Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mahjong Room: Surry Hills (31 May 2012)

Walking into Mahjong Room, which is located amongst other popular restaurants along the busy Crown St, we were struck by the unique and quirkiness of Mahjong Room. It reminds me of an eccentric aunty, and the waiters all seem friendly and interesting in their own rights. One of the waiters lead us through the front room of around five tables, and walks us down a narrow hall to our table for two. The decor is warm and cosy, with details thrown all around the place that makes the place seem home-like. However the food is far from anything we've made at home! Although the name and description of the restaurant comes across as a chinese restaurant, it's nothing like the typical chinese restaurant fare we've had. Instead the food was fresh, inventive and simply presented. 

Chicken and vegetable san choi bao ($12)
Tiger prawn & chicken wontons (minced prawn and chicken wrapped in crispy pastry)
Steamed scallop and glass noodles
Blue swimmer crab gow gee - poached dumplings served in light broth
Black pepper scotch fillet with mushroom and onion $26
Steamed fish of the day (barramundi) with ginger, shallot and chilli $29
Chocolate banana spring rolls with lychee ice cream $12

All the dishes we had were cooked simply and well, with my favourite being the black pepper scotch fillet. The sauce in the dish was the perfect balance between being too bland and being too peppery, without being overly oily (which is the case with most chinese restaurants when I order the dish). The meat is also so incredibly tender, and is a perfect shade of red on the inside that is consistent with each cube of beef. Definitely a restaurant that I would be looking at going back to again, even if it was just to have the black pepper scotch fillet main again!

Mahjong Room
312 Crown St 
Surry Hills NSW 2010
02 9361 3985
Open for dinner Mon-Sat (two seatings: 6/6.30pm and 8.15pm)
Mahjong Room on Urbanspoon

Noggi: Macquarie (31 May 2012)

Despite all the fro-yo places popping up everywhere, I still have a soft spot for Noggi's green tea and original flavour fro-yo, which was probably part of my daily diet for a good few months when Noggi first opened up in Macquarie Centre around two years ago. Coming back for a re-visit down memory lane, H and I decided to go big and got a maxi size each ($6.80). I quickly rattled off my usual order (green tea and original fro-yo, topped with lychee, watermelon and passionfruit) and within minutes I was seated in Noggi's red sofas in fro-yo heaven. The fro-yo at Noggi also seem to have a more "yogurty" taste as compared to the creamier version at Moochi and Wowcow, which always makes me feel healthier (disillusioned, I know...)

Different toppings (Price includes up to three toppings)

After finishing a huge maxi size each, we decided quickly run downstairs to grab a coffee (coffee club) each, to warm ourselves up again :) 

Coffee Club's Piccolo Latte and Flat White

Noggi (Macquarie) on Urbanspoon

NOC (No Ordinary Cafe): Willoughby (30 May 2012)

After our lunch at the Fish Market Cafe inside Sydney Fish Market, K and I decided to go grab some coffee at her local cafe. We were beyond full so we skipped out on dessert today, but I managed to fit in a mocha (which tasted more like a hot chocolate, but my taste buds may have gone slightly off after all the fried food) and K ordered a vanilla milkshake which arrived in a huge takeaway cup. She said that it tasted rich and creamy, and even managed to finish most of it despite the large serving size :) 

mocha and vanilla milkshake

NOC also appears to be a popular cafe for mums to take their kids after school, as we saw a number of mums and kids go in and out of the cafe during our hour there. Overall it was a nice neighbourhood cafe with friendly waiters, and easy parking at the front.

83 Penshurst St
Willoughby NSW 2068
02 9967 5011
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch

Noc on Urbanspoon

Fish Market Cafe: Pyrmont (30 May 2012)

To celebrate K's thesis completion, we decided to visit Sydney's fish markets for lunch! Since it was a celebration, we knew we had to go for one of the seafood platters, and we settled on the one at Fish Market Cafe (near the entrance) which seemed to be the busiest. Due to the large volume of people that probably orders difference variances of the fried food, the deep-fried items were all very crispy and hot! We probably should've gone for the grilled platter, since the fried items began tasting the same after a while, but it was sooo good when we first started eating. The portions are huge, so it'll probably be best to share the platter among 3-4 people, rather than just two girls (though we did our very best in attempting to finish everything!!)

Seafood Platter $32.50

Fish Market Cafe
Shop 4 Waterfrong Arcade 
Sydney Fish Market Bank St
Pyrmont NSW 2009
02 9660 4280
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch

Fish Market Cafe - Sydney Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blu Water Grill: Hornsby (29 May 2012)

Yesterday I had a quick meet up with an old high school friend at Blu in Hornsby (near the fountain). We haven't had a proper catch up for a few years now, and it was so nice to just be able to comfortably fall back to how things were x-amount of years ago. The same probably goes for Hornsby, which doesn't seem to have changed all the much from what I remembered it to be from a few years ago. We decided to meet up at Blu for coffee since it's probably one of the easiest cafes to find in Hornsby. The coffee was decent, and although it's nothing to rave on about, the staff were friendly AND they even drew a smiley face on the cappuccino! ... I can be quite easily amused :) 

Blu Water Grill
Florence St
Hornsby NSW 2077
02 9482 2888
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days

Blu Water Grill on Urbanspoon

Rhodes Phoenix: Rhodes (29 May 2012)

We arrived at Rhodes Phoenix (up the escalator near Reading Cinemas) at around 11.30am on a Tuesday and the massive dining room was predominantly empty. After being seated with the tea brought over, we realised that we were probably too early for yumcha here. There were only 2 trolleys in sight, that seemed to just do the rounds. Nonetheless we were starving so we grabbed one of the spinach and prawn steamed dim sum dish.

Steamed prawn and spinach dim sim $6.80
 Probably because it had been doing the rounds since opening, the prawn and spinach dim sims were quite cold so we decided to wait until some new trolleys came out. Around noon more trolleys started coming out, which coincided with quite a few suited up workers coming in for yum cha.

Prawn dim sim (har gau) $7.50
The prawn dim sims came out steaming hot, as were all the remaining dishes :) 
Chicken Buns $5.80
Braised Tripes $5.80
Favourite from yum cha today - Came out steaming hot and tender! 

Pineapple buns filled with custard $5.80
 Still prefer Golden Unicorn's pineapple buns because their sweet topping is a lot crunchier, but these ones were still good! It was a lot sweeter, and had a slight honey twist to it.

A bit pricier than the average yumcha joint, but convenient location at Rhodes shopping centre (and you can go visit Ikea afterwards too). Just come after noon though!

Rhodes Phoenix
2 Rider Blvd
Rhodes NSW 2138
02 9739 6628
Open 7 days for yum cha and dinner

Rhodes Phoenix on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Max Brenner: Castle Hill (28 May 2012)

Although we were quite full after eating dinner next door at Red Spoon Thai, we still had room for the consistently delicious melted chocolate at Max Brenner! The service at the Castle Towers branch has always been consistently slow over our past few visits, so we decided to keep it simple and just order a Chocolate dip today (strawberries with dipping chocolate) to share. 

Front counter
The layout of Max Brenner in Castle Towers is a little awkward, since all the finished dishes are left on the front counter (waiting for a server to pick it up) but it's also the same front counter where the customers place their orders. Unfortunately there's quite a few people with colds going around, and it can be quite concerning when you see people coughing around your order. However it's probably very likely that a lot worse goes on in some restaurant kitchens so I may just be overly paranoid this winter :)

Chocolate shop at the back of the store :)

mmmm Chocolate Lick 
The strawberries were all very sweet, and went well with the richness of the melted milk chocolate dip

Chocolate Lick ($2.50) takeaway
The melted chocolate was so good so we decided to take away two chocolate licks to go with the strawberries that had been sitting around in our fridge at home. Needless to say, the strawberries have since gone. While Max Brenner is a popular chain now so it seems to have lost some of it's "uniqueness", the melted chocolate is so rich and good that I still find myself returning time after time to satisfy my chocolate cravings.

Max Brenner (Castle Hill)
Shop 9A Castle Towers Shopping Centre
6-14 Castle St
Castle Hill NSW 2154
02 9659 2940 
Open 7 days until late

Max Brenner on Urbanspoon

Red Spoon Thai: Castle Hill (28 May 2012)

Located in the busy Piazza outdoor dining area in Castle Towers, Red Spoon Thai is often packed with hungry customers. However after being seated, I was initially taken back with some of the high prices.

Curry Puff ($7.90) - crispy fried pastry puffs stuffed with mixed vegetables served with sweet chilli sauce 
The pastry was crispy and flaky, and I liked it how the vegetables inside were still quite chunky in size. 

Crispy Whole Snapper ($32.90) - crisp fried deboned whole snapper served with homemade sauce of lime juice, chilli, lime leaves and Thai basil
 I found this dish too spicy - while usually I'm ok with moderate levels of spiciness, we couldn't finish the fish today because it was just too spicy with pieces of freshly cut chilli pieces throughout it. 

Coconut king prawns ($27.90) - char grilled king prawns with crisp Thai water spinach in fresh coconut milk, mixed herbs and spices topping
 Thought this dish was more of an entree size rather than a main - included four king prawns on top of some deep fried spinach. While I liked how the spinach was deep fried and topped with mixed herbs and spices, I don't necessarily think it was very worth the price. 

Pad Thai King Prawns ($29.90) - char grilled king prawns with stir fried thin rice noodles in Red Spoon's special pad thai sauce
 This was my favourite dish from the night - it was quite a generous serve of pad thai, served with fresh bean sprouts and 4 chargrilled king prawns. 

Bright & modern interior
While the dishes were all ok with the king prawns pad thai being the standout, they were all still on the pricey side, especially after being used to the well-priced and well-made thai dishes at places like Chat Thai.

Red Spoon Castle Hill
7/6-14 Castle St
Castle Hill NSW 2154
02 9899 5669
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner

Red Spoon Castle Hill on Urbanspoon

Bau Truong: Cabramatta (28 May 2012)

I love going to Cabramatta! I love all the bustle and the different aromas wafting in from all directions. As expected, I went with a friend today to have pho and we decided to try out Bau Truong (part of a chain). The menu was huge (7 full pages!) with options such as oyster pancakes. We decided to opt for one safe option (pho!) and adventure into something new for the second dish. 

Pho (raw beef noodle soup) $11
Bean sprouts and mint leaves for pho
Beef in Wild Pepper Leaf Rolls DIY ($15)
DIY equipment! Just rotate the rice paper around in the bowl of hot water,
and then put fillings in (with a bit of the sauce) and try your best in wrapping it
Bowl of warm water to dip rice paper in
Beef in wild pepper leaf rolls
Bright, modern interior
Exterior - hard to miss the green sign!
Painting on the side of a building
Both dishes were fresh and authentic, but I especially enjoyed the beef in wild pepper leaf rolls. It was something new, and definitely a dish I want to eat again! Even when the beef rolls were surrounded by the other condiments and wrapped in the rice paper rolls, the intense pepper and lemongrass flavours of the beef would still come through. The crispiness of the water chestnut pieces in the beef rolls also provided a good contrast in texture from the beef mince and soft leaf wrapping. Overall it was a very filling lunch for less than $30 for two people! Looking at the menu, I know I definitely want to go back and try their chicken feet salad, crispy chicken and the extensive hot pot menu.

Bau Truong
70 John St
Cabramatta NSW 2166
02 9727 4492
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner Bau Truong on Urbanspoon