Sunday, 30 March 2008

azuma @ chifley square

To celebrate J's B'day this year, we went to Azuma's @ Chifley Square for their dinner degustation: a 10 course meal which I'll come to describe as delicious and superb (and all enjoyed in a comfortable and relaxing manner). As much as I love fancy restaurants, I'm not the biggest fan of the attention you might get/ or in some cases lack of but what I found great about Azuma was they give just the right amount of attention and privacy that I like.

The front entrance.

I'd had the table booked for 7.30pm which for a Friday night was probably considered early. Being of the first patrons to sit down in the restaurant, we watched the tables around us gradually fill up. By the end of the night, the restaurant was truly bustling with young and old couples, families, friends, first dates, you name it!
I can't remember the name of this but it was one very pretty and tasty mocktail!
Course 1: Konyac Jelly with Dipping Sauce, Fresh Oyster.

Course 2: Mixed entree

Course 3: Sashimi. J got a very girly looking cocktail!

Course 4: To die for, seared salmon and tuna sushi.Course 5: Steamed Egg with Seafood (and chunks of it!)

Course 6: Tempura

Course 7: Wagyu Beef with Cauliflower (cooked to perfection!)

Course 8: Tuna

Course 9: Udon Noodles

Finale: Dessert. So pretty!

J really enjoyed the meal as did I - each course was only as good as the next! The last degustation I had, I struggled to get to the last course but with Azuma's, you'll find that you'll get to the end of the meal feeling just full (and extremely satisfied!).

Besides the degustation, there's an extensive menu on offer and I really, really want to go back! Any takers??

Sunday, 16 March 2008

ying's @ pacific highway, crows nest

Every Chinese family seems to have their favourite Chinese restaurant - Ying's on Pacific Highway happens to be my uncle's favourite. And I got to say, there's so many perks of visiting one restaurant every so often - not only do you get the manager looking after your table, better service on the whole, better food, there's also the freebies like White Carrot Cake during Chinese New Year and in this particular instance, every dessert the restaurant had on hand served after our meal!

Ying's seems to offer a fusion menu of Chinese food. I swear the owners are Malaysian (I kept asking J during the meal much to his annoyance - he coudn't see why I was so bothered.) Hmph, J is Malaysian so I had the expectation that he would be able to tell me whether the food was heavily Malaysian influenced. Well I thought it was anyway given the amount of chilli that was scattered through our various dishes.

Oysters with a Port Wine Sauce. Highly recommend this one - it's like a whole new take on how you should be eating oysters!
Deep fried noodles that sat on a bed of Clam Sauce.
Salt & Pepper Crab. Love this!
I recommend everything that's in this photo: there's the deep fried tofu with cauliflower, salty fish and pork pancakes, steamed fish with bittergourd, sweet & sour pork, and clear soup beef and tendon.
And as a finale to the meal, you get a fruit platter that sits over dried ice and water. The effect always brings smiles to everyone's faces. In the photo you can see two of the many desserts we were offered (green tea cake & bean paste cookies). The other desserts included mango pudding, home made grass jelly and green bean soup.
The funny thing about this place is the car park. You enter from the back (not Pacific Highway) and everytime we've driven into the carpark, there's always this guy sitting there opening and closing the door (and I mean literally, he sits there all night opening and closing the door). I'm not sure why they can't get some automated system happening but seriously, it has to be the worse job ever!

pent thai @ epping

Let me start off by saying, I love the Lindt Inflatable Rabbit that's sitting outside Target at Mac Centre! It's possibly the nicest looking inflatable I've ever seen - too bad it's not actually real chocolate. Anyway, seems like this year Lindt are going all out with the rabbit. I've seen Lindt rabbit plushes in Easter gift boxes at Woolies, then there's the Lindt rabbit plushes which are sitting across Targets as in-store displays and have you noticed? there's so much Lindt chocolate being launched for Easter. haha... I do love Lindt chocolate (I'm tempted to buy that 5kg bag of Lindt couveture for baking...mmmmm).

The Inflatable Lindt Rabbit.
So anyway, just before heading to Karen's B'day in the city last weekend, J&I thought we'd grab dinner locally. J thought we should break out a little so we headed over to Epping to look for some food. We started off onThe Epping Club side, didn't find much there and thought we'd give the other side of the station a go and very fortunately, found ourselves Pent Thai (which you possibly could miss if you weren't looking closely).

J&I have been to Pent Thai at Mac Centre on a number of occasions (love their food) but we were even more pleasantly surprised to find what was on offer at the Pent Thai of Epping (personally I'm not too sure if the two restaurants are related because their menu is quite different).

Seafood Tom Yum Soup. Love it!

Money Bags - Basically Deep Fried Wonton Wrappers which had a filling of Mince & Noodles, served with a Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce.

I wasn't the biggest fan of this one - Mango Chicken which we had with Rice. I knew mangoes weren't in season but I hadn't thought they'd used dried mangoes in place of the real thing. J liked this more than I did.Lamb Masaman Curry that was so rich in Coconut and filled my belly right up. Loved it!

Service here was superb and the decor makes the place a comfortable place to dine in. There's a good mix of customers and the feeling you get is generally very relaxed - not too much noise but at the same time not too quiet to make you feel uncomfortable. Quite a mix of people seem to have found this place; families, young and old couples, generation Y's. It's not your cheapest meal in town but at the same time, won't break your wallet (plus there's ample parking down the road!)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

bourke st. bakery @ broadway

My office has moved!! (the new space is amazing!! bar area, funky lights, beanie chairs, you name it!) And to my delight, bourke st. bakery @ broadway is just on my way to work (and I got there even before I got to my new office :P)

First up on Monday: Rhubarb & Almond Tart with Coffee. Superb!
Day 'n' (let's say we've moved into our office for 2 weeks now): Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Muffin. My gosh! This one has so many chunks of dark chocolate pieces and raspberries in it ('s my favourite of the 3 muffins they have)
For home: A loaf of Plain Sourdough & a Carrot Cake (the cake was so tiny yet so cute!)

The shop on Broadway is actually quite small; as you walk in, you have a counter and coffee machine, there's about one table if you want to sit in and a bench for people to browse newspapers whilst waiting for their coffees. I imagine their Surry Hills shop is much bigger although I was doing some research and somewhere it was saying that most of the baking actually gets done at their shop on Broadway! Definitely hard to believe but really, everything I've tried has been so good that I'm not too fussed where the baking gets done :P
So yeah, they have pastries, danishes, muffins, croissants, sourdough loaves, panini, sausage rolls, pies, quiches, cookies, cakes; more or less anything that gets baked. I actually also had a sandwich from there yesterday and it was equally as good. Must admit though, it is on the pricey side and going there too often has its downsides (money being one but getting fat is the other - my manager has already had to warn me about this :P).
And hey, I think I should get commission for recommending people there. I went on our first day in the new office, told people about it, and now half the office is going there!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

michelangelo pizza & pasta restaurant @ carlingford court

There's been a number of family/ family friend/ relo eating out meals over the last couple of weeks. First my bro came home from his trip away, then a family friend's daughter came to stay, then my cousin crashed over for a day and a bit whilst my aunt and uncle were still in HK, and coupled with that, dad has been choccos at work and dad usually makes the decision as to what we eat. (For some reason or other, he doesn't trust mum's or my cooking. Men!)

This was a Sunday night where dad had decided on Michelangelo's at Carlingford Court; probably one of our closest Italian pizza & pasta restaurants which we've visited on a hanful of occasions. They offer a full a la carte menu in additon to pizza & pasta; I highly recommend their pizza! (Their pizza section is actually set to one side of the shop and there's access just to that section from outside if you only wanted takeaway.)
Calamari Rings.The last 1/2 dozen Kilpatrick Oysters and a Chicken Caesar Salad. Garlic Prawns (I'm not sure why dad likes ordering this one so much). Anyway, I was a bit disappointed at the serving size of this one. You can see, it's tiny and had only a handful of prawns!

The Michelangelo Special. Their pizzas come on a thin base. There's just enough cheese on top to ensure that the flavours in the pizza are not lost.Seafood risotto. I thought this tasted better the last time I had it.I can't remember the name of this one but it was a Mild Chilli, tomato-based pasta - rather disappointing. Garlic & Herb Bread - made on bruschetta bread and quite salty and overpowering in flavour.

Fettucine Boscialo. Love this one!

Whilst getting the number for Michelangelo's to make a booking, I'd actually read through some eatability reviews to see how they'd been doing (given if it was awhile since we'd been). The most recent reviews had not been pleasant; they went along the lines of staff being bipolar, unhelpful and unattentive; hair being found in food, service being slow etc. Fortunately, we had a very attentive waitress who was more than happy to help, there was no hair in our food and despite us seeing the one chef walking around in the kitchen, service was quick and food was decent.

Hmm...I'm getting slightly concerned about my expanding waistline...

jelly filled mini muffins

I've been slowly getting back to baking and 'touch wood', everything is turning out a lot better than I expected. I was expecting mistakes to be made, food that couldn't be eaten and to my relief, neither have taken place in the last couple of bake ups. Then again, I haven't been doing anything really fancy (in a way, the sugar magic class I'm taking at the moment is putting me off anything that has a lot of sugar in it - those that have made sugar flowers or used royal icing will understand why).

Here are the jelly filled mini muffins that were made over a Saturday arvo to kill some time. You probably can't see but half are strawberry flavoured and the other half have apricot jam in them.
The recipe comes from a book called 'Muffins & Small Cakes'. This one's been sitting on my shelf for some time and has some of the most scrumptious recipes.
I highly recommend making these in the mini muffin cases (I made some minis as well as some larger ones). The serving size in the mini is just right for popping into your mouth :P Really enjoyed these and I reckon you can probably use assorted 'jellies' as your filling - would be keen to try blueberry as well as marmalade. Oh, and when baking with jam, make sure you don't put your baked goodie into your mouth too quickly; the jam can be extremely hot! (hmm...not exactly the best lesson to learn :D)

Monday, 10 March 2008

thousand spices @ pacific highway, crows nest

Very rarely do I go out for Indian food but even more rare is for a group of my friends to go out for Indian food; the latter having to do with the fact that a handful of friends can't take spicy food. For me personally, the hotter the better and it seems that over the years, my tolerance to hot and spicy foods has grown and matured (now I'm into eating the fresh cut chilli sort of stuff so hopefully that gives you an idea of how much chilli I can eat).

Anyway, back to our choice of Indian food 2 Saturdays ago. With the intention of catching up with Mandy and Ka after their trip, 7 of us found our way to a little Indian restaurant called 'Thousand Spices' on Pacific Highway @ Crows Nest. Those who have the Entertainment Book will find that sharing the same address is a restaurant called Indian Ocean which to our knowledge, has since been replaced by the establishment we dined at. Thousand Spices apparently have their flagship store in Homebush Bay.

There was much um-ing and ah-ing over the menu but in the end, the order was quite easy. Of the 9 Main Curries (non vegetarian), we ended getting 7, 2 mixed entree platters, plenty and plenty of naan and fluffy bread, basmati rice, and of course, plenty of mango lassi's around the table.

Mixed entree plate (there were samosas, lamb cutlets and chicken tenderloin pieces)
Our 7 curries + naan bread.
Mango Lassis and my plate of food :P
Admittedly, the meal took quite awhile to get to our table - we ended up dining for say 2-2.5hours) but I assure you, it was well worth the wait. After our entrees (which came reasonably quickly), our main seemed to be taking its time. In the interim, we sipped patiently on the mango lassi's and thought, we may as well order a second round. Big Mistake! It was as soon as our second lassi's found their way to our table that our banquet of food arrived also. And ok, it might not seem like it when you see the small bowls which come to your table but by the time you dig in, each bowl itself feels like it's 3 times its size.

Across the table from me - Mandy.

The whole dinner party.

Shall I say, we struggled; it possibly had a little to do with the amount of mango lassi that we each had lining our stomaches but nonetheless, the food was terrific!! I think what made the meal even more special was that the chef introduced himself to us at the end of the meal to a) ask us how the meal was, and b) apologised for the delay and explained that cause all the dishes there are cooked to order, it does take a bit of time. Is that service or what?!

All up, dinner was about $35pp. For that same price also, you can go for their banquet menu which has a selection of their most popular dishes (and they claim that it's unlimited!!) But definitely for the adventurous, I recommend taking a pick out of their rather extensive menu and really, don't get discouraged by the look of something; just give it a go, you might like it!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

chocolate & almond biscotti

I've been trying to teach J to bake (at his insistence) but my patience is starting to wear thin; allow me to elaborate.

Having decided to do some baking on a Sunday afternoon (in particular Donna Hay's Chocolate & Almond Biscotti recipe), I announced that we could probably substitute the almonds with hazelnuts which I already had at home but no, J insists that each and every recipe needs to be followed exactly and at the base of it, he didn't like hazelnuts but preferred almonds. out we went to buy a small packet of blanched almonds which we needed for the recipe. Personally, I think hazelnuts would've worked out just fine.

Back at home, I ask him to measure out on the dry ingredients so I could mix them together. I'd quickly read through the ingredients list so had an idea of roughly how much everything was needed. Halfway through the measuring (as I was helping out), I ask him how much sugar was needed to reconfirm, turns out he was looking at the ingredients list for another recipe altogether...argh!!

And well, after that, he decided he was bored so I was left to do the rest. It probably worked out better that way.

The biscotti logs before they went into the oven. Tip: Make the rolls a bit longer and thinner so you have smaller slices of biscotti at the end. Mine ended up a little big.
Sliced biscotti before their second baking. The trick here is to use a really sharp knife. I had my Wustof Knife from LCB :D
The final product!

I actually tasted the biscotti after their first and second bakings. After the first baking, the biscotti are just crisp around the edges and slightly soft on the inside (and actually tasted rather nice even though they weren't quite completed). After the second baking, they become nice and crisp like they should be; great for having with tea and coffee! I'm keen to experience with pistachios now and I really need to find another brand of baking cocoa, Nestle Cocoa just isn't doing it for me. Whilst the biscotti tasted great, there really wasn't much of a chocolate taste to them!
Might I suggest that if you are keen to make biscotti, make sure you have an afternoon free to sit by the oven and watch these as they bake. Once they go in for their second baking, it's only a matter of minutes before they become really crisp (The Donna Hay recipe had recommend up to 20 minutes but I would've taken about half of this).