Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cafe Thailand, Cairns


All right, Day 2 into Cairns and a long day. We started of, got a transfer for the Kuranda Scenaic Railway. A long cable car over the rainforest for about 8 kms, over a period of one and a half hour. While my fear of heights made me freak out at the height in the cable car. Nonetheless, it was beautiful, pristine and untouched. Lush green dense forests and waterfalls, boy, I must admit, there is never a more beautiful sight that I have seen so far. The hippy village of Kuranda and then the scenic train back to Cairns.


The train drops us at Cairns Central. As I enter Cairns Central I was expecting to see a busy Central station but on the contrary, its a quite station, where a few intercity trains comes in a few times in a day. Anyways, As we walk back from Cairns Central into the Cairns Central Shopping Mall and onto Shields Street. Dead Tired and the walk back is a bit of a walk, I am seriously confused, if I should either go to the hotel and then eat out later, or do a take away on the way to the hotel  and eat in the room, or may be just eat out and then go home.

As I keep walking through the Shields Street, searching on the phone, its utter chaos and confusion. Indian- No, had it yesterday. Italian, No. Vietnamese. There is Hanuman with a good rating, but no, away from the hotel, cant afford. So we reach the intersection of lake street and Sheridan and take a left, for the hotel. Reach Aplin Street and realise there is a flock of bats flying out as the sunsets. We decide Cafe Thailand as our bet for the night. A small little eatery with simple seating inside - maybe about 10 tables and seating outside. Women dressed in traditional purple silk dresses.

We settle outside and order for the chicken spring rolls as starters, red curry in chicken, stir fry prawns with chilli garlic sauce. The spring rolls arrive first followed by the red curry and rice. last is the stir fry.
Well, the best thing is that the stir fry is actually wow. It has prawns, vegetables and it is actually spicy. Man, what a genuine surprise to find something like this. The chicken spring roll is piping hot and good and crunchy although I wish it had more chicken than the vegetables. The red curry was a bit different. It was more liquidy than other, less viscous consistency. The color was yellowish rather than the orangish color usually. This had loads of veggies and chicken. Relatively thinner than other redcurry gravies I have had, but pretty good I'd say.

The service was good and the food was heart warming. Perhaps Id say this was not as memorable as the Chiang Mai Thai in Gold Coast, but still highly recommended. The food was fresh and crunchy and delicious.  If I were in Cairns, I would come here for Thai. The rice was served a few times, and was paid for extra.


All in all a descent place- very basic, good food, freshly cooked. Good Sevrice and Fast. Large portion


sizes 

If you sit outside on a great evening, its perfect. The meal cost us less than AUD 50.

Cafe Thailand
Shop 7/93 Aplin St & The Esplanade QueenslandAUS

07 4041 2624














Cafe Thailand on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hanuman, Cairns

Day 3 into Cairns, our last day. We complete our cruise to Green Island, glass bottom boats, semi submersible submarine and the cherry on the cake is snorkeling  I was a bit scared to be swimming in the sea to be honest, but it was fun. It too a lot of effort to mentally prepare to go alone, but with all precautions and life jacket, when i finally made it, it was amazing. Although not into the deep sea, just about 50 meters from the beach, swimming with fishes was amazing.














As we reach Cairns and sitting near the reef terminal, the questions is what the plan for tonight? If we go back to the Hotel, which is a bit far, and 15-20 minute walk, i doubt we will be back again on this side of the city for a dinner. We settle on a bench on the Esplanade and I start searching on my phone for the next best place. Finally shortlist Hanuman. A restaurant in the Hilton. Of course at this juncture I am skeptical about two things. How expensive would it be being the Hilton and secondly how good is the food going to be. I read a few reviews and blog posts and then a moment of silence and introspection. The holiday has been so awesome. Got to finish off on a high note, if not anything else. Hilton is the cheery and when so many good reviews, there's got to be something good for sure. The next big dilemma is I am in thongs and not proper shoes. Not sure, but I decide to give it a try.













As we walk into Hilton, I am eager to see how good a restaurant this is. We are a bit early at 6:00 p.m. for a dinner. We are the first ones to come over. Hanuman is a good mix restaurant. It is a Thai, Indian and Nonya cuisine restaurant. The decor is superb. Open, modern decor with a light ambient lounge music playing in the background. We get a seat overlooking the garden and pool on the left. 


















We order for the Kashmiri Chicken Tikka, Hanuman Prawns and Chicken Masala for mains, rice and Garlic Naans. The  plates served are all differently colored and designed and very tasteful. 









