Review: Doodee Paidang (Sydney, NSW)

9/37 Ultimo Road
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 8065 3827
http://www.dodeepaideng.com.au/

I’m not sure what it is about Aussies and their love for Thai food – but when I say Thai food, I’m not talking legit Thai food that you get in the bustling streets of Bangkok. No, we’re speaking of one-dimensional green curries without any discerning flavours or heat. We’re talking pad thai noodles that’s missing the well-balanced ratio of salty-sweet-spicy-sour and the all-important wok hei. And finally, all the fake elephants and purple. Bleh!

Thankfully, you’ll find none of that here at Doodee Paidang, a small chain of Thai restaurants in Sydney. Specialising in tom yum noodle soups, Doodee is a favourite cheap eats joint for Thai international students so you know you’ll expect more than a decent level of authenticity.

Doodee has branches in Cabramatta, Bondi Junction and Haymarket; for folk that work in the city, Haymarket is the most convenient location – that’s where I caught up with fellow foodie Julie for a post-work dinner one evening.

You can choose between seven levels of spiciness, starting with the mild (albeit Thai mild which is different to gweilo mild) Doodee Monster right through to the sadistic Doodee super nova at level seven. Technically though, there really are only five levels – they omit numbers four and six as they’re unlucky numbers. I also liked that you can choose between a jumbo bowl if you’re hungry or a small bowl if you want to try other stuff on their menu, such as rice dishes or non-spicy noodle soups.

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Being indecisive, I ended up going for the Dooedee duo ($14). On one side there was the Doodee vermicelli with tender braised pork, fish and beef balls and crispy wonton skin shreds; on the other side, there was the Doodee barbeque pork with egg noodles. There was no chilli in any of my dishes but on every table, there is a condiments island so you can DIY heat. (and suffer the consequences of putting way too much chilli – but my iced Thai milk tea ($4.50) saved the day.)

Meanwhile, Julie went a la carte. She divided her attention between two small dishes: the soft boil rice with prawns ($6.90) and the tom yum noodles with ribs ($6). I snuck several bites from each bowl and loved the gorgeous balance of intricate flavours that came out of every spoonful. And while I’m more of a noodles>rice person, I did find the rice dish much nicer – the rich seafood broth was beautifully infused with pork, chilli and lime.

I have to say that this was one of the best Thai meals I’ve had in Australia. All our dishes struck the perfect balance of spicy, salty and sweet – and if you happen to go for one of the spicy options, heat. The liberal use of fresh herbs such as coriander also helped to lift the flavours of each dish to another level that surpassed your average suburban Thai restaurant.

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Review: Nam Fong (Sydney, NSW)

54 Bankstown City Plaza
Bankstown NSW 2200
+61 2 9708 4306

Upon leaving Pho An, it was time for me to head back up north. I may have been giddily full from eating the most scrumptious bowl of pho but no way I was leaving Bankstown empty-handed; I had to get my hands on a pork roll to take back home with me.

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Google took me to Nam Fong, one of Bankstown’s many Vietnamese bakeries that supposedly do a mean pork roll – at least according to the citizens of the internet. Nam Fong was bursting to the brim when I got there; predictably, there were no lines and no order – you simply had to walk and squeeze yourself right up to the front of the counter and catch the eye of one of the thong-welding ladies.

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There were so many things I wanted to buy at Nam Long, from the boxes of Vietnamese sweets right through to the meatball baguettes. However, I stuck to my original aim which was to get one original pork roll (banh mi thit) and walk off. After all, it was bad enough carrying one pork roll in your bag on public transport let alone half a dozen of them. (to the folk taking the bus to Padstow, the train to Wooli Creek, the train to Wynyard and the bus to the north shore on Sunday: please forgive me.)

