Sunday, February 27, 2011

Koi - Woolwich

The moment we stepped in, I felt as though I had entered a different realm.

Tranquil. Calm. Serenity. Soft music playing in a slightly darkened, cooled room. Zen.

Now this is life. I felt as though all my tension, all my stress, everything that worried me was no longer an issue whilst I was here. So for all those stressed out, tensed out, busy Sydney-siders who complain of being anxious and depressed - get your weekly dose of Koi and you'd probably be fine (for atleast the period of time that you're here).

Small Jap garden in the restaurant

We were quickly and quietly escorted to our table in the corner. Undisturbed tranquility. He efficiently handed us the menus, was open to questions, and allowed us ample of time to figure out what we wanted. Whilst the menu was not super duper huge, it was adequate and ample enough to make us feel stumped for a few minutes.

I remember seeing seared scallop carpaccio ($19) when I google imaged "Koi" and hence, that's one option that I picked. A nice plateful of thinly sliced scallops, lightly torched and almost swimming in a pool of soy butter, it looked and smelt quite fantastic. The only problem is, the buttery emulsion slightly overpowered the subtle sweetness of the scallops and yeh... kind of all we tasted was the butter... but it was on pretty awesome scallop texture :P

seared scallop carpaccio - $19

One of my partner's awesome picks was the sashimi (medium sized - $39). 15 pieces in all, there was beautifully cut and arranged salmon (raw and lightly seared varieties), tuna, kingfish (lightly seared on top), dory, and cod. This looked soooo pretty. It came with a slight smudge of lightly wasabied mayo. The sashimi was super super fresh. All the fish was perfectly sized and led to taste sensation. It was OMGosh. *drools*

mixed sashimi medium (15 pieces) - $39

We had also decided to order 2 types of sushi rolls. The soft shell crab roll ($16) and the california roll ($16). To be honest, I didn't expect the two sushis to come combined on one plate, much less arranged like a work of art. The soft shell crab roll comprised of crunchy tasty soft shell crab, fresh cucumber, avocado, tobiko, and just the right amount of mayo. One word - YUM. The california roll was different to what I expected. I had my mind set on that imitation crab stuff (seafood extenders) but what I got was sweet creamy crab meat with mushy tasty avocado, crunchy cucumber and tobiko. Pretty much - melt in your mouth sweetness (if that's even possible for a savoury piece of sushi).

soft shell crab roll - $16 and california roll - $16

Upon getting the bill, we were served with some Koi chocolates. Served on a chilled wooden plate, the Koi chocolates were gold coated, bitter-sweet dark chocolate, cold yet still melts in your mouth and a good amount of cocoa solids. Smooth and appetising, I could definately eat multiple fishes.

Koi Chocolate

Service here was pretty impeccable. The waiter didn't write ANYTHING down, remembered it all and could recite it back to us. So I guess next time, maybe we should trick him a bit and order really random stuff with random requirements and see what happens. Whilst we were at the restaurant, a patron on another table revealed that they were an employee from Sake (at the Rocks). Why would an employee from another well known popular Jap restaurnat come dine at a Jap restaurant in their break? (possibly says something awesome about this restaurant). In all honesty - this restaurnat is definately worthy of the 1-hat.

The door of this restaurant looks pretty amazing. Slightly hidden and zen-like already. Make sure you don't miss it! :)


Food - 9/10
Service - 9/10
Ambiance - 10/10
Value for money - 7.5/10
Overall - 35.5/40

102 Woolwich Road
Tel: (02) 9817 6030

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolatte - Randwick

Ever been to a place where you thought it would be awesome - and then was dissappointingly let down? It happens. It's horrible.

But not this night. Out of the blue, I had been craving coffee. Being around the Randwick area, I had remembered that from our uni times, there had been a chocolate cafe close to the chicken shop in Randwick. I think that this place had changed names and owners several times since I've been at uni, but luckily, the chocolate cafe still existed on this night.

To be honest. It looked dicey. Super dice in fact. No aircon, some of the lights didn't work in the cabinets, the tables were largely unwiped, and the seats were pretty much all broken (e.g. the "leather" had ripped from several seats, revealing only the ugly yellowish spongey insides).


After much deliberation (and some urge to run from the place) I decided to order the 'mocha crush', and my partner ordered the 'coffee milkshake'.

When it came to the table, it looked like just the ordinary drink. But ZOMG it was JUST to my liking. It was awesome! Icey, coffee-flavoured with a hint of chocolate, not too sweet, not too milky, it was like perfect!

mocha crush

My partner likewise enjoyed his coffee milkshake muchly. It was a tad sweet for my liking, but with the cream on top, it was milkiness and light coffeeness. I was so impressed that I had even wanted to order a cake from the place and my partner was about to order another of these drinks... but on second though, we'd decided against it. Why? No clue. Cos we really should have :P

coffee milkshake

All up, I was impressed. Wow. Such a dicey shop. Slightly dicey looking asians making coffee and chocolate drinks. But oh so yum. There's also a range of chocolate dishes at this place (e.g. waffles, fondues, cakes, etc) for you to try if you wish.

Food - 9/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28/40

56 Belmore Road
NSW 2031
Tel: (02) 9399 6644

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hogs Breath (3) - Northmead

Valentines Day!
I was just seeing one of my clients out when I got a special delivery from a random woman with a huge big big box :) Opening it up, I got 11 (yes, 11) long stemmed roses LOL. I think they left one out. Nonetheless, it's the thought that counts :)

my valentines day surprise (1 of 2)

For a late late dinner (cos we both finish work late), we had decided to eat at Hogs Breath in Northmead. I remember that we ate here years and years ago for our first anniversary. Back when we were young, Hogs Breath was already a super cool and awesome "restaurant".

For this particular night, the restaurant was PACKED full of people. Service was somewhat lacking and the food was slightly slow. According to the waiter, it was because the restaurant "forgot it was Valentines Day" and hence, had the same amount of staff on as they would any normal Monday night. What amused my partner more was that their famous prime rib ("slow cooked for 18 hours") was actually sold out. No Steak at a Steak place?!?!?! My partner was unimpressed.

We ended up ording a finger food combo ($19.95). This came with three types of potato skins (chilli con carne, bacon and cheese, and tomato and basil salsa), 3 vegetable spring rolls, 3 crumbed chicken tenders and salt & pepper calamari. All this food was accompanied by sweet chilli and honey mustard sauce. In all honesty, I think I remember that the finger food combo used to be more awesome way back then... but I guess it's not TOO bad now. The spring rolls are fat and plump and filled with mushy veges all encased in a crisp spring roll pastry outing. The potato skins were average. The chicken tenders were a little too deep fried and the salt and pepper calamari was decent. I love the honey mustard sauce and the sweet chilli is just normal sweet chilli sauce.

finger food combo - $19.95

As they "ran out" of their "famous" prime rib steak, my partner opted instead for a cheeseburger ($12.95). It had a slightly too glossy bun, a grilled beef patty, cheese, lettuce, beetroot, tomato, onion and BBQ sauce. This came with curly fries. My partner kind of took it apart, ate most of the burger fillings and left bits of the overlly glossy bun all over the plate. From the looks of his faceGrilled beef patty topped with sliced cheese, stacked with lettuce, beetroot, tomato, red onion rings and smoked BBQ sauce. Seared with our own Hog’s Breath blackened seasoning.

cheeseburger - $12.95
I was tossing up between a few items on the menu but at the end, I decided to be reminiscent and ordered what I ordered years and years ago - the chicken and ranch salad ($14.75). I remember that this salad used to be AWESOME. It did, however, disappoint on this night. Did I say that the chicken tenders were slightly too burnt from out appetiser? Well, the crumbed and fried chicken breast strips on my salad were WAY WAY WAY too burnt - super dark brown to almost black. The rest of the salad (ie. the potato chunks, mixed greens, cheese and bacon bits) were all actually quite nice. I think I'm a fan of cheese with almost anything :) The rance dressing just takes the unhealthiness of this salad to the next level. Haha.

Chicken and ranch salad - $14.75

I'm not sure if the quality of this place had gone down over time or whether I've just grown up. Maybe both? But I swear, the food here used to be better back then :P

Food - 6/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 25/40

Hogs Breath Northmead
The Junction
Cnr Windsor & Boundary Rds
North Parramatta NSW 2151
Tel: (02) 9890 8333

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rhodes Phoenix (4) - Rhodes

Sneak peak at the food which will be served at our wedding.

So not exactly this. But our families had decided to go and have a taste test of the food at our reception. Not really sure why this is necessary because 1/ we're not going to change the venue regardless, and 2/ the quality of food we get on the night when they cook in bulk would probably be different to this anyway. But nonetheless, an excuse to eat abalone and lobster and all that stuff can't be TOO bad :)

crab claw

Lobster was also on the table for the night. I think I must have gotton the 2 easiest pieces to eat. The super large chunks of lobster came out without a fight, leaving me with just fresh tasty and meaty lobster. Tasted sweet and full-on lobstery. The noodles weren't the best... but I guess that's why we're changing those to egg noodles LOL.

Lobster with e-fu noodles

Abalone with sea cucumber was next. I'm not a fan of abalone, neither is my partner. We had no qualms about this. However, the parents said that the abalone was too chewy and came with a 'sourness' (ie. that it was "off"). After informing the waitress who apologised and acted confused to no end, we had a fresh plate of abalone cooked for us. OK - so the 2nd batch of abalone appeared more tender and less chewy, but really, either batch was fine with me. Extra abalone though - woot? Sea cucumber was nice and jelly-like in both.

abalone with sea cucumber

We also steamed a grouper (instead of coral trout) for the evening. The fish was steamed pretty much to perfection. The fish was sweet and tasty. Again, no problems here.

steamed grouper

Now, in terms of scallop - we had an option between dried scallop and fresh scallop. Being not a fan of dried scallop, we have now decided on fresh ones. The fresh scallops were AWESOME. Large, tasty, YUM (and yes, I am biased).

Scallop with snow peas

Last but not least, we had crispy skinned chicken. Nothing too awesome here. Just regular crispy skinned chicken.

Crispy skinned chicken

So all up, what did we achieve with this meal? We locked in the banquet menu. We locked in the drinks menu. And... well... I guess they ought to be more careful with the abalone on the night... I hope? :P

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7.5/10
Value for money - 7.5/10
Overall - 31/40

Rhodes Phoenix
Rhodes Shopping Centre
Level 5, 1 Rider Boulevard
Rhodes, NSW 2138
Tel: (02) 9739 6628

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Private dining in the Hills

Private dining is popular in Hong Kong but in Sydney - I'm not even sure it exists.
However, if it were to exist, I think that my friends would be close to the top of the list of contendents who ought to give it a go.

My partner and I were privileged enough to be invited over for a dinner by our friends. They had organised an elaborate dinner for us.

For starters, we had prosciutto-wrapped rockmelon, accompanied by several blue berries. There was quite a lot of this. Delicately balanced - the saltiness of the prosciutto and the subtle sweetness of the melon was quite YUMness.

prosciutto-wrapped rockmelon

Next up, we were dished us some awesome seafood bouillabaisse. This sweet seafood aroma was present from the moment we entered the home. Our chef for the night explained that he used 1kg of prawn heads and shell cooked with fish stock until all the prawn flavour was infused into the stock.This added an extra layer of flavour into the bouillabaisse which was piled heaps with fennel, tomato, fish, prawns and muscles with a touch of tabasco and safron. It was sooooo rich and deliciousness.

seafood bouillabaisse

Next up was the prawn risotto. Slow cooked with the prawn shell infused fish stock, the risotto was just the right texture - creamy (with no cheese involved), aldente and stupidly flavoursome. All individual risotto rice bits were inoculated with the broth. There was also a mix of mushy peas and whole (unbuttered unmushed) peas and prawns a-plentiful. Quite yum.

prawn risotto

For dessert, we had tiramisu and a white chocolate cheese cake. Both were deliciousness. The tiramisu was coffee-ful and the cheesecake was rich and creamy and obviously philadelphia cheesed. But what I appreciated more was the coffee. Vietnamese drip filtered coffee with condensed milk. It was rich, sweet, and tastiness. Definately need to purchase some viet coffee of my own :)

viet coffee

So all up, the food that our friends dished up was more than good enough to be restaurant quality. Pretty awesome. Unfortunately for you all, not sure if you'll have the chance to sample it :P

Nadia's Cafe - Parramatta

Brunching. Love it.
Even if it's local at a random cafe within Parra Westfield.

On this particular Saturday, we had decided to eat at Nadia's as we had to be somewhere in Parra at a particular time. Faced with a decent sized menu, my partner and I went ahead and ordered coffee and food.

I ordered my usual - skim mocha without cream - and my partner ordered his usual - long black. We are definately creatures of habit.

My mocha was average. Nothing brilliant but not too bad. I can only assume that my partner's long black was alright too.

skim mocha
Long black

Foodwise, my partner opted for a bacon and egg roll with tomato relish. I have to say, it was a bit sad looking on the plate. Alone with no condiments. Nothing on the side. However, the egg looked runnily good.

Bacon and egg roll

I decided on a blackboard special - chicken and mushroom quiche with salad. The quiche was pretty tasty. A bit burnt on the crust but creamy and fluffly on the inside.

Quiche with salad

I have to say, Nadia's on a Sat midday is quite busy. Waitresses are running around everywhere. Food is decent but, I'd probably want to go elsewhere for brunch before returning.

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 27/40

Nadia's Cafe
Parramatta Westfield Shopng Cntr
Shop 401, Church St
NSW 2150
Tel: (02) 9893 959

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blancharu - Elizabeth Bay

On the night of the blazingly hot 41° day, we had arranged to meet an old friend at Blancharu, a one-hatted restaurant at Elizabeth Bay. Expecting a wave of coolness as we stepped inside, we were met by nothing other than stuffy humidness *sighz* Their aircon, like the aircon at every other place in Sydney on this day, was struggling to spit out cool air.

Nonetheless, we sat and we ordered and we ate and we had a great time :)
We had options - a 7 degustation ($85), 4 courses - entree, pasta, main and dessert ($75) or a-la-carte. As we had all partially lost our appetites due to the heat, we'd settled for 2 lots of 4 course meals, and one a-la-carte main to share between the three of us.

Shortly after being seated, we were served with freshly baked bread. A choice of french onion or white. I opted for french onion (and regreted). Being a french-fusioned restaurant, I didn't like their bread too much. Lacking in onion flavour and a bit too dense, it wasn't really my type of bread. Though, being fresh out of the oven, it melted my butter quite well.

french onion bread

One of the two entrees we had ordered was the ocean trout. Lightly seared slices of trout was served on a bed of red cabbage and accompanied by 'egg yoke zuke', tomato compote and garlic foam. The trout was pretty awesome. Light and tasty. The truffle foam and the eggy sauce complimented the fish well :)

aburi ocean trout with red cabbage, 'egg yoke zuke', garlic foam

I didn't appreciate the second entree as much. This was a pea and eggplant layered mousse topped with shredded bits of king crab and caviar with a tomato vinaigrette. to me, the mousse was slightly plain and boring. It was just dense and over-poweringly pea-y.

King crab and Eggplant caviar Tower, Pea mousse, Tomato vinaigrette

On to the pasta options, we had opted for a squid ink risotto and a soba. The risotto dish looked kind of cute - with the calamari rings forming like 2 eyes and an 'O' mouth :P I have to say, being excited by the looks of it, it wasn't really my type of dish. The risotto was cooked well. Flavoursome. Creamy. The calamari's batter was a little bit too much for me too. Not crispy enough. Just a lot of dough surrounding a small ring.

squid ink risotto with deep fried calamari rings

In contrast, I couldn't get enough of the organic soba tossed in cream sauce and topped with truffle aroma foam. It was soooooo creamy and sooooo nice. I was in creamy pasta truffle heaven. There were little seaweed bits throughout. The soba was cooked al-dente. Deliciousness!

organic soba, cream sauce with truffle aroma foam

Now onto the mains. My friend decided on the spatchcock. This was bought out in it's original form first. The spatchcock was surrounded by a "en croûte de sel a la Haru" - that is, salt-crusted with rosemary. It was sooooo aromatic. Just smelling the artistic looking outer layer made saliva build up in my mouth. Not to be eaten though - it was soooo salty. Lucky they give you a look at the encrusted layer - because if you were just served with three slabs of white spatchcock pieces, you're bound to be disappointed. Having said that though, the meat was stupidly tender, smooth and tasty.

Spatchcock en croûte de sel a la Haru

My partner chose the fish of the day. On this particular day, it was John Dory with witlof salad. The fish was cooked just right. The witlof salad sitting under was average. And the sauce wasn't anything too flash. The dish on the whole was OK.

John Dory with witlof salad

I decided on the seafood Bouillabaisse. The seafood stew incorporated a variety of seafood bits - clams, calamari, fish, scallops. It was really really tasty and aromatic. Bits of truffle oil was drizzled on top. Wish it was cooler weather coz I think this would have been enjoyed even more.

Seafood bouillabaisse

Last but not least, we were up to desserts. We ordered the crème brûlée and the panna cotta. The Crème Brûlée was pretty awesome. A good toffee to brûlée ratio. It was YUM. The coffee icecream accompanying this dish was also a welcome on this hot day.

Traditional Crème Brûlée with coffee ice cream

The panna cotta had an extremely distinct lemongrass taste to it. Maybe it was in the sauce. I thought it was average - nothing too exciting. I liked the accompanying coconut sorbet more :)

Lemongrass Panna cotta with coconut sorbet

All up, the service was good. The waitress was extremely patient when we took 10 years to pick our order. The food was pretty good. But the air con definately needs a kick :P

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 30/40

21 Elizabeth Bay Road
Elizabeth Bay
NSW 2011
Tel: (02) 9360 3555

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kantine - Surry Hills

It was 41°C. I had arranged to meet up with my high school friends for a friendly brunch.
Only problem was, the aircon was struggling. I split system trying to fuel cold air for the cafe - which had it's doors wide open.

We were all melting in the cafe and hence, cold drinks was on order all round. I opted for a Mango mania frappe ($6.50). At first look, my frappe with mango and strawberries looked overwhelmingly strawberryish. Luckily, upon tasting, you can still get that distinct mango flavour. On a hot day like this, my drink was smashed in no time.

mango mania frappe - $6.50

My partner opted for a chocolate milkshake ($6.50). Less refreshing and not quite thick enough or chocolately enough for my liking. With cold drinks all round, it was a bit hit and miss. Some drinks were good - some were quite bland (according to my friends). One thing we all agreed on though - drinks would probably have been better if they were colder and with more ice.

chocolate milkshake - $6.50

Foodwise, we had a good variety of meals. One of my friends ordered the Acai granola ($15.50). Coming with a good amount of oats and nuts and fruit and agave syrup, it seemed to be a refreshing start to a hot hot day. I think my friend said that yoghurt would have gone extremelly well with the plate.

Acai with Spelt and Agave Granola - $15.50

Another cold option ordered by my friends were the salads. One friend ordered a beef salad, another ordered a 'super protein me up' type salad. The beef salad seems to be more interesting. A good mix of greens and avocado and tomato topped with slices of beef. The chicken salad was HUGE but rather bland. Just tons of Chicken really. Our waitress was surprised that my (relatively skinny) friend was able to finish the whole thing. She said that big body building type people often struggle with polishing off the dish :P

beef salad

chicken salad

Onto the cooked options - one of my friends decided on the beef burger ($16.50). This was EXTREMELY juicy - the meat juices were just dripping down as she chomped on the massive burger. With a super thick patty, the beef was slightly too pink in the middle, but other than that, she said that it was a good mix of flavours. In the burger, there was a good heaping of greens, smoked mozzarella, tomato, gherkins, and tomato chutney. Shoestring fries came on the side. She seemed to enjoy this thoroughly.

beef burger - $16.50

Two of my friends decided on the Kantine Lot ($16.50) which is essentially their big breakfast. This comprised of 2 eggs (cooked however you want), a good serving of bacon, a sausage, mushroom, roasted tomato, hash brown and sourdough toast. No complaints here either.

Kantine lot - $16.50

For a bit of a sweet difference, one of my friends decided on pancakes ($15.90). Looked like pretty decently sized pancakes of good thickness. Odd bits of fruit included and maple syrup on the side.

buttermilk pancakes - $15.90

My partner decided on the Corn and coriander fritters ($15.90). I tried these, and I thought they were rather nicely corny. My partner thought that they were no where near as good as the ones from Mart 103 in that they weren't crispy or crunchy enough. So OK - they were a bit soggy. Still tasty though! Came with a serving of bacon and a spoonful of spiced avocado salsa.

Corn fritters - $15.90

One of my friends and myself ordered eggs benedict. My friend got the ham, I got my usual - the smoke salmon. I was surprised at the sheer amount of smoked salmon I got. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the sauce... Mmm... definately appreciated the sauce. It was deliciously yummy and I gobbled mine up in no time.

eggs benedict with ham - $12.00eggs benedict with smoked salmon - $15.50

All up, the service was friendly enough. The food was generally OK ish. The drinks were touch and go. But the temperature in the cafe? We were all ready to die. I guess it's not really the cafe's fault but it did affect our appetite and patience.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28.5/40

185 Campbell St
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9380 8585