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
Key
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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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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Gelato time! We came to Devine Gelato on three nights and managed to try all but a couple of flavours, as documented in this post with an embarrassing amount of gelato photos from the same place! They also have another shop (main shop?) just a two-minute walk away on Aplin Street, but it was the one on the Esplanade that we visited on all nights.

The cold treat is served in the typical choice of a waffle cone or a cup: one scoop is $4.80; two scoops $5.80; three scoops $6.80. Ali had a one-scoop cone on the night he joined us while Richard had the two-scoop cup, so I had no choice but to have three scoops on all nights in order to produce a more comprehensive write-up. Oh, the sacrifices I make for this blog!

Devine Gelato, Cairns: 14 Flavours

Devine Gelato, Cairns: 14 Flavours

The 14 flavours available when we visited, in alphabetical order, were: After Dinner Mint, Boysenberry, Coconut, Lemon Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Lindt Chocolate, Mandarin Sorbet, Mango Sorbet, Orange Chocolate Cookie, Passion Cream, Pistachio, Strawberry, Vanilla, and White Chocolate.

We had them like this:

Flavours Comments

Pistachio, Passion Cream

Devine Gelato, Cairns There wasn’t a hazelnut flavour available so Richard grabbed the next closest thing, the Pistachio. The flavour was quite subtle.

Orange Chocolate Cookie, After Dinner Mint, Boysenberry

Devine Gelato, Cairns After Dinner Mint and Orange Chocolate Cookie both had delicious crunchy chocolate bits inside. Get this combination if you are after a sweet milk chocolatey 2-scoop!

Lindt Chocolate, Coconut, Mandarin Sorbet

Devine Gelato, Cairns I didn’t think the original Lindt Excellence in its chocolate form was very special, so I also didn’t find the Lindt Chocolate flavour to be too different from other chocolate flavours. I really enjoyed Mandarin Sorbet, though, and am biased towards Coconut because I like coconut products.

Mandarin Sorbet, Lemon Sorbet

Devine Gelato, Cairns All their sorbet flavours are still gelato so they have the creamier texture. Lemon Sorbet tasted a little less creamy probably because of its tartness, which I still quite liked. Lime Sorbet was similar to Lemon Sorbet in texture and tartness, but in lime.

Devine Gelato, Cairns I expected Mango Sorbet to be like generic mango ice cream, but it was again more subtle in flavour and I liked the chunks of frozen mango pieces in it. Meanwhile, I only grabbed Strawberry because it’s one of the last few flavours I hadn’t tried, but it turned out to be surprisingly creamy! I think it would go quite well with Boysenberry and Passion Cream.

Mango Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Strawberry

We would have come back on the last night and I would have tried the last two flavours, but we’ve both put on too much weight since the beginning of the trip. Sorry, White Chocolate and Vanilla, I’m sure you were both wonderful flavours — given how Strawberry surprised me, Vanilla might actually not be boring! I guess I won’t find out until the next time I visit Cairns.

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I don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day with my own mum because I live overseas, but this year I get to do that with R mum, who prepared chicken casserole for dinner and apricot almond slice for dessert! I know, I know. It’s totally wrong of us to let her cook dinner on Mother’s Day, but she is the better cook. How about I don’t skip dessert tonight and have a big slice? It doesn’t work this way? tongue

She told me to take a picture of the casserole straight out of the oven as well, but when I turned back, somehow she was already in the middle of dishing up. Oh well!

The Purple Patisserie, Gymea

To celebrate Mother’s Day, Richard did buy little cakes for her from the Purple Patisserie. This was going to be a full standalone food blog post, but the staff got upset when I started to take photos in the shop for fear of competition, so I should respect them and not upload the one I had (since been deleted from my camera).

Once the staff realised that we were maybe not competition, she was helpful in offering suggestions of which of their sweet treats to get. A good half dozen of their small cakes were gluten free, some even dairy free, and there were also sausage rolls and quiche available. No cakes, but here, have a photo of their shopfront that I took a while back instead.

The Purple Patisserie, Gymea

The Purple Patisserie, Gymea (taken in Nov 2014 – the building in the background is mostly built now)

Purple Patisserie on Urbanspoon

We still had a bit of time before our comedy show tonight and I was predictably still hungry after the dinner. We randomly strolled down Enmore Road in the light rain looking for nothing in particular, and stumbled upon a little place called Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream.

“Turkish ice cream?” We asked each other.
“Probably just ice cream made with goat milk,” Richard said.

And that’s when we decided we should probably find out what the deal was about even though I’m not normally a dessert person, and I’m certainly far too superior for sugary treats.

Now that I’ve established my insecurities superiority… Hakiki on Enmore Road specialises in Turkish treats such as baklava and Turkish delights (which is as far as my knowledge in Turkish treats goes), and apparently only opened not even 2 weeks ago. We saw some very unusual ice cream flavours out of the total 14 on display. The more interesting ones include: Baklava, Grape Molasses and Tahini, Maras, Melon and Feta, Turkish Coffee, and Turkish Delight.

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: Ice Cream Flavours

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: 14 Flavours!

Yep. I just marked 43% of the flavours as “interesting”. There’s no way we would walk out of there without trying at least some of those tonight.

The staff told us their handmade Turkish ice cream (also known as dondurma) is made with goat milk (heh), cow milk, sugar and salep — the orchid root that gives the ice cream its stretchiness. Neither Richard and I could believe we’ve lived so many years without ever hearing about its existence. After sampling a few, we decided to get hazelnut (safe bet), tahini, Turkish coffee, and Maras out of the list. Richard got 2 scoops for $6, while I got 3 big scoops for $8!

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: Handmade Dondurma

And the ice cream did stretch, more for some flavours and less for the others; I had to twirl it around the spatula to eat it! It also doesn’t melt. My favourite flavour was the very subtle Maras (probably because I don’t have a sweet tooth), which is the base for the rest of the flavours as the staff told us. Richard really enjoyed his tahini ice cream as well and joked that he should request that flavour at other ice cream shops from now on.

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: Turkish Coffee

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: Turkish Coffee ($3)

After the ice cream, Richard grabbed a Turkish coffee ($3; no sugar). I’ve never tried it before so I had a small sip of the unfiltered drink. Mmm, gritty. Gritty but good.

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: 2-Scoop Cup

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream, Newtown: 2-Scoop Cup

There is still a slight novelty factor, but Hakiki is easily an instant favourite, and I will definitely return for more! I hope that when they become immensely popular, the staff would still stay super warm and friendly like they were tonight. smile

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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

Henley’s Wholefoods serves paleo-friendly foods. I don’t actively follow the lifestyle, but their core principle with keywords like “choice”, “nutrient-dense” and “sustainable” is right up my alley, so it’s only appropriate that I selected the recently opened branch in Alexandria near my workplace as the venue for the lunch meetup with the Zomato Sydney Community Managers today!

The small cafe on Mitchell Road has a handful of tables parked along the walls inside, and outdoor seating for bigger groups. Unfortunately, because of the rain, we had to settle for the indoor table meant for two with an extra chair popped next to it. I ordered the original Cocowhip ($6) and a long black ($3.5); the community managers got the Grain Waves with Poached Chicken ($16) and Pumpkin Hazelnut Meal Bread ($14) for their lunch. Our food arrived shortly after the order.

Henley's Wholefoods Alexandria: CocoWhip Original

Henley’s Wholefoods Alexandria: CocoWhip – Original ($6)

I love all things coconut! Disappointingly, my gluten- and dairy-free CocoWhip didn’t taste quite as coconutty as I’d hoped, but it definitely didn’t have any added sugar in it. This would probably make quite a nice treat on a hot day — just eat it as soon as it’s served, because mine deflated very quickly while I waited for the others’ food to arrive.

Henley's Wholefoods Alexandria: Grain Waves with Poached Chicken

Henley’s Wholefoods Alexandria: Grain Waves with Poached Chicken ($16)

Grain Waves with Poached Chicken comes in two parts: one dish for the grains (brown rice, quinoa and millet), accompanied by lentils, vegetables and garnishes; and the other for the added protein. I don’t think this is strictly a paleo dish, though, what with its “anti-nutrient” ingredients.

Henley's Wholefoods Alexandria: Pumpkin Hazelnut Meal Bread

Henley’s Wholefoods Alexandria: Pumpkin Hazelnut Meal Bread ($14)

The pumpkin hazelnut meal bread, on the other hand, has every ingredient both the paleo community and I would approve. It doesn’t look like a huge plate, but the nut meal content plus the stack of smoked salmon and zucchini ribbons on top make it a rich and filling dish; a good option for someone who prefers a heavier lunch. If it had a few more slices and the cafe was opened beyond 4 pm, I could see myself ordering it for dinner.

Henley's Wholefoods Alexandria: Our Table

Henley’s Wholefoods Alexandria: My CocoWhip was starting to deflate by the time the others’ food arrived

Henley’s Wholefoods at Alexandria has a selection of vegetarian, vegan and paleo-friendly menu items that allow for mixing-and-matching, great for anyone with those dietary restrictions or pursuits. I thought it was a bit pricey for its smallish serving size, but health comes at a cost, I guess! If I return, I would be quite interested in trying the grass fed beef burger or one of their eggy breakfasts.

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Half-year felt like only a while ago and we’re already celebrating our first anniversary. Richard took me to another feast — or Feast at Sheraton on the Park in the CBD, an international seafood buffet place that has been on my wishlist for a while. Vickie, seafood and dinner buffet? Hell yes!

We had a 6 pm booking and got a table fairly close to the food with comfortable space around. It’s near Chinese New Year so the place had appropriate decor and a fortune cookie for every diner on the table. Too many words! Let’s get straight to the food!

Seafood

Seafood! Meant to be the highlight of the buffet, I believe, and it was… slightly disappointing.

Feast Buffet: Seafood

Feast Buffet: Seafood

I loved the giant platter of smoked salmon, but the other seafood wasn’t overly exciting. The oysters tasted fresh but were small in size, and the crabs were dry. I didn’t get seafood in the beginning like everyone else who flocked to the area first thing, though, so what I managed to grab might just have been undesirable leftover bits.

Feast Buffet: Smoked Salmon

Feast Buffet: Now that’s a Vickie-sized platter of smoked salmon

Antipasti

Feast Buffet: Bread

Feast Buffet: Bread

A huge selection of antipasto dishes with various breads, cheeses, cold cuts, salads, olives, dips, spreads… I had some cheese (brie and blue, yum!) and cured meats. Nothing much to complain here, but also nothing much to write home about.

Feast Buffet: Cheese

Feast Buffet: Cheese

Hot Dishes

The hot dishes were… all right but not overly memorable. Enough variations here, and my favourite was actually the roasted pumpkin. Hey, I cook; I know how long it takes to roast that thing properly. Worth it even though the serving tongs were super sticky. tongue

Feast Buffet: Hot Dishes

Feast Buffet: Couscous and braised lamb

Pork crackling was also available, which all looked exciting until the actual bite. It wasn’t crispy and there was no crackling. I ended up having pork skin uncomfortably stuck in my teeth. Richard and I both agreed that the dish was a massive letdown.

Carvery and Asian

Feast Buffet: Carvery

Feast Buffet: Carvery

The staff at the carvery station was very friendly, and I tried and enjoyed a piece of every roast (beef, lamb, turkey). Dim sum was also secretly served in this staffed area with meat buns, siumai (“dim sum”) and dumplings hidden in steamed baskets behind the counters. Wish it was a self-served like the pizzas also available near that area.

Feast Buffet: Pizza

Feast Buffet: Pizza

Dessert

Feast Buffet: Dessert Plate

Feast Buffet: My first dessert plate

Dessert was… all right. There were loads of choices of sweet foods here, but I thought some of the dessert servings were a tad on the large side and most far too sweet — a shame, because the creme brulee was so pretty, too.

Overall

As I sit down to prepare the entry, I noticed that while I generally enjoyed the food and thought the service was absolutely excellent throughout, I seemed to have more to critique than praise. The original price was $99 per person for the Saturday night, but with our Starwood Preferred Guest 15% discount it came down to around $84. Still not the cheapest buffet, but for the good range of food, environment and service, I think it’s worth it. Now please fix the pork crackling!

First Anniversary at Feast

The humans. Check out that full belly action of mine!

Feast - a world of flavour on Urbanspoon

The season of overeating continues! Following our gluttonous dinner the previous night, I took the afternoon off work today and joined Richard’s company for their end-of-year lunch. We went to Papi Chulo at Manly, which immediately gave away which of Richard’s colleagues’ pick it was. tongue

We got the 2 pm table, but arrived early and were seated at the bar at first. We casually noted that the staff made a distinction between patrons on their first visits and repeats. It was our first, which might have explained our nice table on the side overlooking the busy harbour once the table was ready and we were properly seated.

Full gallery of our cocktails and set menu at Papi Chulo:

We got the set menu for $65 per person. The starters were pea guacamole with tortilla chips, kingfish ceviche tostada, roast cauliflower, smoked hot wings (yum!), and jumbo king prawns. Everything on the set menu was to be shared.

Papi Chulo: BBQ Platter

Papi Chulo: BBQ Platter (smoked lamb ribs, wagyu brisket, pulled pork, pork belly, soft bread)

But of course the thing I had been waiting for was the main barbecue platter with lamb ribs, wagyu brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly! My favourite from the platter was the leaner pulled pork shoulder; the rest of the meat literally had more fat than meat on them and was quickly devoured. We ate one bread (meant for the pulled pork) from the platter out of politeness.

Papi Chulo: Mango Surprise

Papi Chulo: #Chrishogarth Mango Surprise

It wasn’t over yet; there’s dessert! The warm chocolate chip cookie with butterscotch sauce and vanilla malt ice-cream was too sweet for my liking (I don’t have a sweet tooth), but I quite enjoyed the #Chrishogarth Mango Surprise. I don’t know who #Chrishogarth was and why his parents were cruel enough to put a hash in his name, but the dessert had the perfect mango and coconut flavour combination, and that I approve. I thought it was a bit awkward for the five of us to share four plates of dessert with ice-cream atop, though.

The set menu was good value for $65 a head and allowed us to try a little bit of everything. I’m not desperate for a return, but if artery-clogging super fatty barbecue meat is your thing, I would recommend Papi Chulo.

Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon

The season of overeating begins! First up is our dinner tonight with the boys at Criniti’s Italian Darling Harbour before we break for the holidays — just in time before it becomes impossible to book a table anywhere!

I had a peek at the online menu beforehand and I’m glad I did, because it’s epic and would have taken me forever to go through and make a decision on the spot. I thought the paper menu would come in a million pages, but it didn’t; it was just very tall.

Full gallery of our dinner at Criniti’s, Darling Harbour:

It’s an early Wednesday night and at that hour, the place was still fairly quiet in terms of business, but also the absolute opposite because the restaurant decided to blast music at full volume. It baffled us. Do people order more food in loud noises, even though the waitstaff could barely hear their orders? Was it so that diners couldn’t chat with one another, so they would finish their food duly and not overstay? What purpose does the loud music serve?

I could barely hear myself think, but we eventually did make up our mind. We took the advice of our very helpful waitress (once we could make out what she was saying over the music) and ordered the antipasto sampler (bigger servings than individual starters), a few other starters not covered in the sampler, a bottle of merlot for the table, and I went for the lasagne ($23.9 +6.9 to main size). Oh yes.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Starter: Mozzarella & Halloumi

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Starter: Mozzarella & Halloumi ($19.9)

The woodfired buffalo mozzarella and halloumi plate was a common starter choice among us, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, there was a chilli logo next to the menu item and my seasoned tongue detected zero of it, but I’ve learnt to not expect any heat from Italian dishes. We all enjoyed the rest of the entrees as well, with the exception of the bread and zucchini flowers that came in the antipasto sampler — the boys who tried the bread said it was quite possibly the toughest and worst bread ever; I thought the mascarpone-filled zucchini flowers were very bland.

The main dishes came a while after we finished our entrees.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Pasta: Lasagne Al Forno

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Pasta: Lasagne Al Forno ($23.9 +6.9 to main size)

I’ve had many negative experiences with lasagne from Italian restaurants (I still keep ordering the dish, yes). This veal lasagne didn’t look much, but I loved the thick, rich ragu.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Pizza: Suprema (Traditional)

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Pizza: Suprema – Traditional ($30)

When Yuzhong’s pizza arrived, I looked over with envy and kicked myself for not ordering this myself — until I stole he let me try a slice. The pizza base was soggy and wasn’t as good as its appearance; I much preferred my lasagne. I also tried Richard’s Rigatoni Reggini ($25.9 +6.9 main), one of those pasta dishes with a chilli icon. Richard found one slice of chilli in it. Yep. Italian food and chilli.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Dessert: Ricotta Cake

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Dessert: Ricotta Cake ($13)

Dessert! I got the cinnamon-y baked ricotta cheesecake ($13), which was deliciously light but creamy — exactly what I was after tonight! Richard’s zeppole (Italian doughnuts) ($13) with hazelnut sauce looked quite deadly.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Dessert: Zeppole

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Dessert: Zeppole ($13)

Overall, I rather enjoyed the night. Advice for new diners, though? Read the menu beforehand and unless you enjoy being blasted with loud music, perhaps ask to sit outside!

See you for more overeating next year, boys!

Criniti's Darling Harbour Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon