Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Duck Egg Surprise at Pearl Cafe

Pearl Cafe - the only place in Brisbane I have seen that serves up duck eggs for breakfast.  Big, fat, yolky and delicious duck eggs.  Just what you need early on a Saturday morning while more than a little hungover.

They brought me coffee as I perched on a little stool outside, waiting for a table and peering out from under my dark glasses (no availability at 9.15am??).  I had heard that the waitstaff were a bit rude here but honestly I had no complaints.  They just had that whole "I'm a super alternative see look at my indie headscarf" kind of air which can be a little off-putting to some but as Woolloongabba seems to have become the new Valley or West End, it is to be expected.

Pearl's breakfast menu reads like a who's who (or what's what??) of rustic gourmet ingredients with their homemade baked beans, calabrese sausage, brioche eggy bread and such.  Pretentious?  Yes - but I was loving it.

I ordered this: 


Crusty bread with chorizo in a tomato based sauce, topped with one big sticky oozing fried duck egg.  This was one hell of a breakfast which I enjoyed in a leisurely fashion, pricking the yolk with my fork and letting it drizzle down onto the rest of the meal, soaking up the excess with the bread.  The only complaint I would have is that the chorizo was probably a little too chewy but the taste was excellent - smoky!

Another thing that really took my fancy was the cakes and goodies laid out on the bar bench.  
I really liked how they just whack them right out there, like you're at a CWA bakeoff - there for all to see.  No need for a glass case, separating you from the goodies, they are right there for the taking!

This is not what I would call a cheap breakfast - I paid about $19 for my duck egg surprise but I really do think it was worth it.  This place does meet the hype in my opinion.  I will be back to try the dinner menu for sure.

Pearl Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 27, 2010

deep fried olives and ortiz anchovies SIMPATICOOOOOO!!!

You know I really really love restaurants where you get to share food.  Mainly because it means I get to try more than just one meal and I have a more legitimate excuse for stealing off other people's plates...

It's also a great way to guard against food envy and menu remorse.  You know that feeling, when you've ordered the thing that sounded super cool on paper, but on a plate, pales in comparison to your neighbour's choice.

Paddington's Simpatico (corner of La Trobe and Given Tce's) is a restaurant that caters for sharers and carers as almost everything you order can be shared.  The prices are fairly reasonable too ($7.50 to $22) but you will need to order more than one dish per person.

A real highlight for me was the much talked up fried green olives with roast garlic mayonnaise

I know, I know!  Why have I only discovered deep fried olives now?  Why has no one else in Brisbane thought of this?  Marrying big fat rich briney green pitted olives with crumbed batter and deep frying the suckers?!?  What an epiphany!  My only complaint is that there weren't more of these delightful little things.  I did manage to get my grubby hands on 2 of them before my eating companions had finished eating their first one...

And this is where I tried Ortiz anchovies for the first time.  Again, where have these things been all my life?  I know what you're thinking, lots of people don't like anchovies, but even if you don't like anchovies you need to try these little babies.  They are big and meaty and more briney than the intensely fishy and hairy cheapies you get in Coles (although I do like them too).  According to my Googling skills, they are fished only in the Mediterranean using a special purse seine net that prevents damage to the little fishies.  They then cure them in rock salt and bone and tin them by hand.

The "mains" (which were also shared) were amazing too.  The roast duck breast with du puy lentils, quince puree & beetroot chard was lovely but the real taste sensation was the slow roasted pork belly with green papaya & nam jim which had crunchy and delicious crackling on top!  The braised beef cheek with polenta & honey glazed baby carrots (pictured) was also very very yummy.
The desserts are not really for sharing and unfortunately the green eyed food monster in my came out when my friend ordered the unappetizing sounding prune and cognac souffle with ice cream which in actual fact shat all over my raspberry jelly cup.  Oh well... make sure you order it.  Who knew prunes could be so tasty?

I will definitely be back to this restaurant!

Simpatico Bar Bistro Espresso on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Japanese food - my once spurned lover

I am having a love affair with Japanese food - but it hasn't always been this way.

When I was younger I really wondered what all the fuss was about and turned a little green when I visited Sono (probably Brisbane's best Japanese restaurant) upon receiving a bento box filled with little containers of Asian weirdities including sashimi and various savoury gelatinous custards. And what was with this rank stuff called sake that tasted like burning I thought?

A Sono Set
One of those strange savoury custards
I began to understand a little when I visited my first sushi train with a co-worker not long afterwards (Hanaichi, at the top of the Wintergarden). There was something fun about an endless conveyor bringing you colour coded plates of strange and wonderful parcels of food - and the continual tea top ups were also a boon. There was also something fun about getting tiddly on warmed sake in a quaint little ceramic carafe with a tiny cup and then giggling your way back to work for the afternoon...

Since then I actively began to love Japanese food.  From your average food court sushi roll to your high end private room experience.

In terms of fast food sushi outlets, it seems that everyone in Brisbane must be as obsessed with sushi rolls for lunch as I am. For instance, the "LR Sushi" hole in the wall shop on Felix Street across the road from Waterfront Place always has a line right out the door and along the street - as does the one on the outside of Queens Plaza along Adelaide Street.

For me, what is important, is price (no more than $2.20 per roll), the freshness of the ingredients (particularly because my absolute favourite is raw salmon and avocado...), free wasabi and soy sauce (MAKING PEOPLE PAY EXTRA FOR THIS IS A CRIME!!!) and, the fact that the internal ingredients must extend beyond the rice part of the sushi roll to hang attractively out the side (what I call "the dangly bit").

And I must make a bit of a confession here.... I prefer the fluroescent green fake horseradish wasabi that you get in little packets at the fast food outlets, to the real thing you get in more fancy establishments!!!  I love to get my little plastic fish filled with soy sauce, gradually squirt it on my roll, then grab a chopstick and wipe a little of the green burny wasabi on the salmon and take a bite, then repeat until the roll is gone.  Every time, I put a little more and more wasabi on the fish to see if I can stand it.... if I start coughing and crying I know I've gone too far....

Let me be clear though, anyone who puts mayo on their sushi is a wimp.

I think the worst sushi vendor I have seen is the one at Carindale Shopping Centre - downstairs, near Jamaica Blue.  The sushi is expensive, you have to pay extra for condiments, there are no dangly bits and probably worst of all, it is made by a fat white guy.  If you're there, go upstairs to Sushi Sushi which is far superior.

There is also a pretty good Japanese place called Sakura on Bennetts Road at Coorparoo which is quite well known.  I went there a few months ago and happily was able to order some pretty high quality sashimi as well as a cool steam boat which was essentially a gas burner with a pot of boiling water on top in which you tossed your own paper thin sliced wagyu and vegetables and cooked yourself up a little a stew.

Another favourite Japanese haunt of mine is Kabuki which is part of the Stamford Plaza - with its entrance on Felix Street.  They have the usual bento boxes and sashimi (as well as a sushi bar that has opened next door which is not quite as good as LR Sushi) but also a teppanyaki bar where the chef will entertain you by throwing eggs, rice and your dinner at you while you close your eyes and hold your bowl ready to catch the goodies (be warned, you will wear part of your meal...)

And my new hot tip?  It has been announced that Shaun Presland's Sake Restaurant out of Sydney will open a branch at Eagle Street Pier in October.  And yes, I will definitely be trying it out and yes, I will be blogging it...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Royalty, cupcakes and dark chocolate innards

OK, so I'm beginning to think this blog idea is a winner because I was invited to dinner on Monday by a friend on the sole understanding that I would blog about the dinner that was served up.  Well I was only too happy to oblige, and for those of you who know me, feel free to lob further dinner invitations my way!

I should firstly tell you a little about my friend Deb who invited me around.  She is a very old friend who is more than a little bit eccentric shall we say.  She is a primary school art teacher who has previously taught in some remote areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland and is an absolute champion.  The eccentricity stems mainly from her penchant for wearing tiaras and loving all things to do with princesses. 

Deb is an excellent singer, artist and cook and appeared on series one of Masterchef (wearing a tiara of course) where she demonstrated her exceptional talent in making gorgeous pattycakes like the ones pictured below which I am told are sesame encrusted vanilla cupcakes with green butter icing lettuce, chocolate mudcake patty, white chocolate cheese, red licorice tomato and white butter icing mayonnaise.  Like WOW.

Deb intends to try out for Masterchef again for next season and also to open her own cupcake business. 

On the menu for my delicious dinner with Deb was a blue cheese and pumpkin risotto, followed by chocolate fondant puddings.

The risotto was simple but delicious.  The blue cheese was not too overpowering but was instead subtly salty.  Deb had also managed to do something that I am completely inept at, which is to perfectly season something. 

For the uninitiated, chocolate fondant puddings or "lava cakes" are a sort of cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a souffle. There are a great deal of butter, eggs and sugar in these suckers and the trick is to cook them only so much so that the outside sets into cake and the insides spill out upon mutilation by the diner.

Things were a bit touch and go with the chocolate fondant puddings when Deb managed to cut herself with the piping nozzle for the cream, and shortly afterwards, decorate the kitchen floor with half of the cream before successfully making some nice little rosette shapes with it on each of our plates.  Despite these early setbacks, the fondant puddings were an oozy cakey success, seeping their dark chocolate innards all over our plates upon bursting them with a spoon. 

Thanks Deb for a wonderful evening of delicous food and company.  When she wins next year's Masterchef you can say you first saw her on my blog...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Cross Town Eating House, Woolloongabba

Today we tried out the Cross Town Eating House (23 Logan Road, Woolloongabba) for a lazy Saturday lunch.  I had first heard of this bar only last week (although it has been here over a year) when I saw it had been nominated for Bar of the Year in Gourmet Traveller.

This adorable little gastropub decked out in 1920s style complete with distressed pressed tin covering the bar, is hidden away in an unassuming brick building on that strip of Logan Road which has of late, sprung up with a bunch of antique stores and cutesy cafes and restaurants (including Pearl, 1889 Enoteca and Bistrot Bistro).

This is the perfect place to drink a beer and nibble on bar snacks (like the gin soaked olives we chowed on while waiting on our mains) while reading the paper and listening to the rootsy folk they had playing in the background.

The menu includes a tasty selection of shared starters which are between $15 and $17 (and apparently the sticky ribs are great) but we opted for the mains which were a little pricey ($29 to $35) but worth it.

I ordered the OP rib steak with smoked celeriac and watercress.  The steak was cooked to perfection and the dish was just what I was wanting on a sunny but cold winter's day - tasty smokey goodness.  I think it came out a little colder than it should have been though and maybe was missing something sweet like caramelised onion or beetroot relish?  In any case it was still delicious. 

I will definitely be back!  Especially because they are currently re-furbing upstairs to make it into a big bar...

The Crosstown Eating House on Urbanspoon