Saturday, 28 April 2012

Warung Ibu Amye

On one of the main roads, the Stuart Highway, leading into the Darwin CBD you pass by Sexyland on the right hand side. As you may gather, from the name, Sexyland sells adult erotica. Allegedly, because how would I know? It is said that you can purchase magazines, DVD's, clothing, blow up articles, things that need batteries to work, similar things that do not need batteries and a host of other stuff that consenting adults know about. However my eyes are drawn to what is on the opposite side of the road. A small, somewhat dilapidated looking shop called Warung Ibu Amye. The signage proudly declares that it sells Laksa, Indonesian food and Timorese food. On Friday and Saturday nights there is a sign outside advising that "Amees famous spicy BBQ Chicken" is on the menu. The name in English means something like Amye's Restaurant.
I have a fondness for Laksa but passed it by many times before venturing in one day. To be perfectly honest it is not the most appealing place to visit for what one hopes to be food that is not going to give you a good dose of the trots. Entering inside reinforces the impression that one should have not bothered to stop the car and kept driving. Cheap tables, resin chairs that sell for about $7 or so dollars in the local hardware chain store and walls that look like they last saw a paint of coat when Noah was doing odd jobs to find money to build his Ark. On the plus side one can see into the kitchen and it looks well organised and clean.
My first visit was in the wet season, the room was stinking hot and two men had the air-conditioner disassembled on a bench. Anyway I ventured in and ordered my Laksa. While I waited I had time to look around. I soon worked out that Amye does not have an extensive menu. Typically she offers up 2 or 3 dishes for Lunch or Dinner. The day's offerings are placed on a Chalk board. Like it or lump it. The food is basic, it is earthy, it has the feel and taste of home cooking, it is lovely. When the Laksa arrived what a surprise it was. A large bowl with a very generous serving of the Soup, noodles and Chicken that comprise the main ingredients and a couple of lumps of the fried tofu that absorbs all that lovely juice. The Laksa had a very rich sauce, it was thick, it was spicy, it was tasty and almost overflowed the very generous bowl. Put simply it was one of the best Laksa's that I have ever had. I am sure that most of my readers know what a Laksa is so I will not explain it here, other than to say that as it is a Coconut Milk based soup this one got some great ticks in the "avoid at all costs if you are on a diet or trying to control your cholesterol" stakes.
From that first visit I have been back several times, sufficient to be recognised as a semi regular customer. Amye herself is a very friendly woman and is always good for a pleasant hello and a quick chat while she works. As I mentioned above she does not have an extensive menu, but what she does do she does well. This seems like a labour of love for her rather than a money making proposition.
I have also observed that she knows most of her customers, so I guess that she gets a lot of repeat business.
Amye is also, in her way, a perfectionist, putting her customers before profit. I was in her Warung one day having lunch. One of her regular advertised specialities is Ox Tail Soup. I am not a fan of Ox Tail Soup, although my dislike is based on ignorance not actual experience. A customer came in and asked for the Ox Tail Soup. Amye apologised and told him that it was not properly cooked and she would not serve him the soup. She had tasted it and it was tasteless and not up to her usual standard. She then went on to explain that Ox Tail needs a long time to simmer, which I knew, and this batch needed a further 2-3 hours before she would consider serving it. I am sure that many would have eaten the soup without fuss, but she was not going to compromise her own standard of quality. Isn't that refreshing!
Her restaurant is in fact quite an authentic Indonesian Warung transferred to Australia. Building codes and Food preparation safety codes have modified the idea a bit, but if you travelled in large parts of South East Asia you would find similar establishments.
However this post was meant to be about the famous spicy BBQ Chicken, the last few paragraphs have been just an entrée to the main course. I have been waiting for the right time to buy the Chicken. Some barriers to overcome such as no food in the house, no motivation to prepare something, feeling hungry enough to cope with what I know will be a large serve. Tonight was the night as I did not finish work until almost 6pm. (On a Saturday!) I drove there and was surprised at the transformation of Amye's Warung. We are now in dry season. There is no seating inside the Warung, it has all been moved outside.
Outside was charming, in comparison, if a little rustic. But the seats and tables were well patronised and I even saw some people drinking wine. The Warung is not licensed so this was obviously a BYO arrangement. With outside seating and the temperature mild and humidity dropped off this place now has quite a pleasant atmosphere.
Outdoor eating in the dry season
As normal I had only limited choices. Chicken Laksa or BBQ Chicken with rice and salad. As I had planned I chose the BBQ Chicken. I was informed that there would be a slight wait as the Chicken was just being cooked. I waited. While I waited I shared a table with a Malaysian couple, who turned out to be regulars and raved about how authentic the food was.
Yum yum on the BBQ and being prepared for my consumption
After being delivered a Laksa, which I pointed out was for someone else, I ended up with my Chicken. I had asked for takeaway. So I took it home. The meal proved to be a half a Chicken, with a pile of rice and a token effort at salad, mainly consisting of shredded lettuce and a few slices of cucumber. The Chicken was drenched in a thick sauce. It was basically a Sweet Soy sauce, but the cooking had given it a slightly bitter/burnt flavour. By intent I think and the salad provided a good counterpoint to the sauce. The Chicken itself was well cooked but not over cooked.
A somewhat blurry image of what I ended up with
The Bludger will not be racing out to have Amye's Chicken again, but will not turn his nose up if he is presented with it again.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Woolworths - the fresh food people - NOT!

In Australia one of our Major Supermarket chains brands itself as "the fresh food people". The following pictures were taken at my local Supermarket, Woolworths Nightcliff, on Thursday April 14, 2012 at 4:09pm. My contention is that they are not providing fresh food.
In the above photo the garlic is covered in black "stuff" and many cloves are in various stages of decomposition. Quite frankly I cannot see how this was allowed on the shelves.
The snow peas were worse. Once again I cannot believe that they were out on the shelf for sale. The black bits that you can see is where the snow peas are decomposing. If I had intended to buy some I am not sure that I could have picked out the "good" ones. When you think about it, if some are already decomposing, the others are probably very close also.
Wonderful food from the Fresh Food People.
The Bludger is rather disappointed.

Gado Gado

Well I have called this Gado Gado for want of a better name, and it was inspired by an Indonesian recipe for Gado Gado.

Well it was all a bit of a throw together, but hey gado means mix.
1 x small Pak Choy - leaves separated from stems and sliced, stems sliced into pieces.
1/2 Lebanese cucumber, cut into chunks
1 x Tomato cut into segments
1 x hard boiled egg, cut into segments.
1 cup of green pepper in chunks
1 x boiled potato, cut into chunks.
(basically everything into fork sized chunks.)
1 x handful beans - blanched
1/2 of one of my ultra hot chilli thinly sliced.
a dash of fried onions - bought from local Asian shop
a spoonful (and then a bit more) of Gado Gado sauce - from a can - warmed.

An explosion of flavour and relatively healthy.
The Bludger washed it down with a G&T.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Monday - Misery

Yin and Yang. Coins have 2 sides. A see saw has one end up while the other is down. A big night on the town means that the next morning will be miserable. It was.
I made it to my property and spent a solid couple of hours inspecting the house and property and working through the list of issues that the tenants would like fixed. The property manager was present and during the course of this it became apparent why my property manager is so ineffective at achieving things. I suspect that this is his first job as a property manager. He is certainly not a practical person. Most of the issues could be fixed by a handyman and the manager did not seem to be able to arrange for one. They bleed a percentage of my rental income and should be competently managing these things. I will repeat that "should be competently managing these things."
I have not been to the property for 6 years and overall it was looking good. The major issue is a large area of concrete including the driveway that is now degraded, lifting in some places due to tree roots and in the words of the tenant presenting a safety issue as it is a trip hazard. A sizeable sum of money to fix and not recoverable in increased rental in the near term.
After the inspection I found a coffee and late breakfast and then headed into town for some shopping. Darwin does not have a wide range of clothes shopping options so it is important to take advantage of such opportunities. I ended up with some new business shirts and casual shorts. In the process I kept bumping into Jonathan Thurston a well known Rugby League player. For the record he buys Calvin Klein underwear.
I whittled what was left of the afternoon away and then returned to the airport, for my flights home. The return was via Sydney this time. Another delay in Sydney, due to the need to wait for a crew member. Once we were on board they explained that we had to wait for a relief crew member as the rostered person had fallen and hurt herself. Suddenly it didn't matter that we were delayed, we had a reason and an explanation. Why don't the aircrew do that all the time when delayed?
The Bludger arrived home just after midnight after a short but successful trip.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sunday in Canberra

Sunday was a free day as I had arranged to inspect my property on the Monday.
I had breakfast at Tilley's Devine Cafe. Tilleys is one of my favourite spots in Canberra. A Cafe cum restaurant cum bar cum entertainment venue. On weekends its breakfast is legendary and it gets very crowded. I was there early before the crowds, in part due to the change of clocks from Daylight Saving and in part due to being an early riser.
The inside of Tilleys features timber lined booths and large timber tables, smaller tables cater for singles and couples. It always has Jazz music playing and has an almost "clubby" atmosphere of old world charm. The serving staff are always neatly turned out in white blouses and black skirts and almost entirely female. The history of Tilley's is that it was formerly owned and run by a lesbian lady, it was almost exclusively women only, men had to be accompanied by a woman, and it was a safe haven for females. It had a reputation of being a lesbian hangout, but modern political correctness has removed the barriers to men and the gays have moved elsewhere.
I ordered mushrooms on toast and my meal when it arrived consisted of four large field mushrooms on a bed of toast. I like mushrooms but even for me this was overkill. To be honest the mushrooms were not well prepared as they were very under seasoned. A disappointment but the atmosphere made up for it.
I moved on from there, after a coffee and read of the paper, and made my way to the National Gallery of Australia via my hotel to pick up a camera which I never actually used.
The current major exhibition featured Renaissance artists including Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini and Titian plus a few others. I paid my dues and entered but was, to be honest, rather under whelmed. I recognise the importance to art history of these artists and their paintings. I can see the skill and I marvelled at the colours, obviously some have been restored to be so vibrant, but the preponderance of ecclesiastical themes leaves me rather cold.
I moved on from the exhibition but returned later to see if my view had changed. It had not.
Around the rest of the gallery was a temporary display section devoted to Western Australian artists. Good on you guys, I did not see much to capture my eye.
I wandered by chance into what I call the Australian Section. This area features Australian artists since white settlement. Elsewhere there are significant sections of Indigenous art also. I was mightily impressed with the display. Huge compliments to the Curator of this section who has made it into a voyage of discovery. Many of the well know artists such as McCubbin, Nolan, Streeter and Roberts interspersed with lesser known. I have seen many of these paintings before but the way that they were arranged brought a wonderful fresh approach and it was a delight to walk from one gallery space to the next or around corners to see a new surprise.
The Bludger was very impressed with the display.
Moving on I headed to the Old Bus Depot Markets. I was beginning to think about lunch and the food hall there was a possibility. The Markets seemed quiet, but feature a food section and I sampled some awesome cheeses and marinated olives. Nothing caught my eye as a lunch option however and I drifted on.
The area adjacent to the market is undergoing a massive redevelopment and I had a look around a show apartment. It felt small and cramped, lacking cupboard space. It had a nice view of the lake and selling for far too much money. Although I must say it is larger than that which I currently live in. Moving on I went to Kingston in search of some lunch. In fact more than lunch, by now, I had a hankering for some nice Oysters. I ended up at Artespresso and washed down a mixed dozen of natural and Kilpatrick oysters with a couple of glasses of Indian Pacific Sauvignon Blanc. An Adelaide hills winery which I had never heard of, and have already forgotten. Not unpleasant but not worth remembering the name. I have in the past had some great meals at Artespresso and it was a pleasant dining experience today. Oysters freshly shucked and separated from the shell so that they slid easily down the throat.
By now I had made arrangements for the afternoon and evening and with a bit of time to kill I entered the nearby Belgian Beer Cafe and treated myself to a large glass of Leffe Brune. An awesome beer at an awesome price. Maybe flying to Belgium would be a cheaper option next time however.
After that I returned the car to the hotel and made my way on foot to the Wig and Pen the selected venue for catching up with some friends. While I wasn't planning on a session it seemed prudent to get the car out of the equation. That turned out to be a good bit of foresight.
The Wig and Pen is a lovely old English style pub. It features an on-site microbrewery and some lovely hand crafted beers. Unfortunately it is housed in a building which a developer believes should be turned into a concrete and glass monstrosity, thus maximising their profits and decreasing the aesthetics of the centre of Canberra. We call that progress.
I was early for the catch up and it had the right atmosphere to sit nursing a beer and read a book. Which I did.
The catch up went well with some good friends. The evening was somewhat marred by a run in with another patron in the toilets. He entered shortly after me and left as I was washing my hands. He did not wash his hands. So I reminded him to do so. This unleashed a torrent of abuse.
During this tirade I was amazed to learn that urine was sterile and therefore one did not need to wash hands. I also learnt that my parents were unmarried when they conceived me, although how he knew that I did not know. I was also called a name that indicated I used manual stimulation techniques on myself. The rest just washed over me.
All up it was quite entertaining and I continued to push his button out of perversity. I shortly grew tired of it and then turned my back on him, ignored him and sat back down with my companions. He continued to justify his unsavoury habits until he ran out of steam and eventually moved off.
The Bludger staggered out of the pub at an unknown time, had some Chinese and ended up back at the hotel.