Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Din Tai Fung - Sydney

Having had a busy day and not much lunch in my stomach, I was slightly hungry as I met with my partner. After a very short discussion of possible places to eat, we decided on the relatively new and much raved-about dumpling place, Din Tai Fung - rated in the Top 10 Restaurants of the world (voted by the 'New York Times').

Din Tai Fung

As we had heard about the notoriously long lines, we decided to head towards the restaurant albeit still early. And when we got there, there was no line. It was yet to be 5pm and the restaurant doesn't open til 5.30pm. Nonetheless, we saw a lot of little chefs in the window meticulously making dumplings what would soon be in my stomach.

Factory line of chefs in little white hats, masks and aprons.

Hard at work making dumplings

Pitying us, the front-desk waitress person gave us a ticket number (with included menu) and said we could come back a bit before 5.30pm. Menu in hand, I scanned, re-scanned, and re-re-scanned the food items - and still could not decide on what to eat. So the task was left to my partner! :)

A few minutes before 5.30pm, we scurried back to the restaurant only to find a line of people waiting outside. Lucky we have a ticket number! After being seated, we were attended to entirely in mandarin. Funny that, although both my partner and I are of asian descent, mandarin is not a language we are fluent in. Nonetheless, the aroma of the upcoming food made up for this oversight.

We ended up ordering the famous pork dumplings (Xiao Long Bao - $8.80) which were little pork dumplings with soup that simply bursts in your mouth. The "skin" of this little dumpling was oh so delicate and thin, yet resilient against breakages. Mmm... quite the perfect little parcel!

Xiao Long Bao & it's condiments (ginger in vinegar) - $8.80

Here it is again.

And again...

Close-up of the ginger in vinegar

We also ordered two appetisers - the 'Din Tai Fung vegetarian delight' ($3.80), and the 'Silken Tofu with Pork Floss & Century Egg' ($6.80). The vegetarian delight was quite a delight. A mixture of the traditional vegetarian shop taste with a mild chilli flavour. The tofu dish is served as a cold dish. As I have a bias towards pork floss (a favourite of mine since I was young), and preserved duck egg, I quite enjoyed this delicacy.

Din Tai Fung Vegetarian Delight - $3.80

Silken Tofu with Pork Floss & Century Egg - $6.80

The next to come was the 'Prawn & Pork Shao Mai' ($9.80). I've heard quite good reviews about this dish and paying close to ten dollars for four little dumplings, I had quite high expectations, which, regrettably, were not met. The prawn on this "shao mai" was very small and the rest of the package... well, it tastes almost the same as the Xiao Long Bao (but a bit worse). So being pricier and getting less dumplings, I had expected more.

Pork & Prawn Shao Mai - $9.80

A lone Shao Mai

Lastly, there was the 'Prawn & Pork Wonton Soup' ($8.80). My partner really enjoyed these. He raved on about how the wrapping of the wonton went down sooooo smoothly, along with the soup which seeped in through the non-closed edge of the wonton, mixing in with the pork mixture inside. However, as I, admittedly, am of half Shanghainese descent, I didn't find these wontons quite so spectacular as they simply reminded me of ones I make at home with my mum. Nevertheless, if my partner says they were good, they probably are.

Prawn & Pork Wonton Soup - $8.80

As going to Din Tai Fung was a very impulsive decision, and the only camera I had with me at the time was the one on my phone, you may have noticed the pictures being a bit blurrier than usual. But not to worry, as this is definitely a restaurant worth re-visiting, better pictures can probably be taken next time!

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 30/40

Din Tai Fung

Shop 11.04, Level 1, World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St, Sydney
Tel: (02) 9264 6010

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hot Pot - Parramatta

Being an asian on a cold Winter's night, what better than to hotpot with friends.

Being asian probably also involves being lazy and cheap.

Hence, to satisfy all the above criterion, my friends and I chose the relatively new hotpot place in Parramatta called... "Hot Pot" (how original!). It's an all you can eat for $16.95. Well, kind of.
There is simply just additional costs for the soup base (either chicken, or a huge range of spicy soups), additional costs for seafood, additional costs for sauce, and additional costs for an egg (a lot of people like dipping their foods in raw egg - but not I). On top of that, you need to pay for drinks (especially if you wish to get a super hot and spicy soup bas

So really, it's probably not $16.95.

Hot and Spicy soup

As you may have guessed, this orange-red looking broth is one of the chilli soups (which ranged from 'mild' to 'normal' to 'hot' to 'spicy'). After suggestions from a friend, my partner opted for the 'hot' option which he later regretted, as he complained about it not being chilli enough. But don't be fooled, this may simply because my partner is a bit deprived in the taste-buds department. I only had to taste a drop of this soup to have the chilli aroma linger in my mouth (but as I said before, I'm not a chilli eater).

Chicken broth

I chose the safe option for my soup base - the chicken broth. Wasn't excellent, but wasn't bad either.

Our first order of food - includes beef, mushroom selection, beef tripe, chicken, pork balls, beef balls, coriander balls, quail eggs, potato starch noodles

Part of the beauty of an all you can eat is that you can order as much as you want, as many times as you want. And hence, our table was soon filled with food!

Close up of the beef, pork, and coriander balls, and quail eggs.

Close up of our mushroom selection - oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, enoki, shitake, button mushrooms.

Food emerged in the hot and spicy soup.

Food emerged in the Chicken broth.

Even though the hot and spicy broth seems to make the food look kind of groggy and murky (compared to the clean, crispness of the food in my chicken broth), I have heard many good things about it from my chilli-loving friends. So don't be turned off the chilli soup bases just because of my biases!

Overall, the service wasn't too great, and the food wasn't too fantastic... but it provided for a fun-filled, warm, and friendly environment for a nice (and convenient) dinner out with friends. What more could you ask for?

Whilst this time, I basically stuffed myself with shrooms and beef tripe, maybe next time, I'll come back and check out how the seafood is at this place! :)

Food - 6/10
Service - 2/10
Ambiance - 4/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 18/40

Hot Pot
Level 1
125 Church St
Tel: (02) 9635 9768

Monday, July 28, 2008

San Churro - Chatswood

San Churro Chatswood

When I got to the shop, I was so excited.
I love chocolate.
and San Churro is famous for chocolate... and well, churros.

Eyeing the menu, I wanted to order everything!
But, having just had a large lunch, that was probably not a wise decision.
Instead, I settled for the chocolate tapaz.

Chocolate Tapaz

And I was not disappointed.
I prefer dark chocolate, and my partner swore that he ordered dark chocolate - but it looked and tasted like milk chocolate. Nonetheless, being cold, any chocolate would do.

Close up of the brownies, marshmellows, truffles, and caramello cups

The brownies were nice and moist on the inside with a crunchy top. Mmm... satisfies any cravings.
The truffles... my partner didn't know which he ordered, but one was nice, the other not so...
The caramello cups were nice at first, but soon became sickening sweet.

Close up of our "dark" chocolate, vanilla icecream, and churro

My partner described the churro as a 'crunchy donut', and dipped into our "dark" chocolate, it was quite delicious. When mixed with some vanilla icecream... ahh...heavenly. Quite a perfect combination I think.


Another thing I liked about San Churro is the quote on the serviette. Being quite a messy eater myself, I took it as my license to make a mess... and a mess it was by the end of our meal.

In general, I think it's quite a great place to chill (or warm up) in Winter. Didn't actually see any staff, so I couldn't comment on the service. But the Churro and the brownie offers quite a delectable taste for all those with a sweet tooth.

Food - 9/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 28/40

Shop 609, Westfield Chatswood
1 Anderson Street
Tel: (02) 9412 2276

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ryo's Noodles - Crows Nest

Mmm ... what better on a cold Winter's day than a hot bowl of noodles in a warm cozy environment. Atleast that's what I was thinking as we trekked to Crows Nest. My dream, however, stopped short when we suspiciously eyed the crowd of people waiting outside the little orange-walled shop. That surely can't be a cue at around 1.45pm, just for noodles... right?

Outside Ryo's Noodle shop

As we waited and waited and waited for what seemed like forever, more and more people came and lined up - but the apologetic staff of the noodle shop came out and said that my partner and I would be the last customers served for today's lunch (Yess!!! JUST made it).

Anticipating the best bowl of ramen I can ever eat, I was rejoicing when we finally stepped into the shop. And I wasn't disappointed.

The decor reminded me of a nice little cozy jap noodle place - and that's exactly what it is. When we sat down, my partner (who by now, was cold and super hungry) wanted to order almost everything on the menu - but this is what we finally decided on.

My partner, being a chilli lover, ordered the "spicy hot flavour, with roast pork, egg, shallot" ($10.50).

Me, someone who can't take chilli at all, was very satisfied with the thick-style pork-based "tonkotsu" soup with roast pork, egg, nori, and shallots ($10.50). mmm ... It was very filling and the soup was so very thick. Conversing with my partner afterwards, I came to the conclusion that, some people might like this 'thick' type of soup (e.g., me) and some people might prefer the normal, more liquidy stock-type of soup (e.g., my partner). But, nonetheless, this style of soup-base must be tried, at least once, in your life.

We also ordered some side dishes to share.

Gyoza - the ramen was so good, I expected something extraordinary with the gyoza. Unfortunately, this was not so. Just normal gyoza's here.

Rice balls with roast pork - apparently they only sell 10 a day (and for $3.50, they're kind of bargain). But since we were the last customers for lunch that day, and we could still order this... well...

Inside the nori-wrapped rice ball.

Wasn't bad, simply bought back memories of the 'triangle rice' we used to get from the convenient stores in Japan.

Karaage chicken - a must order for my partner at any Jap store we entered. And yes, a piece was eaten before I could snatch the plate back for the photo!

In all, Ryo's Noodle shop is a 'must-go', and probably a 'must come back' type shop. But of course, don't go if it's TOO out of the way for you (after all, I don't want to need to line up longer than I did next time I visit!)

Food - 10/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 9/10
Overall - 35/40

Ryo's Noodles:
125 Falcon St
Crows Nest
Tel: (02) 9955 0225