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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Winter Menu at ARIA | Eagle Street Pier, BRISBANE CBD QLD 4000

I never say no to good food, especially when it’s an invitation to taste the new Winter menu at Aria Brisbane. Aria has without a doubt remained as one of my trusty, never-fail-to-impress restaurants around town. I love the fact that its Head Chef, Ben Russell (whom, I may add, has the coolest haircut I’ve ever seen), always uses the freshest available ingredients to plate up delectable dishes that are extremely photogenic.

Often, lunch on a work day is only an afterthought. Fancy lunch at a fine dining restaurant is a luxurious treat that we dare not to think of in between our busy schedules. HOWEVER. Fancy lunch on a work day at Aria is actually quite achievable. Team Aria managed to take us for a culinary ride in just over one and half hours for a three-course lunch with amuse bouche and petit fours. Our table was by the window which offered breathtakingly beautiful views, thanks to Aria’s prime location. We kicked things off with the La Tordera Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, all the way from Veneto, Italy. It was a drink aimed to get our palates excited, and it did just that with its subtle yet seductive notes. You see, I’m not a big wine drinker and I certainly don’t know which drop goes well with what, but that’s the thing with having a knowledgeable sommelier, you just can’t go wrong. 

Our entree was grilled Moreton Bay bug tails with walnuts, spiced cauliflower and jamón. It was a beautiful dish, presentation-wise as well as taste-wise. The delicate opaque flesh and the candied walnuts coated the roof of my mouth with sweetness, while the spiced cauliflower purée together with the salty jamón balanced the dish so well and only made me crave for more. 

I had a choice for my main. It was between roast duck breast with celeriac, apple and gingerbread, or roasted and pickled beetroot with yoghurt and quinoa crisps. I chose the latter. Let’s face it, I love meat and there’s no way that I would forgo a succulent duck breast dish. It was like winter at a countryside on a plate. The duck had just the right amount of fat under its crispy skin. The sweet yet slightly tangy taste of apple and the comforting flavours of gingerbread worked wonders. It was a dish of which the textures were as pyrotechnic as the flavours.

My dining experience at Aria that day climaxed when I was presented with the dessert, Valrhona chocolate ganache with orange and liquorice ice cream. If you are a lover of chocolate (and I suspect 99.9% of you are), you are going to LOVE this dish just like I did. It’s rich and playful. The serving portion is so generous that you can afford to send big spoonfuls into your mouth, one after another. 

When the whole affair was finished, I was suffering from a food coma and sadly, I had to head back to work. So I waddled all the way from the riverside to the other end of the town. It took me fifteen minutes and by the end of it, I was feeling a powerful desire to experience Aria all over again. 

You know you wanna be pampered by Aria this winter.

Disclaimer: DolceBunnie was an invited guest of ARIA Brisbane, however my opinion is as always, my own. 

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

DolceBunnie's Quick Guide to Tokyo

In May, as a celebration of my birthday, the other travel bunnie and I took a trip to Japan. It was our first time there and as you can imagine, I tried to squeeze as much as I could into our itinerary. Below is a quick guide to what we did in Tokyo, retrace our steps and stay tuned for more detailed posts in the coming weeks. 

Where we Stayed:

For a piece of history at a convenient location:
The Tokyo Station Hotel
1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda

For incredible views of Tokyo and Mt.Fuji on a clear day, as well as their renowned excellent service:
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku

What did we Eat:

For the best pancake breakfast:
Cafe Kaila 
B1F Gyre, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

For traditional tempura made right in front of your eyes:
Tempura Tsunahachi
3-31-8 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

For satisfying that midnight craving:
Soba Kichi Izakaya
7F, Tokyo Shin-Marunouchi Building
1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku

For a mind-blowing theatrical experience with a Michelin Star:
Tapas Molecular Bar
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku

For the freshest sushi breakfast:
Daiwa Sushi
Building 6
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku

For when you want to stuff your face with uni from many different origins:
1F Kato Shijo
4-10-14 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku

For an relaxing afternoon tea in the heart of Ginza:
il Bar
9F Bulgari Ginza Tower
2-7-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku

For the fabulous 3-Michelin-Star fining dining experience in a chateau:
Joël Robuchon Restaurant
Ebisu Garden Place
1-13-1 Mita, Meguro-ku

Where did we Relax:

For the first of its kind spa experience:
evian Spa Tokyo
Palace Hotel 
1-1-1 MarunouchiChiyoda-ku

What did we See:

For it’s the only one in the world:
1-13 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture

For its morning 8am ritual:
Meiji Shrine
1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya

For taking that touristy photo:
Shibuya Crossing (order a coffee from Starbuck to get your best angle)

For the ultimate Japanese experience:
Sumo Tournament
Ryogoku Kokugikan
1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida

For the I-don’t-know-what-to-think experience:
Robot Restaurant
B2F Shinjuku Robot Building
1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku

*Disclaimer: This blog post is in collaboration with Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar. The night we got back home, we devoured a Middle Eastern Beef pizza from Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar along with a Japanese pulled chicken salad and a spicy Korean prawn salad. Made with pulled & ground beef with Middle Eastern spices, traditional Sujuk beef sausage, caramelised onions, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts,  the pizza was devoured within minutes. But if you don’t like playing your cards safe and want something out of ordinary, you’ve gotta try the Korean salad for its unbeatable prawn and kimchi combination (a little strange, I know, as that was my initial thought too until I tried it). 

Do you have a travel bug living with you? Right now you can win a round-the-world trip for two and travel with Crust. In the mean time, eat like a jet setter and try out their new international menu which is inspired by the unique flavours of Argentina, France, the Middle East, Japan and Korea. 

This is an unpaid collaboration post. The dinner was provided free of charge courtesy of Crust Gourmet Pizza bar, however my opinion is, as always, my own. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Spaghetti House Trattoria | 164 Grey Street, SOUTH BRISBANE QLD 4101

People often say to me, you eat out so much. Yes, I do and I have no shame in admitting it. I think of dining out as an experience, a pleasurable memory of which I can hoard and take out of my memory bank one day to savour. I mean, of course sometimes I go out and eat just to fill up an empty tummy, but more often than not it’s about the experience and what I can take from the experience at the end of a meal. When I encounter a good experience, I remember everything from the taste of the food and the decor of the restaurant, to the outfit that I was wearing. One of these experiences was at The Spaghetti House a little over two years ago when I tried some figs wrapped with prosciutto in cheese sauce.

Forget about West End, The Spaghetti House has a new address and it’s located in the trendy, happening dining precinct of South Brisbane. With the new address, comes an appropriate new look for the trattoria. Think warm timber, bright letter marquee lights, crisp white and blue colour scheme, beautiful white flowers and jars of basil and rosemary.

Tuesday night, the sky just got dark and the trattoria was a full house. Sitting at a table in the corner, the other travel bunnie and I shared the figs wrapped in prosciutto with gorgonzola fondue ($17.90). How could I not? That dish is a classic. In fact, it used to be a once off, special of the night sort of dish but it was so delicious, it made onto the menu permanently. It tasted exactly like how I remembered it. The sweetness of the soft figs contrasted against the saltiness of the slightly crispy prosciutto all whilst immersed in the creamy, strongly flavoured Gongonzola fondue. I wiped the rich cheese sauce with the very last bit of my bread and wondered if it was inappropriate to lick the plate in front of my baby son. 

Orecchiette alla Norcina, and Cannelloni con Granchio” said in a thick Italian accent, our waiter, smartly dressed in the uniform designed by local luxury tailor Mark Ferguson of Will Valor, presented our main meals. The dishes, of which the presentation will not leave you in awe, but not that it was meant to. Instead, these hearty, home-styled plates remind you of a smily, apron-wearing Nona who’s spent all afternoon making fresh pasta and cooking you her classic comfort food. The pasta tasted exactly as you would have hoped. Comforting and delicious. My baked sand crab, pomodoro & béchamel cannelloni ($26.90) was saucy and cheesy, it was a dish that kept on giving, and every mouthful was like a pleasant ride to the land of happiness. I thought that it was the perfect winter dish as it made my tummy warm and satisfied. The other travel bunnie also enjoyed his orecchiette with pork & fennel sausage, onion, tomato, wine & cream ($25.90) as he literally finished the dish in under 5 minutes. 

We shared a panna cotta with berry coulis and biscuit crumb ($14.90) before we left. It was a nice touch to end our night, a dessert without too many layers of flavours and textures, much like the mains, rich yet humble. Did I mention that all was enjoyed in a room filled with tiramisu scented candles? I think The Spaghetti House Trattoria is such a wonderful place for any Italian food lovers, and with a fantastic price tag, why wouldn’t you be a regular? 

*Disclaimer: the bunnies were invited guests of The Spaghetti House Trattoria, however my opinion is as always, my own. 

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