Monday, June 18, 2012


"CANBERRA: I hope you had an okay-ish time"

I went down to Canberra this weekend with some friends to see a friend of ours that moved there for work. It's only taken 4 years for us to get around to doing it, which makes us Good Friends (TM).

We originally planned to head down to 2-hatter Aubergine but, through misadventure and some external factors, ended up at sister restaurant Courgette (not knowing they were related at the time).

Dinner is a four course menu for $75 (plus wine and all that jazz), with four or five choices for each course. The dishes themselves read a little odd, with something like "crisp skin local snapper with poached moreton bay bug, clam, garlic mussel emulsion" sounding like an error at the printers where they put two dishes together on the same line.

I start with the blue swimmer crab with avocado, tomato jelly, celery and lime mayo (above). It's an excellent start with it's classic flavour combinations and crystal clear flavours. It's just a shame it took over an hour between walking in the door to this arriving on the plate.

The second course is a difficult choice, with everything on a similar level of temptation. I opt for the quail with scampi, corn mousse, peas, sesame wafer and truffle (yes, a lot of ingredients). It's interesting to see scampi and quail on the same plate, but the dish seems to work. It's not an amazing dish but I enjoy how broad the flavours are, yet still integrated.

The third course brings beef with an oxtail "cigar" and potato mash (above). It also says "sugar snap pea salad" but as it's half of one pea I refuse to acknowledge it.

It's a good dish, with all of the elements being tasty. Again, not amazing but still solid.

The fourth course is dessert, but cheese spoke to me so I went in that direction. Its's a decent cheese course, with an (perhaps over)abundance of crackers, fruit and nuts to call upon.

Service is excellent, though let down by the slow execution by the kitchen. Food is good and worth the price. It won't set the world on fire (my world was at room temperature at the end of the meal), but for some fine-dining at a price that won't break the bank, Courgette provides a good option.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Courgette on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 10, 2012

RESTAURANT: Albee's Kitchen

A friend of mine has been talking about a Malaysian restaurant in Campsie ever since it opened. Not being one to frequent Campsie (I doubt I'd be able to pick it out on a map), I've never been. He's taken other friends have shared his enthusiasm, which has made this place somewhat mythical. But it's not as simple as just going to Campsie and trying the food. No, one must first become a man before going to Campsie and eating Malaysian food.

Apparently this place gets packed during peak times, so it was fortunate that we went between lunch and dinner and could spread our wings. The menu is bloody massive, covering the standard Malay dishes like char kway teow, laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, satay and fish head soup, and stuff I've never seen in writing before, like butter oat chicken, milky creamy pork rib and marmite chicken.

Curiosity orders the latter, which turns out to be a nice crunchy chicken, almost like a sweet and sour chicken. We also start with curry puffs which are huge, stuffed with egg and vegetables, and delicious. The pastry is perfectly crunchy.

Pandan wrapped chicken sounds like a winner and comes highly recommended, but I'm turned off by a few pieces being undercooked which causes a pool of blood to form at the bottom of the bowl.

It's hard to go past char kway teow, so we don't. It's a decent version with the big plus of added clams, but not one that will set the world on fire. A little char missing, the chinese sausage not integrating with the rest of the dish and average prawns add up.

Though it's better than the hokkian noodles (pictured), whose tasty noodles are let down by a sauce none of us really enjoy and tiny shrimp with little flavour. Not even chunks of pork lard could save it.

A visit to a Malaysian joint isn't complete without an order (or more) of satay. Here, they're well marinated with turmeric dominating and come with more, peanut heavy sauce on the side. Very tasty all in all.

On the side we also get the four treasure--two types of beans, eggplant and okra stir fried in a pungent sambal--which is quite tasty.

A few hits and a few misses, but it's still easy to see why this place is popular. Good prices, authentic food, quick service and a mind-boggling selection of dishes for the local Campsians. Though, I feel that the standard of Malaysian food has been rapidly increasing lately and at the moment this place doesn't quite have enough to make me want to make a special journey for it.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Albee's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 08, 2012

RESTAURANT: Bodhi in the Park

I've been curious about checking Bodhi out for quite a while, since it always seems to pop up on all of those derivative "best of lists" as a sort of whacky yum cha/vegetarian/alternative setting sort of place. I hadn't really known it was full on vegan, organic, etc, etc, but that's not the sort of thing that will phase me; I'm not the sort of person that needs to eat meat with every meal.

No one mentioned that there were French waitresses. This seems like an oversight. Your heart will immediately melt like butter. Which is ironic, given that vegans don't eat butter.

We kick things off with a bunch of entrees, many of which are from their lunchtime yum cha menu (albeit at a higher price at dinner). Salt and pepper faux prawns appear to be something of a signature dish here. It's a tasty, fried dish, though the prawn flavour definitely isn't a fresh prawn flavour, which strikes me as odd given they could manufacture any flavour.

Steamed sticky rice flower buns and the assorted steamed buns are winners, with nice texture to the bun and good flavour to the filling.

Tempura mushrooms in BBQ sauce are pretty much that and, while nice and fried, aren't anything that will set the world on fire. Better is the smoked tofu and pineapple on betel leaf, which comes packing some great flavour, albeit not as much as many other meat-laden Thai betel leaf starters I've hard.

Steamed sticky rice parcels are nicely filling among a bevy of protein based dishes, packing a good texture and a very tasty filling.

On to mains and we kick of with another apparently signature dish of peking faux duck. It's a pale imitation of a peking duck proper, with the faux duck really only resembling duck that has been overcooked and deep fried to the point of not being duck. Pancakes look a little sad and sauces aren't anything special.

All is forgotten when the stuffed mushrooms arrive and they're bloody amazing, filled with something creamy and salty and covered in some black bean dressing. They also come with stuffed capsicums that are similarly successful.

Though all is forgotten with the faux duck salad with watermelon. I did not care for this. At all. Faux duck, with a few sad cubes of watermelon and some lettuce leaves. Presentation wasn't great, with the salad sitting in a small bowl on a long plate, with a few cubes of watermelon and drizzles of dressing at the other end. For around $20 for a handful of food, it didn't scream good value either.

Stuffed and fried eggplant came well recommended from the staff, but fell a little flat. The stuffing was nice, but the rest of the dish tasted a bit like oil and lacked flavour, as eggplant often does.

I could see myself returning here for the yum cha lunch, especially when the weather is nice and the outdoor seating is viable, but I could never see myself--a person that eats anything--returning for dinner.

The food wasn't really filling and the prices seemed high for what we got. Service was attentive but probably over enthusiastic, with the wait staff being almost cloyingly sweet, overpractised and helpful at times. And the place had a bit of a weekend cafe vibe about it, with loud voices echoing along the narrow room and vegan kids roaming unchecked.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Bodhi in the Park on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 07, 2012

RESTAURANT: Petaling Street

No doubt inspired by the success of places like Mamak and the insanity that the yearly Night Noodle Markets are bringing, a bunch of new Malaysian places have opened recently to cater for a Sydney public that obviously can't get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Petaling Street is one of the newer entries, popping up around 6 months ago and being nearly immediately inundated by hungry beasts.

And I dare say the inundation is warranted. On my first visit I popped in for a quick iced tea (tasty) and one of the best char kway teows that I've had in Sydney. Chunks of fat, pippies, chinese sausage and a massive serving. I was as satisfied as I was full and lethargic at work for the rest of the day. Which is to say, very. The only thing keeping it from being a truly epic CKT was that it could have done with a little more wok char on the day.

My other visit brought out a mee goreng that was just as enjoyable as the CKT on the previous visit as well as every white guys favourite: massaman curry. Advertised on the menu as super hot, it was (perhaps thankfully) no hotter than any other massaman I've tried to say. Which is to say, not very. While it was a solid dish, and one I'd happily eat again, the beef was a bit too fatty and the curry lacking in some spices.

All up, solid food that seems to arrive in an instant. With the added benefit of being able to book, so you don't have to brave the insane lines like you would at Mamak.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Petaling Street: Malaysian Hawker Food on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 02, 2012


I've never really been a person moved my sentiment. People, animals, places, all are just dust in the flux of life. To look back upon them and feel for them almost feels like a fear of progress. Forget the past, ignore the bridges, reach for the future.

It's a nice theory, but one that gets completely destroyed when your favourite all you can eat Korean barbeque joint falls into the hands of new management and everything that made it great disappears overnight (looking at you, Shinara).

It happened a few years ago and ever since I've been looking for a place that will let me cook my own meat and will let me eat as much as I want for a fixed price. Just thinking about all of that meat would leave me with a huge hole in my stomach. It was a special place reserved for copious amounts of meat.

So Suminoya had a hell of a lot to live up to. They're from the same restaurant group as the lovely Menya and Mappen, so there was promise.

While it's only a short stroll from Martin Place, you'd never think that there was anything at the end of the nothing-street the restaurant is in. Even when you approach it, knowing it should be there, it doesn't reveal itself until the last minute.

You walk in and the flames and sparks from the chef's grilling station spit and crackle at you to reward your frightening journey down the frightening alley.

Slide into a booth and order the 750ml bottle of plum wine. Anything else is foolish.

There are two menus: premium and gourmet, but different ones are available on different days. Or something. I don't care. There is the promise of unlimited meat so I'm already in the hazy meat zone. You pay your fee, order as much food as you want in 60 minutes, eat as much as you want in 90 minutes, leave and feel uplifted, despite the additional kilograms you're now nursing in your body.

Before the meat arrives, there's a good chance to test the sides for quality. Seaweed salad is delicious. Yukke (often served frozen at other places) arrives as a bowl full of fresh, ruby meat, egg yolk and everything else that makes yukke such a great tartare-esque dish. Kimchees are all solid and are an essential side to counter the meat that's about to arrive. The higher priced gourmet menu comes with sashimi with isn't bad at all, if slightly tired looking.

Portion sizes on the first order are tiny, so order a lot.

The meat and the grill arrive and it's so much better than the weak gas at a lot of Korean BBQ places. The charcoal of the Japanese yakiniku grill promises to get hot as hell and impart an awesome flavour.

And, indeed, it isn't too long before the fat dripping off one of the meats turns the grill into an inferno. It's thrilling and delicious at the same time, which is the best kind of fun.

Our allotted ordering and eating time is a blur of flame, meat, deliciousness, smoke, additional plum wine and general Good Times. The quality of the food is great for the price, the service is attentive and the restaurant is nicely designed.

I may have found my new muse. Now the restaurant just needs to try and survive for a while with me and my friends trying to eat it into the ground.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Suminoya Japanese on Urbanspoon