Breakfast With Ashton Kutcher… @ Three Blue Ducks, Bronte

Date of Visit: August 17 2013

If you are reading this post, because I mentioned ‘Breakfast with Ashton Kutcher’, then I’m sorry – I lied, I didn’t.  I went there because I read that many Hollywood stars had dined here, including Aston Kutcher (goss here)

But if you insist, I did see a well-know chef there – she’s Asian and there’s only a couple of famous Asian female chefs in Sydney, so go figure!

But if you insist still, I have done a few spin sessions at the gym with Nicole Kidman… dined with a movie star (here) and royalties (here)…

Alright, I sound though I’m gearing up for a bragging contest, but I’m really, really not.  The reason, I’m doing this way-overdued post on Three Blue Ducks was my craving for something hot, sweet and filling.  *Blinkers on* I remembered the awesome dessert-ish breakfast porridge I had there.

The black rice, tapioca and quinoa porridge is something very Asian (reminiscent of Thai)  that I can replicate here in Borneo – black rice and tapioca are  easily accessible here and I have brought with me a pack of quinoa from Sydney. Although the TBDs’ recipe called for poached fruit, yoghurt and honey, in my version, I can use fresh tropical fruits, coconut milk and palm sugar!  Likewise, I can also toast some nuts and coconut flakes to make my dessert smelling as sublime!

This is a picture of the Thai-ish, dessert-ish, warm winter breakfast porridge I had – gosh – 3 months back!

20130817-125652.jpg

Black rice- tapioca and quinoa porridge with poached fruit-yoghurt and honey (A$16)

Since, it’s a Friday today, this is my plan hatched for the weekend – watch this space for my version!

**********

But before I sign off for my grocery-run, let me give a brief intro of Three Blue Ducks which opened its doors in 2010.

A super busy cafe – a businessman thinks and a businessman does – expand and acquire the adjoining shop!  So, on this morning, when we dropped in for breakfast,  we sat in ‘quieter’ room which I assume to be the dining room of the cafe with a corner wall heaving with booze.   Now, isn’t this a clever  and versatile restaurant idea?  Caffeine to work through the day and ample of spirits to propagate a jolly night?

20130817-125206.jpg

A very hardworking young apprentice (next MasterChef contestant?) busy at the Bar

20130817-125214.jpg

Liquours

I especially like the funky rustic vibe in combination with colourful wall murals and raw materials such as timber and bricks.  I was extremely impressed by the colourful duck in flight, but unfortunately, my iPhone could not capture the colours properly.  Well, to be fair, the duck was in full flight and was in a hurry – no time to stop to pose for me!

20130817-130240.jpg

Interior: Wall-mural

So instead, I focussed on a more sombre drawing of a man reflecting in black-and-white – who had his attention totally focused at the bar – betcha he’s waiting for nightfall!

20130817-130253.jpg

B&W Wall Mural

The other side of the room was lined with timber planks and had bric-and-bracs of household stuff.  The one below had bottles, wooden ruler, box and spindles.

20130817-125155.jpg

Bric-a-bracs

Since breakfast is served until 11:30am, we better hurry along to order our brekkie…

20130817-125706.jpg

Logo Design on cover of Menu

My 2 sidekicks, Mom and Bro chose Paleo to power up their day…

Bro had  Scrambled eggs with black sausage, dill cucumber yoghurt salad and red currant jam ($21.50).  The black sausage is supposed to be the stand-out dish there.

20130817-133337.jpg

Scrambled eggs with black sausage, dill cucumber yoghurt salad and red currant jam

Mom had Coddled eggs with chorizo, pulled pork and cannellini baked beans.  The eggs were awesome,  you can ask for gluten-free sprouted bread here.  Pulled pork and baked beans were rich and sweet to kickstart a perfect weekend!

20130817-125645.jpg

Coddled eggs with chorizo, pulled pork and cannellini baked beans

Needless to say, coffee was good – we ordered 2 cups each.

For those interested in sustainable living, TBD has a veggie patch at the back of their cafe, so feel free to take a look.

20130817-125726.jpg

Graffiti Alley

20130817-125733.jpg

Way out/ way in: Alley between the 2 shops/ rooms

Seeing how gullible I can be, on our way back home  at Bondi Road, in front of Kemeny’s , my Bro shouted “Hey, that’s Russell Crowe!”, he got me all excited, but nah, that fat man can’t be him!

At the time of review, Three Blue Ducks scored 79% out of 282 votes

Three Blue Ducks on Urbanspoon

Dining the Headhunter’s Way @ the.Dyak, Kuching, Malaysia

Date of Visit: September 9 2013

As a foodie-culturalista, I am keen to find out what the Dayaks and their much feared forebears, the headhunters ate.

Although the indigenous tribe in Borneo collectively known as ‘Dayak’ comprises 40% of the population in Sarawak, it is perplexing to discover that there is only 1 fine dining restaurant in Kuching serving authentic Dayak cuisine – the.Dyak which opened in late 2011.

The restaurant is an attention-grabbing corner shop in a shophouse, with 2 big red pillars decorated in Dayak florid motifs. One enters the restaurant through the elaborately decorated gable entry into an Aladdin cave of Dayak treasures. Every single inch of the wall is adorned – mirrors, beadworks, weavings, family portraitures, blowpipes, sapes, just to name the few – totally making a cultural anthropologist swoon. One can truly chillax chief-of-the-longhouse-style in the air-conditioned comfort, perhaps even updating one’s Facebook status or write a review on TripAdvisor (which is a popular mode of advertising for the competitive restaurant market in Kuching) with the free wifi provided.

20130911-202856.jpg

Elaborately decorated gable entrance in traditional motifs

20130911-202909.jpg

Indigenous artefacts adorning the wall

20130911-202922.jpg

More artefacts towards the back of the restaurant

I am especially intrigued with the Dayak motifs and designs – each piece tells a story. (Some introductory background info here)

20130911-203410.jpg

R: Sape (3-string musical instrument)
L: Table cloth

20130911-203421.jpg

Motif of a Dayak man on the gable entrance

Navigating a Dayak menu of unfamiliar food is a breeze with a pictorial menu with English descriptions and an attentive waiter on standby to explain the intrinsics of the dishes. There are many items in the menu ranging from grilled, roasted and fermented meats; fermented durians, jungle shoots and vegetables, many of which I have never tried. I was disappointed to find that sago worms, puffer fish and raw fish which were the dishes I had especially came for needed 2 weeks advance notice.

Despite that, there are other interesting indigenous Dayak cuisine that impressed me.

First to arrive at our table was the Tilapia Terung Dayak (RM35). A giant fish head thrusting out from the platoon of aromatic lemongrass, fried garlic and shallots in a thick piquant yellow turmeric soup. The star here is the unassuming ‘terung dayak‘ or sour eggplant , an indigenous fruit to Borneo resembling tomato, socking a KO mouth-puckering sour punch to the soup. I am very drawn to the toughness of the terung dayak which did not disintergrate in the cooking process, thus giving me enjoyment in every bite. The fish on the other hand was so-so with lots of small bones, so best eat with caution. My dining companion who has strong aversions to fishiness told me that this is a farmed fish because she detected ‘muddiness’ in the fish. Little wonder, since fresh river fish is hard to come by due to water pollution and over-fishing of the past.

20130911-203629.jpg

Tilapia Terung Dayak

With the plethora of salty-tangy-aromatics, rescue came in the form of red unhusked rice (RM3 per person). Perfect for soaking up the gravies and soups to placate my over-worked taste buds.

20130911-203637.jpg

Red unhusked rice

The dish that I was looking forward to was Manok Lulun (RM23), also commonly known as Ayam Pansoh. This is traditional Dayak cuisine of chicken cooked in bamboo with ginger, onions, lemongrass, ginger flowers and tapioca leaves. However, the zingy soup is a tad too salty and I could not detect any bamboo fragrance at all, perhaps it was overpowered by the use of lemongrass.

20130911-203711.jpg

Manok Lulun

20130911-203723.jpg

Chicken pieces in Manok Lulun with ginger flower petal

In the hunter-gatherer nomadic tribes around the world, fresh meats are scarce and usually preserved for important events and festivals. With fermented foods all the rage at the moment, I am eager to test out indigenously cured meat dishes.

Jani Kasam (RM25) is fermented pork with fat and skin intact (3 -layered meat), sautéed with tapioca leaves and garlic. This is my favourite dish, unfortunately not for the uninitiated. It has the pungent smell of stinky beancurd, very salty and very sour – but for me – totally appetising!

This is the first time that I have eaten the slippery and mushy tapioca leaves. It has a very interesting soft textures which I enjoyed. Apparently, tapioca or cassava leaves were part of the Dayak’s staple diet. They have a lot of beneficial minerals and were foraged plants that grew in the wild. Nowadays, they are cultivated at almost all the longhouses.

20130911-203649.jpg

Jani Kasam with Tapioca Leaves

Another beneficial plant that I have never tried is the Daun Ubi Randau Guring (RM12) or Sweet Potato Leaves. This is a delicious sautéed vegetables with garlic and desiccated coconut, the original version has dried shrimps which I have asked to be omitted due to my allergy.

According to a new report from the University of Arkansas, sweet potato leaves has the world’s richest source of disease-fighting antioxidants and poised to become the next big health-food craze – Glad I’ve tasted it now!

20130911-203700.jpg

Daun Ubi Randau Guring

The finale to our meal is the much lauded Tuak ice-cream (Rm6.50). Tuak is fermented rice wine akin to Chinese rice wine. The alcohol content ranges from low 10% up to 50%. This is an easy to assemble dessert at home (provided one knows how to make tuak), a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top of fermented rice or jiuniang, which happens to be my favourite dessert (my review of the jiuniang in Hong Kong here ), doused with tuak and finished with crunchy pralines toppings. A decadently refreshing dessert.

20130911-203734.jpg

Tuak ice-cream

My general verdict of traditional Dayak cuisine is that it is healthy food consisting of previously foraged (now cultivated) and fermented foods. I am sure that the.Dyak had modernised the menu to suit modern tastebuds, thus the afinity to Thai cuisine in the use of aromatics such as lemongrass, shallots and garlic. Taste-wise, I find the overall taste of the dishes to be quite similar and a bit salty. Food is on the expensive side, with a glass of warm water costing RM1.

While googling info on Dayak cuisine, I found this write-up on capitalising on Sarawak cultural food (here), the.Dyak’s proprietor is one of the restauranteur interviewed. Let’s hope for new Dayak restaurants openings!