Categories
Café

La Lune Market – North Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

La Lune Market in North Strathfield is a sunny Korean-run but not Korean-themed cafe, located under a gym a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of the old Arnott’s factory precinct. Their house specialty is their basque cheesecake, though on my first visit to La Lune it was some of their other offerings that caught my eye.

The ham and cheese croissant ($7) is a little more than just ham and cheese in a croissant. La Lune Market employs the use of a sticky honey mustard glaze atop the croissant for an extra depth of flavour. While this is an innovative touch, it unfortunately doesn’t distract from the actual croissant and its filling itself, which I found a little lacking. Review of the cross-sectional images will reveal a somewhat denser pastry, with inadequately melted cheese. While I don’t profess myself to be a croissant expert, I do think that it would’ve been a stronger showing with a warmer and meltier slice of cheese inside.

Contrastingly, the house sandwich ($14) may just be one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. This sandwich’s bulging contents include ripe avocado, tomato, lettuce, chicken in mustard mayonnaise, cabbage, and a slice of cheese. It is in fact so bulging, that wrapping paper is needed to keep it together in one part. The creaminess of the mustard mayonnaise and soft chicken synergised perfectly with the ripe avocado and tomato, while the crisp, fresh lettuce provided the perfect foil for those rich tastes. A sandwich generally has no right to be this good, but to be fair, a sandwich generally has no right to be $14 either. A big recommend if the budget is willing.

The iced matcha latte ($7) was a little sweet but still quite refreshing and nice. It is extremely unfortunate however that they saw fit to load the cup up with such a vast quantity of ice, leaving little room to put the actual drink. Really poor value, in my opinion.

OPINIONS
A couple of things rubbed me the wrong way, but one thing that I can’t look past is the sheer quality of their house chicken sandwich. It’s so good, and so wholesome, that I would be happy if there were a shop that sold just that.

Not my dog.

La Lune Market
Shop 1/13 George St, North Strathfield NSW 2137

Categories
Asian Fusion Café

Benzin Cafe – Dural NSW Restaurant Review

  1. What are the main attractions at Benzin Cafe? (2 marks)
    People go to Benzin in Dural for one of two reasons. The most important reason, at least for me, is Benzin’s innovative and creative Asian-fusion food menu, cooked with flavours drawn from the owners’ and operators’ East and South East Asian heritage. The second reason, completely separate from the food, is the cafe’s prominence in the local car scene. The cafe is decorated with car parts and racing memorabilia, and for the time being even features a borrowed vintage 911 project car. The cafe also hosts regular cars and coffee mornings, and while both of these fall within my interests I am probably too shy to go to one of these with my stock miata.

2. What did you eat at Benzin Cafe? Would you recommend it? (6 marks)

We had the Brekky Tacos ($18), with pulled beef brisket in gochujang sauce, avocado, small cubes of roast potato, and tomato salsa with a whole perfectly not-too-fried egg in each corn tortilla. These tacos were absolutely packed with flavour and filling, with all elements generous for tortilla size but commensurate with price. The meat was well cooked, not at all dry or stringy, and the flavours were strong but not too strong. The fresh avocado and tomato salsa did well to balance the meatiness, though I wasn’t a big fan of the kind of sad looking low-turgor potato bits, and I didn’t really think they added anything of value to the dish. Overall these were very good tacos – better than though also more expensive than those at Vecino.

The Mushroom Tempura Bowl ($21) was also qutie good. The bowl features tempura mushroom and asparagus atop a bed of quinoa, avocado, cherry tomatoes, kale, corn, cucumber, and sweet potatoes. We optioned this dish with a piece of chicken katsu for an additional $5, though this made the dish worse rather than better. The chicken katsu was a very large piece of chicken breast (great value), however not very well crumbed and a bit overcooked. The rest of the bowl, with its tasty and moist tempura mushrooms bursting with umami flavour was very good. I can recommend this.

The Knefeh French Toast ($20) was a sweet dish that was above and beyond what we should’ve had for two people. Its constituent fruits were lovingly arranged into two symmetrical sides, pre-empting any potential hostility between my girlfriend and me. My favourite part of this dish was the crumble, which was dusted around the dish. The raspberry sorbet was quite good, and the fruits were just fine, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual knefeh French toast itself.

Gabriel Coffee is served, befitting the first man to summit Everest.

3. Would you recommend Benzin to a friend or colleague? (1 mark)
Yes. I can recommend Benzin to a friend or colleague.

Benzin Cafe
1/242 New Line Rd, Dural NSW 2158
(02) 9653 9370

Categories
Chinese

iBao (i包) Kitchen – Rhodes NSW Restaurant Review

I recently had the pleasure of being among the first to receive my COVID-19 booster vaccine at the WSLHD Sydney Super Dome Quodos Bank Arena vaccination centre, and took myself out for a nearby breakfast to celebrate. The focus of my journey, Shiweiju, was not open, and I settled on nearby iBao (i包) instead.

Similar to Shiweju, iBao (i包) serves a variety of Tianjin or Northern Chinese breakfast classics, in a no-nonsense setting. I ordered in English (much to the disappointment of the man working there) a number of dishes from my childhood.

The Soy Milk ($3), is made in the Chinese style, with a light and watery mouthfeel. It was served warm in a coffee cup, with a small amount of sugar mixed in. I don’t know whether this soy milk is made in-store or merely purchased by the jug and heated, but the uneven distribution of sugar towards the bottom of the cup implies that it is made fresh.

I was a big fan of the pancake rolled with crisp fritter ($6.80). The thin and pliable jianbing, cooked with egg, had a fresh and light taste. The tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce) was evenly applied and not overpowering, and while the jianbing was filled with a strange fried fritter rather than the classic youtiao, it still added the same crispiness.

The pork bun ($2.50) is a classic Tianjin bun, typified by the goubuli baozi that dogs don’t care about. The exterior is soft and almost dangerously thick, but when matched bite-for-bite with the moist and pork filling the meat to carb ratio was perfectly adequate. These are quite cheap and filling, and appear to be well loved by local community, who bought them in larger quantities to take home and eat with their families.

COMMENTS
There aren’t that many restaurants in Sydney focused on Tianjin or Northern Chinese cuisine, and I’m very grateful for the ones that do exist. My one gripe would be the staff member who went out for a cigarette just outside the restaurant’s front door, with the wind blowing some of the smoke inside. Maybe it added to the authenticity though.

iBao (i包) Kitchen Rhodes
Shop 5/7 Rider Blvd, Rhodes NSW 2138
(02) 9029 1656

Categories
Korean

Bibimbar – Chippendale NSW Restaurant Review

My partner and I love us some Korean food, and Chippendale’s recently opened Bibimbar, with its delightful play on play on words, broad menu, and inner city location was just the restaurant we were looking for for a quick but filling lunch.

It’s kind of difficult being in a relationship with someone who has a different taste in Korean fried chicken than your own. Nine times out of ten my partner will want to have sweet and spicy fried chicken (Dakgangjeong – 닭강정), and at restaurants that don’t offer two flavours in one serving that’s normally what we will get. We were glad that while Bibmbar doesn’t offer half and half on their half fried chicken, this choice was in fact available on their Wing Wing ($19) – a serving of twelve pieces of fried chicken wings and drumsticks.

I thought the chicken wings were well fried and flavoured, with the honey garlic wings taking the top spot in my heart. I actually did also enjoy the sweet and spicy fried chicken, more than I expected, and I think this has to do with Bibimbar’s careful attention to detail and making sure that the sauce was not so strong to be overpowering. We did also get a special creamy onion sauce for dipping ($2) though I think it is absolutely not a critical component of the meal and you’re not really missing out on anything without it. The chicken was very good as is.

The last time I had kimbab was probably back in 2003, out of my fourth grade friend Soo Hon Lee’s lunchbox. (This will be an exciting throwback for him if he has a Google alert set up for his name). No disrespect to Soo Hon and Soo Chan’s mother, but Bibimbar’s version of Kimbab (with bulgogi beef) ($14) was both better and more elaborate than what I remember. I really loved the fresh taste of the included vegetables, and the nice crunch in the mouth whilst chewing through them. This extreme freshness complimented the umami flavours of the mayonnaise, egg, and bulgogi beef very well. The ratio of fillings to rice was very good, ensuring entertainment throughout the entire mouthful. The “addicting soy sauce”, as mentioned on the menu, was actually quite a bit different to normal soy sauce, though I don’t know what exactly is in it (perhaps cocaine). I have no real barometer for kimbab except for home cooking for a nine year old’s packed lunch, but I can tell you that this was a good dish.

Jjapaguri, popularised by the Academy Award winning film Parasite, is a usually humble mixture of chapagetti and neoguri noodles – essentially a ramen and udon with spicy and black bean flavours. Bibimbar’s Jjapaguri ($34) is a little less humble – a large 30cm dish of noodles, fried tofu, some kind of fried dough cruller, cabbage, enoki, wood ear fungus, and beef brisket in a black bean sauce that’s cooked on a portable butane stove at the table. It was a really huge and delicious dish, though I’m not too sure what the actual benefit of being cooked at the table was. It was wholesome, hearty, and filling, great value with great flavours. I can really recommend this.

VERDICT
Bibimbar’s wholesome, hearty meals were an absolute delight. I can really recommend them to anyone looking for a reasonably priced and authentic Korean meal.

Bibimbar
69 Abercrombie St, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 8964 0900

Categories
Café

XS Espresso – North Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

XS Espresso’s North Parramatta branch is an extremely accessible 2.2km away from the nearest quaternary hospital, and a convenient 20 metres away from the nearest Officeworks.

This Happy Bowl ($21) is a reasonably healthy but also quite delicious bowl. The roasted pumpkin wedge is the star attraction, though the ample serving of chicken breast, fresh salad vegetables, poached egg, and beetroot hummus swirl also hold their own. While I did spend an extra $4 on sujuk, I didn’t need to, as there really was enough chicken to go around. Happy and healthy. I can recommend.

If the happy bowl is happy and healthy, the Cheesy Croissant ($18) is the absolute opposite. This cheesed up macaroni dish makes no apologies for its thickness and gooeyness, delivered straight from the plate into your coronary artery foam cells. This is a tasty but very heavy dish, and not recommended for anyone looking to live a long and healthy life.

This Beef Sausage & Egg Roll ($7.50) disappointed me. I mistook it to be a breakfast muffin, a la the amazing McLovin at Happyfield. It ended up very standard. The top bread bun was a non-necessary addition.

Taking a step backwards into health land, this Secret Chicken Sandwich ($12), lightly toasted with a large slab of chicken breast and plenty of salad, was a mild flavoured and reasonably good-for-you snack. Not bad for the LDL and wallet conscious.

Flash forward now to Monday the 11th of October 2021. NSW has just reached its 70% double-dose COVID-19 vaccination target, and we have just finished the third and last night in our week, having somehow managed to keep everyone in our little corner of the intensive care unit alive. I had a sense of great anxiety approaching our first post-nights breakfast in many months, sitting in the car as I surveyed XS’ other patrons and wondering if the potential for exposure to the largely vaccinated but still possibly unvaccinated masses of Western Sydney was truly worth it for an egg.

After anxiously consulting a few of my colleagues around the country I ultimately decided it would be pretty safe to have a quick meal in one of their outdoor dining areas. Concerningly they only checked the vaccination status of one of our scrubbed up party of three.

The Delicious Dean ($18) was my visually attractive, reasonably healthy, but otherwise a little disappointing choice. While the smashed avocado, bread, pesto, and tiny cut cherry tomatoes were just fine, the egg leaved a lot to be desired. I was extremely disappointed, after witnessing the perfect runniess of my colleague KS’ poached egg, to find that mine was pretty much cooked through. The difficulty of navigating the prosciutto added insult to injury, though that was mostly my own fault as sujuk was offered as an alternative.

While ultimately the breakfast offerings at XS tend to be only OK, it was just nice to be able to eat at a cafe after so long away.

XS Espresso North Parramatta
9A/2 Windsor Rd, Northmead NSW 2152
(02) 9890 9229