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Word on the street is that there’s a new tea store trying to muscle in on the monopoly that is Easyway. If you’ve been down George St any time over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed Chatime – the latest tea store to hit Sydney.

Their selection of teas are interesting – amongst them Yakult Lemon Juice, Ichiban Roasted Tea, Lemon Yoghurt Smoothie and Brown Rice Green Tea ……….but do they really beat Easyway?

 

Since Chatime had a Buy 1 Get 1 free promotion until the 13th November, I was naturally tempted to try their new range of drinks.
Grace had bought a Hawaii Fruit Tea (M – $4.20) the day before, and it had tasted suspiciously like breakfast juice in tea form …but hey! New things might always surprise you :)

 

Grapefruit Green Tea (R) and aloe vera – $4.70 &
Chatime Roasted Milk Tea (R) with pearls – $4.70

First up on the list of drinks to try was the recommended grapefruit green tea and the interesting sounding Chatime roasted milk tea.
The prices are a little dearer than Easyway, which is often justified with the random inclusion of toppings in some of the drinks (not in this case, though).

I asked the staff if the grapefruit green tea would be sour, to which I was told it would be bitter =[. Had a slight bitter aftertaste, and the aloe vera texture was a little mushy (Easyway’s is definitely better), but if you like grapefruit it’s definitely worth a try.

Chatime roasted milk tea, which is supposed to be green tea based, just tasted like watery coffee. Like, SUPER watery coffee. -_-  The pearls were very chewy though, which is good I suppose, if you like chewy pearls.

Verdict? Grapefruit > Roasted milk

Despite not being blown away by these 2 drinks, Helen & I decided to give Chatime another try with:

Brown Rice Green Tea (R) with pearls – $4.20 &
Tokachi Red Bean Milk Tea (R) included with pearls and red bean – $4.50

Was not really a fan of the brown rice green tea. Tasted like the hot green tea they give you in Japanese shops – the ones that taste like sesame tea instead (which apparently isn’t sesame or green tea at all, but rather the brown rice..so I guess the name is rather accurate). In Helen’s words, is it “infused with smoke” ? =\

The tokachi red bean milk tea came with a serving of pearls and red beans. Red beans were really nice – not overly sweet (Easyway’s milk tea is a thousand times sweeter – although you can adjust the sweetness), and rather small. The milk tea had a red tea aftertaste that could potentially be amazing if you love milk tea.

Verdict? Tokachi red bean > brown rice green tea

Unfortunately, despite trying four different drinks, we still hadn’t found the WOW factor of Chatime ….so one more time.

Longan & Red Date Juice (L) – $4.20

One thing I can say about Chatime is that the descriptions for their drinks are pretty accurate. Although a refreshing drink, there was a definite longan aftertaste that could very easily be overwhelming if you don’t like longans that much. There was a strong date flavour as well (which was only accentuated further by the small sweet date pieces floating around in the drink).

Figured that I haven’t really liked anything from their energetic healthy juice range .. =[ (which this drink came from)

Fairy Vanilla Milk Tea (L) and pearls – $5.20

The WOW factor.
This was definitelyyyy my favourite drink so far! Not much to say other than it’s a vanilla milk tea, and if you like vanilla, you’ll looove this!

As for comparison with Easyway, I suppose it all comes down to whether you have a tolerance for sweet things, and whether or not you’re obsessed with milk tea. While Easyway has a large variety of different drinks, Chatime differs in that they have a few of the populars – e.g. milk tea, green tea – and then a few variations of the same thing.

But speaking of Easyway, did anyone see the episode of the Simpsons where all the shops in some megamart turn into Starbucks?
That’s pretty much the same case with Easyway and George St, with a new Easyway opening up opposite the World Square one and diagonal to the Goulburn St store.

 

Grand Opening

Oooh, competition, considering this new Easyway store opened up in the same time frame as the Chatime store.

…a store which uses masking tape to hold its sign up.

Hahahah.

Anywayyy. If you’re adventurous and really like milk tea, then maybe Chatime’s gazillion different types of milk tea will appeal to you!
If anything, the tea is worth a try at least once – and if you’re not game, you should swing by Easyway Castle Towers for the best Easyway around :D

Chatime (Visited 13/11/09)
Shop 181, 569 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
(Summit Arcade, opposite World Square)
http://www.chatime.com.au

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If you have an Asian bun craving, Sydney CBD is definitely the place to be !

From Barby’s to 85 Degrees, Saint Honore to Savoy, buns and cakes are raining down on you everywhere and it would be well worth your while to dash through this bun storm with an open mouth raised to the skies.
(NB: Mentioning 85 Degrees George St is a bit of an exaggeration :( If you want more than cake and drink you have to go to the one in Chatswood !!)

Franchises and sole traders litter the streets of Sydney, and it was only a few years ago when Breadtop suddenly appeared one day and then began popping up everywhere.

 

One of the interesting things about Breadtop is the peek-a-boo kitchen, so if you manage to bypass the temptation that is Miracle Supermarket and Shu Shin Bou (the mochi house in World Square!), you will get a glimpse of the bakers making their breads and pastries in the shop :D so fingers crossed that the food is always fresh and tasty

 

From the East Asian take on ham & cheese croissants and mini danishes and burgers, to the more exotic flavours of seafood hash brown and seaweed pork floss buns, you can always find something super special to tickle your tastebuds

 

Much like this, the new bamboo charcoal bun:

Bamboo Charcoal Bun – $2
Healthy nutritious bun made of bamboo charcoal, topped with a slight butter touch and garlic paste

is anyone game enough to try it out ? Grace says it tastes like a croissant, but it sure as anything doesn’t look like one !
 

 

Also, which Breadtop would be complete without selling bread ?! Think chocolate chip buns, milk bread, and even sourdough bread at an exorbitant price ! I haven’t tried the sourdough (so the bread may very well warrant its price), but the chocolate chip buns are a flavour hit for a cool $3 for a bag of 6.

 

Freshly stocked cake display

 

Cake display at the end of the day

 

Mango Gateau – $31

This is indeed tasty cake ! It doesn’t come with chocolate Maltesers or a gummy snake mouth, but it does come with strawberries, mango, glaze and generous servings of fluffy cream and sponge.

 

Packaging advertising their pastry and bun offerings

 

Strawberry Tart – $3.40

I love Asian desserts ! For $3.40, I daresay a lot of Asians will find this expensive as tarts go, but compare them to other bakeries! For the freshness of the strawberries, the crisp yet sturdy shortbread base, and the melt-in-your-mouth custard, ’tis a true bargain to be reckoned with.

 

Fruit Tart – $3.40

Possibly one of the gems of Breadtop.

A wide selection of fruits including rockmelon, pear, pineapple, grape, strawberry, orange, honeydew and lychee, Breadtop gives you 2 of almost everything (one ring of pineapple and a melon apiece) so you can share it with your lover and best friend :D and no fighting over the lychees !

I usually find Asian custard quite lumpy and powdery, so to find Breadtop’s thick custard with smooth consistency is like a dream come true :D
The only problem is that not every Breadtop has nice custard – but if you’re not a picky person you can try all their cakes and tarts at every single Breadtop to find the best custard in the world :D

 

Breadtop 包店 (visited 23/06/09)
World Square
Shop 9.22
644 George St, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9264 1383
http://www.breadtop.com.au

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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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Emperor’s Garden Cake & Bakery, home to hot little custard balls, more commonly known as Emperor’s Puffs, and a variety of cheap Asian buns and cakes!

 

Swiss Cheese cake, Tiramisu, Fresh Cream Strawberry Puff, Eclair ($1.80 each)

The two best things about Emperor’s Garden Cake & Bakery are the variety of cakes and the cheap price. Throw in a 10% discount to celebrate their 30th anniversary, and you’ve got yourself super super cheap cakes !

 

One thing I have noticed about their selection of cakes is that they’re never the same ! You might endeavour to try allll of them, but the next time you go, they’ve got a new cake selection :D And it’s much more worth it buying their slices of cake for $1.80 apiece, rather than a super huge cake from their birthday cake selection.

 


Again ..I apologise for the bad quality of photos – using my phone camera againnn :(

 

Passionfruit & Apricot Mousse – $1.80
Convenient packaging, and a tasty morsel of cake to feast on =9

If you like soft, moist mousse, fruit in your cakes, and a deliciously light and fluffy sponge, then Emperor’s Garden is definitely the place to go to ! The portion is just enough as well, because I don’t think I could eat too much of this cake – although I can never OD on apricot.
I have tried their tiramisu here though, and can’t say I was too keen on it – a bit too much cream for my liking.

 

A birthday cake we bought sometime in March last year.
If you haven’t noticed, the birthday cakes at Emperor’s Garden are perpetually on discount – I think it’s about 10%.
Don’t remember how much this one cost, but ’twas your typical Chinese cake – vanilla sponge sandwiched with cream and covered in cream, cream buds, and fruit – strawberries, rockmelon, honeymelon, peaches, and kiwi fruit – and layered with gelatin glaze.

 

For comparison’s sake, and just because I can, here’s a photo of a Mother’s Day cake I bought earlier this year at Montagne Bleue :

 

Taro Sponge cake – $29
Taro sponge cake layered with cream and covered with strawberry cream, chocolate icing, and fresh strawberries.

The people at Montagne Bleue, although without a fine grasp of English (Mandarin speakers only!), were incredibly hospitable in making this cake – and for $29 too!
I came rushing up on the night of Mother’s Day with a friend, looking for a cake, and the owners here offered to make a cake similar to the one on display for us (for a half-hour wait), and even went so far to ask which shade of pink I wanted (lool – I was having trouble enough saying I wanted a cake in Mandarin).
The front bit was a bit messy, as you can probably tell from the photo, but for a rush job and the hospitality of the staff, I’d definitely go back.

 

Emperor’s Garden Cake & Bakery (visited 01/06/09)
Cnr Dixon St, 100 Hay St
Haymarket NSW 2000

Montagne Bleue (visited 11/05/09)
45 Dixon St
Haymarket NSW 2000

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