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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bites: Cantina 663 @ Mount Lawley

I know, I know.  I have used this statement a lot but I have seriously had Cantina 663 on my to go list for way too long now!  However, shallow pockets requires good financial planning haha.  After thinking of where to go for my friend’s birthday, we finally headed over to Cantina 663.  With countless mentions and a whopping 49 reviews, I have finally landed on Cantina 663.. and I have to say, it was a place worthy of the hype.


Sitting down at quarter pass 6, the waitress came up and offered to take our orders.  However, as I knew we would adjourn for drinks later, my friends and I politely declined!  Another 10 minutes, and the waitress returned to ensure that we were OK.  I said we were good, but could do with a little guide around the menu.  After explaining how we wanted to share the food among the 8 of us, she put forth some recommendations which were really helpful.  So, we started with:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2 serves of duck liver parfait, onion jam and bread @ $15 ea.  For starters, the bread heated on a grill came out warm.  This made the creamiest parfait spread like melting butter before I put some onion jam.  The first bite landed me on heaven.  It was extremely delicious.  Its creamy texture was to die for and the seasoning of the meaty parfait was faultless.  There was a sense of enjoyment which Fishman very coyly described as a feeling he gets from a McDonalds cheese burger.  Where that came from I have no idea, but to me, this was simply sublime.  No wonder the waitress said it was one of their most popular starters!  Even my dining companions and the little darling who shy from innards dive in for seconds.  That to me, says a lot!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext were the arancini like balls served on shaved fennel, $17 ea!  I can very hazily recall its name but this was another recommended starter.  It was another vow.  I did complained about my arancini back at Jamie’s Italian here as it claimed to have smoky bacon but tasted nowhere near.  The one at Cantina 663 did not  say smoky but the flavors in there did wonders.  It had good amounts of cheese and the flavorsome fillings meant that one ball is never too much! Some arancini would make me feel sick but not this one.  It had the savory sensation that kept me going! Kudos!  Problem?  The waitress said it had 4 per serve but only 3 came out on each plate.  So 2 serves was not enough.  But, it was something we easily solved by sharing halves :)!


When we finished out starters, it only took 15 minutes for our mains come out. I have seen most if not all the reviews.  No one dish has gotten more praised than the gnocchi.  At Cantina 663, the seasonal menu means there is not one but many sauces to compliment the fluffy potato pillows.  The choice tonight was a little earthy with strong bold flavors.  We had 2 serves of the gnocchi with beetroot puree, gorgonzola and walnuts, $26 ea.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flavors were not exactly my thing as beetroot for me is a red meat’s best friend.  Saying that though, the puree tended to over power basic flavors I yearned for.  This in particular was the blue cheese.  It was there but not quite as bold as I had expected.  Nonetheless, the quality of the gnocchi was faultless. Around the table, we all said that this was not bad but the gnocchi deserved better.  The melt in your mouth gnocchi had a mild caramelisation which was simply delicious.  No wonder it has such a large fan base!  One day, I MUST try the gnocchi with pumpkin puree.  I was already imagining that on my way to Cantina.  Sadly, it I did not come at the right season!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe risotto called another name which I cannot remember was oh my god so yummy.  As we shared one, we each had a few table spoons only.  Yet, this did not hinder our enjoyment of a great dish.  The rice was yum, the spices made it delicious and it was not your typical cloying creamy risotto!  Furthermore, it was baked in the oven giving it a crunchiness which was great texture.  Hidden in the middle was a small serve of chicken still tender from the moisture of the rice.  It tasted like peri peri but not quite.  Something along the line I guess haha.  Biggest downfall of this dish?  Those mussels were so dry it shriveled to the size of a 5 cent coin.  That was almost tragic =.=!



We also called a few meat dishes which were complimented by a side of coleslaw, $9 and buttermilk potatoes, $10.  Coleslaw was really yum considering how our dishes were either very meaty or rich in cheese.  Hence this light, refreshing and at the same time fruity coleslaw encouraged us to eat more.  Our only dislike was a hint of lingering bitterness which could be due to the cabbage.  The buttermilk potatoes (shown in pic) was not so popular as it was not tasty and felt a little too plain for our liking.  For the girls, they could not justify piling on the carbs haha.


Our meat courses consisted of 2 serves of beef short ribs and a pork knuckle for 2.  Around the table, everyone commended the delicious ribs.  They were cook so tender and soft that the meat fell apart with little effort.  It was also very moist with several fatty bits to making it a delicious course.  The sauce was sweet and the little artichokes and mash soaked up all the beautiful sauce the rib had!  Definitely the best main for the night!  I could not help myself but tuck in for more after everyone had finished and eat the little bits of meat and artichokes that were left! SO moreish! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeef Rib, $44.


The pork hock on the other hand was not so popular.  The meat was cooked well but we found little joy as it was not tasty.  It came with a trio of sauces which had a salsa verde, maybe a vinegar and some sauce but that still did not make the pork hock as enjoyable as we expected it to be.  More over, the crackling was very chewy and not crunchy!  Fishman was sad :(! We were wondering why it was not left to crackle a little bit more!  It is was crunchy, that would have presented the dish better! No one hates a crispy crackling!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPork Hock for 2, $55


With the bill coming to slightly over $300 for 4 appetizers, and 7 mains, I cannot help but feel that I have walked away with a bargain.  In Perth, such fulfilling meal for 8 people rarely stays below $50 and very often hovers around the $70 mark.  The quality we received today was exceptional.  Out of the lot, the only dish which performed below our expectations were the pork hock and the side of cumin buttermilk potatoes.  Other than that, no one could fault with the beautiful liver parfait or the tender beef ribs.  These were dishes alongside the Arancini and Gnocchi really made Cantina 663 a great dining experience.  More often than not, I eat out at such hyped diners feeling satisfied but not extremely contented because the hype felt greater than what I have experienced.  And I will be honest, hype kills.  Even places like Jamie’s Italian, and Gordon St. Garage fell short on my books because with the queue and all the mentions, one would really expect more. Like A LOT more.  However, Cantina 663 is an exception from what I experienced that night.  And with this place so well established in the area, their reputation is, hopefully, here to stay.



Cantina 663 on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bites: Miss Kitty’s Saloon @ Mount Lawley

Miss Kitty’s Saloon shot up to the top of my wish list when I saw the reviews of my foodie mates ChompChomp and Queen of Bad Timing a few weeks ago.  Consistently good American food is hard to find in Perth and most of the time, I cannot really differentiate Australian and American although there are some food which are undoubtedly American such as Buffalo Wings or the combination of Chicken & Waffles.  So when Miss Kitty’s rose to fame, I was elated and decided to pay a visit after many weeks of delay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior was kind of like an American diner.  Bit signs of American pride like Hershey and beers are available in super size form.  As we entered, a cheerful lady greeted us.  More importantly, she made our experience at Miss Kitty’s Saloon a pleasant one.  Fishman was amazed by her energy and the contentment she had from doing her job.  Over all, top notch treatment ;)!


For our drinks, we had the bottomless ice tea, chocolate (hot & cold) and coffee.  While most of it tasted good, it did little to differentiate itself from the rest.  It was IMHO typical.  But hey, typical is not a bad thing!  Yv on the other hand found little satisfaction from her iced chocolate.  She found it too plain and was no chocolaty enough!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHot chocolate with bottomless iced tea!  I do not think one can have refills because a jar is simply way too much! I think it is easily 500ml or more of liquid in one serve!


Before our mains came out, we called a few things to share:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWholemeal doughnut, custard, toffee apple @ $6.  While it was not the most fluffy doughnut on the inside, its consistency was good enough to enjoy.  But the highlight for us has got to be the custard toffee apple which had a good balance of spices, sweetness and saltiness that helped the dish shine. :)!


Buffalo wings, blue cheese, celery, carrot @ $15.90OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI reckon Buffalo Wings have got to be one of the more popular food to leave the US.  A good Buffalo Wing should have a mild crunch, with a good level of spiciness and acidity.  Delicious blue cheese dip is a MUST.  However, good Buffalo Wings despite its EXTREME simplicity seems like a chore for Australia.  OR was its originality tainted?  I know the lollipop wings at the Merrywell only carries a potency which Americans would dismiss with a sigh!  Fortunately, the wings here still carry crunch and a good amount of flavor although for me, its spiciness could go up one notch :)!  If I had to complain, it would be the size of the wings which a little smaller than desired!  Also, the rustic blue cheese dip left an unpleasant shock due to its chunky nature where blue cheese are still pretty obvious.  I loved that though :)! Strong, bold flavors!


As we chatted and nibbled through the wings, time passed really quickly.  To our dismay, it took awhile for our food to arrive.  Before I could raise the issue with the waitress, we were brought a bowl of orange slices.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I definitely have enough money to buy my own oranges, it is little things like this that counts!


Our first meal to hit the tableOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASteak ‘n’ Eggs, peas, fries.  For $19.50, this was great value.  I had a bit of everything I found this to be an absolute joy.  The steak was cooked spot on, fries crisp and oh my.  I loved that sauce that accompanied the steak.  It was a smoky ketchup that really went well with the fries!  However, if you expect a melt in your mouth steak, this is not quite there.  This was tender minute steak that did not melt unfortunately.  But it was good enough!  YH says that this definitely differed from his usual brunch but welcomed this. 


The little darling and Yv both ordered the same dish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStone baked mushroom tart, hollandaise, egg @ $16.  While I did not even have a chance to have a bite, the girls demolish this little meal in no time.  They seem to have loved everything but had no idea what this was going to be and expected a tart.  Instead, they mentioned that the tart pastry felt more like a little pancake topped with poached eggs, shrooms and an abundance of hollandaise.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy sister’s Chorizo, Slow-cooked Eggs, sweet potato hash, green sauce @ $17.  While my sister ordered this without much thought, she actually enjoyed it heaps but swapped the slow-cooked eggs for Fishman’s fried ones (she dislikes runny yolk).  The salsa was delicious and the sweet potato came out golden brown in a crispy batter.  There was only one piece of Chorizo but was yummy! One thing that concerns me though, is that this is definitely not a stand alone.  Its pint size appearance is all except filling!  The price though,is definitely right considering the level of effort required (making the sauce, slow cooking the eggs and frying the hash)!  But is is definitely not for the hungry peeps!  It is small like the mushroom tart.


My pick for the day was the Waffles & ChickenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach individual element is a star by itself.  Crumbled chicken was crunchy but still tender on the inside.  Salad topping was refreshing although sweet chili dressing felt like it was one from the bottle.  Waffles were cooked just right.  But does a collaboration of stars always work ?  Unfortunately, this pairing did not work for me.  More likely than not, it was a matter of personal preference rather than pure dissatisfaction.  I find appeal of pairing of waffles with chicken to be slowly diminishing in utility.  My past experience at Merrywell where a friend ordered the Chicken and Killer Bee Honey Waffle also ended up in devastation.  This (pairing) felt almost like a cult following rather than a norm.  Definitely not for me :P!  That does not mean everyone would not like it as I have seen other people enjoying it!


Filled to the brim by my main, drink and appetizers, I was fully satisfied.  We went in at 11.30am and came out slightly pass 1pm.  I enjoyed my meal here today.  Little darling who was concerned about her exams had little thought but the rest of us had enjoyed Miss Kitty’s Saloon.  The food here is different and most of the things we had today were really enjoyable with the exception of the Chicken & Waffles.  If I had come here again, I would definitely share a buffalo wings before enjoying the Chorizo or Mushroom Tart by myself.  In the event that no one shares, the steak ‘n’ eggs is definitely the way to go!


After months of delays, I have to say that I am finally glad to visit Miss Kitty’s Saloon.  It was great how the food here was good enough and the service was friendly.  This is definitely a promising eatery.  While I am less likely to come in for lunch, this place might be a great alternative to Merrywell @ Crown for dinner.  Perhaps next time :)!



Miss Kitty's Saloon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bites: Toastface Grillah @ Grand Lane, Perth

Toasties, a childhood classic most often associated with crunchy bread, gooey cheese and sometimes, the fabulous fillings that taste so much better piping hot than cold.  While most Australians love vegemite, mine is the chili tuna haha.  In Perth, a new cult following dedicated to toasties had led to a craze that drive people to Toastface Grillah.  Obscurely located in an  back alley, this hidden eatery does not find people but instead people find them.  So how does a shop with a single sandwich press, recycled looking furniture and bread drive droves of people to their little eatery? I wonder!


The blade wall, is a toastie.  All bling with gold chains on one hand and the uzi on the other, this very much blends in with the music that plays in this eatery.  Its not really hipster-esque but rap.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


D├ęcor is nothing more than a few pillows, random wooden benches and stools.  Definitely feels like a place cool enough to hangout!  Over toasties if anyone is keen? haha.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


As we got in, we got served real friendly and my mate were thrown by their coffee prices that were totally whack.  $3 espresso and a large coffee for $4.  That is a bargain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlavor wise, apparently decent coffee but a little stingy on the cocoa for the cappuccino.  I am no coffee drinker so I shall abstain from commenting :P!  Comments were from AC and Bel :)!


Between the few of us, we shared four toasties!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPear Grillz @ $9 was  blue cheese, pear and lime chutney sandwiched between two cinnamon toast.  Lightly burnt cinnamon flavor was yummy but blue cheese was a little underwhelming.  When I order blue cheese, the flavors has got to be SLAM. Not mediocre.  I love cheese and this for me was a little disappointing.  But hey, good attempt!


Chili and Cheese @ $7; cheddar, paprika and chiliOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChili and cheese? Match made in heaven.  With bread?  I will give it a try.  This was a pretty damn good bite.  I loved how the paprika added a little smokiness to the salty cheddar.  The chilies will definitely be potent for most.  But I could probably go up one notch.  Especially when it is tasty :)!  What not to expect though is some fancy chili bean filling.  This here is a simple pleasure my friend


Apple & Gouda @ $8; gouda, ham, onion and appleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs much far as I know, the gouda is those big yellow barrels in the supermarket!  This Dutch cheese was good but for me, the highlight here was the subtle onion aroma this toastie emits even before taking a bite!  This was actually pretty nice.  But is it the best?  Definitely not.


Danny Zuccho @ $9; brie, zucchini, prosciutto OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis for us was THE crowd pleaser.  The brie had the typical flavors without any hard rind bits.  This was joy to the mouth!  What made this a standout was the prosciutto.  It had a distinct flavor which sets it apart from the typical ham.   It is slightly salty yet sweet in its own way and was paired perfectly with the creamy brie.  Zucchini for me added bulk which was nice but definitely not something I would consider refreshing.  Yums :)!


Toastface Grillah despite being the new kid on the block has rose to fame with its motivation to serve simple pleasure food.  Affordable coffee here is a plus but that does not make up for its pricey toasties haha.  For me, its hits were definitely more than misses.  In fact, almost no misses were spotted.  Displeasures were merely fixable flaws due to quantity judgment.  Would I come here again is definitely a question that needs answering.  My visit here today was one of curiosity and hype.  I would not pledge my loyalty to toasties but when a craving kicks in, everyone knows that the only cure to one is to satisfy it.  This instance is such that will get me back here for sure.  Its gooey cheese, delicious filling makes it hard to deny.  For me, holding a hot toastie on winter is like a portable ramen.  Minus the noodles and the amount but every bit as hearty to fight the winter gloom!



Toastface Grillah on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bites: Shun Fung on the River @ Perth

Shun Fung used to be the home to one of the worst Chinese cuisines in Perth.  My first visit six years ago left a lasting impressions of what a Chinese restaurant should not be.  However, I was invited to rethink that phrase a few weeks back when a friend who knows the owners invited me for a tasting session which led on to more.  From what I can see, Eva who owns the places realizes the extent of the damage left by mismanagement as she and her husband only manages the 30 odd restaurants they own back home in China.  With the new management led by her sister Ida and a crew of new chefs with over 1 century of experience, they are here to bring change.  Have that been fruitful though is something my tongue wonders.
For the tasting session that day, we were offered a personalized banquet which costs $100 per head.  For this price, there several restaurants including Yu’s at Crown, and the now closed Grand Palace.  For me, this is the point where things should get really serious.  Quality, service and everything else has to be impeccable.  The tasting menu that night consist of a few appetizers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChinese Kimchee; tasty Chinese cabbage that is marinated in a mild spicy sauce and served tender.  This was a nice rendition of the Korean Kimchee with the exception that cabbage Shun Fung uses has a more tender bite compared to the traditional kimchee’s in town.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe marinated duck wings was another appetizer we had that night.  It was nice but for me, this was definitely not duck wings.  It felt more like the thigh.  The meat was cooked just spot on with a hint of Chinese wine.  With the dip, it was yummy!  Other appetizers which I had but though was rather normal includes the marinated chili and the rocket salad.  Strong flavors but for me, it does not carry the traditional Chinese feel.
As we progressed to the main, Eva explains that Shun Fung does not serve A particular type of food, but instead serves various dishes from all the provinces along with China.  She also acknowledges the demand for food that not only taste good, but looks good too.  To put it simply, she has a sharp eye for detail and expects her food to come out looking pretty ;)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABaked oysters with Foie Gras sauce.  This was part of the three season platter.  It was cooked just spot on with a rich Foie Gras sauce.  My main question here will be the use of the Foie Gras.  While the oyster were fresh, the Foie Gras somehow lacked the same richness as the oyster.  When we say Foie Gras, I want rich, decadent, creamy, and fatty.  For all the reasons my doctor does not want me to eat Foie Gras.
This was a picture from my past visit with a friend but this formed part of the 3 season platter that was served to us bloggers again that night.P4220062For me, this is a MUST order dish.  The dish called deep fried golden radish balls is by no means Vegan.  It has finely chopped seafood such as squid which was cooked to perfection.  It was slightly crisp with a nice melt in your mouth bite to the seafood.  For me, I liked this the best out of the lot.  Feels like something  I would usually order back home that forms part of a Chinese Four Season platter when celebrating an occasion.  Also served with the golden radish balls and oysters were the crispy white bait with an aioli dressing.  While this felt a little too Western for my liking, it was still a well executed finger food which would have gone well with alcohol.
Before moving on to the mains, we had a soup course.  For tonight, we had the fine sliced abalone in superior soup.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABe it abalone, sharks fin, sea cucumber or bird’s nest, these are things which can cost a few hundreds to many thousands of dollars.  Yet, without the perfect technique, this is no more than expensive rubber.  In modern terms, a tyre.  Here at Shun Fung, I love the superior soup which is made with a milk and chicken broth.  The soup has great smooth consistency with the black fungus, and coriander giving it crunchiness.  My “weny wonder’s why” factor here will be the abalone.  I was thinking more of a melt in your mouth feel like those braised ones.  However, the ones here were more of a textural component which was chewy.  Not bad though not great.
When we were finished, our mains started coming out.   The first main for the night was the Coral Trout two ways.  At Shun Fung, the Coral Trout served varies in size and is typically prepared two ways to maximise the use of the fish.  The first Coral Trout course was the steam Coral Trout,  ginger and shallot.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hate fish, especially smelly fish.  Fortunately, this comes from the sea and did not carry a foul fishy smell.  In fact, this was superb.  The fish was cooked spot on and the mushrooms that accompanied the dish was absolutely tender.  Soy dressing was subtle with a hint of ginger.  It was really yummy.  For me, this was one of the highlights of my dinner there!
Once the meaty bits were used, the remained part of the fish was deep fried salt-pepper style.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnlike the former course, these needed a little more effort to eat.  Boney bites made it hard to enjoy but the mild salty-pepper taste gave me all the encouragement I needed. Perhaps this can be fried till the bones are crispy and edible?  I would so very much love that!
The next course was the honey mustard prawns.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was another likeable dish that night.  It differed significantly from the typical Chinese buttermilk or ginger oyster prawns but still very moorish!  The most enjoyable bit was not the fresh and juicy prawns but the sauce.  Likening it to Tetsuya’s or Sepia would definitely be an overkill here but for me, the mild potency of the honey mustard was just sublime.  The mustard was potent to the extent where you can feel it but not enough make one choke and cough.  I would have enjoyed a thicker coating as I did not have to suffer any injuries.
The beef course for the night is the Diced Wagyu Beef on a Sizzling Stone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile this is not new to me, I found it a little more Japanese than Chinese.  Then again, perhaps this was a good opportunity to have quality meat not coated in corn flour and sauce i.e typical sizzling dishes at Chinese restaurants.  Definitely a nice touch to a classic dish.
Szechuan Spicy Chicken
To those familiar with the cuisine, the word Szechuan immediately causes the brain to think of numbness.  The flavor known as “mala” in Chinese means numbing spiciness.  Yet it was numbing not because of the chilies but rather the Szechuan peppercorns.   The dish did that exactly.  It left my tongue with a lingering numbness.  It’s a flavor which I do not really like.  But as I have complained to Eva, I dislikes the overcooked chicken even more.  I mean, who likes stringy chicken?  That definitely is a fetish =/!
Braised King Oyster Mushrooms with ShallotsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor me, this was another very likeable dish.  The mushrooms were not the softest but the braising sauce just kept me going back for more.  It was very tasty and having plainly blanched broccolis seemed like the best way to complement such strong flavors. 
The last course was the sizzling beans.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor me, sizzling sambal belacan or minced pork beans and you are automatically on a home run.  But here, they used “mala”. The funniest thing about it was that the boss is also not a big fan of “mala”.  When I told her it was “Mala”, she immediately declined a serve from her waitress.  In terms of being cooked right, it was.  But it was the flavor that was a let down.  Definite a no-no from me :P!
Before we had out desserts, we move onto the dim sim platter.  It was not your typical dim sim but a serve of carbohydrates to prepare us for the dessert.  In more traditional meals especially in China, it is quite normal to serve stable carbohydrates like yam, corn, nuts and sweet potato.  Here, we had a modern attempt of recreating a similar course.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI loved every bit of these tasty morsel and would have easily gone for seconds and even thirds.  For the little darling, this was the only course where her eyes opened big and wide.  From the meticulously layered osmanthus flower jelly to the crisp fried dough, it was all very delicious.  The durian rolls were so delicately put together and its end product was just amazing.  I am from Malaysia and this is always a favourite back home.  More surprisingly, I who normally dislike pumpkin found the golden balls filled with pumpkin puree to be on par with the durian puffs.  To bring it home, the sweet osmanthus jelly cooled my tongue.  This is  definitely a must have.
The happy ending for the night is a choice of fried ice cream, red bean pancake or bean soup.  I chose the red bean pancake.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere do I start hmmmm.  It was nice but I could only find very little praises for it.  This was OK but had no “wow” factor.  It felt rather typical.
The little darling had the fried ice cream with caramel sauce.
While I commend the effort of making it look nice, I found the accompaniments to be a little tacky.  A chocolate stick and a biscuit. =.=!  Fortunately the ice cream had good flavor although she would have preferred the crust to be thinner.  It was a little too doughy for her liking.
By the end of the night, you would have guessed it.  I was filled to the brim.  Shun Fung tonight appeared as a different persona.  Its food was refined.  Days of the faux Chinese dishes I hope, are sincerely gone.  IMHO, Eva has brought a sense of new direction to the restaurant.  If she is persistent with her way, I can see this place grow quickly in term of popularity.   The food is inspired and fits well for all.  Its price tag of $100 per head might be a little tricky but for those special occasions, it might be worth a splurge.  Speaking to my friends around town, very few would be keen to fork out such sum of money for Chinese cuisine.  At that price, most diners expect a show.  It must tick all the right boxes for service, appearance, taste and everything has to be there.  While I find such requirements almost impossible for Chinese cuisine, Shun Fung might one day break my believe. 
Also, with the banquet rooms so private, this is a great business meet up.  Furthermore, Shun Fung is strategically located along the river in the CBD. I believe this will attract business people from a multitude of industries.
Shun Fung on the River on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sydney 2013: Mamak @ Goulburn St, Chinatown

With our Sepia dinner finishing at 11pm, we needed to test Sydney’s proclamation to being one of the world’s best culinary destinations for the last time.  Eateries are still aplenty at this hour but typically consist of Chinese venues and sloppy Pub food.  One word, Boring.  But there was just one thing which Sydney has that Perth do not, and it is not called the Opera house or the Harbor Bridge, it is called Mamak.  This Malay-Indian fusion culinary subculture might be rare in Australia but is a common food enjoyed by fellow Malaysians back home.  Food usually sold includes various type of Roti, curry, satay, nasi lemak and the list goes on.   So when someone who lacks experience in such food comes and decides to quantitatively give a “1 hat” score to this restaurant, I became admittedly, suspicious. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlipping Roti to get it spread thinly is vital to making these beautiful food.  When cooked, these little pockets of air forming within each subsequent layer (which have been folded) gives the basic Roti a crisp and fluffy consistency.  The finish though requires painful effort where one slams the piping hot Roti to give it that final smash that creates airways to quickly cool and crisp the layers.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Mamak, the Roti came crisp and fluffy.  It had the basic condiments which includes a small serve of sambal, dhal (vegetarian curry) and a meat curry (sauce only).    For me, the Roti was good and fresh such that it was light and not dense like those frozen ones.  Definitely a game changer although their curry was OK only.  But what is OK for a Malaysian would be a good thing here.  Especially when Sydney is many thousand miles away from home.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next Roti we had was the one with red onions and egg.  Succulent onions in a Roti is already a charm by itself, but having eggs help complete this omelette tasting Roti.  Unlike the basic one, this do not carry the same fluff and lightness but one can distinguish between a good and bad one by identifying the inconsistencies found in the wrapping.  The one at Mamak was decent in flavor though from the half I shared with Andrew, I found large pieces of flour stuck at several areas.


The last big dish was an important one, not only to the Mamak food culture but to all Malaysians.  The Nasi Lemak with fried chicken!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA#Take 1

This delicious rice dish is easily a national icon. Many Malaysians love this true and true with the increasing population of dieting girls being its only enemy. Its rice is simply fragrant with coconut milk and pandan leaf which not only gives it a great flavor, but a certain richness too. Usual condiments are hard to fault with although many will argue on which is the right sambal. Some like theirs spicy, some sweeter and some wants a strong hint of acidity. But lets all settle for; there is no right one. Each race in Malaysia creates a different sambal which changes depending on the places it comes from. North, South, East, West. They are all different. For me, the one at Mamak was good enough to be called Malaysian with its sambal having potent spiciness and saltiness rather than sweet. Anchovies were serve crisp and the roasted peanuts were fresh. This relinquishes the disgusting left-over oily smell that plagues this dish at times.


The fried chicken came out suspiciously orange and fragrant which made me wonder what was used in the batter.  Maybe a mix of turmeric and curry powder?  The chicken here had a very tasty batter but felt like it needed a bit more sitting time to allows the flavors to seep in.  Still a good bite nonetheless.


Over all, my meal at Mamak was a good one.  As a Malaysian, it might be worth 6.5-7.5 out of 10, but as a Malaysian living in Australia, this place settle comfortably for a 9.  While the hype in Sydney revolves around fine dining establishments like Quay, Est., Tetsuya’s, Marque, Sepia and such, it is ultimately such simplistic yet culturally significant places like Mamak and Bourke Street Bakery that keeps the community eating.  It is cheap, good, and convenient.  After all, how many 4 hours meals can one do sustainably? 



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