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Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum, Cairns

One of Cairns’ hidden gems is the authentic and super cute Japanese noodle restaurant on Spence Street, Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum.  It’s a little hole in the wall place that is almost too easy to walk straight past and when you ask somene if they have been to the Noodle Colosseum and they haven’t they look at you like you have gone mad. I took SF and MF to Ganbaranba one Tuesday night and when we arrived there was the typical fare of Japanese and locals ‘in the know’.  When you step inside you almost feel like you are in Japan.  All the staff here are very friendly and when you walk in you are greeted in unison with the usual cheery ‘Irasshaimase’ by the chefs behind the noodle bar while the equally cheery waitress greets you and asks you where you would like to sit.   We took our seats and browsed over the menu’s while our waitress poured us some glasses of ice cold Oolong tea.

To start we ordered some of  the very tasty gyoza that Ganbaranba followers rave about.  They are made fresh daily too!  The gyoza came out quickly and steaming hot but since we ordered two lots of five (AU$4 for 5) we had to decide who got the extra one.  I got it.  We all commented on how good they were and SF reckoned she could eat 80 of them she liked them that much.

Gyoza made fresh daily (AU$4 for 5)

While waiting for your mains you can help yourself to the Homemade Mustard Leaf Pickle, Pickled Ginger and Pickled Bean Sprouts next to the noodle bar.  I think these are condiments that are actually supposed to go in your noodles but I can’t help but eat them while I am waiting for my noodles since they are pretty damn tasty.

Homemade Mustard Leaf Pickle and Pickled Ginger

The noodles can be ordered three different ways: soft, medium or hard,  which assumedly refers to the cooking times.  I always order them medium but to tell you the truth I probably wouldn’t know the difference either way.  Opting for something different and a bit more adventurous to my usual choice I ordered the Yusen described as Sio Ramen in Seafood and Vegetable Based Soup with Milk and Cheese Flavour with House Made Salmon Flakes (AU$11.80) from the Season Special menu.

Yusen: Sio Ramen in Seafood and Vegetable Based Soup with Milk and Cheese Flavour with House Made Salmon Flakes (AU$11.80)

Milk and cheese flavours in a bowl of Asian noodles, well any old noodles for that matter, was a bit different but like I said I was being adventurous.  The salmon flakes went well with the dish and I ordered an extra spoon of chilli for AU$0.50 to add to my bowl of noodles.

House Made Salmon Flakes

MW ordered the Ikemen which is Tonkotsu with a hint of Delicious Crushed Garlic, Special Garlic Oil, Egg and BBQ Pork (AU$11.80).  He seemed to be a bit concerned about it since the only noodles that he eats are the Cup of Noodle kind, we can’t all be adventurous with eating out like me but I get the feeling he may have preferred macca’s.

Ikemen: Tonkotsu with a hint of Delicious Crushed Garlic, Special Garlic Oil, Egg and BBQ Pork (AU$11.80)

SF ordered the Kurobama which is Tonkotsu with Special Garlic Oil infused for over two hours (AU$8.90) with extra noodles on the side.  After a sideways glance from me she wondered if she should have done that as the noodle bowls are pretty filling with the broth.  She could barely eat her extra noodles so lucky MW had brought his appetite with him.  We all enjoyed our noodles and with SF declaring she would definitely be back.

Kurobama: Tonkotsu with Special Garlic Oil infused for over two hours (AU$8.90)

Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is a great place to dine when you are looking for somewhere quaint and unassuming.  The noodles are cheap (all bowls under AU$12), the staff are friendly, the service is good and the noodles are tasty.  What more could you want?  If you haven’t been down to the Noodle Colosseum on Spence St yet I suggest you get your butt down there quick smart to see what you are missing out on.

Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum

12-20 Spence St, Cairns

Ph: (07) 4031 2522

Opening Hours: Everyday from 11.30am till 10pm

Oliver’s, Cairns *CLOSED DOWN*

Oh how I am enjoying this whole writing about food journey that I have recently embarked on because it means that I can always have an excuse to go out for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  Last Thursday was no different so a couple of my close friends and I went to Oliver’s Australian Fine Cuisine restaurant on Spence St in the city.  Now this was actually my first time to Oliver’s, not so for my friend HH and I was informed by Oliver himself that the restaurant will have been open for five years this August.  Like many of the restaurants in Cairns business is tough due to the the lack of tourist numbers and locals dining out but hey we were there.

The restaurant was fairly empty with only about five tables occupied this evening.  The service was spot on with the waitress pouring our glasses of water and taking our drink orders (we ordered a bottle of champagne).  Oliver bought over some bread with eggplant dip to get our appetites going and then recommended a few dishes for entree that we might like to try.  The entrees came out in good time and we weren’t waiting too long, which was a nice change from some of the restaurants I have been to lately.  I ordered the ‘Queensland Sea Scallops, Green Mango and Sesame Seed Ceviche with Wakame Tempura and Passion Fruit Foam’.  I think this is the first time that I have actually had foam on my food.  Yes I have heard about it and read about it and all that but again this is the first time I have actually tried it.  I quite liked it.  It made for great presentation and it tasted good too.  The three of us shared the three scallops on the plate and we certainly enjoyed them.

Queensland Sea Scallops, Green Mango and Sesame Seed Ceviche with Wakame Tempura and Passion Fruit Foam (AU$18)

For our second entree we chose the ‘Sautéed Tiger Prawns, Cashew Nuts and Crunchy Vegetables served with Prawn Crackers and Garlic Creamy Sauce’.  When it came out I have to say that it wasn’t what I was expecting both in size and presentation.  I guess it was just a little disappointing compared to the scallops which looked fantastic. It was a great tasting dish but the tiger prawns were chopped up and not exactly plentiful.

Sautéed Tiger Prawns, Cashew Nuts and Crunchy Vegetables served with Prawn Crackers and Garlic Creamy Sauce (AU$16)

The last entree was recommended by Oliver and also something a bit different to what I would normally order.  Oliver recommended the ‘Macadamia Nut Crumbed Pig Trotters Salad with Glazed Beetroot, Tasmanian Double Brie and Dijon Mustard dressing’.  It was quite a big serve and looked great despite my crappy photography but it certainly didn’t look like pig trotters.  The trotters were crumbed as described on the menu and they were juicy and tender but maybe a little bit too fatty for my liking.

Macadamia Nut Crumbed Pig Trotters Salad with Glazed Beetroot, Tasmanian Double Brie and Dijon Mustard Dressing (AU$16

We finished our entrees, ordered another bottle of champagne and this time asked Oliver for some recommendations for our main.  HH said that he wanted something juicy and meaty (typical male) while I said that I would like a fish dish.  Our other dining companion TH decided she had eaten too much and stuck with the champagne.  Oliver ordered HH the ‘Slowly Roast Lamb Back Strap in Thai Basil Crust, Steer Fried Green Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Sauce and Fluffy Pumpkin Puree’.  The lamb was rare in the middle (the way it should be) and the crust was beautiful and crunchy.  Now I have to say the fluffy pumpkin puree was divine and so damn tasty I could have drunk it straight out of the gravy boat that it was served in.

Slowly Roast Lamb Back Strap in Thai Basil Crust, Stir Fried Green Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Sauce and Fluffy Pumpkin Puree (AU$34)

Oliver ordered me the ‘Steamed Salmon Stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms and Wrapped in Seaweed Sheet served with Lemongrass Broth and Wasabi Butter Sauce’.  The presentation was really pretty special and the piece of salmon looked enormous to me.  Now I have to say this is one of the best salmon dishes I have ever eaten.  So many places I have been to have overcooked salmon and its so disappointing when a lovely piece of fish is wrecked by bad cooking, however this salmon fillet was fantastic.  It literally melted in my mouth and I think my friends actually had food envy when they tasted it.  The seaweed sheet with the zucchini wrapped around it on the outside of the salmon was also delicious and again I would go back to Oliver’s just for this dish.  It really was something else!

Steamed Salmon Stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms and Wrapped in Seaweed Sheet served with Lemongrass Broth and Wasabi Butter Sauce (AU$34)

After all this food we were pretty much stuffed and I really couldn’t fit anything else in but of course HH insisted that we try some dessert, so Oliver suggested that we try the tasting platter of desserts then we could try a bit of everything. The David Bres’ assortment of desserts came out with four small desserts each occupying a corner of the platter.  The desserts included Vanilla Mousse and Crepes Layered Cake, Raspberry and Rosella Flower Coulis, Davidson Plum Tart with Caramelised Meringue with Pistachio Short Bread, Mareeba Fruit Salad with Red Wine-Balsamic Vinegar Syrup, Honey Ice Cream and Wattle Seed Crostini and Chocolate and Mango Delight: Coco Pops Biscuit, Chocolate Mousse, Mango Sorbet and Marmalade, Bitter Cocoa Waffles (P.S:  David Bres’ is the head chef).  Again the presentation was really something and I almost didn’t want to touch it, still it didn’t take long till we dug in.  Oliver informed us that his chef was the only one in Cairns that could make ‘caviar’ out of dessert ingredients.  These were sprinkled on the Vanilla Mousse and Crepes Layered Cake and although they didn’t really taste like anything they looked great.  Without rambling on too much the desserts were great and even TH decided she could fit some in and bypass the champagne for a little bit.

David Bres’ Assortment of Desserts (AU$20)

So the verdict for Oliver’s…  Great cosy, little restaurant, the food was very good, the service was exemplary and the personal touch and recommendations provided by Oliver on the night really made it a memorable dinner.

Oliver’s Australian Fine Cuisine

Located on the Cnr of Spence and Abbott St, Cairns

Ph: (07) 40 411221

Website: www.olivers.net.au

Opening Hours: Wed – Mon from 6pm (closed Tues)