Categories
Café Latin American

La Mamita’s – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

It is tough for me, as a cat lover, to walk past a cafe with two cats on its banner.

My first visit to La Mamita’s was on the thirteenth of October 2021, just two days after the state of New South Wales had started opening up businesses followed a prolonged COVID-19 related shutdown. I was the only customer in the cafe, an eerie experience as there were at least three or four staff there.

I had a pastrami sandwich ($10), an item that I had seen on their specials board many times before as I walked past to visit different Vietnamese bakeries. The pastrami sandwich was a large, oversided sandwich of toasted bread. The heat from the toasting did not quite transmit through to the fillings ,which included unmelted cheese (perhaps Swiss or similar), bulk pickles, ham, and pastrami. I say the pickles were bulk, as I’m pretty sure every square centimetre of this toasted sandwich had a corresponding square centimetre of pickle – quite a nice and tangy surprise, as some sandwich makers are known to be miserly with their pickles. It was a shame that the cheese was not very melted, as I think melted or otherwise differently arranged cheese may have enhanced the experience. Though this sandwich was not the most gourmet sandwich around, I think ultimately for $10 it did its job.

La Mamita’s Cafe
2B/280 Crown St, Wollongong NSW 2500
(02) 4210 8995

Categories
Café Latin American

Storgē and Co. – North Parramatta NSW Cafe Review

My girlfriend and I often fall victim to sponsored posts on social media, and it was just such a sponsored post that led us to Storgē and Co., one of North Parramatta’s foremost demountable-based Latin American restaurants.

Storge and Co features a mix of indoor and outdoor courtyard seating, though it appears that the indoor seating is not used on days with clear weather. We parked in the Petbarn next door, making a note to buy some cat food so that we wouldn’t feel bad about taking their customer only parking.

The Crispy Dog ($10) is pretty good. It is a hot dog of grilled chorizo, pico de gallo, parmesan, and a rich creamy sauce, topped with a generous serving of potato crisps for an extra crunch. The flavours of this hot dog were quite good. The chorizo sausage itself had quite a complex flavour which rose beyond mere saltiness, which I did not expect from a $10 hot dog. The pico de gallo provided freshness, whilst the potato crisps were salty and crispy. The white creamy sauce was a bit heavy, though in conjunction with all the other flavours and the deliciously toasted bread was not as unbalanced as in the pepito.

This creamy monstrosity is the Pepito ($15). It is essentially a toasted sourdough baguette, filled with 24-hour marinated beef tenderloin, parmesan, mozzarella, and topped with “heavenly sauce”. The beef was very tender, juicy, and tasted good, but that was essentially the best part. There was an absolute cheese overload, and while I can’t tell you the exact components of the heavenly sauce, I assume it is named so as the rich fatty creaminess books you an express ticket to heaven. The sauce and two cheeses mixed together make this a very heavy roll indeed. Not at all wholesome, and not really that good to taste either.

Enthused by our recent positive empanada experience at Mas Tinto, we ordered Storgē and Co.’s cheese and guava jam empanadas (3 for $9.50). Unlike Mas Tinto’s Storge and Co’s were a major disappointment. Where Mas Tinto’s guava and cheese empanadas were lightly but deftly flavoured, Storge’s take is much more heavy handed. I was surprised to find both a too-sweet and too-salty filling, The flavours were unfortunately far too strong, and the dipping sauce did nothing to help with this. It would’ve been better for them to sell them individually, but I imagine that if they did they would only sell one to each customer, and no more following that.

The Thre3* Milk Cake ($6.50), consisting of sponge cake soaked in and topped with three or four different types of milk reminded me of something served for dessert at a year 6 camp. Not awful, but not very good either. A strange hit of nostalgia, and a no go from me.

INTERIM IMPRESSION
I think ultimately, out of the things that we tried at Storgē and Co., there are more losers than winners. While their Crispy Dog was good, it’s only a member of their seasonal menu, and not part of the regular cast. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try their Reuben Sandwich, though a return to Storgē and Co. is reasonably low on my list of things to do.

A RETURN

True to my word, I returned to Storgē and Co whilst servincing my car at West End Mazda across the road to try out their Reuben Sando ($12). The sauerkraut to meat to cheese ratio was certianly achieved, but I felt that whilst the bread was well toasted the insides remained extremely tepid. If I had to rate this sandwich against the two other Reuben’s previously in my life, I’d put this between the excellent one at Croquembouche Patisserie that I had no less than 10 times in 2020, and the extremely low-tier average one I had at Nepean Hospital in 2019.

Whilst I won’t bore you with exterior shots of the Beef Empanada (3 for $9.50), I can tell you they looked exactly the same as the guave empaanda from the outside. They were, however, much better. The more solid contents meant that the beef empanada wasn’t as piping hot, and therefore more easy to eat. The savoury filling of potato and beef was quite hearty, and the flavours were actually well comlimented by the provided dipping sauce. They were really not bad.

VERDICT
After trying quite a few things on their menu, I think really only the Crispy Dog was anything very special.

Storgē and Co.
69a Church St, North Parramatta NSW 2151
0413 054 553

Categories
Fine Dining Japanese Latin American

Nikkei – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

After a couple of aborted attempts at eating at Nikkei over the past year, my partner and I finally made it over there to try their $88 pp Japanese-Peruvian tasting menu, inspired by the apparently quite significant Japanese diaspora in Peru. This is a restaurant from the group that runs Osaka Trading Co (which I did not love), but is much better.

The first thing I noticed and enjoyed was this sweet wooden communal dining table. It looked expensive, perhaps carved out of a single tree, and potentially a lot of money. I’d love to have one of these tables in my home one day, to entertain no one. The second thing was this nice drinks menu, bound in a very Midori Traveler’s Notebook esque leather covering, complete with a little bit of patina which I hope continues to develop as the restaurant continues to exist.

Our first little nibble were the empanada bites, two of which were allocated to each diner. These small deep fried bites were crispy and crunch, mostly unidentifiable generalised fried stuff (perhaps it is the edamame but reconstituted?) filled with a small amount of surprisingly large-grain choclo (Peruvian) corn and topped with parmesan cheese. The smoked mayonnaise topping and bottoming, which held the bites to their paper base, was well liked by my colleagues around the table.

These Hokkaido scallops were quite special, presented in a huacatay (Peruvian black mint) butter, tangy acevichado (ceviche-like) salsa, and tiny balls of arare cracker. The scallops were sweet with a nice torch-born sear to them. The sauce that they were bathed in was both creamy and citrusy, while the lightly puffed arare cracker added additional textural interest, like tiny rice puffs. I would recommend eating this with a spoon to not miss out on all of those beautiful flavours in the sauce.

While not all colleagues around the table were impressed by the ceviche de pulpo, I actually thought it was quite good. This was a classic-ish ceviche with a nice tender octopus instead of fish, bathed in a marinade of lime juice and spices, and served with cancha corn, or toated corn kernals. My partner, lover of citrus but hater of certain seafoods, enjoyed this dish, as did I. I thought the flavours were quite bright and fresh, and again enjoyed the variety of textures and flavours offered by the crunchy toasted corn.

The causa sushi is in my opinion an attempt to innovate just a little too much. On offer was a piece of scampi nigiri topped with ikura, and a piece of yellowfin tuna gunkan each. The twist here is that Nikkei has used a mashed-potato base as opposed to rice, an ingredient we were told is common in Peruvian cuisine. While I had a bit of hesitation to eat raw scampi (thinking back to this allergic reaction I had at Moxhe) I told my two anaesthetic colleagues that I was for full resus and went to town on the first scampi I’ve had in a very long time. I think I might have become desensitised.

The seafood was fine, the scampi was sweet and the cubed tuna a little spicy and actually quite tasty. Unfortunately I wish they had just stuck with rice though, as the texture of the causa just didn’t do it for me. Poor rice in sushi can mean the difference between good sushi and bad sushi, and not-rice sushi just makes it all that much worse.

The wagyu maki that followed renewed my sadness that the causa sushi was not just regular sushi. The rice in this was actually quite good. The lightly seared thinly sliced MBS8+ rib eye was well liked by one of my learned colleagues, though to be honest I was less of a fan of the meat itself, but still a fan of the overall package. I enjoyed the mixture of yakinku sauce and anticucho sauce, a sauce we were told was commonly used in Peru for grilled chicken, as well as the crunchiness of the vegetables rolled inside the warm sushi rice.

The chuleta de cerdo was again another dish that was well liked by all the friends around the table except me. I personally thought that the Tokachi-style kurobota pork rib eye was a bit too fatty for me – certainly there was enough lean meat to go around, but perhaps my first piece was just 40% fat and it just set a bad tone for the rest of the dish. I can’t criticise the meat’s tenderness or sweet-savoury flavour, but it is just unfortunate that the texture of the first bite was offputting. What I did enjoy thoroughly in this dish was the delicious sweet potato chips, which were thin, tasty, and went well with just a bit of the meat’s sauce. This dish was served with some charred lemon to squeeze onto the meat, but I didn’t find that it improved my experience. Again – the three other diners on the table universally loved this pork but I just need to tell you how I feel.

I wasn’t crazy about the ensalada de verano. I thought that while they did innovate a little with some spicy yuzu kosho, the leaves were a bit bitter. Whatever. It’s vegetable.

This matcha alfajor dulce de leche ice cream sandwich was actually quite good. A bit difficult to crack without smushing the ice-cream out from under the biscuit, but really quite pleasant tasting. Not too sweet.

THOUGHTS
I quite enjoyed the opportunity to eat all of these Peruvian ingredients (particularly interesting corns and sauces) that I’ve never had the chance to eat before. Some of it was quite different, but still tempered in the familiarity of all the Japanese food that my partner and I tend to eat. I quite enjoyed the raw seafood based dishes at the start, moreso than the cooked dishes towards the end, but I do think that overall Nikkei gets a recommendation from me. Many blessings to this crew. (I also enjoyed the unobtrusive but good and knowledgeable service.)

Featured colleagues: AG, LMMH

Nikkei Bar & Restaurant
216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8880 9942

Categories
Café Latin American

Mas Tinto – Stanmore NSW Restaurant Review

Colombia is the birthplace of one of the friendliest wardspeople I have ever worked with, as well as the home of Más Tinto’s cuisine. Más Tinto, as Google Translate tells me, translates from Spanish into “More Red”, which does not look to add any additional meaning to the cafe’s name what so ever.

The first thing I need to tell you about is this amazing guava and cheese empanada ($3.50). As you can see, these empanadas here are a bit smaller than the ones at Mascot-based Chilean joint Pochito, and a bit more deep fried than baked. My partner had some significant misgivings about me ordering a fruit empanada over a meaty one, but these evaporated the moment this empanada was bitten into. The sweet guava and salty cheese complimented each other perfectly, with the soft filling contrasting in texture with its crispy fried envelope. This empanada was the best part of the meal by far, and could be a true ambassador for the café.

It’s kind of unfortunate that unbridled praise for Mas Tinto starts ands with its guava empanada. The Ajiaco ($18), a chicken, corn, and potato soup, was the better of the two mains that we ordered. The soup itself had a nice tangy flavour, especially eaten with the provided capers. The rice served was flavoured, though the rice itself was very loose and a little bit harder and dryer than we are used to. It is unfortunate that we ordered both this and the Mazorcada (shown below), as essentially both were meated with the same shredded chicken breast, something that we found repetitive and boring.

The Mazorcada ($16), a too-cheesy concoction of shredded chicken, sweet corn kernels, French Fries (the potato crisps from the packet), mushrooms, and chorizo, felt like the opposite of what I wanted. Rightfully or wrongly Más Tinto was chosen because we thought it would be a lighter alternative. The Mazorcada was anything but light. It was far too cheesy, and far too heavy. Despite this, I thought the flavours were too mild, a problem that not even the healthy smattering of chorizo could solve.

VERDICT
While I didn’t like either of our mains that much, Más Tinto’ guava and cheese empanada is worth a small detour alone. I’m sure that based on the quality of this little parcel of joy there are other things on the menu that I would’ve liked more.

3.5/5 (guava empanada 5/5)

Más Tinto
43 Bridge Rd, Stanmore NSW 2048
(02) 8541 6258

Categories
Brazilian

Brazilian Flame Barbecue – Zetland NSW Restaurant Review

Though there are many meats that I have tasted and loved in my lifetime, I had not, until today, ever had Brazilian barbeque. I found my way to Flame Brazilian BBQ after picking up a cake from nearby Black Star, and having read some quite good reviews on google.com decided why not.

Brazilian Flame offers five types of meat in various formats – on chips, on salad, in a roll, with some rice. The meats available are as follows:
– Pork
– Beef
– Lamb
– Chicken
– Chorizo
I had read great reviews about the chips from some chip fanatic on Google (he called them dangerous) and decided stupidly that it would be safer to get two lots with chips than to get some with salad (mostly as I did not know how to order the salad).

I had the BBQ meat snack packs of chicken and lamb on chips and beef and pork on chips. I can rate the order of meat enjoyment in the order of :

  1. Chicken
  2. Pork
  3. Beef
  4. Lamb

All meats but the lamb were quite moist and juicy. The chicken was the best. The pork was fully cooked through, but the fat and skin content were still there. The beef was in between medium and well done. The lamb was a bit dry. I had to give chorizo a pass but would risk it over the known quantity of lamb or beef next time.

Eating at peak period for Sunday lunch meant that the meat was always freshly roasted and constantly turned over. Wait time was a mere five minutes.

The quality of the chips were overstated. Admittedly they were eaten following a ten minute commute, but really good chips can usually withstand such a short amount of time. These did not.

The smoked sauce on top was just fine, there could have been more of it.

We only managed to finish around half the chips and meat between, so for $16 there’s a lot of food packed into these boxes.

Final thoughts

Not bad not good, should’ve had salad. Very cheap though.

3.5/5

Brazilian Flame
565 Botany Rd, Zetland NSW 2017
(02) 9167 3994