And it's the 200th! I've always been amazed by how big a part food plays in our lives and this blog has really just become a log of memories, all packaged in the form of food stories. That's 200 food stories shared, 200 memories captured, and all of them equally special to me. So here's to more food adventures and the good times that always come hand in hand.
like the idea of cafes and coffee shops - they always imply long
conversations and leisurely sipping coffee (or tea, whichever your
preference is). The great thing about it is that it doesn't even matter
what sort coffee shop it is - the same concept of slowing things down
applies whether you're in a kopitiam having roti bakar and white coffee
or a cappuccino at a cafe. I know I'm not alone when it comes to having a
soft spot for these places - for one, the queue in front of Reuben
Hills on a Sunday morning definitely confirms this suspicion.
61 Albion St
Surry Hills 2010
heard so much about the quaint little cafes (and their notoriously long
queues) in Surry Hills, we knew that we simply couldn't leave Sydney
without being part of what I think inspired the coffee/cafe scene in
Malaysia. We picked Reuben Hills based on a recommendation by a local
and arrived to join the queue mentally prepared for the wait. And yes,
we did wait - and for 45 minutes, no less.
cafe is the type that envelopes you as soon as you step in - the amount
of activity that goes on in such a small space is quite impressive.
all the hustle and bustle, they seemed to be able to calmly churn out
pretty cups of coffee - something which we really quite appreciated.
Smiles and happy faces in spite of the rushing around.
Chorizo grits with baked corn tortilla chips, queso fresco, beans and avocado
The Dirty Bird - spiced grilled chicken, tomatillo salsa, cheese,
pickles, chipotle aioli on brioche. Yes, I have to admit, we ordered it
because of its name.
Berkshire ham, manchego, rocket, tomato & red pepper chutney on rye
A cup of long black, dad's go-to.
A cappuccino that tastes as good as it looks - to add a spring to your step.
A "let's have dessert for breakfast!" type thick, creamy espresso and white chocolate shake for the young, and young at heart.
coffee made you want to sip and savour it slowly and the food, with
dashes of Mexican flavours here and there, made for an interesting
brunch. Sure, the wait for a table was rather long - but I think it just
goes to emphasising how Sundays are really just not meant for rushing at
all, especially if you're standing in queue catching up with a friend. What I thought was most interesting as a tourist, though, was how different "cafes" are in different parts of the world despite all centering around the same idea of coffee, bites and enjoying the feeling of having time on your hands and no, I've never seen an interpretation of the idea that I haven't liked yet (although, I think I would prefer there not be a queue ;)).
Since we were on a bit of a roll (pun intended!) already, we thought that it would only be right to pay homage to Miss Chu, Queen of Rice Paper Rolls.
Misschu CBD Tuckshop
501 George St/ corner Bathurst
Sydney NSW 2000
It took a bit of walking around and going up and down elevators to find the tuckshop - and it really is a tuckshop, with tall stools around the counter and a few kindergarten-student-high tables and stools for patrons. We were hungry, having spent a bit more time than we thought hunting down the place, and were ready for some hearty Vietnamese fare.
Tiger prawn and green mango rice paper rolls - a light, refreshing start to the meal, with none of that raw texture and flavour that one sometimes encounters in rice paper rolls.
Wagyu beef pho, which was the reason we went hunting for the tuckshop in the first place, despite Miss Chu's Rice Paper Roll Queen status. Generous amounts of beef and a mellow, flavourful broth made the hunt worth it.
Hanoi chicken curry, which reminded me of home.
Free range pork belly stew - tender chunks of pork belly, delicious gravy, greens and a fried hard boiled egg. This could have come right out of grandma's kitchen (and a Chinese one at that!) - I definitely wouldn't mind comfort food like that for a work-day lunch.
Vietnamese iced coffee, and a big grin.
Misschu is perhaps on the slightly pricier end of things, considering its a tuckshop, but food is honest and wholesome - enough to make a bunch of hungry travelers really quite happy.
One of the very first eateries to make it on our list of must-eats was Chat Thai. I must say, I was slightly surprised that an Asian eatery made it onto the list, and put it down to forward thinking - having a plan for when someone desperately needs a South East Asian meal fix at any point during the holiday. One only has to spot the queue as one comes up on the escalator to the 6th floor of Westfield to realise that I had gotten it completely wrong.
