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Cheap and cheerful (or just cheap)

December 1, 2009

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I have moved my blog – come and visit over at blahblogblah.  I will continue to cross-post here for a while, but please change your bookmarks to the new URL.

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Friday night mojitos at the Red Monkey Bar in Victoria Street were taking effect. The stress of the week was melting away; my defences were low. The phone rang – unknown number. Was it the unexpected delight of hearing from an old friend? The late afternoon sunshine? The mojitos? After hanging up I realised I’d agreed to go to a Melbourne Victory game the following night.

The plan – which, to my surprise, still existed the following day – was to meet at Etihad Stadium at 6.15. This posed two problems. One was resolved relatively quickly: Etihad Stadium is The Stadium Formerly Known As Telstra Dome, or The Stadium Known Even Further Back As Colonial. The other problem was more worrisome. What about dinner?

We figured that we could have an early snack, then a late snack, and call that dinner. Dumplings seemed to fit the bill for the what. The issue was where. Docklands doesn’t have much to offer, nor does the western end of the CBD. Hutong was rejected for being too far east and a call sent out on Twitter garnered that and Dumplings Plus as options. So Dumplings Plus it was.

Read more…

Specials, or Menu Fail

November 24, 2009
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I have moved my blog – please come and visit over at blahblogblah.  I will continue to cross-post here for a while, but please change your bookmarks to the new URL.

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“… and can I just run through the specials for today?”

It depends.

It depends on how softly you speak versus how noisy the dining room is. [Tip: try to make yourself heard - it's not that difficult.  Read the diners.  If they are leaning in towards you, looking pained, raise your voice a tad.]

It depends on whether there’s already a chalkboard with the specials written up. [If there is, don't recite them - we can read.  Perhaps make sure they are visible to the diners, but don't bring the board over to the table.]

It depends on whether you can actually remember them without having to go back to check on what they are.

It depends on whether you are prepared to answer the (not unreasonable) question “and how much is that?”.

Oh, and if the restaurant has printed a separate page of the day’s lunch specials don’t distribute it if, at 12.15 on a Monday, the kitchen is already “out of gnocchi”.

1. Fettucine is not an acceptable substitute

and

2. It’s the beginning of lunch at the beginning of the week so being “out” of one of the week’s lunch specials is, well, special.

Streetsmart eats – Laksa Me

November 21, 2009

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I have moved my blog – please come and visit over at blahblogblah.  I will continue to cross-post here for a while, but please change your bookmarks to the new URL.

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Why haven’t I been to Laksa Me before now? It’s taken Streetsmart to finally make the effort to go, and it was worth it. We were looking for somewhere to grab a quick and inexpensive dinner in the city, so checked the list and this certainly seemed to fit the bill.

You certainly don’t go there for the decor. That’s not to say that it’s uncomfortable, just that the furnishings and styling are utilitarian. You don’t go for the wine list, either, however you can bring your own wine for a $10 corkage (they have a small selection and we did get a cold, wet bottle of white from that but I’d suggest you make use of the BYO option). The location is great – public transport friendly with a number of post-dinner drinks options. Liverpool Street’s a little on the daggy side, but that’s not a criticism; comfortable is good.

I’d checked out the online menu before booking and had already mapped out the meal. Unfortunately three of the starters I’d chosen virtually weren’t available on the real menu (Thai sausage, beef in betel leaf and duck rolls). We ended up with the pandan chicken (sublime), mini rolls (perfectly crisp parcels with no oiliness, but nothing spectacular) and fish cakes (tasty).

Despite the fact that the menu listed a number of appealing dishes, there was no way I wasn’t going to get a laksa. I just had to decide between the “My Mum’s Laksa” and the Laksa Lemak (no WAY I was going for the “skinny” version). As I adore hor fun and cha siu I went with the Ipoh style. It was fine – the pork was very tender, the prawns were plump and fresh, the “soup” was spicy and not too sweet or too creamy. Negatives were that the elements of the paste were a little too obvious in the dish, rendering the texture quite grainy, and the chunks of chicken added nothing to the dish.

My partner chose the San-bei-ji, described as “Chunk of chicken braised with 3 cups of seasoning, garlic, ginger and chilli, served with steamed Jasmine rice”. It was simple, with the definite “breath of the wok” flavour – which, for some reason, I insist on calling “dragon’s breath” (possibly because it always elicits the same pained eye-roll). I’m glad he tried it; I’d be making my way through the Malaysian classics before I got to that.

I’m glad I finally got there but I’m still searching for the perfect laksa. Will have to return to try the laksa lemak, just in case… Perhaps before Christmas, when the warm glow of being satisfied by food is extended by the warm glow of supporting Streetsmart.

Easier than expected

November 16, 2009

The migration to bluehost went unexpectedly well!  There’s still some tweaking to do (have to figure out how to bring all my sidebars over), but there is now content over at …blahblogblah…

Please come and visit!

(I’ll probably continue to cross post here for a while, but if you happen to have this bookmarked, please change to the new URL.)

The big move!

November 16, 2009

I’ve bitten the bullet and registered a domain, so will be trying to move this blog over to a new address.  First, though, I will need coffee and pastries to fortify me.

When it’s done, I’ll post the new link…

Round up

November 7, 2009

StreetSmart

You might have noticed the StreetSmart logo in the right sidebar.  The annual StreetSmart campaign, which raises money to help the homeless, kicks off tomorrow.  It’s one of those ideas that is so simple: participating restaurants add a small donation to your bill (you’re welcome to increase it from the standard $2, but don’t forget your usual tip!).  As they note on the site – this isn’t even the cost of a cup of coffee, these days.  I’m planning to restrict myself to only eating at StreetSmart supporters for the duration of the campaign.  Restrict, though, is probably a misleading word – check out the list of supporters!  It’s certainly no hardship to eat that list.

For those of you following @StreetSmartAust on Twitter, you can also eat, tweet, and (perhaps) be treated.  (Remember to use #SSEats for your entries.)

Thanks to Ed at Tomato for revving up the Twitter and blogger communities to support this!

Recaps

I’ve been busy over at Reality Ravings this week.  Hell’s Kitchen is winding up, Beauty and the Geek is hotting up, and The Amazing Race is… really a tad boring this season.

Reading

I’ve finished Swallows and Amazons.  How did I not read this in my childhood?  Perhaps I got into too much of a Jill’s Perfect Ponies rut, because I know it was always on the bookshelf at the Mornington house.  It certainly would have fuelled some of the adventure fantasies during all those canoeing-fishing-campfiring Gippsland lakes holidays…  Next up?  Lord of the Flies, which I’m sure I’ve quoted and successfully answered trivia questions on, without having read it.

Recaps and reading

October 28, 2009

The second-last episode of Hell’s Kitchen (UK) aired here on Monday.  I’m not sure what I’ll do without my weekly dose of Marco once it’s over.  Great British Menu will be winding up at around the same time, I think, but there are three Anthony Bourdain series that arrived in the most recent Amazon shipment to get into, so I’ll cope.  Anyway, I’ve recapped HK(UK) over at Reality Ravings.

I’m still watching The Rachel Zoe Project and doing blitz recaps of that, as well.  It’s such a fun show to watch, but I hope there will be some personnel changes soon.  Taylor’s constant moaning is starting to get me down.  When it was directed at a floundering Brad last season, it was novel, but he’s found his feet and is one of the programme’s highlights so the carping is now just sad.

Reality Raver was talking up Tabatha’s Salon Takeover and I caught it for the first time today.  I’m not sure how I’ll fit it into the weekly schedule, but it’s definitely worth a look.  It’s Kitchen Nightmares for hairdressers, and loads of fun.  Jeff Lewis is back with Flipping Out, but his meltdowns seem to have been curtailed a bit by the Global Financial CrisisTM – it appears he can control his personality when he needs to.  Pity.

It’s not all television, though.  After my reading list post, where I realised that 12 months of reading hadn’t reduced either of the 75 lists, I decided I had to make an effort to fit more real reading into my life.  Since posting the Guardian list, I’ve read two books (ok, so they were very short books) and I’m starting to catch up on my backlog of New Yorkers.  My copy of Middlemarch has been found and I think that’s the next project.

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