Criniti’s, Manly

With a Scoopon voucher in hand for an entrée, main and dessert, I checked out Criniti’s at their Manly location. Our table was in the window seats area, perfect for enjoying a gentle breeze on a sunny day. After a bit of confusion about the conditions of the Scoopon voucher (it was our waiter’s second day on the job), it was time to order some food.

Soft Shell Crab – lightly fried & tossed with garlic, chilli & shallots

  • A decent pile of little soft shell crabs that were on the salty side.
  • The lime wedge was a bit sparse, and the chilli didn’t come through.
  • More than edible but nothing special.


Agnolotti – scallop & prawn with salsa pomodoro pachino

  • I had imagined visible pieces of scallop and prawn encased by the pasta but the filling was actually more of a semi-solid paste that didn’t taste of much.
  • The sauce had a slight kick from the chilli and I did like the very tender pieces of tomato that were proof of a long sauce simmering process.


Tartufini – homemade profiteroles filled with chantilly cream, rolled in decadent dark chocolate fudge & covered in dark chocolate shavings

  • I went back and forth on ordering these as I had liked the description when perusing the online menu before my visit but the picture on the iPad menu made them look like little chocolate truffles that suggested a smothering of dense chocolate.
  • Thinking they’d be bite-sized, I was surprised when they arrived as full-fledged profiteroles with much less chocolatey intensity than anticipated.
  • They were definitely the highlight for me as they were light, not too sweet and lovely to eat.


Criniti’s had a few things going for it – a very extensive menu, a spacious restaurant in a good location and the vague promise of authentic Italian food. The food came out very quickly but dessert took forever to arrive. I wouldn’t be opposed to eating there again but the food wasn’t phenomenal, and I would question whether it was overpriced without the Scoopon deal.


TeaPlus, Burwood

I’ve been seeing TeaPlus’s signature plant milk tea pop up in social media feeds at sporadic intervals for about a year. Naturally, the purveyor of all cute food-related things in me was quite chuffed to recently swing into TeaPlus for a late lunch. It’s definitely a popular spot with a steady stream of people waiting outside. The space is relatively small and clean with basic furnishing. The hand-illustrated menus add a nice quirky touch that aligns well with the equally quirky plant drink presentation. However, the menu is a bit scant on English and does not include images for every item. Having said that, the staff is helpful (and their online menu is a bit more descriptive).

Original Plant Milk Tea
I figured the original version of TeaPlus’s house special would form a good baseline. The milk tea itself was good in that it was sweetened only very slightly, allowing me to taste the actual tea. My favourite part of the drink though was the layer of “soil” i.e. crushed Oreos. The soil rests on a layer of foam that is salted so that added some interest as I spooned my way through the Oreos. Another thing to note is that the serving size was bigger than I had anticipated. It definitely made things more filling.


Kumara Wedges
I’m always intrigued when I spot sweet potato chips/wedges on menus and this was no exception. The wedges had a rippled pattern on them that suggests they may have been cooked on some pressed grill contraption. They were served with tartare sauce which I didn’t particularly care for. I really liked that the wedges were super crunchy, fun to eat and think a sprinkle of salt or paprika could enhance them.


Pork Floss & Seaweed Tamago
This dish was essentially an omelette with cheese at its centre and a scattering of pork floss and seaweed over the top of lashings of mayonnaise. I found it hard to eat as it was too rich and creamy for my liking.


Pork Sauce Noodle
The prospect of noodles is usually exciting. The noodles were covered by pork, vegetables, preserved cabbage and corn so a bit of stirring was required to integrate the various components. Initially, I wasn’t sold on the flavour of this dish, finding it a tad too bland and almost herbal. However, the second serving was actually rather nice as the sauce had had more time to be absorbed by the noodles. I would prefer pork mince over the pork belly they used though.


All in all, going to TeaPlus is firstly about the novelty factor of their plant milk teas. The food is nothing groundbreaking but good enough to garner return visits. The Kumara Wedges and Pork Sauce Noodle dishes would be on my re-order list. As for things I’d like to try, the matcha or taro variations of milk teas are potential contenders for future visits, as are the House Special Chicken Basil and potentially the Pork Sauce on Rice.

Jamie’s Italian, Sydney


  • Over the years, I’ve eaten at Jamie’s Italian a couple of times and have always left with the impression that it doesn’t really live up to the hype.
  • The menu is a bit of a hit-and-miss, and a particular gripe of mine has been that the pasta dishes aren’t up to scratch considering that it’s supposed to be an Italian restaurant.
  • On my most recent visit, I went for some new dishes, as well as some I had eaten previously and liked.
  • My overall verdict is that Jamie’s Italian makes for a decent meal as long as you know what to order.
  • It’s always rather busy and noisy but the service is okay.
  • Portion sizes are a bit of a letdown (more on this if you keep reading the food breakdown below).

Fried Three Cheese Gnocchi – Delicious crunchy gnocchi with a fiery arrabiata dip

  • I was picturing this like a bowl of popcorn at the cinema except on a smaller scale i.e. a cute little basket with gnocchi instead of popcorn.
  • Oh, I was so wrong.
  • This was served on a long wooden plank that held a total of six small gnocchi pieces that were sitting on little dollops of sauce.
  • Bang for your buck? Nope.
  • Though, they were tantalisingly tasty (sauce wasn’t anything to write home about) so I would probably order them again.

Crispy Arancini – Stuffed risotto rice balls with sweet red chillies, mozzarella, spicy arrabbiata sauce & Parmesan 

  • These were crispy but very lacklustre and forgettable.

Polenta Chips – Crispy fried with rosemary & Parmesan

  • These are a tried and true favourite of mine.
  • The texture was crispy but there was a slight resistance/chewiness that made eating these chips very interesting and fun.
  • There was a hint of parmesan and the rosemary sang a little haphazardly but these are definitely a must-order item for me.

Wild Game Ragu Pipe – Slow-cooked seasonal game, red wine, tomatoes & Parmesan with pipe pasta

  • I did mention that the pasta dishes at Jamie’s Italian have been a point of contention for me in the past.
  • This pasta dish was actually not bad, and the best one I’ve had at Jamie’s Italian thus far.
  • The first forkful I had was too salty but I think that may have just been a case of poor mixing.
  • The game was tender, the dish was aromatic and it had that perfect wintry stew feel to it.
  • The pasta wasn’t soggy/super soft but still slightly overcooked for my liking.
  • Given that we went for the main size version of this, I shudder to think what the entrée size would have been like because it seemed kind of insufficient.

Prosciutto, Pear & Pecorino – Salad of prosciutto, rocket, crisp pear, toasted pine nuts & pecorino with an olive oil & balsamic dressing

  • This is another dish that I’m quite fond of.
  • It was a lovely combination of flavours.
  • The sweetness of the pear added an element of freshness but also mingled really well with the saltiness of the prosciutto.
  • The pine nuts added a bit of crunch, and the rocket wasn’t bitter.
  • Absolutely delightful salad that I’d recommend trying out.

Jamie’s Signature Porchetta – Slow-cooked free-range Australian pork belly filled with herbs, garlic & spices with fennel crackling & a watercress salad

  • The meat was tender, and the crackling was sound.
  • Seasoning could have probably been better.
  • Personally, I would pass on this dish because I’m not the biggest fan of pork belly but my dining companions liked this quite a bit.

Vapiano, Sydney


  • I’m not quite sure how to describe Vapiano.
  • Upon entering, I was handed a chip card to charge my food and drink to.
  • Then, I joined my friend at one of the tables and we were left to our own devices to peruse the menu whilst taking in the bar, basil plants sprouting on the tables and individual food stations serving pizza, pasta and salad.
  • I suppose you could say that it’s a bit like a mini food court.
  • I placed an order for the Verdure pizza (grilled vegetables, fresh mushrooms on homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella) and was given a buzzer.
  • Leaving the buzzer with my friend at the table, I proceeded to the pasta station for the Gamberi (prawns, spring onions and fresh tomatoes in homemade tomato sauce) with some wholegrain pasta.
  • There was a certain thrill from watching the pasta ingredients sizzle and steam in the pan before everything was transferred into a generously sized bowl.
  • I wish there had been more clarity on the “grilled vegetables” component of the pizza as it turned out to be capsicum.
  • The base was thin, mostly crisp but the pizza lacked character (definitely a far cry from Mad Pizza).
  • The pasta was also lacklustre, though there was a good amount of prawns.
  • I appreciated the fresh ingredients aspect of Vapiano, the relatively spacious interior and friendly staff but wish the food had been more fragrant and tasty.
  • However, it may have been erroneous ordering on my behalf (at least where the pizza was concerned) so I’m willing to return for a second round at some point in the hopes of having a more adequate food experience.

Din Tai Fung, Sydney


  • Dumplings are delicious morsels of food and Din Tai Fung proclaims to have “the world’s tastiest dumplings”.
  • I don’t know how they rate on a global scale but I can attest that Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao are extremely tasty.
  • The thin and delicate pastry holds a tender pork centre that is surrounded by a flavoursome broth.
  • It’s a little bit like eating a pillow or cloud of yumminess as the soft meat combines with the pastry and a subtle ginger note gets added from the broth.
  • Not to get too carried away here by a steamed pork dumpling, but having tried various other things from the menu on numerous occasions (e.g. Shanghainese style drunken chicken, calamari light battered & served with a dipping sauce, crab meat & roe with pork dumpling), I always come back to the conclusion that the only thing worth eating at Din Tai Fung is many, many servings of xiao long bao.
  • On a final note, they’re not created equally:  the xiao long bao at World Square taste much better than those offered at Westfield Sydney.

Mad Spuds Cafe, Surry Hills


  • Do you like potatoes?
  • I love them.
  • My recommendation for Mad Spuds Cafe is not to get distracted by seemingly “interesting” dishes on the menu e.g. Vegan Brekkie Stack.
  • Stick to the specialty that’s proclaimed in the name.
  • More specifically, go for the Potato Nachos.
  • Potato Nachos consist of potato skins that are dusted in a sprinkling of flavoursome paprika powder, served with some minced beef, guacamole and sour cream.
  • The potato skins are crisp and tasty.
  • The minced beef veers slightly on the too sweet side.
  • The guacamole is fine, though I wish there was more of it.
  • All in all, worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a potato fix.