Café Cre Asion: The Best Muffins in Sydney

Those of you who follow me on instagram will have seen my multiple posts from Café Cre Asion, aka the Secret Japanese Cafe of Cuteness. It’s hidden down Alberta Street, behind Liverpool Street, under a construction site, near the AFP. Basically the last place you’d expect to find a kawaii kafe selling housemade macarons and granola; beautiful Japanese ceramics and woodworks; three grades of sencha, and a matcha latte for luck; with the coolest and most space-efficient interior design this side of Shimokita.  Plus excellent coffee, a short but sweet lunch menu and Sydney’s Best Muffins!

(I confess: I’ve only had the coffee and the muffins.  I can’t get past their complete deliciousness.  And I can’t get in the door at lunchtime; it gets too full.  But I will have me a fancy green tea and a smoked salmon, soft boiled egg & pickled fennel sandwich yet!)

The coffee beans are from Single Origin, and I swear the lovely Cre Asion folk make the nicest take-away coffee I’ve had since being back in Sydney (bar Campos from Campos HQ).  Take-away coffee is never going to be as good as proper sit-down coffee because you’re drinking it out of a sippy cup like a toddler. And waxed cardboard ain’t warmed porcelain. But the take-away coffee from Cafe Cre Asion is somehow always a complete joy.  One of these days I’ll surprise them and order myトール無脂肪ラテ、お持ち帰りで in Japanese ☺

As for the muffins, they’re freshly baked on the premises (the oven takes up a good third of the tiny kitchen space) and just incredible.  Crunchily crusted but fluffy inside like a Japanese chiffon cake; buttery not oily; and with the most stunning flavours.  Much thought has clearly been put into getting the combinations right, and the filling-to-cake ratio perfect.  I think I have now tried the whole range. おいしい!!

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Peanut Butter. With salted peanuts on top. The most heavenly sweet and savoury combination. Not peanut-butter-&-something. Just pure, unadulterated ピーナツ.

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Granola plus surprise berries. I expect this was the housemade granola – it was studded with huge nuts and dried banana chips. Yes please. Such whole grains. Very health.

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Blueberry Cream Cheese and aforementioned excellent take-away coffee. This beauty came with an apology that it had cream cheese in it! Madness!

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I finally had the elusive, slightly scary-looking Green Tea

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…or rather, 抹茶クリームチーズあんぱん! Bitter green tea, sweet red bean paste and tangy cream cheese in perfect harmony. But instead of the fluffy nothingness of a regular sweet bun, you got the Café Cre Asion marvellous multi-textured muffin.  A mind-blowingly good take on an Asian bakery standard.

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Banana, Coconut & Dark Choc Chip. Naughtily tropical. Excellent to dip in coffee.

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And my new favourite thing in the world, the Spiced Apple & Ricotta. Beneath the dark sugar-coated crust is a large piece of cooked apple spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and something I can’t put my finger on but makes me want to put more and more of these in my mouth. The blob of sweet ricotta renders this a muffin to eat with a spoon. The first time I tried this one it’d just come out of the oven. I nearly died of happiness at my desk!

Café Cre Asion on Urbanspoon

Hakiki Dondurma & Baklava, Enmore Road

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En route down Enmore Road to ‘An Evening With Noel Fielding’.  In  need of food, booze, and probably gelato at Cow & Moon.  But what’s this?  Hakiki.  A new Turkish ice creamery.  What is Turkish ice cream?

Turns out it’s called dondurma and is made traditionally with goats milk, with mastic resin added for extra stickiness, and thickened with salep flour.  The version at Hakiki is half goats milk, half cows milk, to appeal more to the uninitiated palate.  It certainly appealed to us!

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The nice lady let us try pretty much every type. The flavours were incredible – some singular stunners (Pomegranate, Turkish Coffee, Turkish Delight) and others complex and chunky (Grape Molasses & Tahini with Chunks of Halva; Rockmelon & Fetta; Crispy Baklava with Walnut & Pistachio) and most with a Turkish twist.  The traditional plain flavour, Maras, named after the city it hails from, is traditionally served with baklava.  We didn’t try the baklava on this visit but will certainly return – bags me the cherry one!

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Back to the ice cream.  I eventually settled on the Turkish Delight and the Burnt Caramel with Rock Salt & Peanuts.  Amazingly – given I can smash a Messina cup in about a block’s walk – this lasted me all the way to the Enmore Theatre, as it was so chewy and curiously un-melty.

We popped into The Gretz for a pint of Young Henry’s Cider and some sensational crumbed Sicilian olives (such a sensible dinner!) then laughed til our chests hurt at Noel Fielding’s stand-up slash surrealist panto.  An excellent Tuesday evening in Enmore ☺

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Mamak Action!

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The dramatic beginnings of a delicious roti tissu…

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I kinda don’t want to know how much margarine goes into each ball of roti dough.

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I assumed they made the roti tissu cone using a mould – nope, the thin pastry is deftly hand rolled with two pairs of tongs!

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The Sorting Hat of Deliciousness!

Boon Café, Pitt Street

I really don’t think Boon Café could be any more instagrammable if it tried.  And it has all the right elements for a hipster café, ready to snap, filter & share: subway tiles, faux-industrial lighting, exposed brick, cute ceramics, things served in jars.  But it’s actually a rather modest little coffee shop slash Thai fusion sandwich bar slash Isaan Thai restaurant, with an Asian grocers thrown in the mix too!  And very sweet Thai staff, none with beards.  So it’s clearly not a hipster café.  But LOOK at it:

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The breakfast menu has Asian flavours to add to toast and coffee, like pandan custard and condensed milk, plus there are congees and pork skewers for the more adventurous.  The lunch menu has sourdough sandwiches with fusion fillings like ‘fried crab and prawn cake, smoked chilli relish, mayo, soft herb & pickled cabbage salad’.  Then the Isaan menu kicks in at dinner: fermented and fiery being the key tastes of this northern Thai cuisine.

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We visited for an early dinner, and (after I’d done the instagram thing) we picked two interesting-sounding dishes quite at random.  I’ve found their full descriptions on the handy online menu:

  • GAENG HEDT RUAMGF / V แกงเห็ดรวม / $14 : spicy mushroom, pumpkin, luffa gourd herbaceous curry w/ lemongrass, smoked red onions, acacia fronds, lemon basil, tiliacora; and
  • DTUM BPHA ตำ ป่า / $14 : spicy green papaya salad w/ fermented fish, snail, bean sprouts, pork sausage roll, pork crackling, fermented rice noodles, pickled mustard greens, pickled bamboo shoots.

(NB: I still am unsure what all the things in the former are; and I know the latter had pickled crab rather than snails.)

To describe the curry dish as “spicy” is like saying war is “unpleasant”.  It was hands down the most fiery furnace of a dish I have ever eaten, since the smoked chilli bamboo salad at Chat Thai with which I nearly killed my husband’s family last year.  Braving the black broth on its own was like drinking battery acid, but once spooned over rice (brown rice – maybe they’re hipsters after all) and eaten with enough of the pumpkin and mystery greens, the chilli volume was somewhat muted and you could enjoy the interesting herbaceousness without passing out.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this one.

But the fermented noodle take on green papaya salad was excellent – a treasure trove of unusual and mostly crunchy coloured gems.  Spicy within the appropriate boundaries of that adjective, and with a great balance of sweet and pungent elements.

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We had protein on the side, in the form of:

  • SAI GROG ISSAAN ไส้กรอกอีสาน / $12 : fermented pork & glutinous rice sausages; and
  • TUB GAI YAANG ตับย่าง / $3 each : chicken liver skewers.

The grilled sausage pieces were mild and salty and the cooling shredded cabbage worked as a nice foil for the killer curry.  The rich, dark, firmly grilled chicken liver skewer came with an addictive though mysterious dipping sauce.  Iron intake for the week sorted, surely.

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We rounded things off with a pair of pretty drinks – a pot of ‘cloud & mist’ green tea for Hubby and a super sweet pandan iced tisane for me.  They have a different house-made flavour every day, and I am keen try more if the rest are as scrumptious as the pandan.

Boon Café is not your average Thai joint, and is well worth a visit at any time of day.  And you can even by tropical fruit and Thai grocery staples after knocking your socks off with chilli!

Jarern Chai Boon Cafe on Urbanspoon

BANG! Bangladeshi Street Food on Crown

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Mini review in three words: Bang was fab!

Reasons include: interesting and extremely tasty food (most important); friendly & helpful staff (bonus: all wearing tiger T-shirts); lovely Laguïole cutlery and awesome lettered plates (spelling out BANG, natch).

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The drink options are plentiful and fun, but the wines are all Portuguese, which is great if you know anything about Portuguese wines, which I don’t.  Rasta had a Mango Bazar – a dangerous rum-spiked lassi decorated with cardamom seeds – and I had a glass of “Whichever of these Portuguese whites tastes the least like an Aussie/NZ sav blanc (i.e. save the fruit for the lassi)”.  I don’t know which of the two by-the-glass choices it was, but it was memorably described on the menu as having “seaside minerality”, which sounded good, and was perfectly drinkable.

We’d already been drinking delicious Mandoleto nero d’avola at the Golden Age Cinema (whilst watching the brilliant Big Eyes – highly recommended) so we limited ourselves at Bang, but the cocktail list looks fantastic and you could easily pop in for a few boozy creations plus an economical round of not-your-usual bar snacks.  The small dishes are all $10 or under.

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The menu is a delight for vegetarians, seafood lovers and red meat fans.  No pork, obviously, in Bangladeshi cuisine; and no chicken dishes on the menu either – though I did spy tandoori quail.  We ended up going fully vego to cater for Rasta’s and my various dietary idiosyncrasies, and the options did not disappoint.  Everything was fresh, flavoursome, crunchy, spicy, veggie-packed and vaguely virtuous!  It also meant we could try more of the excellent snacky food things without having to save room for heavier mains.

We started with Dal puri (fried mini roti filed with spiced lentils, with a yoghurty dipping sauce we swore had wasabi in it) and Fuska (crispy puffballs filled with spiced potato and topped with coriander, green chilli and shaved egg, with a vase of sour-sweet tamarind water to pour over before gobbling up).  Both interesting and delicious – which was basically theme of our whole meal.

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We had a third plate of crispy street snacks, the BANG Bhaji: fried fritters of kale (of course: Surry Hills) with a terrific cherry tomato & coconut chutney.  We didn’t have a proper main, but after all these fried things we were more than happy just with a sack of naan bread and the phenomenal Pomelo salad with kheera cucumbers, snake beans, grapes, black chickpeas & spiced almonds.  The little grains which look like rice are actually from the flesh of the grapefruit-like pomelo, native to south and southeast Asia.  This exceptional salad is not to be missed.
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The pricing was reasonable and they do a banquet for $55/head, which sounds pretty perfect.  I am keen to explore the cocktails and the seafood side of things.

But the best thing about eating fairly lightly was that we could still fit in another wine at Mille Vini plus pudding Gelato Messina to round things off.  The puddings at Bang were certainly enticing (mango & pistachio kulfi and a drunken doughnut with caramelised peaches) but it is not possible for me to be within 100 metres of a Messina shop and pass by without collecting scoops!

I had two of the ever-fabulous weekly specials, the Jus Sayin’ (orange marmalade & salted caramel gelato with shards of dark chocolate – much sophistication) and the Knights of Nepal (mango & yoghurt gelato with cardamom & rosewater cake – a frozen lassi with added cake, yes please).  The latter was a particularly justified purchase because all proceeds are going to assist the Nepal earthquake appeal.  Get it while you can!

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Bang Street Food on Urbanspoon