Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mad Spuds Cafe @ Surry Hills

Our favourite meal of the day, brunch, and where better to go? Surry Hills! It was a lovely Wednesday morning full of sunshine and there were many areas in Surry Hills where I still haven't been. We've been meaning to go to the Mad Spuds Cafe but it was closed for renovations earlier in the year so after a quick phone call, we quickly made our way to this unique cafe.

Located just next to the intersection of Crown St and Devonshire St, it may be easy to miss as it is situated between many cafes and shops. This Irish cafe mainly serves potato based meals and also has Irish potato pancakes and crispy potato skin bakes as a side to many of their dishes. They also have a specials board, one of which was a sweet potato salad. If I had come for lunch I definitely would have tried that one because I personally prefer sweet potatoes over potatoes. Nonetheless, I was pretty excited about trying some of their dishes and I was quite hungry so I chose the Spud Plate and the Man chose the Mad Pan Brekkie.

Chai Latte. It was sweetened with honey instead of the pre-mixed chai powder.

Breakfast is served! A very interesting set of dishes.

Firstly, the Mad Pan Brekkie. Boston beans, pork sausage, crispy spud skins, poached egg. All served in a pan. The plump poached eggs look really nice against the redness of the beans. The beans are cooked in tomato paste/sauce and really are lovely. Each bean was huge and fresh and the pork sausage was salty and succulent. It's a very hearty breakfast and not very difficult to make if you want to try this at home!

The Spud Plate. Pork sausage, black & white pudding, crispy bacon, Boston beans, cheesy spud skins, fried eggs, soda bread. I've never tried black & white pudding before and the waitress was kind enough to explain to us what they were. According to her, black pudding is a bloody sort of pudding while the white one is made from wheat and rye. I cut a small piece, cautious of this mysterious food, and tried it. The black pudding tastes strongly of pepper and the white pudding tastes very wheaty and dry. They were both very dry and I didn't like them very much but it was a good opportunity to try something new.

The soda bread is made from flour and soda (according to the waitress) but didn't have the strong soda flavour I expected. It tasted more like a wholemeal bread but much denser. I loved the potato pancake though. Savoury and crispy, it was fun just chewing on it. The crispy spud skins were also delicious. With a melted cheesy layer on top, the skin had been grilled to a crisp so it was like eating a slightly thick potato chip. I'm always careful to ration out my food so I don't regret it after eating it all up before the other things.

There goes one more cafe off the list! and we were very satisfied. We were the only customers, maybe because it was around 10 30 on a Wednesday, but we don't mind that kind of thing as long as the food's good and the staff don't hover around you. One thing - the hot beverages could have been hotter but other than that, the food came out quickly, the service was friendly and the food was tasty. Thumbs up!

Mad Spuds Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dos Senoritas @ Gladesville

My second visit and once again I was captured by the Mexican flavours of Dos Senoritas. This time, I went with my mom who, being a chef, is highly criticizing of restaurants and their food. I've been meaning to take my family here since they both love Mexican food but my brother decided to be lazy and miss out on this unforgettable experience. His loss really.

I remembered my first visit and warned my mom not to order too much because we won't be able to finish even half of it. She ignored my advice and got a starter, two mains and a drink. I didn't mind because I wanted to try everything on the menu anyways :)

The Orcholata and the Jamaica. Orcholata is a Mexican hibiscus water and the Jamaica is a sweet Mexican rice water. I loved these two drinks, sweet yet refreshing. The Orcholata tastes similar to a berry drink while the Jamaica is a milky cinnamon drink. Despite being full from the food, I couldn't stop drinking them.

The Mexican Crack Pot - Pork chili verde topped with jack and cheddar cheese. The corn chips were the same as those given with the chili dip. The small pieces of pork are tender and mixed with beans. Place it on top of the corn chip with avocado, sour cream and the fresh tomato salsa and taste the Mexican flavours explode in your mouth. Mexican food tend to be very cheesy and thick so too much of it makes the stomach a bit uncomfortable. The fresh veggies and sour cream is there to help you refresh your mouth and to counterbalance out that saltiness.

My mom normally isn't generous with her compliments but with every bite she couldn't stop saying how good it was and how the 'food had flavours'. We ended up eating too much of this and felt full after the starter.

Carne Asada - Mexican steak grilled with tequila jalapenos, onions, tasty cheese served with bean and tomatillo sauce. The back bit of the menu got cut off when I was taking the photo so I guessed the bean and tomatillo sauce part. I didn't get to have a taste of this one but the colourful display was very attractive. My mom did mention the steak was overcooked and too tough but they were thin pieces of steak so it doesn't seem too hard to eat.

The Gringo Burro, stuffed with your choice of chilli verde, shredded beef, chicken or ground beef with black beans sauteed peppers, onions, topped with sour cream and green Chile sauce. Yum yum yum. Look at that beautifully rolled burrito. So fat and full of magnificent Mexican flavours. The marinade and juice from the meat mix well with the fried veggies, producing a soft blended flavour of bake and grill. I love the texture of chewing this, first through the chewy tortilla, then deep into Mexico. Yum!

As anticipated, we couldn't finish it. I had eaten three bites out of my burrito and my mom finished one piece of her steak but never fear! my brother is home and hungry. The sad thing about the food here is that it goes off incredibly quickly and it stank up the entire kitchen the next day. The smart way is to order just enough..but I know I'd rather be too full than too hungry.

Dos Senoritas on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Handmade Noodles @ Strathfield

What a beautiful sunny day today was! Big fluffy clouds everywhere, azure blue skies, and surprisingly I'm in a very good state despite waking up at 6 am.

After going to the hospital for my research, I went to my friend Mina's house to help out with her moving. I had my mom's huge 4WD so quite a lot of boxes fit in it. It was already near noon when I arrived at her house and my last meal was at 6:30 am - waaaaay too early for me to be up. My stomach soon started giving warning signals "FEED ME!".

So, off we went to Strathfield to have some yummy Korean food.

We went to Homemade Noodles next to Strathfield station. It's a tiny but cozy place. Quite popular among the Koreans, people even come by themselves to have a quick meal and lines can get pretty long during mealtimes. It has an old but authentic feel to it, as all of the best eateries in Korea look. Normally if you're travelling in Asia, the best places to eat have been either there for a very long time or passed on from generations, preserving the authentic flavour of Korean food. None of that Westernized stuff.

Everything on the menu is $10. The menu here is different to normal Korean restaurants you see around Strathfield or the CBD area. Even if you're a fond fan of the Korean BBQ and bibimbaps, the dishes here will still be unfamiliar. These dishes are 'true' Korean dishes, at home dishes that Koreans generally crave.

Their signature dish is the kalgooksu, or noodle soup. The stock is brewed from seafood - clams, seaweed and perhaps a bit anchovies. That's the traditional way to brew stock for Korean soups. This noodle can also be eaten in a funner 'sheet' form called soojaebi. If you want both, opt for the kaljaebi. It'll take forever to explain every dish so you'll just have to try for yourself!

Kimchi. The flavour will be different to normal kimchi they sell at Korean restaurants. This tastes fresher and has a cleaner aftertaste. I think this is made when needed, whereas normal kimchi needs to be fermented for a while.

My friend's dish, the yeolmu nengmyun. Nengmyun is a noodle dish soaked in cold broth made from beef stock. Yeolmu is a type of radish but it can also be made into a type of kimchi. Mixed together, these two create a wonderful blend of a cool and fresh dish. A lot of people eat nengmyun in the summer (as you can see by the ice floating in the soup) but it's really supposed to be eaten in winter to retain the energy in your body. Don't ask me how it works but it's an old belief that is still prevalent in the Korean society.

Yangpun bibimbap. I'm sure many of you will know what bibimbap is - a mixture of veggies, egg and rice. Healthy, simple but very delicious. This was one of the ways Koreans got rid of banchan (side dishes) by putting everything in a silver bowl and mixing it with chili paste and sesame oil. It brings the family closer together by sharing from this huge bowl.

The soup that accompanied my bibimbap. Normally this soup is used to make the broth in kalgooksu.

First you add the chili paste, then you mix. Easy peasy! I got full half way but I started digesting soon after so I finished it.

Unfortunately this restaurant is not on Urbanspoon and doesn't have a website so I couldn't add the Urbanspoon logo. But! It's really easy to find (located behind the bus stop), so give it a go if you feel like authentic Korean food!

And there's always room for dessert...

We went over to Moochi and ordered a mini each. Not my normal size but I had eaten past my limit and my stomach was bulging out. Nonetheless, I had to have dessert and Moochi was just around the corner!

I tried the original this time with lots of granola. It's tangy and thicker than most froyos but it definitely tastes like yoghurt. Many people compare this place with Noggi at Macquarie Centre but their's is a lot smoother. I haven't had Noggi in a while so I can't really compare at the moment but so far, Moochi tops the froyo list.

Moochi on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sushi Inn @ Randwick

This visit was actually a week ago but as always, I've been putting it off due to my 'busy' schedule. After my research work at the Prince of Wales Hospital, I met up with a friend for lunch. We were both finished for the day and felt like something more than hospital food so we strolled up to Randwick. It was a lovely sunny day but I felt like something warm and soupy to warm my body against the cold winter air. That's when I saw the winter specials on the window of Sushi Inn.

Most of the customers here seem to be staff members from the hospital. The sushi train is somewhere you can come even by yourself and enjoy a quick but tasty meal. Plus, it's economical - if you don't eat 10 plates like my brother that is.

It was nearly 3 o'clock so the restaurant was quite empty but the workers were still hurrying about to do their job. Service was fast and friendly although it took some time to get their attention away from whatever they were doing.

The sushi chefs were having a busy time of their own, preparing for dinner time and making more sushi for the train. There wasn't much variety though, probably because of the time but I did have my favourite unagi (eel) nigiri.

One of the few we've tried. The rice was hard and dry, again maybe because of the awkward time? I'll have to try this place again during proper meal times to really deduce their quality.

Be warned that you'll have to be extremely speedy when getting your ginger and wasabi since they are also on the sushi circuit. It was a race between human and machine but I managed to get the last piece of ginger before throwing the tongs back into the wooden bowl.

I ordered the chicken karaage ramen with the karaage on the side so it doesn't get soggy. Judging by their karaage, their food must be quite alright as it was crunchy, fat, and with that spicy saltiness. I thought it could have been better with a bit more garlic or ginger with the coating, at least salt, because it was a tad bit bland on its own. They had three different types of mayonnaise circulating on the train - original, fish roe, and wasabi. We had the wasabi mayonnaise but it wasn't as strong as I thought it would be. There was just a slight hint of wasabi in it but enough to taste it.

The ramen! I liked the ramen and especially the soup. It didn't have as much as other ramen places I've been to but it was just enough for me. The soup was delicious, not too salty and with a deep pork stock flavour. The egg was soft boiled (my favourite!) and soaked in the soup so it presented as a nice little side on its own.

Some ramen places have exceedingly salty soups that almost shrivel up your tongue when eating it. Some places either don't use fresh meat for their stock or handle it properly and you can smell the raw meaty smell from the soup. This place however was to my liking and if I'm nearby and feel like a warm winter treat, this is where I'll head.

Sushi Inn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Criniti's @ Darling Harbour

It had been a while since I've seen my uni friends because I'm currently taking a research year. 'Sleeping in' has lost its definition for me and I felt like I've become very lazy. I missed the routine life of uni and of course, my dear friends so I organised a dinner at Criniti's. I've heard so much about their 1 m pizza but haven't tried it yet and wondered if the taste matched its popularity.

The decor was quite a mix between retro and traditional Italian with motorcycles, footballs, and dark wooden furniture. It worked well and the dim lighting accentuated the panorama of Darling Harbour. Who doesn't love Darling Harbour at night?

They have buttons for service as well as the bill. It did take them around 10 minutes to answer to our calls but it was convenient and allowed us to continue with our conversations without having to wave our hands around for attention.

This egg light served as a prop in many of our photos. This little thing illuminated the entire table but it was still dark to see the menu properly. Lucky we were seated right in front of the ovens and the fire.

The restaurant was packed and even past 9 30, there was a long line of people waiting at the front. We were told we could choose 3 toppings for the 1 m pizza and for our friends with religious restrictions, we ordered the Godfather (chicken and avocado), Guardavelle (salami), and the Ortolana (vegetarian) to give a bit of variety. The 1 m pizza had a 45 minute wait and we were too hungry to just sit and wait. We ordered a Margherita and wedges as starters.

The Margherita came out really quickly, almost within 10 minutes of ordering. Slices of buffalo mozzarella and basil were scattered on the pizza. I could almost imagine the chefs throwing the ingredients onto the pizza in that slick dexterous manner. The flavour was ok, no particular wow factor about it. The crust was fluffy and light, and was very chewy. It could have been better with a bigger diameter of the sauce and cheese and less crust. I think I would rather the cheesy Secret Slice Margherita over this one.

Ooh the wedges! Patate fritte as they call it. I couldn't help but take photos of this wooden tub with its specially made hole for the sweet chili/sour cream bowl. The wedges were crunchy, beautifully salted with chicken salt, and the potato cooked to perfection. I hate it when I get wedges that still taste like raw potato. These wedges however, was perfect. The coating was just the right amount of thickness so you still get the saltiness with the lovely potato inside. I would go back just for these.

The arrival of the 1 m pizza was a moment of excitement and rapture. We saw the huge thing sitting on top of the oven bench, waiting to be delivered straight into our mouths. When the waitstaff picked it up, we all exchanged happy glances and followed the pizza as it made its way to our table.

The pizza was indeed humongous, served on a large wooden platter. It was cut into square pieces for us and the different toppings divided the pizza into 3 equal sections. I was seated in the middle so every part of the pizza was easily accessible. I was so excited to finally try this famous 1 m pizza.

By this time, I was already full from the starters. I kept reaching out for the wedges even though I knew I should save my stomach for the main meal. I regretted it as I took my first bite as I knew my stomach could not take too much. I couldn't have the Ortolana which seemed the best out of the three.

The Godfather was nice but there weren't many chicken pieces there. Large slices of avocado made the pizza very colourful against the backdrop of white and red. The Guardavelle wasn't as nice as I thought it would be. The salami didn't seem to have enough flavour and the pizza was quite boring compared to the other ones. The Ortolana, our vegetarian pizza, was the one that I sadly couldn't try. There were a lot of veggies grilled into the cheesy layer, so Italian with the capsicum, mushroom, eggplant and olives.

We finished everything between the 8 of us, a big thanks to the guys. Overall, the food was alright but not spectacular. If I craved a pizza, Criniti's wouldn't be the first place to pop in my mind but on a weekend night or with a large group I think it is an ideal place just because of the mood. I wanted to try their extensive cocktail list. Some were group drinks, served in kegs, boats, and other cool vessels. The food though, well it wasn't worth the price.

Criniti’s Ristorante Darling Harbour on Urbanspoon

Arisan @ CBD

It was one of those days when I craved something fried, greasy, and generally unhealthy. I was this close to making a midnight KFC trip when the boyfriend suggested we have a date out at the city. Using this opportunity, I insisted we go have fried chicken at the city Arisan (called Arisun on Urbanspoon), normally a Korean-Chinese restaurant. This city venue, however, had a fried chicken menu on top of the normal dishes and Korean fried chicken is truly the best.

They gave us the banchan (side dishes) and one of the dishes had something very unusual. At first I thought it was a mint for after the meal. We both curiously touched it, turned it over, sniffed it to discern what it was. After a good 5 minutes of deliberating what this strange substance could be, we finally asked the waitress and she told us that they were wet tissues to wipe your hands with. We were too curious to wait until after the meal and we added a bit of water to the dish. What came next was amazing for us as the little roll absorbed the water and expanded. We were like little kids, watching wide eyed at this magical transformation.

Now for the main dish! We got the spicy sweet chili fried chicken. Ever since that visit to Doo Ri, my sweet chili chicken cravings had been growing. This was the day that it had been satiated.

The Man can't take anything too spicy so we asked the waiter if we could tone it down a bit but sadly, their marinade was already made and they couldn't do anything about it. He told us it wasn't that spicy and we believed him, with the Man reluctantly giving in to his fate..

Compare this with the fried chicken at Doo Ri! Abundant, huge, lots of flesh. The marinade was sticky and well absorbed with the fried chicken. It was terribly spicy though and we were both panting through our bites. We also had soju so that masked the pain a bit but our stomachs were still burning the next day.

Despite the overwhelming chili, I couldn't stop eating. It was sweet and spicy, crunchy and chewy, everything you can hope for in fried chicken. Let me warn you though, if you can't take spicy foods, then get the non-chili fried chickens. There were plenty of other choices among the menu and I will be coming back to try the other ones with a huge jug of beer. I think this will make a rather awesome meal once summer comes. Cold beer in the summer heat is the best ;)

Arisun on Urbanspoon

Cafe Berlin @ Balmain

How could I have forgotten to blog about my favourite brekky place?! After a long night of celebrating a dear friend's 21st at a hotel room, we wearily made our way back home. Balmain was on the way so we decided to stop for breakfast. We were initially planning to go to Kazbah to try their famous french toast a friend kept insisting but sadly it was closed on the day (it was a Monday) so I recommended Cafe Berlin, a cozy cafe just in front of Balmain Hospital.

As you enter, there is a bountiful display of cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and lots of sweets that make you stop and stare. Everytime I look at the display, I start salivating and my mind weakens. Only if I had an endless pit for a stomach. On the back wall is a mirror which they use as a whiteboard to write down their daily specials. Fresh ingredients are placed around the open kitchen, ensuring costumers that their food quality is reliable and top grade.

The birthday night was spent with an unbelievable amount of sweets. We had a fondue on top of that so we were craving something savoury and fresh. I ordered an apple juice while my friends got the juice blends. I forgot what they were called but the red one was a blend of mixed berries, cranberry, lemon & ice and the orange one a blend of carrot, orange, ginger & ice. They were such a pretty burst of colour we couldn't help but take several shots of just the juices.

The food came out a bit late but I guess that was because there was only one chef in the kitchen at that time. I had the 2 free range eggs with sourdough (scrambled with an extra side of bacon), and my friends ordered the 2 free range eggs with sourdough (poached), homemade beans melt, and the soup of the day (vegetable soup).

My first bite of my bacon was shockingly salty. They must have added more salt to my bacon because I could not finish it. The sourdough however was huge and soft, though I prefer brown bread when eating it with eggs so I can just bite it off. With sourdough, it's more of a battle trying to cut through the crust, like a dog with a chew toy. My friend was particularly happy with the butter. Only on the previous night had she been telling us that it was the best butter in the world but Australians don't seem to like international brands as experienced at my mother's cafe.

The homemade beans melt was delicious! Savoury, hearty and something different. It really was homemade, unlike those tinned baked beans. The beans were abundantly placed on a nest of baby spinach, and of course, served on the biggest slice of sourdough I've ever seen. I've tried making this at home with tinned baked beans and it just wasn't the same :(

The soup of the day was vegetable soup. It looked rather watery but when we tasted it, I regretted not getting it myself. The vegetable chunks were soft and soaked in the stock and when eaten with the sourdough, it was the best winter meal.

Poached eggs with sourdough.

My favourite dish here is the french toast. Thick slices of french toast served with berry compote, maple marscarpone and crispy bacon.. I salivate just at the thought of it. I've always wanted to try their muffins as well, freshly baked in the mornings. It's not the prettiest muffin , but it looks better than any of those round shaped ones. Not sure about the taste though. The coffee is also very nice!

Cafe Berlin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Secret Slice @ Meadowbank

Secret Slice is a real treat found in the twists and turns of Meadowbank. The Man, eager to try out his new iPhone, discovered Secret Slice while browsing through Urbanspoon. Only recently opened, this place has already received an excellent rating from Urbanspoon (100% by 36 people). The Man mentioned that Buffalo was the best menu but when we had a look, we wanted to try everything.

We ordered two regular pizzas - a simple Margherita and the Shoreline, a seafood pizza of prawns, scallops, and marinaded octopus. There were a variety of combinations, from the traditional supreme to a type of pizza with chicken schnitzel. It was impossible for us to try everything we wanted so we chose one each and decided we'll leave the rest for another day.

Margherita. Sometimes simple is best. It was bursting with sweet tomato paste, endless cheesy strings, all served on a crunchy thin base. Personally, I prefer the simple traditional pizzas to the 'gourmet' selections.

Shoreline. Look at all those prawns and scallops! There hardly is an empty area left!

Yum. The prawns were plump and the scallops were juicy. There weren't too much octopus which I would have liked but for all the seafood lovers, this is your ideal pizza!

We managed to finish these between the two of us but we were both stuffed with food babies. They also do delivery within 5 km of the area. Next time I feel like a late night snack, I know where I'll call :)

Secret Slice on Urbanspoon