Vicinity Dinning

2012 October 22
by Jacky

Upsides: Nice environment, attentive services & excellent food.

   Downsides: A Super bright screen & my horrible photo taking skills.

Thanks to @heneedsfood for his excellent post on Vicinity Dinning in Alexandria. We have not been disappointed by his recommendations and this was another superb find by him. Three of us went to Vicinity on a Saturday evening earlier this month and the place was only couple of weeks old. As soon as I stepped in this place, I fell in love with it immediately. There are so many feel good factors about this place, it was not a typical Alexandria eatery but something like you will see in Potts Point. On one side of the restaurant, it has a very open area with some very comfortable couches. In the middle, it’s a perfect dinning area with lots of small tables.There are also some clever deco to divide up different areas and I can see a private function on the far side of the restaurant.

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There is a very nice alfresco area outside, which has some fancy looking big chairs and long benches with wood fire place in the middle. I immediately felt it’s a place that gives you everything that you want.

Food

The menu was quite simple, but it was surprisingly attractive and gave me such a headache to choose what we wanted.

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Starters

We ordered (All Starter sizes): Sticky Ribs, Baked Artichokes & Roasted Beetroot for starters to share between 3 of us. There was definitely no complaint from us about the presentation of the dishes and we were very impressed by the colour and deco of the dishes. The artichokes were rated very highly. I must say I had a very similar dish earlier at a different restaurant and this is definitely a better dish. The beetroots with other vegetables were very refreshing and it was such a good looking dish, which opened up our appetites. The sticky ribs were nice and they were cooked to just right, although I didn’t know why it was called sticky ribs. Really didn’t find it sticky at all.

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Mains

It wasn’t easy to choose 3 mains from the menu and we all had our eyes on lamb shoulders on the table next to us. Let me tell you we almost got our plates out and grabbed a bite from there. Since we were keen to try everything, we decided to give it a miss and gave us a good reason to return. We noticed on the menu that they have daily specials from the grill and the barramundi & sirloins were on offer, so we grabbed the barramundi, sirloins and pork belly. The waitress also advised us that we had to save space for the chips, so we could say no to the chips. The barramundi was cooked to perfection with crispy skin and moist fish inside. The steak was perfectly cooked and there was no compromise on quality at such a budget price. The pork belly was very tender and went well with the apple sauce, although the skin was not crispy. The chips were sensational and it came with very nice sauce, pepper salt & chilli salt. The chips were very crunchy outside and soft inside, so they were not over fried.

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Desserts

We were fairly satisfied and didn’t have much room in our stomachs by the time it got to desserts. However, we wanted to end our night on a high note, so we were happy to get stuffed a bit. The lemon tart was recommended by the waiter and we were not disappointed. When you broke through the crispy top, you will love the taste of the lemon. The Apple puffy pastry was so awesome that the pastry was very puffy and it was a perfect mix with the apple and ice cream. The roasted hazelnuts also added a extra layer to the whole dessert.The Knickerbocker glory was such an unusual thing to be found on a restaurant menu, so we couldn’t go it a miss. It was very nice and had many different layers of sweets and mousse in the tall glass. There were so many honeycomb bites and they kept dropping to the bottom layers, so you get a honeycomb in every spoonful. I did find there were too much honeycomb and wouldn’t mind if there could have some nuts instead of all the honeycomb we got. Overall, we couldn’t complain too much and everything was so perfectly done.

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Service

The service were very efficient and attentive, which are always something I care the most. Of course, they were very friendly too. Despite the fact that there were not many floor staff on the night, we had no problem getting water refilled and getting attention from the staff. We arrived fairly early in the night and it went from very few people to almost full house at the end. The service were still holding well by the time we left.

Summary

There is no doubt we will be coming back for more and it was such an enjoyable experience. I am worried the next visit cannot keep up the standard, but it won’t stop me from coming back.

 

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Location

Address: 90 Bourke Rd, Alexandria NSW 2015

Phone: 02 9002 1333

Booking: Yes, they do take bookings!

Business Hours:

Mon – Tue 7am – 4pm
Wed – Thu 7am – 10pm
Fri – 7am – late
Sat – 8am – late
Sun – 8am – 8pm

Website: http://www.vicinitysydney.com.au/

Reference: http://heneedsfood.com/2012/10/vicinity-dining-alexandria/ by heneedsfood

Final Days of the $35 Challenge

2012 October 21
by Jacky

By Day 6, I had about $6.22 left and plenty of chicken wings in the fridge. It wasn’t too difficult to survive the last two days. On the evening of the Day 6, I bought embarrassing amount of pork mince for $1.15 to create a dish that I knew it would last for two days and it would go really well with rice. In my previous blog post, I posted the recipe for making Chinese Egg Custard as dessert, which was very simple and delicious. I made a very traditional Chinese dish of steamed eggs and I added pork mince on top of the steamed eggs, which will give a more meaty taste and become a more filling dish. Firstly, I made steamed eggs using the very similar technique in my previous recipe, but I added a bit of extra water and use salt instead of sugar. After I stir fried the pork mince with chopped celery and laid on top of the steamed eggs, which give the dish more flavour.

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Day 7 was the last day of the challenge. I didn’t have the luxury of going out for breakfast, so I made some toasts and sandwich. In the evening, I bought some zucchini and made a stir fry dish to finish off the challenge.

I ended up with about $4 left, which I could have rewarded myself a cup of coffee or even an ice cream, but I didn’t spend all the money. It is because in reality many people who live under the poverty hardly have any saving and the saving of a few dollars may help them to survive in events of emergency and unexpected. Therefore, I decided to save up the $4 and tried to feel the same as many unfortunate Australians who don’t have the luxury of having a cup of coffee @ cafe and restaurant.

Day 3–5 of the $35 Challenge

2012 October 19
by Jacky

In between Days 3 and 5 of the $35 Challenge, I went through pretty similar diet every day. For breakfast, I had cereals or toasts. In the afternoon, I brought my own lunch boxes to work with the chicken I cooked on day 1. On Day 4, I made attempt to create some variation to the chicken I made on day 1. I diced up the stir fry chicken and used some fresh celery to make fried rice. With these small changes, I didn’t get bored with my own food easily. I must admit had I asked my wife to do the same challenge, we would have better varieties in terms of choices as I would not need to eat the same food over and over again.

On Day 4, I finally finished up all the stir fry chicken, I was moving to create a new dish. Initially, I planned to cook a dish with mince beef, which I estimated it could last for days. However, I saw there were chicken wings on sales at supermarket, which was only $3.19 for 8 wings. I have to confess I love chicken wings and there are so many ways you can cook chicken wings. I understand a lot of people find it troublesome to eat wings, but they are perfect party food and it’s a very versatile ingredient. I should have created a recipe for the Potluck club using chicken wings and now it will be perfect candidate for the potluck club cookbook ver. 2. With the chicken wings I cooked, I marinated the wings with soy sauce and garlic. After that I pan fried the wings to seal up the skins and then put them in the oven for about 15 mins to cook through the wings. This was a very simple way to cook delicious and juicy wings.

Day 5 was nothing very exciting and I started worrying how would I survive the last 2 days of the challenge. Let’s calculate how much I spent so far.

A Box of Cereal $4

Chicken Wings $3.19

1kg of Orange 1.3 (it’s on special and it’s the best time to buy oranges)

2 bananas 0.6

With all the previous money I spent, I spent $23.78 of the $30. i.e. I have 6.22 left. I may reward myself with a nice dish on day 7, if I still had about $5 left.

At Work and fighting against craving

I don’t think this broke the rule, but I had lots of tea at work.There are always tea bags and biscuits at the work kitchen, so I had tea and a few biscuits a day. 

During these few days at work, I found that I had lots of craving for snacks. It is always easy for me walking down to supermarket and cafes to get some cookies or muffins as snacks anytime that I want. However, imagining that for all those people out there who live under poverty, it would be such a luxury to get snack or two from your local shop and cafes. We always forget how lucky we are and there are plenty of people who do not even have choice for the food that they like to eat. 

Day 2 of The $35 Challenge

2012 October 16
by Jacky

Day 2 – 15/10 Monday

It’s the first day of the week @ work and I have no luxury of eating out this week, which means I have to prepare lunch everyday and can’t be too lazy after work.

Breakfast

I went for shopping and was looking for something budget for breakfast. A budget and fast way to get my breakfast to have cereals and most of the cereals @ supermarkets are not very cheap. I was tempted to get a home brand oats, which would only cost like $1.3 a bag and it saves me heaps. However, I know I don’t have much time to cook oats every morning and I will probably get sick of oats easily. I have decided to get a box of cereals for $4.00 and I know it will last for more than a week and it may save me from starvation later this week.

Lunch

When I said I rewarded myself with a big dinner the previous night, I got punished the next day to have the same food again for the next few meals. Since I am doing this challenge solo, I was able to create a lot of varieties in terms of dishes. 

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Dinner

I don’t even want to blog about my dinner as it’s the same food again. Unfortunately, the same food will be with me for a bit of time, but I have planned to cook something new mid-week.

Recipes from Day 1

2012 October 16
by Jacky

Stir fry chicken with celery

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh fillets 450g (2 fillets)
Celery 1/4 bunch, washed & sliced
Salt 1 tea spoon
Pepper 1/2 tea spoon
Sugar 1/2 tea spoon
Soy sauce 1 table spoon
Corn flour 1 table spoon
Rice wine 1 table spoon
Garlic 2 cloves, skinned and slightly crushed
Cooking oil 3 table spoons
   

Marinate the chicken:

1. Slice up the chicken thigh fillets and trim out any excessive fat. The sliced chicken should be about 1cm wide.

2. Mix salt, pepper, sugar and soy sauce with the chicken, then add in 1 table spoon of rice wine.

3. Once you stir the rice wine through the chicken, put in 1 table spoon of corn flour and stir through the corn flour as well.

4. Finally, stir through 1 table spoon of cooking oil with the chicken and you want to make sure the chicken is coated with the oil. Then, cover the chicken and let the chicken to sit for about 15 mins before cooking.

Cooking:

1. Heat up a fry pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, put in a table spoon of cooking oil and throw all the chicken in the pan.

2. Pan fry the chicken through out and cook all sides of the sliced chicken. You want to cook the chicken to about 90% cooked and golden brown on all sides.

3. Once the chicken is cooked to about 90%, set aside the chicken.

4. Heat up either the same pan or a wok on med-high heat. Put 1 table spoon of cooking oil in and then put it the garlic. When you see the garlic is slightly brown, put in the sliced celery. Stir fry the celery and you will notice the celery turning dark green. It is not necessary to cook the celery for too long, you want to make sure the celery is still crispy and juicy. If you want the celery to be cooked 100%, you may add couple of table spoon of water and cover the pan or wok for 1 to 2 mins. 

5. When you think the celery is ready, put the chicken back in the pan or wok. Stir fry the chicken and celery to make sure they are cooked through. You may season with little bit of salt and it’s ready to serve.

6. You can serve this dish with noodles and rice!

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Minced chicken with celery

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh fillets 200g (1 fillet)
Celery leaves from about half bunch of celery Finely chopped
Egg 1
Salt 1/2 tea spoon
Pepper 1/4 tea spoon
Sugar 1/4 tea spoon
Soy sauce 1 table spoon
Corn flour 1 table spoon
Rice wine 1 table spoon
Garlic 2 cloves, skinned chopped
Cooking oil 2 table spoons
   

Marinate the chicken:

The method would be almost same as the recipe above. With the minced chicken, you may use a food processor to make the mince and I used a kitchen knife to mince the chicken.

Cooking:

1. Heat up a fry pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, put in a table spoon of cooking oil and throw all the minced chicken in the pan.

2. Pan fry the minced chicken through out and cook through the chicken. You want to cook the chicken to 90% and golden brown. Set aside the chicken after that.

3. Beat up an egg and season it with a bit of salt.

4.Heat up the pan again on med-high heat. When the pan is hot, put in little bit of oil and pan fry the egg. When you cook the egg, try to break up the eggs into as little pieces as possible. Once the egg is cooked, set aside the egg.

5. Heat up pan on med-high heat. Put 1 table spoon of cooking oil in and then put it the chopped garlic and the celery leaves. Stir fry the celery leaves for about 1 minute and the purpose is to get rip of the grassy taste of the celery leaves.

6. When the celery leaves are cooked, put the chicken mince and egg back to the pan. Cook through all the ingredients. Optional: you may season with a bit of extra soy sauce, sesame oil or chilli oil. After that it is ready to serve.

7. With this dish, you may serve it with rice and you can mix the mince through with steamed rice. It’s also good to serve it with rice vermicelli. If you like San Choi Bao, you can cut up some lettuce and put the mince on lettuce and serve the dish as San Choi Bao.

Comments

Since this dish was cooked during the $35 Challenge, I had to use celery leaves as ingredient. You may substitute celery leaves with basil and other greens. You may also add a little bit of chopped chilli to give this dish a bit of kick.

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Day 1 of The $35 Challenge

2012 October 16
by Jacky

Day 1 – 14/10 Sunday. The weather was beautiful and I had to attend a picnic @ Centennial Park, which was not a very good timing for me as I could not enjoy the food and drinks with my friends.

Morning

I always like to eat out on Sunday morning and usually visit cafes to spend my mornings. Of course, I didn’t have the luxury this time and stayed home for breakfast. I cooked a soft boiled egg with toasts, which are simple and tasty. In terms of costs, this probably costed very little. I had a cup of milk to go with the toasts. No money to spend on coffee!!!

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Afternoon

I guess going out with friends to a picnic is probably something very difficult to do for people with very tight budget. Had I bought some chips, prepared some nice salads & cakes, the costs would have blew my entire $35. I had to attend it without bringing in any food and drinks and also told my friends I wasn’t going to touch any of their stuff (that’s called cheating). However, I was tempted to touch the food and drinks where I was there.

Since I was going to a concert after the picnic in the afternoon, I had to prepare my own lunch to save every single dollar. My lunch was simple and I had an egg sandwich with cheese.

I cooked an extra egg in the morning and diced up the egg. I mixed the diced egg with salt, pepper and little bit of cooking oil. I didn’t have any mayo in the sandwich as this will save me heaps. 

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Dinner

My dinner was a lot nicer and I had to reward myself with a lot more food and a proper meal.

I made two dishes with the chicken I bought and also bought a celery, which was very handy. I must admit it’s lucky to do this challenge during spring than winter as vegs are much cheaper and fresh. I paid $1 for a half celery, which would have costed a lot more couple of months ago.

It’s not a secret I love my Asian cooking and it probably costs less than cooking steaks & potatoes. I made two dishes which are stir fry chicken fillets with celery & minced chicken with celery leaves.

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The $35 challenge [14–20 Oct 2012]

2012 October 14
by Jacky

I signed up to do the $35 challenge this year and it’s the first time I participate in such an event of its kind. When I heard about this challenge couple of months ago, I thought it’s such a good idea as it allows me to experience how some of the Australians lives with a very tight budget and it also makes us to be aware of how lucky we are. Lauren, who started and runs the $35 challenge, has a detailed blog about the mission http://www.corridorkitchen.com/2012/10/speaking-on-the-35-challenge/

My Plan

Eat Well & Eat Simple!

My Rules

I have set myself some rules for this challenge.

Rule 1:

Since some of the ingredients such as salt, sugar, cooking oil and rice are always bought in bulk or large quantity, it will be impossible to buy everything with that $35. Also in reality, when you buy a bottle of cooking oil for $7, you use it for possibly a few weeks and the average cost per day could simply be 20 cents a day. Therefore, I allow myself to use certain ingredients with reasonable quantity without counting individual cost. Instead I will set aside $5 of the $35 for these ingredients. These ingredients include salt, pepper, sugar, cooking oil, butter, garlic and rice. Beside these ingredients, I will be tracking the cost of individual item and deduct from the rest of $30.

Rule 2:

No processed foods. It’s easy to fall into a trap of processed food when you live on a tight budget, but I still like to eat healthy with a tight budget. Eat well and eat CHEAP!!

I will not be having instant noodles and avoid any type of can food if necessary.

Before the Challenge started

There are certain things I bought before the challenge started, so I could plan my budget easier and didn’t have to rush Sunday (14/10) Morning.

Eggs $2.6 – Eggs are your friends when you have a tight budget, there are so many things you can do with egg. I didn’t buy my eggs from supermarket as it would have costed me more. I bought them from my local butcher, so it’s much cheaper.

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Milk 2.99 – I could have bought some cheap Dairy Farmers ($2.8) 2L Full cream milk from fruit market further away from my home for cheaper. Don’t ask me why the fruit market can sell them for much less than supermarket. As a matter of convenience, I ended up buying Riverina 2L full cream for $2.99 from supermarket.

Chicken Thigh Fillets $6.4 – I bought about 700g of the fillets, which were a lot for one person.

Bread $2.7 – Again I avoid the supermarket bread and bought some good wood fired bread from my local deli and hope this is enough for this week

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How to make Steamed Fish like Chinese do?

2010 January 28
by Jacky

Do you like steamed fish you have at Chinese restaurant? I will show you how to make steamed fish with a few easy steps.

Ingredients:

Fresh Fish         1

Shallot                5 bunches

Ginger                50 g

Light Soy Sauce

Salt

Cooking Oil

1. Get a fish – it doesn’t really matter what fish you get as long as it’s fresh. I generally get Snapper, Silver Beam, Cod, Ocean perch & Coral Trout. Coral Trout is prefect for steamed fish and expensive, but it’s generally very difficult to get a fresh one in Sydney.

Tips: When you choose a fish, you should look at:

Eyes – the eyes of the fish and make sure they clear and still ‘stick out’

Gilles – Rich Red Gills

Body – it should still shine

2. Clean the fish inside and may put a bit of salt inside then wash it off which will make fish cleaner. Also, pay extra attention of the scales of fish and clean it thoroughly. It depends on the size of the fish, make a few cut of the skin of the fish which make it easier to be cooked.  ( You may see I made couple of cuts on the skin of the fish)

3. Cut some Shallot (about one bunch) and slice up some ginger. Put them inside the fish.

4. Apply Cooking Oil on the fish body and put little bit of salt on the skin. After that put a few slices of ginger on top of the skin, then it’s almost ready to be steamed.  You can put the fish into any type of steamer you may have or heat up a wok of hot water and steam up the fish. The time is approx 8 – 10 mins. I have come up with some time estimation for your reference.

400g -> 8 mins

500g -> 10 mins

600g -> 12 mins

anything above 600g may not be easy to do at home

5. We need to prepare some shallot and ginger, which you can prepare prior to preparing the fish or even when you are waiting for the fish to be steamed.

Cut the Shallot up (the rest of the shallot) and each piece of shallot should be a about 3 – 4 cm long then slice the shallot sideway, so you will get some very long and fine shallots. Also, slice up some gingers all the same time.

6. Heat up a pan or wok. Put in good amount of cooking oil ( about 4 table spoons). Lightly stir fire the ginger and shallot. (Optional: You may put some salt or chilli to spice up the taste a bit. )

7. After 10 mins of the steam time, take the fish out and you will see some water / juice on the plate. Pour them out as much as you can. Put the stir fried shallot & ginger on top of the fish and then put as much / little light soy sauce on the shallot & ginger which allow the soy sauce to run through the whole fish.

Tip: The soy sauce restaurant use contains sugar which create a very nice taste, but it’s not easy to get the prefect balance. It’s something you may explore or just simply use light soy.

8. All Done! Enjoy!

Maroo Korean BBQ Charcoal Restaurant

2010 January 26
by Jacky

Location: 13 Railway Parade Eastwood NSW 2122 Phone (02) 9858 3023

Date: 25th Jan 2010

Meal: Dinner

Cuisine: Korean BBQ

Occasion: Dinner For Three Non Koreans Plus One Korean Friend

Num of visits: First Time

Environment / Ambience / Cleanness: The restaurant was very clean and I must say it was cleaner than those ones in the City

Service: Service was friendly and attentive. It was a very quiet night and there were not many customers, so it could help the service a little bit. One thing worth mentioning about a lot of the Korean restaurants in Sydney is you may see a buzzer on each table which allows you calling the waiters easily.

Choice of Menu / Price: The choice of menu and price are very similar to many other restaurants in Sydney, which is about 20 – 25 per person for BBQ.

Presentation of Food / Freshness: Presentation doesn’t quite apply here, but everything seemed fresh to me.

Taste: Since the meats were quite fresh, the overall BBQ experience was pretty good and taste of the Beef Ribs were very nice. I like the style of the BBQ here as they use nets to cook the beef and use the metal plate to cook the porks, which was very thoughtful of the restaurant. We also ordered the Fried Photo Noodles and the Cold Noodles. The Fried Photo Noodles were very nice and its flavour was very rich and the noodles were cooked just right. The Cold Noodles was good as well and it’s prefect for summer.

Fried Photo Noodles

BBQ on net

Lots of Meats

Side Dishes – the side dishes were fine, but nothing was really special. I liked they gave us shallots to go with the meats, so I didn’t feel the meats oily when I put shallots & meats wrapped up in lettuce

Cold Noodles

Other than usual lettuce for wrapping meats, my Korean friend asked the staff getting us some “sesame leaves” to wrap which has very nice taste of herb. It’s definitely worth a try

Recommended Dishes: Beef Ribs for BBQ and Fried Photo Noodles

Taste of Shanghai

2010 January 20
by Jacky

Date: 20 Jan 2010

Location: World Square, Sydney

Meal: Dinner

Cuisine: Shanghainese, China [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_cuisine]

Occasion: Dinner for two

Num of visit(s): first time

Environment / Ambience / Cleanness: It’s inside World Square and a new restaurant, so it’s cosy and clean.

Service: Attentive

Choice of Menu / Price: Choice of menu is quite rich and price is reasonable

Presentation of Food / Freshness: Presentation is fine and ingredients are fresh

Taste: I must say the overall taste of the food is only acceptable. We ordered three dishes plus dessert. Let’s talk about each of them.

1. Xiaolongbao is definitely not the best I have had in Sydney. The skin of the xiaolongbao is too thick and the top of the xiaolongbao were not even cooked. Yes, it’s juicy and meat was fresh, but I think it can be better.

2. Prawn & Eel Stir-fried Noodles: It’s not bad and I must say the prawns and eels tasted good. Noodles are up to standard. However, it’s oily as usual for Shanghainese food and a bit more salt would be better.

3. Basket Fried Chicken (i don’t know the name, but it’s descriptive enough): It’s good and must say it’s rare to find something like this. It’s very similar to the taiwanese fried chicken and I don’t have a lot of complaints. The only complaint I have is it needs a bit more salt.

4. Bowl of Rice ball (the small one): It’s the worst way to finish off dinner with something like this. It’s not up to standard as the rice balls were too soft and some rice balls got stuck together. The soup had a very mild taste perhaps too mild.

Recommended dishes: Basket Fried Chicken