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A Sydney food and restaurant blog

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    Sydney pubs are moving on up and out of the past – from upmarket gastro pubs to hipster-friendly renovations, the pub experience is moving beyond just schooners, TAB screens and stale carpet.

    As part of recent renovations at The Bank in Newtown, the huge, multi-faceted venue now comprises the front street-level bar, back beer garden, a mezzanine level and now Upstairs – a Wednesday to Saturday late night venue focused on cocktails and live music.

    Pinball machines at Upstairs at The Bank, King Street, Newtown
    Climb the stairs from the separate street entrance or the internal pub flight to find a large, dark and nostalgic space with nods to rock and live music history – I could envisage rockers and their groupies hanging out Upstairs in the comfy booths and couches or playing pool or the pinball machines.

    Upstairs outdoor seating
    There's also a bright, wood-clad balcony with prime seats looking out over King Street and all its oddities - a perfect space for warm autumn afternoons and nights.

    The Upstairs space
    A sophisticated cocktail list has been put together by Jeremy Shipley, group bars manager for The Bank's owner, pub group Solotel, and also co-owner of Darlinghurst small bar, Hinky Dinks.

    It's pretty much a dedicated cocktail bar, miles away from the usual pub cocktail list; perhaps representative of a growing appreciation for cocktails among today’s drinking crowd.

    I started with the Penicillin-ita; a tequila play on the Penicillin cocktail, with honey syrup, lemon juice and ginger beer accompanying Herradura Reposado and a mezcal float. The cocktail, served in a pretty cut crystal tumbler, had an underlying sweetness that smoothed over the punchy hits of tequila.

    Mid-West Sour
    The bourbon based Mid-West Sour is a seriously good twist on the classic whisky sour using pink grapefruit juice on top of lime and falernum; shaken with egg white and bitters and served classically with a maraschino cherry.

    Latenight Daiquiri
    The classic lime-based daiquiri could have been more sour for me, with Havana Club Anejo shaken with fresh lime juice, agave nectar and peach bitters, served up in a dainty coupe glass.

    Two Birds Golden Ale
    Despite the excellent cocktails on offer, that's not to say there isn't a great selection of Australian craft and imported beers at the Upstairs bar, with the Two Birds Golden Ale from Geelong being a good choice for a fruity, medium-bodied brew.

    Hot beef jerky
    There's a very decent Upstairs bar menu for when a few drinks get you in the mood for food. Utilising the same kitchen as the downstairs pub and beer garden offerings, it's a well-rounded menu spanning snacks and share plates, things sandwiched between bread and pizzas – the latter two of which mirror the pub options.

    A perfect bedfellow with beer, the beef jerky was surprisingly good with cocktails too. The dry strips of beef, peppered with chilli flakes, tear into stringy pieces that are salty, meaty and deliciously chewy.

    Smoked oyster tin, crème fraiche, tabasco, crackers
    Not a favoured seafood delicacy of mine, the tin of smoked oysters was served with a tower of soft oat crackers, crème fraiche and lemon in a pretty presentation on a wooden board.

    Fried chicken, kewpie mayo, kim chi
    Continuing mine and Sydney's infatuation with fried poultry, the fried chicken wings looked like a flour-dusted and fried version I make at home but with better spice seasoning and probably just as un-photogenic.

    The wings were beautifully juicy inside and matched spectacularly with kim chi fermented cabbage and of course, Japanese mayonnaise which seems to go well with everything.

    BBQ duck sausage rolls, HP sauce
    The sausage rolls were a winner with an unexpectedly chunky duck meat filling and HP brown sauce. Encasing the gamey filling was the best part of the four round slices – the insanely flaky and buttery pastry which by the end showered the table messily in golden flakes.

    Crumbed mozzarella,'saltimbocca', tomato vinaigrette
    The idea of fried cheese had me won although the mozzarella balls didn't really reach that desired oozey or stringy state.

    Crumbed mozzarella,'saltimbocca' insides
    With a slice of ham crumbed within the cheese ball and a tomato sauce (rather than a vinaigrette) on the side, the concept works but needs just a little tinkering; perhaps a different, more easily-melting cheese or longer in the deep fry.

    BBQ pulled pork, red cabbage, chipotle, mayo with shoestring fries
    From the 'bun stuffers' part of the menu came the epically-sized pulled pork burger and fries – ideal for a big appetite, sharing or pre-diet week.

    With a shiny, sesame seed-topped bun stabbed through with a knife - to cut and to hold it in place - it was about the largest burger I've seen in Sydney; chock full of smoky BBQ pulled pork and shredded red cabbage, finished with a spiced chipotle mayonnaise.

    King crab club sandwich, McClures pickle crisps
    On the other end of the scale of sandwiches was the king crab club sandwich; a triple-layered, toasted white bread sandwich with more lettuce and tomato in it than crustacean. The crab seemed to be minimal in a paste form, with some crunch and flavour from crisp-fried pancetta bits.

    The highlight of this dish was the McClures potato crisps; a US import of dill pickle flavoured crisps. The flavour of these chips is unbelievably spot-on, combining the sandwich accompaniments of potato crisps and a pickle.

    Speck, (mushroom), roast onion pizza
    The Bank offers pizzas on tomato or white sauce bases, and we opted for the bartender’s recommendation of speck, mushroom and roast onion on a tomato base.

    The rectangular pizza arrived with a liberal topping of melted mozzarella cheese and a notable absence of mushroom. Nonetheless, the speck and onion made for a tasty combination on the medium-thick crust; though why the rectangular pizza was cut into hard-to-manage triangular wedges was beyond me.

    Juke box
    With the drinking and snacking crowd picking up from 7.30pm – and licensed to open until 5.00am – Upstairs at The Bank is well placed to capitalise on the late night crowd that's perhaps moving out of the CBD precinct and moving up from the usual pub night out.

    Food, booze and shoes dined at Upstairs at The Bank as a guest, with thanks to Agency G.

    Upstairs at the Bank on Urbanspoon

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    Earlier this year more than $280,000 was raised to open Stanley Street Merchants through restaurant and bar crowdfunding platform, Icon Park.

    For first season winners, the prize is three months' tenancy in a Darlinghurst restaurant space, with funding, fitout and marketing support.

    Bar at Stanley Street Merchants, Stanley Street, Darlinghurst
    Stanley Street Merchants opened its doors on Monday this week, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner in its brand spanking new Stanley Street home.

    A three-part venue, the focus is currently on the ground floor restaurant which features chef Matt Stone's (Greenhouse, Perth and Silo by Joost, Melbourne) modern approach to locally sourced ingredients.

    Street restaurant view
    The fitout has a mod-rustic feel with the feature of the brick-walled space being the open kitchen, where chef Stone leads a small team in creating a well-balanced menu of smalls and bigs, for sharing or course-style dining.

    Ground floor seating
    Having supported their initial Icon Park campaign, I was collecting my crowdfund reward from Stanley Street Merchants - two drinks and a chef's tasting plate - as well as taking the opportunity to try out the broader menu from what had to be the busiest venue mid-week on the rather quiet Darlinghurst street.

    Aperol Spritz (front) and Manhattan (back, left)
    We started with an Aperol Spritz, garnished with a very traditional olive, and a classic Manhattan from bartender Bobby Carey (ex Shady Pines Saloon) while watching the workings of a very new restaurant.

    While the kitchen and bar activity was pretty slick, some of the waitstaff proved fairly green, though as much is to be expected from a three-day-old operation.

    Icon Park reward: Tasting platter for two
    The tasting plate, or plank more accurately, comprised four items found on the smalls menu, starting with (from the right) fried spiced cauliflower florets. The soft, nutty flavour of the vegetable was accentuated with a unique and appetising spice mix, which also seemed to be flavouring the jar of almond and macadamia nuts.

    Crisy crickets, Aussie 7 spice
    I'm not sure if it was the same 'Aussie 7 spice' (as opposed to Chinese five spice) on the serve of crispy crickets. While I've come across deep fried crickets before, this was my first, slightly weary taste of them.

    With a hefty amount of seasoning post a deep fry, I suppose anything would taste decent. The crickets were passable, with a texture much like cooked prawn shells and not too much flavour of their own. Like prawn shells, watch for the sharp bits (legs or antennae) that can dig in the mouth.

    Fermented vegetables
    Last was the fermented vegetables, served on a metal jar lid. The soft pieces of cabbage and carrot tasted of a light vinegar pickle and would make for a refreshing snack with a beer.

    Chicken, corn, jerusalem artichoke
    We moved on to a selection of the big plates, which are plated as generous individual serves; certainly some of the largest I've seen for a while sub-$30.

    The roasted chicken portion was served on a creamy corn puree and dressed with jerusalem artichoke chips, what seemed like kernel-less popcorn and a shock of deliciously deep fried corn silk - that usually annoying 'hair' between the husk and cob of fresh corn.

    It was a clever use of corn in a classic pairing with chicken, for an overall homely, satisfying and flavour-packed feed.

    Yellow eye mullet, roe, cos, nasturtium
    The fish main was a pretty sight of vibrant green blobs and three thin but well-cooked fillets of yellow eye mullet.

    The beautifully fresh fish was a joy to eat with the uniquely sweet nasturtium puree, and well supported by the grilled cos lettuce, which was filled luxuriously with a seasoned mix of orange roe pearls and chives.

    The ease in which innovation and locally sourced and foraged ingredients came together so harmoniously on this dish is a credit to chef Stone and his kitchen team.

    Mash potato, wattle seed (front) and mixed leaves, herbs, salad (back)
    We added a side of creamy-but-not-overly-so mashed potato which was sprinkled with a powdered wattle seed, adding an unexpected sweet earthiness, while the dressed green leaves comprised mostly iceberg lettuce and rocket.

    Poached quince, macadamia, wattle seed, buttermilk ice cream
    We also had the pleasure of dessert, with several tantalising options available. The cool night-appropriate poached quince was divine in presentation and taste. Softly spiced and cooked, the fruit was paired with lightly tart buttermilk ice cream and a rich macadamia nut puree that I could eat by the bowl full.

    With pretty flowers and unidentified crumbles, this was a fine dessert fit for a hatted restaurant.

    Charcoal roasted marshmallow, ryeberries, flowers and ants
    It's only now that I realise that there were ants in my marshmallow dessert. I guess I was distracted by the prettiness of the freeze dried raspberries and citrus, rose petals and lavender flowers; or the very tart, brown ryeberries, or indeed, the sticky, gooey square of roasted marshmallow.

    There was a particularly bitter aspect to one of the toppings, which I had blamed on the lavender although now, perhaps the non-discernible ants were at fault.

    Street view
    While I'd expected queues out the door during their first week, Stanley Street Merchants' rather quiet opening may slipped under a few radars although it seems there is still work to be done on the upper levels.

    In any case, the restaurant and bar are in full swing and should become a neighbourhood favourite in quick time for its great menu that's genuinely centred on local produce. Pop in to Stanley Street Merchants over the next three months to see the crowdfunding dream live.

    Stanley Street Merchants on Urbanspoon

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    The very recently renovated and revamped Hotel Centennial, opposite Centennial Park in Woollahra, has seen formerfine dining chef Justin North head up the pub's restaurant kitchen.

    His high-profile return to the restaurant game has attracted as much mediaattention as the relaunched posh pub itself, which targets the well-heeled locals with a modern approach to comfort food.

    The High Table meal at Hotel Centennial, Oxford Street, Woollahra
    Having not been your average, dingy pub in recent times anyway, Hotel Centennial's new look exudes a luxe casual feel, spanning several large, airy spaces.

    The main dining room and bar, which will soon serve weekend breakfasts, are light and bright, with leather furniture and modern art upping the comfort factor.

    Pre-lunch dining room at Hotel Centennial
    Here, the extensive menu reads of pub classics with a modern touch, joined by Woollahra's must-have salads. The kitchen's grill and wood fired oven is put to good use especially across the mains and share mains, not to mention the flat breads/ pizzas and pre-ordered roasts (currently whole suckling pig, pheasant(!) and Indian spiced goat - 48 hours' notice required).

    The cocktail bar, past the warm open kitchen where chef North holds charge, has a gentlemen's club and lounge feel, and more leather, with an extensive menu of bar food on offer, while the front room features The High Table.

    The High Table
    Seating 30 diners on one continuous, custom-made table, The High Table concept aims to bring people together to sit down and share a meal - whether it's with friends, family, workmates or complete strangers.

    The High Table is offered from Monday to Wednesday nights where at 7.30pm the kitchen serves a daily full course for the entire table for $24 per person (an additional $10 gets dessert and tea/coffee and $2 from every diner at The High Table is donated to the local Holdsworth Community Centre).

    With a changing menu, Mondays are 'Meat and Three Veg', Tuesdays themed as 'Favourites' and Wednesdays are 'By Request' where chef North will cook up a diner's dinner suggestion for the entire table.

    Marinated tuna salad with miso & toasted  sesame
    Inspired by the perhaps increasingly alien idea of eating at a dining room table, and in the days of everyone's overly busy lives and the emergence of mobile technology - everywhere and all the time - it seems that Hotel Centennial wants us to remember the ritual and sense of sharing food at the dinner table.

    At a preview lunch, we got a peek at Hotel Centennial's dining room menu in The High Table style, shared amongst a large group. We started with flutes of Chandon Rosé NV and an additional small entrée of raw, marinated tuna slices with a soba buckwheat noodle salad, served on custom Hotel Centennial plates.

    Whole roast John Dory
    For mains, we were treated to three of the menu's main dishes designed for sharing, all emerging from the wood fired oven.

    I dug straight into the whole roasted John Dory, bones and all but served headless and prettily with a lemony herb butter. The thick, succulent fish flesh was well cooked, with plenty to go around.

    Wood roasted Holmbrae chicken, roast gravy, greens
    The aroma of the wood roasted chicken was the epitome of comfort food, served with the best roast gravy and wilted greens. Served pre-cut into portions, the tender chicken was so full of flavour, all the way from the bronzed skin down to the bone, it was one of those dishes I could have for dinner every night.

    5-hour slow cooked lamb shoulder
    When the roasted lamb shoulder came to the table, it was hard not to draw comparisons to another restaurant in the same suburb, not that any one restaurant 'owns' a cut of meat.

    Falling from the bone with ease, the lamb was a hearty dish that would certainly please several carnivores (although it's listed on the menu as serving two) and was lovely with Cloudy Bay pinot noir.

    Royal blues roasted in duck fat
    We had a range of sides to complement our shared mains, with the easy favourite being the crisp, duck fat-roasted royal blue potatoes, followed closely by the creamy and surely naughty potato puree.

    Aromatic wood roasted vegetables, cardamom & goats' curd
    The wood roasted vegetables presented baby beetroot and radishes as some more unusual roast specimens, with a delightfully creamy addition of goat's curd to the colourful vegetables.

    Salad leaves with classic vinaigrette
    The classic leaf salad apparently paled in comparison to a broccoli and almond salad that I'll have to try next time, as with all the passing and sharing of plates and dishes I seemed to skip it.

    And that's the thing about communal dining like this, there's chatter and hospitality between diners that is perhaps, more and more, missing from our dining tables at home. Indeed, things and times change but it's nice to see the intimate act of breaking bread between humans conserved in some way, shape or form.

    Raspberry frangipane tart with crème fraîche Chantilly
    Our dessert was probably something I'd request again next time: a slice of crumbly-centred raspberry frangipane tart with lots of sauce, served with the most perfect quenelle of vanilla bean Chantilly crème fraîche, whipped lighter than any cream I've ever had.

    The High Table at Hotel Centennial
    Good food, good wine, shared with good company - it's the makings of a great meal, and chef North doesn't seem to be aiming for anything less at Hotel Centennial. See here for more details and bookings.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Hotel Centennial as a guest, with thanks to Drysdale Communications.

    Hotel Centennial on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Jan

    On a last minute whim I booked us in for dinner at Michelin-starred Pipero al Rex in Rome; a small restaurant within a hotel, with just six tables. Opened in late 2011, it received its first Michelin star within a year under restaurateur Alessandro Pipero and chef Luciano Monosilio

    We were received by Pipero himself, who made it a point to chat with us about the menu, offering to tailor the tasting menu to our preference. He was more than happy to accommodate my request to try their famous carbonara as I was on a quest for the best carbonara in Rome.

    Pata negra from Pipero al Rex, Rome, Italy
    As a welcome we were presented with a complimentary glass of prosecco and a lovely nibble of pata negra Iberian cured ham with a dot of balsamic vinegar.

    I love cured meats and the soft, salty fattiness left a wonderful aftertaste which only served to make me hungrier for the meal ahead.

    Parmesan and cream marshmallows with hazelnut cream and orange twist
    The tasting menu began with a series of appetisers which showed up in quick succession, starting with a parmesan cheese and cream marshmallow.

    I adore all things dairy and this morsel of fluffiness was a light, savoury version of a marshmallow, garnished with a tuft of orange zest.

    Blue cheese semifreddo balls with spinach cream and potato chips
    Next was a foreign-looking green sphere that Pipero explained was a blue cheese semifreddo covered in spinach cream and squares of potato chips.

    The blue cheese sphere was not too overpowering and had just a hint of the tang that I love about this group of cheese.

    Waffles with chicken liver pate and sweet wine gel
    The appetisers menu turned out to be a list of my favourite entrées. The chicken liver pate was creamy and mousse-like, offset by a sweet wine gel ball on a thin, crisp waffle base, and tasted as good as it looked artful.

     Crispy pork Chips with& yoghurt and olive oil Sauce
    The final appetiser, and certainly the most unique for me, were the crispy pork chips. The circles looked like an emulsion of pork fat, of sorts, made into a crisp; reminding me of pork crackling but an extremely fine and light variation. I wish I could figure out how to make this.

    Raw duck, mustard and apple cream
    Moving on to the first and second courses in the tasting menu, we were presented with raw duck served with a mustard and apple cream.

    I have never eaten raw duck before but I really liked the way the soft tartare was offset by the crunch of the crostini rounds. I've always associated duck with orange but apple turns out to be a pretty good match too.

    Rabbit gravy 
    If there ever is an award for best gravy in the world, the Rabbit Gravy dish would be a hot contender. A rich, hearty, broth-like sauce was served with fried potatoes and a goat's cheese sauce so good, I practically licked the plate clean.

    Shrimp, coffee and milk
    I hadn't expected raw shrimp would be a common dish in Europe but it showed up twice in different tasting menus I had in Rome.

    The texture of the finely sliced shrimp takes a bit of getting used to as it can feel a bit slimy, but this was a pleasant combination of raw shrimp with a coffee sauce and a creamy milk sauce.

    Tortellini with chicory, mozzarella and anchovies
    The tortellini was yet another understated but tasty dish, with a unique presentation and construction of the filled pasta.

    I particularly liked the smoked anchovy flavour that was incorporated into the dash of cream sauce, in addition to the segments atop the tortellini and mozzarella cheese.

    Spaghetti alla Carbonara
    I was getting quite full at this point but miraculously, managed to eat all of the carbonara when it showed up. Pipero al Rex is well known for its spaghetti alla carbonara, which is normally sold by weight in 50-gram increments.

    It was a rich and creamy dish with lashings of parmesan cheese and the typical Roman addition of salty and crunchy guanciale cured pork jowl. It was a great dish and definitely ranks among my top carbonara picks in Rome but still, it wasn't my favourite (look out for my next Rome post).

    Lamb and smoked tea
    I don't know how I ever made it through the whole tasting menu because by the time the lamb arrived, I was stuffed.

    I powered through the lamb which was cooked rare, leaving it nice and tender, and enjoyed the gentle smoky flavour of the lapsang souchong tea against the raspberry and balsamic sauce.

    Pipero returned at this point and kindly offered to pause the menu for a little while I readied myself for dessert.

    Sandwich of tiramisu
    The first dessert was an interesting take on the classic Italian dessert of tiramisu. I'm not sure what it was made up of entirely but there was a delicious combination of coffee and mascarpone, which was surprisingly a good palate cleanser for the next dessert course.

    Apple, yoghurt and almond
    The apple-based dessert we had was a great example of a few simple ingredients with different textures, made into something special. The apple gelees and pastes were joined by unsweetened dabs of yoghurt and almond gelato, coming together just right and not overly sweetly.

    At this point, the hubby decided that he needed a whisky and ordered a 12-year old Ardbeg. We were so surprised when they poured him a generous serve, left the bottle at our table and asked us to top up as much as we liked. This generous gesture was invariably repeated a few times on our trip at different restaurants in Rome.

    Petit fours
    I just could not manage another mouthful, but was reliably informed that the almond, hazelnut and pistachio brittle was delicious, as too the almond cookie with dehydrated raspberries and raspberry sauce, and the unidentified geelee squares.

    The tasting menu was an experience I would recommend to any visitors to Rome, pairing the many years of experience from restaurateur Pipero and the creativity from chef Monosilio.

    Pipero al Rex was not our only Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome, but I felt it was much more representative than others of a blend of local cuisine, seasonal produce and new methods of cooking which seem to be the hallmark of new European cuisine.

    More postcards from Rome come.

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    Sydney Opera House for Vivid Sydney 2014, 23 June - 9 May, various locations
    It's been an unseasonally warm end to autumn and the month of May but with the kick-off of Vivid Sydney - the 2.5 week-long annual festival of lights, music and ideas - it's basically an unofficial start to winter in Sydney.

    'Digital Forest' at Martin Place
    This year the festival has expanded into the heart of the CBD, in addition to Circular Quay, The Rocks and Darling Harbour, with a bit of a hub of light installations, pop-up food stalls and a bar set up in Martin Place, to operate in the evenings for the duration of the festival.

    CTA Building at Martin Place
    My favourite light feature so far has been the light projection on the uniquely-shaped CTA Building in Martin Place. It's simply mesmerising to watch trees grow and birds fly around the surface of the round building.

    CTA Building at Martin Place

    Installation at Martin Place

    British India jaffle from Jafe Jaffles pop-up in Martin Place
    A number of Sydney's food trucks have set up pop-up stalls in the middle of Martin Place (between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets) to feed the light-watching masses.

    It's hard to beat a hot, cheesy jaffle on a cool night with plenty of walking, and the British India flavour from Jafe Jaffles (sans Kombi van) hit the spot with butter chicken in crunchy, toasted white bread and a well-seasoned raita yoghurt dip.

    Customs House for Vivid Sydney 2014

    Sydney Opera House for Vivid Sydney 2014

    Sydney Opera House

    Sydney Opera House

    Museum of Contemporary Art for Vivid Sydney 2014

    'The Pool' at Fleet Park, Circular Quay
    There's plenty more to see and do during the festival. See more pictures from Vivid Sydney 2014 on my Facebook page (and Like it while you're there!).

    Jafe Jaffle's on Urbanspoon

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    If there was a comparison, I think restaurant years would comprise more time than dog years. So the fact that King Street Wharf's Kobe Jones is celebrating 11 years at the waterside site this year, I think is more like celebrating a 90th birthday - completely commendable and worthy of respect in the Sydney dining game.

    Miyamizu sake at Kobe Jones, Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
    To celebrate Kobe Jones' entry to restaurant tween-hood (or nonagenerians) earlier this year, we were invited to indulge in an 11-course kaiseki set course meal featuring menu favourites from across the last 11 years. Indeed, a lot of these favourites remain on the menu today; a testament to the staying power of customer favourites.

    We commenced with a celebratory "kanpai" before sipping the delectable chilled Miyamizu sake from the Nada region in Kobe.

    Number One special
    We started with one from the many of Kobe Jones' signature maki sushi rolls, the Number One Special, which arrives in a torched cloak of the restaurant's secret creamy sauce.

    The large, at-least-two-bite sushi pieces comprise Hiramasa kingfish rolled with nori seaweed sheets, filled with creamy threads of a crab salad and avocado, and topped with smelt roe.

    It was a full-on mouthful of seafood and creaminess; the latter a characteristic of the fusion Californian-Japanese style Kobe Jones is known and loved for. As a starter, this was matched with Wild River Sparkling Brut NV.

    Seared salmon carpaccio (left) and tuna tataki Kobe Jones style
    Sashimi took on a new form with slight searing of both the raw salmon and tuna slices in the next combined offering.

    The salmon carpaccio, seared with extra virgin olive oil, was dressed with a mildly spicy wasabi and pepper sauce, garnished with microherbs; while the tuna, also seasoned with pepper, was topped with a special cream sauce.

    The platter was completed with steamed mushrooms and poached asparagus spears, and matched with the sweet 2009 Xanadu Next of Kin Rose.

    Yellow Submarine roll
    With modern Japanese restaurants now doing all sorts of things to the traditional sushi forms, I was interested to sample Kobe Jones' Yellow Submarine Roll which is wrapped in a soybean "sheath" rather than nori seaweed.

    Soft and smooth, the yellow soybean sheet loosely held rice and a filling of prawn, julienned cucumber and crunchy pops of bright orange fish roe, garnished with more salmon roe.

    Calamari salad
    Next, a not-so-healthy salad featuring thickly crumbed squid pieces dressed with Kobe Jones' own mayonnaise dressing.

    The salad comprised mixed leaves, carrot, shallots and more fish roe and was an appropriate break from sushi and sashimi, although the heavily battered calamari was disappointing, albeit crunchy.

    These two dishes were matched with the 2013 Peter Lehmann Pinot Grigio; one of my favourite drops of the evening.

    Yuzu soy scallop
    In another modern Japanese favourite, plump sashimi style scallops appeared beneath a tumble of microherbs; the molluscs marinated in yuzu and soy. I adore the sea-sweet flavour of scallops and these were no exception; absolutely highlighted by the well-rounded, citrusy dressing.

    Lobster roll
    The celebration of Kobe Jones' special creamy sauce continued with the lobster roll, which was barely distinguishable beneath the cavalcade of sauce, smelt roe, shallots. sesame seeds and soy glaze.

    There was slipper lobster meat to be found under the sauce, and further in, crab and avocado rolls in another rendition of classic Kobe Jones contemporary sushi style.

    Tempura prawn
    Crunchy tempura fried tiger prawns didn't surprise anyone but they were done very well with an airy and crisp batter, perhaps a tad oily but still a satisfying few mouthfuls dipped into tempura sauce. These were paired with the 2011 Yangarra Estate Viogner.

    Alaskan crab
    The dish of the night for me was undoubtedly the Alaskan king crab legs, cooked on the robata grill and served simply in its shell with fresh lime.

    Just cooked with a slight char flavour, the simple cooking process allowed the sweet crab flesh to truly shine. There was no greater pleasure than pulling out whole strips of crab leg and savouring each sweet bite slowly.

    Wafu style grilled wagyu
    Nine courses down and I was struggling to look at the wagyu steak; also cooked on the robata to a slightly more than medium point. Pre-sliced and served with a balsamic teriyaki sauce, a round of grilled onion, baby corn and mushrooms, it was a heavy, slightly chewy end to the savoury courses.

    The steak was matched with the not-too-heavy 2009 Logan Cabernet Merlot.

    Flaming anko
    Having left the table for a short moment, I missed the flaming of the green tea crème brûlée which was designed to brûlée the toffee top. In addition to the well-flavoured custard, there was sweet mashed azuki red bean within the pot in a classic Japanese pairing.

    We finished with delectable glasses of 2010 Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon, deliciously decadent and entirely appropriate for a birthday celebration. Happy birthday to Kobe Jones - here's to many more happy restaurant years.

    Food, booze and shoes dined as at Kobe Jones as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

    Kobe Jones on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Hendy

    A coffee sourcer, micro roaster and café, Seven Seeds is a short tram ride north of the heart of Melbourne in Carlton.

    Sister café to Brother Baba Budan in the city, Seven Seeds has even extended its reach to Sydney with Double Barrel Coffee Merchants (across from Wynyard Park in the city) also offering the Seven Seeds coffee blends.

    Seven Seeds, Berkeley Street, Carlton, Melbourne
    Located on a relatively quiet street, close to the University of Melbourne, we had a short wait for our breakfast coffee hit at Seven Seeds.

    Long black
    Being in a specialty coffee house, and having tried the Seven Seeds blends previously, it was going to be all about the coffee.

    A long black is my standard coffee order, and this was a clean, aromatic medium roast with hints of nuttiness.

    Pour over coffee - Colombia Las Delicias
    The pour over coffee was listed on the menu as a single standalone item, with the staff helping us out on the various beans currently on offer and suitable for filter. 

    A little picture card comes with the pour over set, explaining the origin of the beans, the farm the beans were harvested from and a small description of the region. Our first pour over was the Colombia Las Delicias beans, which were produced in the Las Delicias farm in Gigante, Colombia. 

    As the brew is poured from the small jug into the cup, the aroma of the coffee spreads across the table. As with pour overs more generally, this had a very clean and subtle taste with a hint of citrus tang.

    Pour-over coffee, Colombia El Hueco
    The second pour over coffee was brewed using the Colombia El Hueco beans from the El Hueco farm in another Colombian region, Tarqui. This had a much sweeter note and was most pleasant to drink.

    House-smoked salmon, fennel & alfalfa salad, fried capers, almond skordalia, brioche crumb, poached eggs
    Having travelled through the short and sweet coffee journey, breakfast arrived. The smoked salmon and poached eggs were presented immaculately across a bed of garlicky almond skordalia, topped with an alfalfa salad.

