Monday, October 20, 2014

Brickfields, Chippendale

Been wanting to get this review out sooner than later but the last few weeks have been so busy for me in terms of work and getting sick. Recently, I've started a new job up in the Pyrmont area so I've been slowly adjusting to life in that end of the city now. One of the eateries that has been in my drafts for a very long time has been Brickfields. While it does have its own cafe in the growing foodie town of Chippendale, Brickfields is actually well-known as a bakery with its bread being distributed to various cafes across Sydney. It's one of those cafes that keep me coming back for more especially since their menu changes regularly. I believe that an item or two on this review may no longer be on the current menu but then again it might make a comeback soon. Right?

Skim Mocha

Satisfied by my skim mocha made with Mecca Espresso coffee beans (my personal fave right now). It's actually quite creamy but still has that aromatic Mecca taste that I loved from trying it at their own branches. 

Bacon. Manchego, Pickle with Greens ($10.00)

Because it's well-known for its artisan bead, you gotta try a sandwich...or two! The filling change on a regular basis but the seeded bread remains the same throughout all my visits. On one of my more recent visits, I've got to try this bread with none other than bacon! With Manchego cheese! While the Manchego cheese has a bitey taste that you would expect from harder cheeses, this tasted incredibly delicious with the zesty pickles, various greens and that damn crispy bacon. 

Mushroom Melt with Truffle Mayo and Pickled Jalapeno ($10.00)

If you think this post is at its peak by that bacon roll, think again. May I present you the Mushroom Melt. Again I'm not sure if this is still on the menu as of now but it was around for a while during my previous visits. The earthy truffle and mushroom aroma hits your senses immediately when it arrives at the table. While I usually spot enoki mushrooms at various Asian restaurants, this worked very well as a filling for this sandwich. And of course, that melted cheese was absolutely divine when you bite into it. It was also quite spicey thanks to the jalapenos, which hits you slowly after multiple bites but this kick made this sandwich amazingly flavoursome. 

Canele ($4.00) 

You certainly get good value for money since the sandwiches and other main-sized plates can fill you up. Decided to go simple and get a canale for my post-meal treat. It was slightly sweet with that firm and crispy crust on the outside with fluffy insides. Not a big expert on caneles actually (only tried Flour and Stone's version so far) but I thought this was really nice to try.

With all the dishes priced at less than $16 (half the dishes on the menu costs less than $10), this was actually cheaper compared to most cafes around the area. Service was attentive though it was interesting paying for the dishes at the counter before sitting down first. Seating can be a bit random because of the unique seats by the benches that can get you carried away...literally. The cafe was actually quite small so I could imagine it to be very hard getting a table on the weekend if you decide to eat in. If this cafe was around when I was a student back at UTS, I would definitely be a regular here especially after those dreaded morning lectures and tutorials. Will definitely be making even more visits on the weekend when I have the time to try more of the constantly changing menu that this delicious cafe offers including the sandwiches, big plates and the baked pastries and treats.   

206 Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9698 7880
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 3:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 4:00pm
Brickfields on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cafe Sel Et Poivre, Darlinghurst

I don't go to French restaurants as much as I would love to. But one of the restaurants that has been on my wishlist for a very long time has been Cafe Sel Et Poivre (aka Sel Et Poivre) especially after hearing the praises of its classic French bistro fare and of course, the creme brulee. Situated on the competitive restaurant district of Victoria Street in Darlinghurst (and not too far from the Cross), Cafe Sel Et Poivre has stood the test of time with little menu and decor changes over the years.

The restaurant has been around for more than a decade, which is a rare feat considering the many other restaurants closing its doors in a year or less these days. The decor wasn't too fancy especially with our table sitting on a rough slope but it had its charms especially the old fashioned lamps attached on the walls. Since it was a friend's birthday and there was a big group, we ended up getting a $55 set menu of three courses.

Fontanet Les Terrasses Premium

Enjoyed the wine. Not too rich or intense with a slightly fruity aftertaste. Suitable for meat, cheese and spicy dishes (according to the epic research we did that evening. True story). Definitely enjoyed a few glasses of this red wine. 

Crispy galette of fresh swimmer crab, leeks and sauce a l'americaine ($17.50)

If fried ice cream was savoury and stuffed with swimmer crab instead of ice cream then this would be it. The pastry on the outside was thin and crispy with lots of flaky layers. However, when you cut into the galette, there was that succulent, hot and shredded swimmer crab bursting out of the flaky pastry. It even tasted nice with the not-too-creamy bisque-like sauce. Initially I wasn't sure if I wanted to get this but I was glad that I picked this as my entree in the end. 

Marinated braised beef cheeks with Miramar Cab/Sauv sauce and frites ($27.90)

The braised beef was very tender and soaked into the thick and rich Cab/Sauv sauce, which basically a bacon, cognac and port sauce. Seriously can't get enough of the beef that melts away in your mouth though the assorted veggies do add a lovely crunch to this dish. So good to have as a warm, comfort dish during the Winter seasons...or any other season that acts like Winter (like this week. Far out).

Pommes frites

The main that I picked came with a generous serving of pommes frites on the side. Since it was shoestring fries, it immediately reminded me of a certain restaurant corporation but damn they actually got very addictive especially when dipping them into the sauce. 

Authentic creme brulee with fresh vanilla beans ($13.90)

The braised dish was so rich and intense that I wasn't sure if I could handle the dessert. Since it was already part of the set menu, we had no choice but to continue. Also because of creme brulee. Cannot resist this at all. While I was battling my stomach as I divulge into this rich dessert, I drooled at the creamy and sweet egg custard. And I always enjoy cracking onto that brulee topping, which is an essential part of a winning creme brulee. It was no wonder that most of us weren't keen to share even though we were full. 

While this wouldn't be the restaurant I would go to on a regular basis since the prices were on the more expensive end, the dishes were quite delicious, service was friendly and cheeky, and the creme brulee was too good to miss. As we only got a set menu with a limited selection of dishes, there was still a few classic French bistro dishes that I'm keen to try on my next visit such as the snails (oooh yeaah), country style pate, pork and duck rillettes and the steak tartare. According to the website it opens from very early in the morning to very late at night so check it out if you need a morning French breakfast or a late night supper session.

Cafe Sel Et Poivre
263 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 9361 6530
Mon-Thurs: 6:30am - 11:30pm
Fri: 6:30am - 1:30am
Sat: 6:30am - midnight
Cafe Sel Et Poivre on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Circa, Parramatta

If there's one suburb with an escalating food scene in 2014, it had to be Parramatta. With lots of well-regarded restaurants and hip cafes opening up in the area these days, it's no wonder that more restauranteurs have set their eyes in this major city. Great for Westies like myself (even though I don't work in the area). One of the cafes that first put Parramatta on the foodie map was Circa Espresso, which won the SMH Cafe of the Year in 2013 and has consistently received the highly coveted Three Cups in the SMH Cafe Food Guide.

This was located on the quieter side of the city but it was often packed on weekends especially if you wanted to get a table. The cafe space was actually quite small so it might not fit that many people especially during its peak hours. But the narrow space was what made this cafe so charming to begin with.


With three cups under its belt, expectations were high when it came to Circa's coffee. It had a rich and coffee bean taste that worked very well. Was also smooth and creamy too with a slightly sweet cocoa flavour. According to this year's Good Cafe Guide, they currently use 5 Senses for their coffee. Very pleased with this offering. The coffee art looks really nice too.

Egyptian Tea

My friend, A, got the Egyptian tea which looked really refreshing especially with the beach weather happening lately. 

Baked eggs - baked free range eggs with sujuk, Danish feta, diced tomatoes, with a hint of chilli and sourdough toast

The one dish I've had my eye on for a long time has been the famous baked eggs. How can I not resist them? I've had decent baked eggs but damn these eggs blew me away. It wasn't as heavy as the ones that I tried at Paper Plane Cafe on the other side of Parramatta so it was easier for me to finish off this pan. The feta was quite salty but it mixed well with the tangy diced tomatoes, runny eggs and the generous servings of the smoked sujuk (aka chorizo). It also helped in easing the spicy flavour from the chilli, which can get quite strong. There wasn't as much tomato sauce for this kind of baked eggs but I personally didn't mind since it actually made this dish lighter. Dip the crusty bread into this generous dish and you got yourself a winning dish. Sure it's pricey at $19 but it's a must have especially if you love baked eggs.

Avocado smash with Danish feta, confit cherry tomatoes and dukkah poached egg on sourdough bread

By the time I got around to doing this review, there has already been numerous variations to this popular cafe dish over the last month and a bit so I'm not too sure about the correct name of the dish...basically it's Avocade Smash (lol yeah I have a huge backlog). A decided on this dish since she was keen for a lighter option for dietary reasons. Looked incredibly delicious especially when the poached egg yolk was flowing out onto the dish. Also liked the freshness of the ingredients from the tomatoes to the smashed yet not very heavy avocado. If you want to go vegetarian but you still love eggs, I would certainly recommend this dish too.

Baked treats

While the space may be small, the service was friendly and accommodating to our requests. We were pleased with the dishes and drinks on this visit even though the prices weren't too cheap. With the delicious brunches and decent coffee, it's no surprise that this "blink-and-you-miss-it" cafe on the quiet side of Parramatta has become a major contributor to an ever-growing cafe scene in this happening city. They also do all-day breakfast and weekend trading on both Saturday and Sunday now, which are winning factors if you cannot make it to Circa on weekdays and you are a late riser like myself. 

21 Wentworth Street, Parramatta NSW 2150
(02) 8896 6071
Tue-Fri: 7:00am - 4:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 3:00pm
NB: Kitchen closes at 2:00pm
Circa on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ippudo Central Park, Chippendale

By now you may or may not have heard that the worldwide famed Ippudo was in the process of opening their second Sydney branch at the newly developed Central Plaza across the street from good ol' UTS. Well the wait is over because this hotly anticipated restaurant will be opening its doors on 2nd October 2014 (WHICH IS TOMORROW YOU GUYS!!!). With branches all over the world, it's no wonder that Ippudo has been going strength to strength in Sydney.

Thanks to Sana from SD Marketing, I was invited to the soft opening of Ippudo Central Park before the official opening. This branch is situated in the dining district at the outdoor courtyard next to the likes of Max Brenners, Coco Cubano, Rib and Burgers, and Autolyse. While the two branches share the same name, that familiar greeting as you stepped inside the premises and the ramen, there's a decent array of entree dishes that are available exclusively to the Central Park branch. This includes the Ippudo Chasu Croquette ($8.00), Tomato Pickles ($8.00), and the Ippudo Fish and Chips ($14.00). Yup you read that right.

House-made Lemon Lime Bitters ($5.00)

At the time of our visit, alcoholic beverages and the pork buns were sadly unavailable but still, at least there's more room to try other dishes. The lemon lime bitter was so refreshing to have that I forgot to take a pic till I already drank half of it! Whoops...

Seared Salmon Sushi ($13.00) 

We were initially indecisive about what we should get for our entree to share. After much time spent on looking at the menu, we settled on sushi since we were curious on how Ippudo compares to the traditional sushi joints. Gotta say that we were surprised on how much we enjoyed this dish. The temari salmon tasted fresh while the rice had a nice, balanced texture. However, the mentai mayo and avocado added loads of zesty flavour with a slightly creamy texture that actually worked well with the sushi. Wouldn't mind ordering more if I can.

Platter of Additional Ramen Toppings

Since both CC and I ordered a Special version of the ramen of our choice, we received a platter of extra toppings including flavoured egg, simmered pork belly, roasted seaweed, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots and spring onions. I haven't tried the special version at the other branch to see if they also serve the extra toppings separately but I thought this was a good idea so you can decide how much you want to eat with your bowl instead of eating everything inside.

Tori Shoyu Ramen Special ($21.00) 

I wasn't feeling too well in terms of the stomach so I went with something a bit lighter that I haven't tried at Ippudo before, which was the Tori Shoyu Ramen Special. This type of ramen uses a chicken broth blended with special bonito extract, served with medium wavy noodles and topped with original chicken chasu, menna, leek and naruto. While the broth was lighter, it was full of flavour from all the ingredients even when I added most of the extras into the bowl. It was also fascinating digging into tender chicken and pork belly pieces in one go as your slurp up the contents. Very generous serving size especially with the additional toppings.

The finished dish with the extra special toppings

Akamaru Special ($24.00)

CC went along with her favourite Ippudo ramen, which was the Akamaru Shinaji (mine too) but decided to go up a notch and order the Akamaru Special. This was basically the Akamaru Shinaji (tonkotsu broth with miso paste and garlic oil with thin noodles, pork belly, black mushrooms and spring onion) with the platter of additional toppings as mentioned previously. Always enjoyed blending the miso paste with the tonkotsu broth just to see the beautiful result. 

Both CC and I were very pleased with what Ippudo Central Park has offered. We were even more excited about the new dishes that we could only get at this branch. While the prices are more expensive for the uni students in the area, Ippudo is definitely worth it for the deliciously unique dishes, spaced out and spotless decor and the welcoming and friendly service from the staff. Very keen to go back again to try the Miso Tonkotsu Ramen, the Ippudo Fish and Chips, and the Chasu Croquette on my next visit. With so many restaurants opening around Chippendale these days, it is no surprise that this quiet suburb will become one of the next upcoming food hub spot in Sydney. 

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Ippudo Sydney Central Park, courtesy of Sana from SD Marketing. Opinions are however, my own.

Ippudo Sydney Central Park
Level 1 RB07, 28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 8078 7020
Opening Date: 2nd October 2014
Ippudo Sydney on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cho Cho San, Potts Point

I was going to write something special since it is the 3rd anniversary of my blog. Unfortunately, I spent most of the previous week feeling very sick with a terrible stomach bug to the point where I actually didn't enjoy looking at or even thinking about food for a while (hard to believe but it's true). To cheer myself up, I thought I might use this time to finish my recap on the epic feasting that happened at Cho Cho San late last month. Sorry if this review doesn't sound as exciting as it should be since my horrible tummy has turned me off food at the moment but it really was amazing. You should pay a visit to Cho Cho San one day. Seriously.

You know that saying "food is meant to be shared". With restaurants like Cho Cho San, it's better to go in a group to try as much from the menu as possible without doing too much wallet damage. This was exactly what me and a few good fellow Sydney food bloggers did when we had a late lunch at this renowned Modern Japanese restaurant a few weeks ago. With that many food bloggers in the house, it was no wonder that we tried almost everything off the menu!

Run by Sam Christie and Jonathan Bathelmess (who also owned The Apollo) as well as recruiting former Billy Kwong/Bodega/The Apollo chef Nic Wong as the head chef, it was no surprised that Cho Cho San became one of the hottest new Sydney restaurants. It was hard to find the restaurant at first after walking right past and ending up two streets away from it. This is one of those restaurants where you actually have to pay attention to the number of the address instead of the big shiny name. Once I stepped inside, I was surprised to see how busy this seemingly small restaurant really was. Gotta love that soothing lighting and neutral colours that were perfect for us when we spent lots and lots of time taking photos of the food.

Fried Eggplant Miso ($10.00)

I personally don't mind eggplant and heck fried eggplant miso sounds even better...cos fried food yeah. Was really surprised at how good this tasted especially with the texture. The batter was crunchy on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside especially when drizzled with miso sauce. Blew us away so much that we ordered a second serving later on. 

Fried Chicken ($14.00)

Yeah we drooled immediately when we spotted fried chicken on the menu. While it may not be as crunchy as NaruOne, it still had that crispy batter with a succulent juicy fillet that gets you addicted enough to want more than your share. It also tasted delicious with the wasabi mayo on the side.

Hokkaido Scallops, Corn, House-cured Katsuobushi ($18.00)

I do love a good scallop so I was excited to tr this dish when it arrived at our table. While the scallops were plump and refreshing, I was more curious about the corn puree lying beneath the sea of scallops. Couldn't help eating the scallops with the corn together which went along really well. Very unique ingredient combinations and flavours which was clearly the norm for Cho Cho San especially with many of the dishes that followed.

Tuna, Avocado, Pickled Eggplant ($22.00)

While the name for the above dish may sound plain and simple, the cubes of raw tuna with the pickled eggplant and the creamy avocado looked pleasing to the eye. Especially when topped with sesame seeds and drizzled with a soy based sauce. Tasted very refreshing. 

Beef Tataki, Wild Rice, Ginger Dressing ($18.00)

When this dish showed up, everyone was hesitant to eat it since the beef tataki did look raw. I mean sure we do like a good piece of raw steak but I guess this might not look pleasing to the eye at first. But you know that saying "do not judge a book by its cover"? Well this is one of those examples since it became one of my fave dishes. The thin slices of beef along with the ginger dressing were incredibly delicious especially when it melts in your mouth. Once again, we were surprised by the generous layer of wild rice buried under the beef tataki which added a buttery crunch to this soft dish. 

Petuna Ocean Trout, Black Pepper, Wasabi ($20.00)

While raw beef may got us shocked at first, we couldn't say no to sashimi. The ocean trout at Cho Cho San was thickly-sliced and blended well with the black pepper and wasabi (which wasn't spicy at all). The flavours may be subtle but the texture of the ocean trout was balanced and succulent for the taste-buds.

King Crab Omelette, Japanese Curry ($28.00)

I LOOOVE CRABS! (Sorry I've been wanting to write that in this blog for so long. And yeah the food kind of course.) I also love eggs so a king crab omelette dish is the one dish that I must get before leaving this restaurant. This was really a mouthful of flavours that will test your tastebuds. There's a good serving of crab in this dish which made me very happy. Loving the two different types of egg present in this dish too from the crispy omelette on the outer edges that encompasses the gooey egg yolk inside alon with the swirls of the curry sauce. Definitely a dish you seriously have to order here. 

Calamari and Lime Ponzu ($16.00)

The calamari was had a nice grilled texture that was chewy when you bite into it. However, the highlight of this dish was the tangy lime ponzu sauce splashed all over it.  

Udon Noodles, Pork, Chilli ($15.00)

You know what? After typing the price of this dish just then, I gotta say that I actually thought that this would be more expensive than $15.00 since the serving was larger compared to a few more expensive dishes. The udon noodles were slippery and cooked well with a nice bitey texture. The flavours were quite strong thanks to the chilli and minced pork though the whipped tofu balanced it out. Another dish that I would order again at a future visit. Sidenote: I think the chopped shallots/spring onions seemed to be a signature garnish since it was present in many of the dishes. 

Miso Cod, Celery, Ginger ($40.00)

I enjoyed the flavour and texture of the miso cod with its soft texture and a caramelised surface. The celery and radish were also refreshing to have at this point. However, $40 was way too steep given the serving size of the dish. 

Silken Tofu in Tomato Dashi ($4.00 each)

With all the crazy, textual and flavoursome dishes we had to this point, it was time to cool ourselves down with this simple individual serving of silken tofu in tomato dashi and covered with tempura batter crumbs. Sure enough this simple looking plate still surprised us once again with getting our palates excited from the moment you taste the zesty tomato dashi that really hits you slowly. 

Soy Glazed Angus Beef ($36.00)

By this point, I should stopped being surprised at all this excitement and just assume that every unique dish is the norm here but I just keep getting wowed each time. The angus beef is another example of dishes that exceeded our expectations from the basic presentation to the mouth-watering flavours. The use of the Hibachi Grill\ has made this beef cut so tender and juicy with a nice pinkish colour and the right amount of seasoning. This tasted so amazing that we barely touched the extra condiments that came with this dish. The beef held so well on its own that we though it doesn't need any extra flavour boost. 

Tempura Pumpkin ($12.00)

I've been disappointed by many versions of tempura in the past but I was pleased by this version because of its crunchy batter that matched well with the sweet pumpkin and a bit of oil oozing out as you bite into each piece. Usually I'm not a huge pumpkin fan, but I was keen on getting a few more servings of this. 

Cho Cho Snow ($10.00)

Finally we're onto the desserts! Since there's a big group of us, we decided to sample all three desserts on the menu. First we shared the Cho Cho Snow, which was a light dessert consisting of shaved ice clumped on a bed of apple custard and drizzled with ginger syrup. Personally I didn't mind this dessert too much. It was light and there were lots of weird and surprising flavours when combining the shaved ice with the smooth fruity custard and the dollops of ginger syrup. Not bad to have on a warm day.

Steamed Yuzu Pudding ($12.00)

This dessert wasn't bad either though I thought the use of sour cream was a bit too unusual for my preference (and you know what I think about sour cream ahem). The pudding itself was warm with a sponge-like texture and citrus kind of flavour. But yeah me and sour cream...

Banana Soft Serve, Cone, Peanut, Caramel ($7.00 each)

Just when you start to get a bit bummed with the desserts, the soft serve cones will blow you away completely! While some of us wished the green tea soft serve was still available, I was personally impressed by the banana soft serve. Loved the banana flavour, the caramel swirls, the subtle sweetness and those chunks of peanuts decorated on the ice cream. To top off it off was, I loved how crunchy the waffle cone was. Even when the cream drooled over the edges! Everything about this dessert was just soooo freaking awesome! 

The prices were on the more expensive side but it's actually cheaper if you go with a large group, share many dishes and split the final bill each way. While the portions did appear to be small, we ordered so much that we still got into a food coma by the end. Because of the more expensive prices, this isn't a restaurant I would go back on a regular basis. However, I was impressed with most of their dishes so much that I would be keen to return to taste them again as well as trying dishes that we didn't get on this visit. It's no surprise that it has gotten so much praise in the short time it has been around. And I have to say, the praise is certainly well deserved!

Finally I should add that I still can't believe I'm still doing this blog for three years! Thought it would last for 6 months max haha. Cheers for another year or whatever. Thanks to everyone who have read my blog over the years. You guys have been incredible. I'm off now to rest my head and recover my poor stomach.

Cho Cho San
73 Macleay Street, Potts Point NSW 2011
(02) 9331 6601
Cho Cho San on Urbanspoon