Friday, 21 March 2008

Kim Thanh

My search for great Vietnamese food most recently took me to Kim Thanh at West End.

The first thing you notice when you step inside Kim Thanh is just how big the room is. It's enormous. The next thing I noticed was the noise. We ate here on a Friday night, and it was very busy. The noise didn't worry me at all, I only mention it because its not the kind of restaurant where you should plan on a romantic dinner for two. On the other hand, if you're going out for a big group dinner, its perfect.

Once you sit down, you'll see that the menu is just as big as the main dining room. There is certainly no shortage of options, covering both Vietnamese and Chinese meals. My quick count of the items on the menu came to just under 200, and that's not including the specials up on the wall. So there's no excuse for not finding something tasty.

Anyway, we were here to eat Vietnamese. The Vietnamese entrees include spring rolls with salad or rice vermicelli ($6.50/$6.90), Vietnamese pancake ($6), deep fried quail ($6), rice paper rolls ($11.50) and a variety of rice noodle salads.

We ordered the bbq pork with rice vermicelli ($8.90) and the deep fried spring rolls with rice vermicelli ($7.90). The bbq pork was of the traditionally deep fried variety, chopped into chunks which were served on top of the salad. It was ok, without being memorable. On the other hand, the spring rolls were very good, filled with tasty vegetables. The salads were served with a fish sauce dressing (which is optional for the vegetarian salad).

There are so many options for main course I won't even try and summarise them all. The Vietnamese section of the menu covers seafood, pork, beef, chicken, duck & vegetables. The dishes which tempted me were the combination seafood steam boat ($38.50), braised scallop with kai-lan ($13.80), chilli prawns in hot pot ($13.80) and the crispy skin chicken, fried kai-lan and special sauce ($10.50).

I ordered the braised prawns with kai-lan ($13.80). This was a pretty generous serving, with clean flavours, so as not to overwhelm the prawns. The crunchy kai-lan was a good match with the stir fried prawns (of which there were plenty). I'd eaten so much of my salad for entree that it was hard work finishing off this main course. I probably enjoyed my main course more than the salad, mainly because I don't come across kai-lan as a star ingredient very often.

We also ordered the mixed vegetables with rice noodles in tom yum soup ($6.90), which was delicious. It was a huge serving, and although it wasn't chock full of vegetables, it was extremely tasty. The tangy, spicy and hot flavours all combined well to make this dish a winner. Even though we were both full by this stage, I kept slurping away at this soup right up until our meals were cleared away.

Service at Kim Thanh is of the efficient, no-fuss variety. We had hardly ordered when our entrees came out, and we had no trouble catching a waiter's attention whenever one was needed. The staff however were very concerned at the start of the night when my wife showed up at the restaurant by herself, offering her the use of the restaurant's phone to find out where her non-existent date was. Apparently they weren't entirely convinced when she explained I was just at the bottleshop buying some wine.

On the basis of this visit, Kim Thanh offers dependable Vietnamese food, with the option of ordering off an enormous Chinese menu as well. It was very popular with big groups on the night we ate there, so be prepared for a bit of noise. Kim Thanh is both licenced and BYO, and there is a bottle shop about 20 metres away, which is pretty handy.

What does all this mean? A big Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant, serving a huge menu of well-priced food, with no-fuss service.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - A big, fairly noisy room, with not a lot of decor
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Licenced and BYO
Vegetarian - Great

Kim Thanh
93 Hardgrave Road
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 4954
W - http://kimthanhrestaurant.com.au/kimthanh/

Kim Thanh on Urbanspoon

Monday, 17 March 2008

Kitchen Nightmares

Although Food Safari is still my favourite food show on TV at the moment (even if it is repeats), I've been finding Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares pretty entertaining.

When I was living in London we were lucky enough to have dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, his Michelin three starred restaurant. It's still far and away the best food experience I've had anywhere, so he sure knows how to put a restaurant together.

Anyway, Kitchen Nightmares makes for great TV - Gordon is never short of an opinion, and keeps nagging away at the poor chefs and owners until they see the light (ie his ideas). My favourite part of every episode is when the chefs cook their first meal for the great Mr Ramsay. Usually they are completely petrified.

Although it pretty much sticks to the same formula every week, Ramsay's personality carries the show. If you haven't seen an episode, tune in on Channel 9 at 8.30 on Thursday nights. Be warned though, Ramsay swears a lot, but it just adds to the appeal of the show for me. There is also Kitchen Nightmares USA on Tuesday nights at the same time, but I can't stand the American series.

Here's a link to last week's episode, if you haven't seen it before. Plenty of the episodes have been posted on YouTube if you've missed them.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Cafe Sbiza

Cafe Sbiza is a busy cafe on Marine Parade, the main food street at Kingscliff.

Most of the seats are outside, and it's a relaxed, casual atmosphere for most of the week. Come the weekend however, and Cafe Sbiza gets packed for breakfast and lunch. So busy that if you don't make a booking for breakfast, you're going to have to wait a while.

We'd been at Kingscliff all week, and after having a coffee at Cafe Sbiza earlier, we took their advice and made a booking for Saturday breakfast.

When it comes to breakfast, Cafe Sbiza has a two page menu, that is loaded with all kinds of breakfast options - sweet, savoury, vegetarian or fruit - they've got it covered. It's one of the biggest and best breakfast menus I've come across.

After working our way through all the amazing sounding breakfasts (and the four specials on the blackboard) it was time to order. I went with the eggs benedict. I ordered it with their gluten free corn bread, which they were happy to substitute. This was two poached eggs, good thick slices of black forest ham, roasted cherry tomatoes, thick hollandaise sauce and tasty, crunchy corn bread. This was pretty much my perfect breakfast. The eggs were perfectly softly poached, the hollandaise sauce was thick and tasty, but didn't overpower the eggs, and the ham, roasted tomatoes and corn bread were terrific accompaniments.

The other breakfast we had was pancakes with yoghurt and fruit salad. This was a huge breakfast made up of two fluffy pancakes, a side dish of maple syrup, banana, rockmelon, honeydew melon, pineapple, watermelon, strawberries and natural yoghurt. The fruit was fresh and plentiful. This really was two breakfasts in one, but we weren't complaining.

The coffee was Merlo, and was very good. As with most of the places we ate at in Kingscliff, the service was friendly and attentive.

All up, this really was a fantastic breakfast. Both our meals were excellent. With the huge range of options on the breakfast menu, you could go every day for a week and eat something different every day. Next time you're in Kingscliff, you really have to pop in to Cafe Sbiza for breakfast.

What does all this mean? Excellent breakfasts, a huge menu and friendly service - the perfect breakfast cafe.

food bling ratings
Food - Top Shelf
Service - Great
Ambience - Outdoor cafe setting
Value for Money - Great
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good selection

Cafe Sbiza
Shop 2, 86 Marine Parade
Kingscliff NSW 2487
P - (02) 6674 4140

Cafe Sbiza on Urbanspoon

Kingscliff Beach Club

The Kingscliff Beach Club is not, as you might expect, a surf club, but is in fact the Kingscliff bowls club. It's right on the ocean though, and has views of the beach out the window.

The club is enormous and the restaurant only forms one part of the buidling. If its big meals at good prices you are looking for, then the Kingscliff Beach Club hits the spot. The club is popular with both locals and families visiting Kingscliff on holidays.

The menu covers seafood, steaks, pasta, salads and roasts. In keeping with "club" style, some of the dishes are already prepared, while other items are cooked to order. There are also specials on certain nights of the week. If you head down here on a Monday night, for $10 you can have a roast, a rump steak, fish & chips or an Aussie steak with bacon and egg.

I ordered the roast pork, which was $15.90. As I was pretty hungry, I orderd the large serving. This turned out to be a big mistake. When our meals arrived, my plate of roast was enormous. I counted 9 big slices of pork on the plate, together with some roast potatoes, broccoli, beans, carrot and gravy. The pork itself was good. As much as I love roast pork though, I just couldn't get through it all. Unless you've just jogged to Cabarita and back, you're unlikely to get through a large serving of a roast at the club - order the small instead and save a few dollars. As for the accompanying vegetables, they were ok - the potatoes had been cooked a fair while earlier - but it was a solid roast.

We also had the pumpkin salad, which was again a huge serving. It was a delicious dish - plenty of big pieces of roast pumpkin, with cos lettuce, red onion, good tomatoes, snow pea sprouts and julienned raw beetroot. There seemed to be two dressings - one a balsamic and the other a garlic aoli. This was a good salad, made up of lovely fresh ingredients and much improved on vegetarian options we've had at the club in previous years.

Other than the view, the other great attraction of eating here is the great drink prices. Two glasses of their house red were only $4.80. Sure it wasn't Grange, but it was fine with our two meals.

If you are looking for a hearty roast or steak next time you're at Kingscliff, give the Beach Club a try. Its the perfect place for a quick holiday dinner with the family on those nights when you just can't bring yourself to whip something up in the kitchen.

What does all this mean? Hearty food, giant servings and cheap drinks right on the beach.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - Its pretty much self service
Ambience - Modern style bowls club
Value for Money - Great
Wine - OK (but priced very well)
Vegetarian - OK

Kingscliff Beach Club
Marine Parade
Kingscliff NSW 2487
P - 02 6674 1404

Kathmandu Kitchen

We have been holidaying at Kingscliff for a few years now, but have never eaten at Kathmandu Kitchen until a couple of weeks ago.

Kathmandu Kitchen is at the Northern end of the strip of shops on Marine Parade at Kingscliff. There are tables inside and out. It was a lovely summer evening on our visit, so we made the most of it and sat outside.

The menu is pretty compact and there are 4 entrees to choose from. We ordered a serve each of the Nepalese samosas ($7.20) and the sekuwa ($9.20). The other entrees are Tibetan spring rolls ($5.90 for 2) and momo - steamed Tibetan spiced beef mince dumplings with fresh tomato and coriander sauce ($8.50).

The sekuwa, a Newari special, was a great start to the night. The menu lists these as char grilled tender pieces of lamb, marinated in yoghurt, ginger, garlic and coriander. The lamb was tangy and rich, matched perfectly with some raita and a small salad. It was so good, I had to clean up the whole plate. It's always good to stumble across something as tasty as this to kick off a good meal.

The samosas were tasty and served with a sweet chilli sauce, which did actually have a bit of a kick to it. Although the samosas tasted good, they would have been even better if the pasty was a bit crunchier. Nevertheless, so far so good.

There are some tantalising options for mains here, including the duck curry (duck breast in star anise & lime with vegetables - $23.90), jhinga machha ra masala (fresh green prawns, lightly sauteed in a spicy coconut cream sauce - $22.90) and goruko masu (Kathmandu spiced beef - $17.50).

The menu also has a vegetarian section, covering mismasko tarkari (lightly wok fried vegetables, spiced and served with cashew nuts and a creamy curry sauce - $14.90), dhal ($10.90) and stir fried organic tofu and vegetables with ginger, garlic and herbs in a sweet chilli or soy sauce ($15.50).

If you are feeling particularly hungry, or really want to get the full Nepalese/Tibetan experience, you can order one of the three naan breads ($3 to $4.70), cucumber & yoghurt raita ($4.50), mango chutney ($3.60) or sambal ($2.20) to accompany your meal.

I had the kukhurako masu (chicken curry - $17.50) which was described on the menu as boneless chicken cooked in the traditional Tibetan style. This was a rich curry, with tender chicken pieces. Although I'd ordered it with medium heat, it was pretty mild on that front. It was a good dish, and I couldn't stop soaking up the sauce with rice - it was so tasty.

However good the chicken curry was, the saag ra chij ($15.90) was in a different league altogether. This was wok fried spinach with feta cheese, spiced with garlic and nutmeg in a creamy curry sauce. Its presentation was amazing - a bright green colour that can only come from fresh spinach. The sauce was perfect - fragrant, fresh and light, with hints of nutmeg and chilli. The best part of the dish though was that the sauce complemented, rather than overpowered, the spinach. Needless to say, this all disappeared off the plate. It was one of the best spinach based dishes I've tasted anywhere.

Kathmandu Kitchen is byo, and there is a bottle shop about 20 metres down Marine Parade at the pub, so you don't have to walk far in search of a few beers or a bottle of wine.

Service was friendly and attentive throughout the night. All up, we had a great meal, with the sakuwa and the saag ra chij as the standouts. As with all the good Kingscliff restaurants on Marine Parade though, it's a very good idea to book on a Friday or Saturday night, or you might have to settle for take away.

What does all this mean? Delicious, tasty Nepalese and Tibetan food with relaxed, friendly service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Relaxed and casual - inside or out
Value for Money - Good
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Good

Kathmandu Kitchen
2/106 Marine Parade
Kingscliff NSW 2487
P - 02 6674 5746
W - http://www.kathmandukingscliff.com.au/

Kathmandu Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Moray Cafe

Moray Cafe has been pulling in loyal diners for years, situated in a great spot under a giant fig tree in New Farm.

Over the years I've eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food is usually tasty and well-priced. On this trip we went for breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. As usual for this time on a Sunday, the place was pretty busy. We went for a seat inside, as there were a few dogs out the front which I wasn't really keen on sitting next to. I don't really see why dogs need to come to cafes for breakfast, but that's just me.

After sitting down, we were told by our waitress that there would be a 20-30 minute wait for our breakfasts, which we weren't too worried about at that stage.

The breakfast menu is pretty compact, and good value. If you're not after a savoury breakfast, try the French toast of golden crusted brioche with baked peaches and vanilla syrup ($13) or the bircher muesli with Greek yoghurt and honey ($10).

There are also plenty of savoury options, including bubble & squeak - roast pumpkin, sweet potato, tomato, peas, corn, halloumi, hollandaise and Vienna toast ($12), smoked salmon with rocket, dill mayonnaise, lemon oil, scrambled eggs and sourdough ($13.50) or the eggs benedict served with ham and hollandaise on an English muffin ($12).

Unfortunately they don't have any gluten free bread, which cuts down my breakfast options, but I decided to order the chorizo, goats cheese and caramelised onion omelette ($12) with a hash brown ($3 extra). I'm always on the lookout for something new to try for breakfast, and the omelette sounded particularly appetising. We also ordered the forest mushrooms, served with rosemary & garlic and brie and truffle dressing on sourdough ($12.50) with some added tomatoes ($3 extra).

Unfortunately, there was then an inordinate wait until our meals came out. If we had been told that the wait would actually be 45-50 minutes for our two orders, then we would have gone elsewhere. The tables on both sides of us both waited similar times or longer for their breakfasts and were looking as frustrated as we felt. We've never had to wait so long on any previous trips to the Moray Cafe, so hopefully this was just a small service blip rather than an ongoing problem.

When the food eventually came out, it was very good. The omelette was perfectly cooked, and the chorizo, goats cheese and caramelised onion all added differing tastes and textures. The tangy goats cheese was particularly good. The omelette was a great match for my crunchy home-made hash brown, which together was a very filling breakfast.

The mushrooms were also delicious, with at least three varieties of mushrooms adding to the overall taste. The tomatoes turned out to be roasted cherry tomatoes, which make a nice change to what many cafes have on the menu for breakfast.

The drinks menu covers coffee, juices and some tasty frappes - the pineapple and mint frappe makes a great start to the day.

The Moray Cafe is a perennially popular place, and both our breakfasts were delicious. However, the service delay was so long that by the time the food came out, we both just wanted to leave. If they can improve the breakfast service times, it would be so much more enjoyable.

What does all this mean? Beautiful breakfasts in a relaxed setting, but the service was terribly slow.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Poor
Ambience - Relaxed, casual tables outside or a more modern setting inside
Value for Money - Good
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Limited breakfast options

Moray Cafe
Shop 1, 158 Moray Street
New Farm 4060
P - 07 3254 1342
E - themoray@moraycafe.com.au
W - http://www.moraycafe.com.au/

Moray Cafe on Urbanspoon

Gelateria Cremona

I have heard many good things about Gelateria Cremona at Rosalie, so just had to pay it a visit.

Gelateria Cremona is on Baroona Road, in a strip containing restaurants, bars and the Blue Room Cinema. The gelato here is made from scratch, based on fresh ingredients, which you can really taste as soon as the first spoonful hits your mouth.

After scouring the selection of about 20 available gelato, I went for a scoop of the plum and a scoop of orange. While the orange was good, the plum flavour was amazingly delicious. So good, it basically tasted like you were eating a plum - the ice cream contained tiny bits of plum flesh, which gave it a beautiful texture. It was the most delicious tasting gelati flavour I've had for ages.

We also tried the lychee flavour on an earlier trip, which was also fantastic. There are of course flavours other than fruit, covering liquorice, caramel, zuppa inglese and the intriguing chocolate and roses. We'd also seen the honeyed fig and ricotta flavour on an earlier trip, which again sounded amazing, but there are only so many scoops you can fit into your cup.

If its great gelato you're after, you have to visit Gelateria Cremona. There are plenty of restaurants nearby, so make a night of it, capped off with some beautifully made gelato. I will certainly be going back soon.

Gelateria Cremona
Shop 5/151 Baroona Road
Rosalie Village
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 0212
E - gelateriacremona@yahoo.com.au

Sunday, 9 March 2008

OzyMex

I know there are loads of great places to eat in Byron Bay. But everytime I go there, I can't go past the fantastic nachos at OzyMex.

OzyMex is a hole in the wall type place serving nachos, burritos, tacos & enchiladas. It has been set up by the Byron Bay Chilli Co, which is probably why the salsas and other sauces taste so good.

On this trip, I had the small nachos with shredded beef ($6.50) which are served with pinto beans, cheese, sour cream and guacamole (which I ordered as extra). You also get a choice of the Byron Bay Chilli Co salsas to top off the dish. Since I've been buying nachos from OzyMex, I've never been disappointed, and this was no exception. The nachos were fresh, tasty and filling. On this day, it was the perfect lunch.

We also ordered one of the flour burritos ($7) with pinto beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and salsa. It was an enormous serving, wrapped up like a kebab. Again, the burrito was delicious but very filling.

Extra toppings are a bit regimented, and are all charged extra. But the food is so good, you quickly forget about paying an extra dollar or so for a few more toppings.

There are only a couple of seats inside, so unless you time your visit well, this is a takeaway option. If you're looking for a quick, tasty cheap lunch or snack next time you're at Byron Bay, then give OzyMex a try.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - It's take away
Ambience - Hole in the wall
Value for Money - Great
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - OK

OzyMex
Lawson Street/Jonson Street roundabout
Byron Bay NSW 2481
P - 02 6685 7157

Tweed River Seafood

Tweed River Seafoods is the place to buy any kind of seafood if you're in the Kingscliff area.

It's actually just up the road at Chinderah, but it'll take you less than 5 minutes to drive from Kingscliff, and its well worth the trip.

Sure, it doesn't have a massive range, but what it does have is excellent. If its cold seafood you're after, then there is a range of fresh fish, prawns and crabs, together with Balmain bugs, squid, oysters and scallops. The seafood is helpfully marked, so you know if what you're buying is fresh or frozen.

Of course, you can also get cooked fish and chips here too. It's very popular with the locals, so pick your visits carefully or you might be in for a bit of a wait.

Tweed River Seafoods also sell a selection of their own home made seafood sauces, which are delicious. The tartare sauce in particular is completely addictive once you start dipping hot chips into it.

On my most recent visit, I picked up a Balmain bug, a dozen Sydney rock oysters and 300 grams of headless fresh king prawns for $26. The prices here are excellent.

So if you're after a feast of fresh seafood, or just some fish and chips for lunch, pop into Tweed River Seafoods next time you're at Kingscliff.

Tweed River Seafoods
78 Chinderah Bay Drive
Chinderah NSW 2487
P - 02 6674 1134

Utopia

I was recently down in Northern New South Wales on holidays and a friend suggested a trip to Bangalow, with a recommendation to pop into Utopia.

I've never been to Bangalow before, but the main street is made up of some lovely heritage buildings. Park yourself at either the top or bottom of the main street and spend a lazy few hours wandering up and down, browsing the great array of shops, cafes and restaurants.

We did exactly that, and it didn't take us long to find Utopia. It's on the main street, and occupies a very large renovated room, with a bit of an industrial, modern feel. Once we'd plonked ourselves down at a table and ordered, I was reading through a magazine with Gemma Ward on the cover, only to be told by the waitress that she'd been into Utopia a couple of times on the weekend. Unfortunately she didn't make an appearance while we were there.

Anyway, back to the food. We were just there for morning tea and I ordered a slice of the chocolate hazelnut torte ($8.90). I know that sounds like a lot for one slice, but this was the best gluten free cake I've ever come across. It was so good I almost ordered another piece. The torte was layers of hazelnut meringue with chocolate mousse, served with creme anglaise and raspberry coulis. I really can't put into words just how delicious this cake was. All of Utopia's cakes are made freshly on the premises, and there were more than a couple of gluten free cake options.

Other morning tea snacks that sounded tempting were the freshly baked scones, Lindt dark chocolate rocky road, baked cheesecake with pralines and an amazingly rich looking chocolate tart. It would be pretty easy to find a table, pick up a magazine and just work your way through their cake cabinet. Forget lunch, just keep going on the cakes.

The coffee was Zentfeld's, an Australian grown coffee, which I'd never tried before. Both of our coffees were very good, and service was efficiently friendly.

Utopia is also open for lunch and dinner, and the menu looked great. We'll definitely be back next time we're in that neck of the woods.

Bangalow is definitely worth a visit if you are nearby (it's about 15 minutes drive from Byron Bay). And if you do drop in, don't walk past Utopia without trying some of their beautiful cakes.

Utopia
13 Byron Street
Bangalow NSW 2479
P - 02 6687 2088
E - utopiacafe@bigpond.com
W - http://www.utopiacafe.com.au

Monday, 3 March 2008

Main Beach Delicatessen

The Main Beach Delicatessen has been my favourite spot for breakfast at the Gold Coast for the last couple of years. I certainly haven't tried all the cafes on the coast, but after a few visits here, I just keep going back.

The Main Beach Delicatessen is on Tedder Avenue at Main Beach (surprise). One of the reasons I love to eat here is to sit in one of the window seats and watch the amazing parade of people walking along Tedder Avenue - it's always entertaining.

The deli has just had a major renovation, and the breakfast menu has changed. It's been shortened a little, but the prices seem to be even better than before. Even though its a compact menu, there is a good range of options.

I'd just eaten a fantastic eggs Benedict the morning before at Kingscliff, so decided to go for the bacon, eggs, tomato confit and veal sausages with gluten free toast, a bargain at $12. The poached eggs were perfectly cooked, with deliciously runny yolks. The bacon was also well cooked and I didn't really need the sausages, which made for a pretty filling breakfast.

We also had the roasted field mushrooms with goats cheese, rocket and lemon oil (again crazily priced at $10). We ordered this without the olive tapenade. This dish was presented fantastically, and its quality wouldn't have been out of place as an entree at any good restaurant. It exemplifies that you only need a few quality ingredients, put together with some imagination, to make a terrific dish. It was one of the best vegetarian breakfast dishes we've come across for a long time.

Coffee here is Segafredo. It was $3.50 for a flat white and our coffees were fine.

Aside from their breakfast and lunch menus, there are loads of other deli goodies you can pick up here. At the fresh deli counter there are cold meats, cheese, antipasto, salads and various pastries. Along the other wall of the deli is a great selection of food, covering spices, pasta, oils (we almost bought some argan oil from Morocco), gluten free goods, jams, relishes, sauces, biscuits etc. Since the renovation, the range of deli goods seems to have been expanded, which is great.

Service at the Main Beach Delicatessen has always been genuinely friendly, and the presentation of meals has really picked up. Be warned though, it's not the biggest shop on the coast, and can fill up quickly. If you can't get a table straight away, its definitely worth the wait - in the meantime you can browse through the delicious deli selection.

What does all this mean? Beautiful breakfasts and lunches at low prices and a great deli too.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Modern cafe surroundings
Value for Money - Top Shelf
Wine - N/A
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Good

Main Beach Delicatessen
Shop 10, 14-16 Tedder Avenue
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5564 0288

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Rice Paddy

Being a big fan of Vietnamese food, I've been meaning to eat at The Rice Paddy in Surfers Paradise for a couple of years, but never made it there until just recently.

The Rice Paddy is on the Gold Coast Highway at Surfers Paradise, just south of Cavill Avenue. The restaurant has a dark, modern minimalist feel to it, with a few Asian touches.

We ate there on a Saturday night, and the restaurant was surprisingly quiet. A couple of tables left before ordering, perhaps because The Rice Paddy is priced a little above some of the other Asian options in the area, and is also licenced, with no BYO option.

I wasn't about to leave though, as there was plenty of delicious food on the menu. Entrees cover a range of soups ($7), spring rolls ($9), rice paper rolls ($9) and san choi bao ($8), together with options like spicy quail ($10), beef in betel leaf ($12) and sugar cane prawn ($10).

We weren't ravenously hungry, so both went for rice paper rolls - one serve of the prawn and one vegetarian (both $9). These were pre-made, and each serving consisted of 3 very large rolls. The prawn rolls were disappointing, lacking any distinctive flavour. The prawns were tiny and I think the flavour of these rolls could be improved with some fresh local prawns. Unfortunately mine just tasted like lettuce and rice noodles. On the other hand, the vegetarian rolls were excellent - having not only a great flavour, but also a lovely contrast in texture. The mushrooms and Vietnamese mint really added to the flavour of the rolls.

As I've already mentioned, the menu is pretty wide ranging. There are plenty of house specialties, including caramelised pork belly with egg ($20), spicy tamarind prawns ($22),
spicy wild boar ($25) and Vietnamese salad with prawn & pork ($20). If the house specialties don't take your fancy, there is also a range of stir fry dishes and noodles. There are 10 vegetarian dishes included in the stir fry section, giving vegetarians a good range of options.

I ordered the grilled pork spare ribs ($22) from the house specialties, which were described as a
rack of pork ribs marinated with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, salt & chilli, grilled and sliced, then served on a bed of lettuce. There was plenty of pork, and the ribs had been chopped into bite size chunks. It was served with a great clear sauce, tasting of fish sauce, chilli and garlic. I really enjoyed this dish, and it was a generous serving.

We also had the snow peas with Chinese mushrooms ($15) as a main. This dish had a tangy ginger flavour and a tasty sauce to soak up the rice. The snow peas were plentiful and perfectly cooked, contrasting with the texture of the Chinese mushrooms. It was a good vegetarian dish.

There is also a great wine list here. Happily, there's a whole page devoted to riesling, which I think is a terrific match with Vietnamese food. We had a bottle of the 2007 Mountadam Eden Valley riesling ($38) which was limey and crisp - perfect with our meals.

Other wines that caught my attention on the list as a good fit for Vietnamese were the great selection of German rieslings (ranging from $40 up to $440 for the 2001 Trimbach Clos St Hune riesling), Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard sauvignon blanc ($55) and the Vinoptima gew├╝rztraminer ($72).

The wine list covers an interesting range of premium wines, including 1999 Louis Roederer Cristal ($540), 2004 Domaine Leroy Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru ($1990), 2004 Domaine Leroy Gevrey Chambertin ($890), 1998 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon ($305), and the 1991 Penfolds Grange Shiraz ($820). I'm not convinced that some of the wines on the list (like the Italian varietals, grand cru white Burgundy and Australian shiraz) complement Vietnamese food, but wine is of course an individual choice, and they're on the list if you want to spend up big. By the same token, there are plenty of wines under $50, so don't think its all just big ticket items. I've used the version of the wine list available on the website, so not all vintages may be available on your visit.

Service was very friendly throughout the meal, and the staff were happy to make food or wine recommendations during the night.

Overall our meals at The Rice Paddy were good, and I'll definitely be back to sample some more of the Vietnamese specialties next time we are at the coast.

What does all this mean? A great range of Vietnamese options at reasonable prices, with a very adventurous wine list.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Dark, modern & minimalist
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great
Vegetarian - Good

The Rice Paddy
Shop 1, 3100 Gold Coast Highway
Surfers Paradise 4217
P - 07 5592 1390
E - ricepad@bigpond.net.au
W - http://www.thericepaddy.com.au/