Monday, April 13, 2015

Mary's City, Sydney CBD

Damn Sydney you are so obsessed about burgers right now! It's seriously hurting my weight loss these days but it's so hard to avoid especially if they look so damn good. With all the burger joints opening left, right and centre in Sydney, it was no wonder that Mary's has taken advantage of the situation and opened its second branch for the hungry people in the CBD. It's just takeaway with no seating and a limited menu with burgers only. Although there's no fried chicken or mash on the permanent menu, Mary's CBD offers up a one-off special menu item popping up every now and then, which you can find out through their social media pages or through other foodies in the know.

Mary's Burger ($10.00) 

In my Mary's Newtown review, I initially thought that the burgers were similar to Maccas but pricier. Of course, that didn't stop me from going back again...and again. Sure they are the pricier Maccas but the bun was soft and glossy, burger is bigger and the beef patty was juicy. I prefer the Mary's burger over the cheeseburger that I had on my first visit because of the addition of the lettuce and the tomato. So greasy but hey when are damn good burgers not? If one patty is still too small for you, I would suggest getting a double (or triple!!!) beef patty with trash-can bacon. Went to Mary's CBD for my birthday last year and got so full on the double patty burger.

Fried Chicken Burger ($12.00)

While the fried chicken may not be available (unless it pops up as a special...more on that later), you can still find it in the form of a fried chicken burger. So messy to handle but the crispness coated with Mary's tangy sauce and sloppy tasty cheese was worth getting your hands dirty.

Fried Chicken and Waffles - Easter Special item ($15.00)

As I have mentioned earlier, special one off items pop up for a very limited time only at the CBD store. This can be available for one week or even one day only (usually from 3pm on the day with a super quick announcement on their Instagram page). So it's no surprise when you literally blink and miss out on them like myself countless times. One thing that I didn't miss out was their recent Easter special menu item. Thankfully it was available for a whole week since I only found out on the first day on my way home and you know how much I love my fried chicken! While you don't end up getting any cutlery (unless you ask), the fried chicken was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Combined with the sweet and crispy waffle and the crispier bacon (omg bacon!!!), this dish was a total guilty pleasure. Hope to see it making a comeback in the near future.

While there's no seats and the food will definitely not help you lose any weight, it has its charms that wooed most of the mates who have tried it with me in the past. The burgers at the CBD store are also cheaper than the original Newtown restaurant. If you aren't keen on waiting in the weekday lunchtime queues, dinner service and weekends have been less busy from what I've noticed. Whether you like or hate Mary's you can't deny that it has played a role in kick starting the intense burger craze that is happening in Sydney right now.

Mary's City
154 Castlereagh Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Mon-Sun: 10:00am - 10:00pm
Mary's City on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bowery Lane, Sydney CBD

Apologies again for being absent on the blog lately. Aside from work, lots of personal commitments including farewells, birthdays, housewarmings and an anniversary has happened over the last few weeks. Even long weekend was busy! Of course, that hasn't stopped me from exploring loads of foodie places that I will hopefully update on the blog when I get the chance. One of the places I've been over the last 2 weeks was the ever-popular Bowery Lane. Not only is this restaurant about 5 minutes from my workplace, it's one of those restaurants that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Recently we were there for CC's birthday where we got to sample a wide range of dishes on the $55 set menu due to our large group. Sadly there was no epic soft shell crab action since it wasn't included on the set menu. The price didn't include drinks but that didn't stop us from ordering lots of beverages. I couldn't remember the actual name of the first drink but it reminded me of an 'old fashioned' whisky beverage that KT always ordered whenever we're out for drinks. Strong stuff but does the stuff when life gets you down.

Another cocktail I liked was the Charlie Chaplin, which had a sweeter taste that was less stronger than the first drink.

Artisan sourdough with butter

Because a couple of friends were running late, we had to wait for the bread to show up at our able even though CC said that we're all happy to be served. So by the time the bread and butter arrived, we were grabbing it to satisfy our hunger cravings. My fave was definitely the soy and lineseed bread which was most likely sourced from Sonoma Bakery.

Marinated Sicilian olives, orange, rosemary, chilli, garlic lemon ($7.00)

I'm quite pleased with the olives here. Some were quite firm, some were on the softer side. Very tasty if you like your olives though it was a tad salty. A couple of friends weren't big fan so I was happy to make the most of my addiction.

Black pepper and lime salt calamari with coriander aioli ($16.00)

I'm guessing it's because there was a large group of us, and because it was a Friday night, the food took a long time to show up. Because of this, everyone got very impatient when I wanted to take photos of food so sorry in advance for the quality of some of the photos. Nevertheless the quality of the dishes made up for all that waiting. Such as the black pepper and lime salt calamari. The calamari was nicely crumbled, which went well with the smooth aioli sauce.

San danielle prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, fresh fig, witlof, quinoa, rocket, walnut and vincotto ($19.00)

For the health conscious, there was the slightly healthier prosciutto salad. There's even quinoa! Definitely a refreshing combination even with the creamy buffalo mozzarella.

La stella burrata, confit heirloom tomato, radish, lemon, basil, candied olive ($17.00/$26.00)

While burrata isn't one of my fave cheeses (way too creamy for my liking), it looked very pleasing to the eye. The others really enjoyed sharing this dish while I made the most of the veggies on the side.

Braised wagyu short rib, charred onion, roasted garlic, dijon ($62.00 to share)

Since the party consists of two full tables, the main dishes were served alternatively so I missed out on a couple of dishes including the king prawn pappardelle and the whole roasted field mushrooms. We did, however, ended up with a lot of meat. Such as this epic wagyu short rob. Luckily it was made to share and none of us were vegetarian. The short rib was tender and succulent while the sides were well matched in terms of the balance of flavours. Especially once we get too overwhelmed by the meat.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, smoked eggplant, lemon garlic dressing, watercress ($57.00 to share)

By this point everyone was so hungry from all the waiting that they didn't bother eating for the camera to eat first heh. Despite the less than appealing shot below, the lamb was incredibly delicious. The game taste was not too strong so this will please those who were more wary of this fatty meat, although the side ingredients also helped a bit. 

Burnt carrot, smoked yoghurt, toasted sesame seed

Shoestring fries, chilli salt

Baby cos, green peas, beans, mint, aioli

We also got a decent range of sides to share whether you are keen for greens or up for crunch fries. The burnt carrot with yoghurt and sesame seeds seemed like an unusual combination which surprisingly went well with the table. French fries were a reminder of Maccas fries but with a bit of spice (and was rather addictive). But damn those greens. Girl's gotta have some greens and CC LOVES her greens heh.

Jar of cookies and cream - honeycomb, vanilla, dark chocolate

Now this was the dessert I've been looking forward to all night after spotting it in countless reviews in the past. While we all sadly had to share this dessert (seriously...), CC got her very own cookies and cream jar along with a candle. It looked so adorable and it was full of lots of sweet goodies. The ingredients tasted so good together that I seriously didn't want to share it with anyone. I'm sure the others will agree with me on that.

Strawberry shortcake - vanilla bean ice cream, macerated berries 

I didn't think this would top the last dessert but it also exceeded my expectation despite its simpler presentation. Was sweeter and fruitier in comparison to the cookies and cream jar, which is equally pleasing.

Despite the lengthy wait to get our food (most likely because of our large group), it was a delicious experience. It is located in the heart of the CBD so it is a convenient spot if you want to have a work outing with your colleagues or a catch up with friends at night. Will definitely return again to get the desserts and their famous burgers and even try their breakfast dishes if I wake up early enough.

Bowery Lane
1 O'Connell Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9252 8017
Mon-Wed: 7:00am - 10:00pm
Thurs-Fri: 7:00am - Late
Sat:5:00pm - Late
Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hong Ha, Mascot

A famous pork roll joint in Mascot. Who would have thought? I didn't even know it existed until 2011 when my date at the time mentioned that this joint was much better than all the pork roll shops in Cabramatta. Say it isn't so! Not long after, I found a few articles about the same pork roll shop in various food and lifestyle mags, websites and food blog reviews. Since then, it has been on my wishlist for a freaking long time. There has to be something special about those pork rolls that gets every pork roll lover lining up even before opening time at 6am! (Many thanks to my colleague for sharing that story btw :)).

After countless times getting asked to check Hong Ha from V, I finally found the time to visit this part of Sydney after getting the massive cravings. Not surprisingly there was that inevitable queue when I arrived in front of this tiny but incredibly busy shop. If you are impatient like myself, never fear! The queues actually went by pretty fast that I was still somewhat indecisive when it was my turn to order.

While the sign itself has been updated compared to how it appeared in past reviews, the fitout has that old school appeal that was most likely the same when it opened more than 20 years ago. Pretty much your typical pork roll shop with all the condiments laid out at the frot (the cheese was interesting though). While the service can be abrupt and blunt, they were all super quick so you can get your pork roll fast after waiting in that infamous queue. 

