Hits and Misses @ Bills Woollahra, Sydney

Date of Visit: July 31 2013

Even though I am back in Sydney for a few weeks of R&R, work still travels with me. Yesterday, I had a meeting with an associate who is training for the Blackmores full marathon in September. I had also signed up for the half-marathon, but since I can’t see myself to be back in Sydney for the marathon, I had eased back on training. Moreover, with the cold chilly weather and working on the computer reading up and replying litigation emails to idiots – seriously, dudes if you ever engage lawyers don’t let them make you out to be such morons – had made me too lazy to go outside for a run. So, starting August 1 (tomorrow), I am going on a diet…

Better still, why not start today since Mom suggested a light lunch at Bills? She wanted to have their Tuna Poke, but unfortunately, the tuna poke she fancied was no longer on the menu. So, here is a piece of iPhoto memory – a bowl of red translucent tuna sashimi slices, avocado, tomatoes, parsley, samphire (those tiny salty crunchy green veggies that grow along the coastal line which ones has to forage), sesame seeds which has barley underneath and seasoned with soy sauce.

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Tuna Poke

Bills is a busy cafe, where most of the patrons are ladies (of leisure). The outdoor sitting area with heaters is a fantastic spot to catch some sun. With the wind chills and spot of drizzle, we opted for indoor seating instead, for that, we had to wait for 20 minutes, so we went shopping.

Woollahra is a leafy shopping village with quite a few fashion boutiques (international labels includes Akira, Collete Diningan, et al), organic grocers (e.g Whole Foods, Simon Johnson), home furnishings, antiques dealers and galleries, besides the usual cafes of course.

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Al fresco dining in Queens Court

A quick twenty minutes later, we are back, with our shopping in tow…

Mom ordered Ocean Trout Salad which had rice vermicelli under the salad of sugar snap peas, watercress, mint and coriander. The grapefruit imparts a sweet tanginess that tarted up the perfect ocean trout. The dressing was a simple dash of fish sauce.

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Crisp Ocean Trout, Ruby Grapefruit, Coriander and Chili Salad ($22.00)

As for yours truly who is staying faithful to her ‘diet plans’, I ordered the healthy anti-oxidant superfood of Quinoa Salad. There were a lot of sunflower seeds mixed with the quinoa, the wedge of lime did wonders to furnish sourness to beetroot and carrot shavings on the salad. Overall, a satisfying and appetising salad that hope to replicate at home!

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Quinoa, Sprouting Sunflower, Beetroot, Chilli and Feta Salad($19.50)

My Bro who joined us for lunch had the more hearty Veal and Pork Ragu Pappardelle. No doubt it was hand-made in the house by the look of the thick unevenly cut pappardelle. It looked small, but was absolutely filling.

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Veal and Pork Ragu, Pappardelle, Tarragon, Lemon and Parmesan ($24.50)

I like going to Bills for light salads which are easy to assemble at home and I often learn a thing or 2 from dining there.

More iPhoto memories from past visits…

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Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

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Vitamix quickie – Chilled tomato and cucumber soup

A busy cafe has its off-days, and here is a pic of my Raw Green Salad looking totally sub-standard, with 1 piece of chopped bean (yes, I counted!), bits of veggies and simply tossed up!  If one is not a regular, I suppose this is the last straw!

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(Sub-par) Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

An astute businessman, he has his latest cookbook ‘Easy by Bill Granger’ on display. I am at odds whether to get it.

His cookings are quite Asianised, little wonder since he was co-owner/founder to Billy Kwong which chef Kylie Kwong later took over. The kimchi rice is very popular and whenever I have visitors from overseas, I would suggest they order this spicy rice dish (with comes with a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce – the one with a picture of the rooster – and this is pushing the authentic button). However, it was the corn fritters and truffled eggs that made Bills’ name, and they are available in the all-day breakfast menu.

Bills has 3 cafes in Sydney and expanding overseas. I often wondered at Japanese tourists who trekked to Woollahra for lunch in his cafe. It only clicked when I saw his one of his cafes in Tokyo. He is one heck of an global entrepreneur indeed – who’d think one can launch an empire from cooking eggs?

At the time of review, Bills scored 79% out of 157 votes

Bills on Urbanspoon

The Liebster Award

Gosh! I’ve been nominated for The Liebster Award by Hari of Hari’s Got Tales. I’ve been following him for a good couple of months now. I really enjoy reading his blogs of recipes and interesting Indonesian Chinese-Peranakan tales of superstitions. Do check him out!

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Liebster is an loving German term and that mean ‘sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome’.

The Liebster Award is kind of a pay-it-forward blogger award. The rules are: If you receive one you must answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who awarded it to you, list 11 random facts about yourself, and then come up with your own 11 questions for the 11 bloggers you choose to bestow the award upon.

Hari had asked me the following questions and my responses are:

1. Name some of the most extreme foods you have ever eaten.
A snakes’ fest, where we have 9 courses of dishes made from snakes.

2. Name a thing you would not eat (not because of religious reasons), even if someone pay you lots of money to eat it.
Definitely not eat ‘Balut’, (duck eggs that have been incubated until the fetus is all feathery and beaky, and then boiled alive. Apparently, the bones give the eggs a uniquely crunchy texture!) *shivers*

3. How far have you ever traveled for food?
My family likes taking the car out for a spin in the country during weekends, and we have a few restaurants that we like and will drive a couple of hours to eat there. I guess this is not much about ‘traveling for food’, but family-bonding time.

4. What is your personal policy about food in the bedroom?
I don’t eat in my bedroom.

5. Where is the most unusual place you have ever dined in?
At an active volcano in Indonesia (pictures below)

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On the summit of Mount Kerinci, looking across to crater lake of Gunung Tujuh

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At the edge of the volcano

6. Name three kitchen tools you are allowed to bring If you – in some crazy scenario – have to live in a deserted island for a month, where you have to eat whatever you can find there.
I travel light. I’ll just bring along my chopper

7. If you are given the chance to launch your own perfume, with a condition that it is going to smell like food, what flavor is the main chord going to be?
Cinnamon – I like exotic spicy smells.

8. If you are a contestant in a cooking pageant – is there one? – and you have to cook something that represents yourself, what would it be?
Shanghai wonton

9. What do you think about “junk” food?
I call them ‘indulgent‘ food! And once in a while is OK.

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You call this bowl ‘junk’?

10. What is the worst thing you have ever eaten to impress someone or to “save you face”?
Err…mom’s cooking (when she’s in her experimental stage)

11. What is the best advice about food have you ever gotten?
Eat up and worry tomorrow! (The second part is me when I’m on a diet 🙂 )

11 Random Facts About Me
1. I love peanut butter – I can survive on peanut butter alone
2. I am part Manchurian
3. I am allergic to the shellfish
4. I love exercise
5. I have titanium pins in my leg from a trail-running accident, and I am still running.
6. I am a shopaholic
7. I am a perfectionist
8. I have amassed a huge cookbook collection, despite the fact that I don’t cook
9. I am a certified sommelier
10. I am always on some-kind of fad diet
11. I hate housework

The Liebster Award is a clayton’s award, meaning there is no real award. It’s existence is merely for fun and a way of discovering new blogs.

Drum rolls for my nominees, please!
1. Travel tales from Danny and Vivian: http://lifeabouttravel.com
2. Renxykyoko’s Space: http://megaworthit.wordpress.com
3. Life of a Gwai Mui and a HongKonger (Anecdoctes on intermarriage): http://myhongkonghusband.wordpress.com
4. YQ Travelling (Currently studying Spanish in Peru): http://yqtravelling.com
5. Nathan Dulce (Foodie’s blog): http://nathandulce.com
6. Tulips in March (Foodie’s blog): http://tulipsinmarch.wordpress.com
7. Foodie’s blog: http://eilxrrrworld.wordpress.com
8. Viva Japanesque (Japanese foodie’s blog): http://raipohangaround.wordpress.com
9. Writing about her happy daily life in Japan: http://happyuan.wordpress.com
10. Conversations with Locals in China (Anecdotes on life in China): http://chinaelevatorstories.com
11. Two youngins and their silly stories in a city of 24 million people: http://sillyinshanghai.wordpress.com

My questions for my nominees
1. Why are you blogging?
2. What is your favourite cuisine?
3. If you could have one wish, what would it be?
4. You have 10 bucks. What do you do with it?
5. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
6. What is your proudest moment?
7. If you could do it all over, what would you be doing right now in your life?
8. What can you not live without?
Since I find the following questions asked by Hari very intriguing, I am going to recycle his questions:
9. Name a thing you would not eat (not because of religious reasons), even if someone pay you lots of money to eat it.What’s your favorite site/book/thing you share with people?
10. If you are given the chance to launch your own perfume, with a condition that it is going to smell like food, what flavor is the main chord going to be?
11. If you are a contestant in a cooking pageant – is there one? – and you have to cook something that represents yourself, what would it be?

As time consuming as this can be, I hope my Nominees accept this award by passing it on! Cheers! x

Dining Lebanese in KLCC @ Al-Amar, Pavilion KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: Numerous times since 2011, the latest visit being November 2012

Tabouli is basically a salad of bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, mint, green onions, olive oil and lemon juice. Simple as it is, I love tabouli very much. I love the zingy sharp acidity of lemons mixed with the robust flavours of mint, parsleys and shallots. When I first arrived KL, I often went to Al-Amar for my tabouli fix. Although their tabouli is overly masticated to a pulp, I still went there for their Tabasco-ey tabouli which included the hot red chili padi that suited the Malaysian tastebuds.

Yes, I know tabouli is easy to make at home, but getting my hands on the fresh herbs was a chore for a new arrival especially since the supermarket downstairs does not have a complete stock of fresh herbs and I don’t know where the market is.  Anyway, how convenient was it to have one of Malaysia’s Best Restaurant at your doorsteps right?

Anyway, here is the review of my last visit from a while ago:

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Tabouli

The nice thing about Al-Amar is that each table gets 2 types of complimentary breads together with olive oil and seasoning salts.

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Baby Bagels

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Pita breads

Normally one would order the mezze plate of assorted hummus, but why order them if one can whizz these dips easily at home? (Chuck a can of drained chickpeas and a drizzle a bit of olive oil, then blend in the blender).

Foods in Al-Amar tend to be on the sour side.   If you crave for something really sour, I recommend the Dolmades (rice stuffed in vine leaves and marinated in lemon juice and olive oil) or what they call Warak Enab in Lebanese for appetiser.  A really sour finger food which jolts one awake, this is a welcoming respite after all the sweet Malaysian fares eaten in KL.

The restaurant has a huge oven on display, so naturally one would ordered grilled dishes.

I ordered Lamb Kofta, which came with more bread, spices and onions – warranting no complaints from me. (for the adventurous, there are raw lamb meats too!)

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Lamb Kofta

The oven baked Snapper looked festive sitting on a bed of lettuce and surrounded by lemons, tomatoes and onions.  It was a delicious fish.  Tarator dressing (made from more lemon juice, yoghurt, oil and nuts) was paired with the fish if one wants more flavour.  In the midst of eating, we realised that the fish was not cooked in the middle so we had to send it back, which was a negative.

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Oven Baked Fish

We had a bottle of Lebanese red wine from Chateau Musar which I thought  was rather special, as this was my first time tasting vino from the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia  (Interesting history read up here ).   It’s a young fruity wine, with a nose of rich red fruits, cherries and violets. The tannins left a long velvety touch hinting towards dark fruits at the end.

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Chateau Musar Jeaune Red

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Interior

The interior harkens to Aladdin’s caves with red furnishings and exotic ornaments which is rather dated, but still attracting Middle-Eastern clienteles.   The restaurants serve huge buffet spread during the weekends.  A perfect chance to sample all the offerings the restaurant has.  I definitely recommend Al-Amar to the vegetarians, raw foodists and those who wanted something savoury and tart, away from the unctuously sweet dishes.