Friday, January 25, 2013

Pho Minh, Cabramatta

I have already mentioned a few times on this blog on how there are numerous restaurants in Cabramatta that have been going on for a decade or two (or three!). This is in stark contrasts to many restaurants that have opened only a few years ago and have closed within a year or less. Makes you wonder how do the restaurants in Cabramatta do this? Pho Minh is one of the former, having been around for as long as I can remember.

Like most Cabramatta Vietnamese restaurants, Pho Minh is one of those places that doesn't need a major design overhaul to draw the crowds although it did have a makeover a few years ago but the local, cheap and cheerful atmosphere is still there with pop music playing in the background. Sure it's not as famous as Pho Tau Bay but it is a great meeting spot for lunch with families and friends.

They have a generous selection of pho noodle dishes. They even have satay pho! Should be very very interesting to try. The menu also includes the usual favourites like vermicelli noodles and rice dishes as well as some dishes that aren't often seen at Vietnamese restaurants such as congee and udon noodles.

If you are opting for something healthier, Pho Minh's version of goi cuon (or rice paper rolls) are superb. Each roll is filled with small prawns, slices of pork, a small bundles of soft noodles and spring onion sticking out of the roll. These are really light and fresh to have on a hot summer day. Perfect with the dipping sauce or even the complimentary chilli oil. 

Goi Cuon ($8)

There is only one size available at Pho Minh and it's a pretty generous bowl of pho. The beef is incredibly soft and easy to pull apart. Also, the noodles are slightly thinner at Pho Minh and the broth isn't as sweet which should be good for those who aren't a fan of those sweet broths in pho bowls. 

Pho Tai ($9.50)

Affordable prices for a restaurant in Cabramatta with friendly and fast service. It costs an additional 50c for take away which is not too bad. While it is located on the quieter Arthur Street rather than the much busier John Street, it is local favourites like these that makes Cabramatta what it is today. Definitely worth a try when you're on a budget, finding somewhere to go for a quick lunch after seeing lengthy queues at many hotspots or just simply searching for some good pho and local, hidden favourites.

Pho Minh
42 Arthur Street, Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9726 5195

Pho Minh on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mr Wong, Sydney CBD

The first time I've heard of Mr Wong was when they had a stall at last year's March into Merivale opening night. So it's no surprise that this has become one of the hot spots in the Sydney dining scene with lengthy waits to get a table. Owned by Dan Hong (Ms G's, El Loco), Jowett Yu (Ms G's) and Eric Koh (Hakkasan in London); this restaurant focuses on Chinese/Cantonese cuisine from yum cha to traditional Chinese dishes that you would usually find at Golden Century or East Ocean - but with a modern twist.
By the way, I should mention that I was pretty hammered and I only have my iPhone camera that night. Plus the lights were very dim at the restaurant. Many apologies for the poor quality photos.

Although it was only a Wednesday night, we had to wait for nearly an hour for a table for 3 people! Unfortunately, you can only do bookings for 6 or more people. We were still eager to try and went to the Establishment for cocktails to kill time (BTW drinking on an empty stomach is bad mmmkay?). We got a call from that our table is available about 45-50 minutes later. Imagine how busy it is on a Friday or Saturday night?

This restaurant is huge. 240 seats on two-levels huge. Located at the former site of Tank Nightclub, when you enter inside you can feel like you are back in time in the old colonial era in China in the 19th-early 20th Century in its wooden, warehouse-esque layout. You can also see various meats like duck and pig being roasted on display just like what Asian butchery shops do. Even the menu is as big as the restaurant with yum cha offerings, roasted meats, noodles, live seafood, a vegetarian menu, and those interesting desserts that reminded us of Ms G's. I was keen to try the mud crab but since we already ordered many dishes, we'll save it for another time.

Textual salad of poached chicken, jellyfish and pig's ear ($14)

I was instantly attracted to the this dish from the moment I saw pig's ear. While the pig's ear wasn't of the crispy variety, the salad on the whole is crunchy and quite refreshing. I also loved the sesame oil that was poured onto the salad. For me, the sesame oil just elevates the texture of the already crunchy salad.

Deep fried Dim Sum Platter ($32)

We weren't sure on whether to get the steamed or the deep fried dim sum platter. Eventually we settled with the deep fried because one of us wanted to try the vegetable spring roll. The platter consists of foie gras prawn toast, lobster mei si roll, crispy beef roll and the Morel mushroom and vegetable spring roll. They were all very enjoyable but I would love to try even more from the Dim Sum menu that is only available for lunch. It is a hit for our table since we gobbled it up really fast. Will come back for this, especially the succulent crispy beef roll and the creamy foie gras prawn toast. The vegetable roll is pretty chunky and full of flavour while the lobster mei si roll is earth-shattering crunchy with bits of crispy thin noodles flying everywhere although it seems to have a bit of stringy cheese inside.  

Steamed fish fillet with ginger and shallots ($32)

The mates seemed really keen to try the steamed fish so we ordered it as well. It's pretty tasty and reminded me of the seafood that mum makes at home. Ginger, shallots and broth included. Wasn't a stand out dish for me but I liked combining the fish fillet with the coriander and dipping it into the petite broth.

Black pepper beef with asparagus, snow peas and baby corn ($29)

While this is reminiscent of most Chinese take-out shops in Haymarket, I loved the flavour combinations in this dish. This version did not taste as stodgy and was quite light on the palate. We all enjoyed this so much that we all ate most of the dish before I realised that I forgot to take a pic...oops! It did look pretty when it was presented to us.

Mr Wong's Crispy Skin Chicken - Half ($28)

The de-boned crispy skin chicken was decent and filling in size but perfect to share for 3 drunken diners like us. It is tasty and moist to our liking and a perfect match with a splash of lemon with salt and pepper on the side to dip the chicken. 

Steamed Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce and Garlic oil ($12)

I cannot recall why we ordered this dish. I guess we needed some greens and opted for this. This tasted quite nice though it also reminded me of the same meal I've had at home including the oyster sauce. 

Roast white chocolate ice cream, yuzu curd, longans, and raspberries ($14)

We knew we had to make room for desserts especially since it is owned by the same chefs who originally owned Ms G's. The roasted white chocolate ice cream is a sure-fire hit for our table. The ice cream is so beautifully presented in layout and texture and tasted so smooth with a hint of sweetness from the longan and raspberries, and a slight tangy flavour from the yuzu cream. 

Mr Wong's deep fried ice cream with butter scotch sauce ($14)

Like many Asian restaurants lately, it is no surprise that Mr Wong has fried ice creeeaaammm. At the time we went, there was a choice of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I chose the chocolate version but the latest menu on the website seems to only have vanilla now. It has a golden crust of crumbs like a shell covering the scoop of ice cream and placed on a pool of butter scotch sauce. It's always fun when you open the shell just to see the surprise element. When we broke it, the melted chocolate ice cream poured out and into the butter scotch sauce. It's a total guilty pleasure although it did get overwhelmingly rich and too sweet to handle.

Send in the ducks!

There are still so many more dishes that I want to try (mud crab, pippies in XO sauce, Mapo tofu, drunken chicken, Peking duck pancakes etc) so another visit is much needed with a menu of that size. Also the staff was really friendly that night. While the food is worth the hype, the prices are a bit expensive and the portion for some dishes doesn’t justify it. Not to mention, the waiting time of 1-2 hours for a table is a bit of a turnoff. Despite those shortfalls, I am still keen to brave the queues and try some more dishes when I get the chance.

Mr Wong
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Barrio Chino, Kings Cross

Kings Cross isn't really the first place you would have in mind when deciding where to go for dinner. But in the last few years, they have opened numerous restaurants that have been raved in food mags and best restaurant guides (e.g. Ms G's, Gastro Park, Concrete Blonde). During my younger days, my uni friends and I have made crazy night outs to World Bar for their teapot cocktails. Barrio Chino is located right next door to World Bar so it's no surprise that with it's very social atmosphere and outdoor seating, it's a popular place to go before (or even after) a heavy night of partying.

There is so much that I want to try on the rather extensive menu with a generous selection of "Botanas" or tapas-style starters ranging from taquitos to the Spicy Albondigas (meatballs - something I would usually see at a Spanish restaurant).

Complimentary salsas (L-R: Chipotle, Habanero, Verde)

I remember coming here a few years ago in its early days during my Mexican food phase to try out some dishes. One that I really loved was the corn chips that were absolutely crunchy and they are made from tortillas rather than your average corn chips from your supermarket.
On this occasion, it wasn't so. Gone were the crunchy tortilla chips and ended up getting a bowl of generic corn chips. While it still have that decent corn chip taste, some of the chips weren't as well cooked as I liked however I really loved the salsa and wanted more of that. Not sure if it's currently like that but I'm missing the tortilla chips for sure.

Salsa and chips ($6)

One of Barrio Chino's great starters is their tostados. They are such adorable, little, quick to eat bites with the fillings lying neatly on a crunchy tortilla corn chip like a canape (now THAT corn chip is what I'm talking about!). It's also fairly spicy with the chorizo meat and the pickled jalapeno lying on top of a milder mayo. So much flavour packed onto the plate. I did think that $12 seems to be somewhat steep when you consider the servings (if you get the tuna tostada, it's $14). Would love to try more of this.

Chorizo tostadas ($12)

Time for tacos! And what a feast they offer! Barrio Chino's taco menu alone boasts at 9 different fillings to choose from with prices ranging from $5 to $7. All tacos are served on two layers of soft corn tortillas (so that it is less likely to fall apart when you leave it too long) with a good amount of salsa that bursts out when you take a few bites. The lime on the side is very helpful in bringing extra flavour to the tacos.

I thought this was an interesting combination of ingredients containing braised pulled lamb (yummm!), cabbage, tomatillo salsa and cinnamon! Nevertheless, these combinations work well especially with soft, pull-apart lamb and the zesty tomatillo salsa.

Lamb Barbacoa ($6)

This is definitely my favourite from this restaurant. While it is a Carnitas taco, it tasted just like a Taco Al Pastor that you get in a food truck back in USA with its smokey pulled pork flavour and sweet pineapple with a sprinkle of coriander and chopped onion on top. When you bite into the taco, red (chipotle?) salsa drips onto the dish and you can just taste the smokey flavour in this sauce. Everything about this is just so good.

Carnitas taco ($6)

The Carne Arrachera taco is also a surefire hit for me. This is filled with well cooked and marinated steak, caremalised onion, shavings of horseradish as well as a dollop of chimichurri rojo. Like the Carnitas above, the horseradish in this one reminded me of the taco trucks in the States where soft corn tacos are served with slices of radishes, a heaping of coriander and various salsas.

Carne Arrachera ($6)

While I wasn't keen about the corn chips, I'm genuinely surprised at the Urbanspoon rating for this restaurant. In my opinion I thought that Barrio Chino has some of the most authentic tacos that I've found in Sydney. Not to mention that the service was attentive during my visit. Although when you consider the portions for some of their food like the tostadas, it can be a bit pricey if you want to fill yourself up. The good thing is that they do daily deals such as tacos for $3 on Sunday evenings. They also run till late with a smaller late night menu to check out for a post-clubbing feed. I would definitely recommend to give this a go if you are looking for more variety than what Guzman Y Gomez (on the same street!) usually offer. Will definitely still come back to try more of their morsels from their menu.

Barrio Chino
28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross NSW 2011
(02) 8021 9750

Barrio Chino on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Forresters and Queenies, Surry Hills

In the last year, two more restaurants were opened under the rapidly expanding Drink and Dine Group empire where they reinvent seedy old pubs (The Carrington, The Norfolk, The Abercrombie to name a few) and turn them into gourmet feeds thanks to D&D's executive chef, Jamie Thomas who is keeping a busy life looking after and designing menus for all of Drink and Dine's restaurants! While most of them are pretty much 'dude food', it is the food that delivers a buzzing atmosphere where you can literally drink, dine and have fun with your mates as you like. The Forresters and Queenies are no different to the others when it comes to tasty food with an incredibly social atmosphere.


This was originally set up primarily as an Italian restaurant but since August, they have drastically changed their menu to include Americanised specialities but keeping the pizzas and some of the pasta favourites as well as their daily specials - a common theme under the Drink and Dine restaurants.

I was so keen to get the Pulled Pork slider as a starter. This did not disappoint. It is a single serving snack (thankfully!) with a mouthful of tender, shredded pork tucked between a buttery and crusty brioche bun that is just tempting to the eye.

Pulled pork slider ($ 5.50)

CC was keen for the nuggets which are crunchy to our liking. Since the rest of us ended up having a lot of food (more on that soon), we did not manage to finish this as it is a generous serving on its own.

Chicken nuggets ($10)

MT is keen to try out the Picnic Chicken. I presume that it is a chicken as messy looking as a Picnic chocolate bar. Anyway, we thought that the Picnic chicken will be a reasonable size. That the chicken itself will possibly be the size of a chicken that you will get at say El Jannahs. It even has Parmesan fries and a Southern salad on the side. How big could it be? Oh man we were wrong.
On the positive side, it did taste pretty juicy, the salad helped with balancing the overall taste, and at $22 it is very good value for money. But it is just too massive. I think had we not order other dishes, we may have been able to finish this off.

Picnic Chicken... ohmygawd...($22)

However on the night we went, it was their Wednesday special of $10 pizzas with a selection of 5 of their popular flavours. CC and I chose the 'A Meatball Affair' pizza to share while we order "smaller" dishes. After seeing other customers getting their pizzas, we were aware on how big this pizza will be. Just as big as MT'S picnic chicken. Personally, I think there needs to be a bit more meatball but the hero of the dish is the light and thin crust which made it all manageable for us to finish it.

A Meatball Affair Pizza with smoked mozzarella and meatballs ($10 on Wednesday 6-10pm, $22 every other day)

It is no surprise that about this point we were horribly stuffed and it did not help that we have already ordered a pretty generous bowl of fries. They were so crunchy yet fluffy so we did our best to eat as much as possible. The sauce helped us a lot with this dish though.

Fries ($8)

And the lesson is: when the Drink and Dine Group say their food is meant to be shared, the portions will be incredible that it is impossible to eat a main meal on your own. Despite all this, we all really enjoyed it and CC and MT were definitely satisfied with how delicious it was on the whole and are all very keen to come back here soon. In fact, it was a fun experience on the whole. We'll go easy on ordering the food next time.


A month or so later, I checked out Queenies, a Caribbean/Jamaican restaurant which has been opened recently. Now located in The Forresters old sit-down area upstairs, this is big plus for diners who are keen to try a different cuisine while having a beer under the same roof.

In Queenies' menu, it's all about the jerk (a type of Jamaican spice) and a good dose of shredded coconut. Even on the complimentary dish of pickled cucumbers, there are shredded bits of coconut with a very sneaky jerk seasonal rub to give a good amount of heat to something as simple as cucumber. And that's just the starter!

Pickled cucumber

Bammies. I think you have become my new favourite food! It looks very similar to a taco with a thicker, crusted, cassava-based flatbread. It's a bit hard to cut through but it's bite sized so you can manage to eat it by hand. There are two flavours offered by Queenies: Pulled Pork & Pineapple and Prawn, Mango & Ginger. Both are perfect to have for yourself. The prawn flavour tasted quite fruity and sweet thanks to the mango and ginger while the pulled pork has that juicy meaty taste with a helping of coriander and chopped radish - making it look almost like a taco al-pastor. Definitely coming back for these next time!

Pulled Pork and Pineapple Bammy ($7)

Prawn, Mango and Ginger Bammy ($7)

The first reaction when coming across this dish was how it looked so much like those yummy empanadas or even curry puffs. These are just as delicious with a slightly spicy curried filling and juicy oxtail meat. The uniquely refreshing cucumber and chilli yoghurt balances perfectly with the seasoned, meaty filling.

Curried Oxtail Patties ($14)

This dish is so refreshing to have on a hot day with a colourful presentation. It is full of juicy, sweet and crunchiness from the soft fillets of snapper to the abundant mango being piled onto the tortilla chip. Was hoping for more tortilla chips because the ceviche is very generous. Though it has pieces of chilli, it's actually very mild. Great for the spice-intolerant and perfect for the summer weather.

Hellshire Ceviche ($16)

While the curried patties were similar to empanadas and curried puffs, and the bammies looked like tacos; the decent serving of coconut soft shell crab reminded me of the crispy soft shell crab from Japanese restaurants. Only much crispier. Golden brown crunchiness. Despite its name, I didn't seem to detect much coconut flavour but nevertheless it's worth a try for the crunchy battered coating and the juicy crab. And the hotstepper sauce really lives up to its name!

 Coconut Soft Shell Crab w/Hotstepper Sauce ($16)

Got very full when our side order of dirty rice arrived. It's packed with coriander, spring onions, mint, more shredded toasted coconut (I seriously think that coconut is one of their signature ingredients along with the jerk) and assorted spices throughout the dish. Though it is listed as a side dish, I recommend that you should order this to share with others as it is a decent serving for at least 2 people.

Dirty Rice ($5)

While Jamaican cuisine is something we don't see very often in Sydney, their food seems to inspired by various cuisines. Keen to come back for the jerk pork burger and the smoked pork loin next time. Hope to see more Jamaican restaurants around in the near future. Especially those bammies!

The Forresters
Cnr Foveaux and Riley Street, Surry Hills, 2010
(02) 9212 3035
The Forresters on Urbanspoon

Level 1 (Upstairs), The Forresters
Cnr Foveaux and Riley Street, Surry Hills, 2010
(02) 9212 3035
Queenies on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Masterchef Live 2012 Food Festival, Moore Park [PHOTO POST]

Firstly Happy New Year and secondly, sorry for the much delayed post on this event. The last few months have been so busy for me and a lot of my photos have been jumbled up. Have only got things organised recently.
Just want to say thanks to the team at Inception Digital for giving me the opportunity to attend Masterchef Live held at Hordern Pavillion in Moore Park. I managed to arrive on the last day of the 3-day festival where you can check out cooking presentations and seminars, get to know your favourite chefs, test some new delicacies and even attend a cooking class or two. Try fitting all of that in one day!


There was so much action in one day that I did not have as much time as I would have liked to make for the tastings. Plus it was a struggle waking up and I ended up getting there around 1pm instead of earlier. Both Noggi and Moochi made an appearance as well as Zumbo Patissier and a decent handful of wine sellers, cheese and salumi makers and olive oil companies to name a few.


When it's Masterchef Live, there will be appearances from contestants and chefs who have made their mark on the show. Unlike previous years, I initially had a bit of trouble identify the contestants since I was overseas for the majority time it was on air this year but I managed to figure it out throughout the day. On the day I went, there was no Matt Preston, George or Gary but there were contestants and chefs appearing on a variety of stages including the Blanco Contestant's Theatre and the Mystery Box Theatre.

Julia Taylor (S4 Contestant) at the Blanco Contestants Theatre

Justine Schofield (S1 contestant & host of the Mystery Box Theatre) with Kylie Millar (S4 contestant)

Justine Schofield and Adriano Zumbo at The Mystery Box Theatre

Zumbo taking pics of his food :P

Friendly competition between Zumbo and Three Blue Ducks' chef, Darren Robertson

Alvin Quah (S2 contestant) at the AYAM Street Cooking in Style Demo

Andy Allen (S4 Winner) at The Contestants Theatre

Amina Elshafei (S4 Contestant) at the Invention Test Theatre

Ben Milbourne (S4 Contestant)

Andy Allen (S4 Contestant and Winner)


There were a handful of cooking classes throughout the day including the Artisan Bakery Class with Laucke Flour (which sold out very fast), Casa Barilla's Italian Cooking School, Easy Cake Decorating with Queen Fine Foods and Junior Masterchef with Kids Pantry to name a few! The first class I experienced was the Italian Cooking School where everyone attempted a pasta dish, the Spaghetti di Frutti di Mare (Spaghetti with Seafood - the 'Fruits of the Sea'. The instructions were really quick so I had a bit of trouble trying to make it and read the instructions at the same time but it was so much fun. The cooking assistants at the station were extremely helpful. Worked up quite a treat at the end as it is a favourite pasta dish of mine.

Spaghetti di Frutti di Mare

I also checked out The Art of Patisse run by pastry chef Vincent Gadan. And I have to tell you this, the session was gruelling! It was set up in the style of a pressure test where the participants have to recreate the Parfum de Femme from scratch. It certainly an interesting learning experience and you can feel the actual pressure that the Masterchef contestants would have experienced on the show with a good dose of cheekiness from Gadan himsel.


When there is Masterchef, there has to be food. And I was starving! There were a few stands like Miss Chu and Three Blue Ducks serving their restaurant food as well as the usual favourites like the paella and gozleme. But the real stars were the food trucks. Four of Sydney's Food Trucks were serving at Masterchef Live for the hungry attendees. A favourite of mine was the Tsuru Pork Belly buns which is so light and flavoursome from the meat to the bun. I have not been able to see it on the street as much lately compared to the other trucks but I can't wait to have it again very soon.

Cannot recall this dish but it is a nice, tangy refreshing dish to try if you ever check out Three Blue Ducks

Tsuru Food Truck

Veggie Patch Van

Agave Organice Food Truck

Eat Art Truck

Pork Belly Buns!

Overall it was an extremely fun, interactive and busy day. I eagerly await for the next installment to happen in 2013 since Masterchef: The Professionals will be on the screens soon. Hope to see more surprises coming up at the festival this year.

The Random Foodie attended Masterchef Live courtesy of Inception Digital.

Masterchef LIVE
Hordern Pavillion
1 Driver Avenue, Moore Park NSW 2021