Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gelato Messina, Syndey

Update Review, May 2015 Visit

No visit to Sydney is complete without at least one stop at Messina for gelato.  On my recent visit, it wasn't summer any longer, but, we still couldn't resist the temptation of delicious gelato.

Wait, do you not know about Messina?  In that case, I suggest you go read the review from my Jan/Feb 2015 visit below, and then return here, since I'm skipping all the general details this time around.
Specials Board.
On this visit, one of the specials on the week was "Messina's Momofukup".  OMG.  This sounded like basically the best thing ever: "Cereal Milk gelato smashed with Momofuku crack pie".  For the unfamiliar, this is referring to the two famous creations from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York: the cereal milk and the crack pie.

Cereal milk is basically the sweet milk left after you eat a bowl of sweet cereal, and they have made it into soft serve ice cream at the Milk Bar.  Its crazy sweet, but amazing.  But even more amazing is the Crack Pie, honestly, the most addicting pie I've ever tasted.  Very aptly named.  Both insanely delicious on their own, and I could only imagine how amazing this combination could be.

I smartly asked to sample it rather than just diving in to getting a scoop, and I'm glad I did.  It turned out to just be too sweet.  I expected sweet, but, this was just too much.  I guess some things are better individually!

[ No Photo ]
Chocolate Peanut Butter

It didn't really matter that the Momofukup wasn't a winner, as Ojan had eyes only for the Chocolate Peanut Butter.  I did want to try something new, but, I liked it previously myself, so I went along with his decision, and opted to just share with him.

Sadly, it lost its magic on me.  The gelato was fine, but it didn't melt in quite the creamy way I remembered.  Maybe that is just because it wasn't a warm day?  But the bigger issue, is that it seemed just like chocolate, I didn't really pick up any peanut butter.  The magic of chocolate peanut butter flavor is, well, the combination.

Original Review, Dec/Jan 2015 Visits

On my first visit to Sydney, a friend introduced me to Gelato Messina.  It was, at the time, the best ice cream-like treat I had ever had.  I can’t even count how many times I returned over the course of that stay, or the next visit, or the next.  For some reason however, on my recent trip, it took me a full 2 weeks into the trip before I made it to Messina.  The weather just wasn’t as warm as I was expecting, and there were too many other things that kept coming up.  I don’t know.  I have no excuse.  I regret it, and won't make this mistake again in the future.

Anyway, Messina.  Gelato.  Great gelato.  They have several locations around Sydney, including the crazy busy one I used to queue up at in Darlinghurst, and now, they even have a shop in the food court area of the Star Casino, right near my office.  Score.

Every day they offer about 40 flavors, and each weekday they come up with a new special, available for one week only.  Those flavors tend to be far more crazy than the standard offerings.  The staff are always far more patient than seems possible, and offer to let you try as many flavors as you need to make up your mind.
Milk Chocolate with Chocolate Peanut Fudge, Single. $4.
This was Ojan’s pick, not mine, since I rarely go for chocolate ice cream.  But wow, it was good.  The peanut butter was rich and totally amazing, smooth and creamy.  The gelato itself was light and creamy.  The consistency was magical.  It melted perfectly.  Wowzer.  One bite of this, and I instantly remembered why I love Messina.

When we visited a few days later, and neither of us ordered this flavor, we both regretted it, and vowed to just get it again next time.
Gianduia Bianca, Tiny.  $3.
"White chocolate & hazelnut gelato with hazelnut praline"

I opted for the gianduia bianca in a moment of pure indecision.  For some reason, I wasn't loving any of the flavors I tried that day.  And I tried many.  I like praline, so, I went for it, even though, I don't normally like hazelnut.  Whoops.  I panicked, after feeling bad for trying so many flavors and not loving any (I had tried 4 or 5 at this point!).  The staff member was ridiculously friendly and told me to try as many as I liked, but I felt bad and just made a decision.  A rather poor one.

Anyway, it as very sweet, as both the base, and the praline, were very sweet.  It had chunks of hazelnut and very generous chunks of the praline.  Certainly well crafted, and I appreciated how much candy they put in it, but it needed something to balance out the sweet.  Luckily for me, Ojan ordered the regular gianduia, which was rich was chocoaltey, so I stole a little of his to mellow mine out.  It was better this way, but I wouldn't get this flavor again.
I found this photo from one of my earlier visits.  I don't recall what kind it was ...

My full sampling notes from flavors tried on this trip:

  • Apple Pie: "Real apple gelato with our own house made apple pie throughout".  I wanted to love this since I love pie and ice cream, but somehow it was just not interesting, although I admit, it was loaded up with pie for sure.
  • Caramelised White Chocolate: This was just very sweet.  It didn't taste caramely, nor white chocolatey.  One of my least favorites.  Perhaps good in combination with something else.
  • Gianduia: "Chocolate & hazelnut", Rich and chocolatey, but not as good as chocolate peanut butter fudge.  If you want a chocolate one, just go for that!
  • Salted Caramel and White Chocolate: "Salted caramel gelato with white chocolate chip." This is their best seller.  It was ... yup, salted caramel.  Sweet and salty.  I think I've moved on past the novelty of salted caramel however, so this was rather lost on me, but everyone else loves it.
  • Pandan & Coconut Sorbet: I actually really liked this, as I was really into asian flavors, like coconut and pandan, while in Sydney, but I'm not really one for sorbets.  Bring on the dairy!
Weekly Specials
  • P NUTTY: "Peanut butter gelato with peanut butter cookies and peanut custard."  This was actually pretty good, as I love peanut butter, but it was a bit much.  Probably great paired with a chocolate or vanilla base as a second scoop.
  • FO SHIZZLE: "Caramel custard gelato with candied hazelnuts, raspberry puree and chocolate chips."  This was also pretty good, as someone who likes lots of mix-ins, I appreciated all the assorted "stuff" in it.
Gelato Messina Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quick Bite at Prospect

I live, and work, right near Prospect restaurant.  I've been to the bar area many times, usually just for cocktails and sometimes bar snacks.  You can read all about my past adventures, and the restaurant in general, in old reviews.  I've never loved Prospect the way some of my friends do, but, they also have gone through several chef shuffles, so I do keep giving them a try.

On this particular visit, it was a random night, on the early side, and I had no plans until later in the evening.  I was really craving something tasty, but was incredibly lazy.  And by tasty, I didn't mean my usual desire for decadent desserts or baked goods.  I had plenty of those in my apartment.  I wanted ... an upscale snack.  I know, really an odd mood to be in, but, luckily for me, I could just venture downstairs to Prospect.

I felt a bit silly, dining alone somewhere nice.  Since it was early, the bar area was not busy, and it was easy for me to get a seat, rather than sit awkwardly in the dining room.  I knew I could order off the full menu from the bar from past experience, and was really much more comfortable there.  The bartender was friendly and polite, and took great care of me.

I enjoyed my "snack" quite a bit, and must remember that Prospect is always there as an easy, although non-traditional, option for me!
Amuse Bouche: Halibut Brandade with Spicy Aioli.
Since I had plans later, I only ordered an appetizer, not a full entree.  And as I said, I was just sitting at the bar, not the main dining room.  So I was surprised when an extra bite showed up.  An amuse bouche, even for a bar patron, who was just getting a single appetizer?  Amazing, and appreciated, but I felt slightly bad.  Did they expect me to order an entree next?  I wasn't planning to have a full meal and felt guilty.

Anyway, the amuse was pretty tasty.  It was incredibly hot, clearly fresh out of the fryer.  It was salty, as it was brandade obviously, but it was salty in a good way, if you like intense salt flavor.  Which I do.  The interior was creamy and moist.  The spicy aioli served alongside was creamy and had a slight tang, a nice counterpart to the hot salty bite.  My only complaint is that it was a bit too oily, I think it probably just needed to be drained for a second longer.

It was also a fairly unique choice for an amuse, hot and a heavier sort of dish than an amuse often can be.  I liked it, and could even see it as a regular item on their bar snacks menu.
Monterey Calamari: Squid Ink Spaghetti, Pickled Jalapeños, Viola Turnips, Sea Urchin Emulsion. $15.50.

Since I just wanted a small bite, I opted for an appetizer.  I've been craving calamari lately, so I ordered the dish titled "Monterey Calamari".  Of course, I knew it was Prospect and that there would certainly be a twist on what I was expecting.  So I knew for sure that this wouldn't just be a plate of fried calamari, particularly given that the follow up description said there would be squid ink spaghetti and sea urchin emulsion, all things I love.

When it arrived, I did sorta laugh to myself.  Calamari?  Yes, there were a few rings of calamari on the plate, but this was very much a squid ink pasta dish.  The naming aside, this dish really had my name all over it.  I love squid ink pasta.  I love uni.  And, as I said, I was craving calamari.

The calamari were tiny little rings, and honestly, got completely lost in the dish.  When I found one, it added a little texture, but little else.  The rings were nicely done, not rubbery.  Although the calamari is what drew me in, I didn't really mind them not being prevalent, as everything else was fantastic.

The squid ink pasta had a nice chew to it, slight squid flavor.  It was a generous portion of pasta, particularly for an appetizer.  I had obviously expected this to be a calamari focused dish, with the squid ink pasta being a creative garnish component somehow.  But, instead, it was a great pasta dish.  (I do think it would be better with a thicker form factor of the squid ink pasta, to really get more of the squid ink flavor however).

The sauce was creamy, slightly uni flavored, and stuck to and coated the pasta well.  I really liked the heat and vinegar component provided by the pickled jalapeño.

But the star was the lobe uni on top.  First, I REALLY didn't expect that.  The description just said "sea urchin emulsion", which certainly describes the sauce, but gives no indication that there would be a chunk of bonus uni.  And it was fabulous.  Creamy, sweet, really really excellent.  The best uni I've had in recent memory, better than even at sushi restaurants where it should be the star.

The only thing that wasn't successful about the dish is that, unlike the amuse, it wasn't delivered hot.  It was kinda lukewarm when I received it.  Still delicious, but unfortunate.

One criticism I've had of Prospect in the past is that it seems pricey for what it is, given the portion sizes (I appreciate the smaller portion sizes, and don't want them to change that, but I always feel things are just slightly over-priced).  That was certainly not the case with this dish.  Only $15.50, for a decent size serving of pasta, delicious sauce, and quality uni?  Oh yeah, and some calamari?  Really quite good price.

This was the best dish I've ever had at Prospect.  I'd get it again, although there were a bunch of other things on the menu I'd also like to try.  I'll certainly be going back!
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dim Sum @ Luyu and Yum Yum, Sydney

During my recent trip to Sydney, it was time to be brave, and break outside our mold of devouring all the Thai food we could find.  And, perhaps even more brave, venturing out of the city a bit, to Newtown.

Several years ago when I was in Sydney I visited Newtown once, with a friend who lived there, for some cheap, unremarkable Thai food.  On my visit just a few months ago, I returned to Newtown, for one and one reason: to get what were supposed to be the best pies in the area at Pie Tin (spoiler, they weren't).  So far, my track record with Newtown wasn't great, and it takes a lot to get me to venture further than necessary (although sometimes the effort pays off great, like the amazing dinner, and subsequent brunch, we had at Pinbone!).  I had high hopes that this journey would prove just as fruitful.

Newtown is mostly comprised of cheaper eats, as it is a student area.  Luyu and Yum Yum, our destination, was not that.  Not that it was high end dining, but, for the area, it certainly didn't fit in.  Far fancier, in decor and food presentation, than anywhere else on the street.  It is even located on the upper level, looking down on all the regular establishments on the street.

Oh, I forgot to mention, it was also fairly new.  I know, I know.  Now I'm just getting crazy.  Going somewhere new, further away, and not getting thai or brunch, the only things I've really loved in Sydney?  But, reviews from food blogs I follow in Sydney were strong.  The photos looked great.  The same was true for the Gantry, which we visited a few nights earlier, and it was good.  I was starting to trust my food bloggers.

So, on Sunday morning, Ojan and I headed to Newtown, to Luyu and Yum Yum, to meet two Sydney friends for dim sum. It had been ages since either of us had dim sum, and we were quite looking forward to it.

Service was a bit strange.  The hostess didn't know where to seat us, even though the restaurant was empty when we arrived, and we had a booking.  We often had to flag someone down in order to get more water.  The server didn't know what teas did not contain caffeine, suggesting a green tea to Ojan when he said he wanted something without caffeine.  Some of our dumplings took a very long time to arrive.  They did do a good job of clearing dishes as they were finished though, and every dish arrived piping hot, so hot that we often had to wait a few minutes for items to cool down so we wouldn't scald the inside of our mouths.

