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Korn Thai, Crows Nest

Crispy Basil Duck, $22.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog Review

It seems like I’ve eaten more Thai food since I’ve come to Australia than I ever did growing up in Singapore. Everything from the “imitation” Thai that has barely any resemblance to the real thing, to the truly enjoyable experiences that is as close as I can get this far away from Thailand.

Which brings me to Korn Thai, located in the concrete jungle of Crows Nest. I’m not sure what exactly I expected when I rocked up that afternoon, but I knew I was hungry, and surely that’s enough? 😉

The Order:

Soft Shell Crab Mango Salad, $22.90
Mango, soft shell crab, shallot, coriander, with lime juice and Thai salad dressing.

Crispy Basil Duck, $22.90
Deep fried duck, stir fried chilli sauce and holy basil

Crispy Eggplant, $17.90
Fried eggplant, sauce garlic, chilli, wok tossed sweet basil with Korn Thai’s signature chilli jam sauce and topped with crispy basil.

Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $21.90
Stir fried curry paste with green beans, sliced kaffir lime leaves and pork rind.

Red Duck Curry, $22.90
With pineapple, rambutan, cherry tomato and julienned young coconut.

Deep fried ice cream, $5.90

The Food:

I’ve always had an ongoing theory that you can’t go wrong with anything deep fried, and I’m glad to say that I stand CORRECT! *buffs nails on shirt*. And here’s the secret code: if you see anything on the Korn Thai menu that has the word “crispy” in it, you should order it. Trust me.

Crispy Basil Duck, $22.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewCrispy Basil Duck, $22.90

The Crispy Basil Duck, for example, reminded me of Korean Fried Chicken with a sticky salty soy glaze and just the barest peppery hint of spice. Except that it’s in duck form, which is plenty fine in my books. Sweet, but not cloying, this dish is superb as an option to share, and perfect to whet your appetitite.

Crispy Eggplant, $17.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewCrispy Eggplant, $17.90

Not a fan of duck? Well they’ve got options in the form of Crispy Eggplant and Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, too!

Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $21.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $21.90

The Crispy Eggplant leans a little more toward the duck in its savoury/sweetness, and the Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly really ups the ante in terms of richness and flavour. Either way, it’s full bodied crispy delicious goodness, with top points going to the gooey-on-the-inside eggplant. You’ll want to order a double serve of it if you’re sharing – it’s THAT good.

Soft Shell Crab Mango Salad, $22.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSoft Shell Crab Mango Salad, $22.90

On the lighter side of things, the Soft Shell Crab Mango Salad provides a tart, refreshing note to the meal, using shredded green mangoes to cut through the richness of the *crispy* soft shell crab. (You see the theme here?) A great option for a summer lunch, and a nice alternative to the otherwise more-common papaya salad. As far as the mango (and other Thai) salads I’ve had its definitely not a standout, but it’s still immensely enjoyable and has a great balance of flavours.

Red Duck Curry, $22.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewRed Duck Curry, $22.90

The inconspicuously-named Red Duck Curry sashayed out to the table in a coconut shell (have I mentioned how much I love a good kitschy moment?) and really made me realise just how much I love rambutan in my curries. Never had rambutan before? It’s this:

Image of rambutan
Source: Google

These red hairy looking suckers contain sweet flesh that’s similar to lychees, but just a touch less cloying and much more delicate. It adds a dimension and lightens the curry, and with the pineapple gives it the distinctly Thai balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

And if you think that pineapple shouldn’t be in savoury food?

Get Out
Source: Google

Deep fried ice cream, $5.90: Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewDeep fried ice cream, $5.90

The only real downside to the meal was the Deep Fried Ice Cream. The scoops of ice cream – we chose Thai Milk Tea and Pandan – were okay enough, but they were both completely overwhelmed by the thick, bread-like batter that coated the outside. And the syrup over the top didn’t help either: another conflicting flavour is then introduced, further drowning out the already faint echoes of the ice cream underneath.

Unfortunate, cause we were REALLY looking forward to it…and also cause it completely kills my *deep fried theory*.

Ice Pinky Milk and Thai Milk Tea, $4.50 each. Korn Thai, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewIce Pinky Milk and Thai Milk Tea, $4.50 each

Special mention to the drinks though – the whimsically named Ice Pinky Milk brought me right back into humid Asia with the mix of evaporated milk and fragrant rose syrup. So simple, and such a classic.

The Service:

It’s always hard for me to really discuss the service when I’m dining as a guest of the restaurant, but from their interactions with other guests, it definitely seems like they’re plenty friendly, and the staff certainly did NOT have the dreaded “I don’t want to be here” dead look in their eyes. They all seem to know the food intimately, even if there’s some difficulty communicating about the dish in English. One might even say that it added a twisted sense of authenticity to it.

But they do try, and it’s this friendliness that makes it easy to forgive them when they forget requests. For example, we had to ask a couple times for a water top up, which the waitress had forgotten because she was tending to another customer’s takeaway order. Ideal? No. But at least she was very apologetic about it, and so lovely that it was hard to hold against her.

Value for money:

Korn Thai gets a C+ for their value for money – passable, but not great. $20+ for a portion of food (rice not included) is a bit steep for my liking, but I keep having to remind myself that it IS Crows Nest after all, and it’s pretty expected in that area. At least the lunch specials are in the $10-$15 range, so that’s a little more easy to, uh, digest. XD

The Vibe:

It’s definitely a very comfortable eating experience at Korn Thai – it’s clean and relatively spacious, with just enough room to navigate between tables to get to wherever you’d need to go. Personally, I’m more the Chat-Thai-so-crowded-you-can’t-get-through sorta atmosphere, but I must say it’s very nice to be able to sit AND not have to tuck in your elbows and bags to keep it out of everyone’s way.

And finally,

Flavour-wise, Korn Thai ticks quite a few of the boxes for me – balanced, punchy, and very moreish. Not quite as hard hitting as some of the cheap-and-quick options elsewhere in Sydney, but a very easy choice if you’re already in the Crows Nest area.

I do wish I had more of that eggplant, though..

Looking for places to eat in Crows Nest? Why not read our reviews of Yakitori Yurripi, En Toriciya, Mama’s Buoi, Rice Den, Los Vida and Tall Lemongrass.

Insatiable Munchies dined as a sponsored guest of Korn Thai. Sponsored posts are guaranteed reviews which feature honest opinions of the reviewer and their experience, and is not an advertorial.
Korn Thai
126-128 Willoughby Rd
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: +61 2 8068 6689
Website: https://www.facebook.com/KornThaiRestaurant/

Korn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

En Toriciya, Crows Nest

Oven Baked Truffle Cabbage: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog Review

I’ve always had a healthy respect for Japanese chefs and their craft – there’s something about the quiet reverence that they have for each ingredient, and all their techniques are based around elegantly bringing out unique flavours and textures that naturally occurs in the food. So when I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Chef Hikeaki Fukada of En Toriciya, I was absolutely ecstatic.

…Of course, it had nothing to with the fact that he fed me dinner as well. 😉


The Order:

En Toriciya Degustation, $60/pp ($80/pp with matching sake):

Kingfish & Jalapeno Carpaccio
Kasujiru Vegetable Soup
Oven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage
Yakitori (Momo and Tsukune)
Popcorn Prawn
Charcoal Grilled Black Cod or Wagyu Steak
Sushi Moriawase (+12 to upgrade sushi)
Chefs selection of dessert (Matcha Creme Brûlée and Adzuki Custard)


The Food:

Holy. Smokes.

I was not prepared for this. I walked into En Toriciya expecting a smart casual dining restaurant, only to be presented with a close-to-fine dining experience. The only thing missing was the lack of pretentiousness, which I was very happy to do without. I was also informed that Chef Fukuda was also a sake sommalier, and our dinner would be matched with different sakes of his choosing.

I was certainly not expecting the sheer education I was about to receive.

Kingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio

We started with a very simple Kingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio – thin slices of kingfish were dressed lightly and topped with a small dab of what looked like jalapeño purée. Very refreshing, and just enough to whet the appetite. I was quite surprised by the Danemon sake that came with it – the richness was meant to bring out the flavour of the kingfish, but for my palate, it was oddly heavy to start the meal with. Still, an interesting choice.

Kasujiru Vegetable Soup: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKasujiru Vegetable Soup

Then we moved on to the Oven baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage and Kasujiru vegetable soup. It is here I learnt that if it looks like miso, and smells like miso…well sometimes it’s not miso. Chef Fukuda shows us just how passionate he is about sake…by using the lees (sakekasu – residual by products from making sake) to thicken and flavour the soup. No waste!

Oven Baked Truffle Cabbage: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewOven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage

The Oven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage was so magnificent that I wondered if he was going to peak too early. With humble beginnings as a staff meal (where chefs are forced into ingenuity to make delicious meals for the restaurant staff out of whatever ingredients they have on hand) this cabbage dish has risen into such magnificence it should be called Daenerys. A soft truffle aroma laces through the robust char on the cabbage, which is then balanced by a tangy salty-sweet dressing.

This course was had with Asabiraki sake from the Iwate prefecture, which I’m told is famous for their rice. Fitting, then, that a complex sake plays a supporting role to such complex food. There is a typically Japanese sense of balance at play, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Tsukune (Yakitori): En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewTsukune (Yakitori)

Chicken Thigh (Yakitori): En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewChicken Thigh (Yakitori)

Next course: yakitori. Literally translating to “barbecued chicken”, we get two types for dinner – tsukune (chicken meatballs) and momo (chicken thigh). All fairly simply prepared – salt, smoke, and in the case of the tsukune, a light brush of glaze. Chef Fukuda tells me that he uses binchotan instead of regular coals – these Japanese “smokeless” coals hold the heat longer and more steadily, producing a better dish.

Popcorn Prawn: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPopcorn Prawn

The Popcorn Prawn follows, and although it’s a fun dish topped with generous lashings of mayonnaise (oh Mayo, how I love thee), it wasn’t quite as finessed as the other dishes seemed to be. Some bits of the batter were a touch underdone and a bit gluey at the end of the mouthful, which I noticed only because the standard of his other dishes were so high to begin with.

Charcoal Grilled Black Cod: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewCharcoal Grilled Black Cod

We then moved right back up the scale, though, with Charcoal Grilled Black Cod and Wagyu Steak. I’m not entirely sure whether you’d usually have to pick one or the other for your degustation, but I know my life is much better for having tried the both of them. The Charcoal Grilled Black Cod was appropriately dark from the smoke and Saikyōdzuke, a miso-like paste made by fermenting sake lees (At this point, Chef Fukuda is starting to look more and more like a man obsessed…something which I wholeheartedly appreciate), whilst still keeping the soft silky flesh that makes this my favourite way to have my favourite fish of all time.

Wagyu Beef Steak: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewWagyu Steak

The Wagyu Steak was no slack either – medium rare pieces of tender steak were topped with moromiso, which is a chunky miso condiment. Rich/salty/sweet bites had pieces of cucumber to cut it, and it was over all too soon.

Selection of sushi: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSelection of sushi: Otoro

And when you think you can’t eat any more, out comes the plate of luxurious sushi. Sea urchin, fatty tuna belly, and engawa (flounder fin – a recent obsession I picked up from my trip to Japan) were one of many pieces that lined the plate. Simple, and yet such a perfect way to end the savoury courses. And it didn’t even matter that I was fairly full: I always have space for sushi.

At this point, we were treated to Daikoshu, a sake that actually HAD THE WARM HONEY NOTES OF WHISKY. Mind blown. This super aged sake (no joke, Daikoshu translates to “very old booze”) was older than I am, and defied all my previous Riesling-like experiences with sake. Where it was usually fresh and dry, this was voluptuous and almost caramel – like in its dark sweet notes. Very delicious, and an absolute eye opener.

Matcha Creme Brûlée: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewMatcha Creme Brûlée

Adzuki Custard: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewAdzuki Custard

Fitting, then, that we should sip it right before dessert. A Matcha Creme Brûlée and Adzuki Custard completed our meal, both with silky creamy textures and a sweet finish that wasn’t too cloying. With all the big hits through the evening, the dessert course didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but then again, I’d be asking for too much if I was expecting it from En Toriciya. A stellar performance: one I’m hoping to repeat.


The Service:

It’s not often that a restaurant’s service matches the quality of the food, but I’m very glad to report that at En Toriciya it’s a FULL experience. There was one waiter that really REALLY knew his shit. There was no question that we could throw at him that he couldn’t answer, and he only lacked a small nuance in detail compared to Chef Fukuda’s answers. Service that parallels the level of what I’ve had at Tetsuya’s, but in a much more comfortable setting. Love it.


Value for money:

At $60 per head for the degustation experience at En Toriciya, I think that you get more than your money’s worth. I was positively rolling out the door at the end of the meal, and my mind was still buzzing with the sheer variety of food that I was treated to. Chef Fukuda clearly puts a lot of thought into curating an array of treats, and like a good story, it leaves you walking away satisfied.


The Vibe:

En Toriciya is a fine dining restaurant hiding in humble surroundings, and that can be a little jarring for some. There isn’t a clear theme to the place, and for the uninitiated, you might even mistake this for just another local eatery where you can just pick up some hearty Japanese curry and make your way home. It’s clean and charming, but I wouldn’t expect theatrics and fireworks walking in. It’s very clear that the focus at En Toriciya is on the food and drink, the way Chef Fukuda wants it to be.


And finally,

I’ve always known that Crows Nest is home to some hidden gems (I’ve been to a few, lately) but I never expected to find a diamond quite like En Toriciya. Everything about this restaurant just resonated with the chef within me – the philosophy, the food, the single-minded obsession – and somehow they manage to artfully show off without the pomp and circumstance of other eateries with half the talent.

An absolutely stunning experience, and one I’m looking forward to repeating again and again.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of En Toriciya and Washoku Lovers.
En Toriciya
100 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9438 1738
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/En-Toriciya/607809672663924

En Toriciya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Max Joy Co., Eastwood

The Max Joy Co., Eastwood. Sydney Food Blog Review

*This is going to be a super quick post because I’ve now been here so many times that I don’t actually know what I’ve ordered anymore*.

The Max Joy Co., Eastwood. Sydney Food Blog Review

The Max Joy Co. is a relatively new addition to the bustling Asian restaurants of Eastwood, is bring well, joy, in the form of ice cream to the locals. From flavours like Eastwood Granny Smith (local pride! *thumps chest*), to Houjicha, they are really melding Asian favourites in the flavour department with a certain whimsy that you’d find in the inner city.

The Max Joy Co., Eastwood. Sydney Food Blog Review

The brainchild of Max, the owner (a former business student who always wanted to enter the food industry) this little ice cream shop sits where the old Eagle Boys Pizza used to be (RIP). Bright lights and sunny stripes of blue and white shine like a beacon after a night out food-crawling through Eastwood (a common occurrence, I assure you), beckoning you with its siren song of creamy delights and true-to-form flavours.

Scoops of ice cream: The Max Joy Co., Eastwood. Sydney Food Blog Review

My most recent must-have has got to be the Fig and Pistachio. Sweet, syrupy fig notes get swirled into the rich nutty pistachio base, and hits all the right spots that keep me going back again and again.

Mochi Waffles: The Max Joy Co., Eastwood. Sydney Food Blog Review

And if you are in the mood for something a little more than ice cream? Well their selection of waffles will spark the imagination. The mochi waffle is the most interesting thing on the menu, but the pandan is my favourite by far. A warm reason to have ice cream in the middle of winter. Not that I need a reason. *ahem*.

Much love for Max and his team – I’ve been in quite a few times since they’ve opened (much to the detriment of my ever-expanding waistline) and they’ve been consistently helpful, happy to be there, and extremely hospitable.

Oh, and did I mention that they have wall chargers for your electronics? (heart eyes emoji)

This meal was independently paid for.
The Max Joy Co.
251 Rowe St
Eastwood, NSW 2122
Phone:+61 2 8084 3234
Website: https://www.facebook.com/themaxjoyco

The Max Joy Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Manoosh Pizzeria, Enmore

Vegan Wonder: Manoosh Pizzeria, Enmore. Sydney Food Blog Review

What IS pizza, anyway? I mean, the term historically belongs to the Italians, who have made it more a philosophy involving woodfired flatbread, sweet tomatoes, and sun drenched afternoons with wine. But in more modern times, the term has been somewhat bastardised (like Jon Snow!) to mean any sort of flat bread, usually with a sauce and cheese.

Which brings us to Manoosh Pizzeria: located in Enmore, this takeaway-style shop specialises in Lebanese style pizzas, and even offers up something for vegans – not something you see too often at a pizza shop.


The Order:

Vegan wonder
Pizza topped with vegan chorizo, vegan cheese, greens and served with a side of lemon

Beef deluxe, $8
Beef fillets,grilled onions,melted cheese,fresh tomato,lettuce and pickles topped with mustard mayo then wrapped up

Zaatar Deluxe Style, $8
Zaatar cooked with cheese,pepperoni and chilli flakes then wrapped up with fresh tomato,capsicum,olives and onions.

Halawa, $7.50
A delicious blend of halawa (sweet tahini), pistachios & banana enclosed in puff pastry


The Food:

What really drew me to Manoosh Pizzeria to begin with was that they had completely vegan options on the menu. No, I’m not abandoning my ‘hedonistic’ meat-loving lifestyle, but my acquisition of vegan friends suddenly has given me an awareness of how hard it is to find vegan options outside of suburbs like Bondi.

Vegan Wonder: Manoosh Pizzeria, Enmore. Sydney Food Blog ReviewVegan Wonder

We tried the Vegan Wonder (sounds like it should be a new Marvel movie!) with greens, vegan chorizo and vegan cheese. Charlie, the owner, tells me that he usually uses a vegan mozzarella for ultimate melty goodness, but due to *ahem* supply issues, he’s using a vegan cheddar instead. The thing is, either way, the Vegan Wonder makes for a good bite. In the words of Simon, “Eating it doesn’t make me angry”. There were some good flavours in there, and everything worked well in harmony. BUT it was just missing a little bit texturally. The vegan chorizo had an odd spongy texture to it – not unlike a typical fish cake you would find in asian dishes – which throws me off because my mind was expecting, well, chorizo. The cheese, as well, was lacking a melty oozy quality that you look forward to when you have cheese.

Good try, but I wouldn’t particularly order it unless I was vegan.

On the meatier front – the Beef Deluxe was like a cheese burger masquerading in wrap form. (Man, we’ve got a real superhero theme going on here) The mustard mayo, beef, pickles, fresh tomato and melted cheese gets wrapped in Lebanese bread, for a juicy, filling lunch. In fact, a touch too juicy for my liking, but I’ve always liked my beef with a good charred flavour anyway, which is hard to get with a slow-cooked pulled meat.

If you were leaning towards a wrap, though, I would strongly recommend the Zaatar deluxe. The salty spicy hit of the pepperoni and chilli flakes are balanced by the cheese and fresh tomato, and the capsicum, olives and onion just complete a moreish mouthful that keeps you coming back for more. Very satisfying, but not quite as “naughty” tasting as say, a late night kebab wrap after a night out.

A lunch version, perhaps, that doesn’t make you too heavy to carry on with your day.

Halwa, $7.50: Manoosh Pizzeria, Enmore. Sydney Food Blog ReviewHalwa, $7.50

The Halawa actually took me by complete surprise. Pizza places aren’t exactly…known for their desserts, and I wasn’t expecting Manoosh Pizzeria to be much different. Boy, was I wrong. A crispy puff pastry parcel enclosed a middle-eastern sweet tahini paste, banana and pistachio for a super rich end to your meal. This is the kind of dessert that has to be eaten piping hot, and makes you go “YAAASSSSSS”.

Halwa, $7.50: Manoosh Pizzeria, Enmore. Sydney Food Blog Review

Yes.


The Service:

As with Ho Jiak, it’s hard to speak of table service when you order and pay at the counter. The staff are young, but seem slightly more interested in the work than, say, teenagers at McDonald’s. I also had the pleasure of being looked after by Charlie, the owner, which would make my experience fairly different from the average punter.

I will say this, though. They DO have tables for you to eat in, as well as water for the table, which gives Manoosh Pizzeria a few more brownie points over the average takeaway-style pizza shop.


Value for money:

You can get fairly well-fed for below $10. which is a pretty good deal this close to the city. It would be a viable option if I was a Uni student in the area, and that’s my ultimate litmus test.

Not super-amazing, but definitely good value.


The Vibe:

Manoosh Pizzeria doesn’t strike me as a particularly “designed” experience – there’s a functionality in the fluorescent lights and plain space that is efficient in a “get in and get out” sort of way. Certainly not somewhere that you’d look to have a leisurely catchup lunch at, but something tells me that it wasn’t what they were aiming for anyway.


And finally,

So we’ve come back to the question: what IS pizza? In this case, it’s a fairly relaxed definition, a tribute to the “she’ll be alright” value that Australia holds so dear. “Pizza”, it seems, is used as a gentle introduction to the concept of Man’oushe – a lebanese flatbread traditionally topped with za’atar and olive oil. Toppings such as cheese follow – because everything is made better with cheese – and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the whole, Manoosh Pizzeria, for me, sits somewhat in the middle of the heap. They’re not reaching for the cult foodie status as, say, Hartsyard, but they don’t seem to just be there to make a quick buck off party-goers too drunk to recognise whether the food is good or bad. The vegan option is a nice addition – and even though I’m not a person who understands why you would try an substitute something like meat (just eat something else that’s delicious in its own right, right?!), I can appreciate that this is still a viable option for vegan friends.

I’d definitely consider going to Manoosh Pizzeria if I was in the area, but I’m not sure I’d make a special trip out.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Manoosh Pizzeria.
Manoosh Pizzeria
170 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042
Phone: +61 2 9550 6606
Website: www.manoosh.com.au/

Manoosh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ho Jiak, Strathfield

Nasi Goreng with Musang King Durian (Special): Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog Review

There are just some times when a simple “yum” isn’t enough to describe just how awesome the food is, which is why in Singapore and Malaysia, we have another phrase: “Ho Jiak” translates to “Good Eats”, and it’s usually applied to situations where the food, surroundings, weather, moon and stars align to give you a sublimely delicious experience.

Sometimes we may also apply the use of it’s more powerful cousin: “shiok”.

Either way, I think you’ve gotta be pretty confident to plaster it all over the front door as the name of your restaurant, like Ho Jiak have done in their unassuming space in Strathfield Plaza.


The Order:

Indomie Goreng Lobster (Special)

Nasi Goreng with Musang King Durian (Special)

Nasi Pattaya (with added fried chicken), $15.80
Malaysian fried rice placed inside an omelette

Grandfather’s congee, $12.80
Homemade chicken congee, served with fresh herbs

Sambal Kangkung, $12.80

Roti Kaya, $8.80


The Food:

Southeast Asian food is like My Fair Lady to me (warning: musical nerdness ahead): it’s rough, unpolished and charming, with the option of being elevated to great heights. At Ho Jiak, the food is definitely charming, bringing forth a blast from the past that would make Marty McFly proud.

Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog Review

The Grandfather’s Congee came with a strong recommendation, and it ticked quite a few boxes for me. Shredded poached chicken, peanuts, chilli, and a generous lashing of julienned ginger brought me right back to Saturday mornings growing up where my mother used to cook up a homely Saturday lunch for when my dad came home from golf. All that was missing was pork meatballs, but to be perfectly honest, I think that was a delicious riff on my mother’s part.

Grandfather's congee, $12.80: Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewGrandfather’s congee, $12.80

Hong Kong style congee enthusiasts might get a rude shock, however: the Southeast Asian style is much more watery and roughly cooked (see what I mean by “unpolished”?), and more strongly flavoured than the pure, sweet rice flavours of HK.

Nasi Pattaya (with added fried chicken), $15.80: Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewNasi Pattaya (with added fried chicken), $15.80

The Nasi Pattaya is basically a Nasi goreng (fried rice) served in an omelette package for that “wow” factor. The rice was decently flavoured, and the egg was tender, but there wasn’t any particular pizzazz that triggered memories for me. And as someone who has grown up in Singapore, I’ve eaten many a Nasi Pattaya, so this one should have been a clear hair-trigger.

Passable, but nothing to write home about.

Indomie Goreng Lobster (Special): Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewIndomie Goreng Lobster (Special)

Nasi Goreng with Musang King Durian (Special): Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewNasi Goreng with Musang King Durian (Special)

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can order the Indomie Goreng Lobster and the Nasi Goreng with Musang King Durian from their specials board. Yes, you didn’t read it wrongly: there is a fried rice on there with DURIAN.

The Nasi Goreng with Musang King Durian was the same fried rice base as the Nasi Pattaya, but this time, with a durian sambal and actual durian pieces on the side. The sweet, custard-like durian flesh in a chilli application can be a bit jarring for some, but it has the potential to be SO GOOD, like a durian sambal cuttlefish dish of Jackie M’s that I had one time. This one was a touch short of the mark: the durian sambal tasted like a straight mix of durian and chilli, missing the earthy notes that I usually love in any sambal – onion, garlic, shellfish etc. The fresh durian on the side was okay, too, although with an average rice and average sambal there wasn’t much it could do to elevate the dish.

The Indomie Goreng Lobster, on the other hand, was curiously addictive. Many eateries in Southeast Asia utilise convenience products like instant noodles as a basis for quick street-style food, and I thought it was fairly accurate here. Sweet, salty, and dark with all the types of soy available, this too triggered all sorts of memories of my childhood. A touch oilier than I’d like, personally, but I can’t say that it’s not authentic. 😉

The “lobster” bit to the name, however, was a bit of a misnomer. Sure, there were pieces floating through it, but I’m not sure that it wouldn’t have been served better with more visible pieces of prawn instead. Why push a “luxury” ingredient when you don’t have to?

Sambal Kangkung, $12.80: Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSambal Kangkung, $12.80

On the other end of the spectrum, a Sambal Kangkung is the most common, basic, “peasant”, everyday dish you can order. But therein lies the skill: because there’s so little to the dish – Sambal (chilli paste) and Kangkung (Chinese water spinach) – it’s hard to get right and easy to get wrong. Here, I have to commend Ho Jiak on the cleanliness of their spinach (you’d be surprised at how many gritty kangkung dishes I’ve eaten), and the dish was true to form with what you’d find in an average Asian eatery. The sambal could have a richer depth of flavour and the Kangkung stems could be less wilted, but as it stands, a perfectly acceptable take on a staple.

Roti Kaya, $8.80: Ho Jiak, Strathfield. Sydney Food Blog ReviewRoti Kaya, $8.80

And finally, “dessert”. Only in Asia can something like Roti serve as both an accompaniment to curry, and a dessert food all at once. I highly doubt that the Roti here is house made, however, and it’s such a shame because the competition is the likes of Mamak, and, well, we all know about the soft, tissue-like roti at Mamak. Not quite the tender chewiness that I’ve come to love about Roti, but a pretty standard menu item that you’d find back home nonetheless.


The Service:

There isn’t too much service to speak of (or criticise!) since you order and pay at the counter and have your food brought out to you. I WILL say, though, that I got the sense that the staff, at the very least, believed in their own food. The lady I spoke to at the counter could easily answer my incessant food questions, and didn’t shy away from offering me more information about their food and history: for example, did you know that they used to be called Petaling Express, but decided to change their name because they were constantly confused with the well-known Petaling St?

Well now you do. You’re welcome. XD


Value for money:

As a Singaporean, it’s always been a bit hard for me to see a roughly $15-$20 price tag on what would otherwise be street food. Part of the charm of this cuisine is that it’s cheap and tasty, and maybe it’s a habit from my days as a Uni student, but the price tag is a touch “CBD” for me, especially when we aren’t quite in the city.

On the upside? The portions are positively MASSIVE, so definitely a candidate for sharing if you’re so inclined. I don’t think there was anything served up that I could comfortably finish on my own, so be prepared to bring a doggybag home if you’d like to order more than one thing off the menu!


The Vibe:

I really liked how the seemingly no-frills decor is true to form. 3-4 two-seater tables line the wall of this narrow restaurant, which also happen to be adorned with old black and white pictures. The glass that separate the cooking area from the eating area creates a fish tank-like effect, allowing patrons to watch as their food is being tossed up in massive woks. Walls of packets and bottles (containing sauces and condiments in brands I recognise from my childhood) also line the kitchen, an unabashed way of showing just how authentic the flavours are: because if you’re using the correct brands of sauces as your base, you’re halfway there.

Very cosy, and a great little trip down memory lane.


And finally,

The experience in Ho Jiak was, for the most part, fairly authentic. It wasn’t spectacular enough to be the kind of place that you’d form a queue for (or make a special trip to), but I’d totally drop by for some chilli-laced Malaysian goodness if I was already in the area. Speaking of which: The belachan! THE BELACHAN. A shrimp-laced chilli sauce that’s made in-house daily; packing a kick that brings a happy tear to my eye. (I swear it’s not the heat of the chilli getting to me.)

I wonder if they’ll start selling jars of their belachan soon. My pantry would be happy for it.

Insatiable Munchies dined as a sponsored guest of Ho Jiak. Sponsored posts are guaranteed reviews which feature honest opinions of the reviewer and their experience, and is not an advertorial.
Ho Jiak
33/11 The Boulevard
Strathfield NSW 2135
Phone:+61 2 9008 8020
Website: www.hojiak.com.au/

Ho Jiak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My baby shot me down: BangBang Cafe, Surry Hills

Fried chicken, $13.90: Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog Review

Slap me between two buns and call me a patty – it really does seem like Sydney’s burger craze isn’t going to blow over any time soon. From The cult favourite Burgers by Josh, to the down and dirrrty Mister Gee’s Burger Truck, to Warren Turnbull’s Chur Burger (do you even Chur, bro?), Sydney is absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to all the salty, cheesy, meaty, pickly fantasies that you can slap between two fluffy halves of a burger bun.

So when BangBang Cafe reeled me in with the promise of burgers, well…did you really expect me to say no?

Double Banger, $16.90: Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog Review

The Order:

Double Banger, $16.90
Double wagyu pattie, double cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and bangbang sauce

Fried chicken, $13.90
Buttermilk fried chicken, sriracha cabbage slaw, lettuce, tomato and sour cream

The Stack, $16.90
Potato rosti topped with wilted spinach, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and pancetta

The Food:

With burgers, bigger is always better, but sadly, I might not be woman enough for it.

Double Banger, $16.90: Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog ReviewDouble Banger, $16.90

The Double Banger is a hulking stack of wagyu, bacon, lettuce, cheese, tomato and BangBang sauce. The patties were cooked to medium, the cheese oozing, and the sauce tangy – everything that I look for in a burger.

Fried chicken, $13.90: Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog ReviewFried chicken, $13.90

Maybe I’m a purist (that’s my excuse, anyway) but I don’t think I’ve met a fried chicken burger that I actually like. Not that it stops me from trying! This particular burger – called Fried Chicken, obvs XD – was decent enough with moist chicken, light sauce and a fresh slaw, but really I didn’t feel any chemistry with it.

Because eating a burger should be like dating – if you ain’t completely satisfied, just move on.

The Stack, $16.90: Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog ReviewThe Stack, $16.90

But the surprise of the morning for me? The Stack. This take on eggs florentine (poached eggs, hollandaise and spinach) supercharged the already luxurious breakfast classic with the addition of rosti and crispy pancetta. Because potato and bacon makes everything better. AND you can still claim that it’s a healthy breakfast! Because spinach.

Seriously though. That hollandaise? Rich, buttery and the stuff of dreams. YAAAASSSS.

Food: 1/1

The Service:

Its always a bit tricky commenting on service when I’m invited as a guest of the cafe, but from what I can see from the other diners, waters were filled, tables were bussed and service staff actually knew the menus and specials off the top of their heads (it’s less common than you’d think). There was a definite passion about the place – recommendations were made personally and thoughtfully, and they actually sounded like they enjoyed eating there themselves.

Quite impressive.

Service: 1/1

Value for money:

Given the portion sizes and that BangBang is in Surry Hills, paying $16.90 for a burger is still fairly reasonable. Of course, not quite easy on the wallet if you’re on a budget, but something that you’d happily treat yourself to on the weekend without having to save for months. Not too hot, not too cold…like goldilocks.

Value for money: 0.5/1

The Vibe:

Bang Bang Cafe, Surry Hills. Sydney Food Blog Review

BangBang has a really nice, chilled vibe going on. And not like a hipster “I look like I’m chilled buy really I’m not” type of chill, but a relaxed, personal feel that’s reinforced by the service. The only thing that prevented it from being a complete package for me was that the personality didn’t quite come through in the decor – most likely because they were still in the process of changing things up in the decor department.

Good, but not quite an experience yet.

Vibe: 0.5/1

And finally,

It’s very impressive that Matt – BangBang’s owner of 11 months at only 24 years old(!) – has such a clear vision of what he wants, and enough experience in both back and front of house to execute it. It’s not often that someone so young has such carry through, and he (and his team) has my utmost respect for it.

Can’t wait to see how BangBang is going to evolve. ??

Bonus points: 1/1

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of BangBang Cafe.
BangBang Cafe
113 Reservoir St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone:+61 2 9281 0018
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Bangbang-Cafe-260790390627103/

Bangbang Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

7 steps to using your knife like a chef

I remember watching food shows as a teenager and being in awe with how swiftly chefs turn a bowl of vegetables into chopped up veg ready to cook. WHILE TALKING TO THE CAMERA AT THE SAME TIME!

So what’s the secret? Well, I went through cooking school and endless hours of standing at a chopping board (oy, my back!) to tell you how:
Learn the secrets

Bondi Pizza, Macquarie

Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog Review

It doesn’t take an Italian to know good pizza. Case study 1: the pizza expert in my life is Simon, who just so happens to be Korean. And with all his experiments in dough fermentation and the best tomato sauce base, you can bet that Simon really knows his Magheritas from his Neapolitanas.

So I guess you could say that eating pizza with Simon at a chain restaurant like Bondi Pizza is…interesting, to say the least.


The Order:

Sicilian pizza, $13.95
Traditional Italian pepperoni, chorizo, Wagyu meatballs, Spanish onion, pancetta (bacon), kalamata olives, bocconcini & rocket with a drizzle of chilli oil. (NB: Meatballs contain 50% Wagyu beef & pork)

Magherita Pizza, $10.95
Roma tomato, Italian buffalo mozzarella, shaved parmesan & basil.

Magherita Pizza, $10.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewMagherita Pizza

Garlic and cheese pizza, $10.45
With added balsamic onions

Bondi Wagyu Beef Burger, $16.95
Delicious wagyu & beef pattie served on a toasted bun with cos lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles & our own unique blend of special sauces. Served with fries. Added cheese and pancetta.

Chilli Prawn Linguini, $24.95
Chilli prawns tossed through linguini, wild rocket, chilli, parsley in light olive oil & freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dessert Share Plate, $22.95
A sample plate of our four best selling desserts… Oven-baked Apple Crumble Pizzette, Chocolate Brownie Swirls, Belgian Chocolate Fruit Fondue & Triple Chocolate Brownie served with warm melted Belgian chocolate & vanilla ice cream.


The Food:

Of the titular (tee hee! That word always makes me laugh) pizzas, we decided to get the Sicilian, $13.95, from their signature range, the Magherita, $10.95, from their classic range, and the Garlic and cheese pizza with added balsamic onion, $10.45, just to round things out.

Garlic and cheese pizza, $10.45: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewGarlic and cheese pizza, $10.45

The Garlic Cheese Pizza wasn’t particularly popular at the table, but there was something about its similarity to a cheesy garlic bread that I quite liked. Sure, it wasn’t amazing in a pizza sense, but the base wasn’t dry, and I quite liked the sweetness that the balsamic onions brought to it. Not quite sure about when you’d order it, though – the garlic isn’t strong enough for when you have an anti-vampire hankering, and the bread isn’t, well, bready enough if you’re in the mood for bread.

Sicilian pizza, $13.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSicilian pizza, $13.95

Thin base aside, the Sicilian fared much better, with its wide range of toppings. Not sure what that says about the pizza, per se, but it was definitely the best one of the lot. How can you go wrong with the salty hit of olives and cured meats?

The Bondi Burger and the Chilli Prawn Linguini were next – there was much debate at the table about whether the non-pizza dishes at a pizza restaurant would be any good, but hey, if they have it on the menu, I think I should give it a go.

The burger was rather unremarkable, especially given Sydney’s current burger-scape, I mean, with burgers like these:

A photo posted by Tammi Kwok (@teafortammi) on

I’m not sure that a burger like this would be up to par:

Bondi Wagyu Beef Burger, $16.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewBondi Wagyu Beef Burger, $16.95

It wasn’t horrible, but just not quite good enough in the kick-ass flavour, cheese porn, buttery bread, let’s-eat-till-we-drop-and-come-back-for-more department.

The Chilli Prawn Linguini fared slightly better, with the pasta being suitably al dente, and the prawns neither overcooked or stale.

Chilli Prawn Linguini, $24.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewChilli Prawn Linguini, $24.95

The only thing for me, was that all I could really taste was a peppery heat from the chilli. No zesty lemon, no floral chilli notes, no fresh herbacious goodness..Just a pleasant amount of salt and heat.

By this time, I wasn’t sure what the dessert was going to be like, but with the variety that a Dessert Share Plate, $22.95, would give you, it should be pretty hard to go far wrong.

Dessert Share Plate, $22.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewChocolate Brownie

Dessert Share Plate, $22.95: Bondi Pizza, Macquarie. Sydney Food Blog ReviewChocolate Swirls

The Chocolate Brownie Swirls were very pleasantly surprising: soft bread, rich chocolate…pretty much as advertised, with the added bonus of that warm chocolate fuzzy feeling that I get. You should try it. It’s like being hugged from the inside. The Apple Crumble Pizzette, though, seemed a little…uh, burnt. Not sure that the crumble concept works in a blazing hot-as-hell oven, but the warm scrolls did balance it out for me.

C+. Okay, not great.

Food: 0.5/1


The Service:

The service was actually REALLY GOOD, especially for casual dining restaurant. I know, I know, you might be saying “oh but they knew you were going to review the place!”. Well, there was a mixup, and it turns out that they didn’t realise that we were reviewers till the end when we cleared up what was going on, so double points!

We were really well looked after, and it was fairly easy to get their attention when we needed something. They were very aware of where and when to set things down when it looked like we were in the middle of digging into a plate, or clearing things to make more room, or even simply to greet us with a smile when I looked up and caught their eye. Very pleasant and friendly, and chirpy (like a Snow White’s squirrel friends), to boot.

The only thing that would push the service to the nth degree? Personal recommendations and food knowledge. The best service I’ve gotten are from service staff who are foodies themselves, and love sharing that love and passion. And while they’re very warm and welcoming here, there just wasn’t a sense of kindred foodie-love between us.

Although, I do think that this same accomodating service is type that would make Bondi Pizza a fantastic option for families or large groups that require a little more assistance.

Service: 0.5/1


Value for money:

If you’re talking about pure dollar-for-dollar value, there are quite a few pizza joints out there that offer up similar pricing for better quality (and more authentic) dishes. Not horrifyingly expensive that I’d run for the hills if someone in my group suggested coming here, but not where I’d choose to go if I was feeling a touch broke at the end of the month but really wanted to eat some pizza.

Value for money: 0/1


The Vibe:

The decor was nice, in the same way a mum would say, “hey let’s go out to a nice restaurant together tonight”. It was clean, inviting, pleasant…no dim lights and snooty wine lists here. But on that same note, there wasn’t a clear identity (have I mentioned that I’m partial to a good theme?), which would have pushed it from restaurant, to total experience.

Vibe: 0.5/1


And finally,

Look, Bondi Pizza isn’t trying to pass themselves off as artisan/gourmet, and we aren’t under any illusions either. But when the menu is so large, it gets even harder to hit all the right notes, and that may be where it fails diehard foodies like us. We have eaten at enough specialised pizza places to know that if you were an absolute pizza fiend, this might not be the place to go.

However, if you had to cater for children, or non-foodies, this would be a very accessible starting point. Nothing was bad, and there were option a gluten free, vegetarian, etc – so you could customise your food as your dietary requirements needed.

Bonus points: 0/1

Love your pizza? Me too! Why not try 400 Gradi Cinchetti in Brunswick, or take on a Lebanese twist with Just Man’oushe in Sydney’s CBD? So much yum.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Bondi Pizza.
Bondi Pizza
Macquarie Shopping Centre
Corner of Herring and Waterloo Roads Macquarie Park, NSW 2113
Phone: (02) 9889 5852
Website: http://www.bondipizza.com.au

Bondi Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sponsored Post: 7 thoughts I had whilst trying Crust Pizza’s new Simply Better Range

Review of Simply Better Range from Crust Gourmet PizzaBrought to you by Nuffnang and Crust Pizza

“Healthy” is not often, in my world, associated with the word “delicious”. My circle of friends strongly believe in the “fat is flavour” mantra (I knew there was a reason why we were friends), and we eschew trends that are healthy for healthy’s sake. So when I was invited to try Crust Pizza’s new Simply Better Range (with Spelt and Wholemeal flour, no less!), I didn’t know what to expect.

Review of Simply Better Range from Crust Gourmet Pizza

So here are 7 thoughts that I had while stuffing pizza into my face:

1. This crust is better than I thought!

I know it seems like an obvious thing, but even when a whole line of restaurants is called “crust”, I am usually faced with dry, stiff bases that only serve to hold up the ingredients. Here, the crust was tender and bready, and had a surprisingly good chew while still holding up the various toppings! Also, a wholemeal and spelt flour that wasn’t dry. Well done.

2. Who knew that broccolini belonged on a pizza

My favourite of the three new pizzas, the Biltong Lamb, had broccolini on it. Broccolini! Who knew that this maligned vegetable (which is usually relegated to sad steamer baskets) actually has found a happy place on the top of a pizza. It was tender, without being overly bitter or in-your-face, and provided great support for the spiced lamb and tangy yoghurt and lime.

3. Chilllaaaayyyyyy

Did you know that kilo for kilo, chilli is more packed with vitamin C than oranges? Yeah. Not that I need a reason to have any more chilli in my diet. So it was a happy night for me when the three new pizzas that I tried – Biltong Lamb, Harissa Chicken, Wagyu Shoga – were served with chilli. By themselves, the pizzas were mildly spiced and layered with flavour from the sauce and the various toppings like pine nuts, mushrooms, capsicum, rocket etc. But for me, the only way to have them is with a side of fresh cut chilli, to really kick your night into gear!

4. I wish the chunks of meat were bigger

So at the launch, we were lucky enough to try the house-cooked meats on its own, and then with the pizza. And you know what? I agree with fellow blogger Jason: the chunks of meat made such an impact, that I wish that it was similarly chunky on the pizza. It was shredded finer, I guess for ease of eating, but still, you notice it especially when you know how good it can be.

5. Pizza by the beach needs to be a thing.

We were lucky enough to be treated to Crust’s new range by the beach, and you know what? It totally needs to be a thing, guys! There’s just something about eating by the crashing waves – from a distance, of course, because you don’t want sand in your food – that just really elevates the experience.

6. They make the pizza bases in store? No way!

So you’d may have made the same assumption that I did: that Crust Pizza stores get in their pizza bases frozen, and then tops it off and bakes it in-store. Well, a rather interesting conversation with the manger of one of their stores revealed to me that they get deliveries of bags of flour, and make the dough right in the store! Something totally unexpected, but appreciated all the same.

7. So is this Australian pizza?

Okay, so I’ve heard plenty about how “Pizza is meant to be simple”, and that “pizza from Italy doesn’t have 20,000 toppings on it”. And yeah, there’s definitely a beauty to a really simply-made pizza with a cracking chewy base and a barely warmed fresh tomato base. Sure. But what if this is just another style of pizza? What if this is Australian Pizza? I mean, we’ve already claimed burgers by putting beetroot in them, maybe this is just another kind of pizza that’s unique to Australia?

Review of Simply Better Range from Crust Gourmet Pizza
———————————————

I don’t think Crust Pizza is trying to portray themselves as “authentic Italian Pizza”, and you know what? I think it’s cool that they’re doing their own thing. They’ve got a smart casual style going for them, serving up the kind of pizzas that you’d eat by the beach, in your flip flops, enjoying the cool autumn breeze. And now with the new Simply Better Range, you’d fit right into the Bondi crowd, too!

Love your pizzas? Well you might also like our reviews of Pizza Design Co., and Just Man’oushe! And if you want to make your own, we’ve also got a pizza scroll lunchbox hero recipe for you as well.

Spice I Am, Darlinghurst

Variety of entrees: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog Review

Maybe it’s conditioning from the days from being a cash-strapped Uni student, but I’ve always associated Thai food with $6.50 express lunches in Newtown, surrounded by other flip-flop wearing people, inhaling hugemongous plates of wok fried noodles and rice before hurrying on their way. Because that’s how it’s done.

Problem is? When you feel like dressing up for dinner with friends, quick and dirty Thai may not be the best option for the occasion. Enter Spice I Am: in swanky Darlinghurst, no less!


The Order:

Khao Kreab Pak Mor, $15.50
Steamed mini rice paper parcels on green coral lettuce, filled with chive and garlic with soy and vinegar sauce.

Sai Krok Isaan, $13.50
Traditional, fragrant Isaan sausage made from pork, garlic, coriander, pepper and cooked rice.

Sai Krok Isaan, $13.50: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSai Krok Isaan, $13.50

Bour Tod, $15.50
Phuket style fritter of green prawns on crispy betel leaf with chilli sauce, crushed roasted cashew nuts and coriander.

Fried Rice with Crab Meat, $22
Fried rice with egg, crab meat and spring onion.

Nam Khao Tod, $22
Crispy rice salad with Thai pork sausages, chilli powder, ground peanuts, coriander, eschallot, spring onion and mint leaves.

Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $29.50
Stir fried crispy pork belly wok tossed with red curry paste, green beans, chilli and sliced kaffir lime leaves.

Khao Neaw Dum, $11.50
Warm black sticky rice with Thai smoked coconut cream and pandan coconut gelato.

BTS (Better Than Sex), $17
Toasted brioche served with pandan coconut gelato, topped with Thai caramel sauce and roasted black and white sesame seed.


The Food:

There are times when the payoff for a spike in “fanciness” can often mean a drop in…authenticity of the food. Character can get stripped away in the potential sterilisation of the experience, and well, it’s become a bit of a norm now.

Well I’m happy to report that here in Darlinghurst, Chef Sujet has done a great job of keeping the quality of the food while elevating the experience to cater for the people who want a wine list, polished wooden tables and dim lights. Like, you know. Adults. XD

Bour Tod, $15.50: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewBour Tod, $15.50

The entrées were visually stunning, especially the Bour Tod, $15.50, which consisted of a carefully balanced stack of battered crispy betel leaves and prawn, drizzled with a sweet chilli sauce and scattered with crunchy roasted cashews. It was moreish, and satisfyingly shattered with every bite.

Khao Kreab Pak Mor, $15.50: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKhao Kreab Pak Mor, $15.50

The Khao Kreab Pak Mor, $15.50, was a more simple concept of rice noodles, chives and garlic chips, but no less delicious, especially when soaked in the salty/tangy soy and vinegar dressing that came on the side. Sure, it was less parcel and more…mixture, but this comforting dish is more than able to transcend a loose description.

On the mains front, they kept up the standard with our Fried Rice with Crab Meat, $22, Nam Khao Tod, $22, and Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $29.50.

Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $29.50: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly, $29.50

The fried rice was subtle in flavour, but was well peppered with chunks of tender crab meat, and provided a great backdrop for the flavourful Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly – pieces of tender pork belly capped with crunchy crackling and wok fried with red curry paste, green beans and kaffir lime leaves. Rich, and lightly spicy with a mellow heat, making it an excellent choice for those chilly winter evenings. By the way, it was also rich enough that what looks like a small plate actually feeds more people than you’d assume. Double score!

Nam Khao Tod, $22: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewNam Khao Tod, $22

To cut it, we had the Nam Khao Tod, $22 – a salad of crispy rice, with pieces of Thai pork sausages, spiced with chilli powder, and topped with ground peanuts, coriander, eschallot, spring onion and mint leaves. The slivers of eschallots and fresh mint kept it light, and the fried crispy rice served the dual purpose of providing heft and texture to the dish. Coupled with the lettuce leaves, it was like a summery, Thai version of the popular Sang Choy Bao. Very satisfying, and on the cards to replace my go-to Thai salad favourites – Yum Woon Sen and Som Tum.

To satiate our sweet tooth (teeth?), we ordered the Khao Neaw Dum, $11.50, and the BTS (Better Than Sex), $17. So…saying that something is Better Than Sex is a tall tall claim, and I’m not sure that this particular dessert conquered this uphill battle. Two scoops of pandan and coconut gelato precariously balance on toast that is slowly absorbing the Thai caramel sauce (I’m guessing Palm sugar based), as we drank in the stunning stack. It delivered mostly on what it promised, except on a few points – there were icy pockets in the gelato (it happens, but was definitely noticed by my dining partner), and the toast, while deliciously buttery on the crust, was stale in the middle. And I’ve eaten enough burgers served on brioche to know that it is more than structurally able to hold up two scoops of gelato and still be fluffy in the middle.

BTS (Better Than Sex), $17: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewBTS (Better Than Sex), $17

Is it good? Yes. Better Than Sex? Well, I guess it would depend on your partner.

Hao Neaw Dum, $11.50: Spice I am, Darlinghurst. Sydney Food Blog ReviewHao Neaw Dum, $11.50

In comparison, the Khao Neaw Dum was much simpler and easier to understand. There was a nice balance between rice and cream, and wasn’t nearly as heavy as the black sticky rice pudding that is so commonly found at many Thai restaurants.

Spice I Am executed Thai favourites with an added refinement, but they really aren’t re-inventing the wheel here. In this case, it’s definitely more the efforts of the ensemble than the star – you’d be amazed at how the other elements of the restaurant affect the final recommendation.

Food: 0.5/1


The Service:

It’s always a bit hard to comment on the service when I’m an invited guest, but what I can definitely tell you is that beyond the cheery smiles of the waitstaff, is a sharp knowledge of the cuisine and the ability to walk the tightrope of choosing just the right mix of dishes for the mood of the customer. My waiter, in particular, even excitedly shared his own favourites; his infectious passion for the food sparking my anticipation for what was to come.

A great balance of personal recommendation without judgement. Stellar.

Service: 1/1


Value for money:

If you were to look at the food alone, it would be difficult to justify the price. For example, the Pad Prik King Crispy Pork Belly carries a near-$30 price tag, and whilst it may be the best presented Pad Prik King Pork I’ve seen (it’s very hard to plate up meat in a thick paste. Trust me, I’ve tried) neither the deliciousness not the portion quite justified the asking price.

However, I think that it’s fairly reasonable for the Darlinghurst location and the trendy up-market decor. And not to mention the service! All the elements came together to present an experience, and a very pleasant and enjoyable one at that.

Would you look at the bill incredulously and say, “really? Only that much?!”? No. But you wouldn’t be clutching your pearls in horror at the final bill either, and that’s saying a lot.

Value for money: 0.5/1


The Vibe:

When you’re facing a cuisine that has raised street food to a lifestyle, it can be a bit jarring to experiencing it in a finer setting. It was very nice, for sure, and brought forward an urge to at least wear closed shoes, but there was no discernible emotion that it inspired beyond a pleasant backdrop for good food.

Vibe: 0.5/1


And finally,

There’s an argument to be made about the “street food” experience of the cheap and fast no-frills Thai food that we all know and love. But I think that it’s a cuisine that can be represented at all levels, from the comforting small family shops, to the mid-range chains, to this: a smart casual option if you want to up the game a little.

And hey, at least you know that the menu carries the same authentic kick of the Surry Hills Spice I Am. Just with a touch of polish, because we all like a bit of shine don’t we? 😉

Bonus points: 1/1

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Spice I Am.
Spice I am
296-300 Victoria St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: +61 2 9332 2445
Website: http://spiceiam.com/spice-i-am-darlinghurst

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