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Grandma's Little Bakery, Alexandria
Monday, 29 September 2014 13:24
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The industrious area of Alexandria is steadily rising to become the new 'it' spot (guess we have The Grounds to thank?). I was meeting up with Liz for a needed post-exam pre-holiday catch up, however with us living on opposite ends of Sydney we chose a place that was difficult for both of us to get to. 

I arrived a bit earlier and noticed the store section at the back with its huge variety of cooking goods. Everything from homemade jams, spices, pre-made cake mixes, and home wares. My soft spot for home wares was going haywire - of course I needed a pot to put my honey in (it came with a stirrer as well!), I could do with another tea infuser, who wouldn't want squirrel shaped cookie tin - it's just a massive downward spiral... 

Freshly baked goodies - the muffins were only $1!! 

Soy Chai $5

Freshly Squeezed Apple $5.50

Liz had a pineapple juice that was sweet and refreshing. I opted for a warm chai that lacked real any real depth of spices.

Spicy Shakshuka $14.50

Along with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper, brunch is definitely my favourite meal of the day. Nothing speaks more brunch to me than baked eggs, like the spicy shakshuka I chose instead of the traditional tomato and capsicum. Two perfectly cooked eggs in Grandma's hot chilli sauce served with Grandma's bread. The fresh bread was thick and fluffy, which made great for mopping up all the sauces and oozing yolks. Not spicy enough for my liking but enjoyable dish.

Traditional Chicken and Vegetable Casserole $12.50

Slow cooked chicken and veg that has been infused with spices, almost curry like, and very homey and comfort style eating. The rice was a tad dry, but the sauce/broth of helped with that. Very generous serving as well. 

Grandma's Italian Ricotta Cheesecake $6.90

I read on the online menu that this was supposed to be serve with some sort of fruit compote, but the cheesecake was perf on its own. Shortbread crumb base and top! Innards were light, fluffy and melt in your mouth. Would of happily had seconds (and thirds...) 

Grandma's Little Bakery brings the concept of homestyle cooking and baking, as if it were our nonnas and papas (if I was Italian). On weekend mornings they have breakfast buffets as well to tie in the whole idea of eating like a family, sharing food and stories while dining together. It caters well for kids as well, which something you don't see too often and offers catering services for parties. While a great little cafe, nothing spectacular, but at least it was easier to find parking.

Grandma's Little Bakery on Urbanspoon


Gumshara, Chinatown and N2 Extreme Gelato, Haymarket
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:55
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While Italy is amazing with all the pizza in the world and seemingly unlimited supply of wine, there's nothing more I miss more than home food. When I say home food, I really just mean ramen. It's times like these one can fully appreciate the multitudes of cuisines we are offered i.e. bomb as ramen. I had a chance to finally check out the infamous Gumshara just before I left (yes, I am prob the last foodie in Sydney to try it).

Tucked away in Chinatown's Eating World food court, the centre is bustling with diners this one specially cold winter's night. What better way to warm up than with a big bowl of ramen though, right? Gumshara is specialises in tonkotsu broth made from pork bones that has been cooked for hours to release all its fatty collagen goodness. How many kilos of pork bones? Only about 120kg a day. It is thick, creamy, and rich - not one for the light hearted. Because of all the marrow and collagen that has been released into the soup it is said be extremely good for your skin, keeping it soft and supple (which is prob why Japanese people look so young still when they're about 100). 

Proudly displaying their Sydney Food Bloggers award for Favourite Ramen

There is a sign asks customers to instruct the staff if they prefer less salty or thick soup. Being a massive tonkotsu fan I urge myself to try it in all its glory. How thick is the broth? It is thick

Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles $11.50 + Egg $1.50

I was in no way prepared for the intensity of it all. It is beautifully sickening. There is so much flavour and depth in the broth, heightened with the black garlic oil and a heaping of fried garlic to give it an extra oomph. The noodles are perfect, not too chewy with a soft spring. Honestly, it was too much for both Rvr and I BUT I am willing to give it another go, perhaps thinner broth next time... 

I needed something to sweeten up my palette and there is always room for dessert, so a stop to the close by N2 Extreme Gelato was in order. Having seen liquid nitrogen used to make desserts before (soooo Bluementhal) it was exciting to actually try it and watch it before my own eyes. 

N2 is easily distinguishable on Dixon St with its crowded masses, gelato 'scientists' in lab coats, and puffs of nitrogen smoke. It is the first of its kind for Australia, now with another store open in Melbourne's Brunswick. 

The flavours change every week or so, and they have some crazy inventions that can't even compare to my beloved Messina. One scoop will cost $6, or $8 for the special items, and there is no prices for 2 scoops because it is not needed. The back wall also displays a list of previous flavours such as duck and red wine, PBJ, and Chambord! 

Baileys Mint Oreo

Rvr is allergic to peanuts unfortunately so we opted to try the Baileys Mint Oreo which was Baileys gelato with mint slice and Oreo cookies crushed throughout! It had a slight alcoholic Irish Creme liqueur taste and was minty with bits of cookie pieces throughout. Very delish and not at all sickening! The service took a while but understandable as they make it all from scratch, and they were super friendly. 

I've read quite a few reviews the constant changing of flavours and customers unable to eat their favourite flavours again, but I think this is N2's selling point and how they differientiate themselves. The wait, especially during nights and weekends, can be quite long but people need to understand that it is made to order and not just scooped out from a container. 

EDIT: Been to N2 Extreme Gelato 3 more time since, and love it every single time! My gelato love will never die ^_^

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon


Four Ate Five, Surry Hills
Saturday, 6 September 2014 17:42
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The cunningly named Four Ate Five (its address is 485 Crown St!) is no stranger to the brunch scene. For years I have seen queues upon queues of people outside this small establishment. There must be some reason for all the buzz, right? It was a beautiful and warm Saturday morning and all were out to play. There were mums with kids, friends and couples, and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs(!!!). The parade of dogs made time pass much quicker during our 15 or so minute wait for a table. 

Not for long (or at least it seemed), we were seated on the long communal table inside by a kind waitress. From here I noticed a diverse mix of customers, from the casual hoodie and t-shirts, to button up wearing men, and your Surry Hills hipsters. I guess it's true, everyone loves brunch.

Mexican Breakfast with added Bacon $19

Mexican bean mix on toast with tomato, avocado, spinach onion salsa, topped with a fried egg (vegetarians can op for crispy tofu). We didn't expect quite a large serving. Getting full from brunch, that's absurd! The fried egg was beautiful (how can fried eggs be this pretty?), but you'd expect nothing less from a cafe in Surry. Lots of flavours and textures, and the perfect decision to add bacon. Deli comments the spices from the bean mix needed a bit more heat, a la Mexican style, but little to fault otherwise. 

He also had a cappuccino ($3.50?), which was single-origin fair trade, of course. Four Ate Five also have their own brew of marsala chai with milk and honey, as well as a range of loose leaf teas and organic soft drinks.

Baked Eggs $17

Moroccan style baked eggs with almonds, organic feta and sourdough. Over the years, Four Ate Five have seem to have perfected their baked eggs recipe. Perhaps they're one of the few places that served baked eggs before it became a "thing"? The swap for creamy feta, instead of the usual labneh, with fragrant tomato sauce and just-set eggs with runny yolk is one you can't argue with. The nutty crunchy almonds def topped it off for me though. 

I also had a fresh watermelon, pear and mint juice ($6.50) that was refreshing and quite a large serving i.e. it wasn't gone in a sip. 

The lunch menu also looks very promising, so it looks like a trip back to Four Ate Five is needed in due time. The service is attentive and friendly, and there's always a great waft of coffee smell walking pass. That, along with their high-quality produce and affair with food is something to come back for.

Special thanks to Deli for showing me some photo composition skills, and bringing his camera out to play! 

Fouratefive on Urbanspoon


Cowbell 808, Surry Hills
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:27
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Saturdays are for sleeping in. No one should be allowed to wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning. But alas, the things we do for a sale. I was in dire need for some new hipster clothes, so I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed and picked up L10, Shan and DDN on the way to Darlinghurst. By the time we arrived at around 7.30am there was already a queue - how early were these people awake?! After a coffee, two hours of rummaging, and $200 poorer later, we were ready for brunch. Unsure of what was around we turned to our trustworthy Urbanspoon App that lead us to Cowbell 808 in close-by Surry Hills. 

I learned that the name Cowbell 808 came from Roland TR-808 drum machine with the cowbell being one of the sounds it made. The music theme is evident throughout the entire cafe with a super cool graffiti image of a drum machine, posters of of everyone from Bowie to Rod Steward, and a collection of vinyl records under the register.  

Nested on the busy Bourke Street, Cowbell is far from your typical too-cool-inb4 esque hipster joints we are accustomed to in Surry Hills. We were welcomed kindly by a cute old man, who was one of the owners, before seated by another guy who seemed to be in charge or related. Saturday brunch always means business so we were lucky enough to grab the last group table. 

The guy was very laid back, throwing in a swear word in now and there - far from some snobby and pretentious establishments in the area. He asks if we've been to Cowbell before and we replied no, so he takes a stab by guessing three items we will order by writing it on a piece of paper and putting it under a cup, and then gives us some time to inspect the menu.

Fresh bread ready for the oven!

After ordering our dishes, Shan decided to check us in. The guy, I think his name was Matt, saw us on our phones and gave us a good telling about being antisocial. Phones away, guys! I argued I had to take photos for my blog, as I forgotten my camera (again) that day.

Chai Tea ($5?)

Nice and warm on a chilly morning. The chai had a lovely aroma, but as someone who is not the biggest fan of overly gingery-spicy chai, I thought this lacked a bit of kick. Also, I don't mean to be picky but I wished they served it with a ceramic teacup instead. 

Affogato ($5?)

Shan had this so I can't comment much about it. I'm always one for a good affogato though - coffee and ice-cream, what's not to love!

The 808 Burger $18

Ground chuck pattie, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and Cowbell's sesame seed bun, served with spiced onion rings. This was a bit heavy as the first meal of the day, but boy was it worth it. The pattie was pink in the middle and was good ratio with the bun. Who hates when there's too much bun and not enough pattie, or vice versa? I sure do! The burger was smaller than I imagined but it was still very filling. A solid burger, but not a memorable one. The onion rings were golden crispy and made as a nice side. 

Braised Lamb Toastie with Provolone and Rosemary $10

Danzo had this and I didn't try any, but he did enjoy it. It was part of their specials menu.

Sucuk Baked Eggs $18 + Crispy Bacon $2.5

Spicy Turkey beef sausage, braised tomato, 2 free range eggs, served with house labneh and flatbread. So very Middle-Eastern with its spices, yoghurt and flatbread. Mrm and Shan both added extra crispy bacon on top, because bacon! Runny egg yolks and spicy sauce was yum. I think we all would of preferred sourdough or similar instead of flatbread though to dip and soak all the sauces in.

The Original Fat Stacked Ricotta Hotcakes $18 (changed)

Two fat ricotta hotcakes, swapped bacon ice-cream for coconut ice-cream, espresso caramel sauce, with added crispy bacon! This was probably my favourite dish, though L10 said it got sickening by the end and gave us the last bites (which I happily ate after my burger hehe). The combination of bacon, coconut ice-cream, hotcakes and the sauce was to-die-for. Perfect combinations of sweet and savoury, and all levels of this-can't-be-good-for-my-diet. Absolutely ah-mazing and I can still taste it while writing about it. I wonder how it would of tasted like with the bacon ice-cream? 

By the way, he got all three answers correct - burger, baked eggs, and hotcakes!

Cowbell 808 on Urbanspoon


Menya Noodle Bar, Sydney CBD
Thursday, 21 August 2014 14:13
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While I haven't been in Sydney for much of this winter, I was here enough to experience it's 20 odd degree days and chilling 5 degree nights. Regardless, winter has never been my favourite season, but it does mean I get to hide my ramen belly under layers of sweaters and pull overs. If I haven't already said it enough times, there is always burning fire in my belly for ramen. Having two locations and a price point you can't argue with, makes Menya just one of those 'go to' places for me. 

Gyoza $7.50

This actually came out last, as putting noodles in soup takes less time than pan frying gyozas. But at least they were pan-fried, rather than deep. I find it difficult to believe you can get gyozas wrong. Not sure if these were hand-made, but they were simple with a balance of meat and veg, and delicious with every bite.

Menya Ramen $9.90

The original signature bowl, with fish cakes, half boiled egg, pork and bamboo shoots. Shan has never been a fan of ramen after countless 2 min packet noodle style ones, but she thoroughly enjoyed this and I think that speaks volumes. Making someone enjoy something they never did before is not an easy task...

Chicken Katsu Ramen $11.90

Similar to the Menya ramen, but without egg and replacing pork with chicken katsu, which is battered chicken deep fried. DDN had this, and happily consumed the entire bowl, including the most of the soup. However, I think he mentioned that he should of got the chicken on the side so it wouldn't go soggy in the broth. 

Cha-Shu Lover's Ramen $12.90

Kntr got extra meat in his one, cause boys need their protein. He prefers a clean Shoyu broth, and being half a native Jap and having tried many other places before, he rated the Shoyu broth at Menya.

Black Garlic Ramen $11.30

I'm a sucker for a delicious and hearty tonkotsu broth, and Menya's one def ticks all the right boxes. With the added black garlic and chilli oil, this was the perf dish to end a day long of work. I also prefer the noodles and Menya for their texture, which is a bit more chewy and al-dente. The entire contents of the bowl, including 90% of the soup, was happily demolished. 

The quick, efficient, and friendly service reminded me of my Japan travels. The only downside is that you can't reserve a table without ordering food first, however it wasn't too much of a problem as people tend to dine and go very quickly. If anyone needs me, I will be at Menya... or any other ramen place, really.

**NOTE: I visited the Chinatown store three times as well but forgot my camera (yes, each time!). Highly rate the teriyaki beef udon and the chicken karage ramen. Rvr and I both prefer Shoyu over the miso base soup, but tonkotsu for life. 

Menya Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon


Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, Sydney CBD
Thursday, 7 August 2014 09:12
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Forgive the super delayed post, you were warned though! Slowly catching up with my back posts, and it's always better late than never as I always say (but that's prob because I'm always late hehe). This "late better than never" theory also applies to trying out new and raved about food joints like the famous larger-than-life fried chicken at Hot Star.

A Friday evening after work and dinner, we decided to drop by Hot Star before heading home. It was probably 8-9pm at this point and there was an already huge queue outside either waiting to order or waiting for their orders. 

Opened earlier this year in March, Hot Star follows from its first franchise store in Melbourne. This Taiwanese sensation has taken over Sydney by storm, after all we love the latest and greatest. Each chicken breast fillet weight about 250 grams - that's a lot of protein! The chicken is firstly marinated for 24 hours in an aromatic mix, before coated in tapioca flour and then fried in cottonseed oil. 

The menu is simple and easy with a range of Hot Star's famous deep fried chicken, to chicken bites, sweet potato fries, and more. Order, get your number and wait patiently. There are five different seasoning types including the popular spicy (you can also choose your level of spice!), seaweed, salt & pepper, curry and plum (which sounds very interesting for next time!).

Generous sprinkling of spicy seasoning

Mushrooms $4.90

Be careful eating them because they are HOT. Tongues WILL be burned. Quite large and plump pieces of Shitake (?) mushroom pieces, they are juicy but were too oily for me and lacked seasoning (or just tasted more bland after eating the chicken).

Sweet Potato Fries $3.90

Already being an avid lover of sweet potato anything, this was my top choice. The fries were had a tangy seasoning which emphasised the sweetness. They were crispy, golden, and delicious in every bite. 
Original Fried Chicken - Spicy $7.90

We chose the third level of spiciness (from memory) and while it was not enough heat for me, my companions thought it was too much. The large chicken is quite flat so made it easier to bite through, and not as oily as I imagined. The coating of flour is thin, and it is crunchy, moist and full of flavour (at least the bits with the spicy seasoning). It is also super hot straight from the fryer, so be careful! 

A great thing about Hot Star is that it also opens till quite late - 12 am to be exact! Great for a feed after Friday work drinks, or mid week drinks, whatever you fancy. It is simple street style order-to-go food, so there's no seating, and it can get a bit sickening after a while with nothing refreshing to compliment it. But it is well priced, and I can see the reason for its rising popularity. 

Can confirm chicken is larger than my face :|

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon


Dong Vu, Cabramatta
Sunday, 13 July 2014 21:08
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Ciao, bellas! I am currently in Florence, Italy at the moment studying and travelling around. Not to worry, I have a whole heap of back posts lined up for you all. Firenze, if I am to speak like a true Florentine, has been nothing short of amazing. There's something truly beautiful about Florence, unlike its sister cities, Rome and Milan. The streets are cleaner, the locals are friendlier, and not to mention the food and coffee! The one thing I miss about home though is humble and honest Asian food. Luckily, I got a quick fix before I left at Dong Vu.

This unassuming restaurant has been opened for more than 15 years. I know this because I sat in the exact same spot, eating the exact same dish all those years ago with Papa. Ah, the amazing nostalgia food can give.

The simple decor remains unchanged, with much resemblance to something out of a 90's Hong Kong movie. The menu, displayed in Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and English, is lined on the wall (no prices for English menu). I later learnt that the owners were Chinese Cambodian, but spoke Vietnamese as well. 

Cambodia Rice Noodle Soup ($9?)

Thin rice noodles with different cuts of meat, a few prawn pieces and Chinese veg in a clear and incredibly tasty broth. They use secondary cuts of meat though, including stomach, tripe, and blood jelly - not for the faint hearted. Garnished with spoonful of fried garlic and fresh chilli, this made for one satisfying dish. With a full belly, I am overwhelmed with the familiarity of it all. This is home food like no other. 

Stir Fry Rice Noodle with Beef ($9?)

With plenty if beef slices and Chinese broccoli, Vee got this dish was unable to finish it all. We both agree that there are other places that do this dish better as the "sauce" was quite watered down with not as much flavour. However, it will leave you full at least. 

Locals continue to come to Dong Vu for its traditional and unpretentious meals. You will see lots of regular customers, with grandpa's bringing their grandchildren. You don't come to Cabramatta if you want fancy and top tier service. You come to Cabramatta for it's authentic food, and expect nothing less from Dong Vu.

(Couldn't find them on Urbanspoon)
20-22 Hughes St, Cabramatta (There's a sign above that also says Tang Bou)