Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I haven't written about Mamak before because, quite frankly, there's very little point to it. The place is constantly chockers and anyone who wants to get good Malay or Singaporean food in Sydney knows about it. Chances are most of the people reading this have already spent a large amount of time waiting in that line, hoping to get a taste of their pillowy roti canai or one of their extremely solid curries.

But I'm going to write it anyway because I have an opinion and a keyboard and a blog and a cat that does magic (the keyboard is not wireless)

There's no denying the food at Mamak is good. The rotis are pillowy, the curries are definitely packed with flavour and tender meat. But is Mamak worth the reverence? Is it even worth waiting for? For mine, maybe not.

Though I love their rojak. Such a great mix of fresh, crunchy vegetable with deep fried tofu, egg, the satay-esque sauce and whatever else they chuck on there. It's too good to be considered a salad.

The murtabak has great flavour and excellent pastry, but sometimes questionable meat on the inside.

Satay is always a yardstick in a Malaysian restaurant and theirs is pretty solid, if tiny and lacking a little more char. I never know if it's a good or bad thing that there is always more sauce than is required. It always tends to find itself onto other things on my plates. Without complaint, I should add.

Kangkung belacan and kacang panjang belacan are trustworthy sides and succeed in making greens sexy.

Everything else is solid. The rice dishes, the noodle dishes, the desserts, the drinks, the super quick (if at times hard to get the attention of) service, the prices.

But is the at-times-50-deep queue really worth it? I don't think so. You're in Chinatown; you don't need to blindly follow the Mamak scripture. Sydney is great because you can get such an insane variety of good, authentic food.

Mamak is just one example of so many. But one of the only ones with such ridiculous queues. Sure, you get great food at the end of that wait, but you can get great food without a wait nearby.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 28, 2012

RESTAURANT: Sake Restaurant and Bar

I'll come right out with it: the main reason I've wanted to come to Sake is because of the sashimi tacos on the menu. Everything else looks fairly "modern Japanese" and not entirely unique. Not that that's a bad thing, it just means there's competition with other modern Japanese places as to where my disposable income goes.

I think it was the sake list that tipped me towards this place. It's a strong list, with plenty of options at different sizes. Plenty of sake with plenty of sashimi is usually a recipe for a good meal.

And what of the sashimi tacos? You get two per serve--one tuna, one salmon--and a side shot of sake. They're tiny to the point that you can easily eat them in one bite, and moreish to the point that I could easily (and happily) eat 50 of them. Of course, other things need to be ordered.

Beef tataki is a fairly classic dish, twisted slightly here with some tomatoes and garlic chips going with the seared, thinly sliced beef. It's a solid interpretation.

The sashimi combo brings 18 pieces of said sashimi, with your obvious offerings like tuna, salmon and kingfish, as well as some more seasonal fish. It's fresh, good quality and very tasty. Maybe not the best in Sydney, but still very good.

Chicken nanban is surprisingly excellent. The juicy, twice-fried pieces of chicken are cooled and paired with a bonito broth sauce and earthy chillis.

Sake seems to have been adopted as the model and celebrity restaurant of choice, probably due to the painfully attractive staff and the extreme levels of cool that the place (and the design) give off. But that's not to say it's pretentious.

A good example of the approachability is the kushiyaki offerings. I'd find it fairly unlikely to see a model stick a chunk of tender pork belly in her gob, but for someone like me it's bliss.

As good as it is, it's probably outdone by the excellent tuna ceviche. Big slices of delicious tuna, sharp dressing and a great balance of flavour. It all combines to make for a dish you want to eat a lot of.

They also have a fairly large selection of hand rolls. For those wanting some carbs in their life (which is foolish; you're robbing yourself of previous sashimi-based protein), you shouldn't be too disappointed with the spicy tuna dynamite roll. The stupidly named "S express" is nice, but doesn't blow me away.

The whole time the sake is flowing (the sake are fairly knowledgeable on the subject) and life is good. The earlier sittings generally seem to have 2 hour seating limits, but that should be plenty of time to get in, smash some fish and sake and head out.

I wouldn't put it up as Sydney's best modern Japanese or best sushi/sashimi but it's not far off. Where this place shines is in the vibe: it's coolness is a commodity and even if you don't give a shit about things like that you know you can put it aside as a place to impress people/muses/lovers and get a smashing meal at the same time.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Saké Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2012


The promise of burgers, hot dogs and nachos is enough to stir any man. So I'm not entirely sure why it's taken me so bloody long to get down to The Dip to stuff my face full of some healthy treats.

Lev's dawg is everything you want in a hotdog. Smokey meat, mayo, mustard, spicey salsa and a steamed bun.

The pulled pork nachos are in a similar boat, it sounds great on the menu and it tastes great in the mouth. The juicy pulled pork renders the corn chip soggy fairly quickly, but I've always been a fan of nachos that descend into cheesy, clumpy, slightly crunchy mounds.

Pulled pork rears it's head also in the southern smoke, a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, beans and sauce. It's messy to eat but extremely delicious. I picture myself trying to eat a ridiculous amount in one sitting.

That's until the young cheesy arrives and takes it's place in the fantasy. It's a damn fine cheeseburger with some chilli on it. The whole thing is a juicy, grill-smoke delight to eat.

Not far off it is the watermelon and bacon burger, a stupidly good mix of grilled, sweet, salty and savoury flavours. Think of a Hawaiian pizza in burger form and you're getting there. Bloody nice.

Chilli fries make a nice side, the chilli sauce a perfect blend of spice, heat, meat and salt. The chips hold form for a while, before giving up the crunch and absorbing the sauce. Soggy chips are a pretty acceptable thing when they're soggy with chilli.

Grilled corn is another solid side with the big grilled flavour going nicely with the lime mayo and salsa. Some fresh lime would be nice too, but it's no major gripe.

If you're still hungry, they have desserts covered well too. There are only 2 choices-a sort of deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some guacamole ice cream with berries-but they both add a nice sweet note to the end of the meal.

Being part of a bar means drinks are covered too. Jugs of cocktails are a good bet with creations like the black sangria, chevy chase and cherry moon all hitting the spot and giving you the courage to go back and order more (and then more) food.

All up, a fun place to get some really well executed American fast food items.

RATING: Will return to [?]

The Dip @ Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

RESTAURANT: Chat Thai Westfield Sydney

Chat Thai's original branch in Haymarket is a pretty classic restaurant. Along with Spice I Am it's probably one of the best examples of Sydney Thai (TM) you can find and the answer to which is better will depend on who you ask.

For me, I've always preferred Spice I Am for the (slightly) less cramped surrounds, (slightly) more forgiving wait times and (slightly) more interesting dishes. But that's not to say I haven't enjoyed a spicy embrace with Chat Thai Haymarket from time to time. Chat Thai at the Galeries even became a bit of a lunchtime favourite for a while.

So to the more upmarket surrounds of Westfield Sydney doth the tentacle expandeth and I finally get to find out what a slightly more upmarket version of Chat Thai is like.

The answer is dark lighting, (slightly) less cramped surrounds (though you're still cheek by jowl with the neighbouring table), a few more Isaan style dishes, more booze and plenty more of that great food that has made Chat Thai so beloved.

"Fresh" spring rolls are a nice starter, with some rice paper coming filled with smoked fish, chicken and crab. So too the delicious fermented pork sausages (pictured). Chicken satay is always a popular starter but this version is more good than great.

I always love to see the green papaya salad with fermented crab on a menu, so the no-joke one here was a define pleaser. It's hot as hell and the salty/spicy/sour flavours are massive.

Panang curry was good, if slightly sweet.

There are a lot of grilled items on the menu, but the gai yang (grilled chicken) has to be a solid order. The chicken was packed with a herbacious, lemongrass flavour, well grilled and still juicy. I could have eaten a tremendous amount of it.

The dessert menu is fairly large, so you could do worse than to leave a bit of room for something sweet at the end. There are various ice/syrup/fruit combinations available (think ice kachang), but my preference was for the young coconut icecream with sticky rice, candied palm seeds and peanuts for more of a textural experience.

All in all it's more of the same Chat Thai goodness, albeit in a nicer, more expensive setting. The service is still shakey and the seating still a little cramped. Most importantly though, the food is still pretty great.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Chat Thai Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 19, 2012

RECIPE: Meatballs

Last weekend by dad turned 60. To celebrate the occasion and his upcoming retirement, we gathered up his friends and family and threw a surprise party. In all, around 60-70 people.

The reason I mention it is that, due to some sort of jedi mind trick performed by my mother, I ended up doing the catering for the party. Food for 60-70 people and, oh yeah, it all had to be finger food.

Oh, and no, I don't have any cooking or catering experience. Oh, and I'll only have 3 hours of prep on the day and the assistance of one of my sisters. Piece of cake and all that.

Of the 20 things I put on the menu on the night, one of the more substantial dishes (in terms of size) was meatballs with pasta. Easily mass-produced, easy to warm up and serve on the day, good for kids and adults of all ages, not overly expensive, delicious.

Thankfully, they seemed to go down pretty well on the day and I wasn't disowned by the family for ruining the night.

I'm constantly tweaking my meatball recipe, but I'm pretty happy with where it's up to now.

The Balls
- In a pan on a low-medium heat add some butter. Add 1 finely diced eschalot and half a finely diced carrot. Cook for around 5 minutes until the eschalot is translucent.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried Greek oregano (rigani) and 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds and stir. Cook for 1 minute. Set mixture aside to cool completely.
- Combine 1 kilo of beef mince with half a kilo of veal mince. This will vary depending on how fatty the mince is. If you can get really fatty beef mince then use all beef. If the veal mince doesn't look fatty enough then use pork mince. Try not to use too much pork mince as you dilute the enjoyable beefy flavour of this dish. If you want supersoft meatballs then use a 50/50 blend of beef and pork.
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt, a good pinch of cracked pepper, a teaspoon of smoked paprika and the cooled eschalot and carrot mixture. You can add 1 cup of grated parmesan if you want cheesy, softer balls. Don't add breadcrumbs or eggs as they will toughen the balls. If you want supersoft meatballs then soak chunks of stale bread (crusts removed) in milk, squeeze dry and add to the mix.
- Mix the mixture only lightly. Overmixing will toughen the balls.
- Shape the meatballs into your desired size and put them on a tray in the fridge for an hour.

The Sauce
- Blend together 2 ecshalots, 2 celery stalks, 1.5 carrots and 1 head of garlic (roasted in the oven until soft).
- In a large pot on a medium heat, add a good splash of grapeseed oil. I use grapeseed because of the higher smoking point and neutral taste. If olive oil goes too high you lose a lot of the health benefits of it and it makes the dish taste like burnt olives.
- Add in the blended vegetables, a good amount of cracked black pepper, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't catch on the bottom.
- At this point, take the balls out of the fridge to warm up a little.
- Add 1 cup of red wine and mix. Then add 2 cups of beef or veal stock and mix. Cook for 15 minutes then add 2 tins of tomatoes (san marzano are the best) and a teaspoon of tomato paste and cook for a further 15 minutes.

- Add the balls to the sauce. No need to prefry them as this can dry them out.
- Add enough weak vegetable stock to cover the balls well.
- Bring the mixture to the boil then immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook uncovered for around 6 hours or until the sauce is rich, thick and the balls are soft.