REVIEW: Subcontinental

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Shortgrain, the bar space beneath Surry Hills’ Thai restaurant Longrain, shut its doors at the start of the year. Situated 90 seconds around the corner from the Two Thousand offices, we poured out a little liquor as we mourned not being able to buy the fried chicken wings / greens ten dollar lunch combo, then waited anxiously for the new restaurant to open inside the space.

First of all, the bad news, relevant only to cheap Two Thousand writers and their interns: the new restaurant doesn’t do lunch. They’re working on a takeaway dinner menu to launch later in the year. The good news? Pretty much everything else about Subcontinental, the new restaurant and bar beneath Longrain is good news!

While Shortgrain offered snackier versions of the Thai dishes served upstairs, Subcontinental changes it up pretty drastically with a South Central Asian menu, as the name suggests. While decent Indian food is hard to come by in the inner city, so too is decent (or any) Sri Lankan, Bengalese or Nepalese cuisine, and it all gets a look in on the Subcontinental menu.

The space hasn’t changed much, save for the portraits of smiling turbaned men which hang over each of the booths, watching you fuck up the pronunciation of half the dishes. The house made pappadums are great for snacking on as you sip on a G&T, something you’d never consider ordering before a round of curries, but after learning that there’s a different G&T on each night at Subcontinental, you get on board. Which begins a theme of realising what the restaurant is trying to do and just going with it.

The crisp Pani Puri aren’t quite as exciting as the ones you’ll find in Harris Park but, they’re probably the only ones you’ll find in the city. Filled with tamarind water at the table and eaten in one gulp. Ever seen buratta on an Indian menu before? You’ll see it on your plate with a light green sauce and herby orange salad and it’ll be gone before you even work out if it makes sense. If you order the pork belly curry expecting a soft brown mess, you’ll be surprised by an excellent piece of roast belly, complete with crackling, half-submerged in a dark and spicy broth. Order a Tandoori lamb cutlet and try your hardest not to pick the thing up and eat it with your hands.

While there’s a good deal of decadence on offer, it’s just as easy to keep things cheap and classic with a simple vege curry, a bowl of basmati and a chapati to eat it with. The addition of fresh, sweet pineapple to the raita makes it a must-order, and the biggest misstep on the menu (a beetroot pickle that tastes like little more than raw beetroot) is very easily remedied (there’s a classic mango & chilli pickle which is ten times better).

Subcontinental is a welcome addition to the series of Surry Hills streets that are forever half-closed due to road maintenance. It speaks volumes that the Longrain team were able to close and open an entirely new restaurant in about one tenth of the time that it’s taken the Sydney City Council to install a flowerbed.

8 Hunt St, Surry Hills

Tues-Sat, 5:30-10:30pm

How much
Mains from $24

REVIEW: Taj Indian Sweets & Restaurant

About ten years ago, at an Indian Home Diner, or some other similarly terrible franchise on Enmore Rd, you could get an off menu item called an ‘Indian kebab’. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t even on the off menu, but at 11:30pm one night I watched in horror as my drunk friend ordered the man behind the counter to make him an Indian kebab, forcing him to wrap two pieces of chicken tikka in naan bread and cover the whole thing in curry sauce. My friend then announced that this would cost him seven bucks and he inhaled his creation within 30 seconds of paying. For many years, this experience summed up Indian food in Australia for me.

Obviously, there are much better Indian food options than a drunken mistake in Sydney, hell, there were probably much better Indian food options on that takeaway store’s menu, but in Harris Park, there are streets filled with the best Indian food Sydney has to offer. The choice is like staring into a servo freezer, trying to decide which of the 50 Magnums you want. There are some 20 Indian restaurants in Harris Park, and they all look (and smell) pretty good.

My father-in-law took me to Taj’s Indian Sweets, right down the end of Wigram St, four years ago and since then I have trouble venturing inside any of the other restaurants around it. I’m sure they’re good too, but remember that year you first had a Magnum Ego and were then able to confidently select it again and again from the freezer in a heartbeat, free from the fomo that comes with not trying those colourful new ice creams? Taj’s Indian Sweets is my Magnum Ego.

