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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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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Everyone’s favourite Taiwanese dumpling place Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) opened yet another branch in Sydney. We previously visited one in Hong Kong, and later at Central Park after discovering for the first time that the franchise existed in Australia (yeah, we know). We’d been talking about trying this new Westfield Miranda branch, and tonight was finally the night. It’s dumpling time!

Guarded by their giant dumpling head mascot, the entrance to the two-level restaurant is on level 2 of the Westfield mall. Even though most of the shops around it were already closed, at 6 pm this Saturday night, quite a few tables were already occupied by couples, families and groups, and the place only got busier as the night progressed. We sat upstairs and after going through the same full menu as the one we got from Central Park, handed the waiter our paper order form.

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Dan Dan Noodles

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Dan Dan Noodles ($11.80)

The food didn’t take very long, and first up was our Dan Dan Noodles ($11.80). Traditional Sichuan dan dan noodles are meant to be numbingly spicy; while the texture of the one we got tonight was great, all we could taste from the noodles was peanut sauce, which I didn’t even realise was a common ingredient for certain variations of the dish. Richard quipped that this is the “Shire version” for you (and it’s okay for him to say that because he’s from there tongue ); whatever this is, it had to be one of the more disappointing soup base I’ve tried yet.

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Prawns with Pineapple

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Prawns with Pineapple ($22.80)

Prawns with Pineapple ($22.80) was very mayonnaise-y and therefore delicious because anything covered in mayonnaise is delicious, but it could really use far less of the sauce. I also didn’t quite taste the pineapple in it.

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons ($10.80)

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Xiao Long Bao

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Xiao Long Bao ($12.80 for 8 pieces)

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Vegetable and Pork Jiaozi

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Vegetable and Pork Jiao Zi ($10.80)

Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons ($10.80), Xiao Long Boa ($12.80 for 8 pieces), and Vegetable & Pork Jiao Zi ($10.80) are pretty much our staple order. They initially sent us the non-spicy version of the wontons, but quickly fixed it after we pointed out the error. This time, the broth was at least detectably spicy, and all the dumplings lived up to my expectations.

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Crispy Fried Chicken with Chilli

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Crispy Fried Chicken with Chilli ($16.80)

After the zero-heat dan dan noodles and slightly spicy wontons, it really was a gamble whether the Crispy Fried Chicken with Chilli ($16.80) would be hot enough. Not for me (but nothing is), but the deep fried chicken was moderately crispy and appropriately savoury. I got my chilli kick out of chewing on a pepper — literally.

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Chocolate Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice Cream

Din Tai Fung Miranda: Black Sesame Bun Inside

Steamed Mini Black Sesame Bun (inside)

Comparing to Central Park, Richard and I both independently agreed that our dinner tonight at the Westfield Miranda branch was the better experience. I would quite happily return, but probably not to order any of the Shire-spicy noodles again. wink

Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

We only had half an hour before the performance at the Sydney Opera House and I still needed to pick up our tickets from the box office. We needed food now, right now! We headed straight for the Opera Kitchen at the lower concourse of the iconic concert hall.

The Kitchen serves a variety of food and cuisines including seafood, burgers, Japanese and… Is that Asian dumplings on the menu? Yes! Dumplings! One of my favourite foods! We ordered, sat near the water outside the cover and waited for our food. The view wasn’t as nice as it would have been because it’s been gloomy and slightly rainy the whole day, reminiscent of our first date at the Opera House. Our food arrived very quickly.

Opera Kitchen: Our Tower of Dumplings

Opera Kitchen: Our Tower of Dumplings!

I didn’t mention how much food we ordered despite being short on time, did I? The server with our order walked by us the first time, doubtful that this amount of food could possibly only be for two, and our tower of bamboo steamer baskets attracted attention from diners nearby. Oh you amateurs. tongue Well, there were only three dumplings in each so it’s not really a lot of food. Not even for the fact that I ate two dumplings for every one Richard ate. Nope.

But, the food! We worked our way down the tower. First layer, steamed barbecue duck buns ($5 each)!

Opera Kitchen: BBQ Duck Bun

Opera Kitchen: BBQ Duck Bun ($5 each)

The steamed buns were as big as the bamboo basket! I couldn’t tell that it was in fact duck because it tasted just like the typical barbecue pork bun, but I still enjoyed it. Next!

Opera Kitchen: Prawn Dumplings

Opera Kitchen: Prawn Dumplings ($12 for 3 pieces)

Prawn dumplings ($12 for 3 pieces), also known as har gow, also big! I loved the chopped up prawn filling and thought the wrappers were very decent. Next!

Opera Kitchen: Pork Dumplings

Opera Kitchen: Pork Dumplings ($12 for 3 pieces)

Pork dumplings ($12 for 3 pieces), shaped similarly to a xiao long bao but without the soup inside. Just yum and nothing too out of the ordinary. Next!

Opera Kitchen: Scallop and Prawn Dumplings

Opera Kitchen: Scallop and Prawn Dumplings ($12.5 for 3 pieces)

Scallop and prawn dumplings ($12.50 for 3 pieces). The chunks of scallops and prawns made the perfect pairing as a dumpling filling. This was Richard’s favourite; it’s a toss-up between this or the prawn alone for me.

Opera Kitchen: Our Bill

Opera Kitchen: Our Bill

In addition to the extra little takeaway containers of sauce and chilli they gave us, all the dumplings came with a little soy sauce at the bottom that leaked through the baskets when we took them off one by one. It didn’t bother me as much tonight because the table was already wet from the rain.

If the performance wasn’t starting soon, I could have eaten another round or two of these expensive little bundles of deliciousness that always make me thirsty after. The total came out to a pricey $93 for our tower of food plus one drink. I hope it’s not raining the next time we’re in the area!

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Three months later, another contractor staff is leaving us for another country and we had another farewell lunch at Club Redfern. It’s still Billy’s Kitchen serving Chinese food there, but they’re clearly a lot more organised this time round, with digital menu boards set up and all (which all have the text “meal contains m.s.g” printed on them; I guess they’re at least honest about it).

Our table of 8 ordered Chicken Schnitzel ($9.90), Sweet and Sour Chicken ($9.90), T-Bone Steak ($12.50), and Grilled Fish ($11.50) at the counter. The dishes came in that order after 15-20 minutes or so, and were delivered to us directly by a waitstaff.

Billy's Chinese Kitchen, Club Redfern: Chicken Schnitzel

Billy’s Chinese Kitchen, Club Redfern: Chicken Schnitzel ($9.90)

The Chicken Schnitzel is finally available and the Grilled Fish looked more like it was grilled this time; food arrived quickly and serving size is still good especially for the price. I know we’ll always be returning to Club Redfern as a tradition, so I’m glad to see the Kitchen’s improvement.

Billy's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I love dumplings. If there were no health repercussions, I could quite possibly literally eat hundreds of steamed or boiled dumplings every day. During our July trip in Hong Kong, we went to a dumpling place, Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), to discover that they had branches in Sydney. We decided that since I love dumplings so much and Richard also really liked a chicken dish there, Din Tai Fung back in Sydney would make quite a nice half-year anniversary dinner for us.

It’s finally our anniversary night. We researched ahead to find the best Sydney branch for us, all the while wondering how neither of us could have not heard of this famous dumpling place. There are 6 Sydney branches at the time of writing, but only George Street (CBD) and Central Park seemed to have the full menu available. We were also told that the George Street branch was always super packed, so Din Tai Fung, Central Park dinner for us it was!

I was slightly worried about not being able to get a table at the Central Park branch in the beginning what with it being so close to a university, but then I remembered that it’s Friday today and students never go to classes on Fridays. Yep. Nice and empty at 6 pm. A staff quickly attended to us, shielded my jacket and handbag (Wait, exactly how messy is this going to be?) and took our order.

We got the Drunken Chicken ($10.80), Shrimp and Pork Wonton ($10.80), Taiwanese Specialty Fried Pork Chop ($10.80), Xiao Long Bao (8 pieces for $12.80), Shrimp and Pork Jiao Ze ($11.80) and Pork Buns (2 for $5.50). We looked up and down but none of the chicken dishes seemed to be the one Richard liked from the Hong Kong branch. Oh well.

Din Tai Fung, Central Park

Din Tai Fung, Central Park: Xiao Long Bao (top left), Taiwanese Fried Pork Chop (middle top), Drunken Chicken (middle bottom), Shrimp and Pork Wonton (bottom left)

The dishes came quickly; the portions were quite small but Richard wasn’t starving. Being such a dumpling lover, it wasn’t surprising that my favourites were the xiao long bao and wontons. The rest of the dishes was mostly good, too; the drunken chicken was tender and the jiao ze weren’t greasy. The very thin fried pork chop didn’t quite taste like pork to us, though, and had an interesting spice on it, but I guess the keywords were “Taiwanese Specialty”. I wasn’t anywhere full after the first round and was going to order more, but we got very thirsty very quickly and I just wanted to drink water.

I love dumplings, and I can’t really fault Din Tai Fung at Central Park, but there must be MSG-free alternatives other than my ugly homemade ones out there!

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Dear Visitor! You are currently viewing a food blog entry written in the old “been there” style, likely an imageless compilation post. Newer entries are more detailed and have delicious photos, too! These restaurants deserve a proper post, but here’s the old entry, anyway!

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Possibly the last compilation post, for the months of July and August 2014, of other restaurants that didn’t make it into their own entry because I didn’t take pictures or have too much to say!

Burgerlicious, Newtown

Burgerlicious on Urbanspoon 7 July 2014: We dragged the boys out after work to Newtown for a movie because I’ve been raving about our Dendy movie experience. For a quick dinner before it, we decided to grab burgers from Burgerlicious nearby. It was a small place but an empty early Monday night (we’re the only table there), so we got our burgers very quickly. I ordered and really enjoyed my Parezian that came with nicely grilled Angus beef, camembert cheese, mustard, sour cream and veggies all stacked inside. The others loved their burgers with their big chips or salad on the side plus a drink as well. The burgers average to less than $10 each and a bit more for the set. Delicious and reasonably priced.

The Wine Room, Gymea

The Wine Room on Urbanspoon 9 August 2014: Another revisit since the restaurant name change; this time we noticed they have decided to become a “piano bar restaurant”. We didn’t book a table but was lucky enough to get the last non-reserved table right next to the white grand piano that wasn’t there before. The restaurant actually felt a bit cramped with the piano there. I got the 250g eye fillet and Richard the 400g T-bone. Both steaks were very decent, but the place quickly got too noisy as people flooded in and tried to talk over the live music that started later. The pianist probably overheard my talking about playing musical instruments myself, because as we were leaving, he pulled me aside and chatted with me about music. It was another noisy but otherwise pleasant night at the Wine Room.

King Wan, Tradies Caringbah

King Wan on Urbanspoon 17 August 2014: We didn’t intend to dine out tonight but was treated to an impromptu dinner at King Wan. The three of us got the fried Chicken Dim Sim ($6.40), Beef Fillet in Szechuan Style ($18.80), Pork Ribs in Plum Sauce ($18.80), Roast Duck ($18.80) plus two servings of steamed white rice ($3 each). The beef fillet menu item had the word “(Hot)” written after it. Such lies; it was not hot whatsoever. The roast duck was pretty good though and was the best out of the three. If you visit King Wan at Tradies Caringbah, get the roast duck.

Chophouse, Sydney CBD

Chophouse on Urbanspoon 18 August 2014: We knew meat would go well with the crowd so that easily became tonight’s group dinner. It was a rainy Monday night but the place was still quite busy. We struggled to read the menu because our booth was very dimly lit, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a feast. For the table we got the blowtorched swordfish belly, garlic prawns, scallops, mixed leaves and roasted carrots as entrees to share, and I got the 450g pasture-fed T-bone. For dessert, Richard and I shared the cheese board. I absolutely loved my perfect medium rare steak and the swordfish belly. There were only 3 scallops so I decided to give that up and let the boys enjoy that, and enjoy they did. Of the cheese board, we liked the fourme d’ambert aoc (blue cheese from cow milk) and meli melo (hard cheese from goat and sheep milk), but didn’t like the very strong Australian woodside edith ash (goat’s milk) at all. The bill came out to $430.55 for four so it wasn’t a cheap meal, but it was a highly enjoyable dinner and night.

A lot not pictured, but foods ticked off the list for this trip, in alphabetical order:

Savoury:

  • Curry fishballs (咖哩魚蛋)
  • Fried dumpling (鍋貼)
  • Pork chop bun (豬扒包)
  • Seafood, Hong Kong style (海鮮)
  • Siu mei, Hong Kong style roast meat (燒味)
  • Steamed meat and vegetable bun (菜肉包)

Sweet:

  • Egg tart (蛋撻)
  • Egg waffles (雞蛋仔)
  • French toast, Hong Kong style (西多士)
  • Pineapple bun with a huge slab of butter in the middle (菠蘿油)

Logged eateries tried in Hong Kong, in alphabetical order:

  • Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)
  • Honeymoon Dessert (滿記甜品)
  • McDonald’s (麥當勞)
  • New Tak Kee Seafood Restaurant (新德記漁村海鮮酒家)
  • Pizza Hut (必勝客)
  • Sun Yuen Hing Kee (新園興記燒臘飯店)
  • Super Star Seafood Restaurant (鴻星海鮮酒家)
  • tea cafes (茶餐廳)

Macca’s and Pizza Hut totally count. tongue

We went back to Club Redfern again for another company farewell lunch — Janet the contractor software engineer, whom I quite admired, is leaving the country. I expected to see the old dining place there, and was sure that this time, unlike the last two times (1st, 2nd), I would maybe be able to somehow perhaps grab the halloumi salad that has disappeared from their printed menu.

They changed the kitchen entirely. There’s now a Billy’s Kitchen at Club Redfern, serving Chinese food.

Pooyan and I both wanted to try the “chef speciality” Sizzling Beef, but when we went to order at the counter, they told us they’re still setting up the place and didn’t have vents for heavy smoke yet. Okay, well, an order of the Grilled Fish then please.

Billy's Chinese Kitchen, Club Redfern

Billy’s Chinese Kitchen, Club Redfern: Grilled Fish (foreground) and Chicken & Vegetables (background)

The fish was not grilled; the thin slices of white fish was heavily covered in oil and definitely fried. Janet ordered the Honey Chicken. She asked the staff if there’s vegetables in the dish, and somehow due to miscommunication, the dish ended up being a Chicken & Vegetables instead. Ali tried to get the Chicken Schnitzel, but they told him it wasn’t available and to stick to the Chinese menu. A couple of other guys ordered steak. It took a long while to get to the table, and apparently the steaks were overcooked and tasted like rubber.

The serving size was good especially for the price averaging at $10 a dish, but overall, the lunch was really quite disappointing. I hope it’s only because they’re still setting up the new place; but if we ever return next time, I’ll really have to remember to get the Chinese dishes.

Billy's Kitchen on Urbanspoon