Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shanghai Night, Ashfield

On a stinking hot Saturday I accompany The Boy to Ashfield pool where he is refereeing waterpolo. As I bob around in the human soup waiting for him to finish, my thoughts aren't really at the crowded pool, but on the dumplings we're going to eat after the water polo game finishes.

After doing a bit of research on the Internet I decided on Shanghai Night for our dumpling-fest. I'd heard good things about it and reading a few positive reviews is all I need for it to be added to my hit list.

The restaurant is little shabby looking with the requisite laminate tables, faded menu and hand written specials on the wall.  But like so many great Chinese eateries the more simple the decor, the better the food often is!  Plus China Shanghai is gloriously air-conditioned.  We'd eat of the floor in this weather and not care as long as the a/c was switched on.

To start with we order a cold Garlic Cucumber ($8.80) dish.  Neither The Boy and I have had this dish before but we quickly fall in love with the refreshing flavours.  The cucumber is so fresh it snaps when we bite into it.  There is a lot of garlic and it's very very strong but seeing as we're both eating it there is no risk of offending anyone in the car on the way home with our bad breathe.

Next up dumplings...which is really what we're here for.

Our first choice is the Steamed Shanghai Style Mini Pork Bun ($6.50). These are the dumplings that (I think) are popularly referred to as Xiao Long Bao by those in the know...or as The Boy and I call them "those soupy dumplings".

The man working at China Shanghai Night proudly tells us that the this restaurant was the first in Sydney to make Xiao Long Bao...and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise!

Breaking through the dumpling wrapper reveals a dumpling filled with soup and dumpling meat. These taste perfect served with a mix of soy sauce and vinegar.  Be careful when you eat them though as the soup is often piping hot and has a tendency to spurt everywhere!

We order a small serve of Pork with Chives Garlic in Dumpling ($5.50). These steamed dumplings are incredible value as we get a plate of 12 dumplings. I wonder how many dumplings are in a large serve?

To end the dumpling-love fest our final choice is a serve of Steamed Lamb and Onion Dumplings ($6.80). This is another generous serve of dumplings...which is good as they are pretty tasty.  The dumpling skin is not too thick, and not too thin and the onion really lifts the flavour of the lamb filing.

Shanghai Night on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Night is at 275 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tapas Train at Sushi Choo, CBD Sydney

For those not in the know, the Merivale group is the brand behind some of Sydney's best (and trendiest) pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. Being the ultimate dags The Boy and I don't go to trendy places all that often - I just don't have the wardrobe, dress sense or hair style to be seen in these type of trendy places.

For the month of March however (and also a little bit of February and April) the Merivale group are holding a foodie event, March into Merivale which involves a whole bunch of $33 lunches and dinners at 13 of their restaurants. They're also putting on quite a few special events and it is one of these that catches my eye and drags the ultimate dags into the city for a night of eating, eating and eating.

Now, I think I've made my love for sushi and sushi train well known on this blog. But a little known fact is that I also really really love Tapas.  I often suffer from food envy, so I love the idea of being able to try lots of little dishes rather than commit to one big meal and wishing I was having what she's having.

When I read that Sushi Choo was being taking over by the team from Ash Street Cellar who were doing an all you can eat Tapas Train I booked The Boy and I a seat on the train without a moments hesitation. All aboard!

The Boy and I arrived in the city a little bit early so we have a snoop around the Ivy complex which houses quite a few of the Merivale restaurants and clubs such as Felix, Ash Street Cellar, Uccello, Mad Cow and Sailors Thai.  After our snoop, we head up to the Ivy Bar where we are meeting fellow blogger Sara for a pre-pigout drink.  The Ivy Bar is decked in an Alice in Wonderland type of theme, very quirky with over-sized licorice-all-sorts decorating the trees and bar.  A yellow and white colour theme gives the place a light summer vibe. Me likie.

In keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme in seems only fitting that I order the Wonderland cocktail ($18.00).

After our drinks it's time to head over to Sushi Choo for the 6.30pm boarding time.  It's seems like a fairly early time for dinner on a Saturday night, but I'm not complaining as I'm an early eater most nights anyway.  We also spy fellow bloggers Gianna and Rhonda boarding the train.  It's fun know other people at the dinner as when our bellies get too full to sit down we can get up and have a little with chat the others whilst the food makes it way down to our feet.

To say I'm a little excited to see the train filled with delicious looking tapas plates is a bit of an understatement.  As soon as we're shown our seats we get straight into the business of eating. The great thing about this dinner was that if we really liked a dish you can have a another plate...or three!  This was an "all you can eat" affair and we ate all we could. The $45 price tag for the dinner seemed incredibly reasonable to me, especially as we also received a glass of Moet Chandon. Bottoms up!

Clockwise from top left: marinated olives; prawns with caper berries and marinated capsicum; salad of pine nuts and shredded cabbage; capsicum tartare.
Clockwise from top left: pork terrine; chorizo; pate with toasted sourdough, cornichons and unidentified paste; fried baby whitebait with lime mayonnaise.
Clockwise from top left: little sausages on a capsicum puree; wagyu steak; potato croquettes; leaf salad with feta.
Clockwise from top left: roasted capsicums with herbed breadcrumbs; prosciutto; sardines with a lemon vinaigrette; king fish ceviche.
Last dish of the evening: charred green peppers.
The Boy and I both had a GREAT time at this dinner, and ate WAY too much.  We each had at least one or more of the dishes shown above.  The Boy went nuts eating the prawn dish as well as the Wagyu beef (some of the meat was very tender, but other pieces a bit more chewy...he was "researching" the odds of getting tender vs chewy).

I'm hard pressed to name just one favourite dish of the night. I loved the pate as well as the roasted capsicum dish. The little sausages were extremely tasty, and the potato croquettes were as soft and fluffy as a pillow.  I loved the saltiness of the charred green peppers, which (thankfully) had no chilli kick to them at all. Whilst the sardines were too strong in flavour for my palette, the other seafood dishes were amazing. The ceviche was a particular favourite of mine.

It would've been nice to end the meal with a little something sweet on the Tapas Train to cleanse the palette, but in the end we popped across the road to Max Brenner for a chocolate hit before heading back to the wilds of Parramatta.

Sushi Choo is located within the Ivy complex on the ground floor at 320 George Street, Sydney.
Ash Street Cellar is also located at the Ivy complex (320 George Street), but is located on Ash Street (the little laneway behind George Street).

Ash Street Cellar on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant, City

"I'll meet you on the steps of Town Hall at 6pm" is something that the BFF and I haven't said to each other for years...but on this night we're hitting the Big Smoke in search of Japanese.

As I often finish work quite early the BFF and I usually meet up on Thursday nights so I can kill some time window shopping in the city.  By the time we meet up at Town Hall on this particular night I've been aimlessly roaming the streets for about 90 minute. My feet were KILLING me (that's what you get for wearing cheap Target shoes, so I only have myself to blame). We had planned to perhaps wander down into the depths of Chinatown, but my feet had other ideas.

Another blogger had mentioned Mizuya to me earlier in the day, right opposite the George Street cinemas.  After a brief chat to my feet they thought they could handle walking just one more block....seeing as Sushi was involved.

Mizuya's is a basement level Japanese Restaurant as well as a Karaoke Bar. Luckily we arrive well before any Karaoke shenanigans get under way by the other punters.   The best thing about Mizuya's (asides from Karaoke that is) is the novelty of ordering your food via a touch screen menu!  The danger of this of course is you go mental over-ordering food...just because you can (and we did).

As we slide into our booth our waitress explains the ordering system and stresses that once you give the green light to your selection the order is sent off to the kitchen and there's no turning back.  She repeats this a few times just to make sure we "get it". We do!

As soon as she leaves the BFF and I get onto the business at hand and flip through the touch screen menu like crazed gamers.  We order about 6000 items (cos we can and it's so much fun) and sit back and wait for our bounty to arrive.

Our first dish is Quail Egg Kushiyaki ($3.80 for two skewers). I first fell in love with Quail Eggs when I visited Thailand two years ago and have been devouring them ever since. I love the way the eggs "pop" in your mouth to reveal the smooth, creamy yolk within.

Continuing our theme with food on skewers we order Chicken Tail Kushiyaki ($3.80 for two skewers). As I munch into my skewer the BFF innocently asks me if I know that I am eating chicken bottom?  Yes I do, and it's deliciously tender and just a bit fatty.  The meat is char grilled which gives it a lovely smokey flavour.

Next up is a bowl of Lotus Root Chips ($4.80). Oh my, this is my new favouirte snack food. Crispy and salty and totally addictive.  It's lucky for my waistline I guess that I cannot buy this in the supermarket.  I imagine beer lovers would find these chips a perfect match for their brew of choice.

The Eggplant with Sweet Miso ($7.80) is a plump, half eggplant topped with a salty miso paste and a smattering of sesame seeds. The eggplant is beautifully tender and meaty whilst the miso paste has the perfect amount of saltiness.

In order to get our sushi fix the BFF and I each order a Hand Roll.  I choose the Soft Shell Crab Hand Roll ($4.80) and the BFF orders his with Grilled Eel ($3.80). 

My hand roll is excellent!  The crab is still hot when the dish arrives at the table and is crispy and not too oily.  The avocado portion is generous and the smoothness is a great accompaniment to the crab.  YUM! Wish I'd ordered another one of these.

One piece of soft shell crab in a hand roll proves not to be enough so we hit up our magic touch screen and order a serve of Spicy Soft Shell Crab ($7.80). I don't detect any spiciness on the crab, but it is lovely and crisp.  It's hard to share especially as we only get half a crab each.

A trip to a Japanese restaurant wouldn't be complete for me without my beloved Agedashi Tofu ($5.80).  My only complaint with this dish is that it comes with just three pieces of tofu - which means a messy dividing of the third piece to ensure we're even Stephens. 

To end our meal we decided to order just one more dish and opt for something healthy. The Smoked Salmon Avocado Salad ($11.80) fits the bill perfectly.

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke Bar is at on the basement level of 614 George Street, Sydney.

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cooper's Hotel, Newtown

It seems that I am not the only one who likes to take advantage of the multitude of internet meal deals floating around in cyberspace these days.

The Baking Lady From Work (hereafter referred to as the Baking Lady as my fingers will drop off if I had to type her whole name each time) had nabbed herself a $19.00 voucher for a pizza and a bottle of wine at Cooper's Hotel in Newtown, so we put on our walking shoes and head on down to King Street for lunch.

The bistro at Cooper's Hotel (this is the company that does these funky signs) is located on the top floor and has a really nice, open rooftop terrace. These rooftop terraces seem to be the terrace de jour in Newtown as there are at least three pubs that I know that have them.

Given that a) it's lunchtime on a school day, and b) neither of us are big drinkers we decide it's probably not a good idea to drink an entire bottle of wine between just two people and then head back to work for the afternoon.  The Cooper's are more than happy for us to substitute the voucher's bottle of wine for Herb Bread (normally $7.00). They even throw in two Lemon, Lime and Bitter's which makes us tea totlers nearly squeal with delight. 

The pizza menu isn’t huge with only six different pizzas on offer. That said, all the options are tempting with pizzas erring on the more gourmet side of things.

We decide on the Moroccan Lamb Pizza (normally $19.00), although if I'd actually registered that they had pizza with chorizo on it we would've gotten that for sure! The pizza is so big that we didn’t really need to order garlic bread as well – definitely enough for 2 people to share and not feel hungry afterwards.  

Our pizza has a lovely thin and crispy base and is topped with tomato, spiced lamb, roasted red capsicum, red onion and a creamy cucumber and mint sauce.  The lamb is lovely, char-grilled and perfectly cooked.

Asides from pizza the bistro menu has quite a lot of really interesting sounding Modern Australian food that I wouldn’t mind coming back and trying one day.

The Haloumi wontons with a snow pea leaf and beansprout salad and chilli yoghurt dipping sauce has piqued my interest and has me hoping The Baking Lady buys another voucher for this place and invites me to lunch again! 

The Cooper's Hotel is at 221 King Street, Newtown.

Cooper's Arms Hotel on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hikaru, Newtown

I think it is pretty safe to say that it’s the great food, and not the service, that keeps me coming back to Hikaru in Newtown again and again.

Now, to be clear, the staff are not rude by any means whatsoever (in fact they are actually really polite), they are just a little flaky.  Sometimes I feel like I’m being waited on by Phoebe Buffet from Friends.

On this particular night The Boy, Niecy-Poo and I arrive fairly early and get a table inside. As we are one of the first diners of the night the waitresses have no choice by to notice us and take our order when we give them the nod that we’re ready.  

After we finished our food, we decide that we’re still a little peckish and this is where the fun begins.  I try and try and try to get a waitresses attention so that we can be given a menu.   After some very loud “excuse me’s” at the waitresses shuffling purposefully past looked at their feet I finally get up and get us a menu.

When we’ve finally decided what extra dishes we would like to order it is even harder to get their attention so we can order a few more tasty morsels. The “excuse me’s” fail again so I start waving my arms above my head (in a polite way of course, no-one wants to serve an obnoxious cow after all) which finally results in a waitress coming over.  It is totally like winning the lottery and all three of congratulate each other on winning the waitresses attention.  Snap!

So now that we’ve finally ordered, lets talk about the food.

We start with a serve of Edamame ($4.80).  Hikaru serve their Edameme cold and saltless, which is a bit unusual I suppose, but still very tasty.

Takoyaki ($6.80 six pieces) is another must have when we come to Hikaru.  This is a golf ball sized octopus and potato croquette of sorts topped with mayonnaise, nori, Benito flakes, slivers of shallots served on a bed of lettuce. 

Agedashi Tofu ($4.30 for a small) comes without my beloved Benito Flakes, but is still so good that I become very unlady-like and drink the remaining the broth straight from the bowl!

The Scallop Yakitori ($12.10 for three pieces) come with a sweet sauce and dotted sesame seeds with sliced shallots The Scallops are plump, fresh and cooked perfectly.

When I spy Spider Roll ($9.80) on the menu I simply have to order it.  It is a delicious roll filled with crispy tempura battered soft shell crab and topped with roe, mayonnaise and black sesame seeds.  Noms.

The Spicy Tuna Roll ($8.80) is probably my least favourite dish of the night as I’m not a big fan of the spicy mayonnaise drizzled atop the dish.  The tuna however is fresh and cannot be faulted.

The Nasu Miso ($5.80) is another delicious dish that we always order when we come here. The eggplant is buttery soft and the miso paste has just the right amount of saltiness to make the dish moreish. 

The Dragon Roll ($9.80) is just a bit fancy.  The rice is wrapped around tempura prawn and topped with eel and avocado. I feel very decadent eating this. 

Last dish of the night is the Prawn Ebi ($5.80 for 3 pieces). A lovely simple end to a truly delicious meal. 

Despite the sometimes absent-minded service Hikaru is a Japanese restaurant that I return to again and again.  The food is lovely and fresh.  Once you’ve actually placed your order the dishes come out quickly and efficiently.

So if you don’t mind the pay off of good food for flaky service, then Hikaru might be somewhere to try. The place is always crowded so it seems like most people are happy with the compromise. 

Have you been to Hikaru?  I’d love to know your thoughts on the service, or if you think great food makes up for less than perfect service?

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hikaru is at 134 King St, Newtown.  You'll find it tucked just been the clothes shop Yoshi Jones.

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