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Review - Fàntǒng

A fàntǒng is a wooden bucket that cooked rice is served from. Traditionally, good quality ones made by artisans were watertight, but poorer quality ones were not. The word later morphed to describe a good-for-nothing person useful only for eating rice. In a positive sense it can also be employed to mean come and eat, and that’s just what local residents Chris Shearman and Autumn Qiu are hoping you’ll do at their new restaurant: Fàntǒng.

Up until three months ago, Leichhardt residents generally had to make the trip east or west - to Haymarket or Ashfield - for their closest dumpling fix. Shearman and Qiu decided that it was time for that to change. Building upon their experience at Brewery Espresso in Erskine Street – a popular café that morphed into a hybrid dumpling joint under their stewardship – they’ve opened in a two-level terrace on Norton Street.

At the moment it’s only operating on the ground level, but plans for change are afoot once the weather warms up.

The dumplings are handmade on the premises by Qui, who hails from Beijing. They come in six different varieties (including vegetarian) and can be served up either pan fried or boiled. We opted for Chicken, Black Fungus and Bok Choy ($9.80/8) crisped in a pan. They’re lean and gently flavoursome. With wheat being the staple crop of Northern China, rather than rice, you should expect an abundance of wheat-flour products on this menu. Beyond the dumplings you’ll also find stuffed buns, noodles and pancakes. The Pork and Egg Bun ($7) is stuffed with a clever blend of juicy pork, fried egg, coriander, chilli and spring onion. The bun itself was a bit more like a flat bread roll than I was expecting, but overall it was a tasty dish that went down well with a large bottle of Tsingtao ($13/640ml) beer.

Stuffed Shallot Pancakes ($7.50) are a bit of a revelation, cut into two sandwich style pieces and filled with tasty beef.

With Peking roast duck being a Beijing speciality, Peking Duck Rolls ($8.80/2) were another must-order. The pancakes are nicely pliable and wafer thin, while the duck inside is crisp skinned and moist against hoisin, coriander and thinly sliced spring onion.

Northern Chinese is generally a bit heavier on meat and lighter on vegetables, so I appreciated the list of inexpensive vegetable sides. Shredded Potato and Carrot Salad ($6.80) with Sichuan oil is a great way to break up all the wheat-based stodge.

The thin slivers of carrot and potato are only mildly spicy - something that sadly followed through to our main of Kung Pao Chicken ($16.80). Expecting a good chilli kick, I dived into this stir-fried bowl of chicken, peanuts, capsicum and Sichuan chilli and pepper, only to find it mild and over-sweet. As this dish was the only disappointment in my first adventure under the traditional hanging lanterns in this simply decorated, wood-dominated space, I’m likely to give Leichhardt’s first dumpling joint another whirl.

31 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 8056 8588

Fantong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Husk & Vine Kitchen & Bar

With 518 brand new residential apartments above it, and 1400 artifacts below it, Husk and Vine Kitchen and Bar sits at the juncture between old and new. According to Wayne Taranto of Crown Group, the restaurant is “part of the changing face of Parramatta.” It sits below the suburb’s first five-star hotel, Skye Hotel Suites, which is set to open in August.

During the excavation for this large-scale development, Crown Group uncovered significant archaeological remains that they have preserved as part of their final structure. They include a 1840s convict's hut, a wheelwright’s workshop, and the cellar of the former Wheat Sheaf Hotel, all sitting right underneath the restaurant. They’re connected by a flight of stairs that allows restaurant guests access to the impressive collection of artifacts, and via a glass floor that offers a glimpse of the archaeological dig from the restaurant’s terrace.

Connection to this Parramatta of old also informed the restaurant’s wheat and wine concept. You’ll also find connection in the unusual décor choices created by Nic Graham. Hundreds of styrofoam 'sandstone' boulders are suspended on strings in mirrored boxes, creating an otherworldly cube with moody low lighting. On two sides the room is surrounded by an impressive open kitchen and bar. The all-important eats have been left in the hands of Ambassador Chef Stephen Seckold (ex-Flying Fish).

