Friday, July 24, 2009

Miso - World Square, Sydney

I can't believe that it took me close to a year to finally have a meal at this place. It's understandable, really - during its first months of operations, it's almost impossible to get a table straight away due to the hordes of people waiting to be seated. Nowadays, it's still crowded, but if you come at a time which deviates slightly from peak dining hours, you'll get a table quite easily.

This brainchild of the Masuya Group (their fifth establishment after Masuya, Musashi, Makoto City & Chatswood) is specializing in bentou and teishoku (set-meal) type of dishes. The whole experience dining in this place can be summed up as "glorified, pricey-ish obentous with freakishly saccharine service"

However, it can't be denied that any restaurant belonging to Masuya Group has pretty high standards. The ingredients are always very fresh, the food impeccably prepared, and prices are quite tolerable. Miso has a killer take-away menu, too (I especially love the look of their "Shinkansen bentou" - packed in a container that emulates the real thing sold at Japan's train stations (ekiben), and priced about the same, too (around 1000 yen / 13 bucks). Nice!

I have yet to try their famous tonkatsu (especially the miso-katsu). The reason being that I need sufficient mental preparations to try their hyped-up tonkatsu, remembering that tonkatsu is pretty much on my top 3 favorite dishes of all time.


-> A pot of tea, and a copy of Newsweek magazine featuring a person I freaking like and totally voted for, Indonesian President Yudhoyono on the cover. (lanjutkan!) <- his presidential campaign catchphrase, translated as "continue! (one more term!)"

Anywhoo, kukicha is a very nice green tea made from a blend of the stalks, stems, and pale tips of green tea - creating a wonderfully subtle yet tannic flavor. It's kind of lighter than normal sencha, but with a creamy edge to it.

Rating: 7.5/10

Hokkaido bentou

-> Looks really awesome indeed. I was immediately smitten. Look at that bentou lacquerware, I want to buy one just like that!! The rice was perfect, and it's scattered with ikura (salmon roe) and salmon flakes.

Okay, let's delve into the contents:

Seafood gratin

-> I adore gratins. Especially when the Japanese made them. Perhaps some purists would argue that the French are still the experts when it comes to gratins, but Japanese gratins are very edgy and it's always a surprise what lies beneath that cheesy-licious crust. This one contains kanikama, fish, broccoli, and tomatoes in cream sauce.

Rating: 7.5/10

The middle section

-> Contains (in ascending order of yummy-ness): tofu steak, seedless grapes, stewed broccoli with mayonnaise, kamaboko (fish cake), nasu dengaku (stewed eggplant with sweet miso), teriyaki salmon, dashimaki tamago (rolled omelette), and tsukune (yakitori-style chicken meatball - YUM YUM)

Salmon sashimi

-> Really fresh - as expected from Masuya Group...

Deep-fried soft shell crab

-> The piece de resistance, and perhaps, the reason why this dish is called "Hokkaido bentou" (Tokyoites mostly go to Hokkaido to eat crabs, LOL) I don't usually go crazy about soft shell crabs, but this one is a yum-yum.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chong Qing Restaurant - Haymarket, Sydney

Don't judge me, but I almost NEVER visit any of those Chinese restaurants on Dixon St. Chinatown - not so much because they're kind of tourist traps, but because of those annoying waitresses who stand in front of their respective restaurants calling on and shoving menus to unwary potential 'victims' (which are always Caucasian, non-Chinese, or touristy-looking customers).

I also bear a personal grudge against these waitresses, as they always, always assume that I'm not Chinese and shout stuff like "SIR, WOULD YOU LIKE SOME NICE DINNER?? TWENTY FIVE-FIFTY PER PERSON, VERY GOOD VALUE! COME AND LOOK AT OUR MENU!!!"
This bugs me a LOT. How can they tell that I'm not Chinese? I look like a Chinese - but that's not the main point. The main point is, I AM Chinese, I just didn't grow up in China nor speak the language proficiently (okay, I lied. My Chinese is lousier than a fifth grader).

I always complain about this to my friends, but they didn't believe me. They thought that I look VERY Chinese (which bugs me a bit as well, as I love being racially ambiguous, LOL). So, one day, I dared them to do a little experiment.

'twas Monday night, the restaurant strip part of Dixon St was reasonably quiet, so imaginably, restaurants started to get all worked up to fish some wayward customers walking on the street. Therefore, they placed their prettiest, most alluring and seductive waitresses, some even clad in (surprisingly) pretty nice qipaos. Their faces are covered with make-up which are thicker than that of Singapore Airlines' flight attendants. So there they stood, carrying several menus, prepared to pounce at any given time.

My 2 friends and I (one from Hong Kong and another from China) stood near the Chinatown paifang (the Chinese gate thingy) and we had planned to proceed walking along Dixon St one at a time, at the same pace and speed, and see which one of us gets called by the waitress(es). First to go was the Hong Kong guy, and as he walked along the street decked with waitresses standing on both sides of the street, he got called by no-one. Second to go was the Chinese guy, who ALSO walked along the street, passing many waitresses with no-one calling or offering him the menu.

Then came my turn. I walked confidently, in focus and looking straight ahead, creating the illusion that I have a sense of purpose and direction and have no interest on having dinner anywhere. But ho-ho, surprise surprise, the very FIRST waitress I approached SHOVED me her menu and informed me that they've got "Special offer on set menu! STIR FRIED CHILI KING PRAWN only 10 dollars!". I immediately felt irked. But then, stir-fried king prawns for 10 bucks in a restaurant is a pretty good deal, an....wait a minute, *FOCUS, erique, DO NOT GIVE IN! Just keep walking*. Then, after walking past a couple of idle waitresses, another one shoved me a menu AGAIN! "NICE DINNER, SIR! FORTY DOLLARS FOR TWO PEOPLE, COME IN AND TAKE A LOOK!!". Damn. I was seriously pissed. I mean, if I can speak Mandarin, I would tell them to save their sweet-talk to some tourists or Caucasians!

But at least I proved my point to my friends that apparently, as ridiculous as it seems, people CAN tell that I'm not Chinese-Chinese. China-Chinese. Whatever you may call it.

So, we decided to go to this place, Chong Qing Restaurant instead (they DON'T have waitresses standing in front of their establishment shouting menu items, which I very much appreciate)

Pickled gingers, steamed peanuts

-> The free stuff (or rather, the prices of these stuff are built-into the non-free items). I love steamed peanuts. It's very common in Jakarta, where I come from - basically any crowded area has at least one steamed peanut peddler.

-> The two-way steamboat - mild chicken soup and hot soup. The hot one is ridiculously delicious and saliva-inducing. It's tongue-numbing hot as well (lots of peppers), however, you can choose your desired level of hot-ness from the menu (this one was MAXIMUM)

Beef tendon ball & Pork sausages

-> It's just beef balls & sausages, but when cooked inside the hot soup, they becomes freaking awesome. If I don't have a weak stomach, I would eat these hot stuff every single day!

Beef roll & lamb roll

-> Imagine these bad boys soaking all the aroma and flavor of the hot soup...mmm, it doesn't get any better than this...

Enoki & oyster mushrooms

-> These are great, but the real reason why we ordered these is just to show the world that we aren't some greedy, gluttonous carnivores who only eat meat, meat, and meat.

Northern-style pancakes

-> Okay, this thing is indispensable. It's quite crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, so when you soak these pancakes with the spicy soup, it soaks up the liquid, creating that incredible yet momentary texture of crispiness and moistness, coupled with some pretty intense and glorious flavors and aroma....this is truly the food of Gods. (too hyperbolic?)

Be wary, though - as this is an all-you-care-to-eat restaurant, they tend to shove this a lot to you so you would fill up on carbs and consume less meat. Amateurs might fall for it, but not us here at eatlikeacow!

-> Dessert. Okay, can someone tell me what this might be?? it's kind of like a fungus or algae or aloe vera or something - anyway it's delicious...

Rating (for the whole experience): 8/10

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Rocks Aroma Festival 2009 - Sydney

I have to admit, I'm a The Rocks Aroma Festival (henceforth 'TRAF') virgin. Well, not exactly a virgin, depends on how you look at it - let's just say that I went to 'second base' *wink wink* with TRAF last year. Okay. That's confusing - and rather disgusting. Anyway, last year, I didn't explore this fantastic festival thoroughly - just a sip of hot chocolate bought around the starting area of the festival. This year, I think it might be fun to explore and exploit around a bit.

A wee bit of warning before ye proceed, though - this post is image-intensive. Probably the most images in a post in eatlikeacow history. But regardless, you have to see it all because taking these photos (plus editing, tweaking, and arranging them) was pretty laborious indeed! FYI, these photos are the result of selection from almost 400 photos I took yesterday. I know to most experienced bloggers and photographers this number is nothing (NOTHING!), but for me, it's a freaking nightmare. So, do enjoy!

Let's get to it, shall we.

Basic thing about TRAF for you foreigners and aliens joining us tonight: TRAF is a food festival dedicated to, well, aroma - more specifically, aromatic drinks and desserts such as coffee-based, chocolate-based, and tea-based products (yum yum).

The festival occupied most part of the touristy strip of Circular Quay from The Museum of Contemporary Art, stretching to the area around the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Campbells Cove, until the roundabout somewhere near / after the Park Hyatt. The festival is cleverly divided into four different "land" a la Disneyland-The Magic Kingdom kind of thing. Each "land" represents a geographical (and cultural) area of the world, namely: The Latin Quarter, The Continent, The Orient, and The Oasis.

Supposedly, each land contains stalls which offers food items pertaining to its name. E.g. The Orient district should contain stalls that sells Chinese teas, Japanese teas, etc. However, there are lots of irregularities everywhere. E.g. chocolate fudge stall located in The Orient district, etc. It's very annoying. Well, it's nothing big, really - it's just that the purpose of creating these "lands" are to make sure that visitors get the sensation of being whisked away from one continent to the other (again, a la Disneyland - God, I miss that place), and when they misplace stalls here and there, the sensation is just not there anymore. Anyhoo, let's grab our boarding pass and hop into the plane, 'cause the tour is about to start!

Erique's catchphrase: "¿Donde Esta la Biblioteca?"
(Where is the library?) - Spanish
*sorry - that's about all the Spanish I remember from my high school year...I'll do better for the other continents, I promise*

-> Various chocolate Tejas from Tejas Del Solar. This Peruvian confectionery is made from chocolates filled with dulce de leche and nuts. Gotta love Tejas.

-> The entertainment in The Latin Quarter. Each "land" has its own stage and performers, which I think is a brilliant idea.

-> Authentic, ancient Mayan statue believed to grant the person who touches it fertility and potency. Nah, I'm kidding. I don't even know if this is Inca, Mayan, or Aztec (but I know tha it's made of an ancient, sacred substance known as Styrofoam).

-> Crowd shot in the Latin Quarter. The festival started at 10 am and this photo was taken around 10.30 and look at all those people crowding the place already! I'm not a very outdoorsy person (okay, I lied. I hate the outdoors) and seeing these enthusiastic crowd enjoying the wonderful world of outside really makes me crave the air-conditioned, shady paradise that is my bedroom. (Sorry to be such a spoilsport)!

-> First cupcakes encounter - the Sparkle Cupcakery. Look at those stylish boxes! BTW, I encountered a LOT of cupcakes on the festival - they should call this thing The Rocks Cupcake Festival)

-> The Sparkle Cupcakery menu + color scheme. Wow.

-> Another crowd shot *stupid police car is in the way*

-> First bounty: Casa Sabor Portuguese Orange Chocolate Mousse. It's cream-free (can you believe it?!) For me, this is exactly my perfect kind of mousse - not too sweet, light & airy, and intense in flavor. I'm not actually sure what made this thing Portuguese, though. LOL

Erique's catchphrase: "hor auf, so laut in dieser nervigen sprache zu reden"
(please stop talking loudly in that annoying language!) - German
*isn't it annoying when someone does that?? Really!*

-> The entertainment: a ragtag-ish, random-looking music performers housed in a caravan. How wonderfully kitschy (yet predictable). I just LOVE the Florence Broadhurst-y wallpapers!

-> Yet another crowd shot. Notice those people going upstairs? No, they're not going to see the free domestic coffee machine expo (as per the sign), they actually climbed the bajillion stairs to see...

-> ...this. Okay, time to zoom out:

-> Ta-dah! Behold, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa constructed entirely from various shades of coffee in cups. I don't know if they did this (or something similar) last year, but I just can't get over how fascinating the people who created this thing are! I don't know how they do it. They don't seem to have any sort of guide etched on the floor. And notice that little girl? YES, she's doing it too! She's actually contributing to the whole effort and she always places the cups in the right positions! I mean, wow!

-> Okay - show-off shot. The skyline, the crowd, and the coffee-cup Mona Lisa. Totally Flickr-worthy.

-> Mouthwatering chocolate drinks and chocolate stuff molded in various forms from I Love My Chocolates.

-> Yet ANOTHER crowd-shot. If you squint, it somehow looks like a haphazardly-structured bier garden somewhere in Vienna or Hanover.

-> Oh my Lord, not another crowd shot.

-> *Said in the style of 30 Rock's NBC page Kenneth Parcell* Hey, look everybody, it's Pony Dining's awesome chef, Damian Heads whipping up his famous Argentinean-style woodfire-grilled treats! Hi, Damian!

-> Lord help me. I would've gotten two - nay, three orders of whatever this is if it wasn't for the fact that I'd just had dinner at Pony last week. *slurpp*

-> Hands down, the most fragrant and aromatic non-chocolate / coffee / tea stall in the whole festival. I heart Pony Dining!

-> Whoops. Can't miss this shot. I love The Rocks. Never get enough of The Rocks. It is one of the prettiest places in the world, IMO.

Erique's catchprase: "Aa! Onara suru tsumori datta kedo, unchi ga dechatta!"
(Oops! I meant to fart but poop comes out!) - Japanese
*Is this based on my personal experience, you ask? I'm going to leave it to your imagination!*

-> This band is AWESOME. They just rock the whole place. The one playing the Dizi (Chinese flute) is the ringleader of the band. Before playing each piece, he beautifully introduces the next music piece they're going to play along with a short history and origin of the particular song. He's just fantastic.

-> This Guzheng-plucking auntie is so pretty and mesmerizing. Totally my type.

-> Yaay, more cupcakes. These ones are from The Cupcake Bakery.

-> The Cupcake Bakery's piece de resistance - a gigantic frise poodle-like muffin that's not for sale *darn*!!

-> More cupcakes from The Cupcake Bakery. After looking at that fantabulous gigantic cupcake, these ones look so...muggle-born.

-> Impossibly breathtaking fudges from Fudge Fabulous Fudge.

-> Bounty #2: Chocolate Macadamia, Rum & Raisin, and my personal favorite: Baileys Irish Cream fudge. BTW, I finished 2 of them on the way home. Damn, should've bought 10 instead.

-> Chinese teas from Valley Green Tea. My mouth really craved for the Mao Feng tea, but unfortunately, I had to restrain myself from drinking too much tea (as per doctor's recommendation)

-> I want that tea set! I've always wanted a terracotta tea set - the ones that you can pour tea all over the tiny teapot itself and making it all wet. It looks sooooo good. Why do they do that anyway? What's the significance of that practice? Anyone?

-> Chai tea from Chai. I'm kind of obsessed (again) with Chai recently. These days, I always seem to order Chai whenever I'm in a coffee shop (instead of coffee). I'm seriously afraid that I'm becoming a middle-aged hippie.

-> Australian-owned, environmentally ethical, AND solar powered? Wow, what more can you want? Truly a hippie company.

-> Bounty #3: Rainbow Chai. Wait - you mean you CAN make Chai latte at home? man alive! I thought Chai is something you have to buy (and no way else) like Char siu / Siu yoke or Tonkotsu ramen! LOL

-> Another set of mouthwatering teas from Toby's Estate Fine Select Teas. They're a little stingy on samples, though.

-> Alice-in-wonderland-ish dessert creation from

-> Damn expensive stuff, people. Those chocolate-covered strawberry skewers are like, 6 bucks each! Worth every penny, though.

-> Definitely the most ooh-and-aah-ed food item in the whole festival. Wonder how much this one costs.

-> Bounty #4: A box of chocolate-covered strawberries for 20 bucks. Gonna save it for mummy who's coming to Sydney this week. She'll go nuts over these pretty strawberries. When she goes nuts. she'll shower me with love and attention. Therefore, on her next shopping trip to Castlereagh st, I can tag along and perhaps slip a...oh, I don't know...a little black Taiga leather Vuitton man-clutch so she can pay that together with her shopping items with her nice credit card? (my dad checks my credit card spending but not my mom's)

Erique's catchphrase: "Yemeğin salçalısı, kadının kalçalısı"
(Food is good with tomato sauce, women is good with its tush) - Turkish
*Hey, I didn't invent the phrase, so feminists, direct your anger somewhere else!*

-> Turkish Coffee gizmo. looks complicated, and slightly bigger than your average espresso machine, LOL

-> No idea what these are. I guess they're some kind of pudding. Anyway, it's from Gourmet Taste Buds.

-> The entertainment on The Oasis district - male belly dancer. On close inspection, that is NOT Akmal Saleh, unfortunately. Gosh darnit.

-> Another performer in The Oasis district. Thank god he didn't attempt a rendition of Hadise's "Dum Tek Tek" (those who never watch Eurovision will never understand what I'm talking about)

-> Probably the biggest temptation on the festival - sweet pastry drenched with sugar syrup that is the Baklava. Considering my family's long history with Diabetics, I need to resist this one - it is, after all, the mother of all sugary treats.

-> ...oh God...not the BIRDNEST Baklava... *EVIL*!!!

-> A selection of Turkish pide and pastries from the Turkish Coffee House

-> Ah, the Gozleme ladies. Reliably found in all festivals, night markets, or any sort of open-air festivities across Sydney regardless of how much or little they have to do with Turkey or the Turkish culture. (I'm not very sure if it's the same group of peddlers or not, though - seeing that all Gozleme stalls I encounter never sport any sort of shop / restaurant identification and simply label their stall "Turkish Gozleme")

-> Last bounty of the day: Cheese, spinach & beef Gozleme. What can I say, I love all things Turkish. Not the prettiest food around, for sure - but it's so addictive and absolutely sumptuous.

-> Definitely not something you see everyday.

Phew! all those photo-captioning really made me hungry!
That's about all from The Rock's Aroma Festival 2009 coverage, proudly presented by eatlikeacow. It has been a great day, everything was so well-organized and the weather couldn't be better. So, final thoughts about the festival: can't complain! I'm really looking forward to next year (but they REALLY have to update their poster, I've seen that same coffee-snorting lady for years and frankly, I'm getting tired of her)

Okay, maybe one more crowd shot and I'm done, I promise!