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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood and Knafeh, North Strathfield

Double Fat Boy burger at Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood

There's a new wave of food trucks trundling around Sydney and I'm excited. And hungry. This next generation are focussed on doing one or two things only. And doing them well. Sydneysiders can't get enough of them.

Take Mister Gee Burger Truck. They do one burger. Fries. And one type of shake. Who needs to fuss with endless menu variations? They first propped open their shutter on November 5 but have already gathered a legion of burger-loving fans in just six weeks.

Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash

Mister Gee has one thing going for it. A semi-permanent location - for the moment anyway. When Burwood Deluxe Car Wash finishes up for the day, Mister Gee moves in. They currently set up every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Mister Gee Burger Truck menu at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Mister Gee Burger Truck menu (the burger changes regularly)

We turn up at 6.50pm to find a queue of twenty people already perched on milk crates set up in front of the truck. At 7.07pm the shutter opens and the crowd forms an orderly queue. It's predominantly a young crowd - in their teens to thirties. Noone pushes in.

Saucing fries on the Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Fries being sauced

The team on the truck is lean: one taking orders and making milkshakes; one on French fries and one burger master flipping patties.

Prepping burgers on the Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Prepping burgers

The kitchen is slammed from the start but they don't appear fazed at all. Meanwhile everyone sits back, chats and waits for their order to be called.

Dirty fries from the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries $5

Our dirty fries are ready first. It's a mountain of golden fries covered in diced tomato, grated cheese and lashings of a Thousand Island-style cream. They give you a fork to dig in but we have more fun using our fingers.

Double Fat Boy with bacon jam from the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Fat Boy with bacon jam $10 
and extra patty $3

The Fat Boy was on last week when we stopped by, a classic combo of beef, lettuce, red onion rings and cheese with a belt-popping addition of bacon jam across the top. We bump into these two and get the double patty tip off. It's a worthy investment. An extra three bucks doubles your protein.

You can see them pull these hand-shaped patties fresh out of the fridge. They're cooked so they caramelise at the edges but maintain a juicy core. The cheese is melted, the brioche buns are soft but sturdy, and then there's the sweet and smoky tang of that rubbly bacon jam adding a porky accent to every bite. 

Dirty fries by the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries

We order the baklava shake ($5) too, not overly nutty in taste but more caramel in nuance. You do need to stir that baby up with the straw, otherwise you'll hit a backlog of pastry bits at the end. We had flashbacks of soggy sweet Weetbix with those final slurps - not necessarily a bad thing.

Picking up orders at the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Picking up orders

The non-stop arrival of customers is pretty phenomenal. Generally there's enough seating as people polish off their burgers reasonably quickly and move on.

Tonight (Wednesday 17 December) they'll be bringing back The Truffe: grass-fed beef, rocket, Muenster cheese, onion confit and truffle mayo on brioche. It'll be available all week until Saturday.

Dirty fries and double Fat Boy burger at the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries

And what about dessert? If you head to Mister Gee this week, you won't have to go far to find Knafeh Bakery, currently trading two suburbs away in North Strathfield.

Knafeh - Jerusalem Street Food

Bearded men at Knafeh, North Strathfield

Head to Knafeh and you'll feel like you've stumbled on one big street party. There's music pumping, bright lights and crowds of young people, kids and families. This mobile shipping container sets-up in a different location roughly every two weeks. They sell one thing only. Knafeh.

Knafeh ready for pick-up at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Knafeh ready for pick-up

Knafeh is a baked dessert that originated in the Levant - that includes Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Israel, Syria and northern Egypt. The version they serve here is similar to what you'd find in Jerusalem, although co-owner Ameer El-issa is reported to have said his mother's recipe is a "lighter and creamier interpretation".

Shipping container set-up at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Shipping container set-up with giant whisk light fittings

The dessert first made an appearance at the family's restaurant Shisha Bar and Grill in Croydon Park. It was so popular they saw the potential to make it a separate business, run by brothers Joey and Ameer and their sister Mouna Emsis.

Ladling the fresh cheese mix at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Ladling the fresh cheese mix into bowls

Joey's usually the one taking orders. He's warm and chatty and will engage every customer with light-hearted banter. "Helen! Helen of Troy!" he exclaims, when I give him my name for our order. "Is this your first time?"

We explain we've visited before, when they were in Botany and experienced a black-out. "She's back! She's back!" he yells with excitement. He adds a #she'sback to my order tile. It's all part of the show but it's easy to buy into. Their smiles are way too infectious.

Adding the secret crumb topping at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Adding their secret crumb topping

There's an overriding sense of fun here. Every now and then, brothers Joey and Ameer break out into impromptu dancing to entertain the crowd. Their mischief-making carries over to their Instagram account which is dotted with jokesrock 'n' roll moves, dance offs and fun.

Spraying water onto the knafeh before they are grilled at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Spraying water onto the crumb mix before the knafeh goes under the grill

The open kitchen means you can watch everything being prepared while you wait. The cooked cheese mixture is ladled into bowls, covered with a special crumb mix, spritzed with water and then flashed under the grill. Once the bowls complete their conveyor belt run, they're sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

Knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Knafeh $8

Ameer calls out orders when they're ready. He greets me with the enthusiasm of a long lost friend, yelling "She's back!" when he sees the note on my order card. I'm not easily won over by token smiles but these guys seem genuinely excited to be serving you.

Huge squeezy bottles of sugar syrup sit on the counter so you can make your dessert as sweet as you please. Half the customers tonight are ordering takeaway, the bowls packed into pizza boxes with mini containers of sugar syrup on the side. Some blokes walk back to their car carrying eight serves of knafeh.

Stretchy cheese knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Stretchy cheese beneath a toasted crumb topping and crushed pistachios

You can't beat eating this on the spot though, while the crumbs are still hot and toasty, and the cheese a gooey mess underneath. Sweet cheese sounds strange to some until you remind them of cheesecake or ricotta hotcakes. Knafeh isn't overly cheesy in taste. It reminds me more of a mild mozzarella, milky in flavour with a tantalising stretchiness. It's warm and comforting and way too addictive.

They were out of Moroccan tea ($4) when we visited but we did have their homemade lemonade ($5), self-served from a massive plastic keg. It's just like the old fashioned kind you get at the Easter Show: just fresh lemon juice, sugar and water.

The Knafeh boys will be at North Strathfield until Sunday December 21. What are you waiting for?

Preparing knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield

Knafeh on Urbanspoon

Knafeh Bakery
Currently at the old Arnotts warehouse
Railway Lane, North Strathfield, Sydney
Parking onsite. Enter Railway Lane via George Street or park in the Bakehouse Quarter car park behind Delitalia
Open Thursday to Sunday 6pm til late

> Knafeh will be at North Strathfield until Sunday 21 December. Knafeh tends to stay in each location for two weeks. Check their facebook page or Instagram account for location updates. 

Mister Gee Burger Truck on Urbanspoon

Mister Gee Burger Truck
Current location: Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
55A Shaftesbury Road, Burwood, Sydney
Parking is available onsite
Tel: +61 (0)411 092 663
Open Wednesday to Saturday 7pm-10.30pm

> Currently a regular fixture at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash but check their facebook page or Instagram account for location updates and menu changes

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/17/2014 03:20:00 am

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mary's, Newtown

Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese at Mary's, Newtown

Who said cocktails can't come with a slice of grilled cheese and bacon? It makes perfect sense on a Bloody Mary, the spicy tomato juice protected by a lid of melted cheese. This bad boy comes to you from the crew at Mary's, Newtown- home of burgers, Metallica and deep fried chicken.

Inside Mary's, Newtown

So Mary's might have opened a new takeaway outlet in the city, but only Newtown allows you to eat-in and while away several hours with booze. The entrance still looks grotty, the interior is deliberately dark and gloomy, and the music borders on deafening, but that still doesn't stop the joint reaching capacity by 12.30pm on a Saturday. There's a steady trickle of families too - it's not unusual to see prams and toddlers wandering the floor on a weekend.

Jack Daniel's hot sauce at Mary's, Newtown

Service can be notoriously brusque at Mary's. We queue at the bar at 11.55am only to have one bar staff tell us sternly "don't you dare try and order food before midday". Mmmkay. Other staff members, however, go out of their way to be helpful.

Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese at Mary's, Newtown
Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese $18

But they that gives us more time to settle in with drinks, me with a Young Henry's cider and Suze with her Bloody Mary. We all try some of that Bloody Mary of course.

Sucking up that spicy tomato cocktail through a blanket of blowtorched cheese has to be up there as one of the craziest things you can drink. Then there's a drunken sense of bewilderment as you try to scoop up that melty cheese goodness with a straw. The curl of caramelised bacon on top is crazy delicious. And the pickled onion works brilliantly too. If you ever wanted a meal in a glass, this would have to be damned near perfection.

Delivering burgers and fries at Mary's, Newtown

The menu hasn't changed since my last visit, but novelty has never been high on the list of priorities here. The only thing that has changed is our appetite.

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Cheeseburger and fries $14 
with extra patty $3 and trashcan bacon $4 

These days we're all about double burgers. A cheeseburger with fries will set you back $14 but throw in an extra three bucks and you've got a double patty. Trashcan bacon is mandatory, $4 for three strips of sweet and smoky cured porcine goodness - smoked on a clean trashcan lid if you haven't worked that one out yet.

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon close-up Mary's, Newtown
Double cheeseburger goodness

Getting your gob around that double-stacked behemoth is your biggest worry. That melting river of gooey cheese is the least of your problems. Pickle slices are exactly what you need to balance everything out.

Mushroom burger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Mushroom burger and fries $12
with trashcan bacon $4

We've always steered past the mushroom burger on previous visits but word on the meat-free streets indicated this was worth making a detour. We succumb out of curiosity - but only after adding trashcan bacon.

Whoah. It's hard to beat the satisfaction of biting into a juicy meat patty, but sinking your teeth into this giant field mushroom isn't a bad consolation. The mushroom has a satisfying resistance with each bite, marked with an umami intensity that fulfils all your savoury requirements. Bonus points too for not squirting rivulets of oil like many other mushroom burgers we've tried.

Whole bird fried chicken $30

And of course there would be fried chicken. A whole bird ends up a decent-sized pile in our plastic basket. There's a terrific crunch to the knobbly batter. Make sure you drench it in hot sauce, siphoned into mini Jack Daniel's bottles on every table.

Mashed potato and gravy at Mary's, Newtown
Mashed potato and gravy $5

Round everything out with mashed potato and gravy. The mash is silkier than your sexiest bed sheets, smothered in a lake of gravy.

Dipping fries in mashed potato and gravy at Mary's, Newtown
Carb on carb action - chips dipped in mashed potato

There's no shame in carb on carb action. Dip your fries in that mashed potato and relish every mouthful.

Even as burger joints seem to opening up all over the city, it's good to see that Mary's is still holding her own.

Mary's Burger in the kitchen at Mary's, Newtown
Mary's burger (with lettuce and tomato)

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon

Bar and menu at Mary's, Newtown
Downstairs bar

Mary's Burger and cheeseburger at Mary's, Newtown

Mary's on Urbanspoon

6 Mary Street, Newtown, Sydney

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 4pm-12am
Saturday 12pm-12am
Sunday 12pm-10pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Mary's Newtown (April 2013)

Burgers - Pub Life Kitchen at the Lord Wolseley Hotel, Ultimo

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/14/2014 03:14:00 am

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

E-San Saap, Sydney

Som tum taad at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney

Giant som tum? You got it. It's called som tum taad, a massive tray (taad) that's piled up high with som tum green papaya salad and all the fixings. At E-San Saap in the heart of Sydney's Thaitown, that means noodles, pickles, vegetables, curls of pork crackling and fried chicken. Oh yeah. Now you know why this trend has been sweeping across Bangkok.

Pork crackling on the som tum taad tray at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Pork crackling on the som tum taad $19.80

This all-in-one crunch fest is served on old-fashioned colourful metal plates, the kind that Thai families would traditionally gather around to share their communal meal. And that's half the fun. It's hard not to feel the festive cheer when that spaceship of a platter lands in the middle of your table. Instant party time!

Thai fried chicken wings on the som tum taad tray at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Thai fried chicken wings

There are fifteen different variations of som tum at E-San Saap, and you can choose any of them to be the centrepiece of your tray. We go with the som tum pu pla-ra, dark and deliciously fishy with the inclusion of salty crab and anchovies pounded with the green papaya, carrot and green beans.

The Thai fried chicken wings threaten to take some of the glory from the main event. We squabble over these precious babies, covered in a knobbly crust of earthshatteringly crunchy golden batter. The curls of pork crackling are pretty darn tasty too.

Spicy herb soup at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
E-San spicy herb soup and vegetables 
with choice of pork or beef set ($19.80) or seafood ($29.80)

The som tum taad would probably feed two for dinner but we group of five has our eyes set on a bigger feast. We join everyone else at this student-friendly haunt with the soup and meat combo, a campfire stove job that is so popular, we spy it on every second table.

Mixed pork and liver set at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Mixed pork and liver set $19.80 with spicy herb soup and vegetables

It's a hands-on DIY affair. Choose between beef, pork or seafood and then cook them as you please, hot pot-style.

Cooking the pork and liver in the spicy herb soup at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Cooking the pork and liver in the spicy herb soup

The cooking stock has all the trademarks of a classic Thai soup - hot and sour with a lemongrass kick. It's the perfect kind of nourishment you'll appreciate any time of day, and is light enough that you can still enjoy it during warmer weather. Staff will bring more soup too, if you run out.

Barbecue pork neck at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Barbecue pork neck $9.80

If you need more protein, get into the barbecue pork neck, tender pieces of marinated pork cooked on the grill until caramelised.

Deep fried morning glory salad at E-San Saap Thai, Sydney
Deep fried morning glory salad $9.80

And fulfil your vegetable quota with deep fried morning glory salad. Hey, it still counts toward your five-a-day, right? Vegetables dipped in batter and deep fried, drenched with a spicy dressing and scattered with fried shallots. Win-win.

Chat Thai

Som tum taad tray at Chat Thai, Sydney
Som tum taad $24.90

But wait. Lookie here. They're doing som tum taad at Chat Thai too. It's a little pricier - an extra five bucks - but it does mean you won't have to move far after dinner for dessert.

Som tum taad prawn crackers at Chat Thai, Sydney
Prawn crackers

Crunch comes in the form of prawn crackers, the extra thick kind that won't disintegrate into a soggy mess at the faint whiff of moisture.

Som tum taad tray at Chat Thai, Sydney
Prawn crackers, luncheon meat, boiled eggs, bean sprouts, vegetables and vermicelli noodles with som tum

There ain't no fried chicken on this tray but there is an abundance of chopped luncheon meat, not dissimilar to the Vietnamese chả lụa you find in bánh mì thịt pork rolls.

Som tum taad tray at Chat Thai, Sydney
Boiled eggs

There are boiled eggs too, cooked so the yolks still have a touch of gooey stickiness.

Oyster omelette at Chat Thai, Sydney
Oyster omelette $20

We round things out with moo ping pork skewers and a fluffy behemoth that is the Thai oyster omelette. It's light, fluffy and crisp all at once, swollen with a treasure hunt of plump oysters inside.

Par tuhng go donuts with pandan custard at Chat Thai, Sydney
Par tuhng go donuts with pandan custard $6.90

We've noticed that the par tuhng go deep fried donut assembly line seems to be set-up earlier at Chat Thai these days too. Lately they seem to have started cranking out these babies from babies from 8.30pm even though the supper menu doesn't officially kick off until 9.30pm.

Dive in as soon as these crullers hit the table, dunking them into the saucer of warm pandan custard on the side. We always run out of the custard, but if you ask nicely, you may be rewarded with a refill.

Tao tung sweet bean soup at Chat Thai, Sydney
Tao tung sweet bean soup $6

Hot steamy nights call for tao tung sweet bean soup. It's the kind of stuff your parents tried to feed you as a kid to no avail. It's scary when the cocktail of kidney beans, lotus seeds, longans and red dates in a sweet soup suddenly makes sense. A hunk of shaved iced keeps everything cool and refreshing.

Sticky rice with durian dessert at Chat Thai, Sydney
Sticky rice with durian $8

Sticky rice with mango is good but sticky rice with durian is even better. They pulverise some of the durian so it becomes a rich sauce that soaks into the sticky rice grains. It's rich and powerful - they don't call durian the king of fruits for nothing.

Khanom tom coconut dumplings at Chat Thai, Sydney
Khanom tom coconut dumplings $5

There ain't no shortage of desserts to choose from at Chat Thai, but khanom tom are a sweet treat if they have them. These glutinous rice dumplings covered in fresh coconut shreds slip down the throat with ease.

A perfect end to a som tum taad party. What are you waiting for?

Thai desserts at Chat Thai, Sydney

Chat Thai
20 Campbell Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 1808

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 10am-2am


E-San Saap on Urbanspoon

E-San Saap
378 Pitt Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 0267 9604

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am-11pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am-11pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Thai - Chat Thai, Haymarket (Nov 2010)
Thai - Do Dee Paidang, Haymarket
Thai - Rim Tanon, Haymarket
Thai - Tawandang German-Thai Restaurant, Sydney

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/10/2014 01:18:00 am

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