Sicilian Toastie and Margherita Pizza, The Italian Corner, William Street

I spend way too much on lunch.

Every day I consider going on a diet of Vegemite sangers and Robert Timm’s instant coffee. I also promptly tergiversate on the idea when faced with lunch break and ever-present possibility of happiness being just around the corner.

I also spend way too much on coffees.

I once had a particularly bad streak of buying coffee each morning. I then decided, pledging to make better decisions, that I should probably put a stop to the daylight robberies. 

The first day without my morning coffee, I gained a full appreciation of this quote, commonly but mistakenly attributed to Michael‚Äč Jordan: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ It was 100% a difficult morning. Sans magical concoction, the withdrawal symptoms began. Said symptoms were notoriously mild, in the scheme of things and given the substance in question: I ate a Cherry Ripe‚ÄĒan unwise choice of appetite suppressant that at best satisfied the wrong craving‚ÄĒfollowing which, I made up a sachet of Moccona’s Peppermint Choc Bliss‚ÄĒwhich, admittedly, proved to be a substitute relative in deliciousness and enjoyment.

Taking things out of context, the sporting origin of this quote has me wondering about the existence of possible deeper meanings behind it. Dope, just unintended double-entendre. 

Here’s what I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday this week. I decided I’d frequent the new, well fairly new, place The Italian Corner.

I went for the Sicilian Toastie, ‘prosciutto, fresh tomato, bocconcini’, $7.50 and the Margherita Pizza ‘mozarella, semi-mature cheese, fresh basil’, also $7.50. How good do they look?

The toastie had a lot going for it. 

It had melty, stringy cheesiness, which I ate all the while mindful of the ease with which I might grow a cheese beard. It had saltiness from the prosciutto and freshness from the self-described ‘fresh’ tomato. It had sufficient crustiness and grillege, an imaginary word which here seems proper and conducive to communicating the requisite grilledness this toasty exhibited. As my one-thirty pm late lunch, it was a well-primed and served lunchbox of happiness.

The pizza, too, was a satisfactory option. The pizza featured a non-floury base of mid-range thickness, with a profusely gooey cheese sitting amidst a moderate backing of tomato sauce that had the slightest detection of onion. It was a stroll through the park on a day with the sun shining and the smell of spring in the air. The limited topping of spinach acted as a garnish on the already-satisactory pizza. I enjoyed it.

Which reigns supreme: the toastie or the pizza? I conclude the result of this cheesy conundrum a confused ‘currently inconclusive’. A determination will demand further visitations.

As an observation, pizzas, coffees and ice-cream earn you a punch on the loyalty card. No love for the toastie.

Taste verdict Classic lunchtime fare. I’m a great fan of cheesy things.

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Katsu Chicken Curry at Zushibento, Brookfield Place

For lunch at the end of the week I decided to go the Katsu chicken curry for $11.90 at Zushibento, Brookfield Place.

Rice with crispy chicken on top and just-poured curry arrived after a productive five minutes‚ÄĒduring which my usual donation to charity was made and it was confirmed‚Äč that the coming weekend would unfortunately not be spent at the beach.

This far-hotter-than-your-average dish on a cold day hit the spot. Think actual steaming rice. With visible steam. Think OH&S hazard levels of hotness. 

As a massive fan of eating things right out of the oven, right off the stove, for the burn, this was awesome. 

The chicken and curry were respectively like KFC done without three of the eleven secret herbs and spices, and some strangely kick-ass Kan Tong creation that if mamma was making would not take long for the word to spread around. In other words, it was pretty delicious and beyond average tastiness‚ÄĒand on a scale of boring-desk-job-lunch to showstopper-in-the-communal-office-kitchen, this was more of the latter.

On a musical note, who else thinks Kan Tong had a pretty catchy jingle? No? Just putting the question out there. I… I mean I don’t whistle it from time to time thinking about the 2000s…

Taste verdict Katsu curry that’s lunchtime good.

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Softshell Crab, Wagyu Steak, and Sticky Date Pudding at the Grand Bar and Bistro, CBD St Georges Terrace

The EoFY lunch at the Grand Bar and Bistro came up awfully fast. There was the whole lead up to it: the planning, the phonecalls, the visits, the background to get everything in order for the day and then it was finally here. Overall, it turned out well. 

I had for entrée the softshell crab, for main the Wagyu streak, and for dessert sticky date pudding.

The softshell crab was crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside. With the mayo and a seaweed salad, this was a great tasting Japanese-inspired dish that had the elements down pat. It was a generous serving by comparison to the other entrees at the table. 

The only complaint: it was cold. 

For context, the service was lovely but unfortunately slow.

The entr√©es came out with some confusion‚Äč. Entrees were matched to names rather than tables, which meant extra work for the waitstaff finding who was sat where in a mad scramble as the dishes made it to the service counter. At one point there was a string of five or six dishes on the countertop awaiting direction as to which table they should be sent.

They cottoned on to as much, and for mains decided to bring around the options and ask tables for numbers of takers.

As we soon found, this too proved problematic. All dishes had been pre-ordered against names and the billing for meals set accordingly.

What wasn’t factored in was people being people. When the waitstaff brought around the mains, several from our party forgot what they had ordered, decided to eat what they hadn’t ordered, or simply took someone else’s meal‚ÄĒwith no harm intended I thoroughly appreciate, but perhaps also with blissful ignorance of what this meant for others. 

The end result was wasted paid-for dishes, the kitchen having to conjure up replacement dishes, and, needless to say, long waiting times and cold mains.

All that said, my main course when it arrived was cooked beautifully. My blue steak was a raging dish; it showed off a deep purple inside and a scorched outer crust. Justice had been done to the Wagyu. It was tender, juicy, full-flavoured, and left as natural as possible. The beef was bloody good. This blue steak was a textbook example of less is more and letting ingredients speak for themselves. Being the only blue steak order in our party, I really had been spoilt.  

The sides of carrot and potato added to the appeal of the dish and were favourably warm. The medley of potato was particularly delicious; crispy potato atopped more mashed counterparts and was layered with butter and cheese. As I sliced through the beef, piling on the carrot puree, and the potato, enjoyment on a plate was all I could think of.

Writing this up now I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have in my life wonderful days and times and food. Good times such as this. It’s embarrassing that hashtags instead of reasonable prose come to mind thinking of how I might put it into words. I suppose I could say that if, perchance, I were part of the uber hip, Gen Y Twitter crowd, I’d be all over the tags: #blessed, #thankful, #Aussie and #luckycountry. Seriously though, good and great times put the less-good patches into perspective. 

Two courses down and things were now back on track for dessert.

I had the sticky date pudding. It was aesthetically‚Äč beautiful. That’s where my praise for this dish ended. The sticky date pudding was very cakey. It was mild in a flavour I couldn’t pinpoint‚ÄĒsticky date related, maybe, but not dates. If there were real dates somewhere on this dish they must’ve been miniscule amounts, or completely pureed away into the sauce and cake. To the palate it was a sweet sauce on a sponge. The addition of an ordinary vanilla ice-cream, that was melting from the heat of the plate evidently lifted right out of the dishwasher, pulled no punches. The caustic taste of unincorporated baking soda as I bit into the bottom of the pudding underscored everything wrong with the dish. Perhaps it’d just been my sticky date pudding; it was the most popular dessert had on the day and I did hear later that others liked theirs. The lack of actual date content, now that can’t have been a one-off.

All in all, it worked out. 

On the food, my entree and main were fabulous, the main in particular. 

The process for service does need work. The staff were great with us and made a real effort to make things work despite the initial confusion. The management were accommodating with our requirements for the function. I’d not hesitate to get in contact again. 

The Grand has a great space. It has a large enough restaurant area and the space carries a certain intimacy about it. Courtesy of the dark and neutral tones throughout the restaurant, closely placed seating, and the use of largely ambient lighting, the space is personal and cosy, more dine and wine than grub and pub. The venue would work nicely for a smaller function.

Considering everything I think it went pretty darned well overall. 

Taste verdict What can I say on the food? I’ll leave it at the beef was most agreeable.

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Key Lime Pie and Chai Latte at Riverside Cafe, Elizabeth Quay

I wandered about the Quay on this Friday afternoon, taking a stroll for fresh air and in search of a sugar hit‚ÄĒa pick-me-up, after what had been an energy depleting day. I’d been feeling poorly and the day had done its bit to add to it. For the first in a long time, the feeling was one of constriction: of being completely spent.

I sat outside; the caf√©’s quayside view was wonderful and unfettered. The minimal patronage made it all the better. As for the cold, it fell away to serenity and calmness. Peacefulness seemed to drown out other thoughts. 

My chai latte, $5.50, and key lime pie, $9, arrived. They did a brilliant job at helping me reclaim my chi. The chai was a good fragrant one. The last third of the mug was the texture of sand. The slice of pie was a pleasant choice. Dense, creamy, cheesecake-ish, with a teensy bit of tang from the lime, and a good biscuit crust. While I’m far bigger a fan of bold flavours in pies‚ÄĒhigher acidity and the harsh zinginess of lime for a key lime pie‚ÄĒI’d get this again. 

Life always seems a little better with good food and a good view.

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Taste verdict A lovely spot.

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Trio of Cheeses at Toastface Grillah, Wellington St

To be honest before I ended up making a visit to this place for lunch, it was a ‘skip over’ place in my head. 

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Hear me out. Toastface is in an alleyway. With bins‚ÄĒskip bins at that and from that I take that they should be skipped‚Äč over, if you’ll pardon the pun. With graffiti on the walls. 

Thoughts of the most pleasant things aren’t exactly what come to mind. 

As a twenty-something female living in a first world country, in one of the safest cities, who’s fortunate to never have met with the nefarious or had an encounter with the untoward, I can’t explain it. Feelings are irrational. Logic and reasoning often don’t factor in‚ÄĒand when they do, no amount of explaining makes it better.

Alleyways are a subset of the fear basket the subconscious flags as ‘avoid’. Alleys together with unlit passageways, confronting-looking faces, creepy things, and things that emanate a vibe that something’s off, get thrown into this pile. 

Because the possibility of a threat is something to  avoid. Heck, people devote their lives to becoming experts on risk avoidance and risk management. It is pretty much the work of unoptimistic psychics: they predict what could happen in the future and then they put life plans in place to avoid possible unfavorable darkness.

There are plenty of examples. Release of convicted criminals into the community may depend on the outcomes of an assessment of risk, recidivism, and their ability to meet tightly controlled conditions of release. Scissors are banned from being carried in hand luggage. The content of scary movies is ninety percent foreshadowing, suspense-building, and false alarms, and avoidance of the threat‚ÄĒand ten percent actual interactions with the threat, if that. It’s a win for movie-goers and -makers. The idea that a blue steak might have unkilled bacteria has a great deal of people avoiding anything under a medium. Perceived and possible threats can be as impactful as actual threats.

My point is that alleyways are an example of how the feeling of safety can be impinged upon by things that aren’t obvious. It is like a rug: one that doesn’t have the weight of furniture to stop it slipping, a rug that can be pulled out from under at any moment. Everything can be fine then something‚ÄĒa thought, a thing that becomes noticed‚ÄĒcan threaten the sense of safety in a space. It need not be of the severity of a bomb threat. It may just be in a need-to-be-extra-vigilant kind of way. Both are impacts; both somewhere on the spectrum.

Safety and fear I would suggest are highly individual feelings. We live in a world that is analogous to a great, big videogame. Although perhaps that’s too self-referential to work as an analogy, more like the other way around‚ÄĒvideogamesmitate life. We are each brought to life endowed with certain attibutes‚ÄĒstrength, dexterity, health, wisdom, personality, conscientiousness, and so forth. The list of pre-determined characteristics and  predispositions goes on.

We each experience life as ‘player one’ in the game. Uniqueness of the individual journey is true in every sense: no two lives are exactly the same, and we react and respond to our immediate environment. And in my case, that includes sometimes bypassing places like this for no other reason than because they’re sorted into some basket, as autonomously as the whites, and the greys and blues, go into different laundry baskets. 

I guess all that came to mind when I had this toasty. Huh.

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Anyhoo, on to Toastface. 

Like any good joint the venue is greasy; the type of greasiness that comes with the greasy smell that gets absorbed into clothing. Beware sitting for extended periods right outside the grill window.

The toasties clearly keep it simple and the one I had was great. 

I watched the dude go about the making of the toasty. I will now reveal the secrets of achieving the toasty: 

  1. Generously butter both sides of normal, supermarket white bread. By generously, I mean go crazy with the butter. No wonder it tasted so good.
  2. From the relevant box of Tupperware, grab a big dollop of whatever filling is ordered. 
  3. Spread on insides of the bread.
  4. Put together the slices and whack it on the grill. 
  5. Grill until it’s a proper brown.

Ta da! There was one other thing. I’m not sure which step it comes under. It has to do with the rosemary-ness, herbiness of the outerside of the bread. They must either use a herby butter or roll the buttered bread in a herb mix. Either way, it gives the bread this unique flavour. Yum.

Taste verdict This was great tasting stuff. It is seriously artery-clogging material.

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