Monday, October 31, 2011


Brad's normally not one to be too fussed about where we go, although this one rare night, he did think he was more in the mood for Italian. I had then originally wanted to try out Mister Bianco in Kew, but being fully booked on a Saturday night, we found ourselves on Johnston Street at Porcino, based on mum's recommendation, instead.

It's kind of funny that whilst Smith Street and Brunswick Street are all hip and happening...Johnston street itself is a little on the sleepy side when it comes to restaurants and places to go nomming. I suppose it's more of the transit way to go to places to eat, rather than to eat on!

Porcino is found just a few strides away from the Johnston and Smith Street junction, and although it was a Saturday night, we were the only people there. It really must be so difficult to survive in Melbourne, with so many places to eat and new places opening up faster than you can keep up with!

As we were the only customers for most of the night, the staff were very friendly, maybe a touch overbearingly so as Brad and I observed later. I like a little bit of personal space when you're taking my order! But I suppose that just means they are keen to please, and maybe we're just getting too used to the supreme laid back nature of the newer, 'hipper' joints in was nice to have a relaxing meal in a completely lacking in any sense of pretentiousness.

We started with a serve of the home made arancini with parmesan and mozzarella. I personally found it a little bland and lacking in flavour. A touch more seasoning may not have hurt! I found I couldn't really taste much of the cheese...and there's supposed to be two there!

Whilst tempted by risottos, and disappointed to hear that one of their specials (which I think was a crab risotto) was not available, I went with a simple serve of baby calamari rings tossed in semolina. Just a charm, nice texture, every so lightly fried and hardly oily.

Urbanspoon claimed that Porcino had some of the best gnocchi in town, so I may have coerced Brad slightly into ordering it. Yes, I do run a dictatorship. It's a good life.

I can't remember if he ordered a special, or the gnocchi boscalola with sauteed mushrooms, pumpkin, leek, garlic cream and spinach. Think it was the latter.

Regardless, it was rich, it was decadent, the creamy, creamy, creamy sauce sung to every taste bud in my mouth. I couldn't stop picking at it! I'm not very experienced at what a good gnocchi is, but at Porcino, they were like pillows, quite fluffy and light. I'm tempted to say doughy, but that's not an accurate description either.

So I can't comment really if they're the best in Melbourne, but they were quite tasty!

7 Johnston St
Fitzroy, VIC 3066

Porcino on Urbanspoon

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Friday, October 28, 2011

A quick runaround Kuala Lumpur

Recently (meaning in September....ahem), I had a bit of a crazy 2 week trip, in which I visited 4 countries, spent about 30 hours on planes and only spent about 2 nights in each country I was at.

The trip was a bit for work, a bit for play and some house keeping errands as well. So basically, I landed in Kuala Lumpur, spent a few nights there, then went to Vietnam for a networking event, back to KL for a few nights to recoup energy, over to Hong Kong to get my HK ID reissued, over to Bangkok for a meeting with some friends and then finally back to KL, before I made my way back to Melbourne.

Yeah. I'm tired reading through all that too. I don't think I ever slept so much as I did when I got back!

So I normally do like to blog about each restaurant I go to individually, but as I really did not do a lot of exciting eating out, as it was constantly raining all the time and I was working for most of it, here's just a quick summary of the first three days I had in KL...

Whilst I don't often go for Malaysian food when I'm in Melbourne, drop me off in Malaysia and it's all I want. May as well have it where it (should be) really good and really cheap! I personally find Malaysian food to be one of the heavier Asian cuisines, lots of fried noodles, fried rice, curries and so forth (by the end of two weeks I was hunting down salads...), but it is also surprisingly diverse. There's the men who man the Chinese Malaysian hawker stores, the Indian nasi kandar, and a bit of who else knows what.

This trip in KL, I stayed at Prince Hotel, which is literally a 5 minute walk away from the super luxe mall, Pavilion, which also means, heaps of food. Hoorah! Mall culture in Asia is so bizarre to me sometimes, can you imagine going to a mall specifically for dinner? May as well throw in some shopping while you're at it I guess...

One of the first things I wanted when I got to KL was a Nasi Lemak. My favourite (literally translated), fat rice.

The last time I had been to the Pavilion food court, I was quite unimpressed by the nasi lemak, so decided to see if I could try somewhere else. My dad had never ever liked Madam Kwan, but there she was and since I had never been, I figured I could not be a judge unless I tried it.

Teh tarik is also one of my favourite drinks to have when I'm back in Malaysia. It is known as 'pulled tea' and made of black tea and condensed milk, so you have the nice tea flavour, that has a sweetness to it, without being too milky. Typically served hot, but I was in the mood to have mine cold...

The nasi lemak at Madam Kwan was (by Malaysian standards) a little expensive, somewhere between 15 to 20 ringett. I found the curry chicken a little bit dry and oddly sweet, although it was tasty. The sambal lacked a little kick to it as well, but as it was my first nasi lemak in a very long time, I wasn't really complaining too much. Although a little expensive by Malaysian standards, I thought it was fairly okay.

Sushi trains in Malaysia bewilder me. They always have the oddest things on the menu. Isn't collagen that suff you inject in your face?!

My brother and I actually discovered our love for sushi and all things Japanese flavoured by eating at a sushi train somewhere in Kuala Lumpur and smashing down 20 plates between the two of us.

I know, why I am having sushi in Malaysia? Because it's a sushi train, and I love the novelty, and it's much cheaper than in Australia. May as well indulge right?

On my own I only had 3 or 4 plates, but the standard has dropped a lot from the last time I was here, this goes for both the sushi trains in Pavilion. The rice was always a bit hard and chewy, meaning they don't do much turn around of their plates and everything was covered in mayonaise for the most part.

On day 2, I decided to go down to the Lot 10 food court for lunch, as per some recommendations.

Whilst I was hoping for something that was more hawker-style, I found Lot 10's food court had a lot of Chinese stalls, and not so many Malaysian stalls unfortunately. Although there was a massive variety of Chinese cuisine, from hot pots, to soup noodles to roast duck. The place was also quite nicely decked out, although a touch hot due to the fact it was quite crowded and all the stalls really close to each other!

I did manage to find one store though, where they sold what they called 'Penang Style Zu Cheng Fan', but to me, just looked like my favourite chee cheong fun. Chee cheong fun is essentially a rice noodle roll and the Penang style uses a shrimp paste which is quite dark and sweet. They also usually mix in a bit of chilli with it and at this stall, a sprinkle of fried shallots and sesame seeds. Mmhmmm. I love this dish. It's typically served at kopitiams for breakfast, but having been spoilt on Western styled, usually lighter breakfasts, I can only fathom having this at least for lunch!

It was really good and incredibly satisfying, carbohydrates mmhmmm! And of course I had to have some awesome teh tarik...

Day three, I kept it simple and went for some nasi kandar in the food court, which was actually pretty decent. At nasi kandar's the will usually have a selection of different curries, vegetables and proteins, usually in bain marie's, to choose from which is then served to you with rice. A healthy serving of rice, some chicken curry, some lamb curry and some veggies on the side. Can't go too wrong.

I was also craving some cendol, which is probably my favourite Malaysian dessert (I like it more than ice kachang, gasp!), but the offering at the Pavilion food court, which I forgot to mention is called the 'Food Republic' was quite dismal. The pandan tasted all burnt for some reason! I won't elaborate more on what it is as I have a much better example saved up for a later date....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Venice for a day

Venice. It's something out of those fantasy video games I play, those amazing elaborate and just beautiful cities. Made rich from merchants back in the day, famous for their masquerade parties and all on a little island, which is sinking every year, despite people's best efforts.

It really is a fairytale.

I was quite excited, yet apprehensive to visit Venice, would it live up to all the hype? Or would it just be drowned in...the culture of the tourist?

There was only one way to find out!

If you ever plan to go to Venice, I would certainly suggest staying outside of the city and training in. Padova, where we stayed, was just a 40 minute ride, that was extremely affordable, depending on which train you got. Make sure you check with your hotel what the times are and what the costs are!

I'm going to try not to have too much text, for a change, as I do have squillions of photos from our single day here and it has taken quite a bit to edit them down to what I have posted up here.

We barely got off the train and right away, Daddy decided we should have a gondola ride. Or in his case, gelato on a gondola. The ultimate Italian experience? Yes it is a little expensive, but there is really nowhere else in the world (that I am aware of) that you can get a trip like this. You get taken down the little canals that the bigger boat taxis cannot reach, and see some parts of Venice that have absolutely no walkways through them. On top of that, you're even provided a little tour and given a history lesson about the origins of Venice.

It's a little sad though, despite Venice's uniqueness, and all it's beauty, it is sinking every year and on the gondola ride, you could really see how the salt water was eating away at the walls, by the residue it left behind and in some instances, how much the water would rise during heavy rainy periods.

And Venice has tried to do a lot to stay afloat, yet despite their best efforts, it keeps sinking. Little by little.

I can't remember exactly which church this was, but it was beautiful. As many of Italy's churches are. They were all absolutely chock a block full of art around every corner. It's sort of fascinating how much art there is that is related to religion, and that so much of it is absolutely extraordinary beautiful and detailed. Funny what faith will do to you huh?

We stopped by Rosa Salva, which according to Lonely Planet, is renown for it's gelato and sweet goodies. The place was absolutely packed out, with locals and tourists popping in and out for espresso's and sweets. The gelato was scrumptious and refreshing and the chocolate custardy goodness we got was also totally sinful. I wish I had taken pictures inside, as it was very cute and they did have a number of other adorable goodies.

Although Venice is famous for getting lost in, with our map, we actually managed to stay fairly well orientated. It is fascinating walking around though, over little bridges, into random squares, and down alleyways all over the place. There really aren't that many other places that look like Venice. I was actually quite surprised how uncrowded the place seemed, although we walked around quite a bit of Venice, it's not like the city's alleyways were sardined with tourists...well...that's until you got here...

Piazza San Marco, one of the, or maybe the one and only tourist hotspot in Venice, where the church of St Mark stands. The lines to go in and check the church out though? Don't even want to think of it! So we just stayed outside and marvelled. Just look at all the detail in the murals and in the adornments on the top of the church. Stunning.

We decided to sit down and have a quick drink, although, right by the Piazza was a terrible idea. So expensive! I remember the hot chocolates being something like 9 euro and the espresso being around 5 euro! Mum and I ordered a Bellini each, which was also 9 euro, but we figured since it had alcohol in it we could justify it...

After almost a full day of running around and starting to get a little lost, Dad became quite tired and grumpy. So we found a little quiet square, away from the Piazza, where we got some absolutely delicious cheap eats and a refreshing beer or two.

These cheesy mozzarella balls were some of the best things I had ever had. I remember biting into one and instantly recoiling away and nearly dropping it, as the piping hot 'cheese juice' from inside starting spilling on me!

After that though, we did find them quite entertaining to play with....

To be honest, I may not plan on returning to Venice for a while, unless I was to attend the big masquerade party they have once a year or so. I saw what I wanted to see of the lovely place in the one day I was there and frankly, I'm totally not into jacked up food and drink prices since it is so much work to get produce and supplies in and out I'm sure.

But, I did still very much enjoy our one day here. It's really something to see the canals, the intricate glassware and to walk by the stores that sell beautifully hand crafted masks. I would share more photos but this post would just never end...

Rosa Salva
Campo San Giovanni e Paolo Castello 6779
30122 Venezia, Italy
041 522 7949