Friday, 20 April 2012

Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taqueria, Newtown (20th April 2012)

I've had an extremely busy week at work and was still putting in 200% effort despite feeling totally exhausted from the lack of sleep - Andrew's away on leave so I'm the only person doing all the SAP work and with my cough, it just makes matters worse. Sigh, I just want to get well and be able to do my normal activities again. And most of all, sleep - I haven't slept in days! Poor Jono - he has been sleeping in the living room the past few nights because I was making loud grunting noises when I do fall asleep. I do not normally snore but somehow my cold is blocking my nasal and throat passage thus me making grunting noises (even I get woken up by them). Argh, I'm so tired of being sick!!

I didn't feel like cooking so Jono and I headed out to Newtown for dinner. We decided to have Mexican tonight and went to check out
 Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taqueria (GYG)  on King St, an Australian-based Mexican fast food franchise that has locations all over Sydney. We've walked past the small corner diner several times when dining out and it always looked busy and popular with the younger crowd. At 7pm on a Friday night, the place was pretty packed, its seats on the communal tables both indoors and outdoors were nearly all taken, and there was a visible line from the main entrance all the way to the order counter. Jono and I spotted a few empty seats and rushed towards the bar stools by the opened windows that had a bar table with view of the passer-bys along King St (and looking directly onto the outside tables). "You go order and I'll stay here to secure our seats," said Jono. Good plan. 

While waiting my turn to order, a few thoughts about the place went through my mind - how does a Mexican chain restaurant thrive in Australia when it's not really Aussie food? And should I be expecting substandard quality food like most other fast food joints such as Hungry Jacks? Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough. We were limited to only having burritos tonight because we were using an Entertainment Book voucher which entitles us 1-for-1 burrito - GYG does serve other well-known Mexican dishes such as 
tacos, quesadillas and nachos. I got myself a Steak Chipotle (Spicy) burrito (BBQ steak in GYG’s spicy Chipotle marinade with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo salsa) and Jono the Spicy Chicken Guerrero burrito (grilled chicken in GYG’s Guerrero marinade with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo salsa), and a Corona each (alcohol is served only on fully licensed dine in branches such as this one). Cost $10.50 for a regular burrito (which we got 2 for the price of one - score!) and $7 per bottle of beer. All burritos comes inclusive of rice, cheddar cheese, vegetarian black beans, salsa and filling rolled in a soft tortilla or served in a bowl (for a gluten free option). Add-ons include guacamole (extra $2) and whole wheat tortilla (extra 50 cents). GYG also does 'Mini B' burritos which I think it just half the regular size burrito for $6.50. Oh, and they serve Jarritos (Mexican soft drink) - I first had one of these when I was in San Francisco. High-sugared fizzy drink with rather shocking colours reminding me of the fizzy drinks I had when I was a kid :)

You can see the open plan kitchen from the order counter, the staff working away busily and speedily in their respective work stations, sizzling noises coming from the hot plates cooking the meats overlapping the Latin music playing in the background. I was given a number for our table and in a mere 5 minutes, our burritos turned up, all nicely wrapped in tin foil and clearly labelled (no mistake what's what) and served in a paper tray. The burritos were actually really good, not substandard at all. Jono and I tried some of each other's burritos and I like his one better (why is it that I always prefer Jono's dish to my own???) - the Spicy Chicken Guerrero had more kick and less cheese in it. Still, I enjoyed my burrito though the serving was too much and I could only finish two-thirds of it. We're definitely coming back as we have another voucher from the new Entertainment Book ;) I want to try their slow roasted pork burrito - sounds yum!

At Guzman y Gomez in Newtown for dinner

The burritos come wrapped securely in foil and clearly labelled

Steak Chipotle (Spicy) burrito with rice, cheddar cheese,
vegetarian black beans, salsa and filling ($10.50)

Spicy Chicken Guerrero burrito ($10.50)

Guzman Y Gomez Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Junior Thai, North Sydney (19th April 2012)

"So what's for lunch?" Julie-Ann and I said in unison as we waited for the lifts and both laughed. This is the thing about our Thursday lunches - we would work all the way up till 12pm and only then think about lunch, often making the journey on the lifts to the lobby a discussion on what to eat. Both of us felt like soup today (autumn weather kicking in) so we decided to check out what was available at the food court in Berry Square

We headed to the upper level food court where you could find several noodle soup shops - Julie-Ann ordered herself a ramen from the Japanese stall while I headed to Junior Thai next door and got myself a seafood tom yum soup with thin rice noodles (cost $9.50). Junior Thai, as the name suggests, serves Thai food and offers a good selection from made-on-order noodle soups and stir fries to food from the smorgasbord. The shop front got quite crowded as I waited to collect my noodle soup - hmm, seemed like the noodle soup here is pretty popular, a favourite among the lunchtime crowd.

Some 10 minutes later, I still hadn't been called to collect my food. The guy that ordered after me was called first and I actually think he has taken my lunch! I approached the counter when the Thai staff waved me over to get my food and sure enough, it was not mine. Though still seafood tom yum soup, I got broad rice noodles instead. "This is not what I ordered - I asked for thin rice noodles," I explained to the middle-aged lady to which she responded in her lack of English "Noodle ok? Ok," and after about 15 seconds to and fro like this, her insisting I needed to take the already prepared meal, I gave up and said ok - I wasn't going to win this fight and had kept Julie-Ann waiting long enough so annoyingly took the noodle soup and headed to our table. Grr...

On closer inspection of my disposable plastic bowl of hot soup, the soup itself was a clear soup base with a dollop of tom yum paste on the top 
(my guess is they use the same soup base for all their soup dishes but just put a different paste on the top depending on what you order) which I had to stir into my bowl filled with generous servings of pre-cooked vegetables and seafood, and surprisingly not much noodles - good for me since I'm not a big fan of broad rice noodles in soup and helps me cut down on my carb intake. Quite tasty with a slight spicy kick and great for the cold weather. Hmm, I think I may have found myself another noodle soup spot in North Sydney!

Junior Thai offers a variety of choices from smorgasbord to cook-on-order meals

Seafood tom yum noodle soup ($9.50)

Junior Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

FNZ team lunch at Commodore Hotel, North Sydney (4th April 2012)

It has been awhile since we last had a team lunch and with the Easter long weekend coming up, Julie-Ann rounded up the team for lunch today at the Commodore Hotel located on Blue Point Road in North Sydney. Everyone has been working really hard to get us over the line with the client's project datelines before the holidays and it was nice to get together for a meal in an informal setting - breaks us away briefly from all the demands and stresses at work and allows us to actually talk to one another (the team in North Sydney tend to work in our own silos). Team lunch is meant to be a monthly event but it's more like every quarter for us, perhaps due to the recent company cost-cutting policies (yes, the company pays for our team lunches). Still, better than no lunch at all!

Around 1pm, the team gathered at the lobby of our building and walked over to Commodore Hotel, a short 15-minute walk from our office. It was a sunny day and the Bar & Terrace area of the pub-bistro was filled with groups of office folk like us having extended lunches alfresco. Large weather proof umbrellas scatter all over the outdoor seating area to shade guests from the sun, and with its sleek design and manicured surrounds, the place gave a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. We found ourselves a few tables and joined them up to create a long table to fit our team of 10. "Drinks?" asked Steve, taking drink orders and starting up a tab at the bar. Over the course of the next 2 hours, we chatted over drinks and food, having a few laughs as well - it was nice to see everyone letting their hair down and enjoying our time together :)

The Commodore Hotel has earned a great reputation as one of Sydney's best pub dining. Its bistro menu has something for everyone from a wide selection of in-a-hurry light meals, traditional pub food, grazing plates to seafood, pasta and aged steaks. We got the garlic bread and an assortment of salads for the table to share and each ordered ourselves a main. Lunch for me today was the Crispy Skin Pork Belly (cost $22), twice cooked in master stock served on Asian stir fry vegetables tossed in honey-soy dressing with a side of jasmine rice. Mmm, the pork belly was delicious, the meat so tender it literally falls apart and the skin crisp and crunchy to the bite. Thumbs up from me! Though the pork belly looks rather small when served, it was just the perfect size - too much and you would feel rather greased out. The others seem to be enjoying their meals as well, compliments of the food floating in the conversations. I must say it's one of the better pub dining places I've been to in Sydney and definitely a place we'll be returning to for future team lunches.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly ($22)

Team lunch at the Bar & Terrace of Commodore Hotel
(l-r): Mark, James, Shankar, Steve M, Rao, Andrew, me, Venu and Steve

Commodore Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sushia, North Sydney (3rd April 2012)

Since the opening of Sushia earlier this year, this little takeaway sushi roll and fresh bar has been my once-a-week sushi lunch stop. Located on the Metro Level of Greenwood Plaza, Sushia is open from as early as 8.30am, its team of Japanese staff busily working away in their small kitchen preparing the food from scratch and filling up the display shelves with a colourful assortment of sushi. The smell of cooked vinegared sushi rice lingers in the nostrils as I walk past this shop on my way to the office each morning, often wondering if anyone actually stops to pick up some sushi for breakfast. Really? Sushi for breakfast?? Hmm, doesn't seem quite appropriate...

Come lunchtime, you would often find a line at Sushia but do not fret, the wait is very short - the staff at Sushia have a pretty efficient work system, with one staff mainly serving incoming customers, passing the paper bag with your sushi and complimentary soy sauce to the cashier who then hands you the food and collects payment. The shop 
sells a variety of yummy sushi (you can pick you own), sushi boxes, sushi rolls as well as sticks of deep fried snacks. I often go for the seaweed salad and a sushi roll (cost $6.80) for a light and quick lunch. I love seaweed salad - it's crunchy and has a slight tangy flavour, a real treat for me to have as an entree to my sushi roll. A must-try if you haven't had seaweed salad before! My favourite sushi rolls here would have to be the California Roll and Lobster Salad Roll, ironically the more Western-style sushi, but tastes great.

In the queue for takeaway sushi at Sushia

Plenty of sushi varieties available at Sushia

Sushi rolls

Lunch today - seaweed salad and California sushi roll :)

Sushia Maki Moto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PYtest - urea breath test (3rd April 2012)

I've been ill for about a week since I came back from Wellington, feeling nauseous and throwing up whenever I ate any food - I'm actually afraid to eat because nothing seems to stay down. Pregnant? Hell no! Not possible when Auntie Flo is here on her monthly visit (and I'm not ready to be mummy just yet - I want the ring first!) plus the symptoms were a lot more than just morning sickness-like - my stomach felt bloated and the area sore as if I had been punched, giving me little sleep at night. Vomiting and having an empty stomach made me feel somewhat better and I was hardly enjoying any food even though I've been eating at new places. Not great to be sick like this when you're a foodie :( And worse, to be in this state when I'm travelling!

By the time I managed to get an appointment with my doctor, I was no longer vomiting but belching and still felt bloatedness and sore in the stomach. My doctor was uncertain of the cause of my illness ("Could be some bacterium or maybe stress," she said) and suggested that I take a urea breath test (since I've a family history of stomach ulcer) to see if I may have
Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) bacterium in my stomach which was giving me grief. "But I'm not able to do the test with you - you'll need to schedule an appointment with the nurse to have it done," said my doctor. Great, more wait = more discomfort for me...

Five days later, I was back in the clinic for the urea breath test with the nurse. In preparation for the test, I was told to fast for 8 hours - this meant no food and not even a sip of water. I had my appointment first thing in the morning so that made fasting quite easy but the nurse was behind schedule for a good 30 minutes and I was in need of refuel. Grr...The nurse finally called me into her room and took out a flat reddish A4-sized box kit from the cabinet - the PYtest kit. The PYtest is a urea breath test and is a
 non-invasive diagnostic (as compared to an endoscopy) for determining the presence of a current infection of H.pylori in the human stomach. It is known to be highly accurate and extremely reliable for pre-treatment diagnosis and post-treatment evaluation of “proof-of-cure”. If H.pylori exists in the stomach, it produces large quantities of urease to protect it against the acidic conditions in the stomach. The PYtest detects and quantifies the amount of urease - if there is no urease present, then the patient has no H.pylori infection.

The PYtest kit comes with two paper cups, a balloon, a sulphur-coloured capsule, a straw and a courier box for the balloon to post the breath sample. I was given the capsule containing a small amount of urea to take with 30mls of water (roughly a mouthful) using the paper cup and waited 3 minutes before taking another cup of water, following by another 7 minutes wait for the urea to come into contact with the bacterium (or so the nurse good-humouredly said, "let it cook in your stomach"). As we waited, I was asked several times to verify my personal details (this is normal procedure to make sure the right treatment is given to the right patient) on the form and sticker she needed to complete and submit with the breath sample.

When the urea comes to contact with the H.pylori, it is hydrolyzed into carbon dioxide and ammonia - this carbon dioxide then enters the bloodstream and is carried to the lungs via the circulatory system and exhaled into the balloon. The nurse gave me a special metalised mylar 
balloon with the straw slid into the opening to blow into. "You have to fill up the balloon in one breath so take a deep breath before you start," advised the nurse. Ok...inhale...and blooooooowwwwwwwwww...The balloon was tied up securely and put into its box for shipping to the pathology laboratory for analysis. And that concluded the test - easy and painless (well, that is until I received a painful bill of $201.55 for the test a week later - ouch!). Finally, time for breakfast!

I rang up the clinic a couple of days later to find out the results of my test. Turned out, I have no H.pylori infection, which was great news though that meant we still did not know the cause for my vomiting and belching. The doctor could only suggest we monitor the recurrences and prescribed me with Nexium tablets (a proton pump inhibitor) to help ease the acid reflux. I can't say if I was already on the path of getting better or it was the tablets working its magic but the problems went away within a few days after starting the medication. And you can tell that I'm better because all I'm back to always thinking about is food! :)