Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD, Sydney - Inner City

Chicken Institute Part 1

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We have heard so much good things about the chicken at this place so on a cold winter Tuesday night, we decided to visit this place to try out their infamous chicken.  Due to the unusual events which unfolded, we will set out in a time line format of what we have experienced at this place that night.

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7.45pm – We arrived at the restaurant.  We noticed that the space was very small and it was already overcrowded.  The interior was simple, with wooden shelves, wooden floor boards and a counter made of galvanized iron, which gave the whole place the look and feel of a chicken barn.  We were asked if we had booked (which we had not) and were told that apart from another couple who were waiting in front of us, we would be after them.

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7.45pm to 8.15pm – As we were standing near the entrance to wait, we noticed how close we were in proximity to the people who were dining.  There were no room for people to stand and wait.  Within half an hour, there were over 10 people waiting for a table.  We noticed that the service seem very chaotic, and customers were complaining of wrong orders and slow service.  There were only two wait staff servicing more than 30 customers.

8.15pm – We were asked whether we minded sitting in the back area, which we happily agreed.  The back area was an open courtyard, with minimal lighting.  There was one big table and one small table, which would sit about 10 people maximum in total. It was quite cold and chilly in the area and there was only one heater there.

8.15pm to 8.45pm – No wait staff came to take our orders, despite us requesting them to do so on several occasions.  We also requested someone to fix the heater as the heat was quickly diminishing.  Again, no one was able to assist.

8.45pm – Finally, one of the wait staff came to take our order.  We ordered two chicken dishes, along with some side dishes, and two drinks.  Despite the freezing night, we were looking forward to the taste of their infamous incredible chicken.

8.45pm to 9.15pm – We heard yelling from the kitchen between the chef and the wait staff.  They were arguing in Korean which seem to relate to the wrong orders.  The screaming was quite loud, and was piercing through an otherwise quiet night in the back courtyard.

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9.15pm – The first drink arrived.  As we were already so cold from sitting in the back with the heater not working properly, we didn’t really touch the icy drink.

9.15pm to 9.45pm – We were still waiting for food and the second drink, and we were becoming more and more hungry.  It had been more than 2 hours since we set foot in the restaurant and we were still unable to taste any food.

9.45pm – Being cold and hungry, we decided to tell the wait staff that we were no longer willing to wait any more, as we were shivering and starving.  The wait staff enquired with the kitchen and allowed us to cancel our orders and leave.  They were also apologetic for our experience.  However, before we left, we were still asked to pay for the drink that was on our table which amounted to $6.50.   As we were leaving, we heard some customers on another table complaining about the level of service to one of the wait staff.

We left the place cold, hungry, angry and disappointed.  We were baffled as to how a restaurant is able to be run like this.  Even if the chicken is amazing and out of this world (which we would never know unless we return to try them), their service (or lack thereof) will be a major impediment to anyone returning to this place.

We actually went back two weeks later and tried the chicken.  Read our post here.

Chicken Institute Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chicken Institute

Website: http://www.chickeninstitute.com.au

Address: 61 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills

Telephone: (02) 8095 0166

Opening hours: 5pm to 10pm, Tues to Sun

Accepts MasterCard and Visa (minimum spending amount applies)

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - Inner City

Cuckoo Callay

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Located at Newtown station, this small café is like an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the business of King Street beneath.  The small herb pots outside the café, with its friendly staff inside, is the ideal place to chill and relax when you want to be away from the crowds on the main road.

We have been to this café a few times, and below are some highlights from the menu of this café.

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The chemex ($5) was a rich flavoured coffee, which has been infused for a longer time, to achieve a smooth consistency.  It was served in a really nice glass flask, which looked like a wine decanter.  The taste was elegant.

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Everybody loves Ramen ($19) consisted of bacon and egg noodles with a 63 degrees egg, speck, shitake mushroom, bacon dashi and shallots.  This dish had a distinctive Asian style to it with an element of Western fusion with the use of bacon and speck.  The broth was very flavoursome but was not too strong as to overpower the other flavours of the dish.  The amount of broth was also adjustable as you had to pour it yourself.  The noodles, however, was a bit too soft. This was the perfect breakfast on a cold winter’s morning.

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Trout Pout ($22) came as a stack with smoked trout fillet, potato, leek and fennel cake, grilled fennel, horseradish cream, sorrel and a 63 degrees egg.  The egg fell off to the side as the wait staff served the dish to us.  There was a mirage of flavours with this dish, with nicely infused Eastern and Western styles.  The trout was nicely seasoned and not overcooked.  This is a dish that is worth trying.

Overall, we really like what Cuckoo Callay is trying to achieve with its menu, with inventive fusion breakfast food items that are different from the other cafes in the area.  A must try if you are in the area.

Cuckoo Callay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cuckoo Callay

Website: http://www.cuckoo-callay.com.au/index.html

Address: Newtown Railway Station, Newtown

Phone: (02) 9557 7006

Opening hours: Mon to Fri, 6am to 4pm; Sat 8am to 4pm; Sun 8am to 3pm

Accepts MasterCard and Visa

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - Inner City

Moon Park

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A modern Korean restaurant, Moon Park is situated on the first floor of a building in Redfern. This place is quite hard to find at night as there is only a small sign outside the building. Inside, the interior is very sleek and simple, not overly fancy, with wooden floorboards, white painted walls, standard wooden tables and chairs, basic shelves, and minimal decorations. There is a small bar area, and also a large balcony overlooking Redfern Park. The place creates a casual atmosphere and relaxing vibe.

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We arrived here on a weeknight, and the wait staff was very hospitable, with good friendly service. They were attentive to us, with the use of good facial expressions and body gesture, and the use of appropriate language. They displayed great knowledge in relation to the items on the menu.

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Cucumber and Rose Lemonade ($8)

A delightful drink, which was not overly sweet, with the aroma of rose and a hint of cucumber. The drink had a mysterious element to it, as with each sip, we would not know which flavour would hit our palate first – the rose or the cucumber. However, these two elements were very complimentary to each other, making the drink very enjoyable.

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Othmanthus tea ($4)

A classic oriental drink, with a bitter-sweet flavour, which was a perfect compliment to the dishes we had.

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Homemade crisps (complimentary)

These crisps were thin, crispy and had a hint of spicy flavour. They were a great start to our meal.

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Ssambab: yangnum smoked eel, puffed wild rice in a big nasturtium ($7.50 each)

This dish was fantastic. There was a contrast of flavours in this dish – the smokiness and saltiness of the eel contrasted well with the freshness and softness of the leaf, while the rice had a crunchy, smoky and a little spicy flavour. This was a very elegant and modern take of a traditional Korean dish.

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Spanner crab and black garlic on seed biscuit ($7.50 each)

A very good dish. The fresh flavour of the crab was accentuated by the presence of the sesame and the garlic. All the flavours complemented each other well.

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Bibimbap: a bowl of rice with raw scallop, barley, peas and baek kimchi ($33)

Who would have imagined a humble bibimbap could be served in this way? This was akin to eating a whole bowl of the ocean, with the freshness of the scallop shining through. However, the dish also had other intricate flavours, such as the spiciness from the kimchi, the smokiness from the toasted barley and the sweetness from the peas. The contrast of textures, from the crunchiness of the toasted barley to the softness of the scallops, also really delighted our tastebuds. A wonderful dish that simply blew us away!

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Ssamgyeopsal: wessex pork belly, artichoke and carrot kimchi ($34)

The star of the dish was the pork belly which was soft, and melted in our mouths. It was well seasoned, so did not really need any sauce. There was a hint of doenjang flavouring in the pork, and a side of leaves for us to wrap the pork in. These elements demonstrated the traditional aspects of this dish. However, the reduction in the use of garlic and chilli for this dish and the use of artichoke in this dish, made this dish more subtle and refined than its traditional Korean counterpart. A very flavoursome dish.

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Brussels sprout, kimchi seasoning, pinenut ($8)

We recommend this dish be ordered with the Ssamgyeopsal as this complimented well with the pork belly. Eating the Ssamgyeopsal with this dish would give extra flavour to the pork belly. The dish was very tasty, and the use of the pinenuts was a unique addition, which enhanced the flavours of this dish.

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Moon Pie: prune, maesil marshmallow, ginger jelly, graham cracker and chocolate ($14)

This was an elegantly deconstructed version of an American Moon Pie with a Korean twist – the sweetness from the soft, silky and milky white chocolate and the partially torched marshmallow meringue was balanced with the kick from the ginger and the sourness from the prunes. A sublime dessert!

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Warm quince, makggeolli ice cream, puffed rice and orange ($14)

This dessert can simply be called “Rice Cream”. The lightness of this ice cream provided a good base for the flavours of the quince and orange to shine through, making this a nice dessert.

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Moon Park is one of the best modern Korean restaurant we have tried in Sydney, and we would no doubt be back in a heartbeat! The modern twist on traditional Korean food is done extremely well and our dining experience here has been wonderful.
Moon Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Moon Park

Website: www.moon-park.com.au

Address: 34 Redfern Street, Redfern

Phone: (02) 9690 0111

Opening hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 5:30pm to late

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express (surcharge applicable for all cards)

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - Inner City

Pu’er

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Inspired by the great Chinese tea-houses of the world, Pu’er is situated in the trendy inner city suburb of Waterloo, offering patrons with unique dim sum and share dish menu, complimented by a large variety of Oriental tea and tea infused beverages.

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The restaurant has a nice ambience, with Chinese styled porcelain tables and wooden chairs. There is an open kitchen where kitchen staff prepares the fresh and wonderful food from their menu.

We dined there on a Sunday night and the service from the staff was very attentive.

The name Pu’er is actually a variety of fermented dark tea produced in China. To reflect the name of the restaurant, the menu, sitting on a wooden board, consists of a wide range of tea-based drinks, from traditional teas to tea infused beverages. The food menu, however, is more concentrated.

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Organic Misty Cloud $9

We ordered a pot of this tea, and this was served with a pot of hot water warmed by a candle, with the tea brewing in a separate flask, all served on a wooden tray. The wait staff explained how the tea ceremony worked and informed us that the best flavour from the tea would come about after the third infusion. The tea had a fresh nutty sweet flavour which became more subtle and delicate through further infusions.

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Peaches and Phoenix $17

A blend of peach iced tea with phoenix tea, along with a kick of alcohol, this drink was slightly sweet with some wooden undertones, which was very refreshing.

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Mushroom Pot Stickers $7

This pan-fried medley of shitake, champignon and straw mushroom dumplings had sticky skin with subtle mushroom flavours inside. The soft skin contrasted well with the crunchy fillings of mushroom and bamboo. They were lightly fried and were not oily at all. A nice entrée choice.

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Pork and Peanut Dumplings $7

These dumplings were filled with Teo Chew style spiced pork, roasted crunchy peanut and shitake mushroom. The infusion of flavours and textures from these little gems were awesome – we were able to taste the spiciness from the chilli, feel the crunchiness from the nuts, and experience the softness from the skin which absorbed the saltiness from the pork. The skins on the dumplings seem thicker than traditional Chinese dumplings, but we thought this was done on purpose in order for the skin to absorb the flavours of the sauce from the filling. A very enjoyable dish.

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Caramelised Berkshire Pork Belly $24

This main dish appeared small but was really tasty. The first thing we noticed when the dish was brought out was the smell of tea in the air from the dish. The pork was soft and easy to chew, and its meat just melted in our mouths without falling apart. The crackling was crispy and light. This dish had the taste of traditional Chinese tea and spices, which went down well with a bowl of rice. The inclusion of tea eggs was a nice touch and reminded us of Chinese marbled tea eggs. We thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
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Twice Cooked Shandong Chicken $29

This consisted of free range chicken and shitake which was slow cooked and pan fried. The sauce, which had a heavy vinegar flavour, was served on the side. This was a modern rendition of a classic Chinese dish, with the sauce on offer being more sweeter than the sauce from the traditional dish. The chicken was cooked to perfection, with the meat being soft and the skin being crispy. Jono found this dish delicious, but I thought the sauce was too sweet for my palate.

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Lemongrass Pannacotta $10

This pannacotta was served with black sesame soup and smoked melon. The watermelon which was smoked with lemongrass had a weird taste, but apart from that, the texture of the pannacotta was perfect and it went well with the black sesame. This was a nice dessert to end our meals.

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Coconut and Kaffir Lime Leaf Sorbet $10

The sorbet was served in a coconut shell from a young coconut, with coconut water and black sticky rice on the side. The whole dish carried out the coconut theme well. It was subtly sweet and delicious.

Pu’er is a great place where people can enjoy great Chinese food in a setting that is comfortable and open. It is interesting to see how traditional Chinese dishes have been modernised here, and with a pot of tea and a few dishes, we can imagine people sitting here for hours chatting away and enjoying life (as well as the great food and drinks). For the novice in Chinese cuisine, Pu’er is a great place to begin your experience in the variety of flavours that Chinese cuisine has on offer.

Pu'er on Urbanspoon

Pu’er

Website: www.puer.com.au

Address: 20a Dank Street, Waterloo

Phone: (02) 8399 1331

Opening Hours: Tues to Fri, 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to late; Sat to Sun, 12pm to late

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express

By Greg