Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brewtown, Newtown

When I first heard that Berkolouw books in Newtown was shutting down I have to say I was more than a little sad. It was a great bookshop in an amazing warehouse type space made even more amazing by the Ramen Bar that was open on the ground floor for a brief period a few years ago.

I am pleased to say that Berkolouw has been replaced by an equally great café, Brewtown.

For me it is the staff that make this place one of my favourite new cafes in Sydney.

Don’t get me wrong, the food is awesome and the coffee is second to none but EVERY SINGLE staff member I have interacted with on my various visits here could easily win an award for the Nicest Person in Sydney. Working in a super-busy café with customers galore streaming in the door all day must be hard work, tiring and frustrating at times. I know I dream of opening a little hole-in-wall café but in reality I just couldn’t do it. I’d be grumpy and tired. Not the crew here…as friendly as can be and they always seem to have a smile on their face.

Recently I paid Brewtown a visit with my buddies Ms Chicken and Mr Shawn – they were busting out of their Street Food world for some proper café fare.

Whilst I waited for them to arrive one of the lovely waiters sat down with my and explained the Cold Brew Coffee method as I was curious about it (which I’ve totally forgotten already - derp). I wasn’t convinced so he offered to get me a sample to try. See! NICE! I have to say this was a great drop – the flavour was quite mild, and nutty with a lovely mellow aftertaste. It is almost like tea with its subtly.

All that aside, I just HAD to have an iced-coffee. Old habits die hard.

Because I'm on a diet (ahem) I decide to try and order something "light n easy" and the poached chicken salad is the perfect order. The salad comes with quinoa and roasted cauliflower that is nutty in flavour and moreishly crunchy. You'll also find some pistachios and ribbons of zucchini hidden in there. All in all a good salad that feels really healthy to good I've had it twice already.

Ms Chicken decides to have breakfast for lunch, always a good option. I was too busy scoffing my salad to pay attention to the menu but I did notice some delicious looking field mushrooms and crispy polenta sticks on the plate. And of course the perfect, oozy yolk-porn worthy poached egg.

Mr Shawn ordered the veggie burger that he said was pretty good but a bit more of something saucy/juicy on the bun would've been great. Perhaps a beef patty...kidding, kidding!

Because I'm always thinking about what I'm going to eat next  I decide it's prudent to order a cronut for dessert before we're even ready to contemplate what to eat for lunch. It's a wise decision as by the time we're ready for our cronut they've all sold out and ours is the sole cronut in the dessert cabinet...just waiting for us.

I've tried a few Zumbo cronuts and I wasn't a fan of his interpretation of the half doughnut half croissant. It was too oily and I didn't get a sense of the croissant half of things. I am happy to report that the Brewtown cronut is great -- light and fluffy with a great croissant texture and cinnamon doughnut flavour.

Brewtown Newtown is at 6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown.

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paper Planes, Bondi

Miss Piggy and The Boy dined as guests of Paper Planes.

One of the really great things about Sydney is that if you're craving (or missing) a certain type of cuisine there's a good chance you can find it right here...on our doorstep.  Which is VERY lucky for The Boy and I as we've been desperately missing the amazing food we had in Tokyo earlier this year.

When we received the invitation from Paper Planes to come in for dinner I had a quick look at the menu and I have to say I wanted to try EVERYTHING on offer. So much of seemed just like what we'd had in Tokyo that I knew it was going to be hard to narrow it down to just a few items (sadly, my stomach isn't bottomless no matter what I lead you to believe).

Photo thanks to Paper Planes
Photo thanks to Paper Planes
Paper Planes is tucked away at the north end of Bondi Beach, in a little arcade next to The Bondi Hotel. The space is quite modern and very "Tokyo cool" with 500 painted skateboard decks attached to the ceiling - stunning! There are little paper cranes dangling from the ceiling and the whole place feels cool, yet cozy.

 For a moment, or two, I forget that it's a school night as I get stuck into the cocktails. I'm not a big drinker but cocktails are my weakness! I LOVE them. The Harajuku Girl (martini of watermelon, coconut water, St Germain and Bombay Sapphire) is exactly what I'd imagine a Harajuku Girl to drink - it's pink, sweet and tastes like a candy cane. Kawaii! Cocktail #2 is the Tokyo Pop (Pimms, St Germain, fresh fruits and lemonade with a POP ROCKS RIM!!!). Pimmis one of my all time favourite drinks so adding pop rocks to the mix is genius. Kawaii factor = a billion.

Before I get too giddy with the cocktail love let's move onto the food. We start things off with a bowl of Edamame that come with sea salt or chilli salt ($6.00) - we get the chilli salt which I love as it adds a great savoury element to the dish, and the aroma is quite smokey and divine! 

 I absolutely loved the Kingfish carpaccio with a ginger and mirin sauce, tobiko, chilli oil and jalapeno tempura ($18.00). The serve you see here is smaller than what you'd normally get - the owner was downsizing the plates for us so we could try a few more things (cos, like I said I was gung ho on eating the whole menu)! The flavours is this were incredible, really fresh and zesty with just a hint of heat. The whole dish was  perfectly balanced with super fresh, meaty fish - as is the Japanese way of course. More please!

Continuing with the amazingly-flavoured seafood theme next up is the salmon tartare nachos with wasabi miso dressing, chives and tobiko, served with prawn crackers ($16.00). Again, smaller than you'd normally get - we're trying to conserve stomach space here. This is a fun dish - build your own nachos by adding a little scoop of salmon tartare to a prawn chip. 

 You have NO idea how happy I was to see Kushiyaki Skewers on the menu here as Kushiyaki and Yakitori were one of the things (or two I guess) The Boy and I LOVED (and miss) the most about Tokyo! In Japan it seems common to be able to choose if you want your skewers with a sauce brushed on top, or just simply salted. I always tried slated, so it was great that Paper Planes serve their skewers with a glazed brushed on as I get to try them "the other way".

The chicken thigh fillet kushiyaki ($9.00 -  2 per serve) is good, really good! They come just as they do in Tokyo, with shallots sandwiched between each piece of chicken, but unlike Tokyo here we have and a truffle glaze. Fancy. I think The Boy's comment about the eggplant kushiyaki ($7.00 - 2 per serve) pretty much sums it up "this is good...and it's eggplant...and it's good"! Yes Dave, eggplant is good!

Next is a serve of the homemade gyoza with a pork and cabbage filling and a chilli ponzu dipping sauce ($12.00 for 5 pieces). I really enjoyed these pork dumplings as the porky taste was quite mild (which I've found is often not the case with minced pork in dumplings).
The Boy always points out when things come in odd numbers as he worries it'll cause "issues". He got in quick this time and nabbed the fifth dumpling for himself saying it was "tax for being the driver to Bondi for the night". Sneaky.

I'd seen the Pork Belly Bun ($6.50) arriving at the table of other diners and I just HAD to order one (to share with The Boy of course) as I LOVE pork buns. I'm especially fond of the soft, doughy bun which is steamed to perfection here. Here we have a fat little slab of pork belly atop a slice of cucumber and topped with a creamy, finger lickin' good jalapeno mayonnaise. Yum.

It wouldn't be a Japanese dinner with out at least one foray into sushi-land. The spicy tuna with apple, togarashi chilli, mayonnaise, chive and tobiko ($15.00) is super fresh and I love the crunch of the apple against the softness of the fatty tuna. The roll is sprinkled with little nubbins of tempura batter which gives a good crunch!

 The crispy pork belly in a palm sugar, lime leaf and rice vinegar syrup ($28.00) is normally a full-sized main but we're given one little mouthful each to try...just enough to make us wish we had a whole plates worth to devour. This pork is SO good and is topped with with crushed peanuts and fresh herbs and sits atop a little bok choi leaf. The meat is perfectly caramelized with a good layer of unctuous fat between the meat and the crispy skin. It's chewy, fatty, gelatinous, flavoursome crispy and AMAZING!  

Are you still with me? Just one more dish to go before we can go home and lay on the couch rubbing our happy belly's!

The braised beef short ribs ($31.00) is served off the bone in yakiniku sauce with pickled vegetable along with a serve of steamed 5 grains brown rice ($5.00). The sauce is fairly sweet which is where the pickled vege come in and lend some acidity to the dish. Oh boy, this beef was SO tender that it was impossible for me to eat with my chopsticks (I'm the girl that packed a fork to take to Japan so I don't exactly have mad chopstick skills)! A really great dish to end the night on. 

I really loved our meal at Paper Planes and The Boy and I are keen to come back soon. I hear that we should keep an eye on the menu as they'll be introducing ramen for the colder months. Ramen by the that's something you can't get in Tokyo!

Paper Planes is at at shop 15/178 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach. Phone them on 9300 0673.

PaperPlanes on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 07, 2014

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday (the end for now)

I'm feeling a bit burnt out by the balcony garden. I've been toiling away on the balcony for about two years now and it's time me and my green thumb took a bit of a hiatus. I'm feeling a bit lazy at the moment and need to think about my next step for what I want to grow out there. It's not "THE END"...just a pause.

Whilst I've (mostly) enjoyed the gardening process it's not all fun and games. After each crop dies I need to lug all the pots (with their dirt) downstairs to the green waste bin. It's heavy and awkward, and after hurting my arm at work three years ago it's literally a pain! I'm not supposed to lift anything over 2kgs and the pots weigh much more than that!

Watering isn't easy as we've not got a tap on the balcony. I either need to fill up buckets in the  bathroom and slosh them through the house and out to the balcony (again heavy). Dave did buy me a house that connects to a tap under the kitchen sink but I've not quite mastered the logistics of this so it's a case of batting my eyelids when I want to water with the hose.

You may have noticed that we do like to travel. A LOT. I feels like an imposition to ask people to water our garden when we're away so often thus we often come home to scenes like this...making me wonder should I even have a garden at all? We don't have pets as we travel so much...maybe we shouldn't have parsley either?

And then of course there's been the never ending "bug warfare", a battle that I've sometimes won, but mostly lost! Jerks!

All of that aside, we've had some issues lately with our balcony no longer being waterproof and whenever I water it would literally rain through to the neighbours balcony below. Not good for neighbourly relations I can tell you. The balcony is being re-waterproofed and then it's being repainted over Easter. This means that ALL the pots have to go so it's seyonara tomatoes and basil. I am going to try to hold on to my mint, sage and rosemary as I love them too much to ditch.

When I was enjoying the balcony garden I REALLY enjoyed it. I've learned a lot not only about plants, but about bugs and how to (try and) control them. I've learned that despite their size caterpillars really are smarter than me!  I've definitely learned A LOT about food production and I like to think the garden has made me a better, more responsible, consumer. But, best of all growing my own food as made me a better cook - I'm now more adventurous and willing to give things a go.

So watch this space. After the balcony is fixed we're going to go plant hunting for some more long-lived plants - perhaps a blueberry bush and a dwarf lemon tree. Who knows?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Village, Potts Point

Miss Piggy and guest dinned as guests of The Village.

The Village is a lovely restaurant tucked away at the beginning of Kellet Way in bustling Potts Point . Behind the facade of the courtyard's greenery you'd never know such a light, spacious, and modern restaurant existed. Potts Points best kept secret? Perhaps, but not for long.

My sister and I are here to try the "Ladies Lunch" menu on offer each Saturday. It's a great chance for a catch up and gossip over what turns out to be a lovely meal...and it's a great change for me to bust out of my Lite n Easy diet (tres yawn)!

Our lunch starts with a platter of beautiful mixed olives that are marinated with star anise giving them a lovely, but very subtle licorice flavour. The olives are accompanied by a generous sized bowl of mixed nuts that I try not to eat too much of as we've still got entrees, mains AND dessert to conquer.

Next up is a shared plate with: salt and pepper calamari with Parmesan aioli; a little jar of Sweet corn and basil cappuccino with tempura cauliflower (that my sister and I take turns in sipping from); a zesty salad of rocket pear and Parmesan with lemon oregano vinaigrette; and two bite sized butter nut pumpkin arancini w buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil. This a very generously sized platter and perfect for sharing.

With mains we get a choice of seared fillet of Huon salmon with marinated fetta, rocket and Parmesan salad or crispy skinned confit chicken with warm potato and shallot salad w red wine jus. My sister agree to get both and swap half way though our meals so that we get to try both options on offer. How's that for team work?

The salmon is well cooked, not too under and not too's just right (Goldilocks would approve) and the skin is nice and crispy...though I would've liked it to be even MORE crispy (like, the salmon skin should be channeling it's inner pork crackling if you get my drift). The confit chicken is lovely and moist, again with a crispy skin. When I explain to my sister what confit actually is she agrees it's not exactly diet food...which is what makes it so tasty.

We're feeling very full by the time the dessert platter arrives, but it's too tempting to ignore. A little bit of everything is my favourite way to dine, less food envy that way!

The Village is at 1 Kellett Way, Potts Point.  Phone them on 8084 6057.

The Village on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Balcony Garden: Harvest Monday #63

A few posts back someone commented on my post about my sandwich with balcony grown lettuce as being just about the most underwhelming blog post ever. Well, my friend, I'm about to exceed all of your disappointments with this post!

The Boy and I started the Lite n Easy diet about 8 weeks ago and since then I've not been cooking meals. Each night we just heat up one of the diet's (mostly revolting) frozen dinners.  Because the tomatoes are STILL producing fruit I add a few to each dinner to make sure they're not going to waste.

And, how's that for a thrilling post my friends?

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