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Archive for October, 2010

Breakfast at Madam Char Char, Surry Hills

I have walked passed this place many many times now. I have purchased take away salads and half roast Lilydale chicken for dinner which was fantastic! They have different types of salad, all made freshly that day. They even have burgers, if you feel like eating in. I have seen diners have the beef and grilled chicken breast burgers and they look incredible! I have yet to try these, but I am sure it won’t be long until I do.

B noticed that they were opening for breakfast and was keen to go for our weekly catch up! I, of course, was more than happy to try.

When you first walk in, the brightly lit windows catch your eye. Have a look at the fresh fruit salads, muesli, and yogurts – don’t they look incredible?

They use Toby Estate coffee, the coffee was smooth and creamy.

B couldn’t go pass the bircher muesli with apple, mint, pomegranate and buttermilk. It looked amazing and it tasted as good as it looked! The bircher was moist, the apple, mint and pomegranate was a great complement and the buttermilk really gave it that extra creaminess and flavouring.

I had the breakfast bruschetta – ricotta, strawberries, orange blossom, pistachios and mint. It was served on toasted seeded bread, and it was awesomely good. The strawberries were delicious sweet, and the orange blossom gave it that extra sweetness. I am not usually a big fan of mint unless it is in a drink, however, I was pleasantly surprised, it was a great complement and was absolutely tasty! A great way to start the day!

It’s more of a takeaway place, however, there are some simple seating, service is great and is pub style – for lunch that is (follow the vibrating buzzer to your food).

Apparently we were their first breakfast customers! I have to say, I was quite impressed. The sign on the door says that they are a sister café of Flat White which is situated in Woollahra, a café I absolutely adore and have not been for a while!

Madam Char Char makes all the relishes in house, home-made sweets (the brownies are deliciously good!) and they do catering services also.

As the sign says ‘we are all about the flavour’ and the breakfast bruschetta was definitely full of flavour! So was the B’s bircher.

Great find B! I am keen to try their burger soon, burger date?

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Madam Char Char

285A Crown Street

Surry Hills 2010

Ph: +61 2 9380 4411

Madam Char Char on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Ash St Cellar, Sydney

A uni friend of mine, C, wanted to try Ash St Cellar, so when he suggested we come here for lunch, I couldn’t resist but say yes! It has been a while since my last visit. Ash St Cellar is tucked in the laneway behind the ivy, and was named in TimeOut magazine as the Wine Bar of the year.

C and I rocked up at about 12.15pm and the place wasn’t as busy as we both thought, which was good, as we were seated immediately to our table, outside, to enjoy a little bit of the sunshine.

Some fresh bread, white sour dough, brown and focaccia with olive oil and salt.

We started with the fried calamari with lemon and aioli. I couldn’t go pass aioli – a favourite of mine if you haven’t guessed by now! I thought the calamari was a little dry, especially the crumbed coating. However, C, loved this and thought it was a really delicious dish! I admit, dipped in aioli, it was delicious.

Next came the prawns cooked in garlic, butter, basil. C wanted to order this, as he saw this on Masterchef. The garlic prawns were good but I thought it would be tastier, more garlicky or flavour. It was good, but I don’t think it was anything special.

The grilled chorizo, potatoes, chickpea puree, lemon and garlic dresses was deliciously good. Thick cuts of chorizo, it was spicy, tender and full of fatty chunk goodness! I loved the chickpea puree, however, C thought there was too much of it. This was probably the best dish out of the three for me.

We both couldn’t go pass the ricotta panna cotta, marsala, caramel grapes and walnut. As some of you may be aware, I discovered my love for panna cotta when I was in Sri Lanka – coffee panna cotta, it was delectably wonderful that I fell in love. The ricotta panna cotta was wonderful! It came in a large but yet shallow dish, the panna cotta was scrumptiously creamy and smooth but not sickening. The grapes were a great complement to the panna cotta. C thought it could have done without the walnuts, but I thought the walnuts gave it that extra nutty flavour. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

It was great catching up with C, he was leaving for China and Hong Kong for 2 – 3 weeks on vacation (so incredibly jealous!). I look forward to your return, so we can tick of that lists of restaurants and indulge! Have a safe trip buddy! See you soon.

I have to admit though, my favourite tapas is still Bodega! The boys from Bodega are truly awesome!

GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

Ash St Cellar

1 Ash Street

Sydney 2000

Ph: +61 2 9240 3000

Ash Street Cellar on Urbanspoon

Categories: Sydney, Tapas Tags: ,

Breakfast at Grumpy Baker, Darlinghurst

I love the name of this café, Grumpy Baker. It suits me to a tea! Whenever I am hungry, I tend to be grumpy and well, when I am grumpy I like to bake! However, that’s not how the name of the cafe came about. As the website says, ‘And as for the name…….well you would be grumpy too if you had to get up at the crack of dawn every day!’ and well, I have to agree!

The Grumpy Baker was created in 2002 by Michael Cthurmer, Owner-operator as a Café / Retail Bakery on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. It’s not a very big café, quite cozy and very friendly.

I was having my weekly catch up with B, and she suggested this place. We have both walked pass this place many times, and I have actually purchased loaves of bread from the Grumpy Baker. I have been here for breakfast, with S, but that was like 2 years ago and don’t remember what it was like. Unfortunately, the kitchen doesn’t open until 8 am, even though, the doors are open before 7 am and coffee are served. They do have a couple of breakfast dish on the menu that was available, mainly toasts, and muesli, which suited us both fine.

We both love coffee and don’t really function without that first cup of the day.

We both opted for the same thing, homemade granola, served with vanilla bean yogurt, rhubarb and honey. The homemade granola was toasted, crunchy and absolutely delicious. The vanilla bean yogurt was deliciously rich and creamy but not sickening, and the rhubarb was a great compliment. I love rhubarb, I would have been happy with just the vanilla bean yogurt and rhubarb! Hmhmhm now there’s a thought!

Here’s a close up of the homemade toasted granola: oats, macadamia nuts, Brazilian nuts, different types of seeds, sultanas, apricots and many more. We both enjoyed and demolished it. It was tasty!

The Grumpy Baker is not just a café, they also do sell fresh bread! They have two other locations in Sydney, Leichhardt and Waverton, and have a range of breads sold at numerous retail outlets throughout Sydney.

You can never have enough bakeries around your area! Who doesn’t love bread right?

As always, breakfast with B is the perfect way to start the week! It’s always great to bounce ideas with her!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Grumpy Baker

151 Oxford Street

Darlinghurst 2010

Ph: +61 2 9380 4177

Hottest new restaurant in town? Porteno, Surry Hills

The gents from Bodega, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate have brought Argentian food to Surry Hills. There has been talk about this restaurant being the ‘hottest new restaurant in town’. I love Bodega, so I knew I had to give this restaurant ago and see for myself.

My friend, M, has been, but was happy enough to go again with me. She knows the chefs, and the sommelier quite well as she is a regular diner at Bodega! They are on a name-to-name, kiss on the cheeks basis! And here I thought I was a ‘regular’ at Bodega!

The week we decide to go, a cracking review of Porteno was published on the Sydney Morning Herald. I was a little worried about getting a table, so I left work early and was there by 5.45pm, I was the fourth in line. The restaurant does not open until 6pm. However, there is a bar upstairs, should you wish to have a drink prior to dinner. I waited till M arrived, and as soon as it was 6pm, we were seated to our table.

We sat right in front of the bar, and open fire Asado grill, where whole animals are being cooked, and in this case, a pig!

There’s also an open kitchen and it was really nice to be able to see how the chefs work their magic.

I asked M what we should get, and she definitely recommended the pork pate that comes with house-baked bread. The pork pate was absolutely delicious. We both agreed that if it can be bought, we would by it by the jar and just eat it day in and day out. It was fresh, creamy and well .. frigging awesome!

The service was efficient, and shortly after our pork pate, our pickled veal tongue arrived. I discovered tongue in Hong Kong, and have absolutely loved it. The veal tongue was thinly sliced, incredibly tender, slightly sour and melted in your mouth. It was good!

We ordered the beef short rib, which was served on a warm wooden platter. It was a relatively large serving, the photo below does not do any justice. The beef was slightly salty, extremely tender, and extremely succulent

Grilled and served medium rare. It was absolutely incredibly scrumptious.

I couldn’t go pass the woodfired suckling pig. Four generous pork slices, the pork meat incredibly tender, and full of flavour, the crackling, amazing! It was hard at times, M, had a piece that was just too hard to eat, but if you had the ‘good’ piece, it was chewy, gooey, crispy and was simply outstanding.

Here is a close up of the scrumptious suckling pig, pure, sheer, genius!

We ordered a side of roasted beetroot, witlof, blood orange, radish and walnut. Unfortunately, our waitress forgot our order, so we had to wait a while. We were craving some vegetables, as both M and I are not big meat eaters, and needed veggies. So when our salad finally arrived, I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. It was so refreshing, especially the fresh blood orange. The roasted beetroot was tender and full of flavour.

Unfortunately we didn’t finish everything, there was probably ¼ of the short rib and pork left. We were stuffed! I was stuffed, but we still wanted to try the dessert. The South-American Pavlova was TO DIE FOR! Oh my gawd. I am not usually a fan of pavlova as it is too sweet, but this was different, mango cheeks, crushed nuts, caramel-sweetness of dulce de leche topped with meringue. It wasn’t all covered with meringue, which meant I could pick it out. The combination of the sweetness and sourness with crushed nuts, my goodness, pure heavely. HEAVENLY! This was simply stupendous! I was full but I couldn’t help but eat more and more. It was one of the best desserts I have had thus far, it was SERIOUSLY good!

I love the layout of this restaurant, the beautiful tiles, the arches, lights, the Asado grill and open kitchen. The service was good, except for when the waitress forgot to put our salad order in. Just to give you an indication, we arrived at 6pm, and were seated immediately, by 6.30pm the restaurant was full with diners, and by 7.30pm there were only 1.5 pig left on the grill. The place was buzzing, and it will be buzzing for a while to come.

Unfortunately they don’t take bookings, but don’t fear, you can wait upstairs at the sheik, funky bar for a drink and they will call you once a table is available. I can see the attractions of this place, many male diners I have spoken too absolutely love this place! I think it is the meat factor, so if you are not a meat person, then this is not the place for you. The lamb is supposed to be their specialty, but both M and I are not lamb fans, so had to pass. However, the suckling pig… hmhmhm… marvelous!

Everything about this place screams marvelous! Food, ambience, owners! Can’t wait to go back!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Porteno

358 Cleveland Street

Surry Hills, 2010

Ph: +61 2 9212 7766

Porteno on Urbanspoon

Baffi and Mo, Redfern

I have heard and read about this café but never really knew where it was, until one weekend, when ‘The Mother’ and I stumbled across it whilst in Redfern.

Baffi (Italian for ‘moustache’) and Mo (Australian for ‘moustache’) is a small and cozy café, but you won’t miss it as there will be a large group of people outside, loitering, waiting to be seated. We arrived at about 11.45am and it was packed! We had to wait a good 20 minutes before we were seated to our table.

Started with skim flat white, which was smooth and could taste the strong flavour of the beans which was just fantastic.

‘The Mother’ ordered something simple. I thought he would have ordered the potato hash stack but didn’t. He ordered the poached eggs with oven roasted tomatoes with sour dough toast. I didn’t have any of this, however, he was rather unimpressed. He said the food was lukewarm, not just the eggs, but everything, the tomatoes and the toast and thought it was quite ordinary!

I opted for the grilled asparagus with prosciutto, rocked, poached egg and topped with shaved parmesan and truffle oil – hmhmhm prosciutto and truffle oil. I too didn’t get the potato hash stack. Whilst perusing the menu I noticed other diners ordering this dish and saw how big it was and just couldn’t stomach it and opted for something lighter.

The grilled asparagus, poached egg was served on a mountain of rocket. The prosciutto was thinly sliced; it was a little salty just the way I like it. The poached egg oozed with yolk, and the combination of the saltiness and bitterness was just deliciously yummy. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste the truffle oil, which was a shame.

It was good, but I don’t know if it’s anything to rave about. My dish was also lukewarm, but I think with a salad, it doesn’t have to be too hot. However, it would have been nicer if the poached egg was slightly warmer.

We may have ordered the wrong dish, I have read that their signature dish is Eggs Baffi with roasted mushrooms, feta, spinach and hollandaise, and of course the potato hash stack. I am more than happy to go back to give the signature dish ago, you never know, we could have just ordered wrongly that day.

I do love the open kitchen and the waiters were all friendly, calm and tentative, considering how busy the café was!

GA’s ratings: 6 / 10

Baffi and Mo

94 Redfern Street

Redfern, 2016

Ph: +61 2 8065 3294

Baffi and Mo on Urbanspoon

Reunited with my love, Bodega, Surry Hills

This place really requires no introduction. Owners Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate were voted as ‘Best New Talent 2009’ and I have to say, they are absolutely brilliant!

I can’t believe it took me this long to come back after my return from Hong Kong. I dreamt about this place whilst in Hong Kong and finally, I took ‘The Mother’ here and one week later, I came back with my brother, F, and my sister-in-law, O. They all haven’t been before and I was more than happy to come back twice in two consecutive weeks!! It used to be a regular eating spot for my girlfriends and I and for those who have been, you can understand why.

‘The Mother’ and I rocked up at about 6.45pm and thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long. We got the last table for two by the bar which suited me fine! Open kitchen, I could see the chefs in action!

Whilst ‘The Mother’ and I perused the menu, we were presented with some bread and olive oil, the bread, soft and fresh, the olive oil, a great compliment.

I couldn’t go pass two things on the menu, ‘aioli’ and of course, ‘pork belly’! We started with the fried spiced calamari with aioli. The deep-fried calamari smelt absolutely incredible. It was crunchy and slightly spicy. The aioli was deliciously creamy, smooth and oh my gawd, utterly heavenly! The spiciness really gave it that extra kick and flavouring.

Next came the “Fish fingers”: sashimi Kingfish on garlic toast with cuttlefish ceviche and mojama. The kingfish sashimi super-fresh, the cuttlefish ceviche was a little chewy, sweet and lemony. It was served on a garlic toast which had a charcoal-y scent, which complemented the dish. It was just sensational. ‘The Mother’ loved it, I could see from the corner of my eye that he was eye-ing the last piece! I didn’t argue when he asked, I knew how much he loved this dish.

Last but not least, the pork belly, steamed pork belly with warm salad of onion and shiitake mushroom. My word, thinly cut pork belly, it glistened and looked absolutely divine. It was DIVINE with a capital D! It was so tender and succulent that it just melted in your mouth. It was a little on the fatty side, but I couldn’t help but eat it all as it was just amazing! The warm salad of onion and shiitake mushroom was a great compliment, it was just DIVINE!

Unfortunately, ‘The Mother’ wasn’t too hungry hence we passed on dessert. The meal was just absolutely fantastic! It was one of the best meals I have had since I got back from Hong Kong. All the good memories came back… it was good!

I took F and O here a week later. There aren’t many restaurants that I would go back straight away, but Bodega… I LOVE! F was craving for tapas, and I had to take him here. After all, it has been listed as the best tapas restaurant in Sydney.

F, O and I arrived precisely at 6pm and we were 7th in line. Five minutes and we were seated. We ordered the above meals, plus more!

O absolutely loved the deep-fried calamari. She claimed it was the best calamari she had eaten for a while.

F loved the pork belly and the fish finger. He too was eye-ing for the last piece of both!

Here is a close up of the fish finger from that evening.

I had to fight him for the last piece of the pork belly, but I was more than happy to give him the fish finger!

We ordered the Bodega chorizo with sofrito paste. It was deliciously meaty, packed with tender chunks of pork and flavour goodness of fat. It seemed to be a simple dish but it was blardy delicious. The sofrito paste was mildly spicy (I would have loved it to be spicier) and had a wonderful smokiness flavour to it.

Last but not least, kurobuta butifarra (white sausage) with perfect poached egg and chicharrones. This dish took a while to come, and by a while, I mean 20 mins plus! However, it was definitely worth the wait! For all of us, this was the highlight of the evening. The white sausages were succulent and full of flavour, the chicharrones, fried pork rinds, were just sensational.

The poached egg was cooked to perfection, oozing yolk, my gawd, it was outstanding. The combination of the flavours, it was just incredible, no words can describe the utter deliciousness of this dish. It was just mouthwatering!

We were full, but we couldn’t help but order two desserts, the chocolate pudding with liquorice strawberries and yogurt sorbet, and the banana split, which is really not a banana split but a cream flan with ginger biscuit and salted caramel and peanuts, banana cream, dulce de leche ice cream and toasted banana marshmallow.

The banana split was amazing! The flan was wobbly, creamy and silky smooth! The bitterness of the caramel provided a lovely contrast between sweet and salt, it was just fantastic. The banana cream tasted like mashed banana and the dulce de leche ice cream was deliciously sweet. The saltiness, the sweetness, the smoothness, all mixed together – I had to pause and absorbed it all in, it was THAT good! It was a perfect dessert after a long and hard week at work!

The chocolate pudding was interesting to say the least. F thought it was a little funky, especially the liqourice after taste. O said it reminded her a little bit of herbal medicine that she used to drink in Indonesia. I have to admit, it was a little weird. The chocolate pudding wasn’t dense and it didn’t ooze with chocolate. It was good, but nothing special I thought. The strawberries were warm which was fine, and I love strawberries, but I think the liquorice ruined it for me. The yogurt sorbet was incredibly sour. I can understand the different flavours but it was just not for any us that night. The banana split was a definite winner!

F could not stop saying how delicious each meal was. Neither could my sister-in-law, O. I can happily say that they both enjoyed the meal, as much as ‘The Mother’.

Each dish was absolutely fantastic, however, for me, there were three outstanding dish, the fish fingers, the pork belly and the white sausages. Oh, and of course the banana split, that was seriously awesome!

I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant, it was a little loud but the service was quick and friendly. Come early if you would like to get a table, however, they are more than happy to give you a call if you decide to have a drink at the pub next door once a table is available.

I have to say, I am so glad to be reunited. This won’t be the last time I go to Bodega.

Here’s a little rule to Bodega waiting game I found…

Rules to the Bodega waiting game

They open at 6pm sharp. No early arrivals.
No Bookings – First in, first served.
Be well-mannered when they are ready to seat people.
The person waiting the longest should be seated first.
Always ask who arrived first, before barging in.
They do not seat you until your entire group arrives. They are strict about this policy.
You are welcome to wait at the bar.
It doesn’t help to whine and complain about the policy, they do not budge.
Being persistent about being seated is embarrassing.
Dress it up when dining here. Casual dress is under-dressed at this super-trendy establishment.

GA’s ratings: 9 / 10

216 Commonwealth Street

Surry Hills, 2010

Ph: +61 2 9212 7766

Bodega on Urbanspoon

Mouth watering tower of goodness, Wagyu Burger, Rockpool Bar and Grill

The wagyu buger at Rockpool Bar and Grill was mentioned in ‘The 50 things every Sydney food lover should try’ in the Sydney Magazine and I can see why!

W and I originally wanted to eat this burger at Rockpool Bar and Grill the first time we went (read first review here), however, there was a 20 mins wait and I wasn’t willing to wait that long. This time though, I made sure I was there early, to avoid the queues! I rocked up at 11.55am and the doors were still closed! Talk about eager! However, I was determined to get a seat!

As soon as the doors opened at midday, I was seated to our table and waited for my dear friend, W. The bar area is small and cozy, understated in its décor, unlike the main restaurant, however service was just as good!

W and I didn’t really have to peruse the menu, we knew exactly what we wanted, it is why we came back here! We both ordered the David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle. W originally wanted chips, however, we both opted for the crispy pork skin seasoned with sea salt, paprika and chili.

The crispy pork skin came, and it was not what I expected! I was expecting pork crackle, but instead, chip liked crispy pork skin which I could have probably gotten at an Indonesian grocery store. The sea salt, paprika and chili gave it a nice flavouring, however, other than that, it was nothing special.

Now, the wagyu burger that I have so longed. A tower of delicious goodness, wagyu beef patty, bacon, cheese and Zuni Pickle served on a brioche like bun which was slightly toasted. The Zuni pickle was absolutely delightful and gave it that extra ‘zing’ in the burger.

The patty was juicy, tender, succulent, creamy and absolutely mouth watering. It was still pink inside, just the way I like it.

Three words: Oh My Gawd it was just absolutely incredible! From the first bite, till the last bite, I wanted more and more, it was just AMAZING!

Stuffed, I waddled back to work.

It was great catching up with you again W!

If you haven’t been and tried this mouth watering tower of goodness, I strongly recommend you do! I have to admit though, I do prefer the bar section, and the burger compare to the restaurant!

Check out the Rockpool Bar and Grill House Rules – especially ‘Gentleman, don’t approach ladies; and if you are so lucky to have one approach you, endear her as you would your mother’ – bless!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Rockpool Bar and Grill

66 Hunter Street

Sydney 2000

Ph: +61 2 8078 1900

Categories: Burgers, Sydney Tags: ,