Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar @ Westfield Sydney

I love my trips to Westfield Sydney, not just because of the shopping but because of the food. I get excited about mealtimes more than the fact that I'm out at the city. There's so much to eat, so much to see and I spend quite a lot of time strolling around the food court, deciding what to eat. Well so far, I've tried Charlie & Co, Snag Stand, Sassy's Red, and that vegetarian roll place with the delicious Vietnamese rolls. All the dessert places I've tried. What next... As I walked around to the sushi place, I saw Din Tai Fung and knew it was time to try this famed dumpling bar.

The food came out surprisingly quickly, even faster than the Chatime the Man went to get.

Shrimp & Pork Wonton Noodle with Spicy Sauce. I've been craving something spicy and brothy so this was the perfect dish. There isn't much of a soup or broth but the spicy pool underneath was enough to coat the noodles with that delicious, soy-saucy sauce. The sauce was saturated at the bottom so it gets a bit salty towards the end of the dish but it was still very enjoyable.

These huge wontons were the cherry on top. I was very happy to find that their wontons and dumpings were juicy and soft. As soon as you bite into the chewy wrapper, a delicious meaty juice squeezes out. The outside is well soaked in the spicy soup so that provides all the flavour you need.

Shrimp & Pork Wonton Noodle Soup. Basically the same as mine except dunked in a mild chicken broth. The broth wasn't as strong as I thought it would be but because it's not so strong, you keep going for it, spoonful after spoonful.

Steamed shrimp & pork Shao Mai. The Man loves his shrimp/prawn dumplings so I got these 4 cute pouches, each with a shrimp on top. The shell was moist and chewy, not at all dry, although they do stick to the paper on the bottom so don't pull too hard or you'll waste the deliciousness inside.

Inside the pouch is a succulent mix of shrimp and pork. An unaware bite may cause you to dribble the juice all over your clothes so be careful and bite over your bowl. If only I wasn't so full off my spicy noodles, I would have gotten more of these delicious morsels.

Now I have an extremely high expectation for the original Din Tai Fung. Surely if the food court food is this good, then the real restaurant will blow my mind.

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tastevin @ Darlinghurst

Continuing on with the Valentine's celebrations.. The musical Love Never Dies was breathtaking. The sequel is never as good as the original so I was worried that it might ruin the entire image. I won't reveal anything but let me just say that I would go and watch it again, even tonight.

After the musical, we quickly caught a cab and went to Darlinghurst. I had no idea where we were going so I was just admiring the large Coca Cola sign when the Man led me to Victoria St where Hinky Dink and Wow Cow was.

From the outside, the graffiti and the colourful font of the sign made me think that we were going to a Mexican/Spanish restaurant. In fact, Tastevin is a French/Modern Australian restaurant, offering all the sophistication as expected.

The interior is beautiful and elegant. It was a 10 PM booking so we were the last customers to leave.

Valentine's tasting menu.

Herb roll. It was very dense and herby. It would have been better if it had been warmed.

Amuse bouche. Little pastry tarts filled with snailed cooked in wine reduction. I've never tried snails before and it seemed too slimy and squishy for my taste but the amuse bouche was delicate and delicious. It was small, leaving you longing for more.

Warm goats cheese with caramelised apple & rosemary salad. A pretty presentation of simple items.

I'm not a big fan of goats cheese so I didn't have much of it but the croquette was well battered, crunchy and golden. I ate it more for the golden batter than for the goats cheese. The croquette is balanced against a piece of walnut.

The caramelised apple was a perfect compliment to balance out the pungent cheese. The rosemary salad on the side was too bitter for my taste but the fragrance of the rosemary was quite aromatic.

House smoked salmon with beetroot, mache & lemon dressing. I loved this dish. It reminds me of a spring garden. Not only was the garnish colourful and artistic, the flavours were simple yet rich. The smoked salmon was fresh and plump with a bit of pepper on the top. The diced beetroot was sweet and although the ingredients were simple, the flavours they created together was simply lovely.

Beautiful curves on the knife.

Roast duck breast "aux cerises" with gratin dauphinoise & grilled asparagus. Slices of medium rare duck breasts and duck sausages are the main ingredients in this dish. The duck breasts are succulent, juices squeezing out of the meat with each bite. You don't even need the wine reduction for extra flavouring because the duck itself has plenty. The sausages are also juicy and saltier than the breasts but it's another way to enjoy the distinct taste of duck.

The gratin is layers of potato, not mash-soft but soft enough to melt in your mouth. It's very buttery so take baby bites to fully savour the flavour.

Desserts de l'amour - dark chocolate mousse, lavender creme brulee & raspberry sorbet. The desserts were so-so. The brulee and the mousse were both very runny but I did enjoy the mousse very much.

Waiting for our tea. It has been such a magical night.

I had peppermint tea and the Man had lemongrass & ginger tea. The cup and saucer were pretty but not very practical and I almost spilled my drink several times. The saucer comes up too much on the sides for me to safely put down the cup and because the handle is shaped so that you have to make a fist around the handle, there were a few clumsy moments.

The overall atmosphere of Tastevin was romantic with friendly service and delicious dishes. The staff's thick French accents transported us straight to the heart of Paris and the wine set us in an extra good mood. My stomach was happy, I was happy, and this Valentine's was the best Valentine's ever <3

Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Encasa @ Haymarket

The city on Valentine's was as busy as a weekend night with couples upon couples walking along the streets with their arms linked tight and their smiles glued to their lips. You could really feel the love in the air and the air almost smells sweeter from the many bouquets of roses in ladies' arms. I wondered what they had in store for them, but what I was more excited about was my night. The Man had so romantically planned a many-course evening with TWO dinners instead of one because Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Love Never Dies was right in the middle of dinner time. First stop! ENCASA

The walk up to Encasa from Central Station isn't scenic and the Man admitted later that he felt like he had chosen the wrong place for a special Valentine's dinner but rest assured, Encasa has a cozy, intimate atmosphere that keeps you in deep conversation with your sweetheart.

Their Valentine's menu, prepared with aphrodisiac ingredients! We had a chuckle or two over this.

As soon as the restaurant opened for business at 5:30, couples poured in, some even being turned away because they hadn't booked in advance. The staff are quite busy and it took us a while to get their attention in the first 10 minutes of our stay but soon, more staff members appeared and their service was prompt and friendly.

Cava - spanish sparkling wine served with strawberries. The bubbly was sweet but the scent of sweet strawberries before you drank made it seem sweeter. I ate it soon enough because it was getting in the way of my nose.

Pacific oysters served with a mojito shot. Our first aphrodisiac dish :p The oysters were fresh and the mojito shot was very lemony sweet, cleansing out the palate before we enjoy the next dish.

A thick layer of foam covered the top of the mojito shot so you only get a taste of the mojito, not a strong swig.

Manchego cheese and piquillo pepper croquettes and platter of fennel Salchichon served with toasted bread.

The croquettes were different to the ones I've eaten before. The inside was a mixture of melted cheese and a thick creamy substance that gave it the consistency of a less airy version of mousse. I couldn't taste the piquillo pepper in it at all which would have added more flavour to the overall monotonic dish.

Very soft, very creamy.

The toasted sourdough served with the Salchichon.

Salchichon basically means cold chorizo (spanish sausage). This was the first time I've had chorizo served cold but it was still nice and salty. It was a good accompaniment to the well oiled bread.

Prawn and scallop skewers with avocado salsa. Simple grilled seafood skewers with sweet and tangy avocado salsa. I loved the salsa and wished there was more than a spoonful.

The seafood was very smokey and well grilled, not overdone and tough.

Sangria. The majority of it was lemonade so it was more of a soda than an alcoholic beverage.

The Man thought it wouldn't be enough so he ordered shoestring fries as well. We had a 7 course dinner after the musical so I was determined not to eat it, but the golden crunchiness was too addictive to stop and we ended up finishing more than half of it.

We only had the Valentine's specials because the original menu had dishes you can have at any tapas place. Judging by what we had, I think it would be safe to say that their other dishes would be just as satisfying.

Encasa on Urbanspoon

Sweetness the Patisserie @ Epping

Ah Valentine's, full of sweets and love...but sweets mostly. I dropped by at Sweetness the Patisserie to grab a few Valentine's treats for the family. They had their usual heart shaped cookies and the fruit jellies but something different caught my eye.

Starting from the top left (clockwise), chocolate coated caramel apple, Valentine's marshmallows, banana streusel muffin, and red velvet whoopie pie. The latter two were my treats :)

Chocolate and caramel coated apple. This one was for my brother who I so dearly wish to be a child again. I've been craving red velvet cupcakes so when I saw this mysterious whoopie pie, I couldn't resist. I've heard of whoopie pies so much and have seen recipe books for whoopie pies. It looks like the Korean snack "Chocopie" which is a chocolate covered cake sandwich with a layer of marshmallow in between. The whoopie pie was even better. The red velvet cake was soft and not too sweet, and the creamy layer in between was also soft yet bouncy.

If you think of Sweetness, you're bound to think of their many flavoured marshmallows. For Valentine's, they had cubes of pink and white marshmallows, packed in a simple white box. This one was for my mom.

I just got this muffin for lunch because the crumble on top looked so delicious. The muffin was a bit dry and tasted artificially sweet. The crumble was a sugary mixture of cookie crumbs which made me feel a bit sick when eating it. The crushed walnuts in the muffin made it drier. I was so sad.

Their sweets are expensive for an everyday snack but if you're looking for a gift for a special someone, their beautiful desserts will score you some points!

SWEETNESS The Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stitch @ Wynyard

My goal for 2012 is to visit as many eateries and bars as I can. As he reads this, the Man will probably be shuddering since he is my soul 'sponsor' for my food adventures but luckily, he enjoys the experience as much as I do (and I do try to help out whenever I can!).

Together, we're starting to gain a sense of maturity, both emotionally and gastronomically, and instead of having drinks at Star Bar or Pavilion Hotel like we did in our teens, we're gradually surfing through all the wine bars in Sydney. Our recent stop - Stitch!

I've been here before with my gal pals but it was the first time I brought the Man. Stepping through the 'closet' doors, his eyes grew wide with excitement. You would never know this was a bar walking along York St. I would have just stared hungrily at the cupcakes then passed it by. It feels like a special and exclusive space, sort of like those special rooms in Harry Potter :p

Their cocktail menu is quite extensive. Pages upon pages of drinks, sweet and strong, are available and they all have interesting names like "Elegantly Wasted". At the front, they have a short food menu, mainly burgers and hot dogs but they also have a dessert's section if you feel like something sweet. They also sell Pat and Stick's ice cream sandwiches but 9 bucks?! I think not.

The dim lighting and the rustic interior is perfect for enjoying your private times with friends/lovers. There aren't many seats but luckily, it was quite free this night (it was a Saturday, around 7:30).

The wine is stored in a cellar underneath the staircase.

High and Dry for me, Monkey Magic for the Man.

This was the High and Dry (excuse the flash), garnished with a sprig of rosemary. Both drinks were sweet and you couldn't taste the alcohol at all in the Monkey Magic whereas with mine, there was a subtle aftertaste of brandy which made you go for more of those lovely curly fries but it wasn't unpleasantly strong. The sweet apple juice mix made it easier on my empty stomach. The Man commented on how his tasted like 'gatorade' and finished more than half of it before the food came out.

Their famous curly fries and carnitas (pulled pork soft taco).

Mmmm grill lines make anything look tasty and indeed it was. The pulled pork was a bit dry and tough but the avocado, yoghurt and salsa verde coated the pork well enough for us to enjoy it without any fusses. Compared to other Mexican places, I would say it's slightly bland but a hidden spiciness hit us after a few bites. Whether it was this or the fries, I cannot say but I felt that the hot sauce in this played a part in me swigging down the cocktail to calm my tongue.

The curly fries. We weren't expecting something like this at all. Each piece was so cleanly cut, coated generously with spicy paprika. This was the bigger size for $9 but you can also get a smaller one for $6. Great for value I would say. It was surprisingly spicier than I thought it would be but that didn't stop us from finishing the entire thing.

That's how long each piece was, so I had to hold the extra long ones above my head and chomp it shorter from the bottom. It wasn't crunchy but it wasn't soggy. The fries were still bouncy and chewy, and the curliness brought me back to childhood as I sat there making my way through the delicious curls. This will most definitely be a staple item on my future visits.

The cocktails are quite pricey, averaging around $19, but as long as you're not looking to get wasted, have a glass or two to loosen you up.

Stitch on Urbanspoon