Orientai – Brighton

Today on the Dining Diairies…

I play “find the beef cheek”
Diners envy takes a strong hold and…
Good company and wine trumps average food….

ls.jpgDiners today we were at Orientai on Brighton rd in Hove.
Now diners I have been to Orientai many times however it’s probably been at least two years since my last visit.
Previously, I had never had a bad experience here. I’d always found the food to be good and the restaurant to be full.

Maybe it was for that reason that expectations were fairly high. I was out with a couple of girlfriends and we just wanted to have a fun night out gossiping and enjoying some good food.

The interior of the restaurant hasn’t changed too much from memory. It’s fairly clean with dim lighting giving it a minimalist modern feel. The shades were put up so we had views outside and it felt good to be in there.

We were greeted by friendly staff and soon found our table and the laughs started pretty much right away.

We ordered a couple of entree’s to share and some drinks while we pondered what we were going to have for our mains.

The staff were pretty helpful in explaining a few things on the menu that we were a little unsure about.
The server also told us that they were fairly busy and the kitchen was chaos. I looked around the dining room and it didn’t seem overly busy to me but maybe they were understaffed.

We chose the Chicken Spring Rolls – Vermicelli noodles & finely chopped vegetables, served with sweet & sour sauce and the Steamed Prawn & Chive Dumpling – Served with mild red curry sauce or spicy soy sauce which conveniently came in serves of three.

The spring rolls were out first.

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I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bad spring roll and this was no exception. The spring roll itself was thick and crispy and you could actually taste the chicken inside! I could also taste the vermicelli noodles which just balanced everything in your mouth nicely. Unfortunately after a few bites, it was all gone! The dipping sauce had a bit of a barbeque sauce taste to it. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be like that. It wasn’t unpleasant.
I should also add that salad was beautifully dressed. It had quite a zing to it!

The dumplings came shortly after and they were also quite a sensation.
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These were really delightful taste explosions in the mouth! They were pretty spicy inside but that sauce just added extra depth. I was surprised to read it was a curry sauce on the menu because it tasted a little “fruity” to me but I really enjoyed it and was really looking forward to our mains.

Unfortunately this would be the one time when I wasn’t too thrilled about the food here…

I was eyeing off a couple of items on the menu and one of them had a little symbol next to it, however the menu didn’t tell me what the symbol meant. I asked the server and she said it meant it was “popular”. Well surely you can’t go wrong with a popular dish right? So I went ahead and ordered the Black Bean Beef Cheeks – 5 hours slow braised beef cheeks served with green beans & capsicum

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I would have raved about this dish if I had actually got some beef cheeks on the plate. What I got was a hunk of fat and a couple of fork fulls of beef. What I did eat was really very nice, but it was about one quarter meat (being generous) and three quarters inedible fat.
I wanted to cry.
The vegetables were lovely. The sauce was a little salty however when I mixed it with the rice we ordered it was really very delicious.
I have to wonder what the kitchen thought of my dish coming back with a hunk of fat on the plate though. I know if that was MY restaurant, I’d be terribly embarrassed and looking to compensate the diner in some way.

One of my fellow diners ordered the Crispy Prawns – Wok tossed with capsicum, mushrooms &roasted cashew nuts. Mmmmm Sounds delicious right? I almost went for this myself just to get the cashew nuts!

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It looked…. ok… when it came out. There wasn’t a lot of  “wow” about it and although there wasn’t anything “wrong” with it, it wasn’t that great. It also looked a lot smaller than a lot of the other plates that were coming out of the kitchen.

The other dish that was ordered was the Thai Basil Noodle (hot) Yellow noodles with chicken, basil and seasonal vegetables

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Again this didn’t look super impressive when it came out. As the person who ordered this dish didn’t like coriander, I scored it. Yum.
She said however that it was not as “hot” as expected. When you put “hot” on a menu, you expect it to be hot right? She also couldn’t really taste the basil which is surprising as it’s on the menu. However she said it was all ok, just not something she would rave about.

I’d also like to mention that the staff were pretty lovely even though they said they were run off their feet and the restaurant seemed pretty  empty this particular night.

We did see some really lovely dishes coming out that looked a lot fuller than the ones we’d ordered and I had to wonder what they were.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been here many times and this was definitely not up to par with my past experiences. I really hope it was a once off or maybe it was just the dishes we’d ordered?
I’m sure I’ll dine here again but probably not in a hurry….

 

Have you been to Orientai?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below…

Till next we chow….

Himeji Restaurant

Today on the Dining Diaries…

Beautiful memories of Japan resurface,
Slight horror at realising shoes were going to have to come off and
Waiting a long time for our meals benefits us as staff proactively offer us a selection of desserts for our patience!

DSC03909.jpgDiners today we were at the lovely Himeji Restaurant on Grote st, in Adelaide’s CBD.

What a little gem of a place this is. Walking in we were immediately hit by amazing aromas. The restaurant was full and there was a lively atmosphere happening.

I’d been so excited to come here, especially after looking through their website and seeing how passionate the chef was about the food and wanting to bring a true Japanese experience to the people of Adelaide.

fullsizerenderWe were a party of four tonight and were ushered into a room that had two tables in it.
I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps something to do with the flooring, but we had to take our shoes off in this room.
They supply a little side cupboard for diners (pictured right, next to the chair) to keep their shoes on. Luckily, none of us seemed to have stinky shoes otherwise it could have been a bit awkward!!

While the male folk perused the menu, we women went for a little walk and I was impressed by how authentic this restaurant was, at least by appearances.


I’ve been to Japan twice in the last two years and this really did seem like the type of place I could walk into in Tokyo.

I’m not sure if it was the room we were tucked away into, or if it was due to the “busy-ness” of the night but the waiter seemed to take a very long time to come back and take our order. We decided to share a few things to get a good idea of the type of food they served.
Although our room was small, it was all closed off and we found ourselves competing to be heard with the nearby table. It didn’t really take away too much from our experience but I definitely will ask to be seated somewhere else when I visit here again.

Not only did we wait a long time for our waiter to take our order, but it was well over an hour before the first food came. I noticed that the same thing happened to the other table that was sharing our room.
We weren’t complaining about it and in fact, as they brought our first dishes out, the wait staff apologised and said they’d spoken to the manager and were going to be offering us a selection of desserts at the end of our meal.

How lovely was that!! We hadn’t even complained and we didn’t even look grumpy! They proactively noticed a situation and offered something to make it better. Big ticks to you Himeji!

When our first dishes came out, Gyoza (pan fried dumplings), we couldn’t help but rip into them. We were just so ravenously hungry.

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It’s true, things do taste better when you’re starving and these were just so amazing! They were very fresh and still very hot! Lovely soft yet slightly crisp outer with beautiful tasty goodness inside.
I ate my share way too fast and could only hope the next dishes were going to be coming out very soon!

When hubby and I were in Japan we really wanted to try authentic Ramen. What we had at Himeji was slightly different to what we had in Japan but that could be due to the meat in the dish we ordered.

Tonight I had Hakuryu – Himeji Original HAKATA Tonkotsu Ramen – Himeji original Tonkotsu soup which has been cooked for more than 8 hours, resulting in a creamy broth. Served with very thin straight noodles. With toppings of half boiled egg, pork loin, bean sprouts, wood ear mushroom, and spring onion. Flavoured with a dash of garlic oil.

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Everything I ate was tasty and I just love noodles however I found the broth to be too fatty. Now that’s probably the way it supposed to be and something I just wasn’t aware of? I can’t remember eating ramen like this in Japan, however the flavours were definitely Japanese and I did mostly enjoy this dish.
There was a very strong pork taste throughout and you can tell that a lot of care had been taken in the cooking process.

Hubby decided to go for a Bento Box so that he could sample a few different things.

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It looked quite impressive when it came to the table! There was also a soup that came with it that I wasn’t able to capture in the photo.
You can see hubby’s hand protectively near the plate, anxious to dig in as soon as the photo is taken!

As per the menu description, this was the SHOGUN Dinner Bento Box – Sashimi / sushi roll / cold noodles / Karaage chicken / Gyoza / Takoyaki / Japanese omelette / Agedashi Tofu/ Miso soup / choice of Teriyaki Salmon rice or Eel rice

This dish proved to be a winner with lots of selections. I tried a few of the items on there and again thought everything had been made fresh and was bursting with flavour. My particular favourite was the Gyoza (As per our entree) and the Teriyaki Salmon rice! What I loved most were the different flavours. Spices and herbs that I wasn’t used to and just couldn’t pick. I could have had a plate full of that rice alone!

The waiter asked if we were ready for our complimentary dessert and it looked amazing when it came out!

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Our only “complaint” was that it was a little difficult to share between four people but we each got to try a little of all six dishes.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what each one was but the ice cream (top left)  was definitely my favourite.

I should also mention that the prices at Himeji are very very reasonable. In fact, I’m really looking forward to going there again soon to try a few more dishes.
Luckily for me, they are open for lunch and situated very close to my work building!
Oh yes, they’ll be seeing me!

Have you eaten at Himeji?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!!

Till next we chow…

Casuarina Asian Bistro

Today on the Dining Diaries…

Luke-warm food almost makes us cry
We weren’t asked if we wanted more drinks and that almost made us cry and…
Good spicy food wakens our taste buds and definitely did NOT make us cry!

cas6Diners today we were at Casuarina in the Marion Shopping Centre.

There’s lots to love about this place and honestly I don’t know why I don’t come here more often.

One thing to note, this is not a “fancy” place so don’t expect fancy service. You will wait, but you will get pretty decent food and at a reasonable price.

We were dining on a Tuesday night and it was really quite busy at 6.30pm. My guess is it’s because of cheap Movie night at the Marion cinema’s! Whatever the reason, we were kept waiting at the entrance for a little while.
But that wasn’t too bad.

After a little while a nice waiter held up three fingers – yes that was to ask us if there were three in our party and I nodded enthusiastically and he led us to a table… I wonder which two fingers he would have held up if there had been two in our party.

The first thing you notice about Casuarina is that it’s a bright, modern looking restaurant. Lots of people making lots of noise. It seemed like it was a fun happening place.
The menu looked pretty good and had a nice amount of variety in it.

My two friends and I decided to split a couple of entree’s first. We’d ordered our drinks and food at the same time but for some reason, one entree came out, then five or so minutes later, one main and another entree came out.. and still no drinks. One of my friends had to remind the waiter what we were waiting for which shouldn’t have been necessary.

But onto the food!

The first entree we shared were spring rolls which conveniently for us, came three to a serve.

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While the taste was pretty good, it was immediately noticeable that the inside of the spring roll was cold. Had these been frozen and not left in the fryer for long enough? I don’t know, I was just a bit disappointed however, the flavours were good.

We also shared the Steamed Prawn Dumplings which also conveniently came in a serve of three.

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Now they WERE cooked all the way through and they were just delicious pillows of prawn. I loved everything about them. One of the sauces provided was a chili sauce and I’m glad I didn’t try it because apparently it was quite hot!! My tolerance is normally low but I’d recommend this dish,especially if you like a lot of heat in your food!

We were still waiting for drinks at this point which was a little disappointing… eventually our wine’s came but we were well and truly into our mains by then….

For main one of my companions chose the Char Kway Teow – Rice Stick Noodles with BBQ Pork, Prawn, Fishcake, Egg and Bean Sprouts, wok fried with a dark Soy Sauce.

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She said this had a great flavour throughout. The ingredients seemed fresh and it was just really tasty and enjoyable to eat. All the flavours worked well together.

Another of my companions chose the Green Curry Chicken.

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I had a bit of diner’s envy when I saw this come out!!! It looks pretty amazing! She said it was a perfect curry and just what she needed. It was fragrant and comforting and it was a pretty decent serve too!

I, with absolutely no idea, chose the Mee Goreng.

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I’m not even going to pretend to know what  Mee Goreng is supposed to taste like! All I can tell you is that it tasted great! The only complaint is that it was, like the entree, cold to luke-warm instead of temperature hot. There was a tiny bit of heat in here, just enough to wow my tastebuds and wake up those senses! I did enjoy this dish, I just wanted it to be temperature hotter.

Unfortunately no one came to our table to see how our meals were or to check to see if we wanted more drinks. We would have loved a jug of water! And maybe a sneaky second glass of wine….
I guess it’s a bit  of a “you get what you pay for” thing because the prices at Casuarina are really quite reasonable and most of the food is really good, and if you had to excel at either service or food, I’d probably pick food.

My diners and I hadn’t seen each other for some time so we were happy to gas bag and catch up but it was a bit disappointing that no one asked us if we wanted anything else (dessert) until the restaurant was almost empty and it was obvious they were trying to close up.

All that aside, I would eagerly come here again, even with the cold food, as I think they do a fantastic job and I just loved the flavours I experienced tonight.

I’d love to know what regular eaters of Asian foods think of this place!

Have you been to Casuarina?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!!

Till next we chow…

Turning Japanese – Part Seven

Osaka awaited us this morning.
With full confidence we left our lovely apartment and walked to the train station.
We were going to see Osaka Castle
No breakfast included in this accomodation apart from what we choose to provide for ourselves and as we’d gone grocery shopping we had the luxury of having a few coffees before we left our apartment!

We went to the Castle and took in the wonderful and awe inspiring sights. I’ve added a couple of pictures for you to get an idea of what we were looking at.

We had picked a couple of things we wanted to do in Osaka and one of them was to visit this mall that apparently went for kilometres… We were going to take the Osaka Loop line but once we googled, we saw it was only a couple of kilometres away so we walked there.

It was pretty interesting!! Lots of little shops and little food places. My stomach was starting to growl as apart from the coffee, we hadn’t eaten anything.

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After walking through the mall our hunger was building! We decided to put “food court” into google maps and go to the nearest one. That ended up being 2.5 kilometres away however once we got there, we saw it wasn’t what we consider a “food court” to be.
We were in the Hankyu building.
If you’re familiar with this building you may know that there isn’t a food court. There are plenty of restaurants in the basement level but not a food court as such – just a lot of restaurants – just as you’d see on the streets.
We went to the enquiry counter and they sent us to the 12th and 13th floor. They told us we’d find the “food court” there.
Once we got there we saw it wasn’t what we call a food court, and not only that, but these restaurants were definitely more hoity toity. Not what we were looking for in our walking clothes. But there were streams and streams of people lining up to go to them! There were so many people everywhere!!

So we went back down to the ground level and started walking back through the streets to find somewhere to have lunch. Disappointingly, some of the places we were interested in didn’t open until five. I’m not sure if that was because today is Saturday, or if that’s the way it always is.

We walked and walked and walked and finally fell into a place that had a picture of a sandwich roll on the window.
I think by this stage, I would have gone anywhere, even eaten octopus, just to be able to sit.

Very few people speak English here. They all say they speak a little, and they can get by with a few words but they can’t really communicate beyond a basic level. And that’s not a criticism!! Most people in Australia can only speak one language!
So hubby and I got a couple of “pizza’s” (similar to a sub or slice) and a premade sandwich.

The pizza was actually very good!! Now that could be because we were super tired and starving, having walked over eighteen kilometres at this point, but it was still very good and definitely hit the spot
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The sandwich was ok. Very thin and no crusts!! I love my crusts! Never take off the crust people it’s the best part!!

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Did you notice what is said on the sandwich?

How cute is that!

I wasn’t smiling until I actually read that message, but after, I was…

People here are just so courteous and nice. I wonder if I’m in some twilight zone. It just seems too perfect.

I made hubby walk all the way back to the apartment. Hubby and I decided to walk back to the apartment – all six kilometres, and before we got there, we stopped at the big supermarket near home and grabbed some treats AND a small bottle of Jim Beam (bargain price!) and a nice bottle of red for me.
Deeeeelicious and long overdue!

This evening, being creatures of habit and comfort, we headed back to that fabulous food court (staying well away from the place we’d gorged ourselves at yesterday) and ordered something different. Even when we’re handed an English menu, we still don’t know what we’re getting.
Throughout Tokyo and Osaka, we’ve seen street vendors and restaurants alike making these cute little balls. We didn’t know if they were savoury or sweet.
There was a vendor in the foodcourt that was making them so, being brave, we ordered a couple of dishes.
Even though the menu was English, it said “Takoyaki”. We don’t know what that is!
Later on, hubby googled it and we reaslied what they were. Octopus balls!!! We don’t normally eat seafood but I have to say they were soooo creamy and delicious! The only thing I could have done without was the barbeque tasting sauce that was on the top of one of our dishes.
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And each serve had eight balls so they were pretty filling!
We both felt like dumplings though and the beauty of being in a food court is that you can choose different things.. so we ordered some dumplings and some rice from another vendor (and sat at another table so hopefully no one noticed)
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The dumplings were nice but not as nice as others we’ve had. There wasn’t much filling in them but the taste was ok.
The rice was very full of flavour and crunchy!! Hubby and I had a little spat over them.
“But you said you didn’t want rice”
“I didn’t, till I knew you were getting some. How can I not eat it when you’re eating it in front of me”
“Because I wanted them. You said you didn’t”
“That was then, this is now, besides, you’re the one who always wants to share”
“And you don’t so get out of it. I got this for me”
Typical conversation between us really.

And to carry on with our bogan food theme today, we went to McDonalds to try to get a soft serve cone for dessert but they stop serving them after a certain time, so instead, we went to the convenience store and got something that kind of looked like a soft serve cone and it was delicious!! Vanilla and Coffee flavour and very creamy.

If these people didn’t all ride bikes incessantly, they’d be in trouble with all this creamy, highly processed and fatty foods!
I love it!

Turning Japanese – Part Five

I’m much more relaxed now in this wonderfully different country.
I knew exactly what to expect from our complimentary breakfast at Denny’s… and look at that meal. So Western, so good.
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You may think it’s a bit strange to have a salad at breakfast but actually I enjoyed it. You may also think it strange to have Lounge music playing while you’re eating your eggs on toast in Denny’s but that  somehow works too.
The only thing that I’m not too happy about is that the coffee they give you is an espresso size. It’s teeny tiny and I just need more coffee!! But that’s ok. I can get over it!

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Fully satisfied we headed to Shinjuku once again. Last time we were there it was evening and we were dazzled by the lights. This time it was late morning and it was still an impressive place!
We went to the Observation Deck in the Government Building then walked around being awed by sights, sounds and smells.

After a couple of hours walking thirst overtook us and hubby found a cute little place called “Brooklyn Parlour”. Once again, totally deceptive from the street. All we could see was a stairwell leading down to something. What was it going to be? No idea! It’s always an adventure.
So we went down there and were surprised by the size of the restaurant. It was large, it was loud, it was happening and it had fantastic mood lighting. The walls were lined with bookshelves creating a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is just sooo polite and accomodating.
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We ordered a wine and cider. My wine was delicious and long overdue!!! I could have sat there sipping that for another hour or two…

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However we headed on back to our hotel – snuck in a couple of sweet treats, and rested up before heading out for our last dinner in Tokyo.

So this evening we stopped in front of a place that said it had authentic Japanese food. Not really sure what that meant, we went in.
Our waiter had limited English but we’re really happy to have anyone that can half understand us. He brought us our drinks, a hot towel and a bowl of something..
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Hubby was a bit frightened to try it but he did, and he didn’t die so i thought I’d try some. It was only afterwards that I thought… I hope we were meant to eat that? Maybe it’s for something else??
It had the consistancy of jelly. Tasted a bit like chicken broth and chicken fat. I’m not really sure but I ate it with chop sticks. I know… I’m a pro now!

We also ordered dumplings, noodles (traditional Japanese style apparantly) and skewers of meat.
When converted to Aussie dollars, it was all quite expensive and not very filling however it was very tasty and I guess it’s not their fault that the conversion rate for our dollar is not the best at the moment.

As usual the staff were bending over backwards to make sure we had the best time.
There were a line of tables around the kitchen which was in the centre of the restaurant and at one point hubby told one of the chef’s directly that he’d like a bowl of rice, and they just did it! If we weren’t being charged, it would have felt like we were dining at a friends place.

Tomorrow  we’ll be heading off to Osaka for the next leg of this adventure!