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.

May Kwai Chinese Restaurant, Rose Bay

There is nothing more Australian than a BBQ on a public holiday – unless it’s a Chinese dinner. Finding ourselves hungry on a public holiday night and with limited dining out options, we decided to take the opportunity to check out May Kwai, a popular Chinese restaurant in Rose Bay. I’d heard a lot about this little gem, and had been wanting to check it out for a while. The slightly inattentive service notwithstanding, I wasn’t disappointed.

In comparison to many other restaurants serving traditional Chinese food, May Kwai is small in terms of space, but the portion sizes and options available are anything but. The menu is divided up into sections according to the protein used, or to the style of dish. If you like your scallops five different ways, or something different for dinner like an omelette; this is the place for you.

As we settled in, I could see that the San Choy Bow was a very popular menu. A vast number of lettuce cups sailed past our table, and I have to say, they looked very tempting; but after family negotiations, we decided on something else.

For starters, we ordered the Gow Gee ($11). Perfectly steamed they were very tasty – not at all rubbery, and each contained a substantial amount of prawn meat.

We then moved on to the mixed king prawn stir fry ($25.80) – a combination of delicious, plump prawns and scallops stir fried with mushrooms and shallots served on a sizzling serving dish. This was my favourite main. I felt like the whole ocean was sitting in front of me on a plate.

Back on land, our next dish was the the half duck served with plum sauce ($20.80). Again there was lots of meat in this dish. The skin was golden and crispy, and the sauce plentiful.

Our third main was the fillet of honey pepper chicken which was sweet and tasty, but did have a an after kick which required a glass of water on standby.

All of these were accompanied by a large serve of the vegetarian fried rice ($10), which was the only dish that fell flat for me. I found it too salty but my family liked it.

It was a great family night out. May Kwai could become our new public holiday tradition.

Rating: 7/10

Where: 710 New South Head Road Rose Bay NSW
Why: Lots of options and big portions.
Cost: $10-$30
When: 7 days, lunch and dinner.

Good for kids: Yes
Take away: Yes

Bay Tinh Vietnamese Restaurant, Crows Nest

The newest in a restaurant chain, Bay Tinh is a gem of a restaurant, located on busy Falcon street in Crows Nest. The food served is Traditional Vietnamese with a modern twist. Worried we might not get in on a Saturday night, we made a booking. Probably wise as although it’s a large restaurant, it was very busy with only a few free tables. It’s made up of three dining areas: a small front section, an upstairs area for large groups, and past the kitchen is a third dining area which is where we found our table. White brick walls have been lined with a bamboo style mat covering. Wall arches around the room contain inset silk cushions or frescos of Vietnamese landscapes giving the room a plush and colorful vibe. Red lanterns dangling from the ceiling, and the real potted palms lining the back wall finish off the look and transport you overseas to Saigon.

The number of patrons here for a Saturday night feed suggests that a delicious dinner is coming. The only negative being so many people means a lot of noise, making conversation a touch difficult.

the great preamble

The menu has a ridiculous number of options. It is a multiple paged booklet, and I love the preamble on the first couple of pages describing the restaurant’s origins, and the instructions on how guests should order. Individual dishes are a no no. Sharing Is a must. It’s a good thing too, because I want to try everything, and this way I get to taste few of the taste buds tempting options.

inside the bonfire, a house specialty.

With so many unique items on the menu, this is not a place to play it safe. Items like pork stuffed whole calamari and caramelised, claypot salmon are tempting; but we decided to order the seafood and vegetable soup $30, bonfire prawns and beef $28 and the quarter (Also served as a half) of deboned chicken stuffed with prawn mince, served with plum sauce $18.50.

the big communal soup pot

The service was excellent. Courteous, efficient and friendly. Napkins were placed on laps, water poured, and dishes served so fast there was no time to think ‘I’m hungry.’ The first course, seafood soup was placed on the table in a large communal pot and then served for us in to our individual bowls. It didn’t disappoint. This dish is hot, full of flavour, with the right amount of salt and chock full of seafood and fresh veggies. Perfect to warm you up on a drizzly night.

Bonfire beef and prawn

The second course was a house specialty, beef and prawn bonfire, one of the four meat options available. A pot of meat was placed on the table next to a large plate of stir-fry cut vegetables, and then the pot was set on fire. The waitress told us to wait a few minutes, and then departed with the promise to return to show us what to do. Thankfully, 10 minutes later she did. First came the rice paper disk. On it the fresh vegetables were placed, and then a small pile of the beef and prawn mixture before a drizzle of spicy peanut sauce. The whole concoction was then rolled. The trick, not to put too much filling in. It was delicious. Light, fresh and enough spice to leave a tingle in the mouth.

the assembly process

 

Our final dish, the boneless chicken quarter was also a house specialty, and it was a great way to end the meal. The chicken was sweet and tender, and was presented as a delectable fan drizzled in a silky sauce. Beautiful.

the delicious fan of meat

Using the restaurant’s entertainment book voucher, it was a delicious and excellent value meal. Can’t wait to return to try more.

a Vietnamese dinner is not complete without a pot of green tea

Rating: 9/10

Where: 16 Falcon street Crows Nest NSW
Why: great, unique Vietnamese food.
Cost: around $35 per person
When: Lunch Friday to Sunday. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

Good for kids: Yes, there is room for a pram but it is loud.
Take away: Yes, through menu log.

Sydney Fish Markets Cooking School

Special occasions deserve special treats, and in my family, that usually means something food related. Last weekend. I was very excited to attend the Sydney Fish Markets cooking school to celebrate a wonderful family member’s birthday. It was an interesting and very fun Saturday night out.

We entered the fish markets in what felt like the dead of night. They were deserted, and I must say, I felt like I was getting a behind the scenes look at a Sydney icon. We were met at the entrance by one of the kitchen hands and ushered upstairs into an area most visitors would never know existed; a massive, multi purpose venue above what during the day is a hustling and bustling marketplace.

The dinner to come

We were all here tonight to learn how to barbecue with seafood, and we learnt that it’s not as hard as it seems. The menu consisted of two main dishes – orange marinated swordfish steaks and seared mussels served with mango salsa. These were accompanied by freshly made hummus on grilled Turkish bread and a green leaf salad.

Creating our side dish

A bit like a progressive dinner, the experience took place in three interconnected rooms: the auditorium, the kitchen, and the dining room.

The demonstration bench

We began the night with a 1 hour demonstration in the auditorium. The room, seated theatre style was ideal. It wasn’t so large as to feel like a university lecture hall, but the tiered seating ensured there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. There were also TV screens set up above a large preparation counter, and a stove area streaming up close footage of the cooking process, which meant that everyone could see everything. All attendees were also provided with their own recipe book to follow, along with and a pen to make notes.

The demonstration was great. We were walked through the entire process, from fish preparation to marinating times, grilling heats to plating niceties, all at an easy to follow pace. Then it was time to try it for ourselves.

Our amazing teacher

Almost magically, a section of the auditorium wall slid open to reveal a large, stainless steel equipped, professional kitchen, one any cooking show contestant would be delighted to work in. Just like an episode of MasterChef, we were split into teams of five to cook both of the dishes presented. Unlike the show though, the prize we were all working for was getting to eat a delicious dinner.

Preparing the bread

After we divided up the jobs required (this included setting the table), we got down to work. These dishes weren’t just made to look easy to cook, they were easy to cook. Soon the air was filled with delicious smells, and everyone was busy madly marinating, pureeing and grilling. The beauty of seafood is how fast it is to cook, and we were all getting pretty hungry.

Grilling the seafood

Throughout the whole process, the highly competent kitchen hands wandered around the kitchen giving friendly advice or assistance where needed. It was really considerate. It ensured we all were on track to end up with an edible feast that we could be proud of making ourselves.

Once each team was done, we made our way through to the dining room. This room was just gorgeous. Set up for fine dining, it was decorated nautical style with fishing nets strung from the ceiling containing hundreds of glowing light bulbs. The bright red walls gave the place life, and the atmosphere of being somewhere truly unique and special.

The spectacular dining room

Each team was assigned their own table, and we sat down together to enjoy the products of our labour, while the staff served us a choice of white or red wine to accompany our meal. It was delicious. The seafood was light, fresh and beautifully flavoured; particularly the swordfish which had really soaked up all the flavours of the marinade used. We were all so impressed with how tasty it all was; how little time it took to achieve, and the fact that it was us who had made it!

Our feast

After a complimentary Lindt ball (or two) and an after dinner coffee, we were all satisfied and ready to go.

We ended the night with a bang. The experience ending just in time for us to wander over to enjoy the fireworks display at Darling Harbour. An awesome end to an awesome night.

Rating: 10/10

Where: Corner Bank St & Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Pyrmont NSW.
Why: Learn to make delicious seafood at home
Cost: $80 per person for a private class of around 30 people
When: Around six times a month on Friday and Saturday nights, or you can schedule your own function.

Good for kids: No
Take away: No

The family recipe exchange

As part of my recent Canada trip, I got the amazing opportunity to meet new relatives. It’s not everyday you get to know a brand new branch of the family tree and I have to say it was lovely. Actually, they are lovely.and not only are they loud, out going and a tad nutty ( just like me really), they also very much love their food. In addition to playing ‘how we are related?’ (Potentially an exciting new game show concept), with one cousin I also played recipe swap. I gave her a healthy chicken sausage roll recipe and she gave me the below. Getting to know new family is oh so very very tasty :).

As usual I put my own little spin on it – I substituted 1 cup of quinoa for a cup of white rice simply because I ran out. I have to say it was one of the best salads I’ve ever made.

Finished product

Finished product

 

Quinoa, sweet potato and spinach salad

Ingredients:

1 bunch spinach washed and chopped
3 shallots cut into 1cm pieces
2 large sweet potatoes
100g slivered almonds
1 cup quinoa
1 cup white rice
2 tbsp olive oil

Dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced ginger

Ingredients- ready to go!

Ingredients- ready to go!

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

2. Peel and chop the sweet potato to 2cm cubes. Mix with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread over a baking tray. Bake for 25 min or until crisp and brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Ready for baking

Ready for baking

3. Spread slivered almonds out on a second baking tray and bake for 10 minutes at 180. Combine with sweet potato.

4. Thoroughly wash rice and quinoa and cook according to packet instructions (I combined my grains and microwaved in a large glass bowl with 4 cups water for 15 min). Once cooked set aside to cool.

Washed, drained and cooked

Washed, drained and cooked

5. In the interim, combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar.

6. Place chopped spinach and shallots in a large serving bowl. Once at room temperature add the grain mixture, sweet potato and almonds. Toss well, cover and place in fridge to chill.

7. Drizzle with dressing and toss again just prior to serving.
Enjoy!!