Saturday, 28 April 2012

Morning Glory @ Hoi An, Vietnam


As my Twitter followers and Facebook friends know, I recently went on a holiday to Vietnam. It has been 19 years since all the kids (4 of us) of the family have been to Vietnam at the same time, so it was a wonderful and memorable holiday. My next few blog posts will be about my various restaurant dining experiences in the homeland, which made me realise the power and my love of food. 

Morning glory, is a popular restaurant in the heart of the Hoi An city centre. Morning glory is the English word for a famous Vietnamese vegetable known as Rau Muong. The owner of the restaurant goes by Ms Tring Diem Vy who is internationally renowned. From her Hoi An Restaurants website she was the first restaurant to cater for foreign tourists who visit Hoi An, by creating a menu filled with the local street foods and family recipes so visitors could experience Vietnamese specialities in comfort (i.e. a lot of tourists fear street food due to the stomach issues that may arise).

Left: Cham Island Sunet - pinapple & orange juice, line juice, grenadine, soda water.
Right: China Beach Sunset - pineapple, water melon juice, orange juice, strawberry syrup
Let's start with the drinks, both were non alcoholic and very refreshing. It was a perfect way to start the meal considering it was a warm night. All the juice was made from fresh fruit which made it that much better.

Banh Uot Thit Nuong: Barbecued Pork with Rice Paper
The barbecued pork is famous on the streets on Hoi An, being able to smell it everywhere you walk in the city centre. This dish came with the barbecued pork, rice paper, cucumber, green mango and fresh herbs. Same concept as other rice paper rolls you place all the ingredients on the rice paper, wrap it and dip in the designed sauce. The slight difference is that it comes with two types of rice paper, one wet and one dried. The dried sheet goes on the outside which allows it to be easier to roll and provides are nice  crunch.
 Cao Lau Hoi An
A famous Hoi An dish composed of cao lau noodles, marinated pork, croutons, fresh herbs and a subtle broth. This was one of my favourite dishes, it was like eating a warm salad. The noodles have more bite compared to rice noodles, but are similar thickness to chow mien noodles. The pork was soft and easy to bite, there was also bean shoots which added extra crunch. A very easy and safe dish to eat.

Banh Xeo
This is another famous dish of Hoi An, and is well known as a crispy savoury pancake. In this case you were to wrap some of the banh xeo in lettuce, and dip in sauce of your own choosing. It wasn't as oily as other banh xeo I have tasted.

 Prawn Curry
A subtle curry which I am very glad for, since it was warm night, we didn't want anything too spicy. The curry was composed of potato, broccoli and other vegetables, and came with a side of fresh bread that is baked by a co-business called Cargo Club.

 Ga Nuong La Chanh: BBQ Chicken with lime
Given the title of the dish, you can safely assume there wasn't anything flashy about it. Lime leaves were used to provide the flavour of the dish, not freshly squeezed lime juice. The little side of salad added freshness to the dish.

Smoky eggplant with minced pork

I was hoping this dish would be similar to an eggplant dish that is served at Chef's gallery, but unfortunately it wasn't. Smoked eggplant has a strange taste, can't quite describe it, but I didn't like it. I was constantly trying the dish in hope I could get used to the taste, that didn't work. 

Pork Belly with 5 spices and caramel sauce.

A popular dish on the menu of Morning Glory, and I agree. Slow-cooked pork is always tasty. The meat and the fat on the meat was soft and broke a part very nicely. The caramel sauce had a slight stickiness to it, in which the flavour just stayed on your lips, delightful!
Profiterole with chocolate sauce
My favourite of the dessert options, the custard was delectable, and for Vietnam standards, the chocolate sauce was pretty good.
Looks can be deceiving, and this was the case. The waffle was rather dry, and the cream was hard. The ice-cream was good though, but its hard to come across bad ice cream.
Creme Caramel
Creme Caramel with ice, definitely a new experience. Creme caramel is every in Hoi An, a slight obsession of the locals and tourists. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of creme caramel, so to me this was an okay dessert.

Good food, good times!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ra Bar @ Enmore/Newtown


Before my sister and I headed to the Aqua Concert we decided to eat, and after some researching and feeling like tapas, we found Ra Bar. Ra Bar is small restaurant/tapas bar, dining about 25 -30 people including seats at the bar. It provides a cosy eating environment and very nice staff. Ra Bar seems to get a lot of business, because upon arrival a lot of the tables were reserved so we were seated at the bar. 

The menu showed that the restaurant isn't traditional Spanish tapas', but an assortment of all different tapas' from different cuisines such as Chinese and Lebanese. With that, we decided to get an 11 (technically single dishes) course banquet which was $25 per person, at a minimum of 2 people. Reason we chose the banquet was so that we could try a range of things, and if we liked something more then we could order more.

Crispy bread with labna, babaganoush and marinated olives
This was extremely addicting! Labna is a yoghurt based cheese and babaganoush is an eggplant based dip (both mainly of Lebanese origin)The labna had a smooth texture, and a unique taste. Strangely, I am not a fan of cheese or yoghurt, yet labna was really good. The babaganoush had a lovely taste of mashed roasted eggplant.  The crisp bread with the smooth cheese and the eggplant dip was a great start to the banquet.

Chilli chorizo with chimmi churri
Mmm chorizo and chimmi churri (mainly South American origin)  is one of the best combinations I have ever tried. First, time I tried it was at a family dinner, and trying it again, didn't disappoint. The main ingredients of chimmi churri is oregano, parsley, garlic and olive oil. It adds a freshness to grilled meat, with a slight lemony kick. 

Meatballs and shitake risotto balls
The meatballs had a basic tomato sauce so nothing special. The risotto balls on the other hand were different. Fried goodness with a soft risotto centre with a side of herb garlic sauce, yum! They had the perfect crunch, just don't eat them to fast because they were hot and almost burnt my tongue.

Cheese rolls and stuffed mushrooms
I wasn't the biggest fan of this dish, but my sister enjoyed it. The stuffed mushroom was similar to a warm quiche, except without pastry and a mushroom instead. The cheese rolls, was what you would expect in a cheese roll/mini pastizzi.
Prawn Dumplings
Another ordinary dish (maybe because I am Asian?), this style of prawn dumplings are commonly known as Ha Kau amongst Chinese and Vietnamese people. It is prawn mince inside a flour/water based noodle like outside, which is generally steamed and dipped in chilli sauce or soy sauce. However, I did like how it came in the bamboo steamer, provided a little touch on the origin of the dish.

Lamb kofta w/ hommus and peri-peri chicken skewers with garlic aioli
Last few pieces of the banquet, lamb kofta (mainly of a Lebanese origin) and peri- peri chicken (Portuguese origin) with there associated sauces. The lamb kofta was nice, but I have eaten better, especially at my favourite Lebanese resturant Al Aseel. The peri-peri chicken was ordinary as well, it tasted as if it could have been store bought mini kebab sticks, but I am not sure on that. The garlic aoili was tasty though, and with the hommus I am not a fan of it under any real circumstances, so to me it tasted like all other hommus'. 

The bar

I loved the way that Ra Bar displays there bar, you can see all the alcohol labels and it is neat and tidy. It captivates your attention as soon as you walk into the restaurant/tapas bar. Overall I found the first half of the meal a lot more enjoyable than the second half. I would definitely go back for the crispy bread with labna & babaganoush, chimmi churri with chorizo and the risotto balls. 

Good food, good times!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2012 @ Ms Gs. - Potts Point


This post is a bit late, but better late than never right? As a part of the March into Merivale Food Festival, on March 3rd, Dan Hong from Ms. G's created a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired lunch filled with sweet delights. I saw a post from chocolatesuze from her experience last year, and I made sure that if there was an event this year that I had to go, so off I went with another friend who also loves her sweet things. 

Upon walking in we could see the bar preparing some drinks, and the Willy Wonka themed displays, including jars of lollies and each table had little cups and bowls of various lollies, this got us very excited and keen for all the desserts to come.

After looking at the menu, we were even more excited, trying to imagine how the dessert would look compared to the name, and wondering what each dessert would bring to the table.
Russian Spyder
As per usual every meal generally starts with a drink, there was nothing too fancy about the drinks. Mine was lemonade with vanilla ice cream and my friends was vodka & coke with vanilla ice cream. There seemed to be some inconsistencies with the non-alcoholic spyder as there were people next to us who's spyder had yellow vanilla (or caramel) ice cream, which made the drink look more appetising. 

Red and Blue Splice
This little delight was composed of Pine lime granita with pink coloured coconut ice cream and coconut jelly. The colours of the dessert kept us engaged, and after the first spoon of the granita our tongues were painted blue. The little cubes of coconut jelly that layed at the bottom were a lovely surprise and just added an extra kick to this dessert. It was a very refreshing.
Chocolate & Raspberry Willy Wonka
Do not be fooled, that big scoop of chocolate is not ice-cream, it was however chocolate ganache. Probably one of the smoothest ganache I have ever tried. On the far left was a decadent chocolate brownie and on the far right a raspberry marshmallow. But, the biggest surprise of all was the sauce, a raspberry sauce with popping candy! That feeling of popping candy in your mouth just makes you feel like a kid again, back in the days when you were able to get crazy dips for about 60 cents. All the components worked well together, until the ganache started to become a bit overpowering. Less ganache may have been better.

 Augustus Gloop and the Chocolate Fountain
We were unsure on what the 'chocolate fountain' was, but it seemed to be a chocolate milk consistency without too much of a milky taste. This dessert further contained pretzels, blackberries and candied bacon. The candied bacon worked really well with the chocolate,  it was extremely chewy though, required a lot of effort and energy. Unfortunately, my friend wears braces so she couldn't fully enjoy the chewy goodness. This was also the first time I had tried a fresh blackberry and it tasted wonderful! Only if they weren't so expensive, I would eat so many.

 Golden Egg 2012
At this point we were both glad that this dessert was not chocolate based. It was yellow vanilla (or caramel - not sure) ice cream on a passionfruit sauce, topped with honeycomb and brushes of gold. I love passion fruit based desserts, so this dessert was just right for me. The balance of the sourness of the passionfruit and sweetness of the ice cream with the crunch of the honeycomb caused my taste buds to dance. I wanted to lick the plate clean by the end of it.

Yes you read right, Dirt. It literally looked like dirt with worms and lollies in it, until we dug underneath and found the ganache. After the previous desserts, trying to finish this was a struggle, and that's why we couldn't finish it. It became a bit too weird for me with the lollies in it, but the combination of coconut (worms), ganache and cookie crumble (dirt) was good. In the end, the power of sugar become to much for us to bear.

Where the magic happens

The overall experience was tantalising to the palate. How the dessert looked compared to the taste was just mind boggling, which is the Willy Wonka thing to do. All the little things in the desserts made the difference, and made the afternoon of desserts worth while. At a total cost of $75 ($12.50 per dessert) is reasonable priced. I hope to enjoy another Willy Wonka experience next year!

Good food, Good times!