On our new quest to try every restaurant at Miranda Fair, we stopped at Mejico Miranda for dinner tonight, which I was feeling a little ambivalent about. On one hand, I’m not a huge fan of eating with my hands in public; on the other soon to be dirty hand, we do love our spicy food and Richard always liked Mexican.

The place was quite full on this Friday night, but we managed to grab an outdoor table without booking. The waitress explained the “Feed Me” banquet as she handed the paper menu to us. For either $55 per average person, or $80 for someone really hungry, the table would get this, and this, and this, and that… a whole heap of dishes, as she recited the actual menu. I was thoroughly impressed with her excellent memory, but for someone not already familiar with the food options, we just couldn’t follow and would do much better with a printed version of it. We settled on the fact that the banquet was “basically a little bit of everything”, and even though I’m always really hungry (as we all know), I wasn’t interested in the desserts and we opted to order our own dishes.

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Scallop Ceviche

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Scallop Ceviche – Avocado, pomegranate, jalapeno, crispy eschalots on house-baked tostadas ($16)

Scallop ceviche on house-baked tostadas ($16) and tuna ceviche on hand-cut tortilla chips ($16). These bite-size gems were super fresh with the right herbs to give their own distinct flavour, and a nice contrasting crunch from the toasted tortilla chips. I preferred the scallop ceviche and Richard the tuna, but both were very good.

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Tuna Tostadas

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Tuna Tostadas – Sashimi grade tuna, cucumber, avocado, capsicum, ginger, spiced tapioca pearls on hand-cut tortilla chips ($16)

With the maximum 3 chilli icons on the menu and how much I love hot food, I was really, really looking forward to the feta-stuffed jalapeno poppers, served with chipotle mayo ($14). The small plate dish unfortunately received what Richard dubbed the “Shire treatment”. Crunchy, greasy, cheesy – yes, but the jalapeno peppers were very carefully scraped clean of any seeds, resulting in zero detectable heat. Zero, my friend. They should know not to deceive Vickie with 3 chilli icons!

(By now Vickie should also know better than to expect many foods in Sydney to live up to 3 chilli icons, which often only just set her up for disappointment.)

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Jalapeno Poppers

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Jalapeno Poppers – Crumbed & stuffed with feta & herbs, served with chipotle mayo ($14)

Back to eating with hands, our tacos arrived. The achiote chicken taco ($12) came with chorizo, cucumber, cumin and chives just to keep up with the alliteration, and maybe also taste; whereas the slow-braised lean pork taco ($12) had chilli caramel salsa and aioli with extra pork scratchings. I liked that they weren’t modern cheese-covered abominations, but the soft shell tortilla tasted overpoweringly floury to me; to Richard the tacos just lacked a certain kick.

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Tacos

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Chicken Tacos (top) and Pork Tacos (bottom) ($12 for each dish)

The only main we ordered was the lamb adobo with house-made chimichurri ($29). The rare lamb was super tender and fatty on the sides, and I thought it was nice enough with the adobo and didn’t need the accompanying oily and subtle-tasting chimichurri. Not the biggest of main in volume, but definitely good enough to be a winter night dish if you didn’t skip the green sauce and trim off the fat like I did.

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Lamb Adobo

Mejico Miranda, Aug 2015: Lamb Adobo – Chargrilled Hunter Valley lamb, house-made chimichurri, snow pea tendrils, pickled onion ($29)

Looking back at the menu, I discovered a few of the dishes we ordered that weren’t spicy at all were actually given 1 chilli icon. I also don’t know if we would get better value from the banquet menu or if it’s just designed for the less picky. Overall, apart from the “Shire treatment”, I was quite happy with the meal and service. Eating with my hands might not be so bad after all?

Mejico Miranda

Address Westfield Miranda level 2
Shop 2202, 600 Kingsway, Miranda NSW 2228, Australia
Speciality / Cuisine Mexican
Price (2015/2016) Entree (ceviche, Small Plates, tacos): $12-16
Main (Bigger Plates): $24-32
Dessert: $10-12
Set Menu (Feed Me): $55 per person (classic) / $80 (deluxe)

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Our company had a table at the Cancer Institute NSW’s 2015 Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research (“Cancer NSW Awards”) dinner held at the Doltone House, Hyde Park tonight. We dolled ourselves up after work (which for me really just meant I slipped on a dress), brought our partners along, and gradually regrouped at the function where excellence and innovation in cancer research was celebrated. We all know, however, that there was only one thing I was really after tonight: the food (sorry, you genuinely excellent and innovative cancer research people).

Before the awards night officially began, cocktail canapes were served around the dimly lit ballroom where professionals professionally mingled. Tonight, the canapes menu was rather Asian-inspired, with items such as the very soft and sweet mini barbecue pork buns, prawn dumplings with soy sauce that was too salty, and my favourite bite-sized smoked salmon cream cheese pikelets. No pictures of the canapes; we had also unfortunately and inadvertently formed a closed circle that didn’t invite many canapes waiters.

Park, August 2015: Bread

Doltone House Hyde Park, August 2015: Bread

There were many famous faces, including the witty and hilarious master of ceremonies Adam Spencer, whom I admittedly hadn’t heard of because I live under a rock, and other big names from the health field. We helped ourselves to the soft crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip on the table. After the first couple of awards, entrees were served. The awards presentation was viewable from pretty much all angles because it was cast on the many large wall-mounted TV screens.

Doltone House Hyde Park, August 2015: Prawn Cocktail (entree)

Doltone House Hyde Park, August 2015: Prawn Cocktail (entree)

The great thing about bringing and sitting next to a partner to events like this? The opportunity to choose my dish! We worked out early on who would get which plate from the menu. For the entrees it was an easy decision. Richard got the prawn cocktail because he loves prawn, and I’m certainly not going to complain about my perfectly cooked, flavoursome herb-rolled lamb back strap.

Park, August 2015: Lamb Back Strap (entree)

Park, August 2015: Lamb Back Strap (entree)

For the main, I picked the chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto served with polenta, while Richard had the other, the slow cooked beef cheeks with creamed potatoes.

Park, August 2015: Chicken Breast Wrapped in Prosciutto (main)

Park, August 2015: Chicken Breast Wrapped in Prosciutto (main)

The only thing I remembered about my chicken breast in prosciutto was how ridiculously salty the accompanying polenta was. I finished the meat and the buttered spinach, but just couldn’t take another bite of the cornmeal.

Park, August 2015: Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks (main)

Park, August 2015: Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks (main)

Richard’s slow-cooked beef cheeks was definitely the far better choice. It’s succulent and tender and oh my god Richard you have a slow cooker at home we have to start using it and attempt to reproduce this dish, right now!

Professional manners, professional manners…

The night was overrunning a little by this stage, but there’s dessert to make up for it. They were the passionfruit cheesecake, or the Belgium chocolate fondant.

Park, August 2015: Passionfruit Cheese Cake (dessert)

Park, August 2015: Passionfruit Cheese Cake (dessert)

Another wrong decision on my part for picking the passionfruit cheesecake with berry jam and meringue. Underneath the adorably round cheesecake was a delicately presented meringue that I’ve never been a huge fan of (my fault), which was sickly sweet (not my fault) and despite being crispy, was quite hard to eat without it attempting to fly off in the opposite direction (not sure if my fault). I saw several from other tables leave their meringue on their plate.

Park, August 2015: Belgium Chocolate Fondant (dessert)

Park, August 2015: Belgium Chocolate Fondant (dessert)

The chocolate fondant with orange bitter semifreddo, which I got to try because Richard performed his boyfriend duty and let me have a good chunk of it, was once again superior and the word “indulgent” comes to mind. Still too sweet for my liking, but that’s most definitely just me.

Overall, the award dinner’s serving size was very decent compared to other functions I’ve attended, but I found the food to be generally over-seasoned. But of course the awards night was all about the achievements of the various experts in the field. Congratulations to all the awards winners and nominees for all their accomplishments and contribution to the community!

Doltone House Hyde Park

Address 3/181 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Speciality / Cuisine Functions and events
Other Notes Attended as a work function

Are you ready for an obscene amount of gelato photos in one post?

The whole saga began when I first heard about friends driving out specifically for a gelato run (people do that?), and then later someone else asked me what my favourite gelato place was (none at the time), what I thought of Gelato Messina because they thought it was all hype (I’d never visited a Messina at the time) and recommended another gelato place in Sydney (still yet to visit). Gelato is apparently a pretty big deal to many, so I guess there’s only one way for me to find out and form my own opinion. Yes, Vickie finally visited Gelato Messina to see what the fuss was all about. This is what Gelato Messina at Miranda is all about!

Jump to:

Note 1: I don’t have a sweet tooth so very little sweetness would satisfy me and any more quickly overwhelm and sicken.
Note 2: I generally avoid caffeine after a certain hour and usually only have gelato after dinner, so I may never try many of the coffee or chocolate flavours. Boo.
Note 3: I am cuckoo for coconut, so expect just a little bias. smile
Note 4: Blank comment means it tastes fairly standard (and that’s not a complaint).
Note 5: This post will be continually updated as I revisit the place. Oh, spoiler. I revisit the place.

Post Last Updated: 25 Jan 2016

Gelato Messina Standard Flavours (Gelato)

There is a plethora of standard gelato flavours available, and the first time I went there I just didn’t know where to begin. At Messina Miranda, the first and third display cabinets from the left are the standard gelato flavours that are available year-round.

Gelato Messina: Gelato (standard)

Gelato Messina Miranda Standard Gelato

Flavour Comments Date
Apple Pie This flavour has my usual complaint of the apple pie crust crumbs being too large a lump, but it wasn’t soggy and that I appreciated. I love apple pies themselves but wasn’t particularly fond of this flavour. 25 Oct 2015
Banana Split I liked the banana-ness on the first few tastes, but after a while, it seemed to have dissipated and I could only taste caramel, peanuts and chocolate. 25 Oct 2015
Bounty Coconut milk gelato with desiccated coconut and choc chip. I thought this tasted too chocolatey and not coconutty enough, but I’ve never had Bounty the chocolate, so I wouldn’t know how it compares. 2 Dec 2015
Choc Mint This flavour tastes like mint leaves. It leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste, which I much prefer than the sugary fake mint flavour of some other choc mint ice cream. Every time Richard orders this, the staff would ask if he’s tried it because it’s just different from the typical choc mint. 31 Jul 2015
star Coconut Lychee Loved the very Asian coconut and lychee flavour combination. 14 Aug 2015
Hazelnut 31 Jul 2015
Macadamia Crunch Macadamia gelato with crunchy sweet white chocolate bits inside. 23 Aug 2015
Pannacotta w Fig Jam & Amaretti Biscuit Had a big scoop of this and a big wad of super sweet sticky fig jam hit and overwhelm me. I wish this was more pannacotta than fig jam, but if super sweet stickiness is your thing, this flavour would be your thing. 31 Jul 2015
star Pear & Rhubarb Lovely fruity flavour! 14 Aug 2015
Salted Caramel and White Chocolate Chip A bestseller according to the Messina website, and I can see why. It’s creamy, sweet and slightly salty. It’s the complete diet. 25 Jan 2016
Vanilla 2 Dec 2015
Yoghurt & Berry Tastes more or less like its name. There’s meant to be both raspberries and blueberries in the coulee, but every time I’ve seen it there’s only red swirls in it. 19 Sep 2015

Gelato Messina Standard Flavours (Sorbet)

Sorbet, also available year-round, are on the furthest right. I could favourite all the flavours in this section!

Gelato Messina: Sorbet (dairy free)

Gelato Messina Miranda Standard Sorbet

Flavour Comments Date
Blood Orange Quite sour, which I love. Excellent as a palate cleanser. 9 Oct 2015
Chocolate Sorbet Taste dark chocolatey and not overly sweet, and not thick like an ice cream or gelato. A lighter chocolate option. 14 Aug 2015
Coffee and Hazelnut Praline The sweet crunchy hazelnut praline goes very well in the coffee sorbet. There’s enough hazelnut taste in it. 23 Aug 2015
Lemon Sorbet Super refreshing, palate-cleansing, tarty lemony goodness. 11 Sep 2015
Mandarin 25 Sep 2015
star Pandan & Coconut Pandan and coconut are always a reliable flavour combination. 31 Jul 2015
star Passionfruit Comes with all the crunchy passionfruit seeds. Enjoyed the tartness. 14 Aug 2015
Raspberry 19 Sep 2015
star Salted Coconut & Mango A bit of mango puree on a coconut base with just a hint of salt. Love this. 23 Aug 2015
Strawberry 25 Sep 2015

Gelato Messina Special Flavours

Special flavours are on the left hand side of the second left section. There are always 5 special flavours available and every weekday, a new one displaces an old. Unlike their standard gelato and sorbet, the specials would often have a million things going on. My general comments about these million things going on are:

  1. Many are too cakey / doughy / obscure for my taste; I’ve learnt to avoid anything with “brownie”, “bread”, “biscuit”, “cookie”, “crumbs”, “cake”, “pie”, “doughnut” in the description. Yeeeaah. I don’t bother with a lot of the specials any more.
  2. Even on days where the “brownie”, “bread”, etc weren’t too cakey / doughy, they could sometimes be in too big a chunk that gets awkward to chew. They probably look better for promo pictures, though.
  3. Nuts in the gelato are not guaranteed to not be soggy.
  4. Anything with “praline” in it so far has been reliably crunchy.
  5. Taste test is a must before committing to the full scoop! But even then, your sample might not have grabbed that doughy crumb or soggy bit of nuts.
  6. There always seems to be one peanut butter flavour on the board?

And now, the ever growing Special flavours comment table!

Gelato Messina: Specials

Flavour Comments Date
Rococo Chocolate, honey and coconut gelato with crunchy, sticky nougat. I taste-tested this and thought I liked it, but the big scoop got more sickly sweet by the minute. 25 Jan 2016
Old Gregg Baileys gelato with butterscotch sauce folded through. Taste test of Richard’s scoop and it’s very alcoholic! 1 Dec 2015
Pablo Pistachio Light pistachio gelato smothered in white chocolate mousse and raspberry puree. I didn’t pick up a lot of the white chocolate taste (or my scoop just didn’t have a lot of the mousse in it), but I still liked the pistachio and raspberry flavour combination.
Pretz N’ Popped Pretzel milk gelato with peanut popcorn praline. Ah, it’s the peanut popcorn praline, which I remember having in one of the old specials (Cracker Jack). Still crunchy, and I still liked the peanut flavour.
Big Cheese-Off Pistachio & ricotta gelato, scented w/ orange blossom water & candied almonds folded through. The staff told me it’s quite cheesy; Richard thought it’s cheesy enough; I mostly tasted the pistachio. Occasionally the lovely orange blossom water came through as well. My only complaint is the candied whole almonds got quite soggy being embedded in the gelato. 9 Oct 2015
Cracker Jacks Caramel peanut butter popcorn gelato with peanut popcorn praline. The praline was sweet and crunchy and the peanut tastes great with the popcorn. Enjoyed this.
star Tongue Thai’d Peanut and coconut gelato with cashew dacquoise and lime curd. Loved this! Very nice peanut taste. Richard’s comment on taste test of my scoop: “Taste like Thai!” 25 Sep 2015
Passionfruit Cheesecake I got this as a full scoop after taking a taste test, but regretted my decision. I couldn’t taste any of the cheesecake but a watered down passionfruit gelato. The crunchy biscuit base chunks were so big they were distracting. 19 Sep 2015
star Pina Coco-Lada Bounty gelato with pineapple cake and mango puree. Love this one! It had more coconut than the super sweet Bounty gelato on its own, and the pineapple and mango taste went super well with it all. It was thankfully not as cakey as the Danny Two Times I had in the same cup. 11 Sep 2015
Danny Two Times Yoghurt, orange and poppy seed gelato with orange cake. I loved this as the taste test and proceeded to get a scoop, but my scoop ended up being almost all orange cake, and barely the yoghurt, orange and poppy seed gelato I first tasted. Richard also had a full scoop, and both were so cakey they didn’t melt at all. Not a fan of this.
star Burnt Caramel and Ginger It wasn’t too sweet despite the burnt caramel name; love the ginger taste in this. Wish this was a base flavour available at other times! And this doesn’t even have coconut in it! 23 Aug 2015
VJ’s Coconut Caramel coconut gelato with ginger lemongrass jam. Taste test only. Has more ginger lemongrass taste than coconut. I was very close to getting this as a proper scoop if I hadn’t felt like something more coconutty. 14 Aug 2015
Romanikerer Peanut butter cheesecake gelato with peanut butter brownie. Very rich, to the point that I somewhat regret choosing to have a whole scoop of this. 31 Jul 2015
star Standard flavour Note to self: try this again
star Special flavour I wish they would redo the flavour in the future
all I got fooled by the taste test! *shakes fist*

The Verdict

TL;DR: Do I think Gelato Messina is all hype? Nope! Especially not if the staff at Miranda have been so consistently helpful and friendly, even when the place is super swamped on the weekends after a film. This is really bad for my waistline!

Gelato Messina Miranda

Address Westfield Miranda ground floor
600 Kingsway, Miranda NSW 2228, Australia
Speciality / Cuisine Gelato
Price (2015/2016) Scoops: $4.80 (1 scoop) / $6.80 (2 scoops) / $8.80 (3 scoops)
Tubs: $12.80 (0.5L) / $22.80 (1L) / $29 (1.5L)
Other Notes Cash only

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Alternative post title: The Day I Decided to Become a Plasma Donor.

In school, they taught us all the things about blood type compatibility; about antigens on the surface of red blood cells, anti-A / anti-B antibodies, Rh positive / negative, phenotype and genotype, how O- is the universal blood donor, AB+ the universal acceptor, so on and so forth.

My mother was the one who first brought me to a donation centre to donate blood, and over time, helping others via donating blood became my own passion. I’ve been a regular whole blood donor for a while, and donated every 3 months except during the period when I was iron deficient (I was donating regularly and restricting food at the same time; long story). Donors don’t get financially compensated in Australia, but the knowledge that my blood could save three lives, as Red Cross heavily promotes, was enough.

My blood donation centre of choice was the mobile centre near work. They would appear every 3 months, and because my boss also supported the idea, I could often pop out during work for a quick donation. Every time the staff at the mobile centre would make me feel like I was doing the right thing. They would thank me like they personally and directly benefit from my deed.

Blood Donation Jul 2015: Last Whole Blood Donation

Blood Donation Jul 2015: Quite possibly the last whole blood donation

Today, something changed. The finger pricking was done on a painful part of the fingertip. It bruised. Two staff frowned at me and asked if I’d made an appointment (I did), both at interview and the donation chair, and told me they wouldn’t normally take my blood type. They completed the procedure and hurried me along. It was as though I was wasting their time.

I was fully aware of the fact that my AB+ blood is only useful for the also AB+ population, the only ones who could take the blood type transfusion without ill effects. But it was only then, today, a staff handed me a brochure about plasma donation. People with AB+ blood are universal blood recipients because we don’t have anti-A and anti-B antibodies to react to the antigens that may be present on the red blood cells in other blood types, and for the exact reason our plasma has the opposite effect: AB plasma doesn’t contain anti-A and anti-B antibodies and can therefore be received by all blood types. So essentially by donating my full blood the whole time I’ve been wasting their time, my time, and my red blood cells.

ABO Blood Type

ABO Blood Type from the Wikipedia article

I was never taught anything other than blood transfusion in school; the theory was all there but I just never made the connection. Even Mum didn’t seem to know about the “opposite” compatibility until I told her for the first time. In some obscure way, I feel slightly more humble today realising that I apparently could only take AB plasma and nothing else.

But Red Cross really, really has to promote plasma and platelet donations as much as they do whole blood.

I suppose it is more effective to sell one message at a time. I suppose “save 3 lives” is less complicated a message than “make 17 life-saving products”. I suppose most people’s whole blood is far more useful than my own, which I only share with 3% of the world population. I suppose one of the criteria for plasma donation is having successfully donated full blood at least once within the last 2 years. I don’t condone making a donor feel unwelcome (it probably wasn’t even their intention), but I suppose it all worked out in the end.

From the next donation on, I’ll be giving my universally accepted AB plasma. It’s a much longer procedure and one that cannot be done at a mobile donation site, but helping other less fortunate, donating what I can, is my passion.

Today is the day I decided to become a plasma donor.

Richard spotted a few whales on his Oxfam training walk, so on this gorgeous 19°C day today, we had no excuse not to drive out to the Cape Solander lookout at the Kamay Botony Bay National Park. It was such a pleasant day the jacket came right off!

Highlights of the event: whale jumped people cheered! Another whale jumped people cheered again! Yet another whale jumped… Whale watching is actually more fun than what this blog post suggests.

Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Sydney

Whale Watching at Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Also more fun than what this total lack of whale phone camera picture suggests…

Whale, at the very least, it’s definitely an improvement to last year‘s zero whale spotting!

Another year, another end of NBA season, another basketball tipping competition awards night dinner at our trusty ribs place, Hurricane’s Grill at Brighton Le Sands! Richard was last year’s winner (his first participation, too) and came a super close second this year, but it’s not like that would stop us from stuffing our faces!

Basketball Trophy

The trophy with engraved plaques; it’s serious business

The same dozen of us as last year (technically 13 this year because two are pregnant) were seated in possibly the darkest corner of the entire restaurant. A waiter came around to take our order at 8 pm, and our food appeared in about 20 minutes.

There’s only one dish I ever order at Hurricane’s:

Hurricane's Grill, Brighton Le Sands, July 2015: Pork Ribs (Full Rack) w Baked Potato

Hurricane’s Grill, Brighton Le Sands, July 2015: Pork Ribs (Full Rack) with Baked Potato ($49.50)

Although you know something is horribly wrong if after one year, the same dish didn’t seem to have shrunk, but it no longer fills you up… surprised

The ribs ($49.50 for full rack; $38.50 for half) came with a side of either a baked potato with sour cream and chives, or a big serving of chips. Sauce (peri-peri, aioli, pepper, etc) is an extra $2.50 on the side, which is only necessary if you like to dip your chips. For a few dollars cheaper, you could also get other ribs like beef and lamb as a full dish or a half-half mix and match; but trust me, get the pork.

Other than the ginormous portion size of the full rack (other places claim to give you a full rack but they never come anywhere as close to this size), the best feature of the dish is still its sweet basting sauce. The ribs themselves still weren’t completely fall-off-the-bone as the limited special riblets I had at the Darling Harbour branch way back, but it’s tender enough for me to manage with only a fork and knife.

So far, Hurricane’s is still the most reliable franchise for pork ribs. Book ahead, though, because I think everyone agrees with me seeing how super busy the restaurants are even on weeknights!

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If I had known there were only 3 food stops at the Canberra Airport terminal, I would have had a proper dinner elsewhere given all the time I had before the 8 pm flight back to Sydney. I thought about protesting at the airport by going on a hunger strike, until I had a closer look at one of the shops, Tuk Chop. Who could possibly resist a place that serves dumplings as part of their menu and also a wordplay in its name? Certainly not me. Canberra Airport has been forgiven temporarily.

After a very confusing round of order as I wanted one of each bun ($3 each) and one of each steamed dumplings ($6 for 3) — as in, no, I want one of each streamed dumpling item. No, not one dumpling from one dumpling menu item. Yes, I want a total of 2 buns and 9 dumplings please don’t judge me — I was instructed to sit around the corner. After another 10 minutes or so, these two disposable boxes came with the calling of my name.

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Buns and Siu Mai

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Buns and Siu Mai

There is simply no way I could turn these photos into anything pretty, but I have never been one too fussed about the appearance of food.

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Dumplings

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Dumplings

I am, however, very fussy about redundant redundancy. The dumpling on the menu was listed as “gyoza dumpling” on the menu. “Gyoza” means “dumpling”. “Gyoza dumpling” means “dumpling dumpling”. RAS Syndrome much? Grumble grumble.

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Dumpling Fell Apart

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: The dumpling completely fell apart at any attempt to pick it up with chopsticks

I attempted a half eaten dumpling on chopsticks photo (I really had a lot of time before my flight). I failed. There’s very little filling in the dumplings and the wrapper completely fell apart when I tried to pick them up. I was also a little mystified by the Pork, Prawn and Egg dumpling. It doesn’t have egg as the wrapping so it’s not an egg dumpling (蛋餃), but I also couldn’t taste any egg or much of the prawn in the filling.

Meanwhile, Pork and Chives is a pretty standard filling, and the dumplings tasted pretty standard. At least they weren’t as empty as the curious Pork, Prawn and Egg.

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Chicken Bun

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Chicken Bun

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Pork Bun

Tuk Chop, Canberra Airport, July 2015: Pork Bun

The Chicken Bun had a solid lukewarm blob of minced chicken inside. The barbecue Pork Bun was served at a similar temperature, but the texture was better.

I firmly reminded myself that this is airport fast food, not pricey gourmet, and I probably only paid so much attention to my food because I had so much time to kill. But I still think I have chosen my menu items unwisely tonight. Next time I would probably stay away from the bottom left of the menu.

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A place that dares to call itself Dumpling King sounds worthy of a visit from the dumpling queen (that’s me). Well, if nothing else, it certainly sounded like a good dinner option out of the many in Newtown after our film tonight. The Chinese restaurant was quite dark and cramped inside, but the dumpling queen (still me) shall not judge them until she’s sampled their food.

Dumpling King has a fairly extensive menu with all sorts of other Asian dishes offered such as soups, stir fries, rice, noodles, meat and poultry of all varieties, but of course the only fitting items to order from this place tonight were dumplings. We got the steamed version of each available except the Beef & Celery, plus the pork bun that was somehow lumped into the dumpling menu.

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Mini Pork Buns

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Mini Pork Buns (10 pieces)

Apparently not miscategorised, and not technically mistranslated. The Mini Steamed Pork Bun ($10.90 for 10 pieces) on the menu is not the steamed barbecue pork bun we expected (and expected no problem finishing all 10 buns even if it was), but proper xiaolongbao down to the soup inside. Proper, but too salty.

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Prawn Dumplings

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Prawn Dumplings (10 pieces)

Prawn Dumplings ($12.90 for 10 pieces), also known as har gow. I always look for that pink prawns through translucent wrapping glow in har gows (because when it comes to dumplings I can be pretty wanky am the queen), and thought the wrapping for this tonight was a bit thicker than it could be. The har gow was the dumpling prince consort (that’s Richard)’s favourite.

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Chicken and Cabbage Dumplings

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Chicken and Cabbage Dumplings (12 pieces)

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Pork and Chives Dumplings

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Pork and Chives Dumplings (12 pieces)

Chicken & Cabbage ($10.90 for 12 pieces) and Pork & Chives ($10.90 for 12 pieces) are classic dumpling filling combinations. The latter was my favourite, but both were delicious.

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Vegetarian Dumplings

Dumpling King, Newtown, June 2015: Vegetarian Dumplings (8 pieces)

Last but not least, Vegetarian Dumplings ($9.90 for 8 pieces). Okay, maybe it’s last and least; the vegetarian counterpart had mysterious chopped vegetable filling that had little distinct flavour and pretty much just tasted… meatless. It’s not very memorable and definitely not the most exciting of the bunch.

Overall, Dumpling King is another good eat in Newtown. The dumpling queen was satisfied with the meal (she’d better be because she just downed 30 odd dumplings) and generally approves of the restaurant. Providing that they give us a non-leaking vinegar pourer next time, I would happily return for another big meal of dumplings, with maybe a few more dishes from the rest of the menu as well.

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Everyone and their dog have been to Aqua S and made a big fuss on social media, so when the good friend told me there’s one near our dinner place, I thought it’s appropriate time for me to get with the times! We got to the Town Hall parlour just before 6:30 pm, and Ellis was surprised there wasn’t a queue. “It’s normally up to here,” he pointed way outside the shop. Eh, what can I say? I tend to be pretty lucky like that.

We went in and saw the small menu of 5 flavours — or 3 really, as two of those were combinations: Sea Salt, Milo, Fruit Punch, Sea Salt with Milo and Sea Salt with Fruit Punch.

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Menu

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Menu

Or… 2. As soon as I took the picture of the digital menu and got to the counter, a staff had papered out the two with Fruit Punch. So much for being lucky. tongue Sea Salt with Milo it is.

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Sea Salt with Milo (Cone)

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Sea Salt with Milo (Cone)

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Sea Salt with Milo (Small Cup)

Aqua S Town Hall, June 2015: Sea Salt with Milo (Cup S)

The topping options available were fairy floss, sweet popcorn, popping candy (pop rocks) and grilled marshmallow, at an extra for $1.50. They felt a little too obscure for me tonight, so I only had the ice cream in a small cup ($3.80), while Ellis grabbed the cone version ($3.80). I watched as the staff served various customers; I liked how they carefully filled the inside of the waffle cones.

The soft serve itself was cold and sweet with a nice contrast of the hint of saltiness. I liked the bright blue Sea Salt, which is convenient as I understood it’s their standard flavour. Milo was okay; I would have opted for Fruit Punch instead if it was available.

I think the appeal of Aqua S is their ever changing flavours and unusual toppings. From this one visit tonight with half the flavours off the menu and my lack of interest in the pricey toppings offered, I don’t quite see myself becoming a regular. Big thumbs up to their marketing department, though!

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A long overdue catchup dinner with bestest of friends Ellis and a proper revisit at Chefs Gallery Town Hall, with pictures this time! I first came here in Feb 2014 and again two months later in Apr 2014, and really quite enjoyed my meals. I was glad the friend chose this as the venue.

We booked a table for 5:30 pm, their first dinner time slot. At this time, there were more staff than patrons, and it was quite awkward with the staff patrolling and checking every 15 seconds if we were ready to order. We pretended to look at the menu but both of us already had a different spicy dish we’d previously liked in mind.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Interior

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Interior

To prepare for the incoming spiciness, Ellis ordered the lactose-free soy drink after I recommended something milk-based to neutralise the heat (although the soy would probably be too low in fat for that purpose). Our noodles arrived soon after.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Spinach Noodles w Marbled Beef in Sichuan Soup

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Spinach Noodles w Marbled Beef in Sichuan Soup ($16.90)

“Marbled beef dipped in a spicy Sichuan soup with handmade spinach noodles, bamboo shoots and carrot sticks. Beware of the heat,” says the menu. This thing has the maximum 3 chilli icons, compared to Ellis’ 2-chilli icon dan dan noodles. I wasn’t any more starving tonight, but my bowl content volume seemed smaller than memory. I wish I’d been taking pictures back then so I had a visual comparison.

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Dan Dan Noodles w Fried Pork Ribs

Chefs Gallery Town Hall, June 2015: Dan Dan Noodles w Fried Pork Ribs ($16.90)

The previous time I came here, I wrote:

I absolutely loved my big bowl of Sichuan spinach noodles with thinly sliced beef and almost enough spiciness.

I remember the dining partner friend of that night thought I had a cold, because I was getting runny nose from the spicy Sichuan soup base. Tonight my opinion of the same dish changed: The noodles with thinly sliced beef looked smaller, wasn’t anywhere as spicy, and the rest was quite ordinary. But at least the green noodles still had good texture and were cooked right.

I wondered if my food heat tolerance and stomach size had gone up even further after a year, so I looked to the friend across to check how he was enjoying his food. He returned a slightly disappointed look; his dan dan noodles also didn’t live up to his past visits.

Did the food look similar to the menu pictures? Close. Value for money? Not bad. As good as I remembered from my two previous visits a year ago? Not quite. What happened, Chefs Gallery?

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