Saturday October 6th, 2012
Sydney is a town that loves to eat out, we’re obsessed with where the new/hip/hot/solid/awesome/novel place is. But amazing food and great service are not the only ingredients that make up a great meal. All too often there’s one very important element missing – true hospitality. And that’s where Mi Casa Su Casa comes in, a shift towards a different kind of dining – eating in.
Mi Casa Su Casa is a speakeasy-style/in home restaurant run by Georgia peach SarahKate with the help of her husband, Andy, aiming to bring a little bit of southern hospitality to Sydney. The restaurant runs a couple of times a month and seats ten guests, the idea being to bring people together to share a meal and get to know each other. Although underground dinners, twEATups and so forth are all the rage these days, it’s one of the first true in-home restaurants in Sydney.
You have to admire someone who has the guts to invite ten perfect strangers into their home for a meal. However, as this was preview dinner made up of food bloggers, most of us had met before. John, Anna, Hayley, Mel and I, along with our plus ones where applicable, all arrived more or less on time that night despite the weekend trackwork. Our coats and bottles of wine taken and drinks pressed into our hands (spiked sweet tea with mint and rum, yum!), we were ready to begin.
We started with some general milling about, small talk and deviled eggs, which were delicious. There were also some homemade dill pickled carrots on offer, but I sort of forgot to try them in the rum-spiked haze. In any case, I knew there was a big southern dinner on the way and I needed to pace myself.
Our first course was Jethel’s baked trout with toasted fennel seed and bacon potato salad. The dish was named after Andy’s Grandmother. SarahKate explained When Andy was a child and would catch a trout in the stream near her house, she’d cook it simply with oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Serving it on a bed of delicious, creamy fennel-punctuated potato salad was SarahKate’s own (and in my opinion, inspired) idea. The trout is moist and delicious and for the potato salad I’d employed one of my most hated food words, ‘moreish’. Lucky for me Mi Casa Su Casa has a ‘second helping policy’- second servings are encouraged.
Next was the part of the meal I’d been dreaming about forever- chicken fried steak. One of my best friends is from Texas, and she’s been regaling me with tales of southern food, specifically ‘good Mexican’ and chicken fried steak, for years now. For the uninitiated, ‘chicken fried’ basically means ‘cooked in the style of southern fried chicken’ – ie, breaded and deep or shallow fried. There is no actual chicken involved, which surprises a lot of people. You can even get chicken fried bacon.
So basically chicken fried steak is like a beef schnitzel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I guess I’d assumed deep frying was for a cheaper cut of meat (a kind of ‘why would you ruin a perfectly good cut of steak’ mentality). Boy was I wrong. SK’s chicken fried steak was made from a grass-fed angus fillet that she had her butcher slice and flatten into rounds. It blew my mind. The steak was oh-so-tender, thick and juicy and perfectly cooked. There was a crunchy outer coating of crisp bread crumbs and a slathering of sausage gravel, which I soaked up with biscuits (think savoury scones, with a much higher fat content). I ladled on some more gravy, chow-chow (a zesty southern pickle), gorgeous asparagus and black-eyed beans, all delicious. But for me, the steak was the thing.
The final delicious course was a strawberry shortcake with a difference. Mini sour cream pound cakes were drizzled with balsamic and peppercorn roasted strawberries and adorned with lashings of vanilla whipped cream. This was the point in the meal when I though I wouldn’t be able to finish the last few mouthfuls, but I bravely soldiered on in the name of food.
One of the things I absolutely loved about the night was how every recipe had a little story or explanation to go with it. There was nothing contrived about this, nothing pretentious, but a lot of thought had obviously gone into it, as with every other aspect of the meal from start to finish. SarahKate was eager to know what we thought of the whole thing and in between finishing off the dregs of our wine, we declared it a triumph.
I think Mi Casa Su Casa will do really well. Case in point, they are more or less fully booked until the new year. If you get a chance to go, I would highly recommend it.
Mi Casa Su Casa accepts donations at the end of the meal. Meals are byo with a drink on arrival.
For me, the holy grail of westie food, elusive and delicious, has always been La Paula. I had heard nothing but good things and it had been on my wishlist for aaaaaaaaaages. I’d even visited their nearby branch in Kingsford with their more pared-back menu and had some delicious alfajores and empanadas, but I knew it wasn’t the full experience. So I’ve been licking my lips in anticipation of Chilean sweets and fast food for some time now. A month ago, a group of us finally stopped in for a veritable feast of sweets, softly ensconced sandwiches and dulce de leche delights. No one left disappointed. Or hungry.
Someone ordered Mote con Huesillo while we ummed and aahhed over the menu. Mote con Huesillo is a chilean summertime drink consisting of dried peach, which is stewed with sugar and cinnamon, and then wheat (cooked and husked) is added. It had a pleasant cordial-like peachy taste which was not overly sweet. I can see why many Chilenos find it so addictive.
The Chacarero y Palta was calling my name. A softer-than-clouds bun housing tender beef strips, mayo, palta (avocado), tomato and pickled beans (go with it, it works). I never heard avocado referred to as ‘palta’ before, only ‘aguacate’, which is where the word ‘avocado’ originates (‘aguacate’, if you’re interested, is from the Nahuatl word for testicle). Never mind that, was it delicious? Fuck yes. Sorry chums, but there is not more appropriate word for the delicousness of soft bread, rich mayo, fresh tomato, generous dollop of avocado and tender grilled beef strips that I practically inhaled. That’s my excuse for the awful photo above; I just couldn’t wait to chow down.
Lucky I was sharing with my man, because he ordered the Lomito Completo y Palta, a similar sambo, but with pork instead of beef as well as the addition of saurkraut. The saurkraut gave the lomito a nice vinegarry hit and the pork was even more tender than the beef. Interesting that a ‘lomito’ in Argentina was a massive steak sandwich, whereas at La Paula it was pork all the way. I’d love someone to shed some light on that. Let’s go with the same excuse for my crappy photography for this shot.
The Completo Especial Palta Mayo was delicious. The completo (hot dog) is an iconic Chilean junk/street food, although it is popular all over South America, and by all accounts, this one was no slouch. Avocado and mayo go great with the soft bun, as our first two dishes proved. But, you know, third time’s a charm. Or something.
Another tasty treat was the Milanesa al Plato. Milanesa refers to breaded meat, in other words, schnitzel, and is usually beef. This one came with two fried eggs and the expected boring salad complete with white onion. We also tried a (baked) empanada de pino (boiled egg, spiced mince and olives) and an empanada de carne y queso (fried, top image) which was amazing, and the Barros Luco, a steak and cheese sandwich (below).
Oh, the sweets. My favourite, but I didn’t get a shot of it because I took it home and scoffed it with my beau, was the pastel de tres leches (triple milk cake). It’s a soft sponge with a skerrick of dulce de leche in the middle, soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. This one was iced with meringue and was a *to die for* light-as-air sponge with just the right amount of sweetness, not soggy at all. Helen over at Grab Your Fork took a great picture of it for her Timeout Sydney writeup.
I keep saying dulce de leche, but I think I should be saying cajeta (ka-het-uh), it is a Chilean bakery after all, not Argentinian or Uruguayan. Whatever the name, it’s highly addictive, and we ate it every which way. The pastry horn (below) filled to the brim is the stuff of legend, and the churro relleno (filled churro, above), still hot from the fryer, was scored with a knife and the groove filled with delicious cajeta. It’s well worth the 45 minute train ride.
9 Barbara Street
Fairfield NSW 2165
02 9726 2379
Open 7:00am to 5:00pm, 7 days
Whenever I get the chance, I make the pilgrimage to Melbourne, or, more correctly, to Western Melbourne. The shrine I seek has nothing to do with religion, but it has a spirituality all of its own. I seek something no Sydneysider can find on their back door step, something no amount of Harbour Bridges and sunny (ish) days and schooners and middies can make up for. I seek…injera.
For those of you who haven’t had the exquisite pleasure, injera is a large crumpet-like flatbread that forms the foundation (literally, it sits under all the other food, tablecloth-like) of Ethiopian and Eritrean food. Stews (wats) are daubed on top of it and you tear of bits of the injera and scoop them up by hand. It is traditionally made using teff flour and thus has a delicious sour flavour.
On my most recent pilgrimage, I caught up with Lauren of Footscray Food Blog, which I’ve been reading and eating from ever since my brother moved to the outer edges of Footscray. She offered to meet up at ‘lovely local place’, Adis Abeba. I could almost smell the fresh sponges of injera and feel them squish between my teeth. I couldn’t wait.
I arrived at the lime green Addis Abeba for our late lunch to find Lauren already there and no other customers. Lauren ordered (she’s the guru after all) and we proceeded to delve into talk about life, blogging and, of course food.
The veggie combo was amazing. For $12 there are 6 delicious curry-like stews to scoop up and munch. As we eat, the injera underneath get deliciously steeped in juices. But don’t worry, we have a whole massive bowl of injera in case it gets too soggy.
The other dish we order is the spacial tibs ($12), a gorgeous buttery lamb dish that comes out sizzling. We ladle it onto the platter as well, pinching up handfulls with the fresh injera.
After my visit to Adis Abeba, I feel like I’ve graduated from Ethiopian food pilgrim to devotee. So much so that my brother and I return the next day and ordered the exact same dishes. And we also hit up Mesnoy Injera Bakery afterwards, so we could serve injera at bro’s house party.
A big thankyou to Lauren Wambach for hosting me in her ‘hood. See Lauren’s post for a better description of the dishes we ate.
What food would you travel halfway around the world, or at least across town, to savour?
220 Nicholson Street
Footscray, VIC, 3011
(03) 9687 4363
As far as I’m concerned, there are only two really worthwhile hangover cures: a sickly sweet Sydney Pad Thai or a huge fuck-off burger. A juicy beef patty, fresh, soft bun and a side of perfect fries just cannot be beaten. In fact, I don’t even need the hangover as an excuse to chow down.
So when Peter and Marian from Beautiful Burgers contacted me and asked if I’d like to come and check out their cafe, I just couldn’t say no.* The reason is that I’ve ‘checked out’ Beautiful Burgers on many a Saturday arvo, to soak up last night’s alcohol or just because there’s nothing in the fridge.
It seems like lately, Sydney has been all about the gourmet burgers (along with Latin American street food, go figure). Wagyu beef, chorizo, sourdough, duck, arugula, aioli, truffle fries, various kinds of relish…the whole thing makes my head spin. Too much choice, too much wank. And don’t get me (well, Rui) started on why on earth you’d want to shove wagyu beef through a mincer. Maybe some people just have more money than sense.
Ok, the rant ends here. Beautiful Burgers is getting more and more popular so when Rui and I arrive it’s so crowded that we consider going somewhere else. The fact that all we want is burgers is what sways us. He orders the Yankee burger with iceberg lettuce, mayo, tomato, bacon, cheese, dill pickle, ketchup and American mustard. You get a choice of a beef or chicken patty and he elects beef. I go for the beef burger which I admit is slathered with a fancy onion and tomato basil relish but other than that it’s just iceberg lettuce, mayo, tomato and caramelised onion. I add beetroot as always. ‘Cause I’m Aussie like that.
What I like about the menu is there’s something for everyone. You can get your Moroccan-inspired Lamb, your Thai chicken, a couple of veggie burgers (one is tofu, the other eggplant) and enough condiments to open a deli. But you can also go for a basic burger and not be left wanting. There’s the option of adding pretty much whatever you like at minimal charge and there’s a feature burger each week. And although the burgers are definitely the focus, there are other options available such as wraps, sandwiches and pies. The burgers are huge but the fries are delicious too- fresh, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, so we always face a dilemma when we come here. Should we order fries as well? This time we manage to forgo them.
This place just keeps getting better and better. The bread is always fresh, the patties are deliciously juicy, and the staff are incredibly friendly and always ready to suggest something if you’re at a loss. The prices are good – more expensive than your dodgy local takeaway, cheaper than a burger at a café or pub (but fries cost extra). You order and pay at the counter, you can come in the back via Queen Street or the front via regent Street and they even serve beer. And did I mention their burgers are delicious?
What’s your ultimate hangover cure?
5/87-97 Regent Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9319 3132
7.00am-3.00pm Monday to Friday
*All food and drink were paid for by us. Oh, ok fine, by Rui. You got me.
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.