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

Burger Project- World Square

Australia’s Best Burgers, Chips & Shakes?……. Hardly!

Wow! I can’t believe it! After our less-than-favourable experience at Grille’d, we had put our “Burger Vs Burger” project of eating at all the trending burger joints in Sydney on-hold for more than 2 months! I didn’t realise that I was that badly traumatised by the messy experience. Haaha. But this Sunday arvo, we put our Burger pants back on and headed out to Burger Project-World Square, to put another burger joint through their burger-paces.

Long gone are the days when there were lines out-the-door, at the first Burger Project – eager patrons waiting for their turn to hand Neil Perry cash to try his first venture into fast food. Today, it was pretty quiet except for a bunch of primary schoolers playing fussball, an attempt to get at parent’s wallets through the youthful desires of their kids. *Rolls eyes*.

At the fast-food style counter, you make your selections. The burger options were either beef (various takes on a cheese burger); chicken burgers (various configurations involving a crumbed chicken fillet); and veg burgers (various recipes using mushrooms).  We ordered a Chilli Cheese Burger for me ($13.50); a Peking Chicken Burger for my wife ($14.90) (this was a limited edition special); and a small chips & shake combo (fries with chipotle chilli salt and coffee milkshake) for an additional $10.50)- for a total of $38.90. Ouch! And if you paid with card, there was an additional surcharge. Hmmmmm……. Feels like the Rockpool Dining Group is trying to milk every last cent from their patrons?

Armed with a buzzer, we had the entire empty restaurant to elect our seating from. Probs 6 years ago the grey and white decor was chic, but a number of years on it was just drab.

The wait for our food was considerably long (perhaps 15 mins), considering the kitchen were literally cooking for the two of us and another dude. But when our food arrived, we were pretty ready to tuck in (wifey had skipped breakfast).

Burger Project claims “Fast Food, Slow Food Values”- hey, it’s slogans like this which makes me evaluate them more critically. Ahem, let us be the judge of that.

Yes, BP has values/aspirations to be sustainable, i.e. minimal packaging and everything is recyclable/compostable. But a nearly $15 burger in an oversized paper bag (needed to be folded in on itself as the burger is too small to fill it out) in my opinion that doesn’t spell out ‘slow food values’ though.

The big bite test……. At least it was very easy to wrap both top and bottom teeth around the buns, as the burger was pretty flat. As harsh as I’ve been thus far, I can admit that the burger was good! The milk bun had a really nice chewy texture to it, although it was quite thin. The burger lived up to its chilly namesake, the jalapeño gave it a nice chilli kick and the sauce was applied perfectly! Just enough, without being messy. The veg was fresh, the beef patty was cooked perfectly- although it lacked a beef taste. I could only feel the texture of the meat when chewing, but it lacked any flavour. And same again for the cheese, there wasn’t any cheesiness, but you just felt its melty chewy qualities on your teeth.

My wife’s limited edition Chinese New Year burger – Peking Chicken, consisted of the same milk bun as mine; fresh veg (lettuce, pickles, shallots); a thin crumbed chicken schnitzel; and two sauces, one was a sweet chilli paste, while the other was the hoisin sauce (hoisin + sprinkling of shallots= Peking burger?). Her conclusion was that it was good, but if anything it was too sweet, and she preferred the standard BP chicken burger if she had to ‘do-over’.

The $10 chips and milkshake? The chipotle salt was non-descript, I’d describe it as just being salty – the complementary self-service tomato sauce was probs the most memorable element to the chips. Oops. And the coffee flavour in the milkshake was weak.

Our end verdict? 3.0 Stars from 5.0. Burger Project’s claims of “Fast Food with Slow Food Values”? More like fast food quality food, at overpriced slow food prices! When compared head to head with the other burger joints we’ve eaten at, it’s probably better than 8bit but not as good as Down N’ Out, meaning that it’s below average. To tell you the truth, it’s not much better than McDonalds; being half-the-price of Burger Project, I’m thinking 99% of families would rather go to the Golden arches for their fast food burgers, than to the Rockpool Dining groups version of a value meal for every-day Australians. Can you believe it, if you were a family of 4, it could easily add up to $80!? Eighty bucks for fast food! Has this world gone MAD!?

Score break-down: 2 from 3 for Food (it was good, but not a stand-out); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the service staff were professional enough); 0 from 0 for atmosphere (the restaurant was empty, the interior was ‘blah’ and they were playing music off Mtv or something); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (we understand that the cost needs to cover staffing, rent, overheads etc etc, but $38.90 for 2 burgers, small fries and small milkshake- that’s not affordable for most families)).

Our end comments, are that we understand that you need to position yourself in the marketplace and the marketing team has a job to do – stir up interest in a product! But outright lies of being Australia’s “best” burgers, chips, and shakes is just too much! And stating that you’re fast food with slow food values, maybe social responsibility values, but definitely not value for money though. No look-in for Burger Project in our Burger Vs Burger competition, we can and have easily struck BP off our list of potential contenders for the title of ‘Sydney’s Best Burger Joint!’

Burger Project- World Square- Sunday 31 March

https://www.burgerproject.com/

PH: (02) 9259 5600

Shop 6, Level 1, World Square Shopping Centre, 644 George Street, Sydney

Mon – Sun 11am – 9pm

**Surcharge for use of Credit cards   

Sweet Things- Black Sesame and Hojicha Soft Serves- Oh! Matcha

Lower ground Level, World Square, 644 George Street, Sydney    

Most of us, when we conjure up the image of soft serves, a mental image of the MacDonald’s 30c soft serve cone comes to mind? Yeah? Today we tried some Asian flavoured soft serves from Oh! Matcha- the World Square outlet located on the lower ground level (outside Liquorland).

I elected the Black sesame flavour, while my wife got the Hojicha flavour (roasted green tea), you can choose to have it in a cup or waffle cone (for the same price- $3.90 each) and this time we went with the cones.

Apologies, we don’t have any pics as within moments of receiving our ‘Sweet things’ from the staff, they were already melting all over the place and weren’t all that photogenic. But picture a tea-brown coloured soft serve paired with a pink coloured waffle cone (this was the Hojicha flavour), while the Black sesame soft serve was more grey sesame than black…… so picture a pale grey coloured soft serve paired with a black coloured waffle cone. Yeah, a little out-there!

But as much as people pooh pooh MacDonald’s soft serves as being filled with pig fat…… But whatever Maccas place in their soft serves, they’ve nailed it for ‘staying power’ and creaminess. As these Oh! Matcha soft serves were more ‘Oh no! No Matcha!’ “Oh no!”, because without the magic ingredient of the MacDonald’s soft serves, these were melty, and thin-creamed i.e. there wasn’t that nice creaminess you associate with soft serves. And the “No Matcha”, although we didn’t order a Matcha flavour, overall the flavours were very weak. There was barely a Black sesame flavour to mine, and my wife’s Hojicha had a faint taste of roasted green tea on the first taste, but thereafter, it just tasted like chilled milk.

And the waffle cones were very thin, so much so that if you didn’t consume your dessert in quick time, the cone might actually disintegrate on you.

In the end, it cooled us off on a warm-ish autumn’s day, and for $3.90 it’s pretty reasonably priced. Oh! Matcha also serves hot and cold Matcha drinks, parfaits, floats, and Anmitsu, so even though the soft serve didn’t hit the mark this time, there are still many other alternatives to try next-time.

Miso- World Square

The long and eager wait is over! We finally dine at Miso Japanese Restaurant! Did we like it?

Miso Japanese Restaurant has been sitting on my ‘Top 5 restaurants to try’ list for more than 8 months now (Kusuka on Sussex, the only restaurant spending more time on the list). The difficulty in getting into Miso is due to the simple fact that it’s really really popular and they don’t do Sunday trade. On Friday and Saturday nights, be prepared for a long wait as at peak periods its normal to have 8-10 groups already waiting for a table. Out front of their store, there is a physical list where you write down your name, party size, your willingness to share a table, and the time you arrived; and then you just find a spot to stand and wait it out. Our motto has always been “We don’t queue for food in the city, as there are too many options out there”, but this time, we were just so curious to see what the hype was all about! Fortunately for us tonight, a couple had just had their number called and vacated a bench seat outside the restaurant, so we happily took a seat and bunkered down for a long wait as we studied their menu.

My first gripe of the night was when I found out that the paper menu which we were studying (picked up from the door) was actually the take-away menu –  where there was at least double the amount of choices compared to the dine-in menu. When studying the paper menu, I had happily settled on the Wagyu Beef Bento ($19.80); then I had to change it all because the Wagyu option wasn’t on the dine-in menu (dine in menu was found on-line- and to this day I still don’t understand why a take-away menu has more selections than the dine in options, it’s counter-intuitive); not to mention everything was $3 to $4 more expensive (larger portions when you dine in).

After a 30 minute wait, our number was finally called and after as long as the gestation period of a child (remember, 8 months on my Top 5 must-try list) we finally set foot in their store (the shop has a swing door which muffles any noise from within). “So this is what’s it all about!” I thought to myself as we were finally granted access to the inner sanctum. The restaurant was humming with noise, I guess that is the outcome of having a packed restaurant and it was actually larger in size than I had anticipated; we were led to the upper side of the restaurant, up a couple of steps where we sat in a short corridor for 3 tables, looking onto the open kitchen.

The categories of food on offer were Teishoku (sets), Bento, Katsu, and Karaage. As Miso’s drawcard for us was the promise of bento boxes, so we both naturally ordered one each- I ordered the Miso bento ($20.80) and my wife went with the Unagi bento ($23.80). We’re usually table-water people, but as their original juices sounded interesting-  I ordered the apple, beetroot, and blueberry vinegar juice ($4.00) while my wife ordered the pink grapefruit and yuzu juice ($4.80). It was interesting to have our orders taken by the hostess, and then a couple of moments later, hear the head chef call out in Jap-glish our orders to  the kitchen, so the section chefs knew that they had an additional katsu to crumb and fry.

As we waited for our drinks and food, we took in the ambiance of the restaurant. The only description which comes to mind to aptly describe the look-and-feel of the restaurant is that it’s clean! The décor was all white and clear glass, no ornaments which spelt out that ‘this is a Japanese restaurant’, and the music they played was jazz at low levels. So it was evident that they were going for a refined vibe.

After a few minutes our juices arrived.

My beetroot drink was the darker red of the two, and at first taste it was interesting – eyebrow raisingly interesting, as the flavour wasn’t what I had expected. But after having the length of our meal to work out the flavour profile, I ended up working out what it reminded me of. You know tinned beetroot, and that deep red vinegar liquid the preserved beetroot slices come in? Yeah, the drink actually tasted like that tinned liquid i.e.  Like someone had reserved the tin fluids and added apple juice to it. So I guess you can say it was a bit of a letdown in the end. While my wife’s grapefruit drink had real grapefruit pulp and it was as advertised, bitter like a grapefruit and sour like yuzu. *Squinty face emoji*. And after a few more moments, my wife’s Unagi bento arrived.

Unagi Bento

Historically I love bentos, I enjoy the fact that you have all these little sides and everything has its home in its little compartment; just like airline food! And don’t get me started on airline food! But the bento presentation at Miso is different from what you’re used to (square lunch-box style bentos); it was served in a large round compartmentalised bowl, with your rice and main protein at the 4-8 o’clock, and all of your sides at the 8 – 3:55 o’clock. So as my wife tucked into her food, I waited for mine. And then I waited some more (felt like I was waiting for most of the night tonight) and after 15 minutes, just when we were discussing whether or not they had forgotten my order, the waitress came out with my bento. She sounded genuinely apologetic, and hearing how genuine she was, it helped dissipate most of the ill feelings I had developed (but just for the record- since first putting our name down on the list, it was almost 70 minutes before I had food placed in front of me).

The round bento box was set before me on a tray, also on the tray was a shallow saucer with a soya dipping sauce, and a bowl of steaming hot miso soup. My Miso Bento’s main protein was a pork katsu which was cooked on a bamboo skewer.  Threaded onto the stick was 3 large chunks of pork, with a slither of onion placed in-between each like a bookmark, the pork (and the stick) crumbed and deep fried; and it was served with a smear of sticky sauce which tasted a bit like a thicker teriyaki sauce. This fat shish-kebab lay on my bed of rice, and it was alright- the pork was tender and was leaning towards being under (meat a little pink near the stick), and it was tasty enough with the sauce. But the star of the dish was actually the miso soup, it was salty, and gave my tastebuds the saltiness which I needed, to an otherwise salt-free meal.

The sides were a bit of a random collection of stuff-  from left to right or from 8 o’clock to 3:55 – there was 3 large slices of fresh salmon sashimi (thumbs-up for freshness); fried tofu on a stick (horizontal thumbs, as it was a bit forgettable); egg tofu (thumbs-up, I always love the light, fluffy, sweetened egg tofu thing); potato and cucumber salad (thumbs-up, it was a bit more like a thick mash but it was tasty enough); single semi-raw broccoli (horizontal thumbs, as it was a little strange to have one single undercooked floret with a smear of mayo on it); meat ball (horizontal thumbs, it was tasty enough but it was pretty mushy, my wife was dubious if it was cooked through and left hers); spring roll (thumbs-down, I got to this late so it was cold and chewy, but the only thing I could taste was the oil it was deep fried in); soft shelled crab (thumbs-up, there were two large deep fried soft shelled crabs and they seemed pretty fresh); and last of all there were two slices of fruit- a cube of watermelon and the other was rockmelon (thumbs-down, my wife advised me not to eat it as it looked unappetising).

Miso Bento

Our end verdict, 3.5 Stars from 5 (2 from 3 stars for Food (as the food was alright, but unfortunately nothing amazing, although it was interesting to get that many different elements on a ‘plate’); 0 from 0.5 for Service (the waitress was really polite, but with the long gap in between our dishes arriving, points had to be deducted for that); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as the place was buzzing, the soft jazz added to the classy vibe and it was interesting to see/hear into the kitchen); and 1 from 1 for Value for money (the drinks were quite reasonably priced for this day and age, while $23.80 for a bento is pretty steep, but for the amount of food we received, you can tangibly see that you got your money’s worth).

In conclusion, after seeing their takeaway menu where there are more appealing options on offer; the fact that takeaway eliminates the upwards of 30 minute wait time for a table; and the fact that take-away is a couple of bucks cheaper than dine-in (and having a smaller serving size might actually be preferable), we think the take-away option might be the perfect soft spot for customers of Miso. I think Miso would have received a 4.5 Star rating from me if I didn’t have to wait, if I could’ve had my Wagyu beef, and if the portions were a little smaller so that when I got to some elements they wouldn’t have been cold and limp. So perhaps the take-away option captures all that is good about Miso. But to answer my opening question, ‘Did we like it?’ Sadly the answer is no, we were underwhelmed by Miso Japanese Restaurant after all the wait and anticipation. But I guess you’d never, never, know, if you never, never go.

Miso Japanese Restaurant- Friday 1 March (3.5 Stars)

http://www.masuyainternational.com.au/en/miso.html

PH: (02) 9283 9686

Shop 20 World Square Shopping Centre, 644 George Street, Sydney

Mon-Sat 11.45am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 9.30pm

Sun Closed

Satang Thai Infinity- World Square

A ‘Game of Thrones’ in the Sydney Thai scene, or is it just simply the usual ‘musical chairs’ of the Sydney dining landscape?

Once again driven by the curiosity to try all the newly opened restaurants in South CBD, we first poked our heads in on ‘Old School Kafey’, a newly opened Korean café on Pitt St- to find that they only serve desserts and drinks (so not appropriate for Friday night dinner). At the time we just thought it a little odd when the friendly Korean shop owner told us that the “Thai restaurant is now located in World Square”. *Shrugs*. Whatever that means…..

Secondly, we made a brief stop at Miso, a Japanese restaurant which is known for their bento boxes; but once again they were packed to capacity with a wait-list of 8 parties…… yeah, we don’t queue for food in da city. So we headed to the adjacent side of World Square to V-bar, where Satang Thai Infinity had just opened up in the past months.

We entered via the V-bar entrance, walking past the Friday after-work drinks crowd, down a few steps to the back of the bar where the bathrooms were situated and just when we thought we’d gone the wrong way, there was the entrance to Satang Thai a glass door with their name printed on it (at least we know where the bathrooms are located!). But as soon as you pushed the door open, the sounds from within rushed out to greet us! Sounds of music (not Julie Andrews)  but the sounds of a live acoustic guitarist performing Thai and English pop-songs, and the sounds of a near capacity restaurant full of office workers grabbing a meal with friends or colleagues after a long week of work. It was really happening in there!

We were seated immediately, and after studying their phone-book sized menu (I exaggerate, but there were at least 20 pages) we settled on the Grilled pork jaw (from the Lao section of their menu); a dish similar to Larb but served with Glass noodles (from their Signature dish section); and a serving of Thai Fried chicken with Massaman curry (from their fried chicken section).

And as we sat back and relaxed, the vibe that I was getting from tonight’s meal was something resembling ‘date night’. We rarely have ‘date nights’ as we dine out just the two of us on average twice a week, so you could say every week is ‘date night’, but there was something definitely different about tonight, it was probably due to the live act which created a mood which felt a little bit more special than the standard meal-out. And the ambience of Satang Thai Infinity was really interesting, industrial chic my wife described it as.

And as the first artist finished up their set for the night, our first dish arrived (less than 10 minutes after placing our order)-  being the Larb-like dish.

The first mouthful, “Wow!” It had a level of spicy which woke me right up! But after a few more mouthfuls the heat level did settle down to a tolerable level of spicy, once my tastebuds got over the initial shock of it. The menu had stated ‘Glass noodles’, which are round transparent noodles, however we’re pretty sure we were served up with vermicelli noodles (or at least a very thin version of glass noodles) which was a bit disappointing, as vermicelli is a run-of-the-mill ingredient. Boo!

The next dish we tantalized our tastebuds with, was the Grilled pork jaw. I had specified my desire for this dish as I’m a sucker for trying types or cuts of meat which I’ve never tried before. And first impression, “Yeah, this is kind of cool”. Imagine a meat crossed in-between an ox tongue and pork belly? It had that unusual velvety texture like a tongue, but it also had a layer of fat and skin similar to the belly portion. The actual flavour was quite nice, it had a flamed grilled taste to it, and it was also served with a hot sour dipping sauce. Yum!

And the last of our proteins to arrive was the Thai fried chicken-  described in the menu as crumbed chicken deep fried and coated in a sauce of your own choosing; we had chosen Massaman curry, but you could opt for Yellow curry, Chilli basil etc. etc. Our first impressions were “Hello! Welcome to the Fried chicken market!” A fried bird which is comparable to KFC- Korean Fried chicken that is. The crumbed outer layer was applied thickly so it was super crunchy (considering it was coated thickly in massaman gravy), and along for the ride were large chunks of powdery slow-cooked potato. *Slack jawed emoji*.

But have you ever seen someone fall-out of love with dishes in a matter of minutes? It’s a curious thing, the interplay between your mind and your stomach, and how you perceive food and desirability when you’re hungry and when you’re full. When we first started eating, everything was so tasty and perfect! Because I was hungry, the common saying ‘I’m so hungry I can eat anything’ aptly described how I felt. But as we went around for seconds (my initial hunger had been sated by now), all of a sudden I could only focus on the flaws of each dish. i.e. How the vermicelli larb dish was a tad too spicy so given the choice if you wanted more or less, you’d lean towards less; that the pork jaw was a bit too fatty and at one point I felt a bit nauseous when I had a particularly large fatty and chewy  piece in my mouth and almost felt physically sickened by it; and the chicken used under all the fried batter reminded me of budget restaurant’s  use of cheaper types of meat, hoping that the thick batter and frying process would mask  any signs of a lower quality produce.

But I think this feeling could have been avoided if we dined with another couple? I think if the dishes were shared around and each of us only had a smaller portion and ate them while everything was hot, we’d avoid the scenario where we felt obligated to finish each dish when we didn’t really want more and the dishes were all getting cold. So my second-round impressions were influenced by this, but let’s just say there wasn’t much motivation to go for thirds and we left at least a third behind in each dish.

In the end, the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant was more of a stand-out, compared to their food offering tonight. We were about to head off, when the second live performers arrived and started to set-up (this  time a duo), so intrigued by how they might sound and what songs might they perform, we hung around for another 15 mins- if we were less Asian, at this point would have been perfect to order a round of drinks…….. But being Asian that we are, I picked at another piece of cold TFC, the batter was completely soggy now and it was really salty. *Shudders*.

Our end verdict, 3 Stars from 5 (1.5 from 3 for Food; 0 from 0.5 for Service (we had close to no interaction with service staff, as they were rushing around servicing a full restaurant tonight); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (if we had more points to dish-out here, we’d pour on more points for their Atmosphere as it’s rare to see a restaurant with live performers these days); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (after ordering 3 mains, the total was still only $47, each plate equating to slightly over $15 each which isn’t bad in this current day and age).

Will we be back? Unfortunately not, it’s a case of ‘been there, done that’- there are just too many other places to try and taste in the CBD.

Final thoughts….The Sydney food market is a strange place, Satang Thai Infinity has only been around since December but it’s clear that they have already established themselves with a strong customer following if tonight was a fair indication of any-given Friday/Saturday night. And only later when I was fact-checking for this post, did everything make sense- why the friendly shop owner at ‘Old School Kafey’ had recommended to us the Thai restaurant in World Square.  As Satang Thai Exclusive used to occupy the shop where Old School Kafey now resides. *Lightbulb moment*. The proprietor must’ve have his fair share of diners stumbling into his store seeking Thai food, but like Musical chairs down here in South CBD- a restaurant shut-down in V-bar, Satang Thai then moved in, leaving the Pitt Street store empty for the Kafey to move in.  One night when we still have stomach space for dessert, we vow to try Old School Kafey for their Patbingsu.

And as Satang Thai expands from their humble beginnings on Quay street, as the go-to haunt for UTS students (so many good memories…sigh), a ‘Game of Thrones’ is playing out in the Sydney Thai dining scene. Each popular Thai establishment opening up a sister store, jostling for position beneath Chat-Thai. Can anyone de-throne the Chanta dynasty? Or should it be diner-sty?  

Satang Thai Infinity- Friday 22 February (3 Stars)

***Please read the next post “Sweet Things – Strawberry Cheese Pie – Old Skool Kafey” for the whole story***

Ph: (02) 8080 7025

15/91 Liverpool Street, Sydney (Inside V-bar, and has a front entrance in one of the World Square alleyways- the one with the bull statue).

Sun – Thurs 11am – 1am

Fri – Sat 11am – 2am

Grill’d- World Square

Healthier, more sustainable, and possessing social conscience, how does Grill’d stack-up against the heavy hitters of the Sydney burger scene?

Since embarking on this search for Sydney’s best burger joint, we’ve eaten quite a few burgers and I’ve read quite a few lists in the past months (differing opinions of Sydney’s best burger joints). However from all the lists I’ve perused, I haven’t seen Grill’d appear on any burger roll-call.

The first time we tried Grill’d, I think the burger landscape was a lot different from how it is today. Gourmet burgers with premium produce wasn’t easy to find back then, at that time the burgersphere was still dominated by the big 2 American burger chain stores. And I remember Grill’d was a breath of fresh air, burgers which were more unique, made to order, it was clear that thought was placed into the ingredient/flavour pairings, and who didn’t like the concept of dropping a bottle cap into 1 of 3 huge jars to place your support/vote towards a local charity/initiative. But much has changed in the intervening years, and many have caught up and surpassed Grill’d…but by how much?

Back to the present day, and knowing what we know and having tasted so many burgers over the last few months, I think I’m a more astute Burgerite – how would a Grill’d burger compare to our current top-three (Bar Luca, Z-Pickle, and Down N’ Out)?

To be fair, we chose from the Grill’d Specialty burger range (3 Wagyu and 2 Pork Belly options), thinking that if we based the comparison on the premium end of their Grill’d menu, then they’d stand more of a chance to keep-up with the big boys.

I ordered the Bonfire BBQ ($15.90) – Premium wagyu patty with native Davidson plum barbeque sauce, crispy bacon, Dijon mustard, pickle, aged cheddar, Spanish onion & egg mayo.

While my wife ordered the Pork & Pine ($15.90) – Slow cooked marinated pork belly with avocado, charred pineapple, salad & smoky chipotle mayo.

At point of sale, we were both given the option of what bun we’d like, and we both chose the sour dough bun (they lost me at ‘sour dough’, as soon as I heard those words I stopped listening to the other options).

And to make our burgers a meal, we ordered a side of Zucchini fries to share ($8.90) and an apple juice ($4.50). Our total bill amounting to slightly over $45.

On this day, we ate at the World Square Grill’d store.

And after a short wait (proving that burgers are made to order), our food was brought out to us on plates.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but my pet-hate when consuming burgers is when the bun is soggy when you first pick it up due to the sauce being applied too liberally or it being too runny.  This time the bottom bun wasn’t soggy, but a lot of sauce had already leaked out so that after first contact with the burger my fingers were already sticky with sauce (which got considerably worse as we went along). The big bite test? Full marks, as the stack was tall but still easy enough to get all of the ingredients into one single bite after compressing the bun slightly.  The first element which stood out was the pickle-  it was unique because it was sliced quite thin, but it was a large square probably 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch and one side was all pickle skin (which was quite firm , like apple skin). And all subsequent pickles were consistently the same, it was like they were sheering just the skin off pickles and serving it; when you’d might do the opposite and discard the skin. But that was unusual and gave it a sour element, and a textural change-up. However that was the only unique taste and texture which stood out, unfortunately the BBQ sauce was applied so generously that all I could taste was the BBQ sauce. I couldn’t tell if the beef patty was Wagyu as all beef flavours were masked by the overpowering BBQ sauce, the only difference I noticed was that the meat patty seemed more … Um…. Mushy? Like it was cooked rare? But I think I need to do more reading up on Wagyu beef, to better understand its characteristics and know what I’m sensing for. And unfortunately I couldn’t taste the sour flavour from the sour dough bun, or the cheese, or the mayo, or Spanish onion, as my palate was owned by the BBQ sauce, and so were my hands by the end.

On the other hand (a much cleaner hand), my wife liked her Pork belly burger, the grill’d pineapple the stand-out. And the Zucchini chips were good at first, as it was thickly coated in a crunchy batter that delighted us at first bite! However we had ordered the Zucchini chips thinking that we’d choose a more healthy option, than straight potato fries. But as the batter was coated so thickly and the shreds of Zucchini so thin, it was like just eating batter. So it didn’t feel much healthier as we were probably consuming just as much carbs as potato fries and this feeling settled in our minds as we ate and in the end we didn’t finish them. At the time the meal prompted a discussion about whether or not we should detox for a few weeks, and give the Burger Vs Burger taste test a rest as well, for the sake of our health. Haaha. But I’m one who has a short memory with oaths, I’m sure we’ll be back handling burgers in a fortnight’s time. *Smile*.

Our end verdict, 3.5 Stars from 5 (2 from 3 stars for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the youngsters at Grill’d are always friendly); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (they had a pop/R&B playlist going on); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (as $45+ is starting to get into the big boy burger pricing territory).

In conclusion, we love what Grill’d stands for, a more healthy take on burgers; a more sustainable approach to doing business and reducing/eliminating their impact on the environment (banning straws and sourcing from responsible producers); and making donating to local charities their ongoing mission! Yeah, their burgers aren’t in the same league as our top 3 burger joints, and unfortunately Grill’d offering when put through the Burger Scorecard only scored a 10 from 20, not high enough to be added to our Burger Vs Burger list (probs many before me also came to this same conclusion).

In the end, can a chain store compete with a bar or a restaurant where the boss and creatives behind the menu are still on the grills? And/or still influence the every-day running of the restaurant and the food that they serve up? I think it’s not the same nor a fair comparison when you’re a guy/gal on the grills 5-6 layers removed from the people who create the menu, and the totality of your interaction with the leaders of your company is probably the odd pump-up email, or monthly e-newsletter. But Grill’d is still a good burger option, it has the right motivations and I’ll still go back now-and-again. Next time I’ll stick to the regular burger options, so my expectation/anticipation can be lowered, so it won’t be horribly shattered again.

Grill’d World Square- Sun 27 January (3.5 Stars)

https://www.grilld.com.au/

PH: (02) 9261 4900

Shop 10.58 Ground Level, 58/680 George Street, Sydney NSW

Mon-Thurs 11am – 10pm

Fri 11am – 11pm

Sat 11am – 10pm

Sun 11am – 9.30pm