Thursday, 12 January 2012

David's birthday dinner at Braza Churrascaria, Darling Harbour & The Victoria Room, Darlinghurst (12th January 2012)

Today is David's birthday and I've booked the family (and me, of course) in for dinner at Braza Churrascaria located in Darling Quarter this evening. I had previously asked David if he had a favourite cuisine and his response to me was that he trusted my judgement. Well, you probably guessed right how Braza ended up being the place of choice - no contention that it was for my own selfish needs :P Since I discovered the Brazilian BBQ house's existence when Jono and I were in Darling Quarter having coffee one day, I've been dying to check it out but we just never ended up doing so. David's birthday dinner makes for a great reason to come here (it's more fun to go to a churrascaria in a group) plus Jono's family probably haven't had Brazilian BBQ before so it would be a fun experience for them too :)

We arrived at Braza in time for the 7pm booking but were told we were booked in for 5pm. "We have here a table for 7 at 5pm," said the maitre d', tapping his forefinger on his appointment book. Er, no - I booked in a table for 5 at 7pm. Somehow, they managed to get my booking mixed up but fortunately didn't give me further dramas and seated us immediately (phew, for a moment there I was worried we had to go elsewhere for dinner!). The restaurant had a beach house theme and was already quite busy with diners when we first arrived, the outdoor seating all filled so we were seated indoors. Male
passadores (meat waiters) can be seen serving up cuts of meat at tables while the waitresses dealt with taking orders on their PDAs. We had a bubbly Brazilian lady who served our table for the evening. "Is this your first time to a Brazilian BBQ?' she asked with a smile. She proceeded to explain how things work in the restaurant - at $47 per person, the restaurant offers an all-you-cat-eat buffet of Traditional Churrasco (skewered meats slow roasted over the wood fire and charcoal rotisserie grill) served at your table, and side dishes are available on request. Each person has a small wooden indicator that is painted green on one end and red the other - leave it sitting with green on the top and the meat waiters will continue to offer you food. 

We started off with a round of assorted side dishes as suggested by our waitress as well as a 1 litre pitcher of Original Lime Fortified Caipirinha for the table. Jono and I weren't sure if Cheryl would enjoy the dinner much given she's not very adventurous when it comes to food - we were surprised when she said yes to the Brazilian waiter who came to serve us Coracao de Frango (chicken hearts)! And they were yum! Our table was very soon filled with a variety of side dishes served in small portions for sharing: Vinagretche (tomato salsa), Viajo na Maionese de Batata (potato salad), Pao de Queijo (cheese rolls), Mandioquinha (cassava chips), Salada Dois (rocket salad with Brazil nuts, orange, beetroot and blue cheese), Salada Tres (tomato and palm heart with black olives and white balsamic), Farofa (roasted cassava flour), Arroz da Vovo (rice) and Feijao Preto (black beans) - the last three are some of my favourite Brazilian food. I'm totally in food heaven right now! The Brazilian meat waiters continually turn up at our table, each time bringing us a different cut of beef (including picanha, the top sirloin cap), chicken or lamb, all cooked to perfection, so tender and juicy (I'm salivating as I'm writing this!). The waiter would start slicing a bit of the meat and then ask you to hold on the to cut end with your tongs (everyone has one - it's part of your cultery) then continued slicing the meat off the skewer so you can put it on your plate. There were also chorizo, grilled haloumi and garlic bread served by the waiters. Lots of delicious food to sample :)

Everyone was having a great time, drinking caipirinha, trying out the different food, chit-chatting and having a laugh about all sorts. We ordered another pitcher of the caipirinha as it was disappearing quite quickly. I could tell Cheryl really likes the drink, asking David to top up her glass whenever it got low hehe...Yes, even the the caipirinha was amazing. We also had another round of side dishes, this time ordering the crumbed banana and polenta fritters, and more salads, rice, black beans and farofa. Most people would think churrascaria is all about meat but I reckon we've had quite a good mix of meat and non-meat items. "Ooo, pineapple!" I exclaimed when I saw the waiter serving it at another table. I hope there's enough for the waiter to come over and serve it to us! The Abacaxi or pineapple is coated with brown sugar and cinnamon, and grilled on the skewer - served warm, it makes a great finish to the BBQ. I ended up putting in a request 
with our waitress for the waiter to serve us first as we never got to sample any - the pineapple kept running out before the waiter got to our table! Mmm, nice sweet pineapple, juicy and warm...

Ok, I think that's enough food for me, don't think I can go on...I headed to the washroom to freshen up and when I returned to the table, one of the waiters had just pushed out a trolley with a roasted suckling pig and was carving the meat. "It has been on the roast the whole day so it's really good," winked our Brazilian waitress at me as she started to clear away some of our dishes. I couldn't help it and tried a small piece when offered - the skin was crisp but the meat inside was so tender. Mmm! :) I highly recommend Braza - with their excellent selection of food and friendly Brazilian service, this is a great place for a fun, laid-back group dining. And they don't have a two-hour seating limit so you can stay as long as you like - take a breather, loosen your belt and eat some more! Photos taken at Braza Churrascaria here.

Cost us $321 all up for the buffet and drinks - slightly expensive but worth every cent. 
I'm really glad Jono and his family enjoyed the dining experience. I definitely did and am looking forward to coming back again soon!

Braza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We left the restaurant around 9pm and took a short walk to Darling Harbour to check out the night view before heading to Town Hall train station where we bid the parents goodbye for the night. Jono, Michelle and I then headed to Darlinghurst to meet up with Matt, Amanda and another one of Jono's colleagues for drinks at The Victoria Room on Victoria Street. We couldn't find the cocktail bar on our first attempt - it was nestled a strip of cute restaurants/bars and cafes, and didn't have an obvious entrance. Unless you were shown the place, you wouldn't know it was there - turned out, we had walked past it twice!

Heading up the broad flight of stairs, I was surprised where we ended up. Lavishly decorated in opulent British Raj style, hues of gold and dark brown were illuminated by the soft lighting. Very chic and inviting. "James would love this place," I said to Jono and he agreed. This place has the same style and feel of the cocktail bars in Wellington such as Hawthorne and The Library - definitely on my list of cool bars to bring visitors to :) Interestingly, there was a trapeze set up on the ceiling beams and I wondered if shows were held here on certain nights of the week. It wasn't too busy for a Thursday night, only a few couples sipping cocktails in the lounge seats and one having a late dinner in the dining area that was sectioned off by decorative screens. 

We found ourselves a vacant lounge area for the group and were shortly joined by Matt and gang. "Let's order some drinks," said Jono and everyone busied ourselves looking at the bar's extensive cocktail menu that lists the cocktails by continents. Jono had the Corn N' Oil from the South America and the Caribbean page which was a mix of Goslings Black Seal Dark rum stirred with House Velvet Falernum (almond, ginger, cloves & lime syrup), Angostura Bitters and fresh lime, while I went for the the Desert Daisy (this is from the North America and Mexico page), a cocktail with Ocho Blanca Tequila shaken with Angostura Orange Bitters, white grapefruit juice, agave water, orange blossom water, cucumber and cracked pepper. Michelle had the East Indies Iced Tea 
(Ketel One Citroen Vodka stirred with St Germain Elderflower Liquer, lemongrass and ginger tea, fresh lemon and raw sugar syrup) from the Europe cocktail list - for $60, you can have this cocktail served in a teapot with matching teacup which you can take home with you. Cost us $20 each for our cocktails and I think Michelle's one is the best (refreshing and you can't really taste the alcohol). Jono's was potent - just one sip and you could tell it was a stiff drink. I didn't like my Desert Daisy very much as it left a bitter after taste with each sip :/ 

We chatted and laughed over our drinks, with lots of catching up with Amanda and Matt whom Jono and I have not seen since before Christmas (the were away for the holidays). Around 11.30pm, the group decided to call it a night and we left the bar to catch a taxi home. I totally ready for bed after all the alcohol and full belly... 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Woolleys have arrived! (11th January 2012)

The Woolleys are here! David, Cheryl and Michelle finally arrived in Sydney this evening - they have been in Sunshine Coast visiting Janet and family the last couple of days and now spending some time with us here in Sydney before everyone heads to Melbourne for the tennis. Their flight was delayed by an hour due to winds in Sydney, arriving at 7.30pm instead. I thought it was rather strange that winds were the cause of the delay - if it was in Wellington, it would be almost daily since Wellington is always windy! 

This was the first time Jono and I had taken a car (we booked a GoGet stationwagon for the evening) to the airport to pick someone up and it took us awhile to figure out where to leave the car and locating the domestic arrival gate. There were hardly any signs to indicate where the arrivals area was and you couldn't actually get to the gate (most require a boarding pass and security checks). We ended up waiting for the family at the baggage collection area and shortly after their plane landed, they emerged from the security doors on the floor above (hmm, my guess is that's the only exit for all incoming domestic passengers). "Hello again!," I said to the family all smiles and this was followed by plenty of hugs. It's been almost 9 months since Jono and I saw his family in person so it was really great to see them again :)

After piling the bags and everyone into the stationwagon (good thing we got the stationwagon - it only just fit all 5 of us and the bags!), we headed off to Glebe to the Hesketh home where we were had a late dinner together. There was so much to talk about over wine and nibbles in the back garden, occasionally interrupted by the resident possum who decided to welcome the guests by pelleting its poo onto a nearby fan palm (fortunately none got into our food, drinks or us), or by the huge spider Michelle found crawling up the ledge where David was sitting by - it was bigger than my thumb and we think it might be a garden orbweaver. An exciting start to their Sydney holiday, I say! Photo taken on Jono's phone of the spider:

Tim and Beryl were fabulous hosts as always, constantly keeping us hydrated (with alcohol, that is) and cooked up some wonderful grilled fish and salads. More chit-chat and laughter over dinner indoors and around 10.30pm, it was time for Jono, Michelle and I to head home. David and Cheryl were putting up at the Heskeths during their stay in Sydney while Michelle (and Mike who arrives on Friday) will be sleeping on the inflatable mattress in our living room (sorry guys, wished we had a spare room!). I've given the family a suggested itinerary of things they can do in Sydney - plenty to do to keep them busy :) Jono will be showing the family around during the day while I'm at work tomorrow. And we'll be celebrating David's birthday in the evening at a Brazilian churrascaria - hope he'll enjoy it!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Kammadhenu, Newtown (7th January 2012)

Having cooked dinner most days in the past 2 weeks (I worked from home during the Christmas and New Year period so had more time to cook), I suggested to Jono that we should take a break from cooking and headed out for dinner instead. It has been awhile since we last had Indian and browsing through our handy Entertainment Book, we found an Indian curry place called Kammadhenu located in Newtown. I think I know where we're going to tonight ;)

There are actually two Kammadhenu restaurants on King St though the one nearer to our apartment always looked closed (we've seen the place whenever we go to the gym or supermarket in Newtown and have never seen any life inside). We left home around 6pm and took a leisurely 20-minute walk to the other restaurant at 171 King St - I didn't mind the walk as the weather was quite nice plus the walking would help work up an appetite :) Given it's a Saturday, 
I called up the restaurant earlier to book us a table but they didn't take bookings for parties of two and suggested we walk in and try our luck. Fortunately for us, the place was  quite empty when we arrived and we got ourselves a table by the glass windows so we could watch passersby while we dined.

Kammadhenu prides themselves as the best curry place in town serving Sri Lankan, South Indian and Malaysian cuisine. Jono and I have not yet found our regular Indian place in Sydney (we used to have a few we frequent in Wellington) and I'm quite keen to find out if Kammadhenu really serves great curries. Browsing through their extensive menu, we eventually settled for a Chicken Pepper Masala for me and Lamb Vindaloo for Jono, and shared an egg hopper, garlic roti and basmati rice plus a Chang beer each to go with our meals. "Look at their spice level choices at the bottom of the page," said Jono and I laughed when I saw it - medium, hot or good luck! Gee, I wonder how spicy would 'good luck' be...Interestingly, we weren't ask which spice level we wanted for our curries. Oh well, I guess we'll find out shortly when the food arrives!

Kammadhenu with its purple and yellow themed setting

Garlic roti ($5), basmati rice ($3), Chicken Pepper Masala ($18.90),
egg hopper ($3.50) and Lamb Vindaloo ($16.90)

The egg hopper was interesting - popular for breakfast and/or dinner in South India and Sri Lanka, the egg hopper is a bowl-shaped thin pancake made from fermented rice flour with an egg broken in it as the pancake cooks. It has a neutral taste on its own and is usually eaten with a spicy condiment or curry. And speaking of curry, hmm, neither Jono or I were really impressed with our curries - the chicken pepper masala was ok (normal chicken masala with lots of cracked pepper) but the lamb vindaloo was terrible! It was nothing like vindaloo (by far the spiciest of all Indian curries I know of) and I think the cook had put too much vinegar in the curry, making it quite hard to digest. The garlic roti wasn't really great either. The roti itself was good but instead of using freshly mince garlic and cooking it with the roti, crushed garlic from a can was smeared on top of the roti - it was garlic overkill. Cost us $47.50 (after deducting the 25% voucher discount from the Entertainment Book) which was bit expensive for not-really-great food. Eyeing at other tables, I noticed most people ordering the dosai which looked quite huge (and impressive) for one. Perhaps we've ordered the wrong items this time round - will have to come back to try out the dosai next time.

Kammadhenu Newtown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year! (1st January 2012)

Ah, the first day of the new year and I wonder what 2012 holds for me. With two trips already booked in for the year, it's looking to be another fun-filled and exciting year ahead ;) I'm looking forward to the holiday break in Melbourne in two weeks' time - it's been 6 months since my last holiday and I'm long due for another!

With Jono at work on his normal shift on this statutory holiday, my day was like most Sundays,  spent mostly on my own with the highlight of my day preparing dinner for my man. Fortunately for me, Jono's pretty easy when it comes to food (he's willing to try most things) so I get to attempt a different recipe each week :) When I have time, I like cooking and even more so when Jono enjoys and appreciates the wonderfully and lovingly prepared meal I've made at home. It's like a self-esteem booster that leaves me feeling happy and content. Is that how Mum feels when she cooks for Dad, I wonder...Jono's in for a treat tonight for I'm making Jamie Oliver's whole grilled trout for dinner! I have to say, I quite like Jamie's recipes - I've tried a few and they are pretty easy to make and tastes delicious. I've never cooked a whole fish on my own (have helped others) but it looked simple enough according to his recipe...

I made a trip to the Sydney Fish Market early afternoon in search of my trout and boy was the place buzzing with customers, mostly Asians, eating their cooked seafood meals at the shops. Only one of the retailers was selling fresh seafood; all others where closed. Lucky for me, De Costi's Seafoods had exactly what I wanted and for a decent price too - two whole rainbow trout (approximately 300g each) for around $10. Sweet! 

Around 2pm on my way back to Town Hall train station walking along Pyrmont Bridge, I was startled when a loud alarm was sounded and it was announced that the bridge demonstration was about to occur. Huh? "Please stand behind the gates," continued the bridge operator on the speakers. What gates? What on earth is he talking about?! I noticed a mad scramble on both side of my peripheral vision as pedestrians headed up or down the bridge. Slightly ahead of me, I could see these two huge gates slowly closing up and quickly made my way over, standing behind the barrier. In the 9 months that I've lived in Sydney, never once had I been on the bridge when the bridge opening occurred (the demonstration) or knew that the bridge even opened up! It turns out that the bridge openings occur several times a day during the weekends and public holidays (and occasionally as required) on specific times. I had front seat views of the demonstration standing right behind the gate, watching the bridge open to allow a small sailboat through, its mast sticking out above the bridge. Cool! The Pyrmont Bridge, one of the world's oldest surviving electrically operated swingspan bridge, takes approximately 60 seconds to open completely to 83 degrees, allowing vessels between 7 - 14 metres in height to pass through.  For taller ships, the Monorail beam also needs to be opened with the swingspan but this was not part of the demonstration today.

Standing behind the gate awaiting the Pyrmont Bridge Opening

It takes 60 second for the bridge to open 83 degrees

Mast of a small sailboat sticking out above bridge level

The monorail also opens up with the bridge if taller ships needs to pass through

Bridge closing

A short clip of the bridge opening:

Back home to chill out and around 7ish, it was time to prepare dinner. Eee, this feels so weird...slippery and slimy trout...The fish was all gutted, scaled and cleaned so all I had to do was to make incisions on both sides and stuff the cavities with lemon slices and chopped parsley, then grill it. For the Chinese, serving up a whole fish is a symbol of abundance and togetherness. The Chinese word for fish, 'yu', sounds similar to the word for surpluses which is why fish is often served during Chinese New Year and in banquets. Cheers to surpluses in the new year! Photo of our New Year's Day dinner:

And how was dinner, you ask? Delicious! :)