Monday, January 30, 2012

Thanh Binh, Cabramatta

It was a last minute decision coming to Cabramatta for dinner. Went back from the city earlier than expected and my folks were out having dinner in Canley Heights. Unfortunately many places in Cabramatta close alot early at 6pm or 7pm like Tan Viet, Pho 54 and Pho Tau Bay. Luckily there were a few still open such as Thanh Binh Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant. It was also a rainy day so I was in the mood for good old pho or Vietnamese beef noodle soup.

Plate of Vietnamese mint, bean sprouts, chilli and lemon wedges

Like many other Pho restaurants, a plate of lemon wedges, bean sprouts, chopped pieces of chilli and Vietnamese herbs including mint are served first. You can add whatever you want to the dish depending on what taste you prefer. For me, a bit of lemon and alot of mint helps to strengthen the flavour of the broth.

Pho Tai - Vietnamese noodle soup topped with rare beef

Most times the dishes are delivered very quickly. This time it seemed a bit busier and there were several large groups being served. Eventually my bowl of pho arrived at the table. Now for me, when I really enjoy a bowl of pho, I polish off the whole bowl including the broth! From numerous previous visits to this restaurants, this has always been the case. However, this time it sadly wasn't. The broth was not as warm as I expected so it took a while for the beef to be more cooked.

Soya bean milk

Thanh Binh has countless food options to try on the menu other than the noodle soup. Generally I found that the menu here is slightly less expensive than their sister restaurant in Newtown. In my earlier visits here, I have always thought their pho dish to be the best out of many restaurants I've been to. Lately it has been a hit and miss such as this occasion but when it's good, it's really good. Hopefully in future visits, the magic is still there. I would also recommend trying the other dishes such as their famous chao tom. Also the service here is generally pretty lovely with a complimentary mintie at the end of your meal when you request your bill.

Thanh Binh Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
52 John Street, Cabramatta
Contact no: 02 9727 9729

Thanh Binh on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Janeks Cafe, Bowral

Daaay trip! Oooooooh yessssss!

So several friends and myself went to Canberra to check out the Renaissance art at the National Gallery of Australia. Along the way there, we did a couple of stop overs because we needed to rest after a pretty long drive and to check out the scenery. One of the stop overs we made was for brunch at a cafe in Bowral which has won a few awards in the area.

The decor of the cafe had a French cafe atmosphere with music playing in the background and various posters that you usually would see at a French cafe or restaurant. We were all really tired so we had some coffee and fruit drinks to start off the day. The first thing we've noticed was how pricey the menu was. Since we're in a cafe in regional NSW rather than in Surry Hills, we went along with it.

Poached eggs with bacon and toast

Runny egg :)

J and I had poached eggs with bacon with two slices of toasted bread. I thought the bread was very tough to cut but the egg was well cooked. Nothing starts a good day than a perfect runny yolk. For poached eggs, I thought they did a really good job with it. The bacon was also well cooked to my liking. A great match with the poached eggs on toast.

Poached eggs with hash brown, avocado and tomato

N had the same with mine and J's but with a fried egg. However S went against the crowd and ordered a pretty decent breakfast with poached eggs, bacon, slices of avocado and hash brown on the side. I tried the hash brown and found it to be very crunchy but not as much flavour.

Fried eggs with bacon and toast

The atmosphere was very comforting and we had a great time chilling out before the long drive to Canberra. If you have to stop somewhere, this is one of those places to check out if you need a rest or you are very hungry and you aren't in the mood for Maccas. Also note for those driving to Canberra...remember to fill up your petrol! We couldn't find one for miles!

Janeks Cafe
Corbett Plaza, Shop 4 Wingecarribee Street Bowral 2576
Contact no: 02 4861 4414

Janeks on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tan Viet Noodle House, Cabramatta

It is not hard to see why Tan Viet Noodle House is one of the most popular restaurants to check out in Cabramatta or why their crispy chicken with egg noodles is regarded as one of the best in Sydney. For me, Tan Viet is one of those restaurants that I have regularly went to and loved since I was around 11 or 12. Since Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta is currently on SBS, I thought it will be benefitting to try out one of the places I went back when it wasn't known for its Vietnamese food addiction...

That's what they said...

When I first went to Tan Viet, it was not in its currant location on John St near Hughes St but it was in fact an even smaller (very small in fact!) restaurant inside Cabramatta City Centre near the middle of John Street. My parents took me there back when I was a fussy eater. I still remember how hard it is to get to some of the seats because it was such a tiny place back then. Imagine the queues! It was a good decision for them to move to the more spacious building where it currently stands. But enough about the history!

On this occasion, I went to Tan Viet with Mum because I did not feel like pho. It was also a pretty hot day. The place wasn't too busy since we came a bit after midday but it was busy enough that we had to share tables with a couple of strangers. We didn't mind of course.

Clockwise: Bean sprouts, fish sauce with chilli (nuoc cham), lemon wedges

The decor and layout is what you would expect at most Vietnamese restaurants with chopstickss and cutley bundling together for anyone to grab when needed along with soy sauce and spices. After ordering our meals, we were given complimentary plates of bean sprouts, nuoc cham and lemon wedges. Mum and I agreed to share the chicken because it usually is a decent serving for one person.

Crispy skin chicken with tomato rice (com ga chien da don)

Tan Viet's signature dish is the crispy chicken with egg noodles (dry/soup). On most occasions, I get the chicken with tomato rice. This version is just as good as the noodles. What makes this version better than the ones at other Vietnamese restaurants? The chicken was soft in the inside yet so crispy. It was alot crispier than the other variations I have tried previously which is also helped with the incredibly juicy meat. It is no wonder they offer big servings of the chicken. You just cannot stop eating them! The rice is also well cooked which is good because I am not a fan of soggy rice. This is served with carrots and cabbage on the side which is actually pretty spicy. I would recommend to eat these sides if you can handle your chilli.

Egg noodles with coriander, shallots, salad, fried garlic and sauce

Mum had a few pieces of my chicken along with the dry egg noodles that are always paired up with the crispy chicken. I had some of the noodles to try out since I usually have the rice. You can see why customers always choose to get the egg noodles with crispy chicken over rice, glass noodles. The noodles are made fresh and have a nice saucy bite. Unlike the rice, the noodles are mixed with coriander, shallots, salad, fried garlic and apparently some kind of sauce. It tasted a bit like fish sauce. One tiny quirk was how ridiculously long the noodles were and how hard it can be to cut them.

Very long noodles!

After all that starch and meat, it was good that a bowl of clear soup with coriander and green onion is served with the dry noodles. Mum suggested to add lemon to the soup which made it taste alot better.

Soybean milk (Sua dau nanh)

By the end, the restaurant was getting incredibly packed. While the service was a bit average, it is the food that is the most important at these restaurants. It is also inexpensive as the total amount was around $21. Was it one of the places that made Cabramatta become one of the food capitals of Sydney of today? Perhaps it helped with that outcome. However I can say that as of now, I still can't get enough of their crispy chicken!

Tan Viet Noodle House
100 John Street, Cabramatta
Contact no: 02 9727 6853

Tan Viet Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 15, 2012

El Jannah, Granville

When I first heard about how so many people across Sydney would come to Granville for El Jannah, I was initially baffled because there are so many charcoal chicken take away shops around town. Since early last year though, I ended up coming here regularly after work because it really is worth the hype - especially the garlic sauce! However I have not been dining there for a while (usually ordering a take away chicken roll) so with enough time to kill, I decided to drop by here for dinner.

Flatbread (and garlic sauce!)

It has the noisy atmosphere of most take away shops. The customer service here is not the best since the staff being too busy making orders at the counter and cleaning up plates for new customers to get their food and be seated in a hurry. In other words, don't bother asking them about your individual needs once you are seated with your food.

Chips and garlic sauce

I ordered the standard quarter of charcoal chicken served with pickles, flatbread and their famous garlic sauce as well as a side of chips and more garlic sauce. I was really surprised about the amount of chips given I have ordered the regular size. What I love about the chips at El Jannah is that they are SO CRUNCHY! Dipping it with the garlic sauce just makes it taste even better with the tanginess from the garlic mayo. It definitely is chunkier than your other garlic sauce (I'm looking at you aioli) and very flavoursome.

Quarter chicken with pickles and garlic sauce

The chicken was pretty juicy and the garlic sauce was matched well with it. It was also good to chew on the pickles after consuming so much meat, chips and garlic. The smoky flavour combined with the garlic sauce was a definite winner combination although there were a few bits that were too burnt. Eventually I wasn't able to finish the chips so I asked them for takeaway. But even getting their attention was a bit of an effort. The service does need a bit of improvement but I guess since it does get very busy with a line going outside the door at times, it is most likely expected.

Is this worth the hype? I would definitely come here for the garlic sauce and crunchy chips again and again. Would I come back for the chicken? Yeah I would as well as it was pretty flavoursome, well-cooked and tender. Plus it's hard to find garlic sauce like that anywhere else so it's no wonder there is so much hype about this restaurant.

El Jannah
4-6 South Street Granville NSW 2142
Contact no: (02) 9637 0977

El Jannah on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Meat and Wine Co, Darling Harbour

It's my freakin' birthday! Well actually it was last month but I have been a bit slow with the blogging until recently so bear with me while I try to catch up.
This time my birthday falls on a Friday night so it was a good time to go out and go hard. Once again we didn't end up booking (big mistake!) and we (D and myself) ended up in Darling Harbour finding any restaurant that does not have a lengthy waiting time. After failed attempts at Criniti's, Hurricanes and even the Hard Rock Cafe, we settled for Meat and Wine Co where we only waited for about 10 minutes before getting a table. WIN!

Monte select 350g Rib-eye steak served with super crunchy chips ($37)

At this 3-level restaurant, the menu boasts an extensive selection of different cuts and qualities of steaks with premium prices. If you want the best steaks that they offer, be ready to fork out your money. The waiters recommended the Wagyu steaks (lowest price was the wagyu rump MB 6+ 500g at $47) but it was too much money for us to handle. Instead, I settled for the Monte select 350g Rib-eye steak. This was served with super crunchy chips and a choice of sauce (mine was peppercorn sauce) for an extra $4.

Served medium rare, this steak was definitely a winner for me. The meat was so succulent to taste as it falls apart in your mouth. The basting on the meat adds a grilled flavour texture which made it taste even better. Dipping the meat with the green peppercorn sauce added a peppery taste to the meat which I loved and was saddened when it ran out fairly quickly. The crunchy chips were delivered. And as the name promises, how crunchy they were!

Grilled chicken breast served with cherry tomates, zucchini, roquette, eggplant and super crunchy chips, ($26)

D chose the grilled chicken breast with salad and crunchy chips along with his choice of sauce (also peppercorn). I tried a bit of the salad to balance the flavours of my own dish. I did not try the chicken breast but my friend was satisfied with it and it looked nicely cooked.

This was one of the most amazing birthday dinners I've ever had. I will definitely come back for more sometime soon with a bigger wallet to try the wagyu steaks and some of their other dishes on offer. They also have a bar for some drinking action but we decided to save out livers for clubbing later that night. A must try for meat lovers!

The Meat and Wine Co
L1, 31 Wheat Road IMAX Theatre Complex, Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour
Contact no: (02) 9211 9888

The Meat & Wine Co on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Santos, Canley Heights

Firstly I would like to say, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Thanks to everyone who has supported my blog so far especially to my old coworkers who have spread the word around the office. Already this year is looking pretty awesome with a couple of trips happening this year for me. This week, I will be heading to Lake Macquarie aaaaannnddd *drumroll* Hunter Valley! I will try to recount my dining experiences in these locations in the near future unless the copius amounts of wine makes me forget everything.

NOW onto food!

Our original plan was to go to Holy Basil, a local favourite. But it was too packed and we were already very hungry so we went across the street to the very quiet but interesting Santos. The menu looked good as well ranging from steaks to pastas and pizzas to Kilpatrick oysters!

I had the spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil) which was covered with chopped chilli pieces and shaved parmesan cheese. I was a bit surprised about the parmesan cheese as it was not mentioned in the menu (a no-no for the dairy intolerant) but it added a decent bite to the dish. The chilli was a major kick to my tastebuds but it did not overpower the dish which I enjoyed.

My friend (the same one who had bad luck with the schnitzel in the previous blog entry) got a massive steak in front of him. This we asked the waiter who cheerfully said that they did it on purpose to please them - especially the guys. Thankfully it was not as bad as he managed to eat it up without any trouble. I got a few pieces and wanted to dig into the steak as well! Despite my friend ordering well-done (gasp!), it was actually very tender to chew. It was served with chips and salad which I helped to eat as well. The chips were well cooked and the salad was a good match against the meatiness and starch.

The waiter serving us was very friendly and hilarious so it has bonus points for customer service. It is interesting to note that Canley Heights is now becoming the ideal late night culinary destination in Western Sydney due to the traditional Vietnamese restaurants, the success of Holy Basil and Fat Panda and recent openings of numerous cafes such as V Lounge. With that, Santos is a great alternative to all of that hype when you are in need of a European feed or you are not feeling up for Asian food. Give it a go!

231 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights
Contact no: (02)9727 0580

Santos on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bellisimo's Woodfired Pizza and Pasta, Cabramatta

For nearly my whole life, I have often drove or been driven past the Cabramatta Golf Club on my way to Cabramatta or Fairfield. The whole time I never knew that they have their own Italian restaurant. Then again, I am not the biggest fan of golf.
Was recommended by some friends living in the same area so one evening, we gave it a go. We didn't end up having the pizzas as it was just the two of us. Not to mention, the servings were large. And how large they really were!

I got the pasta dish - I cannot remember the exact name but it had olives so I'm guessing it was the fettuccini (or linguine) puttanesca. The sauce was tangy and finely sprinkled with parsley with a bit of bite from the spices. The olives still had seeds inside so it was a bit frustrating eventually from chewing through all of them.

My friend had a bit of bad luck that evening. He ordered the chicken parmigiana because he enjoyed it at a previous visit. This time though, the amount of chicken fillets has doublet to two EPIC pieces covered with a vast amount of cheese. It was the kind of meal you would expect Adam Richman from Man v Food attempt and possibly fail due to the amount of cheese and breadcrumbs. I attempted to help him eat a bit of it but I was also getting full from my pasta. The crumbed chicken was a bit dry though and the cheese tasted a bit hard.

In the end I've finished my pasta but my friend understandably couldn't finish his dish. It was a wonder because last time he had one serving of chicken fillet covered with cheese but this time it was two massive fillets overloaded with cheese and I don't think the waiter has addressed this. It probably didn't help that it was not mentioned in the menu either. Despite that mishap, the pasta wasn't that bad and the waiter serving us was friendly. I will probably only come back to try the pizzas if any friend holds an event there. But I wouldn't have the urge to come back here as I would for some other Italian restaurants across Sydney. Hopefully next time, they fix up the chicken parmigiana mishap. It was hilarious doing a Man v Food moment though and I will look back to this experience for the memorable laughs.

Bellissimo's Woodfired Pizza and Pasta
440 Cabramatta Road West, Cabramatta
Contact no: (02) 9753 4030

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