Ok Sushi, Edge Hill
Nearly two weeks since my last post, gee I am getting slack but in my defence I have been back at work and with work means no phone or internet range, not just for 1 or 2 days like Queensland experienced a little over a week ago (you poor things) but for up to two and a half weeks. That means if I don’t have my posts prepped and ready before I head out into oblivion they don’t get posted. Excuses, excuses, yeah I know but I am back in the swing of things now (for a couple of weeks anyway) so without further adieu…
While having lunch with a friend recently they asked me if I had been to the newly opened Japanese restaurant at the five ways in Edge Hill. Strangely enough it was the first I had heard of it at the time and they told me that it had opened where the old Fruit and Veg shop used to be. I do go to Edge Hill quite a lot when I am home from work but usually down the Red Arrow end so I made a point of driving down towards the Pease Street end to have a look for myself. Sure enough there was a new Japanese place opened up called Ok Sushi. A few days later MS and I found ourselves there for a late lunch on a Sunday. We were greeted by a friendly young Japanese man who showed us to a table and bought us out a menu each. He was very friendly and I am assuming it’s either his parents or relatives that own the place. I asked him how long they had been open for and he said only a couple of weeks (this was a couple of weeks ago, obviously).
He brought (not ‘bought’ thanks TW) us out a couple of glasses of water with ice while MS ummed and ahhed over what he wanted, again. I had already chosen the Kaisen Don – Salmon/Tuna with Rice for AU$14.50 with Takoyaki Balls as an Entree for us to share for AU$6.80. I was just hoping that MS didn’t know that it was Octopus inside the balls or he might not eat them. In the end he went with the Tori Karaage Curry for AU$16 because it looked bigger than everything else on the menu and because he is forever searching for a Japanese Curry to emulate an amazing Japanese curry that he had at some mythical ‘Japanese Curry House’ in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Here’s hoping. When he heard me order the Takoyaki Balls he asked me if that was Octopus Balls to which I replied that it wasn’t. The young waiter gave me a strange look to which I again slowly replied that ‘no it definitely wasn’t Octopus’. I think the waiter got the joke and kept his mouth shut but had a funny, complete give away, smirk on his face to which MS was completely aware.
While we were at Ok Sushi there was probably about two other tables occupied and another two groups of people came in for takeaway. It seems quite the popular little place, particularly for a Sunday. We didn’t wait long for entree of Takoyaki to arrive. It came out piping hot with a generous drizzle of Kewpi mayonnaise and those little fishy flakes that are sprinkled over the top (I forget what they are called). Kewpi mayonnaise could be considered a staple in our household since we go through about one squeezy bottle every couple of weeks and after MS saw it drizzled all over the Takoyaki he soon forgot about its eight tentacled content and dug in. Turns out that Octopus Balls aren’t quite so bad after all and he ate more than half of his fair share. They were crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside, reminding me of the freshly made Takoyaki that I had eaten from a little stall in Osaka. Obviously nothing compares to the experience but for a little shop at the Edge Hill five ways about 10,000 km’s away these were pretty good.
Next up our main meals came out and what was supposed to be a light lunch had pretty much gone out the window. MS’ Tori Karaage Curry came out with the chicken on one plate accompanied by cabbage and salad, a small bowl of rice and a small bowl of curry sauce. MS was happy with the size and said that the pieces of Tori Karaage were actually nice meaty bits of chicken with hardly any fat on them unlike the Karaage pieces they serve you at Sushi Train at Cairns Central which are pretty much just pieces of fat thrown in seasoning and deep-fried. He did however complain that he needed a separate bowl to put some rice, curry and chicken in a little bit at a time. I thought that this was just a completely ridiculous complaint and told him to stop being a big baby and eat his curry. Good old voice of reason. MS enjoyed his Tori Karaage Curry and although I don’t think it was quite as good as his mythical Melbourne one.
My Kaisen Don also had a generous drizzle of Kewpi mayonnaise which for me was probably a little bit too much but for someone like MS wouldn’t have been enough. I am a little bit more traditional with my Japanese food and don’t really like the whole Western take on it. I have been enjoying the delights of Japanese food since I was only small (smaller than I am now) at a little place under the stairs where The Heritage nightclub now is, next door to the Condom Kingdom (I think that’s what it was called). My mum used to take my sister and I there and we would eat Rice Balls to our little hearts content. Does anyone remember that place? Still I did enjoy my Kaisen Don. The generous amount of Salmon and Tuna was fresh and cut in small bite sizes pieces. I think it was ok value for AU$14.50 although the rice underneath was just plain old unseasoned rice not Sushi Rice like I was expecting. That left me a little disappointed with my meal because Sushi Rice is pretty much one of my favourite foods (that and Potato Salad) – some of my tastes are very simple, like anchovies out of a jar for instance.
