Friday, November 25, 2011

Cafe Topiary @ Epping

The Man and I are quite the health freaks with regular gym workouts that we prioritize over outings and work, except when it comes to food. We met early in the morning so we could digest before we went to work out together but the temptations are too great!

Latte for the Man, chai latte for me! Their foamy drinks (eg. cappuccino, chai latte) always have a soft, smooth layer of foam on top whereas most places pour in the foam without popping the bubbles first. I like scooping up the foam with the melted chocolate powder or cinnamon sugar so the coffee here has always been my favourite. Plus, they use Campos.

Even in the pouring rain, Cafe Topiary always has many customers. It's cozy and convenient to get to, and the homey architecture of the cafe makes you feel at home.


The big brekky for the Man. He loved that the bacon was crispy although every time we come here, we wish the bread was of better quality and that the butter is more thoroughly spread. The hash browns are all fried, not much potato.

My omelette with bacon. One instructor once told me that a salty meal before a work out prevents cramps. I tend to overeat despite having to go to a cycle class or any other high intensity cardio class so cramps have always been a problem for me.

The stuffings have been folded into the egg so they fall freely from the egg. There isn't as much bacon as I would have liked, just a bit on the outside of the shell. There was no lack of veggies though and I felt so proud of myself for eating a healthy meal.

Their service is friendly and quick, although you can expect to twist your spines trying to get the staff's attention during busy hours. They also have a patio, perfect for all those cute four-legged customers. During the evenings, you can also hire the venue as a function centre which can make a different and classy evening for you and your friends.

Cafe Topiary on Urbanspoon

Sassy's Red @ Westfield Sydney

Finding a seat at the Westfield Sydney food court is a battle. You need to be quick and alert or you'll be standing around with your tray in hand for another 10-15 mins. Nonetheless, I love this place and I have yet to conquer the other places I haven't tried. It was way past lunch time when me and the Man came for a late lunch for there were plenty of spots available.

It had started raining outside and I dressed too thinly for the dismal weather so I felt like something hearty and soupy. Nothing really crossed my mind until I saw Sassy's Red - laksa!

Sassy's Red has their own seating area, convenient if you and your groups are ordering only from here. Normally, they seem to have one or two places available even during busy lunch hours.

My vegetable laksa, because I never seem to eat the meat or seafood they give with laksa. The first sip was oh so heavenly, the deep flavour of the spicy coconut stock just melting my insides. We both couldn't stop sipping the lovely soup.

Sorry about the messy photo but I just had to point out how less greasy their soup is compared to other laksas I've eaten. The soup is full of flavour, and is thick with a bit of grainy texture to it. The fried tofu has fully absorbed the soup into every bubble and drizzles out with each bite.

Crispy seafood mee. The dishes here have an authentic flavour, fresh and real. They almost taste healthy!

The Man loves to be in my photos :)

Being silly. We've also demolished our meals! (except my veggies)

Sassy's Red on Urbanspoon

Del Mondo Pastries @ Concord

This Saturday was a sweltering hot day and even the morning air felt like a furnace. However, brunch is still a must and we ticked off another place at Concord, Del Mondo Pastries. They have a wide range of cakes and pastries as their name suggests, and even large cakes suitable for birthday parties. Their cakes were decorated simply but quite elegantly although I'm not sure about the taste. I must try it soon!

The outdoor seating is in front of the florist next door rather than the actual cafe itself because the pedestrian crossing is right in front of the cafe. It was hot, but everyone was sitting outside in the shining sun.

Iced coffee. A cold substitute for our morning coffee. They use their own homemade gelato. I think the flavour they gave us was caramel.

Food! abundantly placed on a huge oval plate.

My ricotta pancake. There wasn't much ricotta in there to be honest but the pancakes themselves were quite nice and thick. They gave 4 huge slices and I could only finish two. It's served with berry compote, whipped cream and maple syrup. I'm not a fan of cream so I didn't have any of that.

The berry compote was sweet and sour with huge chunks of strawberries and blueberries. All the red of the berries and white of the icing sugar and the green mint reminds me of Christmas which is just around the corner now!

They don't look that big but they are really thick. You can't taste the ricotta. So far, I think the best ricotta pancake I've ever tasted was at Bill's.

The big brekky for the Man as always. The bacon tasted a bit funky and didn't taste like bacon at all. We both love bacon but we couldn't bring ourselves to finish it.

The breakfast was overall okay but the next trip I'll make here will be to try out the cakes and sweets.

Del Mondo Pastries on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sakae Yakiniku @ Eastwood

It was one of those indecisive days when our bellies wanted to nom on everything in the world. The rain was drizzling outside, and we were passing through Eastwood when we suddenly came up with 4 new places. After a few sets of Rock-Paper-Scissors, we were off to Sakae Yakiniku!

This Sakae is part of the Sakae franchise, with the other restaurants being at the city and Eastwood just around the corner from this one. However, this Sakae is completely different with different menus and a different environment. Yaki meaning to cook and niku meaning meat, this place is more like a Korean BBQ than a Japanese restaurant. They do offer the usual Japanese dishes such as sashimi, sushi, udon, etc but they're most famous for their meal deals.

They give you three sets of menus, one normal, one buffet and one meal deal. We chose the $29.90 dinner meal deal which offers four different dishes for each person. A - entrees, B - meat, C - hot food, D - dessert. We chose one ABCD and one ABBD for a bit of variety.

They also give you quite a lot of appetizers. Kimchi, thin onion slices in a sweet soy sauce based sauce, and salad in an apple/kiwi based sauce. The onions are refreshing with the meat but about the salad, the sauce is a bit odd and doesn't really suit my tastebuds.

One of the appetizers. Soft tofu in katsuobushi brewed sauce. Katsuobushi is dried fish, used by Japanese to enhance the flavours in their cooking. The brew in particular is used widely as a stock.

Agedashi tofu, my choice. 6 huge pieces of tofu. The tofu itself is very soft and jiggly but the coating was quite tough, making me doubt whether it was freshly made or not. The agedashi sauce is quite nice and the flavour isn't disappointing at all.

Beef tataki, his choice. I found this a bit too thick and tough for my liking but the Man loved it. The sauce itself was full of flavour with a hint of garlic.

We got the Wagyu rib fingers, Wagyu rib skirts, and the galbi, a long strip of meat with a piece of rib at the end. Our verdict - Wagyu rib skirts! This one was so succulent and tender when cooked medium rare. The juice literally squirts out with each bite and if you like the taste of your meat, have it with a bit of sea salt & pepper to really bring out the ultimate wagyu experience. If you overcook it, it's very tough, even if it is wagyu. The portion sizes are quite small but by the end of the meal, we were both quite full.

The unagi don. I love unagi (eel) but this one, like their other dishes, was amazingly tough and was hard to bite off even with my teeth. It does feel a bit old as fresh unagi should fall apart easily with your chopsticks and the glaze should drizzle down in a thick honey-like goo as you pick a slice up.

Green tea ice cream. I don't know if it was all the fatty wagyu but this ice cream was so good and cleansing! I'm surprised every time green tea something really tastes like green tea because they seldom do. It was light and airy but creamy enough to satisfy. Even the sample sized amount is enough after our big meal.

If you want a non-fuss meal, then I say go for it. Don't count too much on the hot food but it's still good enough to make me happy.

Sakae Yakiniku House on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 11, 2011

Snag Stand @ Westfield Sydney

It was just an ordinary day when 3 friends met up after uni/hospital for a quick meal. I recommended we go to the Westfield Sydney food court where it would be nicely air conditioned and there are plenty of choices to satisfy your stomach from. I've had my eye set on the Chili Dog at Snag Stand since I'm a great fan of all chili dogs and chili fries and chili everything and the rest of the gang was also eager to try this one out.

We couldn't just have the hot dogs so we decided to get a box of chips each. Let me just say that these chips are great. They're similar to the ones at the West Ryde Hotel but less spiced. Half wedge, half chip - chedges is what I like to call them!

The fried layer is very thin and very crunchy too.

This chili dog gave me a stomachache the next day but I still chugged on because it was still good. I love their toasted brioche buns, so crunchy and dense. The sausages are soft and tender, and cuts easily with your teeth. I had to use a knife and fork because the grease went everywhere and I didn't want to ruin my hospital clothes.

If you've eaten chili con carne before, that's the sort of flavour you should expect, except it's a lot chilier and there aren't any beans. This is indeed the chili dog. It would have been better if the cheese was melted because it was just messy because they didn't stick to the chili mixture. Melted cheese and chili con carne, that would have made this hot dog a true American-Mexican chili dog.

Our dips. I've forgotten which one was which but my favourite was the herby aioli. The chips don't really need any other flavouring and are delicious by themselves but these added the refreshing zest to the burning meal we just had.

The chili dog was delicious, but never again.. I'll stick to the American Classic from now on.

Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Noggi @ Strathfield

Strathfield has another cool place to hangout - Noggi! Their first store is at Macquarie Centre which has been very popular with young adults and kids even through the cold days of winter. Its rival Moochi is less than a 100 m away from this store and I have yet to hold a taste battle between the two but I promise you that will be held soon..

It's right in front of kiss and ride so you won't miss it. After school is an especially busy time with all the students flocking in for some froyo so avoid peak hour if you don't want to wait 15 minutes.

