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)

https://www.staxonburgers.com/

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

Macchiato- Sydney CBD

From ashes, rises a phoenix?

It had been such a long time since we’d last been to Macchiatos, methinks we haven’t been back since the renovation after the small kitchen fire which closed them down and sparked (both figuratively and literally) the shop’s face-lift? And sitting down, it struck me in how large this place really is (for Sydney CBD standards at least), it’s spacious and airy, but anything it’s not is bright (dim mood lighting).

Throughout the week I was longing to come back to Macchiato, surprisingly able to recall each time we’ve been here – once when we ordered the set-menu for 2 (I think it was only $70) where we received a large bowl of salad, a garlic bread (in the form of a medium sized pizza), 2 plates of pasta, and 2 New York cheese cake slices (that was year 2012); another time when my wife had just returned back to work that week after a brief career break and we had this awesome pizza with a dollop of lemon-y mayo on-top (that was 2013); and the last time it was with colleagues for a team lunch, it was memorable because that year I was working so close to home that our team lunch was closer to home than it was to work (that was also in 2013). So it has been a while since we’ve been back to Macchiatos.

But little remains from the old Macchiato store – the interior feels completely different, the menu is utterly extensive (and expensive), and even the front door has moved streets! Previously opening out onto Pitt Street, but now you enter via Liverpool.

Even up to this morning I had toyed with the idea of ordering another set-menu for two just for old-times-sake (although the first time we were seriously full even after the starters), but no surprise….. A $70 set-menu was no longer on the menu. But also craving Lasagne all week long (we don’t have a working oven so can’t make our own), I naturally ordered that ($25). My wife ordered the Grand woodfire panino ($23), and a Tiramisu milkshake to share ($12).

I was just starting to get a little impatient with the wait time (it was more than 10 minutes but probably less than 15) when the milkshake finally arrived, but literally a minute later our meals also arrived – it was a seemingly long wait for drinks, but a really short wait for food though!

For $12, we had expected something larger (perhaps in an old school milkshake glass)? And we had also expected something thicker and more indulgent? But instead it was in an averaged sized jar mug, it was thin like milk, and just tasted like store-bought flavoured milk- no sign or residue of any tiramisu cake being blitzed into the drink. Boo!

For $25 we had expected a large wedge of Lasagne, but instead we were served a medium narrow slice (bordering on being described as small), but a decent serving of side salad though.  The lasagne was creamy, rich, and moreish! But there just wasn’t more to hit the spot. And the salad, perhaps it was just because I happened to get a mouthful of raw onions? But it was so intensely raw onion-y that I had that same feeling of a nose rush when you’ve just consumed too much wasabi! And I was left with the taste of raw onion for hours afterwards. Yuck.

And for $23, the Grand Panino was the only dish which met our expectations, as it was pretty huge! The Panino was crunchy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside; the filling wasn’t that equally distributed though, so within my half I had heaps of rocket and only a thin slither of aged meat, when my wife had too much of the meat and the other corner was just all caramelised onions; and the feeling of fullness from the meal was largely due to the hefty carbs from the Panino. Along with the sandwich, it came with a large serving of hot chips – it was probably the oil it was deep fried in (methinks it hasn’t been changed in a while), but each fry tasted like calamari rings. Which isn’t a problem if your chips taste like seafood when you’re having fish & chips, but a little weird when you’re not.

Our end verdict, 2.5 from 5, which is a below average score (1.5 from 3.0 for Food (everything we had was ok, but after every positive element of a dish I found myself saying  ‘but’ as there was always a negative to each dish); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as the staff were all polite); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the venue actually reminded me of restaurants in the States, being large and spacious); and 0 from 1.0 for Value for Money (Look, it is expensive to eat out in the city I get that, but $12 for flavoured milk? And $25 for a small serving of Lasagne?)).

In conclusion, Macchiato looks and feels way more up-market now, compared to how it was prior to the fire and subsequent renovations – but we’re simple people and for us the old Macchiato held something special and memorable for us. Today we’d probably remember our lunch at Macchiato for all the wrong reasons, and I’m sure give it a couple of months we’d forget the entire experience. Unlike the previous 3 times (over 6 years ago) where I could recall exactly what we had and what was going on in our lives at the time. Sadly, I can’t see us ever coming back. Yes, from the ashes a more aesthetically appealing Macchiato did re-emerge, but today it just didn’t do it for us.  

Macchiato- Saturday 15 June (2.5 Stars).

https://www.macchiato.com.au/

Ph: (02) 9262 9525

Shop 2 /338 Pitt Street, Sydney

Mon – Fri 7am – 12 midnight

Sat – Sun 8am – 12 midnight

A Weekend of Happy Returns

What are long weekends all about? Chilling out and eating! And boy did I eat and eat this weekend!

Hong Kong Kitchen– Sydney CBD (Thursday dinner)

It all started as soon as I downed tools for the long-weekend (taking Friday off to make it a super long weekend!). I was catching up with my folks, so considering that they were from the ‘old country’ and hadn’t tried Hong Kong Kitchen before – I thought it would be a nice treat to take them to an authentic Hong Kong Char Chaan Teng. I didn’t need to study the menu as I already knew what I wanted, I naturally went with my fave – the Baked Pork Chop Rice with a cup of hot Góngsīk náaihchà to warm-up my freezing bones. My dad had the baked fish pasta dish, while my mum ordered the Corn and Chicken Rice. I think they were pleased with their Chinese-Western style dishes, while my pork chop was an inch thick, but yet so tender! And being covered in melt-y cheese and tomato sauce…..come to think of it, it actually reminds me of the good old Chicken Parmigiana. Needless to say I went home very satisfied- while my parents kicked on to check-out Vivid on their own.

Belles Hot Chicken– Haymarket (Saturday lunch)

And after some retail therapy on the Saturday morning (basically getting warmer clothing to ward off the cold) we finally got a chance to head back to Belles Hot! I had been craving chicken and waffles for weeks and weeks now, so it was a no-brainer that I elected the 3 pieces of chicken drumstick with waffles! But the only thing I had to toss-up between, was the level of heat which I thought I’d be able to tolerate (on a 1-6 scale). And since I’d tried ‘Hot’ (Level 3) and survived, I thought it was time to up the ante- electing ‘Really Hot’ (Level 4), while there were still ‘F-in’ hot’ and ‘Sex Panther’ levels awaiting me if I was man enough. My wife elected Wings and Fries at the ‘Hot’ level and to wash that all down we ordered the Arnold Palmer house drink which was a blend of homemade lemonade and homemade ice tea. Yum!

‘Very hot’ was definitely a level reserved for guys & gals with a good spice tolerance. I knew I was in for a battle when after the first 2 bites my lips started to swell up, my mouth was in physical pain (anywhere the chilli powder/oil had touched), and each of my facial orifices were leaking its respective fluids (not a pretty sight). After drumstick one, even placing the fluffy soft waffle with its moreish sticky syrup into my mouth, caused physical pain on contact. And I love my wife so so much! She offered to swap me one of her Hot wings, for one of my Really Hot drumsticks, to save me from my self-inflicted torture. She said the look on my face, reminded her of the time when I took on the hottest burrito challenge and almost died from it. Haaha.

In the end, we were both suffering with burning mouths. And when we looped back to eat the milder ‘Hot’ wing, in comparison the wings tasted like child’s play! You could almost gift the drumlet to a toddler to teethe on! Haaha. But we survived to eat another meal….. Only a handful of hours afterwards. Hehehe.

Golden Century– Haymarket (Saturday dinner)

As my wife’s uncle from the States was visiting Sydney for the first time – the proper place to dine at was at Chinatown’s best Seafood restaurant- Golden Century! With my folks along for the ride, it was lucky that we had made a table booking for 5, although with the reservation we still had to wait for at least 10 minutes before our table was ready. And as my dad is a planner, he had already devised a list of dishes from studying their online menu, which he dictated to the waitress to take-down.  We had a good variety of meats (pork, duck and chicken), a good selection of veg (broccoli, asparagus, and tofu), and of course seafood (scallops and crab).

After the waitress had taken our orders, the food literally came out faster than we were seen to our table! In less than 10 minutes all 6 dishes were served-up, just as we finished our complementary soups. All of the food were tasty (although a little bit temperature cold), and there was so much food that we each had to take it for the team to clear the plates. The scallops were the highlight for me, they were large and fat, but you could tell that they were originally frozen (Mr. Wong being the Scallop bench-mark where they serve their’s fresh). But on the whole, the food was still a notch above your usual Chinatown Cantonese restaurants – and we liked the complementary desserts, which included fresh fruit, sweet soups, and baked/deep fried goods. And after our dinner together, we headed out to watch the 9pm Darling Harbour fireworks.

Sydney Pork Rolls– Haymarket (Sunday lunch)

As we were planning to have all-you-can-eat hotpot for Sunday dinner, we thought we’d better have a lighter lunch. Our go-to budget light lunch venue is Banh Mis from Sydney Pork Roll on George Street! Their shop has gone through a bit of a refurb, as the service counter is now almost pushed right out onto the street, now like a hole in the wall where you place your orders and watch your banh mi being created from scratch (the ladies asking you if you want chilli in your rolls). The humble pork roll has gone up in price to the round figure of 5 bucks, but where else can you be completely filled for $5? Today we just went with their traditional pork rolls without chilli (still a little traumatised from Belles Hot) and we took these babies back home to have.

We have to admit that the Banh Mis seemed to have less filling within them, compared to their $4.70 days. In the past shallots, coriander and pickled carrots would be falling out of the roll. And the paper-bag in which it came in, would be soggy from all the soya sauce and mayo which would leak out of it. But oddly this time our paper bags were dry and drippings-free. Despite the price hike and seemingly less ingredients, they still hit the spot!

Munich Brauhaus– The Rocks (Sunday Dinner)

After showing our uncle around the city on the ‘I’m Free Walking Tour’ which lasted from 2.30pm to 5pm, the tour finishing up at the Rocks – so it didn’t make any sense to try get back out of Circular Quay with Vivid about to start in a matter of minutes. So we decided to ditch the plans for hotpot back in Chinatown, and we ended up having Bavarian at The Rocks! But I have to admit, I was pretty devastated to find out that the iconic Lowenbrau Keller was gone, taken over by ‘The Bavarian’ chain of restaurants- the Lowenbrau replacement, named Munich Brauhaus. The signs which you could tell that they’re not the same, is when you hear the staffs’ Aussie accents and the music they played was just popular pop-music. But we tried not to let these changes dampen our night, so best way to combat disappointment was with a platter consisting of 5 different ways to consume pork (sausages; slow-cooked with crackling; the whole knuckle; braised with smoky sauce; and inside a fluffy Chinese Bao). And for good measure we ordered sides of sauerkraut and red cabbage, and as starters we had a soft pretzel each.

The food was soo good! The pretzel hit the spot after an afternoon of walking and building up a healthy appetite- the pretzel was quite salty from the large grains of salt and the salty melted butter. And the pork in all its forms were tasty! The star being the pork belly bao, while I’m sure the table next to us were able to hear us crunch into the pork crackling from the slow cooked pork belly.

The set menu for 3 was so large that we didn’t even attempt to tuck into the star of the platter, the pork knuckle, which was larger than my fist. In the end we had to doggy bag the pounds of meat, hopefully the once crunchy crackling wouldn’t be too disappointing after a night of refrigeration and microwave-ation. And when we were done, we shuffled our way along Circular Quay, following the seemingly hundreds of thousands of people who had also elected this night to check-out Vivid.

Now that’s some crazy 72 hours of eating! Now what I have to look forward to, is to squeeze back into my work pants on Tuesday morning. *Cries into hands*. But that’s a true ‘Weekend of Happy Returns’!