Saturday, 29 September 2012

Basket & Green

Taking a break from study is difficult this close to exam time. However, I am easily persuaded that quality learning is fuelled by quality food! That being said, AJ and I jumped in the car and drove around Salamanca, Battery Point, North Hobart and finally ended up in Elizabeth Street, Hobart CBD deciding that 'Basket & Green' was going to be our provider of sustenance this morning. 

The cafe is a small outfit boasting a menu of about 10 items all featuring quality produce. We opted for the French Toast and the Rosti with Poached Egg. The French toast was served with a quenelle of mascarpone, berries and drizzled with organic honey and caramelised walnuts. It was a great example of the ingredients, a little 'eggy' for AJ but a good dish nonetheless. I had the Rosti stack, which was a generous serving of herbed potato pan fried with spinach, bacon and a poached egg on top. Around the plate a large Huon mushroom, tomato and some pesto. The Rosti was not as crispy as I would have liked and the overall serving size was a little small for the price paid. 

A good breakfast/lunch cafe with some other menu items I'd be keen to try the next time we visit!

Basket & Green on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Kirrihill @ Smolt

Tonight marked another visit to Smolt in the Salamanca strip. This visit was for the Kirrihill Wine dinner which was an excellent pairing of great value wines with quality produce. To those who are unfamiliar with Smolt please have a quick read of my prior blog on this venue but a quick explanation of this restaurant is a Modern Australia/Spanish fusion with plenty of skill in the kitchen and a modern layout that is simultaneously intimate. 

As AJ and I arrived we were provided a glass of the Non Vintage Kirrihill Pinot Noir Rose Brut. A strawberry coloured slightly dry rose that was crisp and perfectly complimented the canapĂ© of school prawns and crispy whitebait. 

Next, we were seated in the main restaurant for the first course of the evening. The wines were a Kirrihill Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines were smooth and well paired with the rich flavours of our entree. The entree was a confit salmon, served with a  thin slice of cured pork with a garnish of fennel, herb and almond salad. The salmon was amazingly soft, falling apart with the slightest prod of the fork and melted in your mouth with a rich buttery flavour to satisfy the tastebuds. The contrast with the cured pork, crisp almonds and fresh fennel added a delicious textural element to the dish. 

The next course provided the red wines for the night; a full bodied Shiraz and a powerful Cabernet that quite honestly overpowered this blogger's palate. The tannins from the Tullymore Vineyard Kirrihill Cabernet removed the drinkers' ability to enjoy the entry. While the wine was definitely drinkable, this particular wine did not meet the standard of the other wines on show. Both reds were served with the main of the evening; a slow braised beef cheek with white bean puree, gramolata and parsley. The beef was succulent, full of deep beef flavour with the balance of the gramolata and parsley to off-set its richness. The white bean puree was creamy and created a fuller spectrum of flavours from buttery, floury, white beans through to the caramelised beef check that coated the diner's mouth with a complex mix of acidity and freshness of lemon zest. 

Finally, the Chocolate marquis was the hero dish of the evening. Served with a sweet and aromatic Riesling with hints of pineapple and strawberry the decedent square of chocolate was perfectly complimented with coconut sorbet and figs. This dish contained three simple components that met to create a meeting of flavours that was outstanding. 

The skilled palates of the Smolt kitchen were undoubtedly on show tonight and their talents in pairing menu offerings to whatever challenges winemakers bring to their restaurant were answered in providing a delicious treat for those dining this evening. After tonight, I can only look forward to the next opportunity to enjoy what this clever bunch create.

Smolt on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Blue Cafe Bar Restaurant

Early this overcast Sunday morning, AJ and I packed the car to head back to Hobart and thought we'd grab a bite to eat before we drove home. Down amongst the University of Tasmania School of Art Campus and the Launceston Tram yards is a busy little cafe, Blue Cafe Bar and Restaurant. A modern building with plenty of natural light and some interesting local artworks Blue is a trendy little spot to grab a coffee or a full-blown breakfast feast.

We thought we'd do the latter which was a great choice. AJ grabbed the Vanilla & Cinnamon hotcake served with a generous scoop of ice cream, berries and some candied walnuts. I selected the 'Full breakfast' which consisted of two poached eggs on sourdough, a cheese kransky, a thick-cut 'slab' of bacon, mushrooms and grilled tomato. Our restaurant-savvy friends who are locals (and suggested our breakfast venue) ordered the Honey & Almond Granola served with vanilla panacotta and raspberry 'fizz' and the Salmon Gravlax.

All dishes were received excellent feedback. The eggs were poached perfectly. The bacon was lean and crisp. Each plate was  a great example of breakfast dining that was not the same old stuff done over and over. AJ's hotcake was aromatic and the flavours were outstanding - she couldn't finish it all though so we had to help her out. 

Now that we've been exposed to the wonders of this little cafe we'll be back next time we're in Launceston!

Blue Cafe Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon


AJ and I made our way up last night to Launceston. Toro's was the dining choice, a Spanish restaurant in the Charles Street strip. The terracotta tiles, a mix of red and yellow throughout adds a uniqueness and embodies the Spanish theme. 

The menus are impressive with tapas, pizza, a la carte and steak options. These selections make Toro's a family-friendly venue with something for anyone and also caters for those with special dietary requirements. 
Keen to give the menu a bit a decent sampling AJ and I ordered the some selections of the tapas menu for a starter; Salt & Pepper Calamari, Baby ribs, Champignon Mushrooms, Patatas in Aioli and some Yoghurt Chicken skewers. 
The tapas plates were all served with a salad garnish. The calamari was tender and in a light tempura style batter. Each plate was well prepared but just didn't have the character at nearly $10 a plate that I expected. To be fair, my critique is based on a comparison to higher-priced Hobart restaurants like the Mill on Morrison and Ethos. The menu is not pitched as fine dining so while my palate may not have been excited, diners who enjoy clean and balanced flavours will yet enjoy Toro's tapas. 

 Next we thought we'd have something a bit more substantial off the a la carte menu so we ordered the Paella and the Lamb Fillet. 

The Paella comes in four varieties but due to AJ holding strong to her hatred of all things remotely fishy the traditional seafood paella was off limits. So we opted for the Zamorana which was a Paella with chorizo, ham, meatballs and chicken. The vegetables were fresh and cleansing, the rice was perfect and the entire dish was underpinned by a mildly spicy tomato sauce. A good traditional-Paella-substitute that received positive reviews from all the other diners at our table. 

My main was the Lamb Fillet, and it was impressive. Served grilled (medium) on a potato tortilla with some roasted vegetables and a rich jus. The lamb was tender and superbly cooked. The jus was seasoned with rosemary and accompanied it perfectly making each mouthful a joy. 

The restaurant's atmosphere and expansive menu really does make it a winner for those in big groups (there was a party of about 30 at the table next to ours). The price structure is very fair with drinks being some of the most reasonably priced I've seen in some time. Because of the fusion of cuisine and an accomodating layout it is a restaurant in a category of it's own and really something worth trying when you're next in Launceston. 

Toro's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Cargo Bar Pizza Lounge

It's coming up to exam time for this sorry blogger and unluckily this means little time for food outings and even less motivation for trialling out dishes in the kitchen.

AJ and I decided to return to one of our favorite pizza spots, Cargo at Salamanca. Now, there are plenty of pizza outlets in Hobart - and I must say the quality is quite high. But if you're in the mood for some different takes on classics or a even a dessert pizza Cargo's wood fired range is sure to impress.

We trialled the 'Volcano', the 'Breezy Brie' and the Chocolate truffled pizza whose name escapes me. Each pizza came on a thin and crispy base, topped with fresh quality ingredients. They passed the ultimate indicator of a good pizza: the 'grease test'. No soggy cardboard box so you can feel a little less guilty about being in pizza heaven.

Many folks will scoff and say 'a pizza is a pizza', but I say give them a try next time your in Salamanca or grab some to take home to enjoy!

Cargo Bar Pizza Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Me Wah

As you drive along Sandy Bay Road in Hobart past the popular Salamanca and Battery Point restaurant scene you enter a mix of takeaway outlets, supermarkets, butchers & bakeries, restaurants and local cafes. In amongst this suburban shopping strip is 'Magnet Court' which is also home to a previously restaurant I've blogged about, Don Camillo.

Walking into the restaurant you are greeted by two stone chinese lions either side of decorative frosted glass doors. Inside, the restaurant is no different with beautiful authentic Chinese furniture, pottery and wall art that achieves a look that is rarely well-executed. 

Admittedly, prior to me starting this blog - AJ and I have been to Me Wah time and time again and the reason is quite simple, it is some of the best Asian cuisine you will find in Australia. Their wine selection is critically acclaimed and the restaurant has been repeatedly awarded in a number magazines and surveys. 

Me Wah can be enjoyed in either yum cha on the weekends, a la carte, banquet or take away. One of the most refreshing points about the restaurant is that the quality of the dishes regardless of how and when you have them is outstanding. 

Tonight we opted for one of the banquet selections. AJ and I were dining with friends and decided to go for the basic selection of entrees, soup, lamb, pork, chicken, beef, rice, noodles and dessert. This selection is titled the 'Bamboo' ($55/head), although there are plenty of other options for seafood lovers ($75/head) or for those who want to sample some of Tasmania's premier exports prepared in the Chinese style ($120/head). 

On to the meal:

On the first plate; a chicken spring roll, pork dim sim and barbeque duck puff. The next; a serving of chicken and sweet corn soup.

The third plate; baby lamb cutlet cooked in sake, garlic and chilli. The next; thinly sliced char sui pork.

The fifth plate; sautéed chicken breast with macadamia and snow peas - this was served with a fried rice with plenty of fresh vegetables.

The sixth plate; seared eye fillet with a black bean sauce -  this was served with a heap of Singapore noodles.

The seventh plate; fried vanilla ice cream with a caramel sauce and a serve of coffee (or tea).

The banquet service at Me Wah is different in that the dishes are run in a quasi-degustation style. Foods are paired together and not just dumped on the table all at once for diners to fight over. On the subject of service, Me Wah's waitstaff are impeccably trained and you will not go thirsty (even if it's just a top up of tap water) or need for anything under their watchful eye. 

The quality of our meals on this evening was consistent with our past experiences. Each dish was expertly prepared, there was thought and attention that went into every element and the quality of the produce (even where you may expect cheaper cuts) was superb.  

Each visit to Me Wah only affirms my adoration for their menu, service and dedication to delivering the best Chinese cuisine in this island state. 

Me Wah on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Home Hill Winery

Today was a beautiful sunny (albeit windy) day in Hobart. 

AJ and I decided to roam further than our usual inner CBD eateries and drove down south to Huonville. Here, you will find a bunch of great fruit and vegetable stands, quirky little homesteads and many farming properties which is a great contrast to the suburban Hobart landscape but only a half hour drive away. 

Now, Tasmania is known by many wine aficionados to be Pinot Heaven and for good reason too! In the Huon region you will find some wineries spruiking their wares but none as well known as Home Hill winery - a multi-award winning winery that is set in. picturesque Ranelagh.

The winery comprises a restaurant, function centre and vines all around. A beautifully designed main building with plenty of natural light, exposed wooden and steel beams and water features makes the place an enticing eatery. There are plenty of wines to taste other than Pinots and many are worth stocking up on if you're visiting.

Now on to the meal: we ordered some sourdough to kick things off, shared a plate of braised beef cheek, mains were gnocchi and duck and had some desserts of chocolate terrine and panacotta.

The entree was presented with crispy sweet potato shavings, vine-ripened tomatoes, moist and rich beef cheek (that pulled apart with the slightest prod of the fork) all atop a creamy sweet potato puree. This dish was a great example of beautifully prepared beef cheek, all flavour and no nonsense. 

The Gnocchi was a rich main of light potato, vine ripened tomatoes, shallots peas, parmesan and brie . 

The brie, parmesan and cream made for a somewhat overwhelmingly decadent sauce but the addition of the tomatoes, peas and shallots cleansed the palate. 

The serving size for a dish of this type would be probably best to share. 

Moving on to the duck breast which was the real winner of the day. 

Beautifully rendered down duck breast with slight caramelisation on the skin but left tender throughout the meat. This was served atop of a rich parsnip puree, broccolini and some more of those crispy sweet potato shavings.

After all of that richness - it only made sense to up the ante! So AJ and I decided to grab some desserts.

A generous block of baked chocolate terrine served with two scoops of sorbet; one mixed berry the other blood orange. The latter was a cleansing and delicious compliment to the dark, smooth and devilish terrine.

The panacotta was creamy and had a superbly balanced texture. It was served with some fresh berries, mixed berry sorbet and was an excellent example of a dish that can be difficult to accomplish. At the end of all that we decided that our next meal was definitley not going to be on our minds (probably for a few days). 

The quality of the produce, the relaxing winery setting and the skill in which the food is prepared makes Home Hill's restaurant a worthwhile visit for anyone travelling the Huon trail. 

Even if you're not a wino before you visit, you'll enjoy the meal and may even discover a love for some Pinots, Chardonnays or even a delicious Rose.

Home Hill Winery Restaurant on Urbanspoon