Cultural delights tour of Cabramatta @Taste Tours

Taste Tours are a social enterprise who run cultural food tours to provide work for refugees and a multicultural education for the community. We thoroughly enjoyed our last Taste Tour of Merrylands and we were thrilled to get a call up for the Taste Tour delights tour of Cabramatta, or ‘Cabra’ to the people who live in the area. The tour fittingly started by acknowledging the true locals; the Cabrogal people of the Eora Nation, also how Cabramatta got its name. The area has changed alot over the years and is very ethnically diverse, with many new migrants who have arrived over the years calling Cabra home. The Greeks, Italians, Serbians and the majority of the population these days being Vietnamese, with Syrians and Sudanese newcomers to the area. Our guides for this tour were Patrick and Waji, Patrick a passionate local running the show and Waji who runs the Harris Park tour assisting on the day. 

Taste Tours are a great way to explore new areas, find out about the history and find the best spots to eat. For some added fun, there was a treasure hunt for us to pick up specific items along the way such as peking duck, peking duck pancake, spring onion and hoi sin sauce.

The meeting point was Vinatas Bakery, renowned  for their Banh Mi, a Vietnamese style baguette which originates from the French, who once occupied the country. I barely recognised the shop as it has had a fresh makeover, done very well and looks very inviting. The Banh Mi are just as good as ever and still great value. We shared the Pork roll with two types of viet ham, fresh salad, herbs, pate and sauce. Simple and delicious, this place is a must if you are in the area.

We were led through the busy streets and ended up in an obscure lane way at Tan hong phat BBQ. It has an open shopfront where you can see them preparing the meat by a butcher as well as preparing, cooking and serving. They have some amazing Pork char sui and other BBQ meat on offer.

With so much variety, next stop is Sabaidee Kitchen. Serving Lao Thai food where some sweets from the region are sampled. The sweets use traditional ingredients; Taro cocont milk, sticky rice with pandan. Very unique, vibrant and beautifully prepared.

Located in between Freedom Plaza and BKK shopping centre is Thu Phung N. This place is a local favourite serving sugar cane juice, they also add cumquat for added flavour. Great to sip on while strolling the streets.

It wouldn’t be right to visit Cabra and not sample some Pho, popping in to Huong xua, who serve a Northern Vietnam style pho. With a hearty full flavoured broth, not as delicate and sweet as the Southern style, but damn delicious and cheap too.

Having tried a range of food it was time to give our bellies a rest and to see where the ingredients are sourced. We stop into an asian supermarket, this is where many of the ingredients of the treasure hunt are found, along with some other exciting ingredients not to be found at your local super market.

Back to the delicious food and we are stepping into the restaurant Thanh Bihn. This restaurant was established by the mother of celebrity chef Dan Hong. A southern Viet restaurant, we sampled some staples being the bahn xeo, a savoury a thin crisp crepe/pancake filled with bean sprouts carrot, chicken and spices. The highlight of this visit was the roll your own rice paper rolls with sugarcane prawn. This was not because of my awesome assembly skills (which, it turns out, aren’t so awesome) but because the sugarcane prawns were outstanding.

Finishing the tour on a high, could have something to do with the super strong Iced coffee being served at local gathering spot cafe Nho. This place was very busy but they managed to squeeze us in. Perfect spot for sharing our highlights of the tour.

We loved our taste tour experience, their guides are passionate and love their local area. They also take you to some great places to eat. A great way to explore a new area and expand your horizons. You will learn a lot and have an enjoyable day. We recommend you make a booking.

Divine food @God’s Creation

God’s Creation is a new café on Darling Street Balmain. Whilst Balmain is a place that is spoilt for choice, with so many cafés and restaurants aligning the streets, it’s hard to imagine another restaurant is needed. However, this restaurant is like nothing that exists in the area. It is an Italian restaurant, with an Asian influence, ran by a lovely couple reigning from Hong Kong. The restaurant was easy to spot, in a beautiful heritage style house painted turquoise green, and I love the colour!

As soon as we entered, we were met by the beautifully charismatic host, Helen who greeted us with a warm hug and air of excitement about our visit. We enjoyed chatting to her, hearing her story of working and living in Hong Kong and then Australia, with her husband, the chef who has had significant experience in Italian restaurants in Australia.

We began with drinks and opted for a few cocktails. We tried both the sweet pink cocktail, reminiscent of a cosmo, topped with a dried orange and blended nicely. We also tried the cucumber and gin cocktail which was lovely. Both a sweet and refreshing start to our dinner.

We discussed menu options with Helen and decided on the scallops for entrée – beautifully cooked scallops and presented with a garlic and almond crust and sweet home made tomato sauce. Other choices include calamari, arancini, prosciutto e melon and salads.

For the mains, we could not go past the lamb and duck. We were presented with three amazingly cooked cutlets of lamb, crushed with macadamias, sitting atop mashed potato, roasted dried vegetables and a zesty drizzle of sauce. The duck was also divine – cooked to perfection with red wine jus, sauteed onion and what looked like potato, but was infact pineapple. A lovely combination of flavours and the chef is certainly skilled at cooking as well as his plate presentation.

There are a good range of seafood dishes, risottos and pastas as well. We had to try a pasta too, being at an Italian restaurant and within two seconds of looking at the menu, we knew that had to be the Triple cheese gnocchi (blue, brie, mozarrella and parmesan). Topped with crispy sweet potato and radish. This may not be great for the waistline but is certainly amazing for the heart and mind.

We could not fault the food or presentation and it was also a lovely experience. The ambience was wonderful and it was a joy to dine at God’s Creation. However, If you’re after a few drinks and tapas, there’s bar tables and stools outside, and you could order a meat platter, (chacutterie) and some smaller bites. Not to end off the meal without dessert, we were delighted by a small glass of fruit and ice cream, topped with pistachios.

Make sure you pop by and check the new kid on the block! Thanks to God’s Creation for the hospitality and food and to Trina from Dr Social for arranging our invite.

God's Creation Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sharing over wine @Parida Bondi Beach

Parida is located on the esplanade at Bondi Beach. It is in a brand new building near the QT hotel and is sophisticated in its set up and styling. It ishe perfect spot for enjoying tapas and wine on a Friday night (or any night for that matter). There are seats overlooking the beach and high tables, set with candles made for a cosy and intimate setting.

Parida also sells breakfast and lunch, but on this occasion we were here for the dinner menu. Recently attaining a liquor license means you get to enjoy a drink after work or with your dinner. We began with a red and white wine and there’s a good range to select from.

The food is a shared style menu with small and larger plates. We went for the polenta chips with truffle mushroom and these were nice and crispy and with a nice and strong truffle flavor and kale.

The chorizo croquettes were also nice and crispy with and cheesy filling. We loved these and actually compared them to “cheese and bacon” balls (the chips) and I would certainly order these again.

The meatballs, filled with cheese, tomato and oregano sauce as well as crispy onion rings. The meat was moist and nicely cooked and the whole combination was very flavoursome.

For the larger plate, we struggled to decide what to pick, with a number of great sounding options. We went for the lamb shank to share. This cooking method meant the meat beautifully fell off the bone. It was sitting atop an extremely good and very creamy pomme puree and a tomato puree sauce.

We polished all the food off in no time and really enjoyed the food and the ambience, as well the friendly service provided by Frida.

Thank you to Frida and Peter for the invitation to dine.

Parida Bondi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shiny and new @Taste of Shanghai

We received an invite to attend a media launch at the shiny new Taste of Shanghai Burwood restaurant. It is a huge space attached to Westfield shopping centre; with a large open kitchen and modern fit out with decorative reference to Shanghai. This new venue is sophisticated and complete with a bar which is right in front of you at the entrance. There is also a private dining room, complete with two large round tables both with an extravagant marble lazy Susan. 

The menu contains many of their standout home style cooking from the other venues and some new options including stews, stone bowls and their Grand Opening Special Chilli Crayfish which alone is worth visiting for.

No need to go thirsty with their stocked bar and a range of interesting and the non alcoholic drink options available. Choose your refreshment, be it white wine, red wine, beer, maybe a lychee and mango crush, ice cream milk tea or signature lemon tea.

The ordering was left in the hands of our lovely host Amy. The banquet included an amazing selection of food, chosen for all in attendance to share. With a number of Shanghainese favourites marching toward the table including pan fried pork buns, sun dried cabbage pancakes and the fried dough sticks awaiting any opportunity to soak up any delicious sauce left over.
A line up of the chef’s picks come to rest on the Lazy Susan. The favourites were creatively presented Barramundi in Lemon sauce, the mud crab in special sauce, braised pork belly as well as the sweet and sour eggplant. Other notables were the stewed tofu with salt pork, pickled white radish and squid ink rice with seafood.

It wouldn’t be a banquet with out a sweet finish and lets face it, room can always be spared for mango pancakes. These were particularly good as they were made using fresh mango. No fresh mango, no mango pancakes! This is reflective of all the food being served at this restaurant. Fresh and delicious! Other desserts arrived, including fruit platters and deep fried Chinese milk dough. 

We loved the fit out and shared a meal in good company. Thank you to Ompty media for allowing us to tag along and to Amy as well as the staff of Taste of Shanghai for their hospitality. If Ashfield is busy, check out the Burwood location, they have plenty of space to accomodate.

Taste Of Shanghai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indonesian Coffee House @Kusuka Cafe

Kusuka Cafe is a Warung Kopi (coffee) House. Kusuka translates from Indonesian to ‘I Love’, and we do love Kusuka cafe. So much so, we will certainly return again for more. This quaint trendy Indonesian inspired cafe is hidden down a laneway in Haymarket. Despite the conspicuous location, it is a busy little cafe. Kusuka is open for breakfast lunch and dinner, serving extremely Instagrammable Indonesian food and drinks. 

Having seen a number of impressive pictures on Instagram we were excited to receive an invite from Zomato to visit Kusuka. Visiting on a Monday night we found our way using Google maps. We were greeted by the friendly owners Liz and Mario. 

Provided with not one but two menus, there was a really good amount of choice. The impessive beverage and dessert menu is our instant focus. With a range of Kopi (coffee), different types of colourful lattes, smoothies, dessert shakes, juice, teas and some colour changing drinks. The disco princess is first on our hit list. This refreshing lemonade is not your standard lemonade, this drink has more colour changes than the Opera house during Vivid lighting festival. Presented nicely, it starts out a Lavender purple, with a bit of sorcery add some mystery liquid, it then becomes pink in colour, pour in a different serum and it finishes morphing, ready to drink and orange in colour. We also earmark the interesting avo/coffee/chocolate drink, the hypovocado which we enjoyed after our meal.

The Genesis is another cool drink offering, an impressive berry elixir. Pour in some of their magic potion give it a stir and you will be holding a drink that looks like a glittering galaxy. 

The fact that Kusuka opens all day, means it has a range of food available and it is great if you are after a cheap eat. The savoury beef and cheese pancake called the Ultimate Martabak, an Indonesian style fried crisp pancake was full of flavour, the chili taichan providing a punch of spice.

Staple of Indo cuisine are the mie goreng and the nasi goreng(fried noodles and fried rice) with ketsup manis (sweet soy sauce) as the main flavour component. Kasuka offers a variety of these staples served in a bowl. The Super Bowl a must if you enjoy mie goreng and meat. A double dose of noodles topped with an array of mouthwatering meat including pork belly, corned beef and sausage, for additional flavour there is the chili matah. Another tasty street food option is the double chicken rice bowl topped with their fried chicken and satay chicken skewers. This dish had us clucking for more. 

Having saved room for dessert, you know the hypovocado was happening. Usually associating avocado as a millennial favourite of smashed and served on top of toast, this drink has opened our eyes to the unknown diversity of the humble avo. This was a standout with this bizarre sweet combination of flavour strangely working very well. We also tried the pink latte, which was a refreshing watermelon and rose water flavour. They also do red velvet and matcha.

Another great sweet option for dessert is the ropang delight, a thick Indonesian sweet toast smothered in nutella and topped with toasted marshmallows, an Indo style smores. This was outstanding! 

A great little Indo Warung Kopi, with a playful menu. A fun cafe to visit, with reasonably priced Indonesian street food and some cool beverages. Thanks to Mario, Liz and their staff for their hospitality. We enjoyed chatting to Mario and the service provided was impeccable. We really enjoyed our visit and will return.

Kusuka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Something different @Haven Specialty Coffee

Haven Specialty Coffee is located close to central station and is a great place to pop in for some customised coffee or specialty tea and asian fusion meals.They are famous for their Hong Kong Styled egg waffles with interesting flavours; think red bean, matcha, ice cream and more! On this occasion savoury won over sweet. The option of choice was the hearty breakfast of poached eggs on potato rosti with sweet potato skordalia, yoghurt and burnt sage butter.

Being brunch, but in a lunch mood and loving Japanese food, the menu item named eel-ness was intriguing. Grilled eel(Unagi) nicely presented and served with silken tofu, scrambled eggs, house pickles on a black rice cake and topped with bonito flakes. Great flavour combinations and perfectly cooked eel with a delicious sweet caramelised sauce is a must.

Despite this being a specialty coffee shop, we both had tea on this day, as they had a range of leaf teas brewed in a pot. We tried the Japanese sencha and english breakfast.

A good range of coffees and they also run specialty coffee appreciation classes, latte art classes, barista training with certificates.

We would like to thank FCBA for giving us a voucher at their 1st birthday party to come to Haven and to haven for being so generous.

Haven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

FAB Coffee @Frankie’s Beans

Walking up William St towards the Kings X coke sign, a landmark that defines the area, we cross the road and veer to the right as we are headed for our destination, Frankie’s Beans. Being in the Cross, the name could mean anything, thankfully for us it refers to coffee. With two highly rated cafes on the bean hunter App, ‘Frankie’s Beans’ and ‘cafe with out a name’, we had to check this place out. We arrived at the cafe, looking back down William St, this cafe perched on the hill has a good outlook of the city skyline. Inside the cafe, it has a modern Scandi theme, with light coloured wood and hanging indoor plants. There is plenty of coffee paraphernalia to keep you distracted. We meet the friendly Frank and select a table outside and take in the view before ordering.

We had been hearing good things about the coffee at Frankie’s Beans. Frankie heads out to his roaster every Monday to experiment and create his award winning specialty coffee. The pour over method, the preferred drinking method of many coffee aficionados wanting to taste the flavours of the coffee. These flavours can be influenced in many ways, be it origin, variety or how they are prepared. The pour over method can be a timely process, but Frankie is an innovator and has modified his coffee machine to produce a pour over type coffee in an efficient manner. The process is call FAB, short for fractional atmospheric brew. Pop in to see Frank, he will happily explain the process in detail.

After hearing so much about the FAB we are intrigued and must try. Frank suggests we try two single origin varieties with a single origin from Elsalvador and Costa Rica. This was a way of sampling the FAB method as well as an experiment to taste the difference first hand. The experiment worked both brews were very different in taste and appearance, with the Costa Rican’s fruity characteristics being my preference. 

This being a brunch visit, some food was also in order. Frankie’s Beans has a range of sandwiches, cakes and breakfast options available. We had it on good word that their toasties were the bomb. Deciding on the Rueben and the Slow cooked lamb with Tzatziki, we were not disappointed. Asked to pick which was our favourite, almost an impossible task. However on this day the Rueben won for me, but this may change on any given day as both were fine examples of a toastie. 

Having also heard about the 3 Colombians blend, for milk based coffee. A triple blend single origin, being in the East I ordered my usual latte. A smooth coffee drinking coffee with a strong flavour, perfect to drink without sugar.

A great cafe worthy of a visit for coffee lovers, we left buzzing and not only from the coffee consumed. Frank is a top guy and his staff friendly and welcoming, they have great coffee and do kick arse toasties. Suffice to say we will return and be hunting down the ‘cafe with out a name’ for a coffee as well.

Thanks to Frank and his team for their hospitality and thanks to Phoebe from The PR Hub for arranging the introduction and invite.

Frankie's Beans Specialty Coffee Roaster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Part 2: The Spice Trail @Taste Tours

The tour continues, pounding the pavement of Merrylands with anticipation. We were led by our wonderful guides Latife and Parastoo. After a great start to the Taste Tour from Afghanistan to Persia, we’d been to a Persian sweet shop, an Afghani bakery, a Persian supermarket, a Turkish Diner and an Afghani kebab shop. Having already experienced so much, it was hard to fathom that there was so much more to come. We are led to visit a shop that is not food related: The Khosh Rang Boutique. This boutique specialises in traditional Afghani outfits, jewellery and high quality fabrics including silks, often worn for special ceremonies. 

Walking along the street, on the way to our next destination we were pulled into a bakery called Persian Bakery for an impromptu visit. This bakery prepares an Iraqi sweet called dahini made with tahini, honey and slow cooked for 10-12 hours in the oven. This produced an amazing sweet caramelized, creamy, toasty treat. We are informed they are the only family in Sydney that sell it.

We then made our way to the intended destination, a Persian restaurant called Saffron. We were welcomed into the restaurant for a sit down meal. We learnt about the family run restaurant and sampled some hearty options from the menu. Saffron restaurant tabled some flavoursome soup and lentils to start, which was followed by some colourful rice dishes. One rice dish of saffron and pomegranate, the other broad bean and dill, both perfectly accompanied two nicely fragrant spice of the lamb stew and the Ghemish stew.

Latife and Parastoo used the sit down meal as a fantastic opportunity to get to know the rest of the people enjoying the tour. They prompted some fun and engagement by encouraging all tour members to share a bit about themselves, including the strangest food we have tried and our favourite type of food. Our touring companions were from all over Sydney, Including a work group from the Northern Beaches, a group of friends from the inner city, another husband and wife combo as well as an individual who had attended a few of the other tours, loved them and returned for more.

Now on to another Persian supermarket, this one is quite large, with fruit, veg, nuts, spices and a butcher on top of a range of other goodies. We sampled some cherry juice and browsed the aisles. The pickles and Persian fairy floss were well sought after. We also purchased some fresh honeycomb for a good price.

Then on to a definite standout, this restaurant called Kabul House. We love dumplings, but who knew Afghani’s had their own version called mantu and damn, they were impressive. With two types of freshly made mantu hitting the table, vegetable and lamb mince. Both equally impressive topped with a spiced yogurt sauce, these things are so good they will draw us back to Merrylands for some more.

The tour finished on a sweet note at Shiraz Persian dessert bar. We had passed Shiraz earlier and spotted some enticing cakes on the counter. Walking in, I noticed the ice cream cabinet and was hoping to sample some of that goodness. We were all seated and were excited to see the ice cream arriving at the table. The ice cream was a saffron ice cream served some sweet crunchy noodles for texture. The table also had some sour cherry and lemon syrup to counter the sweetness. Unable to resist the cake, we wanted to find out more. Apparently the name of the cake does not translate into English. A layered cake with a crisp pastry top covering a sweet saffron sponge cake, with layers of nuts and the sweet and interesting flavour of the carrot jam. 

We finished the tour with each of us sharing what our favourite food of the day.

This is a well run and inclusive tour, an eye opener to the positives of the Merrylands community. The people of the area are warm, generous and welcoming and the food is diverse and downright delicious. We highly recommend this tour, it is insightful and makes for a great day out. Explore the area with those in the know. Check out the Taste Tours website make a booking to see and taste for yourself.

Thanks again to Ompty Media for introducing us and to Taste Tours for inviting us to explore Merrylands.

Part 1: The spice trail @Taste Tours

We love trying new and diverse food and were excited to take a food tour of the spice trail, run by Taste Tours. The tour called from Afghanistan to Persia, but we only had to venture to Merrylands for this experience. This tour so grand that we will review it in two parts, for readability. 

The Taste Tours is a social enterprise, teaching cultural awareness about different nationalities, cultures and foods. The profits of the tours go to training immigrants and refugees. In general, you only gear negatives about Afghanistan and Persia, the same could be said for Merrylands. Taste Tours are showing a different perspective, reflecting positivity in western Sydney, showcasing the rich culture and diversity of Merrylands and allowing us to experience the warm generous nature of the people and their cultures. 

Our meeting point was Asal Sweets, where we met our guides for the day. Two amazingly inspiring women who migrated to Australia, both love the area and were very passionate about the food and culture. Latife intelligent, warm and welcoming was born in Turkey, migrated to Australia when she was four. Also very smart with a chemistry degree and a great mentor for our other guide Parastoo, who was running her first tour. Parastoo is driven and wanting to make the best of her life in her new home, Australia. Parastoo came in 2012 as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and has a scholarship to study at UWS teaching. Her family fled Afghanistan and went to Indonesia and there came to Australia. She absolutely loves living in Merrylands.

Starting the tour by acknowledged the traditional owners, the Dharug people was a nice touch. Latife and Parastoo introduced themselves and gave a rundown of what Taste Tours is about and what they do. One thing that resonates from the introduction, Latife described Australia as multicultural the food on this tour is from Persian, Turkish and Afghanis culture, but they see it as Australian food as those cultures are now part of Australia.

Remember we were in Asal sweets a Persian patisserie, surrounded by a plethora of delectable cakes and pastriw. We were offed some biscuits to start, with differing flavours including cocounut, rosewater, saffron. The texture was most impressive a crunchy outer layer with a soft chewy centre. We would later return after the tour to purchase some goodies to take home.

Next we were whisked around the corner to the Green Wheat Bakery where they were pumping out Afghan bread from a tandoor oven, check out the video below. Our guide for the day, Parastoo explaining that making this bread was the source of her family income while they lived in Indonesia. We were also introduced to a jam, something tasty and new, a carrot jam, a nice spread for bread freshly made. What a start to our tour.

Next a stop into a Persian supermarket, where we tried some sweets and explored. We followed this by visitingBiber diner, well known in merrylands for thdid kebabs, pide, pizza. The owners origially from Adana southern Turkey. Sampling a specialty dish, the freshly made kiymali pide (pizza) made from mince, tomato, onion, parsley, herbs and spices. The cheese and spinach pide also made as we wait, both were quality.

A short walk away we came to a hole in the wall Afghan BBQ called kebab Al Hojat. With a super red hot coal BBQ firing away. This high heat BBQ taking 7 minutes to cook 50 skewers. Pick the type of marinated, skewered meat you desire. The meat tender and flavoursome, after marinating for 12 hours, in 7 types of spices. This is BBQ’d wrapped in Afghani bread and served with fresh salad. This was one of many highlights and at $6 a pop, amazing value.

We finish part 1 of the post here, keep an eye out for part 2 and the rest of this food adventure.
Thanks to Ompty media for introducing us and to Taste tours for inviting us to join them on this tour.

Not Ghetto, but fabulous @Hoochie Mamma

Hoochie Mamma café has an interesting name. The urban dictionary states a Hoochie Mamma is: a female who dressed ghetto fabulous. Whilst there were none of these characters at the café, the cafe is certainly fabulous, as were the staff. Sparky was our waiter, he was instantly charismatic and provided plenty of flair. He totally made our visit, being extremely accommodating and providing humor to our morning visit. 

Hoochie Mamma is in close vicinity to the Sydney University Colleges, as well as RPA hospital on Missenden Road, just off King Street Newtown. The cafe really caters to everyone. It also has children’s seats and toys and therefore suitable to families too. The space is huge, and comfortable with a good amount of outdoor seating and heaters to provide you warmth in the cold.

Hoochie Mamma is licensed venue and has you covered if you are after something more than a coffee. They do a good coffee, by little marionette, as well as a range of other drinks including, tea, juice, thick shakes and some great smoothies. A favourite was the chunky munky, a tasty choc banana smoothie with chia and honey.

The menu is as diverse as the crowd in the area, with something for everyone, whether it be breakfast or lunch. Visiting for breakfast, it was hard to go past the special of the day, the poached eggs – with marinated feta, rocket served on sourdough, a healthy yet flavoursome start to the day.

For something at the other end of the spectrum,we decided upon something sweet, the pancakes. These were light and fluffy, a homecooked rustic style pancake, nicely presented with honeycomb butter, orange rind, a strawberry on top and a side of maple syrup. These pancakes were delicious and there is something very satisfying about drizzling maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, it may be a sense of nostalgia or conjured from childhood memories.

A great café with friendly staff and perfect for any crowd. The prices are not too expensive, they serve large portions with a range of food to suit all.

Hoochie Mamma Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato