Chefs Gallery, Regent Place, Town Hall

A long overdue catchup dinner with bestest of friends Ellis and a proper revisit at Chefs Gallery Town Hall, with pictures this time! I first came here in Feb 2014 and again two months later in Apr 2014, and really quite enjoyed my meals. I was glad the friend chose this as the venue.

We booked a table for 5:30 pm, their first dinner time slot. At this time, there were more staff than patrons, and it was quite awkward with the staff patrolling and checking every 15 seconds if we were ready to order. We pretended to look at the menu but both of us already had a different spicy dish we’d previously liked in mind.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Interior
Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Interior

To prepare for the incoming spiciness, Ellis ordered the lactose-free soy drink after I recommended something milk-based to neutralise the heat (although the soy would probably be too low in fat for that purpose). Our noodles arrived soon after.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Spinach Noodles w Marbled Beef in Sichuan Soup
Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Spinach Noodles w Marbled Beef in Sichuan Soup ($16.90)

“Marbled beef dipped in a spicy Sichuan soup with handmade spinach noodles, bamboo shoots and carrot sticks. Beware of the heat,” says the menu. This thing has the maximum 3 chilli icons, compared to Ellis’ 2-chilli icon dan dan noodles. I wasn’t any more starving tonight, but my bowl content volume seemed smaller than memory. I wish I’d been taking pictures back then so I had a visual comparison.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Dan Dan Noodles w Fried Pork Ribs
Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Dan Dan Noodles w Fried Pork Ribs ($16.90)

The previous time I came here, I wrote:

I absolutely loved my big bowl of Sichuan spinach noodles with thinly sliced beef and almost enough spiciness.

I remember the dining partner friend of that night thought I had a cold, because I was getting runny nose from the spicy Sichuan soup base. Tonight my opinion of the same dish changed: The noodles with thinly sliced beef looked smaller, wasn’t anywhere as spicy, and the rest was quite ordinary. But at least the green noodles still had good texture and were cooked right.

I wondered if my food heat tolerance and stomach size had gone up even further after a year, so I looked to the friend across to check how he was enjoying his food. He returned a slightly disappointed look; his dan dan noodles also didn’t live up to his past visits.

Did the food look similar to the menu pictures? Close. Value for money? Not bad. As good as I remembered from my two previous visits a year ago? Not quite. What happened, Chefs Gallery?

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Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde Shopping Centre, Ryde

It was getting quite late after a secret event I attended in the area (hint: the word “girt” was used in the event), so instead of our original plan of driving to a nearby suburb for familiar food, we decided to try something in the nearby-nearby Top Ryde Shopping Centre. Italian sounded appetising tonight and Bar Angolo Pizzeria is just on the nearby-nearby-nearby ground floor!

Bar Angolo has a decent-sized menu for the size of the place, with all sorts of antipasti, pasta, pizza, mains, gelato and other Italian desserts available. We casually noted how much the restaurant pride themselves on being authentic and “sorry no super supreme, meat lovers, pineapple or half & half pizza / please refrain from modifications“; for the authenticity and higher quality of food you trade for potentially slower service. That wouldn’t do as it was getting even later after the secret girt event, so I resisted the temptation of ordering authentic lasagne and settled on some authentic pizzas.

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Diavola Pizza
Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Diavola Pizza ($22)

Pizza one was the Diavola ($22), with mozzarella, spicy salamino and basil on a tomato base. Pizza two was the Bar Angolo speciale ($23) also on a tomato base, with mozzarella, salame, ricotta, olives and mushrooms. Thankfully, authentic pizzas didn’t take too long to be done after the waiter with an authentic Italian accent took our order.

(I promise I’ll give this authentic thing a rest soon. wink )

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Bar Angolo Speciale Pizza
Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Bar Angolo Speciale Pizza ($23)

The pizzas arrived in their 24-hour-risen, 31-cm, hand-stretched, hot-stoned dough glory. The crusts were satisfactory and a little thicker than I expected (not a complaint), and we excused the non-spicy spicy salamino as a lack of heat seems to be a common Italian cuisine feature. The biggest disappointment, though, was the tomato sauce base that we couldn’t quite taste, perhaps drowned out by the extreme saltiness of both pizzas.

I don’t know if I had developed higher expectations from reading about the food’s authenticity and higher quality advertised everywhere on the menu and walls, but the pizzas we had tonight weren’t very impressive. Sadly, I don’t see myself going out of my way to revisit the pizzeria for the pizzas. I wonder if the better choice would have been the lasagne. Authentic lasagne.

Bar Angolo Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food and Catering at Pullman Cairns International

We stayed at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel for the duration of my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, and for the week we had various foods from the hotel restaurant and catering, starting every day with a delicious breakfast at the buffet!

Buffet Breakfast

I absolutely loved the breakfast buffet, and so when we extended our stay, we got breakfast with our room extension as well. Most breakfast items you could think of are available here, including even Chinese congee and Japanese miso soup.

There is an egg station in the middle where a staff helps cook eggs to your liking. I didn’t try that because there’s often a queue, and I was quite happy with their buffet egg options — fried available on all days and scrambled in different texture on different days.

Conference Catering

We had the hotel catering for the conference, and the food quality was exceptional. There were different foods on the three days for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, with hot foods, cold foods, finger foods, desserts, fruits, and some vegetarian and gluten free options available.

The only annoying thing was how efficient they were at clearing everything as soon as another session of talks started. What were we the exhibitors meant to eat and drink when we actually had free time? But seriously, best conference food ever.

Conference Dinners (Reception and Gala)

We had a light, buffet style reception dinner on the first night by the pooldeck. There were salads, 5 or 6 hot dishes such as rump steak (perfect pink), sausages and potatoes, and desserts (panna cotta, chocolate mousse cake, lemon curd tart and mini pavlova) that even appealed to someone without a sweet tooth like me. No pictures because it was quite dark at the event, and I didn’t want to risk dropping my phone into the pool.

The conference dinner in the Grand Ballroom on the Saturday night was $135 per person, and most conference delegates, sponsors and guests attended the event. The food quality was decent, but the quantity simply couldn’t possibly satisfy me. There was also live band entertainment that also wasn’t my thing (wrong era, wrong genre, volume too high). I guess this dinner was more about the social than the meal itself.

Overall, I’m very happy with the food at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel. It’s definitely a choice if you want to impress and for the most part had made work more pleasant for me.

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Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

We’d been eyeing this yakiniku place since the first day, but thought it would be too heavy a dinner after our daily breakfast buffet and lunch. Today we’d been out snorkelling for a couple of hours, and that sort of maybe justifies eating yakiniku? Yes? Yes!

I already told you Orchid Plaza was very much little Japan/Asia when we first came here, so it didn’t completely surprise me when the Japanese staff spoke Japanese to the Asian me when we walked in to Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar upstairs. We were told that the charcoal grill, as opposed to electric, cost an extra $5, but if you’re doing yakiniku, you ought to do it right!

We were the only ones having the barbecue this Tuesday night and had the whole yakiniku section to ourselves. There were actually barely any diners at the large restaurant tonight. I wonder if they survive by catering for Japanese tour groups or if this was just one of the rarer quieter nights.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal grill is $5 extra

Our niku to be yaki-ed gradually appeared after our charcoal grill and drinks!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue ($9)

We expected the beef tongue to come in the round cut as the photo on the menu, but otherwise we had nothing to complain about.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami ($7)
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs ($7)

The beef harami (meat around diaphragm) and beef ribs have the same seasoning that we both really loved, and I didn’t mind that the latter weren’t as fatty as they were on the menu photo. You could also get ribs on the bone for the same price of $7.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck

Speaking of fatty? Pork neck! We knew this was the one that would start a fire on the grill. I consumed it all without guilt because fat is back!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid ($8)

The last item we ordered was the squid. Richard, my grill master for the night, knew not to overcook this (or everything else for that matter), but the squid was unfortunately rather disappointing in flavour. Richard thought they could do more with the seasoning than what we could taste as just the soy sauce. I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m inclined to agree.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table
Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table

I enjoyed the food and the quiet environment (probably only for tonight), but when we checked the bill, we discovered that the small pot of green tea was $2, not free. Oi, what’s up with that? I’m going to ask if green tea is free at all Japanese restaurants from now on. #cheapskate

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The Raw Prawn, Cairns

Another dinner decision, this time we went to the Raw Prawn, again on the Esplanade, for some seafood. We briefly contemplated the main menu but decided to stick to the two-course set dinner, where for $35, you get a choice among:

  • 1 entree and 1 main
  • 1 main and 1 dessert
  • 1 entree and 1 dessert

Sounds like a deal!

We sat outside and both opted for the entree-main combination, because we would be having dessert at a gelato place that we’d been going to for the trip. The entrees took 10 minutes after order and no time to devour, and the mains quickly followed.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Prawn & Avocado Salad (Entree)
The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Prawn & Avocado Salad (Entree)

With the place named the Raw Prawn, I guess it’s only appropriate for Richard to choose prawns for his entree, and more prawns for the main! His entree was prawns (not raw) with an avocado salsa on a bed of salad and blobs of cocktail sauce on the side.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chargrilled Prawns (main)
The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chargrilled Prawns (main)

His main was chargrilled shelled prawns with a mango dip, more salad and croutons. Yum, but I reckon peeling prawns was too much work for me, so I had something easier.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chicken Skewers (Entree)
The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chicken Skewers (Entree)

For my entree, I got the chicken skewers, which appeared as 4 skewers of marinated chicken thigh pieces with bok choy. The menu said the barbecue sauce was Asian inspired, which I think they meant there’s soy sauce in it, but I could be wrong.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Cajun Barramundi (main)
The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Cajun Barramundi (main)

My main was the Cajun spiced barramundi fillets sitting atop a garden salad. Cairns restaurants seem to have a thing with heavily drenching their salads in dressing, as happened with this salad, Richard’s main, as well as my other one from another place. I did like the lemon butter dressing on my dish, and the Cajun seasoning was very flavoursome.

Quite enjoyed the light meal. I noticed they serve kangaroo and crocodile here as well. If I didn’t feel like seafood, I would probably have tried those to see if they could manage to cook them right.

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Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

Work conference is finally over and holiday officially begins! We decided to grab a super light lunch that I really didn’t need after the hotel breakfast buffet, and thought this sushi train place on the second floor of Orchid Plaza would be a good one to try. Reason?

  1. I eat a lot and normally without a giant breakfast beforehand, sushi trains could cost a fortune.
  2. The maximum price of a plate is $3 at Sushi Express, clearly advertised from the outside!

Seriously, you have no idea how many times we’ve walked away from other sushi train places because we don’t know how much we might end up spending. (Alternatively, I could start training myself to eat like a normal person again.) (Hahaha nah.)

At Sunday a little after 1:30 pm, there were a few diners at the small place, a couple of chefs working in the middle, and all of one staff handling reception, register, waiting and clearing of tables. We very quickly discovered that sushi trains are only easy for the chefs and diners, but horribly inconvenient for the lone waitstaff who can’t walk in between. Once we’re seated and hassled her for our water and hot green tea, we waited for the sushi to appear on the conveyor belt.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Sushi Train
Sushi Express, Cairns: The sushi train is actually a train!

Conveyor belt, or a train track! The sushi train at Sushi Express is led by a toy train engine, which I thought was a very cute idea and wondered briefly why other places didn’t do this. Not only does the engine run quite fast so you have to wait for the whole train to come back if you missed it the first time, while we were there, someone had also managed to derail and detach the last carriage. I see now: all it takes is one clumsy / naughty / malicious person and you could lose an entire train of food — a train wreck! That’s why.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll
Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll

Another complaint I have with sushi trains in general, also experienced a little here at Sushi Express, is their often lack of simpler sushi that I prefer. I did find a precious salmon nigiri among the deep fried and mayonnaise covered items!

Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri
Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri

Although I’m pretty sure customers could order their food directly here as the lady next to me did.

It was only a short stay and we spent $12 for the 4 plates here. A last problem I thought Sushi Express has: as pretentious as this sounds, I think they could change their plate choice; the deep-coloured plates really made the food look dull in comparison and the Chinese theme just looked so out of place.

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Devine Gelato, Cairns

Gelato time! We came to Devine Gelato on three nights and managed to try all but a couple of flavours, as documented in this post with an embarrassing amount of gelato photos from the same place! They also have another shop (main shop?) just a two-minute walk away on Aplin Street, but it was the one on the Esplanade that we visited on all nights.

The cold treat is served in the typical choice of a waffle cone or a cup: one scoop is $4.80; two scoops $5.80; three scoops $6.80. Ali had a one-scoop cone on the night he joined us while Richard had the two-scoop cup, so I had no choice but to have three scoops on all nights in order to produce a more comprehensive write-up. Oh, the sacrifices I make for this blog!

Devine Gelato, Cairns: 14 Flavours
Devine Gelato, Cairns: 14 Flavours

The 14 flavours available when we visited, in alphabetical order, were: After Dinner Mint, Boysenberry, Coconut, Lemon Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Lindt Chocolate, Mandarin Sorbet, Mango Sorbet, Orange Chocolate Cookie, Passion Cream, Pistachio, Strawberry, Vanilla, and White Chocolate.

We had them like this:

Flavours Comments

Pistachio, Passion Cream

Devine Gelato, Cairns There wasn’t a hazelnut flavour available so Richard grabbed the next closest thing, the Pistachio. The flavour was quite subtle.

Orange Chocolate Cookie, After Dinner Mint, Boysenberry

Devine Gelato, Cairns After Dinner Mint and Orange Chocolate Cookie both had delicious crunchy chocolate bits inside. Get this combination if you are after a sweet milk chocolatey 2-scoop!

Lindt Chocolate, Coconut, Mandarin Sorbet

Devine Gelato, Cairns I didn’t think the original Lindt Excellence in its chocolate form was very special, so I also didn’t find the Lindt Chocolate flavour to be too different from other chocolate flavours. I really enjoyed Mandarin Sorbet, though, and am biased towards Coconut because I like coconut products.

Mandarin Sorbet, Lemon Sorbet

Devine Gelato, Cairns All their sorbet flavours are still gelato so they have the creamier texture. Lemon Sorbet tasted a little less creamy probably because of its tartness, which I still quite liked. Lime Sorbet was similar to Lemon Sorbet in texture and tartness, but in lime.

Devine Gelato, Cairns I expected Mango Sorbet to be like generic mango ice cream, but it was again more subtle in flavour and I liked the chunks of frozen mango pieces in it. Meanwhile, I only grabbed Strawberry because it’s one of the last few flavours I hadn’t tried, but it turned out to be surprisingly creamy! I think it would go quite well with Boysenberry and Passion Cream.

Mango Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Strawberry

We would have come back on the last night and I would have tried the last two flavours, but we’ve both put on too much weight since the beginning of the trip. Sorry, White Chocolate and Vanilla, I’m sure you were both wonderful flavours — given how Strawberry surprised me, Vanilla might actually not be boring! I guess I won’t find out until the next time I visit Cairns.

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