Khao Soi Nuea

When I was in Thailand, Khao Soi was one of my favourite dishes. While it’s a Northern Thai specialty, I found a couple of places in Bangkok serving a fantastic Khao Soi. Some were even better than ones I had in the capital of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai. When I returned home, I knew it was the first dish I had to learn how to recreate.

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Mamaku Kitchen, Clayfield

A Mother’s cooking is a powerful thing. It can evoke feelings of comfort, safety and love knowing it has been made with care and especially for you. This is the kind of food I could eat every week. And that’s what I found in Mamaku: It’s a family Indonesian restaurant owned by a son, with his mother behind the stoves and his father joining him on the floor.

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The Long Apron, Montville

At the same time each year my family and I venture to The Long Apron, located in a small town called Montville in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Each time we dine there we are stunned by the creativity of the food, the professionalism of the service and the pure bliss of the setting. 

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Tickets, Spain

Known as one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get a reservation at, I challenged myself with the task of booking a table for four during our trip to Barcelona. After many fruitless attempts, I finally secured a booking near the end of the trip. This would be our last Michelin-starred dinner in Barcelona. Will all the effort be worth it?

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Disfrutar, Spain

After I missed out on going to one of the world’s greatest restaurants, El Bulli, which closed its doors in 2011, I kept a close eye on the chefs to see where they would go. While many ex El-Bulli chefs are now scattered across the globe, three of the main chefs stuck together and opened two restaurants, one in Northern Catalonia in a seaside town called Cadaqués and one in Barcelona. During my visit to Barcelona, there was no way I would miss visiting this restaurant!

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Restaurant Sant Pau, Spain

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Following only days after our meal at ‘The World’s Best Restaurant’, Sant Pau had to meet a very high benchmark in order to impress us. Interestingly, the restaurant doesn’t feature in the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, yet they have maintained three Michelin stars since 2006. On top of this, the owner and head chef Carme Ruscellada has the most Michelin stars for a woman in the world! I pondered if the list had made a huge mistake.

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Season

I wasn’t sure if it was just pure luck, perfect timing or a little bit of both but two 16 year olds managed to grab the best seat in the house at Noosa’s beachside restaurant, Season. Having front row seats overlooking the iconic Noosa Beach led to a few funny faces from beach goers as they eyed two ‘kids’ downing some freshly shucked oysters and half-shell scallops. Their faces still make me chuckle to this day!

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My mate Aidan joined me again for this meal as he did for Betty’s Burgers too and he strongly suggested we start with the garlic, chilli & parsley pizza ($14) after both enjoying this dish last time we were there. The pizza was crispy and had enough garlic to add a kick but I found it was lacking in chilli to deliver a punch.

With such a great view of the water I decided to fully immerse myself in the beachside holiday spirit and ordered 5 freshly shucked oysters with chardonnay vinegar, dill and shallots ($19). The vinaigrette was tangy and contrasted well with the plump oysters. I only wish I could have been old enough to enjoy a nice Champagne to go with the beautiful oysters.

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Aidan, being a massive fan of scallops, ordered poached Hervey Bay half shell scallops with white soy, kombu, ginger, spring onions, coriander ($25). He thought the scallops were perfectly cooked and paired nicely with the sharp white soy sauce. While he didn’t struggle with the chilli on the garlic bread he did struggle with the chopped up chilli on top of the scallops and called for another lemon lime bitters.

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After a light and refreshing entrée I decided to order a rich main of pan roasted rolled pork belly, roast Moreton bay bug tail, baby purple carrots, sprouts, cider crème fraiche ($37). The pork was delectably unctuous with plenty of fatty goodness, however, it was let down by the crackling which was too hard to even bite. The Moreton bay bug was nicely cooked and added a ‘surf’ element to the dish.

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Aidan ordered crispy beer battered fish & chips, tartare sauce, lemon
($29), which he thought delivered with crispy batter but commented that the chips needed more salt.

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After two filling courses we decided to forgo dessert. A great view of the water and a pared back holiday menu makes Season a crowd pleaser for the many who flock to Noosa all year round.

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Kwan Brothers

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There are benefits to dining early. It’s 6pm, Saturday night in Fortitude Valley. Like-minded hungry, eager patrons make their way into either three of restaurateur Damian Griffiths’ Alfred Street establishments, us included. Deciding to dine early at the newly-opened Asian eatery, Kwan Brothers, was a stroke of genius. It ensured the best seat in the house, a spot up on a high bench with full view of the open kitchen in range of all the fragrant smells wafting from the grill.

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Behind us, a large wall is adorned with drawings and photos of Asian pop culture identities (yes, Psy is there, doing Gangnam style of course) and large communal tables sporting bare tabletops fill up as the night progresses. Above us, neon lights are studded around the room and disco balls are positioned at the entrance signifying passage into another paradox.

The menu has an eclectic range of Asian food drawing culinary influence from the hawker stands in Singapore to the Izakayas of Tokyo.

Piping hot, crispy duck spring rolls arrive first ($14.90) and are packed with plenty of juicy shredded duck meat and shitake mushrooms, which blend well with the accompanying sweet and tangy plum dipping sauce.

