Mamak

Mamak is a Malaysian restaurant with franchises in two different locations in Sydney (Chinatown and Chatswood). If you’re going to the one in Chinatown, get ready for a long queue! My friends and I thought we’d go on a Monday night. Not very many people eat out on a Monday, right? Totally wrong. The queue at Mamak took about half an hour for us to get in (we were a group of three). I’ve been to the Chatswood one too, and I didn’t have to wait.

There’s two great things about Mamak that’ll make this review simple. Firstly, they have good food. The spice combinations are tasty, the roti is wonderful, the curries are hearty. Secondly, it is fairly cheap. The roti prices range from $5.50 – $12, with the cheapest being a perfect side dish whilst the most expensive is quite filling.

Roti planta and roti bawang, $6.50 each.

Roti planta and roti bawang, $6.50 each.

Between the three of us, we ordered two types of (planta and bawang, butter and onion roti respectively), nasi lemak, vegetarian curry, and hot teh tarik. As is often the case with busy (and cheap) restaurants our meals came at separate times, and my friend waited about a quarter of an hour for her curry.

Nasi lemak, $9. Extra $3 for sambal prawn.

Nasi lemak, $9. Extra $3 for sambal prawn.

I love roti. There is something about the oiliness that makes me want to eat more. I found that the roti bawang with the two curry dips and sambal sauce was a fairly filling dinner, especially with the teh tarik. Mmm, kilojoules. The roti planta was flaky and tasty. The vegetarian curry was a little too spicy for my friend, but bear in mind she doesn’t eat much spicy food. The nasi lemak arrived with sambal prawn for an extra $3, and was devoured pretty quickly.

Vegetarian curry for $14, one serve of rice $3.

Vegetarian curry for $14, one serve of rice $3.

To sum it up: at Mamak you get plenty of bang for your buck. The three of us ate for $51 in total, which is pretty cheap for a dinner in Sydney. I have had better Malaysian food elsewhere, but Mamak does a great job all the same.  The worst thing is the queue, which appears to be ubiquitous no matter which day you go to dinner on. Don’t expect good service, it’s not what you’re paying for at Mamak anyway.

Mamak on Urbanspoon

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Cargo Bar – Cocktail Class

I was at a hen’s party held at Cargo Bar in Darling Harbour. I’d never been to a cocktail class and was pretty excited to get a bit tipsy and make some tasty drinks. After a little confusion about the booking, we arrived to immaculately set out tables. We were seated the balcony next to the beautiful harbour. The neighbouring balconies also held female-only groups with one out for a hen’s night and the other a baby shower. The bartenders arrived for the session about half an hour later, and by then we were all ready to roll.

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Cocktail class setup at Cargo bar.

The first cocktail we made was a French Martini. I love drinks with a bit of froth of them (my boyfriend would know, I serially steal the foam off his cappucinos), but I didn’t shake my Martini enough to make it frothy – my arms have been giving me a bit of trouble lately (hence the lack of posts) and I didn’t want to strain them. So my Martini lacked the foam it should have had on top, but it was still tasty, of course 🙂 The second cocktail we made was the Cosmopolitan (another pink drink), which was the standard fare, really. It’s a bit of a shame this class was so simple. It would have been great if we’d learned a bit about the history of each cocktail or a couple of tricks, but maybe that’s just me. You can do so much more with two hours of time!

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Prosecco and French Martini with rosebud garnish. Canapes are in the background.

The canapes were a little hit and miss. I think there were four different types in total (or at least I didn’t see heaps of variation). I’ve included a picture of the little rice balls with the salmon and caviar on top because they were the prettiest even though the rice was undercooked, but I think the best tasting ones were the gruyere quiches, which had a delicious but delicate taste to them.

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Nearly gone Cosmpolitan and rice canapes with cucumber, salmon and caviar topping.

I would recommend this class if you want a couple of drinks to kick start a hen’s night. Although the drinks I made were super girly, I think you are able to pick from several other cocktail recipes. There is also some nice bartender eye candy to check out (!) if you want. The atmosphere was relaxing and the view was nice. Overall, a good experience.

Cargo Bar on Urbanspoon

Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet

I love Indian food, no doubt about it. The mixture of spices, the flavours exploding in your mouth, the yoghurt to cool the chilli before you take another bite … it’s to die for! You can imagine how excited I was to try out Govinda’s in Darlinghurst on Sunday night. What distinguishes Govinda’s from other restaurants is that it also has a small cinema on the ground level, and also offers lifestyle activities such as meditation classes.

