Booking ahead

I’m more of a spontaneous diner but in one week TimmyC has booked several restaurants in anticipation for my birthday month. The list of restaurants includes:

  1. Biota
  2. Tetsuya’s
  3. Centennial Vineyards
  4. Katers restaurant at Peppers Manor House
  5. Dinner by Heston

and I also booked a Food Safari that my friends were nice enough to get for me for Christmas. It is going to be a delicious and busy month!

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The Grounds of Alexandria – The Grounds Cafe

Welcome to the The Grounds of Alexandria, the most Instagrammable place on the planet. You could tell my level of excitement as I wasn’t even phased when they told us it would be a 45 – 1 hour wait for a table at The Grounds Cafe on a Sunday for brunch. We took a buzzer and went off exploring.Where to start? Pastries of course!
We went past the cute vintage carts selling nuts, freshly made doughnuts, cakes and slices, complete with an old school lemonade stand.How cute is this place?!img_3214
Doughnuts filled with Nutella and Raspberry jam. The area is rather quite big and very popular. There is a beautiful area called ‘The Garden bar’ where it appears to be more casual with no table service but an amazing outdoor area with lots of sun light shining through.TimmyC couldn’t wait 1 hour before having coffee, so he ordered one from The Garden Bar.
There is also a beautiful outdoor florist on-site as well as a local watering hole called ‘The Potting Shed’, I loved how all the venues have a common garden theme which ties them all together.
Even the menu is cute, this place is ridiculous!I could live here.
There is also the famous resident on site, Kevin Bacon and his little farm animal friends.
After what seemed like forever because I was getting hungry and was almost tempted to buy a cheeseburger from the Garden bar, our buzzer went off. We hurriedly moved our way through the crowds and waved our buzzer around like we had just won a game of bingo only to meet another line where there were other lucky ‘winners’ also with alarming buzzers, but we were all quickly seated and given a menu.
 
I was surprised to find the inside of the cafe so dark, especially when the outside was such a beautiful day. It made it a little harder to take photos (that might just be an Instagrammer problem).
Char-grilled steak sandwich pasture fed sirloin steak, cheddar cheese, tomato, grilled Spanish onion, horseradish aioli and rocket on a toasted vienna bread ($18.00). My jaw almost dropped when I saw the size of my plate in comparison to everyone else’s. The burgers were served with a side of chips but the length of their tray was the size of my sandwich. I really enjoyed how they had cut up the steak into pieces and covered the entire sandwich, it made it easier to eat and there is nothing more sad that a sandwich with uneven filling. I wish it came with a side of chips but my friends were nice enough to share with me.
Deconstructed iced coffee house blend coffee shot, cold brewed coffee ice, sugar syrup with milk ($8.00). Who likes a diluted warm iced coffee? Not really anyone, so the clever people at the Grounds have made their ice cubes for the iced coffee out of coffee. Not only that, but they also give you milk on the side so you can adjust the milkiness to your liking as well as provide you with a novelty syringe filled with sugar syrup.
I love how the bottle that has the coffee reads ‘poison’.     Super chocolate and hazelnut shake ($8.50).
Freshly squeezed juice pineapple, watermelon and passionfruit ($8.00).
Chicken schnitzel burger crispy free range chicken breast, slaw, vine ripened tomato, rocket and mustard aioli in a pretzel bun with crunchy beer battered chips ($21.00).
The ‘Ground’ burger Grounded beef brisket, cheese, lettuce, dill, cornichon and mayo on a toasted brioche bun, served with crunchy beer battered chips ($19.00).
Poached eggs on toast class poached eggs served on The Grounds signature sourdough ($12.00). TimmyC wanted a vegetarian option and so he chose this simple dish. He said it was nice but they sort of burnt the toast.
I was like an excited kid who couldn’t sit still. If we were waiting for the food or the bill, I’d be up taking photos of their gorgeous cake cabinet or waiting for my Instagram photos to print on their automatic printer.
I think I need one of these for home!
I really enjoyed that The Grounds have a really fantastic atmosphere and while they are extremely busy, the food still comes out at a fast pace and all the prices aren’t ridiculous. No real downside other than the wait times to get a table but there are many things on site to keep your eyes occupied.
Venue: The Grounds of Alexandria – The Grounds Cafe
Address: 7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW 2015

Opening times:

Monday to Friday           7am to 4pm (kitchen closes at 3pm)

Saturday and Sunday    7:30am to 4pm (kitchen closes at 3:30pm)

The Grounds of Alexandria Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Progressive dinner – Sydney edition 

When I’m in Sydney, I try to eat what I can’t get in Canberra, foods like ramen, fresh sushi, good Thai and of course dumplings. So when I had limited time in Sydney and had only eaten ramen and sushi so far, there was nothing else to do but drag my friends for a progressive dinner to tick more boxes from my ‘to eat’ list.


To go to somewhere new, where over half the menu really excites you but you know you can’t order that much was really hard. My friend was telling me about Petaling Street, an awesome hawker restaurant and I was keen to make it the first stop during our progressive dinner in Sydney.

A few key dishes (and drinks) were chosen and enjoyed by everyone but my favourite dish was the roti canai with curry chicken. The roti was nice and flaky while the curry had lots of flavour with tender chicken.

Progressive dinner stop: #1

Venue: Petaling Street: Malaysian Hawker Food

Address: 760 George Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney,NSW

Amount per person: $10.00

Cheong fun, roti canai with chicken curry, char kway teow and Hainanese chicken rice.
Petaling Street: Malaysian Hawker Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


This was an unexpected stop as a fellow foodie pointed out that we were in close proximity to a Thai place, which did cheap small bowls of noodles. It sounded like a perfect addition to the progressive dinner and I was keen for some Thai food anyway.

Do Dee Paidang have tom yum soups, all with different meats, a choice of noodle and different levels of chilli. I along with the other non-chilli eaters stuck with the tom yum soup with tender pork rib and fresh noodles. We enjoyed the sour taste of the tom yum with the delicious meatiness of the pork ribs, while the hardcore chilli eaters went with the level 3 soup (out of 7). Watching one of the chilli eaters sweat and struggle with the heat of the soup made me curious about how hot their bowl was. I coated my spoon in a little bit of soup (I’m not crazy enough to actually drink any of the soup) and licked it, immediately I could feel the heat on my tongue which quickly spread to the back of my throat. Whoa, that was intense, I wonder who actually eats level 7!

Feeling bad that we were taking up a table even though we just wanted noodle soup, I order entrée of chicken satay skewers ($8.90), which were more expensive than our noodles ($6.00) but were really really delicious and I don’t usually eat satay.

Progressive dinner stop: #2

Venue: Do Dee Paidang Thai Noodle Bar & Cafe

Address: 9, 37 Ultimo Rd, Haymarket NSW 2000

Amount per person: $4.20Do Dee Paidang Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


We were told that they were no longer selling Papa roti for the day and my smile quickly turned into a frown. I was really looking forward to eating a coffee bun with a delicious buttery aroma.

Progressive dinner stop: #3

Venue: Papa Roti

Address: 663 George St, Haymarket NSW 2000

Amount per person: five sad faces 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦


Din Tai Fung was along the way of our progressive dinner and it would have been ridiculous not to stop. The hard part was not ordering any fried rice, although my friend couldn’t help but order a pork bun too.

We ordered 24 dumplings (and drinks) between the 5 of us and savoured each and every bite.

Progressive dinner stop: #3

Venue: Din Tai Fung

Address: 644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

Amount per person: $13.00Din Tai Fung Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


You are wondering how we were able to eat more after 3 stops already, but remember we were sharing one delicious original Hot Star chicken ($8.50) between the 5 of us. We tore it into 5 pieces while it was still really hot and it was a few bites of heaven.

Progressive dinner stop: #4

Venue: Hot Star

Address: 96 Liverpool Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Amount per person: $1.70Hot Star Large Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


TimmyC and I were all Aqua S-ed out as we had been there for the past two nights and had already eaten all the flavour combinations but it didn’t stop everyone else from enjoying it. I was surprised TimmyC preferred the pandan ice cream over the lychee (dairy free) but I think it was because of the creamy ice cream texture.

Aqua S change their flavours every Thursday.

Progressive dinner stop: #5

Venue: Aqua S

Address: 27/501 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

Amount per person: $5.00Aqua S Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


A friend of ours popped into Black Star Pastry’s pop up store in the Kinokuniya earlier in the day and got some goodies to share. He got their famous strawberry water melon cake ($7.50/slice) and a caramel panna cotta ($9.00).

Progressive dinner stop: #6

Venue: Black Star Pastry (pop up)

Address: The Galleries, 2/500 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

Amount per person: $4.80Black Star Pastry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


I had promised to take TimmyC to Messina and a promise is a promise. Everyone else had returned to their hotels and while TimmyC and I light railed our way straight to The Star.

We had chosen ‘Gay ol’ time’ which didn’t taste anything like a gaytime but TimmyC still really enjoyed it.

Progressive dinner stop: #7

Venue: Messina

AddressCafe Court, Level G, 80 Pyrmont StreetPyrmont NSW 2009

Amount per TimmyC: $4.80Gelato Messina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


I was really impressed with the amount of stops we were able to make without being ridiculously full. We got to eat a lot of variety and the best of what every venue had to offer. Tell me dear reader, have you had a progressive dinner?

 

Noma Australia

If you somehow have not heard, Noma have made a home in Barangaroo, Australia for 10 weeks. Bookings were highly anticipated for the number 3 restaurant in the world and the entire 10-week calendar (excluding some special events) was sold out in less than 2 minutes. I was lucky enough to have dinner there last Friday night.

This has got to be one of the most photographed walls in Sydney.The view from the terrace.When we arrived, they knew what the person who made the booking looked like. They must have stalked him through social media/google like many other restaurants do. We were slightly early to our booking so the Noma staff offered us a drink on their terrace. Without asking if everyone wanted the aperitif, they poured 6 glasses and I naturally just gave mine to TimmyC. They were very liberal with the refills and then we were brought inside to our table.

Snakebite aperitif a mix of cider and beer ($25.00 per person). I was a bit shocked at the price but I guess after the price we paid for the meal I shouldn’t really be. I was a little disappointed that they poured me a glass even though I didn’t have any but TimmyC had both glasses and multiple refills so I guess we didn’t lose out.We were greeted by the kitchen staff who waited patiently for my phone to unfreeze and capture a quick photo before sitting down. The table was modestly decorated with a big flat plate, simple napkins and of course native Australian plants.

I finally got my camera to unfreeze and stop holding everyone up.A small intimate dining room setting.Soon after choosing beverages, a wave of chefs come to our table and all 6 of us were served instantaneously. Throughout the night, the dishes are served and taken away in this efficient manner.12 course degustation ($493 per person including credit card costs).

Unripe macadamia and spanner crab the juice of a spanner crab, green macadamia nuts with rose oil. I was surprised to find this cold and served on ice but I guess it kept the crab juices fresh and crisp on the palette. I found that some bites were more crab juice intense while with others the rose oil was stronger, but every mouthful had a nice crunch to it.Wild seasonal berries flavoured with gubinge bowl of berries (lilli pilli, native lime etc) with seaweed oil dusted with kakadu native plum powder. With so many berries each with their own unique taste, every bite was different. TimmyC called it Russian roulette as something within that berry mix was not agreeing with his taste buds. Some bites tasted nuttier than others but my favourite mouthfuls was when I’d get a bursts of citrus from the native lime.Porridge of golden and desert oak wattleseed with saltbush wattle porridge topped with salt bush and finger lime. Despite the wattleseed being prepared for many hours, I found it too hard, slightly dry and chewy for my liking. The finger lime helped but this dish wasn’t my favourite.Seafood platter and crocodile fat starting from the bottom right hand corner pipi, blue mussel, strawberry clam, cockle and oyster all prepared with tomato juice and crocodile fat. Okay, I may have gotten a little over excited and  finished eating without taking a photo first. I am only (a hungry) human. I liked how the brittle sticky covering gave each shellfish a nice salty oompf while allowing their fabulous natural flavours come through; my favourite one would have to be either the blue mussel or oyster.

You can pretend that they aren’t just empty shellsThere was one oyster left on the table that wasn’t eaten yet when I realised my lack of photos of this dish.W.A. deep sea snow crab with cured egg yolk lightly steamed snow crab in a fermented kangaroo meat sauce (we are pretty sure that is what they said). Hello heaven! The light steaming made the crab meat warm and succulent, while the sauce made it feel like we were eating buttery goodness. I wish this bowl was bigger and never ending.PIE: dried scallops and nasturium flowers kelp tart with scallop fudge and a celery reduction served with foraged flowers. They said that they could not come to Australia and not make a ‘pie’. This was a like a delicate soft savoury tart that I can’t completely describe; I didn’t think it needed the flowers though.BBQed milk ‘dumpling’ with marron and magpie goose marron brushed with magpie goose ragout wrapped in a burnt milk skin. I find it fascinating that they made a ragout from the magpie goose, just to brush the sauce onto the marron. The burnt milk skin was surprisingly sweet when eaten by itself but it provided a beautiful ‘dumpling skin’ to the juicy marron meat. I really enjoyed this.Sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries semi dried tomatoes from the Blue Mountains with sea urchin. Now the way I describe this dish was that it felt like art but I didn’t understand it. I don’t usually like sea urchin but I stomached this one okay and the broth cut through the acidity in the tomatoes that I found really intense. I found myself slowly eating this dish as it kept me pondering about what these flavours meant until I finished it all but I still felt a bit puzzled. Others on the table barely touched theirs as they didn’t like it so this was replaced with an alternative dish.Alternate dishavocado, kelp and truffle. The salty exterior of the kelp gave a nice seasoning to the fatty rich avocado, which finished with a truffle after taste. I much preferred this over the sea urchin.Abalone schnitzel and bush condiments finger lime, beach floral bouquet, succulent, kakadu native plum, Neptune’s necklace, glass beads, seaside fennel served with an abalone schnitzel and celery yeast water. Just when I was deciding which one I liked more between the marron or the snow crab, this strong contender was the next course that was served to us.

We were advised to spread the finger lime over the schnitzel, dip it in the sauce and just to eat all the other condiments naturally. It was amazing to see so many familiar things on my plate but I had never thought to eat or taste them before; they all provided interesting textures and subtle flavours. The abalone schnitzel was perfectly crumbed and crispy and dipping it into that sauce just gave it extra levels of flavours and saltiness. I loved the sauce so much I started dipping my bouquet in it just to finish it all off.Delicious celery yeast water.Marinated fresh fruit mango ice cream sandwich with green ants, compressed watermelon with black currant wood oil and pineapple sprayed in whisky and sprinkled with some salt. I thought that the mango gelato was so intense that I didn’t notice what the ants tasted like, I should have picked one off and ate it separately. I really liked the pineapple, the whisky really cut through the acidity and allowed it to be extra sweet.Blackberries served with mirrabelle plum, lime and pepperberry twig. We were told to eat the fruit and then to gently chew on the juniper branch. I thought the fresh blackberries and plum weren’t overly sweet especially when pairing it with the last juice but the twig was really interesting as it gave my mouth some heat.Rum lamington lamington with milk crumb and native tamarind sauce. I knew I was eating something because I put spoonfuls of it into my mouth, but what looked like sponge cake before me dissolved on my tongue almost instantly. It was almost like eating fairy floss with the way it disappeared. The native tamarind sauce gave the whole dessert a nice tart tang.Peanut milk and freekah “Baytime”. When they said that they couldn’t use the name of a certain ice-cream and replaced the name with “Baytime” because we were by the water, I had a certain expectation in my mind. What this reminded me of was more of an ice-cream picnic bar as the peanut flavour was quite strong and it had a toffee centre. Native lime. This reminded me of dried mandarin peels that I used to eat as a kid, the skin quickly dissolved to give you a sweet then sour aftertaste.Beverages~

Juice parings (5 juices $95.00)

It felt really weird drinking a juice with oil in it but helped coat the mouth before all these intense seafood courses came out. When had by itself, these juices were really intense in flavour but it eventually rounded out in my mouth when paired with food.

Bergamot kombucha / native mint 

Rose/spruce wood oil 

Green tomato / lemon myrtle 

smoked pepper/red pepper berry

blood plum/native lemongrass This was really sweet unlike the other juices of the degustation.Wine pairings (there were 7 wines $215.00)

Tea and coffee ($10.00 each).The first question most people ask me is ‘how was Noma/the fancy restaurant?’ and I respond with ‘Noma isn’t for everyone’.

That statement has nothing to do with the price but really the meat heavy culture we have in Australia. The time leading up to my meal at Noma, I was in a ‘no spoilers’ mode for trying to keep the menu a surprise to get the full effect on the day. I knew it would be seafood heavy with tropical fruits but I was surprised to find that there was no red meat on the menu.

A lot of my friends won’t eat seafood unless it is a crumbed piece of fish next to fried chips, so to serve shellfish and sea urchin would be wasted on some (like the sad feelings I get when non-Asians go to a Chinese wedding and don’t eat much). The reality is that the majority of us don’t eat as much seafood as other parts of the world, despite our iconic saying of throwing another shrimp on the barbie.

To have been ranked number 1 in the world, you can’t just cook the usual things really well, you have to break new ground, find new ingredients and do things a little differently, which Noma has done during their time in Australia. I felt a bit naïve at the end of the meal as these chefs have come to our country to show of our unique and native ingredients to us.

People ask me if it was worth the money and I say yes. If the number 3 restaurant in the world comes to your doorstep and prepares unique ingredients for a 10-week stint, you say ‘yes!’. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a unique dining experience.

Venue: Noma Australia

Address: 23 Barangaroo Ave, New South Wales 2146

Website: http://noma.dk/australia/
Noma Australia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A lot of Barangaroo is still under construction but in a few years, I cannot wait to see what this place becomes.

Tim Ho Wan – Chatswood

During my last fleeting visit to Sydney, Mum and her friends were sweet enough take me to Tim Ho Wan in Chatswood, the first of three locations in Sydney. I had just arrived in the CBD when my Mum’s friends had just started to line up, it was an estimated 40 minutes wait but the deal breaker was that all parties must be present to be seated in the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Conveniently for us, the restaurant is located right near the Chatswood train station and we joined the line long enough to quickly jot a few dishes on the menu before quickly getting seated.I could start to see why the line was so long besides the fact that it is new and the buzz around the brand name, the restaurant seating area itself wasn’t that big.I should have ordered that steamed egg cake! #foodregretsThe menu is limited to 25 menu items not including drinks. You write the quantity you want next to the item and hand in the order form like you would have Din Tai Fung.Vermicelli roll with shrimp ($7.80). I grabbed the top roll and thought they had forgotten to put anything inside if it wasn’t for the sad single prawn stuck somewhere in the lower half like a small rock trapped in a sock.Vermicelli roll with sesame sauce ($5.80). The sauce was really delicious and much better than the roll with shrimp.Pork dumpling with shrimp ($7.20). Not my preferred style of dumpling but it went really well with chilli sauce.Prawn dumpling ($7.80). These were nice, they didn’t stick to the paper, the wrapper was a good thickness and the prawn filling was delicious.Pork rib with black bean sauce ($6.80). The pork pieces were very small but that didn’t stop me from eating almost the whole thing to myself.Bean curd skin roll with pork and shrimp ($6.20). One of my favourite things to eat during yum cha, this version was a little on the skinny side but the sauce was really nice.Wasabi salad prawn dumpling ($7.80). I didn’t think I would like the deep fried dumpling but the wasabi and roe was subtle and complimented the prawn filling.Rice with beef and fried egg ($8.80). I was looking forward to this, albeit it wouldn’t be my first flavour choice out of the rice toppings. I found the beef cake layer too chewy and tough while the egg was cooked in an egg ring and didn’t look too appetising.Glutinous rice in lotus leaf ($8.80 one serve). It had lots of ingredients inside and the rice was really nice.Baked bun with BBQ pork ($6.80 for three). This was the star of the evening. It wasn’t as pretty and golden brown as the ones in HK, which made me sceptical but they had a wonderful crunch on the top like a pineapple bun. The pork and bun have a perfect balance of salty and sweetness.I had dragged TimmyC to one of the Tim Ho Wan locations scattered around Hong Kong and we had had our fill for around $12 AUD, although then we were eating 4-5 meals a day so it couldn’t be too big. The Sydney store is much more pricey comparatively but roughly consistent with neighbouring yum cha places.

The yum cha here is very mediocre and I prefer to go to Fook Yuen when I’m in the area but the baked buns with BBQ pork are a signature dish for Tim Ho Wan and it is worth lining up for (maybe not 2+ hours long but 15-20 minutes) if you have a craving.

There is a way to skip the queue but you need 8+ friends to do so like NQN did.

Venue: Tim Ho Wan

Address: The District, 436 Victoria Ave Chatswood, NSW

Phone02 9898 9888

Websitehttp://www.timhowan.com/

Tim Ho Wan on Urbanspoon

Goodgod – Belly baos

When it comes to eating Asian food in Sydney CBD, I foolishly thought I knew it all.

I keep tabs on whenever a new ramen place opens up, I keep an eye out for new dessert crazes and I’m all over dumplings like ants on a toffee apple. So when my friend wanted to take me to a place for bao, I was sceptical about this random bar but remained hopeful because I love a good bao. Goodgod is an underground bar located just past World Square towards China town and I would have walked past a million times without realising it and you may have too. Belly baos is the food side of things and they have a line which is separate from the Goodgod bar, which will mean you need to divide and conquer between you and your friends.

The Goodgod drinks menu.Cherry Melon Pop freshly juiced watermelon and green apple popped sweet with Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters ($9.00). Goodgod have an interesting list of alcoholic mixed drinks in jugs with funny quirky names but the non-drinkers don’t miss out because they also do several non-alcoholic quenchers both in jug and single cup sizes. This tasted like watermelon juice with a cherry aftertaste that was borderline medicinal.We get there insanely early but we are headed for Russell Peters later on at Olympic Park so we wanted somewhere close and fast. The place was quiet but that meant no lines and fast service. I looked at the menu and realised that I could easily eat everything if I didn’t squeeze in that delicious fried chicken snack, so I conservatively order only four baos to share between TimmyC and myself.

Belly Bao’s bao menu, what would you have chosen?Mmmm baos!Soft Shell crab watercress, chilli aioli and lemon vinaigrette ($7.50). We started off with the soft shell crab and in hindsight it was probably for the best as it was my least favourite. The flavours were nice but there was just a sad small piece of crab off to one side of the bun and I just didn’t think the filling to bun ratio was right.Panko crumbed chicken breast lettuce, pickled radish, secret sauce, coriander and chilli aioli ($6.50). I had a bite of my friend’s panko chicken and it was temperature hot, crispy and the chilli aioli gives in a nice chilli kick; definitely worth ordering!Slow braised pork belly pickled mustard greens, coriander, crushed peanut and kewpie mayo ($6.50). I had food envy while a friend was eating his bao; he enjoyed it so much that he ordered another and after he finished eating it, he had food regrets and probably didn’t need that extra bao.

Crackling roast pork belly crackling, pickled radish, coriander and kewpie mayo ($6.50). They have placed the crackling well so that almost every bite had some crackling, yum! I might be biased because I love pork, crackling, coriander and kewpie mayo but I really liked this bao!Slow braised beef short rib kimchi, spring onion and sesame mayo ($6.50). It would be hard for me to choose a favourite between the crackling roast pork and the beef short rib, so I won’t. The meat in this one was probably had more flavour on its own and didn’t rely on the sauces and condiments. It was so tender and tasty *licks lips*.I like how they have re-purposed old oyster sauce cans.Dessert bao (yes you read that right)~

Strawbelly bao golden fried bao with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberry slices, drizzled with condensed milk ($6.50). How cute is the name? I was so caught up with the fact that there was dessert bao that I didn’t notice until friends pointed it out. This sounded good in theory but it was hard to eat without cutlery or a million wet wipes. TimmyC enjoyed the strawberries and ice-cream more while the Asian part of me really enjoyed the bao and condensed milk because it reminded me of fried mantou. There wasn’t that many strawberries and we probably should have gone with the ‘baonana split’ (golden fried bao with vanilla ice cream, fresh banana slices, salted peanuts, drizzled with Nutella) for a more decadent dessert.

The baos here might seem expensive by Sydney standards but for these Canberrans they were a steal (our bao prices are $9 each). The baos themselves were all soft, smooth and pat-a-licious (Michelle and Eileen know what I’m talking about).

Because we went while it was still quiet, we didn’t have any waiting troubles, issues with staff or seating limitations. In fact getting there before everyone else meant that we had clean bathrooms, fast food and we could hear ourselves think. I like the funky layout of the place and they also run interesting trivia nights; if I lived in the area, I would definitely come here more often.Venue: Goodgod bar (Belly Bao food)

Address53-55 Liverpool Street Sydney, NSW

Phone02 9267 3787

Opening hours:

Wednesday – Friday 5pm til late (Belly Bao is open until 10pm)

Saturday 6pm til late (Belly Bao is open until 10pm)

Belly Bao            Belly Bao on Urbanspoon

Goodgod bar    Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon

Red Lantern on Riley

I knew after eating at Quay, the next meal would be really hard to top but Red Lantern in Surry Hills was very memorable and left me feeling excited for the next sequential dish when I thought I wasn’t that hungry.2015/01/img_9138.jpgA modern Asian feel inside. I loved the big centre table that we sat at.2015/01/img_9139.jpgMuc Rang Muoi lightly battered chilli salted squid with fresh lemon and white pepper dipping sauce ($24.50). I didn’t really bother with the dipping sauce as it was rather sour and I thought it was better without it. A very easy to eat dish, I didn’t think I was that hungry but after a bit of pecking, it was all gone.2015/01/img_9151.jpgCuon Thit Nuong soft rice paper rolls of char grilled honey pork neck and Vietnamese herbs ($30.00 for 5 rolls). These were rather quite small and they were filled with more noodles and less herbs than I’m used to. You could still taste the subtle flavours of the pork despite the noodle to everything else ratio. These are pricey when you usually see them at other restaurants at $2-4 a pop instead of $6.2015/01/img_9150.jpgBanh Xeo crisp rice flour crepe filled with master stock pork belly and tiger prawn, served with fresh herbs and lettuce to wrap ($29.50). I’ve eaten my fair share of Vietnamese pancakes but this by far was one of my favourites! The crepe was exceptionally crispy, the pork and prawns were nice but the herbs made the real impact. Despite constant dipping in the sauce, the crepe stayed crispy and added to the crunch along with the lettuce and bean sprouts. Next time I won’t share!2015/01/img_9155.jpg

2015/01/img_9156.jpgBo Luc Lac O’Connor pasture fed English breed beef, strip loin wok tossed with black pepper, garlic, oyster sauce and sesame ($38.00). Although this seemed like a simple dish, it was made very well that it impressed me a lot. What didn’t impress me was the price tag attached.2015/01/img_9158.jpgCa Ri Chay tofu, eggplant and cherry tomato vegetarian yellow curry ($29.50). Vegetarian curry was definitely not my choice but I fell in love with the amount of depth this sauce had. It definitely made me think about the type of curry I would like to develop when I get through my New Year’s resolutions.2015/01/img_9162.jpgCa Kho New Zealand King Salmon fillet in a caramel, chilli and black pepper sauce with Chinese broccoli and sesame crackers ($39.00). Fish isn’t usually my first pick either but Mumsy loves fish and chose this dish. I really liked it. The sticky sweet caramel soy sauce always goes perfectly with salmon.2015/01/img_9160.jpgChuoi Chien Banana fritters crumbed in coconut and white rice with palm sugar caramel, tapioca sauce and vanilla bean ice cream ($16.00). My sister was the only one who wanted a dessert but she let me have a spoonful. The addition of the coconut with the banana makes me think of a cross between a deep-fried ice cream and a banana split.2015/01/img_9165.jpgWe sat at the spacious big table in the centre of the dining area while the other neighbouring booths looked a little snug and the place can get quite noisy. We had to ask for new bowls when we sat down as two of them were dirty; the staff were friendly throughout the night and were attentive with things like water and taking away plates etc.2015/01/img_9147.jpgThe bill came to around $180ish (after Entertainment book discount) between 5 diners, 3 of which just had a large lunch at Quay. Not the cheapest Asian meal but if you ignore the price tag and order the right dishes, you’ll have a wonderful night. There is a snug fitting bar at the back which would be nice to hang out at while waiting for a table.

Venue: Red Lantern on Crown

Address60 Riley St Darlinghurst, NSW

Phone: 02 9698 4355

Entertainment book: Yes! It is in the Sydney one.

Red Lantern on Riley on Urbanspoon

Quay

It had been a several month wait before we could get a lunch reservation for three at Quay in Sydney but it was well worth the wait. We were there to celebrate TimmyC’s belated birthday (a lovely gift from his close friends), my Mumsy’s birthday and… I was just there to eat *blush*

We were notified several times that our sweeping views of the world-famous harbour and Sydney Opera House were going to be obstructed by a cruise ship which wasn’t due to leave until later that day, but that didn’t matter for us as we were there for the food and company.

It was a very warm day in Sydney and when we walked out of the elevator we welcomed with crisp cool air and attentive service. We were led upstairs to a beautiful separate space that would hold only 14 other guests during that lunch service.2015/01/img_9062.jpgIt was a spectacular day overlooking the Harbour.2015/01/img_9063.jpgThen I remembered that there’d be a great big cruise ship.2015/01/img_9094.jpgThere were several dining options: 3 courses $150, 4 courses for $175 and the tasting menu for $235 per person, we didn’t need to really look as we had decided on the tasting menu before we even got there. They told us it was going to take 1.5 -2.5 hours and that surprised TimmyC and I but we ended up being there for 4 hours and was one of the last to leave, that part didn’t shock us.2015/01/img_9107.jpgMocktail~ The Johnnie Dancer. A union of lychee juice, passionfruit puree and muddled lime with a dash of cloudy apple and pineapple juice ($14.00).2015/01/img_9077.jpgTimmyC and Mumsy both got gin and tonics but different gins which meant different tastes and different garnishes.2015/01/img_9075.jpgTasting menu ($235 pp)2015/01/img_9060.jpg

Amuse bouche~ Beetroot, house cultured crème fraîche, violet and sour dough bread crumbs. TimmyC must have been in heaven having to not wait for me to take photos of dishes from every angle, so by the time I was finished taking my first photo he had finished the bite sized morsel but the surprising thing for me was to see TimmyC eating beetroot. The beetroot taste was subtle and paired well with the crème fraîche. I loved the crunchy unexpected bread crumbs. 2015/01/img_9080.jpg2015/01/img_9081.jpg2015/01/img_9084.jpgRaw smoked Blackmore wagyu, horseradish soured cream, fermented rye crisps, raw funghi. I was excited to try the Blackmore wagyu (I loved it at Chifley’s) but it really took a back seat to everything else. At first you can taste the smokey wagyu, followed by subtle horseradish and ends on the earthy fungi. I loved the depth of flavour you could get from one bite and the rye crisps really added a lovely crunch to what would have otherwise been a soft dish. It really set the bar high for what was to come.

