Ramen Zundo

Seeking shelter from a cold, windy autumn day, we ventured to Ramen Zundo, a restaurant tucked away in the crevices of World Square. We ordered a tsukemen, a tan tan men ramen, a two “thick” broth ramen. There’s various varieties of “thick” and “light” broths offered, mainly depending on chilli paste and black garlic. If you’ve been to Gumshara, you’ll know what to expect from a thick broth. Ramen Zundo’s attempt seemed half-hearted compared to Gumshara, which specialises in amazingly thick, tasty ramen broth. One of my friends commented that it the broth here doesn’t  hold up to Gumshara standards. I had a taste of one of the thick broths and to agree with him, it was a tad bland. An oddity was that I was given a little bowl and pestle to grind my own sesame in for the tan tan men. I found that the ground sesame stuck to the bowl to the extent where I wouldn’t be able to put it into my soup. I was disappointed that egg didn’t come with all the ramen on offer.

Everyone agreed this was the sort of thing we needed after being blasted by winds in the city. Come here if you want something inoffensive to the palate. Ramen Zundo is exactly what we expected – average ramen for cheap prices.

 

The ramen on offer.

The ramen on offer.

From top left, clockwise: original tsukemen, thick original ramen, tan tan men ramen, rich zundo red.

From top left, clockwise: original tsukemen, thick original ramen, tan tan men ramen, rich zundo red.

 
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Blue Mountains and Pomegranate Cafe

One of the most scenic places around Sydney are the Blue Mountains. I imagine most Sydney dwellers have been there at least once in their lifetime and if you havent, then what are you waiting for? About two hours away from the city centre, it features the Three Sisters rock formation and bushwalks winding across a temperate forest valley. My boyfriend and I made the descent down the Grand Staircase (not for those terrified of heights or with weak knees) and across the valley towards Scenic World. As you’re going down the cliff face you leave the bulk of the tourists behind and step into a hushed, almost primeval world full of birds chirping, whispering winds and bubbling creeks. Sometimes it’s so good to get away from the city. Some kilometers down the track, we made our way back up via the Furber Steps, but if you’re tired and out of breath I’d recommend taking the Scenic Railway up.

The Three Sisters from Furber Steps.

The Three Sisters from Furber Steps.

Waterfall viewed from Furber Steps.

Waterfall viewed from Furber Steps.

The Blue Mountains area is also peppered with picturesque towns, including my favourite trio: Wentworth Falls, Leura and Katoomba. After our bushwalk we were famished, and walked all the way up Katoomba St to try and get a seat at the Paragon Cafe. Unfortunately the crowd there was huge, so we opted for a smaller cafe called the Pomegranate. It is a tiny, albeit popular cafe. I ordered the sweet potato/red onion/bacon frittata, and my boyfriend got a chorizo/tomato open sandwich. We sat outside, breathing in the crisp autumn mountain air. Our meals arrived after about a quater of an hour, and need I say “yum”? My frittata was absolutely delicious, and was the warm, nourishing food I was craving after a good walk. My boyfriend’s open sandwich was good, but I preferred my dish. All in all, a great day out!

Chorizo and tomato open sandwich.

Chorizo and tomato open sandwich ($13.50)

Sweet potato, red onion and bacon frittata with a side of toast.

Sweet potato, red onion and bacon frittata with a side of toast ($15.50).

My Sweet Memory

E’s review: Let me start off by saying that I associate My Sweet Memory (MSM) with many fond remembrances. I’ve played chess on their dilapidated chess board until almost midnight (they’re open until 12 every night!), I’ve purposely (read: tactlessly) gone there with a large group of friends and claimed a free cup of coffee (that comes with every purchase of 7 coffees) and I’ve been there with my brother who has a penchant for sweet things. It really is a great place to have an honest-to-god  conversation with another fellow being – unlike the usual bind of not being able to hear anyone if you go to most bars in Sydney these days. Apart from the place being a franchised ‘concept store’, that is, a store that interlaces food, music and art (more notably design stationery, office and lifestyle accessories) in one convenient location (and thus attracting a large cohort of Chinese, Korean and Japanese people), the food ain’t bad either. You can get the regular assortment of cake, coffee & other drinks and sweets. Don’t expect rich decadent delights though, it tastes like most Asian dessert places I’ve been to (i.e. they tend to add more sugar and artificial flavours and less butter and cream), but to me, this is not a big deal. What resonates, and matters to me are those ‘sweet memories’…and those have left a lasting impression.

J’s review: Cafe fused with a stationery shop? A very cute idea. MSM is as cute on the inside as it sounds, with things you’d expect to see in kikki.k lining the walls. There was quite a selection of cakes so we asked the waiters what they recommended – a chocolate mousse cake and a coffee espresso cake. I ordered a green tea latte out of curiosity, never having had one before. The cakes were both very light. As far as I can tell, that is a hallmark of Asian-style cakes in general. I didn’t mind the lightness, especially of the mousse which was quite delicate. But when I order a cake I want it to be bursting with rich flavours, and compared to other cakes these two were lacking in flavour. The highlight of this was the green tea latte! I’ve always had qualms about green with with milk, but I was pleasantly surprised. Note: I am also a sucker for all things green tea, so I am completely biased. Overall, MSM was average. I might go back again to try different cakes someday, but am quite content not to for now.

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My Sweet Memory: clockwise, mousse cake, green tea latte, coffee espresso cake.

My Sweet Memory on Urbanspoon

Agape Organic Restaurant

“Organic” has become synonymous with trendy as of late, and it’s no small wonder that some of the hip places around Sydney now serve organic food. Agape is an organic restaurant hidden away in a corner in Botany, which would possibly be better suited to a street along the north shore. Nevertheless, its popularity has increased over the years I’ve been going there, and each time I go the restaurant seems more full. The atmosphere is lovely, rural chic with pretty chandeliers and soft lighting. Jazz, blues and last century music tinkles away in the background.

Something to note is that Agape’s menu changes depending on what is in season and what meat they can acquire. This time around there was no pork on the menu, but a wide selection of beef and seafood. There is also a delicious tapas section and an extensive drinks list.

From the tapas menu, we ordered the haloumi with beetroot, herb and garlic bread, and prosciutto with peach. The haloumi was wrapped in vine leaves and served under a mini jungle of parsley, beetroot and olives. The beetroot and haloumi were a great combination, with the beetroot offsetting the saltiness of the haloumi. Same goes for the peach and prosciutto, the sweet and salty flavours were simple but tasty. The herb bread was delicious, thin and crispy. I think they are a bit expensive for the amount offered, but delicious all the same.

 

Herb, garlic and chilli bread, $13.

Herb, garlic and chilli bread, $13.

Haloumi, vine leaves, beetroot, olives, parsley, lemon, $13.50.

Haloumi, vine leaves, beetroot, olives, parsley, lemon, $13.50.

Nitrate free prosciutto, & yellow peach, apple balsamic, quark, rocket, $20.

Nitrate free prosciutto, & yellow peach, apple balsamic, quark, rocket, $20.

 

Mains were a wagyu meatball pizza, king salmon, wagyu beef scotch fillet and slow braised beef. Like the herb bread, the pizza had a thin, crispy crust, and a flavoursome sauce. The king salmon was cooked to perfection with tender meat and a crispy skin. The little salad that came with it was delicious and gave the dish a bit of sweetness. The wagyu scotch fillet was cooked to a juicy medium rare and was well complemented by the fried kale and the bed of chickpea puree. The sauce was a little too salty for my taste, but everything else made up for it. The slow braised beef is one of my favourites. I’ve ordered it several times at Agape now, and have always found the meat soft and delicious. This time was no exception. The meat falling apart and the truffle butter and black quinoa were delicious together.

 

Gundeooee grass fed wagyu scotch fillet, herloom beetroot, chickpea puree, chimichurri, parsley butter, $38.

Gundeooee grass fed wagyu scotch fillet, herloom beetroot, chickpea puree, chimichurri, parsley butter, $38.

Ora sustainable king salmon, beetroot, rosti, radish, popped quinoa, yoghurt and sprouts, $34.

Ora sustainable king salmon, beetroot, rosti, radish, popped quinoa, yoghurt and sprouts, $34.

Gundooee wagyu beef meatball organic pizza, tomato, oregano, mozzarella, pecorino, basil, $26.

Gundooee wagyu beef meatball organic pizza, tomato, oregano, mozzarella, pecorino, basil, $26.

Slow braised gundooee wagyu beef, potato puree, cabbage, bacon, sage, black quinoa & truffle butter, $36.

Slow braised gundooee wagyu beef, potato puree, cabbage, bacon, sage, black quinoa & truffle butter, $36.

 

The desserts were the highlight of the evening. The meringue is one of the best I’ve ever had. I am someone who veers away from meringue – I don’t like pavlova because the sugar is too much. The meringue at Agape is lovely and light and served with berries and a sorbet. The rosewater pannacotta was incredibly light, and I could have eaten more. The chocolate brownie with almond praline was yummy, but I think the other two desserts stood out a lot more. I like chocolate, but I think the flavours weren’t balanced as well as in the other two.

 

Chocolate spelt brownie, almond praline, vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce,  $17.

Chocolate spelt brownie, almond praline, vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce, $17 (birthday candle not usually included!).

Rosewater pannacotta, raspberries, poached nashi pear & moscato,  $17.

Rosewater pannacotta, raspberries, poached nashi pear & moscato, $17.

Meringue, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, yoghurt sorbet , $17.

Meringue, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, yoghurt sorbet , $17.

 

Overall, a satisfying dining experience. Although the prices are steep, you are paying for organic produce of excellent quality that is cooked well. The wait staff are always lovely and courteous and the atmosphere is relaxed. One of the biggest issues I’ve experienced with Agape is the time spent waiting for food. It can be a good 30-40 min before the tapas plates are brought out, and then a wait between the other courses too. For the price of food, I think service could be a bit quicker, but if you don’t mind enjoying your food at a very leisurely pace, then Agape is the place for you!
Agape Organic Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Prato Cafe & Diner

This place: Smack bang in the middle of suburbia, the restaurant could easily be mistaken for somebody’s century-old cottage house complete with high ceilings, wooden floorboards, and a quaint verandah overlooking a lovely wild (but kempt) garden in both the front and back. On top of the casual dining experience, there is even a random assortment of things – e.g. flora and useful or just interesting things – for sale.

The food: The kingfish carpaccio salad was sublimely beautiful. It came with a generous serving of raw kingfish too. The flavour was interesting – the salty capers mixed with the sweetness from the raisins, and then add to it, these fine violet shoots (I don’t know my vegetables, and was too embarrassed to ask what they were), rendered the salad refreshingly delicate and explosively tantalising. I’m usually not a salad person (although strangely enough I’ve been having more and more of them recently…), but this just worked so well together. Of course, the downside was, it was hardly enough to constitute a main dish, but luckily, my food buddy had ordered the smoked trout dish which I happily poached and gobbled down until I was finally satiated (and he, feeling a bit nonplussed, I’m sure). In terms of breakfast meals, his dish was decent, and well-cooked. The trout was lightly salted, the egg was crisp on the edge and gooey in the middle. There was an unsparing amount of hash. And the whole display – just gorgeous.

Suffice to say, I was quite impressed.

These were just two dishes on the menu; the breakfast and lunch selection is plentiful, so I feel like I will definitely be back to try them all…

The next time you’re in this neck of the woods, give this place a visit. Or if not, make a point to go here anyway.

Kingfish carpaccio salad

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 House Smoked Trout with Fried Egg, Potato Hash, Herbs and Sourdough

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Prato Cafe & Diner on Urbanspoon

Three Williams

J’s review: Now that I’ve been here, I feel like this place has been hyped up to some extent. It’s true that their narnies are great – we ordered three from the menu (prawn, brisket and chicken) and they were all oozing with harmonious flavours. The beef brisket narnie was my favourite because it was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sauce and gherkins inside really set it off. In saying that, all meats were cooked to perfection. The naan bread itself was unfortunately nothing special. The highlight of my experience was definitely the chips and the generous side serving of aioli for dipping – they are the best chips I’ve had in a while. The cauliflower salad wasn’t bad but wasn’t good either, so kind of average I suppose. I think where Three Williams did poorly was their non-coffee drinks. We tried the home-made peach and vanilla soda which turned out to be watered down peach with no vanilla at all. The peanut caramel shake was basically peanut butter diluted with milk. The caramel was missing so my drink was more savoury than I would have liked. I enjoyed the first couple of sips but after trying the narnies, the flavour of the milkshake felt weak. Overall, my experience balanced out into something that was kind of average, especially when the wait of about 20-30 min for a Saturday lunch and the prices were factored in. I would definitely recommend the narnies and the chips, but I was left feeling “meh” about the other food.

E’s review: the gradual gentrification of Redfern has birthed a hip hub of eateries. On my way to the Three Williams, the roads were littered with small cafes and an eclectic mix of world cuisines…will definitely be coming back to this part of the town to review more places! The entrance to the Three Williams was unassuming, you might have almost missed it as half of the restaurant is below ground level – were it not for the many many people sitting around outside waiting for a table. Once inside, it’s as big as a warehouse. On a warm Saturday afternoon, it was packed with couples, cohorts of 8+ tables, and even families with their bubs (it is advertised as ‘family friendly’ and high chairs are provided).  Now like J, I’ve heard great things about this place, and I really wanted to check it out for myself. The waitress was friendly and prompt. We decided to go for the popular and recommended choices (see below). I did not find the narnies to be at all spectacular. They were definitely quite edible, and immaculately served, but all the flavours were too bland for my liking. The brioche fared a bit better. The toast was sweet, and faintly crunchy. It could have done with a bit more maple syrup, but otherwise, it was well-balanced, and not too heavy. I ordered the cauliflower salad and I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. It was a bit different from regular salads. Although I was disappointed that my cauliflower was a bit soggy and not very caramelised, I found the mix of pomegranate seeds, walnuts, tabouli and quinoa to be quite harmonious. The chips reminded me of KFC chips, with a bit more of a crunch to it. I’ve had better, but I’m not complaining either. I have nothing to add in terms of the drinks, J’s review is spot on about them. In all, I had higher expectations, and considering it was a 15min walk from the station, I would have liked my food to have had more of a punch to them. Also, I was left feeling a little hungry afterwards (the portions aren’t too big), but then again, I’ve also been told that I’m a big eater, so opinions may vary on this aspect.

 

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The menu.

 

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Home made peach and vanilla soda, $12 for a bottle.

 

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Crunchy brioche french toast topped with blueberries, yoghurt, roasted pecans and maple syrup, $14.

 

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Beer battered chips with house aioli, $7.

 

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Caramelised cauliflower tabouli with quinoa, walnuts and preserved lemon salad, $14.

The narnies:

(from left to right) chicken, brisket and prawns 

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Three Williams on Urbanspoon

Himalayan Char Grill

Himalayan Char Grill is one of the many small restaurants lining Glebe Point Rd. The atmosphere is friendly and the restaurant is tastefully decorated with Himalayan handcrafts. We were promptly seated upon arrival and picked our own table because not many people were around. As the night went on, the restaurant began reaching full capacity (and this was a Tuesday night) – a testament to its good food.

For the two of us (i.e. my SO and I) we ordered one entree, Aloo Chop, two serves of roti, and a platter of condiments which included mango chutney, pickled chilli (or at least what seemed to be pickled chilli), spiced yoghurt and tomato salsa. The Aloo Chop was basically a potato croquette coated in chickpea flour, though I’m not sure I could taste the chickpea. The sauce that accompanied it was tangy and went well with the Aloo Chop.

From left to right: aloo chop, $11.90; side dish platter, $5.50; roti, $3.00 each.

From left to right: Aloo Chop, $11.90; side dish platter, $5.50; roti, $3.00 each.

For mains we ordered Sekuwa chicken and Masala beef cheeks. The Sekuwa chicken was tender and barbecued with an exotic blend of spices. It arrived with wild rice and a salad. The chicken was mouth-wateringly delicious, especially when eaten with the yoghurt condiment. The beef cheeks arrived as curry/stew sort of dish with carrots, beans, capsicum and mushrooms. The beef was diced into cubes instead of being a slab of meat because there was more flavour in the meat. Not to mention how tender the beef was, leaving me very satisfied. We were also given extra plates so that we could share the food properly. The next time I come here it’ll have to be with lots of so I can try more food!

Sekuwa chicken served with salad and wild rice (under the chicken), $18.90.

Sekuwa chicken served with salad and wild rice (under the chicken), $18.90.

Masala beef cheek, $22.90. Found on the chef's special menu.

Masala beef cheek, $22.90. Found on the chef’s special menu.

I would highly recommend Himalayan Char Grill. Its prices are mid-range and good value for the amount and quality of food you get. Staff were pleasant, the atmosphere was good, and service was prompt. Nepalese cuisine is fairly diverse, though this place tends to focus on Indian-influenced food, so if you like spice and heaps of flavour then you’ll be in for a treat.

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