September 25, 2012

Red Lantern, Surry Hills, Sydney


Don't you love it when food adventures bring you to unexpected places? The night started out with a plan. The plan was called Porteño.

I had watched the most recent episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain had sampled the delights of Porteño. A sudden, irresistible need to gorge on whole animals that have been through the rites of fire and salt engulfed me. I needed meat and I needed it NOW. And so off we went.

Danny, Cara, Sam and myself headed off down the dark streets of Surry Hills, keeping a nose out for the distinctive aromas of sizzling unadulterated meat. We turned down Cleveland St — we were so close! But why couldn't we smell the meat?— and were met by the disappointing sight of closed doors and sealed windows.


Wasn't it only closed on Mondays? But it was a Sunday! All sorts of indignant desperate thoughts flew through my stream of consciousness as sweet dreams of pig's heads were dashed and shattered before my very eyes.

So, disillusioned and hungry, we set off in the direction of Crown St, hoping to find some other food to serve as our rebound. Surely a rebound love could not ever meet our impossible expectations? But oh was I wrong.

Deep red walls and an exotic exterior caught our eye. We had somehow arrived at Luke Ngyuen's Red Lantern. Hope bloomed in our hearts like plant in spring. A new exciting experience awaited!

Between the four of us, we decided to share two entrées and two mains for maximum food variety.

From left: Goi Vit Ung Khoi Tra ($26), Goi Kho Bo ($22)

The Goi Vit Ung Khoi Tra proved to be an absolute favourite. Tea smoke duck breast sat atop a medley of pickled vegetables. Every bite was an explosion of tangy crunchiness followed by the soft embrace of juicy duck. If I remember correctly, the duck is marinaded, seared then smoked with green tea — thank you SBS food! — and the whole process brings a myriad of salty, meaty flavours that bring me so much joy.

In comparison, the Goi Kho Bo ended up being only okay. Don't get me wrong, the marinaded and dried Black Angus beef was just the right amount of chewy and tasty, but because it followed that spectacular duck, it didn't stand a chance. It's something that I would order again, but just not as a first choice. Even while I was enjoying it, my greedy hungry eyes kept going back to the duck and the equally exciting juices that sat at the bottom of the plate.

Now that we have gotten a taste of something that really excited us, we were afraid. What if nothing else matched up to the gorgeous duck? Our mains then descended upon the table.

From top:Thit Cuu Nuong Xa ($32), Thit Heo Nau Mam ($34)

The Thit Cuu Nuing Xa was a chargrilled, marinaded lamb that was gracefully escorted by fresh, crunchy greens. We were surprised and delighted by the addition of strips of tart green apple, and in my opinion, it lightened the dish and provided balance.

Next to the rich colours of the lamb, the Thit Heo Nau Mam — which was a braised pork shoulder in lemongrass, shrimp paste and coconut juice — looked a little...ordinary. But having had pork braised in coconut juice previously at Luke Ngyuen's Fat Duck, whoops Freudian slip Noodle, my heart still held plenty of hope.

And it did not disappoint. Rich flavours softly cajoled and serenaded my taste buds, while the pork shoulder melted seductively into my mouth. While. It did not bring the same kind Ida excitement that the duck did, it definitely made me want to sink slowly into my chair and expire in exquisiteness.

The problem with such good food is that you often feel like there wasn't enough, and that was the feeling I had the whole time through. Yes, we were four people sharing four dishes, but for the price that we paid I did still get the feeling that it was not somewhere that I could keep going back to often. It was definitely the kind of dinner out that was more of a treat than a constant comfort.

Mmmmm duck.

We ate at:
Red Lantern on Crown
545 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW
(02) 9698 4355

September 08, 2012

Subway's Famous Fans


We live in a world of overwhelming food options. As someone working in the city, I can attest to the complete headache I have every lunch time when I forget to bring my packed lunch. Often, it can be hard to pick something that isn't covered in grease. Well, I've often chosen to have Subway when I've felt like something light, and so was very excited when I was invited to their announcement of their Famous Fans!

Of course, when you attend a food event, you've gotta be fed.

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There were canapés, champagne, and a room full of journalists. Banners with portraits of the Famous Fans at their smiling best adorned the walls as everyone engaged in small chit chat before the main event.

To be really honest, I was questioning the validity of Olympic athletes actually eating at Subway with their grueling schedule. Surely their days must be filled with poached chicken and steamed vegetables. After all, I heard in an interview that Hugh Jackman's training schedule involved him eating 6 meals a day of poached chicken to get that Wolverine physique. A not so yummy way of getting to a yummy body.

Well, my questions were soon answered when the athletes themselves made an appearance.

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From left: Casey Eastham, James Magnussen, Torah Bright

So the key to it - as with everything - is moderation. Sure, they do choose to refuel with Subway, but they can't do it for absolutely every meal. Which makes sense - you want a variety to get all the nutrients that your body needs right? I guess it's all about making the right choices and balancing out your intake through the entire day. My chat with Gina Kahler, Regional Marketing Director of Subway, also revealed that because Australia has an emphasis on reduced sodium, it can often result in a difference in taste in the Subway across the world. Now I just want to go round the world trying the difference in all the subs. Can you imagine that as an eating project?

Anyway, now on to the fun bit!

We all know that you can make anything a sport. Love to iron? Then you have extreme ironing. Naturally, if you love making subs, well...

Let me introduce to you Subway Jam. It's basically extreme Subway sandwich making. And this dude, is the Aussie champion.


To ensure a consistent product, Subway sandwich artists have to follow strict recipes that detail every last step. And just to add that competitive edge, they have a competition amongst the staff internationally, and the they have to make the subs under a time limit, and get judged on appearance and consistency, as well as how close they follow the recipe. This is serious stuff, and we heard of how staff sometimes stay back after hours to train for this championship.

So what happens when you combine extreme sub-making and athletes? Competition of course!

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They all had 3 volunteers as team members each, and then had a mini judging session.


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I believe that James' team won, but really, who remembers? It was more tongue in cheek than anything, and was a cute bit of participation. It made me realise how far you have to go to ensure that there is a consistent product, especially with a chain restaurant like Subway. There are, of course, seasonal items like the Moroccan Lamb, but it's great to know that you can go anywhere in the world and expect a staple of the basic, comforting favourites.

Speaking of which, mine's the Italian BMT (lettuce, tomato, olives, jalapeno, onion, not toasted, sweet onion sauce - and I know it's not the healthiest option ;)).

What's yours?

Tambourine of insatiablemunchies attended the announcement of Subway's Famous Fans courtesy of Subway and Hills+Knowlton Strategies.

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