Saturday, March 30, 2013

Canton Noodle House, Burwood

I've made many treks to Strathfield but I have rarely checked out its equally busy, if not busier neighbour suburb of Burwood. I have no idea what was the best place to eat around this part of town especially since we were originally meant to catch up in the city to watch a movie. However, CC was running late so we decided to go somewhere closer and ended up in Burwood. Walking along Burwood Road, it felt like walking across the restaurant strip on Parramatta's Church Street as there was a block full of restaurants to choose from. A friend of ours has recommended Canton Noodle House as one of the places to check out so we decided on heading there.

If you walk past this restaurant, the first thing you would probably think about is how simplistic the restaurant looked with its bare white walls. But what it lacked in fancy decor, it made up for it in the local crowds and the food. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted with a busy, noisy and packed restaurant with little room to move. Luckily we got in time to grab the last available table at the time. There was a ridiculously huge range of food to choose from. Not only can you choose from the regular menu, there were also a good selection from the Special menu.

I've had many mates proclaiming their love for pipis with XO sauce on my Facebook newsfeed but have never really tried them myself. For those who don't know, pipis are basically another word for clams. You can choose to have it with rice or (under the slightly more but not too expensive special menu list) with Vermicelli Noodles. When this dish arrived, I was amazed at its size. You can see the pipis were cluttered everywhere on top of the vast pile of noodles. The vermicelli noddles were so crispy and the XO sauce gave the whole dish a savoury and saucy texture. I even felt the urge to slurp up the XO sauce from all of the pipis. While I finished up the pipis, the noodles were quite massive but I've managed to clean up most of the plate. Definitely something I am keen to order again next time. 

Pipis with XO sauce and Rice Vermicelli ($19.80)

CC was in the mood for wontons and decided on the Won Ton Noodle Soup. We initially thought that this bowl would be easy to finish. Once she finished the wontons and eat some of the noodles, we realised how wrong we were. While the wontons were well cooked with a slight bite, the noodles were a bit too generous with its portions. It felt like a bottomless pit of noodles that never seemed to end. I tried a bit of it, and found the noodles were also cooked well enough and not too soft for my liking. 
Won Ton Noodle Soup ($8.50)

It's definitely got the points for good value for money since we both got full very quickly with our respective dishes. This hidden joint has to be one of Burwood's best kept secret as I've really never heard of this place until that day but it has got a solid following to be packed on a Sunday evening. Eventually, the crowd has died down around the time we left at 8:30pm. While the service was average, the portions are generous especially with affordable prices. If you feel like going out but don't want to go to an expensive place, give this one a go as most of the dishes in their already extensive menu are about $20 (if you are keen for seafood) or much much less (everything else!). They even have fried ice cream!

Canton Noodle House
45 Burwood Road, Burwood
02 9744 1833
 Canton Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Grounds of Alexandria, Alexandria

To be honest, I really did not understand the hype about The Grounds of Alexandria. It was too far for me to get to and the menu looks similar to many other cafes in the Inner West. So why does this cafe gets the excessively long lines from diners across Sydney (think Mamak, Mr Wong, Din Tai Fung and Jamie's Italian lines)? Oh the long lines! Not to mention a waiting time of 60-90 minutes. Eventually I had an appointment around Alexandria and given the distance, I knew it was time for me to finally try it out. Was it worth the hype?

Situated at a former warehouse site and close to the Salt Meats warehouse (good place to check out as well), The Grounds has a wide open space that includes the cafe, a coffee school, a fountain and a mini-farm to name a few. There was also an outdoor courtyard that I went through before heading to the cafe. The whole layout of the landmark actually felt like entering into your very own Secret Garden. While it was a bit busy with the crowds, the atmosphere is actually a very relaxing place to chill out and walk around the English Countryside-esque surrounding areas with a cup of coffee. I'm sure the photos will give you an idea on what to expect at The Grounds. It is definitely in a world of its own.

Come on and jump in my car!

The Outdoor Courtyard

Which way to go?

This sheep kinda reminded me of Shaun the Sheep from Wallace and Gromit

Ngaaaw! Sleepy piggy! His name is Kevin Bacon :-p

After a good time exploring around the place, I finally made it inside the cafe. Since this visit occurred on a weekday, the queues were not as intensely crazy as on a weekend or public holiday but it was still more crowded than most other Sydney cafes on a weekday. For once, I was able to get inside fairly quickly but there was a crowd of people getting their daily dose of coffee. And the cafe was pretty full as well by the peak hour for lunch. For those who do not have much time to wait in the long weekend queues, you can also choose to order takeaway here.

What's your preferred coffee?

The Ground's guide to making coffee

Anyone want some jam?

When I got in, I just missed out on the breakfast menu and was around 10 minutes too early for the lunch menu. Ended up using this time to get a cup of mocha while the time passes by. The Grounds coffee was one of the better coffees I have tasted as it was not too bitter nor was it too sweet. It was quite balanced.

Mocha coffee ($3.50)

There was sooo much that I wanted to try from the menu. The blackboard menu near the entrance is the takeaway menu for those who are not too keen on waiting for a table. This mostly consists of sandwiches and salads so if you want something different, just bear through the waiting time...if you can. At the time of my visit, a majority of diners around me were ordering The Grounds burger with Chips. Upon looking at the lunch menu, I was immediately attracted to the Hand-made Pappardelle with slow braised lamb but around this time I have just started my low-carb diet so I went with the other tasty alternative. Thankfully, the low-carb conscious can be pleased with some decent options like the Confit Tuna salad, Crispy Chicken, The Grounds Lunch Board or the Pan-fried Barramundi fillet.

Take-away Blackboard menu

I ended up choosing the Pan-fried Barramundi fillet after seeing the words 'gremolata breadcrumbs and capers' listed under this item. The cauliflowers were heavily scattered with capers, coriander and breadcrumbs and topped with the fillet. It has my ticks as the cauliflowers were very flavoursome and the fish fillet was well-cooked. Overall, I found that this dish has 'The Grounds' vibe to it with its garden-like presentation. The meal was a pretty decent size so I was too full to try the desserts afterwards...something that I do regret right now! 

Pan-fried Barramundi fillet ($17.00)

Some irresistible cakes to try for desserts

It is so interesting how popular The Grounds really is. The location is out of the way and the parking is limited so the fact that this place gets the crowds is just incredible. The outdoor atmosphere was relaxing, idyllic and picturesque. The prices are pretty reasonable with the main dishes and salads priced between $14 and $17. As for the customer service, I thought they were incredibly attentive and slightly cheeky. In my opinion I would have preferred if the breakfast menu was available all day instead of until 11:30 am considering the notorious waiting times and I love my weekend sleep. But considering how good lunch was, I have to make time to do breakfast one weekend as the menu looks very appealing. Will definitely come back for some chilling out time very soon. Just be prepared for those damn lines.

The Grounds of Alexandria
Bld 7A/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria NSW 2015
(02) 9699 2225 
The Grounds of Alexandria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Little Snail, Pyrmont

Many apologies for my recent lack of action on The Random Foodie. Over the last month, I have finally started my diet (low pasta *cries*) and I have also started my full time job in the heart of the city. Not to mention daily trips to the gym near where I live straight after work! So yes, life has been one crazy rollercoaster for me.

Back in Year 8, I used to study French whereby we were supposed to be on an excursion to The Little Snail like many year groups before us. For some weird reason, we never got the chance to dine there. Since then, I was keen on checking this place out whenever I get the chance though it does seem to be on the more expensive scale. Finally, a friend decided to have her birthday dinner at this restaurant. Amazingly, it has been around since 1966! This is interesting to know considering the many recent restaurant closures over the past 12 months.

The weather was absolutely terrible that day - and by terrible I mean it was notoriously hot in the early-mid 40s and then extremely cold and windy in the evening. So going inside after a worse than horrible public transport experience was a mighty relief. It certainly has a romantic atmosphere with the dim lighting, elegant decor, that intriguing spiral stairs and you have the choice of seating in the top or bottom level. We went with the 3-course dinner for $59 option as it is a really good deal especially when you compare some of the dishes with the individual A La Carte prices. 

