Product review: Giving whey another go (part 1)

It’s been 5 years since I consumed whey protein regularly. When I went paleo I cut down most dairy and noticed a great improvement in my respiratory allergies. My approach to eating is to cycle foods as much as I can because there is good and bad in most stuff (with some exceptions that I prefer to stay away from). One of the things that I have incorporated lately for convenience and for the sake of variety is whey. I had done a few protein smoothies here and there and had noticed that quality made a huge difference in my reactions, particularly an itchy throat immediately after ingestion and a stuffy nose the day after.

I went on to investigate good quality whey protein powders that were grass-fed and crap-free, and that came in sample size. Below a review of the first two brands I tried.

The Naked Co. offers whey protein isolate in 3 flavours: organic cinnamon, organic vanilla and organic cacao. They are made in Australia, mix very well, taste amazing and are not super sweet.

The Naked Co. whey protein isolate

The Naked Co. whey protein isolate

Open To Play makes whey protein isolate from NZ, it’s gluten and lactose, GMO and preservative free, it’s sweetened with stevia and comes in chocolate and vanilla flavours. They mix well but take a bit more shaking than the other brand, taste great but I found them a bit too sweet for my taste.

I’ve been having a serve of protein powder in water post-workout 2-3 per week with no ill effects. I haven’t put on weight, nor fat. If anything, I think I’ve gotten a bit leaner, which was unexpected, but it could be a million things other than the whey.

Open to Play whey protein isolate

Open To Play whey protein isolate

I will try few more brands to decide which to buy if/when I need it. Keep your eyes peeled for the reviews.

The Naked Co.

Open To Play
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Review: Dear Cafe (Newtown)

One day walking back from uni I noticed this new Vietnamese eatery on the far North end of King Street (right before it turns into City Road). I looked at the menu and one of the friendly staff approached me and handed me a menu.

Dear Cafe

Dear Cafe

I made sure we tried it a few weeks later, on a night I was craving soup. I ordered a bowl of beef pho with half serve of noodles, and Alvaro his favourite crispy skin chicken. I was also craving vegetables (and no, the bean sprouts and mint that come with pho don’t count as vegetables in my book), so I asked if I could have some steamed vegetables as a side. They were not listed as an option in the menu but the staff were nice enough to make it according to my specifications (whatever vegetables you have in hand, steamed, no sauce).

Beef pho

Beef noodle soup (pho) ($9.50)

Pho garnish

Pho garnish

Steamed vegetables

Steamed vegetables

The pho tasted great and was very generous in size. It did have MSG, though, judging from the hangover I had not long after eating. Alvaro enjoyed his chicken and he reckoned the sauce made it a tad better than his previous favourite (Happy Chef’s).

Crispy skin chicken

Crispy skin chicken ($10.50)

Alvaro also had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, which was served in a nice glass for the photo.

Freshly squeezed OJ

Freshly squeezed OJ ($4.50)

Dear Cafe
28 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9517 3388

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Review: Noodle Mee (Sydney CBD)

Believe it or not, it was me who suggested Noodle Mee for a weekday lunch catch-up with my buddy Sebastian. I had learned that this is, in fact, a pan-Asian eatery where not all noodles were wheat-based, and not dishes were noodle-based.

Photo menu

It was soup weather but I was torn between laksa and bibimbap. Bibimbap won this time, and while it didn’t look as great in real life as it did in the illuminated photo display (I blame the egg ring), it had good and fresh taste and comes with miso soup, kimchi and your choice of sauce (none for me).

Beef bibimbap

Beef bibimbap ($8.90)

My adventurous friend chose the mouth burner with chicken, which he described as oily spicy noodles with not enough vegetables. I tried some chicken and it was indeed spicy (not unbearable, though).

Mouth burner

Mouth burner ($8.90)

I’m still planning on trying the laksa one day, and Sebastian seemed keen on the hot food options in display (see photo below).

Hot food

Noodle Mee
Wynyard Station
Sydney NSW 2000

NoodleMee on Urbanspoon

Review: Chur Express (Sydney CBD)

It took me so long to try the original Chur Burger (Surry Hills) that they managed to open a couple more shops, the most recently conveniently located very close to my office. It’s part of the posh fast food known as The Wintergarden, and it’s been incredibly busy since the day they opened. Sebastian and I were smart enough to head there the day after Easter, when there was no queue.

Chur Express

Chur Express

The menu is short (good for deciding quickly) and they offer their burgers without bun and with extra salad for a gluten-free alternative. Watch out: not all the burgers are gluten-free. I ordered the regular grilled beef burger which comes with cheese, tomato jam, mustard mayo, pickle, no bun. Sebastian ordered the marinated grilled chicken with hot sauce mayo, minted slaw, just because it seemed like the most spicy of the lot. I suggested ordering a serve of chips and coleslaw to share ($6 each).

Beef, chicken burgers, chips, coleslaw, salad

The lot

My burger looked very small and sort of unappealing. I’ve had naked burgers before (for example, in Burger Project) that looked way better. It was rare in the middle, the way I like it, but the patty wasn’t that great. I found it under-seasoned and the melted cheese on top didn’t add to the flavour. On the bright side, I liked the size of the extra salad (other places would call a couple of iceberg lettuce leaves “salad”). Chips were great, coleslaw was okay (Sebastian thought it was soggy and lacked zing). He also found his bun tasted like stale brioche.

Beef, chicken burgers


Beef burger

Grilled beef burger ($10)


Marinated grilled chicken burger ($10)

Chur Express
1 O’Connell St
Sydney 2000

Chur Burger Express on Urbanspoon

Review: Viet Town (Haymarket)

My friend and ex-colleague from back home Moisés was in Sydney for a few weeks. Bad weather and little time meant we failed as tourist guides but at least got to show him a bit of Darling Harbour and Haymarket in search for dinner. He likes Thai food but he had also mentioned interest in trying Vietnamese cuisine. On our way to Home I saw a Viet Town which was almost packed with Asian patrons, always a good sign IMO.

Moisés is not fussy when it comes to food so it was easy to pick a few options marked as GF in the menu to share. First a classic vermicelli with marinated pork chop served with salad, fresh herbs, peanuts, garlic and chilli fish sauce. Nice flavour, fresh ingredients and good-sized serving.

Vermicelli with marinated pork chop

Vermicelli with marinated pork chop ($12.80)

Next came the braised beef spare ribs in young coconut juice, green peppercorn and pate, ordered with steamed rice. I enjoyed the fattiness and tenderness of the ribs (my favourite cut). The sauce was pretty tasty, too.

Braised beef spare ribs in young coconut juice, green peppercorn and pate

Braised beef spare ribs in young coconut juice, green peppercorn and pate ($16.80)

The only dish that disappointed us and was left unfinished was the grilled squid salad in garlic, chilli and lime relish. The squid slices (which, by the way, were cut to uneven thickness) were bitter, hopefully from excessive charring and not lack of freshness.

Grilled squid salad in garlic, chilli and lime relish

Grilled squid salad in garlic, chilli and lime relish ($16.80)

Viet Town
Shop G04, 345B-353 Sussex Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9262 7982

Viet Town on Urbanspoon

Review: The Henson (Marrickville)

My lovely sister shouted me lunch at The Henson to celebrate my graduation (second Bachelor degree!). The American-themed menu has many gluten-free options (not indicated, so ask the staff). Portion sizes are also Americanised, so come with a big appetite.

The Henson

My favourite were the smoked pork baby-back ribs with chilli orange glaze, jacket potato, Pepe Saya crème fraiche + ginger slaw. Huge serving and everything was very tasty. We were delighted to see that they provide the small Pepe Saya rounds when you ask for butter to add to the potato.

Smoked pork baby-back ribs

Smoked pork baby-back ribs ($26)

The pork belly burger with pickles, iceberg lettuces, kimchi kewpie, jalapeño mustard & chips, which comes with corn tortillas when ordered gluten-free, wasn’t as good as the ribs. The pork was on the dry side, but I really enjoyed the sauces and the chips.

Pork belly burger

Pork belly burger ($17)

The Henson

The Henson
91 Illawarra Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 9569 5858

The Henson on Urbanspoon

Review: Foodelicious (Newtown)

This is the restaurant that now occupies the space that once was Mad Mex and Cheeky Czech.


I had serious doubts that the food would be any good due to the name and not very sophisticated shop-front. I finally landed here while looking for a restaurant where both my friend (who prefers to eat vegetarian meals) and I would be happy with the menu.


My friend ordered a pumpkin salad that comes with spinach, cherry tomato, pine nuts, Persian feta, Spanish onion (she had hers without it), beetroot, lemon vinaigrette. Predictable, maybe, but was well received.

Pumpkin salad

Pumpkin salad ($12.50)

I ordered the Tasmanian ocean trout with beetroot purée, avocado salsa, fennel, dill and orange salad. Again, somewhat predictable flavours but I must admit the dish exceeded my expectations. Well cooked and very well plated.

Tasmanian Ocean Trout

Tasmanian ocean trout ($22.50)

Because I had a mad craving for salad I also ordered a basic but well prepared green salad on the side.

Green salad

Green salad ($5)

Foodelicious Restaurant
124 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
0423 303 098

Foodelicious Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Product review: Hunted & Gathered Dry Wors

Hunted & Gathered, the makers of my favourite 100% paleo beef jerky have a new(ish) product: Dry Wors. This is their version of a traditional South African dried beef sausage.

Dry Wors

These are expensive ($20.50 per pack) but worth every cent. They are made with organic grass-fed beef, organic coriander seeds, organic black pepper, organic vinegar, organic coconut sugar and pink lake salt. They are chewy but less than jerky, and also fattier. Great shelf-stable snack to have handy.

Hunted and Gathered

Review: Cuckoo Callay bacon festival (Newtown)

It is not news now that the guys at Cuckoo Callay (i.e. the coffee shop by the Newtown Train Station) are running a Bacon Festival, meaning they have an entire menu dedicated to the deliciousness or pork. Besides the odd person who admitted to me she doesn’t like bacon (hi Michelle) and several angry vegos protesting on the cafe’s Facebook page, the festival has achieved the objective of attracting masses of customers. So much so that we had to go elsewhere on the first weekend because they had ran out of bacon.

Bacon festival menu

When we finally made it we were lucky to skip the waiting list because there was a free table for our party size. We still had to wait a considerable amount of time to get our food. I waited while sipping on a cold drip (okay, two), while Alvaro tried one of the festival beverages: Smokey Bourbon Bacon with fresh apple juice. Great drink!

Cold drip

Cold drip

Smokey Bourbon Bacon with fresh apple juice

Smokey Bourbon Bacon with fresh apple juice ($12)

We shared Bacon All the Rules (Black Forest Smokehouse maple bacon, bourbon bacon, bacon steak, bacon sausage and bacon-crumbed poached eggs served on GF bread) and Bacon, Get in Ma Belly (pork belly with sticky sweet chilli and fennel seed sauce with bacon, caper, coriander and lime salad). Both were great, although I liked the first one better. Fortunately one of our friends left some crunchy pork belly pieces on his plate, which served as an on-the-go snack/dessert.

Bacon All the Rules

Bacon All the Rules ($24)

Bacon, Get in Ma Belly

Bacon, Get in Ma Belly ($20)

The Bacon Festival ends in the beginning of May, so hurry up!

Cuckoo Callay
324 B, Newtown Railway Station
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8084 5383
Bacon Festival

Cuckoo Callay on Urbanspoon

Review: Mr Wong (Sydney CBD)

This year my sister chose Mr Wong to celebrate her birthday. Despite being hidden in an obscure lane in the CBD, the Cantonese restaurant displays the Merivalesque fanciness of its relatives.

Mr Wong

Service was prompt and knowledgeable. The wine suggestion went well with the food and worked perfectly for the birthday toast.

Ginger beer, pinot noir

Home made ginger beer, pinot noir

We ordered two roast meats and a vegetable side to share: half Chinese roasted duck, roasted five spice pork belly and four types of braised mushrooms stir-fried with bamboo shoots and asparagus, all adorned by the asterisk that indicates dishes that can be prepared sans gluten.

As you may or may not know, Cantonese food is very popular in Peru, and we miss it sometimes. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a Cantonese restaurant in Sydney aligned to our palates. Until now. The roasted duck was superb, including the sauce.

Chinese roasted duck

Chinese roasted duck (half $34)

Same with the pork belly. Granted, this is not a traditional Cantonese dish, but it was tasty. I preferred the duck, though. The red sauce was the same sweet sauce that came with the duck, the yellow one was a sinus-clearing horseradish sauce.

Roasted pork belly

Roasted five spice pork belly

The stir-fried veggies were a winner. I love mushrooms, and I love that Chinese people love mushrooms (and know how to cook them).

Four types of braised mushrooms stirfried with bamboo shoots and asparagus

Four types of braised mushrooms stirfried with bamboo shoots and asparagus ($24)

Mr Wong
3 Bridge Lane
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon