The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen, Chippendale, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

Lately, I find myself being invite to different occasions (birthdays, baby showers, xmas parties) where the commonality is that they are all held at cool little pubs that do great food and have an awesome laid back feel to them. Sometimes its a neat beer garden, or the selection of craft beers on offer or sometimes it's just the staff making you feel like one of the locals.

The Duck inn is a combination of both. Tucked away in to the side streets of Chippendale, is this rustic looking old-school corner pub. Stepped inside and it feels like you've just walked into your local pub. The service here is excellent and they also have a leafy beer garden out back -perfect for those sunny summers days.

Bangers and Mash - Blackforest smokehouse pork sausages, creamy mash, onion jam and jus - $19 -  I love it when the meaty goodness inside of the sausage bursts out of the sausage skins and caramelises to that slightly crispy texture. As you can see below, this was exactly what happened to this poor sausage. Good for me, bad for the sausage, hehe. Very nice smokey pork sausage filling on top of light mash.

Pulled pork burger - chipotle pulled pork, slaw, house made pickles and rocket with fries - $19 -  The burger bun was toasted a tad too much for me, but the pulled pork inside was to die for. Combined beautifully with the tang from the pickles and the crunch of the slaw. The chips were double fried, super crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Cafe Isar, Alexandria, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

For me, Saturdays are best spent either sleeping in recovering from a big Friday, or waking up early to a delicious breakfast and making the most of the rest of the day. This particular Saturday, we opted for the latter and dropped by the low-key cafe Isar in Alexandria.

The good thing about a quiet cafe is that you don't have to line up for a table, you can take your time to enjoy your food and its easy to find parking. We literally were able to park right in front of the cafe and got a table in moments. There is a bit of a One Piece theme at the cafe with a shelf of figurines and a few odd one piece references around the place. For those that don't know, One Piece is a famous Japanese manga series that is still continuing on now.

The Chorizo -A simple but tasty omlette of bacon, chorizo and egg with toasted tortilla wrap.

The Hippy - The vegetarian version of the big breakfast. Egg, toast, mushroom, hash brown, tomatoes, baked beans and avocado. Again, so simple yet so satisfying.

Cafe Isar on Urbanspoon

Ipoh town, Sydney CBD, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

Following the success of Ipoh on York, it seems this Malaysian eatery is expanding its offerings in the Sydney CBD with Ipoh Town. Ipoh Town is located in the food court within Grosvenor Place. A bit hard to find, but you can access it via George or Harrington street.

The food court itself is quite nice, air-conditioned and enclosed, but with a glass ceiling to let in the natural light. Plenty of seats and quick table clearing by the cleaners there means you don't need to wait too long for a table. There are a few other eateries in the food court, but judging by the line for Ipoh town, it was clear that most people came here for this.

Service is quick and efficient despite the long queue as there are 3 counters to deal with the large number of orders.

Beef laksa- rich coconut based laksa soup with slices of beef. The soup itself is not too spicy which is perfect for me, but you can also sambal sauce if you want to spice it up a bit.

Chicken laksa -same soup base as the beef laksa, but with chicken pieces instead of beef (duh!). The chicken itself was not just breast meat which meant it was quite tender.

For both laksas, there is two types of noodles (some places just have the rice noodles only).

A great addition to the CBD lunch scene - especially for those working near the north of the city.

Ipoh Town on Urbanspoon

Fratelli Fresh, Sydney CBD, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

Cafe sopra at Fratelli Fresh has been around for a long time, but is not that easy to find unless you know what you are looking for, or if someone takes you there. It is located in a tiny doorway which leads to some steps that take you down into the dark downstairs restaurant. The lighting is perfect for a romantic dinner for 2 but not great for photos >_<.

The staff is attentive and very friendly and we were seated in no time. Good thing too because even thought it was a week night, the place got packed!

We were pretty starving so we may have ordered a tad too much, but we managed to scoff it all down.

Arincini balls with parmesan cheese- $18 - First up - classic arincini balls. Deep fried balls of risotto rice, crumbed and crunchy on the outside and gooey and soft on the inside.  Delicious cheese flavours emanate throughout the balls but it is quite a lot for just two people.

Potato, pork sausage and rosemary pizza - $24 - the pizza here is authentic. Thin puffy pizza base cooked in a wood fired oven. You can actually see the oven when you walk in and if you sit at the bar tables, watch the chef make the pizzas. This one is one of my favourites. A simple combination of tried and tested flavours of potato and rosemary combined with pieces of pork sausage. 

Lemon, chili and panagratto linguine -$22 - Another very simple dish but executed so well here. Just a few ingredients and well cooked pasta. The taste is subtle, of lemon and chilli and herbs but so scrumptious. The panagratto is like a crunchy bread crumb topping which provides the extra texture to the dish. I've tried making this at home and it just isn't quite the same (although it was pretty yum nonetheless!).

Café Sopra at Fratelli Fresh on Urbanspoon

Me Oi, Strathfield, Sydney West

Guest blogger edition

Hi all, I'm please to announced that we may have a new contender for the best (or one of the best) pho in Sydney! Located in Strathfield, where the old Bagan restaurant used to be, is Me Oi. Opened not too long ago, I've heard some good things about the pho here and being a regular fan of pho, I had to try it out.

It's a bit of a shame that Bagan is closed as it was one of only a few places that did Burmese cuisine that I know of and it will be missed. This new restaurant however, definitely is deserving of the spot. Despite not having the best location (you have to cross a busy street to get there), it was surprisingly busy with patrons.

I had gathered a large group of pho aficionados to try out this place with me and we also ordered a variety of dishes to get a good cross sectional sample of the menu.

Summer rolls with prawn and chicken - $8 - first up was the summer rolls. Thin tubes of rice paper wrapping around chicken and prawn meat as well as rice noodles, bean sprouts and herbs and lettuce. To be honest, this wasn't the best. The rolls and the chicken were a tad dry and bland - although the peanut sauce definitely helped to alleviate this to an extent.

Spring rolls - $8 -making up for the somewhat disappointing summer rolls, these spring rolls were pretty nice. Deep-fried and crunchy on the outside, moist and delicious fillings on the inside. Came with a tangy dipping sauce (the one with shredded carrot).

Pho tai (small) - $10 - The pho here is really the star of the show. It comes in three different sizes, small, medium and large, and you can see the different sizes of the bowls on the counter if you were unsure. Since we were ordering a whole bunch of dishes, we just ordered a few small ones to try. The two things that I look for in a pho is the noodles and the soup base.

This soup base was pretty unbeatable. It had a clean beefy taste - not too much herbs and spices, but just enough to give it that additional kick. It wasn't too salty or oily or peppery as some other phos can be. And it was hot. I don't know why but some places serve their soup at a luke warm temperature?

Moving on to the noodles. They were also great. Great texture, al dente, slippery and fresh. Wasn't soggy or tough or too chewy. Lastly the beef. Rare beef, thinly sliced, slowly cooking in the how soup. Very fresh and good quality. Not stuck together in one giant mass of beef. Topped with raw onions and coriander which not everyone is a fan of.

Salt and pepper prawns - $10 - An interesting dish that you would normally see at Chinese restaurants more than Vietnamese, but a pretty good job here. A handful of prawns, lightly battered and fried. I'd prefer more salt and pepper to the batter but it was tasty nonetheless.

Crispy chicken - $7 - My photo below doesn't do this chicken justice. Glistening, crispy skin hiding the juicy juicy chicken flesh. Can eat this with anything and it'd be great.

Pho Tai Bo Vien (medium) - $12 - rare beef and beef ball  - same ingredients as the pho tai with the exception of the addition of beef balls which added variety to the dish.

Grilled pork and spring roll with vermicelli salad - $14 - a huge bowl of vermicelli salad. I didn't get to try this dish but apparently it wasn't that great.

Overall, a great new addition to the pho scene in Sydney. The staff are also very friendly and attentive.

Me Oi on Urbanspoon

Ms Gs, Potts Point, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

Owned by the behemoth that is Merivale, and run by the charismatic Dan Hong, Ms Gs is something of a stalwart in the restaurant scene. Located in the heart of Kings Cross - literally a few minutes walk from the station, it has an unassuming neon sign at the front. If eating here for dinner (or anywhere in Kings Cross really), I recommend either a train in from the city or a cab, otherwise you will end up like us and having to spend 20+ minutes or so trying to find parking that isn't limited to 1 hour.

Also be warned that Ms Gs doesn't let you grab a table until your whole party has arrived, although you are welcome to wait at the cocktail bar upstairs. We had a group of 4 and were seated at a communal table. Despite first impressions, the table was sufficiently spacious to fit us all comfortably.

Being the lazy people that we are, and the fact that we were all starving, we went with the easy option of getting the banquet menu $65 per person for a smorgasbord of dishes. By the end of the meal, we were well and truly stuffed....

Ms G's grilled corn on the cob with Parmesan and lime - a great start to the banquet. Freshly grilled, smokey cobs of corned with just the right amount of saltiness coming from the Parmesan.

Tea in a bubble tea cup - $4 - tea in an adorable Ms G cup. Refreshing

333 Vietnamese beer- $8 - When in Rome, drink Roman beer. A crisp malty beer. Not bad.

Mini banh mi - pork belly and chicken katsu - a modern twist on the classic Vietnamese pork roll. Upgraded with crispy pork belly and juicy chicken katsu.

Ocean trout tostada, green papaya, guacamole, red nahm jim - An inspiring fusion of Mexican and Asian flavours. Crunchy tostada with mouthwatering slices of sashimi in a tangy sour dressing.

Dan Hong's crunchy vegetable salad, white soy and ginger vinaigrette - the vegetable dish of the night. a light salad with crunchy toasted corn kernels.

Prawn toast with yuzu aioli and herbs - another Dan Hong interpretation. Sesame coated minced prawn married beautifully with the fried toast. The shallots and other herbs on top cut through the oiliness very nicely.

Nasi goreng hitam with squid ink fried rice, chorizo sunny side egg and squid - Familiar yet different. The squid ink turns the usual golden brown fried rice a deep black but the flavours are still there. The saltiness of the chorizo balances well with the tender chunks of squid.

Mixed together it tastes a lot better than it looks!

Grandma's stirred spicy pork and tofu egg noodle -The herb topping makes another appearance again in this dish. The classic spicy ma por tofu sauce with chunks of silky smooth tofu. Usually I mix this with steamed white rice but in this case there was a underlying bed of egg noodles to soak up those delicious flavours.

Mushrooms and noodles (nut allergy option) - One of the diners had a nut allergy and Ms Gs went to the effort of providing a specific non nut dish for him. This was a noodle dish with a variety of mushrooms. Packed full of flavour, everyone else started digging in as well, hehe.

Bo saam crispy pork hock, apple kimchi, 5 flavour sauce, lettuce herbs - By this stage we were already stuffed and had lost count of the number of dishes we had eaten. But when this huge mass of protein came up, glistening with fatty goodness, we all found that extra bit of stomach space. The pork hock was roasted to a nice crispiness, whilst the instead was still moist with a layer of artery clogging but mouth-wateringly rendered fat behind the skin. Wrap a few lettuce leaves around this and through in some shredded carrot and it makes it a little bit more acceptably healthy, keke. We pretty much demolished this.

Jow's sweet and sour lamb ribs - I'm not a big fan of lamb as I find it a bit gamey for my liking but even I had my fair share of this dish. The meat was literally falling off the bone and the sauce was sticky with just the right amount of sweet and sourness.

Stoner's delight part 3 - doughnut ice cream, yuzu curd, peanut dulce de leche, peanut and pretzel brittle, crispy bacon, mars bar brownie, potato chips and deep fried nutella -  We got not one but 3 desserts! One was a substitute for the nut allergy but all of them were fantastic! The most different one was the Stoner's delight with a huge variety of flavours and textures mixed together. Not sure what I think of potato chips as a dessert tho, but the deep fried nutella was sooooooooooooo good!

Dirty passion - Japanese edition - yuzu curd, adzuki bean, coffee jelly, berries, chocolate crumbs, green tea ice cream - This was probably my least favourite (although others begged to differ).

Option - lemon sorbet with mango and sago and vanilla icecream (for nut allergies)- The most refreshing of the three. The lemon sorbet was light and palate cleansing with the sourness a perfect treatment for a bulging stomach.


Ms.G's on Urbanspoon

Asahi pop up cold bar, Sydney CBD, Sydney

Guest blogger edition

I've never really been a big beer drinker, mainly opting for spirits, mixed drinks and cocktails when we go out, but there is something that is just so irresistible about downing an icey cold beer on a hot summers day. Kicking back, sipping on a nice beer and shooting the breeze with some mates is nice way to have a refreshing afternoon.

And so, it was with great fortune, that within 5 minutes walk of our office (corner of Hunter st and Bligh St), Asahi has opened up their summer pop up bar, which show cases their Asahi beer as well as some pretty decent bar food. Rocking up at 5:15 on a Friday evening (it's so awesome that it's still so sunny at this time compared to winter) the placed wasn't too busy, but the outdoor seating are was pretty much taken by corporate types already.

I have no idea what temperature normal beer is served at from the tap, but in typical Japanese fashion, someone has determined that Asahi is best server at exactly -2.2 degrees Celsius - and also built the machinery to allow for this to be served in this manner. Chatting to the bartender, this is meant to keep the beer carbonated longer and taste more smoother and refreshing on the palate.

Asahi super dry ~$8.50 - one of the two beers they offer on tap. I've had Asahi before from the bottles and the cans, but I honestly don't remember it being that refreshing a taste. This beer was light, crisp and indeed very smooth and refreshing with a dry after taste. Looks like the Japanese are right again!

Asahi super dry black ~$9 - not sure if' I've ever had (or seen) Asahi black around before but it kinda looks like a Guiness when it's poured, but tastewise, although more full bodied than its original, it retains its light, crisp refreshing taste. Perhaps slightly maltier as well.

Edamame beans with spicy salt - ~$8 - The bar menu had a number of decent items such as hot wings, tacos, sliders, fries etc (not terribly Japanese I thought) but we had dinner plans so didn't want to ruin our appetite, we just ordered the edamame. A great accompaniment to beer generally, these were made even better with the addition of a slight kick of chili. It doesn't really taste spicy at all until after you've had 10 or so but, but after that your lips start to tingle, lol.

Not really a place to go for a proper dinner unless you want to fill up on the bar menu, but a great place to drink, snack and chat.

Get in quick to try this bar because it'll be closing doors on January 23.

  Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar on Urbanspoon

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