Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Espresso & Matcha's Piquant Pilgrimage: Sydney - Phoenix Phuong Hoang

After a long long day, we found ourselves hungry and tired at 3pm. Driving through Cabramatta, my guide mentioned that this would be a good place to stop for pho. Without doing too much research we just ran into the first restaurant we saw after parking (hence my lack of storefront photo).

Being so late in the day, we ordered immediately after being presented with the menu. There was little time for any indecisiveness and I settled on the rare beef pho. At 3pm, we were the only table in the restaurant, and service was very friendly and attentive. Our sprouts came almost immediately after ordering.

We were given a pot of complimentary Jasmine tea, which really calmed us down. I loved how refreshing and fragrant it was.

Our pho arrived very quickly, and interestingly in a square bowl (to date I've only ever had it in a round bowl before). For about $10, the portion was huge and filling. The soup was one of the strongest I've had, and had a very intense beefy flavour to it. The sliced beef was a little thicker than I would have preferred, but still very tender, and thankfully not very fatty.

To wash it all down, I had the hot white coffee, less sweet, so the manager put in less condensed milk. It took a while to filter down, but was amazingly strong and just what the doctor ordered. 

Price Range: $10 - $20pp

Taste: 8/10
Value: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Environment: 7/10

Phoenix Phuong Hoang Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Espresso & Matcha's Piquant Pilgrimage: Sydney - 67 Union Street Deli

Had my one and only cafe brunch in Sydney on this trip at the unassuming little cafe that is 67 Union St Deli in McMahon's point, near the Harbour. Arriving quite early in the day, I was surprised to see that almost all street parking was already taken. We ended up parking quite far and walking back to the store.

Despite the small entrance, the interior was quite spacious, with an apparent downstairs area as well.

The menu was very concise and covered a number of breakfast staples. We ordered at the counter.

I had the cappuccino, which had quite a low acidity and low bitterness, making it quite palatable. The cocoa was mixed into the foam, and I would have preferred a little more chocolatelyness though. Other than that, the coffee was quite strong, and made for a really good start of the day.

For my meal, I opted for the bacon and eggs. Still full from the hot pot from last night, I asked for them not to give me sourdough, and instead I had some mushrooms. I enjoyed the fried eggs with their crispy edges, and appreciated that it came already peppered. The bacon was a little too salty for my liking, and given that I like my bacon to be salty, this would be extremely salty for some. The mushrooms were deliciously seasoned, and complimented the eggs and bacon well.

Price Range: $15 - $25pp

Taste: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Environment: 8/10

67 Union St Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Espresso & Matcha's Piquant Pilgrimage: Sydney - Mini Hot Pot

Headed to Sydney for a short trip lately for a number of reasons, amongst which involved one of our first guild meetups for a game I've recently been quite addicted with. Finding a mutual interest in hot pot during the winter, we headed off to Mini Hot Pot on Little Hay Street.

Knowing how popular hot pot can get during the cooler months, coupled with the population of Sydney, I made a point to book a table beforehand, and grabbed the last empty table in the somewhat small restaurant.

We were given a sheet which detailed our options for the buffet. Soup was extra (unless you started at 5pm), and sauces were also extra, which my readers would know, annoys me somewhat (because you can't hotpot without soup, they should have rolled it into the price.)

As the name suggests, we were each provided with a miniature hot pot on its own little burner. I ordered the bone broth, which was surprisingly tasty, and far more homier than the msg filled broths I've had in Brisbane. Unfortunately though, the setup did leave a lot to be desired, as my arm was burned several times by the open flame from the burner.

Our first round of food came with a little confusion, as we expected our order to come out in separate individual plates. Instead our order came out on a meat plate and a non meat plate. It took a little while, but we were able to distinguish between the beef, pork and lamb which was served to us. The meat was somewhat fattier than I would have preferred, but the non meat dish provided the balance we all craved with a selection of enoki mushrooms, cabbage, tofu, crab sticks, and udon. The enoki and cabbage were quite fresh and tasty.

Not yet full after our first round, we added a second round of meats and veggies, notable additions this time included some dumplings, quail eggs and copious amounts of coriander, which one companion loved. The meat in this round was even more fattier than what we previously had. On the other hand, the dumplings were quite delicious, despite only being the frozen variety. Overall the meal was good not great, but the company made it quite a memorable dinner.

Price Range: $30 - $40pp

Taste: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

Mini Hotpot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

88 Topokki - Sunnybank Hills

I've said it so many times, but cold weather is the best weather for Hot Pot, and with the closure of two of the five Madtongsan stores lately, I decided to branch out a little and try out other stores. Living near Sunnybank, 88 Topokki has long been on my radar, with the recent cold snap, it was definitely time for me to go and try it.

Arriving at 6.30pm, we got a table after some other customers had left. The restaurant itself isnt too big, so it tends to fill up quite quickly.

Cutlery was already provided in a box on the table, along with some tissues. I liked the cute wooden boxes.

The super colourful menus reminded me of my recent experience at On Dam Korean from two months ago. Again, we had a slight pang of indecision, which took a while to be resolved.

After ordering, I had a slight reprieve to appreciate my surroundings. The basic drawings on the wall was quite reminiscent of Madtongsan at Market Square. Without further ado, our food came quickly after.

Our beef bibimbap was the first to arrive, in a sizzling hot stone bowl. We mixed it through and dug in. Compared to other ones we've had at Madtongsan, there was considerably less beef in the bowl than what we were used to, but a bit more in terms of veges. We liked the fresh and crispy veges, and the deliciously toasty rice from the bottom of the bowl. We did find the beef a little bit bland though, and in need of more seasoning.

We also had a stir fried udon, which was quite saucy, but didn't have as many toppings as we would like. Nevertheless, all the sauce ensured that it was quite tasty, although some more meat would have definitely made a big improvement. The udon was the nice square type that I like though, which gave it some bonus points.

Our main focus, the hot pot, came last. We ordered pot number one, which contained tofu, pork, seafood, and veggies. It came with two bowls of rice as well. This was the medium sized pot rather than the large one, but it was definitely more than enough for two people. The highlight for me was definitely the tofu, which was super soft and super smooth. A close second would be the pork belly which was extremely tender and delicious. The seafood could have been fresher, I suspect it was frozen, but this was well masked by the kimchi in the soup.

Sides also came with the hotpot, that night we had kimchi, pasta and pickled sweet potato. The pasta wasn't as creamy as other ones I've had before, but the kimchi, whilst a lot darker red than usual, was nowhere near as spicy, which made it a lot easier for me to eat. 

Price Range: $15 - $25pp

Taste: 7.5/10
Value: 6/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

88 Topokki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 20 May 2017

D's Sizzling - Sunnybank Hills

Being quite a fan of David's Sizzling from Little Taipei, I was somewhat shocked to see their closure a couple months ago. This was then replaced by relief when I saw that they had reopened at Pinelands Centro in the slot which previously held Secret beef. Needing to satisfy my craving for steak, we headed there for a quick weekday dinner.

There were perhaps a dozen tables inside, and it was around half full that evening. We got one of the high set tables with bar stools. 


Compared to the old menu at David's Sizzling, the menu here has been vastly expanded to include not just steak, but also pasta and rice dishes. Having said that, there was only one thing on my mind that evening. 

Our sides came shortly after ordering. I was thrilled to see the return of my favourite garlic bread in all of Brisbane. It was just as I had remembered, with a super crunchy exterior and a deliciously fluffy interior surrounded by tasty garlic butter. The corn soup was not too creamy but a little too sweet for my liking, but my companions enjoyed theirs very much.


Drinks that day included my companion's oolong milk tea and my watermelon juice. Her tea was a little weak and very sugary, but my watermelon juice was delicious and refreshing.

My first companion had the creamy chicken pasta, which she considered small for the price paid, but was still quite impressed by the parmesan and fish roe on top. The pasta was not fresh or homemade, but we would be naive to expect it from an Asian Steakhouse. The chicken was slightly fried before being mixed in with the pasta, it was quite delicious and slightly crunchy on the outside, although a bit salty.

My other companion had the salmon fillet. It came out fully cooked, but also served on a hotplate, served with the usual egg and spaghetti. She noted that the portion of salmon was huge (which I definitely agreed), but was poorly marinated (if any). She relied on mostly the salt and pepper shakers to give it more taste.

I had the rib fillet, cooked rare and topped with pepper sauce. The steak was also quite large, juicy and tender, and also cooked perfectly rare. I enjoyed the pepper sauce immensely due to its flavour and spiciness. As mentioned, the pasta wasn't fresh, so it was not as filling as I have now been accustomed to, but it was ample for its purpose. The tomato sauce was quite homey, and the egg had a delicious crispy edge to it. For the price, I consider it to be excellent value.

Price Range: $15 - $25pp

Taste: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

D's Sizzling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Vue Lounge - New Farm

Having read the stunning review of Vue Lounge from the delightful Meatballs and Beef Cheeks, it has long been on my list of places to try. Catching up with Queen V over brunch made for an excellent opportunity for us to try it out.

Arriving at 9.30am, we got one of the last tables available. Thankfully it was indoors, but still very bright. The place was super busy and lively with people enjoying their weekend brunch.

Menus and water were provided promptly. They had quite a substantial coffee and tea menu (including a magic coffee, which made me very curious, but alas I didn't try it this time), and a very detailed all day menu, that had the build your own breakfast option, which I am very fond of.

I settled for the large cappucino, which came in a somewhat small cup for a "large" size, but was assured by the waitress that this was indeed their large. I found it to be sufficiently strong and chocolate-y with milk that could be a little creamier. Next time I'll definitely try the Magic Coffee instead.

With a big day out for us planned, we settled on a shared breakfast board, with an extra side of avocado. Wanting the eggs to be poached instead of fried, I was a little surprised to see the two fried eggs with an extra poached egg on the side. Splitting the portion into two plates, there was still a substantial amount of food for one person. I particularly loved the pork belly which was tender, soft and well seasoned. It melted in my mouth. The choizo was a little burnt, but I liked the spiciness. The fried eggs had a nice crispy edge around it, which is the way I like, whilst the mushrooms were also delicately seasoned to perfection. Needless to say this was the perfect way to start the day.

Price Range: $20 - $30

Taste: 8.5/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Environment: 8/10

Vue Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato