Sunday, April 20, 2008

50in2150: The End

I just can't do it anymore. Too many mediocre cafes. Too much bad food and mediocre coffee.

The 50in2150 Project is formally over.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

50in2150: 6. Coffee House Cafe

Location: 81 George St, Parramatta
Price: $9.60 for a coffee and salad

Far out. This wasn't the best of experiences.

The coffee was okay, the staff weren't bad but the food was just not that good. My thai chicken salad consisted of colourless iceberg lettuce, floury tomatoes, red cabbage and sliced (wait for it) chicken schnitzel topped with bottled sweet chilli sauce.

I just can't get past that salad.


Food - 4/10
Coffee - 3.5/6
Service - 1.5/3
Decor - 2/5
Bonus - 0/3

Total - 11 out of 27

50in2150: 5. MacQ Cafe

Location: 70 Macquarie St, Parramatta
Price: $11 for large pasta and coffee

One time I was walking past this place and a lady was coming at the diagonal, trying to get into this cafe. She was powering through. Rather than seeing me, who was walking with the normal flow of foot traffic, and slowing down she kept going. I stopped and let her through. She looked at me like I'd just asked if I can slap her.

I think I can understand it now. While it's not the most glamorous place, MacQ Cafe is definitely a place you'd look forward to if you're starving.

The food is nice (warm chicken ravioli with cream sauce hit the spot on a cold day), the coffee is solid (a little watery but good on the whole) and the service is great (staff are happy but relaxed and the older woman running things really takes charge).

The location isn't great (opposite an intersection and a small store) but the other ingredients are there for a pleasing lunch.


Food - 7.5/10
Coffee - 4/6
Service - 2.5/3
Decor - 2/5
Bonus - 0/3

Total - 16 out of 27

Sunday, April 13, 2008

50in2150: 4. Dane's

Location: 101 George St, Parramatta (I think)
Cost: $7.70 for a salad and coffee

I'd been warned that this place was pretty bad beforehand. But it wasn't really that bad really.

The food didn't look terribly exciting, but I opted for the Caesar salad and the usual coffee. The salad was okay, but a little plain. Egg, thinly sliced bacon (or was it ham? hard to tell) and lettuce with a nice dressing. A little disappointing because I like to see things like croutons and anchovies in my Caesars. But it hit the spot.

Coffee was okay. Not awful but I wouldn't go here again just for the coffee. Competently made but I don't think it was the best quality of beans.

Breezy location which I think would be good to sit in and have lunch on a nice day.

Service was relaxed, which is how I like cafe service.


Food - 6/10
Coffee - 3.5/6
Service - 2/3
Decor - 4/5
Bonus - 0/3

Total - 15.5 out of 27

Saturday, April 12, 2008

50in2150: 3. Kanteena

Location: 18 Smith St, Parramatta
Cost: $9.50 for a turkish bread sandwich and coffee

The first time I walked past this place nearly every table was dirty. Plates, napkins and unfinished food sat all over the place.

It looked terrible, so I couldn't wait to go there for the 50in2150 project.

Turns out it's not so terrible. But not great either.

I arrived and headed to the counter, absolutely starving. I saw the salads and my appetite diminished somewhat. They didn't look great. I opted for a toasted chicken and avocado on turkish bread sandwich. It was packed with chicken and a good amount of avocado, which is great to see. But the chicken just wasn't right. It was like sliced chicken you'd get from the Coles deli or something.

The coffee was a better story. While it wasn't the best quality of beans, it was quite well made and was an enjoyable drink.

Service was good from some people, but a bit forgetful from others. The manager had a go at one of the staff in front of everyone so that wasn't great either.

The main thing I noticed about this place is that all of the single people come here. In the other places I've gone it was always a couple of people together, but when I visited Kanteena there were only 2 people dining together, around 10 other tables were taken by singles reading a paper.


Food - 6/10
Coffee - 4.25/6
Service - 1.5/3
Decor - 2.5/5
Bonus - 0/3

Total - 14.25 out of 27

Thursday, April 10, 2008

50in2150: 2. Di Pacci Espresso Bar

Location: Shop 2/130 George St, Parramatta
Cost: $9.50 for a wrap/roll/salad and medium coffee

Prior to starting the 50in2150 Project, Di Pacci was my regular cafe. Mostly because it was the only cafe nearby that looked decent and didn't scare me off upon first visit.

Di Pacci has good wraps, good rolls and passable salads. They also have a guy running the place that really takes control. He guards the register and all orders go through him. They also have a great little room near the counter full of couches and a huge screen TV.

The salads are a little underwhelming, but the wraps have always been solid.

Coffee is quite good. Nicely roasted but feels like it was made a little too quickly. The flavours aren't in harmony.

While it's still early days for the project, Di Pacci is going to be hard to beat.


Food - 7/10
Coffee - 4/6
Service - 2/3
Decor - 4/5
Bonus - 1.5/3 (for the big TV and couches)

Total - 18.5 out of 27

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

RESTAURANT: Beluga Wine Bar

Type: Wine Bar, Modern Australian, European
Location: Shop 15, 425 Bourke St, Surry Hills
Booking Required: Usually

Owner/chef Opel Khan has had this place open for nearly three months now, and barely a word has been spoken about it. Yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see big things happening in this funky Surry Hills eatery soon. But more on that later.

It looked like it was going to be a quiet night when we walked in. Only one other table was taken in the whole place. Sure it was early and a Tuesday, but I’m always suspicious of barren restaurants. But we were there so we took our seats like good children and requested the degustation with matching wine ($156).

The first dish, a sweet corn and tarragon cappuccino with white truffle, arrived. It sounded horribly pretentious, but tasted absolutely divine. The sweetness of the corn was beautifully restrained and the tarragon and truffle made it beautifully aromatic. And, as you’d imagine from something described as a cappuccino, terribly light.

It was a great way to start the night and alleviate our fears.

And then the serious food started. Tomato sorbet over what I think was an ox heart tomato confit and brioche. Wow. The sorbet brought the palate to life with the natural sweetness and herby flavours of the tomato. Hints of vinegar and pepper teased the tastebuds on the way through. A beautifully balanced dish, matched with a nice, bold sauvignon blanc.

Following that came a plate with two seared scallops sitting atop fanned out cauliflower puree and an avocado crème brulee. I wasn’t ready for this dish. Too good. Just TOO good. The scallops were good to perfection, the cauliflower puree was sweet and subtle and the avocado crème brulee was a revelation of subtlety and sweetness. On their own wonderful, together remarkable. Matched with a nice riesling. This really was the dish of the night, if not the year.

Next up was the soft shell crab with wild mushrooms and snapper chips, alongside a lovely riesling. A good dish, but after the scallops it wasn’t as spectacular. The snapper chips were nice, the mushrooms delicious and the soft shell crab sweet but a little underwhelming. Although the soft shell crab was really lifted by a great sauce.

The ravioli took me by surprise. I hadn’t looked that closely at the menu and wasn’t expecting it. A large, bulging raviolo sat on a plate with a thin covering of a buttery, creamy sauce. Inside the ravioli was a chunky and well flavoured mixture of seafood and herbs. While this was a very good dish in it’s own right, the pinot grigio it was matched with was a glorious compliment and lifted it even higher.

After all of that a break of tomato water was served to cleanse the palate for the final onslaught.

First up was the lobster crepe with a saffron and carrot emulsion on top a pea shoot salad. Now we’re talking. Beautiful combination of flavours here. Everything was doing its part. On my notes I’ve just written one word next to this dish: excellent.

While tis the season for white wine, I began to wonder where it was. Waiting for this next dish, our last of the savoury options. Thinly sliced wagyu beef sat atop button mushrooms and a nice jus. Probably the wine of the night, but one of the less impressive dishes. After so much innovation it was a little underwhelming to have just steak and mushrooms. Still, it all tasted excellent so I can’t complain.

Signalling the end of the savoury and heralding in the sweet was a melon ice with black olive granita. A good palate cleanser again, but there was just a little too much salt from the olives dominating the sweetness of the melon.

And then it was time to be blown away. The dessert platter arrived. Hazelnut gelato, strawberry caviar and a chocolate ganache with chick pea dust. The pink moscato it was served with was a little ho-hum but my god the food. The hazelnut gelato was luscious and creamy. Really well flavoured with restrained sweetness. The chocolate ganache was excellent on it’s own but the addition of the chick pea dust cut through some of the sweetest and added a nice nutty flavour. It reminded me a little of tofu chocolate. The strawberry caviar was a work of art. It perplexed me how strawberry could look like salmon roe. The waitress explained how it was made and I had no response. From memory the strawberry is made into a compote, then with an eyedropper a drop is added to hot water, which gives it the shape and texture of caviar. So it keeps its shape they had to carefully pick the little pearls out of the water.

Finally, the warm sangria is the last dish to hit the table. Sweet, aromatic, warm syrup with poached pears, ice cream and toasted pastry. It's a nice way to finish the night.

There really is something happening here. Khan pops out during service to speak to the diners and he really seems to be passionate about what he’s trying to create in the funky brown room. The menu is inventive, the food wonderful, the matching wines all Australian.

It’s almost too much for the setting. While it’s a sexy looking place, the wooden chairs and plain floor tiles don’t scream luxury. The service is friendly and open, not stuffy and formal. That’s what he’s trying to do, but with food so good it’s almost like a really hot person wearing average clothes. They could be so much more if they wanted to be.

But I’m glad the hot person decides to dress modestly. The prices are good for the food on offer and it’s a really inviting place. You want to go there for everything from an informal lunch to a celebratory dinner (if you have the cash). They don’t think of absolutely everything because they don’t try to.

I really do think that this place is going to be big. I hope it is. If the menu continues to evolve and some of the weaker dishes are improved then it really could be one of Sydney’s best.

RATING: Will return to

Beluga Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

50in2150: 1. Cafe One 80

Location: 180 George St, Parramatta
Cost: Around $9.50 for a wrap and small coffee

And so this is where it all begins.

Feeling a little nervous about this whole project, I walk into Cafe One 80 and get to inspecting. There's not a lot to inspect really. It's a fairly standard cafe.

I look at their menu and nothing really jumps out. A lot of wraps and sandwiches. I see some odd looking wraps on display and point to one. I wasn't sure what it was.

It took me a good 4 bites to realise what the wrap was. It was either tuna or chicken, most likely chicken, sweet chilli sauce and koss lettuce. Nothing to write home about.

The coffee was nothing special either. A bit watery and gritty tasting. Not awful though.


Food - 4.5/10
Coffee - 3/6
Service - 1/3
Decor - 3/5
Bonus - 0/3

Total - 11.5 out of 27

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

50in2150: The Rating System

All cafes in the 50in2150 project will be rated accordingly:

Food - out of 10
Coffee - out of 6 (I will order a long black everywhere to ensure consistency)
Decor/location - out of 5 (if it's a place you want to go to)
Service - out of 3
Extra marks - out of 3 (can be given if the place does something special, ie has a great speciality, good deals on certain days, etc)

Total Marks: Out of 27

Monday, April 07, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT: The 50 in 2150 Project

Parramatta, postcode 2150, is a suburb over-run with cafes.

Everyone has their own favourite, which they won't hesitate to share with you. But there are so many choices, so closely packed together that vary rarely do people have the same favourite.

So in the interests of providing a public service and modern day exploring, I will eat at and review 50 different cafes in Parramatta.

There will be a special set of expanded criteria that will be used to evaluate these cafes, which will be revealed with the first review.

The important thing to know is that this is only cafes. No bakeries, restaurants, take-away shops or juice bars. Just cafes.

Will I do it? Will I get bored? Who knows...

The Rating System

The Reviews:
1. Cafe One 80 - 11.5
2. Di Pacci Espresso Bar - 18.5
3. Kanteena - 14.25
4. Dane's - 15.5

Saturday, April 05, 2008

RECIPE: Asparagus Sauce

  • Approx 12 asparaguses (is that what you call them?)
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
  • 3 French shallots, chopped finely
  • 20g butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is a really simple sauce that looks awesome on a plate and goes great with things like pork, salmon, pasta.

Break the wooden bits off the asparagus, then cook them in some salted, boiling water until cooked. I like to save some of the spears for garnishing later.

Drain the asparagus, but keep the water.

In a pot cook down the shallots and garlic with the butter until they start to look translucent. Be careful not to burn the shallots or it will affect the taste of the sauce.

After the shallots and garlic are cooked, add seasoning to the mixture, then add the asparagus and some of the water. With a hand mixer, blend this until it turns into a runny liquid. Add more of the water that the asparagus was cooked in if it is still too thick.

Give it a taste. Sometimes it needs more seasoning or maybe even some more butter. If it's too strong then just add more of the cooking water.

It will come out a lovely vivid green colour. I served it with some wine baked pork and beans. So colourful, so easy, so fantastic.