Xanthi, Sydney CBD

The funny thing that I discovered about Xanthi is that you can have a completely different dining experience from your friends despite the fact that you are all sitting at the same table.

My experience was one of dining in a nice restaurant with a view of the open kitchen and other patrons.  Every now and then, I could see flames shooting up from the pans while the chefs cooked in the background and admired the fabric draped from the ceiling which created a Moroccan tent atmosphere.

On the other hand, being seated opposite me meant that the view of my friends consisted of the glass windows of Westfield and the grey buildings across the road. No other patrons in their line of sight (because we were at table closest to the window) and no draped ceilings. When they told me that they didn't feel like they were in a restaurant, I turned around to check out their view and had to concede their point. 

In the spirit of Greek dining, we ordered a bunch of dishes to share and left feeling absolutely stuffed.  The service was very attentive and could not be flawed.

Vine dolmathes ($9.00) 


Complimentary bread



Greek slaw salad



Fried School Prawns ($9.00)
Tossed in a honey, fish sauce, sesame seed and flaked almond dressing


You have to be careful when eating fried school prawns because the sharp bits will jab you in the mouth. Remember - chew slowly!


Seafood Saganaki ($35.00)
Prawns, mussels and calamari cooked in a fish tomato coriander sauce. Served with a currant and pistachio pilaf and melted kasseri cheese



Lamb skaras ($30.50)

Perama’s famous slow braised shoulder lean lamb with paprika, olive oil, garlic, then barbecued with a lemon, olive oil baste and served with baked oregano lemon potatoes and string beans



Caramel Baklava ice cream ($13.50)
Sliced layers of vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce and baklava



Choc nut kataifi roll ($14)
Choc and hazelnut filling wrapped in crisp kataifi pastry drizzled in spiced syrup and clotted cream


Out of these two desserts, the caramel baklava ice cream was definitely the winner.  We found the choc nut kataifi roll to be dry with a dense filling that was extremely heavy on the nuts without enough moisture.  It was a bit hard to swallow and we left most of this dessert untouched.

All in all, it was a pleasant meal but nothing had the wow-factor for me.

Xanthi Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon
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Menulog coupon code

I have used the online home delivery site Menulog before and was impressed by the ease of ordering online from local takeaways that have signed up to the site.  It is pretty simple - you type in your location and a list of places will come up that deliver to you. Then you select what you want from their menu, enter any coupon codes, check the delivery time and soon enough, the food arrives at your door.  I used a coupon code for my first order too, I think I saved five dollars or something similar and that was great - made it a bargain meal!  There are also reviews on the website so you can check out if a place is notoriously slow with delivery or any hit/miss dishes.

For those who haven't tried Menulog before, I just received an email with a voucher code for new users so here it is:

You can use it to get $10 off your order and in many cases you also get a first time customer discount of up to 30% off.

Be quick as the voucher is only valid till Monday 19th March 2012.  It is also only valid on delivery orders and payment by credit card.

Voucher code is 74F4BB (enter end of checkout at www.menulog.com.au)

Hope that helps someone!
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Umi Sushi + Udon, Darling Quarter

Who remembers when the most exciting thing in Darling Quarter was Sega World? Now Sega World is long gone and there is a brand spanking new strip of eateries including a Guylian cafe, Janus cafe, Taste Baguette and an array of restuarants.

One of these new places is Umi Sushi and Udon, sister sushi train to Umi Kaiten-Zushi at Capitol Theatre.  Umi Sushi + Udon has a nice set up where the train is located inside but there are also several large tables outside.  You can choose to order off the menu or walk inside to take sushi off the train.  The benefit of sitting outside is that you get to people-watch the hyperactive kids scrambling around like psychotic monkeys on the playground.

Pricing of the sushi plates range from $2.60 to $6.60.  If you're ordering off the paper menu, you can't see how much the plates cost unless you ask the waitress because they are only shown as pictures (see menu below).


Other side of the menu (click to enlarge)


We ordered some plum umeshi (Japanese liqueur) to share and it arrived in a very cool jug.  The crushed ice is in that little hole!


I felt like trying a few different things and noticed the 'Kids Bento Box' option which looked like a steal for $9.80.  When the waitress came around, I asked if I could order one, half expecting to be rejected, but she didn't blink and just said 'sure, which one do you want?'  Yay for kids options not being restricted to children!

Kids Bento Box A ($9.80)
Deep fried prawn and crab claw, Tuna and avocado roll, Japanese sweet omelette, jelly and sushi lolly, choice of apple or orange juice




The bento box turned out to be great value and I think most kids would be happy with it.  Not to mention the extra novelty factor in having the nigri lolly!  Also good to note that the juice comes in a glass so if you're an adult, you don't feel like a dork drinking from a popper.

Next up were a few plates of sushi which were delivered fairly promptly.  It would be better if the menu had the names of the different sushi types rather than just pictures.

Grilled salmon ($3.00)


Beef tataki ($5.60)


Salmon roll ($5.60)



Hand roll ($4.60)



The surprise of the night came from the size of two salads ordered off the menu.  I was extremely impressed when they arrived - each one was about the size of my head!

Mixed seafood salad with Japanese dressing ($11.80)



Salmon and avocado salad with sesame seed dressing ($10.80)


I wouldn't go out of my way to come back again because it's not the cheapest sushi train around. Having said that, there aren't many sushi trains in Sydney where you can sit outside and the salads were awfully good. 

Umi Sushi & Udon on Urbanspoon
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Etch (4), Sydney CBD

One thing that I must say about Etch is that I have been there as a regular customer and I have also been there while dining on vouchers and either way, the service is perfect.  I think that counts for a lot, particularly over the past year where the popularity of daily deal/voucher sites has skyrocketed and a lot of people have been burned with poor service when trying to use their vouchers.  So the first thing is - props to Etch.

On that note, this is yet another post about Etch and yes, you've guessed it - the second time that I have come here on a Travelzoo voucher!  Did any of my readers also purchase this great value Travelzoo deal?  It was a six-course degustation for two people, for the grand sum of $99.  In addition to the six courses, you have an amuse bouche and a pre-dessert.

If you did happen to buy the voucher but not yet been - here is what you get!  Or don't read any further in case you would prefer to be surprised :-)

The amuse bouche was in the form of a tiny cup of sweet corn velouté.  Sweet yet savoury at the same time, it was a good start to the meal.



First course:

Local figs, Woodside goat curd



When I saw this course on the menu, I was slightly apprehensive because I have never been a big eater of figs.  Yet when I took my first bite, I was converted.  It was so smooth and went well with the creamy goat curd.  The little parchments propped on top were some sort of sesame seed wafer that added a crunch to each bite.  This was my favorite course.

Second course:

Salad of mango, crispy prawns, wasabi


This tasted nice but I couldn't help but wish there was just a bit more prawn on the plate....what you see on the photo is 1.5 prawns, crumbed and cut into thirds.

Third course:

Risotto Milanese, picked baby vegetables




Given that it was a cold rainy night, the risotto tasted like ultimate comfort food.  Apologies in advance for my pedestrian tendencies but my only comment to my friend was that the sauce reminded me of Chicken Tonight's honey mustard sauce.

Fourth course:

Caramelized pork belly, smoked kohlrabi, pickled peaches and crispy pigs ear



My pork was quite salty so I made sure to have each bite with a bit of peach to cut through the salt.  I confess, pigs ear is something that I do not like eating.  I ate it because it was on my plate and I don't like to waste food but I was inwardly squirming at sensation of biting through the cartilage, even if it was deep fried.  *shudders*

At the start of our meal, the kindly waiter inquired if we had any food allergies etc, and my friend requested an alternative to the pork.

Alternate fourth course:

Slow cooked egg


I looked on with delight as the egg burst and spilled all over the dish.

Fifth course:

Aromatic slow braised lamb shoulder, cauliflower, garlic spinach


This was probably the most substantive of all courses.  I can't remember how many hours the lamb had been cooked for but it was very soft.  Is anyone else getting bored of cauliflower puree? I feel like it has been around on so many menus that it became the new potato puree...but now I want the new cauliflower puree!

Pre dessert:

Fresh peach with peach jelly and vanilla chantilly cream


Sixth and final course:

Lemon parfait, pineapple, coconut salad, coriander


That cute little white ball is a meringue!  And a very good meringue at that.  I really enjoyed this dessert - the lemon flavour was subtle and not too acidic, in fact I think the passionfruit on top of the parfait overpowered any lemon taste.

If Etch does another voucher, I will definitely snap it up again!

Etch on Urbanspoon
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Felix, Sydney CBD

Another day, another Merivale restaurant! Felix has been around for a while and I finally had the chance to try it when it was a colleague's birthday and our team went out to celebrate for lunch.

Nestled in the Ash St laneway, the restaurant was packed when we went in.  It was clear that this place is popular for a Friday corporate lunch and noise levels inside were very high.

I ordered a Bloody Mary to start off with.  Do any of my readers enjoy Bloody Mary's?  I only discovered them last year and they have really grown on me.  If you haven't tried it before, I recommend giving it a go but it is an unusual taste - combining vodka, tomato juice, Tabasco sauce along with other ingredients - I always feel like I'm drinking a meal!


 


We decided to forgo entrees and jumped straight to the mains.  The food came out incredibly fast which was noted and appreciated - they must be experienced in serving a busy CBD's worker's lunch!

Lamb pie, sautéed mushrooms and tarragon jus ($32)


The lamb pie came out piping hot.  Shaped in a little dome, the pie may look a bit on the smaller side but my stomach was full after I finished it.  I took pleasure in breaking open the pie and swirling the lamb inside with the tarragon jus as there wasn't really any sauce inside the pie itself,

Spatchcock with iceberg and lemon ($32)



Duck confit, red grapes, walnut, frisee and radicchio ($32)



I had a small taste of the duck confit and it was amazing. Crispy skinned duck with sweetness coming from the grapes and crunchy texture from the walnuts and leaves.  I would like to order this next time!

Pan fried mulloway with cabbage salad and cucumber crème fraiche ($32)


Rocket, cucumber, feta and walnuts salad ($10)



We also had some french fries and veggies for sides.  

All of the desserts sounded amazing and it was hard to decide what to get.   To make it even harder, we had a perfect view of the open kitchen where the desserts were being prepared and all of them looked delectable.   Between the five of us, we managed to try four different desserts.

Pavlova with peaches, strawberries and passionfruit ($16)


Lemon pudding with raspberries


Mango and lychee tartlet with coconut sorbet ($16)


Chocolate mousse, hazelnut milk granita and caramel



I had the mango and lychee tart - it was so good and pretty too.  Fresh summer fruits on top of vanilla bean cream and a crumbly pastry shell.  The coconut sorbet was refreshing and I liked the extra touch of shredded coconut. 

So my first visit to Felix was a good one and I can see myself coming back another time to try more of their yummy food - or maybe just dessert!

Felix - Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon
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