Monday, February 24, 2014

StreetFest Sydney, Belmore Park

StreetFest Sydney
When: First Friday of every month from 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Address: Belmore Park, Eddy Avenue near Central Station

Ever since the first food truck drove into the streets of Sydney in 2012, hoards of Sydneysiders flocked to them for a bite whether it's for a quick lunch or a late night snack. They have been incredibly popular at various special events - a great alternative to the generic hot chips, kebabs and hot dogs. It's no surprise that there is now a street festival dedicated to food trucks which began late last year when it was known as Food Trucks United. 

In its first event for 2014, it has now expanded to include an art festival and popular street festival food stalls like German hot dogs, Momo dumplings and, of course, Gozleme! 

Everywhere at the festival, you can see artists creating wonderful pieces of artwork of various styles on the spot. Very similar to the street artists you see at different cities around the world. There is also live entertainment including the Street Lounge area which is a ticketed area ($25 entry) where you can enjoy live DJs, dance, chill and enjoy the ambience. 

At this festival, you get to try all (or most depending on their schedule) of the food trucks at one spot. This month's event included Tsuru (Asian), Urban Pasta (Italian), Al Carbon (Mexican), Agape Organic (organic sustainable), Jafe Jaffles, Cantina Movil (more Mexican food), Street Sliders (sliders and chips) and Bar Coco (coffee). While most of Sydney's food trucks were at the festival, there were a few notable absences including Eat Art Truck, Let's Do Yum Cha, Bite Sized Delights, The Nighthawk Diner and Veggie Patch Van - all very delicious and catered to different markets. Hopefully they will be there next month. 

Thanks to the increasingly popularity of pork buns at various restaurants, it was no surprise that Tsuru Food Truck had a steady queue throughout the evening. At $7, the pork belly bun was pricier compared to the likes of Ippudo pork buns which were only $4. Still it was packed with mouth watering fillings including a slice of cucumber and a tender slab of pork belly which was coated with a caramelised sauce with a hint of spices. This was generously filled inside the soft and fluffy bun. You can also order other Asian treats including the bulgogi beef bun, rice (choice of pork belly or bulgogi beef), tsuru chips and curry dip and the pandan pancake for dessert.

Pork Belly Bun ($7.00)

Urban Pasta offers pasta (boh dried and hand-made) with a delicious range of sauces including Amatricana, Napolitana, Boscaiola and the famous Lamb Ragu. As part of StreetFest, Urban Pasta had the Saffro Tagliatelle with Lamb Ragu for $12 - certainly one dish I would love to order again. The staff said that each month, they are aiming to create a different special fresh pasta dish for a bit of variety on the menu. If pasta isn't your thing but you like desserts, they also offer chocolate mousse and vanilla panna cotta with raspberry coulis.

Been a huge fan of Al Carbon (aka La Lupita) since its early days thanks to its authentic street tacos (side note: is La Lupita still opened at The Basement? Prob should head down that way sometime later this week). While it still has those sneaky sauces and slow-roasted meat, there were a few changes. This included a larger tortilla and the white creamy sauce - it didn't taste like sour cream though. It was still very yummy and would easily go for a few more if I had the stomach. V had one as well and really enjoyed it since he's usually not much of a taco fan.

Slow-roasted Tacos - Choice of Lamb or Chicken ($6.00 - Regular, $9.00 - Mega)

The menu at Agape Organic Truck boasts a generous selection of organic and sustainable produce. This includes organic spelt bun chilli dog, organic spelt bun po' boy, organic nachos (with veg option) and organic wagyu chilli and rice (again with vego option) name a few! I've actually been curious on what a sloppy joe would be since spotting a few mentions in children's literature over the years. Of course the final product is exactly how the name describes - it really was sloppy and messy. This was packed with Wagyu Beef Chilli Con Carne, Cheddar, Coleslaw, Chimmicurri into a Spelt Bun. Would recommend eating this with a fork. 

Organic Chilli Sloppy Joe ($12.00)

Street Sliders Truck began and mainly operated in the Parramatta and Macquarie Park areas which is good for anyone working in Western Sydney. For those working in the city and wanting to try these sliders, they thankfully do visits to Sydney CBD for this festival. If you are getting way too full, the sliders are actually quite small - as small as it should be. There are three sliders available including the Prime (beef), the Brick (chicken) and Smoke (eggplant) for $5.50 each. We decided to get the beef slider which was well-cooked and juicy for our liking. The side of fries was quite crunchy with a fairly generous serving size. 

Duo Combo of Prime Beef Sliders plus Side of Fries ($13.00)
[Single slider - $5.50, Fries - $4.00]

If you are keen for a drink, there is a pop up bar near the ticketed DJ stage where you can get a range of beers, wines or ciders. I had a glass of Gaymers cider which was not too heavy compared to some ciders I've had in the past. If you are looking for something non-alcoholic and healthier then there is the tall grass cane juice stall. The drink had an organic, naturally sweet and refreshing taste which is lovely to have on a warm summer day.

Gaymers Cider (possibly pear flavour)

Traditional Plain Cane Juice ($5.00)

I'd recommend checking this event out especially if you don't have any plans on the night. It is loads of fun and heaps of food to try. And if your stomach cannot handle that much, it will be back again. The prices will not break your wallet and the food should be able to fill you up. Also a great place to catch up with friends after work on a Friday night without dealing with too much crowds and queues if you show up without a booking. Looking forward to coming back again next month to check out the other trucks, food stalls and the street artwork.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie attended StreetFest Sydney in February as a guest. This post also covers a visit to StreetFest Sydney (aka Food Trucks United) in late 2013 in which The Random Foodie attended and paid for the food independently. Opinions remain personal.

Tsuru Food Truck on Urbanspoon Urban Pasta Truck on Urbanspoon Al Carb√≥n on Urbanspoon Agape Organic Food Truck on Urbanspoon Street Sliders Truck on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Brewtown Newtown, Newtown

After the closure of Berkelouw Books Newtown, we eagerly await to see what would replace this much loved book store. Will it be yet another froyo or Thai food joint? Thankfully (or not if you aren't into cafes), a new complex featuring a Surry Hill-esque cafe with a snazzy merchant shop upstairs taking over this space while still keeping the old Berkelouw Books spirit alive within its walls with the interior decor. Headed by Simon Triggs from Gnome Espresso and Charles Cameron from Single Origin Roasters, you know that this has to be pretty darn awesome especially with its affordable and appetising menu.

Brewtown's mocha was balanced in terms of sweetness from the chocolate, slight creaminess from the milk and bitterness from the coffee. Usually when it comes to weekend cafe visits, I always get a small size but on this occasion I regretted not getting a large one since it was done so well. Felt like I wanted more after I finished this up. Good job!

Mocha - Small ($4.00)

CC went for her usual order of chai latte which had a lovely set up. Personally, I'm not too familiar with chai so I thought this presentation was unique. Judging by CC's reaction, the chai was wonderful and quite flavoursome at Brewtown.

Chai - loose leaf spiced chai ($4.00)

There have been a few dining joints in the past where I did not like or cannot eat anything on the menu. On the other hand, Brewtown Newtown's menu is one of those places where I wanted to eat everything off the menu and more! As usual we were stuck with so many choices but agreed to try something different and share. CC went with the duck ravioli thanks to the suggestion of one of the waiters. Although it looked light with its two plump pillows of ravioli pasta, it was actually deliciously decadent with its shredded duck meat filling and the pasta itself. While the cheese is usually found inside the ravioli, at Brewtown Newtown the parmesan cheese is scattered on top for a richer texture. Combined with the earthy flavours of porcini and wild mushrooms, this dish delivers a terrific aroma to your senses. Double thumbs up from CC who has been craving for this dish since this visit.

Duck Ravioli with Porcini and Wild Mushroom ($16.50)

I'm hopeless at waking up early so the chances of me going to a cafe before 11:00am or 11:30am is pretty slim. What I really loved about this cafe is the all-day and everyday breakfast menu so you don't have to get up early to enjoy a satisfying brunch. The Grilled Black Sausage, Home made Hash Browns, Canadian Bacon and House Relish with Boiled Eggs executes the idea of an all-day breakfast dish perfectly. Well it's not everyday that you eat black sausage in the morning. The sausage was well cooked with a slightly charred texture so you would think that you are eating a chorizo instead of the softer black sausage. I enjoyed digging into the less well-seasoned boiled egg but my personal favourite ingredient was biting into the crunchy shredded hash browns. And of course everything tastes better with bacon right? ;). 
Grilled Black Sausage, Home made Hash Browns, Canadian Bacon and House Relish with Boiled Eggs ($16.50)

If you are vegetarian but you are finding yourself drooling over the above dishes, then fear not! The Baked Polenta with Mushrooms, Grilled Asparagus, Poached Eggs and Parmesan is equally as indulgent as every single other dish on this yummy menu. When it arrived to my table, you can immediately smell that earthy, truffle-like scent thanks to the plump mushrooms (I think there was truffle oil in this dish actually...). The baked polenta wedge reminded me of the polenta chips at Bloodwood only larger and denser just as crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. This worked well when you mix it with the asparagus and the firm and sharp-flavoured Parmesan cheese shavings and then dipping it all with the poached egg yolk. Any runny yolk action from these poached eggs? Oooh yessss there was. Hard to imagine that this is a vegetarian dish but if you want some meat like Canadian Bacon or shaved leg ham, you can add extra sides to any meal if you want (I think sides cost at an additional $4.50. Don't quote me on this).

Baked Polenta with Mushrooms, Grilled Asparagus, Poached Eggs and Parmesan ($15.00)

To be honest, I actually thought that the cronut hype has actually slowed down based on recent food articles. The less than 10 minutes it took for a freshly made batch of cronuts to sell out has proved me wrong. These moreish treats were freshly baked on site upstairs. You can see people ordering it for a quick take-away or for desserts if you are dining at the tables since Brewtown Newtown does not have a dessert menu. You can pick from the following flavours depending on availability: cinnamon, glazed, chocolate custard and strawberry jam. It had a crispy and fairly light texture with many flaky layers as you chew into it. It was also softer than I initially expected - kinda like a normal doughnut. Will definitely be ordering them again though I would recommend coming early to try more of the available flavours.

Cronut - Cinnamon ($4.00)

With all dishes priced at less than $20 (the most expensive dish costs $17.00), the serving size of each plate is generous to fill you up and remain satisfied until dinner. Even though it was opened for less than 2 months, there have been queues of people waiting to get a table. The service staff are incredibly friendly but the vibe can get rushed and crazy when dealing with a very busy restaurant. So far, I've been very happy with my experience at Brewtown Newtown. Every dish I've eaten has been a winner. The same goes for CC who has made numerous recent visits and has recommended the meatball baguette and the pached chicken saladt. If there is any cafe that will be heavily reviewed and raved in the blogging and foodie community (see Devon, The Grounds, Three Williams, Reuben Hills etc.), I reckon Brewtown Newtown will get a fair amount of well-deserved hype this year thanks to the cronuts and the mouth watering and well-priced brunch dishes. 

Brewtown Newtown
6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9519 2920
Mon-Sun: 8:00am - 4:00pm (kitchen closes at 3:00pm)
Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Four Friends, Crows Nest

Those who know me well will know that I rarely venture up north because of the distance especially from South West Sydney. Even travelling to Sydney CBD everyday for work and the occasional partying can be tiring. As a few friends tell me, I need to explore further because I'm missing out on loads of delicious eateries such as Ryo's, Via Napoli and the various eats around the Chatswood, Crows Nest and Neutral Bay areas. Recently, I finally made my way further up that way thanks to an invite to try out the High Tea and chocolate at Four Friends at Crows Nest. As a die-hard fan of Lindt and Zumbo, this little boutique cafe really blew my mind away.

The cafe was owned as a family business by the delightful Katze and Jimmy. It was created for the couple's love, passion and happiness of sweets, chocolate and desserts. Katze recently overcome a life-threatening auto-immune illness, scleroderma, which had initially led her to close her cafe in Artarmon. She then opened Four Friends with she aimed to deliver sweets, chocolate and desserts with lots of happiness and healthiness. It's personal stories like that which make you realise that you can overcome and be stronger even when times are tough. The name "Four Friends" actually came from a Buddhist philosophy about four different animals who learn to work, co-operate and respect each other with mutual harmony. I'm sure everyone can relate that in everyday life with group work at work and uni. 

Unlike many cafes where you get a hipster, twentysomething atmosphere that can be pretentious at times, Four Friends is clearly a family friendly vibe with Katze and Jimmy's children and friends playing around as we eat. Great place to chill out and relax on a weekend.

This high tea was not like your standard high tea of cakes and sandwiches. Each month, Four Friends introduce an International High Tea session with a different culture or theme. This month there was an East-Asian twist to commemorate Chinese New Year with two bamboo steamer baskets consisting of savoury and sweet treats. There were traditional savoury and sweet treats that many of us recognise when eating at our own family banquets. My personal favourite were the rice cake and a cup of what appeared to be noodles but was actually strings of tofu skin. Perfect for vegetarians and vegans! Also loved the sweets which included the celebration truffle (aka the secret flavour truffle) and various traditional Asian sweets. 

The Anticipation...

The Savoury Tier - L-R: Vegetarian Dumpling, Tofu Noodles, Rice Cake, Fried Cheese Won Ton Pastry

The Sweet Tier - L-R: Sweet Jelly, Pan-fried coconut soft cake, Celebration truffle (containing tea), Sesame Ball 

There was even a few surprises in store for us during our high tea. While we were eating, we've noticed Katze and Jimmy making jasmine ice cream using dry ice. It felt like we were either at a Heston cooking session or waiting at N2 Extreme Gelato when the dry ice smoke emanated across the table. As weird as that sounds, it actually tasted sensational with a creamy yet popping candy-like texture that delivers a load of excitement to your taste buds. 

Dry Ice Jasmine Ice Cream

There are more than 40 different selections of teas from around the world to choose from so this will definitely please any tea lovers.

Rose tea (can't recall the exact name. Sorry)

Cherry Lips Green Tea

If you prefer coffee over tea then Four Friends offers various roasted coffee beans also sourced from different parts of the world including the local Pablo and Rusty's. 

However one of Four Friends' main pride is their generous and incredibly scrumptious range of organic and fair trade chocolate sourced from Belgium. By organic, this means that Four Friends do not use any artificial sweeteners and colouring. Made into many different shapes and sizes and firmly coated to hold the ganache, each chocolate piece looked so cute and they are deliciously sweet to eat including a caramel robot (which ran out) and the equally popular popping kitty chocolate. Move over Lindt, you've got competition!

The truffles were divine with its smooth ganache in the middle that did not leave a strong after-taste in your mouth afterwards. So far every chocolate piece I've tried has been incredible that it saddens me when I finish each piece so far. Everything at Four Friends was made from scratch using seasonal ingredients so expect something different at your next visit.

Assorted chocolate ($2/piece)

Chocolate Truffles: Clockwise L-R: Dark 70% Coco, Celebration, Hazelnut, Saffron, Rose

Clockwise L-R: Dinner Mint, Rocher, Vanilla, Salty Caramel

Popping Kitty! 

Inside of the Celebration Truffle (has a green tea-like taste)

If you are keen for desserts, there is a decent range of macarons and cakes to enjoy as well as a special dessert platter to share between two people. Personally I'm a huge sucker for mini- macarons. The flavours are more unique than your usual salted caramel, pistachio and the like, possibly similar to the ones you get at Zumbo or Cafe Cre Asion. Macaron flavours at Four friends include lime yuzu, nougat apricot, chocolate mandarin poppy raspberry and white chocolate lemon to name a few.

Assorted Macarons ($2.50/piece, $10 - Box of 4, $15 - Box of 7) 

Macaron Tower

Chocolate Indulgence Lava Cake

From Katze's personal story to the mouthwatering food and drinks they deliver, you know that she really cares about this business so much. And despite the challenges you face, you got to appreciate every moment of your life because you never know what may happen next. It also shows that sometimes even the smallest businesses make the most remarkable discoveries. From this experience and exploring the surrounding Crows Nest area has made me appreciated boutique businesses on a greater scale. Will certainly be coming back here to try the dessert platter (looks soooo good!), tea and coffee before or even after my eventual ramen session at Ryo's on the weekend very soon.   

FYI: International high tea at Four Friends is $45 for 2 persons and made to share. This includes a pot of tea and is only available at the beginning of each month. Each month there is a new cultural theme. 

So tell me readers: Which food culture do you want Four Friends to try for high tea next month? 

(Personally I would go for Spanish because that mean more pintxos hehe ;))

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie attended the Four Friends High Tea as a guest of Four Friends and Polkadot PR. Opinions remain personal.

Four Friends
5/29 Holtermann Street, Crows Nest NSW 2065
0415 068 881
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Sat: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Four Friends on Urbanspoon