Only yesterday I was told about this hidden gem so I went down to grab a bit of lunch for my family who are doing some reno’s just up the road. The Bagus Café has been open since December last year so I don’t know how I hadn’t bloody heard of it. Living just up the road I have driven past this place many times however I had no idea they sold Indonesian food (even though Bagus means good in Indonesian). The lovely owner Sri moved up from Melbourne with her family in 2013 to open the Bagus Café.
I ordered takeaway this time however there is a handful of tables of chairs out the front should you choose to ‘dine in’. All the food is made fresh on-site which meant about a 15 minute wait for the three dishes that I ordered. Knowing the food is cooked to order I didn’t mind the wait at all. With traditional dishes like Nasi Goreng, Satay and Rendang it’s one of only two places I know in Cairns that sells Indonesian food (the other being the Bayleaf of course). For the non traditional eaters there is also a selection of Western breakfast and lunch fare including a Smoked Beef Breakfast Burrito with Jalapeno’s that sounds right up my alley.
Occupying a small space out the front of the backpackers across the road from Muddies the Bagus Café is quaint, unassuming and kind of like the real roadside experience in Indo. Located at 149 The Esplanade Bagus is open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6.45am – 3pm and for dinner on Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday from 5.30pm – 8.30pm with nothing on the menu over AU$16. Don’t forget to ask for some of their spicy Anchovy Sambal!
It’s been a ridiculously long time between posts for this vixen. It turns out that life without a laptop/computer is pretty damn debilitating for me. I have had nothing but dramas with a Toshiba Ultrabook I bought less than two years ago (brand new) having the operating system ‘break down’ no less than three times and also the hard drive replaced once in that period. Many a file have I lost over this time because although I have the best of intentions to back files up, it’s just something that usually gets put on the back-burner for me. I do however usually save at least two copies of everything – one on my laptop and one on my hard drive but it really doesn’t matter because I get f**ked by technology one way or another (apparently portable hard drives don’t like to be dropped).
Finally, I’d had enough of my laptop failing me and tried for the 500th and final time to get it replaced under the extended warranty that I had purchased. The dude in JB HIFI proceeded to tell me that it was something that I was doing with it that was causing it to fail and they couldn’t replace it. With MS by my side I usually feel 10 feet tall but without him my eyes began to well up. I kept it together long enough to ask the guy to speak to the ‘big manager’ but make sure he takes my side when explaining the situation. Two minutes later he returns and tells me they are going to replace it with a product of equal or lesser value (that really could have saved 10 minutes of arguing). The two computer guys tried in vain to get me to consider an Apple – something I didn’t want to have a bar of. I DGAF how good Mac’s are nor do I want to approach them with my ‘non-PC’ brain on. I’m a PC for life kind of girl so save your breath. In the end I got some new ASUS Zenbook thingy with some Norton Antivirus to go with it. Now if I could just figure out how to use Windows 8 then life would be sweet.
So here I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon and recap all the wonderful and not so wonderful places that I have dined in the last, say 3 months. Firstly I think I will start with one of my most recent outings – Cafe China Express at the Marina. Having been there a few months now Cafe China Express has taken over from the long-standing, and probably too long, Boardwalk Cafe. A place that was once upon a time known for its huge cafe style meals and delicious Egg’s Benedict. I personally hadn’t returned since I received a particularly violent case of food poisoning there after consuming an Open Grilled Turkey Sandwich on my 23rd birthday about three years ago (haha just kidding, it was two). It turns out that the toilets at Rosse and Locke are few and far between, especially when you’re in a ‘hurry’. Big thumbs up for my birthday that year. FML.
Anyway, Cafe China Express was so carefully selected by my brothers beautiful girlfriend GH for her 20th birthday dinner last weekend, presumably because well they have pork buns and we all know that everyone loves pork buns. The fact that you pay and order at the counter is perfect for a large group because divvying up a bill can often be a painful experience, something I found recently whilst dining at an Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Pyrmont a couple of weeks ago with a couple of wines under my belt, or smoking hot pair of Wayne Cooper pants (in a size 6 might I add, awwww yeah!). Anyway so cunningly GH told my family – minus myself – that dinner was at 6.30pm when it fact it was at 7. My family is notorious for being at least 20 minutes late no matter how much warning they have and anyone who knows them knows this. Apparently leaving home with ample time to arrive at their given destination is far too difficult because my dad always finds it imperative that he walk the dog at the exact time they should be leaving home. Mum always blames dad for them being late and all you can do is shake your head and sigh. So you can imagine my delight when I arrived at Cafe China Express to find that my entire family already seated and waiting – apparently I was the late one. Whatever makes them feel better.
We all perused the menu whilst waiting for the birthday girl to arrive. Since it was a bit chilly outside I thought I would go for a noodle soup type dish to warm my insides. There was pork buns and dumplings to be shared as well. About 20 minutes later the whole party had arrived and after greetings and salutations were made and presents were opened we all went up to order. I chose the Fish Ball Soup (AU$11.90 for regular size) with an entrée of Har Gow or steamed prawn dumplings (3 for AU$7.90). Like me, my dad has a lot of trouble understanding people with certain accents. It’s nothing personal, maybe we are both hard of hearing – some would say ignorant – but even I sometimes have trouble understanding my Sri Lankan aunties when they talk too fast. After a 5 minute struggle to order dishes, my dad decided it would be better to point it all out instead. Upon returning to the table he claimed that he really had no idea what the bubbly Chinese girl behind the counter was saying and he thought she sounded like she was singing a song when she talked. Dad has such an eloquent way of describing things sometimes but he means it in the best possible way.
There was 12 or so people seated at the table and it took about 20 minutes for the meals to start arriving. My dumplings arrived somewhere in the middle, closely followed by my Fish Ball Soup. Most of the meals arrived a little scattered, and not in any kind of order.
I tasted a selection of the dishes around me including my younger brother’s Roasted Duck Laksa, which he managed to eat the majority of in between his constant scrolling through Facebook and Instagram despite my repeated requests for him to put his phone away, was delicious, creamy and extremely decadent.
Mum and Dad’s plate of Roasted Duck – tough and chewy although a very reasonable sized quarter serving for AU$9.90.
The majority of my family had ordered BBQ Pork Buns to share – except for me. According to my dad they were cold on the inside like they had been put in the microwave and barely heated through. That and they were more dough than anything else. How hard is it to serve a warm pork bun? My dumplings were also ridiculously doughy to the point where I was unsure if there was in fact any filling inside them. Dad and I debated whether or not they were made in-house, especially considering that Café China has about 3 other eateries in Cairns. In the end we concluded that they were pulled straight from a box in the freezer along with the pork buns.
My Fish Ball Soup was as I said earlier quite flavorless. The broth had very little depth to it and although the fish balls were nice, in that artificial kind of way, I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else, like my brother’s laksa.
Next to me mum and dad’s plate of Stir-fry Spinach in Garlic had arrived. A staple for them whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant. I shovelled some into my mouth with my chopsticks to be met with what I can only describe as ‘liquid hot magma’ style spinach. Holy crap they must have literally pulled that stuff straight out of a volcano it was that frigin hot! With tears welling up in my eyes and my taste buds burnt clean off it still tasted pretty good but there was lots of oil on it – presumably what caused my third degree burns (who needs taste buds anyway).
My sister, across from me, had ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. This arrived at the table no less than 30 long minutes after everyone else received their meals. It took that long that we actually thought they had forgotten since all we could see in the open kitchen were people washing up and doing non Chicken Teriyaki related jobs. I tried to do the right thing and wait for her meal to arrive before I started mine but it became beyond ridiculous and in the end my near flavorless soup was getting cold. When it finally did arrive we exchanged glances across the table to say ‘is that seriously it?’ I guess Chicken Teriyaki can’t really be too elaborate a dish but it was literally a piece of whole chicken breast thrown on a plate with some rice, a bit of tomato and kewpie mayonnaise. I wondered what the hell had taken them so long? Presumably because she had ordered a Japanese dish in a Chinese restaurant – a cardinal sin in my books and a sure-fire way to screw up your meal – or get food poisoning especially in a foreign country.
Our dinner at Cafe China Express at the Marina wasn’t particularly fantastic and certainly didn’t even come close to some of the fantastic Chinese dinners I have had in the last 12 months – to be fair most of those were actually in China. The service was great but I wouldn’t consider the place to be express (my sister wasn’t the only one who waited more than 20 minutes for her meal to arrive and the restaurant was barely a quarter full). It was all pretty cheap but more the cheap and nasty type of cheap not the ‘woo hoo we paid next to nothing’ exciting kind of cheap – although the birthday girls mum did score a free glass of red wine. The food itself was somewhat lacklustre and although there was a few yummy dishes amongst our table on the whole it all seemed pretty thrown together. Maybe that’s where the express part comes in…
Cafe China Express At The Marina
Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6887
Anyone that regularly reads my blog – or at least ‘likes’ my Facebook page (that’s all of you right?) might recall that I have a bucketlist of food experiences that I keep in my phone consisting mostly of restaurants that I want to dine at around the world. Some of the restaurants listed are fine dining (Tetsuya’s, Las Bravas and Ultraviolet), some aren’t (Tim Ho Wan, The Salt Lick, Pimenti’s) and some are simply food experiences that I want to tick off (eating oysters at Coffin Bay, fish and chips on Bronte Beach, lobster rolls in Maine). There are only a few restaurants within Australia that I have listed and the first one that I was able to tick off last month was Vue De Monde in Melbourne.
