Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Edamame

A possible kitchen fire?
Photo from The Courier-Mail
When it comes to eating out I am pretty easy going. Normally I live by two rules: 1. I don't put things that taste bad in my mouth and 2. People in the restrurant industry work really hard for very little pay and recognition so be nice to them. Every once and awhile the second of these rules is really tested. Tonight was an example of this. Tonight I ate a Edamame. 

Edamame is a little japanese joint down the road from my university in an area that is affectionately known as "the vil". I have eaten at Edamame about a dozen time since it opened 4 years ago. Normally the service is bad but the food quality and company more than made up for it. Not this time. The best way to describe my experience tonight would be if a train full of tigers and antelope violently derailed causing the train to explode and the surviving animals to eat each other. Seriously, that bad. 

I was joining a friend for a casual dinner and catch up after a long day of lectures and study. My friend  ordered one of their set menus which is displayed on a board leaning on the counter and I decided to get their yakisoba with a okonomiyaki (japanese pancake), really not a difficult dish to make. As a student style joint Edamame is reasonably priced and the setting, while rickety and reeking of Ikea, is fine but that is where the fun stops.

So, my friends meal turns up in about 10 mins. Her "set" was a really simple plate of three goyza, that looked like they had been deep fried left for a week and then microwaved, a very sad looking "salad" of what ever shredded root vegetables were lying around with a cheap dressing and sesame seeds- because obviously sesame seeds just like japanese mayonnaise make everything alright again. Then two very unexciting and possible bottle sauces, a gluey dome of rice- ooh this time with black sesame seeds- and three very battered fried prawns. After my friend had decided to start because otherwise everything on her plate would either congeal or sog I began wondering if they had lost my order. This is not an unfair question because upon my first visit to Edamame they indeed did manage to misplace my order and while my table of eight tucked into their meals my soft shell crab, now unavailable, was nowhere to be seen.

Tonight, after getting peckish, then hungry, then over hungry and then cranky. I went over to the very stunned girl behind the counter to ask why it had been 30 minutes and my meal had not appeared.
"Oh!" she replied, "I check for you", as she dashed around looking at pieces of paper on pegs, "yours will be about 10minutes".
"My friend received her meal 20minutes ago and mine will be another 10 minutes?"
"Is that okay?" she smiled meekly at me. At that point I wanted to tell her that no, that was not okay, that I wasn't even hungry anymore and was going to cancel my order and go home to a boiled egg. However, I was still adhering to my second rule of eating out and just asked her to tell the kitchen to hurry.

So, another ten minutes or longer passed and finally and a plate of disappointing udon noodles with some kind of sauce, some pieces of corn, broad beans, more sesame seeds but no japanese pancake nor any kind of an apology arrived. I called the waitress back to explain that I ordered a japanese pancake with my noodles. "Oh!" (clearly her favourite expression in the english vernacular) "I check". A minute later she returned with my noodles and a new addition of a pancake unceremoniously shlepped on top with a slice of raw capsicum as "garnish". Finally a meal. My logic told me that since I waited this long it was stupid not to try and enjoy it.

I was about to get started when the waitress can back to the table with the yellow bill in her hand. 'Thats nice' I though, we will not have to pay. After all the whole performance had been pretty bad. But no, it only gets worse. The waitress informed me that when I ordered, a good 50minutes ago, I was not charged for the pancake and as I now had one I would have to pay the extra $3 for it. I am not kidding. I just stared at her blankly. After serving two meals 30minutes apart and getting my order wrong they wanted me to pay for the pancake?
"Yes, it is $3" the waitress again informed me, poking at the scrawled upon piece of paper to legitimise her request. In that kind of circumstance there is nothing more you can do than just pay the lady.

Somehow I final ate most of my totally unworthy noodles and chewy pancake determined to try and enjoy some part of it, which I didn't, and just get home. At least I had good company and plenty of time to catch up with a friend. Perhaps next time I will bend rule number two and just let someone have it.

Edamame on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Trang

Beef brisket Pho with Vietnamese coffee. Photo from
Thursday evening I was craving a really good vietnamese Pho. The previous night I had discovered a packet form of Pho at my local asian grocer. This packet promised an authentic Pho where my only contribution to what is normally a day long process would be to add beef stock, herbs and noodles. Big mistake. Once you have tasted really great Pho there is no way that your taste buds will settle for less. It would be like pouring passion pop into a Moet bottle and drinking it. So, not satisfied by the salt and MSG ridden impostor I had previously ingested I went in search of some truly great vietnamese food. 

Luckily, Brisbane has some of the best vietnamese food outside of Indochine itself. Trang which is located on Hardgrave Rd in West End is by far the best there is. It is all you could want in a good viet joint. Really great cheap, fast, fresh food, in a family run setting that is suitably kitsch and casual with its compulsory plastic chairs, laminated menus, melamine plates and weird bamboo posters. Now, before I launch into a love letter about their food there is two things you need to know about Trang. Don't worry it is nothing like there are rats, or that no-one speaks english. Firstly parking is a bitch. Westend parking is now premium as too many hipsters are getting tired of their "fixie" bikes and are buying cars. So you will have to trawl for a park in some side street.Secondly, BOOK AHEAD! I don't care if it is a rainy tuesday night, you really, really have to book. Otherwise prepare to join the large hoard of over hungry diners outside waiting for a table. This is a good way to make friends if you have none, but it is otherwise a torturous wait outside while you watch everyone else slurp down some delicious chow. So, don't be lazy and just give them a call during the day really is not hard.

So now that is done, the food. Really if it is your first time to Trang you have to order a Pho, there a about five variations smack bang on the front page of the laminated menu. Do not be tempted to order from the chinese section as it is really just there to appease those who "don't want none of that weird soupy stuff. Do ya have any sweet and sour pork?". It is a vietnamese restaurant, so order what the vietnamese do best, Pho. To those unacquainted with this staple of the vietnamese diet, Pho is a rich clear beef based broth with rice noodles, beef shin, thinly sliced rare beef, basil and mint. All across vietnam this hearty dish is slurped down from early hours of the morning to late at night. 

Because I am a greedy individual I love Trang's Pho with rare beef and fatty brisket. There is a great combination of fatty melting brisket and just cooked lean beef. Plus you have a little melamine tray with the usual accompaniments of basil, lemon, chilli and bean sprouts. I normally choose to go heavily on the herbs, lemon and bean sprouts and I use the fluorescent red chill sauce on the table instead of the actual chilli. If you don't want to eat Pho, there are plenty of other really great options. There vietnamese salads are great and unusually generous with the protein component as are all their other soups. My sister particularly likes their sugar cane prawn salad which has grilled little balls of sweet prawns with lots of crunchy fresh salad and vermicelli noodles. As are anything porky or with duck. 

Pork hock thick noodle soup

I would also really recommend ordering a vietnamese coffee even if it is just to watch the sweet strong expresso drip down out of its cute little coffee maker. Vietnamese coffee is already on the sweet side but clearly not sweet enough for the vietnamese as you have a generous layer of condensed milk in the bottom of the glass which you stir in after all the coffee has dripped through. If it is too sweet ask for it without, but really you are missing out on something great, teeth rotting, but great. 

I hope, after you have bothered to read all the way through this, I have encouraged you to give Trang a go. It simple don't cook tonight, give them a call and get over to West End and grab yourself a steaming bowl of joy. 

Trang on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 3, 2011

eat your greens

Welcome back to the first of a thirteen week slog which is semester 1. Not only has your delicate student 11am sleep ritual been cast away, but now you are forced to deal with first years, group assignments, trying to solve the enigma which is installing eduroam and of course the tropical heat and humidity. 

Don't sweat it! -figuratively that is- we all know that there is not enough rexona in the world to do that right now. Lucky for you I have a couple of excellent little salady gems waiting in the wings to cure your heatwave induced hunger. Not only are you doing your summer figure a favour but also indulging in something which will leave you feeling a great deal better inside and out than those hot chips or that nasty processed chicken thing you were looking at before ever will. They also keep pretty well so not only do you have a wonderful dinner but a lunch that will out perform any tuna and crackers. 

Salad 1: Broccoli and Bacon 

Broccoli is in abundance at the moment and it is a great little all season performer. At some point the bane of every 3 year olds dinner experience it is actually fantastic and its little florets soak up any tasty sauce you throw at it. Oh and not to mention that it is jam packed with vitamin C, iron and folic acid. 

- two medium bunches of broccoli and cut into smaller "mini trees"
- 200g of bacon 
- 100ml of greek yoghurt
- the juice of half a lemon 
- salt, pepper
- a handful of either toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds 

In a pot of salted water which has come to a rolling boil put in your broccoli trees. When they have become bright green and the stems slightly softer (about 2-3mins) pull them out and plunge them into an ice bath to stop them cooking. 

Cook the bacon till crisp then allow to dry on some kitchen paper then either crumble or slice into strips.

In a bowl mix the greek yoghurt with the lemon juice and season to taste. 

Then drain the broccoli and mix in the ingredients till nicely combined, seasoning again if needed. 

And there you have it, one super easy very healthy salad. Really your only challenge now is not picking out all the bacon before you put it on the table.