Monday, 28 May 2007

the best chips in the world!

Red Rooster in Eastwood has been around for yonks and to this day, continue to serve the best chips in the world. I'm serious. This is probably the one thing I'd recommend anyone hanging around Eastwood to try and for those that I've managed to convince, they have not regretted it. If you're thinking 'franchise way!' let me tell you that this not your ordinary franchise. Unfortunately, your Red Rooster coupons can't be used as this is one of those stores which hold the franchise name but are not really part of the franchise. As far as I know, it's been owned by a Greek family since the early 90s and continues to be a hot spot for locals.

You'll find queues starting from about 11am continuing to about 2pm, 3.30pm after school, and then a fresh queue of faces between 5 and 7pm. It's frequented by local office workers, construction workers, school-kids, kids going tutoring, other business owners, you name it. Their snack pack is one of their major selling points although it has gone up in price noticeably over the years ($4.20). Their chips are infamous as are their whole chickens (although I'm not much of a roast chicken fan to say). If someone where to count the number of chips which I've eaten from this place, they would freak. I tell you...too many and I'm still eating. By the way, they sell the nicest concoction of chicken salt which you can buy for about $4 (the only problem being that it has a tendency to clump up when you keep it at home).

Anyway, I managed to convince J to have chips for lunch on Sunday. We even called up to make sure it was open. For those interested, they're open 7 days but only till 2pm on Sundays. (If you haven't noticed already, I always have chips with my meals and up against all your leading restaurants across Sydney, these are definitely the best!) Let me know if you're around Eastwood and have the craving for chips, it's my shout!

Sunday, 27 May 2007

fujiya @ haymarket & justin's 'one good show'

It was Justin's concert last night and the 8 of us decided to grab dinner at Fujiya beforehand. I think most people would've been to Fujiya or heard about it and the general feedback seems to be quite positive. Namely, it's one of those places that offer good food and offer a nice place for a small group of people to 'gather'. Being the night of Justin's concert, it was more or less expected that the place would be packed and it was; thanks Char for making the booking! We still got a rather crappy table though with two of us sitting on these little stools; reminiscent of those stools that Japanese people sit on when they have a shower. Anyway, we weren't there for long so it wasn't too uncomfortable.

It took us awhile to decide how to order. Despite offering quite an expansive menu of Japanese dishes including rices, noodles, hotpots, skewers, teriyaki, sushi, salad and more, most servings looked too small to divide in between 8. In the end, most of us decided to order individually but with J, Ken & myself ordering to share. We ended up order 5 dishes amongst us; seems like a lot but we polished it off quite nicely. Personally, I really enjoyed the food and would love to go back to check out the rest of the menu. By the way, they have an assortment of cocktails, mocktails, Japanese spirits which we didn't really get around to. Desserts looked good too but I was too full by the end of the meal.

Karage Chicken, Prawn Shumai (these looked really impressive when they arrived) and a huge bowl of tea (we swear they gave us bowls instead of cups!)

Sukiyaki. The mini pot sat over a quite an eye-catching blue flame. The soup was maybe a tad too sweet but the beef slices in it were quite nice.

Yakisoba - half eaten.

Beef Tataki which was the last to come. J didn't think it was too great; I thought it was ok.

With tea and all, the meal for the 3 of us came to $52. Not bad at all! Service is generally friendly; they do have those bells which you can ring to get attention. Most of us found it much easier to just wave down a passing waitress when it came to topping up the tea. Seriously, one pot of tea is hardly enough to quench the thirst of 8! By the way, this place does remind me of that Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong called Watami; food is definitely on par.

Anyway, after dinner it was off to the concert. As like any concert, it probably didn't start till 8.45pm despite advertising a starting time of 8.15pm. It's probably been awhile since this group of us have been to a Honkie concert; well not since first or second year of uni so really, it was a good reminder of the old times.

As for Justin (the singer), I loved him! His singing was as I remembered from his last concert in Sydney where he appeared elevated in the middle of the Entertainment Centre singing the song 'Kong'. This time he didn't make that much of a dramatic appearance but again he did appear in the middle of the centre singing a few English songs with piano accompaniment. Thumbs up to both him and the pianist.

What was highly controversial and led to much talk and debate both during and after the concert is captured in the following photo. Funny enough that was one of the better photos I had from the whole night which is a shame really. Pictured is Theresa who was Justin's special guest at the concert.

Despite the controversy, it was definitely 'One Good Show'!

cafe de amigo @ eastwood shopping centre

A lot of shops have been closing down in the centre but recently, there's been a wave of new tenants come in to occupy the vacated floorspace. Cafe de Amigo opened up just under 2 weeks ago and already, it has sparked much debate as to 'whether the food is good?', 'whether the food is value for money', 'whether macau cafe is cheaper' and 'whether it is worth a visit?' My take is that you never know until you check it out for yourself.

A catch up with the high school girls was long overdue and I proposed to have lunch at Cafe de Amigo at 12.30pm. My mistake; I should've told Emily that lunch was at noon and Mandy that lunch was actually on Friday just so she might remember. Also, I should've kept to the rule that the closest always turns up the latest cause I ended up waiting half an hour for most people to arrive. Fortunately, I bumped into Dobie and chatted with Sarah upstairs at Legends whilst waiting . Can't believe Legends is moving to Beecroft!

Anyhow, for those who missed the catch up, we didn't actually eat lunch till 2.30. Whilst waiting for everybody, we decided on coffee at Centro's and by the time we debated whether to go to Cafe de Amigo (due to assorted negative feedback which people had heard), we finally decided at about 2.ish and still had to wait for a table to seat the 7 of us.

Most of us ordered baked rices. Looking around, it seemed like it was a favourite and usually that's a good indication to me that it's worth trying. We'd gotten wind that their HK Style Milk Tea is really good and I think most of us ended up ordering that in some way or form. I had the Cold Milk Tea and that's definitely got my thumbs up. I love a strong tea and this place makes it to just that perfect amount of sweetness. Emily agreed with me. Here's also the photo of her with her Tomato Stewed Beef (her comments: sauce very watery, beef very rough).

As per feedback I'd got from my aunt, service was slow. There was a definitely a good 15 minute in between the service of the first and last meal. Strangely enough, Mary's Club Sandwich arrived much later than my baked Portugese Chicken Rice. Although I suppose you can put that down to inexperience and really, I think it can be expected that nothing really runs that smoothly in the first 2 weeks of a cafe opening up.

Mind you, by the time we ordered, we were already told that their 'special' was unavailable, spaghetti was unavailable and there was probably something else. Inadequate planning or just too many people going there to try it out? Your call. On the whole, I found the food there to be satisfactory; on par with Macau Cafe in terms of serving sizes and price. I'll probably go back there cause it's another one of those Chinese places to go grab arvo tea or a light meal. Nothing fancy.

Good to catch up with everyone. Glad to see everyone is looking well! Godi, let's go to Melbourne; let me know when you're free!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

gingerbread man!

Thanks to Suze, I finally got my hand on one of these and 'he' is the cutest!! I did need to operate on 'his' eyebrow because it was falling off but a stitch or two later, 'he' was in top condition. J remains boggled as to why I had to drag him to come with me to Carlingford to look for him, as was my mum who just laughed at me and gently reminded me that I'm 22. Anyhow, I saw the two smaller ones and am extremely tempted to get them as well. But as my mum puts it, I have TOO many soft toys, so one should do for the time being. Might I add, the biggest one is the cutest!

Anyway, for anyone interested, there's still one of these at Target, Carlingford. Plenty of smaller ones, although slightly different looking. This big one was retailing at $29.99. As Suze was saying, the stuffing tends to shift around a bit if you try to make him 'dance'. Funny enough, it's like a disease, cause that's what J tried to make him do too once it was in his hands.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

altitude @ level 36, shangri-la hotel sydney

There's about another month and a half till last years Entertainment book expires and J seems to be on a mission to eat his way through it. (As most people who purchase the entertainment book would know, it's virtually impossible to use up the $60 worth of vouchers, restaurant discounts, hotel and accommodation discounts, entertainment discounts. Honestly, it's a bargain buying the book, and in many cases, you're supporting charities and other local causes. If you're dining out every now and then, it seriously won't take you two meals to make up the value of the book; is that a bargain or what?!)

So compared to previous years, J has been more aggressively getting value out of his Entertainment Book . This month has seen us dining with Karen @ Astral and this weekend, another restaurant perched on top of a tall building, Altitude up on Level 36 of the Shangri-La (offering a rather break-taking view of the Sydney Harbour, the bridge as well as the Sydney Opera House). Arguably, it was a better view here but I still think Astral won, hands down. Allow me to explain..

J had made a booking last week and was told that we needed to vacate our table by 8.15 if we chose to eat dinner at 6pm. Fine. We took this option and arrived early for the booking. At 5.50pm, we were waiting in a small queue to get in the restaurant and there wasn't even anyone at the door to receive guests! Anyhow, we were pleasantly entertained by a 70 year old granny who complained to a passing waitress that 'Is this the way you treat a 70 year old lady...make her stand here and wait?!" After this, they must've picked up their act and a few others came to the door and our little queue progressed into the restaurant.

As soon as we were seated, we were pleasantly/not so pleasantly reminded that we needed to vacate our table by 8.15pm. Fine. We perused the menu and decided on the things we wanted and ordered. Whilst waiting, we listened in on another fiasco at the next table. This time it was a customer wanting to sit at a window seat (basically they have this system where you get the better seat based on how early and whether you make a booking). Restaurant wins as the customer had not made a booking. J&I observed the empty table next to us (which was by the window) for the 2.5 hours of our meal.

On the whole, food was alright. Quite an interesting mix of flavours but in some instances, not what you'd call the best mix of flavours. I should have read the menu more carefully and paid attention to what was in my yabbie entree. My conclusion was that it was something rather chewy, tasted fatty and could've well been an internal organ. J's Scallops were so-so also - tasted like the one's which my dad buys in a big bag. Not the most pleasant but fortunately, my main of Crispy Skinned Barrumundi was a lot better as was J's Beef Tenderloin.

Thumbs up goes to their selection of bread - Soy & Linseed, Pesto and Cheese, served with yummy butter and salt flakes. Honestly, I could eat that bread all day! Dessert was good too but perhaps not the most impressive - a Chocolate Torte with Full Milk Cream. Oh..and boo hoo again to crap, bubbly coffee. I suppose the only good thing were the petit fours which came with it. Again I think Astral wins hands down. Oh, and did I mention, we were most kindly reminded that we were required to vacate our table by 8.15 when we got the dessert menu? *Jenny grits teeth*

So at the end of the night, we'd been reminded at least twice that we needed to finish our meal before 8.15pm. We paid the bill at 8.30pm and there were empty tables scattered through the restaurant. Need I say more?

happy birthday em!

It was Em's birthday this week and fortunately, J&I managed to convince Pang (aka Em's 'occasionally lazy' boyfriend) to go out and celebrate. The birthday girl had decided on Jap and after a late Friday night for everyone, we found ourselves seated for lunch at about 2 @ Genki in Atarmon. Em had wanted to go Sushi-ya which is next door but a rather unfriendly waiter advised us that 'You'll be waiting too long if you want to get a table'. Fine, we didn't actually need to have to eat there; let's head next door!

Anyhow, a few of us had been to Genki before so there were no dramas about the change of location. Genki offers a wide selection of Ramen, curry, bowled rices, teriyaki; I suppose some of the more traditional Japanese dishes. Sushi-ya has the sushi and the more fancy dishes like tataki, soft-shelled crab, salads and so forth. Personally, I'm agreeable with all Japanese food and a big bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen was exactly what I needed to feed my hungry and grumbling stomach.

Gyoza to share; leading us to discuss 'How on earth do you divide 5 dumplings between 4 people?'. The ideal solution: the restaurant to serve 8 dumplings when they see there's 4 people at the table.
Pang's Katsu Curry Rice; eaten in a flash!

Em's bowl of Ramen with the huge piece of seaweed hanging out of the bowl. I loved Pang's comment: 'I thought that the piece of seaweed was meant to be A3-sized'. Well, Em decided to dunk the whole thing into the soup to make it easier to eat.

Justin's Ramen; from memory, a combination of Soy bean and chilli paste. Yum!
My Tonkotsu Ramen; served with Pickled Ginger and Pickled vegetables. The soup reminds me of that soup you get at Peking Restaurants. Yum yum!
My final comments. The serving sizes are extremely generous! We agreed that each bowl of Ramen is at least 1.5 serves of your 2-minute noodles. The bill, including drinks came to just under $60. Anyhow, after lunch you can duck into the Antique store which is across the road; lots of little knick knacks in there (even the guys had an interesting time looking at the selection of items in the store). Plenty of parking nearby for those who are driving and restaurant is just outside Atarmon station for those coming by train.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

revival of the jaffle

Seems like full-time work is occupying much more of my time than I thought it would so at this stage, the cake decorating course I had my eye on is put on hold. As for home baking, that hasn't been happening much either owing to a number of reasons, namely that I'm feeling awfully pudgy from sitting on my bum for prolonged periods and that I really, really have the worse eating habits and the sweetest tooth. There's also been a few other things which have caught my eye lately which I think I should be doing so that I don't go brain dead from the monotony of work (I've been listening to everyone's advice!) just that I'm still in the process of figuring out how full-time work actually lets anyone have a life. Or maybe it's just me procrastinating about life on the whole.

That aside, Happy Mother's Day to my mum and every lovely mum out there. We had an extremely food-filled family bbq at home and it was awesome to see everyone who turned up. Anyway, whilst shopping for mum's present yesterday, J had the sudden cravings for jaffles after seeing an almost forgotten 'jaffle machine' which was nearby the Helly Kitty toaster which I bought mum. It took a bit of climbing up and down, searching in the depths of cupboard after cupboard at home, where we finally found our 'vintage' jaffle machine still in good-working order. J scrunched up his face as I laboriously cleaned some leftover burnt bits that must've been forgotten but another 10 minutes, we were well and truly ready for the revival of the jaffle.

I remember as a kid, our nanny used to put some mixture of canned meat and tomato sauce to make a savoury jaffle. To tell you the truth, I wasn't a big fan of the jaffle because of this - there was a very distinctive taste to the canned meat which I just couldn't stomach and made me want to throw up just smelling it. I don't think a sweet jaffle had been invented at that time (or maybe our nanny was making sure we ate right) but this weekend, I really had a scrumptious jaffle experience. And all it took was a combination of some Helga's Honey & Oat bread we had at home, a good dollop of Nutella and a generous serving of butter. J tells me that the trick to the best jaffle ever is the layer of butter on the outside of the sandwich before you put it into the machine to toast (I took his advice and made another one today cause it was so yummy!) You see, once the Nutella is heated up; as with any chocolate, it clumps up to a thick chocolate texture. Eat it whilst hot and you've got textures of crispy, sweet, savoury and the melt in your mouth all in one bite.

J recommends his Nutella & Butter Crip Jaffle with a glass of milk.

Thumbs up to the brand 'Tiffany' for their trusty and long-lasting appliances - please don't break down now that I've found you properly again :D

astral @ level 17, star city

Was that a good meal or what?! I still remember sometime during the night, I uttered something along the lines of 'I wouldn't mind having my wedding reception here' but for the time being, that's totally irrelevant. And anyway, to have a wedding reception here would mean that I would have like 5 of my friends at the dinner table because this place is just way out of budget. An awesome 270 degree view of Sydney though and yay, we met the head chef Sean Connolly! To think that he may have personally crafted my meal! (Too bad he was actually at the next table :( I guess close enough anyway).

So anyway, it was almost out of whim that Justin, Karan and myself decided to head to Astral on a Thursday night. Seems like a handful of people have good things to say about Astral Bar but few managed to mention anything about the restaurant. Justin had his Entertainment card which meant we were going to get some sort of discount (might I mention, it was probably the smallest discount ever...the discount was only enough to cover the drinks!). Oh and by the way, Karan has officially become my new partner in'll even excuse your lame jokes! Girl, thanks for a great night out and yay, we can eat our way round Melbourne in our upcoming trip!

As I was saying, it was an amazing meal up at Astral! Little did I think that tucked up on Star City would be such an amazing place for food and surrounded by such a picturesque view of Sydney. Each course, each plate, each serve was crafted to perfection; attentive waiters that apologised for mistakes that would've easily escaped our attention, some rather yummy sourdough bread rolls and canapes, and to finish off; the cutest little petit fours! I think it was the closest I got to a degustation and really, I was satisfied. Sean's done a good job with the mix and intensity of flavours; he's even gone the further step of creating new combinations which are likely to challenge your palate! It's definitely worth a visit.

Unfortunately, the lighting of the place was prohibitive to photography. Added to that is that my camera is reaching its use by date and fails to take a decent photo in the dark but here are Justin's photos from his phone.

Entrees: Ocean Trout + Tartare (careful with the Steak Tartare - it's really quite heavy on the stomach or maybe that's because I'm not used to eating such a big lump of raw meat) + Tortellini (But really thumbs up to all!)

Mains: Beef Tendorloin (the BEST! I've never eaten meat this tender!) + Venison (tad salty) + Fish (I forget what it was exactly but oh so crispy!)

Desserts: Green Apple Soup + Banana Souffle (Arguably the best) + Chocolate Pavlova (slightly deceiving)

What would've been a flawless night of dining did actually end with a minor flaw. Of late, I've become a bit of a coffee connesieur and I nearly baulked at the sight of my flat white when it arrived. Lots of that bubbly, fluffy stuff which I believe is called froth. Not sure what happened there but nonetheless, Toby Estate Coffee agrees with me. The petit fours which came with it more than well made up for it. How tiny were the macaroons!

Anyhow, the bill at the end of the night is probably not for the faint hearted. Unless you're planning to spend a bit of money on food, I don't advise heading to Astral. However, for something that's just that bit special (loved ones in particular), give it a go. And let me know if they improve on the coffee!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

pat & stick's @ paddington

This photo hardly does Pat & Stick's any justice but unfortunately, the warm weather we had this Sunday afternoon didn't allow me to take my time with the photos. And well, I was too busy eating my way through mine and most of J's and then eating a few many other things that before I knew it, the goods were eaten and no nice photos could be taken. Here's to the dilemnas of being a foodie; unfortunately I have yet to develop some self control when it comes to food and constantly, I'm being reminded by those around me to take that photo before I dig in.

Anyway, it was with great anticipation that I visited the Paddington markets for the second time in probably a year. The first time I discovered their waffles and going there today, I think it's still the same guy running the store. However, today I opted for Pat & Stick's Ice Cream Sandwiches which I'd seen reviewed in SMH's Good Living awhile back. A few people had mentioned them and how convenient was it to find the store right next to the waffle store! Well, contrary to belief, today I asserted some self-control and decided to only have the ice cream sandwich. J easily decided on the Double Chocolate. Stuck in a bout of indecisiveness (I think the guy behind the store was starting to feel sorry for me) and well, he kindly suggested the Caramel Pecan so I went for that. One word: Yummmmmmmmmy!

I think that probably says it all. I've just gone to google to see if they have a website and here it is for those who might want to check it out: