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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A visit to an ancient water town | Wuzhen, CHINA

Wuzhen has been on my travel list for a while. I remember mum telling me about the beauty of this ancient water town when I was little. It’s conveniently located a (relatively) short drive away from where my grandparents live so inevitably, when the other travel bunnie and I were planning our recent China holiday, Wuzhen made the list. 

My grandparents live in a small city named Jiaxing which lies along the Grand Canal of China and it’s only a short train trip away from Shanghai. From there, we jumped into a nice air-conditioned van that my uncle and aunt had arranged, and were on our way to the water town. 

You see the thing with unique and beautiful destinations is that, you can never keep them a secret. Well, not for long anyway, and definitely not in China given its population. The once quiet water town has become a well-known attraction and it’s not a place where you can roam free and get lost. Think of it as an amusement park, you pay an entrance fee to get in. Yes, it’s a bit commercialised but those old buildings surrounded by canals, the stone bridges and pathways, as well as the delicate wood carvings will no doubt charm you. 

We stopped at a Chinese family’s home for lunch after a leisurely boat ride. There was no menu, so it was an impromptu fare. The wife stir fried wild vegetables, steamed fish and braised pork belly while the husband served us light scented green tea and cold beer. Lunch was homely, authentic and so delicious. 

Luckily, it was a hot summer day so we hardly saw any tourists. The experience was simply mesmerising. China never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fish Lane Bistro | 71-73 Melbourne Street, SOUTH BRISBANE QLD 4101

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the night as I walked across the bridge. I was on my way to Fish Lane Bistro at The Fox Hotel. 

It was almost déjà vu when I stepped inside. Not a lot had changed since The Meatball Company days. I was quite sad to see the closure of the eatery that specialised in meatballs. I thought that the pork & veal meatballs with chilli, tomato & roast pepper sauce that they had were brilliant. But you know, one has to move on to something better. 

I was there for an instameet event of fellow foodies and bloggers, and as I glanced at the menu, I knew that I was in for a great night. I’m talking about sticky wagyu short ribs, crispy skinned twice cooked duck and desserts so tasty that they would blow your socks off. To be quite honest, I held my breath for the chefs in the kitchen. I mean, there were a lot of us. Oh no, it wasn’t like a table for six, it was more like fifty. And when you have about a million DSLR cameras flashing in front of your eyes, I’m not sure about other people, but I know that I would feel pressured. To the max. 

But they pulled it off and the food kept flowing onto our tables. The dishes that didn’t jump out straight away when I looked at the menu were surprisingly tasty. I’m usually a meat person and veggies don’t excite me as much, but the heirloom tomato tart, smoked tomato, ricotta salata and crushed olives, as well as the spiced roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, cranberries and coriander yoghurt were really well executed. 

By the time when the desserts came out, it felt like the whole restaurant went quiet. There were a few seconds where the clicking sound of shutters took over the room, but the foodies quickly dug into those inviting plates of sweet treats. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, but if I have to pick one, it’d be the Kaffir lime crème brûlée with sorbet gingerbread and peach. Having said that the dark chocolate and olive oil mousse with chocolate & hazelnut ice cream and honeycomb was pretty impressive too. 

I felt slightly disappointed when the night ended. It ended too soon and I was already craving for another feed at Fish Lane Bistro. 

Disclaimer: this bunnie attended the event as an invited guest, however my opinion is as always, my own. 

Fish Lane Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lutèce Bistro & Wine Bar | 1/60 Macgregor Terrace, BARDON QLD 4065

Based on its exterior, you probably wouldn’t expected much from Lutece Bistro and Wine Bar, and I don’t blame you. There really isn’t much to look at. But if you’re sitting inside this French restaurant with sweeping views of Bardon, you are in for a hearty meal cooked the traditional French way. 

I was there for one thing, something of extraordinary indulgence and devilishly delicious - the famous Cea's spanner crab lasagne

It happened to be the last day of the year, and although traditionally the other travel bunnie and I would celebrate it in style and then finish off the year by watching Brisbane’s amazing fireworks at midnight, it was slightly difficult to do so with minibun George and hence we decided to have a NYE lunch instead. 

The lunch time prix-fixe menu provides a nice variety of food and it also includes a glass of wine. When the clock struck mid-day, we clinked our glasses filled with bubbles (but not the alcoholic kind, they were by San Pellegrino) and wished each other a happy New Year, just as our entrées arrived at the table. Western Australian scampi & scallops mousseline with pea puree & scampi jus for me and crispy “chipirons” calamari salt & pepper with Mediterranean vegetable salad for the other travel bunnie. Although both entrées were good, they were quickly overshadowed by the deliciousness of our mains. 

The famous Cea’s spanner crab lasagne with crustacean sauce that I had was simply mind blowing. Layers of crab meat were swimming in the creamy crustacean sauce which was sweet, rich and packed with flavours of the sea. In case if you were wondering, yes it is as good as il Centro’s. The other travel bunnie had the Angus beef oyster blade braised 18 hours with red wine & sweet peppers, vegetable “Basquaise”. The tender meat easily flaked away when the fork pierced into it. It was a hearty dish done with perfection. 

As for desserts, we shared the “Buche de Noel” the chocolate Christmas log, apricot sauce & salted caramel ice cream and the Floating Island “Oeuf a la neige” with new season mango “comme Anglaise”& mango iced parfait. My personal preference was the floating island, for its light summery flavours and the equally enticing presentation. 

What a gem!

Total Bunnie Dollars Spent: $102.

Lutèce Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shanghai Part.2 | Shanghai, CHINA

Read the previous Shanghai post here

The next morning the other travel bunnie and I got up early to meet up my parents, little did we know that they were more excited than us and had already been waiting in the lobby. 

Personally, a few things come to mind when Shanghai is mentioned and one of those includes xiao long bao, which literally translates to small steamer basket buns, or as Mr Bourdain calls it, pillows of happiness. The cab dropped us off just outside of the Old Town’s Yuyuan Garden, but the first stop for the four of us was Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, a long standing institution for their, well, steamed buns. It is a culinary icon. I don’t remember queueing for too long to get a table, actually I don’t remember much other than the pure satisfaction that I got from eating those buns one steamer basket after another. 
After breakfast, we took a nice stroll in the Yuyuan Garden before moving on to Nanjing Road for some shopping. 
A short cab ride later saw us four having lunch at elEFANTE, a Spanish restaurant located in the Xuhui district. I got sucked into it after reading a critic review on the internet. It was uneventful fare and I’ll stop there. But you see, the amazing thing with Shanghai, is that you’ll never be able to turn a corner without finding something that your appetite finds appealing. We came across South Beauty, a restaurant chain that specialises in Sichuan cuisine with a really affordable menu. The other travel bunnie and I had a delightful experience at one of their branches in Shenzhen, so I suggested it to my parents and they were willing to give it a go. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, perhaps even slightly over the top as some would say, but then again, for a capitalist imperialist city like Shanghai, the definition of OTT may seem a little obscure. Dinner was wonderful and despite the seas of red, the food was actually not overly spicy, which was perfect for my liking. 

The day finished too soon but we were looking forward to the next adventure - a day trip to the historic scenic town of Wuzhen

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