Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Galeries Victoria Food Adventures, Sydney CBD

You may think 'Galeries Victoria food court has decent food?' Well the selection is not bad actually. For about a month, Galeries Victoria had a deal where you visit 4 of their restaurants, take away joints or cafes and you get a free meal from a selection of their renowned restaurants. All you need was to download the Galeries Victoria app on your smart phone and use it to scan the barcode when you purchase a meal of more than $8? Sounds too good to be true? For me, it kind of was but what matters most was the journey of trying out as many eating joints as possible before the deal finished on Friday 10th May.

It was a surprisingly tough adventure because my work place was closer to Martin Place so the closest food courts for me were the Westfield Food Court and MLC and some of the many hidden food courts around the Martin Place area catering to the office workers. But with a deal like this, the opportunity was just too good to miss.


This much smaller version of the Chat Thai restaurant empire is catered for those who want a quick lunch rather than waiting to get a seat in the restaurant like the other branches. It was around before the remodelling of the Galeries Victoria Food Court (back when it looked a lot less fancy then it does now) and has kept up with the glossier decor. What makes this different to other Chat Thai branches is that it really emphasises on delivering food fast. I accidentally stepped in line without knowing what to get and before I know it, I was at the front of the line with many hungry people waiting behind me gaaaah.

As it was a really warm day for Autumn, I decided to go with Som Dtum Sua, one of their many green papaya salads (looking at menu at other branches, I think this salad is only offered at the Galeries Victoria branch). According to the menu, it is the Laotian version of the green papaya salad consisting of rice noodles, pickled crab and fermented fish. While I applaud it for its fresh flavours, it was way too spicy for me especially with chilli flakes ever-present throughout the salad. I could only down half of the salad before the heat got to me. What the hell happened? So weeaaaak!

Som Dtum Sua ($13.90)

I'm a huge fan of satay chicken skewers ever since the regular uni lunch and dinner trips to Satan Thai. Can never get sick of them. Chat Thai's version is no exception. Aside from the tender chicken, the satay sauce has that chunky texture that I love especially with chopped peanuts. I also dig the cucumber chilli salad on the side which after that ordeal is thankfully not too intense on the palate.  

Chicken satay skewers ($3.00 each)

Might need to stay away from the spicy salads for a while. Will still come back to try the many other dishes that Chat Thai offers especially the noodles now that the weather is colder. As it was my first time using the app, I was having trouble figuring out how it works and the staff were quite patient and attentive to my requests. You can also find Chat Thai branches in Haymarket, Westfield CBD, Manly and Randwick.

Chat Thai
Shop 1, Lower Ground
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 5789

Chat Thai on Urbanspoon


I wanted to head to this restaurant more often to try the pho since my last visit in early 2012 but it often escaped my mind every time I head to the city. Possibly because I wasn't sure how good the pho would be especially after many disappointments around the CBD area in the past. Better late than never! 

At Madame Nhu, they seem to offer a wide range of pho dishes. While there was the usual beef pho (pho nam, pho tai, pho dac biet), there was also chicken pho, prawn pho and vegetarian pho! I don't usually order the pho dac biet but when I do, I expect it to be brilliant. Thankfully I found that Madame Nhu's version is one of the better pho dishes that I've had in the CBD area. While they didn't offer the usual pho dac biet ingredients like tripe and tendon; the three styles of beef consisting of the thick-cut Tasmanian beef brisket, medium-well sliced rump steak and the beef in the form of meat balls were enough to satisfy my taste buds. What makes this better was the fragrant and flavoursome broth in addition to the well cooked rice noodles. My only issue was the bits of fat sticking onto the beef brisket and the broth filling up right to the top so it was splashing everywhere on my tray. Nothing major though. Will definitely head here more often whenever I am craving for pho at lunch.

Signature dac biet ($10.50)

Madame Nhu
Shop 5, Lower Ground
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 92833355

Madame Nhu on Urbanspoon


Everyone who is into Japanese food will know about Ichi-Ban Boshi on Level 2 of Galeries Victoria where there are constant queues of hungry diners waiting outside the restaurant. Since the food court renovation, they have opened another branch at the lower ground food court where you can get the same food from that restaurant with lower prices, fast service and without the need to wait for a table. At Ichi Ban Boshi Express, the main menu is limited compared to the restaurant version but they do offer some of their ramen dishes as special items including the Tokyo Ramen, Karaage Ramen and Tofu Ramen. You can also add variety to your ramen by ordering extra toppings (like for $1-$3 extra.

Was surprised that their Tokyo ramen was not in the regular menu as it was declared by Ichi-Ban as their 'most popular style of ramen' but it can be spotted on the separate special menu at the front of the counter. As the Tokyo ramen is a soy-based ramen, I found the broth to be slightly salty though it was also dark, clear and not heavy at all compared to Gumshara's tonkotsu ramen though it was very filling (NB: tonkotsu ramen is unavailable at Ichi-Ban Boshi Express. There is also only 15 servings available per day if you try your luck at Ichi-Ban Boshi on Level 2). I also really enjoyed the thick slices of pork, the halved, soft-boiled oozy egg for some good protein boost, the crispy nori (seaweed) sheet and the ramen noodles, which has a nice bitey texture that we all want when we eat a bowl of ramen. It was a plain looking broth but it was perfect for a cold winter day. 

Tokyo Ramen ($9.00) 

Very keen to try the miso ramen, won ton ramen and the karaage ramen when I head to Ichi-Ban Boshi next time. If you are not a fan of ramen, there was also udon and soba noodles dishes as well as non-noodle plates like the rice bowls or a side dish of edamame. Will definitely head to Ichi-Ban Boshi at level 2 to try out their generous selection of dishes...if only I can bear with the queues. 

Ichi Ban Boshi Express
Shop 8, Lower Ground
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9264 7780
Ichi-Ban Boshi Express on Urbanspoon

Ichi Ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries,
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
02 9262 7677
Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon


One thing that I've spotted at lunch times here from my visits were the huge crowds waiting to order at the Mero Mero counter. This one serves salads, sandwiches, paninis and wraps, which will appeal to the health conscious and vegetarian market...although they do also serve macarons! It even lets you make your own salad using the choices on a card. Knowing the epic queues at lunchtime and because work was too hectic that day for me to head down to Galeries Victoria, I decided to check it out much later since it was a Thursday evening. 

On this occasion, I was keen to try the Spicy Italian sandwich but the bread was sold out. They did offer the same fillings as a wrap so I went along with that. Was surprised at how long the wrap was. Really really long. I was so hungry that I ended up having a bite before taking a photo. Sorry guys.

Spicy Italian Wrap ($11.00)

The service was ok but not too welcoming however the food was satisfying enough. Really enjoyed the crispy coating on the chicken as well as the spicy mayo and the fresh tomatoes. Having said that, the Spicy Italian Chicken really wasn't spicy at all so it's good if you can't stand extremely spicy food. Ended up getting very messy from the sauce and the really massive wrap itself. In fact I got full very fast after eating more than half of the wrap. Might try one of the salads or sandwiches next time I'm here or at its Westfield store.

Mero Mero
Shop 8, Lower Ground
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Mero Mero on Urbanspoon


I wasn't sure if I fulfilled my four meals at four different restaurants in order to get a free 5th meal especially after my epic confusion at Chat Thai when I was using the app for the first time. So I decided to go for a backup and try one more restaurant in case it didn't go through. I was also keen for sushi. Unbelievably, I have only been to Sushi Hotaru once when they've first opened a couple of years ago. I know I should go here more often especially since all of their plates (except sashimi and side plates) are priced at $3. 

Unfortunately as it was a Friday lunch (and the last day of the promotion), there was a massive line of people waiting to get a table. Inside you can see the diners sitting at the long sushi train as well as some other diners sitting at tables where they order using the ipad similarly to Mizuya and Wagaya. Was going to give up and head back down until I've noticed the sign outside the restaurant, which listed the lunch bento box special.

There are a few choices for Sushi Hotaru's lunch box including the Mix Box A which has mostly nigiri sushi and a couple of sushi rolls, the salmon box with 5 pieces of salmon nigiri sushi and six salmon sushi rolls. I ended up choosing the Mix Box B that consists of 6 different varieties of nigiri sushi (8 pieces in total). You also get a complimentary miso soup with the lunch box.

Lunch Box - Mix Box B ($12.00): Clockwise from Top Left: Grilled Salmon x 2, Grilled Scallop x 2, Kingfish, Tuna, Scallop, Salmon

Both the grilled salmon and the scallop nigiri sushi were winners for me as they were made to order. I really loved the charred texture that you can immediately taste as you pop it into your mouth.

Grilled scallop nigiri - well cooked. love the texture!
Grilled salmon nigiri - Slightly pinkish on the side but still has the smoky texture which makes it very tasty

I also found the raw nigiri sushi to be very delicious though quite cheeky. As I bite into the sushi, I notice a little bit of wasabi creeping between the seafood and the rice. Love it! My fave ones to recommend would be the salmon and the kingfish but to be honest I really like them all!

Salmon nigiri - it's amazing how thick the salmon was cut!
Scallop nigiri - very juicy

Tuna nigiri - flavours were interesting. The colour looks quite funky

Kingfish nigiri - don't eat enough kingfish these days. Very yummy and refreshing

Thought that the miso soup was useful to cleanse the palate after too much sushi. Great to have on a cold winter day.

Miso soup

Possibly one of the best sushi places I've ever had. Everything was freshly made and tasty. If I ate at the restaurant, I could easily down a few plates. At least 8 of them. Really wishing that my work place was much closer to this gem.

Sushi Hotaru
Shop RP1, 500 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon


About a week later, I finally got confirmation that I got the free meal. Yay!!! Around this point, I've been having epic cravings for Malaysian food thanks to the onslaught of winter weather lately so I finally head my way back to Galeries Victoria for one of their free meal options at Jimmy's Recipe , which specialises in Malaysian cuisine including classics like har mee, Nasi Lemak, char kway teow, murtabek and, of course, laksa. 

While there were heaps of people waiting to order their food, the line moves very quickly. Also, no matter how packed it gets you can still find somewhere to sit either inside or at the tables outside in front of the restaurant. About less than 1 minute later, I was already at the front of the line. Now when I ask the person at the counter about the free meal, she said that the free meal promotion is over. While checking into 4 different restaurants using the Galeries Victoria app has finished on 10th May, the free meal deal is still valid until 31st May. It got rectified pretty quickly and I got my meal within a flash. Literally within one minute of ordering or much less. I barely had time to breath before the laksa was already on the tray.

Chicken laksa ($8.20) 

It was interesting spotting and tasting two different types of noodles in my laksa which were vermicelli and hokkein noodles. The serving was so huge and generous that my stomach felt like it needed pumping as I was stumbling back to work. The broth was fairly creamy and smooth, while the chicken was tender and easy to pull apart. Everything from the broth to the noodles and the chicken were so flavoursome that your tastebuds are partying really hard in your mouth and you just wanna have more and more. Unfortunately, your stomach is saying otherwise as it was rich and thick...and it does have coconut milk which will scream gym time for your weight. While you can sense the spicy flavours, it was not too hot that it burns your tongue. I have heard how amazing the laksa really is at Malay Chinese Takeaway so will definitely try it soon. 

To be honest, I haven't eaten much laksa in my whole life. About two times to be exact. So I can't say on this occasion on whether it's the best laksa I've ever had in Sydney (or so they claim on their menu) since I haven't tried it at other restaurants yet. For what I've had, I really enjoyed it and will say that it's a winner for me. There were so many dishes that I need to try at Jimmy's Recipe especially the Har Mee, Haianese Chicken Rice and Char Kway Teow so I'll need to make a few more visits. While there was a minor mishap and a bit of language barrier, it was extremely quick service, really cheap prices and delicious food with massive servings. Now excuse me while I hit the treadmill...

Jimmy's Recipe
Shop RG16, Galeries Victoria
500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 2288
Jimmy's Recipe on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 24, 2013

Make your own gelato flavour with FBI Radio & Gelato Messina!

Ever dream about creating your own gelato flavour? Reckon you can do a better job than some of the gelato places in your city? Thanks to Gelato Messina and FBI Radio, you can make this dream possible! As part of their 10 year anniversary celebration, FBI radio is doing a competition for listeners, foodies and gelato addicts to create their own FBIcecream flavour that will be available at Gelato Messina for a strictly limited time. I have listened to FBI radio regularly when I was younger and it has been a fantastic indie radio station for the youth of Australia whether it's tuning to your fave music show, listening to interviews or discussing about various current issues. Heaps of well known Aussie musicians have got their big break on FBI radio before the mainstream stations start paying attention. Gotye is a notable example. Also, has it really been 10 years?! Feels like it was their 2nd anniversary celebration yesterday! 

Whether you have been listening to FBI radio on the radio, online or just keep up to date with their actions via social media or even if you are only a fan of Gelato Messina; you get the chance to make your own Messina flavour with doughnuts as the key ingredient. Everything else is your own imagination! At Messina, everything is made fresh, natural, raw and from scratch so whatever idea you come up with, I'm sure they can make it. 

If I get the chance, I would get a chocolate doughnut gelato (with doughnut pieces :)) mixed with dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate pieces and cookie dough. And topped with chocolate syrup and salted caramel. I call it Charlie's Dream.

I'm sure there are plenty of much more creative and less messy examples out there. To submit your entry, you can do either of the following:
1. email your entry to fbicecream@fbiradio.com with your flavour creation, or
2.  post your entry on Twitter or Instagram with #fbicecream as your hashtag.

What's in it for you? The winner will have their flavour in Gelato Messina stores from June 7-14. Plus they will receive two 1.5 litre tubs of any Messina flavour of choice and a 500 mls of the winning FBIcecream! That's 3.5 litres of gelato! ZOMGGGG!

For more details on the competition, check out the FBIcecream page at http://fbiradio.com/fbicecream/

Entries close on Thursday 30th May 2013 so get your creative caps happening before it's too late!

Find Gelato Messina at the following locations:

Darlinghurst Store 
Shop 1/241 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010 

The Creative Department - Gelato Messina Laboratorio and Patisserie
243 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010 

The Star Store

Cafe Court, Level G,
80 Pyrmont Street,
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Surry Hills Store

389 Crown St,
Surry Hills, NSW 2010

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Barrafina Tapas Bar, Sydney CBD

I have mentioned in the past that I am a big fan of tapas and pintxos. So when I spotted this bright yellow cafe one day after a job interview last year, it has been on my mind to check it out ever since. While it's in the CBD, its location on Bligh Street is fairly low key compared to the many other streets of Sydney so it was easy for me to forget where it was. Fast forward many months later and I spotted the cafe during my lunch break and keen to give it a go after spotting the menu. It also has the same name as another Spanish restaurant, Barrafina in London, which has its own cookbook so this convinced me to check it out.

While most restaurants operate for lunch and dinner, Barrafina Tapas operates all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner (depending on the days). When I arrived here for lunch, you can see the breakfast menu listed on the blackboard near the kitchen. This is available until 11am though.

When entering inside, the first thing I notice was the colour scheme and the contemporary modern decor of the restaurant. Everything screamed 'yellow, black and white' as you look at the layout from the sign outside to the yellow bar stools. At first it was fairly quiet but as it reaches peak hour for lunches, the atmosphere was vibrant and noisy with colleagues from workplaces nearby gathering together for a work lunch or a casual meeting. With the atmosphere of the place and the simple yet funky decor, it feels like stepping into a cafe in Barcelona especially in the La Rambla strip.

When I spotted the pan co tomate baguette rubbed with vine tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, I knew I had to order this as I loved the ones I had in Spain. It was similar to a bruschetta but with the tomato rubbed into the bread rather than piling on top. The flavours worked so well together though the bread was very crunchy. Perfect to have as pintxos!

Pan con tomate ($4.30)

This dish had the rustic feel that we love from Spanish plates especially with the chunky romesco salsa, grilled chorizo sausages and the tangy caremelised onions cooked with pedro ximenez (aka sherry) wine. While I did not spot much onions on this plate, the sherry wine was pretty strong in the dish. Dipping the sausages into the romesco sauce was my highlight. They all tasted so good together. 

Chorizo ala Plancha ($14.00)

Fried chicken isn't something I would usually see on a Spanish tapas menu but I was craving for buttermilk fried chicken so I didn't care. It was lightly crumbled and not too crispy like Hartsyard or Arisun but they were still freaking delicious and crunchy enough to satisfy me. At $13.00 for around 5 pieces, this is a good cheap eat compared to many other restaurants and bars serving fried chicken these days. While I won't call it the best fried chicken in Sydney, it was delicious enough to enjoy with your mates especially on a cold day.

Crisp buttermilk chicken, chilli salt, alioli, lemon ($13.00)

Went back for another lunch recently for a few more dishes. This dish reminded me of the sliders at The Carrington (now that I thought about it, the whole menu is fairly similar). Really enjoyed the crispy and juicy soft shell crab. The avocado mousse was a nice creamy yet zesty touch while the bun was a tad chewy but still soft and fluffy.

 Soft shell chilli crab slider, avocado mousse, smoked paprika mayo ($8.60)

Thought this was a somewhat heavy dish but again quite delicious. I loved the crumbly and crispy batter a well as the scattering of paprika for a bit of variety in the overall flavour. Will recommend this dish either on your own (if you only order one dish for yourself) or sharing with mates. 

Lightly floured calamares, aioli, lemon ($13.00)

Considering some of the battered food available, a ceviche is a welcoming relief for the palate and the health conscious mind. The servings was smaller than I expected considering the price compared to the other dishes on the menu. Still, I thought this was one of my favourites with its light and fresh ingredients. On this occasion, this meal reminded me of the dishes I spotted at local restaurants near my hotel in the Eixample district on my first day of Barcelona. So good to try! Just wish that the size of this dish was bigger.

Ceviche of yellow fin tuna, lime, mint, tomato, avocado creme, chilli, eschallots ($22.00)

I'd recommend this place for their mostly authentic food. The atmosphere was buzzing and the prices for most of the food were fairly reasonable, if not, a bit more cheaper than what you would get at many tapas restaurants across Sydney. While service can be friendly at times, the speed of the service may vary. Most of the time, the food was delivered fairly quickly but it can also take a while as well. Also when I requested an extra dish after initially ordering two dishes at first, the front at house person I told this to clearly looked annoyed that I decided to order more. Very keen on heading back to try some of their other dishes including the jamon iberico, the braised beef cheeks, scallops with chorizos, and the fried whitebait.

Barrafina Tapas Bar
2 Bligh Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9231 2551
Barrafina Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon