Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2018, another year, more water under the bridge

So, we meet again here for my own personal summation of 2018's food adventures.
It's been another year choc full of eating (and cooking) fine food. Another year of observing the Hobart restaurant scene, now from slightly further away as I slowly tire of the same old, same old occurring around town, and hold my tongue in the fruitless obvious criticisms I formerly would have written passionately about here on this blog.

Nothing really has changed with food standards. You know the sort of food you like to eat, and you should make it your business to know the chefs who cook it 'your' way, so that you can follow them round to their next (inevitable) workplace.

We've had a plethora of new places opening up this year. Way too many for my brain to remember. Some average, some woeful and some fabulous. My greatest joy has been seeing the old Ivory close down after 6 years of making great Thai food, renovating and adding an upper floor to their Elizabeth Street venue, then reopening after 6-odd months with a new name (Still Thai) but same owners and menu. Obviously I'm totally biased as my favourite food is Asian, particularly Thai.

I've checked out this years Taste of Tas four times over the last four days and have enjoyed the vibe and some of the offerings there. Thank god HCC have seen how ridiculous they were a few years ago when they nearly managed to absolutely write the event off (in the eyes of the locals, anyway).
(*TIP if the food is already made up and sitting there conveniently in the bain marie waiting for you to come along and order it, ask them to make you up a new batch.) Waji's crumbed calamari with palm sugar dressing should have been fabulous, but my serving was from the bain, and hence not beautifully crunchy and fabulous as I'd anticipated, but lukewarm with damp crumbs. However my nam tok (Thai beef salad) from Vanidols SoHo has been made to order each of the four times I've had it, and absolutely stunning. Well worth the $13 it cost, and the reason I've been to Taste four times this week, and intend returning for another serving today.

Had our annual Christmas dinner at Landscape this year. It was OK but the service tailed off over the course of the evening (having started out as absolutely faultless at the beginning of the night), to the end of the evening when, after ordering one of every single dish on the whole menu, and sparing no expense with wine, cocktails and alcohol generally, we weren't offered coffee. We would have had post-cheeseboard tipples too had they been offered but we were over it by then, so left. The restaurant itself is perfect for my friends and I, with all of us desiring: comfortable chairs (their chairs are the most comfortable restaurant chairs in Hobart), low volumed background music, good service, reliable decent food that caters to every dietary constraint, and easy parking nearby. Apart from the service dwindling off, we got pretty well everything else OK.

I ate a great meal last year at Stefano Lubiana's Osteria, and had vowed to return some time this year, which I did, to find new kitchen and waitstaff, both of which let me down in comparison to last year. So sad about that.

Frogmore has disappointingly proven the same as Lubiana's at both their venues, in my opinion. The Frogmore Lounge (in the city) menu is the most astounding version of the Emperors New Clothes I've ever seen. Put frankly, it is embarrassingly elementary, PFD-style food requiring little or no culinary skills or knowledge at all. Frogmore Cambridge is trying harder to maintain their previously high standards but they too are failing. These places have been my standout venues for when I just wanted to go out, relax and get fed wonderful food that I didn't need to question the provenance of. It pains me hugely to say it, but I've rarely been one to withhold the truth as I see it. Both are stunning visual venues, but for someone going there for only the food, I've been sorely disappointed.

Thank god Aloft on Brooke St Pier is still trading, with the food being of the highest standard, and the service ditto. They started doing Sunday breakfasts a few months ago, but have stopped those now. A hard ask for the staff to schlep back into work and do a Sunday brekky after their busy Saturday nights, but I hope they bring them back later because you simply couldn't fault the food.

Kraken fish and chips opened a few months back in Elizabeth St, North Hobart (where the old Fish Bar used to be), and is a place I haven't yet managed to get to but can't wait to try chef/owner Toby Cannon's f&c as everyone whose food opinions I trust have raved about the food there.

Suminato, in King St, Sandy Bay, has proven a firm winner amongst our loyal group of passionate regular eater-outers (laughingly named the Tossers). We've found excellent value and top flavour in selecting their Chef's Banquet for the small price of $58 per person, and I defy anyone to walk out of there and still need to go to McDonalds to top up. For your $58, you get: miso, sashimi salmon, beef tatami, chicken karaage, tofu seaweed salad, ebi mayo, zucchini skewers (sound boring but OMG delicious!), charcoal grilled lamb cutlets (the best in town, even better than Filoxenia's greek lamb chops), sushi roll and chef's dessert. You simply can't go wrong there with value for money and excellent food.

Tried Kin Japanese in Macquarie St when they first opened. They've had a few stops and starts with opening, then closing down. then reopening, then closing down again, but all seems sorted now. I think that fact plus the fact they're so small could be a reason they now need to generate so much social media activity, as I think you need to constantly be in people's faces to remind them of your presence in the world of choice of food sources in Hobart. Whilst we enjoyed our meal there (we ordered one of everything on the menu that day), it didn't knock our socks off.

Kobe, in Harrington St (just up from the Shamrock Hotel), is head and shoulders our best go-to for a Japanese food hit. A quiet, unassuming restaurant, they are open from 11.30am onwards, so if you're someone like me whose tummy operates a timetable all of its own, it's handy to know there is somewhere other than fast food chains where you can pop in any time and get a meal. They have the best and most comprehensive selection of ramen dishes, and many others, but not sushi. They also have the most uncomfortable chairs in town so you'll find it hard to even stay long enough for a bowl of yummy black sesame ice-cream! I take my own cushion when I go there.

My good friend Steve Cumper (ex Red Velvet Lounge at Cygnet, Peppermint Bay, Mona, Smolt Kitchen etc) is now heading up the kitchen at Fern Tree Tavern and the food is looking fabulous there. Steve is, for me, one of those chefs that I'm a groupie for, so I admit I tend to follow Steve and his food round to wherever he is currently working. For my sweet tooth, I feel he excels at sweet cooking, and reckon he gives the CWA ladies good competition for their traditional sponge cake cookery.

Seoul Korean Restaurant in Moonah also proved popular with us earlier in the year. The table cooking is a novel but fun way to eat out in a group, unless you've got a guts with you who complains they need more food and hoovers everything off the table grill before anyone else gets a chance to try it!

A fabulous meal was had at Bangor Vineyard Shed at Dunalley in April. So much top class fresh Tassie seafood dishes on their menu, and wonderful grazing platters. A perfect place to take visitors to our fair city for that country drive with excellent food thrown in.

Uber Eats commenced in Hobart in 2018 too, and appears to be becoming slowly more popular with the 'can't be f*cked' set amongst us. Personally I can't bear to spend an additional $8 onto the cost of my takeaway food to pay someone to deliver it to me, but that's exactly not who this app was designed for! My youngest daughter is a regular uber eats user and swears by it.

So, to sum up 2018, another interesting food year. More of the same, but I still search for the ultimate great food and service. I wish you a fabulous 2019.

Pictured above: unquestionably the best pho in Tassie from Phuong's in Electrona

Posted on by Rita
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