Friday, September 30, 2011

Cafe Essen @ Civic Centre, Canberra

After a trip to the Canberra Museum & Gallery, we ventured around to find a nice cafe to have our lunch. I remember seeing Cafe Essen on Urbanspoon so we decided to try this place.

It was packed and the inside was quite small. The seats were placed very close to each other but it had a nice homey feel to it. They had a large collection of cakes which I wouldn't have minded trying but my mind was already set on having that cupcake I saw at the Butterfly Lounge at the Floriade.

The Man got the Full Monty - their version of a big brekky. It comes with a standard coffee and a glass of orange juice. I got the club sandwich because I was very, very hungry and I really needed energy after walking around with my heavy backpack.

Food has arrived!

The Club Sandwich. As soon as it came out I thought 'hmm..... this is tiny'. It wasn't the normal two tiered sandwich and the scant amount of fillings were bunched in the middle. The bread slice was thick though and it did have a bit of avocado. The hollandaise sauce wasn't too bad but I wasn't very happy after the meal. It just felt like I had half a loaf of bread.

The Full Monty. It was more of a small brekky with toast, egg, bacon, grilled tomato and some mushrooms. The bacon was good but everything else, just average.

The orange juice, very watery.

Canberra hasn't been much of a gastronomic adventure for me which was really, really sad because I'm always excited about trying new places at new places. It seems like I shall just have to conquer Sydney and its delicacies for now.

Cafe Essen on Urbanspoon

La Pasa @ Civic Centre, Canberra

Me and the Man tripped it down to Canberra for the annual Floriade festival. It was amazing and the park was beautifully lit with magical lights for the Nightfest but I did not expect Canbera to be this cold. I could not feel like my toes and felt like my taste buds would freeze off if I didn't have something warm FAST.

Even at Canberra, eating good food is so important. We researched for some eateries on Urbanspoon and found La Pasa, a Singaporean restaurant located a bit above the London Circuit. It took us a while to find it because the address was wrong or they must have recently moved.

I wanted something warm and soupy so I chose the vegetarian laksa even if I'm not a big fan of it. The Man got the Heinan Chicken and we also got the mixed entree.

The entree dish came with a curry puff, spring roll, fried wontons, some kind of chips and fried bread with sesame seeds. They weren't that great but I always love my curry puffs.

The fried bread. I loved the sesame seeds on top and the bread, although oily, was crunchy and fun to eat.

The Heinan Chicken. It came with three dips - soy sauce, diced chili sauce and raw garlic. I didn't taste the chicken but the rice was cooked in chicken broth and was so yummy I could eat it on its own.

Close up.

My laksa. I didn't really like this one. It didn't have a deep flavour and was a bit bland. It could have been better with more bok choy and less chunky broccoli and cauliflower. The fried tofu was nice though and overall, the soup was quite chili but not so much that I was crying through the meal.

I sort of regretted coming here. On Urbanspoon, it got a rating of 86% so I had high expectations for this place but when we walked out, I wished we went to the Indian place we found instead..

La Pasa Singaporean on Urbanspoon

Picnic @ McCarr's Creek Reserve

The weather has been so funny lately. Cold one day, hot the next. I wish it would make up its mind already. I bet everyone's sick of locking themselves up at home away from the rain and chill, well I certainly was. Friday the 23rd was a rare moment of warmth, hot actually, so the Man and I decided to trip it to McCarr's Creek Reserve up north for a picnic and a dunk if the weather permits.

The day came and the weather was perfect! Not a cloud in sight and the heat hit me as soon as I woke up. Today, the Man was preparing the food so I was quite excited to see what he would conjure up this time. Maybe it's a guy thing but he seemed to have strange combinations at times, like rice, baked beans and kimchi so I mentally prepared myself for whatever he might have made. Just joking! His first try at cooking - a garlic prawn roll, turned out to be really good when he made it for our first picnic though I couldn't help giggling to myself as I imagined him hurrying about in the kitchen.

The view from our platform. We set up the picnic rug on a small wooden platform just in front of the waters. The view was fantastic and the trees provided a cool shade for us to relax in.

Oh he knows how much I love my Mexican food. He prepared a Mexican fiesta, complete with guacamole and both soft and hard shells! My mouth waters again as I look at the photos.

He had delicately prepared each ingredient in separate containers. How adorable :)

First you put the meat, then the tomatoes, then the lettuce, and heaps and heaps of guac! Then you top it off with a sprinkle of cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeese..

And there you have it! A quick burrito or taco, depending on whichever one you feel like. This would actually made an easy and healthy meal for the day.

After the meal, we laid in the shade with holding onto our food babies until we digested a bit. The sun was too warm to waste so we excitedly jumped into the water. The first impact was shockingly cold but we soon got used to it and the sun dried us up fairly quickly. This place is very child friendly and for those fishermen out there, a lovely place to relax back on your chair and enjoy a bottle of cold beer!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kobe Jones @ King St Wharf

As winter fades away, the days have become beautifully sunshiny warm. What better to celebrate spring than with friends, cocktails and an a beautiful harbour view? A couple of my girlfriends and I met at Kobe Jones for the Sentou set menu. It was a whopping 11 course meal and they arrived in 3 groups, the last being the dessert.

The Sentou set.
Japanese Mojito. My friend ordered this and she had to wait until the food came out because it was very strong. It'll be alright for the nighttime though!
The Kobe Jones Sunset - Suntory strawberry liqueur, Suntory mango liqueur built with cranberry juice, Absolut mandarin and pineapple juice. This one was like juice! I couldn't stop drinking this and couldn't taste the alcohol at all. It was sweet, refreshing and the hue, beautiful. I will definitely be having this one again.

The first wave of food! I think around 5 dishes came out at once. From the left - Number one special, Anago scallops, Hawaiian roll.

Wagyu Tenderloin Tataki. The ponzu sauce was rich with flavour and balanced out the meatiness well. The meat was soft and tender, yet slightly chewy and fun.

Anago Scallops - Tempura Hokkaido scallops stuffed with crab salad and asparagus, drizzled with a bittersweet soy sauce glaze. Cruncy on the outside, soft and full of flavour on the inside. This bitesized dish only stimulated our hunger even more. The fish roe added that bouncy pop and a bit of freshness to this dish.

Number one special - crab salad with avocado wrapped in Hiramasa kingfish and baked with our secret sauce. This same smokey cheesy melt on top comes out with the Volcano rolls. It's a ball of seafood wonder. As you first bite through the cheesy layer, you can taste the crabs, soft and plentiful, followed by the lovely avocado. All this, mixed with the melt, is simply beautiful.

The second wave. Chicken karaage, Alaskan crab, Vegetable tempura, Volcano roll. OMG we were already full by this stage.

With the Alaskan crab, they give you a bowl of lemon water to wash your fingers after you're done. The top of the shell is broken off for you. Mine came out in shreds but my friend managed to extract the entire filling as chunks. Nonetheless, they were fresh and tasty with a hint of sweetness.

They also made tempura out of eggplant and pumpkin. I personally don't like eggplant that much but this tempura was quite yummy and the batter was thin yet crunchy. It covered the eggplant thoroughly and stayed on in between bites. The pumpkin was sweet.

The Chicken Karaage coating was crunchy and well seasoned. I think they overcooked the chicken a bit because with some pieces, I had a bit of trouble biting it off because it was too tough. The chili mayonnaise wasn't really chili but still had that extra flavour that blended well with the karaage.

Oh and the volcano roll! Oven baked scallops layered on a crab salad and avocado roll with our special cream sauce and a sesame seed and shallot sprinkle. Their special cream sauce is just divine and with the softness of the crab salad and avocado, the combination of flavours just melt in your mouth. Everything is soft and wonderful. You just want to pop the entire roll inside your mouth and chew, chew, and chew it, savouring the flavours entirely.

The last of the main meal - Wagyu hot rock. We get to cook our wagyu as we like it on this hot stone. First you rub the surface with a bit of fat to oil it, then you cook the beef! Simple and fun. They give you two sauces - garlic and soy (?), and salt&pepper seasoning. I preferred the salt & pepper to the other ones as they accentuated the deep flavours of the wagyu. We couldn't finish this one because we were wayyyyyyyyy too full from the other 9 courses!

Dessert time! This is the green tea tiramisu. It was extremely hard so we had to chisel it into little pieces. They had more cream than biscuits but I thought it was quite nice. Only if I weren't so full. It didn't really taste like green tea though except the green tea dusting on top.

Green tea brulee! We couldn't put our spoons down for this one. I love creme brulees and their caramelized surfaces. I love breaking it with my spoon and losing myself in that mixture of crunchy sweetness and soft filling. As you can see, it's quite big but that didn't stop us from finishing it. At the bottom are red bean which adds an extra Oriental sweetness to the dish.

Overall our lunch went for over 2 hours. We didn't even notice the time go by because we were so engrossed in our meal and conversations. The waterfront view was also beautiful and the cool breeze was a constant reminder of this marvelous day. None of us had dinner that night though and struggled to walk even 3 steps. This set is strongly recommended but only if you have 3+ people and preferably, someone who eats a lot and I mean A LOT. The cocktails are a must or if you'd rather something simple, a glass of wine. They also have a lunch special - All you can eat sushi for $29.90 Mon-Wed and Lunch Specials for $25 Mon-Fri. I''ll have to come back to try these two!

Kobe Jones on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pablos and Rusty's @ Epping

I've been off the radar for some time because I moved recently and I don't have any internet connection. I've discovered a new way of using the internet - internet tethering! Ie) using my iphone as my modem. Surprisingly, it's very fast and no glitches at all. I have been to a few places during the busy week but unfortunately I haven't been very diligent with my blogging so I only have this place to blog about.

Pablos and Rusty's is a chic cafe located in front of Epping station on the post office side. This franchise is found at several other locations including Gordon and Sydney Olympic Park but I think this one has a nice homey feeling to it. The service is really friendly and the coffee, smooth and creamy. It was a really hot day yesterday so I opted for Mango and Raspberry smoothie. (Sadly, they didn't have the banana & blueberry one!)

Beef burger and the bircher muesli.
With our drinks - chai latte and the smoothie.
Ooh this beef burger was a pleasant surprise. We didn't expect much of it since Pablos isn't exactly a food outlet but oh the relish, the melted cheese, the crispy Turkish bread! It was simply fantastic. I felt a pang of regret after biting into this..

My bircher muesli. I wanted something light and sweet. Excuse my eager boyfriend and his spoon.

The muesli was bland. There were drizzles of honey in between the layers every now and then but overall, it could have done with a bit more flavour. The texture was beautiful though and the slices of strawberries added a fresh sweetness. There were also almond(?) slices which gave it an extra crunch.

The Mango and Raspberry smoothie. I was disappointed with this one more than the muesli because I've tasted their smoothies before and they were really good, perfect during a hot summers day. However, this one was bland and tasted like diluted yoghurt. I should have gotten the Iced Chai, which is just divine here.

I've learned my lesson. I'll just stick to the coffee here.

Pablo & Rusty's Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hard Rock Cafe @ Darling Harbour

Yes! The day we've been waiting for. A trip to the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe! We've been waiting for this day for so long, ever since we saw the sign at the Harbourside complex. It actually opened two months ago but I only saw it a couple of weeks ago because I haven't been out to the city in a while.

They don't take reservations for under 15 people so we had to take our chances and went at around 7 30. There was quite a long line both inside and outside. They gave us a buzzer and told us we needed to stay in the vicinity for the machine to work so we went to the bar and sat down for some cocktails.

You can order the cocktails in the souvenir glasses for around $4 more. The price is pretty hefty, averaging around $18 per cocktail. I ordered a margarita with blue curacao (forgot the name :P) and the Man got the purple haze. The drinks tasted so strong on an empty stomach but still tasty. Mine tasted really strongly of tequila though and the salt kept getting in the way, leaving a very salty aftertaste. Although tequila should be served with a dash of salt, I scraped mine out of the way.

My margarita.

Purple Haze.

Our drinks! First of a few..

These were so cute so I just snapped a photo of them. My boyfriend didn't understand why I was taking photos of a ketchup and mustard bottle.

Tada! The meal has arrived. Very quickly too. I think it was in less than 15 minutes since we sat down at our table.

Hickory-Smoked Pulled-Pork Sandwich. Heaps of pork with a dash of smokey barbeque sauce on top.

It was so big it was impossible to eat in one bite. I had to bite away the sides first to get to the inside. I wish it had more sauce though because the pork was quite tough and dry.

That's where these lovelies come in. Smokey BBQ baked beans. Just add an extra spoonful to the pork sandwich and voila, more flavour!

The Man - Smoked Bar-B-Que Beef Brisket Sandwich. Those stringy things on top are crispy onion straws. I had a taste of the beef brisket and it was soft and tender. Likewise, it tastes better with more sauce so add a bit of the baked beans.

It was also served with a side of coleslaw but it was nothing remarkable. It required more flavour and tasted like I was chewing on plain raw cabbage.

We both had very big food babies by the end of our meal and I couldn't even finish my dish but dessert is a must. We got the Hot Fudge Brownie, a devilishly chocolaty dessert. Inside the crispy outer shell was a soft gooey centre. It may be too much for the weak-hearted but if you have it with the ice cream, it balances it out quite well. The chopped walnuts on the top give it an extra chewiness.

There were also a few birthday celebrations throughout the night and the Hard Rock crew put on a little show for each birthday guest (very loudly). On the night, there was also a live band, although we were too far to see it, and the interior it quite retro and unique as all Hard Rock Cafes are. It was nice but the food wasn't anything to rave about and plus, it was on the pricey side. Regardless, it can be a fun experience with a few friends or just for a night out. The view certainly was spectacular!

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yangjagang @ Eastwood

It was one of those rare occasions where the entire family came out for dinner. We were all in a good mood but still couldn't go far due to the time so we decided to go to Yangjagang (Yangtze River Korean-Chinese Restaurant) at Eastwood. It's right next to the Eastwood police station on the second floor.

So what is a Korean-Chinese restaurant? The strange thing about the dishes here is that they aren't really Chinese. They've been altered to suit the Korean palate and these are dishes that non-Koreans don't know about very well. In Korea, Korean-Chinese restaurants are famous for their speedy delivery via their motorcycles with the food held securely in a silver tin container. There's even a 'Black Day' where all the singles dress in black and eat jjajangmyun (black bean noodles).

Complimentary tea and sides.

Danmuji (left) - pickled radish. The raw onions on the right are eaten with the black bean dip.

Yoosanseul. It's a braised mixture of seafood. It doesn't have any strong flavours and the starchy seafood is slightly salty but gentle on the palate. It's slippery and hard to grip with the plastic chopsticks but we downed this in less than 5 minutes.

Scallops, calamari, prawns, sea cucumbers, and bamboo shoot.

Kkanppungi. Fried chicken in chili oil. This one is a must when going to a Kor-Chinese restaurant. For $22, it is quite a lot. It's crispy and spicy, and even the soggy ones are nice. This has a different flavour to the fried chicken we had at Arisan. The one we had at Arisan was sticky and had a strong sweet chili flavour but this was is fried in chili oil so it drips slightly of oil (but that's the best part!). The ones with the spring onions taste better with the extra flavours.

Our main course - jjajangmyun (black bean noodles). I've probably mentioned this a hundred times in my other posts but I love the contrasting colours of the cucumber against the black bean sauce! It's not just the taste that's important.

You mix it up thoroughly and eat it! The black bean sauce is a thick sauce with many veggies and pork pieces that I love picking up and eating by themselves. The noodles are thick and soft, a bit sticky. It's the best when you get a huge mouthful of noodles and lots of sauce.. I'm salivating right now just thinking about it.

Yang Tz River Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon