Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eating Out: Darac Grill & Bar [City]

51 A'Beckett Street
Melbourne, 3000

My friend took me here for lunch as she really wanted to try it and I'm glad she did because I really like it. Food and atmosphere is great, service is lacking though.
The ordering sheet is incredibly confusing but for the lunch set menu there are 3 main steps
1. Choose steamed rice or pasta.
2. Choose you main dish (Beef, pork, prawn, tofu)
3. Choose your side (8 options)
4. Choose regular ($9.50) or large ($10.50) size meal and if you want a drink write that down too.

They have other things on the menu as well but everyone on our table went for the lunch set.

Spicy Prawn and Takoyaki $9.50 [Darac, City]
1. Rice 2. Spicy Prawn 3. Takoyaki
+ Presentation
+ Spicy sauce
+ Succulent prawns
+ Salad to make you feel healthy
+ Included takoyaki sauce and mayo
- 4 prawns the rest was just onion
- A tiny tako (octopus) piece in takoyaki.
- Wasabi mayo had no wasabi taste

Spicy Prawn and Takoyaki $9.50 [Darac, City]
1. Pasta 2. Spicy Prawn 3. Takoyaki
I like the plate =]
Beef and Takoyaki $9.50 [Darac, City]
1. Rice 2, Beef Bulgoki 3. Takoyaki

Tofu and Soba Salad  $9.50 [Darac, City]
1. Rice 2. Tofu 3. Soba salad
Not much choice for vegetarians

Food: 8/10 Nothing special but nothing to fault either. Mediocre. Well seasoned, strong flavours.
Environment: 8.5/10 It's got a really cosy bar feel to it. Very well decorated with random pieces/objects scattered everywhere.
Service: 6/10 Full house so service was slow and things were forgotten. Food took a while to come out but did come out pretty much all at once.
Value: 8/10 Lunch for under $10, nice clean presentation, reasonable serving size.

Verdict? Definitely coming back to try some non lunch set things. The environment has got me.

Darac Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Cooking:Smoked Salmon & Avocado Timables

Adapted from Coles Magazine, Autumn 2011.

3 avocados, diced
1 tbsp dill (I didn't have any so I omitted)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp super finely diced red/spanish onion
400g smoked salmon

In a bowl mix the avocado, dill, mayonnaise, a few dashes of tabasco, lemon juice, onion all together and add salt to taste. 

Line 4 moulds with plastic wrap and then put 2 slices of smoked salmon into it ensuring the brown/grey bits cannot be seen. 

Fill the mould with the avocado mixture, pat down firmly and then fold any overhanging salmon bits in over the avocado mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

To serve place a plate on top of the mould, flip and then pull down on the plastic wrap to unmould. Discard plastic wrap and garnish with a little bit of dill. 

Makes 4


Cooking: Tofu with Preserved/Century Egg

I've actually never had this dish before at a restaurant but I've seen pictures of it and was really curious about the taste. It's definitely a summer dish that goes quite well with rice. Just beware that you keep the tofu cold so it doesn't go off.
WARNING: Century egg is an acquired taste, if you have never tasted it don't make this dish.

(Serve as part of a chinese meal)

1 block silken tofu
1 preserved/century eggs
2-3 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp finely sliced spring onion
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp sesame oil
XO sauce if desired

Slice the silken tofu very thinly on the plate that you are serving the dish (not plastic! as you'll be pouring hot oil on it) on as it will be very difficult to move the tofu. Dice the century egg and place on top of the tofu. Pour the soya sauce over the egg and tofu.(XO Sauce as well if desired) Scatter over spring onions. Heat the oil until smoking and then straightaway pour it over the spring onions. Drizzle the sesame oil on top and serve.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cooking: Wicked Wings?

My Wicked Wings
Who doesn't love KFC's wicked wings, crunchy on the outside, fatty juicy meat on the inside and a spicy kick. But wicked wings aren't exactly cheap $3.25 for 3. This recipe makes about 16 for the same price and most of the ingredients are ones you have in the pantry and want to use up. The secret is in the seasoning and the flour coating.

+ 1kg wings (wings with the drummette attatched though you can use just wings if you want)
+ chilli/cayenne powder
+ cumin powder
+ garlic powder
+ onion powder
+ 2 cups plain flour
+ 2 eggs whites
+ neutral oil for deep frying


  1. Chop the wingtips off the chicken wings (you can save these for stock if you wish). Then chop the wing into the wing and the drummette. Place into a large bowl.
  2. Place a tsp each of chilli and cumin powder over the wings and 1/2 tsp garlic and onion powders (adjust accordingly to taste). Mix and let to marinate whilst you prepare the batter. 
  3. Place the flour into a large bowl and add 2 heaped tsps of chilli powder, 1 tsp each of cumin and salt, 1/2 tsp garlic and onion powder (or use whatever "11 secret herbs and spices" coating recipes you can find on the net). Then add a tbsp of water and using fingertips rub it into the flour like if making a crumble. Continue to add small amounts of water until 1/3-1/2 of the flour mix contains little round circles of flour/crumble. This part is essential to making the super crispy crunch part to the coating. 
  4. Whisk the egg whites till very frothy but not meringue consistency. 
  5. Heat up the oil to 180 degrees or until a wooden chopstick bubbles when placed in the oil. 
  6. One at a time dip the piece of chicken into the egg white just enough to coat, drip off excess, place into the flour and coat generously then deep fry *. Once the chicken floats and is of golden colour it should be cooked through but do check (around 5 minutes?). Place on paper towl
  7. If you are worried the chicken will go cold, place it in a warm oven until ready to serve. 

*I suggest you deep fry one piece of chicken as a test first and taste it to check if any additional spices need to be added.

Cooking: Grilled Garlic Butter Mussels


I was flicking through a seafood grill cookbook and saw a few recipes for oysters, scallops and mussels all topped with flavoured butter and then put on the barbie. I really liked the idea and instead of using the barbie I just put my mussels under the grill. The results were delicious though I did learn a few things along the way and steps that I would do differently next time. Sorry I don't have exact measurements for ingredients as I just went by feel. I'm sure you can judge how much to use and it really is up to you how buttery/garlicky/chilli you prefer. Leftover butter can be used to put on steaks or even used to make a pasta sauce.

Makes 30-40 mussels depending on mussel size. Up to you how many per serving (4 people entree)
+ 1kg mussels, debearded and scrubbed.
+ a couple of tbsps of softened butter
+ 1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on size and preference)
+ 1/2 tsp chiili flakes
+ chopped parsley (or any other subtle herb of preference)

  1.  Mince the garlic as fine as you can (a japanese mincer plate is very very convenient and achieves almost puree consistency) and add it to the butter along with the chilli and chopped parsley. Mix well and then shaped into a rectangle log on clingfilm and then wrap it up and put it in the freezer to firm up. (I didn't firm up the butter which made it very hard to portion out onto the mussels, so don't skip this step, it'll save you time)
  2. Boil an inch of water in a saucepan/pot that can fit all the mussels (if not possible cook the mussels in batches). Tip the mussels in and place the lid on. Give the saucepan a gentle shake every now and then. (I actually grilled open my mussels but I don't recommend it as it made the shells incredibly brittle)
  3. After 2 mins take out any that are open and place onto a plate. Place the lid back on and continue cooking mussels that aren't open. Check every minute until all mussels are open, if some mussels refuse to open, chuck them out or if you're in my household, pry them open at you're own risk. 
  4. Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, take away one side of the shell and discard. Align all the half shell mussels onto a baking tray. 
  5. Take the butter out and cut into 1cm or less cubes and place a cube on top of each mussel.* (make sure you don't put too much as it can become very oily and slightly unpleasant mentally to eat. Thinking of that waistline.
  6. Grill until the butter has melted and then an extra minute to cook the garlic. 
  7. Serve! 
*I didn't add salt to the mussels as they usually are salty enough from the seawater but do taste a mussel before you put the butter on top to check, if it does need seasoning sprinkle a smidgen of salt over the mussels. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eating in South Australia

A couple of weeks ago my family drove up to South Australia. We stayed mainly in Adelaide which is a beautiful city. I loved the old buildings however I only had my digital camera with me, not the DSLR and it was always at night when we walked by them so I didn't manage to take many decent photos.
But this is my food blog so I'm only going to post the food I had on the trip in this post. If I have time I'll do a post on all the non food aspects of the trip on my other blog (which you can find if you click "view complete profile" in the about me section).

I don't remember all the names of every place we ate at, let alone dish names and prices.

Day 1:
At lunch at a Cafe in Horsham. Spinach, pumpkin and ricotta pie $8ish. Lots of variety in the salad.
Went Cafe Kowloon, Chinatown in Adelaide for dinner. 
We were feeling pretty adventurous that night, we chose a stir fried crocodile dish and fish poached in chilli stock/oil (水煮鱼)
This was sooooo chilli it was like delicious torture. Good to try everything once right?
These seaweed beans were good to counteract the chilli fish.

Day 2:
Went to the oldest German town in Australia, Hahndorf, and ate lunch there. We ended up at a little cafe which was actually run by an Asian (Korean?) couple and tried some German sausages which were very good.
That night we found ourselves in Chinatown once again trying a restaurant which is very famous in Melbourne.
NOODLE KINGDOM where we ordered the exact same two bowls of noodles we did when we went to the Preston one in Melbourne. The menu and prices are the exactly the same.
The sauce bottles were DISGUSTINGLY DIRTY
The Lanzhou Beef Noodles
These beef skewers were the hit of the night. Well marinated but very oily.
The spicy lamb noodles. Disappointingly bad compared to the ones at Preston.

Overall: Adelaide Noodle Kingdom sucks compared to the Preston Noodle Kingdom.

Day 3:
Headed up to the Barossa Valley and had lunch at Maggie Beer's Farm Shop. I loved the shop and I think I tried/tasted every product. I really regret not buying a bottle of vino cotto as both my brother and I loved it, but I'm pretty sure you can get it here anyways.
Pheasant Farm Pate was my favourite out of all the pate's and we got the big sized tub because we LOVE our pate. It was rich and the jelly had an intense flavour, however I wasn't a fan of the peppercorn/berry things on the top.
For dessert we got a creme caramel each because no one wanted to share. I actually really liked the slight bitterness to the caramel as it gave a sharp edge to the eggy rich custard.

