Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wasai Falls by the Weyside

When it comes to aesthetics the Japanese are true masters. Wasai is no exception with a keen eye to detail. Sleek and stylish with wooden screens, rice paper lanterns, lacquered mahogany textured tables and pretty clay soy sauce holders and an urn of seven spices creates a beautiful contemporary Japonoise setting.
We took a sake flight sampling three varieties. Edamame, soybeans in the pods are boiled in water together with condiments such as salt, and served whole. While this is customarily served with sake this is the first time I have come across this tradition which Cari says is customary having lived in Kobe for a year.

I'm happy biting into the edamame which reminds of of boiled peanuts one can obtain off the street stalls back home in Bangalore.

The girls take notes for their food reviews... and discuss the degree and depth of flavours, analysing and dissecting every bit of the meal.

Cari is excited about the Takoyaki: light, crispy octopus that is inserted into a vegetable dough ball served with Japanese BBQ sauce, mayonnaise and bonnito flakes. This was good, except the octopus was a bit tough.

This platter featured cooked tuna salad sushi rolls, California rolls with imitation roe, tuna, salmon and white snapper sashimi, prawn and veggie tempura, beef shabu shabu and age-gyoza: deep fried dumplings filled with minced pork and vegetables.

Kiku Kawa, grilled eel with rice was superb. The bottom of the dish had crusted caramelised burnt rice that the girls loved.

The best spider rolls I have eaten in ages.

Arguing over what to get - they still weren't full after all that!

Lastly, Katsudon: deep fried pork fillet with Japanese style omelette served on a bed of rice.

While the food was not bad by any measure, the fish on the evening we dined was perhaps not their finest, nor freshest, unfortunately!

Wasai Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Babanusa encapsulates the phrase Hakuna Matata

Babanusa is Australia's only Sudanese restaurant that operates truly on the precinct of the Swahili saying Hakuna Matata which translates to no worries - an Aussie trademark. These two cultures separated by sea are united by a similar carefree attitude a vital ingredient that has seen Babanusa's rising success since its opening in 1995.
The restaurant is simply one big room with a wallpapered yellow border featuring an African Safari motif that is rather immature. Dreary cream walls, impersonal, upright wooden tables and chairs with wooden panelling and detailing set a rather severe atmosphere. In addition the lighting and draft that filters in every time the door opens can be rather bothersome.
After much thought and personal trepidation over the menu, we finally made up our minds.
If your wondering why and what I was so worried about trying Sudanese cuisine, being such an avid foodie with incredible bravado, I shall tell you why. Having travelled Africa - Kenya and Zimbabwe namely Nairobi, the Rift Valley, Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, Mombasa and Mt. Kilimanjaro for over a month with my family when I was a teenager, frightening memories of horrible food still haunt me. In that entire one month I didn't have a decent meal, with the exception of one interesting encounter at the Carnivore restaurant. My ultimate meat dream featuring whole joints of meat, legs of lamb and pork, haunches of venison, rumps of beef, sirloins, racks of lamb, spare ribs and skewered kidneys as well as unusual game meats like zebra, ostrich and Crocodile.
Back to Babanusa and the Mezze platter of four different dips: Agor: cucumber with yoghurt & fresh herbs, Gara: pumpkin and peanut with spices, Aswad: eggplant with garlic and yoghurt and Fol: spicy broad beans with Kisra the traditional flat bread. The Kisra is very similar to a traditional South Indian staple called Neer Dosa which is prepared by grinding rice soaked in water to make a watery batter. The batter is poured onto a heated flat griddle and cooked similarly to a crepe. Coincidentally, Mezze the Arabic word for little dishes: hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty, or small portions of a main dish is used borrowed here in Sudanese cuisine. It is remarkable the many similarities of dishes, tastes and names with Indian and Middle Eastern origins that comprise Sudanese cuisine.

Cari thoroughly enjoyed the dips and Kisra waiting eagerly for the rest of the meal.


Before jumping into the wine list our curiosity had us wondering about the Sudanese beer on the menu. We sampled shot glasses of Sharpat made from lemon amongst other ingredients. It tasted incredibly sweet, more like port than wine. Anyways, now for some real alcohol!


We were restricted with choice of wine with only one bottle of Pirramimma Shiraz produced in McLaren Vale available. With a distinct woody maturity and lift of pepper and spices somehow it made sense with our colourful meal!

Couscous made from durum wheat semolina with Maeez: curried diced goat meat. The goat was utterly tender, simply falling off the bone, while the curry it was in was rather watery. Being Indian I am accustomed to a thicker gravy which represents more substance and character. The broth like gravy did not impress me. The couscous not only looked very unappetising but was rather dry as well.

Next up Assida or maize dumplings. Expecting little floury dumplings I was confused by the chunk of what resembled polenta to me, and even tasted like it. On the right, Dilih: beef ribs, served with tamarind sauce & baladia salad: onion, cucumber, tomato & rocket.

Amy of course had a special request for hot sauce... and she got it, red, hot and fiery!

A daring dish of grilled fish and banana marinated in lemon coconut sauce called Balti. Not a big fan of bananas in my main course it was an altogether strange, yet interesting experience. On the whole I must admit to start off with I had apprehensions about what, if anything Sudan had to offer to the world in terms of cuisine. By the end of this meal I was convinced that while Sudan is not home to any particular gastronomic wonders it does have a substantial cuisine to boast.

Ironically Sudi, the vegetarian dish was my favourite. Perhaps it had to do with the aesthetics of the dish, the presentation far more appealing. A black flat rectangular platter stacked with grilled aubergines, roasted red peppers and rocket with a peanut and cream sauce drizzled over.

Past and present members of the smoking association!
We rounded off the meal with a heart-to-heart talk with Elthahir the owner of the restaurant talking about Sudan, new beginnings, religion and food of course! Then he joined us on the drums for a jam session! All in all a wonderful evening - thanks again to the Gastro Girls!

Babanusa on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunday Sojourn to Barossa

My first weekend back from my interstate trip I made my third trip down to Barossa Valley with my friend Andrea who also lives at KLC and her colleague Susannah.
The trip was inspired by the Food & Wine Festival in the Barossa Valley that took place last weekend. (Personally speaking this is about the 100th such foodie festival I have heard about in my last seven months here Down Under so I don't get how 'special' these events are.) Although, keeping this in mind I have never actually attended a food & wine festival in Oz, so the trip was long overdue.

We started off early Sunday morning leaving North Adelaide after a pitstop for some hot coffee from Cibo at around 10.30 a.m. St. Hallet's was the first winery we visited after making the hour long drive to the Germanic wine region.

Andrea jokes about how she "just had one bottle of wine!" Did she forget to mention it was a supersized bottle though?! Andrea from Frankfurt is our resident German expert. (She is working and doing research at the Royal Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital, in case your wondering) On our trip she pointed out that the so -called Germanic architecture is not really typical of Deutcheland! Strange...

The St. Hallet's Cellar Door is sleek with a sense of modern edginess, in terms of design their interestingly displayed, using wide windows and natural lighting to their optimum. We sampled a couple of their wines, although nothing really captivated us here.

Below is a snapshot of the Jacobs Creek arch - this is an interesting point as it is a point which the Tour Down Under cyclists pass on their route! Bet you didn't know that!
Next stop: Vine Crest. Again we popped in swished wine around in our glasses, what stood out for me was a Tempranillo made from black grape varieties. The charachteristic full-body was evident although the mouthfeel and consistency seemed rather watery and flabby too me.
(I am trying my new wine vocab - so please bear with me if I don't seem to be making too much sense, I have to start somewhere right?!)

Maggie Beer's Farm Shop ~ This was truly the best part of the day! Maggie Beer is to Australia what Martha Stuart is to the United States. And Beer is very proudly South Australian. She has her own television show, several cookbooks and a range of products. The Beer Bros. Shop features a restaurant cum cafe` that overlooks a picturesque blue lake and all the produce from pate to pickles and verjuice to icecream.

We sampled the wines, a limited range with nothing spectaular. The Dessert Bubbles which is non-alcoholic is delightful and a must try!

At 2 p.m. everyday there is a cooking demonstration that we were too early for unfortunately. But a good idea to plan around if you intend on making the trip.

And there is a pheasant farm in the back that I assume are used for her fabulously delicious Pheasant Farm Pate. There are also a couple of handsome peacocks!

Seppeltsfield vineyard is one of the largest and most historic in the Barossa Valley, having been initially planted in the 1850s. A sprawling 100 hectares of Barossa valley is planted with Seppelts traditional grapes varieties Shiraz and Grenache, with Cabernet Sauvignon as well as traditional European fortified varieties of Touriga (for VP –‘vintage port” style) and Palomino (for the “sherry” styles). The Palomino is simply gorgeous. It is extremely crisp and dry with a sublte nuttiness and great finesse. I bought a bottle to go with the Lobster Bisque that will feature on my birthday menu!!!

The atmosphere at Seppelts was lively. Susannah and Andrea decided it was time to chow down after all the exhausting wine tasting!
Grilled Salmon Fillet with Squid Ink Pasta and Baby Rocket

Something sweet of course ... Brownie Mud Cake with cream
The final stop for the day was Sieber Wines, their estate situated on the red soils of Western Barossa. We chanced upon this place mainly because of Andrea's interest in the menu featured on the festival brochure that read Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Potato Salad and Pickles... she was craving a taste of home that we just had to indulge. However the sausages were dissapointing - supermarket sourced, probably Coles and the rest not worth talking about.

Australian Lamb... mmmmmmm!!!
Armed with coffee Susanah and Andrea are ready for the drive back into the city. Lil ol' me on the otherhand gulped down the latte and snuggled into the back seat for a comfy snooze!

Curry Night @ The Exeter

Come August 19 and it was back to Uni Adelaide and the unfolding of a new course: Gastronomy and Communication. This module is the most hands on in terms of dealing with food and translating the experience into appreciation on paper. Embarking on a journey studying food in art, music, film, theatre and literature we have also been given a couple of food reviews to work on. Inspired by the assignment we picked a handful of restaurants to hit up. First up the Exeter Pub and Hotel on Rundell Street, featuring curry night at approximately $15 p/h for a curry, rice and papad.
Since there were four of us girls out to dinner and five curries on the menu we opted to give the Thai Red Beef Curry a miss and decided to get the other four a share.
Jacks made photocopies of a food critiquing manual for us - which was mighty sweet!
The terrace of the Exeter is weather proofed and the view from the top is rather charming.

We opted for a bottle of Brock's Reef from the Limestone Coast, SA - duh, where else?! It was a pretty damn good bottle of Cab Merlot.

Lime pickle, Mango chutney, Raita, freshly sliced green and red chillies and some supermarket reheated Paratha.

The Seafood Tom Khaa Khai was my favourite - rich coconut gravy with mussels and prawns, the corriander prominently punctuating the creamy curry.

Thumbs down for the Goan Lamb Vindaloo in terms of it being labelled Vindaloo. Was lacking the punch and acidity that a Vindaloo offers. However as a generic curry it was tasty, but overly spicy since the masala seemed raw, hitting hard in the back of the throat.

The Mumbai Chicken Masala with cashwenuts, corriander, red chili, ginger and cinnamon was a beautiful infusion of bold flavours.
And here the tiffin of rice and the deep fried poppadoms await us to dig in.
And last but not least the Mangalore Mixed Vegetable Curry with tomato, fenugreek, paneer and cream. Lucky Cari got the one and only piece of paneer - that was a scam huh!?!
On the whole a great meal - especially since the company can't get better than this!

Exeter Hotel on Urbanspoon