Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bread and Butter Pudding @ Lorraine's Patisserie - 30 July 2013

I was feeling a bit hungry today in the afternoon so I decided to duck out for an afternoon treat at the Merivale owned Lorraine’s Patisserie (Shop 5, Palings Lane, 320 George St, Sydney), which is located in the Ivy complex. Lorraine Godsmark is a renowned pastry chef in Sydney having spent 10 years as the head pastry chef at Neil Perry’s Rockpool and 8 years at now closed Yellow Bistro and Food in Potts Point. So obtaining the services of Lorraine is a massive coup for Justin Hemmes and the Merivale group.

Bread and butter pudding ($9)
The snack that I had today was the Bread and Butter Pudding. This is my favourite item at Lorraine’s Patisserie (out of many other great pastries including rhubarb pie, New York cheese cake and the mascarpone cake).  

At $9, the bread and butter pudding is priced at a premium but you are paying for quality. I find this pudding so incredibly delicious and moreish. I am a massive sucker for anything that has an awesome custard. There is just something so satisfying about soft buttery bread soaked in a tasty, gooey, egg custard. I also enjoyed how this pudding was topped with 2 chunks of toasted bread, which was great to contrast the soft and mushy texture of the rest of the pudding. The only problem was that it was a bit hard hard to eat the toasted bread with a fork without creating a mess. I had to pick it up with my hands in the end and created a mess any way...

Besides the custard, what sets this bread and butter puddings apart from other ones are the large chunks of caramelised apple, which were nice and soft, sweet and slightly tart. The apples just taste so great with this pudding! I wanted to lick the container clean afterwards to savour every last bit of that yummy custard, but I did not want to make a fool of myself in the office!

As you may know, Lorraine’s signature dessert is the Date Tart ($15). This is a dessert that I have wanted to try since Lorraine’s Patisserie opened and I have yet to see this delectable tart available. And I spin by a lot! I have no idea when they have it on. Guess I will need to keep looking. You might say that $15 is very expensive for a tart. But if you consider that the date tart is a signature dessert at Rockpool, a 3-hatted restaurant, and the painstaking labour that is involved in making the tart, $15 is not such a bad deal. At least it would save me from having to book a meal at Rockpool to try the famed tart. Maybe one day I will actually see the date tart available at Lorraine’s and be able to try it.

 Lorraine's Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Devon Cafe, Surry Hills - 27 July 2013

Does Surry Hills really need another café? Well another one has opened in the last couple of months in Devon Café (76 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills), which is just a short walk from Central Station. Devon Café has generated a lot of buzz in the foodie circle since it opened. The reason for this is quite simple: Devon serve top quality food without breaking the bank and in a relaxed, casual setting. The kitchen boasts a strong team consisting of Zacharay Tan (former sous chef at Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne) and Jacqui Ekotors (former chef at Guillaume at Bennelong in Sydney). With this in mind, I decided to make a special trip with my wife to Devon Café for breakfast to kick off the weekend.
When we walked in we pulled up a seat in the front dining area. We instantly loved this space. It was a bright room with lots of natural light (great for photography!), minimalist in a Scandinavian way and decked out in plywood. Although we didn’t venture any further into the café, there are 2 other separate dining spaces, which all with different vibes: the mid-room with its camouflage netting on the walls and the laid back-room with its funky street art on the walls. Maybe we will check those out next time...                     

Cappuccino ($3.50)
My wife and I both ordered a cappuccino. You know the folk at Devon Café are serious about their coffee when you see words like Single Origin and cold drip written on their walls. Plus they also have funky apparatus that resemble equipment that you are more likely to find in a science lab than a café. The coffee beans they use are from 5 Senses (a leading wholesale roaster based in WA and Victoria) and Coffee Alchemy (who in my opinion make the best coffee in Sydney). We were both impressed with the cappuccino. It was a smooth coffee, with nice, bold flavours and no bitter after taste whatsoever.

There were lots of tempting things on the printed menu and on the blackboard specials menu, which made it difficult to decide what to get. In the end my wife ordered the Lost Little Bread and I ordered the Devon Ultimate Toastie from the specials board, which we each had half of. The Breakfast with Sakuma’s (which is a grilled miso king salmon with smoked eel croquette, 63 degree egg and kewpie mayo) would have been awfully tempting but the waitress informed us that this was not available until 10am. Oh well, maybe next time!        

Lost Little Bread ($16)
The Lost Little Bread is a peanut butter and jelly brioche French toast, with warm banana, warm, oozing nutella, sweet berry jam and moreish peanut butter ice cream. This is the ultimate sweet breakfast treat. How can anyone say no to dessert in the morning? Well no one should if this was the plate that they were given. Everything on the plate was devilishly delicious and work so well together. Definitely a winner with the sweet tooths…    

The Devon Ultimate Toastie, complete with truffles ($25)
But I am more of a savoury person so even better than the Lost Little Bread was the Devon Ultimate Toastie! The Devon Ultimate Toastie is an open sourdough grilled with pine and cultivated mushrooms, fontal cheese, 2 fried eggs, and finished off with shavings of Western Australian truffles. The word truffle sold me on this dish even before I got to the café. I can never say no to this wonderful, luxe ingredient that is only available during this time of the year. This was the dish that made me drive all the way out to the city on a weekend. After I had seen all those pics of the toastie on other food blogs and on Instagram, I knew I had to have it. And it did not disappoint. In fact, I would say it exceeded my expectations!

I reckon they should rename this dish the Devon EPIC Toastie! Whatever you want to call it, it is probably the best toastie that I have had in Sydney! There was so much rich and satisfying flavours in this toastie. I just loved everything about it: great sourdough toast (supplied by Victoire in Rozelle), addictive melted cheese, delicious buttery sautéed mushrooms, beautifully cooked fried eggs with warm gooey egg yolks, and finished off with the ultimate flavour and aroma enhancer in truffles. This dish reinvigorated my love for truffles and confirmed why I love the ingredient so much! And also, the serving was massive so I needed a long walk afterwards to burn off all that food. 
Devon Café only serve approximately 10 of these a day, so if anyone wants to try the Devon Ultimate Toastie, they will need to get in early in day and also before truffle season ends (roughly late August).

I was thoroughly satisfied with both the food and the coffee at Devon Café. A quote printed at the bottom of the menu sums it all up: “quality product doesn’t mean fast”. You will need to wait a bit for your meal but once you start tucking into the food, you will be very satisfied! Based on this meal, I would say Devon Café ranks firmly in my top 5 places for breakfast in Sydney. I am keen to return soon to try other breakfast items and also sample some of the lunch menu (the spanner crab pasta on the specials menu looks very tempting!)  

Highlight: The Devon Ultimate Toastie topped with shavings of black truffle. It was epic!
Lowlight: Since truffle is a seasonal ingredient, the Devon Ultimate Toastie will only be available for a limited time (til around late August).    
Overall: Devon Café is a welcome addition to the Surry Hills café scene. A wonderful café that has already carved out a reputation for serving great food and coffee during breakfast and lunch. I can see Devon Café being a favourite of mine for a while yet. 8/10 (Excellent)

The menu
Specials menu
Coffee geek: cold drip and single origin
The front dining area
Tools of the barista trade
Fruit and vegetable basket
Cutlery and serviettes
Tasty goodies for take away

Devon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, 26 July 2013

Margherita Pizza @ Vacanza Pizzeria, Surry Hills - 26 July 2013

We stumbled on Vacanza Pizzeria (414 Bourke St, Surry Hills) by chance after we picked up some goodies from Bourke St Bakery. My wife thought the place looked interesting so we decided to give it a go. We popped in, were greeted by a friendly Italian waitress and taken to our table. All we wanted today was the "Brandi" Bufalina Margherita pizza. Marghherita is a standard order for us at pizzerias as we just love the simple, yet tasty combination of tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil. And this pizza was no different. Very tasty!

Brandi Buffalina Margherita Pizza ($21.50)
We were very pleasantly surprised with how good this pizza was. It was pretty damn good, if I must say! The margherita pizza had San Marzano tomatoes, Compania Garofalo buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil. The pizza base was a winner. It was so wonderfully thin and crispy. What amazed me was how the crust was able to stay so crisp and not become soggy from the smattering of tomatoes and chunks of buffalo mozzarella. The only problem was that it was extremely dark inside. So dark that I couldn’t tell whether I had made a mess on myself or not. For the record, I did drop some cheese on my shirt :S
Based on this brief experience, Vacanza Pizzeria appears to be another gem in an already vibrant Surry Hills dining scene. I would definitely like to come back soon and try some of their other pizzas. 

Vacanza signage
More signage
Vacanza is a winner for families with kids
Some sexy ladies, is this really family friendly?

Vacanza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lunch at Xanthi - 24 July 2013

I love open kitchens!
Yesterday I decided to head to Xanthi, the 1-chef hatted Greek restaurant situated on Level 6 of Westfield Sydney in Pitt St Mall, for the $17 lunch special. Xanthi has been a restaurant that has been on my radar for a very long time, ever since it opened. I can’t believe that I haven’t been to Xanthi until yesterday! It has been opened for about 2 years and is crowd favourite. It seems like everyone has already been, whether it be bloggers, critics, my friends or the casual diner. I must be one of the last people to eat at Xanthi (and it was only for the lunch special and not the full menu). Anyway, I can finally tick Xanthi from the wish list (well sort of)…

Caramel Baklava Ice Cream ($15)
The highlight of the meal was actually not the lunch special but the dessert we decided to order, which I will talk about first.  We decided to split the Baklava Ice Cream, which I hear is a signature of chef David Tsirekas ever since his Perama days (which was his Petersham restaurant before moving into the current Westfield location). This is a dessert that is most definitely worth seeking out for. It is amazeballs! I just loved it. The dessert is very moreish so I can see myself having plates of it and never get sick of it.

The dessert contains layers of vanilla bean ice cream wrapped around a centre of pistachio baklava filling and caramel fudge. All these elements just blend together so beautifully and create a dessert that is such a pleasure to eat. I found this interpretation of the baklava much more enjoyable than the normal baklava, which I find a bit sickly sweet at times. The ice cream had lots of natural vanilla bean flavour. The more the better  I say! The creaminess of the ice cream cuts though the richness and sweetness of the caramel fudge. And the chopped pistachio  nuts round out the baklava dessert nicely. The only thing that is missing is some filo pastry.
Onto the lunch special… the lunch special is basically a pita wrap with a side of either chips or Greek salad for $17. You can choose from lamb, pork belly, haloumi or kefte. The lunch special is clearly an attempt by Xanthi to draw some of the crowd from the level 5 food court during the lunch rush hour onto level 6 for the more premium lunch offerings.  I decided to go for the lamb wrap with chips (probably not the wisest choice of side, I needed some vegetables) and my friend, SP, decided to go for the pork belly wrap with Greek salad (great choice of sides). And since the wrap was served in halves, this meant I was able to try both the lamb and pork belly wraps J                     

Lamb wrap ($17)
The lamb wrap is filled with a lot of lamb meat, and I mean a lot! Whilst the lamb meat was quite nice: it was flavoursome, tender and had a great smoky element, I found the wrap to be a little one dimensional. It needed something more to go with the big meaty flavours. The carnivores out there would love the lamb wrap.

Pork belly wrap ($17)
Out of the two wraps, I enjoyed the pork belly wrap more as there seemed to be a lot more different layers to it that complement each other. The pork belly meat itself was quite tender and tasty with the Dijon mayo. Then there were the crunchy bits from the crackling and a fresh, crispy slaw salad.     So all in all a nice combination of flavours and textures.  

Would I come back for the lunch special? Although I thought the wraps were enjoyable, to be honest, I probably would not be back too often for lunch. At $17, the wraps were kind of like a luxe kebab (of course the meat is much better than the dry, fat dripping stuff you often find at the take away stores). I see Xanthi more as a fine dining restaurant that you come to for a nice meal with a group of friends for dinner rather than a lunch venue.        

