Sunday, 23 December 2012

Hong Kong - Hot pot yumminess!

So it's been quite a while since I have had time to blog.  New job, holiday to Hong Kong and China and then another work trip again to the same countries!  Lucky I like travelling and Asia!  I'll post the interesting experiences only, there were too many little things I ate, which were fabulous but I didn't take photos of everything despite being a snap happy person!

Here is a post about hot pot lovin'!  Even though it's the middle of summer now, I think this will still interest you.   It was supposed to be winter in HK but it wasn't that cold.  Neverthless we, my dad and I went hot potting with some good friends who are locals.  They took us to Gold Medal Hot Pot, in Jordan on Austin Road. 

Seafood fresh from the tanks in the restaurant for all to view.

The sashimi chefs slicing with precision!

 The variety of different stocks to choose from.

A sample of the dishes on the menu.  It's not just hot pot things either.

To start there is a whole tray of condiments that you customise you plate of soy sauce with. You do this first as they take the tray away as it takes up too much room.
The condiments from top left:
Coriander, fresh garlic, shrimp paste, seasame seeds, shallots, green and red chillis, fried garlic, chilli oil/paste and the last in the bottom right corner, have no idea what it was.

This is totally fresh King Prawn sashimi!  I've never had prawn sashimi.  The idea of not cooked shellfish scared me.  But it is just that fresh, it won't make you sick at all.  It was so sweet, delicious with a bit of wasabi and soy.  I think you can even see these suckers in my photos of the fish tanks above!  I even think the antennae things were still moving!  Uggh!

There are so many different stock soup bases to choose from to get the hot pot going.  This was one was tomato, beef and potato base.
This was the beef to flavour the stock, put in right at the beginning to flavour the stock. I ate a piece at the end and it was very tender. Don't eat this at the beginning as it would be hard still.

Some dumplings,we got a few types, some beef and seafood balls and dried tofu.

Fresh tofu.

Close up of the seafood balls.  The red ones on the bottom are the beef ones, my favourite.  Very dense but very flavourful after being cooked in the stock.

This fish is grouper.  The huge fish is only available on Friday's, Saturdays and Sundays, so that they make sure the whole fish is consumed.  On a weekday, not all of the fish would be eaten by customers and therefore won't be fresh.  I didn't really like this, especially not the tough skin.  It tasted a bit dirty and fishy.

These wierd looking sheets of curled tofu were so delicious.  They are hard and crispy but once you dunk the lovely things into the stock and it soaks up and softens up, it is an interesting texture, half soft and soggy but still has bite to it.  It tastes like salty tofu.  I'm going to look out for this in Chinatown next time my family decides to have a hot pot.  So good!

Thin pork slices.  Very yummy, cooks in seconds!  Dunked in the soy mixture, it is so tasty.

This is razor clamfish.  I've never had or seen it in Sydney, but only on Rick Stein's cooking show.  It is a very popular seafood here.  A quick dunk in the stock and the white flesh curls up, with a quick dunk in the soy it goes into my mouth.  It tastes like sweet calamari.  Quite nice.

Thin beef slices, so delicious and only take seconds to cook.

Of course compliementary fruit.  A small orange cut up beautifully in it's own peel ready to eat.

Also this dessert, the mochi ball.    l love these!   I can't believe we got this, it's just like an after dinner mint in individual wrapping, so cute!  Mine was green tea!  Lucky me!  I loved it.  Great way to finish off a hot pot.  I was so full at the end of it all and I needed something sweet.  I thoroughly liked the different variety of things to cook here and it is super affordable too! 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hong Kong holiday posts coming soon!

Steamed milk dessert from the famous Yee Shun Milk Company in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.  So sweet and soft.  Very similar texture to silken tofu dessert.  Wish I could find this here in Sydney.  Does anyone know if it exists here?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant - 7 Help Street, Chatswood

It was my Mum's birthday a few weeks ago and to keep it  traditional we went for Chinese at the long standing Fook Yuen restaurant.   We hadn't been here for quite a few years and thought we'd go there for a change.  It is a big restaurant and reminds me of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong.  They are decorated quite ornately in a deep red colour with dark wooden chairs and big tables with lazy susans on each.  The service is also reminiscent of those restaurants too as there is a waiter that brings the food to the table and another waiter to serve it individually for you.  It's great!  Dad gets a rest tonight! 

