Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jason's La Candela - Summer Hill

I do love my entertainment book. All the discount vouchers make it so much more fun trying out new places! My reasoning is, if its bad food, atleast you didn't pay full price. If its good food, even better! You got it at a discount.

With that in mind, I decided to try Jason's La Candela at Summer Hill. Having tried heaps of other restaurants around there, it was time to give Jason's a go.

The layout is clean and simple, giving you heaps of seating room. Since we were very early, the restaurant was empty except 2 other tables.

Not in the mood for pizza, I went the seafood marinara.

Seafood Marinara

The serving size was quite small, especially when you think of how much room the mussel shells actually took up. Taste wise, it was quite nice. Fresh seafood, simple tomato sauce and the pasta was cooked al dente. I just wish the serving was bigger as I was still hungry afterwards.

BBQ meat lovers pizza

My friend ordered the bbq meat lovers pizza. Since I was still hungry, he offered me a slice. I took about 2 bites before giving up. I found the pizza very very greasy and almost sickly with the sweet bbq sauce. The pizza was also too mushy for my liking, both the dough and the meat has the same soft texture. Meanwhile, my friend loved the greasiness and sweet flavour, but by the last slice, the grease and mushiness also got to him.

OVerall, the food was ok. The pasta was tasty even though the serve was small. The pizza was a decent serve, but I didn't like it at all. Mind you, I had a slice at the end of the meal, so I don't know if time was a factor, but my friend liked the pizza. I'll probably come back again since I'm armed with a new Entertainment book and see how it goes this time round.

Jason's La Candela
24 Lackey St
Summer Hill NSW 2130
Ph: (02) 9798 3897

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mr Chao Seafood Restaurant - Hurstville

After a fairly early morning airport pick up (10am is early on a weekend alright!?), we decided to swing by Hurstville to take our guest for a bout of Yum Cha at Mr Chao Seafood Restaurant.

My dad started panicking about how we're not going to get a table even though its only 11am, so he dumps us in front of the restaurant whilst he finds parking. I thought it was a bit over the top, but by 11am, there were only 2 free tables left.

Steamed beef rice noodle (Ngau Cheung)

Prawn Dumplings (Har Gau)

These were super full of chunky bursty prawns. Definitely hit the spot.

Dim Sim topped with baby abalone (Siw Mai)

This is my must have every time I go yum cha. I always prefer the standard traditional ones. Unfortunately, they said they only have the abalone topped ones today. It wasn't bad, I gave the abalone to my mum, but it also meant we got 3 instead of 4 :(

Shortcrust bbq pork triangles

Uber flakey and full of bbq pork goodness!

Beef tendon in black bean sauce

Done very well. The worst is undercooked chewy rubber ones. These ones melt in your mouth and had a lovely gelatinous stickiness to it.

Black bean pork ribs and salted fish rice

My dad's must have. He prefers the traditional one with black bean pork ribs with the chicken feet though. Luckily he loves salted fish, so it was still good.

Black bean chicken feet

Malaysian steamed cake

Lava buns

OMG! These are one of my favourite dishes that are rarely served at yum cha places. So when I heard they were on the menu, I had to get a steamer for myself! What's so special about them? On the outside, they look like an ordinary steamed bun. But its what is inside that matters....


The centre of the bun is a sweet and salty custard that oozes out like lava. Its made from salted egg yolks and sugar and turned into a custard like filling. I wish more yum cha places served this because its incredibly moreish!

I probably only go yum cha 2-3 times a year, so I can't tell you if its good value or not. My dad actually goes yumcha every week with the oldies and apparently this is one of the better ones in Sydney in terms of quality of food, taste and cost. I guess it must be good coming from a bunch of retirees! hehe I did find the quality of food pretty good though!

Mr Chao Seafood Restaurant
127 Forest Rd
Hurstville NSW 2220
Ph: (02) 9580 8003

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant - Summer Hill

I love going to Summer Hill at night, especially on a weekend. They try to promote the Summer Hill Village theme by creating alfresco dining, tables and chairs around the fountain for people to meet up and relax. But on the weekend at night, they also have live music. Walking past, you will see many kids running around the fountains, laughing and giggling. Parents will dance with their kids in the middle of the street and thoroughly just enjoying life. Right next to where the live band is, is Da Vinci's. In winter, you can smell the wafting aromas of wood fired pizza.

Its the first time I've actually eaten in at Da Vinci's, usually I grab their pizzas take away. They always have great offers, a large pizza or pasta for $10 take away! Bargain in my books!

Since we usually get their pizza, we decided to try out their pasta instead.

Justify FullBruschetta

First up, Bruschetta. Crunchy grilled bread topped with tomato, basil and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with oregano. The tomato was a bit soft for my preference, but overall, a delicious bruschetta, especially when the crusty bread absorbed all the lovely juices! I was fighting my friend for the last of the oil/vinegar on the bottom of the plate.

A "bianco" spaghetti marinara

Basically seafood pasta without the tomato sauce but with plenty of garlic. The pasta tasted delicious, with a generous kick of garlic, but I wasn't impressed by the seafood. The prawns and mussels were nice, but seemed like they were from a frozen pack. The calamari, however, was terrible. It was unbelievably soft, mushy and... brown, I could cut it by using my fork. With that said, the overall taste of the pasta was really nice and studded with heaps of garlic. I just really didn't like the actual calamari, and there was heaps in the dish.

My friend got a chicken penne in a creamy tomato sauce. A big thumbs up from my friend in terms of taste, but the serving was quite small. That's probably why I never order penne when I'm hungry. It looks like a big dish, but there's actually very little food in it.

Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant
25 Lackey St
Summer Hill, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9716 9000

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sushi Choo

Its been ages, but I finally managed to organise dinner with a friend at Sushi Choo. Ever since I heard about their all you can eat offer, I've been meaning to organise this. I can't think of a proper reason as to why we didn't go earlier. I guess I was just too lazy in organising!

The day finally comes around and being bored, I decided to read up on some of the reviews for Sushi Choo. I wish I hadn't done that as there were numerous comments regarding the rice not being fresh, lack of variety etc etc. I was almost tempted to change the dinner venue as I was taking my friend there for his birthday. And the last thing I want is a bad experience for a birthday dinner.

I'm glad I didn't listen to the reviews and actually went to Sushi Choo. We rocked up about 5mins past 6pm, and half the restaurant was already full!! We seat ourselves down, armed with chopsticks and started tackling the sushi train. I must admit, the first 10mins was quite disgraceful. We're like starved wild animals, eating everything we can lay our hands on!!


Pasta Salad - My friend's favourite


Chicken Katsu

Salmon and avocado



My beloved seaweed salad


More tuna

Crumbed prawns

The variety of sushi isn't huge, which was kinda expected for all you can eat. I was just disappointed they didn't have my favourite tamago sushi! I thought it would've been relatively cheap to make? *Shrugs* They've also stopped serving the potato croquettes, which was a huge disappointment because my friend was soooooo looking forward to it.

The outstanding winners of the night would have to be the uber fresh salmon and tuna (Although there was a noticeable difference in the grades of tuna served throughout the night), the seaweed salad and the Gyoza! OMG! yum yum yum yum yum!! Definitely my favourite for the night. The Gyozas are steamed and not fried, but it offered a nice change to the cold sushi. (As did the crumbed prawns, but it became a bit oily after awhile) The only complaint would have to be at one stage during the night, a particular batch of gyoza was terrible! I'm not sure if it was a vegetarian version or something, but it tasted of raw daikon, and lots of it. It was also really REALLY soft and mushy. I initial response was to spit it back out, but managed to remember my manners. I was very paranoid about it for the rest of the night. Every time I picked up a piece of gyoza, I was hoping, half praying it wasn't that weird batch we had. Luckily, every batch we had after that was fantastic.

I was quite impressed by the sushi in general. Unlike other all you can eat places where they give you heaps of rice and a tiny piece of fish, Sushi Choo had a pretty good rice to fish ratio. I did find a few pieces of sushi where the rice was more over cooked, but nothing drastically bad about it. The overall quality was pretty good, especially since they were churning out masses of sushi non-stop the whole night!

Next time I need to sit closer to the beginning of the sushi train! We were seated half way up the train, and the couple next to us liked the exact same things we did! I'm pretty sure I gave them the evil eye every time they took a plate off the train that I wanted! hehe

With the Feast for the Senses specials on for Merivale right now, I think they're removed the early bird / all you can eat special for Sushi Choo. I'm hoping it'll be back soon!

Sushi Choo
320 George St
Sydney, NSW, 2000
Ph: (02) 9240 3000

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Iron Chef Sydney Event @ The Hilton, 2010

I have been wanting to go to the Iron Chef dinner ever since it started in Sydney. But because of the cost of the event, I was never able to get any friends wanting to go with me. Luckily this year the price has dropped, and thanks to our friend, we got us a great discount price and managed to assemble a big group of people to go.

Braving the freezing cold wind and rain, we arrive at the Hilton a huge flock of people all waiting to see the Iron Chefs. Come 6pm, we're ushered into the foyer outside the ballroom where we are served drinks and canapes.

Bubblies with Scallop sushi

Tuna sushi and beef with chilli fried onions

The most gorgeous fried oyster and more beef with chilli fried onions!


If the food was anything as good as the canapes, we're going to be in for a great night!

All of a sudden you can hear the faint drumming of Taiko drums in the background. The drumming gets louder and louder when the doors to the ballroom are thrown open. I was standing outside the doors when I squealed "OMGGGGGGGGGG!! ITS THE IRON CHEF PHOTOS!!!"

Man.... I was acting like such a schoolgirl! Clapping and squealing when I saw the same photos that used to appear in Kitchen Stadium. I was squealing even louder when I realised that there was a showbag on every chair (Yes I know, I'm such a dork!)

Once seated, every table around us had their cameras out and flashes were going off like a disco party. It seems like we're not the only ones who want to capture every moment of this night!

The moment finally arrives when the Iron Chef theme music starts playing. I was so excited I screamed out "OMG!!! ITS THE IRON CHEF MUSIC!!!!". Luckily no one but my table heard. (That's what I'm telling myself).

Chef Sakai, with his pear

The minute Sakai steps out everyone went crazy with their cameras. The excitement only intensified when Chen came out as well.

Chef Chen with his cleaver

I can't remember a single thing the host said after this as all I heard was the clicking of 400 cameras around me. I just know we're in for a great night!

Bang a Gong, we are on!

Menu for the night

Sakai in the kitchen talking about his dish

Chef Sakai's Chilled seafood on cauliflower mousse with mango dressing
paired with 2009 Mt Difficulty Estate Pinot Gris

I personally hate cauliflower unless its deep fried or drenched in cheese. It took the skills of Chef Sakai to turn a horrible vegetable into something smooth and decadent! Seriously, I described cauliflower as decadent!!

As the first course came out, we hear some commotion at the other end of the room. Chen was out taking photos with people. We leave the food at the table and dashed over with our cameras to get photos.

When finally get back to our table to tuck into our first course when the hosts came out with Sakai looking for comments and judgement from the audience. I would've put my hand up, but I hadn't even had a chance to touch the dish yet! I wish I had just taken a quick bite, cos the winner gets a set of professional chef knifes from Chef's Armoury!

After they had picked the winner, they looked for volunteers to go into the kitchen for a challenge. I practically fell off my seat waving my arms around to get picked. I remember my heart was in my throat thudding when Sakai walked RIGHT UP TO ME and looked me in the eyes.......then he picked a girl from the table behind me! DOH!!!!!!

Chen walking right past our table when looking for volunteers!

The contestants were asked to plate up Chef Okazaki trio of Tuna dish. The fastest and best presentation wins. The winner also got another set of chef knifes! As the next course starts coming out, the camera in the Kitchen shows Tomo, Chen and Sakai eating the leftovers the contestants had plated up!

Sakai shows the audience how tasty the dish is:

L-R: Tuna tartare with spicy miso in wanton cup Tuna rice paper roll Tuna tataki, asparagus and lemongrass tomato salsa
paired with Knappstein 'Three' - Gewurstraminer - Reisling - Pinot Gris

My favourite would have to be the miso tuna on the left. The texture was incredibly melt in your mouth creamy. Even more so than what tuna usually is.

Chef Okazaki greets the guests

By the 2nd course, I was also onto my 7th glass of wine. Yes, 7th! My friend was driving, which meant I get to have all her paired wine, plus the few glasses of bubblies I had earlier on. This also meant I was getting very "happy" and suddenly decided I needed to buy an Iron Chef apron. Rewind an hour earlier, I was saying $30 for an apron is a bit much! But after 7 glasses, I suddenly found it great value! hehe I was almost "happy" enough to pay $120 for 2 autographed cookbooks that was entirely in Japanese. ALMOST. I was probably 3 glasses away from being that "happy" ;)

Eventually the cameras cut back to the Kitchen where Chen and Sakai are enjoying a game of golf with their putt putt mat where it took Chen multiple attempts before sinking the ball. Sakai on the other hand, managed multiple hole in ones!!

This is when the hosts decided to get a few volunteers up on stage to compete in a game of putt putt. This time, I must've looked like I was about to explode with excitement when I was waving my arms in the air and actually got picked!

Chef Chen setting up the mat

It was at this stage that a disgruntled man in the audience stands up and starts ranting and raving about how he's paid $385 for this meal and all he's getting is a comedy act. The few of us who got picked on stage actually went "Is he for real?!". He must've had a few too many drinks as he had to be calmed by the staff. Luckily the hosts and Chen were gracious and continued on the with the show.

Showing us how its done

The challenge was to beat Chen in a game of putting and the person with the least number of Putts wins the challenge. I've never played a proper game of golf in my life, the most I've done is putt putt golf. Luckily for me, I'm reknown to play EXTRA well in a game of pool after I've had a few drinks. (Seriously, I actually win a lot more games when I play that way!).

I'm 1st up!

I hit the ball and its going straight for the hole but I think I hit a bit hard and it might overshoot. Chen jumps in, grabs the ball and dunks it straight into the hole! *LoL*.

The next lady up hits the ball completely off the mat, but Chen came to her rescue as well. The 3rd contestant looked close to sinking the ball, but didn't seem to hit hard enough. It did go in in the end when Chen nudged it into the hole! *LoL* But because I only had 1 hit, I was considered the winner! Woohoo!!! (I wasn't going to argue!)

Hostess announced that I win a prize from Japan airlines.....but they're not plane tickets. I think I said "DAMN!" pretty loud, but hopefully not loud enough to be heard on the mic?! I'm then told that I won an "Aeroclock", which resulted me in going "WHATS THAT?!" (oops, a few too many drinks for me!). The hostess didn't know either, but said I would find out when I get it! haha

Chef Haru does a demonstration on stage on how he created his masterpiece. "Spatchcock en croûte de sel a la Haru". Its basically a spatchcock encased in a salt and thyme dough in the shape of a bird. It certainly looked very impressive, but our whole table was a bit disappointed that they remove the outer crust before serving it to us. We all wanted photos of it! Even if it meant having to battle the bones! (It'll also mean we get a whole spatchcock to ourselves, but that's just being greedy! hehe)

Spatchcock en croûte de sel a la Haru
paired with 2008 Stonier Estate Chardonnay

The spatchcock was incredibly moist and flavoursome (It was dripping juice when he removed the crust). It reminded me of the chinese salt baked chicken, but with a much more delicate taste. The mash was divine, but we couldn't reall work out what the black stuff was around it. If you take a big chunk, it had the earthy taste of truffles. But it couldn't be real truffles as the flavour was so delicate, rather than the rich earthy taste you would expect. We decided to treat it like truffle anyway and cleaned up the whole plate.

Next course up was the high anticipated Lobster in Szechuan sauce created by Chen. Unlike the other dishes we've had so far, where there is a brigade of chefs and sous chefs cooking and assembling the dish. Chen decided to cook every single serve of this dish for the 400 odd guests! It was great fun watching him on screen tossing a huge wokful of lobster balls. He even did a demo on stage!

Chen in action

Getting excited!

Sakai and Haru helping with the final plating

Iron Chef Chen's Lobster with chilli sauce Szechuan style
paired with 2006 Argyle 'Reserve' Pinot Noir

The lobster balls are served with a steamed mantou, that is used to mop up every last drop of that gorgeous sauce. At first I was disappointed that its lobster balls and not big chunks of lobster meat, but how wrong was I? Cutting into the ball reveals great big chunks of lobster. None of that horrible over processed rubbery flour fishball like things for Chen. This dish was magnificent! My friends were quite distressed at one point though....they ran out of bread to mop up the sauce! Its ok, we'll do it the lady like way......scrape the plate with the knife, lick the blade, try not to cut your tongue :D

Braised Wagyu veal cheek ono green pea and wasabi mash with cabernet jus
paired with 2008 Petaluma 'The Hundred Line' Cabernet Sauvignon

The last main of the night was the slow braised wagyu veal cheeks. The meat was so incredibly tender, that I didn't need my knife to cut the meat up. Actually, I was having problems holding cutlery at this point. (I think I was up to the 12th glass of wine. *hic*) The pea mash is made entirely from fresh peas, giving it that lovely vibrant and green colour. The mash itself was also very creamy, but I couldn't taste any of the wasabi in it. The dish also needed a bit more seasoning as people on our table started adding salt and pepper to it.

After we finished the veal, Chen shows up and starts walking through the Audience taking photos with everyone. I managed to get his photo and my apron signed! (Now I have a $30 apron I can never use! hehe) We also met his son!

My signed apron

Smoked Chocolate and 'DELAMAIN X.O.FALE&DRY 25YO' mousse with agar-agar of milk, chocolate anglaise sauce
paired with 2004 Knappstein Vintage Fortified Shiraz

The last course of the night was a smoked chocolate dessert. The plating was gorgeous, with a lovely agar agar disc, topped with a dome of smoked chocolate mousse and a smokey tuile on the top. Whilst the dish sounded fantastic on the menu, I really didn't enjoy this dish too much. The smokiness of the dish kept screaming bacon to me. Sweet bacon! The tuile on top had an uncanny resemblance to the lovely golden crunchy bits of cheese you find on the edge of a cheese and bacon roll.....except this was sweet.

The evening comes to an end, and all the Chefs come out on stage to the sounds of thunderous applause. Chef Chen introduced us to his Son and then basically invited everyone to his restaurant in Tokyo. I'm taking it as a personal invite Chef Chen!!

At the end of the night, Chen and Sakai posed for photos with all their adoring fans. We were close to the door and managed to dash over to the quickly growing line to get our photos taken with the stars of the night! That's it, I'm not washing my hands again, ever! I'll even let people sniff the hands that touched Chen and Sakai for $5 a sniff! ;)

After getting our photos take, we went to the cloakroom where I thought I could pick up my prize, only to line up right behind Maeve O'Meara! She is such a sweetie and actually remembered my name! *blush* Of course I acted like the squealing fangirl and just had to get a photo with her:

I can't even remember what we were chatting about, but I'm pretty sure I completely embarrassed myself infront of her! My friends also pointed out at one stage that I had to go to the other side of the room to pick up my prize. I quickly dash off to grab my aeroclock and came back to join my friends in the queue and even showed Maeve what the "aeroclock" was.

What I didn't know was that there was more to the prize! I only realised when I read Not Quite Nigella's post that the golf winner actually won vouchers to Rise as well! I vaguely remembered I had some form of paper with the aeroclock that I had shoved into my bag. It was only when I came home to dig through my bag that I realised that I did indeed win the voucher! haha Thanks Lorraine!

All in all, I had an absolute fantastic night! Hopefully they'll be back again next year and we'll score great tickets again!