Friday, March 27, 2015

Smith's Chips Australia

By now, you likely know that I love to eat snacks, and, in particular, chips.  I just love to munch on things, the crunchier and saltier the better.

On my recent trip to Sydney, I obviously had to try an assortment of "exotic" chips.  I was particularly excited, as I recalled the Australia has some of the most unique chip flavors ever, and eagerly dug into the offerings from Smith's.  Smith's was an independent company, but of course has since been sucked up by Frito-Lay, who's America offerings I've reviewed before.

Sadly, on this visit, my office didn't have that many crazy flavors.  I still tried the offerings, but sadly, there was no "Honey-Glazed Ham" or any of the crazy chicken, or seafood, varieties that I recalled.
Twisties - Cheese.
Twisties come in several other flavors, like chicken and "wicked cheddar", but the office had only classic cheese.

They looked just like Cheetos, so my brain was confused with every bite, as they didn't taste anything like Cheetos.  The simple "cheese" name did not indicate that they'd be so zesty and spicy!  Much better than their American counterparts.

And of course, they did still leave cheesy fingers.
Grain Waves Sour Cream & Onion.
Next up, the healthy sounding "Grain Waves".

They reminded me of Sun Chips, which, not shockingly, are also made by Frito-Lay.

They were hearty from the multi grains, and shaped in a wave.  Yes, "Grain Waves".  Aptly named.

The sour cream and chive flavor was strong, and I actually quite liked these.  Somehow, an entire bag disappeared before I knew it!

I also tried the Sweet Chili flavor.  They again reminded me of Sun Chips, but I was disappointed by the sweet chili flavor, it was too subtle.
Salt & Vinegar.
Next, a simple offering: standard salt and vinegar chips.

I liked the texture and wavy shape.  They were crazy salty, and super vinegary.  They certainly made you pucker up!

Still, just classic chips, but a decent version of classic chip.
Burger Rings.
Ok, these sounded more fun. I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly.  What does burger taste like?

These just tasted like ... something.  I really don't have words for it.  Not really something I'd identify as burger though.  Not beefy, nor cheesy, nor the flavors of any toppings like tomato, lettuce, ketchup ... just a bit zesty?  The rings themselves were kinda like air puffs, not particularly interesting.

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Cheetos Cheese & Bacon balls.

How do you not try these?  Bacon!

These were like cheese puffs, light and airy, with a somewhat addicting slightly salty taste, which I guess was supposed to be like bacon.  Pretty good, and better than a simple cheese puff.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pie Tin, Newtown

Pies, glorious pies.

In Australia, pie isn't just for dessert.  And no, they don't break the "rules", rather, savory pies are a thing.  In fact, they are more common that sweet pies.  For the uninitiated, savory pies are like individual pot pies, with all sorts of fillings.  They are sold all over the place, generally as a fast food-like item, and even grocery stores are loaded with them, fresh or frozen.  Traditionally they are served topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy, and folks tend to add tomato sauce (ketchup) too.

While I don't necessarily care for most savory pie fillings, I do love flaky pie crust, so I'm generally game to check out a pie place if others are so inclined.  Particularly when the pie place is not only known for their savory pies, but also for their sweet pie selection.  You know me and desserts.  I'll "suffer" through any main course to get to dessert at the end!

So when a couple co-workers joined us in Sydney, on their very first night, we made a voyage all the way to Newtown, to a pie place I had read about: Pie Tin.  Pie Tin carries about 25 types of savory pie and more than 30 sweet pies.  ZOMG.

Sadly, I think we liked the savory pies more than the sweet ones, but I think that was largely due to the choices available that day.  I won't venture back to Newtown just to get more pie, but if I was in the area, I'd certainly swing back in.
Communal Table.
Pie Tin is not a fancy place.  Most seating is at a large communal table in the center of the room.  There are a few small tables on the side as well.  Silverware (sporks!), water, and condiments are self-service.  Orders are taken at a register, you are given a number, and a few minutes later your number is called, and you must get up to fetch it.  Pies are served on metal plates.  Not fancy, but who needs fancy for pies?
Savory Pies.
The savory pies are all displayed in a case near the register, and are then warmed up once you order.