The majority of us chose to have snails for the entree dish. I shared a couple with others since there was so many snails on the table. The snails tasted similar to the ones in France which is pretty good and I definitely enjoyed having it with the garlic butter sauce. While some weren't too keen on the idea of eating snails for the first time, I would be glad to eat all the snails after trying a couple as it does a good job in making it well cooked and not too chewy. Had I ordered this dish, I also would have gladly dunked the bread into that garlic sauce until it's gone.

Escargot de Bourgogne

Because there was so much I wanted to try from the entrees menu, I went with something different from the majority. Upon seeing the word 'crab', I ended up choosing the Boulette de Fruits de Me (Salmon prawns and blue swimmer crab, steamed, served on tomato and chervil veloute). I thought it tasted too creamy for my liking and the salmon has overpowered the rest of the dish that I could barely taste the crab. 

Boulette de Fruits de Mar

 Not sure how French this dish really is. But the calamari does look pretty tasty. The friend who had this dish seemed to enjoy it.

Salt and Pepper Squid

I found it interesting that this was listed under Entrees. Anyway, the friend who had this dish opted for a main size version but I always found Bouillabaisse to be a reasonably sized meal. From what I've tried, it was quite tangy and zesty and the bread is very useful to scoop up that lovely soup. Will definitely recommended this for a future visit.

Bouillabaisse de Marseille

 I wasn't too sure about the idea of eating kangaroo meat but some of us were keen to try it. This did look appetising and got the thumbs up by my fellow diners. They also said that the kangaroo meat was soft and tender to their liking. The garlic pommes (potato) puree mixed with the honey bordelaise sauce would have surely been the highlight for me.

Kangaroo fillet on garlic pommes purée with Dijon mustard and honey bordelaise sauce 

I love my lamb and I needed some spinach into my diet so this sounds like something I want to try. While the presentation of sliced lamb piled neatly like dominos was appealing, the lamb seemed to be a little bit tough when I ate it. Not as tender as I would have liked. This did not deter me from the dish as it tasted really good with the jus. The thyme jus seems to have a heavy texture which worked well with the meat, greens. I also enjoyed the thinly-sliced potatoes which were cooked just right as it wasn't too hard but it definitely wasn't too soft either.

Loin of lamb with wilted baby spinach, maple glazed pommes boulangères & thyme jus

Yay desserts! When my friend ordered the Handmade Profiteroles with creme patisserie and mint chocolate sauce, the first thought I had was a croquembouche tower full of profiteroles. Of course, it was presented as a single profiterole on a bed of mint chocolate sauce, topped with cream and a pretty little chocolate garnish. Did not try this but it looked quite creamy when my friend was trying it out. I seriously wanted that dish mainly for that chocolate ganache alone haha.

Handmade Profiteroles with crème patisserie and mint chocolate sauce

I went with the Chef-churned Hazelnut and Praline Ice Cream which I find to be quite divine. The ice cream has a sweet and crunchy texture from the hazelnut and praline combined with the shortbread base. It is then topped with the sticky Grand Marnier caramel toffee, which adds to the presentation. The taste is quite rich but the delightful combination of creamy, smooth and crunchy ingredients has made this as one of the highlights of my dinner. My only minor issue was cutting through the biscuit but in the end it still tasted good especially when combined with the ice cream. 

Chef-churned Hazelnut and Praline Ice Cream

Overall, the dinner was very enjoyable for everyone. Some of the food didn't seem too French compared to other French restaurants I've been to. In fact there were a few I've spotted on the other tables that seems to belong to a Modern Australian restaurant. But if they've been around for 45+ years, then they must have been doing something good to keep going strong till this day. I am pleased that I have finally got the chance to try out The Little Snail after so long and it does have its charm with its statues and the classy vibe. More importantly, there were some dishes that I am keen to try at my next visit - especially those snails. 

The Little Snail
50 Murray Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
(02) 9212 7512
Little Snail on Urbanspoon