The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Archive of ‘Surfers Paradise’ category

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?

wp1

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.

wp2

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.

wp3

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.

wp4

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).

wp5

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.

wp1

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.

wp2

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?).

wp3

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…

wp7

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

Hakataya Ramen Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 26 Centre Arcade
3131 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5526 7055
http://www.hakatayanoodle.com

Melbourne’s ghastly cold weather of late means that it’s the perfect time to enjoy a bowl of ramen (or two… or five). And although I’m far from being able to make my own ramen at home, I’m glad that there are a handful of cheerful restaurants in Melbourne that serve this glorious bowl of collagen and goodness. That said, I haven’t been able to find a restaurant here that can make ramen as good as Taro’s in Brisbane. In fact, the only other place that I could consider a serious contender would have to be Hakataya Ramen on the Gold Coast. What?! Queensland does ramen better than Melbourne? Yeah, well, you better believe it…

wp1

Marty and I came across Hakataya by accident. We were meant to try out this other Japanese restaurant in Surfers Paradise for lunch but we took our time in getting ready and what not, so by the time we arrived the restaurant had already shut its doors. Damn. Luckily, Hakataya was just downstairs – and open – so we decided to give it a crack.

wp2

Hakataya is a bit of a Queensland institution; there are two branches in Brisbane and one in Goldy. Their menu is short and sweet, with only four ramen dishes to choose from (and one being the same as another variation, except with more chashu (pork slices)) and several side dishes. Hakataya claims that their broth is made from the ‘selected bones of Australian pork’ and simmered for 39 hours before being dished out to customers.

wp3

We started off with some gyoza (six for $7). They were beautiful, especially dipped in chilli oil though I would have liked it if they had that lovely sweet-salty-tangy gyoza dipping sauce available rather than just vinegar. The waiter also gave us complimentary takana (spicy Japanese pickles made with mustard greens), which was greatly appreciated. Bags of it were available for takeaway for $10 and in hindsight, I wish I had bought a few to take home with me.

wp4

Marty ordered the karaka-men ($11.50), which was essentially a spicy tonkotsu ramen (background). I also went for the spicy option by going for the miso spicy-men ($12), a miso broth with chilli.

wp5

There was the option of adding extra chashu for $3, which Marty took up – he’s a pork lover so naturally, he thought this was necessary.

wp6

I can definitely give Hakataya two thumbs up. Both bowls were super-injected with heaps of collagen, a generous serving of bouncy noodles and lots and lots of flavour. They tasted fantastic on their own, but adding more chilli oil, takana and ground sesame seeds just made each mouthful verging on orgasmic.

wp7

We returned a few days later, this time for dinner. We rocked up just as they were getting ready to close (our bad) but they happily accommodated us. Marty ordered the karaka-men again while I decided to try their Nagahama ramen ($10), which was the name given to their standard tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. Although my Nagahama ramen was lovely in all its milky-ness, I thought my miso spicy-men was much tastier. Marty, on the other hand, thought his broth was thicker and fattier this time around and thus, didn’t like it as much. Because we were dining pretty late, we figured that the broth had more time to let the collagen seep through, resulting in a thicker broth. While I thought that was a good thing, Marty didn’t and all the fat sitting on the surface put him off – but only very slightly because he did manage to eat the whole thing.

These days, not a lot will convince me to go to Surfers Paradise. After discovering Hakataya though, I now have another reason to actually visit Surfers. Okay, so they could do with a hygiene practices refresher (tables were sometimes left unwiped for a long time and I saw soap suds on cutlery when I went to pick up some soup spoons) and I marked them down for not giving us the option to add egg to our ramen. That said, I will still rate Hakataya higher than all the ramen places I’ve had in Melbourne so far – and that includes Little Ramen Bar, the newest kid in Melbourne CBD.

Hakataya Ramen on Urbanspoon

Absynthe (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 4, Ground Floor, Q1
Corner Surfers Paradise Blvd & Hamilton Ave
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5504 6466
http://www.absynthe.com.au

Absynthe is a restaurant that I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time. Established by Michelin-starred Meyjitte Boughenout, the dude who is said to have introduced haute dining to the Gold Coast several years, Absynthe mixes French cooking techniques with fresh Australian ingredients with the less skanky side of glitzy Surfers Paradise in the background. And he’s picked up several awards including Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Best Regional Restaurant in Queensland 2010’ award along the way. So when I saw that Absynthe offered a ‘buy one main, get one free’ Entertainment Book discount, I was making a booking before I even bothered to read blog posts.

Now just before our dinner, I had quickly skimmed through a few comments on Urbanspoon. If the 29% rating didn’t alarm me, then the number of people writing negative comments in the ‘diner reviews’ sections did. Still, I knew that crappy Urbanspoon ratings didn’t necessarily mean anything, and certainly not worth the act of picking up the phone to cancel. Unfortunately, we had to push our 6:30pm booking back to a later session because idiotic and greedy Marty thought it would be a good idea to wolf down four massive sushi rolls and a fajita for lunch that day. Subsequently, he was still full by the time the sun went down.

Thankfully the guys at Absynthe were very understanding and agreed to let us rock up later – ‘but no later than 8pm because then it would be too late’ (huh?). Anyway, we left the house at 7:30pm, allowing sufficient time for parking but it seemed like we should have allowed ourselves more time because finding a parking spot was a nightmare. Finally, we found one … about 10 minutes walk away from the restaurant. So yes, we did up 10 minutes late for our already-‘too late’ booking but the waitresses, again, didn’t seem to mind and happily showed us to our table by the window.

If the size of Little Truffle‘s dining room was akin to a glass of riesling, then Absynthe was the size of its namesake drink in a tidy shot glass. A little banquette lined the wall while only a couple of random tables were scattered wherever there was room. It was small, but intimate and cosy. While we waited for a waiter to assist us, we admired the bar that was stocked with local wines, beers, champagnes and of course, absinthe.

We also liked the artwork  – I just couldn’t decide whether the funky crimson standing lamp was cooler, or the row of paintings of nude girls.

Warm bread was provided throughout the night, with French butter and vinaigrette on the side. I am proud to say that we ended up eating all the butter that was on the table though sadly, this was only one of a couple of things that we actually enjoyed eating that night.

 We did like our amazingly lit-up absinthes very much though. I had the Lemercier 72 ($25) from Fougerolles, a famous absinthe-producing region. Lemercier has been around for yonks, producing good-quality absinthes and mine tonight certainly didn’t disappoint. It may have been a little light on the herbs, but the result was a sweet and sexy drop that let off a bit of a burn at the end that may be deemed too harsh by most (c’mon, it had 72% alcohol in it, mate) but certainly not for someone who isn’t versed in the art of drinking absinthe like myself. Loved it. Oufffff! Meanwhile, Marty had the Absinthe Mansinthe ($35), an absinthe that was developed by shock rocker, Marilyn Manson. After necking the stuff quickly, Marty was pretty much the only star in the dope show rather than one of the beautiful people (hah!). The absinthe’s alcohol content? Yep, you guessed it: 66.6%.

Our wines came shortly afterwards. We were both having steaks for our mains so we asked for a glass of red each: a 2010 Kangarilla Road Cul de Sac Shiraz from McLaren Vale ($17.50) for Marty and a 2010 M Chapoutier Shiraz ($16.80) from the Rhone Valley. Unfortunately, they were out of the M Chapoutier so I made do with a 2007 Chateau Juliette Shiraz Blend ($16.80) from the same region ($16.80). Both were excellent wines, though the mark-ups were beyond ridiculous.

Now, the food. Absynthe claims to produce an epic dining experience that’s as potently addictive as the drink. Furthermore, its degustation menu claims to be a ‘journey into taste.’ For some reason, these statements remind me of what French electro pop artist M83 said about his current album (he used the words ‘epic’ and ‘journey’, too). Unfortunately, this dinner was as odd and as disappointing as his much-anticipated album.

I had what Absynthe called ‘East Tasmania’ ($36), which was a dish of pan-fried scallops, parmesan and potato gnocchi, chunky slices of beetroot cooked in champagne vinegar, lettuce heart & light herb jus and dried chorizo. I actually liked that Absynthe gives cute and succinct names to each dish. While they’re not particularly descriptive, at least it saves people from having to recite the entire dish’s name. I was amazed at how tiny my dish was.

Three little scallops, as fresh and as sweet as they were, did not $36 make! And neither did the three pillow-y gnocchi pieces, which were actually beautiful. I did like that the champagne vinegar in which the scallops were cooked in, combined with the beetroots, provided a lovely piquant sauce. However, the crispy lettuce heart and  the dried chorizo piece were just odd additions.

Marty fared better with his ‘Black truffles’ ($42), which came in the form of a black truffle risotto, braised mini cep mushrooms, petals of organic garlic and cheddar foam. He had issues with the portion size (understandable, at $42) but no problems with taste. The risotto was effortlessly smooth and creamy with the lovely natural earthiness of the black truffle pieces shining through. The cheddar foam also added a beautifully light salty touch, though Marty did find it too subtle. If this entire dinner was analogous to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, then this was definitely ‘Reunion.’ This was the only really good dish of the night.

We waited quite some time for our mains to come – something like 40 minutes. At this point in time, half the patrons had since gone home so it wasn’t the case of there being too many diners. Finally, our steaks – they were both called ‘The pasture’ arrived in tandem. Marty had the one subtitled ‘Angus beef’ ($55), a grilled Angus beef striploin (grain-fed 100 days), confit Spanish onions in red wine and enoki mushrooms. It also came with a side of Parmesan potato puree. Marty thought that his steak was good, but not fantastic. In fact, it was something that he reckoned he could easily whip up at home with a bit of Worcestire sauce and for a fraction of the price. I also found the confit Spanish onions to be too sweet and the enoki mushrooms just looked (and tasted) awkward in the grand scheme of things.

I did, however, like the soft and cheesy potato puree that came with it.

My main – ‘Poached beef’ ($45) – didn’t fare much better. Although we both had Angus beef steaks, I was amused as to why Marty’s was the one that was called ‘Angus beef’ while mine was unglamorously called ‘poached beef.’ Perhaps it was because mine was grain-fed for 150 days, not 100 days like Marty’s. I don’t know. Anyway, it came with some wilted spinach, braised king brown mushrooms in diable sauce and caramelised walnuts (plural, but I only counted one piece of walnut). Although steak was cooked beautifully medium-rare as requested, I couldn’t seem to enjoy it. I’m not sure whether it was the sauce that was too sweet, or the random piece of walnut that not only didn’t belong there but was also coated in so much sugar that it would have sufficed for a single dessert.

We weren’t in the mood for dessert so we grabbed the bill, which ended up being $272.30. Although we managed to get it down to $230.30 thanks to the Entertainment Book, we did find it too expensive. Granted, the absinthe and the wines did make up a fair chunk of the bill but the dishes were just too dear for the quality and quantity of food we received. As much as I wanted to like Absynthe, we couldn’t wait to get out. We loved the concept and the service was great despite the long wait between courses, but I can certainly see why people were quick to diss it. Ridiculously high wine mark ups and overpriced foods do not impress us. While I do think that a 29% rating on Urbanspoon is a bit too harsh, I won’t be quick to come here in a hurry not recommend this place to anyone.

Absynthe on Urbanspoon

Black Coffee Lyrics (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 41 Centre Arcade
3131 Surfers Paradise Blvd
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 402 189 437
blackcoffeelyrics.com.au

Gold Coast: a city that’s better known for its meter maids, its beaches and its struggling AFL team than its coffee culture. You will no doubt find more good cafés in the Melbourne CBD alone than in the entire greater Gold Coast region – but fear not, Gold Coastitutes, for you guys are catching up. No longer will you have to contend with overly saccharine coffees[sic] dished up by the likes of Gloria Jeans and Starbucks and watery beverages advertised as ‘lattes’ at so-called ‘beach cafés’ in Runaway Bay. Yes, good coffee in Goldie DOES exist – and I’m excited about it!

To date, the best coffees I’ve had in Goldie have been at Black Coffee Lyrics, a cool café hidden in the cesspool that is Surfers Paradise. The place itself is difficult to find; armed with Google Maps, even I managed to get lost. However, once your iPhone’s green dot (you) meets red dot (there), head upstairs  rather than walk around ground level like an idiot and you’ll see it: a hipster-grunge-chic café to your left – just look for the hipsters.

At first glance, BCL seems more Melbourne than Gold Coast. The whole retro-grunge feel seems more like Fitzroy than Surfers, what with mismatched furniture, random artworks created by local artists and hipster waiters. What makes this place different from a typical Melbourne café, however, is that the hipster waiters here don’t take themselves too seriously so there are no signs of wankery or pretentiousness in the air. Wonderful.

I’m not exactly sure where the café’s name comes from. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner was an Ella Fitzgerald fan who happened to type in ‘black coffee lyrics’ on Google search to find the words to the seventh and eighth line late one night … then suddenly, BAM! THAT SHALL BE THE NEW CAFÉ’S NAME! AWESOME! Whatever, it’s a cool name despite the fact that I’m not much of a black coffee drinker (lattes FTW, yo!).

I’ve been to BCL several times and I’ve never been disappointed. The first time I went, I enjoyed a post-lunch latte ($3.50) with Marty. I’m not sure what beans were used but I was told that ‘came from everywhere.’ My latte may not have been the sweetest brew I’ve had, but it what I would consider an amazingly bold brew. It was full of solid flavour until the very last drop whilst still managing to be beautifully creamy and smooth. No sweeteners required.

The last time I went, I decided to treat myself to a post-facial lunch and coffee late one Friday afternoon. I had heard good things about their pizza and tapas menu so I wouldn’t have minded a pizza. Unfortunately, I was told that they weren’t serving pizza and tapas until 6pm that day so I had to settle for the lunch menu which comprised of sandwiches and salads, with the odd pasta and soup dishes. The breakfast menu was also available at the time but having already had my fill of hearty breakfasts lately, I decided to go for a roast beef panini ($10).

Packed with slices of roast beef, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese, it was the perfect lunch. The panini also had a bit of sauerkraut in it which I admit made me a little wary as I’m normally not a fan of that stuff (UNLESS I’m buying a bratwurst from Queen Vic Market). However, the sauerkraut they used here was surprisingly mild yet still piquant enough to stand out without being too overbearing. Loved it. For an extra $4, you also had the option of adding a side of fries or a salad to your meal. I decided to go healthy by grabbing a salad, which happened to be surprisingly better than the panini itself. Shreds of lettuce, rocket leaves, red onion, tomatoes and mango bits shared a bowl with feta cubes before being held together with a lovely, light dressing. The result was a delicious balance of salty and sweet, and arguably one of the better salads I’ve had in a long time.

Unfortunately, my latte that day was a little on the burnt side – but not overly so. It was still pleasant and certainly miles better than anything I could probably find in Surfers Paradise.

An amazing café serving great coffee and great food, far away from the tourist traps of Surfers Paradise, BCL is an ideal place to chill. Its relaxed and friendly atmosphere during the day makes it a great place for a long, leisurely catch-up while at night, I’m sure it would be a lively place for post-work or pre-clubbing snacks and drinks. BCL is steezy, warm, friendly and pure awesome; Ella would be proud.

Black Coffee Lyrics on Urbanspoon

Amimoto (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 13, Lido Arcade
24 Orchid Ave
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 7816

Okay, so I may have lied about writing about Melbourne eateries from now on. I didn’t do it on purpose, though. As I write this at work, I had all these wonderful (and not so wonderful) Melbourne restaurants and cafes in my ‘to write about’ list. The only problem was that all the images, all the menu information and all relevant notes were all at home. And it wasn’t like I could look up stuff on the internet here because our company are absolute Nazis when it comes to web-filtering and will do everything in their power to ensure that we can’t access internet sites in an apparent attempt to increase productivity when really, it has done nothing of the sort as people will still find ways to occupy themselves when they are bored at work anyway, including drawing caricatures of colleagues on MS Paint (Sean) and creating personal budget spreadsheets right up to the 2013-14 financial year (myself) and oh, I’d better shut up about the lack of internet usage at my work before I pop an artery because this issue gets me riled up. The only bit of information I actually had with me at work was a crappy photo of Amimoto‘s menu – Amimoto, being the Japanese restaurant that Marty and I went to earlier this year on the Gold Coast. So we’re going to go with that today. This caterpillar wishes to apologise for any inconveniences caused (but will not compensate Melbourne foodies with a free daily Metcard).

The place I’m talking about is Amimoto, a tiny, tiny sushi bar in a once-popular arcade in Surfers Paradise. The diminutive eatery sits in a dingy corridor and amidst rows of shops with ‘For Lease’ signs slapped unceremoniously across their windows. And when you walk along that very corridor, the overall atmosphere in the arcade is unwelcoming, especially when it’s been raining (think leaky ceilings everywhere). To steal a phrase from my friend, Kate, it’s like ‘rape alley’ (the area just outside Shooters nightclub, ironically located just around the corner from Amimoto) but indoors.

But Amimoto is anything but unwelcoming and the waitresses are certainly NOT creepy. Despite a very wet Gold Coast day, the atmosphere was warm inside thanks to the lively chatter created by the lunchtime patrons and by the ever-smiling waitresses. It was just after the lunch peak period, so Marty and I were able to find a spare table right next to a businessman enjoying an impressive-looking chirashisushi bowl.

While head chef Hidekatsu Fujino chopped his way through an aquarium’s worth of raw fish, we studied the extensive menu that seemingly comprised of bento boxes, though there were several a la carte items available such as hot rice dishes, sushi platters and chirashisushi. In hindsight, I should have chosen the chirashisushi for it seemed to be popular with Queensland bloggers and it certainly looked good in real life (I’m referring to the chirashisushi, of course, not the businessman). Not to worry, though, for the bento boxes weren’t too bad themselves.

I ordered the makunouchi bento ($20), which read like a ‘The Best of’ compilation. It came with sashimi, tempura pieces (prawn, sweet potato, normal potato and eggplant), salted grilled salmon, a small salad, rice and miso soup. Yep, the best of everything. It would have been a fantastic meal if everything was decent but alas, it was a hit and miss. For example, the sashimi pieces – salmon, tuna and kingfish – were wonderfully fresh while the tempura batter was as flat as my hair sans surf spray. That said, I did like the tempura (normal) potato – it tasted like a potato cake-slash-scallop! A far cry from the amazingly light, airy and crispy tempura pieces that I enjoyed at Mayura, 10 minutes further up north. Meanwhile, the salted grilled salmon was a smidgen too dry and I thought the addition of salt was unnecessary. It was an alright bento box, but certainly not the best.

Marty ordered the ‘H Set’ ($18) which was the eighth bento box on the list of about twenty. It was an all sushi affair with cuttlefish, egg and scallop sushi pieces joining the standard trio of tuna, salmon and kingfish. Martin thought his sushi pieces were ‘okay’ but like me, didn’t think it was the best. In addition, we both thought that including a bowl of rice to this bento box was odd (hello? It was all SUSHI!) but the miso soup was a welcome addition.

We really wanted to like Amimoto but thought that it fell short of our (admittedly and probably unfairly) high expectations. I had visited Maruya only a few days ago and loved it, so I was expecting similar quality so I was disappointed not to get it. That said, while our food wasn’t omg-wow-fantastic it wasn’t actually bad. Hell, there is a severe lack of half-decent cheap and cheerful Japanese eateries in Surfers Paradise anyway so if I happened to work or live in the area, I would no doubt be coming here for lunch. That is, if I seriously can’t afford to spend 10 minutes driving to Southport for better quality cheap and cheerful Japanese at Maruya.

*You’re probably wondering how I managed to post this up on my blog with no internet access at work. Simple, I write it up on Word at work, then post it up on my blog when I get home. Heh!

Amimoto on Urbanspoon

Benihana (Gold Coast, QLD)

Marriott Hotel
158 Ferny Ave
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5592 9770
http://www.benihanas.surfersparadisemarriott.com.au/

Marty’s been on my back to try Benihana, a popular teppanyaki restaurant in Surfers Paradise, for quite some time. When asked whether this place serves the best teppanyaki on the ‘Coast, he replied that while the food isn’t the best, it’s still pretty good. Diners, however, come here not just for the food but because dining at Benihana is akin to going to a theatre followed by a fireworks display in the city afterwards – yes, it’s THAT entertaining. And just for a bit of trivia, the Surfers Paradise restaurant is only one of 116 Benihana’s restaurants owned by wrestler-turned-restaurateur Rocky Aoki, father of Devon and Steve Aoki. While I don’t really rate Devon myself, I am partial to bopping to Steve’s “I’m In the House” whenever it plays at whatever club I happen to be in. That, my friends, was what made me go, “Okay, take me!” Oh, and the mere fact that Marty and I had been together for eight months and he wanted to take me to a nice restaurant. Okay, so it wasn’t like we were celebrating our one, two, three year or more anniversary or anything but hey, any excuse to eat at a nice place is as good as any. Plus, I think ANY girl who has been with this idiot for eight months deserves a standing ovation, in my opinion. Hee-hee!

Our reservation was for 8pm on Saturday evening but because the traffic was unusually light that evening, we arrived half an hour early. Thus, we decided to sit at the restaurant’s sake bar and order some drinks to kill time. I’m not normally a cocktail drinker these days – I love my wines – but the cocktail menu, with all cocktails being $17, looked awfully good. I ended up ordering a lychee saketini while Marty had the samurai kiss. My saketini, a combination of sake, lychee liqueur with pineapple and cranberry juice, and lychee puree was as smooth and as sweet as Ayumi Hamasaki’s voice when on autotune – probably a bit high on the saccharine side but hey, I’m on holidays so who cares. Meanwhile, Marty’s samurai kiss may not have been as deadly as Tom Cruise’s character in The Last Samurai but the delicious combination of sake, strawberry liqueur, Malibu, passionfruit pump, strawberries and apple proved to be the perfect summer cocktail.

It was just after 8pm but still, our table was not ready. And so we ordered another cocktail each. I had a Geisha on the beach, a refreshingly fruity mixture of sake, peach schnapps, pineapple, cranberry and orange juice. It was fun, and lighter on the palette than my first cocktail – the perfect precursor to our meal.

Marty, on the other hand, decided to skip the fruity cocktails and have a rich, sweet one. The bartender recommended the peanut butter Toblerone, a rich blend of Frangelico, Kahlua, Bailey’s, honey, cream, chocolate syrup and peanut butter. It was a bit too rich for me, especially before dinner, but according to oh-so-har-har-funny Marty, the cocktail, treble clef and all, ‘hit all the right notes.’

Finally, at 8:15pm, our hostess told us that our table was ready. We walked down the hallway, and past several rooms that were already filled with happy diners. Here, in these intimate rooms, head chef Henry Bongay and his team enthusiastically cook your meals with jaw-breaking skills and pizzazz on a nightly basis. We were led to an empty communal table in the very last room, where a teppanyaki grill lay ready to be used.

Oh, is that Mickey Mouse or deadmau5?

The rest of our table, a middle-aged couple and their daughter who was celebrating her birthday and younger noveau riche couple, their 4-year old son and their mate, soon arrived, ready to be entertained. More drinks were ordered (a beer for Marty and a wine for myself) as we picked and chose our way through the extensive menu. We decided that it was too much of a task to select dishes from the a la carte menu, so we decided to order the wildflower banquet, designed to feed two people ($164). The banquet contained, amongst other things, steamed rice but for an extra $7.50 each, we went with the waitress’ recommendation of upgrading to the Hibachi fried rice because the making of the fried rice was a spectacle in itself. Our hands rubbing with glee, we eagerly waited for the show to begin… and waited… and waited.

Our teppanyaki grill actually remained vacant until 8:45pm, which annoyed me slightly. Why agree to take us in at 8pm when Marty made the phone reservation? And why tell us that our table would be ready at 8:15pm when it wasn’t? Now, I don’t mind waiting but am I the only person who thinks that an 8:45pm start is verging on more-than-just-a-mere-annoyance? As I was thinking that, our teppanyaki chef who went by the name of Bryan, arrived at our table and profusely apologised for being terribly late. He had a warm smile and a humble but cheeky demeanour that it was hard to stay annoyed. Once he had put on his apron and smeared oil all over the grill, he immediately got down to business.

While he was warming up, our waitress arrived with a bowl of miso soup for us. It was standard stuff, nothing to frown or grin over though prop for putting tofu cubes in the soup.

As we were sipping our soups, Bryan was putting chopped zucchini and sliced onions on the grill. While this was going on, our waitress gave us two bowls of dipping sauce: a light mustard sauce, which proved to be great for dipping our beef and chicken in, and a soy ginger sauce, which went well with seafood.

Our attention was then diverted to the Benihana salad, a simple mix of fresh greens, shredded carrots and tomatoes all held together by a tangy mirin dressing. Not the best of salads, though. I saved it for later so I could have something colourful with my meat.

Meanwhile, Bryan was going a tad crazy with the onions. He neatly arranged the slices into a volcano, poured some oil in the ‘hole.’

… and set the whole thing on fire!

‘Do it again! Do it again!’ cried the 4-year old boy sitting on our table; his name was Jackson (or Jaxon).

And so Bryan did it again.

Putting the onions aside, Bryan then started cooking up some zucchinis, some prawns and some chicken.

The prawn pieces didn’t take too long to cook and once they were done, Bryan chopped the prawns up and asked if anyone was game enough to catch a prawn piece in their mouth. As Bryan expertly chucked a prawn piece to each diner, most failed to catch it – most of the pieces either landed on the floor or on the diner’s lap. Only Marty and another guy managed to catch it neatly in their mouths. As for me? I was too much of a chicken to attempt it in case the prawn landed in my hair or something or I politely declined. Hell, even this kid had more game than I did…

Once the onions were cooked, ¾ of them were served along with the zucchinis and prawns on a plate. I’m not a fan of zucchini but I ate them regardless. The prawns, on the other hand, were delicious. Little boy Jackson-or-Jaxon thought so too, and said that he wished he had more prawns. Bryan, being the good sport that he was, decided to cook up a few extra prawns at no charge to appease the happy little soul which I thought was pretty cool.

Bryan then turned his attention to the Hibachi fried rice. That’s Bryan preparing the egg – he joined several eggs to create one long carpet of fried egg, before chopping the big egg into little ribbons. He then mixed the chopped egg with the rest of the onions, the chicken thighs along with some cooked white rice and lots and lots of garlic butter. Ooh yeah.

Quick hands or crappy camera work? Or both? Heh.

To be honest, though, the fried rice wasn’t that good. While I was bursting with excitement when I saw the amount of garlic butter that went in, the result translated to a bowl of rice that was just overly salty. I could be wrong but I don’t think they roasted the garlic because I could barely taste that lovely garlic-y flavour that comes with eating anything with garlic butter. Oh well. In the mean time, Bryan started cooking the rest of our meals. Most of the people on our communal table ordered some sort of banquet so we all ended up eating the same thing, which worked well in Bryan’s favour. Those who ordered a la carte, such as the lady sitting next to me who had a salmon steak, would have been entertained by the show so far but missed out on eating the fruits of Bryan’s labour.

Marty and I had sweet, juicy scallops, covered in garlic butter.

And lobster tails, doused in garlic butter.

Oh look, MORE prawns! (yes, with garlic butter)

At this stage, I was insanely FULL despite it looking like I had not eaten much.

But wait, they still needed to give us our fillet-steak, which was chopped into bite-sized pieces. Yep, with lots and lots of garlic butter. We requested our steaks cooked med-rare but I think the beef spent a little more time on the grill than was necessary. We could still see pink in the middle though, so it wasn’t all bad. The meat (and all the seafood we had beforehand) tasted nice with the garlic butter so it really was a shame that the rice wasn’t as yummy. We tried to eat as much as we could but unfortunately, our stomachs couldn’t handle it and pretty soon, we had no choice but to surrender. ‘Would you like dessert?’ asked the friendly Malaysian waitress who had been serving us all night, to which both Marty and I replied, “HELL NO!” to.

To say ‘thank you’ to the diners on his table, Bryan wrote exactly that with salt all over the now-clean teppanyaki grill. We all thought that was sweet but when Bryan cleared the salt away with a paper towel and then wrote “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” on the grill, I was delightfully stunned while Marty was grinning from ear to ear. Aw, shucks.

What a way to finish dinner…

It’s been a while since I’ve had such fun at a meal. Maybe it’s the relaxed and warm Gold Coast atmosphere that manifests itself everywhere, including fine dining restaurants. I mean, Melbourne’s fine dining scene is also pretty down-to-earth but more often than not, there is still this subtle aura of Melbourne snottiness. Here? It’s all fun, fun, fun and who the eff cares if you rock up in thongs and pick your nose on the table? Okay, maybe it’s not THAT casual. In any case, I loved my dinner. Okay, so maybe the food isn’t exactly on par with Steve’s musical ability but it’s certainly better than Devon’s acting career. And probably most things found in Surfers Paradise.

Benihana Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

MOS Burger (Surfers Paradise) (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop T1, 05A, Soul Retail
4 The Esplanade
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5667 8089
http://www.mosburger.com.au

This weekend, I was extremely glad to escape Melbourne’s bi-polar 35-degrees-and-humid-one-minute-and-pissing-down-rain-the-next-minute weather for the constant 28 degree days that a lot of Gold Coastitutes probably take for granted. On a day packed with climbing rocks and cliffs at Burleigh Heads, hanging out with fellow Melburnians in Surfers Paradise and getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D while swimming to ‘Helena Beat’ in Marty’s backyard, it may come as a surprise when I say that the highlight of my weekend was visiting MOS Burger, a Japanese burger chain that had only recently made its mark in Australia, via Brisbane, before opening up a store in Surfers Paradise. Oh, who am I kidding? It SHOULDN’T have shocked you all – I AM, after all, a food-blogger. Duh.

Relieved to find the place free of schoolies kids (for the moment), we arrived at the ‘Coast’s inaugural MOS Burger store early enough for it to be not overly busy. The format is pretty much like a McDonalds or a Hungry Jacks store. Burgers are available to purchase on their own, or you can team them up with fries, salads, drinks or nuggets to create a combo meal. What amused me was that they didn’t have the option of combining the burger and say, your fries and drink to create a combo that would essentially save you a couple of cents (like they do at the aforementioned burger joints). Instead, a fries and drink set will set you back $3.65 so if you were to get a MOS cheese burger combo (with fries and a drink), you’d be paying $4.95 for the burger itself and then the $3.65, subsequently forking out $8.60.

Having heard that the burgers here are tiny, Marty and I both decided to get a combo and an extra burger on the side, each. I had to giggle at the paper place mats they gave us because how many idiots would choose to ignore these instructions and unwrap the burgers, subsequently making a complete ass of themselves?

This is Marty’s beef salad burger ($4.45), essentially like a Hungry Jack’s Whopper but with a tangy Thousand Island-like sauce instead of mayonnaise and a splash of teriyaki sauce. The bun was slightly sweeter than a Maccas bun, but it was also denser and more crunchy to the bite. The burger does look a tad too ‘clean’ and it’s because they are made to order, each burger getting love and attention from the team of assembly line workers behind the glass window. As I was waiting for my food, I could see them delicately put the lone slice of tomato, for example, with a pair of tongs that look like giant Tweezermans before holding up each burger to the light as if to detect any flaws. Subsequently, the burgers take longer to come out than a cheeseburger from Maccas but at least they come out looking decent and not all squishy with pieces of lettuce and onions pouring all over the bottom of your box. The burger, to me, also looked a tad radioactive in terms of colouring but I think it’s more to do with the fact that I had the wrong settings on my camera more than anything, heh.

Marty’s fish burger ($4.45). No prizes in guessing what burger ‘influenced’ the fish burger. Despite their similarities, we both thought that the fillet o’fish was a far better burger – we reckon it might have been Maccas’  orange plastic cheese that does it, hah!

He teamed his burgers up with a sunny salad set ($4.35) which was essentially a garden salad and a drink, a cranberry iced tea. Upon ordering the salad (who the hell orders a salad at a fast food outlet?!), he was asked if he wanted the thousand island dressing or the sesame dressing to which he replied, ‘Both, please’ and the girl at the counter happily chucked in a tub of each dressing. I like the tangy sesame one (it’s the same dressing that goes with Japanese beef salads), whereas the strangely radioactive-looking (and not because of my camera settings!) orange thousand island one proved to be a better dipping sauce for my chips than a salad dressing.

I had a wagyu beef burger ($6.25) which tasted almost the same as Marty’s beef salad burger, but with a wagyu pattie of course. And instead of tangy sauce, there was heaps of teriyaki sauce. And onions. And a little bit of mayonnaise, too. Despite it looking big in the photo, the burger (well, all the burgers, really) were small – slightly smaller than a Maccas burger – but they were all surprisingly filling. It must be all the sugar they put in the buns. Despite that, however, I actually thought the wagyu pattie was decent – it had the right amount of fattiness that made it equal parts juicy and firm. What’s beef? That’s beef!

My second burger was the seafood okonomi ($5.50), a rice burger that had an okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake)-inspired filling. Although I’m not a fan of rice burgers, I do love okonomiyaki so I was really excited to give this one a go. Surprisingly, it wasn’t half-bad. Okay, so nothing will ever beat the awesome okonomiyaki that they used to dish out at Daimaru’s Japanese cafe in Melbourne Central back in the 90s but this was decent – I loved that they were generous with the succulent prawns, the sauces and the bonito flakes.

Although in hindsight I could have done without, I did marry my burgers with a regular chips set (chips and a cranberry tea, $3.65). The chips were a freaky shade of bright yellow, and they were reasonably crunchy but lacking in taste. Give me Maccas shoestring fries, any day.

Oh, and here is a photo of our cranberry teas just for the sake of completeness.

MOS Burger is certainly a novel concept but honestly, I think that it’s just a fad that’ll slowly plateau after some time. In saying that, however, its Surfers Paradise store will perform steadily to attract curious foodies, burger-lovers and Japanophiles in the short term. It will do well because of the market it’s serving – a high Japanese population who are homesick, a healthy dose of international students that like these sorts of quirky eateries and hey, if this city’s tourists can sustain a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum for a number of years, then it can certainly sustain a MOS Burger store. I can’t see it, however, becoming a Must Go To destination in Melbourne because there are way too many awesome family-run burger joints such as Andrews’ Burgers and Danny’s. Plus, J Cafe has already established itself as Melbourne’s premier rice burger destination, even if I don’t think they’re that fantastic. Sure, I can see MOS Burger being reasonably popular when (well, if) their flagship store opens up but like Krispy Kreme donuts, I can see the hype dying down really quickly without much room for sustainability unlike the Surfers store.

MOS Burger Surfers Paradise on Urbanspoon

Wahoo’s Fish Taco (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 10, Orchid Avenue
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5504 7890
http://www.wahoosaustralia.com

The more I visit the Gold Coast, the more I grow to like it. I like the fact that the temperature stays above 20 degrees, even in winter. I like that on days when it’s forecasted to rain – it doesn’t (just like yesterday). And I like the fact that you can find hidden foodie gems in unassuming suburban plazas such as Q Super Centre in Mermaid Waters, including a place that makes the most amazing Jamaican jerk chicken and a quiet Japanese cafe that do cheap and delicious sushi.

That said, I don’t think I’ll ever grow to like Surfers Paradise. It’s loud, brash and in-your-face like that annoying co-worker who shoves her ugly face at you on Monday mornings, regaling tales of the weekend gone by while flashing around a fugly orange kaftan and shaking her cheap bangles around to emphasise every word that comes out of her mouth. The nightclubs are trashy, the bars have nothing on Melbourne’s ones and the food, oh man, the FOOD

Take Wahoo’s Fish Taco, for example. It’s a franchise that’s achieved moderate success in Gold Coast and Byron Bay. On their website, they claim to be a 100% Australian franchise but it seems like there was already an established American version of the franchise, and they just happened to branch out to Australia. I first heard about this place from two friends who, while exploring Surfers Paradise (and more specifically, Shooters nightclub, or ‘rape alley’ as one of them called it, heeh), came across the joint, saw that they served ‘fish tacos’ and found it hilarious. Sadly, they didn’t have time to sample those fish tacos but that’s why I’m here – to try places that people have come across, but never got around to trying. It was dead when we rocked up to the shabby diner-like kiosk yesterday evening, except for two couldn’t-have-been-older-than-14 derros girls who were manning the joint. Although Wahoo’s offer a plethora of other snack items such as chips, burgers and ‘salads,’ we were just here to try their fish tacos so we ordered two ‘world famous fish tacos’ in soft shells ($3.50 on the menu, but we were only charged $2.50 each for them).

They were horrible. Like, Twilight series horrible. The tortilla shells housed a massive glop of undercooked basa fillets that had seen better days in the frozen section of your local supermarket mixed in with some soggy white rice, some ‘coastal slaw’ (essentially shredded raw cabbage) and a white sauce that was supposed to be a ‘special citrus sauce’ but tasted more like a very bland mayonnaise. There was supposed to be a bit of cheese and salsa in the mix too but we got none of the salsa and the cheese, well, I did taste something vaguely cheese-y so I’ll give them that at least. Thumbs down for being given only one set of cutlery, however, when there were clearly two of us.

Seriously, this shite is supposedly ‘world famous’? It was so bad that I literally had two bites before refusing to eat anymore. Marty did better by eating a few more bites before he, too, resigned. In the end, we walked out of the place without looking back and stumbled into Picture Bar and Lounge across the road where we had cocktails to wash away the horribleness that was Wahoo’s fish tacos. Now, I’m not normally a foodie hater but far out, man, they were THE most disgusting thing I’ve ever had. How this place managed to not only stay in business by serving crappy food and employing dour teenagers who looked like they’d rather be elsewhere (then again, don’t blame them really) BUT spawn several franchises around Gold Coast, I don’t know. Never, EVER again. Yuck.

Wahoo's Fish Taco on Urbanspoon