Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yum Cha

I went to lunch at Yum Cha (on Cavenagh St) on Sunday just gone. For older Darwinites, the restaurant used to be the Lee Dynasty restaurant - the first Chinese restaurant in Darwin to not serve pink coloured sauce on their sweet and sour dishes.

This weekend lunch option is so popular with locals that you must book.

We had a selection comprising turnip cake, taro puffs, rice flake pork rolls, stuffed eggplant and the prawn rice rolls. We drank chinese tea throughout the meal.

The service was quick for the food.
Top ups for the tea had to be asked for a few times and the water requested didn't come.

I would have liked some fresh green vegetable options with all of the starches and meats - I remember that on a previous visit they had a lovely green vegetable special.

Anyway, the food is great and I would go there again and again just for the prawn rice rolls and chinese tea!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Il Piatto

I went to Il Piatto on Friday night.

The ambience of the place is fantastic, table cloths, beautiful glassware & plates and gorgeous lighting. The view is also one of the best from a restaurant in Darwin. The chairs are very comfortable and the decor is neutral and elegant.

Our entrees were the oysters, the seafood salad and the carpaccio of beef.
The oysters were very good and were simply presented with slender wedges of lemon.
The seafood salad was mediocre and not flavoursome due, in part, to being underdressed.
My $25 beef carpaccio was on the menu as having rocket leaves but came with lettuce mix and was almost tasteless except for the cracked pepper crusting on the outside of the beef and the shaved parmesan. There was not even a simple dressing on the dish aside from being circled by three thin lines of balsamic glaze (possibly from a bottle).

Mains were taglioni with slipper lobster (a.k.a. balmain bug), chicken stuffed with cheese & sun-dried tomatoes with a sage sauce and a pizza siciliana (salami and black olive).
It all sounded SO good.
The pasta was bland and you could only really taste the tomato sauce base with a meagre amount of the "slipper lobster" having been cooked to rubbery tastelessness.
The chicken tasted like it had a coles chicken seasoning on the outside of it and my friend said there wasn't even a hint of sage flavour in the sauce. As it was decorated with rosemary - I did wonder if they had any sage out the back at all....
The pizza on the other hand was suberb! The tomato base was rich and full of flavour and the crust was light and crisp. The other toppings were salami, small whole black olives and really nice cheese.

Two other items of note were that we had overservice regarding the taking of our order, pretty sure we were asked at least 4 times within about 15 minutes if we were ready to order. While this overservice did translate well regarding water top ups and drinks service, it was getting annoying at the begnning of the evening.

The other is that the wine list comprised either boring but quaffable wines that you can get at the local bottle shop or Italian wines. Being unfamiliar with the latter - as I suspect a few Darwinites may be, it would have been lovely to have someone knowledgeable among the staff suggest one.

I think this restaurant is well suited for having a superb pizza with a glass of quaffable wine and soaking up the sunset.

But to call it fine dining is well off the mark.
The food is pub food quality - which is fine when you're in a pub, not fine when you are paying wads of cash for it in a restaurant that is dressed up as a fine dining restaurant.

A note to the unsuspecting - no take away is available. I had a fairly assertive discussion with one of the waiters and managed to take half of my pizza home, but it was hard work.

I feel quite strongly on this issue. I have paid for it, therefore it is mine to do with as I will. Give me a waiver to sign. Let me know before I order - perhaps a note on the menu, and I will order less (ie. no $25 carpaccio) so that I won't have left overs to hassle you about!

So, the numbers:
WINE: 4/10
FOOD: 3/10 (with the exception of pizza and oysters)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Garden

On Saturday the 2nd of October, a large group of us went to the Happy Garden in Parap for a banquet dinner to celebrate the Dan Certificate presentation of a friend. The meal was $32 per person.

We started with chicken and sweetcorn soup followed by steamed dim sims and fried wontons.

For main course we had special fried rice, lemon chicken, chef's special sizzling beef and steamed barramundi with ginger and spring onions. Despite not being a fish lover, the barra was the stand out dish.

Dessert was a choice of either lychee and ice cream or fried ice cream (choice, hahaha, no contest there for me!). A large, golden-crusted ball of ice cream - DELICIOUS!

The numbers:
WINE: 6/10
FOOD: 7/10

birthday tea at Hanuman

I went to the hanuman again, late in September for my birthday. It was fabulous, as usual. I think I got photos of one course, and we just devoured the other course before I remembered.

We started with lamb cutlets coated in tandoori spices, money bags, the duck salad and the chicken satays. The duck salad is a stand out dish - do yourself a favour and have it next time you go. The satay sauce is another highlight and I love the mint yoghurt chutney combined with the spices on the tender lamb cutlets.

For the main courses we had butter chicken, the pork belly, beef musaman and hanuman prawns. for greens we had the baby bok choi. While the pork belly is stand out dish, the musaman is such an exquisite blend of spices and coconut milk with really tender beef pieces that it deserves a mention. Also, the butter chicken is the best I have ever tasted (even having worked in three Indian restaurants over my hospitality career!). You can taste the slight char of the chicken pieces due to their having been cooked on long metal skewers in a tandoor oven before being simmered in the creamy red sauce.

I also had a third course - my favourite Hanuman dessert, the black rice brulee. A crisp coating of toffee tops a silky custard which in turn sits atop a layer of black rice pudding.

I was reminded by a friend that when looking for really good food, not to miss it when it arrives. So I revise my previous ratings to reflect this viewpoint.

Food qualiity:10/10
Service: 9/10
Wine List : 8/10
Value for money: 9/10