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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The state of the table

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Eathouse Diner, Redfern

I think it was Shakespeare who said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. I wonder if food by any other name would be as tasty? Well for Sunday breakky with my awesome cousins (one of whom used to be a professional chef) I wasn’t going to risk it. I picked Eathouse Diner as the scene of our catch up – it’s purpose is all in the name!

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Located in East Redfern on Chalmers street, this charming venue with stuffed koalas, mint green walls and fairy lights has been open for lunch and dinner for a while now but has only recently opened its doors for breakfast. It’s so new I don’t even know the locals know about it! Getting a table just after 10am was dead easy – we were one of only two groups sitting but as the time crept towards lunch, the place filled up.

The menu is succinct, very well priced and boy is it tasty!! The random box of rubber, bloodied, severed hands that happened to be just lying around couldn’t even put us off.

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One cousin when classic and got scrambled eggs on toast with tomato relish and baby rocket ($12). I’m not a big scramble fan but these looked creamy and were apparently delicious. I also have it on good authority that the relish was top notch. Two others at the table ordered the huevos rancheros ($16) – a spicy concoction of beans, onion and tomato, hidden beneath two large fried eggs and topped with guacamole, coriander and sliced jalapeño. This hotty pattoty was warming and filling and the tortilla it was served with made it fun to eat. Not for the spice allergic!

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I went with the ricotta fritters served in tomato, red pepper salsa, topped with Parmesan ($14). This was quite a surprise. I expected hotcakes – Bill Granger style and ended up with little arancini looking balls of cheesy goodness. I loved that they felt the need to top this dish with more cheese. It was definitely an awesome pick, especially as I’d been considering the Bircher muesli. Golden and crunchy on the outside, smooth an creamy inside, all these needed was a bit of salt.

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In addition to the food, another highlight, and I really don’t say this often (if ever) are the toilets! The decor is just too awesome! Who doesn’t want to pull their hand towel off a French waiter roll holder?

Add some really nice and friendly staff into the mix and the place is a winner

Moon Park, Redfern

Every once in a while you have to take your palate In your hands and be adventurous. With this concept in mind, I took my family to Moon Park in Redfern. Open since last November, the relatively new modern Korean restaurant has nothing but positive online reviews, and so was definitely worth a try.

Up a flight of steeps stairs above a gallery, you wouldn’t really know the place was there. Sparsely decorated and dimly lit, the atmosphere is uncomplicated, almost spartan, but warmth is amply supplied by our lovely waitress.

We were very quickly seated and left to examine the menu – a single sheet of organic style paper. Divided into entrees, mains (plates) and desserts; the menu is designed for sharing and has many interesting options. One standout example was the Dotorimuk ($16): a corn jelly, picked mushroom, whipped tofu with kimchi and Brussels sprouts. If you can’t choose, a $65pp banquet option is available.

One of the first things I noticed is that places are set with chop sticks and silver wear, giving diners an option of how they want to eat their dinner and removing any embarrassment you might feel at having to ask.

Very soon after sitting we also received complementary Korean rice crackers with thyme salt which was lovely and thoughtful. They’re larger and thinner then their cousins the prawn cracker, and the sounds they make when you bite into them is reminiscent of a Pringles ad. Both aurally and orally delicious.

After a smooth start, we hit a minor hiccup. We were asked if we would move to another table to accommodate a larger group. The table we were moved to was nicer, near the window, and it was done with such courteousness and gratitude we didn’t mind a bit.

When we went to order food though, we hit another, more major stumbling block. We found that the one item that my parents both wanted was off the menu due to a missing delivery of duck. Not to be put off, we reexamined our options and ordered three shared entrees and four new mains which we couldn’t wait to eat.

The Zucchini pancake with squid and mussels ($12) was the first dish to hit our table. Large, and flat, it reminded me of a Polish potato pancake but with a bit of chilli heat. There was a mild fish flavour which could have been stronger, but overall it was very tasty (if oily).

Our second entree was the Dokbeokki & peanuts ($5), tube shaped rice cakes that were covered in a peanut crumb coating, served stacked on the plate like a tasty game of Jenga. The smell of peanut wafted towards me from the moment they landed on the table. It was like the Korean equivalent of peanut butter on toast, and I loved it – although I must say I enjoyed it more than other people on my table did.

The final entree, bulgogi ssam, anchovy and sweet cabbage ($7 each) was also good. The saltiness of the meat was balanced by the unseasoned rice pancake it rested on. We were very glad it lived up to its price.

A break between entree and mains is a good thing, it aids in digestion. But, as any My Kitchen Rules fan would know (and probably everyone else too), an hour is too long. Way too long. Unfortunately, that’s what we experienced, and on a Tuesday night, when all you want is an early meal; it was frustrating. Furthermore while we were waiting for the rest of our meal and didn’t have any good food to distract us; we noticed just how noisy the restaurant was.

With concrete floors, bare walls and a high ceiling – the place echoes. Last year the owners started up on a shoestring budget anticipating regular but minimal patronage. Moon Park turned out to be a hit. Now that they are earning a regular income; improvements are being made in an ad hoc fashion while the restaurant is in operation. Next week, a banquet unit will be installed along one wall. This should reduce the noise and provide more seating.

Finally, after more than an hour and several queries, our mains arrived. The Geranjjim ($16) – a vegetarian dish with egg custard, eggplant and lotus root looked very small, but it was surprisingly filling and had a unique range of very nice flavours and textures.

The Jjajangmain ($20) of which we ordered two, consisted of Calamari noodles, snow peas, black beans and kombu. It was a great dish. The thin noodles were perfectly cooked and well mixed with a decent amount of soft calamari, and some pickled onions gave it a kick.

Finally, the John Dory with pollock broth and toasted barley ($26) was also a good dish. This firm fish had a delicate charred flavour. The barley was chewy, and the broth it was swimming in provided the saltiness needed.

All the dishes of the night had a base of chilli, so if you don’t like it a little hot, then this isn’t the restaurant for you.

All in all it was a culinary adventure. There were a lot of new things to try, and the food was good. They just need to work on the timing (maybe the kitchen was understaffed?) and the noise levels.

Rating: 7/10

Where: 34 Redfern Street Redfern NSW.
Why: A unique take on Korean food
Cost: $5-$29
When: Tuesday – Saturday 5.30pm till late. Sunday 12noon till 3pm.

Good for kids: No
Take away: No

First Drop Cafe, Redfern

First Drop Café, located at the slightly naughty address of 69 Baptist Street is playing a big part in the rebrand of Redfern as Sydney’s newest foodie destination.

Around the corner and up the road from Kepos Street Kitchen, and frequented by the likes of Timomatic; a meal at the ever busy café is not for the faint hearted. With portion sizes better suited to body builders and a menu filled with unique and delicious options; you’ll never go away hungry or disappointed.

Case in point - Ricotta breakfast

Case in point – Ricotta breakfast

The very relaxed (aka slightly slow) food service is amply compensated for by romantically named dishes such as From Paris with Love ($17.90), a rich tomato-ey concoction of roasted capsicum, eggplant, kalamata olives and free range bacon topped with two poached eggs; or the Athenian “Get into the Greek” ($17.90) Dried figs, haloumi, watermelon slices, organic yoghurt, spanakopita (spinach pie), walnuts and shavings of kefalograviera cheese.

The Schwartzerneggar Omlette

The Schwartzerneggar Omlette

Though no option is a bad option, yet for a truly special breakfast moment, our pick is the Rustic Chorizo Breakfast and Scrambled eggs with free range chorizo, sprinkled with paprika, sitting on a bed of fresh spinach, and topped with an onion jam served with sonoma sourdough.

and I'm full

and I’m full

The best bit, with most dishes priced around the $17 mark, it won’t break the bank to begin the day with a meal that would satisfy even the most ravenous of friends.

Café interior

Café interior

First drop is easy to get to with a well frequented bus stop right across the road, and Central station just a 20-minute walk away. Given the amount of food consumed, I think I might take that walk….

Rating: 8/10

Where: 69 Baptist Street Redfern NSW
Why: Massive, tasty breakfast options.
Cost: $16-18
When: Breakfast and Lunch

Good for kids: No
Take away: Yes