Friday, December 20, 2013

Da Mario - Rosebery

I was catching up with a colleague after work today and she took me to a relatively new pizza joint in Rosebery. The brother to Pizza Mario, 'da Mario' is a open bistro-type restaurant serving pizzas and pastas, opened near Kitchen by Mike. We rocked up around 6.30pm and there were just a few table left in their no bookings dinner policy place.

We ordered a pizza each. My friend ordered a margherita pizza with prosciutto and rocket whereas I got the capricciosa (pizza with tomato, mozzarella, mushroom, artichoke, olives and ham). I wanted to add anchovies to my pizza but this was disallowed. They only do truely traditional pizzas - nothing extra, nothing subtracted. Even without my anchovies, both pizzas were really tasty and flavoursome. The base, however, probably wasn't my preferred. It was thin where the topping was - but slightly too soggy. The outer crust ring was a bit too doughy for my preference, but it was soft and bread-like, which my friend seemed to love. I guess that in general, it was a pretty tasty pizza ;)
margherita con ruchetta e crudo

Although we were both stuffed already, we couldn't pass the dessert which my friend recommended - the panna cotta with crushed pineapple and biscotti. The panna cotta was really smooth and creamy. It had the right amount of sweetness and matched with the pineapple really really well. On top of that, the biscotti bits added the right amount of crunch and almond flavour.
Panna Cotta
 All up, it was a pretty good meal. We both left clutching our stomachs, quite satisfied.

Food - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 29/40

Da Mario
36 Morley Avenue
Rosebery, NSW 2018
Tel: (02) 9669 2242

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

El Jannah - Blacktown

Our favourite charcoal chicken shop has opened out in Blacktown recently and this was fantastic news as a few of my friends live out that area and we could pop by for a feed. Just as popular as it's other joints in Granville and Punchbowl, its a good thing that this El Jannah spans across 3 shop fronts - meaning that there's a lot of seating (but probably not ample seating given it's crowd volume).

I've ordered my usual favourites here several time - quarter chicken with the pickle and bread condiments. I also ask for lettuce most times. And of course -the chips. The chicken here is as good as Granville. Tasty and charcoally... but as everyone knows - it's really actually the amazing garlic sauce that makes this AWEOME. The chips, unfortunately, are not as uniformly golden brown as the ones in Granville... guess quality control on the oil or the deep frying person isn't as strict out here.
my chicken meal
quarter chicken, pickles, garlic sauce

regular chips
Food - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 29/40

El Jannah - Blacktown
44-48 Flushcombe Road
NSW 2148
Tel: (02) 8814 9485

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Paramount Coffee Project - Surry Hills

I've read about this relatively new kid on the block and really wanted to try it. Located in a relatively quieter and car-space available part of Surry Hills, the aromas of this cafe wafted to our noses the moment we stepped out of the car :)

Located in the Paramount, the cafe has a super stylish and casual decor. It's relaxing and chillaxy, and even has a Tokyo bike shop on the side. They have pretty awesome sounding blends of coffees, but hubby and I wanted Cappuccinos rather than their drip coffees. And my oh my were their coffees tasty, smooth and rich!
Food-wise, though the menu isn't massive, we still had loads of difficulty deciding between the delicious-sounding options. After much deliberation, we settled on a burger each.

The 'Cap'n Morgan' ($19) was hubby's choice. Super massive tempura king prawns we sandwiched between two milk buns. The sauces and the flavour came oozing out through the rum and mango sauce and the guacamole. Hubby really enjoyed this, especially the super meaty chunks of king prawn. I felt like it was a little too flavoursome - if that can be considered an issue....
Cap'n Morgan
My burger choice was the 'Crab Po Boy' ($18). This was crazily ginormous chunks of super crunchy soft shell crab with really fresh-tasting house slaw and ranch dressings, all within a butter bun. Pretty awesome! Hubby didn't like it as much as his prawn burger, but I really liked it :)
Crab Po Boy
This cafe had a pretty awesome vibe. The staff were friendly but a bit too busy to be attentive. A pretty cool cafe to visit if you're in the area :)

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

The Paramount Coffee Project
80 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9211 1122

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mappen - Sydney

For a quick afterwork bite, hubby and I decided to head to Mappen. We were pretty surprised to find quite a large crowd at this udon place but as its such a quick and easy thing to eat, customers came and went really quickly.
Hubby had the beef udon whereas I got greedy and went for the Bukkake Double Otama (ie. two half boiled eggs). I was reminiscing the awesomely smooth yet chewy udon we had in Tokyo, but compared to that, the udon unfortunately fell a bit short. Nonetheless, Sydney-udon-wise, this was probably pretty decent. Hubby's beef udon with the beef stock was pretty tasty. My soft boiled eggs were also quite deliciousness (though, it could have been a tiny bit more runny). The sesame flavour in my soup/sauce was unfortunately, a bit too overpowering.
beef udon

Bukkake Double Otama

Tempura-wise, we had the chicken, the fish-cake and the prawn. My favourite was the fish cake (but I am biased). The tempura batter was pretty crunchy and tasty though~
I guess Mappen will satisfy my udon craving briefly... until we get to go to Japan again!!! :P

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

Mappen (Sydney CBD)
Shop 11, 537-551 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9283 5525

Friday, November 8, 2013

Flying Fish - Pyrmont

For an extremely rare work training event, I was not only treated to FREE training, but also to an absolutely amazing three course meal at Flying Fish.

With bridge view on a gorgeous sunny day, we were given a choice of three entrees, three mains, and three desserts. However, as it was a work training thing, I could only take the photos of the dishes around me which were ordered by colleagues I knew.

The entree I chose was the Petuna ocean trout tartare This was AWESOME. Small fresh cubes of trout mixed in with bits of crunchy nori, ponzu, radish and scattered salmon roe. Every bite of this just danced in my mouth.
Ocean Trout Tartare

A couple of my friends had the Yellowfin Tuna. This was lightly seared slices drenched in a sweet soy ish caramelised ish sauce with crunchy puffed pork skin, grapefruit, black pepper caramel. I was lucky enough to sample a bit of it. It was pretty damn tasty!
Yellowfin Tuna

My manager at work is a vegetarian so he opted for the roasted beetroot. This looked like small ravioli of beetroot with a house made cashew cheese, raisin and mustard seed goop inside. No complaints from my manager.
roasted beetroot

In terms of the main, the only dish around me (and my dish) was the Barramundi. This fillet of fish was perfectly cooked. Crispy skinned and beautifully soft-textured fish meat. Spots of nori vinaigrette added flavour to the fish. The fish was accompanied by an eggplant stack with a miso paste sauce

The dessert did not disappoint. I had the coconut sorbet with young coconut marshmellow bits. The coconut sorbet was super super delicious. It sat on a sheep’s yoghurt which I didn't care too much for, but the eucalyptus caramel was something I loved and wish I got more of. There were also little discs of fresh mango and lime bits. Amazing!
Coconut sorbet

One of my friends had the dark and white chocolate ganache served with raspberries, mascarpone mousse, pistachio, balsamic, sour cherry sorbet. She adored this dessert - especially the 'popping candy' component which added to the fun of the day :)
black and white chocolate ganache
Coffee or tea, and a small macaron accompaniment was served to round off a great meal. I have to say, this restaurant definitely deserves it's hat. I think I'll have to come back and take my family here!

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 33/40

Flying Fish

19-21 Pirrama Road
NSW 2009
Tel: (02) 9518 6677

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Via Napoli - Lane Cove

We have heard tons about a supposedly awesome pizzeria in Lane Cove. We had to give it a go and we persevered despite the MASSIVE crowds waiting at 8.30pm. I have to say, the waiters walked so fast, they had to be on speed or a dozen Red Bulls. Attentiveness, however, was slightly lacking.

Our expectations were high as some of our friends had said that it's more awesome than Lucio's - and ZOMG Lucio was so crazily awesome that we'd even forgotten to take photos there! We had to resist ordering entree as we wanted to try two different pizza. One was the Via Napoli (which, according to our waiter was a "surprise!"). I was intrigued by the description - 'luigi's fantasy pizza' - had to order it! :P . The other was a Vesuvio which had tomato, buffalo mozarella, ricotta, ham, salami, pepper, basil on it.
Via Napoli - Luigi's fantasy pizza
The pizzas here are really quite different to Lucio's. The crust is really chewy and had this super thick outside crust ring which neither of us were a huge fan of. There was a ton of toppings on it which did make it quite tasty and unfortunately, quite soggy. After eating the pizzas I have to say that I regretted not getting an antipasto entree - I think I would have preferred a ton of cured meats, cheese and bread sticks to the pizzas.

Food - 6.5/10
Service -5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 25/40

Via Napoli
141 Longueville Road
Lane Cove
NSW 2066
Tel: (02) 9428 3724

Friday, November 1, 2013

Din Tai Fung (2) - Sydney

We were in the city and I really wanted dumplings. The first place that came to mind was Din Tai Fung at World Square. Being the 'rush hour' of dinner time, we were expecting a long wait - and there were the crowds waiting outside the restaurant to support this idea. However, fortunately for us, being a company of two, we were given a table within 10 mins.

We wanted a different their appetiser of asian veges (black fungus etc) but they ran out for the night. As such, we opted for the water spinach with garlic instead. This was tasty but nothing amazingness.
water spinach with garlic

For some odd reason, hubby wanted fried rice. Fried Rice??? That's something I can easily cook *sigh*. Oh well, whatever he wants. We ordered fried rice with deep fried chicken cutlet. The chicken was pretty tasty.
fried rice and fried chicken
On to the good stuff - the dumplings. The Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork bun). As expected, the dumpling skin was super thin, and the soup that came with the pork felt clean and not too oily. Satisfied my dumpling cravings :)
Steamed pork dumplings
The other dumpling dish I wanted was the pork and vege dumpilng. This exceeded my expectations. It was chockablock full of chopped veges (which I LOVE ... but not everyone's cup of tea) with a tiny bit of pork. YUM :)
pork and vege dumplings
I always like a dumpling feast. It is slightly pricier here (as expected) and the service slightly lacking (also as expected)... but it's a relatively good feed anyway.

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

Din Tai Fung
Level 1, Shop 11.04
World Square
644 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9264 6010

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spago - Beverly Hills

Ever expected a dinner to be sub-par then get something a bit more spectacular? Doesn't happen too often but Love it when it does :) And, it happened at Spago at Beverly Hills.

We booked at the last minute and ashamedly, were also late for our booking. The restaurant was rather accommodating though, despite their surprisingly pretty full restaurant. You see someone making fresh pasta at the front all night long, as though to emphasise the fact that you are eating freshly made pasta.

For starters, we had some garlic bread. This smelt amazing. The bread has a crispy crust and a soft center. Butterly but not dripping in it, and garlicy but not overly so. Not bad.
garlic bread
Hubby ordered the Pappardelle Cheek's Ragu ($24).This was al dente handcut thick ish pasta served with a 16 hours cooked ox cheek ragu with porcini and truffle oil. The pasta was tomatoey and meaty. A reasonably tasty pasta.
beef cheek ragu papadelle - $24
I had the king prawns fettuccine ($24). There was a reasonably large amount of prawns with some mushrooms and capsicum. But the star of the dish was the creamy lobster bisque. ZOMG this lobster bisque was mindblowingly good - urges you to go back for more and more and more!
King prawn fettuccine - $24
So I have to say, I loved my pasta here. And I would come back for some more. The whole meal was made cheaper by our entertainment book, so if you have one, come check out this small ish yet busy Italian restaurant.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money -  7.5/10
Overall - 29/40

524B King Georges Road
Beverly Hills, 
NSW 2209
Tel: (02) 9585 0282

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Butagumi Tonkatsu - Hong Kong

We were hungry and looking for something yummy to eat around the Mong Kok area in HK. After giving just a bit of thought we decided on Butagumi Tonkatsu located at the basement of a little arcarde called Gala Place. It was a Japanese restaurant specialising in Tonkatsu (which we didn't actually end up ordering) with your usual western/chinese influence.

Drink-wise, I opted for a sesame milkshake which was really quite delicious~ Rich in black sesame flavour, icey, milky and just thick enough. Hubby had the usual iced lemon tea.
black sesame milkshake
We both ordered set menus. With the set came a creamy soup. This wasn't too spectacular - just creamy with some lumps here and there.
creamy soup
My main was the salmon pasta - with spinach fettuccine and mushrooms. This was pretty tasty! Just creamy enough. The pasta was just al-dente. It was pretty well balanced in flavour.
salmon with spinach fettuccine
Hubby ordered a steak featuring an american angus. Hubby asked for medium rare, and it actually came out as such! Amazing~ The steak was tender, the sauce was just enough, and I guess we were just both surprised that this was yummy.
Angus sirloin
The poorest part of the meal was probably the dessert. This was a pretty crappy small square of blueberry cheesecake. We barely touched it. Much better to save stomach space for other things in HK!
blueberry cheesecake
Food - 8/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28/40

Butagumi Tonkatsu
Shop B01 B/F Gala Place
56 Dundas Street
Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 31820186

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sushi One - Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a city of life and amazement. It is also a city filled with plenty of super busy people living their super busy lives. However, it is also Chinese people who live in this city, and sterotypically, as Asians, we all love a good bargain. As such, things like "50% off your Bill" when you eat after 10pm is met with much enthusiasm - so much so, that it felt like we were lining up to enter a night club when we were waiting (seemingly ages) for our table. Having waited for so long, we had long mapped out our selections (as below)...
salmon roe ship
Mackeral sushi
squid and otoro tuna ship
super massive anago eel
salmon and salmon roe sushi
Otoro tuna sushi
scallop done three ways
tropical roll
I have to say, service here is abysmal - which is normal I guess when your staff are working like a dog from early hours til past midnight. The food was average. The fish was all fresh enough and the sushi tasty enough... but nothing spectacular. However, when you account for the fact that you get 50% off your entire food and drink bill, almost all is forgiven right? :)

Food - 7/10
Service - 4/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 25/40

Sushi One
One Grand Tower
639 Nathan Road
Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3583 1100

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Amber - Hong Kong

We had wanted to squeeze in something fun in amongst a super quick and slightly stressful trip to HK. So, ahead of time, we had booked in Amber, a 2 Michelin star restaurant, for lunch. To book this restaurant, we had to lock in a deposit of over HK$500 per person. Normally, this would be non-issue. Unfortunately, in the super early hours of the day we were meant to be going to Amber for lunch, I came down with food poisoning and was spewing left right and centre - leaving me with zero appetite. Hence, the conundrum began... do we not go and loose HK$1000? or do we go anyway despite me not able to eat?

Being ultimate foodies, I put on a brave face and went anyway. Hubby also promised to eat my meal. We were seated promptly at 12.30pm in a beautifully yet simply adorned room. The tables were nicely spaced out so no one got in anyone's way. We ordered a set lunch each and were provided with three seemingly awesome amuse bouches and really well done bread. We both had the french baguette and they were so good! Crispy and warm, yet white and fluffy inside. Awesome~
There was the mini crab salad spring roll, a beetroot and foie gras lollipop, and a cream curry croquette. I believe that all three were deliciousness (according to hubby) and if I didn't think I'll be spending hours over a toilet bowl, I think I would have loved it too. As it stands, I just nibbled on all. The foie gras lollipop was beautifully rich and smooth and full of flavour. The croquette I think was made to eat in one bite, as when you bite on it, a wonderful creamy curry mix flows out. The spring rolls were delicate yet flavoursome.

In terms of our entrees, hubby had the Hokkaido sea urchin. This was a small sea-urchin shaped shell with fresh sea urchin, a lobster jelly, cauliflower mousse, a ton of caviar and gold leaf. This was served with an assortment of seaweed crisps. It looked so delicate and I so wished I wasn't sick as I only managed to eat a small spoon of this. The flavours were wonderful and subtly sweet. The textures so wonderfully smooth and the seaweed crisps? Deliciousness!

The second entree was the cep mushrooms. This was a thin puree film of kabocha (Jap pumpkin) with scattered mushrooms, fresh hazelnuts, bellota ham and bits of lettuce. It was OK. Didn't taste particularly awesome or flavourful. Didn't feel like a waste that I couldn't eat it. Instead, I wanted or rather, NEEDED an iced lemon tea - it was the freaking best iced lemon tea I've had... probably cos that was the only thing my stomach wanted at that time.
The two mains we ordered was the fish and the pork. The Atlantic cod was a pretty hefty piece of fish. It was cooked confit and was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, it lacked any form of flavour. A bit of salt would be good no? The fish was served on a bed of paimpol coco beans and chorizo... again, slightly devoid of any taste. It came with three black squid ink fish balls which tasted almost nothing of fish balls.
The pork had a bit more flavour. Unfortunately, these cubes of piglet shoulder lacked the crispy skin that it should have offered. It came with sweet potato, cepes (mushies) and tat soi (spinachy things). It was dressed with a rich pork emulsion.

The pre-dessert was pretty much the first thing I really ate. I couldn't resist. It was a tiny magnum looking pop. Coconut sorbet covered with chocolate and nuts. AMAZING. I gobbled it all up.
 This was the start of my appetite as I could also stomach the dessert. It looked amazing and there were the flavours to back it up. The triangular Jivara chocolate cremeux with a rich perfect-looking cocoa glaze was served with coconut sorbet and a white chocolate disk. Really chocolately. Really rich. Creamy, yet with a crispy crunchy bottom. Delicious! I was surprised that I could eat most of this! (and I kept it down~ chocolate really does heal all).
Hubby had the cheese. Whilst the cheese cart offered much yummy delicacies, we left it up to our waiter to decide our selection (we weren't familiar with most of the cheesey names). He gave us a really good selection... some cheese yummier than others. Hubby particularly liked the blue cheese option.
Coffee and tea are complimentary here and so, hubby had a coffee whilst I had another lemon tea to go with our tower of petit fours. There was a fruity caramel lolly, a lemony creme thing, chocolate tart, mini macaron, a coffee profiterole, and an almond biscuit thing. I think it was more the WOW factor. Definitely wowed me. But I guess taste-wise, it was just average.

So all up, it was a decent meal at Amber. The sea urchin and the jivara chocolate dessert was probably the highlight of the meal. Everything else was just average. 2 Star worth? not super sure about that...

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance 8.5/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 30/40

Amber Restaurant
7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
15 Queens Road Central
Central Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2132 0066