Cairns – beautiful one day, torrential rain the next. That’s pretty much what it has been like for the last couple of weeks anyway. Last week it was such a lovely day that I thought it would be nice to book lunch at Salsa Bar and Grill for MS and I the following day. Fast forward to the next day and here is MS and I driving up to Port in torrential rains where we can barely see through the windscreen. In hindsight we probably should have turned around but no I was determined that we went for lunch at Salsa – rain, hail or shine.
Although I had made a booking the day before – this place regularly gets booked out – I called ahead and tell them we would be a bit late due to the weather conditions but that was no problem for the friendly waitress on the end of the phone. In the end we made it up there safely, soundly and hungry for what by all accounts was going to be a delicious lunch. Salsa Bar and Grill is renowned by the locals as ‘the’ place to dine in Port Douglas, plus I have heard rave reviews from plenty of others. I even overheard a woman on the plane from Darwin to Alice Springs telling another passenger that it was one of her favourite restaurants in all of Australia. Big call. Salsa certainly had my expectations set high and that was before we had even made it through the front door of the breezy low-set Queenslander just off Macrossan St. My mission was to see if Salsa lived up to the hype…
Upon entering MS and I were greeted by a smiling waitress and directed (in a friendly way) towards a table on the far left, right in front of the fountain. It was a nice little intimate spot – perfect for sharing our last lunch together before I headed off to sea, again. The waitress poured us a glass of water each and left us with the drinks menu for a few minutes. When she returned I ordered a glass of Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc and after a little bit of persuasion from me (he’s always so responsible but one drink wasn’t going to hurt) MS ordered a Black Russian. In the meantime whilst waiting for the drinks to be poured we had a look over the menu’s and the waitress recited a well rehearsed run down of the specials for the day including Smoked Salmon and Goats Cheese Souffle, a tapas plate and a pan fried fillet of Mahi Mahi on an Indonesian rice cake with prawn curry broth and green mango sambal. My word.
A few minutes of conversing and MS and I had decided on two entrees and two mains to share for our lunch together. For our entrees we ordered the Tapa’s Plate with tuna tartar, red-hot chicken wings, prawn dumpling, chicken tortellini and shiitake arancini for AU$21.50 and the Squid and Chorizo Panzanella with buffalo mozzarella, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and salsa verde for AU$20.50. For our mains MS chose the Tandoori Leg Tenderloin with Split Lentil Dahl, Roti Bread and Mint Yogurt (AU$25.50), something I was most surprised about since he hates lentils, or at least refuses to eat my mum’s homemade Dahl so I assume that he does. I on the other hand was nearly swayed by Salsa’s famous Linguine Pepperincino (red claw pasta) but wasn’t all that keen on being in a carb coma for the rest of the day (plus I had big plans for visiting the new frozen yogurt shop YoMyGoodness on the esplanade later that day). Get on with it…. Ok so for my main I ordered the Japanese Seven Pepper Rubbed Beef Tataki with sushi rice tian, goma shabu emulsion and sweet pickled vegetables (AU$24).
Whilst waiting for our entrees to arrive MS and I took some selfies (no we did not post them on FB or Instagram, they were just for us) and pined over the fact that we were about to be apart for a total of four weeks. Distance in a relationship is something that we are very much used to, certainly not something we enjoy however… You have to do what you have to do and I have never had a normal 9-5 job, I’ve always been on shift one way or another. In the meantime and before I get too sentimental our entrees had arrived. The presentation was outstanding – crisp, clean and it all looked so good that neither of us wanted to touch it. Photo’s ensued and typically we both headed straight for the chicken wings. I’ve got to tell you these were the best damn chicken wings I’ve ever had. Slightly saucy and just the right amount of bite. I only wish that there was more than a couple and looking over the online menu it doesn’t look like these can be ordered on their own for next time. Sad panda.
We split the tortellini which I think was chicken tortellini – I can’t really be sure, nor can I remember. The tortellini was just ok. It looked really bloody good but the outside was a little dry and chewy. The filling inside however, was soft and creamy.
MS edged the tuna tartar towards me since he never eats raw seafood (the big sook) but I placed a small spoonful on the little piece of crostini that was laid over the top of the shot glass and put it on his plate. He really had no choice but to eat it. I didn’t get a word out of him after he ate it which means, in man terms, that he enjoyed it. He just didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of telling me that. The tuna tartar was fresh and flavoursome with slivers of Spanish onion mixed in for a bit of extra texture and crunch.
Like the tortellini before it, the shitake arancini was carefully split into two halves so we could both enjoy it. MS who has absolutely no foodie culture, except what he derives from me as I drag him along for the ride, wouldn’t know an arancini ball if it jumped up and bit him on the ass so he was pleasantly surprised when he realised it was essentially a crumbed rice ball. Another soft and chewy morsel on our tapas plate filled with a delightful earthy shiitake flavour.
And last but not least on our tapas plate was the prawn dumpling in a small dish covered in an aromatic broth. Hey it was no Xiao Long Bao, (it’s a bit rough to compare the two… I fear my dumpling expectations have been forever ruined after going to Shanghai) but it was tasty none-the-less.
Still on the entrees it was time to divert our hungry gaze to the Squid and Chorizo Panzanella. We each served ourselves a share from the entrée plate and dug in. The flavours of the chorizo, squid, bread and mozzarella with the salsa verde were a match made in heaven. I’m pretty sure that chorizo has come straight from hell for it is wickedly tasty in all it’s fatty goodness. Why must it be so damn good?! MS and I both agreed that the liberal amounts of cucumber were a little bit overpowering in the end. Don’t get me wrong I love cucumber but a little less and this salad would be absolutely spot on!
As the waitress came and cleared our plates we told her that the chicken wings were in fact our favourite part of the whole entrée spread, to which she didn’t seem very surprised. Perhaps she has a penchant for the chicken wings herself? About 5 minutes later our mains had arrived…
Again we were impressed with the presentation as our meals were laid out in front of us. MS’ lamb tenderloin was topped with a small pile of very fine strips cucumber which he gently pushed to the side as he dug into the rest. The tenderloin was as it should be – tender and juicy – atop the soft, buttery roti underneath. Obviously the roti was his favourite part of his main but that’s a roti for you. I remember buying freshly made roti’s from a road side vendor in Sri Lanka for 10 cents each for breakfast a couple of years ago. One of the best breakfasts I have ever had I reckon! MS even ate all of his dahl god love him.
Next up was my lunch – the Beef Tataki, which pretty much had me sold at sushi rice tian. The beef was lean and tender, the sushi tian was sweet and the mayonnaise was kewpi (#winning) but my favourite part, although I enjoyed the entire dish, was the pickled vegetables on the top. They reminded me of Rahmah’s – my childhood fave for all you true blue Cairns locals.
So we MS and I finished up our romantic ‘last lunch’ at Salsa’s Bar and Grill, contemplating a coffee before the drive home but were informed by the waitress that they only had whole milk and soy milk. What kind of restaurant doesn’t have skim milk for people’s coffee? Full cream was out of the question since I was the one that had to sit in the car with MS on the drive home and flatulence is an understatement when it comes to MS and dairy. We politely declined and trudged back to the car for the long drive home.
I do feel that our lunch at Salsa was over a little too quickly. After driving an hour to get up there you kind of don’t want lunch to be over in less than an hour, only to drive back to Cairns for another hour. It would have been nice to have a little more of a break between meals and lingered just a little longer – I probably would have needed another glass of wine though. One is a enough nowadays for this little Cadbury kid.
Our lunch at Salsa Bar and Grill was excellent and I guess it did live up to my expectations although I will need to return for dinner and indulge in a main dish of that infamous red claw linguine just to be certain! Dinner would be a whole different experience since the place seems to be regularly booked out during the evenings whereas we were only one of about 6 tables occupied this lunch time, although that may have been due to the severe weather. The menu at Salsa was well thought out but not pretentious, the food was both flavoursome and satisfying, the presentation was outstanding and perfectly prepared, the service was attentive without being pushy and the airy atmosphere was a splendid showcase for the laid-back FNQ lifestyle.
Salsa Bar and Grill
26 Wharf St, Port Douglas QLD 4871
Ph: (07) 40994922
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9.30pm
I’m out at sea (well I was when I wrote this) and bored out of my frigin brain so I figured I might as well attempt to kill a couple of hours by starting my next post. Recently a friend of MS’, and subsequently mine, invited us out for dinner to celebrate his birthday with his new wife and a few mutual friends. They tossed around a few ideas in a group message on FB as to where to go and in the end went with Linga Longa. I was happy with that decision (not that it was up to me at all) because I had heard good things about Linga Longa but I hadn’t yet been there (story of my life).
Saturday night came and MS and I arrived at Linga Longa to find we were the last ones to get there. We were seated down the back of the restaurant at our table of 8 (4 couples). After a bit of chit chat, me filling people in on how awesome Shanghai was and oohing and ahhing about a friends new Dashund puppy we ordered some drinks and had a look over the menu. The restaurant was full for a Saturday with a couple of waitstaff working overtime to keep all the tables happy.
I ordered my usual glass of Sauvignon Blanc while MS, after finding out that the only Cider that Linga Longa had on the menu was Strongbow (why haven’t restaurants caught onto the whole cider thing yet and who the hell even drinks Strongbow?!), decided he would have a Black Russian. Yeah I had no idea what it was either or maybe I’m just not with the times, who knows. So… apparently a Black Russian is Coke with Vodka and Kahlua. I didn’t think it was something that would appeal to me at all – especially considering that I haven’t touched vodka with a 10 foot pole after an entire day spent with my head in a bucket after only 5 vodka’s during a State of Origin night at the Courthouse a few years ago (okay okay they were the more than lethal Smirnoff Black’s but still!). Turns out that Black Russian’s are actually alright, well the sip that I had of it anyway. The birthday boy, SG, liked the idea of a Black Russian so much that he ordered one for himself after consuming what I can only say is a girlie drink – a mojito (yes SG if you are reading this mojito’s are for girls).
Three out of four couples at the table had some sort of voucher to use for dinner. When I say ‘some sort’ I mean 2 x Table 52 cards plus MS and I had our Entertainment Book Gold Card. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to use all three together. Apparently there was quite a bit of commotion caused when some of the guys at our table had tried to use a few Table 52 cards at Wink 2 a few months prior to this birthday dinner – to put it lightly the waiter/owner whatever he was (I wasn’t there) was quite rude and as a result none of them will ever go back there again, and that is on top of the ordinary food that they had already had. Anyway, it remained to be seen how we would go with our vouchers, but I figured we would just wait till it came time to pay the bill to find out.
We all ordered entrees and mains with MS and I ordering a Salt and Pepper Squid and sourdough with a trio of dips (Hommus, Babaganoush and Tzatziki) to share between the two of us. The Salt and Pepper Squid seemed to be the most popular entree at our table with four servings ordered in total, however it took a good 40 minutes from when we arrived to when we received our entrees – hell we didn’t order until thirty minutes after we arrived! Just that little bit too long if you ask me. I had high expectations for Linga Longa since I had heard a lot of good things about it and people are always harping on about the fantastic service they receive there, but all was not lost.
In between waiting for our entrees and chatting we watched the torrential downpours outside from the warmth and dryness of our cosy table for eight. Our entrees arrived in a procession bought out by two of the waitstaff. The sourdough and dips were placed in front of me whilst the Salt and Pepper Squid which, let’s face it were actually meant for MS, were placed in front of him. There was a small pile of lightly seasoned squid next to a small garden salad with a lemon wedge and some tartare sauce. The squid was delicious, tender and an okay sized serving however for the AU$18 we paid I would have expected a little more. My trio of dips came with 6 slices of grilled bread, some a little burnt around the edges which didn’t get eaten.
The presentation of both the squid and the bread and dips was very homestyle and not nearly as fancy as I was expecting but then again the more I think about it I am pretty sure that homestyle cooking is part of the concept and the appeal at Linga Longa. The bread and dips weren’t anything to write home about – just bread and dip really. A couple of others at the table had chosen the Deep Fried Camembert with Tropical Fruit and Berry Coulis for AU$19.50 (didn’t get a photo) as their entrée. I was lucky enough to snavel a piece from someone else’s plate and it was very decadent – but good. Very good.
We waited another 15 or so minutes, ordering another round of drinks in the meantime (Black Russian #2) and then our mains arrived. MS had ordered the Chicken Breast Stuffed with Camembert, wrapped in Streaky Bacon, and finished with a Creamy Parmesan Sauce and Mashed Potato for AU$31.50. Although the Chicken Breast was stuffed with oozy Camembert Cheese MS found it to be very dry and chewy. The vegetables on the side of his plate were cold as though they had just been taken out of the fridge. He was pretty disappointed with his meal and didn’t finish it all, leaving about 1/3 behind. For what he got I think that $31.50 was a little steep – it’s just a chicken breast, really. In my opinion it’s really just one of those boring, ‘standard’ dishes that every restaurant has on the menu for the tame and unadventurous individuals like MS.
After tossing up a few different dishes on the menu I ended up going with the Roasted Pork Special (especially after finding out that it was pork belly because I have a major weakness for anything with crackling attached to it). It was Roasted Pork Belly with Sliced Apple and Sauerkraut on the side for around the AU$39 mark. I have to say that my dish was delicious. The Pork Belly was succulent and juicy with just the right amount of fat to meat ratio and shock horror the crackling was actually crispy (a mean feat for restaurants, and even myself sometimes). The sweet apple and sauerkraut were beautiful additions to my dish – I really, really enjoyed it!
Across the table from us the newlyweds were enjoying their own meals. After wondering if the Bugs were a little too messy for a dinner with friends, AM decided to order them anyway following a few words of encouragement from myself and SG. The Chargrilled Bugs with Lemon Butter, Peri Peri Sauce and served with Steamed Rice and Veggies for AU$38 was a more than generous dish with two and a half bugs in total nestled next to the rice and veggies. Turns out that AG didn’t make too much of a mess after all but she sure as hell enjoyed her meal and was more than happy with her choice of main.
Next to her SG had the Duck Al’Orange – Half Semi De-Boned Duck twice cooked with Buttered Pomme Landaise and Orange and Cointreau Sauce for AU$34.50, a dish that I had also tossed up getting because let’s face it “duck is the shit!” No, not “shit”, “the shit”. I love duck… but not as much as I love pork belly. Anyway, so again we were all surprised with the portion size. One reason that I didn’t order it was because I assumed it would be just a small duck leg and I would be left hungry but no, not this Duck Al’Orange. I think there was a little jealousy around the table when SG’s main arrived. It has to be said that SG thought it to be pretty tasty too. Sizeable and tasty = winning!
To be honest I don’t remember a whole lot about the dessert part of the night. Most likely because neither MS or I decided to have any (there was no Sticky Date Pudding *sad face*). I do recall something about the rest of the table ordering Chocolate Fondant’s in proliferation around us though and by all reports they were full of gooey, chocolate-y goodness.
So to wrap things up for our Saturday night dinner at Linga Longa… It appears that good old fashioned service and home style food is the biggest draw card for diners at Linga Longa. The owner personally welcomes people as they arrive at his restaurant and from what I observed it seems that a lot of them are regulars at his restaurant. The owner and his staff have obviously taken the time to get to know many of these people whom most likely live in the immediate Edge Hill area, or close by.
The majority of the food (except for MS’ chicken and my sourdough) was exceptional albeit a little on the pricey side but I think that’s what most diners are happy to pay for good French style, home-cooked food, often generous portions (well for fine dining anyway) and service in a relaxed and cosy but still classy atmosphere. Also worth mentioning was the fact that we were able to use our Entertainment Book Gold Card and the others also used their Table 52 cards without a single word of protest uttered by the waiter who organised the bill. Another win! Linga Longa certainly lived up to it’s name because we were there for over two and a half hours but unlike the horrible Smirnoff Black’s that will never see the light of day with me again this restaurant is well worth a revisit.
120 Collins Ave, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4032 2136
Opening Hours: Tues – Thurs 5.30pm – 10pm, Fri 11.30am – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 10pm, Sat 5.30pm – 10pm, Sun 11.30am – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 10pm