House of Crabs, Redfern

I don’t like to eat messy food in public. It is very hard to maintain your dignity and your charm when you are elbow deep in sauce and have organic matter hanging from your teeth. There is also the small matter for needing an industrial strength bath straight after. No matter how much I’d like to think that I’m a lady, there is no escaping the fact that I am a messy eater.

IMG_4909

Seafood Toastie for starters

As with everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. House of Crabs was my exception.

Taking over the first floor of the Norfolk Hotel, I have wanted to visit this mystical place ever since I’d heard that it opened. Not a den of sexually transmitted disease as its name may suggest, House of Crabs is actually a purveyor of some of the best quality shellfish in Sydney (and very recently, Melbourne too). My main delay in booking a table was that none of my friends will eat crustaceans, either for religious reasons or from personal preference so finding a partner in crime was difficult. The perfect opportunity arose when it came to celebrating a family member’s birthday and a seafood restaurant was required.

We booked in for a Tuesday night at 7pm and though I had worried about the noise level (having heard that it could get rowdy) the place was deserted. This actually suited us just fine as certain family members hate noise and the Caribbean style decor and retro American punk rock music provided enough of an atmosphere. I particularly loved the Forrest Gump quotes.

IMG_4913

The disappointing fish dish

Despite this being a special occasion, I know myself so I dressed for the venue rather than the event. I wore my gym clothes. I sweat in these things so I thought what harm would a little tomato sauce and prawn juice do to them? For those of you who have never heard of House of Crabs, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “is this girl a wild animal? Why can’t she keep her food on her plate?” Well let me explain, there is no plate.

Although there are other dishes on the menu like pork ribs and buttermilk fried chicken, the main event is the seafood – a choice of six different types from mussels to prawns to king crab, sold in 500g quantities and served in a plastic bag after being boiled with your choice of sauce. The idea is that you empty your bag of protein goodness out onto the plastic table cloth, don a pair of gloves and the apron suppled and hoe on in.

IMG_4912

The bag of deliciousness

And hoe we did and let me tell you, it was delicious!!! My choice was the QLD prawns in the Spicy Malay sauce and it was just glorious. I ripped off their heads, sucked out the delicious meat, pulled off their little armour, devoured their succulent bodies and then finished off by licking the remains to get that rich tomato and oniony sauce. Are you disgusted? I’m sorry but it was so so worth it.

IMG_4915

Crab in a bag

One of my other family members also picked the prawns and was equally satisfied. The birthday boy got the snow crab in garlic butter and enjoyed himself immensely! He couldn’t stop exclaiming how large the legs were and how much meat was inside them. The only person who was disappointed got one of the main dishes – a crumbed and fried fish dish that turned out to be a rather flat and dry schnitzel style of dish. It was a strategic error made in the attempt to keep clean and one which was bitterly regretted.

By the end of the night I was covered! We didn’t linger at the end of the meal. After quick exclamations of ‘Happy Birthday’ we made for our car and spirited on home in search of a shower and a tooth pick. A great night worth getting messy for!

IMG_4919

The state of the table

Advertisements

Doraji, Waterloo

Does there exist in this world, any marriage of food and drink better than greasy, crunchy fried chicken and cold, bubbly beer? Not in my dad’s book! That’s why one Sunday night, despite having plans to go for a quick Vietnamese dinner at our local, we found ourselves at Doraji, Waterloo.

Located in Crown Plaza, just off of (Harry!) Potter Street, Doraji is a Korean restaurant with an unassuming facade that hides a whole lot of chicken crazy inside. I knew we had entered somewhere special as soon as my gaze alighted on the giant mural featuring dancing beer mugs and a drumstick wielding little boy. He looked very happy. I hoped we would soon be too.

IMG_4787Not a large place, the seating has been set up a little differently. You can choose from one of two share tables, some open booth seating or one of three private enclosures along the left hand wall which have been separated from the main area by thin timber barriers and feature a call button to get staff’s attention. As all other tables were occupied, we chose one of the private areas and found the whole experience to be pleasant and unique. We had a private family dinner while still experiencing the buzz and atmosphere of public dining.

IMG_4791The staff were quite attentive. Within moments of sitting down we were presented with giant menus and the tap water we requested arrived just a short time after, although there was some confusion as to whether the glasses it came with were for the water or beer. Beer could be ordered by the glass or by the 1L jug so while my mum, dad and sister shared, I went for a hot green rice tea.

Surprisingly, the choice of food was not just limited to chicken. Although it was there … in all its forms … there was a plethora of other options too from hotpots to rice dishes and sizzling plates. When it came down to it, my dad realised with a substantial amount of beer and complimentary ‘tapas’ already inside him, there was no way he was going to finish an entire fried chicken – whole chickens being the main portion size available. Instead, we chose three other dishes to share which though all very different, were each tasty in their own right.

IMG_4790The sliced smoked duck breast with shallot salad and mustard sauce ($25) was probably the most unique of the three. Served cold, it was cooked medium and the thin slices allowed you to really taste and appreciate the subtle flavours. I must admit though I wasn’t a fan of the fat/skin that rimmed each piece and tended to pull that off.

The Spicy chicken with potato and glass noodles in hotpot ($35) was our one ode to poultry and it was massive! It was served in the size of pot I imagine manna would have been presented to the Israelites in while they were fleeing Egypt – never ending. Though containing bones, the chicken was juicy, the broth flavoursome and the dish had a homely feel owing to the fact that it was chock full of hearty veges like potato and carrot. It was perfect for an autumn night and very very tasty.

IMG_4789Our final dish was the Grilled eel in teriyaki sauce on sizzling plate ($18) and was probably my favourite. A sucker for teriyaki, this dish was very attractive with a gorgeous golden sheen. The sweetness of the succulent eel pieces were perfectly offset by the crunch of the bed of onions on which they rested. I probably could have polished off this one on my own if I hadn’t eaten so much already.  We made sure to order a couple of serves of steamed rice to take full advantage of all the yummy juices and sauces.

I have a feeling we’ll be back. Winter is coming and what better way to build a protective layer of internal insulation (sounds better than fat right?) that through some golden, crispy, chicken.

The Choc Pot, Chatswood

Its always good to visit somewhere new and exciting. On Friday night, just like Aladdin and Jasmin, my parents and I experienced a “whole new world” at Vivid festival in Chatswood. 

 

Held for The first time on the Lower North Shore, visitors get to experience an underwater world constructed from beautifully sequenced lights and dynamic sculptures. While this was held at the Concourse and downstairs at the train station, it was the amazing new world that now exists above the train station that captured me.

I don’t know exactly when it happened (potentially through genie involvement) but a delicious place called The Interchange now magically exists in a space that was empty for far too long. 

Set out like an Asian street marketplace, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to have for lunch or dinner. It’s a culinary tour of Asia- food court style.  Want to cook your own teppen? Visit Pepper Lunch for a massive plate of food from $9.90. How about a hearty soup? Then give 1ton a go. The Interchange has everything from Michelin star dumplings at Tim Ho Wan to an upmarket sushi train and these places will soon be joined by even more including the ever popular ramen Mecca, Ippudo.  

 

Having had dinner already at the newly opened Ribs and Burgers down the other end of Victoria street (dad the typical Saffer was craving a red meat hit), we decided to investigate the previously unexplored upper level in search of a cosy cafe and a sugar hit or two.

We found all of the above at The Choc Pot, a chocolate lovers paradise. It takes the Max Brenner and San Churro chocolate cafe concept and does it so much better. The menu is unique and extensive, the dishes are light and packed with flavor and the hot chocolates are creamy and frothed to perfection. They have also introduced to my tastebuds the most delicious teeny tiny chewy caramel fudge pieces which they call cranky pants caramel  – I could seriously murder a 1kg bag of those things in about 5 minutes flat. Ok … Maybe 10.  

 

To avoid family arguments, we ordered a couple of things and shared. Of course we got two of the largest items – Lord of the Crepes, a beautiful lattice creation filled with a light whipped cream, topped with strawberries and drizzled with a really yummy milk chocolate; and Super Terrific Time, a gorgeous and apt name for a giant, freshly made, pillowy soft waffle topped with those incredible caramel fudge pieces, caramel sauce and the chocolate drizzle. Both plates were massive but so light and fresh that you could eat the whole thing without feeling fat, ashamed or sick after. 
  

Dad even managed to fit in TCP’s signature Belgian hot chocolate in milk chocolate. It was warm, frothy and the perfect level of sweetness.

Funnily enough, we ran into an old friend who was also experiencing the chocolatey goodness for the first time. Given that the place has been open for a month, it’s incredible so many people have found it. But found it they have – the place was packed – even with the extended Vivid opening hours.

Before we left we were already talking about coming back and what else we have to try. I think I have found my new happy place and I didn’t even have to fall down a rabbit’s hole- just climb some stairs above Chatswood train station. It’s so Harry Potteresque – It makes me love it even more!  


 

Kansai Japanese Restaurant, CBD

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the line ‘omg I know the BEST sushi place’ I’d be a rich woman. The fact is everyone does. I think it’s a testament to our multiculturalism and love of foreign cuisines that we have such an amazing array of options when it comes to sourcing those delicious seaweed wrapped rice logs.

IMG_3728-1

My BEST place has to be Kansai, located in the hunter street connection in Sydney’s CBD. Taken there for the first time for a ‘reward’ team lunch, I have since become a regular – well as regular as a person who aches to try new places all the time can be.

They do a great variety of food and all of it is fantastic. The hot pot is ginormous, requiring a minimum of two persons to order; the sushi selection is vast and all the varieties are delicious – get a share platter to take full advantage; the sashimi salads are very generous and come with a choice of three dressings and the smaller plates like the octopus (teriyaki or chilli), katsu chicken and smoked eel are perfectly cooked and very very tasty

The sashimi boat

The sashimi boat

.

One of the best things to order here though is the mixed sashimi platter. The larger sizes come served atop of a wooden boat which is not only fun (who doesn’t love a theme) but serves to emphasize just how fresh the produce is. Only the best is used and the knife welding chefs standing behind the bar are professionals.

If you can’t pick – get a group of friends together and do an all you can eat special. You’ll get a little bit of everything and it’s ALL you can eat! I know right! The only thing better than sushi is all you can eat sushi. And it’ll come fast too. The only thing a little bit lacking is courtesy from the waiters and customer service skills from the owner but with good friends and good food- it won’t seem important.

Next time you have that fishy feeling, tantalising taste for tuna or hankering for hot pot. Check this place out- you won’t be disappointed.

Mama’s Buoi, Surry Hills

The term mama’s boy is generally used as a criticism but one guy proud to call himself one is Bao Hoang, founder and head chef of restaurant chain mama’s boy. And boy, can this mama’s boy cook!

Originally launched in Melbourne, Mama’s Buoi hit the Sydney food scene in late 2014 under chef Tiw Rakarin- first opening a locale in Surry Hills and then a second in Crows Nest – providing locals with a much needed place to get good quality Vietnamese that also has a classy, trendy ambience to socialise and linger in.

When my friend requested a ‘healthy restaurant’ for us to have a midweek group catchup, I suggested Vietnamese and booked Mama’s Boy the moment there was group consensus. And thank goodness I did. There was no way we would have gotten in otherwise. The place was teaming with people. When a few of the group showed up 10 minutes early, they were told to wait outside until the allotted booking time – our table was still occupied and the bar was full.

When we were lead to our table, I told the waiter the was a chance another may be joining our group. The look of horror he gave me suggested that I’d killed his puppy. He promptly informed me that the table we’d been allocated had no room – thank goodness our extra never showed, I think he would have had a heart attack.

What the place lacks in well mannered staff, it definitely makes up for in atmosphere. Diners sit at giant share tables and booths under a giant cloth canopy, strings of light bulbs and hanging plants. A giant slogan on the wall written in Vietnamese translates to one of life’s very important questions – do you love your Mama? The teal and timber colour scheme and the herb displays around the open plan kitchen echo the freshness and lightness of the food.