Last weekend MS and I found ourselves back at Ok Sushi for a second round and while MS ordered the same old thing as last time – the Tori Karaage Curry, while I searched the menu for something a little healthier than I had eaten last time or at least without the addition of rice. In the end I went the Small Mixed Sashimi (AU$12.50) and the Agedashi Tofu (AU$6.80) because I absolutely love raw fish and tofu, so much so that sometimes I forget how healthy it is. Again MS enjoyed his Tori Karaage Curry but it did seem to be a little smaller compared to the last serve that he’d had a few weeks prior. Again, I thought the rice was disappointing and although I wasn’t expecting him to be served Sushi Rice with his Karaage the rice he did get seemed a little… dry perhaps?
My Small Mixed Sashimi seemed to be just that… small. The fish was lovely and fresh with decent, thick pieces but I guess it just looked a little bit bigger in the picture on the menu and for $12.50 I thought they could have chucked at least another piece of Tuna or Salmon in. It made me wish that I hadn’t have been cheap and just opted for the Large Mixed Sashimi for AU$20.50.
My Agedashi Tofu was delicious and quite a large serve for an entree, then again it is only Tofu and cheap as chips. However, I’m no Agedashi Tofu expert and maybe one of my readers (Vagabond) might have to give me her take on it. Is it better than Kanpai?
It’s nice to see a Japanese place like Ok Sushi opened up at the five ways in Edge Hill to go with all the other fare that is available on Collins Avenue. Edge Hill is certainly becoming its own little Cairns foodie destination in its own right with quite a few restaurants and takeaway’s over that side of town now. I think Ok Sushi is going to be hugely popular, being open 7 days till 9pm with both dine in and takeaway and it’s certainly going to take away a little of the business from other restaurants and cafe’s nearby. I am very interested to see how busy they will be of the evening but there will probably be quite a few people coming off their afternoon jog/Red Arrow climb heading in for a quick and healthy feed (hold the Kewpi). The prices are reasonable (particularly the entrees) and the service is good but I did have a couple of hangups with the food and serving sizes. I’m going to stick with the theme and as the name suggests the sushi is just ok at Ok Sushi.
Shop A 139 Collins Avenue, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4053 5751
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am – 9pm
Frydays Fish and Chippery, Cairns
New on the scene on the corner of Shields and Abbott Street in the Cairns CBD is Frydays Fish and Chippery which has been open for a few weeks now. Driving along Abbott Street it’s a little hard not to notice the bright blue neon signs advertising the new eatery. After driving around and around for a park early last week so I could grab some groceries from Woolies I ended up finding a park near Frydays and went over to have a look at their menu. The menu at Frydays Fish and Chippery is pretty much stock standard for what you would normally find at a Fish and Chip shop with a few more gourmet options like Sweet Potato Chips and Tempura Batter thrown in. There is everything from burgers to salads to Coconut Crumbed Prawns with over 10 different types of sauce to choose from including Nahm Jim and Goats Cheese Aioli (yum!). The prices on the menu at Frydays are also very reasonable and it’s nice to see somewhere not charging through the roof just because of their location.
Looking for somewhere to grab a quick dinner before I flew out for work last Friday and so I didn’t have to rely on the ‘Curry or the Pasta’ on the plane MS and I went to Frydays. We went in for dinner at about 6.30pm, just in time to catch all the bats leaving for the evening much to the delight of the tourists. The corner of Abbott and Shields Street is a very busy corner and certainly a prime position for a Fish and Chip Shop, although obviously not a prime position for just any cafe since the last two (Harry’s and some New York Pizza place didn’t last very long). MS and I sat down at one of the communal type benches on the Abbott Street side of Frydays and had a look over the menus. MS had whinged and complained that he didn’t want to go somewhere with greasy food for dinner but since it was my so called ‘last supper’ he didn’t really have a choice.
