Friday, 29 February 2008

toraya @ mandarin centre, chatswood

After many unsuccessful attempts to book a place last Saturday morning, we waited in line outside Toraya @ Chatswood at about 7.30pm and found ourselves a table. There for dinner was Pang & Em, J&I (missing were Mandy & Kaho who'd we originally wanted to catch up but had not been able to make it at the last minute).

Toraya is in the far corner of the food court at Mandarin Centre; replacing the previous Garden Chinese restaurant (which is a shame in some respects cause that restaurant was actually quite good!). Anyway, I've actually been here a couple of times now after a number of very positive reviews about the food and how good value the food is. And I personally vouch for what others have said and this place does serve good food and it is good value!

Haha...beef tataki! (perhaps a little too much sauce)
Octopus Carpaccio. I found the texture of this one a little weird but then again, I've never been a fan of anything to do with octopus.
Beef Tongue on a hot a plate + Justin's tongue :P
Pork Shnitzel with pink blobs of potato salad.
Rock 'n' Roll. More or less a California roll with Oven Baked Scallops and a Cheese Sauce topping. I definitely recommend this one!!
Sushi & Sashimi Platter (which I think is a little small)
Em and I had decided on some desserts but were too full after eating everything above. Should our stomachs have permitted, we would've gone for their Sesame Pudding for sure, Tofu & Avocado Ice Cream (just to see what it tasted like) and well, Tempura Icecream didn't sound too bad either (we imagined this to be Fried Ice cream). It's shame that Mandy and Ka couldn't make it; but anyway, we did manage to catch them this week (post to follow).

new orleans cafe @ pacific highway, crows nest

Last weekend, I made a trip out to Crows Nest to visit Essential Ingredient for some cake decorating supplies that I needed for class. I came out with my sugar glue, some droppers and some leaf vein moulds (which happened to 1 of the 2 last ones that were buried within the cupboard. I have a habit of finding everything!) Mind you, I did also see some pretty cupcake boxes, silicone trays, chocolate moulds which I was very tempted to buy but had thought better at the last minute - anyway, J was with me and he was getting bored and well, he started commenting quite loudly as to how expensive things were). I've been getting him to bake me a chocolate cake and when he saw how much the Lindt chocolate couveture costed, his immediate comment was 'I may as well just buy you one rather than make it'. I've figured I'm never going to get him to bake.

Given we went late in the afternoon and had a bit of time to kill before meeting friends for dinner, we thought we'd take a stroll around Crows Nest (a suburb which use to be familiar to me back in high school). For lack of any real purpose, we ended up stopping for coffee at New Orleans Cafe.

I ordered my usual coffee and 'beignets' pronounced 'been yays'.

Coincidently, Curtis Stone's contributing piece in this month's 'Delicious' talks about the 'beignets' in New Orleans; where these are a delicacy enjoyed throughout the day. I quote 'Beignets are deep-fried square pieces of dough' and then 'dusted in icing sugar'; apparently they're best enjoyed with a cafe au lait. Personally, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of icing sugar that was on the plate when the waiter brought it to the table but upon taste, this was quite a different story. Surprisingly, they're not too sweet and compliment coffee quite well. After devouring most of the plate, you do get a little thirsty so make sure you have a glass of water handy.

J and his Iced Mocha which was almost 3/4 icecream. When he tried to mix it, milk and cream overflowed and seeped through the cracks of the table.

We've previously been here for meals and the servings are quite generous. More noteworthy however is their service. The waiters/waitresses are extremely friendly and have a great sense of humour - you'll find they're so relaxed it's almost like you're eating at home. Located right on Pacific Highway and next to a line of shops, there's a great buzz at this place. We were there at around 5 and there were probably a dozen or so tables with people just grabbing a coffee. I need something like this closer to home!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

zenya @ eastwood

I've been popping in here every so often that I'm sure that the waiters/waitresses vaguely remember me. Even if they don't, they probably will do by the end of this year :) I've lost count of all the people that I've come here with...and the bowls of ramen that I've been eating...yes, I know!
Beef Tataki. I'm in love with this dish at the moment - loving the combo of seared beef, shallots, red onions, the sauce they sprinkle it with and that dash of lemon squeezed on top.
J orders the Chashu Ramen.
This is on their Specials Menu - Cold Ramen. I've had this twice now and I advocate that it's perfect for a hot day. From memory, the day we ate here, it was boiling outside!
Not sure if I've mentioned this in another post but the prices have gone up for awhile now (but probably not enough to discourage anyone from going as there continue to be queues everynight it's open). The serving sizes remain huge; I was waddling as I got up from eating my bowl of ramen! Try!

mish's leaving do

I'm a bit behind in my blogging.

Mish's leaving do was almost 2 weeks ago where the lovely girl had invited our high school group over to her place for a fondue farewell. Everyone was invited to bring along a plate of goodies whether it be chocolate, the fondue pot or things that could be dipped into chocolate e.g. fruits, marshmallows, biscuits, cake etc. Instinctively, when one says Fondue, marshmallows generally comes to mind. The first 3 people that walked in (myself included) had brought along bags of marshmallows :)

Chatting away like old times.
Photo: Claudia, Myself & Godi.
I'd say that there were about 10-15 of us who ended turning up? I was amongst the first few to arrive (far out, I live only 5 minutes away by car and I swear, I ended up taking a good 20 minutes or so to get to Mish's place - the Saturday traffic is so bad!) Anyway, here's what was in store for the afternoon:
Dark Chocolate Fondue with Assorted Dipping Items. (Trust me, that was only one of the many bags of marshmallows!)

Godi showed me the Colour Accent Function on my Canon. This ended up being a lot of fun! Grace's comment on the following photo: 'That's not my back that's blue...It's the shirt that sits on my back which is blue'. Mish and I laughed in response.Saying bye to Mish.

It was good to see everyone; many whom I haven't seen in yonks! It's strange to think that we're all done with uni now, working full-time and turning 24 this year! Mish is headed off to Korea to teach English; I'm sure she'll make a great teacher (even if she doesn't really speak a whole lot of Korean :D I almost keeled over laughing at Mish's response to that question.)

Good Luck Mish! Wishing you all the best!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

bavarian bier cafe @ york st.

Whilst it wasn't a tearful farewell, I was still sad to hug Katie good bye on Friday night. I can't believe she's heading off to Melbourne! Who am I going to vent to, bum, chat, grab dinner after work with? It was only late last year that I got back in touch with this girl through Facebook and over the last few months, we'd been grabbing dinner on the odd occasion and chatting about almost nothing and everything. So many times, I didn't know whether to laugh or think this girl was crazy because she positively always had the craziest stories to tell. Girl, I'm going to miss you!

So it was drinks and dinner at Bavarian Bier Cafe on Friday night. Katie had made a booking for 10 but by the time J&I left, reinforcements were already in place and the table we had booked and turned into an extremely tight squeeze. J&I had got there early and so were particularly hungry; here's what we had for dinner:

Pork Belly (as recommended by J's boss). This was so delicious yet so filling!

Veal Schnitzel with potatoes, rocket and a mayo dressing. This went well with my wheat beer (which I didn't find particularly tasteful when I had it by itself).

Katie and a concoction of Pineapple flavoured beer. Even more bizarre was the Chocolate beer one of her friends had; can't say I liked it.

Silly photo - Me trying to put a fork into Katie. There's another one with Katie and a knife; probably best if I left it off the net.
Maerz, a red-faced me, Katie and J.
Girl, I wish you all the best in Melbourne! As promised, I'll be down to visit sometime this year and yes, I don't mind that you're actually 40 minutes away from the main city. Take care of yourself and keep me up to date with all your crazy stories!

happy valentine's day!

Firstly, my apologies to the boy for being late to dinner. He'd organised dinner at Musashi but oweing to me being late, we lost our booking (they would only keen the booking open for 5 minutes! Probably the first time ever we've ever lost a booking but looking inside, you could see that the restaurant was packed so it was only fair to the queue that was going out the door of the restaurant, that whoever got there first got to be seated). Sorry Justin!

Very fortunately, Chat Thai was just across the road and even better, they had a table! All the restaurants in that area were filling up fast! We were probably the last couple to get into Chat Thai because very soon afterwards, two girls that wanted to grab dinner were almost told to share a table with us (to whoever you were, thank you for grabbing your dinner takeaway!! Admittedly, it would've been a bit weird.)

My first rose and Adora Chocolates.
Iced Coffee with Caramelised Milk (love this!) and coconut juice.
We possibly ordered a little too much. Here you have a Chicken Pad Siew, Pork Prik Khing, and a 'Ship & Shore Salad' (this was so yummy! at the same time an unlikely combination of chicken, pork, prawns, tofu, onion and deep fried egg). We also ordered a serving of rice, which possibly could've fed 4.
Chicken Satay Skewers. I love the peanut sauce!

All up the meal was under $45 including tips. In hindsight, it was probably more worthwhile to eat here given how big the servings were, how delicious the food was and how fast the food got to our table. Had we been at Musashi, the bill would've doubled, service would've been slow and our meal would've been hurried along by the massive queue at the door. And well, we were lucky to have the table of 4 to ourselves whilst we were there (so thank you again to the girls), service was extremely friendly and attentive, and we were in and out so quickly, we'd hardly realised!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

sugar magic: lesson 1

I'd hoped to do some sort of part-time cake decorating course after I started full-time work last year (after my short period of time at LCB, I had cakes, cakes and cakes pumping through my system and I was itching to keep up the baking and caking :P). For some reason or other, it took me almost 9 months to get my act together and it was only last week that I enrolled for 'Sugar Magic' at Macquarie College. I'm hoping to keep this one up this year; fingers crossed!

Went for my first lesson today; the class of 10 is being run at Eastwood Public School by a very lovely lady called Margaret. She is ever so patient, talented and encouraging, methinks the following 7 weeks are going to be just fine. Sigh...she does make everything so easy, I wonder how long it's taken her to perfect the art!

We were shown how to make modelling fondant from scratch and with previously prepared fondant, we had a go at making rose buds and rose petals. These will need about 24 hours to dry completely and then you can use them to assemble a rose (to be shown in our next class).Cake materials purchased from the teacher and my notes for the lesson.
I'm actually really glad that I signed up for the course (haha...playing with sugar is a lot of fun!) Hopefully I'll get better with using modelling fondant. At the moment, my fondant is starting to crack and do all sorts of funky things. And yeah, hopefully at the end of 8 weeks, I'll be able to make the roses, jasmine and other bits and pieces which Margaret seems to think we can do.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

tomato @ chatswood

Proof that I haven't been further than Mac Centre in awhile, J goes 'Ken's decided we're eating at Tomato tonight...but yeah, nothing's confirmed, we can decide when we get there'. In my mind, I had started compiling images of tomato entrees, tomato mains, tomato desserts...where on earth was there a restaurant called Tomato in Chatswood?! Was it new? And were we really going to be eating tomato dishes that night?! I hoped not.

Even as we were standing just outside the restaurant, I still asked the question 'So where is this place?'. Turns out it was well hidden upstairs, just above 'Big fish, little fish', next to the gym at Chatswood; entrance was via a lift. I found out also that we were eating Korean and upon perusal of the menu, there were no tomato dishes (yes I checked) and well, it's actually a very nice place to chill and bum. Trust me, you'll love the sofas (great for leaning back on after you've eaten!!)

Pang, Em, J & I ordered 4 dishes amongst us. Em all geared up on a Sunday with our rice cake, egg and dumpling soup.
Our other dishes: Korean pancake, curry beef cutlet with rice and cold buckwheat noodles.
They've actually got a rather extensive menu albeit a little time consuming to read through (basically there's Korean and English translations but how it's laid out, you start wishing that they had photos for everything to make it easier - esp. when you have dishes with the words 'stimulate' and 'spicy intestine' in them). The other guys went for hot pots which were massive. There were side dishes with our meal (unfortunately, no photos) and had drinks (which are on the expensive side). All up we each paid $20 which included a tip; not bad at all!

Anyway, Korean karaoke is just next door also, if anyone is interested!

Monday, 11 February 2008

luneberger @ mac centre

I fell in love with luneberger when their first shop opened up in the city. It was good back then (I was interning up at Wynard) so whenever I had a bit of time, I could walk down to Town Hall station for a quick sweet fix. It was always so hard to decide what to go for; their croissants are scrumptious without saying, sandwiches are delicious and make for a great light meal and so many pastries and it seemed like everytime I was there, there was something new! Anyway, last year they opened up in Mac Centre (replaced the shop that used to be Jesters/ Shakespeare's/ Chillis - I'm not sure how many times they've changed hands!) And let me say, 'Yay!' so glad that luneberger is now so close to home! Popped by on the weekend and decided to sit in with J.

Choc Chip muffin (which could do with a few more choc. chips but otherwise pleasantly sweet and tasting like what a muffin should taste like). J's Pretzel which is arguably more tasty being that size compared to the ones you get from the supermarket. I'm arguing also that the fat bits taste nicer cause the bread is nice and soft :P

Had a coffee with mine. Would've preferred it to be stronger. J went for the hot chocolate.
It was pretty quiet on a Sunday afternoon; we were the only ones there for a good half hour. It's a shame that they didn't put more effort into the decor of the place for people that choose to sit in. They've gone for the very standard cafe/food court chairs + tables which I suppose don't really bring people in. Personally, I would be more inclined to grab something on the run (like I used to do at their Town Hall stall) and eat my goodies on the run. Anyhow, that's besides the story!

french riviera ice cream @ liverpool street

A very casual comment to my cousin Bernard ('There's an ice cream shop around the corner from here') lead to me taking the 7 kids (of assorted ages and sizes) to ice cream after dinner on Saturday. And well, I suppose I was also the one to say 'We're here anyway, there's 8 of us, let's go for the Maxi Sundae which serves 6-8 people'. In hindsight, we probably could've gone for the Super size which feeds 4-5; somehow or other in that brain of mine, I thought it was pretty reasonable for 8 people to eat over 20 scoops of ice-cream which came in the Maxi. Hehehe...

It took them about 10-15 minutes to get all the scoops into the bowl. See how happy everyone is to see the mountain of ice cream!
Some photos before we dig in.
The ice cream before we gave up. I must say, we did a rather good job with eating most of it.
Ice cream mush (courtesty of Cass and myself).
Eating that much ice cream after New Year's dinner is not advised. Everyone was so full afterwards that most of us could've been mistaken for being pregant. But hey, only $45 to split across 8 people; what a bargain! Mmm...they also have waffles, pancakes and various ice cream sundae/parfaits. Check out their website:

Sunday, 10 February 2008

happy chinese new year!

Chinese New Year is always an elaborate affair in my household; from the family dinner on the 31st, another family dinner on the 1st, to the weekend where the extended family can meet up and sit yet again around the dinner table. As for the past many years, we were at Regal on Sussex St. for our annual Chinese New Year dinner with the extended family; so many dishes that I was positively full a third of the way into the meal. The real shame was that there was no lion dancing this year (although us kids did come up with something else to do :D See my next post!). Can't say I'm the biggest fan of lion dancing (esp. when it takes them a good hour to get around a restaurant when it's packed) but it does quite feel like Chinese New Year when you don't see that lion!

Anyway (back to the food), as usual we went for one of the CNY banquet packages with a few added dishes. The menu probably hasn't changed since the first time we went there but definitely no complaints from me, it is so yummy! My favourite would be the deep-fried taro-coated scallops and the lotus paste flower desserts (I swear you can't get these elsewhere! and even if you did, it wouldn't taste as good).

The pink sheet of paper outlines the 3 packages they have and all the dishes you get. Every dish has a lucky name. First course: Jellyfish & Suckling Pig.
Second Course: Deep-fried taro-coated scallops. Third Course: Lettuce with Oysters.
Fourth Course: Shark's Fin Soup
Fifth Course: LobsterSixth Course: FishSeventh Course: AbaloneNth Courses: Sweet & Sour Pork, Salt & Pepper Fried FishMum & I (after a beer)More food: Beef cubes with Wasabi dipping sauceEven more food: Peppered Beef Ribs with Mushrooms (I like this one!) Still more food: Crispy Skin Chicken
Part tradition: Fried Rice. There were also noodles (which I don't have a photo of)
Dessert time: Pretty lotus paste pastry flowers and these things which tasted like the topping of Pineapple buns.
Traditonal Chinese Cookies with Sesame.
My cousin Chris and the fruit platters.

Admittedly, I'm a little pudgy since eating all that. But frankly, I wasn't the only one who walked out of Regal with a bit a waddle :D Anyway, it'll be another year before I eat to such excess again (will try to be good over the next couple of weeks).

And hey, can anyone tell me what the story is with red pockets? My understanding is that you aren't meant to open them straight away but you put them under your pillow and sleep on them overnight for the good luck to sink in. I just got told today that you're not meant to even open them for at least 2 weeks (till CNY is well and trully over). Someone let me know else I'll be using mine to buy my travel pass this week :D

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!