I’ve had a few friends visiting Greece recently and the pictures they have been posting on Facebook have literally made me want to lick my computer screen. If I wasn’t already reeling from the costs of a recently European holiday AND home reno’s then I would be on the first flight to Santorini (wouldn’t we all!) In the meantime the new Greek charcoal barbeque restaurant, Odyssey Kitchen, is undoubtedly the next best thing!
MS and I headed down to check it out on Tuesday night since the only plans we had were watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found! We were greeted by the lovely owner Pepi and her husband who have recently moved over here from Greece. After the recent troubles in Greece they decided that they would have a fresh start in Cairns opening Odyssey Kitchen only six weeks ago.
Pepi showed us to our table and I asked her for some recommendations from the menu since it all looked fantastic, we had trouble choosing. The menu is very reasonably priced with nothing over $27. First off Pepi recommended some Mythos Greek beer for MS a glass of Rose for myself. We chose a selection of entree’s and main’s from the menu and waited for our meals to arrive.
For entrée we ordered the Baked Fetta with slices of tomato, onion and capsicum with Greek spices ($11.50) and the Grilled Octopus Tentacle Garnished with Salad ($14). Both MS and I literally swooned over the Baked Feta. It was insanely good and we later found out that Odyssey Kitchen imports their own fetta from Greece. That would explain why the feta that I buy at Coles doesn’t even come close to this stuff!
The Octopus was unbelievably tender and even MS who is notorious for not liking seafood (especially something like Octopus) couldn’t get enough of it.
Our third entrée was the Greek Country Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, Feta, Olives, Capsicum and Capers served with a Greek Version of Croutons ($12). Again the Feta made this dish absolutely sing. Not often does a salad get completely demolished when we go out to dinner together but I can safely say there wasn’t a skerrick left in the bowl when we finished.
It seems that we may have bitten off more than we could chew with our entrees as they were bigger and more filling than we had expected but nevertheless we still had a bit of room for our mains. As we couldn’t make a decision we opted to share the Pastitsio ($18) and the Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit ($27). The Pastitsio is described on the menu as Risoni Pasta Mixed with Feta and Parmesan, Covered with Mince, Topped with Béchamel Sauce and Cooked in a Clay Pot. This dish was rich and creamy with flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg. Basically carb heaven in a clay pot.
The Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit (chosen because, well, all men love bacon don’t they?) was served with salad, chips, pita bread and dip. We had earlier watched the chef cooking the large skewers of meat over the charcoal grill not far from our al fresco table. I let MS consume the majority of the meaty skewer because I was pretty much up to Pussy’s Bow as my dad would say. Could have totally eaten more of that feta though.
And finally there was dessert (I know I just said I was full but no one told me there was dessert)… We tried three off the menu including the Baklava (my favourite), Halva – a semolina sweet filled with dried fruit and nuts dipped in syrup and the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet – yogurt and traditional syrupy sweet made of fruit and sugar. It was a tough contest but the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet was my favourite. It reminded me of a delicious sweet that my mum used to give me when I was a kid.
After all that food Pepi nearly had to roll us out of the restaurant and back to our car. Now I know why they call it a Greek feast! The hospitality and generosity we received from Pepi and her wait staff was some of the best we’ve received in a very long time. From the beer to the baklava at Odyssey Kitchen they are serving up delicious home style Greek cooking at very affordable prices.
Odyssey Kitchen – 41 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 2112
Opening Times: Lunch 11.30am – 3pm, Dinner 17.30 till late (closed Sundays)
I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004. After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner. With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.
The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.
To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.
In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed. Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed. It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.
Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).
MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.
My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home! We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.
Perotta’s At The Gallery
38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870. Ph: (07) 40315899
Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm
Last week with my partner in crime and ‘Chief Pizza Eater’ in tow I headed out to Martinelli Pizza Bar at Trinity Beach. Clearly the two of us don’t get out there often enough as we tend to hang out mostly in the city (Swamp Donkey’s was what my old Chief Engineer used to call us) but I am attempting to branch out a little more.
Martinelli’s has only been open for a few months and we were both keen to test out the only Roman style slab pizzas (that I know of) in town. We arrived just behind a couple of bare-footed bogans whom I overheard asking the chef and owner Peter if they also sold ’round’ pizzas. Some people really do astound me. As ignorant as they were, not to mention stupid, surely they realise that pizzas tend to taste the same no matter what shape they are. Nevertheless Peter convinced them to try one of his popular Roman style pizzas and they took a seat.
Initially MS and I were only going to get takeaway because I wanted to watch The Bachelorette (don’t judge me) but after a bit of careful consideration we decided to stay. First up we ordered the Garlic and Herb Focaccia with Garlic Oil, Herb Butter and Rosemary Salt and I tell you what we were in for a treat. Does anyone remember the old Donnini’s when it was on the first floor at the Pier – back in around say 1990? Still to this day they had the best focaccia that I have ever eaten and a hell of a lot better than the focaccia they have on offer at the new Donnini’s (now Ciao Italia at the Hilton), which is actually really crap. I have to say that this focaccia at Martinelli’s is on par with that amazing focaccia from the old Donnini’s. Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the side… It’s bloody superb and must try when you go there!
Martinelli’s are currently running with a Spanish theme this month and I couldn’t go past the Smoked Reef Fish Escabeche, South Australian Mussels, Chorizo, Olive Tapenade, Romesco Sauce and Basil, served with Charred Lemon. Pretty much what dreams are made of.
Despite me trying my best to convince MS to order the Melaleuca Smoked Beef Brisket, Housemade BBQ Sauce, Slaw and Mozzarella pizza – he went for the Potato and Sausage with White Reduction, Shaved Potato, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone Dolce. We ordered and waited at our table with baited breath for our pizza to arrive.
Next to us, the bogans that had originally asked for round pizza were pretty much making love to their brisket pizza. They were certainly enjoying themselves and it was pretty much like that scene in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm, except they weren’t faking. It was clear to both MS and I that these two were now converted and they would never look at a round pizza the same again. After they finished they thanked the chef profusely, vowed to return again and happily left just as our pizza’s arrived. Not since the NRL Grand Final have I seen such a turnaround – not that I watch football.
A lovely older man with a thick Italian accent whom I can only assume was the chef’s father showed me how to squeeze the lemon over the top of my Spanish style pizza for full flavour effect. We dug in. The Romesco Sauce and the fresh Basil leaves on top of my pizza gave it the perfect sweet kick. It was just divine and I don’t know what the hell the chef does to those pizza bases but wow. MS loved his Potato and Sausage pizza but we both agreed that mine was the pick of the litter.
To top it all off we had a couple of pieces of freshly made Chocolate Cannoli to satisfy our sweet tooth before we pretty much rolled out of the store. We were full as a goog. The cannoli’s were not too little but not too big and the perfect was to top of our meal. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the delicate flavours, textures of the meal because that’s just not how I roll I can highly recommend Martinelli Pizza Bar. It’s seriously some of best pizza I have ever eaten and that Focaccia bread, well you will just have to see for yourself (just don’t forget that the Spanish theme runs until the end of October). The pizza’s here take a little longer to cook and aren’t entirely cheap but if you want a round Domino’s pizza thrown together on a production line with absolutely no love then knock yourself out. Martinelli Pizza Bar is where it’s at.
Martinelli Pizza Bar – Shop 2 11-13 Rabaul St, Trinity Beach QLD 4879 Ph: (07) 40575895. Open Wed – Sun 12pm – 10pm.
First opened in 2004 Momofuku Noodle Bar was one of the original restaurants on my ever-growing iPhone list of restaurants that I hope to visit in my life time (and yes I know iPhone hasn’t been around that long). Now one of 13 restaurants owned by David Chang, including one in Sydney Momofuku Seibo, Momofuku Noodle Bar is renowned for its signature pork buns and having the best ramen in New York. Forget the ramen – we came for the pork buns. Usually my skills of navigation are on point but this time around I led us in the exact wrong direction of where we wanted to go so we ended hailing a taxi to take us there.
When we arrived there was yet another large line – much to MS’ dismay because he was getting a little fed up with having to line up for food everywhere we went. In my defence all the good places I take him to are usually quite popular hence the hefty line up but I always assure him that it’s worth the wait. For Pete’s sake if he hadn’t met me he would still be eating dinner at Cock N Bull on a regular basis, now he’s dining at trendy restaurants in New York that he knows nothing about and doesn’t care for either ha! I was well aware from reviews that it could take up to an hour to get a seat but I played it down to MS telling him that I read the wait was usually only about 15 minutes – what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Inside the door it was hard to differentiate between exactly who’d had their name taken by the hostess and who was waiting to get their name taken by the hostess. Lucky for me a friendly local (surprisingly the only kind that we met in NY despite their gruff reputation) arrived straight after us and ushered me up to the front of the restaurant with him and within ten minutes MS and I were in!
*Goddammit! Why didn’t I take more photos?!*
We took a seat near the end of a long communal table next to a group of three that were high up in the corporate sector of Starbucks. They had come together in Manhattan from various parts of the USA to inspect a few of the Starbucks stores and make sure things were up to scratch. MS and I ordered our meals and chatted to them about the terrible coffee that we had encountered on our trip so far with the worst of all being at bustling LAX diner LA Roadhouse Route 66 – the food was also terrible. We told them how Starbucks had become a beacon of light and hope on our six day road trip from Columbia, SC to New York City and that it was our ‘go to destination’ for a decent cup of coffee in the USA. Although he worked for Starbucks one of the men of the trio told us to go to Blue Bottle Coffee shop for a decent cup of coffee when we were in San Francisco much to the dislike of the other guy and girl in the group.
I’m 90% sure I saw that kid (now grown man) from Billy Elliot standing inconspicuously in the corner at Momofuku but either no one else recognised him or they are just so conditioned to seeing famous people in New York that no one gives a f*ck. I pride myself on my uncanny ability to pick random D grade celebrities out of a crowd and know exactly what obscure movie they were in back in 1996. Kind of like this one time back in 2007 when I served the kid from the 1st Jurassic Park movie at the Cairns airport. He’s been completely ‘not famous’ since starring in Jurassic Park except for a run with Meryl Streep down the Kootenai in The River Wild and man did he get ugly but I knew exactly who he was from the moment I spotted him. A true talent that I could really go places with I’m sure.The seating conditions at Momofuku are practically elbow to elbow and you have to shout to speak to the person you are dining with but despite how busy the restaurant was the kitchen was absolutely pumping out dishes and our bun entrée took no more than about 10 minutes to arrive. We had ordered two each of the Shitake Buns with Hoisin, Scallion and Cucumber (US$10 each) and two each of the Brisket Buns with Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion and Cucumber (US$12 each). The buns were actually quite filling and the Shitake Buns were a clear winner for both of us. Anything with Hoisin Sauce is normally a winner for me. MS enjoyed them so much that he ordered himself two more (he is a fatty though). Not long after we polished off our buns our bowls of ramen arrived.
Momofuku’s signature ramen is your typical ramen with Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder and a Poached Egg (US$16) but they also have a yummy sounding Chilled Spicy Noodle on the menu with Sichuan Sausage, Spinach and Cashews, only thing is that it was a little too cold out to have chilled noodles. The hearty bowls of pork broth were huge and we struggled to finish them especially since we’d already had entrees. Purported by many to be the best ramen in all of New York City it certainly may well be because we didn’t have any other ramen to compare it to while we were there. The ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar was delicious but, well, not to brag but MS and I were not that long ago eating ramen from some of the best ramen joints in Japan so our tastebuds have been a little spoiled of late. In the end I think I had hyped the place up a little too much in my head but the buns alone were worth walking in the wrong direction for. I just looked at photos of the inside of the restaurant online and I didn’t even recognise it because when we went there were that many people there you couldn’t even make out the walls and furniture. Don’t let that deter you though. If the crowds are anything to go by then even after 11 years as one of the most popular eateries in New York City, Momofuku Noodle Bar has still go it.
A couple of weekends ago I put up a post on my Facebook page not long ago asking for suggestions for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches – my birthday breakfast in fact. I received numerous suggestions from my followers and despite what the majority said I ended up booking a table at The Rising Sun at Palm Cove. I figured I had an Entertainment Book voucher and I enjoyed dinner there (mostly) a couple of years ago so it was worth a try right? I made a booking for 6 people and we met out at Palm Cove early one Sunday morning. When we turned up we were the only people in the restaurant bar one other occupied table – a couple of what looked like tourists. I found this a little strange considering everywhere else I passed on the way in seemed to be quite busy, especially the Chill Cafe which was almost spilling over it was that full. Couple that with the stunning weather that day and by all my calculations The Rising Sun should have had far more people dining there. I briefly considered going to the Chill Café or Vivo down the road but I figured we were here now and I’d already made a booking.
