Sunda, Melbourne 12-2019

Another modern Asian restaurant in Melbourne showing it still is the city leading the charge. For my brief stopover to Melbourne I had actually wanted to go to Longrain. However this was chosen as a close nearby place which happened to still be open to cooking for us at 10.30pm. Mind you we had to order within a few minutes, but the short menu made that easy.

- Rock oyster, coconut curry vinaigrette, shallot, Tasmanian pepper leaf $6 ea.
- Wagyu rendang pie, pickled radish, fermented sambal $10;
- Otak otak spanner crab curry, finger lime, rice crisps $29;
- Fremantle octopus, bush tomato, lemongrass sambal, onion;
- Rangers valley wagyu, strawberry gum, carrot, sunrise lime satay $50.

The modern take is using lesser known Australian ingredients into Malaysian/Indonesian fusion. It's beautiful, expensive and pretty good overall. I can't say I would rush to go back though.

Sunda Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Karlaylisi Restaurant Uyghur Cuisine, Melbourne 12-2019

Uyghur food has been hard to come by generally but with 2 places in London and 1 in West Melbourne, I'm starting to get a feel for the food.

- Pilaf;
- Lagman;
- Qong tahsilik tohu gosh kormisi - spicy chicken pieces with vegetables and homemade noodles;
- Tripe skewers;
- Lamb kidney skewers - not a favourite for most people but I don't mind at all the chewy texture and unique taste.

I want to go back again and try the nan, manta and samsas.

Karlaylisi Restaurant - Uyghur Cuisine Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Singapore 12-2019

Maybe Monday morning wasn't the best time to go. It seems many of the stalls are closed. That doesn't mean there's any shortage of things to eat, rather that some of the ones I had read about weren't available. Oh well. At least in the pouring mildly humid rain, it was quiet and relaxing enough.

Shui Kueh was a first for me. I had read it was a perfect breakfast item and although the rice semi-spheres are very plain on their own, the sambal that gets served with it is delectable. It really turns it into something else.

There's 2 lor mee places - one was closed (which is my brother's preferred one), so tried the other with its famed fried shark nuggets. The nuggets themselves are chewy bits of fish in a thick unforgettable batter. The thick sauce and noodles were ok but really, I can't see what the fuss is about.

The main drinks/fresh soy milk place was also closed, so this was another one with grass jelly. A bit expensive but alright.

The hokkien mee and char kuey teoh ones were also closed. The way the timings of these things work or don't work sometimes.

Singapore overall wasn't particularly special for food I think.

Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, Singapore 12-2019

My brother took me to his favourite chicken rice place. The enormous hor fun also came out and initially went to the table next to us - the 2 people there were shocked about how big it was before saying it wasn't theirs. It then came to us 2, and their shock continued.

- Half soya sauce chicken rice $16;
- Beef hor fun $13 large.

It was a lot to eat. Not bad overall.

Opera Tavern, London 02-2020

 I'd known about Opera Tavern since 2012 when their Iberico pork and foie gras burger made headlines. Unfortunately they don't serve that anymore, but a half price Sunday deal got me there enjoying the Spanish fare.

- Jamon & manchego croquetas £7.5;
- Courgette flower, monte enebro & blossom honey £5.5;
- Chargrilled lamb cutlet, heritage carrot, sheep ricotta & offal meatball £12;
- Skrei cod, jamon sauce, chanterelle mushrooms & pickled iberico tomato £10.5;
- Patatas bravas £4.5;
- Cantabrian anchovies on straciatella with largueta almonds £9.5.

La Nocciola Gelateria, Tirana 01-2020

A near perfect gelateria in Tirana that I stumbled across by accident. There's nothing like gelato on a winters day.

Excellent pistachio with a perfect colour (pictured with a decent chocolate) and also unpictured hazelnut (as expected from the name). A couple of ice crystals but otherwise perfect. 100 lek per scoop is remarkably cheap.

Da Arturo Restaurant, Tirana 01-2020

A secret seafood restaurant that isn't known about by anyone except friends and locals? And apparently Italians too as our waiter said 50% of their clients are Italians from word of mouth (and because the owners are Italian). It seems impossible that after 13 years serving up what is considered the best seafood in Tirana, that there are no reviews, no listing on Google maps, and the tourists haven't found it - granted it is maybe also that Albania still hasn't been fully discovered I don't think. And it's a beautiful thing.

Our Airbnb host told us roughly how to find it. Forget Fishop and Fishland and go there instead. On Google map now it is located behind Bar Cafe Tuneli in a passageway with a door that advertises a travel agency. From the main streets you can either turn off Rruga George W Bush at Cafe Aroma or from Rruga Myrtezim Kellici and go straight into the passageway rather than following the road.

As my father went in and made a reservation, they asked him how he knew about the place. They must have been bemused. We went back for dinner the following evening. Luckily our young male waiter spoke broken English, enough to ask questions and order, although not quite enough for us to order properly. Sometimes when two dishes were offered and we wanted one, we got both anyway. In the end even though we wanted just seafood, there seemed to be a good insistence that we try the local Albanian dishes (which would otherwise have been fine had we not already had them before and really just wanted seafood rather than to fill up on those).

Nonetheless it was a grand feast in a simple setting. Warm bread rolls started the evening.

- Marinated artichokes;
- Radish leaves;
- Fergese (blurred in the photo background);
- Cuttlefish, squid and octopus in tomato sauce. Apparently spicy but not really for our palate;
- Pasta like small macaroni but a bit mushy, served with beans and clams;
- Ring pasta much better and slightly al dente, with a good savoury fish that had texture almost like meat;
- Cuttlefish, squid and octopus grilled. Enjoyed this much better than the tomato based version as the charred flavours and unique textures came through. The olive oil was perfect to mop up with a touch of salt and some bread;
- A cutlet of dentice (described as a big fish) was firm and a bit dry;
- A fillet of soil fish was soft and served in a butter sauce. Delicious;
- Sorbet and some fruit finished off the meal.

I was keen on the fish soup, but we didn't end up having any. Similarly they were initially going to serve us 2-4 bits of each fish and we had to tell them not to. We were simply too full.

It isn't cheap by any means, particularly for an Albanian restaurant. Nonetheless 10200 lek (€83) to feed 4 of us more than we could handle is pretty good in the overall scheme of seafood eating life.

Ejona, Tirana 01-2020

For the last meal before our transport to the airport, a local nearby Italian restaurant seemed a good idea. In our area of Blloku, all located within a few minutes walk was Vila Golosa (but looked a bit fancy) and Ejona (which also looked nice but more staple). We were the only people eating at the early time of 17.15pm on rainy Sunday.

Warm olive bread with olives and grassy EVOO and a small bowl of pumpkin soup were the complimentary starters.

- Antioxidant salad (wild cabbage, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, baked chickpeas, cereals, aceto balsamico cream) 400 lek;
- Volcano salad (caciocavallo cheese, spinach, pomegranate, sesame, dry grape, cherry tomatoes, cereals, aceto balsamico cream) 450 lek;
- Tagliatelle with beetroot (truffle cream, champignon mushrooms) 420 lek;
- Tagliatelle with spinach (red & green peppers, sliced almonds, chicken fillet, curry) 480 lek;
- Ravioli stuffed with ricotta, spinach cream, walnut muscat, grana padano (gorgonzola, ricotta, spinach) 420 lek.

The salads were fresh with excellent ingredients including the creative cheese bowl. The pastas were a bit more average with the truffle cream and ravioli having very strong flavours, and the "curry" sauce a bit unusual. Nonetheless cheap and tasty.

Oda Restaurant, Tirana 01-2020

It's nice and reassuring when a place you've read about online is also recommended by the Airbnb host and walking tour guide separately. After the very informative and quite tragic history of Albania's communist dictatorship, it was a pleasant change to walk past the many smiling faces of restaurant staff along Rruga Luigj Gurakuqi enticing us to sample the grilled meats on offer. Indeed if we were staying in that area or had a spare meal, I would definitely have gone there.

It was surprising to find Oda so empty during lunchtime. Maybe because it's a tiny bit difficult to find as the entrance is off the main road. Or maybe people seek it out but end up in the meat places instead.

- Fergese (cottage cheese, peppers) 360 lek - cottage cheese with delicious colourful peppers. Simple and eaten beautifully with the bread that resembled more of a scone or cake with nice crust;
- Lamb cooked in wooden stove (300g) 700 lek - very soft meat and strong flavour;
- Village chicken cooked in wooden stove 1500 lek - a whole chicken which was a bit chewy but not dry at all. Probably because it's been running around making full use of its life. It had a delicious natural flavour.

There's plenty of other dishes I wanted to try - stuffed eggplant, head of lamb, maybe even lamb innards - but those will have to wait until next time. Although I'd have to get through the street restaurants first I think.