Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Black Toro, Glen Waverley MELB

Having been to Spain recently, I often find myself reminiscing about those carefree days. Cruising along curvy alleys with hidden gems and cheap drinks were part of our lifestyle during those two weeks.

The Black Toro exudes a vibe that reminds me of Spain - tapas, wine, great hospitality and a festive atmosphere. Waiting staff are extremely friendly and attentive which really boosted my overall experience here. Best to make reservations in advance as this place is pretty popular!

Sangria and Pedro Ximenez ~ I have fallen heads over heels for both drinks since my trip. I do prefer the cooling, fruit infused sangria on a warm summer day whilst the warm, toasty and sticky taste of the pedro ximenez would be more suited for cooler days.

As both of us were first timers, we went for the banquet option as it allowed us to sample a variety of dishes that may otherwise have been impossible to taste had we ordered individual platters.

Oysters with tequila and lime ~ The acidity from both the tequila and lime removed some of the salty, fishy taste of the oysters which was a plus point for me (not a huge fan of that taste). Oyster was still plump and juicy if you're wondering;)

Potato and chorizo croquettes with manchego cream ~ yummiest croquettes I have had thus far. Smooth texture, golden exterior crunch and a subtle salty taste that cuts through the creamy potato flavour well. I could easily finish off a bowl of this moreish item!

Pickled beetroot, sweet potato crisps, shaved manchego and mixed leaf salad ~ the perfect dish that refreshed our palates and prepared us for the next few dishes.

Wagyu beef sliders with caramelized onions, melted cheese, pickled jalapeno and ketchup ~ again, something that I can shamelessly polish off myself. The beef patty was extremely juicy and well-seasoned. Plus points for the fluffy buns too!

Spicy pulled pork tacos with shredded cabbage, onion and sour cream ~ the subtle heat from the pulled pork married well with the creamy sour cream taste and the addition of some lime zest gave this dish a different dimension.

Barbequed chilli chicken with cumin caramel, toasted sesame and mexican pilaf ~ kudos for the amazing caramelized chicken fillets. Albeit slightly messy to wrap (and munch on) the rice, chicken pieces and pickles in the taco wrap, we had no problems polishing everything off the plate;)

Dessert tasting plate ~ my overall experience at any restaurant boils down to the final dish I have in front of me aka dessert. Black Toro's amazing dessert plate blew me away with the brilliant array of miniature desserts that had been so thoughtfully arranged on the wooden plate.

We have here a caramel flan with aerated bread, caramelized banana and dulce de leche ice cream. I love a flan that has a good amount of caramel on it.

Behind the caramel flan is the chocolate brownie that comes with a good dose of popcorn and vanilla ice cream. Rich, dark and packed with chocolate-y goodness, this brownie ticked all the right boxes.

Deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate ice cream and honeycomb ~ chocolate ice cream and honeycomb were delicious but really, who am I kidding here. I just wanted to have the peanut butter cheesecake all to myself. Slightly salty, rich and sweet this had to be the best dish of the night. The mere sight of it is enough to make me drool.

Coconut pannacotta with berries, passionfruit curd and mint ~ quietly sitting on the corner of the tasting plate is this little fella. Whilst the flavours here are not as rich as it's other sweet friends, this was an excellent complement to freshen us up. The tart, fruity flavours were definitely different from everything else across the board.

My verdict? Loved this place and will be back for that heaven sent peanut butter cheesecake:9

The Black Toro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shandong Mama, CBD MELB

Just about every corner of the CBD has a little shop that serves up delicious, bite sized dumplings that is easily affordable by the majority of us. Albeit the surge of fancier shaped/filled dumplings in the market, the traditional, well-marinated and juice versions still wins me over, especially on days where I feel under the weather.

Shandong Mama is tucked in an arcade conveniently located on little Bourke street. Whilst I have seen queues appear on Saturdays, the same may not apply if you rock up for lunch or after the usual peak periods. Service is rather efficient but do note that the restaurant is slightly crammed, as with most Asian restaurants.

Chicken and shepherd's purse fried dumplings ~ despite being pan fried, the meat filling was very juicy and flavourful. Well marinated with a good serve of ginger and black fungus. Best enjoyed dipped in a tiny bit of chilli.

Noodles with braised beef brisket ~ beef meat tears apart very easily and the broth was extremely delicious. I usually feel extremely thirsty whenever I consume food that has MSG in it and boy, was I glad it did not happen this time. Definitely a big bowl of hearty goodness that will warm up any hungry soul well.

  Shandong Mama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Funfetti cake recipe

I have had a box of girly coloured sprinkles sitting in my pantry for almost a few years now. Initially bought to decorate a particular birthday cake for a friend, I overestimated how much I needed and so, have been stuck with it ever since.

Not one to be overzealous with cake decorations, I tossed around a few ideas on how to best utilize them and have finally used them up last weekend. Made a simple buttermilk cake and decorated it with a luscious buttercream icing, topped with a generous sprinkle of pinky sweetness.