First up is the free pork soup.  A clear broth of pork bones and greens with some other Chinese herbs/berries that I don't know the name of.  All Chinese soups are supposed to be healthy and help some organ or function of your body.  This soup was really refreshing and just the right amount of saltiness.  Usually they can be a bit watery. 8/10.

First entree was deep fried school prawns.  I hadn't eaten prawns like this for a while and they were  just delicious.  The heads were crunchy but I did have to make sure I chewed very well before swallowing as I was scared to have some pointy prawn leg scratch my throat.  The chunks of garlic and chilli coated the prawns along with a really thin coating of batter.   It could've done with a another minute in the oil.  7.5/10.

Second entree was steamed scallops with ginger, shallots and coriander.  One of my all time seafood dish faves.  My two little round plump morsels of scallopy goodness are hidden somewhere under all that greenry and shreds of ginger.  I was hoping the scallops would be a bit bigger, but they still tasted amazing.  What makes everything work is the sweet light soy.  I love this entire combo.  I could eat a dozen!  7.5/10.

Pippis in XO sauce with vermicelli.  This is truly a delicious and hearty dish.  The pippis are in abundance and eating them with the soft and crispy bits of vermicelli and chilli makes it a dish I could eat every week.  This is when I actually like the consistency of "Chinese" gravy.  8/10. 

First part of this fresh fish dish.  It is coral trout stir-fired with sugar snap peas, Chinese chive, carrot and ginger.  The fish is quite a hard fish and has what I would say a medium strength of fishiness flavour.  This dish is served with oyster sauce on the side which you just spoon on a little at a time on the chunks of fish.  The sugar snaps are crunchy as and I love Chinese chive, it adds another level to the dish.  7.5/10.

The second part of the dish is all the yucky bits of the fish,  fish maw steamed, which are tasty but not my cup of tea.  This is mostly Dad's dish.  I did eat a piece of the tofu though, again this is a dish with the yummy sweet light soy sauce.  This, I spoon all over my white steamed rice which we are all eating with our dishes.  5/10.

Spinach and shitake mushrooms.  This is quite a generous sized vege dish.  The mushrooms are soft and intense with shitake flavour.  The spinach is quite light in taste but with the sauce it's a good version of a standard dish. 6/10.

This is deep fried tofu.  I would call it an Asian tofu fritter.  It has Chinese sausage inside and bits of mushroom and shallots.  The tofu is soft and fluffy inside and the batter is very very light and crispy on the outside.  Again this dish comes with dipping sauce which I forgot to take a pic of.  It is a gravy consistency mostly made of oyster sauce and cornflour.  My sister loves this dish and we always get it and this one is quite a good rendition of it.  I only had one, they went pretty quickly.  8.5/10.  

Black pepper stir fried beef.  Chunks of beef stir fried with lots and lots of black pepper, mushrooms and sugar snap peas.  The beef was nice and tender, I was getting pretty full but I ate quite a bit of this anyway as I love black pepper.  8/10.

Dessert is this sweet red bean soup.  A common dessert in Chinese restaurants, again this is free.  So all you non Chinese diners should always ask for the free soup and dessert at dinner time if you don't do so already.  This dessert was bordering on the watery side.  I like this red bean dessert when it's a bit thicker.  5.5/10.

We also got a plate of biscuits.  I didn't eat any as I was full and I find these a bit dry. 

You should definitely try Fook Yuen if you are on the North side to experience some fine Chinese fare with matching service that you don't usually find elsewhere.

Fook Yuen Seafood on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Catalina - Lyne Park, Rose Bay

Oh Catalina, Catalina!  This meal was, I have to say a very much anticipated and a long time coming at this Eastern suburbs establishment of 18 years.  And yes again I came to dine here as a result of a special deal, this time by a company called Lime and Tonic.  For some reason I just haven't been able to make it here before now.  But after this great experience I admit without hesitation that I will definitely be back especially as the warmer sunny weather is upon us, with a view to die for, a large menu for me to try more of and it's proximity to home.   So yes looking forward to it again already, maybe for a long lunch next time on the balcony.

My husband who I'm going to call C from now on, arrived at dusk so we could enjoy the view for a few extra minutes before we slipped into some semi romantic candlelight ambiance.   This wasn't ideal for photo taking, hence the crap photos.  The restaurant was busy with businessmen, couples and groups of friends already, and had a buzzing vibe with waiters in abundance.  I did notice a lot of full paying customers and also voucher diners.  Again I don't think vouchers are a bad thing because they bring customers who probably wouldn't have dined their otherwise and if they liked it I'm sure they would tell of their experience and like me, will go back. It can be a bit embarrassing pulling out a piece of paper but this time it was specified that you didn't need to do this, which I think is smart as it is an easy thing to organise behind the scenes when making the reservation. Anyway back to it.. . . 

We got handed our selected menu on a piece of paper with the wine and also the a-la-carte menu in case we wanted to order extras.  The selection we got to choose from were the same dishes on offer to everyone else, just a smaller one.  But it didn't matter to me as I already had a look on line earlier and lucky me the selections were the ones I would've chosen anyway!  So I was very happy.

For beverages I had a glass of Janz sparkling, C had an Asahi and we also had a bottle of sparkling.

Crispy confit pork belly with seared sea scallops and cauliflower puree, shallots, port and pear jus, $31.  You guessed it, my entree.  I think I died and went to heaven.  Confit pork belly!!!  Cooked in it's own fat (not sure if it's actually pig fat or some other fat), it can't get any porkier!   The crispy crackling was thin but very crispy indeed and once it cracked under my knife the meat underneath was so tender it didn't take much action to cut into a moutfhful of heaven.  This pork belly was outstanding!  I was consciously trying to force myself to think about the taste of the other elements on the plate.  I tasted the pork by itself first, which was the best, then I mixed it up with a bit of scallop and then with a pit of pear and jus then the soft shallots and cauliflower puree.  There was only one bouncy yummy scallop not scallops as on the dish description though, but I can forigve that shortcoming as it is the star that shone.  I found it very hard to leave some for C to try.   9/10.

Catalina house smoked salmon with soft boiled duck egg, truffle mayonnaise and brioche, $30.  I don't know about you but my entree totally blew this salmon out of the water even by looking at my dodgy photos. The portion looked smaller than my pork and not as many elements, but that's not a bad thing as the salmon, mayo and egg are all very rich.  I had a mouthful of this and it was ho-hum.  I couldn't really taste the truffle in the mayo, the salmon did taste better than normal smoked salmon, the duck egg very fresh, can't put in words how it's different to chicken egg and the brioche was just posh toast to me.  I think I may have been still in pork heaven to have even thought about C's entree, there are better sounding entrees than this one.  

Not sure if you noticed in my blog that I don't rate C's dishes as I think you need more than a mouthful to rate it.  

Riverine beef tenderloin with fondant potato and truffle mushroom duxelle,  $46.  Another OMG moment, but not when I ate the beef, but when I ate some of that powerful, delicious truffle mushroom duxelle (chopped up mushrooms, usually with onion and shallots)!!!  You cannot not really see this flavourbomb mixture, it's on the right peeking out behind the beef, but it was super finely chopped and the winning taste of the night. Seriously it was amazing, even outshining the confit of pork!   The two rather big pieces of beef were cooked as expected perfectly to medium rare.  The potato fondant was fluffy with a crisp coating to it, not as buttery as I thought it would be, but that's probably a good thing though.  I was getting really full at halfway point.   We even ordered a side of garlic potato mash, and also received a salad which apparently was part of the deal I bought.  C managed to polish that off but not all the salad which was a mixed leaf one.  9/10.

