Saturday, October 31, 2009

Review: Tomodachi, Rhodes

Tomodachi = "friend" in Japanese.

If you ever decide to make a weekend out of Ikea, bringing the whole entire family, kids kicking and screaming and jumping on the sea of mattresses, sofas and chairs laid out in a somewhat playgroundesque fashion, feel free to take a gentle stroll down to the other end of the shopping centre, where you may find a little peace of mind out of Tomodachi.

Situated on the cinema end of Rhodes Shopping Centre, on a good, sunny day, one would barely notice its location in a shopping centre. Sun beams brightly through the windows, and if you prefer things al a carte, then by all means you may sit outside on the balcony in front of the waters and enjoy the view while munching on some lovely Japanese food.

AY and I opted for sushi train instead. Who can resist looking at the line yummy dishes rotating around?

Tamago and Unagi Nigiri

Egg and Eel is my typical pick at any restaurant. It's always my starting point for judging the quality of the food. If the eel is fishy, then it's no deal for me. Tomodachi gets it right, and I continue munching away happily.

Seaweed Sushi

AY comments on the speed and dexterity of the sushi chefs refilling the train whenever a dish is taken off. I've always found that a full train of dishes with a large variety of dishes to be paramount to the enjoyment of sushi trains. Another big tick.

Grilled Salmon Nigiri

Unfortunately when compared to most other sushi trains, Tomodachi is fairly pricey. I blame it on the management and leases at Rhodes.

Tempura Prawn Nigiri

One of the dishes I love at this place is the tempura prawn nigiri pictured above. They are delightfully crunchy and light, but not too oily. The tangy Japanese tartare sauce served beside just makes me want to smack my face right into it.

Salmon Sashimi Salad Sushi

This creamy salmon sashimi salad was a bit of a hit and miss. While I loved the fresh flavours of dill, I found the creamy sauce a little rich, but lacking in any distinctive flavour.

Spider Roll

The spider roll was nicely executed. Not fishy at all. I wish they had put a little more of the creamy mustard sauce.

Teriyaki Salmon Roll

Teriyaki salmon was pleasantly presented and delicious. It's not really part of my typical repertoire during sushi train visits, but I'm glad to have had this. The teriyaki was mild and not overpowering of the sweetness of the salmon.

Level 1, Shop 74
Rhodes Shopping Centre
Rhodes, NSW 2138
Tel: (02) 9736 1764

Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: Ayam Goreng 99, Kingsford

Lamb Satay

I get days when I crave Indonesian food. I find it especially so on wet, wet, wet days. Don't ask why.

Ayam Goreng 99 has been recommended to me a few times by a couple of friends, and despite being so close to uni, it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I finally went down for a quick check. I don't know why, but for some strange and unjustified reason we just didn't order the Ayam Goreng.

Chicken Satays

The satays were generally pretty nice, but not particularly filling. I think the general consensus for the evening was that we were heading to another 21st that evening, and thus there will mostly likely be more food later on. In my opinion, chicken definitely wins over the lamb.

Kangkun Cah

If there is one thing I love about Indonesian food, it is their Kangkun Belacan (except I think the above is the Kangkung Cah - I didn't order that night, hence I'm not 100% sure of the dish names), or any of their selection of Kangkun treatment. Aka Onchoi, Kong xin cai (空心菜), I love the particular crunchiness of this type of vegetable, and its delicate leaves which soaks up all the spicy sauce.

Durian Ice

I was also keen on trying some of the Durian ice, seeing as I've never experienced the pungent odour of durians. I think they've been banned from the house even before I knew the stuff existed. The drink was pleasantly sweet, and mild - there was almost no odour. Either that or my nose needs medical attention.

Young Coconut Juice

The young coconut drink is almost a favourite amongst my peers, and once again it makes an appearance. You can always count on the young coconut juice to bring smiles and refreshment.

Overall, I'm unsatisfied. I still can't get over the fact we didn't order the ayam goreng.

--- WX

Ayam Goreng 99
464 Anzac Parade
Kingsford, NSW 2032
Tel: (02) 9697 0030

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: Dolce Latte Gelato & Pizza, Concord

Quattro Funghi (tomato, mozzarella, field mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, swiss brown mushrooms, topped w fresh rocket) - $ 16.50 small

If only I had room in my stomach to order gelato after...

Once in a while it is always nice to visit the places which are close to home - the little places right on your doorstep which you always seem to miss because you are looking into the distance for a little adventure. Once in a while you decide to just reel yourself back in and relax a little, right in front of your little house on the prairie.

Mind you, my house is no house on the prairie, but you get the drift...

Tutto Quanto (tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, mushroom, Spanish onion, roasted capsium, olives, (anchovies option)) - $17 small

I've frequently visited this little pizzeria and gelato bar down on Majors Bay Road. It's a little place that brings me fond memories of just sitting back and relaxing with my group of friends, enjoying some pizza under the sun and gelato for dessert. It's nothing fancy, but its lovely to be able to just ditch the knife and fork (even though it's provided) and pick up a slice of pizza with your hands and don a fat grin as you bite into the pizza.

The Quattro Funghi is something I can never pass up on my visit to Dolce Latte. I love mushroom to bits. Perhaps even to the extent that I could imagine my stomach wall to be sprouting these babies. The rocket is lovely to have with every mouthful of pizza and I always end up picking the last bits from the plate with my fingers.

The Tutto Quanto was a first try, and it was loaded with toppings in a very unauthentic manner. Not that it was a bad thing- it tasted excellent!

So how many people were there to finish the 2 pizzas? Two. And I had an entire one to myself. (YAY!) I think I nearly cried in guilt after I finished, but heck, I was hungry. I'll still probably be either fasting or going on a calorie-minimising diet for the next few days regardless, but the pizza was totally worth it.

Dolce Latte Gelato & Pizza
93 Majors Bay Road
Concord, NSW 2137
Tel: (02) 9743 0359

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Sugar Hit @ Sheraton on the Park, Sydney

Brown Brothers Orange Muscat

After our Mamak visit we headed for Sugar Hit @ Sheraton on the Park. Initial reactions were a bit mixed seeing that the Tea Lounge looked rather like much like the lobby area of a hotel with napkins and cutlery arranged on the tables. Confusion soon disappeared once we were seated and treated to a glass of Brown Brothers Orange Muscat.

Warm Chocolate Pudding with Ice Cream and Chantilly Cream

Putting my indifference towards chocolate aside, the warmth of the chocolate pudding was surely an indulgent way to finish off the night. The pudding was rich, and oozing with sumptious chocolate - perhaps a little too rich for my liking. I managed to devour half the pudding before pushing my plate away and offering it to the sugar monster - aka. JL.

Sugar Hit @ Sheraton on the Park
161 Elizabeth Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9286 6686

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Mamak, Haymarket

This visit to Mamak must have been my fourth, but only the second time since its renovation and expansion. My first visit had left an extremely good impression on my taste buds and so when WX suggested, or rather wholeheartedly demanded, that we pay a visit to the Malaysian restaurant, I was only too happy to oblige. Since the capacity of the restaurant had increased two-fold, I was happy to say that although the queue was long, we managed to get inside within 30 minutes. A word of caution however, to those sneaky diners out there, the queue for this restaurant does not get any shorter as time passes, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when it opens till 2am in the morning for supper and dessert. But rest assured, even in the long long line, you can stand outside and be mesmerised by the skill of the roti-making chefs!

For those of you who have never dined here before, or have not visited since its expansion, you’ll immediately notice the dramatic change that the restaurant has undergone. The new décor expressed through the bright red walls accompanied by beautiful black and white photography as well as the well lit and more spacious seating area contributed to a great atmosphere to ease me into the mood for eating. That was already box number one checked off on my list for the evening!

is well known for its authentic Malaysian cuisine, most notably the roti varieties available both in sweet and savoury. Naturally, the first thing that WX’s eyes darted towards was that section of the menu. After a short period of time where all five of us simultaneously salivated and pored over our menus, we came to a quick decision of sharing six dishes. First up, a serving of Roti Canai and Roti Telur Bewang each with two varieties of curry and a spicy sambal sauce.

Roti Telur Bewang $6.50

Roti Canai $5

Not being much of a curry fan (and I know WX would strongly oppose me on this point), I hugely favoured the sambal sauce as a dip for both the roti variations. The slightly crispy exterior with a fluffy, soft inner was just an amazing little combination in my mouth, flaring up with the spicy sauce. With the added omelette-like combination of egg and onions in the Roti Telur Bewang, these two dishes served to be the most blissful and left me with no complaints whatsoever. I love good food, I love different foods and cuisines...but most of all I love all of the above served on a platter which leaves barely a dent on your wallet!

Beef Satay Sticks $14 for a dozen ($8 for 1/2 dozen, also available in Chicken)

Eating as a group of five, beef satay sticks by the dozen, was a must on the agenda. The sticks had been lightly charcoal grilled and served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. So what was my quick and dirty verdict? Nothing special. When you order something as common as satay sticks, the expectations are hitched up a couple more bars and both WX and I agree that these were really not that awesome. The beef itself was a tad overcooked which left us struggling to tear the chunks of meat off the stick - almost impossible to remain civilised.

Ayam Berempah $15

Next on our agenda was the Ayam Berempah. Just looking at it made my mouth water! Although the description of the dish was ‘bite-sized chicken’, I hardly felt that that was accurate. Having said that, I’m not one to complain that each time I picked up a piece of the stir-fried chicken, I could get in several bites. Cooked with mildly hot whole spices, the sensation left in my mouth was nicely melding in with the lasting flavour of the sambal sauce I had with the roti! Yum yum yummmmmm!

Nasi Lemak $7.50

The final two dishes on our main order was the Nasi Lemak and the Nasi Goreng. Both being rice dishes, the frequency of my hands subconsciously moving to get an extra helping of the Nasi Goreng was enough to convince my brain which tasted better. It's always interesting to see how your tastebuds talk to the rest of your body - or rather, control it. Although the variety of 'side dishes' surrounding our mound of coconut rice was both interesting and delicious – including an ensemble of peanuts, crispy anchovies, diced cucumber, sambal and half a hard boiled egg – it didn’t pitch quite as well as the well seasoned dish of Nasi Goreng. That’s not to say that both dishes weren’t extremely scrumptious but I had my little internal battle of choice – that’s all.

By this stage, everyone seemed relatively satisfied with the amount which filled their stomachs but to be honest, my quick metabolism was urging me on to continue the movement of my mouth. This desperate call was duly answered, perhaps overly so (especially considering out planned Sugar Hit after dinner), by our order of a sweet roti, Roti Tisu and our resident Malaysian, JC’s recommendation of Cendol. The Roti Tisu can be likened to a cone made from a sugar coated crispy crepe, which was served with vanilla ice-cream and (we later also begged for…) condensed milk. I’ve tried this once before, and have accepted the fact that it’s not a dessert to be consumed by one or two people…it really exemplifies the concept that ‘sharing is caring’. The only down side with this sugar delight this time round, was the base had gotten a bit soggy which left some of us chewing towards the end.

Roti Tisu $9

On the other end of the spectrum, the Cendol was an icy and refreshing bowl of pandan noodles, gula-meluka syrup and coconut milk. Not too sweet or filling, it was a perfect way to end the meal (in preparation for our Sugar Hit!)

Cendol $5

There is no doubt that Mamak will become one of my frequent haunts in town, especially on those late nights when all you want to do is sit somewhere and eat your heart away after a long day of walking around in the Sydney CBD. I know that WX and JL are already planning to make their second visit very soon – let’s hope they don’t mind me chiming in!

15 Goulburn Street
Haymarket Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9211 1668

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Dolphin Hotel, Surry Hills

BLT with bacon, tomato, lettuce and aioli - $12

As if Yulli's wasn't enough.

After our visit to Yulli's we walked down the road to the Dolphin Hotel for a few drinks to continue our celebration of FYL's birthday. Little did we know that our food frenzy would continue deep into the night. Two meals in 5 hours? Houston, I think we have ourselves a group of gluttons.

Orders were simple, though. TC started with a straight-forward BLT sandwich which made everyone gasp at. Who said pub food couldn't cause a stir?

Beef Nachos with sour cream and guacamole - $16

Unable to resist the temptation of the bistro menu on the walls behind us, JL and I quickly approached the counter in defeat, and ordered a serve of Nachos to share. We reasoned that eating would reduce our chances of getting drunk.

Apart from the slightly burnt bits on top, we weren't complaining. The bean salsa was tast-eeeeh. Perhap even better with a glass of red which I mentally pictured myself drinking. JL lost his wallet earlier in the week, which meant that I was unfortunately DD for the night. Green P's = No drinking. FML.

The Dolphin Hotel
412 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9331 4800

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Me, Me & Me

Hello hello and hello readers! Thank you to WX for the kind, timely and succinct introduction. Just thought I'd be a bit more personal and post something myself before I get serious with this blogging business.

Some of you may know me, some of you may not but you may all just call me AY. I will be the one in charge of all that technical stuff so hopefully in the very near future, you will see a facelift for this blog. If all goes to plan, I also hope to perhaps purchase a domain and get ourselves a webhost with a more user-friendly blogging utility. Beyond that, perhaps being a bit ambitious, I hope to drive more traffic to this blog and see our efforts fly high in the world of foodie-ism.

As WX has noted, I am but a food lover on training wheels. Neither my tastebuds nor my knowledge of food is as well trained and in-depth as hers, but rest assured, my time spent here will fine tune those (hopefully). My previous web design experience with HTML, PHP, blogging platforms and Photoshop will help me revamp and continue to innovate our website. And finally, as an aspiring photographer, I hope to capture the best angles of food to satisfy your eyes and subsequently those salivating mouths.

My aim here as contributer is to help WX and help you guys - to point you in the right direction for food and to make you want to eat. So let us begin...!

Review: Yulli's, Surry Hill

--- Written and Photos by WX

As a conflicted carnivore torn between being somewhat paranoid about developing anaemia and being unable to absolve the guilt of killing animals for personal indulgence (yes, I consider eating meat an indulgence), I've often contemplated what the step into the vegetarian world would feel like. It's places like Yulli's that really spark hope in myself that I would perhaps one day take the difficult leap successfully. Eating meat is almost like a nicotine addiction - except they don't make patches for it.

Alas, I'm too dramatic for my own good.

Yulli's is situated on the busy Crown Street in Surry Hills, next to the White Horse across the road from Clock Hotel. The place bustles with grooviness (yes, that's really the only way to describe it), and the warmth and artsy decor could only be described as being evocative of a certain liberalism.

One quick glance at the menu, and you instantly think that if it were possible for food to possess a political compass, the offerings at Yulli's could only be described as left-wing. In fact, I would go so far to say that they would be the appropriation of Bob Brown ideology, in food form.

On the other hand, just as one would always ooh and aah at Asian-Mediterranean mixed race babies, the fusionesque menu at Yulli's attracts the same sort of entrigued and misguided "so-does-it-look-more-like-the-mother-or-father?" reaction.

The service here is perfectly casual, but attentive and informative. There is little claustrophobic upper-class snobbery and everyone is seemingly down to earth and non-pretentious. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and laid back. If the restaurant was a canvas, this place would be a coherent and expressive masterpiece.

Baby Burrito Plate (spicy beans, sour cream, salsa, avocado and tiny tortillas) - $15.50

First up was the Baby Burrito Plate. The bean salsa was exquisitely tangy and mildly spicy. The tortillas were as soft and warm as a baby's bum. Definitely more-ish, in a non-weird-pedophilic way.

Mixed Chip Plate (sweet potato, taro, lotus root, beetroot and spanish onion) - $12.50

FW was the Mixed Chip Plate's number one fan. The dish came with 3 dips - rosemary salt, tomato salsa and dill yoghurt. I only managed to get a taste of the taro and lotus root chips with the yoghurt and salsa dips. I was an instant fan of the taro as it was fragrant and really crisp. The lotus root was also very crispy, but lacked the originality and distinctiveness of its own flavours.

Eggplant Involtini (grilled eggplant stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and spinach, topped with lemongrass and tomato sauce, served on roti) - $17.50

The involtinis were my absolute favourite for the night. They were cheesy, tangy and exploding with fresh flavours of basil and tomato. In the middle were perfectly grilled eggplants which oozed with flavour and sweetness. The roti base was crispy and mildy sweet which provided a beautifully elegant balancing act against the tanginess of tomatoes.

Salt & Pepper Tofu (served with a green papaya salad) - $15.50

Another winner for the night was the green papaya salad served with the salt and pepper tofu. It was peanutty, crispy and once again, tangy but not the slightest bit overpowering. The salt and pepper tofu was nice, but could have done with a little more of both salt and pepper.

Vegetable Sambal (fresh seasonal vegetables, stir-fried Indonesian style, served with jasmine rice) - $15.50

Next up was the vegetable sambal. The sambal itself was fresh, spicy and bursting with flavour. The rice was fragrant and provided a good accompaniment.

Grilled Haloumi Toasted Bagel (served with avocado, grilled mushroom, caramelised onion and hummus with chips) - $14.50

Haloumi featured on quite a few of the dishes on the menu. We eventually settled for the Grilled Haloumi toasted bagel. The waiter kindly warned us that this was a dish that was difficult to share, but we nevertheless attempted to do the undoable. The haloumi was absolutely wonderfully grilled and nicely chewy in texture.

Spring Rolls (with fresh vegetables and served with a light sweet chilli sauce) - $8.50

Spring rolls were part of the second round of ordering which occurred later in the meal. The fillings were beautifully delicate in flavour, but quite peppery. I was sad to only eat a half - that's just cruel teasing.

Pad Thai Linguine (with fresh seasonal vegetables) - $16.50

Lastly we all shared a serve of pad thai, which was actually one of the more fascinating dishes. The use of linguine was an interesting substitute. Furthermore, I could swear to God that I tasted Chinese pickled vegetables (Zha Cai 榨菜) in the dish. Whatever it was, it gave a wonderfully crunchy texture to the sweet and spicy dish. Definitely food for thought - in an abstract sense.

Overall we had a great evening in Surry Hills, finishing off with a box of cupcakes from Cupcakes on Pitt. (Yes okay, Sparkle was across the road, but I think it was closed at the time).

My verdict? Definitely recommended.

417 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9319 6609

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review: Pizza e Birra, Surry Hills

--- Written by WX, Photos by AY

Last Friday, FW claimed he had the best place in mind to take everyone. I was quickly told that the place is called Pizza e Birra. In my semi-comatosed state after my visit to the dentist (yes I'm exaggerating), I replied in a confused state:

"Pizza e WHAT?"
"Birra - it's the place name."
"Bulla? What?"
"No, BIRRA."

Then I was told to just shut up and get in the car. My dream had finally come true. My friends were kidnapping me to feed me. Perhaps now is the time to store a bone in my purse so they can keep fattening me?

The buzziness of the place was apparent from the first moment I stepped in. Rustic overtones and a distinct earthiness oozed from every corner of the restaurant. Most noteworthy observation was the use what I can only describe has fancy butcher paper with a stamp of "Pizza e Birra" on it as table coverings. Big tick for the "something different to tickle your fancy" box.

Complimentary bread and olive oil were served promptly after ordering. Yes, just bread and warm olive oil. While the bread and the oil were nice per se, I generally prefer mine with a little balsamic vinegar. You could imagine my surprise when I dipped my bread into the accompanying dish, only to discover that I had merely been soaking up olive fat. Yummy and warm olive fat. Hehe.

Service on the whole was a bit absent throughout the night. There were quite a few moments where we felt we should have brought a fishing line with us in hope to catch any waiter swimming around all the tables. Speaking of tables, I think I would have been much more comfortable with a little more space so that I didn't have to eat with my elbows tucked in tightly, in fear of KO-ing someone as I'm eating.

Calamari Fritti - $23

We ordered two entrees to share. First up the Calamari Fritti was well executed and light. It could have used a little more salt and pepper, but on the whole they were a nice way to start the evening. The rocket provided an interesting and refreshing accompaniment.

Arancini - $7

The arancinis were appetising and perfectly cheesy to my liking. Overall they were moist and tasty. I definitely could have had a few more.

Quattro Formaggi - $21.50

The Quattro Formaggi was nicely cheesy and tasty - perfect for the cheeselover. However I did notice that quite a lot of the cheese around the edges were far from melted, and that the crust was a tad on the overly-makes-my-jaw-hurt chewy. Nevertheless they were enjoyable.

Pizza e Birra - $24

Signature dishes always have the trouble of needing to live up to expectations. All I can say that Pizza e Birra definitely met mine, and I was terribly sad that I only ended up having half a slice, sharing it with FW. The spinach was soft and wonderfully tasty - I never really thought about how spinach might work on a pizza. Hi rocket, I think you have just been bumped.

Linguine con Vongole - $23

FYL also chose the Linguine con Vongole demonstrated how pasta should be cooked and the definition of "al dente". The flavours were subtle and it really gave the vongole a chance to show off its flavours.

Pappadella con Ragu Atrano - $23

Pappadella con Ragu Atrano was perhaps my absolute favourite for the night. It belongs in my list of "Bait-Dishes" - those dishes which transforms me from a "researching-foodie" into a "returning-customer". The duck was so wonderfully tender and juicy, bursting with flavour in the rich tomato ragu. The pappadella was also cooked al dente and wrapped itself gracefully around the delectable sauce. More-ish would be an understatement.

Overall I'm a bit torn about how I feel about the restaurant. The food was excellent and wins my heart over instantly, likewise the buzzy ambience and the warmth of the place. What turns me off somewhat is the poor service by some waiters, the lack of attention paid to the table, and just things like clearing out your table too quickly and having to chase for your bill.

I don't know. I'm still undecided. Duck ragu or no ragu?

Pizza e Birra
Shop 1, 500 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9332 2510