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Event - Sydney Korean Festival

There sure were a lot of politicians in attendance at last month’s 2018 Sydney Korean Festival. Representatives from all tiers of Government flocked to Tumbalong Park to pledge allegiance to the importance of Australian Korean business relationships. I just went for the snacks...

Well, to be fair, I’m actually fascinated by Korean food and culture, and have been a regular attendee at the Korean Cultural Centre for many years. Volunteers at the well-attended event included many of the centre’s Korean language students, who formed a brightly clad honour guard, tasked with directing VIPs to their allocated seats.

I was more interested in checking out the food stalls. The ring of stalls offered up a collection of highbrow and lowbrow Korean dishes.

We saw everything from Korean-inspired fusion dishes like Korean tacos (Korean Mexican) and Korean bao (Korean Vietnamese) to the street-food mainstay, Korean fried chicken.

You could also pick up more typically Korean dishes, like fishcake (eomuk) slathered in gochujang by G & A Foods. Having already encountered this outlet at the Burwood Festival (they also own Tori in Chatswood) I found their products too hard to resist.

With the sun beaming down and no trees for shade in this newly redeveloped part of Darling Harbour, beverage outlets were particularly popular. Oishi Japan Australia – a media company - worked the young crowd’s interest in Instagram-worthy items using drinks served in light bulbs.

We eschewed the pricier plastics for ordinary cups, but enjoyed our tart and fragrant Yuzu Lemonade ($5) and earthy Iced Matcha ($5) regardless.

With our lunch supplied, it was a bit torturous to wander the stalls, seeing everything from chewy tteokbokki (rice cakes) to kimchi fried rice to japchae (glass noodles made from sweet potato) being prepared and served to hungry attendees.

After a barrage of speeches running from Mr. Sangsoo Yoon, the Consulate General of Korea, to a tardy Jodi McKay, Member for Strathfield and NSW Shadow Minister for Transport, we adjourned to the umbrellas for lunch.

Colour me surprised that my favourite part of the day wasn’t the sushi lunch, but the amazing Taekwondo demonstration presented by Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo Headquarters.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – they’re the organisation that sets the global standard for Taekwondo, and are tasked with preserving the martial art's history, and sharing the spirit of Taekwondo beyond Korean shores. Their students flew through the air with a lightness I’ve only seen in movies; doing so at heights that I assumed were only possible using hidden wire work.

We wrapped up the day with Korean rice cakes, made using rice flour, salt and sugar, and topped with sweet white kidney bean paste and cream cheese. The flowers were flavoured with sweet pumpkin and purple taro; while the cakes themselves had a unique, almost sponge-like texture, without containing any egg.

Sydney Korean Festival 2018
Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour


Travel - Bao Brothers Eatery

You’ll find this grungy but hip Taiwanese-inspired bao house on Hunter Street, Newcastle’s main commercial thoroughfare.

It’s at the western end of the central business district in Newcastle West, where street parking seems a bit easier to come by.


While the front room feels a bit fast food - dominated by a counter, and encircled by stools facing a narrow eating trough; there’s also a long bamboo and Astroturf corridor, and a booth room, that both have a bit more atmosphere.

We opt for the latter, and are soon tucked into a low-lit booth in a small room that has been given a nicely lowbrow makeover with exploitation film posters.

While I was surprised to not be able to order an alcoholic drink, it does make sense that the city that first instituted lockout laws a decade ago, also handicaps new businesses with the same slow licensing approvals we have in Sydney. The ‘Newcastle solution’ is after all, what Sydney’s unjust lockout laws were based upon.

Despite this local lads David Griffin and Nathan Martin have tried to keep drinking interesting, offering up tart House Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soda ($6) and a Bubble Shake ($7). The shake is milky, creamy and big on vanilla, with caramelised white chocolate, super soft tapioca pearls and miso. I just would have preferred it to arrive a lot colder, and not in disposable packaging when I'm dining in.

The menu is short, and obviously centres upon Taiwan’s most famous street food – gua bao. While bao may be well on the way to replacing the taco on Sydney menus, not all bao are created equal. You’ll find the steamed buns here to be softer than most, and wrapped around an interesting selection of contemporary fillings. Soft Shell Crab ($8.50) teams crisp crab with fermented chilli jam, pickled green paw paw and Kewpie mayo. It’s good, but the Beef Rendang Croquette ($7) from the daily specials list is even better. Inside the crumbed croquette, you’ll find long strands of tasty, pulled rendang beef. It's nicely accentuated by charred onion puree, fermented sambal and fresh herbs, but if you want more heat, you’ll also find two types of sriracha on the table.

You probably want at least two bao per person, and you’ll still be able to handle some snacks. The Woodear Mushroom Spring Roll ($4/each) is a particular winner. The soy mayonnaise has a nice savoury middle, and wood ear fungus scrubs up as a flavoursome treat inside.

Crispy Korean Rice Cakes ($7), or tteokbokki, are coated in a watered down version of gochujang (red chilli paste). While they have the same compelling texture (the rice cakes are chewy) they lack the spicy interest of the Korean original. You’ll have to lift your game, Newcastle, and allow Bao Brothers Eatery to make them much spicier!

Bao Brothers Eatery
701 Hunter Street, West Newcastle
Ph: (0421) 550 997

Bao Brothers Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - The Junction Coffee Co.

The P&R logo remains etched into the wooden table numbers; and bags of Pablo & Rusty's coffee still line the shelves at The Junction Coffee Co. It’s refreshing to see the new owner, Pritesh Patel, only changed the things that needed changing, after taking over this former Pablo & Rusty’s spot.

The hip, mock-industrial surrounds have also been left unaltered. Don’t scratch your head too hard about what repurposed industrial items you’re dining on when you sit down at the communal table inside the small space.

The two level zinc-clad table is actually a custom-build by Contempo Furniture. Designers Giant Design clearly didn't want to trouble themselves with the whole repurposing caper. I will say that the warm orange glow emenating from inside the  dangling rusty metal milk crates, and rows of custom-made milk bottle lights, do give the metallic workshop-like interior some warmth on this cold, wintery day.

With the strong emphasis on takeaway - the café sits in Lane Cove’s popular outdoor plaza which offers up plenty of places to dine – The Junction Coffee Co. operate with an order at the counter system.

While you’ll find the bulk of the café’s menu written on chalkboards over the counters, you'll find the daily specials seem to be only written onto plates located on the front counter.

With the temperature low, the Shakshuka ($16) special proves irresistible, before I remember I actually came here to eat one of the café’s abundant breakfast boards. Having only seen them in photo form, I take a stab and order the Meat Board ($19), but it’s curiously disappointing.

I feel like this would be better served on a plate because it’s a pretty standard breakfast,” my dining companion says with a slight frown. She’s on the money – the unused real estate of the platter takes away from generosity, despite it containing a decent amount of bacon, mild chorizo, freshly sliced tomato, and pair of poached eggs on twin slices of unbuttered toast. Even our communal table neighbours break the social contract to exclaim surprise on the sheer size of the plate.

The shakshuka on the other hand, served in a two-handled cast iron pot on a much smaller wooden board, is much better. It’s with a single slice of toast that someone’s whispered the word butter to, but the spicy tomato stew is well balanced and compelling. I get harissa and a hint of cumin, plus the more obvious onions, garlic, capsicum and – a bit left field – mushrooms (but they work). There’s also more grilled mild chorizo (I mind it being mild less in this dish because the underlying stew has some spice), feta, and a pair of poached (rather than baked) eggs, which is also non-standard. I suppose it does ensure those yolks stay runny. Authentic or ad-lib, it is a tasty, winter appropriate breakfast dish.

As you'd expect, the Pablo & Rusty’s coffee, across both a standard Latte ($3.50) and an 80g Cold Drip ($5) sourced from Kirimiri, Kenya, continues to drink well.

The Junction Coffee Co.
The Plaza, 13 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove
Ph: (02) 9418 8005

The Junction Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Solander Dining & Bar

Even with the addition of coloured lights, the West Hotel Sydney cuts a modest profile on Sussex Street. Despite being a Hilton property, it doesn’t immediately shout hotel. Part of that is the property's size – at just 182-rooms, it’s not huge – and part is attitude. Opening in January this year, West Hotel Sydney is the first of Hilton’s Curio Collection properties to open in Australia. It forms part of a global collection of more than sixty hotels that have been assembled with an emphasis upon personality and unique character.

At the front of the hotel you’ll find Solander Dining and Bar. It’s a dark and moody space that really belies being a fancy hotel’s lobby bar and restaurant. The Woods Bagot interior is inviting, offering up plump, solo settees for a spot of window-side drinking, or comfortable, round-backed chairs, tables and banquettes where you can engage more deeply with Head Chef David Vandenbeele’s menu.

In my case, the well-cushioned chairs were just the ticket for escaping the rain, and unwinding into a glass of the 2016 John Duval Marsanne Viognier Roussanne ($13).


The restaurant is named for the first fleet botanist, Daniel Solander. In coming weeks Vandenbeele intends to incorporate botanicals into his winter menu. On this rainy night, I suffice with some sliders. Vivid Sliders ($16/3) is a special running until the end of the twenty-three night light festival, which happens this weekend. Each burger has a different coloured bun and filling. The best of them is called The Roo, and contains a kangaroo patty decked out with beetroot relish, blue cheese and pickled cabbage ‘slaw. You’ll also get a pork and chorizo slider with spice barbeque sauce, Swiss cheese and caramelised onion; and a slightly less inspiring chickpea burger with avocado salsa, cheese and pickles.

Behind the bar, Matteo Rosini, is already playing with plants. While obviously also a star behind the bar making cocktails, Rosini explains: “I prefer to be in the back room experimenting and making things.

That's not really surprising; the Solander kitchen has some whizz-bang technology, including sous vide and a Polyscience Rotary Evaporator – that allows Rosini to create fresh concentrated essences out of herbs, fruit and vegetables.

Rosini explains excitedly that he can even distill chillies so that the hot part – capsaicin – is left behind, providing an opportunity to really appreciate the chilli’s flavour. He slips me a macadamia essence to try, that has been made on Spirytus, a Polish pure spirit, before we get into the real business at hand - road-testing two cocktails inspired by Vivid Sydney.


We start with Purple Reign ($16), a cocktail made using 3-year-old Havana Rum. “We decide to make a Mojito profile but with blackcurrant,” explained Rosini. He’s kind of underselling the icy purple cocktail garnished with mint leaves and fresh raspberries. The rum is blended with blackcurrant cordial, fresh lime, mint leaves, soda water and topped with a foam kept stiff using blackcurrant and thyme syrup, egg white and lemon. It's a bit more interesting, and lot less acidic, than a summery mojito.


More to my personal taste, The Nebula ($16) is a Beefeater Gin affair.

Green Chartreuse and whiskey barrel bitter add intrigue; roasted beetroot syrup give the drink an earthy middle; while black and green pepper bitter and lime add some top notes.


The drink is shrouded in a cloud of rosemary fog (poured at your individual table) and garnished with a beetroot and toffee shard. It drinks very coherently, and makes me want another. It also makes me want to explore their regular cocktail list.

With Vivid Sydney ending on Saturday 16 June, you've only got a couple of days to get down to the West Hotel Sydney to take advantage of these specials. I'll be heading back to give the Solander menu a good going over soon.

Solander Dining & Bar
West Hotel, 65 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8297 6500

Solander Dining and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - William Blue Dining

Framed in the window onto George Street, we’re seated in what was formerly Rockpool’s top table; right where the savvy restaurateur would tuck his celebrity diners, showing them off to passing foot traffic. These days it’s the home of William Blue Dining, the training restaurant for the William Blue College of Hospitality Management; a practical classroom where their students get to hone their skills and showcase their talents to paying guests.

Replacing art on the restaurant's walls you’ll find glossy graduate posters of their alumni, who now hold positions everywhere from Rydges and the Park Hyatt, to head chef at House of Crabs.


As a diner, William Blue Dining offers you the chance to eat a three-course meal in a fancy setting at a mere fraction of the price you’ll pay in Sydney’s other fine diners. Three Courses ($43/head) is pretty hard to beat. What makes it all the more incredible is the fact that you're eating the same Pepe Saya butter and Milly Hill lamb cutlets, that the big hitters are serving. There’s also good value to be found on their wine list, which ventures beyond the standards, into interesting drops like the 2016 Radford Dale Chenin Blanc ($62) from Stellenbosch, South Africa. Citrusy with a lick of salt and minerals, there’s a subtle hint of malolactic fermentation that keeps this wine interesting until the last drop.

It also makes it a cracker of a wine for seafood, like the delicate Spanner Crab and Prawn Rémoulade ($13) dished up with samphire (a beach plant), smoked mussels, pickled kohlrabi and shellfish espuma. (Don’t get intimidated by the culinary terms - espuma is just another word for foam.) Vinegar from the pickle and low acidity works to give this cold seafood and creamy rémoulade dish a seasonally appropriate feel. It enlivens the palate and gets your stomach ready for more wintery excesses.

Sweet Corn and Lemongrass Soup ($10) poured over pan-seared scallops is delicious. While my tongue finds some cheeky cuts in the scallops where the chef has checked whether they’re fully cooked, it’s a lack of cooking confidence that you'll find replicated in many of Sydney’s fully-fledged restaurants.

Rather than trend-based or fashionable, the dishes at William Blue Dining are designed to teach the students specific cooking techniques. The floor staff should be able to explain any words you don’t understand in layperson’s terms, and it’s a good exercise for them to answer questions. With the Pan-Roasted Duck Breast ($20) you’ll find a textbook leek and mushroom pithivier (pie) made with tasty rehydrated porcini mushrooms and flaky pastry. There’s also a parsnip fondant, where the humble parsnip has been shaped and slowly browned in butter and stock until it’s glazed and full of flavour. The French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) are also beautifully cooked.

Roasted Milly Hill Lamb Cutlets ($20) arrive juicy, pink and nicely presented. Lamb shoulder rillettes add some intensity to the dish that is broken up by the confit tomatoes, crisp cauliflower and gentle jus.

This dish wants for a side, and the Lyonnaise Salad ($7) answers the call admirably, with springy mixed green leaves, crunchy coutons, crisp bacon and a perfectly poached egg.

Break up the egg and mix it through the salad to give it some winter weight. The watercress is a particular standout, as is the sharp vinaigrette that cuts through the richness like a knife.

The kitchen here, as I observe on the path to the quaint bathrooms, is spotlessly clean. No mark, no smears, no handprints appear anywhere on the shiny metal pass.

The kitchen is also excellent at portion control: the entrée left me hungry for more, the main was filling but not so big I didn’t enjoy my side, and my Pecan Pie ($10) was dainty and delightful. The moist pie was served with a curl of pumpkin spice ice cream, and a cloud of whipped buttermilk cream, capped off with candied pecans.

You want it with the Turkey Flat ‘Pedro’ Ximenez ($10) from the Barossa Valley. This Aussie dessert wine has a wonderful nose – I could smell it for days – but drinks with less intensity than its Spanish cousins. With the pecan pie it brings up cookie dough flavours, adding to an all-round American adventure.

Friendly staff – our waiter’s name was John - encourage me into trying the 2012 Singlefile Botrytis Riesling ($9/glass) from the Great Southern. It’s got a petrochemical nose and tastes of honey, making it way too sweet for me; that is, until I start eating my dining companion's Orange Savarin ($10). This puffy little, booze-soaked cake with marmalade ice cream, dehydrated citrus and candied kumquat entices me into loving the wine. I enjoy every last bite. As I mentioned before, the portion control (a chef’s key to profitability) here is really on point.

William Blue Dining
107 George Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9492 3290

NOTE: See a previous review for this venue HERE.

William Blue Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Fujimi Dorayaki

Getting lost in a foreign city strokes all the senses. Smell, sight, sound and taste are all stimulated as your brain scrambles to get a handle on everything you’re experiencing. Walking through Burwood Chinatown is almost as immersive as travel. Running deep into the block behind Burwood Road, this arcade of excitement busts through the usual food court boredom with an interesting collection of hawker style outlets arranged as you'd normally find them. They allow you to easily move between steaming bowls of malatang at Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang to soup-filled xiao long bao at Yang’s Dumplings, as you weave past colourful kiosks. If you brave the back lanes you’ll also discover hidden pockets of seating, large murals and giant metal transformers, to pose with or ponder, as is your personal proclivity.

Having just stepped out of Chir Chir with my belly filled with a hefty amount of Korean fried chicken, sugar was my only craving. Dajianchen’s puffy Hong Kong style egg waffles looked a bit hectic, so I spent my money at Fujimi Dorayaki.

Dorayaki are Japanese snacks where two little curved pancakes are sandwiched together around sweet azuki (red bean) paste. The pancakes are made from castella or Japanese sponge cake, and are pretty filling, especially when the filling is applied and they’re sandwiched together.

At Fujimi Dorayaki they’ve expanded the filling range to include everything from Nutella to purple yam. You can also up the ante with a dorayaki ice cream sandwich, where a scoop of ice cream joins the filling between the two pancakes. We opted to try the original dorayaki in Custard Peanut ($3.20) and the less sweet bamboo dorayaki in Banana Nutella ($3.70).

Both desserts were made right before our eyes, with the pancakes heat stamped with the logo. They’re passed straight from the grill to the filling station, where they’re smeared with toppings and neatly glued them together.

The dorayaki are wrapped in individual paper bags, and handed to you while they’re still warm to eat as you explore the rest of Burwood Chinatown.


Fresh banana and Nutella went quite well with the bamboo pancake, though it was the creamy custard peanut on the original dorayaki that really turned our heads. I’m very tempted to head back to Burwood Chinatown for a progressive dinner…

Fujimi Dorayaki
Burwood Chinatown, 127-133 Burwood Road, Burwood
Ph: (02) 9715 2688

Fujimi Dorayaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Cucinetta

The city lights are sparkling on this clear winter’s night. Vivid Sydney has added an extra dimension to the panoramic view, and we brave the cold to pause outside Cucinetta to take it all in.

Perched on the edge of the Woolwich Lookout, the restaurant looks like a modern, glass-fronted box; however if you venture inside – and you should - you’ll find a warm, earthy space inspired by Tuscany.

Organic materials – exposed bricks, wood paneling and stacked logs over the kitchen pass – are softly accentuated with warm, golden light. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong softly croon their way through the Cole Porter songbook. Even staff look thematic, with white shirts and soft brown pants held up with braces, finished with bow ties and coppole (traditional Italian flat caps).

Led by the talented Restaurant Manager Lucio D’Amico, the well-dressed floor team shepherd us through an experience that feels more like a guided Italian adventure than it does a simple, midweek dinner. We begin with a collection of house-baked breads, and an even more compelling Piadina ($23) that sees a well of truffled honey encased in a coil of buffalo ricotta. The resulting blend is smeared onto herb and garlic flatbread for a clever appetiser that isn't overly sweet.

Honey and cheese are perfect with Prosecco – the 2016 Val D’Oca Prosecco Millesimato Extra Dry ($12/glass) – a frothy, dry drop with tiny bubbles that encourages me to slow down and relax into the languid pace of this restaurant.

In the kitchen, head chef and owner Vincenzo Mazzotta is a star.  He works to a modern brief while still keeping a firm grip on being Italian. His Tartare ($28) is a fine exemplar, inserting the Italianate into a French dish by employing the flavours of vitello tonnato – eye fillet beef and tuna aioli. Crispy onion and mustard cress add texture, as does charcoal bread so black the light seems to fall into it. We wash it down with the 2016 Greco Di Tufo Terre Del Vulcano ($13/glass), a sharp, salty seaside wine that, with the dish's earthy flavours, gentles into something more fruit-sweet.

Venturing all over Italy, D’Amico’s wine matches rise to accept the challenge laid down on each plate. With Mazzotta’s signature Gnocchi ($30), D’Amico takes us to his home region, Basilicata, with the 2012 Aglianico Del Vulture Re Manfredi ($100/bottle). Tannic with dark berries and green minty notes, the wine slices through the intensity of the rich Gorgonzola, melding with the aromatic pork sausage. The pillowy-soft potato gnocchi has a lightness that is hard to beat, and it sings against crunchy candied hazelnuts and wet bursts of fig. I am glad to only be splitting a portion with my dining companion, as this dish is fiendishly rich.

The kitchen also kindly carves up our Polpo ($31) to share, serving our long tentacle of Fremantle octopus across two plates. With a quenelle of smoky eggplant, 'nduja (spicy spreadable salami), semi dried tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, this is a loud dish, but there’s nothing that doesn’t belong on the plate.

Mazzotta shows he knows when to stop with Gamberi ($47) - Ballina king prawns grilled under chilli ‘nduja butter with a white wine sauce. The combination is assertive, but artfully centralises the perfectly cooked crustaceans.

It was around this time that D’Amico brought out my wine of the night – a 2016 Plotzner Weissburgunder (Pinot Bianco) St Paul ($75/bottle) – and I started wondering how hard it might be to get a table here on New Year’s Eve. The wine shows off what happens when an Italian winemaker plays around with German grapes - stewed spiced apple that starts sweet then dries up into a whisker of bitterness. New Year's Eve, incidentally, is $300 a head, and it is almost fully booked.

By this stage I’m pretty much full to bursting, so my dining companion’s Anatra ($39), a 16-hour sous vide duck leg passes as somewhat of a blur. I do recall all the Italian roast dinner trappings - apple puree, roasted carrots, little onions, brioche crumbs and sautéed radicchio – and I am sure I would have loved the dish if I had more stomach real estate.

Consider dessert here as pretty much unmissable. Through the wonders of the Internet, I had watched Mazzotta plate up his White Chocolate Semifreddo ($18) earlier in the day. The eye-catching plating had nothing on actually eating this strawberries’n’cream inspired dish. Macerated strawberries mingle with tart mulberry sorbet while shards of wafer-thin strawberry meringue shatter on your lips. It all plays out against a backdrop of premium quality fresh fruit and creamy, semi-frozen white chocolate mousse for a blistering finish that sees us off into the cold night buzzing and elated.

While there’s no escaping that Cucinetta charges premium prices, across all areas this restaurant really delivers.

103 Woolwich Road, Woolwich
Ph: (02) 9817 2125

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


Travel - Penny Whistlers Café

Revive the tradition of the Sunday drive this winter with a visit to Kiama and Penny Whistlers Café.

While ye oldie tourist trappies on Collins Street are looking a bit tatty, you’ll find Penny Whistlers’ clean, modern lines  overlooking Kiama Harbour and the green expanse of Black Beach Reserve.

Tables here are set side-by-side facing the epic view – it’s a different arrangement, but it tells you exactly where your attention should be.

The interior space has been personalised with aquamarine neon signage and living plants, that tie in nicely with nature’s colour palate of vivid blues and greens.

The biggest splashes of colour come on the menus, staff t-shirts and vibrant bathroom wall art, all the work of artist and muralist, Mikey Freedom. A South Coast resident himself, Mikey has done a lot of art around Kiama, so it’s nice to seem him as the artist of choice for this local business. The café’s name also has an artistic bent. Owners Pete and Cheree Henderson – a pair you might remember from coffee-focused Sydney venues like Allpress Espresso and Tiger Mottle in Paddington – called the café after a Vladimir Tretchikoff painting they bought together.


You’ll find Tretchikoff’s Penny Whistlers on the café's back wall. It depicts three African men, making it a bit of an exception for Tretchikoff, who is much better known for his kitsch depictions of Asian women, including Chinese Lady.


We kick off with cocktails to maximise those Sunday feels. Down in this neck of the woods, a Moscow Mule ($12) made on 42 Below Vodka, will set you back just twelve bucks. I’m equally happy with my slightly pricier Eye Candy ($15) that teams another New Zealand spirit, Lighthouse Gin, with elderflower liqueur, fresh ginger and lemon juice into a refreshing cocktail with a sharp gingery bite. It's garnished with a slice of ginger to make its intent doubly clear.


Burgers and beer are an obvious pairing, and spying a crafty drop I hadn’t tried on their short list, I made mine a William’s Organic Pale Ale ($8.50). Brewed in Bilbul by De Bortoli Wines, this American pale ale is pale in name and nature - it’s gently citrusy, gently malty and has just a hint of hops. It’s easily sessionable but being adults, we stop at one with the Whistlers Burger ($17). Served on paper in a basket with well-drained shoestring fries, this burger is a slightly messy milk bun affair dripping with a generous amount of 12-hour braised beef brisket and the café’s secret sauce. There’s Cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, and house-made pickles, but really it’s all about the well-handled brisket.

With breakfast stretching out all day, I’m lured into a second brekky with Zucchini, Herb & Haloumi Fritters ($18.50). The slightly gluggy fritters arrive under a poached egg and guacamole, plated like a garden with one of the most diverse, beautifully dressed, snapping fresh side salads I’ve ever had in a café. Or maybe the produce is just better in Kiama? I’m tempted to return on the fourth Saturday of the month, when the Kiama Makers & Growers Market is on, to find out.

Located directly across the road, it's perfect to team with a visit to Penny Whistlers Café.

Penny Whistlers
5/31 Shoalhaven Street. Kiama
Ph: (02) 4233 2770

Penny Whistlers  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Chir Chir

South Korea’s biggest restaurant chain, Chir Chir (pronounced Chi-re Chi-re) has landed in Burwood. It’s the perfect excuse for chimaek – the harmonious pairing of fried chicken (chikin) and beer (maekju). Yeah okay, there’s nothing particularly highbrow going on here, except perhaps the setting.

Chir Chir’s digs are part of Burwood’s new Emerald Square dining precinct, which, in and of itself, is worth a gander. The modern shopping centre sits at the base of a series of residential towers, and offers wide, open-air aisles of restaurants each with a picture menu to lure in diners. While part of the development, Chir Chir also has street frontage on Belmore Street, just off the suburb’s bustling main drag (Burwood Road).

The design cues are funky and youthful, running from graphically strong black, white and red logo chicks, to rows of white caged hipster bulbs hanging from blonde-wood ceiling pieces that also house recessed lights.

In case you don’t get the eat fried chook and drink booze cue, bottles of Chum Churum ($14) line the wood paneled wall, arranged in alternating flavours.

It’s a dilute soju (Korean spirit) that is easy to knock back with fried cheesy food because it cuts the fat. It goes even better with a Korean Hite ($6) beer chaser.

We eschew the lolly water flavours - strawberry, green grape, citron – for the unadulterated original, but pay our preferences no mind; we’re the oldest diners in the place.

Equally, the menu isn’t really pitched at forty-plus. Despite the picture menus, we struggle to assemble a meal that includes vegetables, much to the bemusement of hip, shoulder-shrugging staff who clearly don’t get asked that much.

We end up with Honey Grape ($14.80), which I can only describe as the kind of salad a fifteen-year-old stoner would dream up when faced with the munchies and a near-empty fridge. It looks like an ice-cream sundae, but under the firm, split green grapes, whipped cream and cream cheese, you'll find lettuce. I have no analogies, and no desire to create any either, but in a purely functional sense, this dish will cool your mouth after eating spice.

Fried Chicken Half Half ($35) gives you the opportunity to try out Chir Chir’s signature crispy fried bird against a garlicky or spicy rendition. We opt for spicy, which on first bite seems quite mild and sweet, but turns out to be a creeper.

I punctuate chicken pieces with forays into little pots of creamy corn and pickled radish.

The straight-up Korean fried chook has better skin than you’ll find at KFC. It’s dry, and avoids my pet hate - slimy insides - too. The test is the breast, and here you’ll find it has good spice penetration and just enough moisture. I'm also enjoying keeping my fingers clean using my own set of chicken holding tongs. The portion isn’t ridiculously big like many Korean places that seem to be pitched solely at large groups. For our table of two that’s a win because we hate food waste, but it does make the dish seem more pricy.

New Orleans Wings ($26.80) add a bit of cook-at-the-table fun to your evening. Well-charred New Orleans-style grilled wings arrive fully cooked on a bed of cheese, corn and rice. Your on-table burner is turned on and the three ingredients melt into a cheesy, corn-studded crust that you scrape off the plate and combine with sweet, charry wing meat.

You don’t even have to be young and stoned to think this one is a good idea.

Chir Chir
27 Belmore Street, Belmore
Ph: (02) 8937 2583

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


Review - Meet Mica

Rapidly approaching their first birthday, I dropped back into Meet Mica in Surry Hills to see what sort of difference a year had made.

Dangling gold baubles now soften the modern antler lights, and in the soft autumnal light, the bright gold sheen seems more muted, allowing your eyes to focus on the greenery outside.

A youthful and beautiful all-girl gang working in front of house and the kitchen serve me in the absence of stylish owner, Mica Chen.

Their warmth and enthusiasm makes me smile, as does my drink – My Cloudy Day ($6). Tucked down the bottom of the beverage list, it’s happiness in a glass with rose cream, strawberry and flowers sitting in a pink cloud above rumune (Japanese summer lemonade). I’m gently cautioned not to stir it too wildly, though given a serviette in case I (inevitably) disobey. Watching the two layers merge into a pretty, pink fizz makes my day.

Menu mate - Divine ($6) - sounds healthy, with tropical juice, cinnamon, coconut and turmeric, but drinks as easily as fruit cup cordial.

The winter menu has been updated with a Housemade Granola ($15.50). The toasty brown nutty granola is treated to the Meet Mica trademark Asian-fusion whimsy in the form of a fat white cloud of sheep’s yogurt foam dusted with strawberry crisp dust. There is macadamia milk passed separately in a little jug, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a good collection of caramelised banana, blueberries and strawberries to set it off. To my mind, it eats perfectly well without the additional liquid.

Also new to the menu is a Duck and Cha Soba Salad ($24). While this dish feels pricy, it’s a simple and likeable blend of moist duck slices, green tea cha soba noodles, rocket and mixed leaves that is very lunch-appropriate. While colourful radish slices and yellow tomatoes give the greens some visual interest, the salad and buckwheat noodles are united by a slightly too-subtle wasabi and lime dressing.

The highlight of my meal is an updated Eggs Benedict ($16) served on crispy fried bao for an Asian twist. Adorned with eye-catching tempura nori and a satisfyingly yellow slurp of yuzu Hollandaise, the golden bao are topped with miso butter bacon, wilted baby spinach and a soft-poached egg. Unusual add-ons, like a little pot of Crab Salad ($8), can tart things up even further.

The end result is tasty, and perfect for those cold winter days when you’re ravenously chasing carbs.

Meet Mica
Shop 5, 492-500 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8018 7370

NOTE: You can see my initial review of this venue back HERE.

Meet Mica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato