Sunday, 10 March 2013

Pho An

For years I have been a loyal customer of this Pho-only joint. Despite being all the way at Bankstown, its always worth the hike. I have never left disappointed and I have never left feeling that 'there was a better time'. Quality control must be second nature to them, and as a pho-aholic, I have never been disappointed by the Pho served here.

So Pho So Good, they say.

Pho (pronounced 'Fur', not 'Fo') is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup, typically served with beef or chicken, and garnished with fresh herbs, spring onions, been sprouts, squeeze of lime and chilli. The broth is made by simmering beef bones and Asian spices, ginger, onion and garlic for hours and hours.

If there was such a thing as a perfect Pho, I think they have achieved it here! 

The dining space here is large, open and well lit. You enter through the glass doors on the left, and you exit through the glass doors on the right.  There are tables and chairs everywhere. It looks a little bit like a large food hall. 

I ordered the classic - Pho with rare beef. The soup is flavourful, strong, intense!  The tender slices of rare beef is slightly cooked in the steaming hot broth, and garnished with coriander, chopped spring onions and sliced onions.  A side of more garnishes is also served.  Tear some of the basil provided, add some crispy bean sprouts, chilli and squeeze a bit of lime juice into the broth - now indulge!

As a side, I ordered the Beef Tea with raw egg - beef blood cooked in steaming hot broth with a raw egg slightly cooked in the hot broth. This soup sounds scarier than it actually is. I remember the first time I tried this soup, it was a dare - a dare that I never regretted. If you think the broth in the Pho is strong, this is twice as intense! Not for the lighthearted but definitely worth a try!

In addition to their aced Pho, Pho An has a very refined streamlined service process - staff #1 shows you to your table and disappears, staff #2 takes your order at your table within a flash and disappears, staff #3 brings you your order within another brief moment, and once you are done eating staff #4 clears the table in world record time - not a minute is wasted here! 

Bring a friend, bring your family, bring your lover, bring your child, bring your colleagues, bring a large group, bring a small group...seriously bring anyone here and it is highly unlikely you would be disappointed.


Pho An
27 Greenfield Parade
Bankstown  NSW  2200
(02) 9796 7826

Pho An on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Toko is amongst one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney (and although I acknowledge I have a very long list of favourites, this one does not appear on that list unjustified).

Situated in the heart of the one of Sydney's oldest suburbs, Surry Hills is now a thriving community of warehouse-converted apartments and restored Victorian architecture, housing some of Sydney's finest chefs and designers. This suburb screams attention.

Today I was here with a group of my girls. The restaurant has a very strict "first in best dressed type" seating policy which means they do not take bookings, and requires everyone to arrive prior to seating the table. The policy is highly un-female friendly given most females these days run on a "I like to be fashionably late" policy. I suppose the argument for this increasingly popular seating policy is to allow restaurants to better manage its seating turnarounds (and inevitably profitability) which is too commonly affected by late customers or worst even, no-shows! However despite this frustrating seating policy and having picked a very busy night, the staff at Toko clearly used their best endeavours to seat us swiftly.

The first thing you notice here is the buzz - the place is exploding with customers and the wait staff are constantly seen whizzing around. The place is decked out with a lot of wood, a very modern edge to the decor, but a lot of wood. The lighting is dim, very dim. Almost too dim to house such a buzz of an ambience. 

The buzz may also be attributed to their longer-than-the-food-menu drinks menu consisting a wide selection of cocktails, sake, shochu, Japanese whisky and non alcoholic cleansers. We all started with a round of cocktails to sip on while deciding on our orders. To the left of the main dining area is an open sushi bar to allow those lucky enough to score a bar seating to witness the sushi chef in action, and slightly further down is the open robata grill. Be sure to poke your head around and check these out - its quite a show!

Toko offers an izakaya style dining, where dishes are designed to be shared (a more detailed explanation of izakaya dining can be found in my earlier post by clicking here). The dishes lean more towards contemporary and modern, rather than traditional and classic, so if you like Japanese with a twist and a bit of fusion you would love this place.

Our first dish, Freshly Shucked Pacific Oysters in Tosazu (a very versatile Japanese vinegar dressing). The oysters were very fresh and chilled well - a great start to the meal.

Our next dish was the Thinly Sliced Wild Snapper with Truffle Oil and Pork Crackling. The delicately sliced snapper was dressed nicely in a truffle dressing and micro-herbs, while the crumbs of pork crackling gave the dish a bit of a modern kick.  

Then came the nigiri to share - we ordered Salmon Nigiri and Mackerel Nigiri. Something traditional we thought.

The star dish of the night was the Scampi Nigiri with Fois Gras and Truffle Oil from the Toko Signature Sushi collection. Above and beyond, this is my favourite nigiri, ever. The scampi is fresh and the flavours so well balanced - a foodgasmic experience not to be missed, so good, the table ordered two rounds (and nearly a third)!

Also from the Toko Signature Sushi collection, was the Chopped Scallop with Ponzu, Wasabi and Cucumber. Again a very well balanced dish in terms of texture and flavour, and not to be missed.

"Sake, often referred to as the 'drink of gods', is the quintessential Japanese drink, to the extent that the Japanese themselves call it 'nihonshu', meaning Japanese wine" - Toko

One simply cannot dine at an izakaya restaurant without ordering a bottle of sake, or maybe two!

Our following two selections were from the Toko Makimono menu, the Spicy Tuna and Chilli Mayonnaise Inside Out Roll and the Prawn Tempura, Avocado and Cucumber Inside Out Roll.

Next dish was the Moreton Bay Bug Tempura with Chilli Ponzu and Yuzu Koshou Mayonnaise, another Toko favourite. The tempura batter is very light and does not overpower the soft and delicate chunky pieces of bug meat.  Dip in the ponzu and then the mayonnaise - Yum!

As a side tempura dish, we also ordered the Seasonal Vegetable Tempura. A large serving a various vegetables dipped in the very light batter and fried golden - a simple yet popular dish amongst the girls.

Our final dish was the Duck Breast with Sansho Pepper and Pickled Nashi Pear. Very tender, juicy pieces of duck breast balanced with thinly sliced pear making the meat light and refreshing on the palate. 

Overall a pleasant meal again and the girls were impressed with most of the dishes. The service was a little bit of a miss with orders taken incorrectly, it was at times a little difficult to get the attention of our wait staff and orders being missed. However a great place to dine with a smaller group, enjoy a very lively and loud buzz, happy chatter. For a tamer environment with more attentive service (and which allows for dinner reservations), try Tokonoma next door.  They share the same kitchen and drinks menu as Toko too!


490 Crown Street
Surry Hills  NSW  2010
(02) 9357 6100

Toko Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cook-Off February

Once in a while, friends and I would organise a cook-off. Its a great opportunity to get together a group foodies to share food and drink ideas. Sometimes they turn out well, at other times, a tornado ripped through the kitchen!  

Cook off this day was a battle of the sexes, each was allocated a course or drink and off we went. The boys had home ground advantage so the girls came prepared for a mighty challenge.

The night started off with drinks made by the boys - the French 75. A cocktail made from gin, prosecco, lemon juice and sugar - mmm gin.
(Bugger, I forgot to take a photo!)

A Cold Plate starter was served first to go with the cocktails. A cheeseboard of fresh cut strawberries, torn sage leaves from my little herb garden with white anchovies, and thin slices of parma di prosciutto.

A cook-off with me, would probably never be without oysters! Our next course was the Bloody Mary Sydney Rock Oyster Shooters with finely chopped parsley.

Next served were the Oysters with Tetsuya's Vinaigrette - the dressing was divine I need to steal the recipe!

Then followed was the Scallop Vodka Ceviche - fresh Hokkaido scallops marinated in vodka, dill, lemon juice and olive oil, sliced thinly and served chilled.

Once the starters were done (yes, that was just the starter!), we moved onto the entree. First served was the mixed tomatoes, basil and torn mozzarella salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. 

Then followed by the Grilled Butterfly Garlic King Prawns with butter and parsley. I love cooking prawns at home - its easy and delicious, and because we get to control the cooking process, the prawns are never overcooked or dry!

For the main, we had the Roast Lamb Rack with Sauteed Baby Asparagus Spears and Creamy Mash.  The lamb was cooked perfectly pink, oh-so-tender and juicy. The mash was creamy and fluffy and the side greens well seasoned - Drool!

To finish, freshly baked lemon tart with mixed berries and vanilla ice-cream. A light, tangy and palate cleansing end to our very hearty and satisfying meal.

Who won the challenge? I was too full to decide - both sides clearly put their best efforts in and it may take a few more cook-offs to determine.

Now... Back to drinking! Can't wait till the next cook-off!


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Recipe: Seared Salmon Steak with Asparagus and Half Boiled Egg

Salmon has long been regarded as a healthy food source for those seeking a healthier diet.  Not only is salmon high in protein (approximately 39g per serving - great for building lean muscles), it is rich in omega-3 (assisting in decreasing the rate of muscle-protein breakdown and improve recovery after a workout).

Similar to salmon, eggs are packed full of protein and serves as a great recovery booster after a big workout.  The protein is housed in the white of the egg, but the nutrients are housed in the yolk - so no, please don't disregard the yolk!  The runny yolk can also serve as a natural dressing for the fish and no dressing is needed for this recipe.

If you work long hours, are time starved, and are looking for a simple healthy recipe, please check out my Seared Salmon Steak with Asparagus and Half Boiled Egg recipe here!