Posts tagged Middle Eastern

Mado Cafe, Auburn

Mado Cafe, Auburn. Sydney Food Blog Review

I don’t often get to head out to Auburn, but when we do, I like to make it count. So the obvious thing after an Afghan dinner at Khaybar with Simon and Christine is ice cream at Mado Cafe. Especially when it’s “the only ice cream in the world eaten with a knife and fork”.

Say whaaaaaa…???

The Order:

Cay (Turkish Tea), $2

Apple Tea, $3.50

Kesme Maras, $7.50
The only ice cream in the world eaten with a knife and fork

Baklava, $2.50

Kunefe, $10

The Food:

The dessert of the hour, the Kesme Maras, is meant to have a thick, chewy texture that makes cutlery a requirement. Served in a large block, it reminded me of the ice cream sandwiches of my childhood, were vendors slice it up straight out of the cardboard prisons that barely restrain the creamy treat.

Oh yeah, didn’t I mention that ice cream sandwiches in Singapore are served in bread like an actual sandwich. None of that copout cookie business here!

Kesme Maras, $7.50: Mado Cafe, Auburn. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKesme Maras, $7.50

Kesme Maras, $7.50: Mado Cafe, Auburn. Sydney Food Blog Review

Anyhoo. The Kesme Maras in this case wasn’t quite as chewy in texture as I’d hoped, like the one from Hakiki in Newtown. It ate like rich block of vanilla ice cream, topped with sauce and pistachio. Not bad, but not that special either.

Kunefe, $10: Mado Cafe, Auburn. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKunefe, $10

The Kunefe sat in a similar league for me: I’ve come to love the rich, cheesy, oozing Knefe that I’ve had from other Lebanese places, covered in semolina and orange blossom syrup, and this one was just a little on the light side. The crispy pastry added a nice texture, but where my cheese at??

Kunefe, $10: Mado Cafe, Auburn. Sydney Food Blog Review

Oh, there you are!

As you can see, not very heavy in the cheese department.

The baklava wasn’t my favourite, either – I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the texture was a little bit powdery. At least, for my taste.

Oh but do get yourself a Turkish tea whilst you’re there. Just a little something to cut all that sweet.

Food: 0.5/1

The Service:

They were fairly efficient and friendly, but I did feel fairly embarrassed when I asked about the difference between Turkish Tea and regular tea (they have it specifically labelled on their menu), and our waiter said, “uh, it’s just tea. Like, black tea”. Well, I’m sorry i didn’t know!

The embarrassment wasn’t enough to ruin the evening, but it was enough for me to remember the service by. So…not bad, but not great, either.

Service: 0.5/1

Value for money:

I don’t know how I feel paying $10 for that Kunefe and $7.50 for the Kesme Maras. I get that it’s a dessert and all, and it’s pretty reasonable for a dessert pricing, but at the same time, I’m not sure that for what I got I was happy with the value. I’m not bitterly mourning the loss in my wallet, but at the same time, I don’t think that I’m going to be running back anytime soon, especially if I’m feeling broke and selective about my food.

Value for money: 0/1

The Vibe:

Walking into Mado Cafe was like walking into someone’s house. I’m serious. The chairs were upholstered with boldly printed fabric, and there were embroidered tapestry runners laid under glass tabletops. Jaunty pop music played softly from the speakers (I thought I heard me a little Uptown Funk?), and it really was like relaxing at a friend’s house.

It was also really nice that they didn’t chase us out as we sat there for a couple hours chatting. An added bonus to a very relaxing evening.

Vibe: 0.5/1

And finally,

It’s really such a shame that the famed Kesme Maras wasn’t as mind-blowing as I thought it would be. It was still a nice place to sit and relax after dinner, but Auburn is filled with bakeries and middle eastern sweet shops that I wouldn’t necessarily label this one a must-go.

Bonus points: 0/1

This meal was independently paid for.
Mado Cafe
63 Auburn Road
Auburn, NSW
Phone: 02 9643 5299

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

Danno’s, Dee Why

Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: Heirloom Tomato and Beetroot Salad

So here’s the goss: Danno’s used to be THE place to go to for burgers. Hulking, juicy, thick, saucy burgers. These burgers were made by Burger Josh – yes, a man so devoted to his craft that burgers have just become his identity – and they were truly a work of art to behold.

Then one day, Burger Josh and Danno’s decided that they didn’t love each other anymore and part ways. And the diners, like me, were left inbetween feeling like the product of a broken home. After all, who’s side do you pick when mommy and daddy break up?

Better still, what do you do when mommy finds another man to replace daddy. WHAT THEN?! ?????

Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: Organic Breakfast Trifle, Coconut Milk, Chia Seed, Mango, Yoghurt, Mixed Berries, $16Organic Breakfast Trifle, Coconut Milk, Chia Seed, Mango, Yoghurt, Mixed Berries, $16

Thinly veiled analogies aside, Danno’s is back with a new menu and a new chef, ready to reclaim (or retain?) the love of the dining public. The new menu is created by Chef Ashraf Saleh, who brings with him middle eastern influences and years of restaurant experience.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: Egyptian Poached Eggs, Bastourma, Za'atar, Kale, Sweet Potato Croquet, $17Egyptian Poached Eggs, Bastourma, Za’atar, Kale, Sweet Potato Croquet, $17

So how does the food stack up? Well, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges, really. One gives pretty, upscale, cafe-type food, and the other, gritty, sexy, voluptuous burgers.

No, you’re saying it wrong. Gotta add a growl to your voice and say it again:


Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: Heirloom Tomato and Beetroot SaladHeirloom Tomato and Beetroot Salad

Anyhoo, Danno’s new menu is indeed pretty. Very photogenic in a Covergirl ad sorta way. Not exactly edgy in terms of favour profile or culinary creativity, but that might not have been what Chef Ashraf might have been aiming for.

The Organic Breakfast Trifle, $16, was a chia pudding with a riot of fresh fruit and compote over the top. It was silky and comforting, with light, fresh notes of the summer fruits keeping it from being stodgy.

On the savoury front, Egyptian Poached Eggs, Bastourma, Za’atar, Kale, Sweet Potato Croquet, $17 was well, interesting. The individual elements on the plate – and there were many – were okay, but didn’t come together into anything remarkable. Massive amounts of beetroot and radish made it all visually stunning, but pretty only gets you so far.

But of course, you are really waiting for me to compare apples with apples. Danno’s indeed has a burger on the menu, and yes, we ate it.


Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: The TitanicThe Titanic

The Titanic was aptly named, because well, look at it. Here, I even have a shot of Chef Ashraf holding it, for comparison.

Sydney Food Blog Review of Danno's, Dee Why: The Titanic, with chef Ashraf Saleh

As he set down the plate, Chef Ashraf made very sure to tell us that he felt that his burger was full of flavour, and there was no need for it to be dripping with sauce. No need to be OTT, you know, gotta keep it simple.

Well, um, I dont’t really know how to put this, but it needs more sauce. *hides face behind hands* The fried chicken was flavourful enough, but not juicy enough to combat the natural dryness that is bread. And what sauce it had, mind you, had a lovely thousand-island-type tang, but I needed more. Way more.

The fries thst it came with though? A+. Hints of sumac and spice brought the humble fry to life, and I just kept picking at it, even though I should’ve stopped eating 10 minutes ago.

I think that the new menu reslly shows a lot of promise, though I kind of question putting a burger on so soon after the divorce. Salt in the wound man, salt in the wound. It might take s bit of time for the new chef and evolving menu to find their footing, but from what I’ve seen, it shouldn’t take too long for the taste of the food to match the expectation that the presentation gives.

Wasn’t there something about judging a book by its cover?

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Danno’s.
23 Howard Avenue
Dee Why, NSW
Phone: 02 8094 9677

Danno's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stretch it real good: Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown

Sydney Food Blog Review of Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown

Some women collect shoes. Others, jewellery. Me? It’s all about the weird and wonderful things I can EAT!

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown, Sydney Food Blog Review

Salep is a kind of thickening agent/flour that’s made from orchids, and it’s used in middle eastern cuisine to give foods – like ice cream – a sort of stretchy texture. Turkish ice cream, in particular, is known for this, and while it doesn’t have much flavour on its own, the texture is freaky AF. At Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream in Newtown, they not only have Salep thickened ice cream, they also have them in all sorts of Middle Eastern flavours to tempt you. A bit like a belly dancer. A good one though. Not the ones at restaurants at Saturday night that you don’t want to make eye contact with.

I had the pomegranate, which was lovely and fruity, but the tahini. Oh. My. God the Tahini. Like the Asian black sesame but creamier and richer. And somehow healthy-feeling. I’m sure it’s not, but any delusion that lets me continue to eat this amazing ice cream is a good delusion.