Their name focuses on the sweets, which you can see lined up along on the counter as you enter. Those sweets are excellent, each one as different tasting as it is different looking and hard to remember the name of, but before you get to the sweets, you’ve gotta make your way through the actual menu. Taj’s is one of the few places in Sydney that serve puri – an amazing south Indian snack that comes in different variations (just like Magnums!). At Taj’s you can get pani puri; small crunchy balls filled with chickpeas, potatoes, chutneys and tamarind water, bhel puri; puffed rice with chickpeas, vegetables, tamarind and mint sauce and sev puri, crackers topped with all of those aforementioned ingredients. The pani puri are addictive and probably the highlight of the whole menu.

The curries at Taj’s aren’t amazing, best served in small amounts as part of a thali (which they offer a southern and northern variation of), or on the side of a dosa the size of your head. The food is fun, filling and great to eat with a big group. That huge menu ensures return visits to try it all as well – I’ve eaten at Taj’s at least twenty times and have only made my way through half of that wall of sweets.

91 Wigram St, Harris Park

Open 7 days, 10am-10pm

How much
A little more expensive then an Indian kebab

We review a bunch of ciders available at Newtown Hotel’s Cider Fair

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

A few weeks ago we published an article entitled ‘We review a bunch of gross craft beers‘ and felt the wrath of passionate craft beer fans from all over the country. We’ll be getting the review panel back together for our second round of craft beer reviewing in a week or two, but in the meantime, why not turn our attention to cider?

There’s a cider fair at The Newtown Hotel this Saturday where you’ll be able to sample 26 different ciders and meet the cider-makers, or as I like to call them, ‘apple murderers’. We were sent a small selection of the ciders on offer this weekend so Claire and I put our reviewing berets on and had a lil’ drinking sesh.

CIDER #1: Young Henry’s Cloudy Cider
What the label says: “Young Henry’s Cloudy Cider”.

Levins: Young Henry’s do everything well. Their lager is awesome, they make an ale you can drink more than two of and their cider might be the tastiest thing they make (although I haven’t eaten their soap yet). I could drink this for breakfast – it’s got just the right balance of sweetness and tartness and a slightly thick consistency. It’s nice out of this bottle but it’s so much better on tap. It gets bonus points for not having any waffly bullshit mission statement on their bottle, just the important stuff: the alcohol content and the amount you’ll get back if you take this bottle to a South Australian recycling depot (10c).

Claire: I don’t usually like cider, which I said before I sipped this but then I said ‘so yum!’ in a surprised tone. It’s cinnamon-y and not too sweet. Like a non-commercial apple pie with fizz. ‘Cloudy’ usually means thick and sediment heavy, but this was light and tangy (like my favourite chips).

CIDER #2: Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider
What the label says: “Four generations of the Smith Family experience goes into producing the very best tasting apples, hand-picked for this cider. Crafted & matured in oak to deliver a truly distinctive French farmhouse style, full of real cider character & flavour in the traditional method.”

Levins: This is refreshing, if a little perfume-y. It’s definitely sweeter than the Young Henry’s but not on the sickeningly sweet side.

Claire: Mmm, it’s sort of good. A bit musky and has kind of hand cream undertones. Sort of a bit too floral for my liking. I’m reviewing this like a perfume because it took my tastebuds to the David Jones cosmetic counters.

CIDER #3: Sidra Del Verano Apple, Blackcurrant & Cranberry Cider
What the label says: “Verano Apple, Blackcurrant & Cranberry Cider is deliciously fruity and best enjoyed over ice on long hot afternoons and summer evenings with good friends and family”.

Levins: While not as intensely sweet as the straight up cordial flavours of Rekoderlig, this tastes less like a cider and more like an alcoholic fruit fizz. When I was a kid my Mum used to buy these low sugar fizzy drinks with exotic flavours like ‘Apple & Ginger’ – this kind of reminds me of those but in a good way! I’d like to taste the their plain apple version.

Claire: Smells like Redskins! This tastes like when Schweppes released their range of exotically named gourmet sodas in the early 2000s. They were called ‘Agrum’ ‘Vista’ and ‘Plateau’ or something and had ingredients from far away lands like ‘blood orange’ and ‘lime’. So, basically this cider is a fancy soft drink. The cranberry flavour is prominent and it’s meshed with toffee apple tannins – is that a thing? Very sweet and very pink.

Newtown Hotel’s Cider Fair kicks off at midday this Saturday with 26 different ciders on offer plus coal roasted pig by the Animal restaurant and live performances by Brother Jimmy and Matt Boylan-Smith.

REVIEW: Pho An, Bankstown

It’s all in the broth. It doesn’t matter how good the meat is, how well cooked the noodles are or how fresh the holy basil is, if the broth isn’t mind blowing, you’re dealing with a crap bowl of pho. A clear onion soup with some leaves in it.

The meat at Pho An in Bankstown is incredible. Thin, raw and abundant, it’s just one of the supporting actors in a bowl of pho tai. The star of the show is the broth, a rich, hearty and slightly sweet stock that will effectively ruin every other bowl of pho you eat in Sydney.

I love Bankstown and how many great dining options there are. My problem is that as soon as I get there, all I want to do is go to Pho An and smash bowl of pho so large it leaves me crippled and unable to eat for the next week.

I know that it’s not actually called Pho An, but I refuse to call it An Restaurant. It doesn’t feel like a restaurant inside – it feels more like a pub! Noisy, communal, cheap, but no beer. Instead we drink broth. Others have called this the McDonalds of pho joints, which works too – the pho comes out damn fast. You order a bowl and before you can think “oh shit did I accidentally order the one with tripe in it?”, it’s on your table, steaming hot and tripe free. You can order a bowl with tripe in it, or eight other variations including an array of chicken options, but in my fifty visits I’ve only ever had the pho tai. Those variations could well be life changing but my stomach refuses to ever let me find out.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in this life is share that bowl of pho in the picture up top with someone else. We were in Bankstown for the day and I actually wanted to eat at a few places that weren’t Pho An. You’ll read what they were over the next few weeks, but you won’t pay close attention. You’ll be thinking about pho.

29 Greenfield Pde, Bankstown

Mon-Sun, 7am-9pm

How much
$14 a bowl


Ice cream tub and movie pairings

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

It’s eating-a-whole-tub-of-ice-cream-on-the-couch-and-watching-shit-movies weather. For about the same price as a waffle cone from a gourmet place you can get multiple litres of the stuff from the supermarket. Here are some movie/tub combos that are highly recommended.

Maggie Beer Burnt Fig, Honeycomb & Caramel ice cream
It’s Complicated

For the rich old white lady inside of all of us, it doesn’t get better than a Meryl Streep rom-com and tub of Maggie Beer’s finest. Meryl Streep could actually play Maggie Beer in a movie, they kind of look similar? Alec Baldwin kind of looks like a burnt fig as well. I have no idea what happens in It’s Complicated. I paid ten bucks for this little tub of ice cream and finished it before the opening credits were done. Highly recommended.

Splice Pine-Lime Swirl ice cream

A big neon green thing that sounds like a great idea at the time but one hour after you started you hate yourself, but not quite enough to stop until it’s finished. That describes my relationship with this weird Splice ice cream that I just ate two litres of and the first Shrek movie which I just watched for the twentieth time in my life. It could’ve been worse – I could’ve bought two tubs and watched the sequel.

Four litres of Home Brand Neapolitan ice cream

If you’re about to spend your weekend binge watching an entire season of TV, you need at least four litres of Neapolitan. If you buy the really cheap stuff it’s not actually made from milk, rather some cool chemicals that will stop the ‘ice cream’ from melting at any point during your 13 hour TV marathon. You know what else has cool chemicals in it? The first episode of Daredevil! When he’s a kid he cops a vat of cool chems to the eyes and then develops superpowers. I ate the final litre of Neapolitan through my eyes and the only superpower I developed was type 2 diabetes.

REVIEW: THY Eatery, Bankstown

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

I hate cutlery. Knives and forks especially. A spoon I can live with and chopsticks are cool but nothing beats the high octane thrill of eating an entire meal with your hands. It doesn’t matter how fancy the restaurant is, if they send out any kind of meat on the bone, I’m picking that shit up faster than you can say “worst first date ever”.

There’s a silver bucket of cutlery on every table at Thy Vietnamese Eatery just begging to be ignored. The majority of their menu consists of bite sized Vietnamese specialties, hand picked by the gods of fingerfood. You might put a pair of chopsticks next to your plate so you look sophisticated on Instagram, but that’s all they’re good for.

Banh cuon is Thy’s signature dish. Freshly steamed rice pastry, rolled loosely around minced pork and chopped mushrooms. On the side there’s thick slices of Vietnamese ham, a pale processed meat with a sponginess that goes well with the wet rice pastry, broken into pieces with your hands and stuffed into your mouth after a brief dip into the sauce bowl.

Banh beo aren’t as messy to eat but after the banh cuon most of your arms are already covered in rice noodles and bean sprouts so you yell “fuck it” and try to pick up these cute little rice cakes with your elbows. The banh beo are topped with dried prawns, shallots and fried croutons, eight on your plate beside some more of that pale spongemeat you can use as an edible paddle for your food.

After two plates of ratchet hors-d’oeuvres, the main course is a banh xeo the size of a one year old, a bright yellow pancake, fried until crispy and filled with prawns, pork and bean sprouts. What it lacks in the satisfying crack of the banh xeo served at Que Huong in Cabramatta, Thy makes up for in sheer size. Tear into that metre long pancake (which is unfortunately filled mostly with bean sprouts), wrap it in herbs and lettuce, drown it in fish sauce and spill it all over your face while you flip off the cutlery bucket.

Your hands will stink for a good week after a meal here, but they’ll stink of victory. Victory over knives and forks.

1/324 Chapel Rd South, Bankstown

Mon-Thu 9am-7pm, Fri-Sun 9am-9pm

How much
From $11

REVIEW: Que Huong, Cabramatta

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Everyone’s got a dark little secret. Something embarrassing from their past that they’re not quick to admit around new people, out of fear of being mocked. But not all people are afraid of revealing dorky glimpses into their past. Some of us are even comfortable doing it just to begin a restaurant review in an mildly amusing way.

Five years ago I went on a holiday to Vietnam just because of a five minute clip from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I didn’t even have to see the full episode before I was throwing my money at a Flight Centre clerk. The clip was of Bourdain in Ho Chi Minh City, being taken out to breakfast for a dish I’d never heard of – banh xeo.

It was a big yellow crepe filled with prawns and pork that cracked gloriously when struck with a spoon. Broken into pieces, Bourdain then scooped the crepe bits into lettuce and herbs, dipped it in sauce and shovelled it into his mouth, muttering some classic Bourdain-ism about heroin or something.

Three months and three thousand dollars later I was at that same spot, shovelling crepes and making heroin jokes. It (and the subsequent Vietnamese holiday that followed my crepe breakfast) was worth every penny, but upon returning to Sydney I learnt that I could’ve saved a few grand by going to Cabramatta instead, where Que Huong serves a banh xeo that’s almost as good as Bourdain’s breakfast spot.

Banh xeo pops up on a few Vietnamese restaurant menus around Sydney, and too often it’s a soggy mess. Que Huong keeps things crunchy, even after a prolonged swim in the spicy fish sauce. Make sure you get a plate of banh khot, cute little deep fried cakes with a school prawn sitting proudly on top. Like banh xeo, the cakes are eaten with herbs and lettuce, but their insides are gooey and coconutty!

Pull up a seat out the front of Que Huong and ponder why the inside of the restaurant is filled with Cabra locals eating steak and chips. Then watch the most recent episode of Vietnam’s So You Think You Can Dance as it blares out of the TV at the bootleg DVD store across the road. Then say something profound about heroin.

16/70 John St, Cabramatta

Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm

How much
Banh xeo $15
Banh khot $11

I ate an entire box of Gelato Messina’s ‘Festa Della Mamma’ gelato bon bons

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Gelato Messina, Sydney’s two favourite words, have put together an extra special package for Mother’s Day this weekend. Does your mum call you a cheapskate each year after you give her a box of Roses or Quality Street that you picked up from the servo around the corner from her place? Why not wow her this year with Gelato Messina’s incredible selection of beautifully handcrafted, ice cream filled chocolate prisms? Or better yet, why not buy a box for yourself and eat them alone in a quiet corner of your office?

I highly recommend starting on the shiraz sorbet with dark chocolate ganache and popping candy, a delicate but delicious little sphere that melts ten times faster than the others in the box. After being amazed by how good the first one is, you may want to save the second one until last, but be warned: this might lead to you dripping cold chocolatey wine over your keyboard, which could delay your ‘I just ate an entire box of ice cream chocolates in about three minutes am I gonna die now?’ google search.

Other highlights include the roasted banana gelato with white chocolate ganache: a tiny yellow football that actually improves if you let it sit a while, the rich banana taste becoming considerably richer once the gelato softens beneath the hard ganache shell. The mandarin puree with salted butter caramel gelato is another winner, a cute dome of slightly sour gelato topped with rich caramel, wrapped in thick milk chocolate that gives way beneath your teeth with a satisfying crack.

Several times through my gelato bon bon voyage I thought ‘man, my mum would love these!’, but you know who else would love them? Me. Happy Mother’s Day to me.

See the full range of Festa Della Mamma bon bon’s and where you can pick them up from here.

REVIEW: Mary’s Kebab’s at Cliff Dive

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

It seems like it was yesterday that we were proudly announcing that Darlo late night drinkateria The Cliff Dive had opened a kitchen selling grilled things on sticks. It seems even sooner that we were joining the hordes praising the burger gods that Mary’s had opened a CBD joint, home to the best brekky burger we’d ever eaten three of before lunchtime at least twice.

As it turns out, the fellas at Cliff Dive and Mary’s like to keep themselves as busy as they do drunk and tattooed, as last week saw the Mary’s team move into Cliff Dive to open, of all things, a kebab kitchen. Could they work the same magic on the late night kebab that they had on the cheeseburger? There was only one way to find out. We had to eat all four of the kebabs on the menu.

Kebab one was the closest thing to a regular kebab, something similar to the chicken roll at El Jannah (a big compliment!), a chicken x garlic x pickle combo that you can turbo-size by adding chopped chicken hearts and livers to. Kebab two is the spicy one, the name ‘Devil Pork’ acting as a warning for the firey chilli kick folded in between the thin slices of pork and lettuce.

Kebab three let the team down a little, the promising combination of lamb and XO sauce being a little on the bland side, offering little in texture and bite, something easily fixed with a richer XO sauce (or maybe the addition of lamb hearts and liver?). All letdowns were forgotten after one bite of kebab four, the pumpkin and corn kebab stealing the show with the additional crunch of roasted chickpeas and a creamy garlic sauce. In all seriousness, my favourite of the kebabs might be this vegetarian option. What have I become?

If the only thing missing from Cliff Dive’s tiki and tinnie fest was a hairy man in a singlet making a shitload of kebabs in the corner, put your hands in the air. Mary’s have delivered again. As in, they’ve delivered another hit food spot. Mary’s don’t actually deliver yet, the bastards.

The Cliff Dive, 16-18 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst

Thu-Sun from 7pm

How much
$9 – $12


Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Beloved Newtown burger spot Mary’s wowed Sydney’s online burger eating ‘community’ when they announced that they’d be opening a franchise in the CBD. It was possibly the first time in history that anyone was excited about something from Newtown moving closer to their workplace. The productivity of human resource workers who worked within 10km of Pitt St Mall was down 75% for a solid 3 months. Every day they checked Broadsheet for news of Mary’s CBD opening, hoping to tag their co-workers in the comments before they were tagged themselves. “Omg, lunch date soon? This needs to happen! When.are.we.going?”

The wait ended last week when Mary’s CBD opened their doors on Castlereagh st, neighboured by numerous cafes which nobody you know has ever gone inside. The Mary’s crew warned everybody in the lead up – this city location was not going to be the dark, rock n roll dive bar that people have politely tolerated in Newtown. This was just going to be a simple takeaway joint, no seating, no Jack Daniels, minimal tattoos – and heaps of burgers, including their cheeseburger, veg burger and Mary’s burger, staples from their Newtown menu which are widely agreed to be the best burgers in Sydney.
Joining these burgers are two new ones, exclusive to the CBD store – the breakfast burger and the chicken burger.

The chicken burger is there to appease the fact that Mary’s CBD isn’t offering the baskets of fried chicken you can get in Newtown – instead you get a big hunk of fried thigh with a few bits of vegetables and some sauce. The chicken is crunchy, the bun is soft, it’s a good chicken burger for sure. But, it is completely overshadowed by the best thing on the menu – the breakfast burger.

Served at any time of the day, the breakfast burger is what starving yourself for a month then eating a Sausage’n Egg McMuffin must be like. A sausage patty, a hash brown, bacon, an optional egg and HP sauce in between a super soft bun. It’s messy, gooey and will make you shout expletives with every bite, which is a problem if you’ve opted to take your Mary’s burgers to the Westfield food court to devour. The breakfast burger is the kind of meal that will encourage you to get brutally hungover just so you can appreciate it even more.

Yes, it’s still just a fucking burger, but what sets Mary’s apart from most of Sydney’s other burger joints is their acknowledgement that a burger should be greasy, fatty and generally bad for you. The owners fell in love with a Macca’s cheeseburger and tried to do it better without fucking it up too much. While other burger chains are announcing new super low carb burger buns that look like wooden plates, Mary’s are embracing everyone’s favourite ‘sometimes food’ and ensuring that their offerings are as delicious as possible.


154 Castlereagh St, Sydney

Mon-Sun, 10am-10pm

How much
$10 a burger

Al Naturale