Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Brisbane - GOMA Restaurant

In Melbourne, the best spots to eat are down laneways, in the hipster neighbourhoods, heck even our hatted restaurants are starting to find homes in hipsterville (ie. Collingwood, Northcote etc. etc.)!

So the last place I would think to look for food anywhere really, would be an art gallery. 

However, when I went to Brisbane for Eat Drink Blog, and Libby says she’s organising a lunch for a bunch of bloggers at this really nice restaurant, who am I to say no? Someone’s done the research for me for where to eat in Brisbane? I’ll take it!

And so on Sunday afternoon, following my visit to the bees on a rooftop in Fortitude Valley, I made my way south to GOMA, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, to visit the restaurant that resided within.

I feel like GOMA Restaurant is everything you wouldn’t expect to find in an art gallery restaurant. Bright, minimal space, with insanely high ceilings, white table cloth and floor to ceiling windows, filtering the afternoon light through sheer white curtains. 

Despite all this though, it was definitely not pretentious; with minimal decor, the space was refreshing and relaxing. 

For lunch, guests can opt for ala carte, the traditional seven course degustation, or for good value that sits in between, the two or three course set menu. The two course giving you a choice of entree and main ($55), or main and dessert ($50), and the three course, naturally, giving the choice of all three courses ($60).

With the eight or so bloggers at the table, and only three options per course, we got through most of the offerings!

I was quite pleased that they had gluten free bread available for me, which came out lightly toasted and lovely and warm. Although I would have loved to ask for more, one must save room for the actual meal too!

I only opted to have two courses (main and dessert naturally), but I definitely had mild (or not so mild) food envy when I saw the entrees start getting marched out. The seared emu loin, native spiced black pudding, smoked potato and Illawarra plums was unanimously well received around the table (this was a popular entree), which was just beautifully presented with it’s deep and earthy colours. 

Libby might have been the only person to get the Moreton Bay Bug, poached in churned butter, with a saffron broth, seaweed and broccoli. In contrast to the emu, the Moreton Bay Bug’s were delicate flowers, springing to life with colour. 

For my main, I was presented with the roasted Holmbrae chicken, with textures of corn, sorrel and winter leaves. Simply hearty, and wholesome, the thicken was delightfully tender, juicy, with crunchy skin and lightly fried leaves provided texture. The corn puree was beautiful and sweet, a perfect compliment to the richness of the chicken.

The seared Murray cod with potato emulsion, fresh peas, salted lemon myrtle thyme and malt vinegar, looked like a very fancy take on fish and chips, and looked just sumptuous. If only I had more tummies…

Although all our dishes had been beautifully presented, and were full in flavour, it was really the desserts that wowed the table in presentation and in flavour. 

Take this wattle custard with Daintree choralate paint and Daintree vanilla curd. It had us all simply baffled when it arrived at the table. Was it art? Or was it edible? The waitress assured us it was indeed edible, but that this particular dish was paying homage to indigenous Australian art, the brown ‘landscape’ mirroring that of an Australian landscape, and the dots, replicating the art style. Very cool and also very delicious.

The Newstead Brewing ‘Johnny’ apple cider porridge with apple sorbet and caramelised milk foam looked to be a little bit of a mess in comparison, a little unrestrained shall we say, but the mouthful I had was just lovely. It was definitely a heavier dessert, one that I would have personally loved if it was a bit cooler, with the apple flavours really driving through.

Oh, but I was so happy with my decision for dessert. The Magnum Opus; Valrhona chocolate with violet ice-cream honey comb and cocoa nib ticked off everything I loved in a dessert. Chocolate, ice-cream and a little bit of excitement. Again, art or edible? It was almost too pretty to eat, the spray of pastel colours making me think of a Monet. 

I could not stop gobbling this up. It was very sweet, with the smooth white chocolate and the light and delicate violet ice-cream, but the dark Valrhona chocolate added some richness and depth, with the honeycomb providing lovely texture. I did find it was bordering a little bit too sweet for me (which is saying something)…but I finished it anyway. Too good.

When Libby originally invited me to join along for lunch, I had no idea what I was expecting, but GOMA was certainly a lovely surprise. Although it was a bit dressed up, it was still a very relaxed and lazy lunch, and everything we ate was simply spot on. I would definitely be happy to be back and have since recommended GOMA to friends who were looking for something a little nicer to bring the parents to in Brisbane. 

Little bit sad that Magnum Opus isn’t on the menu anymore though…!

Queensland Gallery of Modern Art
Stanley Place
South Brisbane 3101

GOMA Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 26, 2014

Chai Boy

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary bag of Chai Boy to try from a friend

My love of chai latte’s has stemmed out of somewhat of a necessity in coffee-crazed Melbourne, as a substitute for coffee when I meet up with friends or go out with Brad for brunch on the weekends. As much as I like tea; there’s no doubt a hot milky drink is a delightfully comforting way to start the morning, or keep you going through the day. 

Take my mornings at home when I was sent a bag of Chai Boy’s chai to try. Although I seem to have inherited my father’s habit of waking up early, my mother has always been one to sleep in. However, when I got my Chai Boy chai, and used tablespoons to brew it instead of teaspoons (way better if you ask me), for two weeks straight (just about), she would wake up about an hour before I’d leave for work and pop a saucepan on the stove, to brew a cup for me and her. 

It was a delight, as the mornings were still mostly cool, to have my hands wrapped around a warm mug, and have some lazy conversation with mum, as Chai (my dog), padded around our feet, waiting to be let out.  

The aroma hits you fist as you’re brewing this chai, especially if you’re generous with measures as we were, intensely spicy, but softening out on the palate, with the edge of the spices, that are present in the aroma, removed by a deep and full bodied sweetness. I quite liked I didn’t have to add too much honey to this to get the sweetness that I liked as well, as the blend on it’s own was already quite delicious. Mum liked it as it did remind her of the Indian chai’s she’s had before as well. In fact she liked it so much, she had me buy a couple of bags for her friends for Christmas.

Now that we’ve just about run out, we haven’t had our morning rituals as frequently as we used to, so I may have to pop by one of the cafes that stock it and pick some more up soon…

Chai Boy chai can be purchased to take home, or have in store at the following locations: Touchwood in Richmond (home base), Barry in Northcote, Addict in Collingwood, Drugstore Espresso in South Yarra and Freckled Duck Cafe in Geelong. Follow them on Instagram!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Favourite Openings of 2014

Trying to recap all my favourite experiences of 2014 would just be too hard. It’s been such an amazing year for Melbourne, I can hardly keep up! So rather than try and go through absolutely everything I’ve done this year, I’m just going to focus on the newbies this year that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed instead…

Easily one of my favourite out of town adventures this trip! I had the most beautiful afternoon at Piggery Cafe for their afternoon tea with Daisy and Sarah. Even though the staffing might not have been 100% perfect, the afternoon tea was delicious, at an amazing price and I have not stopped telling people about it! 

Kirk’s Wine Bar is just so darned cute. I’ve loved the couple of times that I’ve been, sitting outside with a glass of vino as Hardware Lane buzzes by. And to boot the food is easy to nibble on as a snack, or turn into a meal, at what I think are quite reasonable prices. 

Also Ian Curley makes me laugh, in a good way and I’ve very much enjoyed meeting him this year. 

I know it technically opened last year in December 2013, but it’s close enough to 2014 that I’m including it in the list. It has been my failsafe recommendation this year and although I still don’t understand the lure of ‘Chicken and Waffles’ generally, Nieuw Amsterdam have translated it into a language that I can digest with vigour with their slightly more gourmet take on it!

Killing brunch, slaying dinner. And saving the world too (kind of). What more could you want? I’ve somewhat hated that these guys are always busy when I’ve turned up, but it’s only due to the fact that the food is delicious and also interesting. Seriously the best kale and silver beet I’ve had this year. No question!

These guys have made me wish that I lived around the corner on a weekly basis with the deliciousness that comes up through their Instagram feed. The Japanese inspired menu, only in flavour, not in tradition, is packed heavy with flavour and richness, and a whole lot of clever. They’ve also done the most memorable carrots for me of 2014!

Mister Jennings
I’m still dreaming about that frozen kangaroo. Every time I look at the photo, I’m thinking of all the sensations in texture, that altered and changed with each degree as it got warmer. And those puffed up tendons. I promise a write up is coming soon! 

I feel like I talk about these guys too much. I probably do. Sorry. Not sorry! Until In-n-out actually gets it’s American-ass down here, I’m sticking with these guys for my burger fix. I simply cannot get enough of that jalapeño kick in ‘the Chunk’, and these guys do the best ‘protein’ style burger I’ve come across yet. On and their desserts? Love!

