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Munich & Budapest Recommendations Needed

Was just in Munich for a few days and can suggest the following.

Der Pschorr was okay but nothing special and comparatively expensive. The Sauerbraten was just good. Missing from your list is an afternoon trip to Andechs Monastery. The Schweinhaxe there is the best in Munich IMHO with an amazing crackling. The sides aren't that good but the pork is worth it. Great beer too and a very nice ambiance on the massive beer garden/terrace/balcony.

Jul 11, 2012
dgilks in Europe

[Brugge] Hertog Jan

Let me start by saying that my high end experience is limited. I've done Cinc Sentits in Barcelona, Marque and Becasse in Sydney, Benu in SF and that was about it. Tonight I visited Hertog Jan in Brugge.

On the whole, the experience is fantastic. The food is very good, the wine choices are good and the service is solid. What confused me most about this experience though is what the difference is that makes a 3 star restaurant. Benu strikes me as a solid 2* but the food and wine was as interesting as Hertog Jan and so was Cinc Sentits (a 1*). Perhaps I misunderstand the way that Michelin works.

For me the food was very good.

The first amuse of goose liver parfait in a coca cola and liquorice meringue was exceptional. A beautiful mouthful which was crunchy, creamy, tart, luscious and more. The perfect start.

The potato crisp with curry mayonnaise and salt was also good.

Avocado with tomato powder and olive oil was confusing. The tomato overpowered the delicate avocado and olive oil. This didn't really work.

Gazpacho with olive and basil was nice. A clean, sharp continuation of the meal. That said, it was unoriginal and quite basic.

Pork head with mustard and lentils intrigued me but failed to deliver. As much as I wanted to love this, the dressing was overly acidic and covered up the natural flavor of the pork. By itself, the lentil purée was nice but the dish didn't come together.

The final amuse of potato purée, coffee, vanilla and mimolette was inspired. The vanilla works brilliantly with the cheese and this really was a triumph.

The first course was radish with young herring and lemon. I quite liked the combination with the lemon being very good. That said, after the gazpacho and pork head, I was getting sick of the high levels of acid and salt in every dish.

Vegetables, herbs, flowers was a stunning dish. The vegetables were all fabulous and well cooked or not as the case may have been. A stunning way to show off the great produce. The Croatian grapevine worked well here.

The "sushi" of cured salmon with burnt cucumber and sushi rice creme was very tasty and playful. Though, like most dishes, I found it a it salty. The combinations all worked well together.

Beets with goose liver and cherry seemed less well executed. Sure, there were nice favors on the plate but I don't think they all worked amazingly well. The liver and beet root was good, as was the liver with cherry but the whole thing seemed a bit too sweet.

The final main of Lozere lamb was very good. Shards of dry, crispy lamb shoulder were unique and a slow cooked and lacquered lamb neck were fantastic. The prime cut loin was less impressive but the whole dish worked and the Beyerskloof Pinotage was nice.

The desserts were mixed. The predessert was a single flower. This was a pretty ballsy move really but it was nice.

The green tea, sorrel and pistachio was okay. Nothing special really but nice enough as a sweet.

Cranberry, yoghurt and marscspone was similar. A good combination but a little one dimensional. Interestingly, there was a lot of meringue in the meal. It was as if it was the flavor of the moment and Gert couldn't get enough of it.

Chocolate, hazelnut and caramel was nice. Appropriately playing the role of the chocolate dessert. There was quite some bitterness to the caramel here. My one other criticism is that the desserts only had one wine pairing. A sweet Gewurtraminer from Catalunya. I honestly felt that it needed a different pairing for the chocolate as it didn't really work there.

The set of petit fours with the coffee was generally good though the sesame, ponzu and milk chocolate praline was awful.

On the whole, the meal was very good. I'm not sure it was many steps ahead of the likes of Marque in Sydney or Benu in SF but it is very good. Gert is certainly a talented chef and his use of vegetables is very good, I was just looking for that little bit of magic that makes a 3* restorant and I don't think it was quite there m

Jul 10, 2012
dgilks in Europe

Marque {Sydney}

I had the pleasure of dining at Marque last night and thought I would share a few thoughts.

The menu has evolved significantly in the last 18 months with Mark Best moving to more clearly put his stamp on the food. The delectable Chaud Froid Egg is now gone and the menu flows in a really unusual way with lighter and heavier, sweet and savoury dispersed throughout the meal rather than in the more classic light to heavy order.

The meal now starts with a wonderfully textural amuse of cured bonito, foie gras custard and truffle sandwiched between two fantastically crisp wafers of potato. At once it is salty, creamy, crunchy, soft, firm and everything in between. A wonderful way to start the meal.

The first course is the signature Almond Jelly with Blue Swimmer Crab, Almond Gazpacho, Sweet Corn & Avruga. This dish is all about the texture and while every element was delicious I found the almond overwhelmed the delicate crab.

W.A Marron with Tomato & Tomato Leaf was next. This is a ballsy dish with the wonderful marron accompanied by nothing other than tomato. A tomato and marron jelly was deep and almost smoky, the tomato sorbet worked well to add a temperature contrast and a piece of tomato heart added interesting texture and flavour.

The next course, Blackmore Grain Fed Wagyu with Dill Cucumber, Mustard, Garlic & Pickle Water, was one of the most playful dishes on the menu and also one of the most evocative. The unctuous thin slice of wagyu sirloin was reminiscent of a fine, cured salmon while the use of dill and pickled cucumber only served to enhance that feeling. In fact, at times the dish almost felt like it was a really good gravlax. At other times, the mustard fed in with the pickles and beef to give the sensation of a rarified pub burger. All in all, a highly successful dish and one that was both technically and intellectually brilliant.

Dutch Cream Potato with Bone Marrow, Sea Urchin & Coffee could almost have been served as a dessert in much the same way as some people request Robuchon's pomme puree for dessert. This is creamy, rich and sensuous with the perfectly cooked Dutch Creams being toothsome and full of flavour and then covered with a silky, smooth creamy sauce infused with bone marrow and studded with more marrow and a small amount of sea urchin. While the sea urchin and coffee seemed a little lost, this hardly mattered as the overall picture of a deconstructed mashed potato was excellent.

The next course was lighter in the form of Murray Cod with Brown Butter, Finger lime, Spinach and Lardo. The fish was perfectly cooked with a thin layer of lardo on top adding to the incredible richness and depth imparted by the brown butter. The spinach and nori added earthiness and the finger lime provided a wonderful, sharp acidity to the dish.

The bread service now takes place at this unusual point of the meal with the house sourdough and rye-caraway loaves being offered with the house made salted butter. Both are excellent and I was told the timing is such that the bread can be had with the egg that follows.

The final savoury course was a whole Smoked Duck Egg with Charred Cherry, Pepper and Leek Ash served with Duck Liver parfait with Sea Blight and Quinoa. The duck egg was as unctuous and soft as could be with the rich ness of the yolk pairing really well with the charred cherry and lots of sharp pepper. The parfait was served with small tendrils of bright, fresh, sea blight adding a nice textural contrast and a wonderfully thin quinoa crisp. The main let down with this dish was the imbalance between the amount of egg and cherry where more cherry was needed to help provide contrast.

I chose to do the cheese course which was Brunet with Button Mushroom, Orange and Cocoa. The Brunet is a soft, creamy goat's cheese from Northern Italy which was served warm on a lightly spiced shortbread with wafer thin slices of button mushroom and a dusting of cocoa. The cheese and shortbread were a magic combination with the orange and cocoa while the mushroom seemed to serve no purpose being both flavourless and almost textureless.

The first dessert was Beetberries with Liquorice, Quark and Blueberries. The combination of small balls of beetroot that had barely been cooked and then macerated with strawberries and served with blueberries, a beetroot and liquorice infused quark cheese and beetroot sorbet was clever with the beetroot itself providing an unusual earthy note to the dessert which worked well with the liquorice and providing an unusual sort of crunch for a dessert. The wine served with this course was a delightfully fresh and tart Shobbrook 'Nouveau' Mourvedre which played really well with the elements on the plate.

The final course was a Chocolate truffle with Malt, Banana, Coffee and Parsley. The chocolate truffle was almost halfway between a ganache and raw cookie dough and was pleasantly bitter. The malt added some depth and a pile of nitrogen frozen banana pearls added contrast. This was served with Seppeltsfield 'Tokay Cellar N6' dispensed from a cream charger to add some lightness to the drink.

To finish, the signature Sauternes Custard was served and I think I sits nicely at the end of the meal rather than its previous position as a pre-dessert. It rounds out the meal nicely and due to the way the menu flows, it doesn't really need that pre-dessert to make it work.

The only other disappointment was the disappearance of the petit fours which used to accompany the coffee. Fortunately, there was a small stash of salted butter caramels which the staff were happy to raid for me but the lack of the Campari bonbon was a small disappointment.

All in all, Marque deserves its place at the top of Australia's culinary world alongside others such as Quay and Attica. The menu is well constructed and the unusual flow works really well. The kitchen's skill with both protein and vegetable is very high and Chef Best's ability to create unusual flavour combinations continues to be displayed at the highest level. Added to that is that fact that his menu is one of the most reasonably priced in the country making Marque one of my favourite restaurants in Australia at the moment.

Jan 27, 2012
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

[Belgium] Hertog Jan or De Karmeliet

All

I will be visiting Belgium soon and am looking at my options so far as fine dining goes. I will already be dining at In de Wulf as I would like to support the up and coming chef there and the hotel serves as a good base for exploring the breweries of Flanders.

However, I would also like to try one of the 3 stars (or something else if there are better restaurants) and am tossing up between Hertog Jan and De Karmeliet. Both look good based on their websites, though I note that Hertog Jan is a fair bit cheaper which provides its own attraction. To add further context I will be dining solo.

Does anyone have experience with these two restaurants? Is the additional cost of De Karmeliet worth it?

Thanks

Jan 06, 2012
dgilks in Europe

Dress Code for Melbourne and Sydney Restaurants; Tipping

Given that we are talking about wages for waitstaff in the order of $18 to $25 a hour (and possibly more), I don't see how tips can be justified. It's not like they are earning less than $5 an hour and it is a (relatively) unskilled occupation.

Aug 18, 2011
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

San Francisco Thoughts

So, I'm in SF as a solo traveller. I'm only here for a few days but I'm mostly focussed on the beer rather than trying to be the bottomless stomach.

Anyway, here are my thoughts,

Incanto was great. The Lamb's Heart Tartare was really well balanced, the Calamaretti Nero was tasty. The sweetbreads were revelatory and the duck liver was great. I was also impressed with their bread service and the wine/beer options.

While I had planned to head to Atelier Crenn, events conspired against me and I was later convinced by a chef friend to simply visit NOPA after a few drinks at Toronado. The fennel sausage at NOPA was excellent and the burger was very good;

Finally, I visited Benu. Chef Lee's food really appeals to my Australian palate with the Asian flavours adding depth and complexity. The service was also good and the wine service from Young Ha "Sommelier" is excellent.

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Jul 03, 2011
dgilks in San Francisco Bay Area

High End Solo Dining

I'll be in SF for three days in July and am looking for an option for a good high end dinner on one night. I'm travelling by myself so a restaurant that caters well to solo diners would be nice. I also like the idea of a tasting menu for the "big meal". I like my food to be fun, occasionally challenging and for it to be something a bit differnet.

Options I have been considering are Coi and Benu but I'd love your recommendations.

For another meal, I am considering Commonwealth and Incanto. I'd also love your recommendations for other meals that may be less pricey but equally suited to a solo diner.

Cheers!

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

May 23, 2011
dgilks in San Francisco Bay Area

Best Meat Pie in Australia?

I think you are referring to Flute Bakery at Fyshwick. Also good is Crust at the Fyshwick Markets. Cornucopia in Braddon is good as well.

Apr 30, 2011
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Rogue Chocolate Stout

Try Brasserie Dieu du Ciel's Aphrodisiaque Stout. Their Peche Mortel is slightly less sweet and chocolately but also very good.

Mar 02, 2011
dgilks in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Reservation Strategy for The French Laundry

I will be in San Francisco later this year and would really like to eat at TFL. I know that reservations open up 2 calendar months in advance but am trying to figure out exactly when and what the best method is. I have seen that oven when I look at dates exactly two months away, OpenTable shows no tables available. Does TFL limit the number of tables available through OpenTable (eg, Do I have to ring up?) or do I literally need to get onto OpenTable at 12:01am 2 months before to score a table?

Thanks for your help.

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The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Feb 25, 2011
dgilks in San Francisco Bay Area

Great food, price not an object, but we have a (well behaved) 4 year old with us (various cities)

Ahh, how could I forget about Silo. The service is a bit gruff but the breads, cheese, wood-fired pizza and tarts are all amazing.

Dec 26, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Great food, price not an object, but we have a (well behaved) 4 year old with us (various cities)

I'll comment on Canberra. At the better end you have a few options all of which will accommodate a well behaved child. These recs all came in the top 5 in this year's Canberra Times restaurant of the year.

Italian & Sons - Semi casual joint right next to the city with great Italian food from their wood over. They offer some interesting appetisers, a few carefully chosen pastas and salads and a single, daily entree from their wood fired oven. Obviously the pastas and salads are also available in entree sizes.

Pulp Kitchen - This is a great neighbourhood restaurant that took out restaurant of the year last year. The food is creative and probably to most innovative in Canberra (though that isn't saying much). The setting itself is not fine dining which may make you more comfortable taking your daughter but the restaurant is located in a residential suburb about 5 or 10 minutes by taxi from the city centre.

Rubicon - This is a perennial favourite of mine for good food in a fine dining room. The service is pretty good for Canberra and they have a decent wine list as well as a tasting menu option if that suits you. The chef has taken on some Asian influences in his otherwise European food. The restaurant is also located in a residential suburb about 15 to 20 minutes drive from the city centre.

If you are in the city during the day and are after some great coffee head up to the Lonsdale St Roasters on Lonsdale St near the city for some amazing coffee roasted on-site and one of their fantastic panini or canolo.

Dec 26, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Three weeks in Australia

Price points are going to help here as well. It's hard for us to know what you consider to be cheap, reasonable and expensive for a meal.

Dec 18, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Melbourne restaurants

It's worth remembering that Hellenic Republic is George Colombaris' 2nd tier restaurant which does less innovative, more classical food.

Dec 05, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Oamaru, Dunedin, Te Anau

I wasn't just commenting on the restaurants. To be fair, I was there in winter but I think that Te Anau had a lot to offer in terms of anything and certainly there is more in Queenstown.

Nov 26, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Oamaru, Dunedin, Te Anau

I was recently in all of these places and have a few ideas.

Oamaru is small and doesn't have a lot but 30 minutes away is Moeraki (even smaller) where you will find Fleur's Place. This is pretty much a must visit restaurant with some great cooking built around fantastic local product.

I was only in Dunedin for a night so my experience is limited but if you want a nice pub to spend a few hours in the evening Albar near the Octagon was great with good beer and decent small plates available.

Te Anau is awful for food. It's basically a stopping off point for Milford Sound and I think you are better off spending more time in Queenstown and doing a day trip (by coach) to Milford Sound rather than spending time in Te Anau.

Nov 21, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

what is a "long red chilli" in Aussie/Kiwi recipes?

It's also worth noting that the Australian definition of mild is significantly hotter than the North American definition of mild. These aren't banana peppers by any means.

Oct 14, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Hi. My son is in Brisbane for a semester abroad. I've been e-mailing him recipes. But .....

Aldi supermarkets carry a smoked pancetta which while not quite the same is fairly good at being both smoky, bacon-like and crisp. That may be worth a shot. Unsmoked pancetta and proscuitto are readily available.

Oct 13, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

what is a "long red chilli" in Aussie/Kiwi recipes?

It depends whether you are using the seeds or not. Obviously they're not as hot as a bird's eye chilli but they still pack a bit of punch with the seeds and membrane in.

Oct 13, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

what is a "long red chilli" in Aussie/Kiwi recipes?

A Fresno chilli probably isn't far off. Possibly a combination of Serano and New Mexico chillies could work as well. Alternatively, try a Thai or SE Asian grocery as they may stock the types of chillies more commonly found in Australia (which tend to be SE Asian types of chilli).

Oct 08, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

What to eat during three days in Sydney?

The Lord Nelson is still worth visiting if you like good beer as their house made beers are excellent. Hart's Pub (also in The Rocks) has some good craft beers on tap and does some very good pub food (though not as good as The Four in Hand).

I really enjoyed The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills for breakfast and Chairman Mao's does great Hunanese in Kensington.

Sep 15, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

The Local Taphouse [Sydney]

Definitely worth it for the drinks. On this trip we hit a few of the good craft beer bars in Sydney (Redoak, the Lord Nelson, Harts Pub and The Local) and The Local Taphouse was the pick for drinks and for its buzzing atmosphere.

May 20, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Heading to montreal, any must try brews??

Get yourself to Brasserie Dieu du Ciel and try anything but especially Peche Mortel (A coffee infused Imperial Stout). I've also heard good things about Brouhaha, Le Saint-Bock, Les 3 Brasseurs and Le Cheval Blanc.

May 19, 2010
dgilks in Beer

The Local Taphouse [Sydney]

Apologies in advance for the length of this review, I do hope it helps some of you though.

I was up in Sydney yesterday and stopped in at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst for dinner. We went with their Beer & Food Matching Banquet at $48 a head including matched beers.

Overall, it was a mixed experience. Individually, the courses and beers were good but put together in the way they were, it was a repetitive and uninspiring meal.

We started off with some very good marinated olives with bread and a decent olive oil. The first real course was a dish of Abondigas in a fairly spicy, tomato based sauce. The dish was unbalanced with the chilli dominating. It was also slightly annoying that there was an odd number of meatballs on a plate designed to be split between two. The beer match was Trumer Pils which while okay, could not stand up to the flavours.

The next course was a nice, crispy school prawn dish with chilli salt and a chilli aioli. The dish was paired with Little Creatures Pale Ale. The prawns themselves were fine, though not as good as those I've had previously at Cumulus, Inc in Melbourne. The beer match again failed to fire with there being no significant synergy between the items.

The next dish was a Hoegaarden cured gravad lax paired with Hoegaarden witbier. This was okay but the lightly flavoured, subtle salmon was dominated by the lingering chilli from the last two dishes. The beer match here was the most successful of the evening with the lightly tart, citrussy wheat beer playing off nicely with the slightly oily salmon.

The final savoury course was a spicy, pork rib paired with Budvar lager. Again, we get a heavily chilli dominated dish paired with a lightly flavoured lager which fails to accentuate anything. I get the feeling that the kitchen really isn't trying with these dishes as they lack and sort of subtlety. On the positive side, the ribs are literally falling off the bone.

The dessert course is a Chocolate Mousse made with porter and served with 5 Islands Brewing Bulli Black Porter. The mousse itself was acceptable if unremarkable with an odd garnish of basil and under-ripe blackberry. This was the worst beer pairing of the night. I normally like dark, malty beers with chocolate desserts but the Bulli Black was too dry and failed to complement the food.

If there was a running theme through this meal it was a sense that the menu was disjointed and not well thought out. Even for this spicy food lover, the overdone chilli in a majority of the course was off-putting. There was no flow to the meal and this was also reflected in the beer choices which appear to be aimed not at showcasing the possibilities but at using the cheapest beers available and hoping they at least weren't awful. The rich, spicy food being served called for hoppier beers and in some cases maltier beers. I had the pleasure of trying a number of beers after dinner which I felt would have been better matches (Feral Hop Hog IPA, Flying Dog Horn Dog Barleywine, Red Hill Harvest Ale, Murray's Punch & Judy).

The last problem for the evening was the service. The Local Taphouse has two seatings. We were part of the first seating and knew that our table had to be free by 8pm. While the service was generally friendly, it was a bit slow (easily 10 minutes between courses) and thus we being rushed to finish our last two courses so they could have the table.

Overall, a meal where the whole was worse than the components. The value probably isn't quite there and the kitchen really needs to think more about the combinations they use. I'll be back for the beer but would be wary of letting this kitchen guide the menu.

May 16, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

How to Brew Small-Batch Beer in Your Kitchen

@bvandy - While I agree with most of what you say, the water:grist ratio is not that important. I personally prefer something around the 1.35qts/lb mark but when doing a Brew-in-a-Bag as is demonstrated here, you do not sparge and thus need the thinner mash to get your volumes.

May 05, 2010
dgilks in Features

Mornington Peninsula eats

If you are in Red Hill head to the Red Hill Brewery. Their beers are some of the best in Victoria, if not Australia. They also do some half-decent food.

Jan 20, 2010
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

best brekkie in melbourne?

Cumulus, Inc on Flinders Lane should be a safe bet. The coffee is good and while I haven't had breakfast there, the lunch I had was very good so I expect breakfast to be up there too.

Dec 28, 2009
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

Sydney Degustation Options for 21st Birthday

Thanks for the advice (You too, PhilD). Was your special occasion meal at Becasse the standard degustation menu or was it something else?

Dec 27, 2009
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand

ISO Westy 12/Westvleteren 12 beer in Niagara or Toronto

Your best bet is going to be Ebay or a specialist online retailer Cracked Kettle or BelgianBeerShop. Expect to pay up to $35/bottle plus shipping. There is no way you will find it legitimately imported in Ontario.

Dec 26, 2009
dgilks in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sydney Degustation Options for 21st Birthday

Hi,

I am trying to pick a restaurant for a dinner (just 3 of us) for my 21st in September. We are thinking that we will do a degustation menu at a Sydney restaurant. At the moment, I am thinking Marque, Tetsuya's or Quay but I am open to other suggestions. While the food is of utmost importance, we will probably choose the matched wine pairing with the meal (where available) and so the quality of that is fairly important too. The price is not really an issue as we are looking to spend up to the $1000 for the 3 of us.

In terms of my tastes, I am open to most things. I am fascinated by different, seemingly odd flavour combinations and am not averse to El Bulli style molecular gastronomy (especially if it is done well).

Thanks in advance for your help.

Dec 26, 2009
dgilks in Australia/New Zealand