Archive for February, 2010

The Cooktop Dilemma

Posted in Home Improvement, Life with tags on February 9, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

The husband and I are in the midst of planning for our new kitchen, and one of our biggest headaches at the moment is finding the right stove. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we’ve got a few criteria that needs to be fulfilled and despite the wide array of stoves available to us – both Australian- and European-made – this has proven to be a much greater challenge than we imagined!

First off, these are the things we look for in a stove:

A. 90cm, 5 or 6 burners
B. Must have a wok-burner of at least 15mj/h, but ideally 17mj/h and above.
C. The wok-burner must be on the side panel and not the middle, and if coupled with a smaller burner in the same panel, it needs to be in front
D. The dials should ideally be at the front and not the side. Dials on the side just mean space wastage.

Just 4 simple criteria and almost nothing we’ve seen really meets them all. Now meet the Highland cooktop:

The 6-burner Highland Cooktop

There is the Highland that we’ve been looking at and ogling over – it is perfect. It truly is a work of art with 6 burners, 2 x 22mj/h wok-burners, and is about 98cm long. There is ample room on the stove with each burner well-spaced out from the other, and the husband and I can finally work side by side without a fight! But with a price tag that could afford us a trip to the moon and back, we’ve unfortunately had to shelve away any hope of owning one and explore other options.

Then there’s the Ilves. The Mieles. The Boschs. The Blancos. The Smegs.

We’ve pretty much ruled out the common-brand Blancos and Smegs. Price-wise, they don’t come cheap but they are not much different from the Electroluxes or Westinghouses. So that leaves us with Ilve and Miele.

We’re leaning more towards an Ilve because we just like to be anti-establishment – there’s too much hype about Miele and the specs don’t seem to justify the price tag. I’ve heard that Miele is a good brand, but how good is good and are they really worth the price? On the other hand, while Ilve seems like a good brand to go by, I haven’t heard much about it.

So Ilve? Miele? What other brands are worth checking out? What would you recommend and why?

I Ate At MoVida And I Liked It

Posted in Food Reviews, Restaurants, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags , on February 2, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

(image taken from movida.com.au)

I can still remember the first time I went to MoVida last year; Next Door had not yet opened and a table booking for two in their puny Hosier Lane hideout was one of Melbourne’s most prized possessions at that time. It probably still is. So when we happened to find ourselves a table booking for two on a Wednesday night, we hesistated not and went straight for it.

I can still recall the tiny tables crammed into that tiny space like a tin of sardines. It was dark, it was bustling, it was kinda novel, almost sexy.

Then the food. I can’t quite recall what we ordered, but I do remember being rather unimpressed with whatever we did. The food wasn’t bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly wasn’t worth the incredulously long waiting list. The brusque waiter didn’t help either, and I remember walking out of the restaurant feeling a little bit jaded by the fact that this was yet another over-raved, over-rated restaurant. One down; how many more to go?

Fast forward to yesterday. The husband’s friend is back in town and a few of us congregated at the new MoVida Aqui in Bourke Street. I wasn’t keen, to be honest; after all, chefs have this thing about opening their restaurants in threes and it’s only proved to be the start of disaster (I shan’t name names). I had my doubts that MoVida would impress, particularly if they’d failed to nail it in their first restaurant (in my books anyway).

Anyway. We got there. We got our menus. And it was a tad overwhelming. Every nook and cranny of the menu sheet was crammed with dishes and descriptions. There were dishes to share, dishes off the grill, individually portioned ones, paellas and goodness knows what else. Trying to decipher the menu was one thing; trying to decipher a menu and decide on what to eat on an empty stomach at 8 in the evening was a whole new ball game altogether!

So we did the next best thing by asking the waiter for his recommendations. I loved our waiter. He was pretty humourous and duly explained the menu to us. Not that our hungry stomachs caught half of what he said, but he was great to suggest what he thought were the really good, must-try, or you-can-skip-thats. In the end we gave him the reigns and let him do the ordering for us. And then of course, we had the paella del marisco, the quintessential Spanish classic of a seafood paella.

This is what we ended up ordering (names and descriptions I took from their website because there’s no way I can recall the names of all that we ate!):

  1. Ostra ($18/half dozen) – Oysters. Served with manzanilla and watermelon dressing. The sweetness of the watermelon and the tartness of the (don’t-know-what) jelly complemented the creaminess of the oyster nicely. Nice, but not outrageous.
  2. Choco ($15.50) – Cuttlefish on the plancha with onion and squid ink sauce. This was definitely one of the highlights. The calamari was tender, and the sauce, with the onions having been reduced and cleverly melded into the squid ink, was gold. It was thick and sweet and rich!
  3. Vieira ($16/3 pieces)- Scallops grilled with jamon on pisto, braised manchego style vegetables. Scallops were very fresh, and sandwiched between a thin slice of jamon and a ratatouille-like vegetable bed. Fresh flavours were the highlight.
  4. Xato ($17.50/4 pieces) – Grilled tuna with a black olive crust, romesco sauce and endive. I liked the tuna, again for its freshness, but the black olive crust didn’t do anything to impress me. I was expecting a stronger presence from the olives but didn’t get any. The romesco sauce had an interesting texture, though flavour wise it tasted like unseasoned, non-spicy chilli paste. Once again, freshness was the highlight of the dish, but I can very easily get a good tuna steak from the market and do it at home myself.
  5. Paella del Marisco ($48/2-4 people; $92/4-6 people) – Bomba rice cooked with seafood and saffron. The quintessential Spanish seafood paella. This was the highlight of the night (I’ll talk about desserts later). The serving was more than enough even for 5 hungry people as we had other dishes to share, and it was chockful of fish, prawns, and clams.  The rice had a fantastic bite to it, it wasn’t at all soggy or mushy. The seafood was fresh as could be, and even the fish (which normally comes out the worst in any seafood combo) was delightful. My only gripe is the lack of a good and crispy charred base but all was forgiven as the rest of the dish made up for what was lacking. I also noticed on their menu the salt cod, rabbit and artichoke paella which is on my must-eat list for the next time I return.

A pity we were so engrossed in our food that we forgot to take any pictures whatsoever, so you’re just gonna have to trust me on this one. You may also have noticed the absence of meat on the menu. The lamb and the goat came highly recommended by the waiter, but having left the call of duty in ordering our food in his hands, he told us that he wanted us to finish our meals first before he went ahead to put through the meat orders because he’d figured we might actually be REALLY full! Good call, Mr. Waiter! And great honesty too!

Now onto desserts…there is ALWAYS room for dessert and that’s no myth. We had our eyes set on 2 things: a trifle with macerated strawberries and almonds, that’s been heavily-infused with Pedro Ximenez (there isn’t a dessert menu online and so I can’t provide you with the names!), and the Valrhona chocolate mousse.

According to Mr. Waiter, all the desserts came highly recommended, but if he had to choose, he’d go with the churros, the flan and the pineapple granita. We went with the flan (in addition to the first 2).

And here’s the verdict:

  1. Trifle – It was pleasantly fruity, and nicely balanced with cream, sponge and alcohol. It was however not a strong winner in my books but nonetheless good.
  2. Valrhona chocolate mousse – Forget about this one. This was quite a disappointment. I think we were blinded by the word “Valrhona”. The chocolate was too mild and it was a wimpy dish (I like my chocolate dark and robust). They can’t be faulted for texture and technique though. It was light and airy. It also came with a pistachio biscuit and poached apricot, but we would have been more grateful for a generous sprinkling of freshly-roasted pistachios instead.
  3. Flan – This was an absolute winner! I’d never tasted custard this good and it was heavenly. I was secretly thanking my lucky stars that this was placed right in front of me so I could keep digging at it without being noticed that I’d taken more than my fair share of the dessert. MUAHAHA! The  sm000000ooth custard sliding down my throat was simply sensational. It had the right amount of sweetness to it and ohboy this. was. damn. good.

We realised soon enough that we should’ve followed Mr. Waiter’s recommendations and decide to repent by adding another one of the two remaining recommended desserts to our table. We went with the churros. The churros were great (crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside) but the chocolate dip was again disappointing. I’ve always loved my churros with a dark chocolate sauce but this one was almost milky with barely a hint of chocolate taste to it. I don’t know, but maybe that’s how the Spanish like their chocolato!

It was on the whole a thoroughly enjoyable dinner and apart from the disappointing chocolate mousse, I loved every dish on our table that night. It for one has certainly changed my mind about the institution. I do apologise for the wordy, picture-less post but photos or not, I knew I certainly had to blog about this one!

So now that I’m going to head back for more, any kind sponsors out there?