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One thing I loved about Nam Fong was its retro pricing: my pork roll was only $3.50. You don’t come across many places that do a decent pork roll for less than $4 these days – at least not in Melbourne. This pork roll did it for me: it had a lovely mix of cold cuts and shredded barbeque pork complimented with the right amount of pickled vegetables and chillies. I also liked that they were very liberal with the condiments – the more fish sauce, pâté and mayo, the better. The bread was also notably crunchy and light, an impressive feat given that it did the 1.5-hour commute back north with me and sat in the fridge for an extra two hours.

I haven’t sampled enough of Sydney’s Vietnamese pork rolls to decide whether this one’s a sturdy winner, but suffice to say that I’d definitely come back again. It’s an excellent value roll for what it’s worth and a winner for those who like it saucy.

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Review: Pho An (Sydney, NSW)

27 Greenfield Parade
Bankstown NSW 2200
+61 2 9796 7826
http://anrestaurant.com.au/

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than TWO WHOLE MONTHS since I’ve updated this blog. Given that I was once someone who posted several times a week, this relatively long hiatus was somewhat out of character. If it weren’t for a few lovely readers asking me why I hadn’t updated in so long, I probably would not have been writing this – and that’s a shame because I do love blogging and hence, my keenness to resurrect this blog again. As a promise to you, dear reader, I’ll update this blog as much as I can. And if I ever slack off again, please send me a gentle reminder and I’ll be on my two feet again.

So that’s that.

It’s also been quite a while since I’ve sat down and had a solid bowl of pho so this post seems appropriate. Earlier today, I decided to trek down to Bankstown to try what is apparently one of Sydney’s finest pho. As some of you may know, I currently live in Gold Coast, a city where halfway decent and authentic Vietnamese food is severely lacking. Although I’ve been living (and working) in Sydney for the last month or so, I’m still kind of far away from good pho. And by good pho, I mean one that actually bear some semblance to the stuff they serve in Saigon and not diluted with a ridiculous amount of MSG.

Today, I finally had the chance to make the commute down to Bankstown – to Pho An, to be exact. In the grand scheme of things, Bankstown isn’t all that far – and nowhere near the long GC-Brisbane dash that we GC foodies have to contend with sometimes – but not having a car means that a Bankstown pho trek requires us to set aside an extra hour or two. That was fine.

Naturally though, there happened to be track works along the Bankstown line on the day I set aside for this trek. There were no other days left on my calendar in which I could complete this trek so I thought ‘what the hell’ and off I went.

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Was the three-hour travel time worth it?

As I said, it was my first bowl of half decent pho in a long time so yes.

Pho bo tai ($15), ca phe sue da ($5)
Pho bo tai ($15), ca phe sue da ($5)

I don’t remember the last time I’ve slurped a spoonful of soulfully delicious broth and sighed with happiness. It ticked all boxes: taste, depth and the MSG test (no tickle down my throat). The noodles were thick, glossy and gloriously slippery and they were generous with the sliced beef. I was also impressed with the service – my pho, drink and condiments all came within two minutes of ordering. The only con I could think of was that it wasn’t cheap – a medium bowl of pho was $15 and my Vietnamese iced coffee was $5 (say, what?!). The bowl wasn’t exactly big either; I suppose this is to encourage people to upsize for only an extra $1.50 but I’m not one to be able to order big bowls of pho these days and comfortably finish it.

So would I do the trek from the north shore to Bankstown via public transport for one bowl of pho again? If there were track works happening again, probably not. If I had a car, most likely yes. It was one of the better bowls of pho I’ve had in living memory but far out, getting there was a lot of work!

Pho An Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Waterman’s Lobster Co (Sydney, NSW)

5/29-31 Orwell Street
Potts Points NSW 2011
+61 2 9380 2558
http://www.watermanslobsterco.com/

When the co-owner of one of my favourite wine bars (Love Tilley Devine) in Sydney decided to open a lobster roll bar in Potts Points, I just knew I had to visit the first chance I got. That moment happened just a few weeks after the lobster roll bar, Waterman’s Lobster Co, opened. I arrived in Sydney just after dinnertime which was fine because according to Waterman’s website, they opened until late. By the time I met up with my friend Dom in front of the Potts Points establishment, it was just after 9pm.

And Waterman’s just had closed.

One of the guys at the bar told us that they decided to shut down early because they hadn’t ‘seen a single person walk in for at least an hour’ (this was followed by his co-worker giving him side greasy). They had just closed the kitchen and weren’t taking any more orders. Disappointed, we went into the winter night and into some random pizza place in the ‘Cross.

I did, however, get my second chance only a few weeks ago. Long story short, but I had to made a trip to the French Consulate in Sydney one Thursday morning. Not wanting to risk a delayed morning flight out of Gold Coast, I decided to fly into Sydney the previous day, stay there overnight and wake up refreshed the following morning to (nicely) take on the French.

It was around 6:30pm on Wednesday night when we decided to give Waterman’s another go – and the place was buzzing. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze the two of us in at a communal table in the back room.

New England clam chowder ($12)
New England clam chowder ($12)

Because it was such a cold night, we figured a bowl of crouton-topped chowder would be a perfect starter to share. It arrived immediately so I’m guessing everyone else had the same idea and the kitchen had heaps ready to ladle out. The chowder was rich, creamy and deep in flavour; I haven’t had many chowders in my life but I’m fairly certain that this was the real deal – at least compared to the pretty-sure-this-ain’t-legit one I had at a Marlborough winery a few years ago.

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Waterman’s offers two different types of lobster rolls: the Maine style one and the Connecticut style one. Dom suggested we order both and split them, which was a brilliant idea. I then decided to order a glass of Gosset Brut Excellence ($20) to have with my lobster, another brilliant idea if I do say so myself. It was a beautifully balanced champagne; rich and creamy yet fragrant and fruity, the bubbles complemented the buttery lobster rolls to a tee.

‘Maine Style’ lobster roll ($18)
‘Maine Style’ lobster roll ($18)

The Maine style lobster roll came with mayo and celery; after one bite, I was hooked. The closest thing I’ve had to this was Andrew McConnell’s now-famous lobster roll from Golden Fields which, at the time, sent foodgasmic shockwaves around Melbourne’s foodie set. I, however, found it underwhelming mainly due to its price point – $15 for a small roll? Yeah, no.

This roll, however, was big. As big as a hot dog. And sure, the lobster may have been imported from the ‘States (according to the owners, they tasted better) and sure, there may have been a bit of a wait for them but hey. The combination of succulently sweet lobster, buttery bread and mayo, accentuated by the crunch of the celery pieces, was nothing short of amazing.

‘Connecticut Style’ lobster roll ($18)
‘Connecticut Style’ lobster roll ($18)

The Connecticut Style roll was just as good. It was a simpler roll, with just a dash of warm butter to coat the lobster. I think I liked the Maine style lobster more because of the beautiful balance of flavours and textures, though the simple nature of the Connecticut roll meant that I really got to taste the natural flavour of the lobster meat.

We both added some lightly seasoned fries ($2) and a pickle ($1) to our plates to make it a complete meal. While Dom was a bit underwhelmed by the pickle (it lacked flavour, he argued), I thought otherwise – it was especially great with the Connecticut Style roll as it added a bit of extra flavour.

Of course, Waterman’s rolls aren’t just limited to lobster ones. They also sell prawn, scallop and smoked eel rolls, all of which I’m keen to try the next time I’m down in Sydney… which probably won’t be until the end of the year. Sob.

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Review: Mary’s City (Sydney, NSW)

154 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000

After spending a morning at the French Consulate, I found myself roaming Sydney’s city streets looking for a good feed. It was a glorious winter day in my favourite Aussie city – sure, it was cold but the sun was out and the winds were (thankfully) nowhere to be found. There was no better way to spend the afternoon than by enjoying lunch outside, in Hyde Park.

Luckily, my favourite Sydney burger joint, Mary’s, has a branch in the city. The city joint is just a block away from Hyde Park so I decided that lunch that day was going to be burger, fries, gravy and a lot of bloating (totally worth it though… or so I thought).

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Predictably, the Thursday afternoon queue was massive. The diminutive city store only does take away and most of the people patiently lining up were hungry office workers. Fortunately, the line does move fast. (that said, I then waited an extra 15 minutes to the side for my food to be ready.)

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Taking cues from its Newtown big sister, the city store also has a wall where punters can scribble dick pics and lewd messages to their heart’s content.

Cheeseburger ($10)
Cheeseburger ($10)

Walking over to Hyde Park, I eagerly unpacked the contents of my white paper bag. Although the city store has all the Newtown menu favourites, its price point is a bit different. If you order a cheeseburger in Newtown, $15 will get you a generously sized burger with chips. Here, $10 gets you a much smaller burger and no chips. In fact, I was surprised at how small, deflated and sorry-looking my city burger was. I was even more surprised to find that it tasted like a Maccas cheeseburger minus the onions and pickle. It was hard to believe that this burger was actually a Mary’s burger. What. The Hell.

Gravy ($4)
Gravy ($4)

You can’t leave Mary’s without ordering gravy to go with your fries. Seeing as the burger came without fries, I ordered a serving of them ($4) and a tub of gravy ($4). Thankfully, they tasted just as I remembered; the chips were crispy and well-seasoned and while the gravy wasn’t as lusciously velvety as the ones I’ve enjoyed in Newtown, it was still delicious. God bless rendered chicken fat and a splash of warm stock, oh yeah.

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Look. Despite the #burgerfail, it was actually not a bad lunch.

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Review: Green Peppercorn (Sydney, NSW)

388 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 8080 7043
http://www.greenpeppercorn.com.au/

When Dom told me there was a place that served a decent Thai food in the same building as the Civic Hotel in the city, I wrinkled my nose. To me, the ‘Civ was in the same league as Melbourne’s Club Retro, a place that I’d only set foot in after 1:30am on Saturday morning after more than a few wines and after frequenting the city’s better night haunts. In other words, it’s not a place that I’d start a night off at.

Yet, Dom also happens to be my intel when it comes to good cheap Sydney fare so I did I protest when he lead me up to stairs to the Civic? Nope, not at all. The place we’re talking about is Green Peppercorn, said to be one of Sydney’s better Thai restaurants. Being from Melbourne and having lived on Gold Coast for more than a year now, I’ve had my fair share of mediocre Thai food so anything from a Sydney Thai restaurant was always going to be a marked improvement.

Green Peppercorn has two branches, this city one and one in Fairfield. Both promise casual contemporary fit-outs and a menu combining Lao and Thai cuisine, featuring traditional favourites and a few regional specialities from northern Thailand.

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I ordered a glass of white, Dom ordered a beer and we decided on several dishes to share.

Sai krok ison ($11.90)
Sai krok ison ($11.90)

We both enjoyed the Issan-style sausages. Made from a traditional Northern Thai recipe, these house-made pork sausages were slightly seasoned and grilled over charcoal for a smoky and slightly tangy flavour.

Prawn pad thai ($17.90)
Prawn pad thai ($17.90)

Much to Dom’s amusement, I decided to go all Aussie, mate, by ordering the prawn pad thai. Hey, don’t diss me – I’m allowed to crave pad thai just as you guys are allowed to crave Nutella donuts, okay? Green Peppercorn did a lovely version – the noodles were perfectly firm, the proteins all well-cooked and the sweet-sour ratio on point. Topped with bean sprouts and crushed peanuts, this pad thai was a study of what Thai restaurants in Gold Coast SHOULD be doing, rather than dousing the noodles with too much sweetness.

Roast duck red curry ($17.90)
Roast duck red curry ($17.90)

Our final dish was an excellent roast duck red curry. It was a beautifully hearty dish that soothed my cold bones, minus the heaviness. A handful of cherry tomatoes, pineapple and lychees worked well to counteract the creaminess while an appropriate amount of chilli provided a much-welcomed spicy kick.

If I had more room in my stomach, I would have loved to try some of the traditional Laotian dishes but hey, next time. My go-to place for Thai in Sydney city is still Chat Thai (sorry, you’ll always remember your first…) but Green Peppercorn is a great alternative if you can’t be bothered queuing up for a peak hour dinner table.

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Review: Yasaka Ramen (Sydney, NSW)

126 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9262 9027
http://www.yasakaramen.com.au/

There are several things you can’t really avoid when in Sydney city: riff raff on George Street at night, bad drivers and great ramen eateries. I happened to be in Sydney for a very quick afternoon stopover; it was cold and windy, and my stomach was yearning for a bowl of unctuous, porky goodness with lots and lots of noodles. My friend Dom, who is my go-to person for cheap eats in Sydney, mentioned Yasaka Ramen during a conversation we had one night so I knew that’s where I wanted to go for lunch before I even stepped off the plane.

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Word.

At 11:30 on a weekday, Yasaka was dead quiet so I had my pick of bar seating. There, for the next thirty minutes, I was able to slurp, savour and worship each spoonful of ramen in silence before Sydney’s office workers and tradies started arriving for their fix.

Tonkotsu shoyu with egg ($14.80)
Tonkotsu shoyu with egg ($14.80)

This. Perfection right here. (yes, I’m aware that the word ‘perfection’ is used way too much in food blogging but screw it, it really was perfection.)

Takoyaki (four for $6)
Takoyaki (four for $6)

I can’t say no to good dose of takoyaki and Yasaka does a fantastic version. Yasaka’s takoyaki comes in multiples of four or eight and you can choose from a range of toppings such as spicy mayo, wasabi soy sauce or even grilled cheese. I decided to be sensible and boring, though, by opting for four pieces drizzled with the original takoyaki sauce and shaved bonito flakes.

Slightly firm to the bite and full of flavour, they were pretty on par to the ones that I enjoyed on the streets of Osaka last year. No sign of soggy ball syndrome here, my friends.

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I could also wax lyrical about my bowl of tonkotsu shoyu ramen, which was reasonably priced given the amount and quality I received. The milky, flavoursome tonkotsu broth was infused with a soy sauce paste to give it that extra bit of umami oomph (not that it really needed much anyway). To top things off, there was a buttery piece of chashu, bamboo shoots, chopped spring onion and nori. Oh, and a soft-boiled soy egg – you can’t forget that.

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It wasn’t a terribly big bowl but I really did struggle to finish it (I’m blaming the takoyaki). Still, the ramen didn’t leave me with that nasty bloated feeling I get when I eat at some of the city’s other ramen restaurants whose offerings tend to be on the super-ridic-heavy side so that’s a good thing.

In terms of taste, price point and service, I’d say Yasaka is up there with one of my favourites in Sydney now. Cheers, Dom.

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Review: Mary’s (Sydney, NSW)

6 Mary Street
Newtown NSW 2042
+61 2 4995 9550

When I’m in Sydney, there’s only one place I go when the burger craving hits – and no, it’s not McDonalds, not even when I’m desperate. I go to Mary’s, one of Newtown’s favourite eateries and by that, I mean one that’s often frequented by hipsters and food bloggers.

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Blending into its grungy Newtown surrounds, Mary’s is befittingly dingy, dark and, let’s face it, uninviting from the outside. It’s pretty much the same story inside but with constant loud Angry White Boy music blaring from the speakers – not exactly a place I’d take my conservative Asian parents to.

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That said, the former sexual health clinic-cum-burger joint is strangely cosy and inviting once your ears get used to the thumping music. The team are friendly, attentive and full of energy, even on a Saturday afternoon before 1pm.

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Mary’s keeps its menu simple by offering only three burgers, including a mushroom one for the vegos. I usually go the cheeseburger ($15), though in the past I’ve sometimes gone for the namesake Mary’s burger with trashcan bacon (essentially bacon that’s been cooked in a trashcan, $15). All burgers come with a generous serving of crispy shoestring fries.

Irrespective of what burger ends up being ordered, they’re always consistently damn good. The bun is simple, soft and white (none of this overly sweet and buttery fancy brioche stuff if that ain’t your thing), the meat is well-seasoned and juicy and the whole thing is held together by salad and a squirt of ketchup. It’s simple stuff, done very very well and sometimes that’s really all you need.

Mashed potato and gravy ($5)
Mashed potato and gravy ($5)

I also make sure the mash and gravy is ordered. Ladies and gents, you really haven’t lived unless you’ve tried Mary’s mash and gravy. The potato was so soft and so silky that it was almost like eating a carb version of velvet. Meanwhile, the gravy was full of flavour, thanks to the generous amount of rendered chicken fat that was used to boost the flavour profile. Give me a spoon and I can eat this stuff all day long, baby.

The perfect beverage choice to match the burgers would be, of course, be a Bloody Mary’s. If you’re more into beers, however, Mary’s has a decent selection of pilsners and craft beers. The cocktail list is also worth pursuing – they even have a drink called the ‘Noble C*nt’ if you’re feeling particularly bold. In all seriousness though, just give me a beer, a burger and gravy and I’m a happy camper.

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Review: Pinbone (Sydney, NSW)

3 Jersey Road
Woollahra NSW 2025
+61 2 9328 1600
http://www.pinbone.com.au/

It’s been a while since I’ve had a dining experience that made me go ‘wow’ – and I don’t mean the ‘wow’ that’s usually uttered when you see the astronomical bill at the end of the night. I’m talking about the wow that’s normally reserved for those restaurants that offer something different, restaurants that don’t try too hard, restaurants that serve beautiful and refreshing food and finally, restaurants that just KNOW how to get everything right. Pinbone was a culmination of all those factors – and a lot more.

It all started one Saturday morning in Sydney. MVB and I were nibbling on dumplings at the markets, trying to figure out where to go for dinner that night. We didn’t have the foresight to book ahead at any of the hot and happenin’ places nor did we feel like queuing up for burgers at Mary’s. Someone on one of our Instagram feeds mentioned Pinbone, a Woollahra icon that had been around for as long as MVB could remember but he, himself, had never got around to going. We didn’t like our chances of getting a table but we thought we’d give them a ring anyway.

Predictably, the restaurant was closed when I rang them to see if I can squeeze in a table for two so I left a message on the answering machine with my mobile phone. Not even an hour later, a text from an unknown number came through:

‘Hi Libby, it’s Berri from Pinbone. I just wanted to check how many people your booking was for?’

And just like that, after a few rapid text exchanges, a table was booked for 6pm that very night. As someone who dislikes phone conversations, I was happy – an entire booking conducted by text message!

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We rocked up to the split-level restaurant at 6 on the dot before being ushered upstairs to a beautiful room, surrounded by white walls. Our soundtrack for the night began with the likes of The Cure before heading into Joy Division and New Order territory; that’s when I knew I had already fallen in love with this place – and we hadn’t even tasted any food yet!

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After a boozy night the previous night, we hadn’t planned on ordering drinks but decided to look at the wine list anyway. There was a very respectable list of whites and reds in addition to a succinct ‘fizzy shit’ list covering champagne and sparkling wine. No, that’s what it actually said on the menu: fizzy shit!

It worked though. Before we knew it, we were clinking our glasses of fizzy shit and sipping it while we waited for our little snacks to arrive.

Pinbone’s list individual snack also had some eye brow-raising items. There was ‘fairy bread’ listed as the first item as well as something called ‘smoky cheesy potato thing.’ Well blimey, both those items were ordered in addition to a few sundries that caught MVB’s attention. Yup, I’m a sucker for oddly worded things.

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Our spread of individual snacks.

Chicken popper ($4)
Chicken popper ($4)

MVB ordered the chicken popper which, to me, looked like a piece of chicken karaage on a butter lettuce cup with a bit of mayo hidden in there somewhere (‘lol lol lol san choy bao,’ I sniggered. ‘lol lol lol’). MVB said the chicken was crispy and succulent, but didn’t exactly blow him away.

Fairy bread ($4)
Fairy bread ($4)

My so-called fairy bread looked like it was a much better choice. The base was brioche, the ‘butter’ was masacarpone and the topping, flying fish roe. I enjoyed the wonderful contrast between the creamy, velvety cream and the soft, crunchy roe. This was sure better than any fairy bread I had back when I was a little kid.

‘Smoky cheesy potato thing’ ($4)
‘Smoky cheesy potato thing’ ($4)

Pinbone’s ‘smoky cheesy potato thing’ looked like a ‘very very naughty thing.’ Essentially, it was a hollowed out baked potato half that held a lusciously buttery gruyere and parmesan filling. I gave it my two thumbs up.

Crispy chicken skin, bread sauce, anchovy ($4)
Crispy chicken skin, bread sauce, anchovy ($4)

The crispy chicken skin was another fantastic snack – I’m a sucker for fried chicken skin so this dish was always going to be a winner by default. Chuck in a creamy bread sauce and a single anchovy though and you have me singing hallelujah, Dr Alban style.

Peanut custard, pickled peanuts, edamame ($20)
Peanut custard, pickled peanuts, edamame ($20)

We then moved onto the larger plates. The peanut custard was a dish that caught both our eyes because c’mon, who’s ever heard of peanut custard? We’re not normally ones to order vegetarian dishes (unless it’s a begrudging side dish to make ourselves feel better) but we were curious.

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The peanut custard was very much like a piece of silken tofu, but with a subtle nutty taste. I liked the custard itself (So light! So delicate! So silky!) but I didn’t think the dish was as cohesive as it could have been. The pickled peanuts just seemed like they were thrown in there as an afterthought and I’m not a big edamame fan to begin with so these didn’t exactly win points.

Grilled salmon belly, charred shallot, mirin ($22)
Grilled salmon belly, charred shallot, mirin ($22)

Much better was the grilled salmon belly, a silky, buttery piece of protein intertwined with lovely fatty goodness. A lovely dose of mirin broke down the richness a little while adding a lovely sweetness, while the charred shallot imparted a much welcomed smokiness to the dish. Flawless, absolutely flawless.

Chicken breast, prawn head gravy, celery ($28)
Chicken breast, prawn head gravy, celery ($28)

Chicken is not normally something we order at restaurants but I frothed when I saw ‘prawn head gravy’ so I knew we had to try this. The chicken was beautifully cooked; soft, succulent and verging on delicate, it was enough to turn me into a breast woman. The beautiful albeit pungent prawn head gravy more than enough flavour while the celery provided a nice crunch.

Roasted carrots with smoked macadamia ($14)
Roasted carrots with smoked macadamia ($14)

Of course, we had to have some vegetables to go with our naughty smoky cheesy things, chicken skins and chicken boobs. The roasted carrots here were on point – they were full of lovely charred goodness and sweetness, accentuated by the crunchy macadamias.

At this stage, we appropriately full – satisfied enough to go home without raiding the pantry for midnight snacks yet not full enough that we had food babies growing in our tummies. The problem, however, was that MVB wasn’t done.

Oh no, he wanted dessert.

And he wanted ALL OF IT.

‘We’ll order everything off the dessert menu, thank you,’ he casually said to the passing waitress. She raised an eyebrow just as my eyes grew wide. ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS?!’

MVB nodded. ‘Yes, EVERYTHING.’

I’m not much of a dessert person and goodness knew exactly how we were going to finish four whole desserts but somehow we did it.

Toasted sorghum ice cream, buttermilk, brittle ($14)
Toasted sorghum ice cream, buttermilk, brittle ($14)

There was the toasted sorghum ice cream (sorghum is a grain, btw) topped with a crispy popcorn covered brittle. A tick for me.

Daily Pinbone tart ($14)
Daily Pinbone tart ($14)

Then there was the rich chocolate ganache tart with vanilla milk ice cream. A would be tick if it hadn’t been for the orange flavouring they decided to chuck in there (never was a Jaffa fan, sorry).

Neapolitan ($14)
Neapolitan ($14)

Pinbone’s rendition of the classic Neapolitan ice cream did get a tick. I couldn’t decide which part I liked the most: the crispy chocolate-covered chocolate mousse, the strawberry tapioca or the luscious vanilla parfait. Dairy Bell, eat your heart out.

Lemon curd, burnt milk custard and black olive ($14)
Lemon curd, burnt milk custard and black olive ($14)

The tangy lemon curd provided a much needed sour boost to all the sugar we had and was probably my favourite dessert. It was paired beautifully with burnt milk custard and crumbs of dehydrated olive and brown sugar. Tick, tick tick.

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BOOM.

The meal was well paced without being too rushed so we were out of there before the second wave of diners started to arrive. Overall, it was a fantastic dining experience boosted by efficient, cheerful and attentive staff and a cosy environment. We had plans to return for brunch the next time we were both in Sydney but unfortunately, word on the street is that the Pinbone crew are closing their doors in a couple of weeks. I won’t be able to relive the Pinbone experience again (sniff) but it doesn’t mean you guys can’t – get on it, Sydneysiders!

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Review: Makoto (Sydney, NSW)

119 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9283 6767
http://citymakoto.com.au/

On the last day of my Sydney Writers’ Festival weekend, I wanted to keep things simple. My plan was to bump up my protein intake and reduce my carb intake so I wanted something light and balanced. Plus, I wasn’t feeling all that hungry even though I did a fairly solid pilates session in Darlinghurst that morning.

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I ended up at Makoto, a sushi train restaurant in the city. I wasn’t planning to have sushi train, tbh, but I happened to come across this place when I was wandering around aimlessly along Liverpool Street. Having heard a few Melbourne friends talk about how good Makoto was, I figured that having lunch here couldn’t hurt.

Here, plates range from $3 to $6.60, pretty standard for a sushi train restaurant. They also have the odd specials in the mix too, which are slightly more expensive. It was 11:30AM when I arrived; the place was packed but because I was rocking up as a solo diner, I was able to squeeze in.

Chawanmushi ($3.60)
Chawanmushi ($3.60)

I love a good savoury egg custard and this one delivered superbly. The custard itself was as delicate as fine silk, while the dashi broth was full of umami goodness.

Seared salmon topped with spring onion, onion and tobiko ($6.60)
Seared salmon topped with spring onion, onion and tobiko ($6.60)

Here, fresh salmon slices were beautifully seared, leaving the inner flesh verging on still raw. The garnishes were also well-balanced and brought out the flavour of the fish.

Lobster sushi ($5.60)
Lobster sushi ($5.60)

The lobster sushi was another standout performance. Here, lobster meat was mixed with a cream-based sauce and topped with tobiko. Probably the heavier dish of the afternoon but dammit, I needed something (slightly) rich and creamy, okay.

Raw prawn nigiri ($4.60)
Raw prawn nigiri ($4.60)

Prior to this meal, I had never tasted raw prawn. And while I appreciated the prawn’s texture and freshness, I think I much prefer these suckers cooked – much tastier.

Salmon sashimi ($6.60)
Salmon sashimi ($6.60)

You really can’t go wrong with super fresh salmon sashimi. God, I love the Sydney Fish Market so much.

Scampi sashimi ($9.80)
Scampi sashimi ($9.80)

The scampi sashimi was one of the specials offered that day. It was beautifully presented as far as crustaceans go. Like the prawn, however, it was something that I would have preferred to eat cooked – the flavours didn’t shine through as much.

The damage came to $36.80, far from a cheap lunch for just one. On paper, it looked like I ordered quite a lot of dishes but while I was satisfied, I wasn’t disgustingly full (a good thing, I guess). As far as sushi trains go, this is one of the good ones – everything was fresh and the service was attentive and polite. I’d be happy to return with a dining companion so I can try more things (and not pay as much per person).

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