It’s not hard to see why The Social Hideout is one of Parramatta’s most popular cafés.
It might not be situated right in the city centre, but the cutely decked out outdoor space and colourful menus is enough to draw a decent weekend crowd.
I know I’m definitely part of the minority when I say that runny yolks aren’t my thing (I prefer my yolks just set so it doesn’t spill all over my brekkie) but when breakfast is this good, I’m definitely not complaining!
We’ve been meaning to visit XS Espresso since it opened up in North Parramatta, and are constantly reminded of it everytime we drive past the large unmissible XS logo…..which is just about every couple of days!
The milkfreakshakes are really what we’re here for, and they have an extensive list of options which make it difficult to choose. Luckily we have about 15 minutes to spare whilst waiting for a seat, but even that wasn’t enough to narrow out choices down.
My visits to Parramatta have been quite infrequent, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve stopped by on a weekday afternoon, especially after deciding that the hour long bus ride followed by half an hour train ride and twenty minute walk to uni was too much to handle on a daily basis. It didn’t seem like a very long time since I last stopped by, but the fact that Hungry Jacks had closed down and had been replaced by a burger bar without me knowing probably shows that it’s been a lot longer than I thought it’d been.
I feared for the fate of one of my favourite Asian cheap-eat joints in Parramatta when Taste Gallery opened right next door to it. Occupying the space that was previously a harmless Italian take-away, Taste Gallery offered a similar Shanghainese menu and had a much more modern design, and of course, a pricier menu to follow. And I didn’t like the sound of it.
Interestingly enough, the restaurant caters to a much different group of diners, and its existence does not have as great of an impact on its neighbour as you’d expect. I know this, as I’m sitting at Taste Gallery, browsing through the menu, whilst a continuous stream of customers enter both restaurants.
We’re here to check out the competition, because of a great Groupon deal, though at $65 for the four of us, it’s still more than what we’d normally spend next door. This offers much more than we’d normally order, with an entree, main and dessert each and we don’t hesitate to pick our own favourites, starting with the salted duck, which is a little bland and boring.
The chicken in chilli sauce is the polar opposite, with a strong hit of flavour with every bite from the chilli sauce, which is not actually as hot as it may look.
Rather large for an entree, we had trouble finishing this pig ear and stomach dish which, like the chicken, is packed full of spiciness(thank-goodness of takeaway containers!). I’m personally quite a fan of pig ears, with their delectable crunch, like the texture of the rind I love of bacon, only without the fat!
We’ve barely had a chance to even make a dent in the entrees when, unexpectedly, the mains start arriving as well! There isn’t really enough space to fit all the entrees and mains on, and by the time we do, we look like we’re having quite a feast!
The basket of salt and pepper prawns are a slightly different version to the ones we’re used to, the punch of flavour mostly coming from the added sprinkle of deep fried garlic and shallots. The prawns are not as crispy as we’d hoped, though still tasty but are definitely overshadowed but what came to the table next…….
The Sweet and Sour Squirrel Mandarin Fish is one of those ‘must order’ dishes, and with almost every table one it’s difficult to miss! Unfortunately, the conditions of the groupon did not include mains over $20.80, but we were told by the waiter that we could still order it and just pay the difference.
The de-boned fish is sectioned into small cubes, deep-fried and covered in a sweet-and-sour-like sauce. The balls of fish can easily be picked off- the batter is incredibly light, though still having a slight crunch. And though it’s delicious enough to be eaten as is, it’s even better with the sauce, slightly sweet and sour, though with a heavier tomato taste and greater depth than your average sweet and sour sauce. It’s amazing. The best fish dish I’ve had for a long time. So good infact, that we ate everything on there that could possibly be eaten, I even had a go at the head!!
Though the dessert menu offers a wider variety than your average chinese restaurant, most of our first options were not available on the day (fried ice-cream, and mango based desserts). Apart from the ice-cream, there were only about 4 dessert options left, so we had a go at each of them. All were rather bland and not sweet enough, even for our Asian palates. On a subsequent visit, we ordered the deep fried ice-cream instead which turned out to be a much better way to end the meal!
The last time I ate out at a sushi train with my friends was at J.J Sushi, more than two years ago- a day I remember quite well because we were supposed to be studying for exams, but instead spent shopping and eating. Though I happen to be in Parramatta a lot, I don’t frequent this area much, so by the time I found out that J.J Sushi had been replaced, it had already been old news.
We decide to drop in here one afternoon, to see what the new restaurant is like. The whole restaurant has undergone a considerable amount of renovation, making its interior a lot more modern looking, though we notice the conveyor, the kitchen and plates are still the same as they used to be.
It’s also considerably busier, and by the time we arrive, the place is
packed, making it difficult to seat our group of 4, especially as the
restaurant is quite small in the first place. After a bit of waiting, and much apologising by the friendly staff, we eventually get to sit down on the sushi train,which is filled with plenty of choices. We start with the seaweed salad sushi, a simple favourite of ours, which is done well.
There is no terriyaki chicken sushi on the sushi conveyor so my friend chooses the terriyaki chicken don instead, which she enjoyed. All the rice dishes on the menu also come with a miso soup, so it was pretty good value.
I order the Karrage Chicken Don, freshly fried chicken with a squiggle of mayonnaise-like sauce, served with rice and salad. The chicken deliciously hot and crispy, and I loved the combination of tasty chicken with the tangy sauce. Karrage Chicken is available on the sushi conveyor (from memory, $3.50 dish), but I prefer eating it with rice.
I am a little disappointed that the restaurant doesn’t serve Japanese cheesecake like the previous one, and the only dessert option is ice-cream, of which there are three different flavours (green tea,sesame and mango). We decide to head elsewhere for dessert, but I was quite satisfied with our cheap(ish) lunch!