Champions Grill

Clayton Bowls Club

03 9544 9929

37A Springs Road Clayton South VIC

I couldn’t believe it!

In about October/November last year I was reading a review of Champions Grill restaurant at the Clayton Bowls Club at work during lunchtime, and was just gobsmacked when the article stated that Clinton McIver, an ex-Vue De Monde alumnus was behind the wheel.

Other bloggers have noted that Clinton also did a stint at Spain’s Mugaritz (one of the best restaurants in the world), so I was in for a treat. Food that was not only good to look at, but delicious to eat.

But it was pretty damn difficult to get a booking here. It took me 5 attempts! So two weeks ago, I finally managed to squeeze in a booking on a Wednesday night to woof down some Vue De Monde quality food on my home turf.

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Where Vue De Monde meets Cracker Jack (a 2002 Australian Comedy film set in a Lawn Bowls Club), absolutely mindboggling!

As soon as we set foot inside Champions Grill, the inside was set up like a Yum Cha/Chinese restaurant – butcher’s paper instead of tablecloths. Any snobbery or pretentiousness was out the window. And as soon as you glanced outside, you’d see the flat, green lawn bowls turf

20140316-134028.jpgAnd as soon as you pop your ass onto your seat, the lovely waiter just hands you the menu – a program outlining the evening’s proceedings.

The food they serve at Champions Grill is a degustation meal only. You have a 6 course option for $60 and a 7 course option for $80 that comes with 3 snacks.

Me, being eager to be wow-ed, dazzled and inspired by the Chef’s creativity and skill, opted for the $80 option.

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We were first presented with the snacks…

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The crisps, or should I say chips were slightly salty, with a light sprinkling of seaweed which gave off a subtle bitter and salty nori taste. They combined well with the tuna dip – the flavour of the dip reminded me of the John West Tinned Tuna in Olive Oil to give a salty, tuna, olive oil and garlicky taste.

Next came the Beef Tendon Cracker with Lime, Pepper Leaf and Radishes.

The Beef Tendon Cracker, looked like deep fried pork fat that had blown up like a bubble but retained a semi transparent crispiness. It contained a subtly saltiness with a hint of herbs, zesty and sour notes. Beautiful and crunch.

The Radishes however, contained a slightly spicy punch and was coated with some overpoweringly salty cream and crumbs. I preferred the beef tendon cracker!

Beef Tendon

Then came the Chicken Skin and Sour Cream and Onion, along with the Wallaby Tartare and Wild Herb.

The Chicken Skin was somehow compressed and possibly baked or fried with some innovative technique that allowed it to give a nice crack upon impact with the teeth, giving a nice salty chicken sensation with the sour cream and onion. How does one get chicken skin as flat as an… airport runway with no creases, and yet so crisp and delicious? Whoa!CHicken Skin

The Wallaby, Tartare and Wild Herb was an interesting experience – I’d never had wallaby before, and have a few reservations about eating cute non-farm animals hahaha. But it tasted wonderful, like raw beef mixed with tartare and an earthy, yet fragrant wild herb that resembled perilla (a leafy herb used in Vietnamese cooking). The herb in which the wallaby tartare sat on, seemed dehydrated and crisp, much like paper, but still retained its natural earthy yet fragrantly pungent flavour.

After the crunchy and deliciously salty snacks, we dived straight into the meal – Spanner Crab, Basil, Honey Dew was first up.

Refreshing and pretty to look at. It was creamy, er crabby (man my vocabulary absolutely sucks these days!) and the honey dew gave the palate a nice clean, cool taste.Crab

Following on from the Spanner Crab, was a dish that was packed full of meaty, salty, mollusc-based flavour. The type of dish I would probably burn a city to the ground for hahahaha *evil laugh*.Sweet BreadsLamb Sweet Breads, Mussel Powder, Tatsoy, Leek, Grape. Beautiful, I loved it. A fantastic combination of fatty-smokey-fresh-off-the-grill meaty flavours most men go absolutely nuts for. With a salty mollusc kick from the mussel powder – how on earth did he make that stuff? Freeze-dry mussels and then blitz them in a food processor? Who knows? I certainly wouldn’t mind sneaking into the kitchen to see Clinton and his crew up to their magic tricks! The tatsoy leaves, leek and grapes’ sweet acidity cut through the fattiness and saltiness, prepping us up for the next dish.

