Archive for September, 2011

Cirque, New Farm

Posted on September 16th, 2011 by Warren  |  2 Comments »

The Cirque sign

It's easy to miss when driving down Brunswick st, so look for this sign!

One of my favourite pastimes is sleeping in and having a late breakfast at Cirque.  This is one of those places that are open all day for breakfast.  Perfect for those of us who usually can’t get up early enough to catch the brekkie menu at other restaurants.  What I really love is that they cater really well for us vegos with a variety of options for breakfast.  There are at least 12 different vegetarian breakfast meals ranging from muesli to hot meals like corncakes and my all time favourite, the “vego chowdown”.

Usually this place is packed on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There is always a 15 minute queue.  This is partly because it is quite small and mostly because the food is great.  However if you want to be really smart, take a day off from work and start the day here and spend the rest of the day walking around the uber cool shops in the Valley and New Farm.  And you won’t need to queue either.  This is what Jen and I did on Friday!

Cirque lower level

Cirque is nice and cozy

As I mentioned before it is small but this contributes to a cozy and warm ambience.  The staff are friendly and make you feel welcome immediately.

View from the top story of Cirque

View from top floor of Cirque

We are asked if we wanted to sit downstairs or upstairs.  We chose to sit upstairs to take advantage of the view of the street and watch life pass by.

Orange and Pineapple Juice

Fresh Orange and Pineapple Juice ($6.00)

I order an orange and pineapple juice to start and Jen orders a cappucino.  I forgot to check their daily special board before going upstairs to see what special juices they had… So I settled for the tried and true.  The drinks arrive quickly and by the time they come we decide to order a Vego Chowdown and a Veg Pide.

The orange and pineapple juice is freshly made and is refreshingly tangy.  Jen said the coffee was not bad either.

The meals arrive about 15 minutes later.

Vege Pide

Vege Pide ($10.00)

The Veg Pide has a tasty combination of roast pumpkin, fetta, hommus, roast capsicums and eggplant.  Well, I guess a toasted sandwich is a toasted sandwich albeit, this is one full of gourmet ingredients.  I immediately felt jealous of the more substantial vego chowdown that Jen had and wished I’d ordered that too!  After some cajoling, I struck a deal to give half my pide in exchange for half her vego chowdown… how’s that for negotiation?  Anyway, despite this I enjoyed the crispy toasted pide with the combination of the sweet pumpkin with slight hint of cumin mixed together with salty fetta and marinated capsicum and eggplant.

Vego Chowdown

Vego Chowdown ($17.00)

The Vego chowdown is a filling serving of soft poached eggs on a slice of sour dough, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, fried whole tomato, rocket, wilted spinach and potato rosti with caramelised onion jam.  I must say that my favourite part of this dish is the potato rosti.  It’s nice and crispy on the outside and soft inside.  The savoury potato combines well with the sweet onions and always leave me wanting for more.  The eggs I am told are free range and are always poached into perfectly formed droplets.  The runny gooey yolk inside is perfect for dipping the sough dough in.  The mushroom and spinach are cooked well with only the hint of seasoning to let the the lovely earthy flavour of the mushroom and spinach come through.  The rocket on top is drizzled with a creamy and sweet poppy seed dressing.  Although the avocado and tomato themselves are fresh and tasty, I’m sure some people won’t appreciate that they are served whole.

Overall

Cirque is a great place for breakfast that serves great tasting food with an emphasis on quality ingredients.  This combined with reasonable prices, friendly staff and cozy atmosphere make this place a favourite of mine for those lazy easy going days.

Although it isn’t busy during the weekdays, be prepared to wait a little longer and sit shoulder to shoulder with other guests on the weekends as it gets quite busy.

There is some off street parking around the back and this just adds to the appeal of coming here.  I mean, who wants to fight for parking early in the morning?

 

Restaurant Details

Cirque on Urbanspoon

Ordered:

Vego Chowdown $17.00
Veg Pide $10.00
Orange and Pinapple Juice $6.00
Cappuccino $3.50

Other Vegetarian Options:

Too many to list, so I took a photo of the menu:

Getting that Authentic Chinese taste at home

Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Warren  |  No Comments »

Chinese vegetarian restaurants are one of my favourite places to dine as they usually have a fantastic variety of healthy and tasty food choices specifically made for the vegetarian palette.  I especially love the “mock” meat dishes that they do and how they flavour their foods.  Only a real vegetarian Chinese chef knows how to satisfy the taste buds of bona fide vegetarians!  None of this stir fried veggies in oyster sauce rubbish they try to dish out as vego in meat eating establishments!

My preference at home is to cook Chinese inspired dishes since I love the taste and I love rice.  I also love it because it can be so healthy and it is super quick and easy to cook.  However I can never seem to get the flavours right like they do in the Chinese vegetarian restauarants… I have a couple of Chinese cookbooks, but not many that really focus on vegetarian Chinese.   And because of this, I tend to run out of ideas quick and end up cooking the same old thing…

So I was rapt to have come across Jim Yang’s Ebook “Quick and Easy Chinese Vegetarian Cooking“.  It has heaps of fantastic recipes such as:

  • Kung Po Chicken vegetarian style;
  • Garlic and honey Ribs made of Bamboo and dough… Genius! ;
  • A variety of interesting Stir fries;
  • Chinese salads such as Vermicelli salad;
  • Vegetarian Wontons;
  • And the all important Vegetarian Meat! ;

Most importantly it is full of tips and techniques to get that authentic Szechuan flavour and texture!  He explains how to easily use
16 fundamental cooking techniques to cook like a professional chef, which is important for budding cooks such as myself.  As they say, teach a man to fish… or in this case cook!

What I also love is that it has pictures of all the ingredients you need.  He takes the time to explain them so that even if you’ve never heard of it before, you know what to look for at the grocery store.

Check out Jim Yang’s Ebook “Quick and Easy Chinese Vegetarian Cookinghere.

Guzman Y Gomez, Emporium – Fortitude Valley.

Posted on September 4th, 2011 by Warren  |  No Comments »


Guzman Y Gomez

Guzman Y Gomez is a Sydney institution that has recently appeared in Brisbane at the upmarket Emporium complex in the Valley.   It is one of a couple of quick service Mexican restaurants that have mushroomed up around the Valley area recently.

It is currently my favourite Mexican joint for the following reasons:

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s tasty
  • It’s filling
  • It’s casual
  • I haven’t tried the other quick serve joints…

I’d never really understood why the traditional mexican joints around here insist charging a premium for what amounts to a dollop of bland mashed beans with rice and grated cheese.  The taste vs value equation never added up.  Although I ended up full, it was more out of obligation to not waste it rather than enjoying it.  The only other Mexican joint I really enjoyed before this was in London… and I forget the name of that.

 

Guzman Y Gomez entry

Me and my meat eating Amigos met up for a Sunday arvo casual lunch.  Situated in the trendy and some would say pretentious Emporium complex, you would think that a casual fast food joint would be out of place amongst all the posh boutiques and pricey eating establishments.  But oddly it seems to work.  I guess the GYG market analysis found that the BMW and Audi driving crowd are also feeling the pinch of the economic downturn and are in need of some cheaper food alternatives.

One of the most annoying aspects of the Emporium complex is the parking.  There never seems to be enough of it.  You pretty much drive around the circuit till someone pulls out.  It’s the luck of the draw.  One advantage of this is you get to check out what cool cars are parked.  On this particular occasion there is a Bentley convertible and Aston Martin DBS along with the bog standard BMW, Audis, Mercedes, etc.  You also get an occasional Toyota or Holden if you’re lucky.  I am fortunate today and find a park relatively quickly when a shiny new red Merc serendipitously  pulls out.  I put my indicators on and fill the space between the Land Rover and Lexus with my bashed up Toyota.

 

Dining Area

Outdoor Dining Area

Entering the restaurant, I could not help noticing the open and airy atmosphere and tasteful use of rough and industrial elements.  The unfinished concrete flooring, raw red brick and rough sawn wood of the counter was modern and tasteful.  The rusty bare bulb chandalier and bench seating in the dining area all come together to give a relaxed outdoor dining experience.  This type of setup lends itself well to the mild Brisbane weather and suits this style of food.  What else could be better than having a few tacos and kicking back with some Coronas or a Frozen Margherita on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

Guzman Y Gomez Servery

We did not have to wait long before we were greeted by a friendly “Hola” to place our order.  The menu is not too complicated and features three main types of meals: Tacos, Quesadillas and Burritos.  You then simply pick one of the seven fillings available.  Apparently you can mix and match fillings too!  Unfortunately, only one of the seven fillings is vegetarian, the others being fish, cow , chicken or pig based.  The choice for Vegos is therefore simplified.  I chose 2 hard and one soft taco with vegetarian filling and a frozen margherita.

Sauce Bar

All you can grab tabasco sauce

After ordering, I was handed my drink and I then proceeded to the all you can grab condiments bar.  Being a big fan of value and all things spicy, it was love at first sight.   I grabbed a liberal amount of jalepenos and a container full of each of the three Tabasco sauces and proceeded with my table number to a nice sunny spot with good views of the rich folk passing by.

Guzman Y Gomez Frozen Margherita

Frozen Margherita

About 5 minutes later, our meals arrived.  The frozen Margherita was refreshing and slightly tangy  however seemed to lack any real kick.  I can’t be certain how much tequila they put in there in the first place, but for $8.50 you’d hope that there was a generous serving of alcohol.  It also probably doesn’t help that the slushy mixture is being churned around all day in the machine and therefore contributing to the evaporation of the all important ingredient .  So I wasn’t too impressed with what was essentially a 7 eleven slurpee.

The 3 tacos were enough for a light meal and came with a generous serving of guacamole.  I proceeded to scoop the guac into each of the tacos and placed a generous serving of Jalapenos and Tabasco on top of this.  I took a bite of the Soft taco.  They double up on the soft shell as it would be too floppy otherwise.  It was really satisfying and soft and had just the right amount of give to it.  I tried the hard taco next.  It had a good solid crunch and the toasted corn taste really stood out.  I think out of the two I favoured the cripsy texture of the hard tacos.  They have a distinctly thick and robust texture that is completely different to that of supermarket bought taco shells.

Tacos
Veggie Tacos

The mixture of beans, salsa, capsicum and mushrooms was nice and chunky and had a subtle hint of mexican herbs and spices with none of the pureed blandness of other mexican meals I’d tried.  However it is helped substantially by the fresh guac and tangy jalepenos.  The addition of the Chipotle Tabasco sauce just takes it to the next level, the smokey chilli aromas complementing the savoury filling perfectly.  The other two sauces didn’t really hit the spot for me, the habenaro sauce being over poweringly hot and the green sauce being too sour.

Since this outing I have also tried the burrito and nachos and quesadillas.  The burrito is well sized and infinitely more filling than the tacos.  It is a fat foil wrapped parcel crammed full with rice, cheese, guac and the same filling as the tacos.  The tortilla that wraps it has a great texture, being soft and stretchy.  This is definitely my first choice if I’m coming here for filling dinner.

The nachos are also tasty.  It’s just corn chips with the veggie filling, guacamole, salsa and cheese.  However it’s the texture of the corn chips that makes this meal.  A nice, thick solid crunchy texture…

And the Quesadillas… I’m not really sure if there is much difference between it and a soft taco.  Just more cheese really.

Overall

You can see the trend here.  The fillings (for vegos) are basically all the same.  The difference is the outer wrapping.  I wouldn’t be buying tacos, quesadillas and burritos all in the same meal… it would be so boring!

And the Margherita is a complete waste of time.  It may as well be non alcoholic and sell for $4.00.  I’ll buy a Corona or try one of their other imported Mexican beers

However if are in the mood for a taco OR a quesadilla OR a burrito, then this is the place to come for your Mexican fix.  I enjoy it each time I come, the main issue being parking during the busy periods of dinner time and the weekends.

Restaurant Details

Name: Guzman Y Gomez
Address: Multiple Locations.  This review: Emporium – 1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
www.guzmanygomez.com 

Ordered:

3 Tacos (2 soft, 1 hard) $10.50
Frozen Margherita $8.50

Other Vegetarian Options:

Sides
Guacamole and Corn Chips $5.00
Salsa and Corn Chips $5.00
Guacamole $3.00
Vegetarian Black Beans $3.50
Rice $3.00
Corn Chips $2.00

Mains
Burritos $6.50 (Small) – $10.50 (Regular)
Quesadillas $7.50 (for 2) – $10.50 (for 3)
Nachos $10.50
Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taqueria Fortitude Valley on Urbanspoon