I have been back on dry land for just under a week now but haven’t had a chance to put up a post until now. MS and I flew down to Sydney the day after I got back from sea for my cousins wedding on the Central Coast. I think I mentioned in my previous post that we have both started a meal plan with me looking towards a particular, but as yet unmentioned, goal come September and basically MS just wanting to be bigger and leaner. That does have certain implications for me and eating out unfortunately since we can only have one ‘cheat’ meal a week, a far cry from the three meals a day that we used to do. But after over 5 weeks eating ‘clean’ we decided to go all out and eat whatever the hell we wanted for the 4 days that we were there. We had buffet breakfasts with all the trimmings, fish and chips, pizza, wedding cake, a plethora of canapes, waffles from the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe, Panna Cotta from the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe and even Hot Chocolate from the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe. But what trip to Sydney isn’t complete without a stopover to China Town?
I had spotted BBQ King a couple of years ago when I was in Sydney for work. A crew mate took my crew and I to some pub across the road that apparently had the best Laksa she had ever eaten. Stubborn old me didn’t order the Laksa since I was a little skeptical ordering it at a pub but hey it looked good. Laksa just wouldn’t do and I longed for the ducks and large bits of pork crackling hanging in the window across the road at BBQ King. Not long after that I read about it on a Perth food blog that was my inspiration to start foodvixen in the first place. The Food Pornographer and her many photos of Suckling Pig and Roast Duck had me at ‘hello’ so I vowed that next time I went to Sydney I would go to BBQ King. So with MS in tow we made our way down to Haymarket from our hotel on Pitt Street.
I must admit both MS and I have developed a bit of a penchant for Roast Pork and Duck of late but the only place that we can really go to satisfy it in Cairns is Cafe China on Spence Street or the one at the Casino (for a quick feed anyway). Cafe China on Spence Street is really nothing special, the food is pretty ordinary and I also question the hygiene of the place but we continue to go back there for some reason. I guess because it’s cheap and you can pretty much always rely on it to be open. We arrived to a half full restaurant at about 6.30pm and were ushered to a table by one of the many Chinese wait staff. The restaurant is very dated with yellow stained walls, drapes and old framed Chinese ‘artworks’ but it works and I actually felt like I was in one of those old school Kung-Fu movies with the really bad dubbing. Going to a flash, new Chinese Restaurant just wouldn’t feel right to me. Cheesy decor and yellow fluorescent lighting is all part of the experience surely. In the corner was a large Chinese family tucking into a banquet, some Police that were by all accounts still on duty next to them, a couple of seedy guys that looked like they were doing some Underbelly type business deals and then a couple seated next to us. MS and I overheard a little bit of their conversation… Not because we were listening but more because they were so damn close we couldn’t really help it. The crux of the conversation came to a head when the woman asked the man if he was only interested in her to live in Australia or he actually liked her for being her. Awkward.
The waiter fetched us a pot of Chinese tea and some little cups as well as a couple of menus to look over. The menu was extensive with lots of soup, rice dishes, various types of meat and even Marinated Pork Uteri. Err, maybe next time? MS and I drooled over the Whole Suckling Pig for $480 but you had to give 24 hours notice. Dammit. One day I will have loads of money to spend on Whole Suckling Pigs (notice the plural there) but until that day we stuck to the more reasonably priced part of the menu. MS was considering ordering soup for an entrée but I convinced him that if we were at a place called BBQ King then soup just wouldn’t cut it, even if it was only for the entrée. In the end we (I) chose Peking Duck for the entrée for AU$14, since MS had never had Peking Duck before and I often wondered how I could ever live without it after tasting it for the first time in Beijing about 8 years ago. Well it is the National Dish of China (thanks Wikipedia). For mains we decided we would share a couple of dishes and after much sulking from me because MS didn’t want to the order the Roast Duck because it ‘has too many bones in it’, we chose the Barbeque Pork and the Lemon Chicken (both AU$22.80), much to my dismay. But ‘apparently’ I always have to get my way so I was attempting to be a little less pushy and more open to other suggestions, even if that ultimately meant I didn’t get everything what I wanted i.e. Roast Duck.
We waited about 5 minutes until our entrée of Peking Duck arrived. On top of each of our steamed pancakes was a big, juicy piece of duck breast with crispy golden skin. The waiter placed a small bundle of shallots on top of the duck held together by a ring of fresh chilli, drizzled the sweet sauce over the top and placed each of the plates down in front of us. I nearly fell off my chair I was so excited and after a couple of happy snaps we both dug in. The fattiness of the duck, the crunchiness of the shallots, the sweet taste of the sauce and the oh so soft pancake, was just, oh god, it was amazing! I really think that it was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Food wise anyway. Ha. I was expecting gratitude, amazement, surprise or at least a bit of excitement on MS’ face but all he said was ‘that wasn’t that great’ and ‘it just tasted like sauce’. Way to ruin the moment. Had we just eaten the same thing?!
Onto the mains… It didn’t take long till our table was adorned with plates of Barbeque Pork and Lemon Chicken. We dug into the Barbeque Pork first and I have to say that it was absolutely delicious and easily won the accolade of Best Barbeque Pork I have ever had. The most recent one that I can remember was at Taste of China on Abbott Street where the tough pork was drizzled in a thick molasses type sauce that completely overpowered the entire dish whereas at BBQ King the pork did the talking and not the sauce. The light and sweet sauce soaked into the ridiculously tender pieces of pork made my tastebuds do a little dance with every mouthful. In the end, although it was fantastic, we couldn’t finish it all due to the large serving size.
The Lemon Chicken was also delicious! The bite sized pieces of Chicken were lightly battered and deep-fried till they were just crispy and lightly smothered in a lovely tangy Lemon Sauce. Not too tangy though. Too many times I have been disappointed with crappy Lemon Chicken where the sauce just doesn’t taste right or the chicken is way too battered. This was in fact the second best Lemon Chicken I have ever had with the best being Kin Wah on Florence Street of course! Still it was a pretty good Lemon Chicken to come close to that one I reckon! By the end of it we were both pretty full and MS questioned why I was filling up on rice when there was all this other yummy food on the table. Well, because the best part of eating Chinese (in my opinion) is soaking up all the sauce in your steaming hot bowl of rice.
Well that was it. My anticipated trip to BBQ King in Sydney was over. But was it everything I thought it would be? Hell yeah! The service was swift, to the point and a little sterile, as you would expect at a Chinese Restaurant. On paying at the counter the owner (I think he was the owner) was more than happy to have a chat with us warning us to keep a lookout for counterfeit $50 bills that were getting around and even imitating what a crayfish looks like when it eats a prawn. Don’t ask. As mentioned the decor was a little dated and I was expecting Jackie Chan to jump out at any second but the food was fantastic and I will most certainly be returning on my next trip to Sydney. The place is hugely popular with Sydney-siders and has been for over 30 years and for good reason. I really wish we had a BBQ King in Cairns but then again maybe it wouldn’t be such a great thing because I honestly don’t think MS or myself would be able to stay away from the place, especially considering it’s open till 2am. We would be Platinum Members in no time and that meal plan would be out the window before you could say ‘Whole Suckling Pig(s)’.
18 Goulburn Street, Haymarket NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9267 2586
Opening Hours: 7 days 11.30am – 2am
A couple of weeks ago on one particularly busy Friday night MS and I ventured into the Cairns CBD in search of a quiet dinner together before he flew out for work the next morning. Eager to satisfy my craving for a Red Duck Curry we ended up at Cafe Thailand on Aplin St, somewhere I have been a few times before and always enjoyed my meal. Unfortunately this time around the restaurant was quite busy and we stood at the door waiting to be seated only to be ignored by up to six waitstaff aimlessly milling around, including the male host behind another counter accepting payments and then looked on in horror as a group of five that had arrived minutes after us were readily ushered to an available table. No, they didn’t have a booking and yes, there were plenty of tables for two that we could have been seated at. At this point MS and I promptly turned and walked out. They had lost our business for the night and the sour taste that was left in my mouth will cause me to not return for quite a while. It was incredibly rude and I was pretty pissed off about the whole affair as we walked away. We decided to continue on our Asian quest and ended up at Taste of China on Abbott St. A restaurant that has been in Cairns for years and years. I remember doing seafood deliveries with my dad about 15 odd years ago when I was just a wee one. Never in the time that MS and I have lived in Cairns (all our lives) have we eaten there so we decided to give it a go. Well, it was my idea, MS was persuaded by the idea that he coulde order BBQ Pork Buns which he has only recently discovered the wonders of. Something that I have been privy to since I was old enough to say Chinese.
We were greeted at the door by a friendly older hostess who ushered us to a table right at the front near the window with a couple of menus to peruse. I ordered a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc for AU$9 while ever the sensible M “I don’t drink” S ordered a glass of Coke. There was a meal deal for AU$39 per person including the choice of two entrees, one main, fried rice and dessert, however we decided that we didn’t want to eat quite that much and went for an entree and two mains to share with some steamed rice included. Of course we ordered the pork buns for entree, however we ordered Shanghai Pork Buns thinking that they were the same thing. On ordering the hostess was cluey enough to inform us that they weren’t infact the BBQ Pork Buns that we thought they were but said that Taste of China did also have those. We’ll have those thanks.
Next up, sticking with the Pork theme MS ordered the BBQ Pork for a main. I wasn’t concerned. BBQ Pork in a bun and on a plate. Hell yes! Being the creature of habit that I am I ordered my usual Boneless Lemon Chicken. We waited between five to ten minutes for our BBQ Pork Bun entree to arrive. As always the buns were light, fluffy and slightly sweet with the yummy pork filling in the middle. We were both a little sad that we only got two Pork Buns for our entree but that is the norm when ordering them at any Chinese restaurant. Our plates were cleared quickly and soon after our mains arrived along with our small steamed rice to share.
Firstly the BBQ Pork that MS ordered was bought out and placed between us. The sauce that accompanied the Pork was dark and sticky. A lot more sticky than usual and resembled and tasted much like molasses. It was delicious and the Pork pieces were very tender with just a little bit of fat marbled along the side. We were both very happy with the serving size. The only problem with this dish is that the sauce was so sticky that it was difficult to transfer the sauce from the serving plate onto my own plate of rice. Not exactly something that I would call a big deal but the sauce was so sweet and delicious that I wanted it on my rice. A task that proved most difficult.
Next up my order of Boneless Lemon Chicken arrived. Now I do have to say that due to my families long running loyalty to Cairns’ favourite Chinese Takeway Kin-Wah my view or idea on Lemon Chicken is a little skewed. I may or may not be a little biased to the way they serve their Lemon Chicken at Kin-Wah and am forever in search of one to match it. I have said in a previous post how amazing the Lemon Chicken at Kin-Wah is and I still haven’t changed my tune. The Lemon Chicken at Taste of China was good but it wasn’t as good as my tried and true. The batter just wasn’t the same, the sauce just wasn’t quite ‘lemony’ enough and as was the case with the BBQ Pork, the consistency of the sauce was a little too thick. Might have to lay off the cornflour just a little next time chef.
We received really good service at Taste of China right up until the point where MS went to pay and pulled out our Table 52 card. Upon this swift movement from his wallet the “I’m happy to serve you in my restaurant” demeanour that we had received from the hostess promptly changed to a “Give me your money and get the hell out of my restaurant” tone. Something neither of us saw coming because she seemed like such a nice lady, happy to accommodate us for dinner. Apparently this wasn’t the case and I’m pretty sure that Table 52 encourage you to produce your card at your dining establishment before ordering. This is something I absolutely refuse to do it for fear of that particular restaurant serving me or my dining companion a smaller amount or giving me any less than the outstanding service that I deserve if I were to pay full price for my meal. Obviously this premise of mine has nothing to do with Table 52 but a sneaking suspicion that MS and I have with certain restaurants that we have dined at.
So, in conclusion, despite the proliferance of MSG in the food at Taste of China, which was something that only became apparent when neither MS or I got a wink of sleep all night even though my alarm was set for 5.30am to get up to take MS to the airport. There was also the odd litre or so of water that I drank through the night because I was just so damn parched! Yeah so despite all this we actually did enjoy our meal at Taste of China. The service was really good (up until a certain point), the food was equally as good and the serving sizes ample. It’s up to you as to whether you produce your Table 52 card early on or later in the piece but me… I would much rather smiles from the hostess serving me than evil glances in between polishing cutlery and spitting in my food.
Taste of China
36 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 3668
Thinking of ideas for Friday lunch with MS’ dad this week I remembered a recommendation from a good friend of mine for the newish Chinese Restaurant opened up in Edge Hill, Xanadu On Collins. Who doesn’t love Chinese so off MS and I trotted (drove) to the leafy suburb of Edge Hill with his dad in tow. Xanadu, for those that haven’t been to Edge Hill lately, is just past El Mundo and Linga Longa as you are heading towards the airport. It’s positioned at the bottom of a truly hideous block of apartments on Collins Avenue. But hey I’m no architect it was the Chinese food we had come for!
Upon arrival we were greeted by the friendly Chinese waiter and took a seat at a table outside so we could enjoy the beautiful day (the weather is too good not to comment on). This is the reason that we live in Cairns! Am I right or am I right? The waiter asked us if we wanted some tea. I accepted as did MS and his dad KS. He bought us some menus with Xanadu’s lunch specials which contained quite a long list of things to choose from including two different Set Menu’s for AU$15.00 each, as well as Rice and Noodle Dishes for AU$9.90 and Dim Sum for AU$6.00. The waiter that was serving us was so authentic that I don’t think he actually spoke any English at all. I asked him if we could ‘order’ and he went to fetch us some ‘water’. I thought that was quite funny. He did however, understand the universal language that is ‘Coca-Cola’ when asked for a glass by KS. It was all good, I did want some water anyway and not long after that the owner of the restaurant (who speaks good English) came out and took our orders.
Typically, we all ended up choosing the same thing – Set Menu A (although the Honey Roasted BBQ Pork and Rice nearly swayed me). Set Menu A consisted of Steamed Pork and Prawn Dumpling (2 pcs), Steamed Seafood and Chive Dumpling (2 pcs), Golden Fried Crab Meat Ball (2 pcs), Pan Fried Shanghai Dumpling (2 pcs), Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup, Salad and a Dessert of either Almond Jelly or Coconut Sago (there was only Coconut Sago available). All that for AU$15.00. I had to wait till the food came out but I was pretty damn sure that was a good deal!
Turns out I was right. We didn’t wait long for our meals to make their way from the kitchen to our table but in the mean time we just enjoyed out leafy surroundings. After spending about 5 minutes defending my dumplings from MS’ dredded chopsticks I finally got to have a taste of what was in front of me. According to the article on the window from The Cairns Post all of the Dim Sum is made in house by the chef. The Dumplings and the Crab Meat Ball were super tasty especially dipped into the Chinese Black Vinegar on the side. I wasn’t too sure about the other side sauce that tasted a little like Seafood Sauce and I wasn’t too keen on it. Not to say that it wasn’t good but I was more than happy with my Chinese Black Vinegar to dip my Dumplings into. I particularly liked the Steamed Pork and Prawn Dumpling and the Steamed Seafood and Chive Dumpling because of their soft texture as opposed to the crunchy texture of the fried ones. It’s the soft and juicy dumpling goodness that I love!
The other two were good but just not as good as the steamed ones. My dining companions (MS and KS) appeared to have the opposite opinion and preferred the Golden Fried Crab Meat Ball and the Pan Fried Shanghai Dumpling. Each to their own.
The side salad with lettuce, carrot and cucumber was only small and fairly standard but I have to say the dressing was awesome. Probably just bottled dressing but really good. I ate all of the carrots and cucumber out of my salad plus I snuck some of MS’ while he wasn’t looking. I’m not a big fan of Iceberg Lettuce (ok I just don’t bloody like it, I’m more of a Baby Spinach or Rocket kinda gal) so childishly I left it on the side of my plate.
The Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup was enjoyed by all of us although the other two did add a little bit of salt to theirs but they do tend to add salt to anything that they eat. I didn’t add any seasoning and enjoyed it just the way it was. It was thick, delicious and topped off my meal nicely, or so I thought.
After our meal we were chatting away when the waiter bought out the Coconut Sago desserts that I had somehow forgotten about. I was so excited I nearly fell off my chair. Anyone of my friends or family that knows me well knows that food surprises are my favourite surprises. I truly am a fat person trapped in a little persons body. That Coconut Sago ‘got in my belly’ and lucky for MS and I his dad decided that he had eaten enough prior to the dessert coming out so we finished ours and then shared his. The Sago wasn’t too sweet like many a Sago I have had before but more like Coconut Cream. It was decadent and I have to say the highlight of my meal at Xanadu.
At Xanadu On Collins their MSG-less food is memorable (in a good way), the service is attentive but not obstrusive and the atmosphere is Edge Hill’s finest. An online review I read says that Xanadu is too expensive for dinner and it may just well be but since I didn’t go their for dinner nor did I get a chance to read the dinner menu I can only vouch for the value of the lunch menu which by all accounts (the three of us) was excellent value for money. And here I was thinking that Xanadu was just a cringe-worthy 80’s song by Olivia Newton-John.
Xanadu On Collins
120 Collins Ave, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4053 7303
Opening Hours: Lunch – Thur & Fri 11.30am – 2.30pm, Sat – Sun 10.30am – 2.30pm, Dinner – 7 days from 5.30pm till 10pm
Ok so last Monday night curiosity got the better of me much to MS’s dismay and we ventured on down to Bobby’s Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant since neither of us had the energy to cook. We had one of those 2-4-1 vouchers from The Cairns Post so I figured ‘yeah why not it can’t be all bad’. I have heard from a few other people that the food isn’t very good but this is one of those instances where I had to try it for myself. And you know what? The food isn’t very good. The service was, well, pretty good. The staff, even though a couple didn’t speak English, were attentive and served us with a smile. I ordered a Pho Tai – Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup (AU$13.90) and MS ordered the Crispy Skinned Chicken with Lemon Sauce and Fried Rice (AU$19.40). I have only had Beef Pho once before and this was at the Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin at a stall that was reputed to sell the Best Pho in Darwin or the NT or something like that. And let me tell you it was amazing (see my previous post ‘Mindil Beach Markets’). This Pho at Bobby’s, however was not quite as nice as my previous Pho. Yeah it was big, there was lots of noodles, I had fresh chilli and herbs to garnish my Pho with but the broth just tasted like beef stock. It wasn’t anything special. No delicious aroma wafting from my bowl of Pho. I couldn’t taste the yummy sweet and sour flavours in my broth. I was pretty disappointed.
After MS’s initial mistake of thinking that the chicken was boneless, he spent the next 20 minutes or so (the time that it took him to eat his meal) picking bones out. I might add that it was his own fault for not reading the menu properly. Still, he said the meal was good.
Again, nothing special or anything to write home about (definitely something to write a post about however). The restaurant itself had about 8 tables occupied with both locals and tourists in the mix. The atmosphere wasn’t very inviting and it was more like dining at the Night Markets rather than a restaurant as stated in the name. Needless to say I have satisfied my curiosity. I can make my own Beef Stock at home and call it Pho. I wouldn’t have gone there had we not had a 2-4-1 voucher and now I probably won’t be going there if I do, at least not to get noodles anyway. Sorry Bobby but your claim to having the ‘Best Noodles in Town’ just doesn’t stand with me.
Bobby’s Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
Ph: (07) 4051 8877
Address: 5 Aplin St, Cairns City
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm 7 days
Everyone claims that they know a Chinese take-away that is the ‘best in town’. I have tried and tested many Chinese take-aways in and around Cairns and Kin-Wah Chinese Take-away on Florence St takes the cake or in this case the Sweet and Sour Pork! My family has been going to see Francis and Peter at Kin-Wah for over 20 years, however Francis informs me that they have been open for over 33 years! Their food is fresh, their seafood is local and Francis always serves you with a smile. I recommend the Lemon Chicken!
Kin-Wah Chinese Take-away
Shop 9/24 Florence St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 2102