Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back to 2012. Bring on 2013!

Ok I wasn't planning to do an end of year post but since this year has been a very eventful one for me, I thought I might as well. Both food and non-food related.

I've had quite a lot of adventures this year surprisingly. Been to many food events including March into Merivale and Taste of Sydney as well as the Night Noodle markets and the many foodie events occuring during Crave Sydney International Food Festival. I'm super keen to check them out again very soon as it is always a treat to see what they offer.

I also got the opportunity to try out a cooking demonstration at Alio Restaurant where the chef demonstrated the many pasta types and how several of his signature dishes are made. So keen on make a tiramisu using the recipe provided from the seminar.

I have also been to a couple of picnics where I met many wonderful bloggers, several of whom inspired me to start this blog back in 2011. Can't wait to meet you all again at the next picnic or any other foodie event!

RIP District Dining and your amazing quail eggs :(

Moochi froyo

Noggi froyo

Hartsyard fried chicken!

Pulled pork bun at Eat Art Truck

Doggs breakfast at Reuben Hills

Sadly there have been many closures from high profile restaurants that have gotten chefs hats and coverage in the SMH Good Food Guide only a few months prior which is always sad to hear especially if it's a favourite but it sadly shows that even a few chef hats may not save you in the long term especially with the high expenses. Hopefully 2013 is a better year for the restaurant industry. When there are closures, there are also new openings. During 2012 there has been even more small bars, Mexican restaurants and bars, casual dining spotsfood trucks and frozen yoghurt stands opening throughout Sydney. Especially frozen yoghurt. Cafes have also played a huge hit with a few favourites like The Grounds of Alexandria, Kitchen by Mike, Cowbell 808 and of course, Reuben Hills which began on the first day of 2012!

What made this year the most eventful has been my travels back in May and June where I have travelled from the three-day stopover in Singapore to Italy to Spain and everywhere in-between. I had the best time over there and till this day, I still miss it so much. Hopefully some day I will be back in Europe as it was the best experience I could ask for. Plus it was a bit more rushed, so hopefully a longer stay in many of those cities will be beneficial.

So here it is, the last day of the year that many of us thought was going to be the end of the world. Bring on the new year of what I hope will be a much better one full of surprises and opportunities. Thank you readers for checking out The Random Foodie throughout this year. I will try to post more often as I still have many more places that have not been reviewed on this blog yet so will be updating it as soon as possible. Thanks also to my friends who have been great dining and drinking buddies and who have been patient enough for me to finish taking photos before digging in :p. Have a Happy New Year and I wish you all the best in the future. Now it's time to party hard!

Yup they are still drinking...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe, Ultimo

This is one of those places that I always walked past during my uni days but never seem to bother going inside despite their student deals - back then we were more into Satang Thai and anything Japanese nearby. Before heading to Europe, my main exposure to German or Austrian food has been pork knuckles and chicken/pork schnitzels at Bavarian Bier Cafe and Lowenbrau. Essen has the usual meals and much more which is good if you have any friends who are vegetarian or other strict diets and you are in the mood for European food from Germany, Austria and even the Netherlands.

The layout is similar to the beer halls in Sydney and Europe with all the chairs and decor being wooden and brown along with a noisy, bustling atmosphere and an extensive range of European beer to satisfy your drinking needs.


For the entrĂ©es  we started with a whole lot of crumbly goodness. Starting off was the mushrooms coated with breadcrumbs which was irresistibly crunchy to our liking. And the mushrooms inside were juicy enough to sustain the coating's crispiness. Tasted great with the zesty saffron aioli. It was a sure favourite for us as it was finished very quickly. 

Crumbed mushrooms with saffron aioli ($8.50)

Deep fried cheese? Hell yeah! It may sound unusual as Camembert is generally a soft, creamy cheese but it is totally worth it to expand your taste buds. Like the mushrooms, the crumbed coating is also very crunchy throughout each piece. Yet the Camembert cheese still remains very creamy, melted and gooey despite being deep-fried. A total guilty pleasure for meat lovers, cheese lovers and vegetarians. The cranberry sauce on the side complemented the rich and cheesy dish with a sweet and tangy flavour. 

Deep fried Camembert with cranberry compote ($10)

For anyone who ordered a schnitzel dish, there were complimentary sides of roesti and cabbage salad. I really enjoyed the roseti especially eating the thinly shredded, crispy bits of the potato. The cabbage salad at Essen was coated with some kind of spice (maybe paprika?), which I found overwhelming as personally I thought the cabbage was good on its own.

Cabbage salad

Most of my friends had the Jager Schnitzel (schnitzel with creamy mushroom). We were stunned by the name of this schnitzel and hoping there is some kind of Jagermeister in the sauce but I guess it's just a name. And the servings were incredibly huge. Seriously and massively an understatement! Laid out in two big fillets of chicken schnitzel and covered with creamy mushroom sauce which sat on a small pile of potato roesti, it is a whole load of rich and hearty goodness. I tried a few pieces and I can tell you that this is surely one of the better schnitzels I've had. It wasn't dry but it wasn't soggy either. It was actually better than some of the schnitzels I've tried in Germany and Austria! Will definitely try this on my next visit.

Jager Schnitzel ($22.50)

I forgot which schnitzel this is but based on the menu, I am guessing this is the Gypsy schnitzel (let me know if I'm wrong). Like the Jager schnitzel, this one is equally big in portions but with a more seasoned taste with a tomato based, capsicum, onion and chilli sauce. I did not get the chance to try it but the friend thought it was very filling yet satisfying.

Gypsy Schnitzel ($22.50)

I went a different route and chose the pork belly which has caught my attention the moment I looked at the menu. The servings here is just as generous as the schnitzels but I managed to finish it. The best bit was of course the crispy pork crackling which was incredibly hard to cut through with the meat which is slightly dry though it still tasted flavoursome. This one is served with roesti and the good old sauerkraut which played a well deserved role in helping with finishing up the plate. In my opinion, it seems like one of the better versions of pork belly that I have tasted across Sydney especially when combined with the sides on this dish.

Pork belly with roesti, sauerkraut and apple chutney jus ($27.50)

Another thing that caught out attention was the Schnitzilla challenge. If the schnitzels that we got were massive enough, this just takes it to a whole new level of 3.5 kg! We initially considered eat it as a shared dish but decided to try more options. On the way to the restroom, there are polaroid pictures of the many many people who failed the challenge. I wasn't able to find a picture of anyone who actually won so that's an idea on how tough it really is.

The portions are incredibly generous so bring a few friends to share some of the dishes as it was a struggle for some of us to finish the main meals. I really enjoyed the service as well as the many beers and schnapps we had that night. If you want to try a more authentic version of German/Austrian cuisine, then this is the place to check it out as it does a decent job in bringing out a wide selection of hearty food instead of the usual staples. And it's good value for money and not too pricey either when you consider what you get in return.

Since it's almost the end of the year, I want to thank you readers for checking out my blog throughout the year. There will be more to come in 2013 with even more new restaurants and foodie events coming up soon. Happy New Year and Prost!

Essen Restaurant and Beer Cafe 
135 Broadway, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9211 3805

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Carrington: Beba Y Cene, Surry Hills

Firstly, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas from The Random Foodie! :D. Time to pig out and have fun! Hope you all are having the best time celebrating this holidays! 

One of my favourites from Spanish cuisine is pintxos (smaller individual-sized snacks that are skewed). Along the streets of Barcelona, you come across a good number of pintxos bars and heaps of general Spanish restaurants filled with these snacks. While Sydney is having a growing number of tapas restaurants, there hasn't been many that offers this kind of Spanish delicacy (if there are, please let me know :P). Thankfully, the Carrington has a reasonable amount of these bite-sized snacks on their menu along with even more pintxos specials on Tuesdays for $3!

It may look plain but it packs a lot of good amount of zesty and sweet flavour from the honey and the savoury and slightly peppery soprasada (paste made from minced cured pork, paprika, salt and various spices) to make you want more.

Sobrasada and honey

This treat is certainly luscious with the soft kingfish on a bed of creamy, tangy coleslaw. This morsel is quite moist, fresh and peppery which I enjoyed. Even thought that the tiny gherkins were useful to have whenever your taste buds need a kick.

Kingfish Pastrimi On Rye

Found this too creamy for my liking but it's just a personal preference. Surprised at how much I enjoyed the anchovy (lol) as it didn't overpower the lightly seasoned dish. The bread for this and the past two pintxos I have just mentioned is grilled and toasted to perfection though it is tough to cut so eventually I gave up and held it by the hand instead.

Smoked eggplant & White Anchovy Tostada

I was gob-smacked when I saw this item on the $3 menu. Sure it may not be as authentic as many other Spanish pintxos but I love my lamb so why not? Wouldn't mind trying this as it was not dry and tasted as nice as the ones at Bourke Street Bakery but much smaller.

Mini lamb sausage roll

Not a huge fan of this. Probably because by this point, the other pintxos were filling me up and this one certainly is full of carbs! I like the neatness of its presentation with the slices of potato and cheese stacked on each other so you can check out the layers. The pickles from the smoked kingfish dish was very useful after the starchy flavours were too much to handle though the yellow sauce on top did help a lot.

Potato, Manchego and Rosemary Tortilla

Very similar to the Grilled Paella Onigiri on the regular menu but instead the squid ink paella rice is shaped into a ball instead of a triangle and is coated with breadcrumbs with deep fried tentacles skewed on top. Not as dense so it was easier to chew down than the much denser triangular paella onigiri would have. In fact I enjoyed this variation because it is very flavoursome from the squid ink rice to the sauce and the crumb coated texture.

Paella Ball with Calamari

I was even more amazed when I saw the slider on the pintxos menu. I cannot remember if it was pork belly or pulled pork but it did not disappoint at all. While I was getting so full, it is surely very satisfying to try and the meat is reasonably tender enough to enjoy.

 Pork Slider

The place itself has a very social vibe complemented with a very tasty menu like many other restaurant pubs under the Drink and Dine Group. Also a great place to buy a reasonably priced drink while you wait for your meal. The service can be good but the speed to deliver the meals varies based on my past visits. Some of the pintxos reminded me of the ones served in Spain so I'd say that The Carrington has done a great job at making these accessible for the Sydney dining market. If only these options are available every night instead of just Tuesday but the regular daily menu is very delicious as well. Will definitely come back as they frequently change their $3 pintxos menu every week so expect some nourishing surprises.

The Carrington Specialite - Beba Y Cene
565 Bourke Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9360 4714

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