Thursday, 30 April 2009

red mint @ murray st. pyrmont

The day had creeped up on both of us with J a lot more prepared than I was (sorry!) but it was just a bit over two weeks ago that J&I celebrated our 6 years. The mention of it at work seems to have made a few jaws drop and comments about how it's such a long time. Well J, I'm glad that we've made it and glad to see that you still put up with me with a smile on your face. 

To celebrate the occasion, J booked a table at Red Mint (next to the Little Snail) in Pyrmont. When I asked J whether or not I should cab it from work, he said it would be fine for me to walk. And so walk I did and it ended up being a 2km trek which gave me a huge appetite for dinner. 

Red Mint is a classy Vietnamese restaurant seating offering a combination of modern and authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Here's the Iced Coffee with the coffee coming to the table in a percolator (I love these things, and since my couple of times eating at Pho Sam in Epping, I was proud to be able to tell the waitress that I knew how this worked.)
Red Mint Tasting Plate for two. There was a huge list of entrees to try and this was the perfect solution -  a combo of roast duck betel leaf, oysters, goi cuon, cha gio and bo tai chanh.
For mains, we had the Cari Ga (traditional Vietnamese curry with chicken, extra hot) and the Bo Luc Lac (scotch fillet cubes seared with black pepper) with a serving of rice.
We probably could've stopped after ordering the mains but then we saw the 'Goi Sen' and after checking with the waitress, it would make sense to have some vegies. The Goi Sen is a lotus stem salad with yamba prawns and pork. This dish was very unusual and I can only say, try and let me know what you think. The lotus stem is crunchy and well, the combination of ingredients works.

I debated awhile whether or not have dessert. Our friendly (occasionally shy) waiter tempted me with the one that had Dragon Beard Candy but after eating all of the above, I was quite bursting at the waist and feeling quite uncomfortable. J suggested we could probably take a walk and eat dessert elsewhere but even that did not happen. 

Thanks Red Mint for celebrating our 6 years and making it such a pleasant evening. You guys were so down-to-earth and friendly and I really did enjoy the food. Keep it up and I promise I'll be back for dessert next time.

Happy 6 years J!

chocolate chip muffins

One of my most used recipe books actually isn't anything fancy, it's not by any particular author (actually it's by a collection of authors) and the recipes are so user friendly that I find myself pulling it out for the kitchen time and time again. It's 'Taste of Home - Muffins & Quick Breads'; a collection of recipes by household cooks/bakers in the US. Each recipe fits in a 12x10cm sheet with a colour photo on the back, all measurements are in metric cups and spoons and I can personally guarantee that the recipes always work out with minimal effort.

This particular weekend I had a craving for Chocolate Chip Muffins and picked the recipe by Kelly Kirby in Westville, Nova Scotia.
On top of the muffins is a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon.
Best enjoyed with a cup of tea!

This was a nice variation of the regular Choc-chip muffin and I won't hesitate to make this one again. There's still a bundle of recipes for me to get through though in the book (and might I add the growing pile of books I have at home). And well with the cold weather creeping in and so many places selling cheap cookbooks, mum and I have been stockpiling on them, so hopefully more cooking/baking posts to follow.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

noodles + rice

It boggles me that I spent 3 weeks in Thailand eating street food and came back perfectly fine. Yet today I'm at home with the doctor diagnosing me with gastro and the most likely cause of it being a cocktail function I went to at the The Art Gallery on Monday - how strange...

So more street-food in Thailand which costed us probably just under AUD$5 for two. The cart was outside 7-eleven on the same street as our hotel in Bangkok and there were a handful of reasons why we came here; a) it was too hot to walk any further and b) it was recommended by an ex-pat who thought he'd lend us a hand when he saw us standing by the cart trying to work out what food there was to eat. You'll find that a lot of the street stalls in Thailand don't have an English menu nor do the vendors actually speak it.

Barbeque Pork Egg noodles.
Braised duck with half a boiled egg and rice. I love duck!

Both the noodles and rice were delish! I could've probably done with a bigger serving but the heat sort of puts you off eating too much. Trust me, it was probably good that we had these small meals because the number of buffets we started eating more than made up for it. Anyway, thanks to the lovely man that helped us order this meal; just letting you know that both your recommendations were yummy and J&I enjoyed it!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

kaya toast + iced coffee

J finally admits that he reads my blog and asks 'Where are the rest of the Thailand posts?' Well here's one of many and I'd say would be one of my Top 3 food highlights of the trip.

I'm not great remembering names of places but here was the place we found ourselves in after an hour or two at MBK (would I be correct to say, Bangkok's shopping centre - there is floor after floor off shops and each level stretches out further than the eye can see). It's great that they have food places scattered throughout the shopping centre as we were in dire need to rest our feet.
Iced Coffee & Kaya Toast - so simple and so tasty!
Admittedly, iced coffee and kaya aren't the healthiest of snacks and should be eaten in moderation. 
And yep, pretty much this place only sold kaya toast and drinks. There were varying versions of the toast. Here we had it sliced, you could've also got it as a block or a block that's chopped up in little cubes which you then dip in kaya. I wish we had a place like this here in Sydney.

recipes from the fridge

The great thing about our fridge at home is that there's always food in it (except for the times when mum is away and my bro eats all the food and no one is there to replenish it but in general, I only need to open that door and I'll be able to find myself something to eat). This happened to be the Sunday after a family BBQ and our fridge was particularly well stocked up with odds bits and pieces. Mum had also bought that $40 Gourmet Food Showbag at the Easter Show and my cousin was telling me how good the pies were.

After 20 minutes, here is what I managed to cook up. In hindsight, I should've microwaved the pie for a minute before I stuck it in the oven. My cousin was right - the pie is so good! (but my salad wasn't bad either!)
J said he wasn't full and requested for more salad. I'd used Feta which he didn't like so I omitted that and replaced with some leftover sausages that had been cooked on the BBQ (just whizz in the microwave for about a minute, let it cool slightly and slice). For those interested, inside the salad was Baby cos lettuce, mushrooms, tomato, cooked sausage and an Italian dressing (store bought). I won't be prescriptive with portions because all I did was just start chopping and throwing things into a bowl.

And yes, J did manage to finish the bowl - who says salad doesn't fill you up! And really, it only took a couple of minutes to make and tastes extraordinarily good!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

mad mex @ macquarie shopping centre

A lot does seem to happen in 3 weeks! After coming back from Thailand, J&I found Max Mex open in Mac Centre (replacing Cheeky Salads). We never actually went to Cheeky Salads (largely because I think it's cheaper to make a salad at home) but seeing Mad Mex, I was keen to try. J had mixed opinions - he prefers the familiar and would've been happy to eat Thai or Pizza but I egged him along and I don't think either of us regretted the choice.

The chandelier of Corona bottles. I want one for home!

The menu is on a board above the counter. As soon as you get in the line, be prepared to order - basically you get sent down a production line consisting of 3 steps:
1. Choose a style
2. Choose a filling
3. Choose a salsa
J goes for the burrito with carne asada (steak) and picante (spicy red chilli sauce). He loved it, it was filling and he ate it with another half a bottle of chilli sauce - it tasted great but just wasn't hot enough.
I went for the 3x Crispy Tacos with pollo (chicken), picante (spicy red chilli salsa) with an extra serve of gaucamole. I really do love avocado!

I assure you that our bellies were nice and round after we got through it all. Out of the two meals we ordered, I probably liked the burrito a bit more because it was different but both meals I would recommend. I highly commend the speed of service but if you're planning to sit down and enjoy your meal slowly, this place probably isn't the place to be. As soon as I slowed down, my tacos turned less crispy and the cooked fillings started getting a little cold. However, for a quick bite, Mad Mex is definitely the right place to go (and definitely make sure your meal is spicy!)

Monday, 20 April 2009

sushiya @ victoria ave., chatswood

The month of April is whirring by but fortunately there's been time to catch up with our eating partners in crime, E&P, over dinner at Sushiya in Chatswood - perhaps one of my most visited Japanese eateries. There's many reasons why I come back time and time again and coming this time, I found another one (or actually two reasons more why I should come here more often). Reason one being that there's now covered outdoor seating which means you're not squished inside the small confines of the restaurant and well off the back of this (reason two), means that I'm more likely to get a table even if I haven't booked on a Friday night (or that I can book on the Friday and still secure a table). 

And I should probably add, there's actually a third new reason why I love this place - they've updated their menu (well I haven't been awhile so it might not be so new) but it's great to come back to a favourite restaurant and find new items to try.

Previously on their special menu which was on a separate sheet of paper, it looks like the Smoked Salmon, Mango & Avocado Roll is here to stay and has earned a place on the main menu.
Tempura dumplings which were yummy.
Chicken Katsu Udon - eat up quickly to avoid soggy breadcrumbs and starchy noodles.
Trying for the first time - Teryaki Fish. Alright, I prefer Salmon.
Chilli-battered Calamari with Mayo dipping Sauce. Liked this one!
The Wagyu Salad - will definitely have this one again and highly recommend. Looks like they've OD'ed on the sauce in this pic but the sauce is what makes this dish taste so good.

There was dessert after this - a trio of Green Tea, Sesame & Lychee Ice cream (photo missing because I was too occupied eating the ice cream :P) I loved the lychee ice cream - where can I find it?! Anyone who knows, let me know!

As usual, a fun night out with E&P.  Thanks guys!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

cafe amigo @ eastwood shopping centre

After coming back from Thailand, J&I joined my parents for dinner one night. Mum said we were going to Cafe Amigo in Eastwood; my instant response being 'I thought you said the food there wasn't that great'. Mum goes on to explain how the lady that owned the Chinese bookshop next door had closed down her shop and took over Cafe Amigo's (and was now also selling some books on the side). I decided not to think too much about it and went along.

The new owners haven't made drastic changes to the cafe but you will notice some cheap meal specials/sets. When you look closely, you'll find that most of the specials/sets are varying combinations of the same ingredients (which subsequently means meals come out at lightning speed - I'm quite serious here).

Shortly after ordering, the soup (which is an option to one of the sets - you pay about 50c) comes to the table. It's meant to be a seafood chowder but tastes more like cornflour (you do get what you pay for - the garlic bread was comparatively better).
I get the steak and chips with pepper sauce. (Another one of my loves - pepper sauce!) Chips are great, steak was a little overcooked and tops to their Iced Lemon Tea (this has become my latest favourite!)
J goes for the Pork Chop with Rice (also with the Pepper Sauce but notice the scant sprinkle of sauce on his and the drowning of sauce on mine). There's 2 big pork chops here making it a most decent serving.
My dad loves food and loves ordering it (even when there's enough food on the table). He orders an extra Club Sandwich to share amongst the four of us. Highly recommend this one but warning that this in itself, can easily feed two.
Dad goes for the Spaghetti Marinara - which I thought was a massive serving but he seemed to gobble this one up quite quickly.
Mum has the pasta with white sauce (from what I could make of it - there was bits of ham, capsicum, onion and cracked pepper in it).
For the 5 meals with each person having a drink, the bill came in under $50. I probably won't be coming back for the soup but minus the soup, the bill actually comes down further and it's definitely a place for a quick and fast meal. Serving sizes are large and well if you're not too fussed with your food, it's definitely a place that will fill you up. Be warned if you're coming at night time, the Shopping Centre seems to have no air con so it can get a little stuffy.

Service is friendly (but then my parents seem to come here quite a bit) and well, if you're here just wanting to grab a drink, it's seriously really, really cheap!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

cafe rumbles @ eastwood

It'd been awhile since our last time at Rumbles and so J&I were quite surprised to see the additions to the menu and that the fact that the cafe was really quite buzzing with people. The last couple of times we'd been, there were people, but not quite the crowd we found this time round on Good Friday. Seems like everyone had come out to enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the selection of food on offer.

Rumbles offers a wide selection of cafe food. From J&I's uni days, we used to come here quite often for their toasted foccacias and milkshakes. Not that J is boring but he does like sticking to things he usually gets, and he goes for a foccacia (The Meatloaf Special).  I had a bite and immediately fell in love with meatloaf (yes, it was my first time!) 
I was a bit breaded out (after eating a stack of Turkish bread for breakfast) and ordered the Salmon Tart with Salad. The tart is delicious with ample pieces of salmon. The plate looks small but does fill you up quite quickly. I finished about 3/4 of the tart and handed the rest over to J.

I do enjoy a cup of coffee here and it's a great place for a weekend brunch. There's a blackboard-full of brunch items including pancakes and assorted big breakfasts. In general, prices lean towards the expensive side but I assure you that you do get fresh and tasty food. The Korean family who run the place are friendly and the guy (who I think is the manager) is always with a smile on his face. There's also a pile of up-to-date magazines for those looking to spend a lazy weekend - which is me.

Monday, 13 April 2009

green & red curry fishball noodles

As to be expected, the second day in any new country is likely to be jam-packed, Bangkok was certainly no exception. Bangkok screams crowds, tuk-tuks, shops, markets, people and more people (especially when you're talking about the weekend and you're sharing the streets with the majority of the population). Our second day in Bangkok went by in a bit of a blur - it started off with a tour of the Grand Palace followed by the obligatory Gem Museum, our tour guide then recommended a massage place where we had a two hour Thai massage. Then it was lunch and after that Chatuchuk Markets - one of the more popular weekend markets in Bangkok.

After moving from place to place, we thought we'd just grab dinner at the markets before heading back to the hotel. Again, it's cheap food and well, if you're anything like me, you'll be pleased to find that there's a whole range of traditional and strange dishes to try. This is what caught our eye.

Green curry fish ball noodles with a fried egg. There's also the option of a boiled egg but as the menu was in Thai, we could only do our best and point at the pictures they had up on their sign. Unfortunately, whilst you bump into any number of tourists in Thailand, English is still the second language and most vendors have a very limited command of English words - usually limited to how much something costs and what they have on their menu.
Red curry fish ball noodles with a fried egg.
Quite common when you're eating on the street/markets, all your stalls will have an assortment of condiments and fresh greens sitting on the table for you to add to whatever you've ordered.
Coke became one of our staple drinks when we had street food - most places actually offer you free water but for some reason, the water made me nervous.

Not sure if you can see the sweat pouring down J's face but it was definitely pouring down mine and a chilled coke was definitely a life-saver (the heat is a big downside when you're eating out on the street). I can tell you know I am absolutely hopeless with heat but I suppose it was something I got used to over the three weeks that I was in Thailand. Well, when you've got to eat on the street in the boiling heat, you've got to eat on the street in the boiling heat! 

Our dinner at this stall in Chatuchuk markets was definitely one of the more unique and memorable meals.

Friday, 10 April 2009

budget thai

I probably sound like a broken record and yes, I probably will say it again in the posts to follow, but thai food can be so incredibly tasty and cheap! And it's not just the one type of food - it's a whole range of foods although soup noodles and your fried noodles are probably the most commonly found. Here's what we had for our first lunch in Thailand.

Thai Iced Coffee & Thai Iced Tea. I love a strong coffee but I have to say, I discourage anyone from drinking Thai Iced Coffee at night (unless you're planning to stay up for most of it - which is what I found out later on in the trip after ordering Thai Iced Coffee with almost every meal). I find Thai Iced Tea's a bit too sweet for my liking.
Fish Ball noodles - we found this one everywhere and to be honest, you can't go wrong with a bowl of fish ball noodles!
Fried dumplings - my favourite.
I ordered the Chicken Rice which is very different to the Hainanese Chicken Rice which we get here in Sydney.  My guess is that the chicken in this one is stewed but tastes great with fresh coriander and fresh cut chilli.

At a glance, servings may look small (and yes, they are smaller than servings you'll see here in Sydney) but trust me, they will fill you up. And well, in the case that you're not quite full, you can always order a second round and be pleased to know that you still aren't out of pocket from that extra meal. I can't remember what we paid for this meal but really, it was one in many of the tasty and cheap meals we had in Thailand.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

took lae dee @ soi 5, sukhimvit (thailand)

The first leg of the Thailand trip was spent in Bangkok, more specifically we were staying at the Bel Aire Princess Hotel in a suburb called Nana - which if you read in the Lonely Planet is a suburb of expats and tourists. Amidst the rush of crowds, street vendors, pubs and eateries, the hotel we were at was actually quite pleasant. The doormen were friendly, service was terrific and tucked at the end of Soi 5, it was close enough to everything that you would need but far enough so that you weren't too overwhelmed when you stepped out of the hotel door.

Just down the road was the supermarket where we found 'Took lae dee'. J had actually pointed it out saying 'There might be food in there' and at first I'd actually ignored his suggestion and thought to continue walking down the road. Well we didn't have a whole lot of time as we had a city tour starting at 9am so in we went to take a look.

Easy to miss, 'Took Lae Dee' is essentially part of the supermarket. There's only counter seating (my guess is that they can sit up to 20), they offer breakfast, lunch & dinner and prices are extremely cheap.
Both of us opted for the American breakfast which had two slices of toast with butter and marmalade, a glass of juice, tea or coffee...
The kitchen is all happening in front of us whilst we eat.
There's a choice of sausage or bacon, fried or scrambled eggs... here's J's selection.
This is what I got. Looks like we have better bacon in Australia. The piece of bacon on my place was tiny and uber fatty - actually, let me put it again, it was almost all fat. This wasn't the only place serving up fatty bacon though - we came across this at the hotel we were staying at in Chiang Mai.
Anyhow, at only 49 Baht, breakfast is a bargain! (49 Baht equates to about AUD$2.50) Needless to say, we were back here again for a few more breakfasts. And well, since I've been back, I've been questioning why here in Sydney, we pay between $10-20 for essentially the same thing. So number one highlight of my travels in Thailand - cheap meals!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

cafe lenotre @ siam paragon, siam (thailand)

Now that I've been back from holidays for over a week, it's probably a good time to make a start with those holiday food posts. Surprisingly, J was the one to ask me and he's been adamant all along that he doesn't read my posts - but really he reads them, pretends and just lets slip that he does. Bizarre but anyway, it's great that I have my loyal readers out there and regardless of whether you leave me any comments, I still love you guys. I've actually come back from holidays this time round telling myself that I need to be on top of this blog cause it has been left on the wayside a little bit - work and all sorts of reasons; reasons which started to become more excuses.

So anyway, I had a 3 week holiday in Thailand with J, spent a week each in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. My favourite was probably Chiang Mai, Bangkok is rather crazy and Phuket did start to annoy me a little.  So starting in Bangkok, we found Cafe Lenotre on our first night. A friend at work had recommended going to MBK for shopping which is at Siam station. Cafe Lenotre was inside Siam Paragon also at Siam station (Siam Paragon was a place which J&I came back to time and time again for the wide selection of food, shopping and surprisingly, bookstore - more on this as I get along with my posts). 

It was actually quite a tough decision as there were a number of places in Siam Paragon that had dessert. Just opposite Cafe Lenotre was a place called Vanilla Brasserie which I ended up visiting on another night but the fact that is was Cafe Lenotre caught my attention.
What really hit me on our first day in Bangkok was the heat. Those that know me probably will know that I'm not a big fan of heat and I generally don't deal well with it! So no hot drinks for me - chose the Iced Chocolate which was thick (and actually quite filling!)
J is a creature of habit and I lost count of the number of times he ordered Ginger ale. Here he is going through the maps we grabbed at the airport + hotel reception.
Well a visit to Cafe Lenotre isn't really a visit if you don't eat dessert. They do actually offer a cafe style menu with toasted sandwiches, soups and salads but you're talking about me, I generally talk dessert! J lets me go through the menu to choose enough dessert for the two of us. Here's the Berry & Pistachio Slice with Pistachio Icecream. Loved the slice and ice cream - the decorations really are just decorations.
Something I hadn't had in awhile - went for the Millefuille. I really do love millefuilles but they're just so hard to eat with knife and fork. It didn't take long for this prettily presented plate to become something quite unrecognisable. Here it came with a raspberry sorbet which I quite liked.

In terms of price, Cafe Lenotre was probably one of the more expensive meals that we had, each dessert worked out to be about AUD$10 which is expensive considering you can get Roti (sweet pancake) on the street for the equivalent of AUD$1.50. Where we sat, I was facing the cake counter so it was amazing to see how much care they took with their cakes - I saw that they checked the temperature of the fridge, checked the cakes individually, rotated stock - it's definitely a known Patisserie brand well worth visiting. 

It's a shame I didn't get to come back here again in the week that I was in Bangkok. But then I was busy eating lots of other foods! More posts to follow...

Monday, 6 April 2009

rise @ craigend st., darlinghurst

I'm on a mission to get up to date with my posts - after being  on holidays for 3 weeks, I've somehow managed to bank up almost 2 months worth of photos and posts. J is calling this blog a 'web history' rather than a 'web blog'. Apologies to my readers out there for the lack of detail and my forgetfulness in remembering everything about all the meals that I've had. Unfortunately my memory doesn't seem to stretch so far and well, these days, it seems like my memory is getting worse and I'll have to admit, I almost forget things as soon as I remember them.

So, this meal dates back over a month. My good friend, Jo (a girl who is quickly turning into a pro photographer) organised a girl's night out for 5 of us at Rise Restaurant in Darlinghurst. The first time I ate here was for my birthday a couple years back and my best friend A had shouted - the meal was fantastic that time round and I was quite keen to go back to check out their latest degustation menu. Jo also sold it with the incentive that there's a 25% discount when you dine on Sundays i.e. $45 for a 7 course degustation - a bargain or what?!

Ocean trout marinated with gochujang miso & poached quail egg.
Potato cream soup with prawn tempura & tofu.
Assorted Sashimi - probably my favourite.
I really can not for the life of me remember what the 3 things on this plate were. I just remembered that the fried wonton wrapper was a tad stale and didn't taste too good.
Steamed Scallop & Vermicelli with Black Beans, Chilli & Shallots. I was actually a little disappointed with this one. The vermicelli was tough - you can find much better at your regular Chinese Restaurant or even if you steam yourself at home.
Braised Chicken on a bed of assorted vegetables. We questioned amongst ourselves 'Where on earth do you get chickens with such short & fat legs'. Anyone with an answer, please let me know.
Watermelon Granita atop a Vanilla Pannacotta. I think this was the same dessert I had the last time I came here. This time, it seemed to taste a bit better.

We were there for the 6pm sitting; there's another at 8pm (and yes, even on a Sunday). If you haven't been here before, you'll find that meals do come out quickly. They'll wait till everyone at the table has finished but as soon as the last person is done, plates are cleared and the next course promptly arrives (and of course, the bill gets to you as soon as you get close to the next sitting time). On the whole, service is friendly. Unfortunately the food this time round didn't 'wow' me but nonetheless, immaculately presented and at a great price. Might I add, there's a lot of tables crowded into a very small space so don't be alarmed if you're listening in on the conversation at the table next to you. 

Please take note that parking is a nightmare and don't think that it's any better on a Sunday night. My suggestion is to get there early and you might be lucky.