TGI Fridays, Macquarie Centre ($$)

Address: Macquarie Shopping Centre, Herring Road North Ryde NSW

Tel: (02) 9888 3440

Website: http://www.tgifridays.com.au/

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Atmosphere
TGI Fridays is a well-known American diner-style restaurant which features big dishes of all American favourites like ribs, burgers and wings.
Having been to America and travelled around quite a bit, I knew that I was going to be in for some big food and some pretty unhealthy food at that and I wasn’t wrong there.
I walked in and was excited by the yummy smell of food and the cool diner booths lining the outside of the room.  The restaurant has two levels and features TVS mounted on the walls and bars in the middle of the room serving drinks and cocktails.
Overall it has a cool and groovy Grease style.
Service
I thought service was quite bad on my visit with MDS.
I had called to book beforehand but as I called at 7.00pm and we wanted to dine at 8.00pm they informed me that no bookings were necessary.
When I got there, MDS was still on the way so I waited at the front of the restaurant for a staff member.  I waited about 10 minutes and plenty of staff walked past and looked at me but didn’t even acknowledge my presence.
When I finally got noticed I was led to a small table upstairs, in the middle of the room.
I asked if I could sit at the booth (like two other diners I saw) but was told “no, that’s for large groups or you have to book them.”   This was despite the fact that there were a few available booths and I noticed that as we were dining quite late no one ended up filling the booths during our meal.
MDS later mentioned that we could have said we had 3 people coming but one cancelled!
  
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While waiting for MDS, I was given a menu and read through the tasty food options.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t asked if I wanted a drink and eventually I ended up having to ask for some water myself.
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Water
When MDS arrived I ordered the Pineapple Sunshine mocktail, a delicious mix of pineapple and orange juice, passionfruit, sour mix and ice. It was super tasty, well-presented and very tropical!
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Pineapple sunshine, $6.25
Overall, I thought service was pretty terrible and it was only at the end of the meal when our waiter left and a friendly Asian lady came to be our waiter, that we actually had decent service.
I think the restaurant needs to work a bit on its training as some of the (quite young) staff don’t seem to know much about customer service!
Food
The menu at TGI is amazing. They have everything from potato skins to meatballs, bruschetta, nachos, wings, steak ribs and fajitas!
MDS and I decided to share two dishes, a large entree platter and a main.
We decided to go with the Jack Daniel’s Sampler for the entree as it would give us the chance to try a few of the entree dishes on the menu all at once!
The sampler contains cajun battered prawns, succulent sesame chicken strips and tender baby back pork ribs with a glossy Jack Daniel’s sauce.
The prawns were crunchy and delicious, with a little kick of cajun and a delicious juicy prawn on the inside.
The chicken strips were tender and juicy with a crunchy exterior that was perfect in the sweet and silky sauce.
Finally, the ribs. They simply fell off the bone and were super easy to eat. Pork ribs are the best kind and these were full of flavour and were grilled to perfection.
A stunner of a platter with more than enough for the two of us- probably good for 4-5 people as an entree!
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Jack Daniels Sampler, $29.95
For the main, we ordered the Combination Fajita Tower.
The tower featured a platter of sizzling grilled chicken and beef, vegetables including onions and capsicum and fresh salad of cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo (salsa fresca- a fresh, uncooked condiment) and guacamole. 
The chicken was tasty and the beed was tender and soft.  The warm fajitas could have been toasted to improve the floury taste but they were not bad.
I loved the presentation of the dish on the stand, and the flavours were quite good although some spicy sauce would have gone down well!

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 Combination Fajita Tower, $28.95
Overall despite the service, the food was delicious.  It didn’t take long to arrive, was hot and tasty and had generous portion sizes in true American style.
Presentation was great and there was lots of variety of food, drinks and desserts available on the menu.
I would come back for the food but I hope that next time the service has improved!

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  3.5
  • Food-  8
  • Ambience- 7
  • Value – 7
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Palings, ivy, Sydney CBD ($$)

Address: Level 1, ivy, 330 George Street, Sydney, 2000

Tel: (02) 9240 3000

Website: http://merivale.com.au/palings

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Atmosphere

Palings is the bar on Level 1 of the ivy.

It’s not very well-defined and is really more of a tapas bar setting than a cafe or restaurant.

The atmosphere in the ivy is sort of hotel resort meets business crowd, as it attracts a lot of city workers for post-work drinks.

The palm trees and open interior make it a bit chilly in winter, especially on rainy days like the one we went on.

Service

Service is minimal. You order at the bar, you pay at the bar, you get a number and return to your table, your food is brought out to you. Simple!

Food

As for food, MDS and I decided we would go for three dishes to share as we couldn’t decide on what to get!

First up were lamb meatballs on skewers with Lebanese bread, baba ghanouj and tabbouleh. The lamb was delicious and so flavoursome. Much better than beef meatballs. The tabbouleh was light and fresh and the baba ghanouj creamy and rich. The Lebanese bread was a little hard and dry but otherwise was perfect for making a wrap with!

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Next were the grilled Mediterranean vegetables with haloumi olive oil. This dish was a little bit of a disappointment as the vegetables were far too oily. While they were smoky and complemented the salty haloumi well, they had a slightly odd flavour to them and MDS and I couldn’t quite put our respective fingers on it! MDS wasn’t a fan of the eggplant but we both enjoyed the other vegetables.

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Finally, the pumpkin arancini was delciious. The crunchy panko breadcrumb exterior was light and crisp and the inside was filled with delicious parmesan cheese, peas and creamy pumpkin rice. The aioli was tangy and a great side to a super dish! Definitely a winner with this one!

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Cost

All up MDS and I paid about $58, including $5 happy hour drinks (vodka LLB of course!).

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 4
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 6
  • Value – 7

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Bodhi in the Park, Sydney CBD ($$)

Address: Lower Mezzanine Level of Cook and Philip Park, 2-4 College Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9360 2523

Website: http://www.bodhi.id.au/

Opening Hours: 

Yum Cha 11am-4pm 7 days
Dinner 5pm-10pm Tue-Sun
Functions till 1am

* * *

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Atmosphere

Set in the leafy park behind St Mary’s Cathedral  in Sydney, Bodhi is a hidden paradise in the CBD which offers tasty and innovative vegetarian Thai food.

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The restaurant has a great view of the park and features engraved metal cups, wooden benches and little stools, outdoor lanterns and lots of red and black and neutral colours.  There are also a lot of statues and photos of Buddha, and plenty of wood panelling.

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Overall, the space has a very calming atmosphere, the perfect place to enjoy a meal after a busy day at work.

Service

The staff at Bodhi were very friendly and seemed quite calm and relaxed, unlike other restaurants in the city where staff seem stressed.

The only complaint I had would be that we had to ask for our own water, something I consider you should not have to do in a restaurant.

Food

FitnessFanatic, SenoritaLay and I dined at Bodhi for dinner on a Wednesday evening and although none of us are actually vegetarians, we were looking forward to trying dishes such as the “vegetarian chicken” and other interesting items on the menu.

We each chose a dish on the menu.

First up were the dumplings, chose by FitnessFanatic.

The presentation was lovely, with the three Japanese pumpkin gow dumplings being served in a cute bowl and topped with some bright coloured veggies.  The dish also tasted amazing as the wrapping was soft and moist and the interior of veggies was tasty and sweet.

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Japanese Dumplings, $7.00

Senorita Lay chose the chickpea battered sweet potato and tofu served with
‘sour cream’ and sweet chili sauce.  The batter was crunchy and golden and I loved the firm “just cooked” sweet potato in the dish.

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Battered Sweet Potato & Tofu, $13.00

I ordered the Surimi Samosas with Sweet Chilli Sauce, which I thought was a lovely choice. The fried dishes at Bodhi are all crunchy with well made wrappers and tasty fillings.

I found presentation to be quite nice and I liked the touches of bean sprouts and sesame seeds in the sauces.

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Samosas, $7.00

After our entrees, we were keen to try some of the yummy mains.

We thought we would go with some of the classics, such as the gluten free Red Curry and Malaysian Roti, with Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and French Beans.

The rotis were nice, flaky and crisp but a little too much like the type you can buy from Indian spice markets.  They didn’t seem handmade, but if they are then hey, I would like to know. I think it was a little silly to have so much curry and so little roti and would have preferred about 3-5 rotis on the plate for that price as well, as they barely cost anything to make.

The curry was tasty and substantial, there was more than enough of it for the three of us to share although there was only one roti and we had to order two more. While the fake chicken tasted quite authentic, I still think nothing beats the real deal!

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Red Curry, $20.00

We also enjoyed the Bodhi Vegetarian Peking ‘Duck’, bbq sauce, cucumber and pancakes.

The Peking “duck” was crispy and crunchy. I believe it was some sort of soy product, but it tasted quite nice.  The batter was a deep brown and had what tasted like turmeric in it.

The pancakes were soft and the cucumber was neatly cut and served with one of my favourites, BBQ sauce, as well as a red sweet chilli.

Overall a tasty dish and a great one for the vegetarians out there to try!

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Peking “Duck”, $23.00

Overall, the flavours of the dishes were great and the Thai spices and coconut based sauces were delicious.

We didn’t really feel that we were in a vegetarian restaurant as there was a lot of variety on the menu and plenty of exotic and interesting flavours.

While the “chicken” wasn’t really my thing (I much prefer the taste of real chicken), I thought it was nice that they tried to recreate it and felt that if I was a vegetarian and had to choose between no meat or this “fake chicken”, the chicken would not be so bad after all.

Desserts

For dessert, we picked the Pandan Sago Pudding with coconut cream and palm sugar caramel and the Deconstructed Apple Crumble with a five spiced custard,
vanilla ice cream and szechuan wine poached apple.

The Sago pudding was divine. The little balls of sago (pearls or tapioca seed) were perfectly cooked until just see through.  The greenness and the unique musky flavour of the pandan contrasted with the smooth and light coconut cream. The caramel added some sweetness to top it all off!

The apple crumble had a lovely crumble and tasty vanilla ice cream.  However, the szechuan poached apple was too strong and the dish overall was underwhelming in both taste and presentation.  By “deconstructed”, I had expected a plate of well placed and thoughtfully assembled apple crumble elements, but what we instead got was really more of an Eton Mess.

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Sago Pudding, $13.00 and Apple Crumble, $15.00

Summary

Bodhi has a very calming and soothing environment and features interesting vegetarian dishes which did inspire me to cook with less meat. The fact that the dishes were curries and had lots of flavour and sauces meant I did not really miss the meat in the dish.

Overall a great vegetarian restaurant with tasty food and friendly service.

Ratings

  • Service-  6
  • Food-  6
  • Atmosphere- 7
  • Value – 6.5

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360 Bar and Dining, Sydney Tower, Sydney ($$$)

Address: Sydney Tower Dining, Reception Level 4, Sydney Westfield Centre, Pitt & Castlereagh Streets, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 8223 3883

Website: http://www.trippaswhitegroup.com.au/our-venues/360-Bar-and-Dining/1

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For my birthday MC took me to 360 Bar and Dining.

360 is located at the top of the Sydney Tower on Pitt Street with its entrance from Westfield Sydney.

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It is the tallest viewing point from Sydney and boasts amazing views of Hyde Park, the Sydney CBD, Darling Harbour, the East, Botanic Gardens and Town Hall, among other amazing Sydney sights.

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Unfortunately because of some of the other buildings in the area, you don’t get a very good view of the harbour bridge and circular quay, although that didn’t mean that the view was anything short of amazing.

Atmosphere

We arrived at about 6.15 for a 6.30pm reservation.

MC’s booking was checked at the front reception desk and we took the lift ride  up to the top of the tower.

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As the doors opened, we were greeted by a friendly staff member who led us to a table for two by the window.

The restaurant was definitely very fine dining and the booths and tables were decorated nicely with candles and polished glasses.

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The table had an amazing view and as the evening went on we saw the city in the daylight, at sunset and in the evening.  It was beautiful to watch the colours of the sun and the night sky transform the city and to see the familiar sights from a different angle.

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Service

Service was excellent and although our waiter was not very chatty (a good thing), he was quite professional and we could not fault his service.

Throughout the night our food came out quickly, orders were taken speedily and our water was filled up as required- excellent!

We started off with a couple of ciders. I chose the Elderflower and Lime Kopparberg, and MC chose the Pear.

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Food

We chose a three course meal and were very excited by the menu which features a lot of variety and crowd-pleasing dishes.

The two cute dinner rolls (one rye, one white) served with delicious creamy butter, olive oil and rock salt were a lovely start to the meal.

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For entree I enjoyed the Scallops, which were seared and served with ajo blanco (bread, garlic, crushed almonds, water, olive oil and salt puree), chorizo, citrus dressing, almonds.

The scallops were large and plump.  They were beautifully presented, seared until caramelised on either side and served with a drizzle of the puree and citrus dressing and a sprinkle of chorizo.

I was a little disappointed with the fact that the chorizo were just flakes, rather than actual pieces of chorizo, and I think a few extra scallops wouldn’t have gone astray either.

That said, the flavours on the plate worked in perfect harmony to deliver a crowd pleasing dish and one that I was quite pleased  with overall.

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MC’s entree was a Crab Ravioli featuring blue swimmer crab & king prawn, and a light fish bouillon (broth).

The broth was subtly flavoured and went really nicely with the soft ravioli which was stuffed with silky crab.

The dish was, once again, presented in a beautiful manner with lots of colours and shapes in the bowl.

 

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After enjoying our entrees, we moved on to mains.

I chose the Seared King Salmon Fillet, with red pepper salsa, dried olives and roma tomatoes.

The fish was crunchy on top and soft on the inside.

The salsa was bright and had a strong flavour, while the dried olives added a chewy and intense flavour.

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MC’s main was the Black Angus Beef Fillet, which was from Darling Downs, Queensland.

It was served with a side of mashed potato, salsa verde and a lemon wedge.

The dish was a little messy on the plate with all the pan juices moving around, but the beef was cooked very well.  It was soft and tender and the salsa verde had a lovely freshness to it.

The mash was creamy and soft and was generously portioned.

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For dessert, I couldn’t go past the Sherry Ripe, a cherry & white chocolate semi-freddo, dark chocolate brownie and roasted coconut.

The creamy semifreddo was sweet and nutty and contrasted well with the sourness of the cherries.

The dish was decadent without being too rich as the creamy and cold ice cream cut through the sweetness.

Delicious way to end a meal.

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MC had my second choice, which he chose to allow me the chance to try both desserts that I wanted!

It was the Mandarin Tart featuring imperial mandarins, passionfruit curd and mandarin sorbet.

Again, presentation was amazing and the dish was colourful and attractive.

The creamy sorbet was very refreshing and the citrus fruit went very well with the soft tart base and creamy filling.

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Overall, the food at 360 was amazing and the service was great.  Obviously the highlight here was the view but I think the amazing food lived up to our expectations too.

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Tomodachi, Broadway ($)

Address: Food court, 1 Bay Street, Broadway NSW

Tel: (02) 9281 6000

Website: http://www.broadway.com.au/tomodachi-restaurant

Opening Hours

Monday- Wednesday: 10.00am to 8.00pm

Thursday: 10.00am to 9.00pm

Friday: 10.00am to 10.00pm

Saturday: 9.00am to 10.00pm

Sunday: 10.00am to 8.00pm

* * *

MC and I decided to revisit Tomodachi, a cute little sushi train located in the food court area of Broadway Shopping Centre.

Atmosphere

Tomodachi’s wooden exterior shields the quite peaceful interior of the restaurant from the bustle of the shopping centre. The dark mood lighting and gentle music make the atmosphere relaxing and calm.

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The decor had been revamped since we last visited Tomodachi, a couple years ago. The tables and chairs had been updated and the sushi train tables had also been changed.

Service

Service was good, our waiter was friendly and polite (aren’t all Japanese people?!), but unfortunately didn’t have very good English which made it a little difficult to communicate what we wanted.

Nonetheless we got through the meal without too much fuss!

Food

We decided to order a few of our favourites:

First up was soft shell crab. This soft shell crab had a crunchy interior and exterior and was colourful and bright! Presentation was great, but portion size was quite small. MC asked why I got to have the one with the crab legs so I let him have the prawn tail on the next one :p

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Tempura prawn, always a favourite, this dish was our replacement for the typical fried foods MC looks for at Sushi Train. As wontons, and gyoza were noticeably missing, we decided to choose tempura prawn to get our fix of oily goodness! Delicious! The seafood was very fresh and the larger portion size (with 4 small rolls) was good too!

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The crab stick with some sort of fried crab stick on top was very interesting. We loved the fried potato gem-like piece on top which made the dish more crabby and less ricey, it also made it more interesting to look at and to eat.

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The chicken and avocado roll is the reliable goodie. The chicken had a strong soy flavour which married well with creamy avocado, which was a cleansing way to finish off the meal.

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Cost

Each sushi plate ranges from about $3.00 to 6.00.

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Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 7
  • Value – 6.75

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