I’ve been looking forward to trying another of Hong Kong’s speakeasies since Bo Innovation. Private kitchens were all the rage a few years ago, and only the truly good ones survived, and Xi Yan has proved that they not only survived, but has grown with outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Xi Yan’s cuisine can be described as Asian fusion. Drawing inspiration from Thai and South East Asian cooking techniques and flavors, Xi Yan serves up multi-provincial Chinese food infused with other Asian influences.

Southeast Asian influences include the use of lemongrass or calamansi, infused into traditional Sichuan and Shanghainese dishes.

Their private dining outlet showcases the best of their menu. Unassuming outlook is an inadequate description when you reach the place, unnoticeable is more accurate: there is no signage for the whereabouts of it on the streets, not even on the very building it resided. It is on the third floor of a run-down commercial building in Wanchai, quiet, secluded and exclusive. Enter, sit down and enjoy

$430 per head

Salmon and jelly fish in Wasabi sesame sauce

Salmon and jelly fish in Wasabi sesame sauce

Grilled potatoes with salt and truffle

Grilled potatoes with salt and truffle

Shrimps in superior pickled sauce

Shrimps in superior pickled sauce

Crispy duck stuffed by glutinous rice

Crispy duck stuffed by glutinous rice

Sichuan spicy chicken

Sichuan spicy chicken. The menu changes every other night but this spicy chicken is a stalwart.

Stir fried spicy clams with basil

Stir fried spicy clams with basil

Chrysanthemum mandarin fish with lemongrass calamansi sauce

Chrysanthemum mandarin fish with lemongrass calamansi sauce

Satay shrimps with salted egg yolks and basil

Satay shrimps with salted egg yolks and basil

Longan and jujube sorbet with bird's nest

Longan and jujube sorbet with bird’s nest

Stewed chicken with pear and white fungus

Stewed chicken with pear and white fungus

Stir fried mix mushrooms with pickled cucumber

Stir fried mix mushrooms with pickled cucumber

Custard glutinous dumplings with sweet potato ginger soup

Custard glutinous dumplings with sweet potato ginger soup

Rating :  Love It

Food   :  Sichuan Spicy Chicken, Crispy Duck Stuffed with Glutinous Rice

Summary : A must try in Hong Kong. Contemporary chinese cuisine at its best.

3/F, 231-233 Queens Road East, Wanchai
Hong Kong
Tel:                (852) 9020 9196        
http://www.xiyan.com.hk/hk/

Dickson Asian Noodle house is a busy place that is well known for their laksa. They have a very extensive Asian menu with dishes from Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, Singapore and HK. It is a no nonsense place with laminated tables and chair where you wouldn’t really linger for after dinner drinks. But this place is definitely popular with the locals with the queue for tables are as long as the takeaway queue. The service is very efficient and you will get your steaming bowl of laksa in minutes. The laksa is touted as the best in Canberra and I must agree. I had one of those ‘dang this is freaking good’ moments after I had my spoonful. And with food, great first impressions on my tastebuds means its the real deal. The laksa is totally addicting.
Combination Laksa

Combination Laksa

 

 

Rating   :  Love it

Food     :  Laksa

Summary : Really great authentic food and value for money. Entrees are around AUD 5.50 – 7, main courses AUD 9-14.
Definitely drop by this place when you’re in Canberra.

Dickson Asian Noodle House
29 Woolley Street
Canberra, ACT 2602
Tel : (02) 6247 6380

Quay

Quay

Quay is the first to be named restaurant of the year twice in the same year – first by the Australian Gourmet Traveller 2009 Restaurant Guide and then by the 2009 Sydney Morning herald Good Food Guide.

Quay is set in one of the most beautiful spots in Sydney. Located at the end of Sydney’s International Terminal, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House provide backdrops on either sides.

Chef Peter Gilmore has introduced a set price four course degustation. Each course offers four or five dishes to choose from, essentially allowing the diner to design their own degustation.

Edible flowers and baby vegetables – a mix of pink and white radishes, turnips paired with tiny spring onions, native violets have been grown for quay alone . It tastes just as good as it looks.

Amuse Bouche

Starters : Jellied consomme of smoked salmon topped with salmon roe and creme fraiche.

Sea Pearls

First Course : Sea Pearls, French aquaculture caviar, sea scallop, smoked eel, octopus, sashimi tuna, abalone, pearl meat ( $25 supplement)

Sashimi

First Course : Sashimi of Blue Fin toro, Spanish mackerel, Yellow fin loin, Hiramasa kingfish, horseradish cream, baby radish, green almonds, white tea and seaweed jelly

Southern Rock Lobster

Second Course : Gently poached Southern rock lobster, lobster and tapioca dumpling, lobster velvet, almond cream ( $25 supplement )

Confit of shaved Australian squid

Confit of shaved Australian squid

Second Course : Confit of shaved South Australian squid, octopus coral, garlic custard, baby radishes, native violets, roasted squid consomme

Two kinds of duck with abalone

Third Course : Two kinds of duck with abalone. Look how small the baby turnips are!!!

Slow-braised lamb

Third Course : Eight hours of slow braised milk fed Suffolk lamb, baby carrots, Arbequina olives, nasturtiums, capers, calendula, sheeps milk fromage, coriander flowers

Snow Egg

Dessert : White peach snow egg – Fine shards of white peach granita served atop creamy vanilla ice cream while nestled at the peak is the ‘snow egg’ – a ball of white peach ice cream wrapped in fluffy meringue, coated in toffee then dusted with icing sugar.

 Eight texture chocolate cake

Dessert : Eight texture chocolate cake, featuring Amedi ‘Chuao’ chocolate

Petit Fours

Petits Fours – The little chocolate cylinders filled with caramel cream are amazing and can top anything on the menu. It’s an exaggeration I know, but it’s that good.

Quay at night

4 Course Menu $145

Summary : Quay has spectacular views and great food. It’s inspired modern Australian food which is exciting but not overdone to the point of being trendy. The uniqueness of the self-grown produce is an added bonus as it added a dimension of adventure and discovery to the dishes.

Subtle flavours and texture were heavenly and stood out in the dishes. The slow braised lamb was unlike anything we’ve had. The duck was cooked to perfection. Crisp on the outside and melt in your on the inside. The white peach snow egg was heavenly. Each layer of the dessert a new sensation in the mouth. A very elegant dessert.

Post dinner analysis would have us say the dinner was good but…  There were times when the muted flavours, overall lightness and restraint of the dishes were not what we wanted but it’s probably a matter of personal preference. Quay is a restaurant where subtleness and restraint of flavours reign supreme. Visit with an open mind and enjoy.

Quay
Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks, Sydney 2000
Tel :   61 2 9251 5600  
www.quay.com.au

This popular Moroccan and Middle-eastern themed restaurant has chains in Melbourne and Brisbane. Mecca Bah comes highly recommended as one of Canberra ‘s must dine in’ places. The interiors itself is impressive. Richly adorned with cozy ottomans, beautifully draped fabrics, and Tunisian ceramics, Mecca Bah is opulent without being flashy.

Mecca Bah

The menu had an interesting list of mezzes, tagines, grills and turkish pizzas. Searching for dishes that would give a true middle-eastern feel, we ordered two mezzes. The Lebanese sausages and spicy chickpea salad ( AUD$10.80 ) and Kataifi pastry filled with Middle Eastern cheeses ( AUD 11.00 ). A classic moroccan dish would be a tagine and we opted for the Spicy Moroccan Tagines served with couscous – Lamb with preserved lemon, green olive & harissa AUD$21.00

Note :

Harissa is a Tunisian hot red paste made from chilli peppers. It can be used as a condiment or, most commonly, as an ingredient. It’s also found in other North African cuisines like Morocco and Algeria. For less heat, remove seeds from chillies.

Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine

I paused after tasting each dish. There was something very wrong. I wasn’t liking the dishes. I found the dishes too bland, lacking in flavor. There weren’t any burst of flavours from the spices. The chickpea salad tasted basically of unflavoured chickpeas. The Kataifi pastry didn’t have any bite to it and same thing with the lamb tagine. We had to ask for extra chili to put some flavor to the dishes. I’ve read countless good reviews about Mecca Bah which made me wonder whether we just ordered the wrong dishes or it was just the chef’s bad day. But at a $60 bill for two, I would opt to try other restaurants than give Mecca Bah another chance.

Summary : The interiors are great. Mecca Bah is definitely a hanging out place but I wasn’t impressed with the food at all. It’s not authentic and there are a lot more better Middle-Eastern/Moroccan restaurants out there.

 Mecca Bah
25-29 Manuka Tce, Flinders Way, Manuka, ACT
Tel :  (02) 6260 6700

 

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung

I couldn’t wait for my trip to Sydney to try out Din Tai Fung the world famous Taiwanese dumpling chain with shops in China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the USA and Australia. Located on the second floor of World Square shopping centre, it is located in a very unassuming corner. The location didn’t seem to be a problem to anyone judging by the long queue outside the shop. Two girls with headsets took down our names and gave us queue tickets. The dumpling house itself didn’t look like a typical Chinese restaurant. It was tastefully done with modern wooden tables and chairs. The large paper lamps from the ceiling also added a nice feel to the place.

 

Dumpling Making

Dumpling Making

The dumpling shop itself looked impressive. There was a whole team of clinically outfitted dumpling ‘techinicians’ making the dumplings and examining each piece closely. There was even a QA guy making sure all the dumplings coming out looked perfect.

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao

The drunken chicken was out of stock which gave us a reason to order more dumplings.

The Xiao long bao pork dumpling ( Aud$8.80 ) were served first. The dumplings were sitting temptingly in the bamboo steamers. I could see how the soup inside made the dumplings wobbly through the translucent skin. The skin didn’t break when I transferred the xiao long bao from the steamer to my spoon. I didn’t put vinegar or chili on my first dumpling to gauge the full flavor. I bit on a small section of the dumpling skin to get access to the soup inside and gingerly sipped on the soup. The soup was sweet and plentiful for such a small dumpling. I popped in the rest of the dumpling into my mouth and savoured every bit. The dumplings are the best I’ve had so far. It’s even better than the famous Shanghai Yu Yuan garden xiao long bao.

Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling

Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling

The Xiao Long Bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling $13.80 had the very subtle flavour fo crab roe mixed with the soup. I found it quite expensive and had better crab roe xiao long bao’s flavour wise. But Din Tai Fung’s dumpling skin is still clearly a winner. The skin is just so delicate and thin enough.

Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai

Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai

The Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai AUD$8.80 is very interesting as it also had soup inside. Interesting shao mai’s but I would still go for the classic xiao long bao’s.

Zha Jian Mian ( Spicy Pork Mince Noodle )

Zha Jian Mian ( Spicy Pork Mince Noodle )

Zha Jiang Mian (Spicy Pork Mince Noodle ) is a classic Taiwanese dish and was done well. It was a good complement for the multitude of dumplings we were having.

Rating : Love It

Food   : Xiao Long Bao

Summary : Din Tai Fung is extremely addicting. I’ve been there twice in one week. You can’t help but have thoughts of perfect little dumplings in sweet broth on your head while going through the day. Be very careful in visiting the place as it will spoil you and set your standards high on how dumplings should taste like elsewhere.

Din Tai Fung

Shop 11. 04 Level 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel :   +61 (02) 9264 6010         
Open 7 days
11:00am-2.30pm
17:00pm-22:00pm (last order 9.15pm)

The Silo Bakery in Canberra has established itself as a ‘must visit’ place for foodies. It is touted to be Canberra’s best bakery and the weekend crowd affirmed it. The bakery has an array of homemade breads and pastries which were selling out quickly.

Silo Bakery

Silo Bakery

The  rows of tarts on display which all looked tempting too. I settled for the raspberry tart which was good. Not too sweet and had the right balance of tanginess.
Silo Bakery Tarts

Silo Bakery Tarts

We were lucky enough to find an empty table and decided to also have lunch. Silo offers a seasonal menu and the short list looked really good. We settled for the vegetable pate trio of roast capsicum, pesto and pumpkin. Interesting pates with good bread that Silo is famous for.

Vegetable Pates

The Zarzuela was to die for. It is a tomato based seafood soup with mussels and clams and a dollop of cream on top. Perfect light lunch. I would definitely come back here again on my lazy weekends for brunch.

Zarzuela

Zarzuela

Rating : Love It
Food   : Zarzuela ( Silo does offer a seasonal menu so chances are this won’t be on the menu anymore )

Silo Bakery
36 Giles Street Kingston ACT 2604
Tel :    (02) 6260 6060

A visit to Grazing takes you to the town of Gundaroo population 300. I fell in love with Grazing the moment I set eyes on it. It is a rustic restaurant in a 1830s stone building located in rural New South Wales 30 minutes from Canberra. It is a country restaurant which serves the freshest produce, most of the vegetables from the chef’s own herb garden.
Grazing restaurant

Grazing restaurant

The restaurant evokes warmth, character and coziness from the wooden floorboards, tables and the fireplaces.

Grazing interiors

Grazing interiors

The food is superb. Sophisticated country dining at its best. The catch of the day ($27) was served akin to to a thick bouillabaisse with a subtle creaminess that complemented the freshness of our fish.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

The crispy duck confit ($17) was heavenly. The skin is thin and crisp with the meat extremely tender.
Duck confit

Duck confit

The pear tart with cream ($14) was perfection. I’m not a fruit dessert person but there’s always a dish which makes you into a convert and this was it.

 

Pear tart

Pear tart

Rating : Love It

Food    : Try anything on the menu

Summary : I’m looking forward to my next visit although I’m 700 kilometres away. Grazing is definitely a must visit for anyone who drops by Canberra. There is perfection in simplicity.

GRAZING
The Royal Hotel
Corner Cork and Harp Streets
GUNDAROO NSW 2620
Telephone:                   02 6236 8777           
http://www.grazing.com.au

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.