Archive for September, 2007

Solitary Kiosk, Leura NSW

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Solitary1.jpg It certainly is a demonstration of a chef’s humility when they open a lower priced offshoot and make their top cuisine affordable for all. Think Becasse and Plan B (with its $10 Wagyu burger and $2 lemon tarts); Fifteen Restaurant and Canteen, and in Leura: Solitary Restaurant and Kiosk.  Whilst the restaurant offers 5 courses for $95, a mere $10 will get you a hearty gourment brunch or lunch in its kiosk located on the same premises, same sweeping views over the blue mountains.   A charming weatherboard hut perched atop a ledge midway between Katoomba and Leura, set in a garden filled with blooms.  I started off with a tangy, tart and perfectly sweet home made lemonade ($3.50). 

Solitary2.jpgThe lemon zest added even greater depth of flavour; and the sourness of the lemon was balanced with the sweetness of the sugar syrup.   Equally delicious was the coke spider (my first taste can you believe it!).  Our group was pretty evenly split between the steak sandwich, caponata salad and chicken sandwich. So you would have thought that the kitch would find it easy to fill the order for 8.  Sadly I think they weren’t accustomed to the influx of Sydney siders for APEC long weekend holiday, so the food took forever to come – I felt sorry for the couple that came after us! But lucky there is the view, and well when you go to the country you’re not in much of a rush anyway!  The open steak sandwich ($15.50) was a good sized minute steak cooked medium well, served between two delicious thick slices of wood fired bread – the crumb dense enough to hold in the home made tomato relish, sweet delicious caramelised onion, lettuce, and grilled tomato.  The caponata salad ($15.50) captivated us when we saw another patron (we assumed regular) order it.  A warm salad piled on top of the same bread (which I am so glad is not sourdough) – comprising diced zucchini, eggplant, tomato, onion, celery, pinenuts and olive oil – hearty vegetarian feast that created added interest through the listing of dark chocolate on the menu!

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The humble chicken sandwich was given a gourmet style makeover and still priced only marginally above a Sydney CBD cousin at $9.90!  Thick slicse of poached chicken breast mixed with home made mayonnaise and herbs.  I was told that the bread had a lemony twist – not sourdough I was told by two sources.  The cress was on the side rather than in the sandwich – meaty enough to last well into your hike!  As we left filled with full stomachs and even better, full wallets, we passed the sweet offerings of the day – basket of fresh baked scones, dense sinful looking brownies and huge florentines. Solitary5.jpg Solitary6.jpg

Does bushwalking get any better than this? haha.

90 Cliff Drive, Leura Falls


Chilli Jam, Majors Bay Road, Concord

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Very brave to open a mod Thai eatery on the Italian and cafe dominated strip that is the eating hub of Concord – one of many in the Inner West.  Another understated opening – no advertising, website or flyers in the mail that I could see – but given the regular traffic on this well known street, none was necessary.  Walking through the narrow front door, I was super impressed with the not-too-dimly lit, spacious interior.  Large oversized tables, huge cushion topped timber arm-chairs, generous aisles, and candles with the centrepiece being the three hanging globe chandeliers weaved with fairy lights suspended like sparkling moons across the room. And that’s just the decor. The food is equally impressive – and the value is outstanding for such a trendy well decked out place.

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We ordered four entrees – the duck wrap – kinda like a duck san choy bau sort of awkward in cos leaves, but with flavour that just explodes in your mouth, once you realise that it’s cold.  Finely chopped duck meat is mixed with chilli, cucumber, mint, onions and other exquisitely melded flavours. All entrees around around $5.9 – $8.90 which is pretty good value for anywhere.  Tom Yum soup was intense though a bit salty for some, filled with prawns, baby corn, mushrooms and topped with fresh coriander. Did I mention I love the servingware? 

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We also tried the prawn cakes (a twist on the usual fish cakes) – chicken and prawn mince shaped into patties and deep fried in breadcrumbs. They were outstanding, and great value – you get four the size of a regular hamburger patty, and not fishy (in a bad way) at all! The chicken meat sweetened the prawns even more.  I didn’t take to the taro puffs as much, square and crimped around the edges. The filling wasn’t tasty enough (maybe because the other things were so much so!).  But the essential money bags were text book perfect – crispy but not oily, filled and tied with a pretty chive, and double layered pastry for extra crunch.

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I think we decided at that point that we were totally stuffed because of the entrees, but too late! The mains consist of a three menus: curries, stir fries and noodles.  You pick your meat (chicken, lamb, prawns, tofu/vegetables) and then your desired sauce.  Combination 1 for us: Chilli Jam Prawns. $18.90 for prawns – fresh king prawns sauteed in the thick sweet chilli flavour with just perfect veges of snow peas, capsicum, and garnished dramatically with a long dark fried chilli.  Combination 2: Thai basil sauce rice noodles with chicken ($17.90 for chicken dishes).  A bit too much chicken, but the noodles were al dente and I loved the egg bits in it – all topped with lemon, and deep fried translucent basil leaves.

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Yum Cha – Marigold Citymark, Haymarket

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

One of my favourite ways to spend a day on the weekend is to meet friends and family to have Yum Cha – or “Dim Sum” as the yankees call it.  “Yum Cha” means “Drink tea” in Chinese, whilst “Dim Sum” is what you eat there as an accompaniment for the tea as you catch up – although in modern times, the food overshadows the tea!  Get to Marigold early, as there can be a queue from 11:30am on the weekend – an alternative to the take a number and listen to the microphone approach adopted by some.   Then when you get your table, order your tea (Jasmine, green, oolong etc), and cast your eye over the trolleys filled with steaming hot food (literally – some of the trolleys are mobile steamers filled with hot water).  I love Yum Cha also because the food is mini.  Bite sized so you can have a bit of everything.  Sorry on this trip we didn’t eat that much but here’s what we did have.

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Char Siu Bau (or BBQ pork buns) are well known to the general population as fluffly steaming white dough buns filled with sweet pork. But have you tried the baked and glazed version – with a brown top, rounded and smooth?  Another favourite bun of mine is the polo or pineapple buns, filled with custard and topped with a sweet, crispy topping.

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Essential but unhealthy – the mandatory spring rolls are crispy, deep fried asian sausage rolls – filled with mince of pork, mushrooms, and prawns if you’re lucky, as well as wood ear mushroom shreds and bamboo.  For the more health conscious, the steamed dumplings are a solid offering.  Prawn dumplings (har gau) are often chased by enthusiastic impatient diners (oh no, I would never do such a thing! ;) ) and are often the first to go; and the most asked for.  Like a steam prawn wonton, wrapped in rice paper and steamed.

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Sushi Tei, Sydney

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

The premises have formerly housed the QANTAS headquarters, a bank branch, and there’s even an optometrist next door.  So it was quite a surprise to workers in surrounding buildings to discover that a new Japanese restaurant suddenly staged a low key opening – appearing suddenly without much fanfare.  The saying to not judge a book by its cover holds true in this case as you are impressed from the moment you walk in.  What looks like a quickly flung together room of tables and chairs looking in from the outside (and also spectacles) is in fact a buzzing room of long pale timber banquettes, with half a dozen cozy couched nooks that offer more private dining on the other side.  The large sushi counter with its sushi train (that even runs through a wall) dominates the space, and provides a moving feast for the eye and a focus from the room.  And the food is GREAT, and certainly, surprisingly priced for the Sydney CBD. 

We took the spacious couched booth and had the salmon sashimi – melt in the mouth tender, juicy and sublime – and fresh; and two other a la carte sushi rolls – soft shell crab roll and prawn and avocado roll.

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Six 6 bite sized morsels – I hate it when the sushis are so huge and the nori so stale that you look like a dog attacking a piece of meat as you attempt to bite into a sushi without shoving the whole thing in your mouth. Not so at this place! So fresh and visually exciting – the crab looks like it’s leaping out the sushi (a la Sebastien from the Little Mermaid!)

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Okay if I *had* to complain, perhaps they could have given me the full prawn (and also along the length of the roll) rather than the half. But the rice had just the perfect amount of bite, and the nori fresh, with just the right amount of roe to coat the inside out rolls.

Okay if I were to make another complaint it would be that the entrees came after the mains. But oh well…. I had the ebi don – three crumbed prawns with egg and onion on rice.  Egg was teeny bit runny for me (not just the yolk) and I wasn’t sure whether I preferred the prawn to be tempura rather than breaded, but yummy nonetheless.

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The chicken katsu curry was text book perfect, and portions generous for city meals; and the udon hotpot was filled to the brim with slurpy soft noodles, a prawn, and an egg – still runny – so that you can swirl it in or slurp whole into your mouth! 

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