Review: Kreta Ayer, Eastwood Sydney

I’ve only been away from Sydney for a year, but it feels as though areas like Eastwood have completely transformed. There’s such a range of restaurants that locals are spoiled for choice. Any restaurant that doesn’t tick the three primary boxes of value for money, taste and fast service, isn’t going to be in business for long in this area.

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Kreta Ayer is one of the new restaurants that have opened up in the time that we’ve been away from Sydney. In the space that was formerly occupied by long-time local institution Homer’s Cafe, Kreta Ayer offers a large range of Singaporean cuisine. Will the variety on the menu be its downfall? Sometimes, picking a niche and sticking to it is a much more successful approach in Eastwood.

Boneless Hainanese Chicken Laksa, $12.80 AUD
Boneless Hainanese Chicken Laksa, $12.80 AUD

We started off with the Boneless Hainanese Chicken Laksa, a mix of the tender poached chicken that one would more normally find with Singaporean chicken rice and a creamy laksa noodle soup. In eating this, I found myself wishing I had some of the fragrant rice one would normally have with Hainan chicken, or even for some plump prawns in the laksa.

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While each element was delicious on its own, I think I would rather order a chicken rice and a seafood laksa separately next time, to ensure that you get those extra ingredients that really complete the dish.

Penang Char Kway Teow, $11.80 AUD
Penang Char Kway Teow, $11.80 AUD

We went on to try the Penang Char Kway Teow, a dish full of the desired wok hei, but lacking a broad range of ingredients. While the dish was heavy on the noodles and bean shoots, it lacked sufficient plump and fresh prawns, or even Chinese sausage, lupcheong. I felt like Kreta Ayer skimped on the quality ingredients here, delivering less value for money. 

Cereal Prawn, $18.80 AUD
Cereal Prawn, $18.80 AUD

I wish I could say that the prawns that should have been in the laksa and the char kway teow were in the Cereal Prawns…but I would be lying. With less than a dozen cereal prawns in this dish, it really didn’t go very far in our group of three diners. And while I liked the concept of the cereal batter, I felt like it lacked thoughtfulness in execution. As the prawns were not de-shelled prior to battering, you lost the batter when you peeled the prawns and ate them. What then, is the point?

Pork ribs, $16.80
Pork ribs, $16.80

We finished with the Pork Ribs – surprisingly well executed and a larger serve than expected. The healthy serving of chewy pork ribs coated in a sweet and sticky sauce was very welcome.

Look, Kreta Ayer has one thing going for it – as far as I know, it’s the only Singaporean restaurant in Eastwood, and stands out as quite unique amongst a crowd of Cantonese and Shanghainese restaurants. However, if they don’t ensure they can tick all three of those boxes – value for money, taste and fast service – they won’t be around for long. Locals are discerning, and restaurants won’t make the cut in the long run if they can’t measure up to the likes of Taste of Shanghai.

Kreta Ayer is located at 172 Rowe St, Eastwood Sydney.

Review: Petaling Street, Glen Waverley

Ever since our eating journey through Fiesta Malaysia, my father has become increasingly obsessed with what we’ll be eating when we visit Singapore and Malaysia at the end of the year. He’s been Youtubing Singaporean and Malaysian food videos, looking at recipes and photos, and making mental lists of all the different dishes he wants to try. His excitement is actually quite contagious!

To feed his interest further, I suggested a visit to Petaling Street in Glen Waverley on a Sunday evening for our household of four. As far as Malaysian restaurants go, Petaling Street is mid-range standard fare both in Melbourne and in Sydney. In fact, K and I had visited Petaling Street in Chatswood a few years ago!

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Everyone other than myself ordered a drink. A Teh Tarik for my father who complained again that it was much too sweet for him – I told him that he would need to learn to appreciate sweet condensed milk drinks in Kuala Lumpur! My brother ordered a Hot Honey & Lemon to help with his cold which he ended up passing onto everyone else in the family anyway, and K ordered his perennial favourite, an Iced Coconut.

Penang Fried Koay Teow, $10.90
Penang Fried Koay Teow, $10.90

K’s choice of the Penang Fried Koay Teow came out within five minutes of our ordering, a good indication of how prompt the service is at Petaling Street! This version from the Glen Waverley branch was much better than that from Chatswood, with just the right amount of wok hei and chilli blast. K was a particular fan of the tiny cockles and pork crackling that had been included in the mix, which provided both flavour and texture.

Curry Laksa, $10.90
Curry Laksa, $10.90

Dad ordered the basic Curry Laksa, served with plenty of fish cake, chicken and bean curd. While he enjoyed the meal, he did say that it simply didn’t live up to the version that my mother used to make when they owned a takeaway shop. He then went on to tell me a story about a soldier in the Australian army who would come to the shop every time that he was in Melbourne to have mum’s curry laksa, as he claimed it was even better than the ones he’d had when stationed in Malaysia!

Nasi Lemak (Simple), $8.90
Nasi Lemak (Simple), $8.90

My brother opted for the plain and Simple Nasi Lemak, choosing not to add the curry chicken or beef. I think he ended up regretting his choice as the meal really wasn’t enough to satisfy the hunger of a teenage boy without some meat to go with it. He also found the sambal a bit too spicy for his liking, but on my part, I enjoyed stealing the ikan bilis off his plate to crunch on while waiting for my own meal to arrive.

Sarawak Chicken Curry Laksa, $12.50
Sarawak Chicken Curry Laksa, $12.50

My Sarawak Chicken Curry Laksa was definitely the meal of choice with a generous serving of tender chicken thigh meat and plenty of bean curd to soak up the rich curry sauce. The only downside was that the chilli rating was quite misleading – with two chillis next to the menu listing, I was expecting to sweat through the meal with a burning mouth. The furthest I got however, was a light tingle on the tongue which was quite disappointing.

It’s clear that the quality of meals at Petaling Street can differ from branch to branch. Glen Waverley in Melbourne was much better than Chatswood in Sydney. Even within the one branch though, the quality of meals can differ from one day to the next, and I think my curry laksa was a good example of that. On a good day, it might live up to the two chilli rating on the menu. On the day we were there, the chilli barely registered.

Quality of the meal you get will differ depending on whatever chef is on duty on the day but I think that for the most part, you can be guaranteed a decent meal for a good price at Petaling Street.

Petaling Street is located at 111 Kingsway, Glen Waverley, as well as a number of other locations around Melbourne and Sydney.

Review: Laksa Bar, Melbourne

Since returning to Australia, K and I have been living in my family home with my father and brother. It’s got its obvious benefits like saving money on rent after our savings were depleted on our trip. But it is difficult to find some quality time alone as a married couple!

You have to really make the effort to get out just as a couple and spend some time together. Our first outing was to go on a surprisingly excellent free walking tour of Melbourne – a strange activity for me as a native Melbournian, but a great opportunity for my Sydneysider husband to get to know the city.

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We enhanced our day out with lunch at Laksa Bar. While not as popular as Laksa King in Flemington, it’s more centrally located in the northern edge of the city. Considering the rainy weekend and quiet area, the restaurant was surprisingly busy with family groups, couples, friends and individuals.

Cold Barley Drink, $3.90
Cold Barley Drink, $3.90

K chose one of his go-to drink options, a Cold Barley Drink. It came served in a strange beaker-esque glass which actually made it more difficult to scoop up the barley meaning that a lot of it went to waste. Sometimes, a conventional glass just makes more sense.

Fish Skinny Kampung Laksa, $13.90
Fish Skinny Kampung Laksa, $13.90

I chose a Kampung Laksa, advertised as a ‘skinny’ laksa for those looking for a ‘slightly healthier way to enjoy laksa with fewer calories’. As much as I love a traditional curry laksa, I liked this version as the broth was slightly less rich with coconut milk making it much more palatable.

I particularly loved the range of ingredients that come standard with each bowl of laksa at Laksa Bar: fish balls, fish cakes, tofu, seafood stick, vegetables and a fried egg. It was surprisingly generous and really rounded out the bowl of laksa.

Chicken House Curry Laksa, $12.90
Chicken House Curry Laksa, $12.90

K chose the standard House Curry Laksa with chicken. Interestingly, the chicken in the laksa was a fried chicken fillet, sliced and placed on top. It made for a great meal as the fried chicken made for a great textural contrast in the bowl of noodles, adding some much needed crunch.

Laksa Bar does a surprisingly excellent bowl of laksa – rich and creamy if you go for the original and full of flavour and spice if you choose the ‘skinny’ version. Bowls of laksa are remarkably well-priced and if for some crazy reason you don’t love delicious bowls of hot noodles, you can always opt for one of their other Malaysian-style dishes on the menu. I still need to try the crowd favourite Laksa King, but Laksa Bar is pretty awesome in the meantime.

Laksa Bar is located at 108 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.