Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Marigold Restaurant in Sydney: Dim Sum, Entrees and More

The Marigold Restaurant in Chinatown, Sydney Australia specializes not only in seafood. I like to go there for dim sum (food served in small baskets or small dishes) and yum cha ( drinking tea). Essentially, dim sum and yum cha are two inter-related brunch activities conceptually and gastronomically, because when I go yum cha, I always order dim sum. In a big Chinese restaurant, there is a dim sum chef who specializes only in the dim sum menu.

The restaurant preserves the tradition of displaying the dim sum on a trolley which is pushed around the dining hall.


Diners pick what they like. Dim sum includes different bite size food, such as steamed dumplings, steamed buns, custard tarts, as well as the more exotic chicken feet and trite. A few orders plus a pot of tea, the flavour of which you can choose from a wide selection and which is constantly refilled will keep you there for for hours.


Dim sum aside, I also like the other meat and vegetable dishes when I dine at the Marigold. It is always safe to order the soya sauce chick, roast duck and sweet and sour pork. The meat comes in tender and juicy.

Braised seasonal vegetables are delicious because they used a good broth. Another ingenious way to enjoy the vegetables is to dip them into the soup that is order with some fried dumplings.




The restaurant is generous with their fruit platter and dessert platter. One of my favourites is baked sago and yam with a hint of coconut milk.



Given this is what I have tasted with my family and friends in Sydney over my two weeks’ visit, you can probably understand why I comment that you have to return to the restaurant again and again to try it all.

The Marigold Restaurant, 683 George Street, Sydney, Australia.

Marigold on Urbanspoon

The Best Seafood at the Marigold Restaurant in Sydney

Any trip to Sydney, Australia would not be complete without a visit–or even multiple visits– to the Marigold Restaurant in Chinatown. It is one of the oldest establishments for Chinese cuisine in Sydney and in many ways, it preserves the traditional style of Chinese restaurants, from decor, ambiance  service to style of cooking. It is the perfect place for a banquet style dinner, a meal to sample one or two specialties, or a “dim sum” lunch.

I find the best seafood in Sydney, both in terms of quality and variety. When these ingredients marry with the cooking at Marigold Restaurant, the result ranks supreme.

Lobster and Noodles

Stir-fired noodles with a clear sauce on top of noodles. The beauty of this dish is not only the lobster, but the noodles that is infused with the taste and aroma of the lobsters.

Stir-fried Coral Filet and Mixed Vegetables

The coral fish is a big fish and the best is to use the catch to create two dishes. My first dish is the stir-fry. The freshness and subtle sweetness of the ingredients are presented, and highlighted by the contrast of the dipping oyster sauce.

Fish, Pork and Bean Curd Hot Pot

The second  is a richer method to enjoy the Coral, which is cooked with roast pork, mushrooms and fried bean curd. The flavour also comes from the scallions and parsley.

Conch Slices

Very thinly sliced fresh conch is dipped in boiling water, removed as soon as it is cooked for the best bite and texture. Conch becomes chewy if it is over done. The best accompaniment is a dark soya sauce with red chili and scallion, shrimp sauce, or oyster sauce.

Steamed Oyster

Simple, elegant and divine. This is how I like my steamed oyster with a touch of light soya sauce, ginger and scallions.

Steamed Shrimps

These are small shrimps reared in a “gated pond”. I like the taste just on its own, without the dipping sauce.

Crabs with Ginger and Scallions

The crabs are in season with its orange “fat” that tingles the taste buds. The crabs are meaty and the red wine vinegar is the perfect accompaniment.

Of course, the crab claw is the meatiest part.

Steamed Parrot Fish

With a smaller fish, steaming is the ideal cooking method and the sauce is best enjoyed with a small amount of steamed rice.

In case you do not like seafood, the Marigold Restaurant will not disappointment with its other delicacies, and definitely worth a visit.

The Marigold Restaurant, 683 George Street, Sydney, Australia.

Marigold on Urbanspoon

The Century: A New Chinese Restaurant in Sydney

The Century, at the Star, is the latest addition to the Golden Century Group of Chinese Restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

The restaurant  presents itself to be an up-scale Chinese restaurant which caters to the western taste in fine wining and dining experience. This restaurant is also a departure from its sister restaurants in its traditional image. On entry, a wall made up of 15 aquaria displaying king crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns, fish, and scallops and clams flanked the hallway.

One then enters the open dining area, when the attention is immediately drawn to the wine display on the wall.

The decor is neutral, almost enlightening, because it is a Chinese restaurant that I am talking about.

We requested a lunch menu to be drawn up for our party of seven, with the instruction to have a mixture of seafood and meat dishes. The cold cut cucumber with garlic sauce was a refreshing starter.

The presentation and the taste of the fried clams with vermicelli made it a hit. The stir fried clams with a brown sauce sat on a bed of vermicilli that had been soaked in broth and then pan-fried to attain a crunchy exterior but soft interior. (This was reminiscent of the pan frying method of the sweet and sour Chiu Chow noodles.) Flavour and texture were well balanced.

We had three meat dishes: the “drunken” free range chicken, pork ribs Peking style and honey pepper beef. The steamed rice we ordered was the perfect accompaniment.

Our seasonal vegetable dish was braised baby bok choy.

With the seafood (scallops, calamari and shrimps) and tofu hot pot, the Century had no doubt secured its reputation as the flagship restaurant of its chain in town.

The fruit plate and the dessert platter of egg fritters and cocunut crunch were with compliments of the house. A little something sweet was always the best way to complete a meal.

The Century has an interesting wine list. After all, it boasts among its collection a 1825 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. Even if this vintage bottle is beyond my means, I am tempted to return for dinner and try the wine.

The Century at the Star, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, NSW 2009.

The Century on Urbanspoon

Eastern Beach Walk: Bondi to Bronte, Australia

Bondi Beach on the eastern Australian coast is the national icon for surfing and geological wonders. It is thought that the word “Bondi” traces its meaning to native Aboriginal languages, and “Bondi” means “water breaking over rocks” or “tumbling water”. Less than an hour from Sydney–by rail and then by bus–I found myself looking onto the Pacific Ocean with its lapping waves rolling in and out an expanse of fine, glistening sand. Further out, surfers were paddling out to the ocean and then rising on the crest of the waves which drove them towards the shore.

I am not aquatically inclined. My visit to Bondi was to enjoy the coastal features on the Bondi to Bronte section of the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk.

On this walk, I witnessed the force of Nature’s powerful chisel which had shaped the shoreline from the sandy beaches to the rocky scree.  I saw pot holes, caves, and cliffs. I heard the wind howling and the waves roaring. I felt the warmth of the sun and slap of the wind. What I experienced left me in awe.

The Sea, The Waves and The Shore

The Rocks, The Cliffs and The Wonders of Erosion

I walked about 3.5K from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach, passing Tamarama Beach. Except for a short section which was on the sidewalk with traffic passing, the beach walk was along the seashore. By the time I arrived at Bronte, it was time for lunch and I could see a very interesting restaurant waiting for me.

Sydney Running Festival (The Bridge Run)

I killed two birds with one stone on my recent visit to Sydney, Australia. I visited my family, and also participated in the 2012 Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. It was an event with over 36,000 participants in the Marathon, Half Marathon, the Bridge Run and a family run on the same day. Just in the Sunday Telephone Body and Soul Bridge Run that I signed up for, there were over 14,000 participants.

It was a well organized race starting from the Race Expo to race day. For a visitor to Sydney and first time racer in this event, I was well informed regarding transportation, start time, and start and finish locations.

It was a crispy Sunday morning. The moment I stepped out of Milson’s Point station, I could feel the excitement of the people around me, all wearing their race bibs and heading towards Bradfield Park for the start. The Marathon, the Half Marathon and the Family Fun Run were already underway, and my event was the next and last to go.

The energy was building. There were the usual line-ups at the portable toilets, baggage checks and warm up drills. We would all be racing across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and heading towards the Opera House and to finish at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The race was on its way! I power walked; others ran, jogged, or walked. It seemed that everybody was increasing the pace as the Sydney Harbour Bridge approached.

The view of the harbour from the Bridge was stunning. Many participants were tempted to pause and take a picture. After all, how often would one have an opportunity to have the entire bridge closed down for the photo op? And what an unforgettable view of the structure when I looked up while crossing the Bridge.

We pushed towards the south of the Bridge and the Opera House was now on our left.

The City Centre came into view with all its tall buildings and we were directed off the Bridge.

Although I had visited Sydney before, it was a unique experience for me to be walking through the city streets without traffic and enjoying the scenery along the way.

I soon turned into the grounds of the Botanical Gardens and walked along a tree-lined path. The day had warmed up significantly and with all the exertion, the coolness under the shade was almost invigorating. My pace picked up again and before long, I crossed the finish line, still feeling strong. The 9.5K Bridge Run completed!

Looking across the harbour from the recovery area, it felt almost surreal that about an hour ago, I was power walking across the Bridge.

Now it’s the time to cheer the Marathoners on as they crossed their finish line at the Opera House before my own celebration.

Small Plate Dining (The Alex Restaurant)

The Alex’s Restaurant brings a new concept to the wining and dining experience in Burlington, ON by offering ‘small plates’. It is an ingenious creation because it has succeeded in setting itself apart from tapas, both in terms of serving size and continental influence. The chef has the freedom to create a menu which ranges from fois gras to mac ‘n cheese, or from flatbread to poached lobster.

Almost every item on the menu seemed enticing and the three of us randomly ordered what we thought would be interesting. When it came to serving, the waiter started by bringing us the salad and the flatbread, and they were followed by the chicken wings stuffed with fennal sausage, pan roasted basa with mash, and  mac ‘n cheese. The richer dishes, like the osso bucco and short ribs, came last.  They had quite appropriately helped us create the sequence of a tasting menu from our choices. We rounded off our dinner with a cheese board.

Each dish was nicely crafted both in taste and in presentation. The fine dining twist was impressive. There was lobster and shrimp morsels in the mac ‘n cheese. The basa fillet sat on mash potatoes infused with truffle oil. Then the surprise factor claimed victory when the modest bubble and squeak found its way into the menu as a side to the stuffed chicken wing. My favorite was the pork osso bucco with the meat coming off easily off the bone of the pig’s hock, and both skin and meat simply melted in my mouth. Taste and texture was all for indulgence.

When it came to service, we belonged to an early dinner crowd and found the tempo well paced and attentive. As the evening went on, we noticed patrons waiting for a long time before their food arrived, and the waiters looked rushed. This quibble aside, the ambiance was good for a gathering with friends or for a dinner date. With a good glass of wine, it  would be easy to carry on the conversation while the food arrived.

I still have many dishes I want to sample from the menu, and I will return to The Alex.


The Alex Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Color, Aroma and Taste of a Nine-Course Chinese Dinner

“Color, Aroma and Taste” are the three essentials ingredients in Chinese cooking. Fantaxia (this is not a misspelling) Restaurant in North York offers all this in their Private Menu nine-course dinner. The Private Menu means that the dishes you order do not appear in the printed menu of the restaurant. Instead, you make your reservation at least a week in advance, and the restaurant recommends a menu put together for your party, depending on seasonal availability. The menu given to me is written in fancy Chinese calligraphy. It is customary for Chinese restaurants to have a handwritten customized menu, even in ink and brush, in some places. Fantaxia Restaurant is certainly following the tradition. They have also given each dish a poetic though cryptic name, which refletcs either the ingredients or the style of cooking. Part of the fun is to appreciate the name of the dish with the food in front of us. ( I have put in the fancy names in parentheses for your enjoyment.) 1. Winter Melon Soup (Aromatic Elixir from Heaven) Winter Melon is available only in the summer. The broth is steamed inside the winter melon with many delicious ingredients.Our soup contains lotus seeds, shredded dried scallop, fresh scallops, shrimps, mushrooms, crab meat (displayed first as garnish and then submerged into the soup before serving) and slices of melon. The presentation is stunning, and the soup smells and tastes as good as it is named. 2. Stir Fry Scallop and Conch (Lotus Fairy) This is a very colourful dish. The fresh scallop and conch slices are stir fried with enouki mushrooms and button mushrooms, and garnished with tomato and vegetables. 3. Prawns and Fried Garlic (Treasure Box) These are deep fried king prawns served with deep fried garlic. The aroma is enticing. The texture and the taste demonstrate the superb control of the chef in this preparation. If you love garlic (like I do), this is the dish for you. 4. Stir Fry Broccoli and Pork  (Jade Flower and Meat) The broccoli is the jade flower. The pork is the meat at the neck of the pig and this is known for its firm bite–neither chewy nor crispy–which is determined by the temperature and amount of time it is stir fried. Once again, the chef did it with panache. 5. Crab with Spinach and Asparagus Sauce (Treasure in a Lotus Pond) You can sit there just to admire the presentation. This is a paste or thick soup with finely chopped spinach and asparatus, goji seeds, lotus seeds, crab meat, baby scallops and egg white. The hint of sweetness from the goji seeds is a delight. This is a rare and precious dish. 6. Mixed Vegetables (Bamboo Shadow on a Lattice) This is a delicious dish with an imaginative name.The base of the dish consists of baby bok choy, gai lan  and oyster mushrooms, with a clear gravy. The “Bamboo shadow” in the name refers to bamboo shoots, and the lattice is the shreds of black fungi, which is thinner than angel hair and the Chinese call it “hair veggie”. 7. Deep Fried Stuffed Chicken (Pearl Chicken) The chicken has been deboned and stuffed with cooked glutinous rice and diced Chiense sausages before is is deep-fried. To appreciate the name, a cross-section can give you the answer. 8. Fried Rice The rice is fried with scallion and egg white and shredded dried scallop. A simple dish but appropriately seasoned. The rice is light and it is good to clean the palate in preparation for dessert. 9. Milk Custard Light and smooth and tasty. This is the house specialty and the dessert experience  sums up an evening of memorable Chinese cuisine.

  Fantaxia Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Fantaxia Restaurant is situated at Unit 5, 3555 Don Mills Road, Toronto, ON.

Book Club Review: Wild Health, Cindy Engel

I would not normally pick a book of this genre, but thanks to my book club, I had this opportunity to educate myself on a topic outside of my realm of knowledge and awareness.

There was a lot of information in this book and everybody agreed it was a challenge reading through it quickly. Fortunately, the chapters were well-defined, and one could read the chapters in any order one chose. The topics spanned from how animals use poisonous plants to cure themselves of sickness, what they do to keep off mites, to how they deal with births and deaths.

It was apt for the host, who selected this book, to ask everybody what she found most interesting given all the information. The most vote went to the fact that animals eat earth to keep themselves healthy, and then they eat leaves with barbs to get rid of the worms that they have swallowed with the dirt. We were also amused by how animals get high with fermented fruits, that animals cover broken bones with certain leaves to help them mend, and that elephants put leaves over their dead.

I grew up in a culture in which herbal medicine was frequently used. The book revealed to me that the white powder that was put on my wounds after scraping myself when I was a child was discovered, according to a legend, by a farmer who followed a snake to discover what it ate after being wounded. I also related to the comments that even in the animal kingdom, bitterness was a measure of how effective the plants was for healing, and I remembered well the dark and bitter herbal drinks I had when I was young.

Given all the interesting facts, the book has also left us with many questions. The author is a biologist, and biologists are experts in documenting and categorizing factual findings. Engel undoubtedly has consulted many references, scientific or legendary, to write this book. However, after educating the readers with a lot of “what”s, we cannot help questioning the “how”s and the “why”s.

It would be educational to know to what the extent the animal behavior to maintain health is   due to evolution and how much it is a learned behavior, either from growing up with their parents or learning by trial and error. Another unsolved mystery is the author referring to the “minds” of the animals when she discusses how animals react to stress or seek for pleasure. Little do we know about the minds of human beings, let only wild animals. Conceptually, an explanation referring to the “brain” of the animals is more tenable, particularly based on available animal studies in the laboratory about the pleasure centers and biochemical changes in the brain under stress.

We also had a discussion on our reactions to zoos after reading about the richness and diversities out there in the wild for the animals to maintain their health and to heal themselves when they are unwell. There was a consensual feeling that zoos should be designed to reflect the natural habitat of the animals as much as possible. What we now know about health behavior of animals can help us provide a better diet and environment for them, even when they are kept in captivity by  man.