Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 recap. Wait it's the end of the year already?!

What the hell? It feels like yesterday when I did my end of year recap of 2012! I did not expect the year to fly by so fast nor did I expect the year to turn out the way it is. As of later September 2013, The Random Foodie has hit the Terrible Two's. There has been a few layout changes and maybe even a few more coming soon. Hope the current layout is pleasing to the eye. I've also decided to increase the size of the photos. If you can think of better changes, please let me know :).

There have been so many foodie trends this year that it's crazy. One of which is fine dining chefs turning their heads to casual dining. They can be making burgers, serving ramen or opening up a new cafe. This is no surprise considering the many fine dining restaurant closures recently not to mention the overwhelming success of casual restaurants and small bars with the Drink n' Dine team opening numerous restaurant ventures in a single year with even more to come! I guess thanks to the success of brunches at Bills, and eventually at The Grounds and Reuben Hills has led to cafes opening up left, right and centre. Mexican food has also been a growing trend this year with many new restaurants, small bars and even a few cafes adding tacos on their menu. Not that I'm complaining ;). There has also been a crazy number of gourmet burgers joints popping up lately like Chur Burger, Mary's, Parlour Burgers etc. So delicious but I think my diet hates me for that. Cronuts were also a big hit but haven't really tried the ones at Zumbo yet.

There is also way too many froyo joints. Everywhere. Especially on George Street, Sydney near Town Hall and on King Street, Newtown. That is all. (Mooberry was lots of fun though. Thanks guys. And Yogurtland wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.)

Those who had been keeping up with my instagram page will know that I did went through a phase involving lots and LOTS of ramen especially during the winter. Haven't had ramen for a while thanks to the hot weather but cravings be damned.

Clockwise: Ippudo Sydney, Ichi-Ban Boshi, Tan-Tan Takeaway at Chifley Plaza, Hakata-Maru Ramen, Ramen Ikkyu

2013 was the year when I have been doing the ol' Monday to Friday 9 to 5 (well 6pm actually) that I have been doing constant lunches in the CBD. I have also achieved my new year's resolution of losing weight though thanks to Birthday celebrations, Christmas and recent work stress; I have been falling back into old habits slowly. As the saying goes, that's the life and dilemmas of a food blogger (sighs). Unlike last year, I did not get to travel this year however I did get the opportunity to go out of Sydney for a day trip to Thirroul near Wollongong for a lunch outing at Flanagan's Dining Room with lots of amazing bloggers.

Speaking of fellow bloggers, I've reunited and met up with so many wonderful people throughout this year. It was great getting to know most of you at food-related events, launches and at the Sydney Food Blogger Picnic this year. Many thanks to Suze from Chocolatesuze and Helen from Grab your Fork for organising a wonderful and delicious day as always! I'm still craving for Mr Crackles's pork crackling. Ermagherddd.

I also finally did a recipe post thanks to The Sweet Swap. Didn't expect it to go well but so far I've gotten positive feedback and even did more sweets (chocolate truffles) at the Sydney Food Blogger Picnic. Unfortunately the heat was too much for the truffles to handle but those who didn't get put off by the melting chocolate seemed to love it. Hoping to do even more recipe posts in 2014.

There is still more reviews coming up that will tantalise your taste buds (including a certain restaurant that serves delicious fried chicken). Hopefully there will be more local outings and brunch related posts in 2014 because there are way too many yummy new cafes popping up this year. Seriously I can't keep up any more and I love my weekend sleep-in. Thank you soooo much to everyone for your love and support on The Random Foodie this year. Thanks also to my foodie and non-foodie buddies for bearing with me taking a zillion photos while you are dying to eat your food. .

Feel free to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (I will try to use the latter as much as possible in the new year). 

Cheers to many more foodie memories and hopefully a bit of travelling in 2014! See you all next year! Don't get too smashed :p

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jones the Grocer, Sydney CBD

Firstly, Merry (belated) Christmas, Seasons Greetings and happy crazy Boxing Day to all of my fellow readers! Hope you had an epic time pigging out with your family/friends/special someone and drinking so much like I have been over the last two weeks. Recovery has been messy.

When Jones the Grocer opened at the former site of Justin North's Quarter 21 and Becasse, I thought that it was a brand new restaurant. In fact, it had actually been around for more than 16 years when it was based in Woolahra. In December 2012, the flagship store was relocated to the easier-to-access Westfield Sydney City. As the name indicates, it opens as both a restaurant and a cafe with a patisserie and a retail and deli store containing lots of foodie essentials and gourmet ingredients. 

We (CC and I) were kindly invited to try out the menu at Jones the Grocer which is interesting since I have tried this restaurant once prior to this night and walked past this dining joint nearly everyday this year. Given that I was satisfied by the food I've had previously, I was intrigued to discover what else it offers to satisfy my lunch/post work dinner cravings. 

With worldwide branches in New Zealand, UAE, Qatar and Singapore; Jones the Grocer delivers excellent quality gourmet ingredients sourced from specialised food producers. It even has space for loads of cheese and a meat slicer that gets me drooling.


Loads of wine to choose from

The atmosphere has its noisy and quiet moments but generally it was a calmer atmosphere compared to the small bars and casual dining joints that have been populating the city lately.

We got a glass of white wine [sauvignon blanc?] and a sweet and fruity glass of pink lemonade (thanks CC!) on the night, which were refreshing and essential given what we ended up eating...

We started our night off with the Salt and Pepper Squid with yuzu mayonaise, Thai herb salad dressed with Tamarind, chilli and lime sauce; that was recommended to us by our waiter. Gotta say that we were impressed by the colourful presentation of this plate. The Thai salad had a sweet and zesty taste thanks to the yuzu mayo and chilli and lime sauce. However, we were blown away by the crispy and lightly crumbed squid. After eating away the batter, I've found that the squid itself had a tender bite which matched well with the strong flavours of the tamarind sauce. With all those ingredients, it was no surprise that we could detect some Asian inspried flavours in this yummy plate. While it was CC's dish, she was not a fan of coriander so I helped out in eating the salad greens and some squid pieces on her behalf hehe.

Salt and Pepper Squid with yuzu mayonaise, Thai herb salad dressed with Tamarind, chilli and lime sauce ($18.00)

Since Jones the Grocer opened at Westfield, the Angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab, chilli, rocket, garlic and grana padano was on my food radar mainly because I love any dish with crab. Again, we loved the presentation with this plate though I was surprised that this would be considered an entree dish (it is pasta after all...). Again we noticed the Asian incluences due to the thinness of the pasta reminding us of vermicelli or egg noodles. Everything on this plate worked well with each other as you take each bite from the thin and silky angel hair pasta to the relatively mild chilli flakes and the bitter yet fresh rocket. While there was a slight buttery taste, the grated grana padano cheese adds another layer of bite to this textual dish. Didn't expect to enjoy this dish with cheese but it actually made it even better. As for the crab, there was generous servings of crab meat prevalent in this dish which is absolute perfection for us.

Angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab, chilli, rocket, garlic and grana padano ($19.00)

I was extremely indecisive about my choice of main but ended up going with the free-range slow roasted pork cutlet with carrot puree, poached prune and shaved cabbage pangrattato salad. Partly because of my weird obsession with anything involving breadcrumbs/pangrattato. On the night, I've found that the pork was a tad dry though it was still quite tasty especially with the lovely pork crackling. It was quite intriguing trying out the poached prunes which had a heavy and very sweet texture.  Also the cabbage salad had a bitter taste but the crumbled pangrattato balanced out the flavours. 

Free-range slow roasted pork cutlet with carrot puree, poached prune and shaved cabbage pangrattato salad ($32.00)

While the waiter told us that it will take a while to make this dish, CC couldn't help ordering the slow-cooked beef short rib with roasted eye-fillet, mushroom and red wine. If you think that sounds like a mouthful, believe me it is. The serving was delivered to us as a (VERY) massive chunk of meat with a smudge of green pesto sauce on top and the small pile of mushrooms hidden underneath the short-rib. The pulled beef was so tender that it was easy to cut through each piece when we wanted to share. There wasn't a lot of mushrooms nor was there much red wine sauce but we made the most of the additional ingredients on this plate to balance it out. There was also a generous amount of fat on the edge of the meat which will make meat-lovers drool. Apparently there was a small piece of eye-fillet in this dish but I don't remember spotting this at all when I helped out (CC can you help fill in the blanks please? Thanks bro). Will definitely recommended this as a shared dish unless you really love eating that much meat in one sitting. We both ended up suffering a terrible case of meat sweats by the end. Maybe we should have gotten a seafood main?

Slow-cooked Beef Short Rib with Roasted Eye-Fillet, Mushroom and Red Wine ($35.00)

OK we were dying by this point but as the saying goes: there is ALWAYS room for dessert! After seeing the choices on the dessert menu, we knew we had to order them no matter what. And man we did not regret that decision. At all. 

CC opted for the warm sticky date pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream aka her idea of heaven on a plate. While I had a few bites, I've noticed how amazing this tasted with all of those ingredients. The warm pudding itself had a soft and moist texture and it was only slightly rich but manageable to handle. The (thankfully) generous amount of salted caramel sauce and the perfectly rounded vanilla bean ice cream added even more flavour to the already amazingly delicious pudding which will bring happiness to your taste buds. I'm generally not a fan of vanilla ice cream but this version just made me fall in love with it (plus I do love vanilla bean). So heavenly! I'm pretty sure it ended with us attempting to scoop up all of the sauce. It was no surprise that CC wasn't as keen to share this dish. Not even surprised that she was still craving about it a week later! 

Warm Sticky Date Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($12.00)

The Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse was equally lovely with its smoothness. It was a bit heavier and richer compared to the sticky date pudding but the sprinkles of shaved dark chocolate was pleasing to the eye and added a good amount of crunch. Loved the raspberry layer, which added a lighter, sweet and fruit taste to this decadent dessert. There was also loads of tiny chocolate balls which are pretty much like popping candy that bursts in your mouth as you eat each of those treats. 

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse ($12.00)

The atmosphere was generally chilled and relaxing with jazzy music playing in the background. Bonus points for the service being friendly and attentive to our requests. Since it's close to work, I wouldn't mind coming back here again during lunch or after work one day to try out other dishes from the menu including the seafood mains and the sticky date pudding. Would even do some shopping here once in a while. Probably won't eat here regularly though because the prices for some of the dishes do lean towards the more expensive side. Aside from the prices, we're pretty impressed with what Jones the Grocer offers whether you wanted a quick coffee, a take-away sandwich from the bakery, dessert cakes or just simply a round of gourmet food shopping since many of the ingredients in the menu were also available in the grocery.  

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as guests of Cavcon and Jones the Grocer. Opinions remain personal.

Jones the Grocer
Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Cnr Market Street and Castlereagh Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8072 7755
Mon-Sat: 8:00am - late
Sun: 8:00am - 7:00pm
Jones the Grocer on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Crisp, Sydney CBD

When I used to work closer to Museum station, it was easier for me to have lunch at some of the slightly cheaper food courts and surrounding restaurants that were closer to Haymarket and Chinatown. One of the food courts that was located in the Museum and Lower Town Hall Station side of the city was the extremely hidden Telstra food court. Even if you walk past 1000 times, you still wouldn't know unless you happen to work around the area and needed a short cut when you are rushing back from lunch. That's how I originally found out that this food court exist when my former colleague and I were trying to find lunch close to work. Back then the shops at this food court didn't seem to interest us at the time so we walked elsewhere. 

Fast forward to a few months ago when I received an invite to try the new burger joint at this same food court. Since I haven't been working in this area for a while, it was quite hard to find this food court again. Also it was pretty far from where I work now so it was even more harder for me to get the chance to try out the food especially since it's only open on weekdays for breakfast and lunch only. Plus it closes over the Christmas break so it's definitely catering for the office workers in the vicinity. Looking at the menu, the food sounds tasty and cheap. It also promoted itself to be the "healthiest, naughtiest and tastiest", which is intriguing. Healthy burgers really?

Judging by the lunchtime crowd standing in front of this stall, the food must be pretty good. The breads were sourced from the Sonoma Bakery Company which has got me very keen cos those guys really do make really yummy, freshly made bread. Even though I ordered a burger combo I have noticed that everyone was ordering salads here, which looked really delicious. The salad were also much quicker to make compared to the burgers, which took about 15 minutes to be ready.

Sonoma Bread

Gotta love chips that have a crunchy outer texture and fluffy potato inside. The servings were It was so addictive that I gobbled them up very quickly. Can't recall if there was sauce available but I reckon it would be amazing to dip these crunchy morsels into one of those condiments. 

Chips ($3.00)

Yes I know I should have ordered a salad or a sandwich but all of the burger options look so tempting and delicious that I gave into the guilt. The burger options were split into 'Classic Burgers'  ($8.00) and 'Crisp Burgers' ($9.00) with fries and/or drink combo depending on your preference. You even get a choice of bread for your bun including white, rye, brioche or wholemeal. I opted for the rye after seeing the dark colour of the bun (I always wanted to try something different hehe). 

The Crisp Burger ($9.00 for burger, $11.00 with chips, $12.50 with chips and drink)

After much pondering I eventually chose the Crisp burger which was recommended by the Crisp staff. Seriously there are so many different options for wagyu burgers at this joint, it's crazy. The serving size was generous, moreish, filling and messy to handle at one sitting. The rye bun was fresh, soft and fluffy, which was what I really loved in this burger. While it wasn't healthy, the wagyu beef was juicy and worked well together with the stakcs of lettuce and melted vintage cheese. While it was hard to pick up the whole burger without everything falling apart, it satisfied my hunger and got me full enough to last the rest of the day.

The Crisp Burger - seasoned wagyu beef pattie, lettuce, tomato, aged vintage cheddar, balsamic onion marinade and herb aioli

If you are trying to find the healthier aspect of the company's slogan, you get to make your own salads from $6.00 or choose from the pre-made salads available on the menu for only $9 or $10.50 if you want to get a drink as well for a salad combo. You can also get sandwiches which were priced between $6-$8. 

While it felt rushed especially with the lunchtime crowd, I wouldn't mind ordering more food from Crisp if I was working much closer. If only it opened for dinner or even on weekends. The prices are cheap and the food satisfied my hunger especially with the servings. It was so delicious that when I was eating some leftovers at work, my colleagues were getting cravings from the smell alone. Will come back to try the salads since nearly everyone was ordering them while I was waiting for my food (gotta be health conscious right guys?). 

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of The Crisp. Opinions remain personal.

The Crisp
Telstra Plaza, 324-330 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
0416 545 343 (if you want to pre-order before 12:30pm)
Breakfast: Mon-Fri 8:00am - 11:00am
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:00am - 2:30pm
Crisp on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

Haven't been blogging as much lately because of work, Christmas and a terribly long birthday hangover. Anyway, I've been wanting to write a review for this cafe for many many months but haven't gotten the chance yet until now. Had I worked closer or had the energy to wake up early on the weekend, I reckon this would be one of those cafes that I would attend on a regular basis.

Devon Cafe is one of the latest in the ongoing series of chefs breaking away from their fine dining roots and moving into casual dining such as cafes, burgers and food court joints. This time, we've got two former Guillaume chefs (one from Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne and the other from Gullaume at Bennelong) at the helm. It's been getting flocks of diners checking it out for brunches over the weekend and with the dishes I've got to experience so far, the hype is definitely worth it. 

