Monday, October 29, 2007

Catch as Catch Can

Here’s a brief note on Catch, located in the old Rockefellers site in Morrison St at the waterfront.

Delicious. Stylish. Friendly.

Check out the website if you will (although it looks like the listed menus might be out-of-date). Better yet, just go. Apart from the screaming hyena at a nearby table (surely it wasn’t that funny, love), the ambience was as tasteful and warm as the food.

We sampled:
• Carpaccio of beef – Divine
• Cured ocean trout – Gorgeous
• Fish cake with king prawns – Not bad
• What I really loved … The Fish Pie – Wholesome, old-fashioned, gorgeous.

Go check it out. I’ll definitely be back!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Me Wah Marque II

I really had to give this some thought. And why the rush? Me Wah's own website ( doesn't have their Hobart restaurant listed and even their Hobart online Yellow Pages ad shows an interior of the Launceston flagship.

It took me three visits to come to write anything, and then I'm still not sure. Here are the main things to consider:

1. This is a classy joint. More staff than you can poke a chopstick at. Crisp linen on the tables. Gorgeous silver rests for spoons and chopsticks. A wine list (and after dinner drinks trolley) to get rather excited about (even if your wallet chokes).

2. The service is very attentive. Shared dishes are not just plonked in the middle of the table, but served out to each diner. White wine is stored in a grand ice "bucket" (more a ceremonial-style bowl) in the centre of the room once opened.

3. Enclosed banquet rooms are just asking for trouble. Delightful (on the whole) decorations indicate money has been well and truly spent. Even the toilets are a treat.
4. Food? That's where I get stuck. Have been for dinner twice and lunch once (no yum cha ... sorry gang). On each occasion the meal averaged $100 per head (including wine). Not cheap. But that's silver service, isn't it?
Here's what I've sampled:
Soups - Have tried the Shark Fin Soup and the Duck Soup - both awesome
Wild Harvest Scallops - Average (better at Golden Harbour)
Jumbo Oysters - Over the top, should be experienced at least once
Seafood Medallions - Best avoided
Crab Dumplings - Beautiful the first time, subsequent samplings good but didn't repeat that standard
Duck Sang Choy Bao - Great (if somewhat OTT)
Vegetable Curry - Terrible, very "maggi"
Salt & Pepper Prawns - Not great (better at Golden Harbour)
Whole Fish - Snapper? Who knows? Disappointing regardless
Peking Duck - Delicious even if serving size disappoints
Dessert sampler - Amazing. Fantastic bird-shaped pastry thing stuffed with red bean paste (not to everyone's taste), and other delights
And more ...
To be brutally honest, I think you will get much better food (on my experience, others beg to differ) at Golden Harbour. For about half the price or less. Naturally you will not get the same experience though.
Me Wah is a "special occasion" restaurant. It plays this card for all it's worth. Lions at the door, wait-staff saturation, gorgeous decoration, and so on. Go for a treat. But unfortunately this won't become your Friday night regular (or your Sunday lunch hangover cure). Will I go back? Shit yeah, but it will be for a cashed-up banquet. None of this dicking around with the al a carte menu. Banquet options start at $65 per head.
To be fair, this place is based on the reputation of an outstanding Launceston Me Wah tradition. It is a grand enterprise in its infancy. There are enough elements to give a hint of Little Bourke St. I say, let's give it a chance to find its feet. Be patient.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Me Wah Alert!

Get your engines ready ... Me Wah in Sandy Bay opens Tuesday 28th August, 2007.

If you're reading this over your morning coffee, that's tonight fuzzballs!

Stay tuned,

Friday, August 24, 2007

Salamanca Nights

The new bar Observatory above Blue Skies (where Sisco’s used to be) reminds me of a very large version of a classic Melbourne/Sydney cocktail bar. Most impressed by the sexy light fittings and funky furnishings. Definitely worth a peak. A fine cocktail was followed by a fine white, which we paired with nibbles from the tapas menu. I’m not sure why they call it a tapas menu, it seems more like an entrĂ©e menu to me … in other words, these small dishes are pretty generous. And very delicious. The salt and pepper calamari is a must-try.

In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much we belatedly realised we were too late for a restaurant dinner elsewhere. Like Mary and Joseph, we could not find anyone in Salamanca who’d take us in. Until we were directed to the Lower House.

The Lower House is a funky conversion of what was once the Elbow Room. Excellent use of the space has created a warm and intimate feel. Service was welcoming, and very attentive for a large late-night venue. The menu is available until midnight, so we sat ourselves down with another fine white and a very generous tasting plate (they have several varieties of platter for those who want to pick, and much more besides).

In short, Friday nights in Hobart have grown up a little. Our experience was an exciting foray into two very good venues that are a step outside the Hobart norm.

About time.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mikaku - Spawn of the Devil

Quite simply the most disgusting meal I have ever had.

I'm a sushi pig. Everyone knows that. And in general I'll eat anything not nailed down. But ...

Mikaku in Salamanca Place has been famous for its sushi buffet for years. Almost as famous is the filthy carpet and nauseating toilets. But hey, we'd figured we're not eating off the floor or the toilet, and so over the years the sushi buffet has been an occasional indulgence in gluttony for gluttony's sake.

That is, until a recent weekend.

We arrived just after opening. Being just after opening, we thought we'd be first-ish in line for a super-fresh sushi buffet hog-fest. Maybe God was trying to tell me something about gluttony (a bit late now), but instead of super-fresh sushi, this is what we found:

  1. The mayonnaise tasted tinny - was it off?
  2. The omelette atop the "egg sushi" was grey around the edges. How long had it sat there?
  3. The rice in each piece of sushi was stale.
  4. The tonic in my g & t was flat.
  5. And then there was the tuna ...
The "raw tuna" was chewy, very chewy. It was chewy for a very good reason. It wasn't tuna.

Sitting on the counter behind the sushi bar was a lump of silverside sitting in its open supermarket packaging. This is what was being sliced up and passed off as tuna.


Raw silverside.

For the sake of your health, for the sake of all that is holy, avoid this place. I'm of a mind to call the health inspector. Look out, here comes another wave of nausea!


p.s. If you want sushi there are only two things you need to know:
  1. Orizuru in the Mure's complex
  2. Kawasemi in Moonah

Both have Japanese masters in the kitchen. The only authentic Japanese to be had in Hobart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Golden Harbour

Golden Harbour sits quietly minding its own business in Hunter St, under Zero Davey. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of spot, next door to Saffron. I was completely put off when I tried to book a table over the phone. It was way too hard. But something made me persist.

Oh lordy, my China Syndrome quest may have yielded the unholy grail of hangover cures ...

The evidence:
  1. Wonton soup that has redefined my opinion of what great wonton soup looks and tastes like. A delicate broth reminiscent of the royal Chinese cuisine we tasted in Vietnam. A bowl with seaweed and wontons that looked so appealing and so fresh that I expected wee fishies to be darting in and out of the seaweed. The wontons were little burstlets of flavour and I could have eaten this all day.
  2. Steamed scallops served on the half shell - fresh, plump, and had to be teased free of the shell. Served with crushed fresh garlic, rice vermicelli, and a delicate mirin-style sauce. Gorgeous!
  3. Salt and pepper prawns with shells that shattered in the mouth - yes people, eat them with the shells on (unlike the indelicate manhandling I watched at the next table). Salty. Peppery. Prawny. Yummy.

They advertise themselves as purveyors of Fine Chinese Cuisine ... and I'm glad to say I didn't feel this was an overstatement.

The setting is very comfortable. No laminate or vinyl to be seen, instead there are carved timber tables and very solid chairs. The service was attentive and considerate, if a little awkward at times. Booking by telephone is a feat in communication - but well worth it. I'm not sure I'm convinced by the wisdom of the big screen TV airing Chinese variety shows, but I'm sure I'll grow to love it.

The sad thing is that Sunday lunch is by booking only. No bookings, they're closed. So, as far as my spontaneous hangover cure goes ... there'll be a little less spontaneity involved. Until of course they are regularly hounded by the likes of us for a Sunday lunch ... then it should be on for young and old!

Oh, I forgot to mention Golden Harbour is great value. Four of us shared:
2 bottles of Nobilo sauvignon blanc
Wonton soup each
Steamed scallops with rice vermicelli and garlic
Whole steamed fish with garlic and ginger
Salt and pepper prawns
Total price ... $160. Most excellent indeed!

AND THEN we went back for more. Our second outing was a brave dip into the other items on the menu. Beans with mince. Sounds appetising, non? Well let me tell you buster, don't screw your little nose up until you've tried it!

In stark and grossly disappointing contrast was our visit to the Bund in Shanghai. The elegant interior set my expectations way too high. The team from Sen's is behind the scenes, so the duck should be a corker. Our meal (not duck) was less than great, our waitress should have been wearing L-plates (and perhaps she was), in short everything that could have gone wrong did. BUT I'm putting this down to opening niggles. This could be a great restaurant once they settle in. However, the pending birth of Mee Wah in Magnet Court is going to be a big competitor. Let's hope there's enough good will for everyone. At this rate we'll soon be referring to "Sandy Beijing".

In the meantime ... Get thee to Golden Harbour in Hunter St and try those damn scallops!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lucky Me

When I was a little girl in Launceston, "Lucks Corner" was the little butcher in town just up the street from the umbrella shop. I loved the umbrella shop, it seemed old fashioned and mysterious. Then one day the man who sold umbrellas died. The story was he dropped dead behind the counter, with a thin stream of smoke rising from his still-lit cigarette. That's the legend anyway.

Lucks Butchers was a typical small town butcher. Plastic grass, plastic sheep and cows. Big burly butcher blokes behind the counter. But not anymore.

Lucks has been transformed into a classy restaurant. The type that Launceston is becoming famous for. The service is exemplary. Make sure you take the opportunity to seek recommendations for wines matched to your meal.

There was recent chatter on this sight about jamon ... I'm a fan. Lucks does it beautifully.

It's not cheap, by Launceston standards. Pricewise it's on a par with Marque IV or [boo hoo] Choux Shop. The decor is just gorgeous. Imported wallpaper in blue and gold gives an elegant air, with the stunning vintage French 'Lido' billboard hogging the attention from behind the bar. There is a private dining room / wine cellar ... which I am just dying to find an excuse to get a truckload of friends to Launceston for.

Check out their website (which doesn't do the place full justice) - Unfortunately the online menu is a bit out of date, but it gives you the general idea. And wait til you see the 36 page interactive wine list!

Lucks is worth the drive to Launceston. Make a weekend of it. They do breakfast and lunch too. Maybe if you take a sleeping bag they'll let you camp in the wine cellar all weekend. My idea of heaven!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

China Syndrome

Sen's is gone. My Sunday hangover cure is no more. To be replaced with a Nando's ... This is a sick joke, right?

Believe me, I know the bain-marie at Sen's was the spawn of satan. But anyone eating from a bain-marie deserves what they get. Sen's did great yum cha. In the early days they did the trolleys. So exciting, and such an incitement to gluttony and speed eating. But the trolleys were unsustainable and a la carte yum cha was the result. But it was fine. Lovely dumplings, great Peking Duck Rolls, and what a wonton soup. Once you strayed away from the yum cha, things were perhaps a bit dodgy, but who wants beef in black bean sauce anyway?

Sen's is gone. And so begins my Chinese restaurant odyssey in search of a semi-authentic, hangover curing replacement. The first steps in this journey were taken hangoverless, to ensure I had my wits about me. First stops were Ming Court and the Oriental, both in Sandy Bay. Ming Court does great stuffed mushrooms, fairly average Mongolian Beef ... and Peking Duck is not on their standard menu. The Oriental does a lovely wonton soup (certainly in contention to become a Sunday hangover cure - except they don't open for lunch) and fantastic hot pots. I've sampled both the Emperor's Hot Pot and the seafood version. Delicious ... but you have to order Peking Duck 24 hours in advance.

My next stop could perhaps be Har Wee Yee in North Hobart or Flourishing Court on Macquarie St. But neither of these is open for Sunday lunch either. And I'm afraid to say that even though Castle Zayee in Lenah Valley advertises yum cha, the fact that they advertise "Asian and Western Cuisine" leaves them out of the race.

I've got my fingers crossed that Golden Harbour on the waterfront might fit the bill. Although when I rang at lunch time the other day to ask if they do yum cha ... they didn't answer the phone.

Once upon a time I could rely on Sen's to cure my fuzzy head with their clear broths and sweet hoi sin dipped Peking Duck. I could just turn up and eat myself to wellness. Perhaps the long-promised Mee Wah will one day materialise and all will be right in the world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sweet White Flesh

It's crayfish season. Crayfish, crayfish, crayfish. Sucking the flesh from those spiny red legs. Tearing the meat from the tail and sliding it strip by strip into my mouth.
I love crayfish. I can't dive, but my friends can. And do. Why, this very weekend I lazed on the beach while the aquatic-types did their wetsuit-clad thing (no cray pots for them - this in hands on!). From the shore, watching their black neoprene bums bobbing I fantasised about wearing some Esther Williams style swimsuit and diving to the ocean floor, wrestling a cray from his rocky lair and springing to the surface, hair gleaming. At the end of this particular fantasy I walk triumphantly to the shore like Ursula Andress, knife strapped to my thigh. Instead, I satisfy myself with the knowledge that, although I may look more like Shelly Winters in the Poseidon Adventure than Ursula Andress and couldn't catch a cray to save myself, I can eat more crayfish than anyone else I know. In some circles that is akin to drinking a Russian under the table, vodka for vodka. Mmmm ... vodka and crayfish. Oooh, what a combination.
Aahh, crayfish season. How I love thee. And have you seen the great fat scallops this season? What's not to love about this place?

p.s. Yes I know. Crayfish is not a restaurant. Get over it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I'm stumped and I'm spewing. Not only do I have no idea where to go to dinner tomorrow night, I just wrote a great blog rave about this frustration, only to lose my musings into the bland blogosphere.
Now I'm really, really cross.
And none the wiser re where to go for dinner. Oh, why is it so hard. We're a capital city. We have lots of clever people here. And we have lots of great produce. The sinful fact is I'm bored. Bored, bored, bored.

I want somewhere new, or at least somewhere with a new menu. What happened to all those promises of exciting new playpens for all us little hoglets. What happened to the new Mee Wah in Magnet Court? And what happened to Ruby Chard. Oh, I'm so tired of waiting Chris, just put us all out of our misery.

Lately this site has run the risk of becoming a travelogue for the overpaid and undersexed. Why? Because there is stuff all to say about the local scene. Yes, yes, I know. Lots of people are doing great things here. But greatness is only great the first or second time. By dinner number three, staring down the same menu ain't all it's cracked up to be.

So, here I am. Stumped, cranky, and bored. Better have another glass of wine.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Sheep is Back

Goodness ... That took longer than I expected! Time melts in Vietnam: days, weeks, they roll into months. Or at least they would have if I'd been able to extend my visa. Stayed on in Hanoi for an extra couple of weeks with some friends of my travel buddy. For those of you planning your own sojourn to Vietnam (you're right anon, everyone is going - don't be scared to join them, it's amazing) - here are some handy hints:

1. Beware the Lonely Planet curse!
Any time we ventured into a Lonely Planet endorsee we were swamped with westerners. Service was stretched and food was not on par with less well-known venues. Oh, and naturally these places were more expensive than other/better places. The famous Brothers Cafe in Hanoi was hideous - a buffet (why oh why) of luke warm food. Nuh uh. Not me. Lemongrass in Saigon was the scene of an Aussie punch-up in the street over who was first in line for the next available table! Ugh.
2. When is Ho Chi Minh City - go the royal cuisine!
Nam Ka in Dong Khoi St - This is a very expensive (by Vietnamese standards) option, but well worth it if you can afford a couple of hundred bucks for an amazing meal. Had birds nest soup with REAL birds nest in it (made of - no, not sticks - gelatinous bird vomit!). The food is heavily influenced by what I imagine is imperial Chinese cuisine (shark fin, lotus seed, etc) - Chinese culture has a strong influence throughout Vietnam. China is, after all, only a hop-skip-jump away. For those whose budgets don't stretch this far ... still in Dong Khoi St, try Oso - it's neon slogan out front says it all: No Pay, No Delicious

3. Local Cuisine Favourites
In Hoi An I devoured 'White Roses' (see photo below) by the bucket load. They are delicate dumplings made with tiny puffs of prawn meat in the middle. Yum yum yum. Try Dalat wine - a bit rough for the first few sips, but after that you won't care - you're on holidays and it's cheap! In Ho Chi Minh City don't miss the women on the street sides selling freshly made French-style waffles - they are crispy-crunchy and sweet and made on the spot over little braziers.

4. Throughout Vietnam the word to watch is SALAD!
Lotus root salad. Green mango salad. Banana flower salad. Green papaya salad. Just dive in face first. You'll be as addicted as I was. This is probably what I'll miss most about Vietnam (apart from the amazing people I met along the way).

5. Wine, gin, and jazz
Watch out for ice in some places. Cheaper places often won't put ice in your mixed drinks, cos the water's not so good. Mid-range places will put ice smashed from larger lumps in your drink - we tended to avoid this ice. We found that ice in tubular form was fine. You'll find pretty broad wine lists in many places (Australian, New Zealand, American, French, and Italian wines) and plenty of gin. Ooooh yeah! There are some mighty funky bars and clubs in Ho Chi Minh City (try Manna - cigar/wine/jazz lounge, or the rooftop bar at the Caravelle).

6. Just wander and discover
Vietnam is a safe place to travel. We tended to wander the streets, stumbling from gorgeous local bar to delicious local restaurant. Much more enjoyable and relaxed than the frenzied search for the latest recommendation-du-jour from Lonely Planet, HRB, or the like. Just wander and find your own way.

So that's it. I loved Vietnam. Vietnam loved me back (as evidenced by my sleek, fat belly).

And back to earth ... what have I missed?
GW ;-)