Tontaro Ramen Honten- Sydney CBD

Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

Ok, guilty! I’m behaving exactly like the quintessential Sydney foodie i.e. only dining at a restaurant because it’s new! (Meanwhile giving up on an opportunity to dine at a proven winner.) I posed this question to my wife the other day: “Now that we’ve eaten at a few places over the past months, is there a restaurant deserving of our repeat patronage?” And her answer was “Yes, Yasaka Ramen”. And instead my blogger mind processed ‘something something ramen’ (cause each meal must be a bloggable opportunity’ so I instead took her (in reality she took me) to Tontaro Ramen Honten- the latest ramen joint to join the already crowded Sydney ramen scene.

Tontaro Ramen Honten (or Tontaro Ramen Headquarters for those who are curious about the English translation) – is the flag-ship store for Chef Jun Toyoda (his best known store being O-san in the Dixon Street food court). His latest venture is to introduce to Sydney a different style of tonkotsu (soup-base), moving away from the thicker soup bases which Sydney-siders are more accustomed to, to a thinner soup-base but with the same level of flavour- thanks to using the more premium (and expensive) marrow-laden pork shin bones to create the broth. Admittedly I’ve only learnt all of this after dining at Tontaro Ramen Honten this afternoon, only learning of these facts while fact-checking for this post. This explains a lot of things. Haaha.

But before diving deeper into the food, let’s back-track to the start of the experience….. Tontaro Ramen Honten is a canteen-style restaurant situated on Sussex Street, nearish to the Sussex-Liverpool Street intersection. As soon as you enter the store you’re greeted by staff behind a service counter; inevitably there will be first-time customers standing off to the side studying the menus (i.e. us), as the ramen choices are varied and plentiful, and unfamiliar to most (because of Toyoda San’s aims to introduce to us a whole new range of soups!). After knitting my eyebrows in confusion with the majority of the menu, I settled on the Seabura ramen due to the promise of extra pork fat in the soup ($16.50), while my wife ordered the Stamina ramen ($17).

After making payment, head to the left hand portion of the store and find yourself a table in the adjoining canteen style dining area. If you’re dining alone, you can elect to dine at one of the solitary dining booths (picture a polling booth with partitions to your left and right), designed for folks who just want to concentrate on their noodles (although you can fold the side partitions back, revealing your adjacent diner-  just like ‘Perfect match’….. “You’ve heard them slurp, now meet Contestant number 1!”). But for those who aren’t dining alone, you can elect seating from one of 3 rows of closely packed in tables.

Table water is a self-service station, and in less than 10 minutes the service staff bring-out your bowls of piping hot Ramen on serving trays, thanking you for your patience. Arigatou gozaimasu.

The soup is like super piping hot, so after blowing on it to cool it down, I took my first taste………Hmmmm ,at first taste the soup tasted just like any other tonkotsu I’ve had in the past and the ramen was the thin variety (our personal preference is for the thicker noodle). The protein which came with my dish was chicken, which had been diced into little cubes, so I guess you can say our first impressions were underwhelming. And I was really really hoping that I’d like it! The stand-out element to the dish was the texture of the bamboo shoots ….. Yeah, not a good sign.  But the one saving grace for the dish, was the fact that as the shavings of pork fat had a chance to melt into the soup, the tonkotsu flavour became richer and more complex (the pork fat at first were white flecks floating on-top of the soup). Eventually I did chase down pieces of the chicken, but unfortunately due to their size (you can almost describe them as morsels), they were overcooked and tough.

Seabura ramen

My wife’s Stamina ramen was slightly different from mine, her soup was a darker colour, the chicken was shredded instead of being cubed, and her egg was a 60/60 egg (unfortunately cold at first) rather than the half hardboiled egg which I got. But even with those slight variations between our dishes, her evaluation was much like mine, the chicken was overcooked and tough, and the soup-base wasn’t remarkable. 

