Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Waiting Room, Chicken Adobo Tacos and Fifteen Burned Down

After I signed the lease for my unit in Southbank, I wanted a refreshing beer to take the edge off. I had just removed around $8k from my savings account and signed my life away to live in a city where I knew only a few people both professionally and personally. Given the majority of my friends are in Sydney, I knew it would be an interesting year to say the least and now that I am coming up on the three month anniversary to the day since I relocated from Sydney, I have not regretted it once. I still reflect back fondly on the day of the lease signing and then almost by fate stumbling across The Waiting Room located inside the Crown Casino complex on the Queensbridge Street side.

Over the year I received the monthly newsletter from the Rockpool Group and I read about The Waiting Room however I was never too inspired since I just thought of it as a bar at the casino. In fact when I stumbled into it on the first fateful day, I didn't even know I was in The Waiting Room and just another sideshow unnamed casino bar off the entrance to the area where you check-in to the hotel in the foyer.

I was quickly greeted by the enthusiastic and friendly staff and opted to take up residence at a barstool since I was drinking on my own sadly this day. I immediately noticed that they have my favourite beer on tap, Lord Nelson Three Sheets, which is a Sydney iconic micro-beer and flogged mainly at the Lord Nelson Hotel Brewery in The Rocks. The Lord Nelson was my "local" whilst living in Sydney and I was very excited to say the least to see it on tap in this bar. I spent four hours in this bar drinking and telling tale tales. I felt like the the staff at this place were the first to welcome me to the neighbourhood.

Over the next few days and weeks I would return to The Waiting Room with other purveyors of the fine food and drink. Neil Perry has put together a very interesting bar meal that is mexican-influenced. Most notable is the chicken adobo taco which compliments the Lord Nelson Three Sheets very well. The spicy chicken wings and calamari are also winners. They even manage to put together a chicken mole taco that is actually pretty special. The reviewers on Urbanspoon seem to agree with my positive feelings for this place too.

The Waiting Room on Urbanspoon

After visiting the Essential Ingredient in Prahran earlier in the week, I picked up some cans of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce. They also flog proper corn tortillas so my intention was to re-create the chicken adobo tacos that were being sold at The Waiting Room. I came across the recipe on the Sydney Morning Herald website strangely and was saddened to learn you need a pressure cooker to make this concoction. As I do not own one, I went back to basics. I poached 500g of chicken breast in a wok for a little over an hour. I then added the chicken breast and the can of adobo and chipotle chillies in a bowl and cut and mixed everything together. I then crushed up two two avocados and lightly grilled the tortillas. I spread the avocado on the grilled tortilla and then added the shredded chicken with adobo and chipotle chillies. It turned out to be one of the easiest taco dishes that I have ever made and one of the most tasty by far. Who needed Neil's recipe and the pressure cooker. Ingenuity and common sense wins again in the end.

I was also surprised to learn that Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant was destroyed because of an arson attack some time ago. I always wondered why this place was no longer trading and how Tobie Puttock ended up on My Kitchen Rules. It follows in the dark shadow cast by the owners of the Swagman Restaurant burning it down in 1991. Such colourful trivia to know in Melbourne does make my day a bit more interesting.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The European and Foie Gras - The Vexed Problem Known As "Lunch"

Lunch has always been a vexed problem for me. Where to go, what to eat and can I really be bothered are the questions that I ask myself daily.

Along with the epicurean emo, I ventured out of Southbank yesterday with a desire to fill my stomach with food and beverage. After strolling along Little Bourke Street, Hardware Lane and Collins Street, I found myself entering the Charles Dickens Tavern however we quickly left when the epicurean emo stated that he was not hungry. I assumed that he was not hungry for pub food and since I had no cash on me to purchase a tasty beer, we departed.

After dodging traffic, trams and construction on Little Collins Street, we made our way up Little Flinders Street past the always busy Chin Chin, Coda and Papa Goose and finally took refuge in The European on Spring Street. I have dined at this restaurant and enjoyed many bottles of wine there over the years and have always left satisfied. A feeling of disgust came over me when I realised that I have lived in Melbourne for nearly three months at this point and never bothered frequenting this place for lunch though as it has always been a personal favourite.

Truffled duck liver pate and pate de foie gras was quickly ordered along with a French syrah. Although only 25g of foie gras was presented, the amount of brioche that accompanied it along with three shaved black truffles melted in my mouth. The consternation experienced earlier from departing the pub evaporated as quickly as the syrah in my glass so I had to have a refill. When it gets warmer, I look forward to having a few relaxing lunches at this venue outside so I can watch the comings and goings at parliament.

As the phone was not ringing hot, I wandered into the Cricketer's Bar at the Windsor Hotel after I was done cleaning my plate of foie gras. I quickly learned that there was no ATM in this bar, so a quick exit was made. After wandering the laneways looking for an alternative and also a Westpac ATM, we found ourselves at the Ponyfish Island Bar which is a hidden gem under the pedestrian footpath connecting Flinders Street Station with Southbank. A thirst quenching Carlton Draught was enjoyed here before getting the hell out of the cold and into the warm embrace of PJ O'Brien's at Southgate. All of these venues made the lunch dining experience even better and made for a great afternoon.

The European was later visited during a weekend of debauchery when I needed to entertain an out-of-town visitor late on Friday night. Their professionalism never disappoints and my musings can be found here, including the other venues that were visited during that weekend of hedonism.

The European, Spring Street, Melbourne

The European
Link to review
161 Spring Street  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 0811
My Rating: 15.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: Awesome wine list, always buzzing

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) blogspot (dot) com

When I updated this post on 15/09/12, 87% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked The European. They have great taste.

The European on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Howard the Duck (Peking Duck Recipe Inspired by Flower Drum)

Part of being a well rounded epicurean, or to use a cricket term, an "all rounder" (which Shane Watson is not) means that you need to be able to cook food and prepare beverages at the same standard that you come to expect in decent restaurants. In the case of Beppi's in Sydney you really only need to learn to eat with rodents off the floor and hold your stomach in pain all night but for us civilised epicureans we demand quality, cleanliness and of course taste.

On occasion, I decide to cook. Yesterday was a good day as I was awaiting feedback from a client who is travelling. Also it is raining raining in Melbourne, what better way to spend the afternoon than cooking, drinking and telling tall tales.

After experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Peking Duck and proper pancakes in and around Sydney and Melbourne, around a month ago I undertook a task to make the dish myself. My first attempt was spot on, so yesterday I attempted my second one and in conjunction with the epicurean emo, a suitable amount of food was prepared and beverages consumed. My offering will be inspired by the Flower Drum in Melbourne and also what surprisingly is served at Mr Chow's Chinese Restaurant in Millers Point Sydney.

Anticipating the "day of the duck" I ventured to the Costco in Docklands to purchase a bird. I was very disappointed to discover that they sold out. I wandered around New Quay and Docklands only to be told by many shop keepers that they do not sell duck. One had no idea what a butcher was and one thought I was crazy.

Sadly for my savings account, this meant that I need to make a journey to the Prahran Markets. I really fancy these markets especially since there is an Essential Ingredient in the complex. I tend to go a bit mad around all of the fresh produce however I I vowed to keep focused and get what is required for the relaxing lunch and dinner and home and even went so far as to leave the credit cards at home so that Gail Kelly did not end up winning in the end.

I found a 2.5kg duck from the poultry butcher. The wrapper vaguely reminded me of the one that is sold at Costco however for $22, it was good value. The last duck that I purchased was a mere 2.2kg runt but I believe i paid around $16.

Some yellow fin tuna was purchased from the fishmonger. Lunch will be a yellow fin tuna tartare that is inspired by one of my many visits to FINS Restaurant in Kingscliff on the Tweed Coast of NSW. I always joked when I would frequent this restaurant that it was my favourite restaurant in Queensland. The servers would would bemused and advise me that I was in NSW, just south of the Queensland border. I would respond and say "exactly" and give a wry smile. For those that live in Queensland, including my learned friend that attended Movida with me, we know that the fine food and beverage scene has indeed evolved in Queensland (Brisbane) over the last few years but it still has a fair way to go. I would always look forward to by periodic jaunts across the border into NSW to attend FINS and enjoy everything on offer, multiple times, whilst living in Brisbane. Lunch is inspired by their tuna tartare entry which I would eat not only as an entry but also as a dessert. It is just so good! Now I am motivated to book a flight to Byron and get my arse back there to celebrate the new season. It is hard to leave Melbourne though unless I really have to.

The following is a timeline on how I went about preparing this duck.

11:15 AM - Undertake a journey to the Prahran Market. Enjoy a bottle of Asahi. Purchase a duck and other ingredients. I also ventured into the Essential Ingredient to pick up some corn tortillas and adobo for some tacos that I intend to make tomorrow.

12:30 PM - Open another Asahi and commence the preparation of the duck. The full recipe includes:
  1. A 2.2kg-2.5kg duck
  2. (4) tablespoons of honey
  3. (4) tablespoons of sherry
  4. (1) tablespoon of white vinegar
  5. Spring onions
  6. Sesame oil
  7. Hoisin sauce
  8. 1/2 cup plain flour
  9. (2) tablespoons of corn flour
  10. 1/4 cup milk
  11. (2) eggs
  12. (2) tablespoons of butter
  • Remove the duck from the package and clean it with warm water,
  • Fill a wok with six (6) cups of water and bring it to a boil,
  • Add four (4) tablespoons of honey, four (4) tablespoons of sherry and one (1) tablespoon of white vinegar and allow the mixture to boil for a minute,
  • cut the tips of the wings (at the elbow) off of the duck and dispose of the parts,
  • Place the duck, breast side down in the wok. Spoon the liquid over the top of the duck and continue the task for about 10 minutes. This allows the duck to become moist and absorb the sherry, honey and a little of the white vinegar,
  • Turn the duck over and let the back of the duck rest in the wok for a few minutes,
  • Remove the duck and hang it up so it can dry. As I can not conveniently hang the duck up anywhere in my kitchen, I let it rest in a large bowl. If you are able to hang it up, do so. Make sure that all of the water is out of the cavity,
  • Let the duck dry for around six (6) hours.
6:30 PM - Preheat the oven to 180c. Fill a drip tray or drip pan with about 5cm of water. Grease a baking rack with olive or canola oil. Place the drip pan or drip tray at the bottom of the oven. Place the duck breast-side up on the baking rack and place in the oven above the drip pan and begin baking the beast. The idea is that as the duck cooks, it will drip into the tray. The added water in the tray will keep the oven very humid and the duck thus moist. Bake the duck in this position for 40 minutes.

6:35 PM - Cut the tips off of the spring onions and then cut the stalks off of the actual onion. Cut the onions lengthwise twice so each onion will result into four thinner onions. Place some ice cubes and water into a bowl and place the cut spring onions in the ice water and place in the refrigerator.

6:45 PM - Time to make the pancakes.

  1. Combine the flour, corn flour, 1/4 cup water, milk, eggs and (1) tablespoon of butter in a food processor and process the mixture until it is smooth. Pour into a jug and let stand covered for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and brush in the remaining (1) tablespoon of butter. Pour a tablespoon of the batter into the frying pan and spread it to form a pancake. Cook for 2 minutes and flip and then cook for another 1 minute. Repeat this process until all of the batter has been used.

7:10 PM - Flip the duck on the tray. Be mindful that when you pull out the baking tray the duck will no doubt drip on the floor so pull the drip tray and the baking tray out at the same time to avoid a mess. Let the duck bake with its breast down for 30 minutes. Continue to make pancakes. Drink a beer.

7:40 PM - Flip the duck yet again. It should be breast-side up now. Drink a beer.

7:45 PM - In a bowl, add equal parts of hoisin sauce and sesame oil and mix. Depending on how you prefer the taste, you may want to add a bit of water to the sauce however experiment until you find a consistency that you fancy.

8:10 PM - Inspect the duck. It should be golden brown by now. It would be wise to keep an eye on the duck after you flip it the second time as all ovens act a bit differently. Once the duck turns golden brown, it is time to remove it from the oven. Open another beer and begin the process of carving the duck.

8:30 PM - You should now have a carved duck, pancakes, a hoisin/sesame sauce and after removing the spring onions from the refrigerator, you can combine all of the ingredients into the pancakes and have an awesome dinner.

I was distracted by the beverages and the awesomeness of the duck so I forgot to take photos this time. The photos below are from the same recipe and process from when I tried this originally last month:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Movida Aqui - Faster Than The Speed of Sound

I was looking forward to my trip to Movida Aqui, located behind the NAB tower at 500 Bourke Street in the Melbourne CBD for some time. On multiple occasions over the past few months I sat outside the restaurant and enjoyed tacos and beer at Paco's Taco's which is also owned by the Movida Group in the courtyard. I have thought that Movida Aqui would make a good location for a relaxing lunch so it was with great expectation and pomp and circumstance when a mate was visiting from Brisbane that we booked and presented ourselves to the restaurant for a tour de force.

A custom that my Dandy Warhol's loving mate and I had before enjoying a relaxing culinary experience at lunch in Brisbane was to have a cheeky pint somewhere before fine dining to warm us up. Well, in Brisbane, there usually was no reason to get any warmer so lets just say that the pint was required to get in the spirit of the afternoon.

We decided to meet at The Irish Times on Little Collins Street at 11:45 AM as our booking at Movida Aqui was made for 12:15 PM. The look of consternation, if not disappointment was evident on my face when the barman stated that they can not serve alcohol until noon. This was an attack on tradition in the same way gay marraige would seemingly impact traditional marraige if you listen to some. Not to be outdone, we scoured the area looking for another watering hole but in the end we retreated to the restaurant on time, sullen and quite thirsty, not having satisfied our prerequisite for dining.

Our assigned table was in the back corner which in my opinion was one of the best seats in the house. This allowed us not only to see what was going outside in the laneway, keep an eye on the ever-changing weather (and laugh at those running from the wind and rain) and also keep sight of the entire customer base in the restaurant.

The server proved to be very efficient, thrusting menus at us as soon as we were seated and also pointing out the specials. We educated the server that we were intending to have a relaxing lunch, had no requirement to leave at any particular point and we would be ordering slowly and enjoying a fair amount of wine between the orders. This routine seemed to be out of the ordinary and we were repeatedly asked to place an order, any order, just to get it into the computer.

What I found to be queer is how quickly dishes were brought out as soon as they were placed into the computer. Given the "efficiency" if you look at it positively, a lunch time diner could plough through many dishes and a bottle of wine in an hour considering the dishes seem to be pre-made and also considering the efficiency of service.

I would return to Movida Aqui however I would not intend for the visit to be a long affair. There are some dishes and obviously wine that I was not able to try on the last visit and look forward to the next occasion where I can power through the food and beverage with impunity. A quick visit is actually preferred now considering the availability of restrooms, which are also explained in my e-mail to the restaurant.

As articulated in the e-mail which I am pasting below after the scoring, was sent to Movida after my experience and articulates why extremely long relaxing lunches should be experienced elsewhere. 

Perhaps being ushered out of the restaurant and not being allowed to languish there for a few more hours was good in retrospect. We were able to visit Bar Americano and Der Raum to round out the day before the footy started. It turned out to be a relaxing affair indeed.

Movida Aqui, Bourke Street, Melbourne

Movida Aqui
Link to review
500 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 3038
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: the food is worth coming back for

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I updated this post on 15/09/12, 85% of the people that reviewed Movida Aqui on Urbanspoon liked the place also.

MoVida Aqui  on Urbanspoon

To: ''


I have had Movida Aqui on my list to visit for a while especially since I recently relocated to Melbourne from Sydney. One of my best mates in Sydney always raves about it and I have always been keen to visit especially after reading the good press. After spending a few lazy relaxing Friday lunches at Pacos y Tacos and knowing that I needed to find a venue for a mate that was visiting from Brisbane, I decided to make a booking, which was scheduled for Friday 29 June 2012.

Generally speaking I found the experience pretty good. It was on par with expectations and I was pleased that the architecture afforded a more casual and relaxing dining experience in comparison to the property on Hosier Lane.

My guest and I made it clear that we were in no rush and were happy to sample many plates and wines and make an afternoon of it. I always felt we were rushed to order something… anything… just to get something in the computer. I was also rather vexed at how quickly things would arrive after the order was placed. Sure, there are many people on a timetable but I would like to think if you announce your intention to spend many hours, which also includes many dishes and bottles of wine that the intention would be taken a bit more seriously. Given it is easy to spend eight hours at Grossi Florentino at lunch and ultimately be finishing your lunch during dinner service and the same amount of time, if not more, at Vue de Monde or even Attica if your intentions are announced, one would assume that such an opportunity for a restaurant to proverbially pick the customers pocket would be welcomed.

I suppose the only thing that truly vexed me is that there is only one cubicle in the gentleman’s lavatory. Upon presenting myself in there to conduct some urgent business (as I was still in the final stages of riding myself from the nasty flu) I needed to wait ten minutes for the cubicle to become vacant. What was surprising was one of your kitchen staff was using it. I am not saying that your employees shouldn’t be allowed to vanquish themselves of unneeded waste, but I would have thought there would be other facilities that they could use especially given it can become a critical path for your customers. Strangely I saw the same member of staff later still in uniform sitting at a table reading the newspaper whilst diners were still consuming. I thought this was out of character and unexpected for a restaurant of your calibre.

I thought that these curious events would be worth bringing to your kind attention.


** no response has been received which is disappointing.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Beppi's, Rodents and Rihanna

Beppi's in Sydney has been fined $2,640 after inspectors observed "rodent activity" to say the least. The article is here. If their claim to fame is getting Rihanna to eat there, they should do the right thing and just cease operating. Just because Rihanna has no taste, some sort of romanticised notion that East Sydney diners will visit the place like lemmings until the end of days to eat rat shit is appalling. The place barely gets into the Good Food Guide with a 12/20. Hardly a culinary landmark. Just knowing that Rihanna (likes) the place is enough to turn off any true epicurean.

After visiting the Grill'd in St Kilda last week (again thanks to an Entertainment Book voucher) I would venture to claim that their premises is cleaner and serves better food. I think Grill'd would be excluded from the Good Food Guide though because of the nature of its business. So many decent restaurants fail because of the time and cost to keep them clean whereas some dive like Beppi's continues to trade is beyond my comprehension.

The Great Ocean Road

It seems as if the last week has not been an epicurean adventure but the opposite involving cheaper comfort food which although has been tasty, is a bit of a shame in a way.

My journey down the Great Ocean Road commenced in the Melbourne CBD and after a quick jaunt over the Westgate Bridge, I was on my way. Passing Avalon Airport, The Werribee Zoo, Geelong and Torquay brought back some great memories and made me happy to be living in Victoria finally.

The sun was shining and it was a cool 12c for most of the journey down the Great Ocean Road. I brief stop was made in Lorne for a chicken pie and coffee before continuing to Apollo Bay for a proper lunch if you call it that.

After spending a few minutes in the Apollo Bay Hotel, I knew that the food was going to lead to disappointment so we left and found a pub down the road that had a steak and pizza special. One can never be too disappointed with steak and pizza from a pub. It was also a calm venue unlike the Apollo Bay Hotel as there were not children running around.

One of the highlights of the drive on the Great Ocean Road was seeing whales in two different areas along the coast. They were close to the shore and seemingly have migrated from the Antarctic waters for the winter. I thought about my mate Adrian who is currently in Japan and whether or not he would sample the local whale on offer.

Having ventured down the Great Ocean Road a few times in my life, I was not too motivated to stop at the usual tourist traps and avoided the turn-off for the Twelve Apostles. Just driving the road on such a beautiful day was relaxing enough.

I found solace in a pub in Port Campbell. The AFL was on and the Carlton was cold. I was pondering if Port Campbell would be a good destination just to chill out for a few days in the future.

The journey by road came to an end at sunset when we arrived in Warrnambool and checked into the Quality Deep Blue Resort (formally known as the Sebel Deep Blue) which has always been my accommodation of choice when visiting the area.

Although I have consumed a few meals in the hotel in the past, I did not want to languish too long there so we wandered into town. A new arts complex has been built and the exterior reminded me of what Federation Square in Melbourne looks like. Besides "The Flood" with Helen Merrin commencing soon, Shannon Noll will be there in concert at some point. Across the road at the Whaler's Inn, they were advertising Timomatic as being the "talent" that would be visiting in the future. With the winter festival on that is themed for children, it is all happening in Warrnambool.

We found a table inside the local Taco Bill's next to the window so the local wildlife can be observed. We ordered a couple of margaritas in a 1.4L glass which caused a bit of a stir in the restaurant since they were just so huge and also was a tourist draw for those who walked past. I imagined small children telling their horrified mothers that they wanted a drink like what we had with the mother musing that after her boyfriend/husband/live-in drinks that much they resort to violence. What is truly horrifying though is learning that the 1.4L drink only has two shots of tequila in it. Many beers were had after this concoction was finished and before I knew it, the clock had turned past 11:00 PM and we had to wander back to the Deep Blue in nearly freezing conditions.

I couldn't get to sleep because the cricket was on and as usual we were getting our arse handed to us by the English. Brett Lee and Shane Watson complained about being injured most likely to divert attention from the fact that they provided a poor performance. What really angered me and prevented me from enjoying my slumber was seeing Micheal Clarke stand around in the field laughing whilst boundary after boundary was being scored. Later the cameraman cut to Mitchell Johnson who was tasked to carry drinks during this ODI, laughing and carrying on in the stands. Not only was the performance disgraceful, the team is just shocking.

With Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Carlton Blues and South Sydney Rabbitohs all winning their respective games this weekend, it made for a poor weekend for me and the sports that I follow so I was grateful to get out of Melbourne where I was only encouraged to watch the cricket and enjoy a relaxing weekend.