Thursday, February 19, 2015

ARIA, Sydney

I am a big fan of the performing arts and thus found it a must that I watch a performance at the Sydney Opera House - I actually managed two performances, Tosca and an orchestral performance of Schumann 1 and 2 plus Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. Pretty good stuff overall.

But this is a food blog - I shall leave my musings about concerts to another time. ARIA is located just beside the Opera House. I started off with some complimentary bread and an amuse bouche of peaches with goat cheese. Competent though not exactly stunning breads.

It was already close to 11pm so I decided to just have a main course and dessert. I ordered the David Blackmore Flat Iron steak with watercress. This was actually very good: very delicious beef - beefy seared flavour and some delicate notes of sweetness from the fats. Paired with some lovely watercress. The beef jus was rich and went very well with the meat, every morsel an oohhhh. Superb. I really enjoyed this. (8.5/10). I ordered it medium-rare and on hindsight should have done a medium so that all the fats would be thoroughly rendered.

The accompanying mash was good (light and fluffy) but probably not as good as LP's quality meats' which was far more flavourful.

I had a passionfruit souffle which was delicious (no photo here as my phone had died) - it was quite tart and beautifully balanced, with passionfruit seeds and all. It was infused with a bread ice cream and all of that was yummy. (8.5/10). The flavours were all quite harmonious and the texture of the souffle was light.

Overall a good meal.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rockpool, Sydney

I had very high expectations for Rockpool, one of Sydney's legendary fine-dining establishments, although many friends have mentioned that the food didn't live up to the hype. I had to see for myself what the fuss was about in any case, and made a lunch reservation last Thursday.

In relation to the decor - rather impressive; as the picture shows, high ceilings, starched white tablecloths, paintings, in the vein of a luxury European ballroom. Quite exquisite. The service was great as well; in typical Australian warmth, you are greeted with a smile and made to feel at ease and welcome. Can't fault neither the ambience nor the hospitable service.

I opted for the set lunch pre-fixe as a way of gauging what the kitchen had to offer. Along came the bread which was quite good: crusty on the outside and soft on the inside and paired well with their range of butter and olive oil roasted tomato. 

There wasn't any choice for the set lunch: the first dish I had was a linguine with crab. The linguine had the consistency of a risotto, warm and creamy, and topped with some roasted roe and a herb reminiscent of coriander albeit more tangy (suggestions?). I guess it was comfort food but I wasn't impressed - this wasn't a 3-hat worthy entree. It made me rather full (jerlak). 6.5/10 at best. 

I hoped the mains would fare a little better - it was a duck confit. This was decidedly Asian: the duck was cooked with star anise and cloves and perhaps a hint of Hoisin sauce (I'm guessing). It was paired with rice wrapped in an omelette. It was competently done, but the flavours were far too familiar: I felt like I was eating cai fan or something like that, or like something my mother would make. Also not impressed. 6.75/10 (this was marginally better than the entree).

The best dish BY FAR had to be the date tart - this is Rockpool's signature and has been on the menu for at least 20 years. Superb and sublime, I can see why. Creamy custard with dates, encased in a buttery crust. Delicious. (8.5/10). Too bad the rest of the dishes were not up to par. 

Truth be told, I would have wanted to book Quay or Est - I decided on Rockpool because I didn't want to pay the amounts that they were charging at Quay or Est. I guess the oft-quoted phrase "you pay peanuts you get monkeys" may have applied in this case. Ah well. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chur Burger, Surry Hills

Argh, I missed my flight from Scoot back to Singapore, all because of a stupid burger! I headed to Single Origin Roasters and Chur Burger before heading to the airport - bad mistake. I reached the Scoot check in to realise that all the officers had already gone: I didn't know that the check-in counter would be closed 1 hour before the departure time. Hence, there was no way for me to get on the plane. An expensive AUD500 lesson indeed.

Anyway, back to food: the Chur burger was really good! Very flavourful beef, lightly charred and smoky, with a great tasting sauce to accompany everything; but the secret was in the patty, it was delish. (8.25/10)

LP's Quality Meats, Sydney

A famous food writer in SG mentioned that a good meal was to be had at LP's Quality Meats (Chippendale, Sydney) so I dutifully checked it out. Located in some sort of back alley, this was a cavernous communal dining room of sorts with an industrial appearance - long sharing tables and the like. After all, it was a meat place so I guess the decor was rather apt.

I visited LP's Quality Meats with a friend of mine, and we ordered, as entrees, the chicken liver pate. Man the pate was super good; it was very tasty, rich, creamy, and with a balanced liver flavour, quite sweet, but yet quite light at the same time i.e. not cloying or overly rich. Superb. This was undoubtedly a (8.5/10). Went very well with the homemade bread.

For our mains, we shared a beef short rib and a half-chicken. The beef short ribs had been cooking for over 10 hours in the smoker, and the quality of the meat really shone through - smoky, tender, rich and juicy at the same time, the meat fell apart without much resistance. Great. 8/10.

I actually marginally preferred the chicken, which retained its moisture and had a lovely smoky flavour to it, the skin being a highlight. 8.25/10.

A special shout out goes to the mash , which was extremely tasty; all the cooking juices had gone in to making the mash. 

For quality meats in Sydney, LP's the place. (LP = Luke Powell, who was the former head chef of Tetsuya's). 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chat Thai, Sydney

This is going to be a picture-less post since my iPhone ran out of battery.

I attended the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra's performance of Schumann 1 and 2 and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on Saturday night (Valentine's day), and I needed something to eat thereafter. Decided to check out Chat Thai since it's reputed to be the best Thai in Sydney. Headed over at 11pm - there was still a queue. Fortunately didn't wait long, I was ushered to my seat some 15 min later.

Ordered the som tahm (papaya salad) and the Pad See-Eu (kway teow with kai lan and chicken with dark sweet sauce). Managed to snag some Pad-thai from a couple next to me who generously offered some. And mango-sticky rice to finish off.

The som tahm was excellent, one of the best I've eaten. Lots of flavour, lots of fish sauce, sweet, savoury, tart, all combined together. Great stuff. (8.5/10)

The pad-see-ew was alright, I would have liked it a bit sweeter to get more of that caramelised taste of the kway teow. Still, it was not bad, good wok-hei. (7.75/10).

The pad-Thai was great; enough sweetness to coat the thin noodles, addictive; good crunch from the beansprouts, and everything going together very well. (8.25/10).

Mango sticky rice: good stuff as well. (7.75/10).

This is pretty darn good Thai and I can see why the lines are long every night. I can't imagine myself waiting 1 hour or so for food though!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Devon Cafe, Sydney

My friend recommended this place (Devon Cafe, Surry Hills) for brunch and opined that I must try the Breakfast with the Sakuma's; and hence I trooped down to this little cafe located at Surry Hills to try the food here. And I must say that - it met (or even exceeded) my expectations. 

The space is a quaint little joint located off Devonshire Street, and the cafe opens up to a longer "back" space where more tables are set up. The photos here tell the story - a really breezy, open, space.

I was here for only one thing (and one thing only) - the Breakfast with the Sakuma's; my friend and I both ordered it, and we were well impressed with the dish itself - top quality king salmon (certainly wild, since there was so much flavour in it) which had intense salmon flavour was paired perfectly with a 63-degree poached egg, topped lightly with Japanese condiments such as nori and seaweed, and accompanied by a tangy kewpi mayo sauce. The combination of flavours from the wild king salmon and the 63 degree egg and the mayo was just a marriage made in heaven - a perfect combination. Such a delicious medley of the sea. (8.75/10)

I heard the coffee was not great, so we headed to Single Origin Roasters thereafter.

To the left is a photo of the front of the cafe. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spice I Am, Sydney (Surry Hills)

Made my way up to Spice I Am (at Surry Hills) as I needed some dinner (last night). This was a recommendation from Tan Hsueh Yun of Straits Times (she provided me with some recommendations via my Instagram page @ceadsearc (please follow)). It was pretty packed at 8pm when I arrived and there was a crowd hanging outside the shop (which wasn't very large, admittedly). Thankfully I managed to grab one of those small tables on the side.

All the food (on the menu) looked great. I browsed through Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon and even Broadsheet to try to get a sense of what I should order. In the end I asked the waitress which dish was delicious "aroy mak mak" and she recommended the Red Duck Curry (AUD26.50) as I mentioned that I loved spicy food.

I also grabbed a Ho Mak which is somewhat like an otah.

The Ho Mak first arrived (a Phuket dish of fish with spices) - this was really delicious! Aroy mak mak. Very aromatic spices, while having much heat it was perfectly balanced with the flavours of the spices (galangal?) coming through. I finished this off in no time. (8.5/10)

Then the amazing red duck curry arrived, and boy I was floored. The duck had sooo much flavour (very musky and deep), and the curry was a warm medley of spices combining strong heat with a gentle sweetness that came from the lychees and cherry tomatoes - very tasty curry indeed. Indeed the duck paired very well with the fiery red curry. Overall this was a (8.75/10)

I didn't feel full, and hence I ordered the Jungle Curry which did not contain any coconut milk but loads of kaffir leaves. Personally I didn't enjoy this as much; it had loads of heat but it had some sort of a citrus taste (kaffir leaves probably). (6.5/10).

Overall Spice I Am is really an excellent place for authentic Thai food and I highly recommend it. It's also BYO, so I went across the street to grab some sauvignon blanc to pair it with my spicy Thai food and everything went down very well. Yay! Good job. 

Bourke Street Bakery, Sydney

Greetings from Sydney! Always bustling, always busy, and it hasn't changed every since I visited it some 10 years ago. Truth be told, I haven't seen much of it yet, but something feels very familiar and foreign at the same time. I just landed and I figured that I should blog on the go as opposed to on hindsight, as I wanted to write when my memory is still fresh.

Today we visited Bourke Street Bakery which is located in Surry Hills (southeast of the Central Station). Much has been said and done about this famous bakery which has launched 4 different branches all around the world; and I must say that it does live up to the hype.

I didn't expect the place to be so small: it was tiny, housing perhaps 3-4 tables inside, and a couple more outside. We had the famous Chocolate Milk which was sooo good - really rich thick Belgian chocolate mixed with milk, chilled, made for a very decadent treat. (8.5/10). 

We ordered three tarts to share. The first we tried was the Lemon Curd Tart, and this was really the tart to beat. Very tangy, zesty lemon curd - with a zest and energy that straddles between the tart and the sweet but yet offering an additional dimension in the form of some spice? My descriptive skills aren't up to the mark to describe this tart. I would have loved the tart base to be a bit more burnt but that's just a personal preference of mine. Overall this was a 8.5/10

My friend liked the cherry tart alot, I thought it was okay. Fragrant cherries with almonds. 7.5/10. Perhaps overshadowed by the rest.

And the piece de resistance was the famous Ginger Brulee tart which had me jumping for joy inside. There was a decadent caramelised crust, with some pistachos on top; and underpinning everything was some warm spiced ginger. The first bite - the burnt caramel; giving way to the curd of warm ginger. A great combination, just brilliant. (8.75/10)

Was it worth the almost an hour trek from where I am staying? Hell yeah. A better option for future travels would be to arrive in Surry Hills for one of the amazing lunches, and then adjourn to Bourke Street for tea.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Omotenashi Dining Gosso, Boat Quay

Man this place was great - so much so that I've been twice in a week already (which is quite a record, considering that I'm not a huge fan of yakitori). But boy the food here was certainly good and very enjoyable as well.

This was deep fried chicken, coated with a creamy, tangy sauce with small cubes of potato. This was so deliciously tasty. Very oishii indeed. I would have ordered a few more of these had my friends not intervened (so that we could order other things). (8.5/10)

Yam cakes were done pretty well, not a tad greasy. (7/10)

We were then served various skewers - I really enjoyed the cartilege, for its crunchy texture and smoky taste; and the hearts (hatto) were superb as well. The tsukune, I thought, could have been firmer but that's just down to personal preference really. Overall 8/10 for all the skewers.

What I really enjoyed was the fried pumpkin: fried perfectly, caramelised well: 8/10 

This was cute - chicken livers that came with a timer. You had to eat them before the timer rang (40s after being cooked); to ensure that the texture still remains creamy rather than firm which would be the case once the liver cools down. This was fabulous - 8.5/10

Deep fried chicken wings were always welcome - 7.5/10

Egg omelette with radish was alright; nothing much to shout about. 

The desserts were real winners. I really enjoyed the deep fried sweet potato with yam ice cream; the deep fried sweet potato was caramelised with a toffee-like sauce and was crispy on the outside while retaining the starchiness on the inside; and they were really sweet. Paired beautifully with the yam ice cream: 8.5/10

I wasn't so big a fan of the mochi dessert (With green tea ice cream) unfortunately - this ranks as a 7/10

Omotenashi dining gosso is one of those authentic Japanese places that has managed to capture the feel of an authentic izakaya in the heart of Tokyo or Osaka. Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nam Seng Wanton Mee

I have heard loads about this old grand mummy of hawker cuisine, and when I visited this stall on a Friday afternoon, the old lady was still at it, taking orders, being really sprightly and all- and making jokes about how long the stall has been in operation (50 years to be exact). When we asked her what the zhao pai cai was, she said - everything also zhao pai! 

So I ordered the wanton noodles. It looked quite ordinary, but looks are so deceiving. The wonton mee was really good! The noodles had a really good al dente texture and paired very well with the savoury oil/sauce that was very flavourful and coated the noodles perfectly. The char siew was nothing to shout about- pretty ordinary. The wontons were also alright, not bad - quite tasty. In some respects it really reminds me of kok Kee wonton mee; verytasty springy noodles, lousy char Siew. I guess that's what people call the original wonton noodle taste, and I can see why it works. it was very addictive. 8.25/10

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

IZY, Club Street

Mondays are the new Fridays. Time travel, says C, a member of the "Gastronauts", which are my foodie friends.

On Monday, we hopped over to IZY located at Club Street, for some food and drinks. And what stellar food and drinks they were!

To the uninitiated, IZY's chef used to work at Waku Ghin, and hence the food was going to be of a certain standard, for sure.

We started off with some deep fried yam, with truffle salt. I loved yam ever since I was a kid eating "orh nee" and this one didn't disappoint. The truffle salt was lovely too. (8/10)

Having visited IZY once before, I recommended the chicken karaage, which did not disappoint. Crisp, flavourful, tasty, paired with a slightly sweet marinade to cut through the richness. It was good, although I wish there were more! (7.5/10)

And another appetizer to start with - this was pork rolled over young ginger, a homely comforting dish reminiscent of grandma's cooking. Nothing can be faulted: flawless execution. (7.5/10)

We were next served with a Japanese croquette with a tangy mayo dressing. Again this was pretty solid. (7/10)

Save your room for the swordfish collar, for they were brilliant. Well cooked till tender with some bite, paired with some spring onions and chilli, with a hint of mayo. (8/10)

I forgot to take photos of the pork skewers, which were really good.  You could tell that the pork was of a top quality. Very intense pork flavours - paired with a miso paste. One of the highlights of the meal (8.5/10)

We then ordered our own mains - and we had the pleasure of trying each other's mains. My friend had the Uni pasta - which was some imba uni pasta indeed, extremely delicious, heightened umami flavours. The flavour of the uni was very intense, very "ripe" - I was wondering whether I was on drugs to be able to taste that intensity of flavour. The umami is heightened by the addition of the salty ikura. Certainly one of the best uni dishes, comparable to Lolla's sea urchin pudding. (9/10)

I ordered IZY's famous wagyu don with black truffle; and again it didn't disappoint. Very delicious; robust beef flavours, paired well with heady truffles (8.5/10) 
Another friend of mine ordered the seafood porridge, which was certainly very delicious as well; comforting. (8/10)

We washed everything down with a Mizubasho Daiginjo Tobingakoi, which was pretty full bodied and strong, making everything go down well.

Such decadence didn't come cheap. Our meal cost us about SGD160 per person (the sake alone was about SGD170) - which was pretty hefty for a Monday. I'll just pretend that it was Friday then. Highly recommended.