Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken - Sydney - Sydney, Australia

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken

Huge fried crispy chicken alert!

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken is a fried chicken sensation, originating from the country of Taiwan, with beginnings from the ever so famous branch in the Shinlin Night Market in Taipei. It's classified as street food as there is no seating in the eatery and you eat standing up or on the go. If you've ever been to Taiwan, then you'll know probably know how popular the fried chicken from Hot Star is, with lines upon lines of people waiting to grab hold of their famous oversize chicken. They are well known for their 'crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside' chicken.

When I was in Taipei a few years ago, I did have the chance to visit the main branch in Shinlin Night Market. On the menu, there was only one thing and that was the large fried chicken that was as large or if not larger than one's head. Though my recollections of the night were rather faint, I do recall the line being long, filled with many tourists but it moved very quickly. The chicken was heavily spiced and then fried to utter perfection, leaving a steaming hot crispy outer crust and juicy centre. However, I can't remember whether they used breast or thigh meat.

Fast track a few years and Hot Star opened its first branch in Sydney CBD and boy was I excited. I, together with Tin Tin, had a chance to visit and get a behind the scenes tour of Hot Star, located near World Square Centre, courtesy of Hot Star and Harvey Publicity. We actually went a while back, within the first few months of opening but I haven't had a chance to write about it till today.

We visited Hot Star on a Friday night, where the weather was utterly horrible with dark clouds and the occasional sprout of rain. Still, there was a number of people queuing and waiting for their freshly fried goodies and it got busier as the time progressed.

What we noticed upon entering and heading to the back of the store was how busy it was behind the scenes and the number of staff they had working hard to deliver perfect fried snacks to hungry customers. It looked like a production line consisting of the coaters, the fryers, and the servers, most with masks, so rest assured that hygiene is decent.

The menu is simple. There are five options to choose from including the fried chicken, chicken bites, mushrooms, sweet potato and curly fries. You can purchase these as individual items or buy as part of a combo. Everything is cooked to order guaranteeing that everything is freshly fried. During busy times, you may have to end up waiting a while for items to be cooked. It is worth the wait as that means everything will taste much better. All items are deep fried and to be honest it isn't that healthy and is therefore not for the health conscious. But hey, you should treat yourself once in a while.

After speaking to the store manager, we were told that most ingredients used for their products are sourced from Taiwan with the exception of the fresh ingredients such as the chicken, mushroom and potatoes. They don't use preservatives or additives either.

The 'Large Fried Chicken ($7.90)' is available in either original or spicy, with the option of spice levels ranging from little to extra spicy. The enormous slab of breast meat, approximately 250 grams and 30 cm in length, is coated in flour and then a crumb, deep fried and then gets a final dusting of spices. Before this cooking process, the chicken is marinated for a whopping 12 hours! Yes, you read correctly. No wonder it is so tasty. After it is deep fried, it is put in a paper bag just like how it is done in Taiwan.

Resembling a schnitzel, but much extravagant and larger in size, giving it that extra zing factor. It was piping hot from the fryer and getting a bite of it proved a bit difficult. The exterior was pleasantly crunchy and the spice gave it a nice flavour hit. The chicken inside was very moist, tender and oh so juicy. As we got to try the spicy option, I didn't find it overly spicy and I would say tolerable for those chilli lovers out there but if you aren't very tolerant to chilli then the original option may be a better choice. Tin Tin found her one to be very spicy and she is one with a low tolerance to chilli.

'Sweet Potato Fries ($3.90)' is surprisingly one of my favourites. The sweet potato fries are coated in a batter and seasoned with a plum seasoning. The outside is light and crispy and the sweet potato is so sweet without the addition of any additives. I was surprised to find that the sweetness of the potatoes was all natural. I found myself wanting to eat more of this as that seasoning is just so good.

The 'Mushrooms ($4.90)' aren't your regular everyday mushrooms you get at the supermarket. They use King Oyster Mushrooms which are coated in a light batter and then fried. The insides are still firm yet delicious. I'm not sure if we received an actual serving size but the portion was quite small for the price to be paid, but then again you might be paying for the quality ingredients that are used.

The 'Chicken Bites ($5.00)' is more like the large fried chicken chopped up into smaller pieces with the addition of basil leaves giving it an aromatic smell. The chicken was a bit on the dry side and reminded me very much of the Japanese Kara-age. I much preferred the large chicken over this but it was still very nice.

Do eat carefully and watch out for the bone and cartilage! It may look boneless but there is a bone inside to maintain the flavour as they say. As the sign reads 'real chicken, real bones'. Indeed.

So how did it rate compared to Taiwan you may ask? They follow the exact concept with the addition of a few extra menu items which I find much better as there is variety. In terms of taste and texture of the fried chicken, I would say its pretty much 99% the same with the exception of the part of the chicken that is used.

If you like deep fried chicken and in gigantic portions then do give this place a try. I definitely recommend Hot Star as the food is delicious, ingredients used are fresh and it's very affordable. The only item I didn't get to try was the Curly Fries ($3.90)' and I read that was a winner so it shall be next on my agenda. They are very serious about the quality of their products and this is definitely reflected in the quality of their food. As I mentioned before, it's not very healthy but then again if it is fried then it probably isn't but from looking at the oil residue left on the paper bags, it was very minimal as most items are air dried prior to serving so that's a plus.

Disclaimer: ilovemyfoodlots was invited as a guest of Hot Star. Jenny would like to thank Cassey and her team at Hot Star for their hospitality and Harvey Publicity for their invite. The review is based on my own opinion and has not been influenced by bias in anyway. 

96 Liverpool St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: NA

Opening Hours
Sunday to Thursday
10am - 12am
Friday to Saturday
10am - 2am


Hot Star Large Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Friday, 16 May 2014

Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자) - Myeongdong - Seoul, South Korea.

Myeongdong Kyoja

Myeongdong Kyoja's restaurant has been around for a long time. With operations spanning for more than 50 years, there is certainly a long history behind the story to achieving the success they have managed to accomplish and sustain till today. Indeed it is very popular with locals and has become an attraction for visitors to Myeongdong. They are famous for their hand rolled noodles called 'Kalguksu' in Korean.

The main restaurant is located in Myeongdong and its branch is also located in Myeongdong. Both are in close walking proximity to each other and positioned within the same block. There is no other place in Seoul that you would be able to find this eatery as these are the only two.

This restaurant is relatively easy to locate as it is close to the cathedral. At the front of the store there are huge pictures of the menu items so it's hard to miss. Do pay attention to the logo with the bowl as this distinguishes them from competitors, in which many have tried to emulate their success.

The interior is decked with wooden tables and is clean, spacious and well lit. There are plenty of tables packed together on two levels so finding a table shouldn't be much of a problem. However, do expect to queue up during peak hour lunch or dinner as I've read it is continuously busy day in and day out but the lines move quickly. Do not be deterred by the long lines weaving out from the entrance.

Upon entry, the uniformed waitress shows you to your table and provides you with a menu. Then she returns to take your order and you have to pay straight away. I like this system as you don't have to wave down the waitress just to get the bill at the end of the meal.

Each person gets that own portion of kimchi and the waitress occasionally tops up the plate. The kimchi here has a lot of garlic and hot pepper.

Condiments are on each table and please note the cutlery are in the drawers under the table. We had trouble locating this and we had to ask the waitress who then pointed to the draws. Silly us.

The menu is limited which makes deciding and ordering very easy. There are four items to choose from and they are all priced at 8,000 KRW. This includes the Kalguksu (hand rolled noodle soup), Mandu (steamed dumplings), Bibim Guksu (noodles with vegetables and red pepper paste) and Kongguksu (noodles in cold soy milk broth). Everything here is thus very affordable and friendly on the wallet.

Before we even sat down, we already knew what we wanted. As we weren't very accustomed to eating cold noodles and wanted something meaty, that only left us with two choices.

The 'Kalguksu (KRW 8,000)' is a Korean handmade noodle dish. It is served in a hot chicken broth with dumplings, mince meat and vegetables. The broth is boiled down for many hours, giving it that deep and rich hearty flavour.The handmade noodles are knife cut and they were exceptional.  Soft, chewy and dense but still having that bite to it and as they call it 'al dente'. The perfect comfort food.

'Mandu (KRW 8,000)' are steamed dumplings. These are no ordinary dumplings. 10 big, plump and juicy dumplings. The outer shells are silky smooth and paper thing to the point of being near translucent. These are stuffed with a mixture of pork, leek and vegetable. These dumplings reminded me of the Chinese dumplings and were absolutely scrumptious! It was so good and till today I still have memories of eating these morsels.

These are best eaten warm so my tip is to eat quickly before it gets cold.

Ingredients are fresh, food is tasty and the prices are reasonable. If you're in Seoul then I recommend dropping by for a taste of authentic Korean cuisine.

29 Myeongdong 10-gil,
South Korea

Phone no: 82 2776 5348/3424

Opening Hours
7 Days a Week
10:30am - 9:30pm


*Refer to website for map

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bonjuk 본죽 - Myeongdong - Seoul, South Korea

Bonjuk 본죽

As we visited South Korea during the winter season, it was very cold. In this weather, a bowl of steaming, hot rice porridge is the perfect dish to warm up. Porridge, also known as juk or congee is not only healthy but also nutritious for the body.

Bonjuk is a leading franchise restaurant in Korea, serving a range of traditional Korean rice porridge dishes at affordable prices. There are a number of locations throughout Seoul so do you don't have to specifically travel to Myeongdong just to have their porridge.

Given that it was located in Myeongdong and close to where we were staying, it should have been very easy to find but no, that was not the case. It was all because of the sign that was taken off! So we second guessed ourselves and went around in circles trying to locate this porridge restaurant. Then we noticed this little sign in front of the building with pictures of porridge and yes, we found it! It is located on level 2 of the building near the huge Uniqlo outlet in Myeongdong. There were no English words outside so do take note of the location and its surroundings.

The interior is modern, cosy and clean. We went for breakfast and the dining area filled up quickly with locals after their fix of porridge.

The menu is in a number of languages including Korean, English and Japanese with photos. Several porridge options are available depending on what you feel like eating and your budget of course. For those who want to splurge, there is the rice porridge with lots of abalone at KRW 20,000. Alternatively, there is the odd combination such as pumpkin porridge or the safe option of mushroom or chicken porridge.

Service is prompt and efficient. The lady takes the order and within a span of 5 minutes or so, the porridge is brought out. Ordering is easy cause if you don't speak Korean you can point to the pictures.

The 'Shrimp Porridge (KRW 8,000)' is my preferred choice as I like shrimps. The portion is large and is filled with an abundance of shrimps, finely diced carrots and shallots. I love shrimps as they are sweet and have a crunchy texture. The rice grains are fine making the porridge very smooth to eat and reminds me of the Cantonese congee. Delicious!

Some have noted that the porridge at Bonjuk lacks flavour and is bland for their palate but I found it to be just right. You can always add salt and pepper for extra taste.

Abalone porridge varies in price depending on how much abalone you want in the bowl. From the regular choice to the ultra.  We opt for the regular 'Abalone Porridge (KRW 9,500)'. To be honest, the abalone looked like mushrooms and there wasn't much of it. I guess you get what you pay for so if you pay more you'll probably get more abalone as it's a delicacy.

With ever porridge comes a set of sides as per the norm. The banchan includes kimchi, chilli paste and shredded pork. Also, there is a cup of tea and cold soup which I didn't fancy very much. The banchan selection was delicious and I really enjoyed the chilli and shredded pork which tasted really good when eaten with the porridge.

A hearty, comforting and satisfying meal in a nicely heated room to escape the chilly cold and a great start to a jam packed day. If you had too much junk and fried foods, like myself, porridge is an excellent way to counteract and balance out the consumption of unhealthy foods. If you're not very hungry or are not big eaters in general, then it can be shared between two as the serving size is generous.

65-2 Chungmuro 2(i)ga,
South Korea

Phone no: 02 755 3562

Opening Hours
10:00 am - 10:00pm


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Jamie's Italian - Sydney CBD - Sydney, Australia

Jamie’s Italian

When there was news of Jamie's Italian opening in Sydney in 2011, I was extremely excited as I've always enjoyed his cooking shows and loved his passion for cooking. I had high expectations in the lead up to visiting this restaurant and we even queued for more than an hour within the first few months of opening. Unfortunately, the food failed to impress us and my perceptions of the restaurant weren't so good back then given the mediocre food and small portions. 

Fast forward a few years and I had the opportunity to go back again. My cousin, Miss Booklover, is a fan of this restaurant and frequently dines here as she works just a few blocks away.

It is consistently busy every night so it’s best to get in early if possible.

Who likes standing in line? No one does. They've introduced an online reservation system so booking is a must if you want to get a table without having to potentially queue for a very long time. Previously, they wouldn't take bookings for less than six people online but they've now changed the system for the better and you can book for more. I was expecting to queue in that terribly long line given but I decided to check the times available online and much to my surprise, there was a few spots available for dinner the next day.

One thing I really like about this place is the causal ambiance. Upon entry, there is a bar to just relax and chill while you’re waiting for a seat. It’s not a quiet place and indeed quite boisterous with the constant chatter happening around, giving it a lively atmosphere.

The spacious interior, occupying two levels, is nicely put together and I wouldn't expect less from a famous chef like Jamie Oliver. 

It’s dimly lit with candles on every table giving that feeling of comfort and relaxation. However, for food photography purposes, this is not the best place to be as it’s a bit too dark and photos don’t turn out very clear. Thankfully, Miss Booklover’s new mobile phone is advanced and the quality of the pictures turned out much better than my Iphone. This is not an advertisement but she persisted that I mention that it is a ‘HTC M8’ and for all you technology experts out there, this is the latest model from their range. Thank you to Miss Booklover for kindly sharing her photos on this blog.

The waiter was very friendly. He introduced us to a few specials prior to ordering but we already had our eyes set on what was on the menu. He took our order without even writing it down! Amazingly everything was spot on.

For starters, we had the ‘Italian Bread Selection ($1.50)’, which is a must order. Not only is it fresh and absolutely delicious, but $1 from every serve is donated to Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia. So it’s a win-win situation. In a metal bread tin, there is a selection of freshly made breads from the bakery including Italian grissini, rosemary focaccia, crispy ‘music’ bread and ciabatta. This is served with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. The bread served here is one of my favourites out of all the ones I've tried at restaurants so far.

The ‘Crispy Squid ($12.50)’ is divine. The portion, though small, is enough for two but I wouldn't say more. Fried squid is served with a garlic mayo and a lemon wedge. The squid was crispy and perfectly cooked. A must order.

Pasta is made fresh on site every day so freshness is guaranteed. ‘Prawn Linguine ($16.00 / entree size)’ is an enjoyable pasta dish. A combination of prawns, tomato, chilli, garlic, rocket and fennel are cooked with al dente pasta. A simple dish with uncomplicated flavours, yet  still flavoursome. I liked the addition of garlic and chilli but overall it was quite bland for my palate. I found myself having to add some pepper and salt for that extra kick and probing for the oil at the bottom of the dish.

‘Black Angel Spaghetti ($15.50 / entree size)’ is made with squid ink pasta cooked with scallops, garlic, chilli, anchovies, wine and capers. Miss Booklover’s must order dish every time she is here. The flavours are mild and deceptively tasty. I like the combination of flavours but we both find it a bit on the salty scale in this instance. 

A range of desserts are on offer and all at a very reasonable price. The ‘Chocolate Brownie ($10.00)’ is served warm with amaretto ice-cream and caramelised popcorn. It’s fudgy, rich, and very chocolaty. 

The food here is simple and honest. The prices are reasonable, service is great and meals are adequate. This dinner was definitely much better than the first and I’ll surely be returning soon. The place is buzzy and unpretentious just like the chef.

*Credit to Miss Booklover for her photos

107 Pitt St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: 02 8240 9000

Opening Hours
Monday – Sunday
11:30am - Late


Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon