Friday, August 03, 2018

Cobs Popcorn, Australia

Yup, yup, I adore snacks, I adore popcorn.  I write about them often enough to have blog labels dedicated to them.  Even more fun is trying snacks in other countries, so when I was in Sydney, I gladly tried a local brand: Cobs.  The products were much better than the other local brand I had previously tried, and reviewed, Jonny's.

Cobs makes several product ranges: popcorn, organic popcorn, caramel popcorn, Hip Chips, and corn chips.  The caramel range looks great, indulgent caramel corn coated with dark or milk chocolate, or simply drizzled with either type of chocolate, or, just plain caramel corn.  Hip Chips are ... healthy chips, made from potato, rice, and corn, in a variety of savory flavors.  The corn chips are made with super grains.  Eh.

I had only the normal popcorn, available in 5 flavors: sea salt, sea salt & cider vinegar, cheddar, movie theater butter, and lightly salted, slightly sweet.  Sadly, no crazy flavors like many of the brands of chips there that always make me laugh (honey glazed ham chips? burger rings?).

But the verdict?  Good popcorn!
Cheddar Cheese.
"For serious cheese lovers, it’s time to try this authentic taste sensation.

There is nothing better or well-loved than cheesy popcorn and ours is generously seasoned with a delicious and natural cheddar cheese recipe."

I did quite like this.  It did indeed have a great cheddar flavor, in a fake cheddar sort of way.  Cheesy, buttery, and totally not healthy in any way.  Of course it stained my fingers orange.

This was quite addicting, and I devoured bags of these with no problem.
Sea Salt.
"This is one for popcorn lovers who enjoy that real corn flavour.

If you like it simple this is the one for you, it takes only 3 great ingredients, organic corn, organic high mono unsaturated sunflower oil and sea salt, to bring you that authentic popcorn flavour. Ideal for those wanting a sugar free snack or a tasty treat to accompany that favourite drink. "

Well, this was nicely popped popcorn.  But oh so boring.  Just, slightly salted.  Not very interesting for me.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Uncle Tetsu, Sydney

Japanese cheesecake.  Its a thing.  A rage in other parts of the world, where "famous" Japanese cheesecake shops are opening up, often with ridiculous lines, and limits on the number of items a single person can purchase (ohai, cronuts).  If you haven't had it before, expecting "cheesecake" like you know (Italian style, New York style, etc), will leave you confused and disappointed.  Instead, think of it as a lighter thing - less sweet, less rich, moist and fluffy ... almost more like a cheesy chiffon cake.  Or a souffle crossed with a cheesecake.  Usually served warm.  It really is a unique item.

Uncle Tetsu is a bakery that originated this style of cheesecake, back in the early 90s, in Japan (yes, by someone named Tetsushi).  It has spread dramatically from there, with 100+ shops outside Japan now, a strong foothold throughout Asia, now breaking into other regions as well.

The cheesecake is their signature item, but the product range now includes not only other styles of cheesecake (like the even loftier "Angel Hat"), but also cheesetarts, you know, the other ridiculous rage going on now in Asian style desserts.  And ... crepes stuffed with chunks of cheesecake and cream.  And puddings.  And little cakes.  And rusks.  And more and more.
I did not try Uncle Tetsu's in Japan, however, they have a shop in Sydney, and, believe me, it was impossible not to notice it had opened.

The queues.  The large windows showing the slew of bakers in action, pumping out products all day long.  The aromas.  Yes, I noticed.

On past visits to Sydney, I wasn't ever really willing to wait in line.  Plus, uh, they had lots of staff out on the streets with samples of literally everything, every day.  I got to try it all, in reasonable portions!  It really was unique, but, not something I wanted to wait in line for.

But this past visit to Sydney, I needed to host an event for ~50 people, and I decided to introduce them all to Uncle Tetsu.  Bonus?  I'd get to try even more items!

The event was a success, and, it really was a new experience for most.  I still find it unique, but, not items that are at the top of my dessert list.

Japanese Cheesecake

"Our Cheesecakes are made with Australian cream cheese. Soft & fluffy world famous staple of everything Uncle Tetsu."
Cheesecakes are available in 2 main styles, classic or Angel Hats.  The Angel Hats are loftier, fluffier creations, but both are much, much lighter and fluffier than "regular" cheesecake.

Angel Hats are designed to be served cold, while the cheesecakes are either warm or cold.

I ordered 4 types of cheesecake for my group, but I also have sampled others in the past.
Full Size Japanese Cheesecakes.
Classic cheesecake comes in 4 varieties: "Original Signature", "Choco", Matcha, and "Honey" (which has earl gray tea in it as well).

My notes from previous sampling said the matcha had "good matcha flavor" and the honey was "very fluffy compared to regular cheesecake, but not nearly as fluffy as the Angel Hat."
Boxed Original.
For my group, I ordered the two others: Original and Chocolate.
The original cheesecakes all come hot and fresh from the oven, boxed up in special boxes with instructions for storage.
Original Signature. $17.99.
"The Original Signature Japanese cheesecake is the soft & fluffy world famous staple of everything Uncle Tetsu."

The cheesecake does look pretty stunning, golden top, Uncle Tetsu logo.

It was fine.  Lighter, fluffier, no where near as rich nor cheesy as standard New York or Italian cheesecake.  A unique thing, but not something I find myself craving.
Boxed Chocolate.
The chocolate version comes in its own special box.  It too was hot and fresh.
Choco $17.99.
"Our soft & fluffy japanese Cheesecake takes on a nostalgic chocolate mousse flavour with the added 70% dark Belgian chocolate and cocoa powder."

It too was ... fine.  Slightly chocolately, not that intense.
Full Size Angel Hat.
The "Angel Hat" comes in the original flavor, matcha, and seasonal special.

My notes from trying it before said "This really was unlike any cheesecake I've ever seen before!  Soo light and fluffy ...  it doesn't even make sense!"

I noted that the chocolate version, a special at the time, was the "same fluffy texture, but I didn't like the chocolate as much, it was more like a fluffy chocolate mousse."
Angel Hat Boxes.
I eagerly ordered the original and seasonal mango apple for my group.

They are chilled items, and came in specialized taller boxes.
Angel Hat. $14.99.
"The only Uncle Tetsu Cheesecake with two kinds of cheese – cream cheese and grana padano – together with custard cream all mixed together makes a cheese cloud that melts in your mouth."

This was different from what I remembered, more savory.

I again loved the fluffy fluffy texture, but the savory, grana padano forward flavor was actually just a bit too much for me this time around.  Not sure why.

I tried it again later that evening, and again, just too cheesy.  But love the fluffy texture.
Monthly Special: Mango & Apple Mango Hat. (July)
The mango and apple was almost awesome.

I loved the fluffy texture.  I loved the mango flavor.  It wasn't savory.  But ... eh to the apple flavors.

My favorite of the cheesecakes I think, but not one I'd get again.


"Our ‘rich & creamy’ Cheesetarts are among the most loved baked goods we make. The Original Triple-baked Cheesetarts are velvety smooth with a touch of sour from cream cheese.

The base for our Cheesetarts is made from scratch in-house."
Cheesetarts come in 3 varieties: original, matcha, and a monthly special, available individually or as boxes.  Served warm, although I didn't have one immediately, so it was room temperature instead, and that worked fine.
Cheesetart Machine.
The cheesetart machine is where the majority of the action is all day long, where you can walk by and watch it filling little tart shells.
Original, Matcha, Taro Cheesetarts.
Cheesetarts are all individual size, and most commonly sold by the box, so they go through trays and trays of these every day.  Sold in original and matcha varieties, plus a monthly flavor that rotates.

I had tried the monthly special chocolate one before, and noted "the tart shell is fine but its a tart shell, meh.  The chocolate filling fine but uninteresting, kinda just a thick ganache."

Not the best review ever, but when the monthly special was taro on my next visit, I couldn't resist.
Monthly Special: Taro Cheesetart (July).
The monthly special for July was taro!  <3 taro.  I ordered this in an instant.

My review of the tart shell itself is no different from before.  Yup, its a tart shell.  Not too hard, actually softer, sweeter, and nicer than most tart shells to be honest, but, its still a tart shell, not something I'll ever go crazy about.

But the filling?  That I'd go crazy about.

It was quite good.  Super creamy taro pudding basically, with a firm top.  I actually really liked the texture change from top to bottom of the filling, from firmer to looser.  The taro flavor was strong enough to taste it over the cheeses.  Sweet, but not too sweet.

I really enjoyed the filling, just eating it as a pudding with a little spoon, and would gladly get another.  I wish they did more taro items, and, in particular, wish they did an actual taro pudding, because, um, I love pudding.


The latest offering from Uncle Tetsu, introduced literally the week before I arrived, was pudding.  Oh, yes.
Japanesse Pudding Cups.
They only make 100 a day.  Very exclusive item!
Japanesse Pudding Cup. $3.90.
"Unique Japanese rich puddings made exclusively here in our special Japanese pudding oven!"

The pudding was ... ok.  It didn't really have a flavor to it, not vanilla, not cheese, just ... there.  The menu said vanilla bean, but I didn't really detect it.

The texture was interesting, Asian style for sure, almost like a tofu or almond jello pudding.  But, flavorless.

On the bottom of the pot was a layer of sweet syrup, slightly caramelized, "dark caramel", said the menu.

It was fine.  But really nothing special, not anything I even really wanted to finish.

Onigiri Crepes

Onigiri crepes are not one of the standard items carried by Uncle Tetsu, and I think maybe only offered in Sydney, and only at a side window off the front of the main store.

They are a fun hand held concept, a chunk of cheesecake, cream, and other fillings, wrapped in a fresh crepe.
Onigiri Crepe Menu.
Onigiri Crepes are available in 5 flavors: Original, Mixed Berry, Honey, Choco, and Matcha (or, if you dine in at Angel Garden, "Choco choco" and "Matcha matcha", with chocolate and matcha crepe crepes, respectively.).

These were introduced right when I visited last year, and Uncle Tetsu was giving out samples regularly, so I tried a few.

I noted back then that I really liked the cream inside, and the matcha "had decent flavor".  Those notes were enough to inspire me to finally order one.
Onigiri Crepes station.
The crepes are made on the side by a separate staff member, with their own dedicated register.  I found it odd that they weren't on offer at the main register at all, even though literally just a few feet away.  More exclusive, more lines, right?
Original Cheesecake Onigiri Crepe. $3.90.
"Original Cheesecake / Caramel Sauce."

I went for the original.

The crepe wrapper was good, soft, slightly sweet, pleasant enough. A nice edible wrapper.
Original Cheesecake Onigiri Crepe: Inside.
Inside was a simply a chunk of the original cheesecake, lots of cream, and a bit of sweet caramel.

I didn't really care for this this time.  The cream tasted off, not as delicious as I remembered from previous tries.  The caramel was nearly non-existant in mine.  And the cheesecake, fine, but I did find myself thinking it was all a bit odd ... I didn't really want a chunk of cheesecake in here.

Fun to try, interesting, but likely not something I'd get again.


And then, there are more items, not quite as special seeming, so I didn't try them.
The rusks aren't even on the menu anywhere, but near the register were packaged containers of "double baked cheesecake rusks" ... perhaps what they do with the scraps?  Bake them off again to make crispy cookies, kinda like biscotti?
"Madeleines are Uncle Tetsu's favorite! Luscious and moist, this buttery cupcake literally melts in your mouth. Warm up this madeleine with microwave for 15 seconds to get the just-out-of-the-oven fluff."

Madelines come in 4 varieties: honey, choco, matcha, and orange, available in singles or boxes.  Not my thing at all, so I never had these, although they are one of their more popular items.
Uncle Tetsu’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Three Williams, Sydney

Sydney is very, very good at brunch.  Puts San Francisco to shame.  The offerings are vast, creative, and generally, delicious.

On my visit to Sydney in February, I only had one day I could get brunch, as I was working the rest of the time.  I nearly returned to Cuckoo Callay, as it was the best brunch I've had in recent memory (seriously, those fondant pancakes - my review here), but the menu had changed, and there wasn't anything particularly calling out at me.  I also almost returned to Devon Cafe (past review), where there were a few menu items that sounded potentially interesting, plus, they have a new location closer to my hotel.

But in the end, I decided to go somewhere new to me, to check out Three Williams, a place that had been on my list for the past few visits.  The menu had changed since I had put it on my list, but one thing remains consistent.  Everyone raves about the always changing french toast, unlike any other out there, a very unique offering (stay tuned).

So I went.  Alone.  I'm very glad I did.  It was incredible.

The next time I visited Sydney, in July, Three Williams was at the top of my "Must Do" list, and I dragged a co-worker with me.  I couldn't resist the latest french toast.  Its just too amazing.

I will gladly return to Three Williams any time I am in Sydney, and really would like to explore more of the menu ... someday.  As long as they have a new french toast to try, I'm pretty sure I'm incapable of not getting it.

The Space

Three Williams is located in Redfern, down a side street.  At first I thought I might have the wrong address, as I seemed to just be in a residential neighborhood, but then I spied folks milling about on the sidewalk.  Ah yes, a waiting list for brunch.  I knew I was in the right place.

My wait the first time was only about 2 minutes, as I was a solo diner, and it was easy to fit me in.  The second visit was a bit longer, 20 minutes for 2, but still not bad.  On both visits, I arrived right before 12, and that was key.  The queues grew fast after that.
I can't say that Three Williams had great curb appeal.  Or that it felt cozy.  To enter, you go down stairs into what felt a bit like a bunker, with concrete floors.  The walls were brick and plain white.  Really, um, no ambiance whatsoever.
Table Setting.
My table the first visit was rather tiny, which was fine for me alone, but I think even with two people might have been hard to fit many dishes.  Really, not a comfortable place.

On my next visit, we had a bigger table, but not significantly.  The optimize for fitting tables into the not large interior.

Tables were pre-set with menus on wooden boards, salt &pepper shakers, water glasses, and silverware in a cup.

Food & Drink

All my thoughts on the lackluster environment disappeared within a few minutes.  What warmth was missing in the decor was made up for by the staff.  They were friendly and welcoming, really some of the best service I had in Sydney.  

My server was particularly amused that I ventured there solo to order the epic french toast.  She warned me that it was quite large.  She warned me that most people split it with at least one other person.  I nodded, said I understood, but I was alone, and I wanted it.  She laughed and said she liked me, that I was a women who knew what I wanted.

She was right.  I knew what I wanted.  I wanted that french toast.  And I got it.

My order was taken quickly, water delivered within 2 minutes, my food within 10.  I was in and out in 30 minutes on that first visit!

Our second visit had equally good service, a patient server with us taking our time to order.  Food again came within 10-15 minutes of ordering, hot and fresh.  We did linger longer, but, per Australian style, no one bothered us until we asked for the bill.
Truffle Menu (July).
One benefit of visiting Sydney in July, as in, the depths of winter, besides the wonderful hotel rates, is that it is truffle season.  Many restaurants embraced this.

Three Williams had a special truffle menu, alongside the regular menu.

There were some very tempting items on it, like the truffle ice cream sundae that had hazelnut cream, caramel popcorn crumb, gold dust feuilletine, crispearls, hazelnuts, edible flowers, fresh truffle, and chocolate cake.

My dining companion ordered one item from here.
Bottomless Sparkling Water. $4.
Three Williams makes their own sparkling water, presented in a large bottle, left on the table so you can pour yourself.  I was solo, and didn't require a second bottle, but if I had, the menu said "bottomless", so I assume I would have been provided another.

I appreciated the zero waste, I appreciated being able to pour myself, but, $4 for house water did seem a bit steep, and this fee is per person.
Long Black, Decaf (February). $4.50.
I was dining at noon, and had been up since 6am (yay, jetlag!), and let's just say I had already consumed more than my daily allowance of coffee.

But I really wanted a coffee to pair with my upcoming decadent feast.  I didn't order a coffee when I ordered my meal, but strategically planned to order one after 5-10 minutes, so perhaps it would arrive when the food would, rather than before, and thus run out.   I observed how long coffee orders took for tables around me, and it was quite quick, so, this seemed like a good move.

My food however did come a bit faster than I expected, so, doh, I hadn't yet ordered the coffee when my food arrived.  I quickly ordered it then, and it arrived fast enough, so, crisis averted.

Anyway.  It was actually very good decaf.  It had body and flavor, low acidity, not harsh, no funk ... very good, and, it turned out, yes, just as necessary as I thought it would be to pair alongside my sweet dessert, er, brunch.
Long Black, Decaf (July). $4.50.
My second visit was much the same as my first.  Jetlag had ensured I was up at 5am (!), so I had long since had my fill of coffee as my visit was at noon.  I was already 7 hours into my day!  But still, I knew french toast would need a strong bitter compliment, so I ordered a decaf long black again, this time, ordered at the time of the meal, but I asked to have it arrive closer to my food.

The food came before it, but, it did come soon after, so this technique worked.

It was again a good decaf, very strong, but no strange decaf badness to it.  And again, it was exactly what I wanted alongside my french toast.
Golden Gaytime French Toast (February). $18.
"Crunchy brioche french toast, house vanilla ice cream rolled in a chocolate cookie crumb, chocolate crisps, fresh strawberry, toffee sauce."

Um, wow.  That is about all I can say about this.  

I knew everyone said the french toast, no matter what the seasonal creation is at the time, is spectacular, the best they have ever had.  I read so many reviews, and heard so many testimonies from local friends, that I had high expectations.  And I had Instagram stocked it.  I knew what it would look like. I knew what people said about it.

And it still blew me away.

I'll go ahead and join the ranks of people who say this is some of the best french toast on the planet.  Wower.

I was slightly daunted by the size when it was set down in front of me, a solo diner though.  The slice of toast was no standard slice of toast, in any dimension.  It was quite lofty, and very long.  One slice was, uh, plenty.

It also was daunting just in how stunning it was.  The ice cream was perfectly perched on top, perfectly round, rolled in the crunchy feuilletine based chocolate cookie crumb.  The fresh strawberries were laid out on top deliberately around the ice cream scoop.  Crispy bits were everywhere, yet in an entirely controlled way, with eye catching freeze dried strawberries adding color that mirrored that of the fresh berries.  The toffee sauce coated the plate, but didn't ooze out anywhere it shouldn't.  Seriously, amazing plating.

I dug in.  One bite was all it took for me to realize that it lived up to the hype, lived up to its looks, and then some.

The french toast was fluffy and light inside, yet amazingly crispy on the outside.  The feuilletine coating added such great crunchy texture.  It wasn't eggy, which is always something that makes me rarely order french toast, rather, it was soaked just to give it moisture, and not take away from the flavor.  It was piping hot.  This dish did not sit in the kitchen waiting for someone to bring it to me at all.  Very clearly freshly prepared and whisked to my side.  Really, the french toast itself was a thing of beauty.

And then, the ice cream.  It too was clearly just barely done to order, it somehow hadn't melted, at all, even though it was 80 degrees out, and it was perched on the hot french toast.  The ice cream was rich, creamy, and really did have vanilla flavor, not just plain.  Very quality ice cream, and I loved the extra crunch from the cookie crumble it was rolled in.  It paired perfectly with the french toast, and I managed to make each and every bite have a little ice cream with each bite of french toast.

And then, the berry elements.  I actually didn't like the fresh strawberries on top, as they were a bit tart and not the ripest.  But the freeze dried strawberry bits scattered around were fabulous, intense pops of berry flavor to brighten everything up, both visually and in taste.  Strawberries have nothing to do with Golden Gaytimes obviously, but, I appreciated the addition.

The rest of the rubble was equally welcome, more cookie crumble, and little chocolate crispearls.  So much crunch and texture here.  They just nailed the eating experience, providing plenty, but not overwhelming.  (Side note: do you know crispearls?  I adore these things.  I have jars of the salted caramel and white chocolate ones at my desk.  Pastry chefs use them as a garnish all the time, but for me?  Amazing snack.   I eat them by the handful.  Crispy, sweet, and just awesome).

And then, the toffee sauce.  Sweet, gooey, rich toffee.  I didn't think I'd eat it all.  I love toffee, but, the french toast really didn't need it.  And yet ... guess who found herself close to licking the plate?  Yeah, this girl.  Every. Last. Drop.  It was wonderful.

This was a home run in every department.  Presentation.  Execution.  Flavors.  Textures.  Everything.  

That said, even though I did manage to finish it myself (I know, I know), I would recommend splitting it, either as a dessert after having savory items for lunch, or at least alongside something else for brunch.  It was incredible, and it didn't ever get old or one note, but, it was a lot for one person, even one who loves things like this as much as I do.

I'd love to try more of their french toasts.  I'd love to try more of their food in general.  I'd love for them to add ice cream sundaes to the menu.
  Ruby and Rose French Toast (July). $18.
"Crunchy brioche french toast, rose cream cheese, house churned white chocolate ice cream, macadamia, white chocolate, fresh raspberries, raspberry jelly, raspberry coulis."

The seasonal french toast this time was the "Ruby and Rose".  I'll admit that the flavor wasn't one I was as interested in, but, I clearly still had to try it.

The concept was exactly the same as the Golden Gaytime version.  The base, a brioche coated in feuilletine to make it extra crunchy.  Sitting in a pool of sauce (this time, raspberry coulis and rose cream cheese, rather than caramel).  Topped with a huge scoop of house made ice cream (white chocolate rather than simple vanilla this time).  Ice cream rolled in a coating (this time with a macadamia and white chocolate crust, rather than chocolate cookie and feuilletine).  Garnished with crunchy things (macadamia, white chocolate, freeze dried raspberry, instead of chocolate crispearls, chocolate cookie, and freeze dried strawberry).  Topped with more fruit (fresh raspberries instead of strawberries).

Same formula, just entirely different ingredients.  And just as well executed.

The toast itself was again a massive slice, in every dimension.  Lofty, thick, huge, not from any normal size load of bread.  It was again not eggy at all, and really, calling it "french toast" is a bit odd, as it doesn't resemble any other french toast.  I again loved the crispy coating and crunch it added.

The toast is good, but really, this thing is all about the other components.

The rose cream cheese is the lighter pink schmear on the plate.  There was much more than you can see here.  It was very, very subtle rose flavored, slightly sweet, good cream cheese flavor.  It combined really nicely with the raspberry and white chocolate, bringing an almost cheesecake-like element to the dish.

The raspberry coulis was the other sauce, a sweet berry sauce, intensely raspberry flavored in a shocking way, good for running a chunk of toast through, en route to the ice cream.

The ice cream was the stunner of this dish.  The last one just had vanilla ice cream, but this was white chocolate, and it was fabulous.  Creamy, sweet, amazing white chocolate flavor.  It melted perfectly too.  I loved the ice cream, particularly with the crunchy coating of more bits of white chocolate and macadamia.  Such wonderful flavors together.

More raspberry was found on top of the toast, a raspberry jelly, that I really liked.  Sweet, fruity, a chewy texture, and again, just perfect flavor combo with the macadamia and white chocolate.  The fresh berries were my least favorite part, just kinda out of season berries.  I see why they included them though.

And finally, the crunch, bits of macadamia, white chocolate, and freeze dried raspberries.  The crunch not only coated the ice cream, but also was strewn onto the plate.  The crunch really completed the deal, adding amazing texture to everything.  Plus, pops of white chocolate sweetness never hurt.

The ingredients here really, really worked together.  I was a bit shocked to be honest just how well the flavors worked.  The ice cream alone was very sweet (hello, white chocolate!), as was the raspberry coulis, but when you put this all together, it was ideal balance.

So again, Three Williams nailed it.  Great flavors, great textures, perfect execution.  Their are famous for the french toasts for a reason.  I did prefer the Golden Gaytime version, but that is only because I just like toffee more than raspberry.  I was still thrilled with this dish.

One thing to note though.  I loved it, but, I again found the serving size just too large.  I can take down a dessert single handed no problem, and I have a fairly insatiable sweet tooth, but I realized that I just didn't appreciate the last 40% of this dish.  I honestly think I'd be happier with it being 2/3 the size, even if the same price.  My overall enjoyment would actually be higher, as that last third really pushed me over the edge to a point where I was too uncomfortably full.  I'm not capable of leaving something I love unfinished, so I did finish, but, less happy.  I know I could just leave it unfinished but ... ahhh.

Really, I guess they expect everyone to go in groups and share.
Duck Narnie. $18.
"Peking duck, cabbage, cucumber, spring onion, coriander, fried eschalot, orange hoisin."

My dining companion got one of the signature narnies, aka, a naan sandwich.  I had been eyeing these on Instagram (ok, who am I kidding, I'm eyeing basically the entire menu), so I was happy to see one in real life.  It was not a dainty little sandwich, and it certainly was not designed for easy eating.

It was kinda fun watching him try to figure out how to tackle it.  He clearly couldn't pick it up, at least, not from the start, as the contents were spilling out everywhere.  Let's just say, it was generously stuffed.

He enjoyed it, and said the duck in particular was really quite good.

Sometime I want to go with a group, and try one of these as a savory bite before moving on to my french toast (which, I really do want to split!)
Truffle Fries. $22.
"Waffle fries, three cheese sauce, fresh truffle, chives."

My companion also ordered the truffle fries, from the special truffle menu.  I think ... he thought he was just getting a side with his sandwich.  Which, makes sense, if you aren't an Instagram stalker, and don't realize just how large the portions are Three Williams are of any of the dishes.  A sandwich served a la carte without any sides, makes sense to want some fries.  Some fries, not generally an entree.  But this plate of truffle fries was really an entree.  Seriously, one person could order this as an entree, and still not finish.  Really, clearly designed to be shared with at least a group of 4.  Why didn't our server warn us?

Anyway.  I helped him out a little, even though I don't like waffle fries, and I had my hands full with my french toast.  How could I resist cheese sauce and truffles?

The waffle fries were crispy on the outside, moist inside, seasoned.  Good basic waffle fries, and just not my thing.

The cheese sauce was tasty though, creamy, good flavor, nicely coating the fries.  And the truffles of course were wonderful, plenty to add lots of flavor.

Overall, sure, I appreciated a little cheese sauce and truffle, but, this isn't something I'd ever order.  And at $22, it was our most pricy order.

My dining companion tried valiantly to make a dent in this mound of fries, and really did like them.
Three Williams Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Let's Do Yum Cha Food Truck, Sydney

When in Sydney, go to the food trucks?  Yeah, not my normal agenda, but  I found Let's Do Yum Cha at a winter festival.  It was one of several trucks, and, like seemingly everyone else, I was drawn in by the idea of yum cha (dim sum to you Americans ...).

I love a good dumpling, and Sydney has so much amazing asian food, I was pretty hopeful that this random truck would deliver.  Yum cha seems like a good fit for a truck actually, as steam baskets are all you need, and these could work well, and hold things easily for service.

Alas, I didn't like ... anything.  (Luckily, I found an amazing truck soon after, Vejoes, for, seriously, vegetarian cuisine that rocked my world).
Let's Do Yum Cha Truck Line.
It had the longest lines, no question.  I sadly joined the line, with high hopes.  Spoiler: it was not worth this wait, nor, any wait.

Orders were taken from behind the counter, where each thing you asked for was served up, all on the same plate, fetched from steam baskets on the counter.  It was rather comical watching people who had really large orders have literally everything just piled on top of each other onto a plate.  A bit odd service really.
The menu was pictures on the side of the truck, a bit hard to see with the crowds, you had to wait until you were ready to order basically.

The lineup was: BBQ pork buns, custard buns, vegetarian spring rolls, prawn & chive dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, pork dim sum.

I planned to get most of the savories, skipping only the veggie spring rolls because I assumed fried food would not be great not fresh, but alas, they were out of the prawn & chive dumplings, and when I saw the pork dim sum I opted against it, they were strangely huge, and just didn't look great.

I wish I had just skipped it all.
Vegetarian dumpling, BBQ pork bun, custard bun.
I started with the vegetarian dumpling.  It was fairly large as well, but I hoped this just meant it was handmade.  The wrapper was incredibly thick.  On the plus side, it didn't fall apart.  But it was just entirely too much unremarkable dough.  The filling was minced veggies, really quite flavorless.  Just a nondescript mass of chopped stuff.  I didn't care for it at all.  My least favorite.

Next, the BBQ pork bun.  Also not great.  On the plus side, it wasn't soggy, as can happen when sitting in steam baskets for too long.  On the minus, the dough was totally boring, again flavorless, it didn't have the touch of sweetness I usually associate with these kind of buns.  The BBQ pork filling inside was not generous at all, only a few little bits.  On the plus side, the pork wasn't chewy.  On the minus?  Yeah, it tasted like nothing, even though there was sauce.  I think my favorite piece though, but I didn't even really want to finish it.

Moving on.  The sweet item was a custard bun.  It was cute.  It had eyes.  It was also fascinating, as I bit into it, molten custard filling came pouring out.  It was generously stuffed.  It was hot.  It was fresh.  It was unique.  But ... it was far, far, far too sweet.  I'm a girl who loves sweets, but I just didn't like it at all.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Koi Palace Express, SFO

Update Review, July 2018

Another day, another early afternoon arrival at SFO, with my logical side saying, "you should probably get lunch, at least to eat in the cab in a bit, its past lunch time here", and with my body saying, "its 6am, and you've already had two breakfast courses, what on earth are you talking about? Let me sleep!"

On these days, I always wish there was a Napa Farms Market *outside* security so I could grab something reasonably light (they really do make some tasty stuff).  The options in the food court in the International Arrivals terminal are ... limited.  Burritos, Wendy's, greasy Chinese ... and Koi Palace, which I often resort to (see previous reviews below).

This time I tried something new, a grab-n-go item since the lines for the hot food were really long, and, I really didn't think I wanted a full hot meal anyway.  I was impressed with the quality of the fresher food.
Vietnamese Spring Roll. $8.95.
Grab-n-go chilled items are limited to a few types of sushi (like the California roll I have reviewed before), a chicken salad (also tried that), and, an item I don't think I had seen before, fresh spring rolls.  And, of course, the mango pudding (I had my first time)

The idea of something lighter like this was quite appealing after my ~24 hours of flying, and feasting out of boredom on every flight, in every airport lounge, in every airport along my journey.

They only offered one variety: shrimp.

The serve was two massive spring rolls, not appetizer sized at all, with a pot of peanut sauce on the side, for $8.95.  For airport food, this was actually pretty reasonable.
Vietnamese Spring Roll & Peanut Sauce.
The rolls were well constructed, nicely wrapped up.  They didn't fall apart, not even after a few hours when I had the second one.  The rice paper wrapper was soft and pliable, not too thick, not dried out.

The shrimp were 3 pieces in each, right along the skin to show off, but were cut in half, so, this was actually only 1.5 shrimp total in each roll.  The shrimp was fine, not rubbery, properly deveined, but not exactly substantial.

I'm fairly certain the spring roll sauce was the same I had with the kale/cabbage/chicken salad before, and I liked it this time around too.  A bit oily, and it did separate and require mixing, but, good flavor from the soy and peanut. I think it really was just soy/peanut/sugar/salt, not really spiced in any way, but still, good enough.
Vietnamese Spring Roll: Inside.
The rolls were generously stuffed with greens (mint, lettuce, cilantro), shredded carrots, batons of cucumber, and vermicelli.  And ... apple slices.

All ingredients were fresh and crisp, and in good proportion.

The apples were a bit weird.  They were fresh, juicy, not turning brown, and added a refreshing bite, but, apples?  Usually I see something like jicama instead.

Overall though, very well made, very fresh spring rolls.

Update Review, February 2018

Sometimes, I get off a flight ravenous, because the in-flight options were less than spectacular.  Usually when that happens, I'm traveling domestic, in terminal 2, where I have plenty of great options air side to grab a quick bite on my way out, like Napa Farms Market or even Pinkberry.  But on my recent trip from Sydney, it was international, which meant, I wasn't able to get food until I cleared customs and everything, and thus was left with the pre-security food court.

Options were limited.  I considered just getting in a cab and heading home, but, I wanted salad.  It had been a long, decadent time in Sydney, and my body was clearly missing vegetables.  And, then, once I saw it, I wanted sushi.  So I got these things.  From Koi Palace of all places.

Sometimes, you just want what you want.  Even if it doesn't make sense.  Koi Palace is a good restaurant, but, their SFO outpost hasn't impressed before, and, um, salad and sushi is not at all what they specialize in.

They had only one salad, pre-packaged, and it had chicken.  I still got it.  The sushi I wanted was a California roll, even though made with imitation crab, even though made with avocado that I'm allergic to.  Just go with it.

My selections I'm sure weren't actually very good, but, I enjoyed them at the time.
California Role. $10.95.
The sushi was pretty basic, imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, seaweed wrapper, rice, sesame seeds.  I was impressed by the amount of crab filling actually, which I think is why I decided I wanted this.  I like "krab"!

And the krab was fine, shredded, pretty standard.  The rice was fine.  The ginger was fine.  The soy sauce was a packet of Kikoman's.  The wasabi was fine.

All, fine.  Worth $10.95 for 8 pieces?  Nah.  But it was airport sushi, from a Chinese restaurant.  It was what it was, and I liked it at the time.
Kale Salad W/Chicken. $12.95.
I was really, really craving salad though.  They had one type of salad, just called a "Kale Salad w/ Chicken", but I'd call it more of a Asian kale and cabbage slaw with grilled chicken and peanut sauce.  Which might be a bit more of an indication of why I picked it.  If it was just kale and chicken, meh!
Kale Salad w/Chicken: Close Up.
The base was shredded cabbage in assorted colors, shredded carrot, and shredded kale. All very crispy, and what I was in the mood for, it turned out.

On top was sliced  almonds, which I appreciated for the crunch, but I would have preferred something like fried wontons.

The dressing was very thick sesame peanut sauce, like you have with spring rolls.  In fact, I think it really was just spring roll or satay sauce.  Very thick, not a dressing, but quite tasty.  I thinned it with some soy sauce to make it a bit more dressing like, and used the rest to dip things in.

Original Review, June 2017

While I do a fair amount of airport dining, I don't usually dine at the San Francisco airport, particularly landside (not sure I've EVER done this actually), as it is my home base, and I usually just head home for food once I arrive.  But on a recent flight I was delayed taking off in Boston, and by the time I arrived in San Francisco, it was dinner time, and I didn't have anything waiting at home.  It seemed easier to just get a bite at the airport.

I was in the International Terminal, which has two landside food courts (North and South).  I actually almost went to Wendy's, as I haven't had Wendy's since I was in high school, and fondly remember my order of Biggie Fries, Small Chili with Cheese, and a Junior Vanilla Frosty (each from the $1 menu at the time).  But the International Terminal has been trying to bring in better options, and more local offerings, so I needed to check those out.

I headed to Koi Palace Express, an offshoot of the popular Koi Palace in Daly City.  They also have a second Express location airside in the International Terminal.

It ... was mediocre, generic food court food, and served at airport prices.  Not recommended.
Hot Wok Table, Dim Sum, Sushi.
The majority of the offerings were served from a steam table, as combo meals or individual entree, like any other generic Chinese food court offering, with items such as orange chicken, kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, etc, served with fried rice or lo mein.

They also had dim sum items available, again pre-made, on display in steamer baskets, including har gaw, pork bao, sui main, and sesame balls.  , They do make xia long bao to order.  The menu also listed other cook-to-order noodle dishes and rices, but they didn't have descriptions, and I never saw anyone order these.

The cold case had pre-made sushi rolls, seaweed salad, mango pudding, and drinks.

I'll admit, I was skeptical, as this looked like any food court asian offering, and really nothing like Koi Palace.  Do they even have sushi normally?
BBQ Pork Bao. $6.50.
After my long flight, what sounded good to me was simple, comforting, fluffy carbs.  So I got the BBQ Pork Bao, served 2 to an order for $6.50.  Ooph.  Not exactly dim sum prices.
Pork Bao: Inside.
The bun was good, soft, not dried out, not slimy, slightly sweet, very fluffy.  It tasted reasonably fresh.

But I didn't like the filling.  I was expecting BBQ pork, you know, little bits of pork in a strangely red sauce.  This was more like minced pork with onions?  The flavor just wasn't at all what I wanted.

Since I didn't care for the filling, I didn't really want these, even though I thought the dough was well done.  Would not get again.
Soy Sauce Chow Mein. $4.25.
My travel companion also sought simple comfort food, and for him, this was chow mein.  While most folks got this as the side to their combo meals, he went just for a side of the noodles.

The noodles were served from the steam tray, but were decent.  Basic noodles, not mushy, simple soy sauce flavoring, a few bits of green onion.  I thought this was really boring, but he seemed to enjoy, and they were good for what they were.
Mango Pudding. $6.50.
Finally, I wanted a sweet treat.

I was going to get the sesame balls or egg tarts, but, they really looked like they had been sitting there for far too long, so I opted for the mango pudding from the fridge instead.  Plus, I love pudding of all types.

It was thick and gelatinous, more like jello than what I think of as pudding.  It had some little bits of mango that I enjoyed, but was very, very sweet.

Overall, it was fine, but, I really wanted coconut milk, whipped cream, or something to compliment the otherwise boring pudding, so I brought it home, and added coconut whipped cream.  I enjoyed it much more this way.
Koi Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato