New Shanghai, Chatswood Chase ($$)

Address: Lower Ground Level, Chatswood Chase- 345 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW

Tel: (02) 9412 3358

Website: http://www.newshanghai.com.au/splash.php

* * *

Wicko and I attended a menu tasting at New Shanghai in Chatswood.

Wicko has started covering a few more events for me as I try to manage work and blogging and transition to being a part-time uni student from March onwards.

This event was particularly appropriate for him  as he went to school in Chatswood so knows the area quite well.  He also is quite a fussy eater so I thought exposing him to something different would be good to develop his blogging palate!

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Atmosphere

The restaurant is located in the food court of Chatswood Chase shopping centre, so we decided to park in the centre and walk down.  This was a good idea on the way there, but was a little creepy when we had to walk through the shopping centre in the dark on the way back!

The atmosphere at the restaurant was a little different to what I had expected.

It was a lot darker, almost a little grungy and it gave off a “busy modern city meets traditional tea house” vibe.

The place was packed out with busy diners, quite good for a Wednesday night out of the CBD.

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There is a small drinks bar on one side, featuring prints of a smiling Chinese girl and a large printed umbrella.  The colours brighten up the dark space and the slightly faded look gives an “old-yet-new” feel.

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There was also a private dining room which was being used when we entered (this photo is from after the meal as I did not want to take a photo while there were people in there).

I loved the red, shiny bamboo wall paper on the walls, an elegant way to brighten up the space.

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Wicko and I also liked the glass windows (similar to those at Din Tai Fung), which showed off the skills of the dumpling and bun makers, kneading and rolling away until each dumpling was perfect.

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The final touches were the antique-looking carved wooden windows ….

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the red windows and bunting….

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and the bamboo coloured neutral table settings.

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Service

We were looked after by the friendly and pleasant Jerry, the Chatswood Manager who was overseeing the staff taking our orders and delivering food.

After perusing the menu, we ordered drinks.

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Some chose pineapple, some Yakult and others pineapple an coconut.

The drinks took a while to come out and all came out at different times but they were really nice and worth the wait.

Wicko chose a Kiwi Blended Ice which was not at all sour, like some of the kiwis you find here. It also contained large chunks of Kiwi on the top.

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Kiwi Blended Ice, $5.80

I chose the Lychee Blended Ice, which I found tasted like lychee jelly, rather than fresh lychee, which was not a problem for me as I love lychee jelly anyway!

The drink was refreshing but I would have liked some pearls or jelly in there like at Easyway and Chatime.

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Lychee Blended Ice, $5.80

The lovely Georgie, who was sitting next to me, chose the Strawberry Blended Ice, which came out topped with a couple of strawberries and some mint.

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Strawberry Blended Ice, $5.80

Food

Food. Boy was there a lot of it.

The menu at New Shanghai is seasonal except for the key basic dishes so in order to try a bit of everything we had both Dim Sim and Mains to share.

We started off with the delicious pillows of pan fried pork buns that were soft on top, crisp on the bottom and full of juicy pork.

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Pan Fried Pork Buns (8 pieces), $10.50 

Next were the Xiao Long Bao, pleated dumplings with a delicate and soft skin, these dumplings were bursting with broth and pork flavour. Delicious and quite a generous serving for the price!

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Xiao Long Bao (8 pieces), $7.80 

One of the more exciting dishes on the menu and definitely one of my favourites, was the Prawn Wonton tossed with peanut butter, red chilli oil and spice. The creamy, nutty flavour of the peanut butter (which you can see in the middle) was perfect with the spicy chilli and cool cucumber and the prawns were cooked until JUST done!

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Prawn Wontons with peanut butter and chilli sauce (10 pieces), $14.80

The steamed Pork Belly Buns were soft and slightly chewy with a tasty sauce, however, the pork was quite dry so I didn’t really like this dish.

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Pork Belly Buns, $6.00 (2 pieces)

The pan fried pork dumplings were great as they were so golden and delicious on the bottom, perfect with the vinegar and soy sauce.

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Here’s a photo of the bottom of the dumplings:

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Pan Fried Pork Dumplings (8 pieces), $9.90

After we had enjoyed the Dim Sim, we moved on to the Braised Tofu and Mushroom in Sweet Soy Sauce.

While I am definitely not a mushroom person and couldn’t handle more than a bite of these slimy looking things, I did enjoy the tofu, the glossy sauce and the braised greens.

Great for the vegetarians!

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Braised Tofu and Mushroom in Sweet Soy Sauce, $16.80

Next were the Stir Fried Claims with XO Sauce. The claims were well cooked, the sauce was sweet and a little spicy and the shallots were crunchy and added some freshness and colour.

Wicko also enjoyed his first clam, noting that he had caught one once on a fishing trip by accident.  Nice.

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Stir Fried Clam, $15.80

The Steamed Fish with Seaweed was soft and flaky, falling apart easily when prodded with our chopsticks. I’m not 100% sure exactly what the sauce was or how much it cost though as I couldn’t find it on the menu.

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My favourite dish, possibly of all time, had to be the Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab.  This dish was a winner all round and we enjoyed the super crunchy fried crab, the spicy chili and the well seasoned batter.  The presentation was also nice with some bright colours to lift the look of the dish.

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Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab, $29.80

Next we had the King Prawn in Ginger and Shallots with Vermicelli.  There were plenty of prawns in this dish, even if they were a little overdone and hard to peel (HOW do you peel prawns with chopsticks and a soup spoon!?).

The ginger and shallot sauce was tasty but I wasn’t a fan of all the noodles at the bottom, a little too much vermicelli for me!

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We then had the Salt and Pepper Deep Fried School of Prawns, which were the same as the soft shell crab, except crunchier.

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The Sizzling Seafood Hot Pot was next.  A pot full of seafood broth, steaming vegetables, tofu, fish, prawns and squid, this dish was something light that you could enjoy with fried rice of noodles, without feeling super guilty that you just ate all dat fried crab.

???????????????????????????????The Rainbow Beef was next.  The beef was cut super thin, battered and then fried and coated in a red sweet and sour sauce, leaving it crunchy and sweet.

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Rainbow Beef, $17.80

It was served with some steamed plain bread that you were meant to place the beef in, although I only ended up trying a piece of the bread and a couple of pieces of the beef.

The bread was light and pillowy and very cutely shaped so that they looked like little clouds!

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Finally, the last dish was the Fried Rice with XO Sauce.  The rice was so flavoursome and colourful and I loved the prawns and egg in there.

A great dish to complement any of the other mains, especially the steamed vegetable and seafood dishes.

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Fried Rice in XO Sauce, $11.90

For dessert, we shared HUGE bowls of shaved ice, ice cream, fresh mango and strawberry (yes, fresh!), and some condensed milk.

Despite half the dish being ice, once the ice cream and ice started melting the combination of fruity flavours mixing in with the ice made for a cold and satisfying dessert.

We were surprised to find that all this was only $10.80, however, you are only able to choose either mango or strawberry when you order this at the restaurant.

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Fresh Mango or Strawberry Shaved Ice, $10.80

Summary

The food was very tasty and there was so much variety, flavour and technique used in making these dishes.  Great value as well and large serving sizes.

The decor is traditional meets modern, and I loved the glass area where the dumplings and buns were made and the beautiful red and black antique looking features.

Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  8
  • Food-  8
  • Atmosphere- 7.75
  • Value – 8

TCFB and Wicko dined complimentarily as guests of Wasamedia and New Shanghai. 

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Barrafina, Wynyard ($$)

Address: Ground Floor, 2 Bligh Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9231 2551

Website: http://www.barrafina.com.au/barrafina-tapas-bar-location/

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Barrafina tapas invited me and three guests to review the restaurant and try out their new menu.

I had been to Barrafina previously and while the food was tasty, service was quite disjointed and the portion sizes were not fantastic given the price.

This time around I was pleasantly surprised as our experience was much much better and we were impressed by how much things had changed.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere on this particular Wednesday was pretty good.

When we arrived around 6pm it was pretty quiet inside (outside was roaring with the sound of happy post-work diners). By the end of the evening however, the inside was packed out too and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. ??????????????????????????????? The decor is quite cute, and hadn’t changed much since I last visited.

There is a lot of yellow, grey and white furniture, which gives the place a very modern and funky atmosphere. The cute illustrations on the wall add some character and remind you that you are in a Spanish restaurant as it features wines, seafood and guitars. ??????????????????????????????? My Mum and I really liked the quaint little plants on the windowsill, which added a little colour and life to the place. ??????????????????????????????? Overall it is a very nice restaurant with lovely modern decor and a busy atmosphere.

Service

Service was great despite the fact that they were pretty busy, it being a Thursday night.

Our lovely waitresses Camilla and Paloma gave us each a menu and brought out some drinks.

Paloma suggested about 8 plates for 4 people, but we ended up ordering a bit more than that as there were so many new dishes to try. ??????????????????????????????? For drinks I had just a diet coke, as they did not have lemon lime bitters.

Mum and Nos, who dined with MC and I, wanted fresh juices but they only had bottled ones, so they settled for bottled apple and orange juices. ??????????????????????????????? MC ordered Estrella Dam, a Spanish lager which was recommended by Camilla. ??????????????????????????????? Estrella Dam, $8.50

Food

Food at Barrafina had improved a lot since I last visited with MDS.

Last time, MDS and I thought the food was tasty but not very well presented.

This time around, presentation was excellent. Every dish was plated up with flair and attention to detail.

The food was cooked well and was colourful and appealing to the eye.

We were served portions of four items per dish as there were four of us dining that evening.  However, Paloma informed me that most dishes usually have about three items each- something to remember if you decide to dine there- 3 or 6 people would be ideal.

We started off with a light and refreshing dish, the Yellow Fin Tuna.  This was a seared piece of tuna, which was glossy and beautiful in the middle and just cooked on the outside.  The outside had a coating of spices which made it crunchy and salty. There was also a delicious white peach dressing and chilli vinaigrette, and an olive tapenade on top. We all loved this dish and it was a lovely light way to start off the meal.

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Yellow Fin Tuna, $16.00
Next we enjoyed the Crisp Zucchini Flowers with Salted Cod Mayo.
Definitely the BEST zucchini flowers I have ever tasted, they were large, golden, crunchy and beautifully presented. The mayo was slightly fishy, but tasted a bit like aioli.
The zucchini stem was small and firm, yet cooked through, and the flowers were delicate and tasty.

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We asked for the Yamba King Prawns with lemon, confit garlic, chilli and micro herbs ($22.00), which sounded delicious. Unfortunately, they were out of prawns so we had to order something else.

Paloma brought out the Octopus, but after seeing the large tentacles, none of us were keen to try it.  It was nothing to do with the dish, but I just couldn’t fathom putting those little suckers anywhere near my face! ??????????????????????????????? Octopus

We decided to swap it for the Queensland Scallops with Chorizo and Sweetcorn Puree. This was a much better option, which we all enjoyed.

The scallops were slightly tough, just slightly, but the crispy chorizo and sweet, chunky corn puree were great with it.

Nos, who doesn’t eat pork, simply ate the scallops with the corn puree, and commented that she loved the texture and taste of the puree.  ??????????????????????????????? Queensland Scallops, $24.00

Next up were the Crispy Moroccan Cigars with, sheep’s feta, and charred eggplant puree.

The cigars were very crunchy and had a creamy taste from the sheep feta and a smoky taste from the eggplant puree, which tasted like baba ghanouj.

This is a delicious and tasty dish that I think everyone would enjoy. IMG_5651 Crispy Moroccan Cigars, $9.00

We then enjoyed the soft shell crab sliders. MDS and I had tried this previously but I liked them much much more this time.

The bread was sourdough and was soft and fresh. The crab wasn’t as crunchy as it could have been but was still delicious and salty, and I liked the addition of avocado. The harissa mayonnaise was tangy and sweet and the presentation was very cute. ??????????????????????????????? IMG_5655 Soft Shell Crab Slider, $9.00 

We enjoyed the Jamon Serrano and Manchego Cheese Croquetas with Tomato Salsa. Jamon Serrano is a Spanish cured and salted ham, similar to prosciutto, but made from a different breed of pig.

The croquettes were crispy and golden, almost perfectly round, and very nicely presented.

We enjoyed the creamy taste of the manchego and the little pork bits inside the croquettes. ??????????????????????????????? Croquettas, $10

On the recommendation of Paloma we tried the Beetroot Salad, a salad of gold beetroots, Spanish goats cheese, hazelnuts, sherry vinaigrette and baby beetroot puree.

The salad was vibrant and rich in flavour. The golden beetroot was a sweet and pumpkin-like vegetable which was lovely with the light and fluffy puree and tangy vinaigrette. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sheep’s cheese but there wasn’t too much of it in the dish. IMG_5664 IMG_5662 Beetroot Salad, $13.00

We moved on to the Wagyu Hanger Steak, a 5+ marble score piece of juicy meat, served with seasoned salt and herbs.

The steak was cooked medium-well (my preference) and came out perfectly cooked, juicy and succulent. The meat was already salted and didn’t need any of the salt on the plate. ??????????????????????????????? Wagyu steak, $22.00

After this feast, we shared two desserts between the four of us.

First up was the White Chocolate Parfait with Pistachio and Berries.

The ice cream element of the parfait was delicious and creamy but didn’t taste strongly of white chocolate. The crunchy tuile on top was lovely and added a beautiful texture.

We enjoyed the (very fresh and in season) blueberries and the lovely berry sauce. ??????????????????????????????? White Chocolate Parfait, $9.00

Next up was the Lime and Mango Crema Catalana with Summer Fruit.

The dish was well presented and my Mum loved the little glass jars.

The lime and mango curd at the bottom was delicious and tangy, almost like passionfruit. The crema catalana, is basically creme brulee. It was creamy and rich, super decadent and perfect with fresh fruits. A lovely way to end the meal. IMG_5677 Crema Catalan, $9.00

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7
  • Food- 8.75
  • Ambience- 8
  • Value –6.5

TCFB and guests dined as guests of Barrafina tapas, complimentary. Barrafina Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Khao Pla, Chatswood ($$)

Address: 7/370-374 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW

Tel: (02) 9412 4978

Website: http://www.facebook.com/KhaoPla

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One evening MC and I headed to Chatswood to watch a movie at Hoyts Westfields.

Our movie was due to start in about 20 minutes but we still hadn’t had dinner yet.

We were pretty hungry so, after a quick walk outside Chatswood Westfields to see what was available, we discovered Khao Pla, and decided to try it out.

We figured that the movie wouldn’t start until about 20-30 minutes after the set time due to ads.

Atmosphere

When we walked in, the restaurant was already about two thirds full.

People were chatting away enjoying their meals and staff were zig-zagging between the tables, taking dishes to and from the kitchen.

We were soon greeted by a waitress and led to a small table by the very cool printed wall. The wall features photos of various scenes from Asia and adds a funky look to the restaurant.

The decor in Khao Pla is quite modern and I felt that the restaurant was a funky addition to Chatswood which, I feel, has quite a lot of traditional-styled Chinese restaurants.

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Service

Service was pretty good. Considering we had about 30 minutes to get in, order, eat, pay and get out, we were pleased that we managed to get our food with enough time to gobble it down and still make it to the movie in time.

Despite us having to bother the waitress every 5 minutes about how long our food would take, staff were always friendly and polite.

Food

Chef Pla Rajoratanavichai, the owner of Khao Pla, has worked at restaurants including Ms G’s, Spice I Am and Mr Wong. He has now started his own restaurant and made his mark on the North Shore in a big way.

I found the food at Khao Pla equivalent to what I have had at Spice I Am, Mr Wong and Ms G’s, but the service and atmosphere was even better as we did not have to wait long for food or a table.

MC and I were excited to try the food and ordered a couple of dishes to share.

First up was steamed rice, served per person on beautiful black plates.

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Steamed Rice, $2.50

We chose the option of the Chicken Gaeng Panang Curry as Panang has been one of our favourites since we first tried it at Arawan Thai in Ryde.

This curry was rich and creamy, quite spicy and had a strong lemongrass flavour.

We both really enjoyed the dish and I think this will be a fall back that we will go back to again and again.

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Chicken Gaeng Panang

We also ordered a Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab dish.

Being a seafood lover, Soft Shell Crab is one of my favourites. It is a great way to eat crab without the difficulty of getting the meat out of the shell.

This Crab was delicious. Unlike some other restaurants where you get a smaller serving for seafood than chicken, beef, pork or lamb, this serving was large and generous, especially considering the price!

The batter was crunchy and delicious, the seasoning spot on. I loved this soft shell crab and again, I will be back for more!

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Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab

Overall, MC and I had a great time at this restaurant and enjoyed the delicious food, funky atmosphere and friendly service.

I would highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a good Thai meal on the North Shore.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6.5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 6.5
  • Value – 8

Khao Pla on Urbanspoon

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Mizuya, Sydney CBD ($)

Address: 614 George Street, Sydney

Tel: (02) 9266 0866

Website: http://www.mizuya.com.au

Opening Hours: 

Sunday – Thursday: 11:30am – midnight
Friday – Saturday: 11:30am – 2:00am

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I returned again to Mizuya, this time with MDS and another friend, Nicole.

The atmosphere and service were much the same as last time and I didn’t notice many changes since then.

Food

MDS, Nicole and I ordered a mocktail each from the drinks menu. Mine was a delicious mango and strawberry crush which tasted so refreshing! MDS ordered a passionfruit and mint one and Nicole got a mango and soy milk drink which, we were surprised to find, was delicious!

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First out of the kitchen was the pork gyoza. Delicious and with a crisp, brown side, it had a bit of a charred flavour which was great with the pork filling.

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Next we received our soft shell crab. MDS hadn’t tried this before and really enjoyed it. The crab was quite salty, very crunchy and so delicious. This is one of my favourite dishes as I love shellfish, and it was cooked quite well so I was happy.

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Next out was the sushi. We ordered salmon and avocado rolls, which MDS refused to eat, and tempura prawn rolls. Both were fresh, very well presented, and delicious.

I really admire the Japanese chef’s technique and presentation skills. For me, they are probably some of the best around!

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We received our bowls of steamed rice (about a cup of rice in each) and decided to order the chicken teriyaki. It came out as a small piece of chicken, which turned out to be plenty for the three of us. The skin was covered in a shiny teriyaki glaze, and the chicken was garnished with some bean sprouts and mixed vegetables. The chicken was tasty, moist and cooked through although the teriyaki flavour wasn’t very prominent.

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Cost:

Overall we paid $25.00 each including drinks.

Rating:

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

    • Service- 3
    • Food- 8
    • Ambience- 7
    • Value – 8

A bit of an improvement on value and service since last time as we had a little more interaction with the staff.

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke on Urbanspoon

Twelve Spices Lao & Thai Cuisine, Canley Heights ($$)

Address: 197 St Johns Road, Canley Heights NSW

Tel: (02) 9609 6212 ‎

Website: http://twelvespices.tumblr.com/

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It’s not very often that I venture out to restaurants in the West so I thought it was about time that I reviewed one for my The Casual Food Blogger readers who live in the area.

I have heard a lot of good things about this restaurant and seen quite a few friends post up photos of the delicious dishes they have enjoyed here.

Atmosphere

The restaurant is located between a few shops on a small but busy road in Canley Heights. None of the other shops surrounding the restaurant were open on the  night MC and I visited (a Friday night), but the restaurant was still very busy.

The interior was nicely decorated with down lights and lanterns, and the fact that it was full added to the buzzing atmosphere.

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Service

We had rung up earlier and been told that they didn’t accept bookings. We decided to go there anyway and see if we could get a table.

When we got to the restaurant it was about 9.00pm and we were hoping that because we were so late we wouldn’t have a problem getting in Unfortunately the restaurant was packed out and there were a few couples ahead of us waiting for a table as well.

We were told that they closed at 10.00pm and the kitchen closes at 9.30pm. We decided to wait anyway and see if we could get in. Luckily it wasn’t long before the helpful waiter ushered us in. He quickly gave us a few menus and informed us that we had 15 minutes to order before the kitchen closed.

We quickly placed our orders -a difficult task for someone who is indecisive!

Throughout the night the service was great. Despite the restaurant being busy we were always able to get their attention and they were friendly and helpful whenever we did.

Food

MC had a coke and I had a passionfruit fruit shake, which was delicious and refreshing on such a hot day! They were served in cute jars which we thought was a nice touch as it was both environmentally friendly and unique!

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We decided to order a few dishes to go with steamed rice.

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I am a huge seafood fan and love soft shell crab so we ordered the Soft Shell Crab with Green Apple and Green Mango salad with Cashew Nuts. I was pleased to find that there was a large serving of the crab, which is quite uncommon due to the high cost of crabs. It was also very crunchy and I enjoyed the textures of the crunchy exterior and soft inside. The salad was tasty and delicious, but I thought it was a little too salty for my liking, probably due to the fish sauce. Would have preferred a sweeter salad to go with it, but overall an enjoyable dish!

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We also ordered the Chicken Choo Chee Curry, another favourite of mine. I usually have the Choo Chee Prawns but we decided to go for chicken this time as we had already chosen other dishes with seafood in them. The chicken dish was creamy and the sauce was as good as any sauce I have had before. The dish was a little smaller than the others but as we had ordered so much, we didn’t manage to finish it all anyway.

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For something fresh, we went with the Prawn Salad which was basically prawns with a salad similar to that in the Soft Shell Crab. Unlike other prawn dishes I have ordered before, this dish had a good amount of prawns for the both of us. The salad was tasty and delicious, and was the perfect combination of the typical Thai and Laotian flavours of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. It was also very colourful and appealing to look at.

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Finally, we ordered the Pork Sausages with Nam Jim, a sauce made of fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and chilli pieces. The sausages were cooked just the way I like them, crunchy and brown on the outside and moist on the inside. The seasoning and spices were just right and the sauce was the perfect complement to lift this dish to the next level. Absolutely loved this dish, one of my favourites!

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Overall a fantastic meal. Great service and good atmosphere. Food was delicious, came out of the kitchen quickly and had good portion sizes. I only wish there was one closer to me!

Cost:

The meal came to about $70 all up and we had about a dish worth of food left over too, so we could have ordered one dish less and still been satisfied!

Rating:

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

    • Service- 8.5
    • Food- 8.5
    • Ambience- 8.5
    • Value – 8

Twelve Spices Lao & Thai Cusine on Urbanspoon