Monday, 16 November 2015

My Love Affair With Brunetti

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Chai latte cinnamony goodness

I have had a love affair with Brunetti since I was 20. I had my birthday there that year, and ordered one of their limoncello confections as my birthday cake. It was a good start to my third decade on earth.

Since then, they've relocated to inside the plaza on Lygon Street, and are now at least three times the size they were then. They have a gelato stand, they have a huge bar to serve coffee and tea and all other manner of beverages from, they have dozens of staff, and what's best, they still serve the most amazing cakes, pastries, savouries and other yummies without having sacrificed quality as they've expanded.

A pre-Khocolateman friend from uni - Annie - was in town recently and staying close to the city so when she suggested we meet up, Brunetti was on both our minds. We met mid-morning on a Saturday and snagged a much-coveted seat inside before ordering.

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Chocolate and Raspberry Semifreddo
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Check out those layers... in all their majesty

I finally caved and bought a semifreddo to go with my chai latte. It's been a long time coming. They have a bunch of different flavours but I went with a raspberry and chocolate - the lemon cheesecake reminiscent of my 20th birthday will have to wait until next time! I'd never actually had a semifreddo before - all I knew was that it had beautiful layers and was served in a cute mason-jar-type-thing - but I'll definitely be incorporating it into my cheat weekends from now on! It was to die for - like a really upmarket trifle made from a chocolate tiramisu and a chocolate mousse, liberally garnished with cream, dark chocolate and sparkly pink balls.

And seriously, how can you go wrong when pink sparkly balls are involved?

Hm. Actually, don't answer that. It was good. That is all I'm going to say.

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Do you see that cheese? I mean, REALLY see it??

Annie ordered a focaccia featuring cheese, proscuitto and a rocket-like mix of greens. She assured me it was awesome, though my body was so distracted trying to process the taste and bulk of the semifreddo that I declined a bite. I know, right? Must have been good to have me pass up cured meats!

Brunetti remains up there for consistent quality food on Lygon Street. I'd wholeheartedly recommend everyone visit this culinary institution next time you find yourself in Carlton, especially if you have a sweet tooth that won't shut up!

Brunetti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 15 November 2015

EDB15 - One Month On: Eat Drink Blog Canberra and What I Learned

It's hard to believe Eat Drink Blog 2015 was less than a month ago.

I've renounced the words 'nice' and 'good' in all future reviews unless they are creatively punctuated or part of a quote (thank you Wendy Johnson). I have finally finished batching my posts (thank you Carly Jacobs of Smaggle), and have got busy Instagramming (thank you Todd Wright and Tammi Kwok). I've given food styling a go, and am enjoying it so much I'm hoping to do more (thank you Tess Godkin). I'm gearing up to try my first foodie video produced entirely on my phone (thank you Alice Lau). I'm contemplating whether planning to move into full-time blogging is for me or whether I need to wait and just see if it happens by serendipity (thank you Merrymaker Sisters, Liz Posmyk and Amanda Whitley). And all the while I'm contemplating how my parents ever left Canberra when it was clearly Australia's culinary centerpiece in the mid-to-late 20th Century (thank you Matthew Evans for shedding some light on that one!)?

And then there was the food. Oh dear Lord, the food. THIS IS WHERE LE FOOD PR0N BEGINS. IF THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE HERE FOR. CLICKY DA LINKIES!

Drool along with me over croquembouche, cupcakes, juice and gozleme at the Capitol Region Farmers' Markets.

Check out my first ever cubanos for lunch at Westside in Acton Park.

Read about oysters, pork belly, black gnocchi and pepper meringue at A.Baker.

Ride along with me for a Brathaus breakfast (and muesli and juice) at the Nishi Gallery.

If you're a coffee lover, you'll like reading about coffee galore at The Cupping Room.

...and a gorgeous goodie bag to take home.

A massive thank you must go to the organising committee (Amanda Whitley of HerCanberra, Giulia Porro of Love At Every Bite, Linda Soo of You Berra Believe It, Rachi Perera of Le Bon Vivant and Tara Cheyne of In The Taratory) who did a fantastic job and made sure everything ran smoothly over the weekend.

I am so excited to put what I've learned into practice. Stay tuned for big changes to Let's Make A Panda over the next few months!

EDB15 - Part Six: The Goodie Bag

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

EDB15 Goodie Bag

As well as getting more munchies for my moolah and more blog-based direction for my dough than I thought was humanly possible, we also got a gorgeous goodie bag packed full of fun foodie stuff. Check out my haul! I'm probably going to forget things if I try and list all the contents but I will highlight a few favourites - the Flint at Shaw Vineyard Fries Spice, the chocolates from Robyn Rowe Chocolates, the wooden spoon from The Essential Ingredient (we needed a new one after Dalek chewed the handle off the last one), the enormous tea towel from the Poachers Pantry, the pen from Capitol Chilled Foods (they provided milk for breakfast at the Nishi Gallery - I haven't had milk like that, milk that good, since I was a little girl and they still delivered it door to door), the candy from Visit Canberra (how DO they get the words in there like that??) and the granola from A.Baker. We also got a copy of the Merrymaker Sisters' cookbook (I have a plan for blogging about this next year! See, I'm learning to plan already =P). HerCanberra sponsored the EDB15 conference, and provided us with a copy of their magazine as well.

And that's it! It's been fun to relive the weekend as I've written these posts, and I'm looking forward to pushing my blog towards being bigger and better with all I've learned from the people I met. Onwards and upwards until EDB16!

EDB15 - Part Five: The Cupping Room

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

Our final stop for the day was one we had each chosen weeks in advance. We'd been given options for our Sunday lunch, including the Boathouse By The Lake, the Bentspoke Brewing Company, Two Before Ten, The Canberra Winehouse and The Cupping Room. I chose the final one.

