Friday, 29 November 2013

Sushia Izakaya & Bar, Sydney (29th November 2013)

Today was the first time I stepped foot into a Japanese restaurant post-traumatic experience at Kenji @ Opera Kitchen - it has been a while since I last went to Sushia Izakaya & Bar for lunch and I’m pretty confident there won’t be any seagulls trying to steal my food when dining at this indoor restaurant!

“Ooo, new sushi train menu…,” I noted walking past the large sign by the entrance. Good thing I'm here, get to sample their new menu ;) There were hardly any diners at 12pm and plenty of seats to choose from. Being a lone diner, I took up my usual spot at the bar. Hmm, looking at the items on the sushi train, I noticed there were a couple of new salmon variations though the sushi selection were limited, perhaps because it was still early for lunch; the chefs were busy making more to add onto the train. After eyeing the conveyor belt for about 5 minutes while sipping my warm cup of green tea, I decided to start off with a few dishes from their sushi train menu (you can order from the menu at any time with the wait staff) and got myself a Salmon Sashimi and a single serve of Agendashi Tofu. 

The Salmon Sashimi is my absolute favourite here at Sushia – thick cuts, fresh and SO good. I could happily eat another serving but it would burn a hole in my pocket. Just have to slowly saviour the six slices on my plate…

Salmon Sashimi ($6.50)

The Agendashi Tofu was made on order so took some time but well worth the wait. Served warm in a small bowl, the deep fried silken tofu sits in a broth mixture of dashi, mirin and shoyu, topped with finely sliced spring onion, nori and bonito shavings. The only way to consume the cute little dish is with a spoon – delicious! 

Agendashi Tofu ($3)

There were various signs placed on the train and one of them had information on how you can obtain a discount for your bill. Check in a photo of your meal on Facebook and receive 10% off the food bill (drinks not included); all you needed to do was show your check in when paying to get the discount. One cute tofu dish checked in!

Throngs of corporate workers started filling up the place as time passed by. I was still feeling peckish so waved to a nearby wait staff, this time putting in an order for a Lobster Salad and a Soft Shell Crab hand roll, both of which too weren’t available on the conveyor. While waiting for them to be made, I helped myself to a Grilled Eel nigiri from the train – tasted as expected, nothing to shout about. 

Grilled Eel ($4.20)

My Lobster Salad turned up shortly and though it was tasty, my small gripe was that the sushi was made a little too big; I couldn’t have it in one mouthful (had to take two bites) and my sushi was disintegrating as I ate :/ The first bite was a slight shock to the system because the salad came straight from the fridge i.e. it was cold and I happened to be the first diner of the day to order the Lobster Salad. 

Lobster Salad ($4.20)

Last but not least was the Soft Shell Crab hand roll – skilfully wrapped in a nori cone with ingredients spilling out the open end, I ate it with my hand, dipping the roll in the spicy mayo (served on the side) with each bite. Woah, that mayo has quite a kick! The soft shell crab was totally fried through and it even had some roe in it (mmm, eggy…yum...). 

Soft Shell Crab hand roll ($4.20)

Cost $22.60 all up including my 10% discount which was more than what I would normally spend for lunch but bugger it - the food was great and worth the cost. Come check out the new menu - I'm loving it :)

Sushia Izakaya & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 25 November 2013

Parlour Burger, Sydney (25th November 2013)

Sydney has what I call food fads, short term phases of what the new 'in' food is in town that gets everyone talking and eating – first there were the dumplings, then the ramen joints, and let's not forget the yoghurt stores that were mushrooming EVERYWHERE (how is it even possible to have 3 of such stores on the same block on George St???) and these days, the new craze is burgers. Yep, you heard me right - BURGERS. Once a feature of fast food restaurants, the burger is taking Sydney by storm with several well-known chefs opening up burger businesses of late (think CHUR Burger and The Burger Shed) and now followed by The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room opening their very own burger bar, Parlour Burger.

To celebrate the launch, Parlour Burger was giving away a total of 1,000 burgers on its opening day (that's today!) from 12pm to 2pm, and again from 5pm to 7pm. Fellow food blogger Jugernauts very kindly shared the free burger offer link on the Sydney Food Bloggers Facebook group (which many Sydney food bloggers and foodies are a part of) last week - all you needed to do was to sign up for the offer on The Morrison Facebook page and shortly receive an email confirmation that entitles you to one free burger on launch day. I managed to snag an offer (score!) and there were still about 250 left after I signed up. You gotta be in quick before it’s all gone! Thanks Jugernauts for sharing :)

I headed over to Parlour Burger located a block away from my office about 11.45am for the launch event and there were at least 20 people ahead of me in the line leading into the venue, most like myself with a printed paper in hand (we needed to show the email confirmation in exchange for the burger). On the dot at noon, the staff at the bar sounded the hand bell signalling the start of the event. Eager patrons were let into the smallish venue in waves to collect their free burger – I managed to get in with the second wave just a little after 12pm. I headed straight for the bar where the staff were busy handing out burgers. “What is that??” asked one of the female bar staff, pointing to my printout which I attempted to hand over to her. When I told her what it was, she gave me a nonchalant wave of the hand saying it wasn’t necessary. Huh? No confirmation required?? It seemed to me the staff were giving out free burgers to anyone who rocked up to the bar without actually checking if he/she has an offer confirmation. This is going to get pretty ugly when the burgers run out and folks who DO have a confirmation get nothing. Seriously, what is the point of signing up for the offer when the organisers themselves do not adhere to the rules?

In line outside Parlour Burger for a free burger as part of their launch

Free burgers handed out at the bar - choice of either chicken or beef burger

I was really hoping Parlour Burger would be giving out their quirky The Black Widow burger (made with charcoal brioche bun, ground beef and extra hot sauce) but no such luck - diners were given a choice of either the chicken or beef burger that came ready prepared and wrapped in tin foil. I decided to go for the beef and with burger in hand went to find myself a seat; most folk collected their burgers and headed off. 
The decor of Parlour Burger was similar to that of an American diner with its high bar stools and tables except it had a more upmarket feel and looked sleek with the black and wood tones. The place was quite packed so I ended up sharing a high table with another solo diner. 

Inside Parlour Burger

The small burger bar filled with happy hungry customers :)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that we were given full-sized burgers; I was expecting the free burgers to be just a small sampler. My beef burger turned out to be The Original Morrison burger - fresh lettuce, tomato, gherkin, chipotle mayo and a fist size chunky beef patty cooked medium rare sandwiched between two soft buns. Tasted pretty good though I'm not sure if the pink middle would be a huge hit with diners - it was more towards the rare side and even though I normally have my steak medium rare, I would have preferred the beef patty a bit more cooked. The burger was a substantial serving and reasonably priced for the normal cost of $10.

Fun Times & Good Burgers

The Original Morrison Burger (with chipotle mayo) ($10)

Medium rare beef patty - brown on the outside, pink in the middle

The menu at Parlour Burger has been kept simple - $10 burgers (5 options to choose from) and a couple of sides including The Morrison famous Duck Fat Chips, Cabbage & Parmesan Slaw, Beer Battered Onion Rings and Deep Fried Pickles. Definitely coming back to try The Black Widow and Deep Fried Pickles, both of which sounds very interesting to me!

Parlour Burger menu

$10 burgers - choose from the five options available

I left the burger bar around 12.15pm and my god, the queue has now grown all the way around the block: 

Those of you who are coming for the 5pm session, make sure you come early to secure your free burger!

Parlour Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Wing Wah Cutie Wife Cake (16th November 2013)

My baby's back from Hong Kong!

Jono has been away since Monday on his annual Google conference and this year, the event was held in Hong Kong. Much as I would have loved to join Jono on his trip (since I've never been to Hong Kong), we've several upcoming holidays so couldn't really afford me taking more time off work. I have to say I was pretty impressed at how much ground he covered in just a few days - I gave Jono a list of things to do/see/eat and he had nearly checked all of them off, including lining up at one Michelin star Tim Ho Wan for dim sum (I'm SO jealous!). We'll have to make another trip to Hong Kong so I get to experience it all!

My lovely husband got me a little present from Hong Kong International Airport - a box of Cutie Wife Cake. Made by restaurant chain and food manufacturer Wing Wah (who are most known for their moon cakes), my pretty box consists of nine individually sealed packets each containing a small 'wife cake'. Now you ask, what is a 'wife cake'? Well, it is a traditional Cantonese pastry with flaky and thin skin made with winter melon, almond paste, sesame and five spice powder. The pastry is called 'lao pao bing' in Mandarin which literally translates to 'old lady cake' but most pastry shops market them as 'wife cake' or 'sweetheart cake'. I supposed the term 'cutie' was added to the Wing Wah version because they do look rather small and cute. "For my cutie wife," said Jono. Hehe...

My present from Hong Kong - a box of Cutie Wife Cake :)

There are several versions of the story from which the term 'wife cake' came about and the most popular is this: There was a poor but loving couple living during imperial China. One day the husband's father became sick and the wife knowing well they could not afford the medicine went and sold herself to slavery in exchange for the money. The husband in learning this made a cake filled with sweet winter melon and almond, dedicating it to the memory of his wife and sold it on the streets. The 'wife cake' became so popular that he earned enough money to not only cure his father but also buy his wife back.

According to Jono, the Cutie Wife Cake comes in several varieties and he decided to get me one with Red Bean & Chestnut Paste Filling. A quick look at the Wing Wah website tells me you can also get the cakes in varieties including White Lotus, Green Tea, Honey and Pineapple. I've had 'wife cake' a couple of times growing up in Malaysia and frankly, I never really like them - the ones you get in Malaysia are quite large and has a thick flaky and powdery crust, the filling made with chunks of candied melon sometimes too sweet for my tastebuds, and an overdose of five spice powder. Oh, but THIS one is GOOD (and it's not just because my husband bought it) and tasted nothing like the ones I've had before. The single-serve Cutie Wife Cake is only 6.5 cm in diameter and has a thin sweet flaky pastry filled with a good proportion of red bean and chestnut paste. I like that it wasn't overly sweet and if you read the print on the box, it actually says that top grade New Zealand honey is added. Hmm, interesting...The box also came with cooking directions - it needs cooking??? Though you can have it straight out of the pack, if you follow the instructions and zap the cake in the microwave for 30 seconds on medium power, it totally makes a difference - now the Cutie Wife Cake taste as if freshly baked from the oven! 

Cutie Wife Cake with Red Bean & Chestnut Paste Filling

Thin sweet flaky skin with generous filling

Thank you husband for the cakes!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Lok Lok Dumpling Bar, Rhodes (13th November 2013)

Ken and I had planned to check out Tomodachi for dinner prior to the movie preview of 'One Chance' at Reading Cinemas, Rhodes Shopping Centre tonight but he was running late so I ended up having dinner on my own. I could have still gone to Tomodachi but one shop in particular at the Food Court on Level 1 caught my eye – Lok Lok Dumpling Bar – it was the only shop that had a small crowd of customers (crowds at food places are always good sign to me).

Serving soup and steamed dumplings as well as potstickers, Lok Lok Dumpling Bar has almost every Chinese dumpling type covered and all their dumplings are handmade fresh on site. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the dumpling bar has six branches located in Sydney (sadly none within the CBD area) and also offers rice, handmade noodles and even stir fry dishes in addition to their extensive dumpling selection. Though there was a short line at the counter, it was moving fairly quickly so I didn’t have to wait very long for my turn :) While in the line, I flipped through their menu and picked out a few items from the list – the Shao Long Bao (steamed Shanghai mini pork soup dumplings that comes in a bamboo steamer in either a set of five or ten dumplings; I got the smaller set) and two of the chef’s specials, the Taiwanese Crispy Salt & Pepper Popcorn Chicken and the Special Pan Fried Pork Bun (the buns come in a set of four or eight; I went for the four). Cost $21.40 all up and payment was required on order. I was given a buzzer and went to look for a seat, settling into one of the few available small tables near the counter; there is also the option of sitting by the bar with views into the kitchen for you to have a glimpse of all the action. Given the lack of seating, it was no surprise why most customers were doing takeaways instead of dining in.

Lok Lok Dumpling Bar in Rhodes Shopping Centre

'Bzzz, bzzz! Bzzz, bzzzz!!' My buzzer sounded and I headed over to the counter to collect my food. The Special Pan Fried Pork Bun and Taiwanese Crispy Salt & Pepper Popcorn Chicken came out first; I had to return for the Shao Long Bao later – there was a note on the menu stating that it takes 15 minutes for this dumpling to be prepared and the guy behind the counter also very kindly reminded me so when I ordered them. I also picked up a pair of disposable chopsticks, a plastic spoon and some serviettes, as well as condiments of soy, vinegar and chilli sauce for my meal from the collection counter before heading back to my table. 

I started off with the Special Pan Fried Pork Bun and it was pretty average. Good flavour in the soup though I expected the buns to have a crispy bottom; they were soggy, suggesting that it was probably left to cool with the fried base still facing downwards. 

Special Pan Fried Pork Bun (4 pcs) ($6.80)

The Shao Long Bao was rather disappointing – the skin was a bit too thick and sticking on the paper lining in the bamboo steamer so the dumpling was breaking apart with soup oozing out before I could even get it onto my spoon. Very annoying :/ 

Shao Long Bao - Steamed Shanghai Mini Pork Soup Dumpling (5 pcs) ($5.80)

The best dish by far was the Taiwanese Crispy Salt & Pepper Popcorn Chicken, bite-size pieces of tender and juicy boneless meat coated in a crunchy crispy batter served together with deep fried green beans, all seasoned in a tasty salt and spice mix.

Taiwanese Crispy Salt & Pepper Popcorn Chicken ($8.80)

Frankly, I was expecting the dishes to be entrĂ©e size but they turned out to be quite large. Not sure how I’m going to finish it all (I only managed half of everything) but thankfully Ken turned up and helped finish the rest! Overall, service was friendly and speedy though the food wasn’t particularly fantastic.

Lok Lok Dumpling Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Malay-Chinese Takeaway, Sydney (6th November 2013)

Su Wei felt like ‘hor fun’ for lunch so we headed over to Malay-Chinese Takeaway around 11.45am for an early bite. I decided to get the Combination Hor Fun as well since I've never had it here before; Su Wei had ordered the dish on several of our visits to Malay-Chinese Takeaway but I would always stick to my good old favourite laksa :) The Combination Hor Fun comes in two sizes - $8.90 for the small or $9.50 for the large. I got the small only to learn that Su Wei ordered herself the large. Is small not the regular size?? Well, too late to change my order now!

We found ourselves a table in the busy diner and it didn't take very long for our meals to be called out for collection. "Green chilli yah?" asked the auntie (in Malaysia, everyone is your auntie or uncle so long as they are much older than you, including people who serve you food – it’s a Malaysian etiquette to respectfully address someone other than their given names, even if they are not related to you) and I nodded. Yes please - pickled green chillies are A MUST with the dish! Unlike the other chillies which you can self-serve from the condiments area, the pickled green chillies were only given on food collection and the amount determined by the auntie. I suppose if you ask nicely, they would happily give you another spoonful; what I got was pretty generous and more than enough for my dish.

I should have just gone for the large – looking at Su Wei’s, hers was way more substantial than mine for the extra 60 cents. My small was not quite enough to fill me up though the large seemed a little too much (well, better too much than too little when it comes to food, I reckon). Frankly, they should just have the one size and scrap the small altogether. The Combination Hor Fun is made with rice stick and rice noodles fried with a little dark seasoning to give it the brownish colour combined with ingredients of chopped choy sum, seafood (slices of fish cake, couple of large shelled prawns and pieces of squid) and slices of chicken, drenched in a starchy sauce and topped with fried shallot and optional pickled green chillies. Good flavour though it didn’t impress me as much as their laksa did. The gleaming sauce was too gooey for my liking and the pickled green chillies needed more pickling – it tasted more spicy than sour. There were also bean sprouts in the dish which was unexpected. I think I’ll stick to my laksa when I’m next here…

Combination Hor Fun (Small) ($8.90)

A more substantial looking Combination Hor Fun (Large) ($9.50)

 Malay Chinese Takeaway on Urbanspoon

Friday, 1 November 2013

Casino-themed afternoon at the office (1st November 2013)

As part of celebrating achievements and thanking everyone for their hard work, Kim (our Head of Operations) had arranged for an afternoon of fun in the office with casino games set up in the boardroom and surrounding areas as well as plenty of booze and nibbles for all. Around 3pm, the folks from Queen Six turned up with our casino hire and began setting up the poker and blackjack tables in the boardroom, while the roulette table was set up just behind my work desk. I guess I won’t be doing much work with all the noise once the games begin!

In addition to providing quality poker and casino hire equipment, Queen Six also assists in hosting corporate and private casino events. Solid wood tables with felt tops and leather-cushioned rims adds a touch of luxury and class, and beer holders built into the table allowed for drinking as we played. The chips, cards and equipment used were of standards you would expect at an actual casino (they look as good as new) AND we even had a croupier (aka dealer), one at each of the three tables, all immaculately dressed in black and white attire. We were treated to the full casino experience! Most of us probably felt rather under dressed in our casual Friday attire (jeans, t-shirt and sneakers) though Jun was totally dressed for the occasion sporting a sharp casual suit and cool shades to match :)

There was no actual money used in the games –  it was a test of luck, skill and strategy. Each player was given $1000 worth of chips to start and the player with the most chips at the end of the night wins the king of the casino trophy supplied by Queen Six. I did not partake in the gambling but instead went around the tables learning how the games are played, watching others bet and took photos (someone had to take evidence...). I started off at the roulette table where the lovely croupier explained how the game worked. Players can choose to place as many bets as they wish on the table. There are two main classes of bets – inside bets and outside bets. Some of the popular inside bets include playing straight (single number bet), split (bet on two adjoining numbers either vertical or horizontal – the chip is placed on the line between the numbers) and corner (bets on the four numbers in the square – the chip is placed in the intersection between the horizontal and vertical lines), while outside bets include bets on red or black, even or odd, or a range of numbers such as dozen bets (1st, 2nd or 3rd set of twelve numbers from 1-36), or 1-18 and 19-36. Outside bets tend to have a smaller payout but better odds of winning. Once bets are placed, the roulette wheel is then spun and everyone waits anxiously for the ball to fall into one of the pockets which determines the winning number and colour. Players can continue to place bets on the table until such time the croupier calls “no more bets”. It was amusing to watch how people play – some go for randomness, placing a chip here and there; others kept betting on the same number at every round.

Place your bets, place your bets! An afternoon of casino games in the office :)

Roulette wheel

The croupier announcing the winning bets

The boardroom was packed with both players and spectators when I went to check out the poker and blackjack tables. There seemed to be a gender split, the girls trying their luck in blackjack while the boys gathered around the poker table, in deep concentration at their hand of cards. Poker was by far the most complicated game of the three to grasp in my opinion as it required mind play in addition to the card game. A poker hand consists of 5 cards and players use a mix of strategy and bluff to win the pot of chips on the table.  The best five cards based on the poker hand ranking wins though you may still win with a terrible hand if other players take bait to your bluff and call themselves out (fold).

The boys in deep concentration at the poker table

Poker hand ranking

Come on, come on, give me a queen!

Blackjack was a lot more straightforward where players compete against the dealer but not other players. To win the game, the player needs to score 21 points on their first two cards, reach a final score higher than the dealer but not exceeding 21, or letting the dealer draw additional cards until he exceeds 21.

The girls trying out their luck in blackjack

Though no money was used, it was quite interesting to watch the roller coaster of emotions portrayed as if there was real gain and loss. I suppose it's like any other game – everyone wants to win.

Person with the most chips gets to take home this trophy

Hmm, can I beat that?

Someone's won quite a bit...

Back at the roulette table listening to the croupier explaining how the game works

Rules of blackjack are a lot easier to comprehend

To hit or stand?

It was good to see everyone let loose and taking a break from work, socialising with one another and just having fun. Looking forward to more team building events in the office!