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Archive for July, 2009

Breakfast is my most favourite meal of the day, but who else thinks that breakfast would be better served past 12 ?

The biggest problem with eating breakfast out is that very few places have all day breakfasts. So organising for a group of us to eat breakfast was no easy feat – especially since Grace Brasserie’s breakfast buffet closes at 11am on a Saturday (and 10am on weekdays!) – so imagine trekking it to the city by at least 9am to get in 2 hours of eating time :(

 

When I first mentioned ‘breakfast buffet’, my sister wouldn’t stop joking about paying $30 for only a buffet selection of cereals – “hmm..should I eat Weet-bix or Nutrigrain?”

 

Selection of cereals and fruits (for yoghurt mixing)

I didn’t actually try any of the cereals, but I had the yoghurt which was super tasty :) Grace Brasserie offers either honey yoghurt (which was realllyyy nice), or regular yoghurt, which was a little bitter, but the same viscosity as the yoghurt you get from salad bars

 

Eggs benedict

Runny egg yolks and ham on pieces of bread :) Not particularly amazing, but still good !

 

Hash browns and fried tomatoes

It is sad to say that I enjoy Birds Eye’s frozen selection of hash browns better than the ones on offer here, but the tomatoes were fresh and juicy ! :)

Grace Brasserie also has a selection of hot foods in trays like these – including bacon, veal chipolatas, pancakes, mushrooms, and scrambled eggs. The food is covered by a small cover so it stays warm, and you can see the chefs making pancakes and hash browns behind :)

 

Either Nick or Jenny’s takings – eggs benedict, fried tomatoes, hash browns, mushrooms, chipolata, scrambled eggs, pancake and a dollop of yoghurt & fresh berries

 

Cup of tea

Contrary to the self-serving drinks service at most buffets, Grace Brasserie has waiters bustling around offering to refill your cups with hot tea and instant coffee. :) There’s also sugar and milk at each table so you can tweak the taste for your liking.

 

danishes, croissants, muffins

Their selection of sweet pastries is to die for !! The custard in the danishes were sweet and thick, the croissants were soft and buttery, and THIS particular muffin was sooo good – tasted like cinnamon doughnut :)
They also had banana bread and snails which I didn’t try :(

 

Chocolate mousse and macarons

I saw the waiter making this in front of a pineapple, so I thought it was pineapple ..
Turns out when he found out it was my birthday, he decided to make these little treats for us ! :) Soo sweeet (no pun intended)

 

Chocolate macaron on a piece of chocolate cake wedged with icing

 

Mousse with a biscuit layer and nut on top

 

The muffin flower that David & I made

There were five muffin flavours on offer at Grace Brasserie – cinnamon, blueberry, chocolate chip, orange and poppyseed, and I forget the last one
They were all sooo good though – I love the muffins here !!

 

Fresh fruit

Most buffets usually stop refilling about half an hour before closing time, but at 10.50am the waiters were still pulling out fresh platters of watermelon, pineapple, rockmelon and honeydew.

There was also a selection of canned peaches and pears for the yoghurt, and a small offer of condiments (strawberry jam, blackberry jam, orange marmalade and Australian honey) on each table – for use on your pancakes or toast !!

$29 is the going rate for a breakfast like this, but thanks to Visit UNSW it was $15 per head (offer until 31/07/09). Saw this place on KG’s blog, and even though it was a real trek having to wake up at an ungodly hour just to eat breakfast, it was defiiiinitely worth it :)

 

Grace Brasserie (visited 13/06/09)
The Grace Hotel Level 2
Cnr King & York St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9272 6636

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Fourth Chinese blog in a row, and third Shanghainese place !
Haven’t blogged for awhile because I just came back from the snow all battered and bruised :( This is going to be a bit of a lazy post because I got takeaway to bring home to my sister, so apologies and I’ll get around to blogging properly again sooon :)

 

H L J Asian Express is probably one of the newer Shanghai food outlets around the city near Broadway (and by newer I mean …last year? so not really.)

It actually takes up two shops – one of them is a hotpot place and the other is a noodle place where you can buy pork buns and other assorted hot food for takeaway :) and they connect inside as well !

 

The noodle sign outside

 

Although the place is relatively new, the interior looks like any other typical Shanghai-style cafe, and the service is fast and efficient, if not a little haphazard. Although waiting for a takeaway meal taks about 10-15 minutes.

 

Honeyed BBQ Pork & Rice Noodle – $9.30

I forgot the menu name for this dish, but it had carrot, shallots, barbeque pork and lettuce strips, as well as mini prawns, and rice noodle infused with a tangy/spicy taste
Slightly chilli flavoured, with a sweet honey sauce ..interesting taste for rice noodle!

 

Chicken & Hokkien Noodle – $9.30

Again, no idea what this is. The ‘extras’ seem to be standard across all their dishes though, with carrot strips, shallots, soft chicken breast, onions and beansprouts
The noodles look a little flat in the picture (blame the takeaway box!), but they were bathed in peanut oil, so there was a lot of oil residue left at the bottom of the box afterwards. I guess if you like heartburn then you’d probably love these noodles, but my dad thought the oil was kind of old (no idea how he could tell, though)

I thought the food here was pretty good, and their boxes are epic insulators cos they still stayed quite warm after an hour plus bus trip home. Despite the abundance of oil, I’d come back – but probably not too much in case my arteries get clogged up.

I’m sure a place like this has its own cult following, and I’ve always been dying to try their buns – plus the noodles on the menu outside are pretty cheap so may as well give it a try :)

 

H L J Asian Express 大上海 (visited 07/06/09)
Shop 1 & 2, 849 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 9280 0383

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We seem to be on a Chinese food roll right now, so I’m just going to go ahead and jump on the bandwagon.

Whether you’re Asian or not, I’m sure many of you have heard of the suburb of Eastwood and its (in)famous abundance of Asian restaurants (and not much else, let’s be honest). Eastwood has some of Sydney’s best Chinese and Korean restaurants, and there seems to be a new business popping up every couple of months. The Taste of Shanghai Restaurant is one of the newer restaurants in Eastwood and business is bustling. While I hate to say this, I personally think that Chinese restaurants are the best near the beginning of their lifetime and slowly decline from there, so we decided that if there is any time to visit, it’s now.

I recently (as in a couple of minutes ago on Google) just found out that there is another chain store in Ashfield, so perhaps the restaurant’s immediate popularity may partly be attributed to that.

When we arrived at 1:00pm on a Saturday afternoon, we expected the restaurant to be packed – and it was. However, when the waitress said it’d be a 5 to 10 minute wait she wasn’t lying, and we were directed to a table fairly quickly.

Taken discretely while I pretended to be using my phone

While the floor space of the restaurant is quite large, they did not waste a single inch of space. The tables were as small as they could make it without the plates falling off (and we had quite a few close saves), and the chairs were pretty much back to back. Despite this, the overall ambience of the restaurant was quite welcoming, and the wait staff were friendly, albeit a little stressed and disorganised.

Green vege & pork pan fried wonton (twelve)
$10.80

Although I’m not really a fan of dumplings and related food, I do enjoy a well-made fried dumpling once in a while. These fried wontons had a nice dough that was a good blend of flour and glutinous rice, but I think the filling was completely devoid of salt. I don’t usually like to put any sauce on my dumplings either (yes I know I’m weird) so I would’ve preferred some seasoning.

Shanghai steamed mini pork buns, crab meat flavour (eight)
$10.80

These buns was just your average pork bun and weren’t really special. While it says ‘crab meat flavour’, the only bit of crab was the orange tip that you can see on top.

However, it does seem like that all the doughy foods are freshly made in the kitchen, which I always appreciate.

Fresh fish head soup (white)
$28.80

The fish head soup was on the Chef’s Specials menu, and another version with red (chilli) soup is also available. The soup is quite pricey, but the serving is massive, and at lunchtimes I believe it is at a special price of $19.80. I don’t usually eat seafood, especially fish, but I had seconds of this soup (although, it was partly because there was so much of it and I felt obliged not to waste it!) Usually, oilyness is a big problem with fish soup, but this soup had just the right amount. The fish flavour was refreshing and strong but not overbearing, and it was balanced nicely with fresh tofu and glutinous rice noodles.

Szechuan style shredded pork & golden buns
$18.80

This was an interesting dish that I hadn’t come across before. What you had to do was stuff the pork in the bun, which had a hole at the bottom.

Stuffed bun

The buns had a really unique flavour that was kind of smokey & cocoa-y. The pork strings were tender and mildly spicy, but weren’t really interesting.

Chilli beef in hot wok
$16.80

While I was told that chilli isn’t really used in Shanghai cooking, I always have to have at least one spicy dish. I prefer my meat dishes to be really strong and rich in flavour (loaded with soy sauce and spices, please), however, the chilli beef was way too salty, and considering my normal salt threshold, that’s quite a statement. Aside from that, the beef was tender and nicely cooked, but I’d prefer a little more beef and a little less tofu in there.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the experience. I’m a fairly harsh critic when it comes to Chinese food and Taste of Shanghai Restaurant passed the test in my book. However, one complaint is that although having been to the city, we weren’t really sure what actually constituted as ‘Shanghai food’. I hope they’d have some kind of marking on the menu to show the Shanghai specialities from the average Chinese dish.

Taste of Shanghai Restaurant, Eastwood
(visited 04/07/09)
200 Rowe St,
Eastwood NSW 2122
Ph: (02) 9804 0388

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If I said “an internationally renowned dumpling chain”, it should bring to mind only one place: Din Tai Fung.

 

Ever since I tried their xiao long bao in July last year, I’ve never been able to forget them (lameee, I know !!). Sure, there are those who claim that Din Tai Fung is overpriced and even overvalued (although I’ve never heard anyone say that), any place that gives a guide to eating their dishes gets a big thumbs up in my book ;)

 

There is an art to eating xiao long bao – not that I would propose to know.
But Din Tai Fung prepares you well – equipped with a small dish of ginger strips and another empty sauce dish, you’re free to mix a combination of vinegar and soy sauce for dipping your xiao long bao :)

 

Not only are you paying for exemplary food, but the waiters are well-trained and polite, providing everything from a cover for your jacket to a hamper for your oversized uni bag (and replacement chopsticks in ten seconds flat if you so happen to drop them on the floor). I’d say that it is a testament to their attentive service that Din Tai Fung still has a sizeable crowd even at 2pm.

 

What I do enjoy is their method of service. If you have to wait outside for a table, a waitress will give you a brochure with dishes so you can choose what you’d like to eat (and sneakily enough, with no price tag attached).
You can also choose what dishes to come out when, and as they arrive, they are marked off on the receipt given back to you when you’ve placed your order.

What we ordered

 

Strawberry Italian Soda – $4

For ultimate hygiene purposes, the strawberry soda straw comes with a little paper cover that you slip off when you’re ready to drink it.
Despite the abundance of ice and carbonated water, you can taste the sweet yet tangy sensation of strawberry pulp sitting at the bottom of the glass. Also comes in red plum, green apple, and blue coral (think lemon, honey, and blue curacao ..yuckkk)

 

Hot Soy Bean Milk – $3

  

Pork Dumpling (8 pieces) – $10.80

The only thing I love more than xiao long bao is Din Tai Fung xiao long bao.
The only problem with having such thin, delicate xiao long bao skin is the MAJOR ISSUE of accidentally tearing it with your chopstick and wasting your precious soup =[ …which I accidentally did :(

 

The xiao long bao murder =(

All this from one small dumpling =[ It looks like a baby soiled its nappies =(

 


Vegetable & Pork Won Ton with a Tangy sauce (5 pieces) & spicy noodle – $10.80 ? no idea.

The dumpling skin was deliciously fresh and sturdy, neither too fragile nor too thick. Encased was a pinch of crunchy spinach and pork, nestled on a bed of texture-y noodles bathed in chilli sauce  ….which was VERY SPICY.
The tagline on the menu labelled this dish (and its cousins) as “A little spicy” – whattt a liiiie omg ! If we changed ‘a little’ to ‘a lot’, it might be a tiny bit closer to the truth.

 

Prawn & Pork Parcel (Shao Mai – 4 pieces) – $9.80

Thanks to the Enliven Your Senses deal I found on KG’s, it was a Buy 1 Get 1 Free dumpling meal, so this Shao Mai dish was the ‘free’ one. Lucky us ! Shanghainese presentation of their Shao Mai is always a feast for the eyes !

 

The prawn acts as a plug on the small packages of pork pieces, ensuring that the broth stays wrapped tightly inside the soft dumpling skin

 

Triple Strawberry Crushed Ice – $9.80
Freshly cut strawberry, strawberry ice cream and strawberry puree served on top of crushed ice

THIS was the king. Despite UNCALLED for comments that this dessert resembled a piece of male genitalia (although how, I genuinely have no idea), it was just sosososo delicious =9
Ever since I watched my friend order a “crushed ice” at Cha for Tea, only to be presented with a block of ice and a scoop of beans, I’ve been put off a little by the idea of crushed ice ..but I must sayyyy ..this was NOTHING like it at ALL.

Rivulets of strawberry puree drizzled down a pyramid of soft, crunchy pieces of ice infused with a sweet vanilla-y liquid.. I thought it tasted like vanilla ice cream but Grace was convinced it was condensed milk (and she was probably right – and this just means that you aren’t munching away on plain old ice, either!)
There were fresh strawberries swimming in the creamy puree, soaked in condensed milk and topped off with a single scoop of strawberry ice cream. Although I thought this strawberry ice cream was a little too artificial, and a little too sweet, this was definitely the first time I actually wanted to eat more ice. The dessert comes in mango as well, and for $9.80, it is a steal ! I am definitelyyy going back for it.

 

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) (visited 07/06/09)
Shop 11. 04 Level 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9264 6010 / 6012
Fax: (02) 9264 6013

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There are heaps of places to eat opposite Market City (and inside, as a matter of fact), but I’ve never bothered going into Minh Hai.

Not to be confused with its namesake on George St (or should it be?), Minh Hai is just around the corner from Chinatown, where the staff are friendly (if not persistent), and they know their regulars’ dishes by heart.

The interior is pretty clean for a BBQ shop (I had photos, but as I have complained about ten times already, my phone camera has destroyed them :( ), and there are empty bottles of wine, bamboo waterfalls and various pot plants dotting the back of the shop.

The payment counter is underneath a small pegoda decorated with white Christmas snowflakes, and just behind are brightly coloured photos of pearl milk tea and lemon tea.

 

What Jenny first thought was rusty cutlery turned out to be gold forks and spoons – an interesting touch.

Also interesting are the mini TVs hoisted up on the walls behind every odd table – we thought we were hearing voices, until we realised it was just an ad from the TV playing in our ear. :S

 

Complimentary Chinese tea

We were given only a single glass of boiling, almost translucent, Chinese tea, I think because I also ordered a cup of hot honey lemon in addition.

 

Honey lemon – $3

This teeny tiny mug wasn’t exactly piping hot, and you get an overload of sweet sensation from the very first sip – way too much honey for such a small cup. Then again, if you ask for more hot water, problem’s solved. :)

When looking through the menu, you can see the “Famous Fried Chicken” seal displayed proudly on the top left hand corner, but mindful of the fact that I was in a BBQ shop, I decided to order one of my favourites – stir fried rice noodle with beef – but with duck instead.

 

Stirfried rice noodle with duck – $10.80 (i think)

The rice noodle was crispy (which IMO is quite irregular for rice noodle), and it wasn’t too oily, either. There were shallots, bean sprouts, onions, and a few pieces of tender roast duck, all sprinkled with sesame seeds and probably cooked in sesame oil. For a BBQ store, the duck was nothing extraordinary, but it wasn’t too shabby, either.

 

Roast Duck Noodle Soup – $9.80

MSG and oil soup – a signature of any Chinese noodle dish. As well as egg noodle and chewy pieces of duck, there were also pieces of baby bok choy. Just eating the duck made me feel as if I’d kissed a plate of oil (no need for lip gloss at this place :D), but the baby bok choy tasted fresh and crunchy.

For a relatively small place, the service is definitely big-hearted, and definitely a friendly place worth going back to.

 

BBQ Minh Hai (明海烧腊), Chinatown (visited 01/06/09)
92 Hay St, Haymarket
NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9281 9720

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