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

1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles- Sydney CBD

Are unexpected meals the best?

Sundays in the city is a weird time of the week to be looking for lunch in Sydney, as you can’t always predict which restaurant would be open for trade on the day of rest. After finding that our top 3 choices were closed on Sundays (the newly opened Jiang Nan Gallery included) we decided to try 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles- a smaller restaurant situated on the ground floor of the World Square precinct (Liverpool-Pitt Street quadrant).

I’m suspecting that this space was originally designed for a now defunct clothing store? As after taking a few steps in, then there are two steps down into the dining portion of the store with a mat haphazardly covering plastic water pipes leading to and from the kitchen. We were immediately seen to our table and we studied the menu. What attracted us to 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles, was the promise of ….. Beef noodles I guess. *Shrug*.

On the menu there were options of various soup noodles, dry noodles, and gravy noodles, and once you’ve chosen your level of noodle saturation, then it was time to elect your chilli level (full or less)- then it’s the choice of your wheat noodles to be rounded or flat, and the diameter or width.

Placing your order and payment was made back at the front counter, and we elected Lanzhou Beef Soup Noodles ($12.90) at the less chilli level with a rounded “trihedron” noodle; Combination Lanzhou Gravy and Beef Mince Noodle ($13.90) at the less chilli level with a flat 1.5cm width noodle; for drinks, a Herbal Tea ($3.50); and for dessert, Fermented Glutinous Rice with Beaten Egg in Milk ($5.80).

And as we were taking in the surrounds, already our orders started to arrive.

First to arrive was the Herbal Tea, which came in a soda can, with what my wife labelled as an “evil plastic straw”, but at least it was a bendy plastic straw!

The mindset I was taking this arvo, was to order everything which sounded out-of-the-ordinary, as I was telling my wife “I doubt I’d ever be back” so order all the weird stuff! But the tea wasn’t weird, it was just like a grass jelly drink, minus the jelly.

And literally within the same minute our dessert also arrived.

We left this to the end, so I’ll describe it for you after the mains. But as we were lining up the drink and dessert soup for their glamour shots the mains also arrived- piping hot, I must stress!

The Lanzhou Beef Noodles was the restaurant’s signature dish and the shop’s name-sake. When it was my turn to tuck in, I first tried the beef broth- the most distinct taste was the flavour of coriander (which I don’t mind), the beef was a brisket sliced into thin slices, and the noodles were nice and chewy. The flavour profile tasted a bit like Vietnamese pho, with the same elements, but served up in a Chinese style (and spicy).

The Combination Lanzhou Gravy and Beef Mince, was best of both worlds from the non-soup base portion of the menu- I think they literally mixed two dishes together! As there were so many elements dispersed among my plate- there were slices of beef brisket, beef mince, cauliflower, tofu, black fungus, herbs, and a saucy gravy coating everything? My scarf had a firsthand experience of that gravy coating. *covers face with hands*, when I attempted to unravel a clump of flat noodles, but to be splashed by a pretty generous flick of gravy sauce. I guess better on the dark-coloured cashmere Ralph Lauren scarf, than on the light-coloured Versace shirt. Haaha. But after that, I learnt my lesson and I was more careful with picking up the noodles. The taste was good, the lesser chilli meant that the Sichuan tongue numbing feeling was there, but not so overwhelming to ruin everything else. The OD mixture of ingredients meant that each scoop was a little bit different from the last, and the noodles were nice – clearly handmade, but a bit stodgy in parts.

And when we were done with our mains, we tried the dessert – Fermented Glutinous Rice with Beaten Egg in Milk. When it was served up, it was warm, but by the time we got to it, it was room temp. The soup was thin, not thick like a Canto dessert soup. It had a unique flavour, from the Fermented Glutinous Rice, and each scoop of the spoon brought up different floating bits. Your spoon might dredge up a portion of the boiled scrambled egg (either yoke or white), or you might come up with the glutinous rice, and/or peanuts, and/or sultanas, and/or goji berries – that added a different type of sweetness to the dish. In the end, I think the dessert will be what we’d most remember from our time at 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles.

Our end verdict, 4.0 from 5 Stars! (2.5 from 3 for Food (in the end everything was tasty, cooked well, and it was out-of-the-ordinary for your typical Chinese handmade noodle joint); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all polite and efficient); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (it wouldn’t be too shabby if located in the heart of Chinatown, but it was on the shabbier end of the spectrum for World Square standards); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (well  sized mains at the $13 price-point, and a dessert and a drink for $36.10 total? That’s pretty good!)).

In conclusion, sometimes an unplanned meal is the best, as you have close to no expectations- so more often than not, you’ll leave pleasantly surprised. And that was how we felt when we left 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles, tummies filled with Lanzhou Beef Noodles. Although we enjoyed ourselves today, but it is sobering to see how World Square’s variety is slowly being eroded. As one by one, all of the original restaurants who opened their doors when the World Square first came into being – one-by-one they are closing down, to be replaced by another Chinese restaurant. Nandos, the most recent closure, to be replaced by another bubble tea store. *Headshake*. Isn’t it ironic, World Square, supposedly being a sample of what’s going on in the wider world? The gradual expansion of China into every corner of the world (have you seen the Huawei Youtube ad?), and soon the entire world – and World Square might be better known as China Square?

1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles- Sunday 11 August (4.0 Stars).

PH: (02) 8592 3617

Shop 17, Ground Floor, World Square, 123 Liverpool Street, Sydney

Mon-Sun 11am – 9pm

Stax On Burgers- Sydney CBD

No crushed kidz here, just tasty burgers at Stax On!

Today we were approaching lunch and life a bit unstructured, the only plan we had was to check-out what’s on offer within the Regents Place mall to see if anything caught our eye. We ferreted around both upper and lower levels and went down each nook and dead end, and literally at the very last dining joint before exiting at the Kent street exit, we came across Stax On Burgers!

As we approached lunch with an open mind, we hadn’t planned on having burgers today (if anything I thought we’d probably end up having something Asian), but oddly the concept of burgers piqued our interest.

Fitted out to resemble a food truck, your orders are made outside on tablets fixed to the side of ‘the truck’. What starts off as a simple perusal of their menu, quickly becomes placing items onto your virtual dining tray.

The menu was categorised into Burgers, Sides/Snacks, Drinks and Desserts. Under the parent category of burgers, were further sub-categories of Cheese burgers, Beef burgers, Chicken burgers, and Other burgers. Poking around the Cheese burger sub menu, I elected the Cheese burger with wasabi mayo ($10.00), while my wife elected The Blue Bird (chicken burger with blue cheese sauce- $14.00).

Under Drinks, we ordered a Pine Pash Soda (Pineapple and Passionfruit fizzy drink- $4.00) and under Sides, we ordered Tater Tots with Parmesan and Truffle mayo, with Ghost pepper salt ($6.50). And to complete your orders, just enter your name, elect dine in or take-away and then just tap your credit card for payment. A receipt spews out of a slot and you’re done!

We elected to dine in and we just moseyed on in, took our seats under the music speakers, and in less than 2 minutes one of the staff came out calling my wife’s name and we had our drink while we waited for the rest of our meal to arrive.

The Pineapple and Passionfruit concoction was a house blend, methinks it was tinned pineapple and perhaps a scoop of fresh passionfruit blitzed together with carbonated water? But it was nice and sweet and refreshing, with pineapple pulp to prove its authenticity (be that tinned authenticity).  

The actual inside of the shop is pretty narrow, I’ve heard of restaurateurs spending months or even years trying to find the perfect location for their concept! And for Stax On to want their shop to look and feel like a dining truck? This store was perfect for their concept (it’s the former Miss Chu’s Vietnamese restaurant). The shop was only wide enough for tables of 2, pushed up against the wall with a narrow corridor down the middle.  Larger groups will need to settle for the bench seating on the other side of the corridor towards the front face of the restaurant….I mean truck.

Then the next time my wife’s name was called out, it was the Potato totties.

It was a large serving of potato gems, fried to a crisp, smothered with a thick layer of truffle mayo, shreds of parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a generous dusting of Ghost pepper! Mmmmmm. These mini hash browns were so crunchy, the toppings all worked perfectly together, and the ghost pepper gave it a nice kick – a bit salty at times, but nothing a sip of fizzy drink couldn’t remedy.

And the third and final time my wife’s name was called (considering it was the same staffer, I’m surprised that he didn’t just bring it directly to us) he held in each hand plastic baskets with our burgers.

When wrapped in paper, they both looked similar. But just breathing in its aroma, you can tell which the Cheese burger was. The burger bun was a milk bun (which was a bit unforgettable), but the beef patty was nice and juicy (clear that real meat had been ground up to create these patties). The cheese was all melted, there were slices of pickles, and the Wasabi mayo wasn’t as strong flavoured as I’d like it to be, but the wasabi flavour was definitely there.

My wife’s Blue Bird, was a piece of chicken crumbed and fried (like a schnitzel) although she had to wonder ‘do you think it’s faux meat?’ and the blue cheese sauce flavour wasn’t strong enough either. But when I asked her at the end of the meal for her verdict, she happily gave it a 2.5 Stars from 3 for food!

Our end verdict, it was a pleasant surprise to luck upon Stax On Burgers (afterwards we found out that they had only recently opened this city store – still no reviews on Zomato), the first and original Stax On located in Canterbury. And on the whole, we were pleased with the burgers and on the big bite test it scored full marks! Super easy to wrap your top and bottom teeth around the bun stack, and with the paper wrapped firmly around it, there were no risk of it falling apart or the sauce getting all over the hands (although I had rolled up my sleeves in anticipation for the worst). Our scores? 4.5 Stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (there were a wide variety of things to choose  from, and you could customise or even make your own bun stack using the touch screens); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (although the process was largely self-service, but from the minimal interaction with the staffer, he was polite and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere, it felt like a food truck i.e. it was simple and functional, but they had a good playlist and sitting right under the speakers, it felt like being in my own music video); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (these days if you can have a main, some starters and a drink for 2 for under $35? That’s pretty good in my language!)).

I’ll have to put Stax On Burgers through the Burger scorecard to see how they stack-up? But at this moment, I think they’ll do pretty well. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare against the larger branded burger joints!

Before this day, the only association I had with the term ‘Stacks on!’ Was from my schooling days. The mental image which comes to mind is some kid hits the deck (usually on grass), then one of their mates cries out ‘Stacks on!’ And then a pile-on pursues, and it usually ends in tears, the kid at the bottom of the stack crying out for air. But today, no crushed kids here, just tasty food & drink!

Stax On Burgers- Saturday 13 July (4.5 Stars)


Level 9, Regent Place, 501 George Street, Sydney

Mon-Sun 12 noon – 10pm

**Requires sight and fingers to operate touch screens   

Mary’s- Sydney CBD

No mother of Jesus here!

Taking a city stay-cation, we leisurely strolled Hyde Park, dropping in on the winter playground out front of St Mary’s cathedral.

And when our tummies started to rumble, we headed across the park over to Mary’s – home of the best burgers in Sydney?

I’d been putting off trying Mary’s burgers for as long as I could, as I’d been hyping it and myself up, stating that it’s the best Sydney can offer! So the expectation was set so high, to tell you the truth I was semi-fearful that it might not live up to expectations.

Walking down Castlereagh St, it’s nearly impossible to miss it on a Sunday, as with the pumping metal  music blazing out from their hole-in-the-wall of a store (whilst everything else was shut), you’re almost physically made to look at the source of all the noise and if you’re looking for it, look no more as you’ve found it!

It’s dark, it’s small, it has graffiti and it has a menu which oozes attitude! If words could punch you in the face? This menu surely could!

“Can you use swear words in a menu?” my wife asked. My response, “I guess so”, inclining my head over to the menu. The actual burger selections were few (Mary’s burger, Cheeseburger, Chicken burger and a Veg burger), there were fries, a hash brown, fried cauliflower and soft drinks and that was basically the extent of the menu.

With very limited seating (6 or so wooden high stools set-up against benches which lined the walls), we decided to just grab burgers to go, with a last minute addition (a hash brown). And we perched on the stools while we waited for our number to be called.

“Hey do you just want to eat here?” I shouted into my wife’s ear over the Van Halen sounding metal, but my wife responded “I can’t stand this music!” And fair enough, it was a bit unsettling, considering to this point we were having a really chilled Sunday.

So after enduring 3.5 songs, our number was called and we took our takeaway bag and headed back to Hyde Park.

Spreading out our lunch on the bag in which it was served, we only had to dissuade a ‘Bin chicken’ (ID079) from coming too near (it seems that you can just reason with them). And after taking their glamour pics (the food, not the ibises) we tucked into our long awaited Mary’s burgers.

OMG! There’s something about Mary’s…….burgers! Jake Smyth has indeed designed a killer burger! I’ve listened to an interview with Jake, where he explains why the burger is the way that it is. Jake wanted to create a burger where dudes could fist the burger in one hand, while leaving the other hand free to knock down a tinny. And although I didn’t have a tinny close to hand, but my word, the burger was so easy to smash! The bread bun was thin, but just substantial enough to hold everything in within its bun-ny embrace! The meat patty was thick (at least a centimetre thick), and so soft (almost melting in the mouth). But the cheese was actually melty, the pickles gave it the sourness to cut through the saltiness, and the application of the tomato and mustard sauces……just at the perfect amounts! This is a critical point, as my pet hate with burgers is a soggy bun due to over-saucing, and my second hate is when a burger falls apart when you bite into it due to packing in too many fillings. And on that point, biting into it, there was never any risk of the filling being pushed out the back-side. Everything just held in place (5/5 on the big bite test), and everything was just so fresh and soft, that your teeth just cut through the burger like a hot knife through butter- I can see myself eating this long into my 80s when my dentures can no longer tear through meat.

No surprise, in a matter of minutes I had inhaled my burger, and the crunchy and perfectly seasoned hash brown which we had shared before our burgers was a distant memory.

My wife was also pleased with her Mary’s burger, where I had pickles in my Cheeseburger she instead had lettuce, instead of tomato and mustard sauce she had a creamy mayo/aioli (Mary’s special sauce), and instead of double slices of cheese she had one. But she was still eyeing off my burger in envy. Haaha.

Our end verdict? 4.5 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food (although we only ordered a very limited selection from the Mary’s menu, everything was PERFECT!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (although the interaction with staff was very limited, they were all friendly and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (although seating was limited, and we ended up taking away, the Mary’s city hole-in-the-wall had heaps of character); and 0.5 from 1.0 for Value for Money (although the food was perfect, the only deduction from the entire experience was the cost. Although $13 isn’t all that expensive, but their burgers were pretty small….. but $1.50 Hash browns? That’s a steal!)).

In conclusion, Mary’s burgers is an example of keeping things simple, and doing all the basic things well! The Cheeseburger was literally just a simple Cheeseburger, no gimmicks, no twists, but it might just be the best darn Cheeseburger I’ve ever had! I’ll have to crunch some numbers, and I’ll have to get back to you on an updated version of my Burger Vs Burger scorecard, but at this point in time we might have just found our best burger in Sydney! We have now narrowed down Sydney’s burger joints to the top 3 (Mary’s, Bar Luca, and Ze Pickle). You know what that means! One final loop of the three best joints, back-to-back, to see who has the best burger in Sydney! I’ll have to find a panel of judges, but it will be happening real soon! They’re no saints, but they do make a flaming good burger though!

Mary’s- Sunday 30 June (4.5 Stars)

154 Castlereagh Street, Sydney

Mon-Thurs 11am – 10pm

Fri-Sat 11am – 10.30pm

Sun 11am – 9pm

Byul Bam Korean Restaurant and Bistro- Sydney CBD

In search of tteokbokki.

All day I was craving tteokbokki so hard! So hard! For those who haven’t had tteokbokki before, it’s essentially a dish of tubular rice cakes, usually smothered in this red spicy (but sweet) sauce, and on top of that, melted cheese! Mmmmmm. And only in February of this year we had dined here (73 Liverpool St) with friends and we had an awesome serving of tteokbokki. But fickle is the Sydney dining scene, in between Feb and the present day (end of June) JangPo had closed down, and had re-opened as Byul Bam (also another Korean restaurant), so we were hoping against hope that they would also serve a killer tteokbokki!

We studied their menu before heading in, in English there wasn’t a tteokbokki listed, but there was a pic of a dish smothered in red sauce which was captioned in Korean. So we went on in.

The inside of the restaurant still had the same street-scape design, but it was definitely brighter than the JangPo days. And the tables and chairs had changed, but we were seated at the very same spot where we had sat exactly 5 months ago. At present everything was aluminium, the tables and chairs, the cups and bowls, only the chopsticks weren’t made of metal (and of course their tissues weren’t aluminium either).

Studying their menu, there were most of the usual Korean favourites; bibimbap, stews, fried chicken etc. And there were price points for everyone’s budget, a section for $10 meals, $20 meals, and a section where everything was at least $38. There was one dish which vaguely resembled the description of a tteokbokki – chicken in red sauce with cheese, but seeing that it had 3 chillies signifying its spiciness and knowing how spicy Korean food can be, we steered clear of it.   

In the $20 meal section, I couldn’t get past the first option, an Army Style Ramen & Rice dish; while my wife was craving a something like soft tofu stew, so she ended up ordering a Spicy Fish Roe Stew ($18.00).

And once our orders were taken, we took in the atmosphere of the place. The pumping Korean pop music was still present from the JangPo days, and the place was pretty packed with uni-aged patrons. And moments later our complementary sides arrived, a dish of potato noodles, and a dish of kimchi.

And this is what they mean by “Army style”! It dawned on us when my meal was set down before us.

Army style, as it was served in a camping style metal lunch-box, with the ramen and soup in the tub part of the box, and a serving of rice, a kimchi-like pickled veg, and these tempura-like fritter things on the lid of the box, which acted as a shallow bowl. It was more unusual than it was an amazingly flavoursome dish. But I can completely see how this is how army folk could chow down their grub in Korea. As I was fishing around for my noodles in my deep box, I imagined myself hunkered down, watching the North Koreans on the other side of the demilitarised zone, and come lunch time a jeep rumbles up and the commissary sergeant hands me a metal canteen of hot noodles and rice. So as I tucked in to the deep pot with my chopsticks and spoon, I had a bit of fun eating rough (fitting that I was actually wearing an army style bush jacket as well).

My wife’s dish was not quite what we had expected, the soup in which it was served in was quite sour as well as being spicy, the fish roe was cooked through, which made it resemble fish innards and it had quite a strong fishy taste.  The soft tofu was good though, and the rest of it was a bit of an acquired taste. And as the music was quite loud, and we were hungry, we basically just tucked into our food and moments later we were finished and full.

Our verdict? 3.5 From 5! 2 from 3 for Food (in the end we went with dishes which were off-centre so they weren’t quite what we had expected, but they hit the spot and tasted good enough); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all friendly and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (everyone sounded like they were enjoying themselves and the K-pop was pumping all night long!); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money (in the end, my dish wasn’t worth $20, it was gimmicky, but strip it down to its individual pieces, it was literally instant noodles, an egg, 5-6 mussels, and strips of onion in MSG soup, 3 pieces of fried wheat fritters, plain white rice, and 4 pieces of pickled veg……. realistically the total cost of the dish at most was $5? But hey, it’s the city and rent is expensive and staffing is ex-y as well).

In conclusion, Byul Bam is a solid little Korean restaurant, there are meals for each price point, and if you’re willing to try something a little bit different from your usual Korean favs, you’ll find it here! Except for tteokbokki. The search continues………

Byul Bam- Friday 28 June (3.5 Stars)

73 Liverpool Street, Sydney

Mon-Sun 11am – 4am