I didn’t really love Lovin’ Lamb. I had their signature lamb skewers, and I just didn’t feel like I connected with them. I did ask for them in a mild heat level because my girlfriend is a spice-o-phobe and because we had already eaten that night so I couldn’t justify getting two sets at differing spice levels, but I just felt that they didn’t have much flavour. Even the mild lamb skewers at competitors such Lamb & Cumin have some salt and cumin flavour, if not explicitly chilli flavour, but these ones at Lovin’ lamb left me wanting.
I’m always willing to give places like this another shot, just in case it was my order that was to blame, rather than the restaurant itself.
My nightly drive home from work is punctuated by a number of smells, and a recent addition to this olfactory journey is that of Smoky Cravings, a relatively new Filipino BBQ joint in the vicinity of Mcdonald’s Lakemba (where we parked). Though we normally look at distaste at people who do not order the culturally significant dishes at ethnic restaurants and only order what’s easy and safe-feeling, this was me this time. I just wasn’t in the mood for any kind of intestine. I’ve had them, and just don’t generally enjoy them and felt no need to again subject myself to them.
Instead, I went with some safe options, like these battered and deep fried quail eggs (kwek kwek – $5), which were not super special, but came out quickly and had a great batter for us to munch on whilst awaiting the rest of our food.
As far as grilled meat went, we had the Pork BBQ skewer, Chicken BBQ skewer, BBQ Chicken Wings, Adidas, and BBQ Lamb Cutlets. The skewers were $3.50 each, whilst the lamb cutlet was $5.
Most of their food actually had the same sweet and salty flavour from the basting, which was quite enjoyable and not too unfamiliar tasting. The chicken BBQ skewer was a bit more substantial than the pork in terms of size, but both were quite juicy and flavourful. The BBQ Chicken Wing was quite large, consisting of both a drumstick and the wing in a three-part type deal, and made for good value, probably the best of the bunch, especially with its semi-crispy skin. The adidas (chicken feet) came as two feet on a skewer, perfect for sharing with your partner or nursing colleague from the local hospital a few minutes down the road. The lamb cutlet was my least favourite of the bunch, with a different flavour that I no longer remember. I only remember that I didn’t like it.
The chicken inasal ($12) was really big and juicy and perfectly marinated and grilled. It was one of the best things we ate, good value, and really well cooked. Juicier and moister than other forms of BBQ chicken in the local area (dominated by Middle Eastern-style charcoal chicken), very worth a go.
My partner liked the buko pandan ($5). It was not too sweet. Very viscous, our first ever with nothing else to compare it to.
OVERALL Smoky Cravings was a source of enjoyment. I haven’t always loved every Filipino restaurant that I’ve tried, but I’m glad that my nose led me to this one. The staff tried to talk to me in Tagalog, but despite deep workplace immersion neither my partner nor I have been able to pick up anything of note.
Saigon Rolls is a small Vietnamese restaurant in St Leonards serving a variety of banh mi, rice paper rolls, and pho. I dropped in on a chilly May morning for a couple of banh mi, eager to fill myself up before a day of minimally catered meetings.
This crackling pork roll ($8) was quite good. Lots of fresh-feeling salads, sufficient meat, at a reasonable price. Not the best I’ve had in my entire life, but did its job well.
The cold meat pork roll with double meat ($9) was really only fine. Again filled with a good amount of salad, I felt that the extra meat was not adequately balanced by extra pate or butter. Maybe it’s my own fault for not asking for double pate as well as double meat, but I find that in most places this balance is made automatically.
Saigon Rolls St Leonards Kiosk 5/436 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW 2067 (02) 9410 0988
I am glad that I turned down Big John’s offer to comp me a bag of their fab frozen dumplings after my stellar review, because it leaves me free to write a less gushing review about one of their other products. As someone immersed in the Sydney foodie social media scene, it always makes me feel uncomfortable how many of these influencers are taking money or freebies from industry. I understand that for some this is a job rather than a mere stupid hobby, but I find it very difficult to trust recommendations from anyone who might have a conflict of interest. Even when a review is not directly paid for or comped, there’s a general understanding that if you’re someone who’s a negative Nancy you’re less likely to be invited to collaborate with other brands.
So I’m glad to say that I have no conflicts of interest to declare when it comes to reviewing Big John’s Jumbo Pork Meatballs, Classic Shanghai Style. I had been craving a lion’s head meatball ever since I was reminded of their existence in some kind of Youtube video. My last such meatball was from Taste of Nanking in Waterloo, two years ago, and it was time to have it again.
These meatballs were cooked as per the instructions, in a light broth of ginger and light soy sauce, though I forgot the ginger. I also later cooked them steamed and then another time boiled with just plain water.
No matter how I cooked them, I felt like they were too wet and too loose in their structure. Perhaps it’s because my view of what these balls should be like are coloured by my last experience. Perhaps they’re not even meant to be the same kind, as these are Shanghainese and those were from a Nanjing-themed restaurant. Who knows, not me, for I do not read Chinese. I invite commenters to tell me that I’m comparing them to the wrong benchmark if that is the case.
I also felt, probably related to their structure and texture, that there was too much ginger in the meatball itself, let alone for it to be boiled with ginger as per the instructions. Perhaps if the ginger was minced more finely the ball would stay together better.
Ultimately though, while some may like these, they were not what I was after.
Anyone who’s ever had to work a roster that transitions directly from days to nights knows that the 24-hour period between your last day and your first night is a difficult time to manage. This strange twilight zone, where you’re exhausted from work but trying your hardest to stay awake so that you can get restful sleep in the daytime is probably a contributor to many peoples’ metabolic disorders, including my own.
On occasion I try to optimise my use of this 24-hour period off work by fitting in a meal after I finish work at 9PM. Diem Hen is one of those restaurants a mere 15 minutes from my work that opens until 12 midnight every night of the week, providing a good and valuable service for night owls and shift workers.
Whilst I’m a big fan of pho, I do still try my best to try new and exciting Vietnamese foods like the Bò Né Đặc Biệt (Vietnamese Steak & Egg – $15). My friend CV often gets a text message with a photo of my meal and accompanied by a “how do I eat this?”, and it was on her advice that I dipped the warm, crusty bread into the French oniony sauce and began my journey. I will review each component of this dish separately.
To begin, I think the bread was particularly good. It was freshly toasted, warm and crusty. This is quite special, especially given that Diem Hen is a restaurant, not a bakery. The bread within the crust was a little bit denser than I find in most Vietnamese bakery baguettes, though perhaps this was to improve its ability to soak up the Bo Ne sauces.
The egg in the Bo Ne was very runny and soft, and mixed with the sauce was a much more pleasant eating experience than any other shakshuka (essentially another egg in sauce in cast iron dish) I’ve ever had. Great with the bread. I later overheard some other guys asking for extra eggs for a different dish, and immediately regretted not asking for some extra eggs myself.
The beef was of the Bo Ne was a sliced steak cooked medium and while its cut was a mystery the meat was really quite tender. The Xiu Mai had a good light taste and offered a pleasant interplay of different internal textures. The small sausage had supermarket kransky energy, but not all things can be perfect. All in all this was a good dish, though a little bit on the salty side for all you hypertensives out there.
The Cánh Gà Rang Mắm Nhĩ(Fried Chicken Wings with Special Fish Sauce – $12) was chosen as a bit of a safe bet in the setting of some other unknowns, but ultimately was a bit of a let down. My main issues with them was that they were quite dry and non-crispy, even though they were fried. They didn’t have a strong taste either, despite special fish sauce being advertised as a main component of the dish. The pictured salad I’m actually not sure if it is part of the wing dish or part of the Bò Né. They served the wings with the bread and the Bò Né with the salad, but I suspect that it was meant to be the other way around. Regardless, the salad was actually pretty tangy and tasty.
COMMENTS Will I come back? Most definitely
Diem Hen 205-207 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights NSW 2166 (02) 9728 4430