Friday, April 29, 2011

Crazy Wing, Chinatown Melbourne

When I arrived back at my desk in January post wedding, Christmas Holidays, New Year and honeymooning in Hawaii things were looking a bit grim. Our long awaited holiday to Hawaii was well and truly over and it was back to work. Ho hum.

I’m a true believe however that the only way to get over the post holiday blues is to book another holiday ASAP. As we were lucky enough to have a five day Easter/Anzac Day long weekend this year it was the perfect chance to make the most of the time off work and visit Melbourne. Be still my grumbling tummy!

As soon as I’d booked our flights I started on the very important business of planning where to eat. Months of reading food blogs and restaurants reviews helped me to compile a healthy little Melbourne wish list all of my own. Man, this was going to be an AWESOME eating trip.

Number one on the list was Movida. A few weeks before we were due to fly out I rang up Movida to make a booking for Good Friday only to be told they were closed on Good Friday. In fact they were going to be closed for the ENTIRE EASTER LONG WEEKEND. Nooooooooo! I hung up feeling very sad until I realised that if I couldn’t go to Movida, perhaps I could go to Movida Next Door instead as it’s basically the same same but different. Smart thinking Miss Piggy. I quickly rang back only to be told that Movida Next Door would also be closed all long weekend, in fact all the Movida’s restaurant would be. Gah!

This little encounter sent alarm bells ringing in my tummy. After ringing nearly every restaurant on my wish list (yes, really I did) I found out that at least half of them were going to shut shop over Easter, and many of the others were already booked out.  Insert expletive here!   

The Boy couldn’t understand my dismay. Why couldn’t we just walk around aimlessly for five days and find places to eat. We’d done that before (in my pre-blogging less food obsessed days). Surely there must be some places open – we were staying smack-bang in the middle of Chinatown after all. All good points, but what about my wish list. Huh? What about all of my carefully well laid out plans for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner?

You won't find food down's not on my list!

So on our first afternoon in Melbourne we set out to find somewhere for a late lunch. Just something small to tide us over to dinner. Seeing as Movida’s was closed I thought we’d head up to Hutong for a dumpling fix (I knew they were going to be open as I’d called them the week before to triple check).

A funny thing happened on the way to Hutong though. As we were hurtling across Russell Street I turned my head and noticed Crazy Wing. I did an impressive U-turn and headed over to check it out. I’d read quite a bit about Crazy Wings in Sydney’s Chinatown, and whilst this wasn’t part of the same franchise, it seemed to be the same same, but different. How fortuitous as I’d be wanting to check out Crazy Wings in Sydney, and this seemed to be the next best thing.  Seems that The Boy's idea of wandering around and seeing what we stumbled across wasn't so daft after all.

The place was packed which we took to be a good sign and we got the last available table. The entire restaurant was engulfed in the delicious aroma of meat cooking over charcoals. Our waitress shows us to our table and gave us a wooden tray (which turns out to be the tray our skewers are plonked on when they are ready, as well as the tray for our chewed chicken bones and other eating debris).

We were also given an order sheet which listed the various options available and you simply select what you want to eat - indicating how many of each item on the order sheet. Simple.  The difficult part was choosing what to order as everything just sounded fabulous.

We go crazy ordering, and actually end up back at Crazy Wing three times to make sure we try all the stuff on the menu that we couldn't fit in on previous visits. It was a fun and cheap way to eat - especially as they had a two for one beer offer on the weekends, as well as other two for one specials that we made the most of.

Clockwise from left to right: Shredded Cucumber ($5.00); BBQ Pork Belly ($2.50 per skewer); BBQ Sweet Corn ($2.50 per skewer); BBQ Pork Skin ($1.80 per skewer).

There was a great debate about ordering the "Crazy Wings". We did actually order them, but when I realised that they were hotter than the bowels of hell the waiter kindly cancelled our order. It was quite funny watching other peoples strategies for counteracting the chilli induced pain the Crazy Wings caused. The people next to us swore drinking Soy Milk would help, the guys opposite us had a 2.5 litre of Sprite which they took turns in sculling. The people next us indulged in congee and rice, and a group of girls on an opposite table each clutched a jug of water for dear life. When all of that fails you can just burst into tears like one girl did (really)!

Clockwise from left to right: BBQ Prawn ($1.80 per skewer); Honey BBQ Steamed Bread ($1.50 per skewer); BBQ Honey Spice Chicken Wing ($2.00 per skewer); Chinese Leek ($5.00 for 3 skewers)
Our favourite skewer would have to have been the prawns, which were so crunchy you could eat the tail, shell and head without any trouble. The pork belly was another winner - deliciously smokey and tender. I loved the grilled corn and The Boy couldn't get enough of the wings - especially the honey wings. Everything was dusted in a spicy Sichuan pepper so a jug of water was a good idea to combat the heat once our mouths started tingling and we'd run out of beer. 

Clockwise from left to right: BBQ Capsicum ($3.00 for 3 skewers); BBQ Enoki Mushrooms ($4.50 for 3 skewers); BBQ Prawns ($1.80 per skewer) and BBQ Lamb Meat ($1.50 per skewer); Jug of Water to help "ease the burn" of the crazy wings.
I was very impressed by the strings of Chinese Leek and Enoki Mushrooms that must take hours to thread onto the wooden skewers, but only minutes to eat. I know I wouldn't have the patience for such delicate work.

Crazy Wing is at 177 Russell Street, Melbourne (just between Little Bourke and Bourke Streets).

Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills and Marrickville

I quite surprised myself when I recently joined the queue of hungry Sydney-siders all waiting for their Bourke Street Bakery fix without even batting an eyelid.  This time last year, I would've taken one look at the line-up of people and just kept on walking thinking how ridiculous it is to wait in line to be fed.

But as I'm starting to understand that some things are just worth waiting for...

On this particular day I decided to head into Surry Hills and check out the suburb by foot. Usually we're hooning (within the legal speed limit of course) up Crown Street on our way to somewhere else and I can only glimpse the foodie gems on offer in this beautiful and  bustling Inner-Sydney suburb.

My first stop was, without question, always going to be Bourke Street Bakery. I'd heard so much about their sausage rolls that it just seemed negligent not to stop by and fuel myself up for an afternoon of walking and window shopping.

The line moves fairly quickly, and before I know it I'm in the little bakery quickly making my sausage roll decision. The Pork and Fennel Sausage Roll ($4.50) sounded just too tasty to go past.  The pork mince is luscious, but not too fatty, and the fennel adds just the slightest aniseed flavour to the mix. I'm in love. The pastry is thick and flaky, as I take my first bite little pieces of pastry rain down into my lap.  It's not pretty, but it sure is tasty! 

As there is limited seating inside the bakery, and a only a few seats outside that were already full, I decided to head over to the park across the road and have myself a little picnic.

The thing with food is that it's such a great way to make new friends.  As soon as I unwrapped my sausage roll and placed it down to take some snaps this fine fellow joined me. He'd sniffed out my sausage roll from the other side of the park!  He stared dolefully at me with his big brown eyes as I took every bite of my delectable sausage roll. I was saving the last bite for him and just as I was about to hand it over his owner shouted to me "that dog is nil by mouth"...sorry doggy, looks like you're on a diet!

Speaking of diets, mine starts tomorrow thus it seems remiss not to try a little sweet "something something" whilst I'm here- for research purposes of course.  The lady serving me tells me her favourite sweetie at the bakery is without a doubt the Passionfruit Meringue Tart ($5.00).  Sold!

I've never been one to be (overly) tempted by desserts, but I've been thinking about this Passionfruit Merguine Tart a lot!  I'd possibly make the trip in from Parramatta just for one of these babies. The short-crust pastry was perfect, and the meringue soft,  pillowy and sweet. It was like biting into a cloud of sweet heaven. The passionfruit curd was sweet, but had a slightly tart after-taste, which cut through the sweet meringue perfectly. This was pure bliss to eat.

And lastly a drink to wash it down with.  The only cold drinks on offer appeared to be a range of Bourke Street Bakery labelled juices.  I choose a Homemade Lemonade (which I 'think' was $3.00). Sugary, but sour all at the same time, and totally refreshing.

Another occasion sees me in Marrickville visiting Niecy-Poo, who is a devotee of Bourke Street Bakery's range of delicious sourdough breads. This branch of the bakery is much larger, with more seating than the Surry Hills store.  Situated down a quiet street in the industrial area of Marrickville you'd drive straight past if you didn't know it was here...and that would be a shame.

On this particular day we're just making a pitstop at Marrickville so Neicy-Poo can buy a loaf of sourdough for tomorrow's breakfast. As we arrive at around 3pm the guy behind the counter tells us we can buy one, get one free. He then changes his mind and says "ah, just make it buy one, get two free". Score!

Luckily for me this means that I get to take a loaf of bread home with me.  The Olive Oil Loaf ($4.50) tempts me, and Niecy Poo chooses a Large Sourdough as well as a Fruit Loaf. 

I know exactly what we're going to be eating our Olive Oil Loaf with...I picked up two cans of Campbell's New England Clam Chowder when we were in Hawaii in January as I'm a bit addicted to it.  If we hadn't done so much clothes shopping in Hawaii I could've fit more cans of soup in my bag...I need to prioritise better next trip.

The bread was lush, dense and heavy, the perfect accompaniment to the creamy soup.  There was a distinct taste of olive oil, but it wasn't overpowering or too oily.  It gave the bread a nice, slightly moist, texture.

Bourke Street Bakery at Surry Hills is at 633 Bourke Street (cnr of Devonshire Street). 

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Marrickville store is at 2 Mitchell Street, Marrickville.  

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Burger Joint, Darlinghurst

Rituals are a funny thing, especially when they involved someone’s favourite sports team.

When The Boy and I first met I was living in Darlinghurst, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Sydney Football Stadium (SFS) where The Boy’s beloved West Tigers have one (of their three) home grounds. He’d park is car at my place (after circling the block for 20 minutes looking for a spot), we’d grab dinner at The Burger Joint and then walk to the stadium. We’d kid ourselves that the short walk to the stadium counted as enough exercise to totally burn off the calories from our burger-fest.

Even though we’ve moved 50 minutes away from the SFS our ritual remains the same. I was kind of hoping we’d start trying different restaurants in the area, but when I suggested this I was promptly shot down in flames. You don’t mess with the Tigers, NRL and rituals (yes insert NRL induced

Not wanting to ruin the Tigers chances of winning their game I order exactly the same thing I order every time we eat here - Chicken Caesar Wrap ($9.50).

If I ordered something else and the Tigers lost I'd probably be made to sleep in the garage.  Truth be told though, I really love this wrap so it is certainly no skin off my nose to order it every time. Big rashers of bacon are wrapped snugly against slices of boiled egg, lettuce and grilled chicken breast.  The whole lot is doused with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar dressing. If there's one thing better than a Caesar Salad it's this wrap.

The Boy sticks with tradition and orders an Aussie Burger ($10.00).  This is one large burger, piled high with a juicy beef patty, saute onion, bacon, fried egg, beetroot, cheese, lettuce AND tomato...phew!  Every time I see this burger I wonder how he's going to fit it in his mouth, but it proves to be no challenge really.  I'm assured that this is one tasty burger.

And of course it would be sacrilegious to eat a burger, or a wrap, with out a side of chips. We order a small bowl of pipping hot, chunky chips ($2.80) with a side of complimentary Garlic Aioli (same thing we order every time folks - though those not going to the footy can have their choice of any number of sauces). A sprinkle of chicken salt on the chippies sees the eating part of our ritual complete. Thank god, as I'm STUFFED!

A short waddle across Darlinghurst has us in our seats at the SFS well before the game starts. Truth be told I enjoy the crowd watching at the footy more than the football.  Some of the people in the crowd are, well...."characters".

Neither of us were actually expecting the Tigers to win their game against South seeing as nearly half the team were out with injury...but suprisingly they romped it home.  It must have been that ritualistic sprinkle of chicken salt on the chips that assured the win!

The Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

The Burger Joint is at 393 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst.  Phone 9380-2575.  They even offer free delivery local on these groovy electric bikes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sushi Choo, Sydney CBD

I recently returned to Sushi Choo and the scene of our all-you-can-eat Tapas Train extravaganza, except for this time things are back to normal and the train is hauling a full load of sushi. All you can eat Sushi!!!

On this occasion I've left The Boy at home as I'm catching up with my gal pal, Miss CocoChanel.  As I'm nursing the beginnings of a cold we agree to a quick (and early) after work catch up.  In fact we're so early we arrive 15 minutes before their 5.30pm opening time. Obviously 'early-bird' at the Ivy is not the same as 'early-bird' at the local RSL which serves dinner to the oldies from 4.30pm.

Sushi Choo's $20 all you eat sushi train also wins points with me on a second front as this is my "off pay week" (ie I'm dead broke and hanging out for my next pay day).  This really must be one of the best bargain meals in the city - filling, yummy and cheap-as-chips.

Sushi Choo is just one of many restaurants in the Ivy Complex on George well as about four bars. This place is built for good times, drinking and eating.

There's quite a few restaurants here that I'm keen to try, with both Felix and Ash Street Cellar recently being added to my wish list. There's just something so very Melbourne about lane way dining - love it!

But back to the meal at hand...Sushi Choo.  I was incredibly happy with the range of sushi as I wasn't sure what to expect with an all-you-can-eat offer for just $20.  Dishes ranged from assorted sushi rolls and nigari, to seaweed salad, panko prawns, dumplings, potato noodles, edamane and pasta salad.  The range is not massively huge, but neither is it minuscule.  There was certainly more than enough to make me happy and everything tasted really lovely.

There is also a team of sushi chefs constantly churning out sushi, so everything fresh and the train is constantly being topped up.

I did have a chuckle at the fact that the early bird doesn't finish til 8pm from Monday - Wednesday. By 8pm on a school night I'm usually thinking about crawling into bed. 

We definitely got more than our $20 worth of sushi. Despite coming down with a cold, my appetite did not let me down (way to go stomach)!  I lost track of the number of plates I had, but it would be a very unladylike number of at least ten (hangs head in sushi shame).

Sushi Choo is located within the Ivy complex on the ground floor at 320 George Street, Sydney.  Entry is via the tiny Palings Lane.

Sushi Choo on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

Luxe Bakery, Newtown

Food bloggers are brave and outgoing people.  You wouldn't believe the amount of food bloggers that have suggested catching up with me over a bite to eat.  These are people I've never met before, asides from on twitter or the comments section of our blogs - but they are quite happy to catch up and chat with a complete stranger...over food of course as it's our common love.  I'm a bit of a chicken really when it comes to meet new people one-on-one, which is why this food-blogger bravery impresses an old piggy like moi.

Fellow food blogger Phuoc suggests a lunchtime catch-up now that we're both spending our days in the same suburb.  This is going to be lunch and a mini-photography lesson as Phuoc and I both have the same type of camera.  I'm sure in the blogging world this makes us kindred Canon G11 spirits.  Phuoc has been giving me camera tips via twitter and email, so it's great to finally meet in the flesh to get some "hands-on" advice on my new camera. It's a bit like a blind date really, and what better place to meet someone than over baked treats.

Luxe Bakery occupies what used to be a five bedroom cottage on Missenden Road in Newtown.  If you weren't really paying attention you could easily walk right by it.  I'm urging you all to pay attention as happiness lies within. Trust me, it really does.

Phuoc has grabbed us a seat at the big communal table that occupies a good portion of the bakery. There are smaller tables dotted around if you're on a "real" first date and don't want anyone to overhear awkward attempts at conversation.  This place is busy and buzzing with people popping in and out for lunch, or coffee and cake.

We get right down to the business of ordering.  As well as all of the tasty treats on display at the front of the cafe, there is a huge blackboard offering a myriad of other lunch choices.  Another blackboard offers tasty morsels for the breakfast crowd.

I decide (eventually) on a Pearl Barley Salad ($14.00). I'm determined to be healthy despite being surrounded by sweet temptation.  That said this salad isn't exactly the picture of diet food with pieces of creamy, lush feta and deep-fried sourdough scattered amongst the pearl barley, lettuce, preserved lemon and Spanish onion. The pearl barely has a soft texture, and a slightly nutty taste.  The preserved lemon gives a 'zing' that offsets the creaminess of the cheese and inherent guilt of eating deep-fired sourdough. 

And see my photo - it's looking better than BPT (before Phuoc's Training). Phuoc suggests taking photos in portrait rather than landscape and tells me not to worry about trying to clear out all of the background mess of plates, cups and people that I think are in the way of a good photo.  She tells me it's all part of the story of eating out.  As I'm a total anal-retentive neat freak I'm not so sure about this, but I'm willing to give it a try and see "how I feel about it".  A few tweaks to various buttons on the camera gives me that depth of field that I drool over in other peoples blogs (you know that effect where everything in the background is nice and blurry).

Phuoc's lunch is gold and I have instant food envy.  The House Cured Trout with Hash Brown, Poached Egg and Truffle Oil ($16.00)  is absolutely, without a doubt what I'm having the next time I come back here (though I did spy a tasty looking Wagyu Sandwich when I went up to pay for my lunch which will be the time after next time's lunch). The smoke trout is melt-in-the-mouth delicious and I loved the herb dressing with dill (I managed to nab myself a small bite).

There's a lot to love about this busy little bakery.  I'll be making another dash down to Newtown asap to try what else is on offer...I might even try something sweet next time too.

Luxe Bakery on Urbanspoon

Luxe Bakery is at 195 Missenden Road, Newtown.

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