Friday, December 30, 2011

Cafe Topiary @ Epping

It's time to catch up with old friends! I've missed everyone so much while I was away and everyone is so busy near Christmas and New Years that it's so difficult to arrange a time for everyone to meet up together. Soooooooo, I met up with one friend today to enjoy the beautiful sunshine over brunch at Cafe Topiary.

The cafe was quite busy this morning with families laughing and relaxing over breakfast and coffee. Many had come out for grocery shopping post-Christmas and came to get some takeaway coffee. Among all the comings and goings it may be hard to get the staff's attention as I noticed when I was waving my hand in the air for a few minutes to get the bill.

Brunch! I wasn't in my top condition so I had an orange and ginger juice to boost my energy.

Pear and raspberry bread, oh so beautifully toasted. The floral plate is so cute and pretty, I feel like I'm at a tea party.

Cinnamon butter. Spread this on your bread and voila! a lovely subtle cinnamon flavour on top of the sweet pear and raspberry.

French toast for my friend. Two slices of thick toast served with grilled bananas, bacon and berry compote. I don't normally like grilled bananas but the ones here were cooked to perfection. It was slightly cooled so it didn't feel like you were eating hot baby food. The bread itself was soft and well coated in its egg mixture.

The berry compote with huge blueberrires, strawberries and other little berries. And thus makes the wonderful combination of french toast goodness.

Cafe Topiary on Urbanspoon

Da Wan Lai - The Poet's Restaurant @ Top Ryde

With New Years looming ahead, the shopping centres are more packed than ever as eager shoppers try their luck with the stocktake sales. I endured it for Christmas but I'm still in post-Thailand mode and I want my peace and quiet. Instead, I ventured out to Top Ryde City at nighttime for dinner and a relaxing movie.

I've passed by Da Wan Lai many times but never thought to try it. This night, I felt adventurous to try this new restaurant and ignoring the massive line at Hurricane's next door, me and the Man snuggled up on the pillar seat.

Complimentary prawn crackers. Better quality than most places, it was crunchy and salty. They were also huuuuuuuuge!

Oolong tea.

Apple juice. It wasn't the prettiest but it still tasted nice.

San Choy Bow. This wasn't as oily as other places. The duck was beautifully flavoured and was very tender yet chewy. The fried noodles on top and the fresh lettuce leaf made up for the missing crunch.

Multicoloured capsicums and the fried noodles make the dish look very pretty and colourful. It was stimulating to the eyes as well as the palate. I could never eat this neatly. My hands were wet with the oil and by the end, the san choy bow exploded from my hands so I had to eat it from the plate. Embarrassing, but I never quite mastered how to eat this yet!

Dan dan noodles. Served in a giant's bowl.

I expected this to be spicy but it was a little bland and boring for me. The noodles itself were stiff and had no flavour. The meat disappeared off to somewhere after mixing so weren't really helpful with the much needed flavour. Normally, the soup is the best bit of a noodle soup but this one really didn't make me want to drink it. I left more than half and just ate the quail eggs instead, which were soft boiled.

Chef's Special Lamb Cutlets. Spiced, juicy lamb cutlets fried and arranged in a crunchy pyramid. It's set on a bed of chili onions, which really didn't have much chili flavour. Still, the lamb itself had enough flavour for us to enjoy this dish. If you don't bite it hard enough, the fat will rip off by itself so bite carefully!

However, it didn't feel like a side dish you eat with rice, instead it was like fried chicken. The Man held it by the bone and ripped it off with his teeth as they only provide you with chopsticks. I guess we could have asked for a fork and knife set but it's always more fun eating with your hands!

The overall quality of the food was better than most Chinese restaurants and wasn't as greasy as other places. They also had a specials menu with unique dishes designed by the chefs here so when Chinese food gets a bit boring, you should try Da Wan Lai and see if you can reach that poetic epiphany with their food.

The Poets (Da Wan Lai) on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sweetness the Patisserie @ Epping

Epping had never been a place for good food and a happy stomach. Everytime I feel lazy and venture out for food, I could never come up with a clear decision as to what I wanted. I guess sweets aren't really 'food' food but nonetheless when this pretty little shop appeared on the streets, I was one of the eager firsts to try this place.

My mother, thinking I was photographing her :p

Sweetness is towards North Epping on Oxford Street. Just a bit across from the post office, this shop is sweet inside out with its pastel toned exterior and its very sweet insides. The patissiers are busy like Christmas elves, kneading and baking and decorating, making new desserts everyday.

For Christmas they were selling special holiday desserts.

These marshmallows are quite famous. Each colour has a different flavour, distinct and delicious. They come in different sizes, from bite sized mini ones to bigger blocks.

How can you possibly choose a few?

The macaroons. They weren't as soft as I thought and the chocolate filling didn't really go well with the fruity shells. They break really easily so be careful how you hold them.

Almond & ginger slice and raspberry & turmeric (?) tart.

This one had real chunks of caramelized ginger. The ginger wasn't overpowering but this slice felt quite healthy. It was slightly dry so you can't go long without a sip of drink.

This berry tart also had a healthy spicy tinge to it but it was still sweet nonetheless. The raspberry filling had a tangy sweetness to it while the shortbread crust was crunchy and spicy.

My mom thought this was too sweet for her so I had most of it. By the end, I did feel like something savoury but it wasn't sickly sweet. These were actual gourmet desserts that serve quality as well as flavour!

SWEETNESS The Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Cafe Ish @ Surry Hills

It takes a creative mind to cook and design dishes as well as a sophisticated palate to grasp the intricate flavours of each ingredient. When I encounter strange yet wonderful new dishes, I'm part excited, part scared, uncertain of what bursts of flavours I'm to expect. Especially with Cafe Ish, I wasn't sure how they were going to incorporate Japanese flavours into Australian dishes. So many blogs have raved about this place and I've been here before with the Man, but I haven't had the chance to write about it then so this is what the Fantastic Four, as my boyfriend calls us, have experienced at this homey yet edgy cafe.

Tight Arse Tuesdays! Only 10 bucks for these on the menu. They also have specials for each day of the week.

Orange juice. It looks small but it was a struggle to finish mine after all the food.

Sencha. It came with a cute spiced rice cracker.

Croc in the Rock - crocodile sausage, egg, shallot and organic fetta in toast with tomato relish. An exciting Aussie combo that's hearty as well as healthy.

When I visited Japan, many cafes served their toast and eggs in this way with the egg stuffed in the bread, except they used those lovely thick loaves of white bread. Here, they used sourdough which my friend struggled to cut through.

The tomato relish.

Veg Omelette. This omelette has spinach, sweet potato and tofu stuffing. There was too much spinach, too little sweet potato for my liking but the sweet and sour sauce was very garlicky and tangy. The tofu isn't naked but coated like agedashi tofu that absorbed the sauce well.

The sweet and sour sauce was overwhelming in large amounts but the garlic did help a tad bit.

There isn't much in there but I was quite full after the meal. I don't think it was from the omelette itself though but from the sweet sauce and the orange juice.

Crab omelette - karaage soft shell crab, avocado, shallot, garlic, chili, soy, ginger dressing and lime

Apologies but I don't remember how this tasted. I just remember that the sauce was really good..

It's difficult trying to remember something from one month ago but I've been overseas at Thailand so I didn't have the time! All I know is that this meal was very enjoyable and the staff, very friendly. The last time I came here I saw another blogger, snapping away with his huge camera. It was quiet on the day I went but the menus are continuously changing so it'll be worthwhile to check this place out soon.

Café Ish on Urbanspoon