Bodega, Surry Hills

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There was once when my idea of a good night out was skipping dinner (I know, hard to believe nowadays!) and heading out to a club to dance away the night. These days, I prefer sharing good food and unwinding over long conversations.

An excellent place for that, is at Bodega.

Bodega is a strictly no bookings restaurant for groups of 4 or less which works in my favour. I'm there by 5:50pm, waiting for the doors to open at 6pm! I'm the first from our 'Female Entrepreneurs That Eats' trio to arrive, and one of the first in the restaurant.

Not surprisingly (considering our last lunch turned into a half day off work -- thank goodness we're all our own bosses!), we spend a leisurely four hours here and are the last table to leave! 

Bodega tapas, Surry Hills - fish fingers, bread
Bread & olive oil ($2 per person), Fish fingers with hiramasa, charred toast, cuttlefish and Mojama ($22)

Lingering at a restaurant for four hours is not easy if there isn't delicious food! And to that note, we sample a significant portion of the menu!

Bodega's fish fingers are nothing like the frozen variety. These are a play on bruschetta and feature charred garlic toast with kingfish ceviche, diced cuttlefish, onion slices and shavings of Mojama, a Spanish delicacy consisting of filleted salt-cured tuna

Even more amazing is the buttermilk pancake which I would happily devour any time of the day. The salt cod croquette and smoky maple butter is a lovely contrast between salty and sweet and the oozy burst of yolk is creamy and magnificent.

If you love ox tongue as much as I do, then you'll also appreciate the steamed milk bun sliders which are pretty dear at $12 a pop. These buns are impossibly fluffy and soft! Wedged in between the buns are slices of BBQ tongue topped with crab meat, a bit of lettuce and salsa golf (a tomato based mayo).

Bodega tapas, Surry Hills - calamari, zucchini, milk bun, special
Buttermilk pancake with salt cod, 62 degree egg & smoked maple butter ($16); steamed milk bun, BBQ tongue, crab and salsa golf ($12 each); stuffed zucchini, spelt, pumpkin, fetta & black olives ($20); grilled calamari, pickled tomato, ink & watercress ($18)

The grilled calamari is slightly over-charred which dominates in flavour but the stuffed zucchini are wholesomely good. They're stuffed with a mixture of spelt, pumpkin, fetta and black olives are are literally bursting at the seams.

Onto the more heavier "dude food" dishes, we try today's special which is slow cooked beef brisket with BBQ sauce, onion rings and a fried egg. There's a lot going on in the plate but everything works rather incredibly. On the other hand, we have a deconstructed ramen dish minus the noodles aka Bodega's steamed pork belly. How gorgeous is the presentation? I love the blackened onion petals and the subtle fragrance of the broth.

Bodega tapas, Surry Hills -pork belly, chocolate pudding and banana split
Slow cooked beef brisket, BBQ sauce, onion rings & fried egg ($28); steamed pork belly with clams, sherry ramen sauce ($24); "banana split" cream flan, banana marshmallow & dulce de leche ice cream ($16); chocolate pudding with milk icecream, hazelnuts & frozen apple ($16)

For dessert, we share the banana split, a refined and more luxurious version that is intensely bananay in a bloody good way, and the chocolate pudding which is served with a divine apple granita and milk ice-cream.

I should also add that service was helpful and unrushed. It wasn't a cheap night out (it came to about $90 each - with a few drinks) but well worth every dollar!

216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7766

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Bodega on Urbanspoon

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Vegan/vegetarian Asian restaurants are an interesting breed. For some reason, they're mostly obsessed with replicating the texture and appearance of original meat dishes. Despite the concept of mock meats being utterly confusing, I actually love the taste of it all!

Due to the large Buddhist population, Cabramatta is home to some of the best vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney. Loving Hut is one of my faves.

Loving Hut is actually part of the world's fastest growing vegan restaurant franchise, and dining here requires you to look past the religious propaganda broadcasted throughout the restaurant. It's all a bit bizarre but if you're curious, this forum unravels part of the mystery.

Food-wise, everything is simply delicious. The menu contains over 50 options and there are some great sharing options on the 'yum cha' and appetisers menu, mostly $5 - $10. Think along the lines of prawn dumplings, peking duck, mushroom congee, soy chicken and salad.

Loving Hut Cabramatta - vegetarian summer rolls

The summer rolls are 4 for $5. They're tightly rolled parcels of soy meat, with all the usual suspects of herbs and vermicelli. Dipped into the hoisin and peanut sauce, it's hard to even remember that what you're eating is vegetarian!

The fried seaweed rolls ($6) are as scrumptious. Lightly battered, the seaweed adds a depth of flavour to an otherwise simple deep-fried treat.

Loving Hut Cabramatta - vegetarian fried seaweed rolls

Heartier main courses include two pages of noodles! The vegetarian pho ($8) is worth trying, but I also love the vegetarian bun rieu ($9) which is the tomato and "crab" meat noodle soup. The broth is fragrant and nourishing and the crab meat has been cleverly replaced with all sorts of tofu.

Loving Hut Cabramatta - vegetarian bun rieu

The vegetarian banh canh chua ($10) is slightly less exciting. The thickened soup is aromatic but a little bland in comparison to the bun rieu which has a great balance of flavours and textures.

Loving Hut Cabramatta - vegetarian banh canh cua

Vegetarian restaurants such as Loving Hut makes it so easy to go meatless!

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Loving Hut
227 Cabramatta Road West, Cabramatta, NSW
Phone: (02) 9755 4410

Loving Hut on Urbanspoon

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