Cafe Pushkin, Moscow 06-2013

One of the most mentioned restaurants in Moscow is Pushkin. The reputation is of an extremely ornate interior, high food prices, possibly the attraction of tourists and only a select group of locals. The prices aren't actually all that much compared to typical Australia ($10 entree, $20-25 mains are quite cheap given the setting) so I wasn't too fussed.

I had read about the mushroom pelmeni, but thought I'd try something more unique to the restaurant. The French-Russian cuisine wouldn't be on my food trip anywhere else. The dishes were well presented and nicely cooked. I think the flavours were fine but nothing that made the meal more memorable than other places in Russia. I suppose I preferred the things more simple and homely during that trip.

- Trout stuffed with vegetable mousse, crayfish, mushrooms and asparagus garnish;
- Cafe Pushkin dessert - a dome of chocolate and sliced almonds with an ice-cream and sponge.

Apparently I was seated in the Pharmacy, and there is a whole differently decorated section called the Library (which looks even more spectacular and has the same menu with higher prices). I suppose I would go again to enjoy that atmosphere, although the prices between my experience and now seem to have gone up by 20% and the Library menu is another 10-20% more than that. I'll have to consider...

Volkonskiy Bakery, Moscow 06-2013

A well known bakery chain with multiple locations around Moscow ( The black currant pastry was something I read in a post that gave me some good ideas for Moscow eating ( Luckily for me one of the branches was right around the corner from my cosy accommodation Apple Hostel.

It gave me a good place to find my morning breakfast before the short walk to Red Square.

Bistro Nguyen's, Canberra 08-2015

There weren't many places open to eat on a Monday night at 915pm. Most of the ANU area had shut down already and Red Chilli Sichuan wasn't taking anyone new. Across the road from it, in a prime corner of Northbourne Avenue was a new(ish) Viet place that I had heard mixed things about. Bistro Nguyen's probably brings a little hesitancy to the avid eater on paper (especially one with some familiarity with Vietnamese food) considering the prime location, the restaurant name, and the decor attempting to fuse old school Vietnamese charm in a more modern setting. The only modern Viet places I've tried are The Slanted Door (which is exceptional) and Red Lantern (which is good). There's also a chef's hat called Dandelion that I've always been interested in but never made it to. But with limited options, a few other people eating inside and the cold weather setting in, it seemed reasonable to try and see what Bistro had to offer.

The first thing that hit me walking in the door is the strong aroma of pho broth with tones of Thai basil filling the air. It was unexpected, stronger than those encountered in dedicated pho places along Victoria Street, and intoxicatingly welcoming and homely. The staff are Vietnamese too which adds some authenticity.

The menu has fun caricatures (as does a wall in the restaurant) and has all dishes with the Vietnamese name listed first. I wonder if it's to help some of the staff know what customers are ordering, but maybe there is a hidden faction of Vietnamese speakers in Canberra that I haven't come across. On a cold night the order of the day was warming comfort foods.

- Nem nuong (grilled pork mince skewers, vermicelli, salad, fresh herbs, rice paper & nuoc mam cham) $14.5 - there's essentially ingredients set out of 4 rolls - 4 rice papers pre-wet onto a platter, 4 skewers, 4 rice noodle squares etc. The meat is very good minced texture, well grilled with great aroma and taste. The nuoc mam isn't too strong and has a little hint of chilli. I think it would be better to get additional rice paper to make 6-8 smaller rolls with the same ingredients, because it gets a little messy eating fat rolls as the rice paper breaks with the moisture;
- Pho thit bo Nhat (wagyu beef sirloin 5+, brisket, tendon, beef meatballs) $16.9 - I usually get pho tai nam as my standard but the wagyu sirloin allured me. The broth has a mild medicinal edge and subtle spices but is actually satisfying and fantastic (and that's something coming from me who usually definitively prefers spiced over medicinal). The wagyu has mixed bits of raw/rare/cooked (which I like) and has good tenderness, brisket isn't overly fatty, meatballs add texture, and the tendon and tripe isn't for everybody but gives another layer (although I expect many people wouldn't be used to eating that);
- Che ba mau (red beans, jelly, mung beans, coconut syrup & crushed ice) $7.5 - they call it rainbow dessert, everywhere else calls it 3 colour drink. It's a little expensive for the bowl size (usually served in a large tall glass) but the jellies and coconut milk mix well and the ice is reasonably well blended. (To the inexperienced, shaved ice is the best for this as it dissolves upon mixing, rather than you eating large chunks of crunchy ice).

