Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ze Pickle - Fortitude Valley

With the recent opening of Ze Pickle at Fortitude Valley, Burger Connoisseur and I grabbed two friends and went to try it out last Saturday. Being a highly popular burger joint in the Gold Coast, we were keen to try out whether it was as good as the reviews said it was, especially after our most recent burger binges at The Bleachers and Gettaburger. It is situated on Hynes Street, which is significantly far from Chinatown. It is situated near Oriental Yum Cha and Ribs and Rumps.

We found the store to be quite dark, and the music to be very loud. Neon signs were placed around the store, and I can imagine it would be quite a nice late at night, but with the midday glare from outside, it was a bit uncomfortable for us.

The menu consisted of some selections of drinks, shared snacks and burgers.

Between the four of us, we shared a Ze Chips. It was quite a generous serving, topped with cheese sauce, maple smoked bacon, shallots and ze pickle sauce. The chips were beer battered, and very crunchy and fresh. We found the slight sweetness of the maple to be quite intriguing and definitely unique in comparison to the other chips I've had in other establishments. We particularly liked how the cheese and sauce was consistently found throughout the chips, rather than just on top. 

As for the burgers, we had a good mix of both chicken and beef burgers. The burger on the left hand side is the Southern Hick, which contains fried chicken, maple bacon, jack cheese, lettuce and tomato, whilst the right hand side one was the KF Ze, which contained fried chicken, coleslaw, jalapenos and beer cheese sauce. Both of my companions commented on how the fried chicken tasted very much like the chicken in KFC, and how full of flavour the burger was. On the flip side though, as the breast fillet was so big, they did find it to be a little dry on the inside.

Burger Connoisseur had the Chee Ze, which contained a wagyu patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle mayo and jack cheese. He really enjoyed it, especially the fluffy traditional sesame bun, the wagyu was very well cooked, had a decent amount of sauce, and he gave particular mention to the added onions in the burger, and said they added a really nice crunch to it. He liked it so much he said that it was almost on par with his favourite local burger joint, Miel

I had the double double, which contained two wagyu patties, jack cheese, maple smoked bacon and zp sauce. As you can see, the burger was quite big, although not the size of GettaBurger, it proved difficult to eat by hand, and I had to resort to grabbing cutlery to cut it into more manageable portions. Whilst I'm not one to enjoy sesame buns, I did find it to be very light, fluffy, and toasted just right. The wagyu patties were thick and delicious, the melted cheese and bacon really added a lot of flavour to the burger, which I also really enjoyed. The only thing I would suggest is that with the addition of a second patty, a bit more cheese and sauce would have better glued the whole burger together. Aside from that, I really enjoyed my meal and would definitely go back to try the 3AM for the cheese sticks.

Price Range: $20 - $25 per person

Taste: 8.5/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 5/10

Ze Pickle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Bleachers - West End

With the end of the year nearing, the one thing I've noticed is that there have been many many burger joints popping up across Brisbane. Having just gone to Getta Burger recently at West End, my companions were surprised when I asked them to go with me to try out a new burger joint in West End. "Didn't we just go last week?" they asked, "did you forget how we braved the rain that night?". "No," I said. "ANOTHER burger place opened in West End, and apparently it's a lot easier to find".

It was not easy to find. 

The Bleachers is situated on Boundary Road, which seems easy enough to find, but there were no signs, and no indicators. We only found it only by following street numbers to reach 153. Looking from the outside we would have no indication that the door lead to a burger joint had it not been for the small neon sign outside. 

The burger joint is run by the same people who opened Bens Burgers in Fortitude Valley. The similarities are very obvious when you realise the burger logo is the same, and they also have framed Peanuts comics on the wall. (Which I really liked).

The restaurant itself was quite empty even during dinner time.  I understand that this is because most patrons rather sit outside in the courtyard. Being a warm day, we opted to stay inside in the air conditioning.

Being related to Bens Burgers, we expected a very similar menu, but we were very surprised to see not much overlap at all (except for the no alterations policy). 

We had table service that evening, and our waitress was very attentive in bringing out fresh bottles of water when ours had run out.

Between the three of us, we shared three burgers and three sides.

This is the Glazed Beef Burger.

This was the Cheesy Burger.

I ordered the Classic Burger, with extra patty. Both my friends and I agreed, the burgers had a strong McDonald's - like taste to it.  Especially with the inclusion of pickles and special sauce. My companions had to agree with the sentiment that it was a bit like "Mcdonalds on steroids".  The bun was soft, and the cheese was stringy and melty. The salads were fresh, and my only concern was the layers of the burger slipping off each other and falling in a pile on the metal platter. There was quite a bit of sauce, being a strong mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. The patty was cooked to a good texture, and it was well seasoned. As with Bens Burgers, I would have definitely liked it more if it was customisable like Miel, and other than that, I found it lacked an element of individuality to set it apart from all the other burger joints popping up.

The chips came in a paper cup, without sauce or seasoning. For $4, I found it to be a tad small in size. Whilst it was hot and crunchy, it could definitely do with some adjustments.

The next side we shared was the Fried Chicken, which was done quite nicely. For $12 we were served two deep fried thigh fillets, which was a bit steep, but they were very well marinated, the flesh was soft and tender, whilst the skin was crunchy. I noted the spring onions chopped on top, and the mayonnaise, which gave it a bit of a karaage type of feel to it. 

This Japanese theme carried on to the waffle we had. In all honesty, I was expecting a dish of potato waffles, rather than actual waffles, which I consume sweet, rather than savory. This made me a little concerned, but it turned out alright. My companion made a fair point when she exclaimed "This is just like Okonomiyaki". Aside from the pancake being swapped with a waffle, it contained bacon and cheese, it was also topped with mayonnaise and something that tasted like okonomiyaki sauce, and was garnished with Japanese pickled radish and green onion. Whilst I am not a fan of fusion foods, preferring traditional types this dish was still quite tasty, although eating okonomiyaki with burgers was a bit confusing.

Price Range: $10 - $25 per person

Taste: 6/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

The Bleachers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 23 November 2015

Preview: Boroughs of New York Pizza - Fortitude Valley

Last Saturday, I was invited to the soft opening of Boroughs of New York Pizza (yes, three events in one day, it was very hardcore). They already have one store in Carindale, and have two more in the works after the fortitude valley one. We arrived early, heading there straight after afternoon tea. It is situated along Ann Street, just past Ltd Espresso, and the sign is so big you definitely cannot miss it.

We took a look around the outside before our entrance and got to appreciate the pizza dough resting before its inevitable demise that evening.

We were greeted upon stepping inside by the sight of the three time award winning pizza chef, busily prepping for the dinner. The owner, Jay, told me that he came from Sri Lanka but spent most of his time in New York, before coming here and convincing his brother in law Johannes to set up a New York Style pizza store in Brisbane, as there was a shortage of good New York Style Pizzas. 

For my readers' reference, the Pizzas that I've previously been eating at Sugo Mi, Alfredos and Vapianos, lean towards the Neapolitan Style pizza, which is characterised by its soft, elastic, tender and fragrant pizza base, and usually topped with fresh tomato sauce and mozarella cheese (and other variants). The crust is usually slightly burnt on the side, which gives it a nice toasty smell.

In contrast, New York Style pizzas are characterised by large hand tossed thin crispy crusts, and are very large (usually 18"), so they are often eaten by the slice (as opposed to the whole pizza at once). Needless to say, I was very keen to try it out.

The restaurant itself had a New York Subway kind of theme, which I really liked.

We started the evening on quite a few variations of bread, which our hosts said was to showcase the flexibility of their pizza base. There were two types of Focaccia, being plain and olive. It was springy and delicious. The texture was airy, but substantial, although we would have enjoyed it more if it were heated a bit more before serving.

Other pizza base related foods included the garlic knots and the pizza shards. The garlic knots were also quite heavy and doughy, but were glazed with oil and diced garlic, which added quite a zing to the knots. The pizza shards though, I found to be quite addictive, especially because of the added pizza sauce on the side, which was fresh and tangy.

Entrees came out soon after this, and we got to try the summer inspired pizza shards, which came out with fresh leaf salad, and was topped with cheese, thinly shaved ham, tomato and olives. The flavours in this were really strong and hit me right away. Having been pigging out on the pizza shards with pizza sauce, I would have enjoyed it if it had come with a bit of sauce as well. It was a solid starter for the evening.

Next, we got to try the meatball hot dog, which proved to be a little toasted, but nevertheless, the mustard and tomatoes really gave it a bit of an American taste. The bun was similar in texture to the focaccia, and as such, it was relatively heavy for bread. The meatball was amply seasoned, and relatively crumbly.

The next two pizzas that we got to try were quite bold creations of the chef, this one was the tuna carpaccio , served with cheese and rocket. The tuna was well seasoned, though I would have liked it to be slightly vinegared to add a bit of depth. It was served in a ball, and we all spread it out rather than eating it as is. The creaminess of the cheese complimented the tuna really well, although my usual preference is to have hot melty cheese on my pizza though.

The last thing we tried that evening was even bolder than the tuna pizza. This was the soft shell crab pizza, served with orange rind, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The orange rind was well marinated, surprisingly soft, but came with a lot of zing. The chocolate was fragrant, and not very sweet, which actually complimented the dish very well. As an avid fan of soft shell crab, I loved the crunch that it packed, but wasn't convinced that a pizza base would have been the best method to present it on.

Due to prior commitments, that was the last dish we tried. Whilst we tried many interesting and bold new creations, we had yet to try the actual pizzas they have on their regular menu. As such, we will be withholding our ratings until we go again after the official opening. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our night, and would like to thank Jay for inviting us.

Espresso and Matcha were invited guests of Boroughs of New York Pizza, as always, our opinions are solely our own.

Oliver Brown - Garden City

Having been to Oliver Brown when I went to Sydney, I was quite pleased when they opened a store in the newly refurbished Garden City. I was even more pleased when I received an invite to celebrate their opening. So last Saturday, we headed off to Garden City after lunch to try it out.

The menu was very extensive for a chocolate bar, consisting of six boards covering drinks and food. Quite a few cakes and desserts were on display, and I made a note to come back and try it another day.

Ordering is via counter service. Now, before I had attended, due diligence stipulated that I had to conduct a reasonable amount of research before attending. Upon reading reviews by other patrons, the one thing that really stuck with me was the general consensus that the service left more to be desired. Having that in mind, I can say that the counter staff could do with some improvement in their manner. The girl that served me initially was quite snappy and blunt, and I could see she was under a lot of pressure to serve customers quickly, as the line was really quite long and I could see she wasn't very familiar with the ordering system on the machine. After I showed my invitation though, she left the counter and a much friendlier manager took over. I noticed that service improved remarkably after this.

Between the four of us, we shared four drinks and two mains. The iced dark chocolate was topped with many dark chocolate flakes, so it wasn't as smooth as my friend was expecting. The taste was less overpowering than expected, which my companion really appreciated. The milk hot chocolate with crunchy waffle balls was very well received by my companion, he said that it was rich and smooth without a bad aftertaste. He liked the crunchy balls at the bottom and said that it provided a nice change in texture.

My third companion had the cookies and cream frappe, which was supposed to come in a tall glass, but staff were quite apologetic about it having come out in a plastic cup. She said that she really liked the crunchiness of the cookies, and also appreciated how the drink was less sweet than usual, which allowed her more opportunity to appreciate the taste of the cookies and fresh cream. Wanting a clearer palate, I opted for the Lemon, Lime and Mint crush, which to my surprise came out to be sweeter than anticipated. It was thoroughly blended, which meant it didn't have chunks of ice in it, and the lemon and lime flavours were definitely very strong. I would have appreciated it if there was a bit more kick to the mint, as it tasted more like an afterthought in this drink.

Our mains came in quick succession after a not insignificant wait.

The Chocolate fondue for two came with two very large (and deep) servings of chocolate, being milk and dark, it also had strawberries, banana, marshmallows and pretzels to dip. The serving sizes were very generous, even for two people. The chocolate was rich and smooth, whilst not being overwhelming, the strawberries and the banana were fresh, sweet and not overly ripe, which is always great. The pretzels were crispy, and an unusual addition to a fondue. 

As for the Churros for two, I can only compare them to San Churro, which I've been several times, and Eat Street. They were served at room temperature (the other ones I've previously had were fresh and hot), and there was a distinct lack of cinnamon. Whilst I appreciate that its hard to be compared with specialist churro stores, it would have been appreciated if they had been warmed up for us. As for the chocolate though, the portions were generous, whilst the flavours were rich and smooth. 

In summary, I would concur with most of the reviewers in saying that the service, especially from the counter could be improved, but the food still definitely makes it worth going. 

Espresso and Matcha were invited guests of Oliver Brown and Platinum Media and Communications, but as always, our opinions are solely our own.

Price Range: $15 - $25 per person

Taste: 7/10
Value: 7.5/10
Service: 5/10
Environment: 8/10

Oliver Brown Belgian Chocolate Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato