Posts tagged bar food

Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Pork belly banh mi slider with pickled daikon, cucumber & shallots, $7

Back in the day, when Sam and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time by the waters near the Overseas Passenger Terminal. After all, the area was shut down due to renovations, meaning that we had a quiet area near the scenic waters to relax and get to know each other.

Well now that renovations are done and the dust has settled, Cruise Bar has reopened and looking to establish itself as a foodie destination. Touting a pan Asian menu on its second level (named Junk Lounge, named after the old world Hong Kong ships), Cruise Bar is jumping in with both feet…by offering Hainanese Chicken Rice.


Because nothing throws down the gauntlet to a Singaporean like putting Hainanese Chicken Rice on the menu.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Lotus root chips with a spicy yuzu salsa, $9Lotus root chips with a spicy yuzu salsa, $9

We started off with a selection from the bar menu, because it’s never as much fun when you go straight to the main event. 😉

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: King Mushroom with Miso Glaze, $5King Mushroom with Miso Glaze, $5

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Tsukune. Chicken on sugarcane with warm tosa-zu & egg yolk, $4Tsukune. Chicken on sugarcane with warm tosa-zu & egg yolk, $4

Chef Richard Slarp – previously of Saké – clearly is a master of Japanese flavours and techniques. The Lotus Root Chips with Spicy Yuzu Salsa, $9, is a classy take on the beer snack, with salty crisps and a fresh, tangy topping spiced lightly with yuzu kosho: a Japanese condiment made from yuzu (a citrus that’s like a love child between grapefruit, lemons and oranges) and green chillies. Like nachos, but lighter, and Japanese.

The skewers of King Mushroom and Miso Glaze and Tsukune (chicken mince skewers) are also on point, with the chicken mince fall-apart tender and glazed with tosa-zu, a vinegar dressing that adds a light acidity to the mouthful. Like fairies prancing across your tastebuds. The yolk was sadly missing, but a quick chat with Richard revealed that he didn’t want to waste a whole chicken egg yolk on a single serving of skewer, which while understandable, kinda sucks because it means that you’re missing part of the experience. Especially when it’s printed on the menu.

Maybe a minimum order perhaps?

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Black bean beef rib with kimchi steam bun, $6Black bean beef rib with kimchi steam bun, $6

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Rice steamed roll with wood ear mushroom & tofu. Served with ginger, soy & sesame, $4Rice steamed roll with wood ear mushroom & tofu. Served with ginger, soy & sesame, $4

Other items also make a decent showing, with an impressive attempt at steamed rice rolls, otherwise known as cheong fun. You know those silky, translucent sheets of rice noodles that get rolled up with all sorts of amazing goodies at yumcha like a fragile asian parcel? Yeah, like that. Sure, it isn’t quite as thin and delicate as what we get from dim sum houses, but a spectacular effort for attempting such a difficult and finicky dish nonetheless. The result is something that is more similar to Vietnamese rice paper rolls, and that’s definitely a result that I can live with.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Pork belly banh mi slider with pickled daikon, cucumber & shallots, $7Pork belly banh mi slider with pickled daikon, cucumber & shallots, $7

The food inspired by other parts of Asia, however, doesn’t fair quite so well. The Pork belly Banh Mi Slider, $7, is served on a brioche bun, which while buttery and rich, isn’t what you want from a banh mi. Vietnamese pork rolls have always been served up on fluffy French style bread, with a crust that explodes all over you the moment you take that first bite. The super soft brioche bun seems like a misguided attempt at fulfilling the public’s expectations for both a burger and a pork roll, and disappoints on both counts. The sous vide pork belly with the bun ended up eating really dry, and has none of the juicy – sometimes bordering of sloppy – bite that you want from your pork roll! Hint of mayo, no pate flavour… Needless to say this one was left unfinished.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Hainan chicken rice with chilli, ginger & crispy onions, $36Hainan chicken rice with chilli, ginger & crispy onions, $36

And the main event: the Hainanese Chicken Rice, $36. Deceptively simple, the components to an authentic chicken rice are many: the rice, the chicken, the chilli, the ginger condiment, and the soup. The chicken, in this case, was overcooked. Traditionally, the chicken is poached in the residual heat of a big vat of chicken stock, and then unceremoniously plunged into ice water to halt the cooking process, resulting in silky flesh and a jelly-like quality to the white skin. Here, the chicken is simmered in chicken stock, and then left to cool in said stock, resulting in overcooked chicken. Added to the fact that chickens in Australia are super lean compared to those in Asia, you have a pretty dry bite. The rice and chilli was actually pretty spot on. The rice was cooked in chicken fat and stock- as all chicken rice should be – and the chilli (a fresh mixture of chilli and ginger pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle) was the right mix of spice and freshness, and actually enhanced the experience. The ginger condiment was non-existent, and the soup carried a strange aftertaste of strong soy. Which while slightly out of place for my tastes, is perfectly acceptable in the variations of the dish.

Overall, not something I would revisit personally, though for $36, it is a fairly generous portion size and I love the theatrics of serving up the clear soup in a French press, so that you can savour it however you like.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar, Circular Quay: Sesame Ball with split bean, coconut & caramel, $8Sesame Ball with split bean, coconut & caramel, $8

Dessert came in the form of a MASSIVE sesame covered ball, with a sticky crust and a fluffy interior reminiscent of mung bean pastries of my youth. The coconut cream and strawberry pieces transport you to a warm holiday spot, and was actually pretty satisfying shared between two people.

I can see Cruise Bar as a great place to spend a Friday night out with friends – the small bites went down pretty well, and the small sizes allow you to pick and choose exactly what you’d like to have. They have some teething problems, sure, but I think that comes with any restaurant that is freshly opened. For example, the waitress, while cordial and polite, didn’t seem to have knowledge of the specifics of the menu – but that can be trained with time – and actually took down one of my orders wrong. Which is kinda not cool considering it was a pretty empty restaurant when we went. The chopsticks-only place setting proved slightly problematic when we were served rice with soup, and the very wide share table made it a touch awkward to share food, sometimes.

But it IS beautifully decorated, and looked out into the twinkling lights of the city, so the you can see just how much potential the experience could have! Just a few tweaks over time, and I’m sure it’ll be spectacular. But in the meantime, go the Japanese inspired dishes. Trust me.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Cruise Bar.
Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar
Level 2 Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks, NSW
Phone: 02 9251 1188

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Explosion on the palette: The Powder Keg, Potts Point

Duck schnitzel lolipops/ Pickled kohlrabi + tarragon mayo

A good restaurant is more than good food. Good food is a given, sure, but a great restaurant transports you into another world, and presents, just for the couple of hours while you’re there, relief from your everyday life. The team works together to create a little drama, a little theatre, and if done right, just a touch of magic.

Gunpowder Plot  Gunpowder tea spiked gin +fernet branca +gunpowder syrup+ dandelion & burdoch bitters + fresh citrus. Served in a smoking cloche with gunpowder twigs

So when we are greeted by a large smoke-clouded cloche that obscures a beautiful cocktail, we know we’re in for one hell of a ride.


A photo posted by Tammi Kwok (@teafortammi) on

Clockwise from top left: Gin and Tonic on tap, Nettle Gimlet, Strawberry Smack, Gunpowder Plot, Volcano Punch

With a name derived from the early origins of gin, you just know that the bar menu is well stocked with inventive cocktails that showcase just that. Grant Collins – expert mixologist and once named World’s Best Bartender – provides a unique perspective on these alcoholic beverages. Here, alcohol is not a short road to blinding drunkedness, but instead is meant to be savoured. The Gunpowder Plot is a heady mix of gunpowder tea spiked gin, syrup, dandelion and burdock bitters, and fresh citrus, with just a hint of smoke laced through the foam from the smouldering twigs. So full of flavour, and lacking that acrid burn of alcohol in the back of the throat from cheap gin. It was absolutely delicious.

Also surprisingly smooth and clean on the palette was their Gin and Tonic, ON TAP. Yes, this amazing concoction, so often maligned by cheap bars and inexperienced bartenders, is available on top. Mind blown.

Palate cleanser of gin and apricot liquor, set into a sphereSphere of gin and apricot liquor

Gin is also clearly an influence in the menu, put together by Chef Elijah Holland. What started as an interest in gardening and horticulture as child, soon blossomed into an expertise in foraging, and a creativity when it comes to cooking with the seasons. By beginning with the foraged fruit and veg, before moving on to the proteins, Chef EJ – as he is affectionately known – has crafted an earthy array of dishes that have strong Nordic and European influences.

Oysters, Gin and Tonic Sorbet, Cucumber, Foraged Violets and Sea LettuceOysters, Gin and Tonic Sorbet, Cucumber, Foraged Violets and Sea Lettuce

These fresh oysters, topped with cucumber, Gin and Tonic Sorbet, and foraged violets is their most popular dish, and with the fresh ingredients cutting through the briny flavours, it’s easy to see why.

Duck schnitzel lolipops/ Pickled kohlrabi + tarragon mayoDuck schnitzel lolipops/ Pickled kohlrabi + tarragon mayo

Quail Scotch egg/ Smoke potato + crispy pancetta + mushroomsQuail Scotch egg/ Smoke potato + crispy pancetta + mushrooms

Even the deep fried bites have a certain lightness about them. The Duck Schitzel Lollipops, crumbed and fried, are balanced with pickled kohlrabi and tarragon mayo, and the Quail Scotch Egg carried the crunch of the crispy pancetta, and a mild tang of pickled shimeji mushrooms. The mushrooms, cooked lightly in a pickling liquid before being left to ‘do its thang’ for about a week, didn’t dissolve into mushiness like you would assume, and instead provided a fairly firm texture that more than held its own.

Sauteed Foraged Pine and Slippery Jack MushroomsSauteed Foraged Pine and Slippery Jack Mushrooms

Speaking of mushrooms, we were also treated to this one off dish of Sauteed Foraged Pine and Slippery Jack Mushrooms. Wild mushrooms, garlic, butter? YES.

Roast snapper/ Horseradish  + lemon + buttermilk + silverbeetRoast snapper/ Horseradish + lemon + buttermilk + silverbeet

Pastrami pork fillet/ Crackling  + barley + apricot + black garlicPastrami pork fillet/ Crackling + barley + apricot + black garlic

Peas/ Woodside goats curd  + cucumber + mintPeas/ Woodside goats curd + cucumber + mint

The mains for me weren’t quite as exciting as the bites. Maybe we were getting full at the time – we were very spoiled with LOTS of food – but the larger plates lacked some of the delicate balance that was present in everything else. The Roast Snapper had a beautiful garlic silverbeet condiment with a pickled cherry tomato, but it didn’t, for my taste, make up for the inherent dryness of snapper due to its lean meat. The Pastrami Pork Fillet was paired, rather impressively, with house-made black garlic – a testament to Chef EJ’s technical skill – but again, there was such leanness that it lacked the sense indulgence of the dishes that came before.

Negroni Ice Cream SandwichNegroni Ice Cream Sandwich

But this sense of opulence certainly came back with the presentation of not one, but two amazing desserts.


A photo posted by Tammi Kwok (@teafortammi) on

Sponge, lilly pilly jam, mascarpone, plum and ginger sorbet, and blueberry dust made from freeze dried blueberries

The Sponge, Lilly Pilly Jam, Mascarpone, Plum and Ginger Sorbet and Blueberry Dust shows a skilful mix of technical skill and creativity, and presented a riot of fruity, refreshing flavours and contrasting textures that kept you coming back for more. I must admit that even thought we were bursting to the brim, I still scraped the bottom of the plate in a rather unladylike way because it was just so delicious.

And it turns out that this passion for food that Chef EJ has doesn’t just start and stop with The Powder Keg. He reveals that spear fishing and barbecuing ranks amongst his favourite ways to eat at home, echoing the same approach to food and nature that he has brought to The Powder Keg.

Oh, and when I asked about a dish that didn’t make it to this amazing menu? “Yabbies, smoked yabbie consommé,charred fennel, pickled apples, pine oil”, he says, and I wish I hadn’t asked because now I just know what I’m missing out on.

Definitely worth a trip back to explore the rest of the menu, including the Butchers block – our board of in house made charcuteries, pickles, ferments, preserves, bread, which seems like an underrated dish, but comes as a recommendation from the chef himself.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of The Powder Keg.
The Powder Keg
7 Kellett St
Potts Point, NSW 2011
Phone: 02 8354 0980

Powder Keg Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Toss That Shrimp on the Barbie: Parson’s Bar and Kitchen

Hickory Board with all the smoked items from Parson's Bar and Kitchen

Barbecue is the new cronut. And it’s not your average kettle-barbecue-in-the-backyard-with-men-standing-around-it either. This wave of smoked meats has recently swept from America’s deep south all the way to Sydney, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Looks like that shrimp on the barbie is getting some company.

Parson’s Bar and Kitchen is the latest to offer up smokey meaty goodness with Smoke Week: plating up brisket, ribs, wings and sausage in a restaurant that they’ve built themselves.

Owners Joe, Nick and Byron spent years working in the grueling hospitality industry, before deciding that they wanted to build something to call their own. Literally, build it. Located in a vintage house in Potts Point, they’ve installed a bar, a fantastic brick wall, a lovely deck with outdoor seating…all with their own two hands.

Pork Crackling with Bacon SaltPork Crackling with Bacon Salt

The newest addition to the family is a stove top smoker, which impressively churns out brisket, bacon, ribs and an amazing twice smoked (!) chorizo, where the meat gets smoked, then minced and put into sausage casings, cured, then smoked again.

Bacon, as if it wasnt glorious enough on its own, is also fried, dehydrated and ground into a bacon salt, which is used TO SEASON CRACKLING. As you do. Needless to say, this simple cup of crispy salty bacony goodness caused me to turn into that emoji with hearts for eyes. Because that’s how you fall in love, my friends.

Smoked Brisket SlidersSmoked Brisket Sliders

Plum Glazed Beef Short RibsPlum Glazed Beef Short Ribs

There was also some pretty amazing pork and beef ribs, but, as with most other cases for me, the beef ribs with its sticky sweet glaze came out on top. Tender but with just the right amount of pull, these ribs had me licking my fingers the way the good colonel intended.

Smokey Southern Fried ChickenSmokey Southern Fried Chicken

Speaking of the colonel, the team at Parson’s have decided to forgo the plain smoked chicken, and tszuj it up a bit by also frying it. Because everyday can be #fryday too. Served with a ranch sauce, these were crazy juicy, and had just the right amount of salty crispy goodness that it nearly had me reaching for a beer.

And I don’t drink.

Potato Salad and SlawPotato Salad and Slaw

And to help you along with your five-a-day, a lemon juice-based potato salad, and slaw to cut through the richness. Which, impressively, was a line finely toed by the guys at Parson’s. The trap with a smoker is that sometimes it can be “more is more”, and the resulting meat becomes just a conduit for smoke, but with this order, they have hit the meat with just the right amount of smoke to enhance the other flavours. If you can get a hold of them, the Southern Fried Chicken, Twice Smoked Chorizo and Plum Glazed Beef Ribs were absolute standouts to me.

I can’t wait to see what else they are going to come up with that smoker!

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Parson’s Bar and Kitchen.
3 Kellett St
Potts Point, NSW 2011
Phone: 02 8540 6320
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat, 5pm-12mn, Sun-Mon, Closed

Parsons on Urbanspoon

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Buns of Steel: Belly Bao, Sydney CBD

BBC (fried chicken) from Belly Bao in Good God, Sydney

I never did entirely understand the almost-fanatic appeal of the Gua Bao – soft, sweet milk buns filled with (traditionally) braised pork belly, mustard greens and sauce – to some. Sure it’s tasty and all, and its possibilities in terms of building the perfect bite in this hand-held snack-to-go are certainly promising, but surely it doesn’t require the fad-level attention that its been getting right?

Clearly, I haven’t tried the baos from Belly Bao.

Located in GoodGod Small Club, where The Dip used to reside, Belly Bao has grown from its humble beginnings as a market stall, into a busy eatery with legions of adoring fans. It was the brainchild of Sylvia, who, while on holidays in New York, came across these delicious morsels. Upon returning to Sydney, she realised that there was a clear gap in the market (and her own access to delicious baos), and decided to risk it all and make her own. With her parents to guide her with their years of restaurant experience, Sylvia started her market stall and hasn’t looked back since.

Tofu Bao, Soft Shell Crab Bao and Short Rib Bao at Belly BaoFrom top: Tofu Bao, Soft Shell Crab Bao and Short Rib Bao

Roast Pork Belly Bao, Fried Chicken Bao, and Braised Pork Belly Bao from Belly BaoFrom top: Roast Pork Belly Bao, Fried Chicken Bao, and Braised Pork Belly Bao

Sweet Potato Fries from Belly BaoSweet Potato Fries

BBC (Belly Bao Chicken) from Belly BaoBBC (Belly Bao Chicken)

The result? The best milk buns I’ve ever had in Sydney. It’s ridiculous just how fresh, soft, and fluffy they are, and it’s not surprising to hear from Sylvia that they make their own buns, rather than getting it supplied from someone else. And the fillings don’t disappoint either – the classic Braised Pork Belly Bao is my favourite with its thick dark sauce clinging to the tender slice of pork belly. The Short Rib Bao comes a close second, with its Korean inspired flavours of sweet soy and kim chi.

But don’t fill up on buns, because the Sweet Potato Fries, which are liberally salted and covered in a house made aioli and chilli sauce, are SO satisfying. Hot off the fryer, these fries are delicious in their sogginess – sweet potato fries don’t ever seem to crisp up in the same way that regular fries do – and the sauce over the top has to have some sort of hard drug in it, because I’m so SO addicted to the stuff.

The BBC also came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. Juicy meat, crunchy exterior that shatters into your cleavage, and all that jazz. And anyone who goes through the effort of brining their poultry, is alright in my books.

I’m so relieved when Sylvia divulges that the plan is to make Belly Bao readily available 7 days a week, because I don’t think I can live with such good food being unavailable for half of the week. Now excuse me, while I get my fries on.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Belly Bao.
Belly Bao
GOODGOD Small Club
53-55 Liverpool St
Sydney, NSW 2000

Belly Bao on Urbanspoon

400 Gradi Cinchetti, Brunswick East

Pizza. It’s as varied in Italy as noodles are in Asia. But the more pizza I eat around Australia, the more it seems that the most common type of pizza served in Australia was of the wood fired, wafer thin crust variety.

So it was uber cool for me to get an education about true Naples style pizza from the owner of 400 Gradi and pizza champion, Johnny Di Francesco.
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