1 kit & kafoodle: 2014

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Saint-Germain

Greetings from Europe!

To begin the international food adventures, let's celebrate with 2 Michelin Star restaurant (chain), L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Saint-Germain. We tidied ourselves up from "student-traveller-trying-to-fit-two-seasons-and-clinical-placement-into-a-20kg-bag" attire and I put on my one formal dress to be worn to all Michelin Star restaurants. Going full keen-bean and getting there 15min early, the doors weren't even open yet; so we waited outside and perused our fellow dining companions. Mostly older, mostly couples and stinking of money (most we dropped off by private cars to the driveway of the restaurants). We were the youngest there, highlighted by the fact we ordered still water rather than pairing every course with Sommelier-matched wines. 

Atelier is set up open-bar style, with the idea that you can watch your meal getting prepared; it makes for a more casual environment and means waiters present the food in front of you rather than over your shoulder. 

The bread basket presented was pretty spectacular. A range of white bread, wholemeal rolls and grain-speckled dinner rolls were on display - all for us! They were of course, up to the Parisian standard of excellent carbs.

Though most Michelin Star Restaurants offer A La Carte options, I'm a stupidly big fan of degustations, so I opted for the "Discovery" Menu (175€/pp). What follows will be both the French and google-translated versions of the menu, as best as I can do. Feel free to comment below, you Francophiles, to tighten the descriptions. The menu online promised L'Amuse-Bouche but I didn't see any sign of it.

LE CRABE ROYAL: aux fines lamelles de Daikon épicées
First up was The Royal Crab: with thin strips of spicy Daikon. This was quite a light and delicate starter, with strong but delicious crab meat which matched perfectly with the Daikon and dots of spinach and crab cream sauce.

LA TOMATE: en gaspacho, croutons dorés sous un sorbet moutarde à l'ancienne
Gazpacho is hitting Paris in a massive way (they even had a documentary about it), and being a big fan of tomato I was glad. This particular Gazpacho featured browned croutons paired with grainy mustard sorbet. It was as amazing as it sounds, a refreshing, light gazpacho which was complimented by the hit of cold mustard sorbet. It was served tantalisingly cold and the plating was beautiful.

LE CAVIAR: chaud-froid d'œuf à l'érable, saumon Gravelax aux agrumes et à la Vodka

The Caviar with hot-cold maple egg and Salmon gravelax with vodka citrus was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. The presentation was great - I love anything presented in little egg shells (like the chawanmushi at Shoya, Melbourne, Australia) and this foie-gras infused-egg  was rich and satisfying. The caviar only added to the decadence of the dish. The salmon gravlax was delicious, like I'd died and gone to heaven. It was a nice size too.

LA LANGOUSTINE: grilée sur une rave végétale au basilic Thai coraillé

Now, for those who had no idea like myself, as per wiki: Nephrops norvegicus, known as the langoustine or scampi, is a slim, orange-pink lobster which grows up to 25 cm long, and is "the most important commercial crustacean in Europe". Which would explain why it is featured in most tasting menus at most Michelin Star restaurants across Europe. This particular Langoustine was prepared grilled, presented on a Thai basil. What the description doesn't mention is there was a pillowy ravioli and green bean hidden under that langoustine, and surrounded by a tomato foam. This was delicious and the bean made for an interesting addition to the dish. The flesh or the langoustine was very tender with a strong taste but probably my least favourite of the three parts.

LE FOIE GRAS: de canard chaud, cerises et amandes fraiches dans un jus acidulé à l'hibiscus
Direct translation means warm fatty liver of duck, cherries and almonds in a tangy fresh hibiscus sauce; but we all call it Foie Gras instead, to try and distance ourselves from the cruel means it originates from. Battling my hypocrisy I succumbed to the beautifully smooth, rich Foie Gras. I was so surprised at how well it went with the cherries, the strong sweetness cutting through the heavier decadence. It was again, the perfect size; any more would have been too rich.

LE GYOZA: à la plancha, farcie de volaille, dans son bouillon au parfum d'Asie
The Japanese couple sitting next to us were pretty chuffed to see the next dish arrive, chicken Gyoza served in Asian-style broth. This had an interesting but not very strong flavour. The broth was delicious!

LE ROUGET: de roche, girolles printanières et pois nouveaux à la racine de curcuma jaune
The next dish was Rock Mullet (fish) with mushrooms, fresh spring peas from the vine with yellow tumeric. I found the mullet to be too salty, but I did enjoy the "green" taste of the peas and sauce which neutralised some of the salt. The mushrooms were done perfectly and with so much flavour. An enjoyable dish but not standout.

For the mains we were presented with a choice of Lamb, Quail or Black Angus. We opted for the Lamb Chops with thyme and the Black Angus with shallot confit in a juice of black cardamom and tarragon. 
[not sampled - LA CAILLE: farcie de foie gras et caramélisée avec une pomme purée truffée]

L'AGNEAU DE LAIT: en côtelettes à la fleur de thym
The Lamb was succulent and tender, though tiny (though at this stage I was becoming surprisingly full); and that little blob in front was the potato mash. My God that was divine. Incredibly decadent due to the fact it was mostly butter. 

Then we were presented with another little bowl each; it killed me that I couldn't finish it due to the richness of the whole meal so far. Argh!

LE BLACK ANGUS: à la plancha, échalotes confites sous un jus à la cardamone noire et à l'estragon
As I tried the Black Angus I remember thinking 'oh yeah, a steak', being neither impressed nor disappointed with the dish. I definitely enjoyed my lamb a lot more, which had better combinations of flavours and more enjoyable (fatty) meat.

LE PARFUM DES ILES: crème aux fruits de la passion et à la banane, granité au rhum, légèreté à la noix de coco
And then, onto my beloved desserts! The Scent of Islands was a passionfruit and banana cream with rum granita, and coconut lightness. A great dessert to start on, my little cup was in no way enough to satisfy my stomach. The passionfruit and banana melded well together and the granita lifted the dessert up. That little caramel shard on top was a nice crunch and the chocolate disc introduced us to the next dessert.

LE CHOCOLAT TENTATION: ganache onctueuse au chocolat Araguani, glace au grué de cacao, biscuit Oréo

The Chocolate Temptation was a creamy chocolate ganache with Araguani cocoa nib ice-cream and Oreo cookie. This was so chocolatey I regret to say I didn't finish it. The embellishment on top was like a metallic coloured Smartie, and the inside had a decadent mix of chocolate ganache and the ice-cream. I didn't even finish the beautifully sprayed chocolate disc!

All in all a wonderful experience, I left satisfied and ready to take on the upcoming Michelin Stars on the trip. Cool side note, "Dogs are allowed" in Atelier and a couple utilised this fact with their pooch in a handbag! Best.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Miss Ladybird Cupcakes

After sampling this wicked cool lady’s cakes at Merchant’s Guild, I hurried (note: took months) to her tiny storefront in the ‘burbs ready to eat my fill of freakin’ awesome cake. Unfortunately I arrived pretty late in the day, an hour or so before closing, and thus missed out on the Red Velvet Cupcake. LE SAD FACE. 

But they did still have a nice little selection of cakes, so I bought most of them.

I had read about Gina Tubb’s quirky, unique design of both shop and cakes in Broadsheet but actually stepping into the shop was way cooler than viewing it online. I’d recommend you all drive down and settle in to the atmosphere that feels like a strangely comforting mix between Alice’s Wonderland and a punk rawk record store. The atmosphere and the baked goods make you feel at home on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The Spiced Chai and Poached Pear cupcake ($5.0) was fantastic – beautiful presentation and tasted a treat. The texture of this cupcake was more of a friand-type cake, but the best part about it was that it had a massive poached pear right through the middle. The only change I would make to this piece would be to add more icing on top!

My favourite was the banana cake ($4.5) was incredible and moist, making it way too easy to eat in a few bites. The rose decoration was surprisingly fragrant, but you’ll be happy to read that I resisted eating it. The banana mixed through the light cake was quite subtle, which was a nice choice over a heavier butter base with chunky banana slices that I’ve tried elsewhere. The icing was a fluffy swisse meringue vanilla buttercream which went well with the cake.

The Snickers cupcake ($5.0) was great, also moist but made with a heavier chocolate cake with beautiful caramelised peanut topping over a smooth whipped buttercream icing.

TL;DR Just typing this out makes me want to rush back and try all the other cakes she creates through the week.
Miss Ladybird Cakes on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 September 2014

Chef Lagenda

After asking my Singaporean friends for their recommendation in regards to a good place to eat Singaporean cuisine, Chef Lagenda popped up. Of course Melbourne has no claim to ever be close to the beauty of hawker-style food (and the price is about four times more expensive), but Chef Lagenda will do as we all wait for cheap flights to South-East Asia.

Nothing tests a place like the good ol’ staple, Char Kway Teow. A traditional fried flat rice noodle dish, the key indicators are (according to traditionalists) the smoked semi-charred taste and the use of cockles and/or fried pork fat and lard, which gives rise to the massive taste of the dish. Chef Lagenda's Fried Koay Teow (fried rice noodle, shrimp, fishcake, chinese sausage & chilli; $10.2) also came with the promise of cockles for $2.0 extra, which isn't commonly seen in Australia, however our waitress informed us that cockles were now banned. I couldn't find any evidence substantiating this, but nevertheless this dish did have both the smoked taste and added lard which was done well. The request for “quite spicy” was answered accordingly, which always brings out nice flavours of the fish cake, chinese sausage and fried egg. This Kway Teow was on the slightly sweet side and was quite dark in colour, due to the sweet soy sauce used.

Their Seafood Curry Laksa (mixed noodle w/ king prawn, calamari, fish fillet & scallop; $11.9) was good; much better than next door’s and on par with Grand Tofu – the ingredients were plentiful and the soup was good enough to drink on its own.

Next was the Har Mee (hokkien noodle w/ prawn, fish cake, egg & prawn soup; $10.2); a very strong tasting prawn soup noodle dish which when perfected, tastes great. Chef Lagenda’s definitely has the prawn taste in the broth, though it felt like the dish had no depth of flavour and was still quite dilute. There wasn’t enough vermicelli noodle to balance the yellow thicker noodle, and no bean sprouts either! This dish wasn’t the best.

The Fried Noodle w/ Egg Sauce (aka. Waat Taan Hor Fun, flat rice noodle, shrimp, fishcake, calamari, pork, green vegies w/ egg gravy; $10.2) I ordered came presented on a massive dish, which was great as it was so satisfyingly filling. You could taste the pan fried smokiness in the flat noodles (much like the Kway Teow) and the eggy-sauce was tasty, a little too tasty, if you catch my drift. They again didn’t skimp on the ingredients and there was heaps of fish cake, prawn, vegetables and chicken meat.

Chef Lagenda was a good recommendation by my friend, definitely one of the better Curry Laksas in Melbourne and an accessible shop just on the outskirts of town. If you live on the east side though, I would still try Danny’s Kopitiam – tell me which you feel deserves the title.

TL;DR Fair representation of Singaporean cuisine in Melbourne.
Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Merchants Guild

When I drove past Merchants Guild randomly I got so excited there was a potentially great brunch place on that side of town, which I could call on when needed. I waited in line whilst the café buzzed with customers eating their delicious food and wished they would all hurry up so I could similarly stuff face. I hoped that Merchants Guild would meet my expectations, but instead they impressed like crazy.

The décor inside is comfortable and bright, and despite the storage shelves being in full view, you don’t feel like you’re eating in a grimy warehouse. Personally I feel it’s the greenery that helps lift the atmosphere up.

This actually isn’t the first time I have eaten at Merchants Guild, I think I am up to sitting number three or four and I’m still returning with fervour. That being said, don’t attend during peak time when you’re insanely hungry, their service is quite slow but their friendly, helpful staff definitely balance that out.

I opted for my tried and true Roast potato bubble and squeak, hot smoked trout, horseradish cream, pickled shallots and two poached eggs ($18.0) and the wait was worth it. Served piping hot the perfectly cooked potatoes combines so well with the tasty trout and cream (which isn’t spicy at all, so don’t worry). They nailed the poached eggs, breaking open deliciously when poked. Sexy.

The Chorizo Hot Pot topped with poached eggs and parmesan cream ($20.0) was a lovely warming winter dish but served with a fork instead of a spoon, and not enough bread to mop up the delicious sauce. The overlying taste was rich tomato, though the smoked chorizo and other hearty veg also filled the dish out. On its own, the chorizo became a bit tasteless after a few bites and thus it was a nice dish, but nothing special.

Just FYI, these guys have THE BEST chocolate milkshakes ($6.0) in town. Utilising Mörk chocolate, they are creamy, the perfect amount of chocolatey without being too bitter or sickeningly sweet. Plus the cup they are served in is pretty darn generous.

To finish it off we ordered the Doughnut French toast with vanilla marscapone, peaches, berries and pistachios ($16.5). The soft thick-ass piece of heavily sugared French toast was not as dense as a donut, so I’m not sure why it is called so. I guess it was sweet bread but… I feel the dish definitely needed the marscapone otherwise the toast ended up too dry and plain. The blueberries and peaches were nice and sweet, but a hint of syrup would not have gone astray. The addition of pistachios didn’t do much for me, but were a necessity for the much desired ‘texture’ of a dish these days. I wanted this dish to blow my mind like Top Paddock’s but it didn’t even come close.

TL;DR A great south-side eatery with no competition for miles around. A few hit and miss dishes but overall, brunch fare at a highly satisfactory level.
Merchants Guild on Urbanspoon

Monday, 8 September 2014

Crazy Wings

As you walk down Russell Street in Melbourne city and approach this native Chinese store, you can smell the distinct burn of chilli that you will forever associate with that time you couldn't stop crying from the pain of Crazy Wings, despite drinking a half litre carton of milk.

This review isn't about that time, because once is enough for me, but I do encourage you to undertake another of these ‘passage of rites’ and put yourself through what literally feels like your tastebuds on fire. Experience it with a friend, bonus points if you film it. It’s painful, you cry, you laugh, you cry some more and try to gather yourself after it’s all over. Much like most other things in life…

Crazy Wings also have a nice daily deal where you can get two skewers (which rotate) for the price of one. Today was the garlic wings deal ($2.0 per skewer of two wings) so we bought a handful for half the price it would usually cost. They were a lot easier to eat than the Crazy Wings, and thus more satisfying. They have a very distinct BBQ’d flavour and in terms of size, well, steroids may have been involved.

The tofu cube skewer ($2.0) was nothing really special; quite dry with just a sprinkle of chilli powder on it.

Overall it's quite a cheap place to have a quick snack or meal. Don't expect stellar service, you write down what you want on a sheet and then have difficulty getting service thereafter. But it's not really about that, y'know?

TL;DR Remember to bring a camera to Crazy Wings and film you and a friend consuming the fire. 
Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmer’s Market

The back of the Convent

Walking into the grounds of Abbotsford Convent was like stepping into a medieval market, with stalls lining most of the pathways on the grounds, selling locally grown produce and wares. I was here for Dr Marty’s crumpets but got so much more out of it in the end. The market was busy but not rudely so; everyone was strolling and browsing and tasting to their hearts content, which was lovely to see. Definitely a nice break away from the city bustle.

I never knew crumpets could be any different to the supermarket bought, mass produced kind, but boy did Dr Marty’s Crumpets change my mind forever. Selling at six for $8.50, it’s definitely more expensive than what I’m used to paying, but it is so worth it. They taste so different, more wholesome and delicious – you can taste the LACK of preservatives and weird things that alter the taste. These taste like pure floury awesomeness. To this day I have been stalking their facebook page to see which market they will be at next. Luckily they stock in certain food outlets too, just email them to find the nearest one!

Not bought from the Farmer’s Market, but a decidedly excellent combination to my new crumpets was the epic French churned butter – Le Conquérant Beurre de Baratte D’Isigny demi-sel (semi salted). In a way, it’s kind of depressing; after eating this butter you will be spoiled and all other butters will taste oily and cheap. This butter is perfectly salted and so delicious, albeit light, which makes you want to eat the butter… by the stick… on its own… Anyway, the combination of Le Conquérant butter with my Dr Marty’s crumpets pretty much made my mornings, for the three days that they lasted in the house before getting consumed. At this stage, Le Conquérant is proving more difficult to find, but the Calendar Cheese Company are pushing fans to ask/beg their local providores to stock these blocks of gold.

Next spontaneous buy was the Locheilan Triple cheese ($8.0) from a lovely cheese stall I forgot the name of – but I will hunt them down because this cheese blew my mind. I hope I can find cheese like this easily in Paris ‘cos WOW. IT was so liquidy and creamy and tasty I had to stop myself from eating the whole wheel that night. My best buy of the day.

These assorted dips (3 for $20.0) from Verde Provedores were so fresh and quite a different style of flavours. The Spinach and Almond Pesto was a deliciously ‘green’ tasting dip with a lovely bitey aftertaste. The Almond Skordalla is much like an aioli, but nuttier and more liquid in texture. It went very well with stronger meatier flavours like smoked salmon and ham. The Cauliflower and Fetta was a chunky dip, with cauliflower dominating the taste. I think this was my least favourite of the three as it was quite dry and could’ve suited a roast a lot better than cheese and crackers.

Onsite at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery, I bought a big ass muffin ($5.0) and decided to explore the area with my newly bought snack. The apple on top was crispy, the custard underneath was sweet and creamy; I was sad there wasn’t more through the muffin. The muffin top was baked to a crisp and I enjoyed breaking it off and enjoying it like a semi-cookie. The walnuts were a surprise and even though I don’t usually like nuts in my pastries I found it worked really well. This is one of the best muffins I’ve had, coming second only behind The Stables of Como.

When you visit Abbotsford Market make sure you wander down to the surrounding gardens and Collingwood Children’s Farm, which has fellas like this being a boss and eating grass through a fence.

The area is tranquil and a nice way to spend a weekend morning wandering, running or cycling.

TL;DR I think I’ll start visiting more Farmer’s Markets to discover cool new foods, you should too /wink
Abbotsford Convent Bakery on Urbanspoon