Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chefs Gallery, Sydney

Another night out in the city. This time it was Friday and we didn't book a restaurant anywhere. We settled on Chefs Gallery situated in the heart of the city - which was surprisingly not as packed outside. We waited for about 5 minutes till we got a seat. For me, this place is an old favourite when I started full time work last year. The menu has changed drastically by adding even more Chinese tapas-style dishes and serving yum cha during lunch time.

The restaurant was buzzing with clientele ranging from students to workers to seniors. On this occasion, I've noticed one of the waiters at the door screams out "Welcome!" as she leads the customers to their tables. I don't remember this happening in previous visits but it got a bit irritating eventually. Because it has been a while since going to Chefs Gallery, I wanted to try something from the new menu but D asked which ones are good and I couldn't help mentioning the three egg fried rice and the cutesy piggy buns. It was always enjoyable checking out the chefs in the kitchen showcasing their noodle skills through the glass window. It's a wonder how fast, precise and accurate the noodles were made. Unfortunately we were planning to share our dishes so we didn't end up getting any of the noodles.

Wok fried medium grain rice with three kinds of eggs (chicken, salted duck and century)

I was pretty surprised when this dish came out to the table first. Pleased as well. The serving size was a bit smaller than what I've had previously. With the different kinds of eggs and medium grain rice used in this dish, you get flavour balancing from the saltiness of the duck egg, the unusual texture and flavour of the century egg and the usual taste from the chicken egg. As it says on the menu - a must try dish! For me, this is the best fried rice dish I've ever had so far.

Steamed prawn dumplings

We wanted to get dumplings and settled for the steamed prawn dumplings which was less expensive that the pan fried dumplings (I was also sick of pan fried dumplings from eating them at every other visit before but I would still recommend this!). They were slippery to handle but we managed it. The dumpling skin and prawns were well cooked and complemented nicely with the soy sauce and vinegar. It reminded me of the dumplings at the Yum Cha places in Cabramatta but not as soggy.

Chef's own mini pork burger

This is one of the many new dishes on the menu. The first thing that came to mind when seeing this menu item is the mini banh mi sandwiches at Ms G's. So how does it fare to that? The bread roll seemed to be cooked using the deep fry method (oh noes!!!) as it had a bit of that oil and crunch. It also had a sweet and sticky taste which didn't appeal to my friend as much. I didn't mind it though. Despite the not so healthy factor in the entire dish, it was still pretty tasty.

Steamed sesame piggy face buns

Now on to the star of the dining experience...or so we thought. After finishing all of our dishes, we waited quite a while for the dessert then asked one of the waiters. Even though earlier we saw the person serving us including this this when making the order, they weren't able to find the piggy face buns in the list of orders! We had to double check and realised that it wasn't included in our order. By then we were a bit full so we told them not to worry about it but they added it to our order so we continued waiting for another 5 minutes. When it was delivered, let's just say it was worth the wait! Seriously how can you resist this cuteness?

We initilly thought the piggy buns look like the pigs from Angry Birds. It is always tough to devour it because it is just too adorable. The sesame paste was creamy while the bun was warm, soft and chewy. My only tiny issue was that I had to wipe my teeth alot so the black sesame paste filling doesn't stay there. Apart from that, this dish is a very enjoyable one for me.

I wouldn't mind coming back to check out more of the new menu dishes. It is definitely the best place to come for a work lunch as the meals are usually delivered fast. On this occasion, I was a bit disappointed that the buns were not taken into account in our order. The service wasn't the best that I've experienced either. I am willing to let it go as I have had many good times going here with mates in the past, there is still so much to sample and the food was very delicious. Is it worth the hype? I'll just say this: you can always try it for yourself at least once and see how it is for you.

Chefs Gallery
501 George St, Sydney 2000
Contact no: 02 9267 8877

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Won Kee Chinese & Thai Restaurant, Cabramatta

Sunday night is usually date night for nearly the last couple of month. On this occasion, we've decided to try this restaurant as it is a family favourite for him. It's one of those places that I often walk past whenever I'm in Cabramatta but I don't really notice.

This place reminded me of the many Asian food court joints back in my uni days throughout Market City and the hidden food courts around Haymarket. Those were the days! The menu, delivered like a photo album, was reminiscent of the old favourite dishes from the Chinese take out places as well as several Thai dishes and surprisingly some Viet food too including Pho! Once again we had a hard time choosing the dishes but settled on sizzling beef, fried rice and the special dish of the night consisting of baked chilli soft shell crab.

Fried rice

Initially we wanted a side of white rice but the waiter persuaded us that the fried rice is heaps better. He was right. It was different from other fried rice I usually had. We are guessing it may be a Thai inspired fried rice rather than the traditional Chinese version as it has so much flavour and a bit of spices.

Sizzling beef in black bean sauce

Both the sizzling beef and pork at Won Kee are a local favourite. It has even been listed as one of the dishes to try at Crave Festival a few months ago which was noted upon entering the restaurant. This was delivered mixed with shallots and tangy black bean sauce and in a sizzling hot plate as we stir the beef around, allowing it to cook. The beef was chewy but very delicious to try.

Soft shell crab with chilli

Initially we went for the prawn version of this dish which was on the regular menu. Then I saw this dish on special and went for that immediately. I thought it looked a bit more deep friend than baked. I am unsure about the actual name and trying to find the menu on the net didn't help either - will get back to you on the actual name. Other than that, the dish was quite scrumptious with the batter and crab mixed with the spices from the chopped chilli.

An old local Cabramatta favourite, this place has that simple charm that you may not get from the newer restaurants. It is family friendly, suitable for larger groups and the prices are pretty decent for most of the wide range of dishes.

Won Kee Chinese and Thai Restaurant
19 Arthur St, Cabramatta
Contact no: (02) 9728 6718

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Orto Trading Co, Surry Hills

Oh Surry Hills! You really love to engage us with more and more restaurants from a wide spectrum of cultures than in most suburbs across Sydney. Orto Trading Co is no exception. What differs itself is while the menu is inspired from classic English dishes, they do a fresh, Mod Oz twist to it. They even have a nice veggie garden and a pretty layout of empty bottles hanging from the ceiling to illustrate this. Coincidentally, the name Orto is Italian for 'vegetable garden'. Well you learn something new everyday!

Having been set on what I wanted to get, I asked the waitress if I could have the smoked ocean trout wellington. Unfortunately on that day it was unavailable! Don't you hate it when that happens? So I opted for the spatchcock baked in salt and hay as the main meal instead after seeing similar recipes in various cooking shows. Their plates are designed to share - for a reason. The serving sizes were massive!

Truffled popcorn!!!

Restaurants usually serve you with bread and either butter or olive oil. Orto takes it up a notch and provides you a complementary serving of truffled popcorn. Oh yes. I wish this was available on the menu with a larger serving because I cannot get enough of it! You get the truffle oil hitting your tastebuds as you gobble the pieces of popcorn. While it does have a bit of the usual crunch, the truffle oil delivers a slightly creamy taste. There were 3 of those small buckets containing the popcorn. Unfortunately, the waitress gave me the bucket with the least amount! I tried to slow down and take by timw with taking these bites but I couldn't stop. Imagine my sadness when it's all gone.

Epic Sadness

Smoked prawn and crispy pork cheek witlof bites

This was probably the most interesting dish I have tasted at Orto. Having never tried witlof before, I thought this was salad when it was presented on the dish as a boat. I think today was my bad luck with out of stock ingredients because smoked eel was unavailable so they went with prawn instead. The witlof was a bit too bitter for my liking but I enjoyed the crispy pork and the prawns. Too bad there wasn't enough crispy pork cheek as that was the best part of the dish.

Scotch egg with house-made pork sausage and pear piccallili

What's more English than a Scotch egg? After hearing raves about this dish, I knew I've got to try it. I've seen various bloggers describing its soft, oozy, runny yolk. Mine was sadly overcooked. No soft ooziness here my friend. Luckily I enjoy anything with breadcrumbs and the crispy outer coating made with breadcrumbs and pork sausage was a winner. The pear piccallili had a nice curried flavour which delivers a nice punch to the meal. I did notice another group ordering the same dish and their scotch egg had a runny yolk. Oh well.

Spatchcock baked in a salt and hay crust served with orange, iceberg and onion salad

I've had the spatchcock before but never had any dish baked in a salt crust. The flavour from the salt crust remained on the meat to give out a different texture to how it was usually baked. It was cooked with tender juiciness inside the meat. The salad was a yummy yet fresh addition to balance out the flavours. By this time I was wondering why the waitstaff have not refilled my glass of water that I have finished during my first plate. They finally refilled the glass when I asked for my bill.

Orto is a place full of surprises from one end to another. The meals were packed with flavour not to mention fresh and friendly to the health conscious. Some of those dishes are ones that I would love to try if I ever decide to go on a diet. However on the date I went, there were a few minor disappointments (no runny yolk, not getting any water refills until the very end) but I guess you can have a few off days. I definitely will come back again to try many of the other dishes with a larger group of friends sometime this season.

Orto Trading Co
38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills
Contact no: 0431 212 453

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jamie's Italian, Sydney

Jamie Oliver is a name you would recognise whether you are a fan of his cooking or not. His empire consists of TV shows, countless cookbooks not to mention his ongoing health food campaign which has now reached to Australian shores. I am myself a fan of Oliver as I have shamelessly collected several of his cookbooks and watched many of his shows hoping to replicate a couple of his dishes. Recently his new restaurant has opened in Sydney. With his name branded, not to mention very decent prices, it is no wonder that massive queues of hungry diners line up everyday waiting to be seated for a little bit of Jamie Oliver. On this occasion, queues was not a problem for me because I ended up having a very late lunch in the city at about 3pm!

As it is a walk in restaurant, you are only likely to get a booking with a minimum of 6 people. It is no surprise that this place is currently a favourite of many diners. The pasta is made fresh everyday and sourced from ethical means.

Complementary servings of Artisan bread

Extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar

As expected, a complementary set of breads with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar is delivered to the table. There was a nice variety of breads including sourdough, ciabatta, foccacia, tortano and even the crispy thin carpa di musica. Brought to you fresh from Brasserie Bread (one of my favourite bread suppliers). I am generally not a big fan of balsamic vinegar so I asked the waiter to just put a little bit into the olive oil. The balsamic vinegar was surprisngly not as overpowering and it nicely balanced out the olive oil. The waitress asked if I wanted some more bread and I had to sadly decline the offer because there is so much more to try.

Crispy polenta chips with rosemary, salt and Parmesan

Those who know me will know how very indecisive I can be. This menu is no exception. Too many delicious options to try which will require a number of visits in the near future. When I saw crispy polenta chips on the menu as both a side dish and an antipasti, I knew I must try this NOW! At the time they said that only polenta chips were available because potatoes were out of stock that day which didn't bother me at all. I am a total sucker for polenta chips since trying it at Bloodwood. This was just as good. Delivered in chunky nugget sized pieces, the polenta tasted very delish with more flavour than the standard polenta...and very hot! The parmesan and rosemary were also a nice touch to the dish as I delve into the chips.

Smoky Scamorza Arancini

Stringy cheese yummm!

Hungry for more sides, I was also intrigued by the smoky scamorza arancini. For those unfamiliar with Italian food, arancini is basically risotto balls usually made from italian risotto rice with a bit of cheese and any flavours like mushrooms, spinach or tomatoes. Aside from risotto rice, this was stuffed with smoky mozzarella and porcini mushroom and was served with small bowl containing a rich Italian red sauce (didn't catch the name). It was a bit tough to cut through the arancini because of the hard but fresh breadcrumbs coating itself over the rice. However, the inside, with the mozzarella cheese in the centre, was soft and stringy but the rice was slightly dry. I wouldn't mind trying this again though because I am a fan of stringy mozzarella cheese and fresh breadcrumbs.

Artisun salumi ragu with tagliatelle, sage, rosemary, parmesan and pangrattato (one-off special)

In addition to their regular menu, they also have daily specials which aren't helping me with my decisions. At the time of visit, Jamie's Italian did a one off pasta special of artisun salumi ragu with tagliatelle, sage, rosemary, parmesan and pangrattato ($12/17). Seeing this heavenly combination and knowing that I may not see this again is enough for me to choose this dish. And heavenly it really is. The tagliatelle was freshly made with a generous serving of ragu sauce although there were some strands that were sticking together but I didn't mind.

Overall it is easy to understand what the hype was about. Apart from the fact that this restaurant is under Jamie Oliver, the meals were decently priced to give everyone and anyone a chance to eat fresh and high quality food without forking a whole heap of money. The servings can also be pretty generous which satisfies the value for money idea. In addition, the staff were immensely friendly! They frequently asked if I am satisfied with what I am having so far - to which I responded positively each time. I would definitely come back in attempt to try as much from the menu as possible. Not sure if I can handle the lines.

Jamie's Italian Sydney
107 Pitt Street, Sydney 2000
Contact no: 02 8240 9000

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