Coffee and scrambled eggs – part 2

Still feeling wanting from my scrambled eggs miss from a couple of days prior at Sprolo I ordered the same again.

Boucla Kafenion is a cafe I’ve occasionally grabbed a coffee from while visiting Jean Claude Patisserie for any one or more of baguette, pie, cake or bread. The coffee is passable and not bad but the focus is not specifically on coffee so my hope is the food is excellent.

It’s a nice place and sitting out the front on a sunny morning is perfect. It is busy and the staff are in good spirits. However it is also the sixth cafe I’ve visited in a row in Perth that has no table service. I still don’t understand why it is so hard?

So as I eluded to, I ordered the scrambled eggs on toast. They are presented in a cool rustic terracotta plate with high edges. Once I got over the fact that again the bread was not buttered (and further no butter was offered) I then had to wait for some salt and pepper. Now I was ready and all I can say is breakfast was plain. I needed to add salt three times which I never ever do, nor should need to.

I don’t want to go on, but I can do passable scrambled eggs at home, adding a touch of Parmesan for extra flavour and making sure they are slowly cooked to retain moisture and fluffiness. It is not hard but yet I can never match the best cafes and their cream additions and extra saltiness that many home cooks just can’t morally throw in. It is one thing to know what is added, and another thing to add it yourself! Well, I can beat (pardon the pun) these eggs, and I can butter toast.

I won’t be back at Boucla. It really is a nice spot but around the corner is Little Pantry and there are other places I haven’t yet tried. It’s time for some surprises and improvement.

Boucla Kafenion on Urbanspoon

Coffee and scrambled eggs – part 1

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Normally coffee on my way to work in Perth is via Hay Street’s Bench Espresso. However, Perth is in a state of grand development along Riverside Drive and as usual, where there is development, traffic flow stops as a result. Tired of coffee becoming an outlandish adventure through crosstown traffic, new options were needed.

Introduce Sprolo on Canning Highway in South Perth. Easy parking and the promise of some of Perth’s best coffee led me there but would the change bring rewards or regret?

Focussing on the coffee, it is indeed superb. The guys here seem to tag team as baristas and are both very good at their craft. There are several types on offer between blends and single origins. The long black comes in a small cup which is perfect for me, preferring not too much hot water in addition to the just extracted espresso. Normally in Perth I have to order “half full” but not here.

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The barista chooses the coffee to match your order and in this case selected the Etude blend by Blacklist Coffee Roasters for my long black. It is almost like syphon coffee in its subtlety and continuity of flavour, without the robustness normally associated with black coffee. I came here two mornings in a row and was pleased to be remembered by the guys on the second morning, with the barista offering for me to try a single origin but such was the coffee the day before that I opted for the blend again.

Back to the first morning though and I was here early. The coffee machine was naturally on and ready as the opening time is 7am. However, the kitchen opens at 8am. Needing to eat at 8am or just after at the latest I asked whether the chef could organise my breakfast earlier if they were to arrive before 8am? I was a little bemused to hear that the chef was there out back but was prepping for the day. Sprolo is going well, but that is almost like throwing money out the door for someone who can’t wait. I can’t think of one place in Melbourne where I’ve been told similar.

I’m pleased to say that my scrambled eggs and toast arrived at 7.50am which is a credit to the staff for breaking the rule. Unfortunately in this coffee temple, the food in this case took a backseat. The toast is not buttered (a pet gripe), but worse than that, with the scrambled eggs presented in a side bowl, there was a watery residue surrounding them in the bowl that may have escaped had they been presented normally. The presentation was not bettered by the taste and even with the addition of a lot of salt and pepper, I just couldn’t finish. It was like eating scrambled eggs out of a buffet bain marie.

On the one hand this place has superb coffee that I will continue to go back for on future visits to Perth, but on the other, misses with simple breakfast dishes are unforgivable. It is time for the food to match the coffee without any exceptions.

Sprolo on Urbanspoon

Lucy Liu continues to shine

Barramundi and scampi dumplings

Barramundi and scampi dumplings (from last visit)

Catherine and I were back at Lucy Liu on a Sunday night with four other friends recently (see previous review here). The food and its execution seems to have stepped up even further than the last visit, and the restaurant was full for both the earlier and later sittings.

Our friends were very complimentary of the service, but even more satisfied with the food. We ordered the chicken wings, yellow fin tuna tataki, barramundi and scampi dumplings, crispy pork buns, crispy fried Szechuan duck, Korean style crispy pork hock, and sides of spiced green apple coleslaw, and green beans and mizuna salad.

Every dish was excellent with several being suggested as favourites. Personally the dumplings were my early favourite with beautiful wrappers in particular. Later, the table favourite was the pork hock when combined with the pancakes and hoi sin sauce. The duck was rich in flavour, but the pork hock was so generous, providing a bit of theatre (and hard work) for the person responsible for carving.

It seems not even a year in and Lucy Liu is really cutting its teeth in the dining district that has the deepest offerings in the whole of Melbourne. Another excellent experience.

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tipo OO – Melbourne, City – Friday 10 April 2015 – Lunch

Gnocchi di patate – braised duck, porcini mushroom & pecorino pepato

Gnocchi di patate – braised duck, porcini mushroom & pecorino pepato

It is hard to have not heard of Tipo OO if you read any of the national or Victorian based food press in recent months. What is the foundation of most Italian joints across the country seems to have been perfectly laid on a busy part of Little Bourke Street in the middle of the city.

When a restaurant is named after the flour used as the base of pasta, you naturally expect excellence. Judging by the hectic long lunch crowd built up inside the restaurant, the chefs and floorstaff are definitely doing something right.

The almost square room is not overburdened with decoration but at its centre is the traditional meat slicer being used to full effect throughout service. There’s some of the usual adornments including plenty of bottles of wine, but like the dishes themselves, the base ingredients are doing much of the talking.

In a little bit of a rush, Eddie and I order the salumi to share as he sits down. The table next door, and most tables around the restaurant seem to have had it, no doubt the cascading effect being due to the meat slicer, and the fact that the meat is almost shining on the plate. It comes quickly and is perfect as a starter.

For main I order the gnocchi with braised duck, porcini mushrooms and pecorino pepato. The gnocchi holds its shape and is light, bathed in a sauce that speaks volumes of the deep flavour of the duck at its heart. In fact, the duck is so defined it is unmistakable. When combined with the gnocchi and other ingredients it is heavenly. A superb dish. Eddie orders the risotto and says it is excellent too. However, we realise that neither of us have tried the pasta, meaning another trip is compulsory in future weeks.

Service is excellent as you would expect from this type of informal Italian restaurant where charisma is part of the job description. It might be Friday but you get the feeling that every day of the week here feels similar. The wine list adds interest with plenty of wines from Italy in addition to Italian grape varieties grown in Australia. We try the Corinva Blend by Speri, a Valpolicella Classico from the north-east of Italy, and it marries beautifully with my duck gnocchi.

Tipo OO doesn’t merely add another great Italian restaurant to the Melbourne scene; there is something purposeful and focussed about this place which goes beyond many of its siblings. When you add to that the extremely reasonable pricing, it is a restaurant that I can easily see myself frequenting.

Tipo 00 on Urbanspoon

Three Blue Ducks – Bronte – Monday 6 April 2015 – Breakfast

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Breakfast is different in Sydney. Every time I come to Sydney I seek out one of the best because breakfast is one of my favourite activities whether it be at home in Melbourne, across the country in Perth, or far away overseas. In Sydney, it is often sunny and bright; people are a bit more done up; and many of the good cafes verge more on the cool than the hip.

The downfall in some of the top Sydney cafes is the sameness of the food offerings. Today at Three Blue Ducks we are banking on exceptional breakfast food set apart from the crowd. No easy expectation.

We wait about ten minutes in pleasant Easter sunshine for our table in an extremely busy, and large, restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating, and lots of breezy sections inside too. We got lucky because we are on a bench completely open to the beautiful day outside, but out of direct sunlight. The crowd waiting ebbs and flows out the front, adding some interest to an otherwise normal street setting removed a few hundred metres from the beach.

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We are off to the races which have been delayed after heavy rains on the Saturday. I play it safe and order poached eggs and bacon, but Catherine takes a risk ordering the bacon and egg roll. The poached eggs and bacon is not as I expected when it is presented. There is plenty of tomato and basil on the plate and there is a pesto spread over the toast, along with some hollandaise sauce on the side.

What I ordered is excellent. The poached eggs perfectly cooked, and the bacon full of flavour. The unexpected ingredients are deep in flavour. Some of the best tomatoes I’ve eaten recently, and the aroma of the basil is only matched by its flavour. Also a little unexpected was the price tag but I can let that go given the flavour. Catherine’s bacon and organic egg roll with pimento salsa and hollandaise was delicious too. Packed full of each tasty ingredient the bread roll was soft and giving like it needed to be.

Service had been pleasant and the coffee up to scratch too, without being exceptional. The focus here is definitely on the food, and I’ll be on the lookout for anywhere else in Sydney that can match the flavour in what are reasonably straightforward breakfast dishes.

Three Blue Ducks on Urbanspoon

Mr Wong – Sydney, City – Friday 3 April 2015 – Dinner

Steamed fish fillet with ginger and shallots

Steamed fish fillet with ginger and shallots

Hesitation at writing about restaurants happens to me from time to time, but not usually one as popular and great as this. It might be the night. Wet and gloomy, standing out in light rain waiting to enter the restaurant is not the most fabulous way to begin the evening. Several people in front of us in line just want to get through to the bar for a drink and are asking for tables later. Please just let us in!

Enter Mr Wong. Once greeted by one of the three or so maitre’d types we are quickly seated in what appears to be the last table for two in the restaurant which is gigantic. While the entrance, going up a small staircase, is well lit, almost like the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the rest of the restaurant is dark and intimate. It has typical industrial features but it’s hard to put your finger on the influences in the room and the decor such is the size and frenetic feeling.

Yellowfin tuna, kohlrabi, sweet wasabi, soy and ginger dressing

Yellowfin tuna, kohlrabi, sweet wasabi, soy and ginger dressing

The menu is diverse but whilst we are not strict Catholics, tradition wears many masks, and we are on a seafood diet for tonight. We start with the yellowfin tuna which melts in your mouth, only bettered with the delicious sweet wasabi which varied in its heat but those tastes with a bit more kick were amazing. The kohlrabi leaves reminded me of seaweed, but that might have been the soy and ginger dressing influencing my tastes.

For main we chose the blue cod fillets with ginger and shallots which had a light touch from the chefs, cooking the fish beautifully. The sauce tasted of the ingredients described, but was a subtle flavour, combining perfectly with the white fish. As a side we tried the very fresh asparagus, snap peas and broccoli with garlic and rice wine. This is an excellent vegetable dish which should be done more often. The light touch of the chefs again on show with perfectly cooked crisp vegetables in a sauce that provided a nice flavour but didn’t take away from the stars themselves.
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I was a little confused with dessert as the main aspect I felt like was the “green tea cream” which was not one of the obvious flavours. It also only said with “raspberries” but was actually presented as sorbet. Nonetheless the chocolate was deliciously rich; the sorbet balanced and technically perfect. It was a nice dish, but did leave me yearning for some sweet green tea.

The wine list is diverse and reasonably priced. I enjoyed the German riesling from Mosel by ‘Pauly’ for its lifted fruit, finishing with drying acid to balance. When matched with the Asian flavours and heat of the wasabi in the yellowfin tuna dish, it was particularly good. The Chablis on the list is also excellent.

Having settled in for the night it was more than possible to relax with the crowd fading away both figuratively and literally. The food had been fantastic, and without question we would go back for the meat based dishes. Service had also been quite good, especially considering the numbers being served. Tonight it felt like a challenge getting in to Mr Wong but once we did things quickly improved.

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

The Bridge Room – Sydney, City – Saturday 4 April 2015 – Dinner

Moreton bay bugs, roasted chilli paste, tamarind, endive, apple, celery salt

Moreton bay bugs, roasted chilli paste, tamarind, endive, apple, celery salt

Unpretentious is not a word often associated with the cream of Sydney’s restaurants. Yet it sums up many of my lasting feelings of our experience at The Bridge Room in the pointy end of Sydney’s CBD. Stepping back, there are many positive aspects, and some less positive aspects behind this lack of pretension.

The overall experience is excellent so my primary focus is on the best parts. The room itself, and the facade of the building, is warm and classical. The art deco architecture is accentuated to provide full impact. Inside it is not classically spaced for fine dining, but is certainly not spaced like a bistro. Touches such as the candlelight and soft furnishings create intimacy juxtaposed with the noise of a restaurant full of happy customers.

Slow roasted organic beetroot, radicchio butter, palette jam on iberico, sheeps milk curd, beetroot juice, pomegranate crumb

Slow roasted organic beetroot, radicchio butter, palette jam on iberico, sheeps milk curd, beetroot juice, pomegranate crumb

The menu is quite simply exciting. There are at least four entrees and mains that I cannot choose between, leading to quite a lengthy deliberation. Eventually Catherine is ready, but I am still not even close. Enter our waitperson to solve my ordering issues.

On the way to this assistance it would be remiss to not mention some comical errors from the floor prior to ordering. First the poor person about to serve the bread was literally pushed away because we had not yet ordered (it seems there is a rule here), next the person who pushed him away poured still water in our sparkling (we noticed half way but it was too late), and lastly Catherine got an explanation about there being no strawberries available for her cocktail – which she had not actually ordered or even enquired about. We are not stuffy diners and laughed it off, but in the same laugh, it is important for the top echelon of restaurants to get these things right because other diners are not so forgiving.

Victorian Murray cod, steamed winter melon, new season ginger, cloud ear mushrooms, chinking black vinegar

Victorian Murray cod, steamed winter melon, new season ginger, cloud ear mushrooms, chinkiang black vinegar

I had been pointed towards the Moreton Bay bugs for entrée and that is all I needed as a prompt. Our waitperson could not have recommended a better dish. Absolutely divinely grilled bugs, beautifully presented under ingredients that enhanced the deep but subtle flavour, and a roasted chilli paste that was even more decadent than the bug meat. Catherine too loved her slow roasted organic beetroot which was perfectly cooked, smacking of flavour and bettered with the accompanying ingredients.

Ocean trout, crisp skin, silken eggplant, roasted tea broth, sesame, puffed rice, organic soy sauce, grilled rock kelp

Ocean trout, crisp skin, silken eggplant, roasted tea broth, sesame, puffed rice, organic soy sauce, grilled rock kelp

The entrée, along with the dark rye and sourdough bread offered, led to high expectations for the rest of the evening. I had again taken the recommendation of our waitperson for main. The Victorian Murray Cod was indeed superb, but I couldn’t help but feel doing the seafood double left part of me a little empty. On the positive the fish was cooked beautifully and complimented by the ginger, melon and mushrooms. Similarly, Catherine’s Ocean Trout was also cooked perfectly. Presentation wise, the grilled rock kelp made a statement on the plate, and added a definitive Asian accent along with organic soy, roasted tea broth, and sesame.

At this stage it is worth mentioning how good the assistance on the wine matching was. In particular the elegant Chablis by Domaine Louis Moreau which we both enjoyed with our mains. While the wines by the glass are not cheap, they are not outrageous for this type of establishment.

Whipped black sesame, toasted sesame powder, melon, puffed black rice, coconut sugar

Whipped black sesame, toasted sesame powder, melon, puffed black rice, coconut sugar

Turning to dessert, we were hoping for the same excellence as entree. In between it was interesting to find no amuse offered to begin, and no palate cleansing or intriguing course offered to enter into dessert. I had my eye on four out of the five desserts. Guess which one our waitperson recommended! So I tried the black sesame whip and it was three out of three. It was actually a revelation in its creativity and deliciously executed technique. The puffed corn in particular didn’t just offer the requisite texture; it was one of the key elements on the plate. The whipped black sesame was mousse like, rich in flavour, and would be hard not to order on our next visit to The Bridge Room.

Aerated passionfruit, roasted nougatine, passionfruit ice cream, passionfruit seed powder, glass biscuit

Aerated passionfruit, roasted nougatine, passionfruit ice cream, passionfruit seed powder, glass biscuit

Equally Catherine loved her dessert. It was the best presented dish of the night, with perfect “glass biscuits” surrounding the other elements. The flavour of the passionfruit starred through the dish, with its various textures all marrying together in harmony, and with the nougatine adding further oomph. We had ordered peppermint tea, and an espresso, to have with our dessert, and they were up to scratch. However, given they didn’t come with any petit fours we thought $7 for a tea and $7 for an espresso was a bit rich. Our reasonably generous tip was reduced to compensate but really should have gone to the staff.

There are aspects lacking at The Bridge Room but those oversights are eclipsed by the beautiful food and genuinely helpful floorstaff. This is a restaurant that is working towards the top of its game. Some of the excitement is where it could be in months and years to come. One thing is for sure, on our next visit we will be sharing three desserts!

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