Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Cafe Guilia

Oh I’m sorry! I didn’t know this was a convention of musos and arrr-tists. Will have to slip into my best art critic disguise, consisting of a beret, slim fitting black and white thick horizontal striped long sleeved t-shirt, similarly fitted black pants and Italian black leather loafers. Ok maybe not so extreme but a seriously trendy young crowd that habitats the Chippendale area does flock to this place, as Trekkie fans would swarm to a site where Mr Spock was giving away autographed and certified used under garments as worn on the show.

Should Café Guilia be a contestant on “The Apprentice”, there is no doubt that it would receive the bad hair cut Trump of approval for how this place has targeted and catered for its customers. Business built on a Bonds simple wifebeater product: quality, reliable, affordable, perfect for a suburb filled with uni students and young professionals. Side seamless trunk comfort in the platinum undershorts grade omelettes of smoked salmon or chorizo, salty yet light and fluffy and fried til a nice golden brown, served with fresh lettuces and a couple of slices of rye bread. More choice than the female panty catalogue and equally as tasty, for something a bit lighter try the selection of muffins including a haloumi, egg, spinach and tomato. Continuing with the savouries, casa rolls of a peculiarly strong beetroot and sour tasting lamb, fetta and yoghurt, or interesting grilled chicken, coriander, mayo, lime and chilli, bagels, Turkish breads and various fillings, major meats burgers and pastas, salads and soups. Pancakes and waffles also available. You’d have to be a food scrooge to not find something to like here. Need to wake up? Get bouncy with the bowl of coffee at $5 or the brilliant banana smoothie with nutmeg, buttermilk, honey sweetened.

Clearly plenty of reasons to check out Guilia, not just the sight of Leonard Nimoy handing out g bangers. It’s revered and loved as a café dream turned into reality and built a reputation that’s spread throughout the Chippo galaxy.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 92 Abercrombie St, Chippendale, NSW
What? Mains most under $12

Left to Right : Smoked Salmon Omelette, Haloumi Muffin, Chorizo Omelette, Coffee Bowl, Banana Smoothie

Monday, 24 March 2008

Cafe d'Or

If it’s a Saturday night without the fever you’re after, don’t expect it at this unassuming Lebanese restaurant on Burwood’s main drag. For when the lights go dim, and they crank the music with a thumping bass line, its time to shake your bon bon, shake your bon bon… yeah. Can’t bury your eyes in the food, for the belly dancer will drag you from the comfort of the cushy booths to the floor with a hand that oscillates alluring towards her direction. How can you say no?

Blood pressure returns to normal and the red dissipates from the face with the help of a cool Aryan, a slightly salty yoghurt drink to also replenish the lost sweat not from the workout but the embarrassment caused whilst up on the dance floor. Jalab does its best to substitute for Gatorade and electrolytes, containing molasses, rose water flavoured with a grape syrup, topped with pine nuts.

Furthering the post exercise recovery, a light but tangy Fatoush, with great nutrients from lettuce, onions, tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, secret spices with a crunch from wafer thin fried bread. Baba Ganoush is creamy but can’t match the grand entrance of the evening entertainment, although an exposed midriff is hard to top. Kebbe has some curry puff moves, baked pastry wrapping spiced mince meat, onions and pine nuts. A massive, yet extremely tasty protein hit comes courtesy of the Kafta, grilled mince meat skewers flavoured by spices, parsley and onion that’s kept warm by flat bread. To top it all off, what every meathead should get into them because they know how to do meat here as John Travolta knows how to dance. Awesome flame grilled chicken thigh fillets, marinated in herbs and spices. A little sweet yet slightly charred and oh so tasty, making me want to change into a black shirt and white suit, popping that collar, do a little twirl and raise my finger, first pointing to my hip then to the opposite corner, repeating and shouting WOW. Must keep that in check… but Ricky Martin got nothing on this.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 47 Burwood Rd, Burwood, NSW
What? Average Entrée $9, Main $17

Left to Right : Aryan, Jalab, Fatoush, Baba Ganoush, Kebbe, Kafta, Grilled Chicken

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

bills – Woollahra

HG Nelson, an Aussie media icon, well known for his outrageous rants in a distinctly refined ocker accent. Along with Roy, the dynamic duo made a powerful combination in “The Dream” and “the sporting life”. One thing that will resonate in all of us I’m sure is their comedic commentary of our great sporting events such as the AFL & NRL Grand Finals and Origin matches. Nothing like taking the piss. A highlight… when Braith Anasta is mentioned in any breath, HG accelerates from 0 to 200 dB in volume and anger and screams hysterically “OVERRATED”. The power, the intensity. Bet it makes most people chuckle. It might not be true now that he’s shown his worth since his controversial switch from the Bulldogs to eastside rivals Roosters… though bills, for me, has not shaken off this tag.

The 2 of the 3 glamour cafes/restaurants are situated in gorgeous locations. Darlinghurst, has an open, summery vibe that feels like a good mate’s lazy Sunday beach house, Woollahra has the charm of an outdoor courtyard. Surry Hills feels like a conveniently placed Coke machine… a commercial opportunity. The staff are fantastic, keeping the feel casual, though one can’t help but feel a bit stuffy by the crowd that’s willing to pay exorbitant, though typically Sydney prices for the fare here. I smell Hugos or Ivy, a place to be seen, an “oooooo look at me, I’m at a “trendy” place”. Enough bitch slappin.

Two things that the masses seem to rave on about and what is always consumed if ever the objections for another choice of venue falls on deaf ears. Sweetcorn fritters are pretty good, bound together with beaten eggs, sandwiching lush spinach leaves and a salty rasher of bacon, sided by fresh roasted tomatoes. Admittedly, they are done about as perfectly as they can be. Now unless there’s coke (by that I mean the addictive black stuff) in the fluffy ricotta pancakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter, I don’t get what the hype is about. If this place became famous as a result of this dish, then I’m surprised the Big Mac special sauce isn’t also part of the fabled Sydney food “must do” circuit. After also needing to dip into the lunch and dinner funds, the Golden Arches might be the only place to dine for a while…

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where Shop 5, 118 Queen St, Woollahra, NSW
What? Mains $17+

Left to Right : Sweetcorn Fritters, Ricotta Pancakes

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sussex Food Court - Beijing Gourmet

Sussex Food Court, AKA Pai Lo. Sounds so gangsta and ghetto, but not since it was pimped up circa 2006. Xzibit would have a tear in his eye after seeing the transformation from shady Asian food court to less shady Asian food court. Could be forgiven for thinking this was Chinatown’s most popular destination at dinner o’clock, as spares tables and chairs are sparse.

First stop in the round the court trip is Beijing Gourmet, covering most of the roast meat usuals of roast pork, BBQ pork, roast duck on rice or soup noodles, along with won ton noodles or laksa. Putting the “met” into gour-met, the tear apart beef brisket with egg noodles and choy sum, with a light oyster and soy sauce mixture, is not an overly threatening meal to the enlargement of one’s hip diameter. About as stock as things get around these neck of the woods.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Lvl 1, 401 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW
What? Main $8

Left to Right : Beef Brisket Noodles

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Australian Heritage Hotel

The grand mac daddy of pubs in the Rocks, the Australian Heritage Hotel bursts tradition at the seams of its size 6 skinny leg jeans. Typically old school on the inside, stained wood stylings dominate the interior, whilst the alfresco dining has its own charm in the wicker chairs and achingly community long table tops. Not sure if the hoity toity back in the day had such a grand selection of both food and drink, whereby you don’t have to leave the state to sample some of this country’s fine selection of malty, yeasty liquids. Renowned also for hearty pizzas, motherly generous in their toppings as if nuturing a 6 year old growing young blighter. Tandoori Chicken was a tad dry but has a decent peppery, charred taste, saved by a wetness provided by a squeeze of lemon and mint yoghurt. Moroccan Lamb perched atop the soft doughy base is no match for the tenderness of a tarjine cooked meal, but completed by roasted pumpkin, tomato, cous cous and goat’s cheese. C&C Music Factory worthy, Things that make you go Hmmmm, roast duck topped with mushrooms, Spanish onion, sliced spring onion, sesame seeds and a thick, sweet plum sauce. Delightful… Newton himself couldn’t have calculated a perfect topping to base ratio. Doubt this will become a skinny leg trendy brigade favourite, for the rest of us, it’s more than a bit of alright.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, NSW
What? Large Pizzas $20

Left to Right : Tandoori Chicken, Moroccan Lamb, Roasted Duck

Artisan Focacceria

Play-Doh and all of its doughy properties. Sharing similar characteristics to the flour, oil, salt, sugar and water mixture of a pre-ovened focaccia. The craftsmen at this establishment have a special penchant for the Italian baked bread. And I thought I was a master scalper with the Hasbro’s suitable for ages over 3 product. So too the focaccia is suitable for young and old. Perhaps from over excitement that having arrived at the front doors and managing to score a seat, the real reason for eating here was forgotten… the bread. Instead, eyes were as big as the plate which the soft, airy, fluffy omelette of rocket, ricotta and mozzarella rested upon. Experts at something else… I can’t believe they lied through store name. I hate when they do that. Learning times tables, not as exciting, the croissant with prosciutto and provolone. A rich, buttery, smoky and salty combination that perhaps is a little too heavy for the light option I was seeking. Whilst the obsession with Artisan Focacceria isn’t as solid as the one for the distinct scent of non-toxic children’s toy, a return trip is a must for the signature product.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 230 Palmer St, Darlinghurst, NSW
What? Omelettes $12, others $10

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Sydney-sider here to invade Melbourne? Like AFL muscling in on QLD and NSW, ALDI to Safeway. An age old rivalry, etched into Australian folklore. Itchy and Scratchy, Coke and Pepsi, “The Man” vs the World. Does anyone really know why the intense hatred? I mean, sure Melbourne is more liveable, affordable, a superior bar scene, awesome restaurants, a wider arrange of clubs, the non pretentious night life, the sporting capital… hell even better tasting water. Why would anyone dislike the state that’s south of the border?

So what happens when Sydney’s finest ponytail decides to impose himself on the scene, by being one of the jewels in Crown’s grand vision to become a restaurant mecca? And to rub salt into the proverbial wound, also win restaurant of the year? First reaction is one of scepticism… could it be? The venue is plush, dim and sexy, it has the feel of a place that pompous, old men would frequent with their cigars to relax with a glass of cognac. What’s the hype behind the slated venetians to keep the intimacy in but afford a view of the Southbank promenade? The sinking, dark chocolate leather chairs prepare you for judgment.

Perry does good… very good. The man, famously as fussy as Rain Man with his choice of airline carrier, demands quality produce. And that’s what one receives here at the Rockpool Bar & Grill. It’s a quality steak, rib eye on the bone in fact, a 36 month old grass fed slab of meat that resembles a meat platter, perfectly charred and cooked to order. The fat flavours the cooked cow and provides that glistening feeling in the mouth, simply delicious. The wide range of seafood choices and flesh from other animals such as the crispy skinned pork displays the chef’s mastery. Insure that your hunger is satisfied with sides of Perry’s gourmet take on “Mac and Cheese”, paprika sprinkled with two fine cheeses, tempura battered onion rings, potato gratin and buttered brussel sprouts with bacon and mushroom taking the edge off the bitterness. That sweet tooth needs some attention, give it some loving with old favourites such as a defty sweet passionfruit pavola or a dark chocolate with madera cake slice.

Whilst the ponytail has bought with him many fine qualities a great restaurant should have: atmosphere, exemplary service and food worthy of its place in the Melbourne, there is one thing I wish he left up north. That is the prices. With mains (most without sides) upwards of $39 and though desserts reasonable at $16 a pop… judge for yourself. Rockpool has Anthony Mundine status, definitely not the undisputed champion.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? Crown Complex, Southbank, VIC
What? Main $39+, desserts $16


The place is so disgustingly cute it makes Elmo look like a red drowning deformed rat with three bug eyes and webbed feet. More rustic than Phillippousis’ tennis form, it feels like a place from a bygone Italian era. Three wooden booths seat the hungry, share them with strangers, the communal spirit. Behind the bench are the masters of the Italian flatbread. The simplicity is iPod profound. How does a combination of mere flour, oil, salt and water, like it’s white plastic encased counterpart impart so much pleasure? Grill flat this mixture and throw in prosciutto, slow roasted tomato, Fontana cheese, leek and fresh rocket, fold over and one is presented with what should be lunchtime’s next flavour sensation. Simple. Cue "are you gonna be my girl" and dance like a silhouette.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 57 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Piadina - $10, Slowfood - $15

Left to Right : Piadina with Proscuitto

Lau’s Family Kitchen

I’m not a religious man. But I claim this. God smiled at me and took my dirty plate. The hand still trembles at the thought… a devine moment.

Lau’s Family Kitchen, Melbourne’s anointed answer to Sydney’s Billy Kwong. Very different because Billy Kwong lacks one thing… there is no God running the show. Though both serve up Chinese fare like no other.

Nestled in a nook amongst the trendy eating block that is the abbreviated section of Acland St, you’re welcomed to an Asian Eden with a very sexy, sleek feel. Adored the service that has a real sense of respect. Despite having to pay for the tea, the attentive staff were quick to refill cups, elders first, then the ladies, then the gents. Food was also served in that manner. Class of the highest degree. I sense God’s fine touch.

No copious amounts of Monosodium glutamate is dissolved in saliva here. Just fresh, mainly organic-esque ingredients. As if God himself harvested them all from his own backyard because He wants you to enjoy the Earth’s fresh flavours. Immediately the oysters make a grand impression, steamed and dressed in a fresh low salt, seemingly freshly pressed soy, ginger and Chinese wine. The old spring roll is revived by quality lamb mince and finely sliced spring onions, skin heavenly crisp. A sweet and vinegary marinade is lathered over the top of moist pork chops. That light soy again appears to accompany the crispy skinned, tender meat of poussin (young chicken) and the lightly battered, fried to perfection toothfish.

I’ve seen the light… He does exist and He is fine. A family dinner to be remembered. What are you thoughts Gilbert?

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 4 Acland St, St Kilda, VIC
What? Average Main $20

Left to Right : Oysters, Spring Rolls, Taro and Eggplant, Chinese Broccoli, Sweet Vinegar Pork, Toothfish, Soy Poussin, MaPo Tofu, Banana Fritters, Strawberries and Ice-Cream
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