Cone Bay saltwater barramundi with spanner crab parcel; sage and eschalot cream,  $46.  This dish, from earlier perousing of the menu was my main of choice, but I let C have it as he loves seafood more than me.  It looked very pretty indeed with the deep fried enoki mushrooms on top as a garnish.  They didn't taste like much but did the job of being eye candy.  The barra was really nice on it's own but I loved it with the cream sauce.  The spanner crab was wrapped in a cabbage which was a bit hard to cut for sharing, it was subtle in flavour and again tasted better with the sauce.  

Classic lemon tart with Marscapone, $20.  This was my choice as I can't pass up tasting another version of lemon tart.  Each chef/cook has their own special recipe and the taste can vary so much despite being such a simple thing.   I loved the simplicity of this presentation and the candle light made it look almost angelic.  The tart was soft and you could tell the mixture had been created with precision and of the most utmost care as there were no lumps in sight, it was the smoothest and lightest lemon tart filling that I've eaten.  I'm sorry to have to bring up a but, but it was a little too lemony for my liking.  It kind of made my eyes squint with sourness with each mouthful even with a bit of the Marscapone on each spoonful.  The base however was thin and soft which I loved.  7.5/10.

Salted peanut and caramel parfait.  I can't remember exactly what this was called as it is not listed on their a-la-carte menu but that's my guess.  This dessert was very very creamy and sweet.  The layer of caramel on top was so yummy with the salt element in it, that when mixed with the parfait it was a huge hit of sweet goodness.  You can't beat that combo.  Hmmm feel like a salted carmel macaron right now actually. .  The bit of dark chocolate on the left wasn't tempered chocolate as it wasn't crispy, it was hard to cut, but nevertheless a nice textural addition to the plate.  We had half and half of each others' dessert.  I don't think I could've eaten either dessert in it's entirety, the parfait, rich and the tart,  too lemony.  Ah the joys of sharing!

So all in all, the dishes were a definite hit and even if I was paying full price were worth it.  The service was casual yet polished.  No Eastern suburbs snobiness here either.  C and I came to the conclusion that the flavours, presentation and all round execution of these plates were leaps and bounds ahead of Foveaux considering the prices and the 1 hat rating both restaurants have.  Catalina's plates were offered with confidence and knew their purpose.  No experimenting or hesitation.  But I guess that is down to the age of the restaurants and the restaurants purpose.  

I highly recommend Catalina for a nice night out but expect to pay at least $200 for two sans voucher.

Catalina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Foveaux - 65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

The end of October was the expiry date for this meal voucher I bought for Foveaux,  so off I went with anticipation on Thursday night with my husband for a nice meal out.  I love eating out and was keen to try what Foveaux had to offer.  They are pretty low key not much hoo haa about them when they won Sydney Morning Heralds Best New Restaurant of the year in 2008 and awarded 1 hat this year!  I don't proclaim to be down with all the latest restaurants but how did I not know about this acclaimed four year old restaurant until I saw the deal pop up in my inbox!

Anyway as soon as we walked in we were welcomed by the friendly waiter who reminded me of Jonah Hill (of Superbad movie fame) and so straight away I found him jovial and he was at no way showing any sign of wanker hipster waiter syndrome which I hate.  

So the deal was to choose an entree and main for two for only $60!  Half price as all entrees were $24 and mains $36.  We had some sparkling a glass of wine each a side of potato puree which I didn't bother taking a photo of and then a dessert which was $16.

I was thinking we were only going to get a set menu but we had 5 choices for each course which was great. All were dishes with uncommon (venison leg, smoked hock glaze etc.) ingredients creatively described with more common things.  As in most fine dining restaurants you get an amuse bouche to kick-off your meal. And then it begins. . .

Tomato, fennel and onion starter with a parmesan crisp was so intense, hence perfect for amuse bouche. Served warm and very zingy!  I really liked this, like a very posh tomato soup!

Rabbit terrine, raisin, roquefort with a salad of walnut, endive, apple and celery.  This was my entree as I don't think I've had rabbit before.   But can I say there were no raisins and no walnuts.   Maybe it was in the dressing?  Not sure.  It was a good dish, but the endive greens were a bit old.  Well they weren't bright green and trimmed properly.  I had a bit of celery with the ends all brown, I'd expect it should've been trimmed off first before serving!  And I had a bit of white bone in the meat.  I didn't say anything but if it wasn't for those two negatives it would have been a very tasty and pretty dish.  So it only deserves a 6/10.

Caramelised venison tongue, nham pla prawns, crispy pork skin, cauliflower cream, cashew, shiso and mint.  This was my husbands entree and of course, I had to taste the venison tongue.  It was the first time we both tried this and to our surprise it was better than we thought.  It was rich and dense and probably like a hard piece of pate, also like a piece of steak but smooth, not with a grainy texture.

Roasted veal sirloin, caper and veal chip, white anchovy puree and Brussels sprouts.   This was my main and it was really really good.  I've had veal schnitzel and veal osso bucco but never just a good old hunk of veal.  So this was it.  The piece of sirloin was cooked to perfection, medium rare.  My friends and family know that I love a good piece of steak and I usually always order the meat main over a seafood one despite there being some good fish options that night, I'm glad I stuck to what I love.  The veal was so tender and eaten with the anchovy puree and jus it was melt in the mouth deliciousness, ooo I want to eat this again now!  The puree was not too strong at all.  I actually ate it by itself as I didn't get my meat to puree ratio right!  I needed more veal!  And another brussel sprout wouldn't have hurt, there was only a quarter of one or half of a tiny sprout on my plate. The croquette type thing was ok, the stringy veal bits tasty but were a little dry probably as it was fried a tad too much.  It didn't seem so fresh inside. . . 7.5/10.

Baked rainbow trout, celery puree, soya bean braised veal tail.  There was also something with hazelnut and something or rather but I totally can't remember.  This was the other main, bad pic, but it has the veal tail underneath.  I tasted the trout and it was unlike other trout that I've eaten before as it was quite subtle and really light on flavour, almost a bit watery tasting.  My husband said it was ok, not something he would order again.

Thyme parfait, lemon curd, blueberry sorbet, pistachio and dried lemon sponge.  I don't have much of a sweet tooth but I think it's slowly developing, or how can I put it, when having devoured an entree and main, a dessert is essential!  So I chose this dish as this was the most appealing and different sounding.  The parfait was beautiful and creamy, not that much thyme flavour but enough, and the blueberry sorbet definitely made the perfect match with it's tartness and burst of juice from the berries.  The dried sponge was unusual and looked like a sponge cake that was cooked in a microwave (thanks Masterchef for that little cooking technique, even though I haven't or probably ever will attempt it) but it was hard like honeycomb, a crispy texture like the inside of a Crunchie bar.  All the elements on the plate made for a pretty damn good dessert.  8/10.

I would definitely recommend people to try the creative, unusual dishes here, although I do think the prices are a bit much for what they are in terms of presentation and quality of ingredients in comparison to other restaurants charging these prices.  Maybe you should stick to the 6 course degustation they offer for $85. The service was great and the ambience was just ok.  Most people were there using their vouchers the night I was there as I heard the waiters explaining how it worked.  I hope they get more customers from this deal they put on. Overall I rate my experience at Foveaux a 7/10.  Let me know what you think. . .

Foveaux on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Taste of Shanghai - 200 Rowe Street, Eastwood

Another family dinner and yes we are on a roll, trying out another new restaurant!  The occasion was to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.  My whole life I have been celebrating this with a family dinner but hey do I know what exactly this festival is about?  No.  I ashamedly Googled this.  In summary,  it means to celebrate the moon as it is at it's biggest and fullest. This is on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month which is usually in October.  There is a love story behind it but you can look this up yourself it's a bit too long winded for me to tell here.

Ok, so we are back on the dumpling eating track.  Hand-made dumplings skillfully created in-house by these Chinese ladies.  Hundreds of them!  We got three types this time. . . 

Xiao Long Bao $8.80 - My favourite ones.  These came out in an industrial steel steamer and were seriously good.  Lots of soup which when I ate mine accidentally sprayed over the table as I didn't close my mouth fully enough.  Well, that was because it was so bloody hot!  The pork filling had just the right amount of saltiness as did the broth.   This time I didn't have any chilli with these ones only a dash of the dark vinegar.  8/10.

Pan Fried Pork Buns with Sesame $8.80 - These are a  bit more unusual and are much more doughier.  It is as the description says,  like a mini pork bun you get at yum-cha but pinched into a little dome rather than the open puffy cloud the Char Siu Bao's are.  Again these have the same filling and soup combo.  I added chilli to this one as there was more dough to it.  It's amazing how the soup just sits inside and doesn't get soaked up.  7.5/10

Pan Seared Pork Dumpling $9.80 - The Chinese name for these are War Tip.  I know,  funny phonetic translation but it's for real.  These are also a goody that you always get at yum-cha.  But these ones here are much bigger and have heaps more pork/chive mixture inside.  No soup in these, just the crispy thin dough and meat.  Love these coated in lots of chilli and vinegar.  8/10 

Braised Pork Belly with Fresh Steamed Buns - This dish is one of my all time favourite Chinese pork dishes.  I don't eat it often so this was a treat and boy was it tasty.   It's full of thin slices of pork belly in a rich kind of salty, vinegary sauce.  I didn't copy down the price or exact dish name but it's got bits of preserved cabbage underneath as well.  You have to mop up all the salty sauce with the sweet super soft bun, it's so good!  This one of my Dad's favourites also but my Mum hates it as it's so fatty.  9/10.  

Kung Po Chilli Chicken $15.80 - Bits of tender chicken stir-fried with red hot chillies, shallots and peanuts. Not sure how they get that hot stickiness of powerful sauce but this is a simple but great flavoured dish. 6.5/10.

Eggplant and pork mince in sweet chilli vinaigrette sauce $14.80 - This dish was my least favourite as it was too vinegary.  My Mum makes this way better.  Eggplant was nice and soft but yeah we were all a bit disappointed with this version.  4/10.

Live Barramundi in Sweet and Sour sauce $32.80 - This is one of the house specials and it did not disappoint.  They brought this little barra out to show us flapping away in a plastic bag to get our approval before being deep fried and coated in this lovely thick sauce and plonked on our table.  It really is a taste sensation.  The flesh is still juicy not dry and the sweetness and sourness of the sauce does not overpower at all.  Sweet and sour sauce is a flavour that enhances your appetite, this is what my Mum says and it's true.  I could just eat plain rice with some of this sauce as a complete meal if I had to, it's that good.  8.5/10.

Stir-fried Snow Pea Sprouts with Mushrooms $15.80 - As usual we have to order a vegetable dish.  You need a cleaner dish in amongst all these strong flavours.  I love these sprouts cooked this way.  6/10.

Braised Beef Fillet in Chilli Broth - This was my pick as I wanted to try something different.  Again not sure of the actual dish ingredients or name but it was packed with chilli seeds yet wasn't that hot.  If 10 was the mother of all hotness then this would only be a 3 I reckon.  In amongst this soupiness was the tender beef bits and to our surprise it also had vermicelli noodles underneath to help soak up some of that yummy sauce.  It was wierd though as they only gave you a slotted spoon and not a ladle as well as I would've drank more of it this for sure! . . Well mixed in with my rice and I could've made a chilli sauce congee!  Haha.  8/10.

This place was packed and lots of people waiting, so I suggest booking in advance, but make sure you check over the details with the person on the phone as they thought our booking was for the night before!  So we had to wait!

I would recommend Taste Of Shanghai if you want different Chinese food.   The prices are very reasonable.  If you aren't close to Eastwood there are other branches in the City World Square, Chatswood and Ashfield.

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon
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