Australia – Franklin’s noms @ Le monde cafe; Bowl Bar Oiden

Posted by on July 5, 2012

A trip to Sydney would be wasted without setting aside time to experience what it has to offer. At most the concert will take up a night’s worth of time; me and wifey would have roughly four to six meals to explore what it’s like to live and dine there. Having being through grad school, I know that the first thing you’ve got to do when faced with time constraints is to plan your way ahead.

A bit of time in the chowhound forums revealed a lot of places we might be interested in. Le monde and Mecca both seemed like good places for coffee (from this review), while the Bourke street bakery in the suburbs seemed like a cheap option in a pinch – although it is quite a walk away from our accommodation on George street (which was in the CBD basically). Gnome Espresso on Crown street was also mentioned in the same breath, some say it is actually better than the Bourke street bakery; however both were a bit too far from us and we never made it out of the CBD except on the first day. I had also earmarked Toko, Wagaya, and Ding Tai Fung as places to potentially splurge if given the chance, and we managed to snag Ding Tai Fung when we found how it close to was to the main streets that we didn’t get lost on. The story goes that we walked up and down George street for about twenty minutes because we had used a HSBC building as reference to our accommodation, Pensione Boutique hotel; what we didn’t know was that there were multiple buildings with HSBC naming rights… long story short, we got familiar with George street fairly quickly and most of the time drew our meals from the eateries along this main street.

We walked past these guys quite a few times…

Upon landing in Sydney and getting off the shuttle, we were quite keen to get caffeinated as it was going to be a long day (and we’re semi-anticipating getting lost on the way to the hotel, as well). We shambled our way to the hotel, left what we can at the counter, and headed towards cafe Le Monde on Foveaux Street.

The Best cafes article I mentioned earlier said something about clover coffee being available at Le Monde. However upon talking to one of the baristas, he mentioned that they’ve sinced moved to the uber boiled coffee instead… how intriguing. I’ve never heard these terms before and will not pretend to understand them. However I’ve found the following links for clover coffee (here) and uber boiled coffee (here) to be helpful in explaining what each does. The barista explained the difference between the two to me in more practical terms; that the uber used a metal filter while the clover used a paper filter. Did this really make a difference to the coffee that we ordered for our meal?

Not really, we’d have to say. Me and wifey’s impression was that while the coffee themselves was refreshingly fragrant, the flavor and scent rapidly disappeared as the coffee cooled down. It would be unfair for us to expect the flavor to stay consistent with a temperature drop, but we were surprised at how much difference freshly brewed (uber) coffee tasted to being slightly cooled. We tried two beans – ‘Kaiguri’ and ‘Utopian. We both preferred the Utopian as while it was the less fragrant of the two, the earthy character remained consistent even as it cooled. The Kaiguri became distinctly sour, which was a taste we did not appreciate. At the end of our meal we felt slightly alert but not quite at our caffeinated limit; it was at this point we realized how strong the coffee we’ve been drinking in New Zealand was. Given we’ve just consumed two brew’s worth of coffe – roughly six cups – we were no longer sleepy but still quite mellow and chilled… it was a very interesting realization!

Wifey’s omlette with sundried tomatoes and greens…something I could’ve ordered. It was cooked just right and tasted as good as it looks. Maybe next time!

And what of our meal? The review I read was right on the mark about Le Monde’s food. I felt peckish so I just had a poached muffin, which was reminiscent of the McDonald’s english muffin but in a good way. The muffin itself was fresh not stale, and the poached egg was as perfect as I could have imagined – sitting comfortably beneath a blanket of hollandaise sauce that was light and fluffy, the yolk spilling over the muffin as I gently poked the bulge with my fork…ahem, interesting description I came up with. It was however the best poached egg I’ve tried for a few years (I cannot recall a comparable experience yet) and I wish it was time for their lunch menu! As we weren’t feeling particularly hungry straight after the flight, we decided to take a tour around the CBD and familiarize ourselves with the scenery.

English muffin with poached egg… the flight killed my appetite. Otherwise I could’ve had another few servings!

As I mentioned before, we walked past a good stretch of George street quite a few times, and it was during this trek that I noticed a long queue inside one of the arcades on George street. After noting down the name of the eatery, Bowl Bar Oiden, we back on our journey to… find our hotel again and check in. By the time we’ve finished all that and had a quick shower, it was 3pm-ish and we were feeling famished. We firstly tried to check out the Dip on Liverpool street, because it serves fried chicken and I’m always on the lookout for some decent fried chicken. However it was actually an eatery inside a bar and only opens at night when the bar opens, so it was a no-go. Having expended energy to find the place and come up with an empty plate, I suggested we go check out Oiden because the long queues we saw before must have its reasons…

And oh it was a beautiful reason to queue for. My notes say it was like Renkon but much better, but on further consideration it was actually in a league of its own, the place where good taste meets low budget, the mecca of poor university students and budget savvy salarymen. The $7.90 AUD large bowl of sukiyaki beef donburi was enough to fill Franklin on an empty stomach. Seriously. If only my university life had been based around eateries of this portion size and calibre, I thought! The style of the eatery is this: you order at the counter from the menu, and then choose a snack / dish from the cabinet after you’ve picked up your order. Then at the counter there are different condiments which you can add to your order, and then you pay up whatever you’ve put on your tray. What’s interesting here is that tempura flakes were part of the condiment, as well as the usual wasabi and pickled ginger.

The sukiyaki beef, along with the tempura flakes created an oily mix that was flavorsome. The meat itself was mostly lean with tiny strips of fat, and adding too much tempura flakes in a mouthful felt excessive against the already heavy-tasting sukiyaki sauce. The creamy half-boiled egg was a nice addition to the donburi, but a minor character in the overall story. Although I was a tiny bit sad that I was filled to the brim with just a donburi, I felt consoled in the fact that the queues did not lie, and I had found a wonderful place to revisit in the future.

Me and wifey attended the Amei-zing concert thereafter around 8pm; for details of that and other sightseeing stuff we did, read up on the first post of our Sydney trip here

Onward to the second day!

Restaurant details:

Le Monde on Urbanspoon

Prices : A bit expensive given what we’re used to in Auckland, but when they brought out the food we quickly forgot about the prices. I am actually a little sad this was the first place we visited right after the flight, because had I been in a better shape I definitely would’ve ordered more and pampered my stomach. The coffee was not as strong as we’d expect but the taste from the uber brew was a new experience… not so sure we’d try it next time though if we need something with a kick!

Oiden on Urbanspoon

Prices : Cheap by our standards and way delicious beyond our expectations. Definitely a must-eat place for anyone on a budget or fancy eating themselves silly over a large bowl of rice and other yummy ingredients. A++ would eat again!

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