Monday, July 25, 2011

High tea at Observatory Hotel

In celebration of my 21st birthday, my friends planned out a lavish day for me. We were supposed to meet for lunch at Assiette but an urgent matter forced me to miss this long awaited visit. Instead, I met them at Circular Quay, very excited about this special event. No rain could have ruined it for me because it was the best birthday bash ever.

The first stop was high tea at Observatory Hotel. The hotel itself exudes a chic, Frenchy air with its gold decor and thick pillars. We had the Champagne Afternoon Tea and chose the Rose. It was sweet and refreshing but I had to refrain from gulping too much of it just in case I turn into a tomato again. Too late - one sip was enough..

Despite the gloomy weather, we were all happy and content. I was especially overjoyed as I had received a Tiffany & Co. ring from my gals. An extra bling to an already fancy day! Many photos were shot and smiles were shone all around when the arrival of the platters silenced us.

Ta da! I hadn't had lunch yet so the burst of colour and variety of yummies were making my stomach autodigest itself. First layer - buttermilk and fruit scones with jam and cream. Second layer - cheesecake, tiramisu, fruit tart, creme brulee, chocolate mousse and cupcake. Bottom layer - assorted sandwiches and quiche.

I went for the sandwiches first because they looked so fresh and soft. My favourite was the egg salad sandwich. Its tangy mustard hit and soft egg filling stimulated my salivary glands even more. The other sandwiches were nice as well and I ended up finishing everyone else's shares.

Now for the sweets.. I've been craving scones for months and these scones were so good! They weren't big but they were still the perfect size considering we had so much to go through. I liked the buttermilk scones better than the fruit ones because I personally think sweets should be sweet and only sweet. The scones were dense on the inside, crunchy on the outside. I slabbed heaps of jam and cream on before blanking out on yet another food euphoria. I ended up finishing my friends' shares for these as well.

The rest were ordinary, nothing special, except the creme brulee. Every one of us ate this with 'This is soooo good' in between each bite. The top layer wasn't as crispy as I would have liked but it was the vanilla cream that was the heart of this dessert. Each bite was addictive, quickly leading to the next. I was almost sad when I finished eating this, scraping off the sides with my spoon as if hoping more would magically appear.

I also got a special birthday platter with assorted sweets! From the left: fruit jelly, dehydrated mango, almond nougat, mango, rose marshmallow. The marshmallow was so soft I was scared of squishing it with my fingers even if I was holding it as lightly as I could. The nougat was really nutty and chocolaty. The other sweets weren't that great..

Each person also had their individual teas which you order from quite an extensive list. I had the Chai Tea which was brewed in milk. The Chai Teas I'm used to are the sweets drinks from cafes but this one had no added sugar or sweeteners. It actually tasted better without it and I was able to enjoy the full chai flavour.The tea was refilled very often, even after we had finished our high tea. We moved to the bar area and with more tea and cookies, we evaded the rain for a bit longer before heading out to the next course of the day.

Globe Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thanon Khao San

Rain, rain go away...

A group of friends and I met up for dinner at Haymarket on that crazy Thursday night. My shoes were soaking wet as were my jeans from the worst weather I've ever been in. I was busy dodging everyone and their umbrellas so I would have passes this place by if it hadn't been for my friends calling my name.

I was always intrigued by this place whenever I passed by it. They have a Thai tuk tuk covered in blinking Christmas lights at the front, inviting passersby with its unique decor. Maybe I have a thing for pretty interiors and decorations but whatever their marketing strategy may be, it certainly works for me.

However, the most crucial part of course, is the food. There is an overwhelming number of Thai eateries in the CBD alone and I've tried many places that have drowned their pad thais in ketchup. So far, Chat Thai in Haymarket and Thai Curry at West Ryde wins my vote. I wonder if this place will live up to the expectations..

This was just one side of the table. The boys ordered the usual - pad thai, curries etc. We girls like to try something different and new so after reading the exotic descriptions, we chose some nice dishes.

Ka Na Moo Krob - crispy pork belly with fresh vegetables and chilli. This was a lovely dish with lots and lots of onions. I couldn't finish this dish and had to pass it off to the boys. They gave a lot of pork belly and each piece was quite big so that I had to cut it in half. It wasn't really crispy but I enjoyed it nonetheless and the chilli factor was just the right level - not too boring, not too spicy but just enough oomph. The spring onions added more oriental flavour and complemented the sauce well.

Khao Pad Poo - crab fried rice. I'll have to be honest with this one - don't get it. It was bland and boring. They did have a few crabs but overall, the dish needed more fun and flavour.

This was a yellow curry (Kari Kai with Roti) with slices of roti on the side. It was sweet and creamy with huge chicken chunks. The presentation was pretty and I liked how they added that extra colour with that drizzle of white cream (coconut I think?).

We also ordered a green curry and Kho Moo Yang (BBQ pork) which I forgot to take pics of. The green curry was very tangy and spicy, and the Kho Moo Yang was quite nice. The pork came with tamarind sauce, a sweet and sour sauce, and was chewy.

For four girls, we ordered two servings of rice. They gave it to us in a humongous bowl and even two servings were more than enough. Overall, the food was enjoyable and especially for guys, I think the portions sizes are quite generous.

I was in such a hurry that I didn't see this when I entered the restaurant but this Thai sweets stand is right at the front with its colourful array of sweets. I tried a green coconut cake my friends were eating and it was moist and very tasty. I would definitely try it again if I had the chance.

Thanon Khao San on Urbanspoon

Cafe Topiary

Cafe Topiary is one of the few nicer cafes around the Epping area. It's not hard to find as it is located just in front of Coles on Rawson St. They have a cute patio area where people come with their pets for a cup of coffee every now and then but on this crazy rainy day, we opted for the warmth and coziness of the indoors.

They use the famous Campos coffee. first introduced to me by one of my good friends when I was still sipping hot chocolates. The cappuccino had plenty of chocolate on top which I love love love scooping up and eating before even drinking the coffee. It could have been hotter though, so if you get a chance to try this place out, ask for 'extra hot'!

The Man, being the man, chose the Topiary Breakfast (big breakfast). They gave us an abundant amount of eggs and bacon, and the tomatoes were grilled to perfection. The only cons about this dish was the very thin bread and the overly fried hash browns that was all skin, no flesh. The best hash browns I've eaten so far are from Cafe Berlin or Cherry Beans Cafe.

I chose the Spanish Breakfast (I forgot the actual name). It's a type of eggs benedict but with chorizos. This was a beautiful dish and the amount of chorizos were just enough to finish the dish. The eggs were soft and runny, not rubbery like some places I've been to and the hollandaise sauce was creamy and tangy.

Despite the torrential rains, the cafe was still packed with many groups of friends and families enjoying a warm cup of coffee or wine with their meals. There's plenty of parking at the Coles parking lot so if you're in the area, try this place out!

Cafe Topiary on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cherry Beans Cafe

Cherry Beans Cafe is located on 166 Mona Vale Rd inside the St Ives Shopping Village. The cafe consists of two parts, the inside area where the kitchen is and the outside area where the seats are. There were many families but also people who were dining alone with their books or newspapers. Only recently opened in December, it's already a popular eatery among the St Ives residents.

I went with the Man and we were both hungry for some good food, him even more because he hadn't had breakfast yet. I chose an apple & ginger juice to start off with and him, a hazelnut latte. The strong ginger kick was detoxifying and delicious but that didn't overpower the sweet & sour granny apples. The juice was a pretty, light green colour and I had finished half of the drink before the food arrived.

For food I had the tandoori chicken wrap and he chose the Angus beef burger with fries. I added on a side of fries because I was craving something greasy and unhealthy but when the dishes arrived, it tasted like McDonalds fries but healthier with just the right amount of grease. The tandoori chicken wrap had been pressed so the wrap was nice and crispy but the chicken was a bit cold. Maybe that's how they meant to serve it but I didn't mind as I bit into the thick tandoori chicken filling. The rocket made sure the creamy tandoori didn't get too boring with that bitter hit. Now the burger. It was absolutely humongous! The Man had to bite through several times before he even reached the patty and he just stared off into blank space as he silently chewed through the burger in pure happiness.

This was my third visit at the cafe and having tried new dishes each time, I can confidently say that I've never been disappointed with the food. The service may be a bit slow at times because they're so busy but it must been the food is worth the wait! I will definitely be returning soon to try out the other dishes.

x Ash

Cherry Beans Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sake Restaurant & Bar

For one of my dear friends' birthday, we went to Sake Restaurant & Bar located at the Rocks. We had a late reservation at 8 PM and were famished when we arrived at Circular Quay. Resisting the sweet temptations of the huge Copenhagen ice cream cones so many people were happily eating, we quickly made our way to Sake to quell our poor bellies.

I've heard of this place before but never read any blog posts on it so I was pleasantly surprised when I entered through the glass doors. The bar area is separated by the restaurant by a couple of steps and on the left hand side as you enter through the doors, there is a huge wall stacked with sake bottles from top to bottom. They must have not heard or seen us come in because it took them a while for them to acknowledge us. We waited at the bar area, skimming through the cocktail list while they prepared our table. The kitchen was an open kitchen so you could see the chefs still busily at work and the sound of sizzling was enough to make us salivate.

Soon afterwards, we were lead to our table next to the nicely lit, flowerly wall. The service was cordial and prompt, with food arriving very quickly after we ordered. We were very happy with how fast the food arrived as we were all starving by this point. The cocktails we ordered beforehand were beautiful. I got the Origami Tiger while my friends got the Yakult Yakuza, Shimpei San, and the Bankai. The names were all so unique as were the ingredients. Mine had elderflower cordial which was sweet and hid the taste of alcohol very well. The rest were all sweet and delicious - perfect for us girls, except Yakult Yakuza was a tad bit strong. We expected the sweet yakult flavour but on an empty stomach, it was a bit difficult to drink.

Despite the fact that it was a late Sunday night, there were many people still ordering and eating. The waiter informed us that it was a tapas dining style but the food portions were just right, maybe a bit too much. My friend insisted we eat the popcorn shrimp after seeing many blog posts about it. We ordered the popcorn shrimp, tonkatsu cups, sashimi tacos, 2 pork belly kushiyaki (one with classic teriyaki sauce and one with spicy anticucho sauce), and kingfish double crunch cut rolls to start off with.

Oh where do I even begin? Every bite had us whipped into the flavour, every one of us with either our eyes closed in deep appreciation or wide eyed, wondering if this was what food from heaven tasted like. The tonkatsu cups were average though and there was nothing special about it. The sashimi tacos were new and we thought we should try it. The tuna and salmon were very fresh and the sake was sweet and not overwhelming. It actually enhanced the fishy flavour if you drink it afterwards. The popcorn shrimp was a substantial size and the spicy mayo coating was just the right amount of spiciness to battle out the creamy mayonnaise. It literally popped in our mouths and the prawn was so juicy. It was almost fun eating it!

The pork belly kushiyaki were tender and succulent. I love the fat on pork belly and there was athick layer of it, which I enjoyed very much! Personally, I enjoyed the teriyaki better than the spicy anticucho one, which is a South American paste according to the waiter. We were too engrossed in the flavour and forgot the take a photo for this one! I think the highlight of the meal were the rolls. The kingfish double crunch rolls look simple but don't be fooled. The kingfish was fresh and each roll had a big chunk of it in the middle. It was chewy yet soft, and it was so fresh that it felt like it was caught just then.

However, this was not enough to satisfy our food babies and we ordered kingfish jalepeno and the S express rolls. The sauce in kingfish jalepeno could have been more subtle to bring out the full kingfish flavour and the jalepeno wasn't too bad in balancing out the saltiness. It's not something I would order again though since the other dishes were so much more appetizing than this. The S express, now this one was the clear winner of the night. Seared salmon is one of my greatest food weaknesses. I just melt with that smoky flavour and this roll didn't fail to bring out my 'foodgasm' face. The dash of sweet sauce and the plump scallops in the middle were welcome additions on top of the lovely salmon. I wasn't sure what witlof was but I'm guessing it's that mini cabbage leaf standing behind each roll. I carefully scooped it up on the leaf and shoved it into my mouth, slowly chewing through my food and savouring each taste and texture. It was over almost too quickly but it was nearly closing time so we hurriedly ordered dessert.

We may have had a feast but there's always more room for dessert. It's like we have a separate
dessert stomach. For dessert, we ordered 2 chocolate fondants, buttermilk pannacotta with raspberry coulis, and the yuzu tart. The chocolate fondant was moist and the chocolaty liquid oozed out of its shell when we impatiently broke it with our spoons. The white sesame ice cream was just amazing and complemented the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly. The yuzu tart was sweet and sour and the pannacotta was soft and creamy. We found a hair in ours so they replaced it with a new one but even then our sole focuses were on the chocolate fondants. Greedily, we finished all our dessert and even scraped clean the pistachio crumbs that were scattered on the plate. We do love our sweets :)

We wanted to grab Copenhagen afterwards but sadly, it was closed and the Rocks was deserted at the time. We weren't too fussed because we were still in a state of euphoria, grinning from ear to ear. A night out with the gals is always fun and ends happy with a full and content stomach!

x Ash

Sake Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

The beginning!

First post and I'm super duper excited to be sharing my food journeys with other eager food lovers out there! Having a chef as a mother, I've been raised to appreciate good food and flavours but unfortunately, it didn't give me the determination to cook anything on my own. Instead, I regularly visit yummy places with friends and family to pamper my palate. I may eat past my limit on many occasions and end up with a food baby but if my stomach is happy, then it was a job well done.
I'm quite lazy so I'm not sure how long this will last but here we go!