Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ryotaro Japanese Takeaway

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Ryotaro Japanese Takeaway
Shop 117 Sunnybank Plaza, Mains Rd, Sunnybank

It's something of a ritual to have lunch with my parents once on the weekend. We tend to pick somewhere casual, Asian-influenced and in Sunnybank (since that's on the way from their house to my house). It tends to be Chinese food. Newway has been our regular eating spot for a while now but last week, we opted for a change.

My dad recalled a time when those Japanese plastic food displays were a marvel to him and claimed that he's never eaten 'one of those'. I assumed he wasn't talking about the plastic plates of food themselves but rather, the intricate bento boxes they're mimicking. Nowadays, I can think of a dozen or so Japanese places that would do a mean bento box but since none were close by and Ryotaro was right there, we decided to give it a go.

Woks Box

Woks Box
Festival Towers, Cnr of Albert and Charlotte Street, Brisbane

One afternoon, I was decidedly too tired to make dinner so we looked for somewhere fast and cheap to eat in the city.

Woks Box is one of those fast Asian food concept stores - like Noodle Box where you pick a menu item and they quickly wok fry the ingredients (most are precooked) before dishing your meal into a plastic take-away box.

When we went in, the place seemed to be occupied purely by people who knew the owners/staff and they were all chatting among themselves so I felt a bit intimidated.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thai Wi-Rat

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Thai Wi-Rat
20 Duncan St, Fortitude Valley

This week was supposed to be a budget-friendly week of eating at home. Be that as it may, one too many stressful clinic sessions triggers the brain to protest "No! I don't want to cook tonight."

We were in the mood for something casual and relaxed. In fact, we were already through the door to a certain Malaysian restaurant in the city when we realized it was cash only and the two of us did not have any cash. It also happened that the nearest ATM was back the way we came so on the trek there, it occurred to me that I wasn't really in the mood for Malaysian food.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Plough Inn

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The Plough Inn

I went through as stage when I was really into pub food. No, that's not code for 'jugs of beer', I actually mean big servings, steaks and fried sides. In fact, one of my favorite places to go in the city after uni was The Brewhouse. They had an awesome 1kg of chicken wings on their menu which was great bonding food and two-for-one Tuesday. Although it was a pub, they had some pretty awesome desserts including my favorite, a huge ball of deep fried cookies and cream ice-cream. I'm so devastated that it shut down and even as I'm writing this post, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

In line with my eating style at the time, I tried quite a few pubs and taverns around the place and had a decent impression of Plough Inn. I decided to give it another go recently.

Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping

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Chicken Pie with Biscuit Topping
Home Cooking

I got this awesome baking cookbook called "The Modern Baker" by Nick Malgieri. There are so many wonderful recipes inside for breads, pastries and cakes that I often just flick through the pages to have a perv of the gorgeous photos.

To be honest, I haven't used the cookbook that often (only once for scones). Generally, I find there are great tips and I file away many of the recipes for 'sometime in the near future'.

Today I got around to making the chicken pie. It's something that seemed too hearty for the warmer months but now that it's getting cooler, I'm taking advantage of that by cooking "heavier" food.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Oats & Muesli Breakfast Post

The Oats and Muesli Breakfast Post
Home Cooking

This should barely be labeled as 'home cooking' since meals with muesli rarely involves cooking. There might me some 'preparation' but generally, this thread is meant to be more so for inspiration and ideas than to instruct you on how to eat your muesli. This is how I like to eat my muesli for breakfast.

I love breakfast. Breakfast food is (2nd to dessert) my favorite type of food. I don't go out for breakfast nearly as much as I'd like to. My idea of a perfect breakfast would be thick pancakes with fresh fruit and cream (for something sweet) or Canadian-style French toast with bacon and maple syrup (for something savory; well, sorta savory).

Scone Fix at Cafe Di Luna

Cafe Di Luna
28a Mains Rd, Sunnybank Plaza, Sunnybank

I can pinpoint when my recent craving for scones started. It was my first morning in Sydney. I wanted to get them from Faith Cafe but they didn't have any so at the time, I settled for banana bread. This settled the sweet snack craving temporarily but even when I got back to Brisbane, I found myself permanently in the mood for Devonshire tea. Only, I didn't want any tea... just scones with jam and cream.

Today we went to Sunnybank because whenever there's a public holiday, Sunnybank will reliably have some shops open. Originally, we also wanted to see a movie.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Multi-colored Seafood Congee

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Multi-colored Seafood Congee
Home Cooking

I felt like making something nourishing, nutritious and warming for lunch today. Last week, my mum bought me these cans of shark fin and crab meat broth. My parents found it in an Asian grocery store and mum told me they used it to make congee, thought it was quite good and bought some extra cans for me to try.

Chewy ANZAC Biscuits

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Chewy Anzac Biscuits
Home Cooking

It's ANZAC day today! I decided to be very predictable and unoriginal and bake Anzac biscuits. They are traditional, bog-standard and unadorned. I never used to like Anzac biscuits as a kid because they were too boring and dry. Now that I'm loving all things oats, the idea of oats, coconut and golden syrup is endlessly appealing.

It also helps that I had Homer Hudson ice-cream in the amazing Digger's flavor (based on Anzac biscuits) that gave me an oatmeal cookie craving since.

Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza

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Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza
Home Cooking

I'm going through a fresh figs phase and have been eating them for breakfast with yogurt. When I decided to make pizza tonight, I thought I could try using the figs in a savory dish instead. I saw a fig, caramelized onion and prosciutto pizza on this website. They used goat cheese but I have some Danish feta at home so I thought I'd use that instead. Their recipe also called for dried figs but I used fresh ones.

I normally only make a bit of dough - enough for 2 mini pizzas. Today, I couldn't be bothered to halve the recipe so I ended up with enough for 2 large pizza bases. My oven is small (one of those portable bench-top ovens) so I can't actually fit a large pizza in. I compromised by making rectangular/oval pizzas. All is good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marco Polo

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Marco Polo
Conrad Treasury Casino, Brisbane

My parents don't dine out or enjoy themselves nearly as much as they should. One time, they made the effort and went to Marco Polo in the casino and recommended it to me. In particular, they were impressed by the service.

I was keen to try it out and have actually been twice since they mentioned it. The first occasion was dinner a year ago and I remember the food and service to be good. One of the dessert items we ordered then took a bit long to come out but Marco Polo apologized profusely and ended up letting us have it on the house.

This time, I wanted to revisit the restaurant and see if my good memories of the place are justified. It was refreshing to see that the menu was mostly new - some of their specialty dishes were still there (e.g. Peking duck) but with slight tweaks. I think that if a restaurant wants a repeat customer base, menu changes are necessary.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

16th on Park

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16th on Park

My most recent visit to Freestyle Toute wasn't 100% satisfactory so I was on the lookout for another dessert cafe, knowing that in Brisbane, it was likely that there was none. It seemed like fate that on the next day, I drove along Park Road and saw 16 on Park with the words "Dessert Cafe" stamped underneath the restaurant's name. I nearly did a double take and quickly racked my brain for upcoming special events I could use as an excuse to go check the place out.

Ultimately, I decided I didn't need an excuse: a dedicated dessert cafe in Brisbane was a special enough occasion to justify itself. So a few days ago, I got my chance.

Earth 'n' Sea

Earth 'n' Sea

To clarify things first, I hate pizza. I'm talking about the 'normal', fast food kind of pizza you get from Domino's or Pizza Hut. It wasn't always like this - when I was young, the thought of a deep pan Domino's pizza hot out of the oven was ecstatic. Nowadays, I find them 'ok and edible' at best. I favor thin crusts and vegetarian toppings. How can things change so much?

On the flip side, I do get the odd craving for gourmet pizza, which I happen to like. In my opinion, gourmet pizza and fast food pizza should not be classified as the same food. They are completely different! Above all else, I can't stand one but will happily munch a slice of the other.

Sydney Index

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I finally finished all my Sydney posts! They're categorized here (in alphabetical order) for easy viewing.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sydney DAY 6: Breakfast at Cafe Delafrance

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Cafe Delafrance

On our last day in Sydney, we were all tired and dazed. Check out was before 10am but our flight wasn't till 5pm so we had that awkward multi-hour gap to fill. It's kind of hard finding things to do when you:
  • Don't want to do any walking
  • Are paranoid about missing your flight
  • Have steadily run out of money and stomach space
Shopping, I feel, needs some concentration. We went to a nearby mall and also browsed around Market City but it was pretty aimless wandering. Our day ended up being filled by a few episodes of stop-and-sit whereupon we'd have a coffee or other drink and sit and zone out for a while.

Sydney DAY 5: Dinner at Wagaya

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Level 1, 78-86 Harbor St, Haymarket

Despite reading about Wagaya in many places online, and being really fascinated with the idea of a touch-screen menu, I was willing to give it a miss on our Sydney trip. That is, until a friend in Sydney also recommended it and I thought 'what the hell, why not?'

We went really late on our last night in Sydney. This is because we were so full from all the days of eating that it made sense to take advantage of Wagaya's late opening hours and go when we were at least partially digested.

Sydney DAY 5: Ice-cream by the water

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Gelatissimo (Circular Quay)

Full to the brim after Spice Temple, the last thing we thought we'd do was stuff ourselves further with ice-cream. There's actually a Gelatissimo on Albert St in Brisbane and I managed to walk past 2 or 3 stores in Sydney without a second glance, but the lure of having ice-cream on the sunny boardwalk had SUCH a 'childhood memory' quality that I couldn't deprive myself of the opportunity.

One of my earliest memories was of my granddad buying me ice-cream near the water. I have a feeling this happened in Shanghai so it probably wasn't the ocean... still, in my mind, the weather was hot and the sun was high in the sky. Ice-cream is nice any time of the day, any where, but there is such a thing as 'ideal'.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sydney DAY 5: Lunch at Spice Temple

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Spice Temple

Of all the places I wanted to go in Sydney, Spice Temple was my MUST. I was really scared we wouldn't get a reservation in but luckily, they had a table available for lunch. I read about Rockpool a long while ago so when I found out that Neil Perry was behind both, it made me really curious to try Spice Temple (especially after all the good reviews online).

The entrance for Spice Temple is subtle but very unusual. There's an electronic screen on the door with an animation of curtains billowing in the wind. We gawked at this for a while before pushing open the door and heading down into the basement dining area.

Sydney DAY 5: Detour to Plan B

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Plan By by Becasse

On the way to do a bit of shopping, the guys started to get hungry. This is after cupcakes, and after breakfast. They are an insatiable lot.

I had heard about Becasse but we couldn't fit it into our schedule so we thought we'd go to their cafe (Plan B) and try something from there.

The cafe itself is very small. Once you're inside, pray that not too many people enter behind you or you'll find it's a squeeze to get out. There is a good selection of drinks plus a few substantial food items like sausage rolls or wagyu burgers.

Sydney DAY 5: Cupcakes on Pitt

Cupcakes on Pitt

To be honest, I walked past a few cupcake stores in Sydney without stopping (or limiting myself to a quick glance). I reasoned that out of all the things that Sydney has and Brisbane doesn't, cupcakes don't really make it to the list - we do have several around: Southbank, West End and the Emporium. Just because I haven't tried them doesn't mean they aren't around.

All the same, when I passed Cupcakes on Pitt, my self control died a little and we popped in, only to walk out 5min later with a carton of 4 cupcakes.

There is a wall lined with cupcakes and more in the glass counter. It wasn't easy choosing just one!

Sydney DAY 5: Breakfast at Bambini Trust

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Bambini Trust

Breakfast is perhaps my favorite meal of the day, not counting desserts (which isn't really a meal; it's a course). I can't have the type of breakfast I like on an everyday basis but when there are the long holidays, lazy weekends etc and I don't have to get up early or rush to get things done in a day, there's the chance of a nice breakfast out.

In Sydney, I had the privilege of enjoying a good breakfast every morning. This was another recommended location. We walked to Bambini Trust from our hotel and on the way, passed something else with 'Bambini' in the name, got a bit confused but decided to ignore it.

Bambini Trust has a very impressive doorway. It almost feels inappropriate to walk in just for breakfast. While we were standing there awkwardly wondering if we'd be out of place, a very sweet waiter came out and ushered us in.

Sydney DAY 4: Dinner at Adria Rybar and Grill

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Adria Rybar and Grill

This was our third meal at the harbor for the day... not that I'm complaining. It's a totally different view and feel at night and no less beautiful.

We went to Adria Rybar and Grill as a large group and I noticed all the restaurants around the wharf were buzzing with customers.

Sydney DAY 4: Lunch at Sumac

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I read about this breakfast buffet at Kazbah on Darling in Not Quite Nigella's blog. The food just looked so fantastic that even though I knew I wouldn't be able to pull together the necessary 8 people for the breakfast special, I wanted to go for lunch or dinner. It so happens that Kazbah has obscure opening times and because we were on a limited stay, we didn't end up going. When I discovered that it had a sister restaurant called Sumac, I thought it would be the perfect alternative.

We headed to that side of the harbor after some shopping in Paddington and it wasn't too long before we found Sumac.

The restaurant has an open, Mediterranean feel to it. The outer tables directly overlook the water and the tables on the inside still benefit from the view by being on a raised platform.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sydney DAY 4: Lindt Cafe for a Special Treat

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Lindt Cafe

We had to wait a bit for Lindt Cafe to open but as soon as it did, it had a steady flow of customers (us included).

I had looked at the menu online so I knew what I wanted. After a quick look around the store, we ordered and sat down.

Sydney DAY 4: Breakfast at Nick's 103

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Nick's 103
Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney

Lindt Cafe very annoyingly decided to open later than specified on their website so we killed time by having breakfast next door. I wasn't going to ruin my appetite for chocolate so I stuck to a coffee and nothing else.

Two of the boys ordered large savory breakfasts: big breakfast and breakfast burger.

The first thing that annoyed me about Nick's was the staff - whilst they weren't outright rude, their attitude was abrupt and just not very friendly.

That in itself isn't too bad but several later points made Nick's 103 an overall unpleasant experience.

Sydney DAY 3: Dessert at Max Brenner

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Max Brenner

I was naive when planning where to go throughout Sydney. Out of Max Brenner and the Lindt Cafe, I reasoned that only 1 was necessary. Since Max Brenner has opened in the Gold Coast, I put Lindt Cafe in my itinerary instead.

In actual fact, we ended up going to both dessert cafes. And more.

I am so glad I did. A friend of mine (Sydney local) hyped Max Brenner up to be an ultimate MUST-VISIT. I was a bit skeptical about how good it could be - I mean, in Brisbane we have Pancake Manor. Wouldn't it be similar? Waffles and chocolate sauce and what not. Good thing I ended up listening to her rather than myself :D.

Sydney DAY 3: Dinner at Spice I Am

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Spice I Am

I'm not a fan of hot food. There are some people who eat chili on their own or slather everything in chili sauce. When asked 'mild, medium or hot' they'll go for the 3rd option or any menu item that has the maximum number of chilies drawn next to it. That's definitely not me.

Having said that, I can handle hot food quite well. It's just that - when the whole point of asking for chili is to burn a hole in your mouth, I don't see the point. When it adds flavor or a new dimension to the dish, I can appreciate it.

That pretty much sums up my whole experience at Spice I Am. I read that it was one of the best Thai restaurants in Sydney. When we got there, we saw a dark, deserted street and one eatery that was flowing with life. It turns out that this was Spice I Am and we were very, very lucky to get a seat.

Sydney DAY 3: Yum Cha REVISITED at Imperial Peking

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Imperial Peking
979 King Georges Rd, Blakehurst

We had hired a car for the first few days in Sydney so we thought we'd use it to venture out from the CBD. I was a bit reluctant to get yum cha again, since we'd just had it for lunch the day before but in the end, I'm glad we went.

Sydney DAY 3: Snacks from Breadtop


When I first saw a Breadtop store in Sydney, I kept thinking "this looks so familiar". I swear I saw the same thing in Shanghai. Now that I have the benefit of online research, I've discovered that the chain in Shanghai is called 'Breadtalk' and the one in Australia (NSW and VIC) is called 'Breadtop'. Similar decor, products and concept... makes you think 'hmm' but then again, there's no Breadtalk in Australia and neither of them are in QLD so I'm happy for whatever I can get!

We ventured into Breadtop out of curiosity - the window displays were so cute. I was mostly impressed by the variety. I like Asian-style bakeries in general simply because the texture/flavors is different to Western bakeries. If you compare a cheesecake from either style of bakery, you'll know what I mean. I don't have a preference - I just think they offer different things.

Sydney DAY 3: Breakfast at Bills

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Bills, Darlinghurst
433 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst

This must be, all up, one of my favorite Sydney experiences. Everything was just perfect. The weather was brilliant - sunny and clear but not too hot. Charlie and I didn't do many things on our own in Sydney but we had 'couple breakfast' twice. We walked from our hotel along Liverpool St and it was a long walk but I really enjoyed it. When you're eating as much as we were, it's nice to get a bit of exercise in when you can.

As we got into Darlinghurst, I just fell in love with the buildings and the streets. Streets were quiet and lined with huge, beautiful trees and the buildings seemed aged but cheerful.

When we finally got to Bills, I nearly walked right past. It looked like a private home and indeed, when we walked in, it was like walking into someone's kitchen and meal area. The space is just lovely - open, clean, welcoming. It's very easy to feel comfortable.

Sydney DAY 2: Passionflower for Dessert

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To say I'm crazy about dessert just doesn't give the full picture. On my Sydney trip, I went to no less than 3 dessert cafes and 1 ice-cream store.

Passionflower was my first pick and an unexpected one. I hadn't planned to go in advance but found recommendations on the internet and we happened to stumble across it whilst walking around our hotel.

This dessert cafe has an Asian-influence and focuses on its ice-cream and ice-cream creations. I saw the expected Asian flavors like taro, green tea, black sesame and even durian. What I didn't expect was black sticky rice flavor. When it came to picking our desserts, I made sure I chose one that included that.

Sydney DAY 2: Dinner at Fratelli Paradiso

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Fratelli Paradiso
12-16 Challis Ave, Potts Point

This all goes to show that sometimes, a good dining experience can be the result of fate. Apparently, one of our group was at work when he met a customer from Sydney. This person frequented a place called Cafe Sopra in Potts Point which he highly recommended. We were up for some Italian food and thought we'd take up on this suggestion when I found out that Cafe Sopra doesn't open for dinner.

However, there was a restaurant nearby called Fratelli Paradiso that had rave reviews in several magazines and newspapers (SMH, Gourmet Traveller) so I was really keen to give it a go.

Sydney DAY 2: Yum Cha Lunch at Regal Chinese Cuisine

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Regal Chinese Cuisine

This place was recommended to two of the guys by ex-Sydney locals. Yum cha is great group food so we thought we'd check it out. Funnily, we walked through many streets before finding The Regal and when we left (after a hearty meal), we realized the restaurant was literally just down the road from where we were staying.

It was, in hindsight, not the best idea to get yum cha on Easter Monday. Even in Brisbane, these kinds of places are popular on public holidays and in Sydney, this is the case x 1000. Regal was huge but it was packed to the brim. People were leaking out onto the street.

Sydney DAY 2: Faith Cafe for Breakfast

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Faith Cafe
86 Liverpool St, Sydney

First morning in Sydney CBD: we had just escaped a GHASTLY bed and breakfast place in Tempe - they were offering cereal for breakfast (confirming the place was not just dirty and scary but had zero standards whatsoever) and we decided to pass on that.

Once we were in the city, we had to kill time before being able to check into our next location and we needed breakfast. The easiest solution (since we didn't know our way around at all) was the cafe around the corner from our hotel.