Din Tai Fung World Square: Dumpling Galore

The night I came to Din Tai Fung, it was bustling with hungry diners and the chefs were working hard amongst the steam in the kitchen to craft the perfect little dumplings that they guarantee to be between 4.8-5.2 grams. I don't know the effect on the taste of a dumpling if a gram was amiss but I'll let the chefs worry about that.
Pork Soupy Dumplings

We first ordered the Pork Soupy dumplings and they come in batches of 6 or 8. Picking them up by the crimped tops with our chopsticks, you could see the immense amount of soup in the dumplings. The dumplings themselves taste very similar to those that I've bought at asian supermarkets that can be re-steamed but the main point of difference is that it was less oily. Either way, these types of dumplings are my favourite and Din Tai Fung's were definitely delicious. 8/10

Dumpling Jewels $15.80

The Dumpling Jewels are an eye-catching novelty menu item that I was keen to try. Don't be fooled - they are not just dumplings with a few drops of food colouring. Each one has a unique filling that corresponds to its colour. Yellow was cheese, green was sea salad, Red was bolognaise, pink was seafood, orange was corn, purple was mince and black was 'onyx'. They were great fun to eat and any kid, big or small, would enjoy these little jewels. 8/10

The Noodle Soup with Crispy Pork that we had was a great value combo because a plate of the pork is $10.80 but together it was $14.80. The noodles tasted really fresh. They had a bitey texture and were really long! The soup itself was flavoursome and well seasoned. The crispy pork is a little underwhelming. The crumb was not crispy but the pork was succulent and well seasoned. 7/10

Noodles with special shallot sauce $5.50

The Noodles with Special Shallot Sauce was really tasty. The noodles were similar to the ones in the noodle soup - they were thin, bitey and long. Make sure you coat each noodle in the special shallot sauce because it is really delicious. It had flavours of sesame oil, oyster sauce and soy sauce and the shallots. Even though it didn't come with anything else, it's a great value dish at only $5.50 that I would definitely recommend. 9/10 
Spicy noodles with Pork and Vegetable Wontons $12.80

The girls wanted something spicy so we opted for the Spicy noodles with Pork and Vegetable Wontons. I normally can't handle my chilli very well but it looked fantastic on the menu and I was happy to see it came out looking picture perfect. At first I thought they gave us the soup option instead of the dry option (like Migoreng) but the sauce was perfectly portioned to the noodles. The noodles had a great amount of spiciness that left me drinking sips of my water but still wanting more. The wontons were also great and each one was filled generously with the pork and vegetable filling. 9/10
Overall, I really enjoyed the restaurant. I would come here again and I can't imagine ever getting sick of the freshly hand-made dumplings and noodles. It is a little slice of Hong Kong in the midst of the Sydney CBD.

Parking: City Parking
Location: Conveniently on George St at World Square - 7 min walk from Town Hall Station
Atmosphere: 9/10
Service: The waiters were great and attentive but don't come here if you're looking for a chat with the waiters. You order by ticking the menu items and handing it to the waiter.
Food: 8.5/10

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Paper Plane Cafe: Taking Parramattas Cafe Scene Sky High

Finally! Another great cafe has opened up in Parramatta giving brunch lovers another place to huddle to, if ever disgruntled by the long lines of Circa Cafe.

Peach Melba Iced Tea $4.50
Cappuccino $3.50
This cafe is situated a little out of the way, just off George St, close to the Roxy. My best friend took me here for brunch and I was glad she did otherwise I don't know how long it would take me to find it. 

Peach Melba, the classic Australian raspberry coulis and peach dessert was in the form of the Peach Melba Iced Tea. It was refreshing and had a strong peach flavour but it reminded me of a bottle of Nestea. I would have loved if it had a stronger raspberry flavour so it could really honour the dessert it is named after.
I also enjoyed the Cappuccino and it came promptly and was perfect for the cold morning.

Eggs Benedict with Salmon $15.50
I ordered the Salmon Eggs Benedict and was delighted to see the generous serving of crusty bread, warm spinach, salmon and perfectly poached eggs. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and the slight tang it had really complemented the salmon. The wilted spinach was also seasoned enough to provide a saltiness that worked with the sauce to cut through the creamy yolk and rich salmon. 8/10

Eggs Benedict with Mushroom $14.50
My best friend ordered the Eggs Benedict with Mushrooms and like my order it was mouth-wateringly generous with its serving of the crusty bread, rocket, well poached eggs and an interesting mushroom covered in pesto and some cheese (no thats not mould!). I thought her serving of sauce was a little on the small side but the saltiness of the pesto and cheese was tasty with the egg yolk. As you can see in the picture the serving of mushroom could have been bigger so it could be eaten with every biteful of the bread. 7/10

Chorizo Hotpot $14
I came here for lunch a few days later and ordered the Chorizo Hotpot was immediately ordered. Resembling Baked Eggs, the waiter presented it to our table with enthusiastic words of "You'll enjoy it, It's awesome". I loved that. A cafe with that kind of confidence and pride amongst its staff is great to see. The tomato flavour was very strong and quite tangy and the salty and slightly spicy chorizo was a good addition that made each bite texturally interesting and tasty. 7.5/10

The highlight of lunch had to be the Midnight Cuban. It was a grilled club sandwich (which verged on being a burger) filled with loads of pulled pork, bacon, melted cheese, oozing BBQ sauce and dijon mustard. This was probably the most delicious thing I've had between two pieces of bread. It also came with the Bad Boys which were superbly crunchy wedges - the perfect accompaniment with the burger. 9/10


Midnight Cuban & Bad Boys $15 - That ooze..
Paper Plane Cafe is a promising cafe with great food and service but to hold up to the likes of Circa Cafe I would love to see a unique spin on some of their menu items. In saying that, I am definitely returning here to try their other delicious sounding dishes. Don't be surprised if I do another post with an accumulation of the food I eat there over the next few months. 

Parking: You'll have to pay for street parking (Weekdays ~ $3.50/hr) or park at the Westfield ( 3 hours free)
Location: Convenient - 10 min walk from Parramatta Station and Westfield
Atmosphere: 9/10
Service: The waiters were great and attentive
Food: 8.5/10

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Youeni: Fresh in the Hills

Lamb Fritter
Youeni is a regular spot of mine so I thought I would share with you some of the memorable dishes I have had there recently. Their menu changes every few months which is great because it means more food to try and more for me to post.
A dish I really enjoyed were the Lamb Fritters. It boasts some lamb mince patties with a beautiful rocket salad that has a really tasty dressing and some tzatziki inspired dressing with crushed almonds. The mediterranean inspired dish is a great combo of flavours with the sweet and salty salad dressing, the tartness of the yoghurt and the lamb. 8.5/10

Lemon Lime Tart
Tomato Mushrooms
I was also lucky enough to grab a serving of Lemon Lime Tart which was a pastry special that day. The first few bites of this was fantastic with the tart lemon and lime flavour and the modest serving of dry only-slightly-flaky pastry. After half way the lemon flavour was too much on my tastebuds and I struggled to finish it. 4/10

The Tomato Mushrooms is a breakfast dish that I quite enjoyed. It had a large field mushroom cooked with Youeni's tomato sauce stuffed with a fetta and semi-dried tomato paste. The dish was very filling but the combination of the sour tomato sauce and the fetta cheese was overall too sour for my liking. 6/10

Baked Eggs
Last but not least, the Baked Eggs at Youeni do not disappoint. The dish has a fun and quirky presentation with the sesame bread ring served over the dish the eggs were baked in. Unfortunately its really for show as the ring is quite chewy and hard to pull apart. The chorizo and abundant serving of kidney beans will definitely fill you up and keep you satisfied right past your next meal time. 7/10

Overall, I always come back to Youeni with its addictive atmosphere and coffee, and interesting new menu items. Chances are, you'll see me there when you go.
Parking: Great with a parking complex just below it
Location: Convenient - only 5 min walk from Castle Towers
Atmosphere: 9/10
Service: Sometimes very slow but during quieter times the servers are very friendly and take the time out to have a chat with you
Food: 7.5/10

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Excelsior Jones: Worth the Wait

Salmon Hash $16
Walking into Excelsior Jones, you're hit with the sense that the cafe aims for you to feel comfortable and well looked after. The cafe is spacious which is a rare find amongst cafes nowadays, where more often than not, your chair is in danger of banging into another patron's with the slightest move. The result is a calm and very enjoyable atmosphere. 

The waiters were charming and apologised after handing me a juice rather than the Masala Chai ($4.50) I had ordered. The chai tea was a warming drink but the pepper/cinnamon was very overpowering, with a layer of it settling at the bottom of the cup. The Chocolate Milkshake ($6.50) was also ordered and it was tasty, frothy and not too sweet. 

I was recommended the Salmon Hash which came out after a long wait of 45 minutes. I brushed aside my hunger because I was delighted at the sight of this dish. The slightly crunchy smashed potatoes were a great match with the well cooked smoked salmon, poached egg and small bites of crunchy bacon. The overall flavour of smokiness and the rich interesting textures made this dish very filling and the perfect example of a 'feel good' meal.

The second dish that caught my eye on the menu was the Cheeseburger. It boasted a juicy beef patty, gruyere cheese, aioli and a thick tomato sauce on a sweet bun. The burger was delicious for the first few bites but after a few bites of it, I wanted to get back to the Salmon Hash. The burger was nothing special but the thing that saved this dish had to be the fried spuds. Their alternative to traditional chips, Excelsior Jones proves they know how to cook a potato and how to cook it well. These spuds were crisp and the soft potato on the inside made me question why I have never had potatoes like this before. 
Cheeseburger and Fried Spuds $16

Overall, I would recommend Excelsior Jones to family and friends.
Parking: Easy street parking
Location: Far from any public transport
Atmosphere: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10

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I'm Angus Steakhouse: A Meatlovers' Mediocre Dream

I'm Angus Steakhouse was the venue of a good friends' birthday and the promise of meat was very encouraging. First things first. After we ordered it took almost an hour for our dishes to arrive. That was a definite downer on the night and we tried our best to excuse it due to the dinner rush however seeing tables that came after us being served was disheartening.

I ordered the Pork Cutlet which came on a sweet pea risotto and granny smith apple jus. One of my favourite flavour combinations are pork and apple so I knew I had to order this. By the time my dish was put in front of me I was starving so I tore straight into it. The risotto was very creamy and the sweet peas were delicious. The pork itself was not as succulent as I would have hoped but it was complemented perfectly with the jus. Sadly, I was not feeling satisfied after finishing this dish despite also having garlic bread as an entree. 7/10

"Darling Downs" Pork Cutlet $32: Wanted more pork on my fork
 The Marinated Chicken was served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and tomato confit. The chicken was succulent and the herbs really permeated the dish. The garlic and mashed potato was also a great accompaniment with the chicken with the tomato allowing for some tang to cut through the robust flavours. 7/10

Marinated Chicken Breast $29: You can never go wrong with chicken 
 The healthiest dish of the night had to be the Atlantic Salmon Fillet which was served with a serving of greek salad. The salmon was very well cooked and the gremalata was delicious with it giving it an extra flavour of parsley and garlic. The greek salad itself was lacklustre and did not tie in the actual salmon except that it was healthy and fresh. 6.5/10 

Grilled Atlantic Salmon Fillet $34:  Fresh, light and healthy 
 The monster that was the Giant Pork Ribs was a favourite order amongst the boys. The saucy ribs were delicious with the boys eating them down to the bone in minutes. The meat on the ribs fell off the bone and was very well marinated with a dominant sweet and sour flavour. The thick cut chips were also crispy and golden and was the perfect accompaniment to this dish. 7.5/10
Giant Pork Ribs Full Rack $46: A cavemanish yet delicious dish
Overall, I did not entirely enjoy my time at I'm Angus. The wait for the food was the dominant downfall of this restaurant and the serving sizes left us feeling unsatisfied. I would not recommend this place and I think you would be better off eating at Hurricanes.
Rating: 6.5/10

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Cafe D'or: Oh Kebaby

I do not often get to enjoy Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine which is a shame because I really love their delicious food. If you have only had the odd kebab from the store around the corner or the midnight kebab after a night out, please do yourself a favour and check out a restaurant like Cafe D'or.
Lemon, Lime and Bitters $4.50: Delicious
My friend was not feeling well so she ordered this small dish and when it came out I thought it looked adorable. Their homous is smooth and well flavoured which was great to have with the flavour packed mince. 7/10
Homous with Minced Meat $15.90
I ordered this monster of a dish and was very satisfied at the end. First, I have to mention their amazing garlic sauce. The little angelic white sauce was probably the best I've ever had. Yes, even better than El Jannah's famous sauce. I could no get enough of it and my friend bought some to bring home with her. The two skewers were delicious especially when dipped in with the homous and garlic sauce, and the fatoush was fresh and brought a great healthy touch to the meal. 8/10
A skewer of Kafta & Shish Taook, served with a side of homous and fatoush $15.90
The kebab was very enjoyable with tender pieces of meat but nothing highlighted it from ones you could buy from around Sydney. The one thing that I really remembered from this dish were the chips. They were amazing! 6/10
Shish Kebab $12.90
Overall, I found Cafe D'or to be very friendly with great food. I was left feeling very full after I had cleared my plate and my friend was very happy to have left with some of their delicious garlic sauce. I would be keen to try out their dinner menu with friends in the future. 
Rating: 7.5/10

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The Grounds Of Alexandria: Nothing Short of Extraordinary

The Grounds of Alexandria has been the talk of the town this past year and rightly so! I came here on a busy Saturday morning and it was bustling like a market. The whole setup was fantastic with the colourful outdoor furniture and plants. Our one hour wait (yes one hour!) was forgivable as it gave us the opportunity to wander around the Grounds and have a look at their pastries and fresh lemonade stalls. Quite a good move on behalf of the restaurant as the restless waiting customers usually had a paper bag of tarts or a cup of lemonade by the time they got into the restaurant. 

In the midst of the glaring sun, I myself was tempted into buying some of the delicious looking lemonade. I had trouble choosing between the original or rose lemonade but settled with the original and I found it hit the spot - nothing like fresh lemonade on a hot day. 
$5 Original or Rose Lemonade: He was nice enough to pose for this photo
Range of House Made Pastries: Hold me back before I grab one
Finally after the wait, we were tucked into the corner of the outdoor area. The waiters were rushing around but when it came to taking our order they were great.  I ordered a skinny cap which was enjoyable but I think in the bustle of the morning rush the barista may have used a cup holding soy milk when he made mine because there was a definite hint of it as I sipped. 

Skinny Cap $4
I ordered the Sweet Pea Fritters because I love fritters and the flavour combo it promised with fresh yoghurt and tomato salad. When it came out I was surprised to find they looked more like falafels but after taking a bite, it made sense. The flavours were quite Mediterranean which was great because it was fresh and packed full of flavour. The fritters weren't dry which is good because I had to ask for another small serving of the yoghurt dressing. 7/10

Sweet Pea Fritters $16: A sophisticated spin on the humble kebab
My friend ordered a Smoked Salmon Board (forgive me, I can't find the menu name for this item). It consisted of smoked salmon, beetroot relish and cheese, cucumber salad and an egg salad. The whole board was finished with gusto as the sourness and freshness of the cucumber, the richness of the egg salad and salmon was delicious with the crispy bread. I found the beetroot relish to be too spiced but otherwise it's a very varied dish that wouldn't disappoint. 7.5/10

Smoked Salmon Board: Requires a bit of  skill to compile all the components. CAUTION: avoid if hungover
This was the item I was going to order because I found Quinoa Rolled Eggs to be a really interesting menu item. I was imagining the eggs to be covered in a quinoa coat, a little like a crispy skin on the outside. However I was disappointed to see that they just sprinkled the quinoa over the top. Moving on from my warped expectations of the name, the dish was very tasty. The peas and beans were fresh and left you feeling satisfied. However, you can call me a cheapass because I felt the dish needed something else besides the boiled eggs to get my money's worth. 7/10
Quinoa Rolled Eggs $16: Let's be real, they aren't rolled in the quinoa
My sweet-toothed best friend ordered the French Toast. The brioche they used was soft and thick which was fantastic with the poached pears and pouring custard. The ratio of poached pear to toast seemed a little on the lacking side which was made obvious when the dish arrived with the pears spaced out around the dish like numbers on a clock. The whole dish was not overpowering with sweetness thanks to the pouring custard but I was not amazed by this particularly dish. 6.5/10

French Toast: Warm and Toasty 
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at The Grounds, so much so, I am keen to return for more breakfast, brunch or lunch. The wait for the table is off-putting but the market setup is enough to keep you occupied. Definitely worth a try!
Rating: 7.5/10

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Red Spoon/Kinn Thai: New Name, Fresh Flavours

The Red Spoon of my high school days has been renamed to Kinn Thai. Thai is one of my favourite cuisines and Kinn Thai is one of the restaurants I'll frequent often because I know the food is delicious and the menu has a huge range. The following dishes I shared with my HSC-stressed sister who likes to dine here with me on Sunday afternoons because she knows I'll be the one picking up the bill. Hmmmm.

The Crying Tiger was marinated char grilled Wagyu beef sirloin served with stir-fried mixed vegetables and chilli lime sauce. Crying Tiger sounds like something that would be tattooed on someone's back, so with an intense name like that, I was expecting some intense flavour... and Kinn did not disappoint. The beef was tender and juicy and the sauce was a great accompaniment. The serving was generous so I definitely felt satisfied after this dish. 8/10

Crying Tiger $24: Tender and juicy with a great chargrill flavour 

BBQ Chicken was a cousin of the Crying Tiger dish, consisting of Char grilled marinated chicken thigh filled with Thai herbs and spices served with stir fried mixed vegetables and sweet chilli sauce. This dish was also a delight with a substantial serving and delicious moist chicken. Thank goodness because the worst thing you could probably get from a restaurant is dry chicken. The universally complementary sweet chilli sauce was a good hit of sweetness with the chicken. 8/10

BBQ Chicken $22: Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner
It was my sister's first time to try Massamun Curry which is slowly braised beef in thick mild curry served with potato. I had a Massamun Curry at Mamak earlier this year so that was my point of comparison and I found this to be substantially sweeter. It was still very enjoyable. The beef pieces were melt-in-your-mouth and once again there were many pieces in the curry. 7/10

Massamun Curry $19.90: Packed with flavour but not with potato
Halfway through tucking into the curry I realised that something was missing. The potato! Awkward. I assumed they just didn't spoon any out but I wanted my sister to enjoy the curry in its entirety. 
After talking to the waitress, which proved to be a little difficult as her English was not that great, we were presented with a bowl full of more delicious curry and pieces of potato. How sweet of them. 
Our Little Bowl of Potato
The next dish was Crispy Skin Chicken with a 5 spice salt. Once again the chicken was moist and the skin was quite crispy. I did not find the salt that enjoyable and personally I do not think it adds anything to the dish. There were many pieces and my sister and I struggled to finish all of them. 7/10

Crispy Skin Chicken with 5 Spice Salt: Moist and crisp, the way chicken should be
The Panang Curry was described to be a delicious light curry served with red capsicum, snow peas, green beans and broccoli cooked in coconut milk. I've never had an unenjoyable Panang curry at a Thai restaurant and thankfully Kinn did not ruin that running streak. I love the hint of sweetness in a Panang Curry and Kinn's one was similar to the ones that I've had at other restaurants. The snake beans were a little undercooked but the other vegetables were tasty. 7/10

Panang Curry $17.50: I may have eaten some before I took this photo
Pad See Iw (Pad See Ew) is another one of those classic Thai dishes that I think are hard to mess up. The thick flat rice noodles were soft and covered in the delicious sauce. The vegetables were soft and overall I enjoyed this dish. 7/10

Pad See Iw $17.50: Eating tasty Pad See Ew since '07
Ending with dessert, Natasha had the Lime Tart with Pandan Icecream. At first glance, I was not impressed but when we tapped our spoons on the top of the tart it had a hard caramelised sugar topping like that of a creme brulee. Not what you classically find that on a tart but it definitely made it more interesting. The tart was packed full of lime flavour which I loved because if I'm having a lemon or lime dessert I want the sour notes as well the sweet. However, that's where the sweet things stop. The icecream had a subtle taste of pandan and although my sister enjoyed it with the tart I thought the flavours were a little on the strange side. It looked like someone had sneezed over the dish with a spoon of chocolate powder in front of their nose. It really detracted from the presentation and taste of the dish. 5/10

Lime Tart with Pandan Icecream $12: The tart was the star of the show while the icecream and powder were the awkward sidekicks.
Overall, I love coming to Kinn Thai and I always return. Their menu is huge so I will be frequenting there to try more of everything out, especially the desserts. The service is mediocre at times but the waitresses are polite.
Rating: 7.5/10

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