Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ganache: Chocolate Home - Where the Heart Really Is

Ganache Chocolate Lounge
250 Toorak Rd

South Yarra

Telephone: 03 9804 7485

Apologies for the three week hiatus as I returned to the motherland - back in Melbourne now in full force! (As is the heat, I can see!)

As promised in this post, the time for BFF J and I to elevate our love for chocolate to an academic level came yesterday in the form of one of Master Chocolatier Arno Backes' chocolate courses - specifically, 'How to Create a Chocolate House'!

Oh and I can't wait any longer, feast your eyes on this little baby!

What a wonderful class it was, the level of gushiness I feel like I must inject into this post is akin to a fantastic first date - and he's funny, so funny, did I mention?

The class began with a description of the three ways of melting and tempering chocolate - French, German, or Italian. FYI, Arno scorns the use of a metal bowl over simmering water. Apparently, one is meant to treat chocolate like one's own skin - therefore the temperatue of the chocolate, or rather 'couverture', should never exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Fancy that.

This, by the way, is the Italian method - a hefty 200 pound machine Arno describes as his 'Italian girlfriend' who took 'ages convincing to go upstairs'. All classes, and the kitchen, which we shamessly perve on during the course of the class, are held above the main shop.

And here you go - some of the processes involved in making the Chocolate House - I feel the need to preempt these with a bit of a disclaimer - I was honestly very much the dunce of the class, while J was a total star.

For example:

This was meant to be circular.

And these were meant to be identical.

Show-off. (J's fences.)

J methodically putting her house together.

Level One. If only we could all use water glasses to prop our homes up.

J flipping her house - as you may observe, her base is a perfect circle.

And my house - up and at 'em! It's quite easy to see that it's got loads of imperfections! Oh but the joy I felt when it was finally up - unparalleled (as were my walls evidently)!

Setting up fences - don't want the neighbours trespassing, after all. Observe the abundance of 'off-cuts' of chocolate on the table - we got to keep them all! Though I must admit that J and I consumed a substantial portion during the class itself - so much so that she inadvertently ate her door.

J gettin' her snow on! (The smoke is just cotton balls!)

Almost done now! Actually, I thought I was done at this point. Can you play 'What's Wrong With This Picture?'

I forgot the door! Ta-da! The finished house in all its flawed glory.

All boxed and ready to go!

In a word? Exhilarating! Best gift ever, if I do say so myself - and I will absolutely return. Though I will probably schedule my next class in winter - the bottom of my house melted and caved in as we were driving home because it was just that hot. It is now totally lopsided - so upsetting, I assure you, that I had to take to my bed for a full fifteen minutes.

Can't wait to do it all over again.

Ganache Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 8, 2010

HuTong Dumpling Bar

HuTong Dumpling Bar
14 - 16 Market Ln
Melbourne CBD

Telephone: 03 9650 8128

Hutong is yummy. Hutong is pretty. And Hutong has proved to be very, very, very popular.

So in a valiant (and unusual!) attempt to be pithy, here are the things you should and should not do at Hutong.


1. Make a reservation. The nice thing about HuTong is that they can take group bookings of up to 13 if you ask nicely, and you can even request the level on which you'd like to be placed (there are three altogether). Go for the gold, and ask for the top floor. As you can see, it is very lovely, and unlike many other Chinatown restaurants, does not look like it was built, painted and 'decorated' in the gaudy '80s.

2. Order the xiao long baos. Of course, of course, of COURSE order the xiao long baos; if there is only ONE reason to come here - this is it.

Light and delicate skin that doesn't break when you lift the xiao long bao. Check.

Flavourful and plentiful soup within with moist lump of meat. Check.

Perfect. Check.

3. Order some of the other specials (more on this later).

This is a lovely (and very large!) Cheng Du Style Combination in Chilli ($23.80).
It came highly recommended on the menu, and was basically a hot pot of duck (if I'm not mistaken), bean shoots, broccoli and ham. The downside of this dish was that it was a bit hard to tell all the ingredients apart as they were all soaked in the chilli broth. To be fair, however, the broth is so pungent and tasty that it's not a dish you wouldn't ever order again - just maybe only when you need a chilli hit, and lots of it!

This was the other star of the evening, a very interesting Scallop with Eggplant in Claypot in Szechuan Chilli Sauce ($20.90). Think fat and fresh scallops with smooth (but not mushy) eggplant slices. Spicy, generous, tasty - it eats exactly as it looks.

Other dishes that we had (but couldn't get good pictures of, because of the low, low lighting up on third) were the Dong Po Square Soft Pork ($7.80) - you'd have to order a few of these if you wanted to share it, it's a small cube of sweet braised fatty pork, nothing unusual if you've had it at other Chinese restaurants, the Hand Tear Cabbage ($15.80) - think pieces of roughly torn cabbage in chilli, not unpleasant but nothing outstanding either, and the Won Tons in Chilli ($8.00) - certainly not as large as my benchmark in Rose Garden (eating there is obviously a very different and less luxurious type of experience), but plump enough, and very nicely made!

Which brings me to what you shouldn't do in Hutong.

DO NOT (cannot stress this enough)

Spoil your meal by ordering too many 'specials'. Or rather, be very careful not to order too many dishes that are described as cooked in chilli or boiled in chilli or containing chilli etc (which really are most of the specials) as they will all turn up cooked in identical chilli broths. Point in case - the scallop and eggplant, the won tons, the Cheng Du combination, and even the cabbage above. It really doesn't do justice to any of the dishes individually because after awhile all the flavours run together, and you lose the variety of 'tastes' you should be drawing out from your meal as an entirety - and go away feeling like you've just drunk a really huge bowl of chilli oil. This is unfair to you, and also unfair to the dishes because they really all quite good on their own - so my advice to you is to break up the chilli-fied dishes for different visits, or if you have a substantially large group, order lots of non-chilli options as well for variety! I've had the deep fried whitebait on a previous occasion, and it's fantastic!

So in short - go, go, go to HuTong and feel free to bring your friends and family as so few other places cater properly for large groups. And when you're there, order the specials - but not all of them!

Hu Tong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon