23 at Longrain Restaurant and Bar

Jase has been trying to organise for us to go to Longrain for a good part of the year now, but we always opted for elsewhere due to their no dinner bookings policy and it was a hassle to organise everyone to get there from work. However, we’ve finally made it here nice and early for my 23rd birthday – I even scored parking right outside – lucky me! And though it was a Sunday the dining room filled up very quickly and within 30minutes of being seated, the place was full.

Longrain (85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills) converted from an old industrial warehouse into a super chic cocktail bar complete with a dj and a huge dining room with communal dining tables. I must admit I’m not a fan of communal dining because its really hard to hold a private conversation without having your personal space invaded and if you unfortunately spill something it doesnt spill onto the floor but onto the stranger next to you 😦 Anyhoo onto our foods… Longrain famous for their cocktails, I of course started the night off with a ‘stick drink’ Ping Pong – muddled passionfruit and lychees, vodka, lychee liquer and ice – so refreshing and has been a favourite of mine since Taste of Sydney 2009. We started off with Freshly shucked oysters with red chilli lime juice and deep fried eschalots, followed by the Betel leaf topped with prawn roasted coconut. mint and chilli which I just popped into my mouth had a nice balance of flavours. No visit to Longrain is complete without ordering the signature Eggnet which featured on MasterChef Australia. – the lacy and fancy eggnet delicately sat atop a generous bowl of beansprouts and prawns but it didnt look like the table next to ours where their eggnet encased all the ingredients. We had eggnet envy but it was still delicious. Other delicious meals we ordered were the Green curry of burrawong chicken which was amazing and aromatic, twice cooked crisp duck salad, stir fried pumpkin dish. Another favourite of mine was the Caramelised pork hock which though it was a little dry I loved how it was so sticky it stuck to my teeth. Though the parking meter timer was ticking we still had room for dessert which was my favourite dish of the night – tapioca, chocolate mousse and red bean ice cream.

 
Longrain
Ping Pong

 
Betel leaf topped with smoked trout chilli garlic galangal & trout roe

 
Betel leaf topped with prawn roasted coconut, mint & chilli

 
Eggnet with pork, prawn, peanuts, bean sprouts & deep fried eschallots

 
Green curry of burrawong chicken with baby corn & pea eggplants

 
Twice cooked duck salad ?

 
Caramelised pork hock with five spice & chilli vinegar

 
Stir fried pumpkin and veges

 
Tapioca and chocolate mousse

 

Thank you for coming out and celebrating with me and for the precious necklace and the amazing planetary mixer!!

 
Meet Cupcake.
My awesome friends know me too well.


Thank you to everyone who was kind enough to send me birthday wishes! 

Longrain Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Strawberry Santa’s and I at an Xmas Picnic

It was a super sunny Saturday as the weather cooperated with us and I, armed with a tray of strawberry Santa’s headed down to Centennial Park for the 2nd Annual Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic. Having recently attended the Sydney Food Blogger Mad Hatter Spring Picnic, I was more relaxed and excited having previously met tonnes of great people, but with such a huge turnout, I unfortunately didn’t get around to saying hi to every one of you.

I brought along huge strawberries on steroids which I had dressed up as little Santa’s – I was afraid no one was going to know they were actually Santa’s as my sister had no idea what they were… but everyone knew straight away hoooray! It only took 10mins to make these – just whipped the cream (I added some peach liquor to the cream too 😉 ) and painstakingly placed black sesame seeds as eyes with tweezers.

There was an abundance of food, some with a Christmas theme and some with Christmas colours and others were just plain tasty (my favourite was the greek beef meatballs)! They also held Sydney Food Bloggers Olympics and Kris Kringle.

I had an awesome day filling my belly, met a lot of friendly new people and came home with Boiley a microwavable egg boiler – thanks KK!
A big thank you to Helen from Grab Your Fork and Suze from ChocolateSuze who had co hosted and organized the shindig.

 
My army of Strawberry Santa’s

 
Christmas Tree Meringues by Jacq from Penguin says Feed Me

 
Chocolate Hazelnut Christmas Tree by Lisa Perkovic

 
Christmas Tree Marshmallows by Steph from Raspberri Cupcakes

 
These kind of look like holly right?? Made by Helen from Grab Your Fork

 
Pancakes with Chicken and Kimchi

 
Keftedes by Demos and sign by Gianna from The Empty Fridge

 
White Chocolate Wontons w/ pinenut and rosemary praline from He Needs Food

 
Macaron Christmas Tree by Cleony from I Eat Sweet

Sydney Food Bloggers Olympics

 
Chopstick Challenge transferring 50 soy beans from one bowl to the other

 
Taste Test challenge

 
Kris Kringle


photo credit Simon from The Heart of Food

Merry Christmas everyone!!
Naw don’t we have such a nice food blogging community here in Sydney 🙂

Ocean Room and our Anniversary

Oops lack of updates here because frankly life has been getting in the way and getting me down. On a more happier note Bill and I celebrated our 8years(we thought it was 9 but we just miscalculated) together with dinner at the Ocean Room (Overseas Passenger Terminal Circular Quay). Though we had booked a few weeks earlier the restaurant was full with many functions going on, so we were seated towards the door so each time it opened, we were faced with a huge gust of wind… very unromantic. Anyhoo I kicked off dinner with a Peach Smash and perused the menu. The menu at Ocean Room consisted of a section of "chotto" Japanese tapas dishes which are bite size and single portions, which we were keen to try. So in order to try a a few of the chotto dishes and signature dishes, we opted for Raita’s Tasting Menu 11 courses for $90 per person.

We started the tasting menu with the freshly shucked Pacific Oysters with fresh chilli & lemon vinaigrette from Coffin Bay and Rock Oysters with shiso basil sorbet and konbu from Port Stephens. I love anything with shiso herb so naturally they were a hit with me. Following the oysters we were presented with the Japanese tapas chotto dishes. The Tuna Cornet marinated blue fin tuna tartare wrapped in nori rice cracker cornet was lip smacking delicious thought I didn’t taste much of the nori (seaweed). The very strange combination of marinated anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet  was next, which suprised me as I’m not a fan of anchovies, but I loved the cooling sensation from the tomato sorbet – very cool. The Soft Shell Crab Taco with crispy spiced soft shell crab, pickled vegetables in a cripsy taco shell was messy to eat but well worth getting your fingers dirty – probably would order two each next time XP. The crispy king prawn with wasabi aioli, petit wasabi croquette was also one of my favourites, the wasabi wasn’t overpowering but still had a nice zing to it, the prawn was plump and crisp – I even ate the tail.

Onto the Starters we were presented with a red plate but the food was unrecognisable (also because the restaurant is really quite dark). It turned out to be the flame seared bar cod, sake and plum jelly wrapped in sheer konbu. Though it probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea because of its weird texture, I thought it was really creative and I especially loved the ume jelly and konbu. Our next starter was THE Ocean Room Signature – Tuna Creation prepared in five styles with five condiments. Starting from left to right so you can appreciate the subtler tastes before the stronger flavours there were cubes of tuna each cooked differently with accompanying salt to match. This course was definitely my favourite course, I thought it was creative and I loved the concept though the sake jelly bar cod comes in a close second because of its depth.
The tuna done five ways were:
Oil blanched Fresh ginger & corriander with Chilli Salt
Fresh raw Wasabi & lemon zest with Soy salt (light)
Seared Five peppercorns & salmon roe with Soy salt (3yrs aged)
Fresh raw Jalopeno & yuzu zest with Black salt
Marinated Fried garlic & fresh chilli with Truffle Salt
My favourite by far was the Fresh raw Jalopeno & yuzu zest, which had a nice kick to it while the Truffle salt was way too salty for me and I preferred the tuna without it.

For mains we had one plate of ocean produce followed by our main land produce. For our ocean produce we had grilled, sweet miso marinated cod fillet where the cod was firm and sweet, I also loved loved loved the ginger scented risotto bed. We also had a Prawn Sizzle not on the a la carte menu which was a pan seared green king prawn with coriander citrus sauce, the prawn was so plump and juicy I wanted another one. For our main land produce the grain fed rib eye steak with sansho peppercorn jus came in a rather large portion and was cooked perfectly medium rare.

By now we were terribly full and thought desserts were next but before that we had a sushi collection to get through. It was a chefs daily recommendation but sadly it was the dissapointment of the night. the sashimi was nothing special and I felt like we got the left over cuts since all three nigiri had sinews. Also although traditional sushi nigiri is thin compared to western standards, the size of each nigiri was so thin, the size of my index finger!!

To finish off the night, the Ocean Room Assiette – they should propbably double these portions or at least give you two of eachdessert. The amazing creme brulee was very vanilla and delicious but sadly gone in one bite. the pink lady almond gateau was spongy and nice and the two chocolate ganache were moist ad rich. Our favourite was the apple sorbet which we literally fought over – definitely give us two scoops of this please!

 
Peach Smash

 
Oyster Duo

 
Tuna Cornet
Anchovy & Sorbet – Ocean Room Signature

 
Wasabi Prawn
Soft Shell Crab Taco – Ocean Room Signature


 
Sake Jelly Bar Cod – Ocean Room Signature

 
Tuna Creation – Ocean Room Signature

 
Saikyo Miso Cod – Ocean Room Signature
Prawn Sizzle

 
Sansho Pepper Beef Steak

 
Sushi Collection
can you see how thin it is?

 
 Ocean Room Assiette
Chocolate ganache, pink lady almond gateau, apple sorbet and creme brulee
 

 
 
The staff were polite and lovely, we’ll definitely be back to dine from the a la carte menu and try a few more of the chotto dishes and the Tuna Wing. I’d love to get one of those comfy booths too instead of in front of the door haha.

THANK YOU for a lovely evening, happy anniversary baby and thank you for the super awesome thoughtful present everrr… I LOVE IT

  
A brand spanking new travel lap top opened on Happy Anniversary wallpaper
  
… which changed every 5 mins from our time in Nelson Bay
  
to happy snaps from Hong Kong…
  
and a little bit of food porn.
  
and to top it off he made a unique skin so it’s not so boring!

and meet my new baby
  
 

 

Ocean Room on Urbanspoon

Popping my Cafe Ish cherry

As the title suggests, I was a Cafe Ish (Campbell St, Surry Hills) virgin until last weekend when I finally made my first visit there for brunch as part of Crave SIFF.

It was a cold and dreary day so it was nice to head inside the bustling cafe, seated (right under the kitchen window). After checking out the menu, we decided that one I would get the SIFF brunch offering and mum would opt for something else on the menu – a decision we were super glad about because mum chose a dish which only featured on the menu since the Friday before (the waitress informed us that they change their menu seasonally every 2mths or so). The Crave SIFF brunch offering I had included a Breakfast Trifle, Crab Omelette and Wattle Maccacino for $25.

 
Our Wattle Maccacino came out decorated with a fern almost too pretty to ruin and a little piece of shortbread. The waitress informed us to taste first, before adding sugar as it’s sweeter than usual and more like a mocha and she was right because I didn’t need any sugar. The coffee was velvety smooth and the nutty sweetness was brought out of a blend of wattles and macadamia, pure bliss on such a gloomy day. My Breakfast Trifle of lush yoghurt, native berry compote and toasted house made muesli was just as delicious and comforting. The yoghurt was creamy and balanced well with the irresistible berry compote and the muesli was chewy just the way I like it and full of flavour. There was also a flower like bud which I had never seen before, a Rosella fruit, in the mix of the Breakfast Trifle which I absolutely loved for it’s unexpected crunchy texture. But the absolute highlight of brunch was my soft shell Crab Omelette with avocados, shallots and a ginger dressing. It was a massive portion with ripe chunky pieces of avocado and crispy soft shell crab so.freakin.tasty. I also found the side of watercrest a really nice touch. Best of all it wasn’t drenched in oil and I especially loved the ginger and lime dressing it came drizzled under. Mum’s two pieces of thick brioche resting atop assorted berries was refreshing and made her feel very healthy with all the berries and passionfruit. Hidden underneath the brioche also laid a dollop of lemon myrtle ricotta which was very different for our japanese tastebuds, but was surprisignly really tasty when slathered on the brioche. There was also a Rosella fruit hidden amongst the berries – I love this, it reminds me of eating an apple, a really pretty one.

 
 
Cafe Ish Signature Coffee Wattle Maccacino

 
Toasted brioche with lemon myrtle ricotta, sake scented Rosella, raspberries and passionfruit

 
Breakfast trifle of “lush yoghurt”, native berry compote, toasted house made muesli

 
Kara-age soft shell crab omelette with garlic, chilli, soy, ginger dressing, avocado, shallots and lime
 


Brunch at Cafe Ish was definately a great way to start the day, but I really do have to rave about the service, (especially after our not so great service experienced at other restaurants). The waitresses were all very friendly and focused; glasses of water were promptly brought out and when we were keen to peruse the dinner menu, the waitresses kindly brought them out for us and were very helpful in explaining different dishes on the menu. Oh and they even gave me a business card with their new address, new number and opening hrs, which I’ll probably need because I spotted FRIED MOCHI AND UME on the dinner menu oh my god, my favourite things! One more thing – remember your manners and make sure to ask the very friendly staff before you take pictures!

Cafe Ish on Urbanspoon

High Tea at The Westin Sydney

It was raining cats and dogs outside, but myself and 8 other girls were a world away, lounging in the relaxed atmosphere of The Westin Sydney (No 1. Martin Place) enjoying the Marie Antoinette high tea. We all opted for the offering of high tea, unlimited tea or coffee and a glass of sparkling rose for $45 (weekend price) part of Crave SIFF, which was a bargain considering the sparkling rose option is usually $51. The sparkling rose we were given was Brown Brothers Zibibbo Rosa – a really pretty pink colour with a fruity aroma and we were given a selection of JING teas to choose from – I chose the Lychee black tea which unfortunately didn’t have much lychee or fruity taste for that matter and also a pot of Dragon Well which was a refreshing green tea.

After getting settled in and waiting for the late-comers, 3 two-tiered high teas were delivered to us, one plate of savoury and a plate of sweets. Usually I start off with the scones at high tea but since there were none here, I went for the savoury, which I might add had no salmon and dill sandwiches yay!. I grabbed the blt and deviled egg finger sandwich because it was heart-shaped and oh-so-cute. I couldn’t discern whether it was some sort of choux or a piece of toast? but it was very tasty though I don’t think mine had any bacon in it 😦 The avocado and shrimp tartar [not pictured] was my least favourite of the foods that day because the choux puff was immensely dry and was hard to eat by itself after I had already eaten the filling. My favourite "savoury" item would be the kiwi and orange croissant with mascarpone which seemed like a strange combination at first but was really refreshing and had well balanced flavours after eating it.  The slow cooked roast beef with creme cheese stuffed baby belle peppers was also very good, the roast beef was tender and I especially loved the tangy belle pepper encased in the middle.

 
We had finished the savoury plate but where was my scones…? It wouldn’t be a high tea without scones. We were well into eating the desserts when a plate of freshly baked, still warm scones with double cream and strawberry jam came covered in a napkin. Eagerly we unwrapped the plate and found petite scones as opposed to the rather dense and large scones that I’ve become accustomed to seeing. None the less I slather each scone with jam and double cream – delicious little morsels but was rather like a buttermilk cake texture. There were also scones with sultanas but I honestly cant remember if I ate it or not…so no comment.

After a break, we continued on and tackled the sweet plate. The chocolate cream with exotic fruit caramel and candied walnuts [not pictured] was my first pick, the exotic fruit caramel tasted like passionfruit and I don’t think mine had any walnuts in it either. It was really creamy and a little too sweet for my liking. The surprise came from beetroot and cherry cupcake which though did not have the dominating flavours of beetroot or cherry it was a pretty red hue and sweet to eat. The impressive Marie Antoinette fondant sitting atop the lime curd meringue tart was too pretty for me to eat, but I loved the tangy lime curd and the thick buttery tart – this was a huge serving. And of course, a Marie Antoinette themed high tea would not be complete without a macaron, I believe most of us saved this till last – the piece de resistance macaron with fresh blueberries. It was an alarming vibrant blue and extravagant with fresh blueberries offsetting a very thick chocolate ganache center.

Though the service was slow at times, our waitress was lovely, very accommodating and advised us kindly on what each type of tea was and never rushed us. We stayed well into the evening (until 6:30) lazing away the saturday afternoon over sweets, tea and a healthy dash of gossip all whilst growing our food babies.

 
Marie Antoinette’s High Tea The Westin Sydney

  

"there is nothing new except what has been forgotten"
 
 
blt and deviled egg finger sandwich

 
slow cooked roast beef with creme cheese stuffed baby belle peppers

 
kiwi and orange croissant with mascarpone

   
JING tea

 
scones with double cream and strawberry jam

"let them eat cake!"

 
beetroot and cherry cupcake

 
lime curd meringue tart


the piece de resistance
macaron with fresh blueberries

The Lobby Bar & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Baroque Bar Bistro Patisserie

The long weekend passed we headed up to Port Stephens to celebrate Angie’s birthday, but before that we also celebrated her birth date dinner at Baroque Bistro Bar Patisserie (88 George St, The Rocks). The restaurant is located inside a heritage building along Hickson road so you get a great view of the Harbour Bridge. The space is amazing with high ceilings, an open kitchen with an industrial feel with its concrete floors and visible piping but also somewhat rustic where bouquets of flowers were placed.

Lucky in securing a last minute booking, 4 of us were on time and seated, perusing the menu while waiting for the birthday girl. While waiting for the rest of the party we did endure some dirty looks from the waiter…and ordered shortly after the arrival of the rest of the party. We ordered entrees to share between couples and 5 mains since the birthday girl was not hungry from scoffing down a bag of chips prior. Having noticed this, the waiter abruptly and rather rudely told us there were only 5 mains when we were a party of 6 and continued to roll his eyes when we told him one main would be shared between two. He then took our menus, plonked them at reception and brought us a complimentary bowl of baguette slices with olive oil for dipping – in which there were only 5 slices of baguette which was kind of like a rude slap in the face for me when clearly there was 6 of us. However, as soon as the bowl was empty an attentive waitress refilled it with 7 pieces of bread this time. If it was a genuine mistake fine, but is rather unprofessional if it wasn’t – this really irked the bf.

My entree which I shared with the boy, Ballotine of spatchcok and puy lentilswas lovely with the berry? sauce and I especially loved the lentils, while the others had an entree of Ocean Trout where the plating was so so pretty. It was hard for me to decide my main as I wanted to try the more traditional Plats du Jour of Truite grenobloise but opted for the scallops and foie gras main. Glad about my decision because the foie gras was the best I’ve yet had and the scallops were huge and juicy. Bill of course chose the bavette steak which was cooked a little less than medium rare but came atop a mountain of fries.We also ordered sides of Creamy Paris Mash $9 [not pictured] which was deliciously smooth and Green Beans garlic butter $9 [not pictured] which were vibrant and crisp. I was most looking forward to the desserts because I LOVE La Rennaissance patisserie and desserts definitely did not disappoint. Helen had Vanilla crème brulée, pistachio ice cream $16 [not pictured], I remember the pistachio ice cream was delicious and I had the blood orange souffle which was light and fluffy as a cloud, a divine chocolate sorbet and I especially loved the rich blood orange chocolate cigar.
Though the display cakes and macarons look amazing, honestly I have no desire to dine here again – I can always get beautiful cakes and pastries at La Renaissance anyway right? or am I right? It’s a shame the brunch menu is so tempting and the location is really rather nice, but the fact that the service is terrible really puts me off. I don’t think I’ve had service this bad in a very very long time it wasn’t welcoming, he was arrogant, unfriendly and unprofessional. Basically he did not smile the whole night and did not want to serve us – actually he did smile once and chuckled when we only ordered two desserts since everyone else was full but we just thought he was being nicer as it was coming close to bill time aka tip time. The service was dismal and you wouldn’t expect it anywhere and it really ruined the night for me, though the food did not disappoint and desserts were definitely worth the wait.

 


Baroque Bistro Bar Patisserie


oOoo pretty


Entree of Ocean Trout
[fail I don’t have the name of this dish and didn’t take a photo of my entree Ballottine of spatchcock, puy lentils, burnt onion cassonade ]


Confit shoulder of Bangalow sweet pork, harissa, green peas à la française $29


Confit duck leg, grilled leeks, cucumber, bigarade sauce $29


Scallops, foie gras cream, paris mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke,
ecshallot gastrique, crisp bread $32


Steak, eschallot jus, frites $29


Blood orange soufflé, Valrhona chocolate sorbet $16


AWESOMENESS

Baroque | Bistro Bar Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit x 2

October is always so much fun when the Sydney International Food Festival rolls into town because you’re so spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Unfortunately because I don’t work in the city I can’t really enjoy Let’s Do Lunch so I take full advantage of Sugar Hits on offer.

The first Sugar Hit I went to was just after the long weekend passed, having gone away for the weekend I though it would be nice to catch up with mum over an indulgent sugar hit. I decided to book Azuma Kushiyaki Bar & Grill (501 George St Regent Place)  rembering last year of its popularity, so much that they were booked out of Sugar Hit for the whole month of October, extending it into November. Azuma were once again offering an East meets West dessert plate, which I was really looking forward to as last year they served mochi – one of my favourite Japanese foods.

The East meets West dessert tasting plate was again served in the small bento boxes with a choice of Brown Brothers Orange Musct and Flora wine, Hennessy XO or Japanese green tea. Being the responsible desginated driver I opted for the green tea which was lovely and very refreshing after so many sweets, while mum chose the dessert wine. The box I tackled first included a Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis and a Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Coulis centre and freeze dried Raspberry Flakes. The panna cotta was disappointing for me as it didn’t have that jelly wobbly texture but was more a creamy, thick yoghurt texture. Poor mum, she loves panna cotta so saved it till last but was sorely disappointed too. On the other hand the chocolate mousse cake was fluffy with the raspberries balancing out the sweetness of the Belgian chocolate. After polishing those off easily I moved onto the other box starting with the Petit Almond Financier. The second box also contained a Green Tea Ganache Tart, Wasabi Ganache Tart and a macaron. The Green Tea Ganache and Wasabi Ganache tart were both encased in a beautiful buttery tart. The Green Tea Ganache Tart was full of green tea flavour which is sometimes lacking in green tea flavoured desserts. My favourite dessert of the night was the Wasabi Ganache Tart which the waitress warned us would be a ‘little bit spicy’, but I didn’t believe her until I was hit by this intense zing of wasabi followed by a mellowing rich chocolate ganache – it was delicious!!! I wish they would add this to their Azuma Patisserie Cafe menu. The last dessert was the super-Japanese-squeal-inducing macaron with a cute face. The macaron flavours changed depending on the day, I had a lemon macaron while mum had an orange macaron.I really enjoyed the Sugar Hit from Azuma and I would probably go back again just for the Wasabi Ganache Tart – it was that good.

 
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis, Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Coulis centre and freeze dried Raspberry Flakes and mum’s Orange Macaron


Green Tea Ganache Tart, Lemon Macaron, Wasabi Ganache Tart and Petit Almond Financier

 
The following night, looking for a place to try and also scoping out potential restaurants for our upcoming anniversary dinner, Bill and I ended up at the Ocean Room (Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay) for my second Sugar Hit. As soon as I walked into the restaurant I was in awe of the huge space, high high ceilings, pretty view and the huge chandelier above the bar. Not in the mood for wine, I asked if the wine could be substituted for a coffee but was turned down, so I ordered a latte (I was a bit miffed about being charged $4.50 for a latte, but it was really good coffee!) and Bill had the Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora. Their Sugar Hit was a Black Sesame Blancmange with Umeshu-marinated Forest Berries served on an interesting slanted plate. The blancmange was firm yet silky and had a sweet subtle black sesame flavour and was sitting in a pool of cream. It also came with a crumbly pastry sort of like a sable? The service was so-so (wham, bam thank you maam) as the waiter failed to tell us what our Sugar Hit consisted of, leading us to an intense guessing game and a quick check of the iPhone.

 
Black Sesame Blancmange with Umeshu-marinated Forest Berries
 
I guess I much preferred having a selection of desserts from Azuma or a dessert plate with different components rather than the un-described Sugar Hit from Ocean Room. I find it disappointing to see some restaurants this year offering Sugar Hit where you choose one of their desserts from their menu, I guess because I want to try a new creation or tasting plate it defeats the purpose for me, if I can have it anytime. I want to try a Sugar Hit from a hotel next! 🙂  

Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon

Sydney Food Blogger Mad Hatter Spring Picnic

So I can be terribly shy, but I worked up the courage and spent 5hours of my Saturday mingling and meeting great new people and making new friends, as well as taking loads of food photos and devouring various goodies, joining 40 or so food bloggers at a "Mad Hatter" themed Sydney Spring Picnic. It was held at Centennial Park on a gloomy looking Saturday, which may have been a blessing in disguise – if it was stinking hot my fresh cream would have melted…

It was a potluck picnic, so I had spent the night before making macarons for the 2nd time – this time I made raspberry, lemon and white chocolate macarons. The first batch I made failed and were overcooked and too crunchy… so I gave them to Helen and she loved them crunchy yay for no wastage. The batches after this were perfect but still lacking the pinkish colour I wanted, perhaps more food colouring next time. To make up for the lacklustre colour I decorated them each with a small edible rose petal. Macarons weren’t enough so I also made a chiffon cake using a blend of Earl Grey and Exotic Fruit tea (both from Taylors of Harrogate) and topped it off with fresh cream and a sprinkling of rose petals.

 
I had a freakin fantastic time on Saturday, all thanks to all the very friendly food bloggers. A big thank you to Karen from Citrus and Candy and Billy from A Table For Two (you can watch an awesome video of the hats at A Table For Two)
Also, my name tag kept falling off, so if you were there and I didn’t get around to saying hi – my name is Ayana and I was wearing Minnie Mouse ears 😀 It was nice to meet you all.

Of course being a food bloggers picnic, you’d expect the picnic spread to be amazzzing – and it was!! Everything was delicious!! Take a look for yourself as you drool over the next few photos…

 
My dish – Earl Grey tea Chiffon Cake and Lemon, White Chocolate Macarons

Sydney Food Bloggers Spring Picnic

 
AWESOME Chocolate and Salted Caramel cake by Anna from A Diary of a Ladybird

 
Mini Burgers and Shortbread Tartlets by Fat Belly Club

 
Mad Hatter cupcakes from YaYa’s Yum Yums

 
Kuih by Rosalind from Rasa Rosa

 
Cake Pops from Sugarlace

 
Broccoli Muffins from Eat Show Tell
How freakin cute is the lunch box!!!!

 
Thai Fish Cakes by Anita from No Red Meat
(Kitchen-Aid worthy!!!!!)-recipe at her blog

 
Pinataaaa
 

Thank you Bill for encouraging me to go because I had a blast 🙂

Hamburger CAKE! from Ella’s Patisserie

I love love love Ella’s Patisserie (Forest Road, Hurstville) – there is even a Le Cordon Bleu certification behind the counter, so you know it’s going to be good. Some people go to Ella’s for their instant ramen menu but I go for their cakes, more specifically their mango mousse cake which is DIVINE. Their fruit mousse cakes are amazingly light, airy and fluffy with a strong taste of natural fruits. So whenever there is a celebration or a birthday in the family, we get a huge mango mousse cake.

Most recently, it was my dad’s birthday so I came home expecting a Mango Cheesecake… instead my mum brought out a Hamburger cake from Ella’s Patisserie. It looked like such a real hamburger it was weird to eat it especially with the sesame seeds on top, but it was delicious – a sponge cake filled with chocolate mousse (meat patty), fresh kiwis (lettuce) and strawberries (tomato), fresh cream (mayo) and omg the "cheese" was mango mousse. The combination of chocolate and mango may sound weird but it was so tasty – we each had seconds XP


yummm

Ella's Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Chefs Gallery

So about a month ago after a coffee session at Tom n Tom, I noticed that the Malaysian? restaurant next door had disappeared and was replaced by a Din Tai Fung looking restaurant complete with kitchen gallery housing chefs expertly making handmade noodles – hence the name Chefs Gallery (Bathurst Street, Regent Place).

Not wanting to wait in a massive queue like at DIn Tai Fung, Bill had booked us a table at 630 (Note: they don’t take bookings after 6:30, so  you’ll have to have an early dinner or join the queue which starts to form at 7ish) . We were also joined by Jase and Helen, who was in dire need of Chinese food after her European tour and so it was here at Chefs Gallery where we caught up with Helen about the happenings over the past month.

The atmosphere at Chefs Gallery feels very much like Din Tai Fung with waiters constantly talking to their headsets and very attentive staff who placed a protector over his Jase’s jacket once he had hung it on the back of his chair. A difference could be that the restaurant is decorated with small Chinese artifact displays rather than steam baskets XP. Whilst browsing the menu you can’t help but watch the chefs repeatedly folding and stretching strands of noodles so of course we had to order some la mian (handmade noodles) and most of the other dishes we chose were the Signature dishes. Of course we also had to order some dumplings, however, although we were dining at 6:30 they had already run out of pork dumplings so we instead ordered pan fried pork buns which they advised would be a 20min wait.

We started off with an appetizer Pork Belly roll. I don’t usually like blanched fatty meats but this was delcious filled with crunchy vegetables, I especially loved the dressing. 
Though we were off to a good start, the next few signature dishes were disappointing – our Prawn Dumplings which were ordinary and Chefs own golden Snowflake Chicken (I think the name was too fancy here where we were just expecting something spectacular) , but the noodles were served in a pumpkin soup which was very strange to eat but nice nonetheless. We also ordered a dry noodle Zha Jiang Noodle.
Feeling quite disappointed, the Chefs Gallery redeemed itself with the last few dishes. Another signature dish Chefs own handmade egg tofu was absolutely divine!! The egg tofu was silky yet firm and the preserved vegetables it was served with made it very appetizing. And the 20mins extra we waited for the Pork Buns were well worth it – they came out very lightly panfried, perfectly smooth and round and amazingly non greasy like the ones you usually get!!!
They have a pretty extensive dessert menu divided by hot or cold desserts, so we finished the night off with dessert Piggy Buns – I just had to have these since I missed out when I was in Hong Kong. They were way too cute to eat!! filled with smooth black sesame paste. Will definitely be back for the Pork Buns and also to try the other desserts like the Pumpkin filled with lotus paste :9.

 
Chefs Gallery

 

 
Signature dish – Pork Belly roll
Thinly sliced blanched pork belly rolled with carrot, cucumber, topped with a garlic and oil free vinaigrette dressing

 
Signature dish – Xia Jiao
Prawn dumplings steamed in a fine clear pastry

 
Signature dish – Chefs own golden snowflake chicken
Lightly crumbed chicken fillet, very crispy, tender and moist served with noodles in a pumpkin soup
unfortunately an underwhelming dish 😦 

 
Zha Jiang Noodle
handmade noodles with finely minced pork, dried bean curd and soya bean sauce

 
Signature dish – Chefs own handmade egg tofu lightly pan fried, topped with preserved vegetables

 
Signature dish – Jian Bao Zi
Lightly pan fried pork buns
DELICIOUS AND CLEAN I don’t think I can go back to eating the overly greasy jian bao zi anymore

 
Signature Dish – Steamed sesame ‘piggy face’ bun
omgg so cuteee and fluffy!!!

Chefs Gallery on Urbanspoon

Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

I didn’t want to leave China without eating Peking Duck, so after a day of shopping we headed to Quanjude (Huai Hai Lu, Shanghai). Quanjude is an old establishment specializing in a traditional method of roasting duck since the Qing dynasty and have heaps of branches around China – there’s even one in Melbourne! The restaurant itself was kind of hard to find …unless you can read Chinese I guess and see a huge gold tablet with Quanjude in Chinese characters hanging above the entrance. Beneath the gold tablet is also a hostess dressed in traditional costume with a huge headdress on (actually she kind of looked like the concubines we saw at Three Kingdom TV Park) She told us to take the lifts upstairs, where we were greeted by more hostesses before being led to a table. The restaurant is ginormous – like the size of East Ocean in Haymarket, decorated with kitschy red and gold lanterns and such and the atmosphere was buzzing!
 
For me, eating Peking Duck is uncommon, coming from a Japanese family – I think the only times when I do eat it is with Bill’s family. We were here for one thing only so we ordered the Roast Duck banquet  – a whole roast duck, pancakes, scallions, cucumbers, sauce and duck soup. The waiter then informed us it would be a 40mins wait!!! until we would get our duck and suggested we order some cold dishes to eat before hand – none of the cold dishes appealed to me so we decided to order Shrimp in Szechuan sauce and Braised tofu and mushroom claypot whilst we wait. The shrimp were great to nibble on and so appetising, we hated seeing all the silver trolleys roll up and pass our table 😦 Finally after a 30min wait a silver trolley with a full, shiny golden duck roasted to perfection had appeared next to our table and we could smell the smokiness of it YUM! Then our personal duck chef came and skillfully sliced the duck skin off and deftly carved up the meat in thick even slices. Now on our table was three plates – a plate of crispy skin (glistening with what appears to be oil but it really wasn’t that oily!), a place of melt in  your mouth meat and the last plate had a bit of both. The chef also used the left over duck and it’s carcass to make us a spicy dish, which unfortunately we were too full to really eat, only nibble on. The duck was delicious, flavoursome, tender and juicy wrapped in our perfectly steamed thin pancakes which were plentiful, not like the places here where they only give you like 10 pancakes. We both really felt like gluttons but the duck was so so good and filling – we didn’t have room for dessert 😦 

 
Bill planning our next hectic day at the World Expo
 
Fried Shrimp in Szechuan sauce
 
Braised Tofu and Mushroom Claypot
 
Pancakes
 
lip smacking goodness
 
 
soooo yummmy
 

La Grillade steakhouse

Taking a break from China related posts – A few weekends ago it was Bill’s birthday. Now Bill loves his steak, so La Grillade (118 Alexander St Crows Nest) steakhouse was the perfect option for us to go for his birthday. From the outside you wouldn’t know it was a restaurant as it is a cute little house on the corner, surrounded by perfect hedges and emanating a warm glow from inside through their paneled windows. Once you step inside the charming french restaurant you notice it is decorated with a cottage feel with rustic terracotta tiles, lamps on pillars and a courtyard towards the back. We were seated by the log fire place – very nice and warm on a wintry night and with a view of the open kitchen. Although the restaurant was quite busy, with a party in the courtyard as well, our waiter was very attentive answered any questions we had and we were well taken care of by him for the rest of the night.
 
Having an extensive wine menu, however not listing any non-alcoholic drinks we asked the waiter for our options – all the usual sodas so I decided to stick with water, however the waiter kindly offered to make me a mocktail instead – woohoo! and a few minutes later a pretty girly strawbery mocktail appeared. It was so tasty and refreshing (though I don’t remember seeing strawberries anywhere on the menu). For entrees Bill opted for Natural Oysters – refreshing and clean and ready for his main, whilst I ordered the Spanner Crab Souffle which was absolutely amazing. I was a bit worried it would be too creamy making me too full for my mains but it was so subtle with chunks of crab, beautiful orange fish bisque at the bottom, fluffly and airy souffle which rose well above the ramekin – it was perfect.
 
Of course we both came here for the steaks – I had the 250g Eye Fillet – my favourite cut of meat, tender and lean and Bill tried the 400g Bavette steak. Each steak came with mustard condiments and a sauce, I chose the peppercorn and Bill had the Red Wine & Mushroom (though we both didn’t use the sauces as the steaks were beautiful and flavoursome by itself). I have never had a steak so good – it was orgasm inducing and just to die for; cooked and charred to perfection, well rested and oh so tender it required no energy to cut. I simply did not want to finish. Bill’s was a flank steak which was so much more juicier and fattier. They were both amazing and hopefully we’ll be back for the Chateaubriand. The steaks both came with a side of Potato Puree – creamy, soft and light we polished the bowl off. We also ordered a side of Green Beans with garlic butter which were fresh and cooked so that they’re still crisp – just the way I like it.
 
Dessert was the easiest decision to make during dinner – the Tasting Platter for Two. It had a bit of each of the dessesrts they had on offer; an espresso brulee, almond meringue banana fritters, honeycomb ice cream with rhubarb syrup, apple crepe and a pecan creme caramel. Quite unexpectedly the banana fritters were SO light and not heavy at all and my absolute favourite was the espresso brulee and I also loved the pecan creme caramel purely because it was unusual. We finished the night with a cup of Earl Grey tea for me and Prince of Wales for him with complimentary petit fours.
 
The restaurant itself is charming, cosy and intimate fine dining without it being pretentious. The atmosphere was great with tables buzzing and the service was attentive and the food was just exceptional. La Grillade had gotten everything absolutely right – the atmosphere, service and food and we’ll definitely be back here again very soon.

Edit Unfortunately, after checking my statement a week later we found out that they had charged us three times the tip amount we had authorised. I had called them up and they informed me their dockets had been moved to head office so it may take a while to verify my story, two days later they called me back and apologised profusely for charging me for the wrong table. However, obtaining a refund would be a long and lenghty process so instead they offered me voucher, which was fine by me as it was most likely we’d return – but I still haven’t received the voucher in the mail and it has been a week. Not so impressed with the service now, which is a shame as it has left a bad taste in our mouths 😦  Hopefully I’ll receive in the next few days, I’d hate to chase them up about this too…

 
 
 
 
 
 
   
Spanner crab souffle, shallots, coriander, fish bechamel & bisque
 
Freshly shucked rock oysters natural with champagne rock sugar vinaigrette
 
La Grillade Premium Cut 350g Bavette Black Angus 300 days on grain with Grade BMS 3
&
250g Eye Fillet Yearling MSA 150 days grain fed. Teys Brother is located at Darling Downs region South Queensland
 
All the trimmings – Potato Puree and Green Beans with garlic butter
 
Dessert Tasting Platter
espresso brulee, almond meringue banana fritters, honeycomb ice cream with rhubarb syrup, apple crepe and a pecan creme caramel

La Grillade on Urbanspoon

FOMO

Bill really enjoyed eating the crayfish/crawfish/mini lobsters (in actual fact we don’t know what they are, they’re just really tasty) from Dai Mei Hot Pot so we headed back to the same area and found a restaurant next door with seemingly long queues. Curious, we peered inside and discovered FOMO restaurant (Huai Hai Lu) where their specialty was crayfish, each and every table had plates of crayfish!! Excitedly we asked to look at the menu – picture menu with english translation!! WOOHOO!! So we promptly grabbed a ticket number and waited for 30mins before being seated.

 
Initially we wanted to order one dish to share between us which had half a plate of crayfish and half a plate of mini crabs, however they had already run out of the mini crabs.. boo 😦 So we asked the waitress for the dish which is the most popular and she also recommended another plate of crayfish with a spicier Sichuan sauce as one plate would not be enough between us two. She also asked if we wanted tissues and charged us for these – except these tissues were so cutely packaged as a FOMO brand with cute crayfish and hairy crab pictures. A mere 15mins later one plate of crayfish covered in Sha Cha sauce and then a giant TRAY of spicy crayfish arrives. Now, I must admit I usually hate getting my hands dirty and working for my food at a restaurant but there’s no other way of eating these and peeling them yourself makes them so much more tastier!! It only takes three steaps to deshell – take the head off, the whole shell will slip off really easily and then get rid of the blood line – and you’re left with a small and plump piece of white meat, pop em in your mouth for a tongue-numbing spicy but sweet and delicious flavour. Make sure you use your fingers or you’ll burn your lips and end up looking like Jay-Z by the end of the night.
 
After returning back to Sydney I did some further research to find out exactly what these little buggers are, and all I could find out was that they’re called xialongxua in Chinese, literally translating to "mini lobsters". They’re a specialty during the hot summer months in Shanghai while the hairy crabs are a specialty during winter in Shanghai. Unfortunately I also received a chain mail warning about the health risks when you eat xialongxia as they’re grown in polluted waters and are equivalent to eating out of the bin and threaten some sort of lung disease (others argue that the xialongxia can only grow in clean water). Thankfully our xialongxia were fresh, we didn’t suffer any adverse events and really enjoyed eating this mouth watering delicacy and will definately eat it again.
 
FOMO see how cute their tissue packets are!
These also lasted for the rest of the trip so we didn’t have to buy tissues at each restaurant 😉
 
Complimentary gloves, shell bowl and vinegar dipping sauces
 
Getting ready to get his hands dirty
 
GET IN MAH BELLY you suckers

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant

A trip to Cheng Huang Miao Old Town is not complete (for a tourist) without a visit to Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Cheng Huang Miao near the 9 corner bridge). 
 
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is at least 100years old, the "original" restaurant specialising in Xiao Long Bao (now selling eight different versions), which was invented in Nanxiang, but grew so popular they also brought them to Shanghai. I’ve loved these little babies ever since Helen introduced them to me during one of our regular yum cha sessions. The first time I tried these I burnt my tongue, not realising the soup inside would be so hot… since then I’ve mastered the art of eating Xiao Long Bao – dip it in vinegar with shredded ginger, bite a bit of the dumpling, enjoy the soup and eat the rest of the dumpling OR wait till the dumpling cools down a bit and shove the whole thing in your mouth and savour all the deliciousness that is the xiao long bao.

The first time we visited Cheng Huang Miao, the line for Nanxiang Steamed Bun ran for about 100m, so we decided to come back on another day much much earlier. The next time we arrived 30mins after they had opened and already the line was pretty long but we started queuing…10mins later we had not moved an inch. This is probably because each batch of Xiao Long Bao gets steamed then given so we have to wait until the next batch is steamed 😦 Lining up in the heat, surrounded by boisterous, loud old women playing whistles and jingling bells started to irritate me A LOT. So we followed a couple up the stairs which leaded up to the restaurant section, found ourselves a table and ordered three baskets of xiao long bao and two dipping sauces with ginger. To be seated upstairs you need to pay a few extra RMB, (totally worth it in my opinion) though the wait is probably about the same. While waiting for our xiao long bao we bought some freshly roasted chestnuts to nibble on and watched the people pass below on the bridge.

 
The Xiao Long Bao that I know and am used to are tiny dumplings thinly wrapped and pinched, filled with tender minced pork or crab and the best part is that distinctive hot broth that spills out and bursting with flavour as soon as you nip a bit of the dumpling. However, in Shanghai I generally found that their dumpling skin is slightly thicker than those served in Sydney where the dumpling is so thinly wrapped, it’s translucent and you can see the amount of soup.
 
 
 
Food Safety Inspection Notification – Excellent
 
Three poker chips – one for each basket :)))
  
 
Pork Xiao Long Bao and Crab and Roe Xiao Long Bao
 
Overlooking the bridge which warded off ghosts (because they can only travel in straight lines)
 
 


They weren’t the best I’ve ever had, (the best I’ve had are at Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade where they are much much pricier). However, Nanxiang Steamed Restaurant displays many awards and is known as the "original" Xiao Long Bao, slightly overrated but still probably worth a visit for a tourist 😉 It also has an "Excellent" Food Safety Inspection rating which you would NOT expect to find at many places.

Shanghai: Cheng Huang Miao

Glimpses of Old Shanghai

 

 

 
 

Walking through the small alleyways and residential areas of Old Town, you get a glimpse of life in Shanghai as we passed tonnes of street vendors, "DVD" stores and markets selling live chickens. After a 15min walk we had reached Cheng Huang Miao, it’s the ultimate tourist "trap" where you have Chinese temples filled with souvenir stores to cater for us tourists (really good if you want cheap souvenirs). The buildings are quite beautiful with the pavilions, gilded alcoves and dragons hanging off the roofs. The complex is immensely huge with small laneways lined with food stalls, drink stalls and $1 shops, making it easy to get distracted and lost (it took us several visits to figure out how to get in and get out without ending up on the other side of town).

When we visited the bazaar, they were preparing to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival so the place was especially boisterous with drums banging, cultural performances and colourful displays of dragon boats and  of course a Haibao to keep it modern. Oh, DO NOT come here on a weekend, the crowds are insane – once you get inside the complex, you’ll never be able to get out… also beware of strangers who pull you aside and shove a business card covered with photos of designer goods in your face – they don’t know that "no" means "no".

We usually came here for a quick snack  from the food stalls. At first I could not stand the place as it reeked of Stinky Tofu and I was of course scared of getting sick and weren’t sure if it was "safe" enough to eat from here so we started easy with Portugese Egg Tarts and Bubble Tea. Bill was more adventurous and ate Beef Skewers and Soft Shell Crab. I did however, have a few Giant Xiao Long Bao, sucking the juicy goodness from inside and discarding the thick skin… kind of a waste really, but it was way too thick and dry for me to eat. Besides food stalls, there are tonnes of quirky stores if you look carefully: we stumbled across "Fashion Lane" within Cheng Huang Miao with vintage retro stores and an anime shop woohoo! We also saw many stores selling tea leaves and one store dedicated solely to walking canes.
It’s an interesting place to get lost in, if you have the patience and can tolerate the crowds.

 
Dragon Boat Festival
 
Dragon Boat Festival
 
Street Food
 
Giant Xiao Long Bao
 
Fried Soft Shell Crab
 

 
Portugese Egg Tarts
 
Beef Skewers
 
Retro Chairman Mao
 

 
Cheng Huang Miao at night
 
The Bund Center, our apartment from one of the gates at Cheng Huang Miao