Monday, April 28, 2014

Bodega, Surry Hills

The great thing about food blogging is that if you're looking for a dining buddy it's not too hard to find someone who's keen to dine exactly where you want to. So big thanks to fellow blogger Bob for being my lunch date so that I could finally pay a visit to Bodega in Surry Hills.

Whilst I often eat out by myself (and am happy to do so), the menu at Bogeda really is designed for sharing a meal, rather than solo dining. Sharing = caring and also means there's a chance to try more of the tempting items on offer. Win win.

I'd booked a seat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen and it's a prime spot for spying on all of the action happening in the kitchen - such as watching the chef peel the skin of newly boiled ox tongue!!! This is always my favourite place to sit.

We start our lunch with a piping hot, cheesy Empanada ($6.50). These were great! Hot, melted cheese wrapped inside of a crispy pastry. YUM!

The fish fingers ($22.00) surprised me as I was not expecting them to be fresh fish on toast.  I was thinking we'd be presented with something more along the lines a pimped out version of your good old Birds Eye frozen fish fingers.  Thankfully, Bodega's fish fingers were a flavourful medley of hiramasa (kingfish), cuttlefish and mojama (filleted salt-cured tuna) on charred toast. Really delicious, and such fresh flavours!

I'd spied the roast pumpkin salad ($22.00) being assembled by the kitchen as I was waiting for Bob to arrive. The liberal handful of manchego cheese confirmed for me that we'd certainly being eating this for lunch.  The roasted pumpkin was piled high and topped with pieces of crispy zucchini flowers, toasted pumpkin seeds and ranch dressing. The overall flavour was honey...and delicious!

We decided to buck the current trend for all things pork and ordered the lamb ribs ($26.00) which was definitely a great choice. The meat was so tender and flavourful with a great layer of crispy "bark" almost like crackling. The lamb came served atop a bed of marinated eggplant, with padron peppers and anchovy mayo. I'd happily order this dish again (and not share)!

I was willing to forgo dessert (being on a 'diet' and all) but Bob had heard that the “Banana Split” ($16.00) was worth a try. This was a soft cream flan topped with torched banana marshmallow and served with dulce de leche icecream. I didn't want Bob to feel sick eating this all by himself so I had a little try...very nice, quite sweet with a definite "real" banana flavour.

Bodega was a great spot for a Friday lunch and I'm glad I finally got to try it. I thought the food was great and the service was friendly and attentive. The music was perhaps a little loud (and the bar stools a little low)...but perhaps the young-uns out there won't think that.

Bodega is at 216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills. Phone them on 9212 7766.

Bodega on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Charlie + Co, Sydney CBD

Writing a blog post about big, fat, juicy, delicious hamburgers is pure torture when you've embarked on a diet. But I shall suffer for my craft...

Charlie + Co can be found on the food court level of Westfield in the CBD. Along with Becase Bakery it is the last remaining venture from Chef Justin North whose restaurant empire seemed to disappear of the face of the earth a few years ago. 

I've had the famed truffle + parmesan fries here before and to be honest I wasn't a fan. They were expensive, soggy and seemed overly greasy.  I walked away feeling oily (and fat)....but I'm all for second chances.

I'm pleased to report that second time around the fries were a hit. They were still expensive at $8 a pop, but they were crispy and had good flavour. For once I could taste the earthiness of the truffles.  It's a shame however that the burgers don't come with a "side of fries" option as an $8 bowl of fries is just too big for one person...even a greedy person like me.

There are only about six burgers on the menu so I stuck with a classic - The Charlie Wagyu Burger ($16 {or forgo the special Charlie + Co "special seating area" and save $2 and go sit in the food court with everyone else}) as it comes with cheese AND pickles

Whilst expensive (are you sensing a theme here) the burger I had was good. The bun was nice and soft, but not sweet (which is a good thing in my book). I thought the patty was flavoursome but I was super chuffed that Charlie + Co offers a selection of cheeses and I was even more chuffed to see Blue Cheese on offer! Yes PLEASE!

Charlie + Co can be found at Level 5, Westfield (Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market Street),

Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mr Moustache, Bondi

Miss Piggy and The Boy dined as guests of Mr Moustache and Wasamedia.

I'm so happy to have been invited to try Bondi's Mr Moustache - a modern Mexican restaurant that brings the street food flavours of Mexico right to our door here in Sydney.  I've not been to Mexico (yet) but it's immediately obvious that the food at Mr Moustache is not the Tex Mex we're so used to being served here. Hooray *Mexican Wave*.

We sit at the bar, always the best spot in my opinion, and our bartender keeps us entertained throughout our lunch. He gives us a rundown on how Mezcal – the spirit of choice at Mr Moustache – is made and explains the different between this tipple and the ever-famous Tequila (it’s all in the Agave plants used people).

We’re poured a little shot of Mezcal to drink out of a traditional vessel – that looks like a bit seed pod, or half a tennis ball sans fuzzy bits. The Mezcal has a woody, smoky flavour and has quite a warming sensation as you drink it. It’s not overly strong so is quite easy just to drink on its own.

Although why drink Mezcal straight up when there’s cocktails on offer. I get to try two Mezcal-based cocktails over the course of our lunch and they are both GREAT yet totally different to each other.

The first cocktail I try is the "Little Fatso's Fizz" that's a mix of Creme de Pamplemousse (that's grapefruit in French ooh la la), orange bitters, fresh pink grapefruit, fresh lime sugar, egg whites and soda. The drink gets its name as Pamplemousse is often French slang for "Fatty"...phew, noone's calling me fat!

My second drink has such an ethereal title that I choose it based on name alone.  "The Cloud People" is named after the first Indian group to rise to prominence in the Valley of Oaxaca (who are believed to have descended from the clouds). Whilst the first cocktail was quite "light, with a milder taste" The Cloud People really packs a punch thanks to the Nuestra Soleda that is infused with Chilli Ancho.

We're also handed a traditional Mexican bar snack to try - dried mango dusted in chilli salt (they'd run out of grasshoppers which is often what sitting at the bar will get you). The chilli isn't too hot and I love how the salt and sweet mango pair together. 

The Boy sticks to his beverage of choice, beer, though I do try to convince him that “real men do drink cocktails”. No dice. We’re both paritculary impressed by the the “Taco Beer” that has been special designed by two woman who travelled through Mexico and devised a beer that is perfect to drink with Tacos.

One of the joys of sitting at the bar is getting to chat with the bar-tender who offers us some orange wedges that come dusted in Mezcal worm salt.  Yes, that's right WORM salt. The crushed, dried worm has a very smoky, and someone hot flavour - a bit like chilli. It's very good and totally unexpected!

Before our food arrives a trio of house-made salsa arrive at our table. We’re encouraged to add these to our dishes to help enhance the falvours of the food. First up is a Macha – a smoky mix of roasted peanuts and morita chilli. Secondly we have a Serrano – a mild salsa of coriander, lime juice, Serrano chilli, onion and gGarlic. And last but not least, a hot little Habanero.

The minute I taste the ESQUITES I know that Sydney finally has it’s answer to my beloved Mamasita (in fact this place is better but don’t tell anyone as I still want to be able to get a table here whenever I want). A little shot glass is filled with warm corn-off-the-cob that is topped with creamy mayo, soft, melting Fresco cheese and Piquín chilli powder. Far out THIS IS GOOD STUFF!

GUACAMOLE ($13.00) served with house made corn chips alongside freshly made beetroot chips and sweet potato chips. The Guac is fresh and zingy with lots of zesty lemon juice, salt, pepper, pico de gallo. We’re told there are a few secret Mr Moustache ingredients but I think they’d have to kill us if they told us what the secret ingredient is! It’s great to see a twist on the regular side of corn chips with beetroot AND sweet potato chips also jostling for space on the place.

When our next dish comes with a pair of gloves I begin to wonder what is to befall us! We’re told that the TORTITA AHOGADA – a braised Pork Mini Sandwich bathed with Árbol Chilli Sauce – is what Mexicans love to eat after a big night out before heading home to sleep it off. The sandwich is a messy affair, hence the gloves, and it’s filled to overflowing with beans, braised shoulder pork and pork belly that is doused in a HOT HOT HOT Árbol sauce, spicy pickled onion and avocado. It’s spicy but it’s a heat that creeps up on you slowly, stays for a few minutes and then disappears. I’ve got to say this is better than any midnight kebab or Macca’s run I’ve ever had after a night out.

The PESCADO BAJA - beer-battered Fish taco – is one of the most popular tacos at Mr Moustache and I can see why! Crispy fish is topped with zesty cabbage that is pickled in cumin and vinegar. The whole lot is doused in some creamy chipotle Mayo that has just the right amount of smoky heat to it.

We also try the PORTOBELLO mushroom taco which the chef tells us is one of his favourites, especially when topped with the Macha Sauce (a nutty mix of peanuts and chilli). Of course Mushrooms go well with cheese and we delighted to taste a mix of mozzarella and Fresco cheese.

Where there are tacos there’s a good chance you’ll also find TOSTADITAS – round tortilla chips piled high with yummy Mexican toppings.

Our fist Tostadita is the ATUN - fresh Marinated Albacore Tuna – topped with sashimi-grade abacore tuna, cucumber, avocado and MORE secret ingredients. I wonder what these mysterious secret ingredients are? Perhaps Colonel Sanders knows? The tuna is marinated in a mix of soy, orange juice, and garlic and is finished with onion. Really, really good! Such fresh flavours and the marinade really does justice to the fresh, meaty tuna.

Our next Tostadita is the PATO - refried Beans and Spicy Duck with red Onion and Sour Cream. The duck is marinated and cooked in a Mr Moustache Tinga sauce (chipotle-tomato sauce). To me this gives the duck quite a sweet and also smoky flavour. Again, brilliant!

Have you left room for dessert? Yes? Excellent!

First up we have the Plátanos Machos - caramelised banana with coffee liquor and cajeta (milk caramel), served with vanilla ice cream (from Gelato Mesina just up the road – WIINING). Mounds of sweet caramelised bananas are severed in a luscious pool of sweet agave syrup that is then set ablaze with liquor. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds!

And to finish up an amazingly wonderful lunch we have the Brownie Picosito De Chocolate - Chilli Choc Brownie served with Vanilla Ice Cream. The brownie is served warm in a pool of chocolate sauce and is sprinkled with salted candied peanuts.

After our meal...and cocktails are done with...we get a taste of Mexican youth culture. Hilarous! The barman brings out the "shock box" which apparently all the young-uns in Mexico do once they've have a few drinks. Just press that button, all holds hands and we'll shoot some electricity through you. First one to let go shouts drinks for EVERYONE. OLE!

Time for us oldies to head home. Crazy fun.

Mr Moustache is at 69-71 Hall Street, Bondi Beach (they are just off the main street, down the arcade). Phone them on 9300 8892.

Mr Moustache on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brewtown, Newtown

When I first heard that Berkolouw books in Newtown was shutting down I have to say I was more than a little sad. It was a great bookshop in an amazing warehouse type space made even more amazing by the Ramen Bar that was open on the ground floor for a brief period a few years ago.

I am pleased to say that Berkolouw has been replaced by an equally great café, Brewtown.

For me it is the staff that make this place one of my favourite new cafes in Sydney.

Don’t get me wrong, the food is awesome and the coffee is second to none but EVERY SINGLE staff member I have interacted with on my various visits here could easily win an award for the Nicest Person in Sydney. Working in a super-busy café with customers galore streaming in the door all day must be hard work, tiring and frustrating at times. I know I dream of opening a little hole-in-wall café but in reality I just couldn’t do it. I’d be grumpy and tired. Not the crew here…as friendly as can be and they always seem to have a smile on their face.

Recently I paid Brewtown a visit with my buddies Ms Chicken and Mr Shawn – they were busting out of their Street Food world for some proper café fare.

Whilst I waited for them to arrive one of the lovely waiters sat down with my and explained the Cold Brew Coffee method as I was curious about it (which I’ve totally forgotten already - derp). I wasn’t convinced so he offered to get me a sample to try. See! NICE! I have to say this was a great drop – the flavour was quite mild, and nutty with a lovely mellow aftertaste. It is almost like tea with its subtly.

All that aside, I just HAD to have an iced-coffee. Old habits die hard.

Because I'm on a diet (ahem) I decide to try and order something "light n easy" and the poached chicken salad is the perfect order. The salad comes with quinoa and roasted cauliflower that is nutty in flavour and moreishly crunchy. You'll also find some pistachios and ribbons of zucchini hidden in there. All in all a good salad that feels really healthy to good I've had it twice already.

Ms Chicken decides to have breakfast for lunch, always a good option. I was too busy scoffing my salad to pay attention to the menu but I did notice some delicious looking field mushrooms and crispy polenta sticks on the plate. And of course the perfect, oozy yolk-porn worthy poached egg.

Mr Shawn ordered the veggie burger that he said was pretty good but a bit more of something saucy/juicy on the bun would've been great. Perhaps a beef patty...kidding, kidding!

Because I'm always thinking about what I'm going to eat next  I decide it's prudent to order a cronut for dessert before we're even ready to contemplate what to eat for lunch. It's a wise decision as by the time we're ready for our cronut they've all sold out and ours is the sole cronut in the dessert cabinet...just waiting for us.

I've tried a few Zumbo cronuts and I wasn't a fan of his interpretation of the half doughnut half croissant. It was too oily and I didn't get a sense of the croissant half of things. I am happy to report that the Brewtown cronut is great -- light and fluffy with a great croissant texture and cinnamon doughnut flavour.

Brewtown Newtown is at 6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown.

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paper Planes, Bondi

Miss Piggy and The Boy dined as guests of Paper Planes.

One of the really great things about Sydney is that if you're craving (or missing) a certain type of cuisine there's a good chance you can find it right here...on our doorstep.  Which is VERY lucky for The Boy and I as we've been desperately missing the amazing food we had in Tokyo earlier this year.

When we received the invitation from Paper Planes to come in for dinner I had a quick look at the menu and I have to say I wanted to try EVERYTHING on offer. So much of seemed just like what we'd had in Tokyo that I knew it was going to be hard to narrow it down to just a few items (sadly, my stomach isn't bottomless no matter what I lead you to believe).

Photo thanks to Paper Planes
Photo thanks to Paper Planes
Paper Planes is tucked away at the north end of Bondi Beach, in a little arcade next to The Bondi Hotel. The space is quite modern and very "Tokyo cool" with 500 painted skateboard decks attached to the ceiling - stunning! There are little paper cranes dangling from the ceiling and the whole place feels cool, yet cozy.

 For a moment, or two, I forget that it's a school night as I get stuck into the cocktails. I'm not a big drinker but cocktails are my weakness! I LOVE them. The Harajuku Girl (martini of watermelon, coconut water, St Germain and Bombay Sapphire) is exactly what I'd imagine a Harajuku Girl to drink - it's pink, sweet and tastes like a candy cane. Kawaii! Cocktail #2 is the Tokyo Pop (Pimms, St Germain, fresh fruits and lemonade with a POP ROCKS RIM!!!). Pimmis one of my all time favourite drinks so adding pop rocks to the mix is genius. Kawaii factor = a billion.

Before I get too giddy with the cocktail love let's move onto the food. We start things off with a bowl of Edamame that come with sea salt or chilli salt ($6.00) - we get the chilli salt which I love as it adds a great savoury element to the dish, and the aroma is quite smokey and divine! 