Late last year MS tried desperately to get us a reservation whilst down in Melbourne for our birthday weekend in December but to no avail. VDM is so popular that it can be booked out months in advance. It just so happened that we planned another Melbourne trip for the Fitness Expo in March and lucky enough this time around MS was able to secure a booking on a Friday night for the two of us. MS knows the way to my heart – through food. The guy on the other end of the phone at VDM took a deposit after asking MS “You do know how much this restaurant costs right?” – ahem yes thank you very much! Yes it wasn’t going to be a cheap night out that’s for sure but not something we do very often (if ever).
Now I’m not going to go into logistics or fancy words in my ‘review’ of VDM because this restaurant has been reviewed countless times by much more qualified and ‘in the know’ people than this Vixen however I thought I would give my take on the whole experience…
After setting off from our holiday apartment in St Kilda with ample time to arrive at our destination – the Rialto only 6km away – we ended up getting stuck in crazy afternoon traffic on St Kilda Rd and arrived 20 minutes late for our 6pm booking (we left at 5pm!!!) There is nothing that gets me more wild than being late for something and I managed to keep my cool for the entire time, only losing it in the last 10 minutes. So then of course ultra cool, calm and collective MS lost it totally as well. Great start to our romantic evening together. FML.
We finally arrived and leaving the car with the valet we made our way to reception where we were met by a friendly lady that took us to VDM personal elevator. Less than a minute later we were 55 storeys up and being greeted at the elevator door by a male host. He led us past the bar and to a large tinted glass door to which he opened to the restaurant.
As the door opened we were greeted with a breathtaking 180 degree view of Melbourne – hence the name Vue De Monde. The dining room with its 20 or so tables each with a candle flickering, polished black floors and enormous windows looking out onto the twilight was nearly equally as impressive. The host led us to our table for the evening where we were seated and left momentarily until we were again greeted by our host for the evening.
Since we were seated slightly back from the windows with an empty table directly in front of us he asked if we would like to move closer to the window to which we happily obliged. He then explained the course of the evening to us – basically they bring out 7 courses and then you decide if you want to continue (are you still hungry?) or if you have had enough. Directly behind us the busy kitchen was a hive of activity with no less than 20 chefs cooking up a storm at various cooking stations. It was actually quite theatrical to watch and as the sun went down the reflection of the kitchen behind us provided a beautiful backdrop for our prime position overlooking Melbourne. Damn I’m poetic.
The host left us momentarily whilst the sommelier came over and introduced himself. He handed the two of us the wine ‘bible’ which I reluctantly took drawing in a deep breath as I opened the first page. I mean I don’t want to sound cheap but I know how much the wines cost at these kind of restaurants. I’m happy to spend a few hundred dollars on dinner once in a blue moon (don’t think I’m a toff because I’m really not) but I sure as hell won’t spend $80 on a glass of wine.
The sommelier asked me what kind of wine I liked – I’m a white wine kind of girl – and directed me towards some ridiculously expensive wines. To an uneducated wine drinker like myself the difference in taste between a $200 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle is negligable (ha who am I kidding – I’ve never had a $200 bottle of wine). In the end I tastefully directed the guy towards a cheap(er) glass that he recommended (AU$38), although I did feel a bit of pressure to go more expensive, something that made me mildly uncomfortable and I did feel a little judged by Mr Sommelier. Pfft. He then moved onto MS who asked him what wine he preferred. MS is no wine drinker – this man barely drinks at all – so he ordered a cider and after getting the shock of his life when the sommelier recommended an AU$80 bottle of cider (for 330ml!!!!) he chose the cheapest one on the menu (AU$18). Although I can’t remember for the life of me what we ordered, both the wine and the cider tasted pretty darn good.
And so the meal began. First off we were given some salt and vinegar crisps with hazelnut cream pate to entice our taste buds. Someone must have secretly called ahead and told the kitchen about mine and MS massive penchant for anything Salt and Vinegar – my favourite flavour. It used to be Atomic Tomato until I got really drunk a few years ago, ate an entire large packet to myself and then threw it up again. Yeah, you know what? A post about Vue De Monde probably isn’t the right place to talk about that story. And so the meal progressed from there.
In the middle of our table was a collection of, well they can only be described as rocks, but nice smooth ones of all different shapes and sizes. Through the course of the evening our waitress overturned them to reveal various grooves for holding the ornate cutlery and hidden reserves of salt and pepper. It was quite cool as I initially thought they were just for decoration.
Following our salt and vinegar ‘chips’ a selection of grilled meats on skewers were brought out. We ate eel, oysters, rock wallaby, sea urchin, ducks tongue and lambs hearts. And although neither of us would normally eat some of the things (namely the lambs heart and duck tongue) that were laid out in front of us we both respected the prestigious restaurant that we (I) had chosen to dine in – and as they say ‘when in Rome…’
We even had some tea…
Each dish was presented by a different chef, sometimes in a very theatrical way that even sometimes required diner participation – we used a pestle to grind up our own mortar of wood sorrel that had been frozen with liquid nitrogen. After crushing the wood sorrel the waitress added a small scoop of refreshingly different cucumber sorbet. Unfortunately the photo below was post grinding and sorbet. The presentation of each dish, as one would expect, was flawless and each presented in its own creative way.
About 4 dishes in our waitress brought out a large basket of ‘butter’ with freshly baked sour dough bread. Both MS and I were in awe of the enormous amount of hand churned butter that she presented in front of us and I can honestly say this ‘bread and butter’ was one of the highlights of our meal. Yes, it’s true. We were dining at one of Australia’s premier restaurants and we were loving the bread and butter. To say that I slathered that butter on thick was an understatement. It was TO. DIE. FOR.
Later on our host for the evening came over for a chat and asked what our favourite dish had been so far. Old Cadbury ‘one glass of wine goes straight to my head’ me couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the dishes that had come out off the top of my head other than the bread and butter. I think he was a little taken a-back that that’s what I came up with but he did bring us another serve since we liked it so much. High fives all around!
Earlier I said that although MS and I don’t normally eat adventurous things like duck tongue and lambs hearts but we try to go with the flow at a place like VDM. MS was doing surprisingly well, that was until the duck yolk came out. He just has a thing about runny yolk and not even dining at VDM was going to make him eat it. I however thought the velvety duck yolk was absolutely delicious especially paired with the pear and truffle that it was served alongside. The egg was cooked sous vide at 64 degrees resulting in a rich, creamy and delightful egg yolk. Wow it was just so damn decadent that I ate MS’ as well. Yes I may have to change my name to fatvixen soon.
And yet there was more! (In no particular order – not that I could remember anyway).
The desserts followed not long after our parade of meals. First up was the Chocolate Souffle. Now I don’t know about you but I tend to get disappointed with souffles. They look so damn delicious and then you stick your spoon in and it’s mostly air. I’m a lover of dense and moist desserts but the souffle was sweet and decadent, nonetheless.
Our final dish for the evening was a selection of petit fours… (I forgot to take a photo of the Eucalyptus Ice Cream)
Lastly our host asked us if we would like anything else, to which MS replied that he would love some tea. Uh oh. Big mistake. The tea sommelier ensued with his book of teas from around the world. I think the cheapest tea in the book was AU$33, and that was for only one person. After receiving the rundown of all the teas that were available and where they had come from – some so damn expensive you would think they were grown in a hydroponic setup on Mars! MS was ever so forthcoming when he asked if he could just have ‘normal’ English Breakfast tea. The tea guy did his very best to hide his disgust but I saw it flit across his face ever so gently. In the end we got some whizz bang flash tea that was a little higher in price than we expected but still very reasonable compared to what was on offer.
When we finished up there was an awkward period of not knowing if all the meals were finished or still coming and how we actually paid the bill and left. Do you just raise your hand and click your fingers in a fancy restaurant or is that only in the movies? In the end we figured it out and upon leaving we were given a foodie gift bag filled with tasty sweets as well as all the ingredients for an impromptu Vue De Monde breakfast ‘for the morning after’. Inside the bag was cookies, tea, a freshly baked loaf of brioche, honey, muesli and a book of restaurants around the world. The cookies were gone before we even made it back to our apartment – MS didn’t want his so I ate them both (oops fatvixen strikes again). It was a lovely surprise to receive upon leaving and certainly not something I expected. It really topped off what was a fantastic and memorable evening for both MS and I.
In conclusion (my long drawn out one): I thought that the food was exemplary at Vue De Monde but it didn’t blow my mind. We tried some things but that we would never have eaten had we not have been at a very fancy restaurant. Still, the beef tongue, lambs hearts and duck tongues were actually kind of tasty. Hmmm, ok well you can have the duck tongues, the texture was just too weird for me.
