Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Zealand Report: O'Connell St Bistro, Auckland

Instagram: @joicejlau

I hope everyone out there had a lovely Christmas and New Year's break!

For this third instalment of my New Zealand series, we up the ante and go for a fancier establishment. In any city I visit, I usually make it my mission to include at least one higher-end dining experience in my plans. O'Connell St Bistro, an Auckland stalwart of close to two decades, got my pick after I did some research - and it turned out to be just around the corner from our hotel.

The bistro's dining room gives you the sense that it's blending the old with the new. Housed in an older building, it an exclusive clubhouse when entering the cosy dining space. Sit down though, and you will notice cool minimalistic mushroom lamps adorning each table. One thing I did find a little odd was the fact that for every lovely linen tablecloth, there was also a sheet of paper covering the table. It's not the first time I've seen this done at a pricier restaurant, and I must say I'm not a big fan of this tendency, as I feel that it's a cheap look and feel.

My first course was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked. To really appreciate this dish, one has to bear in mind that this was a study in quieter flavours: a leek terrine with pickled shiitake mushrooms, Clevedon Buffalo ricotta, preserved lemon, panko crumbed globe artichoke & walnut dressing. Looking at this photo, you'll understand why I chose this as my blog's Facebook cover photo, and why the restaurant itself keeps a photo of this dish on prominent display on its own website even though it isn't currently serving it:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

New Zealand Report: Depot Eatery, Auckland

Instagram: @joicejlau

Today I return to writing my NZ dining series with a review of Depot Eatery, already an Auckland favourite just two years after it was opened in 2011 by Al Brown. Having seen the rave reviews of Depot everywhere, it quickly made my shortlist of places to try. Sure enough, it didn't disappoint - my mum and I loved it so much that we ended up eating here twice during our long weekend getaway.

Depot is buzzing on any given night and its popularity is evident just by looking at the happy crowd inside and the people waiting outside for a table. We were lucky to get seats fairly quickly on both visits, perhaps due to our party size being just two. Seating throughout is bar-style and relaxed, with elevated bar chairs and tables, and they've thoughtfully included bag hooks next to most seats. There is also seating at the bar itself, where you can admire the booze collection on the racks above you while ordering your tipple and food from the super friendly bartenders.

The menu, presented to us by our waitress as a large folded-up sheet of paper in keeping with the chilled-out vibe of Depot (and no doubt because they constantly rotate their offerings), is divided into sections for oysters, small share plates, large share plates, sides, and drinks. Both nights, we ordered a jug of NZ cider to sip as we deliberated on our choices.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Suzuran, Camberwell, Melbourne

Instagram: @joicejlau

It's already evident from my existing blog posts that I'm a Japanese food devotee. Authentic Japanese food in Melbourne is generally quite pricey and fancy, and sometimes I find myself just wanting a quick, cheap fix. Unfortunately, while there are sushi takeaways all over Melbourne, it's a real struggle to find an authentic one.

Suzuran, an unassuming little place at the northern end of Burke Rd in Camberwell, is welcome relief in Melbourne's sea of faux-Japanese. This is a grocery shop and sushi takeaway run by an all-Japanese team, which becomes apparent as soon as you walk in and hear the Japanese chatter and see the handwritten Japanese signs everywhere.

My family and I dropped in near closing time to pick up some sushi for dinner. The queue of customers even at that hour was a good first sign. A further glance around revealed that for a takeaway shop, Suzuran's roster of sushi and sashimi offerings is pretty impressive. You can order from a long list of platter combinations and/or from the individual piece menu. I noticed rather cool ingredients on the list, such as yuzu and whelk on the individual piece menu. I'm also pleased to report that Suzuran is super vegetarian-friendly; they offer many vegetarian platters and are also happy to do customised vegetarian platters.

The platter menu

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Vue de Monde, Rialto Tower, Melbourne CBD

Instagram: @joicejlau

I'm going to have to finish off my New Zealand miniseries later - exams got in the way of me getting it done earlier - because right now I have a number of people nagging me to post photos from my Vue de Monde experience, not surprisingly!

The Rialto Tower. Vue de Monde sits on the 55th floor.
Last week I had some relatives arriving on a visit from overseas and we had the great privilege of taking a nine-course degustation at Shannon Bennett's famed establishment. Now, normally I'd write a detailed review, but in this case I really don't think it's necessary. Today, I'll just let the photos and videos do most of the talking...

I requested a "good table" due to our overseas visitors, and we were duly treated to one with views of Melbourne's CBD.
Pre-appetiser: house-made salt and vinegar chips with macadamia paste

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New Zealand Report: Vaniyé (Vaniye), Parnell, Auckland

Instagram: @joicejlau

Earlier this year, my mum and I visited New Zealand properly for the first time (airport transits don't count as visits!) with a long weekend getaway to Auckland. I know, I know...some of you out there might scratch your heads at the idea of just visiting Auckland. However, (a) I only had a few days' time - not enough to do the whole South Island thing, (b) the flights worked out cheapest, and (c) I have a mate in Auckland, who did a fantastic job showing me his city. And of course, NZ has an excellent reputation when it comes to wining and dining no matter which city you visit. As such, I thought it would be fun to do a miniseries of blog posts to share some of my musings and dining thoughts from my journey. To whet your appetite, here's my favourite photo from my trip:

The view from Devonport towards Auckland CBD