Friday, 23 November 2012

Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky (24th November 2012)

After last night's embarrassing incident of turning up to the Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky performance at the Sydney Opera House on wrong day, I'm sure we definitely have tickets to tonight's performance - I've checked and rechecked the date on the tickets several times to be sure!

We arrived early for the 8pm start so had a drink at the bar before heading into the Concert Hall where the performance was held. As part of the Ausgrid Master Series for 2012, the Russian Masters: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky was a showcase of the lesser-known works of these two Russian composers. There were only 3 performances (21, 23 & 24 of November) and ticket prices range from $39 - $129. Cost us $103 per person for our stall seats located 6 rows away from the stage.

Orchestra warming up

Tonight's concert was conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, a renowned pianist (classical music fans are likely to own one or more of his recordings; I have several) and in more recent years, an esteemed conductor. It is a privilege for Sydney Symphony Orchestra to have acquired Ashkenazy as their Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, and for me as well to see the legend himself in action!

The performance began with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op.40 featuring Scott Davie on the piano. The fourth concerto was Rachmaninoff's final piano concerto and the version played this evening was an Australian premiere of original version. As with most classical performances, it always impresses me to watch the soloist's performance and Davie played wonderfully with such passion and confidence, no music score in sight for all three movements.

During the 20-minute interval, Jono and I got ourselves a cup of coffee from the bar to share. Both were happily surprised that the coffee actually turned out pretty good. I guess we've had our share of bad coffees in Sydney and wasn't expecting coffee from the bar to be great especially during the interval rush.

Back into the Concert Hall for the second half of the performance, this time showcasing Tchaikovsky's Manfred - Symphony after Byron, op.58. Many of Tchaikovsky's works were inspired by literature, and in this case, a dramatic programmatic symphony composed following the journey of Manfred through the Alps torn by despair and guilt to finding redemption based on Lord Byron's poem, namely Manfred. To me, Tchaikovsky's works are like storytelling and always filled with emotions - I often find myself dreaming up scenes as I listen to the music (I'm not sure why it often involves fairies or nymphs in the forest or running away from something fearsome but that tends to be what his music brings to my mind). We also got to briefly hear the organs in the Concert Hall in action during the finale movement which was pretty amazing - I could feel the vibration going through my whole body! Overall the performance was excellent though a rather expensive experience I must say (don't think any event held at the Sydney Opera House we've been to comes under $100 per person) .

Despite the crowd applauding tirelessly and calling for an encore, we never got one and after awhile everyone got the message and started to disperse. Leaving a tad disappointed, we were delighted when on exiting the Sydney Opera House, we were showered with a colourful display of fireworks at the harbour (it was for the large cruise ship ported at Circular Quay) making it a brilliant end to a wonderful evening :)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Canton Express, Sydney (15th November 2012)

Ever since my company relocated to the new premises on Pitt St, I've been working at the office on Thursdays and absolutely loving it - less time spent travelling on the train but most of all, actually working in an office where I feel I belong. I've been working on the client site for over 1.5 years and though I have a desk and all I need to do my job, it just doesn't feel the same. Plus now I get to put faces to names I see in emails!

Being new in the area, I'm still figuring out where the good lunch spots are. My aimless walking took me to the food court at Australia Square for lunch today. Situated on the corner of George and Bond Streets, this circular tower is pretty hard to miss - the retail centre underneath the main tower complex (also where the food court is located) is accessible from George Street, Bond Street, Curtin Place or through the outside seating area off Pitt Street. With 15 different eateries on site, it's no wonder this is a popular place for lunch for the working folk in the vicinity. 

At 12pm, the food court was buzzing with hungry patrons buying food from the eateries and filling up the indoor seating (outdoor seating available as well). I decided to grab lunch from Canton Express (formerly BBQ King Express) and ordered their Hainanese Chicken Rice (cost $11). The eatery, as the name implies, serves a mix of Cantonese cuisine including BBQ pork with rice and seasonal Chinese greens, and wonton noodle soup. And they were definitely speedy with the service - took less than 5 minutes from order to when my food was ready for collection!

OK, I did mention I was eating in when I ordered...Instead of serving my Hainanese Chicken Rice on a plate, my meal was packed in takeaway containers. Hmm, it seems to be the norm for all the eateries here, serving their food in takeaway containers (I guess this makes the job of the cleaners much easier than having to sort out dishes in addition to cleaning tables). What was ridiculous was my meal came in 5 containers! One for the rice, one for the chicken and greens, one for the soup and one for each of the condiments of chilli sauce and minced ginger with chopped scallion in oil respectively. Granted, it was very organised and neatly presented but a bit overboard and I felt self-conscious that other diners sitting nearby were chuckling quietly as they watched me unpack my lunch at the table. Finding a table was a bit of a mission and I had to share my table with some random diner.

Canton Express in the food court of Australia Square

Hainanese Chicken Rice ($11)

The Hainanese Chicken Rice was quite good though the soup lacked substance and all I could taste was salt. Chicken was tender and moist - great that it was served deboned but with a disposable plastic spoon and wooden chopsticks, it still makes it a pain to cut up the bigger pieces of meat :/ The chilli sauce wasn't quite what I expected - normally a mixture of pounded chilli and garlic, this one looked suspiciously bright red which made me think it might be watered-down sweet chilli sauce. But oh, when I had some of it, it gave a spicy kick which goes very nicely with the chicken and rice. Definitely keen to come back and try out their other Cantonese dishes.

Canton Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pancakes on the Rocks, The Rocks (10th November 2012)

With our men away on the annual Google network engineer get-together in San Francisco, GWAGs (Googler Wives and Girlfriends) Anna, Natasha and I caught up for lunch at The Rocks this afternoon. Last year around the same time when the boys were away, I too got the girls together to hang out - I can see this becoming our annual girls' tradition :)

Natasha suggested that we head to Pancakes on the Rocks (the original branch located on Hickson Road) for lunch. Great, I've wanted to check out this restaurant chain for ages! I arrived a bit before our 1pm meet time and already there was a queue to get into the restaurant. Anna soon arrived and we continued to shuffle our way to the head of the queue - took another 10 - 15 minutes before we were seated. The place was pretty packed and no doubt very popular. Customers were streaming in replacing those who were leaving, and there was always a visible line outside though the wait wasn't too bad if you're not in a hurry.

Anna and I caught up and chatted while we waited for Natasha who was running late. The wait staff were highly attentive - we had at least 5 different waitstaff come by our table attempting to take our order. I got myself a flat white which was alright but would have been better if it was served a lot hotter. Hmm, Natasha still hadn't turned up by the time I finished my coffee...tummy getting hungry...

Natasha finally arrived, 20 minutes late. Anna and I were pretty decided on what we wanted and once Natasha made up her mind, we immediately waved for a waitstaff to take our order. Open 24 hours, Pancakes on the Rocks is said to be the place to go to satisfy your pancake cravings - pancakes is a must-try for my visit today. I got the Aussie Sunrise (buttermilk pancakes with whipped butter, crispy bacon, a fried egg and grilled banana and pineapple) from the breakfast menu while Natasha got a savoury crepe and Anna went straight for a dessert pancake. The name may suggest the restaurant only serves pancakes but that is not the case - you can also order meals such as ribs and gourmet pizza which looked pretty good too. 

Us girls chatted and caught up on all that has been happening in our lives while we waited for our meals. I can't believe it's almost 2 years that we've known one another - how time flies!

Our food was served within 10 minutes which was surprisingly fast given it was such as busy restaurant (and I'm now super hungry). My Aussie Sunrise greeted me with a cheerful smile - time to tuck in! This meal was probably going to wipe off all the hard work in the gym I've done all week as it looked pretty high-calorie laden - fried egg with runny yolk, fried strips of bacon and fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a dollop of whipped butter and a small pot of maple syrup. Life's too short to count calories - I can afford to be naughty for one meal :P Love the thick and fluffy pancakes, and the fried pineapple was a good palate cleanser at the end. Portion size was generous so I was feeling rather stuffed after polishing off the whole plate. The girls seem to be enjoying their meals as I did, finishing most of the food on their plates.

Aussie Sunrise ($14.95)

Cost us $33.80 all up which included the use of my Entertainment Book voucher that entitled us for a free main course when another is purchased, making it a rather cheap lunch. Well-worth a visit if you happen to be at The Rocks!

Pancakes on the Rocks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Miller Street Eatery, North Sydney (7th November 2012)

Ever since the the food court on 99 Mount Street has been demolished and my favourite Malacca Straits Thai is no where to be found in the vicinity (I looked in the area, went to the various food courts and even contacted the local city council but still couldn't track them down...sob, sob...), I decided to try out the other Asian eateries in North Sydney in hope to find a new regular lunchtime place that serves great Malaysian food. 

Around 12pm, I headed over to Miller Street Eatery in the food court area of Tower Square on Miller St, less than a block away from my office. Hmm, there was hardly anyone here which was surprising since most places would be pretty packed at this time. I've actually been here once many moons ago but don't really recall if the food was any good. The restaurant serves primarily Chinese food but like many Chinese/Asian restaurants in food courts in Sydney, they also serve Sydneysiders' favourite Malaysian cuisine, the laksa. There are also daily specials and a selection of dishes to choose from the smorgasbord. I opted for their Fried Kuay Teow and paid the $9.90 for the dish to one of the friendly ladies behind the counter, then got myself a table indoors (they have outdoor seating as well).

As I sat there reading my book while waiting for my dish, more customers started arriving, most having food from the smorgasbord. About 10 minutes later, my Fried Kuay Teow was served to me at my table. Oh my god - how am I to finish the plate? It was HUGE! No doubt I would be taking at least half of this home...

Order counter at Miller Street Eatery

Fried Kuay Teow ($9.90)

The first thing I noticed about the dish was that it had chicken and BBQ pork - the Malaysian in me immediately went "This is wrong!". Char kway teow/fried kuay teow is usually made with flat rice noodles with whole prawns, bean sprouts, chopped Chinese chives, stir-fried egg, slices of fishcake and perhaps Chinese sausage ('lap cheong') but never with meat. This was more like the Hongkong version of fried kuay teow which has BBQ pork in it. Taste-wise was ok but not the best - lacked the 'char' factor and somehow the combination of ingredients just didn't quite work. I kind of disappointingly ate a third of my plate (all the while pining for Malaysian Straits Thai...sigh...) and had the rest packed into a takeaway container to bring home - I managed to fill up the whole container enough for 2 more meals! Perhaps I should have gone for the more Chinese dishes which they might do a lot better in - will need a revisit and try their crispy chicken dishes. 

Miller Street Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato