Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best Custard Dessert Ever


Sometimes the recipe you need/want comes to you by chance. Randomly checking out the Vue de Monde website, Shannon Bennet kindly posted his recipe for his Chocolate Orange Custards.

I was looking for a good dessert recipe that could be individually portioned for stand up eating and this is perfect. Portioned in to 10 shot glasses it is visually stunning and has a rich mousse like texture. It is very rich so a mere 30-40ml is more than enough.

The recipe is not difficult, but would recommend that to do it you do have a good kitchen thermometer, 78 degrees is the magic number for the custard, a few degrees higher and you will have scrambled eggs.

Recipe has been reproduced from:

160 ml milk
160 ml cream
40 ml orange juice
20 ml Grand Marnier
2 oranges, juiced and zested
40 g sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
240g 70% coverture chocolate pieces


- Put the milk, cream, orange juice, Grand Marnier, orange zest and half the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, set aside and leave to infuse for 10–15 minutes
- Meanwhile whisk the eggs and egg yolks with the remaining sugar.
- Bring the infused liquid to a simmer again and then pour through a fine sieve into the whisked egg yolks. The sieve will catch the zest, which can be discarded.
- Whisk until the egg mixture has dissolved into the infused liquid.
- Clean the saucepan and return the mixture to the pan, and heat over a low to medium heat until liquid reaches 78ºC (172°F), using a cooking thermometer, stirring constantly (at this point the custard will lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon). Put the chocolate pieces into a mixing bowl.
- Once the custard has reached the required temperature, pour it over the chocolate buttons and mix with a spatula until you get a really rich and homogenised liquid.
- Pour into ramekins and set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. If there are air bubbles tap ramekins lightly on the bench top. They should have a decadent look about them and be very dark in appearance.

Note: It is best to zest the oranges with a microplane as this extracts all the natural oils that are in the zest and gives a great aroma to the custard.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Squires Loft

166 Toorak Rd
South Yarra, 3141

Melbourne is at times a town that likes to indulge in rivalries of many forms. Collingwood vs Carlton, Melbourne vs Sydney, Nth of the Yarra vs Sth of the Yarra and in the steak debate it seems to be Vlado's vs Squires Loft.

While I have been to Vlado's a few times, I have never made it to it's great rival Squires Loft. The first thing that you notice when you walk in to either venue is that you are there to do one thing, eat copious amounts of red meat. The difference between the two though is Squires Loft has a bit more variety available over the Richmond steak dictatorship and also a lot more daylight.


The lunch group I was with got things started with the Squires Boerwors and Ribs. This turned out to be a very good way to start the festival of meat. The Boerwors were rich with nice meatiness and juiciness, the ribs were equally as good. Ribs at times are unappreciated in Australia, a plate of these would convert most.

It was around this time serious attention turned to the wine list. One of the things that separates most steak restaurants from restaurants that serve steak is that the former tends to gouge on the wine markup. Fortunately it is possible to get some really good reds for around the $50 range. We went with the very nice Wirra Wirra Woodhenge which is about $25 retail so is within the normal markup range.


After we sorted out the wine, it was then showtime. The 300g eye fillet that came out plated on an iron plate it was not going to win any beauty awards for presentation, fortunately what it lacked in beauty it made up for in taste. Cooked perfectly medium rare with nice chips it was perfect, there is no questioning the fact that the guys here know how to cook meat. The only criticism I have is that the mushroom sauce was perhaps a bit gloopy for my liking.

The sides of fried onions, salad and vegetables were also well cooked and presented, but faded in to the background behind the steak.

Post steak there was no room for desert, I am sure they are acceptable, but when the meat is that good save it for another day.

So having visited both, I might sit on the fence. Both are good, both have there charms but if i were to go out for a casual steak with friends, I would almost lean towards the casual charm of Squires over the fixed menu Vlado's. There you have it

Squires Loft - 13.5/20
Squires Loft South Yarra Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spice Temple

Ground Floor - Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006

So the Neil Perry empire continues to grow, moving amoeba like in to the old Bistro Guillame is Spice Temple, the sister of Neil's Sydney Spice Temple restaurant. This is my first experience of "Iron Chef" Neil Perry's cuisine, curiously none of his other restaurants have appealed yet somehow Spice Temple has lured me in barely weeks after opening.

Spice Temple is a good vehicle for Perry to show off his passion for Asian food in an approachable format. Designed for a quick lunch as much as a banquet it is a low risk and relatively low expense way to sample his food to see if it is for you.

