Tuesday, April 29, 2014

1918 Bistro & Grill Restaurant Tanunda

Living in the Barossa has its perks. Aside from the friendly community and pretty season transition colours, Barossa valley is also notoriously known for its food and wine. Over the last few years, the Barossa had certainly seen many types of restaurants flourish and this had attracted tourists to the valley which then further propels this economical cycle.

I have been to 1918 Bistro and Grill once in the past for a special occasion and once again, popped over for dinner on a last minute note but thankfully, the waiting staff were able to accommodate us. We started off with freshly baked bread with parmesan infused olive oil and olives. The bread was fluffy and still fresh despite us having it late at night and dipping it into the olive oil was a treat.

Beef carpaccio with pickled radish, capers, crispy onion rings, mustard aioli and cornichons ~ All the fuss about carpaccio dishes have certainly caught our attention and so, we could not pass the opportunity to try these slices of meat for the first time. I found it very refreshing and there is a good balance of acidity from the pickles that marry well with the mild aioli taste. Lots of crunch happening on the plate and overall, it was a superb entree to start us off.

Parsnip soup with pancetta crumbs ~ I very rarely order soup at a restaurant but how could I not when it's an uncommon type of soup? The soup was creamy, rich and very flavoursome; pancetta crumbs gave it a good kick of salt and texture. Very nice and portion wise, it was big enough for me:)

Since I am being adventurous that night, why not add a bottle of pear cider to my menu? Slightly alcoholic but has a nice sweetness to it.

Seafood bouillabaisse ~ I always shy away from ordering seafood at any restaurants, purely because I am wry that the portion size would disappoint. 1918 proved me wrong by utilizing fresh mussels, prawns, scallops and squid in their seafood stock and topped everything well with a good bundle of salad and a side of grilled bread. I absolutely loved this creation not only for the generousity in portion but also the wonderful flavours in every little morsel. A must try although it may be a once-off kind of weekly/ daily special.

Roasted baby potatoes with rosemary and garlic ~ I like a bit of potatoes with my meals, especially potato pieces that have a crisp outer layer and a fluffy interior. Very nice.

Baby cos salad with pancetta, boiled egg and anchovy dressing ~ this reminded me of a traditional Caesar salad but somewhat more refined. Generous shaving of parmesan cheese atop a bed of fresh cos salad leaves, crispy pancetta and crumbled egg pieces. If only I could have this every day.

Roasted pork belly with caramelized onion, white pudding, apple and cabbage salad ~ The pork belly had a crispy skin attached and a very moist meat layer that oozes with juice when sliced into. The caramelized onion goes perfectly well with the pork flesh and having a side of well dressed salad was a bonus. Loved this dish and as you can see, generous portions wins hands down.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my dining experience here last weekend. Friendly and professional service backed by delicious food prepared by the kitchen staff. Would be happy to drop by again:)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Taiwan Day 5 and 6: Round up and Yong Kang street

Seeing as mum and sis are visiting the infamous Taroka Gorge somewhere in Taiwan, I decided to utilize this free day for some much deserved me time. Staying alone in Barossa made me appreciate what little time I had to reflect and ponder on life (and also gives me time to experiment in the kitchen or do some crazy photo shooting session!). I did exactly the same thing in Hong Kong last December and strangely enough, allowed me to understand the locals' lifestyle better.

Immediately after a porridge breakfast and hot green tea drink (miss not having breakfast here), I took the train to Taipei 101 for another quick browse of the city. I then realized that most of the shops only open at 10.30am or 11am. Woops. But that's alright, walking around was a healthy option and seeing that Taipei is bigger in size than Hong Kong, I did not wander far for fear of getting lost, knowing my luck haha.

I then headed to Ximending, thinking that I could possibly do some shopping but sadly, nothing attracted my attention and so, I rewarded myself with a bowl of shaved mango ice. Can't get enough of these bowls of ice despite a majority of the mango pieces are frozen. One bowl of this was enough to last me until dinner time..although..I did a bit of snacking along the way. Double woops.

With plenty of time on hand, I walked from Fu Hau hotel to Yong Kang street, which is about 20 minutes? A breezy walk with my trusty Adidas sneakers that never disappoints me:) Yong Kang street is best known as one of the more popular food streets in Taiwan where rumour has it that the best beef noodle soup is somewhere around the corner! But I still could not find it because it seemed to be located a little further from where I was. And I had the responsibility of doing takeaways for my mum and sis.

I have seen so many bloggers rave about La Douceur patisserie. Was not on my food list but seeing as I was lucky enough to stumble upon it, why not head in for some sweets. In terms of atmosphere, it reminded me of Full House in Malaysia aka white furniture and decor with a touch of elegance to it.

I ordered myself a glass of milk tea which was frothed milk in a glass of sweetened tea. From the picture, you can tell that the milk is slowly seeping into the tea layer, no stirring necessary. I have also ordered a slice of cassis cake with hazelnut crumb topping and it looked swanky, tasted yummy. Overall, was not disappointed, just too bad I couldn't have tried other items:)

How could I have passed on the opportunity to try their macarons. Ordered the mint, marshmallow, passionfruit and lavender flavoured pieces which were pretty good. Costs less than the ones we had from Taipei 101 but still good:) Could not leave without keeping the macaron box as a souvenir (being used as a jewellery box now haha).

On the way to Yong Kang street, I grabbed a couple of pancake buns, one with taro and the other with red bean. These little things were cooked fresh upon order and exudes some much needed warmth in my hands. Happy days indeed!

At 4pm, I was already exploring Shilin night market once more but this time, I am on the hunt for takeaways as well as munching on other authentically Taiwanese goods. The market's not too packed for a Thursday night but probably best to get here before the dinner crowd arrives.

I had the infamous coffin bread which is a thick slice of bread, deep fried before being sliced open and stuffed with a dollop of sticky concoction and your choice of meat. Anything deep fried tastes good, in my humble opinion and one of these pieces kept me full.

I arrived back in the hotel on time (thankfully did not get lost with the various transit lines..happened in the morning and I must have spent at least 30 minutes hopping off and on trains). I brought home oyster omelette, oyster mee sua and a couple of fried chicken steaks to which, both the sister and mum were happy to nom down. Would have liked to surprise them with healthier options but it is very tricky considering I could be pushed around in the public areas :S

After the sister had rested for a bit in the hotel, we walked around our hotel to the nearby rows of shops. And then...we were in front of a Hello Kitty shop and without any hesitation, went in. Non-hello kitty fans but we would do anything out of curiosity haha.

Admittedly, there is nothing fancy in this place that appeals to me. We ordered a tiramisu cake, strawberry kitty cake and a pot of tea to share. Not extremely expensive but not somewhere I would drop by again. As mentioned, was not bad but not to my personal liking:)

So the next day aka last day in Taiwan, we took the taxi for a quick trip to Yong Kang street. I reckon the sister must be pretty jelly after seeing my food pictures hehe. Most shops, minus the coffee shops, open at about 10.30am to 11am, just in time for brunch.

Also ordered yet another bowl of shaved mango ice to share among the three of us at the Sandwich smoothie ice magic shop. The shop was newly opened and this shop has another branch located 3 minutes away. Talk about insane popularity.

To round things up, we had brunch at Kao Chi restaurant, a Shanghai inspired restaurant that rivals with Din Tai Fung. Service is friendly, efficient and attentive. Always nice to see a menu written in English for tourists that can't read Chinese letters. Ordered a plate of pork pastries, siew mai, xiaolongbao and meat buns for lunch. Look at the size of the bamboo steamer and how many delicate pieces are in it?! Share worthy I reckon;) Although the texture of the individual pastries may not be as fine as the ones from Din Tai Fung, we were happy with the yummy lunch items in front of us.

And so, that wraps up the blog posts on Taiwan. Am I missing this place? Yes indeed. I would prefer Hong Kong but for a peaceful and carefree place to relax, Taiwan is a good option and if you're into Taiwanese drama or celebrities, this is the place for you:)

Up next on the blog would be on restaurants in Kuala Lumpur!! :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Taiwan Day 4: Tamshui and Din Tai Fung in Da'an district

Taiwan day 4 begun with a trip to the fishing wharf of Taiwan aka Tamshui or Damshui. We took the MRT here and it was a long route indeed, approximately 40 minutes. Arrived at about 11am and the place was empty, not many locals in sight and some shops only open later.

En route to Tamshui, we had a quick glimpse of Taiwan's less developed side, which, truthfully, reminded me a bit of Hong Kong, minus the hustle and bustle. Instead, there's this strange calmness greeting me as we entered this cooler horizon.

Tamshui used to be a fort built by the Portuguese when they came to the East. It is strategically located next to the sea and there are abundance of marine produce here (check out the stalls selling fried cuttlefish, fish, crabs and prawns!). Oh and feel free to cycle around, there's heaps of space for everyone:)

Being the adventurous yet scrooge-y travelers that we are, we decided to not get fried squid at Shilin night market as it seemed costly that time and instead, wait patiently until we get ourselves to Tamshui. Yep, managed to buy one of these and it was yummy! Be mindful that Taiwan serves up a lot of fried delicacies so be sure to bring something to help soothe a potential irritated throat:)

San Diego fort is one of the older, still existing forts located about 15 minutes by foot away from the MRT station. Each individual quarter is well maintained despite the establishment undergoing some rough patches during the war period as well as nature, of course.

After a visit to the fort, we headed to the CBD precinct to catch the train home but (there's always a but) we got caught up in our foodie adventures after stepping foot in that area. There are quite a number of traditional bakeries here that have successfully attracted the tourists as well as more than a handful of bubble tea shops. I have yet to find the best, mind blowing bubble tea shop in Taiwan, probably because I don't seem to patronize any particular shop and so, did not really get the chance to taste their speciality :S

We stumbled upon this shop that sells this fascinating egg chiffon  cake which is extremely fluffy, warm and yummy. Could not have asked for anything more on a cold day in Taiwan. The baker was friendly enough to let me take a picture of his produce before he cuts into it.

Not surprising that Tamshui has it's own market which sells a variety of souvenirs, snacks and just your every day goods. A long trip back to our hotel and after resting in our room,we prepped ourselves ready for dinner nearby at one of Taiwan's most popular restaurants, Din Tai Fung (DTF). There are plenty of DTF outlets in Taiwan but I reckon one has to still wait in line, regardless of which outlet you choose. It is that popular among the locals and tourists alike!

Xiaolongbao which is akin to a dumpling but the pastry is delicate as well as paper thin and each of these tasty morsels have about a tablespoon of soup wrapped in it. Such a treat to have and service here is top notch and efficient? Is it over hyped by social media? Definitely not. Each plate does cost slightly more than what I would have paid for in Malaysia but the texture is so much better here. Kudos to the skilled chefs behind this.

We also tried their beef noodle soup which has a very nice aroma to it and the noodles are handmade. It is a very distinctive noodle texture and worth a try if you do visit DTF.

We had our plates cleared for our taro bun dessert. The waitress cleared our plates and brought out new plates for us to use, just to savour our little dessert. Happiness indeed.

We walked further down the road and decided to turn back but before we head to our hotel, we brought ourselves to Ootoya Japanese restaurant, just to suss out the Japanese goods here, that is. Service is efficient and friendly. Portion size is huge for what we paid (from memory, it was about aud$15 per set).

Each set has a bowl of udon noodles topped with grated radish, pickles and a steaming hot bowl of rice topped with whatever topping you picked. Not to mention a cup of green tea to wash everything down. Everything was well prepared and presented beautifully to us. No signs of broken utensils or sauce dripping down every bowl.

The restaurant also had green tea ice cream on their specials menu to which, I could not resist ordering for myself. The ice cream in Taiwan is phenomenal. Silky smooth, creamy and soft. This cup was filled with a dollop of green tea ice cream, vanilla ice cream, a generous dollop of red bean mix and a squeeze of whipped cream on the side. It was the perfect treat to end the night:)