Monday, November 30, 2009

LaVaca Steak House @ Changkat Bukit Bintang

This Restaurant is closed.
It will be turned into a wine/whisky Bar.

La Vaca

La Vaca is "cow" in spanish terms. This is a new joint in the-already-restaurant-crowded Changkat Bukit Bintang but having a steak house there afterall is not such a bad idea.

I was here dining on the 1st day that Mr. Werner opens its door to his new addition of restaurants in Changkat Bukit Bintang. This is his fourth shop after El Cerdo, El Cerdito Tapas, Werner (a pizza place and lounge) and now this. And I thought I was fast but no, Sean had already blogged about it here a day after that, being always ahead of me in the KL dining scene. Oh well, I'll just blog about it a month later then (always a procrastinator).

The Interior

Much can be said about the interior because it's simple yet warm. That night itself, we happened to dine beside the interior designers of this place and we really complimented them on the good job. The clever use of wall papers of bricks and stones makes the place a rustic charm and yet easy to maintain for the owner. I love the window. Don't you think it's pretty?

The Menu

Besides the steak dishes like Australian Grain Fed Sirloin, Tenderloin, US Rib Eye and Wagyu Rump Steak (Prices range from RM68 to RM108), there's also dishes for the non-steak eaters like NZ Lamb Chop (RM58), Fish & Seafood (Prices from RM55 - RM78) and sausages (RM26). The starters are adequate with choices such as salads (RM28), Spanish air dried beef with rock melon (RM 38), Pan Fried Beef Bone Marrow (RM28) and soups to choose from.

Bread & Garlic Butter

Florida Crab Cake (RM26)

Not many places does crab cake and thus we needed to assess the quality of the crab cakes here. La Vaca passed the test and the crab cakes here are truly recommended and they are served together with the tropical tartar sauce.

Australian Grain Fed Tenderloin Center Cut Fillet (RM88)

This is definitely a hearty meal. It doesn't look much for 7oz of meat but it is certainly filling. The steak was done medium rare and I must say it was very well seared because the steak is tender and moist. The mushroom sauce that goes with it was done beautifully with generous servings of big mushroom slices.

Dinners without drinks are never complete. France might have its champagne, Australia has its sparkling wines, Italy has its prosecco, Spain its Cava and now we are having the German sekt. It's not sex but sekt. Sekt is the German term for sparkling wine. That night we had a bottle of Henkell Trocken. It was on promotion for RM158++ a bottle and RM28++ a glass. Actually it tastes just like any sparkling wine, light and crisp with fruity aromas.

Their wine list is extensive because it's the same as the wine list from Werner's or El Cerdo. If you're unsure, you can always ask for the help of Mr. Werner's best sommeliers, Max and Kah Men. They can recommend something to go with your food and they are really professional. Thus, we listened to their recommendation and ordered a bottle of MC 2005 Marques de Caceres from Rioja which is the best wine producing region of Spain.

Yes, the prices are steep just like El Cerdo's but it's nice to spoil ourselves once in a while since I can't afford dining here everyday anyways. They also serve fresh oysters which you can see from the oyster tanks the minute you walk in. So, do give it a try and let me know what you think about Mr. Werner and his steak afterall he's got a reputation on porcine cuisine.

(decided to stop posting on Australia for a while... a bit sien...)

La Vaca Steak House
Changkat Bukit Bintang
Tel: 2143-2268
For La Vaca Part II (More dishes) Click here......

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dominique Portet @ Yarra Valley

On the early 16th morning of November, I woke up eagerly for my most anticipated itinerary on my Melbourne trip list - which is to get my cherry popped for my first ever virgin visit to a vineyard. I was very honoured to have Mr. Dominique Portet, the very owner of Dominique Portet vineyard to personally drove me to his vineyard at Yarra Valley, which was about 40 minutes drive from Doncaster, the place where I was staying. He even showed me the picturesque golf course at Yarra Valley which is a haven for golfers! Mr. Dominique has been a very good friend of Big E and she helped me to arrange the visit. Thanks Big E!

Mr. Dominique Portet is the 9th generation in the family of winemaking and yet he is the 1st to establish his own label under the family name. His father, André Portet, whom is a régisseur (vineyard & winery manager) of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac, and then now Dominique has also been trained with Champagne giant, Moet & Chandon. Although his wines are from Yarra Valley, one cannot ignore the fact that his wines are very french-like and he still uses traditional french winemaking methods for his wines.

The Vineyard at Yarra Valley

The Cellar Door

The Dominique Portet Winery has a Mediterranean atmosphere. You can enjoy some simple lunches here such as salads which I had that day together with Mr. Dominique and it was just absolutely delicious! Wine tastings, barrel tastings, and vintage tours are carried out at his winery and it's opened to the people for tasting and lunches from 10 am until 5 am daily.

Tasting Counter

Mr. Dominique poured us a number of wines starting with the DP Brut Rose, Fontaine Rose 2009, DP Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and then followed by a round of red wines such as Carbernet Sauvignon 2006, Shiraz 2006 and Merlot 2007. We had a good taste of everything and it was great. There is a bucket ready at the side for us to pour away the excess wines since all we need was only a sip to taste and then some water to rinse our glasses or palate.

Dominique Portet Brut Rose was a delicious sparkler!

But of course the best part of the tour to the vineyard besides him showing us how the wines and sparkling wines were made was the tour into the wine cellar! This is where the oak casks are stored before bottling. He had this long glass tube-like thing that extracts wine from the casks and then poured into our glasses for us to taste. I really love the Andre 2006 (Carbernet Shiraz) - the best label under Dominique Portet. It's named after his father and this wine is a beautiful Australian blend of cabernet sauvignon grapes, Yarra Valley, and shiraz grapes, Heathcote.

The Wine Cellar and the oak casks...

Mr. Dominique & his son, Ben.

The tradition associated with the Portet family continues with wife Julia and sons Ben, Thomas and Henri, all having a close association with the winery. Thomas lives in Denmark, keeping a keen eye on exports while 27 year old Ben Portet is the 10th generation of winemaker. He has a degree in Oenology from Adelaide University and fluent in French and has worked in illustrious world wine regions, including Bordeaux, with Philippe Blanc from Chateau Beychevelle. He now make his own wine under the label of Ten Men.

Ten Men Shiraz 2008

I really enjoyed myself to the fullest at the wineyard. The winemaking tour done by Mr. Donimique himself was really educational and I'll never look at wines/sparkling wines the same way again as I know every drop of wine is made with lots of care and hardwork. Mr. Dominique takes pride in the wine he does by ensuring the quality of his vineyards and grapes.

At the same time, I managed to meet some Indonesian wine enthusiasts there too and it so happened that they are from Singapore and decided to come to Melbourne to visit their cousin. We hit off straightaway and after that, I abandoned Mr. Dominique (whom was kind enough to offer to drive me to the city) and joined them for some more vineyard visits and shopping in town!

Me & Mr. Dominique Portet

It was really an eye-opening experience for me and I love the vineyard that he has. How I wished I can make wine too! Then I can have my own cellar and vineyard! That's my cherry-popped for my first vineyard/vinery visit.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bondi Beach, South Head, Watsons Bay & Cronulla Beach @NSW

You Only Live Once @ Bondi Beach

So make the best out of it! I've such a great time in Sydney that I think this picture best described my time there. There were just so much to see and experience that one week is not even enough for me to cover all the picturesque spots there.

The Bondi Beach (pronunced as Bond-eye) is one of Australia's most famous beaches with just 7 km drive east of Sydney's CBD. It can be easily accessed with public transport like buses and trains. It's just a 1km long beach where there's sand, surf and sun. Thus, during peak season, the beach is so crowded that you can easily bump into each other or you could just be lying a few inches away from another person while tanning. It may be commercialised but it's really a nice beach.

Having said all that...

I still have to have my cherry-popped for Bondi in Sydney!

I'm not nude/in bikini because I don't want to scare the people there! Lol...

A nice small wading pool at the beach for the kids!

This is the Bondi Pavilion where I can sit down for a cuppa.

Luke paying for the parking

My dear friend whom was kind enough to offer himself to be my tour guide and chauffeur for the day! Woot... Here, you wouldn't want to mess with the parking fees because you get fined $100 for overstaying!

After spending some time at Bondi Beach, Luke drove me to the Cliff Walk at South Head. South Head is a headland, part of Sydney Harbour National Park, to the north of the suburb of Watsons Bay. I would personally recommend the Cliff Walk at South Head because the view from atop is really spectacular and breathtaking!

A good guide on the Coastal Walk here.

After taking all these beautiful photographs, we drove to Watsons Bay. All the places that I was about to cover is located along the coastline. Watsons Bay is a harbourside, eastern suburb of Sydney. Watsons Bay sits on the end of the South Head peninsula and takes its name from the sheltered bay and anchorage on its western side, in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). It provides spectacular views across the harbour to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

You can easily get here by taking the ferry from Circular Quay.

Anchorage for many boats and yatchs.

Beside the wharf where the ferry stops.

On the way to the Sydney Fish Market, we passed by Double Bay, Rose Bay and then Kings Cross. Locals call Double Bay as Double Pay because everything is just more expensive over there! haha...

I really like Cronulla Beach which is located at South of Sydney. It is definitely a quieter alternative to Sydney’s beaches at Bondi and Coogee. If I'm not wrong, the beach is stretched over 8kms and everyone will have ample space! There's also a Cronulla Park directly behind the beach which provides picnic tables and barbecues. Nearby, the Royal National Park has over 150KM of walking tracks.

See, how quiet it is?

See how clear the water is?

Don't you just wish you've got a house here facing the sea?

I really like Sydney for it's easily accessible beaches. Most beaches are just within the city. And the best thing is, it's clean and free! Why would anyone be stressed there right considering they have beautiful beaches to unwind after a hard's day work. Just like Botany Bay, it's so near to the airport that I even had time to chill out there just an hour before departing because it's just 10mins away from the airport!

I would really love to stay in a house with a view overlooking the sea from my bedroom. Imagine how beautiful it is to wake up everyday with a view like this?!! Truly magnificent and aweinspiring. Good life never come cheap as a simple one storey house here would set you back at least $2.5 million. Gosh!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Makan @ Alice's in Pennant Hills NSW

So what am I doing eating Malaysian food in Sydney?!! Actually I was still in a daze because I still can't believe that I actually ate "har mee" (prawn noodles) in Sydney! This place, Makan @ Alice's is a Malaysian cuisine (nyoya style) is opened by Emily's aunt in Pennant Hills which is north of Sydney. She wanted to take me here to try her aunt Alice's cooking and of course I wouldn't resist the chance!

Actually there's not many western cuisine to eat in Sydney because their national food seemed to be limited to only grilled/bbq dishes? Many of them here actually patronised the asian food outlets like Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese. Malaysian food is kinda limited and this outlet here is a 40 mins drive from Sydney CBD.

Cashier/Kuih counter....

Interior/dining area...

The whole place feels very cosy and at home. It's like dining back in Malaysia, simple and good.

Makan @ Alice's receives lots of attention in Sydney because Alice makes her own kuih (nyonya delicacies) like kuih lapis, kuih talam and pulut. She's a very hands on lady and together with her husband and family, she had run this small humble outlet for many many years! She was also featured on AFC for her specialty in Nyonya cuisine. There were many published articles about her outlet hanging on the walls as you walked in.

Har Mee - specialty of the day $10.80

Radish (Chai Tow Kuih) $10.80

She has her daily specials here. Sometimes it's Laksa, Char Kway Teow or even Nasi Lemak. Besides all these Malaysian hawker favourites, she does serve beef rendang, soft shell crabs, assam curry and other rice dishes. Prices range from $10.80 to $22.80.

She's also very famous for the desserts as she serves Ice Kacang, Sago puding, Chendol and Pulut Hitam (all at $5.50).

Ice Kacang (made by Emily herself and thus not very professional) haha...

Sago puding with Gula Melaka

Nyonya Kuih

I must say that the quality of food here is very good. This is the closest of home dishes of what you can get abroad. It tastes like the original hawker fare back in Malaysia and I'm very surprised because I thought some of the ingredients used were so difficult to get it in Sydney. At the moment I savour that bowl of Har Mee, I am still in disbelieve that I can get such a good bowl of Har Mee in Sydney. It's much better than some of the Har Mee I've had here in KL! Oh... and the portion is really big too!

Definitely a good reccomendation to come here for your fix of Malaysian food cravings if you're staying in Sydney. haha....

I still can't believe I had a bowl of RM34 Har Mee! (hits myself)

Makan @ Alice's
Shop 3 & 4, 262-264 Pennant Hills Rd,
Cnr & Entry via Bellevue St,
Thornleigh, NSW Australia 2120.
Tel: (02)9484 8288

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

This is a top recommendation from Eiling's site if you happened to be in Sydney. Don't you ever give this place a miss eventhough you might hate wet markets or better still, the fishy smell of a fish market. The Sydney Fish Market is located on Blackwattle Bay, in the Inner West Suburb of Pyrmont and it's just 2 km west of Sydney's CBD.

So, after visiting the Watson's Bay and Bondi Beach, Luke suggested that we should eat at this place. The Sydney Fish Market has a working fishing port, wholesale fish market, fresh seafood retail market, a delicatessen, a sushi bar, a bakery, a gift shop, a fruit and vegetable market, a beverage outlet, a seafood cooking school, indoor seating and an outdoor promenade for visitors. There are daily wholesale auctions for Sydney's seafood retailers.

A Pelican in front of De Costi Seafood.

De Costi Seafood shop offers very fresh seafood daily and they have such a wide array of seafood from oysters, fish, crabs, prawns, octopus, mussels and lobsters. However, Andrew was telling me that his mom used to go to Claudio's because it is cheaper. On my second trip there (in 6 days), I managed to spot a Pelican just in front of De Costi and thus wouldn't want to miss a chance snapping a photo of it.

The way De Costi arranges and merchandises its seafood is also very impressive. The place is well lit, clean and in order. I can't stop aweing at all the seafood! The varieties of fishes there were more than what I've seen in my entire life. They have fishes from salmon, cod, barramudi to swordfish! This is better than going visiting at some underwater world because here, I get to see, touch and eat all of them! How I wished we have something like this back here!

Then, Luke & I adjourned to explore the inside of the building. There were a few shops selling fresh seafood and ready to be cooked and served. I was surprised to see so many Asians here. probably the Asians like seafood better than the Aussies?

Peter's, was one of the very popular shops here. There's an array of seafood to choose from and you can buy them and cook it yourself at home or you could ask them to do it for you with an additional charge of AUD$1.00 per 100g and minimum cooking charges is $5 or 500g. This is so convenient and you get to eat them fresh at the market!

Peter's Fish Market

The sashimi counter here is crowded. Almost everyone is getting a box of sashimi and oysters. I even saw the table behind ours having a bottle of sake to go with the sashimi! What's more interesting here is that you can purchase any liqour you want from a bottle shop inside the market. There's sake, sparkling wine, red and white wine to choose from. They do provide cups as well so don't worry.

Outside sitting area

It was really a crowded place. There's an outside sitting area if you can't find a place to have your meal inside. It can be very hot outside but I guess it's an experience. One thing to watch out though - the birds! They can steal your food and better still, drop their shit on you!

I ordered a seafood platter for 1 (AUD$19.90) from Peter's and it was huge! There's two pieces of fried fish, calamari rings, 2 big prawns, 1 kilpatrick oyster, 1 cheese baked oyster, 2 mussels and a few octopuses served with lots of yummy thick fries! I learnt one thing in Australia - if it says for one, it's meant for two (for me). The portions here are just too big and I always have to waste my food.

See what I meant?!!

Luke's Fish & Chips Platter

His was worse than mine. His fish & chips for one has got 4-5 pieces of fried fish, calamari rings and heaps of fries! It was only less than AUD$15 I think. The fish were so fresh and we'll never get such good fish and chips back home at this price (if you don't multiply it by 3.15 of course!). Even being an Aussie, it was his first time here and we both loved this place. No wonder I was here on the day before I flew off to have some oysters thanks to Emily & Andrew.

Honestly, I really love this place. The food is awesome and I think the concept of fresh seafood from the ship to my plate is just great!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Botany Bay & Air Asia X

Botany Bay at Sydney

Botany Bay was actually James Cook's first landing into Australia and it marked the British's interest on the continent in 1770. And since Botany Bay is like 10 mins drive from the airport, it was very nice of Emily & her bf to take me here to chill out for half an hour before I board my first Virgin Blue flight back to Melbourne. It was really a nice bay with white sandy beaches and cool breeze in the evening eventhough the day was hot.

Sparkling wine & fresh oysters

Before we came to Botany Bay, we actually went to the Sydney Fish Market to get some Pacific oysters and some fresh fish. It was very smart of Emily to bring along 2 bottles of sparkling wine and a bucket of ice that we got free from McDonalds. The wine were perfectly chilled when we reached Botany. And there, we had a big beach towel which we used it as a mat for us to sit on while indulging in our oysters and wine.

The oysters were really fresh!

Chilling out!

Thanks to Emily and her kind bf, I managed to have a good time before flying off yesterday. At least I managed to cover a few more places like the Pennant Hills in the north where there was this awesome Malaysian restaurant called Makan@Alice and I had a bowl of "Har Mee" there!

I took Virgin Blue from T2 at Sydney International Airport to make my way to Melbourne before catching a flight back at 1.30 am on Air Asia X. Virgin Blue is a low cost carrier by Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines. It was indeed very punctual and I am impressed because they do have a in-flight entertainment where you can use by just paying AUD$4.90 and AUD$9.90 (more than 2 hours flight). Their food menu prices are just at $3.00-5.00. Virgin Blue landed in the same building as Melbourne International Airport and I just need to go up to Level 1 for international departure.

The beautiful sunlight this morning from the plane.

One thing I notice though is that people here check in really early. I was there almost 4 hours early and there were already people started lining up. Check in counter opens at 3 hours before the flight and it was about 80-90% full passenger load yesterday. Lucky I booked the Premium Promo, which is Air Asia's version of business class (minus the food and all) but with more leg space and less crowded.

Instead of 3 seats, there's only 2 seats on each row except the one in the middle. The chair can also be reclined to almost 45 degrees for the A330. I booked the Premium Promo seat on the way back because the price difference was just below RM200 and so I thought why not give it a try. It turned out to be a good choice because I really felt comfortable during the whole journey back.

Ample of leg space!

I think my journey to Australia with Air Asia X has been pleasant and I wouldn't mind flying again on Air Asia next time. It does saved me almost RM1200 for the return ticket which I used it for shopping! I might hate domestic Air Asia flights because they really sucked but so far for an 8 hours journey, it has been all fine.

Aww... I'm all back to work tomorrow! Bummer...

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