"Rather than sticking to one sort of food we'd take influence from all over the place," said Seckold. Reading like modern comfort food, Seckold’s menu is designed to warmly welcome all of Parramatta through the inclusion of multicultural dishes, "without messing with anything," he added. His menu will also pay close attention to seasonality - on the evening I dined this was evidenced by artichokes forming both table decor and appearing in a silky Jerusalem artichoke and truffle amuse bouche.

On any evening you can take the opportunity to break Rosemary & Sesame Flatbread ($15) with your fellow dinners at a long convivial table, and smear your torn portion with warm hummus. The flatbreads and pides, including Haloumi, Sumac, Roast Garlic and Parsley Flatbread ($16) are cooked in a Beech clay oven.

You’ll also find more easily sharable entrées like Za’atar Fried Chicken ($14) with oregano and garlic dip, and Lamb Ribs ($21) cooked in a date and tamarind glaze.

The lamb ribs are good – neatly avoiding the usual traps of being too greasy or too gamey - and even better when dragged through the accompanying smear of labne.

Your must-have entrée is a skillet of Burrata Cheese ($19) presented on garlic bread with a cumin-heavy chermoula treatment, raisins, green leaves and pine nuts. It’s unusual but it works!

If for some strange reason you’re anti-cheese, there’s also a Swordfish Crudo ($23). The delicate fish is given a grapefruit, white balsamic and pink peppercorn treatment that’s pleasant but was slightly dominated by olive oil on the evening I dined. You'll also find pink grapefruit making an appearance on the cocktail list, in a quaffable Grapefruit Spritz ($12).

With the restaurant’s theme really leaning towards relaxed, convivial, sharing cuisine, the large share mains like Whole Butterflied Chicken ($45) with chilli, lemon and paprika sweet potato, and Lamb Shoulder ($65) with harissa, okra and chickpea stew, are going to be popular ways to dine.

To my palate both of these dishes were under-seasoned, but I suspect it’s part and parcel of them being presented as a please-everyone ‘family’ style meal. With good quality sea salt on every table, each guest is of course then free to season to their personal proclivity.

Build these sharing mains into full meals by throwing in sides like Baby Carrots ($11) in cumin, honey and Persian feta, and Chat Potatoes ($12) with intense black garlic offset by sour cream. The 2016 Ross Hill Pinnacle Chardonnay ($80) makes a nice poultry companion. For the lamb shoulder, the 2015 CRFT ‘Chapel Valley’ Pinot Noir ($80) will do the job without having to resort to anything more tannin-heavy from the interesting wine list that centres upon on Australian cool climate wines.

For those who don’t like sharing, you could do much worse than your own bowl of silky Hand Cut Pappardelle ($24). You’ll see the thin strands of wide cut pasta hanging in the open kitchen. They’re given a simple burnt butter treatment with cubes of butternut pumpkin, pine nuts and goat’s cheese, and scrub up a treat.

The short dessert menu offers up modern renditions of the classics. The pistachio and raspberry Bombe Alaska ($16) won fans at my table, but I found it dominated by the marzipan biscuit base.

I’ve got no complaints about the pretty Pavlova ($15), tarted up into something quite adult using sharp tangerine and orange blossom cream.

There's plenty to like about this new Parramatta player who hope to revolutionise the suburb's upper end dining with their accessible, relaxed, sharing menus. Later in the year Husk and Vine will be joined on the site by the influential bar guru, Sven Almenning. Almenning will be opening a rooftop bar on the twenty-sixth floor, providing the perfect way to kick off, or conclude, your introduction to the new Parramatta.

Husk & Vine Kitchen & Bar
Shop 7, 45 Macquarie Street, Parramatta
Ph: (02) 7803 2323

Husk & Vine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Wei Long Hakka Cuisine

The last five years have really seen Sydney’s Chinese dining establishments broaden from ubiquitous Cantonese-Australian. You can now get a reasonably authentic look at everything from Cantonese to mouth-numbing Sichuan; from Hunan cuisine at restaurants like Chairman Mao in Kensington, to Jinxiang cuisine enjoyed by Uyghurs in China’s West. If you look a bit harder, you’ll find Yunnanese dishes at restaurants like Two Sticks, the odd bit of Shandong (usually chicken) and North-Eastern Chinese dishes like malatang at Yang Gou Fu Malatang.

If you’ll head into the ‘burbs, you can also tick off Fujian cuisine, along with most of China’s eight main culinary traditions. However what you might not already be familiar with is Hakka cuisine. This cuisine is associated with the Chinese diaspora. It’s Central Plain Chinese food influenced by everywhere the Hakka were displaced to as a result of social upheaval. Many Hakka moved south, so when you visit Wei Long Hakka Cuisine, you will probably find it looks and tastes a bit like Cantonese food...

Owner Austin Wang starts our night off right by greeting my dining companion by name when we arrive for our booking. He’s clearly excited to be presenting the dishes of his childhood inside this nicely appointed, three-storey split level restaurant on Bathurst Street.

We’re a bit excited too, selecting a not entirely cohesive meal from the nicely illustrated menu.

We started with a Hakka staple – Dry Noodles ($8.80) – which arrive first as a dish rather than an accompaniment. They’re simple, savoury egg noodles, and a silky pleasure to eat.

Orange Dust Tomatoes ($11.80) arrive next – a white bowl of bright red, skinned raw tomatoes sprinkled generously with dried orange skin. They're unusual but very palate refreshing.

Pineapple Quail Eggs ($18.80) presents flash fried soft-centred quail eggs in a sweetish pineapple and capsicum sauce.  It initially doesn’t appeal, but when eaten in contrast to hotter dishes like fragrant Clams in Hot Chilli Oil ($28.80), it grows on me.

As for the clams, I'm pleased to report their spicy treatment doesn’t overwhelm the juicy brine from the gently cooked bivalves.

I reset my mouth with Smashed Cucumber Salad ($9.80) between forays into the hot, oily pot of clams and bean sprouts that’s littered with dried spices. The salad is wet, juicy and dripping in garlic.

Wang explains the greens accompanying the Beef in Rice Wine Lees ($21.80) are similar to Chinese cabbage. They’re cooked with enough crispness to be texturally pleasurable against the super-soft pieces of iron-rich beef. Texture is an important part of Hakka cuisine, so you'll likely notice many toothsome pleasures across your meal. You'll enjoy Hakka food if you like dishes that are simple and honest.

Wang’s stellar hospitality continues right to the end of our meal, when he makes us a number of recommendations for next time based upon the dishes we enjoyed. The price of our meal felt reasonable; and it was further buoyed by being allowed to bring our own sake on a busy Friday night.

Wei Long Hakka Cuisine
Shop 330, Millennium Tower, 289-295 Sussex Street, Sydney (enter Bathhurst Street)
Ph: (02) 9283 3570

Wei Long Hakka Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Film Review - Paris Can Wait

While it's not billed as a food film per say, Paris Can Wait, is going to make you very hungry. The film, which opens today, is the directorial debut of Eleanor Coppola, at age eighty. The story is based upon a real life encounter she had in 2009, when a head cold prevented her from accompanying her director husband, Francis Ford Coppola, to Eastern Europe. Instead Eleanor was driven from Cannes to Paris by a food-obsessed Frenchman. This film maps her resulting adventure.

Paris Can Wait stars Diane Lane and Alex Baldwin as the film industry couple - Anne and Michael Lockwood - and Arnaud Viard as Jacques, the endearingly irrepressible Frenchman. While I’m not generally a romantic comedy fan, even I got a few chuckles at watching French hedonism meet American Puritanism head on. While the relationship between Anne (Lane) and Jacques (Viard) slowly develops, viewers get to drink in French countryside, produce, wine, restaurants and landmarks, with some food philosophy thrown in.

"The best food is straight from the garden with very little done to it," explains Jacques as he describes eating fresh tomatoes on bread with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. With my own mouth salivating, I found myself nodding in agreement. Jacques’ dismissal of aeroplane food also had me elbowing my husband in the ribs, smirking: "The food on the plane will not be food, so I got you something good," said Jacques. Jacques is carrying baguettes, hand-made sausage and Dijon mustard; and don't even get me started about the film's cheese-porn!

Jacques is also a wild-food advocate, urging Anne to "taste the wild flavours straight from nature." He throws in quick recipes for dandelions, wild fennel and trout; and plucks an amazing bunch of watercress for his impromptu riverside picnic. He also casually introduces Anne to great wines, including a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

"Guilt is bad for your digestion,” proffers Jacques during one of their meals. The double-entendre between guilt about over indulging in food and guilt about extramarital affairs is a source of building tension throughout the film. Does Jacques’ zest for life and constant flirtation win Anne over? Or, more to the point, did Eleanor’s real life Frenchman win her over back in 2009? While on the one hand, this is a lighthearted romp through the abundant French countryside, there's also an underlying tension captured in the repeated juxtaposition of Pop Tarts (the young women who surround famous men) and chocolate creme brûlée (their older wives) that'll likely have married heterosexual women over forty smiling wryly. Maybe revenge is a dish best served in a film that's so charming it's hard to disagree with?

Paris Can Wait is in cinemas now, or you can view a trailer on Transmission Films' website HERE.

Review - Umi Sushi & Bar

Playing with a palette of primary colours, the updated Umi Sushi & Bar certainly commands your attention.

The glass box’s golden yellow bar, bright red neon, and deep blue, 8-meter long fish tank, are only one aspect of the restaurant's update.

After eleven years in this spot, owners Jessie Xiao and Terence Chau, have re-made their original Umi Sushi into a flagship live seafood specialist, offering up omakase chef’s daily selection sushi banquets.

They’ve also put in a charcoal grill for cook-to-order kushiyaki, added multiple private dining rooms (with karaoke facilities), and backed it all up with a very impressive range of sake and Japanese whisky.

We’re seated at a varnished aggregate counter right in front of the live fish tank; eyeballing both our eventual dinner and the man behind the new menu. His name is Executive Chef Hideaki Fukada, and you might know him from his work at Toriciya.

You might also know his Spicy Kingfish Carpaccio ($16.80), since it has followed him across the Bridge. Thin slices of kingfish are dressed with jalapeno and mixed plum jam and presented in a pool of yuzu soy sauce. Chef Fukada pairs them with a junmai ginjo sake from the Niigata Prefecture – Denemon ($20.80/180ml) - served heated to 40 degrees. It’s soft and ricey, and a lovely contrast to the lively, citrusy dish.

The Oven-Baked Savoy Cabbage ($14.80) is another familiar dish that has made the jump – though it’s better than the original thanks to the cooking accuracy of a new combi oven. The charred cabbage is flavoured with Japanese citrus, bonito and truffle, giving it a big savoury (umami) mid palate. We consume it with a seemingly light Chiyomusubi ($23.80/100ml) junmai daiginjo sake that comes into its own when drunk with this dish.

After a pungent palate cleaner of Pickled Wasabi Leaf ($7.80) that I'd definitely order again, we move on kushiyaki.

Chef Fukuda excuses himself to charcoal grill our skewered meats; while we get acquainted with Komagura Munouyaku Yamada ($18.80/180ml). It’s a junmai (no distilled alcohol added) kimoto sake, which basically means the yeast starter is made in a way that allows more funky yeast to be present, leading to a wilder, funkier flavour.

Served at 40 degrees, it’s just the ticket to enjoy against Yakitori Tsukune ($5.80/each). The sticky-sweet and juicy chicken meatball skewers are presented with onsen tamago (hot spring egg) for dipping. The sake is also big enough to cope with Yakitori Wagyu ($6.80/each) - these skewers are a real highlight, cooked at a sufficiently high temperature to ensure the crisp beef fat explodes in your mouth as you bite into it.

We share a fillet of Char-grilled Saikou Salmon ($23.80) with Suiryu Kimoto no Dobu Junmai Genshu ($18.80/180ml) served at 45 degrees. The salmon is from the high alpine reaches of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Chef Fukada has treated the fish to a sake rice malt marinade, then char-grilled it to add some smoky flavours. His sake match works to cleanse your mouth of the oiliness of the cold climate fish.

We get an on-ice preview of our next course, which includes items from the live seafood tank that we’ve been watching throughout our meal. The bivalves are expertly opened by Chef Fukada, and then placed on a DIY BBQ grill right under our noses.

While watching the live South Australian Scallops ($9.80/each) squirm might not be for everyone, this method sees them stewed in their own juices.

With a squeeze of lemon and some finely sliced shallots, they’re wonderful eating – including the roe which I’m normally not so keen on. Made by an English Toji (master sake maker) called Phillip Harper, our accompanying beverage – Tamagawa Omachi ($20.80/180ml) - is gentle, so as not to interrupt or compete with the bounty of the sea.

Freshly shucked Jumbo Oysters ($9.80/each) look intimidating raw, but reduce to a manageable size when cooked; though it's the Baby Abalone ($12.80/each) that are a revelation. I’ve never had abalone quite so tender and flavoursome before. They reminds me of uni (sea urchin roe) because they taste like a rock pool.

Chef Fukada explains the similarity comes because both sea urchin and abalone eat kelp. He's delighted we enjoy sea urchin roe as many Western diners do not, and quickly assembles us a plate of Sea Urchin Sashimi ($29). Like any omakase menu, this is a moveable feast, where the chef is able to respond to your taste and drinking proclivities in real time.

As we wrap this amazing Tasmanian produce in crisp nori sheets with wasabi and Maldon sea salt, Chef Fukada explains his parents live just fifteen minutes walk from Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. When he visits them, he walks there every day to revel in the sheer number of shellfish available. "Shellfish, rock salt, perfect in morning 8am,” he says joyfully as I stuff this wonderfully simple blend into my own mouth with my fingers. It’s an impossibly perfect dish that is like opening your mouth in the ocean, with the Takaisami Tokubetsu Junmai ($15.80/180ml) sake behaving like a fresh mountain stream running over rocks and into the sea.

As we’re keen drinkers, we’re treated to another off-menu drinking snack, while Chef Fukada explains his dream is to have a small seafood stand over a train station. His tiny restaurant would serve up sake and drinking snacks like Toro Tataki Namero ($28), a dish that is common on the Chiba prefecture. The pink tuna belly is hand minced with ginger, miso and shallot, with the resulting mix flamed by blowtorch.

We eat it wrapped in more crisp nori sheets.

Really what makes this omakase experience so wonderful is the attention and interaction with this intriguing chef; a true sake lover, who is at home pouring your sake, and answering your questions about this intriguing drink. Our meal concludes with a ‘dessert’ of Foie Gras ($15.80/per piece) topped with sweet miso and blow torched.

The rich slices of sweetly caramelised liver are delicious, and accompanied by yet another sake - Taketsuru Daiwa-Omachi ($23.80/180ml) junmai genshu served heated to 65 degrees. This aged sake smells like honey or cane sugar, and is the only sake that can go above 55 degrees without becoming unbalanced, because it has a high acid content.

We leave this restaurant smiling and not just because of alcohol-induced good cheer. Umi Sushi & Bar really is a jewel in the crown for Jessie Xiao and Terence Chau – and the sake line-up is exceptional.

Umi Sushi & Bar
Shop 1 & 2, 477 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9281 2006

Umi Sushi & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Hombre Mexican Cantina

Originating in Queensland, Hombre Mexican Cantina was recently snapped up by Franchise Retail Brands (FRB).  They’re in the process of rolling out these fast casual Mexican restaurants across NSW, starting with stores in Stanhope Gardens and Clemton Park.

At the same time they’ve let vivacious Group Chef Emeleen Khalaf loose on the menu. This Canadian chef has Syrian-Lebanese heritage and a keen interest in making healthy, delicious food.

Emeleen has pared back the menu into a shorter, more easily reproducible list of Tex-Mex inspired dishes, and brought many of the processes (like shredding chicken breast, and cooking rice) in-house.

In the new Clemton Park store, you'll be consuming her dishes in a modern setting made into a colourful streetscape using painted white bricks, trompe l'oeil (trick the eye) doorways, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography and hanging Edison light bulbs.


While the scattered Mexican sombreros are a bit gimmicky, I’ve got no complaints about the tequila collection. They’re offering up a decent range of the big brands – Jose Cuervo, Herradura, 1800, Padron – that goes all the way up to family reserve.

We tried some out blanco tequila in a straight-up, classic, salt-rimmed Margarita ($9.90) that drank well. Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila worked well in a Paloma ($9.90) though I found the grapefruit soda that’s blended with grape juice a bit oversweet. An extra squeeze of lime from the garnish helped created it into something more to my taste.

In terms of eats, you can tuck into soft tacos that get cheaper in happy hour from 4pm-6pm each day. Fish Taco ($11/2) presents a lightly beer-battered flathead fillet on mild chipotle aioli with mango avocado salsa. It’s fresh and good eating but light on chilli so I’d suggest making the two-buck tomatillo verde sauce add-on if you enjoy some zing.


In addition to the house-made sauces, you can delve into their dining room chilli sauce collection to dress up your Burrito Jose Style ($14). The twelve-inch soft tortilla is filled with a blend of chipotle chicken, refried beans, Spanish rice and cheese, as well as shredded iceberg lettuce, roasted tomato salsa and guacamole. It’s lightly toasted and holds together nicely. Once again it has please-all levels of chilli, so we availed ourselves of something labelled mild and full of vinegar called Frank's RedHot and a more aggressive bottle of Venom that really kicked our arses!

Over a trio of Churros ($8) dusted with icing sugar and served with warm salted caramel and chocolate sauces, I muse that for a fast casual style restaurant, Hombre Mexican Cantina does a reasonable job. The food here is fresh, filling and not too expensive, and the setting is a pleasant place to dine.

NOTE: See another review in Clemton Park Shopping Village HERE and HERE.

Hombre Mexican Cantina
Shop 6, Clemton Park Shopping Village
5 Mackinder Street, Campsie
Ph: (02) 8731 0682

Hombre Mexican Cantina  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Koh Chang Thai Restaurant

Koh Chang Thai Restaurant is a glass box on the edge of the Clemton Park Village piazza. The name means Elephant Island, so it’s only appropriate that they’re serving elephant beer - Chang Lager ($5).

They’re currently running a special where you can consume two bottles of this refreshing Thai beer for eight bucks. You’ll like it if you like TsingTao, it’s also Germanic in style, but slightly maltier with a gentle grainy sweetness.

Koh Chang been open just three weeks, with staff explaining: “This is a new area, and it is a new area for a Thai restaurant." The all-Thai floor staff are just one part of a completely Thai dining experience that extends to a television screen showing footage of Thailand, Thai music, and orderly rows of imported Thai products sitting above the open-plan kitchen.

There’s bright orange Por Kwan Sriracha Chilli Sauce, Healthy Boy Brand Soy Sauce featuring a chubby young boy on the label, as well as jars of brined galangal and fronds of green peppercorns, and giant containers of squid sauce.

As soon as we show an interest – we’re keen chilli sauce aficionados – we’re presented with two bowls of dipping sauces. The garlic-heavy sriracha is a particular delight when blended with sweet and sticky Caramelised Pork Belly ($22).

This generously proportioned entrée is presented as a tidy pile of cubes of slow-braised pig, surrounded by thick cucumber slices to break up the sauce’s intensity. Without the chilli addition, I found the sauce a little on the sweet side.

Betel Leaf Prawns ($10.90/4) show better balance. The four prawns, which are flavoursome in and of themselves, are topped with a complex mix of roasted coconut, cashews, lime, ginger and red onion, and presented on betel leaves for wrapping. They’re a one-bite party in your mouth, that’ll make you wish they sold the clever topping in jars.

If you visit for lunch, they offer an all-in-one Thai 'bento box' style meal. Prawn Tom Yum Fried Rice ($15.90) presents a generous serve of prawn-dotted rice that’s tasty and compelling. Once again the prawns themselves are tasty, and gently handled. The rice dish is accompanied by a curry puff, a spring roll, a small amount of salad, and two juicy orange slices for dessert, making it a complete, satisfying lunch.

You’ll get to see those fronds of green peppercorns put to good use in dishes like Beef Pad Cha ($15), which is only available on their dinner menu. With thin slices of tender beef, it’s a colourful tangle of peppercorns, red chilli slices, yellow baby corn, green beans and galangal in a light, red curry sauce.

With them already doing a solid takeaway trade on the cold, wintery evening I visited, I have no doubt that Koh Chang's better than average Thai dishes will be well received by the new residents of Clemton Park.

NOTE: See another review in Clemton Park Shopping Village HERE and HERE.

Koh Chang Thai Restaurant
Clemton Park Village, 7/5 Mackinder Street, Campsie
Ph: (02) 8021 4327

Koh Chang Thai Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - La Provence Espresso Bar

Arthur Song and Janie Fu have owned La Provence for almost as long as they had their Crows Nest fine diner, S’Age Bistronomy. The fine diner launched on the day their son was born in June 2016, but sadly closed in April this year. With their attention freed up, they've just finished making some changes to this Lane Cove café.

Beginning last May, they gave the venue a spruce-up that included bright, aquatically inspired artwork by Christina Huynh from Brush Project. With a slight name tweak to La Provence Espresso Bar, Arthur and Janie re-launched the cafe in late June.

The new menu is an unusual blend of elements from the French-style patisserie it used to be, with a casual version of the intriguing French-Japanese cuisine they presented at S’Age Bistronomy. While here it’s owner Arthur in the kitchen, the dishes he’s cooking were created in consultation with his previous head chef - Tomoyuki Usui.

You’ll enjoy dishes like Poached Chicken ($20) from the same beautiful earthenware using the same thin, elegant cutlery that they used at S'Age. The nicely set slices of gently poached chicken are dotted with black sesame powder, and surrounded by a gentle broth. With the 'noodles' made from pumpkin and zucchini, this is a healthy dish that is also gluten free.

While Salmon Poke ($20) is very on-trend for Sydney right now, by switching out the rice for thin, soba noodles, and giving the diced orange fish a warm blowtorch kiss, they’ve taken the ubiquitous dish somewhere new.  After giving it a good stir, the combination of noodles, seared salmon, cooked pumpkin slices, avocado mousse, green leaves and freshly topped tomatoes (that wanted for a whisker of salt) eats better than the sum of its parts.

Now if you’d like your brunch to look a bit more like breakfast usually does, the Oat Porridge ($13) with fresh and poached fruit and a caramel quenelle of mascarpone eats very nicely. The collection of bright pink rhubarb, blueberries, vibrant red strawberries and dark cherries is particularly pleasing in winter when I always feel a bit fruit-starved.

With portions here on the small side, you’re left with room to indulge in selections from their patisserie counter.

I tried a tiny Lemon Meringue ($6) presented in a slightly too thick tart shell, and a wonderful vanilla-rich Custard Tart ($5.50) made on puff pastry that shattered in a very satisfying way. Everything here is made onsite, from scratch (no pre-mixes).

In the beverage department, you can’t go wrong with their well-made Single Origin coffee. It’s got chocolate and honey overtones when you enjoy it with milk in a Latte ($4.70) or Flat White ($4.70). You’ll also find the current café drink darlings – turmeric lattes, and third-wave coffees – but I urge you to skip them in favour of the White Chocolate and Raspberry Thickshake ($8). Made using freeze-dried raspberries, this creamy pink milk drink is a taste sensation.

La Provence Espresso Bar
8/50 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove
Ph: (02) 9418 9364

La Provence Espresso Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Platia Greek Taverna

Set in an open air corridor running between Top Ryde City Shopping Centre and the Top Ryde Library, Platia Greek Taverna is one of nineteen restaurants. What sets it apart from the rest is that it’s one of the only surviving independents in a highly competitive restaurant precinct that is dominated by chains like Hurricane’s Grill & Bar, Coco Cubano and Bondi Pizza.

Without the benefit of collective buying power, and the budget for cinema and radio advertising, most independents are defeated by the sheer brutality of paying turnover rent. It’s usually calculated as a percentage of daily takings (which doesn’t take into account costs) calculated by the shopping centre landlord who takes a direct till read from each restaurant tenant.

To survive capitalism at its most naked and scientific for three years, it’s evident that Platia Greek Taverna is doing something right.

As we quench our thirst with a Greek beer - Mythos ($8) - and an even better Cypriot cousin – Keo ($9), the easygoing charm of staff clue us in to one of the secrets to Platia's success: their people.

Finding it hard to choose between their mezedes (starters) we opted for a Mezze Platter ($16/head). Minutes after placing our order we’re tucking into a cold platter of dips and dolmades, accompanied by grilled pita bread. The taramasalata here is a particular winner; the faintly pink dip is gentle with a solid, savoury mid-palate.

Don’t fill up too quickly though - a second platter of grilled items arrives quickly thereafter. On it you’ll find Cypriot haloumi drizzled with olive oil, cheese stuffed mushrooms and a pile of loukaniko – country-style pork sausages. It’s a very generously proportioned entrée that represents good value for your spend.

The same generosity continues into a fat slab of Moussaka ($29) layering eggplant, thinly sliced potatoes, lightly spiced beef mince and fluffy béchamel that’s flavoured with nutmeg. This very honest, homely moussaka is well-suited to the 2012 Ktima Voyatzis ($45/bottle) chardonnay malvasia blend from Greece.

It’s a lightly floral and juicy fruit-driven wine that will also suit Mixed Souvlaki ($29).

Presenting a juicy grilled chicken and lamb skewer on tangy coleslaw with a pot of tzatziki, this dish also comes with compelling fat-cut chips. They remind me of the Greek fish and chips shops I grew up with in the suburbs.

When our Dessert Tasting Platter ($28) hits the table, I can see why staff jokingly explained: "Our motto is: you won't leave here and go to McDonalds." Despite already feeling stuffed to the gills, I studiously taste my way across the plate’s gentle galaktoboureko (filo pastry topped custard) and great, cinnamon-heavy baklava.

There’s also a gently aromatic walnut cake (karithopita) that’s made by the owner’s wife, though if I had a favourite it’d have to be elmek. Served in a glass, it’s made from layered baked shaved pastry (kataifi) with custard, cream and nuts, and despite being full, it’s intriguing enough to keep my spoon returning. If friendly staff offer you a nip of Skinos Mastiha liqueur to help kickstart your digestion, take them up on it! It’s actually a very soft and beautifully balanced spirit that tastes of pine resin.

We leave Platia with a smile on our faces, and an understanding of why this independent has won over the people of Ryde despite stiff competition.

NOTE: Read another review of a restaurant inside Top Ryde Shopping Centre HERE.

Platia Greek Taverna
109-129 Blaxland Road, Ryde
Ph: (02) 9807 3000

Platia Greek Taverna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Pizza Autentico

We’re seated around a long communal table that’s lit down the centre. The bulk of our dining companions are aged between twenty-five and thirty-five, and from the conversation, many are post-grads in entry-level positions in accountancy firms. Even if you choose not to talk to anyone else, eating at Pizza Autentico feels convivial on a cold, wintery Tuesday night.

Over a floral Monte-Mule ($16.50) with Montenegro Liqueur balanced by ginger ale and lime, and a cut-price Aperol Spritz ($10), we celebrate happy hour by drinking in snippets of conversation.

Our host, Jonny Allen, flips our tokens to green and we’re hit by wave after wave of thin-crust pizzas.

There's pepperoni, mushroom, four cheeses and spicy sausage, followed by a more unusual spinach and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The pizzas are interspersed with bowls of pasta served on the softer side of al dente.

Moving on to Birra Ichnusa ($9), we try farfalle, (bow-ties) with a cheesy, mushroom sauce, and rotini (spirals) with mushrooms and light tomato sauce.

Gnocchi Gorgonzola remains a favourite, and, even if you’re full, if the cheese, bacon and pea pizza comes ‘round, you should stretch to fit in a slice.

New to the Pizza Autentico menu are salads, priced separately to your all-you-can-eat spend. We share Burrata ($15) and enjoy the indulgent creamy white cheese oozing over sliced Roma tomatoes. Salad is a nice contrast to the carbohydrate-heavy feed.

With my token firmly locked in pause barely forty-five minutes into our ninety minute All You Can Eat ($20/head) six o'clock sitting, I idly watch a couple on the other side of the table take turns juggling a baby as they each eat their fill.

For us isolated inner city types Pizza Autentico offers up the experience of family without the anxiety of actually having one. Better yet: they’re in the business of making people both happy and full, for a very affordable price.

Pizza Autentico
15 Brisbane Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9267 9992

Pizza Autentico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato