Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mundo Churrasco - Opening week -Bardon, Brisbane

Not long ago, I visited Churrasco in Coogee and had some great food, despite the meat sweat filled horror stories everyone insisted were a reality when you visited Churrasco. (For the record- I did NOT get meat sweats...) I took such a liking to this style of food that I was REALLY excited to hear, along the twitter grape vine, that Mundo Churrasco, a Brazilian Churrascaria was coming to Brisbane.

Luckily, the opportunity arose and a couple of friends and I headed to Mundo a week after it had opened (I know, I know- this post is REALLY LATE- about a month or so... I've been busy!)

When stepping in, I was quite taken aback by the size and style of the restaurant. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I didn't expect it to be so cosmopolitan. The high ceilings with chandeliers were definitely a surprise. Hopefully this nice fit-out is to discourage bogans from coming in with the soul aim of eating every piece of meat in the place- as I'm sure will happen at some time or other.

The (cast of hundreds) staff were obviously in 'opening mode' as they were super polite and a little on-edge. We were shown to our table and two different waiters appeared to tell us about churrasco styled dining, which definitely helps if you are a newbie to the whole scene. They explain the 'red or green block system' and the whole philosophy of the restaurant.

One of the cute-to-boot owners of Mundo, Shirley, introduced herself and poured our water- which she kept doing religiously for the whole night. I'm a fan of Shirley. You can never have your water glass topped too many times.

We all chose to have the all you can eat BBQ Option for $29.50- this includes all you can eat accompaniments, meats and salads. There are other options available such as the tasting plate but everyone goes to Churrasco for all you can eat, don't they?!

The accompaniments were brought to our table and we were told that if we needed anything- ANYTHING at all, just to let the staff know. They refill the sides when needed. Now, this was really nice, but at times I felt like the service was a little too attentive (just asking if generally everything was ok). This eager beaveness, I'm sure, was all part of the opening week jitters, and a much lesser crime than the alternative, being ignored.

There were quite a few accompaniments including:
*Pao de queijo or cheese bread = little chewy mounds of cheesy doughy balls. These were a little too chewy for me, and didn't really have much flavour- but I really don't like typical cheese bread anyway.

* cassava chips- a little oily but crunchy on the outside. ( I am a lover of cassava but for those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting this beautiful root vegie- it has a yammy texture and originates in Africa. Tapioca pearls come from Cassava's which you may have seen used in various desserts.

* Brazilian potato salad- again, a little too creamy for me;

* Salad- a very simple but welcome addition. I cannot eat all meat without having some serious vegies or salad;

* a salsa- again, simple and a little watery but fresh;

* some spices to add to the rice and meat- sorry (I am a little confused as to what this spice mix containted- I should have written it down).

After the accompanyments were served, the carving waiters started slowly coming around with the different types of meat. When I say slowly, it was basically at a snail's pace. I think they were still getting used to the amounts of meat needed to serve a full restaurant. We were seated right outside the kitchen which was right in the action, and a good spot to get the first offerings from the waiters, and still, we were left wanting for longish periods at a time. It must be noted that when the waiters did arrive, they were really friendly.

We were offered a couple of different types of meats- the hump - which was way too blue, even for me. My friend J will seriously not eat anything that is under 'well done' and a look of horror passed over face as she was given the least cooked bit of flesh between the four of us. I swapped with her, but still couldn't finish it off completely. Rump, which was salty- but nicely tender and the fillet which was salty and garlicky - but also nicely BBQ'd.

The BBQ'd veggies; zucchini, tomato and capsicum were nicely charred and really helped me feel better about so much meat consumption.

It's a shame that we missed out on the Brazilian sausage and Chicken thigh, as I loved loved loved the chicken at my last Churassco experience. The meat coming around tended to be the same three types- we would have loved to see some more variety.

I think Mundo Churassco (in the future, which is probably now, seeing as though I visited close to a month ago) will have/has a lot to offer as a unique dining experience for Brisbanites. I hope the problems of service of meat being slow, and the over attentive waiters were teething issues that have been sorted out by now. The food definitely has potential, a little too salty, but cooked gloriously well in most cases. The prices were very reasonable and it would be a great place to go for a night out with a big group of friends, or with friends who have children. Vegetarians friends would most probably be mortified. It's not really a place you would go for a romantic dining experience, on some diet (unless it's Atkins) or wanting to play dainty ladies (see my finished plate below!)

So readers, are you a fan of the 'all you can eat' themed restaurants or do you prefer a petit, fine dining approach?

Mundo Churassco 
63 MacGregor Tce
07 3369 1660
Mundo Churrasco on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Manor Chinese (Yum-Cha) Restaurant- Eight Mile Plains

Queenslanders, don't hate me for saying this, but sometimes I do wish I lived back in NSW. I mean it is my home state, I miss my fam and I also miss more frequent visits to Sydney. Not only for visiting fam and friends but of course... for the restaurants. Sydney, in my mind, has undisputably, the best yum-cha restaurants in Australia. I have dined in a fair few of Brisbane's worst yum-cha restaurants but had not really found anything that lived up to my expectations. I must admit, I did have some good experiences at Landmark in Sunnybank- but most recently my visits have mostly been characterised by long wait times and inconsistent dishes. Some were fabulous and some were terrible. Not exactly the loving relationship I like to have with my Yum-Cha restaurant.

I tweeted about my woes (thank God for twitter and all my fab, helpful tweetpeeps) and the lovely Mei Yen Chua who is the author of Brisbane Budget Bites (guide to cheap eats in Brisbane) tweeted back- Try 'The Manor' in Eight Mile Plains. So I did.

I headed out to the restaurant, getting hopelessly lost on the way. Moral to the story, check it on a map first and don't try to follow the 'blue dot' on your iphone, because the blue dot takes you the most ridiculous way ever. I'd also suggest leaving at least 20-25 minutes if you are coming from the city area because Eight Mile Plains is a fair way out. Be warned that there is really limited parking!

The restaurant is situated in an unassuming suburban block of shops. We headed there one Sunday morning, and the outside area was so quiet, I was not even sure that they were even open. After a little walking around and peering in the window, a lady finally came out and we were ushered into the dining area. There are two dining areas a nice one with linen table cloths and a more casual dining area with no table cloths and tiled floor. Out of the three times I have visited The Manor, I have been in the 'nice' side two times and the 'less nice' side another time. I'm not exactly sure what the selection criteria is and what determines which side you get taken to, but I definitely prefer the 'nice' side as it seems to have more atmosphere and be less noisy.

When we walked in, we were issued with an order form. I have only had yum cha a couple of times using an order form and had some mixed feelings. Traditionally, yum-cha restaurants operate on the trolley system where all the dishes are stacked in steamer baskets or plates on trolleys and wait staff come around and offer you the dishes they have available. I really like this system, its sort of like a lucky dip, and I tend to try more new things when they are offered. Sometimes though, it seems like endless trolleys go by, without offering you any of your favourites and by the time the food gets to you, it is devastatingly cold. Not to mention the feelings of frustration and anger when you are seated in a bad position at the end of the circuit and end up getting all the least popular, old dishes! Boo! At least this problem was solved with the order forms!

I went down the list and ticked my choices, whilst getting chimed in from I.P who was happy to eat 'anything' and C who wanted a couple more deep friend choices than I was willing to commit to! The staff promptly took our order and within 5 minutes had returned . The food has always been superquick at The Manor but the service has varied greatly. Actually, I would say on one occasion, the service was quite rude, but the other two times (and on this visit) was pretty standard.

Dishes are priced
small = $4.20
large = $4.80
Special = $5.80

The first dish to arrive was the calamari rings. These are usually calamari tentacles but they had run out, so the rings were the replacement. This is possibly the best calamari (asian styled) that I have ever eaten. The batter was light, salt, chillish and crispy and the squid was tender and very bite-through-able. These had obviously come straight from being fried but not a drop of excess oil was to be seen or tasted.

Next came the prawn dumplings which were snapped up before I managed to take a photo of all three. I usually feel that prawn dumplings should be sacrificed in favour of something more interesting. C likes them though, so I reluctantly ordered these, but secretly (don't want to give him too much food kudos) I was thanking my lucky stars. These beautiful, usually average, little balls were filled with gorgeous fresh prawn and silkenly soft and steamy pastry. In fact, the pastry on all the dumplings was noteworthy. Obviously straight from the steamer means the pastry is still soft and beautiful, like it is meant to be - not rubbery as it tends to become when cold.

My tea of choice at yum cha is usually Bo Lei or Pu -Erh. I'm not a real fan of the Jasmine tea... a little bit too fragrant and makes me feel unsettled. Bo Lei helps to aid digestion and is really calming. I feel like I can eat more once I have had a cup or two- which is always a bonus when yum-charring.

The next lot of dumplings (yes, I love dumplings!) was the prawn and bok choy with garlic chive (from memory). This was the most oustanding dumpling of the day, and is generally my favourite ever. Once again, the pastry was perfect and the filling was hot, and packed with corianderish flavour. The filling burst into my mouth and caused some serious taste sensation. Food fireworks a.k.a similar to those seen on Ratatouille!

The pan friend pork dumplings didn't disappoint. They were crispy on the outside, yeh perfectly cooked on the inside. I welcomed the addition of a gingery kick. Sadly, they were a little oily and no vinegar was served with them, which to me, is an integral acidic part of the pan fried pork experience.

Ok Ok...more prawn dumplings.. pretty sure you don't need to hear again, just how awesome they were, but just a little reminder- they were G.R.E.A.T.

At times I have wondered if pork buns were frozen prior to being served. These weren't. The dough was incredibly light and fluffy and the luscious bbq pork filling was perfect and rich. I know, I'm running out of adjectives- just go and try them yourself!

Last and probably least was the turnip puddings. I love turnip puddings but these were not particularly turnipy and were a little too rice floury. I laboured getting through two (which I usually wouldn't) They were also a little oily.

Aside from the turnip puddings, I loved everything I was served. Although it's not the authentic hectic atmostphere, I was really pleased with the standard of food, and eating here made me feel less longing for Dixon Street. I'm so glad that Mei Yen told me about the Manor because I have been missing a great yum-cha restaurant in Brizzy- and now I have finally found it.

I've actually been putting off writing this blog post, because I think The Manor is so good, I don't want to tell anyone about it! I certainly don't want to turn up next weekend and have to wait in line for an hour or two.So, if you have a hankering for awesome yum-cha, and you decide to visit The Manor, keep it on the down low and don't go bragging to all your friends ok.!?!..... P.S The Manor also do late night Yum Cha so I will be visiting soon for that!

Tell me... Where is your favourite Yum Cha restaurant in Aus? Do you have a secret restaurant you want to 'keep quiet' for fear of it becoming too popular?

The Manor Chinese Restaurant
6 Angel St
Eight Mile Plains QLD 4113
(07) 3341 9506
Manor Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This little piggy went to Market

I was recently reading ' Lunch in Paris' a newish chick lit 'memoir with recipes (how could I go past it) and it reminded me how much I love Farmer's markets. The author and narrator spends countless mornings wondering about Parisian markets, much to my envy. What a life. Whilst I was reading the book I found I was a little annoyed. It could have been a number of things 1) The book is monotonous (but still has some good recipes) 2) I was insanely jealous of all the food in the book and 3) there was something niggling at me. You know- the 'I know I have forgotten to do something but I'm not sure what it is' feeling? Annoyingly present throughout the whole book- in the last chapter it dawned on me! The products from the farmer's markets I was supposed to blog about...

As you may already know from my other posts, I LOVE FARMER'S markets. I love spending countless time wondering around with the soul aim of finding new and interesting things to eat. I often buy products and snap their pictures with the aim of telling you about them, but it always seems pointless to do a blog post on one or two items. For that very reason, I am blogging about products from two different markets that I have visited over the last couple of months. The marmalade is from the Jan Power Farmer's Markets at New Farm (held the second and fourth saturday of every month) and everything else is from the Noosa Farmer's Markets held every Sunday morning (rain, hail or shine!).

If I had to specify a preference for the markets, I would choose Noosa. I like the atmosphere more and the stalls are less crowded. For me, the best thing about markets is you find some really awesome products, or find out more about the product from talking directly to the producer.

The Grainge homemade marmalade is produced in Brisbane by a guy that originally sold the preserves through a butcher shop at Carrara when he realised there was a huge demand for high quality, old school preserves. There were several varities of jam available including raspberry, apricot, boysenberry, and boys and rasp, but I am a lover of marmalade (looking for an awesome recipe if anyone has one!) so had to go for the Marm for about $6. Impressively, all the ingredients for the marmalade (grapefruit, lemon and orange) are sourced from queensland growers. The care that has gone into making this product shows, as it was delightfully tart (not sweet like many mainstream marms) and melted onto my thick white toast and butter.

I have to admit, my Indian cooking skills are NOT up to scratch. In fact my knowledge of Indian food is pretty poor too (although attempting to word up!). I would love to make more curries but I really don't have time after work etc to come home and grind up all the required spices and am seriously not keen on the preservative ridden supermarket versions. I was really happy to come accross Lush Delights (not to be mistaken with Lush body products!! You can actually eat these pastes!) who make Indian and Thai curry pastes from all natural, fresh, local ingredients. The company is based on the Sunshine Coast. The pastes are reasonably priced i.e I got four 60 g different flavoured packets for $15. I think the small packets are probably only good for one or two people. As a bonus I think all(maybe most....) are gluten free.

The curries come with pretty specific instructions and although I followed them I didn't totally love my chicken tikka, I felt it lacked a bit of flavour. I was much happier with the Thai green curry paste which was sweet but spicy (and I added a little extra fresh chilli.)

Saintsational Sausages:
Um... Sadly I can't really remember too much about the story of these sausages- but I do know that all the sausages are gluten free and pretty good. I tried the beef and chilli sausages, and they were not too chilli, but had a nice consistent flavour and texture for a sausage.. i.e not too dry or too oily. They have some pretty interesting flavours too i.e
1) chicken, mango, chilli, chutney and rocket lettuce;
2) chicken, honey and macadamia nut;
3) beef, sundried tomato and fresh basil.
The sausages are about $14.99 a kg.

So, tell me readers, what is your favourite product you have stumbled on at the markets?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Paddock to Plate @ Vapiano

So so... I know I'm a bit slow off the mark, afterall I attended the Paddock to Plate Evening at Vapiano last week. But don't whinge too much- in the meantime, you could have read Claire or Ally's great write ups about the event!

I went along to the opening event at about 6 months ago, and was kindly invited back to the Paddock and Plate Event last week. Paddock to Plate was a function to showcase Vapiano's philosophies and introduce their local suppliers to food bloggers and food interested media.

One of the key concepts at Vapiano is focusing on using local produce- as much as possible is sourced from 150km radius of Brisbane. Whilst 'eating local' is not a new concept, it is fantastic to see a restaurant that classes itself as 'fresh casual' (i.e. main meals under $20) join the bandwagon. And join the bandwagon (with passion) they have.

Will, the owner of Vapiano, spent time overseas and the foreign Vapiano Restaurants inspired him to bring the concept to Australia. His overseas visit also ignited his passion for local produce. It was obvious that Will has passed on his enthusiasm to the staff and made sure he contacted local producers/suppliers that were also serious about local eating.

Paddock to Plate was a great concept because aside from learning more about Vapiano, I incidentally picked up knowledge about QLD produce that I didn't know. The producers that attended the event were :

Michael Dalton from Fino Food and Wine – olive oil, meats and cheeses
Michael Gavriel from Olympus Cheese - feta and ricotta
Kellie Jensen from Jensens Market Supplies – fruit, vegetables and herbs
Rory Smith from Bouchon Wines – Italian and Australian wines
Peter Wise from Fine Wine Partners – Italian, New Zealand and Australian wines
Andrew Gowdie from the James Squire Brewery – Craft beer

We were met with a spread of the produce on offer from the producers. The produce was piled up high and set out so we could taste. Some of my favourite things were:

The Ligurian Olives (Fino Food and Wine)-The olives come from Gibson Grove and are typical of Ligurian olives, small and quite sweet for an olive. These little olives were gorgeous - probably my favourite thing I tasted all night.

Buffalo Mozzarella from North Qld (Fino Food and Wine) - Perhaps ignorantly, I never knew that buffalo mozzarella is produced in QLD, but it is... and it is good. Buffalo is the king of mozzarella cheese (obviously produced by using buffalo milk) and the north QLD version on show was rich and fresh.

Ricotta from Olympus Cheeses in Brisbane. Olympus cheeses operate out of Coorparoo and specialise in ricotta, feta and haloumi. The ricotta is made from the whey leftover from the haloumi and feta. The ricotta was lovely and soft and characteristically mild. It was great to talk to Michael who owns Olympus cheeses about the process (stay tuned for another blog post specifically on Olympus cheese!)

Noosa Tomatoes from Jensens Market Supplies - the tomatoes were beautifully juicy and red and made a perfect pairing with some basil (also from Jensens) and the ricotta. Aside from the tomatoes. It was great to know that most of the fresh produce comes from very close- and rightly so. We live in a great region for produce and have sunshine coast to our north, stanthorpe down south and the darling downs(known as the food/salad bowl) less than 2 hours away. The garlic is all australia, the lemons from gin gin, eggs from darling downs, mushrooms from woodford and the herbs from logan.
It was also interesting to hear that Will and Tim (the Vapiano manager) consult heavily with Andrew (the beer guy) and Peter and Rory (the wine guys) to ensure they have a perfectly matched but concise and affordable wine list. They have chosen to shun the cheaper/run of the mill beers, which they would obviously sell more of, in favour of boutique drops that are far better suited to the food. The staff have also undergone training on which wine and beer best suit each dish so they are more knowledgeable on the subject.

Part of the event was also to officially launch their new winter menu (available from last week) and after a lengthy Q & A session with Will and all the producers, the featured menu items were a welcome sight.

Bianco Pizza (White sauce on the base instead of the more common tomato/napoli) was really the stand out. I enjoyed the Vapiano combination of the bianco sauce, potato, proscuitto and rosemary. The pizza was rich and warming without being stodgy, which is always a risk when potato is involved. The salciccia pasta has a napoli sauce with salami and nice fat juicy olives,but didn't have quite enough kick or garlic for my liking.

I thought paddock to plate was a fantastic success. I am a big advocate for local eating and am glad to see it being instituted in Brisbane in a casual restaurant. I think the next step for Vapiano is to perhaps make the menu a little more seasonal- a winter specials menu is a good start. I loved the opportunity to meet the producers and think that Brisbanites will really appreciate a venue that uses local produce and serves food for a reasonable price in the city.

191 Albert Street
Brisbane City
07 3221 4933 

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gourmet Rabbit Article: Affordable Decadence

Aside from blogging, I occasionally make a foray into other areas. I have written a couple of articles for Gourmet Rabbit Magazine the first of which was entitled 'my foodprint.' Gourmet Rabbit is a new online food magazine with some contributions by some very talented people, so be sure to check it out. The theme for April Gourmet Rabbit was affordable decadence... here is my take on it..

"Initially, when considering the concept, ‘affordable decadence’, seemed like an oxymoron. How can something be affordable yet luxuriously self indulgent?

Talking to some authorities on the matter (i.e my food-loving parents and grandparents) it was revealed to me that the notion of decadent food hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years. Funnily enough, all four agreed that in their ‘hay day’ (cumulatively stretching from the 30’s to the 80’s,) it was the not so humble lobster that topped the list of opulent food choices. Today, the lobster still symbolises affluence, as do other types of seafood including oysters and scallops.

It is hardly challenging to come up with hundreds of other examples of food extravagances that cost more than a pretty penny. Gorgeous designer vanilla butterbean cakes, magical pearl meat canapes and foodie trips to Tuscany really are expensive. Checking in at my local delicatessen on the weekend revealed that it would have to be a VERY special occasion before I ordered some foie gras, with prices ranging anywhere from $50 - $150 per tiny little tin. The pages of Australia’s hottest food magazines are laden with the weight of advertising for luxury items, but it doesn’t stop there. Luxury food items are everywhere.

Easy to find and even easier to load onto your credit card, feeling like quite the little miss. Then, jarringly, you receive the dreaded monthly statement that reminds you, and almost verifies that decadence, does indeed, come at a cost. That is, until you remember the wise words that someone once told you ‘It’s all relative’.

Interestingly enough, lobster wasn’t the only thing that Nan mentioned when considering highly inaccessible but desired food. Whilst everyone else was busy listing off run of the mill extravagant items, Nan raised the subject of butter. Butter? A little bit of an odd suggestion and not in the same league as wagyu. Admittedly, butter does score highly for affordability, so I was prepared to hear her out. Apparently, during the war, Nan listed butter as something she would have considered more decadent than anything else, because it was rationed. Due to the ban, butter became a highly sought after commodity and only the elite were well stocked with butter. This whole butter thing got me thinking. Even in this day and age, without the short supply, lashings of cream or butter always make everything taste so much better especially when served with homemade marmalade and a sunny morning with your Nan on the verandah. Perhaps one would even go so far as to call the little interlude ‘decadent.’

In fact, when I thought about the times I felt most self indulgent, it wasn’t the degustation dinners, grange and caviar that sprung to mind. For me, the most exquisite food experiences were not only indulgent because of the food, but because of the experience that accompanied the food. Sure, you do have to spend big bucks to get the big ticket items, but what could be more extravagant than sitting in bed on a rainy Saturday morning curled up with a book and a cup of Madagascan vanilla tea? Perhaps a sickeningly rich piece of homemade chocolate tart shared guiltily with some gossiping sisters on an Autumn afternoon; Or a big bowl of sweet tomatoey and bacon pasta and a bottle of ruthlessly rough red as one of your first nights ‘living on your own’? Or maybe for you, luxury would be running to the bottom paddock with visiting cousins and returning with pockets and faces filled with the neighbours beautiful mulberries.

Either way these experiences, with food included, are extremely low cost, (in the last instance- free!) but ultimately the most indulgent memories I have. They are void of champagne and truffles but lovingly include items that are perfectly decadent in their own right.

Next time you feel like being decadent, look beyond the obvious and ask yourself- What is more indulgent? Heading to high tea at the Hilton or staying at home with friends and whipping up some choc chip cookies then devouring the very same cookies before they even make it into the oven."

So.... tell me, what do you consider to be affordably decadent?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gastronomy Gal Giveaway: Robert Channon Wines

I hope you are all feeling fabulous after healthy eating month! I have to admit- I have made some changes but didn't follow a strict healthy regime which is probably what I should do. And exactly what I'm not going to do.

Personally, I feel I need to make healthier choices but would never be able to live on a strict low fat, low salt diet. There's no point. I would end up dying of sadness or binging on every ridiculously high fat meal I could get my hands on.

My life revolves around food and so last month's fabulous recipes from the guest bloggers are just what I need. Healthy midweek meals so I can indulge on the weekend!

Anyway, time for a treat for Gastronomy Gal readers who attempted some healthier eating! The wine is to celebrate moderation and balance.

Robert Channon Wines are well known for being some of the best wine to come out of QLD. They have a fabulous cellar door at Stanthorpe. Em Channon is one of my good friends and so Robert Channon Wines have provided Gastronomy Gal with some wine that will be given away over the following months. All grapes are grown at their 19 acre vineyard and winemaker Mark Ravenscroft is very particular, and as a result, is coming out with some fabulous wines which are constantly receiving awards (which are too long to list here but available on their website.)

Nothing says winter like red wine, so today I have a chosen to give away the 2005 Merlot. This particular wine was given 4 stars by Winestate Magazine and would go really well with a lovely stew or a beautifully charred eye fillet. It's also one of my favourites! It is worth $20 + at the cellar door.

To win this beautiful wine, all you have to do is leave a comment telling me what you reward yourself with? Is it chocolate, wine or something more creative?

(I will be in contact with the winners of the last Gastronomy Gal Giveaway within the next week or so!)

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