Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen, Surry Hills

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the launch event for the opening of Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen located inside Rydge's Hotel on Albion Street, Surry Hills. Before then, I believe it was mostly pub food before the revamp of the venue so it's interesting to see a classier Italian casual dining restaurant replacing this joint. 

This is located very close to Chur Burger and Reuben Hills so it's good to see Albion Street getting its name out there in the Surry Hills restaurant scene. Plus it's a great spot with loads of space to chill with a cocktail or two.

Upon entry, there was a table containing a platter of freshly cut charcuterie meats, a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese (!!!), olives and loaves of bread with mixed toppings to accompany the platter. There was even a man standing behind the table using the meat slicer to prepare the platter for the hoards of interested and hungry guests.

 Mixed bread loaves

Parmesan and Mixed Olives

Salumi Misti Board ($18.00)

Sicilian Olives and Handmade Grisini (included in Salumi Misti Board)

This board was a very popular feature at the launch night with queues of people waiting for to be served. With that many cured meats to try, this was no surprise at all. This includes slices of prosciutto, sopressa, mortadella, home made grisini, sicilian olives, grana cheese and extra virgin olive oil. The thinly sliced meats were so delicious that I was keen to try more and more. Especially the prosciutto and the sopressa cured meats. The same goes for the grana padano cheese which had a hard and bitey texture with a fairly strong flavour. The platter was accompanied with green and black Sicilian olives and crispy grisini which were equally tasty to enjoy. There was just so much to sample on this platter that I would be happy to stick with this all night and order seconds. 

Giant wheel of Parmesan cheese!

Had to do another picture because seriously look at the giant cheese wheel! Wouldn't mind biting into this right now hehe.

If pizza is gets you going, you will be glad to hear that Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen has a generous selection of pizzas to decide especially for large groups. Throughout the evening, we saw loads of different pizzas delivered from the kitchen. Each pizza costs $16.00 if you want to get a whole 12 inch round pizza. If you are in a larger group and you want to try their 1 meter pizzas (yes they have 1 meter pizzas!!!) then it costs $70. There was also a good selection of bianco pizzas (base with no tomato sauce) to choose from if that is generally your preference. On my first impression of the pizza base, this wasn't as thin as you would expect but not as thick either which is good if you like your crust to have a balanced texture.

Fungi Misti - porcini mushroom, truffle, ricotta, thyme

The first pizza I tried was the Fungi Misti, a bianco pizza which had an aromatic taste that you would expect from porcini mushrooms and truffle. Though I'm personally not a huge fan of ricotta cheese, the remaining ingredients added a decent amount of flavour that this ended up being the least of my concerns. 

 San Daniele - tomato, roquette, San Danielle prosciutto, shaved parmesan

I was so hungry that I ended up picking a slice of the San Daniele pizza and forgot to take the photo before digging in. Loved the tasty prosciutto which was the star of this pizza.

 Diavola - tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, capsicum, olives

This was definitely one of my fave pizzas of the night. Quite spicy though it actually hits you slowly. Absolutely loved the stringy mozzarella cheese that doesn't let go when you pick up the slice.

 Quattro Formaggi - mozaarella, gorgonzola, crescenza, ricotta, basil, shaved parmesan

So much cheesy goodness. You will be in cheese heaven with this type of pizza especially with the many different types featured in the toppings. 

Bruschetta - pomodoro, imported goats cherve, baby basil ($8.00)

Did not end up trying the above but the toppings looked very delicious. 

Arancini ($9.00)

These golden risotto balls consists of pesto with (mozzarella?) cheese oozing out as you take a bite. Loved the outside crumbled coating which was nicely crisp. This came with creamy aioli sauce on the side. Unfortunately I forgot (I had quite a few drinks by then) to take a photo of the arancini as a whole so here's a food porn shot.

Nutella Pizza with strawberries and sweet sugar ($12.00) 

The highlight of the night was seeing the 1 meter pizza in all its glory as a nutella pizza! Looks like chocolate and strawberry heaven just by looking at the above photo. You can't help but drool as you see it approaching your table. The crust was thick and doughy which was topped with fresh strawberries, spreads of nutella chocolate and sprinkles of icing sugar. While it was worth the food porn moment, I would have preferred more nutella chocolate but still it was an amazing pizza otherwise.

