Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lake House, Daylesford

Over the recent holidays, we rented a car and drove down to Ballarat, and then took a further 45 minute drive to Daylesford, where we quite possibly had our best meal in Melbourne yet.

Lake House Restaurant is part of the Lake House Hotel, which is a luxury hotel/spa (accommodation costs about 500 bucks a night there). The restaurant is run by Alla Wolf Tasker, whom some of you may know from the recent episode of Masterchef. The hotel has numerous awards, including Regional Accommodation of the Year, Australia’s Best Spa Restaurant, Best Hotel/Resort Dining, Best of Award for Excellence, and also most importantly, The Age Good Food Guide’s Two Chefs Hats.

We got there early for our 630 booking, and hung around the lobby. The hotel manager was also kind enough to let us know the password for the hotel’s wi-fi access.


We studied the menu while waiting. Our options were either a 2 course meal for $69, a 3 course meal for $85, or a degustation 12 course for $125. We decided that we’ll go with 2 courses first with the option of getting dessert later depending on how things were going.


We were eventually seated and found the restaurant to be very warm and cozy.

On to the food!

Now, we’ve been to fine dining restaurants a couple of times before, and understand that the amount that we usually get isn’t too much, but Lake House blew us away in terms of the amount that was served to us.

Before our entree appeared, we got a complementary amuse-bouche.


This is a mini cup. It may look like a normal sized teacup, but it is not. Which is an appropriate size for an amuse-bouche. The soup was creamy and silky, and tasted a bit like dhal (the ones you get in roti canai). It also warmed our souls up, which was especially good for the cold day that it was.

And then the entrees.

For her: 5 Tastes from the Sea.


From left to right, Kinkawooka Mussels Mariniere, Oyster Jelly, Tuna Sashimi with Pickled Cucumber and an Asian Salad, Snapper Ceviche, and Crystal Bay Prawns Tempura Style with a Chilli Aioli. I had the Oyster Jelly all to myself. It was a fresh oyster embedded in jelly, and really tasted as if it were from the sea. Nibbled a bit on the tempura as well, and certainly way better than the food court tempura prawns. I also had a bit of the snapper ceviche (fresh fish marinated in citrus juice – the acid cooks the fish), which was also excellent (Denise said it was awesome!).

For me: Lake House Charcuterie Plate: ‘Birds of a Feather’. I sort of knew what a charcuterie plate was – bits of ham and pate on a plate, but the amount that I got astounded me And for an entree as well! My dish came in 2 separate plates!


The container on the right was a Duck Parfait, which was the only thing I didn’t like about the dish. It was sweet and too sour, and it didn’t appeal to me. The container on the right was Duck Rillette in an Elderberry Jelly.  This was really good. Just like pate (I love pate), it went really well with the toasted brioche (the slices of bread in the middle). And there was quite a lot of pate as well (about as much as a tin of tuna, which is actually quite a lot!)


And the other part of the dish. From the top, and moving clockwise: Boudin Blanc with a Lentil Vinaigrette, Chicken Galantine with some Remoulade underneath it, and a Quail Egg Salad with a confit of Gizzard.  Every individual component of the dish was really good and really satisfied me. This is truly a dish for any meaty person. For the amount that I got, it could very easily have been a platter to share for 2 people.

Next, the mains.

For her: Pork.


This came to the table with a cover on it, containing a ‘light smoke’ i.e. steam with the multiple scents of the dish infused into it, and when the cover was removed, you could smell all the different tastes of the dish.

The 2 chunks of meat on top is the Brined Loin, underneath them which you cannot see are Crisped Rolled Bellies, and the one by itself is the Trotter Croquette. This was a very very very good dish. You could taste every individual component of the pork, and everything worked very well together. The croquette was light and fluffy, and had the delicate crisp on top. The crisped rolled bellies were very much like siew yok.

The dish also came with some Gewurtztraminer ‘soured cabbage’ and some pickled apple.


We also did not find this very appealing. It was sour, and much like an apple crumble, which is a dessert, not a main course.

And for me: Beef ‘pot au feu’. The traditional version of pot au feu, according to wikipedia, it is a french beef stew, literally meaning ‘pot on fire’. It is usually served with some pickled vegetables, eaten with some form of carbohydrate, and the broth from the stew can be used as a soup.

