Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Red Pepper - Strathfield

It's rainy and cold and somewhat miserable. Perfect weather conditions for hot pot and KFC. When my friends mentioned KFC and image of a huge bucket of colonels specialty in a family feast wafted into my mind, only to be corrected. KFC = Korean Fried Chicken.

Situated at Strathfield Sports Club, millions seem to flock to this place for KFC. My friends were regular patrons here whereas I was a noob - hence I left the ordering to them. We had a whole Spring Onion Gang Jung - super crispy fried chicken with loads of fragrant spring onion, garlic and hints of chilli. It's sticky and subtly sweet. The meat is incredibly succulent. YUM!

We also had half a sweet and spicy chicken. It had really rich tomatoey flavour and tons of sesame seeds. Really sticky and quite spicy for me - but no spice hit for the hubby.

The last chicken flavour we had was the snow cheese chicken. ZOMG - fried chicken with sprinkles of artificial cheese.... Soooo sooo bad for you but really crispy and quite delish.
Hot pot wise, we had the budae chigae - the 'army stew' which is my absolute favourite. A chilli stew with sausages, spam, kimchi, bean sprouts, tofu, veges, and instant noodles. LOVE it! So artificial and prob not worth the cost... but so up my ally in terms of tastiness :)

I feel like I should have eaten at this place ages ago as it's a pretty awesome little gem. Don't expect good service though. If you are eating here on a weekend - be sure to book!

Food - 8/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 26/40

Red Pepper
4A Lyons St
NSW 2135
Tel: (02) 9701 0911

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chur Burger - Surry Hills

I had put off going to Chur Burger, not because I don't love burgers, but because whenever people tell me it's the 'best' one around - I'm usually disappointed. But when our friends told us to go and check out Sydney's supposed 'best burger', we thought we'd go with an open mind.

I read a lot of blogs on the place prior to our visit so I knew to steer away from the pulled pork burger. I'd also read that the salted caramel milkshake was a bit on the thin side. But you know me - salted caramel anything, I will order it. So, against my better judgement, a salted caramel shake landed in front of me. It wasn't as thick as I usually like it, and it was really really sweet. Redeeming factor though - it was very much salted caramelly.
The four of us also shared a plate of corn fritters. These were AMAZING. Beautifully crumbed and golden brown, and oozing in corn pasty sweetness. The dipping sauce was also really good - creamy with a hint of chilli. Really really yum!
If only the burgers were on the same caliber... Three of us ordered the beef burger whereas hubby ordered the lamb burger. The beef burger came with a thick patty cooked medium, tomato jam, melted cheese, mustard mayo and thin slices of pickle. All this was sandwiched between slightly overly browned, bit powdery, overly dense and waaay too buttery brioche buns. I have to say that it was an average-tasting burger, at best. The only redeeming factor was that the cheese was nicely melted.

Hubby's lamb burger had mint sauce, red onion, aioli, and a cute little slab of feta cheese. He said that it tasted alright. He wasn't super impressed, but he didn't complain too much about it - apart from the fail bun.
Between the four of us, we ordered both types of chips. The normal potato ones with chilli salt, and the sweet potato ones with garlic and lime. The sweet potato chips were a bit mangy looking - 'cooked to death' was the phrase my friends used. The thicker ones were still ok though - kind of like baked sweet potato. Unfortunately, they were far outnumbered by the crazy browned cooked to death ones... The normal potato ones, on the other hand, were actually pretty tasty. Cooked well with crunch and fluffiness.
With loud pop music playing and shared tables that are slightly too high to be comfy, the atmosphere was not the most conducive to chatting. The supplemental food was yum but 'voted the best burgers in Sydney'? I think not. I probably wouldn't come back.

Food - 5.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 5.5/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 23/40

Chur Burger
48 Albion Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9212 3602

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rustic Pearl - Surry Hills

Before bracing ourselves to launch into our nephew's 3rd birthday party, we decided to grab a quick early breakfast around Surry Hills. We ambled into Rustic Pearl, a cozy small ish cafe on Crown Street.
Water served with a thin slice of lemon and mint was a nice touch. The menu appeared tasty and it took a while for us to deliberate our choices. At the end, hubby got a bruschetta and I opted for a fancy bacon and egg roll. And of course we got coffees which were creamy, smooth and tasty - not a bad start to the morning.

Hubby's bruschetta was a mess of sucuk (a dried, spicy turkish sausage), fresh tomato, rocket, pomegranate molasses and melted buffalo mozzarella, finished with soft boiled organic egg. Hubby's problem with this dish was the avocado that was smeared on the toast - he said that it made the toast all soggy and undesirable. The other components looked delish, but hubby said that it was pretty average.

Sucuk bruschetta

My bacon and egg roll was a crispy yummy bun encasing a beautifully cooked  organic fried egg, bacon loin, rocket, tomato relish and hollandaise sauce. Impossible for me to eat as a whole and a touch messy as I cut it up. It was tasty enough but not spectacularly amazing.
bacon and egg roll

All up, it was a pleasant experience. Food and coffee came promptly and it helped us chill out for a bit before heading to a hectic kids party. Not too bad :)

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7.5/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 27.5/40

Rustic Pearl
415 Crown Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: 0406 930 083

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ramen Ikkyu - Sydney

A couple of our friends tempted us with the promise of delicious ramen. As I have an almost insatiable craving for ramen - we were there! I hadn't been to Ramen Ikkyu before but my friends assured me that the chef (originally from Blancharu) married the perfect broth with the perfect noodles.

When we got there, the head chef was present - cheerful and helpful in demeanor when he saw me struggle with finding the food items that I wanted. Or... did he just find me too slow in ordering?

Our friend talked up the amazingness of the pork rib - supposedly a massive slab of meat. How could hubby resist? When it came out, the pork rib was indeed MASSIVE. It was also super succulent and tender and really really tasty. With a slight charred, bbq flavour, it was a melt-in-your-mouth piece of meat. The rib came with a rich soy-based soup. I think that the pork rib's fat dripped into the soup, making it the soup rich, thick and porky in flavour.
pork rib ramen
I opted for a less epic option - the Ikkyu Salt. The 'paitan soup' is slightly lighter than the tonkatsu soup base of other ramen places. This soup was lighter but still rich and concentrated. It tasted more chicken-like compared to pork which was interesting. Initially, the soup was slightly less satisfying that the tonkatsu soups, but halfway through the noodle slurping, the richness of the soup really got to me. The noodles were good and the egg and bamboo shoots were likewise deliciousness. The bbqed pork meat is also completely delicious! (although I did prefer the chunkier rib pieces that hubby had).

ramen ikkyu salt

Although free kaedama (ie. extra portion of noodles) is offered, none of our party of four required this. However, we couldn't resist but to share some gyoza. The gyoza is pretty succulent and not really charred. There's this thin layer of batter that joins the gyoza together which unfortunately doesn't add much to the dish.
All up, this was a pretty delicious feast. We were all ramened out by the end of it (and in search of something sweet :P).

Ramen Ikkyu
Sussex Centre Food Court
Sussex Street
Haymarket, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9281 0998

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mooberry Dessert & Breakfast Bar - Neutral Bay

It was really nice of the Mooberry founders to invite hubby and I to a tasting at Mooberry at their recently opened 3-level flagship store in Neutral Bay.  Stepping in, there was a hipster-vibe with fake grass on the walls, green running vines, lit up trees and the rustic woody furnishings. Quite chillaxy.

Although we were running a touch late and the store was short staffed on the day, the store manager Jamie was super friendly and accommodating. We were first invited to sample their froyo. Choice of : original, chocolate, coconut, pomegranate, passionfruit and salted caramel. People who know me would know that I'm not an avid fan of froyo. However, salted caramel is also my weakness and I would salted caramel everything~ So no surprises as to which flavour I tried. There's a ton of accompaniments to have froyo with but I opted for the coco puffs, the 'gaytime' coating bits, and tim tam bites. Hubby opted for strawberries, passionfruit and mango to go with his pomegranate froyo.
I have to say - I was pleasantly surprised that I liked my salted caramel froyo, mainly because it didn't have a yoghurty aftertaste that I dislike. Unfortunately, that probably also means that avid froyo fans would think that it's not yoghurty enough - can't please all crowds :P My toppings matched my froyo well so it was really quite tasty. The pomegranate froyo was much more 'yoghurty' which is definitely to hubby's favour. I think he liked his refreshing toppings also.

After our froyos, we were served (again with a big friendly smile) with hot chocolates - one was the original Belgium chocolate, the other - salted caramel. My last salted caramel from Milse (in Auckland) was a bit odd tasting but this one... quite yum. There was good chocolate flavour with a yummy caramelly overtone. Loved it! I would order it again for sure. The original Belgium hot choc was also tasty. Not too thick but rich and creamy enough.

I have to say - a froyo and a hot chocolate for brekkie pretty much filled me already but Jamie came back with their Belgium waffles. Couldn't say no to chocolately waffles :) Jamie said that they have their own waffle maker and are making their own waffles in store. Our waffle was slightly too dense. They may have to alter the recipe slightly to lighten and fluffen it up a bit - but there was chocolate, strawberries and banana a-plenty. The chocolate froyo also a good addition to the package.
Jamie was going to come out with churros as well - but there was no way hubby and I could stomach it - we had hit our max sugar levels so maybe when we come back next time (at night - as Jamie said that the store looks pretty awesome at night), we'll have a try. On our way out of the store, I eyed someones crepes which looks delish - again plentiful and served with strawberries and chocolate drizzle...we might just have to try that too~

Mooberry pretty much monopolises froyo in Neutral Bay. They have two other branches - one in Rhodes (which serves Campos coffee) and their original Newtown shop (more froyo dominated). It's an interesting concept - merging froyo with desserts with brekkie.

Disclaimer : We were invited as guests to sample the desserts at Mooberry - but all comments  and opinions are my own.

Mooberry Dessert & Breakfast Bar
(Neutral Bay Branch)
162-164 Military Road
Neutral Bay
Tel: (02) 8957 9758

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bali Adventures

As one of my friends that I've known for 2/3rds of my life was getting married in Bali, we (and a bunch of our friends) jetsetted to Bali to celebrate the amazing occasion. My friends and I were all risk adverse and hence, preferred to stay around the resort areas or be escorted by drivers. However, we still managed to duck out for some yummy feeds during our short stay.

One of these yummy escapades was to the famous suckling pork place in Ubud - Ibu Oka for Babi Guling. The "suckling" pig (ie. babi guling) was MASSIVE and much much bigger than the Chinese version of suckling pig. The crackling was thicker than the Chinese version and my plate of crackling and fat was quite tasty and super crunchy. However, some of my friends were a bit underwhelmed as their skin was a bit chewy. The meat portion was doused in a substantial amount of spices and was tasty enough but probably not suited to my chinese taste-buds.


 suckling pig skin

 Suckling pig meat
Fruit juices in Bali were a plentiful and a favourite of one of my friends (who absolutely loved the papaya juice). Coconuts were a must and we also had some super tasty starfruit juice. Unfortunately for this occasion, my pineapple juice was a bit unfavourable... a bit artificial-pineapple-smoothie tasting.

Close to Ubud, there are also rice paddy fields galore. Our driver, knowing our risk-adversedness, decided to drop us off at a super safe Kopi Luwak ('cat poo coffee') place - Bali Pulina. Here, not only are there rice paddy fields, they also grow a galore of expensive spices and herbs. They also offer a free tasting tea and coffee menu and their famous luwak coffee (for around AUD$5). Tastiness in an awesome environment. Why not? :)

from left to right: lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, pure cocoa, vanilla coffee, Bali coffee
Kopi Luwak
As though we hadn't had enough rice paddy field-ness for a day, we also had dinner at Bebek Tepi Sawah - a place for super awesome 'dirty duck' to be enjoyed whilst viewing rice paddy fields. We had their crispy duck and their grilled duck - both were super duper delicious that we had to order seconds! We also tried their smoked crispy chicken. This was super smokey in flavour but unfortunately, a bit too dry for my liking. Oh -and we'd ordered this 'soto ayam' soup which tasted like curry cup-a-soup noodle soups....

Toxic soup

Crispy duck

grilled duck

smoked chicken
Another highlight of this place was their satay skewers. Deliciously tender and tasty and came out sizzling hot. Was pretty awesome!

satay skewers
As my friends and I were staying in the Jimbaran area, and Jimbaran was known for it's seafood, we couldn't resist but to have a seafood feast on our last day. We went to Menega Cafe, a place with seafood sitting on piles of ice and live fish, lobster, clams and the lot in fish tanks for you to pick out your feed. We got a live grouper fish, some jumbo (massive super huge prawns - bigger than the size of my hand), some king prawns and some squid. Everything was cooked on an open barbeque and coconut shell fibre things which give it extra flavour and tastes. YUM!

kang kong

king prawns

Jumbo prawns

grilled grouper

bbq squid

So that was our short and sweet Bali food adventure - or atleast the food we dared to eat outside our resort/villa areas :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quay - The Rocks

Peter Gilmore's 'Quay' restaurant has probably received the highest accolade of Australian dining. There's an asian twist on a lot of his dishes, along with fresh ingredients and harmonious textures and flavours. I had put off coming here for years for fear of being disappointed but I knew that hubby had always wanted to try this place. So, for his birthday (or rather, 6 months before his birthday), I booked us a dinner for two at Quay. Having booked so early, we probably had one of the best tables of the restaurant - awesome view of the bridge, opera house, circular quay area and luna park.

Service is quite impeccable and we were served promptly and with smiles all round. I don't know if its cos we were Asian, but there was an unusually high proportion of Asian waiters serving us. I started with an interesting sounding mocktail - cloudy lime juice and pineapple were the main ingredients, and though I encouraged hubby to get the matching wines, he decided that he would be better able to enjoy his food without being super tipsy before the last few courses.
The amuse bouche was small bowl of potato mash with shaved truffle on a pool of ox tail consomme. The truffled mash was smooth and creamy and the clear broth was really rich. Loved both elements - but separately. Eating them together was a bit odd... there's a reason why most people don't put mash in broth.
First course on the degustation menu was a beetroot dish. Raw beetroot cubes served with rosehip, cultured cream, Manjumup truffle and violets. The frozen cream was an interesting element and I think that the dish went together nicely, but hubby was not 'wowed' by it.
As I am not a beetroot eater, my first course was subbed out for a salad of celery heart. It was refreshing and light. The thin celery heart slices were served with Pantelleria capers, feta, herbs and flowers. It was a pleasant dish with subtle flavours.
Course 2 was a mud crab congee. I'm used to my mud crab congee coming in massive bowls from Beverly Hills. This was a little different. It was delicate. The rice was soft and congee-like, there was plenty of sweet chunks of Australian mud crab, circles of fresh palm heart and the yellow thing on top was a creamy egg yolk emulsion. It's the 'high class' version of an asian congee. I liked it.
Bread came with the next course. Perfectly quenelled melty butter with a choice of sesame or sourdough bread. Both bread times had a crunchy edge and soft innards. Both tasty (I think I overheard that it was from Sonoma? ... could be wrong).
The pig cheek was probably the highlight of my savoury dishes tonight. Although you can't really see it in the photo, there was a perfectly succulent and juicy smoked piece of confit pig cheek hiding under the scallop and crumble mixture. The crumbly bits comprised of kombu, koji, shitake and sesame - reminds me of japanese jako rice. Loved the flavours and the textures of this dish - absolutely deliciousness!
XO sauced seafood was next. I could pick out abalone, scallop, cuttlefish, octopus, prawns and I think there was one more. It was an attempt to vamp up the traditional XO sauce. The crispy pancetta was nice... but really, XO sauce is XO sauce. It's a sauce that's hard to 'vamp up' because the original format is already so tasty and delicious.
Onto the mains - the first being the duck . No crispy skin >.< . The duck was cooked or roasted in a masterstock. It was tender... but not melt-in-your-mouth so. There was also a thick layer of fat which posed a dilemma for me... do I eat it? If so, it feels super unhealthy and if not, it lacked a bit of flavour. The duck was served with crispy black rice, thin persimmon slices, miso, endive cream, and the white flowers you get on chinese broccoli. Tasty, but not super impressive.
The beef felt like repetition. Again, a succulent but not melt-in-your-mouth protein with crispy black things. Except that the crispy black things were barley and not black rice. There were also some shaved truffle on top. Again, tasty but not anything to write home about.
By now, I was a bit full and glad for a change of flavour - from savouries to sweets. The much anticipated signature dessert - the snow egg - was a lot larger than I imagined. Yes, all the elements were there. The crack of the egg, the powdered sugary snow, and soft meringue and custard, and the cold shaven granita - all delivered and was delicious. All the flavours were well balanced and I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. Although, due to how bit the dessert is, I couldn't finish it - but when the waiter saw that I'd left some, he made me eat all the last few bites. Oh well - tasty anyway.

My favourite chocolatey bits of the night were next. The chocolate ethereal was this chocolately blob with caramel, almond and muscatel hidden and spokes of tempered dark chocolate, toffee, milk chocolate and milk film (? I don't know the technical word) sticking out. It was delicious! Loved the chocolately/caramelly/toffee-y combination.
And I couldn't leave Quay without having their Eight Texture Chocolate Cake. We've all seen Masterchef contestants struggle with the 8 layers of chocolate done in different ways. And it's delicious. But I have to say, it all kind of mushes together to be a really chocolately dessert. Yes there's crisp and there's mousse and there's biscuity... but in my mouth ? Just chocolate. I love chocolate ... but this is definitely a cake to share as it's super rich and decadent.
Petit fours and coffee and tea were also presented to us. All four chocolate bites were yum! But you have to bear in mind that I just demolished a chocolate blob and a massively chocolatey cake. Chocolate truffles were less appreciated than what they would, at other times, be. Luckily, they gave us another four to have a home - and these four were enjoyed immensely :)
So all up, we had a great dining experience. Friendly staff, good food, amazing views. I don't feel comfortable in rating the food... I know it's meant to be super WOW - but we weren't that impressed with most courses. We loved the pigs cheek, snow egg and chocolate ethereal, but we judged the other courses as rather average. Wouldn't be rushing to dine here again, but I would encourage people to eat here at least once in your lifetime.

Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
5 Hickson Road
The Rocks
NSW, 2000
Tel: (02) 9251 5600