Pho Viet

11 John St, Cabramatta NSW 2166

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Located on one end of the busy, John Street in Cabramatta, Pho Viet like many of the restaurants nearby serves Vietnamese dishes. It can be quite overwhelming when you first visit the street, as there are quite a number of Vietnamese dine-ins to choose from. I had my eye on one particular dish that they were known for.

Visited for brunch, so it was not difficult to grab a table even when distance restrictions were in place. The establishment is quite spacious inside, casual in dress-code and I recommend wearing your most comfortable clothing so you can eat in peace haha. Their menu encompasses entrees, rice noodle soups, egg/clear noodle soups, signature dishes, vermicelli, clear vermicelli, udon, congee and rice dishes. The soup dishes are almost all customisable, in terms of its base and noodle type. I found the price to be low-mid range, which was surprising as they were quite generous with the amount given. I couldn’t finish all that was in my bowl! As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try one of their signature dishes ‘handmade noodle with prawn, meat crab and pork’. Honestly, this dish was extremely filling, the yellow noodle was a perfect blend with the peanut broth. Pork was thinly sliced, the prawns and crab cuts added sweetness to the overall dish.

Pho Viet also takes delivery, so you can eat their homely, generous amount dishes from the comforts of your own home! If you want to start eating your way through John Street, start with Pho Viet and work your way up.

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KorBQ

13 Petrie Plaza, 2/131 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT, 2601

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A hidden gem in the bustle of Canberra Civic, you might just miss it and unfortunately miss out on the deliciousness of the meals! Book ahead, since the restrictions are still enforced and there are limited seatings. Also, I don’t believe I saw a second level, just the ground floor. Reserved for a 6pm dinner and one by one, the tables slowly filled up. There were high and low tables, with ample seating for large groups. The seats on the low tables were super comfortable.

Immediately seen from the interior, KorBQ sets itself apart by serving both traditional and modern Korean cuisines. The menu was exciting to browse through and not too hard to follow. You are given a variety of dishes to choose from, meat bbq cuts, fried chickens, soups, bibimbap and big-pots. Since we were three that night, we opted for a set menu, so we can try the various meat bbq cuts and the additional sides! The quality of the meats were delicious, evenly cut, clean and the right amount for the group. The sides were just as great, with the ox bone soup being a major highlight for me and their kimchi fried rice. The set menu we ordered was called ‘After Work Refill’. The creamy fried chicken was yes, creamy without it being soggy. The chicken’s taste reminded my of KFC.

Service was efficient and friendly! I loved how timely the food came out and the waiter didn’t have to change the grill. KorBQ can be found across two branches, the other in Belconnen. A great dinner to catch up with friends, family or for after work dine in, as you are sure to work out feeling well fed. Dishes are mid-range priced, casual in its dress code and you are sure to be eating in comfortable furniture. I highly recommend KorBQ, as they set the bar high for how Korean BBQ should be presented and served.

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Wing Shack

1/178 Sunnyholt Rd, Kings Park NSW

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Wing Shack had opened its doors in the last few years, with the vision to cater America-style fast foods.  The restaurant, otherwise seen as a ‘professional looking market stall’, is situated next to the busy Sunnyholt Road in Sydney’s west. Parking is limited in front of the restaurant, so you can always park in the fronts of the other stores along the road. Otherwise, the nearest train station, Blacktown station, is a good 10-15 minute walk.

There was a slow influx of American-style restaurants opening up in Sydney, with a tiny amount located in the western suburbs. From the exterior, Wing Shack looks just like any casual Australian eatery, with laid-back service, high-tables with matching high-seats and food served in takeaway containers. No reservations of course, but the good thing during this time are takeaway services! Wing Shack is found on two major Australian delivery services, Uber Eats and Menu Log.

It must just be the food that has the American influence. I ordered from the single counter and on its side was decorated with packs of soft drink cans. The menu showcases a range of chicken mains, from American Southern chicken wings, whole tenderloins and Nashville style spicy wings and whole tenderloins. Pieces can be bought in 2 or up to 5 pieces, price averaging around $7 to $28. The buttermilk biscuit was highly reminscient of Popeye’s version, are buttermilk biscuits a popular item in America? Wing Shack’s biscuits were much more on the softer, milkier side than Popeye’s. The single loaded fries was cut in my favourite type of cut, as shoestrings. The fries were crisp with the right amount of salt and the added cheese sauce, shallots and bacon bits gave that needed final fatty topping. The tenderloins were evenly crisp on the outside, almost flaky and what I enjoyed was how it was not too oily. The skins were awesomely thick and the inside was evenly cooked well! The original tenderloins I ordered were not overly juicy, more on the leaner side. My partner ordered the Nashville spicy tenderloin, which I avoided because it was spicy. This was served with white bread slices and pickle slices.

Wing Shack’s meals will absolutely fill your stomach to the brim. The chicken pieces are quite hefty, so it’ll make a decent filling meal. However, the taste for me was quite mediocre, I was expecting something juicy, exciting and something not so Australian.

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VN Street Foods

294 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204

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Situated along Illawarra Road’s line of ethnic restaurants, you’ll find an almost hawker-like style setting serving authentic Vietnamese food and drink specialties. Now who doesn’t love authentic Asian cuisines? I’m a sucker for it and VN Street Foods had definitely met my expectations.

Came to VN Street Foods for an early dinner, the restaurant would generally open around 10:30am until 9-10pm, 7 days a week! It is not far from Marrickville station, which I recommend taking as supposed to parking along the busy street. As most local, food businesses in Australia, you can either dine in or order as a take-away. But I recommend coming in and sitting either inside or outside, eating the scrumptious Vietnamese street foods. We had no reservation made and I’m not sure if they do take reservations. That evening however, which was on a weekday, we were able to quickly grab a small-wooden table. The inside was already filled with people, not surprisingly as the inside was quite small. The cashier counter was decorated like a Vietnamese food stall, there was also a small number of imageries of the culture hanging on the walls.

What shocked me with the menu was how ridiculously cheap the dishes were! The portions were not those insanely small plate-sized ones, but your average for-one-sized plates. It made it so much easier for me to add two more sides to try out, alongside our main dishes. Dishes were categorised under rice paper rolls, sides, rice vermicelli, rice dishes and pho. I ventured out a little on the visit, ordering myself the steam sticky rice with stewed pork belly with egg. I might have ventured out a little out of my comfort box, as the stewed pork belly was tasty but the texture was almost ‘mushy’, that it felt odd. Every other dish we ordered were not doused with too much sauce and oils, all very clean tasting. I loved the bright colours, presentation and overall taste. Service was prompt and came out in a timely manner.

Not too far off from Sydney’s west, I recommend traveling a little to try authentic Vietnamese food in the heart of Marrickville. The prices are insanely affordable with no negative affect on the quality and service. A casual atmosphere, which you can enjoy dinning in throughout the day until the late night. Due to its size, it may be better to bring in a small to mid-sized group.

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Miss Margarita

2 Jonson St, Byron Bay NSW 2481

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A popular Mexican restaurant, opened back in 2012 alongside some other lively eateries on the famous Jonson street, Byron Bay. Unfortunately you cannot make a reservation at Miss Margarita, so you either have to come in early or be willing to wait in line.

There are street parking in front of the establishment and in front of the beach, which is only a few minutes walk down. Miss Margs serves popular and fun Mexican dishes, from fajitas, tacos, nachos, burritos and so much more across lunch and dinner. The quality was simple, yet exciting to the palette when we came in during dinner time. There’s so much to choose from and I don’t think you can go wrong with ordering, as the dishes, drinks and atmosphere of the place mixed fabulously. Prices were mid to high end range, which is understandable as the area they are in, is populated with both local and non-locals.

Service was prompt and the waitstaffs were quick on their feet, very friendly too. It does get loud, so talking whilst dinning is a bit of an effort. However, the music establishes the fun atmosphere of Miss Margs. The interior has bits and pieces of Mexican art and colours that brings vibrancy to the restaurant. The layout is quite tight, with the majority of tables set indoors. The wide-open windows however, extends the tight space to make it seem larger than it is. I liked how this was designed, it made the cramp space more breathable and look a bit rustic.

I wouldn’t recommend the place for a quiet, romantic dinner plan. The ambience is casual, hip and would be a great place to dine in before the night starts! Miss Margs has an extensive drinks menu too, from cocktails, margaritas, cold beers and some wines. You’re also so close to the beach, which you can definitely feel the breeze come in, making the dinning experience even more special. Miss Margs is a local favourite and one of the restaurants in the town you cannot skip!

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Popeyes Robinson Galleria

Level 4, Robinsons Galleria, Ortigas, Quezon City

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I had waited for a few days after the grand opening, to avoid the crowds, to finally visit Popeyes in Robinson Galleria. You will either have to be a massive chicken lover, a fan of Popeyes already or be an adventurous foodie. As I fall in the later, I finally had the chance to taste a well-known food outlet in the Philippines! I don’t think I’ll be heading to the America anytime soon, so this was my lucky day.

If you already don’t know, Popeyes is the second-most popular fried chicken fast food restaurant, just behind KFC. The fried chickens come in a variety of mild to spicy flavours. I can’t take spicy food, I’m a plain jane. The chicken skins were super crispy, not oily and was almost dry internally and externally. The chicken were more on the leaner side, so if you like lean, non-fatty chicken pieces, Popeyes’ chicken might make you happy. I wasn’t a fan to be honest, if I get junk food, I expect fluffy, juicy and meaty chicken pieces. The chicken burger was a boring let-down, the sauce used was almost watery and it felt like there was no effort in its creation. You can just make a better chicken burger at home. The honey dip however, gave the signature chicken pieces the needed sweetness, which was a great compliment to its almost bland taste.

The serving size of the meals were average to small, you might need 3-4 chicken pieces to feel satisfied in the meat department. Surprisingly, Popeyes were serving spaghetti, maybe to subtly be able to compete with Jollibee? The spaghetti was less sweet than Jollibee’s version and I feel like that was the only difference. The cajun fries and cajun-style gravy were standouts, it helped set the meal apart from other food chains. I enjoyed the cajun seasoning, it made the fries seriously addicting to eat and they were the thin, crispy kinds. The biscuit was not exciting, it was the poorer, sadder version of KFC’s white bread rolls. The chocolate did not help cover the dryness, very bland taste of the biscuit, after one bite I was bored. The creamy crab soup was not overly creamy and mine had tiny bits of crab. Nothing special, it was a watered down crab soup.

Food came out pretty quickly and since we came when the hype had slowly died down, we were also able to grab ourselves a table. Meals were moderately-low priced, great for a quick fix or a family-day out to get that junk fix. I guess I was expecting a bit of soul out of these meals, but alas might need to actually go to America.

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Sarsá Kitchen + Bar

109 Rada, Legazpi Village, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

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If you are new to the Filipino food scene or just want to revisit the comforting taste of the culture, in food form; Sarsa or otherwise known as Sarsa Rada has got you covered.

Nestled along  the busy street of Makati, Rada, Sarsa is one of the few well-known restaurants in the food scene of Legazpi Village. I had come in during dinner, before the restaurant had slowly filled up and was greeted with almost shy waitstaffs. I had made a reservation prior, because of how busy restaurants can be in the city, it would be a disadvantage to not secure a table prior to arriving. We were led to our table and I kept thinking the restaurant reminded me of public communal spaces, almost comforting, bright with natural tones, with small and large tables. There was a great blue coloured wall, with patterns that reminded me of what I used to see at my old folk’s place. The spacious layout and different sized tables, would be great to host parties and group events. Funnily enough, across our 2 seat table, there was a corporate dinner. I don’t know about parking, it would be better to grab a Grab to drop you off nearby.

Sarsa is a small sized restaurant, other words a bistro, that serves your familiar Filipino-Negrense cuisines. Headed by Chef JP Anglo, who further manages are number of Sarsa branches, focuses on presenting cuisines that embodies Filipino heritage with new dishes every six months. Unfortunately, you won’t see him cooking in the kitchen. I’m no expert on Negrense food, however through my experience in visiting Sarsa, it was not all too far from Filipino cuisines I have grown up eating. The menu has got a few dishes under its appetiser, mains and dessert sections. The mains are further broken down into soups, noodles, seafood, chicken, beef, pork, rice and vegetarian. I found the menu easy to navigate, mainly because Sarsa captures cuisines that are identifiable with Filipinos. Top it off with a variety of available drinks, such as shakes, juices and local beers, you won’t go wrong in the food pairing. I highly recommend their halo halo, which was ample with all the sweet goodness and not missing the beat in what makes an enjoyable halo halo. The kare kare was superb, the peanut sauce was interesting bright dark-orange which was smooth in texture and blended with the stew’s contents. I had just wished there was more beef in the stew! The beef was tender, not overly dry and still retained its taste, not being overpowered by the peanut sauce.

Be sure to wear something casual and flexible, allowing you to devour the mains maybe paired with garlic rice, another main, drinks and then dessert in peace. The ambience is relaxed, with not-so attentive waitstaffs and don’t be surprised with the wait-time for the food to come out. Filipino food, due to its immense emphases on sauce and flavour does take time to create.

I would revisit for a family event, or another type of event or when I just need that comfort fix. Bring your friends along if they’ve never tasted Filipino food before, Sarsa’s menu has the variety for them to pick and match from. The price is mid-range, serving size for a main is actually great for one person, but I think the setting calls for larger gatherings around delicious food.

Order (10% service charge):

  • Sarsa Kare Kare 395.00php
  • Garlic Rice (2 at 50.00php) 100.00php
  • Pancit Palabok  245.00php
  • Halo Halo 145.00php

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Bob Marlin

Magsaysay Ave, Concepcion pequeña, Naga, 4400 Camarines Sur, Philippines

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Going down south from Manila, means getting to try another area’s local cuisines. Bob Marlin is known to cook up Bicolano dishes, which you will definitely be able to see in their extensive menu. The restaurant has got you covered in the sizzler, specials, soup, crispy department and much more!

Bob Marlin is situated in what seems to be the eat street of Naga City. You won’t miss it, they’ve got a massive sign, with a swordfish. Best to pre-book, we came on a weekday and it was filling up slowly during the evening. Service staff was quick on their feet when we came through. Food came out fairly quickly as well. I enjoyed the ambience, it was almost homely, the restaurant had that laid back vibe. From memory we ordered garlic rice (size was perfect for 3 people), crispy pata, bicol express and I forget what type of fish we ordered. I really enjoyed the crispy pata, the meat was soft, juicy and very clean. Like, it wasn’t over-the-top oily, which was a major plus. The skin was crispy and what I appreciated was the it wasn’t extremely chewy. The bicol express was great as well, the coconut taste was slight, bummed that the amount was quite small.

If you’re in the city, I highly recommend this restaurant. You won’t be paying a lot and you definitely have to order their crispy pata. Bob Marlin is a great place to start, in introducing Bicolano dishes!

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Nikkei

G/F Frabelle Business Center, 111 Rada, Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines

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Treated at Nikkei for Valentines Day, and my partner knows how much I enjoy Japanese cuisines. There are 3 other branches in other popular cities and this was our closest. When he mentioned the restaurant was serving a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, I was super excited!

Let us first talk about the interior, which was gorgeously simple, with the wood accents covering both the ceiling and furnitures. The restaurant is quite cozy, fitting a small amount of people, which you are sitting very close to other diners. Wait staffs were attentive in refilling glasses, removing empty plates and was easy to get their attention. Food and drinks came out timely, all presented in an appealing way. From the plates, plating and interior, everything was balanced.

I am no Peruvian food expert, but it is evident from the Japanese cuisines, that there are slight twists to each item. Playfully colourful, each dish had its own unique texture, whilst staying consistent to the combined culture-fusion theme. The highlights would have to be the flamed edamame (surprisingly addictive), house-made ice cream scoop, kurobutoa gyoza and the miso soup! My bowl which had the grilled squid was ok, the grilled squid was comforting but unfortunately everything else in the bowl was bland. There’s a good amount in the bowls, so if you plan to eat small plates, skip the bowls. Cocktails were created beautifully, highlights would have to be their yamazaki umeshu and orange prosecco.

Everything was priced mid-range, a great place to explore fusion dishes, catching up with friends, lovers or for business meetings.

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Chatkazz

Shop 4/14-20 Station Street East, Harris Park NSW, Parramatta, New South Wales

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Chatkazz is located next to the bustling Parramatta CBD, in Harris Park. There is limited parking; I recommend taking a train to Parramatta station, as the walk from the station is only about 2 minutes.

The restaurant specialises in Indian street food, from chapatta chat, south Indian, chatkazz de parathe, pizza, Mumbai roadside specials and Bombay Chinese dishes. I forgot what dishes we purchased that night, but overall the quality was delicious! The sweetness in the dishes were tastefully done right. The texture of the curry was creamy and had so much flavour and fullness to the taste. I really appreciate fresh watermelon juice and the juice I got was perfect. Service was attentive, friendly and the dishes came out in a timely manner. With so many dishes to choose from, definitely pace yourself and try a few! I love seeing the orange, reds, yellows and brown colours of Indian cuisines, it just looks so appetising.

Chatkazz has two branches, the other in Bella Vista. There are plenty of tables, both inside and outside the restaurant, great for families, couples and friends to dine in. On a busy night, the restaurant sure does get loud, but it adds to the almost homeliness ambience of the place. Price is mid-range and serving size of most dishes is perfect for two people.

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