Monday, August 24, 2015

Bennelong Restaurant - Circular Quay

As soon as we heard that Peter Gilmore was starting a new restaurant, my friend had it booked in. My friend is a huge fan of Quay (particularly their desserts) and could not wait to dine in this new restaurant. My hubby, on the other hand, had some reservation. He didn't like the 'fusion' element of Quay. Likewise, my last experience at this venue (when it was the previous restaurant Guillaume), left my wanting more. Lucky for both of us, Peter Gilmore's new Mod Australian restaurant (focusing tons on the flavour of local produce) exceeded both of our expectations!

Being inside the iconic structure, it was a dining experience with wonderful views (and for this sunny afternoon - plenty of young kids plastering their faces to the window). The staff were friendly and nice, and patient enough with our indecisiveness - which is lucky cos I think we all wanted to order everything on the menu. The freshly baked bread, warm, crunchy crusted and with super soft innards helped with our decisions... maybe?

Opting for the 3 course menu, we managed to all order a different entree. Our friend's beef tartare was a hidden gem under a pile of puffed grains, mushrooms, sesame, and seaweed. Like it should be, the egg yolk was placed on top perfectly. The smoked Blackmore Wagyu was mixed with a fermented chilli paste. Getting a sense that this is packed full of flavour?

Our other friend opted for a safe and surely to be amazing entree of scallops. Three delicately and perfectly seared massive sea scallops accompanied with spring vegetables, a creme fraiche emulsion, lemon jam, herbs and flowers - all for a really neat and clean feel to the dish.
My went for an entree of slow cooked quail. This was a soft and succulent square of quail meat hidden under cultured and fermented grains, a brioche cream, really tasty mushrooms and jerusalem artichoke. Lots of crunch. Loads of mushies. It made for a good flavour combo.

Although all three entrees were delish, hubby's entree was the winner - a really big, super nicely grilled Lady Elliot Island bug. Loads of sweetness, perfectly cooked bug. It came with nice little organic turnip cylinders, radishes and flavoured with XO sauce. YUM~
On to the mains - hubby and one friend ordered the duck. Two substantial pieces of Holmbrae duck sat amongst raw and pickled hispi cabbage, black miso, freekah and seaweed. It was good. There was flavour. But hubby thought it was ordinary, especially when compared with his entree.
My other friend and I both ordered fish. He got the King George Whiting - a super tasty little fish in and of itself. It was served with three, again perfectly cooked, scallops, leeks, native parsley, celery heart and ice-plant (a flower). He liked it.
I might be biased, but I think that my fish blew his fish out of the water! I got served a whole John Dory (minus the head) on the bone, with orach, turnips, and umami butter. The seasoning on the fish was perfecto. So tasty! And the fish was cooked just right. Fresh and really tasty. And so much of it! You even get a nice little theatrical hand towel (you know how we used to have those t-shirts which went from being tiny to normal size when you put it in water? it was the same with this hand towelette) to wipe your hands on after you finish demolishing the fish.
Oh - and you get these super tasty potatoes and a plate of fresh lettuce with the mains.
Now we were onto a much anticipated event for the meal - the dessert. We ordered the same desserts around the table. The Opera-house-looking pavlova and the creme caramel v mille-feuille. Yes the pavlova that looks like an Opera House was inventive in it's looks - but flavour wise? It's a pavlova with really nice tasting cream and meringue. It had nothing, NOTHING on the creme caramel mille feuille. Such a playfully plated dessert which was packed full of caramelly flavour. Not overly sweet, and with tons of textures and temperatures all mixed in. I can't describe it - you just have to taste one for yourself. It was absolutely DELICIOUS I wanted to lick my plate~
Coffee and petit fours were last. Coffee was good (which is saying a lot for restaurant coffee), and the petit fours were these cute little caramel-filled cookies.
So all up, it was a great meal. Really tasty. Playful but with a lot of heart and emphasis on flavour. Hats are on it's way I think. I would definitely recommend this place and would definitely try my best to return :)

Food - 9.5/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 7.5/10
Overall - 33/40

Bennelong Restaurant
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9240 8000

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Kitchen By Mike - Rosebery

I know that Kitchen By Mike has a big following. But for some reason, I'd never been a fan. Like  I know that the produce is fresh and made relatively well, but for that price, I think that you can get the same or better elsewhere. However, it does have a large seating area, making it convenient for our group of 10+ to all fit.

So at Kitchen by Mike, their menu goes from breakfast to lunch at 12pm. You line up like a good little school child waiting at the cafeteria and you make your selection. Salads are $5+ and meats are around the $15+ range. Everything you put on your plate adds to the amount you pay at the end of the line.

For this meal, hubby made all the selections. We got a roast chicken and a pork belly, with a cabagge and apple slaw, roasted root vegetable and bread. Came to around $25pp. Really not that cheap for self-service, no presentation style food. The chicken was OK, maybe just a tid bit dry for my liking. The pork belly (was quite a small serve) had good crackling but a ton of fat. If you weren't into eating mouthfuls of fat, there would have been very little of this slab that you could have eaten. The slaw was good. Fresh. Good amount of dressing. And the root vegetable was also decent. Highlight for me was probably the bread and butter. The bread was super soft and delish. The butter was also well churned - creamy and tasty.
Kitchen by Mike is right next to Black Star - so of course that is the obvious dessert choice. I was heaps disappointed that the only cake that seemed to be widely available was the watermelon cake. And if you were buying a big slab like we were, it was the only cake you could purchase. Yeh yeh I know it's big and popular and all that. But I'm not a huge fan and even if it was their best seller, I would want a bigger variety and more choice.
Food - 6.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 5/10
Overall - 24.5/40

Kitchen by Mike
1/85 Dunning Ave
Rosebery, NSW 2018
Tel: (02) 9045 0910

Sunday, August 9, 2015

West Juliett - Marrickville

Working full-time in a place far far away from any shops or cafes, I never cease to be amazed by the shear number of people who manage to just chill out at cafes and restaurants during working hours. On this particular morning, we just managed to get ourselves a table at West Juliett, only deciding to come here after seeing a pretty amazing-looking salted choc chip cookie.

Coffee here was decent. And the food served all seemed pretty average. Hubby ordered a bacon and egg roll and I had a haloumi and egg roll. They really did look pretty similar. The bun was a good proportion of crispy and soft. Mine had a ton of chilli mayo on it which gave it a bit more zing. I wish there was a bit more haloumi, but it all went nicely with the spinach and egg. Hubby's bacon and egg got no complaints either.
Bacon & Egg Roll
Haloumi and egg roll
So that's all good and all that but really the main event came from their house baked goodies cabinet - the pink salt choc chip cookie. This was definitely pricey but definitely very tasty. Crunchy outer ring with a chewy center. Good amount of choc chips. Good sweet to salty ratio. Yum. I have to say though, I have since proceeded to bake choc chip cookies at home and sprinkled pink salt on them - just as tasty!
All up, a pleasant experience. Probably made more pleasant as it was a day off work. Not a bad cafe to stop by for a breaky or brunch.

Food - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28/40

West Juliett
33 Llewellyn Street
NSW 2204
Tel: (02) 9519 0101

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