Sunday, December 12, 2010

Disappointment at Dell'Ugo Southbank

On a Friday night a few weeks ago, my mum received the good news that she had gotten a full time job!  This was fantastic news, and so I decided to take her out to dinner with my sister and great aunt.  I thought - let's go somewhere fancy!  Let's go somewhere expensive!  Let's feast on good food and guzzle good wine!  And because my great aunt has a unit at Southbank, I chose Dell 'Ugo (

I had tried the New Farm Dell 'Ugo some years ago for a Melbourne Cup lunch.  I really loved it - it was really high quality Italian food.  I remember ordering an amazing ravioli and a gorgeous rabbit terrine and thinking it was the best Italian food I had ever had.

Unfortunately Dell 'Ugo Southbank was a different story.  Opening the menu, it soon became clear that everything was very expensive but just didn't sound that appealing.  Plus, there was no veal on the menu - I mean what kind of self respective Italian restaurant doesn't have veal on the menu?

We started off by having the assortment of vegetarian dips served with toasted bread & eggplant cheese balls
Actually this was ok, but it did set us back $23.  $23 for slices of bread with 3 small containers of dip and 3 eggplant cheeseballs.  While the dips were unusual and the balls were quite cheesy and tasty, this appetiser did not score high enough on the yum-expensive matrix, that is, it was not delicious enough to outweigh the cost.

After a disappointing start, I was looking forward to the main.  I had ordered the pork cutlet filled with manchego cheese wrapped in prosciutto pan fried with sage and pork glaze served with potatoes and mushrooms ($38).
Yes yes, it came out on a cool rectangular plate and looked impressive enough at first.  But as I ate the meal, I realised that the pork cutlet was reaaaaally fatty.  And not in a good way.  I was spitting out gristle left right and centre.  And who's idea was it to put a pile of shitaake and enoki mushrooms on the side?  I wasn't sure how this fitted into the whole "Venetian Style Cuisine" touted on the menu.

But the final nail in the coffin for Dell 'Ugo Southbank was this pitiful side dish.
This set us back $12.  If I'm paying $12 for a side dish, I want it to rock my world.  I do not want the cauliflower to be overcooked and the beans to be shriveled beyond all recognition, like someone had nuked them in the microwave for 8 minutes.  For SHAME Dell 'Ugo. 

I will never go back to Dell 'Ugo Southbank.  It was very expensive and the food was average at best.  If you're in the area, try Piaf or Bamboo Basket and steer clear!!
Dell 'Ugo South Bank on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010: An Era Odyssey

When I made my booking at Era - mainly due to the fact that no where else decent had a spare table for Melbourne Cup day at such short notice - I did not expect to have an encounter with the sublime.

Upon being presented with the menu at Era, I was placed in the happy position of not being able to make up my mind because everything on it sounded so delicious!  I eventually settled on the seared scallops with broad beans and lobster dumplings.

I love the way a perfectly cooked scallop is juicy and slightly glutinous and has a subtle seafood taste without being overpowering.  The real indicator of a good scallop for me though, is that amazing sweetness that comes through in an aftertaste.  In my view, they are about as good as seafood gets.  I had really hit paydirt here.  I honestly have not seen scallops this colossal.  I mean just get a look at these pillows of juicy seafood nomnom!  And who knew that a humble broadbean could add such subtle complexity to the dish?  The crustacean bisque sauce, drizzled over the plate in flood of yellow velvet, was the crowning glory.

When I put that first morsel from the dish in my mouth, it was like the world slowed down: I got tunnel vision and my eyes went wide as my senses took in the full spectrum of the taste.  While I may be overstating things slightly, after about 15 seconds of experiencing something like the cosmological rebirth scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I returned to consciousness to realise that this was one of the most sensational entrees I had had all year.

After recovering from my Kubrick-style encounter with the monolithic scallops, I was ready for the main event: the rare venison.

While the venison was not quite as mind alteringly profound as the epic scallops, and let's face it, the crisped sweet potato flower was a little naff, the meal really was terrific.  The meat was dark and rich on the outside, while deliciously juicy and ruby red on the inside.  The jus was intense and pungent.  I was definitely getting the meat sweats by the end of this course!

Unlike so many restaurants of its kind, Era is certainly not mean with its portion sizes.  There were at least 7 or 8 slices of tantalising venison fillet my plate.  And underneath was hidden something quite special: a piquant bed of braised red cabbage.  To so many people, cabbage is merely a drab, squidgy, sludge that causes bad gas and is of no real culinary importance.  But add something zesty to it like sherry vinegar or citrus and it turns into a delicious pickley foil for something rich and meaty like venison.

With a meal this good, it's not surprising that my lunchmates and I ate and drank all the way until dinner service was just about to begin!  As the light faded we stepped out blinking into the sunlight to make our way home, full bellied and satisfied at the end of our Era experience. 

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bewilderingly good bar food

An impromptu girls drinks night with some work colleagues brought me to the Euro unexpectedly one Thursday night (181 Mary Street, Brisbane).  What started off as a low key catch up turned into a booze fest of epic proportions, fuelled by some of the most delicious bar food I've ever had.

A little over a year ago, Brisbane food scene stalwart Urbane reopened as two long narrow restaurants and a laneway bar.  The Euro was intended to be the more casual dining option to Urbane, with a staircase leading up to the Laneway Bar (which after suffering one long hot summer is being made over with retractable windows and air conditioning!).

The Euro, apart from having super funky bright red female toilets that make you think you're in a German surrealist film, amazingly still has that brand spanking new wood smell which reminds me of Ikea.  And I love Ikea!

We kicked off our night by sitting up at the bar and starting off slowly with some tasty beers.  As we were starving, we quickly pounced on the bar menu (which is technically the Laneway Bar menu) and were intrigued. 

We began by munching on warmed organic olives and shoestring fries with aioli but quickly moved on to something more substantial: mini hotdogs

These were $18 so that is $6 per hotdog which is a little steep.  But can I just say - YUM!  Each one is different: cheese kransky, onion confit, dijon mustard and tomato chutney; Merguez chipolata, choucroute, gruyere and seeded mustard; and pork, fennel and white wine, braised red cabbage and apple relish.  The only downside were that these babies were gone in only a few bites. 

We progressed to wine and I chose a GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mourverdre) which I am just obsessed with at the moment.  It's so rich, inky and delicious with a slightly sweet aftertaste.  It went perfectly with the meaty hotdogs.

Things really started going downhill when we cracked the cocktail menu which features such favourites as the Burnt Orange Flip, Clover Club and my very very favourite: the Espresso Martini.
What a diabolical cocktail: vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot in the arm of good black espresso.  After a few of these lethal hits, I was wired to say the least.

With fires in our bellies we knew we needed something more substantial to soak up the alcohol and we progressed to the ragu of pork cheek, confit fennel, black olives and chilli with parmasan gnocchi

This was fucking sensational.  Aniseed and pork are an obvious and classic combination, but they have never made more sense together than when I tasted this dish.  It could be the copious amount of booze I had consumed influencing my judgment, but I swear that this was the best gnocchi I have ever tasted.  The pork cheek ragu was melt in your mouth, the rich red tomato sauce was big, brash and spicy and the confit fennel was succulent, soft, anise and yet piquant.  It was $26 and was worth every penny.  I WANT IT NOW!!

While I am still basking in the afterglow of the most agonisingly delicious gnocchi of all time, there was one disappointment with the Euro and that was the hams tasting plate

There are a number of these on the menu to choose from, ranging from $24 to $36, and when you're paying that kind of money for four small piles of meatstuffs accompanied by some anemic looking bread sticks, you can't help but feel ripped off.  I love suckling on delicious cured meats as much as the next person, but really and truly, you just can't charge that much for such a small amount of food.  Plus it's liable to contribute to people not eating enough while drinking and then getting horrifically pissed by accident.

Although the charcuterie lets down the Euro, everything else about this place makes it my destination of choice for city drinks and bar food.  With such a fabulous cocktail menu it is not surprising that I stumbled out of there on a school night at almost midnight, bewildered at my level of inebriation, but at the same time elated.  While I suffered for it the next day, I certainly did not regret my night out at the Euro and I will be back soon enough, demanding the delicious pork cheek gnocchi.
The Euro (Urbane) on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010

All that glitters...searching for El Dorado

Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I feel like I am on a quest.  Like a Spanish Conquistadore, I am searching for the El Dorado of Mexican dining - the perfect most delicious plate of spicy, tomatoey, corny, cheesy, goodness.  It's like I ate this perfect meal once in my childhood and I'm trying to recapture it, and this is what keeps me trying every Mexican place I can find.

It was this sick desire that drove me to Pepe's Coorparoo (433 Old Cleveland Road) in search of the holy grail of the Americas.

I arrived one quiet Sunday night brandishing the obligatory bottle of cheap red wine to accompany my scrumptious South American delight and was shown to a table in a room tackily decorated with terracotta tiles and kitschy Mexican furnishings.

After beginning the El Dorado quest in earnest and scrutinising the menu like Columbus scouring the Atlantic for the New World, I settled for the chimichanga.  I just love that word - it sounds like a party in your mouth where everyone is doing a special dance and singing "quando quando quando quando!" while shaking maracas.
That's right people, it's a deep fried burrito.  Now most Mexican food does tend to look like a deranged artwork created by a 2 year old on your plate, and this dish was no exception.  Not that it's a bad thing - looks aren't everything in Mexican cuisine in my opinion.

Looking at the dish, it was hitting all the right notes: the iceberg lettuce (being used in the only context that it should be ever be allowed - well that and san choi bau, oh and on a Maccers burger when you're hungover), the lashings of carbolicious refried beans, the red chilli sauce, the grated tasty cheddar and of course the crunchy fatty burrito filled with shredded beef stewed into oblivion.  I'm actually salivating while writing this...

But unfortunately, El Dorado eluded me again and my quest ended in disappointment.  The lettuce was wilting, the refried beans were tasteless and the burrito was bland. 

My husband ordered the chicken enchiladas.
It pretty much tasted the same as the chimichanga but with rice. 

All in all I was a crestfallen with my experience at Pepe's.  I think if all of the meals were about $5 less pricey I would have loved it though.  I just don't think you can conscionably charge over $20 for this stuff and they should cut that out right now.

But never fear, I will valiantly continue my quest for the fabled city of gold and maybe one day the shimmering mirage of Mexican food perfection will be MINE!
Pepe's Coorparoo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bad romance: Brisbane's Guiltiest Pleasure

When a friend of mine kept ranting on about how much she loved the German Club at Woolloongabba, I have to admit, I thought she was on crack.  Who wants to go to some European version of an RSL, eat substandard food and watch 50 year old German men sucking down beer?  It did not sound like my idea of a good night out.

After my friend finally succeeded in dragging me along to the German Club one rainy Friday night, I have to admit, it was a revelation.

After paying the $5 membership fee, we were ushered into a fairly crappy looking pub area with a few examples of the aforementioned 50 year old German men sitting around drinking beer.

Keen to start drinking beer myself, I moseyed on up to the bar to check out what was on offer, and can I tell you, I was delighted.  They had a fabulous range of German beers on tap including my most favourite of favourites: Erdinger!!!

This beer is the shit people. 

It's big, it's golden and it's wheaty.  I love these Bavarian cloudy beers that are big brash and bitter at the front but then have sweet and fruity aftertaste.  It comes in 500ml servings and basically there's a good night to be had right there.  The German Club seemed a whole lot more awesome after slamming down a few of these suckers.

And it's not just the beer that is big here.  In usual German style, the serving sizes of all of the meals here are ridiculous.  And I like it.  Case on point: the pork belly.
I mean look at this thing - it's a monster!  I thought it was going to take over the world!  With a belly full of beer it was a real struggle to down this plate of pig monster and so it was probably a good thing that I was sharing my dinner. 

The pork belly was not the best you'll ever taste, but by god, with a serving size like that of glistening, sweet, fatty pork belly you really cannot complain.  The other sweet surprise was the sour cherry sauerkraut.  It was so yummy!  I really can't go past the astringency of a really tasty briney sauerkraut, and the sour cherries just made it even better.  And this plate of deliciousness was only $21 - very impressive value for money.

My German Club indoctrinated friend had also espoused the virtues of the German Club's schnitz to me.  Again I had been skeptical - I mean who has ever had a good schnitz in a pub?  Or ever?  Too many times I've been scarred by a deep fried dried up piece of meat covered in breadcrumbs and labelled schnitzel and I've vowed "never again!".  But again I had to stand corrected.
OK so it looks like your average schnitz - and that side salad really is pitiful, but I'm telling you there is something in the crumbs!  While I've often found a pub schnitz to be tasteless, this one was bursting with salty savoury flavour - and the mushroom sauce was really delicious.  .

During our dinner we had been treated to some interesting sounds coming from the beer hall that adjoins the bar area.  These sounds were coming from a 50 year old German man in lederhosen playing covers up on stage at the front of the beer hall, lined with long tables and littered with drunk (non-German) people.

This man, known only as "Andrew" banged out some rock solid covers of everything from Lady Gaga to ACDC.  While I was dubious at first, the more Erdinger I consumed the more I liked it!  Andrew really had me when he cranked up Gaga's "Bad Romance" which had grown men toting wheat beer and yelling "Gaga ooh lala".

After a slow start, I had a rip roaring night out at the German Club and I will definitely be back to sample the mutant pork knuckle and drunkenly lurch to the musical stylings of lederhosen clad Andrew.
Zum Kaiser, Brisbane German Club on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dinner with Danger Will Robinson!

This is a little embarrassing and I don't always admit this in public, but I am a huge Nerdy McNerd fan of science fiction. I have been known to hibernate on a weekend with my husband watching season whatever of Battlestar Galactica, Stargate (all of its incarnations) and yes, even Star Trek.

Maybe this is why I was intrigued by Obaltan (right outside Elizabeth Street Arcade in the City with its retractable silver space age extractor fans hanging down from the ceiling above each table, ready to suck up the charcoal smoke from the grills.  They reminded me of the arms of the Robot from Lost In Space (you know when he waved them around klaxoning "Danger Will Robinson").

Obaltan has a pretty extensive menu filled with all those strange and wonderful Korean food names in short gutteral bursts like "Bibimbup" and "Yuk Gae Jang".  We knew that we had to order some BBQ though, so we went with the Combination A ($65) which featured cha dol, beef skirt, beef ribs and pork belly and steered clear of the other choice which had too much animal intestine to really tickle my fancy.

 While I do enjoy the theatre and fun of grilling all the meats on the smoky charcoal grill, I must say it does get a little stressful.  Making sure everyone gets some of the deliciously charred meat, that it's all dished out evenly, that you don't cook too long, that you don't cook too short and give everyone food poisoning... ughh!!

For some variety (and vegetable content) we went with the Dolsot Bibimbap which came out sizzling and spitting in its red hot stone pot (dolsot).

I love the way the rice at the bottom of the dolsot gets all crunchy and infused with the sesame oil at the bottom in this dish.  I also love the way it comes out with a raw egg cracked in the middle that you mix up with your chopstick and cook against the sides of the dolsot.  In my opinion, adding an egg to pretty much anything cranks up the awesome, which is another reason why I love Korean fare.

The obligatory condiments were pretty cool here.  Of course there was the ubiquitous kim chi, but an interesting one was the ball of sweet potato mash with nuts.

Obaltan had pretty good service, and had those awesome service buttons on each table that Koreans seem to love so much.  The thing that really sold it for me though, was the fact that this was the serving size of the house wine:

Obaltan on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's alive! A living breathing Japanese feast

Who knew that Spring Hill was the home of awesome Japanese food?  I sure didn't.  Actually I didn't really think Spring Hill was the home of anything much except a few yuppies and a couple of dodgy strip joints.

I've spoken before about my fascination with Japanese food, and my trip to Bishamon has just added fuel to the fire.

We let my friend who had been on exchange to Japan during her university days do the ordering which was definitely the right thing to do.  As was sharing all the meals.

For me it is a rare experience that almost all plates ordered at a restaurant are winners - the only dud was the teriyaki salmon which consisted of sickly sweet deep fried wads of fish with an unappetising sauce.  Avoid this one.

But let's move to the highlights.  Firstly, the gyoza (which are an essential part of any order at a Japanese restaurant) were delicious and came in a little ramekin, arranged in a star shape and baked in the oven.

We also had some sashimi which featured the usual tuna and salmon, but also some raw octopus.
As much as I wanted to like it, I was left a little squeamish after eating the chewy fishy tentacle... I guess I'm not the adventurous foodie I thought I was...

The karaage chicken salad was also a revelation.
My husband has always been a huge fan of karaage chicken - ever since we tried it first many years ago at Garuvas.  To him it was like a high class version of KFC.  Apparently the key to the unique taste is marinating the chicken in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, and then dipping the morsels in seasoned flour and deep frying them in oil.  While I had tried karaage chicken on its own before, I had never seen it in a salad.  This was eally great - I'm not sure what was in the sauce/dressing, but it was a little sweet, a little sour and a bit tangy.  Delicious!

That night I also had the best teppanyaki beef I have ever tasted!

It was so tender and juicy with an amazing charcoal taste that was unlike any I'd ever tasted.  There must have been some sort of extra seasoning on it that gave it some extra zing. Whatever it was, despite the fact that I was full to the brim, I kept shovelling the slices of delicious meat into my mouth with reckless abandon.

And finally, the best thing we had was the yaki udon with fish flakes and nori.
It came out sizzling, steaming and breathing like some sort of strange animal.  This was mainly due to the fish flakes or "hanakatsuo" which are made from katsuobushi, a dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna.  When sprinkled onto a steaming, sizzling griddle of yaki udon, the flakes breath in and out with the steam, making it seem alive!  The taste was sensational.  Bishamon's yaki udon contained chicken and beef mixed up with the udon noodles and had that delectable char grilled taste.

I recommend this place if you're looking for tasty and authentic Japanese food with a pretty low price tag.  My only regret is not trying to tempura ice cream!
Bishamon Japanese on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You don't make friends with salad

Friday's ( is one of those places that is a bit of an institution. It's one of those places that everyone has been to - either at lunchtime for a steak and some beers, or at 2am when nowhere else will let you in.

Despite the fact it used to be better about 10 years ago when you could get dollar drinks on Thursday nights, it's still the place you'll end up at the end of the night dancing to Madonna and Britney with about 3 hen's parties.

But I'm not here to talk about my misspent youth - rather let's focus on the food.  Friday's has two dining options that operate day and night - one is the Waterline Restaurant (a fairly tacky and overpriced bistro) and the other is the Terrace Grill.

Along with a large proportion of corporate types who work along Eagle Street, I am a frequenter of the Terrace Grill for that impromptu "let's have a beer" type of lunch that invariably happens on a Friday when you're so close to the weekend you can taste it, and really can't face Friday afternoon without the assistance of alcohol.  And what a lovely place to spend such an afternoon - sitting out in the sun, looking out at the iconic Story Bridge, sampling a few ales.

What you need to do when you visit Friday's is order a STEAK or a BURGER!!  Deviation from this method can result in disastrous consequences (refer below).  For example, this wagyu burger with iceberg, jarlsberg and beetroot relish is the kind of thing you want to steer towards so that you are only mildly disappointed rather than revolted at what is served up.

I mean, it was ok, but it was the kind of burger that you would probably pay $4 for at a Church fete.  And were they kidding with that pitiful mini bowl of chips?

But whatever you do, do not ever EVER ever order a salad at Friday's.  I've done it twice now, under the influence of some misguided notion that I would eat something healthy to offset the beer calories, and I've definitely learnt my lesson people.  The most recent mishap is pictured below.

This is apparently the shredded chicken, wombok, hot mint, coconut & nashi salad with chilli and lime.  The description actually sounds kind of nice - a bit interesting, you know, a kind of fresh tasting Asian delight with a bit of tang and crunch, not to mention "hot mint" whatever that is.

But as you can see from the photo, what it was was a small, roughly chopped pile of cabbage with a couple of woeful dregs from the carcass of yesterday's bbq chicken, doused in coconut milk.  And I can't really comment as to whether there was any nashi.

It was a rookie error to order a salad from Friday's - please learn from this cautionary tale to avoid the sadness and food envy that I suffered that day.

But despite being forced to pay $16 for this despicable excuse for a salad, I will be back to Friday's.  It's like death and taxes - next time that Friday afternoon lethargy kicks in that can only be cured by a juicy yet substandard burger washed down by a couple of schooners of Stella, I'll be back again.
Waterline Restaurant, Friday's Riverside on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Attack of the killer piglet

I had heard a delectable rumour that there was a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane that served suckling pig to those who would wish to partake of its gelatinous porky deliciousness... and pay a $100 deposit....

The rumours were true, and that restaurant is Happy Chef BBQ (187 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley).

I had often wandered past this restaurant while on my way to chinatown, gawking at the glistening barbecued delights hanging in the window, while I clutched a bottle of dodgy wine purchased at the hideously expensive bottle shop at the Elephant & Wheelbarrow.

My experience of Happy Chef was probably not the usual, considering I feasted upon 7 courses of piglet with 22 friends at $35pp plus $1 corkage (which is an awesome bargain, I know) while the other patrons partook of the usual Chinese fare which I will definitely have to go back and try.

The night started off on the right trotter when they brought out our special friend out to say hello (or goodbye) before they took piggy away to get sliced and diced for our eating pleasure.

I particularly liked the evil maraschino cherry eyes - he looked like quite a happy little fellow otherwise.

A suckling pig is technically a piglet fed on its mother's milk and slaughtered at two to six weeks old.  The pig is often roasted and sometimes slow cooked.  The meat is tender and often a little gelatinous, which is apparently due to the amount of collagen in the meat.

Happy Chef BBQ took its cues from a traditional Peking Duck banquet and we first received piglet pancakes with hoisin sauce.

It sounded like a good idea at the time, but the problem with suckling pig skin is that it goes very crisp and thin when roasted and becomes the hardest substance on earth.  Let's just say that I'm going to need some dental work after munching on this pancake...

Next came a really wonderful pig soup.

It was meaty and delicious with little bits of our friend floating in it along with some shiitakes for good measure.  This was probably my favourite course.

Next was the pig san choi bau which was ok, but nothing flash - in fact it was really too salty.

After these little dalliances with our new friend piggy-in-the-middle, it was time to get serious with some mains.  Three communal bowls of fairly average piglet stir fries were brought out.  I'll admit, the sizzling lemongrass pig (pictured) was actually pretty good with some striking flavours, but I think I was expecting more succulent piggage: the morsels while plentiful, were a little chewy.

Finally, to our surprise, we were treated with dessert which was included in the low low price of $35 per head - a bonus we hadn't expected.  There was a choice of fried ice cream or deep fried banana.  Obviously there was no contest as banana, batter and heart attack inducing oil really is a match made in heaven .

Apart from the great pig experiment, it seems that Happy Chef BBQ has quite a good and VERY CHEAP menu with most dishes costing between $11 to $14.  In particular, I was quite interested to see they had a congee menu which is not something I've seen much in other chinese restaurants in the Valley and will certainly go back to try.

The restaurant itself is really nothing that flash: it has the kind of tiles you'd find in a dodgy public toilet, 80s style chairs, cramped interior and no toilets (which means yes, you need to go to the Valley Mall toilets, which I did, and will never speak of again).  Honestly though, if it's cheap eats you're after before a night of debauchery this is the place for you.

All in all it was a great night out for myself and 22 friends who all enjoyed gorging themselves on the carcass of an innocent little porker.  Really you couldn't ask for more than that.
Happy Chef BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Carb coma inducing Italian with a chilli kicker!

There is nothing as comforting and satisfying as Italian food.  For me there are only 2 really good and reasonably priced Italian restaurants in Brisbane and Pane e Vino is one of them (Verve is the other!).

Pane Vino ( has been around for yonks and is on the corner of Charlotte and Albert Streets.  It offers both indoor and Al Fresco dining and has a great bustling atmosphere pretty much day and night.

I've been going to this restaurant for lunch and dinner for many years and it never fails to please.  You will not find earth shatteringly fancy or adventurous food here.  What you will get is straight forward, unpretentious and delicious Italian fare at fairly reasonable prices.  Not to mention it is BYO and licensed!

For me, casual Italian food is all about garlic, olive oil and massive portion sizes - all of which you get loads of here.  When I leave an Italian restaurant, I want to have bad garlic breath and a stomach the size of a bowling ball.  At Pane e Vinos usually I will have slipped into a carb coma before they've brought out the bill!

My recent visit to Pane e Vino was with a group of girls from work after we'd guzzled a little too much champagne at work drinks and needed some serious carbs to soak it all up.  I chose Rigatoni Con Salsiccia which translates as pork & fennel sausage with fresh tomato, parsley, olive oil and chilli.

It was seriously good.  There was al dente pasta that had just enough resistance when you bit into it.  There was pork sausage, released from its casing and dotted with fennel seeds giving that tasty anise kicker to the dish.  There was the obligatory olive oil and garlic, and my special Italian friend who I always like to invite: chilli.  I really love to taste all that savoury, meaty, heartiness and then have the zing of the chilli tingle on your lips and tongue for a few minutes after which is why I've never been a fan of carbonara. 

My neighbour had Spaghetti con Fruitti di Mare (prawns, scallops, mussels, & calamari tossed in a garlic & tomato sugo):

Can't tell you what it tasted like but from her account it was a winner too.

Finally, another fabulous thing about this place is the fact that they SPLIT THE BILL WITHOUT COMPLAINING!  Yes people, put this place on your hitlist, it's great.

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Pane E Vino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kim chi, condiments and the best hangover cure I've ever seen

I have not always enjoyed Korean food - or even knew what it entailed.  As a child, my only dalliance with the cuisine was my Mum's Korean Beef Stir Fry from a bottle which wasn't bad.

This was before I discovered the strange and wonderful Asian restaurants hidden away in Elizabeth Arcade, one of which was Madtongsan.  But today I'm telling you about the bigger and better MADTONGSAN II!!!  Obviously Madtongsan was so good that it needed a sequel! 

To me, the allure of Korean food is in the condiments, and Madtongsan II has them in spades.
Clockwise: kim chi, pasta salad and sweet potato in syrup
I am a real fan of kim chi which is a spicy fermented cabbage that Koreans serve with everything.  They also seem to favour sweet potato and the roasted sweet potato in syrup at Madtongsan II was really tasty.  I managed to gobble most of it up before the mains arrived...

Another cool thing about Madtongsan II is the fact that there are buttons on each table so you can easily get the attention of the waitstaff who I found to be friendly and fast.

The main I chose was a braised beef soup flavoured with kim chi.  It was quite large and spicy and was really cheap - only $15 or so.
But the real hero of my meal at Madtongsan II was this pancake which I think is the Korean version of a pizza.
It was very very greasy, but I think that added to the experience.

It was covered in shiitake mushrooms, spicy and salty beef mince and that essential finishing touch to all things Korean - an egg cracked over the top.  We doused the pizza in the sweet and soy dipping sauce to add to the flavour.  I'm pretty sure this thing would be the best hangover cure ever.

Madtongsan II on Urbanspoon