Overall I was much more impressed than expected. The menu has the classics which I certainly will come back to try - goi, bun bo hue, bun nem nuong (although I will ask them here to add bun thit nuong and banh xeo). The sharing plates do seem a little pricey ($28.5 for canh chua seems a little excessive) and the generic sauce options where you pick your own protein has never sat well with me. Additionally banh mi for $8.50 makes my face twitch but this is Canberra (and I have paid £5 for a catfish version to Banhmi11 at Broadway Market). But who knows - they could well be good. And while my Luke Nguyen, Andrea Nguyen and Charles Phan cookbooks gather dust on my shelves, I'd be happy for these Bistro guys to cook for me.

Click to add a blog post for Bistro Nguyens on Zomato

Soul Origin, Canberra 08-2015

Once upon a time I used to frequent Fitness First in Spitalfields. As much as I didn't enjoy the 10min run there, the weights, the X-trainer HIIT routine and the panting recovery on the mats afterwards, I always was happy to know I would have a good lunch on the way back. In fact the place I probably ate most frequently out of anywhere in London was probably Kastner & Ovens (

Kastner & Ovens had a fantastic range of fresh salads made and varying daily. On top of that, two daily hot foods were also on offer, and for £5.50 the option of a large box of hot food + 3 salads or 5 salads soothed my aching muscles. I often wondered if somewhere that offered high quality salads could prosper in Australia. Unfortunately I hadn't seen anywhere that did it in either Melbourne or Canberra.

Walking through Westfield Woden I noticed this new food option - lots of fresh salads, some baguettes and hot drinks. $10.90 for up to 4 salads isn't a bad deal so thought I'd try it out. My combination this day was pesto barley, signature bean mix, Mediterranean salad, chicken schnitzel salad. Other than the nicely textured chicken schnitzel (more schitzel than chicken), the rest was relatively plain. The salads are fine for a lunch, but unfortunately not K&O level. The (complimentary with lunch) soy chai latte was quite syrupy and topped with a ridiculous amount of cinnamon powder. 

Oh well, I haven't found my K&O replacement yet, but this was a step forward Australia.

Woden is also soon regaining Kingsley's chicken - I can finally try their chips soon.

Patissez, Canberra 07-2015

After the rumours, the photos and the reputed waiting times, I finally made it Patissez. I did a walkby the day before around 1pm and was told the table wait was 2.5 hours. On a Thursday 10am, it was luckily 25mins. Upon leaving at 1130, it had stretched out to 1.5hours. They take your number so you can wander around and come back (an excellent system), which means you can actually go elsewhere for a coffee first (eg. ONA), do you grocery shopping at Coles, banking or shop browsing, or laze on the lawn outside. They also do takeaway freakshakes (the wait time being approximately 25mins) if you want to sit outside and work out how to eat them cleanly.

The food menu is actually quite impressive, with promoted sandwiches (I saw one with a huge amount of pulled pork) and brunchy options, making Patissez more than just a dessert/sugar-high cafe.

- Cheeky (slow cooked beef cheeks, black eyed beans, baked egg centre, crusty bread, kale pesto, parmigiano reggiano) $19 - an excellent rendition of a baked egg/cazuela/shakshuka dish, replacing the usual smoky chorizo with soft cheeks and thus a milder tomato and bean sauce. The cheese, minimally runny egg and touch of greens added texture and flavour. I wondered why the pesto was so mild and now I see - kale, not basil. I'd prefer a traditional basil but it might overpower the dish;
- Salmon Dance $21 - the menu has changed and Sea Pea has been replaced. This dish had a reasonable grilled piece of salmon, sitting on roast potatoes, runny poached eggs, spicy chorizo, tomato, green beans and topped with tangy Hollandaise sauce.

