Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holy Basil, Sydney CBD

Opened about a year ago, this has become one of the places my friends and I like to go for dinner during the weekend without making a booking although there were occasions where we have to deal with crazy lines. It does get packed but compared to the original restaurant at Canley Heights, the waiting time to get a table isn't too bad. Thought it was pretty cool opening this branch in the city and giving new life in what used to be a very secluded area at Shark Hotel which formerly served really dodgy buffet food.

The prices are pretty decent when you look at the really massive servings. As with most of our visits at Holy Basil, we end up over ordering with a mighty feast.

Vegetarian Curry Puff

Very enjoyable to eat with its soft filling and firm puff pastry. I wasn't too keen on the potato inside the filling but that's just a personal preference. It is a great starter to the evening.

Papaya salad - Laotian style

I found this very nourishing and a bit spicy. I would recommend to let the waiter know about the level of spiciness as even 'mild' can be overwhelming.

Nok Tod - Marinated Quails

I tried a bit of this dish although my friend had most of this. It is incredibly crispy and my friend enjoyed it for sure.

Salt n Pepper Calamari

This is my favourite from the night. The batter is incredibly crispy and light and so addictive to eat each of the calamari even though it is a shared dish. This will get you full fast if you buy this for yourself...but oh soo good!

Laos Sausage

I did not expect to enjoy this but it was seriously very tasty. The meat was soft inside and grilled on the outside. It even tasted better with the dipping sauce on the side. Again I wanted to eat the whole plate here.

Pad Thai with Chicken

While I really enjoyed the noodles, I found this to be too sweet to enjoy compared to the pad thai at Canley Heights.

Beef Massaman Curry

I ordered this dish for myself but with all the other dishes we ate, it is just so much to handle. Despite that, the beef is so tender and soft as well as enjoyable to mix with rice.

Gang Dang - Red Curry

I found this more spicy than the Massaman curry, yet full of flavour. The curry itself is very creamy, moreish and perfect to eat with rice to balance it out.  

Fried Ice Cream

By this time, I was waaay too full. Some of us are keen and ordered 3 fried ice creams to share. And for something called 'fried ice cream', it is bigger than I thought - surprisingly worth the $13.90. Even with a few bites, you can see why this fried ice cream is so renowned. The creamy ice cream filling wrapped and deep fried with filo pastry, and decorated with caramel sauce and strawberries...when you bite into its many layers, it is a match made in food heaven. Worth the hype!

Our stomachs were practically bursting by the end but it was worth the experience. While there were a few dishes that I preferred at the original restaurant, there are still some worthy ones and it is easier to get to if you don't live in South-West Sydney. 

Holy Basil - Sydney CBD
Shark Hotel, 127 Liverpool St
Sydney, NSW 2000
(02) 9283 8284

Holy Basil on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gumshara Ramen, Haymarket

On days when the weather was freezing, it's pretty much the perfect time for ramen. I've gotten a few recommendations about this place for a while and I was craving for ramen that night. Well hidden inside the Eating World food court, the layout is similar to the hawker centres back in Singapore - though very cramped, noisy, and not as clean. But that doesn't stop anyone from trying this out. There was already heaps of people (students, workers, tourists etc.) waiting for their order so it is clearly very popular with the masses.

Good luck charm ^.^

Upon looking at the menu, you can see that this place is dedicated to making ramen as it occupies more than half of the menu with flavours ranging from their infamous Tonkotsu ramen to Miso ramen to Mega Ramen! From hearing what everyone else has to say about Gumshara Ramen, it is that their ramen is THICK! This is mostly because unlike most other restaurants that serve ramen, Gumshara makes their stock using pork bones, bone marrow, collagen and water, and without any MSG. And many are unable to finish their bowl. I was very hungry that evening and I think this calls for a challenge. Sidenote though: I wonder if anyone has been able to complete the Mega Ramen? Or even the spicy Bomb Ramen?

Sneak peek behind the scenes

Mega Ramen - are you up for it?

Chilli Bomb Ramen

I decided to go easy and went with the traditional Tonkotsu Ramen. The one that gets the praises and the notoriously full stomachs. It took a while for them to make it due to slow-cooked process as explained above. On the side, there is a stand full of condiments (including pickled garlic and sesame seeds) to add to your ramen as you please to add a bit more flavour, which I made the most of it. You can also add an egg for an additional $1.50.

Self-serve condiments stand

There is a reason why it's frequently known to have a thick, rich, salty broth. The ramen really was thick and rich with a helping of bamboo shoots and generous, thin slices of pork. It is understandably a generous serving for one person to finish. I really enjoyed the noodles which has a nice chewy bite. As I eat through the dish, the broth has gotten thicker and the porky flavour was stronger and richer. While the taste is different from most ramen dishes I've had, it is the unique taste that made me enjoyed it.

Tonkotsu ramen

While it was a struggle, surprisingly I did finish the whole bowl and it was a tough, interesting and tasteful challenge. I am still keen to come back to try another bowl or a different flavour as I did enjoy eating it. Make good use of the condiments as it may help you with finishing it up. Whether you enjoy ramen with thick and rich broths or not, I would recommend this place for the experience at least and it is clear to see why many people have named Gumshara as one of their top ramen places in Sydney.

Gumshara Ramen
Eating World Harbour Plaza, Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street,
Haymarket NSW 2000

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

N2 Extreme Gelato, Chinatown

Gelato made using nitrogen? This pretty much sounds like something you would hear in any episode related to Heston Blumenthal. But there is now a dessert place at Dixon Street in Haymarket where they create gelato by mixing creamy flavours, and liquid nitrogen. Hearing something like that is enough to get immediate hype from the masses so it's no wonder that the place was crowded when we arrived there. Sounds too good to be true?

The making of the gelato. Check out the smoke!

In keeping up with the science theme, the staff were dressed in labcoats and the counter is filled with conical flasks and Kitchen Aid appliances. The flavours listed at N2 Extreme Gelato ranges from the 'boring' like chocolate and vanilla, to the wacky like the cigar smoked Haianese coffee!

The staff was very helpful with giving us even more info about the flavours to help with our decision making. The earl grey infused caramel flavour stood out for me so I went along with that while CC went with buttered popcorn - both very popular and highly selling flavours. The gelato was creamy, smooth, rich and dense that it was a struggle for both of us to finish one scoop.

 The sweetness in the earl grey caramel gelato is more subtle than I expected. I was hoping for that caramel taste but it was mixed with the creamy milk which did take over some of the sweetness.

 Earl Grey infused Caramel Gelato

The buttered popcorn was more savoury with bits of popcorn inside the gelato. My friend didn't enjoy this as much as she hoped and didn't end up finishing it.

Buttered popcorn

While the concept does sound fascinating, it didn't excite us as much we want to since the texture was thick and dense and the taste was too milky. It did taste different to the usual gelato but on this occasion it has not made us jump on the bandwagon yet. However, I'm still curious to try out a few more of their crazy flavours. At $6 for a massive scoop like that, it's a pretty reasonable deal.

N2 Extreme Gelato
43/1 Dixon Street, Sydney NSW 2000

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hartsyard, Newtown

After many raves by other bloggers and features in food media, we finally got time to check out this restaurant owned by the husband-wife team, Gregory Llewellyn (who runs the kitchen) and Naomi Hart (who controls the front of house team). It was an immediate decision when the mates saw the menu online and literally went insane at the desserts. I'm a sucker for American cuisine and especially Southern comfort food, which Sydney doesn't seem to have enough. Although it has been appearing more often nowadays with the dude food craze in many new restaurants and small bars. With an American expat who is running the kitchen, you know you are onto a good thing if you have been looking hard for true Southern cuisine.

The vibe here is incredibly busy and noisy. It was only a Wednesday evening and we arrived there a bit after 6pm. Yet, the restaurant was nearly full. Luckily, there was just three of us so we managed to squeeze on the 3 spare seats at the bench near the front. For those who haven't been here, the menu is divided by 'Seed' (smaller plates) and 'Feed' (larger meals) along with desserts which are listed under 'Out to pasture'. All of them are made to share with pretty much the entire menu looks absolutely amazing so we ended up over-ordering a lot of the main meals.

I was immediately attracted to this dish after my taste with crispy pigtails back at District Dining. Hartsyard created a much different yet still very delicious version of this dish. This version looked like a croquette or arancini stuffed with pigtail meat. Juicy goodness! So disappointed when I finished eating my share. 

Crispy pig tails

When I see oyster po' boys I knew I had to get this because this isn't something you would usually see on the menu here in Sydney - even at a restaurant serving American cuisine! Unlike the genuine Louisiana sandwich shows where the filling is in a sub sandwich, this version is sandwiched between an English muffin bun. This does not deter the taste as it tasted incredible and every component with the coleslaw and mayo work well together.

Oyster Po'Boy

I've heard so much about this dish and been wanting to try it from the moment I heard "fried chicken". And if it has buttermilk coating then even better! The accompaniments made it sound better with a buttermilk biscuit (the American version which is actually a scone) and low country gravy thus making it look like a very close representation of Southern Soul food. Better than KFC!!! The coating is amazingly crunchy and droolworthy. It's as good as it looks and sounds! The portions are generous so I'd recommend sharing this unless you only want to buy one thing from the menu. A must have if you ever come by Hartsyard!

Cold-smoked fried chicken with buttermilk biscuit and low country sausage gravy

By this point we were getting pretty full but we did order one main each for the three of us (never again!). MT had the roast pork dish which looked pretty massive. The meat was nice but it wasn't as tender as we liked. Also it got really sticky and hard to cut through some parts.

Roast Pork - Vadouvan, sorrel, black-pepper maple bacon

CC had her eyes on the duck dish as it had a bit of everything - the sweet and the savoury. This did not disappoint us. This deconstructed dish looks like something you may see at a fine dining restaurant. Interestingly, it is pricier than the chicken and pork main meals but it looked a bit smaller. I loved the ball of duck confit which is presented similarly to the crispy pig tails in a crumbed ball. Everything about this dish just seems to have so many unique flavours that the whole dish was like an adventure of tastes. Another dish I'd recommend!

Honey glazed duck breast and crackling

With the food, we were given a small jar of hot sauce. Despite the name, it's not too spicy for those who cannot handle it. Actually, I thought this balanced the flavours with all the fried food we've been eating and made it even more flavoursome. Very addictive to the point where I added it to nearly everything.

 House-made Hot Sauce

We were horribly stuffed but CC was craving for the dessert so we went along with her. While it was fairly rich and decent, we certainly did not regret ordering it. I adored the creaminess and crunchiness that came with this dish from the ice cream to the bits of crumbled biscuits. Not to mention the guilty saltiness and sweetness displayed with the lashings of fudge goodness and banana doughnut pieces. It is no wonder why this is one of the star dishes of this restaurant. Just too good to resist! I would recommend try to eat as much as you can when you get this as it did get too creamy at the bottom by the end.

Peanut butter and banana sundae with pretzel ice cream, banana doughnut, salted fudge

This ain't gonna win any awards for the healthiest restaurant in Sydney anytime soon but the food is so bad, it's seriously good. Everything here is a guilty pleasure particularly for those who are fans of the dude food movement. The service was decent and knowledgeable with explaining every component of each dish, although it did get very busy so it was harder for us to get attention from the waitstaff. Despite this, we are all super keen on going back for that dessert and trying some of the other dishes especially with their updated menu with even more moreish goodness. 

33 Enmore Road, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8068 1473

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon