Category Archives: Cheap & Cheerful

Yulli’s – a li’l patch of green


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: Art student, found object d’ refuse meets croquet lawn garden party.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: $10 wines by the glass, tapas plates from $12.50, mains from $15.50

OK so here’s the dealio.  You know I’m from Melbourne, so there is nothing more annoying to me than this recent obsession of bestowing the moniker “its just like Melbourne” upon every new so-called small bar that pops its cheeky head out from under Clover Moore’s ample skirts.  Get over it Sydney.  Melbourne is Melborne and Sydney is Sydney.  And quite frankly that’s a good thing.  How BORING if they were both the same.  I love Melbourne for being Melbourne and I love Sydney for being Sydney.  Celebrate the diversity people!

Inside Yulli's

Now that I’ve got that rant out-of-the-way, let me say this about Yulli’s.  It’s nothing like Melbourne, but it does remind me of that perculiar Melbourne penchant for decorating ones bar with found objects and refuse turned into natty bits of furniture.  Got a couple of milk crates out in the lane?  Great, whack a bit of perspex on top and et vóila, instant table.  Mum’s throwing out those daggy old 70’s curtains?  Fab, with a quick flick of the Janome you’ve got yourself a groovy new upholstered banquette.  Floor a bit crap?  Roll out the astroturf and just watch the hipsters slink in.  And on and on it goes across the bars of Melbourne’s CBD, Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Well, Yulli’s has certainly been inspired by this aesthetic and a lack of cash.  Thanks to an authenticity that can only be delivered when funds are genuinely tight, the owners have managed to pull off the oh-so-challenging-for-sydney balancing act of keeping the decor retro and relaxed, without it feeling like the owners went down to Vampt and bought the whole lot in an Amex fuelled spending spree.

So they got the decor right.  And thanks to some genuinely friendly wait staff, a lovely big picture window at the front and a cute little astro-lined sliver of a courtyard out the back, they’ve got the vibe right.  No pretension here.  This place screams “hang out all day on one latte if you like.  We’re happy to have you”, and we all know that’s a rarity in Sydney.

Yulli's courtyard

Sadly, the food lets them down.  The menu is ‘international’ which clearly means they can put whatever they like on it without fear of recrimination. Unfortunately it clashes and clangs its way through the world, one tapas plate at a time, without cohesion, through every cuisine of the moment.  From too fat Fried Haloumi with the strangest salsa I’ve ever tasted (kiwi fruit & tomato) to Hazelnut & Ricotta stuffed Zucchini Flowers (neon yellow batter covered & too salty, these oddly textured stuffed zucchinis just don’t work ), Steamed Leek and Mushroom Dumplings, a Falafel plate, Hand Cut Chips & more dishes that don’t really match.  I guess the interesting thing is that it’s totally vego, without being twee or hippy about it.  What a shame they didn’t get the cooking right though.

Fried haloumi with kiwi and tomato salsa

Stuffed fried zucchini flowers

Like any self-respecting Surry Hills wino, to go with my lively pinot grigio, I want flavours that compliment and enhance my wine.  This menu made that difficult, which is a shame because I do think their wine list is full of some great, Aussie, boutique wines by the glass.  With the right food, this place could really sing.  They also do a cracking good trade in micro-brewery beers, so you’ve gotta commend them for that, and with all of them NSW grown, the slow food movement will be down here in their hemp clad droves.

The thing about Yulli’s is that it really has got the relaxed wine bar thing down pat.  Open all day and late into the night, it’s a great place to drop into on your way home from dinner.  The lack of pretension and super wine/beer list is what will ensure this charming little watering hole survives the small bar invasion, long after the wannabes have slunk off to Alexandria in search of the next big thing.  Would I go back?  Definitely, but not to eat.

Yulli’s

417 Crown St

Surry Hills 2010

P: 02 9319 6609

http://www.yullis.com.au

Hours

Mon to Wed    5pm to late

Thurs to Sun   11.30 to late


Pizza Mario – its super!


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: Chic, earthy natural elements balance out cool industrial surfaces.  Hints of authentic Italian trattoria motifs.  Natural light abounds in this glass walled display case of a space.  Wanna be seen by all and sundry?  This is the place for it.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: minimal, $35pp sees you full and happy.

Welcome to Pizza Mario

Welcome indeed.  If a hearty ‘Buono Sera!’ upon entry to your fave local pizza joint is the welcome you lust after, then the warm hearted chaps of Pizza Mario will be only to keen to give it to you.  Once upon a time the cashmere clad of Burton Street’s inappropriately named ‘Republic’ building in Darlo got to call this fab little pizzeria their local, when it was conveniently located at the bottom of their Burton Katon Haliday designed apartment building.  Thankfully, for us south of Oxford St (So-Ox), pizzaiolo David Cowdrill and son Marcos, saw fit to pick up sitcks and move a kilometre across the road to The Ivy at St Margaret’s, for the promise of a shiny new restaurant full of marble, more table room and access to a slightly less ‘sparkly’ clientele.

It’s well documented that Pizza Mario is the only pizzeria in the Antipodean to be accredited with the coveted ‘Vera Pizza’ label.  Their number, 153, suggests that this accreditation, bestowed by the l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana upon those pizza makers devoted to the authentic application of the Neopolitan method, is a rarity and one to be admired.  Having tasted pizzas the world over and experiencing everything from a nori, bacon and Japanese mayo pizza pie (surprisingly moreish), to the thinnest and crispiest of pizzas in Florence and everything in between, I can attest that those crazy Neopolitans know a thing or two about making the best pizza in the world.  And the guys at Pizza Mario give it a pretty good crack too.

Apparently, the Neopolitan way dictates you must only use your hands in shaping the dough, pizza must be cooked on the bare floor of a proper wood burning pizza oven, toppings must not conflict with the rules of gastronomy (now those are some rules Id like to see…and then apply to some of the more bizarre molecular gastronomic experiments I’ve had the misfortune to have eaten in recent times), and finally, the most important of all, the pizza must be soft, well cooked and with a high soft crust.  Well sign me up and call me Vera, for I can confirm that Pizza Mario is steadfastly applying their mettle to all of those rules.

Pizzas are wonderfully soft, well cooked and with delightful crust.  Super thin bases are sparingly adorned with the minimum of ingredients to ensure a powerfully balanced set of flavours is delivered to your mouth with every bite.  This is about simplicity of ingredients.  No fancy attempts at tricking up what is essentially Mother Nature’s most pure of cuisines.  Margherita is simply tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And delicious!  OK, they do give you the option of adding either mushroom, olives or ham but rest assured, the combination of flavours has been researched and confirmed by Head Pizziaola as ‘vera pizza’ worthy.  So option away!

Margherita with mushroom

Cut into just four large quarters, this is a pizza you fold in half and wrap your chompers around heartily, as gooey mozzarella cheese drips tantalisingly from your chin.  Scrummy and super sexy if youre on a date (this is the moment in a rom-com where the 2 protaganists realise they are meant for each other while a suitably jaunty music score swells as a happy montage of handholding, strolling & arcade game playing unfolds).  Anyway, I digress.

It’s not just pizza on the menu.  Seasonal specials are scratched daily onto the blackboard and should always be considered in your overall menu selection.  On our visit, as figs are in season, the normally delish proscuitto and melon starter was updated with the addition of fresh figs.  The prosciutto is just as it is in Italy – perfectly aged and sliced to perfection.  Melt in your mouth.  Scrumdiddilyumptious.  Lightly fried calamari is moist, springy, salty and tasty.  Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and pinenuts are light and moreish.  Salads continue the simplistic use of good produce in the pursuit of supreme flavour.  Check out their website if you want to see the full extent of their menu – rest assured, consistency is key to this restaurants success.

Prosciutto & fig

Did someone say beer?  Look, Im a fan of a lively sangiovese any day of the week, and there are certainly a few nice ones on offer here, but if you’re going to have a proper pizza-night-out, its gotta be beer…and its gotta be Italian.  They have Peroni on tap.  Nothing crisper and more refreshing on a hot summer’s eve, so do yourself a favour and do the whole pizza-night-out properly.  Drink Beer. (no I havent been paid by Peroni to say that)

The atmos here is great.  It feels just like the family run trattorias you come across all over Italy.  There is love in the room and the joint is more often than not well patroned by real Italians.  That’s a good sign in my book.  If the real McCoy deign the place worthy of their palates, then there must be something good going on here.  Plus, Im a sucker for some lyrical Italian conversation going on in the background while I eat.  Every time I’ve eaten here (or taken away) I’ve received the friendly, warm kind of service you hope for in a local restaurant.  This place genuinely manages to make you feel like they know you, whether they recognise you or not.  Hey, just coz I’m a city girl doesnt mean I don’t crave a little country style familiarity.

Whilst the decor is simple and industrial, Pizza Mario manages to be warm and inviting at the same time.  Green and white checkered paper cloths deliver an authentic, easy-going vibe and the friendly wait staff look after you with warmth and efficiency.  Pizza Mario is an oasis in the wind swept void that is the strangely barren St Margaret’s piazza.  Go there for your next fully, proper pizza-night-out.  And drink the Beer.  Seriously.  Drink it.

Pizza Mario

The Ivy @ St Margaret’s

417 -421 Bourke St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9332 3633

http://www.pizzamario.com.au

Hours

7 nights from 6pm

take away available

Licensed


The all new Norfolk Hotel – get in quick!


OK Im so excited about the re-furb of The Norfolk that I just wanted to post quickly so you guys can get a ‘hot off the press’ vibe on it before its overrun by…well…the people that overrun and ruin all new restaurants/bars in Sydney.

The Outdoor Lounge - photo courtesy of Likkle Girl

The Norfolk's Outdoor Lounge

Fact #1: refurb and new vibe is the brainchild of recent superstars of the-dirty-old-pub-turned-super-cool tribe, James of The Flinders and James of Ruby L’otel.

Fact #2: Awesome outdoor lounge (Im not calling it a beer garden because it deserves to be so much more)

Fact #3: the menu runs the gamut from BBQ Sweet Corn mex style to ridiculously delicious soft shell tacos to Deep Fried Pickles and Hot Dog Sliders

The whole vibe of the place is Americana which is of course the motif du jour for the smart young hipster.  Food is tasty, honest and crazy cheap.  Drinks are amusing and smartly matched to the general atmos of the joint.  Try the signature Folks Sippin Pimms Jug or anything involving tequila if youre up for one of those kinda nights.

Thats it for the quick post – Ill add more later!

BBQ Sweet Corn

Soft Shell Taco with Beef

The Norfolk Hotel

305 Cleveland St, Surry Hills

P: 9699 3177

Hours:

Mon-Sun 12pm-12am, Fri-Sat open ’til 3am.


If you knew Zushi like I know Zushi…


surryhills2010 rating

Vibe: 4 stars

Decor: Industria-warehouse homage meets Harajuku laneway bar.  Small, buzzy and just the place for small groups.  Outdoor dining carries the laneway vibe through and makes smart use of its small pocket of concrete.  Quirky and fun.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Minimal – $60 for 2 will see you sated and happy.

Ah Zushi…underneath those bad graphics lies a super stylish, sophisticate with curves in all the right places.

When the bright orange “Zushi Coming Soon” window decals first went up in early 2010, Mr Surryhills2010 and I were filled with anticipation.  Unaware of the older sibling hiding over in Darlo (so many restaurants so little time!), we postulated for weeks about what Zushi could be.  The graphics suggested a ‘funky’ (and those who know me will assure you I only use that word ironically) hairdressing salon or a bad gift card store perhaps?  Soooo 90s and not in a good way.

You can imagine our delight when the decals came off and revealed was a slick little sushi restaurant reminiscent of many of the Harajuku laneway joints I had known and loved back in Nippon.  Like many urbanites around the world since 1990, I have eaten my fair share of sushi.  Its definitely a cuisine you either love or hate, and if you love it, you will understand that when the craving hits, there aint no other food that will scratch that itch.  Conveniently for moi, Zushi is literally around the corner from my house.  And Mr Surryhills2010 couldnt be happier…his love of sushi borders on obsession.

So the design of the restaurant is actually quite something to behold.  Imagine a medieval dragon munching up a forest as if it were matchsticks, threw up said matchsticks in a theatrical slo-motion hurl into the night sky and that would accurately portray the roof of Zushi.  Post modern pop art at its best….Im sure there is some art wank description that links the mish mash of sticks to an ancient tribal warrior motif by way of “insert relevant famous pop artist here” (and I encourage you to post your own in the Comments section at the end of this post), but this is not an architectural blog, it’s a restaurant blog, so enough about that.

Zushi roof image courtesy of Cherry Picked

Zushi roof image courtesy of Cherry Picked

Designed in a laneway style from the front to the back and all the way outside, the architects have managed to create an intimate space that can hold 52 patrons at any one time.  Without it feeling cramped or ear piercingly noisy.

inside the restaurant

Zushi interior image courtesy of Minty Meets Munt

On my weekday visit, the place was pumping.  In fact on first passby, Mr S and I kept walking coz there was a queue out the front.  A chat with some local pals down at Madame Char Char was all it took for the queue to pass through and in seconds we were seated at one of the ground floor tables.

Things we love about Zushi;

  1. They have carafes of wine on the menu – half carafe, full carafe and bottles.  So when Im pretending not to drink for a week, Mr S can always sway my resolve with the promise of only a cheeky half carafe.  So Euro; so “its practically good for me!”.
  2. They serve draft Japanese beer on tap.  Nothing quite like a frosted glass of Sapporo Draft.  Kanpai!
  3. The kitchen staff are mostly Japanese.  This means what you’re eating is the real deal.

3 dishes you cant go past at Zushi;

The Tuna Tataki.  Lightly seared, paper thin wafers of tuna drizzled in ponzu sauce served with a delicious mound of Japanese Coleslaw is seriously orgasmic.  And that’s not a word I throw around lightly.  Zushi is famous for this dish and one bite and you can see why.  You must order it.

A bowl of Edamame.  The perfect beer snack.  I don’t think I have ever eaten Japanese without first chomping down a bowl of these salty green beauties.  And the good news is; theyre good for you!  Zushi’s bowl of edamame is huge and I think too big considering its overall place in a Japanese meal but hey, if youre on a budget, you’ll love it.

The massive bowl of Edamame at Zushi

Finally, the Zushi Signature Spider Roll.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Soft shell crab, rolled inside out in nori & rice, with a blanket of avocado so thin Issey Miyake could pop a few pleats into it, send it down the runway at Fashion Week and expect calls from Lady Gaga demanding it as the perfect accompaniment to her next award show arrival.  This dish deserves its own restaurant its so good.  So fresh the crab is still warm, the perfect amount of wasabi cream drizzled over the top, its hard just to stop at one.  Do, as it will give you the perfect excuse to come back….tomorrow.

There’s a great menu of Japanese classics done in a fresh and modern way with just enough of the authentic deft touch you can expect from a proper Japanese chef.   Ive also tried the Crispy Scallops (great), the miso (bad), a special of Salmon inside out roll (great) and the Wakame Salad (great).  Im lead to believe the Tempura is top notch and from their website photos, Im inclined to believe it.

Nori wrapped scallops with crispy leek, chilli & wasabi mayo

Wakame Salad

Salmon inside out roll with avocado & wasabi mayo

The menu updates regularly with new dishes to keep you coming back, which Im sure is a tactic to get the locals stopping by frequently.

Zushi has kept the prices down and the quality of produce high with an M.O. that’s all about great food with great value in a friendly loco vibe.  The Surry Hills restaurant has achieved that in spades.  Awarded the Restaurant of the Year by Lifstyle Food in 2009, the Darlo version of this great sushi joint is clearly where it all began.

If you’re after a fresh, friendly, cruisy meal that’s easy on the hip pocket but heavy on style, Zushi is a great place to start.  Would I go back?  Hell yeah!  Try it out next time in your in the hood.  You wont regret it.

Zushi

285A Crown St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

02 9380 8830

www.zushi.com.au

Lunch 7 days

Dinner 7 nights 6-10pm Fri/Sat 6-12am


xage – From one old sage to another…


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Mod warehouse chic with a street style energy.

Comfort factor low, but authentic in its Vietnam inspired buzzy atmos.

Food: 3.5 stars

Damage: minimal, $30pp sees you full and happy.

Ancient sage Lao Tze famously once wrote that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Wise old words Tze, so why not co-opt this novel concept and apply it my blog?  And hence, I found myself single steppin’ it out to superb loco viet fusion establishment xage (pronounced ‘sage’), a mere 100 metres from my own doorstep.

xage opened at the end of 2009 to a fair amount of hoopla.  Terry Durack gave it rave reviews.  Time Out couldnt get enough of its friendly street vibe, the blogerati sang its praises.  Needless to say, Ive been keeping a lazy eye on its rise and rise to see whether it would withstand the tsunami of love, or if it would flop like Mum’s xmas pavlova. After last weeks visit, Im happy to say that it has not only survived, it has flourished!

On our visit to this mod-viet easy-dining hole in the wall, the place was pleasingly half full with a nice summertime holiday vibe.  Without a booking we got a table out front on the footpath, surely the best rubber-neckin’ seat in the house.  Inside is pretty buzzy but when its full, can sound like the Rabittohs are running training drills on your table.  Nothing worse than a noisy restaurant as far as Im concerned and if you can’t hear my witty repartee how could you possibly be enjoying yourself?  If its busy, wait for a table out the front or find an ear trumpet.

A couple of cool things that set this restaurant apart from other like minded Surry Hills diners;

1. BYO – seriously, how few restaurants do BYO these days?  If youre out for a bit of buzzy vibe but wanna keep it laid-back, sometimes keeping it easy on the hip pocket is what its all about.  And if youre a wine snob then you can control the quality of your quaffer.  Everybody wins.

2. The most expensive item on the menu is $19.90.  Our meal cost $30 per head inc corkage and tip.  Nuts.

3. Mama’s own authentic Vietnamese food, served up street style with a modern twist and an atmosphere worthy of the most bustling Ho Chi Minh laneway cafe.

Restauranteur and chef Minh Nguyen’s fairly comprehensive menu reads like a vietnamese hit parade.  From the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls with nuóc chám dipping sauce to the Spicy-Sweet-Sour soup with tiger prawns; Duck Papaya Salad, Càri Gà chicken yellow curry, Wok Fried Beef with Butter soy, all the old favourites are here but with a refreshing honesty of flavours worthy of the best Mekong Riverbank restaurants.

Famous Duck fillet bánh xèo summer rolls, hoisin peanut sauce

To go down a treat with your ‘ba-ba-ba’ (333 beer to those of you of the non-viet speaking variety) I recommend the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls. Super crunchy, long thin cigars of chickeny goodness that’ll have you wanting to order more.  Don’t, coz you’ll need room for the oh-so-melt-in-your mouth Marinated Grain-fed Beef Rump slices with betel leaf in butter soy.  Oh my lordy.  Lip-smackingly good.  So good in fact that my dining pals gave the whole meal 5 stars based on this one dish alone.  (sorry about the crap photos…iphone camera only has so much capability!)

Crispy chicken spring rolls with nuóc chám

Marinated Grain-fed beef slices with betel leaf in butter soy

Rounding out an all round great weeknight meal was the tasty Coleslaw of Grilled Prawns in chilli lime vinaigrette.  A tart, juicy little number that’ll have your taste buds zinging.

Coleslaw of prawns in a chilli lime vinaigrette

The only stumble across the whole meal was the somewhat unattractive fried Silken Tofu with Sichuan pepper salt and chilli.  Not really spicy enough and looked fairly ugly on the plate.  Presentation counts.  After all, we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths!

But don’t let this minor hiccup dissuade you.  Cheap, cheerful and a cracking good atmos makes xage a surryhills2010 winner in my book.  Would I go back?  You betcha!  Next time you’re in the mood for some buzzing, viet-style street action, check out xage. You wont be disappointed.

xage

333 Crown St, Surry Hills

T: 02 9332 3344

E: info@xage.com.au

http://www.xage.com.au

Open 7 days a week for dinner

Dinner: 6pm-10pm



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