Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ollies Cafe, Esperance WA - One of Esperance's Best Breakfast Places

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Even though our dinner at Loose Goose the previous night wasn't fantastic, we decided to put faith in the reviews once again and have breakfast at Ollies (it helped that our good friend had recommended Ollies as well). 

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The Place

Located just a 2 min drive or 10 slow walk from our apartment along Esplanade Drive, Ollies honestly didn't look like much; your typical cafeteria with a couple of booth seats and tables scattered around and a counter where you place your orders and make payment. If you get a seat by the window, you will enjoy an almost unblocked view of the ocean (but you will probably walk out smelling of food). The menu is rather extensive and proved quite overwhelming for first timers like us. Choices, choices choices.

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Smoked Salmon Scrambled (AUD16.90)

The Tasmanian smoked salmon came across as decent with a light smokey taste but the scrambled eggs could do with a little more milk in my humble opinion. Served with slices of crisp toast and packaged butter. 

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Whole Hog Burger (AUD 19.90)

This was a rather interesting burger and a pretty good one at that. The chunky slices of slow roasted pork belly had a rather significant layer of fat which made for a smooth texture and great flavour together with the rashes of mildly salty bacon. Drizzled in a sinful combination of creamy hollandaise sauce and mildly sweet bacon bourbon jam. Rounding up the dish was a handful of spicy caramel popcorn for that extra crunch (in addition to the julienned apple). Oh and let's not forget the decent but could be better buns, which were crisp along the edges and smeared with butter in the middle (why only the middle?!). The whole burger might have looked like an absolute mess but I thought it tasted pretty good by my humble standards.

I can see why Ollies comes highly recommended and am honestly quite impressed at the decent quality of food and rather reasonable prices (AUD 42.20 inclusive a pot of tea for 2 pax), especially in a relatively small town of about 10K residents approximately 720KM ( > 1000KM if you take the scenic coast road) down south from Perth.

I'll definitely be back, not only for Ollies but also for the beauty of Esperance's Great Ocean Drive (no relation to Melbourne's Great Ocean Road but a shorter, more breathtaking and less touristy drive in my humble opinion).


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6/10
Service: NA (order, pay at the counter and food will be served to your table)
Food: 7/10
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 6.67/10

Address: 51A The Esplanade, Esperance, Western Australia

Contact: +61 8 9071 5268

Opening Hours:


7am - 4pm (Mon - Thurs)

7am - 9pm (Fri & Sat)

Closed on Sun

Website: https://www.facebook.com/OlliesCafeLounge

The beauty of Esperance...

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Loose Goose, Esperance WA - Were Our Expectations Too High?

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We were finally in Esperance, after covering just over 1,000km down south along the scenic route from Perth. And Loose Goose came highly recommended in various eating guides (ie. Zomato) and even from the owner of our apartment. So Loose Goose for dinner it was.

ps: As the place was rather dark and it was quite inappropriate for me to use any flash, my pictures turned out pretty bad. I do apologize for that.

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Interior

The place is actually more pub like than restaurant, with dim lights, relatively loud (but easy listening) music and a mixture of dining tables and bar seats. Although the place is seemingly one of the more upmarket eateries in Esperance, there is no real dress code (except for restrictions on biker group motifs) and I was warmly welcomed in shorts and slippers. The food menu works on a prix fixe basis where you pay a fixed price for a number of dishes of your choosing from the menu ($57.50 for 2 courses and $67.50 for 3 courses). 

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Complimentary Bread

You get a choice of herb or garlic bread. We had one of each and preferred the latter; soft with a lightly buttery herb finish. Decent enough to stave off any hunger pangs. 

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Fresh Local Scallops Grilled On The Half Shell

The lightly grilled, fresh Esperance scallops didn't come across as overcooked and oozed natural sweetness. Simple yet tasty. Doused in a little too much olive oil for my liking though.

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Australian King Prawns

Wrapped around with bacon and served on skewers satay style, the prawns came across as fresh and crunchy but alas, the saltiness of the bacon overwhelmed the crustacean sweetness of the prawns. A tip would be to eat them separately.