I like coffee. I'm more of a tea drinker, but a good coffee makes me very happy too - and this was definitely good coffee. Better than good coffee. This was the best coffee I've ever tasted, from a champion coffee maker, paired with food designed to complement the coffee. Wow. Does it get any better than this?

Cupping Room Pt 1

We started with a cascara - a drink that looks a bit like tea, made similarly by steeping coffee cherries - paired with amaretto, celeriac, coconut and ruby grapefruit. Both went a long way towards clearing the palate, and I enjoyed the 'texture' of the cascara - a light drink to begin with.

Cupping Room Pt 2

This was followed by The Cupping Room's World Barista Championship-winning espresso, served with Hiramasa kingfish, citrus salad, fried shallots, radish and pickled jalapenos. The espresso was full-bodied and made my toes tingle - most importantly, it had none of the slightly acrid taste you get with so many espressos, macchiatos and other short dark coffees. I've been wanting to try Hiramasa kingfish for a long time and after this, I'll be looking for it again - it wasn't distinctly 'fishy' in its flavour or texture, but something all of its own. The salad was a great balance - citrus and seafood usually is, in my book - and anything with jalapenos in it is a winner for me.

Cupping Room Pt 3

Then came our 'main', a cappucino served alongside milk braised pork with raisins and macadamias. This was one of those times that I needed the meal to just keep going and going, as the flavours were too good to want them to end. The cappucino was the first milky coffee we'd had, and as a result it tasted very rich - perfect to pair with a pork dish. Once again, this wasn't a typical dish for the meat - not a typical pork flavour, but a muted version thereof, which made the raisins really pop.

Cupping Room Pt 4

We finished the meal with The Cupping Room's signature drink of espresso mixed with a plum reduction, shiraz grape juice and panela and a dessert of fruit and labneh. Without a doubt, this was my favourite coffee of the day. The barista showed us how they made it, which was a process unto itself, and I really enjoyed the sweetness to it - no sugar needed here! The labneh was similar to a pot-set yoghurt, topped with fresh fruit and meringue.

Will I be back? Absolutely! Next time I'm in Canberra, this place is definitely high on my list. I'd love to come in and try brunch there, and apparently their milkshakes are something else as well.

The Cupping Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EDB15 - Part Four: Breakfast at Nishi Gallery

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

Breakfast at Nishi Gallery The Sweet

After a heavy night out sampling the delights of A.Baker, and a full day sampling the knowledge and cuisine Canberra has to offer, you might think a decent Sunday breakfast would be unnecessary. At a food blogging conference? Have you lost your mind? Breakfast is THE meal of the day that you don't miss, especially not on a Sunday. We ate at Nishi Gallery, where our seminars had taken place, and were treated to cold pressed juices from The Fix, muesli from The Muesli Bar Canberra, pastries from A.Baker and OH DEAR GOD IS THAT A SAUSAGE SIZZLE OUTSIDE?

Eat Drink Blog 2015 - Canberra

Even better - it was The Brathaus doing brats on buns with egg and sauce, and it was the perfect balance between recovery breakfast and sophisticated food choice. The servings were huge, so I went halves with another blogger. The brat was a solid doing of a sausage - when well done, it was still soft but substantial with a full meaty flavour (no dilly-dallying about with camembert and figs here! yes Woolworths, I'm looking at you), paired with that slightly smoky taste you always get from a barbecue. Wrapped inside an egg and a bun, slathered in tomato sauce and mustard, this was the ideal pairing to go with the sweeter options inside.

The Brathaus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EDB15 - Part Three: A.Baker

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

After an afternoon of OMG MY BRAIN IS ZINGING, and a mad dash back to the hotel to shower and get changed into something a little spiffier for the evening, I got the bus back to Civic to have dinner at A.Baker. Now, from what I understand, this is a very nice establishment to begin with, but they really turned it on for the 90-odd of us there for EDB.

ABaker Dinner Pt1

Canapes were served outside in the little garden they source some of their produce from (it's really pretty, very green and you look straight up to Hotel.hotel's novel architecture beyond the border). This was just as well, as the natural light held out between showers and made for some beautiful photos. My favourite nibble was the perfect prism of pork belly, which I tried, and then stared longingly after the waitress like I could make her come back and stand next to us so we could have the plate to ourselves. Now obviously that wasn't a very practical wish, but we got the next best thing, which was more plates of the same sauntering past on a every so often for the next ten minutes. HEELLLL YES.

ABaker Dinner Pt2

The entrees, salads and mains were all served as shared plates, and the lighting wasn't as crash hot inside as might have been ideal, so you'll have to excuse me if my writing sounds a bit fractured here. I was sitting in the middle of a long table and, in typical awkward WhiteKhocolate style, couldn't work out which end I was meant to take my portion from! AWKWARD, LIKE I SAID. Fortunately I had the lovely talented Tammi from Insatiable Munchies on one side, and the inimitable Phillip of The Martini Whisperer fame on the other and they sort of took me under their wings and made sure I didn't miss out.

Of the savoury dishes, the octopus stands out most, seconded by the black garlic gnocchi. The octopus was cooked to perfection, with the flesh easy to cut without falling apart. And the gnocchi - I didn't even know you could GET gnocchi in different colours, but there you go, and man was it a happy introduction! Gnocchi isn't easy to get right, but this was a soft parcel of pasta in each mouthful, holding its shape without going gluggy on your tongue, and it had a distinctive, very pleasant taste, unlike some gnocchi which can be quite bland. I won't forget that in a hurry.

The sweet was really something else. The part I think I loved best was the peppercorn meringue - it was sweet, which is to be expected, but featured a little kick from the pepper, and it worked well with the thicker-than-usual texture. This was the only dish served individually.

I was impressed! This was a great venue for such a big group, and the waitstaff did a great job getting to us all with a smile on their faces. For a function like this, though, I'd have liked to see better lighting over the tables, but that's a very minor thing that at any other celebration there probably wouldn't have mattered very much. What a great night - a fantastic way to finish Saturday.

A. Baker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 12 November 2015

10 Week Challenge - Week 5

This week, I have to confess to having cheated a little. Without meaning to.

Yup, that's right. I've had gastro. The beautiful byproduct that comes from working with young humans at a time of year when your immune system just can't hack taking a thrashing.

Plus, like I mentioned last week, I was getting REALLY BORED of the menu. So I'm cheating just a smidge on that end, too, and haven't taken nearly enough photos. But here they are, the lucky few!

Week 5 LiteNEasy
Top: Beans and Bacon on Toast
Middle: Mediterranean Pizza
Bottom: Macaroni and Cheese with Ham

Pick of the Week: Something new - macaroni! I love mac and cheese (homemade, Easy Mac, Kraft, doesn't bother me - they're all good) so I decided to order this one for a change - the pasta itself was really taste, quite a cheddary flavour and well-mixed (no pasta should be without cheese I say) but I wasn't fond of the very heavily processed ham pieces with the brown skin bits still on. I also got the Beef Lasagne (which unfortunately didn't photograph well, but was equally amazeballs - really sweet, and lots of meaty sauce between each layer of pasta). Also enjoyed the pizza again (still loving that I can fold the base like the proverbial calzone) and the beans and bacon on toast.

Feelings About The Week: Well, I can safely say the massive loss I saw this week was not so much from healthy eating choices and exercise as it was from being sick. Still, a loss is a loss, and if I can keep to it I'm now on track to being where I wanted to be at the end of the ten week challenge - down a dress size and staying there. Let's hope gastro's not to blame for any further loss! Once a term is plenty.

Past the half way mark! Just five more weeks to go.

Coffee Club, Rowville

You may have noticed, if you've been reading for a while, that I don't object to chains, franchises or branches. I'm not a fussy eater, or a fussy diner. I do, however, like consistency.

Schnitz and Lord of the Fries, for example. No matter which one you go to, they're good. They're satisfying. They make me happy.

Coffee Club, apparently not so much.

The one at Stud Park presented itself as the only option for breakfast at lunchtime on Saturday, unless I wanted to schlep my ass halfway to Lysterfield to the Wellington Road shops, so I perused the menu and ordered. No fritters left. Oh. Always a bit disappointing, but i recovered, got myself an avo and feta smash, and sat down to wait.

The wait was what annoyed me. It was short, but in that time, I could not sit with my back against the wall as all of the vacant tables had dirty dishes and I didn't have spare hands to clear them. I sat down at a table in the middle, only to get knocked on my dodgy side twice by patrons squeezing between chairs and once by a serveur who pushed between my chair and someone else getting up. To boot, sitting opposite me was an older lady with her feet up on the seats opposite her, which is a pet peeve of mine. Ugh, the occasional reminder that I live in suburbia and not the inner burbs...

So the ambience was lacking. Severely. This is not usual for Coffee Club out this way - my usual one has live music quite often, and is split into tables and booths, making the knocking issue... not an issue. If you can't comfortably fit the tables and chairs you have into the space you lease, for heaven's sake reduce them!

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Avocado and Feta Smash with Smoked Salmon and Blistered Tomatoes

The food itself was okay. Bread was toasted and crispy, salmon was cool and smokey. Avocado was not very smashed but nice and ripe without stringy bits or that bitter aftertaste they get just before they're ready for eating. The feta was a bit stingy but there was enough there to get a decent hint of its flavour. The dish was served with blistered tomatoes which were softened and warmed through, though a little floury.

Would I go there again? Ehhh... they're local so I won't say never but I don't think I'll be going out of my way. Average price for the quality, but I do commend their propensity for hiring local youth for both the kitchen and front of house so that's definitely one for them.

The Coffee Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

10 Week Challenge - Week 3 & 4

So Casa Khocolateman was overrun recently in honour of the annual mayhem which is PAX, and I've been writing reports, and as a result I'm a bit behind. Thus, weeks 3 and 4 - here they are in one glorious post!

Week 3 LiteNEasy
Week 3 - Top: Chicken Nachos
Bottom:Seasoned Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

Top Lunch: Chicken nachos, without any doubt in my mind! They feel so naughty, like you're having a Mexican takeaway, but because you know they're calorie controlled and not too cheesy, there's no residual guilt afterwards. THEY WERE SO GOOD. Bright colours in the corn chips, salsa, mince and cheese contrasted beautifully, and with everything heated up it was like I was standing in the kitchen at Salsa's, inhaling deeply. Scent, get in my nostrils. And everyone else's. There's no better way to start your meal than knowing it looks and smells so good everyone else at the table wants what you're having.

Top Dinner: Another risotto pick this week - the seasoned chicken and mushroom risotto was a lite meal I'd ordered for the first time. The chicken was just so-so - adequate flavour in the seasoning, but a bit dry from the microwave - but the mushroom risotto was awesome. And there should be more of it. Like a whole tray of mushroomy, cheesey, soft squishy ricey goodness.

Feeling so far: The numbers are ticking me off. The scale just won't budge enough. And I'm pretty sure that's because of the two weekends of food-related fun I've had, so hopefully with a few weekends ahead of me of very little except for work and house-related stuff, I might get rid of a few of those pesky digits. Feeling-wise, though, I'm doing pretty well. Proud of myself for not overindulging last weekend, and proud that I'm not letting anything derail a bit of exercise - incidental or otherwise - each day. Some of it I log on MyFitnessPal, others not so much.

Week 4 LiteNEasy
Week 4 - Top: Bruschetta
Middle: Poached Egg, Tomato and spinach on multigrain toast
Bottom: Apple Crumble

Reflections on food this week: I'm a bit tired of the meals, and am looking forward to the season changeover - so this week I've chosen a breakfast, a snack and a dessert to ruminate on. The breakfast just photographs so well! Admittedly, the spinach I added in, but the rest was pretty amazing too. The bruschetta is ALWAYS welcome because, let's face it, who doesn't love seasoned tomato and ciabatta? And the apple crumble was just so sweet and warm and welcome on a cold and rainy day.

Feeling so far: The scales have budged a heap this week - two kilos in one jump! That makes me feel pretty good. I'm on track now with the ten week challenge - one full dress size is about eight to ten kilos, depending on the brand, so I should be safely back to where I want to be (short term) by Christmas. My back has stopped whinging for the moment so that is the best indicator that I'm doing the right thing.

Bring on the halfway mark!

Monday, 9 November 2015

EDB15 - Part Two: Westside Acton Park

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

After our Canberra Farmers' Market breakfast and stuffing our brains with the first course of information for the weekend, it was time for a break. And that meant lunch-type food.

For lunch, we were set loose on Westside Acton Park with a voucher to use so we could choose our own lunch. The venue itself is a really interesting concept - food vans in shipping containers. There were about eight vendors open when we were there, including the Aviary Bar upstairs, who offered us all a free glass of wine to go with our lunch.

I had a hard time deciding - lots of people recommended Miss Van's, which sells Vietnamese street food, but I can get pho and rice paper rolls and noodles at home in Melbourne, so I wanted to try something I hadn't had before. Bingo! I found a joint called 'The One' that boasted sous vide cooking techniques, and on their menu of about a dozen or so offerings I saw the curiously named 'Cubanos'. What was this, I wondered? One way to find out!

Cubanos Westside Acton Park

Yup. That's right. I'm firmly convinced I ordered the best meal in the whole damned park. It was right up my alley - a toasted, heavily buttered bun, efficiently enveloping a duo of melt-in-your-mouth-they're-so-soft slow-cooked pork and leg honey ham, a dollop of pickles and onion and some strategically placed cheese. All I could think was, how the fork do I eat this? It's HUGE.

BUT NO. It was so soft I could compress it to fit in my (admittedly very flexible) mouth. No bite was wasted. No drip of pickle splattered. No cheese glopped. No crumb spilt. No shred of meat unappreciated. I got to the end and while I was very sad that my AWESOME sandwich was gone, I felt like I'd consumed a little piece of Cuba by way of Canberra. Next time I'm in the area, I'll definitely be revisiting.

The One Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EDBB15 - Part One: The Canberra Farmers' Market

Eat Drink Blog is an annual food blogging conference - a weekend of eating, drinking, networking and LEARNING ALL THE THINGS (to do with food blogging - writing, reviewing, recipes, photography, videography, social media integration and promotion). I'd never been before but I set an alarm, postponed phone calls, and planned cooking dinner around when I knew tickets were due to go on sale - I was not missing it for anything! The Khocolateman, Aunty Spanx and Tam Overlord agreed to travel with me so I didn't have to run the gauntlet of Melbourne traffic on a Friday night and stress about missing a flight, and while this meant I didn't get to the first night I got the fun of a road trip there and back. It was a trade I was prepared to make!

Day One kicked off with a trip to the Canberra Farmers' Market. We had a little corner cordoned off for us to watch a demonstration by chefs from the Canberra Institute of Technology - nothing like being served fresh bruschetta (with fennel, goats' cheese and beans - quite the twist, with the flavour being much stronger, much saltier, and the textures being much more varied than a 'conventional' tomato-based bruschetta) and leftover profiteroles dipped in toffee (soft, airy pastry with a deliciously goopy custard centre and crackly toffee) after watching a croquembouche being assembled at lightning speed. What a start!

croquembouche

After this we were set loose on the market with vouchers to redeem so we could choose our own breakfast. Some of the vendors had also contributed to the little gift boxes our vouchers came from, so I kicked off by enjoying a mini cupcake courtesy of Crafted23 - it had very soft buttercream icing on a decadent chocolate base - a mouthful was definitely enough in the richness stakes when I was trying to be controlled, but I could easily have bought half a dozen and gone to town on them if calories were not on my mind!.

Eat Drink Blog 2015 - Canberra

In my wanderings, I next stumbled on the Real Chai stall. Not only did I GREATLY enjoy a proper chai tea, she had multiple flavours available to cater for everyone's tastes (not just that of the Mitcham 'real chai latte girl'!) and I ended up buying two tins of loose tea to bring home. One is a full-bodied regular spiced chai, and the other is a White Christmas blend. I'm saving that one for advent - well, I'm trying to, anyway! Might have to buy a refill for the tin at this rate.

I was yet to have anything substantial for breakfast, but when I saw that there was a gozleme stall churning out filled flatbread at a rate of knots I had to get in on the action. I ordered my favourite - cheese and spinach - and chilled out crowd-watching until the cheerful lady behind the counter called me over to collect my order. OHHHHHH CHEESEY SPINACHY* GOODNESS - when you are that fresh, you make me a happy, happy woman. Perfectly crisped outside and an inside so jam-packed with flavour it was like a punch to the tastebuds.

gozleme

*And because it has green stuff in it you automatically feel like you're feeding your body something with masses (more) of nutritional value than, say, a Nutella donut...

To make the most of one of the coupons provided by vendors, I visited the Muesli Bar and had a lovely young man explain that you could make your own muesli to take away - with ingredients I'd never heard of, and dried figs and cranberries available, how could I pass that by? I ordered a blend with some of my favourite fruits and grains (which I will review at a later date) and had it hand mixed and packed to take home. Yum! Another health-filled purchase.

Finally, to satisfy my thirst in the warm Canberra morning and my body's love of all things green, I ordered a fresh-juiced green concoction from the on-site juicer. There was spinach. There was kale. There was apple. There was ginger by accident (no complaints, I love that stuff). There was a giant, happy sigh from my body that could not be kept down when I sipped my way through 300ml of pure rejuvenation liquid.

And after all of that, I had to remind myself - this was just the beginning! EDB15 had a lot more to offer yet!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Serafino's, Mitcham

Serafino's is in a really prominent position on Whitehorse Road, but I never seemed to be in the right place to take advantage of their hospitality - until now. I stopped by for breakfast one morning recently when I was facing the right way in the traffic!

I ordered a chai latte and a bacon egg roll and took a seat at the window to eat. The corner is amazing for people watching, especially in rush hour. The decor of the cafe is quite sparse and its primary function is takeaway food, which I wouldn't have guessed from the exterior.

bacon egg roll serafinos
Check out all that bacon majesty. Ignore the crunchy roll

My chai was packet, but it was in a mug, and it was drinkable. The bacon egg roll was on a white bread roll which had started to go hard from sitting in the bain marie but it was STUFFED with bacon - no stingy little pieces to be found here! - so that kind of made up for it.

General impression? It was okay, but I've had better. Will I try them again? Probably not - partly because there are other, nicer places in Mitcham... but also partly because my days working there are numbered! That's a post for another day.

Serafino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Meega - it's MEGA.

Meega in Glen Waverley has been on my radar a long time, mainly when I'm having a craving for Korean fried chicken (these dreams take the form of BBQ brand with their walnut coating, and ranch dressing to dip it in, mostly). Funnily enough, I ended up having something entirely different the first time I visited.

It's not much to look at - only seats twenty-odd, and you access it either from a back lane way or through the Woori Mart on Springvale Road. Mr Park was very patient with me and my broken Korean, too! As for the food, their menu is limited, but what they have they do exceptionally well.

meega dol sot
If your dol sot is pretty, you're not doing it right

I've talked about dolsot bibimbap before (remember my trip to Sydney last holidays?) but allow me to recap - it's a hot stone bowl packed with gochujang, rice, veggies, a bit of bulgogi and a raw egg in the middle. The heat from the stone bowl cooks everything, and you stir it like crazy to stop it from sticking too much to the sides.

MEEGA YOU ARE MEGA. Kamsahamnida!! joaheyo!! MEEGA was the first place I've been to in Australia where they made the bowl so hot it produced monumental amounts of crispy stuff where the egg went crunchy around the rice and veggies. It was amazing. Just the right amount of everything, the right amount of heat. It's like the Korean version of Goldilocks - not too ricey, not too cold, just right.

I'll be back for their fried chicken, tteokbokki and kimchijiggae another time!

Meega Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Sapporo - proper tempura at last!

I found myself craving Japanese again the other day. Something about having itchy feed is you seem to crave everything from the countries you want to visit (explaining my Koreapalooza last week, and my apparent Japanathon over the last month). I decided to get a bento to take into work for lunch while marking, filing and doing other fun things, and checked out what Sapporo had to offer.

Sapporo is tucked away off Whitehorse Road, not far from Mitcham Station. It has a nice, upmarket look about it from the outside, and clean lines to the interior decor. The service is quick and efficient, and the meals reasonably priced for the quality.

sapporo bento
BRING ME BENTO

I ordered a bento box. THEY HAD PROPER TEMPURA! Oh dear lord my day just got exponentially better. The veggies and tempura prawn were done properly - light batter, served with the proper sauce. I mixed my miso with my rice and leftover chicken after eating most of it (and discovered then that I'd forgotten to ask for a spoon or fork, whoops). The salmon sashimi was lovely (firm but not tough, good flavour but not too fishy) and the salad had just the right amount of season mixed through. Definitely the best bento I've had in the area.

I'll be trying to get back here before the end of the year for sure!

Sapporo Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 31 October 2015

My crazy, insane, crazy, psychotic chicken experience.

Crazy Wing. It's been on my 'to do' list for a long time. I finally had the opportunity to head back there for lunch by myself, and seized it with both hands.

Last time I went there it was with the Khocolateman and a few friends. We can all hack the spice pretty well but it challenged even us, and the guys at the table next to us were reduced to heavily sweating, asthma suffering wrecks by the end of theirs. I wasn't going to make the same mistake they did, and ordered a soy milk and a coconut milk before I ordered my chicken.

Thusly set, I ordered a set of crazy wings, one of curry wings, and one of honey spicy wings - but because it was a Wednesday I got a second one of those free. All I can say is I'm glad it was those and not the crazy wing.

The curry wings were pleasant enough - a little bit of the smoky, salty taste of curry powder - but not anything super special. The honey spicy ones were definitely my favourite of the three - sticky, sweet, and a little bit of a kick to them. Neither of these were too oily or too crispy - they were definitely well cooked.

crazywing
Left: wing of death. Right: wings of not death.

I was so proud of myself for getting through two crazy wings, as they didn't taste as hot as I remembered them being. I had the added smugness of watching a table full of high school students DIE from the spice. I admit, I smirked quite a bit.

My smugness was very short lived. I felt great for about an hour or two afterwards but oh dear GOD the reflux afterwards. It would appear that the chicken for the crazy wings was marinaded in chilli oil of Death Sauce proportions. My stomach proceeded to punish me for my pride well into the night.

The moral of the story? Never gloat over your ability to hack chilli until you've safely made it out of acid reflux zone! Bad idea! Aside from that, Crazy Wing is a great idea as it's cheap and quick, and they do have lots of things on their menu aside from wings if they're not your thing. Bring cash, or bring friends, as they don't take card for anything under twenty dollars. Crazy Wing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 25 October 2015

10 Week Challenge - Week 2

This is a little late, but it's been a busy fortnight! Week 2 of the challenge went quite well, despite the Eat Drink Blog conference being smack-bang in the middle of it. I did my best not to over-indulge, and think I did pretty well, even resisting the temptation to gorge on fried chicken procured by the Khocolateman as his lunch for the drive home. The EDB trip is another post unto itself, so without any further ado - Week 2 of the Lite n Easy 10 Week Challenge!

Week 2 LitenEasy
Top, L-R: Tasmanian salmon risotto, crispy noodle salad, omelette with ham and tomato
Bottom, L-R: Cafe style eggs with tomato and spinach, eggs benedict, lamb wrap with cucumber and tzatziki

Top Breakfast: OHHHH this was hard this week! There's the omelette, which I FINALLY got right in the microwave (as in, it was cooked all the way through and not too dry around the edges - go me!), and the eggs benedict, which sends EVERYONE in the Facebook Lite n Easy support group into a total frenzy and I swear must generate more photos on social media than any other dish they offer (this is total conjecture, by the way. No joke that everyone loves it to tiny bits and pieces, though).

Top Lunch: The crispy noodle salad. I love that - it's a party of textures on a plate, with the crunchy noodles competing with the fibrous greens and my accidental garnish of squishy cheese (which was meant to go with my snack of lavosh crackers... whoops). To top it off, the drizzle of dressing gave the dish a delicious fish sauce and corianderesque kick. Great choice now the weather is getting warmer.

Top Dinner: This surprised me this week - my pick would have to be the Tasmanian salmon risotto, which I ordered from the mini meal menu. The salmon was balanced with peas and a hint of dill, and while I have a nasty habit of drying rice out when I microwave it, this was so well mixed with cheese that it came out as well as if I'd made it in a pan.

Feeling so far: Pretty good! Loving the convenience of not having to think so hard about what to eat, or worrying about the calories. I'm aware of the difference I felt after the weekend by comparison to how I felt after two weeks straightof Lite n Easy so I figure it must be doing something good for me. I'll be away this weekend too, but after that I have a good few weeks where I can go hardcore during the week and eat in more moderation on weekends. Bring it!

Okonomiyummy, takoyummy, in my tummy!

The Khocolateman was having dinner with a friend in Fitzroy, and I had commandeered his car for the day, so I continued my Japanathon at Shoubu on Smith Street in Collingwood before picking him up.

The interior felt like I'd stepped back into a little piece of Japan. It was decorated with tatami on the ceiling (?!) and sliding windows on the walls. Murals of Sakura trees were painted on the walls, and there was a small display of tea sets and ceramic dishes near the counter. J-pop ballads played quietly in the background, creating an ambience perfect for having stepped in off the busy street of the evening.

shoubu
Almost identical...

I ordered two of the dishes I used to eat a lot when I lived in Toyohashi - takoyaki, or octopus balls, and seafood okonomiyaki, or seafood pancake. The takoyaki came out very quickly - and as a very generous serving of about eight or ten! I used to have six as part of my lunch on Saturdays when I indulged in a bought lunch. I liked them so much that when I travelled to Osaka later in the year I made a point of navigating the subway all the way to the end of the line to go to the takoyaki museum. I was not disappointed. It was amazing. And, to be fair, these takoyaki were pretty amazing too. Hot but not burning, not too runny in the middle but not too tough on the outside. They were dressed with that yummy barbecue sauce and mayo combination with bonito flakes on top. I love the way they twist and curl when they're on top of something hot!

I had okonomiyaki for my main. It's a seafood pancake, a bit like the Korean dish, haemul pajang. I was okay at making this by the time I left Japan as I used to make it for breakfast. This was much better! Okonomiyaki comes from Hiroshima, and I remember eating it there, as well as in Toyohashi, where we found a great back alley place that did beef, pork, chicken and seafood varieties. This one was nice and thick, with peas, corn (?), diced cabbage and mixed diced seafood set in thick batter, once again with the barbecue sauce, mayo and bonito flakes on top.

YUM.

I ended up asking for a takeaway container to take the rest home as it was VERY VERY BIG and VERY VERY FILLING. But all of this was for less than $25 including a drink, so total value for money, and I was definitely impressed. I will try to get back here one day, next time with reinforcements.

Shoubu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 11 October 2015

10 Week Challenge - Week 1

So you might notice a bit of a shift in the content I bring you for the next few months. In an effort to bring some happy healthy changes into my life and reduce my likelihood of doing my back again.

I've posted before about my forays into Lite n Easy, and am using their meal plan (five days a week, breakfast, lunch and mini meals for dinner) to keep my calorie count nice and low. I've also joined a support group on Facebook, and started an event - the '10 Week Challenge' - which now has some seventy odd people participating! To boot, I've started using MyFitnessPal for Android to log my food, exercise and water.

Today, though, I'll be posting my top picks from this week's meals.

lnew1
Top L-R: Mexican chicken stack, beef burger, savoury breakfast mince.
Middle L-R: Chicken spaghetti, Chinese dim sims, pizza.
Bottom L-R: pikelets with fruit compote and yoghurt, bagel with bacon and egg

Top breakfast: the pikelets with fruit compote and yoghurt. The fruit compote is fig-based, and warmed in the microwave. It is YUMMY. Not too sweet, nicely textured, and served in good proportion to the other parts of the meal. The yoghurt is probably the pick of the LnE yoghurts (some are a bit runny on top or too solid and jelly-like).

Top lunch: by a narrow margin, the pizza. I like to split it in half and fold it like a calzone (I've never actually HAD a calzone, but I imagine that's how they look, feel and taste). The base is soft and squishy after being microwaved, and the filling is full of yummy veggies. There's just enough cheese sent out with it to make it all stick together without going rubbery.

Top dinner: Mexican chicken stack. It doesn't look like much, and the Khocolateman thinks it smells awful when it's being microwaved, but I swear the flavour is great. Lots of beans and diced veggies in a TASTY tomato-based sauce, sandwiched between lasagne-type carby stuff.

Feeling so far: pretty good. Not hungry like lots of people report, and finding it very cruisey meal-prep-wise. Will report on actual losses at the end of ten weeks. My bank account is hurting a little as I am still shopping for the Khocolateman and Dalek, as well as paying for Lite n Easy, but we can manage.

Stay tuned for next week!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Austen Tea Room, Essendon

austen crockery

So my high tea buddy from the Fancy Nance experience - Sally - recently celebrated her birthday, and I wanted to shout her to high tea to commemorate the occasion. We hit up The Austen Tea Room in Essendon (yes, literally the opposite side of the city) for their sweet and savoury high tea over the holidays (having friends who are teachers is AWESOME).

We were seated in a beautiful little room with a table all set for two in pastel purple lavender themed crockery. The walls were decorated sparsely, with prints from the 1996 BBC Pride and Prejudice series (which I adore). The perfect setting for high tea!

The servings were almost laughably big. We were served tea in a giant teapot, matching our crockery, with as much milk as we wanted, and over the course of two hours were served two cake stands of food - one savoury, with sandwiches and hot food, and one sweet, with petit fours, scones and cake.

austen tea room collage
So. Much. Yummy. Food.

The sandwiches were lovely - my favourite was the curried egg, while Sally liked the turkey and cranberry. They impressed me with their hot food selection, especially their party pies, which I'm not usually a massive fan of, but these were crispy on the outside without being too doughy, and generously laden with gravied mince meat. Yum.

The sweets were good, too, with my favourite addition being the macaroons. Each of us had a macaroon and a fairy cake, two scones (one plain and one fruit), two pieces of cake and a tart. We ended up taking the scones, some of the cake, and the tart home as it was a bit much to finish all at once!

I was absolutely impressed by the whole experience. It was a tres Austen experience, which pleased both of us, and inspired me to go home and finish Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I had downloaded to my kindle but not finished. I'd recommend booking as they only have one sitting each day (12-2) and we definitely got the pick of the rooms by getting in early (a trio of ladies walked past our room several times, with one bitching audibly about how she had wanted where we were sitting, and thought she had booked it, but they gave it away, and how dare they - awks).

High tea ran to $40 per person, and we were asked to pay a deposit when booking - I gave them my card number but they didn't process it until after our tea.

The Austen Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Don Woori (don't worry, it's awesome!) North Melbourne

Don Woori in North Melbourne was part two of my Koreapalooza after Meega.

I have a friend from uni who works in the city, and while our paths rarely cross we are lucky to have the kind of friendship where we can just pick up where we left off last time. Chris is awesome, and I only wish we could see more of each other. Maybe next year!

We finally found an evening where both of us were free and, with a coworker of Chris' and one of the coworker's friends, we hit up Don Woori in North Melbourne for an evening of Korean food goodness.

Don Woori is opposite the Queen Vic Markets on Victoria Street, just up from the Elizabeth Street intersection. I remember that strip being derelict and rather blah when I used to live in the Western suburbs, but now it's a hub for Korean food joints and a couple of pubs. In short, if you have a Korean restaurant there, it'd better be good, or you'll be out of business quick-smart.

donwoori
Mmmmmmm meaty, soy beany, pancakey, banchany goodness

I was not disappointed in the least. We ordered two of the sets (A and C), edamame and a kimchi and seafood pancake which was just enough for the four of us. They served it with plenty of side dishes, which they refilled for us without us needing to ask (especially the kimchi which was pretty good). Interestingly, no lettuce or sesame leaves were served in which to eat the meat.

The staff did the barbecuing for us, including swapping the grills over when they got a bit charred. We were given a selection of beef and pork. Some of it was marinated, some of it wasn't. As a favourite, I was definitely a fan of the bulgogi - it was sweet, and a mid-thickness cut that cooked up nicely with a bit of a crunch on the outside after being cut up. At the other end, the samgyeopsal was a bit bland by comparison, even when I ate it with the side dishes.

The pancake was YUMMY. It had the flavour of kimchi without the kick, and was nice and crispy instead of being floppy and insipid which many here in Oz are. The kimchijiggae and the sundubujiggae were good too - I mixed mine with the rice and together they were a great accompaniment to the main meal, and very filling too.

Don Woori, I'll be back! Well done satisfying four people so well!

Donwoori Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Green Refectory

greensrefectory2

The Green Refectory in Brunswick is amazing. I met up with my Prism Palace roomie, ex-derby-spouse and study buddy (all wrapped up in one package known as Anna) to catch up over their brunch on a Sunday morning.

When you walk in, you're faced with a MASSIVE line in front of a glass counter and cabinet both packed to the brim with yummy looking things - salads, cakes, sandwiches, raw foods, biscuits, fruit, plus about a hundred other things I haven't remembered. The line worked out to be for the best, because I got a chance to look and think about what I wanted to order. I got the breakfast stack and an organic chai, then later (we ended up staying for three hours) a piece of lemon baked cheesecake and a lemongrass and ginger tea, and a juice.

The breakfast stack was good. A poached egg perched on top of wilted spinach, bacon, cooked tomato and haloumi. All of that was amazing - the cooked tomatoes, in particular, had amazing flavour and really hit the spot. The only exception was the 'potato' which tasted suspiciously like Deb instant. My cheesecake was so huge I couldn't finish it, but the texture of the crust and filling were in perfect relation to each other, and the lemon curd on top was lovely and tart.

Of my three drinks I'd rate the carrot and ginger juice the highest - freshly juiced and full of flavour, it was refreshing and cleansing after food. Next I'd rate the lemongrass and ginger tea - a lot of herbals are a bit insipid, but this one tasted as good as it smelt - and its aroma was GOOOOOOD. Then the chai - definitely not a packet one, and strong enough to make it a vibrant and full mouthful with each sip. All of the drinks were great, and rating them was definitely hard.

The setting is all higgledy piggledy - they have tables wherever they can fit them, so we sat outside in a little lane way-shaped courtyard. You get given pictures instead of table numbers when you order, which is cute. They don't do bookings, and they don't do card, so you need to be quite organised when you arrive, especially when it's busy, like on weekend mornings.

Definitely one for the books! I'll be back to this stand-out.

Green Refectory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Walawwa - NEVER AGAIN

Walawwa. Oh boy. They don't have a listing on Zomato, which is probably a good thing, because if they did, it'd be well and truly in the red on ratings. Facebook reviews are a pretty good indication of this.

It was my father in law's birthday and a friend of the family said we should go to this place in Noble Park for dinner, that they did a Sri Lankan buffet and it was meant to be good. We didn't know of this place, and didn't have time to search for it before we left... if we had, we might have gently suggested somewhere else.

We arrived, and were ushered into a small room. They seated us at a table and gave us one menu (laminated, still smeared with food from a previous patron). One menu among six. When we asked for some more, they begrudgingly gave us one extra.

We did find biryani and kotthu roti on the back side with the drinks, but no buffet. Ba-boww. The Khocolateman ordered the kotthu, his mother and the family friend ordered special fried rice, his brother and I ordered a Parma and his father ordered the Mongolian Special. Ordering drinks was definitely interesting - I asked for a white wine and orange juice, which apparently they'd never heard of before. "You want them... In the same glass? That's not on the menu!" was the response.

We did wonder at one point whether we were on Candid Camera or something similar - the service was so confused, and the music was so weird (renditions of everything from 'Henry the Eighth' to 'Ave Maria' played over the speaker, then silence when the CD ran out and then got played again). It kind of felt like we were on the set of Fawlty Towers.

Okay so it took forty minutes, but the Kotthu, fried rice, and my Parma arrived. Nothing for my father in law, nothing for my brother in law. Then I found a hair in my Parma. Oh dear Lord no. Oh HELL to the no, I'm not eating any more of that thanks.

This was the point at which the birthday boy decided he'd had enough. Did I mention he still hadn't had anything to eat? He summoned the waitress, who summoned the person from the front desk, who summoned the manager to discuss a) the length of the wait, b) the missing food and c) the hair in my Parma. They weren't particularly apologetic, and the manager got quite defensive, which wasn't brilliant behaviour given the circumstances. We were still charged for three of the meals plus all the drinks which ended up being over $70 - fairly outrageous considering how awful the food we did get served had been.

We left fuming. I now have an actual baseline for when to rate a restaurant a zero (if I could do such a thing). This would be it. Not one thing was done properly - not the table setting (no serviettes!), not the staffing (two VERY confused waitresses and a very arrogant manager), not the food (SHORT CURLY HAIR IN MY PARMA, DID I MENTION THIS?? GAGWORTHY plus two people in our group not being fed half an hour after the rest of us), not the pricing ($18 for fried rice that quite frankly would have struggled to be worth half that).

Avoid this place like the plague. I can recommend at least three other Sri Lankan places within a ten minute drive that are immeasurably better! Hit me up if you're tempted here so I can show you the photo of the hair, and direct you to somewhere else.

This is one of the few posts I've ever done with NO PICTURES. Yes, I took some. No, I do not think you need to be subjected to the nature of my hairy food. Please forgive me.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Breakfast at Friars Cafe, Shepparton

So in the space of 24 hours, I travelled to three cities in Victoria and visited just two restaurants (wtf, lady, how did this happen, I hear you asking yourself). I'll write about my flying visit to Geelong another time, but this post is about my day trip to Shepparton to play Ingress.

A very good Ingress friend of mine, Snow987, co-ordinated the Layers of Awesome operation, and while I missed out being named in the sitrep, trust me, I was there, and I have the platinum Illuminator to show for it! We met at Friars Cafe in Shep for breakfast, wherein I had a good breakfast burrito (warm and soft tortilla with eggs and bacon in an adequate burrito to filling ratio, served with amazing relish, and a pretty decent banana and other things smoothie (perfect fuel for my nervous mind and stomach). Others indulged in pancakes, french toast, and bacon and egg scramble, all of which were reported to be very tasty indeed - and their consumers to whom I am grateful for letting me take photos.

The staff coped exceptionally well with 30+ Ingress agents plus encumbrances descending on their loft area, despite being in the middle of the Sunday brunch rush; everyone was served quickly and efficiently, and billed the same way (hooray for amazing people who can cope with split checks!). They were more than accommodating for those of us who flitted in and out throughout the day, too. Snow987 spent most of the day holed up there and they were more than happy for her to commandeer a table. Kudos to them.

Friar's Breakfast

Awesome day, kicked off by an awesome breakfast.

Friars Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi Station, Mitcham

Don't we just love forgetfulness? Yup... I forgot my lunch again. I feel very lucky that I work somewhere with choices as to what I eat when I do! I took off up the street with orders from two other teachers for sushi and hit up Sushi Station for a Japanese fix.

sushi

I got a couple of California rolls. The others got avocado rolls and salmon and cucumber rolls. What I had was pretty good, but a little dry, especially the crabstick. No wasabi was provided, nor was there any ginger or the usual extra bits you get with takeaway sushi, except for soy sauce (love those little fish bottles). It was also a little disappointing that at 1pm there wasn't anything much left in the cabinet, but I was impressed that they were prepared to make SOME of their selection fresh while I waited.

Will I go back? Hmm, not sure - there are other places in Mitcham that have good sushi too but it will depend on how pushed for time I am, and whether I remember I forgot my lunch early enough to go get sushi of my choice rather than whatever is left.

Sushi Station Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato