Monday, September 29, 2014

Foxeys Hangout, Red Hill



Wine tasting happening in the restaurant...




Bread, Olive Oil, Pistachio Spice


Atlantic Salmon, Miso Mayo


Mushroom Sausage Rolls, House Chutney


Onion, Silverbeet Fritters


Leek, Blood Orange, Goats Curd, Mint
(my favourite dish of the day!)


BBQ Quail


Celery, Rocket, PX Vinegar


Spiced Meatballs, Yoghurt Dip


Avocado, Walnuts, Pancetta



The chef in blue cooking for everyone in the open kitchen. Respect how she coordinates every table's courses yet consistently produce delicious food at the same time


Lunch with a view...


Just such a relaxed setting


"Hey Winston, have you heard of this place called Foxey's Hangout in Red Hill? It's really interesting. Set at a winery with a view and you can do a chef's lunch with about 8 courses for only $35. Food is pretty good too."

ON.

I made my way to Red Hill that very weekend with my Mum and Sister because I honestly couldn't wait to try after my friend Morgan told me about this place. Sounded so interesting. And man, such a good price! Thank goodness we were blessed with unbeatable weather day too.

We first walked in through an uber tall door to reveal a restaurant with a refined yet rustic decor and bathing in natural light as there was an entire wall made purely of windows. Calming. Soon, we noticed that there was an open kitchen right where there was a woman single-handedly cooking the food for everyone in the restaurant. Amazing. Finally, our breaths were taken away by the majestic view that the entire restaurant was facing. There were little tables and chairs set outside for people to enjoy the view with their meal at the same time. Heck, loads of people opted to just enjoy their meal by sitting on the steps of the balcony too. There was an undeniably relaxed and casual feel throughout the entire restaurant and I don't think I've experienced something quite like this before.

Anyway, we went straight for the chef's lunch for $35 per head, where the chef would serve 8 course of her choosing to the diners. Otherwise, diners have the option of selecting each individual course themselves and pay for what they ordered. We were happy to take it easy and leave it up to the chef.

In general, I really enjoyed the food at Foxey's Hangout. I thought the each dish showcased the essence of honest cooking. Besides that, what I loved most about each dish is the pairing of various ingredients that one might not necessarily think of but worked incredibly well together. I could tell the person that designed this menu had a strong understanding of flavours because it was amazing. 

To start, the bread with the pistachio spiced crumb was downright delicious. The crumb is a signature there and they sell them in bottles at the restaurant too. I also absolutely enjoyed the salmon, mushroom roll and silverbeet fritters -- they were all done perfectly and absolutely tasty. Although, my favourite dish of the day was actually the leek with goats curd. The leek was soft and tender but the creaminess of the cheese against the slightly tart blood orange and finished with the mint was just one of the most clever composition of flavours I had tasted in a while. So simple, but it's all about the right combination. I was telling Morgan about how much I love this dish and it was great to hear it struck a chord with him too, this dish is quite outstanding.

The rest of the meal was pleasant too although if I were to be slightly nitpicky, I'd say that the quail was a little under-seasoned (but there was salt on the table anyway) and the meatballs were spicy but bland and undercooked. That said, everything else that we tasted was superb too.

To sum up, I think Foxey's Hangout is an excellent place for a lunch on the weekend. Excellent. The best and most unique thing about this place is how laid back they are about everything. Your choice of seating (you can sit on a table or on the steps if you wish), how you want to order and best of all, the setting. Plus, the view is impeccable. Not to mention how good the flavour combinations are in the food and also their house wine. Finally, the price! 

Sure, you won't be stuffed to the brim by eating here but personally, I think it's a pleasant and comfortable amount. $35 is honestly amazing value. There really is so much to enjoy about this place. I would highly recommend it especially now that the weather is getting nicer with the change of season. It's a place that is both stunning and relaxing that you can't help but notice everyone there simply enjoys every bit of it. Definitely a great hangout spot.

Foxey's Hangout on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seared Tiger Prawns in Prawl Oil Pasta


Oh hai!

Quick update but I'm actually blogging this from sunny (and humid) Malaysia! Here for a short trip to attend my cousin's wedding on Friday, so exciting. Been back for 2 days now and it's been great so far. Much eating of my childhood favourite foods and also spending lots and lots of quality time with the family, it's great.

Anyway, thought I'd share a recipe here since it's been awhile since my last one. I'm a huge lover of seafood and must say that this prawn pasta is honestly one of my favourite pasta dishes to eat. It's simple but got such a rich flavour from all the prawn heads and shells. Plus, I made sure I put LOTS of prawns in this.


One of the things I love most about cooking at home is how generous I can be with the ingredients. I can't stand it when I buy something at a restaurant and they totally skimp on the ingredients! Whether it's a seafood pasta with only 2 measly prawns, mango cake with mostly cream and no fresh mangoes, green flavour so weak that you can't even tell it's there, it's depressing, really. So, I really wanted to make sure there was an abundance of prawns in this. Plus, pasta is such a hearty and comforting dish so more is more, I say.

Anyway, you can tell that this is exactly the kind of pasta that I love to have. Easy to cook, abundance of seafood, great to share. I do hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!




Seared Tiger Prawns in Prawn Oil Pasta

(an original recipe, serves 4)


Ingredients

750g prawns
2 cups olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
5 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
500g spaghetti or linguine
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley (leaves only)
Cracked salt
More chilli flakes (to garnish)

Method

1. Remove all the shells and heads from the prawns and place them into a pot. Remove the veins from the prawns too and discard.

2. Add the 2 cups of olive oil, thyme, garlic and chilli flakes into the same pot with prawn shells. Bring the pot to a boil and once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 - 30 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to crush up all the shells and heads every 5 minutes to release more of the flavour into the oil. 

3. Heat up a separate pan on high with a tablespoon of butter and olive oil (the oil helps the butter to not burn). Once hot, add the peeled raw prawns in batches and sear on both sides until cooked through. If the pan is hot, it should only take about 30 seconds per side (you don't want overcooked prawns). Remove the prawns and reserve for later. 

4. Cook the pasta as per pasta instructions. Drain and set aside into a large bowl. Strain all the delicious oil into the bowl of pasta. Add the chopped parsley and seared prawns. Season generously with salt to taste and mix all the ingredients together. Finish with a little bit more chilli flakes for extra colour and kick. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Paringa Estate Winery & Restaurant, Red Hill South


T'was a stunning day in the Mornington Peninsula...


Best thing about dining at a winery restaurant is the view...




My favourite way to start a lunch like this is with a Riesling... Can't go wrong


Entree:



Poached marron, globe artichoke, lardo, toasted almonds - $20


Wallaby tartare, caper emulsion, rye, juniper - $20


Red Gate quail, truffle puree, sour onion - $20

Mains:


Aylesbury duck, pumpkin, charred leek, tamarillo - $40


Hapuka, white bean & cuttlefish, ham hock crumb - $38


Flinders Island milk fed lamb, macadamia, brussel sprouts - $40

Sides:


Duck fat potatoes, garlic, rosemary - $8


Green beans, aioli, crisp shallots - $8

Dessert:


Quince sorbet, vanilla cream, pistachio, crisp Mock Orchard apples - $15


Textures of chocolate, blood orange sorbet, hazelnut brittle - $15


Cheese Platter - $32

i) Ossau Iraty 
Ewe's milk, semi firm cheese from Basque, a smooth, creamy but firm cheese with a mild grassy flavour

ii) Red Hill Cheese "Fingal Gold"
Organic cow's milk, washed rind with a creamy flavour, richness and complexity, great depth of flavour and a long aftertaste

iii) Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Made from cow's milk, this American cheddar wrapped in cloth and aged in a cave for 14 months is a perfect balance of sweet, fruity, savoury and nutty

iv) Red Hill Cheese "Mountain Goat Blue"
Made from 100% free range goat's milk this cheese is moist and delicate, with a natural rind and deep blue veins a striking contrast to the porcelain white body. The mouth-feel is velvety with pronounced floral flavours



Whenever people think of eating at a fine dining restaurant in the Mornington Peninsular, the following 3 options always comes to mind: Montalto; The Long Table; Ten Minutes by Tractor. I havent' been to any of these places but I know that they're quite famous. However, I was only interested in Montalto and Ten Minutes by Tractor because they both had a nice view of the winery from the restaurant. It was rather important for me to choose somewhere with a view to make the most of the location, I thought. Because it was seriously rare for me to eat a restaurant of such quality and price, I was hoping for the restaurant we chose to be Hatted as well.

Initially, we had made a booking at Long Table but I wasn't feeling convinced because it didn't have a view. Food there is good, I'm sure, but I truly wanted somewhere more open. I did a bit more research online and came across Paringa Estate. I knew NOTHING about this place (but it looked good in the few pictures that I saw). Never heard of anyone mention about this place before; went in not knowing a thing about what the food was going to be like. It was a bit of a risk but heck, there's going to be wine and a view so that's more than good enough for me.

The place was stunning when we walked in. Simple and inviting decor. We were tossing between a couple of different wines to choose from at the start but was glad when my friends agreed to get the Riesling as I honestly believe it's such a perfect wine to enter a meal in the day. That's how I've always felt anyway. It was delicious. Smooth, light and slightly floral too.

The food on the menu looked good. Though to be honest, I am fairly predictable with the food I order when I come to these kinds of restaurants. I normally start with a meat entree, followed by a fish main (or seafood entree, then meat main). Not a fan of ordering 2 consecutive courses of seafood or meat as I like to try both and balance it out. As for dessert, I don't have a sweet tooth at all and am normally quite happy with just a cheese platter to finish, which was what I ordered and shared with the table. I can't really speak for the other dishes that my friends had as I only tried my quail, fish and cheese courses but they did look fantastic and everyone seemed to enjoy what they were having.

To start: quails. Most people would be surprised to know that this was actually my first time eating truffles. Was probably the only food blogger who hasn't tried them. Never had the urge or would intentionally go out of my way (or wallet) to try them, which was why I was glad to see it on the menu as I was keen to finally taste it. The shaved truffles themselves in my quail dish weren't anything I'd rave about (wasn't as intense as I'd imagined) but my goodness that truffle puree underneath the quail was UNBELIEVABLE. Could have had bucket loads of that stuff, great balance of salty and earthiness, just downright tasty. And I must honestly say I was very happy with how they cooked the quails. Absolute perfect and not a second over or undercooked. They served the quails 3 ways on my plate and it was nice to go between the different textures and cooking methods to enjoy the same quail. $20 was very good value for money, I thought, because of all the technique that went into this tiny dish and also the premium truffles used.

Next, my fish. Again, I thought that they completely nailed the execution for the dish as well and treated the fish with respect by handling it meticulously. It was really crusty and crunchy on the outside but as soon as you bit into the incredibly moist and delicate flesh, your palates are happily greeted by the subtle sweetness of the Hapuka flesh. I've said this once, I've said this several times, Hapuka is hands down my favourite white fish to have at a restaurant. I prefer this 10 times more than Barramundi because of the delicate texture and flavour of the flesh (when treated properly). The whitebean puree with cuttlefish and ham hock crumb added the perfect balance of flavours to the fish too. Texturally, I liked how they added a different dimension as well. I was very happy with the first 2 courses and must say I was thoroughly enjoying every mouthful so far.

Finally, the cheeses. Everything had been really great so far and let's just say the cheese platter did not disappoint. I wouldn't say I was able to pick up every detail of each cheese described in the menu but hey, taste is subjective anyway and food experience is a personal thing. No one should tell you what you should or shouldn't like/taste. Personally, I really loved the subtlety of the ewe's milk cheese, very refreshing.  The brie or "fingals gold" had a really strong nutty tone to it, which was unique. Cheddar was sharp but still had a rounded or soft finish, which was delicious too. The blue was a little too sharp or intense for me and I tend to prefer the soft, creamier textures for blue but it still had a good body of flavour underneath. It was hard for me to pick which was my favourite as I thought the first 3 cheeses were great and my answer kept changing after I had each one.

In the end, I was very happy with our meal at Paringa. It really ticked all my boxes. Food -- check. Wine -- check. View -- check. I was impressed by the meal so was wondering at the end about whether or not they had Chef's Hat or not, so I asked the Manager on our way out. Turns out they did! A very well deserved accolade. It'd be a shame if they didn't as I thought they were quite good at what they do. An unexpectedly pleasant find and somewhere I would definitely recommend people to try too if they're looking for a stunning place for a relaxed and enjoyable lunch at the Mornington region. Not as famous as the first 3 places mentioned above but definitely proves its worth.

Paringa Estate Winery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kotaraya, Oakleigh South


The signature Hainanese Chicken Rice (poached and roasted)... 
YEAH!!!


Special Thai Fish


Coconut Butter King Prawns (with shell)


Coconut Butter King Prawns (without shell)


Sizzling Egg Tofu with Mince


Sambal Squid


Yam Ring with Curry Pork


Sambal "3 in 1"
(i.e. long beans, okra and eggplant)


Banana Fritters


Pineapple Fritters


Sago Melaka
"Is the chicken silky?", I asked.

"Yeah, very silky..."

My friends, Grace and Ian, recently told me about Kotaraya when we spent the weekend with a group of friends at Mornington. They mentioned that this place does the best Hainanese Chicken Rice (HCR) in Melbourne.

Hold the phone. That's a pretty big call. 

Suspicion creeps my mind as annoying as this may sound, I've been so spoilt with incredible HCR growing up that my standards for them are nothing short of being through the roof (even when I'm back in Malaysia). Exactly why I have not found a single place that comes close to meeting my annoying expectations. It's all about the right breed of chicken, how it's cooked, the sauce, the chilli condiment, and the rice... 

Suspicious soon turned into curiosity, then excitement when we all decided to head over to Kotaraya on our way back from Mornington on Sunday. What a great decision that was. 

First, let me start off by saying I was completely impressed by the look of the HCR as soon as it hit the table... WOW. Just from the looks of it I could tell it was going to be good. And good, it was. Was my friend right when he said it was silky? YES, HE WAS. The poached chicken had that silky, smooth gelatinous skin with a slightly firm and chewy texture to the meat and the delectable sauce at the bottom to go with it. 

The roasted chicken tends to always be on the overcooked side but not this one. Plus, the skin was super thin and crisp too. Seriously delicious. I was very, very happy with the HCR here. Although, I must say that I was not too impressed with the rice. A bit rough and dry. I love when the rice has got nice, sharp grains, perfectly separated yet slightly coated in oil/fats and just bursting with flavour and fragrance. Not too much to ask for, I don't think. That said, still a REALLY delicious dish to eat. 

NOTE: You will need to call ahead in advance to pre-order the HCR and I think it is only available on weekends.

That aside, every other dish we had was simply superb. Nothing I could fault. Would definitely recommend the signature coconut butter king prawns too. Personally, I love it with the shell on and I eat the entire thing (shells, head, tails, et al) and leave no remnants of prawns whatsoever on my plate. Simply delicious. The yam ring was something that wasn't actually on the menu but I thought I'd try my luck and asked the waiter if they could make it or not anyway! Thankfully, they did! Although, I wasn't sure about the waiter's recommendation to have it with curry pork, still prefer mine with kongpao chicken or prawns. Still nostalgic and tasty to eat, though.

Finally, I would also recommend the sambal "3 in 1". The name really made me laugh as it's a trio of eggplant, long beans and okra -- all great veggies to fry with sambal. Very Malaysian. I was quite impressed by the depth of flavour from the sambal with a nicely roasted belachan (fermented shrimp paste) without being too overpowering. Suffice to say all 11 of us were incredibly happy with our meal here that afternoon.

It's no wonder that this is my friends' favourite place to eat, and their families' as well whenever they're in town. And I can totally see why. Even though I've only been once, but I thought the food was really authentic, had high standards and downright tasty. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself here soon with other people and adding it to my list of favourite places to eat around Melbourne. 

My thoughts on finally finding a great HCR in Melbourne? Let's just say I am so impressed, satisfied, thankful and equally relieved at the same time. Definitely one place to check out if you haven't been/heard of it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Kotaraya Oakleigh South on Urbanspoon