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Thai food in Parramatta

Sunday, July 26th, 2009 by Tina

Always on the hunt for good takeaway options, and since a trip to Thailand last year, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with trying to find an authentic Thai restaurant. There are seventeen Thai restaurants listed in the 2009 good food guide, Spice I Am being one of them, and a favourite of mine when I am passing through the city. Unfortunately none of them are within a 5km radius of my place as the crow flies (that’s for you Lauren).

This may also be a good time to mention the cluster of Thai grocery stores near the Capitol Theatre sometimes referred to as Thainatown. I did not make that up. One famous one is called Pontip, and if you’re searching for that elusive holy basil, or pea sized bitter eggplant for your Thai curry, you’ll find them here.

My favourite cheap takeaway meal is also from near here, the sandstone building on the corner of  Pitt St and Hay St in Haymarket. They sell supplies but also pre-made meals like chicken or pork larb ( a minced meat salad, heavily seasoned with lime, fish sauce, roasted rice and chilli-  for lovers of authentic Thai cuisine only), or a curry of catfish and baby eggplant. For $7- $8 each, they are a bargain. Just cook some rice at home and a few dishes will set you back around $15. Considering Thai takeaway often costs $30-$50, it is a fantastic deal. I must look a bit soft as I get warned every time ‘It’s spicy!’.

Anyway, so I found a decent Thai takeaway place in Parramatta and thought I’d share. There are so many and this one is my favourite so far. Let me know if you have a different one.

Saute Thai Restaurant

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Thai green chicken curryI think it’s their best dish on the menu. It has a bit of heat but not too much and is really moreish.

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The spring rolls are vegetarian; also nice and crunchy.

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The Som Tam (green papaya salad) with soft shell crab is delicious. The som tam is nowhere near authentic, it is mild and sweet instead of hot, salty, sweet and sour in a perfect balance, however, for an ‘Aussie’ version, it’s not bad. I  am nearly always disappointed with Australian versions of som tam, because when it is done right it is so addictive.

N.B. Make your own mind up about the massaman beef curry and the pad thai. I’ve had better so I tend to stick with other choices, but the stir fries are pretty good and if you want something different, the BBQ beef is really fantastic. Thinnish steaks marinated in a sweet marinade and then cooked on a char grill. It has a tender chewiness and a smoky sweetness that is so good.

Saute Thai Restaurant

18 Phillip St Parramatta

9687 0778/ 9635 7378

The first number is often busy so try the second if you can’t get through in peak times

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This is the real deal: Som Tam and sticky rice in a food court in Bangkok, Thailand

I still have vivid memories of eating it in a spotlessly clean food court in Bangkok, with a side of sticky rice and tears streaming down my cheeks it was so hot. But it was also so good I couldn’t stop. A kindly looking man carrying a toddler stopped nearby and chuckled at this westerner chowing down on his national dish with gusto. I looked up and smiled and we had a moment. Food really is the way to the heart. I shouldn’t complain so much though, I am always just happy when I see this dish on a menu, as it takes a bit more effort to prepare, and lots of restaurants won’t make it as there is not always the demand for it.

Food Media Club social event

Monday, May 25th, 2009 by Tina

The Local, dubbed by fellow attender Dave as a great name for a pub with possibility for nabbing business from other ‘locals’ . E.g. ‘Want to meet at the local? Sure, think I know the one, The Local, yeah.’

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In any case we did intend to meet at this particular local, for a casual get together with some fellow Food Media Club members and friends. The Local is run by some nice boys from Melbourne, and we had some great beer and a trip down German memory lane for me as one of our guests was German. I blame this nostalgia on my friend Chilli Walter who did such a good job as a host whilst I was her guest in Ulm that I now think of Germany as my favourite place to visit. Ever. I mean I crave the schinken (ham), the brot (bread), the bier (you can guess that one), the vast green pasture. It is unreasonable that I am so fond of the place, although they do have a little shop called ‘Baren land’ as in ‘Gummi bear heaven’. Those who know me need no more information. Those who don’t, I won’t recall the lolly addiction list here, that’s for another day.

Anyway, I digress. A fun night, relaxed, intimate, meeting a few new faces and catching up with some familiar ones (note I didn’t say old).

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The antipasto plate was delicious.

