Monday, 1 September 2014

$5 dumplings @ Eat Me Drink Me

Tucked away on Dundas Court in Phillip is Eat Me Drink Me - a small cafe serving Nerissimo coffee, breakfast, sandwiches, pies and surprisingly dumplings!

The inside of the cafe is as playful as it's name. Bright blue floor tiles, fuchsia painted walls on one side and lime green walls on the other. There are a few comfy sofas by the front window if you want to chillax with a coffee and paper.
I love a cheap meal, not to mention dumplings, so I couldn't resist trying the $5 pan-fried dumplings. These are filled with with pork and chives, however a vegetarian option is also available and I'm advised this would take slightly longer to come out as they'd need to make them.
Smothered in a beautiful, sticky, spicy, sweet soy sauce variety, these dumplings were an indulgence. Served hot I loved the stickiness of the sauce. There was a bit of oil pooling at the bottom of the bowl but the dumplings were so delicious! I got about 9 in the serve which was filling after ordering a drink. A hungrier person may need to order 2 serves but it still works out pretty cheap. I couldn't quite work out what the sauce was and asked one of the staff. He confirmed they use an Indonesian sweet soy sauce - kecap manis.
I also ordered the Italian thick hot chocolate ($5) which came out with a small jug of milk, marshmallows, cinnamon and chilli powder. Dark chocolate is used to prevent it being sickeningly sweet. This is very thick and the extra milk is perfect to slowly add into the hot chocolate if you want to lighten the drink.
A small block of chocolate melts in the middle of the cup adding extra chocolatey goodness.
Italian thick hot chocolate
Eat Me Drink Me offers breakfast and lunch Mondays to Saturdays. Prices are affordable. Hamburgers are home made and sandwiches are freshly made. They even have croissant sandwiches!
You can't go wrong with the $5 dumplings - great value and delicious!

Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Brunch @ Beess & Co

Some friends and I went for an early morning bike ride around the lake and decided to stop in for brunch in Yarralumla. I'd been to Beess & Co at the Yarralumla shops a few years ago and found it a charming spot, so I suggested trying it out again.
There are a few cakes displayed inside.
Vegetarian and gluten-free meals are available and clearly marked on the weekend menu which includes items such as eggs benedict, spanish omelette, ricotta hot cakes and more. A specials menu written up on the blackboard gives you more options for breakfast and lunch. I noticed that frozen take away curries and soups are also available for purchase.
I ordered the fresh mango and yoghurt smoothie ($7.50) from the blackboard. I couldn't taste much fresh mango - this was vanilla ice cream blended smooth with soy milk and a hint of mango. I didn't care though, after the morning's bike ride, that sugary goodness went down very quickly.
I ordered the potato rosti with poached eggs, prosciutto and chilli jam ($18.50). The eggs were slightly over cooked but not too bad.
The rosti had a nice crunchiness on the outside however I found they were a little bland. At least the chilli jam, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar glaze helped lift the flavour of the dish. I appreciated the fresh greens too.
D had the blackboard special French toast with bacon and maple syrup ($17.50) which looked fantastic.
V ordered the avocado and tomato with lemon and cracked pepper on mung bean toast ($15.50). The mung bean toast was interesting and tasted like normal bread even though it's gluten free.
Service is okay - the drinks came out quickly and the food only took another 10 minutes after the drinks. There is a very casual vibe in the cafe attracting a variety of people whether it be someone enjoying coffee and cake, reading the paper over a cuppa, typing away on their lap top or a group of friends hungry after a bike ride. I know it's a popular spot for the locals in summer with plenty of people sitting outside.

Beess and Co is no hipster cafe but it serves a decent brunch and is never empty.

Foodgasm 6.5/10

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Dinner @ Mr Shabu Shabu

I first dined at Mr Shabu Shabu in New Acton about 3 years ago and remembered it was a good cheap meal. I went back with some friends for a pre-show dinner and knew I'd want another shabu shabu as it was a freezing night. Shabu shabu is a dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in a broth.

That night, I ordered the pork shabu shabu ($14.50). Everything came out together (impressive as there were 8 of us) so we didn't wait long before tucking into our meals. A black iron pot filled with broth sits on a portable burner and is lit underneath with some kind of blue gel that burns slowly, keeping your broth constantly hot. There were about 6 slices of pork meat, vermicelli noodles hidden underneath, enoki and Chinese mushrooms, cold seaweed salad, a vegetable spring roll, bowl of rice and a peanutty satay sauce.
The broth is quite transparent and there was cabbage and carrots already steaming inside. Similar to a Chinese steamboat dinner, you cook your meat and vegetables in the broth. Note: don't cook it ALL at once. One thin slice only takes about 30 seconds to cook and there's not much room to place your cooked meat and veg in the small bowls provided. The good thing is you can take your time since your broth is always hot. I love the tartness of the seaweed salad and wanted more. The spring roll is very plain but is a nice crunchy element to the meal.
I couldn't remember how big a serving it was (before it came out) and ordered a few more items to make sure I was full ;p The shabu shabu doesn't come with noodles so I ordered a side of udon ($2), as well as gyoza ($3) and salmon sashimi ($4.50). I was surprised to see a whole bowl filled with udon and small cubes of tofu - great value for only $2.
The gyoza came in a serve of three with a bit of soy sauce drizzled on top. These were crunchy on the outside and the filling was stuffed with cabbage and chives.
I was happy with the three large thick-cut slices of beautiful salmon sashimi.
Most of the others ordered a shabu shabu variety too (chicken or beef). My partner ordered the beef but noticed he only received three slices. The same condiments were provided.
Marbly beef
V ordered the sashimi set ($14.80) with thick cuts of tuna and salmon sashimi, rice, seaweed salad and a spring roll.
Another friend ordered the teriyaki chicken set ($14.80) which came with rice, seaweed salad and a spring roll.
D ordered the beef ramen ($11.80) which had enoki mushrooms, slices of radish, corn kernels and some seaweed.
Other items on the menu include various 'don' sets, ramen and udon dishes, nigiri sushi and Asian flavoured ice creams such as green tea, black sesame and red bean. Our large group were seated in the front half of the restaurant. There are additional tables in the back section too.
Simple fit out, friendly and quick service, and cheap food that warms you up on a cold night. What more can you ask for?

Foodgasm 8/10
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Saturday, 23 August 2014

First look @ Black Fire (Braddon)

I'd been eagerly waiting for Black Fire Restaurant in Braddon to open its doors. Specialising in authentic Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, the dinner and dessert menu was up on the website before the restaurant was even open causing me some serious hunger pangs. Located on Mort Street in the Habitat apartment complex (next to the Pita Pit and around the corner from Bentspoke Brewing Co), many passerbys were peering in to view the latest addition to the Braddon food scene.
Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed were the beautiful rustic looking chandeliers that gave off a warm glow making the space feel completely inviting.  The decor is modern rustic with multiple textures used - exposed brick, transparent glass, wooden panelling and don't forget the indoor plants. The front counter includes a bar area with wine, cocktails, scotch, rum and more available on the drinks menu. A large coffee machine against the window enticed people off the street to order a take away coffee.
A black board hangs on the back wall above the kitchen ready to be written on with the day's specials. The stacked wooden logs on the back shelf are ready to be used in the wood fire oven. My friend V found out from one of the builders that there is another back room to the restaurant, perhaps for larger group bookings.
The dinner menu is split into first (entrees) and second (main) courses. There are several temptations on offer. The entrees should suit most budgets with dishes ranging from $4 to $26. Mains include freshly made pasta, arroz caldoso, and duck breast ranging from $24 to $30. Then there are a range of meat dishes cooked on the open fire roast and wood fire oven such as the 8 hours slow roasted suckling pig ($36), 8 hours slow roasted lamb ($36) and the Angus fillet tenderloin ($36). Looks like you can also order a whole roasted animal for the larger groups (I'm guessing this needs to be pre-ordered). Everything from the open fire roast and wood fire oven comes with sauce and a side or salad.

V and I went in for lunch filled with excitement at what this establishment could offer. I really wanted to try the suckling pig but that wasn't available on the lunch menu (darn, next time!). Lunch is similar to the dinner menu but with a few items left off. I started with the charcoal scallop, light horseradish bechamel with radish and tarragon gremolata ($5 a piece). This scallop was fat, juicy and cooked to perfection. I absolutely loved the charcoal hit, zesty gremolata and creamy bechamel. A good start to lunch.
For the mains, we ordered the slow roasted Wagyu skirt steak ($28). The menu states Black Angus and Wagyu are certified pure breed, over 36 months old and dry aged for 30 days. I'm not much of a meat eater (until recently) so I don't really understand what that means but was willing to find out. This came out in a hot pan served on top of a wooden board with plenty of red wine mushroom gravy.
A steak knife is simply unnecessary as the beef was so tender and fell apart easily. This was full of rich beef flavour that you could not mistake it for any other meat. I found that while very tender, the beef was a little dry (I guess because it is dry aged beef) but all that sauce was fantastic to provide extra flavour and moisture to the steak. The chef advised that this steak only comes medium cooked due to the slow roasting process.
We chose the Alubias white beans with chilli as the accompanying side to the steak (included in the price of the steak). I'm not sure what flavourings were on the beans but these tasted great. No chilli though.
Another main was the Wagyu osso bucco ($26) slow braised in vegetables and red wine that comes with taroz of mashed yellow potatoes and green beans. This came out in a huge dish with several pieces of Wagyu to satisfy most meat lovers. It looked different to what I imagined and I couldn't see any vegetables. When I tasted the sauce, I realised the vegetables and red wine had been puréed. Similar to the skirt steak, this meat was perfectly tender and fell apart with the touch of my fork. The purée was delicious and added depth to the dish. The chef pointed out to try the bone marrow which is gooey and looks like fat but is apparently good for you. V liked it as it tastes similar to ox-tail.
The accompanying mashed potato was lovely and I liked the crunchy green beans on top to break up all that meat.
We couldn't not get dessert after perusing the dessert menu for the last few weeks. The banana cake with dulce de leche, pomegranate maple syrup with tempranillo poached pear and chocolate flakes ($13) was ordered. The wobbly component caught my eye when this came out as I didn't think flan was included. Smooth, creamy and wobbly, this was the only sweet item on the plate. The dulce de leche was salted which I didn't like so much. Tempranillo is a type of grape native to Spain used to make wines so the poached pear was soaked in it. Since I don't drink, I found this quite bitter. The banana cake was more like a muffin - not too sweet but pretty average tasting. I think I'd prefer it served warm. The pomegranate maple syrup was another sour element on the plate. There are a few strong flavours in this dessert and I didn't find it as enjoyable as I would've hoped. I definitely prefer my desserts to be sweet rather than sour/salty.
Another dessert was the chocolate indulgence double mousse on a wild fennel and white chocolate silk with a raspberry and butter toasted almond tart ($13). The mousse is a winner - rich and thick. The tart was filled with raspberry goodness but again, I would've preferred if it was served warm. The wafer-like white object is caramelised white chocolate which V and I both loved - sticky, chewy, and toffee-like that gets stuck between your teeth. Mixed with the white chocolate 'silk' this dessert is so bad for you but you just want to finish it all.
Service is fantastic and we got to chat about the food with our waiter. One of the chefs is Italian and has worked in Italy, Spain and several other countries around the world bringing all his culinary wisdom to Black Fire. All dishes have been carefully prepared and you can expect yummy things from the wood fire oven, charcoal grill and open fire roast as the chefs have been trained to cook on wood fire. Black Fire has a great philosophy of using fresh and sustainable produce and to be as organic as possible. Fruit and vegetables come from organic farms in Cooma while seafood comes in daily from the Sydney fish market.

Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will definitely be going back for that 8hr slow roasted suckling pig and the freshly made pasta. I'm advised that the breakfast menu below (how good does it sound?) is served until about 3pm on weekends so put this on your list of brunch spots to check out in Braddon.

See Black Fire's Facebook page and website for more details. Bookings are recommended especially for dinner as they have a few fully booked out nights ahead.

If you want random food updates and photos from me, I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Twitter: @foodpornjournal

Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Matcha parfait @ Chanoma Cafe Sydney

I'd seen photos of a matcha parfait on reviews about Chanoma Cafe in Sydney and put this on my list of places to try on my next visit to Sydney. Located at Regents Place on George Street, there are quite a few other restaurants and cafes in the complex.
I had a look at the menu outside to decide which parfait I wanted. There are several matcha options to choose from with hot and cold drinks, and soft serve ice cream being a popular choice.
Surprisingly, they also sell hot dogs. It was 3pm and I wasn't hungry enough to have a hot dog, so I'll have to try them out another time.
The cafe itself is quite small with limited seating available. Some 'greenery' has been brought inside with glass decals of foliage hanging down from the ceiling.
The kitchen is tiny and narrow too. I ordered the chocolate matcha parfait ($9.50) and got a seat outside.
Diners can peek into the window and watch everything being made.
It took less than 5 minutes for my parfait to come out. It was piled high with various items - matcha ice cream, sweet red bean paste, chopped up fruit, rice cakes, pocky, cornflakes (yep cornflakes), whipped cream, chocolate sauce and topped with a waffle cone as decoration.
It looked pretty impressive! I didn't think I'd finish it all but I did :) The matcha ice cream is beautiful and I found it easy to just keep digging in and eating all the different elements.
At first I thought the cornflakes would be a little strange in the parfait, but I loved the crunchy texture it gave to the parfait. A brilliant idea.
The parfait used really simple ingredients, hence it was made so quickly, looked great and tasted good too. Worth a try especially if you love green tea and green tea ice cream.

If you want random food updates and photos from me, I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Twitter: @foodpornjournal  

Foodgasm 7.5/10
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