Overall, it was fine.  The food was good enough, clearly care was put into making each dumpling, and quality ingredients were used, but nothing really stuck out.  The selections were creative and it was a nicer setting than typical dim sum/yum cha.  But it was really pricey.  I see no reason to return.

The Space

The restaurant has an open feel with high ceilings.  The large bar along the side didn't have much activity as we were there at lunchtime, but I read that they make some interesting tea based cocktails.
Tables and chairs.
The decor is fairly swanky, obviously brand new.  Lots of wood.  The color palette was stark, black and white, with wood tones mixed in.

White bowls and plates, plus black chopsticks, were set on every table.

They needed better sound isolation, with all the hard surfaces, as nothing absorbed noise.  As the room filled up, it quickly got hard to hear our tablemates.  Partially, it was due to the very loud music, all high energy pop.  It didn't quite seem to fit the mood of the restaurant, and I found the noise level to be a bit ridiculous for a mid-day meal, and it certainly hampered our ability to chat with our friends.
The center of the table had a mat with a tea pot, 4 little tea cups, and a plant.  A nice idea, but, it didn't turn out to be practical.  As soon as our table started piling up with dishes, which happened not only to us but to everyone around us, it was clearly in the way.  We didn't have enough space for all our dumplings, much less this random thing in the middle.

The tea pot also turned out to be decorative only.  When we ordered tea, it came in a different pot.  Not really sure why they had a decorative pot on every table in the first place.  Still, it was decent decor.
Glass Walled Kitchen.
The kitchen is enclosed in glass, so you can spy on the cooks in action.  I was able to watch cooks meticulously filling the dumplings and loading up the steamer baskets.  They didn't seem to make them exactly to order, as they would prepare a big batch of each style at a time, but they were steamed to order.
Swanky Bathroom Sink.
The swanky decor continues into the bathroom, with gray slate tiles, strange black metal faucets, and copper (?) washbasins.

I don't normally review the bathrooms, but, there was something unique here.
There, I fixed it.
The hand dryer.  In the midst of all the brand new, swanky decor, the hand dryer was held up by duct tape.  I found this way too funny.


Menu: Dumplings & Dim Sum.
The reason we were there was for dumplings, which make up a majority of the menu, along with some other small dim sum style bites.  These are mostly all sold in quantities of 4, which was perfect since our group was 4, except for a few random ones that came in sets of 3.  We didn't ask for anything to be modified, particularly since I wasn't planning on having several of them, yet we were brought 4 every time.  This was nice of them I guess, but they should have asked, especially since they charged extra in every case, and, like I said, I didn't want some of them.  The prices below will be for 3 even though 4 are shown, since I didn't write down the adjusted prices.

We ordered all but one type of dumpling available on the menu, plus a few other small bites.

We ordered an initial set of 7 items, then added on another 3, and then went back at the end for a final round of the favorites.
Menu: Main Dishes.
The rest of the menu is main dishes, and we skipped it entirely, but we did see some good looking fried rice, stir fried veggies, salt and pepper squid, and amazing looking deep fried eggplant.  If I went back, I'd certainly get the deep fried eggplant, but we had so much fried food on our trip that I just wasn't in the mood at the time.
Dipping Sauces: Soy, vinegar, sesame chili oil.
We were provided with three sauces to go along with the dumplings.  I set to work perfecting my mix, which I put in my individual bowl.  I'm not quite sure if that is what I was supposed to do, since it was a large bowl, not a dipping bowl, but I don't know how else you could make a dipping sauce.


Over the course of the meal, we ordered every type of dumpling, except for the vegetarian mushroom dumplings.
Flying Seafood Dumpling (4). $13.80
"Scallop, Fish-ball, Prawn, Asparagus & Flying Fish Roe in Rice Dough Steamed."

This was probably the dumpling I was most excited for, since I love scallops.  I was thrilled to see the scallop perched right on top, not chopped up and mixed with other fillings.

Inside the dumpling was the fish ball, prawn, and asparagus.  I didn't taste any asparagus, nor prawn really, just a moist fish ball.  It was fine, but, I wanted to detect more individual flavors.  The scallop was a slice on top, tender, delicate, and on top of that was flying fish roe, which added fun pops as they burst.

The rice dumpling wrapper was nicely done, not too thin, not too thick, perfectly steamed.

Overall, this was fine, and I liked all the seafood, but there just wasn't much flavor to it.  My second favorite bite of the meal, for the scallop alone.
Mr Luyu “Starburst” Dumpling (4). $11.80.
"Chicken & Mr Luyu Homemade Soup in Fruit Infused Flour Dough Steamed."

This is one of their signature dumplings, a stunner with the colorful wrappers.

The online menu lists this as a pork dumpling, but alas, when we visited it was chicken.  I don't like chicken, but tried it anyway, since I was fascinated by the sound of the fruit infused dough.

The filling was indeed a chicken ball, plus some flavorful soup.  Good enough, but, again, chicken.  I didn't taste anything fruity in the dough, although there was obviously color to it.  More beautiful than tasty.

Each dumpling came perched atop a slice of carrot.  Woah, genius!  I honestly don't understand why more places don't do this, as dumplings always stick, and, particularly with soup dumplings this becomes tragic, since it causes them to burst when you pick them up.  That care was nice to see.

My 7th pick of the meal.
Mr Yumyum Pot Sticker (4). $10.80.
"Chicken, Ginger, Shallot & Chinese Cabbage in Seaweed Flour Dough Pan-Seared."

The online menu also lists the pot stickers as pork, but alas, for us they were chicken.  I skipped them, but the seaweed bits in the wrapper skin looked like a nice touch, and the fresh garnish under each pot sticker was a nice presentational element.

Why was everything chicken that should have been pork though?
Caviar Dumpling (4). $13.80.
"Prawn, Carrot, Coriander & Celery in Rice Dough Steamed."

These were great looking dumplings, little bags, tied up with a leaf, and meticulously topped with caviar.

Inside the dumpling was a mix of prawn, carrot, and celery.  The vegetables were minced and slightly crunchy, which I actually liked.  The prawn was a bit fishy.

The rice dough wasn't as successful here as in the Flying Seafood dumpling, it came out slimier.

I did really like the caviar on top, super salty, and like the roe from the flying seafood, it added a fun pop.

My third pick of the meal.
Mr Luyu’s Herb Dumpling (4). $11.80.
"Prawn & Chives in Rice Dough Steamed."

Another rice dough dumpling, this time with translucent skin.  Everyone was quite impressed with the skin on this.

Inside was a whole prawn and chopped chives.

This wasn't very interesting to me, just a prawn.  My 6th pick.
"Kiss Me" Dumplings (4). $10.80.
"Chicken, Ginger, Shallot, & Lulu Homemade Soup in Flour Dough."

I skipped the "Kiss Me" dumplings, since again, chicken.  These were classic soup dumplings, albeit with chicken instead of pork.

It is a bit hard to see, but on top, the red is actually little lips for decoration.  So cute.

Two of our diners said these was the best of the dumplings, and ordered a final round of them for "dessert" after we were done with everything else.
Snow White Rabbit Dumplings (3). $12.80.
"Prawn, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoot, Luyu Home-made Creamy Soup in Chrysanthemum infused Potato Starch Dough."

Ok, speaking of cute.  If I thought the lips on the "Kiss Me" were cute, they were nothing compared to the rabbits!

Yes, look closely, and you'll see that the dumplings are shaped like rabbits, ears and eyes and all!

I complained about not being able to taste any asparagus in the flying fish dumpling, which was not the case here.  Inside was a whole piece of asparagus, so full of flavor, a bit crunchy, and quite tasty. The bamboo also added further crunchy bits.

The dough was a bit thicker, perhaps because it was potato starch rather than flour or rice?  It was soft and a tiny bit doughy, but I liked that.

My absolute favorite, and the most interesting flavor and texture wise.  I'm not sure why it normally comes as only 3 pieces though, when most come as 4.
Manga Dumpling "Hedgehog" (3). $12.80.
"King Oyster Mushrooms, Chinese Mushroom, Fungi, Carrot, Corriander in Flour Dough Baked."

Continuing to get cuter.  I failed at the photo here though, as I didn't get a shot of these from the front.  Doh.

They really, truly looked like hedgehogs.  Certainly the cutest and most elaborate of all of the dumplings.  They had eyes in front and spines down their backs.  OMG.  So cute.

These were almost good.

They were more like buns, but called dumplings.  The dough was soft and slightly sweet.  The topside was crunchy where the spines were carved out.  I would have really liked the dough, except that they were just drowned in oil.

The menu said these were baked, but, I'm not sure how that was possible given how much oil was on them.  They really seemed fried.  The oil just ruined them.

Inside was a mushroom filling that wasn't very interesting.  Nothing really mattered though besides the oil.  The others thought I was exaggerating when I tried the first one and reacted strongly to the amount of oil, but they quickly agreed.  We all saw the potential in these, but alas, they were not executed well.  I imagine the oil is needed to achieve the crispy top, but, there has to be a better way to do it.

This should have just been an order of 3, but, 4 were brought to us, and we were charged extra.  We wished that only 3 came, as we didn't even want to finish 3.  My 4th pick though, for creativity and potential in the sweet, soft dough.

Small Bites

We also opted for a few of the other non-dumpling small bites.  We skipped about half the items from this section, including chicken buns, the crispy "mini frisbee", spring rolls, and the king prawn, since most of those were fried, and heavier than what we were in the mood for.
Garlic Bread (4). $7.80.
"Garlic, Cheese & Butter in Plain Flour “Man Tow"."

Yes, we ordered something called garlic bread.  I knew from my research that this was not going to actually be garlic bread.

The base was mantou, Chinese steamed bun.  It was topped with garlic, butter, and cheese.

The bun was soft and fluffy, and I kinda liked that.  The topping was very cheesy, but I didn't really taste any garlic.

I was fascinated by this, and we all found it interesting, but, I didn't actually like it.  I'm not sure why, cheesy bread should be a good thing.  My 5th pick. 
Duck Pancake (4). $16.80.
"Duck, Spring Onion & Cucumber."

This is certainly not something I'd order since I don't care for duck, but the group wanted it.

Ojan really liked it, and declared it the best item of the meal.  I asked if I'd possibly like it, since he knows my tastes pretty well, and he said maybe.  So, against my better judgement, I tried it.

The pancake was a thin dough wrapping.  It wasn't oily or anything, fairly soft.

Inside was the duck, smothered in hoisin sauce, complimented by a fresh cucumber spear.  The sauce was tasty, but, I just don't care for the gaminess of duck.

As I said though, Ojan really liked it.


Dessert: Fruit Tart.
And finally, dessert.

No dessert is listed on the menu, but I know they always offer a dessert, and it changes daily.  Today it was a "fruit tart".  I asked what fruit was used and was told strawberry and I think mango?  It didn't really sound great, but, I needed my dessert.  Plus the server said it was really good and that it was creamy.

Um, what?  When he said creamy, I expected, well, a cream filling.  Maybe a custard?  This was not creamy at all.  The filling was chopped up apple cubes coated in yogurt.  It was not cooked.  While technically I guess yogurt is creamy, this was not.  And he never mentioned apple, the primary ingredient.

The promised strawberry was one tiny little slice on top as a garnish, along with a sprig of mint.  The rest of the tart was all apple.  Funny how he didn't mention apple in his description.

The filling was crazy sour.  Tart apple.  Sour yogurt.  Literally no sweetness.

The crust was a crispy shell that I did like, but, wow, I didn't care for the filling at all, and this really wasn't a dessert to me.  It belonged as a breakfast item perhaps, just fruit and yogurt.

I left highly unsatisfied, and went to seek out cronuts (stay tuned).
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Chat Thai, Sydney

Update Review, May 2015 Visit

If you didn't read my original Chat Thai post, I suggest you start there, and then return to this update, since I'm skipping the background on Chat Thai this time around.  See "Original Review, January/February 2015 visit" below.

On my recent visit to Sydney, I only managed to swing by Chat Thai once for dessert!  This was a big contrast to my previous trip, where I managed to visit a couple times each week.  Mostly this was due to the fact that I was there a much shorter time, but, also, the magic of Chat Thai desserts had finally worn off.  I was still fascinated by them of course, but, as I made my way down the list of crazy options, they were less and less delicious.
khao dtom nahm woon. $6.10.
"Steamed triangles of pandan infused glutinous rice, herbal jelly and jackfruit in syrup with rice."

Well, this was yet another Chat Thai dish that totally confused me.

First, I expected the foundation to be sticky rice.  Since it said pandan infused, I thought it might be perhaps green.  I also expected it to come in, well, triangles.  I most certainly wasn't expecting a soup based dessert!

Once I dug in, I did indeed discover two triangles of sticky rice, hiding under all the other components.  The rice triangles looked like regular white rice to me, and I didn't taste any pandan.  The rice triangles weren't particularly interesting, besides that they were, well, triangles.

Following along the description is herbal jelly, which I think was the black cubes.  These had a nice texture, very, uh, jelly like, but not a ton of flavor.

The final element listed in the description is jackfruit.  I think the orange flesh pieces were the jackfruit, which I did actually like quite a bit.

My favorite items however were the white cubes, and I honestly have no idea what they were.  Sweet, but not as sweet as a lychee, so perhaps it was longan?  I really have no idea.

The syrup was really sweet.  Ojan described it perfectly when he said it was like the syrup that comes in the little containers of canned fruit.  Kinda sickly sweet.

And ... that was it.  Where was the promised "with rice" anyway?

Overall, this was fascinating in that it was all new items , but, I didn't actually like it very much.  I extracted the jackfruit and the white cubes, but, the jelly, the glutinous rice triangles, and the sweet syrup just weren't for me.  One of my least favorite desserts from Chat Thai.

Original Review, January/February 2015 Visits

You've heard me mention this several times already, but I recently went on a trip to Sydney.  This was my forth visit to Sydney, totaling almost 6 months, so, I've sorta learned the ropes by now.  And the one thing I've really learned: don't bother with fine dining, and focus instead on the cuisine Sydney does best.  Thai food ranks highly on that list, which is particularly great, as I've still yet to find thai cuisine in San Francisco that I really like.

Chat Thai is a small chain in Sydney, with a main location in thai town, a full sit down location inside the Westfield mall, and a small quick casual version in the Galeries.  They also have locations in Manly and Randwick.  Chat Thai is a rather cute success story, family run, started in 1989.  They are a Sydney institution with staying power.  25 years in the restaurant industry is no joke, and all locations are well rated.

Chat Thai was on my radar from the start of this trip, as I had somehow never visited on previous trips, and I knew it was supposed to be amazing.  I made up for it this trip, visiting the main thai town location once for a full meal, once to pick up dessert, and stopping by the Westfield location more times than I can count.

Why?  Well, uh, they have an insane dessert menu.  You know me and dessert, and, in particular, I love to explore new and unique desserts.  Chat Thai offers that in spades.  The dessert menu at the thai town location has no fewer than 32 options!  The Westfield food court one has a more reasonable 11 options, and I was determined to try almost every single one.  Plus, as I mentioned, I stayed a the Westin and the Sheraton on the Park, so I was always only a block or two away.

Takeaway Desserts @ Westfield Location

My first visit was prompted by a very unsatisfying meal in the Westfield food court at Din Tai Fung.  The food court has some great options, like Snag Stand with its incredible fries and Bécasse bakery, but as you read in my review, Din Tai Fung was not a great option.  I was grumpy, and wanted something tasty, and remembered the Chat Thai location upstairs, not actually part of the food court.
Dessert Station at Westfield.
The Westfield location features an open dessert kitchen right in front.  I loved watching the preparation here.  Past this area is the full restaurant, with sit down table service.  Quite literally on every visit there was a long line of folks waiting to be seated.  I guess having a full service dining option, particularly one open late, is valued in the mall.  I can't comment on that though, as I never dined in.

I choose to always get my food as takeaway, which was very easy, a register to order takeaway is located right at the front.  I wasn't alone, the takeaway business seemed nearly as bustling as the table service.  Since I was always ordering only desserts, they were ready in just a couple minutes, super fast and efficient.  They made my habit far too easy.

As I mentioned, the Westfield location had the more modest dessert menu featuring 11 choices, which totally overwhelmed me on the first visit.  I honestly wanted them all, and watching the dessert kitchen prep made it even harder.  Everything looked, and sounded, amazing.  Luckily, I was staying nearby, and just made it a point to stop in for more dessert nearly every night.  Uh, I did it for you.  For "research".
Khao Nieaw Daam Bieak. $6.90.
 "A sweet and slightly salty black sticky rice and coconut cream pudding with taro and young coconut flesh"

As I mentioned, I was totally overwhelmed with choices.  I wasn't familiar with most of the desserts, besides simple mango and sticky rice, but I knew that I loved all the ingredients listed.  For my first adventure, I finally just picked one that included a bunch of components I knew I liked: black sticky rice.  Coconut cream.  Taro.  Young coconut.  I had no idea what I was ordering really .... "sweet and slightly salty"?  That sounded good.  And I obviously love puddings.

It was, hands down, the strangest dessert I've ever consumed.  Certainly the strangest food I consumed on this trip, or even in recent memory.  I was fascinated by it.  And I think I really did enjoy it.  But a spoonful of this was like a treasure hunt.  So unexpected!

To start, yes, there was black sticky rice.  It had a tiny bit of chew to it and was what I expected, although, I can't say I've ever had sticky rice inside a pudding before, normally it is served as a little mound.  On top was a layer of coconut cream that was, well, as promised, sweet and salty.  I love the mix of sweet and salty in desserts, a la salted caramel or fleur de sel on my chocolate, but this was certainly a bit odd.  Not bad, but odd.  The fascinating flavor combination kept me going back for more and more.

But that is far from all.  Inside the rice ... now that is where things got interesting.
Beans? Young Coconut Flesh?
First, there were shiny brown oval shapes that looked a lot like beans, but they didn't taste like beans, and beans weren't included in the description.  I think these must have been the young coconut flesh?  I could also imagine it was longan?
Young Coconut Flesh?
But then there were also some thin strips that seemed more likely to be the coconut.  I honestly don't know what these were.

I don't have a photo, but there were also cubes of taro, a bit softer than the other two shapes I've described so far.  I love taro, so this was a hit.
And then ... there was an unmistakable taste of corn.  After a few bites, I was certain.  Yes, there was corn in here, although the description certainly didn't mention corn!

My suspicions were confirmed when I looked at the Haymarket location menu, where there is a dish called saaku bieak, "a sweet and slightly salty sago and coconut cream pudding with taro, corn and strips of fresh young coconut flesh".  This sounded very similar to my dish, except with sago instead of rice, and obviously, the addition of corn.  These seemed to have combined these dishes.

So yes, sweet and salty, rice and cream, taro, coconut, unidentified fruits, and corn.  So. Strange.

I think I really liked it.  There were many textures at play: chewy rice, soft taro, firm young coconut, firmer corn, creamy coconut milk.  There were many flavors, some sweet, some salty.  Every moment I was eating this was a surprise.  That alone was worth something!
Lodt Chong Nahm Kati. $7.
"Pandan and palm sugar noodles, black glutinous rice, and taro in coconut milk with ice."

After the success of my first dessert at Chat Thai, I returned again, this time with Ojan.  I told him I'd try basically anything on the menu, and let him pick.  I have no idea why he went for this one, as it didn't sound like something he'd like, but then again, neither of us had any clue what to expect.  How do noodles, rice, milk, and ice go together?  I think he was just curious about the pandan.

I'll admit, I think we were both very surprised by what was handed over.

The top layer was shaved ice.  The base was coconut milk.  But just like the previous dish, it is what lay inside that was the most interesting ...
Pandan Noodles.
This time, what I discovered inside did indeed match the description.  One corner held the same black sticky rice that I had in the previous dessert, which I again enjoyed.  Another had cubes of taro, not too mushy, but for some reason I didn't really like them in here.  And I love taro, and liked it in the previous dessert.

The majority of the container was filled with the green pandan noodles, all clumped together.  They were soft, and had an interesting flavor, which I guess was pandan.  I know pandan mostly as a color, not a distinct flavor.

Just like the previous dessert, I found this fascinating.  I liked the sweet soupy coconut milk..  I liked the sticky rice.  I almost liked the pandan noodles.  But the ice ... I really wasn't into that.  If it was a hot summer day I could see it being very refreshing, but sitting inside a mall food court, it wasn't quite what I wanted.

Overall, I'm glad I tried it, but it isn't something I'd get again.

The $7 price was fine.
Tup Tim Grob. $8.
"Tapioca coated water chestnuts in an aromatic syrup with fresh coconut milk and young coconut flesh."

Another day, another adventure trying a dessert at Chat Thai!  This time, I almost went for the mango and sticky rice, but I wanted to be more adventurous.  I certainly had never had a "tapioca coated water chestnut", so that sounded interesting.  Plus, a soup-like item sounded very comforting and fit my mood well.

Like most of the other desserts from Chat Thai, there were components inside that were not listed on the menu.  In this case, I believe it was a few slices of jackfruit.  I don't know jackfruit well enough to say for sure, but since other items on the menu include jackfruit, I'm going to make a reasonable guess.  There weren't many, but I enjoyed the fruit, a bit firm, and pleasantly sweet.  I wished there were more.

But everything else ... I didn't care for.  The young coconut flesh wasn't very tasty.  And the tapioca coated water chestnuts ... quite strange.  I mean, I expected strange, and ate quite a few of them hoping they would grow on me, but they didn't.  There was something nice about having a crispy crunchy thing in the middle of a soft ball, and I like water chestnuts, but this just didn't quite work.

The sweet coconut milk syrup was tasty, although a bit sweet to just eat on its own, not that that stopped me.  I eagerly drank up all the syrup.

This was my least favorite dessert, but, I'm still glad I tried it.

Dinner @ Thai Town Location

I also visited the main location in thai town with Ojan for dinner once, and swung by several other times to just grab more desserts.

The thai town restaurant has long lines, at all times of day, which, I remembered when we got there, is exactly why I hadn't ever actually visited on previous trips to Sydney.

They have a fairly efficient system in place though.  A paper sign up sheet is located at the front, with numbers next to each slot, that you rip off once you've added your name.  Number in hand, you join the massive crowds on the sidewalk, and wait.   I used this time to browse the extensive menu, and plan what we were going to order.  I mentioned that the dessert menu had 32 items, but that is a drop in the bucket compared with the main menu, with about 20 appetizers, 12 salads, and 50 main dishes, ranging from curries, to stir fries, to noodles, to rice.  Just reading through the menu was time consuming, let alone deciding what to order.
Dessert Kitchen.
Even once I'd poured over the menu, I didn't mind the continued wait for a table, as I was enthralled watching the dessert kitchen, located at the front of the restaurant, in full view of the sidewalk.  It was a full sized kitchen, with two cooks, working constantly to pump out assorted desserts.  The dessert menu has nearly 40 items, and it is obvious that they are all ordered frequently.  I saw many people swing through just to pick up desserts to go, just like I had done at the Westfield location.
The restaurant is actually fairly small inside.  It is two stories, but neither story has many tables.   In  the far back is the main kitchen, before that is a drink station, and, as I mentioned in front is a dedicated dessert kitchen.

The whole place is just constantly busy.

Service was not the most attentive, but it got the job done.  It really was just too crowded and bustling for them to care much about you, but they did deliver dishes hot and fresh immediately when they were ready, and took our order promptly.
Dtum Taardt (small). $13.90.
"Family style som dtum with condiments."

After several days in a row of really heavy food, and fried food that day at lunch, I just wanted something light, and papaya salad sounded perfect.  The menu had 6 varieties of classic papaya salad on it, including a sweeter version with peanuts and dried shrimp, a sweet one with pickled crab, a spicy one with pickled crab, and even one with fermented fish.  We had settled on one from the main menu, but when we were seated, a specials menu was presented, that had an additional, really fun looking papaya salad on it.  At last minute, I decided we should get that instead, even though I had no idea what the "condiments" would be, or what "family style" really meant.  At some level, I still don't.  I have no idea if this is an authentic dish or serving style.

The salad came in two sizes, large or small.  The small said it served 1-2 people, the large ($24.90), 2 - 4 people.  Since there were only 2 of us, and we were planning to get other things, we ordered the small.  I thought a mistake had been made when this platter arrived.  This serves 1-2 people?  Who are these people?  Perhaps 2 people could finish this if they ordered nothing else, but a single person certainly couldn't hope to put a dent in it.

Anyway.  Once we got over our shock, and wondered how on earth we'd finish this salad, our appetizer, our noodle dish, and planned dessert, we dug in.

In the center was the basic som dtum, with shredded green papaya, green beans, cherry tomatoes, peanuts, dried shrimp, and chili.

Around the edges were the "condiments", and this is where things got interesting.  Some I could identify, like bean sprouts, hard boiled egg, rice noodles, raw green cabbage, and blanched choy sum.  Then there was something pickled, or perhaps fermented?  And a meat substance, perhaps sausage? And strips of ... chicken? Tofu?  I honestly had no idea.  And roasted peanuts, which seemed like overkill since the salad in the middle already had plentiful peanuts.  And finally, some kind of chips.  Shrimp chips?

Anyway, yes, it was fun to try all the components and mix them together, but neither Ojan nor I really cared for it.  The base papaya salad was fine, but not particularly interesting in any way, other than the fact that I hated the tiny dried shrimps.

As for the mix-ins, some made sense to me, and the cabbage and bean sprouts were fresh and crisp enough.  The blanched choy sum was really plain on its own, but added an interesting juicy component to the salad.  I know some versions of papaya salad have noodles, so I understand how the rice noodles might be good to some people, but I didn't really want them in my salad.

The hard boiled egg just seemed strange.  You couldn't "mix" it in, as it was served in halves.  It was fine, but just an egg.  I really didn't like the yellowish pickled thing I couldn't identify, the taste was too strong for me.  I described it as fermented, but Ojan thought it was just pickled.  Neither of us had any clue what it actually was though.

The mystery meats were the real strange bits.  I think the redder one was a fresh pork sausage?  It was kinda fleshy and not very cooked.  We both decided it must be ground meat of some sort, although it clearly had other things mixed in.  The other looked like firm tofu at first, but I think it might have been a chicken loaf?  The chips we weren't ever able to identify, I thought I tasted something a bit fishy.

Anyway, interesting? Sure. Overwhelming, definitely.  A good value, as a regular papaya salad is $13, and this ridiculous platter was $13.90.  But not a winner, and I certainly wouldn't get it again.
Fresh Spring Rolls. $11.
"Fresh spring rolls of smoked fish sausages, chicken and crab with caramelised tamarind relish."

Next to arrive was our starter, fresh spring rolls.  These weren't quite what we were expecting either.

The wrapper of the rolls I didn't really like, it was a bit tough.  I dislike chicken, so I obviously didn't like that, but, I didn't expect to like the chicken.  They also had tofu, which I don't like, and wasn't listed on the menu.  If the menu had included both chicken and tofu, I probably would have selected something else.  The crab I was looking forward to, but it turned out to be crab stick, a disappointment for sure.  The only thing I quasi-liked was the fish sausage, but mostly only in comparison to everything else that I actively disliked.

On top of the slices of the roll was a bunch of omelet, which I also didn't want and wasn't listed on the menu.  The rolls were drenched in the tamarind sauce, which just didn't taste good.

Ojan had about one bite of this and stopped.  He didn't like it, and he knew we had way too much food still coming.  I tried more than Ojan as I was trying to see if I could pick out some bits that I'd enjoy, but failed.  I guess just not our thing?  Although honestly, if we knew it had chicken, tofu, crab stick, and omelet, we certainly wouldn't have ordered it.

$11 price was fine for yet another giant serving.  At this point, our table was full, and so were we, and we still had a noodle dish yet to arrive.  Whoops.
Thau gai noodles. $13.
"Stir fried flat rice noodles with chicken, eggs, and shallots served with sweet chili sauce."

Ojan really wanted a noodle dish, and planed to order classic pad thai.  And then, that specials menu that led us to the crazy papaya salad had a noodle dish too.  It sounded like something he'd really like, since I know he likes sweet chili sauce, and who doesn't like shallots?

So again, even though we thought we knew what we were ordering in advance, we changed our order once seated.  And ... it was another case where we were led astray.

First, we didn't quite understand the sweet chili sauce on the side, we thought the noodles would be stir fried with it.  It turns out to be good that they weren't, because the sauce was seriously spicy.  I didn't detect any "sweet" in the "sweet chili", and it was far too spicy for Ojan.

Unfortunately, that meant that he didn't use any, and the dish was quite bland without it.  Not Chat Thai's fault, as it is clearly intended to be mixed with noodles.  The noodles seemed hand cut, as they were completely inconsistent in their widths.  They were decently cooked, but I always prefer to have some crispy bits.  Delivered hot and fresh to our table, once we let them know that we were done with the other dishes.  We were a bit confused why the noodles were taking so long to arrive, when everything else had come so quickly.  The staff was being nice, trying to wait for us to finish the mound of salad and rolls still in front of us, before piling more on us.  Again, whoops.

Anyway, again, I don't know if this is an authentic dish.  Maybe I just don't like "real" thai cuisine?  The sauce on the side seemed strange.  The dish reminded me a bit of a cross between pad se ew, with the thick noodles, and pad thai, with the egg and chicken, but lacked the sauce from either dish, and lacked the add-ins like chinese broccoli from pad se ew or peanuts from pad thai, so it was just fairly boring.  I felt bad for leading Ojan astray and suggesting this.

$13 price was fine for a large portion of fresh noodles, but we wouldn't get this again.
Sticky Rice Durian. $8.
"Sticky rice steamed with sweet coconut cream and palm sugar accompanied with a durian custard and pieces of fresh durian."

And of course, the reason I love Chat Thai: Dessert!  It didn't matter that we were stuffed, and had tons of food leftover.  We didn't really like any of the savory dishes, and the dessert menu at this location is insane, with nearly 40 items on the dinner menu, plus some available only at lunch or late night.

I decided to take this opportunity to finally try durian.  I've known of durian for years, but it hasn't really been served anywhere I've been.  The durian dessert is only on the menu at the thai town location, so I knew I couldn't just pick it up easily at the closer Westfield location.  It was now or never.

I didn't quite know what to expect, besides something that many people consider foul, both in taste and smell.  I somewhat expected it to be served like classic mango with sticky rice, with a pile of sticky rice, coconut cream drizzled over, and sliced durian alongside, so I was a little surprised when a big bowl of soupy sauce arrived.

But I didn't smell anything horrible, so I dug in.

The verdict?  Well, durian is unique.  I'll say that.  I dove right in, creating a big bite with sticky rice, a large chunk of durian, and some sauce.  At first I thought it was fine.  And then the funk hit me.  Was it rotten? Sewage?  Such a strange taste.  Undeterred, I tried again, and this time, I took only a bite of fresh durian, no sauce, no rice to mask it.  I wanted to understand the durian itself better.

The texture is so strange.  Somewhat slimy.  A bit stringy.  So strange.  But it is the taste that I just don't really have words for.  It wasn't the worst thing I'd ever tasted, and I did keep trying bites of it, but I certainly have no desire to seek out durian ever again.

As for the rest of the dish, I really liked the sticky rice, and the sweet sauce of coconut cream and palm sugar.  I actually finished every single morsel of the rice, and every drop of the sauce, even though that meant getting some durian accidentally several times.  I'm just a sucker for sticky rice and sweet sauces.

I'm really glad I tried this, but I have no intention of getting it again.  Rotten-dirty-sewage-feet is just not a taste a I enjoy!
Bua Loy Kai Warn.  $5.50.
"Silky little dumplings of taro, japanese pumpkin and pandan jus, in sweet warm coconut broth with/without a poached egg."

A few days later, I was walking by in the evening, and decided I needed to pop in.  One of the most interesting sounding desserts was only available at the thai town location, and only during dinner service.  It must be something special, right?

It was a rainy night, and I was rather grumpy.  A comforting dessert was exactly what I needed.  And as I've said, I love taro and sweet sauces, and I'm fascinated by pandan.  This sounded promising.  I had no idea why I'd want a poached egg in it though, and opted for the version without.

The dessert came warm, indeed a warm comforting soup, perfect for the rainy evening.  But ... it took the cake as my least favorite dessert from Chat Thai.

The coconut broth was just overwhelmingly sweet.  I loved it in other dishes, when there was more to cut the sweetness, namely, sticky rice.  Here, there just wasn't much else, and spoonfuls of the broth really were too much on their own, even for me.
Taro, pumpkin, and pandan dumplings.
Inside the very sweet broth were little colorful dumplings.  The color was lovely, and they were soft, but they were all equally flavorless.  I wanted to taste the taro, the pumpkin, the pandan.  I tasted nothing, besides the overwhelming sweet soup of course.

There were also slices of young coconut mixed in with the dumplings.

This was the first dessert from Chat Thai that I didn't bother finish, and, we all know I'm a dessert finisher to the core.  I just couldn't find anything to like in here.
Candied Taro Chips.  $5.40.
I also grabbed a bag of taro chips near the register, since, well, taro.  I figured they'd make a great snack for later on.  I didn't realize they were candied until I went to eat one.  I was very shocked to say the least.

Even though they were candied, I expected some saltiness, but there was none.  If they were salty, I think they could have been really successful, a slightly sweet, slightly salty combination.  But instead, they were just sweet, sugar crusted chips.  Strange.  I ate a bunch, but I didn't particularly care for them, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get other friends to finish the rest.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Walkers Biscuits, UK

Last year, when I visited my London office, I got a chance to try a bunch of snacks from the office microkitchen (in addition to racking up a few more Michelin stars at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon of course).  Some snacks were more successful than others.  There were horrible ones, like the bars from Nakd.  Slightly better were oat and fruit bars from Braw or cereal bars from Alpen Light.

Once I grew tired of the bars, it was time to move on to biscuits, or, as I know them, cookies.  I'm not really a fan of cookies, and packaged cookies in particular, but, well, sometimes I can't resist just trying everything.  I saw Walkers products everywhere, not just only in our office, but they had them in the airline lounge and on my British Airways flight.  So I figured they must be legit.

It turns out, Walkers is actually originally a Scottish company.  They've been around since 1898, baking their famous shortbread.  Things have grown since then, and they now produce a slew of products and ship worldwide.  They care about the quality of their products, even as they have grown.  Everything is non-GMO, no artificial colors or preservatives, they use only milk and butter from free range grass fed cows, eggs from free range chickens, etc.

Since this style of product just isn't for me in general, you probably shouldn't trust my opinion much.  I found them all quite boring, sorry!


The shortbreads are Walkers signature product, and the first item they ever produced.  They pride themselves on the fact that they are made with only 4 ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and salt.  They claim to make the largest selection of shortbreads in the world, available in a slew of sizes and varieties.

The basic shortbreads come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from "fingers" to triangles to rounds to animal shapes.  You can get them with chocolate chips.  Or packaged into a slew of fancy tins.  Or gluten-free of course.
Pure Butter Shortbread.
"Pure creamery butter shortbread baked in the Highland village of Aberlour in Speyside to an original family recipe, first perfected by Joseph Walker in 1898."

I tried the most basic shortbread of all, the classic pure butter shortbread.  I believe these were the fingers.

I had read their marketing about how they don't use preservatives, no artificial this or that, but, I was still shocked to see the ingredient list.  Most likely the shortest of any packaged product I've ever encountered: flour, butter, sugar, salt.  Literally.

Impressive.  That said, they were just shortbreads.

Decently crumbly, a bit buttery, but, just a plain shortbread.  Not something I'll ever get excited about.


The oatcakes are a savory offering, known as "Scottish Biscuits for Cheese" in the US. Again, available in assorted shapes and sizes.
Highland Oatcakes
"A perfect accompaniment to soup, meat and fish dishes, cheese and preserves."  "The perfect accompaniment to any cheeseboard".

Whoops, I thought these were cookies!

Instead, they are dry, oat cakes.  Even with cheese, I really didn't care for them.  They tasted like sawdust!


Biscuits are what you know as cookies.  They make a few different varieties, but all hard style.
Oat 'n Honey.
"Delicious crunchy oat and honey biscuits."

These were very, very boring biscuits.  They tasted sorta like graham crackers, but were shaped like a cookie.  Since they looked like cookies, I expected more flavor from them.  My least favorite.
Stem Ginger.
"Walkers Stem Ginger Cookies are baked to perfection to a traditional recipe with generous pieces of whole Buderim stem ginger. The candied ginger bits in the cookies are a plus."

For packaged, hard-style cookies, these really weren't bad.  Yes, they were crispy and I don't tend to care for crispy cookies.  But they were just the right level of sweet, buttery, and I liked the very strong ginger flavor.

I certainly wouldn't ever purchase these, but I was pleasantly surprised.

[ No Photo ]
White Chocolate & Raspberry Biscuits. 

"Raspberries and white chocolate chips are packed into Walkers’ famous biscuit recipe."

I found these to be incredibly boring.  I thought raspberries and white chocolate would be tasty, but alas, not much going on here.  Just kinda dry, packaged cookies.  Never anything I'd like.