Monday, December 22, 2008

Adriano Zumbo Cafe - Balmain

I've heard many ravingly good reviews about Adriano Zumbo chocolate cafe so when my partner finally succumbed to my months of nagging him about coming here, I was super excited - even though I was thoroughly full from lunch.

Adriano Zumbo Chocolate Cafe

We ordered "the Younger Years" to share -which comprises of a warm chocolate fondant with peanut butter icecream and a raspberry and vanilla injection ($13.50) to share, and my partner opted for a cappaccino.

One of the first things I found interesting was the fork we were supplied with. I've never seen a fork that this before - and, when it comes to utility - it seems to be designed for the fondant~ the sharp bit breaks the crunchy fondant outside, and the spoony bit allows you to scoop the runny insides and the icecream. Ingenious!

Wierd-looking but handy fork

My partner's capp came first. When I asked him how it was, he described it with one word - 'crap'. Unconvinced, I had to try some for myself. Probably compared to Melbourne coffee, this was 'crap', but for Sydney standards, it could best be described as average.


When 'the younger years' came out - the waitress did the "injection" (syringe-filled vanilla goodness minus the raspberry as I dislike that fruit) before I could so much utter a word. So - no photo's of syringe nor of me injecting myself with vanilla LOL.

The warm chocolate fondant smelt sooooooooo nice! Sweet sweet aromas :) And the taste - deliciousness! This beats the chocolate cake at Guylian anyday!

The peanut icecream was also surprisingly good - much more peanutty compared to the peanut icecream at Cold Rock Icecreamery. Bottomed with peanut and strawberry (also again because I'm not a raspberry fan), it was a very delicious concoction. The outside of the fondant was crunchy - the inside was soft, almost gooey, mixed with ice cold icecream and all smothered with crushed peanut ... mmm.... I could have this everyday!

The Younger Years - $13.50

Overall, the chocolatey goodness from Zumbo beats the Guylian anyday! Cheaper, yummier, more uniquely presented :) Next time - I'm all for the deliciousness-looking cookies and chocolate!

Food - 9/10 (minus 1 for the capp)
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 32/40

Adriano Zumbo Chocolate Cafe
5/308 Darling Street
Balmain (inside Balmain mall)
NSW, 2041

Watermark - Balmoral Beach

To begin this post, I must give credit to my sleep-loving, not-always-full-of-patience, yet willing-to-put-up-with-me partner for he was woken up before 8am to listen to the long list of things I wanted to eat that day. The list included eggs and toast (maybe from Bills or Dank St Depot), huge chicken schnitzel (maybe from Una's), huge pork knuckle (maybe from Löwenbräu Keller), sausage + egg + my fav brand of 2-min noodles (aka "doll son noodles"), mashed potatos, siu mai, etc etc. When my partner finally couldn't take it anymore, he decided - Ryo's ramen it was! And by this time, it was past 11.30am (ie. no longer breakfast time).

With anticipation, my mind was filled with yummy tonkotsu-based thick-souped ramen and soft-shell crab during our drive to Ryo's - only to be overcome by disappointment as they were closed. Why do Jap people enjoy holidays when I most crave their food?!?!?!?!!

Anyway, thanks to my partner's quick thinking, we landed at our lunch destination before 1pm. Although I was hesitant to walk further than the lovely-smelling kiosk selling chips and hotdogs at Balmoral beach (I was absolutely starving!!!), we eventually made it to Watermark. And boy was I glad I didn't opt for the kiosk.


Presented with a nice looking menu, I was indecisive (again) and wanted the beef, the chicken and the salmon. Even though I was hungry, I still don't think I could have managed three mains. To help me out, my partner ordered the beef, whilst I settled for the salmon.


Complementary bread came first. It was warm-ish and soft and yummy. But the crust was definitely hard to break off - and yes, I did make a nice little mess on my table.

Complementary bread

When our mains came out, I was all awe and amazement. WOW!
I love it when food is asthetically-pleasing and a work of art, more so when it smells deliciousness, and even more so when it gets placed in front of me! mmm... yum.

Roasted eye fillet of beef - cooked medium rare - $39

My partner's steak, roasted eye-fillet, cooked medium-rare, and surrounded by fondant potatoes, vine tomatoes, bone marrow, and topped with horseradish butter ($39) ... absolutely wonderfulness! Smelt great, looked great, and most importantly, tasted great!

Salmon - cooked medium rare - $38

And my dish ($38) - the photo does NOT do it justice! The black stroke on the right-hand side... looks so artistically like a stroke of black paint - only edible (ie. black squid ink). The pan fried salmon was super crispy-skinned yet awesomely soft and tender below. Cooked to a perfect medium rare. Accompanied with a small toss of calamari and crispy eschallot salad, it was deliciousness when eaten with the squid-ink sauce. And pea-sauce was dribbled-on just right to complete the artistic-quality of the dish.

We also ordered two sides. The green salad ($9), and the potato puree ($8). The green salad was just tossed so perfectly - not drenched in vinigarette, yet tastey on every fresh leafy component. And the potato puree... words can not describe the buttery creaminess.

Green Salad with an Italian style vinigarette - $9

Potato Puree - $8

Overall, food wins out. Such an awesomeness lunch that my partner will never have to pull me away from the yummy-tasting kiosk and convince me to eat at Watermark again - as I would be all hands up for Watermark! The service was nice and friendly. And view-wise? Balmoral is my favourite beach, so how can a restaurant which overlooks this beach have a bad view? :)

Would I come here again?
Well, how can I resist asthetically-pleasing dishes?

Food - 9.5/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 9/10
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 35/40

2A The Esplanade
Balmoral Beach
NSW 2088
Tel: (02) 9968 3433

Cafe Mix - The Rocks (Shangri-La)

What to eat for dinner?

My partner and I contemplated for hours on end whether we should go Jap or buffet. I was dying for scallop and salmon sashimi, my partner was all for cold crab, cold prawns, oysters and lamb.

As the decision was too difficult, my partner picked - and buffet at Cafe Mix it was~

Cafe Mix

This photo was taken when I was stuck at the table whilst my partner hungrily scouted for food.

And he seemed to come back with a smile on his face.

My partner's first plate - oysters, bugs, prawns, and some greens.

I have to say, that Cafe Mix seemed very much focused on seafood - the seafood selection surprised me... alot~ but the hot food selection... well, maybe they don't expect people to want hot food after eating lots of seafood.

Another one of my partner's plates - one with scallop sashimi!!! (my first surprise). Who would have thought? My cravings were instantly subdued. Many more seafoody plates like this followed.

I have to say though, that the scallops got smashed quite quickly. If you weren't up there, getting food when they bought out the scallops, chances were - you won't know they ever existed!

My next surprise... lobster~!!! By this time, my partner was thoroughly happy happy. Again, lobster's did not last long on the buffet.

One of our many plates of shells - looks almost like we didn't eat anything!

When I finally got sick of cold seafood and went scouting for hot food, disappointment kicked in. Nice-looking hot food - where art thou? There used to be a small bar area which grilled steak and pork and lamb for you on order. It exists no longer (but then again, last time I was here, scallop and lobster did not exist). [oh, and I didn't take photos of the hot food area because I was too lazy to open all the lids (and because then other people will think I'm wierd), and the food itself was not too appetising-looking]

Mr Sushi-Chef

Not to worry - when all else fails, there is always the dessert table to hit!

Overall, my partner and I were both very very full and very very satisfied with all the seafood we ate. The service was attentive and the waitress was nice and friendly. She managed to take away our gazillions of plates of shells without giving us weird looks. Maybe she's used to it! :)
Definitely a buffet to go to if you're up for seafood. But if you were also craving hot food (and hot chips), go elsewhere.

Food - 8/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 31/40

Cafe Mix
Level 1, Shangri-La Hotel
176 Cumberland Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9250 6000

Guylian Cafe - Circular Quay

Long awaited...
I long for and await for many things in life.
Some things, when they finally happen, I'm thrilled and overjoyed.
Others, might lead to bitter disappointment.

Guylian Cafe was a long awaited occasion for me. Enjoying a brisk walk to East Circular Quay (as we parked at the Rocks to stroll thru the markets), we arrived at the chocolate cafe.

Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe

There were many enticing cakes in the cabinets, but my partner and I chose to sit down and slowly take our pick.

Window shopping for cakes.

I couldn't decide between cake or icecream - so I got a bit of both.
We ordered the Guylian baked chocolate cake ($14), which the menu promised to be a moist, rich belgian chocolate cake with guylian signature ganache. Promised, but failed to deliver. The cake was very averagely a chocolate sponge cake with a very averagely chocolate ganache. Hmmm... very very average. For $14, I would expect a bit more, in terms of taste, chocolate hit, texture, or really... just anything!

