Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ramen O'San - Haymarket

What's perfect for a cold winter's night? Something warm, something soupy, something hearty - a bowl of thick, creamy Tonkotsu Ramen! In the past few years, the number of ramen joints seems to have boomed. A newcomer to join this tonkotsu trend is Ramen O'san in the Dixon food court.
It doesn't look like much, but it has this massive menu plastered in front. The person who took my order had some difficulties understanding what I wanted but this was eventually sorted out as I ordered the creamy Tonkotsu Ramen (with thin noodles) with egg and a Sumo Ramen for hubby.
Unbeknownst to me, and much to the annoyance to hubby, the Sumo Ramen automatically came with thick style noodles - which just doesn't quite soak up the soup as well. This ramen was half chicken and half pork broth and had two thick pork belly slices with it. The meat was sub-par compared to other ramen places as it wasn't as tender nor as tasty.

My Creamy Tonkotsu Ramen is different from the normal Tonkotsu Ramen that they offer in the sense that the soup is a bit thicker. It was pretty collagenergic and quite warming. It was extremely filling though, even though it was a relatively small bowl. Must have been because it's so rich and fatty. The soup looked very white and tasted really clean and flavourful. The thin noodles were tasty as was the egg. Unfortunately, that's were the positives stopped. The meat was pretty pale and super thin. Like paper thin. Could have done without it. There was also a large pile of diced onion (raw) which was a bit too intense that it slightly subtracted from the experience. On top of that, there was a dab of chilli in the soup which quickly contaminated the whole bowl. If I asked for chilli, this would have been good. But I didn't ask for chilli and I don't want to taste it in every spoonful!

So I guess that Ramen O'san is an option if you are craving ramen. However, I think I would prefer to go to Ramen Ikkyu, or Gumshara or Ramen Zundo if I was in that area.

Food- 6.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 25.5/40

Ramen O'San 
Dixon Food Court
Cnr Dixon & Little Hay Street
Haymarket, NSW 2000

Friday, June 19, 2015

Catalina - Rose Bay

I have been intending to dine at Catalina ever since I was given a voucher from some lovely friends for this waterfront restaurant. However, due to one reason or another (atrocious weather, unable to make a booking, etc) its taken us a while to get here. Lucky for us, we had chosen an amazingly sunny fine day to eat here - meaning that we had a spectacular view to accompany our wonderful meal.

We were initially going to share an entree but all those choices sounded soooo delicious that we ended up ordering both the marron and the pork belly (and were disappointed that we couldn't order more entrees).

Just as our view was picturesque, so too was our marron. It looked stunning, being surrounded by seasonal veges and oh so appetising. It was absolutely delicious! Sweet seafoody juices and plentiful orange aioli.
The pork belly was likewise satisfying. Crispy crackling and tender pork meat accompanied with perfectly seared large scallops. Little bits of cuttlefish and chorizo sat amongst the lemon emulsion. Dots of a pretty strong piquillo pepper coulis also added to the layers of flavour.
For the mains, hubby ordered a 'glacier 51' toothfish. We had never had toothfish before. Not only is this fish part of the sustainability hype, the texture and flavour of this fish makes me want to order it again and again. It's complex yet really delicate - the meat kind of flakes off. It's quite sweet and quite clean in flavour. It was served with a horseradish tortellini which really should not have made it on the plate. The tortellini was sub par - super thick almost rubbery shell with not much taste to it's innards. The tomato consomme was packed full of flavour and complemented the fish well.
I get sucked into all things squid ink. If squid ink is on the menu, I'm ordering it! This squid in fettuccine was pretty damn awesome! Cooked perfectly and tossed with tomato and chilli lobster oil. YUM! There were also lots of rather large chunks of lobster - but really, I just want more lobster oil :)
We were so full by the end of the mains but I really wanted something sweet to finish off the meal. It was hard to say no to the caramel-centred dark chocolate mousse with valrhona milk chocolate icecream. The feuilletine crumble was also excellent. It was gooey, not overly sweet, smooth but with crunchy bits. The only thing that didn't need to be there is the gold foil. When will we learn that we don't need to eat gold?
All up, it was a great experience. Really relaxing location with yummy food. It is a tad on the expensive side though (and really easy to be carried away with ordering just about everything on the menu).

Food - 9/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 9.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 32.5/40

Lyne Park
Rose Bay
Tel: (02) 9371 0555

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Devonshire - Surry Hills

$35 for a three course meal at a hatted restaurant? I'm in!

The Devonshire does this pretty awesome deal every Friday lunch time. The menu changes from week to week - they post it up on their FB page most of the time. As amazing as it sounds, it's actually taken me a (long) while to get here - you know, with the whole working a full time job not in the city type deal... But I have to say, this place is so awesome that it might just be worth that day off work ;)
We walk into this intimate, classy little mirror-laden room to be served by two really friendly waiters. It's all a little Frenchie and a little bit posh. We a quickly given a little wooden slab with two types of butter - housemade honey butter and normal salted butter - cut perfectly I might add, and two piping hot, fresh out of the over baguettes which is just oh so heavenly (especially when the slightly sweetened honey butter melts all over the super soft hot bready innards)... I take such a liking to their honey butter that I am soon using the bread as an accompaniment to my butter, much to my hubby's amusement.
Our entree for this Friday was a smoked pork belly beignet. Perfectly crumbed and golden brown, full of flavour and just pull apart meat, all sitting happily on a pool of celeriac veloute. This celeriac veloute was mindblowingly good. So smooth, so rich, so creamy and oh so so soooooo good. Pickled fennel and apple added a good balance to the dish. And did I say that the veloute was mindblowingly good???
For the main, we had seared Barramundi with potato noodles and an orange, pine nut and chive salad. The fish was cooked perfectly - well seasoned and silky smooth. Hubby didn't like the potato noodles much... it was a bit fiddly in the mouth. But the side of potatoes that we ordered were pretty fantastic. Triple cooked for that extra crunch and with a rich garlicky aroma. YUM!
Dessert was a bittersweet chocolate mousse with a rum & raisin milk sorbet and chocolate biscuit crumble. The mousse was not the least bit sweet - perfect for dark chocolate lovers but a nightmare for sweet-tooths. However, it did combine well with the sweetness of the sorbet. The crumble also added good texture.
So for $35 (less if you have an Entertainment Book), this is probably the best value fine-dining quality lunch you can get. Pretty amazing stuff - I'd definitely be back for more!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 9/10
Overall - 32/40

The Devonshire 
204 Devonshire Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9698 9427

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Belly Bao - Sydney

The Asian style - white open 'baos' made hipster by David Chang is pretty "in" nowadays. One of the institutions captilising on this fluffy bun trend is Belly Bao. Located within the GoodGod bar, the dining areas are PACKED on the Thursday night that we visited. The main reason for that is their 'baoger' - the promise of a super juicy burger with a really soft 'bao' bun.

Due to the number of patrons for the night, it took FOREVER for the food to come. Half an hour in to waiting, we finally got our wings and baos. The wings were pretty deliciousness. Crunchy batter and super juicy tender chicken. 
The baos were also quite good. The buns were soft enough (not not as soft as Momofuku ones). Hubby got the crackling roast pork belly bao. The crackling was really good and the pork belly was soft and tender. My braised beef short rib, served with kimchi, was also quite good. Soft flaky sweet ish beef with all it's juices. Hard to say no to it. Our friends got slow braised pork belly ones and no real complaints from them either.
After a whole hour of us waiting (rather impatiently) we finally got our burgers. It was quite a decent sized burger. The bun was nice and soft with toasted sesame seeds plastered over. The patty was juicy and cooked well and who can say no to the really tasty mayo sauce? There was also a good handful of veges/pickles and yummy melted cheese. I have to say, it was a good burger. But was it worth an hour wait??? probably not....
We also had sweet potato chips with spicy mayo. Crispy yes. But nothing too special.
 All up, the food was pretty good. However, it was a bit too crowded and the service a bit too lacking. Despite the yummy burger, I'm a bit hesitant to return.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 5/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 26.5/40

Belly Bao
GoodGod Small Club
53-55 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Green Peppercorn - Sydney

Thai food is better eaten with friends because you get to sample so much more food. I've been to Green Peppercorn in Fairfield but I'd never been to their Sydney joint. Our friends, however, swear that this is one of their favourite Thai places and come here on a regular basis. We also ordered much of their favourite dishes.

The Charcoal OX tongue didn't look too pretty but it was absolutely deliciousness. It was flavourful, succulent and slightly chewy. Pretty yum, especially with the special dipping sauce.
The chicken feet salad was another favourite. De-boned chicken feet is heaps easy to eat. Slightly chilli but packed full of flavour.
Pad thai is always my favourite go-to dish. The pad thai here was pretty good - slightly too chilli for me when I mixed in all the the chilli flakes, but otherwise, not too bad a noodle dish.
One of the specials was their pork knuckle. It was massive!!! Crispy skinned, caramelised sweet sauce, fall-off-the-bone meat. Cannot complain - I was in pork heaven :)
 Dessert-wise, our friends order their fried icecream every single time. Delicious caramelised sweet sauce, flaky thin filo pastry and a good amount of nuts to add the crunch. Pretty deliciousness.
I wanted to try their mango coconut dessert with coconut jelly, coconut milk and sago. It was really really good. I loved it! Really refreshing, not too sweet, a good combination of flavours. YUM!
All up, a pretty good dinner. Would love to come back again sometime.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7.5/10
Overall - 30/40

Green Peppercorn
Civic Hotel Level 1
388 Pitt Street 
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 8080 7043

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pilu at Freshwater

For our anniversary dinner this year, we decided to go to a restaurant that we'd thought about going to for years and years - ever since we saw Giovanni at a Taste of Sydney festival almost a decade ago. We braved the torrential rains that night and headed to Freshwater to dine at Pilu and was greeted by really nice and friendly waitstaff. Needless to say, the beautiful ocean view was denied for the night.

Because of our indecisive natures, the degustation was the ideal choice for the night. We were initially served with a welcome gift of savoury cookies. These cookies were pretty tasty, slightly cheesy in flavour and definitely served to whet our appetite.
The bread we got for the night was freshly baked, warm, crunchy outsides and soft innards. The butter was nicely whipped and quite tasty.
The first course we got was the Hiramasa kingfish. Thinly sliced really sweet kingfish was accentuated with the mild spice of friggitelli and pine nut pesto, and a really delicious side salad of corn (and singular caper).
 The next course smelt delicious but was rather confusing. Mr Giovanni came out and served the milky, cheesy pecorino consomme himself and poured it atop the tiny hand-rolled fregola, sweet pumpkin cubes and cavolo nero (ie the green stuff). It was so fragrant... but a bit of a let down. But then again, I've never been a fan of soupy rice, whatever flavour it may be.
I found the next pasta dish was much more appetising, even if it initially did look like little green worms on a plate. The parsley flavour in the pasta mixed really well with the orange chilli paint in the bowl. Bits of mussels and chickpeas were mixed in, but the pasta and sauce itself was tasty enough.
Next up was the fish. A perfectly cooked piece of Mulloway sat atop the most sweet and deliciously charred cabbage. Yummy buttery shrooms were good but not necessary on the plate. The black paint was delicious squid ink. The orange mustard sauce was slightly less so.
Next up was Pilu's famous suckling pig. You definitely don't get much of this signature dish but the bits that you do get are wonderfully deliciousness. The skin is crispy and the meat is really nice and tender and flavoursome. You get sides of pickled raddish, cabbage and roast potatoes. All really tasty really.
Dessert-wise was a bit of let down for me. But that's probably cos non-chocolate desserts are not my preference. The more refreshing of the two desserts was the textures of pear. A soft-poached pear with pear sorbet. I think if you like pear, you would like this.
The other dessert, and the finale of the night was a Sardinian fried pastry filled with ricotta and sultanas and drizzled with honey. The pastry was nice and crispy and there was a decent dollop of ricotta in it. The pastry wasn't too sweet and I guess it was OK... still would have preferred something more chocolately :P
 All up, a decent meal at Pilu. Not the best 2 Hat restaurant we've been to, but it was decent - the food was a bit more traditional than other restaurants. I'm sure that if it was a good clear day, it would be a meal with an amazing food.

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

Pilu at Freshwater
Moore Road
NSW 2096
Tel: (02) 9938 3331

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cafe Paci - Darlinghurst

I've heard many a good things about Cafe Paci but for some reason or another, it's taken me for ever to come and try their food in their ultra hip industrial-chic restaurant. Many people have told me that this pop-up restaurant offers crazy good and amazingly wow Mod Australian dishes and on a drizzly cold Friday lunch, I got to experience their astounding twists of flavours for myself.

Fridays at Cafe Paci mean the option of a fix prix lunch menu ($45pp) for a four and a half course meal (half course = 'snack'). For this Friday, our "snack" was their cheese sticks. Not just any cheesesticks but 'Omg what on earth is this?!?!?' cheesesticks. These deceivingly simple-looking cheese sticks were uber flakey and crunchy, topped with this fairy-floss texture which was snap frozen honey, and pollen (elderflower?) of some sort. That - and just the aromas of freshly baked goodies. It blew my mind away. Pretty good start to the meal.
We also got a loaf of potato bread. I think the waiter said something about this bread being made of potato and wheat and brushed with molasses on top to give that crunch and sweetness. The butter was also really super soft and creamy and made on the house. It's hard to say no to freshly baked bread. However, this bread was a tad dense and a tad too sweet for me.
Our first real course was Pig Tail. I've never eaten pig tail and by choice, I probably wouldn't order pig tail. However, this came out looking pretty picture perfect. The pig tail was lovely and caramelised giving a good crunch (kind of like when you eat pork crackling when you dig into some pork belly), it was super duper tender and the fat-meat ratio made this cut of meat super juicy and melt-in-your-mouth. Don't forget the awesomely sticky and delicious sauce and the thinly sliced celeriac to balance it all out. They also had some dehydrated cumquats on top to give that citrousy zing to it (kind of like when you add orange to beef cheeks). Pretty tasty introduction to pig tail I think.
Next up was a NZ snapper. Perfectly cooked fish with crispy skin. This fish sat in a pool of vadouvan (or as the waiter nicely explained - an Indian curry spice which goes well in French-inspired cooking because it blends well with garlic and shallots). There was also a lemon sauce, a super tasty spinach puree and some wilted and fresh spinach leaves. On top, there were these thin brown crispy slices of mustard. Very interesting and visually appealing dish.
With the fish came a side of potatoes. This was potatoes with a creamy potato sauce. Yes - we are talking potato puree with loads of butter and loads of cream and ZOMG let me lick the bowl clean now!
Our next dish was a palate cleanser or pre-dessert of cucumber sorbet and yoghurt mousse. This cucumber sorbet was sooooooo refreshing! I don't know how to describe it properly... You know how cucumber is 'crunchy water'? Well, cucumber sorbet is cold, smooth, tasty, refreshing water? The light yoghurt foam, which had just the right balance of sweetness, complimented the cucumber sorbet nicely.
Last course of the day was a milk sorbet with rhubarb, molasses syrup and meringue. The milk sorbet was a bit tasteless... kind of just cold texture. The thin meringue pieces were sugary goodness and the rhubarb was cooked nicely.
 All up, for $45, it was a pretty damn impressive lunch. Super delicious and really satisfying. Definitely in need of a visit if you haven't already.

Food - 9/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7.5/10
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 32.5/40

Cafe Paci
Level 1, 95 Riley Street
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9368 7000