Chocolateria San Churro, Chatswood

12 Apr

A mid-morning snack right after a big breakfast! Just a little guilty…

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Chocolate Tapas $19.95
THE place to go for churros. Don’t make the mistake of getting a chocolate milkshake with this though, the thick sweetness of it gets to be a bit much after a while! The warm milk chocolate dip is a personal favourite and the ice cream goes great with the brownies (behind the ice cream in case you were wondering). Would be even better if they brownies were warm too. And pretzels!

Food: 8
Service: 7.5
Ambience: 7.5

Shop 609 – Level 6, Westfield Chatswood
1 Anderson Street
Chatswood, NSW 2067
Phone: (02) 9412 2276

Tao, Las Vegas

25 Feb


Like Sushi Samba, Tao is a nightclub as well as a restaurant but you know which part I’m the most interested in. The sugar-dusted donuts to be precise, actually. Donuts you scoff, I can get those a dozen from KrispyKreme for $10 but these were great donuts. They’re now dancing around in my mind’s eye like that Colgate ad, breeding my high expectations for the next time I’m in the states.

Tao is also in the giant Venetian/Palazzo complex but this one is on the Venetian side, in the “Grand Canal Shoppes”. Tao also has a New York store, where we made the mistake of going with the set lunch menu which wasn’t quite as impressive as individually picking the best from the menu, but that’s a story for another time. The food is an Asian fusion, recognisable Chinese, Japanese and Thai elements in the wide selection of amazing tastes.

Being a nightclub while being considered one of the best restaurants in Vegas, Tao is a bit of a celebrity hangout, apparently frequented by the likes of Britney and Madonna (and Kim Kardashian had her birthday party there). That stuff aside, the food is reason enough to go! Oh, and there’s a 16-foot-tall hand-carved buddha statue “floating” above an infinity pool complete with Japanese koi carp.


Spicy thai dumpling soup $12.00
Had a tom-yum-soup-like base, a mixture of tomato, coriander and mushroom which resulted in a very refreshing sourness (sour in a good way) and the dumplings had a chewy texture on the outside with a lovely melt-in-your-mouth filling. In the background is the Miso soup with tofu and manila clams $11.00 which also had shredded radish in it, a nice variation on the typical miso soup you can get at every Japanese restaurant.


Trio of salmon, tuna and yellowtail sashimi with wasabi salsa $28.00
The sashimi was topped with cucumber, tomato and green peppers while semi-immersed in a spicy and sour wasabi sauce. Obviously, there was more than just wasabi in the sauce, there was definitely citrus involved. Salmon has always been my favourite out of the three, I just like the texture of the fish the most. However, in this case, I quite enjoyed all three. Good stuff.

Bamboo steamed vegetable dumplings with crunchy cucumbers $12.00
We took a bit of a risk ordering this one. Good vegetable dumplings are great and are quite possibly even better than pork dumplings and prawn dumplings and whatever other variety of dumplings you can imagine. Bad dumplings are, well, just terrible. Fortunately, Tao didn’t disappoint and these were impressive. The spinach skin (how unique) was smooth and chewy, definitely not too thick which is important in a dumpling. The soft moist innards, there was definitely carrot in there, was a perfect complement to the skin and the light, tangy dipping sauce. On the side was spiced preserved cucumber, classic. I’ve been raving about dumplings for a while now. Just try them!

Thai crab cakes with mango chilli sauce $18.00
Ah, crab cakes. When I go to a restaurant, I have to try the crab cakes. They rank amongst souffle in my favourite foods. Interesting choice of sauce, not the standard sweet and sour sauce. They were slightly spicy with diced spiced fruit on top. To be honest, these were good but nothing too special, but still, crab cakes are crab cakes and I enjoyed them nevertheless. Points for creativity.

Miso glazed chilean sea bass with wok vegetables $38.00
This is their best-selling dish according to our server who had run through the menu with us and recommended this dish. Fresh chilean sea bass never disappoints. The fish was so tender it melted in our mouth and it was served on a bed of Chinese vegetables and red bell peppers, ringed with firm tofu. Guess it’s so popular for a reason!

Chinese sausages fried rice with fried egg $18.00
For some reason, we had ordered a rice dish. As if we didn’t have enough food already! We figured that since they made everything else well, even the fried rice was promising. It wasn’t bad, the fried egg was runny and gave the rice a moist richness. This was fried rice like no other.

Yuzu sugar dusted donuts $9.00
These were absolutely my favourite from Tao. I suspect the fact that they were fresh from the kitchen and steaming hot was a part of it, but the chef makes these 5 at a time – they’re not mass-produced every morning at 6am and then left in a display case all day until someone buys them. They’re intricate and you’re given the option of three different dipping sauces: vanilla cream, syrup and warm melted milk chocolate. Love them. Got to get myself more of these. Excuse to revisit Vegas? I think so!

Mochi tasting $12.00
I haven’t had enough mochi to differentiate between good and bad mochi, but i’m going to assume that this is what good mochi tastes like. The ice cream centre was great after the warm donuts. A mochi/pocky fan would like this.

Chocolate spring rolls $10.00
We were regretting the choice to only order two desserts so we added the spring rolls to the list. This was one of those nights where I had convinced myself that since I’d already stuffed myself, some more dessert wasn’t going to make a huge difference. Dark chocolate oozes from the crunchy folds and mixes with the orange-lemon sauce, and the entire spring roll is then sprinkled with icing sugar.

They look even better up close!

As if all that wasn’t enough – the cheque came with chocolate fortune cookies with…rather suggestive fortunes.

Service was friendly and professional. I’d never seen a team of servers handle a dropped glass of red wine so efficiently.

Food: 9.5
Service: 9
Ambience: 8.5 (can be quite loud, good for groups – saw a couple of bachelor/bachelorette party groups do some pretty “interesting” stuff at the table there haha)

Tao, Las Vegas
3377 Las Vegas Blvd South,
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
United States
(702) 388 8338

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SUSHISAMBA Strip, Las Vegas

7 Feb

I love the states. Not just because of the food. Ok, maybe food is part of it. A big part of it. You’re so incredibly spoilt for choice, there’s always something new around every corner! So much food, so little time. Bagels and pretzels aren’t as big here in Australia so I totally capitalised on the endless supply they had there, though I feel the need to emphasise the sheer amount of cinnamon sugar slathered onto the pretzel (but it tasted so good).

Now that I’m back in Australia, I’ve had an entire 15 hour flight as well as a six hour flight delay to decide on my favourite restaurant.

I think I’ll have to go with Sushi Samba in Las Vegas.


After a very long walk – these casino hotels just never end – we finally glimpsed the restaurant behind the pink and purple of Victoria’s Secret, down another very long stretch of shopping centre. The place was buzzing – music blasting, shimmery dresses, everything I loved about Vegas.

Sushi Samba is located inside the Venetian/Palazzo hotels. Technically it’s in the Palazzo part, at the Palazzo shops, but you can just as easily walk across from the Venetian. Disclaimer: You may very possibly get lost numerous times on the way there and end up at some far corner of the complex.

The atmosphere is amazing: upbeat, modern, sophisticated. Bright coloured lights swirl across the ceiling, screens alternating between the beaches of Brazil and the old geisha districts of Japan. Those countries weren’t picked by accident if you were wondering, the food at Sushi Samba is a lovely fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian culinary influences, resulting in a spectacular blend of flavours.

The service was excellent, the menu recommendations by our server were spot-on, and there wasn’t a single item we were disappointed in.


Sawagani flash fried japanese river crabs $12.00
We started off with these tiny critters. These were the size of a fifty cent piece, almost like hermit crabs, eaten whole. They were crispy, with a salty crunchiness to them. Reminded me of potato chips. I was very conscious that I was putting a whole crab into my mouth and the fact that the shell didn’t look very soft. They weren’t my favourite, but the sawagani is definitely worth a try just because they’re so unique.


assortment of four $35.00
sashimi seviche
Yellowtail ginger, garlic, soy $14.00
Salmon asparagus, red radish, pineapple, lime $13.00
Tuna grapefruit juice, jalapeño, almond $14.00
Jumbo Shrimp passion fruit, cucumber, cilantro $14.00
Lobster mango, red bell pepper, heart of palm MP
sashimi tiradito
Yellowtail jalapeño and lemongrass $14.00
Kanpachi yuzu, sea salt, black truffle oil $17.00
Tuna granny smith apple, serrano, lime $14.00
Salmon orange and mustard miso $12.00

This came next. Now i’m not sure which of the above the four are except for the green apple tuna one (the waiters explanation kind of got lost in the music and I was too busy looking at the food), but this is sashimi taken to a whole new level. The natural textures and flavours of the fresh fish were accentuated with various degrees of sweet and sour dressings. Pure heaven.


Berkshire Pork Gyoza kabocha pumpkin purée and su-shoyu dipping sauce $14.00
The warm sweet sauce was perfect after the icy cold citrus tang from the sashimi. The dumpling was moist and chewy, topped off with the tasty pork filling and a salty dipping sauce.


Samba strip Roll maine lobster, mango, tomato, chive, crispy rice, soy paper, peanut curry $19.00
I have had my fair share of good sushi…and terrible sushi. This was great sushi. The freshness of the seafood here again came into play, and the lobster and mango formed such a delightful combination (i’ll admit that any sushi with mango in it gets a thumb up from me). The tangy chilli warm peanut curry sauce and the crispy exterior sealed the deal. There is nothing I love more than warm, crispy sushi.


anticuchos two skewers served with peruvian corn
Sea Bass and Miso $16.00

The texture of the Chilean sea bass is just so melt-in-your-mouth tender and succulent that I don’t think I was ever disappointed with a sea bass dish during my trip. Sushi Samba, however, did it the best. By far. The delicate pieces of fish were presented on skewers, sauce drizzled on top. I guess half of it is that they leave you craving more. The rest of the dish consisted of peruvian corn which is five times the size of normal corn. It was also sweeter and more powdery than the corn I’m used to, think sweet potatoes but not really.


Ishi Yaki hot stone, dipping sauces, vegetables 5oz min
grade A5 $27.00 oz

Now, if you’re a fan of wagyu beef, this is a must-try. The quality of the beef and the intricate process of adding the spices and sauces (which your server will demonstrate, it’s actually a 6 step process to cook each piece – involving sesame oil, black and white sesame, sea salt and a range of other sauces) culminate in an emulsion of distinct flavours…and a phenomenal taste. The meat is cooked on a hot stone and I couldn’t get over the novelty of it. Halfway through our server brought us a second stone because he thought that our original one wasn’t flat enough and was a hassle to cook on.


Berkshire Porkbelly Ramen spicy lemongrass broth, bok choy, bean sprout, cilantro, cancha $18.00
We were so impressed with what we’d ordered that we decided to try the porkbelly ramen. This did not disappoint, pieces of pork belly complete with the crispy skin and the melty fatty bits in a sour soup base.

I guess I have my excuse for a return visit to Vegas.

Food: 10
Service: 9.5
Ambience: 9 (note that if a quiet dinner is what you’re looking for, you may want to give this one a miss – but if you’re up for some excitement, this place is excellent)

Sushi Samba
3327 Las Vegas Blvd,
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
United States
(702) 607 0700
 
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Wildfire, The Rocks

19 Dec

Breath-taking views, impressive chandeliers, food brought to your table on giant skewers, whats not to like? Wildfire is one of the line of restaurants situated at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in The Rocks, along with Peter Doyle @ the Quay and Ocean Room.


Tonight, we went with the churrasco.

Lunch 45 per person express / 59 per person including a selection of small plates to begin
Dinner 69 per person including a selection of small plates to begin
Dinner 95 per person “Premium Churrasco” including a selection of small plates to begin, bread, side dishes and set dessert

Churrasco is for complete tables only. 

“Churrasco is a Portuguese and Spanish term referring to beef or grilled meat more generally, differing across Latin America and Europe, but a prominent feature in the cuisines of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and other Latin American countries.”

The food is spit roasted over seasoned iron bark and subjected to intense heat which brings out the unique flavours that wood-roasting imparts. This, in combination with herbs, seasonings, glazes, brines and spice marinades contribute to the final product.

There is a choice of three sauces, all three were quite good but personally I found the green one to go best with the meat.

We were brought some tapas before the skewer-bearing waiters began to visit our table with grilled prawns, swordfish, pineapple, chicken wrapped in bacon, sausages, beef, pork and lamb. The swordfish was cooked and slightly crispy on the outside, while raw on the inside. The cinnamon-coated pineapple was delightful, I think pineapple is just one of those fruits that taste better either really cold (frozen pineapple) or really hot (grilled pineapple). The waiter was quite amused by my apparent obsession. My other favourite was the chicken wrapped with bacon, I’m going to just attribute that to the fact that I really like chicken, especially when it comes with bacon.

Tapas are a selection of small plates and condiments which compliment the grilled food. Our tapas consisted of a small bowl of feta and olives, some curry puffs, prawns and prusciutto, some raw fish in a salad, and inside the mini pot some braised beef to be eaten on the rusk biscuits.



Iceberg with soft boiled egg, Ortiz anchovy, fried capers, cornichons and aioli $15.00
I’m not really much of a salad fan so for me the best thing about this salad was the egg. The yolk was warm and runny while the lettuce was crisp and juicy. Interestingly, the lettuce hadn’t been completely taken apart like in normal salads and the leaves sat in neat layers to add to the crispyness.

The lemon lime and bitters here are just right, you know what I mean. They’re not sickeningly sweet like when they put in too much lime, too sour like when they dump in too much lemon juice, or end up tasting just like lemonade when they’re stingy with the bitters.

Dark chocolate souffle with Cocoa Pop ice cream with ‘snap, crackle and pop’ $19.00
This dessert would be the main reason why I go to Wildfire. There’s nothing I love more than a good chocolate souffle. So i’ll admit this one looks slightly deformed and was probably injured somewhere between the time it came out of the oven and when it reached our table. Normally, Wildfire souffles flawlessly rise to a perfect cylindricle peak. I’ll pretend this one did too. The chocolate is sweet but not too sweet (being dark chocolate, it has a slight bitter tinge as well). It comes with warm chocolate sauce in a jug, your choice whether you want to pour it into the souffle (do it, do it, do it). On the side is the Cocoa Pop ice cream on top of a chocolate crackle. The ice cream is surprisingly creamy in texture but that makes is that much better, and to top it all off? The chocolate crackle crackles. Literally. There’s popping candy in it so after you swallow it you notice little candy explosions going off inside your mouth. Yeah, I know. Mind-blowing. Ingenius.

Oh yeah, and have you seen the view from the ceiling to floor windows?

Food: 9
Service: 8.5
Ambience: 9

Wildfire
Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8273 1222

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East Ocean Restaurant, Sydney

16 Dec

It was already half past ten when we arrived at East Ocean for a late night snack (“snack” since yum-cha’s more of a lunch thing and this wasn’t even close to good dinner timing). The dinner hoards were long gone and the restaurant was empty except for one other table who shared our idea of “a good time for dinner”. The lights had been turned off in part of the place but apparently it’s open till 2am.

When I think yum-cha, I think of trolleys of dim sims in bamboo steamers and little stamp cards which correspond to how many dishes you’ve gorged yourself on. This place no longer does that; their system requires you to fill in a slip of paper with your order and the food is made fresh to your order. Despite food coming straight from the kitchens instead of coming to you after doing laps around the restaurant, I can’t say I don’t miss the novelty of the trolleys. There are definitely places where they still do that though! Because we were there outside of normal yum-cha hours, there was none of the complicated ordering process. We just ordered straight from the menu (of course not the entire selection of yum cha stuff was available so late).

Shu mais
Shu mais, or pork dumplings with crab roe, are a must-have at yum-cha, you see some on practically every table, they’re that good. I can’t say these are the best I’ve ever had, but they’re tender and juicy.

Prawn and vegetable dumplings
Another yum cha staple, these skin on these dumplings are so thin that it’s almost not there.

BBQ pork buns
A personal favourite. I love the slight sweetness of the bun. They smelt so good. Of course, you can also get these frozen from some supermarkets.

Pork ribs
The meat could have been a little more tender but overall quite tasty.

Chicken feet
I’ll admit I didn’t actually have any of this because I’m one of those people who just never particularly developed a liking for them. On the other hand, I know many people do like them and these ones looked rather excellent.

Food: 7.5 (although I think this place’s yum-cha is somewhat mediocre it is actually quite good for dinner, it’s considered to serve top-notch traditional Chinese cuisine)
Service: 8
Ambience: 7

East Ocean Restaurant
421-429 Sussex St,
Haymarket NSW 2000
Sydney, Australia
(02) 9212 4198

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Firefly Lodge, Lane Cove

14 Dec

It’s those times when you open your eyes to see the digital screen on your bedside table reading 2pm, you’ve hit the snooze button so many times your alarm clock gave up and self-destructed, your only incentive to get out of bed is that you’re so hungry you’d settle for week-old meatball arrabiata (you can’t tell whether that white stuff growing on it is mould)…you get the picture. It’s those times that you wish there was just somewhere where you could grab a quick slice of quality pizza and a bowl of hot chips. That’s where Firefly Lodge comes in. From 3pm-6pm Mondays to Saturdays and 3pm-8:30pm on Sundays, you can get rustic pizzas for $16 rather than the usual $24. It used to be $10, and then half prize, but I supposed they figured since it was so popular…

Note:
1. I’d never actually eat week-old meatball arrabiata with mould growing on it.
2. This is just the scenario that I think back to when I tell myself this could have easily happened today to convince myself that I needed more lunch than I’d already had.

Part of the main plaza of Lane Cove shops, Firefly Lodge is relatively new and occupies a prominent corner position in the relatively recently-built shopping centre which houses Woolworths and adjoins to the library. It’s nice and open; you can see kids playing in the middle of the plaza while busy shoppers rush by on their way to Coles. You can choose to sit inside or outside. I went for one of the tables inside with the leather seats on one side.

crunchy salty goodness

Battered potato fries with two sauces
These are excellent. The outside is crispy, but when you bite through the crunchy outer shell, the soft potato centre is just right and isn’t too dry. They’ve also got the amount of salt perfect. These have got to be some of the best chips I’ve had (of course I say this every time I discover really great chips but for now, this is it). You can choose to dip them in aioli which has a creamy garlic taste which I really like, but if you’re more of a tomato sauce person, they have that too.

They also have their specialty: zucchini chips. These aren’t my personal favourite as I find zucchini in a chip rather bland, but if you’re looking for something unique, that’s something to try.

Rustic pizza with prosciutto, rocket and shaved parmesan
There are eight slices per pizza so there’s enough for 2-3 people to share. What makes these special is the crust doesn’t extend past the cheesy part of the pizza and that it’s so thin that it’s practically not there, the chefs certainly did a good job maximising the GOOD part of the pizza (though occasionally I do enjoy chewing on a bit of crust). The saltiness of the prosciutto and shaved parmesan work nicely together. After all, prosciutto and cheese were always meant to be.

Firefly Lodge
On the promenade,
24 Burns Bay Rd, Lane Cove
NSW, 2066
(02) 9420 1629

Food: 8
Service: 7
Ambience: 8

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Chaos Cafe, Neutral Bay

13 Dec

We stumbled upon Chaos as we took random lefts and rights through Neutral Bay in search of a nice cafe to grab a bite for lunch. The mosaic pathway, collection of worn magazines hanging from a rack in a corner, familiar cookie jars lining the counter and painted wooden chairs exude a homely, welcoming atmosphere (a special mention for the “pumpkin” chair which was painted orange and green with p-u-m-p-k-i-n painted across the backrest). Settling into a cozy corner table, we mulled over the selection of sandwiches, salads, tortilla wraps and Mexican specialties.

Chicken chipotole quesadilla $16.90
The steaming-hot chicken is served between toasted tortillas, hot melted cheese drawing out the slight spicyness of the chicken pieces as it melds with the tortilla. A side of mango coriander salsa on green vegetables and diced tomatoes is a refreshing contrast to the chilli chicken; the ice cold sweetness of the fresh mango was divine. The only thing missing would maybe be a dash of guacamole (but that’s a guacamole addict speaking).

Judging by the name, the place actually does get quite chaotic at times, but service wasn’t bad when we were there. The space can get a bit cramped however, when it’s full. On the other hand, the outdoor space is covered so rain isn’t a problem.

The jellybeans which came on a saucer with the bill was a nice touch, although i’m not much of a fan of them. I personally only ever eat the red ones, never particularly liked the blue ones and always stayed away from the black ones. Does anyone else always end up with a packet of pure black jellybeans after they pick out every other colour?

Food: 8/10
Service: 7.5/10
Ambience: 7/10

Chaos Cafe
Rear 194 Military Road
Neutral Bay 2089
(02) 9953 8625

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