Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5659 1091
So, burgers, cronuts and craft beer are currently ‘so hot right now’ on the Gold Coast. Our southern cousins may be rolling their eyes and being all ‘those things are so 2013’ but one thing I’ve come to love about Goldie is that food trends don’t necessarily dictate dining habits and they don’t mindlessly bow down to the hottest food trends in droves. Burgers are so 2013? Yeah, whatever. We may be a bit slow but we like burgers and if they happen to be out of fashion, who cares? They taste delicious and that’s all that matters, okay?
One place that I’ve come to love in Gold Coast is Ze Pickle, a place that combines those three things: burgers, cronuts and craft beers in breezy Burleigh Heads, just minutes away from the beach. And while it is perhaps a little bit hipster, there is none of that pretentious wankery that you sometimes get in Collingwood or Newtown. Everything is laidback and chilled.
My first visit was with Will, my gym bro buddy who had been raving about this place for ages. It was a warm evening as we grabbed our seats outside so we can soak up the sea breeze. We ordered a few beers during the course of the evening; I don’t remember exactly which ones I had but given that Ze Pickles’ list comprises of names like Deschutes, Two Birds and 4 Pines, you’re sure to be impressed if you’re a craft beer aficionado.
Ze Pickle tries to be a little cheeky with their menu. Comprising of predominately burgers, the menu is sectioned off by meats. Each burger has a name and you can tell the person designing the menu had the most fun when creating the chicken section (The Cock is your default chicken burger while the Pulled Cock is their slow cooked pulled chicken burger). The menu also contained a lot of Zs (I guess to create synergy with the name of the eatery) so I saw ‘caramelized’ instead of ‘caramelised’ which was fine but I did think that ‘cheeze’ instead of ‘cheese’ was a bit too much.
Kanye’s cheese sticks ($8)
We had these cheese sticks to share. I’m not sure why they were called Kanye’s cheese sticks but they were probably a starter we could have gone without. Four pieces of American jack cheese were double-breaded (or, crumbed) and then fried. They were actually quite nice (who doesn’t like deep-fried and cheese anything??) but after eating just one, I was half full. Yup.
Ze chips ($6)
For something that won’t screw your appetite before the burgers arrive, the chips are probably a better option. They were light and crispy – just the way I love my chips – and beautifully seasoned. Perfect for grazing or to enjoy with your burgers.
Up in Smoke: wagyu pattie, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, balsamic caramelised onion, chilli relish, jalapeños, Swiss cheese and jalapeño aioli ($15.50)
Will had the ‘Up in Smoke’ burger, Ze Pickle’s default ‘hot’ option. I didn’t manage to have a bite of it, not just because that cheese stick was already doing my head in but because Will has an insane appetite so he wolfed it down while I was still applying Instagram filters to MY burger photo. Will said that it wasn’t as good as the first Ze Pickle burger he had (their cheeseburger) because there was something missing in it, but he didn’t know what. (I reckon it’s the lack of bacon and cheese)
Cronut burger: cronut, wagyu pattie, cheese, Nutella bacon and maple syrup ($18)
Ze Pickle has a cronut burger that’s not on the menu so when I heard about it, of course I had to order it. The burger itself isn’t big but it definitely contained way more calories than Will’s burger and our starters combined. Hey, you don’t come to Ze Pickle if you want to be all fitso and clean eating and shit…
So, the cronut burger is essentially a house-made cinnamon-dusted cronut sandwiching a wagyu pattie, American cheese, Nutella bacon and lots of maple syrup. The cronut itself was also sticky so I’m assuming they drizzled a bit of maple syrup on top for good measure. Verdict? Okay, the whole thing worked. I loved the combination of sweet, sticky, salty and insanity, capped off by the sourness of the pickle on top. I also liked how the cronut’s crispiness added a bit of textural oomph to the whole thing too. Was I glad that I tried it? Most definitely. Will I order it again? Probably not; it was a bit too much for me.
Since then, I’ve gone back to try a couple of their other burgers. Their cheeseburgers (sorry, cheeseburgers) are an excellent and reliable choice for those who want something simple while their jerk chicken burgers are also good if you feel like a bit of poultry.
Q1 Resort and Spa
Cnr Hamilton Avenue & Northcliffe Terrace
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 2559
When my mate Adam told me about the Phat Bastard burger challenge at Longboards in Surfers Paradise, I knew I wanted a piece of that action. So basically, you had a 1.8kg burger slapped in front of you and the challenge is to finish everything on the board (including all the fries) in less than 30 minutes for a $150 bar tab.