Guylian Baked Chocolate Cake - $14

We also ordered the 60% dark chocolate icecream ($5.50). I see the icecream, I see the chocolate... but where is the dark 60% bit??? Nonetheless, I still enjoy icecream - dark or not. But compared to the dark chocolate icecream from Lindt Cafe ... somewhat incomparable.

Dark Chocolate Icecream - $5.50

Last to come was the Guylian Dark Chocolate Shake ($9). In previous posts where the service was lacking and inattentive, I've always made excuses for them (eg. they were super busy). In this case - yes they were busy, but the service definately needs to be turned up a notch. I don't appreciate waitresses serving three lots of customers whilst holding my previously ice-cold drink, then look as if she is about the head back into the store until finally, she realises why there is a drink in her hand in the first place. hmmmpphhhffff.
Anyway, service aside, this milkshake was chocolatey and sweet. Just like any other chocolate milkshake I've had. Again... where is the dark chocolate bit? Nonetheless, my partner thoroughly enjoyed this shake.

Guylian Dark Chocolate Shake - $9

In all, the location of the store provides an awesome quay-side experience - it was only when we were walking towards the car that we bumped into the Guylian Cafe situated at The Rocks... for which my partner (who hates walking) was not pleased about.

I found my chocolate experience at Guylian to be truely... average - nothing spectacular. But maybe next time, I should be more adventurous and step outside my dark chocolate longings.

Food - 5/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Service - 4/10
Value for money - 5/10
Overall - 22/40

Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe
East Circular Quay
Shop 10, Opera Quays
3 Macquarie Street
Sydney, 2000
Tel: (02) 8274 7900

Thursday, December 18, 2008

El Bulli - Randwick

Spanish - two nights in a row.
I am all Spanished-out and you will not see another Spanish fooded post in a while (hopefully!).

To celebrate the end of our clinic days for 2008, my lovely clinic colleagues and I dined at El Bulli. Just last night, I would have thought that Encasa was a bit too cozy and loud and noisy - but after El Bulli at Randwick, Encasa seems spacious. But that's okay - friends like to be nice and cozy (and somewhat squashed).

El Bulli at Randwick

Before I even sat down, some of my friends were busily Sangria-ing already. Compared to the Sangria last night? mmm... more fruit involved, and tasted more alcoholy. But really, more of the same - and jug-fulls more were ordered throughout the night.


I loved the menu - quite elegant looking.

First to come - after the Sangria - was complementary bread with mayo for dipping. One of my friends found mayo on bread a weird concept but I love it (I do it at home and my dad also finds it wierd - but if it gets served at restaurants, it must be kind of normal!). The bread was very nice and soft and fluffy. Mmm - or maybe I was just so so so hungry by then!

Complementary bread with mayo.

As it was a very busy night and my company and I were all dying to dig in the food - I was unable to note what we ordered, or how much it cost, or even know if I snanpped everything. Everything kind of just happened at a blur. Or maybe I was just so elated to be finished for the year that I was unable to focus or concentrate on anything! So apologies for being grossly broad and inaccurate in my description of food tonight.

Anyway, we ordered mushies. These had what felt like mince inside, and topped with cheese. As a fan of cheese and mushies, I found these quite deliciousness.

And this, was the Tortilla Espanola. Much like the ones at Encasa, they were potatoey goodness.

A vege plate - comprising of things such as carrots, eggplant, spanish onions and zucchini. Mmm... it was drenched in some sort of oil so the healthiness factor - the veges and the oil might just cancel each other out! :)

Now this was a puzzling dish - my friend told me what it was, but I forget. Inside these pastry puff things, was some sort of mushy beefy type thing. I know, it sounds weird from my description, but really, it tasted pretty good.

These potatoes were nicely baked then mixed with tomato chilli salsa type sauce and although they had lost it's crunch, it was quite yummy.

Now for something I never had before - paella balls. Paella (without seafood) shaped in a ball and deep fried (a bit too golden) and topped with a sour creamy type white sauce. They were... uh... interesting...but I believe you can give it a miss.

And now, for my favourite dish of the night - octopuses! Drenched in herby, garlicy oil, they tasted super unhealthy but super yummy. Lots of garlicy flavour immerced in soft and tender bitesized octopuses.

Chicken Skewers. Chargrilled and topped with flavoursome mayo. Some pieces were quite gigantic, and were twice or even thrice the size of some others. The kitchen hand sure needs some practice!

And after waiting atleast 20 minutes, our chirozos came out (one plate, instead of our order of two). Nonetheless, by then, the restaurant had become so rowdy that we just couldn't be bothered to do anything about our missing dish. All that aside, the chirozos were quite tastey - as you can see, one of my friends were too eager to fork some before the photo could take!