Duck, Pear, Broccoli, Fat Hen – the Duck was juicy and nicely cooked, the pear and broccoli puree not only provided a lovely green puddle around the plate but also acted as a sweet sauce. The Fat Hen (not an actual Chicken Hen), was actually the leaves. I’m not sure how they were cooked but they didn’t do very much, except sit there and look pretty hahaha – well I guess they provided some fibre!Duck

Now I’m not one who usually orders cheese after a meal, I 99.999999999999995% of the time go for something sweet and loaded with ice cream or cake or fruit or sometimes even chocolate. But this cheese dish was great.

cHEESEThe Pynegana Cheddar, Nashi, Nashi Jelly, Macadamia and Salt Bush was lovely. A nice combination of cheesy, saltiness, nuttiness, sweetness and sourness from the Nashi, Macadamia powder, Cheese chunks and crispy cheese cracker. Beautiful.

Onto the desserts – Apple, Condensed Milk, Sunflower.

This dish looked good, but I felt a little let down. I loved the condensed milk ice cream – sweet and milky, reminiscent of the days when I was a little four year old who’d cheekily sneak up to the fridge, burst open the door and stick my fingers into Dad’s can of Nestle Condensed Milk and happily slurp on the sweet, rich milk like Augustus Gloop. The sunflower crumb was sweet, nutty with a delicious crunch, but what let me down was the apple…

It was… poached? Haha, I expected more. MORE MORE MORE! Wow me! Whilst the apple tasted clean, sweet and wonderfully cooked, perhaps another method could’ve been used? Oh well. But still it was wonderfully presented! And I absolutely loved the condensed milk ice cream!

And the final dish…

Truffled Popcorn.

Truffles. Like Caviar, Abalone, Shark Fin. Food for snobs. But more on that later.

popcornPopcorn powder, boy was this addictive. Salty, buttery powdered popcorn dusted over some sweet cold Swiss Meringue. This was absolutely fantastic! A bit of saltiness, sweet creamy meringue… however the truffle flakes/shavings didn’t do very much for me, and I’d never ever had truffles before. The just gave off a nice earthy fragrance, and that was it. This is just me, but I probably would’ve just added salted caramel to this dish instead of truffles? Hrmm oh well. But still, it was great! Mmmmm Powdered Popcorn!

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Aside from the slight little letdowns – the truffles that didn’t do very much, the apple (zzzz haha, expected a more innovative way of cooking it given the already innovative techniques applied to the earlier dishes) and the overpoweringly salty radish snack, I AM SO COMING BACK HERE! Hopefully sometime in the next month! Well done to Clinton and the crew behind Champions Grill! *Thumbs up*

Quite possibly one of the best degustations in Melbourne since Northcote’s Estelle!!!

Until next time folks!

Om Nom Dessert Bar

187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000.

Don’t. Get. Me. Wrong.

I am, first and foremost, a carnivore.

I love nothing more than ripping into a nice bloody, juicy steak and tearing it to smaller pieces and shoving it into my mouth.

I also love chomping into fried chicken, be it Korean Fried Chicken, Southern US style, or even the heartless and soul-less franchise machine that is Kentucky Fried Chicken (Go ahead, look at me with contempt).

Jamon Iberico? Oh man, the beautiful salty and buttery and nutty taste of the dark red ribbon-like ham – I love the stuff.

Whilst I love my meat, I do like the odd dessert now and then, especially when a lot of skill, technique, precision, artistry and creativity has gone into producing a dessert dish.

Om Nom Dessert Bar, located on Flinders Lane has a delectable selection of desserts…

Go up the flight of steps, and walk into the dim dessert bar and place your arse down at one of their tables and witness the beauty, the creativity and enjoy the beautifully sweet flavours…

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The “Raspberry Fields” – Meringue, Raspberry Sorbet, Lychee, Lychee Ravioli, Rosewater Pannacotta and Raspberry was absolutely stunning in appearance, and equally delicious. Crisp, sweet meringue, a sour yet sweet Raspberry Sorbet with fresh lychee and lychee ravioli (lychee juice that had been through a bit of molecular gastronomy and came out the other end as “ravioli” – as coined by Ferran Adria) that burst open like a water balloon filled with lychee juice along with fresh raspberry. A winning combination!

And very very beautiful to look at!

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I was very very impressed by the excellent combination of creativity and delicious taste I went back a second time for something different!

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The Avocado Mousse, Caramel Bavarois, Coffee Foam, Milk Chocolate Ganache encased in a dark chocolate sphere and garnished with a thin chocolate twig with gold was a chocolate lover’s dream. Not overpoweringly rich, but a wonderful marriage – no wait, make that an orgy of chocolate, coffee, nutty and subtly buttery avocado and caramel flavours on a crunchy coffee and caramel biscuit base. A big thumbs up!

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At $24 and $22 respectively, both the Raspberry Fields and Avocado Mousse, Caramel Bavarois, Coffee Foam and Milk Chocolate desserts aren’t exactly cheap – they are worth every cent for the fantastic mix of taste, technique, pastry chefs’ skill and creativity.

A great place to go after a meal to sit back and enjoy something beautiful, and sweeeeeeeet!

Barry Coffee and Food

85 High St Northcote 3070

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and are refreshed, re-energised (most likely hungover AHAHAHA) and currently enjoying the first few hours of 2014!

A couple of days ago, I caught up with Daisy, Mr Bao & Libby for brunch up in one of Melbourne’s more “hip” suburbs,  Northcote.

I’d only been to Northcote twice before in the last 12 months, and it was only to check out Estelle for their excellent degustation lunch and dinner. Me being the silly moron I am sometimes, upon hearing from Daisy & Libby that Barry Coffee and Food was in Northcote, assumed that it was actually quite close to Estelle Bar and Kitchen on High St.

Wrong buddy! WRONG!

Assumption is the mother of all failure, as my younger brother loved saying.

Yep, I failed. As soon as I hopped off the train at Northcote, I had a look at the map on my Smartphone and REALISED I SHOULD’VE GOTTEN OFF AT MERRI STATION – one station before Northcote on the South Morang Line!!!

You f***ing idiot :|

So I spun round and walked in the opposite direction towards Melbourne… Barry Food and Coffee was actually a 10 minute walk down High St – or 6 minutes if you jogged like I did hahaha.

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What one can expect from Melbourne’s cafes, now that there has been a tsunami of openings the last few years (and I’ve only now started visiting them in the last 12 months and usually restrict myself to only the Melbourne CBD/Richmond/South Yarra due to personal accessibility) is a casual relaxed atmosphere, run by moustached/viking-like bearded/tattooed/pierced hipsters. So don’t take your traditional parents there HAHAHAHA – think of the annoying parental whinging!

“Uh, that girl had tattoos on her arm and a pierced eyebrow.”

The food is the typical breakfast and brunch fare – I usually steer clear of the cured trout and salmon brunch dishes as I prefer these cuts of fish in Sashimi form – and their cured versions seem to taste quite “fishier”.

Me? I’m a meat and proteins man. I just went for the usual good – meat and poached eggs. So Eggs Benedict it was!

20140101-152147.jpg The Eggs Benedict consisted of lovely poached eggs with an apple cider hollandaise, apple matchsticks and ham hock. The ham hock had the perfect balance of saltiness, just right – the hollandaise had a wonderful and subtle acidic Granny Smith and the eggs were cooked JUST RIGHT!

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Like I mentioned a moment ago, the eggs were cooked perfectly. I poked the fork into the egg like a samurai sword into an unlucky Ninja and slashed… gently hahaha and check out that yolk!

When it comes to coffee, I must emphatically say that I AM NOT AN EXPERT.

Although I like the stuff, and, sadly… sorta hooked on it!

Barry Coffee and Food’s coffee is good, had a 5-senses espresso shot and cappuccino. The espresso shot had a slightly citrus-ish feel and dark chocolate fragrance about it…

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That’s right… Come to PAPA! :D

Much better than the espressos I’ve had in the past at morning tea that tasted like “liquefied charcoal” or like some moron from Broadmeadows/Frankston/Werribee/Dandenong drove their Holden V8 Commodore into my mouth and did a burnout…

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And the Cappuccino… Creamy, chocolately, bittersweet… And pretty!

Top Paddock

658 Church St Richmond VIC 3121

Melbourne loves its breakfasts, brunch and Cafes.

Whilst I’m not a breakfast or brunch addict who plants his arse on a seat at one of Melbourne’s many trendy hipster Cafes after queuing up for what seems like ages in order to get into the premises, I gotta admit I like my Eggs, Bacon, Toast and Sauteed Mushrooms. My breakfast almost every weekday consists of a Kellogg’s or Uncle Toby’s breakfast cereal or else Oat Porridge with Honey. And then wham-bam-thank-you-M’am, I’m off to hop on the useless, smelly Graffit-tagged Melbourne public transport system for work.

Having heard good things from other foodbloggers that I follow, and seeing the images they uploaded onto Instagram, I decided to head to Richmond’s Top Paddock Cafe on a sunny Monday morning.

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I don’t usually venture out into Richmond – either to go down Victoria St for the Vietnamese food, to check out a favorite singer at Rod Laver Arena or else to sit next to a bunch of loud obnoxious Hawthorn Hawks Supporters at the MCG – well their team is currently the reigning Premiers anyway.

20131124-200029.jpg Top Paddock, like many other Cafes and arty-farty-hipstery Coffee establishments within Melbourne has a pretty casual, relaxed atmosphere. None of the upper-class table-cloth snobbery of a hatted restaurant in The Age Good Food Guide, but more resemblance to the Art and Pottery Rooms during one’s High School and Primary School (Elementary School for you Americans out there) days.

Breaking with what’s usually a “Raging Cook” tradition, I shunned the Bacon and Poached Eggs with Mushrooms and Toast combo and went for something different…

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The Pork Belly and Fried Egg Roll with Relish.

I’ve never had anything for breakfast that resembles a hamburger hahahaha – unless you count the friggin’ Sausage and Egg McMuffins or Bacon & Egg McMuffin’s from the evil McDonald’s. So yeah it did feel a bit messed up eating one of these babies at 9.30am on a Monday morning.

As soon as I took my first chomp out of the Pork Belly and Fried Egg Roll, I felt the nice runny egg yolk flow around the mouth with the tangy tomato relish. The Pork Belly, whilst nicely cooked, lacked a bit of flavour – a bit more salt please? But otherwise good.

And this was washed down with a latte. Creamy, subtle bitterness… and pretty too…

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Melbourne’s Cafes and breakfast and brunch spots are a dime a dozen. A cafe seems to open every two to three weeks. Given that Australia’s Mining and Manufacturing industries are in decline, it appears this is where our economy is headed… food and coffee??? As there are so many Cafe options out here in Melbourne, whilst Top Paddock is good, I prefer its sister, Two Birds One Stone out on Claremont St in South Yarra. The menus are pretty similar, but I’ll take Two Birds One Stone for accessibility. Top Paddock is also great, but it’s slightly inconvenient for me to get there, but I will go whenever I’m in the vicinity haha.

Top Paddock, a raging recommendation :D

Pan Seared Rockling Fillet, Peas, Bokchoy, Spring Onion, Garlic

Whoop-dee-do I’m back!

Where have I been the last two months? Well, just the usual, work, drinking coffee, heaps of it and trying to enjoy my life again now that I completed my Masters.

Plus I’ve been in and out of hospital for Mum. She complained of chest pains and high blood pressure so kept rushing her off to Monash Medical Centre in Clayton several times in the last couple of months. Three weeks ago was the worst – had to whisk her off to the hospital when she fainted in Springvale whilst I was picking up food for my friend’s Wedding!!! Worrying about Mum on one hand, and NOT stuffing up for my friend’s wedding celebration on the other!

Luckily Mum’s alright – the Doctors in the Cardiac Care Unit put her through an angiogram and luckily there’s nothing wrong with her heart and cardiovascular system, no stent required to be inserted into her artery/vein. Very relieved she’s OK now, definitely not her heart phew! :)

My friends and readers, look after yourselves, as the Victorian Hospital system is a bit of a shambles. I’ve seen firsthand the Doctors, Nurses, Clerical/Admin staff and what they go through. Underfunded, overworked! Hospital staff are the real heroes, so are Emergency services workers, not sports-stars and celebrities.

Chocolates for these lovely caring, hardworking Medical Industry professions *thumbs up* :)

So yeah, getting the motivation to blog again. A huge backlog of coffee places and recipes to come, but at the same time I wanna not sit in front of a computer too much, as I spend heaps of time at work in front of a computer and books typing away at reports and articles hahaha zzzz…

Anyway, here’s something I made last night – inspired by a dish I saw on some foodblog reviews of The Royal Mail Dunkeld restaurant in the Grampians.

Pan Seared Rockling Fillet, Peas, Bokchoy, Spring Onion, Garlic

Ingredients: 200g Rockling Fillet, 1 Bokchoy Stalk, 1 Spring Onion Stalk, 1 Clove of Garlic, 1 Cup of Water, 2 pinches of salt, 1 Cup of Peas, 1 tablespoon of light Soy Sauce, 1 teaspoon of Oyster Sauce, 1 teaspoon of Cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 pinch of sugar

1. Boil the peas for 5 minutes on high heat. Then remove and turn off the stove and drain. Pop the peas on the plate.

2. Wash the Rockling Fillet, Bokchoy Stalk, Spring Onion Stalk under water. Pat dry using a teatowel. Chop the root segments off the bokchoy and spring onion. Slice the garlic.

3. Make some 0.5cm deep cuts (vertically) into one side of the fillet. Go horizontally from left side of the fillet to the right side, making these vertical 0.5cm cuts.

4. Massage a pinch of salt into the fillet.

5. Heat up the oil in a frying pan, sear the garlic on high heat, then carefully pop on the fillet when the garlic starts to go golden and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Then remove the fillet and garlic and pop on the plate.

6. Combine 1/4 cup of water, the soy sauce, oyster sauce and cornstarch and sugar in a bowl. Mix well.

7. Heat up a tablespoon of oil, put on the remainder of the garlic, and on high heat add in the bokchoy and spring onion and a sprinkle of salt. Cook the bokchoy and spring onion for roughly 3 – 5 minutes.  Add in the soy sauce/oyster/sauce/cornstarch and sugar mixture and bring to a light boil for 1 minute -to 1 minute and a half.

8. Plate up…

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There you have it, Pan Seared Rockling Fillet and Bokchoy and Spring Onion and Peas and Garlic…

Must. Cook. Steaaaaaaaaaaak next :D

Poached Chicken, Bokchoy, Toasted Quinoa

Juggling the feeding of 5 people (including myself), bills, saving up for a new car and a property in a decent suburb is nuts – no holidays for the short-term.

One of the places I wanna check out is highly-regard Chef Andoni Luiz Arduriz’s Mugaritz Restaurant in Spain. The closest I’ll ever get to it, is probably Dan Hunter (an Australian Mugaritz-trained disciple – but has since left The Royal Mail Hotel in Victoria’s Grampians for a new venture).

Navigating through a few posts – I landed on a few blogs, including Petitmiamx’s, that reviewed The Royal Mail Hotel.

So I got an idea – poached chicken with bokchoy and toasted quinoa.

Ingredients

200g chicken breast

1 teaspoon of salt

2 pinches of pepper

2 coriander stems with leaves (sliced and diced)

1 spring onion stalk (sliced and diced)

1 stalk of bokchoy

2 tablespoons of sesame paste

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1 teaspoon of light soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce

1 pinch of sugar

1 cup of quinoa (washed and drained)

Edible flowers for garnish (I used Violas)

1. Clean the chicken breast. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and place into a saucepan with enough water to cover the chicken breast. Throw in the coriander, spring onion and bring to a light boil on medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and poach for 30 minutes. Remove the breast then drain, but keep the liquid in which you poached the chicken breast in.

2. Clean the bokchoy and slice vertically down the stalk so that you have a lengthy strip. Poach/blanche/whatever the bokchoy in the chicken breast and coriander, spring onion water for 45 seconds – 1 minute. Remove and drain.

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3. Wash and drain the quinoa. Heat up a pan with a little oil and toast the quinoa for roughly 8 – 10 minutes on a low heat or until a light brown colour.

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4. Remove the quinoa and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the fish sauce, light soy sauce, sesame paste, sugar and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

5. Wash and drain the edible flowers.

6. Plate up by laying down the poached bokchoy. Smear on the sesame paste mix and pop the chicken breast on the sesame paste. Place some on some quinoa and garnish with the edible flowers.

7. And here you go… the finished product!!!

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Enjoy!

P.S. A very special thanks to Zeboy & Ms I-Hua for advice on where to get edible flowers – Damian Pike’s Store in the Prahran Market! :D

Green Tea Sponge Cake, Coconut Caviar, Dark Chocolate Flakes, Macerated Strawberries, Basil Seeds and Summer Berry Sorbet

The backlog of posts grows, and I’m trying to cut it back down. I’m going to shift back to making entrees and mains and slow down on the desserts for a while…

Ingredients

Green Tea Sponge Cake: 75g plain flour, 8g of baking powder, 35g of sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon of Matcha Green Tea powder.

Coconut Caviar: Coconut Caviar: 150mL of Coconut Milk, 3 teaspoons of sugar, 1 cup of tapioca pearls, 1/4 of a vanilla bean.

Macerated Strawberries: 1 punnet of Strawberries, 3 teaspoons of sugar

Basil Seeds

Weis Summer Berry Sorbet (Strawberry and Raspberries)

Dark Chocolate (flaked/shaved using a knife or grater).

1. Line a baking tin with oil and baking paper.

2. Heat the oven to 175C (350F).

3. Mix the egg and sugar with an electric mixer for roughly 10 minutes. The mixture will become thick and pale.

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4. Add in the green tea powder and continue mixing for 5 minutes.

20130721-190636.jpg5. (Above) Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly.

6. Pour the green tea cake mix into the baking tin.

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7. Place the tin into the oven and bake for 12 – 15 minutes at 175C (350F). To check if the cake is ready, place a skewer into the cake. If it comes out sticky and green, it ain’t ready girlfriend… otherwise if it’s clean, it’s done!

8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Then slice the up the tasty fluffy bitch.

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9. To make the coconut caviar, pour in two cups of water into a saucepan. Bring the water to a violent angry boil and throw in the tapioca pearls and boil for 5 to 8 minutes. The pearls will be clear and transparent with a little white pearl in the middle, meaning they’re ready biatch! Turn off the stove (duh!) then drain and cool.
10. Wash the strawberries and chop their arses off. Then place them in a bowl with the sugar and allow the strawberries to macerate and absorb the sugar.
11. Grate the dark chocolate.
12. Grab a couple of pinches of Basil Seeds and pop them in a bowl of water. The seeds will transform into little clear tranaparent eyes…

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13. Drain the basil seeds.
14. In a saucepan on medium heat, bring the coconut milk, vanilla bean and sugar to a gentle simmer, add in the tapioca pearls and cook for 3 minutes. Presto! Here’s your coconut caviar!
15. Pop the cake pieces into a glass or bowl or plate. Place in some strawberry pieces and then drizzle on the coconut caviar followed by the dark chocolate and basil seeds. Top with Weis Summer berry Sorbet (available at Coles or Woolworths).

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There you go, enjoy! Hope you like it!!! :D

Until next time!

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