Wednesday, 31 July 2019

No. 58 Little Hot Pot - Toowong

Abundant with options for Hot Pot, I am often asked where the best places are and frequently I am caught reminiscing about my favourite store back in New Farm, 100 Degrees which struck the best quality for value. Grief stricken by their closure a few years back, it has been very hard for me to find something remotely similar. From the depths of my despair sprung hope just last weekend when I received an email from the owners, telling me that they had set up a new store, this time in Toowong by the name of No. 58 Little Hot Pot. Of course we decided to check it out immediately.

Even from outside the store we were able to smell the fragrant soup broth. Making our way inside, the store was definitely larger than their old lodgings in New Farm. With a far more modern feel, and the always photogenic exposed brick wall, we liked the upgrade.

For $35.80pp, you can pick a soup base and have two hours of unlimited buffet. For an extra $3, you can have two soup bases. I liked the variety of soup bases and how you could mix and match depending on what you liked (as well as your spice tolerance).

Taking a quick walk around, they had a fairly large variety of sauces and toppings available. All elements of my favourite sauce combination were available, and Adam managed to upgrade his peanut sesame concoction with some ground cumin. Having been to quite a few hot pot and malatang places now, hygiene is really important and a sticky sauce station is often off putting for me, I was really glad that they were fresh and clean here.

In the first fridge, there was a large assortment of veggies, seafood and noodles. For the price point, the availability of scallops, prawns, mussels and fish were really good value. I also liked the variety of offal they had.

Second fridge comprised of meat and meat balls. The sliced meats encompassed all varieties of protein you could want, chicken, pork, beef and lamb, all thinly sliced but on the fattier side.

Like their old store, there was also a good selection of cooked foods including fried rice, noodles and other delectable goodies like deep fried man tou.

Canned drinks, juices and teas were also available as were ice creams for dessert. 

After our lap around, we came back to our table and noted the soups were already set up for us.

Always one for spicy, Adam went for the Hot and Spicy signature soup and the sweet Satay. He said that the spicy soup wasn't overly spicy, and the owner said that the spice level was customisable upon request, which was always great to know.

Always choosing the lighter option, I had the Special Soup, which was lightly herbal with red dates, goji and garlic along with the Mushroom Soup with the wafting flavours of mixed enoki and shiitake. I always enjoy the lighter soups as it best highlights the individual ingredient tastes.

First round and our table was soon loaded with delicious ingredients.

From our meat and seafood dish, we had a large portion of beef slices, these were fresh and tender but again a bit on the fatty side. We had some scallops which we cooked in the shell, they had a nice firm texture. Prawns were available and also had a good firm texture. Both the crab sticks and fish were soft and tender, absorbing the broth well. I particularly liked how flaky the fish fillets were.

Our non meat platter had some mushrooms which were also fresh and delicious. They went really well with my mushroom soup. We also had some quail eggs and a large assortment of tofu. We had tofu puff, which soaked up the soup like a sponge along with the tasty porous frozen tofu as well as the silky smooth fresh tofu. Trying out something new, we also had some tofu noodles which had a nice texture to them.

Our round two comprised of more meat, this time it was less fatty than the last round, some fresh baby bok choy, spicy marinated beef and half a piece of udon. Again the meat was great, we liked the fresh veggies which also complemented the soup well, and the spicy marinated beef was definitely flavoursome and less fatty.

Bubbling away, we had a wonderful date night.

Not particularly in the mood for ice cream, Adam went and fixed himself up some deep fried buns and topped it off with condensed milk. Trying some myself, the bun was crisp outside and fluffy inside, it was a great way to finish off a delicious meal, and we will definitely be back soon.

Espresso and Matcha were invited guests of No 58 Little Hot Pot, but as always, our opinions are solely our own.

Price Point: $35.80pp + $3 for two soups

Taste: 8.5/10
Value: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Environment: 8/10

No. 58 Little Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Golden Lane - Sunnybank

Had a Zomato group dinner last Monday night at Golden Lane. I hadn't been there for quite some time now and was keen to see if anything had changed since our last experience.


