Cameras, games, Japan stuff.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne

“The cornerstone of good cooking is to source the finest produce.” - Neil Perry.

Dining is as much about the experience as it is the food, and Rockpool Bar & Grill delivers on both. With over twenty years managing his seafood restaurant Rockpool in Sydney, Neil has taken the concept of fresh locally sourced produce and applied it to his grill restaurants.

Upon entering the restaurant, quality furnishings and low light ambience already give the impression of a high end establishment, even before we are shown to our table by one of the smartly dressed waiting staff. We were fortunate enough to be seated in a secluded nook by the window that looked out over the Yarra river.

After being seated we were promptly offered the wine list - or book – as it was tome of over fifty pages. Having already drank a few Asahi's upstairs at the Conservatory, and with the car down in the basement carpark, I decided to start with a locally produced light beer from Otway Estate.

The menu contained an extensive array of both hot and cold starters, along with a good selection of main course dishes, including a selection of pasta and rice dishes and salads. However it was clear that beef is the speciality at Rockpool, and a quick glance at the selection from the wood fired grill allows a choice of David Blackmore wagyu beef, Cape Grim grass fed beef or Rangers Valley grain fed beef.

Deciding on the crudo of hiramasa kingfish, ocean trout and yellow fin tuna for a starter, what arrived at the table was basically sashimi of the aforementioned with a light oil infused with horseradish, coriander, lemon and lime. I've eaten a lot of sashimi and it was unusual to experience a flavour other than the dab of wasabi I normally apply, but the dressing was light and unobtrusive, and did not over power the delicate fish in any way.

Despite the extensive menu, I decided that my Rockpool dining experience would be somewhat lacking if I didn't try something from the wood fired grill. With that in mind I ordered the Rangers Valley 300 day dry aged fillet. For those who enjoy there steak well done don't bother, you wouldn't like the restaurant chefs definition of well done anyway. Taking advice from the menu I asked for the fillet to be cooked medium rare. What arrived at the table was well seared and rested fillet steak, sliced in thirds across the grain. A smoky crust gave way to a tender moist centre with not a single drop of juice escaping. Upon serving the mains the waiter returned to offer a selection of condiments for the steak. I went of a little horseradish cream, which gave a refreshing bite to the succulent fillet. Bear in mind that if you order a steak that's all you will be served, so I would recommend ordering one or more of the side dishes for the table to share. We ordered the celeriac, fennel and cheese gratin, and the pink-eye butter potatoes with rosemary to share. With only a small selection on wines available by the glass, I ordered the 2005 Craiglee Shiraz to compliment the steak.

I must say that the food and the overall dining experience at Rockpool was first class, and after our mains, we were satisfied to the point of not even looking at the dessert menu. However this level of dining does come at a price, and I would advise you to ensure your plastic is paid up and ready to take a beating. The total for this Monday night dinner for four people came to $468.22 plus a tip. If we weren't all driving and had opted for a couple of bottles of wine on the table the bill would have been substantially more. Not for everyday dining, but definitely worth a visit.

- harajuku32

Rockpool Bar & Grill, 20th June 2011

What we ordered:

1x Crudo of Hiramasa Kingfish, Ocean Trout and Yellow Fin tuna, with Horesradish, Coriander, Lime and Lemon flavoured oil
1 x Spiced Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare Sandwich
3 x Rangers Valley Grain fed 300 day dry-aged fillet steak 250g
1 x David Blackmore Wagyu Rib-Eye 200g
1 x Celeriac, Fennel and Cheese Gratin
1 x Pink-Eye Butter Potatoes with Rosemary
1 x 2005 Craiglee Shiraz
1 x 2010 Ocean Eight Pino Gris
2 x Otway Estate light beer
1 x Lemon, Lime & Bitters

Total: $468.22 (plus tip)

Sunday 22 May 2011

めしや (Meshiya)

Meshiya is a Japanese cafe style restaurant I have been dining at on and off for about seven years now.  Conveniently located outside the QV centre in Melbourne, it has often been the place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading home from a day in town.  

Over the years there was been some small menu changes, an expansion of the drinks list, and the teppanyaki grill has been removed to provide more seating in an already cramped dining space.  The food at Meshiya is generally good, and below is a quick run down of yesterdays lunch.

ika no karaage
My fiancee and I started off by sharing as serve of ika no karaage and a small plate of mixed sashimi.  Ika no karaage is squid that has been lightly battered and deep fried, and this particluar serve had a light crunchy exterior, giving way to the tender squid.  The dish was well drained and not oily.

The sashimi was a mixture of tuna, salmon and snapper.  The morsels were small however they were well chilled and didn't have that "fishy" smell that always raises the alarm bells when I'm about to eat raw seafood.
ume bento, sakura bento

For mains we each ordered from the selection of bento on offer.  I enjoy bento as there is usually a range of small portions that leave you feeling satisfied, and not like you've over eaten.

I find a cold beer always goes well with Japanese food, and I was pleased to find Yebisu was now available at Meshiya.  Yebisu is a genuine import from Japan and often difficult to find in Melbourne, so you are usually left to decide if you would rather drink Asahi from Thailand or Sapporo from Canada.

All in all the food at Meshiya is good value and I have never had a bad experience there.
So if you are heading back to the QV carpark after a big day shopping and you are feeling a little peckish, I suggest you give Meshiya a try.

- harajuku32.

Sunday 15 May 2011

いちごだいふく (ichigo daifuku)

Ichigo daifuku is a Japanese sweet consisting of mochi surrounding a filling of fresh strawberry and red bean paste.  This sweet is traditionally enjoyed during Spring on account of the fresh strawberry filling.  Mochi is prepared by pounding glutinous rice into a paste, and sweets made using mochi are generally known as wagashi.  There are many different types of wagashi available in Japan, however ichigo daifuku is my favourite, and I'm going to share my recipe for making them.  This recipe is by no means traditional, however it uses readily available ingredients, and will produce a great result that will impress your friends when they stop by for a cup of tea.


1 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup sweet red bean paste
8 strawberries, hulled
corn starch


Wash and hull the strawberries, then pat dry with paper towel.  Divide the red bean paste into 8 pieces and roll into balls.  Take a strawberry and press the pointy end into one of the red bean paste balls.  Work the red bean paste down until the entire strawberry is covered.  Repeat with the remaining strawberries.  Set aside.

To make the mochi:
Put the water and sugar into a heat resistant bowl and mix well.  Add the glutinous rice flour and mix well.  Place the bowl into a microwave and heat for 2 minutes on high.  Stir the mixture rapidly with a metal spoon.  Heat the dough for a further 1 minute on high, during which time you should see the dough inflate.  Remove the bowl and stir the mochi quickly.  Cover a flat tray with baking paper and dust with corn starch.  Dust your hands with a liberal amount of corn starch.
CAUTION:  Be sure your hands are well covered with corn starch.  The mochi will be extremely hot, and its like napalm if it sticks to your hands ie. it burns and you won't be able to get it off your skin.
Turn the dough out onto the dusted tray, using your hands to remove the mochi.  Quickly separate the mochi into 8 pieces, roll each one into a rough ball.  Press one of the mochi balls flat with your hand, then push one of the read bean covered strawberries into the mochi, working the mochi around with your hands until the red bean is completely engulfed.  Seal by pressing the mochi together with your fingers.  Repeat for the other red bean covered strawberries.
When finished dust the ichigo daifuku with a little corn starch to prevent them sticking to the plate or to each other.  Store in an air tight container and enjoy the following day with a cup of jasmine tea.

So thats about it.  As I said, this is not a traditional method for making ichigo diafuku, but it is simple, uses readily available ingredients, and produces a great result.  Enjoy!

- harajuku32

Monday 2 May 2011

Rekorderlig Premium Strawberry-Lime Cider

I'm notorious for impulse buying, especially at the local bottle shop.  I stopped in there yesterday for some beer, when I noticed a stand of these bottles strategically placed by the counter.  I don't usually drink cider but the picture of the strawberries on the label caught my eye and I was intrigued, so I decided to buy one.
Brewed in Sweden, this pear based cider has a strong, sweet strawberry flavour attenuated by a hint of tart lime.  This would make a great summer beverage, and the label suggests pouring over ice and and mint leaves for a refreshing experience.

