Thursday, 30 September 2010

Zensation Teahouse , Redfern

Warm welcome by Goldie

We were greeted with a warm hello from behind the counter followed by a friendly approach by the resident dog, Goldie.
Isn't it just so adorable ?? Goldie was very friendly, too friendly perhaps for its own good. It had just escaped from a kidnapping dognapping attempt earlier on the day of our visit.
Apparently someone just walked into the store and walked away with Goldie ! 0_o

Chinese themed tea wares ; Paper kite & lamp

I stumbled upon Zensation when doing some detective work (read : Google search) to find out who supply the milky oolong tea that we had at The Commons a couple of times.
Luckily it didn't take me long to find out where we can get it, not too bad considering I only have the tea name and the picture on the tin to start with :D
Although the tea's origin is from Taiwan, my friend who just returned from holiday there couldn't get one that has the same flavour, weird isn't it ?

Premium Jasmine Tea

There were so many tea to choose from and we just couldn't decide. By we I meant me as my friend already had her mind set on Milky Oolong (surprise!). Christina, the owner of the tea house, recommended the Premium Jasmine Tea as I wanted something light.

The Premium Jasmine Tea is my kind of tea, not too much tannin and has a delicate but distinct jasmine aroma.

Glasswares for Jasmine Tea

At Zensation they took great details into brewing and serving the tea so the customer can enjoy the flavour of the tea to the fullest.  It's more of a tea experience than just simply drinking it out of a cup here.

For my jasmine tea, the leaves are left to brew in the pot for about 1 minute, transfer it to another glass carafe so you do not over brew the tea and damage its delicate flavour. Then pour it into the small cup and enjoy. 
Of course you can top up with more hot water, again and again - we had ours refilled diligently about 4 - 5 times :)

Milky Oolong 

My friend's order of her favourite Milky Oolong tea arrived on a tray with so much more tea wares, some I've never seen before. 
Her tea wares are definitely more traditional than my modern glass wares :)

What's the little tall & round cup for ?

Different tea, different way of enjoying it.  First couple of steps are the same, let brew ( a little longer for Oolong) and pour into another container before pouring into the small cup. Next, place the tall cup upside down inside the little round cup.
Why ? So that the steam which contains all the flavour volatiles rise up and fill the empty cavity of the inverted tall cup. Leave it for 30sec, lift the tall one up, bring it up to your nose and inhale the aroma, neat isn't it ?
However, this aroma cupping step can only be done once, at the beginning.

Tea wares for sale ; Tea leaves in foil packs ; Incense burning 

As we were enjoying our new ways of appreciating tea, Raymond, the store owner ( Christina's father) came by to chat with us. Obviously noted that we both are newbie to the proper way of drinking tea :P
He then explained about the concept of the tea house which is to introduce to Sydneysiders the tea drinking cultures, the many varieties of teas available and also the correct way to enjoy it.
Take for example the different tea wares used to serve our tea, there is a reason behind it and I thought it was all for aesthetic purposes only - I'm so ignorant >_<
The Jasmine was served in glasswares while Oolong in earthenwares because the type of material the tea wares were made of will affect the flavour of the tea.
No wonder the tea tasted different when brewing it at home :) Then again I have a bad habit of leaving the tea brewing too long and end up with tea so bitter you need cakes to go with it (good excuse ? yeah :D).

Beside running the tea house with his daughter, Raymond is also heavily involved in the chinese communities. His background is actually interior design so it is natural I suppose that he had parts in designing the pretty Chinese New Year lantern parade ! 

Dim sum to accompany your tea

Although we just had a big lunch, we just couldn't go pass ordering some dim sum to go with our tea.
We manage to exercise self control though and only ordered a few pieces to share.

Custard Tart

The custard tart was nice, the pastry was flaky and the egg custard has just the right level of sweetness. 

Medium Basket of Steamed Dumplings ; Xiao Long Bao

The dim sim are available in a basket of 3, 4 or 12 pieces and you get to choose what you'd like in your basket. 
We opted for the medium basket of 4 pieces and chose  2 xiao long bao and 2 vegetarians dumplings. 
To our surprise we got 2 different type of vegetarian dumplings, one has mushroom filling with strong Chinese herbal flavour while the other is filled with chives. 
The skins were a tad thick to our liking, however the fillings were delicious. The xiao long bao although not having much soup in it was actually quite juicy and meaty.

Zensation also runs tea appreciation sessions where you get to taste several different types of tea in one seating. A Chinese High Tea is also available here where you can enjoy your tea with various traditional dim sims and sweets.
I think all the tea pots and cups on display are for sale and why not grab a bag or two of their extensive tea range on your way out :)
Planning on gathering some tea loving friends and return to Zensation to do the tea appreciation class :)


Zensation Teahouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Mad Spuds Cafe , Surry Hills

"I am Super Spud!"

When I read a review of a cafe that specialized in everything potatoes, I just had to go there.
Especially when there is a crispy cheesy potato skins on the menu !

Potatoes paraphernalia on the shelves

Mad Spuds is located a few doors down from Four Ate Five on Crown Street in Surry Hills where good little cafes are in abundance. I keep discovering new places to try out the next time round :)

Pigeon Coffee

The coffee here is made using the beans from Pigeon Coffee who roast their beans at their premise in Bourke Street also in Surry Hills.
The coffee aroma and flavour is well rounded and smooth. Instead of dusting of cocoa powder on top of the cappuccino they grated some chocolate that melts as soon as it touches the warm foam.

Boxty (Traditional Irish Potato Pancake)
Spiced Apple & Sage, Crispy Bacon, Avocado, Fried Egg, Spiced White Sausage & Seeded Mustard

The menu here seems to be influenced by Irish & Middle Eastern flavours, next to black pudding you have Persian french toasts :) 
My friend had the Boxty which is a traditional irish potato pancakes that comes on plate stacked neatly and I must say it is a very posh presentation of humble potato.

Mad Spuds Plate
Pork Sausage, Black & White Pudding, Crispy Bacon, Cheesy Spud Skins, Boston Beans & Fried Eggs

I was hungry so naturally I ordered the biggest plate on the menu, and boy was it a big plate or what !
The Mad Spuds plate has a little bit of everything from the menu, the spicy tomatoey boston beans , juicy pork sausage and my first ever taste of black & white puddings !

Black pudding of course has a strong iron taste because it is made from blood, hence it is also known as blood sausage. It was heavily spiced with nutmegs so it was actually quite nice, it's like eating liver I suppose. White pudding on the other hand is made with oatmeal and like its black counterpart was also heavily spiced. I'm growing to like this black & white puddings :)
The cheesy spud skins still has a little bit of potato on it so it's not entirely just skin and cheese. The skin was crispy, the layer of potato was fluffy and the cheese...well...melted cheese is always a winner.

There was plenty of carbs on the plate to fill you up to dinner ( or late lunch), and for $15 it was a great value.

Blackboard Special
Spicy Pork Sausage, Grilled Haloumi, Boston Beans, Tomato Salsa & Sour Dough 

Their blackboard specials would usually have a couple of delicious sounding vegetarian options, but that visit my cousin opted for the carnivore option from the specials.
The spicy pork sausage was baked with the boston beans then topped with squeaky grilled haloumi cheese and fresh tomato & basil salsa. It was a very hearty dish indeed.

Semi - retro decor of the cafe

I've only had their breakfast menu on both visits but will make a point to return for lunch when their baked potatoes menus are available. 
Once I was having a late brunch ( close to lunch time late :P) and I saw the table across us ordering the baked potatoes dishes - I can see toppings spilling over the potatoes ! Overflowing toppings = Good Stuff ! 

So if you love your potatoes you must pay a visit to Mad Spuds, I'm sure you'll love it :)

Mad Spuds Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 26 September 2010

WLG , Kings Cross

As part of Wellington on A Plate 2010 Festival, the people from the Wellington Tourism has brought the food & wine scene of the New Zealand's capital city right to the doorstep of Sydney siders.
How ? By opening up a pop up restaurant, WLG (the airline code for the city ), that runs only for 2 weeks from 14th - 26th September in Kings Cross.

Of course by now you would have read many other food bloggers' post on their visit to WLG, I'm one of the late one I suppose :P
It was crazy trying to secure a table at this place, I went to the booking site straight away as soon I found out about it and to my surprise I wasn't quick enough ! So, it wasn't until last night that we finally got to try this place out :)

Wine for the table ; Menu ; Cutleries ; WLG Pencil (which we get to keep, yay!)

We got there right on the dot at 6:00pm for fear that they will give our table away if we were 15 minutes late (they did say so on the booking condition), so I had to be a nag and remind everyone DO NOT BE LATE !  ^_^
As soon as we were seated, our friendly waitress with a heavy NZ accent (still very strong though she has been here almost 30 years, amazing !) gave us the menu and explain how it works.
For an amazing value of $29, you get a 3 course meal which includes a shared platter as starter, a choice of main from 3 options (meat, fish, vegetarian), dessert, and coffee & chocolate to finish the meals.
To accompany your dinner there was a good selection of NZ wines and Antipodes still or sparkling water for something alcohol free.
Our waitress recommended the Hunter's Wine Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 for us tonight (minus me as per usual, I stick with the cute Antipodes water ).

Rex Morgan of Boulcott Street Bistro

I was not aware that the 4 chefs involved in this special dining event is doing so by rotation. One chef will be cooking his menu for 3 days, and the next one will take over for the following 3 days and so on.
When we dined last night, we have the opportunity to taste Chef Rex Morgan's menu :)
A background story on the chef as printed on the menu :
"Rex has won every single culinary award a chef can in New Zealand, including New Zealand Chef of The Year and Dominion Post Chef of The Year. Rex has also been made a  Beef + Lamb Ambassador a record six times and was recently made a premium lifetime ambassador for Beef + Lamb. He is passionate about his profession and as the chef / owner at renowned Boulcott Street Bistro, he strives to ensure diners are tempted with new and exciting culinary adventures. Rex is a descendant of Te Arawa & Ngai Tahu, so where possible he enjoys showcasing New Zealand's unique indigenous produce & products"
With that kind of resume we were excited on what we will be tasting tonight :)

Empty Antipodes bottles as decoration - very cute !

How cute is the rows of empty Antipodes bottles on the wall ! The waitress has kindly left the cap on our bottles so we can take them home later on :)
We later found out (from the table runner that is full of informations) that they are available to purchase from David Jones and Thomas Dux - good to know.

Tastes of Wellington Shared Tasting Plate ( L - R)
Lot 8 Spiced Olives ; Venison Rillettes w/ Spiced Pear & Watercress ; Fried Goats Cheese Balls w/ Manuka Honey & Kiwi Chutney ; Citrus Cured Regal King Salmon Gravlax w/ NZ Wasabi Panna Cotta ; Crispy West Coast NZ White Bait & Grilled Asparagus w/ Chopped Egg & Caper Mayo.

Even as the waitress was pouring drinks into our glasses, the shared platter arrive. The platter is to be shared per 2 people and consists of 5 different items.

Me and my friend who was sharing the plate don't eat olives so I cannot comment on how they taste. The venison rillettes, sort of like a pate but more chunky, was very good. I was a bit hesitant at first because venison tends to have a strong gamey flavour, but there was no such taste in the rillette. It was tender and easily spread onto the sliced baguette and the spiced pear went well with it too.

The fried goats cheese balls as the waitress explained it "melts in your mouth like a truffle". It was very creamy indeed, but the taste of the goats cheese was way too strong for me and I had to take a fork full of the kiwi chutney to clean off the taste >_<

The wasabi panna cotta was amazingly good ! It doesn't have a kick as the Japanese wasabi, but it has its distinct flavour and presenting it as a panna cotta is a brilliant idea. Too bad there was only one slice to share, would have liked one piece each.
The crispy white bait is another winner, it was deep fried to perfection - crispy but not drenched in oil. I wonder what happen to the mayo that supposed to come with it though ?

Horopito Seasoned Beef w/ Slow Roasted Tomato & Lot 8 Virgin Olive Oil served on a bed of Potato Mash

Chef Rex Morgan's intention to use indigenous produce where possible was showcased in this main dish. Horopito is a native New Zealand pepper and the beef was encrusted with a thin layer of this pepper. The beef was served medium rare and it was very tender and the jus that comes with it was very good as well, not sure what it was made of.

Roasted Groper w/ Smoked Marlborough Mussels & Green Pea Stew

I was about to get the vegetarian option as two others has ordered the fish, but at the last minute I changed my mind and aren't I glad I did so !
The fish was very good, the meat was sooo tender and firm with crispy skin. 
It was my first time ever eating smoked mussels so I am not sure what it is supposed to taste like. 
All I can say is that this Marlborough smoked mussels were surprisingly sweet with just the right amount of smoked aroma that doesn't overpower the mussel. They were very good ( I want more....). The peas were so fresh and pops in your mouth with burst of sweetness, and the broth...whatever it is made of it was that good that I had to ask for spoons for us as the liquid gold is not to be wasted !

Mojo Coffee Brulee w/ Whittakers Chocolate & Orange Mousse

For dessert we were served coffee creme brulee along with a quenelle of chocolate & orange mousse and a dot of orange compote, and to finish a scattering of crushed coffee beans. 

The Dessert

The coffee creme brulee had a thin layer of crispy toffee and creamy coffee custard. It has a strong coffee  flavour and not to sweet at all with a perfect set :)
I am not a big fan of anything mousse, but this mousse I like. It was quite dense in texture, almost like a clotted cream consistency. I love combination of dark chocolate and orange so this mousse was a win for me.

The waitress we had was amazing, she had good understanding of the ingredients in the food and very attentive throughout the night. 
It was quite funny when she was clearing our dessert plates she scolded us (in a joking manner of course) for not finishing the desserts.
We were puzzled as we didn't leave anything on the plate (double checked) , not even the crushed coffee beans. 
I then said "We ate everything , unless you wanted us to scrape the smeared chocolate as well ?".
And lo and behold...she scraped the painted chocolate off the plate with the back of the spoon, it's a trick a customer showed her on last night's service she said. ROFL !
I agree though, waste not good chocolate right ? So there we have it, another half a spoonful of Whittakers chocolate ...yummm...

We had to pass on the coffee & chocolate after the desserts as we were quite full by the end.

View into the courtyard dining room ; Lantern ; Front Table ; Mojo Coffee for sale

It was trully an enjoyable dining experience with good company of friends and of course the friendly waitress :)
We couldn't help feeling a bit rushed because the dishes came out at a surprising speed. We finished a 3 course meal in just 45minutes !
It is understandable as they do want to get as many people to enjoy the dining experience so they try to turnover the tables as quickly as possible. I saw a lot of walk in customers that has to put their names down and waiting for a call as soon as a table is available. 

I hope they are doing another pop-up restaurant here in Sydney for Wellington on A Plate 2011, till then I must practice my online booking skills LOL

PS : Today , Sunday 26th Sept is the last day, so make your way there if you haven't done so already.
Don't worry if you don't have a booking as they except walk-ins and the table turnover is very quick !
Open from 6.00pm - 10.00pm (last order at 8.45pm)

Antipodes water ; Bill for the night

'WLG' Pop Up Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, 24 September 2010

Ju-Rin, Crows Nest

"There's a Japanese restaurant in the north that has the best grilled ox tongue ever" 
After hearing that comment from a friend, I was sitting in Ju-Rin a few days later ^_^

Specials Menu

The specials board was packed full with delicious sounding dishes, and we are having a hard enough time trying to pick from the regular menu that was equally extensive !
It took us probably a good 15minutes to decide what to have beside the grilled ox tongue.

Torched Salmon w/ Avocado Salad

The salad was nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. The salmon slices I found lacking the burnt flavour that I would expect from an aburi (torched) salmon dish,  the dressing was citrusy and refreshing that goes well with the creamy avocado.

Grilled Ox Tongue

The famed grilled tongue !! Instead of thinly sliced tongue, Ju - Rin's is quite thick , about 0.5cm-ish ?
Despite its thickness, the tongue was surprisingly tender and full of flavour. Wished there were more than 3 slices per serve though :(
So is it the best grilled ox tongue - it's a YES from me ^_^

Scallop Tempura Roll

When I saw this on the menu, I just had to order it after having an amazing scallop tempura roll at Ainoya.
Unfortunately the scallop tempura roll here was lacking in flavours compared to Ainoya's. I wasn't expecting such a difference as the fillings were basically the same, scallop tempura and cucumber.

Agedashi Tofu

The agedashi tofu was great, silky soft tofu encased in a slightly chewy crispy starchy skin drenched in dashi sauce .

Nasu Miso Dengaku

The eggplant was good as well, there was a good spread of sweet miso to complement the soft silky flesh :)

Cherry Blossom Sticky Rice

One that we picked from the special board, we thought it was a dessert when we ordered it. 
But after tasting it, we are not so sure anymore LOL
The sticky rice was mixed with some cherry blossoms then steamed, served with a small side of cherry blossom salt - no sweetness whatsoever in this dish.
So what do you think - was it a dessert or was it meant to be eaten with the main meal ?

Nonetheless, it was one pretty dish :D There was a lovely scent of cherry blossoms both in the sticky rice and salt, and just love the very light tinge of pink that the blossoms give.

Cherry Blossom Salt ; Cherry Blossoms

The service was quick and friendly, there was hit and miss with the dishes we ordered that night but overall the food were good.
The ingredients used were fresh and there is a good mix of traditional and more modern Japanese dishes.
The very cheery owner was buzzing around the dining room, conversing with regular and new customers alike.
At one point he asked why am I only taking photos of the food, do I not want to take photos of him too ? 
He shied away when I was pointing the camera at him though LOL
Surprisingly he knew a little Indonesian, so he said "Terima Kasih" (thank you in Indonesian) as we leave the restaurant :)

Ju-Rin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Lab , Rozelle

Had a terrible case of jet lag upon returning from the work trip to Denmark last week, I didn't realized I have snoozed my alarm clock TWICE ! >__<
Needless to say it was already 10am when my friend message me to check where the hell am I.
So with much embarrassment I had to call work and just took a day off :P

Now that I have nothing to do the rest of the day, I dragged my friend to pay a visit to Adriano Zumbo's cafe that has just reopened at its new location in Rozelle.
I believe this location in Rozelle has always been the pastry kitchen that has been churning out amazing goodies to supply the patisserie and the cafe. It is now being renovated and expanded to fit in a cafe.

Cafe Menu

There wasn't much options for the savouries, a couple of sandwiches, a couple of pies and a few sausage rolls. The cafe has just opened for a few days so I'm hoping there will be more options on the menu in the near future.

Ordering at the counter ; Hmmmm Coookiiieeee......

Conical Water Flasks ; Wall covered with graffitis 

The walls are covered with black and white graffitis which is kinda cool, not to mention there is a huge cookie monster one ! Cookieee !!!

At the moment there isn't much seating space available in the cafe. About 10 stools on the bench tops surrounding the kitchen and a few more bench tops on the other side for those who doesn't mind standing on their feet to eat :)
I asked the girl at the counter and she said there will be lounges at the back and upstairs where the new kitchen for future baking classes will also be located. 
Not quite sure when the lounges and kitchen will be open, perhaps in a few weeks or so.

Latte & Cappucinno

The coffees were okay, it was perhaps a little too weak and watery for me.

Beef & Vegetable Pie

My friend had the beef & vegetable pie which tasted oddly like curry according to her. I thought perhaps they have given her the red chicken curry pie that was also on the menu, but it was definitely beef.
The pastry looked delicious, golden brown and flaky. It was also of a decent size, high and tall full of goodies in gravy :)

Roast Beef w/ Onion Jam, Brie, Sauteed Mushrooms Roll & Salad

Although the roll looked delicious, it is lacking something on the side don't you think ? It wasn't until I finished it off that I realized it should have come with a side of salad according to the menu. My salad has gone AWOL !
Beside that, the roll was indeed delicious ! The roll was toasted crunchy on the outside and inside was pillowy soft bread with a classic combination of fillings of roast beef and its buddies. There was plenty generous slices of brie as well...mmmmmmm.......
For $7.00 I think it is such a great value, the sandwich was quite big and did fill me up just right !

Peering into the open kitchen
(and cookie monster showing up everywhere LOL)

The new cafe is aptly named "The Lab" as you can see into the kitchen where all the magic happens if you sit around the benches.
While munching our lunches we saw trays and trays of macaron shells being filled. She still have a full racks of cooling shells on Silpat to fill @___@ As fun as it is making them, it must be quite repetitive if you have to fill hundreds of macarons !

See that machine behind her ? My guess is that is a macaron shell piping machine as I saw them cleaning the nozzles, could be wrong though :)
That would have saved them lots of time piping and try to get them all of the same size.

Cakes & Macarons Display

There wasn't much cakes on display, just a few tea cakes and tartlets, didn't see any of the individual creations like in the patisserie in Balmain. 
Hoping to see the individual cakes available here too in the cafe :)

Bread shelves ; Pretty in pink raspberry, rose & lychee tea cake ; Sticky date tea cake ; Pastries

There were of course a rack full of pastries and a shelves of freshly baked breads to purchase as well.

Brownies & Macarons

The brownies looked so sinful but good, shall remember to get that on the next visit. The macarons were placed in white cake boxes, which was a pity as they would have been much prettier displayed in clear boxed.

Mine ; Pandan & Coconut Macarons

Couldn't leave a Zumbo place without some macarons now can we ?
My friend got a pandan & coconut while I picked 4 of the interesting sounding ones.
From T to B : Oatmeal Ylang Ylang , Salted Peanut Caramel, Strawberry Balsamic and Blackened Vanilla.

Cross sections 

The oatmeal ylang ylang was interesting, slightly floral and you can taste the oats. Like eating oat porridge with flower hehehehee.
Salted peanut caramel tasted like peanut butter macaron, nothing too fancy. 
I like the blackened vanilla with rounded vanilla flavour and slight smokiness from the vanilla bean husks grounded into it.
Last but not least...the most interesting one out of the four, at first bite the balsamic vinegar taste hits you up front ! BANG !!!
Then you get to the strawberry gelee, then eat them together they are sooo gooood !!!  
If you like balsamic vinegar than you have to try this , the sweet version :)

Looking forward to visit the cafe again once the lounges are open and would loooove to attend one of the baking classes too ^_^ Can't wait !!

The Lab on Urbanspoon