Posts Tagged ‘Diners Club’

The end of the night, I had a 1981 Macallan whilst Shane the 1979. Good vintages

The end of the night, I had a 1981 Macallan whilst Shane the 1979. Good vintages

Ok, so the reason why Shane and I decided to head to Japan for two days, or more specifically to Tokyo for two days, is 1) Because we got cheap flights, and 2) Because Tokyo has more 3 Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere on the face of the planet! Logically this would mean that it should be realtively straight forward to secure a table at one of these world class resturants. After much research and a few phone calls. Shane and I settled on Chateau Joel Robuchon in Ebisu. Joel Robuchon has more stars than pretty much anyone else so if you are going for the crème de la crème of fine dining then I’m pretty sure you can look no further. Restaurants Joel Robuchon does not take booking sooner than 2 months from the date, so we called on the first day possible and were lucky to secure our table. Both Shane and I were pretty excited to be flying to Japan ostensibly just for dinner at such a well regarded establishment.

When we booked we knew that we were going to have a big day wondering around Harajuku, Ginza and Tokyo, so we made sure that our booking was for 7:30. Enough time to see the sights and then head back to the hotel, relax, change and then back off to Ebisu. Anyway, lets fast forward shall we and focus on the big day!

There seemed to be something wrong with Shanes camera - all the photo's came out blurry :(

There seemed to be something wrong with Shanes camera – all the photo’s came out blurry 😦

Oh, a side note: Unfortunately our photos suck, and we didn’t take any in the restaurant as it just isn’t the done thing in Japan. However we did get one at the end of the night – we asked if they could take one of us, which they were more than happy to do – that’s the photo up the top. You really don’t get a good grasp of the opulence of the restaurant from any of our photos. That’s probably the best way to describe Joel Robuchon – opulent.

Alright, well lets get stuck into the review:

We arrived early so that we could take a stroll around Ebisu and check out the restaurant – it’s an actual replica Château in the heart of modern Tokyo – really makes a statement. When you arrive you are treated impeccably from the start, these guys are as you would expect, at the top of their game in terms of hospitality.

The dinning room is an amazingly luxurious assault on the senses – We had a great location to see around the room and observe the other diners. I’ve included a shot from their website which gives you an impression of the room:

The Dinning room at Joel Robuchon Ebisu

The Dinning room at Joel Robuchon Ebisu

you can see more here: http://www.joel-robuchon.com/en/restaurants-tokyo-joelrobuchon.php

I noted interestingly that the waiter did not place the serviette on my lap – perhaps an interesting Japanese/Australian cultural difference? Regardless of a few little differences here or there which you could chalk up to being in a Japanese, French restaurant in Tokyo, for the most part we felt extremely well looked after as you would expect. We were served by about 4 main, different people, all of whom spoke some level of English. Our primary waiter and our sommelier both spoke very good English. So when we sat down and ordered there were not communication issues.

We were offered water shortly after we sat down – we chose sparkling of course (As with Melbourne, it was rather pricey – but then that’s the genous of the diners club – we don’t care about the price!), and then a trolley with a pile of hand cut ice and what looked to me like 4 Jeroboams (3lts bottles) of Champagne, and one of rose. The waiter enquired if we would like a glass – however this is where is gets interesting, the Champagne was Veuve Clicquot NV. Now I don’t want to sound like a wine snob here, but I’m in a 3 star restaurant about to order a 14 course degustation, I almost said no. I’m not a fan of the flat, apple juice like NV. It’s so soft and uninteresting. I wonder if that is a Japan thing. Shane and I were both unimpressed with this beginning, but then the restaurants whole approach to wine was interesting to say the least. I asked the sommelier for the wine list and unfortunately it didn’t offer us much in the way of solutions – neither of us wanted to order just one or even two bottles for the evening, and there just wasn’t any choices by the glass except for the 6 “suggestions” for the degustation – 6 wines for 14 course when you include the cheese course… I understand that wine is not particularly popular and perhaps this was the cultural issue once more. We did end up getting a glass of the Veuve, and once again I was really not impressed by the wine – it’s an uninteresting wine by my tastes, but c’est la vie as they say. Lets move on and hope for better.  We consulted our sommelier about matching the 6 wines, and he was very helpful considering that English was not his first language, he made a suggestion for the first wine and we then communicated to him that we wanted him to chose the wines for us throughout the evening. Crisis averted, I was worried for a moment that our combine language and cultural barriers might get in the way, but one again the professionalism of the staff here shone through.

Whilst waiting for our first course we had the pleasure of being introduced to the moving “boulangerie”, a cart piled high with freshly baked breads and pasteries that we would select thoughout the night to match our dishes, or even whenever we pleased! The first bread – which was a perfect little baguette, was served with an amazing fruity, virgin olive oil. Delicious. I’m often surprised at just how amazingly good the bread and butter is at top class restaurants, sometimes it’s almost my highlight! Of course they weren’t finished showing off – just as I was about to partake of this freshly baked baguette, another waiter arrives wheeling in a trolley with a 3ft high glass cloche, underneath which was a tower of French butter, which they then proceeded to hand carve for us. Is there better butter anywhere??

Ok, so lets just get on with the food and wine. Actually before I really get into it, the one hard thing about this write up is that due to the language barrier, the waiters were unable to fully guide us through each course. They could give us the over view but it was difficult to really get more detailed information about the dish. We had the same issue with the wine, the sommelier would tell us the wine and then leave the bottle for us to study – we had to work hard if we wanted to find our the grape variety beacuase, one – French labelling doesn’t list the grape – you need to know the region (Well, they might list the grape but I can’t read French, and/or couldn’t see it listed) and the waiters were finding it difficult to give us more than the basic details in English. We got there most times, but it was challenging – obviously no points deducted for any of this – I’m amazing at how well it all went considering we were in a non English speaking country, hats off to the whole team at Joel Robuchon, they did an outstanding job in this regard.

Anyway, so where was I? ah yes – the degustation:

I’ll bold the course title as it was listed on the menu:

Amuse-Bouche Le Caviar Imperial

Caviar with a delicate crustacean jelly served in a surprise tin

First dish was a show stopper – Straight away I thought – now this is why this place is a three star restaurant – pure decadence right there in the first course. The plate itself was a beautiful artistic creation, rising up with a mounded middle on which the surprise tin sat. There were little crystals on the side of the plate and the spoon was completely made of mother of pearl. Removing the lid and you were exposed to the mound of fresh caviar sitting in the light jelly, above a generous amount of picked lobster. This dish was spectacular. So well executed, fresh, rich, a slight taste of the sea, decadent – brilliant. However, we both felt the lack of a nice complex champagne to cut through the richness, and all we had was the disappointing Veuve Clicquot NV.Thankfully our sommelier started to match wines for us after this.

L’Orsin

Sea Urchin three ways:

  • With a coffee scented mash potato
  • In a maki with couscous and cucumber
  • With a fennel cream on a sea urchin blanc-manger

Ok, so we’ve just finished the first course which was amazing, and then out comes the second course, sea urchin done three different ways. The first, the coffee scented mash potato was interesting, a very light coffee note over a buttery rich mashed potato, then a light sea urchin hint – that was more texture than flavour, it’s like a hint of the sea really. Perhaps too delicate for this dish, the sea urchin was somewhat lost in the flavour of the buttery potato and the coffee scent. The maki was forgettable, not sure exactly what this was there for, perhaps to cleanse the palate? It seemed a bit too much on the cucumber front, flat. The fennel cream showed promise, a light pop of salt hit the mouth first then the perfume of the fennel, but again, very light. Very well executed though – my thoughts at the end were interesting but not show stopping.

 Le Potiron

Chilled Pumpkin Veloute enhanced with smoke

The is was the dish of the night – no doubt about it. A really sophisticated, yet refined, subtle, yet punchy dish. This is one of those dishes that sit up there in my top 5 all time meals. This was amazing – I knew I was at a three star establishment from the moment it hit my lips. The veloute had a light milk foam on top small hits of smoked oil and the diced pumpkin which was cooked until tender. The subtle hit of the smoke on the back of the creamy pumpkin liquid just worked so well.

It was after this dish that the Chef, Alain Verzeroli came to our table for a chat. The first thing he asked us how long we had been in the industry! I guess they must have thought we had come out to steal some ideas – or we were critics! He spoke about his style and philosophy -simple food done well, let the food speak for itself in a sense. He also knew a bit about the Melbourne food scene and had some experience with Vue de monde, Shannon Bennet’s amazing restaurant in Melbourne. We were pretty chuffed at having the opportunity to chat to a three starred chef – that doesn’t happen every day! It was also lovely of the waiter to bring him out to meet us, he had clearly overheard our non stop foodie table talk – I didn’t see it happen at any other table. Speaking of which, the clientele at the restaurants was quite interesting, it seemed like a special occasion restaurant as most of the groups were celebrating something. It’s quite interesting to observe the different way that the Japanese celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. The waiter would bring out a small cake with a candle, then the table would all gather around and the waiter would take a photo, and then very quiet polite applause, so as not to disturb anyone else in the restaurant. Fascinating.

Les Crustaces

Crustacean three ways:

  • In a spicy broth with fresh herbs
  • deep fried crab with green curry emulsion
  • Dublin bay prawn served with a lemongrass emulsion and oil, stewed leeks

This course was somewhat disappointing – the three options were all well executed, however they just didn’t seem linked enough – I feel a choice of one would have been better. The first dish I tried, the deep fried crab was nice, deep fried in a crispy thing wrapper, cooked tender with a nice green curry to dip it into…- But then I don’t want nice when I’m at a three star restaurant. I want every dish to be amazing. To sing in the mouth. If it doesn’t then it shouldn’t be on my plate. I can get nice at a lot of places, places I haven’t flown for 10 hrs to get to. I have to say this one was disappointing. The Dublin bay prawn (Langoustine), was a bit flat as well, again, nice, but just not making me sit up and take notice. Finally the spicy broth with fresh herbs was lovely, both Shane and I thought they would have been much better off just serving this on it’s own… At this stage the sommelier had brought out a really interesting viogner, the 2011 Paul Jaboulet Aine Condrieu Les Cassines.

La Noix de Saint-Jacques

Panfried scallop with seaweed butter, ginger and apple condiment , sorrel and baby turnip

Oh dear, another dish that I just kind of sighed after taking the first bite. Look, it was a perfectly cooked scallop, but it was just not the interesting – I felt it wasn’t adventurous enough, a little boring really. I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to really see a vision from the chef. Yes I know he is all about simplicity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take me on an interesting journey at the same time. Good, but not great. The baby turnip was quite nice, it was stuffed with the sorrel and was actually really enjoyable.

La Figue

Fresh Fig covered with a red wine tuile and saved with panfried foie gras

Oh wow – back in three star town. Thank you chef. I feel like this has been a bit of an iron chef kind of meal where some of the dishes just didn’t hit the mark and then all of a sudden they come back with a standout dish. This was foie gras cooked to perfection. Such richness, such tenderness. And the fig, sweet and candy like, cutting through the immense richness of the duck liver. This is the kind of dish you want.

Le Fromage Persille

Blue cheese fondant served on plum and orange compote, maple syrup thin tartlet

And then we got this dish… I didn’t understand the point of this course at this stage. The dish was executed exceedingly well, but for all intents and purposes this was a cheese course – the gorgonzola fondant was lovely but quite strong. I thought this was the end of the meal. Quite strange actually, especially to have it followed up with a fish course.

La Sole

Panfired Dover Sole with almonds served on a brioche mousseline and caper coulis

Once again, a nice dish, but not amazing. The fish was interesting, cooked quite well – the Sole is a solid fish, not as delicate as I was expecting from a white fish. The caper coulis and the brioche mousseline were wonderful and really lifted the fish beyond being a plain, yet perfectly cooked firm white fish. Nothing really all that memorable.

Le Boeuf

Grilled Beef accompanied by spicy eggplant variation and tapenade jus

Oh, gosh, another hit. Thank the lord, I was getting worried. This dish was excellent and paired nicely with a lovely 2011 Chateauneuf-du-pape, ‘Cuvee Colombis’ from Domaine I. Ferrand. Everything you have heard about Japanese Wagyu is true -it’s amazing. so buttery and tender, delicious. If only this was a 4 course meal, and we could have just selected the hits, and left out the misses… The eggplant was amazing, there was a slice underneath the beef that tasted exactly like some of the best steak I’ve every had. Once again, amazing.

Les Legumes

Seasonal vegetables stewed and served with buckwheat’s seed

My first reaction WTF??? NO NO NO. This dish was just so underwhelming and disappointing. It was essentially a bowl of mixed vegetable!! Are you kidding me – I paid how much for this?? No seriously. Ok, so it wasn’t what I was expecting, lets all calm down for a moment and talk this through. Small bowl presented with a spoon filled with Buckwheat seed that I was supposed to pour over the dish to give it a different texture. Bowl had a lotus root, a Portobello mushroom – which to be fair was pretty damn good, and then some pathetic sautéed vegetables – some green beans, carrot… I was not impressed.

Cheese

At this stage the cheese cart comes out and both Shane and I are a little bit flat – this is not turning out to be the amazing gourmet experience we had hoped. When I thought of a three start restaurant I thought of the best I’ve had back home – Ben Shewry’s Attica in Ripponlea, or Matt Moran’s Aria in Sydney, or even Neil Perry’s Rockpool – and then I thought – it must be even better than any of these places. Nothing here really topped any of those places… Ok, sure the ambiance and the service was second to none – and let’s be honest the service here was like food theatre – such professionals. But the food was really a bit, dare I say it, disappointing. And don’t get me started on the wine – 6 wines for 14 courses, and not really matched!!!! Anyway, so by this stage yes we were both enjoying ourselves, but we were a bit flat. The cheese cart rolls by and we were asked if we would like to select some cheese. Why, of course we do… We selected an amazing Comté and a lovely Brie – we thought to share, and then they turned to me and asked what I would like – this after they had just carved off to big slabs of cheese – I just got the same I was so dumbfounded! We also asked to look at the digestif drinks menu as we generally finish our big nights with an Armagnac or two. Once again very disappointed by the list – I am used to encyclopaedic tomes in Melbourne and Sydney through which to select our beverage of choice – here there were about 5 or so Armagnac’s/cognac’s and some of them were just your basics you would find in any restaurant. Once again I would hazard a guess that this is a Japanese difference, as they had quite a selection of scotch’s, which are quite popular in Japan. I ordered the 1981 Macallan and Shane got the 1979 to come with the petit four.

Le Raisin Muscat

Fresh Mustcat grape with a lemon and honey jelly and an apple granite

Next cab off the rank was the very refreshing palate cleansing granite. This was a really simple yet lovely dish – this is the kind of dish I was expecting when we had chatted with the chef – you can get a feel for the ingredients in this dish, but you’re also impressed by the skill and mastery of the chef. This was a definite hit.

Le Carioca

Carioca papaya coulis and Guava mousse served with black currant sherbet

Ah the final dish before the petit four. These arrived with a flourish and both Shane and I were both impressed with the way the whole dish was presented. I recall my dessert was lovely, I really enjoyed the experience. I can’t say the same for Shane:

THE INCIDENT

This moment will live in infamy – is that a poor choice of words considering in the location? Ok, let me rephrase, there was a bloody HAIR in Shanes meal. A BIG THICK BLACK HAIR. I’m sorry, but that’s never happened to me even at McDonald’s. Perhaps I should have pulled a John McEnroe at this point – Are you serious??? So, I’m enjoying my delicious dessert when I look over to see Shanes face. He looks confused and a little sad. He points to his bowl, “have a look at this”… I look down. I say nothing to Shane, but I turn to the area where the waiters are and say “SUMIMASEN” rather forcefully. The waiter comes over with a questioning look and I point to Shanes bowl – “There is a hair in my friends dish!”. The waiters face drops – he looks as though someone has died. Shane fends off the offer of another dessert with some lame excuse, and the offending dish is removed forthwith. Both of us are confused and a little embarrassed. We don’t know where to look. Silence for a good 5 minutes. The waiters stay away from a while. We discuss the meaning of this incident for the meal. There’s no way that you can let that sort of thing slide. We both felt like mugs – I mean we just flew from Melbourne just to eat here. We spent 155,000 Yen on the meal – (They gave us 2,000 yen off for the offending dessert).

Nice of them to take 2000 yen off for the offending dessert...

Nice of them to take 2000 yen off for the offending dessert…

Neither of us knew what to do or say in this situation – the waiter eventually came back over and apologised and almost hit the floor when he bowed towards Shane. You could tell that they were all very upset as well. This sort of thing just shouldn’t happen.

Le Café express ou le The

Express coffee or tea served with petit four

I don’t really remember this point – I think I had a macaroon – I didn’t care, it all tasted like ash at this stage, I was too caught up in the Hair incident to really notice… The Maccallan did calm me down a bit, it was lovely after all…

We asked the waiter to call us a cab, and we waited and discussed the whole incident, in fact we talked about the incident again at a bar in Shinjuku where we decided to get a night cap and then again the next day at the Qantas lounge. The outcome of our discussions was this. Even if you set aside the hair incident, the meal was not what we were expecting for a 3 star restaurant. There were too many misses – and they were misses because they were just underwhelming, uninspired or just not special. To me, any dish at a three star restaurant has to make you say, wow. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be there. The degustation lacked vision or direction, at times I didn’t know what it was trying to do. At other times I thought it was a stripped back, very light  affair and then you get Duck liver or Blue cheese fondant??? This restaurant would probably not make my top five. That tells me that the Melbourne and Sydney food scenes are world class. I wonder if all three stars are like this? Something tells me not… Michelin, lift your game!

 

 

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The craziness of the journey that Shane and I were to embark on only began to sink in as I was leaving work on Friday afternoon. Up until then I had been too busy to really think about the trip. We had caught up during the week to book a tour and discuss the trip, but really there hadn’t been a lot of planning involved since we had booked the restaurant in early September. When Shane arrived with the suitcase, it all got a little bit exciting – I packed hurriedly, and we enjoyed a beer while we waited for our driver to arrive – of course we weren’t getting a lift to the airport or catching a regular taxi, we were going in style. The trip to the airport was uneventful, on the journey there we organized for our driver to pick us up on the Monday night, until then we hadn’t given much thought to Monday. Friday to Monday, 20hrs of flights, two nights and two full days in Tokyo. This was going to be fun. Checking in and getting through customs was straight forward, and pretty soon we were on our way to find a drink and collect ourselves before the adventure began. Thankfully Shane still had his gold Qantas frequent flyer status (Which expired on the 31st October!) so we had access to the Qantas international business lounge.

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Free food and drink is always appreciated! Thanks Qantas International Business Lounge!

It makes a difference to the start of the journey, being able to sit, relax and just get a drink or a bite to eat whenever you feel like it. We had about an hour and a half in the lounge before boarding – and then we were on our way. We were on the A330-200 which is configured in a 2-4-2 seating arrangement, I’d selected two seats in the window so it was nice not to have to share with a stranger or have to worry about climbing over 2 people. The Jetstar international seats have a bit more leg room than the domestic ones, and so even though Shane and I are both over 6ft, we still had enough room to be reasonably comfortable. Ok, so it’s no Qantas business class lay flat bed, but whatever – it did the job. The flight’s pretty easy, 10hrs give or take, overnight landing in the morning, I got about 4hrs of good sleep and dozed for another 2, Shane probably got a little less.

Landing in Narita was easy, getting through customs was efficient, very little Japanese between the two of us was no problem at all – all the signs were in English and Japanese. I even managed to purchase a coke at a little kiosk. I knew a couple of words – I tried those out, the man responded in Japanese, I smiled and nodded, showed him the coke I wanted, smiled and nodded some more and eventually gave him some money and he gave me the coke. Japanese is easy…

Because Shane Sucks at photo's, I thought I'd include a pic of what the train actually looks like - and some info about it. It's no shinkansen, but it was still cool

Because Shane  and I suck at photo’s, I thought I’d include a pic of what the train actually looks like – and some info about it. It’s no Shinkansen, but it was still cool

We had booked the Skyline express to Nippori, a fast train, the goes about 160kph and gets you into Nippori station which is on the Yamanote JR line. I was expecting some challenges catching public transport, but it was so easy. We had to change in Nippori, and purchase tickets to get us to Shinjuku. Once again, simple task – we asked at the help desk, they spoke English, we got our tickets and we were directed to the platform to catch the train. Easy. Why can’t we get a public transport system in Melbourne that works like this? It was about 9am by the time we got to Shinjuku – there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of people around, and a lot of shops hadn’t opened yet. The Shinjuku station by the way is huge – and mostly underground. However the signage makes sense and is easy to follow. We eventually climbed out of the station to be greeted by Shinjuku. Wow. This place is like times square – but crazier. Billboards everywhere, quite a few people out and about, even though a lot of shops are still closed – This was my Dorothy moment – I was not in Kansas anymore.

Our first mission was to get to the hotel, Shane’s GPS made that task pretty easy and after about 20mins of wondering around Shinjuku we arrived at the Grandbell hotel. Since check-in didn’t open until 3pm we got them to hold our bags, I changed in the toilets and we got ready to explore around Shinjuku.

Walking around Shinjuku, we realized that we had booked ourselves into a hotel situated near the red-light district – there seemed to be a lot of “love hotels” and gay bars. Lots of night clubs and bars – you could tell it would be an interesting area at night, wondering through all the small back alleys – early on the Saturday morning after Halloween there was evidence of the partying from the evening before, and people still in costume, or still drunk… Yep, this side of Shinjuku was certainly interesting. We decided to head back closer to the station which seemed more like an upmarket shopping area, which had the more reputable bars and restaurants. I needed to find something to eat and perhaps do some shopping. The weather wasn’t too bad at this stage, a light shower or two occasionally, but generally mild, about 22c. Indoors however, it was always quite hot, they don’t like to use the air-conditioning apparently – Had to keep taking my jacket off.

Not all that different to back home...

Not all that different to back home…

Check out my post on the Burger section for a clip and more information about the Burger experience!

Check out my post on the Burger section for a clip and more information about the Burger experience!

The first place we stopped off was Burger King – now I know you might think that’s a bit stupid – fly all the way to Japan just to get a burger you can get at home. Well, actually, the burgers here are different – you can’t get these at home. They have this black burger called the Kuro Diamond. It’s in a Black bun, with Black cheese and a black sauce, normally patty, mayo, tomato and lettuce. How could I pass up that sort of opportunity? So I ordered the burger with some onion rings and a coke zero – once again, my pointing, smiling and nodding skill were showcased to great effect. Monies were exchanged – and food was provided. Easy. Shane got a whopper with avocado and fries – a little different, but essentially the same. The meals were provided quickly, and they were presented perfectly on the try – it looked like what you see on a commercial – these Japanese take pride in everything they do. I unwrapped my burger and took the first bite – and that was about all I wanted to take. Honestly, disgusting. I felt sick. The black shiny cheese and the black sauce had this weird flavor combination going on – sort of vegemite mixed with mushroom soy and oyster sauce thing going on – it was just wrong. At least I can say I’ve had a black burger… The onion rings were quite nice and Shane was kind enough to give me some of his fries.

We decided to make our way back towards the shopping district in Shinjuku to kill some time before we could check in. The area around the station is quite built up and home to a range of up-market shopping options – from Zara and Topshop, tiffanies and coach. Plus there’s a whole bunch of electronics stores alongside a multitude of bars and restaurants. By this stage it was clear that the place had woken up, people were everywhere – there was just no end to the hoards of people.  By this stage the weather had also taken a turn for the worse and was raining fairly heavily. We decided to see if we could find some umbrellas, walking into the first likely store, to be greeted by photos of naked women – it seemed like a normal gift shop kind of place from the outside, they sold gifts and books and dvd’s, I guess kind of like a news agent – but there was no censoring of the photos, obviously not worried about kids walking in? I guess f you could read the signage you’d know… Anyway, we got out two tiny clear umbrellas for about 300 yen each and then continued to wander Shinjuku. Shopping for clothes here is pointless if you are bigger than a medium. I wanted to see if I could pick up a sports jacket – their idea of XL is probably closer to our medium. Their XL pants were 92cm – Didn’t worry about trying to find any clothes after that.

I also needed to get a USB cable so I could charge my phone – I’d brought the charger/adapter, just not a USB cord. Managed to pick one up from an electronic store by holding up my phone, pointing to the mini-USB port and saying charger – cost me about 2000 Yen, but I got what I needed eventually. After all that shopping, we decided that we really needed to find a spot to sit down and grab a refreshing beverage. Getting a table in Tokyo is easy, walk in to the bar or restaurant of choice, wait until the person greeting you has stopped talking, smile, nod, then hold up the same number of fingers as people in your dining party. Follow the waiter/waitress as y moving along saying “Hai, hai” Sit down. Smile and nod. I’m pretty much a local by this stage. The menus normally have photos, so Shane and I pointed to the photos of the beer, held up two fingers, smiled and nodded. Two beers arrived a short time later. This time however, I wanted to get creative. I whipped out the phrase book and after getting the waitresses attention – sisimasen – potatoru firu, arigato. Smile, nod. Some 5 minutes later, a bowl of chips and tomato sauce arrived at our table. Yep, I knew Japanese was easy.

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Pretty tired by this stage…

It was getting towards checking in time so we started to walk back to our hotel, stopping for refreshments as we went. This time we walked through the less respectable area of Shinjuku, there are “Girl bars” everywhere, dodgy looking bars, nightclubs and lots of hairdressing salons. Apparently there’s quite the cross dressing thing going on here. The hair dressing salons are to help you get that “feminine” look. We did a bit of research and read a few horror stories about drink spiking and getting mugged so we decided not to risk going out in this area of town.

A walk way on the way back to the hotel.

A walk way on the way back to the hotel.

Finally checked in at about 3pm, got to our rooms and discovered that a small room in Japan is pretty bloody small. There is no extra space, you get a king single – although they call is a double – no chance of two normal sized westerners in there.

Tiny Bed

Tiny Bed

A tiny bath/shower, and a toilet. – that’s about it. The toilets by the way are pretty cool. They have inbuilt seat warmers, a bidet and a blow dryer. All controlled by a remote on the side. Shane in particular was pretty excited by the toilet. I think he took a dozen photo’s, I hope no action shots. Anyway, here’s just to give you an idea of the controls!

Confusing - but the best part was the seat warmer!

Confusing – but the best part was the seat warmer!

By this stage we had been going for quite some time with very little sleep so showers, a change of clothes and a really quick accidental nap were the order of the day. I lay down after my shower and woke up 30 mins later. By this stage we had to get going because we had our tour booked – Tokyo by night. We had to get from Shinjuku to Yurakucho, once again relying on public transport. We purchased Suica cards from the ticket machines at Shinjuku station  – which all display in English if you press the button and loaded up some funds – 500Y to buy the card and the 1500 loaded (I had 300 left over by the end of our trip). Once again we were traveling on the Yamanote line which is like a big loop around Tokyo. It’s so easy to catch and there’s pretty much a train every few minutes. I don’t think we waited for more than 2 or 3 minutes ever. It takes about 30mins from Shinjuku to Yurakucho and we were supposed to meet our guide out the front at 5pm, since we caught the 4:27pm train we were cutting it fine.

I’ll update the food tour soon…

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Ok, so I’m in Japan for two days only – what’s the first thing I eat? Obviously a burger – But not any burger. The Kuro Diamond “Black Burger”. Wondering around the streets of Shinjuku early Saturday morning I noticed something strange. A Burger King – OK, not that strange, sure we call them Hungry Jacks back home, but I’m aware the rest of the world calls them by their real name “Burger King”. That’s not the strange part – the strange part was the Black Burger being advertised on the sign out the front – a big black version of the Whopper??

I turned to Shane at this point and made it clear to him that regardless of whatever pretensions we may have had about eating and experiencing the best that Japan has to offer, this would have to be the starting point!

Anyway, so I made my way to the counter and smiled towards to serving girl – hoping that I could make myself understood. Thankfully the menu is full of photos, so I was able to simply point, smile and nod – and throw in an Arigato, place some money on the counter and the order was made! I got onion rings and a coke – Shane was less willing to experiment and so he just got a whopper with avocado, fries and a drink. Once done with the ordering we sat down in the (very clean) restaurant and awaited our breakfast burgers.

The food arrived looking like it had been arranged for a photo shoot – everything perfectly wrapped and positioned just so (Gee these Japanese fast food workers take their jobs seriously – well done), I was impressed. This could only mean that the food would hopefully meet the same exacting standards. Unwrapping my burger, I was pleased to note that it looked pretty good – sure the black bun was a little off putting – apparently it’s coloured using squid ink and bamboo charcoal – but I was willing to give it a shot. The Kuro Diamond is the more expensive version of the Kuro burgers, this one comes with tomato, lettuce, onion, cheese, mayo and what appeared to be black BBQ sauce of some sort. Picking up the bun and bringing it in for closer inspection, you get the feel of the burger – a good sized patty that looks as though it’s got a bit of pepper though it, then you spot the cheese… The cheese is a bit much, it’s a shiny black, the colour of coal, covered with the dark BBQ sauce and the whole thing just seems wrong to my Australian eyes – but I’m also excited to taste this crazy thing. The white of the mayo and the green and red of the salad contrasts so strongly, its a really weird burger to get your head around. Oh well, nothing left but to dive in and take a big bite. First bite and my first reaction is, um, that’s interesting… Um, actually that’s a bit wrong. The black cheese and the black sauce, combine with the bun and peppered patty to give a very savory/Umami flavour, it kind of  reminded me of Vegemite, combined with mushroom soy, garlic and oyster sauce (Not that I’ve ever had that combination…). At least that’s what came to mind. Shane gave it a shot and left it a one bite as well, apparently he quite enjoyed his whopper and fries. At least my onion rings were good.

If I had to give this burger a score it would be a 2 for taste, but I think that’s a bit unfair.  I mean, it’s actually prepared and cooked very well for a fast food burger. The meat appears to be a higher quality that the usual fare we get back home and it was put together with care. Obviously I just didn’t like the flavours, but I hear it’s pretty popular in Japan… Below is my video of that first and only bite.

 

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I’ve been to TGI’s a few times in Australia, generally it’s a fairly average food experience – with overpriced, fairly uninspiring food. I don’t mind their Buffalo wings, but they are so inconsistent that at least half the time I’m disappointed. On Friday night Katie wanted to get out of the house and catch a movie down at southland. Since we didn’t have time to eat before we left, and I didn’t want movie “food” for dinner, we decided to get a quick bite to eat at TGI’s. Thankfully it was still early so the place was fairly quite when we got there. The service is generally the one aspect at TGI’s that pretty consistent, they seem well trained and do a pretty good job – which was good because we had a movie to see after all and we wanted to get things moving quickly. We decided to play it safe and just get mains – no appetisers or desserts. Katie and I both elected to order burgers, I got the ultimate Jack Daniels burger at $24.95  and Katie got a cheeseburger with added bacon and crispy onion rings. I guess that’s one good thing about TGI’s – they have no problem making things just the way you want it – how very American of them. The ulitmate JD burger is a bit of a monster, you get two patties, glazed with Jack Daniel’s sauce, lots of  Monterey Jack cheese, bacon and Cajun-battered onion rings on a toasted bun. Comes with a fair amount of their seasoned fries and a side of Jack Daniel’s glaze. In the past my burger experiences at TGI have been pretty underwhelming, I’ve found the patties to be dry and overcooked and since they come open – American style, this tends to exacerbate the dryness issue. Thankfully, this time around things were certainly improved regarding the juiciness issue. The burger had quite a bit of cheese which had melted and encased the patties, sealing in the juiciness. Although cooked all the way though, the patties this time had the right percentage of fat in what was probably a chuck based mix, meaning that it still retained said juiciness as well. Properly seasoned, the patties were beefy and had a nice grill note.
Two patties certainly make a filling burger – one would probably do if you are having an appetiser first, but I’m not going to complain. On to the bun – which was lightly toasted, nice and soft, fairly standard white bread style – although it started to fall apart at the end. I guess the double was a bit much for the bun. The glaze on the patties wasn’t particularly strong so I added some from the side which gave it a bit more of a kick and may have contributed to the bun falling apart. My favourite part – The pickles at TGI’s are really good – I even added Katie’s to my burger since she didn’t want hers. One let down for me, which you can just see in the picture, was the bacon – it just wasn’t cooked well, a bit soft, really just heated as opposed to grilled.
Overall I was reasonably happy with my burger – this time around, but I’ve had some pretty average burgers in the past so it’s pretty hard to judge. I’d give the JD ultimate burger a 7, but keep in mind I’ve had some not so great burgers from here in the past. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come.

TGI Fridays on Urbanspoon

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It’s been a while since I’ve managed to venture out for a Burger – work, study and illness have conspired recently to keep me from my beef and bun Friday nights. Thankfully, this past Friday, my good mate Paul was feeling a little lonely – his wife was overseas and he was keen for a catch up. Being the good mate that I am, I suggested we find somewhere for a Burger and then a place to watch the game, since our team was playing interstate. Research ensued and eventually we settled on a little burger joint my sister had suggested called Hello Sam. Hello Sam is located down the end of Chapel Street, not all that far from the Yarra river. It’s still walking distance from the South Yarra train station, which is how Paul and I got there. Hello Sam does seem to be somewhat removed from all the action on Chapel street, being more in a residential area than the busy shopping precinct – but I guess at the end of the day, good places are worth a little bit of effort to find. The café as it’s called has quite a bit of out door street side seating, and since it was reasonably warm, we elected to sit in the sun and enjoy our burgers. I ordered the Uncle Sam as a double, which comes with American cheese, tomato relish, red onion, American mustard, pickles, served on a brioche bun. The double pattie version I got is $18.5 and I also ordered a small chips. Paul got the Bonanza, which comes with Lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon, 2 mustard mayo, tomato relish and BBQ sauce – $13.

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I love the fact that it comes with some onion rings on top, I don’t love the fact that I didn’t order a side of them. Note to self – order a side of these delicious onion rings next time… That’s not to say that the chips were no good, they were decent enough – reminded me of the schnitz chips if you’ve had those before. Anyway, who wants to talk about chips when there’s a burger to talk about right? Upon first inspection I was impressed, this looked like a pretty decent American style cheese burger – for some reason I assumed it came with lettuce etc… I didn’t read the menu closely obviously. The first thing that I liked about the burger was the bun to beef ratio, the bun is just the right thickness – the ratio is good, this is not one of those overly bready affairs. The second thing I really liked was the fact that they weren’t afraid of the sauce bottle. This is a saucy burger. First bite and it hits you on the cheeks. I like that. The patties are supposed to be cooked to a medium, although mine was probably a little over done, Paul’s however, was perfectly cooked. Regardless, it was still quite juicy, although just a little fatty for me, I think it would have benefited from some fresh lettuce and tomato, just to balance that slight greasiness. However, the pickle helped to cut through some of the fat (I really appreciated the long strips of pickley goodness – the more the better I say). The meat itself was slightly bland, not a very rich beef flavour, probably could have done with a fraction more seasoning – that’s possibly why it felt a little on the fatty side? I’m going to guess that the main cut is chuck, with a reasonable percentage of fat – you do get that traditional fast food burger flavour which I like.  Overall it’s quite a nice burger, the ingredients are all good quality, from the beef to the bun. I just think this version, the Uncle Sam, is probably not their best burger – it needed a few things to make it really top quality, and with these types of burger there’s no where to hide. The fact that the patties were a little off meant the whole burger suffered, because as a double, that’s really what it was all about. I’d give it a 7, but I really want to try some of their other burgers, because Paul quite enjoyed his.

Hello Sam Burger Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Finally decided to head out East and try the burger so many have been raving about – I’d been hearing so many good things about Dandenong Pavilion, and it has been on my to do list for quite some time. The only problem is that it’s not particularly close to me or anyone I know. Thankfully my good friend Shane was in town from Sydney, and with school holidays on, well I’d run out of excuses not to give this place a shot. It’s actually located just outside of the CBD (Downtown) area of Dandenong on the main road into town. Interesting location, it’s a big restaurant with a nice outdoor area, layout seems a bit like a good pub bistro inside. However, that’s where the similarities end. You can tell from the moment you are greeted and shown to your table that you are being served by a team of hospitality professionals – no hipster students here who throw you plate down with disdain, these guys clearly know and love their jobs. It’s actually refreshing. They just made you feel comfortable right from the start, no pretensions.

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Anyway, lets talk about the food… For some reason Shane and I ordered Milk Shakes to begin with, I got the Blue Heaven and Shane the Banana. Both as you can see were the corner store variety – very childish I know, but when Shane and I get together we tend to be like that! We also ordered some wings and calamari to start. The wings were OK, but really needed to be crispy before they were coated, and they weren’t all that spicy either. The serving size was a bit small for what you paid, and I would have liked a little more care given to the presentation – more a miss than a hit for me. The calamari on the other hand was really good, tender and well seasoned, it was presented beautifully and the portion size was quite generous – a dish that I’d order again. Once the starters were out of the way we were ready for the main event and lets be honest here, the whole reason why we had driven out to Dandenong in the first palce- The Burgers! We both ordered the Beef Burger, which is described on the menu as – “A blend of three types of 100% Australian beef ground fresh  daily, cooked medium, with tomato, melted cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, chef’s special sauce & American mustard, on a lightly toasted bun, served with chips, pickles & tomato sauce – $19.50.” (For some reason I remember it being cheaper than this but the website is saying $19.50… I thought 18.90 – Maybe they haven’t updated the website???)

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The Burger arrives with a huge pile of chips so don’t expect to go home hungry – unfortunately this meant that the delicious looking sticky date cake that was in the cabinet as I walked in was off the cards – there was just no room!! First impression, this looks the real deal, I like the way it’s wrapped up in paper fast food style – it signals the style of burger you are going to get. The bun is soft and smells sweet and buttery, it’s lightly toasted and has a nice scattering of seeds. The first thing that sprang to mind as I smelt the bun was croissant – so buttery and slightly sweet. The first bite – delicious, perfectly proportioned, so you get everything you want in that first mouthful – the patty is the perfect size and fits the bun all the way around. No bites with bread only on this baby. The patty itself seems heavy on the chuck -which gives it that “fast food” kind of vibe. It’s a well seasoned beefy, juicy patty never-the-less, nice charring on the outside that gives it that grill flavour and even though it is cooked all the way though, it’s still juicy. The cheese is the American kind which really suits this burger, nice salty, cheesy tang, the sauces keep everything really juicy and the tomato and lettuce lighten the otherwise very rich, sweet burger. The pickles on the side are the sweet cornichon variety which I’m not a huge fan of so I leave mine on the side of the plate.

There’s no doubt they are going for the premium fast food style burger, sweet, rich, not overly complex. And they do this really well.  Initially I was worried that Dandenong Pavilion might be one of those places that’s just rated highly because there’s nothing really to compare anywhere near by – but in this case, it’s the real deal. While it’s not exactly around the corner, it’s certainly worth the drive. I give this one an 8, but I imagine the inclusion of bacon and sharp pickles could only lift this burger up into the burger stratosphere…

 

Dandenong Pavilion on Urbanspoon

Many years ago I had the opportunity to sample the ridiculous “Bogan Burger” at the Napier Hotel with a few mates. My recollections of that evening are a little cloudy, so when the opportunity arose to give the bogan another crack I leapt at the chance. I had been studying all day in the State Library and felt that a burger would be a just reward for such a hard days work. Jo was also keen for a burger, so we made the decision to catch up in the Smith street area not far from where she works. Once I remembered that the Napier was just around the corner, the decision was easy – Bogan Burger time. We arrived at the Napier at about 6:30pm on a Thursday night – the place was packed and all the tables were either full or reserved. Thankfully one of the staff members said we could take one of the tables that had been booked for 6pm but had no-showed. Clearly, this is a popular establishment. Cool refreshing beverages were ordered and the menus were scrutinised. I was always going to get the Bogan burger ($25) if it was still available – thankfully it was – Jo chose to sample the Wagyu Beef burger ($20) . Since the place was pretty busy we had a chance to watch the plates from the kitchen go by and I have to say the meals looked pretty good – I’d love to give the Roo Filet with béarnaise sauce a shot. Anyway, we didn’t have to wait too long for our meals to arrive. Unfortunately my phone had run flat after using it to hotspot in the library all day so I had to rely on Jo’s phone which didn’t seem to work as well in the low light…

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Jo’s burger –  The Wagyu burger came with  port glazed onion, bacon, lettuce, tomato, American mustard, Kentucky bourbon barbecue sauce and fries – She felt that the patty was a bit small for the bun, you had to bite through to get the meat, and the overall taste profile was a bit bland, but generally she was happy with the burger. Being a good little sister she gave me a bite – I didn’t really get any of the bourbon barbecue sauce, and the meat to me seemed under seasoned hence the bland flavour. My burger was another matter altogether. This thing is pretty crazy, you get steak, chicken schnitzel, caramelised onions, cheese, pineapple, beetroot, egg, potato cake, bacon, lettuce, tomato along with a big side of wedges and salad. Come hungry if you want to finish this one! Ok, so technically it’s not really a burger – there is no patty, and well, really there’s also no bun. What you get is a big Turkish bread roll, toasted, piled high with as much food as they can fit and then held together with one of those cocktail umbrellas.

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It certainly grabs your attention, and is pretty difficult to eat. I cut mine in half and then it was possible to actually get it into my mouth… Taste wise, all the elements on their own were pretty good, the steak was tender and cooked medium, although it was very much under seasoned, the chicken schnitzel was really good, the bacon was amazing, and even the potato cake was nice. But putting them all together into one bun doesn’t actually taste all that good. I ended up eating the second half bit by bit, not as a burger – it felt somewhat sacrilegious to be honest…  But perhaps I’m missing the point and I’ve turned into some sort of pretentious  foodie. Really, this is not about the hand ground Wagyu beef, or the brioche buns, or the special sauces of your caviar munching, champagne swilling,  wouldn’t cross the Yarra to save themselves, bloody bourgeoisie foodie tosspots. This is about fair dinkum, bloody grouse blue collar grub- were quality is measured by quantity and a successful meal is followed by a burp, the unbuckling of the belt, and a side glance to your mates with the words, Fark, I’m bloody stuffed, gees that was grouse. It probably would have paired well with a Melbourne or a bourbon and coke… Let’s be honest, I’m not the target audience here, but  I’d still give it a 7 just because it’s a bit of fun!

Napier Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Needed to find a place to have a feed and watch the big Footy match between the Power and the Hawks. After a little bit of thinking, Paul and I came up with Bridie O’Reilly’s on Chapel St. Paul had a mates birthday party after the game and I was catching up with Friends north of the city, so it seemed like an ideal spot to get a bite to eat, enjoy a  cleansing libation or two and watch the game. I know from past experience that Bridie’s does fairly honest pub grub and they also have quite a few screens that you can watch the game on. We got there early and grabbed what we thought was a good spot to watch the game. Unfortunately, even though one of the waitresses had told us “of course they’ll turn the sound on for the game”, there was to be no sound for the game. When I enquired politely for the third time regarding the lack of sound, the answer was that apparently there was a function on upstairs at 5:30pm so they wouldn’t be turning the sound on… Not sure why they couldn’t have the sound on from 4:30 – 5:30 but whatever, it’s their pub. Disappointing considering they have about 15 screens all showing the game with no sound. Once Jo arrived we made the decision to head off to the College Lawn Hotel. Prior to all of this, Paul, Katie and I had ordered and devoured a late lunch – we had, after all arrived early to get good seats, oh well, the College Lawn was a good spot and we got there midway through the second quarter, so we only missed about 10 minutes of the game.

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Anyway, lets talk about the food – I really wanted to get a Parma – I know they’re half decent here and I was craving one – but for the sake of research purposes I felt that it would be wrong to pass up the Wagyu burger. Both Paul and I ordered burgers, whilst Katie just ordered an appetiser. We didn’t have to wait too long for our meals to arrive, which was good because we wanted to finish up with the food before the game started. Katie’s appetiser was actually really good – $15 for the potato skins with pulled pork – quite a lot of food for an appetiser, definitely a good choice if you are looking for a share option.

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The burgers arrive open – a very American approach, although I’m not sure of the reason in this case because the burger already comes sauced and there are no sauces on the table anyway. I suspect it’s more about presentation than about anything else. They come with melted Cheese (Swiss cheese in this case), lettuce, tomato, pickles, aioli, tomato relish and a big serve of decent pub chips – $20. The problem I had with this burger was the bun – as you go to take a bite, it smells sweet, like cake, its texture is cakey and there is just way too much bread to meat – the huge pile of pickles now makes sense, they’re obviously there to cut through all that sweetness – Unfortunately it doesn’t completely work.

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You can see in the photo above just how much bun there is, and that’s after it’s been compressed, it’s far too doughy – the sweet bun just dominates the burger.  Unfortunately you really don’t get all that much flavour from the patty. I think if they could get the bun right, they’d have a much better burger, as it stands, this one’s a miss. I’d give it a 5.5.

Bridie O'Reilly's on Urbanspoon

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Sometimes in life things just take a turn for the best when you least expect it. Tonight was one of those occasions. Monday night is usually trivia night if I can get the team together. However, it was Katie’s first day back at work and she was tired and pulled the pin. Then, when I tried to book for the rest of the team I find out that it’s fully booked and we “might” be able to get a seat at the bar if we are lucky. Things didn’t seem to be working out, but then I got the idea that we should head out for a burger as a team… Ok, so I don’t need an excuse for a burger – thankfully the rest of the team were on board with the idea and so off we went to the selected destination. Only problem was that the first selected destination just happened to have a sign up that said – closed on Monday 15th September for repairs or something. Which would have been fine except it was Monday 15th September… Damn – I had the team looking at me with what can only be described as distain. Also, my sister Jo was becoming “Hangry” a word she made up – meaning hungry and angry… This might give you some indication with the crowd I was dealing with. Thankfully on the drive down Glen Huntly rd. I had spied a sign that read ribs. With nothing more to go on, I suggested that we move quickly towards this options. Self preservation mode was kicking in. Jo was definitely looking “Hangry”… Unfortunately my memory of the distance to the sign with ribs probably wasn’t spot on and the walk was a little further than I had recalled. The team were looking at me with more than distain at this stage… On arrival the place looked a little smaller than I recalled – by smaller I mean, this is a take away place with a couple of seats up against the wall and the window. Most of these seats were occupied… The team of 6, Dave, Chris, Taz, Ben and Jo all gave me “that” look. I was sweating now. I could only hope the burger here was edible. The $12 price tag was a little on the cheap side so I wasn’t holding my breath.

But then things began to look up – the guys at the window finished and left – there was space now for us to sit. Dave then suggested that we share a half rack of pork ribs – I’m not going to say no to ribs, it’s just down right rude. Once we had gone through the ordering process we all sat down and waited. From our vantage point we were perfectly located to watch as the grill master weaved his magic – Chris and I studiously watched as the chef flipped out the patties onto the flaming grill and then basted and seasoned the patties. Off to the side the ribs roasted above the charcoal and the brioche buns warmed above the oven. It was great to see the cheese go down on top, and melt enticingly over each patty, finally being placed over the grill in a warm spot to allow the meat to rest – it’s care like this really makes a difference to the end product.

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Each member except for Ben ordered a Burger – they come standard as a 180grm patty, Brioche bun,  cheese, mix lettuce, tomato and “rack sauce” – $12 + $3 for a generous serving of chips. Dave and I shared the half rack of pork ribs which were $22 – to be honest I’d like to see the pig these come from because half rack – come on, more like full rack – it was very a generous serving, or a bloody big pig…

So on to the burger – first thing first – it looks great. The bun is a standard light brioche style (apparently from Dench bakers), nicely toasted over the charcoal grill, soft and warm. The patty is juicy and delicious – it benefits from the flame grill fro that smokey grill not,e and the basting for added moisture. I’d say there’s a good ratio of fat to beef as even though it’s cooked though, it’s still quite juicy. The melted cheese encases the beef to keep the flavour in. The sauce is quite interesting – there’s quite a bit of it, so do expect this to be an elegant burger to eat – not a first date meal as my cousin Megs would say. There’s certainly a mayo base with a slight sharpness there as well, works to cut through the smokiness from the grill and the richness of the beef – this burger is well balanced. The tomato and lettuce add the necessary freshness and texture. Oh, I should probably mention the ribs – although only Dave, Chris and I  had any, and Chris got lucky because Dave shared one while I wasn’t looking – The ribs are good, no doubt about it, and not expensive either $22 for a large half rack. They were falling off the bone and had a lovely sticky BBQ sauce. I have to be honest, I like mine a bit smokier, but other than that there’s not much to fault (Perhaps a bit more sauce??) –  At the end of the day I’ve  had better ribs (It’s hard to compare to Texas 24hr pit cooked ribs – so I wont), but not by much and not at that price point in Australia.

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By the end of the meal my trivia mates were no longer looking at me like I had Ebola. Smiles all round, the “this is a tasty burger grin” from ear to ear was obvious for all to see. We struck up a conversation with the Chef after the meal and both Chris and I had the suggestion that perhaps some sort of “McRib” style burger would work. The guy actually told us that they do have one they call the Sow and Cow, a normal burger with added rib meat. However it’s not on the menu because it’s considered a bit too expensive. It was at this point that Chris became violently disposed towards the guy for holding out on us – how unfair that we only find out about this amazing burger creation until after we finished eating. I guess we’ll just have to come back now – first world problems… When I enquired about what was too expensive the guy sheepishly told me. Yep you’ll be shocked too – I’d say guess, but since this a conversation in writing you can skip ahead so it really doesn’t work in this format, but humour me. Nope, not $25, haha, no, not $30, it’s $16 – are you serious. wow, this guy must be from the 80’s, or possibly unaware of the concept of inflation. $16 for an amazing beef and rib combo burger of this quality is insanely cheap. $20 would be cheap. Anyway, if you live in the area you have to give this place a go. I give the standard Racks burger a 8.5 – it’s almost a 9. There’s no mistaking it, this burger is up there. I’m sure if you add rib meat to it will only get better!

Racks Ribs Co. on Urbanspoon

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Katie wins again at finding amazing places to eat! Originally I had planned to visit another burger joint, but Katie was craving buffalo wings – and you don’t argue with a Pregnant woman who has a craving. You smile and nod and ask when she would like to leave… Le Grill is located in Hawthorn, off Burwood Rd – well actually I’m not sure if you can get in off Burwood Rd, we went down a side street and parked out the back – they have this little eating area where you order the food with big share tables. It’s actually quite handy because trying to find a park on a Friday night on Burwood Rd was proving to be rather difficult. The Menu is short and sweet. A couple of burgers, various types of fries, wings and ribs.

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Speaking of fries – they have waffle fries and poutine!!! I just love poutine,  My kind of joint. Anyway, so Le Grill has a bar out the front, and upstairs area for functions and the eating area out back which is where you order.  We ordered some wings, fries – poutine and waffle, and some burgers and then sat down on one of the large share tables waiting for a lobster to vibrate (They give you this lobster pager that vibrates when the order is ready). It wasn’t too long before our food was ready – although it was clear that we ordered too much. I thought the waffle fries would be just enough for one and the poutine would be the same size but it looked like both were share size… Oh well, better to have too much than not enough. The wings were delicious, tender, falling off the bone, with a nice hot sauce, although I’d like a bit more kick to mine – Katie enjoyed hers. The poutine was nice, with house made cheese curd, although it reminded me more of a goats cheese than the more rubbery cheese curds that you get back in Canada – this was more of an upscale version. Waffle fries baffle me – how are they made – they seem to be these impossible constructs of potato goodness (Yes – I am clearly easily impressed). They came with a nice little ranch style dipping sauce. We thoroughly enjoyed them but couldn’t finish them.

Of course it’s the burgers that were the big ticket item for me – so lets talk beef. I ordered the Cheeseburger as a double with bacon. They are usually cooked medium rare which I love, but Katie was also ordering a burger and made sure that they cooked hers all the way through for safety reasons (Is this really that important? So many things you can’t eat when you are pregnant apparently…). I think they thought she meant both burgers because mine was also well done. Damn. Still the burgers were juicy enough. The meat is clearly good quality beef, nice and beefy, well seasoned – I’m not sure of the cut, but I’d say that there’s chuck there but also a better cut as well because you get that “steaky” flavour – Very nice regardless. The buns are a traditional burger bun – soft white bread with a scattering of sesame seeds on top. Lightly toasted, they hold up well to the rigours of eating a double. The burger comes with two types of cheese – as you can see, very cheesy! They also come with a sweet mustard and a homemade ketchup, which is also on the sweet side. You also get some caramelised onion interspersed throughout. The bacon was ok, but I didn’t get a lot of flavour to be honest, it seemed to be overpowered by the other elements. I think I would have loved a nice sharp pickle in the burger – but then I ALWAYS want pickles in my burgers. This was a good solid burger – I was quite impressed, I’d love to try it medium rare to let the quality of the meat really shine through. I give this one a 7.5, and I’d love to see what it’s like properly cooked (Pink).

Le Grill on Urbanspoon