Monday, October 31, 2011

Reality bites Sydney Food & Wine Fair

It’s the end of another year for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival and the month of October is fatter and less cashed up for it. Unfortunately though, as the festival gets bigger and stronger every year, one of my favoured events – the Sydney Food & Wine Fair in Hyde Park – seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

It’s a real shame as it used to be one of the biggest days in the year for food and fundraising alike. With so many other events now for marketing to the masses or mini empires to run or indeed, financial troubles, perhaps restaurants just can’t spare the day, staff and 500 donated portions of food.

Sydney Food & Wine Fair, Hyde Park, Sydney
Nonetheless the mostly rain free, insanely humid day was pleasant, and well done to all those restaurants involved (see list at the bottom of this post). The noon mugginess meant it was impossible to walk by the James Squire stall and not stop in for the One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale – a relatively light drinking beer, subtle, fruity and just perfect for the day’s heat.

Confit Berkshire Black Pork belly, Chinese cabbage salad, citrus
sesame dressing from Restaurant Atelier
Drool-worthy smells were emanating from the nearby Restaurant Atelier stall where ever-popular confit pork belly was served with a refreshing and crunchy cabbage salad with touches of sesame oil. The pork was stunning, tender, not noticeably fatty and with a pleasurable slight crunch to the burnished skin.

Mushroom arancini and tomato arancini by Danny Russo at the Alfa One stand
The theme was Italian at the Alfa One stand where chef Danny Russo was pumping out squid and arancini skewers – both dishes cooked with the rice bran oil (every dish also came with a 500ml bottle of the oil).

I was pretty happy to have scored three of the mushroom arancini which were heady with earthy mushrooms and cheese, while the tomato one featured a subtle cheese that really paled in comparison to the former.

Pane Casereccio from Brasserie Bread
Passing by the Brasserie Bread stalls I spotted Matt Brock from the bread making class I was lucky enough to attend not long ago and stopped in for a chat. They had on offer festive-looking pane casereccio which I’m told is commonly eaten after big parties and gatherings in Italy where leftover bits, like olives or baked vegies, are baked into bread.

Thanks to Matt for the complimentary dish, it was such a pretty bread to eat with each mouthful yielding a different taste. Indeed there was almost more fillings than bread, and this was enjoyed very much with a glass of sauvignon blanc from the Giesen stall.

Ribs, lamb cutlet and potato salad from Outback Steakhouse
Most popular stall/dish of the day had to be the one at Outback Steakhouse. It was definitely the biggest dish going and the one I could smell a mile away, such was that magnetic aroma of ribs on the grill.

Presumably beef ribs for their Flinstones size, they were incredibly tender and doused in a barbeque sauce that was equally sweet and smokey (which some other places could really learn a thing or two from).

The charred lamb cutlet was also cooked nicely (medium-well is always safer at these types of settings) while the tangy potato salad rounded out the filling dish.

Cured ocean trout with tapioca pearls, salmon roe and microherbs from Selah
Most beautiful dish of the day had to be that at Selah, which also impressed at last year’s Fair. It was a gorgeous treasure trove of tapioca pearls and salmon roe with a hunk of jewel-hued cured ocean trout featuring beneath microherbs and bready bits.

And not only did it have looks to die for, the flavours and textures were spot on: the soft tapioca with pops of salty salmon roe, and the strong flavoured ocean trout having a party with the herbs and more subtle tapioca. Congratulations to Selah for yet another ‘wow’ dish.

Ice cream petit fours from Booza
With precious few vouchers left for desserts, it was great to see the Booza stall selling their wares for a mere voucher each. Recently making headlines for their new take on a traditional dessert (and residing in the same factory as Pepe Saya butter), these two balls of ice cream were each covered in Middle Eastern additions.

The pistachio praline was crunchy and rich with a burnt caramel toffee, while the halva had an interesting texture and sweet sesame flavours. And it’s hard not to adore the Persian fairy floss that was intensely nutty and just the perfect finishing tuft on the dessert.

Aside from a couple fat drops of rain that threatened, the skies remained clear and the entertainment pushed on, including an impressive cheerleading routine with flips, pyramids and all.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Aids Trust fundraiser will pick up next year: with peak interest in all things food and restaurants at the moment, I’m hoping the empires will consider participating in what is truly a fun, fantastic day out for a good cause.

Burgers from Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
Participating stalls at this year’s Sydney Food & Wine Fair were: 1945, Alfa One, Alio, Allpress Espresso, Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Booza, Brasserie Bread, Brown Brothers, Brown Sugar, Café Sydney, Catalina Restaurant, Cracka Wines, Eat Fit Food, Exchange Café, Flying Fish Restaurant, Forsyth Tea and Coffee, Gastronomy, Giesen Wines, QVB Tea Rooms, Guillaume at Bennelong, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Jamaica Blue, Jimmy Liks, La Mint, Le Pelican, Lisa McGuigan Wines, Longrain, Malt Shovel Brewery, Mezzaluna Ristorante Italiano, Tom Kime Fish & Co, Negociants Australia, New Zealand Wine Growers, New Zealand Wine Online, Nilgiri’s, Outback Steakhouse, Packed Lunch, Red Ribbon Prizes, Restaurant Atelier, Ryde TAFE, Scarborough Wine Co, Selah, Stonewall Hotel, Tempus Two Wines and Yellowtail Wines.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Goodbye charcuterie, hello Asian flavours at Bar H

The first time I had dinner at Bar H, I pretty much fell in love with the place. I thought it was perfect. It may well have been a combination of the food, booze and company but I remember being completely and utterly content with the world - which is all too rare a state.

So I was a little surprised when I learnt of Bar H's change in tack earlier this year; that despite the awesome reviews, they were turning to the Asian flavours chef and owner Hamish Ingham cultivated at Billy Kwong. Goodbye, gorgeous charcuterie.

Crispy pork wontons with sweet chilli sauce at Bar H, Campbell Street, Surry Hills
The drowned my temporary distress in happy hour cocktails at Bar H as I dug out a voucher for a shared banquet with a glass of wine each on a drizzly night. Given Ingham's calibre, I had no worries about the quality of the food to come, but just had to stop myself from making comparisons to 'last time'.

Seats looking out to Campbell Street helped change the scenery, as did the crispy wontons, folded classically like tortellini and served with a house sweet chilli dipping sauce. Somewhat chunky fillings differentiated these from the average wonton, and I can definitely imagine a bowl of these going down nicely with beers as bar food.

Cucumber and black fungi salad
The pickled cucumber salad starter seemed  fairly classic Chinese, with the addition of black fungi and a restrained addition of chilli. I've always been a fan of pickles and it's great to see them on more and more restaurant menus.

Calamari salad with radish, herbs, black fungi and mushrooms
There was a choice of two entrees as part of the voucher deal but our waiter claims the calamari dish as his absolute favourite, and I can totally understand why after just one bite of the squid.

It's ridiculously tender in an exquisite just-cooked fashion, and is dressed in a well rounded, tart dressing that's also complementary to the mushrooms (enoki and another I forget) and more black fungi. With mint and thin slices of radish tossed through, this stunning dish showed how Ingham has an amazing handle on salads that allows each individual ingredient to shine.

Braised beef short rib with black bean and chilli
With a choice of two mains, the continuing rain made it all too easy to choose the braised beef short rib. When the generous sized dish arrived, I was a little worried that I was only armed with chopsticks to attack the big chunks of beef.

But served without the bone, I needn't have worried. I probably could have eaten the big chunks with a teaspoon, they were so fall-apart tender. The flavours of sweet dark soy and salt-rich black beans played equally strong parts, accompanied with lots of steamed rice.

The lettuce beneath soaked up a lot of the saucy flavour, while coriander was just the thing to lift the thick richness of the braise.

Roasted kumera with pickled leaves
As a side, the roasted whole sweet potato in its skin was topped with more pickles and from memory, a lot of white pepper, with the sweet, mushy orange flesh perfectly comforting.

Kumquat sorbet
Dessert wasn't part of the voucher deal, but we found space for the Asian-inspired sweets. A choice of house made sorbets each had an Asian feature ingredient.

It was the first I'd ever heard of a kumquat sorbet, so it had to be that. And it was kumquat in a true form; sweetened but with that definitive bitterness of the little citrus fruits. The quenelle of sorbet was served on a slippery black tile, with fine chocolate shavings all over.

Sticky rice and red bean donuts with anise ice cream
More substantial were the glutinous rice "donuts" filled with sweetened red bean paste; a take on Chinese jin deui. I adored the anise flavoured ice cream they were served with while the donuts themselves were a little heavy and rich with oil, but a fun, creative approach to traditional Chinese.

Looking back at the warm yellow hues of the cosy restaurant, I think the ambience and design of the resturant are definitely one of my favoured aspects. But even without charcuterie and cheese plates this time, Bar H has impressed again, especially the salads. So it's a happy hello to the Asian flavours - hope you're here to stay.

Bar H on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cocktail Island: On an island with nothing but booze

If I were stuck on a desert island, I'd want with me drinking water, entertainment (Wilson?) and perhaps Bear Grylls - for survival reasons only.

If I were stuck on a World Heritage Listed island in the middle of Sydney Harbour, I'd want with me good company, sunny weather and a barman or 20 to make me nice, cold cocktails though the day (preferably not too sweet). And did I mention lots of booze?

Cocktails at The Island Bar on Cocktaoo Island
(image courtesy of The Cru Media)
The Island Bar has re-opened for the its second season as the warmer weather arrives, having hosted the very popular Brancott Estate Rugby Island Bar last month for the Rugby World Cup.

But now, powering ahead to silly season, the Cockatoo Island bar is transforming into a two-day festival over the weekend of 19-20 November (Saturday is already sold out! Monday, 21 November 2011 will open exclusively for trade).

The festival provides cocktail lovers the chance to meet some of the nation's best booze blenders (read: bartenders) in cocktail masterclasses, cocktail tasting rooms and a piazza of cocktail stands on the island's Convict Precinct.

Cockatoo Island to be transformed into Cocktail Island, 19-21 November 2011
It sounds like a fabulous opportunity to not only drink some cutting edge cocktails but learn a little from the masters; such as Jason Crawley of Mixxit and founder of Zeta Bar, and international guests such as tequila expert Julio Bermejo. There will be tonnes to learn on the history of spirits and cocktails, global trends as well as making cocktails at home.

The hands-on, interactive masterclasses will include The Vodka Academy by Russian Standard, Baking with Tequila with Dr Kern and Melon Liqueur with Aussie bar star Manuel Terron. Cocktails will be created using spirits brands including Hendrick’s Gin, Absolut, Jameson, Midori and Chivas Regal among others.

From The Island Bar launch last year
Cocktail Island will open from 11am to 6pm each day of the festival, with online admission tickets priced at $15 (plus booking fee; cocktails, samples and food not included) or $25 on the door.

Drinks will be available from $6-8 Cocktail Island Dollars with additional ferries from Circular Quay running over the weekend. See the website for more information and tickets.

There will be booze, there will be many cocktails had, and there will be fun at Cocktail Island!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ms. G's: The mod Asian squad

Some things can be hard to describe: why you like someone, an intricate dress, Sydney streets that veer off and change names mid-way through.

And although I'm immediately reminded of a chimpanzee enclosure when I head up one flight of stairs at Ms. G's, the menu is a little less obvious - modernised Asian in most instances, but certainly spanning the entire continent. Mod Asian, pan Asian and thankfully not overly fusion Asian.

Ms. G's, Victoria Street, Potts Point
It's a Tuesday night and it appears the initial hype and hysteria of Ms. G's has worn off. We're easily able to get an individual table for two, while the communal table never reaches its capacity all night.

The service is unexpectedly professional for the youthful setting of the restaurant with mismatched crockery, and even water top-ups seem to be one waitperson's priority all night long. Specials are proffered, including an enticing Momofuku-'inspired' pork chicharrons starter, but we stick to the normal menu given so many dishes already entice.

Plate o' Ms. G's pickles
I was very impressed with the plate of pickles: I'm accustomed to cucumber and gherkin, onion, carrot and peaches even, but the green capsicum, very red cabbage, thinly sliced fennel and celery were eye-openers.

The pickles were not overly sour, while maintaining an audible crunch - especially the unidentified round, red-orange pickle but not so much the kim chi and radish - and it was just a great starter to whet the appetite.

Jow's sweet and sour lamb ribs
One gripe I would have about the evening was the random and harried arrival of some dishes to the table. We hadn't even started on the pickles, nor received our drinks, before the lamb ribs arrived - which I would have expected a little later. There were several points in the evening where tabletop Tetris was necessary to fit all the plates on; although no other table seemed to have this issue.

Gripe aside, the lamb ribs weren't my pick of the menu, but I was definitely a convert after the first meaty rib bone. They had to have been deep fried for that unexpectedly crunchy surface texture while the sweet and sour sauce was a few iterations in sophistication over Chinese takeaway.

Lamb ribs are known to be highly fatty, but we didn't fare too badly with our portion, while the abundant herbs and lime added freshness and helped it all along.

Banh mi: pork belly (left) and chicken katsu (right)
These little baby burgers have been pretty hyped up; perhaps overly so. The pork banh mi features a deli pork slice similar to what you'd get in a Vietnamese pork roll, but the fatty chunk of pork belly on top of it leaves it for dust. The flavours in the pork are sensational, packing a punch along with the flavoured mayonnaise and coriander.

The chicken katsu is comparatively pedestrian whilst still being pleasant in its crunchy panko crumb, similarly oozing orange mayonnaise all over the thin, pickled vegetable strips and soft white burger-esque buns.

A virgin Ocean Mary
The waitress helpfully tells us that any cocktails can be made alcohol free; this featuring Ms. G's Bloody Mary mix, seaweed and gherkin sans vodka. Even booze free, this was a flavour-packed drink with much more of a spiced chilli kick than a classic version.

Good Morning Vietnam cocktail
My bubble tea packaged cocktail features shochu Japanese spirit shaken with raspberries, lime, palm sugar, Vietnamese mint and soda. There's a little more novelty over quality sadly, as it tastes rather bland with perhaps an excess of soda.

Nonetheless, it's a new experience to be drinking something alcoholic out of those thick straws, and perhaps a reason in itself for the relatively light alcoholic kick.

Ms. G’s grilled corn on the cob, parmesan, lime
The corn cob arrives as an impressive mess of parmesan cheese shavings and smells fabulous. Lime and coriander add the requisite Asian touch, although it also references Mexican elote.

The juicy blackened corn is the star of the show, and healthy at that, and we make sure to wipe up all the cheese possible using the corn cob.

“Spaghetti vongole” – surf clams, summer noodles, chilli, chorizo
This cheekily named dish looks as impressive as it sounds. The fresh noodles are wonderously chewy playing the role of al dente spaghetti while the chilli and chorizo partner the tender clams (pippies?) supremely. It's nice to see some vegetables thrown in here too, as well as more fresh herbs.

I'm a fan of the varied serving sizes at Ms. G's, with dishes like banh mi, pickles and corn ideal as mini entrees. We ended up pretty stuffed with the two larger shared dishes and the rest, and needed a breather before diving into dessert.

“Stoner’s Delight” – doughnut ice cream, chocolate, rice bubble,
pretzel, peanut brittle, marshmallow
There's a lot to tempt on the dessert menu, but I couldn't go past the idea of doughnut ice cream or home-made marshmallows. Stoner's Delight is a big drawcard on the menu, for both its name and combination of lovable ingredients, drug-affected or not.

The doughnut ice cream more than delivers on its promise of being doughy, sweet and cinnamon flavoured. The chocolate rice bubble squares are a little hard to spear with a fork, but take me right back to days of chocolate crackles.

I adore the savoury contrast of the pretzels in hard brittle but I adore even more the tart passionfruit marshmallows, which valiantly and successfully counteract the sweetness on the plate. We share this between two and lick the plate clean.

The overall bill doesn't end up as scary as shared dishes can sometimes be, or perhaps that's just the fairly booze-free evening working its magic. Ducking to the downstairs bathroom, past the very open kitchen, is as much an adventure as the menu, of which I think the mod squad of Dan Hong and Jowett Yu should be proud.

Ms G's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nosey(s) about boutique wine

I won't profess to know anything about wine, really. I'll know if I like a wine or not, and perhaps even why. I have ever-changing favourite varietals, but there's always a standout one or two in lesser liked categories too.

It's all quite complex and at times technical, especially the vocabulary and jargon, so a helping hand never goes astray. A new online initiative designed to make buying boutique wines easier, Noseys is based on a categorisation system of wine characteristics rather than varietals.

Bas Hegge at the launch of Noseys at Sol Lounge Bar, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
So instead of your semillion, chardonnay, rose, merlot and shiraz categories, with Noseys you're looking at Bubbly, Fresh, Mellow, Rich, Rosy, Blush, Smooth, Deep and Sweet - think of it as the nine wine dwarves, if you will. Noseys identify their wines according to these labels and even top the bottles with stickers for your ease of categorisation at home.

Named for the importace of the nose and smell in tasting wine as well as a the fun of a well-maintained curiosity for wines, Noseys stock strictly boutiques wines; those from wineries producing less than 5,000 cases a year. And some of the varietals are ones you're not going to find on the shelves of your local liquor barn: think chenin blanc, petit manseng, zinfandel among others.

Krinklewood Francesca Rose 2010 - in the Rosy category
To launch the website, Noseys had organised a wine degustation taking guests through all nine categories with matching canapes and the opportunity to share wine experiences.

While I probably really needed one of those nifty flavour wheels that proffer some pretty obscure flavours like tobacco and apricot jam, I jotted down my own considered thoughts which I share below. Forgive me for the blank ones or repetitive descriptors, which probably occurs later down the list as I imbibed more and more wine - cheers.

Krinklewood Francesca Rose 2010 (Rosy category): Biodynamic; blend of mourvedre, tempranillo and shiraz; light berries and dry finish.

Oysters natural with fresh lemon (catering by Simmone Logue)
We started on Bubbly actually, paired with the most gorgeously fresh natural oysters with nothing but a squeeze of lemon or lime. It was difficult for the prosecco to outshine such divine oysters.

Le Colture Prosecco(Bubbly category): Peachy frangrance; not as light as a normal prosecco; heavy fruitiness. Reminds me of lemon sorbet after the oysters.

Tartlet of curried crab, mayonnaise and mango salsa
The crab tartlets were to die for - seriously the best thing I think I've ever had in a tart casing. Heavy with lemongrass and other Asian spices, the sweet mango salsa had an unexpected chilli kick - all these big flavours were going to be a challenge for the wine match, I thought.

Geoff Weaver Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Fresh category): Fruity and crisp; reduces the spice hit really well. Pineapple?

Roulade of smoked salmon with creme fraiche & salmon pearls
The canape flavour sensations kept coming. A classic combination of smoked salmon, dill and creme fraiche, topped with uber fresh salmon roe, was worht chasing down the waiter a few times.

Man O'War Pinot Gris 2010 (Mellow Category): Top notes are very, very fruity. Honeyed flavour that's almost appropriate for dessert. One for the sweet tooths.

Vietnamese roll - chicken, cashew nut, coriander & soy dipping sauce
I must have missed the dipping sauce for the rice paper rolls, as I found them a little bland and in desperate need of a sauce. I loved the nutty texture throughout them though; a nice divergence from the traditional.

Patina Chardonnay 2007 (Rich category): Dry but not oaked. Subdued like the rice paper rolls. A light chardy.

Peking duck crepe with cucumber, spring onion & hoi sin
The above mentioned rose and reds were poured with the heavier canape of Peking duck crepes, which I simply adore in most instances. I love that this Chinese delicacy is a fairly standard canape item now, with lots of hoi sin sauce my preference.

Derwent Estate Pinot Noir 2008 (Blush category): Mellow. Dark cherry flavours. Bas' favourite of the lot.

Narkoojee The Athlestan Merlot 2005 (Smooth category)
Narkoojee The Athlestan Merlot 2005 (Smooth category): +++. Absolute favourite of the night. Surprising considering merlot can be very reserved.

Bean burrito with mint, creme fraiche and sun dried tomato
By the time the bean burritos were making the rounds, I was approaching a pretty full state on both the food and drink fronts, but carried on to make sure I got to try every of the nine dwarves.

Patina Mudgee Shiraz 2005 (Deep category): Full bodied and heavy.

Chocolate ganache tart
Dessert was a welcome sight for most, especially with a pretty special dessert wine pairing. The tarts were blissful with gooey chocolate ganache - they would need something pretty sweet to bypass that sugar hit.

919 Classic Muscat (Sweet category): Very fortified. Raisins and Christmas pudding.

There were a few standing at the end of the night and we may have polished off another glass or two of our favourites. We were even gifted with a bottle from the Bubbly category, as if we needed more booze that evening.

Next time I'm stuck for wine and need it home delivered (it happens), I might just head to the Noseys website and have a trawl through the Smooth category - he's my favourite dwarf.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Noseys launch party courtesy of Bas Hegge of Noseys with thanks to Polkadot PR.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Get a wiggle on to last nights of Noodle Markets

I can't believe that it's that time already - the last few days of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park. From here on, it's the Sydney Food and Wine Fair (celebrating its 21st this year), Melbourne Cup celebrations and then a blur to Santa, wrapping paper and New Years.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park, Sydney
The Noodle Markets have been blessed with with clear skies for the most part this year; a pleasant change from some years prior when consecutive days have been a rainy and then muddy.

It was still a little on the chilly side the night I visited, and as ever, the smells were fabulous; the queues were long (though not too slow moving on the whole); and you had to be eagle-eyed to find a seat or indeed a spare patch of grass.

Prawn betel leaf from Nu's
There seemed to be an improved variety of stalls this year and not the over-concentration of Thai outlets like last year. Saying that, we started with a Thai appetiser from Nu's which is a restaurant in the north shore and hence a little unfamiliar to me.

I find Thai betel leaf starters just irresistable, and these featuring prawns, peanuts and lots of shredded coconut were a party of spiced, caramelly flavours. I loved how the flavours come out slowly as I chewed more and more, and only at the end did I notice the surprise chilli kick.

Stretching roti at Mamak
We had the betel leaves as we waited for our order at Mamak, and there was quite a wait. With almost everyone ordering roti and only two roti makers, Mamak boasted one of the earliest long queues, along with Din Tai Fung's dumplings.

Roti telur from Mamak
After a decent wait, we departed the Mamak stall with our order to then zoom about looking for seats. The Coopers sustainable beer garden is seriously appealing, in a more open layout than last year and with pots of herbs all round.

In addition to being relatively comfortable, there was easy access to drinks at one of the bars (decked out with banners declaring Morrisons - whoever or whatever that is); thankfully, as the Coopers Pale Ale was just the thing to tame the fiery burn of the accompanying curry sauce to the roti telur, which was little more filling with egg inside the fluffly roti layers.

Mamak usually serves their roti with two curry sauces and sambal, and this was definitely the hotter of the two usual curries while the sambal exploded with the pungent shrimpiness of belacan.

Satay chicken from Mamak
The long skewered chicken satay are a favourite of many, certainly mine, although I don't remember Mamak's satay sauce being so sweet. Nonetheless, all six sticks are polished off in minutes while raw cucumber and Spanish onion on the side are used to clean out the sauce container.

Peking duck from The Eight
Seeing someone walk by with a plate full of Peking duck sent me straight towards The Eight and Zilver stalls, which sit side by side and share the same menu (and owners). However, at a steep $5 per duck pancake, I reluctantly had to downsize my order.

But in a way, it was worth the dosh as it was near perfect, although there was more duck meat than burnished brown skin and missing shallot. The crepe was warmed soft and hoi sin sauce dripped out, just as it should, with a stick of cucumber for freshness in every bite.

Sweets from St Honore Cake Shop
It's always nice to see the newbies at Hyde Park (especially for a good cause at the Sydney Food and Wine Fair later in the month), which this year include Mamak, Longrain, St Honore Cake Shop and Pappa Roti.

They power along right next to the returnees like East Ocean, JapanCake, Din Tai Fung, Chat Thai, Jackie M Malaysian, Mizuya, New Shanghai, SpanThai and Iron Chef Chinese Restaurant.
Night Noodle Market crowds
And it baffles me every year that the Night Noodle Markets can sustain such crowds, even in its expanded form. It makes Sydney seem starved of reasonably priced events and festivals that everyone can take part in. Apparently there's nothing like noodles to bring people together, especially the CBD rat racers.

Longrain stall at Night Noodle Markets
Making a welcome addition to the Noodle Markets is two-hatted Longrain. Making them even more appealing is that their dishes are priced similarly to most other stalls; which makes Longrain excellent value or everyone else overpriced.

With four offerings for the evening, we're a little disappointed that there's a 'Sold Out' sign slapped over the wagyu beef noodle soup. That's until we reach the front where owner Sam Christie, seemingly camera-happy, pushes towards us a complimentary bowl of the soup noodle (thanks!).

Wagyu beef rice noodle soup from Longrain
A tangle of bean sprouts, chilli and coriander obscures the view initially, but beneath are thick, white rice noodles in a sweet, meaty broth that tastes like it had been going for days. Although the noodles could have been cooked a little longer, the chunks of beef were buttery soft and rivalling the soup for flavour.

Yellow curry of lamb with jasmine rice
Meanwhile, the yellow curry was pretty spectacular, bursting with the flavour of a thousand spices. Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration but we made sure every bit of that curry sauce was mopped up with the rice, while I think the tender chunks of lamb may have just edged over the beef as the winning protein.

Citibank VIP area
Citibank customers were treated to a night under the stars, or twinkling lights, with seating away from all the bustle as well as fortune cookies and the area's dedicated bar; not that the other bars were all too busy early in the week.

Noodle Markets entrance near St James Station
It's fantastic to see a lot of major Asian restaurants now participating in the event, which can't be easy for some of the smaller setups, so well done all round. The Night Noodle Markets are only on for another two nights and the weather forecast is looking promising for a bit of al fresco dining, so get a wiggle on to Hyde Park.


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