Thai venue, Bexley North

Guest blogger edition

Sometimes its difficult to locate a local restaurant which serves simple but delicious food at affordable prices. Luckily, Bexley North doesn't seem to have this problem with a number of what seem like small, family run restaurants that are serving great food to the locals. On this occasion we tried the Thai restaurant (next time will be the Japanese and then the Vietnamese!).

Located on the main strip of shops just off Bexley road, Thai venue is easy to find and there is plenty of street parking just a few metres away. Walking past the restaurant, it looks a bit dark inside but there are already a number of tables and people waiting for takeaway. The decor inside is a bit old fashioned and could do with a healthy dose of renovations and some brighter lighting, however it is a minor complaint as the other patrons don't seem to be fussed. 

We ordered our food (perhaps 1 too many dishes as we were truly stuffed at the end).

Beef with eggplant and mixed vegetables ~$15 - beef was fresh and there was plenty of eggplant cooked perfectly. The dish had a great balance of flavours but could have done with a bit more of the sauce.

Salt and pepper squid ~$15 - not your typical Thai dish but it was listed as a special so we decided to order it. Generous serving with a light batter and fresh squid- yum yum yum.

Duck in red curry ~$15 - The curry was not too spicy which was good for me as I can't eat too spicy flavours and the duck was nice. Only comment is that the duck was missing the roasted skin that is packed full of duck flavour. Plenty of curry sauce to have with the steamed rice which is a plus.

Overall, a decent local feed. Simple foods that you could probably attempt at home but who can be bothered with the trouble of cooking and washing up after :P

Thai venue takeaway on Urbanspoon

Hot Star Fried Chicken, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

The latest deep fried craze at the moment is Hot Star Fried chicken. Originally from the streets of Taiwan, this fast food outlet has now hit Sydney - Liverpool street to be exact. What used to be a small and simple Korean restaurant, has not turned in a fast food takeaway shop front serving deep fried chicken.

The chicken breast is crumbed in a flour-y coating before behind deep fried. The chicken is cooked to order and so there may be a bit of a wait as you wait for them to cook your chicken. Apart from chicken they also have some mushrooms and sweet potato chips and a few other bits and pieces to try. 

On this occasion we just ordered the signature chicken with spicy flavouring (which is just sprinkled on top after the chicken is fried).

My thoughts on the chicken:

The good: The chicken is huge (around the size of my hand or slightly bigger), the chicken is fresh and piping hot, the chicken is moist and juicy, the crumb is crunchy and the spiciness was nice

The bad: The batter just tastes like flour to me and after a number of bites, I was a bit sick of that flour-y taste, there is a bone in the chicken which you may or may not expect and its a bit greasy.

Overall, a somewhat tasty snack, but probably not something I'd go looking for too often, although I wouldn't mind trying those sweet potato fries....

Hot Star chicken ~$8

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Waitan, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

Having attended the opening night of Waitan and trying the amazing canapes on offer that night, I felt it only right to visit again as a normal paying customer to see if this restaurant has any merit on its own.

Arriving on a rainy Friday night at around 630ish, we entered the restaurant very casually and was seated immediately. No longer were there the models and Lamborghinis or red carpet. Just your normal restaurant located on the second floor of a Chinatown building. You probably wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking for it.

When we were seated, we were probably only 1 of 6 or 7 tables dining at the time. By the time we left, there were a few more but it was still relatively quiet given the size of the restaurant. The bar side also had some patrons but not the bustling Friday night crowd you might usually expect.

We were given the large sized menus with a number of very intriguing dishes and so it took us some time to decide what to eat. Please be aware that the prices at this restaurant are not the same as your usual Chinatown places so if you are on a tight budget, I would recommend staying away from here.

The waiter was very polite and helpful and brought our dishes in a very timely manner (we could see a number of chefs working in the open kitchen which could be why).

Poached chicken in chilli oil and sesame sauce ~$25 -Wow, the first dish to come out was literally a flavour explosion. Cold poached chicken, deboned swimming in szechuan chilli and sesame sauce - not too spicy but sooooo delicious. Definitely the best dish of the night.

Unfortunately inside the mount of chicken was some beansprouts and not more chicken as I has hoped >_<!

Prawns with wasabi mayo ~$30 - fat crispy prawns drizzled with wasabi mayo and some mango salsa. A nice idea and flavour combination but it didn't work out as good as I thought it could have. The prawns were fat and juicy but the mayo had almost no wasabi kick to it and the batter was a tad thick.

Wagyu beef fried rice ~$29 - Instead of ordering steamed rice, we thought we might try something different and order the fried rice and what better sounding rice is there than wagyu fried rice? Interestingly, the fried rice was topped off with some popped rice - think savoury rice bubbles. This added a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

Under the layer of popped rice was normal fried rice. The flavour of this fried rice was nice and there was a real 'heat of the wok' taste if you know what I meant, however, the wagyu beef was seriously lacking. There were only some minuscule specks of beef which really doesn't justify the price of the dish. Taste wise, its good, but value wise it doesn't hit the mark.

Mushroom, chinese broccoli and braised beancurd ~$22 - To satisfy our daily recommended intake of vegatables, we ordered this dish and was pleasantly surprised. The beancured was silky smooth and topped off with some sort of vegetable (still can't put my finger on what it was - maybe spinach?) and the other vegies cooked nicely.

Four dishes for 2 people is probably a bit much and we asked for a takeaway container (which we consumed for breakfast the next day) and it was given to us in a nice paper bag.

I think the Waitan menu still needs a bit of tweaking but the idea is right. Happy to dine there again, but not too too often given the price tag of the dishes. 

I must also give props to the waiter who remembered to return my umbrella which he had put away when were seated as I had totally forgotten about it!

Waitan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Mint, Burwood

Guest blogger edition

Burwood road in Burwood is full of different restaurants and cuisines and on a Saturday night, the street is buzzing with diners everywhere looking for a decent feed. Joining the multitude of options is a new Vietnamese restaurant by the name of Mint. Located perhaps a 10 min walk away from the Westfield entrance, Mint seems to be a bit more than you standard Vietnamese joint.

Stepping inside, you immediate notice the furnishings are a bit more up market then the usual restaurants and this is further confirmed when you look at the menu. At first, it is a bit disconcerting as I'm always used to eating delicious Vietnamese food in dingy places, but once you get over the initial surprise, its pretty comfy.

The first thing on their menu seems to be their signature dish - wagyu beef pho. This is the first time I've ever seen wagyu used in pho before so it was a must order. Apart from this, we also ordered the signature spring rolls for entree and also a beef and beef ball pho.

Signature spring rolls - $9 - filled with meat and vegies, and wrapped in a crispy thin pastry, this spring roll was a bit more than your standard spring rolls - filling and delicious with a side of lettuce and pickled carrot/radish to cut through the oiliness.

The signature wagyu beef pho ~$20 - the waiter asked if we wanted to the large or regular (suggesting that we should get the large), however we chose the regular. This turned out to be the right choice as the bowl was huuuugeee. Probably the biggest 'regular' size pho I've ever had and it was literally choc full of beef - rare beef, beef brisket and thin slices of wagyu. Whilst I'd like to say the Wagyu was the star, I'm afraid within the pho, its trademark marbled fatty goodness was kinda lost. Not a bad pho overall however, just not as awesome as I though it might be.

Complimentary pho toppings

Beef and beef ball pho - $15 - you can see from the photo, this pho is smaller than the wagyu beef pho bowl but even so, it is still a pretty big bowl. Nothing too special about this pho, not the worst, but not the best either. The soup could have been a tad hotter.

Overall, a pho joint with a bit of a nicer decor inside. Not a bad place for a good pho in Burwood.

Mint Vietnamese Pho and Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Yum cha, Golden Times Chinese Restaurant, Ashfield

Guest blogger edition

Another weekend, another yum cha lunch with the parentals. This time, a new place, located in the Ashfield Wests Club on Liverpool road. With a huge free parking area and district views, this yum cha restaurant (they also do dinner) was quite nice.

We arrived early - around 11am to avoid the dreaded rush of lunch time patrons that my parents are so afraid of (even though they have nothing else on for the rest of the day). The restaurant is located up the escalators on the second floor and as it is part of a RSL club, you will have to sign in and potentially sign up as a member if you live within a certain radius and are not a member with any other clubs (I think the cost sis $10 a year). Although they can be a bit lenient when they're busy. 

We got our table quickly and began to order our favorites. The downside of arriving early is that the kitchen hasn't really hit its highest gear yet and is a bit slower in churning out the dishes. For example, we waited at least 30 mins for the standard prawn dumplings (har gao) which by the the time they came, we had already stuffed our faces with other dishes.
Siu Mai

Eggplant fish tofu

Beef balls

Thousand year egg and pork congee

Chicken feet

Egg tarts - hot and fresh with a really nice crumbly pastry - so much better than the ones with the shortcrust pastry at Breadtop I think

Beef churn fun

Not actually sure what these are called in English - crispy yet soft on the outside with savoury meat filling on the inside

Fried churn fun with peanut and tangy sauce

Fried Asian donuts - wow! I haven't had this in so long. I remember eating this a lot more when I was little and stopped as I got older (probably cos it's totally unhealthy). But this was so delicious...deep fried to perfection with some sweetness in the middle -yummmm

Not a cheap yum cha restaurant overall with the bill hitting around $100 for 6 people, but a refreshing change from the window-less low rise suburban restaurants around. I guess someone has to pay for the location, space and views!

Golden Times Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Musashi, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

There's a few restaurants located around the Capitol square area and Musashi is an old favourite. We used to frequent it a lot back in the uni days, but recently it has had a bit of a refurbishment and a change in menu and so we were curious to try it out again.

The menu has definitely changed to be less of the standard bento box type items that you would see in a normal restaurant and more izakaya style menu items (although they are still large single dish servings not your usual izakaya skewers). They've also beefed up the sake and drinks menu to be in line with this new style.

We ordered relatively lightly as we weren't too hungry and didn't have much time. The food came out surprisingly quickly!

Salt and pepper calamari (~$17)- nice light tempura batter but not enough mayo sauce! Fried chillies gave a nice kick as well.

Sashimi of the day (~$20)- super fresh salmon and tuna slices - yummm

Chicken katsu on a bed of coleslaw (~$15)- nothing too special here

Bowl of rice - $3

Musashi on Urbanspoon

Emperors Garden BBQ, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

Emperor's Garden BBQ restaurant is literally a Chinatown institution. A hole in the wall serving the classic Hong Kong style BBQ meats with a restaurant on the side serving Hong Kong BBQ cafe style cuisine since at least the early 1990's (can anyone confirm how long its actually been there??) My family used to always get the takeaway roast duck, roast pork, soy sauce chicken, soy sauce duck and BBQ pork (char siu) there but it has been a long time since I've actually eaten inside the restaurant.

I remember when my Dad was more young and able, he would take us to this restaurant on few occasions when we actually ate in the city. He seemed to know one of the chefs there and would always strike up conversations with them. When a Groupon voucher presented itself to me for a Peking duck banquet for 2 for $39, these memories came flooding back and I couldn't wait to try it again.

We booked in for a Friday night and the restaurant was fairly quiet at 630pm. We handed in our voucher and got seated before receiving the first of our duck courses.

Duck spring roll with sweet and sour sauce - surprisingly tasty with plenty of duck meat inside and a hot crisp pastry on the outside.

Duck sang chow bau (lettuce bowl) - a pretty standard duck dish with traditional flavours - good but nothing exceptional

Peking duck - fantastically cooked and flavoured duck. Only difference is that this duck was a bit on the meaty side (some like it like this, some don't) and in the words of Manu 'where is the sauce!' there wasn't enough sauce :(

The banquet also had a combination chow mein - standard HK cafe style food with crispy noodles and a variety of toppings. Lastly there was a small dessert of mango pudding served in a tea cup, lol.

Overall a fairly decent meal for the price and I was left more than satisfied.
Oh, it also came with a drink each.

Emperor's Garden BBQ on Urbanspoon

Cafe Cya, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

Hidden away in an alley on the side of George Street is a little Korean Cafe called 'Cafe C'ya'. It's located in the alley across the road from Event cinemas. Head down the steps into the cafe and it reveals a cozy little setting where the owners are serving home style Korean cuisine.

Starving, we quickly got seated and ordered our usual favourites.

Dol sot bimbimbap - not sure why but the 'dol sot' version of bimbimbap - which is served in a heated stone pot is sooo much better than the normal bimbimbap served in a normal pot. Even though it usually costs $1-2 more, it is definitely worth it.

This one was no exception and was delicious! The black bean noodle was OK to but not as good as the bimbimbap.

Black bean cold noodle 

Complimentary ban chan

A good choice for a quick dinner before a movie at Event cinemas.

Cafe C'Ya on Urbanspoon

Vapiano, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

I used to go to the Grace Hotel, located on the corner of King and York street in the city, for the Malaysian restaurant that they had tucked into the back there, but the other day, my mate mentioned that there is a brand spanking new pizza/pasta place there called Vapiano.

Vapiano is apparently is a big chain with restaurants all over the world and the Sydney branch only opening up recently. The premise of the restaurant is that you can have freshly cooked, Italian inspired meals without waiting forever. Effectively, a fast food restaurant but serving fresh Italian cuisine.

Upon entering, you receive a card - which basically operates as though you had opened a bar tab - all your food and drink orders are placed on the card when you order at the various counters. Inside the restaurant (which is very nicely decked out), you can immediately notice the open kitchen layout where you can see the staff at working, cooking pizzas and pastas and preparing salads.

I grabbed a menu and lined up at the pasta counter (there are different counters depending on what you are ordering). I chose my pasta flavours and also the type of pasta from the display. Then it was a matter of waiting for the person that took my order to also cook my order! From the counter I could see exactly what was going in my pasta and also make any comments to the way you wanted it cooked e.g. cheese/no cheese, salt/pepper or if you have any allergies etc. You can also pay a little extra if you want to add certain things into the pasta e.g. extra chicken ($3).

Five minute later and my pasta was ready. The pasta was cooked al dente and very fresh, the mushrooms were delicious as was the creamy sauce. Only quibble was that there was not much sauce and probably could have done with a bit more salt. Otherwise, a very yummy meal.

Funghi papperdelle ($17)

A good place to go with a bunch of friends to chill out with a quick meal in a nicely decorated restaurant. Next time, I will try the pizzas.

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

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