Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bunja Thai

Who would have thought Bendigo could deliver authentic, nuanced Thai in delightful surrounds?
It's entirely possible I'm a Melbourne foodie snob, but I wouldn't have dreamed of the delights on offer. And yet here I am blogging about a sensational night of foodie goodness in Bendigo's Pall Mall.

Last night I ate at Piyawat and was pretty non-plussed. I was reluctant to venture out for Thai again in Bendigo given my less than stellar experience. However, on the urgings of Lisa, a regular at Bunja, I thought I'd do a comparison of the Bendigo Thai offerings.

At Bunja, I ordered the entree of Plaa Meuk $14.50. It arrived with a perfectly subtle but tasty sauce on a bed of various greens.

I'd ordered the Piyawat Plaa Meuk the night before and the difference could not have been more pronounced. Bunja featured a tenderly fried and battered calamari on a bed of mixed leafy greens, chillies, blanched lemongrass and fried shallots. Compare this with Piyawat's sauce that I'm sure contained tomato ketchup and soy sauce, cabbage and iceberg under rubbery calamari. If you're looking for competition, they're really not even playing the same game. The staff at Piyawat were lovely, but nevertheless, I'd be reluctant to return.

For mains I chose the vegetarian red curry. Bunja delivered an exquisitly flavoured kaffir lime and Thai basil seasoned red curry and Piyawat delivered a salty and slightly sweet coconut milk with chillies. As with entree. There is no comparison. If you want to experience real Thai flavour, Bunja is the only game in town.

Skeptics might argue that Piyawat is significantly cheaper but what price do you put on quality. Bunja is where it's at.

The ambience at both is pleasant. Piyawat is cosy and friendly and Bunja is grandiose, stylish and charming.

All photos are from Bunja. Piyawat is very dark.

Bunja Thai Restaurant and Takeaway on Urbanspoon
Piyawat Thai on Urbanspoon
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Fairtrade Coffee Complex

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened.

We ran out of coffee!

And since the food-dude's household was kindly loaned a proper barista's coffee machine we've been really enjoying the daily cup. 

So I headed down Little Collins to the venerable Quists Coffee to top up supplies.

I struck up a conversation with the friendly barista and asked if Quists had any fairtrade blends for sale.

“No, but we do source from suppliers that provide a fair return for growers”

Fair enough, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and plunked down some cash for 250 grams of their finest Miscela Italiana - delicious. But is it guilt free?

Now obviously it had a few food miles on it, but I have yet to find an Australian grown coffee I enjoy, so sometimes we have to make concessions. I do however, like to make sure the coffee is bringing at least a modicum of benefits to the growers.

Wanting to find out a bit more about how Quists provide their "fair return" I thought I'd drop them a note.

Kudos to Doris at Quists for her quick responses. It seems that Fairtrade is a complicated area and although the official label does bring a degree of credibility, there are companies out there trying to do the right thing.

What do you think? Should Quists subscribe to the Fairtrade Association or are you satisfied with their position.

You can follow the email exchanges after the jump.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What's in a can of tuna?

I was having lunch with a long-lost friend the other day when she asked me about the sustainability of tuna.

I made some vague response, but I was floundering and didn't really know the answer. Being the geek I am, I thought I'd do some digging.

Turns out that not all tinned tuna is created equal. Find out more after the jump.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In music, a Coda is a passage that brings the song to a conclusion.

My experience of Coda Bar and Resturaunt was surprising - in a good way - and very satisfying.

I ordered eco-food versions of the following items listed on the menu:
  • Spanner crab, galangal, roasted chilli and lime betel leaf $5.80
  • Soft rice paper rolled with pork, prawn, perilla and chive bud $6
I don't know enough about spanner crab and the most recent research I could find suggested that there is some uncertainty in estimation of stock status at least in Queensland. Instead, I ordered a vegetarian betel leaf which came topped with a delicious salad of glass noodle, corriander and carrot along with galangal, roasted chilli and lime betel leaf. It was superb.

The eco-food credentials of prawn and pork are questionable, so I again opted for an alternative. My vegetarian rice paper roll was excellent with the dipping sauce making my day.

I also ordered the eggplant and tofu lettuce delight with enoki mushroom, crispy garlic and black vinegar $6 which I couldn't fault. It had that melt in your mouth flavour explosion. Yum!

The surprising part was that when the bill was presented, I noticed something that I've very rarely encountered in any resturaunt. The betel leaf and rice paper roll dishes had been discounted to reflect my requested vegetarian modifications. They were only $4 and $5 respectively! A bargain in any language. Cool eh?

I was also impressed by the bar staff who served me (I sat at the bar rather than the tables). The gentleman who waited on me was extremely vegetarian savvy and accomodating. He suggested the numerous possible modifications and pointed out the several dishes on the menu that were either vegetarian, met my nebulous eco-food criteria, or could be modified as such. Very unusual and most welcome.

The nifty thing about sitting at the bar is that it gives you a prime view of Adam D'Sylva and his team as they busy themselves concocting cuisine in the kitchen. The bar is satisfyingly modern with lights picking out the colours in the bottles.

Adam - the head chef and owner of Coda has a strong pedigree having been Head Chef at Longrain. He is also a supporter of environmental issues and was appointed as an Ambassador for Earth Hour.

I reckon that in my case Coda means I need no longer continue my quest for eco-food fine dining.

But then again, there are no doubt other eco-food havens waiting to be discovered...

Coda on Urbanspoon

Trippy Taco

I really wanted to enjoy the Trip but ...

I popped into Trippy Taco for lunch yesterday and ordered two of the signature Trippy Tacos.

When I arrived there were more staff (5) than customers (4). I ordered at 12.25 PM and my tacos arrived on the table at 1.00 PM. I'm not sure if this is the usual wait time and perhaps they were busy with some unseen take-away customers. Either way, it seemed like an age when I was starving.

The tacos arrived and the filling looked interesting, but as soon as I picked up the taco, copious amounts of watery juice (from the extremely runny salsa or perhaps too much water on the lettuce?) gushed from the side. Biting into it, I discovered that the black beans did not have any sauce to accompany them and while they were slightly tasty as the main filling, they were certainly not enough to carry this dish. I dumped on some hot chilli sauce for the second bite, but even that wasn't really enough to save it for me. I want to love this place and it is great that they do heaps of vegetarian tacos, but I can't see myself going back.

I was so hoping that I'd enjoy this place and now I have that ho-hum feeling as I write this review.

Perhaps if you go in with lower expectations you might be rewarded.

Trippy Taco on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bamboo and Buns

Today I set myself an assignment. Find a satisfying two-course CBD lunch for under $6. 

A quick bit of research prior to leaving the office suggested that that Nam Loong did a vege Bun for $1.50 which sounded like a perfect start for my assignment. Primed for success I marched along Russel and into the door of Nam Loong. I was greeted by shelves and shelves of buns of all varieties and enormous bamboo steamers preparing the more on the stove. Alas, the shelf labelled Vegetarian Buns was empty! And it was only 12:44 pm - sold out! Arghh. Could this be the beginning of an assigment Epic Fail?

I whipped out the iPhone and was relieved to learn that Miss T had found Melbourne Central's Bamboo City offered something similar for $1.80. I arrive full of hope, blinking in the neon, only to run into potential failure Number Two. Alas. Perhaps the GFC or Miss T garnered fame had lead to price inflation to round numbers. I gingerly handed over my $2 gold pieces in exchange for two quite substantial looking vege buns. 

Across the road to the State Library lawn for the taste test. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. The buns were a bit hard on the outside - probably from sitting under the neon for too long, but the filling was tasty enough. The seagull certainly thought so. They were filled with glass-noodles, tofu, carrot and spring onions and were certainly filling.

Now with only $2 remaining for dessert I marched off in the direction of the delightfully named Little Cupcakes on Degraves. Sitting on the little wooden table inside I devoured the Cookies and Cream flavoured morsal. Yum.

I also felt a sense of achievement having marched more than 2600 metres in my mission to fulfill this assignment. I'm keen to try the Nam Loong buns because that would mean a two-course meal for under a fiver!

Little Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sakura Kaiten

Some days I feel like treating myself to a few tasty morsals of vegetarian goodness. If you also find yourself so inclined, can I suggest you try Sakura Kaiten Sushi.

The staff are friendly, welcoming and helpful in this stylishly decorated sushi bar. I asked for assistance in identifying vegetarian options on the sushi train and the waitress quickly pointed out several options for me to try.

I selected the vegetarian gyoza (5.80), a fried-mashed-potato sushi ($3.60), a seaweed sushi ($4.60) and the agedashi tofu (4.60). Other options on offer were vegetable tempura, seaweed salad, spinach salad, cucumber salad, edamame and several other options.

The potato sushi comes accompanied with subtly flavoured mustard and was probably my favourite of the selection.

The gyoza were topped with a savoury sauce and contained mashed vegetables including potato and were lovely and crisp.

The seaweed sushi had that straight from the ocean taste and was delicious when dipped in shoyu sauce.

I enjoyed the agedashi tofu, but I think the Wood Spoon and Peko Peko on Smith Street might have the edge for tofu goodness. Nothing wrong with Sakura Kaiten's offering, just not my favourite.

If you haven't been to a Japanese sushi train bar before, it is worth going just for entertainment value. While not featuring an actual miniture train like some places we found in Tokyo, Sakura Kaiten has a nifty conveyor-belt that whisks the beautifully presented and numerous dishes past diners for easy selecting. The dishes are colour coded to represent different priced options from black and pink as the least expensive to white and red as the (slightly) more expensive options.

The cafe soundtrack of Marvin Gaye and several other Motown and Soul balladiers contributed to an ecclectic and most enjoyable lunch.

Sakura Kaiten Sushi on Urbanspoon