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Food Nerds do Ribs

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Tina


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Manly didn’t know what had hit it when twenty food nerds descended upon Hugo’s for cocktails and then Ribs and Rumps for a light lunch followed by Gelato on the beach after of course 🙂

It was a suitably decadent afternoon of feasting for a reunion of Food Science and Food Technology graduates from the University of New South Wales.

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K: What are you having Mel?

M: I don’t know Karina, but the kanga looks good!

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Ange and Kuan have a staring competition. Looks like Kuan is going to lose his mouthful.

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Phoenix Restaurants

Sunday, January 18th, 2009 by Tina

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There’s something to be said for efficient food. Not necessarily in the preparation, but in the eating and the service. Not exactly fast food, but not slow food either. There are times when on a whim the idea of watching a new film at the local cinema sounds pretty good, and after the drama of finding a parking spot close by, a restaurant near the cinema holds great appeal.

So we visited Hilltop Phoenix with hungry bellies and an hour and a half up our sleeves. It could go either way, an hour and a half is plenty of time to eat unless it is busy, so on a Saturday night this is a bit of an ask. Luckily it’s still early and we’ve just missed the young family rush and have arrived before the later-arriving leisurely diners arrive.

After much indecision we decide to splurge on the Peking duck, it’s about $50 for two courses. First course is the pancakes, then choose how the rest of the duck flesh is prepared, either in a stir-fry with noodles or sang choy bau. I needn’t have worried about finishing the pancakes, they were perfectly powdery and soft in contrast to the crisp and rich duck skin, sharpness of the shallots and sweetness of the thick hoisin sauce. I could eat this forever.

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Peking Duck

When the lettuce leaves arrive I’m curious as to what’s in the filling apart from the duck which is finely chopped, along with mushroom, onion, sesame seeds, sliced shallots, deep fried vermicelli and something crisp but the flavour alludes me. It’s familiar, bamboo shoot? I wonder, as it seems to be more about texture than flavour. I ask the waitress, she only knows the Chinese name, which is sun (sounds like soon) but she goes away to find out the English translation, and I’m pleased to find out it was indeed bamboo shoot. We make our film with plenty of time and consider it a successful dinner, if a little rich.

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Sang Choi Bau

Our normal visit to Hilltop Phoenix involves Yum Cha on a Sunday mid-morning, and it’s now routine to tell the host how many in our party, grab a raffle ticket and take our place in the hopeful and hungry crowd, beadily eyeing-off diners who look ready to vacate. Even when busy it’s only a ten or fifteen minute wait. If you are a small group of two or four your chances of getting a table quickly are even better.

The Phoenix Group of restaurant has four restaurants in Sydney which are run by sisters Anita Yuen and Alice Lee. Hilltop Phoenix in Castle Hill Towers; Rhodes Phoenix at the top of Rhodes shopping centre; Manly Phoenix on the East Esplanade and Sky Phoenix at the top of Skygarden on Castlereigh Street in the city.

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Roast duck with choy sum in background

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Crispy fried rolls filled with prawn and dim sims in background

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Cha Siu Baau (BBQ pork buns)

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Steamed prawn dumplings

At Hilltop Phoenix the usual Yum Cha favourites are available, with dishes such as roast pork and duck floating around regularly for my dining companion. I’m satisfied with the many varieties of steamed dumplings, and my only gripe would be that I have to ask for chilli sauce, but when I do it arrives promptly.

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Sliced BBQ pork

My coveted dish of the moment is jin deui, red bean paste surrounded in a chewy pastry with a peanut on top then deep fried. It truly is heaven and I can always fit these in no matter how much I’ve eaten. I can’t find it on any trolleys so I order it from the kitchen. If there’s no more jin deui, as sometimes happens if you come too late, there is always dan tat, egg custard in flaky pastry, still warm if you are lucky; or mango pancakes, thin and moist and filled with chilled mango pieces and a fluffy sweet cream, perfectly soft and delicate so that one cannot help but make a bit of a mess. It’s all part of the experience. At around $45 for two greedy people it is an indulgent lunch but then again, we probably don’t need much for dinner now.

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Mango pancakes

In competition with Hilltop’s Yum Cha offer is the Excellent Chinese Restaurant outside Carlingford Court which offers a smaller venue and equally delicious food, but perhaps less range of dishes. I surprise the waiter by ordering Bo Lei tea which has a deeper, darker colour and flavour that is refreshing and cuts through the oilier dishes. He rewards my enthusiasm by pouring the tea with such grace that I feel inspired to tap the table with my knuckles to say thank you. He smiles and I feel welcome here in a way that a bigger venue cannot achieve.

