Mr Crackles, Darlinghurst ($)

Address: 155 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW

Tel: (02) 8068 2832

Website: http://www.mrcrackles.com.au/

* * *

Atmosphere

One lunchtime KiwiKompanion and I decided to check out Mr Crackles after discovering it was really only a 10 minute walk from work.

When we finally got to the Oxford Street store, we found a small hole-in-the-wall takeaway joint with benches and stools lining the walls on both sides.

20140123_135230

The large blackboard lists the interesting and exciting rolls on the menu including The Crackles Classic, The Sweet Pork, The Lamb, The Chicken Katsu and The Vego.

20140123_135442

To the right is a glass cabinet with huge pieces of pork crackling which had us drooling!

20140123_135253

Loud and distracting music was blaring from the speakers, and KiwiKompanion and I were not too keen on sitting around so we ended up ordering quickly and eating again small park.

Service

Service wasn’t anything amazing and we didn’t even find that the staffs were friendly or even helpful.  We ordered our food and waited about 5 minutes to receive our orders, which were called out to us by one of the staff members.

Food

I ordered The Crackles Classic and KiwiKompanion ordered The Lamb.

The Crackles Classic contains five spice pork belly with crispy crackling and Vietnamese salad. The pork was soft, juicy, tasty and had a delicious super crispy skin. I also enjoyed the crusty roll and the tangy mayonnaise in the coleslaw style salad. Delicious!

20140123_140522

Crackles Classic, $12.00

KiwiKompanion’s lamb roll had rosemary and garlic infused lamb shoulder with caramelised onion, tahini  and spinach. She also enjoyed her roll and commented that the meat was soft and tender.

20140123_140527

The Lamb, $12.00

Overall, the food was amazing and one of the top rolls I have ever had.

A great foodie experience that I highly recommend!

Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  4
  • Food-  7
  • Atmosphere- 3.5
  • Value – 7

Mr Crackles on Urbanspoon

My food bucket list!

Sydney is full of great restaurants and more and more of them seem to be popping up each day! Shows like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules contribute to the growing interest in restaurants, chefs and food in general.

Here is a list of some of the Sydney restaurants I am looking forward to trying!:

  1. Quay
  2. Marque
  3. Flying Fish
  4. Assiette, Surry Hills
  5. Est.
  6. Aria
  7. Guillame at Bennelong
  8. Ms. G’s
  9. Pilu at Freshwater, Manly
  10. 360 Bar and Dining
  11. MissChu
  12. Jamie’s Italian
  13. Bavarian Bier Cafe
  14. Xanthi
  15. Mamak- Chatswood and City
  16. Zaafran
  17. Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Surry Hills
  18. Claude’s Woollahra
  19. Kazbah
  20. Din Tai Fung
  21. Hard Rock Cafe
  22. Jordan’s Seafood Restaurant
  23. The Meat & Wine Co.
  24. The Malaya
  25. Four in Hand
  26. El  Jannah
  27. Guylian Chocolate Cafe
  28. Lindt Cafe
  29. I’m Angus Steakhouse
  30. Hurricane’s Grill
  31. Ribs n Rump
  32. Grill’d Burgers
  33. Kingsley’s Steakhouse
  34. Nick’s Bar and Grill, Seafood, Steakhouse
  35. Rocks Teppanyaki
  36. Tetsuya’s
  37. Kobe Jones 
  38. Ash Street Cellar
  39. Danks St. Depot
  40. Buon Ricordo, Paddington
  41. Adriano Zumbo’s
  42. Patisse
  43. Opera Bar and Restaurant
  44. Cafe Sydney
  45. Rockpool Bar and Grill & Rockpool
  46. Mad Cow
  47. Bather’s Pavillion, Balmoral
  48. Sepia
  49. Spice Temple
  50. Universal, Darlinghurst-closing soon
  51. Catalina, Rose Bay
  52. Wagamama
  53. East Ocean
  54. Foveaux
  55. Bridge Street Garage
  56. Icebergs, Bondi
  57. Otto Ristorante
  58. Billy Kwong
  59. Bodega Tapas restaurant
  60. Oscillate Wildly, Newtown
  61. Felix
  62. Sake restaurant and bar
  63. Altitude at the Shangri-La
  64. The Cook’s Garden, Turramurra
  65. Wildfire
  66. Aki’s Indian
  67. Jonah’s, Whale Beach
  68. Fish Face
  69. Tomislav Restaurant
  70. Sean’s Panaroma, Bondi
  71. Garfish
  72. The Sailor’s Club
  73. Orto Trading Co
  74. The Bridge Room
  75. Hartsyard
  76. Sous le Soleil
  77. Burch and Purchese Melbourne
  78. Monopole
  79. Darley’s Lilianfel’s
  80. Papi Chulo, Manly
  81. China Republic
  82. Gowings Bar and Grill
  83. Palmer & Co
  84. MoVida
  85. Mr Wong
  86. House of Crab
  87. Nomad
  88. La Maison De L’eclair
  89. The Boathouse, Palm Beach
  90. Longrain
  91. The Fat Duck, UK
  92. Blackflower Patisserie
  93. Ministry of Crab, Sri Lanka
  94. Three Williams, Redfern

Also see High Tea TO DO List.

Keep checking my blog to see my reviews and posts about the restaurants as I tick them off my list!

Guest Post: How To Choose The Best Restaurant

This article was written by Aiden Korr, who writes about food and restaurants. He loves to try different foods from different parts of the world.  He is currently working as a PR Manager for Quintessentially and he is overwhelmed by the quality of service they offer.

* * *

You’ve probably been in this position many times: I have. You’re hungry, you want to eat, you want to eat out but where do you choose. The problem is exacerbated when you’re in a strange city, especially when on holiday because eating out and trying the local cuisine is all part of the holiday experience: so how do you choose the best restaurant?

For human beings, food is a key part of our existence. It’s more than something that you have to do to keep you alive. It can be part of a memorable experience you share with those you love. It can make or break a holiday. Sometimes you want something a bit different from the food served up in one of the national chains. Okay, there’s something comforting in knowing what you can expect: but sometimes you just want more. But where do you start?

Here are a few tips that will help you choose the best restaurant.

1. Get Yourself a Good Guidebook

If you live in a little village where there’s only one restaurant, this tip is not for you. In fact, you can ignore the whole article, unless of course you’re travelling. If you are travelling at home or abroad, one of your key pieces of preparation should be to wise upon the restaurants available during your stay.

Today, the place that you are likely to turn to first is the internet. You will be spoilt for choice. Many establishments will have their own websites. You can also look at the website of the city that you are visiting. They will often highlight places that may not be found in the typical guidebook. Another option is to see if there is an online edition of the local newspaper where you can look at the dining out section to see which restaurants have advertised there.

A good travel guide can give you some useful information. Guides like Fodor’s and Lonely Planet are first class. However, check the date of publication. You know how things change.

Any guide is a snapshot of a moment in time. A good idea is to use the guide as a starting point and then check on the web to see if your chosen destination is still in business. Do bear in mind that travel guides will tend to focus on tourist popular places, and thus you may miss out on a local delight that does not make it between the covers of the guide.

2. Use the Power of Social Media

If you have social media accounts it’s well worth trying your networks to see if anyone can recommend somewhere to you. There is every chance that someone will know someone who has eaten in a restaurant in the city where you are going.

You could try posting a tweet along the lines of “Can anyone recommend a restaurant in…”.

You can almost guarantee that someone will be only too willing to recommend somewhere. You can also try doing a Twitter search the for the city that you are going to.

Local restaurants may have deals on that they are advertising.

3. If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get

Okay, in the ideal world you’d do all your research before you get to your destination: but the world is not ideal. You may have done plenty of research: but be unable to find what you want. You may have done plenty of research: and the choice is just too overwhelming.

Therefore, you can do far worse than take advice from the true experts: those who live – and eat – in the city.

You’ll find that those who work in the local hotels are very knowledgeable about the places to eat. Remember, they get asked the same thing all the time: where’s a good place to eat.

Having knowledge of where to eat is almost part of their job.

You could also just ask people on the street. You’ll be surprised just how helpful and friendly people can be. You’re in their town and you’re asking them where you can eat. That’s a compliment to them and their town.

DISCLAIMER:

This is a guest post and reflects the reviewers’ own personal opinions. The Casual Food Blogger accepts no responsibility for anything that is said in or caused by this review or anything contained in, caused by, or arising out of, the content of this review.

The Casual Food Blogger did not receive any fee or payment for this article.

Darley’s Restaurant @ Lilianfel’s, Katoomba ($$$$)

Address: Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba NSW

Tel: (020 4780 1200

Email: reservations@lilianfels.com.au

Website: http://www.darleysrestaurant.com.au/about.html

Opening Hours:  6.00pm – 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday

* * *

One Saturday in summer, MC and I decided to go for a drive up to the Blue Mountains to check out Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels.

We spent the day in the Mountains and checked out some of the usual tourist spots, including the Three Sisters (below).

IMG_5924

Atmosphere

After a long afternoon exploring, we headed over to Lilianfels.

IMG_5946

Lilianfels is a luxury Blue Mountains resort, located around the corner from some of the main attractions in Katoomba.

It features beautiful manicured gardens, tennis courts, flowers, fountains, pools and five star accommodation.

Have a look at some of our pictures of the grounds:

IMG_5952

IMG_5954

IMG_5956IMG_5958

Darley’s is a multi-award winning hatted restaurant located in a world heritage listed area.

The restaurant was named after Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of New South Wales.  It is situated in the original Lilianfel’s house, which Darley built for his daughter Lilian, on 11 acres of land that he bought in August 1888.

IMG_5989

Upon entering the restaurant, you are immediately transported to another era.

A beautiful and elegant hallway featuring a bright chandelier and extravagant wallpaper leads you from the door to the private dining room, the drinks room and the dining rooms.

IMG_5996

Hallway

IMG_5994

Private dining area

MC and I were soon seated by the window overlooking the beautiful flower garden, on what had once been Darley’s verandah, but had now become a covered and air-conditioned dining area.

Service

Service was exceptional.

Our lovely waitress was very easy going yet extremely professional. She explained the menu and our choices for the three course dinner with knowledge and confidence.

???????????????????????????????

First we ordered our drinks, followed by entrees and mains, and then, dessert.

???????????????????????????????

Our water glasses were always filled up and we didn’t feel pestered to buy more drinks or order more, unlike other places I have been to.

Overall it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

???????????????????????????????

Food

We were served some delicious soft and warm, locally-baked bread with herbed butter that was slightly salty, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth-good.

IMG_6012

IMG_6011

The bread was fantastic and we already knew we were off to a good start!

Next up we were served the amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche means literally, “mouth amuser” in French. It is served as a means to prepare a guest for a meal and get their appetite going, whilst giving them a look into the Chef’s inspiration and direction for the meal.

IMG_6009

This amuse-bouche was a cucumber jelly with fresh salmon. It was light, cold and superbly refreshing. The perfect way to cleanse and prepare the palate for the flavours to come.

IMG_6010

For the entree I chose the Poached Queensland Spanner Crab, Dashi Custard, Fennel Puree, Asparagus Shitake Mushrooms.

The crab was perfectly cooked and the woody mushrooms and silky, delicate custard were in contrast with the crunchy asparagus.

A delightful dish which I thoroughly enjoyed.

IMG_6014

MC chose the Slow Cooked Pork Jowl, Maltose Crackling, Seared Scallop, Cauliflower Custard, Roasted Cauliflower and Shellfish Sauce.

Of course, we tried some of each other’s dishes and I loved how the crackling was crunchy and sweet, light a sheet of toffee, and the scallop was crunchy and golden.

IMG_6016

My choice for the main was the Kanimbla Valley Lamb Loin, Smoked Eggplant, Chickpea Puree, Harissa, Cracked Wheat, Cumin and Coriander seed Infused Lamb Jus.

Presentation was exquisite and the shapes on the plate created a fancy piece of artwork that was vibrant and interesting.

The diagonal grain on the lamb was so neat and the meat was perfectly cut.

The eggplant had a deep flavour and the fresh bursts of cumin and coriander broke up the creaminess of the chickpea puree.

IMG_6018

MC chose the Roast Fillet of Cape Grim Beef, Sarladaise Potato, Heirloom Carrots, Cauliflower Cream, Confit Shallots, Horseradish Butter, Red Wine Jus.

He upgraded to the local wagyu beef, with a marble score of 9+ for an additional $10.  And boy was it worth it. This was the best meat I have ever eaten. It was well cut, perfectly cooked (medium well, the way we like it), and so tender and juicy. It just melted in your mouth.

The vegetables were neatly cut and tidily presented, and looked cute on the plate despite being standard cauliflower, carrots and potato.

The horseradish butter and red wine jus were just the right strength to compliment the meat without overpowering it.

???????????????????????????????

For dessert I couldn’t go past the dish that combined three of my favourite fruits: mango, lychee and passionfruit.

I chose the Toasted Coconut Parfait, Mango Sorbet, Italian Meringue, Fresh mango, Passionfruit and Lychee Salad.

Apart from being, well, beautiful, the mango was very fresh, just perfectly ripe yet still firm, and still sweet.

The lychee was fresh but a little sparse, and the fresh passionfruit added some tang, complimenting the creamy meringue and the cool sorbet.

Definitely one of the most beautiful tropical dishes I have seen.

IMG_6023

Popcorn lover MC went for the ‘Mena Creek’, Zokoko Chocolate Mousse, Salted Caramel Fudge, popcorn Ice Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb.

The dish was lovely, so well presented and such a wonderfully inspired combination of flavours.

The popcorn ice cream was salty and tasted a little buttery, with real popcorn to add some crunch.  The mousse was light and fluffy, delicious with the sweet cookie crumb, and the dark chocolate piece was beautiful and crunchy.

Sooooo goood!

IMG_6026

Cost:

The three course meal on Saturday was $125 per person. Wagyu beef was an extra $10 upgrade.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  9.5
  • Food-  9.5
  • Ambience- 9
  • Value – 8

Darley's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sydney Festival 2014

When: 9-26 January 2014

Website: http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2014/

* * *

The Sydney Festival has a lot of great events on in and around the city.

It is full of fantastic shows, theatre, dance, live music, art and much more, in locations such as Town Hall, Parramatta and Hyde Park.

One Thursday after work, a bunch of friends and I (including Kat-the-Cat and Kiwi Kompanion) decided to check it out.

We headed over to the festival village at Hyde Park around 6.00pm. At this time it was not too busy and we were able to walk straight in, without any queues. We heard later that there was a huge line to get in around 7.00-7.30pm, so we were happy we got there early!

20140116_182504

The festival village is full of great tents and stalls including Jafe’s Jaffles, Food Society, the ever popular Gelato Messina, Woofy’s Hot Dogs and Rekorderlig.

20140116_182616We enjoyed walking around and checking out what was on and the atmosphere in the festival was lively and happening, making it easy to relax and enjoy.

After stopping for a little while at the Food Society stall to check out the menu (the smells coming out of there were mouth watering), we decided to head over to Messina instead as the line for the Food Society was far too long.

20140116_183958

Some of the options available (all about $9.00 each) included the messinaweiner- gelato wrapped in a thin pancake, fried and topped with a berry sauce; and the Yeaahh dawg- a gelato hot dog with berry and mango sauce in a brioche bun.

I tried the messinaweiner and my friend tried the Yeaahh dawg.

20140116_184746

The messinaweiner was fabulous. The crunchy fried exterior was delicious and perfect with creamy gelato and a rich jammy sauce.

20140116_184550

The hot dog was a little disappointing as the ice cream melted easily and the bread was a little bland.  That said, it did look amazingly like a real hot dog!

20140116_184633

I also tried some of Kiwi Kompanion’s choc banana sundae, which was, well, a choc banana sundae!  Nothing too special here.

Kat-the-Cat tried the gelatoffee apples.

20140116_193203

She said it was interesting but a little hard to eat and tasted like a frozen, creamy apple. She did love the chocolatey exterior though and we all thought it looked pretty cool!

After checking out the Messina stall, we each grabbed a cool drink at Rekorderlig’s tent, where I was surprised to be asked for my ID (I will take that as a compliment!).

At $8.00 a glass or $20.00 a jug (much better value as you get less ice and more drink!), it isn’t cheap but it was definitely worth it on this hot summer day!

20140116_185311

I opted for a good old Strawberry-Lime cider, while the popular choice in the group was Passionfruit.

20140116_192637

All up, we had a very enjoyable evening and really liked the fun treats at Messina and the cool drinks at Rekorderlig.

If I get another chance to visit I would love to check out the amazing food at Food Society as well.

Definitely suggest checking out the Sydney Festival and at least the Festival Village while it is still open!

If you’ve been to the Sydney Festival, I’d love to hear what you saw and what you thought of it. Please post your comments below!

Wok On Inn, The Rocks ($)

Address: 17/31 Playfair Street, The Rocks, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9247 8554

Website: http://www.wokoninn.com.au/

* * *

I visited Wok On Inn one evening after work to have dinner with the owner and “Chief Executive Noodle” Mr Ankur Sehgal.

Wok On Inn is a noodle bar specialising in Asian Street Food.
There are currently four stores: Balmain, Darlinghurst, The Rocks and Norwest, with four more to open soon in Sydney and Canberra.
Atmosphere

I got to the place around 6.20, a little early for our 6.30 start but Mr Sehgal was stuck in traffic anyway so I had a bit of time to look around and get a feel for the place before he arrived.

Wok On Inn is located close to Circular Quay, about a 5-10 minute walk from the station.

The Rocks restaurant is quite small, more of a takeaway/fast food restaurant.  However, it still has plenty of seating including long wooden benches with colourful stools, and metal tables and chairs in the middle of the area.

IMG_6176

I visited on a Wednesday night and it wasn’t very busy, but there was a steady stream of people; either those who happened to smell the food as they walked past or those who walked over with confidence and familiarity.

IMG_6188

Service

I seated myself at one of the large wooden benches.

It was a nice cool day so it was quite pleasant to sit outside, apart from the annoying seagull which patrolled the area walking up and down between the tables and staring diners down with its beady eyes (image below).

The seagull eventually even gained enough courage to jump onto the table and try to steal our food, despite my efforts to chase it away!

Ankur later informed me that this was a problem they faced in The Rocks store in particular, but that the other stores didn’t have this same issue.

???????????????????????????????

While I waited I enjoyed reading the interesting information on the chopstick cups:??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

A friendly waitress asked if I wanted a drink while I waited (yes, as it was a very hot day!).

I was pleased to receive a chilled glass and cold can of solo, a nice touch which made my short wait more relaxing!

???????????????????????????????

Overall, service throughout the meal was quite good.

It took less than 5-10 minutes for food to come out, staff were friendly and pleasant and as soon as diners left they cleared the plates (very efficient!), leaving nothing for the pesky seagulls!

Food

When Ankur arrived, I was pleased to find that he was very friendly and easy to talk to.

I liked the fact that he was passionate about good food and good service in all his restaurants, and that he was ambitious and committed to making Wok On Inn work in Australia.

Ankur informed me that he wanted to bring the authenticity of the Asian food in Asia, to Australia, without sacrificing on value.
He told me that the sauces they use are made in Asia because the ingredients are more authentic and you can get better onions, better chillis and more stronger flavours of spices in Asia than you could ever find in Australia.  The sauces he said, are snap frozen and sent to them for use in their dishes.
These pre-made sauces make the dishes much more authentic and the fact that they are already made means noodles can be prepared quickly and can be made to order within 10  – 12 minutes.  It also keeps costs down, allowing them to deliver any dish on the menu for under $14.00.
Ankur ordered a number of dishes for us to try.
???????????????????????????????
I enjoyed a lovely round steamed Spicy Chicken Dumpling ($3.95 for 3) which was quite soft, tasty and juicy.  It was not as good as Din Tai Fung (not even close), but considering this is a noodle restaurant, it was quite good!

IMG_6183

Chicken and Prawn Pad Thai, $13.95

First I tried the Pad Thai, a classic dish.

The dish was nicely presented, topped with beansprouts, crushed peanuts, a wedge of lemon and some parsley.

The noodles were delicious with a slightly sweet sauce and plenty of chicken and prawn.  A very tasty and satisfying dish and a great portion!

IMG_6184

Bangkok Noodles, $12.95

Next up were Ankur’s favourite: Bangkok Noodles with chicken: basically hokkien noodles with a sweet pad prik khing sauce (see my review of Spice I Am for another Pad Prik Khing dish).

The sauce was delicious and you could really taste some strong lemongrass flavours and smell the kaffir lime.

Ankur told me that the dish was originally served with rice instead of noodles but they found that it was not selling so they decided to change it up a little and reinvent it by using noodles instead.

The idea obviously worked as the dish is now one of their top sellers!

IMG_6187

Uncle’s Drunken Noodles, $13.95

Finally, we tried one of the other popular choices, Uncle’s Drunken Noodles.  Ankur told me that this was one of the famous dishes in Thailand, where it is made for drunk locals after a night out, with plenty of chilli and spice to awaken the senses.

The dish contains thai basil, homemade chilli paste, flat rice noodles, bamboo shoots (which I love), egg and (in our case), seafood.  It has quite a dry sauce, and is very very hot, a good one for those fiery spicelovers!

There was a lot of seafood in the dish and I thought the prawns were very nicely cooked, the calamari was not chewy or rubbery, and the vegetables were crunchy and tasted fresh.  Overall, a tasty dish, and yes, perfect for those late nights out!

Rating

Overall I would rate my dining experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6
  • Food- 8.75
  • Ambience- 5
  • Value – 8

???????????????????????????????

Here’s a photo of Ankur with one of the lovely staff!

TCFB dined as a guest of Mr Seghur and Wok On Inn.

Wok on Inn the Rocks on Urbanspoon

Kataifi Prawns (serves 3-4 as an entree)

This simple and quick recipe is great for entrees or just a light snack.

It is healthier than tempura prawns or prawn cocktails as it does not involve any frying and looks interesting on the plate.

20131023_205510

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet kataifi, kept out for a few hours until it is room temperature
  • 500gr prawns
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Seasoning of your choice (I used an African-style rub mix)

Method:

1. Heat oven to 200C.

2. Peel and de-vein prawns, leaving the tails on.

20131023_202353

3. Take some kataifi out gently and put it in a small bowl. Separate some of the strands so it is easier to work with.

20131023_202401

20131023_202657

4. Beat the egg with a fork and add salt, pepper and your choice of seasoning.

20131023_202704

5. Lay the kataifi strands out in a long line. Place the prawn at the top of the strand and roll it down to the bottom until covered. Place on an oiled tray.

20131023_202330

6. Once all prawns are covered in kataifi, place tray in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden and crispy.

20131023_205403

Enjoy!