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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lismore Pie Cart

I'm perhaps not qualified to make this first statement regarding the fine city of Lismore, having barely been there at all, but I will anyway; excluding work, there is absolutely no reason comprehensible to visit there. I have only been there a handful of times and only recently since I've had to go there for work, still nothing much there catches my eye.
For the unimformed, Lismore is in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, slightly inland from Ballina. I think it trades as a city, but hardly warrants the tag. It's kind of one of those awkward regional centres, too big to be void of any small-town country charm, but not big enough or even socially diverse enough to disguise it's preeminant demographic; riff-raff. If you were to drive through the CBD during a weekday you'd see very few professionals but a shit-tonne teenage mums, some felons dragging back a few darts outside the courthouse and a whole mess of ink.
So, once every month or so I haul my arse up there to check in on a few customers, I roll in and I roll out as quick as I can, there's not a lot going on there. I've only once had to spend a night there so the it's really only lunch that I ask of Lismore.
A few trips back I was driving around, looking for a safe place to eat, when I chanced across the Lismore Pie Cart. I can't tell you exactly where it is, in part for laziness of looking it up or describing where it is, but its somewhere in the CBD, which isn't terribly big, and is basically a big silver caravan, chock full of pies.
I've since made a couple of trips back there and, well, it's pretty good.
They're not your regular pies, kind of a mash between your regular meat pie and those old traditional British pork pies, at least in shape. I can't remember which I've tried but safe to say they're all been pretty good. There's a load of different ones, your standard gear like pepper steak, steak and kidney, chunky steak, then a few more "exotic" numbers like Thai chicken curry and a couple lamb ones, too.
They've got an pretty unique kind of pasty as well. I'm fucked if I know exactly what's different about, perhaps it's extra buttery, I don't know, again though, it's pretty good.
As well as regular savoury meat pies they also have a few sweet ones, apple, apple and custard and, my favourite, peach. You don't see a lot of peach pies getting around, so I always grab a couple; one for lunch and another for whatever lonely-ass motel I'm likely to be holed up in that night.
Price-wise, I think they're in the vacinity of $4-$4.50.
There's not a lot more to really say about the place, for all intents and purspose, it's just a pie shop, but a good one. I wouldn't go so far as to say they're the best pies going around, but if you ever have the misfortune of one day driving around Lismore, keep your windows up and the doors locked and try if you're a bit peckish, swing by the pie cart, they go alright.
Lismore Pie Cart, meh, what's it matter; 8/10.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peasant, The Barracks, Petrie Terrace.



I went to dinner here last night with a friend and needless to say, but I will, it blows. As with pretty much every tapas joint around it's pretty new. I don't know how new, perhaps less than a few years. It's at the relatively-new-itself Barracks precinct at the top of Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace/Paddo. It’s just across the way from the Coles there where we do most of our shopping, so for a while now I’d wanted to go there. I’d read a couple of reviews and apparently it was the shit.

I’ve been to Spain, just once and only for a few days but my only culinary experience still with me is one I’d care to forget.

A few years ago, in between a two week pilgrimage through France chasing the Rugby World Cup and a cirrhosis inducing stint in Munich for Oktoberfest, my mate and I stopped over in Barcelona to sample their wares. I had no real agenda and was just happy to have a look around, try their food and drink their beer, Cookie however, come hell or high-water was insistent that we go this dingy little back-alley bar called L’Ovella Negra, or Black Sheep. Actually, this is hardly culinary at all.
After walking through a maze back and side streets we eventually ducked through the ancient stone doorway and took our seats. The reason we’d come here, we the main reason, was to drink sangria. The second was so Cookie could by a t-shirt.
Until a fortnight earlier when we were camped in a cabin next to a lake somewhere in the middle of France drinking some awful red-wine syrup from a box I had no idea what sangria was. Perhaps even after that it still wasn’t clear, save for the clear similarity to red wine goon punch.
Anyway, we hooked in. Over the next few hours we worked our way through jugs of the shit before things inevitably came to a head. Returning from an extended trip to the gents, I announced to Cookie that we should probably get out of there, and get out while the gettin’s good.

That’s it. That’s all I remember. What a fucking waste.

I’ve been to a few tapas joints here though. A great one in Neutral Bay called Fire Fly a few times, another in Byron and an Ok-food-shit-service one in The Valley, cleverly named Spanish Tapas Bar; I was looking forward to this one.

From the outside it looks nice, it’s new obviously, but it’s well fitted out and always buzzing activity along the bar that lines the forecourt. It also ties in with a kind of sister restaurant called Libertine, a trendy little French-Vietnamese joint. I’d eaten there once before a Wallabies match and it was pretty good, so I figured it’s little brother from another mother (and father) would be pretty good too.

We arrived late. Quickly we were ushered out through the main dining area to the garden area and were seated next to about a dozen punk-arse chicks celebrating, presumably, an 18th. Fantastic. But that’s no fault of the restaurant’s.

We ordered drinks. A Spanish ale and a white wine Sangria. Moments later the waitress returned to tell me they were out of that beer, so I ordered a Spanish Lager instead.

The menus are all scribed in chalk on little chopping board-sized black boards. I can’t remember everything that was on there, other than what we ordered, but I certainly remember something that wasn’t on there; grilled haloumi. It doesn’t bother me as such that I wasn’t able order it, as it does that, fundamentally, every tapas should have it on their menu. It just didn’t seem right.

The problem with tapas for two is that unless you’re packing a Marlon Brando sized appetite you kind of miss out, completely, on what tapas is all about, that being, being able to sample a little of everything. That said, we chose carefully, four dishes;

Tomato and smashed olive salad for $15, a tasty little mix of novel black, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, with kalamata’s. Refreshing but perhaps in need of seasoning.
Seared kingfish escabeche with white gazpacho, $16. Escabeche? We’d no idea, but what we got was essentially sashimi. It was nice.
Braised octopus and kipfler potatoes, $12. I chose this but wasn’t a fan. The flavours were good, but the texture of the octopus, this dish in particular, really didn’t sit well.
Pork, fennel & raisin empanadas served with romesco, $13. Again, neither of us knew exactly what empanadas were, but pork and fennel is (usually) always a great pairing so we ordered up. I’ve since Google-d empanadas and I can only suggest what we got was an empanada only by name. For those who’ve ever made the trip from Brisbane or Toowoomba to Goondiwindi you’ll be familiar with the Captain’s Mountain BP, in which case you should also be familiar with the Captain’s Mountain BP hot-box. What arrived looked like it had spent the best part of a week warming in that exact steaming bain marie, and had been cooked in the same deep frying oil that was churning out crispy, golden nuggets of MSG back in ’05. They were terrible.

The service was generally great, with dishes appearing within moments of the order being placed, though none of the dishes were particularly exciting.

Somewhere in there we ordered a carafe of red wine Sangria, which in tactful moderation was remarkably but perhaps no surprisingly refreshing.

Eventually, when we decided to split. After three attempts the waitress eventually got us the right bill and we left. For a modest sum of $108 I’d struck Peasant off the list of places to eat. I won’t bother again, which is a shame. So, in the pursuit of a good tapas in Brisbane, the search, continues. Thankfully, I think there’s a few to work through yet. Surely, the only way it up.

Peasant. Four out ten. At best.

Peasant on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grill'd, Rosalie

Never been a massive fan of burgers. I could count the number of McDonalds burgers I've eaten on one hand, in part because they were pretty light-on for franchises around the little country town were I grew up, but mostly because they're shit. Vegemite, coriander and Big Macs, I hate them all.
Recently however, there's been a bit of a swing towards the old burger. I'll attribute this to the relative convenience of Oporto's Neutral Bay to my old house in Sydney, and a shift away from Subway following a  stop at Subway North Richmond towards the end of last year. 
North Richmond is about an hour from Sydney, north-westish, at the bottom of the mountains on you're way to Orange, Mudgee, Dubbo etc. It's a shit-hole. Apart from few poor souls who live there because they work for The Land newspaper, the local inhabitants are as rough as hessian undies.
One this one occassion I was hauling arse to Mudgee for work. Between Sydney and Mudgee there's few, if any, decent places to stop so Subway was really your last shot for the next two-and-bit hours. Anyway, I was sitting down chewing my way through my second six inches of pizza-rie goodness when two of the most obscenely fat people, a couple, the guy with a dragon tattooed on his forearm (I pressumed from his favourite Chinese menu), lumbered in. They ordered three foot-longs, a bag of cookies, sat a table across from me and proceeded to stuff 3/4 of it all into the mouths and the rest across their fat faces.
"Is this it? Is this what've become?" Well, it wasn't, the lad, he had the best part of 60 kegs on me, but for a moment the three different small goods and orange cheese I was eating just didn't taste the same.
I won't say that was the last time I ate Subway, it wasn't, some times it's just the best of a bad bunch, and it's still the safest fast food to eat in Moree, but it certainly slipped a few pegs. I do also have fond memories of Subway, though that was less about their menu and more about the convenience of one of my school mates working there, offering a safe-harbour, of sorts, while I tried to manage an illicit student-boarding mitress trist during my final year at boarding school. Another, inappropriate, story.
And, thus this trend to burgers. That and watching a shit-tonne of Man v Food on Discovery Travel and Living. That man is a machine.
My other house mate first dragged me to Grill'd. She'd been bangin' on about it for ages, so one hung-over Sunday we finally headed down to Rosalie for lunch (they're everywhere though).
There's a pretty expansive menu, massive beef burgers, Moroccan Lamb, chicken, for the pale, they've got vegetable burgers ... however in my state that day I opted for the Mini Moo (they've all got clever names like that) with salad, which is pretty much a beef patty, tomato, cos, cheddar and their (of course) famous "spicy" sauce.  You can get any of them on a traditional sesame bun or a panini. I just go the traditional, you don't need to go all la-di-da, confusing shit with "fancy" buns on a simple old burger. (Same goes for serving bacon and eggs with focaccia; Benson's Cafe, Orange I'm thinking of you.) For the difficult, you can get Gluten free as well.
That and a side of their chips pretty much sorted me out.
I've been back there probably a dozen time since over the last few months and just ordered the same. The burger's big enough, and their chips are massive, and bloody good too; lightly battered, seasoned, and I think some kind of oregano and thyme set-up.
They're just good. I at least tell myself there's an element of health to them. They're not dripping with fat anyway or full of gristle. And, as has been my litmus test in the past, they seem to be relatively free of fatty patrons.
They're worth a look. Handy for lunch, and opened for dinner. Though I've never quite felt the urge, they're also licensed and have a fridge full beer and wine next to the Euro soft drinks and vitamin waters. They're fresh, quick and reasonably priced.
Perhaps the only mark against Grill'd is that the last time I was there we saw one of our "darlings of the pool" there with one of our brilliant, though nonetheless tip-rat Wallabies, which really just unsettled me. Still that's no fault of Grill'ds. Burger-wise; 10/10.

Grill'd on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Pork Sword: Mundo Churrasco, Bardon

The Pork Sword: Mundo Churrasco, Bardon: "I've never been to Brazil, but I think I'd like it. I've heard good things. I don't know a lot about Brazil. I know where it is, I know they..."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mundo Churrasco, Bardon

I've never been to Brazil, but I think I'd like it. I've heard good things. I don't know a lot about Brazil. I know where it is, I know they speak Portugese, I know they've lent their name to arguably the most important advancement in female grooming since soap.
A few years ago I learnt something else. They can cook like bastards! Some of them.
I first went to a Brazilian BBQ, or Churrascaria back in Sydney. Man-alive! This one was in Leichhardt, on Norton St. Braza Churrascaria. Fuck it was good.
About twelve months later I went back there with a few friends from out of town for a late Sunday lunch, on the back of an already hellish weekend.
This place was the shit. Nineteen, that's NINETEEN different meats and cuts, and legitimately hot Brazilians bringing them around to. Things escalated. We left about two and a half hours, three bottle of outrageously-priced Chardonnay and our weight in meat later.
From there things deteriorated severly. If getting march from The Oaks, Neutral Bay before 7PM wasn't proof enough to quit, a sobering moment during "time-out" at Scruffy Murphy's at 2AM was.
Still, that few hours at Braza was one of the best eating out experiences I've had.
So, when I was driving back from Mt Coot-tha one afternoon with my housemate and his girlfriend through Bardon and spotted Mundo my heart skipped a beat as memories of that dreadful day came flooding back.
The next weekend we set Sunday aside to take a look, and try and recreate that fateful day in Leichhardt.
Man, was I disappointed. Actually my disappointment started before we even got there. I looked at their website beforehand and was well aware before I even set foot in the door that at best we'd be dining on five meat cuts, three of those beef.
I'll admit, I'm particularly lazy, but I'm not going around opening restaurants and creating these facades of amazing South American, meaty treats. These guys have really given this a half-arse shot. The inside looks legit though, again having not been to Brazil. It's nice.
They start off with these side dishes, Carreteiro rice, Brazilian potato salad, cassava chips, brazilian beans and chips. They're OK, but that's not why you go to Brazilian BBQ. I wasn't particularly taking much notice of the last time I had it, so I can't really comment on them.
The real reason you go to Brazilan BBQ is for the meat. Apparently, it's a cooking style from the old Brazilian Cowboy, aka Gaucho. They were battlers, didn't have a lot of money, and didn't exactly have any refridgeration while they were out shifting cattle and practicing their pseudo karate dancing. So, they would cut little strips of meat of a carcass, spear it, rub all kinds of spices and shit all over it and cook it over a fire, like a big-arse sheesh kebab.
That's perhaps not historically accurate, but the long then short of it is they were on to something.
Worse still than my inept take on the history of Churrascaria is Mundo's attempt to pull it off. They're rubbish. For starters there's the meat selection you can count on one hand. Seriously, for them to be worth their salt you need to be into, at least, two-hands territory, maybe even a foot.
While I think you can order from a menu, they whole attraction of this is to pay your cash (I think 35 bucks in this case) and just go nuts. The BBQ henchmen march around with their stakes of meat, offering and sawing off little morsels onto you plate. In doing this you want to be eating more that just beef, otherwise you'd just go and get a 35 buck steak. Admittedly, there was one lamb and one chick option, each which manage to salvage, to an extent, the sad attempt they'd made with the beef. Seriously, fucking Brahman hump? Does that even count as meat?
Perhaps, it all became clear as to what, or who was behind this folly when the whitest, oldest lady this side of the Andes came around to each table, introducing herself as the owner and asking how everything was. She was sweet, I guess, but less Rio, and more Ipswich, in which instance she was possibly punching above her weight.
Needless to say, it wasn't great. We did walk away full, largely on principle, though the foul taste of disappointment was the last thing left on our pallet.
Would I recommend it? Maybe if you'd never tried it before and had no comparison of the potential awesomeness you were missing out on. Sure the experience is novel, but the food, not great.
Mundo and Old Lady, step your Churrasco game up! 5/10.

Mundo Churrasco on Urbanspoon