Thursday, 26 February 2015

Marigold, Haymarket

Back in January when my parents asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday, I thought long and hard. As I child, going out for meals was a treat and it'd always be at a Chinese restaurant. But as we've grown up we've branched out to try different cuisines and have been a little more creative with where we go. So with the urge to reminisce and having a huge hankering to eat squab (pigeon), we decided with Marigold, somewhere I knew my parents would take initiative when ordering while I sat back and anticipated. 

Fresh pippies with XO sauce, 855g for $58.14, extra noodles $10.00
An oldie but definitely a goodie, a classic dish that is always so satisfying and delicious - this was no different. Every morsel of pippie is sweet and plump. The small shells are just big enough to hold some sauce, allowing every mouthful to pack a punch. The XO sauce is probably home made, using plenty of garlic, chilli, dried scallop and dried shrimp (but this isn't strong as only its saltiness that is present). Plenty of spring onions are scattered all over, giving it an extra kick of its own fresh zing. For a bit extra, you can add some vermicelli noodles that that is partially fried, making it crispy, and with the other side remaining soft, soaking up all the saucy goodness. But of course if you're already having plain white rice, the sauce can easily be mopped up that way too.

Squab, $26.80
Whenever I tell friends that I love to eat pigeon, they always make a funny face and ask if I eat the ones that fly about in Hyde Park. I understand that this is not to everyone's taste, especially since many see them as scummy rats with wings roaming around the streets. But I assure you that if you like the taste of roast duck, you might appreciate my love for eating squab (it sounds slightly better).

Dad kindly asked the waiter for the squab to not be divided and cut up, since I wanted to eat it whole, all to myself. I must admit, I was demolishing it in most unlady-like manner as I used both hands, all ten fingers and pulling it apart bit by bit. But it was certainly the most satisfying way of eating it. It was rather disappointing when I discovered the meat was dry which really didn't do it for me. The meat wasn't juicy or succulent and the flavour wasn't enough to make it up. 

Sweet and sour pork, $22.00

I must admit, I actually didn't eat one piece of pork as I was busy eating away the pigeon. There's actually two versions of this dish that can be ordered, differing by the cuts of the pork; one is spare ribs and the other is more like a pork belly. We think they must have gotten it wrong because Mum had ordered the spare ribs which usually is leaner but juicier as it's usually still attached to the bone. However when I eventually got around to it, Mum told me not to bother trying since it was fatty with hardly any meat on it, along with being cold since I left it too late. This is also disappointing since this is usually Mum's favourite and it's another miss for the evening.

Stir-fried gai lan with ginger, $18.00
Gai lan is quite a bitter vegetable so by stir-frying it with a lot of ginger, it helps counteract the bitterness and makes it really tasty. The gai lan is still crunchy so it's easy to munch on and gives your mouth a flavour break from all the other dishes. 

The beauty about ordering at Chinese restaurant is you can ask what vegetables they've stocked up on for the night, see what tickles your fancy and then decide how you'd like it prepared; stir-fried with garlic, cooked in chicken soup, add fresh seasonal mushrooms or take on whatever the waiter suggests might go with the veg, depending if they're the bitter or sweeter kind. It ensures what you eat is the best and of your own choosing.

Complimentary fruit and dessert
Most Chinese restaurants provide complimentary food and dessert at the end of the meal and Marigold's miniature pineapple buns are certainly a favourite of ours. Everything is better when it comes in a mini size as it makes it super cute but also easy to eat, leaving you wanting a full-size one. It's warm, soft in texture and just melt in your mouth. There's a little bit of the usual sweet filling inside, a one-mouthful dessert that is just sweet enough. The sweet cake is nice, spongey, light and also not overly sweet.

The fruit is fruit, it's usually not bad since it's whatever fruit is in season but of course there's the occasional dud watermelon. I'm not a huge fan of the sweet potato in sweet ginger soup, not because it's bad but I find it difficult to enjoy vegetables in a sweet gingery broth as a dessert. The dessert that Chinese restaurants usually make is red bean soup, or if you're really really lucky, glutinous balls with black sesame filling in ginger soup, which may sound a bit odd but I can associate more as sweet dessert flavours. But of course I get a slap on the wrist for complaining about complimentary dessert.

There's something about eating at a Chinese restaurant that holds a special place in my heart. Whether it's the grand decor, the rude (not always intentionally, it's just part of their efficiency) or sometimes quirky service from waiters, the complimentary soup (if you're lucky, which we were not this time) and dessert, or the flexible 'made to order' dishes, it's a truly unique dining experience that differs from any other cuisine.

Level 4 & 5
Citymark Building
683-689 George Street 

9281 3388

Marigold Citymark on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Yekinköy, Enmore

If you've ever walked from Newtown to Enmore, it's hard not to notice Yekinköy, with its outdoor seating area and the array of smoke coming from the nargiles. My friend passes the restaurant every day on her way to class and the other day she finally bit the bullet and made reservations for a lovely double date evening with us. 

Since there are not many reviews online, when it came to ordering we asked the waitress for some pointers on their most popular dishes and asked her questions on items on the menu that we were unsure of. She seemed a bit dazed and confused but managed to set us up for a little feast - maybe we were the ones confusing her.

Dips with Turkish bread

Four generous sized bowls came to the table on a wooden plank, filled to the brim with various dips. We weren't told what each of them were so it became a guessing game. From left to right we thought the first was a beetroot dip, the second hummus, third tzaziki and we were a bit puzzled by the last one. It's light green as it might've been avocado but the texture is yoghurt-y. All of the dips are quite tasty but the bread to dip ratio wasn't quite right so we had to order a bit more bread in attempt to finish the dips off.

I have completely forgotten what this dish is called but I do remember this was the key dish they recommended. This arrives with the bread and we're already intrigued by it and how it might taste. Lots of ingredients are used here which means flavours hit us from every direction. The lamb is quite gamey in taste but it's soft and not chewy. The addition of yoghurt and parsley cover anything that you might find overpowering. Along with these toppings, beneath the lamb are roasted eggplants that simply melt and fall apart. It's not bad but we all expected to be a little bigger since it was a main.

Apricot rice
Even though it was an accompaniment to the lamb we all managed to get a full mouthfuls and it worked deliciously well. For someone who doesn't like dried fruit, the little jewels of dried apricot and sultanas dispersed throughout the rice really works, as it's unexpected and makes plain rice a little more interesting.

Ocean rolls, $21.00
I wanted to order this because HeNeedsFood made the ocean rolls look heavenly and inviting. However when this was brought out to the table, it looked nothing like what I saw and the menu's description of '"organic shaved pastry” filled with pan-fried calamari, sautéed vegetables and herbs' was definitely lost on me.

I'm a huge fan of calamari (squid, octopus and all those delicious sea creatures) but I was finding it hard to come across any in the ocean rolls. My fellow diners said every bite was overpowered by the flavour of calamari yet they couldn't see actual pieces of it. I'm hoping it wasn't frozen-calamari-rings-defrosting-liquid we were tasting. The pastry isn't flaky and it was much more like bread than any sort of pastry I know. The vegetables inside, mostly tomato, lack in flavour and isn't at all inspiring. I was a bit disappointed with this as it read deliciously on paper.

Cocktail koftas
This was a complete surprise of a dish, a very pleasant surprise. When we were ordering at the beginning of the meal we asked the waitress what would be in it and she told us there would be five small koftas and nothing else. So we were all expecting a small plate with five sad koftas. But in came a big terracotta dish with a lot more than what we were expecting - even a side salad!

The koftas are quite pungent in flavour but the extra extra features that come with it easily mask it. Along with the meat are lots of stewed tomatoes, as well as layers of potato, eggplant and chilli. It's so hearty and very filling - a great sharing dish for several people to dig into. The cucumber, tomato and red onion salad is dressed well with olive oil and parsley - can't go wrong with all those ingredients.

The menu is filled with hearty food and some dishes seem to arrive a little differently (good and bad) to what you read and expect. But it's good fun as it's all about gathering a group of people and sharing a meal together rather than everyone eating off their own plates. It's a nice place to spend an evening chatting amongst friends over food and enjoying the light during the summer evenings. 

480 King Street

8283 1921

Yeniköy Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Ripples Chowder Bay, Mosman

If you're not arriving to Chowder Bay by water taxi or with someone who's been to Ripples before, you might not know that you need to walk to the edge of the platform, down a set of large steep stairs before arriving to the beautifully lit restaurant. 

Well I certainly didn't. I was a little distracted by the two butterflies fluttering on the grass before I found myself walking in the direction of the water and locating this sign, a very necessary pointer for someone who has little to no direction-sense. 

This was the perfect setting to spend an evening with Mum celebrating her birthday after a long, stressful day at work. I was immediately relaxed and the view allowed me to forget everything that happened during the day. 

Mum heard good things about this place, good food, great view and an extra bonus, it was a Dimmi compatible restaurant where she could redeem the easily sought out $50 voucher that I've previously mentioned.

Cured Ocean Trout with Avocado mousse, fried shallots, black sesame, lemon, chilli & parsley dressing, $20.00 
To our surprise the entree comes out very quickly. The ocean trout is cured with lemon and is sprinkled with fried shallots, black sesame, lemon, chilli and parsley. The chilli doesn't have much of a kick as the seeds have been removed, so it's all more for texture and colour than actual extra seasoning. The fish is light and fresh but I would have preferred if there were a few more pieces. The avocado mousse also has a lot of lemon juice, which may have been a better contrast if they had a lighter hand since everything else also had lemon.

Whole baby snapper with white wine, chilli, garlic, parsley, $34.00
I had been craving for steamed whole fish for the last few of months, so I was very excited when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to get it. The baby snapper is the perfect size and is prepared and served very simply but is very tasty. Covering the fish are diced chilli, garlic and parsley, and it reminds me of the previous course I had just ate. Beneath the snapper is a very buttery white wine sauce. The amount of butter in the sauce is definitely a bit indulgent but it goes so well with the perfectly cooked white fish that I think of it as a mid-week treat. 

When I finish one side of the snapper, the waitress kindly offers to debone it, making it much easier to finish having to dig through the itty bitty bones.

Ocean trout with spinach and ricotta gnocchi, crème fraiche, salmon roe, snow pea shoots, $32.00
The ocean trout is cooked beautifully and eaten with the crème fraiche makes a perfect combination. It might've been a little more creative if they added something else to the crème fraiche, maybe some chives just to lighten it all and throw in some extra flavour. The decorative features of salmon roe and snow pea shoots do add a little something, but some more substantial greens may have done the job to complete this dish.

Mum wasn't a fan of the spinach and ricotta gnocchi so she gave me one of the two and unfortunately I wasn't crazy about it either. It's very odd as it tastes of mashed potato but is slightly stodgy from the flour and there is no spinach flavour. They're also very large and there was no way I could've eaten in it mouthful. The green colouring from the spinach is stunning but it was under-seasoned and not at all fluffy which is usually expected from gnocchi.

Steamed green beans with chilli, lemon oil, $9.00 
Since there were minimal vegetables that came with the mains, we decide to order a side of steamed green beans. The waitress assures us "it'll take 45 seconds" so we'll be able to get have it with our meal. It comes out a few minutes later and they're crunchy, seasoned with mild chilli and lemon oil.

Soft chocolate mousse, salted caramel sauce, white chocolate milk crumbs, banana gelato, peanut brittle, $15.00
By the time the dessert came, Mum and I were definitely in a 'eyes bigger than stomach' situation. Even though we preceded to yelp 'I'm so full' after every mouthful we both managed to polish both desserts off, but dearly regretting it during the drive home.

The soft chocolate mousse is smooth and very rich yet the dark chocolate made it bearable as it isn't overly sweet. I really enjoy the salted caramel sauce as it's exactly that and tastes great with the banana gelato. The banana flavour isn't very strong, slightly watery in taste and resembles essence rather than the actual fruit. The white chocolate milk crumbs doesn't really taste much of white chocolate, but just of a buttery shortbread biscuit. The sprinkles of peanut brittle give texture and makes the whole dessert even richer. This was definitely a dessert for someone with a sweet-tooth as I definitely struggled to finish it all.

Yoghurt panna cotta, dried figs, orange, almond biscuit, fig vinocotto, $15.00
Since this was the dessert Mum chose, I left it all for her to consume. I also wasn't that curious about it but I did manage to get a small spoonful in just to see how it all paired. The yoghurt panna cotta is slightly tangy and the consistency is smooth. The orange jelly contrasts slightly against the panna cotta, but it's the dried figs and fig vinocotto that draws it all together. The almond biscuit is a nice crumbly feature against the other components. It's a pleasant dessert but the flavours aren't my favourite so I'm not the best judge for it, Mum did enjoy it though. 

The view is definitely something you don't get tired of looking at. Even though it was cloudy, I actually found it much more mesmerising. This is a beautiful spot to spend an evening, whether it's a romantic one with a loved one, an indulgent treat for friends and family or a pleasant gathering for a special occasion. The food is simply prepared, allowing the key ingredients to speak for itself. I like that it's peaceful as it ensures a comfortable and relaxed dining experience.

Ripples Chowder Bay
Building 7, Deck C,
Chowder Bay Rd, 

9960 3000

Ripples Chowder Bay on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Johnny Lobster, Crows Nest

A few weeks ago my good friend told me she was coming up to Sydney for a visit and that a catch-up was in order. I immediately knew where I wanted to take her - the new kid on the block, Johnny Lobster. It's the newest addition to the hungry suburb of Crows Nest, where the decor is clean, fresh and inviting. And most importantly, the modern hipster joint is serving the hottest summer foodie trend at the moment - the lobster roll.

The space was previously a Malaysian restaurant with very dark lighting. But by revamping the walls white and having bright furnishing encouraged passerbys to either stop, have a look at the menu or have a stare as they walked past. The whole place speaks for itself, somewhere you can have a casual, laugh-as-loud-as-you-want-because-no-one-cares sort-of evening over some food and booze.

It all came out at once and everything looked vibrant and mouth-watering. We decided to split each of the rolls between the two of us so we could both get a taste. The servings were sufficient enough to be cut in half and not have them fall apart on us.

Soft shell crab roll with Vietnamese slaw, $14.80
I loved when this was brought to the table as it's vibrant and it all stands tall. The brioche bun is sweet and toasted. The Vietnamese slaw isn't very Vietnamese, I was expecting a tangy nuoc cham dressed all over the salad but it doesn't have any. I don't quite remember how many soft shell crabs there were, from the looks of the photo there are two halves fitting snug in the roll. The crab is fried to a great crisp and all of the ingredients make a great textural feed. 

Triple cooked chips, $5.00, with chilli aioli, $0.50
It's a pretty big statement to make but these are the best chips I've had. They were crispy, crunchy and insanely addictive. Most of them were potato skins which meant they were also chewy and contained lots of potato flavour, if that's possible to have. The triple cooking process was noticeable as the inside of every chip was also fluffy and not at all raw. Ordering a large was definitely ambitious but I made sure every chip was eaten as I couldn't bare to have the best chips go to waste.

I was glad I ordered an optional sauce, as the chilli aioli was the perfect condiment. But I thought it was a little expensive considering the serving was small and wasn't enough for the large fries.

Lobster roll served Maine style with dill and potato, $20.00
A Maine style lobster roll has a few specific features. Roll is split down the middle, not on the side and its outside is buttered and slightly toasted. Lobster is served cold. Mayonnaise is spread in the bun or mixed in with the lobster.

Johnny Lobster does tick all the boxes but it was a bit of a hit and miss as there were great extra features yet other components were lacking.

This was also piled all on a brioche bun that was beautifully toasted and just sweet enough. There was a lot of salad that went with the bun, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, all piled up high. A bit difficult to eat but tasty.

The lobster mix had a generous amount of mayonnaise, dill and potato chunks. Maybe a little too generous. There's about six pieces of lobster, thinly cut and the mayonnaise simply overpowers it. But even when I picked out the lobster to eat on its own to see how it tastes on its own, the meat lacked sweetness.

Johnny Lobster is still one of its kind, as it's no ordinary fish and chips shop rather a cool and hip-happening destination to show off when you bring all your friends to visit. Despite being a little disappointed with the star of the meal, it was such an enjoyable meal and those unforgettable triple cooked chips are enough to lure anyone back. Perhaps a part two is in order to taste those chips again and give the rest of the menu a try.

Johnny Lobster
48 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest

9436 4672

Johnny Lobster on Urbanspoon