Rey Jr- Haymarket

We only needed a working day in between Christmas and New Year’s to score a table at Rey Jr’s!

Ever since Rey Jr opened its doors on Little Hay Street, we’ve been cruising by trying to spy a free table. But to date, no such luck…But it took a Friday afternoon in between Christmas and New Year’s, for us to score an available table, allowing us to try the ‘express’ version of Darlinghurst’s full menu from Rey’s Place, serving up modern takes on traditional Filipino food.

An outdoor menu enables you to review what’s on offer before you step foot into their hole-in-the-wall store, before you make your orders at the bar. We ordered the Sisig ($16.00), the Ginataang Gulay ($14.00) and the BBQ Corn Coblette to share ($7.00).

We occupied one of the small tables for two at their doorway, and the first thing which stood out for us was how friendly the staff were and how their music selection was right up my alley (2000s Rap/Hip Hop). In less than 10 mins our small share arrived.

The corn on the cob was cut into slender quarters, making them super easy to handle and to eat! As advised by our server when he placed the tray before us, the BBQ corn cobs were also super buttery – hence the need for extra serviettes, and they were dusted with a light coating of chilli powder. Within 4 minutes I had consumed my share of the tasty corn fingers, and meanwhile our rice bowls had arrived.

I started off with the Sisig – twice cooked pork belly with a salty sweet flavour profile. The meat was cut into small pieces, so you were able to easily scoop up a forkful of meat, rice, and pickled veg all in one mouthful.

Meanwhile my wife started off with the Ginataang Gulay- a selection of vegetables (pumpkin, okra, beans, and eggplant) cooked in coconut cream. It was sweeter than it was savoury, and very creamy and filling for a non-meat dish.

Our verdict? 3.5 Stars from 5! (2 from 3 for Food (everything was tasty and ready to be consumed on the  go, thus making it a good take-away option for the nearby office crowd); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the server was super friendly which made our brief stay at their place feel like a neighbourhood affair); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the store is rustic and super small, but they play a cool Rap/Hip Hop playlist which might not be to everyone’s taste, and the tables are quite close together so you can hear every word from the neighbouring table); and 0.5 from 1.0 for Value for money ($37 for two for lunch is pretty standard these days, not bad while not being super economical either)).

We’re glad that we finally got to try Rey Jr, and got some Filo food back in our belly’s after a long absence (we hadn’t had Filo food since the Filo place above Mamak closed down a year ago). The food was good, while not being ‘blow your mind’, but we welcome this much needed variety in Chinatown! It definitely adds to the vibrancy of our town!

Rey Jr- Friday 27 December (3.0 Stars)

https://www.reysplace.com.au/reservations-2

PH: (02) 9361 5938

13 Little Hay Street, Haymarket

Mon-Fri 12noon – 3pm, 4.30pm – 9pm

Sat 12noon – 9pm

Sun 12noon – 4.00pm

Sweet Things- Purple rice yoghurt- Yomie’s Rice x Yogurt

Citymark Building, Shop G6, 683-689 George Street, Haymarket

So we’ve finally tried the original Purple rice yogurt by Yomie’s, after more than a year of avoiding it……well, avoiding lining up for it.

Ok, I had promised a long retraction article if Yomie’s original Purple rice yogurt turned out to be much better than what we tried at a copy-cat version of the Purple rice yogurt by ‘The Moment’ on Sussex Street. As at the time I had written a not-so-glowing review of the Purple rice yogurt fad. At that time, I had recoiled from the intense Greek yogurt-like drink, while my wife found it way too sour for her liking. But Yomie’s Purple rice yogurt?

It was definitely more like a drink this time, than like eating a tub of yogurt from a straw. The yogurt was a more liquid-y consistency, which was much easier to drink. And the purple rice was definitely a lot nicer than the copy-cat version’s, it was fresh and chewy (a good chewy), whereas last time it felt like eating day-old refrigerated rice. And the serving was just right, a good size for an accompanying drink, rather than feeling almost like a meal due to its heaviness in your gut ( click HERE to read the previous post re ‘The Moment’s version of Purple rice yogurt).  

However the yogurt from Yomie’s was perhaps just that little bit too watered down? If it was just that little bit thicker, I think it would have ticked all the boxes.

So in conclusion, here is my retraction post, I take it all back! I can see the appeal of Yomie’s rice yogurt offering, and it’s definitely at a consistency tolerable for most Asians’ lactose intolerances. If there aren’t any massively long lines, we’d definitely go back to try other flavours and toppings.

Gojima- Haymarket

GooooooJiiiiiiiiMaaaaaa!

So after teasing my wife for at least a month by whispering GooooooJiiiiiiiMaaaaaa in her ear every time we were considering what to have for lunch- we finally returned back to Gojima Haymarket, located in the 1909 Market City dining precinct, for some Japanese inspired burgers!

What can I say, I’m playful at times, but oh-so-annoying most of the time as well! Haaha. A number of weeks back we were bouncing around the city, looking for a place to have dinner on a Friday night and everything was packed out. One of our last options was to check out Gojima, and because they’re set-up like a take-away burger joint we were able to order our food and take that home to consume, as there was no available seating at the time. That first time my wife had the Gojima Stack (Cheeseburger with a crispy Katsu mushroom) – $16.90, and I had a Sushi burger (Salmon Miso burger- $14.90). And like most people who have dined at Gojima, our feedback was mixed. For me, I liked my Sashimi burger but it was very small for what you were paying for, if anything it felt like a snack rather than my main meal at dinner time. While my wife absolutely loved her Gojima Stack, calling it the best burger she’d ever had!

Thus the teasing re GoooooJiiiiiiiiiMaaaaaa, as I knew my wife wanted desperately to go back to have another Gojima Stack, while she was keen in having me try the Gojima Stack for myself – allowing the stack to change my mind re Gojima. So after riding the historic first day of Sydney Light Rail’s operations down George Street, we headed over to the 1909 Market City dining precinct for Japanese inspired burgers, take two.

Being a weekend and relatively early for lunch, this time we managed to get some seats and managed their dine-in experience – the place had a geometric concrete look to it, while my booth seat had no straight lines to lean back on. *Shrug*. No surprise, my wife ordered the Gojima Stack burger and so did I ($16.90 x2), and we shared a serving of regular fries ($4.90).

The wait for our food was only perhaps 10 minutes in length, and after taking their burger glamour pics I picked-up the Gojima Stack to put it through the ‘Big bite test’. And the amazing thing was that it failed the big bite test! But it was a good fail, as it meant that the bun stack was actually too tall for me to wrap both top and bottom teeth around it to make a clean first bite. Which is pretty surprising, considering how flat and small my Sushi burger from last time was.

The rice buns were held together by a piece of Nori seaweed, the rice burger buns were a great texture and it held together nicely, the meat patty was thick and juicy, although the slice of cheese was kind of lost in the mix, there were fresh pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and the star of the bun stack was the super fresh Katsu mushroom! The burger became a bit messy towards the second half, when the mayo and BBQ sauces were leaking all over the place, but Gojima were aware of this, as they provide you with a nice thick paper napkin and a wet wipe as well. So you’re able to walk-away with totally clean fingers (to then run those fingers along hangers of clothing in neighbouring Market City clothing stores if you so choose).

The fries were fried to order so when they came out they were super crispy covered in a green umami seasoning! However if you allowed them to go cold, the shoe string fries weren’t much better than what the Golden arches offer up to their customers.

At the end of our meal, I quizzed my wife on her repeat try of the Gojima Stack burger, whether or not it lived up to her expectations (you know, how sometimes things aren’t as good as you remember them to be?). She answered confidently that on the second go-around, the Stack was just as good as, or even better than the first time! Now that’s a pretty telling statement.

Our end verdict? 4.0 Stars from 5.0! (2.5 Stars for food (I think it highly depends on what you order, with the Gojima Stack burger, our opinion of the food and the freshness of the food is quite glowing); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were polite and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (they had a modern Christmas playlist going and if you can get a seat, they’re pretty comfortable); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money ($14.90 was a rip-off for what I had last time, but $16.90 for the much more substantial Gojima Stack burger, this was almost value for money)).

In the end, we welcome the opening of Gojima in Market City, as it saves us the trek to the Star to have our Japanese sushi burger fix. The produce they use in their meals are super fresh, but depending on what you order you’re left underwhelmed and hungry, or completely satisfied and dying to come back for more! Now that’s the perfect definition of ‘mixed feedback’.

Gojima-Saturday 14 December (4.0 Stars).

Level 3, 1909 Dining Precinct Market City, 9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket

   Mon-Sun 11am – 10pm

Boque Tapavino- Haymarket

Not the most Spanish of meals, but the potatoes were good though!

Ok, we can safely say that Sydney-siders all know about Darling Square now, as almost every eatery in the precinct is packed out, with lines out the door! So your best chance to get fed on a Thurs-Sat evening or Sat-Sun lunch-time is back in the Exchange – at one of the dozen take-away style stores.

Boque Tapavino will be the 7th store we’ve tried from the Makers’ Dozen thus far – serving up Spanish tapas style small dishes to share, grilled meats in main sizes, fresh seafood also in main sizes, and burgers and hot dogs for take-away or dine-in. Standing at the counter we unknowingly ordered from the take-away menu, although we were in mind to dine-in, so we ordered a Chicken burger ($12.00), and a Chorizo burger combo ($17.00).

If you elect to dine-in, they have their own roped-off seating area, providing full table service with what seemed to be unlimited top-ups of your tap water. After a short wait our food was served to us on proper plates with proper knives and forks.

We were wondering if their burgers would be a Bocadillo (Spanish baguette) or a burger burger, and it was a burger burger. Aside from a vinegary dressing on the tomato and lettuce, and perhaps a more smokey flavoured grilled chicken (it was a bit thin though), it was pretty much a standard chicken burger – not much to write home about unfortunately.

While my wife’s chorizo burger was more like it! The meat patty was pink – not because it was under-cooked, but it was a chorizo sausage which had been minced and then re-shaped and re-cooked as a chorizo meat patty. Paired with shredded purple cabbage, her burger managed to hit closer to the mark. And the stand-out for both of us were the baked potatoes! The potatoes were baked until they had a crunchy edge on all sides, salted with large-grained rock salt, and smeared with a mayo-like sauce – they were definitely moreish! And if you elected to upsize all your burgers into a combo, you would have all 9 pieces of tasty potato all to yourself!

Our end verdict, 3.5 Stars from 5! (2 from 3 for Food (66.6% of our food hit the mark, so 2 from 3 was a fair score); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were super attentive, each time my water dipped below the final third, he was back, topping up my water glass); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the Exchange will always get full marks from me for Atmosphere, and all the diners around us were having a great time!); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money ($12.00 for a burger without sides is pretty reasonable, and to make it a combo – 9 large chunks of potato was very generous!)).

In conclusion, I’m glad actually that Boque Tapavino’s bread and meat offering were not Bocadillos, as it means that we still have reasons to go back to Encassa Rapido for their awesome baguettes!  Boque Tapavino has a very vast selection of share plates and mains which we didn’t touch on, so we’d be interested to come back and try a proper sit down meal at Boque Tapavino when we’ve eventually eaten at all dozen stores and starting to repeat meals at our favourites.

Boque Tapavino- Saturday 9 November (3.5 Stars)

https://www.boque.com.au

PH: (02) 8072 8826

Makers Dozen Food Hall, the Exchange Building, 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket

Mon-Sun 11.30am – 10pm

Bad Hombres- Surry Hills

Vegetables have never tasted this good!

Ok! I’ve finally reached episode 62 of the Mitchen podcast- dated 16 May 2017! Now see, this is the problem with listening to the back-issue of foodie podcasts- as many restaurants have since closed down in the intervening years. And one of the restaurants I’ve been fruitlessly hunting down to date has been ‘Ghost Boy Cantina’, and finally today we’ve caught up with one of their derivatives which is still in business! Bad Hombres!

Located on Reservoir Street in Surry Hills, we didn’t care that their restaurant only served a vegan menu (although we’ve never knowingly elected to dine at a purely vegan restaurant before), as I personally was just so eager to try Sean McManus and Toby Wilson’s Mexican Asian fusion restaurant, we didn’t care that we weren’t going to have any meat tonight!

Although we didn’t have a reservation, the staff were so kind to make room for us on this Saturday evening. Not wanting to impede on their later evening  trade, we quickly made our selections ordering the Tortilla chips and salsas as a starter ($10.00), King mushroom Peruvian ceviche as our second small dish to share ($16.00), and The Cauliflower as our one large share plate ($26.00).

After we had our orders all squared away, we leaned back and took in the ambiance of the restaurant- it had a cool Surry Hills vibe to it, my wife compared it to the ambiance of Ze Pickle, you know that dark youthful vibe? Although it wasn’t even 6pm yet, the restaurant was still 75% at capacity and tonight’s music playlist (70s – 80s Aussie rock) reminded me of my high school days-  when one of our mates was old enough to drive, and used to pick us all up and we’d spend the day at the beach enjoying a good-old summer’s day in Sydney. *Sigh*.

Within minutes after placing our orders our Tortilla chips arrived. The chips were served in a large and deep bowl, while the 3 dips were served in a porcelain dipping line-up.

The Tortilla chips were unsalted, and the flavour came from the trio of dips. My wife’s favourite was the Salsa Verde (top), my personal favourite was the roast jalapeno guacamole (centre) due to its thick creamy avo, while the pico de gallo (bottom) was very good as well, nice and chunky and substantial! The serving of chips were so large that right to the very end, we were still munching on them.

The next to arrive was the King mushroom Peruvian ceviche. This was when we were reminded that we were at a vegan restaurant after all. But as Sean McManus mentioned on the Mitchen pod, just because a dish lacks meat, it doesn’t mean that it has to lack flavour. And oh boy, the Peruvian ceviche packed a flavour punch! I can’t remember the last time the flavour of food alone tasted this intense! The dish contained “leche de tigre”, with sweet potato, coriander, onion, corn and red chilli. Every element played their part to lend its flavours to the dish. Yeah, the ceviche was pretty sour with a healthy amount of lime juice, but I think it only primed the tastebuds for the sweetness of the sweet potato, the earthy flavours of the mushrooms, and the love-it or hate-it flavours of the cilantro. Personally, from the 3 dishes we had tonight, this was my favourite; while my wife found it a little bit too sour for her liking.

And the final dish to arrive, was the Cauliflower. The elements arrive deconstructed, so getting in with fingers you were able to construct your own tortillas, making them as jumbo or as lean as you wanted them to be.

Before constructing our first, we chose to try the cauliflower on its own, as we were so curious to see what it tasted like as it didn’t look like what you’d usually expect a cauliflower to be (it was pretty brown). But it was really tasty, the seasoning reminded me of this Chinese grilled fish dish my mum used to make, and again we were amazed in how flavoursome they were able to make veg to be! When we did construct our own tortillas we made sure each contained all of the elements i.e. cauliflower with seaweed salt, cashew cream, salsa verde, coriander and onion-  all wrapped up in the corn tortillas. And a special call-out of the texture of the corn tortillas, it had this tougher/chewy texture I hadn’t come across in tortillas or wraps before, and from a textural point of view this pleased my teeth. Haaha.

And as hard as we were trying to be in-and-out (so whoever had originally reserved the table we were hanging off weren’t impeded by our presence), there was honestly so much food that it still took us over an hour to finish our meal. And who knew you can feel this full and satisfied from vegetables alone?

Our end verdict, 4.0 Stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (everything was so tasty, and in the end to ensure that all elements did not contain any trace of meat, poultry or dairy, Sean and Toby had to think outside of the square- so big ups that they were able to make the food so tasty while we never felt like we were lacking in anything); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were very kind to accommodate us as walk-ups, and our waitress was really cheery although it was a pretty busy night for them); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (a cool relaxed Surry Hills vibe was the feeling I left with); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money (we could have easily given it the full 1 for Value, but knowing how much the per kilo price is for mushrooms and cauliflower, it’s hard to disconnect your mind from thinking how many heads of cauliflower you can buy for $26)).

In the end, Bad Hombres was a real nice change-up for us, where we’ve been so used to eating Asian food down in South CBD/Chinatown. I’m so glad that we got out of our comfort zone and tried something new for a change, and super glad that I finally managed to try one of Toby Wilson’s creations! I’ll def be spreading the word to my vego friends… that matter….. To anyone who cares about food that there is this awesome Mexican Asian fusion place in Surry Hills serving up tasty vegan dishes! Veg has never tasted this good!

Bad Hombres- Saturday 2 November (4.0 Stars).

https://www.badhombres.com.au

PH: 0410 191 441

40 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

Tues-Sat 5pm – 10pm

Sun-Mon Closed

Cafe Rumah- Surry Hills

Come on down! There’s plenty of room at Café Rumah!

A couple of months back my wife was catching up with a girlfriend for brunch and they wanted a café recommendation from me – so I naturally whipped out my ‘Dining List’, a spreadsheet of all the restaurants  and cafes I’ve yet to try, and sent her a list of 5 to choose from. The one which they opted for was Café Rumah in Surry Hills, and after they came back, they were both raving on about how good it was – my wife eager for us to go back so I could try it for myself.

So fast forward 2-3 months and stuck for a lunch idea we headed into Surry Hills (it’s just crossing Elizabeth St), where I had my first taste of kopitiam meets café.

As we were walking up the hill, I asked my wife “Is there going to be room for us?” Being a Saturday lunch-time and all, and we didn’t have a reservation. But although they were doing a swift trade, there was still room for us, as the café occupied two front rooms of a converted Surry Hills terrace home. Seated on round wooden stools we studied the menu and ordered:

The 1AM Ramly Special ($12.00 +$3.00 to make it a double beef patty burger) – $15.00; Tom Yum Chicken Congee- $15.00; Rumah Special drink- $6.00; and Madeleine’s- $6.00.

Taking in the atmosphere of the place, it definitely felt like Surry Hills, we were definitely no longer in da city. As after all, we were sitting in a cafe which was located in a converted home. There was a lot of wood, wooden floor boards, wooden stools, wooden tables, and there was a long wooden staircase which led upstairs to the clothing store. Yeah, it was a café/clothing store. Eavesdropping on the conversation between the boss and her friends who occupied the table behind us, it sounded like Café Rumah had just opened up a clothing store in the Darling Square precinct, a female clothing store- while the one above us was purely men’s fashion.

The first to arrive at our table was our Rumah Special.

Rosewater syrup, milk and soda were the elements which made up our drink. It was nice and sweet from the rosewater, nutty and creamy from the milk, and effervescent from the soda. Mmmmm. It was nice, and quite a lot of drink in the end. We were passing it back and forth saying “No, no, you have the rest” but there was always too much for one to finish.

Then it was my wife’s Tom Yum Chicken Congee which touched down on our table. The last time, my wife’s friend ordered the congee and in a possible case of ‘food envy’- my wife ordered it for herself this time.

And in a deep bowl, she was served up a thicker style of congee, filled with chicken pieces, black fungus shreds, spring onion, and ginger. It was a little spicy – my wife ranked it as a 2 from 3 chilli level dish, but it was just at the right levels where it got the nose running a bit, but not to the extent where your tongue was on fire. All in all, a tasty home-style congee.

I was craving burgers today, as it had been a while since we’ve been going around Sydney doing our Burger Vs Burger challenge. And the Café Rumah burger looked like the ideal bun-stack to break the drought!

It presented itself as a cheeseburger-like stack, but where it differed from your regular cheeseburgers was the sauce – described as a ‘House seasoning’, but methinks it was a mayo which had a home made chilli sauce mixed through it. Everything was a bit compressed together, so it was a little difficult to tease out each element of the burger. But there were 2 slices of beef patties – each well-seasoned and tasted flame-grilled; a crunchy slice of cheese- which tasted like it had been deep fried; a really thin layer of omelette- almost paper thin; two thin slices of pickles- a bit lost in between the layers; a generous smothering of the previously described house sauce; and two thin layers of milk bun. It was served inside a paper bag- which it def needed as it was quite messy. But I had never eaten a burger which was so freshly constructed, have you ever seen a burger which gave off steam? All in all very tasty indeed, and very moreish!

And just as we were finishing up the last morsels of our mains, our madeleines were served up.

3 for $6, they were baked to order! Again steaming hot from the oven- with a smear of kaya jam on top to give it the South Asian make-over. They were good; not too sweet, buttery, and crispy on the outside!

Our end verdict, 4.5 Stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (Everything was very tasty, cooked and brought out to us piping hot, and I can’t wait to try more of their regular lunch menu!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all efficient and friendly); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (there’s something charming about eating in a converted home- it just feels so homely); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (everything was priced at a level we were happy to pay for)).

In the end, it’s a strong indicator of something special when someone dines here and they immediately want to bring back their friends (or significant other), or when you’re still eating and you’re already thinking about when can you come back and try more things on  their menu. They have an all-day breakfast menu, a lunch special menu (which changes all the time), and a regular lunch menu. And it’s a bakery as well, so a whole selection of baked treats for you to try! Plenty of room at Café Rumah- where you can experience for yourself what it means for kopitiam to meet café i.e. where East meets West! And after having your tummies filled, you can mosey on upstairs and check out 15sheets, the men’s clothing store- everything was 70% off today, pretty funky Ben Sherman -like clothing.

Café Rumah- Saturday 26 October (4.5 Stars).

http://www.caferumah.com.au/#cafe-rumah

Ph: (02) 9280 2289

71-73 Campbell Street, Surry Hills

Mon – Fri 7.30am – 4pm

Sat 9am – 4pm

Sun Closed