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A Sydney food and restaurant blog

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    Remember last time you were on an underwater dance floor of a Papuan dancehall and you were peckish? It was probably at Darlinghurst nightclub The Cliff Dive which is now embracing the earlier evening crowd with a food offering in light of the recent lockout laws, introducing a street food concept that's as colourful and quirky as its fish-adorned dance floor.

    Underwater themed dance floor at The Cliff Dive, Oxford Square, Darlinghurst
    Called Yurippi at The Cliff Dive, it offers a short selection of grilled skewers throughout the evening till late, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights – The Cliff Dive's big nights where punters give the underwater dance floor a steamy workout.

    Statue at downstairs entry
    The Cliff Dive owners Alex Dowd, Jeremy Blackmore and Russell Martin (the former two who also own Surry Hills tequila and beer barn Tio's Cerveceria) had been looking for a way to improve and expand on The Cliff Dive's late night trade and perhaps pushed along with the new laws, recruited a former high school buddy to up the existing food offering.

    The main bar
    Yurippi chef 'Honky' threw in his full-time mechanical engineering career to focus on his Crows Nest market stall every third Saturday of the month and his new kitchen digs behind The Cliff Dive bar.

    Inspired by his time in Japan visiting yakitori stalls, he's cooking up skewers with a twist to suit the island theme and rum-oriented back bar.

    Yurippi kitchen window
    With a bit of consultation help from chef friends at Longrain, the menu of five skewers takes cues from Thailand, Malaysia and other south east Asian regions to form an eclectic collection of sweet, sour and spicy flavours, with each skewer treated to its very own sauce.

    Yurippi skewers
    The Hungry Honky set basically offers the entire menu on a small board: all five skewers plus excellently tart, crunchy house-pickled vegetables and a firm-grained pandan coconut rice served in a bamboo basket.

    The lemongrass chicken with peanut satay sauce was an easy favourite, as too the silken chilli tamarind tofu with som tum sauce. 

    A whole baby octopus confit-ed in chilli oil and ginger makes for more an adventurous-looking skewer, while the wild ginger beef with caramelised sweet soy and the turmeric lemongrass pork with sweet tamarind sauce round out the offerings.

    Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail
    The new tiki-influenced cocktail list by bartender Michael 'MC' Chiem (ex Bulletin Place, Sokyo, Black) goes a little further than just Hawaiian resorts, tropical juices and tiki mugs – not to say that there's not plenty of the latter two.

    Rooted in the traditions of Trader Vic and original man of tiki bars and drinks, Don the Beachcomber, the cocktail menu is almost exclusively tiki-influenced and is all hand-drawn pictorial fun.

    We start with the pretty-as-a-picture Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail, served up with Bacardi 8, Cointreau, lime juice and a house-made falernum syrup that MC calls their "master stock" that goes into many of their signature, tropical-themed drinks.

    La Florida cocktail
    Next, the Jungle Bird which I'm reliably informed is Malaysia's national cocktail, created at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton Hotel's Aviary Bar in 1978.

    A shaken mix of spiced rum, Campari, pineapple and lime juices, the refreshing, cinnamon-scented cocktail is served in half the woven, bamboo basket that Thai sticky rice is generally served in.

    Don the Beachbomber's Zombie cocktail
    The falernum also appears in the classic Don the Beachcomber's Zombie which is served in a green Easter Island statue-inspired tiki mug lidded with a cinnamon-scented orange slice.

    With a mix of Bacardi and Appleton rums, Pernod liqueur and house-made grenadine with notes of cinnamon and star anise, the citrusy concoction really sets the tiki mood and isn't as boozy as some other Zombie's I've had.

    Piña colada cocktail served in a pineapple
    Last, but by no means least, was the classic Piña Colada served in a hollowed out pineapple with its core intact. With Bacardi 151 rum, coconut, Chinese five spice and a touch of salt to bring out the sweetness of the pineapple, the limited numbers of hollow pineapples per night make this a must-have.

    Second bar
    Open from 6pm Wednesdays to Saturdays, Yurippi offers a tasty precursor to the usual music and dancing at The Cliff Dive which kicks off at about 11pm and opens till late – just make sure you dive in before you get locked out at 1.30am.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at The Cliff Dive as a guest.

    The Cliff Dive on Urbanspoon

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    I'm a total pasta fiend and seem to be able to eat endless amounts of it. In fact, I'm thinking about smashing a bowl of orecchiette bolognese as I write this post on Adamo's Pasta in Beaconsfield/Alexandria.

    Located on a busy main road in a quasi-industrial area, Adamo's first started out selling a wide range of fresh uncooked pasta. It piqued a lot more interest when the narrow store added a dining area and started selling hot pasta meals to the local workforce that's rather starved of lunch options.

    Beetroot gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce from Adamo's Pasta, Botany Road, Beaconsfield
    I always tend to go for more exotic pasta options when I'm out, leaving the likes of spaghetti and fusilli for at-home cooking. The generously-sized dish of beetroot gnocchi certainly fit the bill with its ruby-red hue, served with our chosen sauce of gorgonzola and peas, freshened up with plenty of fresh chopped parsley.

    There wasn't much beetroot flavour to the pasta, although its appearance compensated somewhat, while the rich gorgonzola sauce with bits of pancetta was a good match to the unique gnocchi.

    Porcini mushroom agnoletti with ragu
    Filled pasta like agnoletti are always a delight when done well, and these filled with a smooth filling of porcini mushroom certainly were. Perfectly al dente, the pasta parcels were plentiful amid the deep red ragu, with visible bits of soft beef and vegetables enhancing the pasta.

    Pumpkin gnocchi with amatriciana sauce
    Another option from the exotic gnocchi range was a pumpkin variety that was softer and sweeter than the usual potato version. With our chosen amatriciana sauce of tomato, bacon and chilli, the pumpkin gnocchi was a vividly filling lunch.

    It's a shame that there aren't more places like Adamo's in the CBD where a quick, fresh, reasonably priced pasta offering would really be appreciated at lunch, as well as the opportunity to buy fresh pasta, sauces and other related grocery items before the commute home. So for now, I'll have to keep heading to Beaconsfield for fresh-made pasta goodness.

    Adamo's Pasta on Urbanspoon

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    I've been dreaming of pork since a themed dinner at Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills earlier this year.

    And not just any pork - I'm dreaming of wonderfully innovative porcine creations like smoked bacon aioli and sweet pork fat fudge that came from chef Paul Cooper's kitchen in the underrated neighbourhood restaurant.

    Pork terrine at the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    Located down the somewhat grungier southern end of Crown Street where Tabou restaurant formerly was for years, Bishop Sessa inexplicably flies under the radar.

    Chef Cooper promotes a genuine head-to-tail philosophy, best evidenced in the restaurant's special degustation dinners held regularly throughout the year - like the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner I attended - in addition to its usual degustation offering.

    Upstairs dining room
    Restaurateur Erez Gordon plays the perfect host and sommelier who really shines during these dinners, selecting unusual drops to match with Cooper's exciting food and serving them generously during degustations. I've heard that at some dinners he'll even match two wines per course.

    This neighbourhood-style generosity extends to the food - before we even looked at our first sip of booze at the pork-themed dinner we were presented with some of the best chicharrón pork rinds in town - light, airy, and all crunch - and then a chunky slice of excellent pork terrine on a bread crisp.

    For the I Dream of Pork dinners the restaurant had sourced a rare breed black pig from John Corduke's farm in the south west of NSW - presenting the beast head to tail in a number of wondrous dishes and tastily cute add-ons.

    Honey bread with smoked bacon aioli
    Our appetisers were matched with the exotically dry Delgado Zuleta La Goya Manzanilla Sherry prior to the second mind-blowing moment of the evening - before the meal had even started proper.

    Served with house-baked honeyed brown bread and butter was a small jar of aioli in a novel, on-theme flavour of smoked bacon. Almost everyone bypassed the butter for the ridiculously good aioli which was thoroughly smoky with the true flavours of salty, fatty bacon.

    It was quite something, to start the night with a revelation like the smoked bacon aioli and indeed, there were requests throughout the room to bottle and sell the divine spread.

    Salad of pork leg 'bacon', pine needle mayonnaise, wild flora
    We progressed to our first course of a salad: of the best sort featuring pork leg bacon in both a cooked cured form and in crisp, browned nubbins. The pink bacon was delightfully ham-like, pairing well with the caramelised eschallot, soft parsnip and green-tinted pine needle mayonnaise while the crisp bacon was as good as it gets.

    Our bacon salad was matched with the Bella Ridge Estate Trebbiano 2013 from Swan Valley, WA which was ideal to cut through the saltiness of the meat.

    Corned pork jowl, jerusalem artichoke reduction, chestnuts, pickled pine mushrooms
    I just couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the corned pork jowl - one of my favourite cuts of the pig post Italy and discovering guanciale. 

    The salted hunk of pork cheek was finished in the pan for a golden top to its deliciously fatty and soft flesh, and was paired thoughtfully with a segment of pickled pine mushroom and a chestnut puree.

    Matched with Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2013 from Margaret River, this was my favourite dish of the night (perhaps aside from the aioli).

    House made pig's head black pudding, fermented cabbage, caramelised apple puree, pig trotter jus
    Leg and cheek covered, we moved on to the pig's blood, head and trotter - both made into black pudding that featured a centre circle of pig's head meat.

    While I have no issue with the fabulous, all-sorts type of meat from the pig's head, blood isn't really my thing although the rich, crumbly slab was one of the more refined and reserved versions of black pudding I've had.

    The sauerkraut-like cabbage and apple puree were ideal for refreshing relief from the rich pudding and jus, as was the matched Opawa Pinot Noir 2011 from Marlborough, New Zealand.

    Poached pork loin, red wine braised carrots, spatzle, quince, green peppercorns 
    We were already getting seriously full by the time the last savoury dish arrived:  a thick slice of poached pork loin and a square of crackling topped pork belly, served with wintry red wine braised carrots and spatzle.

    While both cuts of pork were beautifully prepared, it was almost a little unfair to put anything up against pork belly with crunchy crackling. The heavier Vina Tobia Seleccion Tempranillo 2009 from Rioja, Spain rounded off the savoury courses and propelled us to sweets - of the porky variety.

    White chocolate and banana pork fat fudge, cinnamon toast, macadamia nuts
    I wasn't sure I could handle the thought of white chocolate and banana flavoured fudge - made with pork fat. Turns out I could and it was luxuriously rich and creamy as anticipated.

    Served atop a cakey version of cinnamon toast with creme anglaise, whole roasted macadamia nuts and a cracker that tasted like it was cooked in pork fat, it was a decadent dessert that ticked the pork box.

    It was served with warmed glasses of Maxwell Spiced Mead from McLaren Vale, South Australia which is just about my favourite boozy discovery of the year. A honey wine, it exudes cinnamon, cloves and the spice warmth you associate with winter and mulled wine and was a beyond-perfect match for the pork fat fudge dessert.

    Bacon doughnuts
    But wait, there was more. There was one last porky surprise from the kitchen - petit fours, if you will, featuring bacon. Not in any way your typical doughnut, it was an almost fudgey chocolate cake 'dough' component with a white icing glaze in contrast to the lovely saltiness of the crisp bacon on top. I'm not sure if the doughnut glaze had any pork fat content but at this point, I didn't really want to know.

    I certainly felt like a piggy rolling out of Bishop Sessa that night, but also one that was somewhat enlightened on the whole head-to-tail philosophy. As a neighbourhood restuarant, Bishop Sessa is doing some seriously spectacular things, especially in the pork department where the food is smart, considered and completely dream-worthy.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa as a guest, with thanks to Savannah PR.

    Bishop Sessa on Urbanspoon

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  • 09/03/14--15:04: Good times collective #10
  • We're in the 'racing towards the end of the year' portion of 2014 now, and already the diary is filling up with so many social and food events that before we know it, it'll be time for festive decorations with the jolly man in red.

    But before then, there are birthdays (some 31sts, a 1st and an 80th!), hen's dos, weddings, festival season and some big ol' venue openings - better get ready for some good times.

    Lamb ragu pasta at Cafe Sopra, Bridge Street, Sydney
    When I stick to the tried and true favourites at Cafe Sopra, I'm never disappointed. The maccheroni with rich, tomato-ey lamb ragu - served as one of the set menu banquet items - is a winner; perhaps the closest to knocking off my favourite of the pasta with crushed peas, Italian sausage and pecorino cheese.

    Grilled salmon brown rice bowl at Dragon Boy, World Square, Sydney
    While the majority of cheap-eats-seekers at Dragon Boy in World Square are probably there for the udon noodles, which are cooked immediately in front of you and served canteen style with tempura and kakiage fried vegetable fritter options, I like exploring the non-udon options.

    A donburi bowl of brown rice topped with several thin slices of aburi torched salmon, a few healthy-looking mixed leaves and a cherry tomato is about as guilt-free as it gets, disregarding the squiggles of obligatory mayonnaise and brown sauce.

    Antipasti board at Le Pub, King Street, Sydney
    In an underground space that was formerly a questionable Irish pub, Le Pub on King Street (also accessible from York Street) is now pretty bang-on for a city pub.

    The Parisian-styled Aussie pub and bistro does mains sub-$30 and a great charcuterie board with rillettes, saucission sec and terrine - or whatever else the kitchen has whipped up in house - with remoulade, cornichons, pickled vegies and plenty enough bread which is such a rarity.

    A variety of steamed dumplings at yum cha at Golden Unicorn Chinese Restaurant,
    Maroubra Road, Maroubra
    I rarely crave yum cha these days. Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I always overeat at yum cha and feel ick afterwards, or that I can't stand waiting for a table.

    Golden Unicorn Chinese Restaurant sort of has the south Sydney yum cha market cornered (for now) with its weekend queues forming down a flight of stairs onto Maroubra Road.

    For a suburban yum cha outlet, Golden Unicorn definitely delivers with some steamed dumpling options even the Chinatown restaurants don't have. The smaller room and waitress rounds also means the food tends to be hotter and fresher.

    Fish burger from Rockpool Bar & Grill, Bridge Street, Sydney
    Ahead of Neil Perry's Burger Project opening in World Square, I could almost lay claim to having had one of his takeaway burgers already.

    This crumbed fish burger from Rockpool Bar & Grill was ordered with the intention of eating it at the bar - until work beckoned. So, with a bit of foil and a carry bag, this desk lunch of crumbed flathead fillets with an iceberg lettuce leaf in that classic Rockpool burger bun was, and still is, hard to beat.

    Sambal sting ray from Sinma Laksa House, Anzac Parade, Kingsford
    I think I had sambal stingray at almost every hawker centre we visited in Malaysia. It's not all that common back home here, but it is available at Sinma Laksa House.

    Smothered in spicy sambal sauce, a ray wing is grilled to a brown burnish and served simply with more chilli sauce. The stingray texture is like that of most flat fish: soft and smooth with easily manageable bones, while the sambal and chilli provide all the flavour and heat that's needed.

    Here's to this awesome end of the year and plenty more good times yet.

    Café Sopra at Fratelli Fresh on UrbanspoonDragon Boy Japanese Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

    Golden Unicorn on UrbanspoonLe Pub on Urbanspoon

    Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon Sinma Laksa House on Urbanspoon

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  • 09/07/14--14:55: No bones to pick at Pinbone
  • Posted by Kath

    Weekend mornings can be as much of a mission as the weekday ones. I was on a mission of my own one Sunday: to finally experience brunch at Pinbone, where I'd been for an amazing dinner previously.

    Sign at Pinbone, Jersey Road, Woollahra
    With my brunch expectations relatively high, we headed to leafy Woollahra where there was, of course, a fixie parked out front of Pinbone.

    The coffee at Pinbone is decent but it's more about the food of which they certainly have a strong quality focus. Not only are the serving sizes at Pinbone generous but so are the flavours and service.

    Club Limbo - turkey, confit duck leg, bacon jam, crispy prosciutto, lettuce, tomato,
    mayo and chip club sandwich with fries
    Behold the Club Limbo, your not-so-average club sandwich. I was so excited to eat it that I devoured one handful of this amazing sandwich before I could contain myself enough to take a photo.

    The sandwich tower of colours and textures comprised three layers of soft white bread holding together roast turkey, confit duck leg, the crispiest prosciutto, shredded lettuce, tomato and potato crisps - all doused in mayo and finished with deliciously sweet and slightly spicy bacon jam.

    Served with a separate dish of fries, Club Limbo made for a formidable brunch.

    Scones, smoked cheese, sausage gravy and fried eggs
    Another stunner from the menu were the flavourful, albeit unphotogenic, scones with fried eggs, American-style sausage gravy and smoked cheese.

    Also a generous serve with two portions of scones and eggs, the gooey smokey cheese hits from the very first mouthful, while the creamy sausage gravy just kept me coming back for more. Warning: This brunch dish is definitely not for the faint-hearted or just peckish.

    Pinbone signed entrance
    Satisfied and sufficiently fuelled up for another weekend, I'm glad to report that brunch at Pinbone definitely lived up to my expectations. With amazing food, friendly service and not even a wait to be seated, there really were no bones to pick at Pinbone.

    Pinbone on Urbanspoon

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  • 09/09/14--15:16: When push comes to The Push
  • Posted by Hendy

    I needed no nudging or pushing into a lazy Sunday lunch in The Rocks' newly renovated small bar, The Push, beneath the Russell Hotel, at the southernmost point of The Rocks precinct on George Street (or the beginning of The Rocks if you're coming from the CBD).

    The Push, George Street, Sydney
    Most recently a wine bar, The Push was renovated about four months ago to capture the elegant, moment-in-time feel and mood of the 1800s and 1900s. It also attempts to capture the true essence of 'The Push' gang of that time: a group of larrikins that were commonly known to harass sailors in the area back in the 19th century

    Nautical remnants dot the venue including ship ropes, turbines, ship blueprints and other old artefacts that hint at a curious history in this very place.

    The bar
    Licensed till midnight with capacity for 120 patrons, The Push brings small bars into The Rocks area.

    The plush leather couches, brass fixtures, chequered tables and relaxing ambience of The Push attracts more regular office workers during the weekdays and younger crowds on Fridays and Saturdays, and a fair share of tourists.

    Larrikin cocktail
    To kick off lunch we ordered the Larrikin; a signature cocktail combining Jack Daniels bourbon and Tuaca, muddled with lime, mint and ginger ale.

    A refreshing cocktail served with lots of ice and likened to a mule, the Larrikin's herbaceous, slightly bitter and sticky sweetness works for some and not for others.

    Strawberry Jam Mocktail
    We also had a mocktail which used base elements of strawberry jam and plum bitters, topped off with apple juice. Like candy in a glass, this berry, sugary lolly-like mocktail was a clever use of the elements and pleasing to the non-drinker.

    School prawns, Cajun spiced, preserved lemon mayonnaise
    For food we started with a bowl of whole fried school prawns which were crunchy but not as greasy as others I've seen. Flash fried in a Cajun spiced batter, these prawns made for a great starter with a wedge of lemon and a dollop of light preserved lemon mayonnaise for condiments.

    Sliders: pulled lamb, pork rib, crispy seitan
    The highly-recommended sliders are available in three variations; pulled lamb, pork rib or a vegetarian seitan gluten.

    Served in mini brioche buns, the pulled lamb slider was nice and moist, served with mashed peas - my pick of the three.

    The pork rib slider had a curry flavouring, which was a refreshingly different take rather than the pulled pork that's still everywhere in Sydney. The vegetarian seitan slider would have been a winner with a little more seasoning on the gluten filling.

    Herb battered barramundi, house made tartare, hand cut chips, mashed peas
    Classic fish and chips at The Push featured barramundi fillets in a golden batter with nice crunch and quite light with herbs, lemon and maybe even some garlic. The fish was served traditionally with mushy peas and chunky potato chips in a small metal basket, while the aioli and lemon cheek were put to good use for the dish.

    Shepherd's pie with slow cooked lamb shoulder, crushed peas, sebago mash, watercress
    The Shepherd's pie that arrived next is one of the more popular mains at The Push. Packed with slow cooked lamb shoulder and gravy, and topped with a layer of sebago potato mash balls, it's easy to see why.

    The pot pie was served with large portion of watercress on the side and more mashed peas, while the potato mash was light, fluffy and rather addictive. The lamb shoulder filling was like a hearty winter's lamb stew and appropriately filling for a cool Sunday's lunch.

    House salad with frisee, radicchio and rocket, sliced radish, zucchini, white wine vinaigrette
    To balance out the richness and fried-ness, we also ordered the house salad. Combining radicchio, frisee and rocket leaves with radish rounds and zucchini, the salad was fresh with a good balance of bitter, tangy and crunch.

    ANZAC crumbed macadamia ice cream with rum butter sauce
    For dessert, it had to be the Anzac biscuit-coated macadamia ice cream with a rum sauce, which can hardly get any more Australian, or exciting for this fan of the oats-based traditional Anzac biscuit.

    Coated with a crumb of Anzac biscuits, the ice cream ball had satisfying chunks of macadamia nuts that combined for all round sweetness and butteriness.

    The rum butter sauce was sharply sweeter than the ice cream, though it worked quite well with the relatively toned down crumbs and ice cream.

    Endeavour Vintage Growers golden ale
    To cap off the lunch, and in honour of The Push and their sailor victims who certainly wouldn't have minded a drink, we had the Endeavour Vintage Growers golden ale which is one of four beers available on tap alongside Little Creatures Pale Ale, White Rabbit White Ale and Heineken.

    When it comes down to it, The Rocks is an important part of Sydney history and will always attract tourists as a result. Joining the likes of iconic pubs The Glenmore and The Australian, the newly renovated The Push will undoubtedly help to refresh the suite of traditional pubs and bars around The Rocks and nudge it into a new era.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at The Push as a guest, with thanks to Agency G.

