101 Kissa- Chippendale

How many times does it need to occur, before we deem it a trend?

Traipsing through Darling Square, Haymarket and Ultimo to Chippendale, we found that our lunch destination had closed down. Boo! RIP Nighthawk diner.

So finding ourselves on Abercrombie Street without a plan, we walked until we found something which caught our eye. Lucky for us, in a one block radius there were 2 cafes and 2 pubs, and with the wall to wall glass frontage, this one seemed inviting enough.

“Hey, I think you have this on your list”, (my wife referring to the now dwindling list of restaurants I wanted to try), and she was right, 101 Kissa was no. 46 on my list.

We were immediately seen to a table for 4 (although it was only the two of us), but we were grateful for the extra space as the table space was very tight in there (unable to even fit both legs between the parallels of the table legs). We had a small (but healthy) marital bicker, whether or not to order 3 mains to share or just two- but I won out! Woohoo! We ordered the Spicy Crab & Eel Omelette for my wife (Japanese eel, crab meat, organic quinoa, broccoli, crispy nori, with spicy dressing) – $16.90; Seasoned Fruit Porridge for me (organic oats and muesli, fresh berries, banana, pistachio, rose maple syrup) – $12.50; and a Matcha French Toast to share (grilled banana, ruby pear, mixed berries, orange peel, matcha mascarpone, pistachio and matcha glaze) – $16.90.

The trade-off for ordering 3 mains, was that we passed on the cold pressed juices (which didn’t have a price against them). So we just got table water. Not all that sure though, why the water glasses came in different sizes? *Shrugs*.

But you can almost guess who got to drink from the smaller cup? And who wears the pants in our family……. At least I got more water top-ups! Haaha.

As we waited for our food, we took in the ambiance of the place. They had a funky but calming English playlist going on; it was light and airy with bay windows open, allowing a nice cross-breeze; and with an open kitchen we could hear our food being freshly prepared and cooked (hearing the eggs for the omelette bubbling away in the frying pan).

After the table of four next to us got their food, our mains arrived one at a time. First to arrive was my Season Fruit Porridge (we suspect they were meant to say ‘Seasonal’ fruit).

And after mixing in the fruit compote (which came in a porcelain cup) into the warm just-right porridge, I was good to go! There was a thin wafer, almost as thin as rice paper which tasted like banana. Mmmmm. And with the fresh fruits (banana, blueberries, strawberries and grape) mixed in with the sweetened porridge, it was perfect! I’d been craving porridge for a while now, as I spend a night a week at my folks’ place, and they start each morning with their oats (which I don’t partake in), so I’d been craving this hot breakfast for a while, and it def hit the spot!

My wife’s Crab & Eel Omelette was tasty, with diced pieces of eel, a spicy sauce smeared on the plate for you to sweep your forkful over if you so choose (and we chose to). And taste-testing a single forkful of her eel, omelette, and the spicy sauce? It was real tasty! Yum! And if the warm food wasn’t enough, it also came with a toasted mini Croissant. **Comment: However, my wife didn’t taste any of the promised crab, nor quinoa.

And as a share dish, we tucked into the Matcha French Toast.

I opted to mix-up my sweets with more sweets- electing to have my portion of the French toast halfway into my porridge. While my wife left her sweets till the end, like a dessert. The thick cut French toast was sliced into quarters, each cube topped off with fresh fruits, which sat on top of a smear of Matcha mascarpone. Mmmmm. From their menu description, it mentioned berries, banana and pears as the fresh fruit selection? But today, we received the berries and the banana, but insert grapefruit instead of pear. And the grapefruit worked a treat actually, the bitterness of the GF offset the sweetness of the mascarpone.

Our end verdict? 4.0 Stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (When we had finished the meal, we had scored them a full 3 marks for food. However after taking a pic of the menu and studying it now, there were elements in the description which didn’t match what we had- the largest let down was the lack of crab in the Crab & Eel omelette. But other than that, the food and flavours were perfect!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the waitress was polite and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (everyone in the café were enjoying themselves, it had a real chilled vibe to the place which helped us feel like we were out of da city); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money (the omelette and porridge was priced appropriately for what we received, however the $16.90 for the French toast was a bit steep, for essentially one slice of bread dipped in egg, topped off by fruit)).

In conclusion, it was a nice unplanned outcome, we had planned to eat fatty American grub, but instead we had a pretty healthy Asian-fusion café breakfast! So how often does something need to occur, before you note it down as a trend? In the past 9 months or so, 3 different cafes have opened up in the Ultimo/Chippendale area. All of which have been funky western feeling Asian-fusion cafes, all owned by native-speaking Mandarin youngsters? We know how handy Mandos are behind the wok, with all the Chinese hot-pot/dumpling/Sichuan restaurants out there, but I think this is a very cool and emerging trend- where young Mandos are branching out and putting together inventive menus which are Asian twists on your favourite Western cafe staples.  This is a trend we like, and hope it stays, thrives and grows in Ol’ Sydney Town!

101 Kissa- Saturday 14 September (4.0 Stars).

https://www.facebook.com/101kissa/

PH: (02) 8317 4088

94A Abercrombie Street, Chippendale

Mon-Fri 7am – 4pm

Sat-Sun 8pm – 4pm

Table booking is advised.       

Assamm- Queen Victoria Building

Ah Chat Thai, you’ve done it again!

After enjoying our meal at Assamm while walking home, that commercial tag-line “Ah McCain, you’ve done it again!” kept playing through my mind. But this time it went ‘Ah Chat Thai, you’ve done it again’! Or should it be ‘Ah Chanta, you’ve done it again!?’

Coming on down to the basement of the QVB for lunch, it reminded me of my childhood. Back in the early 90s my parents used to have a shop in the QVB, and each lunch-time I’d follow my mum down to LG2 to grab takeaway for the family (our parents used to make us kids come out to the shop each Saturday). So I have these fond memories of how the entire LG2, from the escalators down from LG1, to the kink in the basement which leads to Sydney Central Plaza – this whole area used to be a food court. Do you remember those days?

But fast forward 25+ years, and we’re back again on LG2 for lunch, looking forward to trying Assamm for the first time – a restaurant a part of the highly successful Chat Thai group, founded by the legendary Amy Chanta.

After we were seated without much of a wait, the first impression of the ambience of the place was that it felt a little cave-like, due to the dark interior, lower ceiling, bare concrete/brick walls, dark wooden floor boards, and the industrial style lights. Paired with the some-what unremarkable tables & chairs, and the simple table setting, our first impression was initially lukewarm at best. But as we went through the extensive menu, I soon forgot the surroundings, and my mind spun with all the options, there were so many! However in my mind, I kept thinking, where is Assamm trying to position itself among all the other Thai restaurants in Sydney? Let alone its position within the Chat Thai group?

When you check out the menu, you’ll agree with us that the menu is really quite extensive. We took our time going through the dishes, trying to pair this dish with that, as we had intended to share. But after a while (methinks at least 10 minutes after we had sent the waitress away for the second time), we still couldn’t decide on what we’d like to share as there were so many different combinations,  so much so that we ended up ordering our own dishes. Haha.

On this day we had intended to have Japanese/ramen for lunch, but that restaurant was packed out. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a ramen dish on the menu, so I went with the Bamee Phu which was ramen served with wontons, char siu, and crab meat. I know! Like what the? A Japanese-Chinese dish at a Thai restaurant? And this further confused me with which segment of the restaurant market Assamm was trying to fill.

But when our food arrived, things started to become clearer. My ramen wonton noodle soup was something special! Completely unique! The soup stood out as it was both sweet and salty; the filling in my wontons had an interesting texture and was full of flavour; the char siu was tender and thick sliced, the crab meat was genuine crab meat flesh from a crab leg (as it had that salty taste which only comes from intact fresh crab!), while the herbs were the star of this dish, bringing Thai flavours to an otherwise pretty Chinesey/Japanesey dish. However the ramen noodles weren’t my preferred type (it was the thin variety when my personal preference is the thicker variety) but it was still good all the same.

While my wife had the Sukho Thai Noodles ( a more standard Thai dish), but her verdict was that it was on par with other Thai restaurant’s offering of this dish, but the difference was that Assamm’s serving size was much larger, and the ingredients were fresher, resulting in a more satisfying experience.

So as I enjoyed my meal, it was clear to me now where it was positioned in the dining market. Assamm was filling the market space as a ‘one stop’ shop for your Asian food fix!  My dish a perfect example of this coming together of a Japanese/Chinese dish, but now enhanced by Thai herbs and flavours – each ingredient fresher and a notch above the rest. So why not come down to a restaurant which meets all of your Asian cravings, ideal for any group who just can’t decide on Thai or Japanese or Chinese, Assamm presents Asia! Something for everyone’s taste and given mood.

Ah Chat Thai/Amy Chanta, you’ve done it again! 4.5 stars from us.

Assamm- Sunday 4 November (4.0 stars)

Http://www.assamm.com

PH: ((02) 8317 4918

Lower Ground 2, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street, Sydney NSW

Sun-Wed 11am – 8pm

Thurs 11am – 9.30pm

Fri-Sat 11am – 9pm

**Booking recommended 

Mekong- Chippendale

Have I been living under a rock or something?…As I only first heard about Kensington Street at the beginning of this week, and after further investigation I cleared all of our previous weekend dining plans to check out this new entertainment district in the city!

Located just before the Central Park shopping centre opposite UTS (when walking down George St away from the city) is a pedestrianised walkway filled with restaurants and shops, firstly with the reconfigured ‘Old Rum Store’, followed by ‘Spice Alley’ a curving narrow street with eatery and alfresco dining on both sides  (picture an outdoor food court), before looping back around to Kensington St East and West sides. We completed the loop, poking our heads into a few stores before deciding on Mekong, located on the upper floor (East side) above Viet.

Welcomed by the sounds of the chefs grinding up spices in a stone mortar and pestle, and the melody of a top 50 pop-music track, I think the first impression perfectly captured the East-West fusion vibe Mekong is aiming for.

Studying the menu, you know it’s going to be a unique experience when nothing on it was stock-standard or typical (so we didn’t really know what to expect), and seeing the prices next to the dishes it was also going to be a bit on the pricier side, for example an average entree was the same price as a main down in Spice Alley.  We ended up ordering the Mekong entree sharing plate (which was made up of half of the entrees on the menu). And we ended up only choosing one main to go with our $30 entree plate.

When we placed our order the friendly waiter was prepared to offer his assistance, as perhaps the menu could have been a little more descriptive than just listing out the ingredients of the dish. But he seemed pleased with our choices, and we waited with anticipation as we took in the interior and table setting; the  cutlery was modern and up-market and the proper linen napkin easily scored a 5-out-of-5 stars on the napkin test. The walls were painted in a textured green finish, and the other fixtures of bamboo pillars, large green leafy pot plants, and dark wooden floors collectively gave off a jungle vibe. The simple wooden chairs reminded me of the original Mekong restaurant from the 80’s which used to be located in Bondi Junction (but I’m sure there is no linkage between the old and the current name-sake restaurants).

When the food arrived, the fragrance of the food wafted up to meet us. Yum! The shared plate had:

Pork belly wrapped in Betel leaf- picture a tiny dark-green spring-roll filled with mince pork (hard to tell if it was really pork belly).

Soft shell crab taco- a canapé sized mouthful of shredded fresh coconut, inside of a paper thin fold of crispy shell (hard to taste the crab though).

Steamed scallop served on its shell with various greens/herbs/spices, a spicy tangy sauce, and slithers of young coconut (although the toppings overshadowed the smallish piece of scallop)

And last of the entree quartet was the crispy seafood crape which was pan-fried to a smoky crisp on one side, while still a little bit chewy (a good chewy) on the other. The crepe was the most substantial of the four, with 2 prawns each and a nice spicy sauce to drizzle on top.

All in all, all of the tastes and flavours were added with thought to maximise the affect in your mouth and I think Mekong should be categorised as a ‘Fine dining’ restaurant, not what it is currently classified as (Casual dining), as with the attention to detail and the price, there is nothing casual about this place.

And being a fine establishment like it is, the waiter waited until he collected our entrée plates before indicating to the kitchen to start preparing our single main dish. By this time we were already evaluating the meal thus far, and we had agreed on 4.5, the main could lift the meal to a 5, if it surpassed the high bar from the entrée.

Our main was smoked duck which was served in a sweet-tangy broth. And it was a little bit disappointing, as the totality of duck we received for a main size portion was only one duck leg, to be shared between two. I’m not sure how you’d manage it if you had a few more people to dinner, I guess you’d need to order two plates (at $28 each), or literally have a bite each?

Any smoky flavour from the cooking process was unfortunately lost on the duck and the crispy skin was soggy due to being served in broth. Don’t get me wrong, the broth was tasty as it had a complex taste signature which was sweet and tart from the cinnamon stick and the cumquat, but the interesting flavours also masked the star of the dish. Duck me! What a shame!

And after I was chasing around every last grain of rice on my plate, as I was still hungry after $65 for two (including a side of rice, and tips), I guess I left a little dissatisfied. Definitely the food was great! But I wished there was more of it, considering you’re paying top dollar. But yeah, the main did help them to maintain their 4.5, but we won’t be back any time soon, as I think we already tried the most interesting dishes on their menu, and there are so many more restaurants to try at Kensington Street, than to justify coming back to the same place twice.

Mekong- Saturday 1 September.  

PH: (02) 9282 9079

Upper Level, 14 Kensington Street, Chippendale NSW

Mon-Fri 6pm – 10pm

Sat-Sun 12 noon – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm