Monday, September 29, 2014

Cho Cho San, Potts Point

I was going to write something special since it is the 3rd anniversary of my blog. Unfortunately, I spent most of the previous week feeling very sick with a terrible stomach bug to the point where I actually didn't enjoy looking at or even thinking about food for a while (hard to believe but it's true). To cheer myself up, I thought I might use this time to finish my recap on the epic feasting that happened at Cho Cho San late last month. Sorry if this review doesn't sound as exciting as it should be since my horrible tummy has turned me off food at the moment but it really was amazing. You should pay a visit to Cho Cho San one day. Seriously.

You know that saying "food is meant to be shared". With restaurants like Cho Cho San, it's better to go in a group to try as much from the menu as possible without doing too much wallet damage. This was exactly what me and a few good fellow Sydney food bloggers did when we had a late lunch at this renowned Modern Japanese restaurant a few weeks ago. With that many food bloggers in the house, it was no wonder that we tried almost everything off the menu!

Run by Sam Christie and Jonathan Bathelmess (who also owned The Apollo) as well as recruiting former Billy Kwong/Bodega/The Apollo chef Nic Wong as the head chef, it was no surprised that Cho Cho San became one of the hottest new Sydney restaurants. It was hard to find the restaurant at first after walking right past and ending up two streets away from it. This is one of those restaurants where you actually have to pay attention to the number of the address instead of the big shiny name. Once I stepped inside, I was surprised to see how busy this seemingly small restaurant really was. Gotta love that soothing lighting and neutral colours that were perfect for us when we spent lots and lots of time taking photos of the food.

Fried Eggplant Miso ($10.00)

I personally don't mind eggplant and heck fried eggplant miso sounds even better...cos fried food yeah. Was really surprised at how good this tasted especially with the texture. The batter was crunchy on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside especially when drizzled with miso sauce. Blew us away so much that we ordered a second serving later on. 

Fried Chicken ($14.00)

Yeah we drooled immediately when we spotted fried chicken on the menu. While it may not be as crunchy as NaruOne, it still had that crispy batter with a succulent juicy fillet that gets you addicted enough to want more than your share. It also tasted delicious with the wasabi mayo on the side.

Hokkaido Scallops, Corn, House-cured Katsuobushi ($18.00)

I do love a good scallop so I was excited to tr this dish when it arrived at our table. While the scallops were plump and refreshing, I was more curious about the corn puree lying beneath the sea of scallops. Couldn't help eating the scallops with the corn together which went along really well. Very unique ingredient combinations and flavours which was clearly the norm for Cho Cho San especially with many of the dishes that followed.

Tuna, Avocado, Pickled Eggplant ($22.00)

While the name for the above dish may sound plain and simple, the cubes of raw tuna with the pickled eggplant and the creamy avocado looked pleasing to the eye. Especially when topped with sesame seeds and drizzled with a soy based sauce. Tasted very refreshing. 

Beef Tataki, Wild Rice, Ginger Dressing ($18.00)

When this dish showed up, everyone was hesitant to eat it since the beef tataki did look raw. I mean sure we do like a good piece of raw steak but I guess this might not look pleasing to the eye at first. But you know that saying "do not judge a book by its cover"? Well this is one of those examples since it became one of my fave dishes. The thin slices of beef along with the ginger dressing were incredibly delicious especially when it melts in your mouth. Once again, we were surprised by the generous layer of wild rice buried under the beef tataki which added a buttery crunch to this soft dish. 

Petuna Ocean Trout, Black Pepper, Wasabi ($20.00)

While raw beef may got us shocked at first, we couldn't say no to sashimi. The ocean trout at Cho Cho San was thickly-sliced and blended well with the black pepper and wasabi (which wasn't spicy at all). The flavours may be subtle but the texture of the ocean trout was balanced and succulent for the taste-buds.

King Crab Omelette, Japanese Curry ($28.00)

I LOOOVE CRABS! (Sorry I've been wanting to write that in this blog for so long. And yeah the food kind of course.) I also love eggs so a king crab omelette dish is the one dish that I must get before leaving this restaurant. This was really a mouthful of flavours that will test your tastebuds. There's a good serving of crab in this dish which made me very happy. Loving the two different types of egg present in this dish too from the crispy omelette on the outer edges that encompasses the gooey egg yolk inside alon with the swirls of the curry sauce. Definitely a dish you seriously have to order here. 

Calamari and Lime Ponzu ($16.00)

The calamari was had a nice grilled texture that was chewy when you bite into it. However, the highlight of this dish was the tangy lime ponzu sauce splashed all over it.  

Udon Noodles, Pork, Chilli ($15.00)

You know what? After typing the price of this dish just then, I gotta say that I actually thought that this would be more expensive than $15.00 since the serving was larger compared to a few more expensive dishes. The udon noodles were slippery and cooked well with a nice bitey texture. The flavours were quite strong thanks to the chilli and minced pork though the whipped tofu balanced it out. Another dish that I would order again at a future visit. Sidenote: I think the chopped shallots/spring onions seemed to be a signature garnish since it was present in many of the dishes. 

Miso Cod, Celery, Ginger ($40.00)

I enjoyed the flavour and texture of the miso cod with its soft texture and a caramelised surface. The celery and radish were also refreshing to have at this point. However, $40 was way too steep given the serving size of the dish. 

Silken Tofu in Tomato Dashi ($4.00 each)

With all the crazy, textual and flavoursome dishes we had to this point, it was time to cool ourselves down with this simple individual serving of silken tofu in tomato dashi and covered with tempura batter crumbs. Sure enough this simple looking plate still surprised us once again with getting our palates excited from the moment you taste the zesty tomato dashi that really hits you slowly. 

Soy Glazed Angus Beef ($36.00)

By this point, I should stopped being surprised at all this excitement and just assume that every unique dish is the norm here but I just keep getting wowed each time. The angus beef is another example of dishes that exceeded our expectations from the basic presentation to the mouth-watering flavours. The use of the Hibachi Grill\ has made this beef cut so tender and juicy with a nice pinkish colour and the right amount of seasoning. This tasted so amazing that we barely touched the extra condiments that came with this dish. The beef held so well on its own that we though it doesn't need any extra flavour boost. 

Tempura Pumpkin ($12.00)

I've been disappointed by many versions of tempura in the past but I was pleased by this version because of its crunchy batter that matched well with the sweet pumpkin and a bit of oil oozing out as you bite into each piece. Usually I'm not a huge pumpkin fan, but I was keen on getting a few more servings of this. 

Cho Cho Snow ($10.00)

Finally we're onto the desserts! Since there's a big group of us, we decided to sample all three desserts on the menu. First we shared the Cho Cho Snow, which was a light dessert consisting of shaved ice clumped on a bed of apple custard and drizzled with ginger syrup. Personally I didn't mind this dessert too much. It was light and there were lots of weird and surprising flavours when combining the shaved ice with the smooth fruity custard and the dollops of ginger syrup. Not bad to have on a warm day.

Steamed Yuzu Pudding ($12.00)

This dessert wasn't bad either though I thought the use of sour cream was a bit too unusual for my preference (and you know what I think about sour cream ahem). The pudding itself was warm with a sponge-like texture and citrus kind of flavour. But yeah me and sour cream...

Banana Soft Serve, Cone, Peanut, Caramel ($7.00 each)

Just when you start to get a bit bummed with the desserts, the soft serve cones will blow you away completely! While some of us wished the green tea soft serve was still available, I was personally impressed by the banana soft serve. Loved the banana flavour, the caramel swirls, the subtle sweetness and those chunks of peanuts decorated on the ice cream. To top off it off was, I loved how crunchy the waffle cone was. Even when the cream drooled over the edges! Everything about this dessert was just soooo freaking awesome! 

The prices were on the more expensive side but it's actually cheaper if you go with a large group, share many dishes and split the final bill each way. While the portions did appear to be small, we ordered so much that we still got into a food coma by the end. Because of the more expensive prices, this isn't a restaurant I would go back on a regular basis. However, I was impressed with most of their dishes so much that I would be keen to return to taste them again as well as trying dishes that we didn't get on this visit. It's no surprise that it has gotten so much praise in the short time it has been around. And I have to say, the praise is certainly well deserved!

Finally I should add that I still can't believe I'm still doing this blog for three years! Thought it would last for 6 months max haha. Cheers for another year or whatever. Thanks to everyone who have read my blog over the years. You guys have been incredible. I'm off now to rest my head and recover my poor stomach.

Cho Cho San
73 Macleay Street, Potts Point NSW 2011
(02) 9331 6601
Cho Cho San on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Three Williams, Redfern (II)

By now, most of us would have heard about Three Williams and their narnies and French toast. Some of you love it, some of you don't. Regardless, it remains successful with countless people queuing up each weekend. For me, it's one of the cafes in Sydney that I would be happy to return again and again especially after noticing a few specials popping up every now and then on their social media sites. Sure enough, those specials are now available on their brand new Spring menu. Recently, I was invited to a tasting session of Three Williams' new menu one evening where we got to sample a decent selection of their new dishes from the new narnies to the generous salads and the infamous French toast. 

Super Smoothie ($8.00)

Since it was getting dark, it was harder for me to spot this hidden cafe since the only signage was the W on the door. However it was easy to spot once you get to see the light coming from that familiar spacious cafe. Once I was seated down, I was treated to a sample of the Super Smoothie. This contains kale, apricot, apple, LSA, banana, ginger and cinnamon (dairy free). Was expecting it to be similar to a matcha smoothie when I saw the colour but it was quite sweet, smooth and refreshing like a pressed juice. So good to have on a warm day and it's healthy too! 

Seasonal house made soda - Raspberry and lime soda ($5 for glass/$12 for jug) 

The seasonal house made sofa was also a treat to have during the warmer seasons. It was not too sweet, lightly flavoured and had a nice fizzy sensation. Finished more than a few of these drinks throughout the evening.

Crispy school prawns ($8.00)

Man the crispy school prawns were so addictive that our table had no problem finishing this off. Loved its crispy batter which matched well with the zesty aioli. It didn't bother me at all eating these prawns whole one by one. They are quite sharp though so I wouldn't recommend popping them into your mouth too fast.

Herb rubbed free range roast duck with roast pears, rocket, apple balsamic and aioli ($16.00)

We were getting very excited when we saw the duck narnie ending up on the table. The roast duck was very tender and blended well with the creamy aioli. Though what surprised me about this dish was the pear. As soon as I chomp into the familiar roast duck meat, I came across the sweet and chunky pieces of pear hidden inside. While it was unexpected, the sweetness of the pears and the apple balsamic worked so well with the rest of this otherwise savoury dish.

Wild mushrooms, baby spinach, truffle balsamic, Stracchino cheese sauce and Parmesan ($15.00)

For the strict vegetarian readers, fear not! The wild mushrooms narnie was absolutely delicious to the point that I wouldn't mind going vegetarian (for a week) myself. My eyes gazed heavily on this narnie especially when I could smell that truffle aroma from the balsamic. Combining that with the succulent and juicy wild mushrooms plus the intriguing and flavoursome cheese sauce (!!!), you get a winning food-porn worthy combination that will convert any meat eater. It's no surprise that this was one of the fave dishes of our table.

Grilled Atlantic octopus, savoy cabbage, preserved lemon, radish, chilli, hazelnuts and jalapeno dressing ($17.00)

After the calorie-intensive narnies, we settled ourselves down with a couple of salads starting with the Grilled Atlantic Octopus salad. I found this to be light, zesty, colourful and substantial on its own. Loads of flavours and textures whether it was the crunch of the cabbage and the hazelnuts; the softness of the grilled octopuc; the tangy sensation from the peserved lemon; and the mild spicy tastes from the chilli and jalapeno dressing. It would actually convince you to be friends with salad.

Organic tofu, charred broccolini, roasted almonds, Japanese seaweed and fresh peas ($15.00)

At first I thought that the tofu looked like feta cheese from afar (I had an exhausting day). Not a huge fan of tofu in the past but its softness worked itself well in balancing the texture on what was otherwise a crunchy salad. With all these ingredients, it's another welcoming and healthy addition for the vegetarians.

Slow roasted free range pork loin, caramelised apple puree, cherry tomato and black pudding ($18.00)

By this point, I was filling up and the main dishes have arrived so we soldiered on. Due to its slow-cooked method, the pork was so tender that it melts in your mouth with lots of fatty bits that can tempt you when you're on a diet. Matched well with the sweet apple puree and the tomatoes. Personally I don't mind black pudding at all and this was quite good too. From afar, this actually looked like a dish you may get at a fine dining restaurant judging by its presentation, only with bigger servings.

Beer Battered Chips ($8.00)

One can't go to Three Williams without trying a bit of their beer battered chips. These were no exception. Crunchy on the outside and piping hot and soft on the inside, it was no wonder that we got really addicted to having more chips than we really should.

Rangers Valley mbs 7+ Wagyu minute steak with red wine butter and chips ($19.00)

Just when we were satisfied by the bowl of chips, even more chips showed up on our table along with a generous slab of wagyu minute steak. While it was hard to cut, the steak was actually quite tender when we had a taste of it. Haven't tried the red wine butter before but it was intriguing dabbing into this. Personally I thought it had an unusual flavour and seemed too creamy and buttery for my liking but I'm sure others would have enjoyed this.

Pan seared market fish with pea puree, broad beans and snow pea tendrils ($20.00)

Even though the dishes were shared across the table, we were getting very full by this point. However, I couldn't resist this simple yet beautiful looking seafood plate. Especially after looking at the dabbles of pea puree scattered around the plate that blended nicely with the other greens. The fish used that evening was the silver dory, which I found to be well cooked and seasoned though I couldn't help coating the fish with a squeeze of lemon for the flavour boost. 

Crunchy Brioche French Toast - caramel bananas, hazelnuts and Belgian chocolate ($16.00)

The one thing that kept our stomachs from going into food coma mode was, of course, the infamous Crunchy Brioche French Toast. While their original French toast from its opening day is still on the menu, Three Williams has added another option on the Spring menu for the chocolate and caramel lovers. It is incredibly sweet but oh so decadent. Just look at the spoonfuls of chocolate, crunchy hazelnuts and caramelised banana pieces topped over the warm, crispy and crumbled toast. As soon as I cut into the toast, you can gaze at how soft and fluffy it really is on the inside. Everything on this sweet dish is so bad yet so good. While it's not gonna get me thinner for Summer (sigh), it is worth the cheat meal when you dine here this season.

Gotta say guys, I am impressed and satisfied by what Three Williams has offered at this tasting. While we tried a generous selection of new dishes this time, there were even more dishes from the that we didn't get to try. The atmosphere was chilled and relaxing. Also, the service has been attentive not only on this occasion but at other times that I've visited this cafe in the past. Will certainly be returning again to try more new dishes as well as the classics on the new menu before the next seasonal menu arrives. 

The Random Foodie Vault: check out my previous post of Three Williams back in April 2014.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Three Williams, courtesy of Wasamedia. Opinions are however, my own.

Three Williams
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 9698 1111
Mon-Sun: 7:00am - 4:00pm
Three Williams on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 18, 2014

[GIVEAWAY + REVIEW] Vapiano, Sydney CBD

A while ago, a few friends have asked me on where I could find affordable Italian in the Sydney CBD area. Usually I would say Cafe Sopra but then the internationally renowned Vapiano (with more than 135 restaurants in 26 countries!) has opened its doors late last year for the hungry office workers in the area like myself. While the queues to order and wait for your food seemed like something you would expect at a fast food outlet, the quality was much better than I expected on my first visit months ago. Recently, I was invited to try the dishes on Vapiano's newly released Spring special menu which got me thrilled and curious to see what they offer.

It was exciting seeing the open kitchen during my previous visits which definitely takes away the boredom as you wait for your meal being prepared. The vibe was noisy and busy at the ground level though I only realised very recently that there was another level upstairs with more seating so you won't need to worry too much about the lengthy queues here.

Raspberry Smash

French Martini

When CC and I stepped inside, we were directed to the bar with a card so we can order our choice of drink. I decided to get the Raspberry Smash, which was fruity and sweet just as I liked it. CC really enjoyed her French Martini cocktail thanks to a suggestion from the bartender. I really liked the look of that cocktail especially the colour. CC thought it was light and sweet.

Villa Maria Arneis Hawkes Bay 2011

During the course of our dinner, we also got to sample a glass of Villa Maria Arneis Hawkes Bay 2011 white wine to pair off with the Pasta Gamberi con Rosso (more on that later). Arneis got its name from the Italians as another word for "little rascal", which was funny since the anniversary reunion of the 90's film happened not long ago (I feel really old...).

Classic Pumpkin Soup ($6.90) 

The first dish that I tried from the Spring special menu was the Classic Pumpkin Soup where you can top it up with your choice of Parmesan, cream, croutons, and basil then mopped with freshly baked ciabatta bread. The sample that I tried had cream, which actually didn't deter me at all once I've had a taste. The cream mixed well together with the pumpkin base to deliver a smooth, creamy and flavoursome soup. The grated parmesan cheese, basil garnishes and croutons also mixed well for the balanced texture and extra crunch. Both CC and I enjoyed this soup so much that we were keen to finish it up but we had to save our stomachs for the other dishes.

Pizza Porporano ($19.90)

Another dish I was pleased with was the Pizza Porporano. This was a homemade and tomato mozzarella base topped with premium Aussie air-dried salted beef, rocket, shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle olive oil. I always go crazy every time I could smell that truffle aroma. The base was thin with a fair amount of dough. Thought that the toppings tasted so well together especially with the air-dried salted beef aka bresaola.

Lately I've been very keen on trying the cured meats on charcuterie platters so it was fascinating learning about the origins of the bresaola. It was supplied by Speiss Australia at Wetherill Park in South West Sydney. The bresaola was fermented and air-dried for at least 10 weeks to the point where it loses 40% of its original weight. Although we were eating it with a thin crusted pizza base, the bresaola actually has less than 5% in salt and fat with loads of B vitamins and high protein to strengthen your bones.

Pasta Gamberi Con Rosso ($19.90)

Although I was slowly starting to get full at this point, I was surprised at how light the Pasta Gamberi Con Rosso really was. This contain prawns, chilli, semi-sun dried tomatoes, and sun dried tomato pesto with a pasta of your choice. The pasta itself had an al-dente texture while the semi-sun dried tomatoes with the pesto delivered a fresh and sweet flavour. The lemon wedge also helped in adding a flavour boost to the overall dish. 

It was interesting when I noticed that CC got the same dish but with a different pasta shape (I believed the pasta used here was Torchino according to Google search). Apparently this was done on purpose to showcase the range of pasta options available at Vapiano. Personally both CC and I preferred the pasta with the curly edges since it matched well with the accompanied sauce especially with the flavour.

Risotto Pollo Levanto ($19.90)

By the time the Risotto Pollo Levanto arrived to our table, I was getting pretty stuffed from all the carbs (sighs). It was a creamy dish consisting of chicken, bacon, red onion, garlic, and chilli topped with Parmesan and basil. It actually reminded me of a carbonara or boscaiola pasta dish with some of those ingredients. While it was too heavy and creamy for my liking, the risotto rice was well-cooked with  bitey texture plus there was plenty of bacon and chicken to enjoy.

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Salted Caramel and Honeycomb ($5.90)

Although I struggled with the previous dish, somehow there is always room for dessert! Gotta say that this dessert has exceeded my expectations. It was more sweet thanks to the salted caramel and honeycomb. You don't detect much of the cheese initially but you can sense its creamy texture and richness which complements with the sweetness from the other elements of the dessert. At first I wasn't sure if I would finish this dessert at first because of the rich texture but then the biscuit base won me over completely. Gotta love desserts with that firm but crumbly biscuit base.

At Vapiano, the basil plays a common theme throughout many of their dishes as its signature garnish. Throughout the venue, you can spot numerous pots of basil plants that were freshly grown before it's used for the pastas, risottos and other savoury meals. 

If you wanna try one of the dishes in this post, you gotta head to Vapiano Sydney on King Street before 31st October because that's when the dishes on the Spring special menu will no longer be available (bit random since Spring doesn't end till November...). Was impressed by the new dishes that Vapiano has delivered on this occasion. It's a convenient location especially if you work around the area and the prices are reasonable in comparison with the portion size. Really liked the spacious layout, the food and the fact that there's always a bowl of free gummy bears to nibble when you leave the restaurant after paying your meal. 


Speaking of freebies, The Random Foodie has 4 vouchers (yes 4 vouchers!) to giveaway for you and a guest to dine at Vapiano. 

Each voucher entitles the winner and a guest to a free savoury dish (Pumpkin Soup, Pizza Poporano, Pasta Gamberi con Rosso, and Risotto Pollo Levanto) of their choice from the new Spring special menu and one White Chocolate Cheesecake with Salted Caramel and Honeycomb each. No booking is necessary with these vouchers.

For your chance to win 1 of the 4 vouchers, simply follow the prompts on the Rafflecopter app below.

Terms and Conditions:
1. These vouchers are for use at Vapiano Sydney only. Please do not enter the competition if you are unable to make it to Sydney before 31st October 2014.
2. The voucher entitles to the winner and guest to a choice of savoury dish from the Spring special menu and a white chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel and honeycomb.
3. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm AEST on Sunday 28th September 2014.
4. The winners will be notified by email and announced on the blog and relevant social media sites on Monday 29th September 2014.
5. The winners must reply back with their address details within 48 hours to ensure receipt of voucher before the expiry date.
6. The vouchers must be used by 31st October 2014.

Good luck everyone!

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Vapiano Sydney. Opinions are however, my own.

Vapiano Sydney
Corner King Street and York Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9299 0079
Sun-Thurs: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Fri-Sat: 11:00am - midnight
Vapiano on Urbanspoon