Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen, Chatswood

Bao Dao's fairly new to Chatswood, having been around for a little less than a year. Since it first opened, I've heard many good things about it. Indeed, it's one of the more affordable sit-down restaurants around the area, the service is fast, and the food is tasty - even according to my dinner buddy that night and one of my fussier friends when it comes to Shanghainese and Taiwanese cuisines.

Said friend duly noted that the lanterns as depicted in the photo below are pretty accurate replicas of the ones that those in mainland China use during lantern festivals. During these festivals, people write riddles on the lanterns for others to solve throughout the night in return for small prizes.

Service is semi-self-serve. You are led to your table and provided your food, but ordering and immediate payment occurs at the counter. The food didn't all come at once, so the order in which the dishes arrived was at random.

First was the fried basil chicken, which was surprisingly not too dry and bore a pleasant crunch from the light batter.

Fried chicken ($7.20)

 We ordered soup as a winter-warmer. Chicken and mushroom soup is usually standard chicken broth, but the herbs here gave it an extra punch of flavour.

Shiitake mushroom & chicken in master stock ($6.60)

The highlight for me were the pork wontons, the skin of which could have been fairly dry, if they had not been served in their 'house spicy sauce'. The sauce was more peppery than spicy, which is great for those who can't eat anything too hot.

Pork wonton x 8 pieces ($7.70)

We each had one braised pork belly bun. Garnished with chopped peanut and coriander, this was mouthwateringly good - though I think they're sold for less at their stall during the Chatswood markets.

Pork belly bun ($4.50)

I'm not a pork knuckle fan - biting into the fat was too overwhelming for me, but the sauce went well with it. Probably for the more traditional Chinese palate.

Pork knuckle ($7.70)

Bao Dao is definitely a welcome addition to the food scene in Chatswood. Next time, I'll be back to try their noodles and more of their wontons!

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Baroque Bistro, The Rocks

Last week, I headed to the Aroma Festival in Circular Quay/ The Rocks. I naively hoped to grab a cup of coffee and a lardy hot dog and didn't take some things into account:

1. It was lunch time (albeit a bit late)
2. The lines were insane; and
3. Gourmet sausages always rapidly deplete.

And so, our 'quick and cheap' lunch turned into a couple of not-as-cheap-as-I-wanted open sandwiches at Baroque Bistro. How did this happen?

Well... We were meandering along George Street and turned onto the pedestrian street in-between Guylian and Orient Hotel, where all the food stalls were located. Stomach was rumbling and the crowds made our walking speed a torturous amble. Eventually we made our way along Playfair Street, where the crowd was a little thinner. It was then that we spotted only a petite line at Baroque. We joined it and thankfully only had to wait a few minutes to receive a table (as there were only two of us, we ended up taking priority!). And thus ends my long-winded explanation.

Service was brisk and efficient, providing us with a reprieve.

We decided to go halves with 2 tartines. Both were too soggy to eat without the aid of cutlery, but the flavours were simplistic and pleasant. It was a shame that these were the only two meaty tartines available to choose from, as two pork dishes made me crave for a bit more variety.

The sausage was accompanied with a couple of cherry tomatoes and a lot of onion, which had been sauteed lightly.

Grilled Toulouse sausage tartine ($14.00)

They were more generous with the pulled pork, which was once again surrounded by onion - this time of the less pungent red variety.

Pulled pork shoulder tartine ($14.00)

Overall verdict? Indifferent. The lunch wasn't particularly filling, but it was the early afternoon and we were planning on having dinner in a couple of hours, anyway. Most people probably order dessert after this (there was plenty of stomach room for that!), but we only had a few hours left to do some shopping and decided to leave.

Baroque | Bistro Bar Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 27 July 2013

I Love Pho, Crows Nest

Proposing to eat Vietnamese on the North Shore usually attracts gasps of horror from pho enthusiasts. Alas, I'm not a pho enthusiast and I just wanted something soupy for dinner. Having said that, I Love Pho appears to be distinctly more authentic than the other Vietnamese eateries situated in Chatswood - their egg rolls are made with rice paper, pho comes with hoisin sauce, that sort of thing.

We visited I Love Pho without a booking around 7pm on a weeknight, and it was absolutely packed. We were fortunate enough that someone was finishing up at the time, but some people entering a few minutes later had to stand around for quite a while.

 The crispy Vietnamese pancake was labelled under the chef's recommendations, and no wonder! I loved the crunch of the batter and how it was chock-full of prawns, pork and beansprouts. And though it costs about as much as a bowl of pho, it's pretty big and I could probably have eaten one plate of pancake as a meal.

Banh Xeo ($12.60)

This meant that by the time the pho arrived, there was little of the noodles that I could stomach. I ordered the pho chin, or pho with well-done beef flank. The beef was a little tough and they were overly generous with the rice noodles, but the soup was quite tasty.

Hoisin/ chilli sauce with garnishing
(Pho Chin - approx. $12.50)
My conclusion? Yummy pancakes, generous portions, reasonable price for Crows Nest. After this experience, I'm keen to come back and taste some of their banquet-style dishes.

I Love Pho Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, 26 July 2013

Food Society, Darlinghurst

The first time I heard about Food Society was over a year ago when a friend posted photos of a bunch of their sharing plates on Facebook and made me green with envy. At the time I vowed to myself that I would pay a visit, but never quite got around to doing so. Then, earlier this year, I spotted one of its Groupon deals and impulse-purchased the voucher - "High Tea with Sparkling Wine Each for Two ($49)". Once again, a significant amount of time lapsed before making a reservation to make use of them.

Paranoid as I am, I skimmed through some reviews beforehand to mentally prepare myself for anything negative that could potentially have spoilt the afternoon. Gladly, none of the negative items mentioned happened to me, and my overall experience was pleasant! We were running half an hour late due to unexpected traffic on the way to the Bridge. I called ahead and spoke to a waitress who cordially made a note of it. When we arrived, we were settled in, provided with our sparkling wine, and served our courses at a steady pace.
It gets dark in there ><

Food Society's high tea is not the traditional sort that comes with tea, sandwiches, scones, jam and cream - though they did serve the first round on a two-tiered plate stand! Instead, its menu is separated into different "canape" categories - savoury, substantial and sweet.

The first savoury canape I tried was a demitasse (small coffee cup) of soup. It was some sort of onion soup with a little sprinkle of parsley on top. It was nice to have something warm to kick off the meal.


Second was a celeriac custard tartlet with root vegetable salsa. The pastry, filling and garnishing were all light - the epitome of a canape.

Custard tartlet

On the bottom plate lay croquettes and crostinis for two. The croquette consisted of sun dried tomato, provolone cheese, parsley and thyme with horseradish cream. What struck me was how little resistance there was when I bit into it - I wasn't too fond of how the filling oozed out.

The crostini was quite adventurous. It contained trout tartare, capers and watercress, which in itself  wasn't strange, but the external skin of the crostini could be likened to a thin layer of omelette. It made me wonder what their definition of a crostini is...

Croquette and crostini

The next part of the high tea was made up of a mini burger and salad. The burger was a little milk roll that sandwiched some pulled poached chicken, paprika aioli, dutch smoked cheese and baked apple. The slices of apple tied the roll nicely to the salad, which was fruity and sweet (containing walnuts, grapes, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and a light drizzle of beetroot and mint dressing).

Milk roll with chicken

The final round was very rich, though presented beautifully on a wooden board. I opted to start off with the lightest looking dessert item - the lemon curd and French meringue tart. The meringue was soft, though lightly torched, while the lemon curd was zesty but still quite sweet - and a little runny.

Lemon curd tart

Second was the fudge brownie sitting in some walnut butterscotch. While the butterscotch was a nice touch and added a little moisture to the brownie, it was still quite dry and biscuit-like.


Last to be attacked were the ricotta doughnuts. These were dipped in lemon sugar and amaretto honey. Though I wasn't very full by this time, one of these little guys was enough to bring me to satiation. These little balls of doughnut tasted like crunchy, sugary pancake. Definitely comfort food.

Ricotta doughnuts

What's high tea without tea to drink? Clearly Food Society doesn't boast tradition, but I wanted something to cleanse my palate. I ordered green tea and was provided a monster of a pot. I think it was actually larger than my head. Enjoyed it - though not so much the indigestion that followed because I was too greedy and drank the rest in one go at the end.

Not sure how I managed to get the below photo so bright... I might have forgotten to play around with the ISO until too late. Whoops.

Pot of green tea ($3.00)

For $49 for two, I don't think it was a bad deal. Would I be willing to pay full price for it? Probably not...

Food Society on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Nepalese Kitchen, Surry Hills

I and a small group of friends were walking down Crown Street one evening searching for a dinner spot that would permit sharing, when we spotted Nepalese Kitchen, from which the lights benignly beckoned. As it was still pretty early (around 6pm), the restaurant was almost empty, so we had our choice of seats.

Lower area
Wall decorations
 That evening, it seemed to be a two-person show - I only saw one man in the kitchen who would occasionally come out to assist the waitress. Even with the minimal number of patrons at the time, it took a while for the waitress to return to take our order (and later, to receive water, food, order other drinks, receive said drinks and so forth. It was despite there being table service that we ended up walking to the back to settle the bill).

Below, you can see that they serve mango lassi, but I can't really report on the taste because I didn't feel like having one that night and refused to have a sip just to try because of my germaphobic ways.
Mango lassi
When we ordered our entree, haku choila, we were expecting, quite literally, a salad. Instead, each component of the dish took up 1/3 of a plate. The meat was barbecued beef, marinated in ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander. The oat-like substance in the middle is churia, crispy rice, which is indeed crunchy but somewhat chewy in texture - a little difficult to eat, but quite addictive. On the right hand side is a cucumber and daikon achar sprinkled with sesame seeds. I thought it odd that achar was on the menu, as there are Malaysian pickles known as acar and pronounced the same way. Perhaps that's what happens when numerous South East Asian cuisines influence your own...

Haku choila ($9.00)
 Next was our round of mains, which we shared banquet-style and ate with roti and rice. The Nepalese roti is a flat, thin bread - about as thin as a fajita wrap. It was grilled until crunchy and fairly tasty. However, it was pretty dear, as one piece was $3.00, which I felt wasn't substantial enough to justify the price.

Roti (~$3.00 per piece)
 The rice is priced more reasonably, as you are charged on a per person basis - the waitress told us that rice refills were unlimited. Also, as it is more starchy, the rice was a lot more effective at soaking up curries.

Rice ($2.00 - 3.00 per person)
 Apologies for the photos of the curries - I didn't realise at the time that the shots came out so blurry. Alas, that's what happens when you and your friends are feeling ravenous.

We decided on trying the goat, as it isn't used much in Sydney, and we wanted to try something new. I was wary of the potential meat smell that is often emitted, but whatever they did to season the meat, it worked. The dish was pleasant and the meat tender.
Goat curry (~$18.50)
The stew of prawns below, maacha ko tarkaari, looks like the goat curry above, but the flavours were very different. This one was heavily tomato-based, the acidity of which helped to offset the richness of the other curry. However, it was also very salty. The pot in which it arrived looks pretty shallow and small, but they were fairly generous with the prawns and their vessel was deceptively deep.

Maacha ko Tarkaari (prawn) ($18.00 - 20.00 range)
 We finished off the meal with some chai milk tea. It arrived unsweetened, as we were required to add sugar in accordance with our taste buds. I added about 3 teaspoons. I think it was alright, but I'm also not a fan of chai.

Chai milk tea (~$3.50)
Slow service aside, the food was mouthwatering and the prices reasonable (it worked out to about $20 a head, and the dishes fill you up more than you think they would). If I were to return, I definitely wouldn't bother ordering bread again to sop up the curry. It's not worth it, especially compared to the rice.

Nepalese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Apprentice

The Apprentice is a training restaurant up on Level 7 of Building E on the TAFE, Ultimo campus. At $22 per person for a 3-course lunch (Mon - Wed, $24 for Thurs - Fri), it's great value for money - and a bit like hitting the "I'm feeling lucky" button on Google. You never know what you're going to get on any given day. As they don't do walk-ins, you have to call them up to make a reservation and leave your credit card number with them for payment.

The restaurant is decorated simply, with arrangements sent up from TAFE's florists in training (which I failed to snap a photo of).

As I was the first of our table of 6 to arrive, I took the leisure of ordering the mocktail of the day, which consisted of orange juice and grenadine. To be honest, it just tasted like pulp-free orange juice, but it was very pretty to look at.

Mocktail of the day ($5)

Prior to your entrees, the servers come round with white bread rolls (and continue to do so throughout the meal). Being a bit of a bread glutton, I ate 3 buns that day. One of the others on our group was a bread snob and refused to eat bread of the white variety.

There are 4 menu items per course that you could potentially end up with. As they cook up a set number of dishes per menu item, your table seating is what determines your dish. This means if you attend with a large group of friends, you can do a bit of swapping around/ sharing.

Entree 1: Scallops. Someone kindly passed their scallops to me, which were described on the menu to be flavoured with a "spicy sauce". The sauce didn't really have a kick of spice, but the scallops were nice and the sweet potato puree on the side was quite yummy.


Money bags


Entree 2: Deep fried money bags, thai style - perfect for sharing, generous in portion, and very filling. They were similar to deep fried meaty spring rolls and the sauce was tangy.

Entree 3: Sweet corn chicken soup, which tasted a lot like congee.

Entree 4: Minced pork salad on witlof leaf - kinda like mini sang choy bows, except with pork.

Minced pork

Main 1: Lamb goulash with cous cous and green beans. The goulash was warm, hearty and chunky. Really nice comfort food that came with (essentially) rice. The pine nuts added a nice touch to the texture.

Lamb goulash

Didn't try the other mains - mine was too filling!

Main 2: Pomegranate balsamic glazed bream fish fillet with polenta - friends reported that this was pretty good.

Fish with polenta

Main 3: Grill rib eye beef with roast pumpkin and tamarind sauce - not the most appetising looking, but it looked okay covered in sauce.


Main 4: Parmesan and sage crumbed veal cutlet with potato bake and baby carrot. Friends seemed happy with this one.

As with the mains, I only sampled my dessert (by this time stomach space was pretty much taken up entirely).

Dessert 1: Banana cake with vanilla ice cream - the vanilla ice cream was made with vanilla bean, which was a pleasant surprise. The banana cake had an odd springy texture. The smear of raspberry was a nice touch.

Banana cake
Deep fried sorbet

Dessert 2: Deep fried mixed berry sorbet with mixed berry coulis and a macaroon. Sorbet tasted like jam.

Dessert 3: Thai tea creme brulee with tuile - the most visually appealing and reportedly really good.

Creme brulee
Dessert 4: Black sticky rice with taro and young coconut flesh. Don't remember what they said about it, but I'm pretty sure the comments were positive.

12 dishes later, we were practically rolling out.

It's important to remember that your waiters/ waitresses are also in training, so they might appear nervous, drop your fork, spill your water, or perform any number of accidents. Nevertheless, even these instances increase the novelty of the experience :)

Apprentice on Urbanspoon