The Phat Bastard burger itself comes at $49 and includes 600grams of grilled wagyu, a motherload of streaky bacon, melted American cheddar cheese, slow roasted barbequed pulled pork, beer-battered onion rings, lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and something called ‘house made PHAT ass sauce.’ All in a brioche bun and served with fries.
Once we got there though, we whimped out and ended up ordering burgers from the ‘normal’ menu. I blame the ‘PHAT ass’ sauce.’
Upon opening the menu, Adam’s first words were ‘Pumpkin bruschetta? That’s CHICK food!’ I didn’t quite agree with his borderline sexist comment (what, girls can’t pack away burgers, ribs and steak?) but if we were to go by what mainstream media now calls ‘dude food,’ then having pumpkin bruschetta sitting there alongside ribs, chicken wings and other meaty snacks does seem a bit odd.
Mini Phat: wagyu beef patty, cheese, pulled pork, streaky bacon, lettuce, coleslaw, tomato, onion rings, PHAT sauce and BBQ sauce ($18.90)
If you can’t stomach the thought of eating the 1.8kg Phat Bastard burger, then you have the option of eating its smaller-sized version. Adam went down this route; it was perhaps a bit sweet for me – there was pulled pork in it, but also a ridiculous amount of BBQ sauce. Add brioche, and you’re almost calling it a dessert if it weren’t for the bacon, onion rings and cheese in it.
Beach Cheeseburger: wagyu beef patty, streaky bacon, melted red Leicester cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and PHAT sauce ($14.90)
I thought my cheeseburger was a much better burger. True, I would have loved a bit of lettuce in mine and yeah, it did have most of the stuff that rendered Adam’s burger a bit sweet (PHAT sauce, BBQ sauce, brioche bun) but it came minus the pulled pork and there wasn’t as much BBQ sauce. Overall, I found it to be a better-balanced burger.
And what about the fries? They were well-seasoned and crispy enough – could have done with a bit more crunch but that’s just me being fussy.
What I like about Longboards is its relaxed setting and easy-going vibe – it’s located on the bottom of the Q1 hotel and it faces the swimming pool on the ground floor. I suppose Q1 hotel guests swimming in front of burger-guzzling diners would be uncomfortable with this arrangement but it was good eye candy for us diners (teehee). Sadly, I can’t post any photos of the open-air-dining-room-facing-the-pool set-up as most of said photos of my iPhone are creep shots of topless guys splashing about.
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, burgers! So, Surfers Paradise may be a foodie wasteland for the most part and the burgers served in (the predominantly tacky) eateries there may be mediocre at best. Longboards, however, does more than decent burgers there in pretty chilled surroundings just minutes from the beach.
Jupiters Hotel and Casino
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 8100
Disclaimer: Adam and Libby dined as guests of Wonderland PR and Jupiters Hotel and Casino.
One thing that Goldie does well (besides sunny weather and producing entrepreneurs as well as cosmetic surgeons) is Japanese food. Japanese investment in the 80s and early 90s saw more than a handful of Japanese restaurants pop up – and we’re not just talking about bastardised sushi kiosks selling teriyaki chicken joints either. But while the Goldie did cheap to mid-end Japanese restaurants well, there was very little in terms of fancy high-end Japanese (except for maybe Ten).
That was, until Sydney’s Chase Kijoma rocked up to launch Kiyomi in the $345 million revamped Jupiters Casino in Broadbeach.
Broady, you’re alright.
Casinos are casinos so I’ll always think they’re inherently tacky.
But situated a floor away from the flashing neon lights (and bogans) of the gaming rooms is a cool, modern Tokyo-inspired oasis. ‘Kiyomi’ is the word for a Japanese hybrid citrus fruit that’s not dissimilar to a mandarin; it is also the name of Kijoma’s mother, which I thought was a really sweet touch. Chase Kijoma may not yet be a household name on the Gold Coast but his culinary rock star pedigree (lead Nobu kitchens worldwide and heads up the award-winning Sokyo at The Star in Sydney) means that he’ll be a name Gold Coast foodies will be accustomed to hearing.
Kiyomi’s décor screams out Tokyo cool. A customised fluro UV installation by a Tokyo artist combined with mood lighting did initially make me think Surfers Paradise nightclub on a Saturday night, but wooden cubes and glazed pottery brought the whole fit-out down to earth, adding a hint of sophistication.
To start, we had some cocktails. Adam decided to go for the signature cocktail, the Chasing Kiyomi. Paying homage to the hybrid citrus fruit, the cocktail was a flirty combination of Grand Marnier, Aperol orange bitters, and San Pellegrino mandarin mineral water, finished with a spritz of Tanqueray Gin. Being very much a beer man, Adam wasn’t keen on it so I happily finished his drink off for him. Just as well, because I struggled with my own cocktail, the Momoiro Sour. Touted as the Asian version of the Whiskey Sour, I thought the combination of sake, shiso, lime and egg white didn’t gel as much it should – and what was up with the rosemary?
The format at Kiyomi is izakaya-style dining – order a few drinks plus some plates to share and away you go! Alternatively, you can opt for their seven-course degustation menu for $140. We sampled a decent selection of dishes, many of which appear in the degustation menu.
First up, we had some edamame. I’m not a huge fan of those, preferring to go for snacks that have a bit more substance. However, these babies were coated in a lovely seven spice and soy marinade and topped with bonito flakes, making them addictive even for an edamame hater like myself.
Oh hey, Chase!
Next, we had a teriyaki wagyu sushi roll that was topped with seared foie gras cubes. It was a brilliant dish – a perfect mixture of smokiness, sweetness and earthiness with a hint of tanginess to finish (thanks, finger limes).
Watermelon, wasabi mayo
To refresh our palates, we had some watermelon cubes that were fittingly paired with some wasabi mayo. Nice enough, but would not pay.
Seared scampi, foie gras, apple and mizuna
Conversely, I would pay top dollars for the seared scampi. Beautifully presented and succulently sweet and fresh, the little babies were accentuated with hints of apple and mizuna, and the slightest dab for foie gras for a creamy finish.
Hiramasa kingfish, miso ceviche, crispy potato
Some of Sokyo’s popular dishes appeared on the menu tonight, including the raw hiramasa kingfish. The miso ceviche imparted a lovely nutty, sweet touch while the crispy potato shreds added a lovely dose of texture.
Tuna tataki, asparagus, enoki, tosazu, leek sauce
Beautifully presented, the tuna tataki was probably one of my favourite dishes. The perfectly cut slabs of fresh fish were delicious enough to enjoy on their own, but the trimmings elevated the dish to another level. They all provided a lovely touch of earthiness and if I was to be wanky, I’d make a comment about this dish being a perfect marriage of sea and land or something like that.
Moreton Bay bug tempura, grapefruit, sambal mayo, vinegar
Another successful dish was the Moreton Bay bug tempura. I love bug meat in all forms, but the super light and crispy tempura batter really brought this dish to another level of ‘wow.’ Even Adam went for seconds (and he’s normally a pizza, pub fare and burger guy because ew who’d eat bugs, omg). I also loved the sauces that went with the tempura – the sambal mayo could have been a bit hotter but I loved its peppery tangy creamy taste while the vinegar was light and sweet, almost like a delicate blend of sake.
Speaking of sake, I think we downed about two bottles of the stuff on the night. And mind you, this was in addition to the cocktails, beers, whiskies and wines we consumed.
Dengakuman – Patagonian toothfish, caramelised miso
Named after a Japanese cartoon character, the Patagonian toothfish dish was another favourite of mine. Yeah, I know it screams out Nobu miso black cod but hey, I’m a sucker for fish and miso okay? Anyway, apparently this is a $37 dish if you’re ordering a la carte which seems like a rip because the portion size isn’t terribly big. However, the Patagonian toothfish isn’t a cheap piece of fish and given beautifully cooked it comes out (so soft, so buttery, so like omg) and given how perfectly balanced the flavours are, it’s worth every dollar. Go on, do it.
King brown mushroom, truffle poke, lime
You may be asking ‘what the hell is poke?’ Well, it’s the Hawaiian word for ‘to slice’ so I’m assuming they mean ‘sliced truffle.’ Anyway, I wouldn’t know; I couldn’t taste any truffle nor was it truffle season anywhere in the world (though I could smell it). Regardless, I liked this dish – it was so earthy and so bold that it appealed to my Taurean sensibilities. That, and I also love mushrooms.
Wagyu 9+ striploin, eschalot, spicy teriyaki
Now, our wagyu striploin was nice enough but I did expect it to be fattier given that it was meant to be a 9 score piece of meat. And while you can’t really go wrong with terikyaki and beef, I was hoping for the sauce to be that little bit spicier.
Yoko Ono – Captain Morgan spiced rum, Blue Curacao, lemon, pineapple, lime juice
I was egged on by Adam to order the Yoko Ono cocktail because, yeah, it’s not like anyone has called me Yoko before. Still, it was a much better cocktail than the Momoiro Sour I initially had. Sure, it looked and tasted very 80s Gold Coast but it was smooth to drink, and I loved the little hint of spice at the end.
When we thought we had enough, they just HAD to bring out a neat looking sushi platter. The platter included bite-sized delights such as spicy tuna on crispy rice (essentially, puffed rice) as well as the Queensland roll, a soy paper-wrapped sushi filled with spanner crab and topped with creamy avocado puree. Yup, there was none of this chicken teriyaki shit on this sushi platter board.
Tai nori shio kombu salsa
My favourite sushi, however, was the curiously named tai nori shio kombu salsa. The base was a crispy thick piece of nori that was rolled up to form a hard seaweed taco shell. Snapper sashimi sprinkled with black pepper was the icing on the cake. So simple, so clever and so delicious.
Mochi ravioli triangles
Finally, we had dessert. After all the food we consumed, the last thing I wanted to do was to eat a super rich dessert but thankfully, these little green tea mochi triangles were the perfect finish – at least for a non-sweets person like myself.
And what were they filled with? Frozen strawberry milkshake. Oh hell, yeah.
Goma Street – tempered dark chocolate, caramelised white chocolate mousse, black sesame ice cream
Okay, so we had another dessert. This one was yet another Sokyo immigrant, the famous Goma Street dessert. If you like chocolate, you will like this one. Unfortunately (or perhaps that should be fortunately?), I don’t like chocolate so it’s not a dessert I would think to order. However, I do like black sesame ice cream so that kind of saved the dish for me.
So there you have it. Is Gold Coast’s newest Japanese heavyweight worth the hype? I think so. I was impressed not just by how tasty each dish was but also how much attention to detail was paid. I don’t recommend a lot of high-end restaurants on the Gold Coast, but this one’s definitely going on my list.
2798 Gold Coast Highway
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 7588
GOOD Vietnamese food is extremely hard to find on the Gold Coast so it’s a luxury that I tend to go without – I either wait until I’m back in Melbourne for my bun bo hue fix or I attempt to make my own pho broth. So when a Tinder match suggested we go to this ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese restaurant on the Highway,’ my ears pricked up.
‘Authentic Vietnamese restaurant?’ I sceptically asked.
‘Yeah, the venue is really cool – it’s like you’re sitting in someone’s house and the food is cooked by their grandmother or something.’
‘Okay, this I gotta see!’ I was as excited as I was today when I heard that The Book of Mormon musical was finally hitting our glorious shores. YESSSSS.
But then Mr Tinder ruined everything with this question: ‘So, is pho Vietnamese or Thai?’
In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign to abort this meet-up immediately. If an Asian guy can’t tell me what country pho comes from, then should I really be trusting his judgement on what constitutes ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food?
It didn’t matter anyway; we were finally at New Saigon. Housed in a beautiful timber house in the middle of Goldie Highway, the restaurant’s bright neons signs glittered as brightly as the sequins on a metre maid’s bikini top. Inside, a bustling atmosphere greeted us as we took our seat. It wasn’t a full house that night but it was busy enough – so much so that we did wait more than 30 minutes for our food to arrive, unusual for a Vietnamese restaurant.
Prawn and pork rice paper rolls (four for $9)
We started off with some summer rolls. To be honest, they weren’t the best I’ve had. Not only were they skint on the filling, the rolls themselves were tasteless. I struggled to eat just one.
Crispy chicken and vegies in sweet chilli sauce ($16.50)
My companion ordered a decidedly non-Vietnamese dish, a strange choice for someone who claimed that New Saigon served ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food. I didn’t try any of it but it was definitely not something I’d order – not for sixteen-bloody-fifty anyway. Hell, it wasn’t even something I’d try to cook at home either. That said, my buddy did enjoy it so maybe I’m the one who’s wrong here.
Beef pho ($15)
Of course, I ordered beef pho. At $15, it was not cheap (yet, $15 bowls of pho seems to be standard in Goldie) – maybe it broke the $12 mark because of all the spring onions that went into broth.
Don’t even think for a second that this pho may be authentic because it wasn’t. It was bastardised, one-dimensional and worse of all, SWEET. I couldn’t taste any traces of beef boney goodness in the broth, no spices, no nothing. It was pretty close to slurping a bowl of hot sugared water with a pinch of saltiness but nowhere near enough. I was very disappointed.
I never saw Mr Tinder again and nor have I been back to New Saigon. And if people say this is Gold Coast’s most authentic Vietnamese restaurant then, damn, the glitter strip has a long way to go.
30B Bray Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9826 2370
I’ve been having sudden cravings for Moroccan food thanks to the cooler months. Unfortunately for me, the absence of a tagine in my kitchen as well as not being within driving distance to a good Moroccan restaurant means that I have to go without for now. Instead, let me wistfully recount the glorious Moroccan feast we enjoyed for Nee’s birthday, um, quite some time ago (sorry, backlog #becauseihavealifeok).
After pre-dinner drinks at Temperance, we walked over to B’Stilla, currently Melbourne’s favourite Moroccan restaurant. The name B’Stilla refers to a traditional Moroccan meat pie dish filled with squab – and (maybe not so) funnily enough, a slightly bastardised version appears on B’Stilla’s menu. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Chapel Street, this gem promised a menu full of bold flavours, a liberal dose of spice and a whole lot of fun – we were excited.
The a la carte menu has something for everyone, including a decent selection of vegetarian dishes. If you happen to be dining as a group like us, however, you’re better off going for one of the two banquet options. There is a three-course option as well as a four-course one, the latter of which includes a dessert course. We decided to go for the three-course option ($45 per head), which actually comprised of five dishes and two sides in total.
Merguez – barbequed duck sausage
First to arrive were the duck sausages, the appearance of which caused half the table to snigger because, damn, we’re mature. They were long and skinny – and quite frankly, unappealing at first glance but they were tasty and, as much as I hate to use the word, moreish.
Grilled batbout flat bread, tomato citrus jam
The next starter actually proved to be one of my favourite dishes of the night, the Moroccan equivalent of the humble pita bread. The dough was crispy to the touch but soft and chewy inside. All it needed was a slather of tomato citrus jam and Bob was my creepy uncle at the Christmas party.
Rather than using the traditional squab, the guys here used a chicken and duck filling. It was a bit awkward having to divide an arbitrary number of fist-sized pies into 10 or so diner but we did it. I’m not used to savoury pies having a sweet tinge but I loved the beautiful sweet and salty combination of bird with almond, cinnamon and saffron, encased by layers of sweet pastry.
Beef short rib, carrot jam, preserved lemon
The beef short rib was another stellar dish, with the meat melting off the bone and cumin-infused carrot jam complementing it well. We also had the lamb shoulder (not pictured), another brilliant meaty main that was paired beautifully with honey baked prunes.
Cauliflower, pine nut sauce, ras el hanout
To accompany our meat, we had some delicious sides. The cauliflower side was earthy, spicy and herby – a beautiful combination of flavours and textures.
Cous cous, fennel, green olive, orange and honey
The cous cous side wasn’t bad but I think it paled in comparison to the other dishes we enjoyed that night – to me it was just filler despite the honey, olives and orange.
I guess the only thing I’d complain about was the awkward seating arrangements. Due to the size of our group, there were no tables inside for us so we had to make do with a super low table outside in the cold where our knees kept awkwardly bumping against the edge of the table.
In saying that, we all had a fabulous time at B’Stilla; the service was affable and efficient, and the dishes were well-portioned – most of us were satisfied, but not bloated which meant that we had the energy to dance up a storm at Poof Doof shortly after. Huzzah!
29-31 Carrington Road
Box Hill VIC 3128
+61 3 9897 3788
If you love your Hong Kong-style roast meats, then Box Hill is definitely the place to be. With its plethora of cheap and nasty (in a good way) Asian restaurants that are open late, it’s the perfect pit stop for Melbourne’s Eastsiders wanting a midnight feed on the way home from a night on the piss.
Being good and responsible citizens (har-har), Matt and I certainly weren’t on the piss one Friday night but we were in the area and craving something cheap, quick and greasy. That’s where Roast Duck Inn came in. It was almost 10pm so, to be fair, it wasn’t terribly late but it was way past the dinner hour. Before we had the chance to sit down and breathe, laminated menus were shoved in our faces – in other words, we’re hoping to close early tonight so you guys better hurry the hell up.
That was fine, we both knew what we wanted.
With complimentary herbal bone broth in our hands, we started our conversation. It was a cool Melbourne night so I eagerly sipped the last dregs of the broth.
Roast duck and salted egg fried rice ($13.50)
I had been craving this particular dish for quite some time and as its name suggests, Roast Duck Inn certainly delivered. It wasn’t as tasty as the roast duck fried rice at Rose Garden – there was less heat, less oomph and zero mustard greens – but did the trick regardless. The portion size was also massive and despite being super hungry, I struggled to finish it so I ended up taking it home for breakfast the next morning.
Roast pork on rice ($10)
Matt ordered his favourite dish here, the roast pork on rice. Given the neat rows of hanging meats by the window, you’d think that Matt’s dish would arrive really quickly – it didn’t, it arrived maybe 10 minutes later than mine. Perhaps they had to steam up some more rice. Regardless, the dish was as good as Matt remembered – the crackling was perfectly crispy while the meat was tender and delicious. He finished it all, easily.
Rose Garden is still my number 1 spot for roast meat dishes and roast duck fried rice but if I’m in the ‘burbs, then Roast Duck Inn would be my ‘go to’ place. I mean, it’s only 10-15 minutes from my parents’ house so why not.
65 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9428 9730
To most Melburnians, the city end of Swan Street used to be a foodie wasteland of crappy pubs and sleazy drinking holes. Not anymore, folks. In recent times, we’ve seen places such as Meatball and Wine Bar pop up along with Fonda Mexican, Noir, Union Dining and Feast of Merit. And towards the end of last year, we also welcomed fiery Southeast Asian tiger, Botherambo to the now eclectic mix.
Botherambo’s close proximity to Richmond Station and Melbourne’s sporting complexes, including the MCG makes it perfect for a post-match drink or feed if you want something other than parmas or steaks. I, myself, just so happened to be at the cricket that day and what better way to celebrate a well-fought day by the Aussies than sussing out this feisty dragon with Thanh.
As we were walking into the restaurant, we were stopped by a bouncer at the door: he wanted to check my bag. After deciding that the contents of my Longchamp Pliage was not going to harm anyone, he ushered us in. Now, I can understand the need to check bags at sporting complexes, bars and karaoke venues but restaurants? Wow, okay, this was a first… and to be honest, it was a bit wanky.
Chaffey bros ‘dufte punkt’ Riesling blend, Eden Valley
‘Never mind,’ we thought as we got ourselves comfortable at the bar. Although there were plenty of table seating when we rocked up, we decided to sit high on the bar for perving purposes (well, I can’t speak for Thanh but me on the other hand… hee!). With a lovely Riesling blend from Eden Valley (loved the name too!), we got straight to work.
For those of you who are fans of Bangpop, you’ll probably feel a hint of deja vu when eating at Botherambo – after all, the chef is none other than Kam McManamey who is famous for introducing Melburnians to Bangpop’s bold and spicy Thai dishes that can make even the most seasoned spicy food eaters sweat.
Fried egg ($4)
To start, we split a fried egg which was still beautifully runny in the middle. Coriander, nam jim and lime gave the dish a zingy kick, while the shallots added a slight crunch.
Crispy duck leg salad ($18)
Next came the duck leg salad which contained kohlrabi, cucumber and lychee, and was drizzled in a lime, chilli and fish sauce dressing. All well and good, but I found the dressing way too sour – even the lychees did nothing to diffuse the salad with their sweetness.
Cold smoked ocean trout ($21)
This wasn’t in the salad section but it should have been. Cold pieces of trout were hidden underneath a mass of green papaya, young coconut, kaffir lime and chilli, topped with a little bit of Yarra Valley roe. Now, Thanh and I both thought the dressing was exactly the same as the one in the crispy duck leg salad so it was almost like we were eating the same dish, but with different proteins. Disappointingly, we also could not taste the young coconut and the smokiness of the trout – so strong and overpowering was that dressing.
Crispy pork belly ($16)
Next came the crispy pork belly served with sticky rice (image below), nam prik pla raa, crispy shallots and lime. Unfortunately, the pork was very dry throughout so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have liked. The only saving grace, really, was the fact that it didn’t have any of that same-same dressing the other two dishes had.
