Saturday, 18 June 2011

3Some – Germany

Argyle Street                                                                                  
The Rocks NSW 2000                                  
Bavarian Bier Café    
Various sites across Sydney       

133-135 Broadway
Ultimo, NSW 2000
(02) 9211 3805

Category: Just Got Paid ($50 - $100)

Dear Fellow readers,

I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read and follow my reviews thus far. I am adding a new segment to my reviews whereby I pin 3 similar restaurants up against each other. These segments will come in addition to my usual reviews, and instead of reviewing the restaurants separately given they are so similar it would only make sense to put them up against each other.

So here we go, welcome to the inaugural 3some! – This segment, Germany!

I would like to mention that these 3 are clearly not the only German style pub restaurants around however given all 3 are within the city and surrounds I felt it appropriate to work with these.

So now, where to start…

Well, firstly, I think it important that we establish that of the 3 restaurants, 2 have similar markets, whilst 1 goes for a slightly different crowd. Essen was established in Darlinghurst over 30 years, and in 2005 moved to Broadway, it runs a philosophy of serving good honest hearty German meals at a reasonable price, with decent beer and a great atmosphere. The other draw card is that after 30 years the restaurant is still under the same ownership.

Now in the blue corner, we have the Lowenbrau; its history stems back to the late 1300s, where it was first established as a brewery in Munich. Nowadays it is a bustling beer hall nestled in the rocks with a separate bar and dining area, along with its own ‘Uberbar’ based upstairs with even more dining area, and in the red corner is its younger but more diverse brother. Newer, more locations, and fighting for a more up-market crowd think of it as a 21st century version of its less nimble older brother.

I should also note both are part of the same company so funds and revenue go to the one spot, however for the sake of the food, let’s take them separately. Actually, this is also quite difficult as the Lowenbrau and Bavarian menus are more or less identical.

To put quite simply however, if you are looking for a more quiet-ish night out with friends and or family then Essen is a good spot, the food good, however given its family style food, the menu lacks the size of its immediate competition and its pork knuckle is roasted too, but unfortunately without that heavenly crackling crust. The deserts also are a little small and the service could have been a little quicker. We had to wait about 10 minutes for drinks to arrive and our mains took about 45. Despite this, it was not a bad place. How does it fair in comparison to Lowenbrau and Bavarian though? Not good unfortunately, and I am sorry to say that with the other 2 options in place, I find it hard to find myself back at Essen, despite the fact its food is a little cheaper.

As for the Bavarian and Lowenbrau, both will give you a good time. I personally tend to think the food comes faster and is better and with bigger servings at the original with the Bavarian being a little more ‘corporate’ in its approach. Let’s face it, German food is suppose to be big and beautiful, and whilst I like the idea of making the cuisine more ’slick’ and elegant, one should not change something that was never meant to be.

The atmosphere at Lowenbrau is also second to none, with the Oompa Loompa band in the background, the service fast, my pork knuckle took 15 minutes and was reaming with the crunchy, salty, crackling skin to die for. The flesh itself moist, soft and not overcooked either. Put simply…brilliant. The desserts here are very generous too. Anyone of them could easily feed two so unless you are super hungry, just order one. The sticky date and bread and butter both are very good.  

As for the Bavarian, on each occasion I have been there is a sense of well, arrogance about the wait staff and atmosphere, its darker, there are more suits around and the service lacks engagement and a sense of urgency. The food also seems better presented, however I never feel like I am eating a hearty German meal. It’s more like being at a pub which serves German food. It lacks the atmosphere, despite its several beautiful locations (Wharf at Manly overlooking the water, in the heart of the CBD business district and inside an old church at Parramatta).

All in all, if you can make it, head to the Lowenbrau. Ps. Obviously, it is all about the beer too! So make sure you sample up and to make it feel like the real deal kick start things with a salty big pretzel.   

Bottom Line:
All 3 establishments will set you back around $80 for 2 (main and desert).   


Food                            6.5/10
Service                        1.5/3
Décor etc                    2/3
Cleanliness                  2/2
BONUS                       0.5/2

Total                           12.5/20
Bavarian Bier Cafe
Food                            6/10
Service                        1.5/3
Décor etc                    2/3
Cleanliness                  2/2
BONUS                       0.5/2

Total                           12/20
Food                            7/10
Service                        2/3
Décor etc                    1.5/3
Cleanliness                  2/2
BONUS                       1/2

Total                           13.5/20

(02) 9247 7785           

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Malaya

39 Lime St
King St Wharf
Sydney, 2000
(02) 9279 1170

Category: Just got paid ($50 - $100)

Every now and then, on a rare occasion you find a place that you can come back to again and I have been here 2 times now, or is it 3? Regardless, I would return…

The location is strong, picturesque some would say. You are on the water, in the heart of the ‘prosperous’ part of town and away from the tourists in Darling Harbour. The setting and decor is simple; open plan and large with a long open kitchen. There are spots along the glass wall parallel to the water which are fabulous and quaint for a more romantic affair and the inner tables suit well for gatherings with friends and families. It seems Sydney is into ‘darker dining’ and this place is no exception, with the menu requiring some reading in certain areas of the restaurant due to the dim lighting.  

The service is sharp, it comes with a smile and the wait staff are knowledgeable around the menu and relatively laid back. We are a little further back in the restaurant and closer to the open kitchen, the noise level increases given we a little stronger with the kitchen in close proximity. All in all there is a nice buzz to the place; people having a good time, couples enjoying a night out and some you can who are clearly on a date! The wine list is not extensive, however the drinks is made up with a strong selection of cocktails and mocktails to kick off proceedings (this seems the way to go).

For entrée we opt for the Satay sticks (chicken) and in the past we have tried the Otak Otak (fish paste wrapped in banana leaf then grilled) both are satisfactory without being amazingly good and the  all important Satay sauce is a let-down. It’s not bad, just not fabulous. The mains however, is where it all comes to life. The Kapitan prawns (make sure you get the ‘with batter’ version) and the Sichuan eggplant are well… not to die for, but both very very very good, and clear signature dishes. Succulent, juicy king prawns, lightly battered and fried before being plunged into a light and very tasty gold coloured like sauce.  The eggplants are cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, properly cooked all the way through and tossed with a delightful chilli sauce. Beware, the eggplant is hot, and if you happen to accidently bite a chilli (as my friend did, and you may given the dim lighting) you can be sure that you will need lots of water.   

Outside these two shining stars, the remainder of the menu is rather ‘normal’ with little to write home about. To be honest, without these two dishes, I probably would not return. Their other chef’s specials are ok, without being great. The manu is also quite expansive,  with all the regulars you would expect of a Malaysian restaurant. Laksa, noodle dishes, beef rendang etc. I personally, think there is a little too much choice. The desserts are pretty good; the lemon tart on offer was generous, and had a real lemon zing to it wihout being too heavy, and though you don’t have an extensive selection, there is enough on offer to keep most satisfied. 

Despite the somewhat lacklustre menu (minus the prawns and eggplant) however, this is proof again that a couple of stars is good enough, and you do not necessarily need a team of champions to succeed. Proof of this is clearly visible as you will find the two stand out mains on most tables and whenever you mention the restaurant to people who have been the first things that they mention are the prawns and the eggplant dishes.

Overall, I like this place. Whether it be a friends gathering, a romantic evening with my wife, or even a family affair, it suits all of them well. There are enough decent support acts also to complement the star dishes and the service is effective, efficient and friendly enough also. The pricing is also very reasonable. Quite simply put… this is a place with great location, good food, good service, and good value, and with that it’s no wonder they are always packed. So make sure you book!    

Bottom line:
Despite being a great place for a romantic night out, it is probably best with a group of 4 so you can sample and share more, so grab 3 friends! $50 a head will see you well covered, and this include a drink!

Food                                        7/10
Service                                    2/3
Décor                                      2/3
Cleanliness                           2/2
BONUS                                    0.5/2

Total                                       13.5/20

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Dip @ GoodGod

55 Liverpool St
Chinatown, Sydney, 2000
(02) 8084 0587

Category: Cheapo ($0 - $50)

This is an interesting one… Given, it is not a stand alone restaurant, and is paired with a bar perhaps it is designed not be a place to come and eat, but more a place where friends catch up over a drink and order more ‘bar like’ food. Despite this detail, the Dip has its own website and even a name, suggesting that it is serious when it comes to food. Should this be true however, I am sad to report that it does not quite make it… actually, it falls well short…

The ’restaurant’ (it calls itself a canteen) itself is tucked away at the back of the GoodGod small bar. The entrance is dark, and in the basement. The décor is, well… pretty average to be fair and the choice of music in the restaurant area is annoying. To make matters worse, it sounds like the music is on a 30 minute rotation.

The service is something that many restaurants could learn about. The ladies are friendly, co-operative and came with a great smile. Pity about the food…  

After some debate, we agree (I enforced actually) on the banquet. This comes in two 2 forms, a $24 option and a $28 option. The a-la carte is ok, however for actually dinner and if you have friends, this is preferred. The extra $4 buys you a desert and an extra side. This banquet includes corn chips with 2 different dips, fries with tomato salsa and cheese, charred corn, nachos, stir fried snows peas, apple coleslaw, cookies and cream and your choice of a hot dog, burger, or  bean dish…  not bad for $28   

Now, let’s dissect it all… the corn chips were fairly average to be fair, tasteless and the accompanying dips tasted like something out of a Woolworths packet. The fries with tomato salsa and cheese are a good-ish idea, however practically is messy, and I did not really see much cheese. The Corn was probably the highlight, it comes with a side of mayo and pepper and all compliments nicely… this was good.

Onto the main event… the burger.

Unfortunately it was a let down… when one eats a burger there should be a sense of enjoyment, a sense of ‘yes, this is it,’ but my kangaroo burger tasted lifeless, and also had a fishy taste to it? My friends informed me the hot dog was good… but not $12 good. A Harry’s Hot Dog De Wheels is only about $6 and I assure you, worth every cent in comparison.  

The support acts are mediocre, snow peas were fine, and the apple-coleslaw is ok. The famous pulled pork nachos were a little too sloppy and lacked freshness for my liking and the dessert tastes like 2 subway cookies separated by a scoop of sara lee ice-cream with coles chocolate topping…

Let us keep in mind though, for $28 this was a lot of food… not great food, but food none the less food. So from that perspective, at least you will not hungry.
Given this place is a bar first restaurant later, you expect the drinks to come through trumps, and luckily they do. A quirky cocktail list which you purchase by the jug sets you back around $30 (gives around 4 drinks) and the rest is not bad either, a decent whisky and spirits list hits back to counter the poor décor and food.    

Overall, the food is… well, terrible. Sorry. There are several, no lots of places and establishments that make better tasting food for a simnilar price, if not better. Amazingly, this is someplace I would come back with a mate for a drink (just don’t eat) as despite the average decor and music, it works...  and their is the whole ‘underground thing’ which I always think adds an element of surprise and sexiness. Plus, the service was very good, efficient, friendly and came with a genuine smile too. I guess also if you are looking for a cheap-ish feed and wanna feel a bit dirty coming out the other side then it ain’t so bad either.    

Bottom Line:
If you must come here to eat (god knows why) I would suggest against the a-la carte as it is terribly poorly priced but the banquet will leave you satisfied. $28 will ensure you leave feeling well fed (albeit poorly fed).

Food                                       4/10
Service                                   3/3
Décor etc                              1/3
Cleanliness                          1.5/2
BONUS                                   1/2 – This is for the funky cocktail jugs

Total                                       10.5/20