This was a deconstructed pot au feu. And it came in 2 separate plates as well.


A piece of toasted bread on top of the bouillon, which was the rich concentrated beef broth, for sipping. The broth had a very clean beefy taste, and I discovered that I liked it very much. The dressings (I wasn’t able to identify what dressings they were) were what brought the dish to the pinnacle. I daresay that without the dressings, the whole dish would be quite bland, but with them, truly excellent. This is where the whole of the dish is more than the sum of its parts.


This was Sher Wagyu cooked sous-vide. You can see the beef Silverside beside the round chunks of beef, and some Oxtail Dumplings in between, with the pickled vegetables scattered around it. Underneath it all, there was also some Smoked Tongue (not visible in the photo).

I loved the oxtail dumpling. The dumpling pastry was very delicate, and the taste of the oxtail was wonderful. The wagyu was very much like Kevin’s sous-vide beef which won him the Bocuse d’Or challenge in Top Chef Season 6. Very very tender. Tastewise though, it was a bit bland, but that was before I tried it (and everything else on the plate) with the dressings (talked about above) that came with it.

All in all, this was a very beefy dish. For beef lovers.


Every table also got a bowl of greens. Ours was the only table that finished it.

At this point, we were quite full, but we decided that since the meal was so good, we couldn’t pass up dessert. We opted to go for a shared platter for two.

But before our dessert arrived, we were presented each with a complementary ‘dessert as well!


This was a very clean and refreshing dessert. The pear jelly was sweet and fresh, and the yoghurt complemented the jelly very very well.

And then our dessert arrived.


A selection of everything! Starting from the bottom right and moving clockwise: Mango Panna Cotta, ‘I Forget What This Was So Let’s Call It Lemon Pudding’, Butterscotch Ice Cream, Creme Brulee, Chocolate Fondant, and a Granny Smith Granita.

Everything was very good. I wasn’t very partial to the butterscotch ice cream, but I liked the lemony pudding. I also always like panna cottas, so this was very good. I thought the creme brulee was a bit runny, but tasted very good (reminds me of a certain tv show, hmm, but still, very true). The chocolant fondant had the classic runny chocolate oozing out of it when you cut it, but my absolute favourite was the granita. I had that last, and it was the ideal finish to an ideal meal. Imagine a Granny Smith Slurpee. Cool and refreshing.

Looking around the room and at other people’s dishes as well, I concluded that every dish that they served were of a substantial amount, and I found myself wanting every single dish that the other patrons ordered.

This is a restaurant truly deserving of it’s 2 Chefs Hat status.

Very very nice, and I’d say, slightly more worth it than a ski lift pass for a day. Heh heh.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shira Nui

I went to Shira Nui sometime in February, using my birthday as an excuse to spend some money on omakase, which I have had been waiting to try for a long long time. We had to take a 40 minute train ride to Glen Waverly to get to the restaurant. Basically, omakase means that you let the chef decide what to serve you. It also means that you have to be prepared to pay a lot. You get 2 pieces of sushi each serve, and each sushi is about $4.50. Up to about 9 courses in total, depending on the time.


There are 2 options for dining in Shira Nui. You either choose to sit at the counter, which means you’ll be having omakase, or you sit in the dining tables, where you can order a la carte.

Unfortunately, because this was a while ago, I have forgotten the names of all the sushi that I was served. I did keep a record of the names, but then lost the record when my phone had to be reformatted. Thus, all I have are pictures and some vague impressions of how the meal was like.


So the first course was this. Some form of white fish on sushi rice, with a sprinkle of sea salt and a dash of lemon juice. You will notice that I put there ‘no soy’. What this means is that the chef will decide whether we are supposed to add soy to the sushi or not. This course, being the starter, does not require soy.  To be honest, I think this sushi tasted rather bland to me, and would like to have put some soy onto it.


This is the seared salmon, which was totally awesome. I think it was a ‘no soy’ sushi, but I cannot be certain. Seared on the outside, rare in the middle. Really really good.


This might have been a ‘soy’ sushi. I loved the taste of mackerel, and it went very well with the sushi rice.


Seared wagyu beef. I did not think that this was very spectacular. The seared beef tasted like good seared beef, but it didn’t work for me on the sushi rice. No soy.


Soy. One of the more interesting selections of the night. Not sure what ark shell is, but this was quite good as well.


The star of the show. Seared maguro steak. As you can see, just like the salmon, seared on the outside, perfectly pink in on the inside. Delectable.


I liked this one as well, but can’t really remember much about it.


Oyster with mayonnaise. I loved the oyster, but remembered that the mayonnaise had a funny texture to it that I did not quite like.


The last course, and my absolute favourite. Also the most expensive as well I think ($9 per piece).


And a complimentary dessert. Fruit with fruit sorbet. A nice way to round off the meal.

Final thoughts: The food wasn’t the most spectacular I have had before (I think more than half of the sushi were excellent, however, I’d have hoped that everything was excellent), however, the experience was certainly worth it (especially having watched episodes of Anthony Bourdain having omakase in Japan and New York). Sitting at the bar and watching the chefs make sushi from scratch (not only ours, but for the a la carte tables as well) was an experience to savour. I would like to say that I’d love to go back again, but I don’t think I’m willing to pay that much for this meal again. I’d return for the a la carte, however.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Horoki Casual Dining/Bar

This place is severely (with emphasis added) recommended to those people that like to try a lot of different dishes and share food between small groups people.


This quirky little restaurant is located on Liverpool Street, and is not that big (only seats 27 people), so groups of 2, 3, or 4 would be perfect. Anymore would be pushing it because you won’t have enough to share between everyone anyway. The dishes are semi tapas-like, but the dishes are slightly larger.



There were only 2 other people in the restaurant when we got there, so the atmosphere was excellent. Comfy, cozy, quiet, comfortable.

On to the food.


This daikon salad was yummay (aye!)! The daikon had a potato chip texture (crunch!), and although it certainly didn’t taste like potato chips (in fact, by itself it didn’t taste of anything at all!), the sesame seed and soy dressing perfectly married together the daikon, seaweed, and the sashimi.


Then we had a scotch fillet steak. The specks of green that you can just make out (not the bok choy) are wasabi. There’s also some fried onion there as well. The meat was tender and succulent, and I loved the mushrooms. The mushrooms just go ‘pop’ in your mouth and you get a huge flavour explosion of mushroom.


Another excellent dish. Octopus in garlic butter. Eaten with the bread on the side. The dish was sizzling when it came, and garlic butter sauce went very well with the bread, which was toasted to perfection.


And then we had some stuffed chicken wings. Looks like normal chicken wings, but they have been deboned and stuffed with gyoza, like a dumpling.


A very very interesting combination, and works very well with the soy dip provided on the side. It was like eating a chicken wing and a dumpling together.

And finally dessert.


Green tea ice cream was very good. 2 big scoops of it in a cup with a strawberry on top.


And I loved the panna cotta, except for the fact that there could have been more of it. As you can see, it’s barely half the cup. Still, it tasted very good, especially with the jam.

Pricewise, slightly pricey, but not too bad. The dishes were on average about $14 each, each chicken wing was $3.50, dessert was $4.50 each, and in total came up to about $30 each for the 2 of us. In terms of amount, I could have eaten more though. Perhaps if I had the foresight to order a bowl of rice (which I’m not even sure whether they have or not) I would have been much better off.

Horoki is truly a gem of a find and I cannot believe that I’ve never heard about it before.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

6-Minute Egg

This was my breakfast today, consisting of kabana, half a loaf of garlic bread, salad, and a 6-minute egg, with some cracked black pepper sprinkled on top.

What’s a 6-minute egg? It’s an egg with the white part near the shell firm (but not hard), and the closer you get to the yolk, the white gets softer and softer until you get to the soft and runny yolk. Its technique is described here, on the Voltaggio Brothers’ website.

At first, I thought I had failed and had obtained a hard boiled egg, but lo and behold, just like the description, the white was firm on the outside, but softer and softer as you get closer to the middle. The yolk flowed out like a golden river once I cut into it. Its texture was almost silky and it went extremely well with the garlic bread.

This was definitely a success story, unlike my previous attempts with poached eggs, and I will surely make it again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lin Heung

This will be my final Hong Kong post. It is also written in 2 parts; the 2nd part came about because I actually went back to this place again on the day before I left Hong Kong.

Part 1:

Lin Heung is another restaurant that Anthony Bourdain went to but I only found that out after going to it.


My friend (from London) said that her guidebook recommended this traditional tea house and we could go and try it out. Sure, I replied, expecting just another random dim sum/yum cha place.

How wrong was I.


The first thing that struck when we got in was the hubbub and the clicking of teacups and teapots (watch Anthony Bourdain and this statement will mean even more to you). My friend immediately declared, “Okay Jian Wey, you’re in charge here!”.

The first thing I did was to order tea. The guy rattled off the names of a number of different teas, and I randomly picked out one of them. There’s a story to tell with the tea here but I forgot to take a picture of it and it is very hard to describe without the picture. Suffice to say I didn’t want to show my ignorance and just agreed to whatever the waiter said but ended up drinking the tea out of the cup using the wrong method.

I asked the waiter whether we should just wait for the lady to push the cart by us, or to actually go and get it ourselves. He said that we could wait, but I could just go straight to the source and get it (which I did, thankfully, because by the time everyone was done getting what they want, anything that gets pushed by us had only things that people didn’t want).


The ladies wheel their carts right to the door of the kitchen, and the guy stacks up a number of baskets onto the carts, and then the lady wheels them out again. The moment she gets a new batch, a lot of customers get up from their seats and surround the lady to get first pick at whatever they wanted.


I had to randomly open those dim sum baskets to look in them and pick what I wanted, as the ladies just shout out the names of the dishes in chinese and I had no idea what they were. I remembered that in the show (even though I didn’t know that this was the same place at that time), Anthony Bourdain’s guide went straight to the kitchen to get some har gao. Thus, I decided to head over there too, and happened upon a lady who was receiving a fresh batch of dim sum baskets. I ended up getting shouted at by the lady because I was taking too long deciding what I wanted and kept asking her what each individual thing was. When I turned around to go back to the table I realised I was blocking 4 other carts behind me and nobody else could get to the food.


Not many pictures of food though. The situation was too stressful, but eventually I recovered my wits to take a few pictures.

I took this because this was familiar to me. Spare ribs are spare ribs.

I took this because this was unfamiliar to me. I still have no idea what it was. Had the consistency of fat, but I didn’t think it was fat. My friend didn’t dare try this though. Still, I thought it was very good (because felt like fat).

This is not a char siew pao, but a pork and yam bun. Its a bun with a slice of yam and a slice of pork (which, thankfully, isn’t 70% fat) in it. Like a sandwich.

I randomly picked this from the dessert trolley. We decided that it had toffee in it, but it literally just had a tiny miniscule drop inside the bun, and the rest of the bun was just, bun. More toffee (or whatever it was) would have been very welcome.

Other things that we had were char siew pao and siew mai (their siew mai was very good). Didn’t see any har gao (actually, my friend commented that we didn’t see a single prawn based dim sum), which was quite unfortunate.

The food here was certainly very good. Other people also ordered dishes in addition to their dim sum. I’d say the quality of the dim sum is nearly (only nearly) that of Tim Ho Wan, but they have much more variety here. The only problem is that you have to be familiar with what they are or you wouldn’t know what to get.

Highly recommended.

Part 2:

On the last day before a few of us left Hong Kong, we got together and came here again.

Because there were more of us this time, we were able to order more food and I had the opportunity to take more pictures.

Pork balls. Fairly standard stuff.

This is also fairly standard, but I have no idea what it is, nor what it is called.

This is the proper char siew pao…

…which looks different from the pork and yam buns. Here you can see the piece of yam more clearly.

Again, fairly standard stuff.

One of my favourites.

Chicken feet. The chinese translation comes out as ‘phoenix claws’, which I feel is inappropriate. You can’t eat phoenixes because they don’t exist.

Looks really good, tasted okay, but again, no idea what its called.

We also ordered a plate of fried noodles, which was, not so good. I still ate it though, but its not the best noodles I’ve had before (by far).


And these are my fellow elective friends whom I was very fortunate to have met. Certainly made the experience all the more worthwhile.