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Soon after, two soft shell crab baos ($12.90) arrive with the right ratio of bun to filling, crisp crab and a delicious unique chili jam sharply flavoured with shrimp paste.

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Charcoal grilled lamb ribs ($14.90) delivered with an eye-pleasing burnt char and long strips of pickled ginger, bring a hit of sweet and sour and crunch to the tender ribs.

Grilled ground beef in betel leaf ($14.90) is a ‘you would either love it or hate it’ kind of dish, with an intricate flavour underlining the ground beef. Some kind of mushroom or fungus perhaps?

The star of the night went to the crispy pork belly with watermelon and sweet ginger ($25.90). The refreshing watermelon cubes enriched with a sticky syrup counteracted the fattiness of the unctuous pork belly, making me wonder why this is only the first time I have seen this flavour combo.

Southern Thai Massaman Lamb curry ($25.90) lacked sufficient lamb shank meat and roasted sweet potato, but made up for it in its well-balanced creamy curry sauce.

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The night would only be complete after squeezing in the bao ice cream sandwiches ($14.90), which are presented as three different ice cream flavours: palm sugar and ginger; toasted sesame; and pandan. Sharing between two? Trust me, it is worth fighting for.

Service was knowledgeable and personable but perhaps a case of over-serving.

Each course arrived nicely spaced out so as not to overcrowd the small bar space in front, somewhat contradicting the traditional Asian banquet style of eating. Kwan Brothers has already made a huge splash on the Brisbane food scene, aptly named the winner of the ‘Best Food Under $30’ category in the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2014.

Dine early, sit at the bar (if you can) and fall into the fun, kooky, Asian charm of Kwan Brothers.

Kwan Brothers

Ambience: 9
Food: 8
Service: 7
Value: 7

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Locale

It was that time of the year again, when we relocate to Noosa for a long weekend to attend the spectacular Noosa Good Food & Wine Festival. As usual I had the task of choosing one ‘special’ restaurant for dinner. I had kept my eye on a few Noosa restaurants throughout the year and been watching the development of a newly opened Italian restaurant, Locale, which was conveniently attached to our apartment block. Locale did not disappoint and proved once again to my family that I make great dining decisions.

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On the Friday of the festival I worked with a few of my favourite chefs at an event. Both Alastair McLeod and Philip Johnson told me how delicious their meals were at Locale the night before which got me really excited for our visit the following night.

We made our way downstairs to the restaurant and I was surprised by the dimness of the room owing to the dark brown walls and soft lighting. Happily I discovered that the table we were allocated had excellent light in which to take a quick photograph of the dishes. We decided we would share two entrees, have a main each and share a dessert.

We started with the roasted barnyard Quail, soft polenta, fontina, vermouth infused grapes, upland cress ($25). It was so moreish and I wished I had have had the whole entree to myself. The quail was perfectly cooked and the polenta was delicate, soft and smooth. The grapes added an extra dimension of sweetness to the dish, although I wished there were more.

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The other entrée was the Beef Carpaccio, Reggiano, lemon, celery, white truffle infused oil ($23). I loved how simple the dish was, letting the beef quality and fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Mum and I both agreed that a touch more seasoning would have lifted it to a higher level.

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I had weighed up a few dishes for my main but finally decided on the Porchetta: High country slow roasted pork belly, roasted butternut puree, hazelnut, caramelised baby onion, celery, cress and apple salad ($36). The pork was impeccably cooked with its rich and fatty flavours counteracted by a fresh salad and sweet caramelised onions. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch and the smooth roasted pumpkin puree complimented the pork perfectly.

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Mum chose the Taglioni al fruitti di mare: Tagiolini, Mooloolaba king prawns, scallops, crab meat, fish pieces, Noosa Reds cherry tomatoes, seafood bisque ($36). She praised how well-seasoned the dish was along with all the perfectly cooked seafood, an outcome not easily accomplished with having to cook all the individual seafood items.

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Dad’s eyes lit up when he read his favourite dish on the menu, Vitello, limone e burro: Sage and Prosciutto wrapped veal tenderloin, asparagus, semolina gnocchi, lemon butter ($38). Dad, when he has time on his hands, makes a great saltimbocca (as it is otherwise known) at home but at Locale he especially loved the addition of the gnocchi.

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The Princess enjoyed her classic margherita pizza ($18) which strangely disappeared quickly for the fussy eater. Signs of a great pizza!

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Earlier that morning, I saw a Philip Johnson recipe in the paper for a classic tiramisu and questioned if I had actually ever eaten one before. When I saw it on the Locale menu, I had to order it.

The Locale Tiramisu ($16) turned out not to be as classic as Philip Johnson’s tiramisu but still looked and tasted amazing. I especially loved the different textures with the crumbly chocolate soil, crisp brandy snap and the little crunchy chocolate bits hidden in the soft creamy mascarpone.

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We were booked into the early sitting, though we never felt rushed with the pace of the dinner, and after dessert my parents thought they would have a limoncello (or two}, so were relocated to a comfortable chair outside and I took the Princess to our apartment as she was getting sleepy.

In its short time of operation, Locale has already made huge splash on the dining scene in Noosa. I would humbly suggest that it is the must-visit restaurant for all Noosa holiday goers.

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