Half of my family were already there when I arrived however two were running about 10-15 minutes late. The waitress handed out some menus and walked away with absolutely no mention of ordering coffees in the meantime. She returned about 5 minutes later asking if we were ready to order yet. Umm well no because two people still hadn’t arrived. She returned on two more occasions asking if we were ready to order yet each time sounding a little more annoyed than the last. She came back again no more than a minute after the last person turned up and asked one last time. Lets for a moment consider that maybe this person hasn’t even had a chance to look at the menu yet? Alas common sense did not prevail that day.
Anyway so we ordered our breakfasts finally (heaven forbid should the waitress have to wait on others) whilst I sipped on my horrendously bad coffee which took far longer than it should have to arrive. About 15 minutes later our breakfasts arrived in dribs and drabs. First of all my mum’s breakfast, the Baked Mexican Eggs, arrived. Mum, who has recently decided she wants to be a vegetarian (although I support her in her endeavours I give her till Christmas Day), asked if there was any meat in the Mexican Eggs when she ordered. Apparently there was so she asked if there was a vegetarian alternative. The waitress got the confirmation that was ok from the chef however mum had a sneaking suspicion that they simply scooped the bits of meat out of her dish and then served it to her. Considering how our breakfast was paning out, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised. Mum said that it lacked flavour and didn’t enjoy it very much.
Next up my brothers girlfriend GH had ordered the Rainforest Honey Granola with Poached Fruit and Mungalli Yogurt for AU$10. Now despite the fact that the near incompetent waitress had given her a fork to eat the damn thing it was literally a bowl of nuts with yogurt on it. Just to be sure I did a quick Google search to check that the rest of the world agrees on what I think granola is – yep just as I suspected… it’s muesli although I didn’t spy any form of grain in this so-called granola. GH said that the yogurt was very sour and had to ask the waiter for some honey to put on top to sweeten it up. Wasn’t it supposed to be Rainforest Honey Granola, I’m confused…
To my left my dad ordered the Benny Royale – poached eggs, smoked salmon, muffin and lime hollandaise for AU$19. He said it was pretty good although he said he didn’t like the plain old ‘straight out of a packet’ English Muffin that was underneath. I personally think the portion size was far too small for $19 – a rort if you ask me.
And then sitting towards the end of the table was myself, my sister and my brothers girlfriends mother KH. We all ordered various versions of the Stockman’s Free Range eggs – poached eggs on toast for AU$9 with a few sides to ‘jazz it up’. My house made beans were forgotten and then when they arrived they were still cold in the middle, the roast cherry tomatoes were also forgotten and we got two dishes of minted labne when we only ordered one. It really was the most visually lacking breakfast I think I have ever laid eyes on. I will however say that the Zucchini Pickles that I ordered on the side were quite delicious but this didn’t make up for the sheer lack of organisation that should go hand in hand with eating out.
So there you have it – despite the awesome company my birthday breakfast turned out to be quite a disaster. It seems quite ironic that the person (me) that lives, eats and breathes dining out chose one of the worst places to go for her own birthday breakfast. I must also give a small mention to the presence of ants in the dining area. All three people sitting across from me complained on ants crawling over them while they ate (and yes although we were technically at the beach, we were sitting inside). And whilst the food left a lot to be desired, it was the service that was most lacking. Both the wait staff on hand appeared to be lacking certain ‘people skills’ that I think are mandatory when serving in a restaurant.
You may think I am being a little harsh but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. This sort of thing sh*t’s me to tears. It’s because of restaurants like this that I started this blog in the first place – I like to call them tourist traps. These tourist traps are located in well frequented areas of Cairns with clientele that are mostly tourists who most likely won’t return. These restaurants seem to have missed the point of serving decent food or providing half decent service because it doesn’t really matter to them either way. Any Cairns local reading this knows there are plenty of restaurants that fit this description in the Cairns area and you know what? It’s not ok. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, if you pay the money to dine out you should reap the damn benefits! Such a shame because the last time I dined at The Rising Sun (for dinner) it was actually pretty good. It turns out I learnt a valuable lesson that day… When you ask your readers for advice on where to go for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches, majority rules and I’m still kicking myself for not listening.
P.S: For those of you wondering what the majority ruled on… It was the Lime Tree out at Trinity Beach.