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).

Jang Gun (Korean) Restaurant [$10 Lunch Special]

It’s an unobtrusive little place tucked away upstairs in the semi-abandoned Victoria Plaza Shopping Centre (we came on the weekend, so it may be bursting with life on the weekdays). Upon arrival, you wouldn’t take a second glance at the restaurant’s functional décor.  You may be greeted by the waiters, or you may not – if there is a spare seat, you take it, no questions asked. Here is their menu:

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Upon arrival, unless you request a drink, you will be given a bottle of tap water and some cups. You pour yourself, of course.

As at most Korean restaurants, your meal will come with a selection of anywhere between 2 to 12 side dishes (banchan). At Jang  Gun, you get 6 side dishes, notably:

  • Fermented Cabbage Kimchi
  • Fresh salad
  • Seasonal bean sprouts (Konghamul)
  • Seasoned eggplants
  • Korean style pancakes
  • Konjac jelly

The best part about it is that when you run out, you can ask for top ups (although they don’t look too kindly if you ask more than once!)

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The manager of the restaurant was also there, and she even made one of her servehands go back in the kitchen when she saw that one of the dishes (Konjac jelly) didn’t have any drizzled at the top!

The $10 lunch special is simple great though. 

Also, No. 11-18 of the dishes is served with miso soup!

1. The marinated spicy pork & vegetables with steam rice is their best dish (out of the four that we had). The seasoning is spot on and is not frightfully hot that your taste buds will be impaled by the chilliness, and is instead delightfully rich and sweet. I’m quite picky with my rice, so I was pleasantly surprised by their use of short grain rice (the long grains are what’s served at most fast-food eateries because they are cheaper and more filling) which are slightly softer and plumper than long grain rice.

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2. The crumbed fish cutlet, deep fried, topped with special sauce, served with steam rice & salad is magnificently crunchy due to their Korean style bread crumb mix which is not overly floury and coats a thinner layer of crispiness. The fish is soft, white and melt in your mouth.

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3. The marinated sweet beef & vegetables with steam rice has tender beef and crisp vegetables with the right saturation of juices in the mix, which serves well if you like to add a little flavour to your steam rice.  The sauce is distinctly milder than the marinated pork dish, but nevertheless stands on its own.

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 4. As we liked the crumbed fish (above) so much, we opted to get the crumbed chicken cutlet too. The chicken was battened thin, but nevertheless still quite succulent. They also give you a knife and fork for the crumbled dishes, which is more suitable than using chopsticks.

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Verdict: 

Service is unexceptional – as they took awhile to bring out the side dishes (actually with the mains, so as to not promote asking for top-ups while you wait for the mains) – but for the cheapness of the price,  the quality of the mains and the cornucopia of sides (and sometimes miso soup) and if you don’t mind the no fuss approach, then you can’t go wrong coming to Jang Gun.

7/10

Jang Gun (Korean) Restaurant on Urbanspoon

E’s film review: Disney’s Frozen

Frozen (PG)

Running Time 102 mins

Genre Animation, children (and those young at heart)

Voices Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds

Co-Directors Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Screenwriter Jennifer Lee

Story

The plot is linear enough. Elsa, the older sister has cryokinetic powers (the ability to create and manipulate snow & ice) but one day accidentally injures her younger sister Anna with it. From then on, her power is deemed a ‘curse’, resulting in her extended self-incarceration for fear that her burgeoning powers would cause harm to her sister and others. When her powers are revealed, she is forced to flee the castle – presumably, from a combination of her inability to accept that others will understand her due to years as a recluse and also her fear for the safety of others – whereupon said fear is then physically manifested by encasing the kingdom of Arendelle (ahem, Scandinavia) in an eternal winter. Naturally, Anna, the younger princess sets out across sprawling white winterland to bring back her sister.

Commentary 

The elements of a traditional Disney ‘princess’ tale are all there – true love’s first kiss, a dashing prince and beguiling princess(es) (who in more recent times have been injected with a dash of ‘feminist spunk’) battling one peril after another and on the way, encountering allies in the form of humans (here, Kristoff, a mountain man with a reindeer named Sven) and magical creatures, endowed with the gift of the gab (here, a winsome snowman named Olaf whose role is to provide both comic support and sage advice to the protagonists, as the occasion requires).

Let’s be clear here, Disney, like most well established behemoths of their industry, have followed the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. This makes it difficult for Disney to create a batch of truly original characters that would appease the critic (and possibly, feminist) in all of us. Not to mention, the fairy tales which Disney draw upon to re-hash for the modern audience themselves have tendancies of depicting its heroines in a fragile-and-therefore-needs-to-be-rescued light. However this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t denounce Disney films altogether or say they lack originality. Instead, we should rejoice at how far the modern Disney princesses has evolved in more recent years (mostly, in response to the backlash from the viewers themselves) as seen in Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) realising that she did not need a prince to financially support her dreams, Rapunzel (Tangled) realising that she did not need others to fight her battles for her, and Merida (Brave) realising that you can’t just use magic to avoid having those awkward come-of-age conversations with the your folks (and often the misunderstandings which ensues are not worth it).

The contemporary Disney princesses  all encounter internal conflicts. They are not impervious to the human foibles of human error, familial clash, trust, naivety and self doubt –  in stark contrast to the first Disney princesses, who were more often than not perturbed by external forces as a result of their position at birth.

Disney may have marketed the film as a ‘feminist’ film, but in truth, it really isn’t.

Realistically, the word ‘princess’ can be taken out of this film and the essence of the film would remain. (side note: I’ve always wondered why Mulan was classified as one of the Disney princess even though she clearly isn’t – this only reinforces the notion that ‘princess’ is an arbitrary/easy terminology used merely to sell merchandises and proliferate the franchise with no real meaning other than, sadly at times, to be attacked by those who brashly associate it with patriarchal values).

On a personal level, I am greatly relieved that the central theme, which persists previous Disney films, steers away from love between a man and a woman (and in turn, the cause of unrealistic romantic and marital expectations everywhere) but something we can actually teach our kids, or rediscover whatever stage we are at in our lives. It is something so vital, and at times, so debilitating to our own success, and yet we have the greatest dominion over:

That our greatest adversary lies within ourselves.

Creative Team 

The film is co-directed by Chris Buck (TarzanSurf’s Up) and Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph). Lee is the first female writer, not just at Disney but at any major animation house, to become a director.

That is not an easy road. See, the usual course is to start as an animator or story artist and slowly work up the ranks to eventually becoming a director. Lee also didn’t become a co-director immediately, she was employed by Disney/Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter to work on the script of Frozen, but was then meritoriously promoted to co-direct alongside Buck (probably because her success with Wreck-It-Ralph).

Another glass ceiling broken.

Visuals

Enough said.

Soundtrack

 The songs are compelling, and why wouldn’t they be. It took the married duo, Tony-award winning composer and lyricist Robert Lopez (Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, two years to flesh out the right songs. The result is lustrously theatrical and catchy numbers and at times, surprisingly cheeky lyrics. What’s even more sensational is that Kristen Bell not only voiced, but also sang her  own parts – who’d have known that she was classically trained and studied opera since a young age? I don’t think I have to say anything in relation to Idina Menzel – she’s a super-star in the musical industry (check her out in Wicked The Musical and Enchanted).

E’s Verdict: Another leap in visuals and characters. Disney uprooted for a modern audience. 7/10