Kwan Brothers

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There are benefits to dining early. It’s 6pm, Saturday night in Fortitude Valley. Like-minded hungry, eager patrons make their way into either three of restaurateur Damian Griffiths’ Alfred Street establishments, us included. Deciding to dine early at the newly-opened Asian eatery, Kwan Brothers, was a stroke of genius. It ensured the best seat in the house, a spot up on a high bench with full view of the open kitchen in range of all the fragrant smells wafting from the grill.

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Locale

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It was that time of the year again, when we relocate to Noosa for a long weekend to attend the spectacular Noosa Good Food & Wine Festival. As usual I had the task of choosing one ‘special’ restaurant for dinner. I had kept my eye on a few Noosa restaurants throughout the year and been watching the development of a newly opened Italian restaurant, Locale, which was conveniently attached to our apartment block. Locale did not disappoint and proved once again to my family that I make great dining decisions.

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Studio 10 Interview

On the 4th June 2014 I was interviewed by Channel 10’s Studio 10 news/talk show. I felt quite nervous and really wish I could have done it over again with more confidence but nevertheless I was happy to be featured on the show. Here is the interview below.

The Age Article

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I was contacted by food writer Dani Valent from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald about an article she wanted to write about kids in the kitchen. We spoke over two phone interviews and numerous text messages so that she had all the information she needed. A photographer came over and took some photos of myself and my lemon meringue pie dessert.

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Hellenika

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Okay, I have to admit that as a young gourmet my knowledge of Greek food is very limited. In fact, when Dad told me that at some Greek feasts, they allow the diners to smash their plates, I couldn’t believe it. But what I do know is that traditional Greek food is about three things: family, hearty food and having a good time. Hellenika is the epitome of the true essence of traditional Greek dining.

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Pane E Vino

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We escaped our Brisbane house (no air-con) on a sweltering hot day for a little weekend “staycation” in a comfy Sebel apartment in the centre of the city. For dinner we were looking for a restaurant that met three criteria. One, it had to be air-conditioned, two, not expensive and three, walking distance. In direct line of sight from our apartment balcony we spotted an eatery on the corner of the street opposite called Pane E Vino. After a little research we found it verified all of our criteria.

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The Weekend Australian Articles

I was in luck in May this year when I got the opportunity to have dinner with The Australian’s restaurant reviewer, John Lethlean. He and his Partner taught me some of his reviewing techniques and have helped me write better then I had before. A week later, I received a call from John’s editor, asking if I would like to write a feature article in The Weekend Australian. I took it with both hands and wrote an article on my thoughts on the Kids menus in restaurants. Additionally, John wrote about our encounter the week before in that same section.

Here is the article written by John in The Weekend Australian – 1-2 June 2013 on our encounter.

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And here is my article that I wrote in The Weekend Australian- 8-9 June 2013

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Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House

As soon as I heard that Peter Kuruvita was opening a venue in Noosa I wanted in. I heard that it would be a casual restaurant and bar through the day that transformed into a fine diner at night. I was so keen, I emailed the restaurant 3 weeks in advance to try and score a table on their first night of service. I secured a table for four and also scored the best seat for watching the chefs cook in the kitchen.

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Of course many of you may already know of Peter from his popular cooking shows, cookbooks or his restaurant empire including Flying Fish in Sydney as well as a Steakhouse and another Flying Fish in Fiji.

First I would like to commend the very nice reply I received after I made an inquiry about the booking. It was formal and polite setting a good mood for the night.

I had spent the day cooking at the Noosa Food & Wine Festival, but not eating, which gave me a great appetite. I had no idea what to expect from the restaurant and hoped it would have some of Peter’s specialty dishes which are known to be hearty and generous. This was exactly what I found on offer.

The restaurant has a beach house feel with stained wood floors and chairs contrasting with the white walls and tablecloths.

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On entry we had a chat with the manager who explained that the restaurant staff had been through two services, one for the hotel staff so they had an idea of what they were doing. This showed with the friendly service we were given.

We decided to order two servings of the bread, share the Beach House Seafood Tapas plate and one of the entrees which we were drawn to. On the tapas plate was a Sri Lankan kingfish ceviche, seared scallop, seared prawn and another raw fish dish. I tried a bite of each and loved the creamy kingfish ceviche the most. The sourdough bread was nicely toasted and was well matched with the moreish eggplant dip. The oil and balsamic was pleasant but nothing unusual.

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The entree of Seared Yellow Fin Tuna, Ruby Grapefruit, Sweet Pork, Crackling ($22) stood out for me. The immaculately presented tower of components were visually appealing and the taste was even better. The tartness of the ruby grapefruit, counterbalanced the sweetness of the pork and black pepper caramel. The lightly seared kingfish adding the soft texture and crackling, the crispy texture. An absolutely flawless dish that provided a great start to the meal ahead.

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Next, I just had to try Peter’s signature fish curry. Though, I was surprised by the presentation. I was instructed to construct the dish myself with the portioning of the sauce, rice and raita left to my hands. As you can see in my before and after picture. In full, the dish was a Sri Lankan Snapper Curry, Basmati Rice, Condiments ($38). The condiments included tamarind puree, coconut sambal, oven roasted tomatoes, crispy curry leaves and raita. The sauce was lightly spiced and had a lovely fragrant smell. The snapper was cooked perfectly with a lovely crispy skin but I wished I hadn’t poured the sauce over the fish as it had become less crispy. Nonetheless, it was a nicely executed dish and a generous serving.

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Dad opted for the Pan Roasted Local Reef Fish, Confit Garlic, Tamarind Sauce ($34), which on this night was Snapper. He usually goes for the red meat option when we dine out but he really enjoyed this dish.

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Mum made a brave move deciding to tackle the 500g (3 full) Steamed Moreton Bay Bugs tossed with Chilli, Ginger and Shallot (MP on the night was around $40). “Brave” as in eating with a pale pink shawl on! On cue the waitress offered her a special bib which Mum was very grateful for. I had a couple of mouthfuls and loved it as it was my first taste of bug, I can’t really tell if it was as would be expected. The sauce complemented the bug superbly with a pronounced spiced flavour.

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Even the Princess was over the moon with her kid’s menu steak and onion rings.

After main I was invited by the manager to go and meet Peter in the kitchen. I told him how I had taken his place at last year’s Noosa Festival Delicious Produce Dinner and he laughed. Here is a photo with him.

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Before long, the desserts arrived. We ordered two and decided to share. First was the Banana Soufflé, Lemon Semifreddo, Coconut ($16). It was quite a large soufflé, which I had hoped as it was quite an expensive dessert. It was just as a soufflé should be, airy, light, high, and delicate with a distinct banana flavor. The accompanying semifreddo was refreshing with the shredded coconut.

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Also ordered was the Salted Peanut Butter Semifreddo ($17). How good does salted peanut butter sound? Imagining how good it would be, doesn’t even come close to reality. In reality it was even better! The creamy half frozen ice-cream with the added crunch of the peanuts was outstanding. The unexpected addition of meringues, banana mousse and a crunchy peanut brittle, that we all fought over, was an enjoyable finish.

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Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House survived first night nerves admirably and dished out simple and hearty fare in a lovely revamped room more than worthy of its setting in iconic Hastings Street.  I had questioned how they would cope when Peter is on his lengthy television adventures but be well assured that Katie McKay and Gary Whyte (ex Le Manoir, ENG) as well as Tony Kelly (ex Stokehouse) are more than qualified to take the reins.

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Noosa International Food & Wine Festival 2013

So there I was, talking with David Thompson of Nahm fame, whilst standing next to the Pepe from Pepe Saya cultured butter and saying “Hi” to Miss Foodie, who was wandering by. Usually its times like that I can only dream of, but at the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, it’s a place where dreams come true.

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However, I’ll return to the very start of what began a fantastic long weekend of something I love… FOOD!!

It may be hard to believe but the 2013 Festival was even better than the 2012 one. Sit back, grab a cup of tea and find out what I got up to this year.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

Day 1

Friday 17th May

Mum, Dad, The Princess (my little sis) and I left Brisbane hoping we could take in the scenery before I headed off to my first event. Instead we arrived in Noosa a lot later than planned. I leapt from our car in full chefs uniform and ran (running being something I would do a lot of over the next few days) to the Top Tastes of Queensland Lunch where I had organised to help Alastair McLeod, who now operates AlFreshCo. The chefs involved in the lunch were: Javier Codina from Moda (middle), Pablo Tordesillas from Ortiga (far right), Alejandro Cancino from Urbane (second from right), Matt Golinski (second from left), of course Al (far left) and Ryan Squires from Esquire who was away at the time.

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First I said hi to the chefs and began picking micro watercress for garnish on Al’s dish. While doing this, I met his partner who works for Channel 7 and she asked if they could have a little interview with me. Despite being very nervous, I’ m hoping I spoke well and didn’t majorly embarrass myself. I’ll put up the video when it gets produced.

Although I arrived after the second course I managed to take some photos of leftover dishes from the first two courses.

Course 1 was from Javier Codina of the Spanish restaurant Moda. He served a ceviche of Hervey Bay scallops, Lirah chardonnay vinegar, rose water and ‘Catalan Escalibada.’

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I didn’t try it but I thought it was cleanly presented.

Course 2 was from Matt Golinski who served Zucchini, Goats cheese and olives.

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Again this dish looks very refined but unfortunately I missed out on a taste.

Course 3 was Al’s dish which was Seared tuna, tapioca, parsley, yuzu.

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It was a very interesting dish as the parsley jus was mixed with dry ice and poured by the chefs at the table. I love the dark green colour that comes out in the dish and wished I had had a bite! Nevertheless, we received great feedback from the eaters.

Alejandro Cancino from Urbane made course 4, which was Organic Chicken wings, egg yolk, eggplant puree and globe artichokes.

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I had previously worked with Alejandro and was chuffed he remembered me. He even let me take quite an important role in the service line, spooning the crumbs on the plate. I was between the two masters of Spanish cooking, Pablo and Javier, while the chef of the best restaurant in QLD, Ryan, helped from the other side of the table. Another one of those moments… The team went really well and the finished dish was a masterpiece. I finally had a try of the dish and it was very delish. The creaminess of the hollandaise was delectable with the crispy deboned wings and the soft and very flavoursome artichoke puree. The crumbs, adding an almost cornflakey crunch to the whole dish. Suberb!

In the lead up to the 5th course I was giving Ryan a hand getting all the plates and components of his dish together.

Course 5 was led by Pablo and for his “Cordello a la vanilla” dish, which means slow cooked lamb breast in vanilla with almond milk and spiced chick pea puree, I was the runner.

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The diners that I talked to all agreed that Pablo’s dish was the standout. I luckily had a try and I found that the meat was falling apart and so sticky. Outstanding!

Ryan was in charge of dessert and he served his well known curds and whey ice cream dish with campari sherbet and orange. I had previously tried this dessert in my review of Esquire but this was served in a more mind blowing way. In order to keep the ice cream cold, he packaged it in special Esquire printed envelopes and buried it in an esky full of dry ice… genius! The envelopes were to be opened and poured onto the plate already containing the sherbet and orange jelly. A fun way of getting the diners involved. As you can see in my action shot perfectly modeled by Deniz (ex Bretts Wharf head chef and now head chef of the Pig & Whistle).

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Here is a funny picture of the dry ice all emptied out in the gutter. It was funny until we found that he had placed it on a water pipe leading to a tap. We felt sorry for the person about to turn on the tap and find freezing water coming out. Whoops!

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All in all, I had a fantastic day working with 6 of the best chefs in Qld, no, I am going to say Australia, and was able to chat about food and talk about when I can do work experience at their restaurants. Special thanks to Al for giving me the okay to come down and give a hand.

After the tiring day of work I was happy to sit down and enjoy dinner at Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House on its opening night! This review can be viewed HERE.

This day was amazing but the next two were just as good, if not better!

Day 2

The day started early, arriving to the festival at around 9. I had organised to help my friend Lizzie Loel (Courier mail reviewer) cook in the Food Critics Cooking Competition. So far I had heard that we would be cooking some kind of crab fritter dish. I also knew that the theme was diner-style dude food. After looking around I finally found our stand. There was already someone there and after a good five or so minutes chatting I found out that it was a fellow food blogger called Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef. Afterwards another volunteer showed up and then Lizzie came.
We tracked down all our components including the chef (forgot his name) who helped us for the day.

Once all was set up and everyone knew what we were doing, it was time to start service. I was working the deep fryer cooking the fritters while the others were plating and taking orders. We worked really well as a team and were busy for the whole day. Here is the dish that we were serving:

MYG_13NGFAWF2a Crab fritters with tomato salsa and avocado mouse

After we finished, the team went down to the main stage where the winner was going to be announced. To win, you must receive the loudest cheer from the crowd that was measured by the announcer’s device. I hadn’t liked our chances of winning as we were up against critics such as Matt Preston (we all know Matt), John Lethlean & Necia Wilden (The Australian), Simon Thompson (ex Sydney Morning Herald), Elizabeth Meryment (The Sunday Telegraph) and other big names who could just win on popularity.

However, when it came to our cheer, we couldn’t believe the noise. It was incredible! We won comfortably and it was great seeing Lizzie lift up the trophy. Afterwards, I went up the back of the stadium to congratulate Lizzie and she introduced me to Matt Preston.

What a day! Tomorrow will be even harder and just as rewarding!

Day 3 Coming Soon….

Pork Wonton Soup (serves 4)

Well I have have some exciting news! I will now be conducting cooking classes for children aged 7-11 on a monthly basis at the Annerley soccer club, Brisbane. For my first class we cooked a Pork Wonton Soup. The idea was to get the kids to learn how to make a chicken stock (the ultimate basic key recipe) and then learn how to turn it into an Asian broth. The class worked well thankfully and the kids had a lot of fun wrapping the dumplings and especially eating.

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So, the classes are $30 per child and include lunch and dessert. If you are interested you can contact my partner in cooking, Mon, at simone@monsgroupfit.com

The dessert we did was my <a href=”RecipeEtonMess”>Cheats Eton Mess</a>.

Here is the recipe for the Pork Wonton Soup:

Ingredients:

Stock (makes 4 Litres)

1 kg Chicken wings (separated in 3 parts – thigh, wing and tip)

1 tbs olive oil

1 brown onion (roughly cut)

1 carrot (roughly cut)

4 cloves garlic (bruised and roughly chopped)

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

3L water

Pork Filling

4 coriander roots

1 tablespoons ginger root (finely sliced)

1 tablespoons of spring onion (finely sliced)

500g pork mince

1 tablespoons fish sauce

½ tbs Shaoxing wine or sweet sherry

1 tsp whole white pepper

1 tablespoons light soy sauce

48 square wonton wrappers (6-8 per person)

Sprinkle of plain white flour

Soup

1 tbs oyster sauce

1 tbs fish sauce

Dash sesame oil

2 corn cobs (kernels removed)

Garnish

Handful of bean sprouts

Handful of coriander leaves

1 spring onion finely sliced

Method:

1. For Stock, heat oil in a large pot on medium heat and brown wings.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients.

3. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1-2 hours.

4. Strain and return liquid to the pot.

5. For wonton filling, grind peppercorns to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle.

6. Add coriander roots, spring onion and ginger and pound to a paste.

7. Combine with mince, fish sauce, soy sauce and sherry in a large mixing bowl and mix well.

8. To make wontons, layout wonton wrappers and place a marble sized ball of filling in the middle.

9. Dip your finger in water and run down the edges of the square.

10. Fold to make a triangle then join 2 bottom corners together.

11. Sprinkle plain flour on tray and place filled wontons on. So they don’t stick.

12. You can refrigerate them for later or use them straight away if you are eating soon.

13. For broth, add oyster sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil. Mix through.

14. Add wontons and kernels and cook for 6-7 minutes trying one first to see if the wontons are cooked.

15. To serve, place 6-8 dumplings with broth in a bowl and garnish with spring onion, coriander leaves and bean sprouts.

16. Enjoy!

Some pictures from the class:

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Monty’s CBD

There is a little boutique chocolate and coffee shop I believe that all Brisbane gourmets should know about. Owned and run by Steve, an English born chocolate connoisseur, Monty’s provides me with my afternoon treats once a month on my walk home from school along Edward Street in the CBD. The friendly service, decadent treats and the beautifully decorated room make it my perfect afternoon hangout.

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Steve tells me he had always loved chocolate from an early age. He recalls his Dad buying eight special chocolates from an expensive Mayfair chocolate store in London on a rare occasion.  A massive treat for Steve as a kid. At Easter he would only ask his parents for a Terry’s Chocolate Orange which most English people all know and many Australians have come to understand, is an orange flavoured chocolate ball which has segments like an actual orange. On a school trip to France, when he was 14, he had an eye opening experience to the world of chocolate when he saw the depth of the chocolate range there.

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There are three Monty’s shops spread throughout Brisbane, one in Paddington, one in Spring Hill and the CBD one where Steve spends most of his time. The CBD store features many world renowned and local chocolate producers including my favourite, Francois Pralus (France) as well as Sea Salt, Artison du chocolat and Charbonnel et Walker (both made in the UK), Rococo (Belgravia), Coppeneur (Germany), Menakao (Madagascar), Nick’s Chocolate (grown overseas but supplied in Brisbane), Nina’s (NSW) and QLD’s very own Cravve made in Burleigh Heads and Daintree made in NQ.

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I first discovered Monty’s after hearing rave reviews about their signature hot chocolate. It won the Best Hot Chocolate Award in the prestigious 2012 Foodies’ Guide to Brisbane. I was desperate to try it. I wandered into the shop and was treated to a fantastic chocolate tasting plate and the most rich, thick and indulgent hot chocolate I had ever tasted. If you thought you have tried the best hot chocolate in the world then you haven’t visited Monty’s yet, so prepare to be converted. Despite my best efforts Steve won’t divulge the full recipe and technique to me, but he did provide some pointers about how to make it. It’s made fresh every morning, he uses Swiss couverture and chocolate made from beans they import from Madagascar and adds the secret ingredients and places it in the machine below. This machine constantly stirs the chocolate keeping it from going hard.

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The end product is a lusciously thick serve of Monty’s hot chocolate.

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But the hot chocolate is only part of a truly decadent experience. The milkshakes, all made with real flavours, are outstanding. My two favourites are the orange and chilli.

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But of course, the chocolate cabinet is the piece de resistance featuring my favourite chocolates: Coppeneur raspberry cream and yoghurt and blackberry flavoured bark, Artisan du chocolate liquid salted caramels, Rococo geranium cream or just let Steve decide by selecting a tasting plate for you in White, Milk or Dark chocolate.

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Below is a cool little quote I found on a collage outside the front of Monty’s. I think it really sums up chocolate for everyone.

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If you are wandering around town looking for a good coffee, in need of a present for your loved one or just would like some refuge from the busy streets, look no further, Monty’s is my best suggestion. Steve reassures, “Monty’s is a place for anyone, regardless of age or background. No snobs allowed!”

Oh, and in case you are wondering who Monty is, it’s Steve’s little Chihuahua.

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BirdCage

Nestled comfortably in the well respected ‘antique quarter’ of Woolloongabba lays Birdcage, a new pan Asian restaurant recently reincarnated from the former Bistro Bistro. Sitting in an 1890 heritage building brings high expectations; happily BirdCage delivers on all levels.

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On entry, unique touches include two big Buddha’s gazing over the front door, sky blue feature lamps, ornate candles trapped in white birdcages and a soft tinge of red resonating throughout the long dining room.

With the deft hand on the floor from owner Darryl Marsden, who has spent his time managing hotels in Bali, Japan and Fiji, service runs reasonably smooth.

Sharing was recommended so we opted for three entrees as many took our interest.

The first entree of oxtail braised in star anise and lemongrass, with Chinese green onion pancakes and chili jam ($16) was fragrant and moreish. The ‘melt in your mouth’ meat sat in a rich, thick sauce. The roti-style pancakes, creating the much needed crisp and flaky texture. However, the jam, which was more like a sambal, was not as tasty and spicy as my Malaysian Nan’s.

Salmon tartare with green onion, young ginger, soy, sesame oil and chili ($17) was cleanly presented showcasing the perfect cubes of fresh raw fish. Simple flavours, good combinations and a decent amount of technique highlighted this dish.

The last entrée of Eggnets filled with oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts, snow peas and daikon ($14) were satisfying, both for my arteries and taste buds. The different vegetables perfectly complemented each other showing the chefs knowledge of flavours. The accompanying ginger dipping sauce wasn’t bad, though lacked any punch.

Main was the duck breast on red Thai curry with caramelised pineapple, apple eggplant and roasted shallots ($32). The perfect pink breast sat atop the comforting thick sauce with the large pieces of vegetable and fruits scattered throughout adding some crunch. The shape of the dish was not in my favour, presenting a challenge when trying to divide the bigger than bite size duck slices as they sat in the depths of the bowl.

For dessert, I opted for the banana fritters with salted coconut caramel and vanilla ice-cream ($15). It was a generous serving, maybe because they knew we were sharing? The melted ladyfinger bananas were covered in a beautiful crisp batter alternating with the luscious ice cream. The rich caramel sauce, a welcome addition and perfect match.

BirdCage displays a good selection from the enormous range of Asian cuisines. The options present nicely and with the ambience create an enjoyable experience.

I’m glad this new bird has not flown the coop and encourage a visit to the latest addition of the ‘antique quarter.’

The Scores…

Ambiance 8/10

Food 7.5/10

Service 8/10

BirdCage Pan Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

3 Services at Cinco

Cinco is a great modern Australian bistro with a really friendly kitchen team who gets along really well and has lots of fun. I gave the executive chef Peter Stubbs an email and told him how close I am to his restaurant (down the street) and asked him if I could do a service with his team… he said “Yes!”

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Peter Stubbs is the executive chef and owner of Cinco who has been a Private Chef for people like Vincent Fox (current prime minister of Mexico), David Bowie, Mick Jager and Mexican billionare Alberto Bailleres working on Private Yachts that he says was the best experience of his life and recommends it to any chef in the world.

A quick note that I am shortening my work experience due to the fact that I need to spend more time writing reviews and recipes. I will be dot pointing what I did.

Day 1

• Arrived and broke down chickens into separate cuts with head chef Andy. Then cryvaced (vacuum sealed) each part.

• Portioned risotto into 110g containers.

• Prepare greek salad for pizzeria with Megan which had feta, tomato, cucumber, olives and red onion.

• Also portioned deep fried chicken wings for pizzeria.

• For dinner service I started in the entree section with Ben when Peter came in. I plated up a couple of dishes and helped whenever necessary.

• Then went to Andy and Jake to watch mains go out.

• I salted the meat and took off any bits of rosemary, thyme or whatever herb was stuck to the cut of beef. They were running out of pre-seared beef so I was in charge of searing the beef before it is put in the oven to cook more.

• I cooked a couple of salmon pieces with Peter.

• Near the end of service I went to the dessert section and helped plate up some desserts.

Day 2

• Learnt how to smoke tomatoes.

• Made lavosh (biscuit).

• Filled containers with chips, aioli, spaghetti, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

• Started dinner service with Ben in entree section. Learnt his way of chopping eschallots with Japanese knives.

• Helped Megan make the Cinco Rocky Road. It is a layered dessert with marshmallow, hazelnut mousse, raspberry jelly and honeycomb with chocolate. I helped temper the chocolate (more on this in the <a href=”ReviewUrbane1″>(second chocolate appreciation night</a>).

• Plated mains with Andy and Jake.

• Refilled ingredients from fridge to chefs.

• Megan gave me taste test of all the ice creams in the dessert freezer. Included: ginger, vanilla (made by reusing the beans after cooking and blending to maximize flavour creating a more brownish ice cream), coconut, raspberry and a greek one.

• Coated doughnuts in cinnamon.

• Cut apples.

• Cut bread.

Day 3

• Worked on entrée and dessert section for service with Ben.

• Worked on deep fryer, frying hot chips (which went through 4 cooking stages) and potato cakes.

• Watched Ben make a not so traditional carbonara.

• Helped plate soup of the day, which was potato and leek with a dollop of crème fraiche and chives, cinnamon doughnuts, treacle pudding and bread platter.

• Helped a little in the pizza section with the chef Smarty.

I have had a fantastic time at Cinco so far and I hope to continue into the future and maybe get a part time job there. I highly recommend eating at Cinco so give it a try!

Esquire

My birthday meals have always had a high standard. You could even say that they have criteria they need to meet. Last years Buffalo Club dinner set exceedingly high expectations and I wondered if I would ever have a birthday meal close to that magnificent one. The results have been recorded… Esquire passed with flying colours!

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First of all, I must confess. My visit was on the 22nd of November 2012 and I have been very busy and have not turned my notes taken from the meal into a review until just now. I do know that most of the dishes I have reviewed are still on the menu they are currently using.

The inside of the restaurant has a distinctive Scandinavian feel. This ambience has become popular throughout the world after the rise to world fame by Noma. Noma has received the most prestigious award in the industry, 3 times in a row (the world’s best restaurant according to the S.Pallegrino Guide). Esquires setting isn’t the only thing deriving from ‘The World’s Best Restaurant’, Executive Chef Ryan Squires and Head Chef Ben Devlin have both had stints at Noma as well as many other renowned restaurants overseas.

Esquire took Brisbane by storm winning the prestigious best restaurant in Queensland as well as picking up three stars, cementing them in the top restaurants in Australia.

The table setting was unfamiliar to the usual misen place. The knives and forks had no sharp edge and while they were long the shortest part of the knife was metal blade. The waitress said that sharp cutlery was not needed until the last savoury dish.

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As I was persuading Dad to order the 7 course menu, the 1st amuse bouche arrived. Inside the large organically textured bowl appeared two pieces of Kim Chi, air-dried beef (basturma?) and two ‘kettle’ chips – one salt and vinegar and one barbecue flavour. They were very tasteful and crispy.

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We had just decided on the 7 course menu when amuse bouche number two arrived. The waitress was very happy when we told her our final decision. The amuse was served on a natural slab of wood, again going with the organic theme that was pronounced throughout the meal. The snack was called truffle and itchi bai. Itchi bai is also known as Roy de Valles, which is a French cheese made from a mix of sheep and goat milk. The cheese was sandwiched with truffle and jamon iberico in between two rye crisps. Without a doubt the best cheese and crackers I have ever had!

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1st course was presented in high-sided organically textured bowls with both bowls bearing a different colour. On the menu it was written as Blue Swimmer Crab- Macadamia and Coffee but explained as steamed blue swimmer crab with macadamia milk and coffee soil. The coffee had graininess but not a strong flavour. The milk was subtle and soaked into the coffee and crab. The crab was juicy with a lovely tenderness. Overall, a stunning opening course.

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Course 2 was served in the same bowls as the first course. It read as Scallop- Orecchietti and Bisque. This time a chef presented us with the dish. Similarly with Noma chefs act as waiters now and again to provide a personal experience. He explained that the scallop was lightly smoked, the bisque dehydrated and the orecchietti cooked under al dente for texture. The addition of English broad beans gave the meal a splash of colour and texture.

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Course 3 read as Murray Cod and Mustard Leaf but explained as Chinchilla Murray Cod cooked over charcoal with green mustard puree, green mustard seeds and an Asian cabbage. On the right of the main kitchen is a charcoal cooking station where Ben Devlin was working on the day. Cooking with charcoal gives an even and clean outcome and lets the ingredient reach its full potential. The fish skin was nice and crispy and maintained a delicate flesh. The dish slightly resembled the commercial mustard taste though with pronounced flavour. The dish was soft and delicate and didn’t have to be cut.

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Below is a picture of the charcoal cooking station.

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My favourite came next. It read as Lamb Belly- Eggplant and Cavolo Nero. Cavalo nero is also known as kale and was transformed into a puree. The eggplant was cooked in a water bath which resulted in it being soft and flavoursome. The best lamb I have ever tried! It was cooked for 36 (?) hours and then glazed in its juices to ensure caramelization. The final product was a sticky and tender slice of high quality lamb that makes my taste buds yearn just talking about it. The beautiful garlic flowers provided stunning colour. The bowl which I think was a Glenn Tebble bowl made a great backdrop to the well planned and executed dish.

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The last savoury course was presented with new cutlery that had a sharp edge. The dish read as Coal Roasted Highly Marbled Beef- Parsley and Horseradish. The perfectly cooked coal roasted beef came with parsley puree, horseradish yoghurt and onion bouillon. The beef cut was the deckle, which has a lovely tenderness to it when it is cooked perfectly as it is an underused part of the cow’s rib. It certainly was cooked to perfection with a rare inner and caramelized outside. The parsley puree was smooth and complemented the horseradish cream stunningly. In all, another fantastic dish!

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Next up – a cheeky representation of popcorn. It was grilled sweet corn parfait with caramel popcorn dust sprinkled over and a touch of tarragon oil. It was so fun to eat and surprisingly didn’t melt. What a good idea!

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Next to the popcorn were two cocoa and coconut rocks. They became a powder when bitten. They looked very cool as they were presented in a coconut shell.

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The final course read as Campari- Orange, Curds and Whey. The dessert chef presented the dish to us and spoke quickly, nevertheless we managed to hear campari sherbet with orange sorbet and curds and whey ice cream. An intriguing dish which tasted amazing with tangy, creamy, fruity and just plain amazing texture and flavour.

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This was the view of the kitchen from our seats.

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Esquire provides an intimate and personalized experience with food that lingers on your mind long after the experience- it makes you wonder how these things could happen. With an extraordinary view, an intimate setting, personalized service, an experienced kitchen team, a stunning natural and organic theme and a handful of renowned awards, this restaurant is shooting for the stars.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll return for work experience. I would love to get an insight into how this magnificent restaurant works from behind the scenes.

Brents The Dining Experience

On the rainy drive to the very hilly Miskin Street in suburban Toowong, I asked my parents; “What is the difference between a restaurant and a dining experience?”

We came to the conclusion that Brents is taking a different approach and had chosen a unique name to set it apart from other restaurants. That is why I like Brents… it’s different… and in a good way!

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Mum spoke of earlier days in Toowong and prior to Brents, the famous international chef Bruno Loubert had a restaurant in the same place called Bruno’s Tables. Regrettably, Mum said although it was her plan, she did not make it to Bruno’s Tables.

We entered the left side of the charming Queensland cottage style house which is home to Brents. We passed the owner and head chef Brent Farrell’s cabin of trophies with awards such as Apprentice of the Year (QLD) and later in his career Chef/Owner of the Year (QLD).

Once at the table we were given a choice of sparkling or still water and presented with the menus. Mum and Dad decided on the Romantic Package consisting of an Appetizer, sorbet and dessert with their choice of entrée and main. I chose from the  a la carte menu.

A white-gloved waitress returned to our table and set out a many rows of cutlery.

The Amuse Bouche of Persian feta with tomatoes and a crisp wafer was served. I thought it reminiscent of bruschetta although served in a mini shot glass and so cold it made the glass frost. Unfortunately this was not conducive to a good photograph. I found it a fresh and vibrant start.

The Appetizer I really had set my mind on was the wild mushroom cappuccino, truffle oil & Iberico (dried ham) crumb, but Mum and Dad were given it as a part of their set menu. This meant I could share it and instead ordered the Pasta Dura Bread (which my Mum had been keen on trying) with a selection of butters, which on this day consisted of an earthy truffle butter and zesty chive butter. This, dear readers… is quite possibly the best bread I have eaten even better – it is made in house! I had quite a bit of Mum and Dad’s cappuccino and it was a rich dark brown/black mushroom soup with nice airy foam and a hint of truffle and touch of prosciutto-like crumb.

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Next, the entrees, mine was a venison Carpaccio with anchovy mayonnaise, red grape sorbet, Parmesan and rocket. I loved the cold component to the dish because it provided a nice sweetness and created a refreshing sauce at the end of the meal. The Carpaccio was sliced so finely that it was easy to cut and wasn’t chewy. The edible flowers beautifully decorating the plate were most likely grown in the garden at the back of the restaurant. Every component on the dish complemented each other to perfection.

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Dad’s entrée was a prawn and cerviche of scallop with herb crème, melon & radish salad and lemon oil.

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Mum’s entrée was one of the dishes of the night! It was Toolango delight gnocchi with mushroom, blue cheese, compressed pear and burnt butter.

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On Brent’s website they said that they have an edible flower garden out the back which could be viewed by asking a waiter. Of course we wanted to see where some of the food we just ate came from, so we walked up a flight of stairs to another dining room reminiscent of the design of Two Small Rooms (also in Toowong).

We were given a heads up by a waiter that we would be walking through a loud hen’s party as we set out on a walkway leading to the garden. We were surprised at how elevated Brents is because we felt like we had walked quite a steep incline. Outside the greenhouse were a couple of gardens, containing some edible flowers like borage, garlic flowers, nasturtium and marigolds to name a few. There were also rhubarb and tomatoes. Inside the greenhouse were rocket, chervil, snow pea tendril and others.

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We returned to the table to find the palate cleansers had arrived. I had a strawberry and black pepper sorbet and Mum and Dad had the mandarin and poppy seed sorbet. I absolutely loved mine, as there were nice strawberry slices at the bottom of the glass that added to intensify the strawberry theme. I didn’t really taste the black pepper on top. I loved the idea of a palate cleanser on the menu and wish many more restaurants should do the same.

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Mum and Dad’s sorbet had the problem of getting poppy seeds stuck in your teeth but nevertheless it did its purpose of cleansing.

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Mains arrived and I had opted for the crispy confit duck with butternut pumpkin, eureka lemon and licorice. The meal was neatly plated on a slab of slate with a splash of colour from the bright yellow lemon curd and the orange pumpkin puree. You would expect to see a plump leg of a duck or two sitting on the plate, but no, they do things differently here. Instead there were two rectangular prisms that when broken, separated into strips of meat. I think Brents may have confited the duck pieces then separated the meat, packing it in a terrine dish and then slicing it. What a great technique of serving confit duck as it looked great and a different version to the rustic ones we see elsewhere. Anyway, on to the taste! The curd was an interesting option and tasted great with the sweetness it added to the dish. The duck was dry as suspected, as it is hard to retain the juiciness when it has been cooking for a long time. It did have a nice meaty taste though. The puree had a strong pumpkin flavour that took the dish to a new level. I am not a fan of licorice but I gave it a try by itself and it still didn’t float my boat so I gave a piece to Mum and Dad. Dad tried it with the rest of the meal and said that he didn’t like it by itself but with the rest of the dish it was great. There was one last piece and it went fantastically with all the other components. I wished I hadn’t given the other pieces away!

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Mum’s main was the market fish of the day which was barramundi with a saffron and vanilla bouillabaisse, beetroot and broad beans.

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Dad had the crispy skinned pork belly with sautéed scallops, cauliflower, chorizo tapioca and oxtail jus.

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A waiter came into the dining room carrying a balloon glass with an intriguing looking dessert and placed it on a neighboring table. It looked amazing so I had to order it for dessert.

It was a champagne marshmallow with roasted strawberry ice cream, strawberry granita and flowers. The champagne was subtle at first and then became more pronounced  as I ate more of the dish. The granita was so cold that it set off the nerves in my teeth, so for those with sensitive teeth I would approach with caution. The roasted strawberry ice cream was fabulous but I couldn’t discern the difference between roasted or fresh strawberry . The flowers would have been from the garden at the back and added a splash of colour to the otherwise predominantly red and white dessert.  All in all it was a fantastic cold dessert with creative presentation.

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As part of Mum and Dad’s “romantic package” (which wasn’t that romantic considering they were taking their 14 year old son to dinner!), their dessert was an assiette of chocolate. On it was (from left to right) a chocolate cone filled with parfait, chocolate tart, biscotti,chocolate creme brulee, raspberry sorbet and chocolate pudding with extras.

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On our way out to pay we were reminded once again of how successful Brents has been with the Diner’s Choice Award standing proudly in a cabinet awarded to them by the QLD Good Food Guide. Considering that a large number of people voted for this restaurant, it seems Brents has a large fan club that loves its creativeness, uniqueness and understanding of modern French techniques and I’m happy to be one of them!