The Beer and Burger Lounge

Nestled snuggly…

4K6A2170Down the drunk end of Swan St, an area few are likely to see short of an inebriated drinking session during AFL Season lies this quirky beer-lounge-meets-burger-bar  where the variety of ales on show is rivalled only by the pub grub on offer.

4K6A2172Sat behind the counter, lies the area where the magic happens. long rows of grillers and stoves show exactly what goes on beneath the menu right down to the salamander that is the secret to the crispy bun – the finished burger is sat inside it for a good minute to ensure no cheese remains unmelted.

4K6A2174We decided on identical numbers (Great for consistency in theory, but in reality its because we generally like all things the same right down to the type of girls we are allowed to date).  This particular sandwich came packed with a good quarter pound patty, lettuce, cheese, bacon, bbq sauce and a delectable brioche. Jettisoning the undercooked onion ring, we set out to tame our insatiable apetities.

Without question this is a quality burger. You don’t even have to eat the thing to realise. You could simply print a cutout of the above photo, season it with a bit of salt and pepper and eat it and the flavour would still burst through the page. Simple yet effective ingredients and an inch-perfect cook time are all you really need. And one of the biggest factors; a brioche bun that is mated dimensionally perfect to the patty it houses.

4K6A2175Add to this some frozen potato planks which were fine, if not overly impressive.. And you have a pretty comprehensive package. So, if you find yourself in the area, and you want a quality burger fix, head on down to the BBL. You won’t be disappointed.

The Beer and Burger Lounge
112 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121
The Beer and Burger Lounge on Urbanspoon

Fresh alba white truffle, fabulous porcini

If an impending Christmas wasn’t enough…

porciniWorking in the food and wine industry also gives you a couple more guilty pleasures to look forward to. At this time of the year? It’s fabulously fresh porcini, air freighted in from Italy. I’ve eaten it in various forms the last couple of nights, but last night it got thrown in with my favourite bianco base.

tartufodinner7Onion, fresh pancetta, and some good old fashion peperoncino. While this sizzled away, was the perfect time to tuck into some antipasto

tartufodinner424 month aged Ruliano prosciutto di Parma, some of my favourite Roquefort, and a middle eastern olive bread made by my father.

tartufodinner5When everything is coming along nicely, some fettuccine are tossed through and a healthy drizzle of EVOO

tartufodinner3Then? The best part of all. Pasta – meet truffle.

tartufodinner2Let that infuse for a minute or two, while the main course gets sizzling.

tartufodinner6Veal Scallopini done right, is one of the most visceral pleasures one can have. The crisp acidity of white wine, sweet caramelisation from the veal and the sage sets it off.

tartufodinner1Some 24 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and buon appetito! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockwell and Sons

It’s another outing…

rockwell4..For the biggest category of my blog. The one I’m constantly accused of basing my blog around. But seriously, when the category of burgers in Melbourne is so strong, it can’t really be helped. If I started this entry with ‘American chef, diner focused menu, brioche etc’ you could be mistaken for thinking this was any other of the number of entries I’ve made.. But Rockwell and Sons is different.

It was your typical Burger Tuesday adventure, except for the fact that it was on a Thursday, and Rockwell and Sons was one of the last cards in the deck left to play of Melbourne’s elite. (Funnily enough, Rockpool Bar and Grill –  considered the holy grail, is all that remains). We arrived just before 8 to a packed restaurant consisting of a solid wood Southern American dining environment where we were sat opposite the open kitchen and were able to see the American classics like Southern buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches, pressed rib sandwiches (not burgers)  and, of course, their trademark double patty smash – a burger filled with a pair of juicy patties,  some crunchy greenery to add texture, one of the most delectable extremely buttery brioche buns (buttermilk i suspect) and.. of all things, Kraft slices. A myriad of  cheeses were tested initially, but owner Casey (pictured above) ultimately decided that this Aussie classic would get the gong. For good reason too, because this creamy, dreamy, calorie laden packet of goodness set my taste buds in a tango.

A fantastic craft beer selection (With lots of exotic American specimens – some even with matching exotic price tags) and an eclectic wine list compliment food beautifully.

rockwell 3

There was just something special about the burger. The way it got the flavours flowing was baffling, testament of obvious skills and expertise from the kitchen. It might not look the best, it might not have the most inspiring of ingredients, but the way everything just worked together, that the seamless patties were cooked to perfection and blended straight into the burger without dominating it.. And finally, that special sauce.

rockwell 1

Thick, hand cut fries were huge, and unfortunately (And I stress – on the night) uninspiring. Dry and withered, they were the only disappointment of the night. I’m sure on a good day these would deliver however.

I know it probably etches into too creamy territory, but these guys get away with it. Ignore the obvious fact that the lactose intolerant will by next morning be inseparable from their porcelain thrones due to the high dairy content, and just get on down to Rockwell and Sons. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, it will be one of your crowning life achievements to have eaten here.

Rockwell and Sons
288 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.rockwellandsons.com.au
Rockwell and Sons on Urbanspoon

Tin Lung Heen, Hong Kong

Some age-old expressions…

photo 1…Most notably, the ‘Home Team Advantage’ really hold true when it comes of upper echelon dining. What surely is the world most awarded (in terms of Michelin stars) City when it comes to Cantonese food, I honestly thought I had tried some rank contenders prior to this visit. Oh, how I was wrong.

photo 2Tin Lung Heen, set on the 102nd floor of the stunning Ritz-Carlton hotel in the bustling Kowloon area of the duopolis that is Hong Kong. I use this (made up) expression, because there is simply no other way to describe a city with such a split personality.

One minute you can be standing in the urban jungle that is the Island, replete with towering skyscrapers and endless interconnected shopping centres – The next, you’re in old town Kowloon. Classic, jam-packed and swimming in neon signs, millions of locals all seemingly on the street at the same time, and rafts of food and electronic vendors. It is the Asian equivalent of New York City, and this place doesn’t sleep either.

4K6A1930Back on topic, Tin Lung Heen’s signature dish is their Iberian Char Sui Pork which was a real standout and testament to Spanish quality and Cantonese culinary excellence.

4K6A1937The trademark Peking duck was also superb, we managed to nail half a duck from about a dozen pancakes, each craftily sliced in front of us.4K6A1941

Finishing off was fresh Wagyu beef with Chinese greens which was delectably tender.

4K6A1942And of course traditional Chinese fried rice, which they made for us as it didn’t appear on menu.

4K6A1939Wash it all down with one of the best wine lists in Hong Kong, with feature wines from all over the globe.

4K6A1926And you see why Tin Lung Heen is justfiably one of the best Cantonese experiences you are likely to have!

Tin Lung Heen
Ritz-Carlton, Kowloon, Hong Kong
http://www.ritzcarlton.com/

 

 

 

 

Le Relais de l’Entrecote, Saint Germain, Paris

Certain “Institutions”…

4K6A1906…Are better explained, if I may paraphrase, with the old adage of ‘You don’t tell your friends about your hairdresser, or your cleaning lady’. Such is the case with Le Relais de L’Entrecote, a literal house of the Paris bistrot classic steak frites, or, more simply, steak and chips.

It’s the sort of place Parisians drove to by the hundreds, at peak dining times the line has been known to stretch out the door and onto the zebra crossing (Cars don’t seem to mind, it’s as if they understand). It’s a place little known to tourists, and for good reasons, because residents of Paris want to keep this one to themselves. The decor, while it looks showy does nothing to stand out on the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse in the heart of Saint Germain. There are actually 4 of these hidden treasures, but we picked the one closest to home.

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You walk in, you’re handed what looks like a lovely hand-written menu with a twist. The charming waitress comes over to take your order, but the only thing she asks is what colour you’d like your meat. Because, and therein lies the beauty of this place; the entrecote is the only thing on the menu.

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So, you choose your drinks (Don’t expect a stellar wine list, as Chateau de Saurs graces every listing and it’s the sort of polish you drown your casserole in) and the wait begins.

4K6A1917About 5-10 minutes later, and the is plate of deliciousness is wafted in front of you. A juicy, tender, crisp, flavourful and above all tasty piece of steak arrives, cooked just how you like it. Served with the classic french fries and drowned in the houses own secret sauce, you take a moment to breathe it all in, absorb your surroundings and prepare for the onslaught. One bite, and your tastebuds are drowned in a medley of flavours that just work so well together. The crisp baguette on the side delights as it adds texture to every piece.

And just when you finish that mountain? The waitress again appears, this time for a refill. No, not wine. She actually tops up your plate, just like nonna, with yet more steak, chips and dipping sauce! Whilst it spells double trouble for your hips, it’s impossible to say no, and before we knew it we were two plates down so heavily satiated with protein and carbs that I could reel off euphoric superlatives all night.

4K6A1925I had the creme brulee, yet again. Didn’t disappoint.

4K6A1924Even L’s meringue medley goes to show you that you don’t need Michelin stars to win over the hearts of diners. She loved it.

So where does that leave us? Thoroughly impressed. Dare I say it, but at €80 including the mandatory 15% service charge, it was an absolute belter. I feel guilty for having enjoyed this more than last nights meal.

I wish someone back home had the stones to come up with a concept so devilishly simple, because this steak may have just been the best one I have ever eaten.

Le Relais de l’Entrecote, Saint Germain
101 Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris, France
http://www.relaisentrecote.fr

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, St Germain, Paris

Usually…

photo 1I’d never pass up an opportunity to dine at “celebrity” restaurants, much less double-Michelin starred ones. By now it’s sort of obvious I cant help but be sucked in to the hype. Truth be told though, high end French cuisine doesn’t usually do it for me. I don’t do snails, or frogs, and of course seafood isn’t for me.. Which sort of leaves a steak, which can be had anywhere. That, however, is all largely irrelevant for Joel’s left bank setup – A restaurant with no tables, no chairs, and no English.

photo 3You sit down on bar stools overlooking the frantic, yet impeccable open kitchen as over a dozen chefs prepare dishes non stop, with almost Monet style precision. The servers, hosts and sommelier handle the sushi-bar-meets-teppanyaki-grill setup that they have opted for, which is fabulous for diners but must be chaotic to waitstaff who awkwardly serve plates with bent elbows in-between cutlery and glassware.

photo 2The cuisine is far from French, though there are quite a few dishes like the signature foie-gras sliders which will appeal to fans of the genre.

photo 4Even the olive oil is top notch from Provence and was of a seriously high calibre.

photo 1The drinks list, while extensive, was really the only shortcoming when it came to choice. The burgundy list in particular was dissapointing, and even this 1er cru from Jean-Marc Boillot was the epitome of mediocrity.

photo 4The first three plates arrived simultaneously. Jamon de Belotta was good, though I’m still not sold on what I’ve tried, along with a bruschetta side and and eggplant stack that while good fell a little short of the mark.

photo 2Tomato gazpacho was next which was tangy and refreshing.

photo 3

Then came the Japanese gyoza, which were chicken and leek in a sauce reminiscent of tangy ponzu,  this was bright red in colour and filled with sesame. These were brilliant.

photo 5We followed this up with a special of the night, Spaghetti with Australian (!!!) truffles. You sure did get a generous serving, although this was reflected in the cost of the dish it was a lovely pasta. Cooked al-dente and with minimal intervention it truly let the truffles (Which I saw 3 being prepared that were at least 100g each) sing. I estimated at least 10-15g per serving, which was generous.

Regrettably, I forgot to snap our mains, which were 2 different cuts of beef (Weren’t specified, but mine was eye and L’s was sirloin from the looks). Both were great, and another one of Robuchon’s signature dishes, the mashed potatoes  (Or, more correctly, whipped butter garnished with potato) were devilishly good.

We passed on dessert, but the soufflé looked epic. As a side note, with your espresso you do get about half a dozen of their madeleines, which were so good they should be a standalone item.

To conclude, we had an amazing meal. Whilst I possibly think that there is room for improvement on the more simple of dishes, L’Atelier is certainly a hallmark for a fine evening, even if its for the theatre more so than the meal. Do I think it’s worth 2 Michelin stars? Probably not, though it does seem to be more accurately represented in the price, not the quality. Which is a bad thing.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Rue Montalambert, St Germain, Paris
atelier-robuchon.com

Fiaschetteria Toscana, Venezia

Driving into Venice…

4K6A1903Even from the brisk trek that is from Verona (~100 odd kms) is one of the most daunting experiences you can do in the heart of summer, especially if for the first time. When you eventually work out how it is exactly you are supposed to return your hire car, and then reach your hotel when nobody seems to know where it is, lug your baggage through the vast enclaves of the town and up this stairwell, and that one, and the other one over there too, and then back down that one, and over another.. And was it this Vaporetto stop, or was it the last one? It seems the last thing in your mind about the town is captivating and positive. Especially when the masses of tourists make it apparent that moving your round peg through this vastly square hole is entirely necessary to navigate the variety of sestiere that comprise the town.

BUT, stick with it. Despite my obviously less-than-positive first impressions of this town, it drew me back unto the fond memories of my childhood and something about the town just mesmerised me. It’s eery at night, with the sometimes dark alleyways and luminescent green lit waters… The occasional Riva passing underneath you or an opportunistic Gondoliero picking up one last fare. During the day, its a bustling maze of craft shops, expensive restaurants and underpasses, bridges and piazze.

The second largest sestiere of all though, Cannaregio, captivated me the most. This almost town-within-a-town, on the opposite end to Piazza San Marco is swathe with boutique shops and restaurants and this very Tuscan of restaurants was recommended to me and visited on our first night when our original plans (Enoteca San Marco, Vini da Gigio) were closed. Ferie, and day off respectively.

4K6A1893The menu changes often, daily even, and the delightful menu (Available in pure English, or Italiano) is printed on thick paper, almost like a wedding invitation. The food, so obviously fresh meant that L’s first two choices of fish, had both sold out for the night.

4K6A1892The wine list is extensive, but it was hard to go past proven favourites… Such as this Bianco Secco from Quintarelli.

4K6A1894Classic antipasti such as stuffed zucchini flowers never get old, and these were surrounded by a chive and yoghurt dressing which was fragrantly refreshing.

4K6A1896Having snubbed Chianina beef in Tuscany, a regional speciality from a specific breed of bovine, I was quick to pounce on it both from entree, as a pasta…

4K6A1898…And as a main, with both dishes impressing immensely.

4K6A1901To finish, as we always seem to gravitate to, the Tiramisu was class-beating, easily up there with the best I have eaten out and what a special way to end the meal.

So, while it may seem to be a cop-out eating Tuscan in Veneto, some things are just too good to pass up.. We both agreed this was meal of the trip, and will most definitely be back. When in Venice, this is, put simply, impossible to resist.

Fiascherettia Toscana
Salizada S.Giovanni Grisostomo, Cannaregio 5719 Venezia
http://www.fiaschetteriatoscana.it

Florence, August 2013

Sometimes, even on vacation…

4K6A1875The little things are memorable. We had an apartment here for three days, so we made sure today (Sunday) for lunch we put the kitchen to good use, to escape the 39 degree heat in the comfort of our lovely cool pad.

4K6A1877We bought some lovely smoked, pre-sliced cured meat for a quick tomato sauce, along with some San Marzano peeled tomatoes.

4K6A1879Some artisan pasta…

4K6A1878Some fuel… (For us)

4K6A1880 The 24 month aged Parmigiano on top finished it off at cost of about 4 euro for a wedge!

Buon’ Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

Enoteca I Terzi, Siena

It’s rare on vacation…

photo 2to go two-for-two when it comes to stand out restaurants, but this one was not only recommended by our good friend and local Senese resident Francesco, but also visited when we stopped here in April. Bear in mind folks, when it comes to Tripadvisor, sometimes a mediocre rating is a blessing; especially when they come from a certain demographic and refer to Italian service. Anyone who’s travelled to Italy should shelve any thoughts of decent service – don’t rate any restaurant on this merit alone or else you will be bitterly disappointed. For this reason, and the point I’m trying to make is while the restaurant was full, it was full of locals.

We sat down to some antipasti consisting of contrasting flavours…

photo 3Insalata Caprese was refreshing and tribute to some amazing produce.

photo 1My eggplant flan was moist, creamy, and perfectly proportionate.

photo 4The zucchini risotto was also lovely, if a little rich, but enjoyable none-the-less.

photo 5The pici with ragout was delicious, but admittedly I had this last trip here. I have a feeling a little egg tossed through the pasta added a layer of creaminess which set it off perfectly. In true Northern style tomatoes were all-but-absent which let the quality of the meat sing. Oh so beautiful. Yum. 4 euros for the biggest glass of Vernaccia you have ever seen, backed up with a 6 euro glass of the same volume in Vino Nobile define value and finished this one off in one of the finest examples of Italian value you are likely to see. A definate visit, and if visiting in warmer periods, sit outside. You’ll love it.

Enoteca I Terzi
Via Dei Termini 7, Siena, Tuscany
http://www.enotecaiterzi.it

Osteria Le Logge, Siena

In such a beautiful, historic town…

4K6A1863You’d actually be surprised to see just how hard it is to avoid the ‘tourist traps’ in many of these beautiful places. This one came recommended as not only a place to visit, but the place. Inside, low slung curves and buttresses line the roof and spectacular bottles of vino, including the houses own Gianni Brunelli label adorn the walls. The food offered is both a splice of local Tuscan flavours, with a left-of-field twist that sets them aside from your usual holiday fare.

The menus, handwritten and presumably therefore very dynamic, pair fresh seasonal produce with a bullet-proof wine list that will ensure whatever it is you’re chasing, you can find.

4K6A1868Classics such as tempura-battered zucchini flowers filled with ricotta will impress with their decadence…

4K6A1869While others such as the panzanella, a deliciously refreshing quintessentially Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes topped with spoked Piemontese cheese will refresh on such a warm winters night.

4K6A1870Other antipasti such as the burrata cheese with avocado salad with insalata all’Acqua Minerale (Salad with sparkling water) meld contrasting textures to alarming success.

4K6A1871The mains, while likely to appeal to your adventurous side marry seasonal flavours you’d likely never even thought possible. One such derivative, the gnochetti porcini e mirtillo blends fresh (a real treat) porcini mushrooms, with blueberries. Yes, blueberries. The result? Unusually delicious, and again perfectly suited to the climate, and season they are served in.

4K6A1873Desserts continue the trend, even the classic tiramisu arrives deconstructed, with jellied amaretto cubes and an altogether absence of savoiardi.

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I preferred this delightful vanilla creme filled cannolo with melted gianduja and hazlenut gelato was pure heaven.

If you only have one night to dine, don’t mind being a little adventurous, and want to try some local flavours with a truely outstanding wine list, Le Logge, just outside the main Piazza del Campo is the place to go.

Osteria Le Logge
Via del Porrione 33, Siena, Tuscany.