Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Archive of ‘Mermaid Beach’ 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

Roti Hut (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 1/2440 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5575 6005
http://www.rotihut.com.au

The Gold Coast is not commonly known as a city with diverse cuisine, so I thought it was odd when one of my readers, Kewyn, urged me to try Caribbean roti at Roti Hut in Mermaid Beach. As an Indonesian who grew among the eastside’s Malaysian and Indian restaurants, I’ve had my share of wonderful roti (South Asian flat bread) dishes. Hell, the roti also happens to be the Indonesian word for the generic term ‘bread.’ But Caribbean roti? I must admit that I had no idea there was such a thing.

Then again, it makes sense. Once upon a time ago, half a million Indians were sent to the Caribbean Islands to work on the sugar cane plantation. Thus, it’s no surprise that the Indian migrants would have influenced Caribbean cooking as well as played a bit of friendly cricket with the islanders every now and then.

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Roti Hut is a Gold Coast icon but Marty didn’t know that. He drove past it many times in the last eight years, thinking it was some sort of dime-a-dozen Indian jib joint with its seemingly outdated 80s Stussy/Hang 10/Cross colours-influenced logo and decor. But after our first visit there, he realised how wrong he was.

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Roti Hut is owned by a guy who I only know as ‘Calypso Col’, who was born in Trinidad. His parents owned Australia’s first Caribbean roti shop, Caribbean Kitchen in Dee Why, Sydney back in the 1970s – you can see a photo of it at Roti Hut, behind the counter. Although they sold the shop in 1985, Caribbean roti is still being kept alive through Roti Hut, Col’s pride and joy.

It wasn’t busy when we arrived just after the lunch peak but I know to stay away during the dinner rush for that’s when people come in for their takeaway roti hit. We ordered at the counter before sitting on one of the empty table. We were then able to take in the Caribbean paintings and surf paraphernalia, both of which simultaneously represent Col’s Caribbean upbringing and his Gold Coast home.

Caribbean roti is, to quote Calypso Col, ‘Indian bread made from wheat, flour, salt and water’ which is then filled with a meat curry filling before being cooked on a griddle. Think of it as a wrap, but heartier. The curry they use is Caribbean curry which I, in my opinion, is not as rich as Indian curry but by no means less tasty. At Roti Hut, most roti wraps are $10, but prawn varieties are $12.

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I chose the lamb and potato roti ($10). The bread wasn’t thick but it was dense enough to hold the beautifully hearty curry that was bursting with chunks of lamb and diced potatoes. So, so good.

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I also highly recommend you eat a roti wrap here with Calypso Col’s Caribbean chilli sauce. These little bottles of tangy chilli sauce are made out of home-grown yellow chillies and provide a lovely hit to the roti, cutting through all that curry. And if you’re not eating in, I’d definitely recommend you buy one for $9. Unfortunately, Southeast Queensland has been getting heaps of rain lately, which meant that a lot of Col’s chilli plants have been ruined thus limiting the supply of sauces available. Hopefully, the rain will go away so that Col can go back to making more sauces (and I can actually climb Mt Warning and go to the beach when I’m up there next month, woo!).

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Meanwhile, Marty ordered the Creole pork and vegetable roti ($10). I wouldn’t say that this filling was ‘curry-like;’ while it was spicy, it was also very sweet so it’s not one that I’d be rushing to order. Still, it was a delicious way for Marty to get a fifth of his daily recommended vegetable intake, heh.

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One roti wrap is definitely enough to fill you up (hell, I didn’t even finish mine so I took it home – hah!). Marty, however, is greedy at the best of times so it didn’t surprise me when he decided to try the prawn and potato roti ($12). As you can see, the lady at the counter was nice enough to cut the roti in half so we can each have one. It was delicious like all the others, but I felt that the lamb and potato was a better combo.

Roti Hut is a Gold Coast institution and embodiment of a successful mama and papa joint of those halcyon Gold Coast days. We loved their wholesome and delicious food that didn’t break our bank as well as the friendly service. Marty’s been there several times ever since our first visit and no doubt I’ll be going there when I’m up. Now can someone please set up a Caribbean curry roti wrap truck in Melbourne?!

The Roti Hut on Urbanspoon

Little Truffle (Gold Coast, QLD)

2444 Gold Coast Hwy (Cnr Bondi Ave)
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5526 5033
http://www.littletruffle.com.au/

One of the things I was looking forward to during my long-but-not-long-enough weekend on the Gold Coast was eating my way through the Gold Coast edition of the Entertainment Book. Never mind the warmer weather, the friends, massages, facials and Marty, I had PRIORITIES! Now, one of my readers (hi Kewyn!) urged me to try Little Truffle so when I saw that the restaurant was one of many appearing in the current edition of the Entertainment Book, I was excited.

Situated on an unglamorous section of the Gold Coast Highway (then again, when was the GC Highway ever glamorous? Oh right, back in the 60s perhaps…), convincing someone that this was home to Queensland’s best restaurants would be an extremely difficult task. I mean, a one-hatted Mod Oz restaurant that serves food with French, Spanish and Italian twists seems more at home in trendy Broadbeach than next to a crappy surf store, does it not? Still, I know not to judge a book by its cover so Marty and I entered the restaurant (through the back, via Bondi Ave), excited indeed.

Unlike its exterior, Little Truffle’s dining room oozes class and sophistication courtesy of its chandeliers, banquettes and friendly staff. There must have been a party happening in the private dining room, for it took some time for someone to greet us. Once we were settled, however, things were pretty much seamless.

Did I say class and sophistication? Okay, so Marty and I did agree that the purple ‘mood’ lighting above the bar did scream out ‘Vanity nightclub’ (NOT a good thing!) but hey, you can’t take the Gold Coast out of… ahem.

That said, we did like the cool painting of the nameless blonde beauty which hung majesty in the main dining room. A cross between a French femme fatale and a Gold Coast slurry, the girl was wearing a beautiful lilac-coloured dress which the waitress explained was meant to represent the curtains in the dining room. Trés chic.

Head chef Daniel Ridgeway’s menu is simple and succinct, yet packed with enough variety to keep everyone happy. Having cooked at such a young age alongside his Thai aunty and in his family’s pizza restaurant, Ridgeway soon added stints at resorts and restaurants in Melbourne and around the world before finally opening up Little Truffle with his mate, Christian Mak, as restaurant manager. I suspect that Little Truffle does not change its menu regularly for the menu we sighted on the night was 98 per cent similar to the 2010 menu that appears on the restaurant’s website. However, I did like the fact that while the Gold Coast Highway ages poorly, Little Truffle remains timeless.

Skipping the tempting options on the charcuterie menu, we decided to select a cold entrée each. For some reason, we both ended up with cold beef dishes. Marty had the steak tartare, organic egg yolk, cornichons, pink salt, toasted brioche ($19). Having never tried steak tartare before, Marty decided that he enjoyed the chopped raw beef pieces especially when mixed with the creamy egg yolk. Eaten with a piece of crunchy and sweet brioche, the whole thing tasted magnificent – and even more so with the added tang and crunch of a cornichon piece. Salt was also provided, but deemed unnecessary.

I chose the beef carpaccio, quail egg, truffle mayonnaise, fried capers, parmesan croquettes ($21). Tasting a lot nicer than my crappy photography skillz on the night (I shall argue that the lighting was pretty bad to begin with), the thin slices of beef were designed to be mixed in with the truffle mayonnaise and fried capers, which were surprisingly salty. Each forkful tasted divine, with the quail egg halves and little parmesan croquettes texturally accentuating each bite beautifully. I liked that the truffle notes were slight, rather than overpowering, providing the perfect balance between meatiness, creaminess and earthiness.

Marty had the herb-crusted Pyrenees lamb rump, red onion chutney, rosemary tomatoes ($36) for his main. Unlike this photo, this hefty piece of lamb was amazing. Served with a tidy potato gratin and Little Truffle’s jus, the lamb was juicy and tender. The red onion chutney, only very slightly sweet, provided an edge of piquancy while the rosemary tomatoes were sweet and fresh. It was comforting, without being too hearty – and perfect for a Gold Coast winter’s night.

I felt like pasta that night so I was hoping that a serving of Moreton bay bug and prawn tortellini, sweet mustard fruit beurre blanc ($32) would satisfy my craving. And satisfy it did. The dish may not look big in comparison to Marty’s main but it did extremely well to fill my stomach – and make my tastebuds happy. Each tortellini was bigger than big, and contained a generous and even mixture of fresh bug and prawn meat. The beurre blanc (French for ‘white butter’) was lovely in its creaminess and richness, with the slightest tinges of mustard fruits providing a only a little bit of sweet relief. Amazing.

We still had room for dessert. Of course, we did. We decided to split an assiette – Little Truffle’s dessert platter – between us ($29). On the plate tonight, we had a vanilla bean panna cotta, raspberry and rose jelly, rose granita; a warm chocolate pudding; a petit soufflé de jour (strawberry with dark chocolate); and a Chantilly cream quenelle with caramel and honeycomb.

We were instructed to pour the dark chocolate sauce into the tiny hole on top of the strawberry soufflé. As a result, each spoonful was a light and fluffy strawberry cloud tinselled with the bitterness and sweetness of chocolate. That said, we would have much preferred a white chocolate sauce instead so we told the waitress that, and her reply was, ‘Oh yes, that’s what everyone says! Daniel does use white chocolate sometimes!’ THEN WHY DIDN’T WE GETS WHITE CHOCOLATE, DAMMIT?

We also liked the vanilla bean panna cotta. It was topped with a very thin layer of raspberry and rose jelly before being liberally doused in a refreshing rose granita. It was a very summery dessert but definitely a welcome addition to what seemed like a wintery dessert plate.

The dessert we enjoyed most, however, was the Chantilly cream quenelle with caramel and honeycomb. The crunchy browned honeycomb, slightly bitter in taste – but good bitter, contrasted brilliantly with the Chantilly cream quenelle which was as soft and smooth as the Broadwater on a still spring day. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say wonderful things about the chocolate pudding. It wasn’t terrible, but it just paled in comparison to the other desserts and Marty even went so far to say that it was like eating a pre-mixed White Wings pudding from the supermarket. That, though, was the only ‘bad’ thing we ate that night.

The bill came to around $150, including a glass of pinot grigio for me and a Spanish beer of some sort for Marty, which was very reasonable for a one-hatted restaurant of this quality but the $115 we paid thanks to a 25% Entertainment Book discount was verging on ridiculous (in a good way!). We’ve paid way more for meals and for service of equally high standard at other restaurants so in a way, we did feel that Little Truffle was almost too generous with their pricing. Not that any diner would complain, of course! After a bit of bother with Marty’s car being blocked in the restaurant’s car park (a staff member parked in front of Marty), we were finally on our way back to the reality that was the Gold Coast Highway.

Like the prestigious tuber that this restaurant is named after, Little Truffle is a hard-to-find gem in Gold Coast’s somewhat lacking dining scene. Its location away from boisterous Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise means that it’s not well-known to many but damn, once you get a whiff, you’re hooked for life. I would gladly come back again and again to try more of their dishes. While I wish that Gold Coast, as a city, would progress (in other words, for road works to be completed on time and for supermarkets to trade beyond 5pm on Sundays), I’d be happy if Little Truffle just remained the same – quietly and classily producing amazing dishes in its corner of Mermaid Beach.

Little Truffle Dining Room & Bar on Urbanspoon

Pancakes on the Rocks (Gold Coast, QLD)

2488 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5526 6274
pancakesontherocks.com.au

I just returned from a very lovely long weekend in Queensland. Despite stretching my weekend to a four-day one (I arrived on Thursday night and left on Monday afternoon), it was sadly not long enough. And despite bragging about awesome 19-20 degree weather in Gold Coast and Brisbane to all my Melbourne friends who had to brave rainy and windy 12-degree days, it was me who ended up catching a nasty cold halfway through my weekend. In sunny Queensland, of all places. Yep, karma is a bitch.

Pancakes on the Rocks’ newest franchise, on the Gold Coast, was also a bitch. Marty and I decided to have a late-night dessert session on my last night in Queensland. Because Gold Coast doesn’t really have a late-night dining culture, it was difficult to find a place that was open after 9pm on a Sunday night. Finally, after ringing a few places, we had some luck. I rang Pancakes and was told that, ‘yes, we do open late at night.’ ‘Oh, what time are you guys open until tonight?’ ‘10pm.’

Well, it was a start.

After having an amazing meal at Squires Loft in Robina, we hopped on the Gold Coast Highway, in the pouring rain, for some sweet treats before heading back home for Austar Foxtel and movies in bed. Some of you may know that Pancakes is a Sydney institute. The first restaurant opened in 1975 and for years, they’ve been feeding late-night diners both sweet and savoury crepes, with salads and main meals being added to the menu much later on. If the massive queues outside The Rocks’ restaurant hasn’t convinced anyone that this was the place to be, then perhaps the number of new Pancakes restaurants opening around Sydney would. So when I heard that the Gold Coast branch opened up earlier this year, I knew I had to go.

The place was empty when we arrived, except for two tables of patrons slowly devouring their pancakes. There was also a long line of patrons patiently waiting to pay their bill at the counter. The girl at the counter, obviously busy, told us that she would be with us ‘in a second’ and told us to sit at an empty table to the left of the counter. We did as she was told, watching her attend to the line of diners paying. We noticed that there were no other staff members in the dining room, so we assumed that she was the only one working there. Fair enough, we thought, we’ll just wait until she’s done. But as soon as she finished dealing with the final patron in the queue, she left the counter and disappeared!

We waited for her to come back but after a while, I gave up, walked to the menu stand and grabbed myself two menus. It was then when I actually saw another staff member, standing not far from me eyeing me curiously. Moments later, she rushed to our table and started apologising for not attending to us because she thought that we had already ordered (WTF). Still, she was nice about it and after accepting her apology, we told her what we wanted and off she went.

$2.50 bought me a peppermint tea… courtesy of Twinings. I don’t know what annoyed me more: the fact that I ordered tea (I must be getting old) or the fact that I paid such a huge mark-up for a teabag. And they didn’t even offer refills. But anyway, there was no need to dwell on such trivial matters for our pancakes had arrived.

 

Marty had the strawberry patch ($12.95). Two big buttermilk pancakes were decorated with fresh strawberry pieces, cream, vanilla ice cream and a strawberry coulis that was far too sweet.

I had the bananarama ($10.95), an odd choice for me because I’m not normally one to order banana-based desserts. I chose it not only because the restaurant was playing a nice mix of 80s songs (Dead or Alive, FTW!) but because the bananrama was actually one of the not-so-heavy dishes on the sweet pancakes menu. My plate consisted of pretty much the same thing as Marty’s – two buttermilk pancakes, cream and vanilla ice cream – but with two grilled banana halves and homemade butterscotch sauce.

We both thought that the pancakes were awful. Rather than being soft and fluffy, they were dense and doughy, and not cooked all the way through; they pretty much spoilt our respective dishes. There was an option to have crepes instead of pancakes which would have, in hindsight, made our dishes taste a little bit better, but not by much. Marty’s strawberry coulis was way too sweet and my butterscotch sauce lacked depth. I also thought that one measly scoop of vanilla ice cream was too stingy, especially for two big pancakes, and would have welcomed a second scoop. In the end, we couldn’t finish our pancakes and apologised to our waitress for it. ‘But you didn’t even try!’ she exclaimed. Uh, yes, we did. We’re both big eaters and had the pancakes been good, we would have polished them off easily. Even if they were just okay, we still would have finished them. Secondly, I’m someone who hates wasting food and would happily cop a sore stomach and bloating if it means finishing everything off my plate. So what does that say about these so-called pancakes, hmmm?

The bill was $30, or thereabouts, but we brought it down to $18 thanks to an Entertainment Book voucher we had. Still, we didn’t think it was even worth the discounted price we paid for. Although it was good to tick this place off my list, we definitely won’t be back. Pancakes, however, doesn’t look like it’ll be on the rocks for a very long time if the queue of satisfied Nerangamites leaving the joint is anything to go by.

Sizzler (Gold Coast, QLD)

2505 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+7 5572 9411
http://www.sizzler.com.au

Ever since they shut down the Sizzler restaurant in Doncaster (and all the other Sizzlers in Victoria) in the late 90s, my world was never the same. There were no more post-church buffet lunches with family friends, no cheese toasts, no make-your-own raspberry spiders and no antics involving putting salt and pepper in cold coffees when your parents have stayed at the restaurant past their welcome and wouldn’t stop talking, even after the staff have brought out the vacuum cleaners and wiped down the adjacent tables as a way of telling us to kindly fark off. Oh yes, we still had Smorgy’s. We still had Food Star. And if you lived in the eastside, we still had Volcano Joe’s. BUT NONE OF THEM HAD CHEESE TOASTS, friggin’!

So on my first trip to Goldie several months ago (well, first trip since the last one which was in 1999), I squealed with glee when I saw the Sizzler sign on the Gold Coast Highway en route Broadbeach. Man, I thought Australia’s favourite buffet place had been shoved under a rug along with peddle-pushers, Hanson and everything else that was bad from the 90s! I guess I was wrong – and I was happy about that too. So one afternoon, I decided to take Marty there for lunch in response to his very thoughtful and delightful dinner at Benihana. What a girlfriend, hah.

It was a particularly rainy day when we rocked up to the restaurant, which was surprisingly quite busy for a midweek lunch sesh. Those of you who have been to a Sizzler restaurant will know the concept – you can pay for the salad bar buffet ($17) which gives you access to whatever you want from the buffet tables, plus a serving of cheese toast (squee cheese toast!), or you can select a meal from the list of mains which include calamari and chips, steaks and more, all of which hover around the $15-20 mark. If you’re ordering a main for lunch, you only need to chuck in a few coins to gain access to the salad bar. As for drinks, unlimited soft drink, coffee and tea refills are available for $3.50. Marty and I decided that the mains surely ain’t worth paying for, so we decided to go the salad bar option each, plus the option to get unlimited soft drink refills.

When I was a kid, I thought the then-$10 salad bar buffet was the best thing ever. What do I think of it twenty years later? It’s horrible. I mean, sure, I wanted to go to this place purely to take the piss, knowing that it wouldn’t be fantastic, and at no point did I expect anything better. But when you have pastas that are soggy beyond belief, salads which are not at all fresh AND made with limp, frozen ingredients, and a tired dessert selection, you’re better off using that $17 on two Maccas meals that will guarantee a somewhat satisfying lunch for two days. One thing that I was actually looking forward to was getting a big handful of pasta, and pouring both bolognaise and carbonara sauce on top and then mixing them together. Yes, I know it’s weird but it was a ritual that I strictly adhered to as a kid. For some reason, though, they didn’t have carbonara sauce – only bolognaise and napoletana was available. Bummer. They did, however, still have wedges available which I grabbed by the dozen. As for the salads, well Toto, you know that you’re in Queensland when the salad options are as follows: prawn and almond salad; watermelon, feta and pine nut salad; chicken, mango and almond salad; prawn and Tassie smoked salmon; tropical coconut fish. I can’t say that any of them were particularly decent (again, crappy ingredients and devoid of freshness) though Marty didn’t seem to mind them.

Yay cheese toasts! Sadly, they were smaller than the ones we enjoyed back in the 90s – and they were extremely soggy. Funnily enough, they were probably the nicest things I ate during this meal.

We ate about two plates each (yes, of pretty much the same thing) before we decided that enough was enough. Soon, we were headed for the dessert bar. I played it like a good girl and stuck with the fruits, though I did indulge in a bit of vanilla ice cream.

And because we’re kids at heart (okay, Marty more so than I am), we did the whole let’s-put-ice-cream-in-our-lamb-and-beansoup routine. So we did. I mean, the lamb and bean soup was pretty disgusting and it was going to waste anyway, so why not have a bit of fun with it before it gets chucked out? And so we added a bunch of other nasty things in addition to the ice cream. I couldn’t remember what sort of stuff we put in (nor did I want to) but thanks to Marty’s elephant memory, we came up with a list: raspberry soda, coke, bread and butter pudding, salt, corn and a receipt (don’t ask). God, we’re so mature. And yes, we both dared each other to have a sip of the soup – and yes, it was as awful as it looks.

With my Sizzler craving finally quashed for good, we headed to Biggera Waters to buy some discounted exercise gear (Nike tights for $45 FTW!), resolving to never come back again.