We decided to fake a celebration and sang happy birthday when the waitresses walked around - in hope of getting some freebies (eg. desserts). To our dissappointment, none came. We did, however, recieve complementary port wine.

In all, the decor of the place was pleasant - dimmed, candlelit, cushoiny and very very snug (a bit too snug). The walls were painted with a spanish feel and the restaurant was definately buzzy - or loud - and packed! There was hardly any room to move at all!

Nonetheless, the food was decent, and slightly less pricey than Encasa (I think).
What I think would draw me to this restaurant again, would be it's name - if I can't eat at the real El Bulli, atleast I can eat at the fake one~! :)

Food - 7/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 24/40

El Bulli
40 St Pauls Street
Randwick, 2031
Tel: (02) 9398 2027

Encasa - Sydney

After long long long discussion about where to eat out, the final decision came down to Encasa.


Because it is bookable compared to small Thai places.
So, spanish it was.


Although we had booked for 7.30pm - we were still told to stand outside ... long enough for me to hear my stomach rumble.

When our table was ready for our hungry crowd, lot of food was on the agenda - along with jug-fulls of Sangria.


As I was unable to be everywhere on our hungry table, I only taken a sample of the food we ordered that night. And since it was tapaz style, for some dishes, I could only rely on my friend's reactions to gauge the yumminess of the dish.

There was the Gambas con Alioli ($12) which translates to grilled prawns which smell deliciousness. As my friend ate with such delight - sucking the juices from the prawn-head and piling fresh made garlic mayonnaise on the meat, it must have been pretty alright! (that - and the fact that one of my non-seafood-eating friends actually ate one)

Gambas con Alioli - $12

As previous visits to Encasa had taught us that the normal chirozo's were super oily, we opted for the alternative - having the chirozo's soaked in cider - Chirozo a la Sidra ($10). Although to me, it felt just as oily, it was still tasty!

Chirozo a la Sidra - $10

A small Garlic Pizza ($4.50) with a tomatoey, garlicy base was picked by someone on our table. It smelt nice but looked less impressive (size-wise) when compared with our large Finca pizza ($20.50). The Finca was topped with chicken, pesto, roasted red capsicum, onion and olives. The roasted red capsicum looked (and tasted) too much like sun-dried tomatoes so I couldn't resist the urge to pick them off my slice and pass it on to my lovely friend on my right. As for the olives... I managed to grab a slice that didn't contain any!!! :)

small Garlic Pizza - $4.50

Finca large - $20.50

There was also baby octopuses (octopii???) grilled, and drenched in oily herby nice tasting stuff (Pulpo a la Plancha - $13). It was very nice and tender and juicy.

Pulpo a la Plancha - $13

I know that this chicken skewers dish looks quite expensive for $11 - but really, there used to be another large clunck of chicken on it! But as I was too emersed in the food on my plate, I was too slow in catchin the photo before my fellow friends digged in. Nonetheless, when my friend slowly and delicately ate this Pinchos de Pollo con Mojo ($11), which is chicken skewers with sauce comprised of red capsicum, olive oil, cumin and vinegar, she described it as "lemony, herby, and mmm".

Pinchos de Pollo con Mojo - $11 (there were three of them)

Now for my favourite vege-based dishes. There's the Tortilla Espanola ($7) - omlette with potato and onion, the Patatas Bravas ($8) - fried potato with garlic mayo and spicy tomato salsa, and the Champinones al Ajillo ($8) - deliciously sizzling mushies drenched in herby, garlicy sauce. Yes, I do realise that everything seems to be described as herby and garlicy, but that's seriously how it seems like to my taste buds!

Anyway - the tortilla tasted pretty average - not much more than a potato bake minus the cheese. The potato's with garlic mayo were deliciousness as was the mushies. Everytime I eat the mushies, I feel super unhealthy as they seem to soak up lots of oil - but, I still couldn't refrain from eating them.

Tortilla Espanola - $7

Patatas Bravas - $8

Champinones al Ajillo - $8

I guess the bad thing about spanish places is that they seem always very cramped and very echoey - so much so that I struggled to hear the person who sat infront of me (who really, was less than 1m away). You could call this "vibey" or you could call it "noisy, stuffy, and headachy" - depends on how you look at it. The service wasn't instantly there when you needed it, but they sure were busy!

Food - 7/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 5/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 23/40

423 Pitt St
Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9211 4257