Most Sydneysiders would agree the best Vietnamese restaurants are in Cabramatta or Bankstown, but if you don't want to trek all the way to the west and am after a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine, Mama's Buoi is for you.
Located on Willoughby Road in the bustling Crows Nest dining scene, Mama's Buoi was packed with diners when we visited on a Thursday night. The interior is vibrant and beautifully designed, with an open kitchen.
We started with the pulled duck pancake - with pineapple, pickled carrots, mixed herbs & honey. I would have loved a bit more duck, but the flavour was spot on. The pineapple and pickled carrots gave the dish a distinct freshness and wakes up your palate.
Being in a Vietnamese restaurant, I couldn't go past trying the Pho (Saigon style). The noodles were beautifully made, with just the right amount of 'bite'. The broth was very flavoursome, and a bit lighter and sweeter than what I had tried at other Vietnamese places. There was also an option to get a small serving, allowing you to try more dishes.
We also tried the Lemongrass Curry Chicken on the Bone, which was one of the recommended dishes on the menu. The chicken is melt-in-your mouth soft and the sauce very fragrant, with a strong hint of the lemongrass aroma. Definitely a satisfying dish!
Prices are obviously not as cheap as those found in the West, but still very reasonable. The atmosphere is lively and the food is very tasty. I'm eager to try the rest of their menu.
Maccas is not somewhere I usually go to for dinner but on this particular Sunday night, we were at the Castle Hill branch looking for a quick bite to eat.
What greeted us was not what you usually expect at Maccas - industrial chic furniture, and two large touch screens inviting us to create our own burgers. You can also choose one of their new specially created burgers but creating your own burger is so much more fun!
The screens were very intuitive and easy to use. You start by selecting the bun, then the number of angus beef patties, cheese, toppings and sauce. There were definitely opportunity to 'gourmetise' the burger - I picked the chilli jam, brioche bun, pineapple, caramelised onions, Swiss cheese. It came to $10.95 which is pretty good considering the amount of ingredients I put on there.
I wondered if they had a limit to the number of toppings to the burger as at some point, it would not be architecturally possible to stand upright!
It took about 10 minutes for the burger to be ready - not bad for a gourmet burger, but definitely not the efficiency you traditionally expect at McDonald's.
And the taste? Very flavoursome, definitely a step above the traditional fast food burgers, close to Grill'd. I especially loved the brioche bun and caramelised onions.
It's definitely worth a visit for the novelty factor alone!
8.30 on a Saturday night, Frango's was packed. Tables were full and the takeaway line was nearly out the door. Wanting to try their more extensive menu, we decided to wait for a table which took about 20 minutes.
For entree, we ordered the Marinated Calamari with wine, lemon and olive oil. The calamari was succulent and coated in a very flavoursome dressing. It reminded me very much of a similar dish I had in Lisbon.
We also ordered the Cod Fish and Tomatoes with sliced hand cut potato. I love the texture of cod fish which is quite meaty but the star of this dish actually turned out to be the hand cut potato chips. With crispy edges and a soft centre, they were a great alternative to normal french fries. Accompanied by the homemade chili mayo, they were even more moreish.
Wanting to save room for dessert, we ordered only a quarter serving of their famous Portugese charcoal chicken. Crispy skin and succulent meat - can't ask for much more than that. And it went wonderfully with my glass of Portuguese red ($7).
For dessert, we got the Creme Caramel and the Portuguese tart. The creme caramel was wonderfully silky and the coconut shavings was a nice addition. I would have preferred the Portuguese tart to have been served hot and it was a little too sweet for me.
Frango's also has branches in Petersham and Smithfield.
The first course was the Pickled scallop and heirloom tomatoes and fennel in a clear broth. The dish was so tasty and mesmerising that I forgot to take a photo...which is a real shame because it was such a photogenic dish. The tomato medley, together with the micro herbs and scallops gave it wonderful colour and the broth was really delicate with incredible flavours.
Next was the Seared Albacore Tuna with Pickled Strawberries and Horseradish. I don't often order tuna at a restaurant because it's so easy to overcook, but this was done just right. The dish came with a pickled cucumber jelly and seaweed cracker which added to the texture, and I loved the pickled strawberries, which had this wonderful, intense sweetness to it.
For Valentine's Day this year, I was treated to a five course degustation at Four in Hand in Paddington ($95pp). I have enjoyed Colin Fassnidge's cooking at Four Fourteen so was eager to see what was in store.
We were offered a complimentary glass of champagne and an amuse bouche to start. The Whitefish and citrus soup with smoked paprika and basil was very flavoursome and definitely woke up our palate. Interestingly, the butter and salt was served in bone marrow - a nod to their nose and tail philosophy.
Next, we had the Bavette and Beef Cheek with Buttermilk Curd and Summer Greens. I had to google what a bavette was - turns out it is a French style cut, similar to a flank steak. Again, it was wonderfully cooked but the star of the dish was the beef cheek. The meat was falling-off-the bone tender and soaked up all the wonder juices from the stock.
Corned beef is not normally an item you would see on the menu of a restaurant, let alone a fine dining one. However, the Warmed corned beef with bresciola, buffalo curd and nashi pear was a revelation. The poached corn beef was moist and juicy, sitting atop a precisely cut block of nashi pear which provided the sweetness. Draped over the top was the house cured bresciola with shaved horseradish and a rich cheesy buffalo curd.
The dessert - Chocolate ice cream with pedro ximenz and macadamic nut with Brioche combined some of my favourite foods in the world - brioche, macadamia and chocolate. The ice cream was rich and velvety smooth and the chocolate flavours were everywhere but never overly sweet. I savoured each bite, not wanting the experience to end.
I was very impressed with the food overall. All the dishes had wonderful textures and balance of flavours. The service was friendly and professional too.
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