Monday, October 14, 2013

Ren Japanese Restaurant, Runcorn, QLD

Japanese cuisine has always been one of my favourite choices when dining out. The flavours  are usually simple, and if you come across a restaurant that uses the freshest produce available, the true flavours of each ingredient just comes through in every bite.

On this occasion, we visited Ren Japanese Restaurant, located in the Runcorn Shopping Plaza on Warrigal Road. The restaurant only recently opened, so when I saw the low number of reviews and ratings on Urbanspoon, I was curious and decided to try it out so I could share my experience with my readers.

We arrived at 7pm and there were only two other tables that were filled, which worked in our favour as we hadn’t made a booking. The decor inside the restaurant were rather simple, giving off a fast food outlet feel, however it didn’t bother us, as we anticipated that the food made up for it. There was a good range of variety on the menu and the prices were quite reasonable. There were five of us, giving us a good opportunity to sample a variety of dishes from the menu.

We started with the sashimi-o-mori ($45), which contained salmon, tuna, kingfish, scallops, sweet prawns and a scampi. The menu noted the dish would feed 5 people, however we felt it was a bit misleading as there some of the seafood (scampi and prawns) only had one or two pieces to share. The sashimi was not too bad but not the freshest I've eaten and didn't have the fresh fish taste like I had tried at the Sydney Fish Markets.

We also ordered the tonkotsu ($16.50), which was thinly crumbed but was on the dry side and wasn't bursting with the natural pork juice that I was hoping for. As for the wagyu steak ($26.50), it was over cooked and quite tough, which my guests were disappointed about as they were really looking forward to having wagyu that night! The assorted tempura ($18.50) dish had all your regular items such as prawns, pumpkin, some small pieces of fish and zucchini, while the spider roll ($13.00) was also fairly standard and nothing really to rave about.

Sashimi-o-mori ($45)

Wagyu Steak ($26.50)

Tonkotsu ($16.50)

Assorted Tempura ($18.50)

Spider Roll ($13.00)

Ren Japanese Restaurant has made a good effort of producing quality food in order to win over diners from other nearby competition such as Sakura, KU-O and Oishii Sushi Bar.  Competition is particularly fierce on the South side and I hope the restaurant really takes diners' opinions into consideration in order to continuously improve and out last the rest of its competitors. 

Ren Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bonsai Botanika, Brisbane, QLD

In my years of walking down Elizabeth Street in the city, I have seen more businesses shut down than the number of handbags I could count in my wardrobe (believe me; I have quite a few handbags, haha!). For some reason, businesses just didn’t seem to get it right. When I drove down Elizabeth Street last week and saw that a new establishment called Bonsai Botanika had opened to give a shot at surviving on Elizabeth Street, I was excited and also curious whether it would outlast its predecessors.

Bonsai Botanika is located at 107 Elizabeth Street, just a few doors down from the Elizabeth Arcade. The iconic feature bike, designer interior and elegant vibe tells you that this is THE place to be. This concept was inspired by Japan's cafe scene/trend where organic, wholesome foods are proving very popular indeed.

The drinks menu had plenty of variety with many options that I have never seen before - they even served drip coffee, something which I had only seen at the dining scene in Sydney and Melbourne.Their cake cabinet also had plenty to offer and diners are given to option to dine across two levels of the restaurant.

While we were getting carried away by the its aesthetic pleasure, we were less impressed by the service. We had politely requested the waitress to help us take a group photo, to which she appeared somewhat confused but hesitantly agreed to help.

We proceeded upstairs to order our meals, as we decided on a small serve of Chicken Katsu ($10.50), Vegetable Tempura ($14.50) and the Kyushu Ramen ($18.90). The entre├ęs were tasty and portions were generous, though my preference would have been for a lighter batter. The ramen was acceptable but pricely for what it was. I would probably head to one of the ramen joints such as Hakataya or Nagomi for some delicious, authentic ramen at a fraction of the price.

Chicken Katsu (S) - ($10.50)

Vegetable Tempura - ($14.50)

Kyushu Ramen - ($18.90)

Bonsai Botanika is a casual, yet trendy establishment which is full of potential in becoming the next rendezvous for city-goer's and the like. The restaurant must be applauded for its creativity and contribution in livening Brisbane's dining scene. However, there's still some much needed fine tuning on its customer service, organisation and quality of its food. 
Bonsai Botanika on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Soul Bistro, Rosalie, QLD

Tucked away in the heart of Milton, Soul Bistro serves a fusion of Modern Australian and Asian cuisine. The cafe offers plenty of undercover outdoor seating, allowing diners to soak up the great Aussie weather while enjoying a good hearty meal.  

We were totally spoilt for choice during the lunch service! Soul Bistro has a good variety of lunch specials, offering a brunch menu as well as a proper lunch menu. Luckily for us, the waitress was patient and friendly, which really took the stress out of deciding what to order.

To start off our meal, we ordered the chick pea battered sweet potato chips - with rosemary salt and homemade herb aioli ($8). My gosh were they the tastiest sweet potato fries I've had in a long time! The fries were covered in a chickpea coating - like a tempura batter, giving the usually limp sweet potato chips a good crunch. Dipped into the herb aioli, the flavours just made my taste buds sing. Our second entree was the lamb and potato croquettes with tomato and chili jam ($12). The croquettes were nicely deep fried but only came with two croquettes and for that price, I wish it was a bigger portion as they were devoured as soon as they touched down at our table. 

Next came the drinks - I ordered their home made kumquat, passion fruit and ginger lemonade ($4), which was really refreshing and perfect on a hot day. The other foodie ordered a flat white ($4) which, from her feedback was smooth and the beans were not over roasted.

For our mains, we ordered the creamy garlic chicken risotto - with rocket pesto & roasted pumpkin seeds ($16) and the sesame crumbed whiting salad with salad leaves, roasted pumpkin and tomato chutney ($16). The risotto was al dente and not gluggy at all, but the chicken was over cooked which was a bit of a let down. The sesame crumbed whiting fillets salad was also a good choice - the aromas from the black and white sesame paired nicely with the whiting fillets but the portion is probably adequate for a light meal only. Nonetheless, it was a tasty salad indeed.

To finish off the meal, I ordered the berries and white chocolate Tiramisu with mascarpone cream and pistachio short bread biscuits ($10). I was undecided about this dessert as it tasted totally different to what I had expected of a tiramisu. The white chocolate also tasted floury which ruined the experience a little.

Chick pea battered sweet potato chips - with rosemary salt and homemade herb aioli ($8)

Kumquat, passion fruit and ginger lemonade ($4)

Flat White ($4)

Lamb and potato croquettes with tomato and chili jam ($12)

Creamy garlic chicken risotto - with rocket pesto & roasted pumpkin seeds ($16)

Sesame crumbed whiting salad with salad leaves, roasted pumpkin and tomato chutney ($16)

Berries and white chocolate tiramisu with mascarpone cream and pistachio short bread biscuits ($10)

Soul Bistro has definitely lived up to their motto "fresh produce...fresh ideas". The chef has utilised his creativity and developed a fusion of flavours where East meets West, delivering good quality bistro food at very affordable prices.

Soul Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Burrow, West End, QLD

I have always believed breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is no coincidence that I continue to share with you guys the great cafes in my local area. 

On this beautiful Sunday morning, we decided to pay a visit to The Burrow at West End and try our luck with getting a table, as last time we went, they were completely full. We got there around 8:00am which was perfect as there were only a handful of diners having breakfast. We were seated promptly by  the waitress who took our drinks order right away to start us off. We all decided on a cold drink as it was such a hot day, so we each ordered one of the freshly squeezed juices available on the menu ($6.50 each).

Seeing as The Burrow was so popular, we knew it would soon be filled with hungry diners, so we ordered our meals shortly after we had ordered our drinks. I must say, the dish titles were so creative and totally reminded me of the story Alice in Wonderland! We were spoilt for choice and everything just sounded so tasty - it was too hard to choose! We finally decided on three different meals and what arrived at our table soon after totally surprised us! The meals were presented so beautifully and decorated with different coloured garnishes that they really lived up to the fun names of each dish! The food was fresh and the cafe is definitely generous with their portions. 

Burrow Juice - carrot, apple, orange, ginger ($6.50)
Fruit-a-licious - apple, orange, watermelon, pineapple ($6.50)
Pear juice with mint garnishes ($6.50)

Mad Madam Mim's Bubble and Squeak - Cauldron bubble and squeak, Serrano ham egg cup, fried sage, pancetta honey comb ($16.50)

'Off with your head!' - Black forest bacon, free-range organic eggs, ranchero beans, roast mushrooms, morcilla and potato hash, served with 
Queen Virgin Mary shooter ($22)

Little Miss Sunshine - Grilled zucchini flowers, avocado, Persian feta, tomato, fresh basil, rye, pepita and sun flower seed pangattao ($16)

We really enjoyed breakfast at The Burrow - while prices were not cheap, it is around the price point expected for good quality breakfast pretty much at most places these days. The Burrow is also open for lunch and dinner service and we will definitely be back to try out more dishes from their lunch and dinner menus very soon!

The Burrow on Urbanspoon