If ice cream is not quite your thing, well there’s always Turkish Coffee on the menu to, to give you that late afternoon pick-me-up.

But really. Go the ice cream. Trust me.

This meal was independently paid for.
Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream
63-71 Enmore Road
Enmore, NSW
Phone: 02 8040 1676

Click to add a blog post for Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream and Baklava on Zomato

Fifth Element: Element 6, West Ryde

Review of Element 6, West Ryde

I’m not a morning person. Not by a long shot. But when you get woken up by, “hey let’s go see the sunrise together“, it’s a little hard to say no.

Well that, and the promise of breakfast.

And that’s what happened the morning that I found myself climbing steep hills in complete darkness. Not my finest hour, with sweat pants, a hoodie, and layers of clothing underneath. But sunrises are meant to be worth it, and here we were.

Funny thing was, we found ourselves in a spot we thought would have a nice view of the sun rising over the water, but instead had brown buildings in the way. Sexy. I was cold, tired and hungry, and the she-hulk was about to emerge.

Breakfast had better be worth it.

Review of Element 6 in West Ryde - poached eggs, chorizo, kale and spiced lentilsPoached eggs, chorizo, kale and spiced lentils

Located right across West Ryde Station, Element 6 sits amongst an Armenian grocer, Indian spice shop, Halal Butcher, and a Lebanese bakery. Kinda like the food version of It’s a Small World After All.

And food versions of things are the best versions.

Review of Element 6 in West Ryde - french toast with honeycomb, maple syrup and added baconFrench toast with honeycomb, maple syrup and added bacon

We ordered the Chorizo with spiced lentils and kale, and French toast, added bacon of course. And even though I felt like I earned a French Toast with the long walk, the Chorizo was way WAY more satisfying. Crispy salty chorizo, hearty kale, oozing eggs and sweet/salty spiced lentils made for a filling breakfast that also made you feel good about eating it.

Not that the french toast was bad, mind you, it just wasn’t as good. Especially since they seem to have used a crusty slice of sourdough as the base, which just doesnt help you get the eggy pudding consistency that youre looking for. So much promise, too much bread.

It had a great buzzing-cafe sort of atmosphere, and had polite, efficient service. Not quite as exciting as brunch in the city, but definitely great as a local weekend hangout!

This meal was independently paid for.
Element 6
65 Ryedale Road
West Ryde NSW
Phone: 02 8021 2838

Click to add a blog post for Element 6 on Zomato

Carb on Carb Love: Koshari Recipe

As the months get colder, it somehow feels more acceptable to dig into a huge bowl of carbs. But not just one kind, mind you, no, it has to be layers upon layers of different carbs, with sauce and crispy shallots over the top.

Introducing my Koshari recipe – a carb lover’s winter dream come true or rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, a tomato based sauce, crispy shallots, garlic vinegar and hot sauce. And of course, my twist on it with Persian rice, because the Persian in my house wouldn’t have it any other way.

And how can you go wrong with butter and rice?

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Breakfast and Bubbles: Kazbah, Balmain

Poached, scrambled and fried eggs, toast and lebanese bread with sides of merguez sausage, bacon, roasted tomato, hash brown, grilled haloumi, mushrooms, baby spinach, and baked beans

They say you’re meant to eat breakfast like a King, and Kazbah is more than happy to take on that challenge with their Banquet Breakfast Feast, taking it upon themselves to feed you until you’re stuffed, and then proceed to bring out dessert.

Usually available only for bookings in groups of eight, they have decided to shrink the serving sizes to allow groups of 2 to sample the feast for the New South Wales Food and Wine Festival at $30 per head, bubbly included.

Turkish CoffeeTurkish Coffee

We start off with a Turkish Coffee, because when in Rome right? It had fabulous caramel notes and its strength was only tempered by the sugar that was added. There was none of the burnt aftertaste that I always associate with darkly roasted coffee, and finished smooth on the palate. It sure provided one heck of a caffeine hit though, and we needed it for the food coma that was soon to follow.

Sweet cous cous with nuts, dried fruit, stewed rhubarb, and cardamom milkSweet cous cous with nuts, dried fruit, stewed rhubarb, and cardamom milk

Warm Rice Pudding with Saffron Poached Pear, Cinnamon and HazelnutsWarm Rice Pudding with Saffron Poached Pear, Cinnamon and Hazelnuts

Wholegrain Barley and Oat Banana Porridge with Brown Sugar and Date CompoteWholegrain Barley and Oat Banana Porridge with Brown Sugar and Date Compote

They started us off sweet, with a trio of breakfast grains and cereals. Sweet Cous Cous, Saffron Rice Pudding and Barley and Oat Banana Porridge set the scene for a breakfast in the middle east, and “sits on your stomach like a sack full of quarters” (Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations, Season 4, Ep 18, 16:10). We were advised very early on not to fill up on these, but I can’t resist the comforting starchy texture of a rice pudding or porridge. In fact, the Rice Pudding with Saffron-Poached Pear (with it’s beautiful notes of vanilla and orange zest) reminded The Boy very strongly of what he used to have as a kid: Haleem, which is a creamy porridge made from whole wheat berries. The Sweet Cous Cous with Dried Fruit, Stewed Rhubarb and Cardamom Milk presented like breakfast cereal with a twist – the cous cous is cooked in a rose and cinnamon spiked liquid, topped with sweet dried fruit, and served with a warm, frothed cardamom milk that you pour over the top.

Move over, Captain Crunch.

Duo of Roasted Pumpkin, and Lamb TaginesDuo of Roasted Pumpkin, and Lamb Tagines

Then the tagine: a half and half of Roasted Pumpkin on one side, and Lamb on the other. Usually marked by the high conical cap that tops the shallow dish that holds the food, the tagine, much like the paella, actually refers to the stewing pan and not the food. In this one, the Roast Pumpkin was sweet and light, and y’know, good, but it wasn’t the lamb. Oh the lamb. Spiced lamb mince (secret spice mix recipe and all that) lays thick and rich on the bottom of the tagine, couching a baked egg that retains its oozy yolk. Grilled bread on the side, of course, because you need to be full, right?

If I die from being overfed tomorrow, I’m just glad that I have had this lamb.

Poached, scrambled and fried eggs, toast and lebanese bread with sides of merguez sausage, bacon, roasted tomato, hash brown, grilled haloumi, mushrooms, baby spinach, and baked beansPoached, scrambled and fried eggs, toast and lebanese bread with sides of merguez sausage, bacon, roasted tomato, hash brown, grilled haloumi, mushrooms, baby spinach, and baked beans

Then more savoury, because you can’t have breakfast in Australia without bacon and eggs. Laid out on a wooden platter were eggs done three ways (scrambled, poached and fried), hash brown, toasted bread, bacon, roasted tomato, grilled haloumi, stewed mushrooms, baked beans and spinach. It was quite a luscious platter (though not quite as amazing as the lamb tagine) and I really needed the acidity and tang that the stewed mushrooms provided. The scrambled eggs were a touch overdone for me – maybe to keep it from spreading all over the platter, I don’t know – and the hash browns didn’t quite have enough surface area to fluffy inside as I was hoping for. But really, I’m just nitpicking at this point because my stomach feels like overfilled muffin cups that have been put into the oven, and is resulting in the subsequent spilling out over the waistband of my jeans.

Chocolate and Raspberry Pancakes with Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream and Housemade Butterscotch SauceChocolate and Raspberry Pancakes with Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream and Housemade Butterscotch Sauce

Remember how I said that they would feed you till you’re full and then bring out dessert? Well here is dessert. Chocolate and Raspberry Pancakes with Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream and Housemade Butterscotch Sauce. Pancakes larger than your face is drowned in a pool of sauce, and topped with two scoops of ice cream.

Chocolate and Raspberry Pancakes with Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream and Housemade Butterscotch Sauce

And thick, too. I’m sure that this is the food coma talking, but I’m not such a fan of the texture of these pancakes. The addition of almond meal and the sheer size of it creates a tough, cakey texture, which is not quite the fluffy, bouncy texture that I’ve come to expect from pancakes. The butterscotch sauce mixed in with rivulets of creamy chocolate ice cream was nice, like a caramel and chocolate milkshake had a baby.

This is where the Turkish Coffee really came in handy. I was well and truly in a comatose state from the meal, and needed a wooden barrel to help roll me home. I’m told that these portions are calculated to be scaled down from the 8-person banquet, and the only thing that was left at a larger portion was the pancakes, which usually serves four to six. I could have easily been full if The Boy and I shared this with another four people, and with a bag full of leftovers, I can safely say that neither of us ate for the rest of the day.

And maybe that is the point of a middle eastern breakfast. You can like a King in the morning, so you don’t have to consume anything until the next breakfast.

If you’d like to try this luxurious breakfast, it is still available at Kazbah in Balmain till the end of the NSW Food and Wine Festival on the 1st of March. Visit for more details.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of the NSW Food and Wine Festival.
Kazbah Balmain
379 Darling St
Balmain, NSW 2041
Phone: 02 9555 7067

Kazbah Balmain on Urbanspoon

Drive by eating: Sabbaba, Sydney

Falafel from Sabbaba in Westfield Sydney

Falafels are tricky business, and when you add the words franchise or chain in to the mix, you’re really taking a gamble. Now add a picky middle-eastern man, and you’re really skating on thin ice.

Sam speaks constantly about this mysterious falafel man and his cart just down the street where he grew up in Iran, and how he made falafels that were crazy crispy on the outside, and melt-in-your-mouth moist on the inside. Falafels we’ve had in Sydney have since not been up to scratch to him, either ending up soggy, or wayyyyyyy too dry on the inside.

But what about Sabbaba?


The Order: half a dozen mini falafels, and a baklava.

The Taste: the falafels are fried to order, so you’re ensured a hot, tasty bite. The small size gives you a good amount of surface area to ensure maximum crispiness, without compromising on moistness inside, and it just makes all-round deliciousness. The baklava, on the other hand, was just a touch stale, and a bit of a nothing, I’m afraid. I’ve definitely had much better elsewhere.

The Service: It’s a food court store, so no table service to judge here. But they are efficient and polite, and you’re not left standing there staring into the kitchen, hoping to make eye contact with a staff member.

The Convenience: Located in the upstairs food court of Westfield Sydney, they’re pretty easy to get to, especially if you’re already in the CBD. Getting out, however, is a bit of a nightmare since the centre requires you to navigate through the maze of escalators in order to exit the building, so make sure that you allow for the time if you’re on a lunch break.

On the food front, they have a nice mix of ready-made and made-to-order food, so you’re never kept waiting too long for your order. It’s not the fastest though – in order for the freshness of fried-to-order falafels, you’re trading off a little in time.

The Value for Money:They’re not the cheapest option in the CBD – and I’m including Chinatown as part of the CBD – but they are one of the more affordable options in the Westfield food court. And I must say that they’re pretty reliable as a chain, which is invaluable if you’re a time-poor person in the CBD with only 5 minutes to make your decision for lunch. That being said, I’ve never tried their main options, but the snacky type foods receive a big thumbs up from me.

86-100 Market Street, Level 5
Westfield Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9223 3315

Sabbaba on Urbanspoon

Sea Sweet

Whenever Sean and I are in the mood for sweets, there is one place that we turn to. We chanced upon it one day after taking an after-dinner stroll, and we are absolutely addicted to it. 

Besides the lovely staff who greet you as you come in the door, the inside of the restaurant is impeccably clean (never take that for granted!) and a welcome sight sits at every table – orange blossom and rose syrup. Now I know that desserts with the addition of syrup can end up saccharine-ly sweet, but there’s something about the smell and the sweet coating on my tongue that makes me feel all tingly inside.  

Something that we always order is the Knefe, served in a seasame seed bun.

Oozing cheese with a layer of semolina stretch and melts with every bite, tempered by the fragrant, crusty bread. If we’ve had dinner before, Sean and I tend to order this to share – it can get quite rich and if you’ve eaten just before, you might end up feeling jalak

The mix plate of Beklawa was lovely in its variety. Each mouthful was an absolute delight, and it’s great that the servings are so small – I don’t think that I could have handled large amounts of layers of sweet pastry, nuts and syrup.

And for those who like the more western cakes and pastries, there was the Choux a la Creme Chocolat.

It was a chocolate cream puff really. Good, but nothing really special.

And finally, my new favourite thing to order.

The Halawet El Jebn Kashta was just divine. Layers of soft, fluffy, but slightly chewy cheese were covered in syrup and another sort of creamy cheese, and then layered liberally with crushed pistachio. Again, very rich, but refreshing in an odd sort of way. It’s served cold, quite unlike the Knefe, and very good for a warm, balmy night. 

We ate at:

Sea Sweet
Shop 4, 354 Church St
Parramatta 2150
1300 90 80 70

Sea Sweet Patisserie on Urbanspoon

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