Fish Mongers – Byron Bay

On our recent trip to Byron Bay, we stopped by my favourite place for fish and chips – Fish Mongers.

I’ve actually been going to Fish Mongers for years, but this is the first time I’ve sat down to write about it.  Fish Mongers has been there for ages, as has their other branches in Bondi and Manly Beach.  The branch in Byron Bay is a little cool place that plays music you would expect in a bar late at night.  Simple furnishings and the place opens out to the sun so you can enjoy the sea breeze.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, other than getting super fresh fish and yummy hand cut chips, it’s the changing menu that I enjoy.   I usually get snapper of some sort, however this time I ordered their salt and pepper king prawns with hand cut chips ($15).

I love prawns, especially when they are super fresh (well duh)!  These giant babies were no exception – bouncy flesh with a lovely chew, which made them very enjoyable.  The light salt and pepper batter was just right – not too heavy.  I enjoyed the cracked pepper rather than the light poxy and light mill pepper one often receives with salt and pepper anything.  And of course the chips were yummy and fat – I couldn’t finish the generous serve.  As always, I enjoyed my crispy sweet potato shavings that garnished my meal.

Mr Ana ordered the Moroccan spice crusted barramundi with rice and soy ($19).  I don’t like barra that much, as it can have an almost muddy taste to it.  However this didn’t leave a muddy taste in my mouth.  The fish was cooked just right and was still very moist, and the spice made the fish soooo yummy.  The rice was also delicious – I am fussy with rice (I know that sounds a bit weird), however this rice was cooked properly and was infused with some light stock.  Mr Ana added a squeeze of lemon which gave it an extra little kick.  I didn’t think the soy sauce that came with the fish was necessary.

We both really enjoyed our meals at Fish Mongers, and I’m yet to have a less than tasty meal here.  The prices are a little more than your usual fish and chip place, but well worth it if you ask me!

And since we were in Byron, while walking off our lunch we weren’t surprised to come across little Pedro, who was hanging out near the beach:

Fish Mongers
Bay Lane, Byron Bay
Ph: 02 6680 8080

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mizu – Brisbane

I love traditional Japanese breakfasts.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that, some rice, miso soup = happy tummy.  Mmm, mmm, mmm!  Of course I’ve had quite a few tasty traditional breakfasts in Japan, but one of the best I’ve had was in New Zealand – who would have thought?

So traditional breakfasts can be found in all sorts of places if you hunt around, and Mizu Restaurant is one such place.  Set in a residential area of Teneriffe, Brisbane, this unassuming little Japanese restaurant quietly serves up all sorts of Japanese style breakfast fare on weekends.  And best of all, it is actually owned, operated, and served by Japanese people (which, is getting rare these days!).

Mr Ana and I finally made it after fantasing for months (we had other things going on :) ) and ventured in to see what was on offer.  The restaurant was streaming with natural sunlight and each table was set up neatly. There were sake bottle lining the serving area, as well pictures of fish adorning the walls.  Nice and simple.

We started by ordering two macha lattes ($3.50) which were made quickly.  The latte was the perfect temperature to sip and had a good strong flavour of green tea.  It was slightly sweet and did not need any additional sugar.  The waitress asked if we enjoyed our lattes to which we said yes!

I ordered the Mizu breakfast bento box ($16).  This is the equivalent of your big breakfast.  My breakfast arrived in a two tier bento which the waitress placed in front of me.  One layer contained a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a small dish of Japanese potato salad.  The other layer contained some grilled salmon, chicken karaage, a tempura fish cake, a dish of Japanese pickles and tamago (egg), and another dish of sauteed burdock (a root vegetable).

The salmon was very fresh and cooked just right – it retained the plumpness of the fish and was lightly seasoned.  I loved it (so did Mr Ana, I had to bat him away from my food!). The chicken karaage was very juicy and was marinated prior to cooking.  Yum!  The tempura fish cake was a novelty – while I enjoyed it, there was nothing particularly outstanding about it.  I loved the sauteed burdock, it was juicy and slightly salty which went very well with the rice.  The pickles were crunchy and reminded me of the tsukemono I would eat in Japan.  The egg was slightly sweet and moist.  My mouth is watering just writing about this.

While the rice and miso soup weren’t the stars of the bento box, I have to mention them too.  The rice was perfectly cooked with each grain bouncy and chewy (they clearly washed their rice well!).  The miso soup had a healthy serve of sea kelp in it which I welcomed.  And the potato salad was extra tasty – but I love potato salad!

Mr Ana ordered some yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls – $5.90).  The rice was seasoned with soy sauce before being shaped and cooked.  While the flavour itself was nice, it wasn’t very crisp on the outside which was a shame.

Mr Ana also ordered a loco moco, which consisted of a grilled mince pattie, fried egg, salad and rice, all topped with sukiyaki sauce ($14).  Now for you who haven’t had the opportunity to try a Japanese mince pattie – go and try this.  Japanese mince patties are unlike the usual hamburger type things we have here.  These patties have extra seasoning in it, and is very, very moist (it is partially steamed).  This pattie was no exception and went very well with the rice.  The egg was just cooked and the yolk oozed onto the rice when Mr Ana cut it (free range egg too!).  I like the mayonnaise smile that came with the pattie, but that’s just me :)

I’m excited about this place.  I haven’t tried dinner there (I should), nor the cooking classes that are offered there.  But the breakfast alone is worth the trip if you appreciate Japanese flavours or wish to try something different from what’s on offer for breakfast in Brisbane.

Mizu is very smart to offer the traditional Japanese breakfast menu, and I sincerely hope they continue this for a long time.  Because I will become a regular fixture on Saturday mornings!

Breakfast is served 8-11am on Saturday and Sunday.

Mizu Restaurant
2 Macquarie Street
Teneriffe, Brisbane
Ph: 07 3254 0488
http://mizurestaurant.com.au/
Mizu on Urbanspoon

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Grill’d Burgers – Wintergarden, Brisbane

You all know how I love Grill’d Burgers right (just give me a Big Queenslander now and I’ll be your friend for life!)?

Turns out that Mr Grill’d Burger also knew of my love, as I was invited to the launch of their flagship restaurant in the Wintergarden, Brisbane City. A heap of other people were invited, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting right? Woo hoo, party time!

We turned up to the event at 7ish and spied the Grill’d Airstream van outside the entrance to the Wintergarden so we knew were in the right place.

We grabbed one of the last little tables available. The first thing I noticed what that the place was buzzing with people – sitting at the various tables, at the benches towards the front of the restaurant, and most of all in the bar at the back of the restaurant. The decor was pretty cool, with exposed air vents in the ceiling, lots of timber and cool lighting.

Check out the interesting decorating!

I also noticed an open room with a big round table (featuring a very cool spatula chandelier) – it would be great to book with few friends and gives a sense of privacy.

The cool room – complete with funky spatula chandelier (photo courtesy of Grill’d Burger)

I started the evening by trying one of the new cocktails on offer – a Bundaberg Mule. I love a good ginger cocktail (or mocktail) and this one had ginger beer, lime juice and vanilla syrup. I had never tried a ginger cocktail with vanilla in it, and I was glad I tried it! All the trappings of a good ginger cocktail (I make them at home) and the simple vanilla twist gave it a sweeter flavour.

While Bird & Brie is a staple on Grill’d menus, I had often skipped it for fear of dry and leather-y chicken. What was I worrying about? When I bit into the little slider, the chicken was moist, and was made even more delicious by the slightly melted brie. The cranberry sauce gave the burger a slight sweetness and the herbed mayo.. Well I have to say Grill’d do a fabulous herbed mayo, and really it goes with anything! And yes, the burger was a bit messy. But with succulent chicken what else can you really expect?

Bird & Brie burger with the famous Grill’d chips and three types of dips

Chicken was clearly the favourite at the opening, as we were served with several other chicken burger delights. We tried the ‘Simon Says’ burger, which had the same moist chicken breast, this time accompanied with avocado, bacon, relish and herbed mayo (herbed mayo!!!). I really liked the crisp bacon in the burger, it gave it an extra texture which was enjoyable. I also loved the avocado but it made the bun slide around a bit.

Mmmm, chicken burgers: Tuscan Delight, Simon Says, Perfect Pear

Next came the Tuscan Delight, which is a chicken burger with roasted pepper, basil pesto, cheese, crisp salad, and herbed mayo. What did it taste like? Well, I don’t quite remember, as it was a little forgetful to be honest. The pesto wasn’t strong enough for my liking, the pepper gave it a very mild flavour, and overall it was a little bland. Perhaps it would suit someone else’s taste rather than mine.

Finally we tried the Perfect Pear. I was eager to try the Perfect Pear, as it had the unusual burger combination of chicken with slices of pear, fig paste, avocado and rocket leaves. Oh and parmesan. It sounded delicious and I confess I salivated a little bit when I got my little hands on this one. How did it taste? Sweet. Very sweet. There would be no way I could eat a regular sized Perfect Pear. The paste in combination with the poached pear was too sweet. I couldn’t taste the parmesan and I couldn’t taste the slight bitterness of the rocket. While I was glad that I got to try the Perfect Pear, I don’t think it will be a regular for me.

And if I am perfectly honest, my favourite slider taster for the evening was the humble Simply Grill’d burger. Nothing beats that smoky beef flavour with a hint of spice and herb mixed into the ground beef. The herbed mayo shone through as the burger is quite simple. But delicious.

More burgers: Perfect Pear and Simply Grill’d

Sometimes it’s best to stick with the simple things on the menu I suppose…

All the burgers were served on ridged plates, to ensure that the bottom of the burger doesn’t get soggy. But I’ll be honest – I’ve never had a soggy burger from Grill’d.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to try anything on the nibblies menu, which was a real shame. So I can’t tell you any more about that. I would be curious to know what the usual serve size is.

The bar at the back of  is a really smart move, as I can see plenty of office workers there on a Friday afternoon or evening, chilling out after a week’s work, having a few drinks and nibblies, followed by a burger that takes their fancy.

Grill’d in the Wintergarden is a great spot for a casual, inexpensive dinner after a hard day at work.  The decor is funky, it has a great vibe, and will be a hit with city workers.

PS – guess what???  Grill’d Burger is just about to launch their next branch in Brisbane in the Emporium!!!  Go and check it out on June 30 :)

Grill’d Burgers – Wintergarden
Level 1, Wintergarden
209 Queen Street, Brisbane
Grill'd Burgers on Urbanspoon

Posted in Australia | Leave a comment

Himawari Restaurant – Sunnybank, Brisbane

Who’s the newest kid on the block?  Or Plaza?  Sunnybank Plaza that is.  Why it’s Himawari!

The original Himawari Restaurant in Brisbane has been open in Elizabeth Arcade for aaaaages, and is a popular spot for both office workers and students.  Mr Ana and I have been there a number of times to sample their food.  Their curry is very nice :)

So when I noticed they were fitting out a new restaurant front in Sunnybank Plaza, I thought I had to try it out.  You know, so I can tell you guys how good it really is…  I’ve walked past a few times since it opened and there is always a line.  Good sign (well that, and people around Sunnybank sure do like to eat out!).

So I popped around today with mum to sample some of their dishes…  Their menu has variety of rice and noodle dishes, from rice bowls to simple bento boxes, and yakisoba to curry rice.  All dishes are around $10-$12, so fairly reasonable in price.  Himawari also have a ‘set menu’ option, where you can order a little side dish for around $2.  The side dishes include a little bowl of agidashi tofu, some karaage chicken, or some udon noodles.  Pretty good for an extra $2 or so!

Mum decided to order a pork katsudon ($11) – a fried pork fillet topped with runny eggs and onion. She also ordered a little side of karaage chicken ($2.50).  I ordered an omelet yakisoba with chicken ($11), and a little side of agidashi tofu ($2).

Our orders came out quickly and we eagerly tried the food in front of us.

I started with the little bowl of agidashi tofu.  I was pleased that it was lightly coated and fried the way I would do it at home, but I noticed it didn’t have any ginger or daikon radish to compliment the soup base.  Oh well.  I broke up the tofu and had a sip of the soup.  eek!!  So salty and well, boring. Whoever made it doesn’t know how to make stock or poured the base straight out from a bottle.  It was quite harsh and just tasted like soy sauce with a bit of sugar and hondashi thrown in with no thought to balance the flavours.  The tofu was quite nice though, so I finished that and left the soup stock behind.

Mum let me sample her karaage chicken.  Golden brown with a pleasant crunchy texture, this was a more enjoyable side dish.  The chicken was lightly marinated prior to coating and cooking too.  I think this was much better value then the agidashi tofu.

My omelet yakisoba looked very snug in its omelet blanket and I ripped it open with glee to see all its yakisoba guts spill out.  The dish itself is very simple – stir fried soba noodles with chicken mince (boo!) a few shallots and cabbage pieces, then wrapped in a thin omelet and topped with some tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise.

The dish was ok only and I probably wouldn’t order it again.

Mum’s katsudon, however, was quite enjoyable.  Crisp pork fillet that wasn’t too oily, covered with moist and well seasoned wet omelet and onions that seeped onto fluffy rice.  While the katsudon wasn’t of the standard of say, a premium pork fillet from Hokkaido, every mouth full was enjoyable.  Mum had to remind me to give back her bowl :)  Clearly she chose the winning dishes of the day!

Overall Himawari is a reasonable little restaurant to go and order cheap and reasonable food.  The service is quick, however the food is quite simplistic.  Mind you the prices reflect that.  It’s not a restaurant that would make me drive all the way to Sunnybank just to eat their dishes, but if I were in the area and felt like eating a katsudon, I might pop by.  I’m sure it will be popular with the locals, as Japanese food is…  I think I’ll stick to making agidashi tofu at home for now, which is what I’m making for our entree tonight!

 

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hakataya Ramen – Brisbane

Ramen, ramen, ramen…  My obsession with ramen continues…

Hakataya Ramen recently opened a new branch in Sunnybank Square, demonstrating its demand in Brisbane.  I tried Hakataya Ramen in the Gold Coast many years ago, and confess I didn’t enjoy it very much – the tonkatsu soup base was very fatty and not that flavoursome.  However, we were recently in the Sunnybank area and Mr Ana had a hankering for ramen – so we decided to check out the new restaurant.

We got to the restaurant at around 6ish and waited in line for 5 minutes or so.  Hakataya has a fairly limited menu, which basically focuses on 4 main ramen options – Nagahama ramen ($10) – which is the basic tonkatsu ramen base with char siu pork slices; char siu ramen ($13) – the same ramen with extra pork slices; karaka men ($11.50) – a tonkatsu base ramen with chilli; and finally the miso chilli men ($12) – a miso base ramen with chilli.  Hakataya also has fried dumplings and tonmeshi, which is rice flavoured with pork soup and topped with pork slices.

The narrow restaurant

Mr Ana and I both chose to try nagahama ramen and also the dumplings.  As it was fairly busy, we had the chance to watch the chef at work.  There was just one chef doing everything, and I was really impressed at how quickly he got the orders together.  We also saw the huge stock pots simmering away, with loads of pork bones floating around…  Yummy…

Stock pots with simmering stock

Our ramen arrived and I was ready to tuck in!  A few blows on my hot soup and off I went – the tonkatsu soup base was quite simple and not as heavy as I remember.  It was actually quite pleasant.  The pork slices were quite generous I thought, and I had enough to last me through the entire bowl – the meat was lightly seasoned, but went well with the soup base.

Nagahama Ramen

The noodles were a little disappointing as they were very thin and not that chewy.  However that didn’t stop me from getting into the extra serve of noodles that the chef popped onto our counter (kaedama – it’s free too!).  I have to be honest – for $10, this was a decent bowl of noodles.

Ramen noodles

It took quite a while for our dumplings to arrive (normally they should come before or at least at the same time that our mains come out – but anyway).  When they arrived I eagerly took a bite – the dumplings were will cooked, slightly crispy on the bottom and tender skin on top.  The filling was quite a simple pork filling, but enjoyable all the same.  I do wish they had proper dumpling sauce rather than what looked like white vinegar and regular soy sauce.

Fried dumplings

Overall we enjoyed our meals and considered it good value (especially with the free noodle top up!).  The restaurant is quite squishy and it is not a place to sit and take your time to eat and lounge.  However it is very popular and we could see why.

If I had to choose, Taro Ramen produces a much better bowl of tonkatsu ramen – the soup is much deeper in flavour and the noodles are fabulously chewy.  However you are paying a fair bit more for Taro’s ramen (which I’m happy to pay mind you).  I’d happily return to Hakataya for a quick bowl of ramen – while it is not that complex in flavour, it is a quick meal and much better value then say, MOS burger :)

Hakataya Ramen
Shop 13 Market Square
Cnr. Mains Rd. & McCullough St., Sunnybank

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meet Fresh – Brisbane

Mr Ana and I were wandering around Sunnybank trying to find something to eat.  We don’t frequent the Sunnybank area, as my blood pressure tends to rise at the thought of trying to park our car in the madness that is Sunnybank.  Sunnybank frequenters – you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Madness.  Freaking madness.

Anyhoo, we strolled past a new shop that was on the verge of opening – Meet Fresh.  Meet Fresh is a dessert shop that originated in Taiwan, and has a branch in Sydney.  Now, Taiwan is known for their desserts – the myrid of bubble tea flavours, ice creams, tofu desserts, peanut mochi, and all sorts of yummy goodness that you can find.  Well, I can find :)  mmmm, milk sticks come to mind…

The shop wasn’t quite open, so I decided to return with my mum, who adores tofu desserts.  So we came back shortly after to check out what Meet Fresh has to offer.

We were lucky when we arrived, it was just before the lunch rush – shortly after we sat down a line was making its way to the door – good advertising if  you ask me!

Now, Taiwanese people are known for convenience.  Want a drink?  Here, have it in a special little bag to hang off your scooter handle.  Some street snacks for later?  I’ll chuck in a couple of bamboo skewers so you don’t get your fingers dirty – in a little plastic bag so you can hang on to it conveniently of course :)  It’s no different with desserts – many are assembled fresh and popped into specially made containers and bags to enjoy later.

Meet Fresh is set up similarly to dessert places in Taiwan – the desserts are made in front of you behind a glass counter, with all the ingredients set up neatly in their own little homes.  Special little take away containers are ready if you wanted the dessert to go.  We sat in front of the counter so we could watch the desserts being prepared and noted that the dessert assemblers were careful with their creations, right down to counting the number of taro balls that went into each dessert.

Mum ordered a lotus seed tofu dessert (around $5) and giddly awaited while it was made in front of her.  I couldn’t make a decision so I ended up ordering an oolong milk tea ($3.80).  When you order you get a little buzzer which buzzes when your dessert is ready to pick up. The buzzer went off and mum bounced up to collect our treats.

Mum’s tofu dessert came overloaded with sugar syrup and ice…  but not overloaded with tofu (check out the picture on their website – it looked totally different in real life).  Tofu desserts are primarily layers upon layers of silken tofu, drizzled with sugar syrup and whatever topping you choose.  This dessert was the other way around – a few slivers of tofu drowning in sugar syrup.  While the tofu was soft and light, it was quite disappointing how stingy the dessert was.  There were a few lotus seeds floating about, but nothing to get excited over.

My oolong milk tea came out in a cute jar mug which frankly, I wanted to take home.  The tea was light in flavour and well mixed and cold.  Very enjoyable.  I thought it would come out in a slightly larger vessel, however the size was reasonable considering the price.  I did enjoy it – freshingly cold, frothy and with a true oolong taste.

Meet Fresh is a bit of a novelty to try, however it’s probably more suited to young people who want to hang out over a dessert and have a gossip.  I can think of two places in Brisbane that serve better tofu desserts for around the same price, and well, milk tea is widely available.

I probably would return to try some of their other desserts, such as their herbal jelly (which I’m assuming is grass jelly), and also to try their limited edition ayu jelly.  They also have taro ball desserts, shaved ice, winter melon tea.  But overall, a slightly limited topping menu considering the shop specialises in desserts.

Meet Fresh
Sunnybank Plaza
123/358 Mains Road
Sunnybank
Meet Fresh on Urbanspoon

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taste Gallery – Brisbane

I’ve wandered past the Taste Gallery a few times, and Mr Ana and I have pondered over the xiao long bau (little soup dumplings).  I am a BIG fan of xiao long bau (thanks to the million trips to Asia over the years) and admit I am quite fussy about them.

So what did I do?  I dragged my mum there!  I had a day off and my mum loves making the trip to Sunnybank to try different restaurants.  I was surprised to hear that mum hadn’t been to the Taste Gallery, so I decided to take mum there when we both had time.

The restaurant is set up with the kitchen in the front with a huge glass window so people can have a peek and see the dumplings being made – I do like having a look, but wonder if the chefs feel self-conscious.  I think I would, but I’d also be tempted to put on a bit of a show.  Can’t help myself :)

Mum and I ordered a small selection of dumplings – we decided to focus on dumplings as this was what the restaurant markets itself for…  Well that, and we wanted to have some space left over for dessert!  There was a huge selection to choose from, but I stuck to my favourites.

We started with pan fried pancakes stuffed with chives and egg ($4.50).  The little stuffed pancakes were lovely and crispy, and I really enjoyed the chives.  I also found some wood ear fungus in there, which was a tasty addition.  The pancake was well seasoned and did not need any soy sauce.

And here are the pancakes in the inside:

Next came our xiao long bao ($4.50).  If you haven’t tried these before, they are little handmade dumplings filled with a mixture of pork filling, wrapped in a delicate skin.  What makes them special is that there is a little bit of soup in the dumpling that bursts in your mouth when you bite into the dumpling (so stuff the entire thing in, otherwise you’ll have soup everywhere!).  I eat these all the time when I travel, it is one of my favourites.

These xiao long bao weren’t too bad, however I have to say that I have tasted better in Brisbane.  I won’t compare them to Taiwan, because if I am honest, nothing beats xiao long bao in Taiwan (and I am NOT referring to Din Tai Fung either!!!).  The pork was nice enough, as was the soup, however it was too salty.  I prefer a more delicate flavour.

Our next dish was fried pork dumplings ($7.50).  As you may know, Mr Ana and I make our own dumplings at home.  I. Love. Dumplings.  Particularly fried dumplings.  I stuck to the pork and cabbage dumplings as these are typical in asian cuisine.  The dumplings were super crispy on the bottom which was a bit of a surprise, but I do love a crispy bum, so I enjoyed it.  Again, the dumplings were quite salty, a bit too seasoned, which took away from the pork filling.  The filling itself was very simple, and I couldn’t taste various flavours that are usually added to this type of dumpling.  If I am honest, I prefer our home cooked ones.

And finally our shallot pancakes arrived ($5.50).  They were smaller than I expected but enjoyable all the same.  The pancake was very flakey which indicated that the chef spent time rolling and folding the dough over and over again.  Respect.  This was one of my favourite dishes of the day.

For a bit of fun, mum ordered three little mice ($7.50).  It was a little dish of mice made out of glutinous rice flour, filled with black sesame.  The mice came complete with teeny eyes made out of sesame seeds and ears fashioned from peanuts.  Almost too cute to eat!  That didn’t stop mum though, she ripped into them like a champ.  Poor things never had a chance.  The glutinous rice flour was coated with teeny tapioca balls which made the dessert dumplings moist, and the black sesame filling was sweet.  Mum enjoyed them.  I watched with fascination…

Overall, the Taste Gallery is a decent place to try a variety of dumplings in one convenient spot.  However, I think you can find better versions of each individual dish elsewhere – if you could be bothered.  And I suppose I can be bothered!

Taste Gallery
Market Square Shopping Centre
20B/341 McCullough Street
Sunnybank
Taste Gallery on Urbanspoon

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments