Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Casa di Nico - King Street Wharf

For a large group gathering, we braved Casa di Nico at King Street Wharf (next to Cargo Bar). But as there were quite a few of us, we were spread over 2 long tables. The proximity and the noise level at the restaurant made it slightly more difficult to communicate with those not immediately near you.

The four of us who were closest to each other decided to share a few dishes. For starters, we had a woodfired pizza bread ($11.50). It looked alright and it smelled nice and herby. Unfortunately, it tasted really really bland. Yes it was nice and soft and bread-like, but other than the taste of plain bread, there was nothing to it. The herbs didn't stand out in taste. There was no salt. There was no cheese. Nada.
Woodfired pizza bread - $11.50
A side of greek salad ($10) was ordered with a prawn fettuccine ($28), and two pizzas - the Capricciosa ($26) and the Calzone Salssicia ($26). The prawn fettuccine was probably my favourite of the four items we ordered, and even then, it was rather average. The fettuccine was mixed with a healthy dosage of tomato sauce and an almost undetectable hint of chilli, garlic and basil. Of course, there were king prawns a plenty. The Capricciosa pizza was topped with ham, mushrooms, olives, tomato and artichoke. It wasn't bad pizza, but it wasn't amazing pizza. Likewise, the calzone (folded pizza) was loaded with Italian sausage, olives, spinach, semi-dried tomato and pesto. It was nice and cheesy (unlike the other one) but again, nothing too spectacular. And lastly, the side Greek Salad - though had a healthy heap of cucumber, tomato, red onion, kalamata olives and some scattered fetta, was nothing much to write home about.
Greek Salad - $10

Prawn Fettuccine - $28

Capricciosa pizza - $26

Calzone Salssicia - $26
I also ordered a coffee to finish off the night. The affogato ($7) came with a nice shot of espresso and your normal vanilla icecream ball. 'Twas alright.
Affogato - $7
So all up, food here is pretty average. The waitresses are too busy to provide good attentive service, but I'm sure they kind of try... ish?

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 26/40

Casa Di Nico Italian Restaurant
The Promenade, King Street Wharf
Sydney NSW 2000 
Tel: 1300 989 989

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Se Jong - Campsie

Campsie on a Saturday is a bustling destination. Shops, people and restaurants all round. As we like Korean food, we walked up and down in search of a decent looking Korean restaurant. As it was around 2pm and most people had finished lunch, we weren't able to gauge the restaurant's quality by the crowds present. Instead, we just called a Korean friend to see where they like eating. And they directed us to Se Jong (near Woolies).

We were greeted by yummy side-dishes galore. My favourite was the seaweed salad. The others were tofu/fishcake strips, 2 types of kimchi and a bean-sprout salad. All were quite yummy.
In terms of actual dishes, I opted for the Gomtang soup ($11). This was a very tasty clear ish beef broth with beef rib, potato starch noodles, shallots and a cracked egg. It was DELICIOUSNESS!!! I could eat this like everyday~ :)
Gomtang Soup - $11
Hubby went for the Ginseng Chicken soup ($20). He got a whole little chicken in the soup. There was rice marinated inside the chicken. The soup was clear and herbal and subtly ginsengy. The chicken was succulent and devoured by hubby. I think he liked it muchly as a bit of a healthy change.
Ginseng Chicken Soup - $20
Food here is quite good. Sizzling hot soup on a cold winter's day is just awesomeness :)

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 29.5/40

Se Jong
68-72 Evaline St
Campsie NSW 2194
Tel: (02) 9718 4039

Sunday, August 19, 2012

N2 Extreme Gelato - Chinatown

Liquid Nitrogen!
Its the 7th element on the periodic table.
It's also the element that generates awe and amazement as it's used to instant freeze things, generating a smoky foggy haze as the dry ice is taken out of it's container. Recently featured multiple times on MasterChef to make icecream, the new shop N2 has capitalised on the fascination. 

There are beakers and conical flasks and multiple mix-masters used here to make your icecream on the spot. The different flavours (both inventive and traditional ones) are written on the blackboard and changes on a regular basis. The icecream creators are lab-coat wearing "nerds" all led by the super super super charismatic and OTT friendly dude who takes your order on his i-pad.

So pretty much happens is that the icecream creators pours a flavoured smoothy concoction out of a conical flask into the mix master, then pours in the magic ingredient - liquid nitrogen, whizzes it for a bit and whala! ICECREAM! (of course, there are the theatrics of cold icey smokey haze in the midst of it all). For my first go at N2, I opted for the 'buttered popcorn' flavour. (There were also other flavours available of this night including blackberry/red current cheesecake, cookies and cream, earl grey infused caramel, stock standard strawberry, mango, very boring vanilla, & plain old chocolate.) My buttered popcorn flavour was super popcorny in flavour, really quite rich and slightly buttery/salty too! It was AWESOME! And I'm not sure if it's due to the dry ice, or the super windy cold night, or just psychological - but the icecream seemed not to melt quickly :)
1 scoop buttered popcorn - $6
If I worked in the city, I'd be coming back to this place again and again and again. Lucky I work far far away from this temptation!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 7.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 31/40

N2 Extreme Gelato
43/1 Dixon St

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WowCow - Darlinghurst

The new craze in town seems to be Froyo. Although it's been around for quite some time, it seems to have really hit off with froyo places popping up all over town. Hubby LOVES froyo. So before dinner one night, hubby dragged me to the nearest froyo place which so happened to be WowCow.

WowCow is like all the other froyo places - yes, it's natural. yes, it's fat free. yes, it's healthy blah blah blah. There's a couple of flavours of frozen yoghurt to choose from (e.g. original, chocolate, strawberry, green tea etc) and a cabinet full of toppings to choose from to add on top (e.g. oreo, strawberry, choc chip etc). The difference between WowCow and the asian brands (e.g. Moochi, Noggi) is that the toppings are not  included in the price. Instead, with each topping, you are paying just that little more - meaning that overall, your froyo is slightly more pricey.
I had a sample of the chocolate froyo here - it tasted alright ish~ More chocolate soft serve tasting than yoghurt tasting. Nonetheless, hubby is a fan of the original flavour and got it with mochi and strawberries this time. He loved it! But he seems to love all froyo so it's probably not a good measure of how good this place is...
original flavour froyo with mochi and strawberries
So I guess Froyo at WowCow is a bit pricier than some other places (for what you get), but when you're a froyo lover with no other froyo shops around to choose from, you tend to buy it anyway.

Food - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 27/40

WowCow (Darlinghurst)
2/304 Victoria Street
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9326 0400

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chatime behind the scenes tour

Chatime originates from Taiwan and since 2009, there has been multiple franchises  (soon to be 50) popping up all over Australia. Hubby and I have quite liked this tea shop for sometime now but have mainly just stuck to the same one drink - mainly the premium pearl milk tea with grass jelly - so when we were contacted by Chatime to see how they run their successful business, we were delighted to go for a ride~

We were met by the friendly regional store manager - Jess, who showed us the ropes. The knowledge that flowed out of her just blew us away! Apparently, every morning, the tea is freshly brewed and re-brewed throughout the day as they run out. The brewed tea is only meant to be kept for 4 hours max~ There are 6 staple teas: brown rice, jasmine, roasted, oolong, assam black tea, and the sun moon lake (also a black tea). All the teas, the toppings and like EVERYTHING (except dairy products) are imported from Taiwan.

different tea bases
We were allowed to sample each of the brewed teas. Usually, all teas taste the same. But after this tasting, I realised that I was so so sooooo wrong! Each looked quite different and tasted quite different. The brown rice tea tasted more Korean. The rice flavour really shone through but at the same time, it was nice and light. The jasmine green was strongly tea-tasting yet mild ish whilst the roasted green tea smelled awesome and seemed to bring out a slightly more bitter ish flavour. The oolong didn't leave any strong lasting image in my mind, nor did the assam, other than that they tasted like tea but the Sun Moon Lake black tea (which originates from Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan) was crazy thick and floral in smell and taste. So with these 6 tea bases, you can make milk teas, tea lattes and fruit teas.

Like their teas which are brewed fresh daily, some of their popular toppings are likewise made daily. The rice cooker looking thing is the pearl-making machine. It takes around 2-3 hours to prepare the pearls (hence when they run out at the end of the day, they are not making anymore just for you). The grass jelly, egg pudding and fig jelly are also made daily. Other jellies and beans come (again from Taiwan) from bottles and cans).
pearl making machine
from left to right: aloe, sago, fig jelly, coconut jelly, grass jelly, lychee jelly, egg pudding, rainbow jelly, grape jelly, pearls, coffee jelly and red bean

We sampled all their toppings (except malt - as their shipment from Taiwan was held up in customs). There was aloe, sago, fig jelly, coconut jelly, egg pudding, rainbow jelly, grape jelly, pearls, coffee jelly and red bean. Of these toppings, my favourite was the grass jelly. It was perfect texture and awesome sweetness/herbal flavour ratio. The pearls are probably most popular of all the toppings and were a good chewiness and sweetness. What surprised me was the fig jelly. I hate fig. But this jelly was subtly sweet and more dense in texture (probably more gelatine compared to other jellies). The egg pudding is supposedly really popular amongst Koreans, and apparently many ask for lychee jelly with lychee flavoured tea. The rainbow and the grape jelly are different colours but don't taste too different whilst the coffee jelly - being similar texture, is drastically coffee flavoured (and meant to go well with milk tea).

After hearing all about the bases which make up the drinks, we were asked to choose different drinks to sample - one of each category. Their menu is CRAZILY massive and as we are indecisive people, we asked Jess to choose for us.

Extensive menu

Jess talked us through the teas as she made them for us. Each tea is individually shaken in a cocktail maker and washed immediately. Further, each tea has a different formulae of tea to ice to cream/milk to fructose to syrup ratio. AND each Chatime worker is meant to have learnt these recipes off by heart. Not only that, the workers get freaking spot tested monthly on these recipes!!! I will never be able to work at Chatime :(
The lovely Jess mixing our drinks for us

Jess picked out for us the brown rice pearl milk tea, the aloe in grapefruit green tea, sun moon lake black tea latte, sago in honeydew green tea and the chrysanthemum espresso. The teas are made from a combination of the six brewed teas except the espresso. The espresso is made in an espresso machine, with a super concentrated amount of tea leaves. Tastes nothing like the tea you get from bottles and made for tea lovers.

tea espresso machine

concentrated tea leaves for fresh brewing
The five drinks we sampled were different and tasty in their unique ways. The honeydew green tea with sago tasted sweet like a dessert - especially when I associate sago with Asian desserts. The brown rice tea with pearls was really delicious. The ricey flavour smelled awesome and infiltrated the tea and pearls in ways that makes you want to keep drinking. Whilst the milk teas at Chatime are made with cream (to bring out that creamy flavour of milk tea), their tea lattes are made with milk. The Sun Moon Lake black tea latte is not as creamy but the tea flavour is really accentuated. Never having the tea latte before - I think this just became my new favourite drink (after I add grass jelly to it).

The non-dairy grapefruit green tea with aloe was really refreshing and light. Perfect for summer! And last but not least, the Chrysanthemum tea espresso was really strong but perfectly balanced in sweetness. I felt healthy when drinking this :)
Our sampled teas: honeydew milk tea with sago, brown rice pearl milk tea, grapefruit green tea with aloe, sun moon lake black tea latte, and chrysanthemum espresso
I loved our little tour of Chatime. All the teas were amazing! Delicious, fresh, tasty, healthy - ticks all the boxes. Definitely will be coming to sample more tea combinations :)

Website: www.chatime.com.au

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fusion Cafe (2) - Eastwood

As we're about to embark on a Eurotrip in the coming few weeks, cheap and cheerful food were on our agenda. Having recalled a near miss of the breakfast menu last time we were at Fusion Cafe in Eastwood, we decided to try our luck again. Breakfast runs until 12 noon and lucky for us, we made it with ample time - even after factoring the many many minutes it took for me to decide what I wanted.

We both ordered breakfast sets. My set was a congee (my pick was the preserved duck egg with pork), a choice of noodles (my pick was the soy-sauce fried noodles) with a drink (where I opted for a honky style milk tea with coffee). All that was for a generous price of $6.80! Bargain I dare say! Especially when a decent sized bowl of congee (albiet slightly more watery than some other places) and a good plate of noodles arrived in front of my. Sure it's not spectacular food, but I'm paying less than 7 bucks for it!
congee with preserved duck egg and pork

soy sauce fried noodles
Hubby chose the hot pot with beef brisket and steamed rice noodle rolls, and a honky style milk tea ($7.80). This was tasty and the sauce was pretty good.
beef brisket with rice noodles
We chose to have our drinks served after we finished our food. I found my milk tea with coffee to be gorgeously smooth, rich and delicious! Likewise, hubby was impressed with the honky style milk tea.
Honky style milk tea & Honky style milk tea with coffee
So all up, Fusion Cafe seems to be a decent place to pick up cheap honky-style cafe food. Don't expect to be too wowed by the food, but at the same time, you know you're not paying a lot to be fed here :)

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 6.510
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 29/40

Fusion Contemporary Cuisine
127 Rowe Street
Eastwood NSW 2122
Tel: (02) 9874 2226

Monday, August 6, 2012

Three Beans Cafe - Castle Hill

Hubby and I haven't been to Castle Towers in AGES. Having practically grown up shopping only at Towers, it was a bit trippy to walk through and see all the changes that have taken place. One of the "new" (maybe only to me) additions is Three Beans Cafe which is situated next to the Gold Class Cinemas.

On this particular day, there was hardly anyone in the cafe (should definately have taken that as a sign!). We ordered coffee and breakfast. Hubby opted for a big breakfast whereas I, after much deliberation, decided on corn fritters and smoked salmon.

First off, we were charged wrongly... it was a difference of less than $10 so hubby decided to just let it be. I was comforted somewhat by decent coffee (both cappuccinos, one with skim). It was aromatic and slightly creamy ... better than a lot of other coffees you can probably get at the shopping centre.

But my comfort from the coffee very soon dissippated when I saw how they were preparing our food. Hint for anyone coming here... don't order hot food! They were cooking everything on sandwich presses ... This meant that eggs would be quite crappy and a lot of foods would simply be "reheated" rather than cooked. Alas, my guesses were right on the mark. Hubby's big breakfast was a bit of a mess - just slapped on a plate with no spare thought for presentation). As expected, eggs were crummy looking. The bread didn't seem to be toasted enough (The crust on top was good, everything else looked like it was barely touched by the toaster). The mushrooms were sauteed with butter so I guess you can't really go wrong there. And the bacon and tomato were just that. Nothing really to write home about.
Big breakfast
My corn fritters were worse. Tiny discuses of pre-made corn fritters barely just reheated. Tasted gluggy and unflavoursome. Relish seemed to be of the 'out of the jar' variety and my "rocket salad" became something else altogether. My smoked salmon (additional cost of like $4.50) was just stretched out to take up more plate space. Honestly... I've had better corn fritters and smoked salmon aboard a Qantas plane.
Corn fritters with Smoked Salmon
So would I come back for coffee? Maybe.
Would I come back for food? Definately not!

Food - 5/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money - 4/10
Overall - 20.5/40

Three Beans Cafe
Castle Towers Shop 454
Castle Street
Castle Hills
NSW 2154
Tel: (02) 8677 1550