) but Tim was getting hangry so we decided to walk in.

wp1
The place was decked out in neon lights and faux neo-classical murals, so not unlike many Aussie-Italian places in Gold Coast. Thankfully, there was none of the fake exaggerated Italian accent thing happening and for the most part, service was great. Our food arrived quickly, though we did have to signal our waiter twice for water.

Fettuccini Princess ($25.90, for entrée-sized portion)

Fettuccini Princess ($25.90, for entrée-sized portion)

I ordered the curiously named Princess pasta which, imo, didn’t sound particularly princess-like. I mean, green prawns, bacon, mushrooms and shallots is a combination that sounds more like dude food to me but anyway. The mixture was tied together by a Napoli and cream sauce. Taste-wise, it wasn’t bad but for $25.90, I expected something nicer (better quality ingredients would have been a start too).

Risotto al Paesano ($27.90)

Risotto al Paesano ($27.90)

Tim ordered the above risotto dish which only came in one size. To me, the mix of diced chicken breast, mushrooms, peas, corn, semi-dried tomatoes just screamed out ‘special fried rice’ and ‘did the kitchen just chuck whatever ingredients were left from last night’s dinner service into one dish?’ with the basil and cream sauce along with the shaved Romano on top adding in more flavour confusion to the mix. Granted, the dish did taste miles better than the chorizo and mushroom risotto I had at The Hub but even Tim said that it wasn’t the best risotto he’s had (and he’s usually one to LOVE Aussie-Italian food).

I haven’t been to Mario’s since and I don’t intend to; like many Italian restaurants here, the dishes are overpriced, mediocre on a good day and you can forgot about getting anything remotely resembling authentic Italian fare. I guess the only time I’ll recommend going to Mario’s is if you’re REALLY hungry and can’t be bothered waiting two hours for the other Broadbeach restaurants to open up, or if you’re legitimately craving La Porchetta fare but your legs can’t walk the few hundred metres up to the Phoenician Resort where you can find said restaurant.

Mario's Italian on Urbanspoon

Review: The Hub (Gold Coast, QLD)

4/240 Varsity Parade
Varsity Lakes QLD 4227
+61 7 5689 1771

Here’s another place to add to the ‘AVOID AT ALL COSTS!’ list when on the Gold Coast. Okay, so the list might contain more than half the restaurants in this fair city but seriously, The Hub one takes the prize for being the worst of a lousy bunch.

It’s situated just around the corner from Bond University so the place is always buzzing with students looking for a feed between tutorials or after a 6PM lecture. It also within walking distance from my house, so when my housemates suggested we try this place one evening, I didn’t bat an eyelid.

It was a Friday night when we rocked up, so the place was busy. To add to the vibrant atmosphere, they had a live solo act – a guy who was actually decent at singing sappy ballad covers but was way too loud so it was hard to have a proper conversation.

Bruschetta ($10.90)

Bruschetta ($10.90)

The four of us started off with a serving of bruschetta, a disaster before it even hit the table. Initially, the plate was topped with cold white bread and a shitload of diced tomatoes and stale parsley; that was it, no olive oil, no nothing. Fail for presentation too. We sent the bread back to be heated up in the grill oven which made the bruschetta SLIGHTLY better but c’mon, man, still no olive oil? So we asked if they had olive oil and after a quick nod, our waiter came back with a little bowl of it so we can dip our bread in it. The olive oil did improve the taste slightly but failed to hide the fact that this was a sorry excuse for a bruschetta. Seriously guys, at least TRY.

Chorizo and mushroom risotto ($18.90)

Chorizo and mushroom risotto ($18.90)

I had the chorizo and mushroom risotto, a dish that I no longer order today because I can make it easily at home now. But back then, I was a noob who had never made a risotto before and that’s what I felt like that evening. At first glance, it didn’t look appealing but at least it looked marginally neater than the bruschetta did.

It was a horrible dish, one that I immediately regretted ordering; there was no soul, no depth and no flavour except the rancid oil that emancipated from the very poor quality chorizo pieces. Additionally, the sauce was very watery – almost like the person cooking it had just chucked in chicken stock in the pan in one go (rather than gradually), saw that the stock wasn’t reducing, freaked out and then added cream to thicken the sauce.

Chilli coconut seafood pot ($15.90)

Chilli coconut seafood pot ($15.90)

Apologies for the above photo, I know it’s horrible but then again, so was the food we had so far. Surprisingly, the curiously named ‘chilli coconut seafood pot’ dish that the girls ordered wasn’t TOO terrible. Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – it’s not going to win Gold Coast dish of the year but it was better than anything I ate that evening. Think of it as a watered down curry laksa, minus the curry but with lots of sweet chilli. It sounds really strange on paper but in some weird way, it worked. Sort of. In fact, the token male in the group ended up ordering a serving just for himself in addition to the salmon he had just devoured.

Our meal at The Hub was the worst I’ve had in Gold Coast so far – and trust me, I’ve had some shockers. Half my household aren’t into food but even they had to say that it was ‘very shit.’ So with that in mind, I’m not exactly sure why this place is always packed every time I walk past on my evening walks. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s the only vibrant place in the Varsity/Bond Uni area that isn’t a bogan pub and the owners don’t have to try so hard because they know they’ll always draw students in. I’m not one to reward mediocrity so I do think it’s unfair that places that don’t give a stuff about food succeed. I did, however, get the last laugh when not long ago, the Gold Coast Bulletin stated that The Hub got fined for breeching food safety laws and failing to pay adequate wages to staff. Perhaps things have changed since then but I’m really in no hurry to go back and find out.

The Hub on Urbanspoon

Review: Hard Rock Café Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

Corner of Cavill Avenue and Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5539 9377
http://www.hardrock.com/cafes/surfers-paradise/

When it comes to dining options in Surfers Paradise, there’s mediocre and then there is shit. Sure, you have the odd gem but they’re as a rare as a decent Tinder match. And one does not need to have half a brain to know what which category Hard Rock Café belongs to. (hint: it’s not a gem)

wp1

I’m not exactly sure why I ended up here with Melbourne friends Aaron and Cathy one weekend. I think someone wanted to suss it out as they never had the chance to visit the Melbourne branch before they closed down years ago. I had never been to a Hard Rock Café myself and even though I wasn’t keen to begin with, I won’t lie – curiosity did get the better of me in the end.

Hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich

Hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich

The menu here is pretty straightforward: generously portioned American-style burgers, sandwiches and mains, not unlike the stuff you get at TGI Friday’s. Cathy ordered the hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich which came with a drizzle of hickory barbeque sauce (that’s a helluva lot of hickory), citrus coleslaw and a small tub of what they called ‘cowboy beans.’

I found the pulled pork to be very sweet and one-dimensional – so much for all the hickory – though Cathy didn’t mind it that much (that said, she didn’t finish the whole thing).

Original legendary burger: smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and golden fried onion ring

Original legendary burger: smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and golden fried onion ring

Aaron and I both ordered the original legendary burger. The menu promised the beef pattie to combine the ‘flavours of brisket and prime rib’ into one neat package. How, I’m not quite sure – it just tasted like your standard burger pattie from a nondescript café with no flavour, no character, no nothing. The toasted brioche bun was more akin to your basic white bun while the seasoned fries were bland, boring and barely even crispy.

wp4

To be fair, I did like the giant onion ring that sat smack bang in the middle of the burger. It provided a bit of crunch (i.e. a smidgen of excitement, if you want to call it that) to what was otherwise a very boring burger.

While Gold Coast isn’t (yet) Australia’s burger capital, there’s still plenty of places to keep people happy. I don’t remember exactly how much our meals were but they were definitely in the $11-17 mark. With decent places like Ze Pickle and Longboards charging similar prices for better burgers, there’s really no need to bother going to Hard Rock Café for a burger fix. Avoid like the trashy Surfers Paradise nightclubs.

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Spice of Life Café & Deli (Gold Coast, QLD)

28 Main Street
North Tamborine QLD 4272
+61 7 5545 3353
http://www.spiceoflifecafedeli.com/

From time to time, us Goldie folk like to swap the beaches and nightclubs for rainforests and mountains. Hell, even interstate visitors from down south get over it – case in point, my Melbourne friends Aaron and Cathy who decided to spend four days in Gold Coast.

We decided to take a day trip up to Mount Tamborine where we’d explore some providores, walking trails, greenery and a café or two. After visiting a couple of wineries (yes, Queensland has wineries and no, I wouldn’t recommend visiting one), we ended up at North Tamborine’s main drag right on lunchtime. There’s a handful of places to choose from but we decided on Spice of Life, a simple no-fuss deli-slash-café that has shelves lined with chutneys, jams, sauces and the like and offers your usual café fare.

Latte ($3.70)

Latte ($3.70)

My latte was surprisingly alright – it was smooth and silky, with beautiful chocolate and hazelnut notes.

Chicken parmigiana ($17.90); battered barramundi ($14.90)

Chicken parmigiana ($17.90); battered barramundi ($14.90)

Aaron had the parma (sorry, I’m a Victorian at heart so I’ll never give in and call it a parmi) while Cathy had the fried barramundi, both served with chips and salad. I didn’t get to try their food but they both said their dishes were pretty good – Aaron especially with his parma.

Beef and Guinness pie ($12.90)

Beef and Guinness pie ($12.90)

To continue the Aussie ‘pub fare’ theme, I went with the beef and Guinness pie. It came with a choice of salad from display counter – I went with the walnut, feta and rocket salad. I can’t say I loved my salad too much – the rocket leaves were damp and limp, like they had been sitting in the fridge for way too long – but the pie was decent. Sure, the pastry could have been a bit more flaky but the filling was beautiful – it was so hearty, comforting and full of rich flavours.

Damn, I feel like a pie now.

Given the amount of eateries in the North Tamborine area, I’m more inclined to suggest trying out another one than return to Spice of Life. However, if I’m taking more visitors to the area and they really insist on trying Spice of Life, I probably would not strongly argue against going. Does that make sense?

Spice of Life Cafe and Deli on Urbanspoon

Review: Double Zero (Gold Coast, QLD)

2/2715 Gold Coast Highway
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5526 8635
http://www.doublezeropizza.com.au/

When gym bros and bunnies decide to carb-load, they really mean it. A bowl of pasta wouldn’t cut it and a burger paired with lots of fries just won’t do. Nope, you gotta have fried bread, pizza, pasta and more importantly, beer. Will and I managed to combine all of that with gossip, laughter and Hulk impressions at Double Zero one Tuesday evening immediately after a weights session at the gym.

Gold Coast may have more crappy pizza joints than good ones but it’s slowly getting there. Justin Lane in Burleigh Heads kicked it off and now we have places like Gemelli and Double Zero, both in Broadbeach, to keep pizza lovers happy. We settled on Double Zero that evening, vowing to hit up Gemelli the next time we felt like pizza.

Antipasto platter: prosciutto di parma, sopressa salami, Sicilian olives, semi-dried tomatoes, Italian cheese, fried grissini ($21)

Antipasto platter: prosciutto di parma, sopressa salami, Sicilian olives, semi-dried tomatoes, Italian cheese, fried grissini ($21)

It may have been pissing down rain that evening but that didn’t stop us from grabbing a seat outside – we like to people-watch, you see. After ordering some Italian beers to start, we dived straight into the antipasto platter. The board contained all the usual suspects, all of which were top quality, but my favourite bit was the fried grissini even though they were more like deep-fried dough puffs than bread sticks.

Piccante pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, parmesan, rocket ($21)

Piccante pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, parmesan, rocket ($21)

Double Zero’s pizzas are all Neapolitan-style, meaning that they’re cooked for 90 seconds in a hot wood-fired oven. As a result, they’re soft and light with a crispy crust. The menu also states that the dough ‘will not make you feel stuffed’ – I disagree because I find that anything with wheat will make my stomach go funny but at least this pizza didn’t make me feel AS bloated as pizzas from franchises.

Moreover, the topping was simple, yet beautifully balanced and full of flavour. Hell, the whole thing could just contain tomato and cheese and it’d still be tasty, hence the importance of top quality ingredients.

Pasta of the day: fettuccini puttanesca ($21)

Pasta of the day: fettuccini puttanesca ($21)

Will ordered the puttanesca, one of the day’s specials. It was a staple dish done very well – the pasta was silky smooth and slightly firm to the bite, while the sauce was a lovely mix of tomato, capers and olives with the slightest hint of anchovy. Will smashed it in one go.

Spaghetti carbonara ($23)

Spaghetti carbonara ($23)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same about my carbonara. I’m not normally one to order dishes that I can easily make at home but I had been craving carbonara all day and nothing was going to change my mind.

The serving size was generous enough but the sauce did not agree with me. Sure, it was legit as it came – guanciale, eggs and pecorino were the main ingredients and sure, there was no cream. In other words, it was a real carbonara. The whole thing, however, just tasted off – the guanciale had a nasty pungent smell (as in, more so than usual), there was way too much dish and I could taste a burnt anchovy-like aftertaste with each bite. That’ll teach me to order something that I shouldn’t have.

wp5

All the carbs.

We were probably a bit too ambitious with our ordering; I ended up taking two slices of pizza and pretty much three-quarters of the carbonara home, both of which I ended up eating for lunch the following day (yes, I still ate it because it was a preferable option to tuna and crackers). Apart from the carbonara, we had a lovely bulk fest at Double Zero and I’m planning to return to smash down more of their pizzas.

Double Zero on Urbanspoon

Review: Ze Pickle (Gold Coast, QLD)

Connor Street
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5659 1091
http://zepickle.com/

So, burgers, cronuts and craft beer are currently ‘so hot right now’ on the Gold Coast. Our southern cousins may be rolling their eyes and being all ‘those things are so 2013’ but one thing I’ve come to love about Goldie is that food trends don’t necessarily dictate dining habits and they don’t mindlessly bow down to the hottest food trends in droves. Burgers are so 2013? Yeah, whatever. We may be a bit slow but we like burgers and if they happen to be out of fashion, who cares? They taste delicious and that’s all that matters, okay?

One place that I’ve come to love in Gold Coast is Ze Pickle, a place that combines those three things: burgers, cronuts and craft beers in breezy Burleigh Heads, just minutes away from the beach. And while it is perhaps a little bit hipster, there is none of that pretentious wankery that you sometimes get in Collingwood or Newtown. Everything is laidback and chilled.

My first visit was with Will, my gym bro buddy who had been raving about this place for ages. It was a warm evening as we grabbed our seats outside so we can soak up the sea breeze. We ordered a few beers during the course of the evening; I don’t remember exactly which ones I had but given that Ze Pickles’ list comprises of names like Deschutes, Two Birds and 4 Pines, you’re sure to be impressed if you’re a craft beer aficionado.

Ze Pickle tries to be a little cheeky with their menu. Comprising of predominately burgers, the menu is sectioned off by meats. Each burger has a name and you can tell the person designing the menu had the most fun when creating the chicken section (The Cock is your default chicken burger while the Pulled Cock is their slow cooked pulled chicken burger). The menu also contained a lot of Zs (I guess to create synergy with the name of the eatery) so I saw ‘caramelized’ instead of ‘caramelised’ which was fine but I did think that ‘cheeze’ instead of ‘cheese’ was a bit too much.

Kanye’s cheese sticks ($8)

Kanye’s cheese sticks ($8)

We had these cheese sticks to share. I’m not sure why they were called Kanye’s cheese sticks but they were probably a starter we could have gone without. Four pieces of American jack cheese were double-breaded (or, crumbed) and then fried. They were actually quite nice (who doesn’t like deep-fried and cheese anything??) but after eating just one, I was half full. Yup.

Ze chips ($6)

Ze chips ($6)

For something that won’t screw your appetite before the burgers arrive, the chips are probably a better option. They were light and crispy – just the way I love my chips – and beautifully seasoned. Perfect for grazing or to enjoy with your burgers.

Up in Smoke: wagyu pattie, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, balsamic caramelised onion, chilli relish, jalapeños, Swiss cheese and jalapeño aioli ($15.50)

Up in Smoke: wagyu pattie, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, balsamic caramelised onion, chilli relish, jalapeños, Swiss cheese and jalapeño aioli ($15.50)

Will had the ‘Up in Smoke’ burger, Ze Pickle’s default ‘hot’ option. I didn’t manage to have a bite of it, not just because that cheese stick was already doing my head in but because Will has an insane appetite so he wolfed it down while I was still applying Instagram filters to MY burger photo. Will said that it wasn’t as good as the first Ze Pickle burger he had (their cheeseburger) because there was something missing in it, but he didn’t know what. (I reckon it’s the lack of bacon and cheese)

Cronut burger: cronut, wagyu pattie, cheese, Nutella bacon and maple syrup ($18)

Cronut burger: cronut, wagyu pattie, cheese, Nutella bacon and maple syrup ($18)

Ze Pickle has a cronut burger that’s not on the menu so when I heard about it, of course I had to order it. The burger itself isn’t big but it definitely contained way more calories than Will’s burger and our starters combined. Hey, you don’t come to Ze Pickle if you want to be all fitso and clean eating and shit…

wp5

So, the cronut burger is essentially a house-made cinnamon-dusted cronut sandwiching a wagyu pattie, American cheese, Nutella bacon and lots of maple syrup. The cronut itself was also sticky so I’m assuming they drizzled a bit of maple syrup on top for good measure. Verdict? Okay, the whole thing worked. I loved the combination of sweet, sticky, salty and insanity, capped off by the sourness of the pickle on top. I also liked how the cronut’s crispiness added a bit of textural oomph to the whole thing too. Was I glad that I tried it? Most definitely. Will I order it again? Probably not; it was a bit too much for me.

Since then, I’ve gone back to try a couple of their other burgers. Their cheeseburgers (sorry, cheeseburgers) are an excellent and reliable choice for those who want something simple while their jerk chicken burgers are also good if you feel like a bit of poultry.

Ze pickle on Urbanspoon

Review: Longboards Laidback Eatery & Bar (Gold Coast, Queensland)

Q1 Resort and Spa
Cnr Hamilton Avenue & Northcliffe Terrace
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 2559
http://longboardsbar.com.au/

When my mate Adam told me about the Phat Bastard burger challenge at Longboards in Surfers Paradise, I knew I wanted a piece of that action. So basically, you had a 1.8kg burger slapped in front of you and the challenge is to finish everything on the board (including all the fries) in less than 30 minutes for a $150 bar tab.

The Phat Bastard burger itself comes at $49 and includes 600grams of grilled wagyu, a motherload of streaky bacon, melted American cheddar cheese, slow roasted barbequed pulled pork, beer-battered onion rings, lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and something called ‘house made PHAT ass sauce.’ All in a brioche bun and served with fries.

Once we got there though, we whimped out and ended up ordering burgers from the ‘normal’ menu. I blame the ‘PHAT ass’ sauce.’

wp1 wp2 wp3 wp4

Upon opening the menu, Adam’s first words were ‘Pumpkin bruschetta? That’s CHICK food!’ I didn’t quite agree with his borderline sexist comment (what, girls can’t pack away burgers, ribs and steak?) but if we were to go by what mainstream media now calls ‘dude food,’ then having pumpkin bruschetta sitting there alongside ribs, chicken wings and other meaty snacks does seem a bit odd.

Mini Phat: wagyu beef patty, cheese, pulled pork, streaky bacon, lettuce, coleslaw, tomato, onion rings, PHAT sauce and BBQ sauce ($18.90)

Mini Phat: wagyu beef patty, cheese, pulled pork, streaky bacon, lettuce, coleslaw, tomato, onion rings, PHAT sauce and BBQ sauce ($18.90)

If you can’t stomach the thought of eating the 1.8kg Phat Bastard burger, then you have the option of eating its smaller-sized version. Adam went down this route; it was perhaps a bit sweet for me – there was pulled pork in it, but also a ridiculous amount of BBQ sauce. Add brioche, and you’re almost calling it a dessert if it weren’t for the bacon, onion rings and cheese in it.

Beach Cheeseburger: wagyu beef patty, streaky bacon, melted red Leicester cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and PHAT sauce ($14.90)

Beach Cheeseburger: wagyu beef patty, streaky bacon, melted red Leicester cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and PHAT sauce ($14.90)

I thought my cheeseburger was a much better burger. True, I would have loved a bit of lettuce in mine and yeah, it did have most of the stuff that rendered Adam’s burger a bit sweet (PHAT sauce, BBQ sauce, brioche bun) but it came minus the pulled pork and there wasn’t as much BBQ sauce. Overall, I found it to be a better-balanced burger.

wp4

Oh yeah.

And what about the fries? They were well-seasoned and crispy enough – could have done with a bit more crunch but that’s just me being fussy.

What I like about Longboards is its relaxed setting and easy-going vibe – it’s located on the bottom of the Q1 hotel and it faces the swimming pool on the ground floor. I suppose Q1 hotel guests swimming in front of burger-guzzling diners would be uncomfortable with this arrangement but it was good eye candy for us diners (teehee). Sadly, I can’t post any photos of the open-air-dining-room-facing-the-pool set-up as most of said photos of my iPhone are creep shots of topless guys splashing about.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, burgers! So, Surfers Paradise may be a foodie wasteland for the most part and the burgers served in (the predominantly tacky) eateries there may be mediocre at best. Longboards, however, does more than decent burgers there in pretty chilled surroundings just minutes from the beach.

Longboards Laidback Eatery & Bar on Urbanspoon

Review: Kiyomi (Gold Coast, QLD)

Jupiters Hotel and Casino
Broadbeach Island
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 8100
http://www.jupitersgoldcoast.com.au/dining/Pages/Kiyomi.aspx

Disclaimer: Adam and Libby dined as guests of Wonderland PR and Jupiters Hotel and Casino.

One thing that Goldie does well (besides sunny weather and producing entrepreneurs as well as cosmetic surgeons) is Japanese food. Japanese investment in the 80s and early 90s saw more than a handful of Japanese restaurants pop up – and we’re not just talking about bastardised sushi kiosks selling teriyaki chicken joints either. But while the Goldie did cheap to mid-end Japanese restaurants well, there was very little in terms of fancy high-end Japanese (except for maybe Ten).

That was, until Sydney’s Chase Kijoma rocked up to launch Kiyomi in the $345 million revamped Jupiters Casino in Broadbeach.

wp1

Broady, you’re alright.

wp2

Casinos are casinos so I’ll always think they’re inherently tacky.

But situated a floor away from the flashing neon lights (and bogans) of the gaming rooms is a cool, modern Tokyo-inspired oasis. ‘Kiyomi’ is the word for a Japanese hybrid citrus fruit that’s not dissimilar to a mandarin; it is also the name of Kijoma’s mother, which I thought was a really sweet touch. Chase Kijoma may not yet be a household name on the Gold Coast but his culinary rock star pedigree (lead Nobu kitchens worldwide and heads up the award-winning Sokyo at The Star in Sydney) means that he’ll be a name Gold Coast foodies will be accustomed to hearing.

wp3

Kiyomi’s décor screams out Tokyo cool. A customised fluro UV installation by a Tokyo artist combined with mood lighting did initially make me think Surfers Paradise nightclub on a Saturday night, but wooden cubes and glazed pottery brought the whole fit-out down to earth, adding a hint of sophistication.

wp4

To start, we had some cocktails. Adam decided to go for the signature cocktail, the Chasing Kiyomi. Paying homage to the hybrid citrus fruit, the cocktail was a flirty combination of Grand Marnier, Aperol orange bitters, and San Pellegrino mandarin mineral water, finished with a spritz of Tanqueray Gin. Being very much a beer man, Adam wasn’t keen on it so I happily finished his drink off for him. Just as well, because I struggled with my own cocktail, the Momoiro Sour. Touted as the Asian version of the Whiskey Sour, I thought the combination of sake, shiso, lime and egg white didn’t gel as much it should – and what was up with the rosemary?

The format at Kiyomi is izakaya-style dining – order a few drinks plus some plates to share and away you go! Alternatively, you can opt for their seven-course degustation menu for $140. We sampled a decent selection of dishes, many of which appear in the degustation menu.

Edamame

Edamame

First up, we had some edamame. I’m not a huge fan of those, preferring to go for snacks that have a bit more substance. However, these babies were coated in a lovely seven spice and soy marinade and topped with bonito flakes, making them addictive even for an edamame hater like myself.

wp6

Oh hey, Chase!

Hanaji maki

Hanaji maki

Next, we had a teriyaki wagyu sushi roll that was topped with seared foie gras cubes. It was a brilliant dish – a perfect mixture of smokiness, sweetness and earthiness with a hint of tanginess to finish (thanks, finger limes).

Watermelon, wasabi mayo

Watermelon, wasabi mayo

To refresh our palates, we had some watermelon cubes that were fittingly paired with some wasabi mayo. Nice enough, but would not pay.

Seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna

Seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna

Conversely, I would pay top dollars for the seared scampi. Beautifully presented and succulently sweet and fresh, the little babies were accentuated with hints of apple and mizuna, and the slightest dab for foie gras for a creamy finish.

Hiramasa kingfish, miso ceviche, crispy potato

Hiramasa kingfish, miso ceviche, crispy potato

Some of Sokyo’s popular dishes appeared on the menu tonight, including the raw hiramasa kingfish. The miso ceviche imparted a lovely nutty, sweet touch while the crispy potato shreds added a lovely dose of texture.

Tuna tataki, asparagus, enoki, tosazu, leek sauce

Tuna tataki, asparagus, enoki, tosazu, leek sauce

Beautifully presented, the tuna tataki was probably one of my favourite dishes. The perfectly cut slabs of fresh fish were delicious enough to enjoy on their own, but the trimmings elevated the dish to another level. They all provided a lovely touch of earthiness and if I was to be wanky, I’d make a comment about this dish being a perfect marriage of sea and land or something like that.

Moreton Bay bug tempura, grapefruit, sambal mayo, vinegar

Moreton Bay bug tempura, grapefruit, sambal mayo, vinegar

Another successful dish was the Moreton Bay bug tempura. I love bug meat in all forms, but the super light and crispy tempura batter really brought this dish to another level of ‘wow.’ Even Adam went for seconds (and he’s normally a pizza, pub fare and burger guy because ew who’d eat bugs, omg). I also loved the sauces that went with the tempura – the sambal mayo could have been a bit hotter but I loved its peppery tangy creamy taste while the vinegar was light and sweet, almost like a delicate blend of sake.

Speaking of sake, I think we downed about two bottles of the stuff on the night. And mind you, this was in addition to the cocktails, beers, whiskies and wines we consumed.

Dengakuman – Patagonian toothfish, caramelised miso

Dengakuman – Patagonian toothfish, caramelised miso

Named after a Japanese cartoon character, the Patagonian toothfish dish was another favourite of mine. Yeah, I know it screams out Nobu miso black cod but hey, I’m a sucker for fish and miso okay? Anyway, apparently this is a $37 dish if you’re ordering a la carte which seems like a rip because the portion size isn’t terribly big. However, the Patagonian toothfish isn’t a cheap piece of fish and given beautifully cooked it comes out (so soft, so buttery, so like omg) and given how perfectly balanced the flavours are, it’s worth every dollar. Go on, do it.

King brown mushroom, truffle poke, lime

King brown mushroom, truffle poke, lime

You may be asking ‘what the hell is poke?’ Well, it’s the Hawaiian word for ‘to slice’ so I’m assuming they mean ‘sliced truffle.’ Anyway, I wouldn’t know; I couldn’t taste any truffle nor was it truffle season anywhere in the world (though I could smell it). Regardless, I liked this dish – it was so earthy and so bold that it appealed to my Taurean sensibilities. That, and I also love mushrooms.

Wagyu 9+ striploin, eschalot, spicy teriyaki

Wagyu 9+ striploin, eschalot, spicy teriyaki

Now, our wagyu striploin was nice enough but I did expect it to be fattier given that it was meant to be a 9 score piece of meat. And while you can’t really go wrong with terikyaki and beef, I was hoping for the sauce to be that little bit spicier.

Yoko Ono – Captain Morgan spiced rum, Blue Curacao, lemon, pineapple, lime juice

Yoko Ono – Captain Morgan spiced rum, Blue Curacao, lemon, pineapple, lime juice

I was egged on by Adam to order the Yoko Ono cocktail because, yeah, it’s not like anyone has called me Yoko before. Still, it was a much better cocktail than the Momoiro Sour I initially had. Sure, it looked and tasted very 80s Gold Coast but it was smooth to drink, and I loved the little hint of spice at the end.

Sushi platter

Sushi platter

When we thought we had enough, they just HAD to bring out a neat looking sushi platter. The platter included bite-sized delights such as spicy tuna on crispy rice (essentially, puffed rice) as well as the Queensland roll, a soy paper-wrapped sushi filled with spanner crab and topped with creamy avocado puree. Yup, there was none of this chicken teriyaki shit on this sushi platter board.

Tai nori shio kombu salsa

Tai nori shio kombu salsa

My favourite sushi, however, was the curiously named tai nori shio kombu salsa. The base was a crispy thick piece of nori that was rolled up to form a hard seaweed taco shell. Snapper sashimi sprinkled with black pepper was the icing on the cake. So simple, so clever and so delicious.

Mochi ravioli triangles

Mochi ravioli triangles

Finally, we had dessert. After all the food we consumed, the last thing I wanted to do was to eat a super rich dessert but thankfully, these little green tea mochi triangles were the perfect finish – at least for a non-sweets person like myself.

wp21

And what were they filled with? Frozen strawberry milkshake. Oh hell, yeah.

Goma Street – tempered dark chocolate, caramelised white chocolate mousse, black sesame ice cream

Goma Street – tempered dark chocolate, caramelised white chocolate mousse, black sesame ice cream

Okay, so we had another dessert. This one was yet another Sokyo immigrant, the famous Goma Street dessert. If you like chocolate, you will like this one. Unfortunately (or perhaps that should be fortunately?), I don’t like chocolate so it’s not a dessert I would think to order. However, I do like black sesame ice cream so that kind of saved the dish for me.

So there you have it. Is Gold Coast’s newest Japanese heavyweight worth the hype? I think so. I was impressed not just by how tasty each dish was but also how much attention to detail was paid. I don’t recommend a lot of high-end restaurants on the Gold Coast, but this one’s definitely going on my list.

Kiyomi on Urbanspoon

Review: New Saigon (Gold Coast, QLD)

2798 Gold Coast Highway
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 7588
http://newsaigonrestaurant.blogspot.com.au/

GOOD Vietnamese food is extremely hard to find on the Gold Coast so it’s a luxury that I tend to go without – I either wait until I’m back in Melbourne for my bun bo hue fix or I attempt to make my own pho broth. So when a Tinder match suggested we go to this ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese restaurant on the Highway,’ my ears pricked up.

‘Authentic Vietnamese restaurant?’ I sceptically asked.

‘Yeah, the venue is really cool – it’s like you’re sitting in someone’s house and the food is cooked by their grandmother or something.’

‘Okay, this I gotta see!’ I was as excited as I was today when I heard that The Book of Mormon musical was finally hitting our glorious shores. YESSSSS.

But then Mr Tinder ruined everything with this question: ‘So, is pho Vietnamese or Thai?’

In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign to abort this meet-up immediately. If an Asian guy can’t tell me what country pho comes from, then should I really be trusting his judgement on what constitutes ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food?

It didn’t matter anyway; we were finally at New Saigon. Housed in a beautiful timber house in the middle of Goldie Highway, the restaurant’s bright neons signs glittered as brightly as the sequins on a metre maid’s bikini top. Inside, a bustling atmosphere greeted us as we took our seat. It wasn’t a full house that night but it was busy enough – so much so that we did wait more than 30 minutes for our food to arrive, unusual for a Vietnamese restaurant.

Prawn and pork rice paper rolls (four for $9)

Prawn and pork rice paper rolls (four for $9)

We started off with some summer rolls. To be honest, they weren’t the best I’ve had. Not only were they skint on the filling, the rolls themselves were tasteless. I struggled to eat just one.

Crispy chicken and vegies in sweet chilli sauce ($16.50)

Crispy chicken and vegies in sweet chilli sauce ($16.50)

My companion ordered a decidedly non-Vietnamese dish, a strange choice for someone who claimed that New Saigon served ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food. I didn’t try any of it but it was definitely not something I’d order – not for sixteen-bloody-fifty anyway. Hell, it wasn’t even something I’d try to cook at home either. That said, my buddy did enjoy it so maybe I’m the one who’s wrong here.

Beef pho ($15)

Beef pho ($15)

Of course, I ordered beef pho. At $15, it was not cheap (yet, $15 bowls of pho seems to be standard in Goldie) – maybe it broke the $12 mark because of all the spring onions that went into broth.

wp4

Don’t even think for a second that this pho may be authentic because it wasn’t. It was bastardised, one-dimensional and worse of all, SWEET. I couldn’t taste any traces of beef boney goodness in the broth, no spices, no nothing. It was pretty close to slurping a bowl of hot sugared water with a pinch of saltiness but nowhere near enough. I was very disappointed.

I never saw Mr Tinder again and nor have I been back to New Saigon. And if people say this is Gold Coast’s most authentic Vietnamese restaurant then, damn, the glitter strip has a long way to go.

New Saigon on Urbanspoon

Review: Pearl Café (Brisbane, QLD)

28 Logan Road
Woolloongabba QLD 4102
+61 7 3392 3300

It took a fellow Melburnian and, in hindsight, a jerk Tinder date to lead me to my new favourite breakfast spot in Brisbane. After enjoying a night out in Brisvegas with Greg, it was time to soothe my head with a decent breakfast and what I hoped was decent company – at the very least, we former Melburnians would have heaps to talk about.

After an impressive Brisbane progressive crawl, my date then took me to Pearl Café, one of his favourite pre-work breakfast spots. Situated on charming Logan Road and only a short walk from the GABBA, the all day eatery effortlessly conveyed classy euro chic with its mirrors, antique furnishings and wooden bistro-style furniture. I was already in love – and I wasn’t talking about Mr Tinder.

wp1

Because we had already consumed our fair share of coffees, we decided to go with teas – I went for a soothing peppermint while he went for camomile. As for the food, Pearl’s offerings are whimsical, rustic and interesting with a smearing of European panache and good quality ingredients. In addition to menu staples such as the pecan financier with maple roasted pear and the house smoked trout with poached eggs, dandelion and homemade pumpkin sourdough with a dash of horseradish, a daily specials list also tempts.

Special: omelette with caramelised leek and fennel on homemade sourdough

Special: omelette with caramelised leek and fennel on homemade sourdough

My date had one of the specials, the omelette with caramelised leek and fennel. I didn’t get a chance to try any of his food but going by the way he happily wolfed it down, it must have been great.

Wild forest mushrooms, stone ground organic polenta, pecorino, hen’s yolk ($19)

Wild forest mushrooms, stone ground organic polenta, pecorino, hen’s yolk ($19)

Meanwhile, I opted for one of Pearl’s heartier dishes. The predictable but delicious combination of earthy mushrooms, gooey egg and rich polenta worked beautifully, both taste-wise and texturally. It was a dish that was more suited to Melbourne’s friggin’ cold winters rather than Brisbane at any time of the year but hey, I’d happily take it.

I never saw the Tinder guy again but his breakfast venue left a positive lasting impression on me. Pearl Café has become one of the few places I recommend to Brisbane visitors in addition to big guns such as Gerard’s Bistro, ARIA and GOMA. And given that it’s so close to the GABBA, it’ll be my pre-cricket breakfast venue for when I’m at the cricket next.

Pearl Cafe on Urbanspoon