Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menya Mappen, CBD

I know I'm once again late jumping on the bandwagon of the trendy Japanese noodle house/cafeteria-style dining that is Menya Mappen, but that sin was soon repented for as I jumped into the back of the queue as fast as I could get there. Lured by the promise of fresh udon, tempura mountains and bargain prices, this place was a dream come true. Plus there was bukkake - no not that sort, you pervert; though if you don't know what I'm referring to, do NOT google image search that. I'm talking noodles. Oodles of noodles and piles of deep-fried things. If I'm no longer making sense it's because I'm writing this at 4AM and I am almost delirious. Me gusta.

Ontama Bukkake, Menya Mappen
Ontama Bukkake Udon $4.90 (small)

My ontama bukkake udon is such a pretty picture that I almost hesitate to mix it all up, but I eagerly pierce the egg yolk and mix it through the noodles with a squirt of lemon. The thick udon was slippery and chewy, and I revel in its starch-y, carb-y satisfaction. Soft-boiled egg yolk coats the noodles and adds a slightly creamy consistency to the tsukedashi broth, while the lemon juice lends piquancy as a refreshing contrast. Yet all the component comes together in an oddly harmonious combination, with crisp tempura flakes and chopped shallots. No, my description doesn't really makes sense but it was delicious. Why are you even reading this? Just look at the pretty pictures.

Ontama Bukkake, Menya Mappen

Oh man, look at that lovely and thick liquid yolk. Foodgasm. Just look at it. I want that inside of me. That's what she said. (I'm really showing my age now, aren't I?)

Beef Udon, Menya Mappen
Beef Udon $6.90 (regular)

I asked Tim how his beef udon was. He replied, "it's so delicious I want to cry." I snatched up some of his noodles and broth and indeed, I would have shed a tear of joy for I had been touched by an angel of deliciousness. Chewy udon noodles bathed in a flavoursome kakedashi broth that was meaty and almost sweet, accompanied with and tender sukiyaki wagyu beef and moreish tempura flakes. Hallelujah.

Zaru Soba Cold, Menya Mappen
Cold Zaru Soba $4.90 (small)

The second time I came to Mappen, I had a cold with the most awful sore throat, so I went for the cold Zaru soba without the tempura flakes. The nutty soba was refreshing and made all the better with a dip in the chilled tsukedashi broth. This would be amazing to have in summer.

Soba dipping, Menya Mappen
Dipping the soba
Photo courtesy of Charlotte

Tempura Bowl, Menya Mappen
Tempura Don $7.90

Charlotte ordered the tempura don, a bowl of rice topped with a heap of assorted tempura, drizzled with tempura. I was jealous of her deep-fried mountain. Our other dear friend was Mr. Dang, the wonderful and beautiful man who should be a model deserves a mention because he is just so amazing. He also ate a mountain of tempura. After smashing through a bowl of bukkake.

Tempura Prawns, Menya Mappen
Prawn Tempura $2.50 (each)

Crisp, golden tempura prawns. Coated in that beautiful flaky batter, deep-fried to perfection. Inside was soft, sweet prawn meat; dip in tempura sauce and it's even better. I could eat scores of these. And die of heart failure. But die happy.

Vegetable Kakiage Tempura, Menya Mappen
Vegetable Kakiage Tempura $2.80

I hadn't anticipated the size of the vegetable kakiage tempura, the compact mound of fried grated vegetable was initially confusing to tackle. After a few attempts at picking it up with chopsticks and taking bites out of nearly solid ball, I decide to tear off pieces with my hands. Compromised of various shredded vegetables (I think mostly onion and carrot), it is coated in a thin layer of batter that is surprisingly non-soggy, even in the centre. However it can get oily and cold if it's been left too long - so always grab the freshest tempura from the back of the tray!

Tempura Sweet Potato, Menya Mappen
Sweet Potato Tempura $0.50

Best best best - sweet potato tempura. It may not be the prettiest picture and I was wary of it at first, but all doubts left my mind, heart, soul, mouth when I took a bite. Super soft sweet potato encased in tempura batter? I don't know, it just works.

