Thursday, January 30, 2014

El Jannah's, Granville

Hello hello from Crystal Noir version 2.0! I've decided to give my blog a little bit of a makeover, having kept things simple from the very beginning. Okay, it was a little bit of laziness that never saw me designing a header for my blog. But I threw in a little bit of time this past few days to revamp things a bit. How are you all liking the new look?

Anyway, onto my actual post!

What is it about the great flavours of food that just give you bad breath? The king of the lot would definitely have to be garlic. I love the initial hit of garlic when I'm eating it, but can't say I'm the biggest fan of the lingering after taste. But of course when eating garlic, you're not thinking about the after effects (unless you're on a special date :P). One place in particular where the garlic sauce is legendary is at El Jannah's in Granville.

Whole chicken with Lebanese bread, garlic sauce and pickles, $19.90
This serving size could definitely feed two hungry guys, and it's also damned cheap at under $20 for the meal. The chips come in a massive bowl just for a regular and it's only $4.00. Talk about bang for buck. I don't foresee anyone going hungry if you have $10 in your pocket to spend here. The chicken is a bit of a hit and miss, having been a few times. Sometimes it's cooked really well and the chicken is still moist and tender inside. But other times, the chicken is incredibly dry and the skin is a bit too overcooked, verging on the side being burned. What I would come back for again and again is the garlic sauce and the fresh Lebanese bread. Nothing is better than wrapping some chicken in the bread, smothering it with garlic sauce and topping it with a couple of pickles (word of warning, they are quite salty!). If you're not too big of a fan of eating in, you could easily take a tub of garlic sauce ($4.50 for large) home to eat to your heart's content without needing to worry about your breath :P

El Jannah's: Granville
4-8 South St
Granville, NSW, 2142

Opening Hours
Monday - Saturday: 10:00am - 12:00 midnight
Sunday: 10:00am - 11:00pm

El Jannah on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 27, 2014

Melbourne Alleyways

Wow I have just realised I am not yet done with blogging about Melbourne! I am so sorry, dear readers, for the snail pace in which I am distributing my Melbourne adventures :( It's good to look back on this trip and realise that it was actually Melbourne that converted me into a little bit of a coffee fanatic. All those wanderings through the alleyways to discover a lot of cute cafes with quirky names really couldn't scream hipster at me any louder.

Skim latte, $4.00?
Gingerbreadmanne and I wanted to go to eat buns at Wonderbao but they weren't open yet so we sat down inside a cafe just around the corner called A Little Bird Told Me. How adorable are the ceramics here? That pretty shade of aqua that is reminiscent of Tiffany's and the little blue flowers that held the brown sugar were too pretty for words. The latte was definitely a good one. Sigh, I miss you Melbourne coffee.

A Little Bird Told Me
29 Little La Trobe St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 4:30pm
Saturday: 9:30am - 4:00pm

A Little Bird Told Me... on Urbanspoon

Wonderbao's menu is short, concise and straight to the point of what they sell best. Buns. You can get open buns, closed buns, meat buns, vegetable buns, even sweet custard buns for those feeling like a little bit of dessert afterwards.

L to R: roast pork belly gua bao / braised pork belly gua bao, $4.20 each
Check out the glorious pieces of fatty pork belly and that generous lashing of sauce on top. Whilst the braised pork belly was already really yum with its pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanut topping, it was the roast pork belly that really made my tastebuds sing with happiness. It was as though the Vietnamese pork roll secretly had a love child with the Chinese man tou. Definitely Vietnamese inspired with its pickled carrots, daikon and cucumber but also Chinese with the hoisin sauce.

Why oh why do you not exist in Sydney, Wonderbao?

Shop 4/19-37 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday: 8:00am - 6:00pm
Saturday: 11:000am - 4:00pm

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vapiano, Sydney CBD

After hearing about the opening of the new Italian restaurant Vapiano from NessyEater, I wanted to check it out myself. Armed with a few of my girlfriends, we decided to make a date night out of it :D

What's great about Vapiano is that they make their own pasta in store and many of these I hadn't even heard of before! Tell me, has anyone heard of camponelle before? Though my clear lack of pasta knowledge didn't really matter as we had the wonderful Chef Kuz recommending the pasta for us. Everything is cooked fresh to order and literally right in front of your eyes! What else is different about this restaurant is the use of the buzzer method where all your orders are charged onto one of their store cards and you pay at the exit when you leave.

Pollo e spinaci, $19.50
Mention basil pesto to me and I am sold. Say cream stirred through and a sprinkling of pine nuts? Even better! Though I do wish there was a tad more seasoning - just that extra pinch of salt would've done wonders. The camponelle pasta was cooked so that it had just enough bite, but not too al dente. Just the way I like it.

Ravioli con carne, $17.90
Yes, we chose two cream based pastas... It couldn't be any other way ok? This one packed more of a flavour punch from both the bolognese filling and the awesome creamy tomato sauce. And look at the huge mound of parmesan cheese!

Calzone folded pizza, $19.50
Calzone is one kind of pizza I hadn't tried yet so I was eager to sink my knife and fork into this when I spotted it on the menu. And it definitely sounded like meat heaven with a double meat combo of ham and pepperoni and a variety of other fillings like mushroom, olives, onions and mozarella. But the calzone turned out to be more like bread than anything else with the crust being quite chewy, and the fillings were quite sparse and lacking. Which was quite a shame because I was expecting an awesome filling to crust ratio when I saw the size of the pizza. Turns out it was just the crust puffing up :(

My friends and I settled in upstairs after our meal in the bar area with a bottle of moscato and talked the night away. The ambience of this place really is very nice! Next time I'll be back to try more of the pastas, but I may give the pizza a bit of a miss.

King St Corner King And York St
Sydney, NSW, 2000
In the Grace Hotel 

Opening Hours
Sunday - Thursday: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 11:00am - 12:00 midnight

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 10, 2014

Circa, Parramatta

Circa Espresso is a little hole in the wall cafe located in the western suburbs of Parramatta. It's extremely easy to just walk by and completely miss this cafe! Located in what probably used to be a garage, the interior size of the room itself is very long and narrow so it can't quite fit that many people. We arrived just past noon on a hot Wednesday afternoon and there was a ten minute wait for a table.

At least they had menus for us to look through and couches outside for us to sit on while we waited!

Blood orange juice, $5.00 each
We were really tempted by the chai on their menu but to cool ourselves down from the heat, Ms Dentist-In-Training and I ordered a blood orange juice which was nice and fruity with a slight tang of bitterness that is distinctive of blood orange. We were hankering for those cool pastel striped straws we saw other tables have with their juices but unfortunately they didn't give us any :( The ice was served on the side and the juice itself was served at room temperature. We threw in every last ice-cube into our juice.

French toast, $14.00
I've had many bad French toasts in my day so I was hoping for something exceptional like the one I had at Kazbah. And thank goodness I was not let down. Lashings of cinnamon, fresh mixed berries and pistachio nuts on top of a thick fluffy brioche loaf made it super delicious. I loved eating it with the dollop of yogurt which made it feel a lot less heavier than if it were cream. Hopefully this special will still be there if I return :D

Baked eggs, $17.00
I've heard great things about the baked eggs here and with all three of us being avid baked egg lovers, we had to order this one. This version is a lot less saucier than ones I've had at other cafes and to be honest, I prefer it with more sauce to pack a bigger flavour punch. The overall dish was a lot fresher and more mild, but still went down a treat because woo for eggs! They were still perfectly cooked and the yolk oozed as we cut into it.

Ottoman eggs, $16.00
Look at those beautifully shaped poached eggs! I loved this twist on traditional poached eggs as it was served on top of crumbed eggplant, garlic labne, burnt chili and sage. The eggplant was still beautifully soft and the subtle aroma of sage wafted through all the elements of this dish.

Service was wonderful and they filled up our water bottle continuously all afternoon as we chatted without us having to ask! We must've drank at least a litre of water each :P If they mention the french toast as a special, don't hesitate to order it!

Circa Espresso
21 Wentworth Street
Parramatta, NSW

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 4:00pm

Circa on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Day Menu @ Watsons Bay Hotel, Watsons Bay

Happy New Year, dear readers! Sorry I haven't been blogging as of late - I've been busy, busy during this festive season! I hope you've managed to keep your resolutions now that we are just a tad under a week into 2014 :) I would like to start off the year with my biggest meal at the end of 2013 and probably most expensive at a whopping $250 per person so I would really like to thank my oldest friend M for bringing me as a guest. We were offered Moet champagne upon arrival so here's to us and over ten years of friendship!

Seeded bread with butter

Seafood platter
When our initial seafood platter arrived, I was already thinking about how the hell was I going to have enough stomach space for mains, dessert and post-dessert? Was it even going to be physically possible? Just look at all those prawns, oysters, mud crab and Moreton Bay bugs along with thousand island style dipping sauce. Fresh seafood always goes down well.

Whiskey a& honey glazed Kurabuta organic ham with cinnamon roasted peaches
And now the real meal starts. When I looked at the menu, I thought to myself: "how good could ham possibly be?" But damn this was good ham. Especially paired with those peaches. I've always had pork and apple together but peaches were completely out of the equation until now. It actually worked together!

L to R: BBQ split Yamba prawns with garlic, chilli & lemon / Roasted whole snapper with heirloom cherry tomatoes, olives & basil
The snapper was also a sight to behold. Steamed whole with olives on top, the juices of the olives flowed into the knife scores along the fish and really was beautiful. Whilst I am normally not a fan of olives, I found the flavour cooked into the fish wasn't quite as strong and it was actually very enjoyable to eat. There was some some acidic balance from our side of shaved fennel, radish and orange salad.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder with quinoa, pumpkin & pomegranates
However, this was the star of the mains. The whole lamb shoulder was cooked to tender perfection and the yogurt dressing with pomegranate pieces completed the dish. We had a side of maple roasted sweet potato and candied pecans. I kept coming back for the candied pecans - so sweetly addictive! And the sweet potatoes too because I'm a sucker for roasted sweet potatoes.

Mango and berries pavlova with mascarpone cream
And if all that food wasn't enough. There was still dessert. I love a good pavlova and I loved this tropical rendition with mango, passionfruit and mascarpone cream. I do wish the pavlova was less dry and more fluffy inside - though that didn't stop us from finishing it all!

Chef's selection of cheeses
I thought the pavlova was the final course but I completely forgot about crackers and cheese. Oh dear. Stomach space please grow so I can fit more food inside you. We tried a miniscule amount of the blue vein cheese before deciding that our tastebuds still haven't quite grown accustomed to the strong flavour and so we stuck with the brie and cheddar. Amazing cheeses! And to eat with the cheese, we had some sweet, juicy grapes.

We were much too full to even contemplate trying to squeeze in a coffee. It did smell amazing though! I don't think there were even any crevices left for the liquid to seep through within our stomachs. But I was already so pleased with my meal I couldn't even complain about not fitting in coffee!

I hope all of you had equally as large feasts on Christmas Day along with beautiful company just like who I had.

Watsons Bay Hotel
1 Military Rd
Sydney, NSW, 2030

Opening Hours
Monday – Saturday: 10:00am – 12:00am
Sunday: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Monday – Sunday: 7:00am – 10:00am

Lunch & Dinner
Monday – Friday: 11:30am – late
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm / 5:00pm – late

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel on Urbanspoon