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Sunday, May 03, 2015

La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville



Hearts of palm salad, cactus salad, ceviche and tortilla soup at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville

There’s something you need to know about the huaraches gigantes here. It’s not gigantic – it’s colossal. The 40cm long torpedo of homemade fried tortilla dough laden with chicken, chorizo, capsicum, lettuce and fresh cheese is called a huaraches because it looks like a sandal of the same name.

Huaraches gigantes homemade tortilla at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Huaraches gigantes $22
40cm long homemade tortilla with refried beans and your choice of chicken, beef or chorizo

Maybe that explains why it can be a little chewy in parts, but its density means there’s no chance of sogginess from the avalanche of fillings on top. In addition to the enormous huaraches, there’s a whole range of South American dishes to explore from this grandma’s kitchen (La Cocina De la Abuela in Spanish) in Marrickville.

Huaraches gigantes homemade tortilla at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Huaraches gigantes on the table

Tables and decor at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Tables and decor at La Cocina de la Abuela

The owner’s Uruguayan heritage makes an appearance in the chivito al plato, a thin piece of steak with pancetta, ham, cheese, fried egg and chips, as well as Grandma’s Milanesas beef schnitzel. The walls are resplendent with embroidered sombreros and colourful piñatas and fresh flowers on every table are a thoughtful touch. It’s quiet when we visit for a Sunday dinner but we expect things to pick up once word gets out about their tortilla soup.

Tortilla soup sopa Azteca at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Sopa Azteca $11.50
Traditional tortilla soup in Guajillo broth

The tortilla soup is thick and deep red in colour, piled with a mountain of deep-fried tortilla shards. There’s a complexity of heat and spice in every spoonful of this textural soup that combines soup-swollen tortilla bits at the bottom and still-crunchy tortilla straws at the top. Strewn across the top is a cool scoop of guacamole and crumbled fresh white cheese (queso fresco).

Cactus salad ensalada de nopales at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ensalada de nopales $12.50
Cactus salad with tomato, Spanish onion, avocado and queso fresco

Cactus salad is a rare treat that’s worth ordering. The cactus pieces come tossed through with red onion, tomato wedges, guacamole and more queso fresco.

Hearts of palm salad esalada de palmitos at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ensalada de palmitos $11.50
Traditional hearts of palm salad

We dig the hearts of palm salad too, mixed with green capsicum in a creamy dressing.

Ceviche with tortilla chips at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ceviche $12
Fresh fish marinated in lime juice 

Continue the Mexican fiesta with tamales steamed in banana leaves and slow-cooked chicken with mole sauce. Don’t forget the ceviche either, bright and zingy with lime and surrounded by crunchy tortilla chips.

Dining room with lanterns at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Dining room with lanterns

Hearts of palm salad, tortilla soup, cactus salad and ceviche at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Hearts of palm salad, tortilla soup, cactus salad and ceviche

She might not be your maternal grandmother, but drop in on this Marrickville matriarch and she’ll treat you to a South American feast without any surly questions about what you’re doing with your life.

Creme caramel flan at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Flan $9
Creme caramel

Latin American restaurant La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville


La Cocina de la Abuela on Urbanspoon

La Cocina de la Abuela
208 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9569 3331

Opening hours:
Lunch Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday 6pm-9pm, Wednesday to Saturday 6pm-9.30pm, Sunday 6pm-8.30pm

This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online

Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/03/2015 12:00:00 a.m.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Surly's, Surry Hills

Smoked bbq pork spare rib at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills

American bbq? Sydney still can't get enough. The newly opened Surly's combines a laidback American bar - complete with neon beer signs, bar stools and widescreen TVs - with a hearty rib-sticking bbq menu of smoked brisket, cornbread and fried chicken.

Surly's is the latest venture by the Parlour Group, the same group behind Riley Street Garage and The Stuffed Beaver. In the kitchen is Brendhan Bennison, a bonafide Southerner who's keen to serve up the best barbecue from across the USA.

Fried chicken with potato salad at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Fried chicken with potato salad $14
Three pieces with choice of side

The menu is huge. We're talking bacon cheese fries, buffalo wings, a whole deep-fried battered onion and tortilla chips with chilli con carne - and that's just the starters. A philly cheesesteak is a welcome sight and there's a nod too to fusion food with a smoked pork shoulder banh mi. The Surly beef burger is a modest $13 and there's also a veggie burger, "for all you whining hippies" the menu says.

It's no surprise that we order the fried chicken, three pieces of on-the-bone chicken that sadly comes with a thick - and somewhat undercooked - batter. We get the potato salad as our included side, reminiscent of Japanese potato salads with its slightly smashed cubes mixed with carrots and peas.

Smoked beef brisket bbq plate with cornbread at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Beef brisket bbq plate $19 
(your choice of two sides with homemade cornbread)

The American barbecue plates don't kick off until dinner time, somewhere between 5pm and 6pm. There's pulled pork and chicken thighs available but we zero in the beef brisket. We score four thick slices of meat piled into a basket with onions, pickles and cornbread. The brisket isn't as fatty as we're secretly hoping but there's some good smokiness in the skin. It's a DIY job with the barbecue sauce bottles on each table. I prefer smoky barbecue sauce over the chipotle variation, dunking the brisket generously into great big puddles it.

Green beans and bbq beans at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Green beans and BBQ beans

We go with the two different beans as sides to our brisket. The barbecue beans have a hearty meatiness, and the green beans are the palate-cleansing veggie quota you need between mouthfuls of meat.

Smoked bbq pork spare rib at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Pork spare rib bbq plate with coleslaw and mac 'n' cheese $20
(your choice of two sides with homemade cornbread)

Pork spare ribs win out over beef ribs when we place our order. It's a well-rewarded decision, scoring two ribs that are the picture of juicy pink. Our side of coleslaw is a zingy combo of red cabbage and carrot; the mac 'n' cheese brings back memories of the Kraft blue box from our childhood. The macaroni elbows are drenched in a thick and salty cheese sauce.

But the pork rib. Oh boy. The meat comes clean away from the bone, there's a generous layer fat between the meat and the skin, and the smokiness is mellow and lingering.

The vibe is relaxed and casual, and they have a load of craft beers on tap. All that's missing is a pecan pie for dessert. Then we'd totally be set.

Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills


Surly's on Urbanspoon

Surly's
182 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 3705

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 12 midday to 12 midnight


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
American BBQ - Papi Chulo, Manly
American BBQ - Oxford Tavern, Petersham

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/25/2015 12:59:00 a.m.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mr Bing jianbing pancakes, Chippendale

Jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale

Who said Sydney doesn't do street food? The jianbing is a streetside snack you'll find all over Beijing and Taipei, a thin pancake or crepe cooked to order and eaten hot and fresh off the griddle. They come with all kinds of fillings, but a cracked egg is mandatory, the egg yolk and egg white swirled across the top so you get an omelette and pancake all-in-one.

Mr Bing, a self-declared Asian Wrap Artist (heh), only opened late last year but has quickly gathered a loyal uni student following. How have you missed them? They're a literal hole-in-the-wall takeway, positioned on City Road in-between the Lansdowne Hotel and Toby's Estate. Broadway Shopping Centre is only a few hundred metres away.

Jianbing menu at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Mr Bing Asian Wrap Artist menu

Everything's under ten bucks on this concise menu. The Chinese-style jianbing pancakes include the classic you tiao fried bread stick as well as meatier variations including a peanut chicken (Chookie Run), beef patty (Moo the Cow) and Korean barbecue pork (Miss Kim).

The Taiwanese-style ABT is lighter on the filling but cheaper too - that's ham and cheese, pork floss and crackers or all of the above for $5.90 or less.

Spreading the jianbing pancake batter at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Spreading the pancake batter on the hot plate

The open window gives you a standing view of all the kitchen action. The griddles you often see used for French-style crepes are repurposed here for making jianbing. They even use the same wooden paddles.

Spreading the jianbing pancake batter at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Flattened pancake

First goes a ladleful of pancake batter, smoothed out to an even thinness.

Cracking a fresh egg over shallots and jianbing pancake batter at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Cracking a fresh egg over shallots on the jianbing pancake

Add a handful of shallots and crack over a raw egg while the pancake is still cooking.

Spreading the raw egg across the jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Spreading the raw egg across the pancake

The raw egg yolk and white is broken up and pushed across the surface of the pancake.

Egg cooking on the jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Egg cooking on the jianbing pancake

What you get are pockets of egg yolk and egg white cooking on top of the jianbing pancake.

Flipping the jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Flipping the jianbing pancake

The entire pancake is flipped in an impressive display of precision and speed.

Grilling spam on the hotplate at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Grilling spam on the hotplate

If you order extras of spam like I did, they get a gentle crisping on the outer edge of the griddle.

Brushing sweet bean sauce on the jianbing at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Brushing sweet bean sauce onto the Mr Bing jianbing

My Mr Bing pancake gets a generous brushing of sweet bean sauce.

Adding garlic chilli sauce to the jianbing at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Adding garlic chilli sauce

This is followed up with a layer of garlic chilli sauce. brushed evenly across the surface.

Sprinkling sesame seeds onto the jianbing at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Sprinkling on sesame seeds

Shake out a handful of sesame seeds for crunch.

You tiao fried bread stick and coriander on the Mr Bing jianbing at Mr Bing, Chippendale
You tiao fried bread stick and coriander on the Mr Bing jianbing

And add a deep fried bread stick and a sprinkle of fresh coriander.

Taiwanese streetfood jianbing at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Taiwanese street food lunch ready to go

It all gets wrapped up in greaseproof paper and handed to you in a brown paper bag.

Taiwanese tea drinks at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Taiwanese drinks including milk tea, jasmine tea and black tea

Add a Taiwanese tea drink for $2.50.

Chookie Run jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Chookie Run $8.90
Chicken with peanut sesame sauce, crackers, sweet and sour carrots, fresh salad and coriander

If you're lucky, you'll score one of the four wooden stools out the front. If you ask extra nicely, they'll give you a paper takeaway box so you can take photos of your lunch before it gets eaten.

The Chookie Run is one for the peanut fans, chunks of chicken doused in a runny peanut sesame sauce and wrapped up with salad, pickled carrots and bits of crushed crackers.

Mr Bing jianbing pancake at Mr Bing, Chippendale
Mr Bing $7.90 with spam $2 extra
Fried bread stick, garlic chilli sauce, sweet bean sauce, sesame seeds and coriander

My vote goes for the original Mr Bing. It's all about the texture here: soft egg crepe, crunchy fried bread, a sweet and saucy mix of bean paste, garlic and chilli, plus the refreshing pop of coriander and sesame seeds. Add Spam just because you can.

Swing by for lunch or an early afternoon snack. They have two new menu items too: Taiwanese braised beef and crispy fried chicken bites. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Taiwanese jianbing pancakes at Mr Bing, Chippendale


Mr Bing Gourmet Wrapz on Urbanspoon

Mr Bing
20 City Road, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (0)404 093 479

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10.30am - 4.30pm
Saturday 10.30am - 2pm
Closed Sundays


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Chippendale - Brickfields
Chippendale - Ester
Chippendale - LP's Quality Meats
Chippendale - Something for Jess

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/19/2015 05:45:00 p.m.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Taste of Cho at Market City, Haymarket Chinatown

Taiwanese deep fried chicken at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown

You know which one I'm talking about. There's a food kiosk in Market City that always has a queue of people twenty-deep no matter what time of day. There's a good reason. Taste of Cho doesn't just cater for homesick Taiwanese uni students. It's freshly cooked. And cheap.

Constant queue at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Constant queue at Taste of Cho

It's often hard to get a look at the window of available options for the day through the mass of people lined up in front. Dishes vary each day, and I've noticed that some don't make an appearance until late lunch time - cereal prawns, I'm looking at you.

Frying chicken in the onsite kitchen at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Frying chicken in the onsite kitchen

There's an impressively large kitchen onsite, equipped with deep fryers and several wok burners. You can spy on the kitchen staff as you wait.

Canteen-style service at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Canteen-style service

Join the queue and try to work out what you want to order before the far-too-efficient staff have a chance to intimidate you and you end up pointing wildly at the closest item in a panic. Most people order a meal box with rice (two choices for $7.50, three choices for $9.50) or you can skip the rice and get the dishes on their own.

Cold marinated ox tongue at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Cold marinated ox tongue

Deciding what to have is the hardest part. There's a wide range of hot food - Taiwanese fried chicken, three cup chicken, braised pork belly and more - as well as all kinds of cold cut meats dressed with chilli and vinegar. Pescetarians get a look-in with prawn omelettes and spicy fish cutlets, and vegetarians always get a good selection of fried gluten options, vegetables and tofu.

Fried anchovies with chilli at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Fried anchovies with chilli $2 for a small box 

Fried gluten with mushrooms at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Fried gluten with mushrooms

Cereal prawns at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Cereal prawns

Taiwanese fried chicken at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Taiwanese fried chicken

Plated lunchboxes at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Plated lunch boxes ready to be picked up

Taiwanese fried chicken, pork belly and three cup chicken lunchbox at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Taiwanese fried chicken, pork belly and three cup chicken $9.50 for three choices with rice

The three choice lunchbox gives you a chance to try a little bit of everything. The three cup chicken (so named because the original recipe allegedly called for a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil) has a balance of saltiness with sweet, and the braised pork belly is soft and inviting with its layers of fat between tender flesh.

Taiwanese marinated beef shin at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Marinated beef shin with coriander and chilli $2 for small box

The side dishes are tasty too, adding a little pep between each mouthful of your main. The marinated beef shin is cool and refreshing, with a tangle of fresh coriander and sliced chilli.

Taiwanese marinated ox tongue at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Marinated ox tongue with cucumber and chilli

I also dig the marinated ox tongue, tumbled with crisp wedges of cucumber.

Braised pork belly with bamboo shoots at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Braised pork belly with bamboo shoots $4

Eliminating the rice component gives you more room to focus on the good stuff. Four bucks for a small dish is unbeatable value. You can see why so many people end up getting takeaway for dinner.

Spicy fish cutlets at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Spicy fish cutlets $4

I'm impressed when I score two spicy fish cutlets for $4 too. They've been deep-fried then drenched in a spicy marinade that is sweet and sticky.

Taiwanese deep fried chicken at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Deep fried chicken pieces $4

And you know I couldn't resist the deep fried chicken. I get this every time. The chicken fillets are lightly floured and then plunged into the deep fryer until golden. They're ridiculously addictive although they tend to make you thirsty later on.

Taiwanese pickled vegetables at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Taiwanese pickled vegetables $2

The Taiwanese pickled vegetables are a great replacement for rice, allowing you to refresh the palate and then continue to plough through the deep fried bonanza.

Good times for less than $10? No wonder there's always a queue.

Taiwanese deep fried chicken at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Giant woks in the kitchen

Lunchtime queue at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown
Lunchtime queue

Dine-in seating at Taste of Cho, Market City Chinatown


Taste of Cho on Urbanspoon

Taste of Cho
Market City
Level 1, 9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney

Open daily 10am-7pm (til 8pm on Thursdays)


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Market City - Poporo
Taiwanese - Cho Dumpling King, Haymarket
Taiwanese - Taipei Chef, Artarmon
Taiwanese - TeaPlus, Burwood

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/12/2015 06:21:00 p.m.



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