Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com Food, Travel, Friends. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:25:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Addict Food & Coffee http://fatboo.com/2015/01/addict-food-coffee-fitzroy.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/addict-food-coffee-fitzroy.html#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:18:38 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20419 Addict Food & Coffee by Fatboo

Winsome brunch spot in Fitzroy with good coffees and a tasty brunch menu.

Addict Food & Coffee was written by Fatboo.
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Addict Food & Coffee by Fatboo

240-242 Johnston St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9415 6420
Facebook Page

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6798

This brunch session happened shortly after my return from Bhutan, a trip that I’ve yet to even begin writing about! After weeks of oily-salty Asian food, Fatbee, Fakegf and I found ourselves desperate for clean, vegetable-laden Western fare. In short… I missed brunching out in Melbourne so dearly!

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 1
Fresh Market Juice – Watermelon 5.5

That’s how we found ourselves here. This cafe came into prominence in our minds after seeing strings of Instagram photos filled with beautiful brunch dishes. That’s the power of social media… it can cause a lot of damage, but it can also do a lot of good. And I’m glad to say that within the context of food, we’re usually dealing with the good and happy things!

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6784
Single Origin Piccolo 4.3

I can be a bit picky with my coffees, and actually had a cup of Maling Room coffee at home before brunching here. But once I learnt that they used Market Lane beans here (my favourite roaster), I had to have a second cup of coffee.

This single origin Ethiopia Bulga piccolo was a bright and fruity drink with a smooth chocolatey finish, which contrasted nicely with Fakegf’s round-bodied and tasty seasonal blend.  Very nice.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6787Potato hash & mushroom duxelles w roasted field mushroom, a poached egg & caramelised onion 18.0

My companions picked the same dish that day – a small but tasty mushroom number served with a crisp and delicate piece of potato hash.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 2

It was a delicious dish, but for that price point Fatbee thought the serving size was a touch small… he was still hungry after this meal.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6791
Corn fritters w kasundi, haloumi, poached eggs & a coriander & mizuna salad 18.0

I also went vegetarian with corn fritters that came crisp on the outside and moist on the inside with hints of herbs and spice.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6794

It went well with the milky haloumi and I liked how the kasundi sauce and sprigs of coriander gave a light and perky counterpoint to the dish, preventing it from being too filling or heavy.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6779

It’s really nice going back into the brunching game in Melbourne. Just being away for two short weeks has made me miss the brunch fare in our fine city so much! This cafe serves good coffee and I think the dishes are well executed too. And now it’s time to hunt for my all-time post holiday craving… grilled asparagus and poached eggs!

Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

Addict Food & Coffee was written by Fatboo.
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Sushi Hotaru http://fatboo.com/2015/01/sushi-hotaru-melbourne-train.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/sushi-hotaru-melbourne-train.html#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:50:30 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20405 Sushi Hotaru by Fatboo

Cheap and cheery sushi train shop in Chinatown, Melbourne CBD. The variety of items on offer is staggering, with most of them priced at $3 a plate.

Sushi Hotaru was written by Fatboo.
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Sushi Hotaru by Fatboo

Shop 118, Level 1
MidCity Arcade
200 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9663 7538

Disclosure: I was given a $40 voucher to sample the selections at this restaurant

Sushi Hotaru Train Melbourne 6880

There aren’t that many sushi trains in Melbourne and this place had been on my radar for sometime. It’s known for its huge variety of items on offer and very affordable prices, where the vast majority of the items are priced at $3 per plate. Late last year, I received an invite asking if I’d like to sample this place and review it, and seeing that it syncs with what’s on my wishlist – I agreed. I received a $40 voucher to spend at this restaurant and we visited here on a Monday night in Summer.

Sushi Hotaru 01

On arrival, the place was packed with a sizeable queue of hungry diners waiting outside its glass sliding doors. Once seated, you’re pretty much left to your own devices and there isn’t much by way of introduction by the waitstaff on how the system works. It was slightly disconcerting at the start, but the truth is everything’s already there for you. Your chopsticks, napkins, sauces on the table… a constantly moving sushi train streaming an endless variety of little eats that you can pick to your heart’s desire… and a touchscreen iPad system for you to order drinks and specific dishes that aren’t on the revolving train. For the less tech savvy amongst us, there’s also a card menu with all the dishes on offer.

Sushi Hotaru 04Sushi Hotaru 05
Seaweed Salad $3 | Black Sesame Latte $5.50
Miso Soup $2.50 | Lobster Salad $3

Fatbee swiftly embarked on our meal before I even had a chance to figure out my blogger’s game plan for that night, leading me on a mad dash to snap photos of all the plates of food he’d lifted from the sushi train within minutes of us sitting.

We started off with two types of gunkan sushi, where the rice is wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). They were okay and not the freshest offerings of sushi I’ve had. To go with our meal, Fatbee had a cup of black sesame latte (it was like a thin milkshake with good levels of sweetness) while I imbibed on a rather watery bowl of subpar miso soup.

Sushi Hotaru 02
Assorted Sashimi $7.90

We continued with a mandatory serve of sashimi which came at a slightly more premium price tag, along with complimentary packets of instant wasabi that can be found stacked in bowls on the sushi train. While I appreciated how the cuts of fish came quite generous, I once again found it lacking in freshness. The maguro akami (Bluefin Tuna) in particular had a not-that-pleasant fishy smell.

Sushi Hotaru 03
Wagyu Beef Tataki $3 | Prawn $3

We next explored the nigiri sushi selections, both of which were just o-kay. By this point, we both decided that perhaps it’d be wiser to steer clear of the raw sashimi-type offerings and stick with the cooked and fried offerings at this restaurant.

Sushi Hotaru 06
Eel with Cream Cheese Roll $3 | Eel Nigiri $3

These items were a bit better. First up, a rather unusual roll that contained unagi (freshwater eel) and cream cheese in it, and then a simple unagi nigiri sushi. I did not mind the cooked unagi in both of these rolls.

Sushi Hotaru 07
Soft Shell Crab with Tartar $3 | Soft Shell Crab Roll $3

The soft shell crab hand roll (ordered via the touchscreen system) turned out to be the best dish we’d had that night. It came hot and crispy and I liked the generous wrapping of nori around it. The other version was also alright, but not as lovely as the hand roll. I should also point out that I quite liked the sushi rice served at this joint, it had a nice (discrete yet sticky) texture and was decently seasoned.

Sushi Hotaru 08
Takoyaki (Octopus Puffs) $3 | Agedashi Tofu $3

These were our last two dishes before we were completely stuffed. Once again, I liked how the takoyaki came crisp and hot, and chuckled a little at the unceremonious placement of that packet of sauce on the plate. The agedashi tofu, however, did not hit the mark for me because the sauce was a bit too oily for my liking.

After so many plates of food, one touch of the screen alerted the waitress to count our stack of empty plates and tally our bill. Seeing that our meal ended up costing us $45.90 ($5.90 after using the restaurant voucher), you could say this place has to be one of the most affordable sushi restaurants in Melbourne with a big menu to boot.

While I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the offerings, I believe one should look at it objectively and understand that you can’t expect a WOW plate of sushi if you’re forking out $3 for two pieces! To put things in perspective, a good Japanese meal for me usually costs upwards of $45 per person and you often leave still hungry.

I think this place will suit students, casual eaters and those who aren’t that fussy with their sushi. And if you’re smart and know what to pick from the huge menu (ie. the non-raw dishes), you probably can have quite a good meal here at a fantastic price.

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hotaru was written by Fatboo.
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Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings http://fatboo.com/2015/01/dinh-son-quan-bun-ta-i-love-dumplings-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/dinh-son-quan-bun-ta-i-love-dumplings-footscray.html#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 22:55:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20368 Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings by Fatboo

A casual series of the cheap eats that Fatbee and I have been exploring on our lazy work-week nights. Why cook when we can feast like kings so cheaply?

Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
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Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings by Fatboo

Đinh Sơn Quán

17 Nicholson St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9689 3066
Dinh Son Quan on Urbanspoon

I’m pushing out this quick compilation post of recent cheap eats that Fatbee and I have been exploring. I’ve been blog-lazy lately and all the photos here were taken with my iPhone… which correlates closely with our ‘relaxed’ approach towards eating on a day-to-day basis just to subsist on our working days without having to stress about cooking.

Dinh Son Footscray 3598

I confess part of this change in food priorities has to do with this time of year. Summer is like a madhouse at my workplace, which means photo-editing and blogging takes second spot until I get a bit of a breather.

Dinh Son Footscray 3590

Either way, Fatbee and I have a soft spot for Footscray as our weeknight cheap eats spot. It’s but a 5 minutes drive from home plus parking’s free and widely available in the nighttime, with many many eating options available within walking distance. While Richmond is a valid alternative, I personally find the difference in quality not big enough to warrant facing the heavier traffic getting there (not to mention the difficult parking).

Dinh Son Quan sits in a corner of my favourite Asian wet market: Little Saigon. In my culinary worldview, the dingier looking the place, the more likely you’ll be getting an authentic feed. And Dinh Son fits that bill perfectly. It’s a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant with a takeaway side enterprise with oodles of delicious looking unfamiliars sitting on bain marie trays enticing market-goers.

Dinh Son Footscray 3591

But we decided to have a sit-in meal that night. After we ordered, we could hear the uncle out the back blasting up his giant wok and frying our meal up. Not long after, two plates of rice arrived, to which we promptly sent one plate back… because look at that crazy mountainous serve of rice!! It’s obviously geared more towards Australian-sized stomachs… but for Fatbee and I, we’d probably only have ⅓ of that amount of rice for most of our meals (unless the accompanying dishes includes my ultimate weak spot – roast duck!).

Dinh Son Footscray 3592
Sườn Heo Rang Muối $12.00
Spare Ribs Pork in Spicy Fine Spice Sauce

Fatbee picked deep fried spare ribs as our meat dish, which came in a hefty serve with lots of flavour.

Dinh Son Footscray 3595
Rau Cải Xào Tàu Hủ $9.00
Combination vegetable with Bean Curd

I picked our vegetable accompaniment, which turned out to be a mountain of bean sprouts and chives stir-fried with semi-firm squares of tofu.

Dinh Son Footscray 3589

The food at Dinh Son isn’t spectacular, but the prices are very friendly and the servings huge. We could not finish, took the leftovers home and got ourselves two more boxes of takeaway dishes from the bain marie. All up, our dinner (with the takeaways) set us back $35, and it fed us for 2-3 more meals. That’s almost as cheap as cooking at home (albeit less healthy).

Bun Ta Footscray 3714

Bun Ta

108 Hopkins Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 4130
Facebook Page
Bun Ta on Urbanspoon

On another lazy weeknight, we headed back to Footscray for another cheap feed. This time trying out a newish joint located just a few doors away from Sapa Hills. I noticed that this lot has seen the turnaround of a few Vietnamese joints that did not quite make a mark in the scene on Hopkins St. But Bun Ta seemed to be drawing a bigger crowd than previous ventures.

Bun Ta Footscray 3715
Chả Giò Thập Cẩm $8.00
Combination spring rolls

Fatbee wasn’t too hungry that evening and had an uncomplicated serve of crunchy spring rolls. I liked how the fresh greens served with it did not come still dripping wet from washing (a pet peeve of mine when dining at Vietnamese eateries).

Bun Ta Footscray 3716
Bún Thịt Nướng $10.00
Rice vermicelli with grilled pork 

Being summer, I went with a classic Bun Cha with grilled pork. It satisfied me because the pork was succulent and it had a nice chargrilled flavour.

I find that when it comes to Footscray, how new or slick a joint looks like does not necessarily correlate with the food becoming inauthentic. The quality’s still good here, with the slight difference in that portion sizes may be smaller and the customer demographic tends to be a bit more Western… plus they drink wine with their meals.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3724

I Love Dumplings

297 Racecourse Rd
Flemington, VIC 3031
03 9372 5218
Website
I Love Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Our final spot for this post is an eatery in Flemington that has revamped its image over the years and eventually hit upon a winning formula. This place used to be called Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen, with an eclectic menu of interesting Chinese dishes including several grilled offal offerings.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3732

Over the years, they clued-in that Melburnians can’t get enough of dumplings and (thanks to Dainty Sichuan) they also love their Sichuan fare. So they changed their concept into a dumpling-focussed enterprise with an accompanying huge menu of Sichuanese all-star dishes that had made Dainty so popular. The final adjustment towards success was the name change from “Chinese Spicy Barbie Kitchen” into something a lot catchier. On this note, I wonder if they took inspiration from I Love Pho 264.

Our visit here happened shortly after they’d moved a few doors down to this larger store space, in fact we came here for dinner on New Years Day! The interior is a lot less gaudy-quirky than what it used to be back in the old premises.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3734
Steamed pork dumplings with Sichuan chili sauce (15pcs) $9.8

It was a warmish day, so we did not go overboard with our ordering. Just a simple serve of chilli dumplings which had a lovely juicy filling but came rather spartan in the chilli oil condiment department. That small teaspoon dab of chilli oil on top of it all is just sooo scaredy-cat for a dish that’s supposed to be spicy! All that said, I enjoyed these dumplings.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3735
Deep fried eggplant with sweet chilli sauce, carrot and coriander $16.8

We also decided to sample one of our favourite Sichuan dishes – namely the fish fragrant eggplant. The version here was below par because there was a lot of batter covering the jenga-like sticks of eggplant (too thick!) and the sauce was cloyingly sweet and tomatoey without any spice.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3726

The menu at I Love Dumplings is pretty massive and we’ve barely touched the surface on what this place offers. However, I have been visiting Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen over the years and in general, I tend to find that the flavours have progressively been toned down to suit local palates, which is a trend that I’ve also seen happening at Dainty Sichuan in the past 3-4 years. I think that’s such a pity, but on the business front, based on how busy it was when we’d visited, this is what works in Melbourne.

The other Sichuanese dishes in the menu still looks very delicious (thanks to good food photography) and I may give this place another go, next time with a bigger group of heavy eaters. But if I’m visiting this place for a quick and easy feed, I’ll probably just stick with the dumplings, which (based on previous visits) tends to outshine the other dishes. And on a final note, thank goodness they didn’t name this joint into “I Love Dumplings 297″!

Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Shakahari Too http://fatboo.com/2015/01/shakahari-too-vegetarian-south-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/shakahari-too-vegetarian-south-melbourne.html#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 06:57:47 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20337 Shakahari Too by Fatboo

Casual Vegetarian restaurant in the sleepy suburb of South Melbourne with particularly delectable desserts.

Shakahari Too was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Shakahari Too by Fatboo

225 Clarendon St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9682 2207
Website

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5058

Prior to last year’s Bhutan trip, Fatbee left Melbourne a week earlier… leaving me behind to ‘fend for myself’. I moved back to my apartment… had Weet Bix for dinner, looked at the four walls and started panicking. I next sent SOS texts to my friends and organised catch up dinners for the rest of the week so that I won’t have to “Weet Bix” it again.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5060

That’s how Damo and Eric agreed to have a catchup meal with me at this vegetarian restaurant.

As for our choice of venue, while Eric still enjoys his meat, Damo has shifted his culinary preferences towards vegetarianism. On this front, I’m becoming a bit like that as well… until I have a plate of bacon or roast duck in front of me, where I’ll slide backwards into a meat-guzzling gremlin. Yeah… I’m only human!

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 1LASAGNE CONCHITA (dairy) – 22.0
Rustichelle d’Abruzzo lasagne sheets (Italian) layered with dark olives, kale, couscous and walnuts, and sweet corn, shredded pumpkin and chia seeds. Served with herb roasted root vegetables and salad greens and tomato sauce.
MUSHROOM AGNOLOTTI (vegan, non-dairy) – 15.5
Individually made saucer-like dumplings filled with cup and portobello mushrooms textured with quinoa flakes. They are pan-fried with herbal oil, laced with balsamic reduction and chilli oil. 

We each picked a main and then proceeded to share all of our dishes. The minced meat in the lasagne has been replaced with lots of couscous, giving quite a bit of fibrous weight to the dish. Presence of sweet corn made this main dish lean towards the sweet side, which was something I wasn’t that keen on.

The mushroom dumplings turned out to be a hybrid of sorts, where crisp fried Malaysian rotis came with chopped mushroom “duxelle” as its filling inside. It was drizzled with a vinegary balsamic dressing and the presence of chilli oil was mild.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5062
CROQUETTES QUINOA (vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free) – 20.5
Crunchy patties of steamed mashed yam, potatoes, roasted macadamia nuts, pickled turnips, diced vegetables and black quinoa. Served with herbal oil, tossed steamed greens, kim chee and a mild citrus red capsicum sauce.

These quinoa croquettes turned out to be the nicest of the three main dishes that we ordered. It reminded me a bit of Indonesian Perkedel (potato croquettes) but a healthier and slightly nutty version of it. I liked how the accompanying sauce came tangy and spicy, which cuts through the richness of the carb-heavy croquettes nicely. This dish came with a side serve of Korean kim chi.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5065
LEMONGRASS COCONUT CHEESECAKE (dairy) – 15.5
Lemongrass flavoured coconut and freash mascarpone set in a crusty biscuit base. It comes with reduced palm sugar and blue berries

We ended our meal with two shared desserts. This cheesecake was light and has a texture that reminded me of tofu or agar agar. I liked how it wasn’t too sweet and it came with a subtle hint of fresh lemongrass. Very nice.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5064
BLACK RICE AND SAGO PUDDING (vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free) – 14.5
Black rice and sago cooked in coconut and organic quinoa milk flavored with pandan leaves. Topped with caramelized coconut threads

And finally, we had a mixed pudding of black rice and sago. The rice gave what’s normally a soft sago dish a firmer texture and more fibrous bite, which I liked. The coconut and quinoa milk was also lovely and I believe they also used palm sugar to sweeten this dish, topped with delicious morsels of shredded coconut.

Overall, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the main dishes that we had here… but I have to admit that the desserts at Shakahari were great.

Shakahari Too on Urbanspoon

Shakahari Too was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD http://fatboo.com/2015/01/salero-kito-padang-restaurant-melbourne-cbd.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/salero-kito-padang-restaurant-melbourne-cbd.html#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 20:20:17 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19847 Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD by Fatboo

Finally found a great spot for Nasi Padang food from West Sumatra, Indonesia. My Indonesian companions gives this restaurant a big thumbs up!

Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD by Fatboo

Shop 18 (Tivoli Arcade)
235 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9639 7268
Website

Sometimes I think this blog should be renamed into “Let’s Go To Warungs Together”… heh heh! But what to do… once you’re with an Indonesian, it’s just natural progression that your food jaunts revolve more around Indonesian joints.

Not that I’m complaining… I LOVE the cuisine!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4768

My first encounter with Salero Kito was a chance spotting of it’s original branch whilst stuck in traffic on the Princes Hwy. When I reached home, I exclaimed to Fatbee “OMG!! There’s a Nasi Padang place in Caulfield!!”.

Fatbee (with a sigh): It’s in Malvern East.

A number of weeks later, I suggested we try out the Padang place.

Fatbee: Okay, we can go to the one on Bourke St.
Me: *blink*… there’s a branch in the city??
Fatbee: Yes.
Me: Is it good?
Fatbee: Yes.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4770

And so here’s what Fatbee has to deal with everyday… me being totally out of the loop with all the practical realities of life! But back to our meal itself. Fatbee and I met up with Angela here for a long overdue catch-up one Monday night. Salero Kito’s city branch is located at the back of Tivoli Arcade on Bourke St. It’s a no-frills eatery that’s particularly busy during work lunch time, but a lot quieter during dinner.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4774

Like Norsiah’s Kitchen and Nelayan, the food’s all displayed on bain marie trays. I won’t go into cuisine subsets and origins, but once I looked at the food items on offer at Salero Kito, I knew that we were headed for a food experience that’s quite different. I’m talking about things like fried ox lung, jackfruit & cabbage curry, crispy beef jerky and lamb brain curry…!

Woohoo!! It’s like all my Sundays have come at once!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4780

But trust the Indonesians to know which are the gold ticket items. Both Fatbee and Angela got the exact same combination of deep fried spicy fish, crispy beef jerky and gulai singkong (silver beet curry). And the few spoonsful that I sneaked from their plates tasted great! There was so much flavour to the fish, and a slight bitterness to the gulai singkong that it truly reminded me of the warung food experiences I had in Bali. And that beef jerky was like eating crispy potato chips!

Also take note of that little huddle of green sambal located at 6 o’clock on the plate – Fatbee and Angela told me that this is the classic Indonesian Nasi Padang sambal. So when you’re ordering and you’re asked which chilli sauce you’d like, go for the green one. I couldn’t get enough of this sambal!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4778
Corn fritter, jackfruit and cabbage curry, spicy fried chicken $12

I decided to try some of the other items on offer that evening (along with a packet of Teh Kotak), and they also kept me very happy… with the jackfruit and cabbage curry reminding me of a variation of Sayur Lodeh, my favourite vegetable dish. And of course I’m never disappointed with Malaysian and Indonesian-style ayam goreng (deep fried chicken), where there’s minimal batter action but maximum flavour with a delicious dusting of turmeric.

Having a plate of rice with 3 dishes here sets you back $12, which is slightly more pricey than other joints, but still well within the range of my definition of cheap eats (where your meal has to be less than $15). And the amount of food you get is quite a lot actually, tempting me to bring a little take way container next time to siphon off part of my meal for the next day’s lunch!

And of course, the way of serving the food here is very different to how it’s done in a ‘real’ Padang restaurant in Indonesia, where they bring a million small plates of food to your table and you then eat from whichever plates you fancy and you’re only charged for what plates you eat from.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4777

Angela went a step further by having Fatbee’s combination of dishes plus extra chicken curry… and I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that she finished everything! Our dinner here was completed within 10 minutes, and it was a case of “gobble up first, chat later!”. And Angela made me laugh when she exclaimed “OMG… it’s like Christma is happening right now!!”.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4783

From my limited experience, I thought that my meal here was the closest to what I’ve enjoyed so much when eating in the Warungs of Bali. But I think it’s safer for me to just quote my Indonesian companions, who gives this restaurant a big thumbs-up, saying it’s probably as authentic as you can get to Indonesian Nasi Padang food within Melbourne. The only slight downside for me is how the tasty meats and fish are generally quite ‘cooked’ and firm here. If you’re visiting, don’t come here expecting that juicy succulent pre-brined fried chicken type of cooking that you’d expect from Western restaurants.

And do be warned… I hear that the range of selections here are excellent during lunch time, but there are evenings where some of the items have been sold out by dinner time.

Salero Kito Padang on Urbanspoon

Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2014/12/top-10-travel-tips-bhutan.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/top-10-travel-tips-bhutan.html#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 23:30:08 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20278 10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan by Fatboo

Bhutan's a beautiful but frustrating country to travel in. Here's 10 travel tips (based on personal experience) for travellers planning to visit Bhutan.

10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan by Fatboo

It has been a few weeks since I got back from the Land of the Thunder Dragon. During this period, friends and workmates have been asking me “How’s your Bhutan trip?”. After a short pause, I often found myself replying “it was wonderful, but it was also tough”. Puzzled as to why this ended up as my post-Bhutan ‘slogan’, I started trying to figure out why this trip was different to the other trips I’d taken in the past… and that’s how this post came about.

Himalayas Bhutan 5266
Just prior to landing in Paro

In the end, I think that as much as I’d like to make it like it was a perfect holiday, I think it’s more useful just saying things as it is – both the good and the bad. Hopefully, my thoughts and observations will help other travellers level their expectations and be better prepared for their own trips to this extraordinary (but slightly exasperating) country.

Date Travelled: Nov 2014
Tour Group Size: 13 persons
Length of Trip: 10 days

1. Pricing’s steeper than an equivalent trip elsewhere

First up, be prepared to pay more for this trip than a similar holiday in another country. That’s mostly because the Bhutanese government mandates a minimum spend of US$250 per person per day for all tourists (US$200 during low season). This allows for low impact tourism whilst giving visitors a low volume / high quality experience. And unless you apply skilfully in writing to the government, you’ll almost have to visit Bhutan via a licensed Bhutanese tour operator (or an international partner). You can’t just grab a visa, fly in and explore the country on your own. This is why Bhutan’s considered one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations. Only 44,000 tourists visited in 2013, that averages at 120 visitors a day…!

The land cost for our 10-day trip in Bhutan was US$2200 pax (discounted because we were a largish group of 13). By comparison, my 8-day Myanmar trip back in 2011 cost us US$977 pax (including domestic flights) for a private group tour of 10. But before we start moaning, take note that out of this minimum spend, US$65 per person per day will be given to the government as a ‘sustainable tourism royalty’ to help fund for free education, healthcare, poverty alleviation and the building of infrastructure in Bhutan. I took a bit of comfort in the fact that a portion of our tour cost is being used to help the country and its lovely peoples.

With this minimum daily spend, you’ll be provided with all your meals, accommodations, a dedicated tour guide and driver, entry to all the places in the itinerary, and all transportation except domestic flights. So you end up spending not that much during your trip, actually most of my money was spent on booze to go with our meals and tips for the guide and driver.

2. Half the time, you’re about the only tour group around

One of the loveliest things about this trip will have to be how rare it was to see fellow tourists. On our very first evening when we visited Tashi Cho Dzong in Thimpu (the nation’s capital city), I was stunned that there were only a small scatter of a few other tour groups there. Even the most celebrated tourist destination in Bhutan, Tigers Nest in Paro, had at most 30-50 tourists inside the temple at any point in time. There were even some nights where we were the only tourists staying in our hotel!

Compare this to a visit to the Louvre in Paris, where getting near enough to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa without needing binoculars can be a Herculean task, and you’ll start to really appreciate Bhutan’s focus on low impact tourism. This was also one of the few countries I’ve visited in Asia where the children don’t ask for ‘photo money’, and begging is almost non-existent here (it only happened to us once in Bumthang).

Tashichho Dzong Thimpu Bhutan 5366
Tashi Cho Dzong, Thimpu

In a nutshell, I was absolutely enchanted by how unspoilt this country was from the effects of tourism, and amazed at how happy the people of Bhutan were. Tips aren’t expected in restaurants and hotels, and I was also surprised to see that it’s the Bhutanese women who’d (with a big smile) offload our luggage from the bus and carry it to our rooms. Talk about culture shock!

3. Everything runs on Bhutan time

You’ll have to be patient in Bhutan. Even credit card machines need to go ‘ermmm…’ and think like crazy before accepting transactions… ha ha ha! When some of us wanted to change money in Paro, it took us ages filling up forms at the office counter. Our lovely tour guide’s bus ride estimates were also way off. We’d ask how long it’d take to get to a destination and he’d reply ‘3 hours’… in the end we’d discover that it’s more like 6 hours!!

More often than not, our guide did not give us curfews or time limits unless we had to be at a crossing at a very specific time of day. He’d just wait and let us take our time, allowing us to move on only when we’re ready. What this means is: in order to enjoy Bhutan, you may need to let go of your OCD timekeeping tendencies (on this front, I’m guilty as charged). Go at your own pace, follow the flow of the group, and don’t expect to see everything that’s listed on the itinerary.

4. Your tour is fully escorted, but very customisable

Continuing from the previous point, I’d like to point out that because you’re already engaged with a tour operator via the correct channels, you can actually tweak your itinerary to suit your preferences. Seeing that timekeeping may not be the Bhutanese people’s strongest suit, it may be useful to discuss with your guide which places in the itinerary you’d really like to see and which ones you’re happy to skip. For the most part, the suggested itinerary is a bit packed and you tend to miss out on a few places each day unless you move quickly and don’t take photos. So it’s better to establish with your guide which places you’re more keen on seeing.

For instance at around day 7, we actually veered away from the itinerary and visited a couple of places that only our guide knew about, including a visit to a local Bhutanese home in a village near Bumthang district. That was the highlight of my trip… for me, being able to glimpse into the daily lives of the locals is a lot more precious than constantly seeing impressive temples and fortresses. Likewise, we also asked our guide to let us roam the townships of Chamkar and Paro for an hour or so instead of seeing sights because we enjoyed having some free-and-easy time exploring settlements and watching the Bhutanese way of life.

Thangbi Village Bumthang Bhutan 6133
Thangbi village, Bumthang (loved visiting a local’s home here)

5. You could be walking lots and at high altitudes

Perhaps it was my lack of reading the tour itinerary on my part, but one thing that I wasn’t quite prepared for with this trip was how much walking / trekking it involved. Well… okay maybe only 3 out of the 10 days involved difficult uphill treks. The first one happened on day 2, where we climbed up a mountain towards Tango Goemba monastery. The hike was meant to take only an hour but we took nearly 2 hours because some of us suffered from altitude sickness and burning lungs.

But the toughest climb for most visitors in Bhutan will probably be the 900m ascent up to Tigers Nest – 3100m above sea level, which normally happens at the end of your trip as the (orgasmic) highlight. Fortunately, the entire group of us realised that we aren’t the fittest tourists around. So aside for Fakegf and The Angmoh, the rest of us all chickened out and rode horses up to the temple… ha ha!

Bottom line is, be prepared for a bit of hiking during your Bhutan trip even if your tour itinerary does not necessarily describe it to be so. And understand that a one hour hike may end up taking longer because of the high altitudes you will be trekking in. And most importantly, be medically prepared… bring altitude sickness pills and travel sickness pills (see below). It will make your trip a lot easier!

6. Driving in Bhutan is slow, windy and bumpy

I’ll come out and say it: THIS was the main reason why I had mixed feelings with my trip to Bhutan.

If you take a look at Bhutan on Google Maps… it is pretty much all mountains mountains mountains! Once you’re outside of Paro and Thimpu, the quality of the roads goes downhill very quickly. Some segments between cities were unpaved, and even travelling on sections of paved roads won’t guarantee a smooth ride. Considering it’s traffic in two directions, the roads looked only slightly wider than the bicycle paths back in Melbourne. There’s plenty of hairpin turns, bumps, potholes and scary vertical cliff drops. Cousin trouble and geek hubby who sat at the back of the bus flew a foot or two off their seats during the bumpiest parts of the ride. While the government is trying to upgrade the roads between towns over the next few years, I believe it will still be slow going because of the harsh terrain.

Out of our 10 days in Bhutan, almost 4 to 5 days were spent on these crazy roads from sunrise to sunset (albeit including stops to visit places). Our average bus speed was around 20-25km/hr. By day 6 to 7, I was pretty much over it and boarded the bus each morning with a feeling of dread. And even though I’m normally good with car sickness, I actually had to ask cousin trouble for travel sickness tablets a number of times because spending so many hours on these roads really did take its toll on me.

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Road between Punakha to Bumthang. Our luggage is stowed and tied up on the roof of the bus.

Personally speaking, my concept of a good holiday doesn’t exactly constitute cramming yourself into a small bus and traversing these impossibly tortuous roads for hours on end. But unfortunately, these are things that you don’t realise you’ll be experiencing on your holiday until you’re actually in the middle of the trip! The larger, more comfortable tour coaches that’s normally used in other countries are too large for the narrow twisty roads in Bhutan.

In retrospect, I’ve probably not travelled in a country that’s more mountainous than Bhutan aside for Nepal (where I did more trekking and had no bus rides anyway). We had a pretty similar type of smallish bus on our Myanmar trip, but the bus rides were shorter and the roads much straighter. So the combination of mountainous terrain, high altitude and long bus rides really made this trip to Bhutan tough. Looking back, I’m starting to think that Bhutan may be a wonderful country to go trekking in, where the bus rides will be kept to a minimum and the beautiful landscapes cranked to a maximum.

7. Smaller tour groups may be better

After a bit of post-holiday research, I learnt that in 2013, 81% of the tour groups visiting Bhutan consisted of groups of 4 or less people. The government’s minimum daily spend requirement means that the group size does not really change the per person cost of the tour that much (unless it’s a group of one or two persons where a US$30-40 daily surcharge applies). But what does change dramatically is the type of vehicle you’ll be travelling in. We got a bus while the smaller groups rode SUVs / Landcruisers.

The other thing about smaller groups is it’s much easier to reach a quorum with where you’d like to go and what you’d prefer to see in the itinerary. The tour pace will also be quicker because a SUV will travel faster than a 22-seater bus. The time saved can then be used to give yourselves a bit of itinerary “breathing space” (which I really missed in this trip), or you can use it to see more sights.

