Friday, June 29, 2012

Breakfast at Cup Coffee

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Cup Coffee
85 Russell St, West End

TRex and I caught up over an early breakfast meet a couple of weeks ago in West End. She suggested Cup this time and I had a fist-pump moment, parking randomly on the street and finding out that it was directly nect to Cup. Wooha!

I had a busy day ahead and was running on adrenaline so naturally, needed some caffeine as an adjunct to that. Cafe latte stat.


The coffee wasn't served in a latte glass but wonderful all the same. It was exactly what I needed and I sat there nursing my coffee and reading a book. My perfect start to the day.

When TRex arrived, we ordered our breakfast and I also selected a pot of tea.

GABA green tea

The tea was called GABA green and is supposed to have health benefits (according to Google). I thought it tasted a bit different to 'regular' green tea but not in a distinctly good or bad way.

Baked beans - with cheesy peasant loaf

I chose the baked beans for breakfast. They came as a small, perfectly breakfast-sized serve (in my opinion, those huge piled plates of breakfast you see in some places are unpractical and just a potential cause for rest-of-the-day-guilt). The baked beans were flavorsome and well-cooked and the cheesy toast, a nice and simple accompaniment.

Breakfast bruchetta - with blistered tomatoes, mushrooms, basil and buffalo fetta

TRex ordered the breakfast bruchetta which was a perfect mix of mushroom and tomato with basil and feta. They're fail safe flavors and TRex thought it tasted healthy and fresh. Like with my plate, the serving size was just right and by finish, she felt satisfied but not keeling over.

I enjoyed coffee and breakfast at Cup. It's got a relaxed atmosphere, great for chilling with friends or going solo. I like that there's the West End vibe without being too trendy. The food wasn't mindblowing but it was simple and comforting.
Cup Coffee on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zen at Jupiters Casino for Mum's 50th

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Zen Chinese Restaurant
Casino Level, Jupiters Casino, Broadbeach

My mum's birthday normally ties in with the Queen's birthday long weekend. This year, it was renamed as the Queen's Jubilee holiday (next year it will be gone altogether) and coincided with mum's 50th. I booked her and dad a 2 night stay at Pethers Rainforest Retreat in Mount Tamborine. They like bushwalking etc so I figured it'd be a nice spot to do all that and relax.

We arranged to have dinner one night with Mork's parents. I suggested Zen Restaurant at Jupiter's because I recall eating there once as a kid and really enjoying it. Plus, there's the benefit of being able to hit the roulette after ;).

I made a booking for 7:30 and we were there 15min early but apparently there weren't any tables ready so we had to wait... till a bit after 7:30pm. There was this other occasion when we were staying at the coast and tried to get into Zen without a booking. It was an absolute no go so I think that with Zen, bookings are essential.

The restaurant is beautifully furnished and quite busy without having that hectic, chatty buzz that most Chinese restaurants do. You may consider that to be a positive or negative.

Zen's menu contains popular Chinese dishes. We went for the Peking duck over 2 courses, plus a few accompanying dishes. Last year, I was going through a Peking duck craving phase and Mochi brought up Zen as an option. I didn't get to try it then but this was just the right occasion for it.


I also tried a peach cocktail. It was nice but not too different from the (much cheaper) frozen dacquiris available at the casino bar.

Peking duck being sliced

The first course of Peking duck was actually the first thing that came up. The duck was brought near our table (not right next to it because there was no room) and sliced 'live'. A few meagre portions of meat were extracted from the duck and with shallots and Peking sauce in pancakes. The pancakes were premade for us, rather than self-serve, which is what I'm used to.

Peking duck pancakes

The Peking duck pancakes were... ok. The flavor was fine but the skin wasn't crispy at all. I think crispy skin is critical so for me, this dish was a let down.

Silky tofu

Dad had chosen a tofu dish too. It was... also ok. I mean, it tasted alright but it was too simple and well below expectations for what I'd expect from a proper restaurant. I've tasted better from much cheaper eateries.

Spicy pork and eggplant

My pick was a spicy eggplant dish. I love Asian-style eggplant and almost always order it if I see it on the menu. This one didn't impress me at all. The eggplant wasn't tender and mushy like it's supposed to be. The sauce was overly thick and had a strange flavor that wasn't balanced.

Salt and pepper fish

Our seafood dish was supposed to be fish fillets in corn and egg. What we got instead was deep-fried crispy salt and pepper fish. This was nice and crispy so it tasted good. I wouldn't say it was anything special, that's for sure.

Stir-fried dry duck noodles

The second course of Peking duck was also one of the reasons why we went for the 2-course option. It's tradtional for us to have noodles for a birthday celebration and there was the option to have a stir-fried duck noodle (either that or duck san choi bao). The noodles were crispy and there was a fair amount of duck meat but the sauce was underseasoned.

I was really disappointed with Zen. Pretty much none of the dishes really stood out and a couple were outright poor efforts. The dishes were on the pricy side too and not only did they taste average at best, they were small servings too. I'm surprised it's so popular and wouldn't go back or recommend anyone go here for Chinese food.
Zen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Crosstown Eating House for Breakfast

The Crosstown Eating House

Weekend brunch with girlfriends = one of my absolute favorite activities in life. I dragged Kat out of bed (literally woke her up with 7 missed calls and countless texts) to come to breakfast with me last Saturday. I should amend the 'brunch' reference here because it wasn't brunch at all. In this instance, it was very much 'breakfast'. Sorry Kat!!

I wanted to go to Crosstown because it was something Mochi and I wanted to try when she was still in Queensland. The hardest part about making it happen is that it's in the same complex as Pearl Cafe and I freaking love Pearl Cafe so it takes a lot of willpower in the "I MUST try something new and not go for the old and predictably amazing today" department to venture across the street instead.

We succeeded this time though.

It was about 9am in the morning but Crosstown had this nice, upbeat vibe that was perfect for winding up to the weekend. We selected a nice window seat where we were able to sunbathe and people watch out onto the street.

I'm not sure if this is what they were going for but to me, Crosstown had a nautical feel to the decor. There were lots of boat photos in frames and the bleached wooden floorboards and light deck chairs completed the look. I liked it.

Latte and hot chocolate

I had a latte to start with and Kat (a non-coffee drinker) went with the hot chocolate. It was a cold morning and we really wanted something hot. My coffee was amazing.

French toast - with honeyed ricotta, blueberries and coulis

For our breakfast items, we went with a sweet and a savory. I feel like I haven't ordered a sweet breakfast item in ages. I used to quite a bit and then I got out of the habit. I made an exception this time because the blueberry French toast sounded so good.

Beautiful close-up of French toast

I was over the moon with my French toast. It was simple but so delicious. The bread part was fantastic - I don't know how they do it (my own French toast is never that good) but the exterior was actually crunchy, without tasting the slightest bit oily, and the inside was soft and light. It went perfectly with the ricotta and blueberries.

Omelette - with kale, goats curd, cracked olives and chives

Kat had chosen the omelette. I'm at two minds about ordering omelette in cafes and restaurants. Often, they appeal to me but then I'll get it and feel disappointed. I tried a bit of Kat's and thought there was no way I'd have been disappointed with this. It was delicious.

Close-up of omelette (after addition of tomato sauce)

The omelette was filled with goats cheese, olives and kale. Kat loved the idea of fresh lemon juice on top and said that it lifted the dish. She heaped tomato sauce on it after so I'll clarify here that the omelette doesn't come with tomato sauce on top, that was a later addition.

I really liked Crosstown and am glad that I finally got to try it. They're open for lunch and dinner to so I'm interested in what the food is like on those other menus. I'll definitely give it a go some time and report back here.
The Crosstown Eating House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wara Wara Izakaya

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Wara Wara Izakaya
Level 1, 153 Elizabeth St, Brisbane CBD

It was incredibly cold last week, both in Toowoomba and Brisbane. I found myself huddling from one heater source to the next and freezing my fingers off in between. It wasn't weather for fruit, cold drinks or salads, that's for sure. At some point, the thought 'hot pot' jumped into my head and it stuck there.

We were planning to go to Sunnybank to try one of the newish hot pot restaurants but we had tickets to Prometheus at 9 so there wasn't enough time. Luckily, I had just read a review for Wara Wara on Dolce Bunnie's blog and knew it was conveniently located in the city so we decided to head there instead.

After back-tracking a few times, we did manage to find the restaurant. It's on Elizabeth Street near Maru and the army disposal store (opposite the back of Wintergarden). We actually walked right past it and even when we were looking closely at the street numbers, nearly walked past it again. The entrance is small and partly hidden but once we walked up the steps, we were facing this large restaurant that was packed with people.

In fact, Wara Wara was so busy that we had to wait a good 20min or so just for a table for two. The lady in charge of seating was extremely friendly and reassuring though ("not much longer! Your table is just being cleaned") so I found myself incapable of impatience.

By the time we were squeezed into a small table near the front, we had already memorized and practiced ordering what we wanted. Queue: sashimi platter, okonomiyaki and bulgogi hotpot.

Small sashimi platter

Our small sashimi platter came first. It contained large pieces of the usual salmon, tuni and kingfish favorites, as well as a small dish of chopped up fish with a savory dressing. That was like a sashimi salad on the side. I thought the sashimi here was fresh and wonderful.


Next came the okonomiyaki, i.e. Japanese pancake. The serving was large and the pancake was smothered in mayo and sweet soy, plus a sprinkling of bonito flakes. In case you didn't know, these are dried fish (that ressemble wood) grated in to paper thin flakes that are used to garnish things, such as takoyaki (the octopus balls). What's curious is that the flakes 'move' in a live-animal, crinkly, random way. I asked Marc "is that creeping you out" and he stared suspiciously and replied "...actually, yes". The pancake itself was nice and light with plenty of seafood.

Large bulgogi hot pot

Finally, our hot pot was set up. We ordered the large, which was indeed very large. We had to stack the other plates to create room. Bulgogi is a Korean dish comprising of beef marinated with onion and nashi pear. It's usually a sort of dry, stir-fried consistency, served with rice.

Korean sides

This was a soupy version. I thought it tasted a lot like sukiyaki (Japaense sweet beef stew), which had also been on the hot pot menu. In fact, I spent a while wondering if they'd given us the wrong thing. I still don't know. The beef had that frozen quality to it, which is usual for hot pots (although fresh meat in hot pot is much better). The broth was nice but too sweet for me.

Wara Wara had a really great feel to the place because it was just so full, from when we arrived till when we left. The menu is ambiguous, with Korean dishes, Japanese dishes, Chinese dishes and some creative Westernized Asian hybrids. I quite liked the place though.
Warawara Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Public for Dinner and Drinks


Ask, and ye shall receive.

A week or so ago, I made a statement "when I get 200 Facebook fans, I'm going to a nice restaurant to celebrate". I expected it to happen in a few weeks or so but with 1 or 2 days, I exceeded the 200 mark (thanks guys!) and it was time to make a booking.

Spring and Public were the main contenders for this occasion. I based my choice on one thing: I had an orthodontic appointment last week and my teeth were very sore afterwards. Come Friday, I thought "if my teeth still hurt tomorrow, I'm booking Public because it's a cocktail bar too so at least I can get drunk".

And Public it was!!

I've heard loads of great things about Public. I did the obligatory pre-dinner research and Tweeted for dish recommendations. The more I read, the more excited I got. From what I could see, many of the popular dishes at Public were quirky spins on basic classics. I kept hearing raves about the mac and cheese and Kentucky fried duck.

We had some drinks to start with before our table was ready. I ordered the bananarama cocktail that was too intense to start with but really grew on me.

When we were handed menus, I made a show of scanning through and pretending to ask Marc what he felt like trying, when really, I knew what I wanted to get. I'm lucky he has such an "I'll eat whatever you order" attitude because I get free reign to pick and choose.

The waiter came and I quickly reeled off  my selection of dishes.

Texas brisket - with flour tortillas and chili sauce

The food was very prompt in arrival. The first we tasted was the Texas brisket. Interestingly, it's something that I would not have ordered if I'd gone into the restaurant without any prior research. It was a dish that many others recommended so I went along with it. I'm REALLY glad that I did because this ended up being my favorite!!

My tortilla brisket roll

The beef brisket was melt-in-the-mouth tender, with an exceptional flavor and slight gooey, stickiness. I rolled the meat inside the supplied tortillas with some coleslaw and chili sauce. Since AB (after braces), I found tortillas/wraps to be one of the most challenging things to eat. This one at Public was no trouble at all. The wraps were lovely and soft... it seems strange to be able to compliment a simple wrap so much but I was impressed.

Potato skins

I had to consciously stop myself from over-indulging on the potato skins, which had been another recommendation. They were crunchy and lightly salted. I thought they were delicious but then again, they are potato skins, which are almost always delicious.

Kentucky fried duck

The Kentucky fried duck, as I mentioned before, is one of Public's most famous dishes. Of course we ordered it. It came as a few portions in a cute paper bag, with a serving of Public's version of gravy and mash. I liked the idea but I wasn't blown away. I think I prefer the greasy, fast food chicken classic variety... someone can shoot me now.

Saltbush lamb - with sheeps milk and caramelized onion

I was quite excited about the Saltbush lamb because a) it was another highly recommended dish and b) because I lurve lamb. The plate looked gorgeous with splashes of broadbeans, peas and herbs. Unfortunately, the lamb just didn't do it for me. The texture was sort of just 'meh'... I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be crunchy or tender or what. Marc commented that it tasted good but no different to say, a pub lamb roast.

Truffle mac and cheese

The final main was the much-awaited mac and cheese. It was a smallish serving size but I thought this was a good thing because we had so much other food and also because the mac and cheese is very rich. It was an extremely full-bodied dish, dense with creaminess, cheesiness and an obvious truffle twang. Marc liked this dish but I actually found it to be too heavy. I think it needs some lemon or crunch or fresh herbs to cut the richness. Or I might just be getting soft.

Our waiter popped over and asked how everything was. I commented that I adored the Texas brisket and potato skins. Marc praised the duck and mac and cheese. Our waiter must've been quite sharp because he immediately pointed out that this was "everything but the lamb". We conceded that it was our least favorite dish.

Despite that, I had enjoyed everything enough to decide that dessert was a neccesity. We (aka 'I') picked a couple of desserts to share. I was tipsy and pronouncing the fussy French words on the fly but we got the right menu items so either I did alright or our clever waiter was also skilled at comprehension.

Cherry and pistachio clafouti - with praline icecream

Marc tried the clafouti first and commented that it was "good, except for the bits with too much cherry". It took me a while to figure out what he meant, since you'd assume that cherry in cherry clafouti was not only to be expected, but a positive feature. The cherry was fairly tart so in large doses (where it was the most concentrated in the custard), it did cause a bit of that face cringe you get from a sharp dose of surprise sour.

Chocolate marquis - with coconut and lime

Our other dessert was the chocolate marquis. It was an extremely rich, dense and smooth chocolate 'cake' (quotations because it's not really a cake texture; maybe more of a mousse).  Although this wasn't exactly innovative, I liked this dessert. It was creamy and chocolatey with a good dose of biscuit crunch. The fresh and zesty sorbet was perfect for balancing the sweetness.

While we were eating dessert, our waiter brought out a small bottle of reisling, compliments of the house, as compensation for not enjoying the lamb. What a lovely thought! The sweet wine went down a treat with our desserts. Perfecto.

I had a really good time at Public. We often focus on the food offered at a restaurant and specific dishes. What I think is more important is the overall experience. Public has a semi-isolated location (it's more of a 'go there knowing it's there' restaurant than a 'walk past and walk in' restaurant') but the fitout is great. It's trendy without being pretentious and has this nice, buzzy feel that makes it appropriate for both after work drinks and dinner dates. Overall I thought the dishes were clever and nicely executed. The service was attentive and thoughtful.
Public on Urbanspoon