Shop 6002, Level 6
188 Pitt St.
Westfield Centre Point
I love Thai food for the same reasons I am always partial towards Indian cuisine - the clever use of spices, the bursts of flavour and those incredible aromas. We get led into the dimly lit restaurant without much of a wait, thanks to some strategising (early, early, early), and the first thing that hits you is how good the restaurant smells.
Som Dtum Thai - green papaya salad with peanuts and dried shrimp. If you go to Chat Thai and are only allowed to order one thing (although how a situation like that would present itself is beyond me), I reckon that this should be it. I've always liked the idea of the green papaya salad - something fresh and vibrant to get the appetite going but I've never had one quite like this before. It's incredible to be eating something familiar but only finally understanding it for the first time. Balance. The power of balance.
Another one of my favourites that evening, Gaeng Keaw Gai - chicken green curry. Back home, curries can be fiery, which is not necessarily a bad thing until it gets too fiery that it drowns out all the other flavours. I find Thai curries to be especially complex so while a bit of a kick is always welcomed, I'm always happy when the taste buds don't become too numb to savour all the thought that has gone into the dish. Oh, the joys of basil and kaffir lime leaves.
Bpla Raadt Prik - crisp whole snapper in garlic and chilli sauce. I liked this, not just because it came with a green papaya salad-like side but because they delivered on the expectation - crisp, yes, garlic-chilli accompaniment, so addictive I was eating it by the spoonfuls.
Gaeng Sohm Cha-Om Goong - king prawns and an acacia frond omelette in sour orange tamarind curry. Yes, we ordered this out of sheer curiosity - " omelette and curry" don't often get featured together, much less an omelette with acacia leaves. This rather comprehensive dish (egg, prawns, vegetables, sour, sweet, spicy!) was new and different, and in a good way.
We had some other dishes as well, including some Thai fishcakes (because I love fishcakes of any style) and greens (for a balanced meal, you know).
"Yes, just one, to share"
Sticky rice and mango - rice that packs a lovely, coconut-y flavour and slices of sweet, juicy mango. We'd had the foresight to save space for dessert but I think we could have done with just a tiny bit more space for a bit more of this.
I always enjoy sitting down to a meal with no expectations and being pleasantly surprised - it's almost like being presented with a surprise gift, one that just gets better and better as you unwrap. Chat Thai made me feel that way - and nothing beats that, especially while on holiday.
I thought I'd kick off the new year with a dessert-y post - because what's better than a bit of chocolatey warmth and fuzziness for the new year, right?
We were delighted to discover that Sydney is almost overflowing with all that warmth and fuzziness - the city has a remarkable amount of chocolate cafes and all of them equally enticing.
Max Brenner, Westfield
When a Chocolate Drinking Ceremony is featured on the menu, you know that you're in good hands.
We'd had a particularly difficult time looking for a place for dinner that evening, having overestimated the opening times in the middle of the city so Max Brenner seemed especially comforting after our rather rushed meal at the Westfield food court.
A sight for sore eyes (and tired legs!) - a hug mug of hot chocolate.
The chocolate souffle, with a healthy dollop of vanilla ice cream.
The Spectacular Choc-Fudge Brownie Sundae, which came topped with crunchy caramelised pecans to provide some extra texture. Beware - melted chocolate served on the side extremely addictive, even after all that ice cream.
So yes, come rain, come shine, come early closing hours - chocolate always knows how to make you feel better.
The Lindt Chocolate Cafe, Darling Harbour
The Lindt Chocolate Cafe overlooks the marina and has a lovely atmosphere on a summer's evening - yes, it has a lot going for it, and we haven't even gotten to the chocolate yet. We had just caught a pretty spectacular display of fireworks, leaning against the banisters of Pyrmont Bridge after an early dinner. It had already been a lovely day out but the cherry on top of the cake was a long overdue catch-up session with an old friend over some chocolatey treats at the end of the day.
Hot chocolate, not in a hug mug but equally comforting.
A chocolate milkshake big enough to share, though you might just want it all to yourself.
A slice of the Opera - with some gorgeous dark chocolate action going on.
A little something with a mild zing of cherries.
The amazing thing about food is how it always takes you on a journey, and very often, down memory lane. The Lindt Cafe brought back happy memories of carefree days spent in Eastern Europe, and of silly adventures involving bicycles and boxes of half-price desserts. Gleeful memories like that, coupled with the familiarity of an old friend - truly happy times.
So here's to you, and to the new year - may it be filled with happy times like these, good company, plenty of hugs, lots of warmth and more food stories to share.