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Duck N Pig

Duck confit coupled with a mini pork mignon wrapped with bacon - a winning combination, in theory at least. In reality, the duck confit tasted more like braised duck with its fatty skin and tender meat soaked in a red wine sauce. The pork mignon on the other hand, came across as a tad dry whilst the saltiness of the bacon didn't quite gel with the red wine sauce. Edible but average at best. 

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Esperance Best End Sirloin

Done as per my request of medium, the sirloin boasted juicy and tender meat but unfortunately, had it's taste overwhelmed by the rather sweet onion marmalade. And the sweetness made it rather nauseating to consume after a while. A waste if you ask me.

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Death By Chocolate

And on to desserts.The Death By Chocolate was essentially just chocolate cake and ice cream. The cake came across as a little spongy (like huat kueh or 发糕) and moist, covered in a rich, not too sweet ganache. Served with a scoop of rather flat vanilla ice cream. Palatable ending to the meal.

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Bill

Dinner came up to AUD 125 (~ $125 at time of conversion), which was rather expensive given the average quality of food. Service was excellent but hardly enough to make up for the food. Also, the ventilation in the restaurant isn't great. If you sit near the kitchen, be prepared to reek of oil afterwards.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6/10 (more a place for drinking than a meal)
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6/10
Value for money: 5.5/10
Overall: 6.25/10

Address: 9A Andrew Street, Esperance, Australia 6450

Contact: (08) 9071 2320

Opening Hours:

4pm - Midnight (Mon - Sat)

4pm - 10pm (Sun)

Website: http://loosegooseesperance.com.au/

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rustlers Steakhouse & Grill Part II, Albany WA - Still Serving Up A Great Steak

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The previous experience at Rustlers was a rather positive one so I decided to drop by again for dinner since we were going to be putting up in Albany for the night.

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The Interior

The place had just opened for business and I was promptly seated in the front section of the restaurant, which was marginally nicer than the bigger, inner dining area; still nothing fancy about the decor though.

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Prime Fillet Steak

And the sole reason for the revisit - the steak.  Done to a perfect medium rare and lightly seasoned with a dash of salt, the thick 9oz piece of steak came across as tender and flavourful with a distinct beefiness. Pretty good! Served with a side of crispy crisscross fries and salad.

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Bill

AUD 36 (~ SGD 36 at time of conversion) for a 9oz fillet - reasonable by Aussie standards and worth the money in my humble opinion. Will definitely revisit if I head down to Albany again.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6.5/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 7.5/10 (for the steak alone)
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

Address: 222 Stirling Terrace, Albany WA 6330

Contact: 08 9842 2454

Opening Hours: 5pm till late daily

Website: http://www.rustlers.com.au/

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Truffle & Wine Co, Manjimup WA - Go Early On Weekends!

It was a drizzling Sunday afternoon and the wife and I were at one of our favourite dining places in Western Australia, The Truffle & Wine Co (renamed from The Wine & Truffle Co), after a 3.5hr drive from Perth.

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The Menu

Business was brisk and we opted to sit outside in the enclosed tent to enjoy the natural light with a touch of chilly winter air. And we were late. Some of the items on the menu were sold out; items that we were eager to try. ie. the risotto. Imagine the disappointment.

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Black Truffle Infused Scrambled Eggs

At least the Chef's special truffle scrambled eggs was available. As appetising as this dish looked, it was unfortunately disappointing. The eggs lacked the smooth creaminess and tasted like someone had been very careless with the salt (thank god for the toast). On the upside, there was a hint of cheesiness and bits of truffle lodged within; topped with 3 fairly respectable shavings of truffle. Definitely had better though.

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Confit Duck with Black Truffle Potato Mash Served with Season Vegetables & Truffle Butter

We had a slightly different rendition of the duck confit during our previous visit. Although this season's offering sported shredded truffle atop, the skin lacked crispiness. But at least the meat was tender with a touch of salt. The truffle mash was still good though, smooth and fragrant with bits of real truffle in it.

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White Chocolate and Black Truffle Cheesecake

This tasted to me like a flourless cheesecake (texture wise at least). A muesli like base topped with a rather stodgy chocolate filling with bits of white chocolate in between, layered over by a thin film of nuts and more white chocolate. The whole thing came across as mildly sweet and savoury with an ever so faint hint of truffle aftertaste. I guess chocolate and truffle don't really make good bedfellows, unlike ice cream and truffle?

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Bill

Lunch was rather disappointing this time round and at AUD 94 (~ SGD 97 at time of conversion), not entirely cheap for the quality of food. Service still came across as friendly but the food did take a while to arrive probably due to the huge turnout for lunch. Hopefully the place improves on the food before our next visit.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6/10
Value for money: 6.5/10

Overall: 6.75/10

Address: Lot 490 Seven Day Road, Manjimup

Contact: (08) 9777 2474

Opening Hours

Thursday through Sunday for lunch (~11am to 3pm). Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday. Open long weekends. Open from noon on Anzac Day.

Website: http://truffleandwine.com.au/truffle-cafe

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Joël Robuchon Restaurant Singapore Part II - Experiencing The Indoor Winter Garden Amidst Slipping Standards

The wife and I were suitably impressed with the food at Joël Robuchon Restaurant during our previous visit ~ 2 months back so we made it a point to return, this time with friends.

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Indoor Winter Garden

I had specifically requested a table in JR's indoor winter garden; an "outdoor" dining area with a glass roof that allows for plenty of natural light without the humidity and heat that comes along with it. Perfect for a place like Singapore if you ask me and definitely suited for that slow, relaxing meal. 

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Amuse Bouche

No change in the amuse bouche - a calamansi jelly flavoured with vanilla, topped with anisette cream. Still a little too tart for my liking. 

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Complimentary Bread & Butter

JR's bread basket was a little different this time round, eschewing the cheese bun in favour of a soft and fluffy, mildly sweet milk bun. The buttery yet light viennoiserie and the crusty yet chewy baguettes were a hit as well, with the latter pairing extremely well with the smooth butter. And of course we had second servings - partly due to the fact that the bread was delicious and partly because we needed to fill ourselves up.

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Le King Crabe

I personally liked how the sweetness of the king crab meat balanced out the mild tartness of the tomato coulis and green apple cubes as well as the contrasting textures between the creamy avocado and the crunchy vegetables/crispy toast. Very enjoyable in my humble opinion. 

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Le Thé de Crevette

Now this came across as rather disappointing. The bouillion (or broth) was very bland (when it previously mildly sweet yet spicy) and tasted like water with a touch of chilli. The only consolation was the delightfully sweet and crunchy botan shrimp chunks.

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Le Flétan

The halibut was beautifully cooked, soaking in the artichoke jus and sporting firm, sweet flesh topped with an assortment of capsicum and cucumber for that added vibrancy, texture and taste. Very good, although I must say that Fiskekompaniet in Tromsø still does halibut better (albeit in a different style) in my humble opinion. 

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La Noix de Saint-Jacques

I said this once and I will say this again. Undoubtedly the pièce de résistance that afternoon, the solitary piece of Hokkaido scallop was fresh, cooked just right and very sweet; served atop a tiny bed of al dente spelt risotto in a creamily delicious sauce with bits of gold foil for that added but totally unnecessary visual opulence.

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Le Canard de Challans

The Challan duck (French ducks raised for their lean, tender flesh) breast was cooked to a beautiful reddish hue but came across as uniformly non fibrous (a little like eating mildly chewy ham) and rather gamy. Served with and best eaten with the assortment of sweet and sour vegetable fricassee (apple, sweet potato, turnip, beetroot etc). A little like eating foie gras with caramalised fruit sans the quivery texture in my humble opinion. Very palatable but hardly impressive. 

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Le Minty

My chocolate ring looked like one of the edges had broken off. I'm usually not picky about such details but for such an upclass restaurant like Joël Robuchon, I would have expected some form of quality control. That aside, I loved how the cream swirls camouflaged the base of chilly mint ice cream and oozing chocolate fondant complete with a crustiness along the edges. Only gripe I had was that the fondant seemed to stick to the side of the bowl - not enough butter I presume?

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Mignardises

Ending off with lime meringue (sweet and sticky and not my cup of tea), pistachio madeleine (lacked butteriness) and a layered chocolate mousse on a salted, crumbly base which was quite a pleasure to consume (mildly sweet with a hint of saltiness at one go). 

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Bill

Lunch for 4 came up to ~ $555, which isn't cheap, especially since standards seem to have slipped a little since my last visit. Service remained prompt but still came across as rather stiff. Will I be back? Probably, just not in the very near future.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 7.5/10
Value for money: 7/10
Overall: 7.5/10

Address: Hotel Michael, Level 1, Resorts World Sentosa

Contact: 6577 6688 or 6577 7888

Opening Hours:

Lunch:
12pm - 2.30pm (Every Sat)

Dinner:
6pm – 11pm (Tue – Sat)

Closed on every Sun and Mon

Website: http://www.joel-robuchon.com/en/restaurants-singapour-joelrobuchon.php

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Clinton Street Baking Co Singapore - As Good As The Original?

The Singapore outpost of the famed New York bakery, Clinton Street Baking Co, opened without much fanfare a couple of weeks ago in the heart of town. Having tried the original outlet in New York about a year ago, the wife and I were eager to give the outlet in Singapore a shot.

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Interior

Occupying a small shophouse unit along Purvis Street and playing neighbours to a boutique hotel and a coffeeshop, Clinton Street Baking Co Singapore can seat ~ 60 people, albeit in a rather cramp seating arrangement (the NY outlet can only take 32 pax). The interior isn't much to shout about honestly, coming across as modern at best. No reservations are accepted but when we got there at about 10am on a Saturday morning, the wait was a very manageable 15 minutes.

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Crispy Potato Pancakes

We opted for the house smoked salmon option, which came with caviar and lightly tart and refreshing lemon crème fraîche on the side. Taste wise, the potato pancakes had been on the grill for way too long; charred to a slightly uncomfortable degree of bitterness but otherwise bland. The thin slices of salmon were pretty good though; lightly smokey without coming across as too fishy. We gave up on the potato pancakes halfway through.

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Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter

There is a choice of wild blueberries, banana walnut or chocolate chunk for your pancakes and we went with the banana walnut since we tried the blueberry variant in New York. Bits of banana and walnut wedged between fluffy pancakes and finished with more walnuts and banana atop. Very good. However, instead of being dusted with icing sugar, granulated sugar was used instead, which gave the whole dish a rather unpolished feel in my humble opinion. The coarseness of the sugar really didn't help with the texture either. But......... the pièce de résistance was definitely the warm maple butter (not so warm actually); smooth with the creamy saltiness of butter and the pleasant sweetness of maple syrup.

So how does it compare to the original? In my humble opinion, very close. The pancakes could do with a little more crustiness on the surface. Still #2 on my pancake list after Pancakes On The Rocks in Sydney.

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Sugar Cured Bacon

I enjoyed this sinful side of sugar cured bacon but it did seem a little drier as compared to the one in NY. Delectable nonetheless; lightly sweet while retaining the mild saltiness of the bacon. I would envision bacon bak kwa to be of a similar taste and texture?

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Bill

Prices at the Singapore branch are similar to those in NY (after factoring in forex) and both of us spent close to $52 for brunch, which is still reasonable in my humble opinion. I'll definitely be back for the pancakes and bacon, nothing else! Oh wait, maybe to try out the signature waffle with chicken (only available for lunch) as well.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6/10
Service: 6.5/10
Food: 7/10 (8/10 for the bacon and pancakes. 5/10 for the potato pancakes)
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 6.63/10

Address: 31 Purvis Street

Contact: 6684-4845

Opening Hours: Daily 8am-6pm (last orders at 5pm)

Website: http://clintonstreetbaking.sg/