Hipster

Night Noodle Market 2015, Sydney

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Another year, another Night Noodle Market, another chance for me to empty my wallet on various Asian street foods.

The annual Night Noodle Market kick started last (last) week, lighting up (or fogging up with all the furious meat sizzling) Hyde Park once again from Thursday 8 October to Sunday 25 October. As a part of Good Food Month, Sydney, the Night Noodle Market brings together Asian restaurants from all over Sydney and Australia to bring us an experience that we sorely lack in Australia, night markets.

The joys of late night food runs, where you’re not just stuck with fast food chains or kebabs (don’t get me wrong, I adore kebabs), where you can wonder down the streets at 11pm on a weeknight and it’s bustling with people sizzling skewers, ladies scooping piping hot soup noodles or icy cold sweet treats into plastic throw away containers while lights, sounds and amazing smells waft from every corner. That to me, as someone who loves food a bit too much and midnight snacking, is what dreams are made of! It is also probably the main reason why I want to live in Hong Kong for a year, instead of doing London, like a normal person does when they get that overseas working holiday urge.

The Night Noodle Market tries to recreate that exact experience, but in our own backyard, where there’s even a little bit of greenery to go with it!

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I must say, in the last few years the Night Noodle Market has come a long way from its humble beginnings. I admit, I wasn’t a massive fan after experiencing the Night Noodle Market in its first year. To me, it was just a poor attempt at gouging at people’s pockets and charging festival pricing for meals that could be easily obtained just five to ten minutes down the road. In the first year, Good Food Month, just brought together a bunch of restaurants from around the CBD. These restaurants seemed to just serve their standard dishes in smaller quantities and at massively over inflated prices and don’t forget the 30 minute or more wait for anything even remotely good and the lack of seating because it was so darn popular. I wasn’t going to pay that much and wait that long for something I could get down the street. So during the first Night Noodle Market, instead of waiting at the Mamak’s stall, I decided to just go to Mamak, at their actual store in Chinatown instead. In hindsight it was a pretty good night.

Ever since then, I haven’t been super keen on the Night Noodle Market. That, and me now being a three hour drive away probably contributed, instead of a stop over after uni. Flash forward thee years and it looks like things have changed! I now have to walk past the wafting smells of barbecued meats and other fantastic goodies each night to get home. So naturally, instead of eating dinner at home, I’ve been dropping by and getting a different treat each night.

The Night Noodle Market has definitely gotten a lot cooler over the years. There are now fantastic eateries from around Sydney and even some interstate and festival only stalls showing up as well! Plus, you’ve got eateries doing goodies that you can’t really get at their standard store, like Messina and Wonderbao, N2 and Black Star Pastry and Miss Dipity and Mr Bao doing awesome collaborations. Then there’s One Tea Lounge offering miso caramel and Everyone Loves Ramen’s ramen tacos. Pretty awesome right?!

So what caught my eye at the Night Noodle Market? This is the bit where I post pictures of things.

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Well, who can go past the dessert lovers dream? Messina meets Wonderbao with the David Bao-wy ($12), deep fried bao with salted coconut sorbet dipped in white chocolate mango ganache and rolled in crashed cashews. This tasted a lot better than it looked. Actually, it looks quite nice in real life, we just take horrific photos. So don’t let this put you off, just check it out on Instagram.

If I had to describe this bao in one word, it would be ‘rich’ but not necessarily in a bad way, especially if you like decadent desserts, then this is going to be right up your alley. But it’s definitely not for the faint hearted or I guess anyone with heart problems to be honest. This bao brings together a super fluffy while crisp deep fried bao with creamy sorbet and a splash of ganache to top it all off cos it wasn’t already flavourful and sweet enough.

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Although I wasn’t able to finish this whole bao myself, purely because it got too much, I actually enjoyed the bites that I did have. The bao was probably my favourite part. It was super fluffy, airy and light, as you would expect from the amazing people at Wonderbao. Thanks to the deep frying, the bao had a lovely crisp shell which contrasted the fluffy interior. Inside the bao, there was a lovely and smooth coconut sorbet. Finally there was the white chocolate and mango ganache which I thought brought the majority of flavour to this little bao. Finally cashews because no one ever said no to cashews right?

After having this David Bao-wy, I definitely think I’ll be dropping by Messina again to try the Great Balls of Fryer. Not a massive fan of peanut butter ice cream but fried ice-cream, I’m all there.

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After having the super sweet David Bao-wy from Messina on my first night, I was back but this time for something savoury and who can go past Ramen tacos ($18 for 3) from Everyone Loves Ramen. With the set, you get a miso beef with iceberg lettuce taco, a terriyaki chicken with spring onions and baby radish taco, and a pork belly with coriander and Sriracha mayo slaw taco. I’m not sure if you can buy these separately, I didn’t really notice an option for it on Everyone Loves Ramen’s menu but if it’s your first time trying these ramen tacos, all three are worth it, each are quite different in flavour and taste.

I really didn’t do these ramen tacos justice with my ‘amazing’ photography skills (this seems to be a running theme so far. I swear, I’ll improve). Nevertheless, they were tasty. It’s a simple concept, deep fried egg noodles with flavoursome meats and some veggies for garnish. The ramen taco shells tasted exactly like what you get in a chow mein but a lot crunchier, you also get that mildly eggy flavour and that deep fried flavour that I know I’ve described so well. I know that sounds totally gross but if you like fries, fried chicken or the baos from Messina than you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Although tasty, I must say like anything made out of ramen noodles that isn’t actually soupy ramen, where it be a ramen burger or these ramen tacos, the structural integrity just isn’t there. Expect meat, iceberg lettuce and pieces of red cabbage everywhere.

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As for which combination I liked best, it was definitely between the chicken and the pork. The beef just didn’t stand up to the others at all. Too stringy and combined with the iceberg lettuce it was just all a bit too boring. Now the chicken and the pork, those were just packed with flavours. For me, I would have to say the pork. Awesome fatty and crispy cubes of pork coupled with creamy and flavourful red cabbage slaw. The perfect combination of big flavours and contrasting textures. The pork is what I’m going back for next time. If you can buy them separately. Which I’m not sure I can.

Well, thats it for now. Stick around, I promise there will be more. Well I’ve already got the pictures, now I’ve just got to write them up before the event ends this Sunday. If you haven’t been already, head over soon.

In the meantime, feel free to read our post from the Enlightened Night Noodle Markets in Canberra, 2015. I notice a few of the stalls that we ate at and wrote up are the same like Hoy Pinoy, Daniel San, Roti Road, Teppayaki Noodles, Span Thai and etc.

 

Barrio Collective Coffee, Braddon

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Another week, another post about a new cafe opening up in the perennial cafe launching pad that is Braddon! It has kind of gotten to a point where I’m looking for reasons to check out and write about places other than Braddon where possible, but I guess it is unavoidable at times. So after over two months, I finally headed over to Lonsdale Street to try out Barrio.

Normally, I’m not overly upset about waiting around to try new places. Places tend to need a bit of time bedding in their processes and to be honest, I just hate living up to the stereotype of a food blogger, where I’m that person just rushing out to try the new place BECAUSE ITS NEW MAN. But every now and then, there will be a place that makes me want to kick myself for not checking it out earlier. Barrio sadly, is one of those places.

Tucked away at the top of Lonsdale Street in a small little store, not measuring more than three by five is Barrio. Barrio is a quaint little place that offers a small menu of breakfast and light lunch options that don’t require a massive cook up. The kitchen is nothing more than a toastie machine and couple of other simple kitchen gadgets from what I can see unless they have a Harry Potter style invisiwall going on somewhere. There is also a long list of different coffee beans, teas and drinks. Barrio Collective Coffee as the name suggests, specialises in coffee but as a coffee newbie, I was primarily interested in the food.

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When we started browsing the menu at Barrio, this dish jumped out at us. Once I saw marrow butter, it was locked in. Sourdough with marrow butter, shallots and a fried egg ($16). As you may know, I love all things meaty, whether its bone broth, blood sausage or bone marrow. If I see one of these things on a menu, everything else becomes white noise.

Of late, these things seem to be so in. Look at any new and hip restaurant or eatery menu and you’ll see either blood sausage, bone marrow or bone broth. As a big fan of all these things, I’m very excited to see this turn of events in the food game. However, after eating many many dishes with these meaty goodies in them, I’ve been left greatly disappointed, especially when it comes to bone marrow. Most places seem to be jumping onto the bandwagon without truly making the most out of the amazing, rich and deep flavour of bone marrow. Instead, it just seems to be chucked on top as some sort of alternate gravy.

Here at Barrio, its a completely different story. The bone marrow is simply amazing and just so strong. It is one of the most meaty, tasty and rich marrows I’ve ever had, and this is in spread form! I’m not sure my words and hopeless descriptions are really doing this bone marrow justice, but this is about as close as you can get to literally sucking the marrow out of the bone. When compared to some of the ‘bone marrow jus’ that a lot of places are doing, this marrow butter at Barrio completely puts them to shame. If you like meat, you’ve got to give this dish a try. The fried shallots, dried onions and fried eggs were a nice addition, adding lovely eggy flavour, crispiness and extra earthiness but to be honest, they’re all just add ons. The star of this dish is the marrow butter and the delicious bread.

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Our second dish from Barrio was the Snowy Mountains trout with pickles and creme fraiche ($14). Although this didn’t have a stand out element like the sourdough and marrow butter dish did, it was still a fantastic allrounder. For some weird reason, while I was eating this, I felt like a fisherman from a small port side town, eating some of my home smoked ocean trout with my homemade pickles on a slab of stone that I picked up outside my cottage.

Everything about this dish felt so rustic. From the presentation to the actual food. There I was sitting in one of the most hipster cafes in Canberra, where the shop owners were wearing flannel with overgrown woodchopper beards but there was no kale, superfood or any of those other hipster buzz items to be seen. This was real. When a bunch of young people with a passion open up a store, this is what you get. Not some preppy rich kids whose parents give them money and they jump onto whatever bandwagon is available. Just a bunch of guys with a love for food and coffee. I might be a tad overzealous about the potential beginning of Barrio, but you know what I mean right?

As for the dish itself? Fantastic! Melt in your mouth ocean trout with a really rich smokey flavoured, couple with a variety of pickled vegetables includes onions, carrots and capers which perfectly cut through the richness and the fattiness of the trout and creme fraiche. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything else this good in Canberra. Simple but delicious.

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Of course, we couldn’t come to a place called Barrio ‘Coffee’ Collective and not get a drink so heres the Gypsy tea ($5) smoked black tea with burnt quince jam and milk. I know its not coffee but hey it’s the next best thing! I also decided to add a stroopwafel ($3) after seeing all these amazing comments by Tales of a Confectionist about stroopwafel, I had to see what this little biscuit had to offer.

But firstly, the tea! I’ve been impressed by everything that I’ve had so far at Barrio and this was no different. Originally I was going to get the chai which came with nut milk, which is Barrio’s homemade version of soy milk but sadly when we were there, they had ran out of nut milk so we opted for this interesting concoction instead. Something about smoked black tea jumped out at me and who can say no to burnt quince jam?

I had no idea what I was in for when I ordered this but on first sip, I was impressed. This tea was different to anything else I have ever had. It had this deep smokiness to it coupled with this berry like sweetness from the burnt quince jam. While I was drinking it, I swear it reminded me or something but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But that night it hit me, it was maple bacon! This smoked tea tasted like a mild maple bacon shake, just warm and delicious.

As for the stroopwafel, it was a pretty cool add. It was like a really thin and crispy waffle with this gooey layer of sweet and delicious caramel sauce in the middle. I don’t know if I was meant to but I ended up dipping the stroopwafel into my smoked tea, this made the caramel all gooey and awesome, but it didn’t end up like a Tim Tam slam or anything. I’d say that dipping is entirely optional.

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Finally, House made blood orange soda ($4) or atleast I think it was, theres also a fresh pressed blood orange on Barrio’s menu for $4 and this was blood orange but I swear the crew at Barrio said this was the house made soda, plus this was fizzy. I guess we will never know.

After having the sweet maple bacon like smoked tea with quince jam we decided to go for something refreshing and this house made blood orange soda hit the spot perfectly. It was the perfect combination of sweet and citrus goodness, coupled with just the right amount of fizz. There wasn’t much and when I finished it I was definitely left wanting more but hey for $4 its not bad at all.

On a side note and completely unrelated to food, so I have no idea what its doing on this post but the cups were really weird so I can’t help but mention it. Barrio uses ergonomic cups! Thats right, you can get an ergonomic cup that fits into your hand perfectly. Each cup comes with a little dint where your thumb can sit perfectly!

So that was my trip to Barrio. I only had two dishes and two drinks but from that tiny sample of Barrio’s menu, I was totally blown away. I’ve yet to be more impressed by another cafe in all of Canberra. This meal even competes with some of the fantastic fine dinning and degustations that I’ve had in Canberra. It was that good. I can’t vouch for the coffee here but I can say hands down best cafe in Canberra for food. This meal took me to another place, I felt like a fisherman in a sleepy town and it was nostalgic, not that I’ve ever been a fisherman living in a small sleepy port town but it just made me feel that way.

If you haven’t been to Barrio and you love good food, this is an absolute must! When I first saw Barrio opening up, I didn’t care to check it out, I thought it would be another hipster dive but one meal in and I’ve absolutely fallen in love. You can too! Ask me how! (Monkey Island fans…no? ok.)

Barrio Coffee Collective

Ori Building, 28 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: barriocc.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/barriocc

Opening hours:

Monday to Friday

7:00am to 3:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:00am to 3:00pm

Barrio Collective Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lonsdale Street Roasters 23, Braddon

I’ve always found this a little confusing, probably because I’m not a coffee person and don’t really pay attention but there are two Lonsdale Street Roasters. I never knew which was which and for a while, I thought they were actually owned by different people! I thought the one opposite Civic Pub was Lonsdale Street Roasters and this one, the one near Autolyse and Elk & Pea was Lonsdale Street Eatery. Well it wasn’t until this meal that I worked it all out.

So, they’re actually owned by the same people. The one opposite Civic Pub is known as Lonsdale Street Roasters 7, it mainly serves coffee, pastries, sandwiches, rolls and some small meals. However, LSR 7 revamped its little coffee store, it now has an upstairs area and it looks like they’ve expanded their menu too. But this post is about their other store, Lonsdale Street Roaster 23. This one is much larger, serves their generally always great coffee and has a full menu and kitchen, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating space too.

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I’ve lived in Braddon for a while now, yet I’ve never eaten at Lonsdale Street Roasters, I’ve actually never had breakfast or brunch at Elk & Pea or Autolyse and I love them both a lot, I just can’t seem to wake up before breakfast ends, and if its lunch time, I might as well get a lunch dish! Well, the same happened this time and we didn’t get to LSR 23 until about 1PM but lucky for us, they do all day breakfast! We actually bumped into one of our friends at LSR 23 and she told us that we came on a good day or maybe time, since there was ample available seating on the inside and outside.

Anyways, onwards to the food at LSR 23, we managed to mix it up with some brekkie and lunch dishes this time so um, get ready for slightly more variety than we normally do.

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First up, the Royale with cheese ($13.50 + $4.50 side of fries), hand ground beef patty, American cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and special sauce. This was actually a surprisingly nice burger! It was pretty basic, nothing overly different or fancy but together the ingredients worked well and it tasted delicious. Inside two toasted brioche buns there was a generous amount of super fresh tomatoes and lettuce, coupled with a nice big beef patty. The patties felt like they were cooked using the smash method, which gave it a really nice smokey and charred crust. I probably should explain the smash method of patty cooking, since it’s really obnoxious when we say something like ‘smash method’ and expect you to understand what that is, seeing as I don’t think its actually official terminology or anything, just random language we pick up from here and there. Anyway, you pretty much get a patty, put it into a ball and cook one side down, then flip it, cook it a bit more, then smash it down flat with a spatula! This is how I cook all my burgers, and it ends up being perfectly charred with the best chance of a pink centre, though I’m no burger savant, so there might be a way better method out there, but that’s mine!

Finally, to top it all off, there is some melted cheese and a some pickles. I really wish LSR 23 put more than two pickles in their burgers, but I’m just a terrible pickle fiend so don’t take that too badly. I just feel that they give a lovely contrasting sourness to balance off the richness of the patty and cheese.

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Here is a close up of the burger, since I figured it’s actually a pretty good looking burger and what not. Look at that super vibrant and fresh lettuce and tomato, and lack of pickles. If you look closely enough, you might be able to see that the patty edge is quite rough and jagged, and that’s what made us assume that LSR 23 uses the smash method to cook their patties.

Oh and if you add an extra $4.50, you get a pretty decent serve of french fries along with some tomato and mayo sauce. LSR 23 cook up their chips just right too. Lovely and crispy but not overly oily or heavy. Really nice all round.

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From the all day breakfast menu, the Eggs florentine ($15.50) with rye bread, creamed spinach, brown butter hollandaise and kale chips. This was an interesting dish. Nice but probably not the best eggs florentine I’ve ever had, though that’s probably mainly my fault. The eggs were great, two nice and large eggs, poached perfectly. The bread was good too, two generous pieces of rye bread which had that hint of sourness that offset the creaminess of the yolk. The hollandaise sauce was fine too, creamy, buttery and delicious. Finally, the kale chips were a nice addition, bringing great texture and crunch into a dish that was rather mushy all round.

My only issue with this otherwise really nice dish was the creamed spinach. Taste wise, it was quite nice, it was like a mix between pureed spinach and fresh bits of spinach. It brought extra creaminess to the plate and lush greenness as well but there was just so much of it. There was a thick layer of creamed spinach under each egg and it just completely overwhelmed everything else. I just felt like I was eating bread and spinach, I could see the egg but I couldn’t taste them. I personally don’t mind spinach but here it was just a little too much. So a word of warning, unless you love spinach, this probably isn’t the dish for you or maybe consider going halves with someone else.

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Outside of the crazy amount of spinach, the rest of the dish was quite nice, especially the two poached eggs. Both were perfectly poached, with plenty of oozy and creamy yolk goodness. To fix the spinach issue and to truly enjoy these perfectly poached eggs and brown butter hollandaise sauce, I just ended up scrapping all of the creamed spinach off from one of the eggs and setting it aside. I then shared the remaining creamed spinach from the other egg between the two. With this much creamed spinach, the dish was actually quite nice. Just enough spinach to bring the healthy, green and clean taste while still maintaining creaminess and flavours of the eggs, hollandaise and bread.

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Of course, here is the other perfectly poached egg. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way as me, but nothing ruins a breakfast quicker than poached eggs that come out semi boiled. I know most places get it right so I shouldn’t place such a heavy emphasis on it when poached eggs are perfect but I’ve been to a couple of very nice breakfast joints in and around Canberra and ended up with overcooked eggs instead of poached eggs, very much poached egg pwned. Yes, I know I can just asked for the kitchen to recook it but I find that really awkward, so I just suck it up and sadly and slowly eat my hard eggs.

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Finally to top it all off, a Chai latte ($4.5 large). We couldn’t leave Lonsdale Street Roasters without a drink, especially since they are famous and completely loved by most Canberrans for their coffee. So, of course, I got a chai — the most uncoffeeiest drink out there but its the closest thing I’ll drink to a coffee and legitimately enjoy. I’m just not quite there yet, coffee is really weird for me, it actually makes me sleepy whereas black tea keeps me up at night, I learnt that the hard way with a late night Chatime once.

Anyway, the chai here was pretty nice, on the milder side but there were hints of spices throughout it and it was quite sweet without adding any extra sugar and to be honest, if you’re ordering a chai over a coffee or tea, chances are you like your sweet stuff.

Overall, I liked Lonsdale Street Roasters, my dish wasn’t great but that was probably a choice thing more than the dish being bad or anything and we really did enjoy the burgers. Next time I drop by, I’m definitely getting the mushroom burger or maybe a sweet brekkie dish.

Lonsdale Street 23

23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: lonsdalestreetroasters.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LonsdaleStreetRoasters23

Opening hours:

Monday to Wednesday

6:00am to 4:00pm

Thursday to Saturday

6:00am to 4:00pm

Sunday

7:00am to 4:00pm

Lonsdale Street Roasters 23 on Urbanspoon

Joe’s Bar, Kingston

I think we’ve come full circle now, there was a time long ago when most restaurants you’d see around were named after someone in the attempt to make them seem more friendly, more relatable. Places like Lulu’s Cafe, China Joe’s, Uncle Jeff’s Vietnamese, any Thai restaurant (unless they went with the ‘thai’ pun option which was also super popular). Then after that came the modern era of places using words no one really understands, but if you go back in time or speak another language, it is actually a word that they use often for clean living or something. Places like Autolyse, Temporada, Mocan & Green Grout. Now I don’t have a particular preference when it comes to the names of restaurants, but I will admit I do have a slight nostalgic twinge at the thought of those old favourites and it is with great pleasure that I get to talk about a place named Joe’s Bar, presumably named after a man named Joe. Or woman named Joanne. You know, sometimes they shorten it like that.

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Joe’s Bar is the newly opened Italian inspired eatery and bar located on the ground level at the East Hotel in Kingston and complements Ox Eatery as another reason to venture out to the East Hotel whenever you can. I’m not usually one to jump out of my seat to try and attend newly opened places since I hate waiting in lines, but whilst I was browsing Instagram, I kept seeing pictures of cool little cheese plates and drinks coming out of Joe’s but they weren’t just traditional Italian goodies and drinks, each and every one of them had a cool and modern twist. And flowers, heaps of flowers, when I saw that, my hipster instincts kicked in and I knew I had to check it out.

Stepping into Joe’s Bar, the first thing that hit me was how quirky and cool the decor was, but second to that was the fact that it actually wasn’t super busy at all! I was kind of expecting a huge rush simply because of how Canberra seems to get whenever a new place opens up, which, I should add, is really nice to see as someone who is invested in the growth of Canberra’s food scene.

The decor is probably best described as a Frankenstein of hipster and rustic and it’s something that I really enjoyed. I know I say hipster a lot but it’s 2015, there’s just a lot of hipster things around these days. There’s a lovely wooden, vintage feel to the place, as well as a ton of ornaments and lights that seem thrown together in a way that doesn’t really work, but at the same time totally does. Sometimes I feel like my true calling is not in the realm of ‘describing things I don’t understand’. This is one of those times.

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Here you can see a few of the cool little things that make up Joe’s Bar’s character. Personalised coasters, cool little rocky candle holders and lemon slices in your tap water! Fancy! In addition, you get these cool little number cubes when you order that signifies what table you are. It’s these sorts of things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but at the same time, I find really cool and is what sets a place apart from others. Also, stacking these little number boxes would be hell and I appreciate that kind of effort.

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First up, we got some Complimentary popcorn with rosemary, pecorino and olive oil. This was a welcome surprise; soon after we ordered we were presented with a complimentary serve of Joe’s special popcorn, and the smell itself was enough to get us drooling. Strong wafts of cheese oozed out of this dish and we were pretty hungry anyway so we started diving in straight away.

I am not a huge popcorn fan, lets get that out of the way first. When I go to the cinema, I generally will opt for chips, though I am acutely aware of how awkward it is to eat crunchy chips in a cinema, so might turn to gummy bears if I’m watching something particularly dramatic, but the point is, I’m not a huge popcorn guy. With that said, this popcorn was freaking delicious. Really cheesy, oily and just rich and decadent. There were just loose chunks of cheese everywhere, and depending on what ended up in your hands, you’d end up with a really rich cheesy mouthful, or a more relaxed one. Later the waitress came over and noticed we demolished our first bowl and offered us another one, which we gladly accepted. We kind of turned into popcorn people for one night.

A couple of days later, I actually tried making this at home myself, since it was absolutely amazing and I thought the ingredients were fairly basic, it should be quite easy right? Well I was wrong, my one turned out about a quarter as nice. The pecorino wasn’t as rich, the rosemary wasn’t nearly as edible, and overall it just wasn’t tasty at all. I’ll figure it out one day I’m sure. (Please help me I have no idea what I did wrong with it).

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Our first ‘main’ of sorts was the Polpettine di carne ($22) pasture-fed Cape Grim beef meat balls in vine ripened tomato sauce with crusty bread. So funny story with this dish, (it’s not that funny) I ended up picking it purely because of something I saw on TV recently. So on the show ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain, there’s an episode where he goes to Italy and does, well food stuff. Anyway, at one point he goes to his camera man’s mother’s house and she cooks up this massive pot of Ragu and for 10 minutes it’s them just going on and on about the virtues of using bread to soak up sauce and how amazing it is, and the camera is just zooming in on them contorting bread into these shapes, soaking up sauce and shovelling it into their mouth.

Needless to say, I had to do it, and that is why when I saw this on the menu, I jumped at it.

The dish itself was pretty much what I was expecting. The meatballs themselves were really nice, good quality meat and slightly pink in the middle. I’m not sure if this is how Italians do it, but it wasn’t really heavily flavoured at all, and I found myself cutting open the meatballs, and then dipping the meat back into the sauce to coat it again. Luckily, I loved the sauce, which was a really rich, sweet and had chunks of tomato throughout it. This was quite nice, I prefer to have meatballs with a little bit more going on (my sister makes these amazing meatballs with rice in them which I absolutely love, in hindsight I should probably just ask her for the recipe instead of reminiscing about them) but I knew heading into this version at Joe’s that authentic Italian meatballs’ let the quality of the ingredients shine, and that’s exactly what happened here at Joe’s Bar.

This dish definitely satisfied my desire for dipping bread into sauce, and the lovely staff at Joe’s seemed to know it, and provided me with an extra serve of bread on the side. Really good, and would recommend if you’re at all interested in authenticity.

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Next up was the Lasagne al sugo di maiale brasato ($22) slow braised chianti pork ribs deboned and sandwich between handmade pasta sheets topped with grated pecorino and fresh nutmeg. This was probably my favourite dish of the whole night, and that was surprising because I wasn’t expecting much from it at all. The slow braised pork rib was the highlight here, it was shredded up and just gave the whole dish this amazing texture and ensured that what you were eating hadn’t been processed in the slightest.

The flavour of the pork permeated throughout the whole dish and was easily the star attraction here. It was smokey, mild, and extremely tender. The actual sheets of pasta were fantastic as well, really well made and with a slight char on them that gave a wonderful crunchy texture to the rest of the dish. Most lasagne’s that I have, (of the Sara-Lee variety) are heavy on the sauce, and that’s what you taste the most of, but that definitely wasn’t the way Joe’s Bar had opted to do their lasagne. The sauce was muted and took quite a back seat to the strong flavours of the pork. I appreciated this move, although that could’ve been because I was also eating the rich sauce of the meatballs at the time. In any case, I really loved this lasagne and would recommend it to anyone. Except a vegetarian I suppose.

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Next up, we ordered the cheese plate, or Di formaggi ($18) imported testun al barolo (grape infused pecorino), whipped goats cheese, taleggio lombardo, gorgonzola dolce, truffle honey, dried baby figs, candied pistachio and crostini. I’m not sure how much detail I’m expected to go into with a cheese plate, but let me start by saying this was just a beautifully presented plate. Not sure how much anyone cares about this sort of thing, but look at it!

The cheeses were all amazing but the highlights for me was the grape infused pecorino, the gorgonzola and the truffle honey. The grape pecorino was just a really cool cheese, and something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying before. It was a standard strong flavoured pecorino, but it also had this sweetness throughout it. The gorgonzola was a really mild blue cheese, and whilst I generally love blue cheeses, I do tend to get tired of how rich they are over time. This didn’t happen with the gorgonzola cheese at Joe’s, it was mild and delicious, and I managed to get all the way through it and even wanted more! The truffle honey on the other hand was exceptionally flavourful and rich. The flavour of truffle was incredibly strong in the honey, it almost felt like truffle oil in goo form. There’s a danger that it’s actually too rich for some, but as a huge truffle nerd, I loved it.

My favourite part of this cheese plate was the fact that you didn’t just get the typical cheddar, brie and blue combination. Most of the cheeses on this plate were really different, and I appreciated that change of pace.

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Our second cocktail of the night was Joe’s mandarin Negroni ($14) mandarin infused Campari, Cinzano rosso vermouth and fresh mandarin juice. This was actually quite the shock for us! When we read the description with all its mandarins, we were kind of expecting something light and sweet (of course we had no idea what a Negroni was) so when this popped out, it was shocking to say the least. If you’re a fan of hard Negroni’s or hard liquor at all for that matter, then this is actually really quite nice. You could taste the mandarin elements through it, and unfortunately we did end up stealing some of the lime’s from the dark & stormy to kind of weaken this drink somewhat. We did enjoy it, it just needed a little bit of a tweaking. If you’re someone that can handle their alcohol, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. Probably.

I kind of wish I got a recommendation from the staff at Joe’s Bar, the drinks menu was absolutely massive with plenty of local and imported wines as well as classic cocktails and a decent list of ‘Joe’s cocktails’, which included many classic cocktail but all with a modern twist to them and some flowers, plenty of flowers. I’m sure they could have recommended me something sweet and fruity!

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For drinks, we ordered a Joe’s dark & stormy ($16) Hayman’s Sloe gin, Cinzano extra dry vermouth, orange bitters and fresh lemon. Dark and stormy is actually my go-to cocktail whenever I see it on a menu because I love ginger beer. The dark and stormy here at Joe’s was really nice, full of lemons and limes and not too harsh on the alcohol. I’m not really a hardcore alcohol drinker so I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m talking about, but I did enjoy this.

Our time at Joe’s Bar was honestly fantastic. The service was really attentive, the food delicious, and the drinks tasty! The decor of the place is quirky and inviting, and it’s a place that adds wonderfully to the already delicious Italian shoe print in Canberra.

Joe’s Bar 

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

Website: joesateast.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/joesateast
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McDonald’s, Dickson

This is a place that I never thought I would have the pleasure of writing up, a food blog post about everybody’s favourite past time, McDonald’s! A lot of people (especially ‘foodies’) hate McDonald’s, but to be honest I’ve never bought into all that. McDonald’s has always been good to me, giving me one of my first jobs in my teen years and always being consistent when other places weren’t. That’s one thing I think people underestimate here, consistency. I love KFC as much as the next guy, but think about it, how often are you out with your friends and they’re like ‘Hey man lets go to KFC, we’re near Town Hall’ and someone inevitably says ‘Nah, that’s the worst KFC in Sydney’. It’s true right? I’ve definitely said that before! For some reason, the delicious chicken skin’s from that KFC always seem to fall off and the chicken is extra greasy, it is actually the worst KFC. It didn’t hit me until recently that I’ve never said that about McDonald’s, they’re all pretty good, and sometimes in this crazy world of ours, pretty good all the time is something to aspire to.

In recent times, you may have noticed that I’m not entirely in love with the whole hipster fad that’s around us at the moment (and the last 10 years it feels like). I like hipster joints, I do, it’s just, so much. So recently when I was back in Sydney, I decided to go visit an eatery that I regularly frequented in my university day, a place on Sussex Street in Chinatown called Yee King Hand-Made Noodles. Least hipster place you would have ever seen, had decor that wouldn’t be out of place in an old John Woo film and it made the most exceptional pork in foil dish that you could have ever tried. I went there to find that it was closed for good, replaced by just another hipster cafe. Another real restaurant in a long line of cool places dying out, a multicultural paradise slowly dying to a homogeneous hipster culture.

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Anyway, McDonald’s, the last great bastion of scummy food, has now tried its hand at being a hipster burger joint, offering a ‘create your own burger’ experience using a giant touch screen. The touch screen is honestly one of my flavour things and reminds me a lot of  travelling to Japan. There is nothing I loved more about Japan, than the fact that it was quite easy to go to a place, sit down, have a meal, pay and never in that whole process, speak to another human being. McDonald’s has a similar process here, the entire ordering process happens on the touch screen and you can even pay there and just go grab a table or wait until your number is called out, if you’re ordering takeaway. The touch screen ordering system also works for their normal menu items. It’s almost like Skynet, so if you’re one of those people that believes in those things, I’d start getting a bit worried now.

With the McDonald’s Create Your Taste experience, there are quite a few options, including traditional McDonald’s ingredients and new hipster options as well. To build your own burger, you get a choose everything from your bun, your fillings to your drinks. For each option, you get a few options, including:

  • for the bun, you get the choice of a bakery bun or a brioche
  • for the cheese, you get the choice of classic McDonald’s cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, colby jack and shaved parmesan. We managed to order two two different cheeses without being charged extra, so who knows maybe it’s unlimited (though I think it might be a max of three)!
  • for the fillings or ‘taste’ section you get to add a whole lot of different ingredients to your burger, including Angus patty, streaky bacon and rasher bacon, an egg, mushrooms, guacamole, crispy tortilla chips and pineapple. For the taste section, you can choose to add as many as you like and for each one, you can also add up to three servings, except for the Angus patty, maximum of two there
  • for the salad or ‘freshness’ section, you can choose to include lettuce, tomato, grilled or fresh onion, pickles, beetroot and jalapeno. As with the taste section, you can add as my options as you want, and up to three servings to each
  • for the sauces, there are quite a few different options, including BBQ, chipotle mayo, dijonnaise, herb aioli, ketchup, tomato chilli jam, aioli and Big Mac sauce! Thats right, you can get Big Mac sauce, one of the best sauces known to man. With the sauces, you can choose as many sauces as you want but only one of each, sadly no lathering of Big Mac sauce.

Alrightie, so I guess you’re over reading about how it works, time to see what it actually looks like when they put it all together. Here are the different McFrankenstein burgers that we built.

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So first up we had the, well I guess there isn’t an official name for it, so here we have the McOuk Burger ($17) including medium fries and a drink. Yeah, it was pretty pricey, but you can kind of see that we went for the whole hog. We ended up with:

  • bakery bun
  • colby jack and cheddar cheese
  • two Angus patties, crispy bacon and tortilla chips
  • lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onions
  • Big mac sauce

This was one big burger and of course a little messy to eat, with the multiple elements and what not. When I bit into it, the Angus patty juices poured out the bottom, and toppings were just flying everywhere. I’m going to put this down to how tall and massive the burger was and take responsibility for any poor eating techniques but in any case, it was our fault for stacking it so high, but really, when you’re in the headlights and making those choices on the screen, it’s impossible not to get carried away!

I guess you’re all wondering how the burger tasted, and the answer is, it was surprisingly nice. Not the best burger I’ve ever had or anything but still pretty darn good and definitely not what you would expect from McDonald’s. It is a little pricey and all but hey, thats what we get for loving the hipster move so much. Would I get it again, yeah probably.

There was something unmistakably comforting about this burger. I guess its because most of these ingredients are already available on McDonald’s menu and if you ever thought to yourself ‘Man I really want to try tortilla chips in my burger, but I don’t really want to go get that Mexican chilli chicken burger’ then this is absolutely perfect for you. But, if you’re someone that’s thinking ‘Wow! McDonald’s is serving chips in a little fry basket on a chopping board, it must be haute cuisine!’ Then you’re probably going to walk away a tad disappointed. As much as I enjoyed it, I know I love my grubby food more than most. This is a McDonald’s burger through and through, though in my case, it was an exceptionally big one.

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Of course, we came back a couple times and got a few extra burgers, so here’s the sequel to the previous burger, the McOuk Burger 2: Oukment Day ($15), including fries and a drink. Like with the first burger, we went all out again, adding everything and anything to the burger. With this burger, we got the following:

  • brioche bun
  • colby jack and shredded parmesan
  • one Angus patty, rasher bacon, egg and grilled mushrooms
  • lettuce, tomato and pickles
  • chipotle mayo

We decided to go with something completely different for this burger, mainly to test and see which options we like more. Here, we tried the brioche bun, the grilled mushrooms and egg. I like the brioche, it was completely different to the bakery bun, giving you a little bit of sweetness and plenty of richness. I also enjoyed the addition of mushroom, grilled with plenty of char. The only thing I didn’t really enjoy was the egg. Its just that egg you get with the McDonald’s bacon (or sausage) and egg muffins in the morning. The ones where the egg yolk is completely overcooked. Its not bad if you enjoy hard boiled eggs but for me, I wanted to creamy and delicious egg yolk as I bite into my burger. Outside of that, pretty cool burger.

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And, we did this a third time, so you can see I must not have hated it, I present to you the McOuk Burger 3: Ouk Hard with a Vengeance ($15.50), including fries and drinks. For this burger, I went back for some of my favourites, plus sampling the avocado. Here, we grabbed the:

  • bakery bun
  • colby jack and swiss cheese
  • one angus patty, crispy bacon
  • lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions, avocado, tortilla chips
  • Big mac sauce

I probably won’t go on about the burgers again, but I do want to mention the guacamole. I didn’t get any of the others times, we had already stacked our burgers too high. Hence, I decided to save it for later. I was pretty happy that it was only 60c to add guacamole to your burger, instead of $3 which I was totally expecting an preparing for.

I must say, although all three burgers had a similar combination of ingredients and what not, each one had a distinct flavour and I enjoyed each in their own little way. After trying all these different combinations, if and when I go back, I think my ideal combination is the bakery bun with two Angus patties, crispy bacon, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and Big mac sauce. To me, that would be the perfect combination of saucy meat combined with crunchiness from the bacon, sweetness from the pineapple and of course the other salads balancing it all out. Finally, Big mac sauce to bring it all together. Because Big mac sauce > every other sauce.

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One really cool thing to note is that McDonald’s seem to have added a bunch of really cool specialty drinks to the menu as well! This was extremely surprising to me because it’s not often that McDonald’s does something that isn’t advertised so heavily that you kind of feel that you’re ‘lovin it’ before you even try it, yet these drinks, whilst being actually quite cool and tasty went completely under the radar for me!

There’s a couple of them, but the ones we ended up with were the Sparkling apple and elderflower, and the Sparkling ginger beer. We honestly didn’t expect much from these drinks, but upon first tasting them, the gasps of delight were impossible to hide. It’s hard to really explain it, but they both tasted exactly as they should’ve. I’ve been to cool hipster joints with ‘homemade sodas’ for $9 and these tasted just as good. Maybe I’m a bit of a soda plebeian, but I just really enjoyed these drinks, and think they’re amazing value.

I really enjoyed this whole ‘Create Your Taste’ experience, the concept, table service and food were all pretty interesting and tasty. The service staff were actually really pleasant and again, something you’d expect from a normal cafe. Finally, my favourite part was how visually pleasing each of these burgers looked. They actually looked like something you would expect to find from your hipster cafe but instead here at McDonald’s. Gone are the days of lopsided burgers, sauce sprayed all over the wrapping instead of on the patty or bun and just plain horrible messes. Instead now you get burgers that you look at and go, ‘yup, I want to eat that’.

As much as I enjoyed these Create Your Test burgers, I feel like it’s my duty to explain that at the end of the day you’re still getting a McDonald’s burger and if you’re a fan of that sort of food, you probably won’t mind this at all. But if you’re into the finer things in life, you may need to prepare yourself for this mentally. I’d hate to see you walk away disappointed after all.

Oh, I almost forgot to add, these Create Your Taste burgers are now available from pretty much all stores, I’ve seen them in quite a few McDonald’s across Canberra now.

McDonald’s

Corner of Badham Street and Dickson Place, Dickson

Website: mcdonalds.com.au/

Facebook: facebook.com/McDonaldsAU

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday

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Two Before Ten, Aranda

Last week I finally got the chance to head out to Aranda to try out Two Before Ten. As always, I’ve been meaning to visit for a while now, first when they were still in the city and afterwards when they moved to the suburbs but various things got in the way. Okay mainly just waking up somewhat early and traveling there, which is no excuse in Canberra especially but I got there in the end! I must say, I do appreciate all these awesome cafes in the suburbs, thanks to cafes like Fox and Bow in Farrer, Stand By Me in Lyons, Common Grounds in Gowrie, Little Oink in Cook and the likes, I’ve learnt so much about Canberra’s geography.

Like with these other cafes, Two Before Ten is another fantastic cafe that are making a stand! No more travelling to the hipster hot spot of the city for fantastic food. Now you can get fantastic food out in the burbs. However, Two Before Ten is unique compared to these other suburban cafes. Two Before Ten isn’t located in a small suburban shopping area, instead it stands on its own, in what looks like an old community centre opposite the primary school.

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Two Before Ten’s store out in Aranda is quite industrial with plenty of indoors and outdoors seating for both small groups and larger ones as well. There’s also plenty of heaters and blankets, so you can sit outside and soak in the fresh air without freezing in Canberra’s frosty winter.

The menu at Two Before Ten is pretty basic, with a range of all day breakfast and lunch options, including both sweet and savoury treats. The menu is pretty straight forward, with various traditional breakfast items done in slightly different and interesting ways. However, you won’t find any crazy options or hipster delights here, instead just lots of good old hearty options like eggs, bacon, rolls, burgers, porridge, pancakes and what not. There is an online menu that you can check out but be warned, the in store menu does sometimes deviate from the online one. So don’t have your heart fixed on something before you get into the store or else you’ll risk disappointment.

Luckily for us, we were extremely unprepared and just decided to fly by the seat of our pants and chose something at the venue.

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Our first dish was the Sweet cornbread ($17) with poached eggs, bacon and an avocado salsa. I’m not a fan of bread but cornbread is a whole other story. That delicious doughiness that is super crumbly. Then you have that super crispy edge that just crunches every time you bite into it and most importantly, that delicious corn taste that gives the whole thing just that right amount of sweetness. Taking it from a savoury treat to something closer to an after dinner dessert. The best of both worlds in one fantastic little bite.

It may not be obvious yet but I love cornbread. Hence, when I saw this dish on Two Before Ten’s menu, the decision was made. Plus, not only was there cornbread in this dish, there is avocado and bacon too! Two Before Ten took pretty much some of the best ingredients around and then combined it all into one delicious dish.

Combining the right ingredients is important, but if it isn’t done right then what is the point? Luckily here at Two Before Ten, every element on this dish was spot on. First off, look at those poached eggs. Simply amazing and absolutely still runny. Nothing is worse than cracking open a poached egg and finding it semi boiled and I’ve had may fair share of poorly poached eggs in Canberra. Hence, its always nice to go to an eatery and not be poached egg pwned.

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The fantastic creamy and runny eggs went like a charm with the dense and doughier cornbread. The cornbread was crispy on the top with a nice amount of char to it, sadly the sides of the cornbread weren’t quite as good. It seems like Two Before Ten cook their cornbread in a bread tray and then slice them into rectangles. God, wouldn’t it be good if you got one of those ends pieces?! Even though it wasn’t as crunchy as I hoped it would be, there was still plenty of corn flavour permeating throughout it. The lovely corn flavours were strong enough that you could still taste it when you combined the cornbread with the avocado salsa or bacon.

The avocado and bacon added some nice texture to the whole dish, with some crunchiness from the streaky bacon and some bite and freshness from the smashed avocados and diced tomatoes. I found the salsa really helped to lift into this dish, taking it from a rich and heavy breakfast dish to something a little lighter and also almost lunch tasting.

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Our second dish from Two Before Ten, the Poached egg and bacon ($14) with house tomato chutney and sourdough also available as a role. While the cornbread with poached eggs and smashed avocado salsa was a little different and interesting, this was Two Before Tens take on your traditional, quick and simple breakfast plate but of course with a small twist, if you want to add it!

This dish is quite simple, there’s a little bit of lightly toasted sourdough, which brings that lovely hint of sourness to the plate and balances the richness of the bacon and the creamy egg yolks. Then you have the crispy streaky bacon which adds that porky flavour that we all love. On the side, there is also a decent amount of fresh spinach and a tomato chutney which adds plenty of sweetness, another hint of sourness and a little bit of liquid and moisture, which really helps with the dense and dry sourdough bread. With the combination of ingredients on this plate, you could turn this thing into a bit of a breakfast sandwich if you wanted too. Of course it would be a little messy, with the gooey egg yolk going everywhere but delicious nevertheless.

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Of course, the best part about this dish? The perfectly poached eggs. Like the first set, these two were gooey all the way through, not a single sign of hard boiled egg yolk anywhere. I know I go on about poached eggs a lot but I’ve just had too many semi boiled or almost completely boiled poached eggs in Canberra and nothing is worse than cutting open a poached egg and seeing no gooey goodness run out! Plus, a really good place will ensure that the eggs are still gooey even if you don’t break into them straight away, I don’t normally take the risk but I reckon these would pass that test.

So if you’re a lover of poached eggs, Two Before Ten is Aranda is definitely a safe spot, not only will you get perfectly gooey yolks, the dishes and combinations here are really delicious and seem to be catered to getting the best out of the lowly poached egg. This is especially true if you’re into more traditional breakfast dishes and don’t want anything too crazy like popping candy, fairy floss or what not.

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Our final dish, the TBT burger ($16.50) with a beef pattie, tomato, lettuce and swiss cheese with a side of fries. Okay so it took me ages but about half way through our meal, I realised that the TBT burger stood for ‘Two Before Ten’, so I guess this is their signature burger. Actually, I think its the only burger on their menu so that seems like a fairly safe guess. We noticed later that this doesn’t show up on the online menu so maybe the ingredients in the burger changed based on what they have on hand, who knows.

Nevertheless, the TBT burger, like everything else at Two Before Ten was quite basic. It had the core ingredients that you would find in any traditional burger, so nothing shocking there. I guess what puts this burger apart from others and justifies the $16 price tag, is how well each element worked together. From the crispy green and fresh lettuce to the melted cheese. Finally, there were a couple of slices of tomato, a rich brioche bun and an extremely thick beef pattie.

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Nothing is worse than a pattie that is overcooked. As Anthony Bourbain claims, if a eatery doesn’t let you order your burgers medium rare, than they’re likely on the side of the terrorists and based on this, it clearly looks like Two Before Ten definitely do not side with terrorists. This TBT burger that we got was a fantastic medium rare, and we didn’t even have to request it! Look at that pink centre!

Of course, with any good burger, the TBT burger at Two Before Ten comes with a decent side of shoe string fries. Nothing too special about these, just some good old potatoes with a dusting of salt for extra flavour, so I probably won’t go into anymore detail with those. Plus, the burger is what we’re interested in, right?

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Finally, a Cappuccino with soy milk ($4 + $0.50, small) because, isn’t this what Two Before Ten is famous for? That is, coffee. I’m pretty sure they are, they even have their own beans which are used by other eateries and cafes in Canberra. That must mean they have good coffee beans right?! Well, as you can tell I don’t have a clue. You would think after all these coffees that I’ve had over the years, I would pick up a thing or two. Apparently not. I still cannot for the life of me tell you which coffee is from a chain and which one has been made by a proper barista. I even enjoy and know more about wine than I do coffee, and I started meddling with both at the same time and knew nada about either of them when I started out. Maybe I should go to a coffee appreciation class.

Well after all that, I guess you’re not really going to take my word on this coffee. But I’m going to tell you anyway – I liked it. It was frothy and delicious with plenty of nuttiness from the soy milk. You can also get a large, which comes in a tall cup, almost double this one for another 50c, great  for all you caffeine lovers out there.

Well that was our trip out to the burbs, well Aranda. Isn’t it strange how in Canberra, a five to ten minute drive out of the city is considered the surburbs. I must say I love how close everything is in Canberra. More than that, I really like how Canberra has so many fantastic eateries outside of the city and hipster hot spots. I don’t think any other city really has anything like this.

The food at Two Before Ten in Aranda was solid, traditional and tasty. Plus, the poached eggs were simply perfect every time. This place is definitely worth the drive, skip Braddon, New Acton or Kingston for the week and go to Aranda, you won’t regret it.

Two Before Ten 

68 Bandjalong Crescent, Aranda

Website: twobeforeten.com.au/

Facebook: facebook.com/TwoBeforeTen 

Twitter: @TwoBeforeTen

Opening hours: 

Monday to Friday

7:00am to 4:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:00am to 2:00pm

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Grease Monkey, Braddon

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I’ve been eyeing out Grease Monkey for a while now, every since I first saw construction begin on the corner of Lonsdale Street and Elourea Street in Braddon, I’ve been wondering what awesome new eatery would join the diverse, extensive and hispter restaurants, cafes and eateries already available throughout Braddon. Wow, I’ve started a lot of posts with that recently haven’t I? Well, Braddon has had a lot of construction and I guess I just have a very simple thought process. Of course, after the construction finished, the waiting game started. But as of last Friday, Grease Monkey opened up for service for the first time and to my absolute joy, Grease Monkey focuses on one of the finest haute cuisines in the world, American food!

The menu at Grease Monkey includes all good things that you would expect to find from any good American joint, including burgers, southern fried chicken, mash and gravy, milkshakes and what not. To top it off and to add an Australian edge, Grease Monkey is also a bar with plenty of beers on tap, as well as wines and cocktails. When we visited during the first weekend, Grease Monkey was only serving drinks indoors, which was a bit of a shame since the outdoor beer garden was awesome but I assume they must be in the process of getting their outdoor licences.

Being a bar and eatery, there is plenty of seating indoors and outdoors, though if you went on the opening weekend, you wouldn’t have noticed because it was absolutely packed! There are a couple of booths indoors for groups and plenty of standing tables, they’ve clearly tried very hard to ensure any horizontal surface can be eaten upon. Outside you’ll find a lot more group seating, plus Grease Monkey has plenty of heating outside so the Canberra cold is remedied a bit. The decor is cheeky with monkeys as the recurring theme throughout the store.

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Everything about Grease Monkey looked awesome, from the menu to the decor to the atmosphere. It was really cool and felt like walking into another very awesome and popular restaurant in Sydney, Mary’s. It was so similar that it actually raised a few eyebrows. The menu, from the breakfast options to the different burger offerings to the milkshakes to the sides even the deep fried chicken, everything was almost an exact replica of Mary’s. Then there was the way that Grease Monkey presented their burgers with this cool burger art on the wall (see the above image). Its a pretty cool way of letting people know what’s in the burger right? Well, May’s CBD store kind of has the exact same picture.

If you told me Mary’s and Grease Monkey were franchises of each other, I would not be surprised. In fact, I would be more surprised to hear that they aren’t – that’s how similar these two places were.

I absolutely love Mary’s so I was a little disturbed by this. It also raised my expectations exponentially. As much as I tried to sample Grease Monkey in a completely open and separate light to Mary’s, I couldn’t help but compare back to my good experiences at Mary’s. It’s just hard when the menu items are exactly the same. The deep fried chicken, breakfast options, the signature burger ‘the Greasy’s’ and mushroom burger are exactly the same! I mean, yes every American place probably has these same burgers, sides and what not but probably not to this extent, so comparisons were commonplace for us during this meal.

When the food came out, Grease Monkey’s had unfortunately dug itself into a little hole before we even bit into it. It was competing with some of the best burgers I’ve had in Australia and I already had a lot of disdain for the (at least to us) outright copying of another restaurant. However, after digging into my food, I must say I was left pretty impressed with how it tasted!

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We of course ordered the quintessential American classic, the Double deluxe ($17), double beef, double cheese, bacon, Grease Monkey ketchup, onion, pickles, mustard and Greasy’s sauce. Of course this wasn’t the only burger that we sampled at Grease Monkey’s but come on, a double cheeseburger at an American burger place! When we saw it on the menu, we knew we had to get it and we weren’t disappointed! Look at that thing, it looks like something straight from Five Guys in New York!

Not only did the double deluxe look like a delicious American burger, it also tasted like one. The burger had super thick and meaty patties, there wasn’t any spices or crazy flavours in these patties – just good old beef mince with a bit of salt and pepper to keep the meatiness strong. Both patties were cooked just past medium rare, I imagine they were aiming for medium rare but I gave them a pass based on how busy it was in there.

In between the patties, there were two generous slices of melted American cheese that oozed everywhere when you bit into the burger. It was absolutely amazing, the textures, melted cheese mixed with the soft and flavoursome minced beef. To get that level of melt without a foil wrap makes me think the crew at Grease Monkeys were cooking the patties with cheese sitting on top, connecting the gooey cheese and beef patties together.

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Outside of the perfect combination of cheese and meat, there were a couple of other elements to this double deluxe which made this the deliciousness that it is. To add to this burger, there was fried bacon. The bacon was done really well, though I would’ve preferred much crispier bacon to give this burger some different textures, but I’m sure a lot of people prefer this softer, fattier and moister version.

My favourite part about this burger is the lack of any type of salad. It’s a cheeseburger, it’s not some frankenburger hybrid where you get a cheeseburger and add some iceberg onto it. Some people attempt those kinds of things and it leaves me shaking my head. This burger has no lettuce, no tomato and absolutely no pineapple or beetroot. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I eat vegetables occasionally, even on burgers, and there have been many times where I’ve gone to Paul’s Hamburgers in Rockdale and gotten a burger full of beetroot and pineapple.

The key difference however, is that Paul’s focuses on Australian burger, not American ones. Grease Monkeys on the other hand is an American burger place, so imagine my surprise seeing their Full Service burger on the menu. I guess I should commend them for attempting to extend an olive branch to our Australian palates, but I do believe it takes a certain kind of cultural unawareness to actually order a Full Service burger. I commend Grease Monkeys for providing the option, but when in an American burger place, you need to order the most American burger and that my friends, is the Double Deluxe!

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On to something equally as American but with a little more soul, the Dirty bird ($15) with Southern fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Greasy’s sauce. While the double deluxe ingredients list read like the classic Mary’s burger, it tasted quite different (in an equally enjoyable way). However, that wasn’t the case here with the Dirty Bird. The Dirty Bird actually tasted very similar to Mary’s version of a deep fried chicken burger. I should mention, that this isn’t a bad thing either because the Mary’s deep fried chicken burger was absolutely amazing!

My favourite part about this burger was how absolutely generous Grease Monkey was with the ingredients! Although it tasted like the Mary’s burger, there was just so much more of it. The deep fried chicken was huge, and the meat to bread ratio was absolutely fantastic. Of course, not only was there a lot of it but the meat was also cooked perfectly. The southern fried chicken was super moist on the inside while on the outside it was crispy with plenty of awesome deep fried batter. Actually, it kind of reminded me of KFC chicken, just with a mildler flavour and a more crunchy outer shell.

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To bring more flavour to the burger, there was the Greasy’s sauce. I’m sure this is some sort of super secret recipe, so I have no idea whats in it. But when I sampled it by itself, it did remind me a bit of Big Mac sauce and who doesn’t love Big Mac sauce?!

Finally, with all the big flavours, the was a little bit of lettuce, onion and tomato added to this burger. I should be clear that whilst I think vegetables don’t belong on American cheeseburgers, they absolutely do belong on deep fried chicken burgers. The salad helps to break up the stronger flavours of the fried chicken as well as the Greasy’s sauce. There were big flavours, mild ones and lots of different textures. The whole thing in one little burger, pretty awesome stuff.

I haven’t spoken about it yet but all burgers at Grease Monkey’s come with a side of fries. Originally, I thought the burgers at Grease Monkey’s were pretty pricey. I mean, $17 for a burger and its probably half the size of a Brodburger, so I wasn’t super impressed. It’s not value for money or anything and I originally kept thinking back to Mary’s burgers, which are about $10 for the standard and $12 for the more interesting burgers (like this deep fried chicken one). Anyway, when the burgers came out, I realised that fries are included, and that definitely softened the blow a lot. At Mary’s, a side of fries is about $4. This makes Grease Monkey’s burgers on average only about $2 more expensive, which is absolutely fine. You know, the Canberra surcharge and what not.

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Our final burger from Grease Monkey, something for the vegetarians, the Nimbin ($15), crumbled portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Greasy’s sauce. This burger was surprisingly nice for a vegetarian burger. If you’ve ever eaten a vegetarian burger, you’ll know that they generally don’t quite live up their meaty equivalent. Most vegetarian burgers come with either a chickpea or lentil patty of some kind, which includes some corn, peas and what not. These are normally deep fried, soaked in oil and not really my favourite kind of burger. If you’re lucky or at a nice cafe, their vegetarian burgers normally come with a mushroom patty, like here at Grease Monkey.

I’ve had a couple of mushroom burgers now and this is by far one of the most creative and tasty ones I’ve ever had. What makes this one so unique and tasty? Well, the crew at Grease Monkey have coated a field mushroom in breadcrumbs and then deep fried it. This has so many benefits! Firstly, it adds a lovely crispy and crunchy texture to the burger, which you normally don’t get in vegetarian burgers. If you think about it, there aren’t many crispy elements in standard vegetarian burgers. Secondly, it adds that lovely fried flavour which lets you know you’re doing something good for your belly and lets you know you’re actually eating a greasy, delicious and flavoursome burger. Finally, it also does a great job of containing all the mushroom’s juices. I love the mushroom juice, it adds plenty of flavour and moisture to vegetarian burgers BUT! It also makes the burger really messy and kind of unpleasant to eat. Trust me, you don’t want mushroom juices dripping down your arm as you’re munching into your burger. So its pretty awesome when that doesn’t happen, since the lovely breadcrumb crust is soaking it all up.

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Thanks to the deep fried mushroom patty, this burger reminded me a lot of the Dirty Bird burger. The strong flavours of the fried mushroom was complimented and balanced by the assortment of salads, including sliced tomato and lettuce. There was also some creaminess from the Greasy’s sauce and the gooey cheese which was melted and almost infused into the mushroom patty. To be honest, I think the deep frying of the field mushroom also helped to ensure the mushroom patty didn’t get too salty. This was a massive plus for me as I tend to find mushroom burgers can get really overwhelming and salty towards the end. Here, I didn’t really have that problem at all.

As mentioned previously, each burger came with a side of fries which were ‘standard’ cut. That is, not shoestring or steak, just that standard size of fry. The fries here are actually really delicious, and I’d consider getting a side of them all on their own, which I think says a lot, since I already get a decent amount with my burger. I’m not sure if any of you readers are from Sydney, but in Cabramatta there is this big corner with a Red Lea chicken shop on it. This chicken shop serves my favourite fries and it’s all because of this lovely paprika spice mix that’s generously sprinkled all over them. The reason I mention that is because the fries here at Grease Monkey have a similar red powder on them. Absolutely delicious, though I may be a little biased.

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On to some of the sides at Grease Monkey’s, first up the Mash and gravy ($3). I enjoy all mashed potato dishes, and this one was no different, especially for $3! When I first took a spoonful of this mash and gravy, I was expecting something super rich, buttery and creamy. Something really artery clogging and unashamedly American. Something where the potato is so smooth because its laced entirely with chicken fat, where each spoonful just slides down your throat. The mash and gravy at Grease Monkey’s wasn’t quite like that, which may or may not be a positive for some, but it was a lot more homely and almost English, if I dare say.

Here, the gravy was super flavoursome and meaty. However, instead of being rich in that creamy and buttery way, it was really peppery. The potato also had a lot more structure to it and for once, I could actually taste the potato! This is very different to my experiences with KFC potato and gravy (which I still love of course) but sometimes it kind of nice to know that what you’re eating used to be an actual vegetable at some point in its life. There was also a good proportion of gravy to mash, which means you don’t end up with plain old mash without the peppery and delicious gravy. We almost ruined this because we were busy dipping our chips into it, but the gravy ended up holding out til the end!

For $3, you get a decent amount of mash and gravy. Its not a lot or anything but between the burger and the chips, we shared a single serving of mash and gravy between a couple of people and it was plenty.

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We of course couldn’t help but grab a side of Greasy fried chicken ($12, 3 pieces). So, when I originally saw this on the menu, I was pretty keen to try it out, I love deep fried chicken! Most Tuesdays, you’ll see me in the KFC line. But for $4 a piece, I definitely hesitated. Plus, Grease Monkey is a pretty hipster place, I wasn’t really expecting anything generous. To be honest, I was kind of expecting three chicken wing sized pieces and I think with that kind of expectation, we could only ever really be impressed with what we ended up with.

Well from the above image, you can see that its actually pretty decent. For comparisons sake, the chicken pieces at Grease Monkey’s are about the size of a KFC or Chicken Gourmet chicken. I know its not as cheap as Chicken Gourmet or KFC but hey, that’s what we get for loving hipster food. Yes, there are also four pieces of chicken as opposed to three. I have no idea what happened there, it just came out like that and we definitely weren’t complaining. To be fair, I don’t know if it’s because we got a bunch of drumsticks and they were compensating, or perhaps they decided to show a bit of charity to us. At the end of the day, don’t expect four pieces because I have no idea how this occurred.

The chicken itself was really quite delicious. The best way to describe it is a cross between hot and spicy KFC, and original recipe KFC. An amazing combination if I do say so myself. Have you ever been eating original recipe and thought ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if this was a bit crunchier?’ Or have you ever been eating hot and spicy and thought ‘this would be so good if it had the herbs and spices of original recipe!’ If so, this is the chicken for you! It’s pretty much original recipe but crunchier. I know it’s kind of doing this a disservice by comparing it to fast food KFC, but I’m terrible at describing things and this is the shortcut I’ve chosen. I really enjoyed this chicken, I probably wouldn’t go gaga over it considering it’s $4 a piece, but if you’re someone that regularly pays for Korean Fried Chicken, then you’re probably not going to really mind here.

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Finally a drink to wash all the goodies down, a Smoky bacon and maple milkshake ($6). While its not obvious, Grease Monkey actually serves some pretty cool milkshakes. On the menu, there is a little note right at the bottom about the milkshakes but you have to speak to one of their crew members to find out what flavours are available. When we were there, Grease Monkey had two different flavours, this smokey bacon milkshake and a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.

I love a good peanut butter sandwich and what not but when used as an ingredient in sweets and drinks, I find it gets pretty rich and sickly, so I opted for the smokey bacon milkshake. Plus, I think I must have a thing for bacon milkshakes because last time I was at Mary’s, I opted for the maple bacon milkshake. Must be a thing!

The smoky bacon milkshake didn’t quite taste like actual bacon itself, instead it tasted like all of the spices and flavours you associate with bacon, without tasting specifically like bacon. Weird concept I know. In fact I’d say the prevailing flavour of this dish was actually the maple, which came across as cinnamon. Overall, it wasn’t really rich, sweet or creamy, making it a lovely balanced and enjoyable drink that you could rip through easily without even noticing. This is something we did, and regretted, because it was completely gone by the time the food came out.

Don’t make our mistakes, conserve your shake.

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There you have it, my visit to Grease Monkey. I must admit, I was very disappointed to see a replica of a famous Sydney restaurant. Ah, I should probably dial that back a bit. It reminds me a lot of Mary’s.

However, at the same time, the food was absolutely amazing and done really well. So, I feel like I must totally applaud the chef and kitchen crew for taking on these ingredients and this known concept and turning it into something absolutely amazing that Canberra sorely lacks.

Will I be back, knowing that its kind of a rip off? Maybe! I tend to take stands against things like this, no one likes a fraud or rip off but the food here was good enough for me to just really really want to eat it again. As someone that has eaten all over America, it’s really wonderful to see American food done right, and that’s what this is, American done right. The food here is actually fantastic and some of the best American I’ve had in Canberra. So if you’re craving some of that good old greasy stuff, head down to Grease Monkeys to get your burgers on.

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Go apeshit over these burgers cos they’re good. We stole that line. From them. Above.   

Grease Monkey

19 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: greasys.com.au

Facebook: facebook.com/greasemonkeycanberra

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Belly Bao, Chinatown

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This is a sad and yet wonderful story of missed opportunities and new found loves. To put that all into perspective, it’s really about a restaurant closing that I never got to try, visit or see. I can write like a real writer sometimes. Sometimes. Anyway, so last week we ate at Belly Bao, which is situated in the Good God Small Club, down on, ah, well it’s near the Three Wise Monkeys Bar.

The sad part of this tale is that, as you know, I’m a fiend for all things American and previously at Good God there was a lovely little (or so I hear) establishment called The Dip. The Dip specialised in amazing hot dogs, buffalo wings and other awesome American things. My sister swore by that place and she told me to go there constantly, yet I never listened. Sadly, sometime last year The Dip closed without me ever having a taste of its hot doggy goodness. This event has left a void in my heart that I’m sure I’ll never fill. That’s the sad bit. On a more positive note, the empty space in Good God (and my heart) has been lovingly filled by an entirely different kind of meat in a bun concoction, Belly Bao!

Belly Bao specialises in those delightful Taiwanese treats, the bao. To me, a bao is essentially a sidewards taco made out of the white stuff you get on the outside of a pork bun, which is then usually filled with slow cooked pork. My first experience with a bao was at Ippudo, in the Westfield food court on Pitt Street. Since then, I’ve pretty much been on the lookout for these little gems because I freaking love these things.

We ended up Belly Bao on a Friday night and the first thing that we noticed (outside of the cool cave-like decor) was that there weren’t really that many tables at all, and take-away didn’t seem to be an option. With this in mind we did what any good person would do in an overfilled food court. That is, we stood around near tables of people who had empty plates in front of them, and tried to mentally will them into leaving. And it worked!

I hope you like bao’s, because that’s essentially all we ordered!

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First up, the classic, the Slow braised pork belly bao ($6.50) with pickled mustard greens, coriander, crushed peanuts and kewpie mayo. This is the one that started it all. The braised pork belly bao from Ippudo is what made me fall in love with these things in the first place and the one here at Belly Bao is no different. In fact, it makes me love them even more! So I guess I should get something out of the way first. I personally enjoy the baos here at Belly Bao more than the ones I’ve had at Ippudo, which I guess shouldn’t be a massive surprise to most. In the end of the day, Belly Bao does specialise in baos hence, they really are amazing! And I still do love the ramens at Ippudo.

The braised pork in the middle of this bao is extremely soft and tender, and practically falls apart as you eat it. If you look at the picture above you can see that there’s a ton of fat on this piece of pork, and that the pork itself is cut extremely thick. These are both good things. I’ve had a ton of bao’s in my life and if a place skimps on the pork then it’s dead to me. Belly Bao definitely did not skimp on the pork. A lot of people out there might be thinking “ew that’s so much fat” and to be honest it is a lot, but you have to trust me on this one, the fat makes the dish. It needs to be there. Although the fat is super important, the pork is easily the star attraction of this dish. The sides also do a great job of ensuring that the pork doesn’t become too much but onwards to the most important element. The pork is actually quite sweet due to the sauce that it was simmered in, and the crushed peanuts add some contrasting crunchy flavour as well as some saltiness. The pickled greens cut right through the richness of the meat and it’s what keeps this bao enjoyable the entire way through.

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Secondly, here is the Soft shell crab bao ($7.50) with watercress, chilli aioli and lemon vinaigrette. Like with the pork belly bao, this was absolutely fantastic. It was just punches of flavour left, right and centre. You have the strong and rich flavour of the crab, with is enhanced by the chilli aioli which is full of flavour and gives every bite a little kick but nothing too spicy or unbearable. Of course, this along would have been too overpowering and super sicken real quick. Hence, this is where the watercress and lemon vinaigrette comes in. Both these elements, cut right through the richness of the crab and the creaminess of the aioli, with a hint of bitterness from the watercress and a lovely citrus zest from the lemon vinaigrette. Together these four things bring perfect flavour and balance to eat bite.

I just realised that I haven’t spoken about the bao skin yet! I guess normally wouldn’t, since its a pretty straight forward and basic element to the overall bao but here at Belly Bao, I think their bao skins deserve a special mention — because they’re amazing! I’ve had my fair share of baos, these by far have been the best skins. They were super fluffy, moist and had just a hint of sweetness to them. But the thing that makes these skins the standard out, is the size or portion. The crew at Belly Bao have balance these perfectly, ensuring that the denseness of the bao skin doesn’t overpower and take away from the flavour of the fillings. I know it sounds stupid but it makes all the difference!

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Here’s a combo picture because that’s how they arrived and it just looked too pretty (and risky to pull out on to a dish to photograph separately). I’ll probably just talk about them left to right.

First up, the  the Panko crumbed chicken breast bao ($6.50) with lettuce, pickled radish, secret sauce, coriander, as well as coriander aioli. To me, this bao tasted like a really high quality schnitzel sandwich but with an awesome Asian twist. This might sound a bit derogatory but its definitely not, I kind of (absolutely) love schnitzel sandwiches. The chicken in this bao was extremely juicy, and I personally have a really strong preference for panko crumbs so that hit the spot perfectly. Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb that’s a lot lighter, larger, and a bit sweeter than the more standard breadcrumb that you get from Woolies. If you’ve ever had tempura anything, then you’ve probably had Panko crumbs before, and loved them too obviously.

The people at Belly Bao were really smart with this dish because a panko crumbed chicken breast isn’t nearly as rich or overpowering as a piece of braised pork. So with that in mind, the additions to this bao are equally not as powerful, instead of the pickled greens that you get with the pork belly bao, here we get straight up lettuce, bit of freshness, but nothing too crazy. No need for peanuts either since the crunchy texture is already there thanks to the panko crumb, and to accommodate how that might go down the throat, there are two separate sauces to keep things moist. Really appreciated the thought that went into this, and I really enjoyed the bao as well.

Secondly, in the middle of this picture, we have the Crackling roast pork belly bao ($6.50) with crackling, pickled radish, coriander and kewpie mayo. This was the second pork bao that is on offer at Belly Bao, they really do caters to all us pork lovers out there. First, the fatty and moist stewed pork belly, now the crispy pork crackling. If you look at the picture, you can see that this pork is just as thick as the braised pork from above, which is another awesome sign and makes me respect Belly Bao immensely. The pork in this bao is pretty drastically different from the slow braised pork from above, it’s been cooked in a different way and the result is a much firmer piece of pork that doesn’t have that distinctive Asian pork flavour. To me, that’s actually a really good thing, because I would’ve been a bit annoyed if both the pork options ended up tasting largely the same. The pork here reminded me heavily of the roast pork you get from Asian BBQ houses, and I love that pork so this was definitely a good thing.

The crackling on this bao was pretty interesting, it wasn’t just on the side of the pork where you’d naturally expect it to be. The crackling was cut off, and placed in the bao sideways, like a chip layer. Again, I need to commend the guys at Belly Bao on all the thought that went into this bao. If you think about it, leaving the crackling on the pork would have lead to a bit of a disaster (okay, maybe more of a mess) when you bit into your bao. By placing the pork in the bao with crackling separately on the side the way they have, the crew at Belly Bao has ensured maximum crackling coverage, and minimisation of mouth harming errors. Pretty cool.

Last but not least, the Crispy tofu bao ($6.50) with cucumber, peanuts, crunchy onions, coriander, chilli and sticky sauce. Something for all the vegetarians out there. I must say, I really do appreciate the menu at Belly Bao, we’ve kind of gotten to a point where hipster places are no longer offering options for people with dietary requirements, i.e. those places that only other one item. How about those of use who don’t eat meat, or don’t like fish, or only eat white meat?! Here at Belly Bao, theres something for everyone, from vegetarians, to fishcetarian to your sweet tooth’s out there. And the best part?! The alternative options are actually really tasty, the crew at Belly Bao haven’t just included these other options to ensure that everyone is covered, instead these options are actually here to please your belly.

In this veggie bao, there are amazing flavours and various flavours in each bite that you take. From the crispiness and freshness of the cucumber, to the crunch of the peanuts and onion. There also plenty of flavour from the chilli and sticky sauce and of course, to round it all off and absorb all the goodness, you have your amazingly light and crispy fried tofu. Only a slight word of warning for this bao, the chilli is legit, this thing has quite a kick to it.

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For all you people who thought ‘I NEED SUGAR AND DESSERT URGGGHH’ then the Strawbelly bao ($6.50) is for you! It is a golden fried bao, with a log of vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberry slices which are then drizzled (or drowned) in condensed milk! Decadent. That’s the word for this. The golden fried bao is fantastically crunchy but also airy once you get into it. It’s honestly kind of like a funnel cake, from the US. That is, essentially a donut with all the doughy bits gone and replaced with a crunchy and fried outer shell while still remaining soft and airy inside. Definitely not dense at all. Yeah I did a terrible job there, I guess more reason to try it!

The ice cream log is, of course, fantastic, since it’s a giant log of vanilla ice cream covered in strawberries and condensed milk. This was really a lot better than it had any right to be. I thought that this dish would be cool to look at, but not much in the taste department since it seemed a little gimmicky, but I was completely wrong. This ended up being one of my favourite bao’s, sitting just behind the crispy pork probably.

There’s also a banana version which comes with nutella, I opted for strawberry because it’ll be a cold day in hell before I say no to condensed milk, but it’s something to keep in mind for the dessert fiends out there.

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Good God, being a bar and all, serves some pretty delightful beverages and it would be remiss if I didn’t speak about a couple of them. To wash down our baos, we grabbed a (left) Spirit Walker ($12), Bulldog gin with fresh line, orange bitters and ginger beer. I’m a very boring drinker sometimes, and when I find something that I kind of like, then I’ll generally stick to it. This is because there are a ton of drinks that I just don’t really enjoy, mainly because of my terribly immature palate, but nevertheless, it’s what I enjoy.

I actually remember one night out with my sister; we went through the cocktail menu, picked some out that spoke to us, and she promptly went up to the bar to order. While she was up there, she noticed that they had this special cocktail called the ‘Sazerac’, and she considered for a quick moment whether to just grab it or not. At that exact moment, some other girl was at the bar and she completely lost her mind saying ‘OMG is that the Sazerac?! I must have it! One Sazerac please!’ So of course, my sister ended up walking back to our table with a Sazerac in hand. It essentially tasted like fire in liquid form, and we both hated it, and subtly cursed that other girl for expressing her love for it so enthusiastically.

So I guess the point of that whole story is that, when I see something that looks like a Dark n Stormy, I’m going to order it, and I’m probably going to like it! This particular one was pretty good, the orange bitters was a nice little twist on a standard recipe, and I polished this off really quickly. If you like ginger beer plus anything, then you should get this because it scratches that itch!

Our second drink, (the one on the right) was the Japanese Cowboy ($12), dry plum wine, vodka and sweetened soda. This was really refreshing and a good complement to the overall richness from all the baos that we had. It had just the right amount of sweetness for me, not too much making it taste like candy water, but enough so it doesn’t taste like pure alcohol, at that point, I might as well just take shots. The plum wine also definitely came through, giving you that lovely sweet and almost yuzu and cherry like flavour to it. Overall, love it!

I thought the drinks at Good God were pretty awesome, based off the two that we tried. Plus, the other ones available on their drinks menu looked really creative and tasty as well, must come back in the future to sample a couple more of them out, like the jugs and shots!

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The decor at Good God is really quite cool, the entire bar is downstairs and half of it is all cavey, whereas the other half is just a normal dark bar. We liked it so much we took a picture of the coaster, because why not?

Belly Bao

Good God Small Club, 53-55 Liverpool Street, Sydney

Facebook: facebook.com/bellybao

Instagram: @BellyBao

Website: bellybao.com/

Opening hours:

Wednesday to Friday

5:00pm to 10:0pm

Saturday

6:00pm to 10:00pm

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Patissez, Manuka

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I must admit, I was pretty sceptical about Patissez when I first decided to check it out over the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I was super excited to see a new patisserie and cafe open up in Canberra but at the same time I was pretty nervous. I love all things sweet but when it comes to pastries, I can get pretty pedantic and picky.

Since moving to Canberra, I’ve sampled tons of goodies from pastry, cake and dessert shops all over Canberra and in my experience, I find there are definitely more misses than hits. I know that sounds horribly negative and ‘food criticy’ but it’s just an opinion. Canberra has some darn fine patisseries but they’re definitely few and far between so whenever I see a new patisserie pop up, I get really excited, hoping that I’ll be able to add to my list of awesome patisseries in Canberra. Of course, at the same time I wonder if I’m about to waste a meal on something not so great. Another thing that raised my level of paranoia about this place was that I’ve never been super keen on Manuka in general, I just never seem to have a great meal there.

Hence, my reservations.

Well, I guess this is a bit of a spoiler alert, but as with Penny’s in Kingston, Patissez is was actually a really delightful surprise and easily a standout amongst its peers. I was sceptical but on sampling the food and the cakes, everything that we tried was pretty darn tasty.

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Patissez is a cosy little cafe nestled in between Ona on the Lawns and Urban Pantry, right on the Manuka Lawns. The shop is simple and quite small with only about two tables for larger groups and a couple of smaller tables for those dining in two or threes inside. Outside, there are a couple more smaller tables. Normally, I try to avoid sitting outside since it gets horribly cold and windy in Canberra but here at Patissez, I opted for an outside table. The tables outside are shielded from the wind, and there is also a heater on each side, keeping us nice and snug. It was also a lot more peaceful as it was quite cramped and noisy inside.

Although the decor is quite simple, the food is anything but. The menu comprises of many traditional dishes, but all with a hipster twist. There are also burgers and a couple of sweet brekkie goodies for those who who like to start the morning on something sweet. Of course, outside of the cafe options, there is an extensive drinks menu, which includes coffee with Belaroma beans as well as a couple of super awesome shakes. Another thing that surprised me was that they had matcha lattes!  I absolutely love them and not enough places do them! Outside of their cafe offerings, Patissez also has a range of vegan, GF and normal scrumptious and playful pastries.

Like with any good foodie hot spot, Patissez sources the majority of its produce locally, with all the meats from Jordo’s Chop Shop, while the bread comes from Canbera’s favourite (or close to) bakery, Autolyse. There are a lot more suppliers, but I won’t take the time to list them all here, suffice it to say they seem to be quite respectable sources.

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When I originally headed out to try out Patissez, I was only interested in their pastries. However, after having a quick squizz at the menu, everything just kind of caught my eye. I just couldn’t say no, so we decided to grab a table and sample of few of Patissez’s cafe options. So apparently, Patissez has only started serving food in the last two days. Prior to that, they were focusing on coffees and cakes. Must say, we definitely came here on the right day!

Our first dish from Patissez was the The Cheesy Scramble ($12), cheesy scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and a potato rosti on a brioche milk bun. Not only does this look amazing, it also 101% lives up taste wise as well. The burger wasn’t overly complex, just three elements but each were done really well and together they made for some delicious mouthfuls. The cheesy scrambled egg was super buttery and creamy, it was cooked perfectly, leaving it in a yolky and moist manner. Cheesy scrambled eggs was something I first experienced over at Penny University in Kingston. It’s something I absolutely fell in love with and here was no different.

The scramble eggs were coupled with a crispy, pan fried bacon which added all the meaty and savoury flavours that you would hope for some a breakfast burger. They gave you probably a bit too much bacon, though I’m sure no one is ever going to complain about that. The visual effect of a burger coming out with giant bacon tentacles coming out of it is a really cool one.

Finally, to top it all off and leaving the best part until last, there was a potato rosti. The rosti was amazing, definitely on the softer side but with bits of crunchiness laced throughout it and best of all, the rosti was just so full of flavour. It was super herby and had a strong shallot flavour to it, this more earthy flavour complimented the savoury flavour of the bacon perfectly. Finally, all the ingredients were nested in a brioche milk bun, that help soften the flavours. The brioche did a good job of not overpowering the ingredients in the bun and making things too bready. One thing I should mention is that this dish is surprisingly messy to eat. You’ve been warned.

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The second dish that we opted for was The Field ($17), portobello mushrooms and poaches eggs on crusty bread with goats cheese, a balsamic reduction, shaved truffle and toasted pine nuts. Like with the The Cheesy Scramble, this was another super tasty dish but unlike the burger, this dish was much lighter and cleaner, the perfect way to start of the weekend.

There was nothing super fancy or complex about this dish but it was different to your typical mod oz brekkie joint. There was just that prefect balance of texture and flavour. The crispy bread with the flavoursome and buttery mushrooms and to top it all off, the creaminess from the egg yolks and this lovely caramelised and earthy sweetness from the balsamic reduction. I also really appreciated the fact that the mushrooms weren’t overly powerful or salty. I find mushroom dishes can get a little too much real quick, especially as they’re salty as hell when it comes to cooking and too many places are just too heavy handed with them, a bit like anchovies but for vegetarians!

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Here is a shoot of the poached eggs. In the tale of poached or pwned, the answer is, very close to poached! They weren’t perfectly poached but no where near pwned or anything like that and considering how some bad poached eggs seem to get in Canberra, I thought these weren’t bad at all. There was still definitely enough yolk to cover the mushrooms and soak into the crispy bread, giving it some moistness.

As a part of Patissez menu, you can add house made hollandise sauce to anything at no extra cost. Woot! I’m a massive fan of hollandaise sauce, that butter and yolky goodness with a hint of citrus at the end. Its like the lemon curd (I really like lemon curd, I have been known to eat spoonfuls for dessert) of breakfast. I of course gladly ordered some, it was given to us in a seperate side bowl next to our burger, I guess it fit a lot better there as far as the plate goes. To be honest, Ouk originally thought it was a cheesy sauce for his burger, and he doused his burger in it. He recommends doing the same because it made the burger absolutely amazing, so keep that in mind out there! For me, the hollandaise sauce added that extra richness that I really enjoy but of course if you’re the healthier type, it may not be to your fancy. But each to their own!

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I was here at Patissez to sample their cakes and I couldn’t leave without sampling at least a few! We got there at about 2PM and the selection was still quite solid. They had sold out on one or two choices but overall they still had plenty of goodness to try. Plus, the variety was great! There were whole cakes that you could purchase in slices, these looked pretty amazing, some were traditional while others were a lot more fancy, like Turkish Delight and peanut butter. I saw one guy eating a slice of the cake, and the cake itself was probably 13cm tall and the slice was 5cm wide. Pretty amazing value. There were also tarts, slices, chia cups and gluten free options as well. A couple of the treats also looked really vibrant and colour with fluro greens, pinks and what nots.

I decided to opt for something a little more interesting and familiar to my Asian palette, the Matcha and pistachio slice ($8), matcha cream coupled with pistachio cream between matcha cake. I love matcha, its up there with pandan and taro for me. When I think of cakes, desserts and sweet treats, these are the flavours that come to mind and make me nostalgic for my childhood, I grew up on these flavours as opposed to chocolate, caramel or strawberry sauce. So, I get very excited when I see it in Western patisseries. In my experience, the Asian palette is quite different, so our traditional cakes and desserts tend to be a lot lighter and fluffier, but a lot less rich and decadent. Hence, its not everyday you get to see the richness of French cooking coupled with amazing Asian flavours. But here at Patissez, you do!

This cake was the perfect balance between Western richness and the delicate flavours of Asian desserts. The flavour of the matcha permeates throughout the cake layer, there is also a good amount of it in the top layer of cream. This strong and almost bitter tea flavour is complimented by a couple of lovely and rich layers and pistachio cream. Between the cream and the cake, the overall slice is perfectly moist and delicious. If, for whatever reason you find the cake a little too rich, there is also a syringe full of acidic apple concentrate which really helps to change the overall feel of the cake.

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Our second treat from Patissez was the Salted caramel pop slide ($6.50) with coconut dacquoise, salted caramel crème brûlée parfait, caramelised saffron apple centre, white chocolate and honeycomb. I normally get pretty sceptical when I see places offering cakes like this. I kind of just assume they’re trying to go for the hipster appeal, but the taste just never seems to live up to the cool appearance. Luckily here at Patissez, this wasn’t an issue.

While the matcha slice felt more intricate and ‘mature’, this was a delightfully rich and decadent treat for your sweet tooth. Although the pop slide was really sweet, it was still extremely well done with many different elements, flavours and textures throughout the cake. The flavours also played off each other really well, helping the cake stay enjoyable right until the end without one element becoming way too much (which happens a lot with cakes like this). The the sourness and fruitiness from the saffron apple centre really helped to balance out the sweetness of the salted caramel. In addition to this, the coconut dacquoise and honeycomb added all the texture that you need to keep the pop slide interesting and exciting throughout.

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Finally the food out of the way. Of course, we couldn’t call this complete without drinks and so of course, we grabbed a couple of drinks from Patissez. First up, the Matcha latte ($4, regular). As you may know now, I absolutely love matcha, when it comes to flavours, it’s my red velvet cupcake. So, I get pretty excited when I see it on a menu, especially in Canberra! This is because matcha is more of an Asian flavour and there is a smaller (but no worse!) Asian community in Canberra compared to say Sydney or Melbourne, so these types of treats are much harder to come by than I’m used to.

The matcha latte at Patissez is quite unique to others that you’ll find in Canberra and nothing like the ones you can get in Sydney, and I mean this in the most positive way possible. Matcha lattes are mainly served in Asian cafes and restuarants and with the coffee culture only really becoming an thing now in Asian places, you’ll find that most matcha lattes come out really sweet (perfect for me of course) but much sweeter than a normal coffee loving person would prefer. Here at Patissez, the matcha latte comes out with no sugar. Its strong, bitter and full of green tea goodness. I of course opted to add a ‘couple’ of sugars but at least this way, you can adjust it to your own preference. I did find that the matcha latte here wasn’t as smooth as you would expect but it’s definitely better than no matcha! The matcha latte was also slightly lukewarm, that might have contributed to the slightly grainy texture. But this is no Chanoma so I can’t complain.

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Onwards to something that Patissez does specialise in and shine at, the Nutella ‘Shake It’ ($8), cold Nutella shake with whipped cream and crushed salty pretzels.

I love a good, creative and wacky looking milkshake and Patissez delivers. Not only does it look good, it also tastes pretty darn fine too. If you like Ferrero Rocher, this is the perfect drink for you. Although they’ve used a couple of different things to create this drink, in the end of the day it tastes like a crushed up Ferrero Rocher, which is awesome of course! It even has the right texture, thanks to the crushed up satled preztels giving you that crunchiness that you find from the crushed hazelnuts and wafer in a Ferrero Rocher, along with the Nutella and whipped cream that brings you that creamy hazelnut goodness. Very impressed with how they made this taste so much like one of our favourite little chocolate treats by using all different ingredients! One cool thing I should mention is that they slide on copious amounts of nutella over the rim, so if you love licking nutella out of the jar, this ‘shake it’ is for you!

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Finally, our last treat from Patissez, the Banana Matcha ‘Smooth Criminal’ ($8) with Medjool dates, Jahna Greek style yoghurt, raw honey and granola. This wasn’t my favourite drink of the day, but it was still pretty cool. I really liked that you could chose between normal diary milk, almond milk and soy milk for the Smooth Criminal shakes and at no extra cost. Nothing worse than having to pay an extra $1 for almond or soy milk. I mean at that point, I might as well just go to Aldi, put out an extra 50c and buy a litre. I really do appreciate places that don’t try to gouge you at every chance possible. I understand that there are costs in stocking different options that may or may not be used, so I guess I don’t expect it, but I do appreciate it. But enough about my cheapness!

The drink itself although quite bright, green and vibrant, didn’t really have a strong matcha flavour to it. Instead, to me it tasted more like a banana milkshake but milder and without that sweet ending, I guess that is thanks to the matcha which rounds it off. Although there were a couple of other ingredients, like the Greek yoghurt and the dates but I didn’t feel like the flavour really came through which was a bit of a shame because I quite enjoy dates in milkshake. I know dates sound a bit basic but they’re surprisingly tasty. In the end of the day, bananas are an overpowering flavour and it did seem to overpower here.

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So there you have it, our trip to Patissez. I came here not expecting much at all and left feeling very happy and absolutely full. I’m glad to see another good patisserie open up in Canberra, especially one that has some pretty fantastic opening hours. Oh, not sure if I’ve mentioned it previously but Patissez is actually open seven days a week from 7am to 4pm, woot!

Oh, a side note. The food menu just started over the weekend, so when we were there the service was a little haphazard. Everyone was really nice and helpful but they were still getting into the groove of things. Due to this, we found that things took a little longer than expected, or we had to ask for certain thing several times, which was completely understandable for a brand new restaurant but I thought I should mention it just so you guys are aware as well. Expectations are everything after all.

Patissez

Shop 2/21 Bougainville Street, Manuka

Facebook: facebook.com/patissez.pty.ltd

Instagram: @patissez

Opening hours: 

Monday to Sunday

7:00am to 4:00pm

Pâtissez on Urbanspoon

Saigon Foodies, Kingston

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The other week whilst out and about in Kingston I decided to drop by Saigon Foodies to try out their pho. I have had my eye on Saigon Foodies for a while but never got around to trying it until now. To be honest, I think the stores been there for ages but in the past six months or so, it was re-branded into something a lot more hip, cool and in. The food, décor and what not still looks the same. It seems like they’ve just changed their name and boarded the Vietnamese hipster trend. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and if it improves business then good on them! As much as it annoys me that stores are now selling pork rolls (or banh mi tit) for $8 when we’ve been paying $3-5 for them since I was growing up, at least I know its my fellow country men and woman who are profiteering from this hipster movement. Don’t get me started on foods that are inappropriately priced, I could go on for days!

During our trip to Saigon Foodies, we were originally hoping to get a Saigon roll (or pork roll, banh mi tit or whatever you want to call it). However, we were informed that they had sold out for the day. This was a bit shocking for me as I’ve always thought that the pork rolls at Saigon Foodies (and in Canberra in general ) were quite overpriced. Every time I see a pork roll for over $5, I cringe a little. I mean, on the weekend I grabbed a pork roll for $2.80 in Cabramatta and it was fantastic! I know, it sucks to hear that person go on and on about how some cities are better than Canberra, and I honestly try to refrain as much as possible, but I feel like pork rolls are something that we need to make a stand on! I understand that everything has to be imported from Sydney, so I’ll normally justify a price of about $5 or so in Canberra but it really shouldn’t be more than that! Anyways, it was 3PM on a weekday and they were all out. I guess the point of that story was, if you’re keen on getting a pork roll at Saigon Foodies, get in early. Also something about a revolution. A bread revolution.

Anyway, we were pretty hungry and plan A just failed, since we had a little bit of time, we settled for a pho instead.

Here is the Pho tai ($12) or rare beef noodle soup at Saigon Foodies. While I think the banh mi tit is pretty overpriced at Saigon Foodies, the pho isn’t too expensive. It has pretty standard Canberra pho prices. Okay, I know you may be thinking, ‘Why on earth are they going on so much about the price? What does it matter? You pay for what you get, the more you pay, the better the dish!’ While true for a lot of things, this rule seems to bend quite a bit for Asian restaurants. If you know where to look, there are some amazing Asian cheap eats all around Canberra that offer delicious and authentic Asian dishes, fantastic sizes for a fraction of the cost of some other places. Though, I won’t name names even though logically, you’d assume that is the entire point of a food blog. Oh well.

Anyways, more about this pho! The pho here at Saigon Foodies was pretty tasty. Strange but tasty. It isn’t the best pho I’ve had in Canberra but it’s a decent feed if you’re craving a pho, live in the inner south and don’t want to travel anywhere. I did notice that it had more of a chicken base instead of a beef base and wasn’t as meaty, deep or dark as pho usually is. Despite that fact, it had all the right pho scents and aromas. That was a bit strange. Normally, I’m able to judge a pho from its aromas. Chances are, if you walk into a Vietnamese restaurant it’s pretty unmistakable if that place serves good pho as you can smell the various spices that go into pho like star anise, ginger, cardamom, coriander, fennel, and cloves. Here the smells and aromas were all there in the pho, but the flavour was a little different to any pho I’ve had before. It was really quite subtle, light and had a more chicken broth like flavour to it.

As it wasn’t so dark and meaty, the broth was on the sweeter side but by no means too sweet or anything like that. It was probably the sweetest pho I’ve had in Canberra. Thought, I should mention that I know some people prefer their pho very savoury while others prefer it sweeter, so each to their own. Here is one for the sweet pho lovers out there. The pho had a generous amount of thinly sliced rare beef on it, as well as some herbs sprinkled on top. I didn’t really like that they added the chilli for you, especially as I can’t eat chilli at all. Once I took the picture, I pretty much rushed to get the chilli and all its seeds out of my pho as quickly as possible so the spiciness would not seep throughout my pho broth. On top of the herbs in the bowl, they also offered a side of fresh Vietnamese herbs and limes as well. I really appreciated that they did this, I know some other smaller places will just add the herbs into the pho for you, so they don’t have to waste all the herbs that you don’t eat. I don’t really like this as I tend not to put any of the herbs into my soup, so this saves me from having to pick it all out.

Here is the side of herbs, its a pretty decent amount and all the herbs were really nice and fresh. In the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad pho. Its probably not on the top of my Canberra pho list but if I was in Kingston or anywhere else in the inner south and craving one, I would probably drop by again. In hindsight, now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if they gave me the wrong pho or got my order wrong. Maybe I got a chicken pho instead. From my understanding, you can make a pretty similar pho from chicken bones but it will taste slightly different, which is exactly what we experienced! Interesting, well I do plan to visit in the near future to get my hands on one of Saigon Foodies’ pork roll, I guess I’ll have to try their pho again to see if my theory is correct. Who knows, maybe this was just a fantastic pho ga!

Saigon Foodies 

42 Giles Street, Kingston

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