Pork Roll ($5.00)

Ordered a pork roll and a chicken roll because I had no idea when I will be there next. The bread roll was crispier and crustier compared to the ones I've had another pork roll joints but it was also quite soft on the inside. This worked out well since it was still not soggy after leaving it for a while when I finished it up later that day. Some of the rolls I've had at Cabra had way too much bread and not enough fillings so it was good to see that Hong Ha ensures that the fillings were balanced out. Along with the thin slices of pork meat and the generous amount of fillings (including pickled carrot, onion, coriander, cucumber and soy sauce), there was a decent serving of mayo an pâté which was definitely the highlight for me. Plus the soy sauce did not overpower the flavour which can be the case for many pork rolls I've tried in the past. I also asked for the optional chilli but it ended up being too spicy for me after multiple bites.

Chicken Roll ($5.00)

Sorry about the photo. Was so hungry when I got my hands on this roll that I forgot to take a proper pic. The chicken roll that I tried later was also good as well especially after hearing the hype from other foodies (apart from V who wasn't a fan). The combined use of shredded boiled and cooked chicken packed into the bread roll stood out from the other chicken rolls that I've tried elsewhere. While I personally prefer the pork roll in terms of taste and flavour, the chicken roll at Hong Ha is certainly a winner so far. 

Is Hong Ha the best Vietnamese pork/chicken roll shop in Sydney? Well it really depends on what you prefer. Personally I think Hong Ha is as good as Marrickville Pork Roll but (gasp) I also found it to be better than most of the ones I've had in Cabramatta - mainly for the generous fillings and that freshly baked and crusty bread (though Vinata and KK Bakery remain as my local faves). On the other hand, it was also slightly pricier than the local Cabra pork roll shop (some of my friends are still reminiscing the days when those rolls only cost $2). If I live closer to Mascot, I can definitely see myself as a regular here whenever I get my pork roll cravings. And Hong Ha sells spring rolls too if they floats your boat.

Hong Ha
1151 Botany Road, Mascot NSW 2020
(02) 9667 2069
Mon-Sun: 6:00am - 4:30pm
Hong Ha on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ramen O-San, Haymarket

It was bound to happen eventually. A ramen joint at Dixon House Food Court! With Ramen O-San opening in early February, there is now a ramen joint at every food court in the Haymarket area (Gumshara at Eating World, Ramen Ikkyu at Sussex Centre and Hakata Maru at Market City). Plenty of choices for your Japanese noodle needs especially when winter is coming...soon. While the location did bring a slight uncertainty about its future given this food court's history with closing many of their shops pre-maturely (For Lease signs can still be spotted at many of their stalls), the international award-winning Ramen O-San might be a different story altogether.

O-San Ramen is owned by Chef Kazuteru, who also opened five ramen shops in Japan and one in Cambodia. Ramen O-San specialises in Kyushu-style Tonkotsu ramen, which has won the 'Top 3 Ramen' award in Kyushu, Japan. The Sydney shop is actually the first that you would most likely to spot when you walk down the stairs from the main entrance into Dixon House Food Court. Since it's located inside a food court, don't expect any fancy setting especially when you find yourself accidentally sitting on a tray left on the chair. In terms of service, the staff seemed quite friendly and it didn't take long for the food to get ready after we made our order. 

Similar to Gumshara, the pork bone broth in the tonkotsu ramen is MSG-free. Although our ramen came with pork cha-siu, spring onions and mushroom (depending what ramen you order), we had to order egg and nori separately at $1.50 extra. We both learnt it the hard way when I forgot my nori while KT forgot the egg. Oops...

Tonkotsu Ramen ($9.80) with Nori Seaweed ($1.50)

The original Tonkotsu (pork base) soup had a slightly similar texture to Gumshara's ramen broth. The pork bones were simmered for more than 10 hours so it was no surprise that there was that thick, creamy, collagen-like richness as you dig into the broth. However, it didn't have the same intense richness as Gumshara's so it was easier to finish in comparison. Plus the noodles were relatively thinner. While I didn't try much of it, KT commented that it was one of the more delicious ramens he has tried in Sydney so far. 

Black Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen ($10.80) with Marinated Boiled Egg ($1.50)

The above could also be said for my black garlic Tonkotsu ramen. Was a bit bummed at my lack of nori so I got a piece from KT's bowl (seriously it's just not the same without the nori!). The broth was flavoursome though the garlic was not very strong compared to the Sumo Ramen that is also on the menu (yet to try at time of writing this review). Loved the thin and springy noodles and the thick slices of pork cha-siu in my bowl which worked well with the ramen broth. Gotta love that gooeyness from the egg yolk too.

There were many other dishes that we haven't tried at this joint including the intensely garlicky Sumo Ramen, Spicy Ramen, Chicken Soy Ramen and Seafood Tsuke-men so will certainly be making more visits in the near future. Compared to a few of the other ramen shops in the city, the prices were actually on the cheaper end even when you order the extra egg and nori. However if you can only handle light-broth ramen similar to Ippudo, this might not be the ideal place for you. Hopefully this joint will stay as long as possible to bring that much needed spark and even a bit of cheeky ramen competition back into Dixon House Food Court along with its old school charm.

DISCLAIMER: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Ramen O-San, courtesy of SD Marketing and Washoku Lovers. Opinions are however, my own.

Ramen O-San
Shop B01, Dixon House Food Court
Cnr Dixon Street and Little Hay Street, Haymarket NSW 2000
Wed-Mon: 11:00am - 8:30pm
O-San Ramen on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hawker, Sydney CBD

We can't get enough of Malaysian cuisine these days. With the success of PappaRich, Petaling Street, Malay Chinese and, of course, Mamak with its non-stop queues; you can be forgiven for noticing more Malaysian restaurants popping up more often these days. Mamak has clearly noticed this success so they have recently opened another restaurant. This time focusing on the more obscure Malaysian hawker street food that you are less likely to find at other similar restaurants. No rotis on the menu though.

Cham Ping, Teh Ping, Milo Ping ($4.00 each) 

We started off with a few drinks to freshen up after an epic gym session. My fave so far was the  cham ping (half tea and half coffee on ice) which was light and not too bitter. Found that the iced milo was not too sweet but a bit too milky for my preference. On the other hand, the girls really enjoyed the Teh Ping (iced milk tea) for that reason...hah.

Penang Rojak (Top left, $14.00) and Ikan Bakar (Grilled Stingray)

We ordered the Penang Rojak (top left in the above pic) to share as a starter. This was described as a salad of fresh yambean, fried tofu, cucumber, pineapple, guava, dough crisps, coated in a dark sticky sauce and chilli paste. It's one of the more unusual and interesting dishes I've tried here with all those ingredients meshed together. With all the hot dishes they have, it was a cool, refreshing plate that's great to share in a group. Personally I found it to be quite addictive when popping each ingredient in my mouth.

Ikan Bakar ($16.00)

The grilled stingray got CC and N curious enough to order. For a dish listed under snacks on the menu, it was presented as a full sized stingray which amazed us once it landed on our table. While it was well cooked and zesty, it was scattered with so many tiny bones. This made it tougher for us to eat peacefully without worrying about getting stabbed in your mouth but otherwise it was a very tasty dish for us.

Picking the bones out!

KL Hokkien Mee ($14.00)

I was personally excited to try this stir fried Hokkien dish but it ended up being let down in the end. It was way too fatty and oily for my liking and it wasn't as flavoursome as I would have hoped for - even with the black sauce.

 Wan Tan Mee with pork dumplings and soup ($13.00)

Despite an average first visit, there was still other dishes that I was keen enough to sample so I made another visit at Hawker recently. After all, I believe in second chances. Thankfully, that second visit was a more positive experience for me. The saucy noodles were tasty and well complemented with the crisped duck meat scattered within the noodles. I wasn't too sure about the dumplings at first but it ended up being a good palate cleanser after all the sauce and oil from the noodles. 

Goreng Durian ($8.00)

Didn't try much of the durian fritter but damn look at that batter! So crispy. Didn't seem to be strong from where I was sitting. Maybe I've gotten used to it. Both CC and N seemed to really enjoy this dish. The ice cream was probably too much for us to handle since we were so full by this point but I can imagine its creamy texture and flavour matching well with the durian fritter. 

Apam Balik ($6.00)

This dish was certainly one that I haven't served before at other Malaysian restaurants. It definitely looked like a popular street food dish if I was in Malaysia. I'm a huge fan of peanut butter so this sweet and crunchy turnover pancake was another highlight for me but not too keen on the creamed corn. Overall this was certainly an enjoyable dish to end the dinner on a high note. 

There was plenty of dishes to choose from the menu whether it's a main or entree. The pricing was also in the cheap side which is good if you are on a budget and the serving size was on the generous side. While the dishes were delivered quickly, it was hard to get the attention of the staff every now and then. While it has been a mixed experience so far, I would still return eventually (especially once the weather gets colder) to sample some of their other dishes including the laksa, har mee popiah, fried bread snacks, and char koay teow . 

345 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9264 9315
Mon-Sun: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:30pm - 10:00pm
Hawker on Urbanspoon