Friday, February 27, 2009

Red Oak

I'm certainly making use of the We Love Sydney card lately. My 3 weekly lunch catch up lunch with a friend had us meeting up at The Red Oak. We were both pressed for time that day, so the location was really what drove us to go there. That and the fact its buy 1 get 1 free ;)

We quickly scoured the menu and both settled on the Crispy Skinned Tasmanian Ocean Trout with sauteed scallops, cauliflower mash and tomato and chive dressing for $26.

I had ordered my trout medium rare and it was cooked to perfection. I wasn't so sure about the scallops though. I was expecting it to have a lovely golden crust, but it looked like it was slowly poached in oil or something. However, with that said, the scallops were also cooked to a lovely medium rare.

I rarely eat trout, so this was a lovely way to have it. I could really taste the sweet freshness of the fish. I wasn't too fond of the cauliflower mash, but I've never liked cauliflower anyway. So the fact that I ate all of it says something!

This turned out to be a fantastic lunch with our We Love Sydney offer, $13 each without alcohol!

Red Oak
201 Clarence Street, Sydney
Ph: 02 9262 3303

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tropfest 2009

The Sydney weather is really confusing me lately. I don't know if its summer or winter, wet or dry. I had already booked Will in for Tropfest about 6 months ago, but with the way the weather was, we were just going to have to play it by ear. If it rained, we would just go out for coffee regardless. By about midday on Sunday, the weather looked stable enough to brave a trip to tropfest.

It gets packed very quickly

I then spent an hour running around trying to pack things to bring to Tropfest and quickly whipped up some tuna puff pastries and chocolate crossiants. The plan was to park at my work and pop into Coles to grab the rest of the food. I say we did pretty well considering the lack of preparation.

Besides the tuna puff pastries and chocolate crossiants I made, we grabbed:

- Brie
- Fetta
- Olives
- Sundried Tomato and French Onion dip
- Pitta bread/doritos/water crackers/grissini
- BBQ Chicken
- Lindt hot chocolate

And because we're having a Will and Grace day out, 4 bottles of wine!

Oh yeahhhhh!!

Brown brothers + Tropfest = Win!

Somewhere along the line, Matt showed up with spring rolls?

I really enjoyed the movies this year. Some were fun and light hearted, some were deep and meaningful (without being too arty farty so that no one understands what was going on). During the intermission, we got a little extra.....entertainment.

Some crowds celebrating...

Closer look.....

Oh god.....this is what happens when we cancel a trip to the Gold Coast. The last time we went to the Gold Coast, someone pulled out his errrrrr.........doodle and sack and waved it around my face. So instead of one person waving their doodle and sack infront of me, I've got 2 people this year to make up for the fact that we cancelled GC. Understanding why this was happening, we decided to go up close and personal to get a photo with them.

I won't show the photos of me with them, as I'm trying to keep this blog R-rated instead of X-rated. Which is exactly why the cops showed up and spoiled the fun. We did a quick runner with our camera!

Looks like the nudity pushed Matt over the edge who decided to drain the last of our wine.....

I had to physically shove him off my mat so I could pack up to go home!

Lets just say, most interesting Tropfest EVER.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cafe Mix

I've always heard so much about Shangri-La's Cafe Mix and I couldn't wait to try it. However, I found the price tag of $58 was a bit much to swallow. ($58 is the cheapest price, Mon-Thur. $85 Sat. $68 Fri & Sun). However, when I spotted Cafe Mix on the list of We Love Sydney restaurants offering buy 1 get 1 free, I just had to book myself in. I personally don't like cold crab or lobster, so opted to go on a Thursday night where it's cheaper since they won't be offering any lobster. I mean, why pay extra for something you won't eat?

We arrive and we're quickly seated, after having to walk past the dessert bar which practically gave me a sugar high just breathing in! Once we were seated, we did a quick recon around the place to suss out what was on offer, so we could plan out what was the best way to attack the buffet. There was a Cold Bar, where the prawns and oysters were, along with antipasto and the DIY Salad. A western section, a Japanese section, an Asian section and an Indian section.

Japanese section

Cold seafood section

I didn't really look too closely at the hot food since my main victims were the prawns and oysters.

I had atleast 2 plates just like this

Moving onto the hot food...kinda

Once I had completely overdosed on the cold shellfish, I headed off to the hot section to find something to warm me up. I did about 3 laps, going from station to station, when something hit me. The variety.....sucked? Let me list out exactly what was on offer.

In the Western Section:

- Steamed Vegetables
- Potatoes
- Roast Lamb
- Fish

Roast lamb was just roast lamb. No sauce, no gravey. Just roasted lamb sliced. The fish bain marie only ever contained a maximum of 2 fishes, each one slightly bigger than my hand. If you're not there when they refill it, its gone. It didn't help that people will scoop up an entire fish and plonk it onto their plate. But even then, the fish wasn't that big, so you couldn't call the person a glutton. They just really like their fish.

In the Japanese Section:

- Miso soup
- Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup
- Sushi

The sushi section was very disappointing for me. Most of them were chunky rolls filled with heaps of rice. When the chef bothered making the nigiri sushi, they were quite good in making the rice quantity quite small, so you didn't fill up. Except he was making them one at a time, and placing them on the tray, one at a time. That unless you were standing right there, with the only pair of tongs in your hand ready to swipe up whatever was laid out, you get nothing. There was always plenty of rolls, but the amount of rice on them just screamed FILLER. And that was the extent of the Japanese section. Rolls, a few pieces of nigiri, soup and pickles.

The Asian Section:

- Sago pudding
- Some form of sweet glutinous rice with sultanas
- Stir fried green beans
- Tom yum soup
- Roast Pork
- Boiled rice
- Steamed buns
- Dim Sims

The Asian Section was probably one of the better hot food sections there. I'm only saying this because I love tom yum soup and dim sims. Whilst I really loaded up on the dim sims...they were of the frozen variety. The big dim sims had the exact same texture, and almost the exact same taste as the ones I get at the local fish and chips shop (Soft, lots of shredded cabbage and grated carrots). The only difference is that these are steamed, whilst I usually get mines deep fried and doused in chicken salt. I didn't mind the dim sims, but I'm usually paying $1 each, vs people who would pay $60 for this buffet? The prawn dumplings were incredibly floury, and the prawns almost had a mushy texture. Something you usually get when you steam poor quality frozen prawn dumplings. There were also a few mysterious dumplings that surfaced during the night, each one was mushy and you had to pull the whole thing apart to see what the fillings were.

Funnily enough, the buns and the dumplings were placed in the Indian section of the restaurant. Strange you would think? Not really....considering what they had on offer in the Indian section, they had to put a few decent things there to make it worthwhile.

The Indian Section:

- Naan bread
- Basmati Rice with a bit of saffron mixed in
- Tandoori chicken
- Lentil curry

Where is my beef vindaloo? Or butter chicken? Or Samosas? Is there nothing else in the Indian cuisine that they could've offered??

We had been strategic to lay off all the starch and carbs to make sure we had plenty of stomach space, but after doing a few laps, we realised that the variety of food on offer was so sub-par, that we just started eating the buns, rice and even the naan (Which was incredibly tough, as if someone had over microwaved it). I half heartedly loaded up on the dim sims before I gave up on the hot food and went for the dessert bar.

The dessert bar was probably the highlight of the night. Chocolate fountain, creme brulee, creme caramel, tiramisu, macroons, cheese platter, ice creams etc. Even I went back for 2nds and 3rds.

Dessert section

Choc dipped strawberries, macaroons, creme brulee, creme caramel

With the discount, dinner came to $29pp. If I had paid the full price, $58, I would've been really annoyed. And I mean REALLY ANNOYED. Maybe bordering on pissed. Even though I only ended up paying $29pp, I was still really disappointed. I have gone to many RSLs, where you paid less than $29 and get twice as much variety and pretty much the same quality. You still get the prawns and the oysters (Probably not as much oysters as you would get at Cafe mix as some of them limit you to 6 at a time. BUT, unlike Cafe Mix, you don't get a mouthful of grit and crushed oyster shells), but you also get a whole grilled salmon, mussels, salt and pepper prawns, swimmer crabs, heaps of deep fried seafood, stir fries, sushi, salads, a huge carvery bar with ham, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, pasta and other stuff. The desserts will not be able to compete with Cafe Mix, but I'm not a huge dessert person, so it doesn't make a huge difference to me.

I don't know, maybe if I went on a Fri-Sun, I would've enjoyed it alot more. But I couldn't really see what they could offer to make it worth the $85 you have to pay on a Saturday? Or maybe I am being picky?? Maybe there was just too much hype and I had expectations that was too high....but I was really disappointed. And so was my friend, so I guess we'll just have to go to one of my favourite buffets to make up for it. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thai Garn - Summer Hill

I'm always on the look for great local restaurants. Something cosy with great food, and hopefully at a reasonable price. I've walked past Thai Garn at Summer Hill quite a few times at night, and they're always packed out. I made a date with a friend to go there for dinner one night to check out what the fuss was about.

The minute we sat down, they presented us with a plate of complimentry prawn crackers. Except these weren't your standard coloured prawn crackers you get at the local chinese restaurants. They were crunchy, prawny and plenty of chilli! These crackers told you that they're PRAWN crackers. Prawn crackers with a kick! I actually wanted to take the rest of the crackers home at the end of the night......

One thing I liked about Thai Garn is that it doesn't have your bog standard thai menu. They have a standard menu and a chef speciality menu which gets updated frequently. This means there's always something new to try!

One of my favourite thai dishes is Chicken Cashew Nuts, which along with a Pad Thai and a Tom Yum Goong is used to judge how good a Thai restaurant is!

Chicken stir fry with chilli jam and cashew nuts

This was really really good. I loved the broccoli in this dish, its soaks up all the sauce! (Which happens to be spicy with a touch of sweet caramelised flavour). I scooped as much sauce as I could onto my plate to mix with my rice. The rice, which by the way, is always served by the waitress. You'll usually see them roaming through the restaurant with a huge silver pot offering more boiled rice.

Roast duck stir fried with red curry, pineapples and vegetables

I was really hoping to get a roast duck curry, but a curry stir fry was the next best thing. And this was actually really good as you don't have a huge bowl of curry sauce at the end of the night. not that it's a bad thing, but I love my sauce! Which means I usually eat so much rice and sauce, that I feel sick at the end of the night! lol I am just too greedy :P

Combination seafood tamarine curry with spinach and morning glory

I was actually a bit worried that this curry will be too sour. I am actually not a fan of anything sour combined with coconut milk. One of the main reasons that I am against lime juice in laksas. Surprisingly, this was really nice. It had a slight tang that went well with the seafood, but it never once screamed "SOUR!!!" to me. It really helped to lightened the curry up and went really well with the green leafy veggies. Probably why I was practically drinking the sauce!

Total cost was $55 for 3 dishes and rice. The restaurant was dark and cosy, making it extremely easy just to sit there all night chatting away. My only complaint would be that the tables can be quite small if you're unlucky. In the first 10mins we were there, 2 seperate groups of peoples had requested to move to a bigger table. If you're to go, try to get there early to score a table for 4, for 2 people. You'll be a lot more comfortable! Trust me! Besides, you'll want to order more and more dishes, and you'll need the room for it! hehe

Thai Garn
14 Lackey St
Summer Hill NSW 2130
Phone (02) 9716 7012

Monday, February 16, 2009

Efendy - We Love Sydney

With life being so hectic, I haven't had a chance to catch up with Moishii for awhile. When I spotted that Efendy was part of the We Love Sydney promotion, I just had to book us in for dinner and a catch up! The first time we went to Efendy, we absolutely loved the food, but way over ordered! I was full to the stage that I was almost sick! hehe This time, we were smarter with our ordering!

Me hitting the wine ASAP!!!!

We ordered the Meze for 2 and a main each. We opted to not have any salad, bread or dessert! The entree and main alone will fill you to the brim! The Meze menu is updated daily which is great to know, cos I really wanted to try something different from last time!

Duck Gozleme

This kinda reminds me of Peking Duck rolls. An ode to the Asian side of Turkey? I had no complaints about this, except I wanted more! lol

King Prawns wrapped with noodles and deep fried on a capsicum/tomato sauce

I think this was my favourite meze. The prawn absolutely burst open when you bite into it! And the lovely crunchy noodles, smothered in the sauce just made it heavenly!

Champagne marinated fetta with peppercorn and dill

The cheese was lovely and creamy, not salty at all! If only I can find something as good at our local shops...

Fried mussels with walnut sauce

In Turkey, all along the water side are little stands of people selling these mussels. They basically look like mussels in the half shell with a crumb like topping, eaten with a squeeze of lemon juice. People will walk up, buy 1 or 2 mussels, eat it on the spot and then leave. Now I've never tried this in the 3 times I've been to Turkey. Mainly because the stands are out in the open, under the blazing sun! I wasn't exactly keen on making friends with salmonella...maybe when I go in winter.....

These mussels does not look anything like that they sell in Turkey. However, if what they sell in Turkey tasted as good, I'm sure I'll be making a beeline to those stands the next time I'm there!

Eggplant, potato and tomatoes topped with yoghurt

Lovely cold side dish. I really wanted to order some bread to mop up the sauce at this point!

Slow braised shoulder of lamb with burnt yoghurt

This almost tastes like a moussaka with the lovely tender lamb and the thick burnt yoghurt. The sauce was really lovely in this dish, I just wished they had served it differently so I could add the orzo pasta to it to soak everything up.

Orzo and a spicy tomato salad

We ended the meal with a few pots of mint tea to help with our digestion.There was no way we could fit any dessert in. We couldn't even finish the main as much as we both loved it! All of this cost us around $90 after the We Love Sydney discount! An absolute bargain when you consider the lovely food, the generous serves of wine and a great friend to chat to! (It also gave us a chance to start planning our next trip!)

79 Elliott Street (Corner of Darling Street)
Balmain NSW 2041
Ph: 02 9810 5466

VIC Bushfire Fundraising Morning tea

With the tragedy happening in VIC over the last week, we decided to host a morning tea at work to raise money for those less fortunate than us (Plus, we always love a cook off with heaps of food!). Our lovely Group Assistant did a wonderful job of harrassing everyone to make sure they brought food AND money to the morning tea. We weren't asking for a gold coin donation, we were asking for note donations only. And everyone was more than happy to oblige!

So what did I make?

Big white blob

What the HECK is that I can hear you saying. That, my dear friends, is my first attempt at making marshmallows!

The ugly ducklings

They look quite terrible to be honest, but that's cos I used some weird icing sugar my sister had bought to dust them with (it was all clumped up before I even opened it). The marshmallows was incredibly easy to make! I'm going to experiment with them a bit more to see if I can achieve those heavenly green tea ones that Tetsuya made. These were really really good for my first attempt. Incredibly light and fluffy, almost like eating the inside of a meringue.

Cookies and cream truffles

Salami and cheese palmiers

Sweet palmiers

The last morning tea we held, only 3 of us had brought anything in. And it was the one time I decided to make one dish only (My chocolate ripple cake). It was actually a pretty pathetic turn out. But this time, everyone pooled in to make this morning tea success! Those who couldn't cook, went to the shops and bought something instead.

Scones and apple puffs

Pikelets, cheese and bacon puffs, chocolate cupcakes, lamingtons and chocolate crackle slice

Lattice cheese cake, anzac cookies

More lamingtons (home made and store bought) and cupcakes

Vegetable quiche

Date scones

Chocolate caramel slice

The BEST oreo cupcakes and pikelets

Carrot cake

Butterfly cupcakes and chocolate spiders

Half of the spread

Even as I was taking photos, more and more food arrived to our kitchen. So much, in fact, that the table was groaning under the amount of food! We had run out of the room on the table and started placing the rest of the goodies on the benches surrounding the kitchen. There were also about 6 dozen Krispy Kremes lying around!

Everyone was more than generous with their donations, with plenty of orange and yellow notes going into the donation box. A few people even slipped some green $100 notes in! Some others decided to donate online for their tax receipts. At the end of the day, we had raised over $2000 in cash alone! Not including what was donated online. Every dollar we donate, our company will match the donation. As as we deposited the money into Westpac, who was also going to match our donation, we basically raised over $6000!! All for cooking some food and feasting on it!

I've also gone through my wardrobe and did a drastic clean out. I alone, managed to cram 3 hugeeeeee garbage bags full of clothes to donate (My sister and her family of 5 only managed 9 bags...). And I only went through 1 wardrobe! That shows how much of a horder I am!