Archive for the ‘Most Memorable Meals’ Category

Le Drakkar, Deauville

January 13, 2016

77 Rue Eugene Colas, Deauville

A family holiday favourite for thirty years. You’ll find better bistros, but not many with the ambience or better people watching. 

Steak Tartare & Ile Flottante. Bottle of Brouilly. Ice cream for the kids so we can stay a little longer. I hope my kids will return for many years to come.

   

 
 

Jimbocho Den, Tokyo

December 12, 2014

http://www.jimbochoden.com

This was an exceptional meal in every way. Hands down one of my favourite. Up there with L’Aperge & Michael Guerard. It wasn’t just the food, it was the service; utterly charming. A departure from the norm. It does make one think how formal ‘fine dining’ really needs to be.

9pm booking. Previous diners apologised for leaving a little late. Only in Japan. Counter service. Quiet, busy kitchen staffed by all women with the exception of head chef. Our waitress translated everything, made fun conversation, chose excellent (non expensive) beverage pairings.

Every dish had a story or a twist – something whimsical, local, but grounded in a serious ingredient(s). Everything was served with a smile and enthusiasm. It was infectious.

Not only did we get seconds of the excellent beef, we got a Den sticker to put on our phone… But of course. We even finished with photos with the chef & staff, at their request.

It goes without saying we left with smiles on our faces. And the food:

Foie gras sandwich with persimmon
Turtle soup with turnip
KFC – chicken wing with taro & truffle
Aged Yellowfin tuna with radish
Monkfish liver with rice (my favourite)
Eel & smoked soy skin
‘Salad’
Fugu with radish
Hokkaido beef with bamboo rice
Soil (again, but buckwheat this time)

It was also a relative bargain. Go.

In no particular order….(thanks wordpress)

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Asador Bedua, Zumaia

February 8, 2011

http://www.bedua.es

Barrio Bedua, 20750 Zumaia, Spain

It’s important to get a bit of balance in your life and no-one in their right mind should want to eat in michelin starred restaurants all the time. We’d been to Arzak (a slight disappointment), the pinxtos bars (great fun) and wanted to experience another variety of Basque cooking. It was time to check out an Asador – a traditional grill restaurant.

I’d heard about Asador Bedua a 20 minute drive from San Sebastian and booked it for lunch on new years eve – something to kick off the frivolities.

It was a pain to find. The GPS had no idea where it was and the French instructions didn’t offer much help aside from turn when you see a derelict building. We were on the verge of major disagreement in the car when we spied an almost hidden track to the left of said clue and found ourselves in front of a huge building – a converted boat shed.

It’s the sort of simple place for locals, that you know you’re going to have a good time.

Arriving for 2pm, there was only one other table occupied and we settled in. There was a clear language barrier to overcome, but they were patient with us as we negotiated the menu – a mixture of shared local plates & grilled seafood & steak, sold by the kilo.

First up of course a decent bottle of Rioja and then the ‘appetisers’ arrived – iberico ham, foie gras (with orange ‘marmalade’), tuna salad….

… and huge stalks of white asparagus

This is a way to start a meal – no fussing around, just big welcoming plates of food to share and enrich our conversation. The bread, deep and crusty and it was a case of deciding whether to drape it with the silky acorn rich ham or liberally smear it with the liver (there was a lot to get through). These are good decisions to have, fuelled by abundance and greed. Both were prime examples of their kind.

The tuna salad provided a much need touch of green with well dressed leaves and green asparagus. The tuna was tinned Ortiz, which I hadn’t come across for a while – none of this oily or overpowering brine. Just good clean tuna.

The highlight was the tree-trunk like white asparagus served with a large bowl of home-made mayonnaise. Dainty asparagus normally brings out the inner toff as you savour one of the more sophisticated vegetables, but these where mighty and need to be wrestled with and unceremoniously dunked in the sauce. Gorgeous.

An interim dish before the main event – sauteed artichokes with bacon and clams

Bringing the sea to the land, this was a good combination of the sweet, succulent and the salty. Not sure artichoke hearts are to everyone’s liking, but they were perfectly fine, if only lacking a bit in said clams.

It stirred us the for main course & another bottle of wine – the house speciality – steak on the bone.

The picture doesn’t really do this justice….a kilo and half of steak cooked to perfection. Really heavy char (but not burnt), the fat, the crispiest of yellows with the meat rare with the richest of purples, served with a sprinkling of salt and chips on the side. It’s one of the most memorable steaks I’ve eaten and in taste I’ve not had better. So rich with a real depth that is often missing in steaks. Great provenance, well hung and treated with a firm and fair hand.

We were clearly carried away (the second bottle of wine perhaps) and talked ourselves into ordering another kilo of this fine dish. Not sure why we ended up putting ourselves through this beautiful torture. In the end just two of us ended up trying to consume 2 kilos of steak. We didn’t make it.

However after a lengthy rest we were able to turn our attention to dessert (our wives needed their fix).

There were vanilla biscuits, a lemon milk shake (!) and a fine berry cheesecake. All were good classic country food. We were beginning to get a little hazy on the details by now..

It was at this point where Nathan & I decided on an Armagnac, much to the delight of a table of locals who were having as good a time as we were.

In the UK and Australia we’re used to consistent bar measures – 30ml measures. The free pour here literally took our breath away… giving us about half a pint each, which assaulted the senses in the most evil of ways. After the steak we clearly had another challenge on our hands. With much encouragement from the locals we did persevere. Our sense of machismo was restored.

By the time we had drowned ourselves in brandy the the restaurant was empty….. We had been left to our own devices. No staff clock-watching or hovering near by. “Just call for the bill when ready”… The spanish/basque understand….

It was the most memorable of meals.  Four and a half hours of terrific, big, ballsy plates of food with the company of fine friends. The cuisine could hardly be faulted. Yup, we racked up a fair bill, but it was money well spent and I’d come back time and time again, if only my body could cope.

Les Pres D’Eugenie – Michel Guerard

January 21, 2011

http://www.michelguerard.com

Eugenie Les Bains

I often get slightly apprehensive when visiting high end restaurants. A lot of money being spent on a meal, with disappointment a very real possibility. I’m finding that disappointments are more often found when the restaurants are experimental in nature, where you’re meant to marvel at the technique. You are at the mercy of chefs and their ambitions. On the other side you have restaurants that deal in luxury, places that provide an indulgent experience. I’m quickly coming to the opinion that the latter category, while not providing the most thought-provoking food, is where the learned money goes.

And so on to Les Pres D’Eugenie – a lovely meandering drive on the way to San Sebastian. One of the highlights of our trip. We drove from Langon through small foreboding villages dominated by large churches. We came to a valley floor, crossed the town limits sign of Eugenie Les Bains and found ourselves in a place akin to Deauville in its chi-chi-ness. A bit of an eye-opener.

It’s a spa town (obviously) dominated by the hotel, run by Michel Guerard, holder of 3 michelin stars for 30+ years and a true father of modern gastronomy, but without the profile you would think he would deserve. The guard at the gate waves us through after some pleasantries and we are greeted with a simply stunning hotel, full of classic old-money charm. The sun is shining on a brisk winters day. The gardens are manicured and charming. We are won over before we even step into the building.

Our reservation is noted and we’re invited to take drinks in the drawing room – a room of about 70 feet with 3 different seating areas studded with huge sofas, armchairs and ornaments from far flung places. We are led to a mighty sofa and a fire is lit before we order our aperitifs – gin & tonic.

All is right with the world and lunch hasn’t even started. We have entered a bubble of luxury and life for the moment is very good indeed. Warm amuses soon arrive:

From the left – wild mushroom & parmesan tart, mushroom & truffle pastry and a foie gras tartlet.

These are just what the doctor ordered – substantial little tastes with not a mickey mouse sweetcorn veloute in site. We continue to peruse the menu and opt for the reasonable Dinette menu that offers dishes from the a la carte with inclusive wines. We were led to our table in the most open of salons with large tables and whicker chairs with views over the grounds.

Bread was presented to us as a huge freshly cooked country loaf – a choice of plain or studded with olives.

It was warm, crusty with a pleasing sourness and pretty much as good as bread gets.

After a brief interval the starters arrived. We had opted for the same dish – morels and wild mushrooms with asparagus tips.

The generous bowl was filled with the funghi with a submerged large ravioli containing more morels. I’m not one to get too excited about soup, but it was a dish to swoon over. The veloute, like silk, made with the most intense of mushroom stocks. The asparagus was vibrant and sweet despite the winter. It was a dish of its kind I could not imagine being bettered. It brought out the glutton in both of us. Our pleasure was evident enough to be offered second helpings, of which we duly obliged. And even though we were on a glass of wine with each course, more wine was poured when our glasses were exhausted. This is service.

The main courses arrived. My wife opted for the special:

Landes Farmers’ chicken breast veiled in bacon, stuffed with foei gras and cottage cheese. First presented on burning embers….

Then plated:

It was a fine dish – the provenance of the ingredients could not be faulted and while many people believe that chicken is the most neutral of meat that doesn’t deserve it’s place a fine dining menu, sometimes you need an example that shows how great chicken can really be. This was it. The fact it was laced with bacon and foie gras bought out the richness and luxury one would expect here. Can you spot the odd ingredient? Yes the cottage cheese. It belongs in spa food, not gourmand. But it did give the dish a touch of lightness from the big flavours. My wife loved the dish, principally for the chicken, not the cheese….

My main course: Crunchy Buttered Bread Lace of Pig’s Trotter, Duck Liver and Gambas with Smoked Eel Salad and Parsley Cream

I’m not sure it’s possible to get more great ingredients on one plate – wafer thin toast stuffed with an assortment of fine ingredients, providing a very old school take on surf and turf. The gelatinous goodness of the trotter, the fattiness of the liver with some sweetness from the prawn. It was heaven on a plate. There was balance with a light acidic salad, but of course with more luxury in the form of eel, offering up some gentle oiliness.

It was at this point that Michel Guerard ventured out from the kitchen and began greeting his guests. It’s always a pleasure to see a 3 star chef in their restaurant. His English not being up to scratch and my French being the butt of many jokes I was able to distil the immense enjoyment of our meal to two impactful words – “Tres Bien”….. My wife was in tears of laughter as she reflected that this most anodyne of compliments perhaps did not do justice to the stature of the man and his accomplishments. I will not be allowed to forget this moment….

The ribbing continued while we took a pause before desserts, letting the richness of our mains subside.

and in truth after the previous courses, the desserts were a little anti-climatic. They were classic examples and could not be faulted, but lacked the verve we’d had in previous courses.

I was served a Marquis’ soft cake with melted rhubarb ice cream – as described: A Sensual Rendez-Vous of Soufflé and Crème Renversée

It was essentially a twice cooked sweet souffle with a touch of lemon with rhubarb, custard and a raspberry compote. It was creamy, sweet and a little heavy. I’m not sure i was able to finish it, but I didn’t mind trying.

My wife opted for a Millefeuille “à l’Impératrice” with a vanilla cream

Thin layers of pastry layered with cream and raspberries. Again it was light and moreish, but lacked an expected je ne sais quoi.

And so our main meal came to an end and we were quickly served a selection of petit fours – mine sponges, apricot tarts, and caramelised pineapple.

Completing the circle we decided to take these petit fours with our coffee back in the drawing room. coffee liqueur, truffles and caramel tarlets were also provided and we sunk back into the comfiest of sofas and took our time to digest our meal and take stock of our surroundings. Bliss.

We eventually paid our bill (very reasonable) and regretfully left this fine restaurant. I would have happily spent the rest of my holiday here and I would return to France just to be able to visit this restaurant again. The environment and time of year made for the most relaxing of dining experiences. The service was generous and attentive. The food was comforting and skilful with luxury and passion evident on the plate. It was a perfect combination.

Tres bien.

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

January 11, 2011

http://www.royalmail.com.au

98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, Victoria

My mother and father made me the person I am. Their love of food, excellent home cooking, an introduction to good dining at an early age, and the idea that quality time spent together involves a 3 hour meal and 2 bottles of wine. As I’ve grown my culinary tastes and interests have got broader that means that eating out is as much about discovery as it is symbolic of a great time.

My father’s trip to Australia presented an opportunity for such a visit to restaurant that’s been on my radar for a while. We were on a roadtrip from Melbourne to Adelaide and I was keen to sneek a visit to The Grampians to spend a night at The Royal Mail Hotel, a winner of several dining accolades and a place fast becoming a pilgrimage for many gourmands. It’s recent attention has meant that it’s now booked up 5 months at weekends. But a visit on a Tuesday night at the end of November was not problematic.

Although 3 hours out of Melbourne, it’s location 45mins from The Grampians means it’s a great place for some dramatic sights and walking. The perfect excuse itself to visit. Not that you need it, since the hotel is regarded for its local approach to food. Almost all food is sourced within a few miles and seasonality is the order of the day here with almost all fruit and vegetables grown in the gardens that surround the hotel.

The hotel itself has great retro feel with the rooms themselves well decorated in a modern and comfortable way, lots of blonde wood and a natural feel, keeping with the environment. Outside of the rooms, there are views that lead up to a wide lawn and entry into the restaurant.

The dining area is divided into a bistro and a fine dining restaurant. We’re of course here for the fine dining. There are only 10 or so tables, widely spaced, next to the window overlooking the street. The room does not lack for light and it’s a place to take your time without evidence of stuffiness.

We take our seats for the 10 course tasting menu.

We get things started with some bread, locally churned butter and the peruse of a very expansive wine list. I’m not someone to get excited about wine lists. They can often be challenging, but there’s great variety here, especially local vineyards. It is also exceptionally reasonable with many wines priced from $30. It’s a list as much about discovery as it is about making a profit. Not often something you see.

There is no amuse, just a leap into the journey with: sea salad, lemon and lychee

The mention of lychee makes me wary. It’s not an ingredient to get excited about, but it thankfully doesn’t make much of a showing in a dish which wows with a taste of the sea. There’s a pleasing saltiness amplified by much under-rated samphire on a bed of squid. It’s a fresh introduction to the meal and displays a thought-provoking approach to composition, an understated approach to complexity and good use of ingredients.

This is followed up (after some wait) with: jerusalem artichoke, triple cream cheese and chive

It’s as simple as it gets. A dish which is all about quality of ingredients – a baked artichoke, with cream to add a sense of indulgence and a spring onion for texture. It’s easy to be a little underwhelmed, but the taste wins you over. It’s smokey, smooth and satisfying.

We follow with: egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes, yeast

This is already a famed dish – a sous vide fully formed egg yolk served on top of dried wheat & vegetables. Again an understated dish which elicited quite excited responses. Who doesn’t love egg yolk (?) and it combines excellently with the vegetables to produce something gooey, nutty and fun.

Thinks start getting a little serious with john dory, burnt celeriac, mustard, nashi

As little as possible is done to the ingredients with lightly poached dory that retains some gelatinous fibres, complimented with singed celeriac. It was a good combination, but relatively neutral flavour-wise.

Flavour makes a big comeback with a beautiful dish of asparagus, kohlrabi, duck ham, spring blossoms

A picture of spring on a plate that really leverages the seasonal vegetables. I can take or leave the kohlrabi, but the rest of the dish sang with freshness due to flowers and vegetables picked a matter of hours ago from the garden metres away. It was bought together by a lovely duck consomme. It managed to perfectly combine meat and vegetables in a very satisfying way.

Which brings us to: globe artichoke as pork, pea and parsley

A transition dish. Just because the restaurant is all about excellence from the garden doesn’t mean that meat can’t feature in a big way. This brings the two together with a sous vide artichoke cooked in pork broth served classically with peas and on a piece of pork belly. It’s a dish to delight in and will obviously convert the most extreme carnivores. It’s beautiful – sweet and savoury. The pork just amplifies the vegetables and it’s lovely.

The main course is lamb, eggplant in white miso, pine nut, chlorophyll

We see a continuation of a trend here with singed eggplant which amplifies it’s smokiness coupled with a fine fillet of lamb. I’m not exactly wowed by the chlorophyll. It just tastes of ‘green’ and a touch artificial. However it doesn’t detract too much from a satisfying dish that brings to a close the savoury part of the meal.

