Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Review: The Café @ Hotel Mulia Senayan (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Senayan City
JL Asia Afrika Senayan
Jakarta 10270
Indonesia

Greetings from Hong Kong!

I’m currently travelling for the next two weeks but because I’m awesome, I’m going to try and blog as much as I can in between bouts of stuffing my face with street food and dodging ‘how come you’re not married yet?’ questions from nosy Indonesian aunties.

From this point on, I’ll start documenting my foodie adventures rather than wait until I get back to Melbourne. The last time I did it, I never ended up finishing my posts. Shame on me.

So anyway, yesterday the family and I got invited to lunch at Hotel Mulia, one of the pimpiest hotels in downtown Jakarta. Hotel Mulia is home to a few fancy restaurants and I visited one last year, Table8. This time we were going to The Café, an upmarket buffet restaurant. Despite the heavy rain and despite Jakarta’s horrific traffic conditions, we somehow made it only 5 minutes late.

Unfortunately for us, our table was not ready so we had to wait 10 minutes in the lobby. Once we were called up, we were told that we weren’t allowed to take any photos of the restaurant and the food. That sucked if you were a DLSR-toting food blogger – not that it stopped me from using my iPhone to take a few sneaky shots!

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There are as many buffet stations here as there are Louis Vuitton handbags. While most places have their buffet stations in the one place, the stations here were scatted all over the place. In fact, the ‘Western food’ section was so hidden that I would not have realised it was there but for my nosy brother who had a bit of a wander around the restaurant.

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Oh look! There’s my uncle! And dad!

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My first plate was a Japanese and dim sum affair, just the way I like it. We were sitting with the family of the guy who my relatives are keen to set my cousin up with (she was conveniently sick yesterday and didn’t attend this lunch, hah). The guy (let’s call him S) was there too and he telling me off for eating yum cha when I had all week to indulge in that sort of food in Hong Kong. Yeah whatever, mate. Sif tell me what to eat! Especially since the har gows were actually quite good – definitely better than most I’ve had in Jakarta!

The sashimi wasn’t the freshest I’ve had but it was good for buffet quality. The tuna tataki, however, suffered from having too much pepper on it. I’m not sure if that was the way Indonesians prefer to eat tataki, or whether the cooks were trying to mask something. Hmm.

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S then made a comment about how my siblings and I throw everything together onto our buffet plates. For example, why mix Indian food and chicken buns together? He said that it must be an Aussie thing but I’m not sure as I’ve always ‘done’ buffet restaurants like this? In contrast, his first plate was an all-Japanese affair, his second plate had chips and burgers and he saved his final savoury plate for the Indonesian dishes. I might be doing it wrong, but whatever.

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How’s this for an even more random buffet plate? I had bresaola, prosciutto and jamon along with dahl. I also had some coconut rice wrapped in banana leaf from the Indonesian food section but the line to the actual Indonesian dishes was friggin’ long so I went without, hah.

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Say what?! Angasi oysters from all the way in Australia?!

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You actually had to walk across the hallway to another room for desserts. And even though I’m not big on desserts, I couldn’t help but be impressed at the range. They had everything from gelati to eclairs to little cake, both European and Indonesian.

I grabbed a green tea ice cream from the freezer along with two Indonesian favourites, profitjets (Dutch pancakes) and spekkoek (or kue lapis/Indonesian layer cake) covered in chocolate. They were all excellent.

I may only have three had not-so-full plates (and one dessert plate) but I was pretty full – no dinner for me that night! I’m not sure how much the buffet was per person so I can’t say whether dining at The Café is good value for money. Nevertheless, The Café is better than most buffet restaurants I’ve been to and the har gow dumplings are better than most in Jakarta.

Review: Ribs & Burgers

Shop 94-96, Northcote Plaza
3 Separation Street
Northcote VIC 3070
+61 3 9482 7888
http://ribsandburgers.com.au/

When my friend Linda suggested we visit a restaurant that specialised in ribs, I couldn’t help but groan a little. Yes, I love ribs but I was starting to get sick of them given that I’ve had more than my fair share of ribs in the last two years. ‘But this place is better than Squires Loft and better than Hurricane’s,’ insisted Linda.

Okay, fine, I was sold.

Northcote Plaza is the last place I’d expect to find arguably one of Melbourne’s best rib restaurants. It wasn’t even on High Street where the cool kids now hang but instead, at the back of the plaza across a random park. Ribs & Burgers may not be generating a lot of buzz on social media but given how packed the place was getting after 6pm on a weekday night, it’s definitely gaining legs.

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Ribs & Burgers may not win any creativity awards for its name though if a hipster had opened this restaurant in an attempt to be ironic by cashing in on two of the hottest food trends of 2013, then I wouldn’t be surprised. In actual fact, Ribs & Burgers began life in Sydney before finally spreading its wings down south.

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I love how they store all their cutlery and napkins in metal watering cans – too cute.

Rump steak ($23)

Rump steak ($23)

Linda normally goes for the ribs (she’s been here a number of times) but decided to give something else a go. She opted for the steak because it was one of the specials for the night. Not that $23 for a 400g steak plus your choice of cabbage salad or chips isn’t a good enough deal!

Cabbage salad

Cabbage salad

Red and white shredded cabbage leaves combined with chopped apple, roasted pine nuts, mint and parsley made up the core of the salad, while a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing held it together. It was pleasant enough but I think it would have been better if it was an actual coleslaw – I need all that cream to break down the bitter cabbage leaves!

Pork ribs and chips ($29)

Pork ribs and chips ($29)

Prior to arriving at the restaurant, I was being a bit of a moody sook and told Linda that I ‘wasn’t in the mood to eat heaps.’ I even told her that there was a chance I wouldn’t finish all my ribs – I was wrong, much to Linda’s amusement.

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The ribs were marinated in a sticky sweet and tangy sauce, slow cooked for eight hours before being grilled. The meat easily fell off the bones, all of which I licked clean. Yes, all. I even finished the super crunchy and lightly seasoned chips too. Yep. All. Of. It. Everything was that good.

There was nothing bad I could say about Ribs & Burgers. Linda enjoyed her steak while I thought my ribs were the bee’s knees. The service was also pretty good in that we got our meals pretty quickly though to be fair, we arrived before the dinner rush. I would like to return to try the burgers; apparently their burger meat is free range, hormone-free and contains no antibiotics which is always a good sign.

In the meantime, it’ll probably be a while until I order ribs at a restaurant again – unless, of course, I happen to be at Ribs & Burgers.

Ribs & Burgers on Urbanspoon

Event: Pidapipó Gelateria Pop-Up Store Launch Party

222 Faraday Street
Carlton VIC 3053
+61 422 004 750
http://www.pidapipo.com/

Disclaimer: Libby and Dave attended this event as guests of Pidapipó.

Happy New Year, my dear readers!

I hope everyone had a great start to the year and if you’re like me, you would have made vague promises to ‘get hot abs’ and ‘show all them haters’ without actually determining how you’re going to achieve said goals.

Or you could visit every new gelati store that’s opened up in the eastern states of Australia.

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Like moths attracted to light, the hipsters and wannabe-hipsters rocked up to the launch of Melbourne’s newest gelataria, Pidapipó, one Thursday afternoon. I remembered it being a super hot day (does 40 degrees sound about right?) so the event could not have come at a more perfect time.

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With Carpgiani Gelato University-trained owner Lisa Valmorbida behind the wheels, it was all systems go as soon as the doors opened just after 5pm. Walking into the brightly coloured ‘gelato test lab and store’ and being confronted by stainless steel tubs (pozzetti) full of gelati and hot gelati scooper dudes was pretty much my idea of fun on a Thursday arvo!

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There was a lot of this.

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And this.