1.5 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1.25 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
113g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup sprinkles

1. Cream butter and caster sugar until mixture appears uniform and fluffy. Slowly incorporate eggs and vanilla extract.
2.Mix flour and baking powder together and fold into wet mixture.
3. Bake at 170C until cake is well done. Allow cake to cool
4. Cream butter and icing sugar together, add a few drops of lemon juice to loosen the mixture if needed. Add vanilla extract and mix well.
5. Spread icing evenly onto cooled cake and add sprinkles.

Voila, you now have a pretty cake in your kitchen and best part is that it is a moist cake due to the addition of buttermilk. A fun piece to serve at birthday parties/ hen's parties or even as a tea time treat.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cupcake Central, CBD MELB

Once upon a time, this little girl declared her dislike for cupcakes aka the prettier, petite version of a muffin or a slice of cake. Sure these dainty pieces are such pretty additions on your afternoon tea table but really, do you want to pack on those calories from gorging what appears to be a butter cake weighed down by a massive dollop of icing? Er, no.

Years later, aka in the last couple of weeks, curiousity got the best of me and successfully persuaded me to purchase a cupcake. Ok, I was also equally tempted by browsing through Cupcake Central's instagram feed pffft.

I bought one just as a pre-dinner snack and it was love at first bite. Confused I was but it did made a huge impression on me. Over the next few weeks, I was constantly poisoned by thoughts of visiting them again but this time round, getting more cupcakes. A cupcake a day, yes?

I also did stalk them quite a bit because I wanted to make sure I get my hands on a few of my favourite flavours when I visit. Clearly I have a determined bone in me.

Purchased a box of 4 cupcakes and the joy in me was describable. Passionfruit white chocolate, Shirley temple, doughnut and cookies and cream cupcakes!

My second round visit verdict? Still worth the hype and certainly proved me wrong about cupcakes. These little treats have got some wicked, creative flavours and worth a try if you are a cupcake virgin like me.

And if you wonder about my protest against icing? Let's just say these ones are sugary sweet but yet, still brilliantly flavoured which compliments the cupcake well. I would run an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill for these.

Cupcake Central Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pho Huong Viet Saigon, Bayswater MELB

I am constantly on the lookout for delicious eats that would not put my wallet in debt. Imagine the joy on my face when I scouted this place after driving past numerous times and after reading some positive reviews. I tend to quickly browse through the negative comments as food discussions are pretty subjective and at best, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

True enough, this place was packed despite it being slightly after lunchtime. Service wise, it is prompt if you order a bowl of pho. However, my plate of broken rice took a good 20 minutes to arrive and my companion had then already finished his bowl of noodles.

4 colour bean drink ~ a little bland for my liking and the ice had been quite coarsely crushed which denied me the pleasure of a smooth textured drink:/

Pho ~ price wise, it was comparable to other Vietnamese restaurants that I have been to in Melbourne. Am not sure if I am being overly fussy but I thought the portion was a little stingy (as in less meat bits compared to other places).

Combination broken rice ~ this was the saving grace for me. The piece of pork was cooked to perfection without bordering on the dry side. Only negative was my sunny side egg was well....lost in the clouds aka the yolk had broke.

Pho Huong Viet Siagon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Head here for all your Japanese grocery needs and you will be amazed by the array of products available. Ranging from shabu shabu ingredients to basic essentials such as mirin, sake, matcha powder, sushi ingredients or if you prefer, Japanese snacks that come in the most adorable packaging. I was tempted to pick a basket whilst I browse each aisle but the main mission for this visit was to grab some takeaways.

Suzuran only does takeaways for sushi, no dine-ins unfortunately. Be sure to ring up at least 30 minutes before rocking up or you may have to wait for some time. The diligent sushi makers behind the sushi counter tirelessly stuff, roll and slice your sushi/sashimi to order. Price wise, definitely much more affordable as compared to a sit in restaurant.

Sushi pieces were definitely fresh. Some pieces of sushi were slightly bigger than the others but hey, can't complain about it considering that it's freshly made for a decent price and located 20 minutes away from where I live.

Oh and if you must, be sure to grab a bottle of sake or some of their delicious side dishes if you are entertaining a hungry crowd;)

  Suzuran Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 18, 2015

Banana loaf cake recipe

Whenever I want to impress a crowd with what I could bake, especially on requests, I enter into panic mode and fret about what I could try to make. Too often I flip through pages after pages from a fancy baking book that I have never attempted before to help me decide. And then I completely change my mind and go back into recipe searching mode.

After what felt like gazillion trains of ideas whiz  by, I go back to looking at simple, traditional recipes that I have tested out before but never did perfect. And this banana loaf cake is one of them. I made it before and it was good although did not deliver the magic spell I wanted.

This time round, it was perfect. I kept it in a plastic container and brought it to work the day after. When the lid is pried open, the freshly baked aroma waffles around without hesitation. And it is intoxicating. Do give this a try and you won't be disappointed.

Oh and everyone loved it. Some even dreamt of it the day after.

250g butter, melted
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp milk
1.5 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 cups self raising flour.

1, Beat melted butter and caster sugar until a smooth texture is achieved (about 4 minutes).
2. Add mashed bananas and continue to beat for an extra few minutes.
3. Slowly incorporate the eggs into the mixture and soon after, the vanilla and milk.
4. Bake at 160C until cake is almost done then turn off the oven and allow cake to continue cooking in residue heat.