Monday, 29 July 2013

Crown Dragon @ St George Leagues Club

In my area (St George), I'm always on the hunt to a half decent chinese restaurant. I find that many are 'slap up' places (which in itself is not a bad thing) however, most are not the best quality or way to salty for my taste buds or they are too casual for certain dinners.

A family birthday dinner brought us together by one of my cousins and it was at the Crown Dragon at St George Leagues Club. I didn't even know they had a restaurant there (apart from the Grange).

I will admit it's been many years since I've been in the club and a good 16 years or so since being a member. That was in my late (*ahem* legal) teens and early 20's, where I think I spent every Friday and Saturday night of my youth in either the weekly $10 concerts they had in the Auditorium (where the likes of Hoodoo Gurus, Margaret Urlich, Crowded House, James Reyne and many more bands played) the disco upstairs (which is now full of poker machines) or the Down Under Bar (which then became the Cool Room and wasn't so 'cool' anymore). oh the memories.....I digress....back to the food!

There were a total of 17 of us. Aunties, Uncles, First Cousins and Second Cousins. It was great to see them all together again. all the little cousins loved playing together again and were entertained watching the lobsters and fish in the holding tanks and a bit to overly excited when the waiter took one out to prepare for someone's meal!

The restaurant is busy with a wedding (which is sectioned off by a black partition next to us), a full restaurant and our noisy clan. The kids are easy and want spring rolls, chicken chow mein and boiled rice (for one of the pickier eaters) and have their own table (they felt special!). The wait staff are very happy to put the kids on their own table (out of the way of the rest of the rest of the restaurant - who wouldn't!)

Us adults decide to go with the $38 banquet. Pretty much your 'standard dishes' for the 'basic' banquet but everyone seems happy with it.  

The meal started off with a chicken and ham roll. These were made minced chicken and and ham as opposed to the normal chicken roll wrapped in ham and then coated in batter and deep fried. These were fresh and piping hot but very oily. I'm not a fan of this entree generally, so this was a big let down. However the chicken and sweet corn soup was good. Thick and creamy with a good amount of chicken in it.

chicken and ham roll

chicken and sweet corn soup

The main courses soon followed. The lazy susan is full to the brim with plates as we spin it around to choose the dish we want, until my Uncle starts playing funnies and starts to use the lazy susan as a turntable and seeks his inner DJ (think about it) - he is a funny man.

Stir Fried King Prawn with Snow Peas

Plump king prawns and snow peas that still have a 'snap' to them. I like the dish with the light sauce and it's laced with champignons

The mongolian lamb was tender and smoky with a little kick to the sauce.

mongolian lamb

Yeung Chow Fried Rice

We had a couple of platters of the Yeung Chow Fried Rice which was really good and full of lots of bits and bites. I cannot eat alot of rice (or carb) so I only have a mouthful or two in my bowl, which I ration throughout the meal.

The braised black pepper steak was so tender and melt in your mouth and I loved the little cauldron cast iron pots it was served in....but beware of burnt fingers!

braised black pepper steak

The last dish to come out was stir fried chicken and cashew. By the time this dish arrives I am so very full and I need to save room for dessert (I know gasp - unusual for Roo!)

I only have a couple of small mouthfuls and the chicken is tender and juicy and I find myself asking my mum and others at the table how do they get the meat so tender? Nobody can answer's a question that baffles me all the time? Does anybody now how to get the meat so tender in asian stirfries? I need to further investigate this?

chicken and cashew nuts
I know I'm not a big dessert person but I am a sucker for ice cream and deep fried ice cream is King of my dessert list! Nothing stops me fitting this in oozing with caramel sauce. This deep friend ice cream had a nice crispy coating on the outside.

fried icecream with caramel sauce

We rounded out the meal with fortune cookies, mints and green tea. I pick the perfect fortune cookie.

don't cry because it's over smile because it happened

Even though the food is delicious and my family paid me out about taking food photos - hopefully they will now understand my obsession when they see this post.  but more importantly tonight wasn't about food, this was about family and celebrating and sharing a meal together.  This is family that I don't get to see very often. We grew up together and it's nice to see that the next generation loved spending time together, even though that is few and far between events.  We need to change that!

This is definitely an option for good chinese food in the area, however if you do live in area you need to be a member of the club. We got away with it this time because we were only going to the restaurant, but next time we need to join. Hard choice if you are not a Dragons supporter!

Thanks to Handy Andy and his staff for making our dining experience lovely, even though we were noisy and roudy!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

El Loco @ Slip Inn - a little bit of mexican in the CBD

My lunch time meeting had me dining at El Loco @ Slip Inn, part of the Merivale portfolio of bars and restaurants around the CBD.  My visit also happened to coincide with National Tequila Day.  Now, we did indulge in a sneaky glass of savignon blanc, but unfortunately there was no shots of tequila consumed. (It's lunchtime people and there is an afternoon in the office - so some decorum was needed!)
The Slip Inn has had a makeover -  going with a mexican inspired setting outdoors - and I was feeling a little be el loco at the Sand Bar.  It may have been a little chilly out but we decided to eat al fresco in the open/undercover bar with its funky, mexican inspired tables and stools and the outdoor heaters blazing.  The menu is Dan Hong inspired mexican which includes tacos, special hotdogs, pulled pork and fish laced with pico de gallo, chipotle and salsas!

the sand bar
With a cheeky glass of sav blanc in hand we ponder on the menu and can't decide.  There are just to many choices and I know I'm already going to come back to try out more.  A few recommendations by the manager, and the suggestion of the special lamb taco that is on tonights menu for National Tequila Day and we order.

roast lamb with marjoram taco with cabbage slaw,salsa verde and pimenton
We start off with a soft shell taco with roasted cubes of lamb in marjoram with cabbage slaw, salsa verde and a sprinkling of pimenton on top.  It's full of flavour, the lamb is tender, the cabbage is crunchy and fresh and the salsa verde gives a nice herbage hint. I like this very much and being a 'special' I'm glad we went with it.

chorizo quesadilla - chorizo, jalapeƱo and cheese quesadilla
with chipotle mayo
Next up is the chorizo quesadilla - discs of smoky chorizo between 2 tortillas with queso cheese and a side dip of chipotle mayo.  I have tried so many quesadillas and I have never been wowed by them.  This one is tasty.  What's not to love about cheese and chorizo but next time I'll go straight to other menu options.

roast Pork with mexican rice, apple and cucumber salad and pineapple salsa 
You can go past pork belly with crackling!  I'm a sucker for crispy pork cracklin' and this dish did not disappoint.  Succulent and juicy the pork is great and the cracklin' I sliced off and kept to the last bites.  I loved the apple and cucumber salad.  Apple really gives a salad an extra zing of freshness and the pineapple salsa is roasted and smoky and smooth.

We receive a surprise offering from the chef, as the manager passes by he leaves a dish of Arepuelas  Hot and fresh out of the fryer - little Colombian doughnuts with a raspberry jam centre.  They are amazing but be careful has you bite into them - that raspberry jam is STEAMING HOT! Cinnamon, sugar, jam and fluffy dough - amazeballs!

little balls of heaven
El Loco @ Slip Inn is a great bar for a long lunch, a drink afterwork or even for your next work event or function.  It can offer various spaces or exclusive use and it's laid back and casual but a funky place to chill!
El Loco at Slip Inn on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Sushi roll making @ Sake

Thanks to ING Direct and their current Spend Your Lunch Well campaign I was lucky enough to grab a spot at a sushi roll making class at Sake in The Rocks.  I arrived early and was seated upstairs where ING had placed a big bowl of rock candy in their signature colour orange, along with some other marketing material.  We were given a lovely orange apron to wear.

I will admit that I was a little starstruck when Shaun Presland arrived to give the demonstration.  I get a bit giddy around big named celebrity chefs.  I can't help it!  There were approxmiately 40 people in the class and as we all took our places around the two long tables we were in awe at the platter of sushi pre-prepared for ease.

Before the class I managed to say hi and have a quick snap with him (lucky because he had to get back into the kitchen before we actually finished up) before we started getting our hands dirty.  Now I say that tongue in cheek because of a certain incident which will be mentioned shortly.  We were asked to santise our hands prior to starting.

Shaun preceded to show us how to make a hand roll and an inside out roll.  You can see his passion for sushi shine through his demo.

He just looks so happy to be doing this (and makes it look so easy!)!

Now it's our turn!
Our ingredients are all prepared and ready for our quick 45minute class. I pile a selection of ingredients which includes rice, tuna, cucumber, sesame seeds and roe onto my nori sheet and then forget how to roll it properly so I ask Shaun, who is wandering around helping out to show me how.  He grabs my roll and proceeds to show me.  Now remember I'm a little starstruck so not thinking clear....I ask him if he has washed his hands! Seriously!  I was joking, but when he answered 'of course I have' I realised then that I don't think he took it as a joke even after I told him it was.  I wanted to hang my head in my hands and then slap myself! LOL  I am such a muppet!  Oh well continue making rolls.


I was on a roll (no pun intended) now and tried my hand at an inside out roll.  Not as easy as a handroll.  This time trying to layer the rice (approx 3 grains deep) across a sheet of nori paper with the rice sticking to everything was comical.

I layered this roll with salmon and kingfish(?), avocado,  cucumber, sesame and spicy tuna paste and panko crumbs.  Not to shabby!

As a few people had made a roll and then left we had some extra ingredients and continued to make rolls.  In the end I had 2 hand rolls, two inside out rolls and a normal roll.  Above is about half of what I made. 

I'm pretty happy with my sushi rolls

Some more before heading off back to the office
A doggy bag was brought back to the office and will be dinner tonight.
Definitely a great way to get out of the office and spend some time learning something new and even better eating something that you have made!
Great concept INGdirect and thanks Sake for hosting this great event!
I also send my apologises if I offended you Shaun.  It really was said in jest!

Ashfield Grub Crawl - the wild and the wacky

In hopes of settling back into Aussie life and keeping myself occupied with social things, not only have I started this food blogging thing but I wanted to join some social groups. I met up with a group of wonderful people that I had found through a social group website for a morning of eating 'wild and wacky' foods in Ashfield.  Ashfield is a melting pot but there are many Northern Chinese style restaurants to delve into.  It's abundant for choices!

I wasn't sure what a 'wild and wacky' tour would consist of, but I was keen to find out.  A group of 9 of us met at the local hotel before setting off along the main road of Ashfield to discover some new delights.

We were given a hint of what we were about to discover.  I could only think of foods that may challenge a western palate, foods that tantalise the taste buds and an opportunity to discover flavours that I haven't tasted before.

Our first stop was at the newly opened Dessert Devil which will delight the palate.  We sampled sesame and aniseed biscuits, a glass of lemon water and walked away with a divine looking chili chocolate cupcake (which is in my fridge waiting for tonight's dessert!).  The girls are welcoming and are very talented and are enthusiastic about their craft.  The flavour combinations of their baking are awesome.   Check them out on their website or on Facebook for photos of their cakes. Plus they know that dessert will always come first (I know many people that believe in this philosophy!) - a tick in my book!

sesame and aniseed biscuits

chilli choclate cupcake

A few doors up at the Silver Spoon Cafe order a delectable and tantalising hot chocolate with rose syrup.  Robert has been a chef for the past 18-20 odd years and has decided to go into the cafe scene.  He has carefully selected Toby's Estate beans for his coffee and after only a couple of minutes speaking with him you can see he is just as passionate about coffee as he is with his cooking.  This hot chocolate is creamy and milky with rose accents that waft up to meet my nose.  I enjoyed this but I reckon I could have done with more rose syrup it was that good.

rose syrup hot chocolate

So that might constitute the 'wacky' part of the trip and following on from now is maybe the 'wild' part of the feasting.

We cross the road to Known-Best China Cuisine.  We discuss the three dishes that we could choose from (from a fast array of dishes) and we all agree on one. I get the feeling that we have surprised the staff as we pile around a big round table with a big lazy susan in the middle.  We are served hot jasmine tea and a big plate of their famous ox tongue, tripe and beef, a speciality of the house.  At $13.80 a plate it's good value.  The family have been running this business in China for a few generations and have now brought it to Australia.  I can see why they are famous in China!

Some of us really bite into it and give it a good chew, others are a little more apprehensive and only take a nibble, their minds fighting against their taste buds.  I have tried ox tongue and tripe before but not braised slow and low like this.  This plate is served sans sauce or noodle soup!

I'm delighted.  The ox tongue is tender and has a bit of spring to it.  The tripe has taken on the flavour of the broth that it is stewed in and is quiet pleasant and the beef is definitely 'beefy' but tender.  A good choice for everyones first experience with these cuts of protein.
ox tongue, trip and beef
It doesn't take long for us to all be buzzing about other foods that we have eaten.  The staff thought us 'westerners' were pretty brave and they gave us a cold spicy noodle dish to try to.  That was nice of them.  The cold noodles (called Golden Noodles) were tasty with a good kick of chilli!  The noodle is a fresh noodle and is a square shaped noodle.  It has bite and chewiness to it.  Good texture and the oily sauce sticks well to the starch. I like them.
golden noodles

A quick stop at a fast food place to sample tealeaf stewed eggs, which are hard boiled and a great snack on the go.

tealeaf stewed eggs

Further down the road, we come across China Fast Food - basically a restaurant with pre-made dishes displayed in the window and you pay per plate.  There is a massive selection of dishes that include the whole nose to tail concept.  This is a cuisine that uses up all the good bits!  One lady on the tour has requested that she not know what she is eating until after she has eaten it and we all agree to do that.  It actually helps because if you enjoy something and then find out what it is, it's hard to backtrack!!!

We are served up 4 dishes.  Two vegetarian friendly and the other two NOT vegetarian friendly.  The vegetarian dishes include a cold soya noodle dish and a gluten dish in a sweet sauce laced with peanuts. A great source of protein for those non meat eaters (and meat eaters alike!).  The non-vegetarian dishes included crispy pigs ear, which was a compressed into a terrine like block and thinly sliced, so you had crispy ribbons of ear set in an aspic/gelatine type slice.  I've eaten crispy pigs ears before, but not like this and the texture was a bit weird on the palate but it was tasty.  The dish of the day for me was the pig stomach!  Who would have guessed.  Slithers of pig stomach coated in a chilli and sesame sauce.  It's served cold and I couldn't stop digging in with my chopsticks.  Surprisingly, it was many of the groups favourite dish. 

prepared dishes to eat in or take out


crispy pigs ear and pork stomach

soya noodles and sweet gluten with peants

Our final stop on the tour is at Taste the Difference, which I can only call  5-spice meat store.  They sell pre-cooked cuts of protein mostly cooked in a 5 spice broth.  Pigs heads, trotters and other piggy parts, different types of sausages and deli meats and chicken parts including chicken feet and necks (a prize bit of the chicken apparently) and giblets.  We are offered some giblets to taste, being the only thing we could really eat in the shop as everything else needs to be prepared or cooked).  The giblets are gamy with a bit of a springy bite to them.  Nothing like the giblets mum used to pull out of the chicken and use in her chicken giblet soup (not saying that they weren't tasty, just a different preparation). 
tasty 5 spice meats

We finish off sharing a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts, which a lady is roasting at the front of the shop facing the street, enticing passers-by with the amazing aroma of roasting nuts.  Popping the piping hot, creamy chestnuts out of their pods were a bit difficult until our tour guide showed us that the chestnut had a cut in the shell to make opening them easier for the eater!  A perfect winter snack!
roasted chestnuts
This was a fantastic tour, tasty and knowledgeable (which it is all about right?)  and it's opened up a 'new' cuisine (to me) that I have not really eaten much of.  Northern Chinese cuisine is vastly different from the South.  It's predominately wheat based rather than rice based, so noodles and steamed buns take precedent.  The cuisine is hearty fare due to the long winters and relies on lots of pickled vegetables (due to the short harvesting season). 

The tour may be over, but the eating hasn't stopped yet.  A few of us head to Sydney Beijing Restaurant for lunch.  Like true foodies there is always room for more food.  You make the effort when new things are on offer!  There is only one other couple in the restaurant, but it is past lunch hour and we are seated in the corner under the large TV that is showing The Voice China.  I'll admit I am one of the few who doesn't watch The Voice, but something about the Chinese version sucks me in!  The judges certainly are no Seal, Delta, Joel or Ricky but it's fun to watch and listen.

But onto the food.  We had pre-ordered a Peking duck pancakes and we also choose a lamb in cumin dish and a mixed vegetable dish with family sauce (whatever that is!) and as a last, quick 'let's order this too' dish a tomato and omelet dish.  The Peking duck was nothing spectacular (but I've eaten this many times).  The hoisin sauce is strong, the pancakes thin and light and the duck's skin isn't as crispy as I expected.  I was wowed by the lamb in cumin.  Smoky and spicy it has an oily yellow sauce laced with cumin that you just need some rice with to sop up the delish sauce. This is a dish I will definitely order again and may even attempt in my own kitchen.  The vegetable dish comes to the table piled in sections on the plate and the sauce is added and mixed table side.  It's got peanuts and chilli and garlic and the flavours are similar to satay sauce.  The tomato and omelet dish is good and fresh.

before and after of the vegetables with family sauce

lamb with cumin

Peking duck ready to be rolled

tomato and omelet

All these restaurants are found on Liverpool Rd in and around the mall area.