Friday, 24 October 2014

SYDNEY REVIEW: An Restaurant (Pho An)

Pho AND wordplay! Can it get any better?
YAY! Sydney review time! If you follow my Facebook or my Instagram you would know that I went to Sydney recently. If you don't follow my  Facebook or my Instagram, why don't you? I would love it! Plus you'd know I went to Sydney! It's a win win.

Enter on the left, exit on the right!
I haven't told you yet but I am obsessed with Vietnamese. It seems to be having a moment here in Brisbane and I was pleased to hear that my sister was taking me to one of Sydney's best pho restaurants. If you're not yet fluent in the world of pho-y delights, let me tell you all about it. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, made out of flat rice noodles with thinly sliced raw beef and some herbs on top. Then a piping hot, amazingly tasty broth is poured on top. This cooks the beef and all the goodness stays in the soup. I've looked into making it at home, and may well do one day but it's an incredibly long process with the broth cooked from 3 to 9 hours! Ain't nobody got time for that! Well, not right now anyway.

So much concentration on pho.

So my sister told me she was taking me to get pho from An Restaurant (aka as Pho An in various places) and that it was good. I was sceptical that there would be pho that beat my local Vietnamese shop but being mad for pho, I was excited at the prospect. We drove to Bankstown and soon were walking up to a pretty unassuming restaurant. Straight away, I could tell that An Restaurant was not messing around with a separate entry and exit door. In one way and out the other!

Look at all those bean sprouts and chilli. You could practically make a meal out of the condiments alone.

Once we got inside, I could see that speediness was a theme here, this wasn't the venue for a long, lingering lunch. This is a eat it and beat it kinda place. The tables and chairs are basic with no cushions or tablecloths, so the waiters can wipe things down and seat the next party straight after you. It felt reminiscent of an Asian hawker market. You're definitely coming here for the ambience. We sat down and straight away the waiter was there. Since it's only pho available in either pho bo (beef) or pho ga (chicken), there really isn't that much deliberating. My sister choose a medium Pho Topped with Chicken ($13) and I was feeling really brave so I went for a medium Pho Topped with Beef Combination ($13.50). Beef combination is rare beef, cooked beef, been tendon and tripe. I asked for no tripe and half a serve of noodles, my sister asked for no coriander. I sensed that the waiter was a little irritated by the two picky girls making changes to the menu but what can you do. Bishes have needs, yo.

My pho before I customised can see the tripe floating there. FYI, I totally ate the tendon and tried the tripe. Culinary adventurer.

The pho came out super quickly. I could see tripe floating around my bowl but with one sip, I couldn't possibly hold that against them. I was in pho heaven. The pho from my local Vietnamese shop suddenly seemed like week old dish water. I swore. My eyes rolled around in my head. I basically shovelled this delicious ambrosia into my face hole as fast as I could bring the spoon to my mouth. Then suddenly a great sadness overcame me. The best pho I'd ever eaten was a 929 kilometre drive from my house. And An Restaurant does do takeaway, but I just don't think I'll get it home in time. What a double edged sword this turned out to be.

And after I customised it! Look at it in all it's glory!

My sister lost the ordering game, her pho was a sight more bland than mine however this could be in part due to her dislike of coriander as she is a crazy person. It was good but my beef pho was just on another level. She did have more noodles than me, so half of my request was delivered. She was happy with her order and had been curious as to see what the chicken pho was but we both agreed that there was no point in getting anything except the beef pho.

Wow, no offence Chicken Pho, but your sister Beef Pho is way hotter than you.

There was a great selection of condiments which really makes pho for me, with lashings of chilli and lots of crunchy bean sprouts. My sister also got a fresh young coconut juice which confirmed to me that I do not like fresh coconut juice. There were nice big chunks of coconut down the bottom though so if you're partial, you'd probably like it.

Looks like water, but isn't.

As soon as we had finished, the waiters were nearby to get the bill and we were out the door! By the specific exit, of course. My sister couldn't help but laugh at my mixed of delight and despair. It was honestly the best pho I've ever had. I can't help but wonder how much better it could get? What are they serving up in Vietnam? Could it be better? Perhaps my pho journey is just beginning...

Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Price: 3/5
Atmosphere: 1/5

Pho An on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 October 2014

REVIEW: Vintaged Bar & Grill

Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review
Wine, a way to open the wine and a cow! What more could a person want?
I have a miniseries of Sydney restaurant reviews that I am so looking forward to sharing with you but I must not cheat. I have one more Brisbane review before we get to that but what a pleasant restaurant it is. My lovely lady friend and I decided to catch up before my Sydney break and chose to have a classy little catch up at Vintaged Bar & Grill.

Vintaged is located in the Hilton on Elizabeth street. I'm always a little hesitant to eat at hotel restaurants. They can seem a little naff and stuffy. And dated. And uninspired. But when I checked out Vintaged menu online, the menu offered a lot of fresh takes of classic dishes. Plus they had a lunch deal for a main and a glass of wine for $25. A meal AND wine? Sign me up.

 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review atrium
This is the cool bar area in the lobby area of the restaurant.
Once we arrived at the Hilton and made our way up to level 6, we stepped into a spacious atrium with a funky bar area. The ceilings extended high into the building, which kinda gave me vertigo when I looked up. In an awesome way. The restaurant itself sat on the other side of the lobby where the ceiling came much lower, the lighting was dark, intimate and warm.

 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review restaurant
The warm space inside Vintaged.
We were seated and since I was on my lunch break, we ordered straight away. We both went with the $25 lunch special as who could pass that up and the selection available was really varied! My fair dining companion chose the Bavette Steak with Creamed Potato and Young Carrots and I went with the Barbecued Ocean Trout with Tahini and Cous Cous Tabbouleh. We had a pinot noir and a sauvignon blanc from the Bay of Shoals Winery...which were delicious! I drink wine cos I'll drink anything but I very rarely can tell the difference between a $20 bottle and a $100 bottle but this wine made me actually ask after the label. So that's good.

Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review Sourdough
Salty capsicumy spread and char grilled bread. Yummers!
Soon after we ordered, we were bought some complimentary sour dough with a capsicum and anchovy spread. I'm so easily impressed, bring me free food and watch me smile. The bread was lovely and crispy with a chargrilled taste. The capsicum and anchovy spread had a pleasant salty taste, obviously from the anchovy. Salty is always a good idea.

 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review Bavette Steak
Action shot like a pro.
The mains came out shortly after our delightful free bread and they looked appealing! We had both wondered what a bavette steak was, and my guess was it was a word for petite but apparently not as the steak was a nice size with a good dollop of creamy, smooth mash. The side of mushroom sauce was also generous. For your information, a bavette steak is another word for a cut from the flank. I've read it was the flap cut. I don't think flap steak sounds very nice, hence why they call it bavette. Clever.

 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review Ocean Trout
I find that Ocean Trout is the best type of trout. Wait...are there other types of trout? River trout? I reserve my decision til I've had both!
My ocean trout was also really nice. It was cooked really well with a nice flakiness and slightly pink inside. The cous cous was delightful and the schmear of mayonnaise was pretty and tasty! Is there any better combination to be? The trout had a nice crispy skin but for some reason it was placed so the skin was on the bottom. It's probably over-pedantic, but it might have been cripsier had it not been placed on the moisture of cous cous. After I had finished the fish, I felt satisfied but not heavy and I didn't feel weighed down for my return to walk. The wine certainly hit the spot too.
 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review Impressive Wine Room
Could totally get white girl wasted on all that wine...
As we paid, I asked if I could take some photos of the kitchen and the helpful hostess suggested I take a photo in the wine room. It was very impressive with glass walls and up to 1,000 bottles inside! Vintaged offers wine tasting and pride themselves on their extensive Australian boutique collection.
 Vintaged Bar & Grill Cassie Cakes Review kitchen
The open kitchen...also, they're not guarding that bread. I could have totally fit that into my purse.

I really enjoyed my workday lunch at Vintaged and was impressed that we were in and out within 45 minutes. The meal was great value and I returned to work with a happy tummy.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5

Price: 4/5
Atmosphere: 4/5

  Vintaged Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 11 October 2014

TAKEAWAY REVIEW: Marinara Cafe & Restaurant

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review
I didn't take any photos of the actual restaurant as I didn't know I was going to do a review til I got home.
Well, this is a first. A takeaway review! I wasn't on planning on doing takeaway reviews but Marinara at Hawthorne has made me so disgusted, the rage has pushed me to do it. So that's something good that's come out of this.

Mr Cakes, Puppycakes and myself were out walking when we noticed that an Italian restaurant had opened up where previously there was a pretty decent fish and chip shop. I used to live just up the road from the fish and chip shop. When my friend and I were broke, we'd get a couple of dollars worth of chips for dinner and all would be well with the world. What a shame that they have now gone.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit gnocchi
Once we had walked home, I called up and placed an order. The gentleman on the phone kept calling me 'darling' which did not bode well with me as I find it a little patronizing and a touch sexist but since I might be a touch of a headstrong feminist, I tried not to be sensitive about it. We ordered Gnocchi Bolognese ($28.50), Chicken and Mushroom Cannelloni ($28.50) and a Chilli Prawn Pizza ($25.50). The man taking my order let me know it would be a 40 minute wait and I said that was fine. As we only live up the road, we waited 40 minutes before leaving the house so we arrived after when they advised the food would be ready.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit gnocchi
Closer up. Ew.
However, we were then advised it would be another 20 minutes. An hour for one pizza and two serves of pasta seemed excessive and we debated forgetting about it and going to Crust instead. I remarked to Mr Cakes that perhaps restaurant chains are not as sophisticated or cultural if you will as independent restaurants but at least they're efficient. There were about 15 staff working there who seemed unable to achieve anything as they buzzed both back and forward from the kitchen empty handed.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review pizza
This looks better than it was.
Shortly after arriving, we spied some gnocchi come and sit on the front counter. We conferred that that box had better not be our gnocchi since the rest of the meal wasn't prepared, we didn't really want cold food. There seemed to be a lot of back patting of the customers, perhaps some sort of consolation for people having to wait for their food? Some customers had a better experience than us as about 3 lots came and went without a delay.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit pizza
Undercooked. That's 'Everybody Loves Raymond' on in the background. Which is shit too.
I returned to the car shortly to sit with Puppycakes. Mr Cakes was offered a free drink while he waited so credit must be given their for the acknowledgment of the wait.  After about 15 minutes, a few containers arrived on the kitchen pass and Mr Cakes began to ponder if they were ours. Another 7 minutes elapsed and finally Mr Cakes asked if the food cooling was ours. Indeed it was. Maybe 7 minutes doesn't sound like long but when you're hungry and have already been waiting close to an hour, it's an eternity, goddamn it!  

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit pizza
Doughy. Undercooked.
The gentleman who took our order finally passed the food over and then offered a prepacked dessert of what appeared to be cheesecake. He proffered the container with a "For you, my friend!". Kind but when Mr Cakes said there were two of us, the probable proprietor of the restaurant said he could only give him one. What the hell? You can't give another dessert for two people who've been waiting over an hour for their order? That certainly didn't sit well.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit cannelloni

On the short drive home we both agreed that all would be forgive if the food was phenomenal. Since Marinara was already on a roll with disappointing us, it won't come as a surprise that they decided to stick with it. As I unpacked the food, the bottom of the admittedly huge Styrofoam container was cool. So it looks like the gnocchi that made an appearance early on was indeed ours. And it didn't get better when we opened the container. It looked like cat food, tasted strange to say the least with some out of place citrus taste. The gnocchi was gluey and the Bolognese sauce was watery. Frankly, if I ate decent Bolognese and threw it up, it would probably would have tasted like this.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review Fancy Feast
Fancy Feast.

They did give us 3 pieces of stale garlic bread and I really would have preferred if they hadn't. I have just started a compost bin today so at least they gave me something to put in it. The pizza was the best dish we got but that's not saying much. It was a bit oily, the prawns weren't deveined and the base of the pizza was undercooked and I doubt it had been cooked on a hot stone. Maybe someone sat on it for a while. Puppycakes enjoyed the prawns so every shit pizza has a silver lining.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review shit dessert
FYI, this was shit too.
Things didn't get better with the chicken and mushroom cannelloni. I opened up, had a spoonful and that was it. The filling was like Fancy Feast. Maybe Marinara was trying to make us feel extra special with Fancy Feast Royale. It was like a grey paste. It's where chicken and mushroom went to die. Cos they hate each other . And it was a murder suicide. A moments silence for where that chicken could have went. Like a can of Roasted Succulent Chicken Fancy Feast.

Cassie Cakes Marinara Review Puppycakes looks less than impressed
"What is this? Fancy Feast? I ain't no cat, you fool!"...I love the look of absolute bewilderment in her eyes.
In short, bad service, bad food. Not even Puppycakes liked the look of the bit we gave her. The rest went in the bin.

Food: 0/5
Service: 1/5
Price: 1/5
Atmosphere: 5/5 -my house! best atmosphere ever!

Marinara Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 9 October 2014

REVIEW: London Porterhouse

Cassie Cakes Review of London Porterhouse
London Porterhouse!

I'm dying to try the duck ragu at Beccofino. Just dying to. So when my sister came up to visit, after some initial negotiations, we decided to go to Beccofino at Teneriffe. Now I know you can read and the title of this post is London Porterhouse, not Beccofino so you know something is up. Beccofino in their great wisdom do not take bookings. I'm sure this benefits them and ensures they are able to keep the restaurant turning over but it does not benefit my intense, burning desire to eat their duck ragu! Why won't you take my money, Beccofino?

Since we couldn't stand around for an hour while a table freed up, I remembered there was another restaurant I had been wanting to try close by so I called them up and they could seat us straight away. London Porterhouse is an Argentinean inspired meat-centric restaurant, which I think is slightly misleading given the English sounding name. It is a pleasant deception though as it is not soggy pub fare but rather robust steaks and smoky ribs so I knew as a group of keen carnivore's, we'd be well fed.

We arrived and were seated at a nice large table in the outside seating area which was perfect in the cool evening breezes. Noel, the owner and manager was very helpful in assisting us to order drinks and they arrived quickly. With our thirsts slated, it was on to the ordering. For entrees, we ordered from the tapas menu.
Pan Fried Haloumi London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
I don't see any mint on this plate but it was not missed.

First up there was an order of Pan Fried Haloumi with Fresh Lemon, Mint and Balsamic ($9). It came out with a crumbed coating which was unexpected but was very useful in soaking up the lemon juice. I've never been that crazy about haloumi and didn't find this mind blowing but perhaps if you're a bigger fan of the Cypriot cheese, you'll be more excited. I did like the crumbing which lends itself to my fondness of crispy fried things.

Oysters Kilpatrick London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Oysters Kil-bolognese

A half dozen Oysters Kilpatrick ($20) was next for an oyster connoisseur and a very tough critic. These were reportedly very good, not amazing, though they were all devoured quickly. I did think the presentation could have been improved as the Kilpatrick sauce reminded me of Bolognese.

Chilli Prawns London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Perfect 'C' shaped bites of prawny flesh.

For the next entrée, Mr. Cakes got the Porterhouse Chilli King Prawns ($18) and the presentation of this dish was much more impressive! The spices were visible and it was a generous portion, they did not skimp on the prawns. The flavours were well balanced and the chilli did not overwhelm the prawns. Mr. Cakes said that some of the prawns had a over-soft texture which might be an indication of them being frozen.

Pork Belly Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Pork belly with delicious caramelised apple on top.

Two of the happy diners were less indulgent than the rest of us and shared the Crispy Pork Belly with Caramelised Apple, Red Slaw and Seeded Mustard ($15). The presentation of this was also well done and the portion size was generous for the price. The coleslaw cut well through the fat of the pork belly and the seeded mustard was a classic pairing. The caramelised apple appeared to be poached with a nice firmness. The fat could have been a little more rendered but overall, it was crispy and delicious.

Beer Chilli Mussels Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
My ill-chosen mussels. 

The final entrée was mine and I selected the Beer, Chilli Jam and Coconut Mussels ($16). I had been hankering for mussels for a few weeks and couldn't pass up the opportunity, even though I was slightly concerned about the beer as I'm not a beer drinker. Unfortunately I was right. The chilli and coconut flavours were amazing and again the portion size was generous. The Turkish bread pieces were great for mopping up the juices but with each mouthful I could taste some sort of bicarb-y flavour which I can only contribute to beer. I really think this was a poor choice on my behalf more than the dish though.

Rib Eye London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
The first Rib Eye...the other one looked just like this but with potatoes. Imagine it in your mind tank.

With the entrees being a little hit and miss, we moved on to the mains. Steak proved to be the most popular with four out of six diners choosing some sort of steak. Two 300g Pasture Fed Rib Eyes ($33), one with steamed veg and roast potatoes and the other with steamed veg and fries were ordered. The South American influence came through with chimichuri sauce on the side. Both rib eyes were juicy, cooked as requested and the chips were amazing.

Eye Fillet London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
The ever so lady like eye fillet.

The 200g Grain Fed Eye Fillet ($31.50) with veg and roast potatoes was a plump medallion of tender juiciness. The platter of plate that the steaks were served on dwarfed petite serving but anyone who orders an eye fillet knows it's quality over quantity with this cut. Seasoned well and cooked well, steak was proving to be a good choice.
Porterhouse London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
The Porterhouse of London Porterhouse. That would have been my choice had I not already won the ordering game.

The last steak was the 400g Pasture Fed Porterhouse ($36) with chips and veg also. The namesake steak proved that good red meat was the star of London Porterhouse. The porterhouse was also nice and juicy, cooked perfectly.
Barramundi London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Ahh what lovely presentation!

One of the only two non-steak meals ordered was the Oven Roasted Barramundi with Baked Potato, Steamed Asparagus and Lemon Butter Sauce ($27). Here the finesse of the kitchen really shone through, with the presentation being more fine dining than steak house. The skin of the barramundi was crispy and the asparagus spears were steamed to perfection. The fish itself was moist and not overcooked like fish can so easily be. The lemon butter sauce was delicate and was delightful with the asparagus. Highly recommended.

Beef Rib London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Yabba dabba do!

Now for my dish which if I do say so myself, was the absolute winner. I ordered the Beef Ribs in Red Wine, Tomato and Sweet Chilli Glaze, in an entrée size ($17) and because I'm a genius, I ordered the Chilli Maple Onion Rings ($8.50). This single Flinstone sized rib with chips was served to me and I was in heaven. The bone pulled out cleanly and the meat fell apart in the most delectable way. It was sticky and unctuous. And if this was the entrée sized, heaven help the person who orders the main sized. And the onion rings. Oh me oh my. Huge circles of sweet onion fried in the crispiest light batter with a maple chilli creamy goodness. I was very sorry to have to share with the silly people who did not order their own. If I was a dog, I would have growled. The takeaway message here is get the onion rings!

Onion Rings London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes
Mmmmmmm hmmmmmm....

And just for you, here's another shot...I could stare at this all day.

 I'm not usually one for dessert as I'd rather stuff more savoury in but in the face of incessant pressure, the House-made Doughnuts with Chocolate and Caramel sauces ($9.50) were ordered. They were wonderfully warm, freshly cooked and sweet. Everyone at the table thoroughly savoured their nibble and the sauces were lovely, with the caramel being especially nice.
Doughnuts London Porterhouse Cassie Cakes

London Porterhouse was a little shaky to start with some of the entrées being underwhelming but they finished strong with all the mains wonderfully cooked and all the servings were generously sized. Service was wonderful and the staff served were happy, helpful and accommodating. And I would go back for those heavenly, sassy onion rings.

Food: 3.5/5
Service: 4/5
Price: 4/5
Atmosphere: 3/5

London Porterhouse on Urbanspoon
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