Sitting above Kensington's Spice Alley is Mekong, serving a melting pot of cuisines from all the South-East Asia countries along the Mekong River. Dishes from Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all represented. The restaurant is split into two parts, a more casual eatery serving predominantly Vietmanese food downstairs and the full service restaurant upstairs.
We started with their signature Squid Ink Dumplings. The squid ink dumpling skins were very delicated, encasing a Thai crab meat and prawn filling. It was served with a amazingly fragrant chicken pho broth poured from a teapot. The broth really elevates the flavour of the dumplings and was definitely the highlight of the dish.
Next was the Thai grilled pork neck wrapped in betal leaf with housemade tamarind sauce. These little parcels packed plety of flavour and the pork neck had a lovely sticky caramel texture.
The Lao crispy omelette was stuffed with sliced pork roll, sour pork, morning glory and accompanied with a soy chili sauce. Another tasty dish but not as memorable as the preceding two.
With the aim of tryig as many dishes as possible, we ordered the Indochine shareplate. The highlights were the Lao sour pork sausage and the Vietnamese rice flour cups with prawn, sweetcorn and cucumber relish.
Onto the mains and the quality food just kept on coming. The Sweet lemon rumdul, a Cambodian beef rib curry with sweet potato and lemongrass paste was utterly delicious. It makes me wonder why there aren't more Cambodian curries on menus in Sydney. The beef fell apart at the slightest touch and the sauce was wonderfully rich.
Next was the more familiar Thai red curry with duck confit. The duck was exceptionally cooked - juicy and moist on the inside whilst retaining its crispy skin. The cherry tomato, and pineapple added some freshness to the creamy and aromatic sauce.
For a lighter dish to offset all the curries, we had the Young Ginger, a stir fry with Vietnamese black soya chicken. It was well executed and the quality of the produce was clearly on show.
The Royal Seafood Amok is one of the more famous dishes of Cambodian cuisine and Mekong's intepretation is definitely on point. It's a coconut based yellow curry with a ton of seafood - here, it was served with barramundi, scallops, prawn and pipies. The seafood really soaked up the flavour of the sauce and we had no trouble finishing this off.
Luckly, we still had room left for dessert. The Bangkok ice cream bowl was just the refreshing dessert I was after. It consists of Coconut ice cream with pomegranate, sweet corn, roasted peanuts and palm seeds sitting on a bed of coconut sticky rice and served in a coconut shell. The Coconut ice cream is the best I've ever had. It's super smooth and creamy, and packed with coconut flavour. All the other accompaniments just fitted wth the ice cream perfectly. It definitely left a smile on my face.
Of course, one dessert wasn't enough. The Basil panna cotta with raspberry puree, walnut and lemon meringue was another flawless essert. Strawberry and basil is a great flavour combination and the puffed rice and walnut gave the dish a great crunchy element.
The food at Mekong was very impressive, both in taste and presentation. It's wonderful to see the cusines of Laos, Burma and Cambodia featured along the most common varieties. It's a bit more expensive than your average South East Asian restaurant but well worth it. My only gripe is that the menu is a bit hard to decipher as the title of the dishes aren't very descriptive e.g. 'Grandma in the garden' or 'Full moon' but I can overlook it when the food is so delicious.
The team from Automata has opened a brunch pop up, and it's every bit as delicious. Taking residence in the Old Clare Hotel, it's definitely not your run of the mill cafe menu.
The classic Eggs Benedict has been given a modern twist, with the addition of black pudding. The hollandaise sauce was divine and the houseade black pudding made it even more indulgent.
Who says you can't have fried chicken before lunch? Auto.Lab's Fried chicken, ube waffle with smoked maple syrup sounded too good a combination to resist. The waffle took on a lovely colour from the ube (purple yam) and the fried chicken was perfectly cooked - what more can you ask for.
Amazing food in a great location. It's a pity that it's only a pop-up, Get in quick before it closes on Dec 24th!
Kensington Street Social is Michelin starred chef, Jason Aterton's first foray into Australia, located in the hotspot of dining in Sydney right now -Chippendale. Arriving for a late lunch, we were seated at the bar with a full view of the frenetic action in the kitchen. The menu is designed for sharing according to the waitstaff but frankly, some of the dishes were so good I wanted it all to myself.
We started with the English breakfast tea and toast which was not what you would normally expect. It came complete with its own two tiered stand. The tea was actually more akin to a mushroom consomme, which was deliciously rich and earthy. Poured into the little cups of Parmesan foam, it was gone all too quickly. To accompany the 'tea' were super thin sourdough crisps topped with creamy bone marrow butter and gentlemen's relish (i.e. the original HP sauce). Definitely a little bit fancy!
The vine tomato stuffed with burrata inside is another must-eat. Dressed with a 25 year aged balsamic vinegar, and together with the semi dried tomato seasoning hidden inside, it was one tasty dish.
We love a good tartare and KSS's veal tartare did not disappoint. The egg yolk jam mixed in with the veal have it a good creamy texture and it was packed full of flavour.
Our next dish, Slow cooked organic hen's egg, sweetcorn, seaweed, parmesan, sage, chicken scratchings, comes with a little jug of chicken gravy poured at the table. The combination of the different textures and flavours just hit all the right notes. Salty, crispy chicken scratchings paired with the sweet, juicy bursts of corn; the umami of the seaweed and parmesan and of course, the gooey egg yolk!
For the last of our savoury dishes, we opted for the Paroo Kangaroo with soured sweet potato, cider poached pear, wattle seed, and land cress. It's easy to overcook kangaroo but in this case, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare. I don't think I've ever had such succulent kangaroo before. The jus that was poured on was delicious and I quite liked the sour sweet potato puree, which cuts through the richness of the meat.
Olive oil cake, where have you been all my life? The cake was incredibly moist and full of olive oil flavour. Served with a scoop of coconut sorbet, diced mango and passionfruit granita, it was a light, refreshing and seriously delicious dessert.
I was mightily impressed by Kensington Street Social - everything from the ambiance to the service and most of all, the food. It was exciting, and everything on the plate had spectacular flavours. Yes, portions are a bit small but on the upside, you have an excuse to try more dishes!
Spice Alley brings a taste of Hawker centers found in South east Asia to Chippendale. There's a range of Asian food stalls on offer, ranging from HK to Malaysian to Thai cuisine. On a warm summers' night, the place was bustling with diners enjoying their meal under the hanging lanterns.
From Alex Lee Kitchen, we got the Chatterbox Chicken Rice, Lee's take on the Hainanese Chicken Rice. The boneless chicken was silky smooth, with an almost gelatinous skin. It was served with chili ginger, dark soy sauce and a flavoursome chicken soup.
We also sampled the Cheese roti from Alex Lee Kitchen and were pretty happy with our choice. You can't go wrong with buttery and cheesy layers of flaky roti! The curry sauce and sambal were just the right accompaniments.
I've been missing my Char Kway Teow ever since I came back from my holiday in Penang last year - the ones I've had just haven't lived up to standard, but I was very impressed with Old Jim's Kee version. There were generous servings of prawns and the Chinese sausage, and the dish had a smokey flavour synonymous with the ones cooked on the streets of Penang...so delicious!
I love the concept of Spice Alley and being right opposite UTS, the prices are fit for a uni student's budget. I will definitely be back to try some of the other dishes.
Ester is a restaurant that has been on my wish list for a little while now. I finally had the chance to visit with my family and it lived up to its expectations. With a wood-fired oven as the focal point of its kitchen, the flavours of the food really shines through. For ease of ordering, we opted for the $72 set menu.
Starting off with the Squid dumplings, the appearance of the dish was quite jarring (courtesy of the squid ink). I loved the chewiness of the dumpling skin and the cutlefish and pork filling was quite tasty.
Next was the Wood-fired roasted Rock oysters. The oysters still retained the texture normally associated with a raw oyster but with the additional smokey flavour. Despite not usually being a fan of horseradish, the horseradish emulsion went quite nicely with the oysters and definitely whetted our appetite for the food to come.
The Blood sausage sanga is definitely a step up from the average sausage sanga! The blood sausage had incredibly tasty, served on a fluffy steamed piece of white bread with aioli and caramelised onions. I could have downed a few more of these!
The Kingfish sashimi was beautifully fresh and combined beautifully with the charcoal nori sauce, the smooth bonito emulsion and the orange zest powder. All the flavours just worked when mixed with one another.
The King prawns were chargrilled to perfection and tasted divine with the capers and generous lashings of brown butter. Definitely a dish to savour!
The Peas/ lardo/ corn dish was not very inspriing on paper but it most definitely delivered. The lardo mixed with the fresh peas and corn made this a mouthwatering dish (though most definitely not the healthiest!).
The wood-fired Cauliflower is Ester's signature dish so I was definitely eager to see what all th fuss is about. The cauliflower is ginormous and the time in the wood-fired oven gives it a lovely smokey and sweet flavour. Together with the creamy almond emulsion, toasted almonds and mint, it made cauliflower one amazing tasting vegetable!
The Flank steak was marinated in fermented rice and was wonderfully tender and juicy. I loved the accompaniments to the dish too - the sweet, falling-apart leek and the smoked onion puree.
Onto desserts and the Salted caramel semi-freddo had the balance of sweet and salty just right. I'm a sucker for anything with black sesame so the sprinkling of black sesame powder took this to another level.
Our last course of our very filling menu was Three milks, which consists of a cows milk panna cotta, a sheep's milk foam, a goat's milk dulce de leche, olive oil biscuit crumbs and rosemary. It's best when all the components are mixed together as you get the lightness of the yoghurt, the sweetness of the dulce de leche and the creaminess of the panna cotta. Overall, it was a bit too sweet for me but I really admired their creativity.
I had a great time at Ester and will be back for sure to try the rest of their menu (the bone marrow is calling me!). The use of the wood fired oven injects amazing flavour to the dishes and I love the rustic nature of the food. It's definitely a place meant for sharing so bring your friends or family along!
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