23 July, 2010

Taste Down Under XII - King Island, Tasmania

The last stop in HFB’s Australia tour brought him to Tasmania, a state known for its large and relatively unspoiled natural environment. And located off the north-western tip of the main island lies King Island, known for its ideal conditions for premium beef production (certified by the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system), seafood – Rock Lobster (or more commonly called Crayfish) and Sea Elephant Oysters, and cheese – courtesy of King Island Dairy, which sourced their milk from King Island dairy farmers whose cows are famous for their unique quality of milk.


The first thing we did when we reached the city centre was to head to the local supermarket for our supplies – and one of the items we picked up was the Air-dried Beef. Along with some biscuits and horseradish sauce as accompaniments, one could really taste the freshness and intense flavour produced by the meat. It might sound far-fetched if HFB claimed that that was the best piece of air-dried beef he has consumed, but he was dead right – he haven’t came across any that was better thus far.


Other than the beef, cheeses from King Island Dairy were also readily available at the supermarket. HFB really enjoyed the Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie that was made with full fat milk and enriched with additional cream. Covered in a bloom of white mould, it really enhanced the magnificent flavour giving it a creamy golden centre and a pleasingly rich and buttery flavour.


It was also of good fortune that we won a tidy sum of cash betting on horse racing over at one of the local pubs nearby that we head back to purchase a cooked crayfish off the shelf.


Priced at AUD66 per kg, it wasn’t exactly cheap, but the goodness within kinda compensate for it – the meat was firm and sweetness exuded, and besides, it was ample for the 3 of us to enjoy!


For an island with a small population, there weren’t many choices when it came to restaurant dining. However, we were advised that the King Island Club was one of the better venues to enjoy a nice piece of King Island Beef Steak.


A very retro bistro and bar greeted us when we stepped in – checkered table cloths, wooden furnishings, along with many timeless and classic décors.



It happened to be a Tuesday that evening, and that means it was BINGO night – a pity we didn’t win anything, however we did struck gold with their dozen natural Oysters (AUD$22).


Fresh, plump, with a hint of ‘flavour from the sea’, one couldn’t really go wrong with the oysters that lived in such ideal conditions.



The Salt and Pepper Squid (AUD$11) was brilliantly executed – well seasoned and nicely coated with flour, it was the perfect appetiser that really opened up our palates.


The Porterhouse Steak (AUD$25) came with a nice thickness and was nicely seared – the meat was cooked to the right doneness, and boy was it luscious! HFB took delight in the lovely beefiness flavour of the steak – a sign of King Island’s quality meat produce.


The lovely dinner was rounded off with the only dessert offering – the Plum Pudding (AUD$6). Flavourful but perhaps a tad sweet, it was almost a perfect ending.


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05 July, 2010

Taste Down Under XI - Chat Thai, Campbell Street, Sydney

Chat Thai”, which simply means “Thai Nation”, is also a pun on the English meaning “to converse in an informal manner” – which is what Chat Thai is all about – casual, relaxed dining with authentic Thai food. It really helped that HFB was staying in the heart of Sydney’s city centre, and a mere 10 minutes walk was all he needed to satisfy his supper cravings at their Campbell Street, Haymarket outlet.


Question: How does one spot a restaurant that dishes out authentic cuisine? Answer: By spotting the number of locals (and by that he meant the sheer number of Thais, NOT the Aussies) dining there. At Chat Thai, supper starts at 9.30pm – and by that, it meant that prices for similar food items offered by the dinner menu will be found much cheaper in the condensed supper menu. How fabulous is that?!?


What’s a Thai meal without Thai Red Iced Tea, or Cha Nohm? Although a tad steep at AUD$3.50 per glass, HFB was pretty confident that it was probably as good as one can get in Australia. It was sweet and the tea aftertaste packed a punch like how a good glass of Thai iced tea should be.


Loug Chin Ping, or simply Grilled Skewered Beef Balls, was just some Thai snack to nibble while waiting for the rest of the items to arrive. It was nothing special except that it goes well with the Nahm Jim, a sweet chilli and sour plum sauce.


Another snack was the Mu Bhing, or the Skewered Char Grilled Lean Pork. Marinated in Galangal, Lemongrass and Garlic. HFB liked the fact that the dish is engaging – with the harmony of spices interacting with one’s palate.


The Gai Satay, or Skewered Char Grilled Chicken Fillets, marinated in Garlic, Turmeric and Coriander Roots is liken to our local satay – accompanied with it’s very own Peanut Sauce and Salsa of Pickled Cucumber and Red Onions. Nicely char-grilled and well marinated, it was an ideal comfort food for supper.


While each of the above 3 snacks cost AUD$2.00 per skewer, having it during dinner time would set one back 20 percent more at AUD$2.50 each! A nice way to roundup the supper would be to polish off a generous hot plate of Seafood Pad Thai (AUD$13.90).


Nicely fried Thin Rice Noodles topped with Dried Shrimps, Ground Peanuts, Eggs, Chives and Bean Sprouts, the unison of ingredients has all of what a good dish should be – colour, texture, flavour and taste. HFB also really like the fact that the shrimps heighten the dish with an additional oomph with its salty flavour and crunchy texture (btw, this dish cost an extra AUD$3.00 during dinner time)!


HFB really enjoyed Chat Thai’s good, honest, simple fare that he actually made a returned visit within the same week.

Food: 3.5/5 (Another simple honest fare)
Service: 3.5/5 (Efficient)
Ambience: 3.5/5 (Noisy, but one get the feeling he's dining supper in Thailand, since almost every diner speaks Thai)
Price: 4/5 (Affordable)
Total: 14.5/20
20 Campbell Street, Haymarket
Sdyney 2000, Australia

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