However, having the lunch special did give me an insight into what Xanthi is about and has made me want to come back for dinner. The slow cooked meats really are quite tasty at Xanthi. I also had the opportunity to flick through the menu and there were a number of items that piqued my interest. I am a huge fan of the Ouzomezedakia (small plates) since I can sample a little bit of everything. The deep fried lamb brains, in particular, caught my attention and definitely something I would like to try in the not too distant future. I am always on the lookout for places that cook excellent lamb brains. There is something about lamb brains that make me want to come back for more! So hopefully I will be back at Xanthi soon for dinner and do a full write-up of a meal on the normal menu.        

A special thanks to SP for letting me use her photos that she took with her smart phone. I forgot to bring my camera and I am a failed gen y-er since I do not own a smart phone.
Xanthi Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Hakata-Maru Ramen, Haymarket - 19 July 2013

Ramen stores seem to be opening in Sydney quicker than I can get to them with Hakata-Maru Ramen (Shop 3 Level 3, Market City, 9-13 Hay Street) being the latest ramen store opening. Hakata is yet another ramen store to be found in a food court in Chinatown, joining Ramen Ikkyu and Gumshara Ramen, both of which are my favourite ramen stores in Sydney. The big question is will Hakata-Maru Ramen become a food court favourite like Ikkyu and Gumshara?

Hakata-Maru Ramen is the first store of Toridoll, a large Japanese noodle chain more famous for their Marugame Seimen udon shops in Japan and other stores throughout the world. The ramen served here are Hakata style. As such the noodles are thinner and the tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is also thinner than the likes of Gumshara and Ikkyu. 

Hakata Ramen place mat
Today I decided to order a set with the Black Tonkotsu, which is the tonkotsu broth topped with garlic oil and garlic flakes, and a side of karaage chicken wings (for total price of $10.80). This is very reasonably priced and is cheaper than many of its counterparts.  I think this will be Hakata’s biggest strength that will keep people coming back.

Black tonkotsu
The tonkotsu broth at Hakata is actually quite a light broth and a lot like Ippudo’s. This will please those people that aren’t a fan of the thick, heavy feel of collagen on their lips. Despite being a thin broth, the broth still delivers loads of enjoyable porky flavour. However I do prefer the thicker style of broths served at Ikkyu and Gumshara as they pack more of a punch. The garlic oil gives the broth more depth of flavour than the original tonkotsu broth, however I can’t help but notice the small drizzle of garlic oil I got in my bowl. I have noticed that other bloggers have received a much more generous serving of garlic oil.
Thin Hakata style noodles
I understand that the noodles are made in the store using ingredients imported from Fukuoka. The noodles had bite to them although they weren’t as bouncy as I would have liked. This is partially my fault as I should have specified to the staff that I wanted my noodles firm.

The toppings (which consisted of two pork slices, half a boiled egg, wood ear mushrooms and shallots), is where, in my opinion, Hakata does not rate as well as the better ramen stores. Whilst the pork slices were quite tender and tasty, there were not much of them to go around with only 2 bite sized portions. The boiled egg, a ramen staple, was quite nice though, with its soft egg white and warm, gooey yolk. Next time I go back to Hakata I know that I will need to order more extras. Perhaps this is the trade-off for a cheaper bowl of ramen?

Karaage chicken wings
The karaage chicken wings are a pleasant little snack to enjoy along with your bowl of noodles. The meat was moist, juicy and succulent. The crispy batter was nice and thin. Next time I would like to try the gyoza, which can be ordered as a set in place of the karaage chicken wings.

Kaedama, extra noodles ($1)
I found that the serving size of the ramen is quite a bit smaller than at other ramen stores. This is where ‘kaedama’, extra noodles comes in. For an extra $1, you can help yourself to another serving of noodles, which I definitely needed as I felt a bit hungry after finishing my initial serving. The portion of the ‘kaedama’ was quite big and it seemed like there were as many noodles here as what I was originally served. This time I remembered to order my noodles al dente. The noodles were indeed al dente, so I was happy and satisfied after finishing another bowl of my favourite comfort food in winter.

Another bowl of ramen demolished!

