YX Taste- Sydney CBD

Is it XO Taste? XY Taste? But whatever it is, it’s tasty!

My wife walks past this place each night after finishing work, and had mentioned that one day we should try it. And that day has arrived! Today coming home via Town Hall station, we were looking for a bite to eat and we were right in front of it.

If the surrounds look familiar (The Metro), it’s because this space used to be the old Galaxy World! Hard to believe how a two story arcade parlour which played a prominent role in so many youngster’s lives, can now be a Chinese restaurant? There are still some signs of The Dough Collective (the bakery who were the first to move in after Galaxy World’s demise), the rough honed tiles were from the Collective- although the swank decorations are all YX’s. Check out the Terracotta Warrior! Pretty cool hey?

And the tables were these nice glass topped things, 50% of diners had booths and the other 50% had these comfy bucket seats which felt like being a passenger in a Sports Car! Vroom Vroom!

We studied their menu, the options were broken into handy sub-categories i.e. Street food, Street noodles, Soup noodles, sides etc.

Everything looked good and there was much to choose from, so when provided with too many options we relied on the good old opposable thumb icon! *Thumbs up!*.

So we elected the Potato Noodles Soup with Duck Offal ($15.80, my wife elected the Rice Noodle Soup with Beef and Mushroom ($15.80), and a side of Pig Feet to share ($5.80). When the waiter warned us that the Beef noodle soup was “a little bit spicy” we were a little worried, as a little bit spicy to a Sichuan person might be pretty crazy hot! But hey? When in Rome.

And within moments, a different staffer came with our table settings and our Pig Feet. The trotties were served cold, trotters diced into small pieces (mostly the chewy skin parts), and equally small diced pieces of crunchy pickled veggies, and a nice hit of Sichuan pepper (and we usually don’t like Sichuan peppers).

And since I had mentioned Galaxy World, let’s keep on the gaming theme…..the Duck Offal was like eating the remains after playing a round of real-life-Nintendo Duck Hunt! Poof, a burst of feathers,  and then gathering up all the remains of the duck and boiling it down to thinly sliced duck blood, thinly sliced duck kidney, and thinly sliced duck liver…….. Surprisingly good! No wonder this dish was given the thumbs up by the chef! And the soup? It was super flavoursome! Delicate, nutty, and possessed a hint of coriander. Mmmmmm.

On the other hand, my wife’s Beef and Mushroom noodle soup was more one dimensional in flavour. But fortunately the waiter was right! It was only a “little bit” spicy, and there was a generous serving of beef chunks. So much so, that we both half rolled out of the store – bellies full of soup, noodles, beef, pig feet and duck offal.

Our end verdict? 4.5 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food (It was all very fresh, flavourful, and the table setting from the heavy porcelain soup spoon to the tear-shaped plate in which the Pig Feet were served on, suggested a level of sophistication); 0 from 0.5 for Service (although all the staff were efficient and polite, but perhaps too efficient? I hadn’t finished my food and was just taking a rest and on one of his blow-bys, the waiter collected up my bowl on his way through without asking if I was done); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (they had Jay Chou playing softly and the whole place was very inviting and classy); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (Priced in the mid-ranges, but the food was definitely not mid-range though)).

YX Taste as a brand name was forgettable (I probably asked my wife 5 times what was their restaurant’s name as I just couldn’t absorb it into my mind). Perhaps inviting a marketing specialist in to work through some alternatives, might assist in brand awareness and take their restaurant to the big-leagues! But whatever work they might need on their name…….whatever happens, don’t touch the recipes or menu! As from a food perspective, it’s perfect! You know it’s a good sign, when you’re half way through your current meal and you’re already planning your return visit!

YX Taste- Sunday 1 September (4.5 Stars)

PH: 02 8317 4361

Shop 5/615-625 George Street, Sydney

Mon-Sun 11am – 8.45pm (last orders)

Jiangnan Gallery- Sydney CBD

Chinese food, but a little bit fancy!

When we’re talking about fancy Chinese food, we’ve seen the  Taiwanese take their cuisine to the next level e.g. Chefs Gallery and Din Tai Fung being great examples. And the Cantos on occasion have tried making the humble Yum Cha a little bit fancy as well e.g. The Fat Buddha in the QVB (RIP). However, this was the first time we’ve tried fancy Chinese, Chinese food of the Central/Shanghainese variety.

Originally this space on Liverpool street was Mamas Kitchen, before they closed down in 2016? Then Pappa Rich made a year long appearance in this hidden away space, before it too shut down. And after remaining vacant for the better part of a year, Jiangnan Gallery has emerged, with little fanfare.

On this Thursday evening we were dining with my folks, and since there have been lines out the door on most evenings, we decided to head down early and take our spot in the queue while we waited for my wife to join us after work. But to our surprise we were immediately seen to a table for four, although the restaurant was still pretty full of happy diners (maybe 80% full?).

There were no longer signs of the Mamas & the Papas i.e. that this space used to be an Italian restaurant for more than 20 years, and there were no signs that a Malaysian restaurant had briefly occupied this space. Now all of the shop fittings were chic Asian, with round glass topped tables and porcelain barrel like chairs surrounding each table (although I have to admit, the chairs weren’t all that comfortable after a while).

My parents took the lead with ordering and we got a good mixture of small dishes to share (Beef Shin, and Shallot Pancake); large dishes to share (Eggplant Stew, and Pork Belly with quail eggs); and a dish of carbs (their Signature Fried Rice).

Even before my wife managed to join us, the first of the small dishes to share arrived!

Fortunately for us, the beef shin was a cold-cut, so the dish wasn’t adversely impacted from being left alone for a while. The slow cooked beef was cut super thin, and extremely flavoursome for a cold-cut meat! It actually reminds me of a slow cooked beef brisket, with the leftovers eaten the following day straight from the refrigerator. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but it was really good!

The next to arrive was the Pork belly dish with quail egg. Where the Beef was served cold, the Pork belly was served piping hot, with a bit of drama (dry ice to enhance the curls of smoke). All I can say is OMG! The pork belly was a particularly fatty piece, but the fat was the best part of the dish! Somehow, they managed to get so much flavour into the creamy fat cells- obviously you couldn’t eat this on a daily basis, but 2-3 pieces of pure fat on occasion! Brilliant! And the actual meaty parts of the pork belly? It had this nice sweet sauce to it, not too sweet but just right! And the quail eggs I hear you ask? I’ve never had hardboiled quail eggs like this before, the outside was firm but the yoke within was still melty and oozie! Yum!

To offset the heavy meats we’ve had thus far, the Eggplant stew was a nice change-up, again flavourful and the eggplant flesh was cooked until it was melt-in-your-mouth. Although the intact eggplant skin was a little chewy.

The Shallot pancake was probably the least spectacular, a little dry and not all that remarkable – we’ve had better.

And the small murmurs of complaint from my parents during the meal, were centred around the sequence in which the dishes arrived on our table. Usually the carbs/rice would make its appearance earlier in the meal, so that you can use it as a fluffy bed to place all your flavoursome meats and veg on, to absorb all the excess sauces. But unfortunately, the fried rice was the last to arrive by quite some while. So much so that we had already finished all of the dishes bar one, so the somewhat bland fried rice was even more evidently bland when eaten alone. However, having less sauces and flavours, did allow the rice to shine. There were some unusual ingredients, like orange peel, which added a subtle bitter/tart flavour, and there were dried scallops and fresh prawns in their natural flavours.

And as it was a little bit fancy, the portions were a little bit small as well. So, we ended up ordering an additional dish- a serving of Sheng Jian Baos.

The baos had a thin yet textural bao skin, with a large clump of well-seasoned minced meat nestled within, and the bottoms were nicely pan-fried to a crisp! In my wife’s opinion, with the Pork belly dish, the Baos were the top two dishes we’d tried this night!

And as my parents don’t keep track of the cost of meals as closely as we do- we all had no clue in how much the entire meal might cost. We had expected it to be a little bit ex-y, as it was fancy afterall. But in the end, it totalled to only $80, so $20 pp? That’s not bad!

Our end verdict? 4.5 from 5 Stars! (2.5 from 3 for Food (the dishes were a step above, by-and-large tasty and fresh, and we saw other tables receive their dishes in some pretty quirky presentations- like a chicken served within a bamboo birdcage); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (Chinese restaurants aren’t known for their customer service, but the Jiangnan Gallery staff were all in traditional Chinese outfits and they were super polite); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (outside the restaurant they had a musician playing on a Chinese harp thing, the music which then was piped into the restaurant, and all of their fittings and tableware was a little bit fancy); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (Nothing like fancy Asian and premium produce for a non-fancy/non-premium price)).

In conclusion, we’re thinking that Jiangnan Gallery is still an un-known entity, as they have absolutely no web presence, no Foodie has reviewed them on their blogs, even Zomato is unaware of their existence! At the moment, all the diners were Chinese speakers, hopefully the word will get out there, that there is a Chinese restaurant which is a little bit fancy so more people can come out and try this new take on an age-long classic! I don’t mind a longer wait, if it means more people are trying the Jiangnan Gallery experience!

Jiangnan Gallery- Thursday 29 August (4.5 Stars)

57 Liverpool Street, Sydney

Opening hours TBC

Two Sticks- Haymarket

Are the chopsticks really the most distinctive feature of the two sticks experience?

Oddly on a Friday night, Two Sticks seemed like a quiet haven from the hustle and bustle of da city- with music playing at low tones, patrons sparsely sprinkled around the collection of round tables, and the diners all having their low volume conversations.

It has been several years since we’ve last dined at the Sticks, and we noticed a few changes i.e. the store has now taken over the shop to its right; they’ve introduced a ‘Value meal’ – a choice of A and B, or A and C; and we had a debate about whether or not the pots had changed as well?

But after labouring over the Value meal ( a choice of 3 soup noodles from section A; a choice of a handful of sides in section B; or a choice of one of 2 drinks in section C), in the end we decided to just order from the regular menu. I ordered the Signature Rice Noodle Soup ($13.80); my wife wanted the Tomato Beef but they’d run out, so she ended up ordering the Pork Ribs Rice Noodle Soup ($13.80); and a serving of the Spicy Chicken Wings to share ($5.80 for 5 mid-wings). Orders and payment were made at the front counter and tap water was a self-service affair.

After returning with her water in a plastic disposable cup, we sat back and took in Two Sticks – 6 years since it first opened in 2013. At that time, Two Sticks was a recommendation from my good mate, his wife was a trending Foodie and had been invited as a guest to dine at the Sticks when it first opened.

At the time, their uniqueness was the fact that your food was served up un-cooked, and in front of you the waiter would tip your plate of uncooked ingredients into your piping hot pot of soup (in the process, cracking a quail egg in as well) and you wait as the once boiling hot soup cooked your meat and egg to a level where it was safe to eat.

But those were the days of Two Sticks in the mid-2010s, these days the pot is served up with all your ingredients already in your pot all cooked and ready to eat (although the ceramic pot is still hot enough to garner a ‘hot pot’ warning from the waitress after she placed it in front of us).

The point of argument between my wife and I, was that I swear the pots used to be taller, less squat, and were made from terracotta, instead of these ceramic squat pots? *Shrugs*. But armed with a long-handled soup ladle and your two sticks, you go fishing for food from your squat narrow-opening pot, like ice fishing it is!

In my Signature Rice Noodle dish, there were circular rice noodles, strips of bean curd, coriander, black fungus, thin sliced rare beef, and 2 (yes, count them!) – 2 hardboiled quail eggs! All of which were floating in a pot of tasty thin soup.

My wife’s Pot is the one pictured above, she had all the same core ingredients as I, however her soup was red tinged due to the spiciness, and instead of having rare beef she had pork ribs. Many many pieces they gave her, they did.

And the wings, it reminded me of the charcoal grilled chicken wings you used to be able to get from Pizza Hut? The skin was charred to a crisp, and dusted with chilli powder. Mmmmmm.

Our verdict? 4.0 From 5 Stars! (2.5 from 3 for Food (everything was tasty and they were very generous with their portions, my pot felt like the magical pot! There was always another spoonful of food, just when you thought you were finished!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (all the staff were polite and efficient); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the music was only playing in the front half of the store, and the shop fittings felt a little tired and worn after 6 years); and 1.0 from 1.0 for Value for Money (2 quail eggs? Ridiculous! And recently we’ve eaten at a few restaurants at this price point, but I’ve left feeling the most full and satisfied after our time at Two Sticks!)).

In conclusion, after 5 and 1 years, Two Sticks does feel a bit frayed around the edges, and the number of clientele on a Friday night (it was probably 60% full) was a reflection of this. But after all these years, the quality of food has remained at the same high level, although not served up in the same way as before. And I don’t know why, each time I think of their name Two Sticks, I always think to myself……Really? Are the chopsticks really the most distinctive feature of the Two Sticks experience? If I was in the marketing department, I’d suggest ‘Squat Pot – Long-handle Ladle’ (spoken out loud in the same cadence as Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo- by the Blood Hound Gang), or perhaps ‘2 Eggs’? As who else serves you 2 quail eggs in each serving of food? Count them! 2!  Ridiculous!

Two Sticks- Friday 16 August (4.0 Stars)

PH: 0420 944 532

694 George Street, Haymarket

Mon-Sun 11.30am – 9pm

The Bun Gallery- Haymarket

No Men’s club here, just tasty buns (of the edible variety)……

**Reader beware- Post may contain adult themed word-play**

Earlier in the week my colleagues and I were just sitting around at lunch time chatting about food (like you do), and we were sharing hot-tips of our favourite go-to places in the city and my colleague hadn’t tried Bò 7 Món Thanh Tâm – my go-to Viet restaurant in the city; while her hot tip which we hadn’t tried was The Bun Gallery. “Hey? Come again?” My inner voice asked, but of course I didn’t ask that out aloud as we were in a work setting after all. But after Googling it, ok yeah, it was what I had thought she had said, and I had to stifle a giggle because I’m ‘oh so professional!’ Haaha. So our lunch-time conversation ended, by each of us agreeing to try each other’s hot-tip, so my wife and I tried The Bun Gallery this afternoon.

When I first suggested ‘The Bun Gallery’ to my wife, I allowed her to process the information and then asked her “What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘The Bun Gallery’?” And she answered, “I’m getting a mental picture of an art gallery exhibiting full-colour pictures of human bottoms”. While the first thing which came to my mind wasn’t any better, images of neon lit signs above establishments with beefy bouncers standing outside them, came to mind……

But no, The Bun Gallery is only a Chinese restaurant on Quay St Haymarket (opposite the UTS library), serving steamed buns, dumplings and small snacks to share. Outside their store you can study their menu before deciding to go in or not, and you make your orders and payment, before finding yourselves some seats either downstairs or upstairs in the loft/gallery section.

For under 35 bucks, we ordered 4 of their signature pork buns ($2.60 each); a plate of steamed pork and chive dumplings ($10.00); my colleague’s hot-tip was the Salt & Pepper fried Tofu, so we had to get that ($7.00); and for drinks we ordered a bottle of Plum juice and a Soya milk drink ($4 each).

“So maybe the upstairs loft area was the inspiration for the restaurant’s name?”, we asked ourselves from the second floor; from up there you can look down onto the ground floor dining area- and the open space allowed us hear (but not see) the goings on in the kitchen. It was empty up in the loft when we arrived, so we had the choice of all the tables and we elected one which was pushed up against the floor to waist-high glass banister.

In no time our drinks arrived (we felt kind of slack, as the waitress had to climb all the way up to give us our drinks (Plum juice was out of a squat glass bottle – prune juice infused with ginseng, when the soya milk was just your stock standard affair).

And then our waitress had to climb the stairs a second time to serve us our steamed buns and dumplings. I’d read a less favourable Zomato review, where the reviewer had suggested that their buns/dumplings were frozen. And yeah, probably they were, as they seemed too perfectly shaped to be freshly hand-made – but they tasted fine, the bun was soft and bouncy all at the same time (how most people would like their buns to be…..); and the pork inside was tasty (no frozen scent here). And the dumplings were little things, one bite wonders- so checking left and right to see if anyone was watching- I picked up the little gems with fingers and popped it into my mouth. Ooo! What you’d do if you don’t think anyone is watching (as the correct etiquette would be to use my chopsticks of course).

And for the third and final time (on our bequest at least), our waitress had to high-step her way up to us again, this time with our fried dish (I was almost tempted to comment ‘Good exercise hey?’ but feared it might be lost in translation and it’d just be awkward). But thanks for the hot-tip Abbey! The tofu were as good as you had described them! Fried and seasoned with Salt & Pepper, just like a vego’s take on squid! And sprinkled over them were deep fried wonton chips. As the tofu were tiny cubes (no larger than a six sided dice), I elected again to use fingers and when another couple joined us on the gallery level I was beyond caring about social etiquette and continued popping them into my mouth with fingers like you’d do with peanuts at a pub – all the while the poor waitress had to climb up and down serving this new couple.

Our end verdict, 4.0 from 5.0 Stars! (2.5 from 3 for Food (as everything was tasty and just the right amount to comfortably satisfy); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as all staff were polite and friendly, and I would give extra points if I could for the waitress’ cardio fitness); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as the place had a really relaxed vibe to it, and they had a good Mando pop-playlist going); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money) we reserve the full 1 point for places which are ridiculous in their cost-benefit proposition, and The BG was good, but not ridiculously so)).

I really do love finding out about unknown (to us at least) places first hand from friends, as you can never go wrong with recommendations from people you trust. Thanks again Abbey for the hot-tip!!! The only hot-tip which I have for other diners, is if you elect to sit where we sat today (the table which was pushed right up to the glass banister), don’t be sitting there if you were wearing a short skirt. As customers downstairs can easily see right up to the loft area from where they’re sitting. So The Bun Gallery wasn’t a “Bun Gallery” and sitting where we sat you’re not at any risk of giving other diners a ‘Bun show’, but you’d definitely be giving them a ‘Leg show’ though – that’s my hot-tip for today. *Slow wink*.

The Bun Gallery- Sunday 7 April (4.0 Stars)


PH: 0434 834 688

Shop 2, the Quay, 61-79 Quay Street, Haymarket

Mon-Fri 8.30am – 9pm

Sat-Sun 10am – 9pm