Walking in to Spice Temple, the interior is somewhat moody with lots of black everywhere, pink tinted windows and raw wood. I would not be surprised if the fit out was from the same people that did Maha as it has a very similar feel.

I had the good fortune of getting a table easily for Friday lunch and browsing the menu there are plenty of choices. The waiting staff were a bit enthusiastic recommending 2-3 light courses and 1-2 main courses, we felt that for two this was too much and that 1 entree and 2 mains were more appropriate.

Northern style lamb and fennel dumplings

Sticking with this our first course arrived, a perfect pan asian dumpling of lamb & fennel. The dumplings were cooked gyoza style with a crispy base and light chewy skin on top filled with juicy lamb and paired with a great spicy sauce. At $18 for 8 it is a great starter.

Guangxi style roast pork shoulder
with coriander, peanuts, red onion and sesame seeds

Next course arrived and it was a cracker, the dish was served warm salad style with lots of juicy pork that had ultra crispy crackle. The combination of the ingredients was perfect, each component served a purpose. Great balance and a generous serve for $30.

Stir fried grass fed beef fillet with wok blistered peppers
and black bean

Lunch wrapped up with another stunning dish, it could be written off as fancy beef & black bean sauce. Yes there is steak, yes there are black beans but it is like saying a Bugatti Veyron is nothing more than a faster Hyundai Excel, both have four wheels but like the local chinese takeaway version of the dish that is about where any similarity ends.

The dish was served up with six generous portions of steak that is so tender no knife is required. The peppers are sweet, soft and juicy and the mild black bean sauce brings it all together. This is one of the finest dishes I have had in a long time, at $42 it is getting up there but is really worth it.

To drink there are is a long list of wine, beer & cocktails, they are on the expensive side of the pricing bell curve but just far enough away to not look like gouging.

So wrapping up my Spice Temple experience, I am impressed. It is not cheap, but cheap by Perry standards. The food here reminds me of how Bistro Vue/Cafe Vue compares to Vue Du Monde, the food is delivered with the highest quality/standard to the price it is delivered. Just because it is not the Rockpool degustation does not mean that the food is treated to a lower standard. One month in to opening the service and execution is spot on, there is great ambiance and the spectacular food makes this a winner.

Spice Temple - 15.5/20

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


21 Bond Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Maha is the mediterranean inspired middle east restaurant in the George Calombaris empire. When it opened in 2008 it was the "it" place getting plenty of airtime in local newspapers, feature reviews in Gourmet Traveller and had plenty of buzz.

Fast forward 2 years and it is now past the initial buzz and to be honest in the few times I have been there it has been a bit ho-hum. It has been good, but nothing particularly inspirational and a bit overpriced IMHO.

Maha was almost written off in my mind as a place to go to, I am glad I gave it another go. The occasion was lunch with friends and it worked out that Maha was almost the most central for us to converge on.

Berid mezze - small cold dishes

Being lunch we opted for the 3 course soufra at $40 per person. First plate of mezze came out and it was a great start. Pickled cauliflower, eggplant, olives and confit mushrooms were all winners, but the mushrooms really stood out as tender and juicy. The minted yoghurt soup served in shot glasses was also an interesting way to start the meal.

sahen kbeer - large plates

Main courses came out and we were greeted with spiced chicken legs, perfectly cooked Kingfish served with turkishbaldo” pilaf and a Lebanese bread salad. The highlight here was the Kingfish which was lightly spiced and had a delicious meaty texture. The chicken, buried under parsley, spring onion & pomegranate seeds were served on the bone and again cooked perfectly and spiced to accentuate not kill the flavours. The sides were also a hit, the pilaf was light with a hint of sweetness, the salad was salad I guess but had clean flavours and a great accompaniment.

The most surprising aspect of the food was it was relatively cliche free - no kofta's, no tagine's, no cous cous, no hummus. I would see it as a sign of maturity and confidence to serve food inspired by the middle east but not defined by it.

Wine by the glass range was broad priced from $8-$18 which is quite reasonable and matched the food well.

helwayet - sweets

Finally we had dessert courses. I had low expectations, but the plate came out and I was again pleasantly surprised. The visually appealing aero bar with soft meringue & crème fraiche was great but the star was the Turkish delight filled donuts. These were light, covered with honey and nuts with a centre of gooey Turkish delight, not a healthy dessert, but a real stunner.

Service was good and the dining room is still very polished but think that now that the buzz is over the restaurant is working harder than ever to show that it still worth some attention. It is a good time to go and see that the buzz was justified.

Maha - 15/20

Maha Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joe’s Stone Crab

11 Washington Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

I owe a big thanks to Man vs Food. While it is easy to denounce this show as America at its worst, the host does dive in to the things that make the cities he visits unique from a food perspective.

When he isn’t gorging on 48oz steaks or 5lb Burritos, Adam Richman is visiting places like Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe’s first opened as a beach shack in 1913 and has grown to an icon on Miami Beach. Its success comes from one thing, being the first to figure out how to cook the Florida Stone Crab. Florida Stone Crabs have a massive crusher claw and Joe’s trap their own crab, remove the crusher claw and returns the crab to sea allowing it to re-grow. Interestingly these claws do molt so it is a harmless and sustainable practice

Word of this crab mecca spread amongst the group of Australians I was travelling with and all wanted to join me on this crab feast. This presented a small challenge since Joe’s does not take reservation's and getting 12 diners to a table meant a wait, but their front of house did a good job managing us and before we knew it we were seated and getting a lesson in Crab 101.


The waiters are all old hands and know how to manage a table, they know people are there for crabs and their job is to make it easy. Plates of Stone Crab claws, Alaskan Crab, fried tomatoes and hash browns were coming to us thick and fast.


We had the good fortune of being their 2 weeks in to the season so we were able to enjoy the Jumbo claws. These claws once shelled were the size of a magnum ice cream and were sensational. The texture is light and flaky with a unique flavour and paired well with the mayonnaise dipping sauce.

We also had Alaskan crab legs that were served hot and cooked over a char grill. These were equally as delicious. The meat pulled away from the claw easily had a really nice texture and had a fantastic flavour.

The end result was as much top quality crab as we could eat with sides, drinks and tip for $80. A bargain and another must visit for anyone with the slightest liking for crustaceans.

Joe’s Stone Crab – 15/20

Joe's Stone Crab (Seasonal) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shula's Steak House

Alexander Hotel
5225 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33140

I am almost embarrassed to post this one. Yes I like to eat out, yes I do overindulge at times, but this place took things to a whole new level.

When you are an avid foodie, you tend to get in to all manner of food shows. For instance Iron Chef really got me in to Japanese food and technique, which led to my pursuit of dining in their restaurants.

Similarly Gordon Ramsay’s various shows led to his New York Restaurant and Maze Melbourne.
So when a whirlwind business trip to Miami came up not long after watching Man vs Food this combination led me to Shula’s Steak House founded by the NFL Legend Don Shula.

For those that don’t know the show Man vs Food is a show devoted to Adam Richman’s pursuit of “Big Offerings” in American dining. The episode in Miami revolved around his quest to not only put away the Shula 48oz steak but to do it in less than 20 minutes.

Shula’s Miami Beach is located in the mezzanine floor of the Alexander Hotel. The dining room of Shula’s is somewhat subdued with dim lighting, lots of wood panel with B&W photos of Shula’s Superbowl VII and VIII success. Certainly not like a normal sports restaurant or a tacky big food venue.

48oz Shula Steak - Before Cooking

The bow tied waiting staff were very attentive, they ran through the menu with a show and tell of the cuts and despite their best efforts to get us to consider an entrée the order was for “The Big Boy” - The 48oz steak, Medium Rare.

After ordering my table was filled with anticipation and questions, would the steak be too much for us? Would it be terrible quality? Would the steak be too much?

48oz Shula Steak - After cooking

Fortunately the steak was very good quality, not fatty, gristly or chewy. The size was massive and the photos do not do this justice.

We did finish the steak albeit longer than Adam’s record, the biggest challenge in the end was the jaw. Not used to such prolonged bouts of chewing it did take its toll towards the end but we got through and will be inducted in to the 35,000 odd crowd Shula’s 48z club.

Towards the end the flavour of the steak began to fade or as another diner at our table summed it up “quantity has killed quality”.

We did have a side of chips and asparagus which were pleasant enough and we matched the steak up with a great Chilean cabernet sauvignon which was reasonably priced.
So now I am officially on the Shula list

Shula’s – 14/20 very good steak
Shula's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Puerto Sagua Restaurant

700 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Puerto Sagua is one of those restaurants that is hard to dislike.

Good Food - yes
Good Service - yes
Terrific value - yes

I came across this restaurant a few years ago walking along Collins Ave. When you see a restaurant this big with queues and menu of mouth-watering Cuban dishes it is hard to ignore.
The restaurant itself is not going to win awards for décor, it looks like it was built in the 60’s and hasn’t had a facelift since. The menu is quite extensive and very few courses exceed $10 including sides such as rice, beans, plantains or salad.

L: Ropa Vieja
R: Black Bean Soup & Rice

On my one opportunity to dine here while in Miami I went with my favourite – Ropa Vieja which translates to “Old Clothes”. The English menu describes it more flatteringly as Cuban Stew, a stew of steak, peppers, garlic, tomato and spices cooked until the meat is pull apart soft. It is simple and delicious. This is served with their black bean soup which is simply magic stuff, the flavour is so moreish I would go just for them alone, how the make them so flavoursome amazes me.

Coffee here is excellent and there is also a good range of beers. This is a gem and will definitely go back whenever I have the good fortune to be in Miami.

Puerto Sagua – Must Visit (Highly Recommended)
Puerto Sagua on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chili’s Too

Terminal 4
Los Angeles Airport

14 hours of flight time another 5 to go and a few hours to kill at LA airport are not a good combination.

This however was the scenario that led me to Chili’s at Terminal 3 of LAX.

Now for anyone travelling from Australia on QF93, you will have to wait to 10am before you can get off the breakfast menu. Considering it was 9:40 when I got there and it was about 2:40am back home I waited it out, however, one would have thought that an international airport would be more accommodating.

Anyway, with a chair at the bar and a beer in my hand the time moved quickly as I was talking to 3 other commuters at the bar and I could get my order in for the bacon burger.


This rather generous burger came out with fries and hit the spot perfectly, . If there is one thing the Americans do reasonably well it is the burger and this was no exception.

Service was very slow, and yes it is a chain but is certainly a better option than Burger King. I would go back again in the same predicament but would probably look elsewhere if I were out of the Terminal 3 confines.

Chili's Too – 3/5

Thursday, October 21, 2010


23 Bank Place

Melbourne, VIC 3000.

I’ll come right out with it. I like Syracuse, in fact I like it a lot.

I could leave the review at that and happily give it a 14/20 and move on, but that wouldn’t give a lot of insight as to why.

The main thing I like about Syracuse is that once upon a time this would have been a bit of a mamasitta, that is popular, hard to get in to and have a bit of an attitude. Today it is still a very smart restaurant with a fantastic wine list, knowledgeable staff and one can normally get a table as a walk in, but it is never empty.

The menu scales from sharing plates to main courses, perhaps a slight Greek angle in the sharing plates to more modern in the main’s.


First course of the night was Saganaki which comes as a nice salty piece of pan fried cheese that matched well with the Dolcetto being served by the glass.



Following on the next dishes on tasting were the lamb cutlets and as usual they were a hit. Nicely seasoned, grilled with good char and the right shade of pink. This was paired with an asparagus & beetroot salad with quinoa, crème fresh and topped with pine nuts, this is not normally my first choice of dishes, but it was a cracker. It looked like a dish that has been to Peter Gilmore school (he of Quay fame) as it was garnished with edible flowers and had a nice lightness to it but also a number of textures and flavours coming through

As usual the decent range of wines by the glass sufficed, but I do also like the quite lengthy and reasonably priced wine list.

Needless to say, I’ll be back and would recommend it as a good after work spot to meet with friends.

Syracuse – 14/20

Syracuse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cafe Vue II

Cafe Vue 401
St Kilda Rd
Melbourne, 3004

Well this is the first time I have done a re-review, however, one could argue that this is really more of an extension. The reason for this is that I finally got to Cafe Vue today for their menu du jour as opposed to their cafe menu.

The thoughts, feelings and sentiments are the same as the previous review so I won't re-hash here.

What I will say though is that the menu du jour takes the same principles and amplifies them. On this occasion it was the two course lunch and on a table of four we were basically left scratching our heads as to how it could be this good for this little. The menu du jour is a choice of 2 courses for $35 and 3 for $45 for lunch and each course has 4 choices.

The consensus was 2 courses main and desert which was unfortunate since I was really keen on the Foie Gras parfait, but another day I guess.

Braised beef cheek with confit potato

The main I ordered was the Braised beef cheek with confit potato, this was a rather large chunk of gelatinous pull apart beef, perfect for a mid winter lunch where the morning temperature was a chilly 3 degrees. Really, the beef was cooked perfectly and came with potato mash, confit potato, beets and Spinach. This by itself was almost worthy of $35.

Blood Orange Tart

Desert was the Blood Orange Tart which was a bit misleading, yes there was a tart crust, yes there was blood orange, but on top was the most rich and wonderful chocolate cream. Seriously this was almost the most chocolatey thing I have had.

The guests at the table were all in awe of their respective deserts and that is really a good thing, so on this re-review, the original cafe menu rating stands, however, the Menu du Jour ramps it up a notch. When all at the table are impressed and all want to come back to try what the others had you know it is a good thing indeeed.

Cafe Vue Menu du Jour - 14.5/20
Café Vue at 401 on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blossom Esspresso (Blossom Espresso)

Shp 10/ 0 Freshwater Pl
Southbank, VIC, 3006

Located in the food alley of Freshwater place is a great little hole in the wall cafe that not only does great coffee which is up to the standard of the likes of St Ali, but also does great food in a sea of mediocrity in the lunch space. This little place gas become my preferred lunch spot within the south bank area and with good reason.

The cafe does have the usual range of sandwiches for those on the go, but it also does a short list of hot food that changes daily and that is where the action is at. Goulash, 18 hour lamb, empanadas, green thai curry are just a few of the dishes that rotate here and all have been delicious washed down with their excellent coffee.

I think this is the kind of place if I were to go in to the food business that I would do, good food, short menu that rotates daily and great coffee.
For me it is definately worth an extra 5 minute walk over closer options and easily has the best coffee in the Southbank area.

Blossom Espresso - Recommended.
Blossom Esspresso on Urbanspoon

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Otoya Japanese Cafe

Shop 2/227 Collins st


In a first, I am trialling blogging on the go with my latest toy, the HTC Desire. The trade off in convenience is speed, so will definitely be brief compared to normal.

So the first place to try out my new breakthrough in blog mobility is Otoya Japanese Cafe which has had a change of owner and a facelift, so two good reasons to retry what was an OK, but daggy location.

The cafe offers the standard range of Japanese lunch food, think bento boxes, sashimi, teriyaki all cooked to order for under $10.


On this occasion I opted for the great winter comfort dish of Katsudon. The pork cutlet was both good quality and well cooked with a good layer of egg and onion.

Based on the speed of service, price and quality, I will be back.

Otoya Japanese Cafe - Recommended

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Champagne Brasserie

2 Queensland Ave,
Broadbeach, Qld, 4218

Only 50m from the epicentre of tourist trap dining in Broadbeach, hidden away in the Hi-Ho holiday apartments is an unlikely slice of Gallic dining excellence known as Champagne Brasserie.

The restaurant had recently changed hands and it had been a few years since my last visit so I was looking forward to see what had changed.

L: Les St Jacques suste saisies, beurre a l'Absinthe
(Seared scallops, lightly minted peas puree, dried speck, Absinthe beurre blanc)
R:La crêpe au crabe, gratinée au parmesan
(Blue spanner crab crépe, gratinated with parmesan...a classic from Champagne

Upon being seated by the restaurant manager we noticed little had changed to the interior. This of course isn't a bad thing as it is nice and well balanced between formal and casual as you would expect in the sunshine state. The menu has seen a bit more work since the last visit with some new additions amongst the traditional classics. Orders were placed while we enjoyed a glass of the reasonably priced champagne.

The entrees arrived and the seared scallops were perfect. Slightly translucent, sweet and served with a very subtle minted pea puree, the waiter commented it was his favourite dish, I can see why. My wife enjoyed the generous crab crepe which had nice chunks of crab meat wrapped in a light cheesy crepe. Very good start.

L: Le contre filet de porc roti, sauce aux cepes et pleurotes
(Roasted prime black Berkshire Pork sirloin. served with porcini and oysters mushrooms ragout)
R:Le carré d’agneau rôti en croute d’herbes
(Roasted rack of lamb, herb crust, Provencale ratatouille and garlic puree

Mains came out and my leap of faith going for the Berkshire pork was well rewarded. A very generous plate of pork came out served on a rich mushroom ragout which complemented the pork well and included a side of ultra crisp pommes frites. The herb crust lamb was equally good, with 5 big cutlets of tender medium rare lamb served with rich ratatouille. This was the total opposite of the tasting plate craze in most fine dining restaurants these days and was nice to just enjoy a great feast of a dish.

L: La crème brulée à la vanille, aux framboises et au miel
(Raspberry, honey and vanilla crème brulée)
R: Le nougat Glacé
(Traditional French nougat, served frozen with red fruit coulis and vanilla chantilly cream

Of course a French meal would not be complete without a classic French dessert. Again the dessert's had classic elements but have been given a modern touch. The nougat glace came out and was a site and tasted as good as it looked, the rich creamy nougat had nice pieces of almond and glace fruit. The brulee was also a delight, the sweetness was balanced with the tartness of the raspberry and had a perfect brulee crack when breaking the shell.

Summary for the dining experience, Champagne Brasserie is simply great, Salut!

Champagne Brasserie - 14.5/20

Champagne Brasserie on Urbanspoon