Monday, November 30, 2009

Miso Japanese Restaurant

20/123 Liverpool St
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 9283 9686

Miso is the not-so-latest venture from the Masuya group in Sydney. They specialise in the tei-shoku style of food, meaning set meal. It’s a more casual form of food which is very popular in Japan, and often a value-for-money proposition.

I usually make a point to order whatever the restaurant is famous for (and good at) however, this time around, their HUGE bento boxes caught my eye and I was immediately sold.

The Miso Bento

Being a part of Masuya group (and those of you in Sydney will know how successful this Japanese food group is in Sydney – especially their Makoto branded sushi train places- there are usually masses of people loitering outside of the restaurant waiting to go in), having a line outside is a given. It was a good thing that we went at a fairly reasonable time and so the line wasn’t too long. Except that our group was a slightly unusual 5 pax, meaning we miss out as 2 pax were seated before we are (since tables for 5 don’t come up often).

Unagi (eel) bento

What was enlightening was that they were very apologetic about not being able to seat us next and gave us an explanation as to why… it really felt as if we were in Japan again, unlike our experience from the night before, where the staff in a certain Japanese restaurant had lost all the customer service aspect of their culture.

Ms A had visited once before and for some reason she didn’t like it, but was game enough to give it another go. As I mentioned, I took no notice of their set menus and ordered the Hokkaido Bento, which to me was the most inviting of them all.

Hokkaido Bento

Having the bento took me back to the time when I was sitting in a Shinkansen, eating the bento. All the parts that made up the bento were delicious and there was nothing that didn’t feel the least bit authentic. The best compliment I can give is that I truly felt like I was in Japan.

Shinkansen Bento

For a set menu restaurant, I wouldn’t say they’re cheap. I wouldn’t even say that it’s value-for-money, but then again, I do realise I live in Sydney where EVERYTHING is expensive, and if I can feel happy and content after a meal, then I believe it is worth the $$$.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Murrumbateman Wine Visit

McKellar Ridge Wines
Telephone: (02) 62581556
Postal: 2 Euroka Ave, Murrumbateman, NSW 2582
Cellar door opens: Sundays 12noon to 5pm. Other times by appointment

Telephone: (02) 6227 5877
Postal: 3 Crisps Lane, Murrumbateman, NSW 2582
Cellar door opens: daily 11am to 5pm

Helm Wines
Telephone: (02) 6227 5953
Butts Road, Murrumbateman NSW 2582.
Cellar door opens: daily 11am to 5pm

Sunday midday in Canberra was cold, wet and windy. Not exactly the sort of weather that encourages outdoor activity. However, the good people at McKellar Ridge Wines had already invited me to their Christmas Celebration and so with my jacket on, Google Maps on, I set out from Garran.

Canberra is blessed by some nice wine-growing region and although Murrumbateman, being only 30mins drive over the border into NSW from Canberra, it is clustered as part of the Canberra District wines. While wine-growing and wine-making has been around since 1840s in this region, it was not till 1970s when it was established by John Kirk of Clonakilla and Edgar Riek of Lake George Winery. Today, this region is well-established as a wine-making region due to the popularity of Clonakilla's Shiraz Viognier and Helm's Premium Riesling.

The wine from this region fascinates me. The altitude of around 600m and the cool climate means it is suited to some cool climate grapes and certainly shiraz and riesling grow very well here. However, pinot noir is not suited to Murrumbateman. Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle in this region but judging from my trip today, there are some very nice cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc coming out of this region. The shiraz and riesling are of different style to those from Barossa Valley or Eden Valley but just as pleasing.

As opposed to the more commercialised wineries in Hunter Valley in New South Wales, or McLaren Vale or Barossa Valley in South Australia, many wineries and cellar doors are quite small and family operated. As a consequence, I found it easier to talk to the vigneron and to learn and discuss their approach and philosophy when making their wines. The experience is more intimate and satisfying. You do not need to be part of wine club or tour group or super-star to enjoy the wines at many cellar doors in this region. Most importantly, you do not get scoffed at or laughed at when you ask a trivial question.

McKellar Ridge Winery was first up. This is a very young winery established in 2005. They produce roughly 400-500 dozen cases annually. Driving up the driveway, I could smell the BBQ shrimps and snags. The winemaker, Brian Johntson, was hard at work cooking for the guests while wife, Janet, was busy serving  the cellar door. Since the last time I was here, the new 2008 vintage has been released and I'll briefly talk about the wines I tasted today with the BBQ and salad provided!

McKellar Ridge Winery

  1. 2009 Sauvignon Blanc: A refreshing and dry white with hint of passionfruit and citrus. A very nice contrast to sauvignon blanc from Margaret River or New Zealand.
  2. 2008 Shiraz Viognier: The grapes are hand-picked and basket pressed and matured for 14 months in French oak. This wine is very approachable with nice blackberry fruit and a very velvety tannin without being overly spicey. I really like this SV.
  3. 2005 Shiraz Viognier: The Johnston's opened their remaining 2005 as a comparison to the 2008. They sold out the 2007 but I was fortunate enough to tried some at my last trip. The 2005 has the advantage of few more years of maturation with deep blackberry fruit, good tannin and even better structure in the mouth compare to the 08 SV. I'm sure if given a few more years the 08 will be just as nice.
  4. 2008 Merlot Cabernet franc: A very nice oak to the nose, plum on the palate  with nice tannin. I find this a very nice wine although it is on a slightly sweet side. The vigneron was aiming for a St-Emillion style of blend. While I have not tasted wines from St-Emillion, I still quite enjoy this particular blend.
  5. 2008 Trio (cabernet sauvignon 70%, cabernet franc 20%, merlot 10%) : a blend closely resembling a Bordeaux blend, I really really enjoyed this particular wine. It shows good structure, fine tannin, oak to the nose and great depth of ripe berry with nice finish. It's amazing how allowing this wine to breathe really brings out its character. Definitely my pick of the lot.

 Next year's wine in the barrels

Brian Johnston, vigneron and BBQ extraordinaire, hard at work

After a very fulfilling lunch, my next stop was Clonakilla. While I have tasted most of the previous vintages, I have yet to try the new riesling and the new shiraz viognier.

2008 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

  1. 2009 Riesling: A clean, refreshing white with good aroma of citrus/lemon. Nice aroma and beautiful finish. Certainly a different style of riesling to my other favourite, the Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling.
  2. 2008 O'Riada shiraz: This is a shiraz with viognier co-fermented. Whilst the viognier is grown by Clonakilla, the shiraz are sourced from around the region. I find this a more approachable wine than the 2008 shiraz viognier (more on this later). It has good structure, fragrant and spicy with nice blackberry fruit. It has a very smooth tannin.
  3. 2008 Shiraz viognier: Let's face it, everyone who comes to Clonakilla wants to try their flagship. This is shiraz (94%) co-fermented with viognier (6%). Initially, a very young wine and certainly less approachable than the O'Riada, but give it space and air, it shows that this is a very complex wine with spicy bouquet of blackberry, intense and spicy but a very savoury finish. One thing I notice is the SV is less intensely coloured compare to other shiraz I've had.

2008 Shiraz Viognier up against the light

Sun finally shining through by the time I was leaving Clonakilla

Ready to be picked March/April next year

My final destination was Helm wines. By the time I got here, the cloud came over and rain came. I was lucky enough to have made it in time to run into the Helm cellar door, which, interestingly, was an old school building.

Yep, 420pm at Helm Wine, I still have 40 mins before closing time

Ken Helm planted his first grape back in the 1970s. He is a big promoter of the region's wines and of his own riesling. Again, I was here tasting some of the new vintages.
  1. 2008 Riesling: this is the 32nd vintage of this fantastic riesling. It is young, refreshing with citrus on the nose. 
  2. 2008 Premium Riesling: Drinking the premium riesling is like comparing a C and E class Mercedes. Whilst both are very good, the premium riesling (E class) is that much more better than the riesling (C class). It has a more intense citrus/lemon aroma with a nice palate and finish. The premium riesling is not made very vintage as only the best fruit is used to make the premium riesling
  3. 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: a definitely rare varietal to be growing here as cabernet tends not to mature well in the cooler climates. However, this is a very good wine with good structure, beautiful oak to the nose, deep red and black berry palate with a very smooth and well structured tannin. This cabernet is not as big as other cabernets I've had from Coonawarra or Margaret River regions. 

The '08 Shiraz in French oak barrels

Overall, I had a great half a day in Murrumbateman tasting beautiful wines and chatting to very enthusiastic vignerons about their wines. I hope this little region remain as it is so the charm and warmth is not lost to over-commercialisation.

As for the timepiece, it is the Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Geographic as reviewed in previous post.


Gérald Genta

Gérald Genta, the horological legend and man behind the eponymous brand (although no longer associated with it), is responsible for some of the most (and yes this overused word is appropriate) iconic watch designs produced in the 1970s, some of which are still manufactured. The most well known of his designs are probably the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin 222 (Overseas) and the IWC Ingenieur.

A brief timeline of some significant points in the history of the man/ brand :

1969 Gérald Genta starts his own brand and workshop

1973 Development of the first Grande Sonnerie 3-hammer pocket-watch and of the first Gérald Genta Perpetual Calendar model.

1979 Gérald Genta is awarded the much-coveted Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark.

1988 Gérald Genta launches of the Gefica, the first model equipped with a model featuring complications dedicated to “Big Five” hunters (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalos). The main innovation, a world first for a wristwatch, the movement is clothed with a bronzed case, a material guaranteeing the model against any inadvertent glinting that would warn the prey of the hunter’s approach.

1996 Development of the Retrograde and Biretrograde movements that are to become brand signature features.  The Retro incorporates a jumping-hour function and a retrograde minutes hand; the BiRetro combines both of these plus a retrograde date indicator.

2000 The Gérald Genta brand is purchased by the Bvlgari Group.

2004 Launch of the Octo line, referring to the Brand’s original octagonal model.

2007 Launch of the new Gefica, an unusual model featuring a complex case crafted in bronze and titanium.

The Gefica was one of the most blogged and photographed watches of 2007. An expat Sydneysider who does flying trips back a couple of times a year allowed me the opportunity to join in the fun, albeit just with my small point & shoot, since it was a random unexpected appearance by both man and watch!

I have to admit that I had not taken to the Gefica based purely on the online photos that I had seen, but seeing it in the flesh was quite an interesting experience. It sat a lot bigger on the wrist than I had thought it would, and to my surprise, I found myself liking it more than expected, though still not enough to think of it as a watch that I'd like, had I the funds.

What it did do, however, was to reinforce my long held conviction that where possible, it is best to see and get a feel for a watch before you commit to buying it.

On the day of the Gefica's visit, another Genta, belonging to Gefica Man's partner, also made an appearance.

Fantasy Mickey Sailor

The first Mickey Mouse watches were the product of a partnership between Walt Disney and Ingersoll. The first one was sold at Chicago World Fair in June 1933 for US$3.25. A roaring success, the Disney/ Ingersoll partnership lead to millions of Mickey Mouses, in various design iterations, being sold.

1933 model

The most well known modern Mickey Mouse watches have been produced by Genta.  Called the "Fantasy" models, they are a  nod to one of Gérald Genta’s most talked about creations from the 1970s, a high end mechanical Mickey Mouse watch commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei.

The Fantasy Sailor was produced in a limited edition of 150 pieces. Steel with a deployant buckle, it has a retrograde minute and jump hour and a revolving disc weather indicator, from "sunny" to "stormy clouds". At 41mm, it is not a small watch, but still of a size that can be worn easily by women.

The  more sporty Arena range is Genta's most accessible line. As mentioned earlier, the development of the Retrograde and Biretrograde movements in 1996 have become signatures of the brand, with the “biretro” range combining a jumping hour, retrograde minute, and a retrograde date indicator.

This uncommonly seen exemplar of the Arena biretro line, with its distinctive red/ green colour combination, has that renowned playful Genta approach.

A large 45mm, this Arena biretro is surprisingly wearable, and sits on the wrist lightly for its size.

Unfortunately, Australia does not have any official Genta representation, but more on Genta (the brand) can be found at their website.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dumpling Inn Restaurant

Unit 1/ 1 Lawry Pl
Macquarie ACT 2614
Ph : (02) 6253 2268

Ok, so it was Friday, 6pm after a long hectic week, and I was in no mood to go out to exercise. For the whole day, I had this craving for peking duck and thanks to a tip-off, I was given two potential places to try out in Canberra. I had no tendency towards either so it was rather random that I jumped into the car and in 20mins, I was in Macquarie at Dumpling Inn Restaurant. Thanks Google Map for the direction. :)

According to aptronym, her family used to visit Dumpling Inn Restaurant quite regularly when she was growing up here. Back then, the restaurant was in Aranda but, it moved to Macquarie in the last three years.

The drive to Macquarie from Woden

Dumpling Inn.
It's very easy to find amongst the local shops in Macquarie

What was I going to eat? Peking duck (cooked two ways) was on the menu but I was by myself. I asked the very friendly and eager waiter if there was Peking duck. I was told that I had to either pre-order it or wait one hour.

I didn't care. I had the craving so I ordered the Peking duck!

Whilst I waited for the duck to be prepared, I looked through the menu. I was happy that, while much of the dishes have been modified for Caucasian taste buds (eg honey chicken, sweet & sour pork, BBQ pork in plum sauce etc) there was a section on the back page dedicated to Peking/ Beijing cuisines :)

First up was the hot and sour soup. Many may disagree but for me, this is one of the benchmarks I use to differentiate between a good and not so good Peking-style restaurants. For me, the version here was nearly right. Nearly right? Yes, nearly right. The sourness was just right but the hotness was mild but I was able to augment it with white pepper. There was a good quantity of tofu and shredded pork so overall, a nice hot and our soup.

Hot and sour soup ($4.50)

Next up was the Shallot Cakes. These are deep-fried pastries with shallot inside the pastries. The cakes were not very oily and had good shallot taste.

Shallot Cake ($4.40)

Next up, the xiao long bao. This is another dish I use as benchmark. The version presented here is about average. The skin is very fragile and as consequence, rather soft and breaks easily when picked up with chop-sticks. In my mouth, the skin just fell apart.

I think the skin for xiao long bao at New Shanghai in Ashfield (Sydney) is nicer albeit on a slightly thicker side in terms of texture. The best xiao long bao skin I have had is at Ding Tai Fung, where the skin is delicate yet able to hold all the filling and soup inside, and giving a nice texture when eating the xiao long bao. As a consequence of the easily friable skin, there isn't much soup in these xiao long bao. The meat filling is nice, although on the slightly salty side.

Xiao Long Bao ($12)

After one hour wait, my duck was presented to me for inspection. However, before I could take a picture, the duck disappeared back into the kitchen to be carved up!

The Peking duck was worth the wait. I thoroughly enjoyed the crispiness of the skin and it was not overly salty. Yum! The wrapping was ok, although on the slightly dry side.

Peking Duck - 2 courses ($45)

By this time, I was just too full! I couldn't even finish the second course of the peking duck.

Overall, quite a reasonably priced Peking-style restaurant in Canberra suburbia. While I rate New Shanghai in Ashfield better than Dumpling Inn, I still had a great time.

Oh and the timepiece of the night?

Stainless steel Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Geographic, ref 142.8.92. This model has been replaced by a larger version (40mm) ref 150.84.20. The 142.8.92 features JLC calibre 929, which is based on JLC Cal889/1. It beats at 28800vph, 42 hours reserve. There is power reserve, date and world time indicator.

For tonight, the time is set to Sydney as Canberra is not on the dial. The case work is beautifully polished, the dial is light silver with white subdials. The dauphine hour and minute hands contrast well to the blue constant second hand. The 3'clock crown allows adjustment of the world time at single click or the main time display with a 2 click pull of the crown. There is a date adjuster at 2'oclock side of the case and the crown at 10 o'clock changes the world time dial according to the city displayed on the inner rotating bezel.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Eating not so Carnivorously in Paris 
Part 4: Angelina

The fourth segment of our Eating Carnivorously series takes a little detour, and what a detour this is!

Founded over a century ago by an Austrian, Antoine Rumplemayer, Angelina is a Belle Époque tearoom named after his daughter-in-law. This tearoom, situated in the busy centre of Paris, is surrounded by the city's wonderful boutiques and haute luxury establishments. For those who love to name drop (and you know who you are), Angelina was the daily hang-out of Coco Chanel in the later years of her life and always sat at table number 11 in the main tearoom.

As a tearoom, Angelina serves up some amazing pastries.


They also serve a fine selection of chocolate and other typical Parisian sweets like macarons.

My long suffering wife and I dropped by Angelina for lunch after a morning of exploring the haute couture district of Paris. It would be good for the watch geeks to know that Camille Fournet, the famed leather watch strap maker, is just around the corner. The lunch time crowd is rather busy, mainly Japanese tourists and wealthier Parisian women wilding away their time with girlfriends and gossiping.

After our feasts of flesh, we opted for a healthy lunch of salad.

The house salad consists of smoked salmon, a generous helping of avocado and the usual suspects of a salad – greens and tomato with a simple vinegar dressing, an excellent choice by my wife.

My salad on the other hand, was far from healthy.

What I thought was a simple salad of lettuce, anchovies, turkey and shavings of cheese turned out to be a salad of an entire turkey and blocks of parmesan cheese.

There was simply too much cheese and turkey, making the salad overly salty and meaty (which I guess kept to the Eating Carnivorously theme that I had established). Overall, it was an over glorified Caesar salad with lots and lots and lots of parmesan cheese and turkey slices. The anchovies were nice, though.

With that disappointment, let’s pause for a watch break. I wore my Panerai Mare Nostrum 5124-301/A and realized I had never taken too any pictures of this watch.

Now, besides the grandness of this tearoom and all its pastries and French chic, Angelina is well known for its hot chocolate. Angelina’s hot chocolate is by far the most decadent and luxurious hot chocolate I have ever had, period.

We ordered a pot of Chocolate African, which is made with 75 per cent pure cocoa and served with fresh whipped cream.

I must say that the hot chocolate is an assault on the senses. The aroma was intoxicating, while visually, the viscosity of the chocolate when poured stirred up anticipation and desire. And finally, the taste of the hot chocolate is pure heaven – smooth, rich, bitter, sweet and, when had with the whipped cream, redefines sensuality.

Being a man, I can’t say that this is better than sex. As for men, sex is like pizza, even when it’s bad it’s good. Some food for thought, perhaps.

Overall, the experience of Angelina was good. Perhaps the lunch time crowd and the formal tearoom setting make the place a little too busy for a casual lunch. If you want something a little more casual and less rushed, best try the breakfast at Angelina. Regardless, you must order the hot chocolate.

226, Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
+33 1 42 60 82 00

See also :
- Eating Carnivorously in Paris Part 1
- Eating Carnivorously in Paris Part 2
- Eating Carnivorously in Paris Part 3


Polo In The City : Melbourne

In a complete contrast to the gorgeous Sydney weather for the Polo in the City event (see the post here), Melbourne was about as removed from Sydney weather-wise as a Vegan from a medium rare rib eye. While Sydney enjoyed/suffered the 41 degree heat, Melbourne had torrential rain, strong wind and a top of 20 degrees. Of course, in real life, it felt a LOT colder, especially with wind and rain in your face and mud under, and around, your feet.

Obviously, with the beautiful Flemington being converted to a somewhat muddy pool with some grass thrown in, there was no way you could play polo in that. Mud wrestling yes. Polo no. Not if you want to damage hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Polo equipment. (No, not Ralph Lauren, but them horses).

Of course, this being Melbourne, it wasn’t much of a surprise and since the rain was much needed, the festivities were moved “indoors” to the VIP marquee. Considering the vast majority of the guests did not bother to show up, the VIP marquee did the job all right. A little cramped, but with enough Mumm champagne to floor 3000 or so people flowing, I think the 4-500 odd that did brave the weather, didn’t mind at all.

Torrential rain and gusty winds didn’t stop the ladies from parading around in their summer/clubbing dresses, and the number of ladies far outweighed the gents. Unfortunately, the polo play-yas (Um… I mean, players) got all the attention from the drunken ladies. Actually, that’s no bad thing either… Why, I hear you ask. Well, the young, tipsy ladies were content to sway/shake to the music, whilst the *ahem* cougars honed in on the, um… ponies…

The extremely funny MC for the event

The quick-witted commentator, whom everyone agrees has quite a wicked sense of humour, entertained us, and since we were in the VIP marquee we could actually hear him, and appreciate his humour. There were the usual charity auctions and silent auctions, all for good causes, live DJ, and Jaeger-LeCoultre watches (who has a proper association with Polo, as their Reverso range was designed specifically for polo players back in the 30s) on display.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Display

Items up for silent charity auction

The weather did break long enough for the organisers to squeeze some penalty shoot-out and “see-who-can-hit-the-furthest” activities into the mix and that was also quite engaging. Obviously, there’s not much action happening, but with enough alcohol in the blood stream, almost anything could be constituted as entertainment.

I think Audi probably got the raw end of the deal. With everyone piled into the VIP marquee and the rain coming down bucket loads, no one could see the cars… Whereas in Sydney, the Audis took centre stage with a selection of their greatest - the R8, the S5, the Q7, etc, all I could see was a lonely Q5 which took some beating from Zeus.

Can you spot the Audi?

Should mention the food shouldn’t I? General quality was up compared to Sydney. Especially the stuff the VIP marquee attendees were getting. There is a distinct difference between the qualities. You could tell which canapés were meant for the lowly peasants and which were destined for the pretty and important people.  

The highlight would have to be the delightfully rich and creamy chocolate/cherry dessert. Perfectly balanced flavour without being too sweet, I think I had 3 too many of these.

Overall I think the weather was a blessing in disguise. That is, for those who would not normally be admitted into (and possibly thrown out of) the VIP marquee. Not sure how the um… top of the pyramid feels about sharing and mingling with the lesser-special people…