“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Brunching @ Wagyu Café, Hong Kong

I am always so busy during this time of the year, that I hardly have any 'down time' to myself. So many errands to run, appointments to meet (mostly for the kids), and running after the toddler everyday while the boy is at school! I get to enjoy family time on Sunday after the morning church service, and most Sundays we choose to take it easy and not bother going out anywhere far from home. Last Sunday, we decided to jump into the festive mood, and we headed over to Pacific Place to check out the Christmas decorations and meet with Santa! We never really sold the Santa story to our 6-year-old, but he was pretty excited to meet one (who he knows is not the Santa), and we got our first family portrait with the most authentic-looking Santa Claus I've ever seen. No fake belly, and I think his beard was real! Anyway, the man in the Santa Claus suit played his part well (I believe the mall hires the same guy every year), and there were many families eager for a photo with him that day! We had to buy a ticket, but all proceeds of the sale goes to charity, and the number token system eliminated unnecessary waiting around in a long queue - a blessing for families with little ones! The boy and I arrived about 30 minutes after ticket sales began that morning, but there were already so many people ahead of us that we were told to come back 2.5 hours later with our number token. I didn't mind that so much as it gave us plenty of time to wait for hubby to arrive after baby girl woke up from her nap, and to enjoy a leisurely lunch. My plan was to bring the family to this nice little place near the mall where I'd been to a couple of times with a friend, but was surprised to see that it was no longer there! Everything looked the same, but with a different name: Wagyu Café. Wagyu Café belongs to the same umbrella company as Oolaa Petite, which I found out later had moved to another shop space on Star Street not far away. The menu appeared very similar to Oolaa Petite, and since a table for four was available at this peak brunch time, we decided to just give it a try anyway.

The service was more or less the same as last times I visited - adequate and friendly - and the atmosphere was also quite the same. The menu was only slightly different, and we knew what we wanted so it didn't take long for us to decide and order. Our table featured a lot of eggs! Staff were happy to check with the kitchen our allergy queries for our boy, and the kitchen was also flexible when I requested to switch the spinach for avocado in my eggs marianne. The boy enjoyed his meal of bread-and-eggs, the baby gladly ate anything we put in her mouth (mushrooms, eggs, avocado), and the grown-ups were also happy with their food!

The boy's 2 Eggs Any Style (poached) with toast (HK$30). Simplicity at its best:

Hubby chose the Full English (HK$115) - eggs any style (hubby requested scrambled), cumberland sausages, bacon, mushrooms, pan fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes and baked beans (served in a separate bowl, not pictured). No complaints from hungry hubby who proceeded to swiftly finish his plate:

I chose my staple brunch of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and avocado (HK$110), and sage hollandaise on the side as requested. Can't go wrong with poached eggs on toasted turkish bread! Perfectly fine without the hollandaise (though hubby loves it drenched in the sauce):

A side of mushrooms (HK$30) to up the vege intake:

Hubby was still hungry after his full English breakfast, so he ordered Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (HK$75) with crème fraîche and blackberries. Light and fluffy, and so good with maple syrup and berries (though the boy preferred to eat his dry without syrup and fruit):

It was good to see that although the name of the café had changed, the quality was still as good as before.

[Prices quoted above do not include the 10% service charge.]

Wagyu Café
Ground Floor

Shop 12 & 14 Regal Court
Wing Fung Street
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2529 1618

Monday, 8 December 2014

Double birthday celebrations @ Mammas Pizza & Pasta Bar, Sydney (Australia)

When we were with my family in Sydney a couple of months ago, we took the opportunity to celebrate the kids' birthdays with them. The boy had just turned six, and on baby girl's 11th month day, we asked my family to head over to Mammas Pizza & Pasta Bar for a double birthday celebration. We even had my father-in-law and his wife join in the fun, as they had flown in from Brisbane that morning just for a day to see us. The boy requested a pizza place, and it seemed like a good choice for a group with so many little ones (I don't know of any kid who doesn't like pizza). I chose Mammas for the positive rating and reviews on Urbanspoon, the location in the CBD, and for the availability of gluten-free items on the menu. Making the reservations for our party of 21 was easy, and it was nice of the restaurant to give us their mezzanine function area. I had no problems with service at all, and in fact I had a pleasant experience dealing with the staff. The restaurant stored our cakes in the fridge/freezer and even had a stash of candles to loan us if we needed them (we were already given some by one of the cake shops we purchased from). I left it up to hubby to order the food for the masses, and those with special dietary requirements were free to order their food (I saw a bowl of gluten-free pasta, a salad and a plate of salmon, and they all looked delicious). Prices were quite reasonable, and I believe everyone was happy with the quality of the food (though I rarely hear anyone complain about food that have been paid for them).

Mammas' mezzanine function area:

Mozzarella Sticks (AU$10.50), served with homemade napoletana sauce:

Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna (a vegetarian option, AU$16.50). Lasagna was the first western food I ate when I was about eight, at a friend's birthday party in Malaysia - her Swiss mum made it and I fell in love with lasagna. This was yummy with layers of pasta sheets filled with spinach, ricotta and bechamel, topped with napoletana sauce and shaved parmesan:

Beef Lasagna (AU$16.50), with bolognese. This is the traditional lasagna version, also yummy, but if you asked me to choose which one I preferred, I would say the spinach and ricotta:

Hawaiian Pizza (AU$19.50 for 30cm) - ham, pineapple and mozzarella on a thin tomato base. An old favourite:

Barbeque Chicken Pizza (AU$22.50 for 30cm) - chicken breast, caramelised onion, mushroom, grilled capsicum and mozzarella cheese on a bbq base. A delicious combination:

Supreme Pizza (AU$19.50 for 30cm) - ham, pepperoni, pineapple, olives, capsicum, onions and mozzarella on a thin tomato base. Another crowd-pleaser:

Emperor Pizza (AU$22.50 for 30cm) - chicken breast, avocado, basil, parmesan, diced tomato and mozzarella on a tomato base. This one was my favourite. Hubby got it because he knew how much I love avocado, and it worked very nicely on this pizza:

A Triple Chocolate Gelato Cake from Gelato Messina (thanks Hon for cake-shopping on our behalf), for the boy who LOVED it. It was so good:

A Japanese Cheesecake from Breadtop, for the girl (though she wasn't interested to eat any). A light and airy cheesecake, almost like the ones we could get in Japan:

Good times, great company, and delicious food.

Mammas Pizza & Pasta Bar
57 Liverpool St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel. +61 2 9264 5841

Mammas Pizza Pasta Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hidden sushi gem @ Sushi-Ya, Artarmon (NSW, Australia)

We stayed with my younger sister and brother-in-law when we visited Sydney in mid-October, and they live in Artarmon, a Lower North Shore suburb not too far north of the CBD. It is quite a nice little area, convenient with a couple of nearby train stations and some shops and restaurants near the train tracks. On one of the days, we met up with hubby's father and wife who had flown into Sydney from Brisbane for the day to meet up with us. We hung out at my sister's place while waiting for baby girl to wake from her morning nap, and then we headed out in search for lunch near Artarmon train station. On the main strip of shops, there are a couple of green grocers, a bakery, and several eating establishments, but on the other side of the track is a small avenue known as 'Little Japan' with a ramen shop, a Japanese grocer and a Japanese restaurant. I wasn't expecting much, but Sushi-Ya turned out to be a pleasant surprise, serving authentic and delicious Japanese cuisine. Japanese food is my favourite cuisine, and having lived and eaten in Japan for four years, I am pretty picky about the food quality, particularly with sushi and sashimi. This place meets my standard and gets our thumbs up.

There are two distinct dining areas of different styles, and I found out later that they were previously two separate restaurants sharing the same kitchen. Both sides has indoor and outdoor tables, and we chose to sit inside because of the slightly chilly weather. We visited on a weekday, and there was only one Japanese waitress working, but she held up well even after the place filled up with the lunch crowd. The chef was also Japanese, who knew how to make quality Japanese dishes. The menu was extensive and offered a wide variety of dishes, and we introduced a few Japanese dishes to my father-in-law and his wife, who loved everything.

Salmon Tataki - salmon simply seared, allowing the beautiful quality of the fish to shine:

Seaweed Salad with a Sesame Dressing - can't go wrong with crunchy seaweed. My father-in-law loved it so much that we ordered a second serving:

Ikura Sushi - salmon roe sushi is the 6-year-old boy's favourite sushi, and these were gone in a blink:

Sashimi, part of a set that included tempura, rice and miso soup (not pictured). Tuna, salmon, squid, scallops, octopus and flying fish roe - all fresh and excellent quality:

Father-in-law ordered a Sukiyaki Set, which was perfect for the chilly weather. Hearty beef with plenty of vegetables:

Hubby was keen to introduce Okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pancake) to his dad, and this did not disappoint:

For dessert, Taiyaki with sweet red bean paste filling and green tea (this was called a waffle pancake on the menu). I think this went down well, despite initial reservations from father-in-law about beans in a dessert:

The restaurant, as viewed coming from Artarmon train station:

There were more food than pictured here, and I must have been quite distracted with feeding the baby to notice that I missed taking photos of a few dishes. But never mind, just know that the food is good at Sushi-Ya.

10 Wilkes Ave
Artarmon, NSW 2064
Tel. +61 2 9411 1377

Sushi-Ya on Urbanspoon

Monday, 24 November 2014

Yum cha @ King Fook Restaurant (formerly Kam Fook), Chatswood [Sydney, Australia]

The irony of having yum cha whenever we travel out of Hong Kong is not lost on me. The truth is, though we can get good dim sum here in HK, we prefer the yum cha experience with the camaraderie of a large group dining, so we don't often do yum cha here. Last month we travelled to Australia to see our family, and we spent a weekend at The Entrance to celebrate my dad's 70th. The drive back to Sydney took about 1.5 hours, and it was lunch time by the time we got back (it was no small effort to organise our group of several families with children to make the apartment rentals' check-out time). My younger sister led our group of cars to Westfield Chatswood shopping centre for yum cha lunch at King Fook Restaurant. Lunch at this restaurant almost didn't happen because my younger sister got a little annoyed at the floor manager for refusing to sit our group on one table (we were seated at two round tables when there were rectangular tables and ample space on the stage, but manager cited safety reason). We made do by joining up the two round tables instead, and conflict was resolved. Service for the most part was friendly and helpful, but my dear sister-in-law speaks excellent Chinese which I think helped because many of the restaurant staff had quite poor English ability. One main gripe about the service was that the only a-la-carte dish we ordered took a very long time to arrive, long after we were finished with the dim sum dishes. I suspect our order got forgotten and the dish only got prepared after we asked whether it was coming. The quality of the dim sum was fair, not too bad considering they were not freshly steamed or prepared but served from trolleys/carts that were wheeled around the restaurant. The food was pretty pricey, about AU$25 per person, and I'm pretty sure you can get better quality dim sum for cheaper elsewhere in Sydney.

The vast dining hall with chandeliers:

Har Gow (prawn dumplings):

Pork Spare Ribs:

Phoenix Claws (aka chicken feet):

Siu Mai (prawn and pork dumpling):

Har Cheong (rice noodle rolls with prawns:

Scallop Dumplings:

Crispy Yam Puffs:

Fish Congee, ordered for the baby:

Chicken Pie:

Strawberry and Cream Crepe:

Fried Rice, with a combination of seafood:

Overall it was an okay experience. Not the best dim sum, but not the worst either.

King Fook Restaurant
Shop 600
Westfield Chatswood
28 Victor St
Chatswood, NSW 2057
Tel. +61 2 9413 9388

Kam Fook on Urbanspoon