Sitting down at our shared table, the first thing I noticed was the menu had changed. Upon review, we noted that the dishes on offer were more economical and mainstream than their previous menu. The design of it wasn't as extravagant (or big) but it was still intricate.

Starting with tea, soup was served a little while after. The Pork and Watercress soup was tasty and appetizing but unfortunately served lukewarm. Unsure whether if this was from being left our for too long, but we would definitely have enjoyed it a lot more if it was hotter.

Next we each had a serve of peking duck. Cut up in front of us, it was also prepared so that we didn't have to wrap it ourselves. Whilst convenient, it meant no seconds :P. The pastry was fresh and thin, the duck was very crisp and delicious, but again, it was served cool.

The highlight of the evening for me was the Roast Pigeon. For people like Adam who have never tried it before, it strikes a good balance between chicken and quail. These were plump and fatty, with crispy roast skin. As a fan of pigeon, they're not easy to find in Brisbane, and I definitely appreciate any opportunity to eat some.

We had two very similar pork dishes that evening. The top photo was the Peking Pork dish, whilst the bottom was your standard Sweet and Sour Pork. Although the base flavours were similar, the Peking Pork was far superior with a lighter and thinner batter, as well as a leaner meat. We also enjoyed the added flavour that the pineapples provided to the Peking Pork dish.

Sharing three Deep Fried Sole, these were fried to an exceptional crisp. The salt and pepper flavours definitely overpowered the fish flavours. I found the batter a little on the thicker side but the crunch when biting down was undeniable.

Another seafood dish was the Fish Fillets in Chilli Oil. From my experience at with Sichuan food at Fortune Well, the key to this dish is to only eat the fish fillets and bean sprouts whilst avoiding too much chilli oil or sichuan peppers. The fish fillets were flaky and the chillis were fragrant, but again the dish wasn't overly hot.

Our veggie dish for the night is a Century Egg and Salty Egg dish with Spinach cooked in broth soup. The spinach was tender and warming. The combination of salty egg and century egg complemented each other fairly well. We would have enjoyed a bit more soup in the dish so we could share a bowl each.

At this point we received the second course of our Peking Duck, served in San Choy Bao. Again the fillings were quite seasoned so as to overcome the taste of duck. Split between the ten of us, there wasn't too much go go around. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the light peppery taste wrapped in the crisp fresh lettuce.

Our final savoury dish for the night was the black pepper beef with mushrooms and assorted veggies. Although the pepper did again overcome the taste of beef, I found it surprisingly delicious with the mild flavours of mushroom. Absorbing the sauce in like a sponge, it redeemed the dish.

First dessert of the night was a Sesame Paste Dessert. The sesame was fragrant but the paste itself wasn't well mixed through, resulting in a sort of lumpy texture. Breaking the parts down myself with the spoon made it a lot more enjoyable.

Second dessert was the mix of osmanthus and coconut jelly. These had good flavour and texture. Compared to other coconut jellies I've had at other places, these were fresher but less creamier.

Rounding off the meal, fresh oranges were also provided. Will definitely have to come back and try again at a later point.

Espresso and Matcha were invited guests of Golden Lane, however as always, our opinions are solely our own.

Taste: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Environment: 7/10
Golden Lane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Phoenix Brisbane - Brisbane CBD

Most people would know by now, I am an undeniably proud HongKonger, and despite my obsession with sushi and love of burgers, there is little doubt that I am most intimately familiar with Yum Cha after eating it at least once a week with my family for as long as I can remember. With this in mind, I was fairly intrigued when I heard that Phoenix from Sydney had come and opened in Brisbane. After considerable prompting from some readers who were keen to hear about my opinions on the food here, I made a lunch date with my most respected yum cha expert (who also still makes my dinner each night and packs my lunch every other day;).


Arriving at 11.30am, it wasn't particularly busy, but there were a few tables here on business luncheons. Service was fast and attentive. Opening the menu, we noted that there were a selection of steamed, fried and baked dim sim. Compared to our usuals at Sunnybank and Runcorn, only half of our usual dishes were available. Quite a few favourites like congee, steamed bean curd rolls, pan fried turnip cake and beef offal were notably absent. Price point was around 2 to 3 times the regular southside prices.

Seating was dim but lighting was sharp. The contrast wasn't particularly comfortable and my mother noted that it felt like she was eating in the dark as she was seated in a particularly shady corner.

Selecting our usual TieGuanYin, tea was charged at $3.50 per head. Almost double Sunnybank prices and almost the price for a barista made coffee. The tea itself was fairly strong but not overly fragrant. After a couple of refills the flavour had long gone.

Leaving our order with the friendly waiter, our baked goods were the first to arrive. I could understand the reason behind this as they were probably the already cooked and warmed to serve, however the fact that our dessert dish of egg custard tart came out first was highly unusual.

Starting off with the Baked BBQ Pork Pastry, this was the highlight of our meal. The pastry was light, well layered and flaky. The fillings were warm and wholesome, the pork very meaty and the BBQ sauce had a good balance of sweet and saltiness amongst the delicious honey glaze. 

I was very conflicted about eating this custard tart. Served warm, it would have been enticing to eat at the start, but as a fairly regimented person, I do not enjoy having dessert at the start of a meal. Nevertheless, I did, because I didn't particularly feel like eating it after it had been left to cool. Like the BBQ Pork Pastry, it was flaky and light. The filling was smooth, creamy and delectable. I just wish that it was served at the end of the meal.

After a brief interlude, our steamed dishes started to arrive. First up of course was the iconic King Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling. At double regular prices and with one less piece than we were used to, we had high hopes for the quality. Unfortunately the wrapping was a bit of a let down. Thick and overcooked, it stuck to the steaming paper. There was a generous amount of prawn inside, but overcooking didn't help with the texture too much either.

Second most famous of all the dim sim dishes, we opted for the more premium Scallop and Caviar Shumai. Compared to the prawn dumpling, this was a little better in terms of the steamed dishes. You could tell that the scallop and caviar was added to each dumpling after steaming so as to ensure they weren't overcooked, I liked the contrasting textures in the dumplings and the generous amount of prawns inside.

Though not as iconic, my favourite dish in a yum cha restaurant has to be the XiaoLongBao. As readers will know, having gone to the original flagship of DinTaiFung in Taipei, I often use that as a benchmark for comparison of quality. Unfortunately, Brisbane quality still falls short. I had high hopes for Phoenix with photos online looking quite promising, but sadly this wasn't the case. The skin was fairly thick and doughy without too much elasticity to the point of soup leaking out onto the steaming paper. There was minimal soup in each dumpling due to it having been leaked onto the paper and for some reason the soup was murky and floury unlike the clear meat broths that I am often used to. The meat filling itself wasn't as mincey as I prefer, and was a fairly firm lump. Guess I'll have to stick with the offerings at New Shanghai down in Queens Plaza instead.

My mother's family favourite is the rice paper rolls, and there is hardly anything as irresistible as a well pulled freshly steamed rice paper roll. In this instance, she opted for the pan fried variety with dried shrimp and chives. The pastry may have been pulled to a thin texture, but it was fried to a point where the layers started melting into each other and it resulted in a block of plasticky dough.

Last dish for lunch was the Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Dumplings. Also a standard dish for us, these were undeniably crispy but the batter was thick and doughy almost halfway to the point of being a pork bao. There were no apparent meat juices in it and the fillings tasted fairly standard and weren't outstanding.

All in all, we had a fairly mixed experience with the dishes. There were some highlights and some letdowns. There is definitely potential for an up market yum cha venue in Brisbane, but improvements definitely have to be made to justify the cost when a lunch for two is more than a meal for four.

Price Range: $40 - $60pp

Taste: 5/10
Value: 3/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 6/10
Phoenix Brisbane 喜鳳台 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato