Monday, March 23, 2009

Hoang Gia - Flemington

Huong Gia

Deciding to opt for a fast and cheap meal, we decided to lunch on Pho at Flemington. Looking around for a busy Pho place, Hoang Gia was chosen.

My partner ordered the Vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls (Bun dac biet - $8.50). This bowl of vermicelli was quite huge~ and topped with spoonfuls of fresh chopped chilli, I am inclined to think that my partner quite enjoyed his meal.

Vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls - $8.50

I was being boring and just ordered Pho. I wanted beef balls and beef tripe (and no raw beef). Last time I ordered it this way, they came out with cooked beef (not to my liking) and so I prepared for the worst. Luckily, the people at Hoang Gia got it right. The beef balls were nice and the tripe was soft and tender. So okay, the service was no where as quick as Pho An and the soup base here is not as potent or as herby, but hey, it was just a mere $8 for a giant bowl of pho~ No complaints from me.

bean sprouts, mint and lime to go with my pho

Beef ball and beef tripe pho - $8

So after splurging $50 each the previous night at Tequila's for sub-optimal food, a grand total of $16.50 for good food was a pleasant and much welcomed change to my bank account!

Food - 7/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 27/40

Pho Hoang Gia
2/98 The Crescent
Flemington, NSW, 2140

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tequila's on Main - Rouse Hill

Tequila's on Main

For a friend's surprise dinner party, we went to Tequila's on Main in Rouse Hill Town Center. Although the first thing that crossed my mind was ribs - I was okay when the higher order decided on the Tequila's Fiest Banquet ($37 per person).

So the night carried on and food filled out tables. There was garlic buttery bread with chili flakes (which, by the way, was not part of our banquet menu). Some of my friends liked it, some not.

Chilli Garlic Butter Bread

Then there were buffalo wings - just enough for one each. Extremely extremely BBQ-saucyness. But really - although they claimed it as "Tequila's special BBQ sauce", you could probably make this at home just by chucking in a bottle of your generic BBQ sauce with your chicken wings.

Buffalo Wings

There were Nachos - topped with beans, beef, chicken, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. This was your average nachos. Nothing special and not too bad. I probably would have preferred it to be more cheesey on top (rather than below the corn chips).


The next thing was, in retrospect, probably the "Flautas" - which is a chicken mix rapped in tortilla (supposedly "fried crispy" - which it wasn't) and served with quacamole and salsa.


Whereas this dish, was probably supposed to be Tauito Bites - crispy rolled corn tortillas filled with beef, topped with cheese and salsa and served with jalapeno dip. Lets just say that the beef was close to black - tasted like a weird spice-y (not hot type spicy) type deep fried thing. Wasn't very appetising.

Taiuto Bites

Then we had three huge plates of corn chips - with Guacamole and Salsa Dip.

Corn Chips with Guacamole

The amazing thing was, the waiters tried to convince us that that was all the food for our table of 20... only to be told a bit later that - no, more food will come out providing that we finish what was on the table already. It was supposed to be an "order as much as you can" type thing but you can't waste food. It would have been an okay concept if we didn't think we had to finish 3 huge plates of just corn chips and dip. And it really would have been preferred if ALL the food on our banquet "menu" could come out before we had to ASK for more food. For instance, our $37 banquet menu was supposed to include American Skins (potato skins), Chicken Tenderloins, Mexican rice and creamed potato along with the other stuff we already had out. The fact that they didn't even let us sample the whole menu was quite dissappointing (especially since there were two cheaper banquets we could have orders $33.90 and $30.50 for probably the same amount of food we had for our banquet).

So after practically begging them to bring more food out, they came up with this - creamed potato... nothing more needs to be said about this.

Creamed Potatoes

Mexican rice - being Asians, we all probably could have made better tomato fried rice.

Mexican Rice

And "potato skins" - or rather, just half a potato with salso or ham and cheese on top. Hmm... where's the crispy, crunch "famous" potato skins we were imagining???

Potato "Skins"

And the Chicken Tenderloins??? Non-existent~

At the end of the day - each of us (20 odd people) forked out around $40 for the banquet (where not all food came out. I didn't really like the way the waiters didn't tell us upfront that we could order more of whatever we wanted on the menu - and I didn't like the fact that they stopped bringing us food when the table was filled. What happens if there was a dish we really didn't like and we didn't want to finish? Would that mean we wouldn't get any other types of dishes?

So, overall, what can I say about this place? The food is very average - worse than what my partner could have whipped up at home - but more convenient cos I don't have to do the cleaning up. For close to $40 - I think we could have experienced better quality food elsewhere. I guess, objectively speaking, the mains at Tequila's isn't that pricey - just don't let them talk you into the banquet menus!!!

Would I come here again? Hmm... probably not- the fajitas and tortillas and nachos and basically everything else tastes a bit (or quite a lot) better at Chilis (another Mexican chain).

Food - 4/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 4/10
Overall - 19/40

Tequila's On Main
Shop GR082 Main Street,
Rouse Hill Town Centre
Rouse Hill 2155
Tel: (02) 9629 5055

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taste of Sydney Festival - Centennial Park

Driving to Centennial park, I was super excited at the day's activity - going to the Taste festival and eating lots of yummy yummy food!!!

The festival ran from the 12th - 15th of March and entry costs $30 (or $25 if you pre-bought them online). There's also the premium tickets which cost $50 (they include entry and 30 crowns). As $1 = 1 crown, the premium tix were a bargain (well... kind of).

I was in awe when I first lay eyes on all the stalls. Food glorious food!!! and icecream!!! and hatted restaurants!!! The aromas filled the air, my stomach was grumbling, and to the Wagyu beef burger we headed!

Becasse (or rather, Plan B) was offering Gundooee organic grass fed wagyu beef burger (12 crowns). The bun was fresh and crisp. And the beef patty? OMGosH - it was soooo super juicy and tastey and really, words cannot describe it! It was truelly awesome. I think I could have eaten like, 5 of these things! My partner, however, didn't really enjoy the burger because it was too juicey and rich for his likings (however, in retrospect, he did mention that it was one of the best things he had that day).

Wagyu beef burger - 12 crowns

The next on our eating agenda were the rock oysters from Assiette (10 crowns). On top of each of these babies were crispy shallot and baby coriander, dowsed in Viet dressing. Mmm... they were fresh and smooth and creamy and really yum. If only there were more!

Oysters with viet dressing, crispy shallot and baby coriander - 10 crowns

For a little discovery, I could not resist but to zoom right to the chocolate tasting store. The lovely man from zokoko patiently described the ins and outs of his stores chocolate making process. They slowly roast their own cocoa and they experiment with different types of sugars. The result? Heavenly tasting chocolate that smoothly melts in your mouth, leaving a sweet sweet taste. The man said that their store was opening the following Monday - and he didn't have any stock for me to buy!!! How could he do that??? Expose me to chocolate which is on par with Godiva and not have any there for me to take home!!! >.< Anyway... his store is now open (as it is past Monday) and the tasting bar is situated in Emu Heights. Must must must go there!

Zokoko - chocolate tasting

More chocolate- this time, tea-flavoured from iTea. Their shop is situated in Bondi Junction. Again, lots of free chocolate tasting like ginger chocolate, coconut green tea, chai etc etc. Interesting and yummy - but compared to Zokoko? You can probably guess who wins hands down~

chocolate from iTea

Now to an equally delicious store - Serendipity Icecream! I was so excited about my Chocolate Fudge and Peanut Butter Disaster double scoop (6 crowns) that I actually finished the icecream before the notion of "needing to take a photo" even popped into my mind. The conclusion? I must move closer to Marrickville so that I can ship home all the flavours without the tubs melting (or buy one of those freezer trucks)!

Serendipity Icecream

Now back to some proper foods from our featured hatted restaurants. Pilu at Freshwater (a 2 hatted Sardinian restaurant) offered mussels and vongole with fregola (10 crowns). We were also lucky enough to see Mr Pilu make this dish live at the Taste Kitchen! These mussels were cooked just right. Not too tough yet soft and tender with all the juices soaked up inside of them.

Mussels and vongole with fregola - 10 crowns

Taste Kitchen - cooking demos!

Mr Pilu tellin us to never eat fastfood takeaway again >.<

We also saw Thomas Schnetzler from Lindt teaching us how to make chocolate mousse and choc caramel tart.

Mr Lindt dude

After the demonstrations, it was food time again. This time, our noses took us to Restaurant Balzac for the suckling pig with crackling and baby garden peas (12 crowns). The suckling pig was sooooo tender and full of porky flavour. The crackling was also super crunchy. I have to admit, although the richness and aroma of the fat filled the meat and really made this dish, I did feel a tad guilty about eating pork fat by the mouthful! But, all the adverse health effects are probably worth it!
Suckling pig with crackling - 12 crowns

Being out of crowns, we didn't gtet the wagyu beef bourguignonne with truffled cauliflwoer and onion rings (10 crowns), but they sure smelt nice!!!

Wagyu beef Bourguignonne - 10 crowns

To finish off - more sweet stuff. This time, from Sublime Gelato (award winning gelato). We got the roche flavour (4 crowns). This was nice... but no where near as sublime as Serendipity :P

Sublime Gelato

Just like that, we said our goodbyes to the Taste food festival - until next year that is!

Taste of Sydney
12-15 March, 2009
Centennial Park

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hog's Breath Cafe - Castle Hill

What was meant to be a quick bite to celebrate the birthday of our old yet young youth pastor dragged out to be a long long event at Hog's Breath at Castle Towers on a Tuesday night. Being understaffed, our company of 20 did not help speed up the process of food. Nonetheless, it provided an opportunity for a lot of chatting and a lot a lot a lot of random stuff.

It took possibly more than an hour for the whole table to have food infront of them. Even thought they tried to get us our meals at approximately the same time, there were still a few of us who were finished before a few others even got food. Oh well. Life's tough.

I guess the worst thing was that, after waiting what seemed like eternity for our food, the food quality just wasn't up to scratch. Steaks (both beef and chicken) were overcooked. My "medium" steak turned out to be more on the well-done side of things. Other's "medium rare" ended up probably being a medium to medium-well. But I guess that the sauces (which cost $1.95) made up for the dryness of the meat.

Another criticism was that the waiter (possibly a bit overwhelmed but our group size on a weeknight) did not ask us what sides we wanted (ie. salad or veges, curly chips or mash) and unless we specified ourselves, plates came with fries and veges.

At Hog's Breath, there is the option of ordering the full size, or a "lite" version (which is less meat) which is good when you can't finish huge meals or when you're not too particularly hungry. You can tell which is full and which is lite by the plate - the lite version does not have the funky "Hog's Breath Cafe" on the side. One of my friends ordered the Chicken Parmigiana (lite - $16.50) with default curly fries and veges. The piece of chicken was quite small and shrivelled up and the fries and veges looked more appetising. My friend, however, seemed quite content in finishing her meal (or maybe she just doesn't like wasting food).

Chicken Parmigiana - lite $16.50

Being hungry, another of my friends opted for the Ribs and Steak combo ($32.95) which comprised of a sirloin steak and a half rack of ribs smothered with Hickory smoked BBQ sauce. This looks a bit more filling - but a bit scarce on the ribs compared to other rib or steak joints.

