Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Toriciya - Cammeray

A few of our friends had recommended for us to dine at Toriciya ages and ages ago. But for various reasons, it had taken us til now to visit this joint. Post-media hype meant some difficulties in getting a reservation and a bit more forward planning (of which we suck at). The restaurant was small and cozy. Japanese speakers were everywhere - most importantly, in the kitchen - meaning atleast a good level of authenticity.
They had a specials page. Out of that, we couldn't resist ordering the Otoro (fatty tuna belly). Our waitress said that the tuna was from Norway - then shipped to Tokyo - and then to us. It was super super fatty, really melt-in-your-mouth and gave off a very mild and subtly sweet flavour. It came at a price though!
Something else from the specials menu was the charcoal grilled extra large Cloudy Bay clams. These were not chewy or tough... but still, slightly underwhelming.
 The Toriciya nigiri set did not disappoint though. The fish were all really fresh and really sweet. The thickness of the nigiri was perfect. There was scampi, tuna, king fish belly, salmon belly, scallop and some other fish that I've completely forgotten the names of. It was all delicious.
As Toriciya is also famous for their skewers ($3 each), we ordered a plenty. There was pork belly, chicken and shallot, japanese sausage, chicken skin, etc. and you could choose between having it basted in sauce or just sprinkled with salt. The skewers were all OK.
Just to make sure hubby was full, he ordered a triangle rice. This was literally a triangular shaped rice with sauce and fried. It was slightly overpriced for what it was.
Last but not least - dessert! We each got a scoop of icecream. The brownish looking scoop is the roasted green tea icecream whereas the normal green scoop is just normal green tea icecream. I liked my roasted green tea icecream muchly.
All up, it was a good meal at Toriciya. The produce here is fresh and the package presents itself nicely. It is slightly pricey but I guess fresh produce comes at a cost :)

Food - 8/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 29/40

18 Cammeray Road
Cammeray, NSW 2062
Tel: (02) 9904 2277

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bishop Sessa - Surry Hills

For hubby's 30th we went to Bishop Sessa - a cosy French restaurant in Surry Hills. Having seen lots of yummy photos on Instagram, I was really quite excited. Luckily, their delicious-sounding degustation menu did not disappoint.

The amuse bouche set a good precedent for the night. I don't remember exactly what it was, just that it was heaps tasty. The cracker was crispy and light, and the sprinklings of seaweed powder on it was awesome! The cream was tasty too... just don't remember what was in the cream... 
 Unfortunately, course 1 did not appeal to my palate as much as the amuse bouche. There was a wobbly mussel creme caramel with calamari, small grapefruit bits and this green slightly bitter fennel sauce. I didn't really get it. It was all a bit sloppy. The creme caramel's flavour was really subtle and and when combined with the green dallop, it was just a bit weird. Guess its frenchie though.
 The second course was heaps yummier. Thin scallop pieces lay under avocado mousse, cucumber and carrot thins, and a lemon & ginger beer sorbet. This worked. The sorbet was really refreshing and went well with the scallop ceviche. The thin rice cracker was also a good addition.
The miso glazed Melanda Park pork came next and was super melt-in-your-mouth. It was super tasty with tons of flavour. There were also these little cubes of deep fried pork fat which just disintegrated once bitten. It was pretty amazing! Definitely not for the faint hearted though. The pork was served with celeriac puree, pickled enoki, and some greens.
The confit duck tortellini was well received by hubby. I agreed that the duck meat was cooked well - really soft and tender. However, the seasoning was a bit heavy. I found it really quite salty. I also felt that the pasta was a bit too thick. The tortellini came with baby carrots, walnuts and a citrus sauce.
The last meat dish was potato wrapped red wine braised organic wagyu. This was like a high-class sausage roll. The potato pastry was super crispy and crunchy and the beef cubes were tender and with good seasoning in the sauce. I loved the cauliflower puree and the wilted silverbeet. A bone marrow sauce finished the dish off.
I also loved the pre-dessert. It was a refreshing sorbet of some sort... parsnip? (I don't remember ... >.<) But it was really good and really delicious!

The actual dessert was the chocolate nemesis. Super rich chocolate ganache was served with slow roasted pear puree, brioche and a yummy ginger icecream.
All up, I think that it was a pretty good meal. The food was tasty and plentiful - definitely value for money. Service was attentive enough.

Food - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 30/40

Bishop Sessa
527 Crown Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 8065 7223

Friday, July 3, 2015

Shayan Quarter @ Cafe Mix - The Rocks

Hawker-style food in a five-star hotel. Who would have thought?
I feel like Shangri-La has gotten lots of good publicity recently with their food market stint at Vivid, and from when their famous pastry chef (Anna Polyviou) created that epic-looking carrot cake on Master Chef. But until a good friend of mine decided to host their 30th birthday lunch at the Shangri-La, I had no idea that Cafe Mix (the awesome seafood buffet venue) changed into the 'Shayan Quarter' by day, serving up hipster done-up hawker foods.

I have to say, as the birthday boy organised the whole thing, I don't know exactly what each dish was, nor the intricate details of each dish, but I'll do my best to explain.
First up, there was a chilli squid dish. A lot of spices seemed to have gone into coating the squid and it was cooked pretty well - super tender, not tough and chewy at all. Enough to set my mouth on fire when a red chilli accidentally ends up attached to the squid, but without the chilli, it was tasty also.
Baos are everywhere nowadays and they definitely made it onto our table. As there was a vegetarian amongst us, he got a tofu bao which he seemed to enjoy muchly. The rest of us got some pretty tasty sticky chilli caramel pork belly baos. It was a good proportion of bao to meat to veges - and ample of yummy sriracha mayo.
Next up were the playful dishes. Green papaya salad bagged with 'Shake me Up' written on top. Have to say - there wasn't much papaya in each bag but we had fun anyway mixing the papaya with a hot, sweet and sour dressing. More shaking was involved with the numbing chicken wings. You put the numbing szechuan salt in with the chicken wings and shake shake shake (kind of like maccas shake shake fries... remember those?). The small arm work-out aside, the chicken wings were actually quite tender and juicy.
We also got some greens - just some beans in a belacan-ish sauce? Nothing really to write home about - they were OK. And some fried rice which had quite a lot of ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this humble-looking fried rice. The right texture, great flavours, good dryness.
Some soft tacos came also - some with a pulled pork type filling, and some with a slow-roasted goat filling. I'm not really a lamb/goat fan but everyone seemed to enjoy the soft meat filling.
There were also some lamb shoulder skewers and some mushroom skewers. The lamb skewers were nicely cumin flavoured (or at least that's what I tasted when I accidentally had a bite) but the winners were the mushroom skewers, which were really really tasty! Mushroom sweetness with a good sweet ish, salty ish, moorish sauce. YUM!
The fish came all deep fried with individual fish pieces deboned and skewered for ease of eating. It was good. The fish was fresh. It was easy to eat.
I feel like, apart from the mushroom skewers, the desserts really stole the show. Not only did my friend have an awesome birthday cake (made presumably by Anna Polyviou's team), but we also got 2 plates of complimentary desserts - which looked really amazingly appetising! There was this bitter chocolate tart with banana, salted peanut caramelised clusters and sesame cracker, fried coconut icecream magnum and some macarons. Looked pretty damn good! My friend's birthday cake was also pretty awesome! I don't exactly know what is it. It was sweet, caramelly ?, crunchy biscuit base with popping candy? Whatever it was, it was pretty tasty :)

So Shayan Quarter is up-scale hawker food. Playful elements - tick! Wonderful atmosphere - tick! Amazing desserts - tick! Hawker flavours - sometimes tick?

Food - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Value for money - ?
Overall - 22.5 + ?/40

Shayan Quarter @ Cafe Mix
Shangri La Hotel
176 Cumberland Street
The Rocks, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9250 6206

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ramen O'San - Haymarket

What's perfect for a cold winter's night? Something warm, something soupy, something hearty - a bowl of thick, creamy Tonkotsu Ramen! In the past few years, the number of ramen joints seems to have boomed. A newcomer to join this tonkotsu trend is Ramen O'san in the Dixon food court.
It doesn't look like much, but it has this massive menu plastered in front. The person who took my order had some difficulties understanding what I wanted but this was eventually sorted out as I ordered the creamy Tonkotsu Ramen (with thin noodles) with egg and a Sumo Ramen for hubby.
Unbeknownst to me, and much to the annoyance to hubby, the Sumo Ramen automatically came with thick style noodles - which just doesn't quite soak up the soup as well. This ramen was half chicken and half pork broth and had two thick pork belly slices with it. The meat was sub-par compared to other ramen places as it wasn't as tender nor as tasty.

My Creamy Tonkotsu Ramen is different from the normal Tonkotsu Ramen that they offer in the sense that the soup is a bit thicker. It was pretty collagenergic and quite warming. It was extremely filling though, even though it was a relatively small bowl. Must have been because it's so rich and fatty. The soup looked very white and tasted really clean and flavourful. The thin noodles were tasty as was the egg. Unfortunately, that's were the positives stopped. The meat was pretty pale and super thin. Like paper thin. Could have done without it. There was also a large pile of diced onion (raw) which was a bit too intense that it slightly subtracted from the experience. On top of that, there was a dab of chilli in the soup which quickly contaminated the whole bowl. If I asked for chilli, this would have been good. But I didn't ask for chilli and I don't want to taste it in every spoonful!

So I guess that Ramen O'san is an option if you are craving ramen. However, I think I would prefer to go to Ramen Ikkyu, or Gumshara or Ramen Zundo if I was in that area.

Food- 6.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 25.5/40

Ramen O'San 
Dixon Food Court
Cnr Dixon & Little Hay Street
Haymarket, NSW 2000

Friday, June 19, 2015

Catalina - Rose Bay

I have been intending to dine at Catalina ever since I was given a voucher from some lovely friends for this waterfront restaurant. However, due to one reason or another (atrocious weather, unable to make a booking, etc) its taken us a while to get here. Lucky for us, we had chosen an amazingly sunny fine day to eat here - meaning that we had a spectacular view to accompany our wonderful meal.

We were initially going to share an entree but all those choices sounded soooo delicious that we ended up ordering both the marron and the pork belly (and were disappointed that we couldn't order more entrees).

Just as our view was picturesque, so too was our marron. It looked stunning, being surrounded by seasonal veges and oh so appetising. It was absolutely delicious! Sweet seafoody juices and plentiful orange aioli.
The pork belly was likewise satisfying. Crispy crackling and tender pork meat accompanied with perfectly seared large scallops. Little bits of cuttlefish and chorizo sat amongst the lemon emulsion. Dots of a pretty strong piquillo pepper coulis also added to the layers of flavour.
For the mains, hubby ordered a 'glacier 51' toothfish. We had never had toothfish before. Not only is this fish part of the sustainability hype, the texture and flavour of this fish makes me want to order it again and again. It's complex yet really delicate - the meat kind of flakes off. It's quite sweet and quite clean in flavour. It was served with a horseradish tortellini which really should not have made it on the plate. The tortellini was sub par - super thick almost rubbery shell with not much taste to it's innards. The tomato consomme was packed full of flavour and complemented the fish well.
I get sucked into all things squid ink. If squid ink is on the menu, I'm ordering it! This squid in fettuccine was pretty damn awesome! Cooked perfectly and tossed with tomato and chilli lobster oil. YUM! There were also lots of rather large chunks of lobster - but really, I just want more lobster oil :)
We were so full by the end of the mains but I really wanted something sweet to finish off the meal. It was hard to say no to the caramel-centred dark chocolate mousse with valrhona milk chocolate icecream. The feuilletine crumble was also excellent. It was gooey, not overly sweet, smooth but with crunchy bits. The only thing that didn't need to be there is the gold foil. When will we learn that we don't need to eat gold?
All up, it was a great experience. Really relaxing location with yummy food. It is a tad on the expensive side though (and really easy to be carried away with ordering just about everything on the menu).

Food - 9/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 9.5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 32.5/40

Lyne Park
Rose Bay
Tel: (02) 9371 0555

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Devonshire - Surry Hills

$35 for a three course meal at a hatted restaurant? I'm in!

The Devonshire does this pretty awesome deal every Friday lunch time. The menu changes from week to week - they post it up on their FB page most of the time. As amazing as it sounds, it's actually taken me a (long) while to get here - you know, with the whole working a full time job not in the city type deal... But I have to say, this place is so awesome that it might just be worth that day off work ;)
We walk into this intimate, classy little mirror-laden room to be served by two really friendly waiters. It's all a little Frenchie and a little bit posh. We a quickly given a little wooden slab with two types of butter - housemade honey butter and normal salted butter - cut perfectly I might add, and two piping hot, fresh out of the over baguettes which is just oh so heavenly (especially when the slightly sweetened honey butter melts all over the super soft hot bready innards)... I take such a liking to their honey butter that I am soon using the bread as an accompaniment to my butter, much to my hubby's amusement.
Our entree for this Friday was a smoked pork belly beignet. Perfectly crumbed and golden brown, full of flavour and just pull apart meat, all sitting happily on a pool of celeriac veloute. This celeriac veloute was mindblowingly good. So smooth, so rich, so creamy and oh so so soooooo good. Pickled fennel and apple added a good balance to the dish. And did I say that the veloute was mindblowingly good???
For the main, we had seared Barramundi with potato noodles and an orange, pine nut and chive salad. The fish was cooked perfectly - well seasoned and silky smooth. Hubby didn't like the potato noodles much... it was a bit fiddly in the mouth. But the side of potatoes that we ordered were pretty fantastic. Triple cooked for that extra crunch and with a rich garlicky aroma. YUM!
Dessert was a bittersweet chocolate mousse with a rum & raisin milk sorbet and chocolate biscuit crumble. The mousse was not the least bit sweet - perfect for dark chocolate lovers but a nightmare for sweet-tooths. However, it did combine well with the sweetness of the sorbet. The crumble also added good texture.
So for $35 (less if you have an Entertainment Book), this is probably the best value fine-dining quality lunch you can get. Pretty amazing stuff - I'd definitely be back for more!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 9/10
Overall - 32/40

The Devonshire 
204 Devonshire Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9698 9427

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Belly Bao - Sydney

The Asian style - white open 'baos' made hipster by David Chang is pretty "in" nowadays. One of the institutions captilising on this fluffy bun trend is Belly Bao. Located within the GoodGod bar, the dining areas are PACKED on the Thursday night that we visited. The main reason for that is their 'baoger' - the promise of a super juicy burger with a really soft 'bao' bun.

Due to the number of patrons for the night, it took FOREVER for the food to come. Half an hour in to waiting, we finally got our wings and baos. The wings were pretty deliciousness. Crunchy batter and super juicy tender chicken. 
The baos were also quite good. The buns were soft enough (not not as soft as Momofuku ones). Hubby got the crackling roast pork belly bao. The crackling was really good and the pork belly was soft and tender. My braised beef short rib, served with kimchi, was also quite good. Soft flaky sweet ish beef with all it's juices. Hard to say no to it. Our friends got slow braised pork belly ones and no real complaints from them either.
After a whole hour of us waiting (rather impatiently) we finally got our burgers. It was quite a decent sized burger. The bun was nice and soft with toasted sesame seeds plastered over. The patty was juicy and cooked well and who can say no to the really tasty mayo sauce? There was also a good handful of veges/pickles and yummy melted cheese. I have to say, it was a good burger. But was it worth an hour wait??? probably not....
We also had sweet potato chips with spicy mayo. Crispy yes. But nothing too special.
 All up, the food was pretty good. However, it was a bit too crowded and the service a bit too lacking. Despite the yummy burger, I'm a bit hesitant to return.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 5/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 26.5/40

Belly Bao
GoodGod Small Club
53-55 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000