Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shangpaign Kitchen, Sunnybank Hills, QLD

The other day when I was talking to a friend about my Shanghainese dining experience at Bamboo Basket, he drew my attention to another Shanghainese restaurants called Shangpaign Kitchen.
Apparently this restaurant also served really good Shanghai dumplings so I had to try it out!
The shanghai dumplings had a thin pastry and looked similar to Bamboo Basket's. Price wise, you could get two serves (8 dumplings) here, for the price of one serve at Bamboo Basket.

The filling was made from pork mince and had a decent amount of broth inside. The dumplings were tasty and fresh, but I would have liked them hotter because when I took a bite into my dumpling, the broth had started to set (but still lots left!)

Shanghai dumplings

Look how juicy they are!

Next were the pan fried pork buns. This also had a pork filling, however there were also chives inside, which gave a stronger flavour. The buns were pan-fried til golden brown and were not oily at all. I would recommend ordering this when you visit! Note of caution- make sure you have a napkin close by, as the buns are filled with broth and the juices are likely to squirt out (but oh so delicious)!
Shanghai pan fried pork buns

I had to order some dumplings to compare with the ones we make at home but unfortunately I think our home made dumplings won. The dumplings were again pan fried very well, but the pork and chive filling didn't have much taste to it. The pastry was a little bit hard too. You would need to dip these in black vinegar to make them more flavoursome.
Chives and pork dumplings

This was another 'chef's suggestion' - Shanghai style fried chicken. I have mixed feelings about this dish. While the presentation was nice, it was disappointing to see it had more bones than meat. The flavour was pretty average and the chillies in the dish was a garnish more than anything, as it was not spicy at all. It wasn't a bad dish - but I will leave it up to you guys to try it for yourselves.
Shanghai style fried chicken

I'm not a fan of animal intestines, but the others like that stuff and ordered the pork stomach in hot wok. I managed to try some of the other things in the wok like the tofu, and the mushrooms. Again, I felt like this was a pretty average dish. Others at the table commented it had a bit of 'pork smell', which usually happens when the intestines have not been thoroughly cleaned out prior to cooking.
Pork stomach in hot wok

We wanted to try a variety of dishes, so we ordered a seafood dish - deep fried whole yellow fish with special sweet sour sauce. I'm not sure if the translation was correct on the menu, but the fish is actually a whole barramundi. Apart from the shanghai dumplings and pork buns, this was the stand out of the night. The sweet and sour sauce was nice and tangy with a hint of tomato taste. The fish has also been cut and deep fried in a way that, while the skin is crispy, the fish meat has still retained its softness and just cooked. I recommend ordering this one when visiting Shangpaign.
Deep fried whole yellow fish with special sweet sour sauce

Stir fried rice cakes is another signature Shanghainese dish, so we ordered it. The rice cakes were a little bit bland for me as the flavours from the soy sauce has not really infused into the rice cakes at all. Unfortunately, this dish didn't 'wow' me as I hoped it would. I am going to stick to making this one at home, rather than ordering it next time.
Stir fried rice cakes

We ordered hot and sour soup with our meal. I love hot and sour soup, but unfortunately this one did not tickle my fancy at all. I think everyone at the table came to a general consensus that the soup was too peppery and too sour. There was also not enough contents in the soup to make it a satisfying soup (lots of black fungus, tofu, slithers of pork - the way good hot and sour soups should be!)
Hot and sour soup

Our dining experience at Shangpaign Kitchen turned out to be somewhat of a roller coaster ride (if I may put it that way). While there were some dishes which blew us away, there were also some dishes that definitely needs plenty of improvement. I would still recommend friends to this restaurant, but I think you should just stick to the dumplings and buns from the menu (which is what they do best).

Perhaps the chef just happened to be having a bad day when we visited? I would love to hear your experiences at Shangpaign Kitchen!

Shangpaign Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sake Restaurant, Brisbane, QLD

The first time I heard of Shaun Presland was when I tuned into Season 2 Master Chef and watched Claire cook off against Shaun in the Celebrity Chef Challenge, as well as in a Masterclass when he taught the group how to make some basic Japanese dishes. I was especially interested because I had always been a fan of Japanese cuisine ever since I visited Tokyo a few years back.

Shaun is the Executive Chef at Sake Restaurant in Sydney and I had planned to visit Sake on my next trip to Sydney. A few months on, I found out that Sake was opening in Brisbane! So J and I went to check it out and boy were we in for an amazing night!

We arrived at 6:15pm and was greeted by a lovely lady who was quite friendly and promptly showed us to our table.

J and I couldn't help but gaze in excitement at the beautifully decorated restaurant, not to mention the countless bottles of Sake at the bar! Just amazing.

We ordered the sashimi appetizer as our entree, as well as the salt & pepper tofu as I had watched Shaun make it in his Masterclass and it looks so good.

The sashimi appetizer was an absolute treat. It was the freshest, most beautiful sashimi I had ever eaten. Even the king snapper/tuna/milkfish all had a nice texture and most importantly - it tasted fresh without the 'fishy' smell or taste.
Sashimi appetizer with wasabi & soy

Next came the salt and pepper tofu. The outside layer was crispy and the soft, silken tofu centre literally gave a 'melt in your mouth' sensation. It was such a simple dish, yet it was done so well.
Salt and pepper tofu with chill and spring onion

If the freshness and quality of the entrees were anything to go by, we knew we were in for a treat with our mains.
We ordered the scampi tempura and miso butterfish to share.

You can always tell by the way a restaurant makes its tempura dishes as to how good the restaurant is. The tempura batter was crunchy and the scampi was cooked just right. The sweet ponzu sauce went well with the tempura scampi, but it was a little bit too strong in taste for me. It would have been better if we had ordered a bowl of rice to go with this dish.
Scampi tempura crunchy tempura scampi tails with sweet ponzu, coriander and jalapeno slices

Our first main was quickly followed by this miso butterfish. The waitress told us that the butterfish was marinated in a sweet miso marinade for 24 hours before it is cooked and served to us. I liked the concept of having fish with a miso taste, but unfortunately this one was a little different to what I had in mind. The flesh was quite firm and the miso taste was not infused into the flesh very much. The sweet miso was also a little bit salty for my liking. Again, I think we should have ordered some rice to go with this dish.
Miso marinated butterfish grilled with pickled radish

We were almost full by the end of our second main, but J really wanted to have dessert and absolutely loves white sesame, so she ordered the white sesame ice-cream. I, also wanted to end my night with a sweet treat and ordered the green-apple mille feuille.

The presentation of J's white sesame ice-cream was amazing. What simply read as being "white sesame ice-cream per scoop " ended up being a huge scoop of ice-cream decorated with a chocolate layered plate, a black sesame tuile with sugar coated pistachios! There were so many things I loved, all on one plate! The ice-cream had a nice and strong sesame taste (the way it should be!) and the tuile was so crispy and the perfect sweetness.
White sesame ice-cream

My green-apple mille feuille was made up of green-apple mousse with layers of crispy thin pastry and apple vanilla syrup. Sounds delicious? That's because it was! The pastry was paper thin (almost!) and the taste of the apple mousse mixed with the tanginess of the green apples wedged between each layer. This dessert was certainly light enough not to make me think "I should have skipped dessert!" Mmmm... Oiishii!
Green-apple mille feuille

Our dinner at Sake Restaurant turned out to be a lovely dining experience. Whether it be the food, atmosphere or the great customer service, I think it was because of all aspects combined that made it such an enjoyable evening. I am looking forward to visiting Sake in Sydney also, but we will definitely be back to dine at Sake Brisbane again!

Saké Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Gunshop Cafe, West End, QLD

Of all the times J & I have dined out, I must admit, we have never really gone out to try breakfast at any cafes or restaurants (ok, maybe once or twice). Yes, we would plan to go out for a nice breakfast on the weekend, but for one reason or another, it never ends up happening. Either we'd sleep in til late, or decide to go play tennis and simply sip on a 'up & go' as our breakfast.

But last weekend, we finally did it! We got up bright and early and decided to head out for a good breakfast (though, we still ended up leaving the house at 10:30am...)

Our cafe of choice for this (rare) occasion was the infamous Gunshop Cafe, located in West End.
We had been to The Gunshop Cafe for coffee at night, but had never actually tried their breakfast or dinner menus. Having spoken to fellow foodie friends, they all said I should try it for breakfast because their food is really good. Honestly, I wasn't 100% convinced, because every other time someone told me food is 'really good' at a restaurant, it usually turns out to be a disappointment. So I had to try it for myself before deciding whether The Gunshop Cafe is in fact really good.

We got there at around 11:00am and my gosh was it busy! A queue had formed outside the small cafe entrance and we were the third in line waiting for a table.  It took half an hour for us to be seated, but I didn't mind the wait, as long as the food made up for it!

J ordered a skinny flat white to start. The coffee art on top was pretty and the coffee wasn't too bad. It would have been nicer if the coffee was stronger and hotter though (maybe we will ask for 'extra hot' next time?). But we weren't about to let a so-so coffee ruin our excitement for what was to come.
Skinny flat white

I wanted to try something different and ordered a mocha. If you are more of a coffee drinker then I'd suggest you order a normal coffee, as this mocha tends to be on the sweet side and tastes more like a hot chocolate with only a hint of coffee taste.
Skinny mocha

Next, it was time to order our meals.

A friend of my recommended the Canadian French Toast because it was one of the nicest French toasts she's had in Brisbane (I believe her because whenever she went to a new cafe she'd always order French Toast off the menu). Seeing as though I had a disappointing experience at Aquila with their french toast (click here if you'd like to see a photo), I really wanted to give it another go, but at another cafe, and I am so glad I did!

I've always been a fan of sweet and savory flavours mixed together and I was really impressed with this dish! The saltiness of perfectly cooked, cripsy bacon, mixed with the natural sweetness of the caramelized bananas, crunchy walnuts lightly coated with sugar, and perfectly deep-fried brioche with an egg coating, all finished with drizzles of maple syrup. Seriously doesn't get better than that. 
Canadian brioche french toast | bacon | caramelized banana | pecans | maple syrup

J was a little jealous of my french toast, but her dish was just as good! J ordered the toulouse sausages with sweet potato hash. Since I was nice enough to share my dish with J, it was only fair that I got to try some of her's too. 

The sweet potato hash had a different texture to what I've had at another cafe, but tasted just as beautiful, nevertheless. Crispy on the outside (but not oily!), soft and  mushy on the inside. 
The toulouse sausages tasted like homemade sausages, made from fresh herbs and pork meat which was seasoned nicely (not too salty). When eaten together with a bit of the poached egg, sweet potato hash and the tomato relish, the explosion of flavours in your mouth is just amazing. I couldn't help but nod my head in approval as I ate a forkful (several, actually.. ha!) of this delicious dish.
Toulouse sausages | sweet potato hash | a poached egg | rocket | bush tomato relish

While the dish may look small, do not be fooled! J & I were very full by the time we had finished our meals. So much so, that we actually skipped lunch! 

Overall, it was a very pleasant breakfast experience for both of us, and we will definitely come back again! The dinner menu looks rather interesting too, and I will report back once I've had dinner here.

nom nom nom: 
  • great food
  • great atmosphere - perfect for catching up with friends without being rushed to settle the bill because they need your table for the next customer

  • hot drinks need to be hotter
  • only opens until 12:30pm for breakfast on Sundays

Gunshop Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bamboo Basket, South Brisbane, QLD

For a long time, I had always thought I would need to visit China or Shanghai to taste the best shanghai dumplings, or shanghai cuisine, for that matter. I never thought I would find Shanghai dumplings as tasty as the ones at Bamboo Basket in Brisbane, but I was certainly impressed when I first took a bite into one of these hot, juicy, little things. 

The dumplings had a nice and thin outer layer ( I was told once that the thinner the outer pastry layer, the better the quality of the dumpling) and the juices inside had the pleasant natural sweetness from freshly made pork broth. The filling was made from minced pork but without the fatty bits usually contained in mince. The dumplings come with a small dish of sliced fresh ginger which you add black vinegar to it and use it as a dipping sauce for the dumplings. I prefer to eat the dumplings on its own to savor the natural taste of the delicious little things.

Shanghai dumplings

Look at the amount of soup that squirted out of those dumplings!

We ordered the pan fried Shang Dong style dumplings.. These looked interesting as they appeared to have been pan fried with a layer of rice water on the bottom which made a nice brown rice sheet stuck to the six dumplings. (I'm guessing they do this to stop the dumplings from burning). The dumplings were tasty and the filling was made from minced pork and chinese chives. These didn't have as much soup inside them, but please still be careful when biting into these as they can get a bit messy too!

Pan-fried Shang Dong style pork dumplings

It was extremely hot on the day we visited Bamboo Basket, so we decided to order a cold dish of shredded chicken, sesame and chilli sauce with clear mung bean noodles. While it was quite a refreshing dish, I would have liked the seasame sauce to have a stronger sesame taste, as this one seemed a little bit watered down and could have been a bit more salty. 

Shredded Chicken, Sesame & Chilli Sauce With Clear Mung Bean Noodle

We couldn't go without ordering a traditional dish of Shanghai style fried noodles with chicken. There were three sauces to choose from and we chose szechuan chilli because J & I like spicy food. The noodles were hand made and were firm but not chewy. It also had lots of chicken, mushroom and vegetables in it which tasted rather nice. Most importantly the chicken was not overcooked! 
Shanghai Style Fried Noodles With Chicken

nom nom nom:
  • beautiful Shanghai food - the Shanghai dumplings are a MUST try!
  • if you want the best dishes Bamboo Basket has to offer, choose the dishes with a small bamboo basket logo next to them and you can't go wrong!

  • staff could have been more attentive (it took me a few attempts to get their attention to get a glass of water)
Bamboo Basket on Urbanspoon