The only drawback(s) from our fantastic dinner at Vue De Monde was, for both MS and I, the wine guy and the tea guy. Although we only saw the tea guy once, right at the end of our meal, unlike the wine guy who came to our table fairly regularly, they both made us feel uneasy. Maybe it was because I felt that the wine guy was (secretly) hell-bent on trying to sell us a $200 glass of wine and that made me feel pretty uncomfortable and almost obligated to buy expensive alcohol. It’s hard for me to convey in this post – without sounding like a complete twit or even worse ‘stingy’ – why I think that spending $200 on a glass of wine is unreasonable especially considering how much dinner had cost us.
Anyhow it was the experience of a once in a lifetime meal with the love of my life that really made it for me, as cliché as that sounds. It certainly wasn’t to sample the extensive wine list that was so carefully chosen by Vue De Monde’s team of sommelier’s over many months. And then again I don’t want to take away from the exemplary job that both the tea and wine sommelier were doing but I guess wine and tea isn’t really something that I have learnt to appreciate – certainly no where near as much as food anyway. Again I think I sound like an idiot attempting to explain myself and my amateur review but I guess that’s just it. I’m an amateur blogger that does restaurant reviews in her spare time as a hobby. My regular posts consist of things like ‘where does one find the best fish and chips in Cairns?’ and where I think the best Som Tum is. I don’t review restaurants like Vue De Monde on a regular basis but it’s nice to get all fancy and posh once in a while whilst taking in the views of the Melbourne skyline from the 55th floor of the Rialto and gushing about just how amazing their bread and butter is.
PS: And just for the record, the next day MS and I went to Nando’s for lunch.
PPS: The total bill at Vue De Monde for anyone that would like to know came to $579… That was for 2 degustations, a glass of wine and 2 ciders.
Vue De Monde
Level 55 Rialto 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691 3888
Cue Valentines Day a couple of weeks ago and seems my friends and I were desperate and dateless… Well not entirely… MS was out-of-town for work, so too was my BFF’s BF, my sister’s housemates BF, and well my sister is currently dateless (but not desperate). It seemed all too appropriate that we all (four of us) venture out for our own, all female, romantic dinner with each other for company. Due to the fact that two of my dates had certain dietary requirements I was in search for a restaurant with a good amount of protein on the menu, especially since our man meat was missing haha. Having done Waterbar and Grill to death – love the place – I thought we would try somewhere else and on the waterfront because no Valentines Day dinner is complete without a bit of a view. In the end after scouring the internet for appropriate and dietary satisfying menu’s I came up with Mecca Bah.
Down on the boardwalk right next door to Dundee’s Mecca Bah has been serving up Moroccan food to Cairns for just over three years now – I did ask the guy at the counter when we were paying and I am pretty sure that’s what he said anyway. I do remember being taken aback as to the time he gave me because I was almost positive that Mecca Bah had been open for longer than that. Meh, it doesn’t really matter anyway. Mecca Bah have a delicious sounding menu with a ‘Grills’ section that would especially suit my culinary challenges dates for the evening. I also remembered (from a few years ago when it first opened) seeing a couple of romantic looking booths to sit at with white curtains and candles adjacent to the boardwalk also at Mecca Bah. Now I did leave it a little late when booking for Valentines Day and Friday night (four days before) and I figured that the booths would surely be booked out but I called up anyway. You can imagine my surprise when we easily nabbed a booth for the evening. Surely intimate booths with white flowing curtains and candles would be a ‘mecca’ for lovebirds on this particular Friday night? Guess not.
Anyway so we turned up and because I am such an awesome date I bought my three dates a single red rose each which seemed to be pretty stoked about. Having literally flown in from sea that afternoon I was looking forward to a nice dinner with a glass of white, some catch ups and of course some gossip. Upon arrival I noticed that the restaurant was probably about 3/4 full of diners, mostly couples, then I spotted our reserved ‘intimate’ booth. It certainly wasn’t what I remembered. The flowing white curtains appeared to be missing although the curtain hangers weren’t. The booth had also been pulled back from the boardwalk and now just sat to the side of all the other tables. It wasn’t exactly what I would call intimate, in fact it was pretty disappointing.
We were shown to our table and then proceeded to wait more than 15 minutes for the waitress to come over and take our drinks order. The waiters and waitress’ walked past our table multiple times until someone finally seemed to notice that we were sans menu’s, wine or anything else for that matter. I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while the others girls stuck to water and/or Coke Zero. F that. I had just been drinking desalinated water out at sea for the last three weeks. I was having wine goddamnit! After our drinks arrived the waitress who was apologetic – I’m pretty she noticed my unimpressed ice queen gaze. We ordered a couple of entrees – Labna (AU$4) and Sumac dusted hand cut sweet potato chips with Harissa Mayonnaise (AU$5) to share. Three of us ordered the 300g Sirloin Steak Dry rubbed with House Spices served with Slow Roasted Baby Beetroot, Persian Fetta and Local Rocket for AU$28. My sister chose the Chargrilled Chicken Shish with Vegetable Cous Cous and tabouleh for AU$26.
We caught up on stories passed since I had been out at sea and I retold grand stories of how my crew and I overcome squall like seas and mystical Kraken’s in our quest to *cough* ok I’m kidding. Being girls we had a nice little bitch about a few things and had a good laugh at a couple of, oh maybe 16 year olds – guy and a girl – obviously on a first date that had absolutely nothing to say to one another. It was so damn awkward that I felt awkward for them. The awkward silence was only broken by the guy excusing himself to go to the toilet at which point the girl broke out her phone to check what was going on in the world of Facebook. Nothing of course.
Our entrees arrived about 10 minutes later and we tucked into our Sweet Potato Chips and Labna. The Sweet Potato Chips were crunchy and well, sweet of course. It’s a bit of a mean feat to get Sweet Potato Chips just right but the chef was pretty spot on with these ones. Not too oily and I really enjoyed them as did the other girls. I thought that it was really good value for AU$5. The labna (yogurt cheese) was slightly salty, slightly creamy and very delicious. For those of you who have no idea what it is or have never tasted it – you’re missing out!
Within five minutes our mains had arrived. To my left my BFF and I looked at each other and then down at the ‘300g’ steak and then back at each other again. Having gone through a significant period of serious dieting together last year (she’s going through it again at present) we are pretty much human digital scales. The look we gave each other said it all… That steak was NOT 300g. In fact I would say after all the fat we cut off the damn thing – and that is all three steak eaters at the table – it was lucky to be just over 200g. The Slow Roasted Baby Beetroot was somewhat lacklustre and I had a slight suspicion that the beetroot was actually canned beetroot. The 150 or so grams of meat that we did eat was juicy, tender and sweet. It was made all that bit better by the delicious rub that the steak had been cooked in. This steak was however, a particularly fatty cut of sirloin, to the point where it really retracted from the meal. There was a lot of fat and I’m talking big fat chunks of oozy gristle. As for the Persian Feta? Well there was none.
Across the table from me my sister was complaining that her cous cous was flavourless and that her chicken was cold. I thought she was slightly over-exagerating until I actually tasted her chicken. It wasn’t ‘left on the counter for 10 minutes kind of cold’, oh no, it was almost fridge cold, that’s how cold it was! I questioned whether it was even cooked through but it was hard to tell with the dim lighting at our ‘intimate’ booth. The cous cous itself was in fact flavourless and unseasoned. When the waitress came over to clear our plates she asked us how the food was to which I told her about the cold chicken and she could clearly see the amount of fat that we had trimmed from our supposed 300 gram steaks. She apologised and offered to replace the Chargrilled Chicken Shish with a freshly cooked one however my sister politely declined because she couldn’t eat a whole new meal. We finished up our meals and went to the counter to pay, each separately, something the owner (I think that’s who it was) seemed to be fairly accommodating of. The four of us did find him a little rude and not exactly friendly.
I will give Mecca Bah a thumbs up for the presence of local seafood, some local veg and Silkwood cattle on their menu whilst the dim lighting and candles does attempt to create a certain ambience for the place but this doesn’t make up for the ill prepared, cold chicken, fatty steak and lack of service we received during our meal. The restaurants decor is tired and the atmosphere, in my opinion, is somewhat uninviting. The dim lighting only aids in hiding that the restaurant’s décor is looking pretty tired. If it wasn’t for the awesome three friends I had for company along with the glass of white wine that went straight to my head I would have had a pretty ordinary dinner. Mecca Bar might be a ‘mecca’ for unsuspecting tourists that get drawn in by the ambient lighting, electric candles and prime position on the waterfront, but our romantic all female, Valentine’s Day dinner was mediocre at best.
1 Marlin Pde, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 3737
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 11am – 11.30pm, Sat & Sun 7am – 11.30pm
First cab off the rank with my new Tropical Far North Queensland Entertainment Book was The Rising Sun Bar and Bistro at Palm Cove a couple of weeks ago. A few months ago MS and I attended a friend’s engagement party on the rooftop terrace at the hotel Sarayi where the two of us were smacking our lips at the delicious canapes that were being brought around by the waitstaff from the restaurant below. That restaurant below was The Rising Sun, somewhere I had never heard of before and after a little research I found out that it is also co-owned by co-owner and head chef at NuNu, Nick Holloway. After our fantastic five course degustation menu at Palm Cove in August last year I was keen to come back and try just what The Rising Sun had on the menu and see if it was anywhere near as good as I had cracked it up to be.
Initially, after hearing some great reviews I tried in vain to get a table for two at Harrison’s in Port Douglas for the night but alas it was booked out for a wedding so I made a last minute booking for my second choice, The Rising Sun, and we headed out to Palm Cove. It was a drizzly night out in Palm Cove and it was difficult to find a park out there because the place was chockers with diners. We managed to find ourselves a park a little out off the beaten path and made our way to the restaurant. The staff had reserved us a nice little table right at the front of the restaurant overlooking the outside tables (unoccupied due to rain) and the footpath beyond. The Rising Sun Bar and Bistro was probably about 3/4 full when we sat down at our table but quickly filled up to close to capacity in the hour or two we were there. A friendly waitress came to take our drink orders – I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while MS ordered some sort of Cider (whoops I took no notice of either). Due to the drizzle outside all the windows had been closed up to keep any water out but in order to counteract the lack of breeze the staff had turned the ceiling fans up ‘full bull’ making it a little chilly for us especially considering our table was right in the middle of two large fans. We asked the waitress if she would mind turning them down which she happily obliged, never mind what the other diners wanted this was about us (that’s a joke).
We both decided well before we arrived that we were going to go the whole hog and get an entree, main and dessert each but when we had a look over the menu we were a little disappointed. The entrees looked fantastic! In fact I would have been happy to build my entire meal just out of the entree part of the menu since MS and I quite a difficult time choosing only two, and which two to be more precise. After considering the Roast Duck Rolls with Cucumber and Plum Sauce as well as the BBQ Sugar Cane Pork with Chilli Vinegar we settled on the Crispy Fried Squid with Hot and Sour Dressing and Peanuts for AU$16 and the Coconut Roasted Pork Ribs with Ginger Caramel and Thai Basil for AU$18. After assessing the mains over and over again… To be honest there was just nothing in the main menu that grabbed me. I mean there was only 6 items on the main menu to choose from aside from the Fresh Reef Fish or Steak which was another section of the menu and the 2 or 3 specials on the board which didn’t excite me. It was a choice between the 6 main dishes – Chicken Parmigiana (it IS a bistro after all), Crispy Duck Leg, Roast Chicken Masala, BBQ Lamb Cutlets, Grilled Pork Chop and Paella. Ultimately the Crispy Duck Leg with Jasmine Rice, Papaya and Young Coconut Salad for AU$34 was the pick of the litter, or so I thought. MS however ended up choosing the ‘Pasta of the Day’ from the specials board which was Fusilli with Feta, Olives, Sausagei (or was it Chorizo?) and Croutons. That isn’t actually how it was described on the board but I cannot for the life of me find where I wrote it down (my description was still pretty damn close). The price wasn’t written up on the board so we never actually found out how much it was but I am assuming around the usual AU$25 mark.
So we ordered and sat and drank our wine and cider while we waited. By this time the drizzle had stopped and the waitress opened up a couple of the windows at the front of the restaurant to let some breeze through. The atmosphere at The Rising Sun was second to none and everyone seemed to be having a great time whether it be enjoying a cocktail at the bar or a glass of wine with friends over dinner. The lighting however, was just dim enough to make it difficult for me to take photos of the food that was to come (I hate it when that happens). We waited about 15 minutes before our entrees arrived and as the waitress carefully laid them down in front of us she said that she would go and fetch a share plate for us since that is what we had planned on doing. We waited about 17 seconds until we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer for the share plate and dug in (luckily because she only returned with it about 10 minutes too late).
The Crispy Fried Squid was absolutely scrumptious (the below photo just doesn’t do it justice). I mean this squid was so good that it was on par with probably the best squid I have ever had. For all my regular readers you know I compare all squid to my mum and dad’s salt and pepper squid. It was cooked to perfection with just a slight dusting of flour and spices on the outside to give it just a little bit of crunch but still delicious and tender on the inside. It was, in essence, the sauce that made the dish so damn good. It was just the right mix of hot and sour sauce drizzled over the squid and mixed in with the cucumber and peanuts with a generous ‘sprinkling’ of Thai Basil leaves. We ate every last piece of squid, peanut and cucumber in that dish and if I was at home I would have licked the dressing clean off the plate but I figured it probably wasn’t appropriate while out at a restaurant.
The Coconut Roasted Pork Ribs with Ginger Caramel and Thai Basil were up next and like the Crispy Fried Squid they didn’t disappoint. The fall off the bone pork with the ginger caramel sauce was a match made in heaven. Again I wanted to lick the plate clean (like Manu Fieldel I’m a sauce girl). The dish was generously decorated with Thai Basil and also finely chopped birdseye chillies which were eye-wateringly spicy. The birdseye chillies weren’t mentioned on the menu description so MS (the big pussy) got quite the shock when one accidentally made it’s way into his unsuspecting mouth. He then dared me to eat one which being the tough ‘I can do anything’ kind of girl that I am happily accepted the challenge only to declare/pretend that they ‘weren’t very hot at all’. THEY WERE HOT!
When we were finished the waitress cleared our plates and our mains arrived about 15 minutes later. MS looked down at his dish and wondered where the sauce was for it. I poked around a bit and noticed some resemblance of a sauce in the bottom of the bowl. MS was disappointed even though he hadn’t tasted it yet. I thought it looked quite nice. He dug into his big bowl of fusilli and his opinion didn’t change to much. The croutons were just a very random edition and apart from that it didn’t have much else going on. MS said that without the feta the dish wouldn’t have had any flavour at all. The sauce at the bottom was a bit like a very mild vinaigrette I guess but nothing like what he was hoping for. In the end he ate about two thirds of it and left it. I actually liked his dish with it’s slight vinegary taste but that doesn’t say too much. Here’s a hideous confession: I used to be about 15 kg’s overweight (a mean feat for someone who’s 5ft nothing) and used to binge on pasta with vinegar and feta cheese. Wait… maybe I should divulge that kind of embarrassing stuff on here. Too late. Anyway my point is that my opinion is a little skewed when it comes to pasta and vinegar because it’s always going to get the thumbs up when realistically it’s not actually very good at all.
Now my dish – well I wasn’t sure if there even was a Crispy Duck Leg under the mountains of bean sprouts and Thai basil (again). I dug underneath and sure enough it was there but how was I supposed to get to it? Now I’m all for the use of fresh ingredients and what not but the using Thai basil in 3 out of the 4 dishes that we ordered is a little too much don’t you think? And the fact that neither the bean sprouts or the Thai basil were actually mentioned in the menu description just pissed me off since I frigin hate bean sprouts. If I had of known they were going to be so liberally included in my dish I would have opted to not have them. Even more annoying was the fact that due to the dim lighting they blended into the young coconut salad so I couldn’t tell if I was eating nasty bean sprouts of delicious young coconut until I bit into whatever it was. In the end I gave up and just went for the duck which disappointingly was dry and overcooked. The creamy curry-like sauce that it was encased it was delicious but that didn’t make up for all the other areas in which this dish failed for me. I think I ate about half of it and then left it. It’s a bad night when I only eat half of my dish and then eye off my partners meal. Okay, okay, I normally eye off my partners meal but I still only ate half my dish.
So after our lacklustre main meals following our standout entrees we didn’t really know what to think but we did know one thing for sure – we wanted dessert. The waitress brought us out a menu each to peruse the dessert menu. MS ordered the Roast Pineapple, Bread and Butter Pudding with White Chocolate and Macadamia Brittle Ice Cream for AU$16. I didn’t think that sounded very nice to be honest although I was definitely going to taste it when it came out. I was pretty keen on the Crispy Fried Banana Fritters but Chocolate Brownie is always going to come up trumps against any competitor so I chose the Hot Chocolate and Turkish Delight Brownie with Chocolate Sauce and House made Vanilla Ice Cream for AU$15.
Another 10 minutes later and out came our desserts, placed in the middle of the table. Disappointingly though they both looked exactly the same, except one was a light caramel colour and one was a dark chocolate colour. We had a taste of each of our own desserts and then the others, both decided with 100% conviction that we had each made the right choice in respect to our desserts and then positions our prospective plates firmly back to each side of the table. The hot pineapple in MS pudding just didn’t do it for me. I thought it was weird and nothing like a bread and butter pudding but MS liked it.
My brownie on the other hand was warm and soft with oozy chocolate sauce but a severe lack of Turkish Delight. I think I only found one piece. The brownie was just okay and nothing like the ‘Best Brownie in the World’ from the Pedlar’s Inn Cafe in Galle, Sri Lanka that I had while on a tour last year. TO. DIE. FOR.