MS7+ wagyu beef cheek ($38)
The beef cheek was meant to be Botherambo’s signature dish. Unfortunately, it came with a green mango salad that was, yes, drizzled with that same overpowering lime, chilli and fish sauce dressing dammit! The salted prawns would have been a nice touch if they weren’t drowned out by the ridiculous amount of fish sauce that was used (and this is from someone who LOVES fish sauce) but no, we were left disappointed despite the fact that the beef was actually cooked well.
For all the social media buzz Botherambo attracted, both Thanh and I were left disappointed. True, it could have been due to the fact that we ordered the wrong dishes but seriously, what are the odds that three of the four big dishes ordered from different sections of the menu and containing different meats would taste essentially the same?
While I can see Botherambo being successful on Swan Street (it desperately needed a ‘cool’ slightly upmarket Asian joint), I myself wouldn’t bother returning.
289 Wellington Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
+61 3 9419 5170
As Melbourne’s evenings get cooler, my collection of red wine and whisky bottles expand as does my appetite for hearty meaty dishes (and, let’s face it, my waistline). Our fair southern city is full of gastropubs serving all manners of pub classics with modern twists and The Gem Bar & Dining in Collingwood happens to be one of them. This place gets understandably packed on Friday nights so if you want your fix of pub classics with a touch of American soul, then you’re better off making a booking before rocking up.
So I had dinner with my friend Gian late on a Friday night. Gian had waxed lyrical about The Gem’s American BBQ menu but he decided to give this place another shot as he wanted to see what the pub fare was like.
Buttermilk fried chicken soft shell taco with sweetcorn ceviche and chipotle mayo ($7); kafalograviera saganaki ($14)
We both had a buttermilk fried chicken taco to start. I may be a bit over the whole Mexican craze but what normal person can resist the lure of crispy buttermilk fried chicken because BUTTERMILK? The tacos were decently sized and the chicken was beautifully crunchy though if I was to be picky, I wasn’t sure I liked the way they used the term ‘sweetcorn ceviche’ on the menu because isn’t ceviche supposed to equal seafood?
The dish you see in the background is a serving of saganaki. At $14 a pop, I thought it was a bit rich for what was essentially grilled cheese. It wasn’t even drizzled in that lovely sticky fig sauce as per Hellenic Republic or anything to make it worth the coin; it was a piece of rock hard cheese sprinkled with zaatar and served with lemon and Turkish bread. Nice, but not for $14.
Maltese lamb pie ($22)
Gian ordered the Maltese lamb pie, which was essentially slow-cooked lamb neck in a rich tomato stew, topped with puff pastry and served with French braised peas, mash and jus. It was a lovely dish that warmed both heart and stomach, though we both struggled to figure out what was so ‘Maltese’ about it. (we later found out from the general manager that the spices and olives made it more Maltese Falcon than Italian Stallion. Riiiiight)
Pot au feu ($28)
I ordered the pot au feu, purely because I’ve heard that the dudes who created Vietnamese beef noodle soup, pho, was inspired by the French pot au feu. My dish was a rich medley of ox cheek, pork hock, savoy cabbage, chat potatoes and smoked bone marrow; it tasted rustic and amazing but you know what? After only 10 or so spoonfuls, I conceded defeat. It was THAT rich. Fail, Libby, fail.
Gem’s a nice bar to warm up to a nice dinner to after work, preferably not on a Friday if you want to avoid crowds. I’m defs keen to go back to try their all American menu at some point.
So I’ve FINALLY finished writing about my Japan foodie adventures. It’s been an amazing and eye-opening trip – probably the best in my life so far. I learnt a lot about myself, met so many unforgettable people (and admittedly, some that I DO want to forget because ew) and of course, ate a lot of delicious food.
I’ve tried my best to recount all the important dining experiences for each post but there were some that I could not find a home for. These included the following:
Compartmentalised breakfast at the Tokyo business hotel I stayed in on my first night. This sort of stuff is probably the equivalent of a stodgy western breakfast buffet meal plate but better – rice over sugar-laden cereal any day (even if I think the amount of plastic wrapping they used is excessive).
The plethora of cheap and surprisingly decent quick snacks and meals one could find at any given Family Mart (the Japanese version of 7/11). Those AUD1 rice balls came in handy many times during my trip.
The random mamma and papa bar I stumbled across just around the corner from Yudanaka Station in the Nagano prefecture. The further out of the bigger cities you go, the less likely you are to find someone who can speak English. This was evident when I trepidatiously walked into this little inn. The lovely lady owner knew no English, my Japanese skillz were extremely poor and the menu was written entirely in Japanese (no photos, no romaji!) but I was able to (just) order my lunch using, funnily enough, my very limited Chinese reading skills.
Soba and tempura, yo.
The random donburi restaurant that my companion for the night and I came across after a drunken night out in Shibuya. You place your order using a vending machine, chuck some yen coins in and your food comes out to you at the speed of light.
Unfortunately, I didn’t quite like my sliced pork with raw egg and garlic on rice (think oyakodon but with pork instead of chicken as well as a motherload of garlic). It had way too much garlic in it – and I normally love garlic.
And finally, the random alleyway restaurant I stumbled across in Asakusa.
… that served horse sashimi.
Yup, I went there. It was leaner than horse and had a much cleaner taste. But by cleaner, I also meant blander. I’m glad I tried horse but it’s not something I’d quickly order again. Beef FTW.
It’s true what they say about solo travelling. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s life-changing and liberating and Japan’s the perfect place to start if you’ve never travelled alone before. It’s safe, yet there’s plenty of things to keep you occupied no matter what your interests are. Sayonara, Japan…
… for now anyway.
Kohoku-Ku, Yokohama 222-0033
+81 45 471 0503
If you love ramen as much as everyone in the Australia loves Tim Ho Wan right now, then you’d have to be silly not to visit Yokohama’s ramen museum if you’re ever in Japan. (btw, I’m still not sure why they spell ramen with a ‘u’ in it)
Founded in 1994, it was touted as the world’s first food-themed amusement park though it’s more of a food court boasting nine different ramen stalls, a ramen stall and a small museum section for all you noodle-slurping history buffs out there – unfortunately though, the museum section is entirely in Japanese.
The ramen stalls, all offering different kinds of ramen from Japan’s many regions, are enclosed in late 1958-style Japanese streetscape replication. And why 1958? It was the year the instant ramen was invented, naturally.
The museum’s shop has some pretty cool souvenirs, perfect for those who with foodie friends. You can get all manners of bowls, utensils and chopsticks as well as 10 billion kinds of instant ramen.
Their DIY ramen kit is pretty pimpin’ too.
‘though I wasn’t keen on buying one because hmm, dehydrated vegies.
What I was down for, however, was some piping hot bowls of ramen. Or rather, half bowls. I love how you can order regular sized bowls at each stall, or half bowls if you just want a taste at approximately AUD$5 each (thus, leaving more room in your stomach for more).
My first bowl of ramen was from Zweite Ramen, a German-Japanese collaboration. I shall refrain from making WWII jokes here as some uber sensitive people on my friends list got upset after I did so when I posted this photo up on Facebook. Anyway, they’re a project from Muku Zweite, a popular Frankfurt ramen restaurant.
Tonkotsu ramen from Zweite Ramen
The Zweite Ramen stall is only at the museum temporarily so get in before you miss out. That is, if you’d like to try some soy infused tonkotsu broth with hints of sauerkraut in it and chashu that tastes and feels more like bacon. What, sauerkraut in ramen? Damn right. It’s weird but it works – the acidity cut through the rich broth beautifully. As for the ramen, they used durum flour so the noodles were denser and springier – very much like pasta. I loved this Eurasian hottie.
‘Pho ramen’ from Narumi-Ippudo
You’d have to be insane in the membrane (and also a genius) to come up with the idea of combining two of my favourite noodle soup dishes into one single dish: a pho/ramen hybrid. The broth was created by Ippudo chef Shigemi Kawahara and is a light yet flavoursome mix of French bouillon and dashi stock, kind of like a consommé. The ramen noodles were made out of baguette breadcrumbs that gave them a firm yet springy texture. Oh my word, easily one of the most interesting things I ate in Japan.
Traditional tonkotsu ramen from Najima-tei
My last bowl was a simple tonkotsu ramen from Najima-tei, a Hakata institution since 1987. I figured that if I can’t go to Kyushu on this trip, I’d do the next best thing by ordering its speciality ramen from the ramen museum. The broth was perhaps only slightly heavier than the pho-ramen one above, but it was still milky and rich enough for me to call it quits for the night.
As much as I wanted to try more ramen, my stomach gave up at this point so I had no choice but to reluctantly end my night at the ramen museum.