Gratifyingly there’s no twee palate cleanser and we’re served rhubarb, licorice, almond, citrus

The rhubarb has been cooked sous-vide, but still retains good textural consistency and it fibers. It requires a knife and fork. The glaze is sweet and has a pleasing intensity, which doesn’t overpower. It’s served at room temperature and is a pleasant dish to work through.

The ice cream course is next – banana in szechuan pepper, coconut and cocoa ice

Bizarrely we have a dessert wine with this that clashes with the coldness, but as a dish it’s thought-provoking if not a dish to get excited about. The cocoa dust I can take or leave, but there’s a nice heat from the pepper that lifts the ice cream and makes the banana sing (just a little).

The final course of the meal is pistachio cake with hazelnut, honeycomb, chocolate

It’s a lovely moreish cake and ends the meal on a  high. The nuttiness is lovely and the cake beautifully moist. The chocolate doesn’t overpower and it all adds up to a lovely plate of food to finish on.

We are sated without feeling bloated. It’s a good place to be. We end the meal with coffee that is accompanied by strawberries from the garden with chocolate soil.

This last treat serves as a pointed reminder of what we’ve experienced – the freshest and most wholesome of ingredients served with cutting edge culinary methods. The strawberries are hearteningly imperfect and sweet. The soil is of course compulsive eating.

This was a meal that I was glad to make an effort to have. The seasonality and confidence of cooking makes it a rare restaurant. I was expecting more wow moments and fireworks, but was not disappointed. On reflection this is a place that really let’s the ingredients do the talking (a tiresome cliche) and that the culinary skill admirably only serves to amplify the taste. There is also a sense of progress in the cooking and it’s clear that the food will continue to evolve around the seasons and making the most of natural flavour. So it will pay to keep my eye on The Royal Mail and return whenever that may be.

The Sportsman

May 9, 2010

http://www.thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk

Faversham Road, Whitstable, UK

I’ve been in the UK for a couple of weeks, back seeing friends & family as well as revisiting a number of good restaurants I hadn’t returned to since I started blogging.

Top of the list was The Sportsman, a michelin starred pub in an almost desolate part of the country a few miles from Whitstable on the Kent coast. I’d been here in January 2009 and had one of my most enjoyable meals. I had to return, booking it 3 months prior.

This time I dragged my wife & a couple of good friends along for the 2 hour trip out of London just to have lunch. I know it seems a little too much effort to go to for a meal, but there a some restaurants which reward this endeavor. The Sportsman is one.

If you book far enough ahead, you can pre-order the tasting menu which at £55 represents one of the best dining bargains you will find, as you will see. It did however require us to arrive for 12pm, so after an early start and a quick stroll around the groynes we settled down for our gastro-tour from a chef who takes inspiration from the finest dining around the world while keeping his cooking as local as possible.

We start with a fresh asparagus with cream cheese tartlet. It serves to freshen the palate and is as simple as it comes. It whets the appetite.

The expectations are risen with an oyster with apple dressing & a morsel of home cured ham, beautifully served on a bed of cockle shells. It’s a pleasant if unusual dish that shows great care and thought. I’m not sure it’s my favourite preparation, but it’s thought provoking in terms of balance of flavours.

The famous nibble board follows with mackerel and apple ‘cube’ which is a great, but everyone’s really interested in the pork scratchings which is quintessential pub food. It is not a food people like to admit to loving, especially the ladies, but people don’t really want to share them or go without their share. They rock.

From the essence of pub cuisine we get a beautiful & memorable dish of oyster baked in cream with rhubarb granite. It’s smooth, rich, sweet and briney.

The bread course follows with home-made focaccia, wheat-germ & a country loaf. They are served with homemade butter (of course) and fish roe. It’s a dish where restraint is required especially with the impending courses. I mostly limit myself to the herby and oily focaccia. My friend Jack on the other hand clings on to the fish roe for dear life and would not let go before it was finished.

The first course now arrives and it’s a tremendous crab risotto. On my previous visit this dish was unavailable and it was the only thing that dampened a great experience. The wait was worth it. I’m a sucker for all things crab and this dish had a depth of flavour you rarely come across. A desert island dish if ever there was one.

A meat course followed – smoked wigeon with quince & puy lentils. Smoky, tender and a flavour that only comes from being well hung. It again did not disappoint.

We were then able to reflect properly on the home cured ham on our next course. I’ll resist more superlatives, but it was rather good and again demonstrated the effort that Stephen Harris puts into his craft and the home grown culture he cultivates.

The next dish was the highlight of the meal for me – braised brill with vin jaun, cabbage and a bad-ass piece of smoked pork. The fish was delicate – edible with a spoon, with the cabbage providing a good bit of bite.

Still the food kept coming. A stalwart of the menu is deep fried breast of lamb served with mint sauce. It’s a pretty unprepossessing cut of meat here turned into a delightful bite. It was much enjoyed.

The savory menu came to end with a rack & shoulder of Monkshill lamb served with my wife’s favourite – Gratin Dauphinoise (my wife would insist on the capital letters). You could see the lamb themselves out of the window in the fields. People talk about reducing food miles and it doesn’t seem to be done any better. It goes without saying that the dish was excellent. It was the details that made the difference with crisp skin (under-rated on lamb) & a meaty jus.

We looked forward to the procession of desserts with a sense of wariness found amongst the full.

1) Chocolate pudding mixture with an orange lolly – It took you back to being a kid again; not be able to wait for a cake to be baked.

2) The wobbliest of custard tarts with a rhubarb compote – it was incredibly silky, excellent flaky pastry and a nice hit of nutmeg. Despite being full, it demanded to be finished.

3) The final assault was the dessert tray

– rhubarb sorbet (or sorts) with space dust

– cream cheese dessert (can’t remember the name, but was indulgently good)

– the obligatory chocolate mousse

– shortbread

And so our meal came to an end with mixed emotions. We were relieved since we were beaten by the quantity of food (all believing we’d never eat again). But the quality and ethos of the cooking will create fond memories for time to come.

There is great generosity in the food – the little extras and the sheer quality of what’s delivered. The chef comes out and explains the dishes with a smile and enthusiasm that you surprisingly don’t often see. It’s hard not to also be enthused in this relaxed environment.

Clearly I’m a fan of this place and although it’s a trek, it’s a place you simply have to visit.

Willow Vale Mill

March 18, 2010

Laggan, NSW

Writing about this place does raise in my mind why I write in the first place. I see this blog as essentially an aide-memoire for how I choose to spend my money & time, capturing what I thought of the places I’ve been to. Clearly being able to share my thoughts with other like minded individuals is a good thing, but when writing about the Willow Vale Mill I’m not writing about a business, I’m commenting on one man’s passion, and accordingly some respect must be paid. Not that this was the sort of place that disappointed.

We had a very memorable, albeit brief stay here, with Graham a great host who personally renovated this huge building and now runs a restaurant of sorts with three rooms for overnight guests. It’s not about money but enjoyment and as a result you get the impression that guests are vetted before they get a reservation, because Graham is essentially having guests round for dinner – and who wants to spend time with people who are going to be demanding or a pain in the arse?

We arrived mid afternoon during a miserable day and were immediately handed a mug of tea which we took in front of the huge log fire. We got to know our host for a while until he went off to prepare our dinner.

While my wife had a snooze I was able to hang out in the kitchen and meet some of the locals who were coming and going. Beers were handed around. It was a very social afternoon.

Dinner itself was equally social. Various guests congregated in the dining room around 7pm. There were about 20 this evening. Wines were chosen from Graham’s collection and we were recommended a decent pinot noir which went down well with the appetizers as we helped ourselves.

And what appetizers! – a variety of semi-dried chorizo, a potato pizza and a f’ing awesome sizzling pan of wood mushrooms accompanied by olive oil drizzled & toasted ciabatta. The mushrooms were as good as I’ve ever had and if I were in less civilized surroundings I would have fought people to keep them to myself.

We also got to know some of our fellow guests as we looked forward to our entree.

This was a simple and wholesome vegetable soup full of thick fresh veggies in a rich tomato spiked broth. We wisely only limited ourselves to a singe bowl, well aware that there would be plenty more to come.

And when the main dishes came out, they didn’t seem to stop:

A rack of pork, leg of lamb & side of corned beef, accompanied by sauteed greens, roasted vegetables, potato bake & a room temperature dish of tomatoes, cheese & courgettes. Phew…. The guests all helped serve, plates were piled high and a happy chatter filled the room.

It was gutsy, earthy food, perfect for a friendly dinner party. Graham, our host worked the room and made sure we were all having a good time.

By the time dessert arrived, I think everyone was suffering from meat sweats, but knew they had to persevere:

On the far right of the above picture was a cherry tart. Aside from the mushrooms it was a highlight of our meal – crisp pastry, sweet fruit with a nice compote, coupled with homemade cream (that’s the plate of white gooness above) which was truly delightful.

It was one of those meals which was big on generosity and we stumbled sated to the veranda to relax as the revelry continued inside. We were grateful our bed was so close and we eventually retired, two very satisfied people, knowing that we’d had a day to remember.

We were the only overnight guests and had a quiet morning and simple breakfast before we got on our way.

It’s clear the Willow Vale Mill has a unique appeal and it seems that the majority of guests are repeat visitors, which says a lot about the enjoyment of this place. I just hope Graham enjoyed our company enough to have us back. We’d very much like to return.

Guiding Star – Dining Heaven

July 12, 2009

We were deep in the Bayou and after a long day of driving through this brilliant state stumbled across this rough ‘n’ ready boiled seafood shack in New Iberia, Louisiana. A real local’s place on the edge of a highway.

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Tabasco sign – check, newspapers as tablecoths – check, cold, cold beer – check. Awesome seafood – check.

We arrived early, because we were so hungry and luckily enough found out that they’d only taken delivery of a dozen crab. The phone was ringing off the hook with people checking crab was on the menu before they arrived. Servings came in the half dozen, so we had to get our order in quick. We were not to be disappointed:

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and because we knew we’d only be here once, we had to order crayfish as well:

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Being British we needed some pointers on how to get really stuck in without a knife & fork….we didn’t need much encouragement with the lovely sweet meat and superb cajun spicing. Destruction ensued and at the end of gloriously stuffing our face we surveyed the chaos:

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It’s a good thing we were able to eat to our fill because the idea of picking up some candy on the way out was not too appealing:

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We won’t be forgetting this random meal in a hurry.  As they say in LA – “Ca c’est bon”

9/10

Yoshii – Japanese Dining Heaven

July 12, 2009

115 Harrington Street, Sydney

www.yoshii.com.au

I visited Yoshii last November, coming briefly back to Sydney after my honeymoon. I was craving sushi and had a few hours to kill before an appointment to agree the all important wedding photos. I’d read the Yoshii was the place to go and had an unexpected, but memorable meal.

I turned up at 12pm on the dot for lunch and was sat at the counter. I was disappointed to be handed a fixed lunch menu – bento boxes etc, when I wanted to see what the restaurant had to offer. In my experience at Japanese places it’s always good to get the chef to determine what you eat since the ingredients change on a daily basis. It also makes the dining experience more interesting.

After telling the waitresses that I wanted to try what the restaurant had to offer I was moved stalls & sat in front of Mr. Yoshii who introduced himself and told me he’d create a menu for me. Not being too busy in the restaurant I guess he had the time. So followed a succession of beautiful dishes described with charm & enthusiasm by the great man himself.

A few of the dishes:

king crab mousse in edamme soup

king crab mousse in edamme soup

Sashimi selection

Sashimi selection

salt baked abalone

salt baked abalone

Black Cod with singed cedar wood

Black Cod with singed cedar wood

The sensational dishes were all served with a subtle twist of some kind. The cedar wood with the black cod certainly delivered a greater sensory experience.

It was a truly memorable meal with Mr. Yoshii proving a great companion, talking about the seasonality & sourcing of various ingredients. He even offered to provide introductions to those hard to find restaurants in Japan.

This meal was great because of the generosity and service displayed and as a result it’s always on my list to return. It’s not cheap, but represents good value for money. I just need an excuse to return.

9/10