Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Spanish Terrazas, Sydney (28th March 2012)

Since Violet's farewell lunch last year, I have not seen her - we've talked about getting together with Julie-Ann for catch-ups but it just hasn't occurred to date. I decided to take charge and organised a dinner get-together tonight, making a start to what I hope would be the first of many regular dinner catch-ups with the girls (well, with Violet mainly since I still have my regular Thursday lunches with Julie-Ann). The rules are simple: we would catch up every 4-6 weeks and take turns organising the dinner. Easy!

I've always wanted to try one of the Spanish restaurants in the Spanish Quarter so suggested that we check out 
Spanish Terrazas located on Kent St this evening. Julie-Ann and I took the train from North Sydney to Townhall Station and arrived at the restaurant at 5.30pm to meet Violet (we got there before she did) - I had booked our dinner for 6.30pm but we decided to try our luck and headed in early to have a couple of drinks before dinner. Fortunately the restaurant was open by then and we were shown to our table indoors. It was obvious we were the first customers this evening as the place was empty and the staff were just easing into their shift, not quite in work-mode just yet.

Violet arrived shortly and it was hellos and hugs all round - so good to see her again :) And so much to catch up on as it has been a good 6 months since I last saw her! "Looking amazing as always, and the hair!" I exclaimed. Violet has the most amazing hairstyles, changing it every couple of weeks and this time, she has a full head of cornrows and looking fabulous. We chatted a little and agreed we should put in our order before the dinner crowd turned up so busied ourselves in the menu to pick out a selection of tapas -  
Garlic Prawns, Meat Balls, Crumbed Eggplant, Artichokes and Fried Calamari, as well as Herb Bread and a jug of sangria to share. Our lovely Latino waitress came over, took our order and headed off to the kitchen while we resumed our conversation, chatting away animatedly about our lives.

Despite its multi-coloured walls and ceiling, the combination somehow works and with its furnishings, the restaurant gives a warm ambience of a typical back-alley Spanish diner. The restaurant provides entertainment on Wednesday - Saturday nights with various Latin bands and musicians serenading diners (we were early so no live music yet). Our food and sangria arrived quite fast and all at the same time, taking up almost our whole table. "Yah, tapas is fast," said our waitress in her Spanish-accented English when we commented how speedy the service was. The garlic prawns were still bubbling away in the hot oil when served, its aromas overshadowing the other dishes. Mmm, looks good! I kind of did a round-robin and sampled a bit of everything - the 
Meat Balls was definitely the most outstanding tapas of the lot, followed by the artichokes (but that's purely because I really like artichokes). The rest were rather average, making the tapas pricey for its quality (the tapas range $14 - $17 each).

The colourful interior of Spanish Terrazas - at 6pm, we were the first one there

Us girls shared a jug of sangria ($25.50)

Herb bread ($4.50), artichokes ($14), garlic prawns ($17)
and meat balls ($14.50)

Crumbed eggplant ($14) and fried calamari ($14.50)

We were quite full after finishing off most of the tapas but just couldn't pass up on dessert, especially when churros was on the menu. Churros is the equivalent of the Spanish doughnut, a fried pastry that is served with hot chocolate sauce. A bit messy trying not to dribble the chocolate sauce all over but oh, it's SO good! 

Churros with hot chocolate sauce ($12.50) - yum :)

Cost $87.29 all up inclusive of the 25% discount voucher from the Entertainment Book. Though the service was prompt and friendly, I would probably try other Spanish restaurants in the vicinity before coming back to Spanish Terrazas. It is no doubt a popular place for Sydneysiders as it got quite full by the time we paid and left around 8pm.

Spanish Terrazas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had a great time with the girls tonight! Violet's put up her hand to organise the next dinner catch up scheduled for mid-May. Looking forward to it! 

Monday, 19 March 2012

BioAge test (19th March 2012)

As part of Fitness First's International Fitness Week promotion, the gym at Elizabeth Plaza where I go to mostly to workout was providing free BioAge test for members today. I've heard about the BioAge test before and it's a test to measure a person's 'real' or 'biological' age in relation to how well one is performing for their actual years. As a general rule of thumb, your 'biological' age should be less or equal to your chronological age - if more, that means your body (and mind) is older than you actually are. Curious, I decided to check it out post-workout just to see how I fare.

There are 4 levels of BioAge testing available and the one conducted at Fitness First was the clinical test for people who are interested in their health and well-being. No appointment necessary - all I had to do was rock up to the testing station set up on the ground floor and wait my turn. The BioAge test was carried out by a qualified personal trainer who measured results in three areas: metabolic (BMI, blood pressure), physical (aerobic fitness, muscle endurance and flexibility) and behavioural (stress, smoking, alcohol, nutrition).

The next available personal trainer came to get me and we went through a series of questions about my diet and lifestyle - do you smoke? 
How often do you exercise? How many times do you eat out a week? How many servings of fruit and vegetables do you have a day? - and so forth. This was followed by her taking my measurements (height, weight and waist circumference) as well as my resting blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer. "Ok, now for the breath test," said the trainer and she gave me a peak flow meter, a small hand-held device used to measure my ability to breathe out air (this is the same device doctors use to detect if you have asthma). Three readings were taken and that concluded the non-physical part of the BioAge test.

To obtain my active heart rate, I had to go up and down a step elevated with risers for 3 minutes in a steady tempo following the beat to a song played on the CD player - I could hardly hear the beat with other noises in the gym so the trainer helped by counting aloud for me. 1, 2, 3, 4...1, 2, 3, 4...Though the movements weren't rapid, it got me breaking a sweat by the end of the exercise - phew! Following that, I was on the floor and had to do as many knee push ups as I could. A quick rest and I was back on the floor to hold the plank (ab exercise) for as long as possible. The final test was flexibility and this was measured by how far I could reach over my toes in sitting position with my legs flat on the floor. "Well, that's pretty much it. We'll email you the results of your test this evening," said the trainer. The whole test took around 15 minutes which was pretty quick. Several other gym members were going through the same test with the other trainers, some waiting around for their turn. Very popular!

I was a bit nervous to see my results - yes I exercise regularly but there was a part of me that thought maybe I was still not doing enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The result: my biological age is 22.50. Really??! I was slightly dumbfounded when I saw the figure in the results report but pretty pleased with the outcome (and my hard work so far). I scored pretty well across the board and the test suggests that I could further improve my BioAge score if I worked more on areas such as core muscle endurance, push-ups, cardiovascular fitness and nutrition, all of which I am well aware aren't exactly my strongest areas. Well, I've got my work cut out for me this year with the upcoming trip to Machu Picchu - my personal trainer has started me on an arduous training programme to prepare me for the challenging 4-day hike. That should help shed off a few more years off my biological age. Gosh, to think 8 years less than my actual age was much - there's room for more!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ton Ton Regent, Sydney (4th March 2012)

For a woman, I have major shopping issues - I do not go out shopping on a whim but only shop when I really need to, such as when my shoes are totally worn or irreparable. I'm also quite particular about what I do end up buying - it has to be affordable and still look good. Frankly, I do not find enjoyment going from shop to shop if I don't have anything in mind to purchase and aimlessly browsing for stuff - gives me more stress than relaxation! I'm not sure if this is a learnt behaviour from days when I was severely cutting back on my expenses to pay off my personal loan - though I'm no longer money-tight (and debt free), it still pains me to part with my hard-earned money. Jono has on several occasions 'enforced' me to buy clothes for myself when we have been out shopping because he knows only too well that I would follow him around and come back empty-handed. Today, he has sent me on a mission to find a suitable pair of hiking boots which I need for our upcoming trip to Machu Picchu. Just the thought of the task is enough to increase my stress levels! Eek!!

After spending most of the morning walking from one outdoor clothing store to the next on Kent St trying out different brands of hiking boots, I finally stopped for a break for lunch around 1pm. Gee, finding the right pair of hiking boots was a lot harder than I thought - there are so many things to consider (waterproof, breathable, flexible, comfort, fit etc) and so far, I've only found one that meets most of the requirements but it doesn't look very pretty in design and costs a whopping $250. Hmm, there are a few more shops to go...hopefully find something slightly cheaper...

Lunch this afternoon was at the nearby Ton Ton Regent, a branch of Ton Ton Takeaway located on the street level walkway of the Regent Place shopping and dining centre, just off Bathurst and George Streets. You wouldn't see this small Japanese restaurant walking down busy George Street unless you meander into the narrow walkway - I would often end up in Menya Mappen whenever I'm in this area and only knew of Ton Ton Regent because my other foodie member Ken told me about it (and Ken always has pretty awesome cheap eats recommendations!).

Ton Ton Regent is a takeaway diner though you can also dine on site. In addition to their signature "Ton Ton Ramen", there are a variety of Japanese dishes to choose from including ramen, udon/soba, donburi (Japanese "rice bowl dish"), Japanese curry and gyoza. Looking at the pictures of the dishes they have on display, my eyes kept flitting back to the Kara-age Ramen - it was love at first sight! "I'll have a Kara-age Ramen, please," I said to the young Japanese chap behind the counter and paid him the $9.80 for my meal (this place takes cash only). I was then given a number and took it with me in search of a table in the dining area. There were several other customers enjoying their meals in house and plenty of seats were still available.

Just as I was about to get comfortable in my corner table, a friendly Japanese waitress turned up with my ramen. Wow, this was a lot larger than I expected...The ramen was a 
generous serving of perfectly al dente ramen in a soy-flavoured soup topped with crunchy deep fried chicken pieces and lots of chopped shallots, seaweed and bean sprouts. Mmm, nice warm wholesome noodle soup (even though not quite the appropriate meal for summer) and delicious kara-age chicken...belly happy :) For less than ten bucks, the ramen really filled me up making it good value for money and great for a quick meal. Definitely coming back again to try out their other dishes soon!

Ton Ton Regent in Regent Place

Kara-age Ramen ($9.80) - ramen in soy-flavoured soup topped with
chopped spring onions, seaweed, beansprouts and deep-fried chicken pieces

Ton Ton Regent Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato