Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Grill'd Burgers - Melbourne

When I say 'All beef patties, special sauce, lettuce cheese', I don't think of McDonald's but I think of the awesomely healthy burger joint, Grill'd. If you have been to Melbourne, you could not have missed the many Grill'd stores around the city.

The first concept shop was opened in Hawthorn, Melbourne. They aim to provide a healthy version of the burger. They use gourmet ingredients not seen in other burger chains such as avocado, Brie, cranberry sauce, and roasted capsicum.

Enough about the history, onto the food.

The thick cut chips with Grill'd herb salt and herbed mayo was a winner. The chips came out nice and fresh, crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. The chips are cooked in cholesterol-free cottonseed oil - you can nearly argue these chips are actually good for you!

Thick Chips with Grill'd Herb Salt and Herbed Mayo - $4.3 + $0.7

Next came the burgers. My mate ordered the "Melbourian" aka Almighty burger whilst I had the Crispy Bacon and Cheese. The Almighty was a standard beef burger with the lot and the Crispy Bacon and Cheese was exactly that. I cant exactly differentiate the two burgers from the picture below, but when both burgers came out, I realised that I had chose the inferior burger. All the standards such as lettuce, cheese and beef were present, but it was the herbed mayo and relish that truly made the burgers awesome.

Overall, a great place to eat for lunch, dinner or just a snack. The ingredients were super fresh, the relish and garlic mayo complemented the burger perfectly. Grill'd has managed to achieve what many other "fast food" (if you can call Grill'd fast food) have tried to do, turning a notoriously unhealthy icon into a slightly more healthy meal. Also, many Grill'd Restaurants are licensed. How many fast food burger joints can boast such a feat?

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 31/40

350 Lygon St
Tel: (03) 9347 1666

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Matsuri - Surry Hills

This post is long overdue.

Looking for a place to grab a a bite after uni, my partner and I had initially wanted to visit Sushi Suma (which as the name suggests - has giant portions for reasonable prices). However, as my partner had a plane to catch, we could not wait for it to open. As such, we opted for Japanese Takeaway - Matsuri in Surry Hills. (again - this was an unexpected meal - and hence, my phone was responsible for the photos)

Matsuri - takeaway

Matsuri had recently (maybe a year ago) opened a restaurant just next door - but we chose the quicker takeaway option.

My partner chose the terriyaki chicken box set (sorry, it was so long ago, I don't remember the price >.<) which comprised of terriyaki chicken rice, 2 types of salad (very yummy), avocado and cucumber rolls, and tuna and salmon sashimi. I recall that it was quite decent for takeaway food, and quite big and filling.
Chicken Terriyaki set

We also ordered my favourite - seaweed salad, a the potato salad. Both were quite satisfying.

Seaweed salad

Potato Salad

I think that the only disappointing aspect on the day was that I always thought the takeaway joint was owned by Japanese people (and I swear - on our previous visits, they were talking in Japanese) but this time, the workers were speaking fluent Mandarin. That just takes away the authenticness of the Jap food :(

Nonetheless, it was a good quick feed. The prices are reasonable, the food is not bad, and since it's a takeaway joint (although we ate in), the service doesn't really matter.

Food - 7/10
Service - ?
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 21 + ? /40

Matsuri (takeaway)
614 Crown St
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9690 1366

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wagaya - Sydney

For a friend's birthday, we ended up in Wagaya again.

The "again" seems to carry a negative connotation huh?
But that is totally not the case.
I was very excited to play on the LCD screen menu again - and since this time, we have 7 people instead of 2, it means that I get to sample much more foods! :)

This time, the drinks menu was also sampled.

Drinks menu

As it was my friend's birthday that night, he received a complementary drink - the "Opal".

October birthday drink - Opal

The "Opal" looked very flashy when it came. Very sparkly~

Sparkly Opal - complimentary

But, sparkly flashy things soon fade and we were left with a slightly ordinary looking grapefruit juice + syrup (and possibly colouring). The birthday boy took a sip - and it was too sweet! But that's probably because he didn't mix it, and all he drank was syrup.
After mixing, the drink became much less sweet (and slightly bitter) - commented my friend.

Non-sparkly opal

The other cool-looking drink which was ordered (sparkle-less) was the "Sapphire". Again with a piece of grapefruit as decoration (grapefruit must be cheap), it was actually pineapple juice + blue colouring (oh, and syrup of course). Again too sweet, my friend opted to pour water to dilute the potion.
Sapphire - $5.90
Onto the food now.

One of my friends (let's call him G for convenience) was rather obsessed with ox tongue and fried foods.

Hence, ox tongue was ordered ($5.50). The comment about Ox tongue was "it's like french-kissing a cow". Mmm... nice imagery over dinner. Nonetheless, another plate of this was ordered later during the night so I guess french-kissing a cow isn't too bad after all!

Ox Tongue - $5.50

We also ordered my favourite- scallop sashimi ($6.90). As before, this was still very yum and very nicely presented :)

Scallop Sashimi - $6.90

The Renkon Chips ($5.50) were very crispy and bought along a light taste. It was well liked by all on the table.
Renkon chips - $5.50

My deep-fried loving friend, G, also managed to punch Chicken Nankotu ($6.50) on the computer screen. Chicken nankotu is chicken soft bone - battered and deep fried. G seemed to enjoy these very much. As for me... I don't really have any opinion about eating deep-fried bones.
Chicken Nankotu - $6.50

Something I really wanted to order last time was the sushi roulette ($8.50). And yes - it was just salmon sushi loaded with wasabi. And since my company were all wasabi-lovers, I guess it didn't bother them all that much LOL :)

Sushi Roulette - $8.50

Instead of ordering noodles or hotpots or rices, we decided to order sushi galore!
The first on the table was the rainbow roll ($9.80). Nicely presented, the sushi tasted nice and fresh.
Rainbow Roll - $9.80

Another highlight of the night was the lightly grilled salmon and scallop box sushi ($11.90). The scallaps and the salmon were nice and fresh and juicy and grilled to perfection - all topped off with mayo and flying-fish roe. Mmm... So delicious that we ordered two of these~

Lightly grilled Salmon and Scallop box sushi - $11.90

Also deliciously presented was the spider roll ($8.90). Sushi pieces topped off with a huge chunk of soft-shell crab. Presentation wins my vote. And the taste... well, like every other spider roll (which isn't a bad thing).

Spider Roll - $8.90

Now for something a little different. The Rice cake gratin ($6.50) is basically rice cake with a tomato-y gravy and heaped (and I mean HEAPED) on with cheese. Very very cheesy. But the rice-cakes were a bit too sticky and gooey for my liking.

Rice Cake Gratin - $6.50

My friend G, managed to get quite a few more deep-fried dishes on our table.
This included agedashi tofu ($5.50) complemented with moving bonito flakes. Not bad. The tofu pieces were nice and bite-sized. The tofu was smooth and silken. And the sauce... same as every other. But, not bad overall.

Agedashi Tofu - $5.50

There was also the deep fried chicken karrage ($6.90). Super deep-fried. Looks ugly no matter which angle the photo is taken but enjoyed thoroughly by G.

Chicken Karaage - $6.90

Then there was the deep fried Crumbed Cheese ($6.50). Sounds wierd. Tastes average. Apart from the lightly crisped coating, it tastes similar to me putting a small chunck of tasty cheese in the microwave.
Crumbed Cheese - $6.50

Pan fried Home-made gyouza was also ordered. Appealing-wise, it scored low. The fact that they were all stuck together also implied that the chefs were lazy and our little gyouza's were all cooked as one (again, not great). Taste-wise, again the same - very average.

Home-made Gyouza - $5.90

One of my friends really wanted to eat the salmon sashimi ($6.90), and hence, it was ordered. For $6.90, I guess I expected a bit more. AND it came out on a WARM plate! How can they do that??? What were they thinking bringing sashimi out on a warm plate >.<
Salmon Sashimi - $6.90

The dish that was in the cooking-process for longest was the dried squid ($13.50). But it was definately worth the wait! It reminds me of the Cooking-Mama game where you have to flip, re-flip, and flip flip flip again on the grill and whilst using the fans non-stop. And it tasted delicious!!! Mmm - juicy and tender and full of that "grilled" favour.

Grilled squid - $13.50

The pork-skewer with miso paste ($5.50) was the last order for the night. It wasn't bad. If I didn't read the menu, I swear it tastes like chicken (or maybe I was too tired to tell the difference LOL). Nonetheless, the miso was nice tasting.

Pork Skewer - $5.50

LCD menu

I think that the LCD ordering menu system is very efficient and in generaly, a good system. When the food is cooking, there is a cute little chef man next to the order, and when the food is done and able to be bought out soonest, there is a picture of a bowl of steaming noodles. Hence, the service here is not bad. The ambiance is also great for a chill or a catch-up with friends.

Food - 7/10
Service - 9/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 31/40

Lvl 1/ 78 Harbour St
Haymarket NSW 2000
Tel: 9212 6068

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crossroads @ Swissotel (Good Food Month) - Sydney

Ahh... love sugar - especially when it's in the form of chocolate :)

As part of Good Food Month, many places were offering dessert plates with drink for just $20!
And there were so many places to choose from - all offering different varieties of yummy desserts.

Crossroads at Swissotel was chosen based on... I think that the the idea of chocolate cheesecake and coconut sorbet was simply too great a temptation to resist!

Crossroads Swissotel

I was extremely excited when we got seated.

However, excitement slightly waned when we were slightly ignored by the waitstaff. Instead, the table next to us, who arrived a bit later, got their dessert plate before we even got our drinks.

But, it had a nice environment so I guess my partner and I weren't too fussed.

So, what was offered - Milk chocolate velvet cheesecake, Dark chocolate with caramel & pear, and White chocolate with coconut sorbet with Hennessy strawberry mint cocktail or a glass of bubbly.

The strawberry mint cocktail was very very strawberry-ish (seemed like crushed/pureed strawberries) with a slight hint of alcohol. As for the mint...? hmm... I saw mint leaves floating in the pool of strawberriness.

Hennessy strawberry mint cocktail and a glass of champagne

After quite a long while, our dessert plates finally arrived. It looked very impressive and super delicious. And this thought remained as I blissfully chomped my way through the desserts.

Trio of desserts - Milk chocolate velvet cheesecake; "Dark chocolate" with caramel & pear; White chocolate with coconut sorbet

The coconut sorbet was heavenly! It was 'icey' (I like my icecreams and sorbets super icey), with a strong yet not overbearingly powerful coconut taste. It was just, quite perfect! I wish I could say the same for the white chocolate container it was carried in... (but then again, white chocolate was never in my good books)

The "dark chocolate" with caramelised pear was decent yet lacking in what I love... (ie. dark chocolate). I had expected to be completely 'sweeted-out' by the caramel, but was proven wrong. It was a good balance of caramel and pear.

White Chocolate with Coconut sorbet & Caramelised pear

The chocolate cheesecake. Mmm... My partner actually isn't a fan of sweet things - most of the time, I think he just eats it because I make him, or because he gets bored of seeing me eat it non-stop day after day after day that he decides he wants to try. But this time, he managed to finish the whole plate without ANY of my help. I also licked my my plate clean.

Milk Chocolate Cheesecake

So was this a yummy meal? I believe so!

The service however... hmm... I have my reservations there.

Food - 9/10
Service - 4/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28/40

Crossroads Swissotel

68 Market Street,
Tel: (02) 9238 7088

Friday, October 17, 2008

Night Noodle Market (Good Food Month) - Hyde Park

In the middle of the high tension hustle-bustle city of Sydney, more hustle and bustle was found at Hyde Park for the Good Food Month - Night Noodle Market.

There were heaps of restaurants holding stores - many many noodles and many many more deep fried food. The boost the atmosphere even more, there was a dragon dance so the accompanying drums made the environment all the more louder!

Good Food Month

Dragon Dance

So which stores to eat at? There were so many to choose from! My partner and I did a round of the place (or attempted to). Halfway on our rounds, the aura of salt and pepper squid was too great a temptation. And we succumbed to Squidlicious - for Seafood Plate 1 ($12). This comprised of salt and pepper squid, battered prawns, and battered scallops with veges and prawn crackers.


So how was it? It was better than I expected. The scallops (or at least my 2) were nice and juicy, the salt and pepper calamari was full of flavour but the prawns were just average. My partner thought the whole thing was just... average. hehehe...

Seafood Plate 1 - $12

After we finished our lap of the stores, it was a toss up between pad thai or dim sims. My partner suggested that we went for dim sims from East Ocean because there was a deal that came with yet, MORE salt and pepper calamari ($30).

East Ocean Restaurant

There was a variety of dim sims, ranging from prawn dim sim, to pork siu mai, to egg tart, to BBQ pork bun, spring rolls, mango pudding... and the list goes on. It wasn't the most excellent dim sims I've had, but was good enough to satisfy a craving. The mango pudding was a great relief from all the deep fried oily MSG-filled foods! My partner pretty much finished the salt and pepper calamari by himself. I don't know how he did it, but I'm semi-glad he washed it all down with a can of coke after! LOL

Oh, and there was the san choi bao - meat mixture with preserved veges wrapped in lettuce. Ahh... lettuce. Sounds awesome after the other unhealthy things! The egg tart was also surprisingly alright. It was cold, but it was decent.

Dim Sims

Salt and Pepper Calamari

San Choi Bao and Mango Pudding

The atmosphere at the park grew as the night came in with pretty lights being turned on. It was quite a decent feed and quite a nice and chillaxy way to spend an evening :)

As the evening comes in... pretty lights!!! :)

I think the only disappointment was that we didn't get to eat any noodles at a noodle market. Oh well...

Food = 7/10
Service = ?
Ambiance = 8/10
Value for Money = 7/10
Overall = 22 + ? /40

Night Noodle Markets
Hyde Park North
October 13th - 17th and 20th - 24th

Finefish (Good Food Month) - Neutral Bay

After much deliberation and some turned away last-minute reservations for the Good Food Month special lunches (and taking into account parking issues), my partner and I settled for Finefish in Neutral Bay.

The word "settled" carries with it a connotation that it is second-rate. And honestly, during our 20 minute hunt for this restaurant walking up and down Grosvenor Lane, the thought that this restaurant (seemingly non-existent) really isn't worth the walk crossed my mind several times. Nonetheless, my partner (back from Melbourne for the weekend) persevered (and thankfully so).

As we walked past the downstairs fast-food type joint (which also sold fresh seafood) and trekked upstairs, I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat mesmerized by how modern and somewhat cute the restaurant looked. It also had an balcony outside dining area which unfortunately was filled up by the time we arrived.


Finefish Menu

The complementary bread came first. And it was quite awesome. The bread was fresh and soft. The crust of some pieces were very garlicy (some even had a bits of garlic stuck to it). Dipped in olive oil, it was heavenly!

Awesomeness Complementary bread

The waiter recommended the oysters with nham jim, cucumber and crispy eschallots ($3.50 each). My partner and I were blown away with the presentation, and even more so with the taste and texture! The oyster was smooth and creamy, and the sauce was very complementary. It was very mildly spicey, refreshing (thanks to the cucumber), and yet, brings a strong favoursome taste (due to the crispy eschallots). Highly highly recommended. If I didn't stop him, my partner would have wanted to order atleast 2 dozen more!

Freshly Shucked Oysters

Close-up of the awesomeness oysters

Having set the strandards so high with the starters, I eagerly awaited our mains. The Good Food Month lunch (Roasted Moreton Bay Bug Tail with white polenta, poached egg, and truffle vinaigrette) came with complementary wine and coffee ($35).

I was quite awed by the presentation of this dish and being a lover of cream sauce on just about everything, this dish hit the spot. It smelt SOOOO good! The bugs were swimming in the lovely sauce with the poached egg adding just that extra bit of aesthetics to it. My partner also seemed to love this sauce, although he (and I think rightfully so) commented that it must be sooo horribly unhealthy for us. The bugs themselves were quite nice too, and were thoughtfully deshelled so that every bite was just bug+sauce. Mmm...

Moreton Bay Bug Tail (Good Food Month Lunch deal) - $35

Bugs with the added aesthetics.

We also ordered the Pan Roasted John Dory with king brown mushroom, blue lentil, and pancetta vinaigrette ($34). This also was quite good (but I think the Bugs ranked above). The fish was slightly overcooked, and the foamy sauce was light and added well to the fish. The mushroom is really good (but I may have a bias). But the blood orange... hmm... well... I guess I'm just not a fan of warm fruit.

Pan Roasted John Dory - $34

The waiter talked us into ordering dessert. This warm Soft Centered Cake with caramel and what seemed like cheesecake base ... and a glob of cream and cured strawberries ($14) was delicious. Even though I was full, I scrapped the cake and caramel sauce til no trace of it could be seen on the plate. Words can not describe the caramel sauce and the little cheesecake-crust-like-bits! As for the cream and the strawberries... well, I'm willing to overlook that. I've always believed that icecream goes much much better with cake (or actually, with anything) compared to cream.

Soft-centered cake - $14

And, there was ofcourse, the complementary coffee. Lacking in coffee art (my observation), my partner (being "melbournian-ized") commented that coffee in Sydney just doesn't compare (taste-wise).


Overall, I was quite awed out by this seemingly small unknown restaurant tucked away in almost-impossible to find place in Neutral Bay. The service was attentive, the flavours were excellent, and the price...? Well... decent for what you got (but I guess that it is a bit expensive for lunch :P). I recommend it! And try and get in for the Good Food Month lunch!!!

Food = 9/10
Service = 9/10
Ambiance = 9/10
Value for money = 7/10
Overall = 34/40

75 Grosvenor Lane
Neutral Bay
NSW 2089
Tel: (02) 9908 4448