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

Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Moo Gourmet Burgers, Newtown

Another post this week! Haha I know this is a bit of an onslaught, I've had these posts lined up but I got too caught up with my non-food related photographic endeavours involving pretty girls so I haven't had the time to post anything in the last two weeks. May Ann flew down from Brisbane and Wendy came up from Canberra for uni break, so we met up for drinks at Kuleto's Cocktail Bar in Newtown as a little interstate reunion. It was a horrendously cold and windy night, and we didn't have the endurance to stray too far so we ended up at Moo Gourmet Burgers for dinner (the $10 student special sign lured us in). Blessing in disguise, it was.

Beef Burger, Moo Gourmet Burgers
Beef Burger with Chips $10 (Student Special)

May and Wendy went for the student deal of a beef burger - Angus Beef patty, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise and tomato relish, with a side of chips. The chips here are pretty fantastic, thick cut and crunchy, goes great with some aioli.

Black & White Burger, Moo Gourmet Burgers
Black & White Burger with Onion Rings $13 (Student Price)

Being the gluttonous one, I upgraded to the black and white burger - Angus Beef patty, tomato, fried egg, mozzarella, mayonnaise and tomato relish. Instead of chips I opted for a side of onion rings - lovely crunchy batter encasing soft, sweet onion rings deep-fried to a golden perfection. The burger was a magnificent tower of beauty, messy to eat due to its sheer size but I tackled it and won. Rustic bread, a layer of creamy house-made mayo, then mixed leaf lettuce, tomato, succulent beefy patty, sweet tangy tomato relish and thick slice of gooey mozzarella topped with a perfect sunny-side up free-range egg (runny yolk!); hell to the yeah.

Black & White Burger, Moo Gourmet Burgers

Moo Gourmet Burgers
232 King Street, Newtown, 2042
Telephone: (02) 9565 4001

Moo Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

Via del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé, Westfield Sydney

Whoops, I was in such a rush I totally forgot to include this is the last post! After our hearty pub lunch, we decided to continue our gluttonous afternoon with ice-cream for dessert from Via del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé at the recently opened (I'm a few months behind, okay?) 'high end' food court inside Westfield Sydney.

Sorbet Estivi, Via del Corso
Sorbet Estivi $7.50

A choice of three scoops of sorbet, topped with whipped cream and berry sauce with a wafer chip, served in a wafer cup. Almost too pretty to eat! But too indulgently delicious not to eat.

Pistachio Ice-cream, Via del Corso
Pistachio Gelato $5 (one scoop)

Semi-sweet and slightly nutty gelato, with hidden pistacho flakes. I've never had pistachio in ice-cream before and the the concoction was a little odd at first but I was easily converted. The pistachio flavour was subtle yet distinct, and the gelato was smooth and creamy.

Via del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé
Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Pitt St Mall, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 8236 9200

Via Del Corso Pasticceria E Caffé - Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

St James Hotel Bistro, CBD

Super quick post, Alfred and I stopped at St James Hotel for a good ol' pub lunch last week. Hooray decent food and decent fares! Unhealthy but so delicious, and so worth it.

Chicken Schnitzel, St James Hotel
Chicken Schnitzel w/ Chips $9.95 with Mushroom Sauce $1.50

Angus Rump Steak, St James Hotel
300gm New York Sirloin Steak w/ Mash $9.95
(Photo courtesy of Alfred)

Bruschetta, St James Hotel
Bruschetta $5.95

St James Hotel Bistro
114 Castlereagh Street, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 9261 8277

St James Hotel Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chinese Noodle House/Restaurant, Chinatown

I first visited Chinese Noodle Restaurant early this year with Melanion and Hugh, who were eager to show me their regular haunt. However, in the dumpling consumption frenzy that ensued, I never took any notes or checked what the name of the place actually was and the restaurant subsequently became lost to me, known only as the 'place with plastic vines on the ceiling'. I did ask Melanion but he merely shrugged and said, "I don't know, we just call it the 'cheap dumpling place'". Useless. Due to my geographic incompetency, I couldn't for the life of me find the place again, and it wasn't until last month when Zac decided to take Em and I to his regular Chinese take-out joint that I was reunited with 'cheap dumpling place' AKA 'place with plastic vines on the ceiling'.

Then, when writing this post, I had the biggest mindfuck of my life when I found Chinese Noodle House, another Northern Chinese restaurant in the same area of Prince Centre. The style of their signs are identical (1 & 2, from David Ding), they both have plastic grape vines on their ceiling and the same bucolic tapestries on their walls (1 & 2) and they serve near identical dishes (1 & 2). I'm pretty sure they use the same plates too. Major confusion ensues on my behalf (Are they the same place? They must be the same place. No they're not! Where the hell did I eat?). After some heavy online research and scrutiny of their decor (because I have nothing better to do with my time), I came to the conclusion that place I went with M and H was Chinese Noodle Restaurant (vines and bunches of plastic grapes hanging from ceiling, situated next to Menya) while the place I went with Z and E was Chinese Noodle House (vines and red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, situated next to a fish shop). Now that's sorted out, onto the food.

TL;DR there are two restaurants that look the same and taste the same in the same place with almost the same name, which confused me excessively.

Pork and Chive Dumplings (Steamed), Chinese Noodle House
Pork and Chive Steamed Dumplings

Trust the only Asian at the table when she says steamed is best. Boiled is cheaper but it can ruin the wrapping, pan-fried may be deliciously oily but you'll get fat and die. No, we must get our pork and chive dumplings steamed, I said. And they were perfect. Juicy pork mince encased in soft and non-soggy wrappers, as good as you can get.

Salt and Pepper Squid, Chinese Noodle House
Salt and Pepper Squid

Okay, okay so maybe I just lied and you won't get fat and die if you have pan-fried dumplings, but I have a feeling it would be a possibility if every dish we ordered had been fried. Take for example, this golden mound of deep-fried joy known as salt and pepper squid. I know, I can have it anywhere, and it's not particularly northern Chinese, but I can never resist ordering it when I see it on a menu. The salt and pepper comes on the side so you can control the amount of seasoning. I like my squid with lots of salt, lots of pepper, and lots of clogged arteries. Worth it.

Special Braised Eggplant, Chinese Noodle House
Special Braised Eggplant

I have a confession to make... I don't eat vegetables. I have an aversion to the consumption of plants. This is probably why I have trouble understanding vegans. But eggplant, man oh man do I have a soft spot for eggplant. And fried crisp on the outside and deliciously soft on the inside and braised in a sweet, soy sauce? Uhh yes please. I eat the majority of our table's portion of the special braised eggplant.

Beef Stir-fried Handmade Noodles, Chinese Noodle House
Beef Stir-fried Handmade Noodles

The beef stir-fried noodles was Zac's selection and am I glad he made it. This was the hands-down best stir-fry I've had for as long as I can remember. The handmade noodles are simply fantastic. You're just going to have to go try it yourself!

Okay so, after waxing lyrical about Chinese Noodle House, I feel somewhat guilty that I have very little say about Chinese Noodle Restaurant, due to the fact that I went there over half a year ago and I have the memory span of a goldfish. I realise there is heavy competition between the two eateries due to their similarities and this is post is not saying that one is better than the other. I am not a critic and I have no bias, it's just that I've tried more dishes at the first place and the dumplings more or less are of the same calibre.

Pork and Cabbage Dumplings, Chinese Noodle Restaurant
Pork and Cabbage Dumplings

You can't really go wrong with good old pork and cabbage dumplings. I grew up eating this exact thing (albiet the Shanghainese version) and these ones were pretty damn good. Chewy wrapper, and a good balance of meat and vegetable in the filling. You can get these dumplings steamed or pan-fried too but we were poor and unemployed at the time.

Lamb Dumplings, Chinese Noodle Restaurant
Lamb Dumplings

These were actually meant to be Melanion's, but after he ate most of my pork dumplings, I had to finish these off. Lamb isn't my favourite meat and chilli is definitely not my forte but these spicy lamb dumplings were surprisingly alright for me.

Pan-fried Pork Mantou, Chinese Noodle Restaurant
Pan-fried Mini Pork Buns

Hugh's choice of pan-fried mini pork buns (shengjian mantou) was a treat. Juicy, soupy filling encased in fried, golden dough. Growing up, the outside was always my favourite part of baozi, I remember as a child I'd always bite a hole in these, dump out the meat filling and eat the fried wrapper. Heh. This place was a cheap fare too, from what I remember I think we paid about $5 each. Lunch with spare coins? Bargain.

Chinese Noodle House
Shop TG2, 8 Quay St, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: (02) 9281 4508

Chinese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Chinese Noodle Resturant
Shop 7, 8 Quay St, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: (02) 9281 9051

Chinese Noodle Restaurant on Urbanspoon