Stamina ramen

As we were nearing the end of our meals (almost 1.30pm) the place was at full capacity and there were people who had already made their orders and were hanging around waiting for tables to free-up. Not wanting to hog a table longer than necessary, we tried to eat faster but tell you the truth, this ramen actually felt like a bit of a chore to finish (also not a good sign, as when you have something good, you want more? Right? Not less. And the portions weren’t particularly large either). My wife commented at this moment that she had worked out why her dish was called ‘Stamina ramen’, as it took some stamina to finish it- so it wasn’t just me feeling this way!

In the end, you really can have too much of a ‘good thing’! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like the food was bad or anything but it was just unremarkable after the hype “A Deluxe Ramen Joint from a Chef with a Cult Following” was the title of the November 2018 Broadsheet article. When compared head-to-head with other Ramen stores, they just come off second, third, even fourth best! So for these reasons our end score is 3 from 5 stars (1.5 stars from 3 for Food (the soup was quite salty, so much so that we came home and downed a bottle of our home brew Kombucha, needing the acidity to break-down the salty taste in our mouths); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as all the staff were courteous); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as they were playing a Jamiroquai like album and the constant turnover of customers gave the otherwise plain restaurant life); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money ($17 for Ramen is getting pretty exxy, considering it’s just chicken and not a premium type of meat)).

Would we be back again soon? Unfortunately I don’t think so. Because the next time we’re in the mood for Ramen, there are 3-4 other places on the top of our list before we’d circle back to Tontaro Ramen Honten.

Tontaro Ramen Honten- Sunday 17 February (3 Stars).

PH: (02) 8317 6375

10-11 339 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW

Mon-Sun 12noon – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9pm  

Sweet Things- Orange You Glad to See Me- Bubble Nini Tea

180/8 Central Park Avenue, Chippendale NSW

Hey, funny how typos can inspire? Accidentally missing the ‘C’ off Chippendale, resulted in Hippendale! And that is what Chippendale has become, the hip place to open up a shop which has a fresh new take….. This time a fresh new take on Bubble tea.

I’m not counting, but I think Bubble Nini Tea has been around for at least 6 months now, we first went there within the first few weeks of their grand opening, and it has since redefined the concept of Chinese Bubble tea stores. The usual Bubble stores, it’s usually a small shop with a long counter; a bunch of people non-customer facing hurriedly mixing people’s tea orders; loud Asian pop music; and a cashier chick who is just going through the motions of taking your order and then taking your cash. But here at Bubble Nini, everything is chilled and relaxed, an oasis of calm. (I was tempted to place an exclamation point after calm, but that would seem shout-y, so calm, you only get a full-stop). This is what I mean by calm- The music was a selection which was at a slower pace cranked only to 30% volume; the staff were nearly Zen-like speaking softly when taking our orders; the shop was large and spacious with nice wooden floorboards; the store was fresh smelling from all the fresh day-old flowers; and even the AC was more refreshing than other AC units, it wasn’t cold but just right! I swear, their cash register till even had a soft close cash draw! Ok….. I’m probably exaggerating, the service girl was just so chilled and relaxed that she probably slid shut the reboundable drawer with just the right amount of force to close it, without making a clatter. Ah! So Zen!

Tonight, after a heavy protein-laden meal, and an after-dark search for LP’s Quality Meets, a refreshing Jasmine tea with seasonal fruits (orange, green apples and pineapple) was exactly what the gastronomic doctor ordered! **Note: $6.50 for medium size. The drink is actually called ‘Orange You Glad to See Me’, and all other drinks have similarly creative names, some word-plays cheesier than others. Hehehe. What was served to us was just the right amount of sweet, the tea taste was pure, and the fresh fruits lent just enough of their natural flavours to lightly flavour the drink. All in all, a refreshing beverage. And when you’re done, and if you have some cutlery on hand, you can cut the plastic seal of the cup open to consume the fresh slices of fruit at the bottom. Yum!

Our first time at Bubble Nini Tea, we had a milk bubble tea (Exhibit B). The stand-out of Nini teas is the fact that their pearls are handmade, and flavoured like its accompanying milk tea flavour e.g. pink strawberry pearls for the strawberry milk tea, Matcha pearls for the matcha milk tea etc. Bubble Nini Tea definitely worth your while when you’re down in Hippendale!

Fogo Brazilia- Chippendale

Just like a backyard BBQ, only crunchy! ……. And my word! Tastier!!

Isn’t Chippendale an interesting place to be at?! All the redeveloped and gentrified back-streets, in my opinion the hip dining precinct to visit. Tonight we took ‘The Goods Line’ (a pedestrian walkway which connects Darling Quarter to Ultimo – by-passing Haymarket) and all of a sudden you find yourself on the Chippendale side of George street (it was almost as efficient as the Harry Potter Floo network- now I want a path that connects our apartment to my workplace! OK, in reality it was an approx. 20 minute comfortable walk from South CBD).

Heading out tonight we didn’t have a designated restaurant in mind, instead choosing to get across to Kensington St and Central Park and just seeing what catches our fancy. Although the night was relatively young (6.30pm), Spice Alley was already swarming with people – most of the seating area already occupied by the early dining crowd. Emerging from the other end, we poked our head into Koi Dessert Bar, I had entertained the notion of having a dessert deg for dinner (let’s just say since I started to consume sugar again, I’m a little bit addicted to consumables containing the white powder), but for 4 courses at $65pp and the menu wasn’t all that helpful in describing what you might get (menu contained a list of ingredient’s within each creation, but it actually didn’t specify if it was a tart, cake, flan etc), so it seemed like a bit of an expensive gamble. And perusing A1 Canteen’s evening menu, the lunch menu right next to it seemed more enticing, so we’ll reserve A1 for a later Autumn’s day. Thus we passed on the crowded Kensington Street, and headed into Central Park. 

To this day Central Park (CP) still amazes me, at the start of the decade when I was still a uni student at UTS (just across George St from CP) I couldn’t imagine a modern mall like CP could ever be a reality. For the handful of years I was a student there, what stared back at us who gazed across the road was first an abandoned Carlton Brewery, and then a really noisy and messy construction site. The first time when a friend had suggested to meet-up at Central Park, we had to shoot each other a number of back-and-fourth emails to clarify where they wanted to meet as I knew of a Central Park in NYC, but where is Sydney’s Central Park? And I was quite surprised to see when we eventually got there, that the rundown industrial estate and then hole in the ground, had become this green architectural marvel.

  Once we were inside CP, we took the escalator down to the Lower Ground level where first there is a Woolworths; but after a few propulsions of your legs the LG area seamlessly transitions from indoors to out – the LG dining quarter presenting you with a number of options. Your dining whims can settle on Ribs, Burgers (or both), Ramen, Korean Fried Chicken, Cuban food, or Brazilian Churrasco. Because Fogo Brazilia appears in my ‘100+ Sydney City restaurants to dine at’, I naturally tried to manipulate my wife’s ‘What do I feel like’ decision process by raising at this point that I hadn’t consumed any meat in the last week (afterwards I had to retract that statement, as I did have 3 meals with meat in them in the past 7 days. Ooops). But she did decide on Churrasco! Woohoo! Finally I get to try Brazilian barbequed meat, to this point each time I’d suggested to dine at Braza, the standard response had been “No, it’s too much meat”, she had dined there once with friends, while I could only long for it, smelling all the tasty grilled meats each time we walk past.  

But what I didn’t know about Fogo Brizilia until afterwards (as I’m fact-checking for this post), is that Fogo is a franchised casual restaurant chain. I wonder, if I had known this detail in advance, would that have swayed my desire to eat there. When did the concept enter our subconsciousness that dining at a chain restaurant became uncool? But after reviewing the display menu out at the front of their store, you’re greeted by the friendly South American service guy behind the cash register and you make your order/payment there and then – and armed with your table number you can elect to sit inside or outside. We remained inside and as we waited for our grilled meats, we took in the store’s décor- the stand-out being the orange stools which were suspended from the ceiling.

But while we were dining there, you can’t help but notice how quiet business was for Fogo. Although it was 7pm on a Saturday night, all the while we were there, there were only a total of 5 dining groups. We and another table were the only ones dining inside, thus the modern pop Spotify-like playlist had to play a larger role in trying to mask how ‘dead’ it felt in there. It was clear that the staff (everyone spoke Portuguese – so at least it was authentic) were kind of just hanging around, waiting to kick-into action when more people arrived, but at least for the duration we were there, the customers just didn’t come (all of CP seemed quite quiet, in contrast to how bustling Kensington St was). So as our orders went in to the kitchen, over the sounds of the music we could clearly hear the kitchen come to life, the fryer and grills sizzling away cooking our food (and we knew it was ours, as there just wasn’t anyone else there making orders).

As I had thought I was running a drastic deficit in my animal-based protein ledger this week, we opted for the Brasilia Platter to share, which included tasting portions of the Southern Spiced Beef, Margarita Chicken, Gaucho Chorizo, and Mojo Lamb. And served on the side- Fogo fries, a salad, and two sauces ($26).

And to ensure that we covered off the spectrum of all our four-hoofed and two-clawed friends, we also ordered the Pork Belly Camelo- served with jalapenos and cabbage slaw ($18.50).

The first to arrive was the Fogo fries (it arrived before the rest of the platter, but we treated it like an appetiser), served in this unique tall conical wire basket.

OMG! If you think Chicken salt on hot chips is the bomb! Wait until you try Fogo seasoning sprinkled all over your Fogo fries! I’m not sure what’s in it, but it tasted like garlic+onions+chicken salt all mixed together, but I’m sure there are other spices which I’m unable to name. But in short, it was AMAZING!

Next, the rest of the platter arrived. We’re a big fan of the platter, as the choice of chicken or beef, A or B is a non-factor, as you get a bit of everything! So if there is a platter on offer, 75% of the time we’re all-in on the food spread!  

So as we divided up all the meats right down the middle, we each had a decent amount of beef (3 pieces of the medium rare beef, which was perfectly tender and it was the delicious rubs which shone through, not to mention the dipping sauces went perfectly- we liked the red one over the green); the Chicken was also grilled perfectly and was full of flavour (half a piece each); the Chorizo was ok as well, like all chorizos are (half a sausage each); but for me, my favourite meat of the night was the Lamb, as I love the gamey taste of mutton- and  the natural flavours were still present although it was rubbed in spice (3 pieces).

And as we were dividing up our spoils, the Pork Belly arrived- a single elongated ‘square’ of crispy skinned pork.

For my wife, her favourite from the 5 different types of protein we consumed tonight was by far the Pork Belly! The pork had a really good crackle to the skin, a nice ooz-y fat layer, and a salty tasty layer of flesh. We were sharing tonight, but for any reason a group were to order dishes for themselves; I have to admit whoever orders the Pork belly, they would be eyeing-off their dining companions’ food in envy. As the portion size for the Pork belly was quite meagre at $18.50. After dividing up the belly equally, we each had 3 slices, and considering the sides was cabbage slaw and 3 jalapeño slithers, it’s hard not to conclude that there was a ‘Value for money’ disparity here. In contrast, the platter was so worth the extra $7.50, you’ve got 4 different types of meat, a large serving of fries, and side salad. This is why we always go with the platter!

In the end, Fogo reminded me of a backyard BBQ. But funny how these days when you refer to barbeque, the mind conjures up visions of American Southern barbeque- pulled pork, ribs etc. But Fogo reminds me of the good old backyard Aussie BBQ, some beef steaks, chicken pieces, lamb rumps, and snags sizzling on a hotplate. And the bowl of leafy green salad, which you add a little to your plate as you know your gut will thank you for it later. So Fogo is on-par with what a handy backyard ‘chef’ can cook up on the BBQ cooker with their tongs (which isn’t a bad thing, as more and more of us are apartment dwellers, who don’t have a backyard or BBQ to fire up). But where Fogos is a notch above the humble backyard BBQ, is the tasty spices which have been rubbed into the meat before being grilled. Everything that was offered up to us tonight was tasty, right down to the complementary table water (after I accidentally dropped a Fogo chip into my water. Haaha).

Our end verdict for Fogo Brazilia is 4.0 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food (honestly everything was tasty! Absolutely cannot fault it at all!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as the staff were super friendly, obrigado!); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (It was pretty dead tonight, and a staff member was skipping songs which they didn’t like from the playlist which is a pet-hate of mine at restaurants);  and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (as the platter was so worth the money, but the Pork Belly wasn’t much for a dish which was encroaching on 20 bucks)).

Would we come back again? Yeah, I’d say so, although it reminded me of a backyard BBQ (a very good one at that), but since we don’t have a backyard or BBQ, in the future whenever we feel like a backyard grill-up Fogo will be on the top of our list!

And as Chippendale is as intriguing as it is, we ventured around in the dark and located LP’s Quality Meats (it’s so strange, it doesn’t have much of a frontage). We will be back here real soon to try this next time- Southern style BBQ! And on our way back, Bubble Nini Tea was still open (closes at 8.30pm), so we got a drink to go-  hydrating us for our floo network trip back to South CBD.

Fogo Brazilia- Saturday 16 February (4.0 Stars)

PH: (02) 8096 5157

Lower Ground, the Dining District, 28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW

Mon-Wed 10am – 10.30pm

Thurs – Sat 10am – 11pm

Sun 10am – 9pm   

Dining Spot- Concord

Cantonese food touches down on Majors Bay Road!

Catching up with the in-laws for a belated Lunar New Year’s meal, I was tired with the Burwood and Strathfield dining scene, so we cast our net a little wider and lucked on ‘Dining Spot’!

The sensible cuisine to have for a Lunar New Year’s meal with the family is obviously Chinese, so I was a little bit surprised to find when searching for a South Chinese restaurant that a Cantonese restaurant had newly opened up in the unlikely dining spot of Majors Bay Road (ironically called the ‘Dining Spot’…….Me personally, I would’ve named it ‘Dining Outpost’ as it was in no-man’s land, or at least no-Chinese-man’s land). And my in-laws were also pleased to try a Cantonese restaurant outside of their usual Inner West haunts.

When you walk into Dining Spot, you’ll immediately notice the differences to the usual Cantonese restaurant. Here, it’s more airy, they actually play music, and there is some attempt at table settings and store decorations. It’s probably due to the fact that they have to win over a whole new clientele, unable to rest on their laurels like the large pre-established Cantonese restaurants can, in Strathfield or Rhodes.

My in-laws had arrived before us, and learnt that one of the partners from their usual go-to Strathfield restaurant had opened this outpost on Majors Bay, so we were confident that we’d get a decent level of service and food.

Flipping through the menu, they cover off more than just the usual Cantonese classics, and had sections for Laksas, hotpots, and a few other non-typical Canto dishes, while there were also the usual Canto suspects like Yum Cha to-order, whole Peking duck, etc. etc.

We settled on the Seafood San Choy Bow, Shan Dong Chicken, Vegetable and Tofu Hotpot, and Stir fried Flat Rice Noodles with King Prawns in Creamy Egg Sauce. The menu is actually so extensive that we narrowed down our choices by only considering dishes that they had marked with a ‘thumbs-up’ icon next to it (3 of our 4 choices were marked with the big opposable digit).

While we waited for our food, we just relaxed in the relative calm of the store. Closing your eyes you could almost imagine yourself sitting alfresco, out in the open air- as it was really that airy in there; and they were playing this CD which consisted of traditional Chinese instruments playing soothing instrumental music but within the audio itself it had chirping birds, which added to the feeling of being outdoors and tranquillity.

The first dish to arrive was the San Choy Bow (the humble edible bowl a new year’s tradition). The lettuce was fresh, but as we ate we remembered that it has been quite some time since we last ate out at a traditional Cantonese restaurant and it reminded us of how bland Canto food can be. As the seafood and veg inside the lettuce bowl were really fresh, but the tastes were a bit nondescript.

Next we tried the Vegetable Tofu hotpot, this again was on the bland side, and the tofu was the fried type, when I was silently hoping for the silken tofu.

But then we had the Shan Dong chicken, which in contrast was bursting with flavour! The chicken was fried crispy skin chicken, it was covered in the mild spicy but tasty Shan Dong sauce, and there were other ingredients like garlic, water chestnut and seaweed which added flavour and texture to the dish. So it was a redeeming dish for Dining Spot, as to this point it was cruising for a low Food score from me.

And the last dish was the noodles with king prawn and egg sauce. Yeah, this was okay, the prawns were tasty, large and fresh! And the noodles and the egg sauce were as advertised, by the long form description in the menu.

And as we ate, my wife explained to her parents all about our new lifestyle blog- Four Senses. As the last time we caught up with them before Christmas, we were already doing food reviews and they were used to us pulling out the phone each time a dish arrived. But we hadn’t started our own WordPress site yet, so the ability for them to pull out their phones and peruse the site right-there-and-then and breeze over some of our dining escapades was pretty cool.

Our end verdict for Dining Spot? 4.0 Stars from 5! (2 from 3 for Food – It was alright, but the more established Canto restaurants still turn out a more tasty offering); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the young waiter who waited on us was super polite, excusing himself each time he approached our table and was surreptitiously topping up our water); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (this was the stand-out, Canto restaurants aren’t known for its décor or ambiance, but Dining Spot had loads of character); and 1 from 1 for Value for money (it equated to slightly over $20 per person, which isn’t bad for Cantonese).

I think it’s great for the Concord locals to have Dining Spot move in to Majors Bay Road (while we were there two different locals came in to place take-away orders), and for them I’m sure it’s nice to have some variety along their street. If you too are looking for a change from you’re usual Canto haunts, or you just need to escape the melting pot of Burwood, check-out Dining Spot! It’s a good little spot!

Dining Spot- Sunday 10 February (4.0 Stars)

PH: (02) 8317 6313

47 Majors Bay Road, Concord NSW

Mon Closed

Tues-Sun 11am – 3pm; 5pm – 10pm

La Hacienda- Sydney CBD

Peruvian, it’s just like another Spanish restaurant? Right? Or is it……

I think the choice to dine at La Hacienda was a done deal from the get go, considering Peruvian food was the talk of the week after the Peruvian girls smashed it out on MKR; and we later found out that our dining companions were off to Peru at the end of the year, so it was serendipitous that it was going to be Peruvian tonight!    

A couple of weeks ago I was in the mood for Spanish food, and being a Saturday night and not having made a table reservation I presumed it was going to be hard to be a walk-up at one of the popular Liverpool and Pitt street establishments, and prepared myself that the Peruvian restaurant around the corner was our back-up option as they also serve Spanish food right? Same same? Then I caught myself, it was a light bulb moment where I realised that Spain and Peru ain’t like Spain and Portugal (neighbouring countries), but they’re 8,800Km apart (according to Siri). *Smacks hand on forehead*. So in short, you can say I didn’t know what to expect from Peruvian food.  

La Hacienda is located on the corner of Bathurst and Sussex streets. If you drive into the city or head to the Eastern suburbs from the West, I’m sure you’ve seen it before on the right hand side as you accelerate up Bathurst St.  On this Saturday evening, it was packed-out. The first thing which greets the senses is the glorious smell of frying food, and spices! It made me so hungry. And next comes along like a sauntering Salma Hayek, the body-moving Latin music! No wonder Ricky sings of ‘Shake your bon-bon’! As its hard not to! Although we didn’t have a table reservation, but the proprietor quickly (in less than 5 shakes of the hips) made room for our table of 4.

We ordered:

A jug of Chicha Morada- traditional Peruvian beverage made from purple corn

Beef empanadas- minced meat wrapped in pastry   

Ceviche Mixto- Mixed seafood marinated in lime juice with red onions served with sweet potato and corn ($30)

Bisteck a lo Pobre- Scotch Fillet, fried egg, fries, rice, fried banana and salad ($25)

Chicken Arroz Chaufa- Peruvian style fried rice ($20)

After our orders were made, we took in our surroundings. I think it’s so refreshing to experience something completely new and different! Considering we’re down here in South CBD, it’s so cool to experience an authentic Peruvian family run business, who are ‘making it’ in this part of town! And I think they’re a literal family run business- there’s dad working the tables who exudes character and nothing is too difficult for him, ‘okey dokey’ and he’s off and he’s back again with whatever you’ve asked him for. There’s the son, who responds immediately to the ‘Service-up’ bell, bringing out the fragrant food to tables. And I’m sure it’s a family affair in the kitchen as well! The restaurant is decorated with what I presume to be Peruvian tapestries; fresh produce (chillies, limes and dragon fruit) placed out as decoration until they’re eventually needed in the kitchen; a TV broadcasting the Peruvian cable channel; and just little touches which may or may not be traditional elements of a casual Peruvian diner.   It was just all so quaint and exciting to experience something new for us. And everyone around us were also having a great time, the place buzzed with happy diners.

The first to arrive was the Chicha Morada, a dark purple coloured drink with a complex flavour, which was hard to put a finger on the exact taste. It’s non-carbonated, so it goes down smooth like a Powerade sports drink; it’s quite sweet so you’d probably don’t want to drink this all the time; the best description of the taste, is its like a cross between bubble-gum and blueberry?; and floating on top are little bits of freshly diced green apple, which gives you something to chew on after each mouthful of drink. It was nice, a must-try if you want the authentic Peruvian experience!

Then our empanada entry were served up, I think empanadas are one of the South American dishes people are more familiar with. These Peruvian ones were mostly filled with minced meat with some spices mixed through it. If you haven’t tried one before, think of a Curry puff, but with Mexican flavours?

 After the empanadas, there was a bit of a pause before the mains arrived. But it was perfect as it gave us a chance to chat with our dining companions unencumbered by mouthfuls of food. The Latin music was played loud enough that we had to lean in a bit to hear each other. But our table was round and wasn’t that large, so it actually facilitated our table conversations, but it didn’t help later when all the dishes arrived and available table space became hard to come by.  

When the food started up again, they all arrived in a flurry!

We first tried the Bisteck a lo Pobre, which was an interesting eclectic dish. As essentially it was steak and fries, but it had a whole bunch of other elements served up as well. There was a fried egg which we didn’t really know what to do with (perhaps you broke the yoke onto the steak?); it came with a bed of spiced rice; some side salad; and best-of-all was the fried banana! I do love cooked fruit with savoury foods! If you were going to dine alone here, $25 for the Bisteck a lo Pobre would be a good dish to order, as you’d get so much variety on a single plate. The scotch fillet was quite thin and cooked well done, so perhaps if you order this dish see if you can specify how you like your  steak to be cooked (they don’t ask when you order).

The Ceviche Mixto was the stand-out dish for us, the flavours were what you’d associate with Latin American food. The spices, the acidity, the fresh herbs, it was really tasty! The mixed seafood was fish, prawns, and calamari. The fish was properly ceviche-d, but methinks the shell-fish were pre-boiled and then ceviche-d (which isn’t a problem, as it ensures that it’s cooked through – better safe than sorry).

And lastly was the Chicken Arroz Chaufa, which was essentially a Chinese style fried rice that was on the simpler/fewer ingredients side. It was okay, but you’re talking to a bunch of Chinese here- so I guess this dish was always going to be evaluated harsher (as you can say that we’ve eaten a fair few Fried Rices in our time). Maybe next time we’ll stick to the more quintessential Peruvian dishes. BTW, this dish was my contribution to the group table order. Sorry guys. Hehehe

And to end the night we ordered 2 slices Tres Leches, a sponge cake which is doused with 3 types of dairy products (condensed milk, cream, and evaporated milk). This Peruvian version tasted like it also had a coconut cream, which made it even more moreish and delectable!

Our score for the entire experience, 4.0 stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (it’s never going to win awards, but it’s the uniqueness which makes it a stand-out!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (Dad’s positive vibes were infectious); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (with the Latin music playing, and with the majority of clientele around us speaking Spanish, it felt like you’d stepped into a whole other world. The music was so body-movin’ a couple actually got up and started to salsa); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (the cost was probably on the higher end for casual dining, but that isn’t a problem if you’re prepared for it)).

La Hacienda in Spanish means a large dwelling house on a plantation, and I think that’s a very apt name for the restaurant here on the corner of Bathurst and Sussex. Tonight has felt like we’ve been welcomed to an affluent Peruvians home, served with the best and the freshest produce the family could possibly offer their guests from the family farm, and it’s this type of variety and cultural diversity we long for in Sydney’s dining scene! We’ll definitely be back, as there are so many other uniquely Peruvian dishes on the menu which we’d like to try. And in principle we’re all for supporting restaurateurs who are staying true to their roots and serving up something authentic to their culture! La Hacienda is definitely worth trying, if you haven’t tried Peruvian food before.  

**Note: La Hacienda is only open for evening trade one night a week (Saturday nights), so table reservations are advised. While during the day time La Hacienda is a pretty solid café, serving up all of your usual café foods.

**Thanks(s): We’d also like to thank our dining companions, dining with others enabled us to try more different dishes and thanks for sharing with us your expertise with the dishes from your previous travels to South America. And thanks so much for always reminding us and arranging the dishes so we could take web-worthy pics before we tucked in. Thanks Ron and Stace!

La Hacienda- Saturday 9 February (4.0 Stars)

PH: (02) 8077 8069

Shop 210, 298 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm

Sat 7am – 9pm

Sun 8am – 5pm

**Accepts cash only        

Sweet Things- Purple rice yogurt- The Moment

394 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW

Have us Asian’s forgotten that we’re lactose intolerant? Or is the Sydney fad of rice yoghurt and the feelings of FOMO so emotive that we’d rather put up with hours of painful abdominal pains than to miss-out on this latest fad?

But hey, what can I say, I’m a sheep as well! But a lazy-a** sheep, so instead of lining-up for upwards of half an hour at the peak of the summer sun at Yomie’s; we instead went to ‘The Moment’, a bubble tea store further up Sussex Street who also serves rice with yoghurt.

What did I think at first taste?

“I can’t believe people are lining up for this?! Especially Asians!” As we Asians don’t historically consume much yogurt! And this isn’t an easy on the palate yoghurt like Yoplait, but it tastes like some serious hard-core fermented milk! It honestly tastes more like Greek yoghurt, than anything I’ve tasted recently where I’ve been happily placing spoonfuls and spoonfuls into my mouth. I wonder how many selfies have been taken over the past months, with a cup of rice yoghurt in one hand and a tightly pursed lipped smile on the face…. You know the face you make when you’re trying to reassure your friends that you’re okay, just before you throw-up all over them? Haaha.

But tell you what? After a while the whole thing actually starts to grow on you! Um, just to clarify, the taste starts to grow on you, not the fermented yoghurt vomit……It’s creamy, it’s sweet & sour, and the rice gives you something to chew-on. For $6.20, it’s so filling, it’s like a liquid lunch! And the stomach cramps afterwards?! PRICELESS baby! Haaha. One day when the  lines outside Yomie’s Rice X Yogurt start to die down, I’ll have to try their concoction to see if their yogurt is as strong tasting as ‘The Moment’s’, if it’s less intense, I’ll promise to write an equally long post, retracting all innuendos I’ve made in this post about Sydney’s latest favourite dessert. *Nods*. But until then, I stand by this post and my opinions. Haaha.