Yuzu and Vietnamese mint

Yuzu and Vietnamese mint

With fellow bloggers Daisy, Ashley and Aaron rounding up the food blogger quota, we were able to sample a decent range of flavours between the five of us. We loved that Pidapipó went wild with unusual flavours like the very refreshing yuzu and Vietnamese mint sorbet and the vibrant mango milk…

Pistachio, rockmelon and chocolate

Pistachio, rockmelon and chocolate

… but we also appreciated the fact that they also paid homage to tradition by doing flavours such as pistachio and chocolate very well.

Virgin Mojito, hazelnut and gianduja

Virgin Mojito, hazelnut and gianduja

My favourite flavour, however, was the creamy hazelnut which was packed full of nuttiness minus that nasty sugar rush at the end. Sadly, the two flavours that I was most excited about – salted caramel and pineapple – were not available that day but hey, there is always next time.

At Pidapipó, $4.50 gives you one scoop while $7 gives you three. All the flavours we had were light and not terribly heavy on the sugar, including the chocolate one, which always earns a thumbs up in my books! I guess the only thing I have to sook about was that the combination of hot weather and too many people in the one store meant that the air got so warm that the gelati melted very quickly. This meant that I wasn’t able to enjoy my gelati fully. But given that Melbourne doesn’t look to be warming up any time soon (summer? what summer?), perhaps now’s a good time to duck down to Pidapipó for some pineapple gelati.

Pidapipó on Urbanspoon

Review: Pecking Order

440 Church Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9429 3771
http://www.peckingorder.com.au/

Disclaimer: Libby dined as a guest of Pecking Order.

I hope all you lovely readers had a very Merry Christmas/Festivus and that you were sensible enough not to each TOO much food (ahem)!

Now that Christmas is done and dusted for a year and now that I’ve had my few days of rest, I’m going to try to blog regularly – that is, until I leave you all again for a couple of weeks for an overseas trip. And now that we’re all pretty much sick of turkey, let’s turn our focus to the other bird: ostrich chicken.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to give Pecking Order, Richmond’s newest chook shop, a go. Owner Trent Hibbs was an Operations Manager once upon a time ago but decided to open up Pecking Order when he realised that there was a lack of free-range dining options in Melbourne. I have to agree with him – while I do love my Nandos quarter chicken and chips, I am often disappointed when I find that the meat is more often than not, watery and tasteless. Enter Pecking Order and their free-range flame grilled chicken – all au natural, grass-fed and best of all, local.

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The menu is very Nandos-like with chicken in all sizes, burgers and wraps being big ticket items. There’s also a bit of an American twist happening with brownie thickshakes and grilled Buffalo wings also available. There is even a popcorn machine by the counter so customers can help themselves to a few kernels while waiting – I thought that was a pretty nice touch.

Posh nuggets and aioli ($4.50)

Posh nuggets and aioli ($4.50)

The ‘posh nuggets’ were made up of tender chicken breast pieces coated with Japanese panko breadcrumbs. I don’t normally order nuggets at restaurants so my most recent point of reference was a box of soft chicken McNuggets from goodness-knows-when. It took a while to get used to the initial ‘eek chicken breast wah wah dry’ feeling before I realised that they were actually really good nuggets – I especially loved the extra crunch the panko breadcrumbs gave. Oh, and they were pretty big too.

Central Park burger: chicken, fresh rocket, vine tomato, pickle, cheddar, tomato chutney and Dijon mustard ($12)

Central Park burger: chicken, fresh rocket, vine tomato, pickle, cheddar, tomato chutney and Dijon mustard ($12)

Pecking Order continues its dabble in Americana by naming their burgers after famous American places such as Venice Beach and, in this case, Central Park. I’m not sure what makes this burger particularly New York-y but it was delicious nonetheless. My only gripe was that I wish they melted the cheese a little bit, though.

Chicken salt crinkle cut fries ($3)

Chicken salt crinkle cut fries ($3)

You can’t really go wrong with crinkle cut fries and chicken salt so this little cup of salty goodness capped off a fantastic meal. They were fresh from the fryer and beautifully crunchy. I also loved that they were generous with the seasoning too.

It’s very hard to get chicken breast right – especially the non-hormone addled version – but Pecking Order seems to know what they’re doing. I wish there were more free-range options in the city or in my area but it’s good to know that I can always go down the road to Pecking Order if I’m watching either at the ‘G or Melbourne Park.

Pecking Order on Urbanspoon

What I Learnt About Food Blogging at Eat Drink Blog 2013 (And About Perth In General)

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Last month, eighty food bloggers from around the country descended in Perth for Eat Drink Blog, an annual food bloggers conference. I was stoked when I first heard that this year’s conference was to be held in Perth. It gave me an excuse to stock up on Corica apple strudels, perve on FIFO workers and FINALLY visit the other side of Australia.

And learn more about food blogging, of course. So with that in mind…

Here are the top 10 things I learnt about food blogging – and Perth  – during my two nights there:

1. Perth is the only city in the world where planes can land in the CBD. Not particularly interesting to most people but hey, I’m a bit of an aviation geek (blame my dad).

2. There are no Krispy Kreme donut stores in Perth! Being an east coast ignoramus, I assumed that Krispy Kreme stores could be found all over the place. WRONG! No wonder why there were more boxes of Krispy Kremes than passengers on the QF481 flight from Melbourne. I shouldn’t smirk though – I was the loser carrying four boxes of Corica strudels back to Melbourne that Sunday afternoon!

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3. There are a LOT of food bloggers in Perth. For some reason, I was under the impression that most of Australia’s food bloggers lived in the eastern states (with the majority coming from Melbourne and Sydney). However, I was surprised to find that a good portion of conference attendees were locals. And that’s a great thing.

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4. You should NEVER tell food blogger to ‘stop taking photos of chocolate, salted caramel and peanut butter cupcakes.’ Unless you want all eighty of them to turn sharply towards you and give you a greasy that could slaughter a lamb.

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5. When it comes to taking food photos, Simon Park from The Heart of Food says context is important. It’s all well and good to take a photo of a bowl of bacon candy using your super slick EOS 5D but what would make the photo more interesting is if you had someone in the background looking like they were about to attack the candy. Or something like that.

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6. You can never go hungry at a food bloggers conference, especially if lunch is being catered by European Foods Wholesalers. They are an amazing local business and not only do they import a lot of cool food from Europe, they also put on a mean catering spread.

I enjoyed everything from giant Scotch eggs and truffled aioli to smoky pork hock terrine to heirloom tomato salads with basil pesto and marinated buffalo Mozzarella. If I wasn’t so set on having an Asian banquet wedding, I’d happily get these dudes to do my wedding catering (somehow).

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7. Lining up for food at a buffet spread at a food bloggers conference is very different to lining up for food at Smorgy’s (vale). YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR FRIGGIN’ EVERYONE TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE FOOD BEFORE THE LINE ACTUALLY MOVES! Thankfully, everyone at this conference was a food blogger so there was an unspoken air of understanding.

8. Polka dotted-attire seemed to be popular at the conference. In fact, I saw more polka dots than I saw ‘hot lawyer’ and ‘#EDB13’ mentions on Twitter that weekend.

9. The PR and ethics panel starring Phil and Cynthia sparked more fervour than a Collingwood supporter watching their team being only a goal behind in the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter. ‘To work with PR or NOT to work with PR?’ would be the #1 question on any food blogger’s mind, just ahead of ‘Canon or Nikon?’ Ultimately, I don’t think it matters whether you work with PR or not. But if you do, you MUST disclose it on your blog. Don’t be the asshat who attends freebie events and dinners but does not let his or her readers know that said event or dinners were freebies – and THEN go around Twitter etc, telling people that you don’t accept invites and that people who accept invites suck. PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT.

10. Perth is full of amazingly nice people (and I’m not just talking about the conference organisers and attendees, and my friend Dave either). It is also home to some pretty cool restaurants (24-hour pho restaurants and Marmite chicken, anyone?). That said, getting decent coffee on Sunday mornings is more difficult than trying to get the elderly luddites in my workplace to stop complaining for ONE DAY.

The conference organisers did a fantastic job and whichever city gets the gig next year will have a tough act to follow. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to learn, to make new friends and go to Scarborough Beach on a 37-degree day without being attacked by sharks. Plus, Perth itself is fantastic. The city is only a four-hour flight away from Jakarta so the next time I book a flight up north, I’ll make sure I’ll stop in Perth for a couple of days.

Review: Mr Nice Guy

Shop J, 535 Little Lonsdale Street (enter via Healeys Lane)
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9973 1761

When I heard that Middle Fish owners Pla Liamthong and David Holtum were opening up a Thai restaurant around the corner from my office, I was more excited than I was yesterday when Australia reclaimed The Ashes. I’ve been to and loved Middle Fish, so I knew that Mr Nice Guy, their city venture, was going to be something special.

Unfortunately, due to laziness and my propensity to bring lunch from home in order to save money it took me a while to get my arse down to Mr Nice Guy. It took not only a quiet work day (and thus, an extra 15 minutes for lunch), but also a colleague’s two thumbs up for Peter and I to give this place a go – and we were glad we did.

Like Middle Fish, Mr Nice Guy is decked out with shabby-chic fittings courtesy of Thai artist, Torlarp Larpjaroensook. Colourful Pantone-style tiles and friendly waiters completed the look, while loud hip hop music provided the score. In the ‘burbs, we’re used to seeing Thai restaurants decked in elephants, Buddha statues and lots of purple so this was a refreshing change (even though I’m not a fan of hip hop). In saying that, I have no idea why they went with a non-stereotypical name for the restaurant – who is this Mr Nice Guy anyway?

Thai iced milk tea

Thai iced milk tea

It was a reasonably warm spring day so my iced milk tea went down a treat. While it could have done with less ice, the tea itself was creamy and sweet without being overpowering.

Kha na: Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and twice-cooked pork belly served with shallow fried egg on rice ($14.90)

Kha na: Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and twice-cooked pork belly served with shallow fried egg on rice ($14.90)

Pete settled on the kha na, a rice dish. The twice-cooked pork belly was sweet with subtle hints of spiciness and saltiness. Chinese broccoli provided greenery while the shallow-fried egg was cooked beautifully – crispy on the edges, and soft in the middle.

Pad thai with tiger prawns ($14.90)

Pad thai with tiger prawns ($14.90)

I decided to be a bit of a gweilo by ordering the pad thai (please don’t judge). As far as pad thais go, this one was pretty good. I received a generous serving of chewy rice noodles and they weren’t tight with the prawns either. It may have been a little sweet but thankfully, there was enough tamarind water in the sauce to make me happy. I guess the only bad thing I have to say about it was: why so many carrots on top?

It wasn’t an expensive lunch (though to be fair, neither of us try to spend more than $10 on lunch if we were to eat out so we forked out more than what we’re normally used to) and I’d definitely come back to try their dinner menu. These days, I stay back in the office twice a week to get other work done so there is definitely no excuse for me not to pop down to Mr Nice Guy after dark for slightly out-there Thai dishes. Hurstbridge pork belly and oyster sauce foam, anyone?

Mr. Nice Guy on Urbanspoon

Review: Adriano Zumbo Patisserie (Melbourne)

12-14 Claremont Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
http://www.adrianozumbo.com/

I think it’s fair to say that most of us know who Adriano Zumbo is so my introduction will be brief. He’s the bald-headed dude whose face launched a thousand shits on Masterchef when he gave the contestants the task to create a croquembouche. He’s the dude partly responsible for making macarons a ‘thing’ in Australia. And he’s the dude who made a savoury-over-sweets-thanks person like me go crazy over his dessert train at The Star in Sydney last year.

Thankfully Melbourne’s Zumbo lovers do not need to hop on a plane to Sydney if they’re craving Zumbo’s macarons (or ‘zumbarons’). Zumbo’s first Melbourne store opened two months ago and as predicted, a huge crowd rocked up to the party on the first day of trading.

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Dave and I decided to wait it out before heading to the store. We both finish work at a reasonable hour and so we agreed to meet in the South Yarra store at 4:45pm on a Tuesday afternoon. We were stoked to see no line outside the door; however we were not prepared to be told that they had sold out of little cakes and tart! Nor were we prepared to be greeted by the sight of these strange-looking seats – they looked like they were covered in some strange marshallow-soapy-fairy-floss thing.

Passionfruit curd and pâté sucrée ($6)

Passionfruit curd and pâté sucrée ($6)

Luckily, Dave got there minutes before I did and was able to snag the very last tart, a passionfruit curd one.

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The tart was beautiful. From the crumbly base to the tangy and velvety filling, the tart proved to be a hit for us self-confessed carnivores.

Strawberry Danish ($4.50)

Strawberry Danish ($4.50)

There were a few Danishes left so I grabbed a strawberry one for myself and one for my workmate, Amy.

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Despite the fact that it was towards the end of the day, the pastry was still crispy and flaky. I was also impressed with the filling – the strawberries were sweet and fresh, while the custard was creamy with the slightest hint of tartness.

Zumbarons ($2.50). Left box: pineapple & lime, apple pie; right box: pandan & sticky rice, yoghurt & passionfruit).

Zumbarons ($2.50). Left box: pineapple & lime, apple pie; right box: pandan & sticky rice, yoghurt & passionfruit).

Of course, one can’t leave a Zumbo store without taking home some macarons – sorry, zumbarons. At $2.50 each, they’re pretty good value for money when you think about the fact that some places sell crappy ones for about the same price. Upon Daisy’s recommendation, I grabbed the pandan & sticky rice zumbaron – it almost felt like I was eating a pandan-flavoured bika ambon in macaron form. Meanwhile, I liked the piquancy of the yoghurt and passionfruit one and the tanginess of the pineapple & lime. My favourite, however, was the apple pie one – it was tart with hints of cinnamon. Somehow Zumbo also managed to capture the essence of the crust for I could taste a hint of pastry dough. This, I reckon, prevented the apple pie zumbaron from tasting too one dimensional.

This Zumbo store is a worthy addition to the growing Claremont Street repertoire, and one that Melburnians have embraced like today’s sunshine (we’re in the middle of December and we’re finally starting to see legit summer weather!). I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to try one of Zumbo’s cakes though knowing my luck, I’ll probably have more luck hopping on a plane to Sydney and scoring one at The Star than in Melbourne!

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Review: Red Lea Chicken (Gold Coast, QLD)

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

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

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

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

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

Crumbed chicken piece ($1.80 each)

Crumbed chicken piece ($1.80 each)

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

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

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

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

Red Lea Chicken on Urbanspoon

Review: Yum Cha Robina (Gold Coast, QLD)

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

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

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

Pork and prawn dumplings

Pork and prawn dumplings

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

Scallop and prawn dumplings

Scallop and prawn dumplings

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

Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

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

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

Egg custard bun

Egg custard bun

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

Ginger tripe

Ginger tripe

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

Zhaliang (Chinese dough stick wrapped in rice noodle rolls)

Zhaliang (Chinese dough stick wrapped in rice noodle rolls)

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

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

Har gow (prawn dumplings)

Har gow (prawn dumplings)

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

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

Yum Cha Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Review: Sushi Bay Robina (Gold Coast, QLD)

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

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

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

Salmon, tuna, avocado sushi ($3.50)

Salmon, tuna, avocado sushi ($3.50)

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

Chicken teriyaki temaki ($4.50)

Chicken teriyaki temaki ($4.50)

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

Tuna and salmon sushi ($3.50)

Tuna and salmon sushi ($3.50)

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

Crab croquette ($3.50)

Crab croquette ($3.50)

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

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

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