And of course we had Chinese for dinner again BUT this was probably one of the better/top chinese meals I've had all year. The restaurant actually isn't in Chinatown, it's on Grote St, newly renovated, very spacious and slightly grand. The place is called J Restaurant and I don't know why it only has 75% on Urbanspoon but it definitely deserves higher. Exceptional value, I have no idea how they make money.
Well braised pork trotter/hock/leg. Glistening with lots of sauce to dip the meat into, great with rice.
Deep fried eggplant $10ish Crispy outside, soft inside.
Chinese celery, tofu and bamboo. Nice and refreshing.
Fried cripsy duck. Boneless duck is of course a winner =]
Fried fish, looked and tasted great.
My favourite dish of the night. The crab!! Spicy and finger lickingly good. There was so much crab that we couldn't finish it (7 people...) The crab itself wasn't the freshest but the sauce and the lotus root and other vegetables were very good. When you finish half of it they come and retop the sauce and add some more vegies to it. And it was ONLY $22.50. 

Only downside to the restaurant was that there was msg used (which is very common for chinese restaurants).

Day 4:
I didn't take a picture of lunch but it was Fish and Chips down at Victor Harbour. We went to a place that was runners up in the South Australian Fish and Chip competition or something like that. It was pretty good I must say. Not the best but up there.
Since the weather was so nice in Adelaide we couldn't resist getting ice creams. I'm actually quite surprised how well this photo turned out, I could almost just lick the screen. Cookies and Cream =]

We then went to Glenelg where we walked the entire main street trying to choose where to eat and finally gave up when we reached the end and chose Glenelg bbq inn. Little did we know that this would be the most memorable meal of the trip.
Mixed Grill $26.5
There is actually a large sausage and a lamb shaslick (kebab) under that steak.
Mixed Grill $23
Same as above except a chicken shaslick instead of lamb.
Porterhouse Steak 400g $25
Dad suggested I get the 400g instead of the 250g as it was only $3.5 more. I came to regret it as this steak was the biggest slab of meat I ever tackled. At least an inch thick an about the size of my hand I struggled but somehow managed to finish it. The char/crust was delicious, cooked medium rare as I requested.
T-Bone 850g+ $30
I have no idea how my brother managed to eat it all. It was the size my face and probably about an inch thick.
Keep in mind that my brother is probably one of the skinniest guys around, except he has a bottomless stomach.

Day 5:
Lunch we ate at KFC in Port Adelaide and I must say it was probably the best and biggest KFC I've had in YEARS. I think we all know what KFC looks like. Loved the Hot and Spicy Chicken.

For dinner we went to Mandoo Korean Dumplings which is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall kinda place. It is run by a Korean family which are extremely welcoming and kind hearted.
We had the Mandoo-jeongol for 4 $45
It was a really nice warming meal with lots of vegies to make us feel better after all the meat we had been eating. The dumplings weren't a hit as they were incredibly dry inside but it was fun discovering which dumpling you got as there were 3 or 4 different ones. I liked the corn one the most, the kimchi one was a little too strange for me.

Day 6:
We headed down to Mt Gambier and stopped at a town by the sea which I have already forgotten the name of. There I had a great cranberry chicken and avocado foccacia, something I must recreate for lunch.

That night we ate at what seemed to be the most popular restaurant in Mt Gambier on a Tuesday night, Wild Ginger. 
Thai Fish Cakes $7.90
The sauce was great but that was really all that was going for it.
The prawn special that night.
Very generous, succulent prawns and crunchy vegetables.
Phad thai $17.90
Nothing spectacular but still very tasty.
Matsaman curry $20.90 (of course we had to try it after Masterchef)
Tender falling apart beef with lots of spices. The pickled dish on the side was a good contrast to the rich curry.
Phad Char Seafood $21.90
This one was on the spicier side with lots of perfectly cooked seafood and vegetables.
Dessert of black sticky rice with coconut milk. So nice but so full.

Day 7:
Lunch bought some pies from the local bakery in Port Fairy, they sucked.

Went to Laksa King for dinner, completely packed and had to kill an hour to wait for our table. Can't say 100% worth the wait, but it was still some pretty damn good laksa. That area is starting to become MalaysiaTown with Chillipadi, Ampang Tofu, Chef Legenda all in that strip.

That concludes the South Australia trip. Took me almost 2 hours to get all the photos in and type up this post.

Up next
-Mussels with garlic chilli butter
-My Wicked Wings

Monday, July 11, 2011

Welcome back?

I haven't really blogged much for the past month or two
However expect to see more posts soon as I have a post on my week up in South Australia coming up and a few things I've cooked recently.
I've been pretty busy lately and I've finally managed to just get a few days at home and of course I spent most of the time in the kitchen.
So stay tuned guys
Teenagefoodie is getting off her lazy ass and coming back.