Tuesday, 30 December 2008

bungalow 8 @ king st. wharf

Christmas eve/last day of work for 2008 (for most of us), friends organised to have all-you-can-eat mussels at Bungalow 8 on King St. Wharf. I'm impartial to mussels - I can eat them but at the same time, it's not something that I would get cravings for or get too fussed if I don't have it. And really, I have yet to meet someone that would call mussels their favourite food.

The all-you-can-eat offer is $22.50pp (Tuesdays only) and pretty much you eat the kilo pots of mussels at your heart's content. There's 5 different flavours to choose from - Laksa, Tom Yum, White Wine, Bacon Provencale & Thai Green Curry. On average, there are between 30-40 mussels per pot (this knowledge I gained from the boys that started counting them as they went through pot after pot).

All the kilo pot mussels come with a side of chips. Bread rolls and butter are also part of the $22.50 deal.
After an initial mix up of tables (what are the chances that there would be someone booking with the same name and the same number of people?!), we were moved from the incredibly crowded table next to the bar to the sofa seats outside. Much better!
Guess who's back?! AJ! We've missed you!

I'd say that we ate for a solid 2-3 hours. The record for the night was held by J - a total of 5 pots, one of each flavour (which would've been between 150 - 200 mussels!) I only managed 1.5 pots after which everything just tasted like mussels - when it all starts tasting the same, it's time to stop eating! Well, when we did get up to leave, J did say that he wouldn't be eating any more mussels for some time and that was with good reason!

The seating outside ended up being really nice (usually I'm not a big fan of outdoor seating cause food gets cold really easy, things fall into your food, then you have birds all over the place...argh! but fortunately, you don't get this at Bungalow). Dinner capped at $22.50 was fantastic - the only extra money you would be spending is on drinks (which admittedly can be a bit of a nightmare when you have everyone heading to the bar at the same time.) On the whole, it was great night out with friends to celebrate the end of the year!

Monday, 29 December 2008

pasta bee @ hannah st., beecroft

For my b'day, J got me a facial/massage pamper package at Emma's Secret (a.k.a. Urban Spa) in Beecroft. Being a Saturday and having had my work X'mas party the night before, I woke up just in time to grab some lunch before my booking at 2pm. Lacking inspiration for what to eat in my suburb, we thought we'd eat in Beecroft and decided on a place called Pasta Bee.

A friend had mentioned this place awhile back saying it was a neat little place for coffee and light meals. I don't usually hang around Beecroft but having tried the place, I definitely would consider heading out that way, even if it's just to visit this cafe. The food was fresh, good coffee and an abundance of magazines to browse through whilst waiting. It' my ideal way to spend the weekend!

Our coffees.
My B.L.T. - I love bacon!
J goes for the lamb burger which was juicy and full of flavour. The damper rolls were definitely a good match - they're much tastier and less filling than your regular burger buns.

I loved the fact that the food was so simply presented, full of flavour, fresh and so visually appealling. It might not seem like much on the plate but once you're through eating, I guarantee you that you will be full. I struggled with mine and J ended up eating about 1/3 of my meal on top of his. Trust me - he was satisfied! Atmosphere inside the cafe is fantastic - you almost forget quite where you are. Might I add, there's plenty of handmade cakes and bakes at the counter to squizz at and really, it was the perfect lunch before an even more relaxing afternoon getting pampered!

cafe create @ anderson st., chatswood

It hit me mid conversation yesterday that there's only 4 months to go till A's wedding - where on earth did the time go?! Once upon a time, there was still an entire year but with four months to go, there seems to be quite a lot to do! And well, there's definitely plenty for me to do and there's no surprise that I've been procrastinating a little (it's become a bit of a habit of mine). A - promise you that I'll pick up my act, you deserve the best wedding in the world!

Anyway, the update is that the bridesmaids are still looking for a dress. The guys have sorted themselves out as has the bride. The reality is that it's not that easy trying to find a dress/es for 3 girls - fingers crossed that we'll find one soon.

So...it was after a morning of trying on dresses that A, her sis and myself sat down for some brunch/lunch. Her sis and I are two of the 3 bridesmaids. Here's to a large mug of coffee! It's unbelievingly tiring trying on dresses!
As I'd woken up just in time to get picked up by A and her sis that morning, I opted for breakfast - poached eggs on toast. As I lack the ability to poach an egg, everywhere I go and have poached eggs, they are always good!
A goes for a burger - I'd say that bridesmaid dress shopping is even more tiring for the bride-to-be.J&J. I use to work with this girl and she is the sweetest girl alive!
Food was definitely well received after a morning of trying on dresses. You find that with formal dresses, you subconsciously start sucking your tummy in and just how these dresses are cut, they are really not for eating and I start to worry that there won't be much eating down in the days upcoming and on the actual wedding day. Hmm... I know, it's not my day so I shouldn't be complaining. Countdown to A's wedding has truly begun!

zenya for ramen, eastwood

J&I are both big fans of Ramen and it's lucky that we have a Ramen shop close to home. We even have one of those buy 10, get 1 free ramen cards happening (although it's been slow to eat the 10 as Zenya only stamp it once for the meal and not for the 2 bowls of ramen we actually eat - which to be honest, I think is a little unfair). Anyhow, they do make up for it by the interesting ramen combinations they have. The two below are from their 'Specials Menu'.

Citrus Pepper Ramen.
Spicy Tontoro Ramen.
Both are delicious although my preference is for the SpicyTontoro Ramen. There's something about the citrus flavour which makes the ramen taste a tad 'unnatural'. Anyhow, I've never been the biggest fan of citrus flavours which probably explains why. It's a real shame that the weather's been so hot - it'll be some time before my next bowl of ramen and that we get a stamp closer to getting our bowl of free ramen. That card better not expire!

an early family christmas

Christmas was just last week but my first Christmas do was almost 2 weeks ago. This was our annual family get together (held early cause one of my cousins were going overseas) and as in our family's tradition, held with much fanfare and food. (For the past 2 weeks, our fridge has been filled with Christmas leftovers and it seems like we're never going to see the end of it!)

Our trusty old Christmas tree - we've had this since I was a toddler and surprisingly, has kept in good condition. The star at the top of the tree has chipped slightly and well, it does seem to get sparser through the years but it's still a tree that we can rely on. This year we were a little less than organised and the tree only went up on the day. Usually, I'm given the task to put it up and well, let's say I delegated downwards this year and my little cousins helped me out on this one (I was busy wrapping presents!)
As far as I can remember, each Christmas has been celebrated with a leg of ham. I have distinct memories of ham - there's been years where in the Christmas aftermath, I'd eaten ham congee, ham fried rice, ham pasta, ham sandwiches. Over the years, we've been slightly smarter and split the ham equally amongst all the families. Here's J & my bro carving the ham.
This year we had a buffet table full of food. Every family came bearing a plate or more. Mum & Dad made the trip to the Fish Markets to get seafood and sashimi (I love salmon sashimi! I could possibly sit and eat salmon sashimi all day!)Here's the rest of the table - we actually had two tables combined together to fit all the food. We also put mum's buffet server to use which kept the hot food warm - mum bought it online awhile back and thought it'd be good for the family functions we have (as you may have gathered, my family is very passionate/crazy about food). A close up of some of the food - Sushi (bought from our local Jap restaurant), Satay Chicken Skewers, Tempura Prawns, Cucumber & Marinated Beef, Asssorted Finger Sandwiches (loved the Chicken Schnitzel with Rocket - you are quite the budding Chef my little coz!)And of course there was dessert! One of my cousin's baked an apple slice, there was a mango pudding, agar jelly with fruit, and an abundance of fresh fruit (including lychees - again, something I could eat all day!)
Compared to previous years, the ripping into Christmas presents managed to wait till after dinner and dessert. I bought that M&M bowl for my bro - I ended up going back to the shops and getting one for myself; how awesome do they look?!
It was particularly satisfying this year to watch everyone open their presents (esp. the ones that were from my family) as mum had entrusted me to buy them. It was great to see the smiles on people's faces and presents getting put to use straight away. So maybe the time spent at the shops was worth it - although let me just say, it was quite a different story when I was at the shops! Anyway, more Christmas blogging to follow...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

pho sam (again!)

J&I made our way over to Pho Sam again in Epping. J's been about a billion times and yet remains just as excited as ever (see pic below). This was my second time and I was looking forward to it (last time I had the Crispy Chicken Tomato Rice) and was particularly looking forward to trying a few other things on their menu.

J being silly.
Prawn Rice Paper Rolls. The sauce is awesome (I would throw in a handful of fresh cut chillis to give it even more bite) but unfortunately, I've had better Rice Paper Rolls - I'd say that I could wrap these ones up nicer too!
The highlight of the day was the Iced Coffee. J recommended it saying it was particularly strong (I'm love strong coffee!) When it came to the table, I was slightly boggled - out comes a percolator sitting on top of a glass holding a serve of condensed milk. On the side was a glass of ice.
J explains that you need to wait till the coffee finishes 'percolating/dripping' into the glass. Then you mix up up the coffee and condensed milk. It's also crucial that you mix it else it's much harder to mix when you've poured it your glass of ice.
Pour the coffee & condensed milk mixture into the glass of ice (Take care as the coffee has a tendency to splash everywhere. I had coffee splashing out of the glass on the clean sauce dishes that were stacked on the side of the table. I don't think the waitress was all too impressed and came by to take some things away. Might I add, the coffee percolator also leaves a bit of a mess as even though the coffee has stopped dripping, you've still got a bit of the residue which keeps oozing coffee and leaving coffee on the table - argh!). After that, sip away! I agree with J, it's a good strong coffee.Once again, J had this Special Pho noodles (honestly I think that is all he eats whenever we eat Viet). I thought I'd I try the Lemongrass Chicken Vermicelli. I liked this but it seems to be a smaller serving than the noodles and the crispy chicken I had last time.
Definitely recommend anyone heading over to Epping to try Pho Sam and in particular, try their Iced Coffee - it's quite an experience! And well, now that you've heard it from me, you'll probably make less of a mess! I still think their pho noodles and crispy chicken tomato rice are the meals of choice but the vermicelli is definitely an option for a hot day. Anyway, sure to be back soon to try more things on their menu!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

b'day dinner @ home

Dad does the cooking at home. There was a time when he first started cooking and the food was barely edible but it's been quite awhile since I've complained about my dad's food (yes, I do critique dad's cooking at home and well, we've developed a bit of a relationship where everytime he cooks something new, he actually asks me what I think). His cooking has just gone better and better, and more than often, I actually prefer eating at home rather than going out.

For my b'day this year, mum asked if it was ok if we celebrated at home - she said dad wanted to cook. Without mum needing to ask, my answer was yes. Here's a snap of what I had for my b'day dinner:

Soy sauce chicken, Sweet & sour pork, Abalone & cabbage, Prawns with egg. Yummo!
My bro came home after work with cake. How cute! I get this feeling that my bro thinks I'm not growing up. I asked him 'Is there a bear cake for a boy?' He just looked at me incredulously and replied 'Just take the pink flowers off' (at which point everyone started to laugh). Hmm... how awesome would it be to have a cake in the shape of a panda?!
Here's the inside of the cake. It's more or less a black forest cake. It wasn't too heavy and was just right for having after dinner.
Can't believe it's already another year and I'm another year older! This year has creeped up really quickly and it makes me think how quickly I'm gonna go from being in my 20s to going into the 30s *shudder*.

Thanks dad for the awesome dinner! Bro - I loved the cake!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

bathers' pavilion @ the esplanade, balmoral beach

I took the day off work for my birthday and went to Bather's Pavilion Cafe with J for lunch. Bather's Pavilion Restaurant (just next door) is actually in the Entertainment Book but J&I thought we'd have a lighter lunch (but thinking again now, should've gone to the restaurant to use the discount cause it's probably unlikely I'll be heading all the way back - it's almost an hour's drive from my place.)

Seated, we were given bread rolls with butter.
J smiles with relief that we're finally sitting down. We were walking in the wrong direction after parking the car and nearly thought that we had got the address wrong.
J's choice: Braised lamb shank with white bean & shallot ravioli, young carrots & cavolo nero. (Nice but a tad salty)My choice: Seafood risotto with green herbs and wilted spinach. It was a massive serving with lots of seafood! Could easily feed 2.Bathers' chips - but the waitress actually said 'wedges' when she placed it down on the table...hmm...
I love these tomato shaped tomato sauce bottles!
It was SO hot that day and unfortunately, I really don't deal with heat and things tend to become more annoying than usual when I'm not dealing with the heat. Found the waitstaff unhelpful (did get better later) but at first when we were there, everyone just looked at us and walked away even though we clearly there looking for a table. Then when we requested to move tables as we were stuck sitting behind another couple and was listening to their entire conversation (which I think is a very legitimate reason to move), we got what looked like a scowl and then a reluctant yes but which meant no help whatsoever in getting our things moved - we had to pick up all the contents of our table and move it ourselves. (This happened with another couple that sat down near us so this definitely wasn't just me not dealing with the heat!) I think one of the dudes realised how unhelpful they'd been all along and actually got friendly and talked to us at the end of the meal (but unfortunately, damage done - me annoyed).

Annoyance aside, you do get a nice view over the beach (when you get a window seat) and the food is actually really good. And well, it was my birthday and I had the day off work, what more could I ask for?

tetsuya's @ kent st., sydney

A booking was made way back in March/April for 8 of us to have dinner at Tetsuya's and need I say the least, this was hardly a booking that we were going to forget about. I admit, it's a long time to wait for a booking (we probably waited a bit longer than others given we opted for a Saturday night sitting) but after the meal, I can truly say that it was well worth the wait and that there is more than reason why this restaurant is amongst the top ten in the world.

First Course: Chilled Pea Soup with Mint Cream & Salted Chocolate Flakes.
All smiles - we're at Tetsuya's!!Big Smile from J.
Second course: Smoked Ocean Trout & Avruga Caviar. You see the egg yolk that's buried under the caviar? Our waiter explained to us at the end of the meal that this is actually a frozen raw egg yolk. Apparently when you freeze egg yolk, the protein inside the yolk changes to give you what tastes like a cooked egg yolk. I'd say I'd leave this one to the experts and forget about trying at home.
Third Course: Leek & Crab Custard
Fourth Course: Scampi cooked 3 ways - wrapped in pancetta, dipped in olive oil and scampi sashimi. Italian bread roll - which was tasty but annoyingly crumbly (or maybe I'm just a messy eater). There was also a sourdough roll I had at the beginning of the meal. I advise against eating both bread rolls because I did and got very full and was struggling with the last couple of courses. The sourdough definitely tastes nicer!Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa Butter - heaven in a pot! We went through so many pots of these and the waiters/waitresses were so kind as to top up the table with more pots as we finished with them. J thought of going through the pots just to pick out the truffle pieces :P
Fifth Course (Tetsuya's Signature Dish): Confit of Petuna Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Konbu, Daikon & Fennel
Seasonal Green Salad. It's no wonder they call it the Signature Dish - this was definitely the highlight of the meal. Not sure if you can see but the serving size was quite large compared to all the dishes beforehand and to be honest, after eating this, I was already quite full but it was SO good!Sixth Course: Blue Swimmer Crab with avocado. If you don't like avocado, you might find this one a little overpowering (or so I'm told. I actually really like avocado so didn't have any problems with this one but some others at my table will surely tell you otherwise).
Seventh Course: Grilled Fillet of Barramundi with Braised Baby Fennel. This was the tiniest piece of Barramundi - I think I'm used to getting served the entire fish when we order Barramundi at Chinese restaurants.I had my meal with the wine matching. 9 wines with 12 courses of food (which our waiter explains is close to 1 bottle of wine). As standard, I turn a bit pink.Eigth Course: Twice-Cooked De-Boned Spatchcock with Caper & Olive Jus.I think this was the first time I had Spatchcock; found it surprisingly fatty.
Ninth Course: Grilled Wagyu Beef with Lime & Wasabi. Only managed to eat half of this one and offloaded the rest to J. It was really good but by this point, my stomach really needed a bit of a break.Being a little bit silly (tipsy). Comte with Lentils. This mouthful was meant to 'cleanse the palate'. It certainly tasted better than it smelled!Tenth Course: Beetroot & Blood Orange Sorbet with a Rhubarb & Marscapone Trifle. Really not sure about the Beetroot & Blood Orange Sorbet. I quote my friend P: 'The Beetroot could taste better in a burger' (I share his sentiments).Eleventh Course: Chocolate Ganache with Green Tea. I didn't get this one like the all the others...I got...My Birthday Cake - a Chocolate Fondant with Meringue! Prior to this arriving, the waiter kindly let our table know that we were the biggest group sitting in the main part of the restaurant and that it was only suiting that 'Happy Birthday' was sung. Thanks for the 'Happy Birthday' guys! Twelth Course (Last Course): Floating island with lemon and vanilla bean anglaise. On the advice of others (and seeing people's faces), I didn't eat the lemon pieces. Petit Fours - Coconut balls, Shortbread, Chocolate Macaroons & Cherry Jellies (which tasted like Medicine).I left the Chocolate Macaroon till last and was already told by the others that this wasn't quite a chocolate macaroon. Our lovely waiter explains to us that it is in fact a chocolate macaroon but sandwiched by a Lemon and Pink Peppercorn Ganache. The waiter goes to explain that that is a specialty of Mr. Wakuda - him wanting to surprise the people that eat his food with that special ingredient. What on earth are pink peppercorns?! Anyway, I then went to ask whether the chef was in that night and was kindly told that Tetsuya had been in the restaurant earlier in the evening but had to leave some time ago (so no visits to all the tables tonight....boo!)The girls. The boys kindly tell us that we look like the 4 teletubbies - and I'm apparently the purple one that carries the handbag...bah!Last but not least, a photo of the toilet door (guess which toilet this belongs to?). More than one of us did a double take before we chose the correct toilet door to go through.
Dinner started just a bit past seven and finished close to midnight. We hardly noticed the time go by (which I think is the bonus when you eat out with a group of friends) and well, so many conversations were had with even more time gushing and ah-ing over the food (which is ever so enjoyable!) I didn't actually want to leave!

It goes without saying that this was definitely the best meal I've ever had - the food is cooked to perfection, the raw ingredients are fresh as they ever could be, service is flawless (or rather, you don't even notice the fact that mistakes are made because the staff are so meticulous in how they carry themselves). A whole dozen waiters must've served our table that night and they were all SUPER! I admit that I might not agree with some of the flavours used in Tetsuya's dishes but overall, the meal challenged me to really think about what is good food and I definitely found good food that night. Would've loved to meet Tetsuya in person but maybe next time!

Thanks all for making the evening so perfect!