Review: Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen, Chatswood

My dad’s not an adventurous eater at the best of times – born and raised on a Cantonese and Shanghainese diet for most of his life, the idea of pasta, schnitzel, or salads for meals are completely foreign to him. Wanting to introduce him to new cuisines, but also very conscious that anything too outside of his comfort zone would be treated with trepidation, I eased him into trying Taiwanese food when he was recently in Sydney for my wedding.

We dropped into Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen in Chatswood for a quick lunch two days after the wedding, before he flew back to Melbourne and we flew to Ballina for our honeymoon.

Baodao sticky rice with pork sauce, $6.60

Baodao sticky rice with pork sauce, $6.60

We started with Bao Dao’s signature sticky rice, which comes mixed with mince and other goodies, before being finished off with a thick pork sauce and egg on top. Dad missed having his usual Chinese lupcheong sausage with the sticky rice, but enjoyed the sweet and slightly chilli sauce.

Soy braised pork belly, $7.70

Soy braised pork belly, $7.70

He was a big fan of the soft braised pork belly – cooked to the point where the fat just melted in your mouth. He did tell me off for not eating the fat off the pork belly (“It’s the best part, why are you leaving it!”), and happily ate the fatty layer that I discarded on my plate. The soy braising sauce had slight tones of aniseed which I enjoyed along with the crisp bokchoy that helped to soak up some of the sauce.

Braised pork belly bun with pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanuts, $4.50

Braised pork belly bun with pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanuts, $4.50

The pork belly bun was a big hit with our group – sandwiched with a soft white steamed bun, chunks of the soft braised pork belly was served with sour pickles, fresh herby coriander, and crunchy peanut shards – a perfect example of textured eating. We ordered two to share between four, but I could have easily eaten one by myself!

Steamed Asian greens with house sauce, $4.40

Steamed Asian greens with house sauce, $4.40

Dad’s not big on vegetables (he’s a big meat eater), but I am! I ordered the steamed Asian greens in an attempt to eat slightly healthier than we had been in recent days, and enjoyed the still slightly crunchy fresh veggies (I prefer my Asian greens slightly undercooked!) in the sweet soy sauce.

Baodao beef tendon noodles soup, $11

Baodao beef tendon noodles soup, $11

The beef noodle soup was a hit with our group as well. While I found the noodles themselves a bit soft (I prefer them slightly al dente), Dad liked how the softness made it a lot easier to slurp up the noodles from the rich beefy soup. You get a healthy serving of noodles here as well, though not as much beef tendon as you might get elsewhere.

Handmade pork dumplings, $7.70

Handmade pork dumplings, $7.70

The pork dumplings came out a lot later than all the other dishes – probably five minutes after all the rest had been delivered in the space of three minutes. I can only assume that they were wrapping the dumplings on order rather than using pre-wrapped dumplings, resulting in a later delivery to the table. With a firm pork filling, these dumplings helped to round off a hearty and homely meal.

Dad was a big fan of Bao Dao, and it really served as an excellent way of introducing him to other cuisines that aren’t too dissimilar from what he’s used to. I think we’ll be visiting more Taiwanese restaurants in the near future to sample other dishes, and Bao Dao will definitely be on our regular re-visit list!

Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon


Review: Town Cafe and Choux Choux Patisserie, Bangalow

On the last day of our honeymoon in the Tweed Valley / Byron Bay, K and I dropped into the quaint town of Bangalow, only fifteen minutes drive inland from Byron Bay proper. A small single-main-street town, Bangalow has the appearance of being slightly more ‘up-market’ than Byron – there’s a few less dreadlocked heads and shirtless surfers roaming the streets, and quite a few more independent boutiques that think nothing of charging $400+ for a plain white Tshirt.

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We walked up and down the main street trying to decide where to go for lunch, and finally settled on Town Cafe and Restaurant. We decided that the place with the longest queue of people waiting to get in was most likely the most popular place in town – and it certainly helped that they had a Good Food Award sticker on their shop window, and numerous positive newspaper reviews as well. While apparently these awards are for their “Uptown” restaurant (upstairs for dinner), their “Downtown” daytime cafe concept is clearly popular with the locals.

Oh So Mojo Iced Tea (Lemongrass, spearmint, goji berries, papaya, pineapple, apple, rosebuds), $5.75

Oh So Mojo Iced Tea (Lemongrass, spearmint, goji berries, papaya, pineapple, apple, rosebuds), $5.75

Given the hot weather we were experiencing that day, I ordered an iced tea to help cool me down. As it arrived with little drops of condensation on the unironically hipster jar, I was only just able to stop myself from eagerly gulping down the beverage so that I could quickly take a photograph. Cool, crisp and palate-cleansing, the icy cold iced tea really helped to reinvigorate me as I was feeling quite lacklustre as a result of the heat of the day.

"The Town Dog" (toasted panini with grilled chorizo & roasted peppers with kimchi), $15.50

“The Town Dog” (toasted panini with grilled chorizo & roasted peppers with kimchi), $15.50

Town Cafe does a number of baguettes and paninis on their regular menu during breakfast and lunch service, but K opted for the panini special of the day – a “Town Dog” which contrary to expectations, isn’t a hot dog at all. Made of spicy chorizo and sweet roasted peppers with optional kimchi with a strong chilli kick, it’s a simple panini that doesn’t try to get too fancy with too many ingredients. The chorizo is grilled to crispy-skin perfection and is very more-ish. Unfortunately, the side salad is a sad and limp mere mouthful of lettuce, adding nothing to the dish.

Gazpacho served with goats cheese & avocado toasts, $12.50

Gazpacho served with goats cheese & avocado toasts, $12.50

Keen on further eating later at the patisserie that we had passed down the road, I opted for a lighter meal of “soup of the day” – a cold spiced gazpacho served with cheese & avocado on toast fingers. Full-bodied but refreshing, the first few spoonfuls of gazpacho really hit the spot – but unfortunately, got a bit too same-ish with every mouthful. If you prefer difference of textures in a meal, this probably isn’t the dish for you! The goats cheese and avocado mix was a real hit though – and will inspire some variations on my usual “avocado on toast” breakfasts from now on!

Overall, Town Cafe is a nice stop for a casual meal, though overpriced for what you get. It’ll be interesting to see if their “Upstairs” fine dining option is any better value, or if it does more than provide an inoffensive and unmemorable dining experience.

Town Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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But look, our dining experiences in Bangalow weren’t all bland and unmemorable. Having had my lighter lunch, I was more than ready to move on from Town Cafe and Restaurant to Choux Choux Patisserie up the road. Having walked past it earlier in the day, I had already earmarked it as my stop for dessert.

Equal parts French patisserie and old-fashioned Australian country bakery, Choux Choux does everything from fancy special-occasion croquembouche towers to the traditional vanilla slice. With a few savoury options as well (sandwiches, pies, pastries, quiches), I found myself wishing I’d had my main meal here as well.

Angelique cake and chocolate jaffa cake, $6 each

Angelique cake and chocolate jaffa cake, $6 each

K and I ordered a little individual cake each – chocolate jaffa for myself, and a custom ‘Angelique’ cake for K. The girl behind the counter explains that the Angelique cake was created by the owner of the bakery, who named his creation after his wife. Now that’s a sweet story!

My chocolate jaffa cake was light and airy, with melt-on-the-tongue orange-y flavour. K’s Angelique cake a revelation though – while it looks like a creme brulee with a toffee crust, the cake is filled with light meringue with a sweet berry centre. With every spoonful of the Angelique cake, you find another layer of deliciousness.

If we’re ever back in Bangalow again, I’d definitely make a stop in at Choux Choux Patisserie – its mix of fancy French fripperies and classic Aussie sweet staples make it an attractive choice for anyone with the slightest semblance of a sweet tooth.

Choux Choux Patisserie on Urbanspoon


Review: The Polish Place and Le Chile Cafe, Mt Tamborine, Gold Coast QLD

On one of the days that K and I left our romantic honeymoon retreat to explore the local area, we drove up through Chillingham in Northern NSW, into the Numinbah Valley in Queensland, before heading on through to Advancetown and Mount Tamborine. It was quite a bit of a drive, and we spent quite a few hours in the car, stopping off for ten minutes here and there as we saw something interesting. K in particular liked spending time inspecting Hinze Dam as he’s a designer by trade, and engineer in training.

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By 2pm though, I was getting quite hangry so we pulled into one of the first places we drove past on Mt Tamborine. It just happened to be the Polish Place on Mt Tamborine, a quaint looking little building with amazing views over the valley. Luckily, I’m always in the mood for pierogi!

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We ducked our heads into the kitschy decorated restaurant itself, only to find it deserted as we had missed the main lunchtime rush. Anyone still lingering around at 2pm were taking advantage of the excellent weather and the view, and sitting outside on their many courtyard tables.

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We did the same and well…the view is breathtaking. Honestly, it kind of speaks for itself, and we were happy to simply sit and relax after a long drive. There’s nothing quite like sipping on a cold drink with a great view in front you.

Polish Spring Salad (Selected fresh vegetables and fruit finely diced, with whole egg mayonnaise and fresh dill, served with Vienna sausage and cheese, bread roll and butter), $19.90

Polish Spring Salad (Selected fresh vegetables and fruit finely diced, with whole egg mayonnaise and fresh dill, served with Vienna sausage and cheese, bread roll and butter), $19.90

We ordered two dishes to share, and the first came out a bit earlier – a Polish Spring Salad. I loved the salad – equal parts sweet fruit and crunchy veggies, dressed with fresh dill, it was a really light and refreshing meal…though I was confused by the inclusion of the slices of Jarlsberg cheese and the Vienna sausage as it seemed quite out of place. Perhaps it would have made more sense if it had been cubed and mixed into the salad, rather than just served on the side?

Meat and Herb Pierogi (Traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat and herbs, served with fried bacon and onion), $25.90

Meat and Herb Pierogi (Traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat and herbs, served with fried bacon and onion), $25.90

The meat and herb pierogi came drenched in a layer of bacon and onion which completely hid the Polish dumplings underneath. Unfortunately, the pierogi weren’t quite to my taste – I found the dumpling skin too thick, and the pulled pork inside too dry. I also found it alarming that there was a thick layer of oil left at the bottom of the plate after we finished eating. Perhaps I’m just too used to Chinese style dumplings with their thin skins and juicy soup insides, and I can’t properly judge these pierogi on their own merits?

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Still, though the food wasn’t quite to my own taste, it’s probably more a reflection of my unfamiliarity with Eastern European cuisine than anything else…especially as 85% of people on Urbanspoon seem to like Polish Place!

Polish Place on Urbanspoon

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Rather than staying at the Polish Place for dessert, we decided to drive onto the main road on Mt Tamborine for dessert. There’s many dessert places there (a fudge place stands out in my mind), but we decided to stop into Le Chile Cafe for our dessert fix that day.

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Marketed as a South American style cafe, it’s attached to a gift shop that sells lots of hand-made crafts both from Chile, and local artisans. I had a bit of a poke around, but as I’m currently in a decluttering phase, I decided not to make any purchases.

Latte ($5), Burnt caramel ice-cream ($5) and orange cake ($5)

Latte ($5), Burnt caramel ice-cream ($5) and orange cake ($5)

What I never say no to though, is dessert! K ordered a latte to help combat his mid-afternoon sleepy period, but found it too milky and wished that he’d ordered his usual cappuccino instead. I ordered a scoop of burnt caramel ice-cream, which was just delectable – an interesting mix of sweet and bitter at the same time. The orange cake was less impressive – though marketed as being home-made every day, a corner of the cake was actually covered with mould and we soon put it to one side.

I don’t think I’m a particularly discerning consumer – I like food in general, and don’t tend to get hung up on minor details. However, if there ever was going to be a deal breaker for me, it’s mould or bugs in my food. I just don’t deal well with it, and for that reason alone, we will probably never go back to Le Chile Cafe.