And the food was great! Two of the girls got vegetable curries and a side of rice to share, one guy got the morning glory stir fry with minced pork which he almost moaned over, the other sticky beef ribs- gone in two minutes flat, and the last two of us had a vermicelli noodle salad with chicken- salty sweet perfection!

The thing we loved most though was the music. Classics from the 90s and 00s swirled around us causing us to break out in to periods of seat dancing. Definitely a unique (odd?) choice but one I heartily approved of!

I’d love to check out its Crows Nest sister to see if space is more freely available and if the staff are nicer but all in all, Mama’s Buoi is a place and a person I heartily approve of. They’re loving, open to being molded and apparently can cook up a storm! What’s not to love? 😉

The Spice Room, Circular Quay

You know that mystical, magical stairway to heaven that you always hear about but no one has been so kind as to give you directions to? Well I found it!

Meeting up for a mid week, after work dinner with some of my favourite city girls, I stumbled across the infamous stairway in The Spice Room, a newly opened Indian restaurant in Circular Quay. With each step given the name of a herb or spice used in Indian cooking, basil leaves, fenugreek and peppercorns guide you up to a paradise filled with aromatic and tasty delights – my idea of heaven.

IMG_1037

Opening late last year to rave reviews, The Spice Room provides Sydney siders with authentic, up market Indian food at extremely reasonable prices a stones throw away from one of our city’s busiest tourist hubs. Tucked away in the corner of Arthur street and Phillip street, the place is a hidden gem, just like a precious stone, it’s a little hard to find but pure quality.

Once you walk past the quirky entrance featuring a bicycle and those gorgeous spice stairs, the space opens up and you encounter sheer grandeur. Designed to look like an ancient Indian mansion, dark wooden tables are bathed in golden light and with antiques scattered around the room it’s like Aladdin’s cave – if Aladdin was one classy adult with a penchant for food and entertaining.

IMG_1038

Like all Indian restaurants sharing is the name of the game here. Even if you choose to come alone, the giant share table in the center of the restaurant ensures that you won’t be dining solo.

The menu is divided in to several ‘rooms’.There is the bite room (entrees); the tandoor room; the ocean room featuring seafood delights; the sharing room listing platters of mixed items; the rice room giving the choice of around 6 different types of the White carb; the naan room which astounded me with its variety and finally, the banquet room which gives diners the choice of two different banquets at a per head cost. There is also a mains section that lists the variety of chicken. Lamb, beef and vegetarian dishes available.

IMG_1039

To say your choices are extensive is an understatement. What really excited me though was that in addition to all the classic dishes you know and love (hello butter chicken), there were some dishes that I’d never seen before and they sounded incredible (salmon tikka anyone?)

IMG_1040

Not to go too wild, we played it semi safe and ordered a smorgasbord of items in an attempt to try a bit of everything. We didn’t even come close but we didn’t care, it was all delicious. The black lentil dal ($16.50) was creamy and spicy, soaking perfectly into the rice. The saffron chicken korma ($23.90) was juicy and well balanced with a subtle sweetness. I just adored the lamb with apricots and potato matches ($26.50) – the meat was melt in the mouth and the potatoes provided a great crunch. The king prawn gulmohar flavoured with rose petals and gently cooked in a clay were prawns like nothing I’d ever tasted- tender and beautifully delicate. To accompany it all, the masala spiced mushrooms ($19.50) were a great choice – packed with flavour they made the perfect veggie side.

Despite the awesomeness of the above, I’d have to say my hands down favourite dish was the cheese naan. Fully coated with shiny, greasy tasty tasty cheese, we were all seriously tempted to say yes when the waiter came by offering a second serve. I could have ordered more to take home with me in a doggy bag but I was strong and I didn’t – and I regretted it the moment we left.

IMG_1041

Just like the ambience, the staff were extremely charming and very helpful. They knew the menu like the back of their hand, made wonderful recommendations (saffron chicken yum yum). They have also mastered that great trick of remembering your order without writing anything down. Impressive- especially as we kept changing it.

They say the food served at The Spicd Room is fit for royalty and I’d have to agree. By the time we were done I was fit to burst. I’d had my fill of great food and great conversation – facilitated by the fact that it was pleasantly quiet.

I can’t wait to return. Very soon I will mount that stairway again with the purpose of filling up on tikka salmon, walnut and date samosas and of course cheesy cheesy naan bread Hmmmmmmm….yep, definitely heaven!

IMG_1043

Bridge Street Garage, CBD

Some people like fast cars. Others like fast food. At Bridge Street Garage in the heart of the city, you get both – American diner style!

The brain child of chef Oscar Gorosito, Bridge Street combines a retro, very cool, industrial environment with delicious dishes and efficient if not overly friendly service. The space – having started off life as a real, operational garage – pays homage to its roots not only in name but in decor. Car themed graffiti and pop art adorns the walls along with old gas signs and number plates. Pink neon signage adds to the 1950s USA diner feel.

IMG_3414.JPG

When talking about this restaurant, the term fast food can only be used to describe the speed with which the food was delivered- not its quality! And thank heavens my meal was good because the date I was on certainly wasn’t.

More appropriate for a midweek dinner with a large group of friends, the menu is filled with large dishes designed for sharing. the American theme and chef’s Latin origins ensures that meat and fried foods in all their yummy forms feature heavily in the range of dinner options available. All your traditional bar/ diner staples are covered including burgers, buffalo wings and hot chips. Basically it’s western comfort food at its most delicious and gourmet.

IMG_3415.JPG

As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t a place that is conducive to ‘dieting’ (a state of living I don’t feel should exist). In saying that, there are some solid healthy choices including salads and the most amazing fillet of swordfish I have ever eaten ($32).

Lightly grilled and accompanied by a quinoa salad stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, it was one of the nicest and unique seafood dishes I’ve enjoyed and that night’s fish of the day.

IMG_3412.JPG

My date chose the double pulled pork sandwich ($19)- an epic tower consisting of four slices of bread and two layers of meat and slaw with addition slaw and thick cut chips on the side. It looked like pure heaven, particularly the chips which were golden, crispy and just glistening with well seasoned oil.

IMG_3413.JPG

Other really tempting options included the soft shelled crab salad ($22), the Bridge Street Garage’s Reuben ($18) and under the specialities section, the quail breast ($29) dressed in balsamic syrup with sweet corn salad.

I really should have ordered the American apple pie ($12) for dessert so my date could get some action but tempting as it was, I just couldn’t wait to leave and reminisce on the awesomeness of my meal on the bus ride home….alone! Something to try next time I guess because rest assured, there will be a next time!

The dinner party

Going out for dinner is awesome. Especially in Sydney where you can basically travel the world plate by plate. Sometimes though, having people over for dinner is even better. No need to make a booking, no waiting times, no noisy diners next door and definitely no hefty bill at the end of the night because you got stuck into the margaritas. You can eat at the time you want, what you want, drink till you have passed happy and are well into drunk and not have to worry how you are getting home.

IMG_3404.JPG

I recently hosted a dinner party where I got to experience all of the above perks. Every time I have people over, I invite a slightly different mix so that everyone is always meeting new people and making new friends- spreading the love, or at least the like :).

IMG_3401.JPG

When it comes to the food, like with the people I always mix it up and I tend to cook a combination of dishes that I’ve never done before. It’s a great opportunity to cross off several items from my recipe wish list and it keeps repeat guests thinking I’m fabulous – which of course I am! 🙂 I do generally stick to a similar format though – a buffet with 3 salads, at least 2 carb dishes and 1 main protein along with a couple of canapé style appetizers to start. I’ve learnt the hard way that making dessert is usually a waste of time and effort and tend to offer ice cream if I have some or the chocolates people bring If they are looking for something sweet.

IMG_3398.JPG

It generally takes me a day of cooking and I truly believe the effort is worth it. Hearing people laugh, talk and chat while the food (and wine) just disappears makes my heart sing with happiness.

IMG_3397.JPG

Check out my most recent dishes below.

IMG_3402.JPG

IMG_3405.JPG

IMG_3400.JPG

IMG_3399.JPG

IMG_3407.JPG

IMG_3406.JPG

Xage Vietnamese Restaurant, Surry Hills

There’s nothing better than a girly catch up over a healthy meal, and Xage on Crown street provides the perfect setting. When a girlfriend suggested Xage for a mid-week dinner, I was excited. I’d heard such good things about this Vietnamese restaurant, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sister restaurants with Madam Nhu, located just down the hill on Campbell street, are both very popular, and bookings are recommended. Packed to the brim and buzzing on a random Tuesday night, we joined our fellow diners for a 7.30pm dinner.

a healthy and delicious feast

If you want privacy and a quiet conversation, this place is not for you. With seating arranged sardine style along long wooden benches and members of the same party situated across from one another; it is as easy to participate in someone else’s conversation as your own.

Don’t bring your grandmother here. She won’t like the stool seating or the mood lighting, but if you’re young and you’re fun, you’ll fit right in.

Unlimited green tea

Beginning with a pot of green tea which is charged per person ($2.50 each), not per pot (yay for endless refills), we mulled over the menu. We decided to order just one main each, but if you’d like to sample more of the menu; ordering several entrees and a couple of items from the rice paper roll section of the menu is the way to go. On this, remember to share these tasty morsels with your friends. Some of the options we saw served to the people around us included the salad of mixed pickles ($6); the Red chicken nem nướng skewers ($8.90), and the Tofu rice paper rolls ($11.50), identifiable from the signature hot green chilli sauce that accompanied it.

Grilled chicken, cashew nut, herbs salad in lemongrass dressing.

We decided on the Grilled chicken, cashew nut, herbs salad in lemongrass dressing ($17.90), and the Black tiger prawn stir fry with okra and lemongrass chilli sauce ($19.50). Other tempting options included the Slow-cooked beef curry bò kho with lotus root ($19.50), Grilled Tasmanian ocean trout chả cá in herbs and spices ($22.90), or the Hội An papaya salad of five-spice duck fillet with basil, peanut and chilli ($20.90). The dishes, although not cheap, are substantial enough to justify the cost.

Black tiger prawn stir fry with okra and lemongrass chilli sauce.

At the end of the night, once we’ve had our fill of great food and conversations, there were plenty of gelato places nearby to indulge in some not so healthy dessert.

Rating: 8/10

Where: 333 Crown Street Surry Hills NSW.
Why: Tasty and healthy food.
Cost: Mains from $13.90 – $22.90
When: 7 days, 6-10pm.

Good for kids: No
Take away: Yes, phone to order.

Jazushi, Surry Hills

A little music with my dinner? Don’t mind if I do. That’s exactly what you get at Jazushi, a cosy and warm, alternate Japanese restaurant located on Devonshire Street in Surry Hills.

Tempura Camembert

Who doesn’t like to get serenaded while they eat? The live jazz musicians who play throughout the night are great. The music is the perfect level, and loud enough to sway along to while still soft enough to talk. Nice and mellow, and I have to say very soothing.

Funky decor

In this restaurant, the décor is a little bit different to your usual Japanese hangout. Exposed red brick walls and silver, fairy light covered decorations in the shape of instruments give the place a fun glow and the dramatic arch that overhangs the kitchen is almost rustic.

The interesting menu

 

The food is also a bit different. Gone is the extensive sushi and sashimi menu (although some is on offer). In its place are tasty temptations such as beetroot salad ($14) and tempura Camembert ($16). These we couldn’t resist.

Beetroot salad

We also ordered the gyoza ($12) which was crispy but a tad greasy;

Goyza

Teriyaki chicken ($22), a solid option;

Teriyaki chicken

the Wagyu beef ($25) which was just so soft and delicious;

Wagyu beef

and the Hitsumabushi eel ($18), a completely different style of dish which came beautifully presented on a stack of rice, and required us to pour a pot of tea over it, turning it almost into a soup. Fun and yum.

Hitsumabushi eel

The staff were courteous and efficient, and with the bill coming to around $25 per person; it was a happy group of friends who parted at the end of their Sunday night together.

Rating: 8/10

Where: 145 Devonshire Street Surry Hills NSW
Why: Japanese food different to the norm.
Cost: $8-$25
When: Tues- Sun, 6pm till late.

Good for kids: No
Take away: No