Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: The Counter, Crows Nest

Look. The concept is simple. It works. And it tastes good.

And because everything fits together like a glove, I'm going to simplify into something that resembles a problem question in primary school.

What is choice in a burger?

A page full of ingredients allowing over 312 120 different combinations to build your own burger- is that choice enough for you fatty?

While SK had been over in the US on exchange, I had frequently emailed her about the brilliance of epic burger combinations our friends had come up with at The Counter. Despite being back for almost 3 months, last Friday was the first time we managed to find a slot in our timetables to meet up and visit this place.

Choice, actualised.

Every time I've visited this place I've always had to print out a version of the menu hours beforehand just to be able to make my mind up on what I would have in my burger. This process would often take up to an hour on my VERY indecisive days.

Look, there simply no easy way of going about choosing between caramelized onion marmalade, roasted garlic aioli, country buttermilk ranch or Mexican caesar. Honestly, how is one meant to decide on the spot?

"50-50" Onion strings and Sweet Chips - $5.50

The onion strings here are to die for. They are perfectly seasoned and crispy when they come out. This 50-50 plate of onion strings and sweet potato chips were a bit much for 2 people, and it got a tad oily towards the end, but alas, the thought of these is making me salivate as I type.

These guys here inbuild "choice" into everything. Why only have one sauce with your chips when you can have three?


Chocolate Brownie Coffee Malt Shake

SK and I also shared a serve of the Shake of the Month. Look, when these guys say that it's a Chocolate brownie shake, expect real chocolate brownie bits in your shake. They really do just throw the real thing in the blender and whizz it up for you. Tastes dayam good if you ask me.


Ok, onto burgers...

Exhibit A: SK's burger
150g beef patty with imported swiss cheese, grilled pineapple, grilled onions, mixed baby greens, tomatoes, caramelised onion marmalade, all on a wholemeal bun.

A little hard to eat given the size. Even harder to finish. The caramelised onions and the grilled onions were very, very similar. Grilled pineapples had pretty grill pattern on them.

Exhibit B: My Burger
150g beef patty, gruyere cheese, beetroot, lettuce blend, grilled onions, roasted corn and black bean salsa, sauteed mushrooms, country buttermilk ranch sauce, all on a hamburger bun.

Probably wouldn't order the salsa again - black bean was a little hard and dropped everywhere onto the plate. Beef tad overcooked on the outside - but incredibly most and yummy on the inside. Also realised that beetroot is a must have in my burgers from now on. The world is simply not the same without it. Probably should have ignored my conscience and included a fried egg as well.

Oh wells, there's always a next time. And there most definitely will be one.

The Counter
118 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Tel: (02) 9436 2700

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Passionflower, Capitol Square

"Celebrated heads of state, and even great communicators - did they have brains or knowledge? Don't make me laugh - they were Popular!"

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty Wicked-ed out.

Green apple jelly with Soda and hint of vodka

Passionflower is currently celebrating the showing of Wicked! at Capitol Theatre with a limited-time only selection of Witch-Green desserts and drinks. These range from green apple flavoured jelly with ice cream (green tea ice cream lends a hand to the occasion) to other fancy green-coloured cococtions.

If the green thing ain't for you, by all means there's the usual menu from which you can select old favourites.

Super Duper Brownie

AW and TC ordered the Super Duper Brownie to share. And share they must for there was no way any one person could have possibly finished this baby. So what's inside? Triple chocolate fudge brownies with chocolate mud, cookies and cream, white chocolate and hazelnut, and I believe we also had a little coffee in ours. Not sure if it was on the menu, but it tasted like heaven anyway.

VH's tiramisu was also delightful, albeit a tad rich for my liking. Hidden deep beneath are sponge fingers, all dark from soaking up the espresso and topped with mascarpone.

Really, what more could anyone want?

And don't say tickets to Wicked. Besides, we had them anyway. (AND IT WAS GREAT! If I had a blog about musicals I think I would have written an epic, godly review of Wicked).

Shop G12, Capitol Square
730-742 George Street
Haymarket NSW 1240
Tel: (02) 9281 8322

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: Menya Noodle Bar, Haymarket

Miso Tonkotsu Ramen - $10.00

The first time I visited Menya was back during the days of high school. Friday nights always involved basketball, restaurants, and a bucket of ice cream pre-game. Yes, yes we had ice-cream BEFORE our games. I believe we also told ourselves that a 40minute game would burn off all the extra calories we took in from the bucket.

Yeah...in retrospect I'm not sure if any one of us believed in that. But it didn't matter, because when you're young and had your entire life ahead of you, the calories from a bucket of ice cream wasn't going to stand in anyone's way.

The Miso Tonkotsu Ramen was one of the best I've tasted around. The soup was quite thick, and heavily flavoured without being too rich or salty. The ramen had a certain spring in texture, and for once does not remind me of two minute noodles. In my very honest opinion I've preferred Menya ramen over Ichiban Boshi for a very long time, except the one in Haymarket had always been a bit difficult to get to - especially when work was all the way up the other end of town. Good to know that they've opened up elsewhere as well now.

Menya Mini Shoyu Ramen - $6.90

VH ordered the mini ramen as she is perhaps the smallest eater I know in the entire world. I love eating out with her because two bites of anything and she's full - and guess where the rest goes? *grins*

Either way, the mini ramen was of the same standards as the regular sized ones. No complaints whatsoever.

Dragon Shoyu Ramen (Dynamite hot) - $11.90

JL's Dragon Shoyu Ramen was definitely not as hot as we expected, but he claimed that it was probably one of the nicest bowl of ramen he's had. The mix of flavours had been spot on, and definitely more-ish - even at the finish line.

However, chilli does what chilli does, and JL ended up locking himself up in the mens room after we got home. Despite that, he claims that he would go back for more.

Tori Katsu Ramen - $10.90

Last but not least, was the Chicken Katsu Ramen, ordered by FW. He was sitting a bit far from me so I never really got a chance to ask how good the dish was, but judging by speed that he demolished the bowl, it was definitely a thumbs up.

On a side note, while the food here was great and definitely worthy of numerous revisits, our visit this time round was tarnished by very unprofessional service. It was a hot 30 degree day and the air conditioning was broken, which probably explained why everyone had been in a lousy mood. Nevertheless, we ran into a misunderstanding with the staff concerning seating, and while it was partly our fault to begin with, the waitress had dealt with issue in a very unprofessional manner which resulted in everyone being left unhappy. Given how small a restaurant this is, all I could say is that there definitely was an air of awkward left lingering as we ate.

Menya Noodle Bar
Shop TG8
8 Quay Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9212 1020

Review: Raquel's Spanish Kitchen

Wow. If there ever was a post that was LONG overdue, it would be this one.

I'm just going to sit here and pretend that I visited this place last night, and not months ago and simply had the photos on JL's camera and forgotten to upload it.


We celebrated NL's 21st here at Raquel's. It sits neatly along the busy stretch of Oxford St, and for those like yours truly who are fortunate enough to pass it on the way home from uni every day, face plastered to the car window smothered in drool, well...

Actually I don't really know where I was going with that thought.

Chef's Appetizer

Alas, on with the food.

Garlic Bread

I don't remember which order the food came in. Like I said, this post it long overdue, but I still remember which dishes I liked and which ones I didn't.

Calamar Frito (Crispy Squid strips lightly floured and fried)

Let's start with this Calamar Frito - essentially lightly spiced deep fried calamari. It falls short of beating Cantina's dusted calamari (whoever executed the timing of that dish should be crowned King of all that is Calamari and Deep Fried), but was nevertheless enjoyable to eat. There was definitely no overcooked chewiness present.

Queso Frito (Deep Fried Camembert w/ redcurrant jelly sauce)

Queso Frito was possibly one of my favourite dishes of the night. Fat content aside, these are possibly one of the few things I could munch on all night as I sit in front of the TV. They were light and much to my surprise, not so rich and oily to make you feel sick.

Gambas al Ajillo (Sizzling Garlic Prawns)

JL nearly cried when he saw the garlic prawns being brought out. I've been disappointed by garlic prawns too many times to get excited at the mere sight of them, but I must say these were pretty decent. They weren't as heavily flavoured as I would like them to be, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Croquetas de Jamon y Pollo (Rich jamon (spanish Proscuitto) and chicken croquettes with creamy b├ęchamel)

These were similar to chicken goujons, but so much more satisfying to eat. The bechamel dip provided a nice accompaniment even for the people who don't really fancy saucing up their dishes.

Albondigas con Tomate (Veal and pork meatballs cooked in tomato sauce)

And then came the meatballs. Gosh these babies can never go wrong. Well...hardly. Let the fact that these disappeared within seconds be a token of its success.

Churros con Chocolate

Finally to finish the night off - CHURROS. You can't have Spanish with having Churros. These were definitely a winner on the table and needless to say many were left craving for seconds.

Raquel's Spanish Kitchen
98 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9331 6806

Monday, September 21, 2009

King Mushroom and Shallot Omelette

Why? Because Sunday's are just much more fun when you wake up to an awesome breakfast.

And also because I just had to get away from the pile of uni work that I'm buried under at the moment. You may have noticed the shortage of posts this month, but it's because it's that time in the semester where all your tests, quizzes and assignment come together and give you one helluva SHAZAMM!

Putting that aside...

Much to my delight, as I rummaged through my almost empty fridge, I found a packet of the most scrumpdiddlyumptious babies in the world. KING MUSHROOMS!

These beasts kick all other mushrooms in the backside anyday. They're meaty, flavoursome and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Field mushrooms ain't got a thang on these thugs.

Oh and mum, if you're reading this. WE'RE STARVING over here! Our fridge is empty.

We call these Chicken Drumstick Mushrooms in Mandarin. Funnily enough, I do see the resemblance. Uncanny isn't it?

Start with one of these and just slice in half, and then some. You don't want them too thin or you'll lose the meaty texture of the mushrooms once they start sweating in the pan.

If you feel like more, feel free to slice up another one. The world is your oyster.

You'll also need about half a sprig of spring onion, finely diced.

Can you tell I've been practising with my camera?

You'll also need about 40g of grated tasty cheese. I simply julienned my COON slices - it won't make a difference because you'll be needing to melt the cheese later anyway.

I also use light cheese...just in case you wanted to turn me into the Heart Foundation for some serious lessons on how to not kill myself with what I eat.

Freshly grated parmesan will also help. 1/4 cup.

And no, it most definitely must be fresh. Ah-a-a-, no buts.

Whisk 3 eggs up. 4 if you feel like something quite cafe-sized, but promise me you'll share. 4 eggs in a day just isn't healthy. Neither is 2, but it's still better than 4. Less is more.

Melt some butter in a shallow frying pan. Feel free to use olive oil, but personally I always use butter with mushrooms as they provide a nicer colour and flavour.

Oh, and a grill-proof/ovenproof frying pan would be ideal. We'll be needing the grill later.

Throw in your sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt.

Toss the mushrooms around until they a golden brown. These ones don't sweat all that much compared to the likes of button and field mushrooms, but you still need to sweat them in the pan properly before adding the egg.

Once mushrooms are done, turn the heat right down to low and pour in the egg. Go make yourself a cup of coffee or something while you give it a minute or two to just set on the bottom.

Sprinkle the tasty and parmesan cheeses. You may want to start the grill on about 250°C .

The cheese will begin melting, but it won't colour. Once the egg looks like its started to cook on the top, sprinkle the spring onions over the top of the omelette.

Next, pop the entire pan into the grill.

Once upon a time (say, when I was still in primary school), I remember the grill and oven used to be separate compartments underneath the stove. I also remember that when you used the oven, you had to remember to close the door (seemed kinda silly if you didn't), but when you used the grilling device, you had to leave the door open.

So when our new oven arrived post-renovation, I flicked through the instruction manual hoping to find instructions on what you should do with the oven door when you switch to the grilling element on the combined grill/oven system.

The manual gave me nothing. Zero, zilch, nothing.

It wasn't until my trip to the Blue Mountains that AL finally enlightened me that we are to leave the door ajar even on the combined system. Seems kind of dangerous doesn't it?

Oh well, so that's pretty much the way I've been doing things since. It makes better photography anyway. This post with the picture of marinated vegies grilling is still one of my favourites all time.

Pull the pan out once the cheese is golden brown on top. It would have puffed up quite a bit, but will sit back down before you manage to find your coffee.

Give us a moment as we admire the mushroom poking out of the omelette.

Finally, serve with a slice of buttered toast and a mug of (soy) coffee. Sundays just couldn't start in a better fashion could it?

King Mushroom and Shallot Omelette
Serves 2

40g Cheddar/Tasty cheese, grated
1/2 Spring onion, finely diced
1~2 King Mushrooms, sliced thickly
3 Eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Butter, for frying
Salt, to taste

  1. Melt butter in an ovenproof/grillproof frying pan
  2. Brown mushrooms in pan until golden brown
  3. Turn the heat to low, and gently pour in beaten eggs. Do not stir and allow to cook for a minute
  4. Sprinkle cheese over the top then allow it to melt into the eggs
  5. Turn grill to 250°C
  6. Once the top of the eggs look like it is starting to set, sprinkle spring onions over the top
  7. Place pan underneath the grill and allow cheese to brown
  8. Remove from grill and transfer to plate
  9. Serve with buttered toast

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review: Golden Century, Haymarket

It's not everyday that you get to pick up a 6kg crab.

After spending a day at the marriage registry for JX and AD, the group of us were well and truly dying for some good food. It was a small group of people - according to JX it was the perfect number to divide a King Crab with, and seeing as it was his day, we all happily obliged.

I was tempted to call this baby Clyde. Don't ask why, but it was simply the first name that came to mind. I think he was 5.6kg or something thereabouts.

In retrospect I don't think it was very wise to have subconsciously named him...

First course was a Hot and Spicy Crab Royal Soup. The first thing anyone noticed was the bright orange colouring coming from the crab royal. At first I had expected the soup to taste somewhat fishy, but luckily the soup was far from it. There were shreds of black fungus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and shrimps floating around in the thick orange soup, with a light egg flower tossed around. Definitely a great starter to the evening.

Judging by the extended silence from everyone on the table as they drank this, it was definitely welcomed by all.

Next came the Ginger and Shallot Crab which I found to be a tad on the bland side. Adding to our misfortune, despite the size of the giant, there was very little meat (which caught JX by surprise as he assured us that it was not so on the previous occasions where he came here). Lady Luck just wasn't on our side that evening.

The salt and pepper crab was more flavoursome that evening, and the crab came out hot and crispy.

A simple sauteed spinach with garlic was ordered to appease the ladies' need for vegetables. They're a good source of iron too!

AD ordered this Taro in Coconut Milk thinking that it was something complete different. Taro was still very hard in the centre, and as such, became the only dish left over on the table in the end.

The roast duck was definitely a highlight for me on the night. Being a person who could practically demolish half a roast duck by herself, this definitely hit the spot. Skin was crispy, meat was tender and sweet - perfect with a dash of plum sauce served.

Lastly we received complimentary buttercake and fried wonton wrappers coated with icing sugar for sweets, as well as a bowl of red bean soup for all to enjoy. I absolutely loved the wonton wrappers.

So simple, and yet so perfectly light and sweet to end the beautiful evening evening.

Golden Century Seafood Restaurant
393 Sussex Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9212 3901