Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Archive of ‘Queensland Foodie Adventures’ category

Review: Muso Ramen (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 2B/2484 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5679 3779

If there’s one thing the Gold Coast has over Melbourne, it’d be their ramen restaurants. Oh, and the sun. And the beaches. And the quality guys on Tinder (no, I wasn’t serious with the last one).

Sure, we now have our Mugen and Fukuryu-type places but the Goldie guys have been doing it a lot longer than us with Hakataya and Muso, the subject of this post. While Hakataya is located on the main tourist strip at Surfers, Muso is slightly tucked away on the more residential Mermaid Beach area. However, it’s right on the highway so it’s easily accessible by one of Gold Coast’s many highway buses should you be an interstate or overseas visitor looking for a feed going up from the airport.

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Muso is very cool. The back wall is adorned by Beatles and Hendrix posters, while classic 60s and 70s rock music blare through the speakers as the lady takes your order at the counter.

Steamed gyoza (five pieces for $6)

Steamed gyoza (five pieces for $6)

With cold Kirin beers in hand, Marty and I started off with some steamed gyoza. I’m more of a fried gyoza person these days but he was always of the opinion that steamed is better than fried (true in most case but not for dumplings, in my opinion). The steamed pork gyoza were tasty enough but I found the skins a bit too soggy.

Fried gyoza (five pieces for $6)

Fried gyoza (five pieces for $6)

The fried ones were a lot better (this is why it’s a good idea to listen to me in most cases!). The filling was just as tasty as the steamed ones, but the thin skins had just the right amount of crunch and to me, that made all the difference.

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I had the tonkotsu original ($13) while Marty had the tonkotsu spicy miso ($14), the latter being essentially the same as mine but with a spicy miso sauce drizzled through it, obvs.

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My ramen was amazing, on par with the one I enjoyed at Hakataya Ramen. If you love the milkiness of the Hakata-style broth, you’ll definitely enjoy the ramen at Muso. It was rich, yet clean. It was milky, yet packed with an assortment of flavours ranging from pork to sweet miso to pure awesomeness in one neat little bowl. And it was perfect, oh-so-perfect, from the gooey tea-soaked egg half to the fatty chashu pork to the slippery thin noodles.

It saddens to me think that there are amazing down-to-earth ramen restaurants in Gold Coast, yet Melbourne seems to struggle with producing something even half as good as this. However, I have a feeling that this will all change now that Fukuryu is in the picture. And about time too.

Muso Ramen Noodle & Gyoza Bar on Urbanspoon

Review: Hellenika (Gold Coast, QLD)

2235 Gold Coast Highway
Nobby Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5572 8009
http://www.hellenika.com.au

The other day, my half-Greek friend Yanni was complaining about the lack of good Greek restaurants up on the Gold Coast. While it’s true that there isn’t a big Greek population up there in comparison to Melbourne, it’s fair to say that Yanni had not experienced the wonder that is Simon Gloftis’ Hellenika.

After experiencing one of the best meals I’ve had on the Gold Coast at Gloftis’ second restaurant The Fish House, I knew I had to give Hellenika a spin. Luckily Marty was on the same page so we arranged to have dinner one evening. Keep in mind that this visit happened ages ago (by that, I mean last year) so things might have changed slightly since then.

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Gloftis is the George Calombaris of Gold Coast. He owns two restaurants and a few cafés including Three Beans – put simply, he knows food and he knows business. The thing that makes me like Gloftis’ restaurants a bit more, however, is the fact that they’re stylish, yet unpretentious. And while Melbourne and Sydney has its lion’s share of fancy restaurants, you’ll never be able to replicate the effortless manner in which Fish House and Hellenika combines charm, sexiness with a loads of modesty. Ah, it must be the Gold Coast beach thang.

Ten Cane: Ten Cane white rum, ginger, pineapple, chilli and lime ($16)

Ten Cane: Ten Cane white rum, ginger, pineapple, chilli and lime ($16)

Our table wasn’t ready when we rocked up just after 8pm so we perched at the bar with some drinks. Marty ordered a Scotch but I decided that it was perfect cocktail weather despite Hellenika’s very limited cocktail menu. My Ten Cane cocktail was as refreshing and zesty as the night’s cool breeze.

Taramosalata ($10)

Taramosalata ($10)

I initially thought that $10 for a dip was a bit steep but as soon as the creamy, smooth white roe dip reached my mouth, I knew it was worth every cent. Dinner had only just started but already I made two mistakes: 1) not ordering a second serving of taramosalata and 2) only ordering one serving, but eating enough bread to render myself half full before our main dish arrived.

Dolmades ($21)

Dolmades ($21)

Hellenika boasts an impressive list of starters, with fresh seafood dishes being the obvious highlights. I would have been totally happy with fried garfish or chargrilled octopus but in the end, Marty won with his choice of dolmades. Each little silverbeet parcel held a lovely warm mixture of veal and rice and with a spoonful of sour Greek yoghurt, each bite was a delight. (ooh hey, that rhymes)

Baked Junee lamb ($45)

Baked Junee lamb ($45)

There was no way we could bypass the house special, the 1kg baked lamb which is designed to serve two people. Apparently this dish sells out quickly each evening and because we arrived late on a Friday night, we didn’t like our chances. Luckily, they still had some lamb so we were right to go.

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The lamb shoulder was slow-cooked for five hours and as a result, the meat was gloriously juicy and fatty. Again, yoghurt was our friend – it broke through all the sinfully delicious greasiness. And if you wanted a bit of sweet kick, the eggplant dip was there. The potatoes on the side were also pretty amazing – they were also slow-cooked in the lamb juices, making them super soft and delicious.

Horiatiki salata ($14)

Horiatiki salata ($14)

To keep things on the slightly healthy side, we ordered a Greek salad. At $14, it didn’t come cheap nor was it remarkable. But the ingredients were super fresh, yadayadayada.

Halva ice cream ($3.50)

Halva ice cream ($3.50)

Believe it or not, we were really stuffed after the lamb (and I guess all that bread). In fact, we had to take the rest of the lamb home (it was enjoyed for breakfast the next morning – so so good). We couldn’t, however, leave without tasting something from the dessert menu. I think Marty wanted something more substantial than the measly halva ice cream scoop I suggested. In the end, I won. And just as well because after the ice cream (which was beautiful and nutty, without being too sweet), we were about to collapse.

We really enjoyed our meal at Hellenika. Sure, it’s not what you’d call a cheap eats place and given that the atmosphere was so lively and casual, it was hard to believe that you were dining at a fancy restaurant. Not that it matters anyway; it’s one of those places that would be perfect for a normal Friday night dinner or a special occasional venue. Overall, the meal was worth every cent and I can honestly say that it’s earned its place as one of my ‘must to go to’ restaurants on the Gold Coast.

Now if only to convince Yanni to take me there for a normal Tuesday night dinner this week ‘just because.’

Hellenika on Urbanspoon

Review: Red Lea Chicken (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 18, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre
2-30 Hooker Boulevard
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5558 0300

I don’t normally blog about chook shops. However, I think it’d be kind of dumb to finish off my Gold Coast series without mentioning Red Lea Chicken, arguably my favourite chicken shop on the Gold Coast – and possibly the world.

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Red Lea has its origins in NSW and its most famous store is the one in Cabramatta. Despite Cabra’s notorious reputation, its food is king and if you don’t feel like Vietnamese, there is always Chinese, Malaysian, Cambodian… and Red Lea.

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Their chips are amazing. The ones from the Cabramatta store were piping hot and insanely crunchy – and sprinkled with a liberal dose of equal parts chicken salt and paprika. For all we know, there could have been a bit of crack in there too – that explains why they’re so bloody addictive!

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For some reason, Red Lea hasn’t quite crossed the NSW/VIC border (why the hell NOT?), yet Queensland managed to score a Red Lea store. Granted, it’s located in Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, which has got to be one of the strangest-looking shopping centres in the country (castle? moat? Tudor-style buildings?). But hey, Gold Coastitutes should consider themselves lucky.

Crumbed chicken piece ($1.80 each)

Crumbed chicken piece ($1.80 each)

The chicken is, as you’d expected, delicious. From memory, Red Lea does have a small range of free-range chickens but most of their birds are conventionally grown. Nevertheless, their roast chooks ($8.50 for a family-sized bird) don’t taste like they’ve been plumped up with water or hormones like the chooks you get at Woolies or Nandos. They actually taste like real chicken and their crumbed chicken is better than piece of KFC chicken.

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Marty disagrees with me, but I think the chips they serve at the Cabramatta joint are better. The Pac Fair ones are still great but they’re not as crunchy and you don’t have the option of helping yourself to extra seasoning.

The Poms are more likely to win this Ashes series than for Victoria to have their first Red Lea store in the next couple of years. Until then, Red Lea will be my first (well okay, only) destination for hot chips and chicken when I’m visiting the northern states.

Also: Red Lea Chicken Cabramatta, 57 John Street, Cabramatta, NSW 2166

Red Lea Chicken on Urbanspoon

Review: Yum Cha Robina (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 1015-1016
Lido Promenade, Robina Town Centre
Robina Town Centre Drive
Robina QLD 4230
+61 7 5580 8181

Gold Coast isn’t exactly known for being the yum cha capital of Australia (on the other hand, if you’re looking for ridiculous sleeve tatts and fake tans…). So if you’re craving siu mai on your Gold Coast trip, you’re better off waiting until you get home. Having said that though, Marty and I had yum cha at the innovatively-named Yum Cha Robina one Sunday – and we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was great. Definitely the best yum cha meal I’ve had on the Gold Coast (however, my only two previous yum cha experiences were these ones which doesn’t say much).

At 1:15pm on Sunday, the restaurant was packed so we were told to wait. Thankfully, we only had to wait 5 minutes before a waitress ushered us to an outside table overlooking the small lake in the middle of the promenade. I would have taken a photo of the lake but the sun was too bright and by then, a nice little queue had formed, thus blocking our view.

Pork and prawn dumplings

Pork and prawn dumplings

I mistook these pork and prawn dumplings for shark fin dumplings, but I wasn’t too pissed off – they were plump and full of flavour.

Scallop and prawn dumplings

Scallop and prawn dumplings

The scallop and prawn dumplings were tasty but the skins were perhaps a bit too soggy thanks to spending so much time in the steamer.

Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

Deep down, I know that xiaolongbao dumplings are usually best avoided at yum cha restaurants. However, I never seem to learn my lesson so before I knew it, I was ordering a steamer of XLBs.

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As expected, there was no soup in it but at least the pork filling was nice and hearty.

Egg custard bun

Egg custard bun

I’m going through a salted egg custard bun phase at the moment so it was imperative that we order these. I just love the harmonious balance between salty and sweet, enveloped in a lovely fluffy white bun and these did not disappoint.

Ginger tripe

Ginger tripe

Marty isn’t a fan of ginger tripe (actually, hardly anyone I know likes them) so I was glad to enjoy these on my own. The tripe dish was a solid performer – a decent portion size combined with lovely flavours.

Zhaliang (Chinese dough stick wrapped in rice noodle rolls)

Zhaliang (Chinese dough stick wrapped in rice noodle rolls)

Zhaliang is normally ordered separately at yum cha – as in, they don’t come at ya via the yum cha trolleys. My dad, despite being Chinese, could never pronounce this dish properly so he was always struggling whenever we wanted to order this dish. Thankfully, the folks at Yum Cha Robina provide a menu on each table so we can point to whatever we feel like ordering in addition to whatever we take from the trolley.

Anyway, the zhaliang here was pretty good and bonus points for the dough stick remaining super crunchy even after being drenched in all that sauce. That said, most places also chuck in a few Chinese broccoli pieces wrapped in rice noodle rolls and Yum Cha Robina didn’t.

Har gow (prawn dumplings)

Har gow (prawn dumplings)

The last things to arrive were the har gow, my favourite yum cha dish of them all. The filling was lovely, though the dumplings themselves were smaller than what I’m normally used to.

We were sad that we didn’t get to order any more dishes. I would have normally added more fried dishes to the table but we both had very limited appetites that day so we didn’t. All up, I thought it was a very decent meal and it wasn’t overly expensive (yum cha dishes ranged from $3.80 for a small to $6.80 for a ‘special’). Without having been to Dragon Cove in Sanctuary Cove, I’d have to say that this is probably Gold Coast’s finest yum cha restaurant.

Yum Cha Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Review: Sushi Bay Robina (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 1004, Robina Town Centre
Robina Town Centre Dr
Robina QLD 4230
+61 7 5580 8159
http://www.sushibay.com.au

Robina Town Centre may boast a decent collection of retail outlets but when it comes to eateries, you’re better off going elsewhere. That said, there is a Squires Loft and a couple of places where you can get dumplings so all is not lost on the foodie front. They even have a sushi train restaurant.

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Now I’ve never been one to proclaim my undying love for sushi train restaurants but I have to say that Sushi Bay has its place at RTC. Not because it’s super-fantastic but because it’s cheap and quick and the food isn’t awful either – perfect for a pre-movie snack if all you want is a few bites. Marty and I weren’t going to the movies that night but we did have somewhere else we needed to be so we thought a few plates of sushi would do the trick.

Salmon, tuna, avocado sushi ($3.50)

Salmon, tuna, avocado sushi ($3.50)

The salmon, tuna and avocado sushi was a safe first choice and while I can’t really say the salmon was the freshest, the sushi did the job at $3.50 a plate.

Chicken teriyaki temaki ($4.50)

Chicken teriyaki temaki ($4.50)

Marty enjoys the chicken teriyaki temaki, which is made to order. I didn’t actually get to have a bite of it but given how quickly Marty gobbled it up, suffice to say that it would have been pretty tasty.

Tuna and salmon sushi ($3.50)

Tuna and salmon sushi ($3.50)

I noticed that every other plate that rolled past us essentially contained different permutations of tuna, salmon, avocado and cucumber, not least this fishy number that just so happened to have a random slice of orange in the middle. Like the first sushi dish we had, it wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t sublime either.

Crab croquette ($3.50)

Crab croquette ($3.50)

I must say that I have a weakness for crab croquettes and these babies came fresh out of the fryer so they were crunchy and delicious. Sadly, I had to leave room for my stomach for whatever we were doing later that evening or else I would happily ordered another one.

While I wouldn’t recommend Sushi Bay for those flying in from out of town, it’s nevertheless an alright place if you just want a quick bite and ain’t particularly fussy about food quality. The service is super-fast so if you have only 20 or so minutes to spare before your movie starts (or if you happen to work at nearby Foxtel and are on a 30-minute lunch break), then Sushi Bay will hit the spot.

Sushi Bay on Urbanspoon

Review: Canteen Kitchen (Gold Coast, QLD)

23 Park Avenue
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5534 3877

Burleigh Heads has got to be my favourite area in the Gold Coast. It’s in a central location, the beach is right at your doorstep and there are more than a handful of decent restaurants to sate your appetite. The thing I have to whinge about is that it’s always packed and it can often be hard to find parking, even on weekdays – do these beach bums not work?!

Regardless, Marty and I found parking near the bowls club and off we went up Park Avenue for some breakfast at Canteen Kitchen, the then-new sister café to Canteen Coffee, a coffee kiosk that’s been giving Burleigh residents their coffee fix for quite some time now.

Cold-pressed latte ($6)

Cold-pressed latte ($6)

With the Gold Coast sun blaring down on us that morning, I thought a cold-pressed latte would be the perfect thing to cool me down. It was beautifully milky with only the slightest hint of sweetness. Obviously having the milk and ice there meant that it wasn’t as strong as a hot latte but it did perk me up.

West African iced chocolate ($6)

West African iced chocolate ($6)

Marty had the West African iced chocolate, presumably called so because the cocoa beans come from West Africa. It was a stronger drink than my latte but we both preferred my latte – the iced chocolate was a bit too strong for my liking.

Lamb kofta burger, beetroot relish, Lebanese cucumber, minted yoghurt ($16)

Lamb kofta burger, beetroot relish, Lebanese cucumber, minted yoghurt ($16)

Canteen Kitchen’s menu dabbles into Middle Eastern territory, thus it is no surprise that lamb koftas, broad beans and labneh make regular appearances on patrons’ tables. Marty ordered the lamb kofta burger, which was full of fresh ingredients.

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Marty thought the burger was alright but not fantastic. I had to agree – the lamb could have done with a bit more spice, especially since both the minted yoghurt and beetroot relish, although fresh, had muted flavours.

Scrambled egg, za’atar flat bread, labneh, green olives, lamb kofta ($18)

Scrambled egg, za’atar flat bread, labneh, green olives, lamb kofta ($18)

My scrambled egg with lamb kofta dish was much more flavoursome. The za’atar spices gave the dish a generous dose of oomph, while the flat bread and scrambled eggs got me full even before the halfway mark. Still, I managed to finish the whole thing off – after all, I can never waste good green olives!

Our breakfast at Canteen Kitchen pretty much cements Burleigh’s reputation for being the best area for food on the Gold Coast. While I wouldn’t be recommending the lamb kofta burger to anyone, I can definitely recommend their cold-pressed coffees and the Middle Eastern-inspired menu is a fresh change from the eggs/avocado/savoury mince dishes and Merlo coffee combo that most Gold Coast cafés spruik.

Canteen Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Review: Arabesque Bazaar (Gold Coast, QLD)

T2/3240 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 451 150 732

After Marty and I had demolished ribs at Hurricane’s, we decided that we’d chill over some shishas. What’s a shisha post doing on a food blog, you say? Well, I had Turkish coffee there. Plus this place has Middle Eastern sweets. Granted, I did not end up buying any sweets but they’re there, okay?

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Arabesque Bazaar is a newbie on the now-gaudy Surfers Paradise scene. Although Surfers is pretty much full of decrepit nightclubs and the odd bikie trying to avoid detection, there are still some places worth going to and Arabesque is one of them.

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Arabesque is more than just a place to smoke shisha (water pipes) and drink Turkish coffee, it is also a retail outlet. You can buy anything from home wares to your own shisha pipe to clothes. Most people, however, go here to chill with their shishas.

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Marty and I ordered a green apple shisha to share (around $20-25), along with a tea and Turkish coffee. All up, it was 30-something dollars. A dude in an ill-fitting Aladdin-like costume then got the whole thing set up for us.

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Once the burning charcoal bits were set, it was on like Donkey Kong. It was my first time taking shisha so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to admit that I wasn’t in the right mindset to begin with – I hate cigarettes and I still had a nasty 8000-word essay to submit online the next day (and I was nowhere near close to finishing so naturally I was freaking out).

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I wouldn’t say my Turkish coffee was fantastic. ‘Dirt’ was the first thing that came to mind when I took a sip. Marty also didn’t rate his tea. I guess a baklava would have gone down well that night but I just wasn’t in the mood.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my shisha experience. I didn’t get that nasty cigarette feeling, yet I was still relaxed. It’s not something that I’d do every weekend though – I prefer my wines – but I wouldn’t say no the next time someone invites me to go to a shisha café. One word of advice: you’re best off ordering a shisha to share between several people. Marty and I tried to finish one off but we gave up just after the halfway point as we got bored.

Not that Arabesque Bazaar is boring though. It’s just a bizarre fixture in a bizarre part of Australia (in a good way, of course).

Arabesque Bazaar Cafe Homewares Gifts on Urbanspoon

Review: Hurricane’s Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

4 The Esplanade
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5503 5500
https://surfers.hurricanesgrill.com.au

I’ve been wanting to try the ribs at Sydney institution, Hurricane’s, for the longest time. Unfortunately, time constraints usually mean that I could never squeeze in a Sunday session there (too many other restaurants to visit, you see). Thus, when I heard that Hurricane’s had opened their flagship Queensland restaurant in the heart of Surfers, I got Marty to make a late dinner booking the night I was to fly into the balmy Gold Coast.

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Nestled on the first level of Soul Tower, Gold Coast’s second tallest building, Hurricane’s is a spacious 300-seater restaurant overlooking the beach. It was Wednesday night in Surfers; the schoolies hadn’t quite arrived and the whole area was a construction site so there weren’t many people wandering about. Inside, however, was a different story.

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The restaurant was more than half full, with mostly locals making up the numbers though there were a couple of tables full of Japanese tourists (what, Japanese people still visited Goldie?).

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The fit-out screams out raw and industrial – kind of like inner-city Melbourne or Sydney. It was hard to believe you were in Surfers. The faux chandeliers made out of bare light bulbs, however, added a bit of warmth as did the homely services we received from our waitresses throughout our meal.

Black Forest: Belvedere Vodka, Crème de Cassis shaken with mixed berries, mint and lemon juice ($18)

Black Forest: Belvedere Vodka, Crème de Cassis shaken with mixed berries, mint and lemon juice ($18)

Marty loves his cocktails and he’s a bit of a fake German so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered the Black Forest. Although Marty has a sweet tooth, even he found it really sweet – think slushie pump cocktails.

Elderton Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

Elderton Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

I stuck to a glass of Cab Sauv just because I didn’t feel like a cocktail. The cocktail list wasn’t terribly remarkable but I did muster a smile when I saw the Queensland Iced Tea with its ingredients being Cointreau, lemon, mint sugar, ginger beer and Bundaberg rum (of course).

Half pork ribs ($34.90); half beef ribs ($31.90)

Foreground: Half pork ribs ($34.90); Hidden in background: half pork ribs ($34.90) and half beef ribs ($31.90)

Onto the food! Marty decided to give both the beef and pork ribs a go, along with monkey gland sauce ($2.50) on the side. I just went for half a rack of pork ribs with mushroom sauce ($2.50). We were both given the option to have either chips or baked potato with our ribs and obviously, we chose chips.

We decided that both ribs were very good but not the best we’ve had. The meat on both were tender but they weren’t exactly falling off the bone. The beef ribs were on the sweet side and the pork ribs, while better, were not as good as the ones we’ve enjoyed at Mike’s Kitchen and Squires Loft. For one thing, both Mike’s Kitchen’s and Squires Loft’s ribs have more meat and sauce on them. The ribs at Hurricane’s also suffered from a lack of tanginess that I’m used to. Marty even went so far to say that the ribs had a bit of an industrialised Lonestar feel to them. I’ve never been to a Lonestar restaurant so I couldn’t make a fair comparison but in all honesty, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about…

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In saying all that, the ribs were still good. ESPECIALLY with the mushroom sauce. I can honestly say that Hurricane’s makes the best mushroom sauce out of all the steak houses we’ve been to. It is THAT good. The monkey gland sauce wasn’t too bad either – what’s monkey gland sauce? It’s a South African sauce that’s sweet and chutney-like; no monkeys were harmed in the making of this sauce (at least none that I know of). It was delish but oh my, nowhere near as good as the mushroom sauce! Part-Campbells canned mushroom soup (but in a good way, of course) and part-creamy garlic, we pretty much licked the whole tub clean.

Even though our minds weren’t blown, we still had a lovely meal. After all, great service, excellent views and super-friggin’-awesome mushroom sauce made up for the fact that the ribs weren’t excellent. On the night, I wasn’t sure if it was because I was expecting too much (thanks a lot, friends) or if the ribs are actually a lot better in Sydney. My friend later told me that she reckons the Sydney restaurants aren’t as good anymore so maybe it’s an organisation-wide thing.

In saying all that though, Hurricane’s definitely deserves a spot in the heart of Surfers Paradise because goodness knows that this area needs a bit of a foodie revamp. With a bit of Sydney style rolling in, hopefully we’ll see an overall increase in quality dining once all the construction work is complete.

Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon

Ten Japanese Restaurant (Broadbeach, QLD)

Meriton Pegasus Building
Shop 2-4, 2669-2679 Gold Coast Highway
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5570 1010
http://www.teppanten.com.au

It was my birthday not too long ago and even though Marty was all like, ‘NO MORE NEW RESTAURANTS! ENOUGH!’ while crossing his arms and glaring at me, he obliged when I said that I would LOVE to go to Ten Japanese Restaurant for my birthday.

The fine-dining restaurant picked up a coveted hat at the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide awards night a few weeks beforehand which gave me another reason to go. Plus, they also featured in the last edition of the Gold Coast Entertainment book so any excuse to use it was as good as any.

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Due to the never-ending road works on the Gold Coast Highway, we got lost when trying to find the restaurant. Eventually, we find ourselves at a random carpark which was, thankfully, just across the road from the Meriton Pegasus Building. What we found cool about the restaurant was its entrance; we initially thought we were supposed to enter through that door on the right just behind the menu stand but it turns out the entrance is actually the two metal slabs in the middle that opened up automatically when movement is sensed. Minds blown.

We walked into a labyrinth of wine cellars, Japanese lanterns and sporadically-located nooks where couples and parties were able to enjoy their dinner in relative privacy. As for us, we were seated at the secluded sushi bar where we got to watch the lone chef do his thing.

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To kick things off, I ordered a Tokyo Sour ($18), a fun and flirty combination of sho-chu, green tea, lemon, sugar, green tea ice sphere. I loved that the bitterness of the green tea notes added a nice edge to what would have otherwise been a one-dimensional lemon-y sweet concoction.

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Marty ordered a glass of Suntory Yamazaki 12-year old single malt ($18). I initially thought that Marty only ordered this because Bill Murray’s character did in Lost in Translation but even I was impressed with the ball of ice that came with the drink. The scotch was unmistakably Japanese with its light and clean flavour, yet it still managed to pack a punch.

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Our amuse bouche was a sweet potato ball with miso and spring onions. I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes but I didn’t mind this at all (either that, or I was super hungry).

We decided to order the five course degustation menu ($110 per head). The degustation at Ten works like this: you choose a cold or hot entrée, then choose a dish from the sushi menu, one seafood dish, one meat dish and one dessert. Obviously, there are some premium dishes that you can’t order such as the mixed sushi platter and the lobster but everything else is up for grabs.

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Marty’s entrée was the Aori squid tempura which was made with ‘the best Tasmanian squid’ and covered with a crispy layer of squid ink tempura batter. Marty initially thought that the squid pieces looked like ‘dried cat droppings’ but I gave props to the creative presentation, ignoring Marty who said that the bowl looked like a chamber pot. The squid pieces were lovely, they were soft and tender on the inside and the tempura remained light and crispy until the last piece was gone.

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Meanwhile, I had the spanner crab meat croquettes. Yeah, I know that croquettes are sort of overdone at the moment but screw it, I love croquettes okay! These beauties were served with soy cream along with a 20 year old Portuguese tawny port sauce and Tasmanian grain mustard. I was impressed with the croquettes not just because they were super-crunchy but because they also contained a generous amount of crab meat.

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Marty ordered the mixed nigiri for the sushi course, which came with glistening pieces of tuna, toro, seared ocean trout, squid, kingfish and scampi. The toro wasn’t supposed to be in the mix but I had specifically requested it as Marty had never tried the beautifully fatty meat of the tuna belly before. I told the waitress that I was happy to pay extra for it but the sushi chef told us that he wouldn’t think of charging us extra for it – ain’t he nice? On the Gold Coast, one can get over sushi really quickly because so many places offer cheap and pedestrian options. However, the sushi plate at Ten, as simple as it was, reminded us that we were at somewhere special. Every single bit was fresh and Marty especially liked the toro, which was oh-so buttery.

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I had the mixed sashimi plate for the sushi course. It consisted of super-fresh pieces of squid, kingfish, tuna, ocean trout and bonito. Faultless.

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It was time for the seafood course! Marty had the SA scampi served with ‘kon-nyaku (konjac) noodles.’ It was Marty’s first time eating scampi so he was pretty excited about eating it. For someone who is good at pretending he knows a thing or two about food, he had trouble eating the beast without making a mess. That said, he thoroughly enjoyed the dish particularly the broth which was awesomely flavoured by scampi heads.

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I had the black cod ‘saikyo-yaki.’ The dish was very similar to Nobu’s signature black cod miso dish, having been marinated with saikyo miso for three days. Ten’s presentation of the cod was prettier though, with yuzu puree, pumpkin puree with truffle oil, beans and French radish all making appearances. While the cod was nice and buttery, I did like Nobu’s version just a little bit better.

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Then came our meat dishes. Marty had the Ten-style ‘nikujaga’, teppan grilled wagyu tri-tip with crumbed mashed potato and wagyu mince. It was a delicious dish and the beef was cooked beautifully. I just thought that it was perhaps a bit ‘safe’, hence why it paled in comparison to our previous dishes which were outstanding.

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I had the trio of Flinders Island lamb rack with dark tamari soy and red wine sauce. I don’t normally see lamb on the menu at a Japanese restaurant but I was glad that this dish made an appearance at Ten. The meat was beautifully juicy and tender. I would have been happy if it was the only thing that appeared on the plate, but they had other bells and whistles such as a lamb spring roll and a crumbed lamb cutlet. I didn’t mind the cutlet but thought the spring roll filling (shredded lamb) was dry.

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It was time for dessert – and just as well too because we were getting way too full. Marty had the Japanese trifle, a seemingly complex construction of nashi and coconut compote, shiso pastry cream, yuzu panna cotta with nashi and coconut cream sorbet. Surprisingly, it was a light dessert that just happened to consist of complicated-sounding components. Marty say that it was refreshing and a great finish to what had been a wonderful meal.

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I had what the menu called a ‘matcha dessert.’ The waitress wheeled a little cart to our table and started preparing a matcha ‘icing’ using fresh matcha powder and hot water.

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She then poured the icing over mascarpone ice cream where it set like Ice Magic. Way, way cool. It was a simple dessert but I loved it all the same. I especially liked how the slightly bitter matcha icing paired beautifully with the creamy mascarpone ice cream.

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We finished off with some coffees. I don’t normally drink coffee this late at night but I had been planning to have a late one. Given my current propensity to fall asleep before midnight, I really needed a latte just to stay awake. In hindsight, I probably should have went elsewhere for coffee because it was watery and tasteless. Moral of the story: never trust hatted restaurants to make good coffees.

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Marty’s Japanese-style iced coffee ($7) tasted a bit better. I’m not sure what made this iced coffee ‘Japanese-style’ but it had more taste than my latte.

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We were then presented with a cup of petit fours each. In each cup there was a green tea mochi, passionfruit macaron and chocolate truffle, all of which were sweet and delicious.

Ten reignited the ‘wow’ factor for Japanese food which often comes in mediocre forms such as soggy teriyaki chicken sushi rolls at local shopping centres. The service was amazing throughout the night and the food was sensational. The bathrooms at Ten were even worthy of a mention here – the toilets were those flashy modern ones that you only see in those ‘Made in Japan’-type coffee books and made me feel like I was in Tokyo. The presentation, the quiet but classy atmosphere, and being the only people sitting at the sushi bar in an intimate seating just added to the experience. It was almost like being in a scene in Lost in Translation but my boobs are nowhere near as big as Scarlett’s and Marty certainly ain’t no Bill Murray (snigger). Ten is certainly deserving of its one-hat status and I look forward to my next visit.

Ten Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Miami Marketta (Miami, QLD)

23 Hillcrest Parade
Miami QLD 4220
http://www.miamimarketta.com/

When I heard that a new night market opened up on the ‘Coast in April, I knew I had to go on my next visit. Sick of spending Saturday nights at Liars with idiot neighbours and watching Collingwood lose to lesser teams on Foxtel, Marty agreed to accompany me to Miami Marketta one Saturday.

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Touted as Gold Coast’s ‘new street/laneway dining experience,’ Miami Marketta is certainly one of a kind. Opening from 4pm and going right through until 10pm, the night market is a great place to take the kids, catch up with friends and grab a bite in a busy yet friendly environment. And the best bit? most Gold Coastitutes wouldn’t have to drive too far to get there.

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With around twenty-five food vendors offering street food from Spain, Italy, Thailand, the States and even Hungary, there is bound to be something for everyone. There is even a designated dessert hall for sugar lovers (i.e. not me).

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Additionally, there’s a boutique local beer and wine where you can listen to whoever is the live act for the evening. While I loved the jazz music that was playing on the night we went, I wasn’t too sure whether I’ll add that pale ale from Burleigh Brewing Company to my list of favourite beers.

Our friends Dominique and Kate, who were already at the market when we arrived, didn’t last too long there. It wasn’t because they thought it sucked, but because they spent the entire afternoon visiting several wineries in the Mt Tamborine area. Needless to say, a night at home watching Disney movies and nursing fuzzy heads was more appealing than eating and more drinking with Libby and Marty.

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As soon as Marty and I heard that there was a Hungarian stand, we headed right there. It was a lovely night for goulash but we came only for the lángos, or Hungarian bread. Having tried them for the first time at the Gold Coast Big Day Out two years ago, I couldn’t wait to have them again.

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We ordered the cheese and garlic lángos which came with lots and lots of sour cream. The bread was beautifully crispy and golden, and chewy in the middle. It won’t get the Heart Foundation’s tick of approval, but it did get the Libby approval in terms of taste. Now, where can I get these beauties in Melbourne?

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American dude food is all the rage across Australia right now and we’re both happily on board. At Miami Marketta, JR’s Smokehouse BBQ’s food truck is there serving everything from smoky ribs to brisket. It was only 6:30pm when we arrived, but the stoned chick manning the counter told us that everything on the menu was sold out except for the pulled pork burger and potato salad combo. Yes, she really was stoned.

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Regardless, the pulled pork was sweet and smoky, and acted like a proper meal on its own (we did away with the buns). We thought the creamy potato salad made a great pairing too.

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I was actually quite full after all that but Marty, being Marty, couldn’t walk away form the Turkish stand without buying a lamb gözleme. At $10 a pop, he did say that it was more expensive that what you can get in Sydney Road but nevertheless tasted good especially when dipped in hummus.

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Bah cupcakes. If you know me, you know that I can be pretty vocal about these overrated, nasty things. To me, they’re pretty one-dimensional and way too sweet. That said, we saw quite a few people buy some chocolate bourbon cupcakes with peanut butter icing so we decided to buy a few to share with the family.

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Anything with peanut butter tastes awesome by default so I knew that I wasn’t going to throw my portion away in disgust. While it was still pretty sweet, the cake itself was moist and dense and I appreciated the saltiness of the peanut butter.

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My workmate Amy has been looking all over Melbourne for whoopie pies, which are little ‘cake biscuits’ with a creamy filling inside. She’s been unsuccessful so imagine my delight when I saw that a lady was selling them in the desserts hall. I bought a couple of salted caramel ones to take home to Amy, who was equally delighted.

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Okay, so I couldn’t help but share one with Marty. Like the cupcakes, the cake was moist and dense while the cream cheese filling was velvety. These babies might have been deceptively small, but they were surprisingly very filling. Amy has since gone on to bake some delicious red velvet ones and because I’m a copycat, don’t be surprised if you see me flaunt some whoopie pies of my own on Instagram (psst, my handle is @libishski if you want to follow me).

We loved Miami Marketta and from the huge crowd that congregated on that mild autumn evening, so does the rest of the Gold Coast. When Kate visited Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market the following weekend, she said that Miami Marketta seemed ‘crap’ in comparison. I disagree. Sure, Miami Marketta might be smaller and sure it’s only open for several hours on Saturday but I do like the community aspect of it and the fact that it’s so intimate. My only complaint is that it attracts TOO many people (not a bad thing for the organisers, of course) so a bigger venue is required to avoid being squashed by Burleigh Brewing Company-swigging stoners.