Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ichiban Boshi, CBD

When I first started this blog, Ichiban Boshi was one of my first posts so feeling rather nostalgic. I know we think ramen = hot, winter soupy, but did you know they also sell Cold Ramen because I didn't.

Ichiban Boshi currently has a Summer Cold Noodle Special Set ($15) where you can combine any cold ramen with any drink (except Suntory Premium Beer/Otokoyama Sake & Wine Bottles) saving you some loose change . Though please do tell the staff you're ordering the "Cold Noodle Special" as it's only on offer Mon-Wed (After 3PM) till the 28th February.

Summer is ending so soon ahhh !

Moving on to the good stuff, I took the plunge and went for the TanTan Tsukemen Cold Ramen  which came with a giant serving of cold noodles to be dipped in a spicy tan tan soup w/ choy sum, minced pork & gooey boiled egg.

If you're looking for a New Years resolution, trying Cold Ramen should be one. I'll be honest, I was expecting to eat "warm" ramen which didn't seem too appealing, but the noodles are served really cold somewhat crisp so when dipped into the broth is rather refreshing. Perfectly cooked noodles as well. I didn't find the soup spicy though, and it did get somewhat acidic towards the end, but that's just my opinion.

My friend A who ordered their Tonkatsu Ramen said that my dish looked yummy and despite being in a food coma, managed to have a small bowl of my cold ramen.

To accompany our mains we opted for the two most popular drinks - Melon Soda w/ Ice Cream which apparently tastes like a liquid version of the Melona Ice Cream & Iced Green Tea Cappuccino which in fact is not sweet at all. Don't expect the drinks at Starbucks as this is a cold milky drink with lots of green tea.

I raved about the Tempura Salmon Roll last time so it was a must order again. So much mayo, so much rice, so much tempura but despite the food coma, good food is never ever wasted. I can totally see myself double or even triple frying this at home to make it superrrr crunchy.

It was A's first time trying Beef Tataki and honestly, this is the only time I eat my beef this rare. With the 'tangy' sauce, it's acidic-ness is refreshing and with the super cold beef, it'll definitely be a hit in summer.

I'm sure I don't need to mention this, but my love for Ichiban Boshi has already been explained 1.5 years ago on my first post, and there's no need to convince me to return again. I found the Summer Special & Cold Ramen to be of a large serving and definitely one to try before summer is over. They also do spinach noodles and now thinking about it, which I went out of my way to try something different.

* A Little Bit Of Tang dined as a guest at Ichiban Boshi & SD Marketing Global Pty Ltd, although all my opinions  are 100% my own, honest and unbiased.  Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Hunter Valley Christmas Adventure

Once again, sorry for disappearing. The whole Christmas/New Year Season and trying to settle down in January has really gotten to me but finally I'm able to report my Hunter Valley adventure that I went for over Christmas.

PS : Was not planning to blog this so excuse the not so nice shots/views

I have actually never been Hunter Valley nor am I a wine kinda gal. Or at least I wasn't until I went Wine Land for a 3 day bender and found myself having alcohol 8 days straight pre xmas and over the new year.

A 2.5hr drive down was not bad at all, since I was blasting Taylor Swift's 1989 album whilst the boy struggled hard to concentrate on the road. Our stay at Leisure Inn Pokolbin was smack bang in the middle of EVERYTHING. Less than a 3 minute drive to the The Hunter Valley Cheese CompanyHunter Valley Chocolate Company and the oh so pretty Hunter Valley Gardens , our Superior Studio Queen room at $110/night (with a bonus $30 breakfast/lunch voucher) was good value for money.

Moving along, we didn't arrive till late afternoon cos the boy and I realised we had forgotten stuff like thongs, toothbrush ... to eat lunch etc before our drive so we had to make a few pitt stops before we hit the road.

We decided we'd celebrate the end of an amazing a year in style, popping by Restaurant Botanica as suggested by a fellow blogger Hilda (The Chronicles Of Hilda) and I found this to be country style fine dining at $65/pp for 2 courses. They have their own little herb/plant garden which they use in their dishes which I wish I could do in my own home.

Our meal started off with some crusty sourdough. I don't care how expensive a meal is or if I'm at a buffet I will eat really good bread.

I adored the creaminess of our amuse bouche - Cream Of Cauliflower w/ Dukkah though it was very very salty. Would have been managable if/when eaten with bread but unfortunately I scavenged the bread straight away.

Cream Of Cauliflower Soup w/ Dukkah

I've been meaning to try Zucchini Flowers so it was a must order when it appeared as an entree where it was stuffed with ricotta & herb and topped with prosciutto under smoked corn veloute. I can finally say "I have eaten a flower".

Zucchini flowers, ricotta & herb filled, Botanica's prosciutto, smoked corn veloute

Whilst the creaminess of the corn paired really well with the zucchini flower, I found the entree was ruined by the excess seasoning. Again, way too much salt for such a delicate starter.

The boy's Soft Shell Crab had the schezwan pepper, garlic & ginger taste to it, but the Soba Noodles were a bit on the soggy side (if that's even possible). Once again over salted so we didn't finish the soba noodles.

Soft shell crab, schezwan pepper, ginger, shallot, soba noodles

Didn't get a bite of the boy's main - Venison w/ Sweet Potato, Goats Curd & Pea Pesto though he did he say he wish it was medium rare instead of so well done. 

Venison w/ Sweet Potato, Goats Curd & Pea Pesto 

Luckily my duck breast wasn't dry, but to be honest I was expecting like a crispy skin. Or maybe that's how I always eat it so I wasn't used to the non rendering of the fat. The spiced date puree accompanied well and I have never had such fancy chickpeas with my meal. The preserved lemon was on the subtle side of my main though. 

Duck Breast, spiced date puree, preserved lemon, parsley, chickpeas

This restaurant had such amazing reviews on Trip Advisory, that I'll have to say I was quite disappointed overall. Maybe(?) it was a bad day ... or we just didn't pick the signature foods. The service was outstanding though, and the waitresses were extremely knowledgable about the food and even briefed us a little on the land and where the produce was from.


The following morning was an early 8AM wake up call as we had joined a tour with Michael at All Wine Hunter Tour so we used out $30 breakfast voucher at Pokolbin Kitchen located where we were staying along side a nice view. 

Big Breakfast was pretty decent as well - 2 eggs (done anyway), tomato, sausages, hash browns & bacon w/ toast. Would I eat this again ? YES !

Big Breakfast - $19.00

This All Wine Hunter Tour is honestly the best well worth money thing/tour in Hunter Valley. I kid you not because for $65/70pp you get to visit 5 wineries/vineyards where you try 40+ different types of wine, chocolate shop, cheese shop and there is absolutely no rush to buy anything or leave. And besides, no one wants to be the designated driver !

Our first stop, Mount View Wines was just a 15min drive from Pokolbin where at 9:30AM we sampled 8 white & red wines.

My favourite winery was Briar Ridge tucked away from the main road so you'd have to know this place to find it.  Managed to pick up my new favourite wine 'S'Bella Off Dry Semillon 2013' which ended up being $14/bottle there.

Call me a cheap drunk but maybe in time I'll develop a palette for not so sweet wines. Think of moscato but less bubbly, less sweet and more crisp.

Next we stopped at Tinkler's where there's a famous tree that apparently if you look close enough, you can see animals/human faces from the natural shape of the tree. Can you see anything ?

 *hint, there is something that produces BACON in there

Another 8-9 glasses later I picked up peachy/rose bottle of white 'Tinkler's Volcanic Ash' - sounds fancy. The grapes under the white cloth mean they are plump, juicy and ready to be picked hence protected from birds

We definitely needed something to sober up *ahem* and we were taken to 'And the winner is Oscars' located within the Hunter Valley Gardens. Decent portions, great service and a affordable lunch spot considering it's a touristy area.

A smaller winery we stopped by was Capercaillie - there the boy bought a few bottles of red wine. Post trip I have learnt that red wine will never be as nice as Ribena, despite looking the same.

Last but not Ernest Hill Winery. We were told that in this particular place, the deceased family members would be cremated and sprinkled amongst the vineyards , which is creepy for me ... but that's what it makes it a "family winery".

I was extremely pleased by how the whole tour went from 9:30-4:30 where we were dropped off at Pokolbin Village to spend however long we wanted at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Store & Smelly Cheese Store.

By this time the boy and I were in NO condition to drive 40+ wines later .. though that's what you get in Hunter Valley. To walk off our alcohol-coma the Hunter Valley Christmas Lights were a must see because which girl doesn't love flowers, lights and long romantic strolls ?

Whilst the lights were impressive, there were just so many people it was almost impossible to take a photo, let alone move and combine that with a full day adventure and alcohol and heat we didn't stay for too long.

Still managed to get some pretty snaps though.


Day 3 meant the end of our Hunter Valley Trip and seriously so sad because I wouldn't mind staying here a few more days and drinking wine, eating cheese and just slothing.

I bought a cheeseboard but I forgot to take a photo, but I love cheese so it was a must (even though I'm lactose intolerant). As it was the last day, we ended up at the Hunter Valley Gardens again as we bought the Christmas Lights + Day Pass ($44pp) and we literally thought we'd be here only 1-1.5 hours and we ended up staying 3 hours ... only because we got thirsty/hungry and we were getting sunburnt we left ...

Yes I am the tourist that takes photos of every single thing, with my selfie stick, perfect angle/pose and you name it. But I don't regret spending all that time there, because you get your moneys worth.

Because it's in the day and it's an "everyday" thing, there were like <20 people in the whole gardens - so peaceful and no having to push through to get photos and wait around.

Our final meal was at Buon Cibo at Pokolbin Village offering Italian Style dining. Really really enjoyed this meal and highly recommend this place if you're after an affordable, filling meal. I guess because Hunter Valley is a touristy area, prices will generally increase but the price at this restaurant was similar to a Sydney restaurant.

Feta & walnut salad was seriously .. a mouthgasm ? Super creamy, not too salty and the pear was relatively warm drizzled with a generous amount of Olive Oil.

Feta & Walnut Salad w/ Poahced Pear & Balsamic Glaze

I almost never order ravioli in a restaurant because I don't like eating the sides , only the filling. Though with the tomato sauce (not literally) a bite and all of it was down. Popping cherry tomatoes as well.

Blue Swimmer Crab Ravioli

Meat Pizza (?)

SO I SUMMED IN 3 DAYS in a mere 10 minute post and trust me it was difficult without the waffling about how yummy this wine was , or how juicy the grapes were.

I will definitely return to Hunter Valley, even just a few day getaway is fine, but now that I've been I probably don't need the tour again. Highly recommend the tour for first timer-s though or non-wine drinkers because it's opened up my eyes to the world of wine.  Just make sure you have a designated driver or don't drink drive.

If you managed to get through this post, I congratulate you with a stupid face of myself. Till next time. And sorry for the photo spam too