Friday, 11 May 2012

Daily Choice, Southern Cross Arcade

I had to grab lunch on the go today. Fortunately, that bastion of cheap, delicious eating - Southern Cross Arcade - just happened to be on my way between here and there and Daily Choice just happened to have the shortest line. That's unusual for Daily Choice because they do arguably the best banh mi in the CBD - although unfortunately they seem to be receiving less custom now that Soonta Rolls has opened up. I don't really rate Soonta Rolls - the sauces are cloyingly sweet and over applied while their rolls always leave a strange metallic aftertaste.

I ordered the stewed beef roll and smashed half of it before I remembered to take a quick snap.


Delicately flavoured with star anise the stewed beef was meltingly soft while the lettuce and lightly pickled carrots provided a bit of crunch and cut through. I suspect the chillies are grown in someones backyard because some of these little firecrackers pack quite the wallop. But the thing that really sets the Daily Choice banh mi from apart is the quality and consistency of the bread rolls. You'll never find a stale roll here. Rather, they are crisp and crunchy on the outside while being light and chewy inside.

The staff at Daily Choice have got banh mi making down to a fine art so that even when the lines are long the wait is pretty short. And at $4.50 per roll - the price is right (see the Larry Emdur comeback reference I made there?).

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hungry Jacks, City Cross Arcade

Like a moth to the flame, occasionally I get suckered in by fast food gimmicks. I've read for years about sliders in the US and was therefore fascinated by the new range of Hungry Jacks mini burgers. These burgers are NOT sliders - they are simply small burgers.

I try not to eat much in the way of junk food and ordered both the rodeo mini and the cheese burger mini (or that's how I'm trying to rationalise to myself) so I didn't have to return.

The meal arrived in under 5 minutes in kind of kitsch retro packaging.


I ate the rodeo burger first. I'm not sure what Hungry Jacks marketing thinks about the average consumers intelligence but for some reason lots of sweet BBQ sauce is supposed to evoke images of cattle rustling cowboys - hence rodeo. Used sparingly, I can handle commercial BBQ sauce - but a deft touch was not used here - the sauce overwhelmed everything. The burger patty was the usual dry hockey puck and the bun was the cloying the spun sugar/duck feather doona standard but the cheese helped give the burger some fatty flavour. Surprisingly, the onion rings actually stayed crunchy (does anyone remember the disastrous KFC nacho burger?) which saved the burger. 


Up next - cheese burger mini. Sadly, the cheese wasn't melted and there was no pickle. The burger really needed something sharp to cut through the sugary tomato sauce and provide some extra texture and flavour. 


Fortunately I like to stuff my cheese burger with fries - this is a bit of a hangover from my high school days. 


The chips provided the extra salt and crunch the burger needed.

Anyway - the service was fairly prompt and the price of $4.95 for burger mini, chips and a drink is cheap for lunch by anyone's standards. The burger wasn't great but that's not what you expect from Hungry Jacks - you get a fatty, salty, sugar bomb that satisfies rather than nourishes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Wong Kee Daily Yum Cha, China Town Food Court

When you can't decide what you want for lunch yum cha is the way go - although the sheer amount of choice could exacerbate the problem. Regardless, today was yum cha lunch with a mate who didn't know what he wanted. 

We ordered 5 dishes - savoury dumplings, fried squid, BBQ pork buns, sesame balls and a fifth secret dish (the highlight of the meal) to be revealed in the fullness of time (... later in this blog post).


The only weak joint in today's lunch was the fried squid tentacles (...which don't actually have any joints...) that had obliviously been sitting under the heat lamp for too long and had lost all it's crunch and gone lukewarm. The rest of the yum cha was delightful. In particular, the savoury dumplings and sesame balls were surprisingly good. A textural delight of (unidentifiable) mince wrapped in glutenous rice batter and deep fried - the savoury dumplings were crunchy, chewy and salty.


Made from the same batter as the dumplings, the sesame balls were instead filled sweet red bean paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Light, fluffy, sweet rice dough filled with tender BBQ pork - these buns disappeared without any of the cloying stogyness often associated with poorly executed yum cha buns.

By far the stand out dish was the misleadingly named savoury doughnut.


Looks closer - see how it glistens with promise...


Essentially, the savoury doughnut is not round fried bread, wrapped in rice noodle and sprinkled with shallots. This seemingly simple combination creates a delicious and texturally complex dish. The bread is crunchy, chewy and slightly greasy. The rice is it textural opposite - smooth and slippery - while the sprinkle of shallots adds a slight fresh snap that helps cut through the grease. This dish alone is worth returning to Wong Kee Daily Yum Cha for.

5 dishes cost us $24 which is a little more expensive than you'd normally pay for lunch at the markets but the bamboo steamers are always full so you very rarely need to wait (except for the savoury doughnut which was made to order) and the food is pretty decent.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Tomodachi, Adelaide Central Markets

I really want to like Tomodachi - I truly do. And why wouldn't you? Tomodachi translates into English as 'friends'.


But I just don't like Tomodachi. Nor do I particularly dislike it. There is only one word that describes this eatery - bland... but perhaps that's the point (more on this later). However, Tomodachi always suckers me in with their massive cabinet of alluring faux food. I think there are examples of teriyaki chicken, tonkatsu, dumplings and various donburi in the photo below. 


I'm fascinated by how these dishes are preserved or styled or made or whatever they do (can any explain this to me?) And also why they do it - presumably a nice picture would do just as well. Anyway, this faux food acts as a gastronomic magnet (I think I just answered my own question) to my stomach. I went with the tempura prawns for lunch today (faux food close-up below). $9.50 for 4 massive prawns with tempura veggies, rice, miso soup and dipping sauce seemed like a massive bargain.


Unfortunately I was wrong-ish.  

The real dish looks extremely delicious, doesn't it?


Even close up it looks exceedingly tasty.


But it just wasn't it. It was bland, bland, bland, bland, bland. But I say again - perhaps this was the point.

Let's start with the bad. The batter on the (smaller than in the faux food cabinet of promise) prawns wasn't crispy or crunchy but more like a dagwood dog - without the flavour. The Japanese mash potato salad had no flavour whatsoever - no little carrot-y or onion-y or celery-y bits to give it character. The salad dressing had this unexpectedly weird fruitiness. The rice and miso soup were lukewarm - verging on cold. The wait was almost 10min.

Phew - enough of that... some good points now. .

The size of the meal was very generous (there were lots of crunch, savoury tempura veggies) - but do you really want to eat a lot of something that doesn't dance on the taste buds? The highlight of the meal was the special dipping sauce - it was rich and salty and sweet and bbq-y. And most importantly, the dipping sauce really uplifted the bland prawns. This is why I think the tempura prawns were left intentionally bland - the plain batter soaked up the deliciousness of the dipping sauce like a sponge. Is this the point or have I missed something?

But nothing NOTHING could save those horrible bloody potatoes.