After a short walk from King’s Cross station, we arrived at Govinda’s. We had a reservation and were seated quickly, albeit a little awkardly, since two small tables had been put together to seat six, I was seated right next to where the tables joined, making it a cramped experience. The all-you-can-eat buffet meal was $19.80 and the dinner/movie package was an extra $10 for the movie. There was a small selection of desserts and several drinks, including chi’i and mango lassi. I am not really a buffet person, and don’t believe in stretching my bowel just so I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth, but I was thrilled at the prospect of Indian food and headed to the buffet table to grab a bit of everything … only to find that quite a bit of the food wasn’t actually Indian. I’d estimate about a third of the food wasn’t Indian, which was a bit disappointing, because I expected a larger selection of curries. Don’t get me wrong, I love quinoa and tofu salads, but it’s not what I was looking forwards to. There were two curries on offer that night, a bean and potato curry with cheese on top, and a mixed vegetable curry with a spinach sauce. I took some of the salads, including a tasty looking yoghurt and cucumber salad (just the thing to cool your tongue down after a chilli hit, right?), some of the chilli condiment, mango chutney, and sprinkled sesame seeds over my curry. I also took some pakoras (battered and fried cauliflower), a bowl of dahl, pappadums, and basmati rice. There was also a pasta dish and potato wedges.

My plate full from the buffet table.

My plate full from the buffet table.

I hate to say it, but Govinda’s was a disappointment for me. My initial excitement dissipated when I arrived at the buffet table, and almost completely disappeared once I started eating. I have had authentic Indian food before – one of my friends is Indian and she cooks amazing meals. I found the food at the buffet paled by comparison. Spice isn’t just about chilli, you need a lot more than just that to make a good dish, but I think Govinda’s really missed the mark, and oddly enough it was the salads that stood out for me, which were delicious and fresh. “Oh, but it’s a buffet, what did you expect?” you might ask. I expected a lot more, judging by some of the reviews this place has gotten. The dahl and curries were bland, and the chutney was sickly sweet. After I’d tried most of the food from the buffet, I realised I would much rather go to the local (and cheaper) takeaway Indian place!

The mango lassi ($3.90), however, was delicious. I also tried their chocolate mousse ($8.90) – pretty average. I was also surprised that they didn’t have traditional Indian sweets on offer. A bit of a shame, really.

I also found the service a bit lacking. I understand that this place is quite busy, especially when people drop in for dinner before they see a movie, but if you’re providing a service you may as well attempt to try a bit harder. We had to repeatedly ask for water, and it took the staff a while to bring us back the menu for dessert.

I think Govinda’s buffet table was hit and miss. I enjoyed the salads, the condiments (except the mango chutney), but found the rest lacking. Desserts are okay, and the mango lassi is delicious, but people don’t go to a restaurant just for a lassi.

Govinda’s
112 Darlinghurst Rd
Sydney, NSW 2010
Govinda's on Urbanspoon

Home Thai Restaurant

On Thursday night I had the pleasure of hanging out with friends. We went to Home, on Sussex St, a Thai restaurant which we’d been to before, and were in the mood for again! We got there at 7 PM, and were seated fairly quickly because our group was small (we did notice a group of six or seven people waiting for a while outside). The atmosphere inside was vibrant melting pot of all sorts of different people packed into the one room, the smell of fragrant spices floating in the air, and waitstaff rushing around with cute little tablets on which they took orders. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I was a bit surprised that each waiter/waitress carried their own tablet – this made ordering things a bit more annoying because they were constantly scrolling through items.

One of my friends ordered keuw tiew lod (cold noodles with pork mince) and fish curry, the latter arriving wrapped up prettily in a leaf. The other ordered a pad see ew, and I went for a red chicken curry. The meals came out fairly quickly, but not at the same time. I must admit, I am one of those people who feels irked when the meals arrive separately, because it’s rude to eat before others … and when you’re starving, waiting for other people’s meals to come out can take an eternity.

The

Keuw tiew lod

Unfortunately, the pad see ew never showed up, and instead my friend, C, was served a pad thai. Upon asking the waitress whether she’d been given the wrong meal, the waitress insisted that she’d ordered a pad thai. C was a little taken aback, because she’d even pointed at the correct meal on the menu (and we had seen and heard her ask for the correct meal). In the end, she decided she would have the pad thai – they were the same price anyway, because she’d ordered vegetarian.

Pad thai

Pad thai

My red curry was tasty, with a medium level of chilli – enough to get the sinuses going, but not enough for my tongue to burn from the heat. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but I would put it above your average red curry. The fish curry was fairly average, but the pad thai was delicious. A dish that I would personally recommend (from previous experience) is the crispy pork belly, and I was a bit sorry I didn’t order that. There is always next time!

Red curry with chicken and steamed rice

Red curry with chicken and steamed rice

Overall, we were fairly pleased with our dinner. Despite the incident with the pad see ew, I would still recommend this place for a quick dinner – it’s not really the sort of place you can settle into, because of the noise level, but the food is worth tasting at least once.

Home Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Macaron Diaries, Part 2

Following my earlier experimenting with the ever-elusive macaron, I had enough ingredients to give them another go! I decided to try and make salted caramel macarons. The recipe for the shells is the same as before, with the exception of some food dye to try and give them some colour.
 
Ingredients for orange (or caramel coloured) macaron shells
 
100 g egg whites
50 g caster sugar
200 g icing sugar
110 g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla
4 drops yellow food colouring
2 drops pink food colouring
 
Method
 
1. Whip egg whites and sugar until stiff meringue peaks form. For a more detailed example, click here for Part 1 of my macaron making adventures.
 
2. After sifting ground almonds and icing sugar thoroughly, add them to the meringue (I just dumped the whole thing in!). I gave the mixture about 50 folds with a spatula, but I found it was still a little too stiff after baking and quite reminiscent of my previous attempt. So what I did was bring back the handheld mixer and try out something I read on the website of Adriano Zumbo, the macaron master himself. He does something named “pulsing”, which apparently helps make your macaron mixture smoother and gives it the correct consistency (my mixture certainly needed this). After pulsing twice, my mixture finally appeared to have the “lava” consistency desired.
 
3. After piping out the macaron mixture, I noted with joy that the mixture had spread rather than staying stiffly on top of the baking paper. A slight skin formed after 15 min, after which I grew impatient and decided to put the macarons into the oven. They baked for 16 min at 180 degrees Celsius. Note that my oven starts burning macarons after about 18 min, so I lowered the baking time a little. Since I decided to make salted caramel macarons, I sprinkled a couple with a little salt. Note that if you do this, make sure to eat those macarons quickly. Salt absorbs water very easily and after a while you might find that the tops of your macarons have gone a bit soggy.
 
4. The macarons came out looking quite well compared to my previous two batches. The tops weren’t 100% smooth, but smooth enough the pass. The feet were visible, but didn’t spread out too much. I was disappointed with the colour – I wanted a much more vibrant orange. I always forget that colours tend to pale and change when baking, so next time I will make sure to make the colour extra strong to counter this. Almost there!
 

Macarons after baking.

Macarons after baking.


 
Salted caramel/chocolate ganache
Recipe is from simmer & boyle, but I made half of the batch. I also lacked glucose syrup – must look this up in the future.
 
112 g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
57 g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
95 ml cream
1/2 tsp salt
 
1. In a small pot, melt the caster sugar and water over a low-medium flame. The recipe says not to stir (so I didn’t), but it does allow you to swirl the caramel a little. I have never made caramel before so I read up on this, and apparently stirring can increase the risk of burning your caramel. I decided the caramel was ready after about 5 min of cooking, when it had turned a nice amber colour. Unfortunately there was a lump of toffee along the side, possibly because the water hadn’t dispersed properly throughout the mixture.
 
Making the caramel. As the sugar starts melting a little crust forms on top, which then later dissolves to give a smooth, clear, amber-coloured liquid. Note the lump in the bottom of the pan - not a good sign.

Making the caramel. As the sugar starts melting a little crust forms on top, which then later dissolves to give a smooth, clear, amber-coloured liquid. Note the lump in the bottom of the pan – not a good sign.


 
2. After taking the pot off the stove, it was time to whisk in the cream. I poured it all straight in and whisked it in. I found that some of the caramel had hardened, so I put the mixture on top of the flame again to dissolve it a bit. I am not sure this was the best thing to do … I ended up with a mixture that was maybe a bit too liquid and that lacked the exact consistency of caramel I was looking for.
 
3. I poured the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate and sea salt, then allowed it to melt the chocolate before whisking it all together. The result was much too flowy, so I popped the bowl into the fridge to let it cool down. Although it came out a bit more viscous from the fridge, it melted quite easily after I placed the macaron halves together.
 
The caramel on one side, and the ganache containing all the ingredients on the right side.

The caramel on one side, and the ganache containing all the ingredients on the right side.


 
The final result. I am not sure I am a fan of chocolate with salted caramel – I feel chocolate is an unnecessary element in something delicious as it is. Next time I’ll attempt to make a salted caramel filling without chocolate, if possible (or maybe white chocolate it give it a creamier texture?). Other than that, there is a disconnect between the tastes of the macaron shell and the filling. I wonder whether it is possible to make a more savoury shell to complement the filling. I already forsee my next adventure in macaron making!
 
My first macarons that actually look like macarons.

My first macarons that actually look like macarons.


 
The take home messages:
– Add extra food colouring to the macaron mixture if you want bold colours (or in my case, just extra food colouring all the time. I seem to misjudge how much colours change with baking).
– Make sure all the sugar is dissolved before pouring the cream in. This should be achieved by coating the sugar thoroughly in water and dispersing it evenly over the surface of the pot.

Mori Sushi Cafe: Fusion Japanese-Korean All-you-can-eat buffet (unlimited time!)

There once was a  cafe in Glebe

That served an all you can eat!

No limit as to time, 

The food was sublime,

I’d go there again in a heap!

For the price of $45.50, we got the following (from left to right, top to bottom): Pork Kimchi; Tofu & Avocado Salad; Takoyaki, Unagi (eel), Fried Soft Shell Crab; Main Sashimi Dish, Fried Prawns; Volcano Rolls; the company of friends, strangers & waiters;  sizzling BBQ Beef strips; sizzling vegetable dish; Sashimi boat; sizzling pork; tuna tataki (x 2); Wagyu beef (x 3 – because it was really good!); green tea (free!):

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Nestled further up along Glebe Point Road, the cafe is adorably small and were it not for the multitudes of signs outside alerting us to the fact that it had an all-you-can-eat buffet (along with yummy looking pictures), we’d never knew it was a cafe with such bounty. Locals can go there for a quick meal, or a drink – since it is a cafe after all – but for the ultimately starving, or buffets is just your thing (which it is for my family), then here is a place you cannot miss. When the price is so reasonable, the dishes so many, and the service so friendly (they never looked at us funnily when we kept ordering….mind you, the above was for 3 people, yeah yeah, we eat a lot) – one barely needs to mention the food. However, in this case, all the dishes were quite good, not exceptional, but then really – they prepared all the above in under 10mins between each dish; usually less for the cold dishes too, so they have my respect.

As you can see, there are heaps of other dishes you can get. They are also 3 staggered buffet menus to choose from (price discrimination at its best), so if you don’t want to get the $45.50 one (which includes wagyu, hot pot, sashimi boat, tuna tataki) then you can just go for the $39.50 meal which is everything in the more expensive buffet, less the wagyu (in my opinion, the wagyu is worth the extra $6). The cheapest is the $29.50 meal – which is good enough for most people. Children eat for less, because a reasonable person would think that children have smaller stomachs (ah but they have faster metabolisms! And really, with no time limit imposed, they’re just asking for customers to spend the whole day at the cafe).

Mori Sushi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Café Sopra

The wine and dining experience

On a cool breezy Monday night, you’ll see a comprehensive mix of suits, hipsters, artists, lovers, connoisseurs and intergenerational  families occupying the assortment of seats, high chairs, cubicles and long rustic tables (so as to suit all moods / events) in the large underground restaurant that is famously known as Café Sopra – one of the many restaurants attached to the providore, Fratelli Fresh. A truly symbiotic relationship exists whereby the Sopra kitchen converts the fresh produce from its supplier into delightfully savoury, sweet and tangy meals .

To start off the night, our group of four chose a bottle of Fratelli Fresh Sauvignon Blanc. I profess, not being an oenophile, I say only that it was pleasant enough to drink, and in the present company, none had any qualms.

Mains 

1. Smoked ham, Mozzarella and funghi pizza

2. Funghi with smoked Mozzarella and rocket pizza

To be honest, the pizzas weren’t spectacular, but they were quite decent. The ingredients truly are fresh, the dough, light and fluffy if not a bit chewy. I could eat fistfuls of their mozzarella, which I interpret as a good thing.

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3. Conchigle (type of pasta) with salsicce (sausage), crushed peas, mint and pecorino (hard italian cheese)

I’ve heard that this is their stand-out dish. However, on this night, I personally was not won over by it. My main concern was that there were not enough meatballs. Let me explain. I’m one of those people who can’t stomach more than five mouthfuls of carbs without some proteins interspersed. Another thing, the crushed peas sauce was a bit saturating. So after the meatballs disappeared (an overly meatball-enthusiast friend of mine took most of them), I found the rest of the dish a tad bland.

4. Ricotta gnocchi with pumpkin and pine nuts:

This was surprisingly good. I usually don’t like gnocchi, but the ricotta really adds richness and texture to it. The tomato sauce base was full-flavoured, which mixed well with the lighter-flavoured crescent-shaped gnocchi.

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Desserts

  • Yoghurt panna cotta with candied fruit: just luscious; the amaretto jello and fruit making it light and refreshing all at once
  • Creme Brulee: easy to crack; monstrously creamy with a light kick of liqueur; pistachio biscotti on the side for dipping (only if you want to)
  • Tiramisu: amazingly pliant in one’s mouth; the alcohol infusion not too intoxicating; so that one keeps going back for another spoonful.

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Verdict: Crowd pleaser – everyone who comes here will have their own favourite/stand-out dish. I could bring any one of my friends here and s/he/they will/would confess to the food being great, and having a great night (the atmosphere is wonderful and waiters are friendly, I forgot to mention). Some dishes may be a hit or miss, depending on your taste and preferences, I’ve come to realise. Regardless, this place holds a special place in my heart.

Café Sopra at Fratelli Fresh on Urbanspoon