Monday, 26 January 2009

cheap food 2009

It’s the New Year. You’re broke. You spent all your money on Christmas presents, New Years party favours and more than likely, lots and lots of booze. But being generation X or Y we don’t like to really compromise on eating out. So where do you go to eat on a shoestring budget? Here is 3DWorld’s top picks for eating on the cheap in 2009 (aka. Two thousand and fine)

Chat Thai
20 Campbell Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9211 1808

There’s Thai and there’s Thai. In Sydney, you can take your pick of awesomely authentic Thai food but if you want a vibe as well as the food, Chat Thai situated on the fringes of Chinatown will meet your expectations and then some.

Most people think that the best Chinatown has to offer is on ‘that’ side of George Street, but cross over the road and there are a few surprisingly good joints offering everything from Korean to Thai and other South Pacific treats.

The full menu is about as comprehensive a tour through Thailand as you’ll ever expect to find. From mild coastal influences to more typical fare, you’ll find something to suite your chilli comfort level and your palate. Points for the fact that they’re open till 2am and there’s a supper menu available from 10pm.

Try the Yen-ta For, Rice noodles in a seafood broth with fish balls, water mimosa, white cloud-ear mushrooms and crispy wantons. This fragrantly, subtle dish is the stuff that comfort food is made of. The wontons are satisfyingly meaty and full of texture, which contrasts well with the freshly-made fish balls and the slippery rice noodles. Opt for the dry version with the broth on the side.

If you’re feeling a bit spicy, the Nahm Tok is your choice: a warm salad of sliced grilled beef or pork,
ground roasted rice, Spanish onions, chilli, mint and coriander. Basically, it’s a twist on Thai beef salad with hell of a lot more kick. But the real kick? Most dishes are around $7.50 - $9.90.

Wilson’s

91 Pitt St
Redfern NSW 2016
Phone (02) 9319 6775

Sydney’s first Lebanese restaurant is Wilson’s claim to fame and it probably hasn’t been renovated since then. Situated in Redfern’s ‘Paris Quarter’ (that’s East Redfern, darling), Wilson’s has been serving up Lebanese food to locals, students and junkies alike for years.

You’ll be served complimentary Lebanese bread, pickles and olives upon arrival so you can nibble whilst you peruse the menu.

Top picks are the Fava bean salad – plump beans (minus the Chianti), tomato, parsley and cucumber dressed with a zesty lemon-infused dressing.

The Hommos is the pick of the dips on offer – a rich and almost creamy Chickpea dip dressed with flavoursome olive oil and perfect for being sopped up with the Lebanese bread.

If you’re vegetarian, then I’m sorry for you. The felafels are brilliant though so be sure to order them – crisp little pucks on the outside and soft and parsley-scented in the middle.

A grilled meat plate will set you back no more than $20 and are great for sharing.

Other highlights include playing ‘spot the matching cutlery’ and speculating how long the Bedouin tent style fabric on the roof has been there for.

Chinese Cultural Club

Level 4, 25- 29 Dixon St
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9211 1033

Yum Cha these days is a national weekend pastime. But when it can stretch to $30 or more per person, it isn’t the cheapest lunch you can have in Sydney. At the Chinese Cultural Club, deep in the heart of Chinatown, happily the prices haven’t changed much since 1995.

What CCC lacks in variety, it makes up for by doing the basics well. The Har Gao (steamed plump, crunchy prawns in a clear rice-flour pastry), Siu Mai (dim sims, mate) and Lo Mai Gai (steamed sticky rice with a pork, prawn and duck yoke centre) are solid picks and will give East Ocean and Marigold a run for their money.

Make sure you come early to get it while it’s hot and there are enough dumplings in supply to fill you up before you hit the pokies. At an average of $17 per person, you can spend your extra pennies on groceries at Paddy’s Markets.

Chinese Noodle Restaurant

Shop 7
8 Quay St, Haymarket, NSW 2000
(02) 9281 9051

An oldie but a goodie. It’s the hole in the wall people love to claim as their personal secret find that everyone already knows about.

The best value picks are the boiled dumplings; you get about half a dozen more for the same price as their pan-fried mates.

The braised eggplant in special sauce is also especially delicious as well as filling (though garlic lovers need not apply) – Fans of the pungent herb will find crispy fried eggplant glazed in a fragrantly sticky, almost sweet garlicy glaze. Take a bite and discover the interior to be melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

The Sultan’s Table

179 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042
Phone (02) 9557 0229

Enmore Road hides some great foodie gems, but if you’re looking for Turkish food then there is only one place to go. Don’t be fooled by The Sultan’s humble milk bar exterior, there’s a great courtyard out the back catered for by friendly staff and delicious food.

The servings are generous and made for sharing, so bring a band of hungry friends to feast with the Sultan.

Favourites include the mixed dip plate where you’ll find authentically blended humous, beetroot, carrot and smoky eggplant dips served up with plenty of freshly baked Turkish bread. Follow this with the mixed grill plate – all mouth-wateringly tender, well seasoned and charcoal-infused.

Vegetarians will love the rich tomato-infused stuffed eggplant and the crisp zucchini fritters. You’ll pay around $20 per person at the maximum.

Faheem Fast Food

196 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042
Phone (02) 9550 4850

Another Enmore Road destination. At any given time of the evening, this place is packed with families and taxi drivers alike – testament to three things: It’s great value, authentic and quick. Far from a sexy interior, Faheem is more like an old school diner with bad fluorescent lights, but the food doesn’t lie.

The Tandoori chicken may take a while but it’s worth the wait as it’s cooked in a traditional Tandoori oven and therefore tender, smoky and completely imbued with all those delicious Tandoori flavours.
The Lamb Saag, tender chunks of lamb with spinach in a herb-filled curry is a must try if you’re a carnivore, and the Dhals and vegetarian curries are simultaneously substantial and light in flavour.

Don’t miss out on the stellar naan bread if you’re a carb addict. It’s soft, tender and slightly burnt at the edges for that perfect charcoal flavour.

Expect a meal to cost around $15 per person.

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