Sunday, September 1, 2013

DJS Homecooked Meal!

Sophia says:  Hello Readers! We have a very special review for you. My friend Deanna, Josh, and I decided to have a dinner party for my mom and dad. We planned it a month ahead of time and I was really excited. The menu was edamame for an appetizer, salmon with sun-dried tomatoes for the main course, Greek lemon roasted potatoes and glazed carrots for side dishes, and last but not least, strawberry shortcake for dessert. We made everything from scratch, and my mom and dad didn't know the menu till that night. It was really fun baking, stirring, and chopping food, and my mom and dad LOVED it. It was a wonderful time. I hope you like my photos and my captions!

the menu
Deanna and Sophia
Josh and Mom
the atmosphere
salmon with sun-dried tomatoes
playing around
glazed carrots
serving the shortcake
strawberry shortcake
enjoying dessert
Sophia, Josh, and Deanna

Josh says: I made an incredible dinner! I was the one of the chefs and I had a good time!

Paul says:  What a delightful evening! A well planned and executed gourmet dinner! The salmon was cooked to perfection with beautiful parsley and sun dried tomato topping. The home cooked potatoes were lightly seasoned with the perfect degree of crispiness.  The carrots were warm and tender and delicious - I had thirds and I'm seeing much better today! The dessert was incredibly delicious. I would definitely go here again - what a treat!  

Jodie says: Last night we had a great dinner at Deanna's house and everything was a complete surprise! Deanna is a good friend of ours and a beautiful hostess.  After enjoying our edamame appetizer, we sat in the dining room for the main course. The salmon was perfectly cooked and restaurant quality!  Sophie & Josh brought out the dishes and each one was delicious! My favorite dish was the homemade strawberry shortcake.  It is one of my favorite desserts and having it was a real treat!  We had a fantastic time and I wish we could do this every week!

I know this isn't our usual type of review but we wanted to post this because our dinner was everything a great restaurant meal should be.

Food: *****
Service: *****
Atmosphere: *****
Overall:                                                   5 Ladybugs!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sushi Hachi!

Sophia says: Tonight for dinner my mom, my brother and I went to Hachi. They opened a few weeks ago and this was still their grand opening. This restaurant serves Japanese food. When we got to Hachi, we were the only people there. I ordered the salmon terryaki bento box. There is no kids menu. Our food took a while to come, but when we got it the bento box was huge! The salmon was really tender, but pretty good. Also, miso soup came with our bento boxes. Our waiter was nice, and she filled our waters when ever they were getting low. The bathroom was pretty clean. During the end of dinner, I tasted my brother's chicken, and it was all spongy. But overall, it was a nice restaurant.

  1711 W. El Camino Real, #B, Mountain View, CA 94040 650-988-6938

Josh says:  Tonight we went to Sushi Hachi. I ordered chicken terryaki.  My food was good. Our waitress was nice and the bathroom was clean. I thought the sushi was the best part. I had california rolls which has seaweed, avocado and crab. It was delicious. I had good time.  We said bye to our waitress and went home. 

Jodie says: We were driving by and saw the "grand opening" sign the other day and decided to check it out. The restaurant is very small and set up nicely.  At first, we were the only ones there and finally, some other people came in.  I ordered the salmon and avocado roll. I thought everything was just okay and my food was very mediocre. The kids liked their dinner a lot better.  They have a pretty extensive menu with many specialty rolls and house special tapas.  If we ever go back I would try something completely different.

Food: ***
Service: ***
Atmosphere: ***
                           3 Ladybugs!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

White Sands Estate

We drove what felt like an epic five million miles to get to White Sands Estate, just outside Scamander, last week. It’s two hours to Swansea (if you stick to the proscribed speed limits). We would be staying in Swansea the night before going to White Sands, so when I booked, I asked the receptionist how long it would take to drive from Swansea to White Sands. She replied, “An hour” and added that it was about half an hour past Bicheno. So, taking her at her word, I took my powerful daily diuretic tablet (prescribed to make this human body loose fluid by urinating frequently!) before we left, in the full knowledge that it takes approximately one hour to kick in, so I had that travelling time up my sleeve as a grace period requiring little or no toilet usage!

Unfortunately, after ¾ hour, I was about to explode all over the interior of the car, and we were nowhere near Bicheno, let alone past it (Bec was driving and sticking to her 80 kph speed limit)! So we stopped at a roadside stall and they kindly let me use the facilities. We then progressed onwards for another ¾ hour, with me frantically holding on yet again! You have no idea how pleased I was when we eventually arrived there!

