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Archive for August, 2010

All you can eat succulent, juciy ribs @ Cafe Ish, Surry Hills

Café ish has got to be one of my favourite cafes in Surry Hills. I first came here in May (read review here) and have wanted to come back for breakfast (their soft shell crab omelette is AMAZING, with a capital A) and their smooth coffee. They have an all you can eat ribs night every Wednesday night and ever since I first heard of this ‘all you can eat ribs night’ I have been dying to go!

I dragged ‘The Mother’ to Café Ish one cold Wednesday night, hoping to get a table without a reservation and indeed we got one (although reservation is probably recommended, they were busy that evening!). I thought Josh had forgotten who I was, but he didn’t and was greeted with a hug!

We were seated to our table, and I for one, was looking forward to ribs. As you may know, I have been in Hong Kong for the past 10 months and have not found a good ribs place.

Whilst perusing the menu, ‘The Mother’ ordered some sake, I don’t exactly remember the name of it, but it was served in the cutest wooden sake glass, which I wanted to take home. Now I don’t know my sake’s well, but this sake was incredibly sweet, smooth and delicious. I haven’t tasted anything like this before. I probably should have ordered my own as, ‘The Mother’ kept giving me glares and death stares.

We ordered some chili edamame, a bowl of edamame pods which was coated with sambal. These were deliciously spicy and full of flavour. ‘The Mother’ could probably have eaten a whole bowl on his own!

Whilst perusing the menu, I stumbled across ‘feta mochi’ and mind you, that’s all I saw and automatically thought it was dessert. Alas, no, it was four perfectly round potatoes, deep fried with feta inside.

These were wonderful! Feta cheese oozed and melted in your mouth. I strongly advice to eat these whilst they are warm, otherwise the cheese will be cold.

Now, the moment I have been waiting for, the ribs, blue gum smoke beef ribs – three words – OH MY GOD! They were deliciously good. The beef was incredibly tender, and succulent. It was deliciously sweet but yet not sickening and it just melted in your mouth. The beef came straight off the bone, and was just…. just… scrumptiously satisfying.

The blue gum smoked pork ribs were really good, pale in colour comparison to the beef ribs, however, the beef won me over that night. The pork ribs were tender and meaty, but the beef more so.

Both the ribs were braised and not grilled, braised in sake, soy, mirin and ginger with coriander, fresh chili, shallots, sesame and black vinegar and believe me, when I say that the beef ribs were ‘finger linking good’! The flavours were simply outstanding. ‘The Mother’ took the last beef rib (and mind you it was a generously large rib) that I had to order another serve, and I kid you not, I ate it all! It was THAT GOOD! It satisfied my ribs craving.  Here’s a close up of the beef rib.. hmhmhmhm

I didn’t think I could fit any dessert in, but whilst talking to Josh (he comes and talks to the diners) and whilst listening to him describe the desserts, I couldn’t say no. I wanted something chocolately, so ordered a serve of the chocolate cake with wattleseed icecream and umeboshi sour plum jam. The cake was rich and dense (bit too dense for my liking but still good),  the wattleseed ice cream was to die for, and the umeboshi plum jam incredibly sour, not exactly what I expected. The combination of the chocolate cake and the wattleseed ice cream was just divine, I wanted to eat more of the wattleseed ice cream, however, I was too busy talking and before I knew it, the wattleseed ice cream was gone! You have to be quick when it comes to ice cream with ‘The Mother’ – he is relentless!

I have to say, the beef ribs at café ish is the best I have eaten thus far. Writing this and looking at the pictures makes me want to go again! It won’t be the last visit that’s for sure. Will probably ‘drag’ my brother next time…. be prepared young man!

If you haven’t been, GO, you won’t be disappointed! It’s scrumptiously good! However, if you are a vegetarian, than I strongly recommend that you don’t go, although, there was one vegetarian who came to ribs night and Josh kindly offered him all you can eat edamame and something else, which I can’t remember.

All you can eat ribs night is $35 per person available only on Wednesday nights. There is a time limit of 90 mins from when the first bowl of ribs hits the table. A charge of $50/Kg applies for excessive waste of ribs.

GA’s Ratings: 8.5 / 10

Cafe Ish

82 Campbell St,

Surry Hills, Sydney

Ph: +61 2 9281 1688

Thai at Chat Thai, Haymarket

This is not the first time I have been to Chat Thai, twice prior to me having this food blog, and both experiences weren’t that great, so thought I would go one more time to check it out. My parents haven’t been, but have heard raving reviews. I also wanted to take them out for lunch for helping me with the move, as a thank you!

We got there about 2pm, so the queue wasn’t too bad, and we were quickly seated to our table. Whilst waiting, I noticed people having a drink, similar to that of cendol. I can’t remember the thai name for it, but it was similar to the Indonesian / Malaysian version. It consists of coconut milk, a worm-like jelly made from rice flour with green food colouring, and palm sugar. The one at Chat Thai also came with jack fruit which was delicious. It was sweet, and refreshing, however, the cendol was chewier than the one from Indonesia, and one that I have grown up with.

We started with these steam pancakes with peanuts and palm sugar. It was warm and deliciously sweet, too sweet for my liking and definitely too sweet for entrée. The pastry was sticky and chewy-like, however, if it was savoury I think I would have enjoyed it more.

Mum wanted to try the Thao Mhu Opb, which is clay pot of honey marinated pork short ribs with egg fried rice. The pork was tender and succulent, however, for me it was too sweet and rich, making it a little sickening. The egg fried rice was a good compliment to the honey marinate pork ribs but it was still quite rich for me.

The special of the day was duck noodle, five spiced braised duck with egg noodles. I loved the egg noodles, reminded me of the noodles back in Hong Kong, however, the soup was again too sweet for my taste buds and a little rich. The duck, however, was tender and moist. I could have happily eaten the duck alone.

I don’t know if it we ordered incorrectly but for me, it still wasn’t good. The first couple of visits, we had the pad thai, curry, sates, fried rice and I thought that was ordinary. So I am not sure if its the ordering or the fact that Chat Thai and I are not meant to be. The desserts however, were scrumptiously good!

I remember ordering the durian sticky rice cooked with coconut milk and that was amazing! I still dream and think about this dessert. Unfortunately this dessert is only available at night, so we couldn’t try any. (This photo was taken a while ago, but I still do remember the taste and flavours).

I remember we also had Tao Tung, which is a fat-free dessert soup with a mixture of pearl barley, kidney beans, lotus seeds, logans, red dates and more. We also tried the sticky rice with mango which was delicious, but otherwise, the mains are a no no for me.

Mum wanted to take away the fried banana fritters and sweet potato balls (which I didn’t take a photo off!) and they were fantastic! Better than lunch that’s for sure.

I have to say though, after three attempts at Chat Thai, I am still not convinced and don’t see what the attractions are. It’s three out of three strikes for me. I would come back, but just for their desserts.

I think my parents agreed with me on this one, that it wasn’t the best lunch we had. I think Spice I am, is still our favourite.

Like I said earlier, I wanted to take them out for lunch for helping me move, however, believe it or not, that day, their eftpos machine was broken and I had no cash! So instead of taking them out for lunch (I am embarrassed to even say this), mum had to pay! I told ‘The Mother’ and he was seriously unimpressed! Will take you out somewhere yummier next time mum! Sorry!

GA’s ratings: 5 / 10 (I’ll give it an extra point for the desserts!)

Chat Thai

20 Campbell Street

Haymarket, Sydney, 2000

Ph: +61 2 9211 1808

Chat Thai on Urbanspoon

B.R.A.T @ Bangbang, Surry Hills

I was told that an award winning international DJ by the name of Alan Thomson opened Bangbang café in June 2009. I heard that his love for Tarantino films and Nancy Sinatra’s ‘bangbang’ from Kill Bill is what inspired the name. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the oversized headphones with cord crawling along the walls, I thought this was ultra cool. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of this so you will have to trust me on this ‘ultra cool’ design!

I came here with B, a fellow food lover whom I have missed dearly. If you think I am continuously hungry, you have not met my friend, B! She eats, I kid you not, every two hours! Starting with breakfast and all the way to supper! She has one fast metabolisms, however, ‘The Mother’has a faster metabolism!

We both started with strong black coffee (Campos coffee) with milk on the side. The black coffee was seriously bitter, I had to put a lot of milk in it to dilute the bitterness (I know, that’s a sin, but it was seriously bitter!). I don’t like my coffee sweet, so sugar was not an option.

B had the chicken breast with tomato, avocado and rocket on sourdough, it did come with aioli but can you believe she asked without aioli? My dear girl! She thought the filling was so so but loved the bread, and so she should, as the bread is Sonoma bread.

I couldn’t pass the B.R.A.T;  bacon, rocket, avocado and trust tomatoes with aoili on sour dough. Bacon and aioli – I really don’t have to say much more. The sourdough bread was fresh, and was not toasted, the bacon hot and the aoili was great compliment!

It had me at B.R.A.T that I didn’t see pass that.  I have heard that their wagyu burger is their specialty, well priced and reasonable but I simply couldn’t go pass bacon and aioli. Both sandwiches was served in a little basket with a handful of chips, making it very ‘British’ like.

I didn’t realise at the time, but the chairs we sat on we actually drummer chairs! No wonder, they felt a little ‘weird’.

The food at bangbang is quite simple and well priced. I have heard that their breakfast is tremendous, so another visit is definitely in order.

It was great catching up with B, oh how, I miss you my dear girl! I can’t wait to eat my way around Sydney with you again.

GA’s rating: 7 / 10

Bangbang Cafe

113 Reservoir Street

Surry Hills, NSW 2010

Ph: +61 2 9281 0018

More than just dumplings at Taste of Shanghai, Sydney

You would think that after spending 10 months plus in Hong Kong, I would be sick of Chinese food. Alas, no, I love Chinese food, especially when it comes to dumplings and xiao long bau, I, personally cannot resist?

Taste of Shanghai in World Square is the newest out of the three, the original being in Ashfield, followed by Eastwood. I have been to the Ashfield and Eastwood branch many many times and although out of the two, I still do think that the Ashfield branch is infinitely better.

‘The Mother’ and I thought we would invite the family, and catch up. We got there early, so didn’t have to wait too long. They left all the ordering to me, which in a way is a good thing AND a bad thing! My brother had a couple of requests but everyone else weren’t too fazed as long as there was food.

We started with the prawn, and pork belly in bamboo shoot. This dish was deliciously spicy and the combination of prawn and pork belly was fantastic. The pork belly was thinly sliced and fatty, and the prawns were a great compliment. The photo below does not do justice on how generous the serving was, it was like a bottomless pit.

The garlic bamboo chicken was another great dish. The chicken was lightly battered and deep fried, it was tender and served with a generous amount of fried garlic. The chili gave it a nice kick.

Yangzhou fried rice served with ham, prawns, peas and egg was also tasty. It was a little salty for my liking, but the diners seemed to have enjoyed it.

Shallot pancakes wasn’t as flaky or thin as I have hoped, it was thick, firm and extremely filling. It was good, but I do prefer my shallot pancakes thin.

Next came Sheng Jian Bao (pan fried dumplings), we ordered two servings of this, and I made sure that I waited a good 15 minutes before eating them. I was afraid, and rightly so, that they were going to be too hot, and I was right. They were still hot after 15 minutes, and as I took a bite into these fluffy, soft Sheng Jian Bao, a ‘generous’ amount of ‘juice’ squirted out of my bao and landed all over the table near my mother. I was embarrassed but was glad to know that I wasn’t the only klutz that did that! These Sheng Jian Bao were seriously good, if they weren’t so filling I could have easily eaten a dozen on my own!

Last but not least, xiao long bao, again we ordered two servings of this. If you think we have ordered too much, we did! This is what happens when you leave the ordering to me, you will never get hungry.

I was a little disappointed with these xiao long bao, they had delicate thin pastry, which I liked and incredibly juicy, however, I found them a little too salty for my liking. I thought the filling might have been the same as the pan fried dumplings (Sheng Jian Bao) but unfortunately they weren’t. I still do prefer the xiao long bao from Din Tai Fung. It’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to them.

This third branch is a little fancier and newer and being in World Square I can see why one has to queue during peak hour. Come early and avoid the rush and order the prawn and pork belly in bamboo shoot and the Sheng Jian Bao, you will not be disappointed.

It was great catching up the family, even though I did manage to catch up with my family 4 times in the space of 10 months, I still missed them dearly.

GA’s rating: 7 / 10

Taste of Shanghai

Shop 9.07, World Square,

644 George Street

Sydney, Australia

Ph: +61 2 92618832

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Breakfast at the ‘Tea House’

I never really know the name of this café – however, to ‘us’ it’s called the ‘Tea House’. We call it the ‘Tea House’ because of all the different types of teas behind the counter, and the name ‘La Buena Mesa Café & Providore’ is just way too long to remember!! I do remember the name of it prior to the new owners, Hopscotch, and even then, we still called the ‘Tea House’.

This place can get extremely busy on Sundays for brunch and going there with a big group is just a complete nightmare! There have a few tables outside if you want to sit under the sun, which is highly recommended during the cooler period, otherwise, a communal table inside in the middle and table for twos closer to the window.

It was a gorgeous but slightly chill morning and it’s been a while since my last visit. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait for long, otherwise, I would have suggested somewhere else. I wasn’t really in the mood for coffee (yes, shoot me for saying that!) so I opted for the berry smoothie which consisted of all the ‘berry’ type fruit you can imagine. It was milky, smooth, consists of all sorts of berries and was absolutely delicious.

I opted for the scrambled eggs with spinach and a chicken sausage. The eggs were creamy and moist – just the way I like it, and the spinach gave a very nice touch to it. The chicken sausage was a little salty for my liking, but it was a nice compliment to the eggs and spinach.

Hubby ordered eggs with bacon (which was rolled up) and roasted tomatoes. This was a little plain I thought, the eggs were good, but the bacon wasn’t crispy and the tomato was a little overcooked for my liking. Hubby seemed to have enjoyed it though.

If you want a relaxing, casual café on a lazy Sunday with friends, or even during the weekdays, go to the Tea House (aka La Buena Mesa Cafe) but expect to wait, unless you come during non-peak hour. Service is a bit up and down, pending on how busy they are but food and ambiance is pretty good.

GA’s rating: 6.5 / 10

La Buena Mesa Café & Providore

61 Annandale Street,

Annandale, Sydney

Ph: +61 2 950 2698

Coffee @ Coffee Assembly

This is still one of my favourite coffee places in Hong Kong, Coffee Assembly. I have been here a few times now and each time, the coffee has been tremendous. What makes it enjoyable also is that I have gotten to know the owner quite well (she is a good friend of my high school friend, M). She is a great barista and what’s more, she is also a tremendous chef! You are bound to have a great coffee and scrumptious food, and most importantly, I totally and utterly enjoy the atmosphere!

Check out some of her design, smiley face on my cappuccino

Hubby’s mocha, deliciously chocolatey and sweet

Hubby’s second mocha….

And my cappuccino which said “HK loves you, S”…. oh… thanks M and L.

If you want something cold, L made me this icy espresso and my… it went down extremely well, especially on a hot day!

I wanted something sweet (surprise surprise), so asked L if she could make something sweet but light. She made me these scrumptious mini banana crepes like, sprinkled with chocolate sauce and icing. It was scrumptiously good.

It’s hard to find ‘good’ coffee in Hong Kong. Coffee Assembly has to be one of my favourites. It’s a shame that it wasn’t close to where I lived, otherwise I would have gone every single day. It’s a great place for a hang out place, I most certainly enjoyed it.

GA’s rating: 8 / 10

Coffee Assembly

Cockloft, No 6 Elgin Street

Soho, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2858 8153

Peking duck served in 3 ways at Sha Tin 18

A friend of ours, well Hubby’s colleague, J, has been raving about this place for a while now. He recently came back to Hong Kong after spending a good 6 months in Sydney so thought we would go here to celebrate his return, and our farewell. N, J’s girl friend was kind enough to drive all of us to Sha Tin and like a child who gets excited, I was seriously looking forward to the peking duck!

The restaurant can be found in the Hyatt Regency in Sha Tin, and named after the hotel’s street address number ‘18’. Sha Tin 18 serves authentic Cantonese and North Chinese cuisine in a lively show and open kitchen environment. It’s a relatively big restaurant, it has 4 show kitchens, one for dumplings / noodles, one for roast meat, one for wok cooking and one for desserts.

We left all the ordering to both N and J, and I have to say, they did extremely well!

We started the feast with fresh cucumber, and sesame seed. This was incredibly light and refreshing, a great way to start the meal!

Next, deep fried pork belly with mushroom, this was seriously delicious. Deep fried to a crisp but deliciously soft and tender inside. N and I were thinking how fatty this was but couldn’t help but eat more and more!

Now, the duck, Sha Tin 18, serves their duck in three ways: skin from the underbelly of the duck, meat carved from the breast and finally fat slices of legs and thigh – all eaten differently. Check out the juicy fat duck… hmhmhmhmmh

The skin from the underbelly of the duck

Dipped in sugar before eaten and it was incredible. It was almost translucent and melts in your mouth, like duck-fat candy! It was amazingly rich that too much of it made me sick! It was unbelievably fatty but yet unbelievably tasty.

The meat carved from the breast is supposedly eaten with raw garlic, I am not a fan of raw garlic so ate it with the flour pancakes without the garlic. The flour pancakes were incredibly thin, just the way I like it. The meat was a little dry but still absolutely delicious. This can be eaten on its own or with pancakes, anyway you like it.

Finally, the last serving, fat slices of legs and thigh, was incredibly juicy and incredibly succulent. I thoroughly enjoyed this and cannot remember how many I ate. I do know that they were amazingly good!

Spinach cooked with egg and broth, this was extremely flavoursome, the combination of the egg and spinach was just amazing.

Slightly pan fried pork-belly dumplings were excellent. These dumplings were juicy and delicious. I could have easily eaten half a dozen on my own but after the countless duck pancakes, I was beginning to feel like a stuffed dumping!

Steamed crab with pork and egg, my my, this was deliciously fatty. Again, N and I kept wondering how much fat was in this but it was deliciously rich. The crab was meaty and juicy and full of flavour.

Lanzhou beef with hand-pulled noodles were more than just ‘good’. The beef was tender, the noodles, soft and chewy like and was cooked to perfection. I was getting seriously full by this stage so only had a little bit of this dish but it was good.

We didn’t stop there, roasted pigeon was incredible. For something so small, it was meaty and succulent. This is one of Hubby’s favourite dish, and he demolished this.

Last but not least, minced duck with lettuce wrap. I thought the minced duck was seriously salty. I was stuffed by this stage so only had one serving of this minced duck with lettuce wrap. I would have to say that it was my least favourite part of the duck.

If you are wondering how many people were there at dinner, there were four and yes, we consumed all of the above and finished all of the above. If you are disgusted at how much we ate, so am I!

It is vital that you order the duck one day in advance or when you make the reservation, so it would be prepared when you arrive. I thought the service was fantastic, the pedigree of this restaurant was incredible. I must admit, this was one of my memorable meals, we were seriously happy and satisfied with all the dishes. I think this has something to do with N who ordered extremely well!

You would think we would be full by this stage, and we all were, but we all have that second stomach that we wish we didn’t, the dessert stomach. We didn’t have dessert at the restaurant, although judging from the dessert kitchen it looked fantastic. Instead, we ended up at Sai Kung for some delicious dessert, probably a good thing as it gave our stomach a rest before consuming more food.

Thanks J and N for this delicious meal, and thanks N for driving us all there. Thanks for the friendship, we are looking forward to seeing you again soon!

GA’s rating: 8.5 / 10

Sha Tin 18

4/F, Hyatt Regency

Sha Tin, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 3723 7932