Sunday, May 25, 2008

Allysons Family Restaurant - Lebanese

I've never had Lebanese twice in a week. But I was up one night suddenly wanting to find out what was happening with our old family restaurant, when I found out about Allysons. Allysons is actually a few shops up from where our old restaurant used to be. Looking at the reviews, it sounded promising, so I conned a friend into going with me (So I can walk past our old restaurant to see how its doing).

As we walked in, I noticed a big table of about 20 people celebrating someone's birthday. To the right hand side, there was another room with a table set up for about 40 people. Luckily I had made a booking and was seated in no time. The decor is very simple, almost a bit sterile. But I was there for the food.

As I looked through the menu, I spotted Kibbi and knew I had to order it. Kibbi is the Lebanese version of Icili Kofte and it one of my favourite middle eastern dishes.


Crunchy on the outside, filled with a spicy lamb mince and pinenut mixture. It was sooooo good. Luckily, our platter came out and I wrapped these up with some dip an bread.

Mixed platter for one

We ordered a mixed platter for one to share. It came with a chicken kebab, shish kebab, kafte kebab, hommus, babaganoush, labne, garlic dip, tabouli and lots of lebanese bread (Both fresh and fried). I didn't think this was a lot of food shared between 2 people, but I was really really full by the time we finished this platter off. Which was a good thing, because the pizza we ordered was a complete disappointment.

Seafood pizza

I've never had a seafood pizza made almost entirely out of seafood stick. We actually counted before eating, that there were 2 prawns, 1 piece of fake crab meat and the rest was all seafood stick. The base was quite nice, but the excess seafood stick made the pizza almost sweet. And the cheese was strange in the sense that it didn't melt properly.

I would probably go back for the Lebanese food, and maybe the pizza again. But I'll definitely check what pizza other people are eating before ordering.

The suicide before Zenobia

A few of us met up in Leichhardt for the Spanish film festival. We had prepurchased tickets to the suicide club. It was an amusing film, but I guess I had much higher expectations. I kind of expected it to be like something me and Moishii would make. But honestly, not many people are as screwed in the head like us. After the movie, we were all starving. We decided to find the closest indoor place for dinner, which happened to be Zenobia.

Moishii had been there before and said it was pretty good, but he's only ever had the banquet at a party. As we walk in, we spot Brian McFadden standing outside having a cigarette break. We didn't bother chucking a fuss as Delta Goodrem wasn't there. We walk in and get seated. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to order, which wasn't a bad thing since the waiters basically ignored us (Even though our table was RIGHT next to Brian McFadden's table).

We eventually flag someone down and place our order. About 10mins later, our dip and some bread finally come out. We're ravenous at this stage and start to devour everything.


The babaganous is really nice and smokey, but I reckon I make a much better babaganous. We decided to go easy on the dip and bread as we wanted to save our stomach for the mains and possibly dessert. 20mins after we finished the dip, Gus's fish comes out:

Grilled fish with a nutty sauce

The sauce was really nice on first taste as it was rich and creamy with a lovely nutty texture. A few more bites into it, it starts to get a bit sickly. Since everyone else ordered the same thing, we told Gus to start so it doesn't get cold. Its a good thing we told him to as well, because it took almost 30mins for the rest of our meals to come out. And when I asked the waitress what was happening with our food (After half the table started flapping their arms for attention), I got a "Are you stupid?" look followed by a "WELL! YOU ordered the chicken. Of course it takes longer than the fish!" followed by a "Moron" look from the waitress.

I tried to explain that my friend is sitting there eating by himself whilst we wait. And again "Chicken takes longer than fish to cook". Gees woman. I know that. Any moron knows that. So maybe, you should cook the fish when the chicken is almost done? As opposed to cooking them at the same time? Now THAT would be a logical way to do it don't you think? Instead of having one person eat 30mins before everyone else. They didn't even bother telling us when we ordered, just expected us to wait. I can tell you, if Gordon Ramsay Kitchen nightmares this place, that would be the first thing they would get beaten about.

And it wasn't just the waiting time for the food, it was them completely ignoring our table because Mr McFadden was in the house. Every waiter/waitress was fwapping around the table like bees to honey hoping for a big tip. Their table had at least 4 people attend to them, whilst us, sitting right next to them practically had to wave a flag and blow a trumpet for a nod of acknowledgment. I know he's a celebrity, and you may get a big tip. But think of it this way, who pays the rest of your salary for the rest of the year when he's not around. Ignoring everyone else for one tip is plain stupid.

As for our long awaited chicken. It was ok. Certainly not worth the wait. I would happily drive the extra 20mins to Bankstown for Habibs and pay 1/2 the price for twice as much food and a much better garlic sauce. Atleast Habib's sauce doesn't taste of raw garlic and sting your tongue.

BBQ Chicken with garlic sauce

We were actually all looking forward to dessert, but after the service we've received and how long it took, we decided to just grab the bill and leave.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Homecook heroine...wannabe

I've been in a bit of a strange mood lately. Either I want to go out and party and spend up, or I want to stay home and mope whilst I think about my career. I've also been moping at friend's place which gives me a chance to whinge and work out what I really want in life right now, which is everything. The upside is, when I don't go out drinking and eating my salary away, I will be cooking up a storm.

SMJ Minestrone - Starring Cavalo nero

This was my "oh my god, I've been drinking 6 days straight" detox healthy soup of carrots, zucchini, potatoes, broccoli and cavalo nero. I have been staking out Woolies for the past 4 months after I found out that they're one of the few retailers that stock cavalo nero. And when I spotted the last packet on the shelves, I grabbed it before I realised what I would use it for. Using it in the soup really let me taste the natural sweetness that you don't always associate with cooked cabbage.

Chunky fried rice

Using leftover home made bbq pork, I added some chunky chicken before stir frying up the biggest wokful of carb loaded comfort food to an asian. Fried rice.

Shepherds pie

What better way to combat the cold, bone chilling weather we've had with a hot bubbling tray of shepherds pie. The filling was a combination of lamb mince and slowly stewed chunky beef, finely grated carrots, onions and peas. The next time I'm going to make this, I'm going to make it extra saucy, but in a deeper dish. A lot of the sauce bubbled over the sided of the tray and dried it out a tad.

Big BIG breakfast

What can I say? Theres nothing better than a big breakfast to cure a hangover. This was more lunch than breakfast, but it was good enough to eat 3 meals a day (If it doesn't kill you). Runny sunnyside up eggs, sausages, bacon, garlic mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, hash browns and baked beans, all served with crunchy hot toast.

Scotch fillet with pommes noisettes and garlic mushrooms

The steak was good, but the star of the show was really the pommes noisettes. I saw the photo of the pommes noisettes on TFP's website, I just KNEW I had to have some. The last time I had these would have been a good 6-10years ago. Damn it was good!!!

Curried sausages and mashed potatoes

I'm a bit obsessive compulsive. Like there was one time I watched "Everybody loves Raymond", and they had a scene where they were eating biscotti. Next thing you know, I'm googling a biscotti recipe and ripping everything out of my pantry to try and find flour to make biscotti at 10:30pm. I couldn't find any flour and was tempted to run to the shops in pouring rain so I could make biscotti. The only thing stopping me? It started thundering and lightening.

So when I was reading one of the forums, I saw a recipe for curries sausages. And ever since then, all I want to do is make curried sausages. Not that I followed the recipe, but its curry and sausages isn't it? Served with a pile of mashed potatoes to mop up the sauce...MmMMmm

Then I wanted to make pizza. Lots of it.

Attempt 1: Ham, cheese, onion and oregano pizza

Attempt 2: Ham, mushrooms, cheese, onion and oregano pizza

Attempt 3: Ham, mushrooms, cheese, onion, oregano and chilli pizza

And this? I didn't cook this. But I ate this with my workmate after a big night out where we both got kicked out of the bar. These are possibly some of the best squid in all of Sydney. They were crunchy and spicy. Lightly dusted with a chicken like salt, served with rocket and aioli. We also ordered a big bowl of chips to share. You can get this at Chicane on Bond St, opposite Australia Square. The BEST squid.

Efendy in Balmain - Modern Turkish

When I first heard about Efendy and their Modern Turkish cuisine, I knew I just had to go try it. And who else but my partner in crime? It took me and Moishii ages to find a day that suits both of us since we're so busy all the time. But the day finally came around, and all he had to do was drive through a thunderstorm to pick me up! We arrive at Efendy's and find a car parking spot right outside the main entrance:

We're seated, literally in the corner of the restaurant. I'm actually tucked into a corner where I can barely get out without knocking the table over. The good thing though, was that it was quite warm in my corner.

We had a quick look at the menu before we went, but we still didn't know what to order. You see, we almost wanted to cancel dinner because we wanted to save money. We all know what happens when we save money right? So our plans of a main each kind of went out the window when we saw the mezze platter. So it became 2 mains and mezze. Then we got a bit carried away and ordered other stuff as well....

Fresh baked turkish bread rolls with pepper olive oil and olive and chilli dip

Mezze for 2

Cerkez Tavuk - Circassian chicken dip, garlic, walnut aioli and paprika oil

This was unbelievably good. I actually found a recipe for it a few months ago and emailed it to Moishii, who said he's never heard of it before. But what was served definitely didn't disappoint. The dip was creamy and aromatic and I treated it more like a salad than a dip by shoveling it down my throat.

Mercimek Kofte - Lentil, bulghur and spice kofte on cos lettuce

For some reason, we thought this would have raw meat in it. Just shows how much we actually bother reading. This was lovely with a squeeze of lemon served with the cold crunchy lettuce.

Patlican salata - Smoked baby eggplant, grilled capsicum and pomegranate salad

This was twist on the traditional babaganoush. The dip was much chunkier than you're used to, and the ruby red pomegranate seeds bursting in your mouth was the perfect contrast you needed.

Borek - Spicy lamb, feta and capsicum filled pastry

This is nothing like the borek we have in Turkey, but it was delicious! It was closer to a Lebanese ladies finger, but hey, I wasn't complaining.

Gozleme - Feta cheese with parsley rolled in thin yufka pastry

This was nice, but it can't compare to the ones you get at the Glebe markets.

Ahtaphot - Grilled baby octopus marinated with grape pekmez, chilli and oregano

Tender smokey grilled baby octopus. MMMmmm the left over sauce was perfect to mop up with the hot crusty Turkish bread.

Our intention of "saving" money on this dinner, somehow involved us ordering a salad to go with it?

Efendy salad - Rocket, brown Turkish fig, feta and walnuts

I really loved this salad. The pepperiness of the rocket, the creamy feta and the crunch of the Turkish fig and walnut made the perfect salad. This is something I'm going to make again in my own time.

By this stage, we were getting quite stuffed. But when I saw my main put down infront of me. Oh gosh...

Ordek - Confit of Duck leg, Anatolian cheese baklava, poached quince and zeytinyagli fasulye

The duck was alot firmer than I would've liked a confit to be, but the cheese baklava more than made up for that criticism. If only they served more of it!

Kuzu Incik - LAMB SHANK slow cooked in pomegranate and saffron, chickpea and barley pilaf

This was Moishii's, and although it was a bit spicy for him, I think he enjoyed it.

You think we'd be full by this stage, but the stupid switch got flicked on in our brain so we both ordered dessert. Not to share, but one each as we assumed it'll be the same size as the mezze.

Chocolate Baklava - Dark chocolate mousse, baklava wafers, Pedro Ximenez spiced sour cherry compote, salep ice cream

This was more like a chocolate brownie between baklava sheets. It was so rich and decadent, that you really needed the sour cheery to cut through it. The ice cream was also fantastic, it tasted like orange blossom ice cream which I devoured. We really should've shared this, as we barely got through half a plate each. Moishii was tempted to hide the food in my handbag, Mr Bean style.

Turkish tea and turkish delight to end it all

I was so full at this stage that I couldn't even sip water. I could be in the desert, dehydrated and ready to die, and I still wouldn't be able to sip water to save my life. Our "lets save some money and not go nuts with food" plan when down the drain with a $180 bill. But it was so SO worth it.

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

BBQ Pork (Char Siu) - The Recipe

I've actually had quite a few people asking for the BBQ Pork Recipe I did awhile ago. Now, I don't mind sharing my recipes, but the problem is, I don't measure anything. My cooking style is very similar to Jamie Oliver's if not more erratic. Its a pinch of this, a shake of that, a 2 blobs of this, a shietload of garlic and add "enough" liquid to combine. So as my workmates going away present, I sat down and tried to work out what is a "recipe" for the BBQ Pork. I've never really tried this recipe, and I probably never will. But in my mind, its the closest to the quantities I *think* I put in...

1kg pork neck cut into strips
Lots of chinese BBQ Sauce - 1/2 cup or Hoisin (1/3 Cup as its a much stronger sauce)
Sherry or other alcohol - 1/4 cup? (Enough to loosen the bbq sauce)
Five spice powder - shietloads! 1 heaped tablespoon
1 tsp salt
10 tsp sugar
1/2 bulb of garlic
Honey or Maltose to glaze

Basically you need enough marinade to cover all the meat.

TIP: I always make my marinade first so I can taste test it and made adjustments before adding the raw meat. (Of course, I know lots of people who taste the marinade that has raw meat sitting in it...)

Marinate overnight (I had mines marinating for 24hrs )

Bake on a rack and using a tray to catch all the drippings. Add a little water to the tray to stop it burnin. Bake for approx 45mins at 180 (Time will vary depending on the size of the meat). Baste with the marinade throughout the whole process. 10mins before its cooked, baste with honey or Maltose and crank up the temperature. Once its nice and golden with little burnt black bits on the corner, then its all good to go!

Serve on a plate of steaming hot rice and boiled veggies. Drizzle with soya sauce or the marinade/drippings (Which you boil of course!)

Lets hope someone can try it out and tell me if its any good? hahaha Here are some photos of when I made it the other week. Since I was cooking for my dad, and he insisted that I cooked it the way we used to in the restaurant, we had to fashion up a Chinese BBQ stove by creating our own hooks:

Once the BBQ Pork was almost cooked, I took them off the hook and put it onto the rack where I can glaze them properly:

Due to time constraints, I couldn't "burn" them as much as I would've liked. Damnit! Need to cook earlier next time to everyone isn't starving:

Finished product:

Damn it was good!! And no horrible added colouring staining my rice all read! Oh, and I've come up with a draft plan to build my own Chinese Charcoal BBQ Stove in the backyard specifically for making BBQ Pork and Roast Pork. Lets see when I can get off my lazy ass and actually build the stove!