Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mashed up @ Potatohead Beach Club, Seminyak, Bali

This post comes direct from the tropical climate of Bali where I am based for the next 4 days to escape the inclement mid-Autumn arctic chill of Melbourne.  Today we checked out the well renowned Potatohead Beach Club in Seminyak.  This is easily one of my favourite places in Bali and the perfect place to laze away an afternoon in the sun.  

After passing through the security ring and down a long driveway, you are greeted with an imposing wall of shutter blinds that make up the outer layer of this structure.  You then walk past a concrete wall of flowing water, onto a walkway that leads you past the interior of the shutter wall and snakes through to the maitre-de (and further security check).  
You are then led out from the horseshoe shaped building into a picturesque setting of palm trees, manicured lawn and infiniti pool surrounded by day-beds in front of you (sitting atop the nearby beach) and then bars and seating to your right.  Fortunately we managed to secure a table for a big group without a reservation.   

Now, let's get down to business - the cocktails and other drinks here are outstanding.  The drink of choice was a light sangria concoction which was served in a fishbowl and included fresh pieces of mango and lemongrass.  Previously I've tried the Drake Mojito which was doused with mint, lime and rum and came with a fresh spring of cane sugar.  I also tried a mint julip which was a strong mix of brandy and bourbon and I'd also recommend this one too.  

The unfortunate part of the Potatohead experience is definitely the food. For a place that is so aesthetically appealing, it is disappointing that the food is so far off the mark.  How would I describe it?  It is like a dingy outer suburban Melbourne pub which just converted to a gastropub, but kept the original chef, who still can't cook, with Gordon Ramsay screaming profanities whilst tasting the food shrieking: "Dear oh dear. What the $%@& is that? You can't send that out like that!!" I had a wagyu burger that came out a full 25 minutes before the the other 6 dishes - the patty was a perfect circle and exactly 3 cm thick (which tells me it came like that off the hamburger conveyor belt).  Tasted passable, but had nothing on some really great wagyu burgers (for example, Cafe Vue, Rockpool, Barney Allens, etc).  

The rest of the table were scathing in their criticism - a Tuna Nicoise salad contained canned black olives, canned potatoes and low grade canned tuna. I can hear Ramsay pleading with the owners in the kitchen: "C'mon guys, canned ingredients in a fresh salad.  What the #$%!"   I tried the beer battered fish and chips which, although the batter was crunchy and tasty, the fish itself was so dry it was amazing to think that it had lived its life in water.  

The remaining dishes were pasta which although the pasta was cooked al dente, the respective sauces were each bereft of a pulse (Ramsay: "Taste that.  Come here and $%##en taste it NOW.  Did you taste that before it went out?  $!%@$ If you tasted, it you would know it tasted like #$%!") 

I always like to leave you with something positive, so I would say don't avoid Potatohead because of the above.  Go for a drink, a swim in the pool, then another drink.  But stay away from the food (maybe a short walk up the road to Sea Circus is the way to go).  

Potato Head Beach Club
Address: Jin Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Contact: +62 (361) 473 7979

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No bullshit @ Nobu, Crown Casino

Sushi plate at Nobu 
Some love to loathe Crown Casino, whilst others swear by it.  I lean towards the loathe side.  I love the restaurants (Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons, Rockpool, et al) but pretty much hate the rest. Why?

  • I hate ending up back where I started when trying to take a short-cut through the gaming room;
  • I hate Club 23 for its tacky decor and tackier clientele;
  • I hate walking the death gauntlet on the Southbank promenade late at night;
  • I hate waiting in the endless line at the cab rank on Spencer Street;
  • I hate the tempting grease in mid-casino food-court; 
  • I hate not being certain whether the security guards are attacking or defending; and
  • I hate the fireballs mainly because I'm a red head and I think James Packer is mocking me in some way. 
Crispy Rice with Tuna at Nobu
I previously wrote that I loved Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons because when you are there you actually don't feel like you're in the casino. Similarly in the Melbourne branch office of worldwide chain Nobu you can escape the hoi polloi and live in another world, you can almost imagine yourself on the Paris end of Collins Street!  Although, can you really?  We went on a Saturday night on grand prix weekend and the place was busy.  So busy that I was sitting back-to-back with an unknown acquaintance on the table behind me. But that doesn't faze me.  The crowd is a little different though, not quite the same crowd you would get at a Flinders Lane hole in the wall or a Gertrude Street eatery.  The crowd is not Melbourne, it more often than not, imported.  But I'm no xenophobe, so I won't complain about that.  
Miso Cod at Nobu
Beef Tataki at Nobu
Let's talk about the main thing here and that is the food.  Thanks to some very deft choices by our gracious hosts, we were able to sample an incredible selection of food from the Nobu menu without opening its cover.  
The first dish was Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna which consisted of a deep fried block of sticky rice which you dip in a spicy fresh raw tuna mix. Very high quality, soft tuna, great level of spice and combined with the crunchy texture of the rice, this was a great starter.
Second up was Beef Tataki - this is a dish I could never get sick of eating, especially with such quality tender beef.  Third was a Black Cod Miso which was an incredible piece of fish with a sweet flavour topped with ginger.  Fourth was a bowl of miso.  

Fifth was Wagyu Gyoza - this was a really interesting dish as usually you would get pork gyoza.  The texture of the dumpling casing was spot on, the meat was really rich which made it hard to eat too many (and with a big plate of these in front of us, it made for a real battle between stomach and mind).  
Sixth was some sort of beef which was easily the highlight for me, perfectly cooked medium rare and so damn tender.  Seventh, and as the food coma was really starting to kick in, a big plate of mixed sushi was laid before us and this was easily the closest thing I've had to Tokyo sushi since I left Japan. 
Some sort of incredible Beef cooked to perfection
Overall, I would recommend going to Nobu but a couple of pointers - (1) If you are going on a date, it might be nice to sit upstairs rather than downstairs because there were a lot of big groups down there (which was fine for us but might be a bit noisy for something romantic) (2) Be prepared to spend - Nobu does not come cheaply and (3) Drive - you really don't want to be queuing for a cab home from the casino on a Saturday night. 

Crown Casino Melbourne
Address: 8 Whiteman Street Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
Contact: +613 92927879