Green Mushroom, Glebe Point Road

I’ve found a new cheap eat to rave about!  Vegetarian and vegan Indian food with a cute name, a friendly owner and a very welcoming vibe.  And phenomenally tasty food, even minus the meat – which is an equation I’ve been working on lately.  The menu is long, interesting, and inexpensive – I foresee many repeat visits as the weather gets cooler and our renovations continue to be delayed by rain…

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Piping hot wholemeal roti bread from the tandoor oven; fluffy Basmati rice (the single serve was generous enough for the two of us); and incredibly flavoursome Palak Paneer – silky pureed spinach curry with Indian cheese.

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A zingy Chana Dal with tomato, ginger and coriander; and the very rich Eggplant & Potato Masala with meltingly soft pieces of eggplant and warm spices.

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Hubby showing off his roti-scooper skills!

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It’s next door to Na Zdrowie and is getting rave reviews on Urbanspoon from happy locals.  I already know that next time I want to try the Vegetable Biriyani or the Kashmiri Pulao, and the Zucchini Pakora, and the Malai Kofta.  Mmmm.  Next time will be soon!

Green Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Sustainable Seafood at Fish & Co, Annandale

Fish & Co is a lovely little local restaurant with an ethical purpose: promoting sustainable fishing practices by serving only seafood which has been approved by the Marine Stewardship Council. The website notes that

“sustainable seafood means wild caught fish and seafood sourced from fisheries that are committed to sustainable fishing practices. Sustainable fishing practices ensure no harm to the seafloor, other marine wildlife or fish stock numbers. It is important to [Fish & Co] that the fish we sell to our customers are those that we can provide responsibly and well into the future.”

What an excellent ethical purpose!  Plus the food is delicious :)

We started with beautiful bitter ales from the Derwent River in Tasmania.  The Two Metre Tall Company is run by a winemaker, who uses ingredients all grown on his farm.  Excellent credentials for a boutique beer!  I tend to like interesting, strong-tasting beers – be it hoppy/ floral/ chocolatey/ other appropriate beer taste – for the simple reason that I physically cannot drink too much beer, so I want something flavoursome to quaff and not scull.  The ‘Foresters’ amber ale was exactly the type of beer for me.  Every bottle of these beers is slightly different from the next, as they’re handmade and naturally fermented and au naturale and all the good things you’d want a $12 artisan beer to be.  Fish & Co is one of the few NSW stockists of the label.  I’d be keen to try the spelt ale on my next visit.

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We practically inhaled these gorgeous salt & pepper cuttlefish with housemade chilli jam. The scored, well-seasoned and quick-fried cuttlefish pieces were so soft you barely had to chew. The cuttlefish is local and flagged as an ‘alternative species’ in that it is a less popular type of seafood and not under threat.  The housemade chilli jam had an excellent kick.

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For mains, Hubby and I both went for the grilled fish of the day.  That day it was mackerel, which we both adore, and were pleased to learn that this tasty fish is fast growing, has a high bio mass and is commercially under utilised, and is not on any environmental watch list!  The grilled fish comes with a choice of two sides: I had salad and handcut chips; Hubby had salad and couscous.  The fat, skin-on chips were the winner, especially with housemade tartare sauce.  Apple and radish in the salad were a nice touch, and the agrodolce tomato vinaigrette worked well with the rich mackerel.

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Every dish that went past us in this cosy café looked and smelled fantastic.  We had decided food envy of the linguine marinara at the next table.  I look forward to returning in winter for clam chowder.

Fish & Co also sells its sustainably-sourced seafood, and offers cooking classes!  The space is pretty small, so booking is advisable.  But they do have a takeaway menu like a good fish & chipper, and there’s also a children’s menu which differs from the main menu only in portion size not eatability – as one wouldn’t expect the tots of Annandale to eat anything less than panko-crumbed Hoki fish fingers with herbed Persian rice :)

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Fish & Co on Urbanspoon

28°C in Autumn = Aqua S Lunch!

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I sadly missed out on the recent Tofu flavour, but today’s unseasonably warm weather prompted me to hurry down to Aqua S try their new Melon Milkshake and Apple & Blackcurrant offerings.

The green melon flavour is in the creamy style of the signature Sea Salt, and tastes like Midori. Hello, 18-year-old me! It’s silly but fun.

Apple & Blackcurrant is the same sorbet-ish style as the recent Watermelon one, and tastes like frozen Ribena. I may well return within the Flavour Fortnight for this one, swirled with the Sea Salt.… ☺

Chinatown Noodle Restaurant, Bathurst Street

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Apologies for the radio silence!  I’m back, and full of noodles :)  Specifically, Chinatown Noodle Restaurant noodles.  Confusingly it’s not in Chinatown – this one is just down from Town Hall, on Bathurst Street in between Sussex and Kent.  It is however the the sister restaurant to the actual Chinatown place with the same name and the infamous dangling plastic grape décor.  No fake grapes here, just giant picture menus on the walls, which are appealing and helpful for the uninitiated.  In our brief wait for a table, Rasta and I decided based on the wall next to us what we wanted to order, and got very hungry in anticipation!

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A fragrant dish of Beijing Noodles involved thick hand-pulled wheat noodles, finely minced pork fried with fermented bean paste (a Chinese version of miso), and cooling grated cucumber.  Add some chilli sauce, mix, and reel with pleasure!  Looks quite dry in the picture but there was a little bit of tasty oily stock at the bottom.  The pork and beanpaste mixture was smooth and almost silky, and coated the noodles perfectly.  The noodles were the chunky, chewy stye I always love at Sea Bay.

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Our next dish was the Hot & Sour Dumpling Soup, with six fat pork & chive pot-sticker dumplings lurking beneath all those different bits of vegetable and pork.  The soup had a little kick and a pleasing degree of sourness.  The dumplings were excellent and rivalled Sea Bay’s – my allegiance was now becoming somewhat torn…

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Aaaand… then we found a rival to Sea Bay’s ‘Crack Eggplant’ (or more properly, Fried Eggplant In Special Sauce).  This was a boiling hot dish of Braised Chilli Eggplant, with meltingly soft pieces of eggplant coated liberally in a sticky, sweet-ish chilli sauce spiked with fresh ginger.  Very different from, but equally as addictive as, the original Crack Eggplant.  We couldn’t wait for it to cool down and kept burning our mouths.

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Chinatown Noodle Restaurant is a fantastic alternative to Sea Bay if you’re in a different part of the city and crave hearty northern Chinese fare on a budget.  Many familiar dishes, but also some good-looking variations such as a pork mince stuffed pancake rather the usual shallots, and more dumpling varieties.  Also you can watch the ladies making the noodles through the glass divide between the kitchen and dining area. (NB: I went to Sea Bay the following evening and affirmed my undying love. But it’s good to branch out!)

Also helps to have a healthy Slav appetite:

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Happy Easter!

bunniez

Yes, I sent away for a pair of free personalised Lindt Gold Bunny ribbons.  For my husband and I.  Because clearly I am 10.

PS: the new hazelnut bunny is the bomb!  Crunchy hazelnut pieces throughout the milk chocolate.  I am usually a dark chocolate snob but Easter is an exception.

PPS: I am now feeling slightly ill, having eaten an ‘Easter lunch’ comprising a hazelnut Lindor ball, a small milk chocolate lamb, the ears/head/neck of my personalised hazelnut bunny, and a hot cross bun for luck.  I am now having a cup of tea and planning on a green salad for dinner.

Two Sticks, George Street

2015-03-31 18.36.05 Two Sticks is always, always, full whenever I walk past it.  It’s one of apparently very few Yunnan – a province of south-western China – restaurants in Sydney, and it seats only about 30 people.  I’d been interested when it first opened over a year ago, having read terrific reviews on Grab Your Fork and B-Kyu.  I wanted to make the famous Yunnanese ‘Crossing the Bridge’ noodles the subject of my next Noodle Soup Lunch post.  But that proved tricky, as Two Sticks was always, always, full.  Then I forgot about it and became obsessed with Vegetable Tonkotsu at Ramen Ikkyu instead.

Two things recently prompted me to try (belatedly) visiting again: a new larger branch on Quay Street which is on my route home so I’m reminded every day that I want to go there; and a repeat of the lovely Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong series on SBS, specifically the episode set in Yunnan Province, where he learns how to make ‘Crossing the Bridge’ noodles.  Ancient Chinese legend has it (according to Wikipedia) that a scholar, studying for his Imperial Exams on a small island (why an island, I do not know) would be brought lunch everyday by his (undoubtedly long-suffering) wife, who would cross a bridge to get there.  She had to lug the food some distance, so she kept the noodles separate from the soup to stop them from going soggy, and the boiling hot stock sealed up in an earthenware pot with a layer of chicken fat to stop it from getting cold.  (Pretty lucky student!  I hope he passed his exams and bought his wife a present after all that effort.)

Two Sticks’ modern versions are thankfully free from the extra layer of fat as they don’t involve waitresses crossing bridges to get to your table, but they are still authentically served in individual earthenware pots with the noodles and other toppings on the side.  And yes, the pot is SUPER hot, just like the sign taped to the table! 2015-03-31 18.45.23 Rasta and I snuck in to the original tiny Haymarket branch just before 6:30pm on a Tuesday evening but still had to wait for about 10 minutes, as we were the second in the queue.  With our usual impeccable timing, the queue quadrupled immediately after us!  This is one very popular restaurant! We started with a scarily-named dish of Hot And Numbing Cucumber (Spicy).  The roughly chopped cucumbers (perfect chunks for chopsticks) were topped with a mix of Szechuan/Sichuan pepper, chilli, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and I tasted a twang of vinegar in there too. It was indeed hot and numbing and spicy, in a delicious way, and perfectly balanced by the cooling cucumber.  Rasta was very taken with the fragrant and lip-tingling ‘flower pepper’ – we will have to make a visit to a branch of Spicy Sichuan soon. 2015-03-31 18.42.37 During our short wait we were hungrily coveting a plate of tasty-looking fried chicken being eaten by a mother with her small boy. This was the Deep Fried Chicken Bites (Spicy) dusted with Danshan chilli powder, which were a great accompaniment to our noodle soups, as we both ended up getting the mushroom version rather than the traditional mixed meats. 2015-03-31 18.44.10 Then for the main event: the traditional Crossing the Bridge dish appears on the menu simply as Yunan Signature Rice Noodle Soup, but we preferred the Mushroom Rice Noodle Soup, as we’re both mad about mushrooms and this one had 5 different types: cup, shiitake, oyster, shimeji and enoki!  The mushrooms were already in the hotpot with a little chicken, renkon, and some green things.  Served separately (and kept nicely un-soggy) were the rice noodles and thin strands of beancurd.  With the traditional meat version, you get thinly sliced frozen raw slices of chicken and beef or pork, which are added to the piping hot broth at the table and are ready after a minute’s submersion – not dissimilar to the raw beef added to Vietnamese pho. 2015-03-31 18.45.16 Even minus the heat-sealing layer of additional fat, this chicken soup was oily and rich, reminiscent of a chicken version of tonkotsu ramen.  We both felt it could do with a little extra something, and rectified this by adding the remains of the Szechuan & sesame topping from the cucumbers.  Perfect!  The noodles were a surprise: fat and tubular, they looked like udon but were made from rice not wheat.  I adored the long chewy strands of beancurd ‘noodle’ too.  The hotpots were deep and bountiful – this was not a quick slurp but a proper adventure the bottom of the dish!  We kept finding submerged gems, and the noodles seemed never ending.  The soup also became tastier the longer we ate it, as the hidden ingredients imparted more flavour as they lurked below! 2015-03-31 18.48.03I highly recommend a well-timed trip to Two Sticks – perhaps the Haymarket branch is a better bet given it’s three times the size of the George Street hole-in-the-wall.**  There were a number of other hotpot options, loads of side dishes, and some intriguing puddings too (but we had a return visit to Aqua S locked in so were not swayed, even though the rose papaya jelly sounded beautiful).  Despite the rich soup, the rice noodles make it all that bit lighter than heavier wheat-based noodles such as ramen, udon or the fat hand-pulled ones at Sea Bay.  And a meal with a story behind always makes things interesting!

**UPDATE: I’ve now been to the more spacious Haymarket branch with Hubby, twice.  We are addicted!  He gets the traditional chicken & beef ‘Signature Noodle Soup’ and I have settled on the fish version as my favourite of the hotpots.  It’s packed with juicy white fillets of fish and loads of pickled vegetables.  We’ve also had the beancurd salad, which is more of those ‘noodles’ of firm tofu mixed with carrot and coriander and well flavoured with sesame oil.  And they have Calpis soda, which works well to relieve your mouth from the boiling hot soup and spicy Szechuan pepper :)

Two Sticks: Yunnan China on Urbanspoon