30 November 2009

SaigonSaigon: Vietnamese, Glebe (29 Nov 2009)

97 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037

I see red I see red I see red

My first taste of SaigonSaigon was at the Jenius Book Launch and tonight I'm invited as a guest to try some of the other dishes which I've been curious in comparing with other Vietnamese restaurants. I've always wanted to feel like a Gordon Ramsay walking into a restaurant like Kitchen Nightmares to observe how things could be improved but of course this place is no nightmare and they certainly need no help with the fantastic decor which is welcoming, contemporary and classy — they apparently also received an excellent rating for cleaniness of the kitchen from authorities. To start the Lemon and Soda Drink and Pineapple and Mint Frappe are both very refreshing and delicious. They help to cool me down as I feel the dining room has retained some heat from the days heat wave. I'm not sure if the restaurant has air con but after the rear balcony doors are opened a cooling breeze is allowed to drift through.

For entree I'm intrigued by the lotus root used in the Beef Salad which has a delightful taste and works well — I can't remember trying lotus root before but apparently it's authentic so I'll be looking out for it next time. I wish the beef salad came on top of a large black sesame seed prawn cracker like Thanh Binh use for their Green Papaya Salad but the normal prawn crackers still work OK for topping. The filling for the Vietnamese Pancake is well balanced with decent amounts of prawn throughout without having too many bean sprouts. Possibly one of the better ones I've had around town although we agreed it could have been cooked a bit longer to give it a crisper outer shell. The Sugar Cane Prawns are decently sized and tasty which are used in the DIY rolls. The version at Thanh Binh in Cabramatta still reigns supreme as the biggest and best around town I've tried though. One thing I noticed absent with the entrees was a selection of Vietnamese herbs and mint which adds that freshness and flavour unique to Vietnamese cuisine. I'm not sure about the inclusion of sliced onion on the salad which I haven't really come across and think it would be much better replaced with fresh minty herbs, cucumber slices and extra pickled carrot.

Onto mains with the tasty Pork Clay Pot which had good flavour. The Soft Shell Crab had a good crunch factor although I think it could have benefited with a side dipping sauce. I've had plenty of Soft Shell Crab before with Longrain being one of my favourites along with Snakebean, Phamish and Akaneya. This version was pretty decent in size although the coating was perhaps a little thicker than others — I've been told the Salt and Pepper Squid and Prawns is a signature dish to try next time. A good variety of fresh vegetables came with the Wok Seared Greens. Desserts were simply presented with the Deep Fried Banana Fritters being my favourite — batter was thin and crisp and bananas moist and tasty, a good way to end the meal.

Service was friendly although has received some negative comments in the past from Eatability about being slow. I think I could see this potentially happening during busy times if there wasn't enough staff on because it's quite a sizable restaurant with blind spots created by the mirrored partition which divides the restaurant — perhaps something for the owner to keep an eye on.

Pineapple and mint frappe

Lemon and soda drink with mint

Beef salad with lotus root $17.50

Vietnamese pancake $18.50

Sugar cane prawns $15

Pork clay pot $17.50

Soft Shell Crab $23

Wok seared greens $15.50

Deep fried ice cream $8.50

Deep fried banana fritters $8.50

Sticky rice pudding with taro

Green tea

Wall painting

Mirrored partition

Woman's toilet (I've bought one of these dolls in Vietnam too)

Fish and bamboo wall feature

By night

29 November 2009

Marché De Noël: French Christmas Market, Lycee Condorcet, Maroubra (28 Nov 2009)

The International French School of Sydney
758 Anzac Parade, Maroubra NSW 2035

Bonjour Maroubra!

I was hoping for a few more French food stalls at this annual French Christmas Market but nevertheless there was plenty of French accents to make me feel like I was visiting a small French market place full of community and National pride. Amongst the food stalls I noticed C'est Si Bon which is a popular patisserie in Rose Bay where you'll find Foie Gras if your so inclined.

Ham and Gruyere sandwich with pickle $5

Pâté of wildboar, emu and crocodile

Foie gras

Indoor market stalls

Freshly made crepes


French books for kids

28 November 2009

King's Vault: Pop Up Bar, Darlinghurst (27 Nov 2009)

20 McLachlan Avenue, Darlinghurst NSW 2011

Pop Up Bars are the new black

First came Secret Dinners and Bars like Table for 20 and Sticky Bar, then there were Small Bars like Pocket Bar and Ching-a-lings, and now we have Pop Up Stores and Pop Up Bars in Sydney to tempt the Y-Gen with their Tweets. King's Vault is described on their website as a unique new bar that will open in Sydney, for a very short time and at a very secret location. The bar will literally ‘pop up’ overnight, and on behalf of Tourism Victoria, guests are invited to come in and experience the exceptional wines of the King Valley wine region.

I'm glad I got to check it out on it's last night and to try their prosecco and cheese plate which included 2 soft cheeses, 1 hard and 1 blue cheese which I thought was quite good value for $10 including olives. The makeshift bar included crates, biodegradable plates and cutlery, a single unisex toilet and light features made from cardboard I think. Looking forward to the next tweeted Pop Up Bar to check out.

Cheese Plate $10 (small)

Dal Zotto Pucino Prosecco NV, LaZona Prosecco NV, $10/glass each

Bar and features

Wine menu

Window view

Wall map

Aesop hand wash in toilet

Kitchen (left), single toilet at end

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