The Kashmiri Chicken Tikkas arrive first. Looks awesome. Orange colored and spicy tikka's with onion strands and mint chutney. Its ironic how names of Indian Food bear no resemblance. Kashmiri Chicken tikka to me would have been the white, cream and curd marinated reshmi tikka but here it was just the pure Chicken Tikka's- Delhi Style. Well, nonetheless, the tikka was good. Had it been a bit warmer, even better, but really delicious. Soft, tender morsels of chicken, grilled to perfection. I got to admit, I wouldn't have expected this kind of a tikka in a place like Hilton. Really awesome. The one comment Id say is that it looked far more furious. From the orange color and spices, I would have anticipated that this would have been very hot. on the contrary, it was not and really good.

The limelight of the show. The one reason why I can settle in Cairns, (other than the reef) is the chicken masala they make here. I have had dishes of chicken and chicken masala at different places, but never have I ever found the chicken masala that I crave for. Let me first describe what my definition of chicken masala is. It is spicy hot chicken chunks in a thick paste of onion and tomato. The onion used has to finely hand chopped and not using the blender. All spices and ingredients such as the ginger, garlic, tomato has to be all hand chopped. The onion paste has to be fried and friend along with spices without the use of water. The chicken and the onions and tomato has to fried and stirred continuously on a low heat to attain the perfection wherein the oil used for cooking emanates to the top, the spices and onion go into the nook and corned of the chicken and absorbed.  When the chicken masala was served on the table, with strand of ginger and red chilli on the top, I knew this was it. One spoon full and I knew this is it. the best Chicken Masala ever. In fact to the extent even better than in India. Whatever I dreamt of, this was it. 

The breads were awesome. the garlic naan was crisp, crunchy outside and soft inside. The bread and the chicken masala was heaven. I cant go on to say how good it was. The chilli diced on the top was really really hot. Hot to the extent I had to take it out of the dish to avoid my brother and mother having it. I did go for the chillies, although less portions at a time. 

 
 The Hanuman prawns were good, but after the chicken masala it seemed a bit bland. Prawns with beans, wok tossed, in a delicate wild ginger and coconut curry, in a curry sauce and topped with cream. It was good as well. 

All in all, great food. The service was good. A few times we were asked how the food was I promptly told them how good it was. This was undoubtedly the best eat out I have had in a long time. Highly recommended. If I am in Cairns, I shall definitely visit this place for sure. 

Decor is great and on the pocket, its unbelievable. For a meal in the Hilton for three people and that too less than AUD 100, I am telling you, it is a dream. Unbelievable.By the time we left, the places was brimming with people.



Hilton Cairns Hotel
34 Esplanade
Cairns 4870
Queensland

Telephone (07) 4052 6786





Hanuman on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant, Cairns


All right. First day into Cairns. Dead tired after roaming around in the town. We come back to the hotel at about 5:00 and crash. Its my moms birthday. Afternoon was a good Indian Lunch. How do I make it special in the evening. Trying to identify what I am craving for is difficult. Searching the internet but not getting too many options. I see good reviews for Balinese cuisine. I am skeptical.  Want to try but not sure if it may turn to be a disaster. Text a friend who did here honeymoon in Bali and she doesnt recommend too highly as what she tried was all veg. I look up wikipedia to see what is Balinese cuisine at the first place. Finally I decide to go for it. A bit of a walk from my hotel on 227 Lake St, about 800m. Intermittent drizzle and I am keeping my fingers crossed.


As we reach, let me tell you I nearly gasp out of surprise when I see the restaurant. In fact I am so overwhelmed. Lush green plants outside, medium to dim lightings, flames emanating from torches which are making the whole ambience so exotic. Natural polished wooden furniture which is modern. Its almost like I am on sets of survivor on an island in Bali.

As we enter, the interiors are also great. We are greeted by a waiter who asks us if we'd prefer to sit inside or outside. We prefer the outside, in view of the rains, and the cool sea breeze. As we sit down, we are given the menu's. Going through the menu, its is limited options as a lot of the food options are with pork or beef, both which we don't go for. There is also an interesting mix of crocodile meat as well.  the menu items in the appetiser has satays. a slaad of lime chilli and mango  corn fritters etc.

We settle for Sate and Sambal Kacang- sate and peanut Sauce. It is supposed be a mix of beef, pork and chicken, but the waitress agrees to do it for chicken. In the main course two dishes-Balinese Chicken Curry (be siap base kalas) and the Prawns with chilli lime and tomatoes in coconut cream (Sambal Udang).

We are given a tray of prawn crackers with chilli sauce as we wait for the food. Also for drinks we order Coconut Delight a non alcoholic of young coconut juice with fresh lime. 

I can only go gaga about the place. The prawn crackers were regular, a bit soggy, but if its complimentary, I appreciate the gesture more. The Coconut Delight is an absolute magic. Clear and fresh coconut juice with actual chunks of coconut and lemon. Very refreshing. So good that I ordered another one for my mom. 

The food followed shortly. The chicken Sate was served on a small authentic minature version of a barbeque with skewers of chicken. Let me tell you. This was the best chicken Sate I have ever ever had. Seriously.  Chicken Satay at Chat Thai, Mamak, Maenam Lao and all other places. The peanut sauce was dark maroon in colour and simply awesome. Served with picked vegges, fried onions. Very good

The Balinese Chicken curry was really good and different. At the time of order were told it would be spicy, but on the contrary, it was not spicy. A yellow curry based on coconut, very mild and the reason why I would always remember this dish is because the chicken in the curry was so soft. Unbelievable. The chicken, I don't know how they did it was well cooked and yet so soft. 

The prawn curry had a similar looking curry, with different spices that made the flavors different. This was probably not as good as the chicken curry, but still I liked it. The prawn curry was good, although the prawns were a bit over cooked for my taste.

All in all, my take was that Balinese cuisine was good. Although the texture of the curry was coconut based and similar to Indian and Thai curries, but the flavors were much more mild than I expected. The rice was regularly bought in a big hand woven basket and piping hot rice was served.

It was a good night. Good ambience and set up, with good food. I couldn't ask for anything better. Service was good and staff was really friendly.

Cost of all the above was about AUD 80. 
Would I come there again: Most definitely.

Accepts EFTPOS.

Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant
Corner of Lake and Gatton Street,
Cairns QLD 4870


Ph: +61 7 40514622


 Bay Leaf on Urbanspoon










Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Marinades, Cairns

The first day into Cairns and after checking in, we are walking through the Esplanade. Its about mid day and we are extremely hungry. Its been a long day since we woke up at 4 in the morning to catch up the flight.
Being my moms birthday, I want to be sure that I take her out to a good place. When we introspect we rule out pizzas, grills and Thai. Shortlist is Indian. I guess because we are that hungry, we wanted rice roti's and curries. The driver had recommended the spicy bite, an Indian eat out. As I walk further onto Spence street, I am searching on the phone for good eat outs at trip adviser  Urbanspoon and blogs. Suddenly a whiff of fragrance of Indian cooking reaches out. Its just overwhelming fragrance that triples your hunger. Its rare to find such a phenomenon in Australia and that too in a small town of Cairns. As we look around there is no Indian joint on our side of the road and I didn't think this strong a whiff would come from the other side. For some time I think may be its an Indian cooking up some wicked curry but no residential. I even go to the extent that may be I am hallucinating until I ask my mom and she confirms that she can smell it as well. A few steps further I see two Indian restaurants on the other side. Marinades and Tandoori something. I cross the road and enter. Confirmed that this was the place.
Decor and ambiance simple and good. Not too cluttered and stereotyped Indian. Big, really big restaurant. Inside there are private dining spaces etc. Orange walls, modern furniture.
We order the Kashmiri Chicken Tikka, A Non veg thali and roti's, and salted lassi. The salted lassi arrives first. Now any Indian would know that the sweet lassi can be thick and sweet but the salted lassi or chaach or mattha is usually very liquidy and of thin consistency. This one on the contrary is very thick. I don't like it.

The thali arrives after a really really long wait. I am tempted to get up and walkaway in view of the delay. Apparently there was a big takeaway order. The thali has rice, lentils, a mix veg, a chicken korma curry, lamb curry and another curry. Overall food is tasty to be honest. The daal or the lentils were yum. The chicken was thick mild curry with poppy seeds and cashew paste. I liked it.


The chicken tikkas arrived next. These were the Kashmiri Chicken Tikkas or to the counterpart of chicken Malai Tikka. Let me tell you this was really good. Highly recommended. It shows that Indian food is not just an over exaggeration of spices. Delicate and subtle with a fragrance of cardamom and cinnamon and the juicy chicken perfectly cooked. Yes if you have it before as entree its perfect. If you have it after having a meal or more spicy food, it may be bland a bit. The breads were good as well. I ordered a garlic naan and a keema parantha, both fantastic. Especially the keema naan which was made out of chicken mince. I think we under ordered or were too hungry so I ordered a chicken tikka masala which on the contrary arrived quite quickly.  Finally we ended it with a Masala Tea.

Overall good food. I liked it. The fragrance was good. Decor was nice. If I am in Cairns I will go back there. The price for all this was about AUD 70 which sounds about reasonable.

Marinades Indian Restaurant
43 Spence Street,
Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: 07 40411422



 Marinades Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Curry At The Rocks

A close friends farewell makes us visit this place for the first time. The first time being when our team dinner was hosted. Although we learnt our lessons in the first time itself, thought I might see what this place has to offer and if anything has changed. If you are Kent street or the city and are looking for an Indian restaurant to sit in and eat, there are very limited options. Zaffraan is fine dining and off at the harbor which is a fair bit of walk. Indian Quay at Circular Quay is also far off. At the Kent St side there are a number of food courts. But for dine ins there is Curry at the Rocks and Maharaja of Jaipur sweets. Curry at the rocks is a small Bangladeshi run eat out. Location on the Rocks and Kent st is an expensive location. Small eat out and with simple decor. Red walls and a small array if bottles displayed.


Food
For lunch they have a mix of 3 veg curries and rice and rotis for AUD 20. For a non veg thali its AUD 25.



I ordered the veg thali with Dal (lentils), Alu matar and palak paneer. Alternatively I have had the Tandoori Chicken, butter chicken and the lamb varieties.

The food to be honest very average and mediocre. Nothing to boast or even mention about. The veg curries left you wondering if there was any taste in it. The tandoori chicken had an extra colour and spice on the top but bland inside. The butter chicken is about ok.  The lamb was a bit chewy and with a distinct lamb smell which typically aussies love bt we as Indians avoid.

Food quality is ok. Too much colour and kills the freshness of the ingredients.

Service is about average to poor. The food serving time is quite a lot. Having a small kitchen, greater the variety mire is the wait time.

Cost wise its very Per Head could be approx AUD 25-30.

All in all - very average.
Would I go there by my choice - No
When would I go there- for team outing etc.


Final verdict: Other than the name which sounds interesting and grand it leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of a take away or a cheap food court, you get a place to sit in. Thats all there is.

Curry at the Rocks Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cairns

When I was planning a trip to cairns. I didnt know that I would be surprised. I had always thought that like Sydney, Melbourne and GC, Cairns was a big city. I was expecting big buildings, busy streets etc.

When I landed I was pleasantly surprised. The airport in it self was surrounded by hills. Lush green hills. It had been raining when we arrived. Although when you are at a hieght in the aircraft it appears sunny until you start your descent And go through the layers of clouds and as you land, its a totally different weather. The good part was that the Cairns airport had connectors which made you directly hop off from the flight into the airport without having to walk into the tarmac or use a bus.

As we walked into the airport, let me tell you, its a much better airport than gold coast or even melbourne for that matter. Shops, food courts, amenities etc. However, when you get into arrivals suddenly you think its the opposite. When you move out of the airport main section into the arrivals, its quite empty and only stalls you can see is of carhires. I was hoping to get a stall ir an information desk, but unfortunately nothing. Having arrived at 10 on Friday morning, I was thinking of goign to Kuranda sceneic railway directly from thr airport. I asked at the Hertz and they pointed me to a group of people who were in Blue T shirts as the ifnormation desk guys. I walked out to towards the parking and asked them. They suggested going to the town. The Cairns city is quite near to the airport. About 10 minutes drive. There are airport shuttles normally but since we were three, a cab was cheaper and more comfortable. An Indian cabbie and as we drove to the city, it was quite town, with lush green vegetation near about. Thr Taxi guy recommended Spicy Bites an Indian restaurant and TUSa dives for snorkelling. Both eventually I didnt try but Ill tell you later.

Our booking was at IBIS Styles at the corner of florence and lake street. As we hopped off the cab, the city was so  peaceful, quiet and relaxing. There were wide roads with hardly any traffic. A bit of rain and cloudy weather. Above the road, in the far distance I could see the hills and clouds touching the peak of the hills. Magnificent.  reminded me of the small town they had shown in the movie Rambo.

The hotel was two storied and I had made a booking a few months in advance. Usually all check in are at 2 and I was there by 10:30 or 11:00 am. I thought Ill give it a try and to my surprise, the lady at the front desk said that the room is ready and available.  what a pleasant surprise. We went to our room and it was a good one with a queen and two single beds. The hotel in itself had a very colonial feel. Not too modern but comfortable and cosy and big rooms. A bit of 80s and 90s feel but loved it.

We crashed for some time since we had woken up at 4 in the morning. The room was equipped with a small kitchenette, microwave, water heater and supplies  for tea and coffee and a fridge. Quickly made tea and went down to enquire at the front desk. The lady at the front desk was cery helpful. She mentioned that there is no point now going for the Kuranda scenic train or the sky rail as it is best to leave early and gather ample time to explore etc.  For the great barrier reef, she gave a number of brochures and explained that there is green island which is relatively nearby island resort and people can do snorkelling here. Then there are outer barrier reef trips which take you further out and you can do diving or snorkelling. She recommended that we should do the half day trip for green island, another one day for outer barrier reef and another day for Kuranda.

As I head back to the room with an overload of information and brochures, I was super confused in making a choice. After sometime I decided that I wouldnt do the half day tour which in in itself cost AUD 84. Plus an outer reef tour is between aud 150 -230. Plus Kuranda is AUD 120. So Id be shelling AUD 350 - 430. Multiply by three reaches 1000+. Nopes too expensive. I decide to cancel half day tour use this day for local city wandering and finding cheaper options.

We head out for a stroll towards the esplanade. Just two streets away from the hotel. When I reached the Esplande and I was overwhelmed with the view. There was the sea and the water never ending, the hills lush and green merging with the seas, the clouds over the hills. Theere was more of a swamp with pelicans sitting there followed by the deeper waters. In the distant right, I could see the sails of the yachts and an airplane over the water. The beauty was mesmerizing  the fauna in particular was lush green, with all exotic plants, diverse colours. The flowers were delicately coloured all appearing to be freshly painted. The continuous intermittent drizzle kept in making it llush green. The tropical fruits were falling onto the ground. On the left there were people on holidays, barbequeing practiscing Tai chi. As we walked on towards the spence street, feeling hungry, I was searching on the phone shortlisting where to go. Shortly ahead was the Cairns esplanade pool where people of all age group were enjoying, relaxing, swimming and just lying down. There were a bunch of restaurants on the esplande. We further explored and went onto Spense St past the reef casino.

If I thought that Gold Coast was tropical, let me tell you I probably didnt know what tropical meant. For lunch we shortlisted Marinades, an Indian reatarant and boy it was tge right choice. I could smell the fragrance of indian food cooked from across the street, a phenomenon very rarely experiences here. It was my mom birthday lunch. Post lunch we strolled back to the reef terminal and spoke to the Big Cat guys for the details. They mentioned that outer barrier reef was for more experienced swimmers and snorkellers. Also they didnt do guided snorkelling but just provided equipment and the people do it on their own. I tried getting the family package for my mom and brother but it didnt work out. They gave no discount as well. Basic prices started from AUD 84. However in the next option was either snorkelling or the glass bottom boat. I optes for theglass bottom boat and the semi submersible without the lunch. I have had numrous bad experiences to decide no more cruise lunches. Post this we walked back to the hotel via the espalnade and lotof pics taken. Back to the hotel we crashed, called up India. In the evening I decided to give it a try for Balinese cuisine. Not sure, I took the chance and we walked up lake street. Intermittent drizzling continued. The restaurant was fab and the experience and the decor and ambience was unparalleled.

Overall that was my first day. Cairns is more of a quiet small town. Hardly any cars. Keeps raining. Few people. But I loved it. Public transport is minimal. No train network. Untarnished and clean natural beauty. Some good eateries all though not too many. Its quiet. There is a distinct colonial feel in most buildings. The british touch coupled with palm trees and rains makes it exotic. If you are coming from a big city and looking for maylny people and places for shopping, its less numbers. Cairns central and a couple around Spense St. Lots of people in the evening in the esplanade at the eateries and bars. It has a lot of aussie places for steaks and grills. Lot of interesting menus and meats- kangaroo, emu, crocodile. The places around Esplanade are quite touristy. In the evenings thats where the buzz is. You also see a lot of aborginals wandering around.

Though there is not much specifically in the city. There are a few really nice restaurants. Most eat outs are on the esplanade or the Spence St. Things to do in Cairns is basically the great barrier reef tours. You can select a simple tour to Green ISland or the outer barrier reef. It can be a snorkelling tour or scuba diving tours. Diving tours cost more and you need to be certified. Do you need to know swimming for snorkelling?  I think basic swimming should be there.

Other things to do is the Kuranda sky rail and scenic railway. There are trips to Port douglas, Cape York but to me thats outside cairns. There are also trips to Daintree rain forests.

In the city there are night markets everyday till 10:30 in the night.

Eating if you are in Cairns, my recommendations would be

- Hanuman @Hilton
- Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant
- Cafe Thailand @ Aplin St.

All in all I loved it. Its an exotic twist of the tropics.