Sydney

Passiontree Velvet, Macquarie Park

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Now that I’m back in Sydney, I’m retracing all the places I’ve missed since I left, all the new restaurants, cafes and shops. Finally getting a chance to sample all the food that inspired those drool worthy pictures that covered my Instagram feed over the years.

One place that has been showing up again and again is Macquarie Park. Back when I was in university, no one wanted to go to Macquarie University. It was out of the way and everything around it kind of sucked. There was nothing nearby to do or eat. It was just you, your university buildings and lots and lots of trees. Nothing against trees, but you know, you can’t eat em.

Well after a few short years, it looks like that has all changed. It seems like all the new hotness is opening up in Macquarie Park. The latest brands, exclusive stores and amazing restaurants. Because of that, naturally during my first week back in Sydney, I decided to pay Macquarie Park a visit. I was actually keen to try out KIN by us, which is just around the corner from the shopping centre. However, as it was a public holiday they were closed. I probably should have checked that before hand but as per usual, I didn’t. Luckily for me, there was still plenty of goodness on offer, and in particular Passiontree Velvet.

I wasn’t really looking out for this place. I kind of just stumbled on it while lost in Macquarie Centre. This is the first shopping centre that I’ve been to that has half floors. And the difference between a half floor and a full floor is five steps or a small ramp so needless to say, navigating this place sucks. So while I was wandering around looking for Aqua S, somewhere near the Aldi and the Coles, I stumbled across an island that happened to be Passiontree Velvet. To be honest, at the time I wasn’t really looking for it, but I was definitely happy to see it!

Passiontree Velvet is another fantastic export from Brisbane. Now all we need is MOS Burger to finally get exported! This modern looking cafe serves coffees, tea, light lunch meals and cakes. It’s not your typical cafe like The Coffee Club or the like, instead here, you’ll find croque monsieurs, baguettes and macarons, so it’s decidedly French. You can even settle here for a simple high tea with scones and Devonshire cream or the full deal with petit fours and ribbon sandwiches; in hindsight maybe Euro is more appropriate as opposed to French.

But what took my fancy were the cakes. Passiontree Velvet’s cabinets are filled with multiple scrumptious looking cakes, pastries and eclairs. Everything from your classics to more modern and fancy one.

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Instead of lunch, I decided to do the smart thing, and let cake be my lunch! For once, I decided to opt for some of the classics, instead of going for one of the crazy looking ones, like the log which looked like a forest with grass and green moss. Instead, here I went for the Pistachio and berry log ($7.50).

This was a simple treat but a tasty one. An airy and light eclair shell which had a really nice and strong eggy flavour to it, filled with a creamy but rather mild pistachio and nutty almond flavoured custard like fulling. This crispy but doughy like treat was covered in a pistachio and white chocolate which reinforced the nutty flavour of the pistachio and added that much needed sweetness that wasn’t really present in the custard filling. Finally there were a couple of strawberries and blueberries which added that contrasting sourness and really brought this whole pastry together.

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Every time I go to a patisserie, I always try to get a Lemon tart ($7.50). 1) because it’s one of my favourite pastries and 2) because it’s an absolute classic and any place that can’t do a solid lemon tart worries me. That is, I’ll think twice before trying something else there.

Luckily, that was not the case here. This lemon tart from Passiontree Velvet hit the spot perfectly. A perfectly smooth lemon curd with that strong citrus tang and that contrasting sweetness which cut right through it. This was paired with a rich and buttery tart and a sweet and fluffy meringue. This was the perfect balance between sweet, acidic tang and rich pastry.

There wasn’t anything special about this lemon tart but as a classic, its still the perfect treat after a long day with a strong cup of tea, not that I had a cup of tea or a long day, I guess. I mean, I was just shopping, which most people consider leisure or entertainment. But for me, thats a big day!

I’m a little disappointed I only sampled two desserts from Passiontree Velvet. Everything in their dessert cabinet, from the cakes to the macarons, looked so scrumptious. After sampling these two for myself, I think I might be dropping by again in the future for another cake or two!

Passiontree Velvet

Macquarie Centre, North Ryde

Website: passiontreevelvet.com

Facebook: facebook.com/passiontreevelvet/

Instagram: @PassiontreeVelvet

Opening hours:

Monday to Wednesday and Friday

9:30am to 6:00pm

Thursday

9:30am to 9:00pm

Saturday

9:00am to 6:00pm

Sunday

10:00am to 6:00pm

Passiontree Velvet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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.

 

Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Liverpool

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Harry’s Cafe de Wheels is a Sydney institution that started on a fateful day in 1938 near the front gate of the Wolloomooloo naval dockyard. It actually has some pretty cool history for a variety of things like how they came up with the name ‘Tiger pie’ (based on the owner being a great boxer) but I won’t go into that too much since it’s all on the website anyway.

Harry’s is probably the one place where I’ve eaten and thought ‘if for whatever reason I end up spending a lot of my time writing words about food one day, then I really want to write words about you, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.’ So it’s with great joy that I’m able to do this today since it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. There’s something about being able to get a meat pie at midnight that’s unmistakably Australian and it’s something I’ve always appreciated since no one else seems willing to brave some of those cold winters nights to support people who just plain love eating food at all times of the night. Except kebab joints, wonderful, wonderful kebab joints.

Anyway, back when I was growing up, Harry’s was always a place I loved going to, but it wasn’t a place that I went too often, purely because it was just so far away from my house and a complete pain to get to. Thankfully, during my exile in Canberra, Harry’s answered my prayers and opened up a store in Liverpool, which means I can get Harry’s every time I head back to Canberra now. I think my heart hates me for it because there is also a giant Krispy Kreme next to the Harry’s in Liverpool and I always end up getting a crapload of donuts every time I go there as well.

Wow. When I read over that I realise I’m just really unhealthy.

Anyway, here’s some pies and dogs.

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First up we have the classic, the famous Tiger pie ($7.20). This has been voted as Sydney’s best pie and to be honest it’s extremely hard to argue with that. It’s a classic lean beef pie topped with mash potato, mushy peas and gravy. One cool little feature of the tiger pie is that the crew at Harry’s make a little dimple in the peas before they pour the gravy over the top. This ensures that whilst this is still fairly impossible to eat like a normal pie (that is, you must knife and fork this thing), it does make it considerably less messy to eat, and it make you feel fuzzy to know that the staff at Harry’s have your best interests at heart.

The pie itself is pretty standard, nothing gourmet about it, but you can probably tell from the above picture that it’s under no illusions of trying to be either. The crust is crispy and the meat inside is a really high quality beef, though it can get a little dry for me sometimes. One thing that I do to combat this, and I do this every time I eat a tiger pie now; I’ll use the knife and fork to poke a hole in the top of the pie, scoop some guts out, and then start mixing gravy and peas in the carved out pie carcass. It’s pretty fantastic, and I’ve never seen anyone do it so I’m going to try and patent that or something.

I’m not going to go into how the textures play off each other or anything because I figure if you can’t imagine how a meat pie with mashed potato on top of it would taste, then I doubt some words on a screen will help you. You know what will though? Going to any of their many locations and grabbing one of these. You likely won’t regret it, and once you do, you’ll be able to say you’ve had a Tiger pie from Harry’s. I’m pretty sure somewhere out there, there’s a list of things you must do as a Sydneysider. Getting a picture taken looking over your back while you look over Bondi Beach is probably on it, and trying a Tiger pie from Harry’s should probably be there too.

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Secondly, we have the Harry’s Hot Dog de Wheels ($6.50). First off, forgive us if the prices are kind of wrong, we forgot to take a picture of the menu board and the website doesn’t seem to list prices so we’re going off memory here. It’s close though.

The Harry’s Hot Dog de Wheels is Harry’s premier hot dog and is actually my absolutely favourite number one item to get there, just edging out the Tiger pie. I love pies as much as the next guy but this? Look at it! A fantastic wiener, with a big helping of chilli con carne, garlic onions, mushy peas, topped with a swirl of cheese sauce and to top all of that off, a big straight line of chilli sauce.

Everything about this hot dog is pretty fantastic, and again, I should mention that this is not a gourmet dog or anything, nor is it trying to be. It’s a hearty, homely hot dog and if you’re only interested in the kinds of dogs you get outside of the Grounds on Saturday morning, then you may be a bit disappointed. The dog itself is a straight up American style skinless frank, nothing too flashy, but in my opinion these dogs work best with chilli con carne anyway because they’re not trying to overpower things with too much herbs and spices.

One thing I feel I should mention is how big this thing is! It’s filling! I’ve made the mistake in the past of planning a big Sydney food trip and setting up Harry’s Cafe de Wheels as a pre-lunch snack. As you all know, on a food trip the biggest concern is how can you eat at all the places you want to and still keep that precious, precious stomach space. Don’t make the same mistake I did, the hot dog here is big and it deserves to be straight up lunch.

In conclusion, Harry’s is pretty great. It’s not gourmet and it’s not hipster (almost went a whole post without saying that word), but it’s filling, hearty and fantastically homely. One of my favourite places in Sydney and a great place to grab a quick, cheap feed.

Harry’s Cafe de Wheels

Shop 1/20 Orange Grove Road, Liverpool

Website: harryscafedewheels.com.au/

Facebook: facebook.com/harryscafedewheels

Opening hours 

Sunday to Thursday

9:00am to 11:00pm

Friday to Saturday

9:00am to 1:00am
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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

Click to add a blog post for Belly Bao on Zomato

Jasmin 1, Chester Hill

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Ah Jasmin, this post was always going to be a labour of love. Back when I was studying, Jasmin was a regular haunt for me. It’s a place that I often spoke about with a reverence often reserved for religious deities, and it’s the one thing that got me through some of the darker times at university. Where else could you feed yourself to the point of bursting, and then only pay $7 for the whole meal?! Needless to say, I really liked Jasmin.

Since I’ve moved to Canberra, my trips back to Sydney take place over a single weekend, and with so much food on offer, I tend to succumb to the hype and simply go to the new hip cafe with some sort of theme or swearword on the menu. Well, this time I decided once and for all that it was time I went back to my roots, and here’s the results of that journey. It involves a lot of eating, a tiny bit of crying, and a lot of takeaway. Enjoy!

I should note, my old favourite haunt was Jasmin 2 in Lakemba. However, here I’m eat at Jasmin 1 in Chester Hill. This was purely due to convenience, and based on my experience here, if these two aren’t part of the same franchise then someone needs to sue someone because this was exactly as I remember it.

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Alright, so when you first go into Jasmin, like any decent Lebanese place, you’re greeted with a basket load of complimentary lebanese bread and condiments including some garlic paste, chilli sauce, and various veggies like pickles, onion, radish etc. These are bottomless, so don’t go easy on them, but when it comes to Jasmin, you’ve always got to be cautious about stomach space, you don’t want to waste your stomach on these, as good as they are. There’s always a temptation to get the bread, dip it in the garlic sauce and just start munching away but try to avoid doing this. Whilst it may be delicious, you’ll regret it as soon as the mountains of meat come out, so keep this in mind! One of the things that I’d like to pay particular attention to is the amazing garlic sauce. It’s kind of pasty, almost like the glue that you played with as a kid, and just absolutely full of flavour. A lot of people think the garlic sauce will make or break a Lebanese restaurant, and they are absolutely right.

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First up, an entree of sorts, the Vine leaves ($12). These were like any good vine leaf, and you got a surprising amount of them considering the price. I’ll try my hardest not to really mention value for money from here on out, but let me just say now, that I’m constantly really impressed with the incredible value for money that Jasmin has or Lebanese food in general. Ok, won’t mention it again.

These are easily one of my favourite set of vine leaves, but to be honest, the range between the best and worst vine leaves I’ve ever had is not a massive one. One thing I really appreciated was that they weren’t super sour, unlike most other vine leaves that I’ve had. These vine leaves were really balanced flavour. The texture was really pleasant as well, it avoided the regular vine leaf trap of being really mushy. There’s not a lot of things that need to go right to have a really enjoyable vine leaf, and the ones here at Jasmin really do hit the mark. Definitely would order again!

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As someone who loves meat and eats it constantly, this is really odd for me to admit, but the Falafel ($8) from Jasmin is up there as one of my favourite dishes from Lebanese cuisine. Weird story, so back when I first had the falafel here, (it comes as a part of the mixed plate, which we ordered below) I started craving falafel all the time and ordered it whenever possible. This meant that if I ever went to a kebab or takeaway shop, I’d invariably walk away with some falafel. That’s around the time when I realised that the majority of falafels out there are just plain bad (sorry kebab and takeaway shops). It made me appreciate the falafel here at Jasmin so much more. There has only been one time where I got a falafel from a non restaurant that I really enjoyed and I feel that needs to be acknowledged, so shout out to Street Falafel in Brisbane!

So I guess it’s time I talk about the falafel here at Jasmin. The main thing you’ll notice is how wonderfully crisp and crunchy it is. Most falafels you get from takeaway joints are either rock hard all the way through, or disappointingly chewy. The falafel here at Jasmin is crunchy on the outside, but once you get through that tough outer shell, it’s airy and fluffy on the inside, much like a Vietnamese bread roll. As far as flavour goes, the falafel here does a great job of not tasting too oily, it’s light and makes you feel like you’re eating something that could be considered somewhat good for you even though I’m sure it isn’t. The falafels at Jasmin comes with a really delightful hummus that takes it all to another level. Quick tip, the hummus goes great with the Lebanese bread above, so be liberal with it. Plus, I’m sure they’ll refill it for you if you ask!

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Our first “main” of the night was the Chicken shawarma ($13). So, first things first, the way I eat Lebanese food (I’m not Lebanese, so there’s every chance that this is wrong) is that I’ll take the bread, coat the whole thing in garlic paste, put whatever meat on it, and eat it like a pseudo soft shell taco. It’s a bit undignified but it’s just the quickest way to deliciousness. As you might be able to tell from the above picture, this is literally just diced up bits of beautifully BBQ’d chicken, herbed and flavoured up, then just dumped on a plate. Might not win any awards for presentation, but if there is one thing that I could eat until the end of time, it’d probably be this. You may have noticed that the tzatziki sauce on the side there, that doesn’t actually come with this dish. It’s the sauce for the mansaaf prawn dish which I’ll talk about in a second, we got it a little mixed up when we were taking the pictures.

Not sure what to say about the actual chicken, it’s got a bit of spice to it, but definitely wouldn’t consider it a spicy dish. Oh! It’s kind of like an ultra high quality version of chicken kebab meat that you get from a kebab place like TC’s. I know that kebab meat is a bit controversial, some people really hate how “low quality” the meat is, how it’s indistinguishable from anything else. Others love how heavily flavoured it is and don’t seem to mind perceived quality issues. I personally subscribe to the second option, flavour trumps all, so if you can cook up a chicken gizzard and make it taste amazing, then I’m going to want to eat it.

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Up next is the famous Mixed plate ($17). This was my first foray into the loving world of Jasmin and ‘real’ Lebanese food and it’s something I’ll never forget. So, what do you get for $17?

  • two falafels
  • a grilled chicken skewer
  • fried kebbe (lamb puff type things)
  • a grilled beef skewer
  • kafta (flat beef layer thing)
  • tabouli
  • a series of dips including garlic sauce, hommus (chickpea) and baba ghannouj (eggplant)

So as you can see, it’s quite a lot of food! You can’t really go wrong with this and I recommend this dish to everyone who comes to Jasmin. One cool thing about Jasmin is that there’s a full main version of everything that you get in this mix plate. So once you eat this once, if there’s something that you thought “damn I want a TON of that next time” then that’s entirely possible! It’s like a gateway drug, if that drug was more Jasmin.

As far as my opinion goes, I’d say the falafel is my favourite thing on this dish, it’s just so damn crispy, with the kebbe coming in at a close second. To be honest, if I explained this dish in any more detail, there’s a chance you’ll start to form an opinion on this dish without ordering it. I don’t want that, so I’m going to stop here. Yep, go try it.

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Next up is the Mansaaf with prawns ($15). This is probably the only dish that we ordered which could be enjoyed fully without the Lebanese bread, since it comes with a helping of rice. This reminds me a lot of a massive Biryani, with the meat and rice cooked all together and then piled into a lovely little pile of food in the middle of the plate.

The rice was really heavily flavoured in a way that can only be described as Middle Eastern. The prawns themselves were cooked absolutely perfectly. To be honest I was a bit concerned about ordering prawns from a place like Jasmin. Nothing against Jasmin, but prawns are one thing that’s pretty damn easy to under or overcook, and Jasmin doesn’t seem like a place with the delicacy to get prawns absolutely right. Well, let me say now, I’m a giant idiot and they cooked the prawns perfectly. The prawns were also really heavily flavoured and quite spicy too, not too much to be a bother, but definitely had a kick that you would notice. Between the rice and the prawns, this dish got quite salty and flavoursome after awhile, but once I started making liberal use of the provided tzatziki (in the chicken shawarma picture) everything balanced out exceptionally well. This was a really pleasant surprise.

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As we were walking in, we saw on the front door that Jasmini was doing a Fried chicken and chips ($15) special and we couldn’t really say no to fried chicken, so here we are. As you can see, an absolutely massive heaping of food, so be sure to have your appetite ready before you tackle this one.

The chicken here is about as far from Korean fried chicken as you can get. This might be disappointing for some, but while I do enjoy Korean fried chicken as much as the next person, I do have a soft spot for the American variety, which the chicken here more closely resembles. The chicken here at Jasmin has a really subtle flavour and does not have a ton of spices like anything you’d get at KFC. The deep fried coating is nice and light, with little bits spiralling off into crispy goodness. One thing I really liked about this chicken was how stubbornly the skin held onto the meat itself. Unlike the many KFC memories I have, where the skin falling off the chicken before you’ve even opened the box.

I personally think that this chicken really benefitted from having copious amounts of garlic sauce and hommus around, which made it absolutely delicious, and definitely a unique fried chicken experience. As far as recommendations go, my preference would easily be for the more traditional Lebanese dishes above, but if you’ve got a hankering for fried chicken, you could do a lot worse than this.

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So that’s it! A massive meal full of delicious dining nostalgia. My time at Jasmin was as good as it has ever been, and if you’re a fan of good food that’s real, then I cannot recommend it enough. We ended up with I think about five takeaway containers from the above meal. FIVE. They didn’t charge us for the boxes or anything either. Amazing.

Jasmin 1

174 Waldron Road, Chester Hill

Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Jasmin-1-Lebanese-Restaurant-ChesterHill

Opening hours

Monday to Sunday

8:30am to 9:30pm

Jasmin 1 on Urbanspoon

Bankstown

Jasmin1 on Urbanspoon

Leichhardt

Jasmin1 on Urbanspoon

Auburn

Jasmine 1 on Urbanspoon

Aqua S, CBD

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Over the Easter long weekend, I finally got the chance to revisit Aqua S. I really enjoyed my first visit and I have been hankering to go back but never got the chance to. I sat and moped in Canberra as I watched various awesome flavours come and go, including taro, tiramasu, creaming soda, tomato and other weird and cool things like that. I drooled as I saw the pictures on Instagram but sadly couldn’t get my hands on any. Instead, I just sat at home in Canberra licking on my own lame recreation of sea salt ice cream (that is, I tried sprinkling salt onto vanilla ice cream). Before you ask, no, it didn’t quite quench my need.

Well I managed to come back and just in time for some new flavours! For the next two weeks Aqua S is treating us with tofu flavour and mango and orange flavour. I of course tried both! I probably won’t explain how Aqua S works, or how much the toppings cost and etc. I kind of went through that in my last post which you can check out here. Its not overly complicated and theres always kind of a line (even at noon, when they open). So by the time you get to the counter, you probably get the gist of it anyway.

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First up, the Seasalt and tofu cone ($3.80). Last time I visited, I opted for straight seasalt since the two other flavours (biscotti and lemon tea) didn’t quite appeal to me but this time when I saw tofu, I just had to give it a go. Whenever I travel, whatever weird famous food that country has, I’m pretty keen to try it, so something like tofu, even if it sounds weird, it wasn’t enough to phase me. Plus, I figure, wouldn’t hurt to get a little bit of extra protein while I’m enjoying my seasalt ice cream. Well it definitely was interesting, and definitely an acquired taste. I loved the sea salt flavour from the first lick, but the tofu didn’t have quite the same response.

Though credit where it’s due, it was amazing how similar it actually tasted to fresh silken tofu. It’s like the crew at Aqua S just got a bunch of tofu and blended it into a milk, which was then used to make a soft serve. Literally, tofu but with a silky, smooth soft serve texture. Interesting stuff. Would I get it again? Maybe. But I reckon I might just stick to the classic sea salt flavour next time. With that said, I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the sea salt flavour, and I seem to have loved it so your mileage may vary. For what it’s worth, I very much prefer pandan silken tofu milk.

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My second ice cream was the Seasalt and mango and orange with fairyfloss ($5.30). Yes I got two ice creams all for myself! I ended up eating four ice creams on this particular day and I’ll argue the virtues of such a lifestyle until the day I die. I’ll probably just talk about the mango and orange soft serve here, I think I’ve gushed about Aqua S enough.

So I was a little sceptical about the tofu, it was nice and all but I think I don’t love tofu as much as other people do. On the other hand, the mango and orange was love at first sight (or lick) I guess. The mango and orange soft serve was fruity, sweet and had a really nice yuzu like aftertaste to it and I love all things yuzu so I was all over this soft serve.

So there you have it, another awesome visit to Aqua S. Overall, I enjoy the different flavours that Aqua S has on offer and its quite exciting with the two rotating flavours, definitely makes me want to come back and try out the new flavours, especially when they are as weird as tomato, tofu and what not. I really hope they do bring back some of the flavours. I would love to try taro which was available about a month or so ago but missed out on because I wasn’t in Sydney those two weekends. As much I love the sea salt and other soft serve flavours, I can definitely see it being an acquired taste for some. So be warned, if you’re a picky eater and like the classics, you might want to consider sharing a cone with a mate.

Aqua S

501 George Street, Regent Place, Sydney

Website: aquas.co

Facebook: facebook.com/aquasaustralia

Instagram: instagram.com/aquas_au/

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday

12:00pm to 10:00pm

Aqua S on Urbanspoon

Mister Gee Burger Truck, Haberfield

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Over the Easter long weekends, I finally got the chance to try out Mister Gee. I’ve known about this place for a while now and I’ve been wanting to visit since forever but never really got the chance to due to exceptional laziness. This Easter however, I decided enough was enough and trekked out to Haberfield to sample this fine burger in its new home (used to be Burwood). Mister Gee is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from 6.30PM until 10PM. However, I’ve heard that they tend to run out of burgers way before 10PM, so we decided to get in early to ensure we got our hands onto some of Mister Gee’s sweet goodness, plus we wanted to beat the lines.

It looks like the word has really gotten out about Mister Gee. We got there exactly four minutes after 6.30PM and the line was already wrapping around the side, there were probably a hundred people already waiting! I don’t normally queue for food but we’d already trekked over 30 minutes through Sydney’s fantastic traffic (along Parramatta Rd) for this and well, I figure it was now or never. So we wriggled our butts over to the end of the line and the waiting game started. After about 15 to 20 minutes or so, Mister Gee finally opened up those sliding doors, another 40 minutes later, we were at the front of the line. So I guess, word of warning, be prepared to wait, if you’re in a rush definitely come back some other time.

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The menu at Mister Gee is simple, there is one burger which changes every week or so, one side, chilli cheese fries and one shake, baklava flavour! I don’t think the shake flavour ever changes, well it might in the future but so far it hasn’t. Since I first heard about Mister Gee ages ago, the shake has always been baklava, which isn’t a bad thing but more about that in a second. Mister Gee also sells water and other canned soft drinks.

Over the Easter weekend, the burger on offer at Mister Gee was the Geeism which included a beef patty, oakleaf, tomato, onion, kimchi mayo, bacon and havarti. I think you can opt to bulk up your burger by adding extras like bacon, more meat patties and etc. Sadly for me, there was no veggie or fish option so I procured the services of my sister to sample an additional burger with us.

We decided to grab our goodies and then headed home to pig out on it. Mister Gee is located in a random carparking area with limited outdoor seating. There’s limited lighting and no amenities. That’s what we get for loving food trucks, I guess. So we opted to eat in the comfort of our home.

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The Geeism ($10), beef patty, oakleaf, tomato, onion, kimchi mayo, bacon and havarti. The burger comes out lovingly wrapped in foil and I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never had a bad burger that’s come out wrapped in foil. This captures the American feel perfectly, and I think after a long time eating burgers I’ve finally figured out the difference between an American burger and an Australian one.

It’s the bread.

Yeah, that’s it I think. I’m no burger expert, but every time I go to get a burger from a take away, I’m met with dense, sesame seed topped bread thats primary role is to hold up the sauce and meat juices. American style burgers always tend to have softer (potentially steamed) bread that don’t stand up nearly as well to liquid, but generally (in my opinion) take far less away from the flavours of the burger itself. I should note, that I’m not talking about brioche here, no one can geographically categorise a brioche burger, they’re just fancy, they don’t need a home. I’m risking sounding unpatriotic here, but I definitely prefer American style burgers, and if you’re like me, then Mister Gee is a great place for you! Definitely American, definitely delicious. I’ll go into it more below.

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The Geeism with extra bacon ($11) beef patty, oakleaf, tomato, onion, kimchi mayo, bacon and havarti. This is the second burger we got, we were offered for $1 extra to add extra bacon to the burger, and of course, we obliged. Who could say no to bacon?!

Anyways, the beef in this burger is marvellous, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and served with the standard tomatoes and lettuce. Havarti cheese is a great choice for a burger, because of its propensity to melt into a goo, as well as its soft creaminess that doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. The bacon here is honestly not required, and I’d have much rather an extra patty if I was given the choice again, the beef is that good. I’ve gone into a bit of detail about the bread in the previous paragraph but I’d at least like to try and overstate how much I prefer buns like this, I love the softness of this bread, and how fluffy it is, without the richness of brioche making it painfully obvious that you’re doing your body a huge disservice. It’s really a great burger, and I can now understand the lines now that I have had it. One word of warning however, it’s not a huge burger, probably about as big as a McChicken maybe. For $10 I wouldn’t call it immense value for money, but it’s still damn delicious, and something you should definitely try at least once, even if you’re cheap and care about that sort of stuff.

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I just can’t say no to Chilli cheese fries ($5). Couldn’t just munch on burgers without washing it down with some good old starch. So of course, we grabbed a side of chilli cheese fries. I kind of assumed this had meat on it before I ordered it, I mean chilli cheese fries normally come with actual chilli right?! Well, the chilli cheese fries at Mister Gee’s don’t. Instead, they’ve kind of taken the literal term for chilli. It really is just chips with a chilli sauce all over it, with some melted cheese over the top. Its not bad, its actually great if you dig crispy shoe string fries lathered in creamy cheese with a light chilli flavour. But sadly for me, I was looking for something more American, something with substance. As it stands, they’re decent shoe string fries, and the cheese on them is really quite nice, so you wouldn’t be upset with these at all. Unless of course, you were expecting beef mince and beans in the chilli. In that case you might be a tad upset.

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Finally, the Baklava shake ($6). I promise you, Mister Gee’s doesn’t serve half full cups of shakes, it was actually full when we first got it. However, the 30 minute car trip home saw some ‘spills’ (right into my sisters mouth). When I took a sip, I was kind of amazed there was anything left for us by the time we got home to be honest. If I was tasked with minding this baklava shake, it would have been gone within seconds. This stuff is good. I mean, people rave on and on about Mister Gee’s burgers, which are good of course but this drink really deserves more credit. Okay its not the prettiest thing out there and comes in a plain green eco cup but boy is it tasty. The shake feels and tastes like the crew at Mister Gee have made a super delicious and creamy vanilla milkshake and then grind up bits of baklava into it, giving it that fantastic maple and pistachio flavour with little chunks of baklava everywhere.

So there you have it, Mister Gee’s. Yes this place is worth battling Parramatta Rd traffic and waiting over 30 minutes in line for. I haven’t tried any of the other burgers but from the pictures I’m seeing and have seen on Instagram, they look just as droolworthy. Plus, if burgers aren’t really your thing and you’re like me and love desserts but can’t eat meat, don’t worry! The Baklava shake is a dessert on its own. Plus I hear that sometimes, these awesome ice cream guys show up and whip up some nitrogen magic as well. They weren’t there when we were there but that may have been because it was Thursday, oh well! Next time. I will be back!

Oh, as I was actually quite sick on this particular day, my awesome sister and Ouk took these fantastic photos. You know how I said we waited 30 minutes for this burger? We’ll they did! I was sitting on a random ledge feeling nauseous.

Mister Gee Burger Truck

315 Parramatta Road, Haberfield (April, 2015)

Facebook: facebook.com/MisterGeeBurgerTruck

Instagram: instagram.com/mistergeeburgertruck

Opening hours:

Thursday to Saturday

6:30pm to 10:00pm

Mister Gee Burger Truck on Urbanspoon

Bambu, Cabramatta

Last week while heading back to Canberra, I decided to drop by Cabramatta to do a little bit of shopping and pick up some Asian goodies. Canberra is kind of overpriced when it comes to Asian groceries and ingredients and it also lacks a lot of my favourite things so I tend to hoard when I’m back up visiting family and friends. On this particular trip, we were heading up and down John Street, grabbing a couple of pork rolls, again hoarding since Canberra pork rolls just can’t compete with those from Cabramatta sadly, on taste or price. While walking down the street, I saw this really modern looking cafe with a screen out front displaying various awesome looking desserts and drinks. Once I saw it, I couldn’t say no! We were on a bit of a deadline but it looked to good to miss, so I put my plans on hold and headed in.

Bambu is located on John Street towards the upper side of the Cabramatta shopping area, near the Tan Viet Noodle House. Bambu along with a handful of other stores like Teinoya’s Garden, Gloria Jeans, What The Fudge, and various frozen yoghurt stores and milk tea chains which have opened up in recent years has really reinvigorate a largely traditional and Vietnamese cultural centre with a younger influence. Cabramatta isn’t just a place to grab Vietnamese groceries and food any more, its a place you can go to and sit down at hip, modern cafes and chat the afternoon away and then go back to picking up groceries and getting Vietnaamese food. It is nice to see the introduction of these types of cafes and eateries into Cabramatta and see it transform into something more like Canley Vale. Nothing is worse than arriving at 5PM on a weekday or weekend and everything is closed, these cafes will hopefully bring a night life to Cabramatta that Canley Vale has been able to create in a few short years, whether its 12 noon or 12 midnight, people are out and about, chatting and having a good time.

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At Bambu we opted for a Gaytime frappe ($5.60, small). Bambu’s menu included a range of sweet treats and drinks including frozen yoghurt, waffles, coffees, frappes, smoothies and fruit shakes. I think there is quite a big focus on the waffles actually, I remember when we were ordering our drink, they really did try to sell their waffles, which did sound and look really good but unfortunately we were on a deadline and couldn’t dine in for too long. Plus, I was here for the amazing looking drinks! So, when it comes to these lovely eye candy drinks, apparently there are two different types of shakes, the standard ones which have pretty basic flavours and then you have these ones, which include some really cool sounding flavours like Gaytime, Twix, Sneakers, Reese, Nutella, mint and other goodies like that, plus I’m pretty sure the crew at Bambu explained that only the special super frappes come with the fancy schmancy toppings, cones and what not where as the standard flavours are standard and boring looking.

Oh on a (very important) side note! Apparently, the small option is served in a mason cup while the large option comes in a plastic cup and doesn’t look as good. Okay, I know that shouldn’t really impact my food decisions but come on, who doesn’t eat with their eyes?! I definitely do, so I opted for a small and to be honest, it was a pretty good serving for $5.60 plus it was a really nice but quite a rich drink so between us, the small was more than enough to satisfy any sweet cravings we were having.

Oh! I was recently on Bambu’s Facebook page and I noticed they have Devon cronuts! How awesome is that, you don’t have to go all the way to Woolloomooloo to get those crazy pork floss, squared shaped cronuts! I didn’t see any when I was there but I guess it must be a new thing. Next time I’m up from Canberra, I’m definitely dropping by to try some of the cronuts out!

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I guess I should probably talk about the Golden Gaytime frappe that we got. I’ll start with the most pressing thing, was it just novel or did it actually taste nice? Well, I can happily report, like with The Vogue Cafe, who also do really awesome looking drinks, this was a treat on the eyes and taste buds as well. It was just an awesome combination of chocolate, honeycomb and creamy goodness with heaps of different textures. The frappe comes with this massive ice cream cone that is filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with a swirl of whipped cream, a sprinkling of peanuts and covered in a drizzle of caramel. The cone and rim of the mason cup was also dipped in milk chocolate and nuts. This shake definitely has a lot going on but it works.

The milkshake itself was also quite tasty, there were hints of creaminess, caramel, toffee and honey, while the chocolate came from the rim which was a coated in a delicious and high quality milk chocolate. Reading that description and looking at the pictures, your probably assuming that its quite rich, well I’m not going to argue with you on that point but its rich in the best way possible, I just kept wanting more and more of this shake, it was just such a great balance between sweetness and creaminess.

I really enjoyed the addition of the vanilla ice cream inside the cone, I had no idea Bambu did this, I just assume it was an empty cone, until I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I ended up eating the cone as a treat on its own, I couldn’t help myself, it had ice cream, cream and nuts and caramel topping, it kind just felt like a sundae but in a cone!

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I didn’t get to try anything else at Bambu but the other menu items look quite appealing, especially the other super frappes, the fruit shakes and waffles. I will definitely have to drop by Cabramatta again to grab some more goodies from Bambu, plus the addition of cronuts from Devon Cafe is a massive plus for me, I hope they have some when I’m up next! I’m very happy and excited to see more places like this open up in Cabramatta. This turns Cabramatta to a place that I can relate to as much as my parents did and still do. Its no longer just a place to eat traditional Vietnamese food and grabbing groceries, it’s becoming a cultural centre for my generation just as much as it was for my parent’s generation. Well, I’ll probably still go get groceries and get pho here because well yeah that stuff is fantastic.

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N2 Extreme Gelato, Haymarket

This place brings back fond memories of my final year in uni. I mean, I remember all the procrastination that lead up to the final freak out. We had two weeks left to pull together a marketing strategy. How were we going to get the research, planning, strategising done!?! I don’t remember much of those two weeks but what I do remember is visiting N2 Extreme Gelato after we handed in that project. N2 had just opened up earlier that week and we were all pretty keen to try it out. It was the first of its kind in Australia. I mean, we’ve all known about making ice cream by using carbon dioxide. Everyone’s been through that primary school incursion where a guy comes in and experiments and freezes heaps of cool things. But no one turned that concept into a reality until N2.

Now its not so exciting, businesses like N2 have spawned up every where but in my opinion the original is still the best. Back when I first tried N2, I wasn’t blogging so I never got a chance to write about this fantastic and very hyped ice cream shop. Now that I’m Canberra, my chances to visit N2 are even slimmer but finally, over Christmas and New Year, I got the chance to head down and try out N2’s ice cream once again.

I remember when they first started it was pretty simple, about 5 or so flavours though they were extremely interesting ones. Whilst interesting, they were always just standard ice creams with really cool flavours, one or two scoops. No syringes sticking out of them, no donuts, cream, or other crazy toppings or anything. I normally complain when restaurants try to jump on whatever bandwagon there is and try to align their products with those i.e. putting macarons on to everything, making cronuts, doing injectable donuts. But here at N2 for some reason I don’t mind. Maybe its because it just seems to fit with their overall aesthetic, it seems like something they’re actually doing for more than just pure gimmick, and it works with their products.

Okay, I think I’ve bored you enough with my opinions and life stories, lets talk about this ice cream.

I grabbed the Cheesecake with salted caramel and whipped cream ($8). As you can see things are a little different now, no more basic ice creams. N2 still offers about five different options, two will normally be basic ice creams with cool flavours like lavender and honey or something interesting like that, these are about $5 for a cup. The other three will normally be more creative with an interesting and delicious flavour with a little bonus like a donut, macaron or syringe on top, these are about $8 per cup. All of N2’s options are displayed on a (very hipster) blackboard with little pictures to show you how it will look.

When I was there, N2 had this really awesome peanut butter and chocolate ice cream with a Krispy Kreme donut on top, it looked amazing! Unfortunately, I find peanut butter too rich whenever it’s used for desserts so I did the sensible thing and ordered something I’d actually eat. Although this didn’t have a donut on top, this one still looked and tasted amazing. The ice cream was super creamy with a strong cheesy aftertaste. The texture was perfectly smooth with some nice aeration making it super fluffy and to top it all off, there was a generous dollop of whipped cream because you can never say no to more delicious creaminess. Oh, how could I forget the bonus?! Of course, there was a syringe full of rich salted caramel, which added some lovely contrasting flavours. Lastly, there was a heavy sprinkling of almond meal or cookie crumbs (I couldn’t quite tell which it was but I’m sure they both do the same thing) which really topped off the whole “cheese cake” idea.

I’m normally not a massive fan of deconstructed dishes, like today I saw a deconstructed beef wellington, like what’s the point of that?! What makes a beef wellington so loved is the fact that it’s a super high quality meat pie (at least to me) and its actually quite difficult to make. So if you’re not doing the cooking in the pastry part anymore it might as well be called a steak with puff pastry on the side! Anyway, here this ice cream actually felt like a deconstructed ice cream cheesecake just way better!

There you have it, the very cool and delicious N2. This place might not be the talk of the town anymore and there are now plenty of similar offers all around but this is still the best and most innovative ice cream place out there. I may not go here when I want good tasting generic ice cream but if I want something fun, delicious, sweet and creative, N2 is still high on my places to visit.

So I recently saw that N2 Extreme Gelato will be heading down to Canberra for the Enlightened 2015 Night Noodle Markets hosted by Good Food Month over the next two weeks 27 February to 7 March 2015. How exciting, can’t wait to see what they have installed for us Canberrans!

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Aqua S, CBD

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A couple of weeks ago Aqua S opened up in Regents Place opposite Chanoma Cafe in the CBD. I’ve been keen for months to see what would pop up in this little spot. Regents Place over the last few years has been transformed from a dark and gloomy alley way to a really cool, hip, and affordable hang out place, with plenty of new restaurants and cafes like Chanoma Cafe, Miss Chu, Sedap, Tenkomori and other awesome places. For a few months now, a small store space within Regents Place had been boarded up with a massive sign that said ‘Aqua S, ice cream’ on it. When I saw ice cream I got excited.

I wasn’t really sure what was installed for us but anything to do with ice cream could only be awesome. Time passed and I headed back to living my day to day life in Canberra, I kind of forgot about Aqua S to be honest, until the other week. Suddenly our Instagram feed was bombarded with these amazing looking soft serves. There was fairy floss, popping candy, pastel colours, hipster flavours like sea salt and other awesome things like that. When I saw those awesome and cute pictures nothing else mattered, I didn’t care if it tasted good or bad, I had to get my hands on one. Luckily for me and a bit of a spoiler alert, Aqua S isn’t just a gimmick, it is actually quite tasty!

The concept at Aqua S is pretty simple. There are three different soft serve flavours at any one time, the staple which should always be around, sea salt and two other flavours which changes every week. In Aqua S’ first week they had biscotti and lemon tea, this week they have strawberry cheesecake and salted dark chocolate. You can combine some of these flavours but not all as Aqua S only has two soft serve machines. When you’re in store, there’s a screen which highlights which flavours can be combined and which can’t. Once you’ve picked your flavour, you can choose to either get it in a cone or small cup for $3.80 or large cup for $4.30. Then it’s time to add the toppings. Right now there are four different toppings; popping candy, fairy floss, caramelised popcorn and toasted marshmallows. One topping will cost $1.50, two toppings will cost $2.50 and all four toppings will cost $4.20. I know it seems a little steep but what can you say, it’s the hipster age plus it’s not overly expensive when you compare it to Messina’s dessert bar which will set you back $0.80 per topping and $7.50 for the base and soft serve. So when you think about it in that respect, it isn’t too bad.

Anyway, lets talk about these amazing looking pastel ice creams!

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I opted for the a Sea salt soft serve with popping candy on a cone ($5.30). I originally wanted both fairy floss and popping candy but I was told that there would be a 20 minute wait on the fairy floss and this was 12.30pm on a Monday. The shop had quite a few people but it wasn’t busy or anything. If I wasn’t in a rush to get to another appointment I would have waited, I guess this gives me an excuse to come back in two weeks during Lunar New Year.

For my soft serve, I chose straight sea salt, I’ve read a couple of negative reviews about it, stating that pure sea salt can be too overwhelming and most people recommended combining it with one of the other flavours to balance it out. Being a rebel, I of course didn’t listen and got the full sea salt hit that I always wanted. I’m so glad that I’m terribly stupid and try things regardless of what others say because I actually really enjoyed pure sea salt. I love ice cream and I like soft serve even more. However, normally about half way through I’m normally over it, I find it too sweet and too much for me but here with this sea salt, I managed to eat the whole thing and I even wanted more afterwards. The idea of sea salt might sound really weird but it’s actually completely normal and tried and tested in Asian cooking. I didn’t know that adding salt to sweet things was weird until recently when a friend saw me add salt to watermelon. I’m telling you, it’s amazing. Salt does this thing where it kind of mildens and rounds off the sweetness of sugar and takes it from sickly sweet to pleasantly sweet. I guess that’s why salted caramel works so well, caramel by itself gets way to much but add a bit of salt and it’s just pure enjoyment from there on in.

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Anyways, this was how the sea salt soft serve was at Aqua S. It was sweet, super creamy and had this lovely salty ending. It wasn’t salty to the point where you feel like you’re eating something savoury but enough to help overcome the initial sweetness of the soft serve and round everything off really well. The addition of popping candy was pretty cool as well. The candy popped away as you licked away at your soft serve cone. However, I must say for $1.50 it wasn’t a lot of popping candy by any means. I mean I could have crossed the road and got a whole bag of popping candy from McDonald’s or 7 Eleven for $1. I think outside of the fairy floss, people have complained a bit about the lack of toppings, I think someone was saying that you only get like half a marshmallow. I reckon, if you’re charging me $1.50 at least be a bit generous! But cost aside, great soft serve, flavours and toppings! Oh also, the cone looks like chocolate but to me it just tasted like a normal cone. Not a bad thing at all, it was really crunchy and waffle like.

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I really enjoyed my ice cream at Aqua S. I know it’s got some pretty mixed review but it’s definitely still worth checking out either for the hipster and gimmicky side of it or for the love of all things sweet with a hint of salt. I’ll definitely be coming back to get the sea salt soft serve again and to try out some of the new flavours and fairy floss topping as well. I  think what Aqua S has here is an awesome idea and I really hope to see Aqua S expand in the future with more bases and toppings once they’ve become more established and what not. It would be great to have something similar to Messina’s dessert bar closer to the city, plus the Asian influence is pretty awesome too. Absolutely cannot wait! I might have to try and recreate sea salt ice cream in Canberra for the next two weeks to fight off the craving! I wonder if sprinkling salt on store brought vanilla ice cream will work?!

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