The plate reminded us of a kidney.2015/01/img_9086.jpgIt’s amazing how much earthy flavours are hidden in the gills of mushrooms.2015/01/img_9087.jpgCongee of mud crab, palm heart, egg yolk emulsion. If there is something you need to know about me, it’s that I love congee and I love mud crab (and steak!), so I was very excited to try this dish. I thought the addition of palm heart and egg yolk emulsion was an odd choice but after tasting it, they were really crucial to making this the amazing dish that it was. It had a ‘watery’ texture because there was more broth to rice ratio, but it made the dish easier to eat. The palm hearts added a really good crunch while the egg yolk emulsion was very creamy and tied the whole dish together. I tilted my plate to make sure I got every last drop.2015/01/img_9088.jpg

2015/01/img_9089.jpgWhite summer squash, umami juices, bay lobster, clams, sea urchin, chicken fat. This dish divided the table. TimmyC didn’t really like this dish and he thought the addition of chicken fat cheapened it. I on the other hand, really like this dish and I loved the addition of chicken fat (think pan juices from a roast chicken). The summer squash was the star of the plate, it was really fresh and gave a light refreshing feeling to the palette which was nice just before a heavy protein course.2015/01/img_9090.jpg2015/01/img_9091.jpgComplimentary bread and butter. We didn’t know if we were going to get any bread because it was served so late in the meal. I really liked the inner bready part of the white bread and loved the crust that had black sesame seeds from the sesame seed bread. The butter was ridiculously soft but I thought it lacked some salt, luckily they provided that as well.2015/01/img_9093.jpgSmoked and confit pig jowl, roasted koji, shiitake, kombu, sesame, sea scallop, milk curd. It was a unanimous decision at our table that this was our favourite dish of the tasting menu. There were so many components but they all played a part with their flavours. Depending on the mouthful of ingredients you took, it could taste very different but without a doubt, all spoonfuls were AMAZING. This dish had everything; the pig jowl was tender and fatty, it had crunchy parts and it had creamy parts all topped with a light flavourful broth. If I was going À la carte, I would definitely order this dish.2015/01/img_9095.jpgThe broth was poured on each plate at the table.2015/01/img_9098.jpgKing George whiting, native coastal greens, hatsuka radish, smoked oyster crackling. I didn’t know what to expect from succulents but it gave the dish a unique texture. The fish was well cooked and a lot of the delicious salty taste came from the smoked oyster crackling.2015/01/img_9099.jpg

2015/01/img_9100.jpgNative succulents made a unique addition to the dish.2015/01/img_9102.jpgSlow cooked duck, black rice miso, celery heart, black garlic, ice plant buds. I was really intrigued about the ‘ice plant buds’, it was like biting to a crisp juicy capsicum. All the dark colours and saltiness reminded Mum and I of salted black beans which I love, but I wasn’t so keen on the duck and thought it was a bit hard to cut through despite being given a Laguiole knife. In comparison to the rest of the tasting menu, I didn’t think it was as good.2015/01/img_9103.jpgA close up of the ice plant bud.2015/01/img_9106.jpg2015/01/img_9105.jpgSnow egg cherry granita with a cherry ice cream centre. Cherry wouldn’t have been my first pick for a fruit but it didn’t take away from the technical difficulty to make this dish; I have the highest regard for anyone that can make this dessert. After taking a million photos, I used my spoon to knock on the egg to gauge the texture. It didn’t pierce but it didn’t take much to break through a fine toffee layer to expose a perfectly round sphere full of soft meringue with a cherry ice cream centre. I love the  sharp contrast between the sweetness in the soft meringue and powder compared to the chunky slightly sour cherry granita, but everything balanced out in the end. An outstanding amazing dessert!2015/01/img_9108.jpg

2015/01/img_9112.jpg2015/01/img_9116.jpgChocolate ethereal. I must say having watched only a few episodes of Master Chef, one of them included the making of the chocolate ethereal; I had very high hopes for this dish but it fell flat in my mouth. It just tasted like a lot of sharp sweetness from the chocolate and muscatels which meant everything else faded into the background. I know how much effort that went into making the different shards but I didn’t think taste wise it added anything to the dish and it was more for show and texture. TimmyC didn’t agree and finished off my dessert.2015/01/img_9125.jpg2015/01/img_9123.jpg

2015/01/img_9126.jpg2015/01/img_9124.jpgWe TimmyC couldn’t himself but to order another dessert, he suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to food.

Lychee, rose, coconut ($35.00). I prefer this dessert over the chocolate ethereal despite having less complex flavours, they have chosen a select few flavours that work really well together. The dessert itself was very cold, but when you placed a spoonful in your mouth, some parts gave a crunch, some bits were juicy and some bits melted. I really like this flavour combination and it was more of a subtle sweet dessert.2015/01/img_9121.jpgCoffee, tea and Quay Petit Fours. I wasn’t going to eat any petit fours because I was so content after the tasting menu but I did notice that one of the truffles was covered in pop corn and inside had a molten caramel centre and I could not say no.2015/01/img_9129.jpgFresh peppermint tea.2015/01/img_9127.jpgNot only was the food spectacular, the wait staff were unpretentious, friendly and attentive throughout the service. It is a lot of money for a meal but it has amazing views, it spans over several hours and is almost like entertainment with a meal when you’re experiencing the different flavour and texture combinations that are given to you.

 

Venue: Quay

Address: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, 5 Hickson Rd The Rocks, NSW

Phone: 02 9251 5600
Reservations: Taken from their website “Quay is open daily for dinner service from 6pm – 10pm. Lunch service is Friday to Sunday, taking bookings from 12pm – 2pm.

We do receive a high volume of reservations requests daily. Please allow at least 48 hours in which to reply to your request. We do encourage you to contact reservations directly on 02 9251 5600 if you wish to make a booking within the 48 hour period.

We take bookings no more than 6 months in advance. Friday, Saturday & Sunday evenings are booked out 6 months in advance for bookings of two and four guests.

Please note reservations are allocated to tables by booking date order. Guests can certainly request tables but unfortunately we cannot always guarantee your table request due to table configurations and also booking order.”
Quay on Urbanspoon

Cow and the Moon

Our friends had been telling us for years to go to Cow and the Moon but whenever we dined in Newtown, we get excessively full and can’t fit any more in.  So this time, we decided to have gelato as our ‘meal’ so we could definitely fit it in. Since Cow and the Moon won best gelato in the world, yes the WORLD(!) with their flavour Mandorla affogato, everyone else also had the same idea on this gorgeous (border lining hot) Spring day.

It can be a a bit daunting when you see the line but it didn’t take too long to zoom through to the front (15-20 minutes?).IMG_5289.JPGCow and the Moon has been around for ages but only now is it getting recognition for their delicious gelato.IMG_5291.JPGA window glimpse into the future, we are getting closer!IMG_5290.JPGI love their upcycled tin holding gorgeous poppys.IMG_5292.JPGThey also have other sweets and cakes but I don’t think anyone is here for that.IMG_5294.JPG

IMG_5293.JPGA price list for cups, drinks and take home packs.IMG_5295.JPGYou would not believe what happened next, you couldn’t even make this stuff up, but the last of Mandorla affogato was scooped up by the person who was served just before me. I gave a hopeful look to my server and asked if there was any left but she informed me that there was going to be a 20 minute wait til the next batch was ready. Tim wasn’t willing to wait (or line up again), so I had to go with a quick plan B.

I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, I was disappointed with the lack of Mandorla affogato but I didn’t want to taste test replacement flavours so I just chose names of gelato flavours that I would think I would like. It was slightly frustrating not having a menu on the wall and having to actively bustle through the crowd to get a glance of the other flavours but we managed to get an interesting array. Other interesting flavours that I did not get to try included: baby beets, which had a gorgeous colour, pomegranate and strawberry and balsamic vinegar.IMG_5296-0.JPGThe flavours I was able to taste were banana and salted caramel; vanilla; sticky date and merango tango. All the gelato flavours were smooth, creamy and sweet but the one that really stood out for me (which I didn’t think I would like) was the banana and salted caramel. I felt that the other flavours were sweet but not identifiable as their stated flavour.IMG_5300.JPGFor those who follow my instagram and read my blog regularly, you know that I went back to try my luck with Mandorla affogato again. The line was much shorter on a week day but still very busy since it was the school holidays. Mum and I were browsing the flavours and I had noticed that the flavour choices had changed. I held my breath when once again, just inches away the empty stainless steel tray where the Mandorla affogato once was, was taken away. Before I could even start to pout, it was replaced with a full tray straight away. Phew! That was close.

I also chose dulce de leche as my other flavour, again it was sweet but not distinguishable. Mandorla affogato really stole the show. The coffee flavours were strong and smooth but was complimented by the sweetness of the caramelised almonds which also brought the texture to another level.IMG_5390.JPGIs it worth the line up? Well no one likes to line up for things but it was really good if you like coffee/almond/caramel flavours. Mum and I personally really enjoyed it. Other people may not have enjoyed their flavours and complained that it was all hyped and not worth waiting for, but what you need to remember is that a particular flavour won the world’s best gelato and it just happened to be made in Newtown, Sydney, you can’t just taste any willy nilly flavour from Cow and the Moon and then disregard the competition results when you didn’t eat the Mandorla affogato *end rant*.

Venue: Cow and the Moon

Address181 Enmore Road Enmore, NSW

Phone: 02 9557 4255

Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon

Cafe Creasion re-run

It has been a while since I’ve been to Cafe Creasion and I have nothing but fond memories of their macarons especially of their fruit inspired flavours. Recently, someone kindly bought me a box with one of each flavour (and one double) without remembering exactly what they were but I didn’t mind, that meant I had a box of 24 macarons and an adventure for my palette.

**Box of 24 macarons ($55.00)**

I didn’t think 24 macarons was going to be much trouble but I was almost on a sugar high overload by the time I got to number #10. A lot of them had similar colours and indistinguishable flavours. I must say I was not impressed.

The worst one of all was what I thought to be ‘black sesame’, I couldn’t even eat it and discarded the rest after my first and only bite. I was lucky enough to save the best by far for last which resembled a raspberry flavour.

Shame really, maybe they’ll have better flavours in the Summer?