    The Push on Urbanspoon

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    There remains a dearth of mid-priced dinner options in the CBD, cheap and casual Japanese and pasta aside. Attempting to fill that gaping hole is the second venue from the wildly successful Chefs Gallery, snuggled into a ground floor corner of Metcentre on George Street – best accessed through Jamison Street.

    Noodle master in action at Chefs Gallery Jamison, Metcentre, George Street, Sydney
    Launched in 2013, Chefs Gallery Jamison is a lite version of the original BathurstStreet restaurant. It has the suits lapping up hand-stretched noodles, dumplings and other elaborate pan-Chinese dishes through the week for lunch and now weeknights for dinner until 9.00pm.

    Noodle dough
    The eat-in space has been recently spruced up for more of a restaurant feel, although takeaway is still available.

    At a (re)launch event in July we were treated to noodle making demonstrations and even allowed to try our own hands at it, alongside the master noodle chef with more than 20 years of experience spent honing their noodle craft. Suffice to say, it's not as easy as it looks - but it is good fun.

    Rolling noodle dough

    Stretching noodle dough

    Stretching and pulling dough into noodles

    Hand stretched noodles

    Kingfish sashimi Chau Zhou style
    Now a fully licensed venue with cocktail and wine lists, at the relaunch event we were treated to drinks and canapé versions of some of the cold dishes on the menu, including tataki wagyu beef and kingfish sashimi.

    Prawn and pork wontons in Shanghainese spicy sauce
    One of the favourites of the night were the particularly plump pork and prawn wonton dumplings: bouncy meat-flled delights in a chewy wrapper, coated in that spicy, roasted chilli oil that I adore. Several of these with dry noodles really is a meal sorted.

    Vegetarian spring rolls
    I skipped the vegetarian steamed buns in favour for the vegetable spring rolls; which are unlike any other you'll see around town. Jam-packed with an interesting, not-cabbage-dominated vegetarian filling, I enjoyed the unorthodox, lacy-batter wrapper but the pale but crisp rolls can be a little too oily.

    Macanese style pork burger
    The star of the night was the mini pork buns which take inspiration from a sort-of street food in Macau. There were (big call ahead) just about the best thing between two slices of bread I've eaten all year.

    Basically a particularly unhealthy Asian burger, the buns comprised two miniature deep-fried mantou bread buns sandwiching a seriously seasoned and tenderised pork fillet, doused with a spiced mayonnaise and served with some perfunctory shredded iceberg lettuce.

    I'm not even a burger/slider person but these were so messily good that I had to have seconds, and maybe thirds.

    Wagyu beef cubes with black pepper sauce
    More substantial dishes like thick hand-stretched noodles with prawns and thin, green spinach noodles with mussels also made the rounds that night, but I kept going back for the delectable cubes of grilled wagyu beef, served with an umami-rich black pepper sauce that had me thinking good old pub steaks.

    Salt and pepper house-made egg and spinach tofu
    The fried cubes of the house-made spinach tofu were outstanding – the tofu being eggy, silky and so satisfying. In a salt and pepper seasoning, the crisply battered cubes on tofu topped with a layer of spinach understatedly demonstrated the extreme techniques and effort that go into Chefs Gallery's dishes for a humble meal.

    House-made egg and spinach tofu with preserved vegetables
    I came back for that tofu when returning for a quiet weeknight dinner. Once the thoroughfare through to Wynyard station is closed off, Metcentre is pretty quiet and only accessible from Jamison Street and clearly, only for those in the know.

    The tofu, this time served with a dice of pickled mustard vegetables, was just as impressive as at the launch with a crisp surface and wobbly innards, making for a great starter to share.

    Beef in spicy Sichuan soup with handmade spinach noodles 
    We went with soup noodles for the cool night, and especially having seen the experts make it with such ease and finesse. The hand-stretching gives the noodles a fantastic, chewier texture and you end up with noodles of varying width and not machine-made uniformity.

    The spicy beef soup noodles featured the thin green spinach noodles in a Sichuan chilli spiked soup, topped with thin sheets of tender beef, spinach and juliennes of carrot and bamboo shoot. The richly coloured umami-rich soup had that distinctive heat tingle from the chilli and pepper, and made for a huge serving.

    Handmade noodles in chicken soup
    Equally large was the chicken soup based plain noodles, served with spinach, carrot, fried shallots and omelette strips, and fried salt and pepper pork chops on the side.

    Clearly forgetting my newfound penchant for spicy and flavour-packed dishes, I found the plain noodles – which are meant to be pure, clean and cleansing – a little bland; helped along by the super hot chilli oil from the condiments selection on every table.

    Fried pork rib with five spice salt and lemon
    While the pork chop should have been the highlight and redeeming flavour addition, the tender pieces were sadly lukewarm although tasty with a five spice, salt and pepper mix for dipping or sprinkling on top, alongside lemon.

    The noodle soup servings are actually quite huge, more than enough for a well-priced dinner, while the a la carte menu is probably a step up in pricing. Nonetheless, Chefs Gallery has noodled its way into the CBD for lunch and now, dinner.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch party as a guest and dined with vouchers, with thanks to Chefs Gallery Jamison and White Communications.

    Chefs Gallery Jamison on Urbanspoon

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  • 09/17/14--14:55: Sakana Ya: An ode to fish
  • The humble fish is rarely as pleasing as when done well in a Japanese restaurant. Japanese cuisine certainly has a way with fish, whether it's cooked or raw, which makes it all the more tempting to order the entire menu at places like Sakana Ya in Crows Nest.

    Table setting at Sakana Ya, Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
    The dining room at Sakana Ya, which is Japanese for 'fish shop', is very elegantly Japanese despite its location on busy Pacific Highway in Crows Nest. Perhaps it's the softly tinkling music, the deferential service, or that unmistakeably Japanese smell of soy sauce and frying oil.

    Tamagoyaki - sweet egg omelette
    The menu at Sakana Ya is traditional in all the right ways, adding to the feeling that we might have been in some Tokyo restaurant. We started on warm tamago-yaki sweet omelette, carefully formed into blocks and grill-stamped with the restaurant's name in Japanese.

    This was served with finely grated daikon white radish to which I like adding a touch of soy sauce for flavour, not that the omelette needed it.

    Deep fried school prawns
    Whole fried school prawns aren't necessarily traditional Japanese, but these relatively large schoolies simply fried to a crisp and served with lemon were satisfying enough, although there are much more interesting renditions of the dish around town.

    For lunch mains at Sakana Ya, there are a range of set meals plus donburi rice bowls in two sizes, in addition to a la carte options.

    The sashimi lunch set included a generous plate of thick-cut assorted raw tuna, salmon, kingfish, kingfish belly, snapper and I think flounder. The firmer white fish of snapper and flounder had more of a textural appeal rather than flavour, especially compared to the fairly standard salmon and tuna.

    But it was the kingfish belly that was the revelation: a softer, deliciously creamier version of the relatively clean-tasting kingfish that was a first time but I certainly hope not the last.

    Miso grilled sablefish
    From the extensive fish selection, available on the menu in a variety of cooking styles, the waitress informed us that the sablefish was by far the most popular with the local, often Japanese clientele.

    I'd never heard of sablefish before, but the firm-fleshed fish also goes by the name of black cod. That's right, miso grilled black cod in the most traditional Japanese style, without the fanfare and price tag that would accompany it at a more modern Japanese eatery.

    The fillet of dark-skinned sablefish was beautifully done with fine and firm flaking flesh and sweet miso overtones. The juliennes of a crisp, pickled vegetable on the side and steamed rice were the perfect accompaniments for the utterly satisfying dish.

    Sides: rice, pickles, salad and miso soup
    With the sets come the all-encompassing, meal-making sides including salty-sour cucumber pickles, all wrinkly and green; leafy salad with a creamy dressing; miso soup and steamed white rice. We could each barely finish all our sides, which added lots of variety to the meal and bulked out what otherwise could have been very rich and luxurious lunch.

    Sakana Ya is about as traditional as it gets. Don't let the location or small dining room deceive you, this is the real deal, Japanese ode to fish.

    Sakana-Ya on Urbanspoon

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    It's been more than nine months since Vapiano landed in Sydney and judging by the numbers of happily self-serviced diners I see every time I pop in, the quick and fresh pasta and pizza offering has certain appeal to the CBD's suits and visitors alike.

    I like Vapiano for the minimal waiting times for food (basically no wait for a seat), and meal and ordering flexibility. I also like getting the Innocent Bystander moscato every time I visit, which reminds me of sweet lollies in spring.

    Spelt fusilli pasta gamberi con rosso from Vapiano Sydney, York Street, Sydney
    In light of Vapiano's first spring in Sydney they've introduced a number of main specials just for the season - and you and a friend could try them for free in a Food, Booze & Shoes giveaway (full details at the bottom of this post).

    Pumpkin soup
    The first of the spring specials menu is, perhaps oddly, pumpkin soup, served with a selection of cream, parmesan cheese, garlicky croutons or basil on top; the latter of which fill the restaurant in pots for diners' own picking and garnishing.

    While I'm more than happy to move away from soups after winter, admittedly we might still have a few cooler days and evenings ahead of us. The thick but not-too-heavy pumpkin soup is quite the large serving with good consistency, while the buttery garlic croutons were my highlight.

    Pasta gamberi con rosso - prawn and tomato pasta
    As with all of Vapiano's pasta options, diners can choose their preferred pasta shape for the prawn and tomato spring special.

    The conchiglie frilled shells are gorgeous to look at but I ended up with the spelt fusilli spirals which was also my first taste of spelt pasta. Noticeably more grainy than normal pasta, I'm not sure I would choose spelt over plain, especially in a subtly sauced pasta dish like the prawn and tomato.

    Chilli would be highly recommended with this pasta dish, which can be requested when ordering from your very own Vapiano chef. We also picked a fair bit of the basil pot on our table to add to the tomato sauce with several whole prawns.

    Pizza Poporano (image courtesy of Vapiano)
    The spring special for the pizza menu is the Poporano which features a tomato base and toppings of bresaola cured beef, shaved parmesan cheese and rocket.

    The bresaola, made in NSW, is the salty, air-cured feature of the pizza although perhaps a little sparse on the thin, crisp base beneath a shower of rocket leaves.

    Risotto pollo levanto - creamy chicken risotto
    Our carb fest continued with our tasting of the fourth main special; a well-seasoned chicken risotto cooked to a perfect al dente state.

    With cream, bacon, onion and plenty of chicken pieces, the risotto was my favourite of the four spring specials, which I again covered with freshly-picked basil leaves at the table - for both fun and some greenery for my meal.

    White chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel and honeycomb
    I just couldn't squeeze in dessert, which is definitely one for the super-sweetooths. The glass serving of cheesecake with a biscuit crumble base was studded with white chocolate pieces and if that wasn't enough sugar for you, it's topped with a thick salted caramel and honeycomb pieces.

    Vapiano's spring specials are available from now until 31 October 2014 - spring in to Vapiano Sydney to check them out or win a spring menu tasting for two people here.

    Giveaway - Vapiano spring menu tasting for two!

    Food, Booze & Shoes and Vapiano Sydney are giving away spring menu tastings for two - to include one main special and the white chocolate cheesecake dessert.

    There are four to be won on the Food, Booze & Shoes Facebook page - make sure you like the page AND the Vapiano giveaway post to be in the running to win.

    Four winners will be selected randomly on Sunday, 28 September 2014 at 8.30pm AEST and notified via Facebook. Winners will need to provide a mailing address within 4 days so the vouchers can be posted in the mail. Good luck!

    Terms & conditions
    Winners' vouchers are for use at Vapiano Sydney only. The voucher entitles the winner and their guest to a choice of one spring menu item each and the white chocolate cheesecake dessert.
    Entrants must like both the Food, Booze & Shoes Facebook page and the Vapiano giveaway post to enter the giveaway validly.
    No bookings required to use vouchers. Vouchers must be used by Friday, 31 October 2014.

    Vapiano Sydney

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Vapiano.

    Vapiano on Urbanspoon

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    Even as a not-so-common visitor to Melbourne these days, there are places and dishes that are almost quintessentially Melbourne from a Sydney perspective, as I'm sure there are the other way around - though perhaps less so with various restaurants and trends capturing stomachs in both states.

    Fried eggs with jamon, figs and potato tortilla from Hardware Societe, Hardware Street, Melbourne
    The hype around CBD laneway cafe Hardware Societe doesn't seem to have died down at all, if my last two visits to Melbourne are anything to go by.

    Always turned off by the usual breakfast queues, I was pleasantly surprised on a Thursday morning with no queue but still a jam-packed venue including a shared communal table.

    Fried eggs with jamon, figs and potato tortilla from Hardware Societe
    Breakfast at Hardware Societe is no light affair. With Spanish and French influences throughout the menu, breakfast is a little more glam than your standard cafe breakfast and quite irresistibly so.

    Spanish jamon cured ham and a wedge of potato tortilla made an appearance alongside in-season fresh figs and a scattering of pumpkin seeds in a gorgeous spin on breakfast eggs and toast that was as gourmet as it was filling.

    Herb roasted mushrooms with twice cooked gruyere de comte souffle from Hardware Societe
    Even more rich was the vegetarian dish of buttery, herb roasted mushrooms atop seeded toast, with watercress and two fluffy cheese "souffles" finished with a herbed creme fraiche; certainly one of the richest, and ultimately deliciously filling vegetarian meals I've had to date.

    Bills burger from Huxtaburger, Fulham Place, Melbourne
    There's yet to be a burger joint in Sydney with the name and following of Huxtaburger in Melbourne, which has three venues throughout Melbourne and avid, die-hard fans. The CBD outlet, hidden in a laneway and backing out into a food court, is licensed and with indoor and outdoor seating.

    It's a more of a scoff-and-dash venue, which is fine by the hungry devourers of the all-Aussie Bills burger featuring a fried egg and bacon with the juicy beef pattie, and beetroot and a pineapple ring in addition to lettuce and tomato - a burger doesn't get much more Australian than that.

    Rudy burger with chipotle fries from Huxtaburger
    After a holiday standard breakfast; that is, a relatively huge one, I could only manage a kids-size burger. And large fries but only because they were of the nostalgic crinkle-cut variety, tossed in a lightly spiced chipotle seasoning.

    The cute Rudy burger on a shiny mini burger bun with a beef pattie, lettuce and tomato was a classic burger with both tomato sauce and mayonnaise. For a proper meat hit, though, go the full size.

    Tam Tam ramen from Fukuryu Ramen, Corrs Lane, Melbourne
    Melbourne's a little behind Sydney on the ramen game - while we can virtually turn any corner in the city and inner suburbs and find a great ramen joint (post coming next week on the new, second Ippudo in the Central Park complex, Broadway), it's not quite as easy in Melbourne.

    Fukuryu Ramen is located up a couple flights of stairs in an aged laneway building, but once you're up there, it's like any other brightly-lit fast food restaurant. Order at the front and get a neat little tracker, rather than a buzzer, that alerts waistaff to your seating location once your food is ready for table delivery.

    Offered in regular or large size (adults aren't allowed to order the kid's size - I tried), the mildly spicy, red-hued 'Tam Tam' ramen featured chasuhu roast pork slices and nori seaweed sheets propped up against the side of the bowl, as well as half a googy-yolked egg and pork mince through the soup. The broth had a fantastic smoky umami-ness that strongly encouraged one to finish the entire bowl of soup.

    Miso ramen from Fukuryu Ramen
    There wasn't quite the same depth of flavour in the miso ramen which had a chicken and fish based broth. It came with toppings of buttered corn, shallots, norichashu, egg and oddly, also some of the minced pork at the bottom of the bowl. While it was decently rich with miso, it wasn't the best miso ramen I've ever had and not nearly as good as my neighbouring bowl.

    Sweet potato fries with Vietnamese spicy chilli mayonnaise from Lord of the Fries, Flinders Street, Melbourne
    I'm actually yet to visit the Lord of the Fries outlet in Sydney, but happily divert to the store near Flinders Street station every time for a hit of fried potatoes - or in this instance, sweet potato.

    Darkly fried, the sweet potato chips alternate between crunchy and soggy, enriched with the 'Vietnamese' sauce - a lightly spiced mayonnaise.

    Ninjabread martini, Section 8, Tattersalls Lane
    An outdoor, converted shipping container bar pumping with music in a Chinatown lane is quite the concept and Section 8 seems to pull it off effortlessly. Downstairs from other nearby bars, I assume the noise isn't an issue - how un-Sydney - and while sangria jugs and beers seemed the popular choice, I was completely and somewhat unexpectedly delighted with my Ninjabread martini.

    Vanilla vodka featured with a touch of cream in the shaken cocktail that seemed to lack a real ginger hit, but it was the gingerbread crumb rim that won me over in the decidedly 'yum' cocktail.

    Jia zhang noodles from Camy Shanghai Dumpling, Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne
    After a drink or two, the allure of cheap dumplings and noodles nearby in Tattersalls Lane is hard to resist. The well-priced menu and brusque service go hand in hand, and there's even an all-you-can-eat option for the seriously hungry.

    The meaty, saucy jia zhang wheat noodles are fabulous for booze-soaking, and general eating too. The generous bowl of dry noodles is topped with a fine pork mince and finely chopped other ingredients in the Asian bolognaise-like sauce, with Chinese greenery on the side.

    Pan fried pork dumplings from Camy Shanghai Dumplings
    The crisp bottomed pan-fried dumplings are also people-pleasers, with a unique situation where the dumpling wrapper is just as good as the juicy, porky filling. With vinegar sauce and a touch of chilli, these are the kinds of dumplings that I could just eat forever, for the rest of time.

    Hot and sour soup from Camy Shanghai Dumpling
    The generosity of serving sizes continued with the hot and sour soup, served searingly hot and thick, jam-packed with tofu, bamboo shoots and other goodies in a well balanced vinegary and chilli soup base.

    Xiao long bao from Camy Shanghai Dumpling
    The only disappointment at Camy Shanghai Dumpling were the xiao long bao soup dumplings which were quite terrible and even worse than the frozen, steam-at-home varieties. Cooked in a too-small bamboo steamer, the dumpling skins ripped and lost what little soup they held while the filling flavour was so mediocre that even vinegar and soy sauces couldn't help.

    I always feel like I need a salad week or two after an eating and drinking weekend in Melbourne, but it's all about the balance and the good times afterall.

    The Hardware Société on UrbanspoonHuxtaburger on Urbanspoon

    Lord of the Fries on Urbanspoon Camy Shanghai Dumpling on Urbanspoon

    Section 8 on Urbanspoon Fukuryu Ramen on Urbanspoon

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    As part of this year's Good Food Month (starting this coming Wednesday), a sweet new festival is launching next weekend in The Rocks. The smooth Festival of Chocolate will be a two-day festival dedicated to everyone's favourite chocolate.

    smooth Festival of Chocolate, 4-5 October 2014, The Rocks, Sydney
    (Food, Booze & Shoes received the above chocolate hamper as a gift from Smooth FM and Nova Entertainment)
    Sounding of The Rocks Aroma Festival ilk, hotels, restaurants, patisseries, ice creameries and chocolatiers will come together throughout The Rocks and Circular Quay over the two days to showcase chocolate products and sweets.

    Large caramel milk chocolate freckle pop by Peacock Chocolates
    There will be entertainment too: a smooth music stage, a test kitchen stage featuring chef demonstrations every hour, a pop up bar and even artists painting with chocolate, while neaby restaurants and hotels will also be incorporating chocolate items into their menus all throughout Good Food Month.

    At smooth Festival of Chocolate will be Jean-Michel Raynaud, executive pastry chef of Baroque Bistro
    and La Renaissance, The Rocks, Sydney

    (Image courtsey of Nova Entertainment)
    We caught up with executive pastry chef of Baroque Bistro and La Renaissance, Jean-Michel Raynaud ahead of next weekend's sweet-tooth festivities.

    FBS: What is your favourite way to enjoy chocolate? 
    For me, chocolate is about childhood memories. The most enjoyable way for me to enjoy chocolate is as I did when I was a kid: cut open a baguette, butter each side and fill with squares of chocolate straight off a block - the original pain au chocolat!

    FBS: What is your favourite ingredient to cook and pair with chocolate? 
    I like playing with fruit pulps and juices to add depth of flavours and complexity to an otherwise plain chocolate.

    My favourite, though, is to make bitter dark chocolate ganache with salted caramel - the salt balances both the bitterness of the chocolate and burnt sugars, whilst the caramel gives your cream an amazing chewy texture.

    FBS: What are your thoughts on savoury chocolate dishes? 
    I am a big fan but as with everything else, before attempting to do anything savoury with chocolate, you must first understand how to balance the taste inherent in your dish - any mistake will be unforgiving.

    FBS: What type of alcoholic beverage do you think best matches with chocolate? 
    Lots of alcoholic beverages work with chocolate, but none so much as Grand Marnier. The orange flavours and peppery undertones work fantastically with a dark, single origin chocolate whilst more flagrant beverages, such as Pastis or Frangelico, work best with sweeter chocolate like milk or white

    FBS: What are your highlights and picks of next weekend's smooth Festival of Chocolate events?
    Come and check Julia Taylor (ex-Masterchef runner up and current pastry chef at La Renaissance) and my demo and definitely come and see a great chocolate artisan in Dean Gibson.

    Overall though, the whole festival is going to be a celebration of all that is chocolate, so well worth checking out.

    The smooth Festival of Chocolate is on next weekend, 4-5 October 2014 in The Rocks, Sydney.

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    Get your good food face on – Good Food Month officially starts on Wednesday this week. From Sydney's favourite Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park to young chefs featured in the Omnivore World Tour; from Let's Do Lunches to Hats Off Dinners through to Sugar Hits – it's all back for the entire month of October for our eating and drinking pleasures.

    Last year's Citi VIP tent at Night Noodle Markets, Hyde Park, Sydney
    Presenting sponsor partner Citi also returns for its seventh consecutive year, and I for one am glad they're again offering the #CitiVIP area with concierge service at the Night Noodle Markets – which this year is opening on weekend nights too.

    Citi VIP concierge service at the Night Noodle Markets, this year from 10-26 October 2014
    As part of a progressive dinner through the city last week previewing Citi-friendly Good Food Month offerings, it showed that our city is indeed a Moveable Feast and Sydney's venues are turning it on for October.

    Freshly shucked oysters from The Morrison, George Street, Sydney
    We started at CBD favourite The Morrison for entrées and wine that's featured in the Citibank Dining Program, where Citi cardholders get a free bottle of wine at selected partner restaurants when paying with their card.

    Delightfully and as I was hoping for, we started with a range of freshly-shucked oysters including a sample that's not yet on the menu.

    The Gold Band Pacific oyster from Tasmania apparently features a gold band colour across the bottom of the shell, but I was too busy immersed in its stunning creaminess and full flavour to notice.

    With as much, if not more flavour than a rock oyster, this spring season-only mollusc may be the one that turns me from my long-favoured Sydney rocks. But that's not to say that the Wagonga Inlet and Pambula Sydney rock oysters weren't briney and great as well, but they're just not the ones I'm currently dreaming of.

    Crab and lettuce taco with salmon caviar and chardonnay vinaigrette from The Morrison
    For Good Food Month, The Morrison is jumping into the Bar Hop with a Tanqueray gin based cocktail and a crab and lettuce taco for $20, as well as Let's Do Lunch featuring oysters then crab linguine (or mushroom gnocchi) with a Yalumba wine, Coopers beer or Schweppes mineral water.

    We followed up our sensational oysters with the cos lettuce 'taco shell' filled with shredded crab meat, salmon roe, chives, chardonnay vinaigrette and a fresh chilli slice that, on this occasion, was bitingly hot.

    Duck fat chips from The Morrison
    And they wouldn't have us leave without sampling cones of Sean Connolly's signature duck fat chips which, served with a house tomato sauce, are about as good a beer snack as there is.

    Thin hand-pulled noodles from Chefs Gallery Jamison, Margaret Street, Sydney
    We toddled on over to our next venue, Chefs Gallery Jamison, for our mains with an interactive component. Head noodle Chef JPL, aka Chef Panda, was on hand for noodle stretching demonstrations as well as lesser seen knife-sliced and piped noodles.

    Noodle making demonstration at Chefs Gallery Jamison
    (Hi, Simon!)

    Seasoned wonton crisps from Chefs Gallery Jamison
    Starting with moreishly seasoned wonton skin crisps and my favourite Macanese pork chop buns, we were treated to a degustation of noodles with accompanying interactive demonstrations.

    Macanese pork buns from Chefs Gallery Jamison

    Pumpkin soup tureens
    We also got a sneak-peek at other seasonal specials, like the pumpkin-contained tom yum soup designed as a special offering in time for Halloween.

    Pumpkin tom yum soup

    Pumpkin seafood tom yum soup serving
    The sour, spicy tom yum soup with a variety of seafood and vegetables is served in a whole steamed pumpkin with its flesh softened for scooping out with the thin soup which is both novel and unique.

    Zha jiang hand pulled noodles
    The hand-pulled wheat noodles became zha jiang noodles in a tasty pork mince sauce that many likened to an Asian version of bolognaise.

    Chef Panda knife-cutting sorghum noodles
    Meanwhile, I was taken by the thick salmon-pink hued knife-sliced sorghum noodles that Chef Panda essentially shaved from a huge block of dough, straight into a pot of boiling water.

    Sorghum knife-cut noodles
    Served with a spicy Shanghainese chilli and soy sauce, it was all about the texture and al dente chew of the thick noodles, as well as the grainy flavour of the sorghum flour.

    Piping fish noodles
    (Hi, jeroxie!)
    Lastly, the fish noodles squeezed out in single noodle formation from a piping bag into boiling soupwere completely new to me. A moussey dough of minced fish and flour, the piped noodles were served in a clean chicken soup, allowing the airy textured and delicately fish flavoured noodles to shine.

    Fish noodles in chicken soup
    For Good Food Month Chefs Gallery, and Chef Panda, will make nightly appearances at the Night Noodle Markets; demonstrating his craft, as well as a Chinese Food & Art night with an eight-course banquet at Chefs Gallery Jamison.

    The private dining room at Sokyo, The Star, Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont
    Image courtesy of ChopinandMysaucepan
    We hightailed it to our final destination of the night, Sokyo at The Star for desserts. Graced with a private dining room which I've never seen before, we were laden with sweet, sweet gifts from the pastry kitchen.

    Mochi ice cream from Sokyo
    The sweet bounty included my favourite mochi ice cream: a thin sheet of softly chewy and glutinous, green-tinted Yatsuhashi Kyoto mochi encasing a nugget of strawberry milkshake ice cream. This is Sokyo's go-to desert for non-sweet tooths and something smaller and lighter.

    Goma Street from Sokyo
    My other favourite, Goma Street, goes to the other end of the richness scale. Black sesame ice cream is the sesame in the translated ‘Sesame Street’ dessert while the tower of tempered chocolate rounds, caramelised white chocolate mousse and black sesame candy take the dessert way beyond child's play.

    Tofu cheesecake from Sokyo
    I adored the playfulness of the tofu cheesecake which incorporates cream cheese and tofu in an airy filling that's then re-moulded into tofu cartons with a biscuit base. Highlighting the kitchen's creativity, the thyme sugar and strawberry consommé could well have been superfluous afterthoughts to the excellent cheesecake.

    Strawberry meringue
    I couldn't manage the rich-looking dark chocolate and peanut butter fondant served with vanilla ice cream, nor the lighter strawberry meringue option with sheep’s milk yoghurt sorbet with a veritable 'salad' of garnishes

    But I did not refuse the award-winning McWilliam's Morning Light Botrytis Semillon which was well suited to the richer, sweeter desserts.

    Peanut butter and chocolate fondant
    Sokyo joins Good Food Month’s Bar Hop with a choice of Tanqueray gin cocktails and their delicious seafood offerings. Chef Chase Kojima is also taking small groups through the Sydney Fish Markets in the Instant Expert sessions while their Let’s Do Lunch offering is a varied bento box.

    See the full Good Food Month program for details on all associated events and activities, and I’ll see you out and about this great eating town throughout October.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the Citibank Moveable Feast preview of Good Food Month as a guest, with thanks to Haystac.

    The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room on Urbanspoon

    Chefs Gallery Wynyard on Urbanspoon

    Sokyo on Urbanspoon

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    The new Central Park Sydney development on Broadway, or Chippendale, is quite something. On the site of the former Carlton and United Brewery which closed in 2003, Central Park comprises a shopping centre, heaps of restaurants and apartment buildings that loom over Broadway – at least prettily with innovative hanging gardens and artistry.

    Entrance to Ippudo, Central Park, Broadway, Chippendale/Ultimo
    In a bit of a coup for the brand new development complex, Central Park's lower ground courtyarded The Dining District is home to Ippudo's second Australian restaurant – officially opening today.

    Inside the restaurant
    With the same ramen noodle menu as the flagship Westfield Sydney restaurant and slight variations to the other portions of the menu, Ippudo at Central Park is a smaller venue with the same ethos of loud, shouty welcomes; comfortable seating; heart- and stomach-warming tonkotsu pork bone broth and seriously good hakata style thin ramen noodles.

    Nikumiso tofu salad
    Quite aware of the substantial portion sizes and rich Ippudo tonkotsu broth, we started with a cold tofu salad topped with a miso flavoured ground pork mince sauce.

    With mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, avocado and shredded carrot and daikon doused in a creamy dressing, the meaty miso sauce with was simply delightful with the refreshing cubes of tofu.

    Shiromaru Special - original tonkotsu broth with black mushrooms
    For the main game, I opted for the Shiromaru Motoaji ramen – which in hindsight, I realised is the same one I order every time at Ippudo.

    Served with the original, creamy white tonkotsu broth, thick-cut pork loin, bean sprouts, shredded woodear mushroom and shallots, the Shiromaru Special option brings an additional side plate of a whole flavoured hard-boiled egg, chashu simmered pork belly slices, nori roasted seaweed sheets, bamboo shoots and extra bean sprouts, mushroom and shallots.

    Shiromaru Special toppings
    It could almost be two meals but it's interesting to compare the pork loin with the thinner-sliced but fattier chashu.

    The noodles, requested 'hard' but available in 'medium' and 'soft' too, take in a lot of the flavour of the creamy broth which boasts plenty of depth and not an overwhelming fattiness. The addition of crushed, roasted sesame seeds and layu chilli oil at the table finish off the Shiromaru Special perfectly.

    Akamaru Shinaji - tonkotsu broth with red miso blend
    The red-hued Akamaru Shinaji is also based on the original tonkotsu broth but is enhanced with a red miso paste blend and a drizzle of black garlic oil.

    A more modern style of ramen than the classic tonkotsu varieties, the miso broth still shines with porkiness while chashu, corn kernels, bamboo shoots and shallots complete the bowl.

    Kitchen and counter seating
    I find it hard to contemplate a whole lot of sides or dessert when it comes to ramen as with extra toppings, all the soup and noodles – it's a really substantial meal in one bowl.

    Kaedama extra noodles are available for those looking into a noodle-less bowl of soup still hungry but Ippudo also does a pretty good job of entrées and sides, like the chashu gohan pork belly rice bowl and the ubiquitous gua bao style pork bun.

    So, it's number two for Ippudo at Central Park, officially opening today for your queuing and ramen-eating pleasure, Chippendale.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ippudo Sydney as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

    Ippudo Sydney on Urbanspoon

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    As part of Good Food Month, for the month of October King Street Wharf restaurants are offering Signatures by the Wharf: a set of a signature main meal or dishes with a drink, enjoyed by the sparkling waterside.

    I shouldn't have been all too surprised at the bloke-heavy population at Steersons Steakhouse on a weeknight dinner, where corporate cards seem to get a good workout. The restaurant at the northern end of Lime Street overlooking the wharf was almost completely full by the time we put orders in, and with steak, wine and a whisky trolley out the front – it makes perfect sense.

    Freshly baked damper with salted butter and mixed marinated olives from Steersons Steakhouse,
    Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
    We started with freshly baked damper that was almost as soft and light as fairy floss; certainly softer than any white bread I've known and nothing like the damper I made at school camp all those years ago. Served with plain old butter, I'd recommend having it with some of the other very tempting starter options.

    The mixed marinated olives were an ideal accompaniment, comprising meaty Sicilian green olives as well as kalamata olives in a chilli, citrus and herb marinade.

    Pan-Fried Chorizo with mint & basil in a hot pan
    There was even more flavour packed into the chorizo entrée, served in slices in a small, hot frying pan with mint, basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar – the latter cutting through the fatty, well-spiced pork sausage. With oils from the chorizo pooling at the bottom of the pan with the vinegar, it combined to make all too delicious (and naughty) a dipping oil.

    Petite Grasslands (NSW) rib-eye with chips
    Steersons' Good Food Month signature offer is the petite Grasslands rib-eye with red wine jus and a choice of potato: mashed, baked in its skin or fat chips, plus a glass of house wine. At 220 grams, the petite rib-eye steak is a good size for dinner with a couple of entrées and sides although hungrier types may look to the larger steak offerings.

    Done medium-rare and served with hot English and seeded mustards, I was delighted with my petite steak which was pink and juicy but not bloody, so very tender, well-seasoned and charred on the surface, and full of beefy flavour.

    With crisp, wide (and well done) chips and a few token green leaves, it was all about the signature steak that was so well executed by the Steersons kitchen.

    Havericks Dry Aged Beef, NSW – Riverina rib on bone (pasture fed)
    Outside of the Good Food Month special, the Riverina rib on the bone came highly recommended. Dry aged by Havericks for six-to-eight weeks, the tenderness of the not-too-thick 400 gram steak was a marvel, though I found my petite rib-eye tastier – if only for seasoning.

    The coin of confit garlic and thyme butter was a rich addition along with the pot of red wine jus. Cutely, the serve of mashed potato was presented in a cloud-like fashion next to some plate greenery.

    We paired our steaks with the easy-quaffing, excellently fruity, medium-bodied Jed Limited Reslease Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

    Wild Rocket & Parmesan with goat cheese & beetroot
    We added vegetables by way of the rocket and parmesan salad, differentiated from the masses with the addition of tartly-pickled beetroot – both the usual and golden varieties – which were thinly sliced but maintained an earthy firmness.

    A goat's cheese dressing was served with the rocket leaf salad, both drizzled atop and in a side pool, while I think there was also a touch of balsamic vinegar.

    Sauteed garlic mushrooms
    I adore mushrooms in most forms but it would be hard to top the sautéed garlic mushrooms at Steersons. Served in another small frying pan, I think it was a mix of Swiss brown and button mushrooms cooked just so with the perfect hit of garlic, topped with breadcrumbs. If I were a vegetarian (I probably wouldn't be at Steersons Steakhouse, but), this is what I would want to eat all the time.

    We didn't leave time or space for dessert on this occasion but for me, when it"s all about the steak – as is Steersons' signature – it's all about the steak.

    There's a wide range of dining options on King Street Wharf and so there's a wide range of offers from the likes of Bungalow 8, Cargo Bar, Casa Ristorante Italiano, George's Mediterranean Bar & Grill, Kobe Jones, Wharf Teppanyaki, La Cita, Nicks Bar and Grill, The Malaya and Steersons Steakhouse. See all of the Signatures by the Wharf dining offers at King Street Wharf.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Steersons Steakhouse as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

    Steersons Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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    Despite the name, Good Food Month isn't all about the food. Bar Hop, this year presented by Tanqueray, sees Sydney bars match a Tanqueray gin cocktail with a bar snack, for pre or post dinner snacking or as the name suggests, bar hopping your way around town.

    Good Food Month Bar Hop presented by Tanqueray, at select Sydney bars, 1-31 October 2014
    With 49 participating venues, you're not short on options for bar hopping, especially in the Sydney CBD, Pyrmont, Surry Hills or Bondi areas.

    Rolling into the meat of Good Food Month, bar hopping was high on my agenda last Thursday night with an especially-arranged Bar Hop courtesy of Tanqueray.

    Tanqueray Bar Hop transport courtesy of Prestige Chauffeurs
    It was rather nice to be picked up from work by a pristine chauffeured car from Prestige Chauffeurs - a family-run business based in the Northern Beaches.

    The evening's plan was to hit up four bars around town for their Tanqueray Bar Hop offerings, all very responsibly with thanks to Prestige Chauffeurs picking us up and dropping us at each bar. If that's not bar hopping in style, I don't know what is.

    Grain Bar at Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
    We kicked off the Bar Hop at Grain Bar adjoining the Four Seasons Hotel (in which Sydney's own Pei Modern by Mark Best is opening on 15 October 2014).

    Packed to the gills with the after-work crowd, it was a nice and sweet start to the night with the Violette Royale cocktail featuring Tanqueray gin and Creme Yvette liqueur of violet petals and berries, topped with sparkling wine.

    Violette Royale cocktail with Hiramasa kingfish with limoncello mayonnaise from Grain Bar 
    The girly pink cocktail was matched with a canapé of raw Hiramasa kingfish delicately coiled on a spoon with with limoncello mayonnaise inside.

    There's not really any elegant way of eating small morsels from a soup spoon, and so scoffed in one mouthful it was; the creamy mayonnaise being a highlight flavour.

    Tanqueray gin martini (left) and Bramble 2.0 from Grain Bar
    We managed to squeeze in a cheeky extra round of drinks, including a gin martini (Tanqueray, of course) and Grain's take on the classic Bramble, reinterpreted as a sweet fizz cocktail with great blackberry undertones with the gin.

    But nothing beats a good martini to start a night of drinks and food, especially when there's fat green olives in the mix.

    Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters fron Grain Bar
    We self matched a little food, being unable to resist the thought of freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters, which are a bargain $1.50 each on Thursday and Friday evenings at Grain (from 5-9pm). Salty with brine and served with lemon and red wine vinaigrette, we demolished these beauties in moments.

    Prestige Chauffeurs pick up for next bar on Bar Hop
    With our Prestige Chauffeurs car ready and waiting outside for us, it was all a bit posh leaving a five-star hotel after drinks and hopping into a chauffeured car - to head to another bar. I could get used to this.

    French 75 cocktail at Gilt Lounge, QT Sydney, Market Street, Sydney
    We were dropped off right in front of our next venue, QT Sydney, which boasts three separate bars within the boutique hotel. This evening, Gilt Lounge was our target so it was up the elevator (which customises its song choice based on how many people are in it!), past the quirky lobby, upstairs past Gowings Bar & Grill to the luxe lounge space.

    Gilt Lounge's Bar Hop offering is the classic French 75 champagne cocktail, featuring Tanqueray gin, lemon and sugar, topped with sparkling wine and finished with a lemon twist. It's a great, relatively light cocktail that's totally food and canapé-friendly.

    French 75 cocktail and snapper ceviche spoon from Gilt Lounge
    Gilt's cocktail is paired with their snapper ceviche spoon featuring the fresh diced raw fish dressed with lime juice, super-finely diced red capsicum, baby coriander and shallots on a base of avocado puree - the acidity matching well with the cocktail's light tartness.

    Water and spiced peanuts at Grasshopper Bar, Temperance Lane, Sydney
    Next we stopped in at seminal laneway small bar Grasshopper Bar, which has recently added outdoor seating and a Chinese-inspired food menu.

    As one of the first bars to use jars as glassware, they're forgiven for the water glasses and thanked for the super moreish, salty and spiced peanuts which I felt I ate by the handful.

    Golden Axe cocktail
    Grasshopper's Bar Hop offering was the Golden Axe cocktail of Tanqueray gin and Amaretto - my least favourite liqueur (for the "almond" flavour) - shaken with passionfruit and fresh apple juice. Thankfully, for me, most of the amaretto flavour was hidden beneath the passionfruit, while it did give the cocktail a nice weight.

    Golden Axe cocktail and crispy pastry, duck breast
    The sweet cocktail was paired with Grasshopper's fresh take on Peking duck pancakes featuring a beautifully cooked slice of duck breast presented on crispy pastry with cucumber, pickled vegetables and a sweet brown sauce.

    The concept was great and the flavours fantastically modernised, but structurally the crispy pastry had nothing on traditional pancakes; basically disintegrating on first bite and necessitating the need to either shove it all in in the one mouthful or let it fall to bits on the wooden board.

    Cocktail shaker collection at The Roosevelt, Orwell Street Potts Point
    Back in to our chauffeured car we made the jolly drive to Potts Point and The Roosevelt Bar & Diner, which at this late-ish time of the night was full with a combination of couples and noisy groups at the end of their drinking nights.

    The Roosevelt's gorgeously-presented Bar Hop cocktail and canapé came as one, the salmon gravlax sitting on a concave glass dish balanced atop the vintage glasses.

    East Side Peach cocktail and salmon gravlax from The Roosevelt
    The East Side Peach cocktail was probably my favourite and the least sweet cocktail of the Bar Hop drinks. With Tanqueray gin and a beautiful array of fruit and aromatics, namely ginger poached peaches, pink grapefruit, honey, lime and bruised mint, the cocktail was a star on its own.

    It was served with house-cured Tasmanian salmon gravlax (we were hitting all the raw fish canapés it seems) with a tiny bit of roast kipfler potato and beetroot in a pretty, artful composition that didn't last long.

    Bar Hop completed, it was a comfortable and safe ride home thanks to Prestige Chauffeurs, who have a fantastic service and certainly made bar hopping in heels much easier. The Good Food Month Bar Hop is a great way to discover Tanqueray gin cocktails in Sydney bars, both new and old, near and far (especially if you've got a chauffeur).

    Food, Booze and Shoes participated in the Bar Hop presented by Tanqueray with thanks to Leo Burnett Sydney. Special thanks to Sean and Prestige Chauffeurs.

    Disclaimer: Food, Booze & Shoes is acquainted with staff at Gilt Lounge and The Speakeasy Group.

    Grain Bar on Urbanspoon  Gilt Lounge on Urbanspoon

    Grasshopper on Urbanspoon  The Roosevelt on Urbanspoon

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    Citi VIP area at Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets, 10-26 October 2014, Hyde Park North, Sydney
    If you thought the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets couldn't get any bigger in Sydney's Hyde Park, you were slightly off. Introducing the first ever Sunday Sessions of the infamous Noodle Markets, from Sunday afternoons at 4pm to 9pm from 10-26 October 2014.

    Lantern feature near the St James entrance
    That's right, the Noodle Markets are on for our outdoor eating pleasure seven nights a week for just over two weeks during Good Food Month.

    Chinese lion dancers
    But wait, there's more. The Noodle Markets have enlisted dessert big guns Gelato Messina, which are killing it in the themed festival scene, as well as bringing up bao barons Wonderbao and Filipino street food maestros Hoy Pinoy up from Melbourne to Hyde Park.

    Citi VIP area
    The opening Friday night was insanely packed so I was glad to be able to squirrel away to the Citi VIP area, with its signature canopy of fairy lights. With a dedicated bar, Chefs Gallery noodle making demonstrations and the in-demand Citi concierge, it's the place to be for Citi cardholders.

    Seating in the Citi VIP area

    Citi concierge in action
    As per last year, the Citi concierges will fetch food from stalls, bypassing the usual queues to deliver food to you in the Citi VIP area.

    I'm not sure if there are rotating options through the two weeks, but on Friday it was only East Ocean Restaurant and Chat Thai on offer.

    Deep fried options of the Jumbo Pack from East Ocean Restaurant

    Steamed dumplings and bao from East Ocean Restaurant
    With Friday drinks well underway, East Ocean's jumbo box of basically everything they have was a good option.

    Top picks would have to be the Peking duck pancakes and salt and pepper pork chops, while the salt and pepper squid legs seem to be my annual Noodle Market must-have. Some of the steamed dumpling options were wanting, and without chilli sauce some were just downright dull.

    Steamed bao and gua bao from Wonderbao
    Sydney loves something fresh, so aside from the long queues in the direction of the literally smoking Hoy Pinoy stall, Wonderbao seemed to be a popular pick with steamed buns as well as gua bao with various fillings on offer.

    The latter garnered nods of approval all round, while the vegetarian steamed bao was moderately interesting to a herbivore.

    OzHarvest stand
    There are fortune cookies on offer at the OzHarvest stand in exchange for a gold coin donation, near the giant inflatable lucky cat.

    Thatchers Cider area

    New seating options

    Yalumba bar (left) and Gelato Messina stall (right)

    SMH subscriber seating area
    Ticks to the organisers for what looks like more seating options this year and some great sponsored spaces like the Thatcher's cider area, Tanqueray Gin Garden, Yalumba bar with upstairs space, and dedicated SMH subscriber seating beneath a tent-like structure.

    Lantern feature near St James entrance

    I'll be heading back to the over the next couple of weeks - maybe even on a Sunday night - with a hit list off the menu and some nostalgia for another year of Noodle Markets.

    SMH subscriber hub
    East Ocean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

    Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Jan

    We were just a little bit tired when we checked into our hotel in Hobart but I couldn't quite contain my excitement for our dinner booking. A short walk away from the hotel we spotted a little signboard signalling our destination - Ethos Eat Drink.

    Hidden down a little laneway, Ethos Eat Drink, Elizabeth Street, Hobart
    We wandered down the brick-tunnelled corridor and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, genuinely rustic venue amid a vegetable garden. Showing some serious Tasmanian heritage, the Ethos dining space was constructed in the 1820s and its surrounds all date back way beyond the 'rustic chic' trend.

    Rich with Hobart history, the restaurant retains strong links to its past with story-filled bits and pieces all around the venue, while it is very strongly linked to the Hobart of today with its focus on locally-grown produce.

    Homegrown herbs and vegetables
    Ethos offers set menus for dinner sittings, made up of whatever is in season and arrives in small batches at the restaurant on the day.

    I opted for the eight course as opposed to the six once I learnt that the extra dishes were going to be charcuterie and cheese. I am, after all, a meat and cheese type of girl.

    Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale and gin with house tonic water
    We skipped the matching wines in favour of our usual: for him, a local beer in Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale from Van Dieman Brewing and a gin and tonic for me. A novel surprise was that Ethos make their own tonic water, bringing that Tassie touch to a simple G&T.

    Jerusalem artichoke chips and crème fraîche
    As an appetiser we first received Jerusalem artichoke chips stuck into a blob of crème fraîche. The curled, skin-on chips were thinly sliced and great with a light crunch.

    Jerusalem artichokes are typically winter vegetables that I don't often cook as they are such small knobbly creatures and require patience, but I'm glad to have learnt a simple and delicious new way of cooking them.

    Fermented apple, apple and miso puree
    The next dish of fermented and fresh apple with miso purée and both herbs and vegetables from Ethos' own garden was a mouthful of sweetness, saltiness, crunch and softness.

    As we were to discover, each dish at Ethos was made using just a few ingredients, together on a plate in a way that still allowed each flavour to shine.

    Confit shallot, leek custard and fermented strawberry
    The rather curious dish of leek custard with confit shallots and fermented strawberry was almost too pretty to eat.

    I'm usually wary of shallots as I find they can overpower flavours but the whole dish was delicate and yet another example of multiple flavours and textures all in one mouthful.

    House made charcuterie
    When the shared charcuterie board arrived I was in food heaven, and missed most of the waiter's descriptions.

    I know that the terrine was moist and beautifully seasoned and that the rilettes were just the right texture of tender, but it was the cured meat that stole the show. I couldn't quite figure out what cut of porky goodness it was but the excellent proportion of fat to meat made each bite just right.

    Dover mussels, dry aged sausage, pickled red cabbage and baby carrots
    Ethos' version of a surf and turf was probably my favourite shared dish of the night. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of pairing simple vegetables of potatoes, carrots and tangy pickled red cabbage with smoky mussels and a salty, spiced sausage.

    The flavours of each ingredient could either stand by itself or be eaten together in a wondrous land and sea combination.

    Ox tongue, beetroot puree, rapini, pickled onions and cauliflower
    While for some there's something about tongue that's just a bit like chewing a tongue, I adored the ox tongue dish and probably ate more than my fair share.

    This was my first experience eating rapini raw, which has a slightly bitter taste as with most green leaf vegetables.

    Slow cooked pork, broth, kale, spring onion, leek and pickled kohlrabi
    Most other diners had started earlier than us so I'd seen bowls of the slow cooked pork arrive at their tables and smelt its earthy scent. This dish could have been my favourite but I found the pork just a bit dry. I did however slurp up all my broth and eat all my vegies.

    The problem with multi-course menus is that I tend to overeat on the earlier dishes so by the time the mains/proteins arrive, I'm just too full to eat them. I also blame the bread.

    Cheese course
    More bread showed up as an accompaniment to the soft goat's cheese, served with a sweet fruit paste and preserved cherries to mellow the saltiness of the creamy, white cheese.

    Fresh fig, fig puree, sorrel sorbet, chocolate shortbread, rhubarb syrup and buckwheat
    No one was surprised that I barely ate the dessert of figs with sorrel sorbet, but I wasn't too sure about the chocolate shortbread which was just a bit too hard. The sorrel sorbet was a pleasant palate cleanser and tasted as green as it looked.

    Bottle chandelier in the dining room
    We were pretty much the last diners in the place when we finished but not once did we feel rushed. I did feel bad though and forgot to take a picture of the Tasmania's oldest plumbed toilet (circa 1900, viewed through a glass wall) on our way out.

    I like and admire that Ethos uses traditional methods of fermenting, pickling and curing in the food they serve. Ethos is a great representation of the movement by chefs to serve seasonal local produce in a simple, less fussy way - and in a completely, through and through Tassie ethos.

    Ethos Eat Drink on Urbanspoon

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    OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners, weeknights from 13-24 October 2014 at
    OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
    A decade of somethingis a serious achievement these days – 10 year anniversaries; 10 years in the workforce; 10 years since university. Food rescue organisation OzHarvest this year celebrates its 10 year milestone and it's certainly been an incredible journey for the once-fledgling charity and its effervescent, often yellow-clad founder Ronni Kahn.

    OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn
    Since 2004 OzHarvest has delivered 30 million meals to people in need across Australia and saved 9 million kilos of surplus food from going to the landfill.

    OzHarvest facts and figures at the mobile kitchen
    In addition to rescuing surplus food and providing meals to charities with people in need, OzHarvest has expanded into education and training.

    Its NEST nutrition education sustenance training works with people at the food drop-off points while the new Nourish education, training and mentorship program seeks to provide a pathway to food and hospitality industry employment for disadvantaged youth.

    Table for 10 table settings
    OzHarvest is celebrating its 10th birthday and Good Food Month with a series of 10 dinners at the new OzHarvest HQ in Alexandria – a large, multi-purpose warehouse space donated by Goodman as a birthday gift – where they've only recently moved in.

    The Table for 10 dinners – on every weeknight from 13-24 October 2014 and supported by Virgin Mobile and Vittoria Coffee – will raise funds whilst offering a unique dining experience that is, as Ronni puts it, made with love and good for the soul.

    Matched wines by Handpicked Wines
    Starring a secret chef every night – Café Paci's Hanz Gueco did the Monday night while Ester's Mat Lindsay, Bar H's Hamish Ingham and 10 William Street's Daniel Pepperell are yet to go – diners also get a sneak peek into OzHarvest HQ, where food rescue happens daily – often by the pallet – and its emerging kitchen and training space and thriving on-site garden.

    Of course, there's also a beautifully soulful meal in a gorgeous setting with matching wines by Handpicked Wines which has vineyards and grower partnerships all across Australia.

    Long table for OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners
    For the second of the 10 dinners on Tuesday evening, OzHarvest's own Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey was at the helm in the warehouse's mobile kitchen, with students from the Nourish program and a whole lot of rescued ingredients and produce harvested freshly from their own kitchen garden.

    That Travis and the team could transform what would have otherwise would have become landfill into what was one of the best meals I've had all year was an unbelievably amazing feat – you'd only be so lucky to get him for one of the dinners next week (booking details at end of post).

    Kale and other vegetables growing in the onsite OzHarvest garden
    Our night started with a quick garden tour before escaping the rain inside HQ with a dry Handpicked Eden Valley riesling, enjoying fellow company and the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. This later turned into outright raging downpours accompanied by a light show, but several wines in by that time we weren't too worried.

    Labneh with flat bread
    We nibbled on labneh strained yoghurt and flat bread to start – a combination I could just eat forever. The labneh was made from rescued yoghurt and garden herbs while the flat bread was made from rescued flour.

    Spring pea falafel with preserved lime hummus and almond dukka
    Seated at gorgeous, artsy timber tables (rentals donated by Timbermill) we shared two entrées that were seriously impressive, paired with the similarly outstanding Handpicked Margaret River chardonnay that was full bodied and fruity, which I never would have thought I could say about a chardy.

    The crisp-surfaced falafel – made with rescued chick peas and spring green peas from the kitchen garden – sat contentedly in a generous and nutty pool of hummus. Packed tightly and green within, I'd say the pea falafels were an improvement on the traditional pea-free version and so good that seconds were definitely justified.

    Salmon dolma
    Alongside the falafels were the slightly odd-looking salmon dolma featuring fillets donated to OzHarvest wrapped in vine leaves, battered and fried. Served on a salad of spinach, radish and pomegranate, the delicately-cooked salmon was a complete revelation within the soft, subtle leaf – enhanced stunningly by the sweet pomegranate seeds.

    In true OzHarvest style, the generous shared servings meant that any leftovers were shared amongst the lovely volunteers who were there on their own time to wait on tables and share the OzHarvest story.

    8-hour lamb shoulder with tomato confit
    I could smell the main course coming a mile away and may just have swooned at the sight of a huge shared dish of slow-roasted lamb shoulder, pulled from the bone and served with the most sensational tomato confit. It was gold: soft and mushy skinless tomatoes cooked down to a chunky almost-sauce, so rich and full flavoured that it felt completely groan-worthy luxurious.

    The tender lamb, crisp and burnished deep brown on the outside, almost played second fiddle to the tomato but together, they were utterly comforting and truly joyous.

    Pistachio pilaf
    Not to be outdone, the sides were perfect accompaniments to the bounteous lamb. The pistachio studded pilaf rice was lovely on its own but made for a delicious base to soak up the tomato with the roasted lamb.

    Artichoke, parsley and mint salad
    Meanwhile, the deceptively simple salad of sprightly parsley and mint leaves from the kitchen garden with shaved raw artichoke, dressed with lemon and oil, was a fresh, light and healthy reprieve that was simply superb.

    Hanpicked Central Otago pinot noir from a custom-made decanter
    Mains were matched with Handpicked's pinot noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. I don't know if it was because it was served in a stunning earthenware decanter, but the fruity red had an earthiness to it that matched the lamb and sides exceptionally well.

    Cardamom panna cotta, poached rhubarb and black sesame caramel
    It was almost as if there couldn't have been any more goodness to have but there was dessert to come, updated from the printed menu to account for some rhubarb that had been harvested that morning from the on-site garden.

    The cardamom scented panna cotta was like a beautiful thick cream rather than a jelly, with just the right amount of spicing. The rhubarb, softly and sweetly poached to a shape-holding mush, was joined by small strawberry segments also from the garden and stunning shards of deep gold toffee shards, filled with the prettiness and nuttiness of toasted black sesame seeds.

    Handpicked Italian moscato with dessert
    Matched with Handpicked’s Italian moscato d'asti, it was a sparklingly sweet finish to the meal and night. While the weather outside was frightful, OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinner by chef Travis Harvey was truly delightful, nourishing the body and soul, and obviously cooked with lots of love.

    The sharing of joy and celebration was palpable on the night and I basically felt like I'd walked into OzHarvest's home and received a giant, warm embrace on the other end – one of food and booze, but also of passion, care and trying to make our world a better place. Congratulations to OzHarvest on the 10 year milestone and cheers to many more years of your great, valuable work.

    See more photos on my Facebook page and information on OzHarvest and the Table for 10 dinners. You can also find OzHarvest at the Good Fortune Cart (near the lucky cat) at the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park, 10-26 October 2014.

    OzHarvest’s #mealforameal campaign is still going, where for each and every food picture posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #mealforameal, OzHarvest can deliver one real meal to someone in need, thanks to Virgin Mobile.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of OzHarvest.

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    It seems a barbeque in any language is a good reason to get together with people and have a good time eating meat around a heat source. Opened just last week, Gyuzou is the newest yakiniku Japanese barbeque restaurant to hit town in that somewhat stranded area north of Chinatown but not quite CBD.

    Taking over the two-storey shop that was once an ice creamery, accessed from Harbour Street rather than Sussex Street, Gyuzou offers Japanese style barbeque or yakiniku, which literally translates to "grilled meat".

    Yakiniku Japanese barbeque and sauces at Gyuzou, Sussex Street, Haymarket
    While it looks most similar to what we probably know in Sydney as Korean barbeque, yakiniku differs in that the raw meat for cooking on the barbeque is not marinated. Instead, simply seasoned, it's cooked and then eaten with dipping sauces, of which Gyuzou offers three as standard: chilli, salt and a sweet soy yakiniku sauce.

    Gyuzou specialises in wagyu beef and even has an opening month special of half-price wagyu yakiniku dishes for the whole month of October 2014.

    Upstairs dining area
    The fitout is more refined Japanese than the usual cheap and cheerful Korean barbeque venues, with lots of dark wood offset by gorgeous Japanese fabrics.

    Part of the Yes Food group of Japanese restaurants (which also owns Wagaya and many others), Gyuzo also uses the iPad ordering system made infamous at Wagaya many years ago. As such, it's pretty easy to go nuts on the menu, especially if you're ordering as a group as we were.

    Cinderella cocktail
    With a range of large range of 'cocktails' on the menu, we couldn't go past the sweet lychee liqueur based Cinderella with a literal base of blue curaçao and a prettily contrasting red grapefruit and mint garnishes.

    Lime chuhai
    The shochu-based highball with fresh lime was more my pick, with a refreshing sweetness that was ideal in front of the barbeque.

    It's always a good idea to order some starters that are ready-to-eat in these self barbeque situations. At Gyuzou, the menu runs from sushi and sashimi to noodles and soups and a large range of side dishes/appetisers, in addition to the yakiniku items.

    We started on okonomiyaki savoury pancake which tasted freshly made beneath its usual condiments of okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi bonito flakes but not overly exciting.

    We also grabbed a side of takoyaki octopus balls which were pretty decent deep-fried versions, slathered in the same condiments.

    The small bowl of the Korean yukke raw beef salad even looked like wagyu beef, with the thin strips of raw beef marbled with fat.

    Served with julienned cucumber and a raw egg yolk all stirred through at the table, the yukke made for a nice precursor to lots more wagyu.

    Menu excerpt showing cow/beef parts
    (image courtesy of SD Marketing)
    I always like seeing a meat map as it reminds me of muscle structures and why certain cuts are the way they are. Gyuzou's printed menu is most helpful on the cow front and also shows a marbling level for each cut on offer.

    Wagyu chuck tail flap
    I like a moderate level of fat marbling so the wagyu chuck tail flap was my pick. From the shoulder region (thanks, cow map), it was tender and juicy - even without one of the dipping sauces.

    Wagyu oyster blade
    The yakiniku sauce was the easy, cover-all sauce while the chilli was relatively mild and the salt sauce better with non-beef items, I thought.

    Wagyu short rib
    For the full-on, fatty wagyu experience though, it has to be the short rib which has some pretty impressive marbling. I managed to cook out a fair bit of the fat on the barbeque but it was still a buttery mouthful that almost just melted on the bite.

    Vegetables for cheese fondue
    For a vegetable fix, definitely go the option that comes with a 'cheese fondue' for dipping. Put the metal cheese tray on the grill and separately cook the vegetables, then dip into the almost liquid cheese. It's like the cheese of packaged mac'n'cheese and it's so very good, with almost anything off the barbeque.

    Wagyu ox tongue
    Wagyu ox tongue is becoming one of my favourite cuts of offal and when it's as tender (with a slight bounce) as the dish at Gyuzou, it's as glorious as some of the more expensive cuts.

    Yakiniku barbeque
    Most of the dishes arrived with a garnish of mushroom but we added a side order of the buttons, pearls and king browns too, given the ease of getting carried away with fatty, juicy meat.

    Wagyu rib finger
    Speaking of fatty meat, the wagyu rib finger topped the list. Coming from the part right on the rib, they were cubes of almost pure fat with some meat marbling, and certainly not for the dieters.

    Pork cheek
    Neither was the pork cheek which rendered down nicely on the barbeque, leaving just a touch of meat with the caramelised porky fat.

    With scampi on the menu it was a no brainer but when it arrived (three serves pictured), it was more a question of: to cook or not to cook. The beautiful specimens looked sashimi-friendly but we compromised with a short stay on the barbeque for that rare-cooked sweet and creamy scampi flesh.

    Raw scallops for the barbeque arrived rather theatrically huddled in a shell, like the greatest scallop ever found with six pieces of the sweet, sweet mollusc. I found these particularly nice lightly grilled and dipped into the salt sauce.

    Pork sausage
    I can't go past a good pork sausage and the chunky filled, smoked ones here were pretty decent and just needed a touch of mustard for that authentic izakaya feed.

    Corn butter
    While I've had mushrooms and garlic cloves cooked in butter over the grill, corn kernels were a new one. Forever forgetting that stuff cooked in, basically, boiling butter are equally boiling hot, these sweet little kernels were dangerously tasty.

    Mountain chain
    I've left the most interesting (read: strange) and unique dish till last. The dramatically named 'mountain chain' is a muscle attached to the cow's rumen and forms a type of tripe, quite literally a few steps before the honeycomb tripe that's much more common in various cuisines.

    With a dark 'skin' like outer and various tube-like pieces, the mountain chain is not for the faint of heart, nor the hard of chewing, as we found out. Flavour-wise, there's not much going on; hence the marinade probably, but the texture is that of the chewiest muscle you can imagine, then with a chewy skin layer on top. One for the thrill-seekers, I think, and not one I'll be having again.

    Seafood barbeque action
    On the cooking front Gyuzo has invested into some pretty high-tech ventilation that's built right into the barbeque unit. No visible ventilation hoods hanging from the ceiling here, but just the small holes in the ring of the barbeque, sucking in smoke before it has time to infiltrate all your clothes and hair.

    I was noticeably less smoky-smelling than when I normally leave Korean barbeques, but also quite possibly due to the fact that the meat wasn't marinated and thus did not burn its marinade on the grill as is common in Korean barbeque, emitting plumes of smoke usually.

    Green tea parfait (front) and berry parfait (back)
    After all the grilled protein, some might jump at the opportunity for sweets, which are fairly basic at Gyuzou. Most elaborate are probably the parfaits which feature ice cream, fresh cream, conflakes (which is such an adorably Japanese touch) and a topping like the green tea syrup or berry syrup, with fruit and wafer garnishes.

    Full as a boot with Gyuzou's yakiniku offerings, particularly its so-tender wagyu cuts, dinner at Gyuzou certainly confirmed that a good time will be had at a barbeque - and that's a good time in any language.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Gyuzou as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

    Gyuzo on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    For anyone feeling nostalgic about past New York forays, or if it's just cloudy out and you're hankering for some meatball action, roll on in to the Original Meatball Company on York Street in the Sydney CBD - for weekday lunches or dinners on Thursday and Friday nights.

    Dining area of the Original Meatball Company, York Street, Sydney
    The quick service New York style meatballery bustles with the CBD suit set during weekday lunch hours, with diners lining up to try the creative range of traditional and untraditional meatballs on offer, either atop soft sub buns or the healthier option of green vegetables.

    Meatball subs on the pass
    For those that aren't able to make it during lunchtime, the Original Meatball Company is open on Thursday and Friday nights until 9.30pm (and they were waiting on a liquor licence when we visited but now they're serving balls and booze!).

    The Yankee - Beef balls with American mustard, ketchup, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, onion, shredded iceberg lettuce, served on soft brioche
    Being a New York themed eatery we couldn't go past The Yankee on a soft and sweet brioche roll. It was jam-packed with tender beef meatballs, pickles, onion, shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese, all slathered in ketchup and tangy American mustard.

    The Yankee sure brought back memories of New York street vendors in its appearance and flavour, though not so much the brioche.

    Mama's Balls - Pork and veal balls with ragu sauce, melted provolone cheese, dressed rocket leaf, served on rustic white
    Mama's Balls took us to a classic Italian flavour combination. Served on a soft white roll were tender pork and veal meatballs covered in comforting ragu sauce with melted Provolone cheese and rocket to freshen things up.

    OMC Fries Poutine - fries with ragu, parmesan cream sauce, caramelised onions
    Another famous dish that Original Meatball Company have reinterpreted on their menu is the OMC fries poutine.

    I was looking forward to the promise of golden french fries covered in a meaty ragu sauce, sweet caramelised onions and parmesan cheese cream. While the portion size was most generous, I'm sad to report that the flavours didn't quite hit the spot.

    Rosemary fries
    Our last stop on this journey of flavours was a simple yet delicious side of rosemary fries, which were crispy and laced with just the right amount of rosemary and salt.

    So it's not quite New York but on a cloudy day, I'm sure there's a chance of meatballs to cheer you up, especially on a post shopping or drinking Thursday or Friday night.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Original Meatball Company.

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