Monday, May 23, 2011

NOT T-Bar! T-Chow!

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child does NOT serve dinner at the T-Bar!

Nor does anyone else for that matter. We four arrived, starving, to find empty fridges and to match our empty stomachs. It turns out all our snobbish friends (you know who you are) were *ahem* right. T-Bar is not a dinner venue and is thusly STRUCK OFF the Gouger Street Epic(urean) Adventure.

However, let it not be said that we are planless gimps for we are not. We carried the T-theme through and ended up at T-Chow. All right – fine, we bloody know it’s not a Gouger Street restaurant as per The Rules, but the next stop is Stanley’s Fish Café and we’ll be dining on the forty-buck fish alone.This time, we’re reviewing T-Chow, not as part of the Epic, but as a service to food lovers.

You've seen T-Chow, you've walked past it. You've even been inside and eaten there. 'Classy place' you thought. You were right. It's the kind of classy which has the word 'Classy' Bedazzled on its pleather jacket. From the glitter fish tanks to the white table-cloths covered in butcher's paper, T-Chow isn't just a place, it's a venue. Things happen here.

Food also happens here. Unfortunately, this is not the Austin Powers kind of 'happens', this is the other kind of happens. The kind referred to on Holden bumper-stickers Australia-wide.

Shallot pancakes.

All our sloth turds are served with soy vinegar and parsley!

These could have been the best things I've ever eaten. They could have been mislaid sloth turds. I wouldn't have known because by the time they turned up, I was so hungry, it's a miracle I stopped at the plate.
Mele: They were actually really undercooked.

Green peppercorn chicken.

Supposedly the flagship. If so, the T-Chow armada would have trouble taking over Marion Swimming Pool. Their A-game was C+. It had flavour, but so does lots of Chicken Tonight. But, in keeping with the flagship concept, that is deep-fried seaweed around the edges.
Mele: The chicken was beautifully tender. Alas, nothing else was.

Salt'n'Pepper Squid.

Now with lettuce!

Should probably just be called 'Squid'. Or I didn't get any bits with the world's most common seasoning.
Mele: It was overcooked. If salt and pepper squid can be viewed as the barometer of a good restaurant, a death knell is ringing in my ears.

T-chow is behind the times. This restaurant is coasting on an old, undeserved reputation. If you thought sweet'n'sour chicken was the height of Chinese cuisine in the 1980s, and still believe it is, you are a bogan or the owner of this joint. STRAIGHT UP.

Good good, there were so many relics from the past here it was like going back to highschool. Even Axl Rose turned up.
Nothing lasts forever, man. Even cold November Rain.
*Cue rain-soaked coffin*

Peking Ribs.

Even slanty photography can't save it.

Should probably just be called 'Peking', because I was hard pressed to find any actual evidence that I was eating intercostals.
Big call? Maybe. That photo doesn't really do it justice. I'm also not a butcher, but I like to think I understand what I'm pointing at when I go to the local meat vendor and say:


Guest reviewer: Charlie.

"The milk was INTENSE."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bean Bar

In order to make this stop on our Epicurean Adventure more palatable and less mind-fuckingly tedious, we have replaced our regular food and venue photos with portraits of one another appearing as simpletons.
Bon appetit!

The Bean Bar
Mele, Sam


“It wasn’t as bad as you would probably imagine”

Not the exact phrase an eatery wants to begin its one chance at review-based fame. The Bean Bar found us quite alone on Friday night. The enthusiastic crowds who had mobbed us at The Sushi Train (I’m sure they were there for us), were suddenly quite absent among the small tables and modest selection of decidedly not-that-out-there sandwiches.

My word! What big sangers you 'ave, Guvna!

The sandwiches were pretty good. I’ve had to choke down worse chicken.


It was probably accidental, but The Bean Bar does have a certain low-key “vibe” to it. You imagine the franchise owner is convinced that having a selection of toasted sandwiches is probably about as icy cool as a coffee shop can get. Sort of like your mum steadfastly refusing to throw out those high-waisted cream slacks because you can’t improve on perfection. And, like I respect your mum for rocking those acres of waistband year after perfect year, I respect The Bean Bar for sticking with the doorstops and toasted rolls, flying in the face of fashion and popular favour. The rest of the café+food joints are probably branching out past sushi and on into … I dunno … goulash or haggis or something equally fashionable, but The Bean Bar is still there in the early-to-mid nineties, gloating over its sandwich press and its milkshakes in glasses. Charming.


Okay kids, it’s time for Mel’s rant:

T-bean is a perplexing little place that is next to the T-bar (a much more established venue that no doubt gets the lion’s share of business).
It’s actually ‘Bean Bar’, but this place was so forgettable….
The sandwiches were very,
very average. I’m not keen on toasted avocado and chicken sandwiches that have huge pieces of baby spinach and basil wilted in them. One should, never, never cook lettuce. For god’s sake, even the Americans are suspicious of this practice.
Seriously, dudes, not a good idea. Even hot avocado is a no go.

Obviously hot spinach is fine.

The ‘hot snow chocolate’ is the closest thing to breast milk I’ve ever tasted (other than breast milk). It sounded like the weirdest thing on the menu, ‘hot’ and ‘snow’ being opposing signifiers and all.

Magic beans, you say? Sounds lovely!

The drink they served was simple enough, a combination of milk, water and white chocolate that tasted like –you guessed it—watery milk and sugar. The drink had no flair at all. A dash of vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon, strawberry Quik, anything was desperately needed.
I can’t imagine anyone but a lactose tolerant infant enjoying this drink (or maybe our friend Dordy, whose health fanatic mother once caught her stirring spoons of sugar into milk, a desperate act of a sugar-deprived childhood).
This place was so boring and dull that only the décor pleased me. Skip it. If you’re going to run a coffee or tea place in Adelaide, that place needs to be tied to a nationality where the product can be identified from.

I am a food racist. So are you. When was the last time you went to a place called Spinelli’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine? Or Wang Pham Pizza and Pasta? Never. That’s when. It’s for the same reason you would avoid espresso from Boring Old Mr Smith’s Boring Coffee Shop For Safe Boring People Who Don’t Like Flavour.

Yeeargh! Caffeine!

It makes sense to steer away from coffee and tea places that aren’t run by people from Devonshire, Sri Lankans, and/or various Middle-Eastern and European countries. These places have a history of brewing brown drinks that actually began more than 20 years ago. There’s a reason Starbucks doesn’t sell in Australia, and that’s because the wogs and the Asians got here first. Franchises are shit. Chances are you will get a cup of hot milk.

Score: ZERO out of 100. Good God—even Subway got 0.5/100.

Tune in next time when we take Charlie to T-Bar!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sushi Train

Attendees: Mele, Sam, Triton, Tess, Dougie, Cristi

Mele - The Gouger Street Sushi Train takes no bookings and no prisoners. It does give numbers, though. Our quick-thinking, clever friend Tess took one (number 96!) and we popped around the corner to a bar instead of waiting it out with the 20 (yes, twenty) people in front of The Train. Sam and I joined our fellow diners Dougie, Triton and Tess at the Hilton lounge, a venue that provided much entertainment:

The Hilltop Hoods being incredibly un-Hilltop and being at the Hilton. I stared at them for ages, thinking they were the Beastie Boys. I mean, come on, there’s only so many ‘Old white rappers’ I can remember. Sam and Triton papped them for the blog.

They were so upset when we asked them for a chorus of 'Sabotage'.

A school formal with hordes of teenage girls posing endlessly for photos. Dougie and Tess did a Statler and Waldorf with a running commentary from the balcony seats.

The Hilton is supposed to be fancy, but it is daggy and outdated; a little like Adelaide itself. The foyer is a time-capsule from the mid-eighties. Most of the clientele are the flotsam and jetsam of the night, stragglers whiling away the time (like us). There’s no old money in the bar; it’s even a bit of stretch to say that the clientele are new money (come on, it’s The Hoods).

Right, back to the business of Sushi Train, which is so rock star popular that The Hoods don’t even know about it. An hour after being issued a ticket, Tess hustled her way in and we crammed into a small booth. It was so small that I was literally forced to hug Dougie to stay in it.

Stupid hordes.

Dearest blog readers, l pose a controversial question: is the Sushi Train a novelty restaurant? Should it go (excellent food notwithstanding) the daggy way of apricot chicken and the Hilton? While I loved the food, I didn’t feel comfortable or relaxed in its claustrophobic environment; it was like eating in a mosh pit, with everyone trying to push closer to the stage.

Is Sushi Train worth waiting hours for?
I’d say yes, but just barely. I know that Sam’s review will be much more glowing, but when he hears the word ‘sushi’ he throws the ‘critique’ part of reviewing out the window, much like David Stratton reviewing animation. I can’t be a saucy-minx like Margaret Pomerantz on this one and chuckle huskily that it was ‘a bit of fun’. I’m going to be David savaging a Kate Hudson rom-com and mark the place down on atmosphere.


Say it with me now: Su-shi! Su-shi! Su-shi! You’re a great crowd. Thanks for coming out.

Mele is right. There is nothing bad I can say about sushi.
When it’s slowly coasting past me on enticing little platters, there’s nothing I can do to resist. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’ve actually had better sushi, but not so far as to claim that I know what makes good sushi good and so-so sushi so so-so.
Still with me? No? Maybe I’m a little high on iodine.

Or tentacles.

I’ll carry on the Movie Show vibe and put my best Margaret growl for the rest of this review:

Oh David! Atmosphere is what The Train is all about! You’re supposed to stand at the door with an elbow ready for queue-jumper’s ribcage*! The bright lights and fire and Engrish is why people go to sushi restaurants! Nobody expects to go to an eatery with the words ‘sushi’ and ‘train’ in the title to experience something quiet and intimate**!
*Cue equine cackle*

But enough of Margaret.

Sushi Train is, however, mostly atmosphere. Once the last slice of swordfish had been devoured (by me) and the waitress was tallying up our plates, there were no lasting loves. Everything was good, nothing was great. Nothing induced fugu poisoning either, so the place was a resounding success measured on those levels.

The Sushi Train is a great place to go if you want a cheery night, good times and questionable photos of your friends.
On another site, this photo would pay for our meal.

Good god, the photos of the bar we went to afterwards is another thing altogether. In Tess’s words, this monostrosity was so uncool it was ‘the pure opposite of Melbourne’.

I'd want to choke a Treasurer here too.

* This was one of the available dishes.
** Except for Dougie and Mele.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32