If it’s tasty, efficient food you are after in the north west of Sydney, you would do well at both Hilltop Phoenix and the Excellent Chinese Restaurant, but perhaps your budget should dictate your final decision. After dining at the Excellent Chinese Restaurant your wallet will be thankful. We left content after five dishes and only $25 out of pocket. They may not have had the deep fried dessert that I love, but this is something I could do most weekends and feel good about.

Nara

Saturday, January 17th, 2009 by Tina

Nara Japanese Restaurant  is just opposite Epping train station on the western side of the railway line. It is spacious and therefore often seems a little empty but I have always found the food to be fresh and delicious. I have been a few times and these photos are from June last year (yes still catching up).

Epping is not exactly buzzing with nightlife, but has a variety of Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants so there is obviously a market there.  I’m not sure if people prefer the sushi bar down the road at the top of the Epping Arcade or if it just seems busier as it is so tiny (gateway to lolly shop heaven- Lollyworld, 6 Epping Club Walkway, 49-52 Beecroft Rd, Epping). Tokyo Sushi Bar is certainly in a better location for passing customers who pass right by it after coming down the stairs from the station and the service is more intimate with a family feel.

All that said, if you have a big group then you will fit easily at Nara, and there is even a private room which looks fun. Anyway, here is the food for you to see for yourself:

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Sushi plate, with yakiniku beef in the background

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Tempura prawn, salmon and vegetables with a light dipping sauce

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37 Beecroft Rd Epping NSW 2121

Phone (02) 9868 6815

Little Istanbul

Thursday, January 1st, 2009 by Tina

At The Spot in Randwick, opposite Arthurs’ Pizza is a small Turkish restaurant serving delicious fresh food at very reasonable prices. It was one of the few places in the area open on Christmas eve so we booked and hoped for the best. Warm and relaxed service is perfect for this cosy restaurant and is a nice change from the proliferation of Thai food in Randwick (as good as it is!).

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Chunks of Turkish bread, drizzled lightly with olive oil and baked until hot and crisp on the outside but still tender and moist in the middle. Perfect for mopping up the four dips that we have ordered, there are seven to choose from, but why choose?

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Hummous, Beetroot dip, Jajik, Babbaganoush

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Zucchini fritters drizzled with yoghurt

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Dolmades, these little rice filled vine leaves are yummy

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The Lamb Pide (pea-deh) is my favourite, the flavours are clean and moreish. We have it without cheese, and add mushroom to it.

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This one is called the Spot Special and came with the recommendation that ‘everyone orders it’, but although tasty I found there to be too much going on and I didn’t like it as much as the Lamb.

The lone piece of rose and almond Turkish delight didn’t last long enough to be photographed. 🙂

Young Chefs’ Dinner 2008

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 by Tina

The 2008 Young Chefs’ Dinner hosted by the Sydney Morning Herald as part of Good Food Month was held in October at Coast Restaurant at Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour.

A few old uni friends decided to check it out…

Below are a few photos of the event, which are not brilliant but at least they’ll give you an idea of what was served.

Coast Restaurant Sommelier Brendon February recommended a few wines, and I tried the 2007 Farnese ‘Casale Vecchio’ Pecorino ‘Terre di Chieti’ IGT, Abruzzo, which was light, grassy and perfect with the tomato and yabby appetiser below.

Yabbies and tomato on toast. Josh Davidson, Coast Restaurant

The flesh of the yabbie tasted fresh and sweet which worked well with the sweet/savoury combination of the tomato jelly which was cleansing on the palate and then the textural crumbliness of the pastry underneath gave a robustness to this light appetiser.

Macadamia, wattleseed, lemon myrtle, red rice. James Parry, Oscillate Wildly (Winner of the Young Chef Award 2008)

This dish played with texture and the diner’s expectation. The creamy macadamia ‘mousse’ was savoury as were the ‘toffee shards’ and the red rice jelly.

Breast of Burrawong Farm quail, ham hock and quail leg terrine, beetroot syrup, lemon-scented celeriac puree. Michael Urquhart, No2 Oak Street Bellingen

The terrine was delicious, the puree was tasty, but the quail was a little too simple. I can see that the chef was wanting the true flavour of the bird to shine through and didn’t want to play with it too much. Great theory, but in that case the bird needs to be perfectly seasoned and perhaps with a crisp skin, or one feature that makes is interesting. It let the dish down which is a shame as the chef is obviously passionate about Australian produce.

Neck fillet of lamb, artichoke, olive paint, white bean puree, mint jelly, peas. Marc Williams, Foveaux Restaurant+Bar

Tender, succulent lamb brushed with the mint jelly so you couldn’t see it, only taste it, lovely. This was the least mentally challenging dish, and also the most enjoyable to my taste, as I could just relax and enjoy.

Osso Iraty, dates, gingerbread. Josh Davidson, Coast

A well rounded rectangle of sheeps milk cheese wrapped in a thin sticky layer of fresh dates is a wonderful parcel of sweet and savoury. Tiny beetroot leaves and slivers of crisp apple with a very light appley dressing on a not too sweet gingerbread base. This was my favourite for aesthetic appeal, flavour balance and more-ishness! Well done!

Nougat parfait, mustard citrus fruits. Luke Powell, Tetsuya’s

Intense, challenging, interesting. I enjoyed the mental challenge of this dish, trying to uncover all of its secrets. It was not my favourite flavour-wise as it was not balanced or cleansing, rather it is a richer dish, however it was certainly one of the most daring and for that Luke shold be commended. The serving size may have added to the richness, half the amount would have been sufficient for such a dessert.

Caramels, house made petit fours by Josh Davidson.

This was a disappointment as I love caramel in all formats, but these were oily and under-sweet. A thin sliver of dark chocolate would have been a better end to such a feast.

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 by Tina

For those who live near Marrickville you may already be familiar with the large number of Vietnamese restaurants on Illawarra Road. For those days when I just want something tasty and light that will fill me up but not leave me searching for a place to have a siesta afterwards, then Pho is what I crave. Pho is beef noodle soup that can come with different types of beef, thinly sliced raw beef that cooks in the hot broth or tender chunks of brisket, or any number of combinations but the one I order is the thinly sliced as there is something theatrical watching your lunch cook before your eyes.

The place I stumble across today is Hai Duong, at 304 Illawarra Rd. It is the busiest one in a strip of restaurants so I give it a go and grab a table. I order my soup which arrives a few minutes later with crisp bean sprouts, wedges of lemon, sprigs of thai basil, chilli paste and kecap manis on the side to adjust the soup to your own taste. The broth is aromatic, smelling of cloves, star anise and boiled meat.

The soup is satisfying and memeorable, I find myself back here a few days later. The broth is slightly different, but just as good. For $7.50 this meal is a bargain and at a dollar or two more than a sandwich is a tastier alternative.

N.B. If you live near Epping try Pho Sam on Oxford St, they are always busy but you can order ahead and get take away. They pack everything separately so the soup stays hot until you get back to the office or a nearby park.

Chiang Mai

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 by Tina

Khao Soy- a thick curry soup with fresh egg noodles, bite size pieces of chicken thigh and tender massamun-style beef, topped with deep fried crispy noodles and sliced shallots. It is unbelievable how tasty this is.

You can get this dish all over Chiang Mai, but I had it several times at Aroon Rai and it was consistently good. The Tuk Tuk drivers all know this place so you should be able to get there for 40-60 Thai Baht from most locations in town.

Temasek

Sunday, July 6th, 2008 by Tina

This is a place to go for the food. If you don’t want to be disappointed, book a table. The walls could use a paint and the seating plan is sometimes questionable. Why would you place two separate couples two inches from each other in an otherwise empty restaurant? If it is really busy and at peak time, say 7pm on a Saturday night, you might be eating outside on metal tables. All this really doesn’t matter once you try the Laksa, Nasi Goreng or the Char Kway Teow. These spicy numbers are all washed down best with a coconut juice, in my opinion. Just a word of caution, they will ask if you want chilli- if you don’t like to suffer too much, ask for mild chilli, or just a little. Though some would consider it worth the pain.

Gado Gado Salad

Chicken and Prawn Laksa

Nasi Goreng (fried rice)

Nasi Lemak (coconut rice)

Hainanese Chicken Rice

If by some miracle you still have room, try one of the many coloured desserts on the table as you pay at the counter. The cassava one is mild, not too sweet and has a lovely texture.


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