Friday, October 31, 2008

Flower Drum

It was reported in the papers that due to the financial crisis, stockbrokers were cutting back their expenses and not taking their clients to Flower Drum for lunches. Business at Flower Drum has since dropped dramatically. I guess that was either good for us since we got even more attentive service, or it was bad in that they increased the prices to cover for the drop in business.

I had never been to Flower Drum before and have always wanted to go just to see what the "best" (previously anyway) restaurant in Melbourne was like. So after some discussions with my work mates, Keiran, John, Esther and Jessie also decided to join me for the meal.

We arrived at Market Lane and walked through the large red and gold (good feng shui) wooden door. A waiter helped guide us into the elevator and pressed the button up to the next level and wished us a good meal. Once upstairs, we were greeted by two waitresses who checked my name off the bookings list and a waiter led us to our table.

The decor was typical of many Cantonese restaurants. The walls were painted red with wooden railings and Chinese artwork adorning the walls. It had a slightly gloomy feel due to the lack of windows I think. I liked the spaciousness of it, with tables set quite far apart. The one thing that did strike me the most was the number of wait staff. They were like bees swarming around everywhere. It looked really busy and slightly chaotic.

We ordered drinks while browsing through the menu. The menu is again typical of most Cantonese restaurants. Since most of us hadn't been here before, we wanted to try their signature dishes as a variety of things. In the end, we all agreed on the banquet, with a bit of pressure on Keiran to follow suit. Our main waiter Paul heard our discussions and said to Keiran "do you want the banquet or bankruptcy". Keiran said he definitely didn't want bankruptcy. The waiter then said "have the banquet first and worry about bankruptcy later". By the end of the meal though, Keiran was really glad we got the banquet.

The banquet for $158 started off with Flower Drum's signature entree as explained by Paul. It was a Mud Crab Meat Baked With Cheese. The copious amounts of mud crab meat was mixed with onions and other vegetables and baked in the shell with cheese. The cheese flavour wasn't overpowering at all and the crab meat shone through still. I'm not much of a fan of cheese baked on anything besides a burger, but this dish really worked for me.

The second entree was a San Choi Bao. I was thinking this is fairly standard fare, but I was to be surprised. The quail meat used lifted this dish above the norm. Again Paul encouraged us to use our fingers for this dish and roll the lettuce up and eat it all in large bites. We made a mess but the dish was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The third entree was Fried South Australia King George Whiting. I forgot to take a photo but imagine two large fillets of fish in a very light batter fried to a beautiful golden brown. The fish sat alone on the plate, with dipping container of salt and pepper or lemon as the only accompanyment. Again, the freshness of the fish was on full display and it worked.

Halfway through the meal and our iced water, tea and wine glasses had been refilled so many times that it was like an unending supply. I didn't mind this type of service and didn't feel it was that intrusive. When the staff filled the glasses, they always took it off the table and took a step back so you could still continue your conversation without trying to peer around them. Service here is definitely a trademark as everyone had told me. When you walk away from the table, they fold your napkins and help tuck you back into your chairs.

With our bellies filled with entrees and wine, we were already more than half full. Then the first main course came out. This was what I had been waiting for all night. It was time for Peking Duck. As Matt Preston had wrote, this was the best Peking Duck in town. A trolley containing the duck on a plate and the pancakes in a steamer rolled out to little fanfare. Our waiter Paul then proceeded to roll each pancake with the assistance of a couple of other waiters. When all 5 rolls were ready, our dishes were served together by two waiters, like the rest of the night.

The peking duck was the highlight of the night for me. The crispy skin on the duck was married with pickled vegetables and an indulgent sauce and all enveloped in the best flour pancake I've tried. When the roll was dipped in the hoi sin on the plate, this was perfection. When the waiter saw Jessie peeling away the skin (*gasp in horror*), he asked her if she wanted the skin. She said no so the next one he made had no skin for her and double skin for me (*yippeeee*). How do you make a Flower Drum Peking Duck better, double the amount of duck skin in each roll.

Our next mains was Lobster with Noodles. The lobster was extremely fresh and the meat still very "springy" and flavoursome. Combined with the noodles enriched with the juices of the lobster, this was again a classic dish done better than at other restaurants. No heavily fried lobster pieces with decayin flesh here.

Finally, our last mains, and where a horrific tragedy occurred was the Eye Fillet Steak with Sichuan Sauce. The steak was oh so tender and melted in your mouth. The sauce had a slight kick to it like an amped up version of a sweet chilli sauce. It was delicious, but the tragedy was that I was so full that I gave away half my steak, yes half, to Keiran. John also gave half his steak to Keiran, who happily ate away at what he thought was the "best steak I've eaten ever". I was amazed that Esther and Jessie were able to finish their steaks.

With my belly at a maximum elevation, when the sculptural fruit platter came around, I found more space for it. There were many fruits, including rambutan, watermelon, paw paw, mango, strawberry, honeydew melon, rockmelon, nashi, apple, pineapple and grapes. Everything was so ripe and sweet, even the strawberries and the pineapple, which are notorious for having no flavour and being really sour.

Last but not least, there were almond biscuits. I didn't care much for them as I found them too dry but Jessie liked them.

I have to say that my expectations for this restaurant was extremely high after waiting for two months to dine here. I'm happy to say that it met my expectations and surprised me. Maybe it's because I eat so much Chinese and in particular Cantonese food that I've become too cynical about it. So many places do it such injustice by using inferior quality ingredients or bastardising it by adapting it to Western tastes. I was surprised that although nothing we ate that night was novel, it was all executed flawlessly and made very tasty by using good ingredients.

Service wise, I've already mentioned that I liked the efficient service. We had so many waiters serve us throughout the night I lost count. The gentlemen wearing the coats were usually more senior and probably the senior staff in rank as well. They were very funny, especially our main waiter Paul, and chatted cordially with us throughout the night, making us feel very relaxed.

The ambience in there was also surprisingly good. It was quite raucous, which I didn't expect. I thought it would all be hush hush since it's a fancy restaurant, but that wasn't the case.

All in all, I had a wonderful meal and would go back for sure. Just not too soon as the damage on the wallet was quite substantial.

Overall Rating: 18/20, A fantastic dining experience with great food and service.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Flower Drum on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Comment Moderation Enabled

It has finally come to this. It was a good run but as is the case with society, there are rules to keep order. Due to a host of very rude and crude comments that you can sample here, here and here just to show a few, I've had to switch on comment moderation.

These comments have been littered through most posts in the past few months and I don't feel having more of them would add anything to the discussion. Everyone already knows that I'm stupid, fat, an idiot, can't speel, a bad reviewer, a tight arse, have no vocabulary, have a double chin etc, so repeating it all in comments is just a waste of space.

Please note that I am referring to Anonymous, not my friend Oblivion, who ribs me but doesn't take it so far as to swear at me and abuse me like there's no tomorrow. And apparently, I deserve all this abuse because this blog is shitty and I know nothing. If that's a crime, 95% of cyberspace should be removed and their creators abused as well.

Rant over.

Thanks to everyone who has visited and commented with useful suggestions and opinions. As I keep repeating, you can disagree with me and say so, but just don't swear at me and abuse me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Splitting The Bill - What's Your Opinion?

To split or not to split, that is the question. I'm talking about whether a restaurant will let you split the bill. I'm talking about whether you split the bill evenly with your dining companions or pay for exactly what you had.

My view, and practise on this when dining with friends is that we always just split the bill evenly after adding on the tips. There are occasions when someone either has a much more expensive meal or drinks a lot more and they will put in that extra bit of money. Also, if someone makes it clear that they would just like to pay for their own meal at any time during the night, everyone is fine with that too. Otherwise, we're all happy to just split it evenly rather than get out a calculator and start adding every single cent. My feeling is that over time, the law of averages takes effect anyway and it all evens out.

But everyone is different and some feel like they should only pay for what they had. I find it a slippery slope to count every cent all the time. For example, the next time you might share a dessert with someone else who pays for it. Do you just enjoy the dessert and thank your friend, or do you insist you divide the cost of that up as well? It all gets too messy and is at odds with the enjoyment of dining out I think.

What do you tend to do when you dine out with a medium to large group? Do you go for the even split or itemise the dishes? What are your experiences?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Indian Palace

Indian Palace is located in Brighton along Church Street. It doesn't quite look like your traditional Indian restaurant, with white linen and chairs and a cleaner more modern looks rather than traditional colourful Indian flare. It feels a strange mish-mash and I'm still undecided whether I like it or not. The opened double doors means the interior and exterior seating merge and the nice warm Spring breeze wafts in a little. It's still a touch hot and could use some extra air conditioning.

We are seated by a neatly dressed waiter in black. All the waiters look very smart in their all black attire. We get our white wine opened, although since it hasn't been chilled, the warm taste ruins it. Only after pouring out 4 huge glasses of wine does the waiter chill the bottle.

We flick through the menu and after deciding not to go with the banquet, we order entrees and mains to share. The first entree of calamari with a note that you get six on the menu was a plate of large rolls of calamari with some herbs. A drizzle of lemon and we tried it. It wasn't really that good, a tad tough and not exactly full of flavour.

The Chicken Mince Kebab faired a bit better. It had some flavour but required a more charred taste I think.

For mains we got Butter Chicken (my usual Indian dish that I must have), Lamb Pasanda, Beef Vindaloo and Yellow Dal. The food came out faster than a Hungry Jack's burger. Within a minute of receiving the entrees (which only took a few minutes), the mains, naan and rice had all arrived. Usually food coming out fast is a good thing, but this fast meant that we didn't even have time to sip our wines yet. Also, you would have to doubt how freshly cooked the food was if it was so fast.

The butter chicken contained moist pieces of chicken and I liked how it wasn't too sweet. The Lamb Pasanda was quite good, with a mild taste and again, tender lamb. The beef vindaloo was extremely hot and therefore lost some of the flavours I think. The yellow dal contained whole lentils still but they were very soft so was quite good.

Desserts were not good at all. The Gulab Jamun tasted really bad, with some really strong smell dominating the balls. The vanilla ice cream was flavourless.

The Surprise Dessert, which they wouldn't tell us what it was when asked, turned out to be a pudding with butterscotch sauce. Texture wise the pudding was nice, and the butterscotch sauce was good, but the pudding contained too much nutmeg or something and was too strong. The trio of Ice Creams contained Choc Mint, Mango and Vanilla, all of which were truly awful.

The meal was fairly good value, coming in at $30 each. The service was professional and efficient. The ambience was ok, with the opened doors making the whole room fell slightly outdoors being quite nice. Food wise, some dishes were ok, but we almost felt rushed with how quick the food arrived. I guess if you're in a hurry it's good.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Some good Indian dishes with good service.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Indian Palace on Urbanspoon

Nuts Chan

Nuts chan is located on The Highway in Mount Waverley. From the name, you would never guess what type of food it was. At best, you would guess it's a Chinese restaurant. But it's actually a Japanese take away and restaurant.

We walk through the front end of the restaurant to a tiny area where there are a few tables. We're seated and were going to order some beers, only to find they don't serve beers. So instead we settle for some green tea.

We order a Sushi and Sashimi platter to start. The fish is fairly fresh, nothing spectacular but better than most suburban Japanese restaurants.

The Teriyaki Chicken was fairly tender pieces of grilled chicken drizzled with a teriyaki sauce. Again, this is better than most suburban places.

The Sukiyaki a mixture of tofu, noodles and pieces of beef. The mixture had that slightly sweet taste of a sukiyaki and worked quite well together.

This little suburban restaurant is good for a quick easy meal. The sushi and sashimi is of a good quality and good prices.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Good local Japanese restaurant.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Nuts Chan on Urbanspoon

The Cedar Tree

Kin really wanted to have Lebanese food, so after some searches and one failed booking attempt, we got a table at the The Cedar Tree Restaurant. The restaurant is located in Brighton.

When you walk in the tiny shop front, which is quite easily missed, you see a long restaurant with wall hangings, large paintings and brightly painted walls. It felt quite inviting, even when we got further back into the restaurant and there were fewer diners.

After being seated and our wine poured, we settled on the banquet for $35. You get free corkage with the banquet.

The banquet started off with a trio of Dips with Lebanese Bread. The dips would actually be the highlight of my night. The Hommos and Baba Ghanouj were so wonderfully flavoursome that we ate way too much bread. The Taboulie Salad was very refreshing.

The Savoury Pastries contained one with feta and the other one with lamb in it. The feta one was good although the lamb one did smell too strong for my liking. The falafel was excellent as it wasn't overfried so it was too dry. In fact, it was quite moist and soft.

The Jawanih (chicken wings) and Ors Kafta (lamb patties) were quite good. The chicken wings were crispy but a bit too salty. The lamb patties were moist with a charred outer that I liked.

While Kin, Phuong and I were eating the Chicken Rice, which we were enjoying with it's tangy lemon dressing, a belly dancer started to perform.

The belly dancer strutted her stuff across the restaurant. She was very good at it, shaking those hips at an extremely fast pace. A question I do have is, why do a lot of belly dancers have quite a wobbly belly. You would think that with all the shaking they do, they would have washboard abs.

We had a lamb curry with rice to finish and we were all really full by this stage.

But since I love desserts, I kept going. The Mahalabia, which was like a panna cotta with an orange blossum syrup sounded better than it tasted. The custard part was quite bland. The Baklawa and Halkoum (Turkish Delight) weren't so good. The Halkoum was really sweet and didn't have that fragrant flavour. The Baklawa came nowhere near that of El Fayha on Sydney Road. I have tried so many baklava's at so many restaurants and bakery but none have yet come close to El-Fayha yet. I keep mentioning El-Fayha each time I mention baklava as those two words are synonymous for me now. I have gone back so many times but still can't get enough of his pastries. I don't know what his secret is.

The food was quite good and really filling. It was good value for money considering the price. The service was professional and efficient. I liked the belly dancing although some diners at other tables seem almost annoyed to have their meals interrupted.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Good Lebanese food at a good value. I liked the belly dancing as well.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Cedar Tree on Urbanspoon

Marbled Mocha Brownies

So I love brownies, and I love baked cheesecake. Well, when you combine the two, it's amazing. This marbled mocha brownie from Belinda Jeffrey's every reliable Mix and Bake is the ultimate brownie. You get the chocolate-y goodness of the brownie, while also getting the soft creamy texture of the cream cheese part. It also looks great with the swirls throughout the brownie.

To make this brownie is very easy. Obviously it's not as easy one bowl Macadamia Brownies also from Belinda, but it's not much harder. You basically make the brownie and then mix in the cream cheese.

Marbled Mocha Brownies
From Belinda Jeffrey's Mix and Bake

180g dark chocolate
90g unsalted butter
3 tsp instant coffee granules
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coffee liqueur or very strong black coffee

250g cream cheese, at room temperature
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp coffee liqueur or very strong black coffee

1) Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and line a 32 x 24 x 5cm baking tin with baking paper.

2) In saucepan, melt chocolate, butter and coffee granules over low heat until all melted and smooth. Leave mixture to cool.

3) In large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar for 1 minute. Sift flour, cocoa and salt into mixture. Stir them in lightly. Add vanilla extract, liqueur and melted chocolate mixture. Stir until well mixed.

4) In another bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time, beating well between each addition. Mix in flour and liqueur (mixture may look a bit curdled).

5) Stir brownie mixture and pour into prepared tin, leaving about half a cup of mixture. Tilt tin to get mixture to spread evenly. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese topping all over this layer. Drop teaspoonfuls of the reserved brownie mixture over the cream cheese. Use a skewer to swirl the two mixtures together. Don't overdo it or you will lose the marbled effect.

6) Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the edges are pale golden and an inserted skewer comes out with moist, but not wet, crumbs. Cool brownies on a wire rack. When completely cool, pop into freezer for an hour to chill.

7) Once firm, invert brownies out of tin and peel away baking paper. Cut into slices and store in an airtight container. Brownies can be stored in the fridge for two weeks.

Sho Noodle Bar - Bloggers Invitation Dinner

"Sho me the noodles" screams Rod Tidwell to Jerry Maguire. Well, actually he doesn't say that, but he would if he was invited to a bloggers special dinner at the newly opened Sho Noodle Bar in the Crown Entertainment Complex. Some of you may be wary about going to Crown, but I actually like all the food choices available there. I've tried, and loved, Rockpool, The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel and Koko. I liked Crown Conservatory, Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons and Bistro Guillaume. I think the restaurants are unfairly lumped together with the casino aspect and some people refuse to go because of that. There are numerous great eating establishments there that can be visited completely independent of the casino.

The newly opened Sho Noodle Bar will test some of you. It's located on the gaming room floor itself, just inside from the atrium. The open restaurant means that all the noise from the gaming floor filters right through it. You'll either love it or loathe it. I loved hearing the adjoining poker room players scream in joy whenever they won something. The restaurant is marketed as casual dining and would appeal to gamers, (or gamblers depending how cynical you are) but judging from the quality of service, food and fitout of the restaurant, it would be a shame if diners were deterred from eating there just becuase the restaurant is within the gaming area.

The restaurant has a calming fit out, with deep seats for a drink of tea in front of the tea displays, to tables for casual dining or the bar seating with a great view into an Iron Chef style kitchen that I wished I had. The little decorative touches around the room like the helped to make it interesting.

The night started off with meeting my fellow bloggers over a tea ceremony. I met many familiar faces in Dan and Mellie (Tummy Rumbles), Jane (Deep Dish Dreams), Jackie (Eating With Jack), Ed (Tomato), Jon (Melbourne Foodie), Neil (At My Table), Elliot and Sandra (1001 Dinners 1001 Nights) and some new faces in Pat (Cooking Down Under) and Ida (A Wok In The Wild Side). While we chatted away, we were served some very good champagne (or Australian Sparkling is my guess) and watched as one of the staff performed a meticulous tea ceremony where the tea was filtered many times. The Oolong tea had a slight tartness to it but it wasn't too bitter and I really liked it.

Next up, Master Pin Tan (head chef of Sho) showed up how to make some very fine noodles. He was very personable and explained that the noodles only contain wheat flour and water, and no other secret ingredients. The key was to get the right consistency and using the correct technique, you'll end up with long thin noodles such as those he made.

Finally, another staff performed a Kung Fu tea pouring show. He flung the long tea pot all over his body and in various poses, poured the tea straight into tiny cup without spilling any. Very impressive indeed.

We were then seated at the bar to watch the chefs cooking away in the kitchen. While our tea cups and wine glasses were filled with a variety of fine teas and wine, the food started to roll out. First up was an assortment of dumplings, Har Gow, Siu Mai and Vegetable Dumplings. All three were very good, with the skin of the har gow being that perfect consistency between being gelatinous but not too thick. I even liked the siu mai, which I usually hate. I think the higher ratio of prawn meat to mince made it good.

The standard Cold Platter of Soy Chicken, Char Siu and Roast Duck was average. The soy chicken was a touch dry and needed more soy. The char siu (which I don't like at any place although some places do it a bit better by cooking it more crisp) was a bit under done. The roast duck was the best of the three, with a crispy skin and soft meat.

The next dish was my favourite. I just adore lobster and the Lobster with Honey Chilli and Spring Onion was a treat. The lobster was fried and tossed in a sauce that tasted to me of sweet chilli, worcestershire sauce, vinegar and sugar (or possibly honey although I didn't really taste the honey flavour). The tang from the sauce coated each piece of tender juicy lobster meat. I even picked out the meat from the head so as to savour the last of the lobster flavour.

The Barramundi with Chilli Oyster Sauce was again a great dish. Fried fish work well with a sweet sour type sauce, as in this case. The chilli helped to give it an extra kick that lifts it even more. The barramundi was served with some wok fried Gailan.

The Beef Rendang was a very hot curry. I'm never a huge fan of rendang but this one was quite good. The meat was extremely tender and not stringy, so that was a plus. The rendang was hot, which I like, so another plus. It probably needed a touch more coconut cream.

The Wok Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli was definitely the worst dish of the night. I didn't like it at all. I've had this dish at other places and usually it's chicken literally fried with just dried chilli. This means the dish is fiery full of chilli flavour. However, this dish had no kick and this rather awful sweet plum type sauce mixed with it. To me, this is a dish that is catered to the Australian palette.

The Char Kway Teow as featured in Epicure was very good indeed. The noodles were cooked very quickly so it had that "wok hei" as Neil and I were discussing. The worse thing to do with rice noodles is to cook it slowly so that it falls apart. With some soy and some plump prawns and chinese sausage, this dish was "yummy" (happy KP, I threw in the word yummy just for you).

The night finished off with a trio of desserts. There was Diced Mango with Raspberries, Mango Pudding and Mango Ice Cream with a Lychee. You can't go wrong with fresh mangos, so that was a refreshing end to the meal. The Mango Pudding had a good consistency and had a good mango flavour, not the best I've had, but nowhere near the worse either. The Mango Ice Cream tasted rather funny and I didn't like that much.

The service throughout the night was fantastic. Dishes were brought out quickly and old plates were cleared. Our tea and wines were topped up constantly. Our head waitress, Annie, deserves a special mention. I recognised her from her days at Koko, when she made our first visit there very good due to her excellent service. I don't know if the normal service is this thorough, so I'll have to see whether that standard is maintained.

Overall, I had a fantastic night. The food was very good and so was the service. The ambience of the restaurant was energetic due to the open kitchen and the noise filtering from the gaming floor. So I would recommend that you give Sho Noodle Bar a try. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed as the prices look very fair.

Here is the bit where I have to say that the meal was complimentary of Crown. So you can take my review for what you think it's worth. To me personally, there is no conflict of interest as I have confidence in my own values that I would have totally trashed this place if it was bad.

Last, but definitely not least, thanks to Tara Bishop, Media Relations Manager at Crown for inviting me. I had hepas of fun and sorry about the initial scepticism. If there's any further invites from you, I'll say yes without questioning the legitmacy and sending your mind into a spin. :-)

Sho on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Los Amates

The beauty of blogs is that you find out about great places which the traditional media may not have reviewed. I first read about Los Amates at Where's The Beef. Michael and cindy have gone on multiple visits, so check out all their posts. Even though they were describing the vegetarian food at the restaurant, I was still intrigued enough to give it a try.

I was meeting my good friend for dinner, and seeing as he lived in Rathdowne street, this restaurant on Johnston street was the perfect choice. We both also like spicy food as well.

As we enter the restaurant, we were instantly assaulted by all these smells. It was a fairly cold night so we were sniffing up the smells and warmth of the restaurant. We were seated to a table near the door. Despite the tables being quite close to each other, the low level buzz in the restaurant meant that we had our own conversation without having to overhear what the next table was saying.

For drinks, we couldn't go past all the cocktails that we were seeing at all the tables around us. We got Mojitos and they were fantastically tangy and minty. I loved it. I also got a Pacifico (I think that was the brand) Mexican beer on the recommendation of the waitress. As she said, it was indeed a lighter tasting beer and I enjoyed it.

For entrees, we got Ham and Cheese Quesadillas. The quesadillas were served with two sauces, and as much as I love salsa, I actually thought they went better with the sour cream. A delicious start to the meal.

For mains, I got the Chilli Beef, served with some stewed beans, rice and salad. The beef was quite hot, which I liked. But it was possibly a bit too hot such that the chilli drowned out the flavour of the rest of the sauce and meat. The beans were soft and surprisingly I liked it. The salad with it's tangy dressing was really good, as it broke up all the other flavours.

My friend got the Tacos, which was fantastic. The mince mixture was crammed with flavour and you get these flour pancakes to wrap it all in. Dipped into the sauce, this dish was really tasty. If we go back, I'm definitely trying the other tacos available for sure.

For dessert, I got the Flan de la Casa, which is a Spanish creme caramel basically. It was ultra smooth and a small slice was enough to satisfy my dessert habit. Overall, the food was both new, interesting and delicious. I'd only ever eaten Taco Bill mexican food and that stuff isn't very good. But this mexican food was much more to my liking (at least hot means hot rather than some watered down version for Australian palettes) and I will revisit this place for my Mexican food.

The night was very enjoyable and the ambience in the restaurant was just right. The restaurant actually stretched a lot further back, with the middle section more subdued and the back section totally boisterous. I think I would rather sit in the front of the back as I like a bit of a buzz in a restaurant. The service was friendly and efficient most of the night. Only when I ordered dessert from a different waiter than the waitress serving us through the night was there a bit of confusion. But a simple enquiry about dessert got it brought out immediately.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Delicious Mexican food with a great ambience in the restaurant.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Los Amates on Urbanspoon

Cafe Vue - Cocktail Night

Claire was the pioneer and showed everyone how it was done a few times, then Cindy and Michael took the plunge, followed by Agnes who also enjoyed it. I'm talking about Cafe Vue's weekly friday Cocktails Night. There is a constantly changing menu each month, with a theme to match.

Seeing how everyone was enjoying it so much, I decided to get in on the act as well. I enjoy a cocktail, even if cocktails are a bit girly. It doesn't matter. A good cocktail is a great mixture of flavours that enhance the individual alcoholic elements in it. As the saying goes, it is "greater than the sum of it's parts".

Arriving before the official start time, John, Mia, Esther, Kin and myself were crammed into a four person table in the alley between the cafe and street. The seating wasn't the most comfortable as three of us had to squeeze into a seat clearly for two. The bench seats also meant our backs were quite painful by the end of the night. We were also right near the door that lead into the small back court where the smokers were. Seeing as all of us didn't smoke, it wasn't pleasant when someone opened the door and smoke wafted towards us at the speed of sound (or possibly a bit slower).

Seating complaints aside, the rest of the night was enjoyable. It was a tad dark (and regular readers will know I don't like dark restaurants) but in this occasion, it was probably just right. We were having cocktails primarily and the low lighting felt right. The service (contrary to Kin's objections) was quite good. They did check that we had our water refilled and that we didn't require anything. Obviously, the service is not as flash as in Vue de Monde where the service was impeccable. But it was casual and light hearted without being lazy.

The cocktail theme for the night was the Caribbean, and every cocktail contained rum. I'm a huge fan of rum so was looking forward to it.

The night started off with a Puerto Rican Special. Here's the problem with writing posts way after the event. You forget things. There was an explanation for the name of the drink, something about people smuggling rum out of Puerto Rico during a war or something. Bascially the drink was Bacardi rum mixed with orange liquer and rind. The matching food was Clams and scallop with corn puree. I loved this dish as the sea flavours worked well with the corn puree. The cocktail was quite good, but not something I would order by itself again.

The second cocktail of the night was a La Florida Rum Daisy. It was again Bacardi rum mixed with fruit punch and finished with a glace cherry and mint. This cocktail was very fruity and I liked it. It was paired with a Foie gras hot dog. I thought a hot dog roll would literally be filled with foie gras (how silly of me, as if you would get so much foie gras for what is already a great value for money meal) but instead it was a hot dog that didn't taste much like foie gras. The hot dog didn't taste too different to a normal hot dog.

The third cocktail was an Olaffsons Fix (you need to pronounce Olafssons with some throat spit action the waiter joked). It was an aged Havana rum with some fruit juice I can't remember, vegetable gluten (whatever that is, I asked the waiter but he wasn't sure) and topped with cinnamon. I liked the taste of this cocktail but wasn't sure if I could taste the vegetable gluten or not. The matching food was the best (or at least a tie since I have a biased to desserts) dish of the night. It was Roasted baby vegetables filled with a duck mince. The dish was presented on this very cool artist palette plate and each vegetable looked like a dab of paint, very clever.

The fourth cocktail was a Coopers Ranch Punch. As the theme was the Caribbean, again it was Bacardi rum mixed with fruit juice. This time it was guava juice with jelly guava strips. I love guava juice so hence this was my favourite cocktail of the night. The matching food though I didn't really like. It was Cheddar cheese with a peeled jellied grape on rye. The combination of flavours wasn't really to my liking, as the rye dominated the flavours.

By the fifth cocktail and a quick mobile phone chat outside, I had lost my blogging focus and tucked into the Grand Marnier creme caramel with guava soup before Kin reminded me to take a photo. This dessert had all of my favourite elements. I love Grand Marnier, creme caramel and guava juice. I would have never guessed they would all be combined in one dessert. Needless to say, I enjoyed the ultra smooth creme caramel immensely and drank up all the guava soup. The matching cocktail was a Black Stripe, a mixture of aged rum with whisky. The warm cocktail sure packed a punch and was a powerful end to the night. Esther was feeling the effects of the cocktail so gave her drink to Kin and I, and we lapped it up with joyful glee.

Overall, I thought the night was good. The seating, as mentioned, wasn't ideal. The drinks and food were good and I think worth the $75. I would go back again depending on the cocktails and food. Service on a whole was quite good. Ambience was a bit lacking in the corridor area.

Overall Rating: 14/20, A fun night to be had with some tasty cocktails.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

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