Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dim Sum at Dragon Palace

After meeting at the ATFT Food Photography Workshops, I started following Nini's blog.

It appears that we always lunch at the same places around town so we decided to meet up for lunch. We decided on dim sum at Dragon Palace - how better to beat Monday-itis, right?

Dragon Palace Menu
It's a pet peeve of mine to see / hear people refer to "Dim Sum" as "Dim Sim". "Dim Sum" is this style of food / eating, "Dim Sim" is some Australian-created Westernised-Chinese deep fried dumpling.

Anyhoo, apart from the minor annoyance, to both Nini's and my delight we both are not fussy eaters and both love seafood! We ordered the usual:

"Har Gau" - Prawn Dumplings

"Chee Cheong Fun" - Prawn in Rice Noodle Rolls

"Xiao Long Bao" - Soup Dumplings

Soft Shell Crab

"Feng Zhao" - "Phoenix Claws" a.k.a. Chicken Feet

"Kai Lan" - Chinese Broccoli

And finished off with some "desserts":

Egg Tarts - My Favourite!
"Liu Sa Bao"

"Liu Sa Bao" - Fluffy dumplings with gooey salted egg goodness
Many people have tried to get me to have these since forever, but I'm usually obsessed with egg tarts so have never really been interested. But one very recent day, since introduced to these by my old school friend, I have never turned back. So so good!

Dim sum regulars will notice that some "staples" were missing, e.g. "Siu Mai" (little dumplings of pork and prawn), "Char Siu Bao" (bbq pork buns) and "Loh Mai Kai" (sticky rice with pork and mushrooms wrapped in leaf). But there were only two of us and I say we did really well! And yes, it was a very satisfying dim sum session.

PS: Some of you may notice that I have referred to the dishes in a mixture of Chinese dialects - I've always referred to them this way and I don't know all of them in just one dialect!

Dragon Palace City Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday Lunch at Matsuri

My colleagues, S & H, and I decided to get Japanese one Friday. This was quite exciting as H is usually a solitary luncher and had never come out with us before.

We decided on Matsuri, the restaurant on the corner made infamous by the car crashing through the window. I've been to Matsuri a few times for dinner but have not actually been for lunch.

Daily Lunch Specials
Matsuri has daily lunch specials and Friday's special included:
- Tsukune (Skewered Chicken Meat Balls in Teriyaki Sauce)
- Shark Fin Flavoured Salad (Shark Fin Flavoured Jelly Fish with Vegetables)
- Tataki (Raw Beef with Garlic and Lime Vinegar Sauce)
- Seafood Mix Fry
- Sashimi

I decided to go with the special as it was a good variety and I love variety in my bentos.

S & H each decided on teriyaki beef and chicken from the main menu.

While waiting for our orders, we enjoyed the break from work and contemplated skipping work for the rest of the afternoon (reminiscent of skipping school).

Sparkling Water - None for me, thanks.

Teriyaki beef

Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Beef - Closer look
Our orders arrived and to our surprise, the teriyaki was very runny - it was only slightly thicker than the miso soup on the side!  :/  Regardless, S & H both said they were still tasty.

Friday Lunch Special - Tsukune, Jellyfish Salad, Tataki, Seafood Tempura, Sashimi
Nothing unexpected in my bento. Every element was perfectly cooked and I loved every bite to the end.

Friday Lunch Special - Tsukune, Jellyfish Salad, Tataki, Seafood Tempura, Sashimi
Tsukune - I've had horrible gluggy, floury, tasteless, oily (any other adjectives!?) fried balls from other places, but these were cooked as they should be - bouncy with a slight crunch on the outside - no greasiness or glugginess at all.

Jellyfish Salad - If you've never had jellyfish salad before, it really isn't that scary. The jellyfish is sorta like crunchy noodles, but the crunch is more like a chicken cartilage crunch. Ok, maybe that's not going to entice you to try it, but I promise, it's good and nothing scary. Oh, and if you have had jellyfish salad before, the one at Matsuri is good!

Beef Tataki - Sliced very thinly and very tender.

Seafood Tempura - As it should be - delightfully crunchy outsides with juicy insides and no oiliness!

Sashimi - There was tuna and salmon sashimi. A couple of the slices of the salmon sashimi I had was slightly sinewy, but only very slightly. Apart from that, the sashimi was beautiful, melt-in-your-mouth slices, especially the tuna.

I haven't been back since but I'm planning on heading down there for a few more lunches on different days to try out the other specials!

Matsuri Japanese on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 August 2013

ATFT Food Photography Workshops at The Terrace Hotel

A few weeks ago I attended the food photography and food styling workshops run by Billy of A Table For Two at The Terrace Hotel. It was a great experience - there was good food, I met awesome food bloggers who have inspired me to blog, and of course, I met Billy and learnt tips and tricks on food photography.

I think I'll let the photos tell the story:

ATFT Food Photography Workshop by Billy Law

Shoot. (Made me think of "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss)

Billy's World - Macbook Air, Lightroom, Canon EOS 5D & Food!



Billy was a very down-to-earth person. So easy to talk to and he was a great teacher too! The workshops over two days comprised of a variety of participants at different levels (beginner, amateur, professional) and of different interests (food bloggers, journalists, professional photographers, and uh, me - hobbyist I suppose?). Regardless, Billy was able to explain different concepts so that it could be understood by all of us, which is a hard task!

A play with props and lighting

A play with composition

With some of the bloggers I met
The bloggers I met pictured here included Nini (middle) and Chompchomp (2nd from right).

This guy (I forgot his name!) was one of the best waitstaff I've ever encountered. He was very attentive the whole time, provided great service, and such a great person to converse with. Here he was very generous taking group photos with the numerous cameras as you can see.

Billy & I
Ah, and of course I had to end the day with the obligatory photo with Billy. :)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

To Gym or Not to Gym...

... that is the question...

I used to belong to a gym. I enjoyed the group classes, the pool, the vibe. Then they changed the class timetables so it became too hard (impossible) to get to after work, then I moved, and... like many other people, my gym membership just didn't get used.

Then age crept up to me and I didn't (want to) stop eating, so I became fatter and fatter and fatter.

My life is a constant battle between my love of food and not wanting to get fat.

I really don't want to be fat. I can't shop on online Asian clothing stores anymore because the one-size-fits-all simply don't fit. I have given away all my clothes to my sisters and to the charity bin because they simply do not fit anymore, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that "one day" I will fit once more. Plus I am wobbling in lots of places.

But I do not not want to stop eating.

I know I have to do something. If consumption of calories is to remain constant, the burning of calories has to increase. But I refuse to join the gym because I do not want to waste my money on a membership that would just gather dust and be fat in the corner.

It's time to renew that gym membership we're never going to use again.

I have been going to the gym, but on a casual basis. But this is not consistent - probably only once a month on average and (obviously) is not working. Also, my fitness level is at a 1, being the lowest. If I were in a crowd running from zombies, I would be the first one mauled.

I want to go more regularly. So, anyway, with this in mind, I joined my colleagues in checking out a new gym in town (the gym isn't new - colleagues were just looking for a new gym). I was so shiny-eyed and motivated from the vibe and all that I wanted to sign the dotted line there and then! But the logical-stubborn-voice-in-my-head said "No, stop and think! You're wasting your money!" But the logical-motivated-voice-in-my-head said "You need to do this! You'll be coming with your friends so you'll be motivated! Plus, if you come even once a week it's the same price as the weekly membership dues!"

They are both logical. I have discussed this at length with both of them and now they are both logical-doubtful-voices-in-my-head.

To gym or not to gym? That is the question.

It's a tough one.


P/S: I am thinking that I should get a personal trainer - maybe he/she will whip some motivation up my butt. However, is there a personal trainer that will accept my goal - burn calories, but will not consume less calories.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Terrace Hotel

Last weekend (20th and 21st July) I attended the food photography and food styling workshops run by Billy of A Table For Two (more on that in a later post). It was an awesome experience and I met a bunch of really down-to-earth, genuine people who have inspired me to write a foodie post (and dust the cobwebs off my blog).

The workshops were held at The Terrace Hotel. The Hotel has been on my wishlist so this was a great opportunity to cross this off my list.

To start, we had the Gourmet Tastes Platter, comprising duck wontons, San Daniele prosciutto, chicken liver parfair, pork rillettes, squid cones, Turkish bread & hummus. (This may not be available to order from the standard menu.)

Gourmet Tastes Platter: Turkish bread & hummus
The hummus was tasty, but it was overshadowed by the colourful display on the board next to it.

Gourmet Tastes Platter: Polenta cubes
I have never liked polenta but I was always of the opinion that it was because I haven't had "proper" polenta yet. Turned out I was right. This polenta was fluffy, light and creamy. Nothing like the floury, tasteless stuff I'd had before.

The duck wontons were pleasantly crispy, though I must admit I couldn't tell that the filling was duck.

Gourmet Tastes Platter: Polenta cubes and duck wontons
Gourmet Tastes Platter
The chicken liver parfait and pork rillette are handmade in house I believe. They both had mild flavours which did not overpower any of the other flavours on the board. The prosciutto, too, had a nice mild flavour which went nicely with the pickles and quail eggs with runny yolks. There were also salami and cauliflower on the board (hidden by the jar). The squid in the bowl in the background was tender and just seasoned - not chewy, and not too salty.

For mains, there was a choice between the pan fried salmon, shitake mushroom broth, green tea noodles, Asian greens, cucumber & coriander salad ($40) or the slow cooked crispy Linley Valley pork belly, chorizo & broccoli salad, Spanish black pudding & butternut pumpkin ($36).

The good thing about dining out with my husband is we get to have a taste of each other's meals.

Pan fried salmon, shitake mushroom broth, green tea noodles, Asian greens, cucumber & coriander salad ($40)
The skin on the salmon was perfectly crispy while the flesh was just cooked and flaked away at the touch of my fork. The noodles were cooked perfectly - just the slight resistance, all separated, and no sogginess. The broth was sooo good - perfectly seasoned, not too salty and adds perfectly to the fish. The only issue I had with this dish was the coriander which I immediately removed after the photos. :P

Slow cooked crispy Linley Valley pork belly, chorizo & broccoli salad, Spanish black pudding & butternut pumpkin ($36)
The only thing that could top a perfectly cooked salmon and broth is a perfectly slow cooked melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with perfectly crispy crackling. Needless to say, this was the star of the day. The butternut pumpkin and nutty salad, together with the black pudding provided sweet flavours and extra texture to the soft juicy fatty pork.

Macadamia & herb crusted Amelia park lamb rack, sweet potato fondant, spinach puree, confit shoulder, white wine & rosemary jus ($40)
On the second day, the choice was between the pork and the macadamia & herb crusted Amelia park lamb rack, sweet potato fondant, spinach puree, confit shoulder, white wine & rosemary jus ($40).

The lamb rack was just a tad chewy for me, but it was full of flavour. I especially liked the spinach puree. I personally have not had spinach with lamb before, so the kick of flavour came to me as a surprise which I felt worked really well with the classic lamb flavours.

Onto desserts...

I am more of a savoury person than sweet, so I, *ahem*, don't particularly like desserts. Especially sticky date pudding which I always find too dense, too rich and too sweet. So between a choice of the sticky date pudding, toffee ice cream, vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce ($15) or the bitter chocolate & orange tart, creme fraiche and honey comb ($16), it was safer to go with the tart.

Imagine our surprise and all-round food envy when the sticky date pudding appeared in a sundae glass!

Sticky date pudding, toffee ice cream, vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce ($15)
Throw out the traditional idea of heavy, dense, sticky, date-y pudding. This cake was fluffy and light, and layered into toffee ice cream, vanilla ice cream, and toffee sauce, and then topped with chocolate shavings and a rolled wafer. The trio of ice cream and sauce layers were just the right sweetness with a very small hint of bitterness which meant there was no sick-ate-too-much-sweets feeling at the end of it. Instead, there was more of a can-I-have-some-more feeling.

Bitter chocolate & orange tart, creme fraiche and honey comb ($15)
That is not to say that the tart wasn't good. The bitterness of the chocolate and the sweetness of the orange cream and creme fraiche offset each other. The tart was beautifully smooth and creamy. The honeycomb added a nice crunch.

Trio of house made ice creams ($9)
For the second day, at special request, I had the trio of house made ice creams ($9). The flavours of the day were dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and white chocolate & blueberry sorbet. The dark chocolate was beautifully rich, and the blueberry sorbet was full of flavour and refreshing. My favourite was the dulce de leche. I had imagined that a dulce de leche flavoured ice cream would be sickeningly sweet, but this not too sweet, was just sweet enough, with a smoothness of flavour and texture. I also loved the scattering of nuts which added crunch to the ice creams.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two meals at The Terrace Hotel, not just because of the food but also because of the exceptional service that we received, particularly from the one person looking after our private dining room for both days (of course I was also amongst great company).

I would like to go back again, perhaps for high tea one weekend.

The Terrace Hotel on Urbanspoon