Highlight: The price. The quality of the ramen is great and cheaper than most other places. The ramen is similar to that served at Ippudo at half the price, so I know where I will be going out of the two.  
Lowlight: The servings are quite a bit smaller at Hakata compared to most ramen places. Toppings not as good as the better ramen places.   
Overall: Hakata-maru Ramen serves up great, satisfying bowls of ramen in the Market City food court. The biggest draward for Hakata is the lower price compared to the likes of Gumshara and Ikkyu, however Hakata will have to play second fiddle to both of them. 7/10 (Great)

Hakata-Maru Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Darley St Bistro, Newtown - 12 July 2013

Upstairs dining area at Darley St Bistro
I decided to head to Darley St Bistro in Botany View Hotel (Corner King and Darley St, Newtown), which is located in the St Peters / Tempe end of King St, for a quick meal before seeing Adam Hills at the Enmore Theatre. It’s standard pub meal procedure at Darley St Bistro: order at the counter, take the buzzer and find a seat upstairs. There are three blackboard menus, one for standard pub fare (with items such as burgers and pizzas), one for more gastro-pub fare (with confits and slow cooked meats) and one for desserts. 

Lounge and graffiti art
Retro arcade game: Donkey Kong and Pac-man time!

Today I opted for the Pork Belly with Cream Corn Mash and my wife went for the Roasted Mushroom Pizza.

Pork belly confit with crisp crackling on cream corn mash, steamed Chinese broccoli
I did enjoy various aspects of the pork belly dish although I didn’t feel everything on the plate worked well together. Here’s what I did like: the pork belly and the cream corn mash, i.e. the core components of the dish. The meat of the pork belly was quite tender and could easily be pulled apart with a fork although it was a bit dry in some spots. The crackling was crispy (as advertised on the menu).

I love corn so the cream corn mash was quite enjoyable. So much so that the vegetarian at the table, my wife, kept stealing some from my plate. Best way to describe it is: think of a smoother, more refined version of what you find in a tin of cream corn you would find at the supermarket.

And what could have been better: the hoisin-like sauce and the veg. The sauce had the consistency of a jam and the flavours were a bit odd and overpower the pork and cream corn mash. I ended up not using it.
The steamed Chinese broccoli was just ordinary and bland vegetable that seemed to be just plonked onto the plate just so the dish had a vegetable in it.                  

Roast mushroom pizza, basil pesto, parmesan, rocket
The roast mushroom pizza was just like any pizza that you find on a standard pub menu. It was nothing special, but it certainly wasn’t bad. The pizza base was thin and crisp, the way good pizza bases should be. 

Highlight: Both my wife and I enjoyed the cream corn mash in the pork belly dish.
Lowlight: Not everything on the plate works well together. I don’t quite understand why everything comes with fresh chilli.   
Overall: Darley Bistro Inn is a decent little pub with a large blackboard menu containing a heap of options. The food here showed potential and does the job for an early meal before a show.  This is certainly much better than a lot of other pub food out there in Sydney. 6/10 (Good)

Darley Street Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tetsuya's - 29 April 2011

Today’s entry is about one of my best meals ever in Sydney, at none other than the legendary gastronomic temple, Tetsuya’s. The man, Tetsuya Wakuda, needs no introduction, really. He is a legend and my food idol (along with Heston Blumenthal). Tetsuya’s has won too many awards (including being one of the 5 best restaurants in the world back in 2005 and a decade’s worth of 3-chef hats) and was long regarded the best restaurant in Australia.

I took my (now) wife here to celebrate her birthday back in 2011. It was over 2 years ago but I still remember this meal like it was today. As I have not been back since, I am not sure how the current experience at Tetsuya’s rates. Based on my sole experience, I believe that every foodie in Sydney should do themselves a favour and try Tetsuya’s at least once.
The food at Tetsuya’s was some of the most divine and amazing food I have ever eaten, from the truffle butter all the way to the desserts.  The seafood courses were particularly amazing and were appreciably better than the meat courses. The meat courses were excellent in their own right but the seafood courses were just that good. The seafood was fresh and of the highest quality. And of course, the seafood was cooked to absolute perfection.   

Vegetarians are also treated to a gastronomic feast for the ages and are not forgotten about. With the exception of one questionable course, all the vegetarian food was creative, had amazing flavours and expertly executed.   

The service was impeccable at Tetsuyta’s. The staff were highly professional and operated like clockwork. It seemed like there was always someone there to fill your water or get you another drink. I found all the wait staff to be pleasant to speak to, friendly and most importantly, unpretentious. 

The time I went to Tetsuya’s was not long after it had been downgraded from 3 hats down to 2 hats. In my opinion, this meal topped my meal at Quay and I was proclaiming at the time that Tetsuya’s needed to be given back his 3rd hat. My evening at Tetsuya’s was truly a night to remember and a meal for the ages.  

Highlight: Confit of ocean trout is Tetsuya’s signature dish and one of the most photographed dishes in the world for a reason.
Lowlight: The exotic mushroom vegetarian course missed the mark badly, which is unfortunate because the rest of the vegetarian menu was top class.
Overall: Tetsuya’s is the restaurant that put Sydney on the global map as a city that does good food. As such a meal at Tetsuya’s should be on every Sydneysider’s bucket list. Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.  9/10 (Outstanding)

Truffle butter - this is THE best butter I have ever had in a restaurant!
So smooth, so creamy, so yummy!

Pacific oysters with ginger and rice wine – Freshly shucked to order, 
quite honestly the best oysters I have ever had!
Amuse bouche:  Chilled Cucumber Soup with Sheep 
Yoghurt Ice Cream – Brilliant amuse bouche. 
Very refreshing!
Course 1: Sashimi of yellow fin tuna with shishito and garlic chips – 
wonderfully fresh tuna that melts in your mouth
Veg Course 1: Vegetarian sashimi with shishito and garlic chips – 
very interesting dish that tasted great with a great balance of sweetness
and acidity, still don’t know what the “sashimi” is til this date.
Course 2: Marinated NZ scampi tail with curd and junsai – 
WOW, the sweet and delicate scampi meat was cooked to perfection, 
truly memorable dish!
Veg Course 2: Caramelised fig and walnut - Delicious! Somehow this
dessert looking dish made for a great savoury course
Course 3: Confit Petuna ocean trout with konbu, celery and apple -
the signature dish, perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth ocen trout,
legendary dish worthy of being in Sydney folklore
 Veg Course 3: Mirin Jelly, egg, sprouts, rice – definitely vego dish of the 
night in terms of flavour and visuals, vego dishes at Tetsuya’s 
created with same level of precision as regular menu, like nothing 
we have had before!
Course 4: Steamed Murray Cod with black bean – perfectly cooked
fish that is moist and tender, nice crispy crackling
Veg Course 4: Tortellini, potato, goat's curd, shiso - delicious parcels of
creamy potato and goat's cheese 
Course 5: Braised ox tail with sea cucumber and lotus root – 
the most tender, full flavoured bovine meat that I have ever eaten!
Veg Course 5: Potato Gnocchi, parmesan, microherbs, pumpkin broth
this was delicious as my wife enjoyed the pillow softness 
of the potato and the sweet pumpkin broth
Course 6: Quail breast wrapped in pancetta
the quail was juicy, flavoursome and perfectly cooked with pink centre
Veg Course 6: Grilled rice, kombu, wasabi – lovely toasty rice
immersed in a tasty broth. Kind of like the Japanese dish ‘chazuke’
Course 7: De-boned rack of lamb with eggplant and white miso – 
good, enjoyable dish that lacked the fireworks of the 
other savoury courses on my menu.
Veg Course 7: Exotic mushroom – easily the weakest dish of the night. 
Texture was strange. And the flavours didn't really work.
Course 8: Grape sorbet and tarte tartin - the grape sorbet was refreshing
and an excellent palate cleanser. The tarte tartin was amazing: it had
almonds, ice cream and apples.
Course 9: Genoa figs with leatherwood honey and fig leaf ice cream – 
pleasant dessert that doesn’t quite match the awesomeness of the next dessert…
Course 10: Chocolate pavé with cream cheese ice cream and cinnamon 
twigsAbsolutely stunning! Rich, velvety chocolate that makes you 
want to come back for more! Perfect with a scoop of ice cream.  
Petit Fours Chai Mochi balls – even the petit fours were amazing!

Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon