Food and Catering at Pullman Cairns International

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We stayed at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel for the duration of my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, and for the week we had various foods from the hotel restaurant and catering, starting every day with a delicious breakfast at the buffet!

Buffet Breakfast

I absolutely loved the breakfast buffet, and so when we extended our stay, we got breakfast with our room extension as well. Most breakfast items you could think of are available here, including even Chinese congee and Japanese miso soup.

There is an egg station in the middle where a staff helps cook eggs to your liking. I didn’t try that because there’s often a queue, and I was quite happy with their buffet egg options — fried available on all days and scrambled in different texture on different days.

Conference Catering

We had the hotel catering for the conference, and the food quality was exceptional. There were different foods on the three days for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, with hot foods, cold foods, finger foods, desserts, fruits, and some vegetarian and gluten free options available.

The only annoying thing was how efficient they were at clearing everything as soon as another session of talks started. What were we the exhibitors meant to eat and drink when we actually had free time? But seriously, best conference food ever.

Conference Dinners (Reception and Gala)

We had a light, buffet style reception dinner on the first night by the pooldeck. There were salads, 5 or 6 hot dishes such as rump steak (perfect pink), sausages and potatoes, and desserts (panna cotta, chocolate mousse cake, lemon curd tart and mini pavlova) that even appealed to someone without a sweet tooth like me. No pictures because it was quite dark at the event, and I didn’t want to risk dropping my phone into the pool.

The conference dinner in the Grand Ballroom on the Saturday night was $135 per person, and most conference delegates, sponsors and guests attended the event. The food quality was decent, but the quantity simply couldn’t possibly satisfy me. There was also live band entertainment that also wasn’t my thing (wrong era, wrong genre, volume too high). I guess this dinner was more about the social than the meal itself.

Overall, I’m very happy with the food at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel. It’s definitely a choice if you want to impress and for the most part had made work more pleasant for me.

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Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

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We’d been eyeing this yakiniku place since the first day, but thought it would be too heavy a dinner after our daily breakfast buffet and lunch. Today we’d been out snorkelling for a couple of hours, and that sort of maybe justifies eating yakiniku? Yes? Yes!

I already told you Orchid Plaza was very much little Japan/Asia when we first came here, so it didn’t completely surprise me when the Japanese staff spoke Japanese to the Asian me when we walked in to Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar upstairs. We were told that the charcoal grill, as opposed to electric, cost an extra $5, but if you’re doing yakiniku, you ought to do it right!

We were the only ones having the barbecue this Tuesday night and had the whole yakiniku section to ourselves. There were actually barely any diners at the large restaurant tonight. I wonder if they survive by catering for Japanese tour groups or if this was just one of the rarer quieter nights.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Charcoal grill is $5 extra

Our niku to be yaki-ed gradually appeared after our charcoal grill and drinks!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Tongue ($9)

We expected the beef tongue to come in the round cut as the photo on the menu, but otherwise we had nothing to complain about.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Harami ($7)

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Beef Ribs ($7)

The beef harami (meat around diaphragm) and beef ribs have the same seasoning that we both really loved, and I didn’t mind that the latter weren’t as fatty as they were on the menu photo. You could also get ribs on the bone for the same price of $7.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Pork Neck

Speaking of fatty? Pork neck! We knew this was the one that would start a fire on the grill. I consumed it all without guilt because fat is back!

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Squid ($8)

The last item we ordered was the squid. Richard, my grill master for the night, knew not to overcook this (or everything else for that matter), but the squid was unfortunately rather disappointing in flavour. Richard thought they could do more with the seasoning than what we could taste as just the soy sauce. I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m inclined to agree.

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table

Riki Yakiniku, Cairns: Our Table

I enjoyed the food and the quiet environment (probably only for tonight), but when we checked the bill, we discovered that the small pot of green tea was $2, not free. Oi, what’s up with that? I’m going to ask if green tea is free at all Japanese restaurants from now on. #cheapskate

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The Raw Prawn, Cairns

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Another dinner decision, this time we went to the Raw Prawn, again on the Esplanade, for some seafood. We briefly contemplated the main menu but decided to stick to the two-course set dinner, where for $35, you get a choice among:

  • 1 entree and 1 main
  • 1 main and 1 dessert
  • 1 entree and 1 dessert

Sounds like a deal!

We sat outside and both opted for the entree-main combination, because we would be having dessert at a gelato place that we’d been going to for the trip. The entrees took 10 minutes after order and no time to devour, and the mains quickly followed.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Prawn & Avocado Salad (Entree)

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Prawn & Avocado Salad (Entree)

With the place named the Raw Prawn, I guess it’s only appropriate for Richard to choose prawns for his entree, and more prawns for the main! His entree was prawns (not raw) with an avocado salsa on a bed of salad and blobs of cocktail sauce on the side.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chargrilled Prawns (main)

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chargrilled Prawns (main)

His main was chargrilled shelled prawns with a mango dip, more salad and croutons. Yum, but I reckon peeling prawns was too much work for me, so I had something easier.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chicken Skewers (Entree)

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Chicken Skewers (Entree)

For my entree, I got the chicken skewers, which appeared as 4 skewers of marinated chicken thigh pieces with bok choy. The menu said the barbecue sauce was Asian inspired, which I think they meant there’s soy sauce in it, but I could be wrong.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Cajun Barramundi (main)

The Raw Prawn, Cairns: Cajun Barramundi (main)

My main was the Cajun spiced barramundi fillets sitting atop a garden salad. Cairns restaurants seem to have a thing with heavily drenching their salads in dressing, as happened with this salad, Richard’s main, as well as my other one from another place. I did like the lemon butter dressing on my dish, and the Cajun seasoning was very flavoursome.

Quite enjoyed the light meal. I noticed they serve kangaroo and crocodile here as well. If I didn’t feel like seafood, I would probably have tried those to see if they could manage to cook them right.

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Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

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Work conference is finally over and holiday officially begins! We decided to grab a super light lunch that I really didn’t need after the hotel breakfast buffet, and thought this sushi train place on the second floor of Orchid Plaza would be a good one to try. Reason?

  1. I eat a lot and normally without a giant breakfast beforehand, sushi trains could cost a fortune.
  2. The maximum price of a plate is $3 at Sushi Express, clearly advertised from the outside!

Seriously, you have no idea how many times we’ve walked away from other sushi train places because we don’t know how much we might end up spending. (Alternatively, I could start training myself to eat like a normal person again.) (Hahaha nah.)

At Sunday a little after 1:30 pm, there were a few diners at the small place, a couple of chefs working in the middle, and all of one staff handling reception, register, waiting and clearing of tables. We very quickly discovered that sushi trains are only easy for the chefs and diners, but horribly inconvenient for the lone waitstaff who can’t walk in between. Once we’re seated and hassled her for our water and hot green tea, we waited for the sushi to appear on the conveyor belt.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Sushi Train

Sushi Express, Cairns: The sushi train is actually a train!

Conveyor belt, or a train track! The sushi train at Sushi Express is led by a toy train engine, which I thought was a very cute idea and wondered briefly why other places didn’t do this. Not only does the engine run quite fast so you have to wait for the whole train to come back if you missed it the first time, while we were there, someone had also managed to derail and detach the last carriage. I see now: all it takes is one clumsy / naughty / malicious person and you could lose an entire train of food — a train wreck! That’s why.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll

Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll

Another complaint I have with sushi trains in general, also experienced a little here at Sushi Express, is their often lack of simpler sushi that I prefer. I did find a precious salmon nigiri among the deep fried and mayonnaise covered items!

Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri

Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri

Although I’m pretty sure customers could order their food directly here as the lady next to me did.

It was only a short stay and we spent $12 for the 4 plates here. A last problem I thought Sushi Express has: as pretentious as this sounds, I think they could change their plate choice; the deep-coloured plates really made the food look dull in comparison and the Chinese theme just looked so out of place.

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Devine Gelato, Cairns

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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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La Pizza Trattoria, Cairns

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This was the only free night for the colleague and good friend who travelled to Cairns solely for work, so we made him the third wheel again and went out in town for a dinner together. We decided to scout out the various eateries on the Esplanade that we had in mind before committing (dinner is serious business), and we found the place with the vibe we didn’t know we were looking for: La Pizza’s intoxicating scent of freshly baked pizza!

We’ve been getting a bit of rain but it’s all covered outdoor seating here. This Friday night was a busy night (I’ve actually lost sense of what day of the week it was because the work conference runs all the way to the weekend).

La Pizza allows pizza customisation including half/half, removing toppings or adding for extra, which was convenient as the friend didn’t want pineapple on his. We had to wait a good 40 minutes for our food, but with an open kitchen of the three chefs working non-stop in full view, you could hardly get angry.

La Pizza, Cairns: Open Kitchen

La Pizza, Cairns: Open Kitchen

There are three sizes available for all pizzas: small ($11-15), medium ($15-20), and large ($19-25). I got the Mexicana that came with salami and jalapeno on a nice thin base — in the only acceptable size, large ($22), of course. Richard got a medium Romano with prosciutto and rocket ($20), while Ali got the Supreme sans pineapple of the same size ($19).

The best part of the pizzas? The tomato sauce! Okay, I thought the pizza was omg yum get in my belly; Richard was the one who pointed out what made them especially good. Yup. Dating the right guy.

La Pizza, Cairns: Mexicana Pizza (large)

La Pizza, Cairns: Mexicana Pizza (large $22)

Richard and I revisited the restaurant a few days later on the Monday night. We’d intended to try the other Italian place across the road, but it’s closed on Mondays. And we did enjoy our first visit here.

Instead of pizza, this time we ordered pasta dishes. The base is a choice between fettuccine or penne, and Richard picked the Fettuccine Carbonara ($24). I went for the lasagne ($24), which, based on experience, could be a bit of a gamble of a restaurant order.

La Pizza, Cairns: Lasagna al Forno

La Pizza, Cairns: Lasagna al Forno ($24)

It was later into a less busy night so the wait was about half of what it was on the first night. The lasagne was also very much yum get in my belly and came with a side serving of salad covered in a generous amount of salad dressing. If I didn’t particularly feel like ragu, though, I think I would choose the pizza again. Makes sense; the place is called “La Pizza”, after all. smile

So far the food in Cairns has been unexpectedly good. Can’t wait for the next meal!

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Corea Corea, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

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Off the flight in balmy Cairns, checked in at the hotel, set up work exhibition stuff, and we’re hungry! The three of us walked down to Orchid Plaza near the hotel for lunch, and in this more or less Little Japan/Asia of a small mall, a particular hot plate menu caught Richard’s attention.

Corea Corea Korean Cuisine, not to be mistaken for any other place named Corea Corea that has nothing to do with Korea, serves Korean cuisine. Richard and I both love spicy food, so I was very happy to see a menu that has a chilli icon next to literally half its items. We ordered a different dish each and a little while later, our sizzling hot Korean hot plates came sizzling.

Corea Corea, Cairns: Spicy Chicken Hot Plate

Corea Corea, Cairns: Spicy Chicken Hot Plate ($12.95)

Spicy barbecued chicken on a hot plate, barbecued right and served with white rice and shredded lettuce. The spicy level of this dish was not very detectable probably due to my super high tolerance. Don’t be fooled by this camera angle though, because there’s quite a lot of meat under the lettuce pile.

Corea Corea, Cairns: Barbecued Beef Hot Plate

Corea Corea, Cairns: Barbecued Beef Hot Plate ($11.95)

See, a hot plate could look like this when you spin it around. The barbecued beef is one of the non-spicy dishes, which might be why I enjoyed the chicken more. Many of the hot plate dishes also come in hot stone pot format for a few more dollars, with the barbecued beef pot and spicy chicken pot at $14.95 each.

Corea Corea, Cairns: Seafood Pancake

Corea Corea, Cairns: Seafood Pancake ($19.95)

Despite my preference for super spicy food, I ordered the seafood pancake that didn’t come with a chilli icon on the menu, and despite the lack of a chilli icon, the seafood pancake did come with some sliced chilli in it, but despite the sliced chilli, the giant pancake wasn’t actually spicy at all. This is probably a bit heavy for a lunch for the average person (note: Vickie is not an average person), but the accompanying soy dipping sauce balanced out the greasiness of the dish well. Worth the slightly longer wait than the other two!

Overall, Corea Corea offers quick hearty meals for a good price. The only way I think I could enjoy this meal more was if the Cairns’ winter was actually cold!

Korean seafood pancake, haemul pajeon (해물파전).

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Fruit Platter and Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF924

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QF924, Qantas Sydney-to-Cairns domestic 3-hour short-haul flight. I decided to play safe and continued to sign up for the fruit platter. I got my special meal before the others, as usual.

QF924 Flight Meal: Fruit Platter

QF924 Flight Meal: Fruit Platter… platter?

Not so much a platter but an apple and a banana in a box (and a soy milk that I never bother). I guess at least I got to eat before all the turbulence.

The normal flight breakfast was a choice between a tortilla and a cereal. Richard picked the scrambled egg and bacon tortilla.

QF924 Flight Meal: Scrambled Egg & Bacon Tortilla

QF924 Flight Meal: Scrambled Egg & Bacon Tortilla

Small but looked nice and handmade according to the box, but also quite chewy and stuck to Richard’s teeth.

They served a snack almost immediately after the first trays were cleared. I wondered why they bothered instead of doing both breakfast and snack in one go.

Our snack, the chocolate biscuits, looked like… Well.

Richard: Did you want to say “neatly wrapped poop”?

QF924 Flight Meal: Triple Chocolate Fudge (snack)

Neatly wrapped poop

Maybe.

Everything I didn’t eat looked more exciting (neatly wrapped poop is exciting), but I didn’t regret sticking to my two-ingredient special meal. Let’s see what they have for me on my return flight.

Mother’s Day 2015

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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)

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Sammy’s Restaurant, Gymea

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Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell whether it’s my overly strict and traumatising upbringing that influenced my views, or some parents just don’t parent. Your toddler won’t stop pointing and yelling at someone at the next table, you smile at him and let him continue through the night. Your toddler throws his dummy at someone else, you apologise to the person briefly but smile at your child. Your toddler deliberately smashes his plate of chips, you laugh and ask him lightheartedly why he would do that. One of your friends decides to lean in and tell your toddler how amazing he is.

Relevance to this entry? Well, for the big first half of tonight, we’re seated right next to a table consisting of just this little toddler guy who did all of the above but whom I shall not call a brat, with a mother or carer who did all the above spoiling but whom I shall not call a terrible parent, and her two fellow diners who laughed along but whom I shall not call enablers. For all I know, little guy here could have a disability and not just a product of poor parenting. I also continued to remind myself that any negative feelings I might feel in the beginning was probably out of the restaurant’s control.

Anyway! Sammy’s Gymea!

The Actual Part About Sammy’s Gymea

So I may not be a huge fan of the lethal garlic breath Lebanese cuisine tends to give me after, but when Richard told me that he and a mate, two full-grown men, with a healthy appetite after a long day of digging and paving struggled to finish the medium platter from Sammy’s, I knew it’s a meal for me! (Richard later theorised that they had loaded up on bread before the dishes arrived.)

We came here at 6 pm tonight the Saturday night, and was pretty surprised to find the place already packed, but had only one waitress who was running around and struggling to handle the reception plus the 5-6 tables alone. We easily forgave her for taking a while to get the menu and our water.

The biggest meal of Sammy’s Gymea appears to be the Large Mixed Platter ($85 dine-in; $76 takeaway), which comes with:

  • skewers: 4 chicken breast, 4 lamb, 4 kafta
  • dips: garlic, baba ghannoush, hummus
  • Lebanese-style tabouli salad
  • 6 pieces of falafel
  • a choice of vine leaves or sambousek (cheese or minced meat)

And therefore was what we ordered for the two of us because should there be any leftovers, we could just take them home with us. Spoiler: there were no leftovers.

Sammy's Gymea: Pita

Sammy’s Gymea: Pita, served in its plastic bag

First to arrive were our dips and salad, but we had to wait and ask the very busy lone waitress for our bread before we could get started. The pita came in its plastic packaging — the standard way they’re served here according to Richard’s previous experience and as evident from the next table (the other next table, not the one with little guy whom I shall not call a brat).

Sammy's Gymea: Tabouli and Dips

Sammy’s Gymea: Tabouli (left), Garlic Dip (top), Hummus (right) and Baba Ghannoush (bottom)

My favourite of the dips was initially the smoky baba ghannoush, but after an entire meal of heavy flavours, my preference gradually shifted to the milder hummus. The garlic dip was super garlicky!

Sammy's Gymea: Sambousek

Sammy’s Gymea: Sambousek stuffed with cheese (left) and minced meat (right)

Sambousek / sambosek / sambosak / sombosik… samosa! We had a choice between that and the vine leaves for our platter, and picked that with two cheese and two minced meat. I liked the meat version more as the cheese pastry didn’t quite have enough filling.

Sammy's Gymea: Falafel

Sammy’s Gymea: Falafel with Tahini Sauce

Didn’t think this mezze plate would be the highlight for me, but the falafel balls were piping hot and so, so good. We also got 7 of them instead of 6 on the menu!

Sammy's Gymea: Lamb, Chicken Breast and Kofta Skewers

Sammy’s Gymea: Lamb, Chicken Breast and Kofta Skewers, de-skewered

The last of the large meal to arrive were the skewers of lamb, chicken breast and kofta, de-skewered. Richard said the lamb pieces were more tender than the ones he had the other day, but we both thought the chicken breast, while freshly and nicely barbecued, could use a bit more marinating. I couldn’t pick a favourite out of the meats and wanted to enjoy this dish more than I actually did.

If our experience tonight at Sammy’s Gymea is anything like a typical night on the weekend, I make the following recommendations:

  • Come here after 7 pm, dine in or takeaway.
  • Get the falafel and eat them hot and fresh!
  • If you decide to dine in and spot a restless little boy with medium-length curly blond hair, whom you shall not call a brat, among the diners, ask to sit far far far away.
  • Better yet, get takeaway. The platters are $9 cheaper, too.
  • Falafel!

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