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  1. I've been watching Wille's Wonky Chocolate Factory on Discovery Travel and Living (the story of an eccentric english man who buys a Venezuelian cacao plantation and has a passion to bring real unadulatered chocolate back to the UK.... and it tastes darn good from the small piece I bought from Selfridges whilst on holidays there). Any way, I've now discovered where to buy raw cacoa beans and nibs in Asia, but I'm at a loss to know what to do with it (apart from eat it raw, which is a guilty pleausure). What do people do with it? Willie adds it to roast cauliflower, mince pies, chicken parma, etc. Suggestions please!
  2. I had just spent 30 minutes typing you a longish reply.... but lost it.... so in haste now, I won't repeat it, especially as most of my response focussed on either Asian restaurants or pubs, and I don't know if that will fit your. I'll just post some links which could be helpful in your search for budget-friendly - yet tasty - family fare: China Town: there's a link later in this forum listing some Chinatown gems such as Supper Club, Spicy Fish, etc. Not good for vegetarians though, as I've tried before to take vego friends with much difficulty. Lygon St: this is the little Italy of Melbourne. It's worth walking down even just for a look, and no doubt you'll be sucked into a restaurant to eat metres of pizza! Lental as Anything, St Kilda: this is just near Luna Park, and is vegetarian, but an 'out of this world' type of vegetarian. The price is not set. You pay what you think it deserves. From Brunwick or the city, you can get the 96 tram all the way there, and the tram ride if absolutely worth it for the views too. They also have a branch in Abbotsford http://www.lentilasanything.com/ Nudel Bar, Bourke St: Funky and trendy cafe, serving all types of creative noodle dishes between $15 to $25 a bowl.... from Asian Char Kway Teow to Western Bolagnaise, with a twist. Don't leave without having dessert! That's my favourite bit, and no doubt they will deliver a feast. The Age Cheap Eats Guide 2009: Find yourself a copy of this food bible which lists 500+ restaurants where you can eat for less than $30pp, and you'll find many around the areas where you're staying. http://www.readings.com.au/product/9780143011316/the-age-cheap-eats-2009 Other websites with some gems: I'm too lazy to retype my suggestions and descriptions for lunches, but these two websites cover a lot of what I would have said, especially Giraffe, Rose Garden BBQ, Pho, and Central CLub Hotel: http://www.verycheapeats.com/ http://matthayward.com/2009/06/30/brilliant-cheap-eats-in-melbourne.htm
  3. Okay, let me add a few more suggestions to the already wonderful list going on here.... I'm going to stick to traditional malay / Catonese haunts, to fit with the theme (though must be noted KL has some really stellar French/Italian (eg Lafite, Frangipani), along with Middle Eastern (eg Tarbush, Al Amir). Sek Yuen, Jalan Pudu 63 year old Cantonese restaurant, used to be where people held wedding banquets, and now a backstreet gem for an old school meal with friends. It has a retro-frontage, giant firewood stove with elderly male chefs slaving over it, and more importantly..... INCREDIBLE food! We had a deep-friend fish head braised in house-special sauce (goregiously soft fish with tasty serve and size would feed an army); eight treasures duck (must be preordered, and was out of this planet - succulent duck will with lilybuds, white cabbage, wood ear fungus, ginko nuts, chestnuts, dried oysters, etc). Be sure to fast before going, or ask for a takeaway bag afterwards. Being true to it's 1950s timewarp, it has not website, but just google it for tonnes of photos from delighted diners. Bon Ton, Jalan Kia Peng Possibly not the best food, but many people count it as a "must go" too, and I'm mentioning since it's a nice complement to Sek Yuan aboe. This too is a throw back to the 1950s and is a bungalow-style, high ceilinged restaurant, but subout Catonese and replace with Malay. It is actually rare to find 'fine dining" Malay (Bijan is a notable exception, which a previous poster mentioned!). Has traditional dishes - which can be quite heavy being malay style - so if you're looking for 'lighter' fare the prawn and mango salad and the fish soup are a welcomed changed. If it tells anything about the restaurant, Bon Ton is best known for its cheesecake (no, this is not a traditional Malay dish!). Restoran Buharry, Heritage Row Ok, this is the only one with "restaurant" in it's name, but of the three, it is actually more like a hawker stall.... a mamak stand if you will..... cheap and cheerful at its best. It's not worth going out of your way for, but if you're staying at Sheraton Imperial or somewhere nearby Heritage Row, this is the best food on the strip! It provides a refreshingly informal Malay nasi kandar (rice meal) rather than the rest of the poshness of Asian Heritage Row. Popular dishes such as nasi ayam (chicken rice) and fish head curry are served on plastic plates, whilst a radio blairs malay songs in the background. For those without a family history of diabetes, I can recommended pairing your meal with a refreshing mug of iced tea,sweet Malay-style teh tarik (hot tea), or a Dinosaur float. PS - Also a minor correction from on of the previous posts I noticed: Cilantro is no longer - it is now Sage, at the Gardens Residences. Same chef, still worth it.
  4. So, price of the White Card has dropped from $500 to $288, and even lower with credit card deal through UOB. Rhona, looks like you're right about the card not doing so well! However, who can complain!
  5. Just had the worst experience at a restaurant in Bangkok to date - La Piola on Soi 11. I don’t recommend it to anyone….. however, for those reading this post that are articulate food writers, you’d be doing me a favour – and all other unfortunate tourists - if you go there and review it for yourselves! To start off with, we went having fond memories of previous experiences there and were hoping for more. Perhaps that was our first mistake. The second mistake was to order Italian buffalo mozzarella. It might have been mozzarella, but clearly neither buffalo nor Italian. When we asked to view the packaging, we found a lump of plasticy cheese in a small plastic container with a Thai address written on it, and the words “Italian style” on the label. Yuk. Insulting enough, but they they decided to still charge us full price for it! Alas, the comedy of errors continues – bottled water is ordered, and it is poured from the bottle. Suspicion is raised when we don’t see the waiter open the bottle, and is confirmed when the water tastes worse than something found at a slow running river on a camping trip beside a chemical plant. Steaks were ordered as the mains – and two stacked, limp schnitzel-like pieces of meat were served, stacked on top of each other. No sides, no nothing. Damage done US$30 per person and a yucky feeling in our stomachs. We complain and an Italian women called “Mama” appears. You don’t mess with mama, especially when she has kitchen knives at her disposal. This drama ended in the bill being delivered. It was a rude shock and higher than we had budgeted, fully charged all items including those we complained about, and the fake bottled water. Again, we complain. The net effect – the bill comes back 500 baht higher than the original bill. Agh. This experience was to semi-regular customers (used to dine there about once a month, but experiences have become worse each time). One of our group is Italian and the other a local Thai, and we were the only diners in the restaurant that night. What a fiasco and way to treat the customers who are paying the entire staff wages for the evening! Suffice to say, we’ll never be back. Has anyone else has similar horror stories with La Piola?
  6. Ok, so if you're not lucky enough to get out of Sydney..... a few thoughts for something slightly resembling what you might be after: Spice I am, Surry Hills http://www.spiceiam.com/: It's Thai, but their Hoy Tod could do the trick? Istana, Thornleigh: I've never been, but Malaysian friends have. Oyster omelette is on their menu, but not sure of the quality. Temasek, Parramatta: Some Chinese friends tell me this has good CNY foods.... and oyster omlette is a staple on their menu too. Sydney Fish Market: It's a long shot, but see if there's someone here doing it? Or else by the oysters yourself and home cook... Let me know of the place you discover down the road too.
  7. Thanks for the teaser I'm looking forward to the next installment, especially what you cooked during this epic journey.....
  8. I got on a cheap budget flight the other day (i.e no food served), and whilst waiting to board, noticed a woman with a familiar looking Laduree bag. I decided not to look. Afterall, it couldn't contian real macarons, as we were in a country >15 hours away from France! Once we board, I realise that not only is the bag filled with delectible piles of almondy goodness, nor that she's sitting in the same row as me, but she ate them one by one with a pleasant smile on her face. I was slowly and painfully losing consiousness in my seat as their smell wafted about the cabin. If there was one redeeming thing..... it was once we touched down in Cambodia, I stumbled upon a little store which happened to be selling, of all things, macarons! Have a look at these chocolate and pistachio masterpieces (as excuse the thumb!): They looked delicious (even the feet) and came in a variety of interesting flavours. Only downside was that upon biting into these, one would believe they were eating cake, not macaron. The consistency did not even resemble a bad macaron. It was not in any way tough or chewey, or even crumbly, it was just like a moist chocolate mud cake. Any theories as to why? Could it be additional wheat flour?
  9. Ok, so having arrived home from an *amazing* escape to Cambodia, I can recommend it as a truly breathtaking place to visit, both from a food and non-food perspective. Siem Reap is an especially stunning place, and thanks to all your comments in these forums, we had a set of stunning meals. Not one I can complain about. A few of the highlights: - Amok http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreapads/amok-page.htm This is an extraordinarily popular Khmer restaurant on ‘The Passage’ (Pub Street alley)….a very crowded and touristy street in Siem Reap. Whilst it is bigger than most restaurants nearby, with a pleasant sidewalk location, and includes a wonderful clean bathroom and upstairs balcony, it is still quite cramped. It has a photo menu which makes it easy to choose from a wide selection of traditional Cambodian dishes including its namesake the classic Khmer dish Amok. This is what we chose, alongside a local salad, which was sweet, sour, and crunch all rolled into one mouthful. Amok (the dish) itself is a rich Cambodian coconut curry which is traditionally served with fish and steamed in a banana leaf, however Amok (the restaurant) serve a tasting platter of fish, beef, shrimp, vegetable and pork. Price-wise it is not cheap comparaitvely, as it cost us ~$18US total (for two people) for two mains only. - Neary Kitchen http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreapads/nearypage.htm So, this is where our fabulous tuktuk driver user to be the chef. Our tuktuk driver, Soyean was lovely, so we were keen to eat where he used to work. Having not heard about this in any other food forums, we were not expecting much, but we were blown away and would vote this food-wise the best yet! Ambience was not as charming as Sugar Palm or Viroths (reviewed below), but still a kzillion times better than most other khmer food haunts around Siem Reap. We ordered steamed serpent fish (local fish in deliciously wholesome soup) and Prahok Ling (fermented fish pork). These servings were so big, that it made it difficult to finish both, yet the damage to our wallets including drinks was only $10US total (for two people). It's authentic Khmer cuisine served in a relaxed, open-air setting. At first it may look like a tourist trap, with large long tables able to sit 20+ people. But, rest assured, these will soon fill up with large local families piling out of their minivans to enjoy a night out with all their cousins/aunts/grandparents, etc. The menu is extensive, yet doesn't describe the dishes, which made it difficult to choose something which sounded edible..... but the recommendations from our host made for a perfect combination. Homely, tasty, heavenly. - Sugar Palm http://www.asialifecambodia.com/?m=article...&article_id=154 We had the restaurant to ourselves from noon until 3pm..... apparently no one else was interested in eating lunch there that day! But, then again, I'm told this is the place where F&B managers from nearby five star hotels come to feast, so maybe they dine afterhours. This place serves old-fashioned, flavorful, and hearty Khmer food, in a beautiful surrounding of a double story colonial style house, with an airy balcony. It's owned by a New Zealand couple (or so the lovely NZ guy we were speaking to at lunchtime claimed). Bruce (the NZ guy claiming to own the place) recommended to us some tasty dishes, whilst we enjoyed the warm and inviting ambience of his restaurant. This time, we ate with a non-pork eating couple, so we needed to substitute the traditional khmer grilled eggplant pork dish, to beef, and Sugar Palm were more than happy to oblige. The food has a good kick to it, all the meat is tender, and our dishes were lip-smacking good. By the time we ate this meal, some of us had already eaten two different buffet breakfasts, and numerous snacks at the temples, but still, our plates ended up spotless! Not a morsel of sauce even left. Main meals were $5 - $10US (so expensive for Siem Reap standards, but well worth it. This is a classy joint, exuding old world charm, but manages not to be snooty) - Viroths http://www.viroth-hotel.com/ Funky outdoor ambience with "almost" Western style service (our first waiter was brand new, hence the reason for the almost). We order amoks, fermented fish paste pork, and Khmer salad. Dining with a non fish eater and a non beef eater meant we didn't fully explore all the menu options available, but nor did we need to, as we were very content. The menu is a mix of Cambodian and European foods. Price was ~$15US per person, for starters, mains, and drinks. You can also BYO here, which is good if you've bought up in duty free. The food was probably the least tasty out of all the places I'm reviewing here, but the ambience was contemporary, chic, and easygoing. Great for a night chatting with friends. - Blue Pumpkin: http://www.tbpumpkin.com/ This was almost going to be our worst experience, given out of the five of us who went there for icecream (their speciality), only one enjoyed it. The problem was, we ordered from the "ice cream menu", rather than just looking at the ice-creams on display and ordering a few scoops. Their ice-cream menu is filled with awful concoctions, such as banana splits trifles doused in peanut sauce, and sickly sweet, rum infused, meringue dotted masterpieces. However, just choosing a few flavours from their wonderful ice-cream selection would have been enough (we found out as we walked out of the place passing an array of yummy sounding varieties...). They also sell pastries, which make for a nice breakfast on the way to see a sunrise over Angkor Wat. They resemble French pastries in look only (they taste like an Asian breadtop style sweet treats), however are still delicious for those craving a sugar high after temple trekking. Additionally, if you’re after a good tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, I can highly recommend Kim Soyean – a humble, reliable, and ever-smiling local Cambodian who spends his days ferrying tourists between temples and learning to speak English. He’s the ex-chef from Neary Khmer. His brother, Kim Soryar, runs a small local travel business (can arrange drivers, tuktuk, guides, accommodation, etc), and his mother in law runs a guesthouse. I’m confident that Kim Soryar could arrange a wonderful escape for anyone lucky enough to visit their beautiful country: kimsoryar@yahoo.com: +855-1222-1883 or +85516625514 (yes, shameless plug I know, but these guys are so humble and earning less than $10US per day, growning up throughout the Pol Pot genocide era in Cambodia, I thought it’s the least I could do for them. They really made our holiday amazing ).
  10. Bangkok = wonderful food! Whether you're after local cuisine or something French, you'll have a wonderful time and it won't break the budget! The longer you can stay, the more you can eat. It's been mentioned before in the forums, but if you've got half a day to do a local food tour, this website on the Giant Swing food street is pretty useful and has a map too: http://importfood.com/saochingcha_guide.html Make sure to have lunch at Chote Chitr, and then go for mango sticky rice afterwards. The mango place is a bit allusive to find (no signs) and when you get there, the people may appear surprised that you're asking for mango sticky rice (weird, given it's the main thing they sell), but you won't regret (unless afterwards when you're back home, and you can never find anything that similar ever again...). ENJOY!
  11. Prasantrin - enjoy your travels in SE Asia! And no, don't tip above the 10% service charge in Singapore. That's what it is there for! It's Singapore in it's truly efficient style imposing the tip on all customers! In theory, the 10% service charge is supposed to be shared out amongst staff. Some rare restaurants may choos not impose this charge (they'll just have the 7% other government charge), in which case, maybe leave your spare change for the waitress. Hope you enjoyed Cambodia. I just returned from there today Truly amazing! I'm about to post about my meals in the Cambodia thread. I'll definitly be back, so I'd love to hear about your time too when you get home.
  12. Yarra Valley gets my vote, and Yering Station or Rochford would be the lunch stop, with afternoon tea at Yarra Valley Dariy (cheese tasting) or Domaine Chandon (champagne tasting), or both! Alternatively, Daylesford/Hepburn Springs is also one of my favorite day trips. The shops & galleries are great to wander around. Forest trails are relaxing and fresh mineral water is fun to bottle. It is home to the award winning Lake House Restaurant, which has some wonderful lunch specials (dinner is very $$$) Also, for family things: - Hanging Rock is not bad, and has a few wineries nearby. - Mornington Penninsula, with it's hedge mazes, strawberry farms, and scattered wineries. Foodwise, these can have quaint ambience but nothing mouthwatering or too creative. Perhaps dine at MontAltos if you pick this option
  13. Agree! I think KL and Bangkok really hold the hidden gems, and I don't want them tainted by any guides! But, with recession fears kicking into Singapore, maybe the guide will cause kiasu-freaks to pump more money into the economy!
  14. Thanks for the review jkim, and I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your end of year do. This confirms why I've never eaten at Sails in my life, despite growing up almost next door to the place. I've never heard a good thing about it, except for the view it is blessed with (and only that is good during Melbourne's warmer months!). Several friends of mine - despit the average reviews - have looked at is as a good wedding venue, given it suits bigger functions. However, tellingly, none of my friends have ever booked it for their receptions. I shall continue to stay away (or perhaps I'll just visit for desert).
  15. Hey - can anyone comment on L'Angelo at Le Meridien, Siem Reap?
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