Monday, April 14, 2014

Shenkin Kitchen, Enmore

With the original cafe located in Erskineville and an Espresso bar in the middle of the busy side of King Street, Shenkin has been a notable part of the Inner West cafe scene with Shenkin Kitchen opening in Enmore early last year. It boasts a similar menu to Cafe Shenkin which should be good for those who spend more time in Newtown/Enmore area than in the quieter Erskineville area. Unlike your usual brunch fare like bacon and eggs, pancakes and whatnot, Shenkin Kitchen offers an all day brunch fare mostly consisting of dishes inspired by the Middle Eastern (Israeli) and Meditteranean cuisines. And it's open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday too!

The cafe has that usual buzzing atmosphere with an industrial looking fitout with wooden brown being the main colour across the venue. Since it was a rainy Sunday afternoon, the venue was quite cramped and it was hard to get a table especially for 4 people. Initially we had to sit outside close to the pouring rain but thankfully a table was available not long after we sat down. 

I had my usual mocha coffee made with Mecca coffee beans. This version had a rich and lovely scented aroma with a bitter taste. Nice to have on a cool day.

Milk Chocolate Mocha ($4.00)

After looking at many photos of the dish on various reviews of this cafe, it was no surprise that I had to go with the shakshuka with added chorizo. The shakshuka It was presented to us in a hot pan (so hot that you cannot touch the pan under any circumstances!) and two loaves of pita bread. Initially I thought the eggs were baked but they were actually poached in a heavy base of rich tomato, capsicum and garlic sauce. This dish had a very intense and zesty flavour filled with various spices like cumin and tumeric. This will bring lots of excitement to the tastebuds - if you can handle it. There was plenty of juicy and firm chorizo sausages to enjoy which is perfect for me. The pita bread was a bit harder and more crusty in terms of texture but still perfect to dip into the egg yolk and the heavy sauce. Very generous serving for one person alone but I managed to finish it. 

Shakshuka with Chorizo ($19.00)

CC and S both decided on the shakshuka with eggplant and haloumi mainly because of their love for haloumi and eggplant. They both thought that the flavours were way too strong to handle so they both struggled with finishing up their plates. While there was a bit of eggplant, there was barely any haloumi which was disappointing for them. I guess in terms of the flavours for this dish, it is something that you will get used to depending on what your taste buds can handle.

Shakshuka with Grilled Eggplant and Haloumi ($19.00)

MT decided to be different and went with the Portuguese omelette filled with chorizo, Spanish onion, tomato and herbs. While I didn't have a bite, he said that he was very satisfied with this rustic dish and wouldn't mind ordering it again next time. 

Portuguese Omelette ($17.00)

Personally I really enjoyed my food and coffee experience but if strong, robust flavours aren't your thing then there are many other dishes to enjoy on the menu beside the shakshuka. While we were eating our meals, CC was constantly staring at the grilled chicken wrap nearby so we will most likely be returning to try that out. Since the weather is getting cooler, it looks like I will be making more visits to Shenkin Kitchen or even the sister branches nearby for their warm comfort food in the upcoming months.

Shenkin Kitchen
129 Enmore Road, Enmore NSW 2042
(02) 9550 5511
Sun-Tue: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Wed-Sat: 7:00am - 10:00pm
Shenkin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Moutai Store Opening Launch, Chinatown

A few weeks ago, I was kindly invited to attend the opening launch event for the Kweichou Moutai (aka Moutai) store. For those who immediately thought "What or who is Moutai?", this is actually the national drink for China whereby only the upper privileged class were able to afford drinking this mysterious spirit with a few of their oldest spirits costing you more than $5000! Despite the high price tag, it was fascinating to learn about the history of Moutai, how it was produced and exploring the many varieties of the liquor that were available inside the store.

But what's so special about Moutai that makes it so expensive? The first Moutai liquor was dated from as early as 135BC at an ancient town of Moutai in the Guizhou Province of China. It was made from sorghum, wheat and water that was distilled 9 times, filtrated 8 times, fermented 7 times then blended and matured - a complex production process which takes at least 5 years!

This results into an interestingly strong and complex aroma and taste of the liquor with over 155 different flavours and aromas in each drop. This ranges from wheat, grain, soy sauce, strawberries and even chocolate and caramel to name a few. You may only sense these flavours if you smell the aroma before saying "Gambei!" (cheers!) to your friends or family and enjoying the drink.

Outside the store, there was the usual welcome and good luck bouquets of flowers that you often see every time an Asian shop opens. Inside, there were friendly staff in traditional Chinese dress greeting guests with empty Moutai bottles used as decor for the ceiling.

There were three types of Moutai available for tasting on the night. Ended up trying them all. Personally I thought they all seemed very strong to me with a sensational after taste.

1. Moutai Flying Fairy (43% alcohol/vol - various sizes available) - the most popular in the range with its unique sorghum sauce flavour. Also available in 38% and 53% alc/vol.
2. Moutai Prince (53% alcohol/vol. 500mL) - lighter, mild and sweet with a shorter distillation period.
3. Moutai Shenzhou (53% alcohol/vol 700mL) - similar distribution as the Flying Fairy but sweeter. This was created to commemorate the launch of Shenzhou Manned Spacecraft.

L-R: Moutai Shenzhou, Moutai Flying Fairy, Moutai Prince

There were many other types of Moutai available on display at the store including the fruity Moutai Hanjiang, the highly prestigious Shenzhou Tianjiang, and the aged Moutai ranging from 15 to 80 years old!

We were all treated to Chinese finger food provided by the team at Golden Century Restaurant. Like wine, you can enjoy this drink when matched with Chinese dishes. 

During the night there were heaps of prizes for anyone who takes a random card out of a bowl full of lucky cards. Depending on the card you get you may win the Shenzhou Tianjiang Moutai - the highest quality of Shenzhou Moutai with an outstanding strong flavour with an elegant bottle. Which is what happened to me when I pulled my card out of the bowl. I was too shocked that I was unsure if I should accept because I didn't know who would enjoy this liquor. Luckily, the parents were pretty damn happy when they saw it. So were the mates. Might bring this to house parties later this year.

The Moutai liquor is perfect as gifts for special occasions whether it is a birthday, wedding or anniversary. If you end up receiving a gift of Moutai but not sure if you can finish it anytime soon, the staff kindly advised that Moutai gets better with age, which will be a perfect gift to share with you children and grandchildren!


Disclaimer: The Random Foodie attended the launch event as a guest of Polkadot PR and Moutai Australia.

Kweichow Moutai
398 Sussex Street, Sydney
(02) 9212 2288

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Village, Potts Point

A few weeks ago, I was kindly invited to try the new Ladies Lunch package at The Village. The weather was nice and breezy at the time which is perfect for a chilled out midday lunch or a simple catch up session with you girl pals. It has got me curious since most of my friends are actually guys so I do wonder if they would like the food regardless of the namesake.

On most days, The Village seems to operate as a bar at night with various shared plates including pizzas and chips to nibble. On Saturdays, the bar opens early for a bistro-style lunch if you prefer a relaxing day to chill rather than party all night. The venue is actually spaced out to include a ground floor with a bar, an outside courtyard and a dining area plus an upstairs bar area. The flowers and plants decor around the venue gave it an overall cute and chilled atmosphere...though I can't comment on what this venue would be like later in the evening or very late at night.

We started off with a glass of sparkling and a starter plate of olives and nuts to nibble. Because of the amount of food coming up, we barely touched the nuts but the olives (dosed with olive oil) were too addictive to ignore for the both of us. They also weren't too salty so it was easier to polish up.

Glass of Sparkling

Selection of Marinated Olives and Nuts 

We were excited to see the neatly-presented shared plate on various entree dishes when it arrived to our table. The shared platter consists of (Clockwise L-R on below photo):Salt and Pepper Calamari with Parmesan Aioli and Fresh Lemon, Sweetcorn and Basil Cappucino with Tempura Cauliflower, Butternut Pumpkin Arancini with Buffalo Mozzarella and Fresh Basil, and Rocket Pear and Parmesan Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette.

The seemingly small range of shared plates definitely appeared to be light but the stomach says otherwise. We actually really enjoyed the rocket, pear and parmesan salad the most because of its light and fresh texture and it was fun biting into the cheese. The calamari seemed harder and even slightly grainy in terms of texture then we would have liked but the flavours were there. We both had a surprise reaction with the pumpkin arancini which tasted mild at first but the spicy flavours creep onto your taste buds very quickly. The sweetcorn and basil cappucino was another fave of ours with its warm, soup-like, creamy texture which would be perfect during the winter.

Entree Shared Platter

For our main dish, we were given a choice of seared fillet of huon salmon or the crispy skinned confit chicken. As that Ol El Paso ad goes, why don't we have both? These main dishes were served with a bowl of crispy chips on the side.

Hand Cut Chips

The huon salmon was CC's choice of main, which, in my opinion was the highlight dish. The salmon skin was so crispy while the salmon fillet was soft and well cooked with a slight pinkish colour. This is serious melt in your mouth stuff. It came with a marinated feta, rocket and parmesan salad that I didn't try but CC said it was nice but of course the salmon was the winner.

Seared Fillet of Huon Salmon with Marinated Feta, Rocket and Parmesan salad

On the menu it said that the confit chicken would be served with a white potato and shallot salad with red wine jus however it ended up having the same creamy and cheesy base with marinated feta cheese as the salmon dish. It was a slight bummer because I was keen on trying the salad and dipping the chicken with the jus. Thankfully, the chicken was reasonably tender and juicy and the skin was even better with its golden crispy and succulent texture. Compared to the salmon, I thought that the serving size of the chicken was decent enough to fill you up if you order this as a stand-alone dish. Also it was nice dipping the chicken and chips into one of the puddles of the spicy sauce that was used with the arancini in the shared platter.

Crispy skinned Confit Chicken

It was good that the service staff took its time between meals for our stomachs to settle rather than putting everything on the table at once because we were struggling at this point. But yeah gotta save some room for dessert right? We awed when the platter full of colourful sweet delicacies arrived to our table. The dessert platter consists of macarons (lemon, orange and lime), white chocolate panna cotta, nutella tarts, mini-lemon meringue pie and a couple of orange slices. 

We started off with the macarons, which we thought were very sweet. The small lemon meringue pie had a soft texture while the nutella tart was not overly sweet and slightly bitter. We both shared the white chocolate, which we found to be sticky, firm and not as wobbly as we expected. However, the flavour was nice and the decoration of black sea salt on top was very cute. After the amount of savoury and sweet food, we both grabbed the orange wedges. It was certainly zesty, juicy and perfect as a palate cleanser at the end of the set meal.

The Village Dessert Tasting Plate - selection of The Village signature desserts

Since it was just me and CC tackling this package, it was no wonder we were so full by the end. Nevertheless we had an enjoyable afternoon eating and relaxing on a quiet weekend. The service was polite and not overbearing, which is a plus. If you are keen for a girls day out or planning a special occasion that isn't too wild, or heck even a special double date(!) then this should be the package for you. I'm sure the guys will like the food too if they are keen. Wouldn't mind coming back again to try the other food on the A La Carte menu including the pizzas.

The Ladies Lunch package (including the glass of champagne and nibbles) is available on Saturdays from Midday and made to share for a minimum of 3 people for $59 per person. You can also order it on other days during the week for groups of 15 people or more. Reservations are essential.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of The Village, courtesy of Lily at Cav Con. Opinions are, however, my own. 

The Village
1 Kellett Way, Potts Point NSW 2011
(02) 8084 6057
Tue-Thurs: 5:00pm-Late
Fri: 5:00pm-3:00am
Sat: 12:00pm-3:00am
The Village on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 31, 2014

Taste of Sydney 2014, Centennial Park

Once again, another March full of so many food festivals and special events had come and gone. This means that Taste of Sydney is over for yet another year. It's one of those events where you know that it will do so much wallet damage but you just want to try everything that your stomach could handle.

Like last year's event, Taste of Sydney 2014 used crowns as their main method of payment for food and drinks with money being transferred and stored in a Crown Card. The general dishes were priced at 6 to 12 crowns while the Icon dishes were much higher such as Jonah's fruit de mar seafood platter costing 40 crowns!

There were the usual favourites such as the Taste Kitchen and Chef's Skillery table where chefs share their culinary dishes and cooking tips. Some of the chefs could also be found doing presentations at the Tasmanian Pavilion, which showcases various food and wine producers across the Tasman sea. There was also cooking classes and wine/beer/cocktail matching master classes if you want to a more hands-on experience.

Rowie Dillon at Taste Kitchen

There were also the usual drinking areas like the very popular Rekorderlig Cider Bar where you can try as many ciders as you want (or your tummy and wallet could handle). You can also try the alky at other drinking areas like the Galliano tent, the Patron XO stall and the Bundaberg Distillatorium whether you want vodka, Patron Margaritas or beer. If you just want to try the wine, there are various stalls across Taste of Sydney which did wine tastings. They also use only crowns which can either be good if you have a few crowns remaining and you are too full, or frustrating if you wanted to use them on the dishes which were expensive enough already.

Rekorderlig Tent (ordered an Apple and Blackcurrent cider but forgot to take a photo...sorry guys)

Strawberry Margarita with Patron XO

Entertaining the customers at the Galliano Tent

There was even numerous food exhibitors appearing at the festival for your shopping needs whether you want olive oil, sauces, sweet treats, herbs and spices and cheese. The Salt Meats Cheese stall was one of the more crowded stalls where you get to taste and buy olives as well as cheese and/or meat platters.

There were lots of new restaurants featuring at Taste of Sydney this year with many of them taking out the top prizes. A shoutout to Chow Bar and Eating House for coming in first in the Best of Taste award with the Beggar's Chicken with silken lemon tofu and vinegar red peanuts (Icon dish - 12 crowns). ToS fave Porteno came in second for the charcoal grilled entrada (more on that later in the post) and newcomer Aki's Indian Restaurant were placed third. 

At first, I wasn't sure if I should have the famed suckling pig by 4Fourteen/Four in Hand again since I've had similar dishes over the previous years but it just looked so appetising after observing so many people ordering this dish as well. Once again, the suckling pig was juicy, succulent, sweet and great to share. The girls really enjoyed it though personally I preferred more crushed apple or the previous year's version with coleslaw and hot sauce for the extra flavour boost as it didn't taste as flavoursome as I would have liked.

Suckling Pig with Smoked Potato Salad and Crushed Apple (12 crowns)

The below dish from regionl NSW restaurant, Biota Dining, popped up on my instagram feed quite heavily over the duration of the festival so it was no surprise that I had to get it. Plus it looked like hot and spicy chicken from KFC or the fried chicken at Naruone and Hartsyard (and you all know what I think about fried chicken ;)). While it may not be your usual fried chicken with its use of cornflakes for the fried batter, it was incredibly thick, crunchy and crispy - plus very messy to handle! Because of the crunchiness, the corn and local garlic creme balanced the overall texture with its smooth, thick and creamy sauce.

Hay Smoked Chicken Legs - cured and smoked chicken with corn and local creme (12 crowns)

Chur Burger was one of those stalls with incredibly long queues thanks to their delicious burger offerings and the recent gourmet burger popularity. It's one of those stalls where you really want to try everything off the menu. My pick was their Icon dish, the wagyu rossini burger with shaved fois gras, truffle and Madeira jus. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) the truffle ran out so they decreased the crown payment from 18 to 8 crowns. This didn't bother me because I love wagyu beef anyways. The brioche bun was soft plus the beef was juicy and cooked medium rare and was quite rich and filling. While I ended up paying 8 crowns instead of 18 for this burger thanks to the lack of truffles, the serving size was small especially when you can get bigger burgers at the restaurant for $10. 

Wagyu Rossini Burger with shaved fois gras, truffle and Madeira jus (18 crowns with truffles, 8 crowns without truffles)

Another Taste of Sydney fave, Efendy, plates up some tantalising Turkish dishes including the intriguing panfried lamb testicles (10 crowns. I'm not joking about this dish). I decided to be tame and went with the charcoal lamb kebap instead which was delicious, flavoursome and easy to fall apart. It was matched with warm hummus that was tangy and added a spark to the overall dish. One of my faves from this year's festival. 

Charcoal Lamb Kebap, Warm Hummus, house pickles, organic chickpeas and pastirma (12 crowns)

Because fregola dishes are hard to find, the below dish was one that I was looking forward to the most. I really enjoyed the fregola dish that Popolo did last year but this year's offering was a bit ordinary in terms of flavour and too creamy and lumpy for my liking. The seafood parts including the calamari, prawns, cuttlefish and mussel were the saving grace for the dish though.

Fregola, calamari and cuttlefish ragu, prawns and mussels (16 crowns)

When I attended ToS on Friday night, the one stand that had the insanely longest queues was of course, Porteno - even longer than Chur Burger. There was porbably at least 100 people waiting to get served so sadly I bailed out for this session. Returning back again on a wet, damp and muddy Sunday, there was no queues (yay!) but my feet did not survive the muddy grounds.

It was fun watching the staff at Porteno including chefs Ben and Elvis working hard at the grill. 

Looking at the dishes, it was no surprise that there was so many people lining up for the many delicious offerings. I was initially planning to get the lamb from Asado but the award winning charcoal grilled entrana wagyu skirt steak ended up being my dish of choice. Cooked medium-rare, it had a tender yet slightly chewy texture as I cut through the meat though it was also so yummy to eat. Loved the zesty chimichurri and the sweet peppers for the extra flavour to this succulent and droolworthy dish.

Charcoal Grilled Entrana - Wagyu skirt steak with BBQ peppers and chimichurri (12 crowns)

Since I go weak at Mexican food, Rojo Rocket was too far for me to get to and it was on Thursday and Friday nights only, I pretty much pigged out at this restaurant. With the cheery staff and colourful costumes and decorations, it was no surprise that this restaurant won the Best in Taste award for 'Best Dressed'. The sashimi tuna tostada was refreshing to have on a warm evening though it was quite spicy as well.

Tostada de Atun Fresco - Sashimi Tuna Tostada, avocado, onion and chipotle (12 crowns)

The pulled pork taco was juicy and not too soggy. The restaurant used soft corn tortillas which is my preferred way of eating tacos. Gobbled this up so quickly that I didn't realised it was gone so soon.

Taco de Cochinito - pulled pork taco, corn puree, salad and salsa roja (6 crowns)

This year, Taste of Sydney hosted IconPark, an online restaurant and bar concept funded by the people aka YOU. Hundreds of entries signed up for their chance to launch their own restaurant on East Sydney's 78 Stanley Street in the duration of 3 months but there is sadly only one winner. There were six finalists showcasing their dish at Taste of Sydney for the hungry diners to decide online including Blackcats, British India Trading Co, Min Joo Social, Ruby's BBQ, Sedgwick Ave and Stanley Street Merchants. As of today, the winner has since been announced which was Stanley Street Merchants. Looking forward to trying the food and drinks at this joint when it opens in April. Personally I think they are all winners.

The IconPark marquee tent has attracted countless attendees and has been one of the biggest hits at Taste this year. You do have to decide on which dish you want to get before entering inside the tent. My first choice was Ruby's BBQ for their serving of Southern USA smoked BBQ. Ruby's BBQ reminded me of Porteno with an American Hartsyard-like touch with their smoked BBQ beef dish. The beef was so tender that it fell apart instantly as my fork touched it. Though there didn't seem to be as much sauce as I thought, the coleslaw was much needed after consuming so much meat. 

Ruby's BBQ: 16 hour slow smoked BBQ Beef with Coleslaw and Ruby's Homemade BBQ Sauce (10 crowns)

Another finalist that I was keen to try was British India Trading Co (cool name btw) mainly after seeing a bit of presence from fellow bloggers. This concept is more unique whereby it serves a fusion of British and Indian-inspried plates and ingredients. While the short-rib was well-cooked, the overall spicy flavours with the combined use of okra, cardamon, ginger and tamrind sambal were quite strong and exotic for my tastebuds. 

British India Trading Co: Cardamon and Ginger Spiced Short Rib, Mustard, Carrot Butter, Okra and Tamarind Sambal (10 crowns)

By the end, we were so stuffed but you know what we all say about desserts. The Cut Bar and Grill's cherry ripe dessert had been on my mind for the entire festival. And it's only 6 crowns! So glad that I got  to ordered this. When you bite into the coconut coated chocolate bar, you can taste that lovely crack from the hard chocolate coating and the smooth chocolate (mousse?) and cherry filling inside. Sooo good! 

Cherry Ripe - Chocolate sphere, coconut and cherry (6 crowns)

With my stomach having a massive food coma, I can say that I really enjoyed the many dishes, drinks and various products that Taste of Sydney offered. I have noticed that there didn't seem to be as many sweet dessert dishes with only a handful of restaurants offering them while others delivered an entirely savoury menu. Since it was pouring on the weekend, it would be nice to see more seating areas especially on wet days but I guess there would be so much logistics involved in making that happen. Since there is already an entry fee, I personally found it to be an expensive event especially when you want to try so many dishes from numerous restaurants. Having said that, I did have loads of fun trying and exploring everything that the festival offered and will definitely return when it comes back next year. Looking forward to see what's next in store for Taste of Sydney 2015. Bring it on!

Check out my recaps of Taste of Sydney 2013 and 2012.

Don't forget to hit up The Random Foodie on Facebook for more photos on various dinner outings and events as well as the occasional news.

Taste of Sydney
Brazillian Fields, Centennial Park