Girls' night out & salsa dancing at Coolabar (15th July 2011)

2 more weeks till I see my baby Jono - yay!

JAK had organised a girls' night out this evening after work with me and her gfs to watch movie Bridesmaids and dinner in town. Around 5.30pm, JAK and I took the train from North Sydney to Town Hall to meet the others. We were early so went to The Star Bar (formerly Planet Hollywood) for a drink. The bar was much like a sports bar and still quite empty at this time of the evening. Nothing very spectacular about the place except they have a 5pm - 11pm happy hour where new schooners (refers to a glass of 285ml beer on tap), house spirits and wines cost only $3.50 each. Seriously?! Our drinks of vodka lime and beer was only $8 bucks, a bit more expensive but still under ten bucks! $3.50 drinks is dirt cheap. This is the place to go to if you want to get smashed - I'm not surprised it's popular with poor uni students and party-goers most nights!

JAK and I caught up on what's been happening in our lives and around 6.30pm, we headed over to Events Cinemas across the street to collect the tickets she had purchased online (cost $19.10 each). Thank god she bought the tickets in advance because there was such a long queue at the ticketing counter, with the majority of patrons buying tickets to the newly released Harry Potter movie - we skipped the queue and headed straight to the ticket collection counter which was way shorter. Pam and Sandy met up with us shortly and us four headed into the cinema to watch the 6.50pm screening of Bridesmaids. I hadn't read much about the movie except it was by the producers of movie Knocked Up which I didn't really like. The movie turned out to be really funny with grossed out gags and some crude scenes - no surprise to see guys enjoying the movie in the cinema as well. It's similar to the movie Hangover but a female version and I enjoyed it much more than Knocked Up, that's for sure.

The movie ended at 9.10pm and I already had 3 missed calls from Chefs Gallery about my 9pm dinner booking. Yikes! Hope they'll still seat us! We rushed down to Bathurst St around the corner to where the restaurant was located and fortunately our table was still available and we were shortly seated for dinner. Jono and I had walked past the restaurant several times and often seen long queues - we always said we would come one day by but haven't done so to date. Chefs Gallery has a similar flair to Din Tai Fung, dark wood furniture, contemporary Chinese cuisine and a glassed-in kitchen where you can watch all the action (if you want front row seats to all the action, take the bench seats). And like Din Tai Fung, the kitchen staff wore a mouth guard (Din Tai Fung's kitchen staff wore surgical masks), a small plastic shield worn on the chin and strapped onto the ears, covering the mouth area. I'm not sure why such measures are needed - hygienic? Probably, but I feel indifferent whether they wear a mouth guard, surgical mask or nothing at all. Though I hope that their hands are clean when in the kitchen preparing food...

Us girls went through the menu and picked out several dishes to share. Even the choice of food served looked similar to Din Tai Fung! We ordered Fluffy Chinese roti with pork floss (a combination of  handmade roti sprinkled with pork floss), handmade egg and spinach tofu lightly pan-fried and topped with preserved radish, vegetarian spring rolls served with a sweet chilli tomato salsa, seared scallops served with a garlic and oil free vinaigrette dressing (comes out in a beautiful glass dish - the small version has 5 scallops), sweet and tangy diced chilli chicken tossed with handmade noodles, work fried medium grain rice with 3 kinds of eggs (chicken, salted duck and century eggs) and drinks of beer, wine and tea. Most of the dishes were delicious but my favourite was the fried rice - the salted duck and century eggs were diced up so finely and gave a nice flavour to the simple dish. Handmade noodles being the signature dish of the restaurant, I would suggest NOT getting the noodles we got tonight as it was pretty average (kind of like sweet and sour chicken on noodles and does no justice to the handmade noodles). Oh, and you'll know when the kitchen is closed for the night because the automatic blinds by the glass windows comes down, much like a theatre show. Cost us approximately $100 all up less 25% off the total bill with the use of my Entertainment Book voucher which was good value for money. I'll have to bring Jono here when he gets back so he can sample the fried rice and other yummy dishes :)

Chefs Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thanks JAK for organising the night out - it was good fun! We left the restaurant around 10.30pm and I said my goodbyes to the girls before walking over to Coolabar on Pitt St to meet Ken who was there dancing salsa. This would be the 4th salsa place we've checked out together over the last 3 weeks (Ken's been to a couple more during weeknights) - I'm really clocking up my dance card since Ken turned up (and Jono's away)! Cost $13 cover charge to enter the bar that reminded me of the old Latinos Bar in Wellington, with a bar area on one end of the venue and dance floor on the other. Ample of dance space tonight compared to the packed Pumphouse Bar and I recognised a few leads I had danced with from last Friday. One of the guys remembered me and gave me a smile and nod as I passed him to drop off my bag and changed shoes. Ooo, getting recognised - we've obviously been around enough that people are beginning to remember us!

I had one dance before the DJ stopped the music and called out dancers who have put their name in a hat for the Jack and Jill dance competition. How it works is this: participants pay to join the heats which can be salsa, bachata or zouk, depending on which heat it is (tonight's heat was bachata) and the couples are put together based on names pulled out from the hat on the night so you never know exactly who you would be paired up with. 6 couples showed off their best bachata moves on the dance floor, the winners of each set (2 sets of 3 couples) clearly visible and overshadowing the rest of the couples. There are several more heats in the coming weeks before the final competition vying for the prize money of $1500. Dancing resumed shortly with 2 songs each of salsa, bachata and zouk played consecutively. I had A LOT of dances tonight, hardly much time to chat with Ken who was mostly seen sitting this evening (he looked tired) - every time I was about to exit the dance floor, another lead grabs my hand and I'm back dancing. Oh, and you wouldn't believe who asked me to dance again tonight - the guy who gave me the glow bangle last week! This time he pulled out a glow bangle from his pocket and put it on my right wrist before we started dancing - I laughed and asked him if this was how he marked which female he has danced with. "Not just any girl, special ones only," he responded with a broad smile. He was a funny guy who acts as if full of himself, saying things like "Ah, I see you have been practicing for me - your moves have improved" or "It's a salsa song - must be your lucky day to dance salsa with me" and I cracked up laughing at his silly comments :)

Ken and I left around 12am for home - he looked really exhausted and I didn't want to hold him up so packed up and left with him even though I felt energised and could dance a bit longer. "Hey Cinderella, where are you going?" said glow bangle man who saw me changing my shoes. I learnt his name was Adrian (he probably told me previously but I couldn't hear it over the loud music) and had a brief chat before saying goodbye and headed off. On our way out, I saw David who was on the phone - damn, would have loved to have a few dances with him tonight! Oh well, next time...It was a good night out spent with friends - I feel I'm beginning to build on my social network in Sydney which is great!


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