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Naked Brew – Erskineville NSW Restaurant Review

Let me tell you first about a vibe, and then about the food.

We try to avoid the Inner West as much as possible, as I’m terrified of parking in small spaces and crowded streets. Naked Brew was an exception to this, and we were able to find street parking not far from the cafe on a weekday morning.

My partner and I are currently working week on, week off schedules, which means that even though we live in the same apartment we don’t get to see each other for 7*24 hours in a row, and then we spend the whoe next 7 days together. This is good and bad.

Our waitress made note of the fact that we had turned up to eat at 10AM on a weekday, and made significant and quite consistent conversation about how nice it was that we were able to spend time with each other. She told us that she and her partner never had days off together, as she was working in the cafe most days and him at his job. She reflected with us on how sad it was for her and how nice it was for us, and I am empathetic to her situation.

The Buddha Bowl was great. We had it with pork belly and poached egg. All of the components – the seeds, the carrots, corn – complemented each other well, and the dressing was nice and creamy as well.

To be completely honest I have no recollection of what this dish was, nor can I identify it from the currently online menu. I also don’t recall how it tasted but I think we liked it because I remember liking the restaurant overall and I don’t think I would’ve if only one of our two dishes were good.

I can recommend Naked Brew to a friend or colleague. Food is good. Vibe is fine if you like to chat. Dog friendly.

Naked Brew
110 Swanson St, Erskineville New South Wales 2043
(02) 9557 1628

Categories
Bakery Vietnamese

PiPi’s Pork Rolls – Unanderra NSW Restaurant Review

I walked nine kilometers today on a quest for what’s been lauded by some as Wollongong’s best banh mi, at QP Bakery in Berkeley. It was only when I arrived at QP that I found that they, like any other self-respecting eighteenth century bakery, are a cash only establishment. Much to my dismay with only six dollars in coins in my pockets, their most basic pork roll started at $7. I re-embarked on my sad journey to my partner’s apartment to the dulcet tones of Josh Farkas and Adam Thomas and instead ate at one of the many hot bread shops I had passed along the way.

This crispy crackling component of this Crispy Pork Belly Roll ($9.50) wasn’t quite what I expected. While the majority of crackling pork belly rolls that I’ve experienced have had a semi-dry, semi-oily-wet crackling that is both crispy and chewy – similar to what you would get from a Hong Kong BBQ restaurant, the crackling at PiPi’s was more reminiscent of what you would get from a snack food packet. Though I have seen actual evidence on their Facebook page of them cooking their crackling themselves, the crunchy crispiness but also the dryness of their pork crackling actually led me to initially believe that it was store bought rather than made in-house. While I don’t profess to be expert enough to truly judge banh mi by their traditional standards, I suppose that it’s probably acceptable to have either kind of crackling in your pork roll.

Crackling aside, I think PiPi’s crispy pork belly roll is actually quite good. The pork belly itself was nice, soft, and moist. The salads provided were balanced, and sauce was applied in an appropriate and conservative manner. I’d probably have this roll again.

I have no serious hitting commentary about PiPi’s classic Vietnamese Pork Roll ($7.50), though I will note that their pate is a bit different to the usual pate that I seem to get at Sydney banh mi-eries. It had a stronger flavour than I’m used to, more akin to the pates you would get at your local supermarket than the lighter flavoured pates normally used. Aside from this, this banh mi was slightly over-soyed (or Maggied, as it were), though still perfectly edible and ultimately not too salty.

CONCLUSION
I just don’t know why there are places in the 21st century not offering card payments, but I’m glad that PiPi’s Pork Rolls isn’t one of them. Not a bad lunchtime option if you’re a local, but I wouldn’t drive to the Illawara for a banh mi.

A friendly driveway dog I met on my walk.

PiPi’s Pork Rolls
135 Princes Hwy, Unanderra NSW 2526
0450 909 109

Categories
Chinese

Mr Sun’s Fried Buns – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

Nestled on a side street off Waterloo’s Gadigal Avenue is Mr Sun’s Fried Buns, a homely neighbourhood restaurant serving a variety of both bun and non-bun fare. A surprising amount of care has been put into the restaurant’s decor, which features bamboo steamers hung upside down in stacks from the ceilings as well as stuck onto the walls.

Mr Sun’s fried buns are not your regular shengjian bao. Though their fillings are authentic to the standard, the wrappers used by Mr Sun in his headline buns are much thinner, providing an optimal meat to juice to bread ratio that both delights the senses and allows the lucky patron to eat fit more buns into their digestive tract.

We had a combination of pork buns (left) and prawn buns (right) (4 for $10). A deeper dive is not possible at this stage as I’ve just forgotten how they tasted, however I can promise you that they tasted good. I thought it was a shame that they only offer two different flavours of buns cooked in this style, and I think that they would even benefit from offering all of their dumpling fillings in buns cooked this way. They were just great. I could have easily filled up on these.

The Chinese Spinach and Pork Wonton in Soup ($14.50) was a warming and wholesome dish. The soup was a nice semi-clear broth with a good but not too strong flavour, probably packed more with MSG than NaCl. It was topped with some bean cured, shallot, and seaweed, the last two elements adding additional umami. The wontons were a good size and had a nice, large, meaty filling. This wonton soup is better than that at nearby Yummy Duck BBQ.

I have no complaints about these boiled Scallop and Prawn Dumplings (12 for $15.80), though again I wish they would make all of their different dumpling varieties into their fried buns. I think it would be a real winner.

The Steamed Rice in Claypot with Braised Pork ($18.50) really didn’t look like the image provided, nor was it really congruous with the name of the dish. While I can accept this kind of thing as a takeaway or delivery meal (no restaurant is going to give you an actual claypot to take home), I don’t really go to a restaurant so that I can eat in a foil tray. Indeed there was nothing about this dish to indicate that it had ever even met a claypot, let alone been in one. To its credit, the dish did taste good, with a some of the rice having been made crispy, and not only the right sauce and pork to rice ratio but also the right amount of cabbage to keep things fresh. Regardless, they shouldn’t have shown a picture of food in a claypot if they weren’t going to serve it in one.

DISCUSSION

The food, particularly Mr Sun’s signature fried buns, tasted quite good. Unfortunately cleanliness, particularly of the cups for drinking water, was an issue, and I think it’s a restaurant best approached in the style of the Middle Ages, where beer was safer to drink than water.

4/5 with cleanliness negative modifier

Mr Sun’s Fried Buns
15 Hatbox Pl, Waterloo NSW 2017
0414 598 188

Categories
Chinese

Hungry Paulie 愛呷囝仔 – Eastwood NSW Restaurant Review

Tucked away on Trelawney St on the Chinese side of Eastwood is Hungry Paulie, purveyor or fine Taiwanese breakfast foods.

The Traditional Egg Pancake with Fried Bread Stick (P15 台式蛋饼包油条 – $9.50) is similar to but not quite the same as the jianbing guozi (煎饼馃子) that I had in my childhood. Thin pancakes with a layer of egg omlette are wrapped around freshly fried yóutiáo, with a bit of very light soy flavoured dressing on top. The yóutiáo at Hungry Paulie are seriously good and well worth a mention, each hand-prepared on site from scratch by artisans working behind a glass window. I can recommend this.

My partner was a big fan of the Black Pepper Pork Pastry with Shallots (Paulie Pie) (P1 胡椒饼 – $6.50), which was essentially a large spherical pie with a huge amount of peppery beef steak filling. There is little in common between this meat pie and the classic Australian meat pie. The shape is almost spherical, with a more dough-reinforced base at the bottom and minimal crust up top. The filing is steak-dominated, with big chunks of chewable meat in a black-pepper rich semi-solid gravy. It was pretty good, and at $6.50 good value and worth a try.

My partner, keen on a dessert dish, ordered the hot Roasted Peanut Rice Milk (D2 – 花生米浆 – $4) This wasn’t quite what she expected. Rather than being a dessert, it was more of a staple meal, with quite a significant size and warmth to it. It had a distinctive peanut flavour and it wasn’t too sweet, but neither of us was a big fan of it. Perhaps it just wasn’t what we were looking for this morning.

The Taiwanese Anchovy Congee (C16 – 台式吻仔鱼粥 – $12) is a loose, wet congee flavoured with little dried anchovies. It is much looser than the congees of my childhood, though not to its detriment. The toppings of youtiao and fried wonton skins added a nice amount of crunch, but unfortunately the anchovy added only a slight almost-imperceptible umami flavour. Though this was a nicely warming bowl overall, I don’t think I really got much out of the anchovy flavouring. I think that if I were to come back I would get a more standard congee, like the one with preserved egg and pork, which is a known favourite.

The Braised Combo Noodle Soup (N6 – 红烧手工牛肉三宝面 – $18.50) was ordered essentially because there was a portrait of it sitting in front of me at the bar seats. It was probably fine, but to be honest at this point in the meal we were a bit too full to enjoy anything properly. The noodles had a slight mala flavour, which I normally don’t mind (and even enjoy) but didn’t appeal to me today. It was packed with protein of multiple bovine sources – muscle, tendon, rumen, and probably some reticulum too. Whilst I enjoyed the muscle, I could only bring myself to nibble on the other beef parts – I think it really is a dish best ordered hungry. The noodles were otherwise good, and the baby bok choy was very tender and sweet. I feel like I disappointed this dish, not the other way around.

The Savoury Rice Pudding (T1 – 碗粿 – $7) was a creamy, almost radish-cakey lump of starch in a bowl of gravy and mince. It was tasty and good, though I’m still not really sure what was inside

SUBSEQUENT VISIT
We re-visited Hungry Paulie around 7 months later, under a cloud of general malaise (short-lived, and well worth the extra protection) following the third dose of a COVID vaccine.

The Soy Bean Jelly with Sweet Soft Peanut (花生甜豆花 – $5.50) was like a wet, loose dou fu nao. There was less tofu than I would’ve liked, but I felt it was still adequately soft and silky, suspended in this soy milk soup. My partner, in a moment of surprisingly conviction, said that she thought that the tofu in this was still not as silky as what she gets at yum cha.

The Braised Soy Egg (滷蛋 – $2.50) was a soy egg, cut into quarters, and presented with a bit of garlic and chilli sauce. While there were no surprises with the egg itself, the addition of sauce was completely unexpected, as was the addition of shallots and lettuce. The sauce was ultimately quite tasty, and added to the experience. It’s interesting that there is a price differential between ordering this in the restaurant and via an online ordering app. It appears to be cheaper delivered, which is just strange.

The Fried Radish Cake in Garlic Sauce Dressing ($5.50) was unexpectedly enjoyable. I’m normally not a believer in the radish cakes, but this one had me surprised. The outer layers were crispily fried, whilst the gooey inner layer was only modestly thick and barely noticeable. These radish cakes were drenched in a similar sauce to the eggs, which was very valuable to adding flavour. I think that with optimal frying dimensions and garlic sauce dressing these radish cakes were able to be enjoyed even by the non radish cake lover.

The Traditional Shallots Pancake with Braised Beef (牛肉捲餅 – $11.50) was not as good as the egg pancake, and not as good as I hoped. The actual pancake itself was stellar – thin, hot, and crispy, and with good shallot flavour. What was unfortunate was the filling that the shallot was wrapped around – a huge mass of lettuce, with a small amount of dressing and some cold braised beef. I think some warmth on the beef would’ve gone a long way, and it was certainly not helped by the mass of cold, internally wet lettuce. They really need to rethink this one.

The Taiwanese Pork Thick Soup with Bamboo and added Rice (嘉義赤肉羹 – $17) was quite enjoyable. It had a quality similar to a hot and sour soup, with plenty of white pepper flavour as well as something similar to bonito flake on top. It was thickened, with a reasonable amount of meat, bamboo, and mushrooms for the price. We were almost going to riot for not getting our rice, until we realised it was actually hidden inside the soup. So it was essentially a kind of congee.

This Wintermelon Iced Tea ($3.50) was super fresh, a bit sweet but not too sweet, and quite importantly, cheap. It makes a joke out of Hong Kong Bing Sutt charging $7 for a (delicious) iced milk tea.

VERDICT
I quite liked Hungry Paulie, and I’d like to take my parents to the Mascot branch once they feel safe enough from a COVID-19 to leave the house. There are plenty of things that I remember from my childhood on offer at Hungry Paulie that I think they would enjoy.

Hungry Paulie 愛呷囝仔 Eastwood
Shop 3/3-5 Trelawney St, Eastwood NSW 2122
0411 660 866

Categories
Korean

Yasiktak (Late Night Table) – North Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

Our visit to Yasiktak in North Strathfield’s Bakehouse Quarter really challenged me and my identity as an Asian who enjoys Asian foods. Though lots of money was spent on what was apparently authentic Korean cuisine, nothing we had really hit the spot at all, and in fact their signature dish was actively disliked by all four Asians around the table.

Yasiktak’s signature dish, grilled large intestines ($55), are apparently a traditional Korean dish usually eaten with an alcoholic beverage or two. Presented with a choice of spicy or non spicy and a choice of carbohydrate, we ordered the spicy intestines on fried rice. The intestines had a very strong taste, and were extremely oily and fatty. The internal texture of the intestines did not please the tongue, and they were far too rich, in my opinion, to have more than a couple of. The serving was huge, but so was the price. None of us four Asians liked it enough to have more than a couple of pieces each. There was lots left over that we just didn’t want to eat, and also didn’t want to take home (a rare occurrence).

The Pane Cream Pasta ($29) was a much more normal and palatable dish. It is essentially a semi-sweet, cheesy pasta served inside a big piece of bread, topped with further cheese, prawns, and mushrooms. The sauce coated the pasta strands perfectly, and while very rich the flavour was good. The top piece of bread was buttered and a crispy golden similar to garlic bread, whilst the rest of the loaf was quite boring. Again a very rich and fatty dish, but one of the better ones on Yasitak’s menu.

The Burrata cheese salad ($19), as expected, was a ball of burrata cheese surrounded by some minimally leafy greens and cherry tomatoes. It was quite standard, but still end up being the healthiest, most wholesome, and fresh tasting dish of the night.

VERDICT Unless you’re a big fan of eating large bowel, or if you are Korean and able to appreciate this food more than I am able to I would advise you to skip Yasiktak all together. I think they focus more on drinks than food.

Yasiktak (Late Night Table)
5 George St, North Strathfield NSW 2137
0435 353 128