Saturday, September 29, 2012

Watts on Crown, Surry Hills

Watts on Crown hasn't really been open very long. They flung their doors open around March this year so I was very surprised to seem them offering a Travelzoo voucher not long after. The compassionate part of me hoped their business wasn't in trouble already and the tight-arse part of me jumped on that voucher so hard I nearly melted my credit card!

The voucher was too good to be true - $55 for a three course meal plus a glass of bubbles. WHAT? We choose to go for a Sunday lunch and they kindly let us book for a few days after the voucher had actually expired so we wouldn't miss out.  We arrived bang on noon so there were quite a few lazy Sunday brunchers whiling away the morning - the brunch options looked pretty good I must say. But we were here for lunch so let's get to it shall we?

Despite a few funky Chinese Masks adorning one of the walls the food at Watts on Crown is as non-Asian as it comes - it's Modern Australian at it's best I'd say (whatever that is). To kick things off  The Boy choose the Grilled Quail with chorizo, crisp basil + braised red peppers - he was swayed by the promise of tasty chorizo. Weak.  Being virtuous (and kind of...much fatter...since I started blogging) my entree was a salad with roast Jerusalem artichokes, baby beetroot, goats curd + almonds. It was light + lovely and the goats cheese was so lush and creamy.

The Boy went all out for his Sunday lunch and ordered the Roast beef with carrot + horseradish mash, greens, gravy and an ENORMOUS Yorkshire pudding. This was was his first Yorkshire pudding experience and I think he enjoyed it (I sure enjoyed the bits I nicked off his plate)! But wait, there's more! The roast came with a HUGE bowl of duck fat potatoes.  Now, I'm assuming the duck fat wasn't from a free range duck but I decided to try a tatter anyway as there's soooooo much hype about duck fat potatoes I just wanted to seize the moment. The Boy loved them - he thought it added to the potatoes, but for me = meh. The potatoes toasted the same as regular old spuds to me. My duck fat taste buds must be broken.

My lunch was substantially lighter, but I was still full by the end of the mains (not full enough to skip dessert mind you). My plate of saffron + root vegetable ravioli with almonds, parsley + Parmesan was so flavoursome, a beautiful dish. Loved the sage in this dish so much that I want to grow my own at home!

Loosen your belts - it's time for dessert! Neither of us could pass up the oozy, gooey, delicious Chocolate Fondant. The fondant was served with vanilla bean ice-cream and a crunchy yet chewy nut caramel. Delicious!

All in all a great lunch. The service was very friendly and the food thoughtful and delicious.  A great addition to the Crown Street strip.

Watts on Crown is at 368 Crown Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 8068 0461.

 Watts on Crown on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kai on King, Newtown

There's few things I need in this life to make me happy.  Actually that's a big fat blatant lie.  I need loads of things keep my happy like The Boy, books, The BFF, Big Sister, Niecey Poo, movies, balcony gardening, eating out, Foxtel IQ, mandarins, friends, cats, loads of holidays, more cats, Menya Mappen (and now Hana Hana), my camera, comfortable "eating pants" and of course a decent sushi train within walking distance of my work.

Kai on King is just a quick waddle down King Street and I find myself there quite frequently for a quick lunchtime feed.  It's a nice walk and it makes me happy that I have something pretty healthy not too far from the cubicle farm where I work.

Kai on King has a pretty decent selection of sushi to choose from. They seem to be fairly popular so there are always fresh plates of sushi being added to the merry-go-round of happiness.  My favourites are the little cooked tuna + avocado roll and the soft shell crab roll (YUM).  The avocado roll with edamame is something I've not seen anywhere else before (it's great).

The pumpkin tempura roll is also something I've not seen before and it's another great little option.  And of course who can go past delicious Takoyaki (Octopus Balls) - not me, that's for sure.

They have a weekday lunchtime special on at the moment - but 5 plates get the cheapest one for free - weeeeee!

Kai on King is at 129 King Street,  Newtown.

Kai on King on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 24, 2012

Parma, Surry Hills

Miss Piggy attended the cooking class + lunch as a guest of Parma.

I was lucky enough to be invited to an Italian cooking class at the newly opened Parma restaurant in Surry Hills. It seems that Sydney restaurants are continuing on their mission to teach me how to cook and I think some of the lessons may be rubbing off as I think after this class I'm give making pasta at home a whirl!  Yes, really!

The class is run for a group of bloggers by Italian head-chef Alessandro Vinci-Cannava whose personality can only be described as larger than life. He's such a fun guy that I imagine working in his kitchen would be a hoot!  Rumour has it that he was a regular on the Peruvian version of Ready, Steady Cook when he was living in Peru.

Half the class learnt how to make pizza dough, but I was more interested in seeing how to make your own pasta.  I've seen pasta being made before in another class and it set the seed that perhaps it wasn't that hard...I just needed to see it in action again. 

Whilst this class was mostly demonstration in terms of cooking the sauces, we got a chance to get our hands dirty with some pasta dough.  Alessandro has been cooking for such a long time that he could tell just by looking out our doughs if they were too wet, too dry or just right (mine wasn't just right - but was easily fixed)! I'd never really clcoked before that there are eggs in pasta (der, I know) - and it made me realise I need to be aware and ask if a restuarant uses free-range eggs in their pasta (Parma didn't at the time of this class but now do - yay).

Next step was to roll out some pasta using their you-beaut pasta machine (tho Alessandro said we could use a rolling pin if we didn't want to invest in a pasta machine straight up).  I loved the feel of working with the pasta. It went from a big gloopy mess to a smooth ball of dough and then turned into a silky soft sheet of pasta that I just wanted to bury my face in.

And of course pasta isn't pasta without a delcious sauce to go with it.  Alessandro whipped up three beautiful sauces - all of which I think I could russel up at home: a swordfish puttanesca, a beautiful burnt butter sage sauce, and a simple pea + goats cheese sauce.  The pea + goats sauce was mixed with the tagliatelle and then wrapped in eggplant and baked in the oven. 

Ta da - look at our feast! Whilst the ricotta filled ravioli was beautiful I think I'm going to keeps things simple and try my hand at a simple tagliatelle with either the burnt butter sage sauce OR the puttanesca. Or maybe I'll make both.

Parma is at 285A Crown Street, Surry Hills.  Phone them on 9332 4974.

Parma  on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Xanthi, Sydney

The idea of restaurant dining inside a shopping centre is a bit of a foreign concept in Australia (well it is to me). As far as I know Westfield Sydney is the first shopping centre in Oz to have no only a food court but a plethora of restaurants, and some very good restaurants at that.

My inner-tight arse is lured to Greek restaurant Xanthi for their $30 Tuesday night dinner as part of Westfield’s “Chefs Club” – an initiate aimed at boosting diner numbers during the slow winter months.

I’m pretty impressed with how nice Xanthi is – for most of the evening I forget we are inside a shopping centre and bore The BFF to tears exclaiming “wow, it really doesn’t feel like we’re in a shopping centre does it”? I get a roll of his eyes in reply.

For our $30 we are treated to a dinner of Greek Cha (little bites) and I’m well and truly full by the end of the night. Service is quick and fairly friendly, though we do almost end up with our food in our laps a few times as the waitress keeps sneaking up behind us to put the plates on the table. Stealthy.

Things kick of Tarama (fish roe dip) and Pita Bread. The Tarama is light and fluffy with just the right amount of saltiness for this salt fiend. The Pita Bread is like a soft, fluffy pillow. This is good stuff!

Moving right along we're presented with a great Greek Salad. Greek salad is my all time favourite salad and this is great - the big creamy hunks of feta and dried herbs really making the dish a winner. The Spinach Pie comes in neat little cigars, like a Greek spring roll and it's delicious. The pastry is super crunchy and the filling lush and creamy.

Next up is a delicious serving of crispy Fried School Prawns.  Man, these are good. I love crispy school prawns - it's a dish that never fails to disappoint wherever I have it.  The BBQ Octopus is another winner, being charred perfectly and wonderfully tender.

The Lamb Chops are amazingly tender and flavoursome and it seems a shame to just have one chop each.  And last but not least another of my all time favourite dishes - BBQ Haloumi Cheese with just the right amount of squeak.

We finish our Greek Cha with a lovely Patsavoura - a sticky, sweet phyllo pie that is the dessert of our dreams.

Xanthi is on Level 6, Westfield Sydney (take the escalator up from Pitt Street Mall, next to Sportsgirl - or just follow your nose).

Xanthi Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Potato Head, Bali

The exterior of Potato Head (as you approach from the road) is really quite amazing (once I got over the shock of having our taxi checked for bombs that is).  The HUGE curved wall completely covered in reclaimed shutters is an impressive sight.  Based on all these wooden shutters I thought the interior would be quite "colonial" in its style (you know, like Raffles in Singapore) but it really is a beach club straight out of The O.C with just a hint of Raffles thrown in for good measure.

Whilst I was enjoying our Warung eating adventures in Bali immensely I thought it might be fun to venture a bit further from our hotel and hit the tourist traps.  Enter Potato Head - a trendy "beach club" full of bikini clad bodies, tanned (and sunburnt) tourists, young people, old people, parents with screaming kids running riot, and people that shouldn't be wearing bikinis...or speedos!  Unlike the beach clubs that the Kardashians probably frequent - everyone seems welcome here.

Now, I certainly do not have a bikini body - my body is more Burka friendly.  To be honest I really felt like a bit of fatty-boom-bah here. That said I wasn't the only flabby, aging Westerner here - I had to The Boy with me (bahahaha)...and we kept our clothes on, stayed away from the pool and got down to the business of lunch.

The first thing we noticed about the menu at this place was that it had NO Indonesian or Balinese food which was a tad (ok very) disappointing for us.  Potato Head also seems to be only frequented by tourists so it doesn't have that "local feel" when you dine at a Warung with an open frontage to the street. And of course the food is more expensive that your Warung meals, but still cheap by Aussie standards - but then isn't everything?  I think all of our food + drinks cost around $50.

We kicked things off with a Bintang (beer) for The Boy and a fancy cocktail for me + a mineral water (cos Bali is HOT).  Because we are boring (fat) farts we ended up both ordering the same (delicious) fish + chips (about $9) that came with a great garlic aolio. Our lovely waiter noticed I'd polished off my aolio in about 2 minutes and offered me a top up.  We finish things off with a scrummy apple crumble (I later tried to explain apple crumble to our maid back at the hotel - she had NO idea what I was talking about. It's obviously not a Balinese delicacy).

All in all our lunch at Potato Head was fun. The food was lovely, service really friendly, decor fun + quirky and the view of the beach of was a nice way to spend an afternoon.  It wasn't the true-blue Bali experience I was expecting (plus too many screaming kids), but it was a fun opportunity to see how "the other half" (you know, rich people) might live, but in an affordable Bali way.

Potato Head is at Jalan Seminyak, Seminyak, Bali. Pack your bikini or your burka. Your choice.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hana Hana, Chinatown

Move over Menya Mappen - there's a new (udon noodle) kid in town!  Hana Hana is a "same-same but different" Japaense udon-noodle canteen that has put down stumps in the thick of Chinatown.

You know when someone tells you a really good secret and you wonder if you should tell others about it cos then it won't be a secret anymore. Well, that's what Hana Hana is like for me.  The concept at Hana Hana is pretty much the same as Menya Mappen - quick, cheap, delicious noodles, in a self-serve canteen type place...but less crowds (so far).  I like it.  I hope Mappen-like queues won't begin to form shortly...or ever

I'm pretty taken with the cool touch-screen ordering kiosks that greet you upon first entering Hana Hana. Just make sure you consult the board outside before you go in to the line keeps moving along (if there is a line that is).  And don't forget your ticket so you can collect your oodles of noodles at the counter.

There's a great selection of fried tempura goodies to choose from - and some really different things too such as King Brown Mushroom Tempura, Crysthanamum + Tuna Tempura, Fish Cake + Cheese Tempura. Decisions decisions.  Just around the corner from the tempura station a tempting array of salads and ramen toppings await. God, I feel so happy here!

The BFF (who'd already visited Hana Hana without waiting for me to join him as promised) nabs himself a bowl of the Ontama Bukkake with Chaudon Noodles ($5.40). In English - that's bright green Udon Noodles (that are green due to the use of green tea powder I believe) with a soft boiled googy egg.  He also selects a basket of Mixed Tempura goodies ($3.00), an Ebi (Prawn) Tempura ($3.00) and a Seaweed Salad ($2.00). So all up his feast cost him just under $15.00.

My dinner is not too different from The BFF's. I'm pretty happy with my bowl of plain Bukkake Udon sans egg ($4.20) and I could not pass up the delicious sounding King Brown Mushroom Tempura ($2.00) which was chewy + meaty. The Crysthanamum + Tuna Tempura ($3.00) sounded so exotic and was so crispy it shattered into pieces with every bite. I've got a bit of a thing for Japanese potato salad ($2.00) so that also graces my tray.

Despite having inhaled what may look like A LOT of food we're still a bit peckish so indulge in a few more pieces of fried goodness plus a prawn salad. I love that Hana Hana has a loyalty program - each time you take your dirty tray/plates back to the counter you get a stamp on your loyalty card. Five stamp = a free bowl of Bukkake!

It's not long before The BFF and I are meeting up for another Hana Hana dinner. The BFF is having an early dinner in preparation for a second dinner later on (seriously - he should be a food blogger!) so opts for a half serve of Tonkatsu (Pork) Ramen ($4.70). He's pretty impressed and think it tastes close to the "real deal".

I wanted a bowl of plain Bukkake like I had on my first visit, but there was a massive Lost in Translation moment with the women helping us at the kiosk and I ended up with a HUGE bowl of Kake with Udon instead ($4.20). It's pretty much the same thing to be honest, but the noodles come in a big bowl of broth, rather than sitting in a few scoops of the mystery sauce that Bukkake comes in. I also had to ask for a lemon wedge (oh, the horror) and because there is so much broth you don't get that nice lemony slurry when you near the bottom of your bowl.  Did I like it? Yes. Would I order it again? Yes. And I did about five minutes later!

The BFF wanted dessert so ordered a round of Mochi ($3.00) - a Japanese glutinous rice cake. One of the balls had a red bean filling and the other was Vanilla flavour. I've never been a fan of Mochi as I don't like red beans, but The BFF thought these were tops. My dessert was a half serve of Kake Udon ($2.60) - cos you can NEVER have too many noodles.

So was Hana Hana as good as Mappen. Probably. If the lemon that was served with my noodles had been a bit more juicy my noodles would've been tangy perfection. I loved the different choices of Tempura - things I've never seen battered or fried before!  Will I be back (again)? Hell yeah!

Hana Hana is at 5/209 Thomas Street, Haymarket.

Hana Hana on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wowcow, Parramatta

Although we're fit to burst after our burger-fest at Grill'd we decide to waddle across the road to the newly opened Wowcow and partake in some frozen yoghurt.

We're visiting on their Grand Opening day, so all the yoghurts are free (with a gold-coin donation going straight to Oxfam).  What's better than the free yoghurt though is the adorable little calves that have parked themselves on Chruch Street and are enjoying a chillaxed afternoon watching the hoons do laps up and down the street (until one hoon revs his car right near them and scares them - what IS wrong with people I ask you)?

Cows aside (or outside please) the yoghurt is really delicious and a pretty healthy treat too - not much fat, not many calories but still filled with bags of flavour. All that aside, it still takes me AGES to decide on what topping to get and I end up letting the guy at the counter choose for me.

I'm given a cup of plain frozen yoghurt with a berry topping (yum) and The Boy goes for the chocolate frozen yoghurt with a Tim Tam topping (oh YUM).  Both Ramen and Mr D are half way through their yoghurt by the time I turn around to take a photo (what!) but they're pretty happy with their chocolate frozen yoghurt and Oreo topping.

The combinations seem vast and endless, and Wowcow often have special flavours and topping to further debilitate my decision making abilities.  I can see an addiction form...oh dear.

Wowcow is at 279 Church Street, Parramatta.

Wowcow Parramatta on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Balcony Garden: Spring Planting

Ummm, so I may have gone a little bonkers planting seeds to celebrate the beginning of spring. There is literally NO more room out on the balcony. The Boy's on guideline for my taking over the balcony was that he needs to be able to get to the clothes line, which he still can do. Just.

Besides filling up all horizontal space on the balcony I've been spending a bit of time at Bunnings of late stocking up on goodies for Spring.

I know there are LOADS of nursery's out there and I should be supporting smaller businesses. It's just that Bunnings is SO close to home and they have an "OK" selection of seeds, as well as an outdoor area selling established seedlings.  I prefer planting form seeds though as seeds are cheaper and half the fun of gardening is praying that your seeds will sprout. That and checking the garden 100 times a day.  I feel such joy when I head out on to the balcony each morning to check my crop.  I may or may not have screamed out form the balcony last week "oh my god! I have a bean shoot". Sorry neighbors!

So what have I planted?  It's quite a list, so are you ready for it?  Here we go: beetroot, beans, peas, eggplants, zucchinis, coriander, basil, parsley, lemongrass, lettuce, radish, cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, pak choi and shallots. Phew! And, I still have the carrots, mint and chives plodding along from last time and that one pesky radicchio that is still about as big as my thumbnail.  AND, I still have more things to plant but I've run out of room - I need to somehow find room for the bok choi and rocket.

So far most of the seeds I have planted all look pretty much the same, apart from the coriander that looked like the coriander seeds you get from the supermarket for cooking. This time around I thought it was pretty cool that the bean seeds looked like actual beans and the peas looked like dried peas. I'm a bit perplexed by the zucchini seeds though as they look like pumpkin seeds (geez, I hope I'm not growing pumpkins as I certainly don't have room for that out there). And how COOL is the beetroot below - it comes in a ready made strip (not sure why though).

And we've had these little guys move into the balcony. I'm thinking of them as short security guards from the bugs and aphids!

Get to work security guards!

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