Again, I’d like to stress that these are things that you’d realise only after you’ve embarked on your trip to Bhutan. I am, in no way, complaining to cousin trouble… who worked so hard organising this trip and bringing 13 family members and friends together to experience this beautiful landlocked country. If we were travelling together in a different country, many of the unique challenges that are specific to Bhutan wouldn’t have even surfaced.

8. Consider taking domestic flights

Continuing with my thoughts around stomaching Bhutan’s arduous roads, how about travelling one way by road and the other way by plane? This helps cut down the travel time on the difficult roads, allowing you to see more places and at a more relaxed pace.

For my trip, our start point was Paro, where Bhutan’s only international airport resides. We rode the bus all the way to Bumthang and then rode the bus back to Paro. Seeing that there’s actually a thrice weekly domestic flight between Bumthang and Paro, you may want to (if your funds permit it) look into a tour itinerary that includes a one-way flight between Paro and the furthest point you’d be travelling to.

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6339
Gangtey Goemba

9. A trip length of 7 to 8 days may be enough

Another unusual thing I observed about Bhutan was how the architecture stayed very consistent across its districts… with colourful wood frames mathematically placed against white walls, thin intricate windows and square, gently sloping roofs. This traditional architectural style becomes strikingly recognisable across the entire country, but it also means that aside for spectacular changes in landscape, the dzongs (fortresses), lhakhangs (temples) and houses can start to look a bit repetitive.

By day 6 to 7, some of us were pretty much “dzonged-out” to the point where we’d rather just wander about a town, observing the Bhutanese way of life instead of visiting another architecturally impressive (but all too familiar) fortress or temple.

Again this is a retrospective observation, but Fatbee and I agreed that unless there were less bus journeys and more free / exploratiom time, a trip length of 7-8 days would’ve been perfect for us. It’s a time frame where you can still have that sense of awe and wonder with visiting the dzongs and lhakhangs in Bhutan. And you can leave the country with that intangible feeling of wanting to see juuust a little bit more.

10. Most of your meals will be buffet-style

This final dot-point about Bhutan is a cheeky tribute to cousin trouble’s biggest trouble with Bhutan – the food… OMG the food… ha ha ha! She may have survived the crazy crazy roads much better than myself, but by day 5, she started having problems with the meals that were provided for us.

All our meals in this trip were included in the tour cost, and 95% of them were buffet-style, with the lunches and dinners usually featuring about 6-8 different types of vegetable dishes and one meat dish… all sitting in bain marie trays. (Breakfast was more Western but again served as a buffet). We’d normally have our dishes with steamed red rice and chilli cheese (pickled chillies in a light cheese-based sauce). Problem is, due to Bhutan’s cold climate, there’s a tendency for the cuisine to have quite a heavy presence of butter and oils in many of the dishes. And in terms of seasoning, it usually revolves around soya sauce and oyster sauce, and at some places it can be crazy salty!

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Buffet lunch selections at Rinchenling Lodge (Bumthang)… one of the better lunches we had out of the whole trip

I was fine with the food at first, but once a few of us made some observations about the monotony of the dishes, a group cascade effect soon followed. I eventually started avoiding the ubiquitous trays of (often overcooked) broccoli / mustard leaves / carrots /cauliflower fried in loads of oil and soya sauce. I also started to miss being able to go a la carte with my meals. It reached a point where we ended up taxiing into town and buying Bhutanese pizzas (unfortunately with truckloads of cheese) for dinner on day 8 and had Malaysian food on day 9!

All that said, our tour guide was wonderful enough to allow a small menu change request, and some of our meals further down the track also included a platter of raw peeled carrots (ie. oil and salt-free)… which many of us savoured like it was the best thing in the world!!

Conclusion

Before I end, I’d like to emphasize that this post isn’t about pinning the blame on the country or anyone in particular. It is more about seeking to understand why I found this trip frustrating. To put things into better perspective, let me say that I treasured the time that I spent with my cousins (and friends) on this trip. And I’m deeply thankful to cousin trouble for organising the trip and looking after the well-being of the entire group right through the 10 days. I also appreciated how attentive and responsive our tour guide was to our needs and how skilful our driver was. I admit that I started getting quite cranky from around day 6-7, but that’s mostly to do with the long, uncomfortable bus rides than the people I was travelling with.

I acknowledge that my recent experiences with luxury travel in Bali this year could have turned me into a bit of a more difficult-to-please holidaygoer. Cousin trouble even gave me a metaphorical slap in the face when I spoke (without thinking) and compared the discomforts of this trip to backpacking. Whoops… ha ha ha!

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Cheeky Bhutanese kids wobbling a suspension bridge like crazy while I was trying to cross it

In the end, I think it all boils down to the dollar value that you put into having a unique experience in an unspoilt country with its idiosyncrasies, its happy residents, and with very few fellow tourists. Your satisfaction will also depend on your ability to tolerate some pretty tough drives and the occasional mediocre hotel (Bhutan’s version of 3-stars isn’t quite international standard).

I still think it’s definitely worth visiting this perplexing country, just do so with an open mind and a bit of extra planning. Hopefully this post will help you with some of the decisions for your trip. If your budget permits it, I think going as a smaller group, adding a domestic flight into the itinerary and perhaps upgrading to better hotels will help a lot.

It has now been a month since my visit, and I’m starting to forget the discomforts of the trip. Meanwhile, beautiful insights from what I’d seen are starting to come to the surface… and I feel ready to start collecting these memories and turning it into a trip journal.

10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Gyoza Douraku http://fatboo.com/2014/12/gyoza-douraku-japanese-bar.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/gyoza-douraku-japanese-bar.html#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:00:51 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20308 Gyoza Douraku by Fatboo

Japanese Gyoza Bar in Melbourne CBD with an extensive menu of dishes, all priced at $6.50 per plate. Loved the variety here.

Gyoza Douraku was written by Fatboo.
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Gyoza Douraku by Fatboo

147 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 5225
Website

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5057

Fatbee and I caught up with Lorena and Jerri just before we departed for Bhutan. The venue of choice was this Gyoza Bar that I’d never heard of before.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5055Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 1
Oriental Twist (600ml) $18.90

And I’ll have to say I’m glad they picked this place. The interior was simple and charming and we found ourselves in a little enclosed ‘booth’ to dine in. The extensive menu’s pretty cute in that all the dishes are priced at $6.50 each and it comes as small shareable portions, bringing to mind the word “Japas” – Japanese Tapas… ha ha!

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5028
Tilapia Sashimi with Ponzu sauce

We whetted our appetites with a platter of tilapia sashimi… my first time eating tilapia, if I may add. The flesh had a stringy texture and it could’ve been a bit fresher.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 2
Kaisen Harumaki | Fried Chicken Gizzards

The kaisen harumaki was like a spring roll made with a noodle-like pastry and filled with seafood. It had a good crunch. We also had a delightful serve of freshly deep fried chicken gizzards, it was both crispy with a nice resilient bounciness to the gizzard flesh.

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Soft Shell Crab Burger (2pcs)

Next up was the dish of the night for me… crispy pieces of soft shell crab sandwiched between soft and fluffy milk buns. You have to order this if you visit.

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Tuna Tataki

Our next dish was thin slices of pan seared tuna that, interestingly, tasted almost like beef sashimi. It was quite good, although I’d have preferred if the sweet miso dressing was served on the side so as not to overwhelm the flavour of the tuna.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5036

Seeing that we’re dining in a gyoza bar, it’s no surprise that an entire tray of gyoza sauces and condiments arrived. Loved the ‘ninja bear’ jar that held the soya sauce! The condiments included sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped garlic, chilli oil and white vinegar.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 3
Pork & Garlic Gyoza (6pcs) | Ebi, Buta & Yasai Soup Gyoza (prawn, pork, veg)

We sampled two types of gyoza, one was pan fried and the other was served in a soup. Both were pretty enjoyable, but I was particularly smitten by the delicious broth (we picked shoyu) that came with the soup gyoza.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 4
Tori no Karaage | Salmon Yukki

These two dishes were less exciting for me, with a bit too much batter and salt in the (rather dry) chicken karaage. The salmon yukki was an odd little salad of diced salmon with avocado, cucumber and deep fried wonton skins.

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Gyu Tan no Shio Yaki | Wafu Steak

As for the beef offerings, both were served on hot plates and I absolutely loved the gyu tan (ox tongue) because it came succulent and delicately seasoned. The wafu steak was pretty alright although I secretly wished it was a fattier cut of meat.

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Vegetable Korokke

Aside for the gyoza skins, there was a distinct lack of carbs right through this meal. So we made up for it with this final serve of vegetable and potato croquettes.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5
Traditional Mochi Parfait
Homemade green tea mochi, red bean, strawberry, roasted honey cornflakes & soy milk green tea soft serve

For dessert, we shared two serves of mochi parfait (my first time having this dessert). I found myself loving the textural contrast between crunchy pieces of cornflakes and the other components in the parfait. I also really enjoyed the soy green tea soft serve, but have to confess that the firm / rubbery texture of the cold mochi itself took a bit of getting used to.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5046

I enjoyed my meal here… I wouldn’t call the food spectacular but I loved the variety on offer. I also liked how the dishes came in small shareable portions at a friendly set price tag of $6.50 each. This meal cost us $33 pax including alcohol and dessert, and we left satisfied.

Gyoza Douraku on Urbanspoon

Gyoza Douraku was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan http://fatboo.com/2014/12/short-stop-donuts-gekkazan-gpo-cbd.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/short-stop-donuts-gekkazan-gpo-cbd.html#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:00:31 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20264 Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan by Fatboo

CBD explorations. Today we visit Gekkazan - a simple Japanese lunch spot in Melbourne GPO and for sweets we sampled Short Stop - a delightful donut shack.

Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan was written by Fatboo.
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Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan by Fatboo

Gekkazan

Shop 28G
Melbourne GPO
Postal Lane
350 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Gekkazan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

My Melbourne existence often involves exploring what the CBD has to offer, partly because I’m currently living within walkable distance to town. But for some reason, we tend to not explore the newer / trendier spots. Instead of trying out places like Ruyi, Supernormal and Cumulus Up… we tend to end up with familiar places.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5003

Sometimes it’s because we’re not hungry enough to justify spending more on our meals… or it’s because we aren’t in the mood for excitement, with an unspoken preference for places that comfort us with a more “lived-in” ambience. The day when we visited these two spots was an exception though… Fatbee loves his sweets and he popped into Short Stop on our way towards our lunch spot. And being a warmer day, I felt like having a lighter meal for lunch, hence our decision to revisit Kenzan GPO for a Japanese feed.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5007
BENTO BOX 18.00
Special lunch box containing daily specials

Turned out Kenzan GPO no longer exists in that snug little alleyway called Postal Lane next to GPO (which now houses H&M)… it has been renamed into Gekkazan. The concept is pretty much the same though, with a mostly sushi and bento-oriented menu geared towards the weekday lunch crowds. Fatbee picked the day’s bento lunch box special, which was a nicely balanced mix of healthy (and mostly vegetarian) Japanese eats. He enjoyed it.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5009
SUKIYAKI DONBURI 14.90
Wagyu beef & vegetables in sukiyaki sauce, served with rice & daily specials

I went with a donburi, choosing beef because I have a soft spot for the light and slightly sweet sukiyaki sauce. At the price point, I’ll have to say it’s a pretty massive tub of food… I almost could not finish! It was a pretty good feed except the tasty sukiyaki beef was a touch overcooked and the rice was on the soft and clumpy side.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5011

While I wouldn’t rate the food at Gekkazan as the best around, we were satisfied. Presentation was very pleasing and the portion sizes were generous.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 2

Short Stop

12 Sutherland St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Website
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts on Urbanspoon

Instagram has been afire with lots of interesting little dessert spots specialising in scrolls, croissants, smoothies, froyo, doughnuts and more. Short Stop piqued our curiosity in particular, they serve Market Lane Coffee here and I hear the donuts tend to be sold out by Midday!

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 4998

That’s why we popped by here to get our sweets first before going for lunch. And as evidenced by the succinct menu, this was the first time I’d learnt that there can be different types of doughnuts. We took home three types to sample.

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Peanut Butter & Jam $5.00

For the filled type, we decided we probably can’t go wrong with peanut butter and jam. The bread was half-fluffy and half-dense with a slight stoneground wholemeal texture to it.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5022

I liked how they used real peanut butter instead of a sweet sweet PB icing, and it balanced nicely with the slightly savoury bun and the tart jam filling.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5017
Earl Grey & Rose $4.50

This flavour combination piqued our curiosity and it turned out to be the cake type of donut. Once again, it isn’t your typical light and airy donut, the texture was denser and cakey indeed. The floral hints in it was delightful and I really liked how the tea-infused icing wasn’t too sweet.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5019Australian Honey & Sea Salt $4.50

Our final type was a honey and sea salt scroll that came nice and buttery with a very perky hit of saltiness. In a way, this one reminded me of Chinese you char kway (oil fried dough), but with a stronger sweet and savoury taste to it. We thought this was a weirder donut and I’d have preferred if the honey and salt levels were lighter.

Short Stop definitely offers something very different to what other donut shacks have to offer. There’s a uniqueness to the texture of their donuts and I like how most of their donuts aren’t nauseatingly sweet.

Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Bali Revisited, Part 2 http://fatboo.com/2014/12/jimbaran-rock-bar-potato-head-beach-seminyak-nasi-padang-bali.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/jimbaran-rock-bar-potato-head-beach-seminyak-nasi-padang-bali.html#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:30:19 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19972 Bali Revisited, Part 2 by Fatboo

Travel journal covering the restaurants, seafood & beach clubs in Bali. We visit Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Rock Bar & Jimbaran Bay.

Bali Revisited, Part 2 was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Bali Revisited, Part 2 by Fatboo

This post is the second instalment of a two part series covering my ‘recent’ trip to Bali with Fatbee in August 2014. If you’d like to start from the beginning of this trip, please read my previous post – Bali Revisited, Part 1.

Nyuh Bali Villas Seminyak 3908Nyuh Bali Villas Bubur Ayam 1

Nyuh Bali Villas

Jalan Bali Deli No. 99
Seminyak, Bali 80361
Website

We’ll continue where we left off with another poolside breakfast in our quiet villa. I went Continental while Fatbee had an amazing chicken porridge.

I’m a bit funny, but I love longer stays at hotels when we’re on holiday. That’s because it becomes my home away from home, my secret refuge, and a grounding pillar to protect me from the sensory overload of visiting too many new places and seeing too many new things.

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 1

Restoran Sederhana Masakan Padang

Jl. Bypass I Gusti Ngurah Rai No. 11 C-D
Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
+62 361 754875

With breakfast finished, the rest of the day stretched ahead of us. In the end, we decided to hire Kenny our friendly Balinese driver and venture out of Seminyak.

Our first destination was a lunch stop at a Nasi Padang restaurant.

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 2

Nasi Padang originated from the island of Sumatra, and this is the real way that Nasi Padang’s served in Indonesia. Once seated, a waiter arrives with a mountain of small plates of food and arranges them on your table like a culinary card stack. You then eat from whatever plate that looks good to you and you will be charged for whichever plates of food you eat from.

It’s a concept that probably won’t fly really well in Australia… what with our food hygiene laws, but I was almost speechless from astonishment with this way of dining. In fact, if there’s two pieces of chicken (or rendang) on a plate and you only eat one piece, you even get charged for just the one piece!

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 4061

This was such a fun meal for me as a newcomer to “The Ways of the Padang”, and it helped that the waiters working there were such a cheerful bunch of people too!

Intercontinental Hotel Spa Jimbaran Bali 4073

Spa Uluwatu

Intercontinental Bali Resort, Jimbaran
Website

We then spent the better part of the afternoon pampering ourselves with a 2.5 hour spa session at Intercontinental Hotel’s spa.

Intercontinental Hotel Spa Jimbaran Bali 4077Intercontinental Hotel Jimbaran Bali 1

We picked the pure indulgence package for couples (Rp. 2,200,000 for two), which included a foot bath, foot reflexology, Balinese full body massage, body scrub, lavender aloe body wrap (I felt like a human rice paper roll!), facial and flower bath. Once again, the masseurs did not bat an eyelid when saw they had two boys as their clients. That’s how amiable and open-minded the Balinese absolutely are across the board.

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Jimbaran Bay

After our spa package, it was close to sunset. We took a short stroll from the hotel compound onto Jimbaran Bay for our dinner. This area is famed for its affordably priced seafood restaurants where customers can dine right at the beach.

Cafe Made Bagus Jimbaran Beach Seafood Bali 1

Made Bagus Cafe

Jimbaran Bay
Jimbaran Kuta Selatan Badung, Bali‎
(0361) 701858

It was busy and full of visitors, but we picked a quieter restaurant closer to the outskirts. There, we sat down and had our dinner whilst watching the sun descend into the ocean horizon.

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I loved this meal not only because of its beachfront setting… the food was fantastic! Our set meal consisted of 1 lobster, 1 whole snapper, calamari, 6 king prawns, veggies, rice, chips and beer or wine each, and it ended up costing Rp.495,000 (A$49.50) for two! The seafood was grilled over coconut husk fire and served with a gentle but lip-smackingly good chilli sauce.

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Just like my experience at Warung Sulawesi, this was probably one of the best meals we had out of the trip. It was also funny how the restaurants had to shift their tables further up the beach when the tide started rising as the evening progressed.

I remember a big (Russian?) guy insisting on having a table out at the front despite warnings from waitstaff, so he and his girlfriend stayed there while the tide crept closer. Half an hour later, a huge wave came nearly up to their knees and the girlfriend lost her flip flops… ha ha!

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Rock Bar

Ayana Resort
Jimbaran, Bali
Website

After dinner, we decided to visit Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Jimbaran… you actually have to take a small monorail down to the cliff-perched bar. It was a very dramatic setting… with a bar counter facing the ocean and a DJ station that’s set atop a separate outcropping surrounded by the choppy sea.

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I’d say if you intend to watch (what I’d imagine to be) an amazing sunset here, come very early like around 4pm because it’ll probably be INSANELY busy, plus the hotel guests get priority with the monorail. Overall, I found this place a bit too ‘exclusive’ for my liking and the drinks were also pricier than the other beach clubs we’d visited so far.

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Slush Puppy (coffee, chocolate & coconut water) 30
Huevos Rancheros with fried egg, black beans, avocado 85

Ku De Ta

Jalan Kayu Aya No. 9
Seminyak, Bali 80361
Website

We decided to shake things up a little the next morning and skipped the villa’s complimentary spread so that we could have brunch at Ku De Ta. Once again, I liked how they do their drinks here… my morning pick-me-up consisted of a deliciously icy coffee, chocolate and coconut water slushie. Fatbee had a berry protein blast smoothie.

Brunch here came at very friendly prices and we liked how quiet the beach club was in the morning. Having now been to a few beach clubs, I think Ku De Ta is probably my favourite Bali beach club. The music, drinks and atmosphere is solid and consistently good.

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The rest of the morning was spent exploring Seminyak’s main stretch of shops. We happened upon a colourful procession along the way, I wish I knew what the ceremony was about.

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The Bistrot

Jln Kayu Aya 117
Seminyak, Bali
Website

While the weather in August was a lot cooler compared to our previous visit in April, this happened to be a warmer day than usual. Hence our decision to clamber off the streets and have pre-lunch cocktails at this vintage lounge.

The Bistrot Vintage Lounge Seminyak Bali 4219

This was close to the end of our trip already, so we were starting to feel a bit wistful. How quickly five days can pass!

Warung Aneka Rasa Seminyak Bali 1

Warung Aneka Rasa

Jl. Raya Seminyak (Jl. Oberoi)
Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

For lunch, we shared a plate and a drink at a very local warung that’s smack in the middle of Seminyak’s otherwise upmarket high street. This warung probably caters to the locals working in the shops and hotels in the area. It was a good feed and our shared meal only cost us Rp.30,000 including drinks.

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Nyuh Bali Villas

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing what we love doing best when on holiday… NOTHING!

Potato Head Beach Club Seminyak Bali 2

Potato Head Beach Club

Jln. Petitenget
Seminyak, Bali 80361
+62 (361) 473 7979
Website

Our final sunset in Bali was spent at another hugely popular destination – Potato Head Beach Club… with it’s strikingly iconic frontage made of thousands of old, colourful window shutters. Even on a Monday, we had to queue up for 20mins or so and nearly missed the sunset.

I was sightly crestfallen to see that the inside did not quite have the same impactful theme as the front facade. But it still looked impressive as a large horseshoe-shaped construct facing the Balinese ocean like a coastal amphitheatre, with the setting sun as the final golden act.

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Prohibition Iced Tea 130
Vodka + Gin + Rum + Tequila + Orange liqueur + Earl grey tea-cola + Dry ice + Vodka-injected oranges

We found the cocktail menu very interesting, plus they’re presented playfully and at a friendly price tag. Fatbee’s awesomely named prohibition iced tea was served in a pot with dry ice vapours floating forth. Meanwhile, I had a bloody mary served like a Japanese dish… with chopsticks, soy sauce and pickled ginger (see below).

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Bloody Mary (with all the trimmings) 130

The crowd here was quite mixed probably because the complex had three restaurants in it, not to mention a few lounge-bars and a beachfront infinity pool. It got a little bit rowdy and annoying for me during sunset, but once dusk fell things became a lot more civilised here. And being the dork that I am… I started to just kick back, relax and read a book in this beach club!

Merah Putih Restoran Indonesia Seminyak Bali 1

Merah Putih

Jalan Petitenget No.100x
Kerobokan, Bali 80361
(0361) 8465950
Website

Indonesian food is almost always synonymous with it’s low-key warungs and cheap eats. A fine-dining Indonesian restaurant is almost unheard of, and that’s why Fatbee wanted to try Merah Putih on our final night here. This restaurant serves traditional Indonesian dishes with a modern and creative twist.

Merah Putih Restoran Indonesia Seminyak Bali 2
Sambal 25 | Babi Guling Bumbu Kecap 170
Rawon Sum Sum 85 | Pecel 45

We had a good meal here, Fatbee said that the flavours were authentic and exquisitely done, albeit a little toned down. I think it’s funny that my first ‘proper’ introduction to Indonesian rawon soup and babi guling happened in a fine dining spot! All that said, I’m still very much a ‘culinary barbarian’ at heart and would’ve preferred trying these celebrated Indonesian dishes in the form of their humbler street-stall iterations.

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And thus ends yet another short getaway to Bali. It’s funny how in our previous trip, I mused about staying in busy busy Seminyak for its delightful food warungs and great restaurant scene should we decide to revisit Bali again. Who would’ve guessed we’d do exactly that a mere four months later!  It must be the friendly and gentle sensibilities of its people that really made me want to come back.

I now feel like a Bali veteran, but I think on future trips to this island I won’t stay in Seminyak right through. That’s because over and above the beach clubs, buzz, food and trendiness… I still treasure quieter holidays in faraway places more. Thankfully, Bali has many more districts that I have yet to explore, so I’m pretty sure a revisit will definitely happen in the (quite possibly near) future. Teeheehee!!

Bali Revisited, Part 2 was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi http://fatboo.com/2014/12/pho-nom-tan-thanh-loi-footscray-emporium.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/pho-nom-tan-thanh-loi-footscray-emporium.html#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 20:46:53 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20245 Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi by Fatboo

Vietnamese food post covering a Pho shop in Melbourne Emporium (CBD), and an old-school Com Tam (broken rice) joint in Footscray.

Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi by Fatboo

Phở Nom

Store 33
Lwr Ground, Emporium
287 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Facebook Page
Phở Nom on Urbanspoon

We’ll cover a couple of Vietnamese eateries today that happened pre-Bhutan. One of them’s a pretty slick shop set in a CBD shopping mall while the other one’s old-style and in the burbs.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4970

One good thing about Melbourne Cup Day is how the city tends to be a lot quieter in the afternoon as the rest of Melbourne crams itself into Flemington for the races (just make sure you’re out of town before the race finishes and the celebration starts!).

Fatbee and I decided to spend that fine day doing a spot of shopping in the city, and our favourite mall has to be Melbourne Emporium, where they actually have some of our preferred international vendors like Topshop, Muji and Uniqlo.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4981

Even the food courts upstairs and in the basement have somewhat more ‘premium’ vendors like Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express, Earl Canteen, Jimmy Grants and I Love Pho Express. That afternoon, we decided to sample Pho Nom (in Emporium’s basement). This store has been receiving pretty good reviews from the foodie community. On arrival, I chuckled a little at the colourful pronunciation crash course telling you “IT’S FUR, NOT FOE”.

Like with most food court stalls, it’s pretty much self-service… order at the counter, grab a buzzer and return to the counter to collect your food when the buzzer blinks and rattles like a madman. Add your own herbs, spices and condiments before taking a seat and slurping to your hearts content.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 1PHO BO SAIGON 12
Sliced rare beef, brisket, meatballs

Fatbee went with what could perhaps be called Pho Nom’s version of Phở Bò Dặc Biệt – a combination soup with rare beef, brisket and meatballs… but here, it’s noticeably lacking the more adventurous items such as beef tripe, tendons and meat loaf.

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Sliced Wagyu sirloin

I went with Pho Nom’s specialty – Wagyu pho offered at a slightly more premium price. What arrived was a bowl of noodles and soup (you add the herbs and garnishing yourself), and in a separate bowl you are given six slices of raw Wagyu beef (see below).

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Fatbee’s Pho Bo Saigon | My bowl of sliced raw Wagyu

Overall, we found the MSG-free broth on the clean side with very mild hints of spice and a little bit lacking in the ‘beefiness’ department. I also found my broth a bit too salty for my liking, although I admit to having a pretty low tolerance for salt.

Fatbee’s broth was nicer because it came with the pieces of beef and meatballs in it, meaning his soup was slightly sweeter, beefier and better balanced overall. All that said, we both agreed that our pho did not taste ‘street’ enough.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4980

Fatbee’s slices of (non-Wagyu) beef were of pretty good quality, but sadly they were firm and rather overcooked when we dined there. As for my raw Wagyu offerings, I liked how it was served on the side and it did have good texture and flavour on its own. However, I thought the quality of the beef soon got lost inside the stronger flavours in the soup.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4982

I wanted to like Pho Nom. The quality’s there, but the concept, broth and its accompanying components did not quite strike a chord with us. If you ask me, I think MSG sometimes has a unnecessarily bad rap. I’d personally rather have some MSG in my broth than have a bowl of soup that’s too salty. All that said, I still think Pho Nom will suit those of us who prefer clean-tasting broths.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3163

TÂN THÀNH LỢI

73 Nicholson St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 4886
Tan Thanh Loi on Urbanspoon

A few days later, we found ourselves in Footscray for our regular grocery shopping session. I was looking for lotus root to cook Fakegf’s Canto-style braised pork belly with lotus root dish, and for some reason all the Asian grocers that I visited in Melbourne weren’t selling fresh lotus root in November.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3166

Dinner happened just around the corner from Little Saigon Market, at this old-school Vietnamese eatery that Fatbee heard was popular for its Com Tam (broken rice) dishes. I must say that sitting in there, I realised that I prefer this type of old-fashioned ambience than the refurbished and more glitzy joints in Footscray.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3169Cơm Tấm Bì Sườn Chả Trứng $10
Broken Rice with Shredded Pork, Grilled Pork, Meat Loaf & Fried Egg

While it’s hard to not like broken rice as a Vietnamese dish, I’m glad to say that Tan Thanh Loi’s version exceeded my expectations. Our plates came with all the components piled on like a mountainous mess that, strangely enough, still managed to look very delicious to me. The grilled pork was nicely chargrilled and tasty, the fried egg came nice and oozy and I liked how our plates of rice came with a little side serve of (admittedly salty) soup.

I believe the enjoyment of food can be affected by the setting and circumstances that you’re eating the food in, and being in this snug little joint probably appealed to me more than eating in a sparkly food court. What’s served here isn’t fancied up or anything, you don’t get any of those big chunks of pickled carrot or pretty pretty garnishings and neat food-styling. Instead, it is just what it is… a simple, tasty and very ‘street food’ type of meal, which is probably the kind of food that I tend to prefer.

Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Burning Man http://fatboo.com/2014/12/burning-man-black-rock-desert-2007.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/burning-man-black-rock-desert-2007.html#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 09:22:20 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19883 Burning Man by Fatboo

Travel journal about Burning Man, a surreal festival of profound self-expression that I'd attended 7 years ago in the middle of Nevada desert, USA.

Burning Man was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Burning Man by Fatboo

Further to my suspicion that this blog’s on the verge of being renamed into “Let’s Travel Together”, I’ve decided to share one of the more unique trips I’ve had in the past decade.

I still think that one of the loveliest trips I’ve ever had was a two-week trek in Nepal (circa 2004). But that happened during an era where I was still using a film camera and… *ahem* there’s no way I’m scanning the photos just to share them here!

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Fortunately, this pilgrimage to a week-long festival smack in the middle of Nevada Desert happened back when I’d actually owned a (cheap) digital point-n-shoot. And I’m now so thankful that I’d taken photos back then, because I still think it’s one of the most surreal holidays I’d ever experienced!

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Enroute to Black Rock Desert, Nevada

It all started during my two year stint working in the UK on a Working Holidaymaker Visa… a visa that requires you to work for a maximum of one year only, meaning you’re meant to be on holiday (funds permitting) for the other year. I was in my 20’s then… with jet-black eyes, a strong jaw and a rugged complexion to go with my firm resolve to grab the frontiers of the world by its horns and wrestle it to the wind-beaten earth.

*koff*… okay I lie, let’s rewind…

I was in my twenties… yup yup… and sort of geeking away playing computer games in a small cottage located right above my workplace near the coast in Essex. I was in the rather forsaken (and introspective) position where you sort have to keep yourself occupied somehow, since you’re in a faraway country with very few friends. In between epic solo gaming sessions, I also knew that trips had to be planned for my non-work months, so I started looking into places to visit and people to holiday with.

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I must say it helped that I was still a bit of an (already fading) tree-hugging hippie back then, with connections to the fire-twirling community in Singapore. Eventually… on a typically somber British evening, I’d started chatting with my friend Belinda in Singapore, who’d passionately described to me the details pertaining to a rather curious annual festival that happens in Nevada Desert in the US.

The event fascinated me and Belinda’s enthusiasm rubbed off on to me like a World of Warcraft Expansion Pack. And I can’t recall exactly how the ball got rolling, but we’d somehow managed to garner a small group of friends to organise and experience this festival together.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 15

The festival is called Burning Man, it’s an annual week-long event that occurs around August in the middle of Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada. And the year that I’d attended this event was 2007… that’s seven years ago!

I flew from the UK to San Francisco, stayed a couple of nights at a friend’s friend’s home in Menlo Park… we then loaded the U-Haul (trailer) and drove off into the heat-hazed horizon towards this mystifying ‘city in the desert’.

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And so… that’s how THIS happened.

There I was… in a vast expanse of desert, dotted with some of the most surreal and incredible sights that my mind could never have imagined.

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Steampunk Treehouse – a world in which there aren’t any natural trees anymore

What’s happened here is… for that one week, an illusory city is erected in the middle of what (for the rest of the year) is normally a desert wasteland that’s devoid of life. And each year, there’s a different art theme. For 2007, it’s themed as “The Green Man”, where the installations and its participants explore issues around the environment and sustainability.

Just for that one week, a community of 50,000 people from all reaches of the globe comes together to form a polyglot of colour and life in the middle of a desert… transforming it into a temporary phantasmagorical city of experimentation, sharing, profound self-expression and self-reliance.

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Apocalypse Stagecoach – pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse

And all I can say is when you arrive here, be prepared to be unprepared… because you’ll encounter some of the most unexpected things on the playa (desert basin)… from Vietnamese noodle carts to a mythical stagecoach…

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… to random art installations that actually makes you stop in your tracks.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 01

And of course, there’s also a ceaseless flow of innovation and playfulness too!

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But let’s talk a bit more about the logistics involved with this trip.

The desert is a harsh environment, you need to be prepared. When you’re attending Burning Man, you take to the desert everything that you’ll need to survive your stay… that includes all your food and water. That’s why we needed a U-Haul trailer. And likewise, you take back with you everything that you brought (even your waste), so that you don’t leave any signs of your presence in the desert (aside for footprints) once you depart.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 103

Some of the other necessary items each Burner should bring includes a (cheap) bicycle that you can use and then discard at the end of the burn. This fabled city on the playa is soooo huge that a bicycle’s one of the most effective ways for one to explore what the city has to offer.

Burners should also bring aviator goggles and masks because massive sandstorms will occur quite frequently. I remember wandering out of my tent on a whim during one of the biggest sandstorms that we’d weathered for that week, and I was astounded to realise that when I stretched my arms out in front of me… I couldn’t see my hands! It was such a marvellous experience… and by the end of the sandstorm, I was completely orange in colour!

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This wasn’t my camp

Burners are also required to form or join a camp, each with a different theme. Camps are safe communes for participants to live together (usually in tents), and it’s a place where they can share communal amenities like a gravity feed shower stall or kitchenette. Some camps are very well established with pretty good facilities, there are even ones where Burners can even sleep in air-conditioned RV caravans… which is an unthinkably amazing luxury when you’re facing 40-50ºC desert heat in the middle of the day!!

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Wooden effigy of the man, which will be ritualistically burnt at the end of the festival

I confess that by the time I’d embarked on this trip, I’d already become a bit of a creature-comfort loving sort of holidaygoer. So the five days that we spent in the desert were quite challenging on the body to me. If it weren’t for the amazing sights and installations that I’d kept discovering each day, and the beautiful smiling people that I’d kept meeting all the time, I probably would’ve had a meltdown. But instead, I found that my mind felt richer and my spirit stronger from experiencing (and surviving) this festival despite its harsh desert environment.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 14

While cycling is one of the easier ways to get around the playa, some of the Burners have created their own Art Cars to drive around in. These art cars were extraordinary sights that made me smile… you can be wandering in the desert and all of a sudden there’s a red-and-black-dotted ladybird scooter… or a giant sofa (with people sitting on it) scurrying across the desertscape.

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Or how about this??  A giant supermarket trolley… !! The dudes on it were tossing out bottles of mineral water as gifts to anyone walking around the playa…

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Big Rig Jig – art installation fashioned from oil tankers, a visual metaphor for non-sustainability

Which brings to mind another concept about Burning Man. In Black Rock City, the notion of money does not apply (aside for the entrance fees and camp funds). The ‘currency’ out in the playa involves sharing and bartering, and everybody’s supposed to be your friend. When people wander by your camp… you say hi, invite them into your safe space and share a bit of what you have.

And likewise, should you wander past someone else’s camp, you may find yourself being invited in for a bit of conversation and sharing. I remember entering a camp where an amazing old man played the violin for us, and another tent where I was introduced to the joys of nibbling into a piece of liquorice root. There was even a Geisha-themed tent, where their way of sharing was to welcome anyone into their plush and comfortable air-conditioned tent during the searing midday heat.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 23
Crude Awakening

Speaking of the heat, one of the ways to escape it is to nap during the hottest hours in the afternoon, and to start exploring the city just as the sun begins to sink into the horizon. And I thought the nighttime lightscape can be just as phenomenal…

I remember one of the nights, I was cycling in a random direction in the darkness towards a small blinking light in the horizon. Half an hour later, I finally reached that blinking light. It turned out to be a stationary double decker bus, with giant birdcages hanging from its sides. And the bus, bird cages and sand around the bus was full of people dancing to music that’s pumping from a DJ stand nearby on the desert floor.

And pictured here was one of largest installations in 2007… consisting of 9 humongous figurative steel sculptures (each weighing 7 tonnes and belching flames from body, hands and eyes) in various poses of worship towards a central Oil Derrick.

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Inside of one of the steel sculptures | View from the top of the Oil Derrick

200 people could fit into the platform at the top of the 90 foot tall Derrick. I found this installation frightening in its grand scale and its suggestion of how humanity worships (and is so dependent on) oil. And it all culminated in a massive annihilation on Friday night, where (at 10pm) an ominous black cloud poured forth from the Derrick as air sirens wailed and… minutes later… the Oil Derrick erupts with a fiery explosion made of 2.4 gigawatts of raw energy.

They called it the largest flame cannon in history. I remember sitting about 500 or so metres from the Oil Derrick with the rest of the Burners that night, and I’ll have to say that I’ve never experienced such a huge blast at such close quarters. A massive wave of heat tore through us that, for a moment, I thought I was about to become broiled into a human yakitori.

While crazily monumental in its message, I also couldn’t help thinking how environmentally unfriendly this installation was with its unbridled use of pyrotechnics.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 72

But I found that the mornings greet you with a calmness and uncanny tranquility. You wake up to quiet signs of life outside… but during your first hour or so, your mind doesn’t quite comprehend that you’re out there in the surreal playa with its fantasy landscape. It’s such that you could almost be walking in a waking dream.

It’s only when I strolled past the still-glowing embers of the (now destroyed) Oil Derrick, all blackened and charred to the ground, that it suddenly came to me what had happened the night before.

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And from my perspective, my experience on the playa almost turned into reality – everything that I loved about Studio Ghibli animes and Final Fantasy-type RPG games, with its fantastical stories and implausibly outlandish themes. Who knows? Maybe one year a huge floating castle will descend from the sky onto these desert plains…

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Temple of Forgiveness

Another large installation that happens every year is the erection of a large temple made of wood, located in the deep playa. The temple theme for 2007 was one of forgiveness, and as I approached along the avenue towards it, it seemed to convey Japanese sensibilities.

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A vehicle for remembrances, blessings, promises and forgiveness

When I reached the edifice, I was amazed how the entire community gathered there stayed silent. I found that I was in a sanctuary of calm and contemplation. Looking at the walls, I saw that there were many many messages inscribed onto the wood.

I learnt that it’s a yearly tradition for Burners to write messages onto the temple’s wood frame, and they’re usually messages of a highly personal nature. On the final night of the festival, the temple is ritualistically burned.

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Speaking of burning, the second last night of the festival (ie. Saturday night) is when the large wooden effigy of the man is set ablaze in the midst of much celebration, music and drumming. It is this ceremonial event where the name of this festival comes from… going all the way back from its origins in 1986 when a group of friends burnt the first wooden man in San Francisco’s Baker Beach.

I’ll have to say that as much as this was the yearly custom, the ‘Burning of the Man’ felt like a bit of a non-event to me compared to the much grander blasting (to smithereens) of the Oil Derrick and its nine grandiose steel sculptures from the night before.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 75Phone booth to God

As I write these final words, I feel very glad that I’ve decided to pull these five days out from my memory archives and onto this shared space on my blog. It’s uncanny how quickly we forget these amazing adventures in our lives once we go back to the humdrum of our daily routines back home. But just writing about it helped me relive, in great detail, many of the moments that I’d experienced there as if it had just happened yesterday even when this was an event that occurred 7 years ago!

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As I call to mind scenes like this string of balloons floating into the blue infinity of sky… I’d like to deeply thank Belinda, Li Han and their friends who brought me along and guided me through those unforgettable days spent in Black Rock City. With me being somewhat awkward and socially inept at times, it’s thanks to these wonderful people whom I went to Burning Man with that made my experience the terrific one that it was.

Burning Man was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Wonky Trolley http://fatboo.com/2014/12/wonky-trolley-burgers-north-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/wonky-trolley-burgers-north-melbourne.html#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 02:30:08 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20088 Wonky Trolley by Fatboo

Cutely named burger shack in North Melbourne serving tasty burgers with juicy patties and lots of salad sandwiched by fluffy brioche buns.

Wonky Trolley was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Wonky Trolley by Fatboo

47 Errol St
North Melbourne, VIC 3051
03 9328 1781
Website

When we’re out of pre-cooked microwaveable meals, on our not-so-lazy nights Fatbee and I would walk into the city for our dinner. On our superbly lazy nights, we’d get food delivered to us using Menulog.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4877

But how about those in-between nights where we’re somewhat lazy but aren’t in the mood to make that 30 minute trek into town? Well… we basically find places that are within ten minutes walk from home!

On this front, Errol St seems to have the highest concentration of eating spots within nearby walking distance, with the downside that many of the places either aren’t cheap enough, or they don’t quite tickle our fancy. But recently, I’d noticed a new burger joint that replaced Urban Burger along that stretch. We decided to give it a try.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4878

I think it was the name of the place that caught my eye at the start, it just sounded so cheeky and random. Entering the joint, we scanned the easy-to-read menu of 7 beef burgers, 6 chook burgers, 1 veggie burger and then made our choice. All the burgers are also available as a wrap and you even have the option for gluten free buns.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4881
CHILLI 11
Beef, Jalapenos, Cheese, Salad, Relish and Chipotle Mayo

Here’s Fatbee’s pick… a beef burger with hints of spiciness derived from slices of pickled jalapeños. I think there are two types of burgers out there: the old-school ones where it’s all about cheese, bacon, pickles, onions and sauce. And then there’s the healthier, more balanced types with lots of lettuce and veggies like beetroot and pineapples. I’m happy to say that Wonky Trolley’s menu features the latter type of burgers, which is what I prefer.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4882
FULL TROLLEY 13
Beef, Bacon, Cheese, Egg, Pineapple, Salad, Relish and Aioli

And I got Wonky’s burger with the lot. It was very satisfying with a nice, soft and moist patty of good quality beef layered with fried egg, bacon, lots of salad, sliced pineapple, aioli and relish. The brioche buns were fluffy with a wonderfully soft crust and I liked how they didn’t come all oily on the outside. The whole thing was so juicy that lots of dripping action happened onto my plate, which is one of my yardsticks for how good a burger is.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4884

I like how Wonky Trolley serves delicious burgers that manages to straddle the fine line between being ‘healthy’ without being too greasy. The pricing leans towards the slightly more ‘premium’ side of things ($10-$13), but the quality is good and the burgers are big enough to be a full meal on its own for me without needing a side serve of chips.

Wonky Trolley on Urbanspoon

Wonky Trolley was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) http://fatboo.com/2014/12/sambal-timun-recipe-spicy-pork-cucumber-salad.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/sambal-timun-recipe-spicy-pork-cucumber-salad.html#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 09:55:23 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18718 Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) by Fatboo

Recipe for Nyonya Sambal Timun, a refreshingly punchy Peranakan salad of cucumber, pork & chicken gizzard tossed with spicy sambal & fragrant herbs.

Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) by Fatboo

Sambal Timun Recipe 0451

I watched mum make this simple Peranakan dish on my last trip to Singapore, and I must say it’s quite an addictive spicy salad offering. It works wonderfully as an appetiser or as a supporting dish in any Nyonya meal.

I really liked the spicy kick and tanginess from the sambal belacan dressing, made superbly punchy and fragrant with the use of fresh kaffir lime leaves and torch ginger buds (bunga kantan).

Sambal Timun Recipe 0448

The prep work isn’t too difficult either. Prepare the salad ingredients by slicing up the onions, cucumber and cooked meats. Next, prepare the dressing by mixing the sambal blachan with lime, fragrant herbs and the seasonings… then toss.

The salad should be served immediately as the vegetables will ooze water over time. Do not keep overnight.

Sambal Timun Recipe 0450

For those of us living overseas, fresh kaffir lime leaves can be expensive, an alternative would be to use the soaked dried leaves instead, but it won’t be as fragrant. As for bunga kantan torch ginger buds, you probably will be able to find them in the frozen section at your Asian grocer.

Limau kesturi (calamansi lime) is smaller and a lot more fragrant than regular limes, but if you can’t find them in Australia, use one large lime instead. Finally, if eating chicken gizzard is just a bit too adventurous for you, remember that that ingredient is entirely optional.

Sambal Timun Recipe 0454

Sambal Timun Recipe

Adapted from Mum’s Recipe
Peparation Time: 1hr
Serves 4-6 

INGREDIENTS

200 gm Fresh Red Chillies
40 gm Belacan (toasted)
100 gm Pork Belly
2 Chicken Gizzards (optional)
1 tbsp White Vinegar
4 small Kesturi Limes (or 1 large lime)
1 tbsp Sugar
½ tbsp Bunga Kantan (Torch Ginger Bud) – thinly shredded
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves – thinly shredded
20 gm Dried Prawns
Half a big Red Onion – thinly sliced
1 Continental Cucumber – peeled & sliced into pieces
Salt

METHOD

Make the sambal belacan by grinding till fine:
Fresh Red Chillies
Toasted Belacan
Pinch of Salt

Soak in hot water for 5 mins, then drain & pound coarsely:
Dried Prawns 

Place Pork Belly in boiling water & simmer for 20 mins till cooked. Remove & rinse under tap water till cooled.
Rub the Chicken Gizzards all over with salt, then place in boiling water & simmer for 10 mins till cooked. Remove & also rinse under tap water till cooled.
When Pork & Chicken Gizzard are cooled, slice them & leave aside

Put following ingredients in a bowl, big enough for tossing :
Sliced Belly Pork
Sliced Chicken Gizzard

Pounded Dried Prawns
Sliced Red Onion
Sliced Cucumbers

Mix well together to create dressing:
1 heaped tbsp of Sambal Belacan (from prepared Sambal belacan above)
1 tbsp White Vinegar
Juice from Kesturi Limes
Shredded Torch Ginger Bud
Shredded Kaffir Lime Leaves
1 tbsp Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Pour dressing into the prepared bowl of ingredients, toss. Serve immediately.

This dish goes nicely with other Nyonya dishes such as Ayam Pongteh, Ayam Buah Keluak and Chap Chye.
Also, more comforting recipes can be found on my Recipes Page.

Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Combi http://fatboo.com/2014/11/combi-cafe-elwood-vegetarian-vegan-raw.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/combi-cafe-elwood-vegetarian-vegan-raw.html#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 02:20:57 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20071 Combi by Fatboo

Cafe in Elwood with a healthy menu of super foods and raw / vegetarian dishes that tastes surprisingly good. Enjoy your meal with a kombucha on tap.

Combi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Combi by Fatboo

1/140 Ormond Rd
Elwood, VIC 3184
03 9531 0084
Website

The discovery of this gem of a cafe was a bit of an accidental find due to lack of research on my part.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4802

Here’s what happened… Fakegf had been going through a healthy 4-week clean-eating challenge when we decided to brunch out. When she suggested this place, if I had known about Combi’s food concept I might’ve gone “OMG…. rabbit food? NO WAY!!”. Instead, it was more a case of me not researching and hence thinking “Oooh… I haven’t brunched in Elwood before… so exciting. Yes please!”.

So I only learnt that we were in for an incredibly healthy (and mostly raw / vegan / vegetarian) meal when we were already on our way there. But as luck would have it, I ended up enjoying this meal lots!

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4787

Combi is set in a squeezy, narrow little space along the busy stretch of Ormond Rd in Elwood. And at 11am on a Thursday, it was very busy and full of smiles. The customer demographic seemed to lean towards the healthy yoga-loving and wheatgrass sipping variety of Melburnians. Needless to say, the menu boasted ingredients such as kale, chia seeds, activated almonds, spirulina, fermented protein powder, cacao nibs, acai and nut mylk.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 1
BEETROOT KOMBUCHA 5 | GREEN FIELDS 8.5
Kale, cos lettuce, celery, cucumber, green apple, mint, lemon

Truth be told, I thought the menu here was a nice change from my usual oily-carby foodscape of cheap Asian fare, so I ended up getting pretty excited about what we were about to have.

We started off with a selection of drinks, with Fatbee having an organic cold pressed juice that contained so much vegetables that Fakegf funnily quipped that she thought she could almost “photosynthesise”… ha ha! Meanwhile, I had a fermented chilled tea that was served on tap, it tasted like a fizzy slightly alcoholic drink infused with beetroot.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4795
ORGANIC CHIA PARTY (GF/RAW/V) – 14.5
Parfait of chia seeds, soaked in house nut mylk infused with orange rind, layered with banana, berries crunchy activated chocolate buckinis, zesty incan berries and macadamias. Topped with house made coconut cashew yogurt and strawberry coulis

Both Fakegf and myself decided to try Combi’s super bowls, aptly named so because it contains super foods.

Here’s Fakegf’s much-enjoyed chia seed dish served in a jar. I’d personally steer clear of chia seeds and basil seeds because of its sticky-slimy texture when wet (not to mention it looks a bit like tadpole eggs), but Fakegf really liked her dish and I have to admit it looked amazing.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4792ORGANIC ACAI BOWl (GF/RAW/V) – 15.5
Antioxidant-loaded Acai blended with banana, blueberries, house made nut mylk then layered with crispy coconut flakes, activated caramelised buckinis, banana, maca and cranberries

While Combi’s menu does have one non-vegetarian item (a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich), I decided to sample what Combi does best. My dish tasted like an intensely refreshing banana beetroot smoothie served very chilled and topped with a crispy nut granola. I absolutely enjoyed it and it really did feel like I was having a huge antioxidant hit.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4794
RAW ORGANIC ZUCCHINI SPAGETTI (GF / V) – 14.5
Zucchini spaghetti with a creamy cashew sauce, mushrooms, soy beans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, topped with activated nuts

Fatbee went with a savoury item – ‘spaghetti’ made from tendrils of freshly shredded zucchini served with nuts, mushrooms, herbs and tomatoes then lightly dressed in a cashew sauce. Healthy, light and well balanced, this dish tasted fantastic without becoming ‘healthy-boring’. In a nutshell, I was amazed that raw food could taste so good.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 2

Even though we’re both Singaporeans, Fakegf’s food journey is fast going on a widely divergent tangent from my own. And I think that’s a good thing because I get to (ever so often) have a hit of something that’s very different from the foods that I’d normally eat.

Perhaps the fact that I’m a big fan of the light and clean-tasting flavours in Japanese cuisine helped ease me into liking Combi’s healthy / raw vegetarian fare. But more so than this, I’m just very happy that there are foods out there that can still excite me.

Combi Raw Vegan Food Elwood 4797

Combi on Urbanspoon

Combi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Review http://fatboo.com/2014/11/singapore-airlines-business-class-a330-flight-report.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/singapore-airlines-business-class-a330-flight-report.html#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 21:12:54 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19775 Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Review by Fatboo

Flight report covering my Singapore Airlines Business Class experience on the Airbus A330. (Includes comparisons with Thai Airways Business Class)

Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Review was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Review by Fatboo

Singapore Airlines | Business Class | Oct 2013
SQ 973 BKK-SIN | SQ 207 SIN-MEL
Airbus A330-300 (Regional, Angled Flat)

This post covers the final two legs of my (first-time) experience flying in business and first class using purchased points from a mileage program. For more details on how I did it, refer to my previous post covering Thai Airways Royal Silk (Business) Class from Paris to Bangkok on the A380. It’s only on these final two legs that I’d finally got to try business class on Singapore Airlines.

Silverkris Lounge Bangkok Airport 8932

You may also notice that I’ve become more detailed in my thoughts and comparisons between various airlines’ premium class products. I admit that it’s a retroactive change in myself. One year ago, I was all starry-eyed like a child in a candy store boarding my first business class flight.

Since then, I’d learnt that business and first class seats and experiences can come in many different forms depending on the airline, route and the aircraft you’re travelling in. Hence this more analytical slant to supplant my own personal thoughts and feelings about the flight in my reports. Not to mention it really is big big dollars flying inside any of these premium cabins, so even the smallest differences in detail counts for a lot.

Silverkris Lounge Bangkok Airport 01SilverKris Lounge, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

After a 12 hour flight from Paris, we faced a few hours transit in Bangkok before our onward flight to Singapore. And it was time well-spent… relaxing in the very comfortable confines of Singapore Airline’s SilverKris lounge. Because I assume there aren’t that many Singapore Airlines flights out of Bangkok at any moment in time as compared to Thai, the lounge was nice and empty. We helped ourselves to some light (Asian!) refreshments and snuggled into the sofas.

Silverkris Lounge Bangkok Airport 8928

It was funny what seasoned premium class travellers we’d become by that point. I remember on our first flight together three weeks before (on Thai Airways A380 First Class), how mom kept panicking that we’d miss the plane (in the end we were escorted by buggy to the gate!). This time round, she just relaxed and did her own things without a care in the world and it had to be ME who did the ushering with a “Ummm… mom! It’s time for us to head for the gate!”.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8941

SQ973 – Bangkok to Singapore

And with a quick walk up the airbridge, our next premium class experience was about to begin!

Truth be told, I was pretty excited about being able to experience business class on Singapore Airlines at last. I’d heard many good things about it.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8943

And here’s the interior of the business class cabin on Singapore Airlines A330. It has a capacity of 30 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration (it’s 2-4-2 in economy).

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8971

Dad and mom sat in the row in front of me while I sat at the window seat next to somebody I didn’t know. I’d become slightly spoilt from my last 12 hour flight where I’d enjoyed lots of privacy in my standalone window seat with direct aisle access. But here’s the thing – this is a short haul (2h 25min) regional flight, so having the luxurious 1-2-1 configuration that’s normally reserved for long haul flights will be a very rare occurrence.

The seats are upholstered in a soft, light brown leather and they’re quite noticeably wide at 24.5 inches (compared to 18 inches in economy). The seat pitch (distance between the back of the seat in front of you and the back of your own seat) of 60 inches ensures a good amount of legroom too. Seat pitch in the same aircraft’s economy cabin is 32 inches.

Singapore Airlines Business Class A330 SIN MEL 01Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8954

Once seated, we were immediately offered a choice of refreshments. And here’s the seat control panel… considering it’s a short haul flight, these seats are able to come to a fully flat position, albeit at a 8º angle (if you’re wearing silky business suits, you’d probably slide down… hahaha!). Still, I thought that was quite a step up from regular recliner seats that don’t come fully flat.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8963

It wasn’t long before we were soaring in the cloud dappled skies.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8958Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8962

A white tablecloth was placed on our spacious tables and lunch was served. I can’t remember what the dishes exactly were, but I thought it was pretty alright.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8965

And here’s me snapping a sneaky photo of dad and mom enjoying their flight. This was to be the final flight that I’d be taking with them (the next flight from Singapore to Melbourne I did on my own). Mum and dad said that this entire trip was very memorable because we experienced together something that not that many of us will be fortunate enough to try… let alone as a family!

Changi Airport Terminal 3 8972
Changi Airport Terminal 3

I spent a few days in Singapore with my family before going back to Melbourne…

Singapore Durian Vendor

… and funnily, the ONLY photos I’d taken whilst in Singapore was of mum buying durians from an old school durian vendor.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9029Silverkris Lounge Business Class Singapore 9009
SilverKris Lounge (Business Class) – Changi Airport Terminal 3

But those days of relaxation in Singapore won’t be covered here, let’s move on to my flight back to Melbourne… starting with the quiet moments of reflection I spent inside the SilverKris Business Class lounge.

Silverkris Lounge Business Class Singapore 9011Silverkris Lounge Business Class Singapore 9008

The lounge is actually quite massive, which is understandable considering Changi Airport has a traffic of 53.6 million passengers a year (compared to 30 million for Melbourne Airport). So I can imagine there’d be loads of Singapore Airline flights each and every hour, with a concomitant high volume of business class passengers.

I liked the high quality dark wood and marble motif of this lounge, but found that its large size makes the lounge feel less homely. All that said, it’s still a very comfortable space with a peaceful, polished atmosphere.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9026

SQ207 – Singapore to Melbourne

And here’s the aircraft that will take me back to Melbourne.

Singapore Airlines Business Class A330 SIN MEL 02Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8947

Stepping in, I discovered that the aircraft and its cabin was identical to what I’d flown in from Bangkok to Singapore a few days before.

Being a 7-8 hour flight, Singapore to Melbourne is considered a regional (medium haul) route, so the more luxurious (1-2-1) fully flat business class seat configuration (with direct aisle access) is currently only available for some the night flights (on the A380 & Boeing 777-300ER) on this route.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9045Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9038
Changi International Airport (right after takeoff)

So inwardly… I was kicking myself for not researching a bit more thoroughly. But seriously, I shouldn’t be complaining… not to mention I always prefer day flights to night flights.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9047Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9049Nasi Lemak
Fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk, accompanied by spicy sambal prawns, fried chicken, fried anchovies with peanuts, spicy pickled vegetables (achar), an omelette wedge, and grilled fish cakes (otah)

Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, pastries, tea/coffee and a choice of cereals or yoghurt. But I skipped most of these offerings and went straight for the main dish of nasi lemak which, wise tactician that I am, I’d pre-ordered days before the flight via SQ’s Book the Cook service. It’s a service for premium class travellers where you can pre-order a main course (from a huge online menu) for each of your flight’s meals which will then be specially prepared just for you.

And I’ll have to say that this nasi lemak was very very good!! Normally airplane food tends to suck, but this dish really tasted exactly like how it should be on the streets of Singapore.

Singapore Airlines Business Class A330 SIN MEL 03

I spent the next few hours engrossed in my laptop and iOS devices (yes, I never ever use the in-flight entertainment on planes ever). During this time, I also meekly asked the one of the flight attendants if I could have an SQ Teddy Bear (the boy bear to be exact) for my ‘nephew’. The attendant happily obliged… but truth is, it actually was for Fatbee who already owns the girl bear… hahaha!

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9056
Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9061
Tian of Alaskan king crab and mango with mesclun
Assorted Sushi (Book the Cook)
Marinated and smoked fish on lightly vinegared Japanese rice (served at cabin temperature)

I also went the Book the Cook option for the second meal service (before landing), this time picking sushi because I’d never imagine eating sushi whilst on a plane! All that said, this dish did not quite hit the mark because ‘cabin temperature’ pretty much meant the sushi was served quite chilled, so the rice and seafood were quite firm to the tongue. Not to mention sushi should always be eaten the moment it is made, so this meal choice was a rookie mistake on my part.

I think the take home message here is – when you’re flying SQ… stick with the amazing local Singaporean dishes!

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Long Haul 9066

Once I saw the patchwork quilt of Australian farmscapes stretching before me, I knew that we didn’t have much longer before touchdown.

Singapore Airlines SQ Business Class A330 Short Haul 8969

Here’s a final pensive view of the business class cabin before I exited the aircraft for the final time.

Overall, this entire award booking involving two airlines and five flights in total has been one blast of an experience! But some of you may be curious to know if there are any comparisons to be made between my Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines experiences. Even though the flights I took weren’t equal (TG was long-haul while SQ was medium/short-haul), I liked how SQ’s regional business class seats were 4.5 inches wider than TG’s business class seats, not to mention they were upholstered in nice leather rather than fabric. And that nasi lemak was one of the nicest meals I’ve had on any airline, not to mention SQ actually plates the dishes properly instead of just serving them on a casserole dish.

As for the service, they were both good but I think SQ’s service had more polish with better attention to detail (not to mention I find the Singaporean accent very comforting). All that said, I personally thought the Thai attendants (despite being a little inconsistent) were more relaxed… they smiled and chatted with us more. The SQ cabin crew were fast and efficient, but they can sometimes come across as hurried in their impeccable efforts to perform all their duties with such superb precision.

Here are my other flight reports for this trip:

Thai Airways Business Class Boeing 777 MEL-BKK (Shell seats with 167º recline)
Thai Airways First Class A380 BKK-CDG (Full Flat Bed)
Thai Airways Business Class A380 CDG-BKK (Full Flat Bed)

Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Review was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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FOMO Thai http://fatboo.com/2014/11/fomo-thai-bourke-st-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/fomo-thai-bourke-st-melbourne.html#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 23:30:54 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20216 FOMO Thai by Fatboo

Thai restaurant in the city with authentic (and spicy) dishes served with a light modern twist. Visit this place & experience Bangkok's urban food culture.

FOMO Thai was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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FOMO Thai by Fatboo

171 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 7987
Website

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4921

When Fatbee and I catch up with a particular group of his friends, he calls it as “Dinner with The Fat Club” -: Fatboo, Fatbee, Fat Pumpkin and Fat Money. Not the politest of nicknames, but it wasn’t me who came up with them… ha ha ha! Either way, that’s how we found ourselves trying out this (newish?) Thai restaurant along Bourke St in the city.

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4924

And speaking of bad jokes, when Fatbee first said we’re dining at FOMO Thai, the first reply that came out of me was “how come it isn’t called MOFO Thai?”. Needless to say… he completely ignored what I said… ha ha ha!

The interior’s modern and the waitstaff were decidedly Thai, which got me a little more excited. The concept here is to relax and have authentic Thai food served in the typical new-urban Bangkok setting.

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4936
Som Tum Ko Rad Plara ส้มตำโคราชใส่ปลาร้า – $14.00
“Ko Rad” style Som Tum

We started off with the customary serve of som tum, which came confidently tangy and (I’m happy to say this) fabulously spicy! One thing I notice is Thai restaurants have so many variations of som tum on their menu with just minor tweaks in their ingredients, but the dish tends to end up tasting quite the same to me. So the “Ko Rad” style som tum still tasted like a spicy-tangy papaya salad!

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4929
Moo Krob Tod หมูกรอบทอดกับนํ้าจิ้มสามชนิด – $38.00
Roasted pork bellies served with three specialty condiments

Here’s a dish that Fat Money enjoyed before, a pile of crispy pork belly served on a board with hoisin sauce, kecap manis and chilli sauce. To me, it’s somewhat similar to having the deep fried pork hock Thai dish but all cut up nicely for you, except that the meat in this case was wonderfully soft and succulent despite how it looks like in the photo. It’s really really good, and my only gripe is how modest the serve is for its price point of $38.

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4937
Gang Keaw Look Cheen Pla Grai – $19.00
แกงเขียวหวานลูกชิ้นปลากราย
Green curry with homemade fish dumplings cooked in fragrant lime leaves and green basil

The other main dish we had was a very interesting one where green curry was paired with fish dumplings rather than the usual chicken or beef. I used to gripe about how sweet, mild and non-spicy Thai curries (especially green curry) are in Melbourne compared to its knock-your-socks-off spiciness in Thailand. But this dish finally breaks out of that mould… it was delightfully hot! On first sip, a few of us sputtered… ha ha!

FOMO Thai Melbourne 1

The fish dumplings were like bouncy-soft nuggets of fish cakes, the fragrance of the spices and ingredients was lovely and I liked how they used proper Thai eggplants for this dish and there wasn’t any of that carrots / capsicums / zucchini nonsense.

FOMO Thai Melbourne 4931
Muk Pad Kai Kem หมึกผัดไข่เค็ม - $19.00
Stir-fried squids with salted egg

Our final dish turned out to be a ‘palate cleanser’ of sorts because it was light and non-spicy. salted eggs, when overused can be quite overpowering in terms of smell so I liked how clean this version of it tasted. And oddly enough it almost reminded me of the sauce that you’d get with Singaporean seafood hor fun.

FOMO Thai Melbourne 2

FOMO Thai was a bit of a surprise find, especially that lovely Thai green curry. But let me make it clear that this is from the perspective of a non-Thai.

I thought the food here was authentic with a modern twist, making it quite accessible to the palates of discerning Melburnians. And if how the spicy the food seemed to be has put you off, worry not… the friendly waitress actually warns you if a particular dish is very spicy… to which I’d always return with a joyous thumbs up sign! My yardstick for how authentic a Thai place comes from what spice levels they throw at us, but a very recent trip to Bangkok just last weekend proved to me that even the Thais will tone down the spice levels of the dishes for non-local diners. So I’m all the more happy now that FOMO Thai doesn’t do that!

FOMO Thai on Urbanspoon

FOMO Thai was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters http://fatboo.com/2014/11/soba-salmon-pancakes-lotus-root-pork-belly-beetroot-carrot-soup.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/soba-salmon-pancakes-lotus-root-pork-belly-beetroot-carrot-soup.html#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 01:50:00 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20047 Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters by Fatboo

Some of the simple Asian dishes I've been cooking at home... soba with pan-fried salmon, braised pork belly with lotus root, beetroot carrot soup & more.

Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters by Fatboo

My food jaunts this year have taken a pretty big step back, with Fatbee and I mostly depending on those good ol’ places (mostly in the city) that’s both cheap and tasty. Truth be told, it has reached a point where I’ve run out of new places (and recipes) to blog about!

But this blog’s more like personal sounding board for my food and travel adventures anyway, so I’ve decided to round up this compilation post covering some of the things that Fatbee and I have been eating at home. If anything else, it shows how human we are and that we too can have our incredibly lazy months!

Salmon Soba Asparagus 4713

Japanese soba with pan fried salmon

Now that the weather’s warming up, we’ve started cooking fewer one-pot stews and curries… much to Fatbee’s relief! I’d previously bought a packet of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) from Daiso last year, but finally got around to cooking it recently. The recipe’s inspiration comes from Winston, who’d previously shown how you can make a delicious and simple meal with soba and fresh salmon. The dish we cooked here is perfect for warm weather because soba is meant to be eaten at room temperature and the other components to the dish are also very cooling on the palate.

The cooking instructions on the packet were entirely in Japanese, so we winged it. I found that cooking soba is pretty similar to cooking pasta, except it takes a shorter cooking time in briskly boiling water to be ready (about 3-5 mins). About halfway through boiling, I also added the veggies (broccolini or asparagus) and blanched it for a minute or so before setting it aside… that’s ultimate lazy cooking for you! Once ready, the noodles were transferred into a sieve and rinsed through with cool tap water to stop the cooking process. One packet of soba was enough to serve four persons.

The salmon came next, and it was a simple matter of sprinkling a few turns of salt then pan-frying on all sides over medium to high heat till the outsides are brown and crisp. If the salmon is very fresh, I like to make it crisp on the outside and slightly undercooked in the middle. Assemble everything together on a plate, sprinkle a bit of furikake (Japanese rice / seaweed seasoning) on top of the noodles, and enjoy this dish with a dipping sauce of soba tsuyu on the side. Soba tsuyu is basically a mixture of Japanese soy sauce, mirin and bonito extract, and we did the smart thing of buying a ready-made bottle of it at the Asian grocers instead of making it ourselves.

Homemade Pancakes 2491

Pancakes with berry compote, mascarpone cheese, smoked maple syrup

We also found ourselves brunching out less these days. And on the rare Sundays where neither of us are working, Fatbee would make pancakes at home, thereby saving money and skipping the incredibly busy weekend brunch crowds.

It’s a very easy dish to make too… with Fatbee handling the cooking of the pancakes (there are a million recipes online), while I’d just mix a bowl of frozen berries with a bit of sugar and water and microwave it in 20-30 second pulses till it’s sticky and lightly cooked. Add a dollop of mascarpone cheese and drizzle everything over with good quality maple syrup. We used smoked maple syrup from The Melbourne Pantry and I must say it tastes friggin’ good with the pancakes.

Cantonese Braised Pork Belly Lotus Root

Ling ngau man ju yoke
(Braised pork belly with lotus root and red fermented tofu)

Fakegf invited us over for dinner one evening and she cooked this Cantonese dish, whose origins came from her paternal grandmother in Hong Kong. Because I’m Peranakan in background (with it’s spicy-pungent and incredibly saucy dishes), I found myself loving how light and clean-tasting this Cantonese-style dish was despite pork belly being one of its main ingredients. The incredible deliciousness of that meal hovered in my mind for days and I finally got Fakegf to give me the recipe for this dish, which she sent to me over 6 succinct text messages.

Cantonese Braised Pork Belly Lotus Root 4715

And I’ll have to thank Fakegf for that recipe because the dish turned out perfect… exactly like how she’d made it when we visited. Succulent pieces of pork belly sitting in a gentle braising broth of ginger, garlic and red fermented beancurd (南乳 – Cantonese “nom yee”). And it’s just so nice having it with the earthy, soft-crunchy pieces of lotus root.

Home Brunch Smoked Salmon Asparagus Poached Eggs-4965

Smoked salmon, baby asparagus & failed poached eggs

Continuing with our home brunch efforts, here’s a $7 meal for two one Sunday morning. Problem is, we totally struggled with poaching the eggs. Tried swirling the pot of water, tried adding vinegar, and tried wrapping it in cling film… all with not much success.

Home Brunch Smoked Salmon Asparagus Poached Eggs-4966

And here’s Fatbee’s plate… it ended up being a brunch with Nordic elements of smoked salmon and asparagus fused with Malaysian-style kueh neng – soft boiled eggs that were meant to be poached eggs. And I nearly snorted a piece of asparagus up my nose when I saw Fatbee holding his cup o’ eggs and sipping it as if it were a cup of coffee.

Rene Redzepi Work In Progress Noma Book 4850

A Work In Progress:
A candid look at a year in the life of Noma.

It’s funny how just when my world’s revolving around cheap eats and very little homecooking, I actually end up being interested in reading René Redzepi’s latest book(s). For those of you who have not heard of him, he is the head chef of Noma in Copenhagen, which has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world 4 times in the past 5 years. Fancy titles aside, it didn’t stop him from using the f-word within the very first paragraph of the book… ha ha!

The book’s set up very playfully. You start off by reading the Rene’s journal covering the daily events in his life at the restaurant… and along the way he’d direct you to specific recipes and candid snapshots (found in the other two books) that were inspired from the events of that day. The recipes are nigh impossible to recreate, but I wanted to read the book more for his philosophy towards food and cooking, which I got a good sense of in this very personal (and conversational) journal.

Beetroot Carrot Soup

Beetroot & carrot soup

On one of the rare days where I’d actually felt like cooking, I made a simple meal of spicy slow-baked ribs with miso and garlic. To accompany that dish, we enjoyed it with a very simple beetroot and carrot soup, a dish that Winston introduced us to when we had a simple potluck dinner last year.

I omitted using pork or chicken bones to make the broth, so it’s basically chunks of beetroot and carrot lightly simmered with just enough water to cover it and a few turns of salt. If the root vegetables are fresh and sweet, it makes for a very delicious (and not to mention colourful) soup dish.

Raw Carrot Cheesecake Pana Chocolate 4876

And finally, here’s something I did not make. Fakegf had been embarking on a 4-week clean-eating challenge, an effort that I have a deep respect for but definitely can’t pull off myself. Her diet consisted of uncompromising-but-wonderful dishes such as gluten-free banana pancakes with peanut butter and oven baked fish with wilted vegetables and pine nut crust.

One evening, she dropped off a few slices of homemade semi-raw carrot ‘cheesecake’ (gluten, dairy, egg and sugar-free) along with a bar of vegan rose-scented pana chocolate (sweetened with agave nectar). I am usually skeptical about these healthy raw foods, thinking they’re abit too healthy-boring. But oh my goodness that carrot cheesecake was amazing!! And with our recent enjoyable visit to Combi cafe, I can see the allure of clean-eating and probably wouldn’t mind ‘indulging’ in that pastime ever so often… pending Fatbee’s approval… ha ha ha!

Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Darac Grill & Bar http://fatboo.com/2014/11/darac-grill-bar-tokyo-hometown-supermarket-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/darac-grill-bar-tokyo-hometown-supermarket-melbourne.html#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 05:49:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19899 Darac Grill & Bar by Fatboo

Busy Korean restaurant in the CBD with good stone-bowl bibimbaps and buddae jiggae (army stews). Also check out the Japanese supermarket a few doors away.

Darac Grill & Bar was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Darac Grill & Bar by Fatboo

51 A’Beckett St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9662 2441

Darac Grill  Bar Melbourne 4755

My enthusiasm for cooking comes in small little waves, and for the most part, I prefer to just eat out these days. Because Fatbee and I only go for cheap eats, it actually becomes almost as affordable as home cooking (albeit less healthy). If anything else, one could argue that this is good for the economy!! It also helps that Fatbee lives really close to the city, so we’d quite often stroll into town (so healthy!) for our dinner… a ritual that I quite enjoy doing.

I was in the funny mood for Korean cocktails one Sunday night, so we walked towards Joomak’s underground lair on Swanston St only to find out it was shut. Plan B involved exploring the vicinity around A’Beckett St and we quickly decided on Darac.

Darac Grill  Bar Melbourne 2
Rice $2 | Yakult Soju Cocktail $8

I’ve been here a number of times already and, if the crowd’s already any indication of it, the food’s pretty good. However, the Korean cocktail selection isn’t as fabulous here, with many items being served in a bottle or a can, and no fruit-infused makkoli cocktails! So we both tried the only cocktail that sounded appealing – a combination of soju with yakult and soda. Good choice though…! It was nice and sparkly with hints of yoghurt.

Darac Grill  Bar Melbourne 4758A3 Pork Shabushabu Sausage Stew (Medium) $29

For that evening, we veered away from the yummy stone-bowl bibimbaps and decided to share a hotpot instead. A cunning plan on my part if I may add… because now that we’re in October and the weather’s warming up, I wanted to enjoy hotpots and soups a bit more before it gets too warm for it.

Darac seems like a bit of a specialist with Korean Army Stews, with quite a few iterations of it on the menu. We picked the version that came with thinly-sliced pork, shabushabu-style. It seems like every second blog post I publish these days is a Korean joint, with me tucking into the deliciousness of an army stew. Change blog name to “The Army Stew Diaries”… no?

Darac Grill  Bar Melbourne 1

Jokes aside, I’m really glad we tried this dish. On top of the usual stock-standard tinned rations of SPAM, baked beans, cocktail sausages and ham with kimchi and spicy paste… once things got bubbling, the discovery didn’t stop. This stew also boasted squares of tofu, macaroni, zucchini, sweet potato noodles, rice cakes, garden chrysanthemum, spring onion and of course sliced pork.

I found the components here balanced each other very nicely, and I liked how the presence of gochujang (spicy paste) wasn’t overpowering… making for a gentler broth with a slightly ‘milky’ flavour. I really enjoyed this offering.

Darac Grill  Bar Melbourne 4763

Korean Army Stews (Buddae Jiggae) isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a fan of it like I am, then I recommend you give Darac’s version of it a try… if you can find a table in this busy restaurant to begin with!

Darac Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tokyo Hometown Supermarket Melbourne 4765

We will end this post with a delightful discovery that we’d made the same evening. Just a few doors down from Darac, we found a Japanese supermarket opened by the Hometown group of Asian grocers. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, we also found a huge section wholly devoted to matcha flavoured goodies!

Tokyo Hometown Supermarket Melbourne 4767

Japanese snacks tend to have no English translations on the packet, so part of the fun is actually randomly buying whatever looks unusual or fun! Here’s the bounty that we came home with that evening! And you’re probably not going to be surprised, but I loved the pink Rilakkuma snack-in-a-cup the best. It’s actually strawberry flavoured crispy puffs with hints of cuttlefish!

Darac Grill & Bar was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 SEO Mistakes I Learnt the Hard Way http://fatboo.com/2014/11/10-seo-mistakes-bloggers-make.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/10-seo-mistakes-bloggers-make.html#comments Sun, 09 Nov 2014 08:25:38 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18204 10 SEO Mistakes I Learnt the Hard Way by Fatboo

A discussion about the importance of harnessing SEO optimisation techniques for Bloggers, and the flipside of getting too caught up with stats & metrics.

10 SEO Mistakes I Learnt the Hard Way was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 SEO Mistakes I Learnt the Hard Way by Fatboo

This is a continuation from my previous post, where I discussed “Is Blog Optimisation Worth It?”. Today, I’ll be musing over another aspect of online blogging that’s pretty close to many of our hearts – it’s called SEO. While I’m not an expert at it, I tend to think of it as a fun ‘hobby’ (even when it backfires on me).

For those of you following me just for food reviews, this post will be quite tangential… but it sort of gives you an inside glimpse into the technical (and sometimes exasperating) side of blogging and my own perspectives towards it.

SEO Google Analytics-2489

1. What Is SEO?

We’ll start with a definition. Basically SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.

I think of SEO as a list of things that you can do to improve your website’s ranking and visibility in a search engine’s organic (ie. “natural” and unpaid) search results. And of course, amongst all the search engines, Google is King! So you could almost call SEO as a series of things we try to do to make Google be “best friends” with our blogs… hah!

The list of SEO tips is endless and beyond the scope of this post. But here’s a few examples:

  • Using Appropriate Keywords.
  • Writing well, and writing about things relevant to your blog.
  • Doing good blog housekeeping, stay on top of your broken links.
  • Taking steps to increase the speed of your site, Google likes fast-loading sites.
  • Avoid duplicate content.
  • Engaging with the community.

2. How important is SEO?

For me, it’s very important… Google alone accounts for 61% of all my traffic. So seeking to improve my site’s SEO further could be very beneficial. If your Google Ranking is high, your website is more likely to appear in the first page of search engine results.

3. What do you mean by “Appropriate Keywords”?

I’m basically talking about having relevant keywords in your entries. For example, titling a post “An Exciting Weekend of Food” won’t rank as well on Google Searches as a title like “Mamasita, Chin Chin & Huxtaurger… Oh My!”. That’s because people won’t be searching on Google for vague things like “exciting foods”, they’d be searching for the specific restaurants.

In a nutshell, you’ll want to use keywords that people use when they do searches on Google. And ideally, those keywords should appear in your blog post, its title and even the post URL!

4. Anything to Watch Out For?

A word of warning here: Google is very smart. After discussing about appropriate keywords above, I got a little caught up and decided to tweak the titles of all of my old blog posts (adding in the suburb of each restaurant to the title). Google saw this as an attempt at optimisation and my page views from search engines dropped by a fair bit. Yup… I ended up on Google’s naughty list! It may be many months before my Google page rank goes back up, but oh well… it was a fun endeavour in a geeky way! :p

A lesson learnt here: be cautious if you decide to overhaul your whole blog all at once as it can be seen as a red flag for Google. Instead, optimise slowly or only do so for your future posts.

5. Blogroll… Yes or No?

A Blogroll is an online list of blogs with similar interests as your website. A food blog like mine has a blogroll listing other fellow Melbourne food bloggers. I look at it as a form of ‘scratching each other’s backs’… being part of a community, whilst giving each other more exposure. Not to mention Google likes it when websites of similar content creates links with each other. One ‘risk’ about having a Blogroll is the repercussions of not including a fellow blogger in your list (I can be forgetful sometimes). It can make them feel left out… or worse… cranky!

Some bloggers still upkeep a Blogroll, while others have taken their Blogrolls down. I’d say just do what you’re comfortable with. However, I find that just having the blog names displayed in a list to be not that meaningful, so my Blogroll now resides inside a page called “Comrades”… where I have a little description of how I’ve come to know each and every blogger on that list. This makes it more personal.

6. How About Duplicate Content?

The SEO community seems to be on two sides of the fence with this. Some think that duplicate content of more than one paragraph should be avoided because Google could smack both websites with a duplicate content penalty. Others think we’re being too paranoid and that this so called duplicated content penalty only happens to very spammy websites.

Personally, I try to minimise duplicate content where possible… meaning if I give a website permission to republish my blog posts, I’ll want them to correctly set it up with canonical tags that tells search engines where the copyrighted master page is (ie. the original post in my blog). If they refuse to do this, then the minimum that I’ll tolerate is proper credits and backlinks to the exact page in my blog that they republished from.

What I won’t tolerate is anyone who copies my content without permission, publishes it on their site without proper backlinks, and then tries to pass it off as their own original content. With these content thieves, I’d lodge a DMCA Site Takedown request immediately. No warnings, no grace period.

7. Are Site Stats & Google Analytics Useful?

Google Analytics Real Time 35

The vast majority of site owners use Google Analytics to get information about how well their sites are performing. But guess what? It has taken me more than 3 years before (just a few months ago) I finally started using Google Analytics to check my blog statistics! Here’s one stats report that has captivated me… it’s a real-time summary of how many active users are browsing my site right now, telling me which pages they’re on, where they entered my site from (Facebook, Twitter…) and what type of device (desktop / tablet / mobile) they’re using!

Sometimes I’d say all this information is almost too useful, and also a bit freaky knowing how much information is being collected as we browse things online. These statistics gives you so much information about your blog and its traffic that you run the risk of changing your blogging behaviour if you get too caught up by its metrics. The screenshot above already tells me that recipes are significantly more popular than my bread-and-butter Melbourne restaurant posts. Revamp self-image into Fatboo The Recipe Blogger… no?

Noooooooo!!!!

But if used wisely, Google Analytics and site statistics can be a powerful tool in troubleshooting what part of your site actually works or needs work. For instance, here’s one thing I learnt… I’d previously made the mistake of putting Singapore hawker food posts on low priority because it felt out-of-point from my Melbourne-based food blog. Google Analytics showed me that it’s my Singapore Food Posts (even the old ones with ugly photos, bad formatting and all) that actually generates the most interest and page views! So I absolutely shouldn’t have stopped myself from sharing my love for Singaporean hawker fare!

8. Should I Continue Covering Restaurants?

US-based Diane Jacob’s post “Are Restaurant Bloggers Still Relevant?” got me thinking further about this.

Let’s face it: restaurants are local and its reviews will only be of interest to the people who’re in that city. More often than not, all I’d get is a small spike in page views when a restaurant post first gets published… and then interest disappears. Urbanspoon referrals do help a bit, but not much. And I hardly get any traffic for restaurant posts via search engines.

By comparison, a recipe post appeals to a worldwide audience and gets constant traffic daily. To put it in perspective, my best performing recipe post gets 23 times more page views a year than my best performing restaurant post. This is why the biggest blogs tend to be recipe blogs.

I confess I have at times thought to myself what’s the point of spending so much effort into writing a restaurant post when it hardly gets read. I’m almost better off just Instagramming the restaurant dishes I’m having right there and then, knowing that my 3,000 or so followers will see it!

Which brings me to my next question:

9. Should I Care About Page Views?

It is rare to find a blogger who doesn’t care about page views, and I’d be lying if I said that page views didn’t matter to me. Over the years, I’ve put in heaps of effort into making this blog look good… changing to a cleaner theme, pushing out better photos, collaging them beautifully, and supporting it with (what I believe is) decent writing. I thought all that effort would mean more visitors and hits, but in the end it made no difference, and that actually hurts.

But rather than thinking I’ve been doing everything wrong, the reality is: there are many factors that governs page views and, despite my best efforts, this statistic can go up and down. And while some of us are more successful at it than others, I shouldn’t take it personally if I’m just not as good at it.

These days, I’ve finally learnt not to get too hung up over page views, there are other (healthier) measures of success than this. All it takes is a change of perspective.

10. Should I Engage With The Community?

The answer here is a straightforward yes. The act of following, commenting and sharing your passion with other bloggers does make quite a difference. Using social media to chat and connect with each other is great too. And don’t forget, replying to comments that other people have made on your blog is good common courtesy.

Yes I know that’s quite a bit of time and effort, but know this: readers do read and follow blog comments, tweets and instagram posts. So if you place a well thought-out comment on someone else’s blog, it compels their followers to want to discover more of what you have to say.

All that said, I personally have taken a step back from commenting on blogs these days. To be honest, I find it’s a somewhat clunky affair, with many fields to fill and an annoying CAPTCHA sequence. And it’s a bit one-way too, because the dialogue is usually just between the blogger and myself. More often than not, the only reason why I occasionally make the effort to comment is the simple fact that most of us bloggers LOVE receiving them. It’s like the lifeblood of a blog!

These days comments (and even whole conversations) occur on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in a much quicker and more dynamic way involving many participants. Because it’s a lot more lively, I find myself more drawn towards using these platforms to engage with the community.

So What’s My Endgame?

Part of me feels now that I’ve been blogging for four years, I’ve more or less reached my Endgame.

The blog’s theme is finally to my satisfaction (even if a part of me think it’s still a touch ‘clinical’)… I’ve got an easy workflow, I know what I’m doing (most of the time) and I’m doing it at my own pace. And even though I’ve made a number of SEO mistakes that backfired on me, I just tell myself not to take it personally. If there’s just a handful of people out there who finds this blog enjoyable, that’s enough for me.

I’ve also started blogging for myself and about the things (both the fun and mundane) that have been going on in my life… from my relaxing holidays to the simple cheap eats and homecooked disasters that forms the bread-and-butter of my Melbourne existence.

If there’s any advice I’d give, I’d say that in the end it’s all about balance. Don’t get too caught up with page views and metrics. Optimise carefully, do what you can and only if you have the time to. Find your comfort point… that delicate fulcrum between optimisation versus your personal satisfaction. Write passionately. Write playfully. Write for yourself and don’t sweat over what Google or your readers may think. In a nutshell… stay happy!

But if I were to delve deeper… I think my ideal ‘Endgame‘, ironically, would be for me to go back to the innocent headspace that I had when I first started this blog. Back when I knew nothing about blog optimisation, web design, search metrics, nothing. Back when social media had only started. Back when it was just me, my thoughts, my heart full of dreams… and that inviting blank screen with a blinking cursor… .. . |

PS: If you have your own SEO experiences to share, I’d love to hear about it!

10 SEO Mistakes I Learnt the Hard Way was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Dinner at The Grain Store http://fatboo.com/2014/11/dinner-grain-store-cafe-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/dinner-grain-store-cafe-melbourne.html#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 08:30:57 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20101 Dinner at The Grain Store by Fatboo

The Grain Store in Melbourne is quite well known as a brunch spot, but many of us do not know that they're also open for dinner service.

Dinner at The Grain Store was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Dinner at The Grain Store by Fatboo

517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9972 6993
Website

Disclosure: Fatbee & I dined here courtesy of The Grain Store

Most of the restaurant invites that I’d receive tend to fall on evenings where I’d still be stuck at work. So it was quite nice that Fatbee and I could make it to this intimate little bloggers’ dinner at The Grain Store one Wednesday evening a few weeks ago.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4894

Most of you will know of The Grain Store as a brunch spot, but not many of us know that they’re also open for dinner service. Fatbee and I enjoyed our brunch here very much when we last visited in June, so we were pretty excited about how the dinner menu would turn out like.

We arrived early and sipped at a glass of rosé whilst appreciating how the last rays of evening light fell over the modern-yet-rustic tables in the dining room. Other fellow bloggers soon appeared, forming a cosy group of not more than 15 of us.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 02

Small little starters soon arrived in egg-shaped glass cups. They’re an amuse bouche made up of savoury mushroom jelly topped with a gently sweet layer of pumpkin foam and served with a triangle of chickpea chips.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 01

We were then led into our private dining room, our wine glasses filled, and then German-born head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and explain a little more about the restaurant’s philosophy towards food. Amongst all the words like ‘fresh’ and ‘in-season’, I didn’t quite catch everything that Ingo told us except for one thing: they actually have a rooftop garden where they grow seasonal produce that ends up on your plate. For a restaurant that’s smack in the CBD, I think that’s fantastic!

I think it’s quite intimidating for a chef to face a table full of self-professed online ‘food critics’, so all I can say is kudos to chef Ingo for speaking to us all without wanting to hide behind one of Designani’s paintings… ha ha ha!

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4902
Green asparagus, grilled burrata, mandarin, black barley, hazelnut vinaigrette, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks

For our entrées, each of us received a plate with a sample-sized serve of three of the small dishes from the dinner menu.

I enjoyed this offering because the flavours were distinct, fresh and unique without being ‘overworked’. Sandwiching a piece of gently-spiced blood sausage between slices of butternut pumpkin worked very well for me, as did the surprise combination of avocado and tuna in a mayonnaise paired with a delicate slice of veal.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4910
Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel remoulade, potato risotto, caramelised carrot, tomato, pine nuts

For mains, each of us had either duck or fish that night as they staggered the dishes down the table. Fatbee and I tasted our dishes and then promptly swapped plates because we preferred what the other one was having… perfect!

I went with the duck, which came blushing pink in the middle, succulent and with a lightly glazed skin that’s full of flavour. The crisp-crunchy ribbons of fennel salad helped cut into the unctuousness of the duck and I enjoyed how light and ‘summery’ this dish tasted overall.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4911
Lakes Entrance dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa

Fatbee’s preferred dish consisted of these lightly pan-fried dory fillets served with asparagus and corn. We swapped dishes because I personally am not a fan of the dense / bouncy texture of John Dory while Fatbee tends to wrinkle his nose at most duck dishes (except Chinese roast duck!) because of its ‘duck smell’.

The fish sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle, which is a curious European dumpling of sorts made from flour and eggs. I once tried to make spätzle at home to go with my homecooked Hungarian Goulash and failed (they were like bricks!). So I was glad to try a ‘real’ version of it as cooked by an European chef… they had a firm-elastic texture that’s a bit like a denser, more rubbery version of gnocchi.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 03
Rosemary & parmesan polenta chips

We also had shared serves of these (jenga-stacked) polenta chips to go with our mains. They were lovely.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4917
Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, cocoa nibs
Strawberry soufflé, goats cheese sorbet 

We ended the night nicely with a sampler plate of little sweets. I quite liked the hints of almond that came from the kirsch-infused panna cotta and the chocolate ganache was nice and dark. The soufflé had flavours that reminded me of eating strawberry yoghurt, but many of us found the goats cheese sorbet on the pungent ‘goatey’ side.

The Grain Store Dinner Melbourne 4892

I find it funny that these days, the fine dining experiences that Fatbee and I have either happens when we’re overseas or as restaurant invites extended towards myself as a food blogger. As such, we tend to treat it as a special occasion and our meal here was no exception.

Just like our brunch experience at The Grain Store, I think the quality of cooking for its dinner service is just as good. I’d like to thank The Grain Store and Sarah from Zilla and Brook for inviting Fatbee and myself to this cosy and intimate dinner. It was also very nice to have (finally!) caught up with Daisy and also get to know (if only briefly) a few more fellow bloggers like The Bake-a-nista, Little Miss Melbourne and Nouveau Potato.

Dinner at The Grain Store was written by Fatboo.
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Chilli Baked Ribs with Garlic & Miso http://fatboo.com/2014/11/baked-pork-ribs-garlic-miso-chilli.html http://fatboo.com/2014/11/baked-pork-ribs-garlic-miso-chilli.html#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 06:50:09 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20080 Chilli Baked Ribs with Garlic & Miso by Fatboo

Fuss-free recipe for an oven-baked dish of porks ribs marinated in chilli, garlic & miso paste. Succulent, tasty and fork tender.

Chilli Baked Ribs with Garlic & Miso was written by Fatboo.
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Chilli Baked Ribs with Garlic & Miso by Fatboo

I first encountered this dish when I was visiting an ex-highschool friend in Dublin (circa 2007). She baked it saying how easy and delicious it is, and I have to agree that it was indeed yummy!

My memory’s quite murky when it comes to events from seven years ago, but these baked ribs tasted lovely enough to linger in my mind for years. And I think part of its allure also came from how incredibly fuss-free this dish seemed to be.

Baked Pork Ribs Miso Chilli Garlic 4866

I managed to recreate this dish for Fatbee earlier this year and, despite feeling skeptical about the combination of ingredients at the start, he ended up loving it too. It’s one of those dishes that sounds unconvincing in your head but actually works well. It’s also funny how back then I could cook it intuitively without a recipe to follow.

I just marinated the ribs with quantities of ingredients that felt right, baked it at temperatures and times that felt right, then pretty much left it alone in the oven whilst I played video games all afternoon… and it turned out fantastic!

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Miso paste, red birdseye chillies, garlic

A few weeks ago, I tried to cook it again but this time with attempts to quantify how much of each ingredients to use with the intent of creating the recipe… but the resultant dish did not quite hit the mark. It took me a few more attempts before I finally got it right, and I’m happy to say it’s now ready to be shared as a recipe.

Baked Pork Ribs Miso Chilli Garlic 4861

Here’s all the ingredients you’ll need: a few heaped tablespoonfuls of miso paste, chopped red chillies, chopped garlic, a bit of honey and oil. The honey helps balance out the savouriness of the miso paste and it also helps create a bit of chargrilled caramelisation during the final stages of baking. And if you don’t have honey, you can always substitute it with something else that’s sweet like maple syrup or sugar.

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Just mix all the ingredients with the cut ribs, then cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours, or preferably overnight. Sometimes when I’m very lazy, I’d even just throw all the ingredients and the ribs into a large ziploc bag and then seal it and mix it all from the outside, thereby not dirtying my hands at all. During this stage, you can also separate the ribs into portions and put those you’d like to cook the next day in the fridge while the rest can be stored in the freezer for future meals.

The ribs become nice and succulent when baked slowly at low temperatures whilst covered in foil to stop it from losing moisture. After 2½ to 3 hrs of slow baking, open the foil packages and rearrange the ribs into a single layer, and then chargrill them at maximum temperature for 5-10 mins. And that’s it, you’re ready to serve!

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Chilli Baked Pork Ribs with Garlic & Miso

Preparation Time: Overnight
Baking Time: 2½ to 3 hours
Serves 6

1 kg Pork Ribs
Half a bulb of Garlic (chopped)
5-10 Birdseye Red Chillies (chopped)
2 heaped tbsp Miso Paste
1 tbsp Honey
1-2 tbsp Oil

Method:

Wash the rack of pork ribs, pat dry and remove the membrane layer from its bony underside
Cut the ribs into pieces

Create the marinade by mixing all the other ingredients in a large separate bowl
Add the ribs into the bowl and mix well (alternatively you can marinate the ribs in a large seal-tight ziploc bag)
Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours, preferably overnight

Transfer the ribs into 2-3 closed parcels made from aluminium foil
In a preheated oven, bake at 120ºC for 2½ hrs (3hrs if the ribs came direct from the fridge)
Remove from oven, open the parcels, arrange the ribs in a single layer
Bake at maximum temperature 240ºC (or use the griller) for 5-10mins till the outsides are chargrilled

Serve with a squeeze of lemon

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Chilli Baked Ribs with Garlic & Miso was written by Fatboo.
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Warung Agus http://fatboo.com/2014/10/warung-agus-west-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/10/warung-agus-west-melbourne.html#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:00:43 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19796 Warung Agus by Fatboo

Balinese restaurant in West Melbourne with authentic gently flavoured Balinese-style dishes. Good babi guling here.

Warung Agus was written by Fatboo.
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Warung Agus by Fatboo

305 Victoria St
West Melbourne, VIC 3003
03 9329 1737
Website

Warung Agus was one of the uncharted territories that I took dad and mom to during their recent Melbourne visit this year. I say ‘uncharted’ because they’ve not been here nor have they tried Balinese cuisine. And I’m happy to say that they’re more open to trying new things lately, so we made a booking here the night before they left for Singapore.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4674

I’ll have to declare this to be one of the last few bastions of old-school dining left in Melbourne. With a quiet ambience, nicely spaced out tables, white pressed tablecloths and (later on) I’d discovered that they’re still using the old-fashioned (knuckle-scraping) franking machines for credit card transactions.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4695

And… right next to the entrance as you enter, there’s even this little pavilion where a couple could dine at Indonesian-style (if they’re so inclined). There, you can sit cross-legged with plush cushions all around you.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4687Toge $22.00
Traditional West Bali style gado gado

We started off with a serve of gado gado, Balinese-style. To be honest I couldn’t really tell the difference between this and usual Indonesian-style Gado Gado that Fatbee and I have made in the past, with the now-very-familiar superbly rich peanut sauce and all the vegetarian trappings of bean sprouts, spinach, tofu, keropok and the all-too-necessary drizzle of kecap manis over everything. It’s still a decent dish, but I won’t order it again simply because it did not stand out that much from other styles of gado gado.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4690
Be Pasih Panggang $28.00
Whole grilled seasonal fish with balinese spicy tomato relish

Next up was a serve of whole grilled barramundi topped with a gently spicy Balinese tomato-based sauce. The flavours were subtle and refined and it went nicely with the creamy-fleshed barramundi.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4683
Babi Guling $30.00
Balinese roasted pork with crackling, served with lemongrass, chilli and ginger spicy sauce

Of course one can’t dine on Balinese food without trying their babi guling (roast suckling pig). And we quite unanimously loved this dish, where the meat’s wonderfully unctuous and tender accompanied with nice and crispy crackling. It also came with a nutty and herbaceous green lemongrass and ginger sauce.

Fatbee, despite being Indonesian, generally isn’t fond of babi guling because the pork tends to be over-spiced. But the version served here wasn’t too overhanded with the spices, so he liked it.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 4688
Ayam Negara $28.00
West Bali style chicken – boneless chicken pieces in coconut and candlenut gravy with half boiled egg 

Our final dish was a chicken curry of sorts, which came with a subtle and slightly floral fragrance to it which fascinated mom. While it wasn’t too rich from coconut milk, we found the use of kemiri (candlenuts) gave it a thickish consistency. The only thing I wasn’t that keen on with this dish was the use of chicken breast meat, which meant that the chicken pieces were quite firm.

Warung Agus North Melbourne 3

Indonesian cuisine has many subsets because it’s such a large country with many islands. But I think Warung Agus is about the only place in Melbourne where you can get pretty authentic Balinese cuisine. Like the dishes I’ve had whilst holidaying in Bali, I found the flavours to be subtle and nuanced, which correlates with how pleasant and gentle the Balinese people tend to be.

The pricing is on the steeper (mid-range) side of things, with a main serve of nasi campur (mixed rice) going at $30 when you can get it for A$3 in Bali (A$12.50 if in a hotel resort). But all that said, the concept here leans towards the slightly more fine-dining side and the quality of the food here is good.

Warung Agus on Urbanspoon

Warung Agus was written by Fatboo.
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