Thursday, January 29, 2009

What really matters - Yakiniku

One of the best things about being in Melbourne is the chance to spend some time with my older brother who lives and works in this city he has come to love. My brother has always been someone I've always looked up to and we have a hard to describe connection that has always kept us close even though we now live in different cities.

Part of our connection is our common love for food - and on his recommendation, we arrived at Izakaya Chuji for dinner. Instead of the usual izakaya fare in the main restaurant downstairs, we headed to the upper level for a meal of yakiniku - grilled meat over wood charcoal. We ordered a very refreshing dish of yukke (a Japanese take on steak tartare) to start which was fantastic over a bowl of piping hot rice.

For our yakiniku, we selected gyu tan (ox tongue) and wagyu beef which had been marinated in tare (mirin, sake, soy, sugar). The meat selection was spot on and I was particularly fond of the gyu tan which had a great bite and flavour. The buttery wagyu was terrific with the smokiness of the charcoal perfuming the succulent slices of meat. The cuts of meat used here were great and very fresh.

I thoroughly enjoyed eating and cooking our meal with my brother over a bottle of sake. The fact that I enjoyed it so much was also a reminder of the things that really matter... It wasn't the decor (the restaurant is a little tired looking) or the service (you're left to your own devices most of the time)... it was pure and simply, the ingredients that made it... great produce and the company of one of the people you love - afterall, that's what all great meals are born of.

Izakaya Chuji
165 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne Vic 3000

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Marvellous Movida

In a city that prides itself on fantastic eateries tucked away in the myriad of Melbournesque alleys, Movida still stands out as one of the best places to seek out for a drink and bite to eat. A spanish tapas bar, it serves up Spanish fare with little twists... but more importantly, the cooking is excellent and everything is well executed.

We stopped by here just after lunch and were only after a small snack with a drink... but the menu proved too alluring. We started with a Croqueta of leek and mahon cheese - simple, crunchy, cheesy and utterly addictive. We then followed with a crumbed stuffed quail leg of manchego cheese and spanish ham. The quail leg was perfectly tender and the contrast of the crunchy exterior and creamy fillings done just right. Then came a Cecina of air dried wagyu beef topped with a truffle foam and poached egg. The richness of the egg, earthiness of the truffle foam and salty, buttery cecina was a real treat for the taste buds... lovely.

Already stuffed from what had become a second lunch, we couldn't resist ordering the churros with rich drinking chocolate. The version here is great - crunchy just fried doughnuts with a chewy texture, it was doused with vanilla bean sugar and great with the accompanying hot drinking chocolate.

Service here is efficient and the prices are fairly reasonable for a tapas bar of this calibre. But what I love most about Movida's food is that their inventive menu that tries to mix and match flavours as well as textures in their food.

Movida draws in the meal time crowds naturally - which is why I've always tried to make a detour here for an afternoon snack on my previous trips to Melbourne... and always walked away feeling the guilt of having had a second lunch.

1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne 3000
(Open noon till late)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


We often do things that seem a little extreme... bothersome and well... a little fanatical. This was definitely the case when I decided to make a beef broth for pho (Vietnamese beef noodles) from beef bones that I had picked up recently from the butcher. This is a recipe adapted from Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen, drawing from the dishes from her popular Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney.

2 beef shin bones (get your butcher to chop these into smaller pieces)
1.5kg beef shin
1 whole free range chicken
120g dried ginger
20g cinnamon
4 cloves
100g caster sugar
70g rock salt
100ml fish sauce
1 bulb ginger cut in half and char grilled
2 onions chargrilled in their skins

Cover bones, chicken and beef in cold water with 2 tablespoons salt and leave for 2 hours. Discard water and scrub bones.

Return into pot and fill with 8 litres cold water. Add dried ginger, cinnamon and cloves wrapped in a muslin cloth and boil on high heat, skimming to remove scum.

Add sugar, salt and fish sauce and simmer for a further 2 hours. Remove beef shin and cover with stock - leave to cool.

Fill pot to 8 litres again and reduce flame to simmer for 5 hours. Skim excess oil off surface of broth.

Strain broth and discard ingredients. Wrap ginger and onions in muslin cloth and add to pot to cook for further 2 hours. Season to taste. Serve piping hot with freshly boiled pho topped with finely sliced onions. spring onions, sliced beef shin. Provide thai basil, sliced red chilli, lemon wedges and beansprouts as accompaniments.

This recipe will probably take you over 2 days to prepare, but you'll learn to develop a deeper appreciation for this dish. But a word of warning... you just may become a pho-natic too.

Jus needs tweaking

Jus Burgers is the newest addition to the recent onslaught of gourmet burger joints in Perth in recent months. Located in Leederville where the young and hip hang out, this tiny eatery has a casual but cool vibe that fits in nicely with its target market.

The concept here is a burger bar which sources all of its ingredients locally (think Harvey beef, Mount Barker free range chicken, turkish bread from the local bakery, etc).

The menu is also innovative (and extensive). Aside from a list of interesting beef burgers (chorizo, wagyu, foie gras), Jus also offers up creations from chicken, pork, fish, vegetables and even kangaroo.

Cool vibe, great concept, inventive menu... Jus has all the right ingredients to be a success, and its already drawing in the crowds. Unfortunately however, there are quite a few tweaks required to their burgers if they are to have longevity in their popularity.

We ordered the Blue Cheese burger with grilled field mushrooms and the Wagyu burger with wasabi mayonnaise, both on wholemeal buns. The former was smothered a little too generously in blue cheese sauce (as opposed to real blue cheese) which made it a mess to eat but also a little too overpowering. The latter, which should have been juicy, succulent and full of flavour typical from wagyu (even if it is in a burger) lost alot of this appeal because it was overcooked - resulting in a tough patty that was dry and very bland. Both burgers suffered from a bun that was not toasted enough - which meant doughy bread that absorbed way too much of the accompanying sauces.

But all is not lost - the staff and owner of the restaurant are incredibly passionate about their venture and it shows in their eagerness to get things right. With tweaks in their execution, the team here have great potential to do jus-tice to this burger bar.

Jus Burgers
743 Newcastle St
Leederville 6007

Jus Burgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Looking behind the cover

Another one of my favourite haunts in Perth is Jun, a yakitori and kushiyaki specialist tucked away in a dark alley of the unpopular end of Hay Street. This part of town is unattractive, dreary and in desperate need of a face lift.

Jun at first glance can be quite intimidating - hidden downstairs of a dark alleyway with its doors splattered with random graffiti, you wouldn't walk in here unless you have been told of what lies beneath or have tasted its offerings yourself.

I am a big fan of the yakitori here, particularly the sunagimo (chicken giblets), nankotsu (chicken cartilage) and tebasaki (chicken wings). All perfectly grilled and seasoned with your choice of shio (salt) or tare (teriyaki) glaze.

Jun also moves into izakaya territory with its extensive menu which extends beyond yakitori. They also have a daily specials menu that highlights seasonal items, something I think is really cool. On the day we visited, we had a deliciously fruity and succulent kumato (Japanese black tomato), served simply sliced with sea salt and a mayonnaise dipping sauce. The highlight for me was tori sasami shiso maki furai, a perfectly crispy deep fried dish of crumbed chicken tenderloin wrapped in shiso leaves. So good.

We also had a few other interesting deep fried dishes, including tako karaage oroshi ponzu (deep fried octopus in ponzu sauce) and sunagimo karaage (deep fried marinated chicken giblets). All extremely tasty paired with icy cold Sapporo beer. But what I always love finishing the meal off with here is an order of yaki onigiri chazuke, a crispy grilled japanese rice ball topped with salmon flakes in a heartwarming broth of dashi and toasted sesame seeds.

Jun is a great place to come to for drinks (BYO and there's a bottle shop just a few shops down) with stunning food at reasonable prices. Its particularly popular with the local Japanese business community, work mates who come together after a long week of work to have a good time.

You'd be forgiven for not realising that there's such a gem of a restaurant in this part of town... but you won't forgive yourself for not checking Jun out for yourselves once you have.

Jun Izakaya
568(B1) Hay St. Perth 6000
Phone: (08)9221-3339

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nasu Dengaku - My Version

Nasu Dengaku is a delicious dish of eggplant broiled with miso. I love eggplant done this way for the creamy texture of the eggplant and the richness of the miso when grilled. Whilst usually a side dish, I like to have it as the main event, accompanied by pan fried chicken and tofu steaks. I also add, unconventionally, parmesan cheese when broiling the eggplant which forms a beautifully salty crust that I think is great with the sweetness of the miso.


For the nasu dengaku
1 medium sized eggplant cut into 1.5 inch steaks (rub with salt, leave for 15 minutes, rinse off and pat dry with kitchen paper)
1 tablespoon white miso (or shiromiso)
2 teaspoons fine sugar
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1 handful of grated parmesan (as usual, try to get your hands on parmigiano reggiano)
mixture of corn and plain flour for coating

For the tofu steaks
1 block of firm tofu cut into 1 inch steaks (wrap in kitchen paper and place a weight on top to drain excess liquid)
2 cloves finely minced garlic
mixture of corn and plain flour for coating
salt and pepper to taste

For the pan fried chicken
1 free range chicken breast cut into 4 one inch thick steaks
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
few drops of sesame oil

1. Lightly coat the eggplant in the flour mixture and pan fry over medium high heat until golden brown (you don't have to cook this completely). Stick these into your oven grill at its lowest setting.
2. Coat tofu in garlic, seasonings and flour mixture - then pan fry till golden brown. Cover in foil and leave under grill to keep warm.
3. Marinate chicken for at least 20 minutes and then pan fry quickly in a hot pan, turning over several times to prevent burning. Cover with foil to rest and set aside.
4. Mix miso topping (excluding cheese) and cover eggplant steaks. Turn grill to a medium heat and cook for a further 5 minutes (by which time the miso should be bubbling). In the mean time, simmer the remaining miso sauce in a pan until alcohol has burned off. Then, sprinkle eggplant with parmesan cheese generously and place under grill again under the highest setting - this should only take around 2-3 minutes until a crust forms.
5. To serve, slice chicken diagonally and place at centre of plate, place grilled eggplant on top. Place tofu steaks around the plate. Drizzle remaining miso sauce on plate and garnish with more parmesan cheese and finely sliced spring onions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spaghetti with Slow cooked Veal Ragu

One of the great things about being back in Australia is the affordability and availability of great ingredients to whip up a delicious but simple pasta meal... something that I really missed when I was in Singapore. This is a dead simple dish but very tasty and perfect for a fuss free mid week dinner.

400g good quality veal shank (which your butcher can happily mince up for you)
350g dried good quality spaghetti
Bottle of Passata
Glass of white wine
2 cloves Garlic thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves
Diced carrots, celery and onions
Roughly chopped Italian parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
The all important parmesan (get your hands on Parmigiano Reggiano if you can get some - it makes all the difference)
Splash of full cream.
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Slowly fry up the carrots, celery, onions and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of sea salt on a low heat and cover (this is to allow the vegetables to steam and not burn) - after around 5 minutes,the onions should be slightly translucent.
2. Add mince to pan and brown. Pour in the passata, chopped parsley stalks, bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, turn down to a medium low heat, cover and leave to cook for approximately 40 minutes. You can basically forget about the ragu at this stage and go about and do whatever you need to do.
3. 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, boil up the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water.
4. Season the ragu with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Add three handfuls of the grated cheese, splash of cream and toss the pasta through.

Serve up on a heated plate garnished with more cheese and chopped parsley.

A simply cooked meal that's simply delicious - exactly what home cooking should be all about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ria - When change is good

My favourite place in Perth to get a fix of good Malaysian food is Ria in Leederville. Of course, Malaysian food, just like other great cuisines, is very regional - but Ria doesn't exactly subscribe to any particular region per se. What it does offer up, however, is fantastic curries, stews, salads and rice dishes that are distinctly flavoured, distinctly unique but distinctly Malaysian in its roots.

I particularly love the Hainanese stewed oxtail - melt in your mouth oxtail cooked in a rich and very moreish sauce with a good lashing of kaffir lime leaves. The Portugese styled baked fish is a perfectly moist fish fillet baked with an intense sambal sauce in a banana leaf - great bite to this dish and oh so good. All the curries here are made from fresh rempahs (spice pastes) which definitely makes a huge difference in the way of flavour and aroma (just take a whiff by walking past this restaurant and you'll know what I mean).

Ria is a huge success in Perth and you'll be hard pressed to get a table if you don't book ahead. But business hasn't always been good - you see the owner Richard Serrano, of Italian heritage, and his wife, Deborah Ting, a Malaysian, first started an Italian trattoria at this site. Things didn't run smoothly for their initial venture and so, biting the bullet, they renovated the restaurant and re-opened as a modern Malaysian restaurant, giving Deborah an opportunity to shine in a cuisine she is obviously very comfortable with. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It probably wasn't an easy decision to completely revamp what must have been a labour of love... but Richard and Deborah are now all the better off for it. Change can sometimes be daunting and often driven by circumstance... but in Ria's case, it also just happens to taste darn good.

Ria on Urbanspoon

Breakfast in Perth: Lemon Lane

Its good to be back in Perth. Clean air, pristine beaches, friendly neighbours... and as much as I love this sleepy city, one thing that does disappoint is the variety of good dining options available. Compared to its sister cities of Melbourne and Sydney (and also Singapore where I've spent the past nine months), Perth struggles to provide hungry foodseekers like myself something to look forward to.

Thankfully, there are still a handful of worthy eateries that try to set themselves apart from the usual dreary establishments by serving up interesting and well prepared grub. Lemon Lane in Claremont is one of these places. Tucked away in a narrow alley in this affluent neighbourhood, Lemon whips up a great coffee (something that Singapore still struggles to do) and delicious fresh juice concoctions.

We skipped the usual big breakfast fry up and opted instead for their hash cakes and corn fritters. The first was a twist on eggs benedict - smoked salmon sandwiched between two freshly made potato patties, topped with wilted spinach and a perfectly poached free range egg. And instead of being smothered with sauce, the hollandaise was delicious and thoughtfully placed on the side.

The latter was just as good, a play on Canadian pancakes, it was instead freshly made corn fritters sandwiching candied bacon and drizzled with maple syrup. The roasted tomato and avocado salsa on the side was perfect in cutting through the richness of this dish. Sleek decor, good food, great coffee and chilled out vibe... my only gripe with this place is that the food does take some time and it probably does need to constantly update its menu to keep things fresh and interesting.

Perth may still be a sleepy city that has a long way to go in reaching the culinary diversity of the likes of Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore - but thanks to places like Lemon Lane, its still giving me something good to wake up to.

Lemon Lane
Bay View Terrace
Claremont, WA 6010

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kiri Japanese Restaurant

I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday recently at Kiri Japanese Restaurant in Perth (yes… I’m back after a 9 month separation from my adopted home). I must disclose at this point however that I am not completely impartial in this review… you see - the owner and chef of this tiny little eatery in Shenton Park, Taka, is a friend through my sister.

Taka and his charming wife, Noriko, started Kiri out of sheer passion and commitment, after having come to Australia to provide for an education for their two little (and unbelievably cute) daughters. Having started out working at run of the mill “Westernised” Japanese restaurants, this hardworking couple ventured into their own catering business and eventually found the perfect spot to call their own. And their efforts have paid off – Kiri is hugely popular and has become a rising star in the very limited choice of good Japanese restaurants in Perth.

A trained kaiseki chef, Taka will gladly whip up the Japanese equivalent of a degustation menu for you if you book 3 days in advance. Given that we didn't have enough time to make a booking as we had just arrived in Perth, we instead left it to Taka to cook up dishes from his ala carte menu and to only stop when when we had our fill. And so... 13 dishes later, we finished our dinner completely stuffed but very happy.

Amongst the highlights were the nasu dengaku (grilled eggplant with miso sauce), a beautifully presented platter of fresh sashimi and the grilled wagyu fillet with a ponzu dipping sauce.

Kiri is a fine little restaurant that will go far. I for one am really happy that Taka and Noriko are finally reaping the rewards from their commitment and passion. Their journey has been tough but theirs is a lesson of hard work at something they believe in... and as far as becoming wiser with age, that's one lesson I hope to be reminded of at all my birthdays.

Kiri Authentic Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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