Toward the end of the food, the freakshakes came out ($11.50 each). They are indeed a sight to behold. Interestingly the two shakes ordered on this occasion are actually served with the liquid very hot so the tops melt down and everything overflows like a cascading volcano threatening to spill onto the table.
- Muddy Pat (warm fudgy choc shake, chewy fudge brownie, more chocolate fudge, whipped cream, toasted housemade marshie) - from the top, the marshmallow is outstanding, the brownie is moist and slightly thick, the choc shake itself is remarkably mild. I don't think that's a bad thing and perhaps mixing the brownie and marshmallow into the drink will balance it out. As my usual preference, perhaps a twist of dark chocolate or coffee in the shake would make it more my taste? But each to their own;
- Salty Nutz (warm salted caramel & pecan pie shake, slathers of salted butter caramel, chewy wedge of pecan pie, vanilla bean whipped cream) - the immaculate pecan pie topped a (too me overly) sweet, buttery caramel drink.

As they do takeaway shakes, it was easy to get a cup to carry the remaining butter caramel drink home for a later time. The insides have a variety of decadent cakes of which I'd certainly like to try someday.

Overall I think the shake parts of the drinks could be thicker at the expense of serving less of it. I couldn't finish either of them and neither did any table in the area I was. Sharing one between two is probably the best way of countering this, but at the same time I think the liquid part didn't match the outstanding toppings for quality. Nonetheless the food is actually very good which makes coming to Patissez ideal for meals, photogenic drinks and overloading your day with calories. Just be prepared to wait or have some things to do around Manuka.

Next time I would order any of the food items (particularly the Cheeky again, Get Pig'd or The Field) and probably to suit my taste the French Vanilla freakshake (let's be honest, partially for the shake, partially for the photo opportunity). Otherwise one of the 'standard' shakes with banana, matcha, dates, Greek yoghurt, honey and granola sounds like something I'd order at any other place.

Click to add a blog post for Ptissez on Zomato

Fisketorget, Bergen 08-2012

The Bergen fish market was probably one of the things I was most looking forward to visiting during my trip to Norway. The other was Preikestolen but for very different reasons.

The excessive amounts of fresh, mainly local Scandinavian seafoods on offer was tremendous. Whale steaks and skewers are happily advertised, all sorts of shellfish and fresh fish, live catches and even a caviar stand where I sampled a magnificent offering. There's also a few ready to eat sandwiches but they were less exciting. Best of all, nearly everything is available to order and be cooked fresh.

The king crab leg cost me roughly AUD30, but the meat was thick and the sweetest I've ever tasted. I will go so far to say this crab I would prefer over lobster. That didn't stop me from buying my own live lobster to be grilled to complete my morning trawling.

I can't wait to go back. Given the location, it may be a while though.

Trekroneren, Bergen 08-2012

For some reason I'd been reading about a hotdog stand in Bergen. I'm not entirely sure why, but I distinctly remember reading about these little gems. Perhaps it's where the drunken go at night, similar to a Stalactites or China Bar in Melbourne. In any case I'm pretty sure there was even a post somewhere saying these were good to eat sober.

Even though the location is along one of the main walkways between my hostel and the waterside, I seemed to miss it the first few times coming past. Maybe it looked so shady that I expected something better.

Who could go past a Reinsdyr polse? Not me. It was a nice meaty thing topped with onions, the usual sauces and served in a standard white bun. Not as exciting as the MEATmarket dog, but at that point in life I hadn't discovered that yet...

Enhjorningen, Bergen 08-2012

Despite the incredible price tag on food in Norway, the actual quality of the seafood (almost) makes it worthwhile. Whilst in Bergen, I had to treat myself to one nice seafood meal and the online reading seemed to lead me toward Enhjorningen. This place translates into "Unicorn" - I'm not sure of the significance of that other than it's a pretty sounding name. The location along a line of colourful houses next to the waterside makes the area particularly nice to stroll down in the evening and nighttime.

The setting is warm, cosy and a little fine. The price point was probably reflected by the largely older (and probably richer) business-looking people willing to pay these prices. I'm sure they felt perfectly comfortable with me sitting in the corner taking photos of things.

- Hval Carpaccio (carpaccio of smoked whale from Lofoten) - unlike in Japan, these guys eat local whale as part of their natural diet. They aren't endangered and everybody seems to get along. It's an unusually flavoured meat though in this dish dressed with many different textures and toppings;
- Enhjorningen Fiskesuppe (fish soup prepared from choice fish stocks, flavoured with saffron & served with fish & shellfish) - rich beautiful coloured soup though marginally not as strong in flavour as I tend to like;
- Fiske Trio (salmon, halibut & catfish, steamed & served with two sauces) - delicate fish cooked well to tenderness and sourcream and mushroom sauces to mop up with. It came with a big load of side potatoes just in case I had any intention of remaining hungry.

Overall a nice meal and the restaurant I remember most in Norway. If you're going to blow cash in one place in Bergen, this isn't a bad option. The other alternative on my list was Boha, which has a 6 course menu.

Next time I would order the house mussel soup to try and probably the fish trio again (3 varieties is better than 1 right?).

Fyret, Oslo 08-2012

Set along the lovely open plaza of Youngstorget, situated funnily enough across from my other lunch venue in Oslo ( is Fyret. I was on the hunt for more local seafood offerings to take advantage of the Scandinavian waters and it was a beautiful sunny (although not overly warm) day to people watch and enjoy life.

- Lofot Burger (catfish burger served on bun with salad and garlic, salad dressed with shrimps, freshly steamed mussels & mustard sauce on the side. Topped with lemon, fresh dill & leek) - delicious fish burger and those little shrimps are so full of flavour;
- Panfried potatoes - flavoursome, lovely and crisp. Probably made the meal for 1 a little too large and decadent.

Next time I would order the burger meal again or try the seafood salad. Give me more seafood and shrimps.

B-One Korean Restaurant, Canberra 07-2015

For some reason I had a craving for fried chicken. Well the precise reason was I saw the $42 fried chicken platter at Public in Manuka the night before and this had caught my daydreams. Even though I could have simply gone there, the lure of Korean FC had me searching online to see if Canberra had this available. I came across two options - a blog post with a Korean flyer and a mobile for home delivery (which after calling has now relocated to Sydney) and B-One, a place in Civic.

Chicken Gourmet's fried chicken is pretty average to be honest. It's convenient and edible but not particular good. KFC has good taste but you always regret it later on. Melbourne's Gami and Da Rin are the ones I've decided must be authentic, so I was interested to see how B-One would stack up.

It's refreshing to walk in on a weekday and have the place quite full with nearly all Koreans - families, students, couples etc. Obviously they like something about the place, hopefully more than the location.

The three samples of beanshoots, tangy kimchi and savoury beancurd started things off. Jujube tea was a hot fruit drink that reminded me of plums (it's a date I've discovered). Then came the stars of the night:

- Bibimbap - a steaming hot stonebowl of ingredients with your own gochujang sauce to top with. The flavours were nice, but most impressively the bottom rice was beautifully browned crisp;
- Fried chicken - the sweet and soy versions complemented each other well. I preferred the sweet version as the soy had a little too much soy (not salty, soy) flavour. The mild quantity of sauce meant the coatings maintained excellent crunch;
- Rice cakes with beef - I bought this to takeaway for my next day lunch. The savoury version was nice and the rice cakes soft and gummy. I'd probably opt for the chilli version next time.

B-One has elevated itself to the top of my Canberra Korean restaurants list (to be the fair the only other one I've been to is Tosung in Manuka which is far from bad).

Click to add a blog post for B-One Korean Restaurant on Zomato