However let me offer a word of caution; the cider is only 4 vol% alcohol but it goes down easily, and in my case, the 500 mL bottle was empty in under 5 minutes.  This left my slightly addled brain to ponder why I hadn't bought a couple more.

- harajuku32.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

こんろ (konro)

I've had the konro for a while now so I figured I'd fire it up and test it out.  This particular stove is only small, and would be suitable for use with a small gathering of people.  The traditional fuel of choice in yakitori restaurants throughout Japan is binchotan (white charcoal), which is produced from a species of oak grown in the Wakayama Prefecture.

The binchotan must first be heated in a charcoal starter until it is completely white, before being transferred to the konro.  Then simply place the cooking plate over the top and you are ready to grill.

 The binchotan is long burning and burns smokeless, so it will not impart any unpleasant flavours to your food.  In fact when you are done cooking, the remaining binchotan can be quenched in water and dried out for later use.  If you love yakitori and want to cook it at home in the traditional way, I highly recommend a binchotan fired konro.  This small model is perfectly suited for outdoor entertaining, and would make an impressive centre piece for your outdoor table setting.


Thursday 17 March 2011

やきとり (yakitori)

Well, I ordered my konro from Chef's Armoury the other day, so in anticipation of its arrival I decided to cook some yakitori.  Just to clarify, a konro is a small coal fired stove well suited for barbequing - particularly yakitori. 
So I skewered some chopped chicken thighs with sliced leek, and prepared the sauce from a combination of soy, mirin, castor sugar, water and a little corn starch dispersed in cold water.  A good quality soy sauce always helps towards achieving a rich flavour.
The chicken was grilled on a cast iron hibachi with occasional basting with the sauce.  Sitting out on the deck with a cold beer, this was the perfect way to cook dinner on a lazy afternoon.
This particular cast iron hibachi is not an authentic Japanese stove, but the konro will be, and I will post about that when it arrives.


Saturday 12 March 2011

あかみそらーめん (red miso ramen)

My first taste of authentic ramen was during my second trip to Japan in July 2010.  In a small, smoky, down stairs restaurant in Harajuku I was served up steaming miso ramen in a large stone bowl.  The miso stock was extremely salty, and would have been a nightmare for anyone taking medication for hypertension. 
Prepared by combining a large amount of miso paste with chicken or fish stock along with pork fat, the result is a thick soup that is then combined with sliced pork, cabbage, bean sprouts, spring onion and a sliced hard boiled egg.
In my opinion, ramen is a great comfort food, and like any comfort food, does not rate high in the health stakes.
A few days ago I had decided to have a go at making miso ramen myself.  Having to make do with what I had on hand, I made the soup by combining chicken stock, red miso paste, dark soy sauce, mirin, garlic and ginger and allowed it simmer until reduced to a thick liquid.  In a wok I briefly fried one carrot sliced thin, and two sliced bok choy and transferred this to a bowl along with ramen noodles, firm tofu and a hard boiled egg sliced in half.  The soup was poured over and garnished with furikake and shichimi togarashi.
The result wasn't exactly authentic, but it was hot, salty, comforting, and a warm reminder of my first authentic ramen experience in Japan.


Saturday 5 March 2011

Tequila Friday

Last night was Tequila Friday.  This involves heading over to a friends house after a long week at work, eating Mexican food and knocking back some tequila.  The tequila of choice is Jose Cuervo Especial, and our preferred method of consumption is to take it with a dash of salt and a wedge of lime.  However if you are lacking these two ingredients do not dispair, as Jose Cuervo goes down quite nicely on its own.  In keeping with the Mexican theme sereral Corona's were enjoyed in between tequilas.  Tequila Friday was a frequent event back in our university days, so it was good to bring it back after such a long absence.


Wednesday 23 February 2011

The beginning...

Welcome to A touch of life, where I will be documenting all the small things that make life grand, all online for your reading pleasure.  Most of the posts will be loosely related to the topics listed to the left, however my musings will not be limited to these topics, and I may set off on any number of tangents as directed by the ebb and flow of my life.  Happy reading :)