I do love a smooth, balanced coffee and Devon's is no exception. At $4.50 for a large sized mocha, it's on the more expensive side but it is worth the dollars. I can't recall which coffee blend Devon Cafe uses but earlier reviews mentioned that it uses Coffee Alchemy beans (feel free to correct me on this). It has a balanced amount of froth along with the coffee, milk and chocolate with a somewhat creamy taste. The coffee art is pretty impressive and for some reason, I adore the cute red cup too. The coffee art actually made me not want to drink the coffee at first...almost.

Skim Mocha (S - $4.00, L - $4.50)

The name says it all. Refreshing, fruity, chilled and perfect to have on a hot summer day. Just swirl the contents around and watch the magic happen. 

Refresher - watermelon, apple and mint ($7.00)

You know this review has been incredibly delayed when you are reviewing a menu item that has been discontinued since the first day of September. But dammit it was sooo good, it needed a mention. I'm talking about the Ultimate Toastie. Packed with fontina cheese, nicely cooked fried eggs, piles of pine mushrooms and more truffle shavings than you would usually get, the price is actually not bad. Some will say that it's expensive but seriously guys there's truffles!The serving is incredibly massive and rich that I ended up getting food coma for the rest of the day. Perfect as a shared dish. Unfortunately this ended once spring arrived but there had been special seasonal truffle dishes that are suitable for the hotter weather recently such as the truffle carbonara pasta.

Ultimate Toastie ($25.00)


When you see the Ogre 'Happy Meal' (ox-tongue, hash potatoes, fried egg, cauliflower puree, pickled onion); you can imagine Shrek walking into a Maccas restaurant. Only even better. The ox-tongue had that chewy yet tender texture with a slightly crisp edge. I particularly loved the little crunchy hash potatoes. Wish there was more hash potatoes on this dish as I could easily go for at least12 of them. The plating of all the ingredients gave this lovely dish a colourful and vibrant appearance that is pleasing to the eye and loads of flavour to the taste buds as you take each bite.

Ogre 'Happy Meal' ($21.00)

If there is any dish that describes this cafe perfectly, 'Breakfast with the Sakuma's' (miso grilled king salmon, smoked eel croquette, 63 degree egg, radish petit salad and kewpie mayonnaise) is up there as being one of the most ordered dishes at this joint. Just look at the plating in the photo below. It's no surprise why this is the case. I haven't tried a 63' egg before but omg the ooziness is just incredible. I'm a sucker for anything containing breadcrumbs such as the croquette which is not a good thing for me. The texture of the eel croquette was firm, tasty and perfect to match with the runny egg yolk. With a well-cooked salmon, tangy mayo and fresh, mild and seemingly healthy radish salad, this is certainly the winning dish for me.

Breakfast with the Sakuma's ($24.50)

EGG PORN (Why not?)

Haven't gotten the chance to try the desserts yet but they look dreamyyy. I did order a few macarons in the past which were delivered from the lovely team at MakMak Macarons in Newtown. 

Gooey Muffins!



Despite the amount of competition in the Sydney brunch scene these days, you've got to admit that Devon cafe is not your typical Surry Hills/Inner West cafe. The unique and colourful presentation on all of their dishes and even the decor have never ceased to amaze me each time. It's no wonder that it has gotten so much hype since it opened more than 6 months ago. Been satisfied with the coffee and the food during my visits there and would happily return any time soon just to try all the dishes. The service has been wonderful and pleasant and the prices aren't too bad. Ok it is pricier depending on your budget but the serving size does make up for it. With the hot summer weather, I reckon this place would be an ideal to catch up and chill out with friends this season.

Devon Cafe
76 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9211 8777
Mon - Fri6:30am - 4:30pm
Sat - Sun8:00am - 3:30pm
Devon Cafe on Urbanspoon