Friday, October 31, 2014

Matteo's, North Fitzroy by Bureaucrat

Located in North Fitzroy, Matteo's is known for its Asian-European fusion cuisine and is also quite a favourite spot for wedding receptions. Having seen photos of some of the food that's served at Matteo's, we were all very keen in trying out the food ourselves.

For a double whammy family celebration, we rocked up to try its lazy Sunday lunch menu.  For $79 per person, it was great value and, boy, we all rolled home afterwards and either had a light meal or no food for dinner.  

The Asian-European fusion thing is evident from the start.  First, bread, butter and some Japanese seaweed sprinkles (I'm not sure what it was called exactly).

There are four starters, which are served as shared plates for the table.  I use the term starters lightly, as these were all pretty big serves.  So much so that I already had to pace myself if I wanted to eat both my main dishes and desserts.

The scorched Mooloolaba cobia sashimi w shisho-ponzu dressing was my favourite of the entrees.  Even though I am squeamish about raw fish, I didn't mind this at all... I really didn't mind it!  Sweet, succulent and not a hint of fishiness whatsoever.  The dressing imparted a savoury flavour and the bonito flakes gave the dish a nice umami depth, while the smooth avocado mousse gave the dish a lovely silky texture.

The panko crumbed goat's cheese was my next favourite - hefty orbs of smooth, semi-molten, salty cheese with a thin crisp crust.  Given the size, they were truly decadent, and I loved the golden colour.

The next two starters were quite meaty, and I think most of us either liked them (but not as much as the other two) or thought they were rather ho hum.  The spicy veal, wombok and salted beef bresaola rolls was my least favourite starter.  It was really quite meaty, and I'm not a fan of veal.  While the pungent cabbage aromas from the wombok and the strong scented bresaola competed against each other and didn't really marry up with each other.

We all wished the Peking duck rillettes were actually the proper Peking duck w pancakes.  Cute presentation with the slice of fried lotus root and pickled ginger.  However, the shredded duck and the rather thick spring onion crepe (more of a pancake then crepe) just didn't do it for me.  Plus, one of the best bit of Peking duck is the wafer thin, crispy skin, which was lost in translation.

By this stage, I was actually starting to get full.  For the two main courses, there are two options each.  So between us all, we ordered one of everything.  The first main course was a choice between crab and cod.  Both were excellent and we couldn't decide which one we liked more.

The spanner crab wonton ravioli was served with Asian coleslaw w beanshoots and choko and a tom kha galangal sauce.  The gorgeously delicate sweet crab went really well with the creamy sauce and the refreshing salad.  A really classy ravioli!

The miso-baked black cod fillet w broad beans, heirloom carrots and taramasalata was heavier but equally delicious.  Very fresh fish that was succulent and the firm flesh could hold its own against the the utterly perfect taramasalata - smooth, creamy and oozing with umami.  Great pairing of flavours.

The next course was a choice between chicken and pork.  Thankfully the spatchcock chicken was smaller than I was expecting (I was fearing the a whole chook).  A lovely golden crust on the Maryland.  It came with grilled baby corn (still in its husk), sugar snap peas and a mild Balinese yellow curry sauce.  If this dish wasn't part of the lazy lunch menu, I'd happily eat it with a nice bowl of rice (although, I'm not sure they have rice as a side dish).

The roasted Golden Plains pork hock roulade was quite yummy except that we were getting really full.  A lovely thick pan fried crust on the roulade contained the slow-cooked pork on the inside.  A lovely fat-to-meat ratio going.  Another pleasant surprise was that I liked the macerated prunes that was served with it.  It was unusual but worked well with the fatty pork - the soft squidgy texture of the prunes closely matched that of the fatty pork hock.  It also came with cider braised cabbage, cauliflowers and a ginger wine glaze.

A trio of desserts soon followed.  The chocolate fondant (top) was okay but nothing memorable; the rum and raisin ice cream was suitably boozy and served on a bed of crumbled biscuits (which was surprisingly my favourite of the desserts given that I tend not to like this flavour combo); while the passionfruit trifle w red velvet cake and pineapple wasn't as nice as I had hoped - while I liked the tart trifle it didn't go well with the drier cubes of cake and the juicy pineapple.

Instead of the dessert plate, a few of us asked for a cheese plate.  Three types of cheese, a fruit paste, a savoury chutney, crackers and a very nice apricot and nut bread.

Because it would have been rude (and I hate to be rude), I also tried some of the warm sticky date pudding that was complementary.  Warm, sticky and a mellow sweetness, it was nice but we were simply too full to enjoy this (or even finish it).  It was served with roasted bananas and some mousse.  While tasty, it was perhaps not the prettiest dish.

Tea and coffee is not included in the lunch menu, but we definitely had to order some to help us savour the desserts.  I liked how they came with a macaroon.

Food - 8.5
Ambiance - 8
Service - 8.5
Price - 8 .5

Wow - there's a lot of food for $79!  Interesting fusion cuisine, although, some the flavour combinations for some dishes were executed better than others (but you gotta give them points for being creative).  I would have liked more veggies featured on the menu, as it is quite meat-based.

Service is professional and friendly.  A great place to go if you want to impress and try something a bit different.

533 Brunswick St
Fitzroy North 3068
Telephone: 9481 1177

Matteo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fiddle River, Jasper (Canada) by Bureaucrat

I don't know about you, but when I'm on holidays, one of the 'to do' things at any place I visit is to have a special meal or two.

So arriving in the early evening in Jasper (which is located within Jasper National Park), I honed in on Fiddle River, a pan-Europeany-Canadian restaurant that feels like an Irish gastropub.

Athabasca glacier, en route to Jasper.

Fiddle River is a quaint lodge style restaurant, where daily specials are inscribed on a large chalk board which is presented to each table on an easel for their consideration.  It has wooden decor, mood lighting from the candles and views of the Jasper train station (where you can see the Rocky Mountaineer and other trains pass through the town, and if you're lucky, a bear or two on the train tracks scrounging for wheat that has fallen off the cargo trains).

Having placed our order we had some warm bread.

Because the menu looked so good, we decided to get an entree to share.  These delectable crab cakes were oh so good!  Delicate and sweet, you really had to savour it (instead of being a greedy guts and wolfing it down).  It was garnished with deep fried potato matchsticks, mayo and these salty, I-want-some-more, nubbly, soft bits of bacon (the little pinkish bits on the plate) and parsley.

The mains were equally delicious.  All the mains are served w mash and four seasonal vegetables; they're also fairly generous in size and piping hot!  The Lawyer's bison lasagna was made with organic buffalo bolognese, basil and chive pesto, and topped with herbed ratatouille and double smoked cheddar mornay sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Bubbling hot and very hearty.  It was rich and filling and the ratatouille helped lighten the richness of the sauce and cheese.

I ordered the braised elk stroganoff.  Lots of tender chunks of slow braised elk w caramelised onions and smoked paprika.  The cognac demi glaze added a lovely depth of flavour to the dish.  Quite a nice change from a typical beef stroganoff.

We spotted dinner an elk on the highway.

Despite being quite full, we convinced ourselves to try desserts because we were so impressed with the entree and mains. Sadly, the desserts were definitely not as good.

In the case of the Lawyer's vanilla ice cream sundae, the whole was not greater than the sum of the parts.  Bog-standard, supermarket vanilla ice cream with a chalky hot choc sauce and some a few token toasted almonds and whipped cream on top.  For $8, we could have bought a tub of ice cream from the shops and it would have been better.

My creme brulee w toasted almond brittle and whipped cream was slightly better, but that wasn't saying much.  A rather small serve of the custard creme in a tea cup.  The brittle was more like smithereens and the whipped cream didn't add much to the dish.

Food - 9.5 for the entree and mains; 6 for the desserts
Ambiance - 7
Service - 7
Price - 7.5

Except for the desserts, the food here is delicious and perfect for when you're travelling - it's hearty, healthy and full of good proteins and veg.  It's like a great home-cooked meal.

The service is friendly but the food tends to take a wee bit long to come out.  But given that you're up in the mountains, everyone is running on mountain time and you should take the opportunity to slow down and have some slow food.

Fiddle River
620 Connaught Dr
Jasper AB T0E
Telephone: (780) 852-3032

Fiddle River Restaurant‎ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ba'get, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

There are plenty of Vietnamese eateries popping up around town.  And for me, it seems like the benchmark gets lifted each time a new entrant comes onto the scene.

While Big Fil checked out the Russel Street Ba'get a few months ago (see his review in July 2014), I've only recently tried out their food when Ba'get opened a store on LaTrobe Street.  And since my first visit, I've been back many times.

It's not hard to see why this place is popular - fast service, fresh ingredients, great serving size and most of the menu is under $10.  Plus, it's a light, and healthy (especially now that the weather is warming up) and gluten free (for the noodle bowls), what's not to like?

On my first visit, I went with Mr S.  We both got the vermicelli noodle salads.  Each salad bowl comes with lots of warm vermicelli, julliened carrots, shredded lettuce, cuces, mint and garnished with mint and lots of roasted nuts, fried onions and chilli (which is optional) and a tub of nuoc cham.  Mr S chose roast pork and pork and taro spring rolls on top.  

I went for the lemongrass chicken version.  I loved the bountiful amount of noodles and there's quite a good amount of chicken too.  They don't skimp on any of the salad ingredients, either.  The lemongrass chicken is my favourite as the chicken is tender and you can actually taste the lemongrass.  However, I have tried the lemongrass pork and pulled chicken - while they were nice, the lemongrass is a clear winner for me.

Having heard the positive reviews from me and other colleagues in the office, Ms H was keen to check out Ba'get.  She has had both the noodles bowls and the banh mi.  She prefers the latter and reckons it's great value for just under $7 for lunch.  A crispy baguette with roast pork pickled carrots, cucumber slices and coriander.

