Saturday, 24 August 2013

Feeling a little claustrophobic at Goreng2

Make sure you lean in close to prevent a satay-flavoured shirt...

Goreng² on Urbanspoon
Gorengis a small but bustling restaurant situated off the popular eating strip of Mt Lawley, one of the neighbours of popular gourmet pizza chain Crust. It's a great little spot with the added convenience of free 1-hour parking next door, which might not be enough if you join the queue of people waiting to get a feed from Goreng2.
This very highly-rated restaurant on Urbanspoon seems extremely adored by both locals and every other person who flock from near and far to Mt Lawley, a suburb which has developed quite the foodie reputation. Gorengis a valuable asset to the suburb's growing collection of Asian eateries, contributing a menu of mainly Indonesian and Malaysian fare and featuring all the words I love to hear - well-priced, tasty and generous.

I can't believe it has taken my cheap and tasty food loving, generous self to finally getting around to trying a restaurant that has been in existence since 2005.
Phad Thai, one of many dishes from Goreng2's varied menu
Although they serve the usual suspects of nasi goreng and kway teow, there is also the surprising and unexpected aspect on the menu named "Teriyaki Corner" with dishes such as teriyaki chicken and ginger beef. These Japanese cuisine dishes are scattered throughout the menu, as you can also order tempura vegetables, yakitori, udon laksa and miso ramen noodles amongst the favourites of mee goreng and stir-fried rice noodles.

Although this Phad Thai is not at all spicy, the cut chilli on the peak of Mt. Bean Sprout is a reminder that every dish can be made spicy upon request.
Make Your Own stir-fried egg noodles with vegetables and chicken - $11.90
We joined the queue and made our order, only to want to switch from our order of nasi goreng to the Make-Your-Own rice version. The staff were very accommodating and allowed us to change our order to a chicken and vegetable stir-fry. We chose satay sauce, out of a choice of Asian BBQ, Szechuan, Goreng2's oyster sauce, sweet chilli and ginger soy.

Its also worth taking note that "Make your own rice" with chicken and vegetables does not mean fried rice, but simply stir-fried ingredients with a serving of jasmine rice on the side. Although we misunderstood, we were served a make-your-own stir-fried egg noodles instead, which we were fine with. This mistake-on-top-of-misunderstanding possibly was a mistake well-made, as we quite enjoyed the saucy noodles loaded with chicken breast, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and choy sum. Make sure you lean in close to prevent a satay-flavoured shirt.
Phad Thai - $11.90
I had a hankering for Thai and made the easy (probably my personal fastest) choice of their Phad Thai. I really liked the sight of my dish, which was a deceptively healthy looking combination of wok-fried rice noodles, tofu and with an abundance of mixed seafood including fish, squid rings and prawns, which were all cooked just right.
My kind of comfort food :)
The rice noodles had a great charred flavour from the wok, but unfortunately were overpowered by a strange, slightly bitter taste in the tamarind sauce. It lacked that slightly sweet and tangy kick that I love in pad thai, and after a while of eating it I was glad to do a dish-swap to the satay noodles to mask that bitter aftertaste with satay. Although I loved the springy, well-cooked seafood and textural crunch from the chopped peanuts, I would probably stick to their other dishes if this is their normal pad thai flavour.
The limited but cosy seating inside Goreng2
The interior of Gorengis extremely clean and cosy, but can get a little claustrophobic at peak dinner time when all its limited seating is taken and a queue trickles down the centre of the restaurant. It can also be a little awkward to swoop into a table when there is no number system to ensure an orderly way of allocating seats - you kind of have to just stand your ground and mark your territory.

I do think one of the most attractive things about the restaurant that lures people in are the extremely reasonable prices and generous portions. So next time you go walkabout on Beaufort Street, do wander a little further and a little wider, to discover places like these.
Goreng2, Mt Lawley


Tues - Sun: 5:30pm - 9.30pm
Thurs & Fri: 5:30pm - 10pm
Closed Monday & public holidays

73 Walcott Street, Mt Lawley WA 6050
(08)9328 2811
(No reservations due to limited seating available)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Thought I was eating Duck Sashimi at Ha-Lu, Mt Hawthorn

It felt just like a duck sashimi in my wildest (yet slightly gross) foodie dreams...

Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon

Spring Flower are the words behind Ha-Lu, a restaurant that blooms humbly and enlivens the darker, quieter and generally less loved end of Oxford Street. 
Although humble, Ha-Lu does not go unnoticed. The numerous awards decking the entrance are head turners, making Ha-Lu a longstanding favourite Japanese restaurant of many who flock to this Spring Flower that blossoms all year round.
For me, the place is really brought alive by the warm smiles of the staff, and unsurprisingly, the delicious food that wants you to go back time and time again for. I still fantasise of the entree that used to be on their menu - a creamy, melt in the mouth baked soft shell crab dish that got me hooked more than any addictive substance possibly could.
Asahi Beer - $8.50
Ha-Lu has an Izakaya style of dining, which involves the sharing of a several number of smaller sized dishes. This has got to be my favourite way of eating, as you really have a well-rounded experience of everything the restaurant has to offer.

Soon after we are seated, Andy couldn't resist an icy cold Asahi to satisfy his manliness.
Tartare style Sashimi of the Day: Thin strips of seasoned sashimi served with wasabi mayonnaise and tortilla crisps
Salmon sashimi, although I'm tempted to deem it my favourite thing in the world, can admittedly be quite uncreative in terms of serving methods. Ha-Lu offers a tartare style sashimi, a small cupcake-sized compound of fresh salmon in a tasty marinade.
I need a cake-sized serving of this, now.
Considering how much the ingredients reminded me of nachos, I loaded the tortilla crisps with salmon and smothered it with the guacamole-looking wasabi mayo, but with a very subtle wasabi flavour. Each mouthful is a marriage of textures, simultaneously crispy, soft and creamy.

Your fingers will have a sheer gleam from holding the sheets of tortilla crisps as they are quite oily, but the small lotus root discs in the mayonnaise feel healthy to eat :)
Duck, Aubergine, Madeira sauce and Whole grain mustard - $24
Besides love, there is a lot of other things you notice about this dish at first sight.
All the components, of which appear to be many, are all very sparsely presented but works best when eaten together. What's captivating is the presentation, with each component meticulously layered, shaped and piped.
Chilled and char-grilled slow cooked duck breast with aubergine and madeira-tamari sauce with a hint of Japanese mustard
I've never ever eaten duck cooked anything else other than well done, and would probably find myself sending it back if it was served anything less. But I was at Ha-Lu, so braved myself to a new experience whereas I probably would have chickened out elsewhere. Ignorance is my best and worst trait!

The slow cooked duck looked like beef cooked medium rare, and had that similar chew. This, along with the delightfully soft eggplant are drizzled with Madeira sauce, which is a rich, peppery, salty yet slightly sweet sauce made out of wine. With the addition of wasabi and mustard, this felt just like a duck sashimi in my wildest (yet slightly gross) foodie dreams.
Kingfish and Salmon Belly Nitsuke - $18
I was (and forever am) meant to steer far away from anything labelled "deep fried" on any menu, but insisted on the kingfish and salmon nitsuke, whose very description begins with a tempting "deep fried kingfish...". This was one of my favourites of the night. There was certainly no dryness as a result of being deep-fried, especially when salmon belly is loaded with fat, oilier in texture and tastes utterly amazing as a result.

Nitsuke is a cooking technique in Japanese cuisine that involves simmering a small amount of liquid until it yields a sauce that is absolutely saturated with flavour. I'd love to pay my attention to the small pool of soy-dashi broth and white radish, but its hard to not drool over the star of the show ;)
Foil-baked Salmon and Scallops - $18
It's not a surprise that 3 out of 4 dishes we ordered have salmon as the main component, but it was a big surprise that this baked salmon and scallop dish was my most anticipated yet most disappointing of the night. The expectations of the sashimi-grade salmon having a moist, juicy, melt-in-my-mouth softness was shattered when it felt dry and slightly overdone despite being immersed in ponzu, a tangy, citrus-based soy sauce.

Likewise, what could have been plump buttery scallops turned out rather bland and rubbery. The dish saver for me was definitely the sauce-soaked enoki mushrooms. Overall the whole dish was a let down, but surely this is probably just a one off thing!
White Chocolate, Roast Tea and Berry Pannacotta & Ume Plum Gelee - $9.50
Pannacotta is one of those hard to get right desserts, but one of those hard to not like desserts when done right. Although a white chocolate pannacotta sounds mind-numbingly sweet, the silky soft dessert was a great balance between tart and sweet. And smoother than a baby's bottom might I add!
Love sweet endings.
Restaurant seating
Ha-Lu is definitely worth a visit but I'd suggest that you bring a few (as many as possible) to really maximise your experience and try a full range of dishes from their menu. Although a Japanese restaurant, Ha-Lu offers something different to teriyaki chickens and donburis, providing a more modern and contemporary take on Japanese cuisine.

I think it is this, along with an ever changing menu, is what keeps people coming back.
And for me personally, I love the fact that the waitresses don't speak perfectly audible English :)
Ha-Lu, Mt Hawthorn
Wednesday - Sunday: Dinner from 6pm
Closed Monday & Tuesdays

Shop 4/401 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn WA 6016
(08) 9444 0577

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A test of patience at Indus Cafe, Maylands

An hour wait borders on frustration...

Indus Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Keeping with the theme of bargain meals from my previous post on The Dock in Fremantle, I purchased two coupons for Indus Cafe. They were extremely enticing and drool-worthy deals, offering a 3 course meal for either 2 people ($29), 4 people ($49) or 6 people ($69). Without a second thought, I bought both the 4 and 6 people offers. I was so excited.

Considering Indian cuisine can easily leave you $30 lighter, this was going for considerably less. I wondered about the quality but I decided I had nothing to lose if this was a dud - besides my continued patronage.
Indus Cafe
On our first visit, Indus Cafe was relatively busy. There seemed to be limited numbers of staff serving customers, which left us standing at the entrance for a while until we were seated. The "cafe" is in fact set up like a semi-formal but minimalistic restaurant, with big cushiony chairs to sink into.

The night is off to a slow start, but unfortunately speed never quite picks up for the rest of the night. The time our 3-course dinner took was the same timespan you would expect a 10-course degustation to take, and diners are left unattended for quite extended periods of time throughout the night that we joked we could probably get up and leave unnoticed.
Never a suggestion, just an observation :P
Nargisi Kofta: Egg wrapped in lamb mince and deep fried (8 pc) - $15
Our first entree for the night arrived perhaps 30-40 minutes after we placed our order. These eggs are strikingly similar to scotch eggs, which are usually boiled eggs wrapped in mince then crumbed and deep fried. Indus Cafe's version uses a lean lamb mince, which is only lightly seasoned. The quantity alone makes these pretty moreish!

Whenever my parents made these at home when I was younger, I was always very amused. The literal translation of "deep fried eggs" in Cantonese is "bomb" (yes, really) so once in a while, my parents would tell me they were making bombs in the kitchen. I was young :P
Lamb Chops: Tandoori marinated lamb chops (2 pc) - $10
The next entree was two pieces of tandoori lamb freshly cooked in the clay oven. Wrapped in aluminium foil with the visible parts being grilled to a darker shade of black meant they looked a little unappetising to me (I can't help my unpopular pet hate of blackened grill marks and lines) but the taste was surprisingly uncompromised.

The marinade is strong in flavour and tasty. Definitely use your hands to eat this, and you'll probably find yourself unwrapping the foil so you can gnaw on it right to the bone.
Chicken Pakoda: Boneless chicken marinated with Indian spices and deep fried - $12
Deep fried chicken is a favourite no matter which corner of the globe you come from, but I would probably satisfy my cravings elsewhere. These are slightly bigger versions of KFC's popcorn chicken, but unfortunately tasted quite average.

I usually reluctantly peel off all the batter of deep fried foods, and when I finished taking off all the batter, I was left with a very small piece of chicken that had been completely masked with a thick layer of flour.
Kothu Parantha: Flaky bread tossed with chicken, egg and spicy chilli sauces - $11
When we placed the order for this final entree, we had no idea what we were actually ordering. "Flaky bread" didn't bring up any images to mind and when it arrived on the table, I admit I thought we were given the wrong dish.

The Kothu Parantha is a plate of gluggy, glutinous (I feel inclined to say mess) combination of flatbread, chicken strips and eggs. Its serving size is quite hefty and could really suffice as an entire meal for some. The texture is sticky, chewy and mushy all combined into one dish, and somewhat reminds me of eating chunky mashed potato. Despite sounding like this is grown-up baby food, I actually really enjoyed the taste of this and filled up a sizeable portion of tummy space with this alone.
Bhuthawaa Beef: Beef cooked with chef's special sauce - $17
It was a good thing the entrees were quite filling as the wait time between entrees and mains was another long wait. The portions looked small but the bowls were deep and were filled with a good amount of meat that we had enough for 2 small takeaway boxes to take home.

The Bhuthawaa Beef was a step into unknown territory as the description did not reveal much detail about ingredients. We still could not figure out what was in this "chef's special sauce" - the curry had a thinner, lighter consistency but we all had a preference for other curries over this.
Goat Curry: Slow cooked baby goat meat with bone in curry sauce - $20
The next curry was one that I was eager to try, as I really enjoy goat. The slow cooked baby goat was soft and came off the bone quite easily, but being cooked with the bone unfortunately meant that the ratio of bone to meat was quite high. I really craved for more meat in the dish.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Chicken cooked in oven served with sliced onions, capsicum and tomato sauce - $16
We had an agreement that each person should choose a different meat curry, which resulted in the third main dish of chicken tikka masala. Masala is a combination of various dried spices, which forms the base sauce for the oven-baked chicken tikka. Indus Cafe uses a rich tomato-based sauce cooked with sliced onions and chunky capsicum pieces.
Lamb Korma: Lamb cooked with cashew sauce and cream - $17
I love a good creamy curry and easily decided on the lamb korma. I don't have the best relationship with cream but it doesn't stop me from ordering a dish that is heavily cream based. Korma is usually made with a combination of ingredients that involve yoghurt, cream, nut sauces or coconut milk, which are all already quite rich on their own.

The lamb korma is served with a sprinkling of sliced almonds with a sauce that has a thicker creamy consistency. It is very mild in flavour throughout, although the lamb was a little tough and could have been cooked for longer to reach that softness we all hoped for. However the sauce was one of my favourites, and made a great breakfast for me the next day when spooned over rice :)
Homemade Lassi (Strawberry) - $3.5
Lassi is a traditional Indian beverage, which comes in both savoury and sweet versions. Sweet lassi usually consists of yoghurt blended with fruit in its juice or pulp forms until a smoothie-like consistency. Indus Cafe offers three fruit versions as well as others listed as plain, sweet or salted, which is usually flavoured with spices such as ground cumin.

The strawberry lassi had a really nice sweetness albeit tasting a little artificial in terms of the strawberry, but overall had a lovely smoothness.
Homemade Lassi (Mango) - $3.50
We all had a sip of the mango lassi, which strangely came in a plastic cup instead of the glass cups the other lassi came served in. It also contained a lot less liquid as the cup was only filled just over the halfway mark. It tasted like your run-of-the-mill mango lassi, so I'd suggest trying the strawberry version if you want to try the restaurant's lassi.
Homemade Lassi (Raspberry) - $3.50
The raspberry lassi had a distinctive, intense sweetness to it that made it somewhat hard to drink. It was much, much sweeter than the other two fruit lassi and didn't taste of raspberry at all; if I had to describe it, it is the strawberry lassi only with a generous but unneeded addition of sugar.
Steamed rice - $3
I cannot have curry without steamed rice and ordered a serving of it between four people. Little did I know that nobody else on the table really wanted this, and ended up finishing half of it on my own :(
Butter Naan - $3
The popular choice of side to have with curry that night was naan bread, which was well received by everybody. The naan bread is made with plain flour which is then cooked in their tandoor oven, and comes in plain, buttered and garlic varieties. Our butter naan was served hot and was great for dipping in and mopping clean all the curry sauces.
Gulaab Jamun (with ice cream) - $5
When dessert time came around, we were quite stuffed to the brim. The boys on the table both ordered gulaab jamun, which is a widely popular dessert in Indian cuisine. Gulaab jamun are dumpling balls that are typically made with curdled milk that is kneaded into a dough, deep fried then soaked into a sugary or rosewater-scented syrup, which eventually saturates the ball with sweetness. I think the ice-cream, although sweet itself, is a much needed addition to the gulaab jamun in giving it a refreshing cold hit.
Kulfi (Mango and Pista) - $7
Two of us ordered kulfi, which came in mango and pistachio flavours. Kulfi is a traditional dessert of India that is very similar in appearance and taste to ice cream, in that it is a frozen, dairy-based dessert that comes in many flavours. Unlike ice cream however, kulfi is a lot more solid and does not melt as easily as ice cream would.

There was mixed feelings about the mango and pistachio kulfi, and I ended up finishing both sticks because it wasn't to anybody else's liking. Besides the priciness of the kulfi (I probably would not pay $7 for this), the taste is not eminent and is in fact, rather bland. It has a subtle flavour, tasting very natural and not excessively sweetened, however it lacks that unavoidable sugar hit that many people crave after dinner.

Second visit
Complimentary Papadams
I felt quite satisfied after our dinner and am always craving Indian, so I was looking forward to coming back for a second visit. The power of coupons should never be underestimated, as it gave us an even greater choice of dishes to order - I think I've tried about half the menu after just two visits.

Things were a little different this second time, as we were entitled to any alcoholic beverage off the drinks menu for each person at no extra cost. On top of this surprise, we were given two baskets of complimentary papadams with a vividly green, minty yoghurt dipping sauce.
Omni NV
I opted for a sweet sparkling wine while my family went for whites and reds, such as the Houghton Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon with flavours of blackcurrant, olive and bay leaf. I liked my Omni, which was full of fruity flavours and a good contrast to the rich, creamy curries.
Hariyali Chicken Tikka: Boneless chicken marinated in unique spices cooked in clay oven (2 pc) - $10
The first entree to share was the Hariyali chicken tikka - two boneless chicken pieces smothered in a deep green marinade. The paste's intense green colouring is a result of the mash of green ingredients such as coriander, spinach and mint together to form a marinade for this chicken dish.
Tandoori Chicken: Chicken cooked in clay oven with tandoori spices (full) - $19
Next was a full serving of tandoori chicken served on a hotplate, which counted as two entrees because of its huge serving. As this would most likely fill up a lot of stomach space, you can also order a half serve at $11.
Tandoori Chicken
In addition to side vegetables that almost all our entrees are served with, the tandoori chicken comes with a bed of capsicum and onions. The pieces of chicken are big in size and flavour, and made for a deceptively big and filling entree.
Lamb Chops: Tandoori marinated lamb chops cooked in clay oven (2 pc) - $10
Evidently, no-one can resist the call of lamb chops as these again made an appearance on this dinner. They were as good as I remembered them to be - juicy and full of flavour but this time, they have lost the black grill marks :)
Kothu Parantha: Flaky bread tossed with lamb, egg and spicy chilli sauces - $11
I suggested the kothu parantha again, as I missed its simultaneously mushy and chewy textures and flavours. I ordered the dish with lamb instead of chicken this time but honestly, there isn't a big difference because the meat isn't too distinguishable when the ingredients are in a big mash up.
Nargisi Kofta: Egg wrapped in lamb mince and deep fried (8 pc) - $15
These "bombs" make yet another appearance ;)
Palak Paneer: Cubes of cottage cheese cooked with spinach - $16
My brother made a request for palak paneer - soft crumbly blocks of cottage cheese cooked in a mushy and pulpy spinach sauce. We always knew curry to taste the opposite of what they look like hey?

We were able to try many different curries that night -
Beef Korma: Beef cooked with cashew sauce and cream - $17
Lamb Rogan Josh: Tender lamb in a spicy tomato and onion sauce - $16
Chicken Dhansak: Parsi dish of boneless chicken cooked with yellow lentils and spices - $16
Lamb Saag Wala: Lamb cooked with spinach - $17
Chicken Madras: Chicken cooked with coconut milk and shredded coconut - $15
Garlic Naan - $3
As we ordered garlic naan, I am not quite sure we were given the right naan as there was no sight, smell nor taste of garlic in the naan bread. A little disappointing.
Butter Naan - $3
Let the curry begin!
Kulfi (Mango and Pista) - $7
In addition to gulaab jamun and kulfi, Indus Cafe also offers Ras Malai, a dessert involving soft cheese balls immersed in a sweet, creamy milk. Most of us on the table stuck with the kulfi, sticking with what is (relatively) familiar.

The main difference on this occasion is the different style of presentation, changing from being served on a wooden popstick to chunks of kulfi in a bowl. I do like this change, as it makes way for easier devouring. And yes, I am sure you have noticed that sweet red syrupy swirl has sneaked its way into many dishes - both savoury and sweet dishes are tagged!
The cashier stand doubling as a mini bar
Indus Cafe does not seem relatively well known, and would be able to gain more momentum and recognition if big improvements are made with regards to service. The atmosphere is laid back, casual and the interior adopts a very minimalistic look with basic furniture and not much else.

Although the staff members are friendly, efficiency is a major gripe. This is definitely not a place for a quick meal, as on both occasions we wondered whether we had been forgotten - despite being the only table there. If our meals were cooked from scratch then this is understandable, but the quality of the food hardly reflects this. Not many people are tolerant of a significantly long wait time for food to arrive, and an hour wait borders on frustration.

We arrived for a 7.30pm dinner and left at nearly 11pm, and can honestly attribute at least 2 hours to pure waiting time.
No surprise that the restaurant operates with late trading hours (old signage states that it used to open from 6am until midnight)! Perhaps it is a good option for late dinners when everything else is closed, but who knows when you will actually get your dinner?
Indus Cafe, Maylands
To the right of the restaurant is a drive thru: convenience or laziness?
7 days: 5pm - 11.30pm
Offering drive through, takeaway, home delivery
Signage at entrance states several rules such as the removal of sunglasses and hoodies inside the restaurant at all times

(08) 9370 2689
24/168 Guildford Road Maylands 6051
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