Saturday, 30 January 2016

Nigi Nigi - CBD

After my trip to Asia a few years ago, one of the things which I really missed was the triangle shaped Onigiri お握り (rice balls) that I would have as breakfast or as a snack during the day. This came up during one of my conversations with a Japanese colleague the other day, and she told me that there was actually a store in Brisbane which sold Onigiri, at Central Station. I wandered down there to have lunch.

Food is ordered at the counter and collected when they call out your number.

For lunch, I ordered the salmon bento, which came with a complementary miso soup on the side. I enjoyed the miso soup as it contained fried tofu, which in my opinion has a better texture than fresh tofu. The salmon bento contained a small selection of salmon sashimi, two salmon nigiri and four pieces of salmon avocado roll. In line with the sign outside the store, the salmon was very fresh and delicious. On this instance the rice was slightly overcooked, but still nicely seasoned.

Other than that, I had an Onigiri for takeaway. Whilst it still consists of rice wrapped in some seaweed, it isn't considered sushi because the rice is not seasoned, and the fillings are almost never raw, which means that it can be kept for a more extended period of time. On that note, I enjoyed mine as an afternoon snack in the comfort of my own home. The thing I particularly like about onigiri from Nigi Nigi is their packaging, which conveniently separates the seaweed from the rice, which ensures that when I open the packet, the seaweed is still fresh and crisp. In this instance I got the teriyaki salmon onigiri, and whilst it was cooked and a little salty, the rice texture was excellent and I still enjoyed it immensely. 

Price Range: $10 - $20pp

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

Nigi Nigi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Restaurant Tartufo - Fortitude Valley

Having been put in charge of another group outing, I was about to suggest another round of Japanese food, when a classmate of mine said "we almost only ever have Japanese or Hot Pot or Korean when we get together". It was due to this, that I made the resolution to arrange for our dinner to be at an Italian restaurant. Having been to Capri at Emporium, I had also heard many good reviews about Tartufo. So that's where we decided to have our group dinner.

We were warmly welcomed by our friendly host and promptly seated at our table. The décor was rustic, and other patrons were quite chatty but we were thankful to be seated in a quiet area so that we could talk without needing to shout. Chilled water was promptly served. Naturally at a pizzeria we all agreed we would not settle for anything other than pizzas, being in an Italian restaurant though it would not be proper if we did not order pasta as well. After much deliberation, we decided upon three pizzas, and two pastas to share.

Our first pizza was the Tartufo, being the restaurant namesake, we expected it to be good. It contained  tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, porcini mushroom puree, cherry tomato, shaved parmesan, basil and extra virgin olive oil with pork sausage and truffle paste encased in the crust. The first thing we noticed when it was served was the novelty of the crust design. The base was deliciously thin, and the crust was crunchy but not too hard. I particularly liked the star shape of the pizza, which was well received among all participants. Put together with the other toppings, I felt that the truffle stole the show, and all the other elements such as the sausage and prosciutto were merely accompaniments. Additionally I felt that a truffle pizza would have been far more compatible if served with a white sauce than a tomato based one.

Our second  pizza and second main was the Cotto E Funghi pizza served with mozzarella cheese, champagne ham, button mushrooms and basil laced with extra virgin olive oil. The cheese was stringy and the ham well salted reminding me of the UQ Pizza Caffe. As above, this was another mushroom themed pizza, and whilst novel, we would have enjoyed it more on a white sauce base rather than tomato.

Our final pizza, the tomato based Tropea had pork sausage, mozzarella cheese, Spanish onion, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The pastry was not too thick and overall soft paired with the stringy cheese it made for a comforting feeling. The combination of Spanish onion and the pork sausage was strong in flavor and a refreshing contrast to the mozzarella cheese in addition to much welcome texture. 

 Our first pasta was the linguine ai funghi tartufati, a house made linguine served with wild cultivated mushrooms, butter, mascarpone and truffle paste, topped with parmesan and a generous serving of cracked black pepper. Whilst some people do not like cracked pepper, my companions felt it was a welcome addition to the dish. The linguine was cooked to al dente much to my liking. I liked the combination of flavours very much as the mascarpone both complemented and accentuated the truffle flavous, however we found the serving size to be somewhat lacking. 

Our second pasta dish, and last main of the night was the Mafalde coniglio e percorino.
 For those of you unfamiliar with Italian, “coniglio” means rabbit, yes that’s right the cute furry creature that hands out easter eggs. It was served with carrot, onion, celery and cracked pepper and pecorino. Having never tried rabbit, and considering the novelty of such a dish, it was something we all agreed to try. The rabbit was interesting as it tasted like firm chicken, with a gamey taste to it. I found it ironic though, that the rabbit was served with carrot - the chef must have been in a jovial mood.

 To summarise I felt the meal erred on the side of pricey given the strong competition nearby. As a way to alleviate this we all agreed portions could be more generous. Despite this I enjoyed my time at Tartufo especially with the friendly staff serving us. 

Price Range: $20 - $30pp

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

Ristorante Tartufo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 25 January 2016

Uchouten Japanese Restaurant - Surfer's Paradise

Having previously mentioned in my Animoto post, my previous favourite Japanese restaurant in the Gold Coast was Yamasakura. Since its closure, Uchouten has opened in its previous location on 3131 Surfer's Paradise Boulevard, above Hakataya Ramen. Despite it having been opened for quite a while now, I have yet to try due to the mixed reviews that my friends have told me abotu the establishment. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the better of me and we headed there to try it out after receiving quite a good recommendation from a family friend.

Despite the change of ownership, the decor remained the same basic wooden theme. We had hoped that perhaps the menus and food would also be of similar standard.

To our disappointment, the menu had drastically changed. It had a selection of set meals, sushi, sashimi and sides. 

We started off our meal with the crumbed prawn udon. Being quite the filler, I was very surprised to see it come out first, before all the sushi and sashimi. Whilst it was made using delicious fresh udon, everything else about the dish was quite average. In fact, it was almost the same as ones I've had for takeaway at Nigi Nigi, near the exits of Brisbane's Central Station. 

Our next dish was the salmon sashimi, which was presented in very thick cut, but small chunks. Given the thickness of this, I would have much preferred it to be sliced thinner but for the pieces to be bigger. We didn't consider the sashimi to be particularly fresh, and it is a definite decline from sashimi we have had in Yamasakura. Another thing that was rather noteworthy was the wasabi provided with the sashimi. It was watery and considerably mild compared to other wasabi.

Next we had the chicken katsu don, which was served in quite a large bowl and garnished with coleslaw and radish. Unfortunately the chicken was completely drenched in tonkotsu sauce, which ensured that it wasn't very crunchy, and the rice was long grain rice, as opposed to short grain, which is what the Japanese dishes traditionally use. Needless to say, I found it not very enjoyable, and comparable to cheap takeaways one would find scattered throughout the Brisbane CBD, rather than a traditional Japanese restaurant in the Gold Coast.

We also had a platter of mixed nigiri to share. This contained 2 pieces of salmon nigiri, 2 pieces of salmon belly, one piece of prawn, one piece of tuna, one piece of cod and one piece of scallop. Compared to the sashimi, the pieces of fish were much more thinly sliced, and I didn't really appreciate having that much skin on my salmon. In line with the sashimi, I firmly believe that the fish could definitely be fresher.

Between the four of us, we also shared four sushi rolls, tempura prawn, salmon avocado, crumbed chicken and unagi. I enjoyed the unagi most because it had avocado instead of cucumber (which is what the usual combination is), but other than that, the other rolls (barring the crumbed chicken one), were quite small, and had more rice than fillings.

Price range: $25 - $35pp

Taste: 6/10
Value: 4/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

Uchouten Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Burlington BBQ - Fortitude Valley

One of the long established Chinese BBQs in Brisbane is Burlington's which can be found along Duncan Street at Chinatown in a tiny little shop front with the usual array of roasts hanging outside. Last week, a close friend had a piece of unusually good news, so we opted to go out for lunch and buy a duck to take home for dinner.

 Normally our first preference is Golden BBQ, but it was still closed for the Christmas break. There were two noteworthy points in this transaction, firstly whilst we requested the duck to be uncut, the staff still chopped it open in the middle, and then assured me that the sauce would not leak. As expected, it leaked everywhere during my lunch. Luckily we were able to get it exchanged. The second point was that interestingly enough, the duck was cold, by this I do not mean lukewarm, but actually chilly, which is unusual, as the ones we get are usually at least warm.

Anyway, we took it home and heated it up in the oven for 20 minutes. Once heated, the skin was crispy and the duck was well seasoned, although it was definitely one of the fattiest ones that I've had before although it wasn't overpowering and didn't fill us up as much as we expected it to. My companion and I managed to eat it all with instant noodles (as you can see). Despite the dodgy service, we did find it enjoyable, although it's not as tasty as Golden BBQ in my opinion.

Price Range: $28 for the duck

Taste: 7.5/10 (after reheating)
Value: 7/10
Service: 4/10
Environment: N/A 

Burlington BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 21 January 2016

7-8 Coffee Shop - Sunnybank

Along Turton Street at Sunnybank, a small foodie hub is forming, with Seoul Bistro and Wara BBQ being situated there, another long time resident is 7-8 Coffee Shop, which used to be situated at Robertson Shopping Complex near QEII hospital. Whilst the name is a bit ambiguous, it sells a mix of Taiwanese and Japanese fusion dishes. We went with a couple of friends on a hot summer's evening for a quick dinner.

The store is quite famous for it's homey style interior, with a general wooden theme, and walls adorned with framed photographs of customers and staff.

Its menu comes as numerous sheets of paper, which you tick off when you order and pay at the counter.

The main attraction for us was definitely the drinks. That evening my companion ordered the Sweet Memory, which contained condensed milk, caramel and tea which is the picture on the left, and I ordered the Angel Devil, which contained Coffee, Chocolate and Coffee ice cream. We enjoyed both drinks as they were cool and refreshing, whilst being milky, they were not too rich, and were not very sweet, which suited our preferences very well.

My companion ordered the carbonara, which came with buttered toast, which was quite generous in portion. It contained the usual suspects, bacon bits, grated cheese, cheese sauce and spaghetti. Whilst the spaghetti tasted store bought, the cheese sauce was quite creamy. The bacon bits were dry and quite salty. I guess that for an Asian restaurant attempting Italian food, this is quite standard, but it's still a long distance from the more authentic Italian restaurants that we've been to, and given the price, we found it to be very reasonable.

On the other hand, I ordered the Pork Katsu Udon set, which came with a small salad on the side. The Udon came in a huge bowl (my hand for reference), which was very shallow though. The udon was the nice fresh type, rather than the preserved type with the sour aftertaste. The pork chop was quite large and lightly crumbed and the soup was light but inviting.

Price Range: $15 - $25pp

Taste: 7.5/10
Value: 7.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Environment: 7.5/10

7-8 Coffee Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Vietnamese - Fortitude Valley

Working in the CBD, I occasionally head off to fortitude valley to have lunch. Last week, my friend was suggesting that we grab Vietnamese food, so we did some research and one name that stuck out at us was The Vietnamese, which is situated on Wickham Street. Whilst I haven't been before, this store has been around from as early as I can remember, and has withstood the test of time. 

We arrived at around 12 to take one of the last remaining tables. I could see most of the clientele were there on their lunch break, which was reassuring as we had concerns for making it back in time to work. The menu was a bit old and tattered, but contained a good selection of both Vietnamese, and interestingly, Chinese dishes. 

Water was provided quickly. But it actually took a very long time for us to flag down a waiter, as they were either taking other tables orders or clearing tables or seating other customers. What was very surprising for us though, was the fact that the time it took for the food to come out was much quicker than it was for us to get the attention of a waitstaff.

My companion ordered the Flat Rice Noodles with Beef. This was deliciously stir fried with sauce. My companion commented that the rice noodles weren't as fresh as he would like, as it had a bit of sour aftertaste, however the beef and veges were generous. Having tried a bite myself, my immediate impression was how oily the noodles were. The beef was quite tender, and the veges were standard fare.

Whilst our experience with the stir fried noodles wasn't ideal, I really enjoyed the Pho. It came very quickly with slices of very tender rare beef, and very fresh rice noodles, which was confusing, considering the rice noodles in the stir fried dish wasn't fresh. The soup was very strong in flavour, which is always welcome, and was garnished with an abundance of herbs, and interestingly topped with pepper, which is not something you usually see in pho. Whilst it wasn't the most generous bowl of pho I've had, it was sufficiently filling, and I would definitely return for another bowl.

Price Range: $10 - $20pp

Taste: 7.5/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 6/10
Environment: 6/10

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