Review: Ribs & Burgers, Rhodes

When I was nine years old, I used to continually ask my mother for a younger brother or sister. As an only child whose parents worked long hours in a take away shop, I was very lonely and wanted someone to spend my time with. Of course, I regretted ever asking for a younger sibling when my brother finally came along and I had to learn to share the attention of adults with a much younger and much cuter sibling who wasn’t going through the awkward teenage phase. For some reason, babies get more attention than ten year olds.

So when my eldest cousin in Hong Kong broached the subject of sending his ten-year-old son out to Australia in the Hong Kong summer school holidays, I agreed to have his son stay with me in Sydney for a week and a half, and with my father in Melbourne for three weeks. I knew that his son was going to find things difficult in the coming months with a new baby sister on the way, and a two year old younger brother at home. At least he could get some attention in Australia with his great uncle (my dad) and his aunt (me).

And so, for ten days in August, I had a ten year old boy sleeping on my couch. He slept late every day, did a spot of holiday homework when I was at work, and then I took him out every night after work for a fun activity like ice-skating or trampolining, or a nice meal out. He enjoyed the freedom, the focus on him rather than his younger brother, and the constant calendar of fun activities that I had planned!

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The first meal he had in Sydney was at Ribs and Burgers in Rhodes – a quick meal with my friends before we all went out for a night of karaoke. Squeezing six people into a booth meant for four made for a cozy meal!

Large chips, $9
Large chips, $9

I ordered some large chips for us to share, as both my nephew and I were only ordering burgers. Super crispy and crunchy, everyone couldn’t stop themselves from grabbing a few each to satiate their hunger while waiting for the main meals to come out.

Bacon & cheese burger, $14
Bacon & cheese burger, $14

I asked my nephew if he wanted to order the simple beef burger from the kids menu as the size would be much more manageable – however he was insistent that he wanted to have bacon and cheese on his burger. A full-sized burger it was! As much as he enjoyed it (you don’t get burgers as big and elaborate as this where he lives in Hong Kong!), he also complained that it was too big and that it hurt his mouth to open it that wide in order to take a bite. What a first world problem!

Best of both, $25
Best of both, $25

K and a few others opted for the Best of Both, an elaborate meal on a board of the two namesake dishes – Ribs and Burgers. I had a bite of the mini chicken slider, and I can vouch for it as being an excellently marinated and grilled piece of chicken. It definitely tempted me to consider ordering the chicken burger next time I’m there!

Pork ribs, $29 with a butchers salad (+ $2)
Pork ribs, $29 with a butchers salad (+ $2)

A friend who’s currently on a protein-heavy diet ordered a full rack of pork ribs with a salad on the side. It was truly finger-licking good, though the general consensus from those who ordered ribs was that it didn’t quite measure up to the likes of Hurricane’s Grill.

Lamb burger, $16
Lamb burger, $16

My lamb burger was deliciously infused with a mix of herbs and spices that really helped the burger to sing. The combination of Mediterranean flavours like hummous and tzatziki as the dressing with the cos lettuce made the burger taste quite fresh and clean on the palate as well. Luckily, the board that it was served on had a ridge all around as the lamb burger was so juicy that I dripped sweet juices from the burger with every bite that I took – it could have been a very messy meal! They also have a washbasin available right in the middle of the store so that patrons can wash up after digging in with gusto into their meals with their bare hands!

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Ribs and Burgers serves up a big, hearty, and messy meal for a reasonable price.  With locations all around Sydney and Melbourne (and one in Brisbane!), it’s a convenient alternative to my usual ribs joints such as Hurricane’s Grill and Ribs & Rumps. I’ll be back!

Review: Brooklyn Hide, Surry Hills

Have you ever had that dramatic build-up of anticipation for an exciting event, only for it to come crashing down around you? That’s what happened to my plans of going to the recent first-ever Flour Markets in Sydney. I got there just as it was due to open for the day, only to find that the queue had already snaked around the whole building with an estimated wait time of over an hour.

With a tendency to have low blood sugars in the morning and get incredibly hangry, I couldn’t afford to wait that long for food and so said a sad goodbye to the Flour Markets and went in search for breakfast elsewhere.

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Walking past Brooklyn Hide on Commonwealth St in Surry Hills, I spied the rarest of situations – two free seats at the bar in a Surry Hills breakfast joint and no waiting queue! K and I jumped at the opportunity and sat ourselves down for a meal in this tiny quaint little cafe. Glancing at the diners around us, I saw that delicious fresh looking bagels are clearly the specialty at this cafe.

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K ordered a cappuccino which he found a bit too milky for his taste. I argued that it was more a case of his being used to double shot coffees rather than this being too milky! My apple and watermelon juice was delicious, with just the right balance to ensure that the sweetness of the watermelon balanced the stronger flavours of the apple.

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The Bronx – $10

K chose the Bronx as the bagel with the most traditionally breakfast ingredients – prosciutto, egg with a runny yolk , chutney and rocket. This bagel would actually lean on the side of being over-simple, if it wasn’t for the superb runny yolk egg that becomes magic when combined with the tomato chutney. The slight pepperiness of the rocket also adds a little zing that makes the whole bagel a very satisfying meal in whole.

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The Harlem, $12

My Harlem was far from a traditional breakfast bagel, but still managed to help me overcome my hangriness. Disappointing, the ‘jerk’ chicken wasn’t quite what I expected – there wasn’t the hot spicy chilli flavours that make ‘jerk’ chicken so immediately distinguishable. The salad included in the bagel was much better, with fragrant bursts of flavour from the coriander.

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Brownie, $4

We finished off our breakfast by splitting a brownie as I had had my heart set on a sweet treat at the Flour Markets. Dense and moist, the brownie was just sweet enough to satisfy, and not so sweet that left a cloying aftertaste in my mouth. Definitely more-ish!

Overall while the bagels weren’t bad at Brooklyn Hide, I don’t think we’ll be rushing back any time soon. I was more disappointed with the lack of spice in the Harlem bagel than I should have been. In the competitive cafe-rich neighborhood of Surry Hills, there’s many other places I’d visit before returning to Brooklyn Hide.

Brooklyn Hide on Urbanspoon

And as for the Flour Markets? I hope they announce the next one soon and that I’ll be second time lucky!

Review: Taste of Texas BBQ, Waitara

Living on the North Shore, I often feel as though we’re left bereft of the many culinary delights of inner and inner western Sydney. Specialist dining like American diners and small bars are few and far between, the further north you get of the Harbour Bridge. Given that I both live and work on the North Shore, I rarely find the time or reason to cross the bridge and am instead left yearning for things like sticky ribs.

Not any longer though! K recently found online reviews of Taste of Texas BBQ, located in a small stretch of shops along the Pacific Highway in Waitara, sandwiched by multiple car dealerships. We gather up a group of friends to give Taste of Texas a try, including our friend T whose girlfriend is Texan and who therefore considers himself our group expert on authentic Texan ribs.

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We show up for dinner at around 7pm and have difficulty getting a table big enough for the group. The restaurant is only small, seating approximately 20 people. Most orders coming in are for a take-away meal. You order your meal at the counter and they’ll bring your order out to you when it’s ready – don’t expect ongoing table service though!

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The menu is chalked up on a blackboard and all I can see is meat, meat, meat and more meat. It’s what we’re here for! Make sure you arrive early though – we ordered by 7.15pm, and literally ordered the very last serves of ribs they had available for the night. So even though Taste of Texas is technically open until 9pm, it’s well worth ensuring that you arrive by 6pm in order to ensure you have a full selection of the menu.

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The decor in the restaurant is at the same time, both rustic and a little bit kitsch. Things like Mexican-style Dia de los Muertos salt and pepper shakers, plus a American turkey toothpick holder take pride of place on the tables. License plates and old prints are hung on the wall – confusingly, with some plates from Canadian provinces like British Columbia. I guess they’re going for a “North American continent” theme, rather than a strictly Texan theme?

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K and T both order the special soft drinks they have available – A&W root beer and Dr Pepper. There’s nothing like imported soft drinks, especially when they’re being sold for an extremely reasonable $2.50 each.

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New York Wings (Medium hotness), $10

K and I share two dishes, the first being the New York Wings. With spice intensities that include Mild, Medium, Hot, Hotter Still (and Honey Garlic for those who don’t like space!), we opt to try the Medium – better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the avoidance of burning mouth syndrome! I find the sauce on the wings both sticky sweet and tangy sour, with a nice ongoing chilli burn that pairs nicely with the creamy and moreish blue cheese dip. We probably could have opted for the Hot wings, but the Medium was a comfortable level of chilliness.

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Texas BBQ Stampede – BBQ ribs, Texas beef, chicken drumstick, Texas smoked sausage served with fries (normally potato salad), coleslaw, BBQ sauce and a dinner roll, $29

We also share the big “everything’s included” meal of the Texas BBQ stampede. Now this is the one to order if you’re feeling like a meat fest – definitely better shared between two (or else order the mini version at $20)! Of everything included in the box, my favourite were the BBQ ribs (with a wonderful sticky marinade) and surprisingly the fries – which I found just perfectly crisp and crunchy. The meals are normally served with potato salad but we got fries instead because they ran out of the potato salad – it’s well worth asking to substitute in fries when you visit!

Overall, I would rate Taste of Texas BBQ as a must visit for those who live on the North Shore. Though the ribs didn’t rate highly on the authenticity scale by our friend T, Taste of Texas BBQ in Waitara is still an excellently meaty dining option, offering a better value meal than other North Shore ribs joints like Hurricane’s Grill or Ribs & Rumps. I’ll definitely be back.

Taste of Texas BBQ on Urbanspoon