Food – 8.5
Ambiance – 6.5
Service – 7.5
Price – 8.5

Great value and tasty noodle bowls.  Definitely a keeper for me, and it's taken over Roll'd, Twee's Hut and Rice Paper as my go-to place for quick, cheap Vietnamese workday lunch in the city.  It would be fabulous, however, if Ba'get starts to offer betel leaf wrapped beef on the menu.

The only downside is the limited seating.  The place gets pretty crowded quickly (from people dining in or waiting for their orders), if you chose to dine-in, be prepared to have people queuing up against your table as you're trying to it's best to get the food as takeaway.

3/284-290 La Trobe St
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9326 3449

Ba'get on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Harry's Restaurant, (by invitation) Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

Horses, fashion on the field and the Spring Carnival burger!  Yep, it's almost Melbourne Cup day and what better way to enjoy this annual event than with some fine food.

While the Eat and Be Merry Crew were invited to try out the Spring Carnival burger at Harry's Restaurant at the Stamford Plaza hotel, we were also lucky enough to try its range of Spring Racing cocktails and its ever evolving Irresistible menu.

Because it reminded him of fond memories of a mild English summer, the Lawyer ordered one of the Spring Racing cocktails - the Pimms Spring Cup.  A traditional style Pimms mixed with lemonade, ginger ale, garnished with lots of fruit (chunky wedges of oranges, limes, lemons and strawberries).   It's a light, refreshing and fruity cocktail that would suit those who prefer a less alcoholic cocktail.

We were treated to a tasting platter of some of the Irresistible dishes, as chosen by Executive Chef Ketan Seth.  

These cute coastal hapuka sliders were impressive - I loved the meaty chunk of the firm hapuka that was served with snow pea tendrils and caper mayo.  

The fried 'Hojiblanca' stuffed olives were very morish and my favourite.  The plump green olives were destoned and filled with a creamy centre and encased in a thin, crunchy crust.  The chive and feta aioli was thick and rich and gave the olives an extra luxeness to them.  Great with a drink!

I loved the smoky flavour from the char-grilled chicken satays with the aromatic peanut sauce.

Amazing was how the Lawyer described the crispy pulled pork belly.  Served like a san choi bao, the filling was a sizeable orb of tender strands of pork belly which had then been deep fried so that it had a delightful crispy crust.  The added deliciousness of the pork belly came from the sweet and sticky honey ginger glaze on top.  It was served with lettuce and spring onions, which gave a textural and refreshing contrast to the pork.  This is also Executive Chef Ketan's favourite dish.

The crispy, sweet, salty and chilli school prawns were served with aioli.  You could easily polish this off as they're small and oh so tasty.

And the chunky sweet potato chips makes a welcoming alternative to potato chips.

Now for the burgers - definitely these are the biggest burgers I've had ever eaten!  With a regular staple (or should I say, stable?) of seven magnificent burgers, throughout the year, Harry's also has specialty burgers on offer.  

Its Spring Carnival burger is an impressive burger to behold - the 100% grilled striploin patty was pretty near perfect - definitely it's made from proper steak (not a hint of gristle) and quite hefty in size.  It's served well done, however, I would have preferred it to be medium-well. The other toppings are equally generous - thick slices of avocado, Cabernet glazed mushrooms (I quite liked how you could actually taste the red wine), tasty cheese, lots of fresh rocket, tomatoes and herbed mayo.  It is served with chips.  

The Aussie burger is one of the Magnificent Seven burgers.  This was my favourite of the two burgers as it had all my favourite burger toppings.  Along with salad, cheese, mayo and salsa, the beef patty was topped with caramelised onions, a fried egg, grilled pineapple and rashers of streaky bacon - yum!  It's serious hard work to eat the burger as it's so big to get your hands and mouth around it. 

I got a glass of juice with my burger, while the Lawyer decided to stick to his cocktail.

Food - 8.5
Ambiance - 7
Service - 8.5
Price - 7.5 for the Irresistible menu; 8.5 for the burgers
*Scores are notional as we were guests of Harry's Restaurant.

Harry's Restaurant consistently delivers with well executed, high quality dishes.  The Irresistible menu is aptly named as it offers a diverse range of cuisines made with fresh ingredients to tempt you try one or two small plates or indulge in any combination of the small, large and specialty dishes.

The burgers are really great value.  The Spring Carnival burger is only available for a limited time.  For $22 you get the burger, chips and glass of bubbly.  Even greater value are the Magnificent Seven burger range.  At lunch time, you can get any of the burgers, with chips and drink (including house wine and tap beer) for $15 - definitely a competitive offer for those buying lunch during the work week considering that a burger sans chips and drinks at most upmarket burger franchises will cost you the same amount.

Service is friendly, attentive and prompt.

Harry's Restaurant
Stamford Plaza Hotel
111 Lt Collins St
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9659 1592

Harry's Cafe on Urbanspoon
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