Ribs and Steak combo - $32.95

And my order - the garlic mushroom prime rib (lite - $23.95). Claiming to "slow cook" their steak for atleast 18 hours then searing it up in high temps before it is served, it did contain the consistency in taste and tenderness. It was just consistently overcooked and a bit on the tough side... But I will let this drop - we did have a large crowd, and the kitchen was probably overworked. I have been to this Hog's Breath in the past and experienced good steak. Maybe a hint for next time is to just not come in large groups! The mash, on the other hand, was as perfectly buttery and creamy and fattening - just the way I like it. And salad... mmm... pretty average.

garlic mushroom prime rib - lite $23.95

In all, our party was situated in a semi-alfresco area. We were loud and they didn't complain. The service tried it's best to catch up to our needs. And the food... well... I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and try again another night.

Food - 6/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 25/40

Hog's Breath Cafe (Castle Hill branch)
Shop U22
Castle Towers Shopping Centre
Old Northern Road
Castle Hill NSW 2154
Tel: (02) 9659 8700

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Restaurant - Bankstown

An Restaurant - so pho so good (ah, witty witty)

Our new youth pastor at church has been raving on and on and on about how the BEST pho in town is at Pho An in Bankstown. Not needing much to be convinced, our youth group (a crowd of around 25) trekked down to Bankstown for this supposedly awesomeness pho.

When I eat pho, I think of a modest size restaurant, possibly fit around 50 odd people. At An Restaurant, it was like a giant canteen, the size of a normal Chinese restaurant - except that they just serve pho!

Being able to speak the language, our helpful youth pastor ordered for us in Viet. One minute (or less) after the order was placed, the food was infront of us. Talk about speedy service! Beats any fast food joints I've been to!

One of the most popular pho's of the night was the raw beef pho (Ve) - with the main attraction of the dish being, obviously, the raw beef. The other popular order of the night was the beef special (Tai) which has a combination of raw beef, beef tendon, beef tripe and possibly other beefy things.

Being special, I ordered the Sach, which was beef tripe pho. I have never seen beef tripe cut the way it was (cut somewhat longitudinally, but not completely longitudinally... kind of hard to describe). But I guess my point is, because of the way it was cut, the beef tripe was so super tender and so super able to soak up the flavours of the soup. I was amazed~

All pho's came with onion, and shallot and herbs. There are two sizes. The "medium" was $12, the "large" was $13. Where's the small???

Raw beef noodle - medium $12, large $13

Beef Special - medium $12, large $13

Beef Tripe Noodles - medium $12, large $13

So what makes this pho so great? Was it the bowl of chilli that they give you? The sauces? According to my youth pastor, it's all in the soup. Some of my friends drank up all the soup, to the very last drop. My partner's opinion of the soup was that it felt "cleaner" than most other Viet places. I tried to understand what he meant by this, but he just couldn't verbalise it. I guess the soup was less polluted? But having said that, it probably contained around the same amount of MSG as other Viet pho places.

Nonetheless, although the actual service was minimal, I was in awe of the speed at which the food came out. Food-wise, it was a good viet noodle soup (with the best beef tripe I've ever had). The ice coffee at the place is also quite awesome (tastes like a coffee-lolly). Was it worth the drive down? Well... once in a while it's okay I guess.

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 27.5/40

An Restaurant
27 Greenfield Parade
Bankstown, NSW, 2200
Tel: (02) 9796 7826

Cafe Sopra - Waterloo

I dislike places which don't allow me to take photos. The last time that happened, I didn't bother to blog about them (and hence, you have not read a post on the buffet at Seven Hills RSL). This time, I was so so so so so close to not blogging about this place... but the food just needed to be talked about!

I actually tried to find Cafe Sopra around 2-3 years ago. I never found it back then and always ended up eating at Dank Street Depo. This time, with the guidance of my friends Cafe Sopra was found!

Being extremely bad at observation, I understood why I had failed to locate this Cafe on previous occations - it was inside a warehouse, above an Italian Grocer - Fratelli Fresh.

Fratelli Fresh

Given the location, I was genuinely surprised at the number of diners - and at the lines! We waited around 1/2 an hour before we were seated. According to my friends (who are regulars), the cafe is a hotspot even on weekdays.

Blackboard menu

The popularity of this cafe may stem from their frequently changing seasonal blackboard menu - which is really, quite huge. It took me a good 5 minutes (or more) to read through all the options (and even longer to decide).

Bread rolls - $1 each

We ordered a bread roll each ($1). The bread was warm and fluffy - and pretty average, really.

We also ordered an antipasto to share ($14.50). There was beetroot with cheese, a mix of eggplant, tomato, celeray and corn, beans with pesto, and nectarine with tomatos. My company thoroughly enjoyed this starter, commenting incesently about the freshness of the ingredients, the richness of the flavours, and the blends of different tastes. The nectarine/tomato bit received mixed comments - maybe a bit wierd, a bit too sweet, and oh, it's perfect! (and if you're wondering why I'm going off the comments of my company rather than giving you a first-hand account, it's because I'm a self-professed picky eater who does not touch beetroot, eggplant, tomato or nectarine. I did enjoy the pesto-covered beans though!).


My partner's coffee came before our mains. It looked pretty but tasted average (not up to scratch compared to Melbourne coffee - proclaimed my partner).


Waiters hustled and bustled about and a while after, our food came out. This is also about the time when the waiter told me that I wasn't allowed to take photos (grrrr) - so all the following are just 'sneak shots'. I guess I was agitated enough to forget the prices of the mains (but they were all within the $16-22 range)

There was my friend's smoked chicken risotto. It had a nice creamy texture to it. The risotto was cooked quite perfectly - not hard and raw, it was soft, yet not mushy. I guess presentation-wise, it looked quite ordinary.

Smoked chicken risotto

I completely forget what this was apart from that it was quite nice. Pasta in tomatoey, chilli-ish sauce with zucchini.... or that's what it seems like.

Pasta in tomatoey-based sauce

My partner's penne bolognaise was quite a tastey mix of mince and pasta. The meat was so minced up that every little piece of meat was surrounded and emersed in sauce. Topped with cheese... mmm... The only thing I have against this dish is that it's made of lamb mince >.<

Penne with bolognaise sauce

And finally, my dish! My fresh ocean trout with fennel and salmon caviar. So deliciously fresh and zesty, it was a light yet filling dish. The aromas filled my mouth - which was a great thing, until the end, where it all got a bit too salty for me (and hence a lot of water was consumed). Nonetheless, it was a delicious combination of flavours.

Ocean trout with fennel

We also ordered the witlof salad with pear to share. Witlof was with it's expected bitterness. The pear... hmm.. I guess I personally, am not a fan of pear salad, but my company seemed to thoroughly enjoy this. So, I conclude that it must have been a good salad.

Witlof and pear salad

Now on to dessert. Below is my friend's Scroppino ($12.50) which is lemon sorbet (I know, it looks pink!) with strawberry, and liquer of some type. It was an interesting floating island. I think you were supposed to mix it up, but as my friend just dug in, it was sweet and lemony-sour up the top, and alcoholically bitter down the bottom!

Scroppino - $12.50

I ordered a chocolate and nougat semi-freddo ($12.50). And this was yummy. It would have been yummier if it was more chilled, less melted, and generally, more like icecream. But it was good. The toffied-nuts were deliciously interspersed throughout the dessert.

Chocolate and nougat semi-freddo - $12.50

So overall, the food - by the amount of people, and by us licking our plates clean - must have been pretty good. The ingredients they used were fresh and seasonal (picked straight from the grocery store downstairs). The service was attentive - and they checked in on us every so often, even though they were hustle and bustling around all the tables. My only disappointment at the service was that we weren't allowed to take photos (so deducting points there). Nonetheless, the ambiance was good and vibey and really, quite relaxing. And finally, our total bill was around $140 for the 4 of us. Not super cheap, but not super expensive.

Food - 8/10
Service - 6/10 (points deducted for disallowing photos)
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 28/40

Cafe Sopra
7 Danks Street
Waterloo, NSW, 2017
Tel: (02) 9699 3174