    The salmon was subtly smoked and nicely balanced with fennel shreds and capers, making for a very clean and fresh breakfast dish.

    Heirloom tomato medley on toasted Turkish bread with cauliflower cream, shaved pecorino & a poached egg
    Another fresh and healthy option was the colourful heirloom tomato medley, served with warm Turkish bread and a light, earthy-sweet cauliflower cream.

    The bread had a crisp surface and slightly sweet-soft insides, forming a filling base for the tomatoes, cauliflower cream, shaved pecorino and fresh basil leaves which brought even more colour to the plate. 

    The industrial-esque interior of Seven Seeds
    Whether you visit Seven Seeds in Carlton, or any of the other 15 cafés stocking its blends, don't miss out on having a great coffee hit.

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    It's taken me this long to get to Chur Burger in Surry Hills. I suppose I'm not that much of a burger person, but perhaps there was some underlying emotion for chef and restaurateur Warren Turnbull's formerfine dining space that has held me back.

    That said, the small space works well as a burger bar with low round tables, high communal tables and window bench seats offering the queue of diners a range of options, as well as takeaway, for burger scoffing action.

    Beef burger from Chur Burger, Albion Street, Surry Hills
    The classic beef burger has to be the benchmark for any burger. Chur Burger's version features a thick, medium-rare pink beef pattie with melted cheese in a grilled brioche bun. Well-considered condiments are a house tomato jam, thin-sliced pickles and a mustard mayonnaise, upping the richness.

    While I probably could do without the mayonnaise (and brioche tends to overwhelm me), the beef burger gets a tick for its comfort-food flavours, juicy and tasty beef pattie, and overall size - more than sufficient for me.

    Fish burger
    I've got a thing for fish burgers so it had to be the crumbed (and unnamed) fish burger as well, served in the same buns with a cabbage slaw, pickled cucumber ribbons and a lemon mayonnaise.

    With great flavours on paper, I found golden crumbed fish burger a little dry despite the oozy mayonnaise and slaw, and no competition to the beef burger.

    Sweet potato fries
    To our lunch burger order we added a salted caramel milkshake - which seem to be amazing anywhere I have them - and chunky, skin-on sweet potato fries served with salt but no additional condiments. With a mix of crisp and soggy ones, the sweet potato fries went sadly unfinished between two and two burgers.

    Having finally visited the original Chur Burger, I can say it's definitely a place I would return to for a quick and casual burger fix, and after a taste of the beef burger, I may have to become a burger person. It's pretty chur, bro.

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    Hidden off a particularly busy section of Market Street in the heart of the city, Parlour Lane Roasters is a bit of a weekday lunch haven away from the hubbub of rat racers and shoppers.

    Entrance to Parlour Lane Roasters, Market Street, Sydney
    Located right next to the QT Hotel street level entrance, and just up from the State Theatre, Parlour Lane Roasters is a café by day and wine bar by evening with an art deco meets 1950s diner feel.

    Sauvignon blanc and sparkling water
    It's a substantial space with quirky diner style mashing with the unique QT boutique styled lift lobby which both certainly up the ante on weekday work lunches. The brief wine list helps too.

    Counter stool seating

    Cakes and pastries
    The café offerings run from espresso coffee, cookies and cupcakes to ready-to-go, refrigerated sandwiches to made-to-order salads and winter warming hot dishes.

    Ready-to-go sandwiches
    The selection of five pre-made sandwiches all looked and sounded pretty good, and make for a easy grab-and-go option for quick desk or park lunches.

    Our Reuben roll
    Parlour Lane Roasters' version of the Reuben is set on a brown rye roll with several slices of corned beef joined by sauerkraut, pickles and seeded mustard. I probably should have accepted the toasted option but I sure did miss the cheese of a typical Reuben.

    Chicken soup
    Current hot menu items have been updated for the beginning of winter, with minestrone, sausage rigatoni and lasagne on offer, among other plates that far surpass my usual work lunches. But I couldn't help but order the chicken soup with matzah or matzo balls, which I've never tried up until now.

    The twice-cooked organic chicken broth was sweet but rather buttery in flavour while the matzah ball soup dumplings were light, fluffy but ultimately pretty bland. There were sweet, organic carrot sticks in the soup but none of the promised sorrel.

    Parlour beef burger with fries
    The burgers are another lunch great option, either beef or chicken on a brioche bun, served with fries or salad respectively.

    The appropriately petite beef burger, somewhere between a large slider and standard burger in size, had a juicy pasture-fed beef pattie with melted cheese and rather classic additions of fried onions, shredded lettuce and tomato slices.

    With house made cucumber pickles and fries on the side, it was the complete meal and a very decent burger at that.

    Counter seating
    While the space is absolutely perfect for post-work drinks, aperitivo and watching passersby, Parlour Lane Roasters is also a fabulous hidden gem for weekday lunches a few steps up from the norm.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Parlour Lane Roasters, with thanks to The Mint Partners.

    Parlour Lane Roasters on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    On a cold, blustery day in Melbourne, it was the bold 'meatballs' sign of Meatball & Wine Bar in Flinders Lane that drew us in like a beacon. A typical Melbourne laneway full of creative and culinary delights, we were excited to discover the wining and dining potential in a meatball bar.

    Front window of Meatball & Wine Bar
    True to it's name, and as our waiter put it, Meatball & Wine Bar was "all about the balls" - meat or otherwise - and of course, the wine.

    Deceptively narrow looking from the outside, we were please to find quite ample seating inside and, most importantly, respite from the chilly weather outside.

    Boar meatballs, mash and peas
    We got straight into the food with the meatballs of the day: a wild boar offering - and we couldn't resist having boar balls. Served atop a bed of mashed potatoes mixed with juicy green peas, the boar meatballs were tender and full of flavour, covered with a savoury jus.

    Aside the balls was a meaty, slow cooked lamb rib which just fell away from the bone, and made the meal quite a substantial one.

    Rare beef sliders and broccoli (in background)
    A great share plate on the day's specials were the rare beef sliders, with sweet onion relish, melty cheese, leafy greens and slices of beef so soft and pink that they almost melted in the mouth.

    While it might be all about the balls and meat at Meatball & Wine Bar, it's worth mentioning the market vegetable of the day: a beautiful and simple plate of steamed broccoli seasoned with salt, lemon and whole lot of butter which made this a real highlight.

    Table setting and wine
    What I liked about this wine bar, apart from the delicious food offerings and comfortable surroundings, was the fact that the wine selection wasn't overwhelming or unapproachable.

    Whoopie Mac
    To finish off we couldn't resist the Whoopie Mac; a build-your-own ice cream sandwich of sorts. Diners can choose whichever combination of cookies and ice cream that take their fancy.

    We chose a soft and chewy chocolate cookie and a sugary and crisp pistachio meringue to sandwich a giant scoop of house-made fig and almond ice-cream, and had no regrets whatsoever.

    Neon sign in restaurant
    With both the meatballs and wine ticked off, I was certain that we we much better equipped to deal with the cool weather and life generally. After all, it's just all about the balls.

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    With the Queen's birthday coming up, celebrating with a high tea in Her Royal Majesty's honour surely wouldn't be inappropriate.

    The Loft on King Street Wharf is well known for its weekend girly Traditional High Tea by the water in the gorgeous daytime bar setting, while for those not tea inclined there's also High Tea with a Twist; an alcoholic one, that is.

    High Tea platters at The Loft, Lime Street, Sydney
    While I've lost count of how many times I've been to The Loft for cocktails and functions (including a great night on Saturday just passed), this was my first high tea experience there.

    The Loft bar
    Being more of a savoury than sweets person, my high tea strategy is to go hard on the first savoury plate and ease off as I get to scones and sweets, washing down the latter with lots of hot tea.

    Breakfast at Tiffany's cocktail (front) and Chandon Rose (back, flute)
    The Loft's High Tea with a Twist includes either a Breakfast at Tiffany's cocktail or a glass of Chandon sparkling wine.

    The bright fizz cocktail is based on Zubrowka vodka, peach liqueur, apple and passionfruit, finished with a light tea and topped with real Maraschino cherries.

    Ovvio Black Rose Boudoir organic tea
    The Loft uses the all-organic Ovvio range of tea for High Tea, having recently changed from using a better known brand which isn't completely organic.

    The Black Rose Boudoir was a black tea fragant with rose petals and vanilla, served with milk on the side.

    Ovvio Chai High Spice organic tea
    I had the Chai High Spice made on water (rather than milk, which is an option with the Chai). Unlike a lot of commercial chai teas or chai lattes which aren't really chai, this black tea released the real flavours of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in smell and taste.

    Ovvio Summer Pineapple organic tea
    For warmer days there are also sweetened iced tea options using Ovvio tea. The Summer Pineapple was beautiful with pineapple and lemongrass flavours at the fore, and peppermint, lemon myrtle and licorice root as part of the tea, served on crushed ice with a pineapple wedge garnish.

    Ovvio Sencha Green organic tea
    It's probably here I should mention that High Tea at The Loft includes endless tea. For a tea lover like me, the opportunity to try a whole range of the Ovvio tea range was such a delight.

    The Sencha Green tea was beautifully clean without bitterness, and would be my choice as an all-day, everyday tea.

    Savoury platter
    To the food, we started at the bottom of the three-tiered platter with a fabulous savoury selection. There were the customary crustless finger sandwiches on white bread, filled with devilled curry egg.

    From the others, I couldn't actually pick a favourite as they were all exemplary morsels. From the tiny rectangular tarts filled with smoked salmon and caramelised red onion jam; the juicily roasted button mushrooms filled with ricotta and pesto; the creamy chicken salad served on red witlof leaf boats; or the miniature leek and gruyere quiches with beetroot relish.

    It was probably the chicken salad that I liked best for being quite the unusual high tea item but overall, I was quite impressed with the savoury options (which at some venues seem to be an afterthought).

    Plain and raisin scones
    To the scones there was a plain or raisin-studded variety, both looking very professional and without the often rustic surfaces of home-made versions.

    Both scones were light and fluffy inside but I was more taken by the whipped Chantilly cream which was infused with a stunning flavour - perhaps a tea variety.

    There was also a house-made strawberry jam which was more a liquid than a jelly, but so intensely strawberry flavoured it was almost a better embodiment of the flavour than the fruit itself.

    Sweets (and strawberry jam, centre)
    I think the petite sweets platter is the highlight for most people. The sweets included a slightly-too-crunchy macaron (the green one anyway), mini red velvet cupcakes with a lovely crumb and texture within, and a miniature chocolate and salted caramel tart with gold leaf that was the perfect ending, and just the right size too for something so rich.

    The view from The Loft balcony
    With comfy lounge seats on the balcony, we lounged with pots of hot tea and satisfied bellies. The service during our high tea experience was impeccable and I probably would have lounged until beyond sunset if I hadn't made evening plans.

    The Loft morphs into its night time persona around about 5.00pm so an elongated high tea could indeed turn into sunset cocktails, both quite fit for a Queen.

    High Tea at The Loft is available every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3.00pm. Bookings are essential - see here for more details.

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

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    Espresso martinis have embedded themselves into contemporary cocktail drinkers' palates, much like the lychee martini of the early 2000s that just won't go away.

    And while there are great and terrible versions of it all over Sydney, the odds look good at the Grind House pop-up coffee cocktail bar in Foster Street, Surry Hills this week; in conjunction with the national launch of MR BLACK cold drip coffee liqueur.

    MR BLACK cold drip coffee liqueur
    MR BLACK took more than six months, 300 iterations and blending coffee from three continents to create before being crowdfunded to market. It's a sweet liqueur with a beautifully strong espresso flavour, best enjoyed simply served over ice after a meal or as a base flavouring for classic coffee cocktails

    Mise en place for MR BLACK espresso martini
    Recently winner of a Gold Medal at the London International Wine & Spirits Competition, MR BLACK is made from 100% Australian grain spirit and can be mixed with the likes of rum, tequila, Absinthe or vodka - as seen in the MR BLACK espresso martini below, which is so easy to make at home.

    Pour shaken drink into a martini glass

    MR BLACK espresso martini

    1. Measure 45ml of MR BLACK cold drip coffee liqueur and 30ml of vodka into a cocktail shaker full of fresh ice.
    2. Shake vigorously until thick foam develops.
    3. Strain into chilled martini glass.
    4. Enjoy - in moderation.

    MR BLACK espresso martini
    We caught up with MR BLACK founder Tom Baker ahead of this week's national launch at the Grind House pop-up, open to the public from 13-14 June 2014 at The Nixon Project on Foster Street, Surry Hills.

    Led by mixologist Mischa Bonova of Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney, punters will be able to try a range of MR BLACK coffee cocktails at the Grind House and experience a nocturnal twist on their morning coffee, including boozy iced coffees and macchiatos, and of course, the espresso martini.

    MR BLACK founder Tom Baker (left) and distiller Phillip Moore (right)
    (Image courtesy of The Sound Campaign)

    FB&S: Tell us about the development process for Mr Black. Many sleepless, coffee-fuelled nights?
    Tom: I wish I could say the development of MR BLACK was all caffeine-fuelled orgies and debauchery, but more honestly it was month after month at the workbench. It's not like making a whisky or a gin - there are no guidebooks on creating a coffee liqueur. We had to invent a process and obsessively experiment with equipment, grinds, roasts, beans, steeping times and barrels.

    At the end of the day, you can taste our fastidious attention to detail with every sip and it's the reason we've been so well received by drinkers around the world.

    FB&S: What is the spirit component of Mr Black? 
    Tom: We use 100% Australian Grain spirit to fortify MR BLACK to it's bottle strength of 25%. Our grain spirit is beautifully clean with no off aromas or impurities that taint the flavour of our speciality coffees.

    FB&S: Why did you choose to use a crowdfunding platform to raise money? And what was the crowdfunding experience like?
    Tom: Being a booze brand in Australia is a really tough gig. Not only do we get taxed heavily, but we have to go up against multinational companies with deep pockets. Crowdfunding was a way for us to get out product in front of people who really care about what they drink and to a certain extent sidestep the normal route-to-market for booze.

    The experience on Pozible was unbelievable: while there was a lot of anticipation leading up to the event, we reached our funding goal really early on which took the pressure off. Once we had exceeded our initial target, we could stop thinking about selling booze and start thinking about how were going to make it all!

    FB&S: What's your favourite coffee cocktail? And what's your favourite classic cocktail?
    Tom: Personally I'm a fan of boozy cocktails - I don't really do big sweet juicy numbers - so I'm really digging the MR BLACK 'Rye-ball' at the moment, made with MR BLACK, Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye Whisky & Campari.

    When I've had enough coffee for the evening, a classic Negroni is always the first cab off the rank. I can never believe how one drink can taste so good.

    See here for more information on MR BLACK.

    Food, Booze & Shoes received a sample of MR BLACK, with thanks to The Sound Campaign.

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    Combine bike making, coffee and honest, humble cooking and you've got something close to Močan & Green Grout in Canberra.

    Part café, part Goodspeed Bicycle Co, Močan & Green Grout is well known in our nation's capital for its sustainable, innovative cooking using fresh local ingredients from the surrounding ACT area and southern NSW.

    Močan & Green Grout, Marcus Clarke Street, Newacton South, Canberra
    Outside the venue they also grow a selection of their own herbs and vegetables which through an evening's service you would hear the chef calling for, with wait staff heading out to collect herbs as fresh as can be.

    The open café space is tucked behind a series of wooden shelves which double as a separator to the front shop area. 

    Pieces of art on shelves
    Inside, the clever interior evokes a warm, rustic and cosy feeling with seats by the open kitchen or along the exposed wooden wall and wooden shelves where small pieces of unique Australian artworks are displayed. 

    In for dinner, the friendly wait staff explained the menu of shared dishes - with a mere 13 items on the menu, it was all about the ingredients. 

    Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive dust
    Our first shared dish was a modern riff on classic insalata caprese; a fresh kickstart to the meal. I have always loved colourful medleys of heirloom tomatoes; bright, plump and adding a level of depth to dishes.

    The colourful orange, red and green tomato segments were striking among the basil leaves, while the creamy buffalo mozzarella was pleasant with the dehydrated and broken olive dust and baby capers adding plenty of saltiness.

    Bone marrow, mushrooms, lemon verbena, black garlic
    Seeing bone marrow on any menu is always exciting although this dish was more a celebration of fungi with shiitake mushrooms, Slippery Jacks and a porcini mushroom powder.

    The Slippery Jack mushroom is local to Canberra and only grows in wet conditions. Interestingly, the Slipper Jacks were served with their skin peeled to reveal its insides, giving them an abalone-like texture without the coarse outer layer.

    The mushrooms were served with an impossibly thin layer of bone marrow, held together the lemon verbena oil and slightly charred to give it a crusty texture with a hint of acidity. The delicate and reserved presentation of the bone marrow actually worked, reducing the often heavy, artery-clogging taste that comes with scraping cooked marrow from a bone.

    Boxgum Grazing pork belly, green paw paw, prawn floss
    Our third shared dish featured free range pork from Boxgum Grazing; a farm near Young in southern NSW.

    Presented in quite a rustic fashion, there were all kinds of wonderful textures and surprises on the plate with the roasted pork belly, including miniature coriander springs plucked from the herb garden outside, black sesame seeds, pork floss and saffron threads.

    Boxgum Grazing pork belly, green paw paw, prawn floss
    The garnishes brought a strong Asian flavour to the dish while the saffron overpowered the dish ever so slightly. However, the lime worked well to break through the fattiness of the deliciously layered pork belly.

    Osso bucco, jerusalem artichoke, potato foam
    The wait staff-recommended chef's special of osso bucco was beautifully tender, having been slow cooked then flash fried. Roasted Jerusalem artichoke added crunch and saltiness to the somewhat gentle-flavoured osso bucco, while the potato foam was creamy with the added crunch of fried onion bits. 

    These three elements were accompanied by mini carrots, celeriac, thyme, sage and caramelised orange; some of which were sourced from the outside herb and vegetable garden. This was a great winter's night's dish and was my favourite of the night.

    Eden Snapper, zucchini, corn
    Our final shared savoury dish was the Eden snapper atop a sweet mix of creamed corn and corn kernels. The thin fillet of golden-surfaced Eden snapper was moist while the skin retained a great crispness, served alongside zucchini flower petals and grilled zucchini slices.

    Clafoutis, Blueberries, Mascarpone
    There were two dessert options and we settled for the clafoutis - my first ever. A French baked soufflé, this rendition starred blueberries, light and fluffy mascarpone, and dried rose petals, served warm in a small cast iron pan.

    Clafoutis, Blueberries, Mascarpone
    The aroma of the berries, rose petals and custard filling combined was intoxicatingly lovely. The soft, pillowy custard filling was balanced against the slightly tangy mascarpone, while the rose petals were surprisingly quite chewy although added sweetness and much prettiness to the dessert.


    Močan & Green Grout Kitchen
    Močan & Green is without a doubt a sustainability champion in the heart of Canberra.  As well as working with regional sustainable growers, their compostable kitchen waste is utilised on the neighbourhood's community garden. On top of that, their rotating seasonal and innovative menu and support for local producers are attributes for all other venues to aspire to on the sustainable dining front.

    Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon

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    In one of the hottest restaurant openings of the year so far, Cho Cho San in Potts Point has been met by a blaze of publicity while the paint on the walls is still fresh.

    Open to the public just last week Cho Cho San, named after Madama Butterfly's main character, has emerged from The Apollo's Sam Christie (also of Longrain) and Jonathan Barthelmess. It's a Sydney-fied - and indeed very Potts Point - take on a Tokyo izakaya under the modern direction of head chef Nic Wong (ex Ester, The Apollo, Bodega, Billy Kwong).

    Cocktails and pickled cucumber at Cho Cho San, Macleay Street, Potts Point
    In the prime Macleay Street venue that was formerly Shogun Japanese restaurant, Cho Cho San's interior is a study of restraint with expanses of quite plain white allowing the long bar/communal table to feature through the narrow restaurant front, while more relaxed small tables and booth seats fill the back near the open, secondary cold kitchen.

    Industry-beloved wine guy Charles Leong joins Christie on the floor of the buzzy but not overly loud venue. However, I'm in for the cocktails and sake; the latter of which fills a page with easy-to-comprehend tasting notes like "cooked white rice" and "banana lollies".

    We started on a Melbourne Gin Company martini, aptly named Trouble; served garnish-less with vermouth and a seasonal infusion of mandarin. Meanwhile, the negroni-like Nippy Rock Shop of Tanqueray gin, sake, Campari and orange made for easy drinking alongside the vinegary pickled cucumbers.

    Eggplant and miso dip
    The not-particularly-photogenic eggplant and miso dip is a new take on nasu dengaku miso grilled eggplant; dressed up with microherbs, shallots and wonderfully crisp, thin rice crackers that handled the warm, mushy eggplant surprisingly well.

    The sweetness and umami of the miso on one of my favourite vegetables was completely addictive and it didn't take long for the sail-like crackers to scoop up every bit of eggplant.

    Tofu cooked in tomato water
    The individual serves of silken tofu seemed a bold yet very traditional Japanese addition on the menu.

    Served with plenty of tenkasu fried tempura batter bits and shallots in a clear pool of tomato water that was both tart and sweet with ripeness, the pure flavours of the earthy tofu came through beautifully, albeit a bit overpowered by the big, pungent slices of raw shallots.

    Fried chicken
    The order of fried chicken was a no-brainer for us, served up karaage style with a crunchy batter fragrant with sesame. The juicy chicken within was perfectly seasoned so that the creamy and quite spicy chilli mayonnaise became optional.

    Hokkaido scallops, corn & house-cured smoked bonito
    The 'raw' menu reads excitingly of untraditional sashimi accompaniments such as the creamy corn puree with the raw, sliced Hokkaido scallops.

    The sweet corn is paired patriotically with an eye-opening nori seaweed puree while the soft, delicate scallops came with chives and a shower of grated house-made katsuobushi cured and smoked bonito. As much as I adore raw scallops and their silky texture, the mollusc's natural sweetness seemed lost in this interpretation.

    Raw beef short rib, crispy wild rice & citrus dressing
    But there was no chance the scallops could compete with the dish of the night anyway, featuring ribbons of thinly shaved raw beef short rib, richly marbled and edged with fat.

    Just about the most amazing raw beef I've ever had, the fatty short rib was velvety soft, like the most luxurious of prosciutto - except plainly raw and beef. The citrus dressing on the somewhat crisp wild rice and diced cucumber beneath the raw meat made for a perfect balance in cutting through the short rib's richness.

    Chicken yakitori & pickled lime
    I hadn't expected a chicken steak for the yakitori but there it was, a sliced thigh fillet with beautifully rendered and crisp chicken skin under liberal shakes of togarashi chilli spice mix that had some serious, serious kick to it.

    A puree of pickled lime was served with the chicken, giving it an interesting lift with its zesty preserved citrus funkiness which was rather nice with the chilli.

    Hibachi grilled prawns with kombu butter
    A trio of large hibachigrilled prawns arrived dramatically in a huge white bowl, with heads on and half the bodies peeled, drizzled with a delectable, umami-rich kombu seaweed butter.

    It's hard to go wrong with prawns and butter, especially with the clean-tasting, floral Amanoto 'Junkara' junmai ginjo sake from the Akita prefecture alongside.

    The prawn shells were quite edible with great char flavour from the hibachi grill but the best part was undoubtedly sucking out the prawn heads for all the creamy, flavour-packed innards.

    Soy glazed Angus beef
    Probably one main dish too many between two at dinner, the Angus beef steak arrived sliced revealing innards closer to medium than medium-rare, though requests weren't taken.

    Tender and juicy in a sweet soy glaze, the beef was served with a trio of spicy condiments: togarashi, hot English mustard and wasabi - all adding a different type of heat kick to the beef for the indecisive spicy condiment eater.

    Mushroom & egg brown rice
    The sides options comprise two carbohydrate choices and three vegetable ones; the latter of which didn't particularly catch my interest.

    We went with the mushroom, egg and brown rice which was more like a nasi goreng than anything Japanese. With a sunny side up egg atop fried brown rice and shiitakemushrooms, it was served with plenty of togarashi again so the chilli-averse will need to order it without.

    Steamed yuzu pudding
    I couldn't bear the thought of dessert after all the food, so instead opted for the 'banana lollies' in the Tamagawa nama unpasteurised sake from Kyoto. It was completely appropriate as a dessert sake as it's actually quite sweet with the aroma and faint taste of, yes, banana lollies.

    I did manage a mouthful or two of the steamed yuzu pudding though, which again wasn't the most photogenic. Served with a dollop of sour cream, the warm, airy pudding was comforting for the cool weather with a big marmaladey hit.

    Cho Cho San is clearly the hotspot for the moment, with both media and industry clamouring over it in its first few days. While the menu tends to flit like a butterfly across the izakaya concept, there's a strong sense of modern cuisine techniques with several high notes - the raw beef short rib, fried chicken and sake list in particular.

    The emergence of Cho Cho San from its Potts Point cocoon signals a new maturity and style of Japanese cuisine that's created locally for the locals - and I wouldn't trade it for an American any day.

    Disclaimer: Food, Booze & Shoes is acquainted with staff at Cho Cho San.

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    Posted by Jan 

    Dinner at two fine Italian establishments in one night - this was the proposition for a progressive dinner at the new Bondi Beach outpost of A Tavola as well as the original Darlinghurst restaurant.

    I've always regarded A Tavola as a great Italian experience and its new Bondi Beach restaurant is of a similar ilk, with more of a seafood focus as appropriate for its beachside location.

    Dining room at A Tavola, Hall Street, Bondi Beach 
    The Bondi Beach dining room is a large open space with a bar to one side and long communal tables. The room hints of the original feel of the Darlinghurst dining room incorporated with the chic casualness of a beachside neighbourhood restaurant.

    The plan was to stay in Bondi Beach for drinks and nibbles, like the Italian tradition of aperitivo, before goCatch-ing to the Darlinghurst restaurant for mains and dessert.

    Aperol Spritz
    We started with the classic Aperol spritz, which reminded me of walking along the streets of Italy in the evening when the bars start prepping for the after work aperitivo crowds.

    Probably Italy's favourite cocktail, the spritz is a refreshing citrusy, slightly bitter drink, with a relatively low alcohol content from a combination of Aperol, prosecco and soda water, plus a classic olive garnish.

    Aperitivo is usually accompanied by small snacks and I was delighted to see that some of the Italian classics were served. I love fried food especially when it is high in proteins like meat and cheese.

    The golden-hued, crunchy-surfaced arancini balls were filled with a mix of olives, minced pork and veal, and pecorino cheese before being crumbed and fried to become some of the tastiest, meatiest arancini ever.

    Calamari fritti
    It is only fitting that a restaurant located near a world famous beach does seafood well. The fried calamari served at A Tavola was better than some I found at many of the snack bars in Italy; crunchy, salty and divine with just a squeeze of lemon.

    Anchovies, Tomato
    The final snack that we had before moving to Darlinghurst was the most interesting and could be called fish and chips - A Tavola style.

    I really like anchovies and I think they are such an under-rated fish. The anchovies served that evening packed a lot of flavour and were complemented well by the fresh tomato and fried polenta base.

    The goCatch app
    The plan was to use taxi booking app goCatch to travel from A Tavola's Bondi Beach restaurant to the Darlinghurst one.

    I have to confess to being a very regular user of the goCatch app. I love how you can just book a taxi from where you are and be able to track the taxi that accepted the booking. It was to my great delight that I could show some of my fellow diners how easy it is nowadays to find a taxi, literally, a few taps away.

    Front dining room, A Tavola, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
    When we arrived at A Tavola Darlinghurst, I stopped to admire the huge marble table in the front dining room where the pasta is made fresh every day. The envious home cook in me even started plotting "The Great Marble Table Heist" for a couple of fanciful minutes.

    Maltagliati con borlotti e seppie
    On our second leg of dinner chef and owner Eugenio Maiale served up a dish of maltagliati diamond shaped pasta with borlotti beans, cuttlefish, white wine and cavolo nero.

    A lighter pasta dish made with simple ingredients, it was a great alternative to some of the ever-popular, heavier meat and cheese based pasta dishes.

    Triangoli con ripieno di zucca
    I prefer pasta dishes that don't require a lot of sauce, so the house made triangoli triangle-shaped ravioli with pumpkin, mustard fruit, burnt butter sauce and sage was ideal; a great example of traditional flavours that always work well together.

    The addition of amaretti crumbs brought a touch of sweetness and crunch to the dish along with the fragrantly crisp sage leaves.

    Pappardelle con ragu di manzo
    It was not my first time eating the pappardelle with ragu at A Tavola and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be my last. This perennial favourite is exactly why I am rather picky about ragu when I dine out.

    A good ragu is slowly cooked with a flavoursome, dark sauce. The beef was rich, tender and falling apart with a hint of sweetness in the background. We liked it so much another serving was required.

    Cremino al cioccolato
    For dessert, we had A Tavola's signature cremino al cioccolato which might as well be called "heaven in a cup". I've had it twice now and invariably, the entire table swoons after a single taste.

    Whoever came up with the idea of combining chocolate with hazelnut, salted caramel gelato, torched Italian meringue and amaretti biscuits deserves a medal.

    Dinner at two fabulous Italian eateries and the easiest of taxi rides in between. From the beach to the inner city, A Tavola has got it covered with simple Italian cuisine of the highest quality and freshest pasta - and there's no catches to it.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the A Tavola progressive dinner as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia.

    A Tavola on Urbanspoon

    A Tavola on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Hendy

    Sweeping through Crown Street, Surry Hills in search of afternoon tea one day, I discovered the rustic charms of Kürtősh house.

    Short for kürtőskalác; a kürtősh is chimney-like baked pastry originating from Hungary, hollow and coated on the outside with delectable coatings, from crushed pistachios and almonds to coconut and cinnamon sugar.

    Interior of Kürtősh, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    The Surry Hills store is one of four for the Kürtősh brand (their original store in Randwick was followed by Surry Hills, Crows Nest and now Darlinghurst).

    Kürtőskalác oven (right) and trays filled with toppings
    The bakery front half of the Surry Hills store is filled with equipment used to prepare the kürtőskalács, decorated with an eastern European touch including some striking blue and white tiles behind the intriguing upright oven used to bake the pastries.

    Dough stretched onto the roller before baking
    The hollow, chimney-like characteristic of the kürtőskalács comes from the way the pastry is prepared.

    The base dough is kneaded and stretched before being swirled onto a special roller and coated with a layer of oil and sugar to help develop the crisp outer crust. Toppings are added to the surface once the dough has been completely wrapped around the roller.

    Selection of kürtőskalács on offer
    Kürtősh's different varieties of kürtőskalács are on display behind the bakery window and each pastry is purchased whole for consumption, ideally with tea or coffee.

    There are six varieties to choose from, each designed to give the kürtőskalác a different texture and taste; ranging from a simple cinnamon sugar coating to flaked coconut, chocolate, and crushed pistachio, hazelnut or almond.

    Kürtőskalác pieces for sampling
    The store is generous with pieces of bite-size kürtőskalács on sample atop the cabinets to allow for tasting and gauging of the various  toppings.

    Cinnamon sugar coated kürtőskalác
    Having sampled a few, we settled on the cinnamon sugar and the pistachio nut coated kürtőskalács.

    The cinnamon sugar kürtőskalác looked a lot like a thin, hollow and elongated cinnamon donut, with a golden, crispy crust dusted evenly with cinnamon sugar.

    Cinnamon sugar coated kürtőskalác
    Sweet, though not nearly as sweet as a donut, there was also a hint of rum flavouring to the pastry. The texture was nicely crusted on the outside and quite soft on the inside.

    Breaking up the kürtőskalác was an easy task of basically un-swirling the dough from its baked form; a task delightfully shared by all of us around the table.

    Pistachio coated kürtőskalác
    The pistachio kürtőskalác was a lot more colourful with the bright green crushed nuts on the surface of the same base pastry, and was a little more difficult to break into pieces.

    Pistachio coated kürtőskalác piece
    The roasted pistachio nuts were a nice complement to the pastry which on the whole was slightly sweeter than the cinnamon kürtőskalác.

    Kürtősh also serves the full set of coffee varieties and tea, to complement all the pastries and cakes.

    Early grey tea served in a traditional pot with a kürtősh coaster
    I loved the traditional tea pot in which the tea was served in and, if you request milk, it arrives in a cute little glass milk bottle.

    Ricotta cheese pocket
    While the kürtőskalács are the signature feature, Kürtősh house also offers a large range of other cakes and pastries, sold by weight.

    The ricotta cheese pocket was quite delicate; only slightly sweet with spurts of rum, raisins, almond and the saltiness from the ricotta.

    Traditional baked cheesecake
    We also ordered the baked cheesecake, which is cut to your desired size and charged by weight. The simple flavours of the traditional cheesecake, with hints of vanilla and caramel in its crusty outer layer, were pure luxurious comfort.

    Selection of pastries on offer
    Service was excellent with the friendly staff assisting with any queries or curiosities you may have on the chimney pastries and their extensive set of cakes and pastries.

    Coffee machine
    The Kürtősh experience is relatively new but after a quick and thorough sweep through the menu - kürtőskalács, cakes and coffee - it's a confirmed winner for afternoon tea sessions in Surry Hills, and probably morning tea, brunch and dessert sessions too.

    Kürtősh on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    In the wake of the lock-out laws introduced in February this year, there appears to be a definite change in the Kings Cross air - but we're yet to see which way the change really swings for the hospitality industry.

    With a more relaxed menu and approach than a year ago, The Bourbon's decor and daily food and drinks specials, including a half-price late night menu, offer an inviting scene for those after a quick burger, a bite with few cocktails or a more substantial meal from the New Orleans/NOLA-inspired menu.

    The kitchen in action at The Bourbon, Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
    With a renewed focus on accessibility and affordability, gone is table service in the front of the venue in favour of ordering food and drinks at the bar, and the inclusion of six burgers on the menu (there's table service in the rear dining space and set menus for groups).

    We were treated to a chef’s tasting selection to guide us through the new menu, which retains many aspects of NOLA influence. (Note: most dishes shown below are smaller tasting sizes and not the full menu size). 

    Maple Rose Sour (left) and Velvet Vivant Martini (right)
    The cocktail menu has improved significantly in the past year and we started with something you'd expect at a venue named The Bourbon: the Maple Rose Sour.

    Their take on the classic whiskey sour comprised Bulleit bourbon infused with rosemary, cloudy apple and lemon juices, green chartreuse, maple syrup and chocolate bitters; the latter few ingredients adding a nice hint of sweetness.

    The Velvet Vivant martini had Ketel One vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon, pink grapefruit and agave, which while refreshing, became a little too acidic for my tastes.

    Little Black Drink (LBD, left) & Ginger Rogers (right)
    The LBD, or Little Black Drink, was a clever take on an espresso martini, comprising almost all my favourite things to drink in one glass: vodka, espresso gelato, maple syrup and shot of espresso.

    The sweet, light and refreshing Ginger Rogers was a fruity affair of Tanqueray Gin, pomegranate liqueur, berries and lime juiced charged with ginger beer.

    Spiced nuts and olives
    To kick off the meal and accompany drinks, we had a selection of spiced nuts, olives, hummus, pickled chillies and bread.

    The crunchy, spiced peanuts and cashews had a nice dusting of flavour with a mild heat kick, while the olives of varying types and sizes were lovely and salty.

    Pickled chillies, hummus and bread
    The hummus was more toned down than I'm used to but still had a nice smooth texture; great for slathering over grilled bread.

    The highlight of the board, though, were the pickled chillies with such a delicious vinegary heat to them, I would have eaten them all if I didn't have to save room for the rest of the meal.

    Scallops with grits, bacon, apple and fennels
    Having never experienced New Orleans food, other than vicariously through watching Top Chef, I was excited to see what The Bourbon's menu had in store.

    Our first and probably my favourite dish of the evening was the seared scallops which were plump, tender and beautifully caramelised on the surface.

    These excellently-cooked molluscs were accompanied by a slice of crisp bacon atop a bed of creamy grits which had a distinct corn flavour. A salad of fennel and apple on the side freshened things up.

    Fried chicken, waffles and hot sauce
    Next we were delivered a Southern classic: fried chicken and waffles, garnished with chilli, coriander and Spanish onion. The chicken was tender and moist inside, while the batter was crispy and very well seasoned.

    The waffle underneath the chicken was a sweet contrast to the savoury chicken while the tangy, fiery-red hot sauce adding extra zing, perfect for those that don't mind a bit of spice.

    Alaskan crab, spiced butter and grilled bread
    Another highlight of the meal was the signature Alaskan crab legs, with a surprising amount of sweet meat in each leg, considerately pre-cracked and smothered with cinnamon-spiced butter.

    The spiced butter pooling on the plate was too good to waste, with sides of grilled bread provided to help mop up every last drop of buttery goodness.

    Jambalaya - risotto, spices, bacon, shrimp, watercress
    With no hint of slowing down, our next course was a Cajun classic of jambalaya. Like any good comfort food, the jambalaya - similar to an Italian risotto - was deliciously filling with a tomato base, bits of salty bacon and shrimp and again, a good kick of heat mixed through the rice base; all topped off with lightly pickled Spanish onion, watercress and fresh chilli.

    Seared swordfish with 'hot fanny sauce' and iceberg & fennel salad
    The second last savoury dish of the night was a perfectly cut piece of swordfish; tender to eat but also surprisingly meaty for a small slice of fish. Drizzled all over was the 'hot fanny sauce' of capsicum, onion and a hint of chilli.

    While this dish was visually pleasing, the flavours didn't pack as much punch as the previous courses, although that could have just been my taste buds in NOLA overdrive by this point in the night.

    Grilled pork chop, potato hash, chipotle butter and crispy onions
    We ended the savoury portion of our NOLA journey with a slice of the grilled pork chop, which was a juicy morsel laid atop crunchy and salty potato hash.

    A garnish of crispy onion ring and watercress completed the dish, although a larger serving of salad would have been ideal to balance out the rich flavours of the pork.

    Banoffee pie
    A Banoffee pie ushered us into the final leg of our journey - dessert - which had one overarching theme: cream.

    A sizeable cloud of chocolate shaving-topped whipped cream hid a treasure trove of gooey, warm caramel and banana, all encased by soft, buttery pastry that melted in the mouth.

    Waffles, vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce
    Bringing us back to happy childhood memories were the waffles with squares of vanilla bean ice cream and lashings of chocolate sauce. The waffles were a simple dessert that ticked all the boxes and left smiles all around.

    Strawberries and cream - vanilla ice cream, meringue, fresh strawberries 
    and strawberry sorbet
    To top off the epic meal in true American style, we finished with a veritable mountain of fresh strawberries and cream, with crumbled meringue covering scoops of smooth strawberry sorbet. Refreshing richness has never made so much sense.

    It was easy to forget we were in the heart of Kings Cross. Indeed, the last time I had a night out in the Cross it was definitely not for a sit-down New Orleans-influenced dinner. With the new approachable and relaxed menu, live bands and ample seating room, The Bourbon is sure to become a place in the Cross to start and end the night in NOLA style.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of The Bourbon.

    The Bourbon on Urbanspoon

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  • 06/26/14--14:29: See you at The Copper Mill
  • In recent times I'd gotten a little bored with café breakfasts - unfortunately, eggs are eggs to me. And then a little local café comes along and changes all that.

    At The Copper Mill on Mitchell Road in an area some call Alexandria and some call Erskineville, bacon and eggs are most certainly not just bacon and eggs. Most surprising is that the café doesn't really have a proper kitchen, but just a stovetop or two and a benchtop grill.

    Cappuccino and watermelon, apple and mint juice from The Copper Mill,
    Mitchell Road, Alexandria
    With minimal outdoor seating and hipster-fied interiors, The Copper Mill is a spacious little venue that clearly values comfort over crowds.

    Decorated with the occasional item of copper cookware, the high ceilings of the space and its well-spaced tables lend it well to relaxed brunching and munching on some Latin-inspired brekky bits.

    I still like cappuccinos because of the chocolate powder and foam, giving me the slightest of sugar hits with the Golden Cobra beans on a weekend morning.

    Meanwhile, the watermelon and apple juice is freshly juiced and served with ice, mint leaves and a striped paper straw.

    Coddled egg with kumera mash, parsley and sourdough soldiers with bacon side
    And behold, the breakfast game-changer - for me anyway. Sure, the food took a good while to get to us but the coddled egg in the jar with kumera sweet potato mash has given me faith in breakfast again.

    All it took was a glass jar, half-filled with sweet, creamy and surely healthy sweet potato mash and topped with an egg that's then basically steamed in the jar to a firm yolk; the way I prefer it.

    Garnished with chopped parsley, the egg is served with wedges of buttered sourdough to which I added a side of bacon. A bit of everything in one mouthful was the way to breakfast heaven.

    Peruvian bacon and egg roll 
    Classic bacon rashers get dumped for pork belly in the Peruvian take on a bacon and egg roll. Encased in a chewy white roll were seasoned pork belly chicharron, a runny sunny-side-up egg and the same kumera mash; then pimped up with Spanish onion salsa criolla and lemon-flavoured mayonnaise.

    A large mouthful to handle, this Peruvian-accented breakfast-in-two-hands was a filling twist on a classic Aussie breakfast that will easily become a signature offering at The Copper Mill.

    So perhaps I'll see you at The Copper Mill soon, where breakfast takes a while but where eggs ain't eggs.

    The Copper Mill on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    I have to admit that when I'm after a nice glass of wine or two as comfort in the middle of winter, Greek wines don't often jump to mind with my preference usually heading towards Australian, French or Italian wines.

    However, I'm always keen to expand my palate and was excited to take part in 'The Progressive Greek' event hosted by Greek wine importer, Douglas Lamb Wines.

    "Many people don't know that the Greeks have been making wine from about the third century BC and actually took the art to Italians, who then introduced it to the French," says David Lamb, a qualified sommelier and third generation wine importer.

    "The Progressive Greek' guided tour by Douglas Lamb Wines starts at Alpha, Castlereagh Street, Sydney
    Throughout the month of July 2014 'The Progressive Greek' promotion by Douglas Lamb Wines aims to open minds to the possibilities of matching Greek wines with food that's not necessarily Greek.

    Following the three venue, guided progressive dinner we had through the Sydney CBD, I can attest to the eye-opening matches that really highlighted the versatility of the Greek wines we had: the Kir Yianni wine range from the Amyndeon region in the far north west of Greece.

    Kir Yianni 'Akakies' Brut Rose at Alpha
    Our guided Sydney tour began with a feast for the eyes at the beautifully designed space of modern Greek restaurant Alpha.

    The first wine for the night was the Kir Yianni 'Akakies' Brut Rosé which would be a perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer's day. The rosé had a lovely strawberry pink hue and was bubbly with a crisp acidity and a nice hint of sweetness; a great wake-up call for the palate.

    Melitzanosalata smoked eggplant dipat Alpha
    Although we were dining on a cold winter's night the food pairing with the rosé certainly brought to mind warmer days.

    Served to share, we were presented with a moreishly delicious, chunky and smoky eggplant dip with lots of warm, fluffy pita bread.

    Pickled octopus, cucumber and sun-dried olivesat Alpha
    We also shared beautifully soft, melt-in-the-mouth pickled octopus tentacles, served atop cucumber slices and olives in a zingy salad-like dish.

    Ouzo cured ocean trout, fennel, orange, watercress and sumac onions at Alpha
    And lastly at Alpha, we had a superb dish of succulent cured ocean trout with the faint taste of anise from the ouzo, sliced thin with a refreshing fennel, orange and watercress salad.

    All three dishes were rich in their own right and I found that tartness of the rosé helped cut through them, allowing me to keep going back for more.

    Kir Yianni 'Petra' with food at Danjee, Albion Place, Sydney
    The next stop on our tour was Danjee Korean Restaurant which was a surprise as wine and Korean food aren't two things I usually associate with each other. I was pleasantly surprised and have to admit that the white wine pairing of Kir Yianni 'Petra' with Korean flavours was my favourite of the night.

    The Kir Yianni 'Petra' has a light honey appearance and was dangerously easy to drink, probably due to the fact there was very little acidity and its very smooth finish that didn't leave the palate dry at all.

    Banchan side dishes at Danjee
    As is customary at Korean restaurants, we were supplied with a variety of sides to get things started, including cabbage kim chi and other cold vegetable side dishes, but the highlights at new-ish Danjee were definitely the mains.

    Yukhoe beef tartare at Danjee
    To share across the table was a yukhoe beef tartare consisting of thin strips of frozen raw beef dressed with plenty of sesame oil and soy sauce, mixed together at the table with a raw egg yolk, cucumber and pear.

    Refreshing in its coldness yet rich in mouthfeel, the yukhoe was surprisingly well matched to the white Kit Yianni 'Petra'.

    Hew dup gapsalmon and kingfish sashimi, vegetables and rice at Danjee
    Our second main was the delicious hew dup gap, similar to rice-based bimbimbapbut with raw, diced salmon and kingfish sashimi in place of beef.

    The fresh flavours and chilli hit was a fantastic pairing with the silky Petra white wine, which really complemented the varied flavours well.

    Kitchen at Glass Brasserie, Hilton Sydney, George Street, Sydney
    What I enjoyed most about the concept of the progressive dinner was the fact we actually got up and walked to our next meal which in turn worked up our appetites.

    Kir Yianni 'Paranga' at Glass Brasserie
    The third and final destination of the guided tour was Glass Brasserie in Hilton Sydney with the final wine for the evening, the Kir Yianni 'Paranga' which was a medium bodied red, quite spicy with a fairly short finish.

    Braised wagyu short rib with Pedro Ximenez, carrot & cumin puree,
    horseradish and piquillo peppers at Glass Brasserie
    It was a good balance to the decadent wagyu beef short rib, doused in sweet sauce of pedro Ximenez sherry, sitting atop a delectable carrot and cumin puree without any hint of the promised horseradish.

    Dessert wasn't on the cards but overall the 'The Progressive Greek' evening was thoroughly enjoyable, thoughtful and well planned with food and Greek wine pairings. We couldn't have had a more knowledgeable and approachable host in David Lamb to explain the origins and history of the Amyndeon region wines, all the while keeping the affair casual, light-hearted and most importantly, delicious.

    Amazing food at three Sydney CBD restaurants, some really versatile Greek wines and to share the whole experience with some new friends - it's surely ignited a desire to continue progressing my palate, one Greek wine at a time.

    During the month of July, wine and food lovers can book guided tours in Sydney hosted by Douglas Lamb Wines' David Lamb. If you want to take things at your own pace there is also a self-guided option, with participating restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney with meal and Greek wine pairings.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended 'The Progressive Greek' dinner as a guest, with thanks to Douglas Lamb Wines.

    Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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    Glass Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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  • 07/01/14--15:05: Gungnam Spoon style Chinese
  • I was a bit saddened to discover one day that my favourite little northern Chinese eatery in Hurstville had disappeared, and in its place stood the oddly named Gungnam Spoon.

    Easily one of the flashiest fitouts on the street, the bustling late lunch crowd seemed to indicate that Hurstville's main road is ready for a more modern food offering, even if it's still Chinese.

    Pork and prawn wonton soup from Gungnam Spoon, Forest Road, Hurstville
    With a dumpling craving that couldn't be swayed by the popular whole grilled fish offering that seems to be a signature dish of Gungnam Spoon, I had some of the best wonton dumplings I've had for a while.

    Filled with a super-tasty coarse, pink mixture of minced pork and the occasional prawn, the egg pastry-wrapped wonton floated in a flavoursome broth topped with strips of omelette and seaweed, both adding flavour and texture.

    Pan fried pork dumplings
    The crisp-bottomed pan fried dumplings had a similar pork mince filling; perhaps even tastier than the soup dumplings. With exceptionally thin house-made pastry and vinegar dipping sauce, these went some way in easing the pain of losing a former favourite eating place.

    Mapo tofu
    However, there was pain to be had in the mapo tofu which we ordered with a side of steamed rice. It looked the goods on first appearance; a generous serving of tofu cubes with minced meat in a shiny, chilli-spiked sauce.

    The first mouthful alerted us to the abundant presence of whole Sichuan peppercorns, literal handfuls of them. With more burning than numbing, it was painful eating as well as meticulous picking out of the peppercorns to get through the dish. Soy bean milk was also called for.

    Leaving the restaurant a bit sweaty and pained, there was enough on the menu to tempt me back another time for Gungnam Spoon style Chinese cuisine.

    Gungnam Spoon on Urbanspoon

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