Friday, December 30, 2011

Menya Oiden, CBD

If you're ever in the city and hungering for a cheap but filling meal, Menya Mappen was always my go-to place. Bowls of noodles and tempura always went down well, but a little more recently a sister joint Menya Oiden popped up in the adjoining shop space at Skyview Plaza. Following the same ideology of cafeteria-style dining, the new incarnation as a rice bowl bar, serving rice with various toppings and a varying selection of kushiage, gives us a few more tasty options.

Ontama Suriyaki Beef Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ontama Beef Bowl $5.90 (medium)

I'm a sucker for the creamy half-boiled egg first introduced to me in a bowl of udon bukkake at Mappen, and the ontama beef bowl does not disappoint. Rice stopped with tender stripes of Sukiyaki beef and onions, spring onions, ginger and that lovely googie egg.

Ebi Fry Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ebi-Fry Bowl $6.90 (medium)

The ebi-fry bowl consists of rice topped with Asian slaw (shredded raw cabbage and carrot) and two skewers of crunchy crumbed, deep-fried prawns drizzled with a sweet soy sauce.

Kimchi Beef Bowl, Menya Oiden
Kimchi Beef Bowl $5.90 (medium)

The kimchi beef bowl presents rice with the same tasty Sukiyaki beef and onions, topped with kimchi. It wasn't the best kimchi I've ever had but there were some nice hot and sour flavours.

Ontama Tataki Tuna Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ontama Tataki Tuna Bowl $7.50 (medium)

The ontama takani tuna bowl was unlike anything I've had before - rice topped with small pieces of nori, a patty of minced raw tuna belly, a half-boiled egg and spring onions. When mixed together, the thick liquid egg yolk coats everything and the raw tuna mince adds a a creamy texture and an almost buttery flavour to the rice. I added a liberal sprinkle of optional tempura flakes and extra spring onion (can you tell I love shallots?) and all together, it made a lovely, filling meal.

Tonkatsu and Potato Fry, Menya Oiden
Tonkatsu $2.50, Potato Kushiage $0.80

Pieces of skewered tonkatsu pork and potato kushiage are sometimes part of the deep-fried selection, which changes day-to-day. The panko crumb coating is cooked to a lovely golden-brown colour and crisp but not greasy. The sweet and sour 'fry' sauce in the tabletop condiments box goes particularly well with the tonkatsu.

Eggplant Kakiage, Menya Oiden
Eggplant Fry $1.50

My favourite of the fried items is definitely the deep-fried eggplant, a wedge (sometimes a strip) of eggplant, crumbled and deep-fried until the exterior is crisp while the flesh inside is soft and creamy. Best.

Marinated Deep-fried Eggplant, Menya Oiden
Marinated Deep-fried Eggplant $2.50

The marinated deep-fried eggplant may look dubious, sitting on the counter in a small cling-wrapped bowl, but it tastes pretty decent. The small pieces of eggplant are soft and flavoursome, and topped with spring onion and some stuff I'm unfamiliar with.

Spinach Salad, Menya Oiden
Spinach with Sesame Sauce $1.20

The spinach with sesame sauce isn't anything special but it's there by default, the tiny bowl of clean greenery takes the edge of the guilt of having consumed a large amount of more delicious deep-fried things. It knows its purpose, but most days I bypass and cop the guilt to grab some more kushiage.

Menya Oiden
Skyview Plaza, 537-551 George Street, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 9283 5525

Menya Oiden on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cafe Ish, Surry Hills

Being your average uni student, my meagre income is funnelled into three main expenditure categories: food, clothing and alcohol. This axis of evil is a persistant problem for me, trying to maintain a lifestyle I can barely afford but cannot find the will to give up. Through the perpetual struggle with these first world problems, I have developed an appreciation for cheap food and sales (but never cheap alcohol), hence the reason why Tight Arse Tuesdays at Cafe Ish were a great ally to my poor abused wallet. At Ish the food is Japanese-cross-native Australian, the love-child of the labours of owner/chef Josh Nicholls and his Japanese wife/business partner Ai; and at $10 a pop for select menu items on Tuesdays, gave me my own happy food baby.

Karaage Soft Shell Crab Omelette, Cafe Ish
Crab Omelette Set $16.50

This is the dish that Ish is most well-known for, and the crab omelette does indeed look impressive. I don't eat crab but I wish I did, because the omelette is huge, filled with crisp karaage soft-shell crab, chunks of avocado, shallots and topped with a garlic, chilli, ginger and soy dressing. The lunch set size comes with a bowl of rice and miso soup - a very decent meal, methinks.

Ai's Freaking Awesome Fried Chicken, Cafe Ish
Ai's Freaking Awesome Fried Chicken $14.50

Ai's freaking awesome fried chicken speaks for itself, chunks of crunchy karaage chicken covered in a vinegar and pickled garlic sauce, topped with fresh and crunchy fried shallots. It's served on a bed of rice, with a bowl of miso soup on the side.

Wagyu Burger, Cafe Ish
Wagyu Burger $16.50

I realise this is not a very good photo of the wagyu burger, but underneath the toasted housemade bun lies a wagyu beef patty, grilled onions, cheese and tomato relish. It comes with a very generous bowl of shoestring fries served with aioli and tomato sauce.

Wag-yu Shortrib, Cafe Ish
Wagyu Short Rib $16.50

The wagyu short rib was cooked tender, succulent, fall-off-the-bone and drenched in a rich, sweet 'smokey soy caramel', topped with fresh chilli, coriander, shallots and sesame. It's kinda phenomenal. Served as set with miso soup and rice.

Croc in a Roc, Cafe Ish
Croc in a Roc $10.50

A thick slice of house-made bread, buttery and toasted, stuffed with crocodile sausage, fetta, egg and shallot, served with tomato relish. For most people, any type of exotic meat will be described as "it tastes like chicken" but no, the croc sausage did not taste like chicken. The croc in a roc was spicy and meaty, covered in egg and punctuated with bits of salty fetta.

Wattle Maccacino, Cafe Ish
Wattle Maccacino $4.10

The wattle maccacino is the signature coffee, a cappuccino flavoured with wattleseed extract and macadamia. Sweet, nutty and smooth, it's one of my favourite cuppas despite the fact that I generally dislike flavoured coffees. Also I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to macadamias but I brave the possibility of hospitalisation for this indulgence (I also bring my EpiPen).

Cafe Ish
82 Campbell Street, Surry Hills 2010
Telephone: (02) 9281 1688

Café Ish on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jamie's Italian, Sydney CBD

One of the biggest talks of the town this month is Jamie Oliver's newest enterprise, the second international incarnation of his successful Italian restaurant franchise, the very creatively named Jamie's Italian. Never having been big on celebrity chefs, Masterchefs or what have you, we were curiously driven by the hype to see what was on offer. We managed to arrive early enough to avoid the inevitable long queue for dinner and pleasantly discovered reasonable prices, attentive staff and lovely food.

Bread, Jamie's Italian
Italian Bread Selection

A selection of complimentary breads (house-made focaccia, sourdough, ciabatta, tortano and carta di musica) arrived swiftly after ordering, drizzled with pesto and accompanied by a dish of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic. A perfect way to whet our appetites.

Arancini, Jamie's Italian
Smoky Scamorza Arancini $9.50

We started with the smoky scamorza arancini, three rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella and porcini. Topped generously with parmesan, they were freshly fried to a crisp on the outside with soft melty innards of cheese and mushroom.

Crispy Squid, Jamie's Italian
Crispy Squid $12

I could never pass up the offer of deep-fried anything with garlic and so along came the crispy squid - fried with chilli and garlic and served with a 'really garlicky mayo'. This was so insanely moreish and flavoursome that my dining companions had to ration the leftover chilli pieces.

Bucatini Carbonara, Jamie's Italian
Bucatini Carbonara $12 (entrée size)

The bucatini carbonara seemed to be a popular choice, and Sam broke her no-pork rule to eat it. Consisting of tubular spaghetti with fried smoked pancetta and leek tossed with free-range eggs and parmesan, it was indulgently rich with a creamy, silky sauce. The pasta here was lauded by a sign near the entrance stating that it is made fresh daily on-site.

Buffalo Ricotta Ravioli, Jamie's Italian
Buffalo Ricotta Ravioli $21

The buffalo ricotta ravioli was a recommendation of our waitress and described on the menu as 'pure heaven', which was more than enough persuasion for the Ninja. Delicate parcels stuffed with creamed ricotta, lemon, mint and parmesan, it was a unique combination which was indeed pure heaven. I had one taste and developed some pretty major food envy.

Risotto Milanese, Jamie's Italian
Risotto Milanese $21

The words 'roasted bone marrow' pulled on my heart strings and soon the risotto Milanese was mine. The bright yellow saffron and parmesan risotto was creamy and delicate, with melt-in-your-mouth roasted bone marrow that was accompanied by some piquancy from the lemon peel in the aromatic gremolata.

Panna Cotta, Jamie's Italian
Creamy Panna Cotta $8.50

Dessert for me was the panna cotta, served that day with a pear compote. Wobbly, creamy and speckled with vanilla bean, this was my first time eating panna cotta and the start of my developing love for the milk pudding.

Brioche con Gelato, Jamie's Italian
Brioche con Gelato $9.50

Sam went for the brioche con gelato, compromised of toasted brioche, lemon marmellata, lemon and strawberry gelato in the form of two sliders. Probably not a good idea for anyone concerned about their waistline as it was layer upon layer of indulgence - buttery brioche, lemon marmalade with candied peel, rich strawberry and lemon ice-cream and topped with more of the brioche bun and sprinkled with pistachios and sugar.

Sorbet, Jamie's Italian
Sorbets $8

The sorbet flavours of the day were passionfruit, green apple and lemon. Our unanimous favourite was the green apple, unique and wonderfully sweet and refreshing. All-in-all, a satisfying meal that was more wallet-friendly than one would expect.

Jamie's Italian
207 Pitt St, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 8240 9000

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar, Westfield Sydney

Quick post! Once again late to jump on the bandwagon of Din Tai Fung, we visited the branch in the Sydney Westfield food court for lunch last week. I love the open kitchen, watching the chefs expertly form pleats in the dim-sum is mesmerising.

Steamed Pork Dumpling Xiao Long Bao, Din Tai Fung
Steamed Pork Dumpling Xiao Long Bao $5.80 (4 pieces)

The taste of the xiao long bao brought me some nostalgia for my childhood growing up in Shanghai. My grandmother had a saying for how I ate these steamed pork dumplings - 'yi kou, yi ze', meaning I used to devour these in a single mouthful at a time. But I digress, these are perfect delicate parcels filled with tender pork and a good amount of soup.

Steamed Vegetarian Jiao Ze, Din Tai Fung
Steamed Vegetarian Jiao Ze $5.80 (4 pieces)

The steamed vegetarian jiao ze were beautifully made but kinda underwhelming flavour-wise. However the wrappers were perfect with just the right amount of elasticity.

Steamed Shrimp & Pork Shao Mai, Din Tai Fung
Steamed Shrimp & Pork Shao Mai $9.80 (4 pieces)

I'm a sucker for shao mai and the steamed shrimp and pork shao mai here is fantastic, tasty little parcels of soft pork mince and shrimp.

Shrimp & Pork Wonton tossed with Spicy Sauce, Din Tai Fung
Shrimp & Pork Wonton tossed with Spicy Sauce $6.50 (4 pieces)

The shrimp and pork wonton tossed with spicy sauce was a winner, the wontons were faultless and the spicy sauce had kick but was tasty and mild enough for a chilli wimp like me to handle.

Soy Bean Milk, Din Tai Fung
Soy Bean Milk $3

Sweet soy bean milk is a breakfast classic in China and tastes just as good here. The food here is good authentic Chinese, it kinda strikes me as cleaned up versions of seedy but fantastic restaurants in Ashfield.

Din Tai Fung
Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Market St, Sydney 2000

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hurricane's Grill & Bar, Ryde

I'll ashamedly admit that last week was my first ever visit to Hurricane's Grill & Bar. I've seen the pictures of giant slabs of meat, listened people go on and on about the ribs and still managed to somehow bypass the expanding steakhouse franchise. But no longer - last Wednesday night I was finally met with more meat than I could ever ask for.

Half Rack Pork Ribs, Hurricanes Bar and Grill
Hurricane's Pork Ribs with Chips $29.90 (Half Rack)

Following the advice of my carnivorous friend Sharon, I went for half a rack of Hurricane's pork ribs, a glistening arc of bone and meat, glazed in their special basting sauce. Underneath rested a golden river of crunchy chips, but they were of course mere accessory to the big slab of pork. The edges were slightly charred and crispy, the rest of the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender and all drenched their sweet, smokey BBQ sauce. This is also the first time I've had proper ribs and was hence introduced to the messy, sticky ordeal of eating like a caveman. But it was worth it.

Rump Steak, Hurricanes Bar and Grill
Rump Steak 350gm with Baked Potato $33 with Mushroom Sauce $2.50

All steaks and ribs are accompanied by a choice of chips or baked potato with sour cream, my dining companion Geo opted for the baked potato, which I ended up eating (because I am a pig). Rather unexciting when one could have the unhealthier deep-fried version of potato, but c'est la vie. As far as I could tell the rump steak was more than enough a serving for an average person at the smallest size of 350 grams, and looked very nicely done and tender. I didn't have a taste and in retrospect, I regret not doing so just from looking at the photo.

Bacon and Cheese Burger, Hurricanes Bar and Grill
Cheese and Bacon Burger $22

The less adventurous of our dining party opted for burgers, which actually looked really good but in my humble opinion, paled in comparison when there were ribs and steak on the offer. There was also complimentary bread for the table, lovely brown rolls with flaky crusts and soft, warm centres that were perfect for mopping up sauces.

Pepper Burger, Hurricanes Bar and Grill
Pepper Burger $21.50

We visited the newest Hurricanes branch at Top Ryde City, a huge glossy establishment with lovely staff who managed to squeeze in our group of eighteen without a booking (on a Wednesday night). Having worked as a waitress before, I know how annoying big groups can be, but it was all worked out with a minimal wait, so snaps for them!

Hurricane's Grill & Bar
Top Ryde City Shopping Centre, Cnr Devlin St And Blaxland Rd, Ryde 2112
Telephone: 02 9130 7101

Hurricane's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hello, I'm finally back! And what better way to return than to a massive bowl of the newest edition to Gumshara's menu, the Mega Ramen (vegetarians, look away now before it is too late! I am about to disgust you in a meat-loving frenzy). If you haven't seen or heard already, this monster of a meal consists of a bowl of tonkotsu ramen literally bigger than my head, topped with countless slices of cha-su, a piece of pork spare rib, a skewer with three pieces of roast pork and a soft-boiled egg. There is also four sheets of nori, picked bamboo and shallots if you're like, into eating plants and stuff.

Mega Ramen, Gumshara
Mega Ramen $25 with extra egg ($1.50)

Basically, this is the stuff of my dreams (like oh my god I cannot describe but I will try my best) - an abundance of my favourite tender, salty cha-su lining the edges (there's more hidden beneath too), and a big hunk of juicy pork spare rib with a layer of delicious fat and crisp, blistered skin that was mind-blowing flavoursome. I've had the pork spare rib ramen before and it was even better this time around and I thought, "it can't get any better than this" BUT I WAS WRONG YOU SEE, because whaaat, there was these new chunks of meat on a stick I had not yet met, and they were three pieces of the most perfect thickly-sliced, slightly caramelised, succulent, tasty roast pork I would ever encounter. I don't know why there were on a skewer but it was presumably to emphasise their majesty, and I don't know which variation of pork I like best now, because oh, all these choices! Anyway, all of this meaty smorgasbord arrives with the company of a lovely googie soft-boiled egg, atop of toothy ramen noodles in the most heart-warming thick, delicious, porky tonkotsu broth ever, and I'm gushing, oh my god I'm gushing. But I can't help it because, I mean... ramen, broth, pork, egg, pork, pork, pork... I have a new religion.

Gumshara Ramen
Eating World Harbour Plaza, Shop 209
25-29 Dixon St Haymarket, 2000

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

After the ramen experience, we decided to recoupe with some dessert so off we ritualistically went off to Meet Fresh again. It was a fabulous conclusion to our lunch and here, have another pretty picture.

Taro No. 4 with Mango, Meet Fresh
Taro Balls no. 4 (Shaved Ice, Red Beans, Sweet Potato, Pearls) with Mango $6.70

Meet Fresh
13 Goulburn St Haymarket, 2000
Telephone: (02) 8339 1031

Meet Fresh on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Best Brownies Ever

The best brownies ever

I don't have a sweet tooth. I have a loathing for milk and white chocolate and I don't eat Tim Tams, Nutella or chocolate cake. But god, do I love brownies. Especially the fudge-y, dark, dense ones. Not cake-y, but chewy and moist. I've tried so, so many recipes – creaming the butter and sugar or melting the butter and chocolate, using cocoa powder or using dark cooking chocolate, three eggs, two eggs or two and eggs and a yolk, more flour or less flour, butter or shortening, caster sugar or raw sugar or brown sugar, baking longer at a lower temperature or shorter at a higher temperature,  et cetera. But these are the absolute best if you like your brownies how I do, and here's what I've discovered I like:
  • Muscovado or brown sugar – the darker the colour, the more pronounced the molasses flavour.
  • Dark cooking chocolate – some recipes use cocoa powder and extra sugar instead, but I've found that semisweet chocolate makes the brownies chewier and creamier. I use 60% cocoa.
  • Melting the butter with the chocolate – creaming the butter and sugar aerates the mixture and gives the brownies more rise, making them more cake-like. Melting the butter and chocolate together makes the brownies denser and fudge-y.
  • Not many eggs – too many makes the brownies drier and tougher.
  • Unsalted, real butter. Sorry vegan friends!
  • No baking powder, milk or syrup. No need, I promise.

Yield: 12 brownies
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 180g light Muscovado or regular brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
  • 75g walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line the base of an 18cm square pan, don't grease the edges because this will fry the brownies on the sides.
  2. Place the butter (chopped, for faster melting) and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. I don't like microwaving because it can burn the chocolate.
  3. When butter and chocolate have melted, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  4. Beat the sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt into the mixture. 
  5. Beat the eggs and then add to the mixture, mixing well. 
  6. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Fold in the walnuts. You can toast walnuts by placing them on a plate in single layer, and microwaving for two minutes in one minute bursts. Remove as much skin as you can after chopping because it leaves a bitter taste.
  7. Pour mixture into pan, smoothing the top. 
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a moist crumbs attached - if it comes out clean, you've overdone it. They will continue to cook after you remove them from the oven so undercooked ones are always better than overcooked dry brownies.
  9. Allow to cool, before cutting into squares (I was a little impatient, hence the messy edges)
  10. Stuff your face. Or serve with ice-cream (the real stuff though, low-fat ice-cream is bollocks).
No brownies
The best brownies no more

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kisaragi Ramen

After seeing Street Food's post on Kisaragi Ramen, I made a beeline for Dixon House Food Court with The Ninja in tow. This was the second stop to our afternoon ramen adventure after Daikichi we discover  the seedy Chinatown food courts seem to be hiding another gem.

Miso Ramen, Kisaragi Ramen
Miso Ramen $8.80 with half soft-boiled egg $0.50

The miso ramen is pretty as a picture, with nice thick slices of pork and ramen in a miso and pork broth, topped with pickled bamboo, seaweed, shallots and saffron and black sesame. I added half a boiled egg for fifty cents extra, and it was a perfect soft googie rich with soy flavour. The broth is quick to form a skin, and is rich with collagen however the porkiness is lovely and subtle, balanced by the miso but the real winner here is the cha-su. Slices of the roast pork was was tender and melt-in-your-mouth sweet, literally falling apart when I tried to pick up a piece with my chopsticks.

Tsukimi Ramen, Kisaragi Ramen
Tsukimi Ramen $9.80

I originally wanted to add an egg to the tonkotsu, but the bloke suggested I instead try the tsukimi ramen, and I'm glad I went with it. Topped with bean sprouts and a soft-poached egg, the Kisaragi version is a close contender to Gumshara, the tonkotsu broth is lighter with a slightly milky consistency, and I suggest those to aren't big fans of the thickness of Gusmhara's broth to try this place.

Kisaragi Ramen
Shop B04, Dixon House, 413-415 Sussex St, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: 0405 222 1328

Kisaragi Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Min Sok Chon, CBD

The fabulous Mr. Joseph Dang decided gather troops and head to Korean for Friday night dinner and I blissfully obliged. Min Sok Chon is small restaurant tucked away on Liverpool St that Joseph and Nathan frequent but didn't know the name of until I decided to blog about it (this seems to happen a lot). There were also some nice banchan side dishes which I didn't photograph, the favourite being the gamja jorim (glazed potatoes), which required many refills.

Dolsot Steak Tartare, Min Sok Chon
Yukhoe Bibimbap $16

I have a confession. Ever since I was a little kid watching my parents make dinner I've always thought that raw meat looked way more appetising than when it is cooked (I was a strange child, yes). So naturally when I discovered tartare this year, I was delighted. The yukhoe bibimbap is the Korean take on steak tartare, served cold in a stone pot with sauteed spinach, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, carrot and red cabbage and topped with a raw egg yolk and sesame seeds. Underneath is a steaming pile of freshly cooked rice, and when mixed the combination becomes warm and scrummy. Despite Florey being grossed out by the idea of eating raw meat (she refused to try it), I found when mixed, the meat didn't have a strong taste apart from the soy marinade. All together, the dish was delicious and I scoffed it down and was the first person to finish eating (every time).

Bulgogi, Min Sok Chon
Bulgogi Deobap  $12

There were two orders of bulgogi deobap at our table, a popular Korean dish of marinated stir-fried beef with onion, carrot and cabbage served on a sizzling hot place, with a side of rice. So much nice things were said about this dish, though I didn't have a taste.

Fried Chicken, Min Sok Chon
Ganjang Chicken $18

The ganjang chicken was encased in a thick, crunchy coating that was a punch of flavour. The combination of both strong sweet soy and savoury flavours oddly worked for me. The oily deep-fried batter encased succulent and juicy pieces of wing and leg.

Min Sok Chon
Ttukbaegi Bulgogi

Dolsot Bibimbap, Min Sok Chon
Dolsot Bibimbap $12

The dolsot bibimbap consisted of barbecued beef, lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, shiitake mushroom, sauteed spinach, bean sprouts, topped with a raw egg yolk, hot sauce and sesame seeds, served over rice in a stone hot pot.

Dolsot Bibimbap, Min Sok Chon
Stirring action shot (last three photos courtesy of Charlotte)

Min Sok Chon
1/116 Liverpool Street, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 9267 7798

Min Sok Chon on Urbanspoon