Friday, November 20, 2015

Salvage Specialty Coffee - Artarmon

We were heading to a Jap pottery sale on the weekend in the Artarmon area and decided to brunch there too. It was a slightly difficult choice as 2 pretty popular cafes were right next to one another on Wilkes Ave but at the end, we opted for Salvage Specialty Coffee (as it had pretty high ratings on bean hunter :P).

We were seated quickly and served quickly - impressive. Coffee here was likewise impressive. Disappointing that they only have one size of coffee cos I would have loved a large cup of my skim capp.
Food-wise, the blackboard offered lots of temptations. Even though there wasn't tons of options, there were many that we wanted to try. After intense discussions with the waitress and much deliberation, we finally opted for the Sloppy Salv (?? I actually forget the name...) and the Croque Madame (which was a weekend special).

The sloppy salv was a brioche burger containing some really tomatoey and slightly spicey mince bolognese. It reminded hubby of a MOS burger. It was definitely sloppy - pretty much falling apart. But pretty tasty :)
 The Croque Madame was exquisite. A perfectly soft-poached egg with delicious running yolk sat atop my toasty of black forest gypsy ham (super tasty), swiss gruyere, and dijon. The other half of my toasty was topped with creamy delicious bechamel sauce. Loved every bite of this crunchy, soggy, tasty, flavoursome concoction. YUM!
All up, I liked this place. Coffee is good. It's chillaxy. The food is really tasty. Definitely worth a visit if you are nearby.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 29.5/40

Salvage Specialty Coffee
5 Wilkes Ave
Artarmon, NSW 2064

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ho Jiak - Strathfield

There's a new Malaysian place in town and it's super close to home. Being inside Strathfield plaza, there was a bit of a hitch in finding the place - as "HoJiak" actually isn't the name plastered ... it has "Penang Express" on the shop front and has that "food-court"-y type feel. Nonetheless, enough people seem to have found the place to make it quite buzzing and happening.

Hubby ordered their Hainan Chicken Rice. It's pleasant. The chicken is average and the rice is also decent. Not dazzling though unfortunately. 
My Prawn Mee was more impressive. Fragrantly aromatic and loads of flavour. It was pretty delicious. The noodles were wonderful in soaking in the tasty soup. I think it could have been improved by having real prawns instead of prawn cocktails... but you know what? I'd take it. I'd order it again. I also wanted an ice coffee but as they'd "run out", I had to opt for the Teh Terik instead (milk tea) which disappointingly, was pre-made, pre-packaged and slightly over-sweet.
 So all up, this is not a bad place for some Malay food. Lots of flavours in the soup for my noodles. But you know what? Temasek (in Parra) isn't too far away and that's also pretty delish! :)

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 25.5

Ho Jiak 
Shop 33, 11 The Boulevard
Strathfield Plaza
Tel: (02) 9008 8020

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hartsyard - Newtown

Hartsyard is a place I've wanted to visit for AGES but for fear of long lines and waits, I had held off. I had seen lots of yummy photos from this place so anticipation was high. Their menu consists of "seed" (entree sized) and "feed" (main sized) all meant for sharing. For the four of us, the waitress recommended 2 seeds and 3 feeds.

The Oyster Po' Boy was recommended to us by our waitress. Crunchy deep fried oysters with mayo and coleslaw enveloped between two English muffin buns. Sliders in size, it was tasty but definitely not worth it's price tag ($24 for two). For $12 a pop, I can think of many many tasty burgers from elsewheres.
We also got their smoked trout from their 'seed' (entree size) menu. The trout was perfectly cooked with a subtle hint of smokiness. Loved the mix of cauliflower, carrot, pickled mix. Also really enjoyed the crispy fish skin. The 'everything bagel' was my favourite type of bagel in NYC and these everything bagel crisps were likewise quite tasty. I thought that the dish worked and was pretty awesome.
Hubby and I like the 'smokiness' of food. One of our friends did not and so I think his enjoyment of the meal went downhill from here. The sweet potato came as pretty as a picture. Really soft and sweetly glazed with smoked honey, and topped with hazelnuts, goats curd and bbq mushrooms, it was a delight to see. I'm not a huge fan of sweet potato, but hubby and our other friend seemed to approve.
The smokiness continued on into our pulled pork. I quite liked it. It was soft and tender. Some people would say mush? The really thick slice of maple bacon was also pretty good. And who can say no to crackling? It was served with some fresh green apple and yoghurt.
Hartsyard is also famous for their fried chicken - so we knew we had to order it. It was a good 4 pieces of chicken. Crunchy outside and juicy meat. Served with a buttermilk biscuit (damper like thing) that none of us really appreciated, and gravy. What can I say? It was good but not $33 worth of good? We can get pretty damn amazing Korean fried chicken for that price!
Last but not least - dessert. We knew that we had to get their famous soft serve however reluctant we were to pay $12 for a soft serve. It better be bloody amazing! As I don't actually even remember the flavour of the soft serve... cinnamon? with a choc doughnut on the side? ... I don't know... you can probably ascertain how much we enjoyed and savoured it....
All up, the food was OK but I was quite disappointed with the experience. This is American bar food cooked reasonably but with a close to fine dining type price tag. Not cool.

Food - 7/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 5/10
Overall - 25.5/40

33 Enmore Road
Newtown, NSW 2042
Tel: (02) 8068 1473

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rosso Antico Pizza Bar - Newtown

A colleague of mine had been raving on about an amazingly tasty new pizza joint in Newtown so when we needed to get takeaway in the area, we made a beeline for pizza. We didn't know how long it would take for them to make our pizzas so we decided to call ahead. My darling hubby called without even consulting their menu and ordered based on faith "just give me 3 of the most popular pizzas". What really shocked me was when they said that the order would be ready in 5 mins. We were not 5 mins away - floored on the accelerator!

On our way there, we rationalised that there was no way our pizzas could be done in 5 mins... maybe we just misheard 50 mins? But nope - lo and behold, pizza was waiting patiently for us as we pulled into the store 15 mins later. The pizzas that our kind waitress ordered for us was the Tartufo, the Napoli and the Prosciutto.

You could smell the Tartufo pizza before even opening the box - rich truffle smells just wafted out. This was an amazing pizza with italian sausage, porcini, fior di latte (cheese) and truffle paste. These toppings were a heavenly match, all sitting atop an amazing thin yet chewy base. YUM! Definitely dreaming of this pizza!
The Napoli was slightly less interesting. Loads of san marzano tomato paste with olives, anchovy, garlic and oregano. Quite tasty still... but I would have loved double the cheese! I guess this pizza is showcasing the tomato.
The last is my usual favourite (only this time, it is outdone by the truffle). The Prosciutto pizza had rocket, Parmesan, cherry tomatoes and of course - prosciutto. Loads of topping. Definitely appreciated the abundance of rocket. Very tasty indeed.
So the pizza were delicious even though they were sitting for some time on the counter. Imagine how tasty they would be if we ate in store! Definitely need to go back for some more truffle pizza! :)

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - ...?
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 22.5 + ? / 40

Rosso Antico Pizza Bar
Shop 2, 52-60 Enmore Road
Tel: (02) 8065 4224

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Besser - Surry Hills

Besser is a casual Italian joint settled among the old collection of Besser blocks. It gives off a relaxed vibe and an old-school style. The waiters are heavily accented but quite friendly. Given the concreteness of the restaurant, it gets super noisy as human voices bounce around the room.

As a party of four, we decided to just order dishes to share. We opted for two entree dishes - the meatballs and the pork fingers. The meatballs were reasonably bite sized and packed full of cheesy flavour. There was also quite a delicious tomatoey sauce that covered the meatballs. The pork fingers were lightly crumbed and eaten with an oniony-yoghurt sauce. There was also an intense mustard flavour to the soft pulled-pork innards.
We chose three pastas. Two of the pastas were part of their specials for the day. Due to the noise and the waiter's accent, I don't quite remember exactly what they were, just that one was a creamy risotto with scampi, and the other was a pappardelle with sausage and mushrooms. The risotto was quite tasty - scampi give or take, but the cheesy creaminess and the al-dente rice created pretty awesome rich flavours all round. The pappardelle was not bad either. Slightly creamy, slightly tomatoey and again, perfectly cooked pasta. Whilst both pastas were delicious, what surprised me most was the gnocchi with turkey that we ordered. Not that it was better than the other pastas. Just that I've never liked gnocchi (like EVER) but this gnocchi is beginning to change my mind. The gnocchi was really fluffy and pillowy - not dense or carby like the normal ones, and the turkey meat added the right amount of saltiness to it all.
Other than the pastas, we also ordered the grilled scotch mushroom (sorry about the photo.... I didn't take it...). Having no expectations of what a scotch mushroom was like, it ended up as a plate of thin grilled scotch fillet steaks with juicy mushrooms and wilted greens. The steak was cooked well - tender enough. But I think I would have been happy enough with just tons of the mushrooms (which was really flavourful as it soaked in all the meat juices) and the wilted greens.
Dessert-wise, nothing really appealed. And, Messina was just next door (even the waiter agreed). So... Messina we went.

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28/40

3/355 Crown Street
Surry Hills
Tel: (02) 9331 1611

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

QVB Tea Room - Sydney

I normally don't expect much from the food at weddings cos let's face it, it's hard to keep consistency when catering for hundreds of people. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing the dinner reception at QVB Tea Room was at a friend's wedding recently. The stunning environment - high ceilings elegantly painted with amazing chandeliers - simply just adds to the dining experience.

For our friend's wedding, we had the entree options of the prawn tortellini and the pork belly. Pork belly had been promised to me at many-a-weddings before, most failing to deliver being either too dry (but with good crackling) or succulent (but the crackling is a soggy mess). It's hard to get it right. But OMG - this pork belly was superb! Really good crackling AND melt-in-your-mouth meat. And that was what everyone around the table was saying. Definitely good effort from the kitchen! The prawn tortellini was also a standout. Really plump and fully filled with prawn, the squid-inked pasta was cooked just right. It came with creamed corn and a tomato salsa. Yup - I could eat more of this dish too!
The mains were likewise, pretty tasty. The roasted barramundi was perfectly cooked with a bit of crunch (skin) and silky smooth flesh. It was served with royal blue potatoes and a really tasty mustard and parsley sauce. The confit duck leg also had fall-off-the-bone meat and a smooth potato puree. Both mains were well received all round.
They were anything but stingy on the portion sizes with a really big bowl of creme brulee and a big slice of lemon tart for dessert. The creme brulee had a good toffee coating (which I Loved!) and the vanillary custard was smooth and just the right amount of sweet. The lemon tart with clotted cream and raspberry sauce was also good. The base might have been a bit bleh but the citrusy custard was delish!
Definitely one of the tastiest meals we have had at a wedding! Oh - and of course, the bride and groom were absolutely stunning!!!!! :)

QVB Tea Room
Level 3, QVB
455 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9283 7279

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Automata - Chippendale

There's several new exciting restaurants opening up, some in the up and coming buzzing area behind Central Park on Kensington Street. Automata - with ex-chef from Momofuku (Clayton Wells) - is one of these new kids on the block setting up shop in the newly refurbished Old Clare Hotel.

The vibe is on-trend. Hipster and slightly industrial with funky looking lights and part of an aircraft engine as it's decor. Several shared long communal tables both down and upstairs which seem good for groups but slightly too close for comfort when eating with strangers. Waiters here also give off  that 'I'm uber cool and chilled' vibe.

Offering a 5 course degustation, Automata sets us off with some tasty snacks. There is the really tender and sweet storm clams with a rosemary dashi and cream, as well as fried fish skin with a yuzu kosho. Both are delicious starts for the evening. I found the combination of rosemary and dashi to be a daring pairing - but it worked surprisingly really really well.
The first course was a plate of asparagus, lots of little stumps of them - all wrapped with sesame leaf and with a umeboshi paste sandwiched between the asparagus and the leaf. It was quite interesting. The flavour of the umeboshi is a tad overpowering, but it's not a taste I disliked. Oh - and there's some wakame on top just to make it more visually interesting.
Bread comes in after the first course. This is really soft and warm house made bread rolls with an absolutely amazing pumpkin seed and anchovy whipped butter. I was not eating bread with butter. I was eating butter with bread. This whipped butter is SOOOOO delicious I want it on everything!!!
Course two is a steamed hapuka - perfectly perfectly steamed - sitting on a bed of really smooth and super flavourful cured roe emulsion and topped with a roasted sheet of seaweed. It may not look like much, but it smelt and tasted amazing! The fish just flaked off and was smooth enough to melt in your mouth. I think that this was my favourite dish of the night.
I'm not sure if it's teething problems of if we were just dining (on a Wednesday) at a bad time of the night, but after the fish, service slowed considerably... like really really slowed. Being seated so close to other diners on a communal table meant that it gave you tons of time to eavesdrop (unintentionally) on everyone else's thoughts, feelings and dreams. The first of the meats to come was the slow roasted quail - cooked two ways - served with red witlof, and a burnt apple and caper sauce. The witlof was a pleasant bitter addition to the reasonably well cooked quail. Again - the dish required you to 'unwrap' the parcel.
Again after a really long wait, our last savory course arrived. It smelt AMAZING! It was a slab of inside skirt topped with a variety of mushrooms and embellished with a tamari and brown butter, and a glop of eggplant puree. It was good. It was packed full of flavour. The meat is a little chewy but definitely forgivable because of all the delicious tastes mixing in your mouth.
Last but not least, there is dessert. The couple sitting next to us didn't like it much. I don't think it was sweet enough of their tastes. However, hubby and I loved it! It was a pumpkin seed sorbet (more creamy than a sorbet... it was really just an icecream), with a bitters meringue and dehydrated mandarin. It was a good combo of crunchy and smooth, subtle sweetness and light bitterness. I'm pretty sure we both polished it off.
So all up, this new restaurant lives up to it's hype. Pretty tasty food. Reasonable value for money. Some daring flavours and combinations. Definitely worth a try!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 30

5 Kensington Street
Tel: (02) 8338 1708