Canoli - hand piped Sicilian ricotta, chocolate ($4.00)

Just like the Nutella pizza, the canoli was also an incredible, food-porn worthy sight. Lots of creamy ricotta and chocolate stacked inside the crunchy shell and coated with icing sugar. Looks so dreamy to eat and certainly very yummy since everyone at the table gave this a thumbs up.

Passionfruit Paloma Cocktail ($16.00)

What's a bar without a few drinks to kickstart the night? Loved the passionfruit paloma cocktail which had a sweet (but not overwhelmingly sweet) flavour which is ideal to have on a warm day as you chill on the couch. 

 Espresso Martini ($16.00)

For a warmer night, I personally would enjoy an espresso martini. This had a coffee flavour with a thick amount of froth and topped with cocoa powder. Quite strong but lovely since it felt like drinking a coffee mixed with alcohol. Wouldn't mind having another glass again.

Aside from losing my voice at the end of the night (true story), it was a fun night checking out the renovated venue with lots of delicious Italian dishes. Although it was dark, you can walk past and see the lovely artwork added to this venue as part of its revamp when you walk past it. According to the menu, there is also a generous selection of pasta dishes which I didn't get to see that night. In terms of pricing, it was actually reasonable and not too pricey with the most expensive dish costing $20 (unless you get the 1 meter pizza but that is definitely made to share so should be fine). Would recommend this for a group gathering for a special event as well as a casual after work dinner and drinks catch up.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen, courtesy of Zoe from The Drawing Book Studios. Opinions remain personal.

Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen
28 Albion Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9289 0028
Mon-Sat: 11:00am - 11:45pm
Sun: 4:00pm - 11:45pm
Bar Surry Hills & Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Papi Chulo, Manly

Ever been to a restaurant where you really want to eat everything off the menu? If you stomach can handle it of course. That was how I felt when I finally made the ferry trip to Manly to check out Merivale's first North Shore restaurant, Papi Chulo, for a food blogger gathering. On a relatively sunny afternoon (which ended up being horrendously windy later on), I met up with Irene's Getting Fat, iFat Food Chronicles, Nessy Eater, Polyphagia, A Swoonful of Sugar and Milkteaxx to try as many meaty dishes as we could handle. Also we bumped into the girls from Next Stop Food and Journey From Within who were celebrating a birthday at a nearby table.

If you prefer public transport over driving, you can literally get to this restaurant a mere moments after leaving the ferry wharf. Tremendous scenery of the beach side which would be perfect for a nice sunny day. When I got inside, I was immediately stunned at how packed the restaurant really was a 12:30pm. We were seated very close to the kitchen so we could perve check out some of the delicious dishes getting delivered to the tables

El Mani ($8.00)

While I did not get the chance to try this drink, the others said that this blend of chocolate sauce, caramel peanut butter and vanilla ice cream was quite rich, creamy and incredibly sweet.  I was particularly drooling at the chocolate biscuits floating on top. Looks nice to have on a warm day.

Smoked Hot Wings with Comeback Sauce ($16.00)

I usually have don't have a huge reaction when it comes to chicken wings but oh my gawd these hot wings were absolutely incredible! The skin was crisp and golden while the meat was well-cooked to our liking. It was no wonder why this was so popular with everyone at the table. And that comeback sauce! While it wasn't too spicy, it still had that zesty, smokey, chipotle-esque kick which excites your taste buds. No surprise that I was keen to use this sauce on everything.

Curly Fries ($9.00)

I do love a good serving of curly fries. We don't see these babies enough around Sydney. The fries were very crunchy and seasoned with various spices though given its heavy carb content and the amount of food coming up, I didn't eat too much of it. Great to share and perfect with that amazing comeback sauce!

Smoked Wagyu Brisket - 300gm ($34.00)

Sure enough, we all fell silent the moment this gorgeous piece of meat showed up at our table. Gotta admit, the food delivery was incredibly fast with many dishes showing up at the same time. Seriously though, look at the marbling on that smoky beef! So soft, tender and ridiculously juicy, it makes you want to drool all over the table. I'm speechless as I'm writing this actually. Just look at that photo!

