Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Watermoon, Potts Point

It's not often that I go to a restaurant without doing some research. But since this time it was my partner's friend who was deciding on the restaurant, I put my dinner fate in his hands. To my relief it was a very enjoyable meal! 

We got there a bit early, a bit before 7.00pm and the restaurant had a couple of diners. We are given some complimentary edamame to snack on as we looked through the menu and waited for our third party to arrive. This is when I discover their early bird dinner special! It requires you to order before 7.00pm which we just happened to catch! I chose the terriyaki salmon ($17.00) while my partner orders the kaarage chicken ($15.00). Each of the specials inclues miso soup, side dish, sashimi (or tempura prawns) and rice. That's what I love about Japanese and Korean food, the accompanying little dishes that allow you to get a taste of everything! Our friend joins us, he also orders the chicken. 

Seaweed salad, miso soup and sashimi
The miso soup is lovely, just hot enough (but not so much that I burn my tongue like I do almost every time) and flavoursome, without it being just salty. The seaweed salad is refreshing, standard sesame oil dressed seaweed with some leaves underneath. I enjoy the sashimi immensely, each type of fish is sweet and sliced well. The tuna doesn't have a grainy text but silky smooth. The kingfish is light and the salmon, even though it is sliced thicker than the others, it gives it great bite and is very enjoyable. 

Tempura prawns
My friend tells me the tempura prawns have great crunch from its batter and the prawns are not overcooked. It comes with a dipping sauce in a bowl a bit big compared to the amount of prawns.. 

Karaage chicken
The kaarage chicken looks and tastes great. The batter is light and not at all soaked in oil. It gives great crunch to the moist chicken. I love that they're big pieces so you get full mouthfuls of the tasty fried chicken. The tartar sauce works wonders with the chicken as it gives it slight edge to the deep fried batter. My partner loved this and thought it was one of the better kaarage chicken he's had! 
Terriyaki salmon
My terriyaki salmon looks (sorry for the shaky photo) tasty, covered with the slick sauce. Unfortunately they have overcooked the salmon as it is dry and does not easily flake away.  It is disappointing as I was hoping for a velvety texture but the terriyaki sauce makes up for it. The salad is great, with its sesame dressing over the leaves. 
The rice is served in a very adorable miniature bowl. It was plenty of rice for me, but I have a feeling the boys would have wanted a slightly bigger portion. 

All in all a great meal at a great price! I definitely need to come back to try other items on their menu. I'm keen to try their eggplant with sweet miso sauce, bbq calamari and their sushi rolls! Our waitress was lovely and was always smiling. I just have to make sure we get there after 7.00pm next time or else I'll be tempted to order the special again! Oh, and it's only a 10 minute stroll from Messina! ;)

176 Victoria St
Potts Point

9331 8850

Watermoon on Urbanspoon

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Little Snail, Darling Harbour

The first time I went to The Little Snail I was about ten and it was my first encounter with French food. The restaurant was glamorous, there was a pianist playing live music, white table cloths and very classy food. Unfortunately and disappointingly, years later, only the white table cloths still exist. 

My mother gave my partner a voucher for a three course dinner for two with a cocktail each. The three courses would usually cost $59.00 per person and a cocktail at $15.00 each. I am so glad we had this voucher that is saved us 53% of the original value because that is exactly how much the food and experience at the restaurant was worth. 

French cocktail punch
Since we were told the cocktails were worth $15.00, we assumed we would be able to choose from the cocktail list (as they had the same price). But this was not the case. Before we have even looked at the menu , the waitress brings us two glasses of French cocktail punch (which they usually sell by the jug). I don't drink alcohol so I ask for them to exchange it with a mocktail. My partner tells me that his supposed "cocktail" simply tastes like bottled orange juice with the subtlest hint of alcohol. Though all the cocktails on their menu claim they are fresh. It is not possible that we would pay $15.00 for this. 

French mocktail punch
My mocktail is also bottled orange juice but with a splash of what I think is cranberry syrup at the bottom of the glass. I struggle drinking this and prefer my glass of water instead. The restaurant is actually quite busy as there are large groups of diners throughout the floor.  But I also see many of them getting given the "French cocktail punch" which indicates they have been led here with a voucher.

Salmon Roulade, filled with light cream cheese, served with potato nest and passionfruit dressing
Presentation is great, it looks refreshing and appetising. The smoked salmon is fine and the light cream cheese is a classic combination. But the two are quite rich and the potato nest helps cut through it a bit with its crispiness. The salad leaves are a bit pointless and it would probably be better without them. I don't enjoy the passionfruit dressing because it's neither sweet nor savoury and does not resemble passionfruit. A citrus accompaniment may have been a better option. 

Bouillabaisse de Marseille - Traditional French seafood soup of mussels, fish fillets and prawns, cooked in tomato and seafood broth, served with garlic baguette  

All the seafood is cooked perfectly. The mussels aren't too chewy, the fish fillets melt in your mouth and the prawns have a good bite to them. But the seafood and the soup lack in seasoning. The broth have all the components but is bland. The garlic baguette is crunchy and is garlicky.  

Loin of lamb, with wilted spinach, maple glazed pomme boulanères and thyme jus
I actually quite enjoy this dish but perhaps it's because the lamb tastes like beef. The presentation, the way the lamb has been sliced and the dark jus all point to the direction that I am eating beef. The meat is drowned with the thyme jus and I am unable to taste any of its original flavour. The maple glazed pomme boulanères is great, buttery and the thin slices of potato is cooked perfectly. The wilted spinach is well seasoned and has creaminess. 

Côte de Veau - veal tenderloin with champignon and chardonnay beurre blanc, served with potato croquette and seasonal green 
When my partner's côte de veau comes out, it is far from what we're expecting. Our first impression is that it looks like a beef stroganoff. The champignon and chardonnay beurre blanc tastes more like a mushroom gravy than a buttery impulsion. The veal is not a piece of tenderloin as the menu indicates. Instead, there are three thin pieces of overly tenderised veal that has been beaten with a meat mallet by an over-enthusiastic chef. There was no point in the waitress asking how we wanted the meat to be cooked because there was no thickness in the meat for it to not be well-done. The potato croquette had a crispy batter but a sour mashed potato filling. The seasonal broccoli tasted bland and raw.
Handmade profiteroles with creme patisserie and mint chocolate sauce
I was misled to believe I would be receiving more than one profiterole for dessert. My profiterole looks sad on the plate. First off, the chocolate garnish is not tempered chocolate but a piece of nostalgic Ice Magic art. The whipped cream on top of my profiterole is split. SPLIT!? How can they have served that? I am unimpressed, it tastes like sweet mush. The choux pastry of the profiterole is soggy and barely edible. Inside is filled with confectionary custard that is glumpy and over sweetened. The mint chocolate sauce does not play a role in helping this dessert taste better. The mint component is neither here nor there. 

Classic crème caramel
The crème caramel is smooth, eggy and sweet. My partner is suspicious that these are store bought ready-made products because they're unusually perfect. The caramel syrup should be darker because if it's been in the oven, it would have darkened and caramelised. It should have a hard caramel top, but it doesn't. Instead, it has the same consistency as the rest of the custard. The base has a firmer texture compared to the rest, which possibly suggests the custard has been made long ago and has been sitting in a container, ready to be served. I give them the benefit of the doubt that the crème caramel has been made in the kitchen because serving store bought products is unacceptable, especially at a high end French restaurant. 

I now believe how important a dessert is. It is the finale to the whole meal and the last thing a diner eats and remembers before they leave the restaurant. The Little Snail was a disappointment, non-recommendable and we will never return. For those who are curious, their entrees are reasonable and their famous escargot are still popular and desirable. But a word of warning, I wouldn't go without a Groupon voucher.  

The Little Snail
50 Murray St 

9212 7512

Little Snail on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Rice Den, Chatswood

Without a doubt, The Rice Den is one of my favourite restaurants. You step into the tiny place and it doesn't feel at all like you're in Chatswood anymore. It's hip and very happening, perhaps somewhere in Newtown or Surry Hills. The vibe is fresh and modern. The food is out of this world, the flavours are bold, punchy and it's very difficult not to return. It incorporates classical South-East Asian flavours with more modern notes, making them come alive and suitable for this hipster day and age.

I'm so happy when my girlfriends ask me to choose the restaurant to go for our catch-up. It's been too long since I've been to The Rice Den and I'm seriously deprived of their flavoursome food. I even know what we're going to have before we're even there. This ensures we can order quickly, food can arrive as soon as possible and we can take our time enjoying each of their creations. 

Tom yum fried rice, $13.00
First up is the tom yum fried rice. For those who do not like lemongrass, stay clear of this one because it's the key component to making the rice taste like Thailand. It makes it so aromatic and flavoursome that it doesn't even bother me when I accidentally eat some. The fresh veg gives it crunch and vibrancy. The chicken pieces and prawns are cooked well. The fried basil leaves are the perfect garnish and textural component with its subtle flavour that makes this not just an ordinary fried rice. 

Steamed cheong fun, $6.00
I am certain that I order the steamed cheong fun every time. It's hard not to! It brings back memories of when I was young. My family and I visited Hong Kong one year and we went to where Mum used to grow up. There would be one food stall on the side of the street that sold freshly steamed cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) cut into bite size, served with sesame, oyster and chilli sauce in a paper bowl lined with baking paper and eaten with two skewers. It costed less to nothing but it was piping hot and glorious! 

This is just as good, with all its sweet sesame and Rice Den sauce! But they add some extra fresh shiitake mushrooms, shiso leaves and fried onions, that give it texture. The cheong fun are unbelievable silky, very hot and comforting. 

Salt and pepper nasu, $13.00
This is a great main for the vegetarians out there, but also the man-eaters. Often veg dishes come out bland and frighten those who want punchy flavours. Salt and pepper nasu (eggplant) scares no one and welcomes you into a world of perfectly seasoned crispy salt, pepper and spiced batter and sweet melt-in-the mouth eggplant. Every mouthful has those dual textures and flavours, making them very addictive. I'll say yes to this over KFC anyway! 

Crispy soft shell crab, $20.00

The first impression I get when the crispy soft shell crab comes out, is that they have been very generous with their portions. Three whole soft shell crabs! They are fried till they are golden and crispy. I am delightfully surprised when I discover there is crab meat embedded within the shells. This is definitely a first! The chilli mayonaise works wonders with the crab. I am so pleased with this dish that it's going to be another one I add on the "must have" list for next time. 
Black sticky rice with vanilla ice-cream, $9.00
Finally dessert time. Even though I'm full to the brink, there is always room for black sticky rice! It's not too sweet and I love the chewy texture. It's also still warm which is a great contrast against the coolness of the ice-cream. The sweetness of it also brings out the flavour of the sticky rice. I'm glad this was shared between the three of us (I initially wanted a whole serving to myself...) because it was just enough to remind me how good it is and leaving me wanting more. I don't want to get sick of it! 

I always compare The Rice Den with other South-East Asian restaurants because their food is consistently amazing and is not afraid to flavour their dishes with various ingredients, as opposed to just using salt. Service is great, friendly and accommodating. It's another great little place that is hidden away from the main streets, to make sure only foodies know where to find it. 

The Rice Den
3/77 Archer St, 

9411 2001

The Rice Den on Urbanspoon

Monday, 11 February 2013

Smash Sausage Kitchen, Newtown

When it's pouring down with rain and weather is cold and chilly, Smash Sausage Kitchen is the go-to destination for comfort food. The only other time my partner and I have been, the weather was also depressing. But after settling yourself with a plate of their homemade sausages and mash, any desire to curl up in a blanket and snuggle in front of a fire is soon forgotten. 
Complimentary sweet potato chips

The sweet potato chips always a crowd pleaser. They're crunchy and crispy, the perfect snack to have when you're trying to decide what to order from the menu! Since our last visit, the menu has been updated, making it more self-explanatory on how to "smash up"!   

First, choose the sausage you want (one sausage $15.00, two sausages $18.00,  three sausages $21.00, four sausages $24.00) out of nine different flavours (eight our gluten-free friendly). If you get more than one, you can mix and match! Second, choose your mash, out of four assorted creamy mash potato. But if you're not feeling up for mash (which is absurd!) you can have a choice of chips, salad or veg. Third and last step, choose your sauce: gravy, chutney or sauce! 
The man sitting on the table next to us is attempting to eat a a giant sausage, equivalent to 10 sausages, for Smash's new competition! Unfortunately he doesn't beat the last best time, which I overhear is just under 30 minutes, but he manages to eat it all and that's applaudable! Aside from the giant sausage, there's also a great heap of mash and gravy. Even though my partner is slightly curious to compete, I assure him it's a much better idea to be able to enjoy and taste the sausages rather than stuff your face as quickly as possible and probably not move for the next two days. But it's all just some good competitive fun, are you game? 

Honey chicken & macadamia and old English pork sausages, creamy potato mash, with rosemary and garlic gravy $18.00
The food comes out and it is homey, unpretentious and humble. The portions look small (my partner thinks he should have ordered three sausages instead) but I assure you, it is plenty (when we finished he was glad with the two sausage decision). The honey chicken & macadamia is great, the honey can be overpoweringly sweet at times but if you eat it with the potato mash and gravy, it's the perfect mouthful. The old English pork is just a classic and goes down well with the gravy. Since the last time, their gravies are much better and this rosemary and garlic gravy in particular wins my vote! The creamy potato mash is perfect! It is indeed creamy, but not at all drowned with butter. The potato is definitely retained and I can't get enough of it! 

My partner chose the beef & Guinness, chicken, goats cheese & caramelised onion sausages, creamy potato with bacon & leek and traditional gravy. The beef & Guinness is quite macho with its flavours, bold and strong. He loves it! The chicken, goats cheese & caramelised onion is surprisingly very nice! I don't really like goats cheese, but the amount in the sausage is very subtle and just adds creaminess to it. The caramelised onion makes it sweet, so the three ingredients work perfectly. The creamy potato with bacon & leek is more gutsy than mine, hint of sweetness from the leeks and saltiness from the bacon gives it more flavour. The traditional gravy is good, bringing all the components home!

Sticky Date Pudding with salted macadamias, hot butterscotch sauce & ice cream, $9.00
The sticky date pudding is exactly what I'm after on this freezing summer's day. The pudding is warm and fluffy. The hot butterscotch sauce is sweet and heavenly when eaten with the pudding. It also comes with vanilla ice cream, but it's too sweet, probably a confectionary supermarket bought ice cream. But the dessert as a whole is the perfect finish to a very hearty dinner. 

When we had finished our meal, I told my partner it felt like I just got a giant hug. Everything is just so lovely and comforting. The waitpeople are helpful. The manager/owner always greets his customers with a smile and a quick chat before they leave. I'm very happy when I return to Smash Sausage Kitchen, because I know the food is guaranteed delicious  and the vibe is casual and relax. I can't wait for another cold day to come, so we can go back for some more bangers and mash! 

Smash Sausage Kitchen
512 King St, 


9516 5424

Smash Sausage Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, 8 February 2013

Spago, Beverly Hills

Another Saturday night looms and it's another head scratcher for what we're going to have for dinner. Whenever this occurs (and this often does) we go to our favourite resource, the Entertainment Book! And to make sure we choose a restaurant that is inexpensive but also good, we cross reference with Urbanspoon. A highly recommended method to use! 

My partner suggests Spago, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills which I had not heard of. I check out the menu on their website and it's small but everything sounds delicious. We make a quick reservation and hop in the car! 

There's a large strip on King Georges Road that is filled with restaurants door to door and on both sides of the road. We knew if there were any problems, there wouldn't be too much of a walk to get food somewhere else. But from the looks of things, I think Spago is the place to be!

Everything is neat and beautifully set out in the restaurant. But I have a strange vibe about it. The decor and arrangement doesn't scream Italian and I can imagine the set up to be more of a Japanese restaurant. There's just something about it that I can't put my finger on. 

Their signature dish is the lobster bisque risotto ($28.00) which I have to try, especially since I've recently discovered my love for it! A good risotto takes patience and I was pretty excited for Spago's! I couldn't choose between the risotto or the spaghetti marinara ($27.00), but I was so glad when my partner decided on the pasta which meant I could sneak some! We also ordered the rocket and parmesan salad ($6.00) just so we had some freshness and acidity to cut through our mains. 

Lobster bisque risotto: Arborio rice cooked in lobster bisque, blue 
swimmer crab meat, scallops & king prawns, $28.00
The risotto is great! The key ingredient is the lobster bisque which is rich in flavour and there is no second guessing that lobster is used to create it. Every mouthful gets a hit of lobster taste and you just have to keep going back for another creamy spoonful! But the serving is quite generous and I can't finish it, despite it being so tasty. Risotto is supposed to be served as a lesser portion because of its richness, only just covering the bottom of the plate (I learnt from Masterchef last year when they went to Italy). The fresh seafood garnished on top is cooked to perfection. The scallops were seared and caramelised on both sides leaving the centre still slightly raw. The prawns were not overcooked but a bit heavy on the seasoning. Everything was well in good but I was curious to know where my blue swimmer crab meat went. 
Spaghetti Marinara: Fresh black mussels, king prawns, squid rings, 
crab meats, scallops & Napoletana sauce, $27.00
This was another winner! Plenty of fresh seafood (but the crab meat was missing again), great Napoletana sauce and al dente pasta! My partner isn't a huge fan of mussels so upon ordering he asked if he could not have any. They substituted the lack of mussels with more prawns, seven big (also slightly over-seasoned) king prawns! The squid was cooked well so they weren't at all chewy or rubbery. Scallops were great. Generous portion too! 
Rocket & parmesan salad: Aged balsamic reduction, freshly shaved 
parmesan cheese & toasted pine nuts, $6.00
\Not a bad salad, but some improvement is here and there. The aged balsamic was too sweet, not at all acidic enough. There wasn't enough parmesan cheese to season the salad. It would have been a much better salad if they added a few thinly slices of pear just to jazz it up and cut some of the sweetness out. The pine nuts gave it nice earthy warmth. 

Spago is such a nice surprise and has unexpectedly great food! A bit pricey, but of course with the book, it takes the edge off. We're definitely returning to try out their other pastas and their signature lobster bisque! We left the restaurant full to our stomachs and satisfied with the Italian food we got. Great flavours and perfectly cooked seafood, definitely a thumbs up!

524b King Georges Rd, 

Beverly Hills

9585 0282

Spago on Urbanspoon 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Kitchen By Mike, Roseberry

Food is fresh and seasonal. There is a new spread every day. The queues are long. And it is incredibly hipster. I think that sums up Kitchen By Mike

Since the line was very long that day, I took the time to take some happy snaps of the huge warehouse turned into a cafeteria-like cafe. Even though we raced to get onto the end of the line, I actually had no idea what I was going to get. So if you plan to go to KBM, I suggest you go with a buddy so one of you can stand in line while the other has a peek at what they have that day. Their Facebook page does have a daily update of the menu but I'm more of a visual person so take your pick! 

Bread! Sold by slice, $3.50 or loaf, $12.00
We finally got to the beginning of the line and the loaves of bread sitting in the glass cabinet are so tempting! If I were to buy, I would definitely get the whole loaf as $3.50 is a bit pricey for a slice. I was pretty starving when I got to the beginning of the line so it was very tempting to just buy the loaf and rip open the fresh sourdough.. But I retained myself and waited patiently for our turn.

Rosewater and pistachio meringues
These beauties are so pretty that I couldn't help taking numerous photos of them (and I didn't upload all of them to hide my obsessiveness). They are very sneaky to have placed a basket of them near the front of the line, almost like what they do in supermarkets where they have chocolate bars at the cash register, so they're an instant impulse buy! They're so picture perfect, how can you not buy one!?
Busy kitchen, continuously pumping out food

Lunch is served!

Sweet delights

Wood roast chicken with grapes and tarragon verjus, $12.00
peach, fennel, rocket prosciutto salad, $7.00
My partner got the roast chicken, they let him choose which part of the chicken he wanted, and they suggested to get the wing because it's the biggest piece. To be frank, not a very big serving for the price! The chicken is a bit dry but the verjus is lovely. They pour it using a big teapot which is quite cute. The grapes give a bit of acidity to it. The peach salad was brought out just as we were ordering so it is definitely fresh! The variety of features work well together. Only problem with all of this, is there isn't enough!

Roast pumpkin, cumin onions & burratta tartine, $10.00
fresh figs, chickpea & radicchio salad, $7.00
I loved my array of food on my plate! I think my roast pumpking tartine was the best value and the tastiest! The pumpkin is roasted till they're sweet and soft. The cumin is the star as it flavours the pumpkin, onions and burratta. The tartine is toasted so it's crunchy but may be a little too much as it is a black on the edges. I would definitely get this again! The fig and chickpea salad was another winner, the perfect combination! The fresh fig is sweet and works wonders with the chickpeas and radicchio. I could have easily eaten a plate of this salad myself!
Rosewater and pistachio meringue, $4.00
When my partner and I took a mouthful of the meringue we instantly fell in love with it! It is so light and has the smallest hint of rosewater which I much prefer as it can be overpowering. It's a weird feeling to have when eating food, but i felt very girly and pink as I kept on eating it! The pistachio didn't play a major role, only for visual presentation as it didn't have much flavour. The meringue was cooked perfectly, sweet and crisp on the outside, and gooey on the inside. A little bit of heaven!
Sugar cubes on the table

Iced Vietnamese coffee, $5.00
It was another 30-something degree day so we opt for a cool and refreshing iced Vietnamese coffee! We hadn't had one in Sydney since we came back from our holiday in VIetnam a year ago so we were excited for this. The condensed milk was the perfect sweetener for the espresso coffee as it has a bit of caramel flavour. It was difficult to pace ourselves and not drink it all in one slurp! This is the perfect caffeinated beverage on a hot summers day! 

Beyond the kitchen is showroom displayed with gorgeous furniture, gardening and kitchen utensils, jewellery, bedlinen and their workshop for creating prints. It's the place to wander around and choose the items you would purchase if you suddenly got the hold of a large amount of money. The pieces may be beautiful but the prices are dear. I guess that's also how I would describe the food. It is very delicious, no doubt about that, but a touch pricey. Kitchen By Mike definitely know what they're doing to attract the masses but I would suggest it for a special weekend brunch!

Kitchen By Mike
85 Dunning Ave

9280 0999

Kitchen By Mike on Urbanspoon