Thursday, September 24, 2015

Utsav Indian Restaurant, Charlestown

All right, this is one of those restaurants which we visited twice, over two consecutive weekends. Now, it was more of a coincidence, and more chance to sample more food to be honest. The first week, we were in Lake Macquarie and after a day of barbecue and reds on a bright sunny day, we were out for dinner. Now close to Lake Macquarie, there weren’t too many places in Belmont or Swansea and the fact that Utsav had such great reviews on trip advisor and as number 1. So we drove the 14 kms in search of good food. The second time, we were on our way to Coonabarabran and started from Sydney to Charlestown. When I booked accommodation, I didn’t realise this is where Utsav was as well. Reaching at 8:30 again, Charlestown was nearly closed, with Utsav being one of the few restaurants which are open until late.

Lets me start of with all the dishes I have had here. For starters we ordered the tawa fish, and the gobhi 65. The tawa fish was a barra fillet, pan fried with some basic spices. You know what, if you think Indian and think fish and starters, chances are you will be either served a batter coated Amritsari fish or very high coloured fish tikka. But not here. The fish was an absolute delight to have.

The gobhi 65, my oh my, what a disaster. The gobhi or the cauliflower florets dipped in a batter and deep fried were about ok, but it was served in a chutney sauce on a flat plate. Not exactly Gobhi 65. To me, Gobhi 65, a variation of the famous Chicken 65 from Hyderabad, has to be crunchy, flavoursome and with curry leaves. So this was quite a disappointment for us.

Let’s come to the main course. We have come across a few dishes- butter chicken, the daal tadka, and goat Rogan Josh.  The Butter chicken is good. Most restaurants here do mess up butter chicken making it over creamy and too sweet. The butter chicken here was good, above average Id say. It was fresh, the curry wasn’t too smooth or thick in consistency. I got to tell you, I liked it. So a yes to the butter chicken. The only thing which did put me off a bit was when the order was taken, I was asked how much spicy or hotness, which the true dilli wallah would know. Butter chicken isn’t hot;-) But I liked the butter chicken here.
The Daal tadka or the yellow lentils was again good and flavorsome. Simple, with slight masala, topped with fresh ginger. Sometimes, you just want to have simple no frills food. This daal was like that. With roti’s it went well.

Next came the Goat Rogan Josh. Well, when I ordered, I was sceptical. Sceptical because goat is usually either not fresh, or too chewy, or substituted with Lamb. Indian eateries do make a mess of goat dishes, and the number of times I have ordered and been disappointed is far too high. Too high that I have stopped ordering goat at times. Anyways, that was the past.

At Utsav, I took a leap of faith and let me tell you, it was fantastic. The goat Rogan Josh when served came in a thick brown gravy, with some coriander and ginger strands on top of it. The curry was great. The quality of goat was also good. Soft and well textured. In fact both me and my friend who are fanatics for goat, loved it. So a thumb up from my side.

The rotis, naans and breads are fresh. The salted Lassi is really good over here. The gulab Jamuns and rasgullas are descent.

So overall a great place. In a place like Charlestown, its doing good business. We did interact with the owner, and other staff as well. The team tries to look after you and give you good customer service and they do request for Tripadvisor feedback. So I would like to come here again.

If there is one thing I would change about this restaurant- it would be the colour of the walls. Not Maroon or dark red colour on the walls please. It isn’t exotic, it just makes it look shady. Watch a few episodes of Gordon Ramseys – make it light colured walls and it will look classy and bigger.

2/199 Pacific Highway,Charlestown, NSW 2290
02 4906 0506

UTSAV Indian
Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Little Pig’s Café, Huskisson

All right, this one is about Jervis Bay area- huskisson. Now we were to go on our whale and dolphin watching cruise. We settled into the 5 little pig’s café for breakfast. 2 rooms. First one, has the coffee machine and the cakes and all. Second room has all the seating. Very unique and modern seating. The table was made out of pipes.

We ordered coffees. While I settled for the Mexican brekkie, my friend ordered the simple bacon and egg role. The coffees came up quick and then it took a bit of time before the breakfast arrived. But on a sunny Sunday, it was just great to relax and take it easy. Now the Mexican brekkie was quite the thing. A tortilla, topped with red kidney beans, fresh onion tomatoes chopped, with guacamole. The red kidney beans and the super spicy salsa. Wow. This dish was quite colourful, fresh and well balanced. While the super spicy chillies touched the high, the guacamole balanced it. The lemon added the zing. The coriander sprig just looked so good. So, two fried eggs, fresh finely chopped refreshing tomato onion, hot chilli and avo. This was really good.

The coffee was good as well.

 The bacon and egg role was a bit different. Instead of English muffins, they had a Panini, with bacon eggs and spinach inside. While it was ok, I personally am a fan of crispy bacon and wished the bacon was crispier. The béchamel sauce was wonderful and fresh.
So all in all, if you are in Huskisson, or the Jervis Bay area, please do visit this nice café and relax with a great brekkie.

Shop 4-5, 64-66 Owen Street
Huskisson, New South Wales

(02) 4441 7056 

5 Little Pigs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

3 Olives, Newtown

All right, this one is about our search for Lamb. Slow cooked Lamb. This was our second visit to this place and trust me, its wow. 3 olives is on King Street, right when you come out of the station and start walking to the left, it’s on the right hand side of the road.
In both instances of our visit, I had visited this place after a visit to Bench for some live music, cheese platter and some red.  3 olives specializes in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a small little shop, got a bit of a patio on the outside with some comfy couches and a heater. Inside, there is proper and regular seating. Well, let’s get onto it. There are banquet options and then there is a la carte.

We have always ordered for the banquet. There is a Meat tavern and the other one is the Seafood Taverna. We went in for the meat tavern. It starts off with the Greek salad. Fresh and with the salty feta. Next comes the trio of three dips. The eggplant dip, the fish eggs dip and Tzatziki dip. It comes with warms slightly pan fried pita bread. Again great. You will love this one. Next comes the haloumi. The haloumi, simple pan fried reminds me of fried paneer, except it’s more salty and a slight little bit chewier. Pretty good again. The homemade cheese filo parcels are heavenly and divine.  Flaky pastry filled with cheese, all molten and fresh. Words fail me to tell you how divine these pastries are. Next comes the vine leaves stuffed with rice. To be honest, I am not really fascinated by this one.

Next comes the main course. From my perspective, I usually tell them that no beef and no pork for me. So the Greek Beef burgers or the Kefthes and the Chorizo are ruled out for me. So, it’s basically extra chicken souvlaki and the specialty of this place- the slow cooked lamb.

The chicken Souvlaki, it’s a beauty. I usually despise chicken souvlaki at most take aways as they are crumbed, fried and weird when you eat them. But NOT this one. This is one of the best Chicken souvlaki I have had. One that has reinstated the faith in me to go out and try chicken souvlaki again. Very juicy chicken on a skewer and slightly fried, with fresh herbs.  So simple Verdict- it’s great.

Next comes the lamb. The slow cooked lamb. Unlike other places which serve the entire lamb shoulder, this place serves smaller portions. This is one the best lambs I have had. Soft, inside and yet a bit crispy outside. The meat portions are delicate with a layers of fat, and beautiful. I am so passionate about the lamb they serve here. As I write, I just wish I could go back and have the lamb again.  I would only say- highly recommended- please do visit this joint and have the speciality of the Arni Kleftiko- the slow oven roasted lamb.

The banquet is quite a lot of food, so do bear in mind.

The other dish I have had hear is the moussaka. It’s a vegetarian version with egg plants and potato slices. Topped with delicious béchamel sauce and cheese, and the baked to perfection. Non I am not a fan of eggplant, but man, this dish is again out of the world. Cheesy, delicious, flavoursome. This is awesome.

In this one evening, we were also fortunate enough to see the Greek dance. Here we were on a Friday evening having a meal and suddenly the music started playing and then the owner and his wife started dancing and very soon all the others joined. They had this thing with the paper tissues which they used along with them in the dance. Lovely atmosphere and loved watching this dance. Do a lovely place and a lovely evening.

365 King Street, Newtown, Sydney, NSW  

02 9557 7754

3 Olives Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mi Casa Contemporary Spanish Tapas, Port Macquarie

All right, this is about Port Macquarie. First evening and we decide to venture out to the local market to see how the vibrancy is. Well, Port Macquarie to begin with, impressed me because I have to admit it is the sole place with has so many fine dining eats and restaurants, it’s simply unbelievable. Its simply amazing. I have been across Australia – Cairns, Gold Coast, Tassie, Melbourne, Adelaide. Well if you exclude the bigger cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, etc. I got to admit, I have not seen so many good fine dines option. 

In NSW, in particular- I have travelled and stayed at various places- Jervis Bay, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, Narooma, or inlands- Dubbo Orange and all- but most places have may be one or two. But PM has so many. Wow! However, if you are in time you get the best. If you aren’t, you might not find food at all. First day we got lucky. Second and third day- we struggled to get dine in at any place since it was 9:00 P.M. the kitchens simply close. Also it was August, but port Macquarie was far too quiet on a Friday and Saturday- and that was until we passed the bars and realized most are away drinking.

However, like most Aussie towns, it sleeps at 8:30 and at 9:00 you may risk either going for pub food or Subways or Macca’s. 

On our first night, we check into our luxurious hotel and then after some rest, head out into the town. We look at a number of options, and decided to give a try to a Contemporary Spanish joint called Mi Casa. Situated right at the town center, pime location and its near the water- the place where all the painted stones start. There is an outdoor seating long with heating available, outside the restaurant, more like on the corridor outside. The inside of the restaurant is cozy and to my surprise- all full. Now I am usually skeptical to the concept of Tapas, as I usually find it too less quantity and more expensive. Nonetheless we settle in.

Initially I thought we would probably go for a couple of tapas to taste and then go for a main course each.

One look at the other tables and we realize that this place has a very good serving portion for Tapas. We reconfirm with the waitress and she seconds it. Mentions that two mains for two people might be too much and suggest may be 3-4 starters.
A look at the menu, and looks good value as well. To begin with I order the Sangria. Its pretty good, and much better than the one I had last time- I think at Teatro, Mebourne. Light, slightly sweet and fruity.

In the Tapas, we order the Gambillas Al Ajillo – the prawns. This is basically a prawn tapas, which comes in a bowl with a mild jus. The prawns are unbelievably fresh. And the freshness was wow. And the jus of white wine, along with lemon juice, garlic and the occasional chilli slices. The jus was slightly sweet, slightly tangy and buttery. The strands of shallots and sprouts added to the crunch and freshness. So basically I loved the dish.

Next we ordered the Patatas Brava- which were the crunchy potato wedges, stacked up like a square maze, and had a green chutney of some sorts and a tomato  salsa, and some aioli.  Ful marks on the presentation. Taste was good, and the fresh jullelines of veggies added the crunch. Liked it. Pretty good.

Next came the Champinones Al Ajillo or the mushrooms. This looked similar to the prawns dish we ordered initially except it was with mushrooms. Dug in and well, the mushrooms were ok. The sauce however, was just ok. While the just with the prawns was great- this one I think was made with sherry and had very different flavor. Its difficult to describe, but this one- I didn’t like. Too similar to the prawns one and the sauce wasn’t too my taste. So a no no from me.

Next came the star of the evening. The Costillas  de Cordero. It was the slow cooked lamb ribs. When I was ordering this one, I wasn’t too sure and had double minds- because lamb does have a strong fragrance of its on- of which I am not too much of a fan. So I was debating if it should be the lamb or the chicken. Nonetheless I went for the lamb and boy I am proud of myself. When it came, it just melted my heart and made me fall in love at first sight. The lamb was beautiful looking, caramelised. It was like small rack, and it looked soft and tender, and brown and sticky gooey from the top. It reminded me of the masterchef contest with the barbeques and we had Jessica cook up some wicked sticky and gooey barbeque.

As I dug in, I was amazed with the softness of the lamb. One bite and I knew this was one of the best  lamb I was eating. It was caramelised and little crispy on the top. The next layer was simply juicy, wet, and the layers of fat had melted and made it irresistible. It was topped with chives and shallot slices which made it colorful. Served on a bed of yellow rice. The taste was sweet- not too overpowering but lovely. I really enjoyed it and  must have. Very very highly recommended.

The portions were good size and were costing on an average $15 – $20. A meal for two – with four tapas and a white and sangria  was about $70-$80.

All in all, I would love to visit this place for tapas and it has made my skepticism go away with tapas and I am eager to try out more.

TEL (02) 65 844 559
2 Horton Street Port Macquarie

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Casa Cafe and Restaurant on Zomato

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dahab Café, Dubbo, NSW

All right, our first morning at Dubbo. While I didn’t expect too much out of Dubbo too much and it was quite a small town just like any other Aussie towns. One main street with most shopping and eateries. The evening and night was about okay – not with too many choice. Next morning, we woke up early, and went for the early guided morning walk to Taronga zoo from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and let me tell you, it is a must if you go to the zoo. Anyways after the morning walk for two hours and without any food, we were starving. Checked out of the hotel and decided to go for breakfast to the town across the river and settled for Dahab Café- A Mediterranean Touch which had a number 1 rating in trip adviser as well.

It was a cloudy day and bit windy. Dahab, was in a parallel street to the main street. A town house with seating inside and outside. We decided to settle outside in the open air. Looked at the menu and decided to firstly order two cups of coffee.
Over all the travelling in Australia over the last few years, my craving for a great brekkie persists, however, it doesn’t seem to get fulfilled as most combinations seem to be around the same big brekkie, or eggs Benedict. So I have really been looking for places and cafes with an alternative and innovative menu. Seeing the word Mediterranean, I turned hopeful.

Next I decided to order the brekkie with the sourdough, avocado, poached eggs and a tomato chickpea salsa. The other dish which my friend ordered was the sourdough with spinach mushroom Parmesan avocado. We waited for some time and the coffee’s came over. Good strong coffee. Next the brekkies arrive, looks great. My brekkie has two pieces of toasted sourdough, a neatly sliced avo, and two beautifully poached eggs. Perfect. But what set aside this breakfast is the tomato bowl. This is quite interesting- it is like a tomato puree bowl filled with chickpeas, olives topped with loads of feta cheese. The taste of the tomato was quite sour. The olives added to the acidity and perhaps the saltiness of the feta neutralized the sour taste. All in all, it was about ok, although I wish the tomato had a bit more taste and a bit less or sourness.

The other brekkie was the avo mushroom toast. Two pieces of the sourdough, topped with spinach, sauteed mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and avocado. Descent brekkie.

So all in all it’s a descent place. Yes do go there. The produce was fresh. There were loads of rooms inside the town house which have different seating options. The service was good, although it did tale a bit of time to serve up the brekkies. It’s a good joint to visit, catch up on breakfast and then head over to the zoo. Affordable, descently priced, a brekkie for tow cost us about $45.

197 Brisbane Street, Dubbo, NSW
02 6884 5320

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Cafe on Zomato

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dum Dum Dumplings, Orange, NSW

All right, this one is about a night at Orange, NSW. Now for those who have been here in Australia and know NSW, would know that Orange is always positioned as the food capital. A place with loads of wines, fresh produce of vegetables and fruits, cafes and culinary delights. So we drive down one day, start from Dubbo, into Parkes, and then into Orange. As we arrive into orange, it suddenly starts raining and the temperature plummets down to 4 degrees and icy cold winds.
It’s a Sunday night and we venture into the main street of the town in search of dinner. Now unfortunately again, it’s the quintessential Aussie town which perhaps sleeps at 8 P.M. Not too many options. We start to search for Sweet and Sour, but that’s shutdown. Most cafes have closed. For dinner, we have two Chinese restaurants, but they are all covered with curtains and looks dodgy. Next we have an Indian restaurant booked for a party. There is  Japanese place, but not too keen with Jap. A few kebab shops and pizza place. But this is not why you come to Orange. You come to Orange to eat good food, quality produce and some fancy cooking. Unfortunately for us, the Sunday night is dead and we are almost on the verge of going to one of the fast food- pizza capers when we see a place called the Dum Dum Dumplings. Looks very big shop and very basic and elementary. A few boys sitting inside. Now of course for me Chinese here is quite different to what I have in India. So I am not too keen but decide to check it out. One look at the menu and what draws us is that there are chicken dumplings. Wow. That’s quite unusual. Its so cold that we decide to at least have a hot bowl of soup before we head back to get Pizza’s.
So we order a Chicken Sweet Corn Soup and Chicken Dumplings. The soup comes in a its quite a serving. For a $5 soup, the two of us finish off the sweet corn soup. Its delicious, hot, loads of chicken, slightly sweet. Loved it. Next came the dumplings. We ordered the boiled or the steamed ones, and they served 10 pieces. Lucky for the two of us bro’s. Start popping the piping hot dumplings and they are lovely and delicious. Juicy minced chicken with some shallots in the center and works beautifully to warm the soul on such a cold night. I cant say enough and how pleased and satisfied I was after having the chicken dumplings.
I went on to order the spring rolls, the fried rice and the chicken with XO sauce for takeaway. Well the spring rolls were good, except it had pork in it while I thought them to be vegetarian. The chicken with XO sauce was descent as well- good serving size and freshly made to order.

So all in all, while Orange turned out to be a damper, Dum Dum dumplings was definitely a good find and I loved the hot soup and dumplings on a cold icy night. It’s a very economical restaurant. Average price of dish is $13~$15. I would definitely go here, if I am in Orange – to have the dumplings.

Dum Dum Dumplings
Between Red Pepper Indian and Mr Sushi King
305 Summer Street Orange NSW

02 6361 1683

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thar Indian Cuisine, Dubbo

All Right, this one about Dubbo. As we head into Dubbo via Mudgee from Sydney at about 3 PM, we checked into the hotel and went down to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Dubbo like any Aussie town other than Sydney and Melbourne, is a small town and becomes very quite after 7~7:30 P.M. While the online world and view did state there were a number of cafes and restaurants, in reality when we walked to the main street, numbers were very limited.yes the regular fast food chains were all open- Macca’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Red Rooster, but who wants to have that anyways on a holiday.

For us, there was a Spanish tapas joint, a pizza place, kebab house, a Chinese joint and the Indian place. There was one fine dining joint in Dubbo, but may be we were not in the mood that day to go fine dining.

So we opted for the Indian place- called Thar Indian Cuisine. Well, in small towns, I do use the metric to see how well the restaurant is filled and this one had quite a few people. We walked in and this place was abuzz with people. The first things that catches you is the décor. There are basic indian eateries and then there those that make it too Indian with the stereotyped artefacts and antiques. This one was interesting because it did have the stereotyped one, but with a difference. They had hanged long coloutful dupatta’s from the ceiling and given them a knot. Along with them a few rajasthani artefacts like the puppets and all.

The restaurant had a mother son duo running the show. We looked around and there were mostly Aussie families, and hardly any Indians. Wow! Must be good. We ordered for the Fish Fry and the Pudina Chicken Tikka for starters. For mains we settled for a simple Panchmel Daal- which was a combination of 5 daals. Also ordered the roti’s.

The food arrived in some time. Ill be honest. The pudina tikka was a bit of a sad affair. While I checked at ordering that it didn’t have the overly red coloured tikka paste on it, wen it came, it appeared to have a green basting on the top of the chicken tikka.  I expected it to be heavy with flavors of mint, coriander, chilies. Unfortunately, the chicken tikka’s were cold, and not too tasty. On a cold night, it would have been great if these were piping hot and flavorsome. It seemed to me it was merely reheated or microwaved.

The next dish was the Fish pakoda and this one was great. I loved it. Bassa fish dipped in a batter and deep fried. Served piping hot, the batter had a good flavorsome coating and with the fish, it tasted great. I loved it. Simply put, it was tasty and yum. The god part was that the golden batter of besan, which was deep fried was not overtly spiced or adventurous and sometime you just love the basics.

Next in the main course came the Panchmel Daal- which I believe is a mixture of five lentils slow cooked. Normally in Indian restaurants, you get served either the black lentils or the yellow ones. This one seemed interesting as it had a mixture of 5 lentils. It was served in a small little cute bucket. The daal was extremely flavorsome. I loved it again. Simply dal and roti- but tasted so wow. The daal wasn’t too spiced, medium spiced and flavored and quite thick in consistency. So all in all, again a good dish. I never thought I would say this, but I would have never got a daal packed and done for a takeaway from the leftovers- but I did so here.

Later I did speak to the owner and they did mention that they were previously a takeaway joint and from last one year, they opened the restaurant. I think it’s a descent place- has god promise of doing better. In  a remote place like Dubbo, good to see an Indian joint doing well. What I liked was the family feeling and humbleness of the owners and all working towards a common goal.

A word of advise though the the owners would be to remove the takeaway counter which they have put in the main hall. Although its empty, people might be mislead to think that all food is pre cooked and served repeatedly again and again.

The website is quite good and it seems it gets a lot of online orders.

11.30 AM to 2.30 PM
5.30 PM to till  late
Saturday, Sunday & Monday Dinner only
Ph. 02 68849345
1/10 Cobra Street

(Takeaway & Dine In)
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