Saturdays are for sleeping in. No one should be allowed to wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning. Ah, the things we do for a sale. The sale was in Darlinghurst, and 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. By the time we arrived at around 7.30am there was already a queue - how early were these people awake?! After coffee, two hours of rummaging through stock, 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 close-by in Surry Hills.
I learn 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 under the register.
Nested on the busy Bourke Street, Cowbell is far from your typical too-cool-inb4 esque hipster joints we are too 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. We were lucky to grab the last table for Saturday brunch.
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, pretty much non-relevant comment but I wished they served in a ceramic teacup instead.
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.
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 of his hotcakes. 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!
Menya Noodle Bar, Sydney CBD
Thursday, 21 August 2014 14:13Leave A Comment / (3 Comments)
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.
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.
Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, Sydney CBD
Thursday, 7 August 2014 09:12Leave A Comment / (3 Comments)
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
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.
Dong Vu, Cabramatta
Sunday, 13 July 2014 21:08Leave A Comment / (1 Comments)
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)
(Couldn't find them on Urbanspoon)
20-22 Hughes St, Cabramatta (There's a sign above that also says Tang Bou)
Candelori's Reopening, Smithfield
Friday, 4 July 2014 06:39Leave A Comment / (0 Comments)
A few weeks ago I was invited to dine at an old favourite, Candelori's Restaurant and Bar. Since my last visit, Candelori's has undergone a huge multi-milion dollar face lift, in which they were closed for 2 months. And my, what a change.
The transformation was done by acclaimed designers, DS17, the masterminds behind Alpha and China Republic in the city. A large 17-metre marble-clad open kitchen, additional bar at the back, displays of their extensive local and Italian wine selection in glass-encased wine towers around the venue, and a luxurious new bathroom (for some serious selfies, you know).
Head chef, Antonio Rotondo, has refined and modernised all the classics in the new menu. The menu, as extensive as ever, explores all of Italy and its wonderful flavours. For the launch dinner of the new Candelori's, there were also a number of suppliers that had set up tables for us to try their fresh produce - olives, olive oil, prosciutto, mozzarella, wine, wine, and more wine!
Finniss Estate olives and olive oil is made in South Australia, but their seeds come from Italy. Nothing makes me happier than olive oil and bread, which had an intense and rich flavour. The olives was also top notch, not too salty, firm or soft.
Dedicated back bar
The main addition to the renovation is the creation of a dedicated bar at the back of the venue. A long marble bench with dark and glossy wooden touches. Every bit as sophisticated as the rest of the venue, and offers a chic place to sip on Candelori's range of cocktails and wine before or after dining. The bartender even smiled for my photo when I asked :-)
Having never seen fresh mozzarella made, this made me super stoked. I felt very much at peace watching these talented masters fondle the curdled milk and stretching and shaping the balls of fresh deliciousness. Fresh prosciutto was also sliced in front of us in all its cured and fatty goodness.
Owner of Candelor's, Ross Candelori
Guests for the evening
Fresh house baked bread
Crumbled olives stuffed with goat's milk feta cheese
I can see how these would make as an addictive snack, but wasn't my cup of tea unfortunately. The green olives were too solid for my liking, and the cheese was not too noticeable.
Now this I could of eaten the plateful of. Fresh tomatoes dancing with basil, garlic and olive oil, every bite was as good as the next. I would've enjoyed red onions in my bruschetta, though I know it's not very "traditional." The other side was some wood-fire capsicums, which I was too late to snatch up.
San Danielle proscuitto, salami casareccia, wagyu bresaola, Sicilian green olvies, Sardinian crisp bread, and parmigianno regianno - need I say more?
A little different from the usual beef or fish carpaccio, this was def one of the highlights of the night for me. The octopus was marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon, dry chilli, parsley, orange zest, lemon thyme, baby capers, and pomegranate seeds. This ensued a burst of fresh summer flavours (even though we were in the middle of winter), and made as a great light starter.
Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese
Having already eaten my fair share the mozzarella during the beginning of the night, I opted to skip to save room for the other dishes to come. All the ingredients look amazingly fresh, especially that creamy mozzarella.
Oven baked figs wrapped in prosciutto with gorgonzola sauce
Another gem of the night. Oven baked semi-sweet figs, wrapped in a salty cured proscuitto, with a rich, but not intense, cheese and buttery sauce. Absolute brilliance, I thought, as others around me commented the same.
Zucchini followers stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach
I feel like it is a true treat getting served such beautiful zucchini flowers (God bless the Italians!). A light and crispy golden batter, with soft oozy ricotta. Didn't taste much spinach in the mix, but who's to complain.
Gamberi in Tegame
Having previously tried this dish (or similar, see here) before, I was expecting a bit more. I love the amount of prawns given, but for a launch party with many guests I suppose they weren't actually able to serve it in a tegame (pan). It had lovely hints of garlic, parsley, and chilli, and made as a great dip to the bread provided.
Gnocchi with duck ragu
Potato as pasta. Carbs as carbs. This is both a gift and a sin. Fresh pillowy soft gnocchi, along with slow-braised ragu tipped me to a food baby point. I much prefer red sauce based dishes, and this dish was aromatic and inviting.
There was also margheritta pizza that was too far for a photo. Wood-fire, of course, with a lovely thin crispy base, topped with diced tomatoes, melted buffalo mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Mascarpone crepe with warm Belgium dark chocolate and crushed hazelnuts. Simple dessert to finish a wonderful feast. Nothing tops Belgium dark chocolate, so rich and smooth in flavour. To finish off the meal, we were offered coffee like true Italians. I wasn't sure how keen I was to drink coffee at 9pm on a Thursday night though.
Along with great house wine, a photobooth machine, and a red carpet, the night was a successful one to say the least. While the price points are considerably higher for the western-Sydney suburbs, the quality of dining and service speaks wonders for itself. From its humble beginnings more than 15 years ago, to an institute that is still family owned and passed down through the generations (to his sons, Christian and Robert), Candelori's warm and casual dining atmosphere is one to come to for your social gatherings.
**Disclaimer** What Em Did dined at Candelori's as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia. All opinions are of my own.