Papi Chulo BBQ Platter ($86.00 - serves 2-4 people)

Just when you can't get enough of beef brisket, we ordered even more of this cut as well as a sample of different types of meat in this restaurant's signature BBQ platter. This includes a half rack of lamb ribs and 150gm each of wagyu brisket, chopped pork and pork belly served with pickles and soft bread. The lamb ribs were very tasty and easy to cut through. It also didn't have that strong taste that seems to turn some people off lamb...well I didn't think it was strong but that's me. You just can't help but feel the happiness when the meat fell off the bone so quickly. The pork belly was succulent fatty goodness that melts in your mouth. Even though there's a thick slab of fat, it's a total guilty pleasure especially with its incredible softness and the seasoned flavour. And that chopped pork (I think it's pulled pork? Looks like it) is sooooo addictive! Had a sweet, saucy and tangy taste that keeps me getting more than my share especially when it came down to leftovers.

Papi Chulo Burger - grain fed beef, bacon, American cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles, soft bun ($18.00)

By the time the Papi Chulo burger showed up, most of us were feeling full from all the meaty goodness. I was still ok by this point so I grabbed my share. The beef patty had that medium-rare pinkish colour as we attempt to split the burger to share. While this did not stand out compared to the other dishes - most likely because we were too full, I still loved that crispy bacon as well as the soft (though filling) bun.

Plate of colourful pickles and other veggies

If you are getting meat sweats just by reading this post, fear not. We also got a complimentary plate of colourful pickles and other assorted veggies which came with the meat platter. While they were quite sour, they were a nice relief from all the meats, carbs and fatty oils that we have eaten so far. 

Smoked Wagyu Brisket Sandwich - spicy celery pickle, caramelised onion, horseradish mayo, fried egg, soft bun ($18.00)

M arrived late when we finished nearly everything so she ordered a smoked wagyu brisket sandwich (which looked very much like a burger). Although we couldn't eat anymore savoury food, we cannot help but feel the food envy at the layers of beef brisket and egg in that burger. Could only imagine how good this would have tasted.

Pear and Rhubarb Cobbler, Ginger Crumble, Creme Anglaise, Orange and Ginger Ice-Cream ($14.00) 

Just when you and I thought that we have given up, think again. There is still that mysterious favourite room for dessert. Three desserts actually. Yeah we couldn't decide so we tried them all to share. The pear and rhubarb cobbler was warm and not too sweet or sour. While there was a decent amount of creaminess due to the creme anglaise and ginger ice cream, it was combined with the ginger crumble and chunks of pear and rhubarb. Compared to the other desserts, this was lighter with well-balanced flavours and textures which was why this was a favourite sweet dish for pretty much everyone at the table.

Banana Split - fresh split banana, chocolate fudge, peanut praline, banana ice cream, peanut butter ice cream, cherry jam, whipped cream, glace cherry ($14.00)

The banana split especially at a restaurant like Papi Chulo would certainly bring out your inner child. With all that creaminess from the peanut butter and banana ice creams and the whipped cream, it was certainly a decadent and rich dessert. The fresh bananas, chocolate fudge and crumbled peanut praline added a good amount of crunch to what was otherwise an intense creamy dessert. 

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie with vanilla malt ice cream, butterscotch sauce, macademia brittle ($14.00)

Personally I really loved the above dessert mainly due to my preference towards anything sweet involving softly baked chocolate chip cookies. This was rich and very sweet due to the amount of chocolate, the indulging scoop of melting vanilla malt ice-cream and the thick and warm butterscotch sauce but the softness of the cookie won me over instantly. Plus that crumbled macademia brittle made it even more addictive for me. Would order this again next time especially on a cool day.

While we clearly had our fill for lunch, there was still so much more that I want to try from the menu. Especially the cuban sandwich, the pea guacamole, those potatoes and gravy (and bone marrow!) or even get my hands on one of the smoked BBQ meats again. The vibe was incredibly busy and the service seemed prompt and attentive to our needs. One of my very few qualms was the pricing since it generally leaned toward the more expensive side. Though this is standard for most Merivale restaurants. If only Manly was closer for me to get to because I could definitely see myself making regular visits to try everything on the menu especially for birthdays, farewells and other special occasions.

Papi Chulo
22-23 Manly Wharf, Manly NSW 2095
(02) 9240 3000
Mon-Fri: 12:00pm - 10:30pm
Sat: 11:30am - 10:30pm
Sun: 11:30am - 9:00pm
Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ko and Co, Surry Hills

Korean and Mexican? It may sound weird for some of you but Korean Mexican fusion cuisine has been happening in the States for a few years by now. There are now countless street food trucks such as the famous Kogi BBQ, Chi'Lantro BBQ and many more serving Korean Mexican cuisine including bulgogi burritos, Korean tacos and kimchi quesadillas. It was no surprise that this fusion craze has finally reached to Australian shores in the form of Ko and Co.

Located on Hunt Street nearby Longrain, Ko and Co was actually hard to find if you are looking around at night. That's until you can see the not-very-obvious Ko&Co sign on the window with people sitting inside chatting to their mates. It's actually a very small restaurant/bar with minimal seating and decor apart from a few wall paintings. Can imagine how busy this may get on weekends. I should also apologise in advance for the really terrible photos especially with the dim lighting and my phone camera battery dying.

Complimentary corn chips

While CC was impartial to these, I thought these corn chips were great as nibbles before waiting for the food to arrive. Quite addictive for me especially with the crunch.

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders ($10.00 for 2) 

You can get a choice of four different fillings for the slider which included spicy pork, beef short ribs, Korean fried chicken and spicy tofu. These same choices also apply to selecting your filling for tacos or burritos. The sliders also came with a brioche bun, cabbage slaw and kimchi mayo. Although we were satisfied by the crunch from the crispy fried chicken, the bun tasted a bit dry and as soft as we hoped. Though we did admire its golden, shiny appearance. 

Quesadillas with kimchi and three cheese filling ($10.00)

CC was looking forward to the quesadillas the most from the moment we had our eyes on the menu. Unfortunately, we were let down when we found that there wasn't as much cheese as we expected - even though the menu said there will be three cheeses in the filling. In fact we thought that the kimchi was the stronger flavour in this dish, which is good if you prefer kimchi over cheese.   

Beef Short Rib Taco ($6.00)

Spicy Pork Belly Taco ($6.00)

Thankfully the tacos were the heroes of the night. Each taco came with slaw, kimchi and a dollop of sauce (possibly sirarcha sauce?). The beef short rib taco was fairly tender on the inside with a crispy outer texture while the spicy pork belly taco wasn't as spicy at first but then it slowly hits you as make more bites into this meal. Both were very delicious and filling. Will definitely order this again next time.   

Watermelon Soju ($9.00)

After seeing a number of customers ordering it at the bar, I was convinced enough to give the watermelon soju a go. While soju usually conjures up images of really strong liquor that gives a burning sensation to your mouth, this version was actually mild, sweet and fruity which is good for those who aren't too familiar with this beverage.

Although there were a couple of dishes that we may be hesitant on trying again, there were still other dishes on its limited menu that will keep me coming back such as the burritos, tacos, the fried chicken and the dessert tortilla. The service was friendly and helpful with us that night and the prices were pretty cheap. It's a great place to chill with your friends or colleagues over a few drinks after work or on the weekend. 

Ko and Co
6 Hunt Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
0428 944 741
Mon: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Tue-Thurs: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Fri: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - midnight
Sat: 6:00pm - midnight
Ko & Co Soju Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Colonial Restaurant, Darlinghurst

A few months ago, my colleague suggested that I should explore a few Indian restaurants one day so he can see what's good to try out. Since the weather has been so cold lately, nothing beats a bowl of hot curry. It was no surprise when I received an invite recently to try out the dishes at The Colonial Restaurant, in Darlinghurst - very close to William Street in Wooloomooloo. In fact, it was actually an easy walking distance from both Town Hall station and Museum station. 

While I was looking forward to trying out the food at this restaurant, I wasn't too familiar with Indian cuisine (let alone British Indian...though they are actually very similar) so AI, my plus-one, was able to help me in getting familiar with the menu. In terms of the atmosphere, the restaurant had a classical colonial feel especially with the spacious room, colour, lights, artwork, mirrors and chandeliers as decor. It was a quiet and intimate space though we were there for a Saturday lunch. Perhaps it will be a bit busier at dinner.  

We were greeted with a super friendly waitress who looked after us and gave us very detailed descriptions on selected dishes. She was also originally from Vietnam which got the both of us interested with her personal stories before moving to Sydney (me being of Vietnamese heritage while AI travelled to Vietnam in mid 2013) We started off with a complimentary basket of thin and crispy pappadum with creamy mint chutney on the side. The flavour was very light, crunchy and not oily at all so we gobbled these up pretty quickly.

Forgot the name of this drink (arrrghhhh) but I remember that it had a bit of vodka and possibly gin but it wasn't as strong as I initially expected. 

Plain Salted Lassi ($4.50)

I had a sip of it and thought that the texture was quite thick but AI really loved it. He commented that it was one of his favourite drinks to have on a sunny day.

Non-Vegetarian Platter: (Clockwise L-R) Tandoori Chicken Tikka, Meat Samosa, Tangari Kebab and Lamb Lollipop served with mint chutney ($14.00)

Although they had not obtained the Halal certification yet, the owner confirmed to us that the meat was sourced from Halal meat shops, which seems to satisfied my friend. After hearing that The Colonial Restaurant was well known for their Indian tapas, we were convinced to try a selection of them for our entrees. Unless you have specific choices on what to get from the tapas menu, I would suggest going for a platter just to sample a bit of everything especially if you are not too familiar with the cuisine.

After taking a very long time to decide, we ended up choosing the non-Vegetarian platter. While the Tangari kebab (chicken drumstick) was nicely seasoned though I did not detect any cheesy flavour even though it was marinated in yogurt, spices and cheese (according to the menu). The marinated tandoori chicken tikka was one of my faves from this platter because of its juicy, tender and spicy flavours which brought heaps of excitement to my taste buds. Another fave of mine was the meat samosa which was deep fried buttered and flakey pastry stuffed with minced lamb, peas and potato. Personally I thought it was very addictive and was really bummed that it was gone. We both enjoyed the Colonial's signature lamb lollipops which were soft, tender and did not have that strong gamey lamb taste which would turn off those who aren't fans of lamb.  

$15.00 Lunch Special: Two Curries with Rice - Lamb Rogan Josh and Daal Makhani

For lunch, you can get two curries (selected curries only though) with rice for only $15.00. I had the Lamb Rogah Josh, which contains diced lamb pieces cooked in "Traditional Kashmiri" sauce and spices. This was actually not very spicy yet still full of wonderful bursts of flavour coming from the fall-apart lamb. AI went with the vegetarian Daal Makhani which was whole black lentils cooked with kidney beans, ginger garlic, tomatoes and fresh cream. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it at first because of the sight of fresh cream but it was mixed with the other ingredients so it wasn't as noticeable as I thought. Was surprisingly enjoyable and aromatic that I actually wanted to eat more than half of my share. We thought that we could easily go for another curry but the curries were fairly rich especially with the rice so we both got full very quickly. Both are perfect to have on a cold, windy winter day like the last few weekends.

Lamb Rogan Josh (Individual: $16.00) 

Daal Makhani ($12.00)

Garlic Naan Bread ($3.50)

If I didn't order any other dish, I would easily chow down the whole basket of garlic naan bread because it was so good to enjoy with or without the curry for our mains. Very flavoursome though not too strong if you fear of garlic breath. Cannot get enough of the puffy and flaked texture of the bread.

Gulab Jamun ($6.00)

I initially wanted The Colonial Special Creme Brulee but it was unavailable at the time. Thankfully AI's good knowledge on Indian sweets has convinced me to explore the Gulab Jamun. This is actually one of the most popular desserts in the Indian subcontinent. It's basically dumplings made from solidified milk and soaked in a sugary syrup usually made from rosewater, cardamom or saffron. While I was unable to recall which syrup that The Colonial uses, it has a sweet and fruity flavour which takes over the milk taste of the soaked dumpling. I was pretty impressed with this dessert since I never tried Indian desserts before. AI absolutely loved the dessert so much that he was muttering that name for days. 

We were very satisfied with this restaurant from the decently-sized aromatic food to the lovely service, tidy decor and calm atmosphere. If you are vegetarian, you would be glad to know that half of the menu consists of non-meat dishes. In terms of pricing, it was pretty reasonable with most dishes costing less than $20.00 (except for lamb shank which was $24.00 for 2 pieces). Will certainly consider about coming back to try more of the tapas and curry dishes to discover more authentic Indian cuisine next time we are in the area or even at their sister restaurant at Leichardt. While I can't confirm what it would be like at night, I would recommend this restaurant for family or friends gatherings and special events.  

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie and co dined as guests of The Colonial Restaurant in Darlinghurst. Opinions remain personal.

The Colonial Restaurant
118 Crown Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 8084 6700
Lunch: Tue-Sun: 12:00pm - 3:00pm
Dinner: Mon-Sun: 5:00pm - 10:00pm
The Colonial on Urbanspoon