Friday, September 28, 2012

L'osteria di Brera - Milan

We were in Milan with some friends to watch the F1 in Monza. Whilst trying to fit in some sightseeing and shopping, we often ended up eating really late dinners. Locals tend to go aperitif hopping for a bit before eating dinner ... but amazingly, we often ate even later than the locals.

One of the restaurants we sampled in the city which hubby and I both thought was excellent was L'osteria di Brera which was situated in a popular late night hotspot. As we were both absolutely starving, we were game enough to order an entree and main each. Hubby's entree was the meat selection appetiser (I nostri antipasti di carne) which came with 5 mixed tastes.There was a variety of cold cuts - ham, salami, prosciutto, parma ham - some buffalo mozzarella with rocket, some marinated beef pieces, bruschetta with olives and cucumber salsa, and some puff pastry thing. He absolutely loved it! I thought it was a really tasty selection too :)
mixed meat appetiser

My entree was the hot seafood salad (Insalatina di mare calda). It was amazingness!!! The seafood mix was really plentiful. Loads of calamari, prawns, octopus, mussels, and clams - warm and on a bed of rocket greens. After smashing this down, I was full and satisfied already.

warm seafood salad

Hubby opted for a main of Lobster pasta. Perfect al dente spaghetti drowned in lobster bisque with bits of tomatoey flavour here and there. It was heaps rich and heaps delish :)

lobster pasta

My scialatielli pasta with mixed seafood (Scialatielli ai frutti di mare) was just as awesome! Really rich seafood bisque sauce with again, loads of mixed seafood. The mussels were heavenly when wetted with the sauce. Pasta was sooooooo yum I could eat it everyday!

pasta with mixed seafood

This was probably my favourite meal in Italy. I heard that this whole street (and the street perpendicular) was lined with good restaurants so bon appetit if you're in the area!

Food - 9/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 31.5/40

L'osteria di Brera
Via Fiori Chiari, 8  20121 
Milan, Italy
Tel: 02 8909 6628

Monday, September 24, 2012

Steirereck im Stadtpark - Vienna

Prior to our Europe trip, I did some research on all the Michelin Starred restaurants we may possibly come across as we cross European borders. Unfortunately, due to our limited budget on our trip this time, I sat on my hands and only booked one - Steirereck im Stadtpark in Vienna - a 2 starred restaurant featuring at number 11 in the list of the world's top restaurants. They also have a more casual restaurant downstairs called Meierei... but... why not go for the real thing?

Stepping into the restaurant, everything just felt nice and in place. Nothing was out of order. The decor of the place was stunningly elegant and everything - the table cloths, candle holders, all the way down to the way the waiters placed your cutlery - seemed to be in perfect order.

(Their toilets, however, takes on a different style. Each bathroom is like an artwork or like a mini amusement park. Lights flash on and off as you step in different positions of the room, each element is brighly coloured. The water comes on and off automatically... makes you feel like a kid again! It's something that is better experienced than read so you gotta try it for yourself!)

Just a disclaimer before describing the food: Everything is just so detailed at this restaurant, we were thoroughly overwhelmed. Thus, with my mind buzzing and bombarded with crazy amounts of info, my memory of the experience is a bit hazy... so if there's descriptions which are fuzzy and unclear, my sincerest apologies :)

Prior to being presented with the menu, we were given a range of different snacks and amuse bouches from the kitchen. The first of the many was this thin crispy wafer cracker thing. Really thin. Really crispy. Lightly salted and seasoned. Like a bread stick but not...

The next amuse bouche was some little (heirloom?) tomato thing with more tomato stuff inside... (fuzziness kicking in) ... it was just very sweet, refreshing and extremely tomatoey in flavour.

Another amuse bouche was some sweet corn thing. It looks like the end of the corn cob (the bit that you don't usually eat) but it was crazily corn-tasting, crunchy and kind of refreshingly sweet.

 There were also frozen grapes. The outside of these were really icey cold and as you bite into it, it's kinda like a super sweet and refreshing grape sorbet. Not bad.

Another amuse bouche was this purple sweet potato chip. It came on a sweet potato and was wafer thin yet came with that normal (sickly) sugary sweet potato taste (yes - I'm not a big fan of sweet potato).

Last amuse bouche was this fish thing with thinly sliced pumpkin. All I remember was that the fish was really good - smooth, silky and flavoursome. Can't really tell you much more than that :)

After all the amuse bouches, the real stuff came out. We had decided on getting the 7 course tasting menu. There's two options for each course, which is perfect - as it meant we could order all the options between the two of us. Hubby also got the matching wines, resulting in our side table being swamped with really fine crystal glasses, all of different shapes and sizes.
wine glasses
 Most restaurants tend to offer complimentary bread. Maybe 2, maybe 3 different types? At Steirereck, you get a whole cart full of breads to choose from. The bread sommelier was pretty awesome and remembered EVERY SINGLE type of bread one the cart.

bread cart

From the crazy big selection of  bread, Hubby opted for sourdough, cheesey bread, bread with olives and... some other one. I chose the double sourdough (and yes, it did taste different from the sourdough), bread with bacon bits, and pretzel. This pretzel was  crunchy on the outside but really really really soft on the inside. Best pretzel I've had to date (better than the German giant pretzels).

The butter that accompanied the bread likewise caused a "ZOMG" feeling. There were perfect sour cream butter lines (absolutely perfectly strait) which covered the square disk, with some shaved parsley butter flakes and some mustard/sesame seed things? I'm not sure, but this is pretty amazing butter :)

When the food starts, it's like an absolute explosion for my taste-buds and my brain. There's so many complex flavours, textures and processes in each course, it was absolutely crazy! Luckily, every single dish comes with it's individual menu card, detailing all the ingredients (and the origins of the ingredients) of everything on your plate. It is crazily overwhelming for our vacation brains~

Porcini with yellow pepper and lettuce

First off, there was a porcini with yellow pepper and lettuce. The porcini was sauteed with brown butter, porcini marinated with basil, lemon and parsley, as well as marinated raw porcini. To accompany all this porcini was celeriac yoghurt, marinated celery, lettuce hearts in yellow pepper juice, and yellow pepper emulsion. Topping all this was super thin walnut crisps.

My first course was a 'Schwarzauer' mountain trout with melon, cucumber and borage. The orangey mountain trout was seasoned with line salt and tasted really fresh and subtly sweet. There was steamed as well as raw honeydew melon on one side of it. Steamed honeydew was a bit weird and odd... but quite sweet nonetheless. On the other side of the trout was cucumber pickled with verjus, ginger ale and white balsamic vinegar. Lettuce paste with basil oil, acacia honey and cayenne pepper made up the black inky sauce (I think) and there were bits and pieces of fermented mung bean sprouts and marinated borage.

"Schwarzauer" mountain trout with melon, cucumber and borage
Golden and Chioggia beets with shiso, hazelnuts and French sorrel

Second courses... hubby had the golden and chioggia beets with shiso, hazelnuts and french sorrel. I believe this was a good dish. The puff pastry was hazelnutty and puffy and light and was filled with herbs.

Marrow with sweet potato, tomato, almonds and lavender

My second course was the marrow with sweet potato, tomato, almonds and lavender. There were two types - grated marrow with Scottish lovage, pepperocini and toasted almonds, and marrow marinated with lavender, acacia honey, mustard seeds and lemon juice. The little packages felt like it held a million tastes! The almonds were also unique. They were really young green almonds which was unripe, more juicy, less crunchy and kind of jelly-like ish. Wierd ish.

Next up was the pan-fried Reinake with baby artichokes and Jerusalem artichoke flowers. The artichoke was really yummy. The pan-fried reinake was cooked to perfection and had a really nice flavour and texture. There were also roasted and ground macadamia nuts to top it all off.
Pan-fried Reinanke with baby artichokes and Jerusalem artichoke flowers
My fish was the Danube salmon, which was marinated with balam vinegar,chilli and carrot juice. Again, cooked to perfection with amazing texture :) Accompanying the fish was steamed broccoli (cooked with camomile tea and brown butter) as well as lumps of broccoli (sauteed with nasturtium root, horseradish and camomile). Crunchy black rice was sprinkled on top.
Danube salmon with broccoli, black rice and camomile
Like all the dishes thus far, the veal was another plateful of flavours and textures. The veal's tongue was braised with beer, whisky, salted plums and rhubarb. Really tender. Steamed pak choi, potato beignets, nasturtium flowes, mint, maca herb, and preserved green rhubarb also featured.

Braised Veal's tongue with rhubarb, salted plums and nasturtium
I had possibly the best bone marrow I've had to date. Really really awesomely smooth and really really tasty marrow. Sooooo good. Came with steamed young tree spinach, spinach and potato gnocchi poached in buttermilk, baby white radishes marinated with balsam vinegar and beechnut oil, tree spinach tips, verjus and brown butter sauce, marinated tree spinach and golden brown super thin potato tuille. Yes - brain explosion!

Tree spinach with baby white radish and bone marrow
Venison with Sweetcorn, chanterelles and apricots

Hubby's main for the night was the venison. The venison loin was wrapped with orache. Next to the super tender slab of meat was an impressive sweetcorn biscuit, sauteed chanterelles and sweetcorn. The little green herby things are chickweed and chickweed oil was splayed throughout the dish. There were also some preserved apricots, fermented black bean and apricot puree throughout.

I picked the roast and braised guineafowl as my main. There was a crisp sesame and linseed slice with the crispy guineafowl skin. As you may see, there were slices of summer truffle and marinated watercress next to the protein. The less visible elements were the broad beans, long beans and fine beans, sauteed oyster mushrooms, 'crystal apple' cucumber (cucumber originally from New Zealand), and sweet-sour pickled pearl onions. The sauce was also really yummy - guineafowl jus with wholegrain mustard and tarragon oil.
roast and braised guineafowl with mustard, beans and summer truffle
I chose to have a cheese plate rather than two desserts. BUT... it wasn't just some cheese plate that came over. A whole cart full of cheese rolled over to our table - a cheese cart of TWO levels. Over 100 different cheeses! ZOMG~ No - I don't remember all the cheese on this cart. By this time, my brain was over-worked to such a state that I don't even remember the cheeses that I chose on my plate. All I remember is that one was a Camembert from somewhere and all the cheese were absolutely spectacularly deliciousness!!! :)
cheese cart
cheese plate
Hubby definitely should have chosen cheese too. This is probably the only fail dish of the night - the iced Pericon with medlar, bee balm, cucumber and blue gin. It was icey cold and quite alcoholy. This didn't sit too well with either of us - particularly hubby who was already pretty drunk by this time :)
Ice Pericon with Medlar, Bee Balm, Cucumber & Blue Gin
Hubby's last dessert was the pandan cake with raspberries, white chocolate and coconut sorbet. Hubby really liked this. The pandan cake was really soft and springy. The raspberries weren't normal berries - they were raspberries filled with jellied fermented raspberry juice. The pandan ice-cream and the white chocolate and coconut sorbet were both gorgeously YUM. There were also ice-crystal leaves - ones marinated with raspberry juice and raspberry vinegar, and ones marinated with raspberry vinegar and stevia. It was not a bad dessert.
Raspberries with Pandan Cake, White Chocolate and Coconut Sorbet
My dessert was even better! The warm 'trinitario' chocolate was amazing! Really smooth chocolate cream with amazing shortcrust tart bottoms. Coconut macaroon rectangles which are actually indescribably good Delicious pineapple sorbet and slightly less awesome pineapple salad. All up, this dish was superb! I wish I could eat it like every day!
Warm "rinitario" chocolate with pineapple-pericon sorbet & coconut macaroons

Petit Fours 'Jewellery'

Things had been extravagant at this dinner. Petit-fours were no exception. Instead of traditional petit fours, we were presented with a trolley of jelly and chocolate "jewellery" - rings, earrings, necklaces as well as gold nuggets. I have to say, I'm not much of a jelly/lolly person (I much prefer chocolate) so to me, these looked more awesome (and more playful) than it tasted. Definitely had the 'wow' factor though! :)

I have to say, Steirereck blew my mind away. All the dishes were amazingly complex and frankly speaking - kind of crazy. Exceptional food and great service. One of those 'once in a lifetime' experiences I think.

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 9/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 34/40

Steirereck im Stadtpark
Am Heumarkt 2A in Stadtpark
Tel:  +43 1713 3168

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Frankfurt Food

When people say that Germany is the land of swine, they are not kidding you. Pork, beer and potatoes seem to be all I was seeing during our week in Frankfurt and Munich. For hubby, all he was seeing was schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) and he ate that pretty much every day.

So when in Germany, do as the Germans do. We tried to eat their diet and had pork knuckle, pork belly, pork-filled sausages, giant pork schnitzels, sauerkraut, potatoes and beer during our time there only to escape Germany thinking - "no more pork for at least a month!". Not that it was bad... all their pork and potato dishes were absolutely mouth-wateringly deliciousness!!! Only complaint would probably be their potato knodel (which is a really dense potato dumpling ... which really, is bordering an inedible tasteless starchy hard gloop). Ooo... and the lack of fresh veges... it took us a while to become vege deficient in order to cotton on to the need to order a salad with every meal. Nonetheless, it was a tasty country indeed.

Snacks much needed after working a whole day then flying a whole day (sleep deprived muchly).We snacked (like Germans) on sausages in buns from Hans Wurzt (around the corner from Romerberg). As you can imagine, our sleep-deprived state (much like a hung-over state) welcomed these tasty fatty carby things a lot! It gave us the energy to plow on with the day.
Original Rindswurzt
Original Thuringer
 After exploring a lot of the city, and hence, again in our exhausted state, we were able to find ourselves a place which served "original Frankfurt food". In our defense, when we first entered Steinernes Haus, there were not a lot of patrons. It was only after we finished our meal and observed our environment did we realise that 95% of the patrons were Asian... tourist trapped :( Nonetheless, the meals were yummy enough and matched my expectations of "Frankfurt cuisine". Hubby ordered the Romer Pilsener Special - which apparently is the "Frankfurt" beer-to-drink. His pork schnitzel was covered with cream and delicious mushies... loads of golden deep fried chips, and a side salad. And my 'green sauce' was actually very yummy - herby, vinegary, creamy, mayo-y and extremely extremely filling when matched with hard boiled eggs and potatoes. How do the locals finish such a dish!?!?!

Pork Schnitzel "Vienna Style" with fried potatoes (ie. chips) and salad
4/2 Eggs with Frankfurt Green Sauce and Potatoes
 The next day was a bit more successful in our hunt for where locals seem to eat (or at least a little more so). At Leib & Seele, we got our first tastings of German Pork Knuckle... and it absolutely puts any pork knuckle served in "bavarian restaurants" in Sydney to shame. It was super succulent fall-off-the-bone kind of meat, flavoursome and coupled with crunchy crackling! I, having forgotten what hubby ordered the previous night, absent-mindedly ordered a pork schnitzel with mushrooms sauce... tasty enough though!

Pork knuckle with sauerkraut and roast potatoes

pork schnitzel with mushrooms sauce and chips

Food in Frankfurt had been all rosy and to my liking until we encountered the knodeln at Das Wirtshaus. After seeing the knodeln once, it was like a bad friend we couldn't get rid of (and we ended up seeing it everywhere! in Vienna, Prague, Munich, the whole lot!). The knodeln is like a really really really dense glump of potato and flour. Virtually tasteless but extremely heavy stuff. The sauce which came with this knodeln, however, was absolutely heavenly! The best mushroom sauce we had in Frankfurt. Different types of mushies were used, making it super aromatically delicious! I eyed someone in the markets having a "spam" looking thing in a bread (and I love spam :P). Hence, I took the opportunity to order their pork meat loaf which came with a gorgeous fried egg and some tasty pan-tossed potatoes. YUM!


Pork meat loaf with fried egg and pan-fried potatoes

We couldn't resist a waltz down Fressgass, a street with plentiful cafes and delis. Loads of cheese, hams, and traditional salads lined the street. We chose the busiest cafe at the time, which happened to be Center Park Corner for our breakfasts. We had wonderfully delicious coffee and loads of yummy cheeses, hams and bread. Mmmm :) [hint: don't come here on a Sunday... it's like ghost town]


Rucola, Parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto and bread

Ham and cheese with tomato, marmalade, jam and bread
pork crackling just lying there!
sausages and other tasty morsels
What more, we couldn't resist the markets. There was Kleinmarkthalle, which was fabulous! AND it just so happened that on the weekend we were there, there was the Museum Festival - which meant that on both sides up and down the main river, there were loads and loads of stalls - arts and crafts, product stalls, and of course, LOADS of food!!! We visited the market daily, just oogling at the delicious sausages, pork knuckles, chips and other tasty snacks (which were largely either pork or potato).

And as a sweet finish to Frankfurt... my favourite! Haagen Dazs! "Around the World" series with Salted Caramel, Strawberries & Cream, Macadamia nut brittle, and Dulce de Leche. YUM!

"Around the World" Haagen Dazs series
 Hans Wurzt :

Steinernes Haus : 
Braubachstraße 35 60311 Frankfurt, Germany
Tel: 069 2834-91  

Leib & Seele :  
Kornmarkt 11 60311 Frankfurt, Germany  
Tel: 069 2815-29    

Das Wirtshaus :  
Große Bockenheimer Straße 29 60313 Frankfurt, Germany  
Tel: 069 284399    

Center Park Corner :  
Große Bockenheimer Straße 52, Frankfurt  
Tel: 069 29802679