About mel91872

A living conflict, writing about food, foreign politics and anything that comes to mind.

Review: Golden Harvest

2 August 2018

I got up after a good rest, a little sad that I was leaving Dunedin and the South Island already. I went out for a stroll in the cool morning, knowing every step now is a step towards the summer heat… I went back and checked out of my hotel, and then went for a coffee in The Octagon, enjoying the cool weather.

I had enough time for an early lunch before heading to the airport, so I ended up in a dimsum place called Golden Harvest not far from my hotel. Empty as it opened at 11am, but that didn’t make it run any faster… Big dining room, but I happily sat in a far corner. No carts here, just pencil and form, and I filled out my order and relaxed with some tea.

I waited, and waited…geez, it’s taking awhile. I guess everything here is done to order? Took about 20 minutes for the first set of dishes to come trickling out, but I was extremely happy having waited. First up, the beef tendon…

1-spicy beef tendon

You don’t get this too often, and this was delicious! I love the flavours here, the spice brought out the collagen so well in the tendon. Love it! At the same time the pig tripe also came out…

2-pepper pork tripe

This was fantastic as well! Lovely pepper sauce worked magic here. I’m frankly blown away so far…

3-pork shumai

The pork shumai was of excellent quality, very meaty and juicy. And then the chive dumplings…

z

Solid. I usually don’t like them fried like this, but it worked out very well. Wow. And finally, some steamed fish balls…

5-dish balls

Well, what can you say, fish balls are fish balls. I love eating them — it’s one of my guilty pleasures as I can’t stop if I have a supply of them…

I was extremely blown away by this selection. This was far better than the dimsum trio I had a few months ago in Boston, Montreal and Toronto. In fact, this may be the best set of dimsum I’ve had in years, even including my last trip to Hong Kong. And this is Dunedin, New Zealand — where there’s no land between you and Antarctica!

I was so enjoying this I decided to order 2 more items…may have been a mistake, as it took over 20 minutes for it to come out, and I was starting to run out of time to get back to my hotel for my airport ride… And the quality was nowhere near the same, sadly…

6-beef shumai

The beef shumai was also substantial and meaty, but nowhere as good as the pork shumai (as it always seems to be the case anywhere in the world). Then finally the steamed glutinous dumplings…

7-glutinous dumplings

This was a total disaster. The wrapping came apart any attempt to lift this. Often this is the case, but this was a spectacular disaster as it just shredded. Needless to say I ended up just eating the filling from out of the steam tray and abandoned a lot of it.

I had to, as I was running very late now. I asked for the bill and I paid, and they never brought my change. I had no time to look for them, so I just headed out the door. A terrible ending to what started as a fabulous dimsum meal. Sigh, too bad. But can’t risk missing my shuttle, so…

Golden Harvest
217 George Street
Dunedin, New Zealand

* I did make my shuttle and got to Dunedin Airport with time to spare for my flight. I even saw this in the loo…lol…

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Review: Plato

1 August 2018

I had some trip logistics to deal with, so part of the afternoon in Dunedin was sorting that out. I had explored so much of the town today, I could use a wee rest. Plus that lunch at Bacchus was nice and filling. But I headed out again and explored a bit more of the town before I got ready for dinner.

I walked to dinner towards the seaside, so got to explore the beautiful Dunedin Railway Station and the waterside before I wandered into my dinner at Plato. A fun place I can “sea” already by this sign, and my server joked that he didn’t know he would see me or not as I had made my booking so long ago!

It was blazing hot inside, but it was rather cool outside for normal people, so I can understand. But that sapped my appetite all through the evening. I relaxed and looked over the menu with a glass of wine. Friendly folks, but a little chaotic. This is a family restaurant after all, so…

I ordered and relaxed, and was a little shocked when my first dish appeared…

1-paua patty

This was just awful, the paua (abalone) patty. Just bitter, nothing else. Compared to the weird “scalone” thing I had in Carson City, Nevada (a scallop & abalone mince patty), this was awful. And huge. This destroyed my appetite, and perhaps I ordered too much…

2-cauliflower

Plus I had this cauliflower side, which had way too much stuff on it…why are folks so afraid of clean vegetables? But at this point I asked if I can cancel my third dish, and they said sure since they haven’t fired it yet. The portions are just too big. And that point was proven when the second dish arrived…

3-flounder

A baby flounder, the whole thing. This was huge, and it was delicious. The best part is that there was minimal tinkling with it, and a good part of the inside was still there to eat. I enjoyed everything from head to tail, a delicious yet huge appetiser. Yes, this was listed as an appetiser…

I’m so glad I cancelled the third, as I was wiped. I did agree to a dessert, which I added a grappa side to…

4-ice cream

Ice cream, but a lot of other stuff too. It seems some folks come here just for the dessert too. The double chocolate was good, the vanilla nice, the mango the best. Enjoyed a coffee and thanked my server and headed out.

Nothing too special this evening, some good (flounder) some bad (paua). But a convivial environment, if it wasn’t just a bit too warm for me. Luckily I had a nice long walk in the cold back to my hotel. I was gonna drop by a pub, but I was just worn out from this trip at this point and just retired…

Plato
2 Birch Street
Dunedin, New Zealand

Review: Bacchus

1 August 2018

A had a long, long day planned to explore this very southern city of Dunedin, so I was out the door early. Love this cool, winter air. I doubt it’ll get cold enough to snow, like last “summer” in Santiago, but it’s far more comfortable than anywhere in the blistering Northern Hemisphere…

My explorations of this town took me north and south, from cemeteries to churches, as well as the stunningly beautiful campus of the University of Otago. Lovely town to say the least. At the end, I returned to The Octagon, the centre of the city, and found a place for lunch.

Bacchus was recommended to me by the fine folks at Logan Brown in Wellington, and I arrived for a late lunch. I know, I know, this is the second Bacchus I’ve been on this one single trip

There was only one server dealing with several large groups finishing their meals, so things were a little slow at first but moved well once the large parties left.

I enjoyed a glass of wine as I looked over the menu and made my decision. As much as I wanted some Bluff oysters, I thought of being easier today as I was tired. So I ordered and relaxed. After a little while my starter arrived, the mushroom and cauliflower soup.

1-mushroom cauliflower soup

Nothing special here really, but the soup of the day was blazing hot. For most, this is great in the winter, but for me this was too hot to eat! Had to wait a bit, but didn’t want this to congeal, so had to eat it whilst burning my mouth. Oh well. Then after a little time my main course arrived, as well as a nice big pour of another wine…

2-beef cheeks

Beef cheeks, done really well. I’m not fond of the parsnip mash as it’s too sweet, but I keep forgetting it is winter down here (thus the ingredients, like the pumpkin at Noble Rot the night before in Welly). But the cheek was excellent.

I was enjoying this late lunch and I decided to have a dessert with a scotch. Appropriate, as I was in a place named after the Celtic name of Edinburgh…

3-cheesecake

The cheesecake was quite excellent, and it went well with the tipple. My server had a smile when I asked for a second drink before I closed up. She was quite excellent, and dealt with the big groups very well. I thanked her and headed out into the warmer-than-expected mid-afternoon, back into The Octagon…

Bacchus
12 The Octagon
Dunedin, New Zealand

Review: Emerson’s Taproom

31 July 2018

I had a bit more time to explore Wellington before I had to fly out, and had a filling Malaysian lunch. This town is very good for its Malay-Chinese cuisine it seems. But today was about flying south to Dunedin, and my first impression is that it resembled its namesake in some ways. It does look like Scotland out here…

After a ridiculously pricey taxi ride into town, I checked into my nice hotel and headed out. It’s winter here, and I’m just loving the cool temperature. This is the furthest south I have ever been, the previous being Tasmania. I will eventually make it to Antarctica, not just for a boat ride, but to actually go there…

Dinner tonight was planned for Emerson’s Taproom, the pub section of the local brewery. It was a bit of a shitshow when I arrived, as they were extremely busy but understaffed. Eventually I was seated and chilled out. I ordered a beer and looked over the menu. Took ages for it to come, and I was starting to lose my patience.

Then it quieted down a little and things moved better. I ordered and chilled out, enjoying my beer. Then it got messy again, and couldn’t find anyone to bring me another. Then my food came…

1-pork hock

This is a sharing plate? This is a pork hock, supposedly done in a Chinese red braise fashion, but it fails totally. It needed to be in for longer, and with stronger flavours. Not bad, filling, but disappointing as it could have been excellent. I was filling up, but decided to go with another dish with another beer, so I ordered.

2-dumplings

Took a little time but it came, chicken and onion dumplings. Again, it was okay, but it really could have been so much better. Very ordinary, cooked by people who have no idea about ethnic cooking, and couldn’t be clever enough to do fusion correctly. Sigh, oh well, but it’s a pub, so…

The last beer I ordered never came so I found a server, cancelled it, and headed out. They were quite apologetic about being short-staffed, and it’s not their fault, but it put a dent into the evening.

The best part of the evening? The 20-minute walk back in the cool evening. Oh, I love this weather…

Emerson’s Taproom
70 Anzac Avenue
Dunedin, New Zealand

Review: Noble Rot Wine Bar

30 July 2018

I was knackered this long day in Wellington. I indeed had hiked up a stupidly steep hill, where at points were stairs as it was too steep for a normal sidewalk… I basically hiked up to the Botanical Garden, for those of you familiar with the city… And a long trek through Bolton Street Cemetery, to the Beehive, and then along the seaside before wandering back to my hotel hours later…

I was knackered, and starting to get hungry again. Lunch at Boulcott Street Bistro was so good…oh those Bluff oysters… Tonight’s dinner was at a winebar called Noble Rot, and I’m hoping all the good luck I’ve had in this awesome town continues.

I got there and it’s a mellow, dark place. But the service was also a bit of a mess this Monday evening. I ordered a glass of wine and enjoyed it as I figured out tonight’s food. I ordered and relaxed. Nice musical selection of oldies, and I slowly sipped my wine until the first item appeared, a charcuterie plate.

1-charcuterie

Hmmm…nothing really special here. The chorizo was very ordinary, but the finocchiona was quite tasty. But there was quite little of it, and the bread was just heavy… Anyway, they recommended a wine for my first course and I went with it. Interesting they pair a white with the pork jowl…

2-pork jowl

Well, the dish wasn’t bad, but nothing special. The meat wasn’t bad, nowhere near as good as the one last night at Logan Brown, but the truffle was just annoying. I already hate the texture of truffles, and this one seems like it was shaved ages ago. I’m so sick of these winter truffles being offered everywhere…so annoying. And I’m sorry, folks, these are NOT better than the European ones, not even close…

I sighed after that dish and then they just poured me a red without asking me, so I didn’t argue… It was pretty good, but it’s a little presumptuous as I never asked for a pairing. Then the main came out, the duck.

3-duck

This was one of the cases of the duck was excellent, everything around it was a total mess. The pumpkin (yes, it’s winter here) was heavily distracting and lacking in flavour. I wish there were more greens and/or turnip, but oh well, the duck itself was good.

At this point the service had completely collapsed, and I lost interest in staying around much longer. I settled up and headed out. Too bad this Wellington trip ended up a bit of a miss here…

I was a bit too tired to go drinking tonight, so I just headed in. I had to do some packing as I was heading south tomorrow, so had to do that and check in and all that good stuff. Welly is a wonderful town and I really dig it, but it just ended a bit weak.

Noble Rot Wine Bar
6 Swan Lane, Te Aro
Wellington, New Zealand

* I actually ended up going to get a drink but the pub next door closed early (at 9.30pm?), so I went for a snack across the street at a Japanese food stand that opens late, and it wasn’t bad. Too bad I didn’t get any drinks before hand…

Review: Boulcott Street Bistro

30 July 2018

I woke up after catching up on some rest, ready to explore Wellington. As I wandered around, I then realised how bloody hilly this place is, and started to ponder the post-lunch hikes I’ve planned. I’m still enjoying the dinner at Logan Brown, which is keeping me going on these hills.

Eventually I hiked up another hill to reach my lunch destination, Boulcott Street Bistro. It was early, but I was seated and I relaxed with a glass of wine. My server was stunning…which distracted me from the menu a little. But the specials also distracted me, but I nevertheless ordered.

I relaxed with my drink, enjoying this cute little bistro on a very hilly road. Then my starter arrived, and I smiled: Bluff oysters.

1-Bluff oysters

Oh my, these are good! Not too briney, but really meaty stuff — with an interesting texture at the lip. I was stunned…these were just amazing. As I kept enjoying them, I’m starting to think this will ruin me for Northern Hemisphere stuff, as these are native to New Zealand and Chile and are just in season…

I finished the half dozen and I was a little sad, as it was so good! I switched wines to something my awesome server recommended, and that came with my second course — lamb liver.

2-lambs liver

Mmm, nice and uncompromising, you just know this is lamb. It’s not like the bland stuff we get back home, as it seems New Zealand keeps the best stuff at home for themselves, understandably. Delicious and rich, this will fuel my hilly hike this afternoon for sure!

3-mushrooms

A side of mushrooms was a bit meh, but it helped the main dish along. Nice lunch! Then when the dessert menu came, I thought about it, and I did a Mel…yep, and my server smiled, and agreed, why not…

4-Bluff oysters

More oysters! These were as good as the first half dozen, lovely flavours, nice and meaty. Oh, I’m ruined for oysters now…

I finished up and thanked my awesome server and looked at the very steep hills to be climbed in the next hour. Thank goodness I had that hearty liver and all those oysters to keep me going!

Boulcott Street Bistro
99 Boulcott Street
Wellington, New Zealand

Review: Logan Brown

29 July 2018

Alarm at 3.15am. Ugh… Frankly that was more pleasant than last night’s debacle at The Press Club, to be honest. I dragged myself to the airport, just for my flight to New Zealand to be delayed. Oh well. I did manage to catch up on some sleep as we flew into Wellington.

A quick Malaysian lunch and I did some unpacking and dealt with some things that had come up in cyberspace the last few days that needed my attention. Eventually I went for a stroll around the local area before I headed to dinner at Logan Brown. It’s often listed as one of the top restaurants in New Zealand’s capital, so I was looking forward to it.

I arrived and it was a little chaotic, as they are clearly short-staffed. Hmmm… I was at the bar enjoying a nicely-made martini with a nice local gin when I was led to my seat. I relaxed and decided to go with the tasting menu. The martini was quite nice and when I was done they were ready to start the course. Some bubbly is poured and we have our first dish, the fish oka.

1-oka

Under the taro chips there’s some nice crudo. Good quality fish, tasty all around especially with the coconut cream. A really nice start. Sorry for the bad photos, the lighting was a bit odd…

Then a nice sauvignon blanc is poured and we have the paua ravioli.

2-paua ravioli

Paua is the local term for abalone, and I really wish this dish worked better. The ravioli themselves were absolutely wonderful, but the acid in the sauce really takes something away here. I wish this was a clean dish…

But so far so good. I’m enjoying overhearing a first date at a nearby table that’s going extremely well. With a generous pour of a red, we have the pork jowl and eel dish.

3-pork jowl eel

Mmmm, this is quite good, rich and uncompromising. It’s not the eel that stands out, as good as it was, but the jowl…it was just fabulously strong. Really an excellent dish. This dinner is blowing the hell out of the disaster that was The Press Club last night for sure…

After a little break, where I hear the adjacent date is going even better than anyone expected, we have another red blend and the last savoury dish, venison.

4-venison

Oh my this is fantastic. I was told these came from the southern tip of the South Island, and these are totally wild animals (not like the farmed game we have in the US). The cooking was perfect, and thus we have a flavourful, lovely textured piece of meat to enjoy. Fabulous! The beets were a nice touch too.

I was almost sad the savoury part has ended, as this was an excellent dinner. Those idiots in Melbourne really need to learn what hospitality — and good cooking — is, like this place. This has been a pleasant surprise for sure!

I relaxed a bit and I wanted to give the couple a little bit more privacy as they’ve now totally connected, so I shifted to the bar area. A fortified local red is poured and we have the chocolate torte.

5-chocolate torte

Delicious, love the coffee ice cream as well. I didn’t mind the longer wait as the pours have been very generous — even with top-ups — and I could chat now with the bartender. They admitted they were understaffed this Sunday evening as last week it was dead, and today it was totally packed…

I can see why it’s packed, the food is fabulous! I chilled out at the bar and enjoyed the convo with the bartender and server, and enjoyed a few more drinks. They had a locally made limoncello, which was not bad. I closed off with a nice double Laphroaig and a double espresso, and thanked them as I headed out.

What a wonderful dinner, a very pleasant surprise. Logan Brown is highly recommended! I’m really liking Wellington so far!

Logan Brown
192 Cuba Street, Te Aro
Wellington, New Zealand

* Well, the night didn’t quite end there, as I enjoyed a few drinks in a nearby gay bar. Yes, a straight guy can go to a gay bar, folks, especially if they tell you that they’ll pour a double for you when you order and pay for a single scotch…