Friday, October 28, 2011

Mamak, Chatswood

Over the bridge and far away is another Mamak, tucked away near the Chatswood Railway Station. The Boy and I decide to jump ship on the last night of the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park as the crowds were just unbearable, and the jacked-up prices of the food not much better (though I have to say we were enjoying the nice outside dining experience).

We figured that as all of Sydney were at the Night Noodle Markets there'd be no line ups at Mamak...and boy were we right. We arrived at around 7.30pm and walked straight in and got a table with no waiting - talk about a good strategy.

Although we'd manage to get a bit of food in our bellies at the Night Noodle Market before the crowds descended we decided to order a few savoury items at Mamak and then dessert. I find it hard to go past Roti Canai ($5.50), a basic but delicious dish of Roti, crispy on the outside, but soft and buttery on the inside that is served with two curry dips and spicy sambal sauce.

Because I'd heard so many people rave about the satay skewers at Mamak we order half a dozen Chicken Satay Sticks ($9.00) to see what all the fuss is about. The skewers are great - charred on the outside from being grilled over flaming charcoal, a served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce - this is a different style of satay sauce than The Boy and I are used to and we LOVE it. LOVE!  It's less like liquified Peanut Butter and more sweet - even the colour is different, a deeper red.

We're really here for something sweet though and The Boy is as happy as a clam when his Roti Pisang ($7.50) arrives in front of him.  The roti is served flat with pieces of camarlised banana snuggled in between the sheets of buttery, crisp roti. A scoop of ice-cream really completes this dish. I suspect there is some sweetened condensed milk lurking in this dessert too, but can't be sure.

I seem to have a slight addiction to the sweet and deliciously moreish Cendol ($6.00) - a refreshing dessert made with gula-melaka syrup, coconut milk and shaved ice. The wriggly green noodles are made from fresh pandan leaves which gives them their vibrant green colour. When I tweeted a picture of this during the meal someone asked why I was eating Pea and Ham Soup for dessert. Oh dear!

Of course dinner and dessert isn't complete without something to wash it all down with. Being the bogans that we are we bypass the exotic (and delicious) Malaysian teas and go for a good old Diet Coke!  How adventurous of us.

The next night we're back in Chatswood hoping to get our Crazy Wings fix at the restaurant next door however they have a function on and weren't offering their al-a-carte menu. After a quick conference on the doorstep of Mamak The Boy and I decide there's nothing wrong with going to Mamak two nights in a row (says they girl who went to Mappen four times in one week recently - don't judge).

From top left: Fried Chicken, Ice Lime Drink (Limau Ais), Chicken Murtabak and my Nasi Lemak.

I didn't have my camera on this second visit, but my trusty Samsung phone snapped a few pictures for posterity's sake. I decided to have the Nasi Lemak ($8.50) with a side of Fried Chicken ($3.00). I've heard people call Nasi Lemak Malaysia's "national dish" and I can see why. It's a simple dish, but totally addictive. Coconut rice is served with a medley of sambal, peanuts, crispy anchovies, cucumber and hard-boiled egg. The Boy opts for the Chicken Murtabak ($11.50) - a chuncky Roti filled with spicy chicken, cabbage, eggs and onions.

Mamak Chatwood is at Shop P9, 1-5 Railway St, Chatswood.  Phone them on (02) 9411 4411.  And GREAT news is that Mamak has a catering menu.

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kammadhenu, Newtown

It's lucky for me that this isn't a video blog as I seriously have NO idea how to pronounce the name of this restaurant. For years I've just put a capital "K" in front of a string of random letters and hoped someone knew which Newtown restaurant I was talking know "let's go to Kamendakendanularoolaroo - that Indian Place on King Street".

I'm lucky again then that Miss Chicken and I were strolling past  Kamendakendanularoolaroo-blah-blah one lunch time and all I had to say was "let's eat here". Done!

The "Restaurant beginning with K" offers a myriad of cuisines from Malaysia, South Indian, Indo-Chinese and also Sri Lankin, but it's hard to go past the $8.00 lunchtime Thali Plate special.

Thali is a WONDERFUL dish as you get to try a little bit of a lot of things - dahl, pickles, curry (I choose lamb and Miss Chicken goes for...the chicken), rice, poppadums and something sweet to finish with.  Often I look at the little serves before me on a Thali plate and think "I won't be full after that", but it sneaks up on you and before you know it you're clutching your tummy.

Lamb Curry
Heart shaped rice - awww.
Kammadhenu (yes that is its real name) also has a variety of Hoppers on offer - something I have always wanted to try. On this occasion I begin at the beginning and try a Plain Hopper ($4.00 for two) which tastes just like a fluffy pancake in the thickest part of the hopper, and like crispy-cooked pancake batter on its thinner parts.  Because plain hoppers taste quite...plain, they are usually served with a curry type accompaniment to spice things up a bit. I can't wait to come back and try the other hoppers on offer...egg, string, milk - the list goes on.

We also try a Lamb Roll ($1.50) which in essence is a little potato and lamb croquette. Delicious.

When you go to pay your bill at the register there is a colourful bowl of Mukhwas awaiting you.  Mukhwas is an Indian after-dinner snack that serves as a bit of a breath freshener and digestive aid.  I just love the flavour in Mukhaws - the are usually a mix of fennel and anise seeds - some are sugar coated and so pretty!  The aroma and flavour is fantastic - a perfectly exotic end to an Indian feast.

Scoop a serve into your hand and "bottoms up".

Kammadhenu is at 171 King Street, Newtown.

Kammadhenu on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cotton Duck, Surry Hills

The second stage of my multi-pronged attack on the post-holiday blues was booking dinner at Cotton Duck for my first weekend back in Sydney. All the while in New York I knew in the back of my mind that The Boy and I had this great dinner to look forward to and I didn’t mind coming home quite so much.

One of the things that appeals to me so much about Cotton Duck is the owner and chef’s philosophy towards food – everything placed before you has been created with integrity and respect for the ingredients. I find this especially heart-warming when it comes to eating meat – I want to know the meat I’m eating has led a happy and healthy life. The Boy and I always try to eat free-range meat wherever we can as I just “feel better” in my mind when I do so.

We’re dining at Cotton Duck on another of our magical Spreets vouchers! Yay for Spreets – without it I’d not be able to afford to go out and try so many great new often.

Our first course starts with a selection of little canapĂ©s – as well as either a glass of Borambola Premium Sparkling wine (which I get) or a bottle of Borambola Lager from Wagga Wagga NSW (which The Boy gets).

The canapes of Yam Crisp with Babaganoush and a little Scallop adorned with a pretty little edible flower were an enticing preivew of what was to come. Bring it on!

We also start the meal with a totally amazing Brassiere Bread Sourdough that comes with a little pad of creamy, lush Pepe Saya Cultured Butter. I’ve heard A LOT about this butter on the Twitterverse (and from a guy at work who RAVES about it) and it’s as good as everyone says it is. The bread is pretty amazing too – so soft and fluffy, and topped with a selection of seeds including Caraway, my all time favourite as I LOVE the slight aniseed flavour it has.

For both the entrees and the mains we are offered a choice of two dishes, which means The Boy and I get to try everything on the menu. As is de rigueur when dinning in such circumstances we each eat half of our dish and then hand it over to the other person. Sharing is caring after all.

I start the entrees with the Pickled Tiger Prawns with Tahini Mousse and cucumber, tempuring, curry oil and black salt whilst The Boy tucks into the Pressed Pork with Caviar Lentils and a root vegetable confit with a fresh bay leaf sauce. I have no idea what “tempuring” is, but man, is it good. The rillette of pressed pork in the second entree I tried was lovely – moist and tender, encased in a crispy shell. In typical fashion I love the prawn dish whilst The Boy’s favourite is by far the pressed pork.

It’s the same case with mains – I’m head over heels for the Pan Roasted King Salmon with peas and pea puree, potato crisp and tartare sauce whilst The Boy is smitten with the Lamb Shoulder, Buttons and King browns, Sprouts, Lardon and Jus. The tartare sauce with the salmon dish is to die for with quite a zingy and slightly tart flavour, and who doesn’t love crisps as part of their main meal? The Boy is seriously in love with the lamb dish and I have to admit the lamb is pretty good – it simply falls off the bone with a touch of our forks.

Of course dinner wouldn’t be dinner without a side of the creamiest mashed potato (8.00). This wasn’t part of the Spreets deal, but we just couldn’t resist.

Dessert wasn’t part of the Spreets deal either, but when The Boy spotted Chocolate Fondant ($15.00) on the menu served with blood orange and caramel he couldn’t say no. The fondant is incredible and when we break through the layer of outer sponge chocolate oozes forth like a blissfully yummy river.  This was a first fondant experience for both of us and we're pretty happy.

I was quickly convinced by The Boy that I should order the Fragomammella ($15.00) a summery Goats Cheese pannacotta with strawberry cream, meringue and baby mint. As Cotton Duck has an open kitchen it was quite hilarious to watch the chefs wrestle with my pannacotta and try to make it stand upright. No matter how many times the wobbly pannacotta was stood up it just flopped right back over and laid down on the plate – I guess it had been a hard night for the lazy pannacotta and he needed a nap. Whether upright or lazing seductively on his fat wobbly side, this pannacotta was AMAZING – the strawberry flavour was incredible and I was so tempted to order a second, but that would just be being piggy, wouldn’t it?

Cotton Duck is at 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 02 8399 0250.

Cotton Duck on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rice Paper, Newtown

I find the only way to cope with the inevitable post-holiday return to work is to plan a whole lot of other great things to look forward to. So besides our (already booked) upcoming holiday to Thailand/Singapore I made plans to catch up with Miss Chicken and Mr Shawn on my second day back at work.

We ventured down King Street in Newtown and ended up at Rice Paper, a newly opened Vietnamese restaurant.  It's good to finally have a Vietnamese eatery on the north end of King Street that's opened for lunch, snuggled in amongst the myriad of Thai lunchtime spots.

Lunch started with drinks, a Homemade Lemon Squash ($4.50) for me and a Vietnamese Coffee for Mr Shawn.  I really liked my was must less sweet than I was expecting which was nice and there was a perfect tartness to the lemon.

Both Miss Chicken and I opt for the Vermicelli Noodles (or Bun as the Vietnamese say - though I think my pronunciation is more than a little off).  Mine comes with delicious tender Beef and Miss Chicken's with Lemongrass Pork.  Both dishes are served with a small dish of Nuoc Cham Sauce (a mix of Fish Sauce, Sugar, Chilli and Lime Juice...I think) which you pour over the noodles.  I love Vermicelli Noodle dishes and it's normally what I order when I'm having Vietnamese for lunch - it's just such a simple and healthy dish.  This version had the addition of some purple basil (and possibly some mint too) which is something I've not encountered in this dish before. 

Bun Bo Xao - aka Vermicelli Noodles with Lemongrass Pork

Bun Thit Nunong - aka Vermicelli Noodles with Beef
I got to tell ya, I had more than a little food envy when Mr Shawn's lunch arrived at the table. I mean LOOK at all that delicious fried pork chop. Temptation got the better of me and I nabbed a tasty little morsel of pork and it was delicious.

Rice Paper is at 131 King Street, Newtown. Phone (02) 8065 7271.

Rice Paper Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New York has other things besides food. HUH?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that my New York holiday was all about the food...and mostly you'd be right. But in between all the chowing down we did a bit of sightseeing, you know to work up an appetite.

I thought I'd do a short, non-food related blog post (shock horror) in case any of my 12 readers are interested in what else NYC has to offer.

One the first two days of our trip we boarded the embarrassingly touristy, but seriously great for lazy people like moi, big red bus and toured the sights of The Big Apple from the comfort of our seat on the top of the double-decker bus.  I really love these Hop-On Hop-Off buses as you get to see an entire city in a short space of time. It let's you get your bearings and for me always highlights areas I want to go back and explore further (or really it helps me identify the areas where good eats are)!

Top deck is best - just don't stand up or you'll loose your head on a traffic light. Ouch
Because I LOVE bus tours and because I LOVE food the Slice of Brooklyn Tour was right up my alley.  I mean how could anyone pass up a tour of Brooklyn stopping at some famous Pizza restaurants (oh and you see some areas of Brooklyn that have featured in famous movies - but seriously who cares, where's my pizza)?  We also had a quick stopover at Coney Island - wish I hadn't had so much pizza as I would've jumped on the roller-coaster. Weeeee.

Hello Brooklyn, how you doin'?
Best part of this tour, jumping the LONG queue at Grimaldi's
Grimaldi's - packed to the rafters after being open for 5 minutes
That's no normal ferris wheel folks - look closely and you'll see the carriages "drop". Eep
I don't know about you but the thought of lining up for over 4 hours to hop on a boat to go and see the Statue of Liberty is my idea of hell! Pure Hell!  Especially when you can jump on the FREE Staten Island Ferry which goes right past this green goddess...and at the ferry terminal on Staten Island is a newsagent with a Starbucks outlet that has a damn fine Red Velvet Cupcake. 

All aboard...
Ta da...there she is!

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is something that I REALLY wanted to do on my last trip but just didn't get around to it. I made sure we had time on this visit and I'm so glad we did this as it is an AMAZING thing to do (and it's free too). The views from the bridge are spectacular and the walk is quite short so it didn't interfere to much with my hectic eating schedule.

Look I think it's pretty obvious that I have a slight addiction to tours. In my defense though the 3 hour Circle Line cruise around Manhattan is a MUST do! There is nothing quite like seeing the island from the water - the buildings look massive, and the perspective you get of the skyline is really something else.  The tour of the island also takes you right up to the tippy top of Manhattan - somewhere most tourists really don't venture.

On my last visit to NYC I spotted this weird little residential island in the East River called Roosevelt Island.  So what I hear you say. Well, you can access the island by cable car - all for the measly sum of $2.25 of your MetCard.  I'm SO there!  Roosevelt Island used to house a Small Pox Hospital, Mental Asylum, various other hospitals and so on, but nowadays it seems like a nice little place to live. I seriously fell in love with this place. And if you're not into a cable car commute to work there is a subway station on the island AND a bridge connecting it to Queens. When can I move in?

View of Roosevelt Island from my beloved cable car
Something else that is REALLY worth doing is visiting the Highline Park in the Meatpacking District. This park sits atop an old elevated railway track and you catch some magnificent views of the area as you meander along (with the crowds). We bought some goodies along with us (from Magnolia Bakery and the market at Grand Central Station) and found a spot to have a picnic and watch the world go by.

View for The Highland - you can see the tippy top of the Empire State Building
Join the crowds and shuffle along The Highland - excellent fun!
Of course a trip to New York isn't complete without a visit to that other famous park - Central Park. I think you could spend days wandering along the meandering paths in this huge green expanse, but we whizzed through in about 2 hours - making sure we saw The Boathouse where Carrie and Mr Big fell into The Pond. Central Park is beautiful and if I was ever lucky enough to live in New York I'd want an apartment right near the park (after I win the lottery that is)...or on Roosevelt Island - I can't decide.

The Boathouse - no Big or Carrie today, just loads of dudes making their ladies row the boat...WTF?
Probably my favourite area in Manhattan was NoLiTa (aka North of Little Italy).  To me the area felt a bit like Surry Hills - leafy streets, great little boutiques and cafes...and best of all it was the home of the great Tacombi cafe we went to. This is the area that really captured the essence of New York to me, quirky, arty, up & coming...each area is different ofcourse - Chinatown, Lower East Side, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Upper East and West Sides all have a different vibe, but NoLiTa really did it for me. Love!

When I wasn't being chauffeured around by private bus or boat I joined the throngs of locals and hopped on the Subway - it's probably the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B in NYC, though the buses aren't too bad really (at least the drivers stop and let you in unlike our lovely Sydney bus-drivers). We just bought a MetCard for the public transport and you can top it up at any ticket machine when you're getting low.

Mind the gap peeps.
Of course a trip to New York wouldn't be complete without seeing a Broadway Show. We bought our tickets online prior to leaving Australia as I couldn't be bothered wasting precious hours lining up at the cheap tickets booth in Times Square just to see what cheap theater tickets we could get. We ended up seeing a really GREAT show "How to succeed in business without really trying" staring Mr Harry Potter himself. And of course dinner and a show wouldn't be complete without the dinner part. We lucked upon a GREAT little Japanese joint called Kodama Sushi right opposite our theater (I knew I'd not be able to write an entire post without sneaking into something about food - I tried, I really did).

It's Harry Potter...with an American accent.
Let the show begin (we're in the 2nd back row - fancy).

And last by but no means least we visited the site of the World Trade Center. I lost two friends in the Bali bombings years ago, so being at a place where over 3000 people lost their lives to terrorism also is very moving. The area is still a huge building site, but very moving none-the-less. American flags don the half-built Freedom Tower and throngs of builders buzz around the site protected by machine gun wielding military people and police. The whole area is sombre, yet a hive of activity at the same time. Although the reflection pool memorials are now finished you cannot go into the WTC site to see them unless you've made a booking - you need to pay a fee to see the pools and I believe it is booked out about 4 months in advance. We did head up to the second floor of the Winter Garden where we could peak at the pools, and also to the church that served as a base for workers and families during the months after the attacks is worth a visit.

Looking over the memorial pools from The Winter Garden.
Photos of lost loved ones at the church - heart wrenching to see, but these people aren't forgotten which is nice
And for anyone heading to NYC and wondering what area to stay in, we bedded down in an area called Murray Hill - just south of East Midtown.  It was a GREAT area, quite residential, so loads of cafes, restaurants, little clothes shops, street food vendors...and it's right near The Empire State Building and Grand Central Station.  What more could you want, besides a Shake Shack Cheeseburger and a Compost Cookie?

Grand Central has a food court you know!

So there you have it - a post not really about food.  Now, what's for dinner.

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