Categories
Asian Fusion Vietnamese

Hello Auntie – Darling Square Haymarket NSW Restaurant Review

We’ve passed Hello Auntie multiple times on our numerous trips to Darling Square, and felt it was time to pay them a visit. Given the limited COVID-19 seating situation, we booked ahead for the same night, which was not a problem at all on a Wednesday.

Hello Auntie has mixed indoor and outdoor seating, and provides blankets to snuggle up under for both indoor outdoor patrons. I can’t imagine that these are washed very often, and thus with the COVID-19 context in mind draws allusions to Christopher Columbus.

As lovers of fried chicken, we were unable to see past the Ga Chien Vi Pho ($32). 500 grams of fried chicken in a pho-flavoured batter could not simply be ignored. We were surprised with three large pieces of juicy, tender chicken in a fluffy golden batter – I had imagined more numerous, smaller pieces. The chicken was tasty and not faultable – a definite recommendation. Despite being listed in the menu I didn’t realise the dish came with a large amount of salad – lettuce heart in plenty of ceasar-like dressing. A relatively heavy and oily salad but a nice and surprising addition.

The other dish we had was the Mi xao bo birria ($21). Supposedly angus blade ragu in biang biang noodles, this dish was very similar to the pappardelle with lamb shank ragu at Flour Drum, but nowhere near as good. The angus blade ragu amounted to little more than connective tissue with only a vague hint of actual meat. It was a very chewy affair. We also found that the biang biang noodles had an odd stale-like taste, which just piled onto the dish’s inadequacies. It was ultimately a poorly executed noodle dish that I wish we had avoided.

While I enjoyed Hello Auntie’s chicken, the ragu was a big letdown. I would return to Hello Auntie to try some other dishes, but probably not in the near future. Hello Auntie earns a rare 3.5/5 chickens. Bok bok.

Hello Auntie Darling Square
Darling Square, Shop 2/16 Nicolle Walk, Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 8072 8838

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.

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

Belly Bao
184 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
0402 826 907

Categories
Chinese

Din Tai Fung – World Square Sydney CBD NSW Restaurant Review

If there’s one theme to Din Tai Fung, Taiwanese multinational dim sum chain, is that the food is alright but expensive. This was my second time dining at Din Tai Fung, the first was with a few of my friends from high school (and now medical colleagues) in 2012.

The xiao long baos (8 for $14.90) at Din Tai Fung are pretty standard fare. Though a flagship dish of DTF, they do not stand out apart from the fact that there is nothing wrong with them. They are juicy and tasty, however at 8 for $14.90 are very overpriced. There is nothing about them that sets them apart from other XLBs (my senior intensive care colleague remarked that not everything needs to be abbreviated – but I think this is a common abbreviation), and they are no better than Taste of Shanghai‘s, which are 8 for $12.

The spicy seafood dumplings/wontons (6 for $14.90) were really quite good. They were stuffed full of seafood flavours, and the spicy soup/dipping sauce that they came in was quite nice as well. Expensive, but a recommendation from me.

The shrimp and pork dumplings (6 for $13.90), steamed, were pretty good but again expensive. I wouldn’t consider them as special as the spicy seafood dumplings, so would not recommend these if the choice is between the two.

The pork and prawn shao mai (4 for $12.90) were missable. Similar comments to the above. Don’t think I need to repeat myself.

The green beans with minced pork ($17.90) are standard Chinese restaurant fare. You would certainly expect a much larger serving for this price though. Get them if you like it, but green beans are not what Din Tai Fung is known for.

It’s nice to eat food named after a dead Chinese guy for once. Even though General Tso may be more or less long forgotten, the chicken that has nothing else to do with him apart from bearing his name lives on. DTF’s General Tso’s Chicken ($18.90) is the second GTC I’ve ever had, the first being in Box Hill, Victoria, in 2015. Though not traditional Chinese food, I actually quite enjoyed it. I liked the spicy sweetness, and fried chicken of any sort is generally a winner. I can recommend this dish as long as you’re not someone who gets offended by the simple concept of Westernised Chinese food (how come when it’s diner food it’s not called “fusion”?).

The pork chop noodle soup ($15.90) and the fried rice chicken fillet ($17.90) could almost be described in the same breath. While the pork chop was more salt and pepper, and the chicken fillet had more of a classic Taiwanese fried chicken taste, the two were essentially the same – slabs of meat, battered deep friend, seasoned, and cut into slices. Neither were bad, however again the price comes into play – why spend $18 on fried rice and Taiwanese fried chicken when you can get a larger piece of chicken for $10.50 across the road at Hot Star on Liverpool St? The carbs in these dishes were nothing to sing praise about.

I actually really enjoyed the prawn pancake ($9.90). It reminded me of the deep fried bean curd with prawn filling inside. Very nice prawn flavour, and the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect choice of accompaniment.

The Jasmine tea served in paper cups ($5 for the table), was a good buy for a party of 4, and actually much cheaper than most yum cha places. I imagine they’re only served in paper cups to minimise contact with our gross intensive care germs during COVID-19 , however that doesn’t really make sense to me as they’re handling all the other crockery and cutlery anyway.

VERDICT
While the food at Din Tai Fung tastes and looks completely adequate, it competes with alternatives that are not only completely adequate tasting but also two thirds of the price. We paid $142.10 between four for the above pictured dishes, which I think is a bit too much for a dim sum meal that wasn’t that special.

Din Tai Fung World Square
Shop 11.04, Level 1/644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9261 0219

Categories
Korean

DonDon City – Sydney CBD NSW Restaurant Review

I remember it like it were yesterday, however this review has been sitting in my drafts since July 2020. I will first set the scene. I had eaten Korean BBQ with my colleagues from work the night before, and my partner had gotten jealous and demanded that we eat Korean again. We had tried to secure a last minute reservation at a number of Korean restaurants in the city, however due to quite strict COVID-19 regulations the only one we could book was DonDon City.

My partner made the choice adult decision to get a bit tipsy prior to even leaving home, leaving me to be the responsible adult for the night. Above is a photo of banchan as well as the soju ($15) she consumed at the restaurant, atop of her pregame.

Korean fried chicken ($24) was not bad, but not finished. A bit on the tasty side for me, but my partner liked it and subsequently finished it the following day at home.

Seafood pancake ($19) was again, not bad, but not the best I’ve had and nothing to write home about.

Bibimbap ($18) I thought was a bit below average. Visually good but the meat was dry.

I honestly can’t remember how this short beef rib soup ($20) tasted. It was eaten and promptly forgotten.

Overall I think DonDon City was a nonmemorable and middling meal. There was nothing wrong with it in particular, but also nothing very good about it. I remember being full, but not happy. I will do my best to not return (unless I can be promised bossam).

3.5/5

DonDon City
1/636-638 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9261 0023

Categories
Japanese

Nakano Darling – Darling Square Sydney CBD Izakaya Review

Is it a restaurant? Is it a bar? The answer is it’s probably both. I had walked past Nakano Darling in Darling Square n-number of times before a few of my colleagues decided we’d get dinner and drinks there one October night. I had never been keen on Nakano – after all, what kind of izakaya doesn’t offer yakitori? – but was willing to give it ago.

We went on a weekend evening after work, which meant that while parking was literally right next to the restaurant, it cost $8 instead of the usual $5. We shared a 300mL bottle of kizakura sake ($22) between the four of us, a can of nonalcoholic fuji apple cider each ($4), as well as a variety of nibbles. Allow me to elaborate further.

Chicken Karaage, yu-rinchi

This is the largest serving of chicken karaage ($24), with which we paid an additional $2 each for mentai mayo and yu-rinchi dipping sauce. I really liked the karaage. It had a surprising tangy vinegary flavour that is nonstandard for karaage and thus I had not anticipated. This sour and delicious marinade made me want to keep on eating the chicken. The mentai mayo and yu-rinchi dipping sauces ended up being a bit superflous in my opinion. The yu-rinchi was mostly untouched, and the mentai mayo ended up being used for other dishes. The karaage stood strongly on its own flavouring.

chive and egg omlette

This was the chive and egg omelette ($9.90) which was mostly nonremarkable. I liked that it was not overcooked and that the egg was still somewhat yolky, however think that it would have been better if the chives were more finely chopped so that they could be more evenly distributed throughout the dish. It had a subtle and nonmemorable flavour to it.

corn butter

The corn butter ($11.50) had sweet corn in butter and cheese. I did not personally enjoy it, however I cannot speak for my colleagues. This is a dish you would commonly see at a budget Korean diner.

stir fried wagyu

The stir fried wagyu ($11.50) was the biggest disappointment of the night. It had a mere 4 tiny pieces of beef for us to share, and indeed was more full of capsicum and other vegetables. Truly an unenjoyable disappointment.

The gyoza (3 rows for $24) was some of the best gyoza I have ever had. Probably the best. They came out super fresh and piping hot, and the meaty and juicy fillings stand out above any other gyoza I have had at a restaurant in recent times. We loved it so much that we ended up getting a second serving at the end of our meal.

Overall I found that the gyoza and karaage are standouts among the food, while the others were quite missable. We did ask for some mackerel and were not told that it was unavailable until we queried it about an hour later. The overall vibe of the place was very nice and authentic, with many reminders posted in our booth to drink and be loud in each other’s company.

Definitely a place to visit with a group of friends. Not a place to go by yourself or as a couple. Can recommend, and could recommend even more if they added yakitori to their offerings.

UPDATE – 03/03/2021

Nakano Darling was the restaurant that started it all for our group of intrepid intensive care foodies, and after a further 21 meals together we found ourselves back at this Darling Square izakaya. We were keen to try some of the items that we had missed out on during our last visit, as well as some new menu items and old favourites – the gyoza and chicken karaage.

Orion beer tower was $48 for 2L. Our health minded group did not have the power to finish it between the four of us.

The chives and egg omelette ($9.90) had actually completely changed from our last visit in October 2020. The omelette’s construction is now far more loose and soft, with less of a hard flat surface than before. The taste and texture of the omelette is now improved, and I actually quite enjoyed it.

The vinegar cured mackerel (shimesaba) ($11.50) – a cold dish that is heated by a torch just prior to serving, was actually pretty great. The vinegar marinade soaked well into the mackerel’s flesh, producing a sour-umami hit with each bite. I’m glad we were able to come back for this, as it had been sold out on our previous visit.

The takowasa ($5.90), a small dish of raw octopus heavily flavoured with wasabi. It was a bit of an adventurous order but actually turned out to be quite nice. The octopus was chopped into very small bits and had a really crisp texture when chewed. The flavour was good and fresh, though I can’t say much for the COVID-safety of the dish (2 of our 4 have been already received the Pfizer vaccine though, with one more scheduled to receive it the following day).

Following on from the octopus theme, the octopus karaage ($8.50) was unfortunately a bit more boring than the rest of the meal. It was just a standard dish of octopus, battered and deep fried, served with a wedge of lemon. Nothing special to see here.

The Japanese Beef Curry with croquette ($15) was nice but not really a plate amenable to sharing. The beef was cooked straight into the curry sauce, with bits of muscle, fat, and connective tissue mixed in. The option of topping (karaage, croquette, cheese, or mini veg) was a bit limiting, and we would’ve liked to have been able to order multiple toppings as add ons. Generally a good curry though, with the sauce being a standout, similar to though just slightly beaten by Manpuku’s in Kingsford.

VERDICT
I can definitely recommend Nakano Darling as a place to drink and eat with your friends and colleagues. 5 stars.

Nakano Darling
14 Steam Mill La, Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 8957 4301