Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crazy Wings, Chatswood

After our all-to-brief holiday romance with Crazy Wing in Melbourne both The Boy and I were uber-keen to see if Crazy Wings in Sydney could make us fall in love all over again.

Now don't let the similarity in names fool you. Crazy Wing in Melbourne is not the same restaurant chain as Crazy WINGS is Sydney. The addition of an "s" at the end of Wings in the two Sydney restaurants should make that abundantly clear (though for awhile we were pretty confused ourselves).

In the great tradition of "same same but different" the similarities between the Sydney and Melbourne restaurants are close enough to keep us happy.

The Chatswood restaurant, where we visited, is a bit more fancy then the dingy Chinatown restaurant in Melbourne, but the food is pretty much the same. That said we did miss a few of our Melbourne favourites like corn on the cob and the flash fried BBQ prawn skewers.  The service is similar, though probably less attentive in the Chatswood restaurant.  The staff seemed to be there to chat with each other rather than take our order and bring us food - a well known crime against food blogging! At one point I started frantically waving my hands in the air to get their attention, but no-one saw me as they had their backs facing the patrons. Another dinner then barked at them in Mandarin and service seemed to be pretty swift after that.  I'm really starting to see the benefits of learning another language.

The Boy and I start our meal with drinks. Despite the positively Arctic weather outside I go for a super sweet Lychee Ice that gives me a continual brain-freeze and The Boy chooses a beer.

For us this place is all about the wings and I can't get enough of the mix of spices that season the wings (although we avoid the super hot Chill Pepper and BT Monster as the chilli hit is just too much for most humans to handle).  On this visit (which is our second in less than four day) we go for Honey Soy, Original Wings and Black Pepper - all our finger-licking good and all $2.50 per skewer.

As with the Melbourne's Crazy Wing there are loads of 'non-wing' related tidbits on offer.  The Crazy Lamb ($8.00 for a half dozen) is another must have for us, and we also try the Garlic Pork Belly Skewers ($6.00 for three skewers). I prefer the lamb skewers as I think the meat lends itself well to the moreish spice mix of pepper and chilli. That said the thin strip of crackling on the pork skewers is pretty hard to resist, and the meat is given a lighter treatment with just a dose of garlic and then sesame seeds on top.

We also order a few vegetable options just to be marginally healthy. Both the Chargrill Leek ($4.00 for three skewers) and Enokitake Mushrooms ($4.00 for three skewers) are both liberally dowsed with the chilli and pepper mix making them flavoursome and hard to resist. We also try the Sliced Potato ($4.00 for four skewers), thin slices of potato char grilled and the Pineapple and Prawn Skewers ($6.50 for two skewers).

In a Lost in Translation moment we order the Cucumber Salad but end up with Bamboo Vegie Salad ($5.80). It's a bit of a happy accident really as we never would've ordered this dish as we find it hard to pass up our beloved Cucumber Salad. The pickled vegetables were lovely, and had a slight chilli hit from pieces of dried chilli dotted throughout. The Bamboo had an interesting, almost rubbery, texture.

And, why do I love Crazy Wings so much? I think it's partly due to the novelty of food served on sticks - we all know that food on a stick tastes 100 times better than it does in its sitckless form. I also think the chilli/pepper spice mix must have crack in it as I'm totally addicted.  And in the Sydney restaurants they give you a $10 voucher for every $20 you spend with them.

Crazy Wings is at Shop 8, 1-5 Railway Street in Chatwood. This is the new Eat Street precinct. There is also a branch on Dixon Street in Chinatown which I plan to visit ASAP!

Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sweet Land, Harris Park

Big Sister and her boyfriend, The Colonel, head over to our place on their last day in Sydney for afternoon tea. 

Not being much of a cook (or any kind of cook at all truth to be told) and knowing both Big Sis and The Colonel have a super sweet tooth I knew I’d have to come up with somewhere really good to take them.  And I know just the place...

Sweet Land in Harris Park is a Mecca for sweet tooth's as well as for occasional dabblers in the sweet stuff.  The minute we enter this paradise of sweetness Big Sister groans with delight and I know I’ve made a good choice.

We’re all glued to the cases and cases of Lebanese sweets, dazzled and overwhelmed with the array of goodies on offer.  Sweet Land is a sensory overload, both for the eyes and the tummy.

Both The Boy and The Colonel fail to understand that we are in Baklava Heaven and each of them choose the White Forest Cake ($3.50 eat in) – boring much?  

I did manage to nab myself a spoonful of the White Forest Cake and it was actually really nice. The sponge cake was light and fluffy dotted throughout with pieces of pear and peach instead of the dark red cherries you see in a Black Forest Cake. Compared to the Black Forest Cakes I've tried in the past this offered a lovely, light alternative.

Big Sister knows she’s here for a good time and not a long time so chooses about  five different pieces of Baklava and a piece of Turkish Delight...plus a super strong Lebanese Coffee to help steel her for a night of packing ahead.  I’m really hoping she doesn’t put herself into a sugar coma before we pack her back off to WA.  She tells us that each piece of Baklava she tries is better than the last - high praise indeed.

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of sweeties on offer so ask the lady behind the counter what’s good?  Without a moment’s hesitation she points happily to a tray filled with Lady's Arm and suggests I treat myself to one.  Deal.   I also throw in a piece of Vanilla Turkish Delight for good measure.


The Lady’s Arm is definitely a winner.  The filing is a deliciously sweet clotted cream encased within a deep fried, crispy pastry shell.  I think that they are trying to get rid of their stock of Lady’s Arms though as we end up with two extra pieces “on the house”... not that I am complaining.  

Sadly, I don’t have high praise for the Vanilla Turkish Delight however as it wasn’t soft and chewy as good, fresh, Turkish Delight should be.  I suspect it had hung around a little longer in the shop than it should have which is a pity as I was really keen to try a flavour of Turkish Delight other than the traditional rosewater.   Better luck next time I guess...and there will be a next time.

Sweet Land is at 55 Wigram Street, Harris Park.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Boteco, Surry Hills

Firstly, let me start by saying that if was President of the Universe I’d make all restaurants have lighting that is conducive to taking great photos. Ergo, I blame my rather bad photos on this restaurants dim and moody lighting. Perfect for a date, bad news for a food blogger who doesn't use a DSLR or know how to use photoshop.

Secondly, let me say that I’m so in love with these Meal Deal vouchers that are floating about these days. The voucher that allowed The Boy and I to dine at Boteco in Surry Hills on a wintery Saturday night was such great value that I’m left wondering at how any restaurants can make any money whatsoever out of these deals. I also wondered why a restaurant like Boteco which is fairly new, trendy, serves great food, is in the “right part of town” and was already quite busy on the night we dined need such a incentive to get diners through the door.

Not that I am complaining mind you...just wondering. For $49 The Boy and I enjoy a wonderful dinner of six tapas dishes PLUS a delectable cocktail each. If we were to order all of this food and drink on a “normal night out” it would cost us at least $130. Bargain of the century really.

Boteco, not to be confused to Bodega which is also a Brazilian “small plate” restaurant and bar in Surry Hills, is one of a handful of Brazilian Tapas Style restaurants that has opened up in Sydney. Although in Brazil it is not called Tapas, it is referred to as Petiscos which certainly sounds much more exotic.

We start our meal with a Caipifruta Cocktail each - these are normally about $15 each so already our meal deal is looking like stunning value.

We can basically choose anything from the cocktails menu which has my head swimming with possibilites and a subsequent inability to make a choice. In the end I close my eyes and take a blind stab at the menu and pray I’ve hit on something lovely...which I have. My Jasmin and Lichia is a refreshing mix of Lychees and Jasmine tea. The Boy made his mind up within seconds of being handed the drinks menu. The Banana Caramelada, a sweet concoction of banana and caramel, appealed immediately to his sweet tooth.

Our first share plate is an amazingly fresh Ceviche of Snapper with Tapioca Caviar. The snapper fillets in this dish are lightly marinated in lemon juice, fresh chilli, coriander and big balls of tapioca “caviar” which add an interesting textural element to the dish. A really nice dish to start the evening with.

Next is a plate of Silky Chicken Croquettes with Roasted Red Capsicum Sauce. As the name suggests the croquettes are a silky mix of chicken and leek, crunch on the outside and smooth and soft on the inside.

The Parmesan Rice Balls on Spinach and Chickpeas is my second favourite dish of the evening, probably as I’ve not tasted such buttery, garlicky spinach or chickpeas before. This was a really flavoursome dish that had me wanting me more - who knew spinach and chickpeas could taste so wonderful?

The Boy and I were very pleased to note that all the dishes came with an even number of pieces – making it easy to divide up. This was especially important when it came to the Grilled Portuguese-style Chorizo with Peppers and Chimichurri. This dish was as pretty as a picture, crispy grilled chorizo adorned with a jumble of diced tomato, cucumber and Spanish Onion and a Chimichurri sauce.

The last two plates included in the voucher were a melt-in-the-mouth tender Grilled Grass Fed Picanha (Rump Cap) with Salsa Criolla and a bowl of wonderful crisp and salty Cassava Chips. Cassava is a starchy tuberous root vegetable that seems more suited to “being a chip” than our humble potato does, which is a big call I know. These are the most addictive chips I’ve ever had and every time The Boy looked away I shoved a handful into mouth.

Although we were actually feeling quite full at the end of the meal, I had a list as long as my arm of other dishes I really wanted to try. We agreed we had room for one more small plate...and dessert (of course).

Our waiter recommends we try Pastel, a light cheese filled turnover that is very popular Boteco food in Brazil. The pastry is airy and light and contains just the lightest smattering of stringy, oozy cheese. This would go perfectly with a beer.

And for dessert, we just could not go past the Brownie ($12), not very Brazilian sounding I know, but damn this was good! Served warm and made with 70% cocoa chocolate and homemade ice-cream what could be a better way to end a wonderful night out.

Boteco is at 421 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills (right next door to Sushi Suma).

Boteco on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Celebrating 100 posts with a Masterchef giveaway

I was a little surprised when I realised that this post was going to be the 100th on my blog.

I sat back and thought to myself "wow, I sure have eaten out a lot since I started blogging in October". And then I thought "hang on, you've eaten out more than 100 times since then, what about those unwritten posts and places you've revisited two, three or four times more after your initial post"?

Seems like The Adventures of Miss Piggy was a pretty apt name for this blog, hey?  Oink oink.

Although, with the start of Season 3 of Masterchef I seemed to have slowed down my eating out. Unbelievably I've only missed two episodes since the show started and I'd recorded these on Foxtel IQ so got to watch them later anyway.  When someone suggests a mid-week dinner I really have to weigh up "Masterchef vs Eating Out".

So, to celebrate my 100th post and the commencement of Masterchef, which is hopefully going to save me some money and calories by having more meals at home, The Complete Basket Case and Miss Piggy are giving my loyal readers (and un-loyal ones too if I'm totally honest) a chance to win a great Masterchef Gift Hamper worth $110.

View the gift basket here: 

The hamper contains all sorts of goodies that can be enjoyed whilst you rug up in your lounge room and cheer on your favourite Masterchef contestants, including:
  • Luke Mangan Olive oil/Vinegar 250ml
  • Carrs water crackers 125g
  • Rutherford and Meyer fruit paste 120g
  • Rosenborg Brie cheese 125g
  • Luke Mangan Sparkling Mineral water 750ml
  • Frou Frou Gourmet Cordial 250ml
  • Masterchef Magazine (current)
  • Seasonal Vegetables
  • Belgian Chocolate Bar 100g
  • Ribbon and gift card
  • Presented in a woven reed Homewares tray

To enter just leave a comment below letting me know who is your favourite Masterchef contestant and if you've ever replicated (or attempted to replicate) any of the Masterchef dishes.

Make sure you also email your comment to me at melanie2880 [at] hotmail [dot] com so that I have the email address of all contestants and can notify the winner.

I'll randomly select a winner on Saturday 4th June and notify them by email the following week.  Good luck!

Personally I have my fingers crossed for fellow food blogger Billy (or #teambilly as he's referred to on twitter), but I also have a soft spot for Kumar and think Jay is doing alright "on the pans" so far. And would I ever try to replicate any of the Masterchef dishes - no way! I'm still waiting for Adam Liaw's restaurant to open as I loved his food but there is NO WAY I'd be able to cook any of the amazing dishes he made last year.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sitney Thai, Parramatta

The lovely Wendy managed to score a voucher for four people to dine at Sitney Thai in Parramatta compliments of Food Morning Sydney.

Being a Parramatta gal myself I instantly said YES YES YES when she invited me along. I'd been going past Sitney Thai on the bus each afternoon and was curious about the place, so this was just the chance I needed to satisfy my curiosity.  Fellow Westie, Tammi also joined us, but I am most impressed by Sara who drove ALL the way across Sydney in peak hour to have dinner with us.

I have to give props to Wendy who managed to get the three of us to order dinner from the special Food Morning Sydney menu amidst our constant chatting and  gossiping about food, Masterchef, our cameras and just life in general.

As part of the voucher we could order an entree each, although two choices needed to include either spring rolls, satay sticks or curry puffs as part of the deal. Now, I've done Weight Watchers and let me tell you Curry Puffs are deadly fattening (ie you could eat two Curry Puffs in a day and then NOTHING else) so I vetoed them asap.

Clockwise from top right: Duck Herbs; Spring Rolls; Kai Satay; and Tung Tong
I am a BIG fan of duck (although I'm not sure if Weight Watchers are) and was immediately taken by Duck Herbs, which is similar in presentation to San Choy Bow.  Finely chopped roast duck, tossed with red onion, shallot, mint, roasted rice sitting atop a dainty lettuce leaf - a light and lovely tasting entree. The Vegetarian Spring Rolls were quite unusual, being quite sweet tasting - almost like they had a sweet paste inside. I really enjoyed them!  Kai Satay, a tempting looking dish of chicken skewers atop of creamy peanut sauce. I quite enjoyed this dish, but would have liked the chicken to be just a bit more cooked and charred on the outside.  And last by not least, Tung Tong, or Money Bags as they are more commonly referred to. Who can say no to crispy fried pastry wrapped around a chicken, green pea and peanut filling. Not me, that's for sure.

And now onto the mains...the Massamum Curry Beef is a hit with me as it comes topped with potato chips. Squee. Never mind the tender chunks of beef sitting in a sweet coconut broth and topped with fried red onion that makes my mouth sing with flavour - any dish that comes topped with potato chips is a winner in my books. 

The Chicken with Lime Leaves and Peppercorns Sauce is another flavour packed and fragrant dish - the chicken is tender and the vegetables crisp.

For mains I knew that I really wanted a salad as I just find Thai salads amazingly fresh and irresistible. I can also kid myself that by having a salad I'm being really healthy. So following that logic a Som Tum salad with Soft Shell Crab can't be bad for us right? Although the Soft Shell Crab is deep fried so the outer is crisp and the innards tender and soft, any calories in the crab must surely be offset by the shredded green papaya salad with carrot, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts and a lemon chilli dressing. Right? Right!

Sara rightly points out that we need to try the Pad Thai - as really it is a benchmarch  for which all Thai restaurants can be judged. Of course by the time we tuck into our Seafood Pad Thai it is stone cold as we took so long taking photos of it, but it is still a lovely dish. They are very generous with the seafood and the dish is fresh and tasty.

Our meal ends with a lovely little dessert of sago balls in coconut milk and topped with rockmelon.  The coconut milk has a slightly salty taste to it (it's better than it sounds, trust me) and the little sago balls pop in the mouth.

Sitney Thai Restaurant is at 277B Church Street, Parramatta. A big thank you to Wendy and Sydney Food Morning for inviting me along...I had a great time.

Sitney Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tehran, Granville

Normally when Big Sister is in town we end up having Thai food, as it is a cuisine that is in short (or non) supply in the WA town where she lives.

On this particular evening however I suggest we try Tehran, a Persian restaurant in Granville, and my suggestion is greeted with open arms.  It seems that Persian cuisine is also in short supply in remote WA towns.

I’ve walked past Tehran many times on my way to El Jannah to pick up a charcoal chicken. Tehran’s was often empty, as it was on the night we visited, and Big Sister wonders if this is a bad sign of what lies within.  I often used to think the same thing, but these days I know that often these quiet, sleepy little restaurants are just waiting for willing diners so that they may unleash their culinary delights upon upon them.

As I suspect our meal at Tehran is truly delicious and the service is friendly and accommodating.

It is custom in Iranian cuisine to eat raw onion as well as various herbs throughout the meal as it is believed that this aides in digestion. Our waiter brings over a plate of raw red onion and mint that we pick at during out meal. I'd hazard a guess though that if we actually stopped eating so much food our digestion would be aided even more!

We start our meal with a few dips and bread.  All of the dips sounds really appealing and it is hard to keep our choices down to just a few.  In the end we settle for two eggplant dips (as our family is a big fan of anything to do with eggplant), as well as a Shirazi Salad of finely diced red onion, parsley, lime juice, cucumber and tomato.  The Mast O Khiyar also takes our fancy - a yogurt dip not dissimilar to Tzatziki with its lashings of cucumber and mint throughout.

Both of the eggplants dips are a winner. The Kashk e Badenjan is a fried eggplant dip with onion, garlic, walnut and saffron that is topped with dried whey and fried mint. We all agree it tastes similar to Babaghanoush in a "same same, but different kind of way". The Igra is a smokey eggplant dip mixed with onion, fresh tomatoes,a touch of chilly and a few olives dotted on top for decoration.

Clockwise from left to right: Raw Onion and Mint Plate; Kashk e Badenjan; Shirazi Salad with Mast O Khiyar dip in the background; and, Igra.
Big Sister is not a fan of lamb, which seems to make up the majority of the options for main meals at Tehran. Not to worry as we spy a few beef dishes on the menu that look interesting, and taste wonderful - hearty stewed dishes that warm our bellies on a cold, wintery evening.

The Gheimeh excites the 8 year old within me, not because of the whole dried-lime taking pride of place in the centre of dish, but as the plate is garnished with a liberal sprinkling of crunchy shoestring fries (aka potato chips). I immediately fall in love with a country that serves dinner with a potato chip topping.  The shoestring fries give salty crunch to the casserole of sauteed beef and split peas.  The whole lime is incredibly fragrant and surprisingly it is so tender that we can break up the lime and eat it...and it tastes good!

The other beef dish is the Ghormeh Sabzi, a dish of tender diced beef cooked with kidney beans, dried limes (a staple of many Persian dishes) and dried herbs. This dish doesn't come topped with shoestring fires so I relegate to my second favourite dish of the evening.

As the rest of us at the table are quiet partial to a bit of lamb, we each order a Tehran Special ($19.00). To save table space our meals arrive together on one gloriously large meat-filled platter. The lamb lovers tuck into the mouth-wateringly juicy skewers of marinated lamb backstrap, and minced lamb skewers.  Amongst the lamb we also find beautifully charred chicken kebabs. The platter is garnished with charred green chillis and tomatoes, as well as lemon halves which we squeeze over the meet for a bit of "zing". And, Tehran have even thrown in a extra chicken kebab for the lamb-o-phobe at the table.

And of course not pictured, but consumed wholeheartedly, is the glorious platter of Saffron Rice that accompanied all of our meals.

Tehran is at 44 Railway Parade, Granville. 

Tehran on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spice Market, Cammeray

The Boy and I grab out passports and head over to the north shore for a family dinner.  I don't really spend much time in this neck of the woods anymore so am a bit stumped for ideas on where to eat. What I do know is that Big Sister is in town (visiting from the remote, food bereft WA town where she and her boyfriend The Colonel live) so whatever we eat has to be Asian, Asian or Asian. 

We end up at Spice Market in Cammeray, a Thai restaurant, which seems to be a bit of a favourite of Big Brothers.  As there are eight of us at this family gathering we grab a big table in the outside courtyard area.  It's a pleasant area to dine, but The Boy seems to be very worried about this pigeon perched just above our table...and everyone else is keeping one eye on the clouds are hovering ominously overhead.

As our group is quite large we decide to order two of each dish so that everyone gets to have a decent taste of what's on offer...a good strategy I think.

We start with Big Sister's favourite, Fresh Rice Paper Rolls ($6.00 for 2).  The rolls on offer are vegetarian, but we ask for some prawns to be added which is no problem at all.

I think these would be some of the fattest fresh spring rolls I've ever seen. I'm totally impressed that the masses of fillings aren't busting out of the delicate rice paper.  The rolls are stuffed to the brim with carrot, bean sprouts, cucumber and crushed peanuts...with a pretty mint leaf on top.  The homemade tamarind sauce is lovely - slightly sweet yet salty, with pieces of coriander bobbing happily on top.

The Colonel puts in an order for duck...something that seems to be in short supply in their little WA town.  We order the most beautifully tasting Roast Duck Red Curry ($22.00).  The duck is served in a rich and creamy red chilli curry sauce, and accompanied with sweet lychees and fresh vegetables.

Just as we're about to start eating our mains, bit fat drops of rain start falling from the sky.  There is a bit of a debate as to whether or not it's just a few drops or the beginning of a downpour. The consensus is to move inside to make sure we stay dry, and this is where things get a bit chaotic...

As we get settled at our new home inside everything we ordered ends up on our table within the space of about 5 - 10 minutes. There's really not enough room for all of the dishes, plus our own plates and glasses, and we end up just filling out plates with food to get rid of the empty serving plates of our table. STRESSFUL!!!  Of course, I have to take a photo of everything before it's dished up, which nearly gets me sent out to the car to wait for everyone.

So, in no particular order of appearance, we have Chicken Pad Thai Noodles ($13.00).  This dish is a jumble of thin rice noodles with chicken, egg, topped with bean shoots, crushed peanuts and served with a wedge of lemon.  Yum.

Big Brother insisted we order the Lamb and Pumpkin Massaman Curry ($22.00) as it is his all time favourite dish here. The curry is made with lamb shanks and a huge pumpkin wedge which are stewed in massaman sauce until the lamb falls from the bone.  I thought this was rather an unusual dish for a Thai restaurant but it is deliciously tasty.  I'm not a fan of lamb shanks normally as I find the taste too strong, but this was subtle tasting, and the creamy massaman sauce was perfect!

My choice for the evening is a BBQ Beef Salad ($13.50). I am totally in love with Thai salads as the flavours and ingredients are always so fresh. I love the zesty dressings and I always feel healthy eating a Thai salad (even one that comes with fatty duck)!   Spice Market's salad is tossed with grated carrot, mint, coriander, chilli, lemongrass, red onions, and has bit chunks of tomato and cucumber.  The lemon juice dressing has my taste buds all aflutter!

Last but not least is a Sweet Basil and Chilli Stirfry With Chicken ($13.50).   This is a nice dish that is served with tender chicken pieces and a selection of fresh seasonal vegetables.  I have to admit I really love sweet basil in Thai food...an amazing flavour...so often order this dish when I see it on a menu.

All in all we had a lovely dinner at Spice Market.  Unfortunately the rain and moving tables made things a bit stressful, but the food was absolutely delicious.

Spice Market is at 461 Miller Street, Cammeray. Phone 9955 0145.

Spice Market on Urbanspoon

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