Thursday, January 22, 2015

Aqua S - Sydney

We were just chilling around and checking out random stuff in the city when we came across Aqua. This soft serve place caught my eye immediately - not only because of their theme colour (which is my favourite - blue), nor their interesting flavours (salt, lemon tea, biscuit), but the look of the final product, especially when fairy floss, candied popcorn and popping candy is involved!

I walked past and immediately stopped my hubby mid-step. My brain was like "say waaahttt?".
I already didn't OTT my sugar intake. I opted for the salt soft serve (which is blue!!!!) with popping candy and fairy floss. Took a lot of restraint to not get the candied popcorn, and I didn't really care for toasted marshmellows. The result? Fancy looking soft serve which has to potential to be the next Sydney fad. (but an expensive one at that)

The salt soft serve was quite salty ... but I love salt. Salted caramel, salted chocolate... salted anything! Turns out, I think I just like salt cos salt serve is my new best friend :) The popping candy was also awesome!!! That with fairyfloss is what childhood memories are made of. I would recommend eating it in-store if you are messy like me instead of trying to run to the car in the rain with this concoction in your hand as you end up with crusted sugary crystals and syrups all over you (I learnt the hard way...).

Aqua S
Regent Place
501 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(Next to Sedap)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sushi Hotaru - Sydney

Sushi trains bring back lots of memories. High school trip to Japan where a bunch of rowdy teens filled the whole sushi train shop. Lots of wasted time in HK waiting to be seated (cos every sushi train was super crowded back in the day). Late night after-uni sushi training. Much happiness indeed. So when we were invited by lovely Sue to dine at Sushi Hotaru, we jumped to the occasion.
It was my virgin trip to Sushi Hotaru, even though there has been many good things about the place. The first thing that drew my eye was the mosaic backdrop - sets the scene well :)
the chef (off to side) was camera-shy but super friendly :)
Most sushi plates are $3, which is awesome really. And not only can you pick off the train, you can also order off their i-pads (which unfortunately for me, means a lifetime of indecisiveness). Nonetheless, we made our choices and left stomachs satisfied.
Sushi Hotaru adds three-four new menu items each year. Guess that means you can come back time after time and try something yummy. For tonight, some of the new items included a crunchy prawn and cucumber roll, pork buns and seared chilli squid nigiri. That's where my search for new items stopped and instantly, focus was on eating. The seared chilli squid nigiri was super tasty. Slightly charred flavour, sweet (sauce-wise and seafood-wise), hint of chilli, all freshness and just zomg YUM. A plethora of really pleasing flavours - took a lot of self control to not order a second.
On Sue's recommendation, I punched in the beef tataki nigiri. Being two slices of Australian Wagyu, slightly seared, topped with onion, ginger and shallot, it was soft, light-meaty tasting and didn't requite too much chewing. Much much yummier than other beef tataki's I've had in other places.
The salmon nigiri also came with glowing recommendations. A large, really fresh slice of salmon atop of neatly made rice ball. What could go wrong really! Delicious :) I have to say, I liked the salmon nigiri more than the ship sushi with salmon bits and salmon roe which was OK but lacked the wow. The salmon and avocado roll was also good but again, just like your standard. 
I would highly recommend using the screens if you are ordering sushi's with deep-fried or seared things. We took a few dishes straight from the conveyor belt - one of them being the soft shell crab roll. It wasn't bad - it's just that I could imagine all the potential - how much more awesome it could have been if it was made to order. And I guess they also have good QC on their train - every two hours, someone's checking to make sure that the sushi training around is still good to eat, discarding any that don't look appetising.
Halfway through our meal, the chef handed over a pork bun. I took it before I realised that I didn't order it. I was about to stammer out that it wasn't ours when the chef happily waved the dish back to us and told us to try. I was super glad we did. The pork was melt in your mouth. The pork fat aromas filled my mouth and the warm, soft steamed bun was there to soak up all the oils. And of course, the kewpi - just completed the whole bun for me. A bit of lettuce and some sweet brown sauce... the package was just deliciousness!
Hubby ordered an eel hand roll. Unfortunately, he felt like the eel needed a bit more sauce. He also chose the lobster salad ship sushi. I thought it was good (but I like all salad-dressinged things) but hubby thought it was so so. Nonetheless, we ended the meal with a bang as I ordered two more really yummy items (which were a bit similar but oh so yummy) - the seared scallops (with and without the chilli and sweet sauce) and the seared chilli salmon. It's similar in flavour in some ways - but the fact that one was a salmon and one was a scallop allowed you to differentiate and look at each sushi with renewed appreciation.
All up, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Sushi Hotaru. Tasty and fresh (especially when ordering off their fancy screens), definitely a good choice for a fast quenching of sushi craving. Moreover, if you eat here enough, you can collect stamps on their loyalty card - one stamp for every $20 - 10% off for every 5th stamp! Happy hour here is from 2.30pm to 5.30pm where miso soup or green tea is given for free :)

Sushi Hotaru (Town Hall)
125-129 Bathurst Street
NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9264 1630

We dined as guests of Sushi Hotaru and SD Marketing

Friday, January 9, 2015

Devon on Danks - Waterloo

We hadn't been out to brunch in a while as I was sick of paying ludicrous amounts for hipster avocado smash on toast. So when hubby took me to Devon on Danks, I was a little weary... especially as it looked exactly like Danks Street Depot (a place where I've had really good and really average experiences).

Agreeing to sit on the high seats meant instant seating for us. My coffee was actually pretty delicious. Smooth and aromatic.
skim cappuccino
Foodwise, hubby got the soft shell crab roll. Crispy soft shell crab sprinkled with sichimi pepper, nori sheets, wasabi mayo, tobiko, pickled cucumber, daikon, and carrot, all served in a soft hot-dog style bun. It was actually really tasty. Really good textures and loads of flavour.
soft shell crab roll
I couldn't look past the 'Dr Seuss's Green egg and ham'. This was a juicy caramelised thick cut bacon - half meat and half fat - super duper tasty and succulent, with a 63 degree egg topped with pea puree and green tomato ketchup. Zomg YUM! But definitely not something you could eat lots of... 
green eggs and ham
There were cronuts and donuts displayed across the counter, all looking beautifully delicious. I simply couldn't resist but to order the Milo and chocolate ganache cronut. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving. Or maybe, I'm just not a huge fan of cronuts? It wasn't crispy or flaky enough and had a bit too much oozy custardy ganachy stuff inside... I think it's just me. I'm sure it's a good cronut and loads of people around us were ordering multiple cronuts.

Milo Cronut
I quite liked the food here but it does come at a price. Although there's more seating here compared to their Surry Hills branch, there's probably still a bit of a wait for seats at popular times. The food is fresh and comes relatively quickly and service is efficient but not really that attentive.... but overall - worth a try.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 29/40

Devon on Danks
2 Danks Street
NSW 2017
Tel: (02) 9698 7795

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Public Dining Room - Balmoral Beach

Before Christmas, we took my parents to Public Dining Room at Balmoral Beach. I love this beach and I love all the eating places around this beach but I have never actually dined at Public Dining Room before. Having flicked through the menu, I was full of anticipation.

It was an awesome summer's day and so, a table by the window gave us a fabulous view of the beach and all the beachgoers. And as the sun doesn't set until after 8pm, we had this amazing view for a while.

The four of us ordered two starters to share - the scallops and the smoked ocean trout. The scallops were seared to perfection and served with sweetcorn puree and chorizo. Did you know that scallops are perfect pairs with corn and chorizo? Cos this was absolutely deliciousness!!! The cured ocean trout was also refreshing, really fresh tasting with flavours balanced well.

scallops with sweet corn puree and chorizo

cured ocean trout
Perhaps they had too many customers and were understaffed but our mains took seemingly forever to come... Luckily, when they did come, it was really good! Hubby had the Brodetto, which was an Italian seafood soup. This was really seafoody and flavoursome. The prawns were massive and the broth was rich. My only qualm with this was that the bread came in the soup, making it soggy an mushy... I would have wanted the bread on the side so that I could choose when I want to soak up the juices.

Mum had a really awesome pasta. Short strozzapreti pasta was served with massive king prawns, nz clams, zucchini, bottarga and a hint of chilli. I have to say, I actually really liked this slightly creamy concoction. Tasty! Dad's 'fish of the day' being wild caught barramundi was possibly my least favourite of the night. Not that the fish wasn't cooked well... it just lacked the 'wow factor' that the other dishes had. The fish got served with clams, cuttlefish, and chorizo, all cooked perfectly.
strozzapreti with king prawns
wild caught barramundi

My dish was the 'melting' huon tasmanian salmon. It was gorgeous! Sous-vide to perfection, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth. Sooo good. Atop of the amazing salmon was crispy salmon skin. Perfect pairing! Moreover, there was a little salad of purple potato, asparagus, quinoa and watercress puree. Loved it!
Sous-vide Huon Salmon

The sides that we ordered, baked broken potatoes and brocollini were both good but not as awesome as our main dishes.
We were all super full but I couldn't resist but some dessert - or at least, I couldn't. I ordered the 'four tastes of valrhona, aero style, which the waitress had lots of trouble explaning to us what it comprised of. I believe that they melt various flavours of valrhona chocolate (milk, white, dark, sweet) then pump air into it, reform the chocolate, then chop it up in various shapes. It did taste a lot like Nestle's "aero". And I'm super thankful that the waitress bought out four plates and forks cos there was no way I could have finished this on my own!!! Definitely one for sharing!!!
Valrhona chocolate, aero style

I loved the food at this place. It's a great dining venue with really yummy food. Maybe I'll try to book this place again when it's less busy as I didn't like waiting 45mins for my mains... but I guess that my food was so delicious that I could overlook it... a little.

Food - 9/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 8.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 31/40

Public Dining Room
2A The Esplanade
Balmoral Beach
NSW 2088
Tel: (02) 9968 4880