In the end he found something on the menu that he wanted and I went up to the counter to order – Two pieces of Spanish Mackerel with Tempura Batter (AU$8 each), two serves of Sweet Potato Chips (AU$5 each) and a ‘Tasty Tempter’ of Lemon and Parmesan Herb Crumbed Calamari (AU$9.50) with some Garlic Aioli for MS and some Cocktail Sauce for me. In the end it came to just over AU$36 which I thought was fairly reasonable. The guy that served me at the counter was helpful and friendly and I noticed about 5 or 6 staff in the back. The place looks to be pretty much entirely run by backpackers and although the owners are locals they weren’t anywhere to be seen. I sat back down at our communal table and noticed a couple of American tourists at the table next to us, a backpacker waiting for his takeaway at the end of our table and a couple of locals (I think) sitting at a small table on the Shield Street side.
After about five minutes a waitress bought out a glass of ice with a can of Coke for MS and then about five minutes later our food arrived – each fillet served on a bamboo cutting board alongside the a bowl of Sweet Potato Chips with a small bowl of green salad. The Lemon and Parmesan Herb Crumbed Calamari came out on a separate board inside a small deep fryer serving basket, a super cute way of serving it. On the side was the small dish of Tartare Sauce and another small bowl of green salad.
Firstly, I noticed that both of our Mackerel fillets had the wrong batter. The batter that we had on our fish was more like the other option of Beer Batter rather than the light and crisp Tempura Batter that we had ordered. It was thick and greasy, as you would expect Beer Batter to be but we didn’t take it back since we were pushed for time with me having to fly out in the next hour. It was nice but like I said it was too greasy and I couldn’t finish all of my fish (I always finish my fish) since the grease filled me up too much. The Sweet Potato Chips were beautiful and sweet with just a slight crispness to them. Although I thought the serving size was a little bit small for AU$5 in the end I couldn’t finish them all anyway. The sauces that we ordered were stuffed up and instead we received one Tartare (so that meant we had two because one came with the Calamari) and one Garlic Aioli. I caught one of the waitresses attention as she walked past and off she went to fetch a small dish of Cocktail Sauce. She replaced a Tartare with the Cocktail Sauce and took away the extra Tartare. She could have at least left it. What if I had already dipped one of my chips in that spare Tartare? Was it going to someone else for them to dip their chips in it or down the drain? My guess is the first one.
The Calamari was lovely and tender with a really yummy Lemon and Parmesan Herb Crumb enveloped around it. Upon ordering at the counter I asked the guy serving me if it was local squid to which the other guy listening in the background replied that it wasn’t sourced in Cairns but it was indeed Australian squid. That’s all I wanted to know and I was more than happy with that answer. I thought that the serving size for the squid was very reasonable for AU$9.50 and although MS and I did our best to eat it all we couldn’t finish it. I think the fish took up just a little too much room in both of our stomachs. The one thing that I must comment on is the dire state of the three green salads served to us. Each of them looked like they had been sitting in the little bowls all day and looked very withered and tiresome. Neither MS or I touched our salads and I kind of got the feeling that we weren’t the only ones that hadn’t touched those particular salads on that particular day. I had a look at the salads in the window and there are a few other salads to choose from with your Fish and Chips like Potato Salad and Cous Cous Salad. I am pretty sure these ones cost extra which is why we just ended up with the plain old green salad (with an emphasis on old).
Despite the greasy fish and the ordinary salad I did actually enjoy my meal, MS however did not. He claimed that the food was too greasy. I tried to remind him that we did in fact just dine at a Fish and Chip shop so technically it was always going to be greasy. What does he know about tasty food anyway? Most of all I enjoyed the proximity of Frydays in relation to everything that was going on. It’s a great spot to people watch especially, as I said, in the early evening when the bats are flying over. Tourists really are absolutely captivated by them. I like the fresh and vibrant design of the place and the communal benches out the front (there are tables for those that don’t want to sit at a communal bench). The service was good although we did get asked by two waitstaff how everything was within about five minutes of each other. That will all iron out over time. I think with few minor tweaks with the food and service and the owners of Frydays Fish and Chippery are most certainly onto a winner. Up until Frydays turned up Cairns CBD was lacking in the fish and chip shop department so it’s opening can only mean good news for locals and tourists that enjoy a bit a fried food (I know I do).
Frydays Fish and Chippery
Cnr Shields and Abbott Streets, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 1918
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 9am – 10pm
Mother India, Cairns
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
Hungry Monkey, Cairns *CLOSED DOWN*
After a tip-off from a friend of ours SBD, MS and I headed to a little cafe on Mulgrave Road called Hungry Monkey. I had seen it many times before whilst driving past but never managed to get in there until it came highly recommended. My sister’s boyfriend also claims that Hungry Monkey makes the best Brekkie Wraps in town for around the $9 mark. I can neither confirm nor deny that since I am not in the habit of ordering Brekkie Wrap’s nor do I get out of bed early enough to warrant one lately (I’m on holidays at the moment – till January). We went in to check it out one afternoon and see what they had on offer for lunch. They have a huge variety of wraps, burgers, salads, smoothies, milkshakes, meal boxes and a few other things to tantalize your taste buds. After way too much umming and ahhing and a stern “hurry the f*ck up” look from me MS decided on the Pizza Works Wrap with Leg Ham, Salami, Onion, Cheese, Tomato Relish, Pineapple (which he took off), Red Pepper and Olives for AU$8.90. According to SBD the Mackerel Wrap was the business but I simply couldn’t go past the Firebomb Wrap with Crumbed Chicken, Chilli Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Tomato, Red Onion and Jalapeno’s (AU$8.90). It was the Jalapeno’s that sold me. I only discovered them about a year ago after finding out that they did in fact taste absolutely nothing like capsicum and haven’t been able to live without them since.
Hungry Monkey seems to do a pretty steady lunch trade from workers in the vicinity with a few venturing from across the road to get their hands on some lunch fare and the ones driving in, like us. We waited about 10 to 15 minutes for our wraps since we had arrived around peak lunch trade time but we weren’t disappointed when they arrived. MS decided that he was getting a side of fries with his which I managed to steal a few of. He hoed into his Pizza Wrap which was toasted on the outside and I could see the melted cheese within. It looked pretty damn good from where I was sitting (right next to him). He loved his Pizza Wrap. I think I recall “Man this is so good!” escaping his mouth as he took another bite. He also reckons that the fries were the best he has had in a long time. They had just the right amount of salt and crispness about them. I had a few and they were pretty good even without BBQ sauce. That’s a big call since I am usually a sauce fiend and don’t go near a chip without it.
I was actually surprised at just how heavy my wrap was even before I unwrapped it. They certainly weren’t stingy on the ingredients at Hungry Monkey and just for a change (like with a lot of other cafe’s) the wrap wasn’t full of lettuce because I ordered mine without. Something about Iceberg Lettuce that just doesn’t sit right with me. It tastes like leaves (ew). And when it gets all warm from being toasted it tastes super nasty (again, ew). The Crumbed Chicken was freshly cooked and wasn’t pre-cooked earlier and reheated like at Subway. It was real chicken and it was crunchy and succulent. The Jalapeno’s were awesome of course but the best thing about it was the decent size of the wrap.
The service and staff at Hungry Monkey are friendly and efficient and the food is very reasonably priced but so damn tasty and with so much to choose from! You do have to wait a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes for your food since the place does get quite busy around lunch time but in the grand scheme of things that’s stuff all to worry about when you are getting yummy food made fresh to order. Mine and MS’s wraps were so damn good the first time that we have been back twice since then and although each time I go with the intention of trying something different off the wrap menu (I really want to try the Salt and Pepper Squid Wrap) I just can’t seem to tear myself away from the Firebomb one with the Jalapeno’s. I know that I am onto a good thing here so why change it? Forget the kebab shop you’ll go bananas for Hungry Monkey!
Shop 4/252 Mulgrave Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 1600
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 7am – 3pm
Spicy Bite, Cairns
Last Friday night my good friend SH and I ventured out in search of some dinner. Due to some communication problems (aka my iPhone shat itself) we didn’t actually get into town till almost 9.30 at night so of course being Cairns a lot of places were shut. Ganbaranba, the place we had originally planned on going to, shut it’s door just before 9.30pm (pretty sure they used to be open till 10 but hey). So we wandered over to Corea Corea upstairs at Orchid Plaza. They too shut up shop at 9.30pm that night. SH suggested The Courthouse for dinner but I wasn’t in the mood for fried food so we headed towards the Esplanade to see what we could find. We walked past Spicy Bite just a little down from Dolce and Caffe and right next door to Coast Roast. SH reckoned that she had eaten there many times and they had amazing Butter Goat that I simply had to try. It was nearing 10pm now and although they looked like they were closing up because the waitress was removing cutlery and serviettes from some of the tables it appears that they were in fact open. We were both delighted to find a restaurant open in Cairns at this time of night so we promptly sat down and perused the menu. In all the years they have been open I have never actually dined at Spicy Bite, probably due to the location (just another tourist trap) and also the fact that I figured that I already knew where to get good Indian food (more on that later).
We both ordered a glass of wine when the waitress brought over the menus. SH had already decided on what she was having, the critically acclaimed Butter Goat. It wasn’t exactly listed on the menu but SH claimed that she had ordered it before and the waitress approved. I had a look over the menu and decided on the Lamb Buriyani with Raita. Having travelled to Sri Lanka (yes I realise that Sri Lanka isn’t India) I ate some truly amazing Buriyani’s along the way (the best in a road side ‘cafe’ in the busy city of Colombo for a mere 180 rupees) and was hoping that this one may come a little close to my previous experience. We also ordered a serve of Garlic Naan figuring we could share each of our meals. Not long after ordering the waitress returned and informed us that they had in fact run out of Butter Goat so SH and I decided that Butter Chicken would have to suffice. It was disappointing since SH had talked up the Butter Goat so much but oh well.
While we were waiting and sipping our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (me) and Rose (SH) a few more people arrived to take up tables at Spicy Bite. Seems Spicy Bite is open till quite late on a Friday, no doubt taking advantage of hungry diners looking for somewhere to eat out when most places have closed up for the night and not wanting to stoop so low as to venture to the Golden Arches across the road. We waited about 15 minutes for our dishes to arrive. First up came the Garlic Naan, then the Lamb Buriyani and Raita, followed closely by the Butter Chicken. By this stage I was absolutely starving since I had only eaten a Som Tum at about midday and nothing since.
I reached over and grabbed a piece of Garlic Naan out of the basket. There were four triangular pieces in total and they were all as dry and hard as a piece of cardboard. No soft, warm, doughy Garlic Naan here. I was pretty disappointed because Naan is what you go to Indian Restaurants for isn’t it? Next up I put a couple of spoonfulls of Lamb Buriyani on my plate, digging out a couple of super large lamb chunks from amongst the rice. I drizzled a little bit of raita over the top and took a bite. The raita was so damn watery and flavourless I don’t know why they bothered even serving the buriyani with raita. I literally couldn’t taste it, even when I dipped the end of my Garlic Naan directly into the bowl. The lamb in the buriyani was dry and chewy. Not soft and moist like the lamb I was longing for. This dish tasted like the Lamb Buriyani that I used to make out of the CSIRO cookbook except mine was far superior. The rice that was accompanying the lamb was gluggy and horrible. I am pretty sure that it was just reheated from earlier that evening.
Lastly I fished out one of three pieces of Butter Chicken that was absolutely swimming in sauce. It was the smallest damn Butter Chicken I had ever seen! I was hoping that a bite of the chicken would save this dish but alas the chicken was overcooked and dry. Not moist and succulent like chicken pieces in Butter Chicken are supposed to be. The most disappointing thing about this dish was the sauce. Butter Chicken sauce is another food that I could literally shower in. I would be happy with a large bowl of the sauce and just some rice (or decent Naan bread) but I do exert self control and don’t allow myself to do things like that. The sauce tasted like the chef had just dumped a can of Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup in and mixed it around with the chicken. It did not taste like the creamy, tomatoey, sweet Butter Chicken sauce that we all know and love at all. How disappointing.
Well, I have to say that poor old SH definitely gave us a bum steer with Spicy Bite, that said I didn’t get to try the famous Butter Goat that she was going on about. The service that we received from the waitress at Spicy Bite was friendly and efficient and I really cannot say a bad thing about it. However, the same cannot be said about the food. It was tasteless, dry and disappointing with a distinctly Heinz flavour about it. I know where I will be going if I want good Indian food and it certainly isn’t Spicy Bite or Haveli. After the good wrap that I gave Haveli earlier this year seems their standards and food portions have gone down while their prices have gone up. Looks like it’s back to tried and true Cairns favourite Marinades on Spence St where you simply can’t go past the Lunch Thali’s for around the $13 mark. MS and I had a fantastic meal there recently and the host even served us with a friendly smile this time around.
Note: I didn’t get to take any pictures of the food because if you were paying attention my iPhone shat itself earlier that evening. A quick visit to the guys under the stairs at Cairns Central fixed that and I am up and running again.
Shop 6/52 The Esplanade, Cairns
Ph: (07) 4041 3700
La Porchetta, Cairns
It was Sunday night and MS and I were so damn hungover that all we really wanted to do was eat crap food (or as the professionals call it – Carb Load). The whole hangover thing really isn’t doing wonders for my self esteem especially when we end up at La Porchetta with our Table 52 card. No carbs as of next week I swear! So yeah like I said we rocked up at La Porchetta on the Sunday and we were greeted by an unfriendly lady at the counter that showed us to a table right next to another couple. Being the ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ type person that he is MS promptly moved us to another table a little further down and outside the 1 metre radius to other diners that was expected of us. I know that waitstaff do that so it’s easier to serve you but it just seemed a little close to everyone else considering we were pretty much in an empty restaurant.
The lady bought us some water since that was probably all I could stomach and it made me feel better about the content of the meal I was about to consume. We had a look over their extensive menu and I mean it is a pretty extensive menu from Parmigiana’s to Calzones to Salad. We both knew what we wanted (pizza and pasta) but it was just choosing which type that proved difficult. MS chose the Pollo Et Fungi which was Lean Chicken Pieces, Spring Onions, Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese in a Cream Sauce with Fettucine (AU$19.40) and in the end true to form I chose the Mushroom Pasta also with Fettucine (AU$18.20) because how good are mushrooms in pasta? We also chose a medium Caprese Pizza with Tomato Base, Bocconcini, Fresh Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil to share for AU$18.80 (don’t judge us).
There was only two other occupied tables in the entire, extremely large restaurant and these tables were already eating or had finished their meals so I knew it wouldn’t take long for our meals to arrive. We chatted about our extremely large night on the town that ended up in, well lets just say some practical jokes being played and a fire hose being discharged in an alley way to ease chilli burns in the nether regions (note: no revellers were injured in our escapades but MS may have suffered a little blow to his huge ego). It was still a good night had by all despite the ensuing and cripling hangover that was continuing well into the evening for me.
Looking around the restaurant I noticed that the kitchen seems to be run by about 3 or 4 apprentice chefs. I mean they could have been qualified but they were very young. I didn’t care as long as my meal came out in good time and it tasted good. Our meals arrived in good time and by god I am pretty sure my hangover eased just at the sight of that pizza. It was cheesy, the base was crunchy, it had pesto on it and by all accounts I would have to say it’s one of the best pizzas that I have had in a long time. I know one of my readers commented a little while back that La Porchetta has the best pizzas in town and I did say I would get there eventually. Right you were my friend! Ok, so the only other pizzas that I have had in the last 6 months would probably be a AU$5 pizza at Bella Vista 2-4-1’s on a Friday or the 4 Cheese Pizza from Bel Paese that I raved about a couple of months ago. I’m going to have to break rank here and say that this La Porcetta Bocconcini and Tomato Pizza was better. Oh god it was good.
Next up, our pasta dishes. MS started out eating his. I asked him how it was and he replied “Yeah it’s ok” but by halfway through the dish he decided that it was delicious and apparently just what the doctor ordered. Since then MS’ review of his pasta dish has only improved and upon departure he confirmed that his pasta was in fact awesome. Not quite as good as his first experience at Bel Paese but it was up there for sure.
After I doused my pasta in Tabasco Sauce because lets face it, all pasta benefits from Tabasco Sauce, I dug in and I have to agree it was awesome in it’s carby goodness. There was plenty of mushrooms in there and the serving size was massive for little old me but I still put a fair dint in it with very little left in my bowl when I finally decided I was finished.
So it turns out the unfriendly lady wasn’t so unfriendly after all, MS won her over with his wit and charm throughout our meal and she loosened up a little and even smiled in the end. Seems to me that she had had a long week and was looking forward to closing time but she was nice enough. First impressions really do count for me but she came good in the end.
In the end, after finishing off two bowls of pasta and a medium pizza (I’m pretty sure we shared a kebab in the wee hours of the morning – again don’t judge us) we went home and only communicated through grunts and moans from reclined positions on the couch. But seriously, if you want a good feed of Pasta and (I’m gonna go out on a limb here) probably what some would consider to be the best pizzas in town (I’m an advocate) then head down to La Porchetta. Hangover or no hangover it’s still gonna be just what the doctor ordered.
108 – 114 Grafton St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 6661
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 11.30am – 10pm
4 Cheese Pizza @ Bel Paese, Cairns
Got to fulfill my wish of having the Award-Winning Four Cheese Pizza (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Blue) at Bel Paese last week and I have to say it was amazing! Not to mention their yummy Puttanesca and the Fettucine Casa Nostra that MS ordered. The only thing that could make this pizza better would be five cheeses! So gooooood!
45 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6165
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 5pm till late
Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Cairns
Last Saturday my friend RS and I were looking for somewhere to go for a cheap feed and decided on (well I decided on) Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant after hearing a few good things about it on Facebook and via other online sources (Trip Advisor). My Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant Table 52 card may have also had something to do with my selection. Being a BYO (Wine Only) Restaurant I asked RS if she would like to get a bottle of wine for herself and I would be the designated driver. She politely declined and after a big night a few nights earlier on a nasty spirit starting with T and ending with Ila I also opted for the water. We arrived just after 8 at Lan’s to find the restaurant about a third full. After a little bit of confusion from the two waitstaff as to who was going to seat us we were shown to a seat at the front of the restaurant, right near the entrance.
The waitress that claimed us fetched some water and some glasses and bought us some menus. RS and I had a lot of catching up to do after a slight falling out between us late last year but we were moving on with a friendly Saturday night dinner pretty much picking up right where we left off. In between catching up the waitress came over a few times to ask us for our order but neither of us had had a chance to even glance at the menu yet. The waitress wasn’t bothered and I told her that I would let her know when we were ready. We both had a look at the menu and I have to say that nothing on the menu interested either of us in the slightest. It all sounded very boring, so much so that RS pulled a 2-4-1 meal voucher out of her bag for another restaurant in town and asked if we should go there instead. I figured that since we were here already and seated with water that we should give it a try. Eventually I gave the waitress the old ‘nod’ and she came over and took our order. We both decided to skip the entrees and went straight for the mains. RS ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Ginger and Rice for AU$18.50 and I ordered the Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass and Rice (AU$18.50) from the Special’s Menu that surprisingly (much like the specials board out the front of Fetta’s) hasn’t changed since I dined at Lan’s well over 6 months ago. According to the menu the Stiryfry Chicken Lemongrass is ‘cooked with love’ so I figured it must be good!
We waited about 10 minutes for our meals to arrive which is almost too quick but hey there isn’t much to a Stir-fry Chicken, really. The meals looked very similar except my Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass was darker in colour than RS’ Vietnamese Chicken Ginger. Each meal came with a large plate of rice. A plate that I thought was much too big for me when I saw it but typically I ate the lot as did RS.
We both dug into our meals sharing a little so we could each taste what the other had ordered. RS told me she didn’t care much for my Chicken Lemongrass because it was too salty while I told her I didn’t care much for her Chicken Ginger because it was too bland. RS enjoyed her meal although she did say that it was nothing special and she also managed to pull a couple of ‘questionable’ looking pieces of chicken out of it and put them on the side. To me her meal had almost no flavour at all except for a few slivers of fresh ginger stirred through it. She did however finish the entire meal.
I enjoyed my Chicken Lemongrass but I do have to admit that it wasn’t anything special and it really was very salty but then again I would rather it be salty than taste like nothing. It really just looked like something that had been carelessly thrown together, not like something ‘cooked with love’ as stated on the menu. I did finish it and minus a few stray bits of capsicum that I pushed to the side (another vegetable I’m not fond of).
I have to say after two occasions of dining at Lan’s (I didn’t write about the last one) I am really not very impressed at all. The service is good yeah but the food is very ordinary and the atmosphere is terrible. I can’t put my finger on why but it’s just feels very sterile. There is more atmosphere at the Nightmarkets food hall. I am assuming that the majority of the customers that dine there are staying at the Discovery Resort that Lan’s is attached to. In the end I can’t really complain since the meal did only cost us just under AU$10 each but the fact that the menu was so undesirable that we nearly left in search of somewhere else to eat is pretty bad. The only thing that’s going for it really is the ‘BYO Wine’. Our decision not to drink is a decision that RS and I probably should have reconsidered.
Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant
183 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4044 9796
Opening Hours: 7 days 6am – 10am, 6pm-10pm