Friday, 20 March 2015

Hawker Malaysian Street Food - Sydney CBD - Sydney, Australia

From the same owners of the ever so popular Mamak, Hawker is also a Malaysian restaurant, but its core focus is on the Malay-Chinese street food of Malaysia, also known as hawker fare. Their simple and pocket-friendly menu offers classic items that fall under the categories of snacks, fried bread, noodles and desserts. There are certain dishes only available here and no where else in Sydney as of yet, such as the fried oyster omelette, stingray and turnover pancake.

On a Friday night we were expecting to queue for a table but surprisingly we walked straight through. On the contrary, when we left the line was going out the door.

As we were directed to our table, our eyes deviated towards the chefs cooking in the open kitchen. There was so much happening in that little space.

The dining area is spacious, airy and clean, with minimal decor.

The 'Popiah ($8.00 for 2)' was first to come out. I had this once in Malaysia and faintly remember how it tasted. It's a fresh spring roll that is filled with an assortment of ingredients. The version here is freshly made from start to finish. The paper-thin skin is prepared by the chefs on premises and the way it's made is mesmerising.

It's filled with yam bean, shredded omelette, minced tofu, lettuce and crispy shallots with a hoisin like sauce. While we found the mixture to be fresh and crunchy at parts, the sauce overpowered the popiah and left a weird aftertaste which wasn't very pleasant.

The 'Ikan Bakar ($14.00)' is a grilled stingray marinated with sambal and served with a tangy and spicy dipping sauce. The piece we got was relatively thick compared to the flat ones we usually see in Malaysia or Singapore.

On initial bite, the stingray is succulent like white fish meat. It does have big bones but don't get deterred by this as it's easy to eat once you take it out. Unfortunately, it lacks the seasoning and we find ourselves having to make use of the sauce for extra flavour.

Hawker's rendition of the 'Char Koay Teow ($12.00)' is similar to what I ate in Kuala Lumpur. It uses the thin rice noodles tossed together with prawns, cockles, lap cheong, eggs and bean sprouts.

Cockles aren't usually found in the dishes here but I'm amazed at how they've adapted it to be very much like home. We like how there is the balance of sweetness from the dark soya sauce and slight saltiness from the Chinese sausage, whilst also having the wok-hei, giving it a nice smoky taste which wasn't too overwhelming. Word of warning, there are chilli specks scattered throughout and it's quite spicy.

Crispy pork fat! Those words on the menu immediately grabbed my attention. The 'KL Hokkien Mee ($12.00)' uses the thick Hokkein noodles, stir fried with pork slices, prawns, cabbage and crispy pork fat in a rich black sauce. Not the prettiest or healthiest of dishes but it was delicious and full of flavour. The side of chilli sauce was a great accompaniment to the noodles.

We ended our meal with a dessert called the 'Apam Balik ($6.00 for 2)'. It's the Malaysian adaptation of the pancake. Special moulds are used to make these crispy turnover pancakes filled with crushed peanuts, butter and creamed corn. I've wanted to try this for many years and the day final came. Did it live up to its expectations? It sure did.  The outside was crispy and the filling was deliciously sweet.

Some dishes were hits while others were misses. We went within the first month of opening so they may have improved on their flavours since then. We would definitely return to try the other items on their menu. Fancy a durian fried fritter?

Shop G.02, 345B-353 Sussex St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: 02 9264 9315

Opening Hours
Open 7 Days a Week
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 10:00pm


Hawker on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Work in Progress @patrickfriesen - Sydney CBD - Sydney, Australia

With only a few weeks remaining till the end of March, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and post about this place before it officially closes its doors at the end of the month.

Work in Progress is a fried chicken and noodle pop up bar by Patrick Friesen, the head chef of Papi Chulo. As part of the March into Merivale events that are happening, Work in Progress will be open for 5 weeks from the 26th of Febraury to the end of the food festival. The cuisine available here is basically a concoction of the chef's favourite foods that he likes to eat.

I'm surprised at how good the interior looks for a pop up restaurant. A mix of street style and colourful pop art. It's described as a bar but I think of it as more like a casual eatery, as there are a number of tables and chairs to sit at. You place your order at the bar and quote your table number, then the food is brought out.

The short menu is broken up into three sections including snacks and vegetables, noodles and fried chicken. It doesn't get easier than that. Who doesn't love fried chicken and noodles? I'm sure most do including myself. I even returned a week later and sampled a few items I didn't end up trying.  If you're here with a larger group, you could probably try all items on the menu in one visit. They also have an elaborate drinks menu but we were here more for the food.

The 'Pancake ($6.00)' is a pan-fried shallot pancake that takes its inspirations from the Chinese and Korean kitchens. It's crispy on the outside, with flaky layers on the inside. It's a nice snack to start the meal as it's not overly oily but a tad dry. A squeeze of the chilli sauce does wonders.

The 'Wontons ($12.00)' are served in a Chinese bowl that I use to have in my kitchen a long time ago. It brings back childhood memories. Four little morsels of plump prawn and pork wontons in a Sichuan pepper and strange sauce. Strange sauce? It had hints of balsamic vinegar and soya sauce but we couldn't really determine what else was it in it.

The 'Tofu ($14.00)' is agedashi'ish style. It shares a striking resemblance to the Japanese takoyaki balls in terms of appearance and taste, but in tofu form. Lightly fried silken tofu in a dashi broth and coated with lashings of mayonnaise, bonito flakes and takoyaki sauce. A combination that works well together and it's just fantastic.

'Crab Noodles ($16.00)' consists of snow crab and tobiko, tossed together in a shell fish oil lo mein. The noodles are springy and have a nice bite to it. We find that it lacks a little bit of flavour due to the inadequate amount of oil. A quick drizzle of chilli sauce helps to give it that extra kick.

The 'Duck Noodles ($16.00)' are packed with a whole lot of spice. Sichuan spiced minced duck and firm tofu on top of lo mein, a wheat flour type of egg noodle. The flavour is strong and bold with hints of pepper, and a bit too much for some at the table.

Saving the best part for last.

We wanted to try all variations of fried chicken on offer, so the best way to do that was to have the 'Halfies ($18.00)' which is half and half fried chicken of the 'Ginger Ninja' and 'Chilli Nuts', and the 'Fly High ($16.00)'. All fried chicken is served with a side of picked daikon, kimchi and garlic cucumbers.

The 'Ginger Ninja' is the original fried chicken with a ginger nuoc cham or otherwise known as a Vietnamese dipping sauce. The chicken had a crispy texture like the Korean fried chicken found at Naruone, and it was awesomely crunchy.

The other half was the 'Chilli Nuts'. Basically the original fried chicken coated in a thick and sticky chilli sauce. While it was also very delicious, we preferred the Ginger Ninja as the sauce softened the crispy exterior of the chicken rather quickly.

The 'Fly High' is Pnomh Penh wings served with a lime and white pepper sauce. The flour coating was much lighter as compared to the previous two but it was still crispy and flavoursome with hints of salt, pepper and garlic. My favourite fried chicken for the night as it was delectable and I couldn't stop at one.

I'm a big fan of Ms.G's, another restaurant that's part of the Merivale Group. The food there is always nearly spot on and in general I love the laid back atmosphere. The Asian inspired dishes here reminded me very much of what I usually have at Ms.G's and it was delicious. The food portions at Work in Progress are decent, it's extremely affordable and most of all the food was good. If only it was open for longer. Hurry! Go now before it's too late.

50 King St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: 02 9240 3000

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday
Lunch: 12:00pm - 3:00pm
Dinner: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Bar: 12:00pm to Late


Work in Progress on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Operator 25 - Melbourne CBD - Melbourne, Australia

Operator 25 is a fairly new cafe in the Melbourne dining scene, having only been open since May last year. It has already garnered a following, seeing a surge in its popularity, witnessed by a myriad of online reviews and publications .

Located near Flagstaff Gardens, this restaurant is tucked away in a little alleyway. It occupies a heritage listed building in the CBD fringe serving breakfast, lunch and everything in between including brunch.

We arrived early on a weekday morning, the week where most have just returned to work following the long weekend and lucky for us it wasn't busy. The customer base was mainly corporates, but when we went past on the weekend it was packed with a diverse group of people.

The interior is modern and rustic, giving off the cool industrial and warehouse vibe.

They appear to have two separate menus, one in summer and one in winter. We tried the dishes from their 'Summer 2015' menu. The selection available is interesting with a creative twist on the traditional dishes, and not like items from the typical standard breakfast menu.

The 'Cappuccino ($3.80)' was spot on. They use the finest beans from a local producer called 'Code Black Coffee Roasters'. The coffee was strong, rich and creamy. A great way to start the morning.

We started off with the 'Coconut Sago Cup ($10.00)', made up of fresh berries, pineapple salsa, coconut chips and mango foam. An interesting option for breakfast as it sounded more like dessert, but it was well received by all of us. The mango mousse was incredibly smooth, and the coconut sago was refreshing. The best way to eat this is by scooping up all the elements together and you'll experience that flavour explosion.  This was our favourite dish as it was so good.

The 'Breakfast Tortilla ($17.00)' is filled with chorizo, scrambled eggs, mixed mushrooms, aged cheddar cheese and green harissa sauce. The mixture of perfectly cooked scrambled eggs, slightly salty chorizo and finely chopped mushroom, all encased in a lightly grilled soft tortilla, was delicious. We would have preferred the grated cheese to be melted.

We were most excited about trying the 'Hot Cakes ($16.00)'. Matcha and white chocolate flavoured hot cakes served with black sesame mascarpone, banana chips, toasted hazelnut and cherry sauce. The hot cakes were chunky and round, but it was still moist with a faint green tea taste. It wasn't too sweet and with the cherry sauce, while an unusual addition, balanced out the sweetness with a slight sourness.

'Smoked Chicken, Vegetable Hash and Tomato Chutney ($16.00)' with a poached egg looked striking with the contrast of different colours. While it was visually appealing and the flavours worked well together, it didn't have that wow factor as compared to the other dishes we had.

Operator 25 surprised us with their food combinations and it actually worked. The food was amazingly good and it surely left a lasting impression. If we're ever in Melbourne again, I would love to try out their lunch menu. The 'Balinese Pulled Pork Burger' sounds very enticing.

25 Wills Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone no: 03 9670 3278

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 4:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 9:00am - 4:00pm


Operator25 on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 March 2015

Cumulus Inc - Melbourne CBD - Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is well-known for its vibrant cafe culture and there are plenty of cafes to choose from, if not too many for visitors like us. Broadsheet is a great website that makes planning so much easier, as they provide their favourite picks on where to eat and what to see. I do recommend giving it a browse if you plan on going to Melbourne. 

Our first breakfast in Melbourne was at Culumus Inc, described as an 'eating house and bar' which opened in 2008. It's located on Flinders Lane, renowned as the art and fashion precinct of Melbourne. This award winning restaurant is run by Andrew McConnell, a two time winner of 'Chef of the Year' by The Age.  It has a plethora of great reviews and is one of Melbourne's most popular restaurants. With those accolades, we had high expectations.

Arriving early on a Sunday morning, we were hoping to beat the morning rush as we had a long day planned ahead. It was bustling with people and every table was fully occupied. Others must have had the same idea in mind as we ended up waiting half an hour for a table. Reservations are only taken for groups between 7 and 14 guests.

The cafe was buzzing with patrons and it was crowded, noisy and filled with chatter, just how I like it.

The interior fit out is nicely designed by Pascale Gomes-McNabb. It's minimal but spacious, airy and full of natural light from the high ceilings and full length windows.

The breakfast menu is short and keeps to the philosophy of using fresh, high quality ingredients to create modern and simple comfort dishes. From the basic toast and spreads, to the more elaborate options such as the full English breakfast. We were looking forward to trying the 'Full English Breakfast ($19.00)' but after examining the menu carefully, this is only available from Monday to Fridays. They also serve lunch and dinner.

Most of us ordered the same dish. The 'Grilled Sausage, Smoked Hock, Braised Beans and 65/65 Egg ($17.60)' is served on weekends only. As per the name, it pretty much sums up what is on the plate. 

The egg is slowly poached at 65 degrees for 65 minutes to perfection. This allows it to retain the gooey yolk and smooth white. A gentle poke on the egg with my fork and the yolk oozes out like lava. 

The presence of so much braised beans gives us a bit of a shock as we're not use to eating so many beans in one sitting. It's cooked through with chunks of pork hock and this is actually very tasty. Unfortunately the beans cover the slice of toast which makes it go soft and soggy. We find ourselves wanting more toast to scoop up the sauce. 

The grilled Lyonnaise sausage is a good accompaniment to the beans. It's a bit on the salty side but works well with the other ingredients.

The 'Cumulus Inc Breakfast ($16.00)' includes a boiled egg, a pile of toast, preserves, yoghurt, organic juice and a choice of coffee or tea. Perfect for those who prefer a lighter and more traditional kind of breakfast. 

A selection of preserves to go with the toast.

If you're ultra thirsty,  a cold and a hot  drink forms part of the deal. We opt for the 'Organic Orange Juice' and a 'Jasmine Tea'. 

Cumulus Inc is a decent eatery for a delicious breakfast but it didn't wow me or bowl me over. I found the food here to be standard and the choices limited. I, however, enjoyed the atmosphere and that's probably what would bring me back. 


45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone no: 03 9650 1445

Opening Hours

Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 11:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 8:00am - 11:00pm


Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon