I'm talking about the State of Victoria, in the land of Oz. The tips of the Australian continent which during our Ilmu Alam (the subject, Geography) days, we were taught had Meditteranean wet winters and dry summers. Or is it the other way round.
A year ago, in my finite wisdom, during an Air Asia fare promo day, I idly logged on and checked prices for Melbourne, and discovered, wow, I could bring the entire family (ie, 6) to Melbourne for under RM6,000-00. Considering the last time I'd checked, an MH ticket was in excess of RM3k each, I thought, ooh, what a steal. A year later, we found ourselves all super excited, at the Lousy Cheap Cheap Terminal, embarking on a journey, with the sole mission of seeing snow. Meanwhile, other more glamorous friends, like Thamby (AWhiffofLemongrass) were traipsing around Spain, and Britain, (as my son calls it), while we headed South.
Snow? You expect snow at the end of September in Victoria? Well, maybe there might be bits and bobs of slush, but please do NOT get your children's expectations up. So I was told, by faithless unbelievers in the power of PRAYER.
Actually, when we arrived, at midnight, it was 12C in melbourne. Aiyo, 12C at midnight, must be even hotter in the day, so what's the melting point of snow again? 0+ whatever?
We spent the first day like all good Malaysians, ie, in a shopping mall. Afterall, isnt that our national sport. Since we were holed out in Doncaster, a trip to the mall after a home cooked breakfast of pancakes and divine bacon, was part of the itinerary. How very exciting. Day 2 saw us at the Royal Melbourne Show, a hodge podge of funfair, carnival, livestock exhibition, ....which the son described as "lame". It is getting harder to impress these days. Roller Coaster rides from AUD8 PER PERSON! I was ready to throw up before the ride.
Finally, day 3, where we made our way to the country. The rolling hills past the Yarra Valley, and a landscape that sometimes made you think you were in Britain, ....afterall, you were right at the nether regions of Victoria, a state aptly named, for I think this countryside is the most Imperial British in Australia. And the weather, VERY british too. Dark grey skies, enough to drive one to contemplate suicide, and rain.
"Those poor things. They arent gonna see ANY snow. Look at the rain. It's pouring" ...the hushed whispers amongst our friends who had accompanied us on the trip. PRAY, children, PRAY.
The rolling plains that you could almost envisage Stonehenge in the yonder. Well, Salisbury doesnt have as many trees, but you get the drift. Convict druids performing their rituals in the dark of night.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, LOOK at what we got.
It was almost blizzarding.
The road leading up to Mt Buller was like a Christmas fairyland. The kids had a LOVELY time up there, toboganning, building a snow man, etc. God does answer prayer!!!
If it is rumored that you can experience all 4 seasons in a day in Melbourne, its not an urban myth. A Hot Summer's Day At St Kilda's beach upon our return from the snow.
Now that we've gotten the storytelling over and done with, we must talk about FOOD. First highlight, NOBU, at Crown Casino Complex. Generous host, Godpa to the kids, brought us here for dinner.
Nobu. The much talked and hyped about Interpretative Japanese Cuisine.
Excuse the flash photography, as the lighting was terrible. Oyster sashimi, with 3 different types of topping. I liked 2 of the 3.
Hamachi (I think) in a special sauce. Actually, the sauce was so overpowering, which I think was a waste of the good sashimi fish. Could have put haruan there and I probably couldn't tell the difference.
The famous beef tartar, also in a tangy sauce. This time the sauce was more palatable, as I personally am not a fan of raw uncooked meat, so the strong sauce masked, if not cooked, the meat. The meat was succulent and tender though.
Prawns with 3 types of dipping sauce.....
One that tasted like 1000 island. One was a wasabi sauce, and one was a soya sauce based sauce.
Their signature Black Cod and miso, with ginger stems, dipped in some red coloring. The ginger stems were rather unique, it was something new. The cod was fresh, and texture perfect.
Scallops with Asparagus and Mushrooms. One of the other diners reckons she could replicate this at home. Yeah, not difficult.
This dish was rather unique, as I've never had it before. It's a baby cabbage, (not as cruel as suckling pig I guess), ...or a grandmother brussel sprout. The taste is something in between the two. Twas as if Cabbage did naughty with Brussel's Spout in the Cabbage Patch, and low and behold, the hybrid. Drizzled with truffle oil, I'd say this was my favourite dish.
I think this was a Black Angus teppenyaki thing. Not very memorable. In fact, I have no recollection of it at all.
The fancy desserts were nice, black sesame mousse, various flavours of ice cream. The total bill was about AUD100 per head, with no wine. I did have a Sake though. Thanks so much to our generous sponsor for a most memorable dinner.
Actually, the Aussies have it good. They earn dollar for dollar if not more. A secretary apparently earns AUD70,000 a year. With that kind of income, a AUD100 dinner is nothing. While we poor Malaysians languish with our putrid exchange rate of AUD1 = RM3, sigh...... it is no wonder that cash register bells were ringing in my head more often than the bells of Notre Dame.
Australians pride themselves in being a big melting pot of various cultures. They probably boast cuisines from every corner of the globe, including the mythical land of Elbonia from Dilbert. And they've always touted themselves to have the best Italian food outside of Italy. Next stop, local Italian at Camberwell.
I had the Veal Scallopini, which was nice and tender. Apart from Nobu, the kids were with us for all the other meals, and in an effort to save cost, we force fed them at home with rice, bean curd and maggi mee. (incidentally, the Australian made maggi mee is very healthy. Baked, no msg, and tastes absolutely like nothing). Alas, these tactics dont work, as the kids were like furnaces in the cold weather, and 5 minutes after being fed, they were ravenous again. So they managed to eat a fair bit of pasta as well. And pasta, like everything else, is not cheap. A bowl, not very big, of their signature 4 types of pasta, is AUD24, and doesnt go very far with the 3 hungry fatboybakeslets. Luckily youngest girl is a pure chinese girl, and doesnt like all this western food.
St Kilda Beach. The idea was to stroll along the beach and feed the kids with fish and chips from some deli along the beach. You know, the $9.95 variety. Alas, along the beach proper only exist nice trendy cafes and eateries, like Donovans, and Beachcomber. Having eaten at Donovans 13 years ago, during our honeymoon, we decided to try Beachcomber.
The usual fare, fish and chips for the kids, fried soft shell crabs, shrimps on skewers, nachos, wedges, ....... perfect food for a sunny afternoon by the beach.
Unlike Monkey, who went on holiday unencumbered, and could check out trendy cafes in Chappell Street etc for breakfast, WE had to play suburbia, and I felt like a desperate housewife from Hysteria Lane. Washing machine and dryer perpetually in motion, dish washer filled up before you can say detergent, .....I am suddenly reminded why I CANNOT emigrate. It is fun though, to whip up breakfast when on holiday. Lovely thick chunks of bacon, fresh button mushrooms, gourmet sausages.
Over the years, it has become fashionable to bottle your own jams, and sell them as "gourmet". Ubiquitious shops selling chutneys, preserves, jams, olive oils, dot the way from Melbourne to Mansfield. They must have the highest number of jam jars per capita. Some streets are like gourmet pasar malams. Mind you, the word "gourmet" I find is bandied about a bit much. We saw a van (forgot to take pic) selling ice creams and hotdogs with a big label, "GOURMET SAUSAGES" at the parking lot in the Royal Melbourne Show.
This lovely quaint little eatery in Mansfield, called the Mansfield Produce Shop. Jams, and more jams. Generic cafe food, ie, pies, salads, soups, the usual token exotic Asian fare, Wonton Soup With Shrimp and Noodles.....
Another quaint eatery on the way to Mansfield, in a town called Yea. Again, generic cafe food, with the token Indian Curry Pie. Actually, there was even a board advertising an Indian night. Let us not forget Britain's national food IS curry, and well, Victoria is very English.
The absolutely MUST have when in Oz. Pho. I LOVE the Pho in Oz. The large Vietnamese population, coupled with the fresh produce really does make for the best Pho. Piping hot Pho on a cold winter's day. Heaven in a bowl. Our hosts ordered some other stuff too, a flounder cooked with some interesting tangy sauces, spring rolls, vietnames chee cheong fun, ......We had this in Boxhill, at a place called Tien Dat.
Ah well, thank you Tony Fernandez for making it affordable so that EVERYONE CAN FLY. The food on the return leg of the flight sucked big time though. Rice, Beans and Curry Chicken. Very Kamunting. (except Kamunting probably wont give you that much meat).
Now, to start saving again for the next holiday.
Now, to start saving again for the next holiday.