The pies available change daily, an on our visit, for savories, we had the choice of classic beef mince,  slow roasted smokey beef brisket & mushrooms, slow roasted southern style shredded pork with apple and bbq sauce, chunky steak and stout, chermoula mutton with eggplant and red capsicum, butter chicken with green beans, sweet roasted duck with cointreau and maple flavoured syrup, and even two vegetarian selections, cauliflower & zucchini with cheesy white sauce or lentil with sundried tomato pesto.  There was also a lamb roll with spinach and pine nuts and vegetarian roll.

Individual pies are $5.90 - $8.90, or available as a meal for $11.50 - $14.50, with up to two sides.  The sides to pick from are classic mash and gravy, mushy peas, chips, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, leaf salad, and greek salad.  For an extra $1, you could pick sweet potato fries.

After ordering, we were given a number, and went to take a seat.
Sweet Pies.
Of course, I stopped to admire the sweet pies.  I was actually a bit disappointed, as I had read the menu online in advance, and even though I knew they wouldn't have all 30 varieties listed, I hoped some of my top picks would be there.  Alas, no brown butter pecan, pumpkin, apple and mixed berry, lemon brûlée, passionfruit cream pie, mixed nut and caramel, or, the one I really wanted, banoffee, were available.  In fact, all were in tart shells, rather than flaky pie crusts, and most had chocolate crumb crusts.

The selection was almost all chocolate based, and since Ojan and I try to avoid chocolate in the evenings, this was a bit unfortunate.  The only non-chocolate choices were coconut cream (which Ojan doesn't like) or whipped lime (which I don't like), so, we knew there would have to be chocolate involved, if we wanted sweet pie, and, obviously, we did.

The pies were all a sight to behold, and I'm glad we had time while waiting for our savory pies for me to drool over the sweet pies.  If I had visited just for sweet pies, I would have been an annoying person standing there gaping rather than ordering.  This gave me plenty of time to select.  And then change my mind.  And select again :)

Many of the pies were candy inspired such as Snicker's, Mars bar, or Maltesers pies.  Others were cookie inspired, such as Oreo or Tim Tam.  Others were just pure decadence, like the chocolate peanut butter, gooey caramel & chocolate ganache, ‘noelines’ triple chocolate, maple soaked strawberries with belgian chocolate, and baked banana & belgian chocolate.

The blackforest meringue pie was the most eye-catching, with a layer of meringue that was about 3 times taller than the pie itself.

Slices range from $7.90 - $10.90, with a dollop of cream for an extra $0.50 or scoop of ice cream for $1.
Slow Roasted Southern Style Shredded Pork with Apple & BBQ Sauce, Mushy Peas with Gravy, Coleslaw. ~12.50.
Ojan and I decided to split a meal, since we knew we wanted room for sweet pies.  I let Ojan pick the pie flavor, since I didn't care much about the savory.  He went for the pulled pork.

The pie was served nice and hot.  I'm impressed with how well heated it was, given that it didn't take long.  There was a generous amount of pulled pork inside, slathered in a not too sweet bbq-style sauce, and ... slices of apple.  The apple was a bit strange, but I liked it, as the slices were tender and warm, and with the crust, it was almost like eating apple pie.  Which really is what I wanted anyway.   The crust was quite good.  It was thick, flaky, and buttery.  Ojan wasn't into the crust, and I wasn't into the filling, so we made a good team.

For sides, I really wanted the coleslaw, since I love slaw.  Ojan thought it didn't look very good, but I insisted, and I'm glad I did.  It was creamy, super flavorful, and crunchy.  Sure, perhaps a bit overdressed, it certainly wasn't healthy, but come on, we were there eating pies for all courses, healthy was given up long ago.  I did notice that many patrons ordered the simple green leaf salad, perhaps a wiser choice.

Ojan picked the mushy peas.  I didn't like them, as they reminded me of split peas.  He really liked them though.  The gravy was tasty on top, and I dipped my crust in it.

Overall, neither Ojan nor I loved our pie selection, but both of us agreed that it was a really well made pie.  The sides were a bigger hit.

As I mentioned, they only had sporks, so no knives even, and it is encouraged that you just eat the pie with your hands.  I had a fun time observing different techniques.  One kid sat down next to us, removed the pie top completely, and placed it under his pie, eating it along with the bottom crust.  Another woman took of her pie top and discarded it.  She ate the filling out of her pie, and discarded the entire bottom crust too.  Yet another took off the top, and broke the pieces off one by one and dunked them into the filling.  I had no idea there were so many ways to eat a pie!

Anyway, the serving size was quite large when you added sides, and the price was quite reasonable.  Two people can easily split a meal if you intend to get dessert, which, how can you not?
Cauliflower & Zucchini with Cheesy White Sauce, Chips. ~11.50.
Our vegetarian dining companion was happy to have not one, not two, but three choices!  I think he expected one token vegetarian offering.  I didn't try a bite, but he seemed quite happy with his choice, and in particular, like me, he really liked the flaky crust.  The fries, er, chips, looked pretty basic.

Another companion got the sweet roasted duck with cointreau and maple flavoured syrup, along with mashed potato, mushy peas, and gravy.  He really liked his, and commented that the balance of duck to sauce was perfect.
Hot Chocolate. $4.
Finally, it was time for dessert!  Back up to the register we went.

To go along with his pie, Ojan also ordered a hot chocolate.  It looked quite pretty, but he said it tasted like it came from a powdered mix.  We appreciated that it was served with a little marshmallow on the side, but he only took a few sips.  We later saw these exact same marshmallow show up at several other places, so they must be a local thing? Notable to us in that they are a totally different shape than we are used to for marshmallows.  Ojan tried to give the hot chocolate to the others, and they all agreed that it wasn't very good.

Not worth the $4.
Decaf Long Black. $4.
Since I knew we were about to get a bunch of sweet pie, I decided to order a decaf coffee to have something bitter.  Just like I try not to have chocolate in the evening I certainly try not to have coffee, even decaf, but, black coffee and pie just go together so well.  I couldn't resist.  And since I was having chocolate anyway, who cared right?  I was already breaking all the "rules".

The coffee comes from Double Roasters of Marrickville, and was really, really good.  Definitely one of the best decaf I had in Sydney.  No funk, no strange sweetness, just complex and really quite good.  And indeed, definitely the right thing to go with my sweet, sweet pie.

A regular coffee is $3.50, decaf an extra $0.50.  This is normal for Sydney prices.
Black Forest Meringue Pie. ~$7.90.
As I mentioned, none of the pies I really wanted were available.  My biggest disappointment was that none had pastry crusts.  I liked the flaky pastry dough so much in the savory pie, and was looking forward to more.  Alas, tart shells were the only option.

My first choice was the black forest meringue pie, partially based on looks alone.  Seriously.  Look at that meringue!  And it was the soft, sweet, fluffy style of meringue, not the hard type of meringue used in pavlova that is more common in Australia.

We did not add a dollop of cream, nor a scoop of ice cream, even though it was offered.  While I love both those items, and normally always serve my pie with one, if not both, I'm not sure how how either would possibly go with the pie.

Anyway, the pie.  Sadly, it looked far more impressive than it tasted.

The crust was a thick, hard, chocolate crumb crust.  It was fine, but not the style of crust I like.  Above that was sweet chocolate pudding, with a few cherries in it.  I was pretty disappointed with the scarcity of the cherries, and would have really liked more.  Isn't that what black forest is all about?  And ... the meringue.  I did like the meringue, don't get me wrong, it was fluffy, it was sweet, but wow, there was actually just too much.  Impressive, yes, but not what we wanted.  I think this pie would have been better as just the bottom layers topped with some whipped cream.  Don't get me wrong, I love meringue, but it would go better with a different type of pie.  The topping just didn't match the base very well.

One of my dining companions doesn't really like dessert, so he took only one bite.  The other took one or two bites, and quickly moved on.  Ojan managed perhaps three.  And then, there was me.  And this massive, massive slice of pie.  I didn't like it very much, but they were all clearly not going to eat it.  How can you possibly let pie go to waste?  So, I took one for the team.  And kept eating.  And eating.  And eating.  Now that I see the photo, I realize why I felt so sick afterwards.  That was a massive, massive slice of pie, and I can't believe I took it down, fairly singlehandedly.  Or, stated more accurately, I guess I can believe that it took ME down.  Doh.  It actually makes my stomach hurt just thinking about this again!

This pie was better to look at that to eat, but the price was reasonable for the massive size.  Warning: do not attempt to get a slice by yourself!
Mississippi Mud Pie (fudgy chocolate, caramel, and pecans). ~$7.90.
But you didn't think that we possibly just got ONE slice of pie, right?  Not with me involved!  Our other dining companion selected this one, Mississippi Mud Pie.  We again declined cream or ice cream.

It had the same chocolate tart crust as the black forest, which I again didn't really like.  On top of that was thick caramel, with a few nuts in it.  I found that layer to be fairly sweet and one dimensional, but appreciated the nuts.  On top was a layer that looked like it might be cream cheese frosting, but was just thick sweet icing.

I liked this pie even less than the other, as it was really, really too sweet for me.  I know, I know, I love sweet things, but, they need balance.  The others claimed this pie was less sweet than the blackforest, but I think they are crazy.  It was also another case of the topping not quite matching the rest of the pie.  Why did it have the sweet frosting on top of the already sweet caramel?  Also, it wasn't really a Mississippi Mud pie ... isn't that normally a chocolate pie, topped with whipped cream?

Once again, the diner who doesn't care for dessert took one bite.  The person who ordered this pie took a few bites.  Ojan took one or two.  So yet again, another huge slice of pie, that I didn't really like, left for me to deal with.  I'm so bad at throwing out food.  Did I mention that I felt awful when I left Pie Tin?

I liked this one the least, yet ate most of it too.  Doh.  I actually think it would have been better with ice cream to cut the sweetness, which I said to my dining companions, who all thought I was even crazier for suggesting adding a sweet thing to it, but honestly, I think it would have helped.
The Pie Tin on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chinatown Noodle Restaurant, Sydney

On one of my first visits to Sydney, a co-worker brought us to a tiny Chinese restaurant that he called “Hole in the Wall”.  This was not actually the name of the restaurant, but it turns out, he didn’t even know the name of the place.  Hole in the Wall it was, and, the name was apt.

This experience was years ago, but I still remember it vividly.  Swarms of people.  Huge wait for a table.  Ridiculously cramped.  Plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling.  Awesome dumplings.  It turns out, the place is called “Chinese Noodle Restaurant” and there is a sister establishment, “Chinese Noodle House” just a few doors down.  They are both packed all the time.

On my recent trip, we wanted to get good noodles and dumplings, but didn’t want to deal with the craziness that is these locations.  But we heard rumors that there was another branch, in Pyrmont … just a few blocks from our office.  And, even better, it wasn’t supposed to be crazy busy.

We had to check it out.  So, one day for lunch, we sought out “Chinatown Noodle Restaurant” (yes, the names of these restaurants are amazing).  The dumplings were indeed great, and we returned a few days later.
Inside.
The decor was more modern than the Chinatown locations, and sadly, no grapes were hanging from the ceiling.  It was spacious, light filled, and airy.  Fans were set up around the room to provide some airflow.  A very different ambiance from the Haymarket locations!

But, definitely the same place.  Service was pretty awful, once our original order was taken, we weren’t ever paid another moment’s attention.  I wasn't able to order more water.  I was never able to get a share plate.  But the food was delivered immediately as it was ready, piping hot, as it should be.
Condiments.
Chinatown Noodle Restaurant is a very casual place, complete with a plastic menu.  They are cash only, and you pay at the register when you are done.  Simple.  And, it turns out, delicious.  The menu is Northern Chinese, and fairly extensive, but we had eyes only for the dumplings and noodles, the two famous items.

Condiments on the table were soy sauce, vinegar, and chili, to make up your ideal dumpling dipping sauce, which I of course did.

Silverware was real chopsticks, not flimsy wooden disposables.
Pan-fried Pork and Chive Dumplings (half order).  $6.
We started with the signature dumplings.  Available in 4 varieties: pork and chive, pork and Chinese cabbage, beef and shallots, or egg and chives.  Then you have the choice of preparation: steamed, boiled, or pan fried.  We started with the classics, pork and chive, pan fried.  Go big or go home.

They were piping hot, delivered immediately out of the pan.  Even after a few minutes, biting into one squirted liquid that would burn you if not careful.

The dumplings were fantastic.  Doughy, but in a good way.  Perfectly crispy on one side.  Yes, they were oily.  No, they weren’t healthy.  But wow they were satisfying.  The filling inside was generous, minced pork and tons of chives, probably about in equal proportion, which made them quite flavorful.

We returned a few days later, and ordered the pork and Chinese cabbage and the beef and shallot, also pan fried.  Except, they gave us pork and chive again instead of the beef and shallot.  The pork and cabbage were nearly indistinguishable from the pork and chive, except the flavor was more muted since cabbage isn't as sharp as chive.

I really enjoyed these, and would certainly get more, and would love to try another variety, perhaps even the veggie ones?  I’m curious how the healthier steamed or boiled options are, but, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be nearly as delicious.

Available in a half order (6) for $6 or full dozen for $9.80, very reasonable.
Steamed Pork and Chive Dumplings (half order).  $6.
On our return trip, we decided to get the same pork and chive dumplings, but steamed this time, to compare the styles.

The filling was the same, the wrapper was the same, but, because they were just steamed, the wrapper was a bit gummy, and I didn't really care for it.  Yup, it turns out, crispy and fried is really just so much better.

I'm glad I tried these to see how the cooking method effects the taste, but I'd certainly go for pan-fried in the future, unless I was really wanting a lighter, more healthy dish.
Steamed Northern Style Pork Buns (half order). $6.
We also ordered pork buns.  Available steamed or pan fried, we went for steamed.


I was expecting something entirely different.  It turns out, all I know of Chinese buns is BBQ pork buns.  These were pork, but ... not BBQ!

Pork Buns: Inside.
The dough was fluffy and light, but not sweetened like I am accustomed.  The filling was … porky.  It was just pork.  Overall they were fine, but really not what I was expecting, or, wanting at the time.  Maybe the pan fried ones would be better?  I really can’t picture what those would be like.

Ojan and the other diner both said that these were fairly authentic.

Available as a half order of 5 for $6 or a full order of 10 for $9.90.  Again, reasonable price.
Bejing Spring Pancake, beef. (half). $6.60.
"w/ egg, sprouts, Chinese cabbage, and beef"

Next up, Spring Pancakes, available in chicken or beef.  Ojan and the other diner picked beef.

I didn't actually have this, as I was stuffed at this point, but it was also totally not what I was expecting.  For starters, I thought that a pancake would be ... flat.  Like a pancake.  Ojan summed this up quite nicely as a "Chinese burrito".

I did try a bite of the pancake wrapper, and thought it was like a thinner version of naan. It had a nice sweetness and chew to it.  I could imagine liking this, if they had non-chicken or beef options.

Price was $6.60 for this "half" order or $9.90 for a full order, which seemed quite good, as these were sizable wraps.
Stir-fried Handmade Noodles w/ Pork. $10.80.
And finally, noodles.  I don’t really care for noodles, so I opted to just split Ojan’s and have a few bites.  He had the choice of chicken, beef, pork, lamb, veggie, or seafood.  He went for pork.


The noodles were hand cut, all assorted sizes and shapes.  They were well cooked, soft and tender, not gloopy, etc, but as expected, not really my thing.  The dish was fairly oily in my opinion, but Ojan said it wasn’t quite authentic, as it wasn’t oily enough.  I did like the variety of other ingredients in the dish, including cabbage, onions, peppers, celery, and tomato.  The tomato is super strange to me in a stir fry, but Ojan said that was authentic too.


The noodles, like everything, were delivered piping hot.  Ojan’s dish of noodles came several minutes before our dining companion’s, which can be awkward etiquette-wise as you want to dig in and not let your noodles get cold, but not be rude, but really, this is how it should be.  Wok to table in seconds can’t be beat.

I think that these were good, if you like this style of dish. I don’t, so it wasn’t my thing, but Ojan said he was very satisfied.  Price was $10.80, which was fine for a huge dish like this, although he pointed out that in China, this would be $0.50.
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Pocket Bar, Darlinghurst

One night on our recent trip to Sydney, we were looking for a place to hang out, have a few drinks, and nibble on some food.  It had been a day filled with eating, so we weren't looking for a huge meal.  Of course, I had done research into just about every category of meal possible, and had a list of interesting sounding bars to check out, ones that would serve great cocktails and have good food.

I quickly selected Pocket Bar, located just a few blocks from the hotel I was staying at.  It seemed like the perfect fit for the evening - convenient, casual, but promised to satisfy our tastebuds.  And indeed it was.

The cocktail menu was several pages long, encompassing all different styles of drinks.  The drinks were on the pricer side, about $20 each, but they were all well crafted and made with fresh ingredients and garnishes.

The food menu is themed around "street food from around the world", so it spans just about everything from fish tacos to ceviche to tamales to gyros, all appropriate finger food, but far more interesting than your standard bar menu, so there was certainly an appeal for me.

The service was friendly, although a bit lacking.  We often ran out of water, or fresh drinks.  The food came out as it was ready, which is great, as it was all very hot when it arrived, but the timing was a bit crazy.  One dish arrived, then it took at least 10 minutes for another, then perhaps 20 more minutes for the next, and our final dish, though it had been ordered right when we first sat down, took well over an hour.

The vibe was certainly hip, and the servers were some of the trendiest people I saw in Sydney.  I tried to get interior photos of the unique space, but the low lighting made it impossible.  Although it was full, it was never annoyingly crowded, and our group was able to set up shop on a large couch, a thrown-like armchair, and assorted stools, a comfortable semi-private area.  It really was perfect for lounging, which is what we needed after a long day.

Overall, it was perfect for the night we wanted to have, and both the food and drinks impressed.  Not fine dining obviously, and everything was pricey, but I'd return.
The Ginger Scot.  $22.
"From the isle of skye we take talisker 10yo, full of dried fruit, pepper & smoke, and mix it with apricot brandy, lillet, & a touch of lemon juice."

My first drink, selected because, well, I wanted whiskey, and the ginger sounded refreshing.

It was good, but not nearly as smokey as I was hoping.  It was quite drinkable, nicely balanced, but I wasn't in love with it.  I appreciated the huge slice of ginger as garnish.  $22 seemed very pricey though.
Mocktail. $10.
Ojan asked for a non-alcoholic drink, and the server asked what flavors he liked, and this appeared.

We aren't really sure what it was, and when he asked the person who brought it to us, she had no idea.  It was fruity, and we were worried it might have watermelon, so I didn't try it.  The garnishes were sure impressive.

His next drink was much better, another mocktail, and that time he asked for something grapefruit inspired.  It came with a huge slice of grapefruit and a sprig of basil on top.  It was a bit too sweet and fruit-juicy though; it would have been a great brunch drink, but wasn't quite right for the night.  A little more soda water, or perhaps ginger beer, and it would have mellowed out nicely.  I think the bartender was used to having alcohol to cut the sweet better.
??
Two others ordered this, I didn't catch the name.  It had gin and cucumbers, and came served in this huge vessel.  They were asked how many glasses they wanted, told that it could easily serve 1, 2, or 4 people, depending.  2 seemed just right, as they were both able to have a couple glasses.  I didn't try it, but they loved it.
Crispy Mac n' Cheese Balls with housemade bourbon and bacon jam. $12.
The first item to arrive, before the drinks even: crispy mac n' cheese balls.  With bourbon and bacon jam.  Fried. Cheese. Bourbon. Bacon. Yes.

This is the sort of thing that sounds like it should be amazing, but generally never is.  It was ordered by one person, who intended it to be his meal.  But, it arrived so much ahead of the rest of our food, that everyone else ended up uh, helping him eat it.

It really was quite good.  Inside was very creamy, oozing mac and cheese.  Far more successful than I ever imagined.  The outside crust was cripsy, crunchy, and although very oily and fried, it worked.  This was heavy, and cheesy, and fried, in all the best ways.

As you can imagine, the balls were gone in seconds, and a subsequent order was aptly placed.  Everyone agreed they were far better than expected.

The star however was the bourbon bacon jam.  OMG.  Again, something that SOUNDS like it should be good but never lives up.  But in this case, it lived up.  And then some.  Super bacony, loaded with chunks of bacon.  Slightly sweet and mapley.  It was, hands down, the best thing we had that night.  I wish they'd bottle it up, I'd certainly buy it, and slather everything in it.
Cassava Chips with Salsa Huancaína.  $9.
I have a thing for cassava, so I was thrilled to see cassava chips on the menu.  They arrived piping hot.  As in, one person claimed he burnt his finger tips in picking one up.

The "chips" were Australian chips, aka, thick fat fries, not thin crispy chips.  They were clearly quite fresh, but they didn't have quite the starchiness I was hoping for.  Somehow not really enough cassava flavor for me, they really just seemed like large fries.  And, they were quite oily.  Good bar food, yes, but not quite what I was wanting.

The huancaína salsa wasn't the right accompaniment.  It seemed like just slightly spicy cream cheese.  I would have liked a rich aioli, or a thinner mojo sauce perhaps, but just not this.

Luckily, we had plenty of bacon jam, since we ordered multiple rounds of the mac and cheese balls, and we had vegetarians amongst us.  The cassava chips dunked in bacon jam were tasty, but still not exactly what I wanted.  But a great excuse to eat more bacon jam.

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Brioche Grilled Toastie. $18.

"Slow cooked beef short rib, blue cheese sauce, sesame, chives, sriracha, rocket and caremelised onions, served with fries"
Another dinner ordered the brioche grilled toastie, which came with a generous serving of fries.  We all devoured the extra fries, dunking them into the bacon jam.  Really, I dunked just about anything into the bacon jam.  And once I ran out of things to dunk, I just ate it by the forkful.  Did I mention that it was seriously tasty stuff?  I was addicted.

Anyway, the fries were thin style, not really that crispy, a tad bit soggy, and somewhat reminded me of McDonald's fries.  I don't mean that in a bad way, just in that they were thin and salty, and although they didn't seem like anything special, they were tasty enough.

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Pork Steamed Buns: caramelized pork belly, cucumber, hoisin, and shallots. $16.

Another dinner ordered the pork steamed buns.  For some reason, these took forever to arrive.  We had consumed everything else, and even ordered, received, and finished another order of mac and cheese balls, and his buns still hadn't turned up.  We enquired about them several times.  Finally, they appeared, a large order of 3.  Since he had been munching on everyone else's food, he wasn't all that hungry at this point, and offered them up to the table.  He said they were good, but they didn't taste like they looked.  Ojan had a few bites, and agreed.  They both kept saying how they just didn't taste as expected.  Finally, even though I was stuffed, I tried a few bites too.

Indeed, there was something strange here.  The bun was soft, fluffy, good enough.  There was something that seemed like an onion tomato jam.  And some other strange sauce that I couldn't identify.  And there was a lot of baby spinach.  And the "pork belly" didn't seem crispy, nor fatty really.  Since I didn't order the buns, I hadn't read the description, and didn't realize how off it was.  I pulled out the menu to re-read it, confused as to what I was tasting.  Where was the hoisin sauce?  There was a sauce, but it certainly wasn't what I'd think of as hoisin.  And cucumbers?  Hmmm.  And why was there spinach?

About this time, I saw another item on the menu: Vegan Tempeh Steamed Buns.  The description: bourbon tempeh, smoked vegan cheddar sauce, baby spinach, shallots and tomato chilli jam.  Doh.  We clearly had the vegan buns.  The "pork belly" was tempeh, and all the other toppings matched up.  Within moments, a server came rushing over with a new set of buns, saying "those are the vegan ones!"  Doh.  The strange sauce was the "vegan cheese", and even once I knew what it was, I kept trying it to figure it out, and never liked it.

So now we had 6 buns, and everyone was stuffed.  Yet we had to try the new item too, right?  The new ones had the same fluffy buns, but this time, were actually filled with crispy pork belly.  Nicely prepared.  Smothered in hoisin sauce, perhaps a bit too much, but, it seemed fitting.

We all liked the pork ones more, but agreed that the tempeh ones were tasty, and both Ojan and I said that it was probably the best tempeh we ever had, generally being tempeh haters.

Of course, you can probably guess what I did with the extra buns.  Yes, I removed the tempeh, and stuffed them with bacon jam.  Now THOSE were the winning buns!
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