Monday, November 26, 2012

Chin Chin - Hip Hip Chin Chin

So who hasn't gone to Chin Chin, raise your hands?

Let me start with a random-ish diversion. Instead of wondering how the restaurant name came about, instead, the name Chin Chin just makes me think of this Club des Belugas song in which the So You Think You Can Dance contestants did the most amazing routine too. Just watch the routine, it's amazing. Then try to get the song out of your head. I bet you can't.

Anyway, Chin Chin has been one of the hottest restaurants in Melbourne for quite a while and it would seem like all of Melbourne has gone. Here is a restaurant where social media marketing has really work, and it has managed to sustain a constant stream of people wanting to go there. It's like an avalanche where once you have embedded yourself, the system has it's own momentum and other people will start tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking for you, causing yet more people to go and do the same. I am one of those people. It took me ages to go there as I was slightly deterred by the long queues. I don't mind the no booking policy but just didn't get round to going for one reason or another.

Finally, one Sunday morning many moons ago, Agnes, Alastair, Andy and I went there for lunch. We were told by the influential and pretty I-Hua that you can snag a table on Sunday lunch without queuing if you get there right as they open. I really like sleeping in on weekends but made an exception and dragged myself there in time for opening. We indeed got a table right away. But within half an hour to an hour, the place was packed and there was a queue already. The various seating options were all filled up and the room was really buzzing. People were enjoying themselves in the industrial fitout, and sound was getting quite high.

We ordered an assortment of things to share, as you do if you're Asian. The menu also encourages sharing as the wait staff told us. We started off with the School Prawns, which were so good. Fried to crispy goodness and served with a zingy sauce. The Pork Roll Ups (think Peking Duck but with pulled pork) was quite good. The pork was elevated by the accompaniments and sauce.

The Son In Law Eggs were excellent. Crunchy outsides, soft centres and a really strong sauce with a lot of kick.

My friend Jordan recommended we order the Crispy Barramundi and Pork Salad. It was indeed a good dish, with all elements very tasty, but I found it a bit too salty. This needed a big bowl of rice to go with it.

Beef Ribs were an amazing dish. Tender and fatty, it was divine. From the larger plates, we ordered a Green Curry Chicken and a BBQ Goat dish because it sounded interesting. The curry was good but lacked some punch for me. The goat was also good in flavour and the meat very tender but way too salty for me. I could only eat a tiny bit of it before I couldn't eat any more.

By this stage, we were so full, but what the heck. I love desserts so convinced everyone to have some. We shared the Dessert Platter and the Ice Cream Sundae with Honeycomb. All the desserts were really disappointing for me. The platter had these little cakes which were not that great, some coconut jellies and caramel popcorn. Even the popcorn wasn't that good as the caramel was quite bitter. The sundae, which I had read some people really liked, was super bitter that I couldn't eat it. Maybe they burnt the same caramel? Who knows. Whatever the reason, it was not nice at all.

From all the food that we ate, I think the meal was around $50. Not too bad. Service was friendly and efficient and I think they manage the large amount of diners very well. I'd go back as there looked to be many more interesting dishes to try. I just wish a few items were a bit less salty.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 23, 2012

Excellent Cuisinart Bread Machine

Let's establish a few things. Asians like rice. Tick. I'm Asian. Tick. I therefore like rice. Tick.

Once upon a time, I couldn't go a single meal without rice. I would feel wrong if I didn't have rice. However, as I started to get older and got to try foods from different cultures, my tastes also started to change. I could go a meal or two each day without rice. Slowly, I could go a whole day without rice. Now, I can go many days without rice. But like most humans, I love carbs. And my rice substitute of choice is most definitely bread.

I've only learned how many types of bread there are in the past few years. The varieties are endless and the flavour profiles are all so different. I love a loaf of freshly baked bread, with a nice crunchy crust which you tear into and then expose the soft internal filling. Bread can be eaten with some many things, from simply with just butter or some spread, to mopping up rich sauces from stews and casseroles, to using as a carrier for cured meats and cheeses.

With thanks to Brad from Kitchenware Direct, I was offered a Cuisinart Bread Machine to review. I've always had a preconception that bread machines are not that useful, but after using the Cuisinart, I'm a total convert. I don't know why but I always thought the bread machine mixed, kneaded and proofed the dough, but you had to bake it in the oven yourself. I also thought you had to tend to it at every stage. Imagine my surprise after reading the instruction manual (yes men do read the instruction manuals sometimes) that I learned I could throw in all the ingredients and the machine did the rest all by itself.

The Cuisinart Bread Machine is actually a really simple device. There's not much to it. It's a nice metallic box, which opens up and has a non-stick basket inside. There's a few buttons which you use to select the type of bread you're making, the size and then you hit start. It's all rather simple, which I like. If only the machine could remove the paddle that mixes the bread itself. That would really make it truly amazing.

The recipe booklet has heaps of recipes in it. All the recipes list exactly the quantity of ingredients you need, then it's a simple process of putting in the ingredients in the right order (exactly as listed in the ingredients part) and hitting a few buttons. Below is what I needed to throw in for my banana bread. I timed it and from taking out all the ingredients, measuring them, and throwing it all into the bread machine, it was easily under 30 minutes. If only I could eat a whole banana bread as my dinner. Then it would really be one of those 30 minute dinners. Unfortunately, banana bread does have a tiny bit of sugar and butter so it's probably best to just eat a slice. Also like those rapid dinners in many cookbooks, there are other time factors they don't count. In this case, the reality is that although the mixing part takes 30 minutes, the baking part does take a bit of time and is slower than an oven. The banana bread takes 90 minutes to bake, and I would estimate that an oven would take half as much time.

The banana bread is super awesome with such a light crumb and wonderful flavour. Similarly, the carrot bread is amazing too. Spread with some good butter, both breads are stunning for breakfast or afternoon tea. I've made them so many times already, probably nearly 10 times in the past few months. I may have put on a couple of kilos in weight. So yes, there is a deadly side to this Cuisinart Bread Machine.

I made the plain white loaf and that too had such a great flavour. I put it down to the good French butter that I used. I served it in a variety of ways, each tasting amazing.

I've gone on to make a variety of rolls, pumpkin bread and just weird stuff I've thrown into the bread. I'm yet to make my durian bread, but that is coming soon. I'm trying to work out which recipe to use and substitute the durian in. I totally love this machine and it has really made me enjoy bread even more. There is nothing that can compare to freshly baked bread, both in taste and the wonderful aroma. You can throw all the ingredients into the machine the night before, set the timer to cook it and wake up to enjoy the most wonderful fresh bread. The smell is truly intoxicating. Spread some plain butter onto the bread and I swear, you too will have a Religious Food Experience (RFE), where the simplicity is so delicious you would literally close your eyes and just savoured the flavour and go "mmmmmmm". Perfect.

I received the bread machine courtesy of Kitchenware Direct.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taste Of Melbourne 2012 - Rejuvenated And Lots Of Fun

Sometimes, things get a bit stale and boring and need a change to help rejuvenate it. From my blog post about Taste of Melbourne 2011, I had identified a number of things that I didn't like and was feeling far from excited about the next year's festival. Luckily, the Taste of Melbourne organisers also decided a few things needed to be changed to improve it. They made the big move to turn the previously indoor festival into an outdoor one, with the festival being held at Albert Park this year. That decision carries with it a lot of risk, but I happy to say it paid off. I really liked this year's festival and had lots of fun and a huge part of that was having it outdoors.

I was invited to attend a Thursday blogger's session by Hot House Media where we were shown around a few restaurant stalls and attend a few different classes. I also went back again on Friday with my friends courtesy of free entry tickets I got. From the two days I attended, as well as the preview session at The Point, I got to try probably 60% of the restaurant food. I must say that this year's offerings were far more exciting than last years. I think the food items were simpler and had more variety to cater to all tastes.

The festival moving outdoors carried with it the big risk of the unpredictable Melbourne weather. Fortunately, besides a few short showers, it was pretty much sunshine for the 4 days. That's not to say that the nights weren't cold, as a jacket was definitely needed. A few areas had heat lamps but otherwise it was an open outdoor event and affected by the elements. I hate to think what it would have been like if it had rain hard as there were minimal coverage at each stall and only a few larger covered areas, usually belonging to various stallholders. For next year, they might need to have some communal covered areas, even if to shield from the sun as I know a few people got sunburnt during the day and ended up a bit like Rhonda.

The simple four row layout of the outdoor event was a real plus. It made finding things super easy for the directionally challenged like me. The rows were also very wide so there were very few congestion problems. Probably the only slight congestion was near the Mamasita/The Aylesbury area were there were huge queues. There were also huge queues at Movida but since there was a lot of space there, that didn't cause a problem. Luckily, while the path around Mamasita was blocked up, you could easily cut across to the next row and still walk past. This was not possible last year and was a cause of one of my biggest frustrations. I would say I easily wasted 50% of the time trying to maneuver myself to the restaurant stalls to buy food. And 4 hours passes by really fast. Maybe for next year, they can move the popular stalls to near the corners to avoid passageway congestion.

This year, the VIP lounge was sponsored by Laurent-Perrier. While it was beautiful inside, once again I think it was badly positioned. It sat in the furthermost corner of the event, near the toilets no less, and hence very few people were inclined to stay there and there was no atmosphere at all. It was a sad and lonely place rather than the exclusive place that everyone would want to be at. Let's face it, part of the VIP experience is to be seen, such that others will envy you. The place to put the lounge would be either where the Rekoderlig bar (who by the way have this new orange and ginger cider which is super refreshing) or San Pellegrino tent were. From there, you can easily walk to everything and be seen by everyone around the restaurant stalls. All eyes would be on the VIP lounge and wishing they were there too. It's just simple human behaviour at work. I bet you then that VIP ticket would be the most sought after thing.

One ticket that was sought after was the Sensology - The Art of Cocktail Making classes. It cost $10 (I was invited and got to do the classes for free) to attend the class. From the class, you learn to make one specific cocktail, which you then get to drink. It was the same price as buying the cocktail alone, so I'm sure you can work out what everyone wanted to do. Tickets were snapped up really fast. The classes were heaps of fun. Let's face it, who doesn't like mixing up a cocktail and shaking it like you're Tom Cruise from the movie Cocktail. From the two classes, I learned to make a Mojito and a Whisky Sour. Both were really easy to make and I'm definitely making them at home. I can't believe how many variants of drinks you can make from a few simple spirits. By the way, can anyone tell me which famous/popular/influential/pretty blogger whose back is in the centre of the photo below?

Lastly, we get onto the restaurant food and the food product stalls. For the food stalls, I won't say too much as they're similar food stalls that travel around the various festivals. There is a huge assortment of stuff and I'm sure there is something that will take your interest. The various wine and beer stalls were really interesting and I tried a lot of exciting new wines and beers that I hadn't had before, which I will now seek out.

As for the restaurants, as I said before, I really liked this year's offering. I won't discuss every dish as they were mostly very good. Instead I'll just highlight a few I really loved. Below you see can see DAT ASS, DAT ASS. What a beautiful sight a whole suckling pig on a spit is. The Point Albert Park did a great job with their suckling pig and it was a great dish.

The highlight dish of the event for me would be the Dorper Lamb Ribs, Pea and Mint from The Aylesbury. Super tender flavoursome ribs melted off the bone, and at $6 was one of the cheapest items at the festival as well.

The Beetroot Cured Salmon, Vanilla and Lime Pickled Cucumber, Horseradish Cream from Livingroom was another excellent dish. The salmon was super tasty and combined perfectly with the accompaniments.

Lastly on the dessert front, this Summer Berry Eton Mess from Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar was simple perfection. It was light, fresh, sweet and just perfect for this time of year.

Of course, with all the top chefs floating about the festival, I had to get a shot with at least one of them, and who better than the amazing Frank Camorra.

So let me wrap up with post with some final views. While nearly everyone that I've followed on Twitter and Instagram looked to have liked and loved the food, myself included, the biggest complaint has been the cost. I have made the same complaints about the cost, one example being the delicious, but tiny piece of pork I got from Taxi. As I wrote last year, I can see why the restaurants need to price the items as such. I'm sure they're probably not even making a profit. The problem with all of us is that we tend to compare these items to their cheaper counterparts at other food festivals. The problem is we forget that these restaurants are using quality ingredients, and the chefs would normally be at work in the restaurants so in a sense the consumer needs to subsidise their cost as other chefs would be needed back at the restaurant to serve the normal diners.

Having thought about it for a while, I've come to this conclusion. Yes, with the money that I spent at the festival (and I got in for free even), I could have easily eaten at a good restaurant, but would I have had the same experience? I would say no. I wouldn't be able to say that I've tried the Mamasita corn, or The Point suckling pig, or The Aylesbury lamb ribs. All the restaurants worked together to produce a different experience. The food is not as good as what each restaurant would normally do as they are lacking the right equipment, but it's still very good food and you still have a great time. Melbourne doesn't have many food festivals where most of the state's top restaurants come together for one big event. Even with the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, the festival is split over many events. So, with the change in the setting to an outdoor event, I felt really relaxed and there was a real carnival atmosphere such that I really enjoyed myself. So despite the high costs, I would say it gave an experience that I couldn't get dining at just one restaurant. It's not solely about the food anymore, but the sum of the parts and the overall experience, which was a lot of fun.

So I conclude this post by hoping you had a good time at Taste of Melbourne if you went. If you didn't like some aspects, why not email the website like I did last year. You never know what opinions they may take to improve next year's event. If you didn't go this year, I hope you will try it out next year. I'm looking forward to going to next year's Taste of Melbourne festival and hopefully I'll see you there.

I attended a Thursday blogger session courtesy of Hot House Media and Taste of Melbourne and received free tickets for Friday's session.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner + Giveaway Dining Voucher

This post is Sponsored by Nuffnang.

WTC Wharf
World Trade Centre (Riverside)
Siddeley Street
Melbourne 3005

When some people go to restaurants, they like to order the same thing. Me, I want to try everything on the menu. I like trying out different flavours and seeing what works and taste good. Hence, a progressive dinner is my type of thing. Within one meal, you can try out many types of cuisine. I was invited to join in the WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner with my fellow bloggers Kim, Agnes, April, I-Hua and Joyce.

WTC Wharf, if you haven't been, is opposite the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and across the road from Crown Casino. It's sits serenely along the Yarra River and is a wharf edge dining precinct. It's easily accessible via the bridge from Spencer Street, with parking lots located right behind the wharf. For a bit of fun, you can even get to the wharf via the WTC water taxi service. How's that for arriving in style, James Bond style.

We started our progressive dinner at Byblos Bar, a stylish Lebanese restaurant. The restaurant was decorated in very striking colours and I liked the various lights and decorations in the restaurant. We were seated at a comfortable booth table, which was beautifully in-laid with tiles. A good way to start any meal is with cocktails, so we all got some. I went for my usual favourite, a mojito, but with a twist. Instead of rum, gin was used. I thought the gin really worked and I loved the drink.

For entrees, we shared a series of "mezat". The entrees were a sensory feast for the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, with so many flavours, smells and textures. The dishes comprised of simple items like Grilled Haloumi, Fattoush (salad), Dips and the most amazing Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, to more complex dishes like Cheese Filled Filo Pastry, Ground Meat Parcels, Grilled Lamb and Chicken Skewers and finally Quail with Pomegranate Molasses. All the food was good, but my two standout items were the amazing potatoes and the tender and smokey lamb skewers.

After the entrees, we were all quite full already. But being the troopers we are, it was off to Kobe Jones for mains. The large rectangular room is setup for teppanyaki, with the chefs in the middle serving, and entertaining the crowd. The room does get a little bit smokey, so I'd leave the cashmere cardigan at home if I were you.

We started this part of the meal with some Yuzu Sake. It was sour, sweet and refreshing. Then it was oysters with a soy dressing for all, except April, who dislikes them so more for me. Happy days. We then had a really beautiful "meaty" mushroom salad. The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and tasted great. I wish I hadn't eaten so much of them as I was really getting full. When the beautifully tender beef and perfectly cooked salmon came out, I only managed to eat half of it. The dish came with three dipping sauces, ponzu, citrus miso and teriyaki. I think it was unanimous that the citrus miso was the best and paired really well with the beef and fish. I had yet another mojito, but this time the alcoholic component was sake. This mojito was really smooth and softer than usual and delicious. I-Hua wasn't as lucky in her choice of cocktails, with her selection tasting a bit like cough medicine.

We struggled the twenty steps to the next location, the Wharf Hotel, for dessert. The hotel was buzzing with noise and people. You can have a drink outside on the deck, or sit inside and have a drink while watching the footy. The last option is to sit at the tables to eat food and/or dessert. We were here solely for dessert, and dessert I found space for. The spare stomach I store away for dessert came in handy once again, as I got to try the Sticky Date Pudding and Apple Pie. The sticky date pudding was really nice and moist and the sauce was sticky and sweet as it should be. I didn't like the Apple Pie as much as I'm quite sensitive to cinnamon and found it was flavoured too strongly with cinnamon, in both the pie and ice cream. The pastry of the pie was good and the ice cream smooth but cinnamon just assaulted me from all angles and I'm not a fan of strong cinnamon flavour. We washed down dessert with some wine.

That concluded our very plentiful WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner. I was so full and could hardly move. I liked the different flavours and vibe I got at each location. It was a good mix and highly enjoyable. Being a super short walk across all three venues, there was no rush either to get to the next destination in time. With the warm weather that night, it was a perfect way to eat good food and soak up some beautiful weather along the wharf.


To celebrate the WTC Wharf Progressive Dinner, I'm happy to give away a $100 WTC Wharf Dining Voucher. You can use it at any of the restaurants along the wharf.

To enter, all you have to is leave a comment answering the question:
If you were to go to the WTC Wharf which restaurant would you go to?

Please make sure there is a way I can contact you. If I can't reach you, I can't give you the prize.

The most creative answer will be selected by WTC Wharf as the winner.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Competition closes Nov 16th.
- The winner will be contacted directly.
- For full Terms and Conditions, see here.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Giveaway - 5 x Double Passes to Taste of Melbourne 2012

You may have wondered what has happened to the Taste of Melbourne festival this year. Doesn't it normally occur during the July period. Like me, you may have thought you completely missed it this year. But fear not, Taste of Melbourne has moved dates, and location this year. This year, the Taste of Melbourne festival will be an outdoor even at Albert Park, from November 15-18.

If you've read my posts previously, you'll see that I really enjoyed Taste of Melbourne 2010 but was a bit disappointed with Taste of Melbourne 2011. One of my criticisms of last year's festival was the terrible layout and how hard it was to move around the festival. I also pointed to the lack of a carnival atmosphere. Well, they must have listened to me (OK I know they didn't but let's just all go along with how influential I am) and have decided on an outdoor festival. Outdoor festivals by their very nature just creates more of a fun and carnival atmosphere. Sunshine and fresh air tend to make people really happy. I can only imagine how different this year's festival will be and I am excited about it again. Being able to freely move around is a major plus as it maximises my eating time haha. Being able to put my food on the grass and eat it in comfort rather than try to balance a plate of food and wine while standing up is another advantage.

I was invited to a Taste of Melbourne preview by Hot House Media held at one of my favourite restaurants, The Point Albert Park. I got to sample one dishes from each of the various restaurants who will be at Taste of Melbourne this year. Needless to say, the food was all really good or excellent.

This year, the restaurants involved are:
* The Point Albert Park
* Movida
* Mamasita
* Taxi Dining Room
* Albert Street Food and Wine
* The Aylesbury
* Sake
* Livingroom
* Bishop of Ostia
* The Botanical
* Mahjong
* The Atlantic
* Libertine
* Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar
* Three Blue Ducks
* Malaysia Kitchen Pop-Up

The Point - Kingfish crudo, horseradish and pommes pailles

The Aylesbury - Prawn burgers with crustacean aioli

Movida - Fidua pasta

Libertine - Apple & almond tartine with honeycomb ice cream

The Botanical - Yuzu cloud, coconut pearl, guava sorbet


5 x Double Passes to Taste of Melbourne 2012 (Thursday or Friday sessions)

I think it will be great this year and hopefully I'll bump into you. Just don't take a photo of me if I'm shoving food down my throat. But please do come and say hi as I really don't know who reads this blog.



Thanks to all the entrants and your great responses. I've used and the five winners are The Bakeanista, Nisha, Ling, Candice and Lulu. I have emailed you all and will send out the tickets to you. Hope to see you at Taste of Melbourne.

Just leave a comment. You can write about anything really. Maybe you've been to Taste of Melbourne before? Maybe you have some good tips that will help me for the festival? Or maybe you have a dish/restaurant that you loved or are looking forward to trying?

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you. If I can't get in contact with you within 2 days, I will redraw the prize as I need to urgently send out the tickets to you.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Competition closes November 9th 10pm AEST. The winner will be announced on the following day and published on this same post.
- The winners will be randomly drawn.
- I will contact the winners directly to get your address to send the tickets.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Shira Nui - Simple Sushi Exectued Brilliantly

Shira Nui has been a favourite of many people for their wonderful sushi. I have to add myself to that list of admirers and say that chef Hiro Nishikura's sushi is some of the best in Melbourne. The restaurant is very basic, with a small rectangular space dominated by the sushi bar. For my money, the sushi bar is the place to be, where all the action is happening and full of vibrant energy. It's a joy to watch Hiro and his team make the sushi and delivery it straight to you. Hiro will then give you his famous "sauce" or "no sauce" orders, indicating whether the sushi is best enjoyed with soy sauce or without.

My friends and I dutifully follow Hiro's orders, and laugh a bit with him as it's all part of the fun. We decided to do the full sushi degustation, and even added a few extra courses. With each type of sushi, you get two pieces on a plate to enjoy.

We start off with some Cod Sushi, was was excellent with the crunch of some fish eggs.

My favourite sushi would probably be the signature Seared Salmon Sushi. The blow torch adds such an amazing flavour and the fish literally melts in your mouth. So simple but yet so wonderful.

Mackerel and BBQ Beef sushi follow up next. Again, just such wonderful flavours from something so simple. I guess the key is in the quality ingredients. The rice is also perfect, at least according to my amateur views of sushi rice. It's nicely defined rice pieces and just the right amount of vinegar.

The Arc Shell sushi was a bit slimey for me but still had good flavour. I'd probably skip this next time. The Tuna sushi though, was anything but slimey. Smooth beautifully seared tuna was so delicious. I normally find tuna a bit flavourless but I must have been eating the bad stuff as this was beautiful.

Ocean Trout and Kingfish Belly sushi yet again provide more different flavours of freshness and I loved it. We finished off our meal with two extra types, Scallops and Oysters. Both were served in vertical nori rolls and again really good.

You can't finish a meal without dessert, according to my philosophy in life, and the simple Green Tea Creme Brulee was excellent. I was really surprised with how great the sesame ice cream salad was too.

Overall, it was such a wonderful sushi meal. Just simple dishes but yet each tasted so distinctive and really tantalised the tastebuds. The service was very polite and efficient and being at the bar able to communicate with the chefs to let them know what you wanted to try was great. I like the cosy atmosphere in the room and it would make a good location for meals with friends or family. I highly recommend you get yourself there if you want to enjoy great sushi.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Wonderful sushi in a cosy environment.

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.

Shira Nui on Urbanspoon