Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gangnam Korean Restaurant - North Strathfield

Previously named Jangdory, this Korean restaurant in North Strathfield seemed to have capitolised on the recent PSY - Gangnam Style craze, changing their name to 'Gangnam'. Compared to previously, there is a wider selection of foods and the incredible Korean patron ratio seems to make it legitly Korean.

We had been here previously whilst it was Jangdory and found the food to be pricey but yummy. After their name change, I think that their prices have stayed at their high point - definitely expensive for Korean food standards. But we were already there and seated so... oh well. We ordered the fish cake hot pot ($35) to share.

We were first greeted with a selection of Korean side dishes. All were relatively yummy. My favourite was probably the chili radish cubes. I even braved the green chilies and was surprised to find that they were not spicy at all! Our fish cake hot pot came out MASSIVE! Sooo much fish cake! The soup was clear and comforting (especially on a dreary rainy day) and the fish cakes were quite yummy. But honestly, there's only so much fish cake one can eat. Next time, we'll have to remember to order this when more people are around!
side dishes
Fish cake hot pot - $35
So even after their name change, they continue to attract a lot of Korean patrons. The quality of their food is good, albiet pricey. But you get what you pay for :)

Food - 8/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 28/40

Gangnam Korean Restaurant
Shop 2, 1-3 George Street
North Strathfield
NSW 2137
Tel: (02) 97468746

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sicilian - Parramatta

It's been a while since we'd been to Parra and we were amazed at the new restaurants, cafes and froyo places which have sprouted. However, instead of visiting a new and upcoming joint, we stuck with a restaurant which seems to have been there on Church St for years~

Sicilian is one of those places that we'd normally just walk right past. The decor's not too flashy although, their semi-circular couches do look which comfy. As we walked in, the atmosphere was relatively quiet and dim (slightly dead looking) but people did seem to pile in after us. We ordered the Pasta di Palermo ($24.90) and the Cesare Con Gamberi ($24.90)

We were quite impressed with the portion sizes. Both dishes came out smelling spectacular. The pasta was rich and creamy. Definitely not a healthy option but absolutely creamy buttery goodness with loads of chicken, bacon and mushrooms.Some greens and a hint of pesto and garlic was also present.
Pasta di Palermo - $24.90
I doubt that the salad was any healthier. Three jumbo sized prawns came warm and pre-peeled (for easy eating) on top of our nicely dressed ceasar salad. A good amount of shaved parmesan and some nicely boiled eggs. Not bad for an unhealthy salad. :)
Cesare con Gamberi - $24.90
The food here is decent, service is so-so and price is not exactly what I'd call super cheap (unless you are like us and have an Entertainment book voucher). However, it was a good enough place for a lazy lunch if you're in the area.

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 27/40

292 Church St
NSW 2150
Tel: (02) 9633 2259

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sepia - Sydney CBD

Sepia has been one of those restaurants that I've been dying to go to for years~ pretty my since they started around 2009. For years, things have gotten in the way, things have come up, they've gained a few hats and experienced fame and price-hikes - I'm going to blame it on everything for us to have not come here sooner. So when my hubby took me here for my b'day, I had mixed emotions. I desperately wanted it to be an awesome meal (through like 3 years of anticipation!) but I didn't want to get my hopes up just in case it's actually a dud. Luckily - our meal was astonishingly amazing!

We went for their degustation. As I don't really eat eel or lamb, the waiter nicely informed us that they could swap them out for me easily :)

We were first served with fresh warm bread and a super spherical ball of butter. It was delicious. Unfortunately, unlike some other restaurants in it's league, you don't get a new ball of butter with each bread roll that you request.
Funnily enough, we were first served with our first course - which normally sounds about right except that every other table got an amuse bouche. Nonetheless, the first course - "sushi nigiri" - was a good start to our meal. The 'sushi' was "inside-out" in the sense that the bulk (where the rice normally is) comprised of the seafood (tuna, smoked ocean trout, and poached banana prawn) and it was topped with some seaweedy jelly and rice puffs. I loved it (as I'm not a huge fan of rice), but hubby said he would have wanted real rice rather than rice-bubble puffs. The fish was quite tasty and fresh, as was the prawn.
We finally plucked up the courage to alert the waiter to the fact that they had neglected to serve us our amuse bouche when our second course was bought to the table. The waiters were in complete disbelief but after they recovered from their shock, they promised to make it up to us (and they did very well at that...). Anyway, second course was the butter poached Port Lincoln squid. The knifework on this was astonishing! Super thinly sliced - perfect each slice. Sliced to the point just before it fell apart. This meant that the squid came apart by just the gentle tug of a fork or spoon, also creating a fabulous smooth texture in my mouth. Mmm... the flavours were subtle (so subtle that hubby almost couldn't taste it much at the beginning) - but as you start to savour your bites, the aromatic butter flavour seeps through. There was also the barley miso, cured egg yolk and thing lemon rind strips to top it all off.
Next up was the NZ scampi. It was apparently cooked to perfection over Japanese charcoal. The scampi was really sweet and honestly delicious! But what made this dish amazing for me was not the scampi, not the lime, not even the seaweed (which I usually oh so love) but the orangey shellfish mousse. ZOMG that mousse is to die for!!! Super smooth, super flavoursome, super creamy and just super WOW! I can't really describe it, you'd just have to taste it (not for non-seafood lovers though).
Following the scampi, we got our first taste of what Sepia staff were attempting in order to 'make up for' missing our amuse bouche. We were presented each with a plate of Marron. The marron was cooked over  Japanese charcoal. Sprinkled on top of the marron was little crunchy balls made of the skin of the marron. The taste was heavenly. Not sure exactly what was in it, but definately a very strong, delicious shellfish emulsion was a part of it. Both of us were just over the moon with this. Amuse Bouche? Who on earth would want that?
Butter roasted John Dory was my eel substitute (I don't really eat eel). This was pan fried and swimming in citrus dashi. The fish was a little less impressive than the previous dishes. I think I would have liked the fish to have a few less seconds on the fry pan. The dashi soup was also a little too overpowering.The button mushrooms and accompanying veges were decent though~
Hubby's standard course was the charcoal smoked freshwater eel. He said that it was good but not overly impressive (I guess that the marron was hard to beat). I loved the way the puffy rice bits were presented. The eel was accompanied with yuzu curd, toasted almonds, tapioca, a hint of licorice, watercress and nasturium.
My next degustation substitute was glazed corn fed chicken breast. This was served with Saikyo miso mousse, sunflower seed butter foam, and yummy crisp fried nori potato. The chicken was tender and really tasty. Really - buttery moussey foam thing... can't go wrong with that!
The South Australian lamb that hubby got looked really delicate. Super tender pink ish medalions of lamb which came with goats cheese and sake kuzu dumplings. To tie the flavours together, there was a black olive miso vinaigrette with fennel molasses and fennel cream. He said that it tasted pretty damn good.
The next dish that came was the rolled Wagyu. The wagyu was thinly sliced and then seared. The tenderness of the beef meant that there was no problem in cutting it nor letting it melt in your mouth. It was served with a delicious chestnut mushroom puree, fired potatoes, crunchy kombu crumbs and both red onion juice and citrus soy. It was quite delectable all up.
Again, because of their screw-up earlier in the evening, we got an extra pre-dessert. We were presented with a reconstructed strawberry made of super yummy sugary toffee (complete with the little dimples you see on a real strawberry) filled with super deliciously refreshing strawberry granita/sorbet thing. ZOMG it was sooooo good. There was also a chocolatey biscuity crumb which really completed the dish - adding a cocoa element but it wasn't too sweet or overpowering - kind of balanced the sweet red toffee. This was amazingly delicious!!! They also gave us a complimentary wine to pair up with this interesting creation.
Our actual pre-dessert was a little less to my liking. it was a goats cheese icecream with marinated peaches and some sort of cakey/biscuity crumb. It probably wasn't bad - and even though I dislike goats cheese, I was still able to stomach the goats cheese icecream, and the crumbs... just peaches. I don't like peaches... but I'm sure they were tasty and sweet :) So if was unbiased - it probably would have been a pretty alright dessert.
The dessert was their famous chocolate forest. As the name suggests - it looks like a bit of a mess, but a chocolate mess ... so that's a good thing :) There was soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond praline, blueberry jellies, green tea, chocolate twigs, licorice bits (which I tried hard to avoid), and crystallised fennel fronds (for the green bits). This was topped with a sour cherry sorbet. Inside the forest was a 'surprise' - a chocolate disk holding some creamy melted marshmellowy type substance. Hubby said that it would have been more impressive if inside the forest you find a treasure chest with gold nuggets hehe. It wasn't a bad desert but I do hang my head in shame for not finishing the chocolate mix. It got a little bit too much and a bit too repeatitive after a while. That, and maybe I was a bit distracted by the arrival of the stones...
I'd read up about these Japanese stones you can get at Sepia. As we heard the next table ask about them too, the waiter explained that the stones are never on the menu but always available. It's not included in the degustation, but you can add them for the price of a dessert. As they mucked up our amuse bouche - a lovely plate of these stones arrived on our table free of charge. There were 6 stones to share, 3 different flavours - chocolate, blackberry and passionfruit. The stones really did look like stone. You have no clue what flavour you get until you crack open the super thin chocolate coating. It was the novelty factor of these stones which made me super duper happy :)
I loved the whole meal. Almost every dish was delicious and memorable. Definitely recommend this restaurant for when you want a splurge on good food!

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 32/40

201 Sussex Street
Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9283 1990

Thursday, January 17, 2013

One Dim Sim - Hong Kong

Michelin Star Yum Cha place which opens past midnight? We were so there! One Dim Sim is located in Mongkok officially - but is much more accessible coming out of the Prince Edward MTR station. We got here after an epic day of travel from Sapporo back to HK with the absolute worst HK airport customs experience I've had EVER. So it was late, around 11pm ish and I was super hungry.

So there's fluro lights for their sign. The tables are also quite packed up inside. No table cloths - just your generic hard table tops and chairs. You simply just tick the things on the menu that you want to eat, and they steam it to you on the spot. Unfortunately, as we got there quite late at night (they close at 12.30am), a few of their dishes (e.g. baked bbq pork bun) was already sold out. Nonetheless, we took our pick- and the dishes came out a bit quicker than we expected.
pork spare rib and chicken feet rice
har gow - prawn dumpling
siu mai - pork and prawn dumpling
sprouts and prawn dumpling
steamed beef rice noodle (churn fun)
The food was OK. The dumplings probably could have used a few more minutes in the steamer and bits of it was slightly cool. But there was really nothing too special about these dishes - they were quite similar to the standards you get at yum cha at other restaurants in HK, if not a little sub-par. Tim Ho Won, the other Michelin Starred yum cha place we went to in previous years was much more impressive. So I guess, if you're looking for a yum cha place in the dead of the night, yeh - come here. But if you're having yum cha at normal yum-cha having times, this is not really excellent enough to entice me to trek over here (unless you're in the area already).

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

One Dim Sim
15 Playing Field Road
Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: (+852) 2789 2280

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ramen Republic - Sapporo

One of the 'must eats' in Hokkaido is Ramen. After an intense my-first-snowboarding-session where my body refused to move, we dragged ourself to Ramen Republic, a conglomeration of Ramen Shops in the ESTA building, right near the JR station. Yes - it's a tourist trap... but at that moment in time, we were dying for yummy noodles. The famous noodles in Sapporo seem to be either miso, shoyu (soy sauce) and shio (salt) based soups. After picking a place out of the range of restaurants (just the one with the most tourists lining up), we were given a mortar of sesame seeds. This grinder was amazing! This device allowed for lightweight, non-energy needing, lightning speed of grinding the sesame seeds, leaving super aromatic smelling sesame flavour.
Hubby ordered the miso ramen with the most rost pork and egg as possible. The roast pork was deliciously succulent and the egg just magnificent. The soup base was also really tasty, flavoursome and aromatically porky and miso-y.
bbq pork and egg miso ramen
I tourist-trapped myself even more and ordered what the tourists tend to order - butter corn miso ramen. ZOMG YUM! The corn was sweet. The butter melted into the miso soup, making it so super super tasty (and unhealthy). I had to add an egg to it myself, and luckily I did so - the egg was super deliciousness~ 
butter corn miso ramen
Sure, it's not the bestest ramen we've had, but it definitely wasn't a bad one following an intense noob snowboarding session! :)

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28.5/40

Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku (Ramen Republic)
10th Floor ESTA building
near JR Sapporo Station

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Si Sun Fast Food - Hong Kong

In Sydney, you have things like Eatability. In HK, you have 'Open Rice'. One of the cafes which piqued my hubby's interest from the Open Rice forums was honky style beef burgers from Si Sun Fast Food in Hung Hom. It was talked up as one of the first fast food burgers in HK - adapted obviously to HK tastes... with super juicy beef patty and and fried egg. So enroute to visiting my relatives for dinner, we stopped by for a snack.
Si Sun Fast Food
There was a surprising number of patrons there - both dine in and takeaway - all tucked in this little fast food joint. Not everyone was eating the burger, but there were a few takers. As planned, we ordered their beef, egg and cheese burger and after looking around, I also decided that a fried chicken drumstick with chips was the way to go. If you had your eyes closed and you took a bite of this burger, you'd know straight away that it's an asian burger. Something about the way the patty is marinated or the onions that are encased in the beef that makes it very very honky. The egg is a good addition to the beef, cheese and soft bun package. Not a bad burger. Just not the usual burger we're used to. Likewise, one bite of the chicken and I could tell my hubby straight away - it's his type of chicken drumstick. Super crispy skin, layer of juicy fatness which just makes the meat melt in your mouth. Good piece of chicken I think. Chips were just meh though.
burger with cheese and egg
chicken and chips
So don't expect service. Don't even expect the food to be super fast. But if you're looking for a true honky experience, this is probably a good place to start.

Food - 8/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 27/40

Si Sun Fast Food (時新快餐店)
1 Whampoa Street 
Hung Hom, Hong Kong
Tel: (+852) 2362 1279

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mak's Noodles - Hong Kong

The Australian Dairy Company was a cafe in Jordan (on the Kowloon side) was highly recommended to us. Yes it does seem weird to go all the way to HK to eat at an Australian Dairy cafe, but our friend did emphasise the yumminess of the scrambled eggs here. And so, we trekked to Jordan on early Thursday morning to look for this Aussie joint only to be greeted by a sign which said... "closed on Thursdays". NOOOO!!!!!! Luckily, there was this awesome aroma wafting from next door - from Mak's Noodles. Wasn't opened yet, but we snacked on awesomely fresh churn fun (steamed rice noodles) from around the corner whilst we waited for this famous wonton noodle soup place.

Mak's Noodles is another one of the noodle places with a Michelin Star. Not the branch in Jordan, but the branch in Central I think. Nonetheless, it couldn't be bad!
soybean milk
We ordered yummy fresh soy bean milk drinks (HK$5), I had their speciality - wonton noodle soup whereas hubby went a bit more elaborate and opted for the wonton noodle soup with beef brisket. We were not disappointed at all! The wontons were delicious. So fresh, so tasty, so sweet and so crunchy were the prawns, wrapped snuggly in thin wonton egg pastry. The noodles were cooked to perfection and the soup was simply addictive. Hubby also liked his addition of beef brisket - soft and tender - but it did cloud his soup base a bit.
beef brisket wonton noodle soup
wonton noodle soup
So we didn't get super awesome scrambled eggs on toast, but we did get tummy satisfying dumplings and noodles for breakfast! :)

Food - 9/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 6.5/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 30/40

Mak's Noodles
G/F, 55 Parkes Street
Jordon, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: (+852) 2302 0908

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ho Hung Kee - Hong Kong

Hong Kong houses quite a few low-cost Michelin Star places. Of those, there are dim sim places, ramen places and also wonton noodle houses. Forgoing all the high-class super expensive Michelin Star restaurants, hubby and I opted to try out some of these cheap and cheerful places. One of these places was Ho Hung Kee. As we were already meeting a friend at Hysan Place, one of the newer shopping destinations in Causeway Bay, we decided to just have the wonton noodles at the Ho Hung Kee branch there, rather than to venture out to the street to find the Michelin branded outlet.

Being there rather late, we were seated comfortably. I ordered their house specialty Wonton Noodles in Soup (large HK$48) whereas my friend ordered the Shrimp dumplings and noodles in soup (HK$45). Both were very similar except the shape of the dumplings. The prawn was encased in super fine, slippery and yummy egg pastry for the wontons, whereas for the gow gee (shrimp dumplings) there was the addition of different veges and fungi. The noodles were cooked nicely al dente and the clear soup was also quite gorgeously flavoursome. Not bad not bad.

Wonton Noodle Soup - HK$48 (large)
Gow Gee noodle soup - $45
What surprised me more than the quality of the dumpling noodle soups was  the deliciousness of their congee. It was ZOMG sooooo smooth, soooo tasty and so so so so nice! Words can not describe the silkiness of this humble congee. I'm not convinced that I needed the mushrooms and chicken in the congee (HK$68) but the congee was surely indescribably good in both flavour and texture!
chicken and mushroom congee - HK$68
Last but not least, hubby wanted some steamed fish type thing (HK$95). The fish was fresh. The fish tasted nice and all but if I had a choice between another bowl of noodles/congee v the fish, the fish will not win.
steamed fish thing - HK$95
It was a delicious and cheap meal (atleast cheap for Aussie standards)30/. Don't expect TOO much in terms of service... but definitely worth a visit (esp for the congee).

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 30/40

Ho Hung Kee
Shop 1204-1205, Level 12 Hysan Place
500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
Tel: (+852) 2577 6060