On first observations, this seemed like a potential goldmine. Situated in the most ideal spot right next to their own private beach, and having a putting green, swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball court, cinema, canoe lake, trout lake, children’s play area, BBQ area, games room and a variety of accommodation choices, as well as the HUGE dining room (restaurant called, most unoriginally, “Le Blanc” ‘blanc’ being the French word for white!), and Iron House Brewery. They also have conference rooms and a huge function centre so are ideally placed to cater for a wedding, in this idyllic setting, booking out all the accommodation for the wedding guests, with the function room having enough space to hold easily 100-200 people and activities aplenty for all those bored souls.

We were shown to our table, to find ourselves, in the midst of this large, high ceiling-ed gymnasium-type room (painted all white!) only one of three tables dining. I was surprised at the scarcity of diners on such a lovely sunny Sunday lunch time at this beautiful spot.

I could well understand it after we’d finished entrees and mains. Descriptive words that spring to mind include disappointing, unadventurous, ‘safe’ menu and mediocre food. Don’t get me wrong. The food was acceptable, and I couldn’t justifiably returning it to the kitchen saying it wasn’t up to my expectations, but it simply wasn’t.

Apart from bold notations on menu items which contained their various Iron House Brewery products (lager, porter, pale ale, wheat beer), there was absolutely no reference as to the origins of any other menu ingredients, which I expect from somewhere that boasts that they have “a menu that includes the freshest regional produce Tasmania has to offer”, put together by their “talented chefs”.

As starters, we had herb and garlic bread ($6), salt and pepper squid with a garden salad and aioli ($17) and confit duck leg with caramelized fennel and an orange butter sauce ($19).

For mains, slow braised lamb shoulder with crispy potato, honey roasted carrots and baby spinach ($28) and Iron House beef burger with caramelized onion, bacon, lettuce, pickle, cheese and a house made relish ($18).

Those “talented chefs” may well be qualified, professional chefs, but they will never get any further advanced in their career if they churn out tasteless food like they did on Sunday. The slow braised lamb shoulder had not one iota of garnish of any sort on it, and was the biggest hunk of meat I have seen anywhere. They could quite easily third that serving and sell it at the same price. It was, as advertised, slow braised so was tender and juicy. Unfortunately it looked so unappetizing plonked there in the middle of the plate that just its appearance turned me off. You know they always say we eat with our eyes – and I do, and this dish simply wasn’t doing it for me.

The herb/garlic bread was just ordinary slices of a French stick with herb/garlic butter on one side. That’s it. Not char grilled, not oiled, not cut thickly, not over-endowed with dripping, warm, flavoured butter or oil. Just that. If I were a chef, and had some pride in my work, I’d be ashamed to send that out.

The salt and pepper squid was cut too thickly, and the oil wasn’t hot enough when they fried it, because it was slightly soggy. It didn’t taste at all spicy either.

The service was fine, as you’d expect it to be, as the two other tables present when we arrived, departed as we were served our entrees, so the waitress only had one table to look after.

I would venture to suggest that they get a consultant in to advise on ways they can improve the whole operation, but I fear that if this is their concept of “relaxed modern dining at its best”, then getting a professional in (David Quon or Paul Foreman for instance) would be a wasted effort.

All in all, a wasted day, really. We should have just gone along to the Swansea Bark Mill, or Swansea RSL and would have enjoyed ourselves just as much, if not more.

In summation, White Sands Estate is, in my opinion, merely a white elephant!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pilgrim Coffee, August 2013

According to my Pocket English Dictionary, a pilgrim is not necessarily a character from a John Wayne movie, but is, in fact, “a person who journeys to a sacred place as an act of devotion”. From that definition, I must conclude that my first journey to Pilgrim Coffee in Argyle Street last week was pre-ordained!

Just when you thought you’d been there and done that countless times in your life, along comes something that absolutely knocks your socks off and disproves everything you’ve settled in your head as being the norm.

Yes, I have had in the past, and continue to have, excellent dining-out experiences here in Hobart restaurants and cafés.

Forget any past experiences you might have had at Pilgrim (if they were negative).

Pilgrim is a café where it should be made law that as soon as you enter its portals, you hand over your electrical goods, go to your table, select your food then close your eyes when it comes out, and experience the real-life feeling of the results of excellent culinary training, passion for food product, and experience in presenting same in a such a casual atmosphere as Pilgrim.

This is a café that mentions the word ‘hipster’ on the menu, thus inferring to me that I need to be aged in my mid-20’s to mid-30’s, upwardly mobile and equally trendily kitted out in the latest funky clothes while my ears are plugged in to my headphones and iPod music, and with my mobile phone in the spare hand that isn’t lovingly fondling my glass of latte!

But I’d be wrong with my assumptions about the clientele at Pilgrim. This is actually a place that embraces everyone from old grannies (not unlike myself) dragging along their shopping trolleys (totally unlike myself!!), to the headphone-wearing hipsters of the previous paragraph.

This is a café where you won’t give a rat’s arse about who the clientele are, but will keep returning repeatedly for the epic food adventure you’ll be taken on whilst eating their food.

Most staff are from the Source, and the high-end chef-ing shows through in all the food presented.

This is no ordinary city café. This is a daytime café-style equivalent of the ilk of the old Piccalilli, or Marque IV or Gondwana. This is a café where you’ll get mouthful after mouthful of different tastes, hints and flavours of all the ingredients in a dish.

We had:
  • House made crumpet with quince jam and Chantilly cream ($12??)
  • Popcorn dusted with chipotle and cinnamon (free)
  • Polish platske (potato pancakes), Mundy’s kassler, slow egg, pickled shallots and fresh fennel salad, sauce of sour cream, dill, mustard ($16)
  • Violet French toast - brioche, dredged in cinnamon sugar (I think), Pilgrim (edible) pot pourri, violet crème anglaise and lavender foam ($16)
  • Single origin cocoa waffles with salted caramel, fresh banana and hazelnut cream ($13)
 It’s useless to try and convey the flavours of each of those dishes. You need to get in there and find out for yourself. Our agreed favourite was the Violet French toast, followed closely by the other dishes. I defy you to get a better coffee anywhere else in Hobart too.

Will Priestley, owner, opened Pilgrim Coffee in Argyle Street two years ago, then added to his mini empire a few months ago by securing a Liverpool Street site which was easily accessed internally from their Argyle Street shop, so you now have an L-shaped café. He has travelled the world in his quest to make, drink and source the best coffee available.

His future plans for Pilgrim include establishing a burger bar, with basic but excellent burgers available mostly for takeaway, from 11.00 am till 12.00 am. This sounds like superb competition for Maccas newest Hobart outlet which is just a block up the road in Argyle St.

I don’t want to ever read again a description of café food at a normal, unadventurous café in Hobart. I know they all work as hard as they can to achieve their version of wonderful-ness but I would love Pilgrim to be the blueprint for excellence in the city, and for it to be the norm for us to expect, AND RECEIVE, such perfection and brilliance and innovation in Hobart café fare.

Pilgrim Coffee
48 Argyle Street
Ph: 6234 1999

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blue Line Pizza!

Sophia says: Tonight we went to Blue Line Pizza for dinner. We have been there once before when it first opened and everything went wrong. The first time, they didn't tell us where the kid's menu was (its on the back of the doodle pad that they give you) and also they charged us for something that they forgot to bring. We decided to try again a few weeks later.  This time it really improved! First of all, our hostess mentioned to us and everyone else with kids where the kids menu was. Our waiter was really nice and when I ordered a pineapple juice, he served it me in a fancy glass. I ordered chicken in a blanket that comes with potato chips and carrots and ranch dressing. A chicken in a blanket is where they wrap dough around chicken and cheese. It was delicious! We sat outside and there was a festival going on with old fashioned cars. I would recommend Blue Line Pizza for people looking for great food and great service! 

                     146 Castro Street, Mountain View CA 650-938-7888

the battle car!

Josh says: Hi Readers! Tonight we went to dinner at Blue Line Pizza! When we got there, our waiter came right too us in less than a second. We got to sit outside and the street was closed for a car show. The glasses were really fancy and we got just what we wanted super fast. I ordered chicken in a blanket and carrots and potato chips. It was amazing because it tasted really good. The service was really nice and our waiter checked on us a lot. After dinner we ran into one of my friends who was there with his dad. We got to look at the cars and the cars were very big, mostly the battle car. One of the wheels was as tall as me! I wanted to climb in but I couldn't. I would love to come back! 

Jodie says: The first time we went to Blue Line Pizza it had just opened and the food and service were not so great.  We decided to wait few weeks and try again. The weather was nice enough to sit outside and tons of people were walking around checking out the car show. I ordered the blue cheese salad and it was so good, I ate everything!   Our waiter was really friendly and even though he had a lot of tables, he checked on us numerous times. Afterwards, we got to listen to live music and look at the cool cars. It was the perfect end to a wonderful evening.

Food: ****
Service: ****1/2
Atmosphere: ****1/2

4 1/2 Ladybugs!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

High Tea at Manor Grill August 2013

If you’re a High Tea aficionado, the Manor Grill at Rydges is the place to go.

I dragged some friends along there yesterday, kicking and screaming, and force fed them some disgusting afternoon tea delights - fresh out of the oven scones/jam/cream, mini quiches, ham and smoked salmon sandwiches, macarons, mini chocolate mousses, Baileys infused crème brulee, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate fudge and mini lemon meringue pies.

Each dish was freshly made or baked on site, and all were stunning.

Kath and I loved the pastry of the quiches, with all of us admitting to a common love of the scones, jam and cream, thus proving that your old traditional goodies still reign supreme in the world of High Teas.

We had a delightful two hours in a beautiful environment, looked after efficiently by the staff.

I would love to see this place overflowing with eager customers jostling each other for a table at High Tea at Rydges, and find it sinful that we were the only people present enjoying such decadent treats, and all for the princely sum of $25 per head.

Along with the company, the afternoon was perfect, and I hope it is the first of many such relaxing afternoons I spend there.

A word of warning though: if you are paying by credit card, there is a surcharge added to the amount, so probably cash is your best option to avoid that tricky little addition to the bill.

Manor Grill
Rydges Hotel
Cnr Argyle and Lewis Streets
North Hobart
Ph 6231 1588

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Manor Grill, North Hobart

I’m in a restaurant in North Hobart. There is parking galore outside the front door. The dining room is elegant. The staff unbelievably friendly, courteous and helpful. The food is absolutely faultless, of the highest quality possible, and sourced locally. The atmosphere unhurried, calm and restful – as opposed to noisy, hurried and stressful! Music is playing in the background but not blasting your ears out, meaning you can actually hear what the person with you is saying instead of relying on lip-reading!

Where is this place, I hear you ask? What North Hobart restaurant answers all the above criteria? Ponder no more, fair reader – the answer is The Manor Grill at Rydges. I know what you’re thinking! Why the hell would I venture into the dining room of Rydges? Answer: because I recommend you do before you critcise me and my judgement call!

To compare it to a similarly niched establishment, you could look at Alexanders Restaurant at Lenna, although I can’t testify as to the food quality at Alexanders because I haven’t eaten there for a good few years. Manor Grill is a variety of stately home type of environment complete with the beautiful cotton napery, gleaming stemmed wine glasses, sparkling silverware and glowing candles. In other words, an ideal spot for that special night out as well.

Marj and I ate our fill of the following:
*Manor baked fresh mini loaf and house butter $6
*Crispy squid salad, sumac spices, aioli, baby lettuce salad, blood orange dressing $18
*Eye fillet from Duck River (Tas) with green peppercorn sauce (served separately in a small jug) and a side of hand cut Bruny Island pink eye wedges with the steak topped with scallops in wine cream sauce. $35 for steak + sauce + sides, plus additional $10 for scallop topping (which was a special for last night)
*Caesar salad containing all the standard Caesar ingredients $15
*Crème caramel $10

They do Daily Specials as well. See attached link to each day of the weeks special:
$20 on a Tuesday night for a chicken parmy and glass of house wine sounds perfect to me! Ditto for the Sunday roast at $18 with red wine jus and all the trimmings.

They also do a fabulous High Tea every day from 2.00, but reservations are essential. The cost for that is $25 per head and everything presented is made in-house.

Head Chef there is Drew Van der Woude – another of the stable of talented young chefs to have emerged from Drysdale over past years and worked at Moorilla. Drew is a housemate of Roaring Grill’s Head Chef Jon Gangell so I would love the chance to share the house with them and participate in some of the off-duty meals there! Think of the parade of fine foods that would find its way to the table!

It was Jon’s recommendation a few weeks ago that I try Rydges restaurant. He said the food standard was very high and I was missing out by not going along there! I love a hot tip, so having had the carrot dangled in front of me, I was SO there! I didn’t realize at the time though that he and Drew lived together!

We walked in and were immediately met by waitress Kirsty who introduced herself, showed us to our table and told us she would be looking after us tonight. She wasn’t repeating, parrot-like, a pre-rehearsed line that she was told to tell everyone who arrived for a booking. She said it in a friendly and natural manner. And she kept her word. She looked after us better than anyone I can think of recently.

She explained the specials for the evening, made sure we were happy with drinks, topped up ice cold water continually, described dishes as we enquired and checked each course was to our liking, answered my probing questions about the chef and his menu, and did some very nifty upselling at the same time, managing to slip into the conversation about the existence of the Rydges Priority Guests Rewards scheme, which is free to join and allows you all sorts of great benefits, both accommodation-wise and meal-wise down the track, if you join up. It sounded so fabulous I signed up on the spot!

Mostly catering to functions and house guests staying in the hotel, Rydges menus are reasonably standard, and don’t push the envelope too far. Having said that, everything is done to such a high standard that I don’t think anyone would be too concerned about there being no accompanying quinoa flavoured with caramelized watercress and blue gum crème fraiche, or other wanky concoctions to go with the steaks!

I won’t do a mouthful by mouthful description of each plate of food we had. They are what they are. As previously stated, it was all of such a high standard that I deem that small descriptive detail unnecessary and insulting to you and your imagination!

In short – get along there as soon as possible, and try to prove me wrong! I guarantee you won’t be able to!

Rydges Hotel
Cnr Argyle and Lewis Streets
North Hobart
Ph: 6231 1588