Categories
Asian Fusion Chinese

Belly Bao – Newtown NSW Restaurant Review

It’s not quite fair to rate a restaurant you were 45 minutes late to, but that’s just what I’m about to do.

I met up with a few of my colleagues after work one Saturday afternoon. It was difficult for us to get a reservation at a universally convenient time, but we settled on a time that would have been possible for me to make with optimum handover and traffic but was ultimately suboptimal. I don’t think we needed to have bothered, however, as as I was walking up to the restaurant 45 minutes post our booking time another group walked in and was able to secure a table without a reservation – it seems that they keep a number of tables open for walk-ins, and one should keep this in mind if booking is problematic.

Belly bao fried chicken wings

Belly Bao’s Fried Chicken Wings (2 for $9) were good and crispy despite having had a long time to cool down. While their flavour and internal texture was not standout, their resilience to heat loss by radiation is quite impressive and implies that they would be a good choice for delivery or takeaway where food is more at the mercy of travel time.

Crackling roast pork belly bao ($7.90 – foreground), Slow braised beef short rib bao ($7.90 – background)

The crackling roast pork belly bao ($7.90) with crackling, radish, coriander and mayonnaise was fine but nothing to write home about. There was nothing particularly good or bad about the bao bread. It would be unfair for me to rate its contents given that it sat on the table uneaten for approximately half an hour prior to my arrival, but I will go ahead and say that I didn’t feel like the crackling pork was quite as crackling as advertised, nor the pork meat appropriately tender. It may be better fresh.

I am able to give an honest review of the slow braised beef short rib bao ($7.50) with kimchi, spring onion and sesame mayonnaise as the restaurant forgot to make the three that we ordered for the table until questioned. This unfortunate lapse meant that I was able to have it fresh. I found the flavour of the beef balanced and appreciated that it was not too overflavoured, which seems to be a common problem with many baos especially in restaurants in largely culturally and linguistically non-diverse areas (bad memories from Bao Now in Te Anau, New Zealand 2018 still haunt me to this day). Not a bad bao overall.

Overall a 3.5/5

Categories
Café Modern Australian

The Potting Shed at Grounds of Alexandria – Alexandria NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve never really liked Grounds of Alexandria. While the sunny garden environment and the petting zoo is nice, I’ve always found that the actual food offered is overpriced and disappointing. This was again true during my latest visit, this time to The Potting Shed, one of the mini-restaurants within the complex.

Potting Shed – Steamed Buns with tempura oyster

I did not enjoy the steamed buns ($17-19 for 3). This was an open bao with a filling of tempura oyster, slaw, and sauce. What could have been great was truly disappointing. I thought that the tempura batter was too bready, and took the limelight that the oyster should have had. The oysters themselves were tiny and unflavourful – what you see in the images is mostly batter. I truly enjoyed some battered oysters on Miyajima Island in Japan, but also from local joint Kibuna in Mascot. These Potting Shed oysters were awful in comparison and not at all what I expected. The filling to bread ratio was ultimately inadequate, with much bun left over after the tasty bits were done. Truly a dish to be avoided – and looking at their online menu the evening of our meal – it’s not there any more.

Potting Shed – Duck Sausages

The Potting Shed Duck Sausages with colcannon mash, burnt onion, glazed carrot and thyme gravy ($29) started strong but it didn’t last. They were much more flavourful than the oyster bao that preceded them, but ended up far too flavourful. The salt really hit me in the sausages, to the point where towards the end of the meal I started wondering why I had the finish these expensive sausages and just stopped. If the sausages weren’t so salty they would’ve been good. The mash was buttery and smooth, and I enjoyed the fried greens (I believe they were kale). Ultimately the absolute saltiness of the dish ruined it. Avoid if you’re watching your blood pressure.

Potting Shed – Seared Mooloolaba Swordfish Loin

The Seared Mooloolaba Swordfish Loin with pickled mushroom, tarragon and cauliflower veloute with buttered and pickled white asparagus ($32) was actually quite good. A mild flavoured fish dish which was the highlight of the meal. My partner didn’t like that the fish was a bit tough, but I thought that it was probably just the right texture for swordfish, and gave it a steaklike texture. The buttery sauce was nice and mild, and I also enjoyed the large and thick white asparagus. Yum.

Potting Shed – Chips with tomato jam and aioli

I wasn’t about to complain about the Chips with tomato jam and aioli ($8) until I saw that it was called. What is the difference between tomato jam and tomato sauce, apart from a few dollars in price? The chips were actually quite good, and looking at the bits of skin left on the edges, cut straight from the potato. A sleeper hit.

Macaw

The other star of the show was this Macaw (uncooked). She was beautiful and well natured.

Overall brunch at the Potting Shed was a big disappointment. We spent just under $100 for the above meal and two coffees. Money (and sodium!) that could’ve better been spent elsewhere.

The Potting Shed, The Grounds of Alexandria
41/43 Bourke Rd, Alexandria NSW 2015
(02) 9699 2225

The Potting Shed Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Categories
Italian

Westwood Pizza – Newtown NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve had Westwood Pizza in my Google Maps bookmarks ever since it opened, but with the fear of parking in Newtown in the evening and the stories of people lining up for two hours for a pizza I delayed and delayed and delayed my visit until I could no longer bear it.

Westwood is tiny, with one pizza oven and a dining room that seats barely ten at a time. It’s no surprise, then, that they’re set up more for take-away than for dining in, with even dine in pizza served in their cardboard boxes. My partner and I were lucky enough to snag a couple of seats without a wait at the start of the night, but the vast majority of patrons were pickups with orders made ahead of time via phone. Westwood needs no help from high-cut delivery services to sell their nightly run of highly sought-after gourmet pizzas.

The Garlic and Honey Pizza ($20) was very special. Fusing together the sweetness of honey with the garlicknyness of garlic (is there a better description), the spice of pepper, and the slight saltiness of the fior di latte and pecorino cheese, this pizza brings to the tongue truly novel flaviours. An original and inventive pizza, each bite of each slice of Westwood’s signature pizza excites and amuses. This pizza changed my view on what pizzas can be. The only excuses you could possibly have to miss this pizza is if you’re allergic to honey or you’re a cat who can’t have garlic.

The ‘Nduja, ricotta, and thyme pizza ($24) was our second and second favourite pizza of the night. It was a bit on the extra-flavoured side, with surprisingly spicy ‘nduja, especially given the not-so-spicy XO sauce that Westwood also sells (see below). The vanilla buffalo ricotta acted as a good milder foil for the stronger flavours of the pizza, providing a sense of balance with some bites that were not present in others. Though better than almost every other pizza out there, my partner remarked that if we had only had this pizza she would’ve had a much less rosy view of the restaurant in general.

Shifting slightly to the construction of these pizzas, I’m told that each pizza base is formed from a single-heritage wheat flour from Gunnedah, NSW. To be honest neither the geographic origin nor the pedigree of the plants that gave their lives for this pizza mean anything to me. What does matter to me and impress me are Westwood’s incredibly thin and crispy bases, that both have great mouthfeel and structural integrity. Even the crusts are delicious, especially when dipped in their Chilli XO ($4), a mild and not very spicy oil-based sauce.

OTHER COMMENTS
I’m sad that in my procrastination I missed out on Westwood’s smoked eel pizza, as that was one that I had been really looking forward to. Despite this, the offerings that we sampled were strong, and I’m happy to list Westwood as one of my top pizzerias in Sydney.

Westwood Pizza
245 Australia St, Newtown NSW 2042
0466 181 266

Categories
Indonesian

Mirasa – Mascot NSW Restaurant Review

Don’t deny it. I know you’ve missed my awfully lit photos of food in takeaway containers.

Rather than go out to eat before my first in a run of four emergency department night shifts we decided to get takeaway from Mirasa. a local Indonesian restaurant we have often seen listed in the delivery apps but had never tried. Prices are what we paid Deliveroo. They may very well be cheaper in store.

The Pangsit Goreng ($3 each) were yummy. They are deep fried wontons with an ample amount of filling, which went surprisingly well with the sweet chilli sauce.

The Sayap Isi ($4 each) were not as much to my taste. I’m finding them difficult to describe, but I felt that while the chicken meat was quite tender their outsides had more of a soft steamed or boiled quality, which is not what I would expect from the fried component of “deboned and stuffed fried chicken wings”.

Nasi Goreng

I was hesitant to order the nasi goreng ($15.50), as nothing on their menu suggested that this would not be a vegetarian dish. Thankfully the nasi goreng came with chicken – I don’t think I would’ve liked it otherwise. I did enjoy the runny, soft-fried egg, and think it could have even benefited from an extra egg. The taste of this dish was good, and the box was quickly polished off the following morning.

Nasi Hainan

The Nasi Hainan ($15.50) was not quite classic Hainanese chicken rice. While the chicken was reasonably accurate, the toppings and flavourings are different from what you would expect from the classic Malaysian/Singaporean dish. I understand this is more authentic to the Indonesian style of Hainanese chicken rice. The rice was adequately flavoured, and this dish was my partner’s favourite of our order.

Sup Campur

The Sup Campur ($15.50) is a light clear soup with beef balls, wonton, and fried tofu. I really enjoyed the taste of all of these three components, however the soup itself was too light and watery and left much to be enjoyed. We basically fished out the fillings, drank half the soup, and disposed of the rest. Sorry.

I think overall my ambivalence towards Mirasa is more of a reflection of my East-Asian-centric palate, and probably not anything wrong with Mirasa itself. I personally won’t be eating their food again, but don’t think this means that you shouldn’t if you’re into Indonesian food.

Mirasa
1179 Botany Rd, Mascot NSW 2020
0421 100 085

Mirasa Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Categories
Chinese Vietnamese

Pho Pasteur – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

Across the road from Parramatta’s Lee Chef is Pho Pasteur, a long-lived, almost 30-year old Vietnamese restaurant that’s since extended tendrils across Sydney.

We had the Large Special Beef Pho with extra meat ($20). The flavour of this pho was good, with a lighter tasting but still umami-packed soup, a mix of rare beef, beef tendon, beef rumen, and beef balls, and a garnish of freshly chopped shallot. Like the rest of the bowl, the serving of bean sprouts, mint, and chillis was fresh and adequate. Though the flavour was good, we thought that the balance of meats did skew heavily towards the rare beef side, with our large bowl only featuring one solitary beef ball cut in half, even though we had optioned it out with extra meat. The bowl, overall, is almost matched punch-for-punch with its cross-street neighbour, but I think that given the filling imbalance I’d lean slightly towards Lee Chef’s.

Though a big fan of quail egg in meals like malatang, I’d never actually eaten quail the bird until this visit to Pho Pasteur. I had seen my parents order it occasionally at Chinese restaurants as a child, however I was always too spooked by the small size of the bird to eat them. To be honest, after trying the quail at Pho Pasteur I don’t think I really missed out on much. The two whole quails ($18) were deep fried, and quite salty, served with a zesty dipping sauce. Though the quail pieces might have looked juicy from certain angles, a quick flip around revealed that the opposite service was positively concave – these were lean birds indeed. It took quite a bit of t to harvest the meat from these quail, which didn’t really taste that different to duck or chicken. I don’t think I’d order this again – I’d go straight for the crispy skin chicken which is also on offer at Pho Pasteur – but this may very well be a comment on my personal preferences rather than the restaurant’s ability.

I was not a big fan of this eggplant and pork mince hot pot ($17). Though the taste and size of this hot pot was good, it was just filled to the brim with oil, making it very difficult for me to eat without hating myself. Rice is a necessary evil whilst eating this dish, but perhaps a course of orlistat or plasmapheresis would be better accompaniments.

VERDICT
Pho Pasteur’s offerings have a great deal of crossover with nearby Lee Chef’s. One of Pho Pasteur’s strengths is its actual printed menu, which features photos of many of their dishes, hence not leaving things up to the imagination as Lee Chef does. I think that ultimately both restaurants provide good quality Vietnamese and Chinese food, and the restaurant of choice will be up to whichever one is open at the time (Lee Chef is closed on Sunday nights, but open later on other days).

Pho Pasteur Parramatta
137 Church St, Parramatta NSW 2150
(02) 9635 0782