These guys just make it on the 2014 list! After re-trying their gelato recently, I honestly think they are probably my favourite gelato in town (although it’s a very, very close race with Spring Street Grocer so I still haven’t quite decided…) 

Quick, get in for that Christmas Pudding gelato. You’re missing out otherwise. Really. 

Well, I know Japan didn’t technically ‘open’ in 2014, but good god. My love for it with my two visits this year have just multiplied in crazy volumes. I’m already planning a 2015 trip, but this time I’ll drag Brad around with me and definitely have even more cake. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tokyo - Day 3 - Lunch at Beige by Alan Ducasse

After our first two days in Tokyo, the first of which we spent a very long day staying awake after arriving in super early, and the second day we woke up super early to make our way to studio Ghibli, our third day was a little bit more relaxed.

Despite not needing to meet first thing in the morning, I still rolled awake at some stupidly early hour, picked up my usual boiled egg and onigiri from the convenience store, caught up on emails then met with the others to check out Shinjuku Gyoen/Shinjuku National Garden. 

The park was a pleasant and lazy 15 minute walk from our hotel; after a couple of rainy days, Tokyo decided to play nice and gave us glorious weather to walk around the park. And take lots of pictures. The park is actually quite large, and makes a lovely oasis in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. Although we were here for easily an hour, I felt like we hardly made a dint in exploring the garden!

After our park visit, we made our way to Ginza, what some might dub as the 5th Avenue of Tokyo. During the day, it’s filled with ladies who lunch, browsing the endless supply of designer boutiques. Before lunch, we popped into Dover Street Market; which is technically a shop, but feels like an art installation with 7 floors of amazing brands and fascinating architecture. Worth checking out if you’re into design, fashion and/or both!

On the weekends, the main street actually closes down during the day at well, so makes for great people watching and general wandering as well!

Our main reason for being in Ginza though, was for lunch. Which was a little bit fancy. Ooh my.

We approached the Chanel building, and went around the side (don’t go into the Chanel store like I did!), where the small and intimate entrance for Beige by Alan Ducasse awaited us. 

Honestly, I have to thank Bernard for the tip. For dinner, it’s still a little on the pricier side (but I guess a bargain really if you compare to Australia), but for lunch, for around $60 you get a really amazing meal, and one heck of an experience! I mean, how many Chanel’s in the world let you eat on the top of their building?

The whole experience is branded Chanel, from the second you step into the elevator, with each button carrying the famous Chanel insignia. The female toilets are indicated with a Chanel handbag, and the male toilets with a Chanel silk tie. I have no doubt that the polite, softly spoken and very gentle waiters and waitresses are also all dressed in Chanel. 

The decor is simple, light and bright (although a little too beige for our interior designer for her liking), with a nice quiet hum. We were surrounded by ladies who lunch, dressed sharp, giggled behind their hands and compared their Louis Vuitton wallets. And here we were, the BrandWorks management team in the midst of it. It was surreal, and simply fabulous.

So bubbles were definitely required!

As we ponder the menu, we receive the first of our two amuse bouche, delicate little tarts, with perfectly crusty shells, topped with a bit of lightly pickled vegetables. 

For lunch, you can opt to order ala carte, or to get real value out of your dollar, go for one of the set menus. For 5500 yen (around $60), you choose an appetiser, a fish or a meat main, and one of the desserts from the ala carte menu, along with coffee or tea at the end with petit fours. If you’re a little bit more hungry, the 9000 yen menu (around $100) gets you an extra main course.

It may not sound like a lot of paper, but you really get, so much more!

Take our second amuse bouche for example. I was simply in awe at the way they served it to us ; one head waiter, flanked by two other waiters, putting down the first three bowls on to the table in perfect timing, followed by the other two bowls, followed by the pouring of a chestnut soup into our bowls, perfectly in sync. I wish I could explain it better, but it was like being witness to an elegant dance. 

But more than presentation, the food was delicious too. Being in the heart of autumn, this dish perfectly encapsulated the season, a warm chestnut soup poured over a rich zucchini pudding, a soft pastel orange colour with a smooth mousse like texture, and a paper thin zucchini chip on the side. When the waiter mentioned zucchini, he must have seen the surprise on our faces, as he quickly explained that as the zucchini’s get older, they turn orange, promptly bringing one out to show us…which are absolutely ginormous! What do they feed them in Tokyo?

Although I’ve had cheese trolleys before, at Beige they have bread trolleys, or more like mobile bread counters really, which silently glide to the table. 

For my appetiser, I choose the delicate chicken broth, with chestnut flour pasta and duck foie gras. Naturally, there has to be some fanfare when served, and my chicken broth is gently poured over my dish ensuring it is steaming hot. Whilst I didn’t notice much of a chestnut flavour out of the pasta, it was perfectly cooked. 

The slice of the zucchini however, was punching with flavour, intense and very sweet, it reminded me very much of a roast pumpkin. The foie gras complimented this richness, which was very lush and the barley that also accompanied the plate, just soaked up all of the chicken broth’s flavours. I was surprised at how mild and gentle the broth was, a nice compliment to the richer flavours in the dish, and was so lovely and clear, not oily at all.

For my main, I opted for the Soi fish cooked in a bouillabaisse stock with turnip, courgette and celery, rouille. So simple in presentation, but so much here that was so well executed. The fish was cooked just perfectly, the knife cutting through like butter, and I simply loved the intensity of the bouillabaisse stock, which was more like a sauce, the essence of ocean bottled up and concentrated. One of the other elements I very much enjoyed on this dish was the celery, which was lovely and soft, with a rich sweetness. 

The spit-roasted duckling from Dombes breast, with seared raisins and onions also looked delicious, with it’s stunning blush. 

Even though our meals didn’t look very big, we were all surprised at how full we were getting!

But when the option to look at cheese comes along…we have to have a sneak peek. Like the ninja-gliding-bread-counter, the cheeses also effortlessly glide over, the vast selection making it a very hard decision to narrow it down to just one or two to try!

Our petit fours arrive at the same time as dessert; practically perfect macarons, cassis and chocolate, and strawberry and raspberry. Although the soft pastel colours make them appear quite mild…wow, these were full of flavour! 

And how cute are the little Chanel themed chocolates? My favourite were definitely the ones with the Chanel No. 5 logos. I couldn’t resist popping a couple of these, as the quality of chocolate was definitely there. 

But ah, dessert. Although there were 4 options and 5 of us, we ended up only trying two different types of desserts.

Firstly, the Baba, a lovely and lightly spiced sponge cake, served up in the cutest little silver dome. The diner then chooses if they want rum or Armagnac with it, the baba is then liberally doused in the alcohol of choice, followed by a healthy dollop of cream. Yum.

I of course, being the chestnut nut that I am, had to get the ‘Contemporary Mont Blanc with Earl Grey’. 

It arrived to the table looking like a spaceship, with an earl grey mousse and cake at the base, topped with chestnut puree, meringue sticks and served with earl grey ice-cream on the side. Oh my. So much I simply loved here. Although I’m normally the first to scoff down dessert, I definitely prolonged the experience here, taking little spoonfuls to savour each delicate mouthful. The intensity of the earl grey was definitely there, and all the textures throughout the dish were just stunningly smooth or lovely and dense. 

Oh! But we’re not quite done yet! We still have that choice of tea or coffee at the end right? Well, when you ask if they have any herbal tea…they bring all the herbs to you. Literally. A stunning array of green abundance on a silver tray, where, with white cloths on, the waiter will snip and combine fresh herbs into a small glass teapot for you. You can choose to customise and be particular, or you can just ask them to put a bit of everything in, which is what I did. What I found was probably the most interesting addition was rosemary, which I would normally think would be too savoury, but when intermingled with the other herbs, added a lovely depth and complexity to the flavours. 

After that meal at Beige, it was kind of hard to get on with the rest of the day, as I constantly dreamt about earl grey mousse’s. 

So we decided to walk off lunch and made the design mecca to Aoyama and Omotesando, where we marvelled at the architecture and interior design in the area. The Prada building in Aoyama is stunning in the setting light, the curved glass reflecting all sorts of stunning colours. 

We also stopped by Omotesando Koffee, which is literally hidden off the main road and down in the residential area of Omotesando. Hardly a sign or an indication that you might be near it, except for the intense smell of roasted coffee, and at 6pm at night, a light in the dark. 

Omotesando Koffee is not a fast experience, especially when you have 7 people waiting for coffee to be made by a one man band! Although the coffee drinkers in the group felt that the coffee wasn’t as amazing as they would have liked it to be, it’s still a very strong offering. I could also imagine in the middle of the day, Omotesando Koffee would be a lovely area of respite, with it’s cosy little garden, pared back aesthetics and overall zen appeal. 

Goodness. I was to share two days worth of travel in Tokyo in this one post, but one just cannot take shortcuts when discussing Beige. Next up though, a visit to Tsukiji market, and discovering the simply adorable Shimokitazawa suburb.