So what can I say… The atmosphere at The Rising Sun was nice and relaxed but still classy as was the service but the mains definitely let the whole experience down. By the time it came to pay for the bill we got 25% off the total up to a maximum of AU$35 which resulted in it all costing us just over AU$100. I thought that was a pretty good deal for a wine, a cider, two entrees, two mains and two desserts although for a restaurant that advertises itself as a bistro I think that some of the menu items are a tad overpriced. I wouldn’t say that our meal at The Rising Sun was particularly bad but it failed mostly because I’d had such high expectations about the place. After the gorgeous canapes we had at the engagement party a few weeks prior and reading about their affiliations with NuNu it was a little hard not to get a little excited. Our meals certainly peaked too soon with excellent entrees, ordinary mains and then ‘just ok’ desserts. The over use of Thai basil was a little bit too much in the end. I get what they were trying to do with all the fresh ingredients but hey, ease up a little on the Thai basil there tiger this is Palm Cove not Patong.
The Rising Sun
95 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove QLD 4879
Ph: (07) 4059 0889
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am – 12pm
After our woeful Good Friday Seafood Buffet and a waste of a cheat meal for MS and I we were looking for somewhere new to indulge the week after. I had also organised catchups with a friend, AL, that couldn’t make the Good Friday catchups (just his luck) plus a couple more that did. Since I had made such a shitty choice the week before the pressure was on for me to choose somewhere good that we (I) hadn’t been to before. Wanting to stick to the buffet theme so we could all get our money’s worth and so MS and I could eat ourselves stupid I came up with Bazaar in Port Douglas at the QT Resort. I had randomly stumbled across an article about it a few months earlier and after reading up on it Bazaar was on my list of “to do” restaurants in the Far North. Although I didn’t think that my friends would be willing to make the hour and a bit journey to Port and then back again just to go for dinner I asked anyway and slap my ass and call me foodvixen, they agreed! To say that I was excited was an understatement. Nothing gets me more excited than food. Nothing. Except maybe buffets. Yep, still food.
So I called up and made a booking with the restaurant for six people a day earlier. The lovely man on the other end of the phone asked if we had ever been to Bazaar before to which I replied ‘no’. He then said ‘Well you are in for a treat. Make sure you bring your appetite!’ As I hung up the phone I did a little dance in front of MS. He is used to me getting super excited over food. Unfortunately he never really shares my enthusiasm for food and likes to think of it more as fuel for his body. Pfft whatever, who even says that? I was hoping that he would get excited when we actually got there. And boy did he excited! Along with the rest of us when we were greeted by the waitress at the entrance to Bazaar. The first thing you notice is how visually pleasing the place is. The chef’s station is in the middle of three large food stations behind which is a huge double fridge with glass doors filled to the brim with fresh produce on display. Bazaar at the QT Resort in Port Douglas is the sister restaurant to a popular Gold Coast joint with the same name and is a re-creation of the traditional marketplace with a 21st century twist (yep I pulled that straight off the website).
After introductions we were given a detailed ‘tour’ of the buffet by our friendly waitress who for once seemed to be actually happy to be there (a mean feat for a Far North Qld restaurant no?) At the first station there was a selection of cold meats, cheese and salads (I saw MS’ eyes light up at the large wheel of brie or camembert laid out in the centre just waiting for him to eat it). The second station was the fresh seafood station with mounds of mussels in the shell, spanner crab, oysters and prawns. Around the bend from that was the hot selection with a few classic dishes like Osso Bucco, Beef Cheeks, Eggplant Parmigiana and some sort of Asian inspired dish right down the end. The waitress told us that the hot station changed regularly with inclusions such as Pork Ribs and Lamb Shanks to name the only two things I can remember her saying. I was too captivated by the sights, smells and sounds around me to pay close attention. Then lastly was the dessert station filled with Macaroons, Chocolate Tarts, Lamingtons and so much more! Doesn’t sound like much? Yeah I know but I forgot the best part. The best part about the buffet at Bazaar is that they also have an a la carte section where they make many dishes to order – sirloin steak, salmon fillets, wood-fired pizzas, tasting platters (more on that in a minute), dumplings, BBQ pork buns and pasta (all included in the AU$65). You simply head on up to the hot food station and have a word to one of the two friendly chefs about what you want to eat and how you want it cooked! I was already well aware of this having done my research before asking my friends to make the journey to Port and ensuring that we weren’t going to be disappointed. My friends however weren’t really aware of this part of the deal and their tongues nearly fell out of their mouths when they realised the true proportions of the epic feast we were about to embark on.
The waitress then showed us to a table down on the lower deck and without further adieu (we didn’t even sit down) we headed straight for the buffet. Myself? I headed for the cheese and salad bar first, hastily followed by the fresh seafood station. I must admit that after my crab experience the week before I was a little off crab so I loaded my plate with mussels, oysters and prawns and sat myself back down at the table where I was soon joined by the rest of the group, all of whom had managed to pile a plate high with whatever tickled their fancy. I had helped myself to quite a large portion of heavenly Gorgonzola Cheese from the 1st station, because lets face it, cheese is nothing without mold on it! The salads were delicious and fresh and didn’t taste like they had been sitting there all day. My absolute favourite would have to be the marinated eggplant. It was so yummy, even LL commented on how good it was. All in all there was probably about seven different salads to choose from, no boring pasta salads or sh*tty garden salads to waste your time with. These salads were full of colour, herbs and spices and had obviously been well planned out. Cudos to the chef’s at Bazaar.
Moving onto the seafood, I’ll start with the mussels first. Wow! I haven’t seen such large mussels in like forever! These mussels were enormous and even LL and ER were gushing over their size and how delicious they were. According to the waitress who seemed to know her sh*t they were from Tasmania. They were large and meaty with a mild saltiness to them. I couldn’t get enough of them and between the mussels and the oysters I ate plate-loads of the slippery little suckers (whoops wrong type of seafood). Next up the prawns were also beautiful and fresh. Not the biggest prawns in the world but still a good size to peel and dip into a little seafood sauce. YUM! Lastly was the oysters, which were Pacific Oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia the waitress informed us as she cleared our scrap bowls away and replaced them with new ones (without us asking might I add). I’m gonna go out on another limb here and say that these are probably some of the best oysters that I have ever eaten. I think I only got one oyster with a little bit of grit in it, the rest were just to die for. The plump delicate oyster meat with a small squeeze of fresh lemon over the top just melted in my mouth. These oysters really were something special and again LL and ER commented on how frigin fantastic they were and also agreed they were some of the best oysters they had ever eaten. That’s plate number one for me, back for round two.
In the meantime next to me MS had ordered a whole supreme pizza with extra Chorizo and a Sirloin Steak cooked medium as well as a Tasting Platter for the table to share (because that’s what you do with a tasting platter isn’t it?) In the meantime (while he waited for his pizza and steak) MS hoed into the hot selection of Beef Cheeks and Osso Bucco as well as a huge lump of cheese and dried apricots. Around the table a few more people had ordered Sirloin’s and Salmon Fillets. Someone also put in an order for dumplings and BBQ pork buns to be brought over as well. I had no idea where we were going to fit all this food but one thing I did know is that I was sure as hell going to try. The ‘made to order’ dishes only took about 10 minutes to arrive at our table – you didn’t have to go up to the buffet to get it, it was brought to your table. MS said his steak was excellent. Put it this way he ate two that night and the only reason he didn’t have a third was because he was too full by the end of it. AR, a friend of AL’s up from Sydney for the week, ate three Salmon Fillets over the course of the evening and declared them to be the best Salmon Fillet’s he had ever eaten. Big call but he was chuffed. To my right ER also said that her Salmon was cooked to perfection as she tried to protect it from being stolen off her plate by LL who also gave it two thumbs up. MS’ demolished his pizza, saving a slice for me. It was thin-based and crispy with plenty of yummy toppings scattered over the top. If I had a bigger stomach I would have gotten a pizza but alas I wanted to forgo the bread for a bowl of pasta.
I went up and asked one of the friendly chefs to make me a bowl of pasta. He asked me what I liked and I told him to surprise me but not to put any Capsicum or Celery in it (I know what you are saying, “No one puts celery in pasta”, yeah well smartass my mum does so best to be on the safe-side then isn’t it?) I opted for a rose base with a little bit of tomato and a little bit of cream. He said he would bring it out to me very soon and I moved back along to the seafood and the cheese and salad station piling my plate high with another serve of oysters and mussels with a little bit (okay a huge chunk) of gorgonzola on the side. Damn you moldy cheese! Why do you have to taste so good?! About five minutes passed and the chef approached our table to confirm what I would like in my pasta. Would I like asparagus, how about bacon, some chorizo even? Yes, yes and hell yes! I’ll have all of those thank you to which he returned to the ‘kitchen’ finish off my pasta dish with a little bit more confidence about what I wanted. Another 5 minutes and a large bowl of creamy, tomato-ey pasta was laid out in front of me. The chef said that he had made a little extra in case I wanted to share it with the table. Well I didn’t ‘want’ to share it with the table but my stomach said otherwise and was fast approaching the full mark (or as my dad likes to say ‘pussy’s bow’, I don’t know must be an old person thing). A couple of my fellow diners happily helped themselves to my large bowl of pasta and we all agreed it was delicious and full of flavour with plenty of extras mixed through like sundried tomato and that crispy chorizo that I was so excited about.
In between all this kerfuffle over creamy pasta, delicate oysters and mussels the size of hub caps our Tasting Platter, dumplings and BBQ Pork Buns arrived. The dumplings were pork and some sort of vegetarian one that the waitress said was edamame (I think she was wrong but she can think that if she likes). They were lovely but the outer casing was a little too thick for my liking and took over from the taste of the savoury inside a little too much. We didn’t end up eating them all. As for the BBQ Pork Buns they were demolished and I may or may not have had three all to myself. Let’s be honest here though you can’t really stuff up a pork bun. At least I don’t think you can. The Tasting Platter had one bite sized morsel of three different things for the six of us including BBQ’d Scallops (without the roe *sad face*), Zucchini’s Stuffed with Bacon and Mushrooms with Thyme and Parmesan Cheese. We passed the platter around until we had a gotten our share apart from MS who gave me his scallop to eat much to my delight. It was an almost unanimous decision that the BBQ’d Scallops were the best followed closely by the soft and slightly crispy mushrooms. The Stuffed Zucchinis were nice but not the greatest I don’t think.
Lastly, it was time to hit the dessert bar, since I had little to no room left in my stomach I had to do it quickly so AL and I headed over to scope it out. I grabbed five bite sized desserts after colluding with AL about what was what and we sat back down to devour our sweet choices. I chose a pink macaroon, a chocolate tart, a lemon slice, a chocolate cupcake and some sort of biscuit with what I think was pecans in it. I didn’t really like the macaroon, I think it might have been strawberry flavour and just not my cup of tea. Also the lemon slice was a little too tart for my little taste-buds (but AL seemed to think it was nice). The other three were excellent though the standout had to be the pecan cookie. It was extra crumbly and literally melted in my mouth plus it was the only dessert that I convinced myself I had enough room to have a second one of. After that I was so stuffed ER and I sat there groaning too afraid to even have a sip of water for fear of pushing ourselves ‘over the edge’ of fullness. I wanted to eat more but I just couldn’t fit it in.
We sat there for another 20 minutes or so chatting and waiting for our food to subside a little before realising that we had to drive all the way back to Cairns on a windy road. MS joked that he would be making plenty of sudden movements in the car to aid us with our digestion. Yay. We made our way to the counter to pay and after thanking the chefs, waitresses and host for a lovely evening we made our way back through the lobby towards the car park admiring QT’s own Mini Moke parked near the front entrance. I’d love a Mini Moke but they really look like death traps. My friends commended me on choosing Bazaar and admitted they were a little concerned after our last encounter at the ‘Buffet of Death’ (aka Canecutters). Each of them said they really enjoyed the meal from beginning to end and also remarked on the quality of the food that Bazaar had on offer. To be honest I really loved the variety. The service was excellent with our scrap bowls and empty plates cleared regularly and without any prompting from us. Each of the waitstaff and the chefs seemed genuinely happy to be there, always had a smile on their face and were happy to help with any queries that we had. One of the chefs even made LL a wasabi paste with wasabi powder since they didn’t have any wasabi paste on hand to go with his oysters. Mixing some powder up probably takes about 3 seconds but I thought that was still pretty cool.
There are only two things that I can fault Bazaar on: 1) The lack of labels on the food. I am sure that the buffet was designed that way but none of the food had any labels so if you are like me and lack any form of concentration what-so-ever or things go in one ear and out the other then most of the time you had no idea what you were actually looking at. Okay that’s an exaggeration but labels certainly go a long way in helping you choose exactly what you want to eat. For an example, was that cheese brie or camembert? How will I ever know? These are the first world problems that keep me awake at night. 2) There were quite a few mozzies around the places, probably because the restaurant is located literally on top of a large pond. They didn’t bother me but a couple of my friends had to borrow some insect repellant from the bar to spray themselves with. A little disconcerting when you know there is a bit of a dengue outbreak in the Far North at the moment. For you Cairns folk, Bazaar is most certainly worth the drive or you could even stay the night at the uber cool boutique resort that is QT. I am looking forward to my next Bazaar visit for breakfast on Mother’s Day, which is sure to be another epic feast of monstrous portions. Just look for the brunette in the baggy pants with an expandable waistband piling her plate high and stuffing her face.
87 – 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 40 998900
Opening Hours: 7 days, Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am, Dinner 6pm – 9.30pm
Since neither MS or I had time to celebrate Valentines Day on Valentines Day this year we saved our night out till the Saturday after and went and had dinner at C’est Bon together. We called up last-minute after umming and ahhing about whether or not we would get takeaway or go out and if we were to go out then where we would go. In the end MS picked up the phone and dialed the number for C’est Bon (after Googling it of course) and made a reservation for 8pm, much to my delight. He knows just how long I have been wanting to go there because I had never been so he made the decision easy. I was unsure if we would be able to get in on such short notice on a Saturday but luckily enough they still had a vacancy for the two of us.
We arrived on time after I painstakingly made my way from a car park in front of the Casino down the lane way and to the front door in my new shoes that I am trying to break in for a wedding (not my wedding, a wedding). Sadly I think it’s going to take a lot more wears than one night at dinner to break those puppies in. When we arrived we were greeted by a waitress and told her that we had a reservation for two. She gestured towards a small table out the front of the restaurant and told us that it wasn’t ready yet but we could either have a drink at the bar while she set it up or we could take a seat and she could set up around us. We opted to sit at the table while she set up around us although it would have been nice if the table could have been ready when we arrived seeing as MS had called up to make a reservation little more than an hour and a half before. Maybe they had been busy.
As I said earlier I have never once made it to C’est Bon, although I do seem to vaguely remember going to lunch or dinner there before it was C’est Bon. That must have been a very long time ago. Does anyone recall what was there before C’est Bon? Like I said before I’ve always wanted to dine at C’est Bon but just never got around to it. I guess it’s a little easy to forget about the place since it’s kinda tucked away down the end of Lake Street. I have heard only good things about the place and have a friend who regularly dines there with her partner. I also gave my parents a Gift Voucher for C’est Bon last Christmas since I am in the habit of giving them Gift Vouchers for dinner at Christmas time, some may think it’s a little impersonal but I like to think it’s very practical. Plus who doesn’t like going out for dinner to a nice restaurant that is already paid for? Mum and dad thought it was very nice BTW. Although I did study French at school for five years, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to travel to France so I really have no idea what French food is other than frogs legs and escargot. I was however pretty sure that the ‘Sandwich au Jambon’ so regularly spoke about in French class wouldn’t be making an appearance at C’est Bon.
When the waitress was done setting up our table she brought us out a couple of menu’s to look at. We had pretty much already decided that we were going to go with the set menu which includes an entrée, main and dessert for just under $50. I ordered a glass of Pencarrow Savignon Blanc (AU$9) while MS being the grandpa that he is ordered a glass of coke. The waitress told us that the Set Menu changed every month and that the Fish of the Day was Saltwater Barramundi. While we waited for our drinks to arrive we had a look over the menu. There were three options to choose from for each course and in the end we both chose exactly the same thing. For entrée we chose the Seared Squid Served with Sautéed Capsicum, for the main we chose the Pork Belly Resting on Slowly Cooked Lentils, Carrots and Bacon and for dessert we chose the Oozing Chocolate Fondant Served with Vanilla Ice Cream. To be honest I wasn’t too taken with the Set Menu, although squid, pork belly and chocolate would rate high on my list of favourite foods. It just sounded… well… boring. Other options to choose from included Cauliflower Soup or Ratatouille for entrée, Lamb and Saltwater Barramundi for main and Macaron and Creme Caramel for dessert.
Not long after we had ordered the waitress brought out a small dish with two bite sized portions on it and placed it in front of us without a word. The two of us exchanged a ‘what the hell is that look’ and when she didn’t tell us MS asked her what it was. She didn’t seem to know and mumbled something about salmon to us, shuffled around a couple of things on our table and left. MS decided that I could have both of them seeing as he doesn’t like salmon. I tried to convince him that he would surely like it and in an encouraging move I ate mine in one bite so I could tell him just how delicious it was. Turns out it wasn’t so delicious. It was ice-cold having come straight out of the fridge and the crostini type thing underneath was slightly stale from being in the fridge. The salmon tasted like salmon from a tin and the whole thing was so unappetizing that I couldn’t hide my distaste. It tasted like cat food and in the end I just told him it was yuck and not to eat it. I didn’t want MS to use that one little salmon bite as ammo for never trying salmon again.
Our drinks came out a good 10-15 minutes after we ordered them, in fact they took long enough that I wondered if they had actually forgotten our drinks altogether. MS’ glass of coke was very watered down which tells me that it had plenty of time for the ice to melt while it was sitting on the counter waiting to be brought out to us. My glass of Pencarrow was however very nice and I do love a good glass of wine (or two) with dinner.. While waiting for our entrée’s to arrive a male waiter whom I was most delighted to find was actually French (and not bad looking might I add) served us some warm bread rolls with butter. These were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and with a slathering of butter the two of us practically inhaled them. Seeing as we don’t eat bread very often, it was a bit of a treat for us.
Not long after our entrée’s arrived, again with the French waiter. The Squid appeared to be the whole mantle of the squid with the membrane still attached sliced down the middle and seared so it curled up. It was delicately placed on top of a bed of Sautéed Capsicum and beneath it was a small pool of squid ink. The squid tasted beautiful and fresh, although a touch overcooked. I didn’t like the Sautéed Capsicum but then again I don’t like capsicum. I tried to palm the capsicum off to MS but he didn’t seem too keen on it either. By the time he had finished his dish he figured out what the black stuff on the bottom was and asked me if it was squid ink to which I nodded and said I didn’t say anything to him sooner because I wasn’t sure if he would eat it. He didn’t seem too bothered about it but that was after the fact. He really is a big baby when it comes to food sometimes. The waiter then came and cleared our plates and we waited for the next course to arrive.
About 10 minutes after finishing our entrée our main’s arrived. The waiter placed a plate down in front of each of us with an enormous portion of pork belly on it. I was expecting far less at such a fancy restaurant but was pleasantly surprised. Sitting on top of the pork was what appeared to be poached pieces of apple and underneath was a sea of lentils. Come to think of it there was no bacon or carrots on the plate as stated in the set menu but then again the apple wasn’t mentioned either. The pork appeared to have quite a large layer of fat between the crackling and the meat but it seems I was mistaken because when I cut it open the majority of it was meat. The layer of crackling on the top was really chewy and although it took me what seemed like an eternity to saw through it with my butter knife I did eventually get there, with hard work and determination. Not MS though, he pretty much gave up and left the ‘crackling’ on the side of his plate. The pork would have been better if it was crunchy and crackly like it was supposed to be. The lentils on the bottom of the dish were very hearty and the two of us found them to be too way too rich. I found the whole dish to be very heavy which is normal for pork belly but a drizzle of some kind of sweet sauce would have done wonders for it since the small slices of poached apple on top were just not enough. We were both disappointed and probably only ate about half each. The French waiter came out to clear our plates and asked if we had enjoyed our meal to which we replied ‘Mmmm yeah’. It was a lie really.
Next up we sat and waited for our desserts to arrive. After waiting a good twenty minutes and our dessert hadn’t yet appeared the French waiter came over and said that there was only one Chocolate Fondant left for the two of us and asked if we would like to choose something else. Neither of the two other choices on the Set Menu (the Macaron or Creme Caramel) excited us so we asked if we could see their ‘norma’l dessert menu. In the end after much “I don’t like that” and “I don’t like this” we both decided to stick with the chocolate theme and ordered a Chocolate Mousse. About 5 minutes later our Chocolate Fondant and Chocolate Mousse arrived. The Chocolate Mousse had a large ‘crisp’ of chocolate draped over the cup that it was sitting it which melted almost as soon as it was walked out the C’est Bon doors and into the ensuing humidity.
We shared our desserts but I’ll admit I got most of the Chocolate Fondant to myself and it was definitely the better one of the two. Digging my spoon gently into the side of the fondant sent warm chocolate oozing out all over the plate. I guess that is why they call it ‘Oozing Chocolate Fondant’. It was delicious and we each enjoyed spoonfuls of fondant with ice cream and a little mousse on the top. We were in chocolate heaven and the dessert course was certainly the highlight of our meal at C’est Bon. Shame though that we couldn’t have both had a Chocolate Fondant like was originally planned.
While we were finishing up our desserts and I was wallowing in a sad sea of my own C’est Bon expectations (aka I was disappointed with the place I had built up so much) a friend of ours, SBD, walked past on his way into town. He stopped and chatted to us asking how our meal was and blah blah blah. I told him that I had thought it would be better and we were both pretty disappointed with the food that we were served during our three course set menu. SBD was surprised since he dined at C’est Bon often and loved the place but he told us that the regular chef was away on holidays and the owner was taking his place in the kitchen in the meantime. That explained why our meal hadn’t been up to scratch but still didn’t make me feel any better about what we had just eaten and what we were just about to pay for on our belated Valentines Day dinner. It was displeasing to hear that the one time I had finally got my shit together and made it to C’est Bon the regular chef was on holidays. I’m not saying that the food was bad but it wasn’t close to good. Again the Oozing Chocolate Fondant was definitely a hit for both MS and I but we had to share it and opt for a more mediocre dessert to take the place of the second one. The squid and pork belly dishes for entrée and main respectively seemed unimaginative and lack-lustre with both of them missing that little something something. The service that we received from the French waiter was standout and second to none. He was friendly, personable and authentic. There is something about a guy with a French accent that just does it for me (and most women I am assuming). The guy could tell me that my dog had just died and I would just smile and nod (PS: I don’t have a dog, I’m a cat person). The same cannot be said for the female waitress who just didn’t seem to be at all happy to be there on her Saturday night. Also, we only had our waters topped up once and no one came to ask if we wanted another Coke or glass of wine. It was frigin hot outside too so more water wouldn’t have gone astray. Having the regular head chef away is really no excuse for serving below par food and the food should be of the highest standard regardless of who is in the kitchen. Still, all is not lost with me (just yet) and C’est Bon and I will most certainly return one day when the regular chef is back from his holidays, though hopefully sooner rather than later. C’est la vie.
20 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 4488
Opening Hours: Tues – Fri 12pm – 2pm, Tues – Sat 6pm – 10pm
A couple of weeks ago my new-to-Cairns friend Baking Myself Happy and I went for dinner at a place that I spotted when I popped into First Choice Liquor for a bottle of wine. After seeing what looked like a new Asian restaurant I sauntered over to check it out, peering inside to find a busy little Korean restaurant that I have never seen nor heard of before called The Asia Bar and Restaurant. Situated right underneath Bohemian Central Backpackers I was eager to check it out so I enlisted BMH to come to dinner with me so we could catch up and I could hear about her recent trip to Thailand. As it turns out BMH had never had Korean food before but said she would love to try it. We arrived together and parked in the First Choice Liquor carpark right near a lovely man that upon closer inspection was peeing on the wall. He didn’t seem to notice us as we walked past but I sure as hell noticed him – filthy man. Do not let my observations of this drunken individual deter you from visiting this delightful little restaurant since unfortunately this appears to be a regular sight in Cairns.
So we headed on into The Asia and found there wasn’t a vacant seat in the entire place which probably seats around 30 people. We also noticed that besides one other person we were the only non-Korean people in there. We both figured that any place that is full of traditional diners has to be good so we waited about 5 minutes for a table to be free and sat down. I have to admit it was a very awkward 5 minutes because we were not acknowledged nor spoken to by any of the wait staff. This didn’t deter us and after the waitress wiped down the table she handed us a couple of menus to have a look over before fetching us a bottle of water and a couple silver cups that made the ice cold water go down nicely.
We both ummed and ahhed over the menu and although everything on the menu sounded good there just wasn’t anything that particularly grabbed me. All except the Ttukbaegi Jjamppong Bap or as I like to call it Chinese-Style Earthen Pot with Vegetables and Seafood and Cellophane Noodles with Rice. Unfortunately for me this dish was only available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Alas, I was a day late. In the end we both settled with the Bulgogi Deopbap or the Rice Topped with Beef for a mere AU$11. Can’t argue with that! I also ordered some Japanese Pickle to go with my dish – a steal for only AU$1!
While we waited BMH recounted wondrous stories of private plunge pools and endless amounts of Som Tum in Thailand. There were also not so wondrous stories of her nearly getting eaten alive by monkey’s on Monkey Beach near Phi Phi. When I went to Monkey Beach I didn’t get off the damn boat. I never liked monkey’s you can’t trust them and they also scare the sh*t out of me. While waiting for our main meals the waitress brought over the Japanese Pickle that I ordered along with a small dish of Kimchi (a traditional fermented Korean dish that tastes much nicer than it sounds). We only waited about 10 to 15 minutes for our meals to arrive and when they did they really weren’t too much to look at. To me all it looked like was some Beef and Veggies on top of some rice with a bit of salad on the side. Well maybe that is why it’s called Rice topped with Beef? D’uh.
Anyway turns out we were actually both pleasantly surprised with our meals despite their appearance. Okay the meals didn’t look bad just super boring I guess. The beef was really tender with a slightly sweet flavour to it. It was quite delicious! I added a bit of Kimchi to mine to give it a little bit more spice although there is a tray on each table with spices and sauces for you to add your own if you like. The serving size was quite large, almost too large for me to finish even though I picked all the onion out of it (I’m a sook, I know). The addition of the wedge of orange on the side was a nice touch to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal (at least that’s what I think it was for).
So it turns out that BMH really enjoyed her introduction to Korean food and I enjoyed introducing her. I would really love to go back on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday and try the ‘Chinese Earthen Pot’ or maybe even the Spicy Sausage Stew with Rice which is AU$25 for two people. The food was really yummy and cheap too costing only AU$25 for the two of us. The Asia is a little bit loud with the conversations of other diner’s being a little bit deafening at times. BMH and I did have trouble hearing parts of each others conversation so that we had to resort to the old smile and nod every now and then. Unless you are planning on an intimate dinner don’t let that deter you. The atmosphere at The Asia is a lot nicer than another popular Korean restaurant in Cairns, Corea Corea at Orchid Plaza and a hell of a lot cleaner too. The Asia Bar and Restaurant is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before a catching movie in the city. That’s if you can get a table.
The Asia Bar and Restaurant
100 Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870 (underneath the Bohemian Central Backpackers)
Ph: 0407 974 338
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed & Thurs 5pm – 10pm, Fri & Sat 5pm – 12pm, Sun 5pm – 10pm
Ok I can’t put it off any longer. My last post was well over two weeks ago, slack I know but I have been caught up in birthday celebrations for both MS and myself as well as a bit of Christmas cheer and a nasty middle ear infection that is yet to subside. Next cab off the rank with my Table 52 cards was Mother India on Sheridan Street a couple of weeks ago for a farewell dinner with my good friend EG. Seems my Table 52 cards are running rather low and I only really have ones from the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas left. Might be time to invest in the 2013 Edition to even out the playing field. I will use the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas, I just haven’t got around to it yet and I have to admit I don’t go up to Port very much. So back to Mother India. EG had already been to Mother India many times and even considers herself a regular. The owner remembered her from a few days earlier when she had dined there with her mother. I have dined at Mother India once many years ago for lunch but I can’t really remember what it was like. I have avoided it in more recent times after I called up one day to find out about their lunch specials to put on my Lunch page and had the person on the other end of the phone (I’m assuming the owner) give me an earful about how his chef had quit and he couldn’t open because he didn’t have anyone to cook. Needless to say I didn’t end up hearing the lunch specials and I decided I didn’t particularly want to know them but hey we all have our bad days.
I’ll admit I am the kind to hold grudges and my phone conversation did leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth but after reassurances from EG that it was ‘really good’ I thought I would stick my head in for a look and some curry. We got there around 8pm on a Friday night and there was about three other tables occupied at the time. A man who introduced himself as the owner showed us to a table and bought us some menus and water while we had a look over the menu. The owner was really friendly and chatted with myself and EG about her earlier dining experience and whether or not I had been to Mother India before (I didn’t mention the phone conversation). He was very gracious and happy to have us dining at Mother India, I think because out of all the Indian restaurants in Cairns Mother India is the one that gets most overlooked. Most likely because of its location on Sheridan Street, just that little bit out-of-the-way of the main thoroughfare. Although that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Happy 4 10 which appears to be doing a roaring trade.
After insisting upon a serving of papadums and chutney to start with and a glass of Giesen each, EG and I decided that we would both order a meal and share it. That was fine with me I had already picked out the Butter Chicken (isn’t that what everyone orders at an Indian restaurant?) but much to my dismay and something I did not know about my friend was that she didn’t eat chicken. She then went on to tell me a hilarious childhood story about her pet chicken that she got for her birthday that she did everything with (he waited in her room for her to come home from school and slept in her bed) until one day she came home from school to find a pile of feathers in the backyard and her favourite chicken missing. She then went on to say that this story wasn’t actually the reason that she didn’t eat chicken more that she just didn’t like it. It was a funny story none the less.
EG’s story reminded me of a story about my Nana (my mum’s mum who is now passed away) who had a favourite chicken when she was a child living in Sri Lanka. One day her favourite chicken stopped laying eggs so her father told her that they would have to kill it since it wasn’t doing its chicken-ly duties anymore. So after much reluctance and tears (from my Nana not the chicken) my Nana’s favourite chicken got the axe and when they chopped it open they found an egg inside. My Nana was so upset at the loss of her beloved chicken that she never ate chicken again. Up until she passed away my dad used to take great delight in feeding her pate and biscuits when she came over (something she absolutely loved), little did she know what she was actually eating. My dad thinks he’s so funny. So after all the chicken stories were exchanged I still longed for Butter Chicken but knew I had to decide on something else so I chose the Lamb Korma – Mildly spiced diced lamb curried in a creamy cashew and almond gravy for AU$16.95, while EG went with a vegetarian dish to add to the mix. She chose the Palak Paneer – Fresh ground spinach cooked with cottage cheese in fresh ginger, garlic and onions for AU$15.95. We ordered some Garlic Naan (AU$3.95), Steamed Rice (AU$2.50) and some Cucumber Raita (AU$4.25) to go with our dishes. I may dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Butter Chicken but I’ll be damned if I dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Garlic Naan, no matter how many times I need to do the Red Arrow the next day.
After the owner took our order he asked us how spicy we wanted it. Both being spice lovers we decided that we would have them both ‘Hot’. To which the owner replied ‘Indian Hot’ or just ‘Normal Hot’. Hmmm I was unsure about this one as was EG so we asked for a bit more of an explanation. Apparently ‘Indian Hot’ is only upon request and usually only for Indian diners but he figured he would ask after finding out my heritage and knowing that EG doesn’t mind a bit of spice. In the end we decided we would stick with ‘Normal Hot’ just to be on the safe side.
The decor at Mother India was a little dated but also very homely and cosy so it was kind of nice. There was a beautiful big tapestry on the wall behind us that looked very expensive and also looks good in a photo. I was just happy that we were sitting inside in the air conditioning as opposed to outside at some other restaurant. When you are eating hot food you don’t want to be sweating from both the food and the ambient temperature. I pointed out to EG the newly wed Indian couple seated behind us (noticeably newly wed because of the traces of henna on her hand and the large amounts of bangles she displayed on her forearms). They couldn’t have been more disinterested in each others company. Shame since they had probably only been married a couple of days. There was also a young child that from another table that kept harassing me because he apparently thought I was his mother due to me having a similar haircut as her (she wasn’t at the restaurant). *Insert my super awkwardness with children*. I’ll be honest I do want kids one day but I’m sure I am not alone when I say that I don’t like other people’s kids, hopefully I will like my own. Moving on, we waited probably about 15 minutes for our meals to arrive and when they did I realised just how much food the two of us had ordered especially considering we had already had papadums earlier.
We served ourselves a bit of each curry with some rice and a piece of naan bread and dug in. I have always wanted to order a variant of the Cottage Cheese type vegetarian dishes I see on Indian menus but never had the balls to do it for one reason or another. I was delighted when EG chose the Palak Paneer although I was a little hesitant about the onion part. I eat onion I just don’t like it when its chunky and crunchy. The onion was not like this at all in the Palak Paneer. It was soft and delicate. The Palak Paneer was a beautiful dish but sh*t was it spicy! Nothing I couldn’t handle but it was still bloody hot. I really loved the small lumps of Cottage Cheese in the dish which isn’t like your usual supermarket variety. The Indian Paneer (or Cottage Cheese) has much more of a milky flavour to it and a completely different texture to that I am used to.
The Lamb Korma was also lovely with tender pieces of lamb hidden within the thick nutty gravy. I actually think that the best part of eating Indian food is mopping up all the sauces with the rice and naan bread. Although we did order the Lamb Korma to be ‘Normal Hot’, the same as the Palak Paneer, it didn’t seem to be quite as hot as the other dish which was actually a good thing in the end because that and the Raita provided a bit of heat relief for us both.
The four pieces of Garlic Naan weren’t the best I have tasted and not as soft, moist and garlic-y as Garlic Naan should be. I don’t think that it was cooked fresh because it was a little bit dry and hard. It was also served rather un-elegantly in a bread basket wrapped in alfoil but maybe they were trying to save on washing up. It was a bit of shame but this was the only thing that let the meal down.
During our dinner the owner came over to check on us a couple of times to ensure that we were enjoying our meal and ask if there was anything else that we wanted or needed. He also made sure that the ‘Normal Hot’ wasn’t too hot for us and joked that maybe next time we could try the ‘Indian Hot’. The service was excellent and as I already said that owner was very accommodating and super happy that we had chosen his restaurant for our Friday night dinner. He made us promise that we would tell all our friends about it. The food at Mother India was delicious and there was plenty left by the time we were finished. One thing I must say is that both mains that we ordered had plenty of Cottage Cheese and Lamb in them. They weren’t just all sauce with only a couple of pieces of meat or cheese in them. A nice change from what I have experienced at some other Indian restaurants in town. I kicked myself that I hadn’t given Mother India a chance and used my Table 52 card sooner. I would most certainly dine there again without a Table 52 card, the same can’t be said for a few other Table 52 card restaurants I have been to. Upon presenting it at the counter to pay at the end the owner’s wife was most obliging (unlike the nasty woman at Taste of China) and even asked if we would like to split the bill between us, something the two of us were most happy about after neither of us had brought cash. How delightful! If you are not a lover of hot food then don’t worry about it Mother India ensure their curries are made to your liking. Like I said I’m not too sure about the ‘Indian Hot’ but I have to admit I am a little intrigued. Never say never right?
2/80 Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 1000
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2pm Tues – Fri, Dinner 5.30pm – 10pm Tues – Sun