FOOD is fashion . FASHION is food . a VICTIM of fashionable food*

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thai Pothong*

"Winner of the Best Thai Restaurant in Sydney 4 years in a row,
Thai Pothong (Golden Pho Leaf) refers to the “Pho” tree under which Buddha became enlightened.
In the 19th Century, King Rama V deemed knives to be a symbol of battle and could not be used at the table.
This is why Thai food is prepared bite-sized, and it is customary to eat with a spoon and fork!"

To discover the essence of Thai cuisine, it is without question that one must venture to King Street in Newtown. There is a never-ending stretch of Thai restaurants littered along this main road, which are literally located right next to each other. During lunch hours, most places offer a $6 lunch special to attract Sydney University students to make the trek down the road for some quick cheap eats. But that is another food journey for another day!

The first challenge was to locate Thai Pothong amongst the myriad of Thai restaurants. Think of it like finding a needle in a haystack, or as I would say, like taking a bite out of a macaron without eating the whole thing- basically Impossible! Finally we see their trademark green pot plants and bright signs outside. Sliding open the glass doors to walk inside, it feels like I have just entered a fine dining restaurant in the heart of Thailand. In every corner something quirky catches the eye: Benjarong artefacts, exotic wall tapestries, wood carvings, original paintings from Thailand, and golden buddha statues- just to name a few.

Khow Suay
Endless steamed Jasmine rice for everyone
(Contained in a beautiful silver urn, just because.)

Peeg Gai Mom Mae
Stuffed Chicken Wings Filled With Minced Chicken, Vermicelli, Black Mushrooms and Sweet Chilli Sauce
(Looks like ordinary fried chicken wings upon first glance. However, a cross sectional view reveals the chicken wing has been deboned and filled with a moist mixture of chicken with vegetables.)

Chinese Broccoli with Crispy Pork
Stir-Fried Chinese Broccoli, Crispy Pork and Fresh Chilli in Yellow Bean Sauce

Northern Thailand Jungle Curry
Spicy Chicken, Combination of Vegetables and Hot Basil
(The fun begins when the spiciness kicks in. Be prepared for your tastebuds to be inflamed: as the normal combination of chicken, curry, vegetables and basil becomes abnormally tasty.)

Pla Gra Tiam
Whole Deep Fried Fresh Snapper with Garlic and Black Pepper Sauce


Baked Egg Custard
Taro, Homemade Coconut Ice Cream with Jackfruit Flavour
(Baked egg custard is served warm with a smooth creamy texture. In contrast, the coconut icecream is obviously chilled, and contains strings of fresh jackfruit.)

Stuffed Rambutan with Pineapple
Lychee, Homemade Coconut Ice Cream with Jackfruit Strings and Lychee Sorbet
(The slight sourness of the lychee sorbet balances well against the sweetness of the deseeded lychees.)

Kao Neaw Mamoung
Steamed Thai Black Sticky Rice Served with Fresh Mango and Desiccated Coconut
(My favourite dish for the night, both in presentation and taste. Thin mango slices were arranged to form the shape of a yellow rose, and definitely looked too good to eat! Underneath is a layer of black sticky rice topped with coconut milk that was a bit too sweet for me. But a glass of water later, and the dish was finished!)

Throughout the night, our dinner conversations were punctuated by the staff bursting into a chorus to sing Happy Birthday to a fellow diner. For the birthday cake, Thai Pothong offers a special party ice cream decorated with fresh seasonal fruits, candles, and sparklers to make celebrations extra festive. When we asked for the Bill, we were pleasantly surprised to find complementary Thai Pothong Dollars to use at the Gift Shop!*

~ ~ ~
Thai Pothong Restaurant and Gift Shop
294 King Street, Newtown
(02) 9550 6277
~ ~ ~ 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day Family Dinner*

"On Australia Day the nation celebrates what's great about Australia and being Australian: 
the freedom to live as we wish, 
believe in any religious faith without persecution, 
laugh whenever the moment calls, 
wear the latest fashion trends, 
and most importantly, eat whatever we want!"

Most Australians will attend an organised community event, lay on the beach with friends to soak up the sunshine, have a barbeque in the backyard or watch the evening fireworks. For my family, it means another excuse for everyone to get together to eat (with an ever so slight intention of celebrating our national day)!

Tonight Dad was faced with a daunting task: to cook a meal for our family dinner that would survive the Critics, that is, my grandparents and relatives (all of whom are chefs!). Amongst the raw ingredients were a box of Uni (sea urchin), fresh lemons plucked from our lemon tree, two pots of vegetables mom had prepared earlier and two slabs of red atlantic salmon.

Uni Soup

Salmon Sashimi 
with Shallots to Garnish; Soy Sauce & Wasabi Condiments

Sydney Rock Oysters
Served with a Few Drops of Fresh Lemon Juice

Left: Roasted Japanese Pumpkin with Black Bean
Right: Winter Melon with Shredded Pork

Tiger Prawns
Marinated with Soya Tomato Sauce

Pan Fried in Soya Marinade and Garnished with Shallots

Steamed Coral Trout
with Ginger and Shallots in Soy Sauce

So what did the Critics say?
Uni Soup- should add more ginger to offset the fishy taste of the Uni.
Salmon Sashimi- temperature was not cold enough, but would be ideal if there was a bed of ice underneath and glad wrap over it to line the plate.
Sydney Rock Oysters- perfect. Very fresh!
Roasted Pumpkin- Pumpkin roasted perfectly but marinade was slightly too sweet, next time less brown sugar.
Winter Melon- plain by itself but a nice complement to the other flavoursome dishes.
Tiger Prawns & Quail- good, no complaints
Steamed Coral Trout- maybe a minute less in the steamer would have been perfect, as meat on the back did not separate from the bone entirely. 

And what did I say?
Although I completely agree with the Critics, 
overall the food look and tasted delicious!!
A job well done once again Dad!*

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baroque- Bistro, Bar & Patisserie*

"After 35 years of operating La Renaissance Patisserie,
the Charkos family have continued their culinary tradition by establishing Baroque.
Like the artistic style prevalent in 16th Century Europe, the food is characterised by
dynamic movement, overt emotion and self-confident rhetoric.

A classic French bistro providing affordable dining at The Rocks and you can view the desserts being handmade on-site in an open plan pastry kitchen! I love the fact that it is a nice place to eat, drink and relax for almost any occasion. Taking a trip down memory lane, I must thank Bee for my discovery of Baroque. During a discussion with him about macarons (or more precisely, grieving about the absence of Ladurée in Sydney), he informed me that I can take comfort in the meantime from macarons at La Renaissance. We headed there immediately, but opted for Baroque instead to sit down for a catch up. Bee had previously worked at Sailor's Thai and was well acquainted with Olivier, so we ended up receiving our meal complementary- with macarons to take away as well! A delightful first experience, which has reminded me to visit Baroque time and time again.

Three tastings, with 
Three as company, on 
Three separate occasions (ok, maybe more than three- but it fits the poem!), 
call for One place: 

ONCE: Lunch with the Family

Frite, Béarnaise

Poached Eggs, Grilled Mushroom, Bacon, Champ Potato on a Toasted Baguette

TWICE: Brunch with the Girls

Croque Madame
French Style Toast, Ham, Gruyère Cheese, Soft Boiled Egg served with a Mini Mixed Leaf Salad and Chips

Le Pain
Drizzle of Olive Oil, Sea Salt Flakes and Cracked Pepper

Salad of Butternut Pumpkin
Hazelnuts, Nasturtium, Goats Curd, Mushroom Ash

Lamb Feet Salad 
with Caramelised Walnuts

Violet Macaron with added Sparkle

THRICE: Afternoon tea on my dayoff to relax & plan for the week ahead

Cafe Gourmand
Selection of Macarons (Dark Chocolate, Coffee & Pistachio) with Skim Latte

But I assure you, once you eat one they become very addictive. So it is only natural to succumb to temptation and purchase one box (or maybe even two) of macarons for your friends to taste every flavour!!

P.s. A little secret for those who just want to sample one macaron. Upon request, macarons may be sold individually in cute cube-shaped boxes!*

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guillaume at bennelong*

"In the southern most shell of the Sydney Opera House,
we were seated beneath Jorn Utzon's vaulted concrete "ribs".
Absorbing spectacular views of Sydney Harbour,
we watched as the sunset gradually faded into the horizon..."

Gently Sealed and Served with Cauliflower Puree, Shiitake Mushrooms and Chicken Jus
(Scallops perfectly cooked for a mild sweetness with a taste of the ocean. Smooth cauliflower puree was topped with shiitake mushrooms and bathed in chicken jus for a rich wholesome flavour.)

Blue Swimmer Crab
On a Bed of Avocado with Cucumber, Coriander and Capsicum Coulis
(Capsicum coulis forms a moat surrounding this new prototype for a seafood sandwich. Instead of bread, there is a bed of avocado and a carefully constructed roof of thin cucumber slices to encase the layer of blue swimmer crab.)

with Sauce Basquaise, Crispy Kipfler Potatoes and Wild Rocket
(A dish defining the simple elegance of French basque cooking. I have never tried Basquaise sauce so it was interesting to taste the blend of sweet peppers, garlic and tomatoes with chicken breast pieces.)

Beef Tenderloin
Served with Onion and Cardamon Puree, a Tombe of Silverbeet and Pomme Pont Neuf
(A subtle fragrant aroma of cardamon sets the tone for this beef tenderloin. Accompanied by french thick-cut fries and the earthy taste of silverbeet- which is easily mistaken spinach.)

Selection of Cheese

Valrhona Chocolate Cream
with Praline Ice Cream
(Set sail towards Sydney Harbour with this sweet indulgence. Guillaume's insignia is superimposed on finely sliced dark chocolate with jagged edges, which reminds me of the headsail of a yacht. Valrhona chocolate cream is a perfect fusion of chocolate ice cream and gelato, which is paired with praline ice cream to offer a refreshing new combination. But wait, there's more. Hidden inside are caramelised candied pecans- just waiting to be discovered!)

As our meal concluded, we spotted Guillaume Brahimi himself! Dressed in professional chef attire, he had ventured out of the kitchen to greet the table next to us. It is comforting to know that despite all his success, Guillaume is still hands on and prepared our meal for the night.*

~ ~ ~
Guillaume at Bennelong
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney
(02) 9241 1999 
~ ~ ~

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baffi & Mo*

"Picture this: there is a prominent sign hanging on the wall,
and within a large antique gold frame... features the infamous Moustache Motif.
Rumour has it, one of the co-owner's has an obsession with facial hair."

Let us start with some trivia to spice things up. First, see if you can find the silver teapot quietly sitting somewhere in the photograph below. Next, the challenge is whether you can guess what is inside the teapot before the end of this post!

Potato Hash Stack
Double Smoked Ham, Avocado, Fresh Tomato, Asparagus & Lemon dressed Rocket topped with a Poached Egg.
(Piled up high is a delightful combination of Summery flavours for a refreshingly light start to the day. Asparagus sticks are arranged in tent-formation, while the potato hash slices consist of different sized clutters of french fries. Most ingredients in this dish also happens to be 'good for you' which is a bonus- well, minus the potato hash pieces.)

The Ooze: vital evidence to prove that a poached egg has been cooked to perfection.

Pea, Corn and Haloumi Fritters
with Spinach, Avocado and Roasted Tomato
(A modern interpretation of the classic recipe for Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters- not only using a different green vegetable, but also introducing corn kernels for that extra touch of difference. To dust the base off in style, Chef used a sprinkle of sea salt, cracked pepper and some purple salt. Somewhat reminiscent of the Sweet Corn Fritters at Bill Granger's Cafe, but looked prettier and not as firm.)

Located in an emerging culinary neighbourhood, the quaint shopfront could be arguably mistaken for a cafe from Saint-Germain-des-Pres (or Sydneysiders would dream of this comparison anyways!).

And if you are still wondering what was in the silver teapot... the answer will now be revealed: Most people probably think that the obvious answer would be tea since it is a teapot after all. Others may believe it contains soy sauce, like those commonly used at Chinese restaurants. But those of you who thought it was grains of raw sugar are indeed correct! 

~ ~ ~
Baffi & Mo
94 Redfern Street, Redfern
(02) 8065 3294
~ ~ ~

Sunday, January 16, 2011


"Shiki in Japanese refers to the Four Seasons.
In Spring: cherry blossoms bloom in a wave towards the northeast.
As temperatures rise in Summer, the heat becomes almost unbearable, but festivals and fireworks make it all seem worth it.
Autumn sees the arrival of strong winds and an ideal time for moon viewing.
While in Winter, the snow falls like a blanket over Japan."

Being the longest established restaurant in Sydney is not an easy task, but Shiki may claim this reputable title. Settling into the traditional Japanese style Tatami private room created the perfect ambience for a night of celebrations.

"Mutsuki" degustation menu

Japanese Egg Omelets with Minced Prawn: New Year Style
(What deceptively appears to be a piece of asian sponge cake turned out to be an omelette!) 

Assorted Sashimi
Salmon and Kingfish

Savory steamed egg custard
with Mixed Seafood, chilled to serve
(Take the plunge into the sea and you will discover scallop neatly lining the base of the glass. Their firm texture was a nice contrast to the velvety egg custard.)

Marinated in Sweet Miso

Grilled Jewfish
with Tomato Miso sauce

Softshell Crab
with Fresh Summer Salad in Citrus Dressing
(Love the shape of the plate so I couldn't resist and included a photograph of it too. C informed me that years ago Shiki was famous for a Tasmanian white softshell crab dish, but unfortunately I missed the opportunity to try it. Time for a revival of this old classic I say!)

Beef Tenderloin Steak
with Mushroom Butter sauce

Nigiri Sushi

Dessert of the day
Mango Sorbet, Fresh Cream & Strawberry Slice
(Looks average. Tastes average. But presentation on a curved plate was cute.)

Black Forest cake
And the evening sparkles away with a sweet ending...*

~ ~ ~
Corner of Argyle and Harrington Street
Clocktower Square, The Rocks
(02) 9252 2431
~ ~ ~