Encasa, Haymarket

It feels like I've been wanting to go to Encasa for years and years. Each time that I've walked past, a delicious smell has wafted onto Pitt St and directly towards my nose. More often than not, there are people crowded around the entrance, waiting to go in so I knew that it had to be good.

So it seemed like a small miracle that I finally made the effort and gathered two friends to come with me to Encasa.

I made a reservation for Friday night and was told that they try to do dinner reservations in two sittings. I booked for the second sitting, at 7.30pm.

As it turns out, my friends were grateful that I made the booking since the line was out the door and it seemed like all the tables inside were filled.

In true tapas style, we ordered a number of dishes to share. Because I was running about a half hour late, my friends had chosen the dishes, which I was happy with.

We started off with a jug of red wine sangria which was really good!

Jug and glasses

And then the food came out and soon we were juggling for space on our small table.

Ensalada con Queso ($14)
Lettuce,roasted redcapsicum, goat’s cheese, olives

The salad was nice and it was good to have some greens to go with the heavy food that would follow. The serving size was generous, I think the plate that it arrived on was bigger than my head.

Patatas Bravas ($9)
Fried potato w/ garlic mayonnaise and spicy tomato salsa

The potatoes were one of my favourite dishes. The garlic mayonnaise was delicious and we asked for more of it, which was provided in a small dipping dish. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. A definite winner.

Pinchos Morunos ($13.50 tapas, $23 main)
Prime lamb fillet skewers marinated in Moroccan spices

Although the photo only shows two, there were actually four lamb skewers. They were okay, the lamb wasn't too chewy but I probably wouldn't order them next time.

Pulpo a la Plancha ($13.50 for tapas, $24 for main)
Grilled fresh baby octopus

When the octopus arrived sizzling onto the table, my stomach leaped in excitement. I love the smell of grilled seafood and this smelled wonderful.

Unfortunately, it was disappointing. It was tough and hard to chew, while the tentacles had been burnt to little crisps.

Gambas al Ajillo ($13 for tapas, $24 for main)
Peeled king prawns in sizzling garlic oil and chilli

The prawns were average. Nothing more to say. They had that rubbery texture that comes from being frozen.

Vieiras en Azafrán ($13)
Scallops in the shell with saffron, shallot and cream sauce

The sauce used with these scallops were divine. I would have gladly eaten more than my allotted share.

Unfortunately I can't locate the above dish on the restaurant's online menu. It was calamari stuffed with rice. Like the beef skewers, it was okay. It looks a lot more unusual than it actually tasted.

Anyway, I'm glad that I finally went to Encasa and would definitely go back because the sangria was great and their menu has so many items to try! Plus I didn't have any stomach space to try dessert this time. As you can tell from this visit, I think the dishes can be a bit hit and miss but I've always been a risk-taker ;)

Encasa on Urbanspoon 423 Pitt St (closer to Central Station)
Tel 9211 4257


Chophouse, Sydney CBD

When I think of bookshelves that smell of rich mahogany, I think of Chophouse.

It is a great place to go for an after-work drink if you're feeling swanky. On weeknights, the clientele is mainly suits who fill up the open air tables outside for a drink. Inside, there is a bar and further inside, is the restaurant.

The atmosphere is great but I found the dishes to be a bit hit and miss.

I only took pics of my own food because it was bit too dark to take pictures of my friends' dishes.

Soy and linseed bread



It is always so tempting to fill up on soft and warm bread before the meal!

I could easily get full just from eating bread before a meal. Embarrassing but true.

I ordered two dishes, which my friends and the waiter discouraged me from doing. They said I wouldn't be able to finish it.

In hindsight, they were partly correct but I was spurred on to prove them wrong (No one can tell me what or what not to eat! Take that!)

180g Wagyu beef burger with fries (ordered from the 'barside' section of the menu) - $15.90

The beef burger was a good size considering it was on the 'barside' section of the menu. It was deliciously cheesy.

Crispy pork belly and sea scallop salad - $19.50
Chinese cabbage, coriander, pea shoots & soy vinaigrette

Despite being a generous size, this salad wasn't great. The pork belly wasn't crisp, it didn't have any crackle. It was just fat, and lukewarm. The rest of the salad was just shredded vegetables and the flavours didn't mix as well as it sounded like it would from the menu. I left a lot of this untouched.

Potato puree (side dish) - $9.90

You can never go wrong with mashed potato.

I really like the atmosphere of Chophouse so I would return - but next time, I'm going for the red meat!

Chophouse is located at 25 Bligh St Sydney
Open: Mon- Fri from 12pm, Sat from 6pm
Phone: 1300 CHOP IT (1300 246 748)
Email: reservations@chophouse.com.au


Logan Brae Apple Juice

As I write this post, I'm drinking a glass of Logan Brae apple juice.

You see, on our recent spontaneous Blue Mountains road trip, we made stop off at the Logan Brae apple orchard at Shipley Plateau

I was a bit skeptical as we walked into the dilapidated shed, but my friends assured me that this apple juice was absolutely delicious.  So much so, that we bought ten bottles of 3L bottles between the three of us. Buying ten bottles meant that we got a discount so each bottle was $4.20 each.

The colour of the juice is much clearer than the apple juice that you buy from the supermarket, which is usually a light brown.  The Logan Brae apple juice is almost clear.

So clear that you can see the counter through the juice!

And the verdict?  It is very nice.  After refrigerating the juice for a while, it tastes crisp and sweet.   

The guy who served us was also quite nice,  I wanted to buy an apple for a friend to taste and he gave me one for free instead! :)


Bacco Wine Bar Pasticceria, Chifley Plaza

Ever since I discovered Bacco, it has been very bad for my expanding waistline. Very bad. You see, they have a range of cakes and pastries. A gorgeous range.

Exhibit A

Yes, that is a giant macaron in the far left corner.

They have about ten different varieties each day. What I don't like is that only some of them have labels - why can't all of them have labels? :(

There is usually a small line and I feel like I'm holding up the line when I question what's inside the pastry/cake. Labels are much more efficient!

Example of one of their efficient labels

It reads: Blood orange curd with sweet capsicum jam and pomegranate with salted dark chocolate sable

Unfortunately for me, I work about a two minute walk away and have recently gotten into the habit of popping by for a dessert at the end of lunch. So far, I've tried about five or six of the one and have made it my goal to try them all!

They are all $6.00 each.

Here are two of the ones that I've tried.

Pretty cake box for takeaway

Rice pudding trifle with seasonal fruits (clearly this was one with no label!)

Cross section of trifle

This trifle was okay, not the best of their cakes. I wouldn't get it again. Having said that, I'm a huge fan of rice pudding and as such, the top layer was yummy.

The next one is my absolute favourite so far. I have gotten it twice, despite my 'try them all' goal.

Not as pretty takeaway box

It is a lemon meringue tart. Soooooo perfect!

The pastry is short and crumbly at the bottom. The meringue is light and fluffy, not hard nor crunchy.

The lemon is smooth and acidic.

I recommend sharing with a friend because eating the whole thing can be a little too sweet after your first few bites - or alternatively, you can save the other half for later ;)

They have a big version of this tart that has 'retrodaze's birthday cake' written all over it. My birthday isn't until November but I can't wait and am glad that I've found the perfect cake already!

Bacco is located on the ground floor of Chifley Plaza in the Sydney CBD, at the entrance that is opposite Sushi Tei. It has cafe seating or you can get take-away.

At night, it turns into a restaurant/wine bar. It's great for an after-work drink!

Ph: 02 9223 9552

Bacco Wine Bar Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

Ritz Hotel Chinese Restaurant, Hurstville

The Ritz Hotel Chinese Restaurant is a fairly new addition to the plethora of Chinese restaurants in Hurstville. I had never actually been inside before it was partly converted to this restaurant, but I believe the restaurant area used to be occupied by pokies?

Oops...bad picture light reflection, sorry!

After renovation, it has large windows looking out on the pedestrian street. Whenever I've walked past at lunchtime, it seems to be popular with patrons.

Dinner appears to be no exception. We were having dinner with my brother's new in-laws and it was a rainy Sunday night but the restaurant was full - unlucky for us, we didn't think to make a reservation but on the flipside, we only had to wait five minutes before a table was free.

Filled out

Seafood prices for the day (click to enlarge)

Perhaps because it is next to the Ritz pub, the restaurant had an extensive wine list compared to other Hurstville Chinese restaurants.

Sample page from the wine menu.

Sample page from mains menu

We ordered our food and waited for it to come out.

Complimentary soup

The complimentary soup arrived quickly enough.

However, it took FOREVER for the real food to come out!! About half an hour!

I was ready to chew off my arm in hunger.

Roasted pigeon

Small fast forward to the end of the night:

The story of this roast pigeon: when we ordered the pigeon, the waiter didn't state how much they cost each, which is what normally happens. When the bill arrived, the pigeons were a whopping $24 each! That comes to $48 for two small pigeons! The average price is about $16, although many restaurants frequently do specials, bringing down the price even lower.

Meanwhile, my father swore up and down that he had seen in the menu that it was supposed to be $x.

Of course we paid, but my father was very indignant and asked for the menu to be brought out again but couldn't find a price for the pigeon. He asked the waiter who confirmed that there is no price for the pigeons in the menu.

So no price in the menu and they also don't tell you the price when you order it? Hmm...

Anyway, back to regular programming:

So after the pigeons came out, we sat around and twiddled our thumbs some more. It seemed like dishes were being brought out to other tables so where were ours? And specifically, where was our crab???

Alas, another nail in the Ritz's coffin - the crab was not brought out first. The crab is ALWAYS supposed to be brought out first! Instead, it was brought out last? Not only that, when it was brought out, they didn't bring wet hand towels and we had to ask for them, and the cracker as well.

Two mud crabs with rice noodles

The crabs were a decent size and tasty enough. The noodles were disappointing, breaking off into clumps and dry.

It was also frustrating to let the other dishes go cold after the crab was brought out. Crab eating requires full attention and after we finished the pot, most of the other dishes had cooled down. Sigh.

Other things we ordered (which all came out about ten minutes before the crab):

Seafood and vegetables on tofu

Enoki and Chinese mushrooms with choy

Beef cubes with wasabi mayonnaise

The wasabi mayonnaise

Salt and pepper deep fried pork

Salt n pepper whitebait, calamari and squid

The food was okay. Not spectacular. But the service was shocking. Throughout the night, it was incredibly hard to get the waiters' attention. Once gotten, they didn't really do much. For example, when we repeatedly inquired about the crab.

When the bill arrived, the pigeon drama unfolded but there was also another discrepancy on the bill. The total amount on the register receipt had been crossed out and a new higher total handwritten on. We asked what this was about and the waiter couldn't provide an answer. He called another waiter over who also couldn't figure it out. Finally, they had a brainwave and decided to go ask the person at the register, who explained that a typo had been made when entering one dish and that was why the bill was amended.

It would have been a lot easier if they had just said that when they brought the bill over.

I was glad to leave, even if it was out into the pouring rain.

Hurstville Ritz Hotel on Urbanspoon

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