Food

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Mix cows, six thou­sand people, truck­loads of impor­ted turf and lots of yummy food and you get the first ever Break­fast on the Bridge. Me and Ru Jih were lucky enough to score tick­ets to the event, where Sydney­siders were invited to pic­nic on the icon­ic Sydney Har­bour Bridge — closed to traffic — as part of Crave Sydney.

(Click on the images to enlarge.)

No end in sight... people queue to get onto the bridge

No end in sight… people queue to get onto the bridge

On the way up

On the way up

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Name: Bécas­se
Address: 204 Clar­ence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9283 3440
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: French/​European
Open­ing hours: 12:00 pm-2:30 pm (lunch, Monday-Fri­day); 6:00 pm-10:30 pm (din­ner, Monday-Sat­urday)
Price: $120 (degust­a­tion); $27 and $45 (à la carte entrée and main respect­ively)

There is no doubt that Bécas­se is one of the stars of Sydney fine din­ing, almost bey­ond review for an ama­teur as myself. Famil­i­ar and unfa­mil­i­ar ingredi­ents are brought togeth­er in every dish with immacu­late exe­cu­tion and present­a­tion. This is food that is as beau­ti­ful to look at as it is beau­ti­ful to savour. I must say that some of the meat­i­er dishes may come across as being a little under­whelm­ing, but this is purely because of the heav­en­li­ness of some of the oth­er dishes; dessert here is some­thing you can’t have enough of! As for ambi­ence, Bécas­se is a place well-suited any time a little bit of soph­ist­ic­a­tion is in order. From the eleg­ant but not too pre­ten­tious din­ing room, you can see the chefs deftly apply­ing their mas­ter­ful craft, as you go through this culin­ary jour­ney.

You can prob­ably tell from my descrip­tion that we had the degust­a­tion, although they also have a decent à la carte selec­tion. I think I will let the pho­tos speak for them­selves, for which many thanks are due to Daniel Tse.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Salad of heirloom tomato

Salad of heir­loom tomato

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French toast, with scrambled eggs and a can of John West tuna with beans from Nuffn­ang, gar­nished with shal­lots. Deli­cious.

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In a com­pet­i­tion run by Nuffn­angmy blog post was judged the most frugal way to spend $10 at Coles! Many kudos to Ru Jih for shop­ping, eat­ing and spend­ing a great night with me!

07 Sep 2009 | 5 comments

Fail

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Name: Ju Ju
Address: Kings­gate Shop­ping Centre, Shop 320, Bayswa­ter Rd, Kings Cross (a short walk from the train sta­tion)
Phone: (02) 9357 7100
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: Japan­ese
Open­ing hours: 6:30 pm-11:30 pm (Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Thursday, Sunday); 6:30 pm-1:00 am (Fri­day, Sat­urday)

I’ve nev­er been to Japan, so it’s hard for me to com­ment as to the authen­ti­city of the exper­i­ence I had, but Ju Ju, a Japan­ese res­taur­ant a short walk from Kings Cross rail­way sta­tion, has cer­tainly found a way to dis­tin­guish itself in Sydney: as you enter, you are asked to take off your shoes, and at your table, you rest your behind on the ground on cush­ions. It’s all a rather nice thought, but there are good reas­ons — for me any­way — why I might not want to expose my feet dur­ing a meal. Let’s just say it has the poten­tial to con­fuse the pal­ate.

We had heard that the sukiyaki is worth a try, so we ordered that. For $39 (serving two), the sukiyaki comes with sliced beef, noodles, tofu, two eggs and a good selec­tion of veget­ables, all of which you cook your­self hot-pot style in the soy-based broth. While the quant­ity of food wasn’t a prob­lem (we had some leftovers), I was a little dis­ap­poin­ted at the meat-veget­able ratio, and while the end res­ult was tasty (albeit slightly too salty), I can’t say it was any­thing out of the ordin­ary to jus­ti­fy spend­ing $19.50 per per­son. (The oth­er mains on the menu were about $10–15 per per­son: we should’ve ordered those instead.)

“Kung Fu Panda” was play­ing silently on the flat-pan­el mon­it­or next to the table — repeatedly — and com­bined with the extens­ive use of wooden decor (and the menu con­tain­ing a good deal of Engrish and WordArt), I wasn’t blown away by the present­a­tion either. Tak­ing your shoes off might be nov­el for some, but it doesn’t do it for me. It’s also a karaoke bar — at $1 per song — but we didn’t give that a go. Maybe with flow­ing alco­hol, song, dance and some oth­er dishes, it might have been a more mem­or­able exper­i­ence.

Con­clu­sion: Com­pet­ent Japan­ese food, but noth­ing spe­cial, and out of the way if you have no oth­er reas­on to be in Kings Cross.

Food: 6/​10
Ser­vice: 5/​10
Ambi­ence: 6/​10
Value for money: 5/​10
Over­all: 5/​10
(what do these num­bers mean?)

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Update: this post won the most frugal award in the com­pet­i­tion!

Nuffn­ang, a blog advert­ising com­munity of which I am a mem­ber, ran an inter­est­ing con­test: giv­en a $10 Coles Group/​Myer gift card a) spend it most cre­at­ively, or b) spend it most frugally. I got my $10 in the wel­come pack recently.

Actu­ally, the second chal­lenge — the frugal one — states, “How far can you stretch $10 and what can you make it do?” (emphas­is mine). Being the lit­er­al­ist that I can be at times, I was con­sid­er­ing buy­ing paper­clips and string­ing them togeth­er. This bears some thought: a pack­et of 100 paper­clips, at Coles World Square, costs $0.64 — so with $10, I’ll be able to walk away with 1500 paper­clips. With each paper­clip span­ning 2.8 cm, a little bit of arith­met­ic tells me that I should be able to string togeth­er some­thing over 40 m long — beat that! But a little bit of arith­met­ic also tells me that I’d be string­ing togeth­er paper­clips for way too many hours, so we moved on from that idea pretty quickly.

I sup­pose, in this world of heightened aware­ness of fin­an­cial prudence, it would be rather passé to exhib­it any form of con­spicu­ous con­sump­tion: out with the cavi­ar, in with the roe. With that in mind, and Curtis Stone’s omni­present smile at Coles, we designed the per­fect night out: a three-course meal, for two, for ten dol­lars, no cook­ing required. And where else would you eat such a frugal meal, apart from on a pic­nic rug in Hyde Park, right in the middle of Sydney?

(Note: apart from the fol­low­ing pho­tos, I had pho­tos of us shop­ping, but… shit hap­pens. I took them on my cam­era phone. I lost said phone on the way home, on the train. Sigh.)

First course: Fresh man­dar­ins in nat­ur­al peel. Per­fect for cleans­ing the pal­ate, these man­dar­ins, once peeled, trans­formed into suc­cu­lent wedges of juicy fruit­i­ness.

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Two for only $0.54! (exclud­ing laptop, and laptop bag)

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Second course: Crus­ted bread, with roast chick­en, gour­met lettuce and avo­cado dip. Simple, under­stated, irres­ist­ible. I sup­pose the name of this del­ic­acy speaks for itself.

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It’s an easy dish to pre­pare — here’s an easy-to-fol­low visu­al guide as to the assembly of this dish in case you think this is all way too com­plic­ated:

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The dip made all the dif­fer­ence I think, adding con­trast­ing tex­tures and fla­vours (a hint of onion — oh my!) to the crusty bread.

Third course: Cin­na­mon dough­nuts. If there was a 1 in front of the dough­nuts, that would accur­ately describe our three-course meal: 100… per­cent!

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So, we man­aged to fit in all the main food groups, I think — all for $10. Eat like a king, without the price tag. Just look at our beam­ing smiles!

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The food: $10. The exper­i­ence:

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And here’s the receipt, to show that everything is above board. (Audit­ing is fun, I’m told.)

receipt

21 cents spare.

(more pho­tos)

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I was savour­ing the delight­ful descrip­tions of one of my favour­ite dishes, laksa, in this New York Times art­icle, when I almost choked upon this sur­pris­ing fact­oid:

Curry laksa is hugely pop­u­lar in Aus­tralia, espe­cially Sydney, where the pan-Asi­an culin­ary influ­ence has turned “let’s go for a laksa” into com­mon post-pub par­lance.

Per­haps I don’t go to pubs often enough, but is this really so?

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Name: Great Cen­tury Res­taur­ant
Address: 23 Green­field Parade, Bank­stown, NSW 2200
Phone: (02) 9796 3366
Type: Res­taur­ant
Cuisine: Chinese

I’m sure it has been said that while one of multiculturalism’s great products is the great vari­ety of res­taur­ants we can choose from in Sydney, the Chinese res­taur­ants here are gen­er­ally quite lack­ing. If you’ve been to Hong Kong or else­where, the choice on offer in Sydney seems down­right ped­es­tri­an, and even if you haven’t, rude waiters and mediocre food are not uncom­mon tales.

The Great Cen­tury Res­taur­ant has had many a name over the years, but there has always been a Chinese res­taur­ant of some descrip­tion in the pink build­ing on Green­field Parade in Bank­stown for as long as I have known. While it has nev­er been any­thing to sing home about, we always enjoyed hav­ing fam­ily din­ners there because we would get sea­food or some­thing else that grandma couldn’t throw togeth­er her­self.

Unfor­tu­nately, it’s not quite the same any more. Now, vast amounts of uneven sticky-tape adorn the walls, hold­ing up spe­cials typed up onto pink sheets of paper — not quite the soph­ist­ic­ated look. The fish tank, the staple of a Chinese res­taur­ant, has been moved from its prime pos­i­tion near the entrance to one of the corners. Some of the waiters were rather cas­u­ally dressed — I’m sorry, but that’s just not on.

Waiters push­ing you to order nev­er quite set the scene right. So we ordered, and we sat around for a while. We drank the com­pli­ment­ary arrival soup; it was lack­ing in com­plex fla­vours, feel­ing as though it were watered down or boiled with insuf­fi­cient ingredi­ents. Then we sat around for a while. Then one dish came. It was scal­lops with veget­ables — pass­able, if it weren’t for the fact that it was luke­warm. Some­thing gave me the hint it had been sit­ting around for a while.

So we ate the scal­lops, and twiddled our thumbs for a while, then the rice came, and then we twiddled our thumbs for a while some more. It’s a sure sign something’s wrong when grandpa got up to get the teapots refilled him­self. Not that the tea was any­thing spe­cial either.

The Pek­ing duck was prob­ably the high­light of the meal — a tan­tal­ising slith­er of duck skin wrapped in a pan­cake with a scal­lion, drenched in sweet noodle sauce. Luck­ily for me, there were extras and I couldn’t wait to grab myself a second help­ing. There was a little more fat than I would have liked, but hey, that’s what you get with duck.

Then, things mira­cu­lously sped up and the dishes star­ted pil­ing in; sud­denly the paucity of food turned into a feast. The fish was a bit chewy but the main con­cern was the oyster sauce — oyster sauce, I think, goes well with few things, and that fish wasn’t one of them. The noodles were soft and a pleas­ure to gulp down, but they were drenched in sauce. The crispy skin chick­en looked like it had been hanging around for a while, and the rest of the duck meat came on a plate — not presen­ted in any appet­ising way, and it was pos­it­ively unap­pet­ising with the strange-tast­ing sauce that accom­pan­ied it. I love duck with taro, but there just wasn’t much duck and hon­estly, that taro didn’t taste very much like taro. We also had shark fin with some kind of veget­able — for­tu­nately, such a dish is always bound to be a crowd pleas­er.

After the cas­u­ally-dressed waiters cleaned away the plates and bowls, com­pli­ment­ary dessert in the form of sliced oranges and cook­ies were served; I didn’t have the oranges (I could smell the sour­ness from a metre away) but the cook­ies were nice, except that I don’t think they should have had a soft centre.

In gen­er­al, I often find that the com­pli­ment­ary dishes a res­taur­ant gives away impact quite a bit on how I per­ceive them; how­ever, in this case, they should prob­ably worry about the mains first. The place just reeks of an atti­tude that they just don’t really care very much about you, or the food.

I’m just glad I wasn’t the one pay­ing.

Food: 4/​10
Ser­vice: 4/​10
Ambi­ence: 5/​10
Value for money: 5/​10
Over­all: 4/​10
(what do these num­bers mean?)

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