 I absolutely loved the Kingfish carpaccio with a ginger and mirin sauce, tobiko, chilli oil and jalapeno tempura ($18.00). The serve you see here is smaller than what you'd normally get - the owner was downsizing the plates for us so we could try a few more things (cos, like I said I was gung ho on eating the whole menu)! The flavours is this were incredible, really fresh and zesty with just a hint of heat. The whole dish was  perfectly balanced with super fresh, meaty fish - as is the Japanese way of course. More please!

Continuing with the amazingly-flavoured seafood theme next up is the salmon tartare nachos with wasabi miso dressing, chives and tobiko, served with prawn crackers ($16.00). Again, smaller than you'd normally get - we're trying to conserve stomach space here. This is a fun dish - build your own nachos by adding a little scoop of salmon tartare to a prawn chip. 

 You have NO idea how happy I was to see Kushiyaki Skewers on the menu here as Kushiyaki and Yakitori were one of the things (or two I guess) The Boy and I LOVED (and miss) the most about Tokyo! In Japan it seems common to be able to choose if you want your skewers with a sauce brushed on top, or just simply salted. I always tried slated, so it was great that Paper Planes serve their skewers with a glazed brushed on as I get to try them "the other way".

The chicken thigh fillet kushiyaki ($9.00 -  2 per serve) is good, really good! They come just as they do in Tokyo, with shallots sandwiched between each piece of chicken, but unlike Tokyo here we have and a truffle glaze. Fancy. I think The Boy's comment about the eggplant kushiyaki ($7.00 - 2 per serve) pretty much sums it up "this is good...and it's eggplant...and it's good"! Yes Dave, eggplant is good!

Next is a serve of the homemade gyoza with a pork and cabbage filling and a chilli ponzu dipping sauce ($12.00 for 5 pieces). I really enjoyed these pork dumplings as the porky taste was quite mild (which I've found is often not the case with minced pork in dumplings).
The Boy always points out when things come in odd numbers as he worries it'll cause "issues". He got in quick this time and nabbed the fifth dumpling for himself saying it was "tax for being the driver to Bondi for the night". Sneaky.

I'd seen the Pork Belly Bun ($6.50) arriving at the table of other diners and I just HAD to order one (to share with The Boy of course) as I LOVE pork buns. I'm especially fond of the soft, doughy bun which is steamed to perfection here. Here we have a fat little slab of pork belly atop a slice of cucumber and topped with a creamy, finger lickin' good jalapeno mayonnaise. Yum.

It wouldn't be a Japanese dinner with out at least one foray into sushi-land. The spicy tuna with apple, togarashi chilli, mayonnaise, chive and tobiko ($15.00) is super fresh and I love the crunch of the apple against the softness of the fatty tuna. The roll is sprinkled with little nubbins of tempura batter which gives a good crunch!

 The crispy pork belly in a palm sugar, lime leaf and rice vinegar syrup ($28.00) is normally a full-sized main but we're given one little mouthful each to try...just enough to make us wish we had a whole plates worth to devour. This pork is SO good and is topped with with crushed peanuts and fresh herbs and sits atop a little bok choi leaf. The meat is perfectly caramelized with a good layer of unctuous fat between the meat and the crispy skin. It's chewy, fatty, gelatinous, flavoursome crispy and AMAZING!  

Are you still with me? Just one more dish to go before we can go home and lay on the couch rubbing our happy belly's!

The braised beef short ribs ($31.00) is served off the bone in yakiniku sauce with pickled vegetable along with a serve of steamed 5 grains brown rice ($5.00). The sauce is fairly sweet which is where the pickled vege come in and lend some acidity to the dish. Oh boy, this beef was SO tender that it was impossible for me to eat with my chopsticks (I'm the girl that packed a fork to take to Japan so I don't exactly have mad chopstick skills)! A really great dish to end the night on. 

I really loved our meal at Paper Planes and The Boy and I are keen to come back soon. I hear that we should keep an eye on the menu as they'll be introducing ramen for the colder months. Ramen by the that's something you can't get in Tokyo!

Paper Planes is at at shop 15/178 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach. Phone them on 9300 0673.

PaperPlanes on Urbanspoon

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