Monday, October 31, 2011

Eat Drink Man Woman - (Melbourne)

The name of this place had caught my attention quite earlier on,  not just because it is quite catchy but since it also translates into the name of a popular Food Magazine in Hong Kong !    We indeed had no plans to visit here, as being a coffee hound I’m naturally biased towards artisanal roasters or established coffee temples which means I will be placed in the hands of experts,  and the journey will be an educational one…     Occasionally however it is good to deviate from that rigid approach,  and the coffee here (roasted by Atomica Caffe just down the road) was not surprising also of a high quality -  but the main concern today will be the food !




This café restaurant is packed to the brim in the morning…!


Cappuccino (from well proven Atomica Caffe Roaster) -
Very good everyday coffee,  pretty aromatic too !  Nutty, Chocolate but no bitterness.
A proven formula.   ~   8/10



Honey & Soy Mushrooms,  with Ginger, Tofu, Sesame Seeds,
Cucumber Salad and Sourdough -  AUD $16
Personally I wouldn’t have ordered this,  but I got a portion of it during a share session and it turned out to be really healthy tasty.  The cucumber salad was the stand out as they seems to have been partially cooked,  which made them like eating a zucchini with a crunch!  Smart!  ~  8/10


Croque Madame Jaffle Toast -  AUD $13
I think Jaffles are such a 1980’s thing in Melbourne,  but it is fun to see this done this way topped with a fried egg.   I think I prefer the modern versions with a bit of gratinated cheese and plenty of bechamel sauce though.   This seemed overpriced.  ~  6.9/10




Buckwheat Pancakes,  Slow Roasted Rhubarb & Ricotta – $15
Fried Chicharrones pork rinds were also available,  but I decided to be healthier and ordered this dynamite combo of a few of my favourite ingredients.  This was definitely a highlight as the rhubarb with a bit of tangy ricotta, just worked so well with the ever so slightly savoury, very fluffy buckwheat pancakes.   Nothing extraordinary but just a smart dish altogether ~  9/10

The menu is a mixture between Asian, Moroccan and normal Western food inspirations -
It suits the Brunswick Street location and clientele,
the coffee was made well & beyond what any ‘latte’ customer drinkers could expect,
the food was executed very well and thoughtful.   Execution for me,  is very crucial!

Price: AUD $16 - 20 per person
Score:  ♕♕♕♕  to  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours -
Mon to Sun:   Breakfast to Dinner

Address:  413 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Melbourne VIC 2065
Ph:  03 9419 0088

Friday, October 28, 2011

Naked for Satan - (Melbourne)

  It is sometimes fun to compare the real thing,  with a shop which is found thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet,  trying to emulate a Pintxo bar from Basque country in Spain!    Although Naked for Satan down south is better known for their mon–wed and sun night cheaper pintxos at only AUD $0.80 each whereas the normal pintxo price remains $2.0 during peak hours.   On average this makes it more or less on par with the price in real Basque country.   So we’re definitely comparing apples with apples here,  and drinks in Basque are way cheaper too but served at much smaller proportions.    I think they kind of even out in the end.  What it comes down to finally, is the end quality !!



The decoration is hardcore -
Will there be a real Basque bar experience here?
We’ll find out after 2 separate visits




Pintxos and Vodka
but there is more to it than advertised…

Txakoli wines,  imported from Basque country are also available here -
In stark contrast to the much simpler bars in Basque San Sebastian,
Naked for Satan seems to be quite well decorated !  Leaving a great 1st impression !




Txakoli -
Nice dry and crisp,
it is a pretty unique wine in fact.  Table wine quality but very un-Aussie in style!



Apple Cider from Dirty Granny -
This on the other hand,  tasted really different to a Basque cider.  Made locally in Aust,  this was much bolder and aerated.   European ciders on average,  don’t taste so fresh in my opinion..

Rice Ball, Cream Cheese and Quince Pasta,
with Jamon Pintxo (behind) -
The bread proportion was a little too thick,  and the presentation was not as 3 dimensionally good looking as the Basque equivalents..    The jamon quality wasn’t very good and marbled either.   The rice ball with cheese fared better   ~   6/10



Fried Sardine with Tomato and Aioli -
Tasted ok,  but didn’t really looked the deal and in proportion  ~   7/10



Sausage and Onion Pintxo -
The piece of bread was again too thick and wasn’t sliced diagonally enough!   This also didn’t feel very Basque Spanish.   Quite lovely nevertheless ~   6.9/10



Smoked Trout Egg with Prawns,
Smoked Chili Mussels with chickpea -
Formula was good,  but proportion and attraction wise it was mediocre…  ~   6/10


French Chevre cheese with grilled Capsicum on toast, 
Tomato with Avocado spread and Pine nuts -
Some of these are randomly given out to the tables.
Tastes ok,  but not very sophisticated ~   6.5/10

Bacalao Croquettes -
A little too milkily washed and robbing it of salted cod flavours.  The inside was a bit too floury rather than slightly bechamel like.  Good but not excellent ~  7/10

Meat Ball Pintxo -
This was probably the one I loved the most!  The meatball was tender and the sauce was decently herbed…   ~   8/10





The Bar and Food section -
Nice array of food selections



Tinto de Verano -
A simple version of a Sangria using wine and a lemony soda.
* Advertised here as being of Basque origin, 
although this is not true at all..  unlike a Kalimotxo with coke


Lychee & Ginger infused Vodka -
At $9.80 a shot it’s not cheap,  but it was certainly full of the abovementioned infused tastes!
Loved it !

Also available is Kalimotxo,
A popular coke and red wine drink,  also found in HK here at Mesa 15 (Hong Kong).



A typical plate you bring back to the table here,
And keep the toothpicks to pay the tab.


Gilda,  with Olives, Anchovies and Peppers -
The anchovies didn’t taste like proper ‘anchoas’ but more like ‘boquerones’,  but the rest of the peppers and olives tasted real enough to the real thing,  such as served here:   Garbola Bar (San Sebastian,  Basque Spain)    ~   6/10



Melbourne’s closest to an authentic Pintxos & Vodka Bar..
Drinks are right up there with Spanish standards if not more,
Although the food quality is definitely a question mark for now as they look like they need a bit of love and caress to bring them up to another level!
Incidentally,  the first time I’ve ever had Basque Pintxos that were tabbed and calculated based on remaining ‘toothpicks’ wasn’t in Basque Spain, but in Melbourne.  Even though the older system might have or still exist in the very few Pintxo shops there.   Guess that says a lot about how updated/outdated this place or even Wikipedia is, compared to the real thing in 2011!!


Price: AUD $20 per person
Score:  ♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕ 1/2

Address:  285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC 2065
Ph:  03 9416 2238

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Garbola Bar - (San Sebastian, Spain)

 There are bars,  and there are BARS.   Garbola Bar is easily one of the most impressive bars I’ve visited,  the owner and his wife does everything from drinks to food from scratch…  it oozes class!   From course to course,   one can really see the amount of heart put into the slightly retuned recipes of what are common Basque staple food items,  including a few raciones and pintxo dishes,  but minus the toothpicks used as counters of course as that Wikipedia entry on Pintxos is plain wrong or at least very outdated.   The whole meal including drinks were all pretty much done at the highest of standards.   One of the most memorable experiences I remembered having during the past year and that’s including some 1-3 Michelin star meals in the region.    Food is sometimes,  all about finding your compatible style of eating!

IMG_2886-1IMG_2882-1Look at those fresh flowers, mints and watermelon. 
This is what I consider a very serious bar !


Seasonal Daily Specials -
Written in Basque language.  A little unfamiliar by me but hopefully I’ll get around it!


Caipirinha Brazil -
Made by the stylish bar tender and owner.  This was simply amazing.
You can get a Caipirinha virtually everywhere but this was just so balanced..


A lot of Raciones and Pintxo selections -
Not all Pintxos are served on a piece of bread like a ‘montadito’ tapa.  Some carry a thin crisp bread,  some don’t even have one at all.   And there ARE NO TOOTHPICKS ACTING AS DISH COUNTERS EITHER,  much is the same at   Which is contrary to what Wikipedia entries says.   May be I should edit the Wiki 1 day to be more accurate!



Pate Basque -
Pork pate served with some gelatinous jelly.   Utterly amazing in terms of taste and texture.




Next trio of Pintxos -  looking very pretty



Alchoas con Huevo Hilado -
Anchovies with shredded eggs and tomato were served on a thin crisp bread.  Beautiful in look and taste.  


Pintxo de Hongo y Gambas -
The porcini in season were grilled perfectly,  and slightly herbed.  Together with the prawn,  this looked classily presented.   Very Lovely!



Tomate Italiano a la Albahaca -
Eggs with Semi-dried tomato and herbs,  is one of the signature pintxos here.



Gilda -  a lollipop of Anchovy, Olive & Guindilla pickled peppers
A Basque specialty,  this is very addictive and goes so well with drinks.  I could foresee this pairing well with a vermouth or a martini as well : )   Loved it to death…





Erizo de Mar y Txakoli -
Spanish Sea Urchin cooked with a Basque sourced crisp white wine Txakoli from Ondarribi Zuri graps,  the latter which is very famous in the area.   Topped with some raw salmon roes.  Seriously.   THIS WAS THE DISH OF THE YEAR FOR ME. 



Pintxo de Tiburon -
A famous local pintxo made from Shark’s meat, green peppers and onions.  This was probably the most less surprising in terms of originality and the weakest link of the dishes today,  but it was still well executed enough to get a 9/10 from me. 



Bread -
Baguettes look alike. 
Soak and mop up the sauces!




Canguro con Setas a la Crema de Hongos -
Kangaroo?  Yes,  it is a dish served in Basque in a few shops and is quite famous.  Served again with a onions and porcini stock.  That fragrance.   It looked simple,  but the taste was extraordinary..

Kangaroo fillet.  
Made even better than down south here in Australia…
It begs the question.  Why do they serve Kangaroo up here in Northern Spain?



Trufas de Marisco -
Black Truffle and Crustacean rice dish has taken on a new meaning here,  looking like a giant arancini instead of a paella dish.  Full of crustacean seafood taste and accentuated with truffle.  Jesus…  When can I have this again?   Seriously..  This was one great and large crustacean flavour packed rice ball.



Watermelon Caribe -
A Caribbean influenced watermelon cocktail.   I know there are many fancier cocktails out there,  and I drink cocktails every week just because I appreciate the bar tender’s creations.  Japanese bar tenders are amazing.  Yet this cocktail remains with me to this day for a reason. 
It was just so well balanced,  much like the rest of the food served here… 
Very glad to have walked in, despite the higher price compared to other pintxo bars around town.

Price: Euro 40 per person
Score:  ♕♕♕♕♕♕

Address:  Paseo Colón 11, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain
Ph: +34 943285019

Monday, October 24, 2011

Duit Bar Garagardotegia – (San Sebastian)

   One of the most confusing but educational things about traveling around Spain,  is that everywhere you go there seems to be a few language dialects in use in parallel.   Say ordering Spanish food in Hong Kong and Australia where most of the food is written in normal Spanish dialect  and so you think you know your dishes -  then visiting the more suburban cities in Catalonia and you kind of need to relearn everything from zero again about ordering ‘Tapes’.    Note I had deliberately spelt Pintxos as Pinchos in the previous review,  because that is how that particular restaurant markets it as,  despite the rest of the food being written in Basque and not Spanish language.    It can become confusing and more so after a drink or two at a Garagardotegia -  a Basque equivalent of a cervezeria.    Duit Bar Garagardotegia has a nice website here  if you want to take a look: and do look out for the interesting beer and specialty Gins section.



Found this randomly for a late drink before bed..




A favourite tripel style beer by Karmeliet,  from Belgium -
For what is a local bar,  this surprisingly carried a lot of artisanal beers from around the world,
especially Belgium.



Croquetas Queso de Cabrales -
Good to order some Raciones sized tapas to down with the beer,  and minus the too carby montadito like piece of bread under all normal Basque Pintxos.   These fried croquetas were made with a special Northern Spain blue cheese,  they were done well.   ~   10/10



The Food served in this Bar -
are prepared fresh from the kitchen and without any food displays.  A rare sight to find!
The International beers and gins choice was also excellent.  I think San Sebastian is beginning to surprise me.   

Address:  Antonio Arzak, 4,  (20018) Donostia-San Sebastián
Ph: 943 312 717


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