There have been so many restaurant vouchers available on various voucher sites like Our Deal, or Group On, but I always feel that the quality of the food or the service is compromised when you are a diner with a voucher. Nevertheless, when we saw a voucher for a great dinner deal at Gurkhas, we decided to take the risk, and it proved to be well worth it.

The Gurkhas Express branch, on the King St end of Flinders St has an unassuming shop front and we really weren't sure what to expect when we walked in. The interior is decorated with Nepalese Buddhist prayer flags, photos of the Buddhist eyes symbol which you see on their stupas, and the soft hum of Nepalese music fills the room. I felt like I was back in Kathmandu and I was instantly at ease.

The voucher we had entitled us to two entrées, two mains and a dessert to shared so whilst we munched on our complimentary papads, we quickly perused the menu to make some quick choices. For entrée we decided on a plate of momos, and a vegetarian dish called Gurkha's Special.

The momos were self explanatory; Nepalese dumplings, filled with meat (there is a vegetarian option too, but when eating with a non vegetarian, it's only fair that there is some meat on the table!), which were served with a tangy dipping sauce and a garden salad. I was informed that the momos tasted great, and the sauce was a particular hit.

My entrée, the Gurkha's Special, had little information about it on the menu, other than the fact that it was vegetarian, so I had no idea what to expect. When it came out, I was delighted to discover that it was a Nepalese version of an Indian chaat. Served in a papad and covered with yogurt, was a mixture or spicy potatoes and peas and crunchy chickpea crisps, or sao as us Bengalis call them. It was delicious, and such a clever idea to serve chaat in a papad!

Gurkha's Special
We then moved onto mains where we both opted for a thali type option. I went for the vegetarian thali called Dal Bhat, which consisted of a thick chickpea curry garnished with tomatoes and spring onion, a simple lentil soup, or dhal, and a Chinese style mixed veg with a strong pepper flavour. These curries were complimented with rice and a flaky paratha. The chickpea curry and the Chinese mixed veg were both full of flavour, but by comparison, the dhal seemed fairly bland. A slight blemish on an otherwise delicious main!

Dal Bhat
By this time we were already extremely full, and so sharing a dessert didn't seem like such a bad idea. We chose to have the rice pudding, which was similar to an Indian kheer. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly sweet enough and had way too much cardamom which mean the flavour was rather unbalanced.

Overall though, it was a great meal and gave us renewed faith in the websites which offer restaurant vouchers. Obviously you have to pick your restaurants well, and Gurkhas is definitely one of those restaurants!

Gurkhas on Urbanspoon
Every child growing up in Australia in the 90's has read Looking For Alibrandi. In this book, the main character, Josie, is from a big Italian family, and they describe an event she entitles, 'National Wog Day.' This year I got to experience my first National Wog Day, a day filled with tomatoes, more tomatoes, even more tomatoes, and then a year's supply of passata!

I was told the day started by 10am at the latest, so in true Indian style, I arrived at 10:05 to find boxes full of bottles being washed and dried.

As the bottles were finished off, boxes and boxes of Roma tomatoes started to be brought into the kitchen, These were washed, and halved, and pretty soon very large bowls were filled with chopped tomatoes.

These tomatoes were sent outside, to where the magic machine was... Let me tell you about the magic machine. Apparently these machines are a fixture in most Italian homes, but I had never seen one! It was a big electric tomato pulping machine, where you put the tomatoes in the feeder bowl at the top, and then out the front came out the tomato pulp and out the side were the skins! I told you it was magic!

The skins were put through a second time to ensure all the tomato goodness was extracted, and then put in a bucket for the animals to eat. Nothing is wasted!

There was a continuous stream of chopped tomatoes being sent outside to be pulped, and the pulp being sent back inside to be bottled. Once the pulp was funnelled into the bottles, a teaspoon of salt and a sprig was basil was put on top and then the bottles were capped.

The bottles were then put in a 44 gallon drum, covered with water, and left to boil for at least two hours to seal and preserve.

And then came my favourite part. Whilst that was boiling away, the decision on what to have for dinner was made. It only made sense to use the freshly pulped passata, and it wouldn't be proper Italian food if the pasta wasn't made from scratch!

The chef decided that tagliatelle puttanesca would be dish of choice, without anchovies to cater for the difficult vegetarian! A short lesson in the Italian language revealed that puttanesca comes from the Italian word puttana, meaning prostitute and we struggled to work out the relationship between a pasta sauce and a prostitute!

I watched closely as the pasta was being made - a lengthy kneading process taken care of by the Thermomix, and then the dough was put through the pasta machine, rolled out till it was thin enough, hung on the back of chair to dry, and then cut into strips.

And then the sauce. Blanched tomatoes with their skins peeled, the pasatta, olives, basil and parsley and just a hint of chilli created a delicious sauce. Together the sauce, and the freshly made pasta created an amazing dish. Let's just say a pasta maker is high on my list of essential items now.

It was a fabulous end to a great day. A big thankyou to the Russos for letting me experience my first National Wog Day :-)

A catch up with the work girls had been on the cards for a while, and we finally got our act together and decided to do breakfast to start off the labour day weekend! When you've got a bunch of foodies, picking a cafe is always going to be a tricky task, but Jacqui suggested 8 Days Cafe, and based on the Urbanspoon review, we all agreed. In true nerd fashion, I decided to tweet 8 Days the night before, to suss out whether the cafe was vego friendly, and to my great delight I woke up on Saturday morning with a reply tweet from them! Any business which actively uses they social media and engages with their patrons automatically gets a tick from me!

Located on the busy Armadale precinct, just down the road from all the bridal shops, 8 days had a steady stream of customers ranging from friends catching up like we were, to locals with their children or pet dogs. They even had a water bowl for the dogs!

We opted to sit outside to take advantage of the nice day and started off with drinks, as per usual I went with my standard latte. The coffee had a lovely full bodied flavour, and most importantly for me, was served at a perfect temperature. I'm the type of person who doesn't like their coffee extra hot, and I have burnt my tongue way too many times, but 8 Days had got it right for me this time!

Next it was onto the menu and there were so many delicious choices. Jacqui decided to go with a sweet breakfast, and whilst 8 Days had tweeted me saying that their French toast was a winner, Jac decided that pancakes were her choice that morning.

Blueberry and ricotta hotcakes with maple caramel and vanilla bean parfait
This was a big serve! 3 large pancakes, so much caramel, and anyone who serves ice cream for breakfast gets brownie points from me!

Ange went for a baked eggs option.

Baked eggs with Tuscan bean cassoulet, salsicchia and rocket salad.
Again, another generous serve, and it was nice to see them use quality bread.

As usual I went for a savoury breakfast option, and chose something with avocado, cheese and chilli - I couldn't possibly go wrong!

Avocado and Persian fetta on sourdough, with a basil and minted broad bean chilli dressing and balsamic reduction
I decided to pair this up with a poached egg, after all you can't judge the quality of a cafe unless you do the yolk porn test!

My breakfast was delicious. I was a bit worried about whether the mint would be the over powering flavour, especially since I am not a big fan of mint, but it was very subtle, and instead combined with the basil and the balsamic to create a complete taste. For those of you you are fans of chilli, be warned that this dish is definitely not spicy, but still very enjoyable nonetheless.

And then, the all important yolk porn test.

WINNING! Perfect oozy yolk, which I mopped up with the sour dough.

One of the best things about 8 Days is that they served my breakfast with a proper Scanpan knife, not a dodgy knife from a cutlery set. Nothing annoys me more than then I can't cut the toasted crust off a thick slice of bread, but obviously this had been thought of!

All in all, this was a lovely experience. Great company, great food and great staff. I think we'll be back!

8 Days Cafe on Urbanspoon