Their menu gives instructions on how to order but it's pretty simple. Choose your size, your flavour, and your toppings. You get three toppings with each and as their specials, you get free toppings if you come in your school uniform. I was even considering wearing my old one :p

One thing that really caught my attention was their decor. Their ceiling has a wavy road that brightens up when they dim the lights.

They also crank up the music so it feels more like a bar than a froyo booth. It was around 9 and even then the line was quite long and all the seating were full. They have more toppings than the Macquarie store but some of them seem a bit wonky to me (eg. gummy bears).

Noggi! Compared to Moochi, they pack in more into the container. Their strawberries are really sweet and well cubed, making it easy to scoop them up and ration them with the froyo.

Muesli, oreos and strawberries. My favourite toppings :) Their froyo is definitely more airy and lighter than the Moochi one which is more creamy. Noggi has a cleaner aftertaste because of that and even after a big meal, you can finish a Maxi without problem.

It's healthy and delicious, and perfect in time for summer! Or even nowadays since it's ridiculously hot and humid. I could really do with one right now. Plus, it's open til midnight with the exception of Friday and Saturday when it's open til 1am. It must be incredibly tiring for the staff but for those of use with nowhere to go on weekends, it's the perfect place to enjoy some company and satisfy your sweet tooth.

Noggi on Urbanspoon

District Dining @ Surry Hills

You would have never thought a place like Central Station hides such treasures. The address says Surry Hills but it's found right next to Central Station on Randle Street. Many bloggers have already raved about District Dining and it's special dishes so it's now my turn :)

To continue on with our anniversary celebrations..our final course was dinner at District Dining. I do love my surprises so the Man kept it a secret the entire way. I wasn't expecting to go here at all so when we turned the corner and I saw the modern concrete building with "District Dining", I couldn't help but grin.

The special thing about their menu is that the size of the dishes increase towards the bottom. We got the Crispy Pig Ears with Szechuan salt and Crispy Quail Eggs with Tarragon Mayonnaise as our starters.

I love how they give it on wooden boards. Not only is their menu different and quirky, their presentation is also artistic.

The quail eggs.

Within the crusty coating is the delicate quail egg, moist and soft. The eggs are soft boiled so they easily cut with a knife. They're so tiny and cute that you feel like more after each bite. The tarragon mayonnaise is tangy and smooth. There are green specks of tarragon visible in the mayo and that made the dish look even prettier.

This is what happens if you're clumsy :p

The crispy pig ears. I didn't know pig ears could taste this good! I've always had a slight phobia for meat from other places than the trunk. I've only recently tried fried pig skins as well. Well this one is a must if you dine here. Chewy and salty, this makes a healthy and delicious snack! One pig ear quickly leads to the other and soon, we were finished with this and wishing for more.

For the main, we ordered Cone Bay Barramundi with Saffron Potatoes, Boullabaise and Rouille, and the Roasted Spatchcock, Kumara Chips, Bois Boudrin, and Aioli.

The barramundi. The saffron potato puree was so creamy and soft. It wasn't the fish that captivated my palate but the rouille. The seafood soup, or the boullabaise, soaks through the potatoe rouille, adding a deeper stew-like flavour to the whole dish.

The spatchcock was tender and was well spiced, a bit like in a Moroccan style. The kumara chips were sweet and crispy and I definitely could have had more than 3 little sticks. The bois boudrin is the green pesto-like paste on the bottom. It was very zesty and had a more dip-like consistency with a bit of olive oil. I couldn't quite tell what it was made from, shallots? Parsley? but it certainly refreshed my mouth after all the mayo and oil.

The Cookie Sandwich! I think the cookies are chocolate chip and coconut. They were soft and just the right amount of sweetness. Instead, the creamy honeycomb filling really hits the sweet meter. It's overly sweet but still delicious. The caramel sheet on the bottom and the honeycomb crumbs only intensify the sugar hit. It was one of those foods that are good, but it's either too spicy or sweet or sour or bitter so you have to persevere to finish it.

I still liked it :)

The passionfruit brulee with madeleines.

The brulee was well made, crunchy caramelised sugar on top, creamy on the inside. One thing I didn't like about it was that the cream was too warm. A tropical fruit dessert such as this one would have been better cold.

The madeleines were lemony and soft. Not as buttery as what you would find at other places but with all the overwhelming sweetness, we needed something fruity to cleanse our palate.

So far, all of our recent gastronomic adventures have been a success and this one by far is a winner! District Dining did not disappoint me and even though the location doesn't seem ideal, the mood inside is classy and modern. They also have a cocktail menu on the blackboard behind the bar so be sure to check that out. My stomach is happy :)

District Dining on Urbanspoon