Archive for March, 2010

March 28, 2010

Sweatshop, Melbourne

by minibites

After a full tum, head downstairs to the Sweatshop hide away in one of the corners with a quirky cocktail or a beer. The atmosphere down here is similar to other Melbourian bars where it’s time to relax, the music is quirky yet subtle and the mood is upbeat. The theme is carried throughout the bar, and there are rolls of fabric lining the roof, balls of yarn and wooden crates to sit on. Perfect to kick start a night of bar hopping.

Basement, 113 Lonsdale St

SweatShop on Urbanspoon

March 28, 2010

Seamstress, Melbourne

by minibites

The first time I hunted this hidden gem down, I was faced with big wooden doors – big wooden closed doors. Sad, hungry and disappointed, I made it my mission to return to see what all the fuss was about. Many of my colleagues have ranted and raved about this restaurant bar – the quirkiness of the interior, great service and new take on Asian cuisine. Step inside the world of great interiors – antique Singer sewing machines, hanging plants in test tubes and wonderfully draped light fabrics creating a tent-like atmosphere into the restaurant.

Amuze-bouche of a pork wonton served in duck broth

Greeted by our hostess, we order Asian beers and a range of dishes to share. Seamstress’ dining concept is similar to other Asian cultures where dishes are ordered to share – which made our token vegetarian very unlucky that night. Our amuze-bouche comes out and I’m delighted – simple and flavoursome, and it I want more! It’s a simple pork wonton served in a wonderful duck broth. I would have slurped the broth but that’s just unladylike…

Chalkboard special: Crispy quail served with five spice and lime

Tempura of zucchini flowers filled with baby button mushrooms, binnorie fetta and roast roma tomato sauce

The dishes begin to roll out and we begin with the special of the night, crispy quail with five spice. Teased as the “anti-quail woman” of the night, I caved into peer pressure and enjoyed the dish entirely. It may be as simple as a smear of different spices and salts but the quail was well cooked, boneless and balanced. The dash of acidity from the lime definitely topped it off.

Also not a fan of zucchini, I was hesitant to try the zucchini flowers. Surprising my mouth was a rush of textures and flavours; freshness and crunch from the zucchini, seasoned tempura coating and a melted mix of cheese and mushrooms. At this stage, I’m becoming a fan of everything that I never used to like.

Caramelised wild harvest scallops stuffed with “harm yee” on poached iceberg lettuce & saffron butter sauce

“Chinatown style” bbq duck with sweet pickled lemons on perfumed rice & choy sum

The next dishes roll out and we tuck into the seared scallops. Wonderfully large and seared, they’re a seafood treat. The duck is wonderfully tender but I do question its companions; the pickled lemons are a little unusual for me and the perfumed rice is slightly overcooked (to the point it becomes a mushy mess) but overall, I’m not too fussed.

12 hour braised berkshire pork belly, drunken potatoes, steamed baby bok choy and star anise caramel

Along with the five-spice quail, this is probably one of my favourite dishes. The care and love that has been put into cooking this dish shows by the taste. Wonderfully crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The drunken potatoes are amazing; it feels like a kick and punch to my taste buds.

Rhubarb and marscapone filled pancakes, crumbed rhubarb candy topped with pistachio fairy floss and quince sorbet

Yin & Yang of valrhona chocolate with pina colada mousse, pineapple and saffron compote and coconut marshmellows

Bursting at the seams, we suck it in for desserts to share. The pancakes were a disappointment, not what I had imagined and components on the dish didn’t flow very well together. Although, the Ying & Yang delivered deliciousness. It was the perfect dessert to share, with an array of flavours from the bitterness of the chocolate, the airy-ness of the foam, slight sourness of the pineapple and the sweetness and crunchiness of the marshmellows. Definitely delivering a “ying-yang” dessert of flavours and textures.

Seamstress has done an amazing job at keeping Asian cuisine simple and clean but adding a nice modern touch of quirkiness. It has definitely reignited my grass roots and a love for Asian cuisine. Don’t forget to book, and to visit the Sweatshop for a drink, or two.

Level 1, 113 Lonsdale St

Seamstress on Urbanspoon

March 24, 2010

Taste of Sydney 2010

by minibites

Gorgeous weather for a delicious treats, such excitement! Taste of Sydney is an annual festival with the top restaurants in Sydney showcasing entree sized meals that define them in the culinary world. With our crowns in one hand, menu & map in another, and a SLR around our necks, we devour all afternoon.

Restaurant Balzac; Saddle of suckling pig with garden peas & smoked bacon jus

Restaurant Balzac; Warm chocolate fondant with vanilla bean ice cream

Suckling pig was cooked almost to perfection; tender and juicy with crispy crackling to top the guiltiness off. There was a little too much fat left on but the dish fell together perfectly. The dessert was well balanced – rich, warm, gooey chocolate topped with a scoop of light, cold vanilla bean ice cream made both the dishes from this restaurant a guilty pleasure.

Berowra Waters Inn; Quail breast & Truffled risotto croustillant

This was probably my least favourite dish of the day – disappointing and there was not too much wow factor in  the presentation or flavours. Funnily enough, many of us felt this dish tasted very similar to Pho, a vietnamese beef noodle soup, and I agree!

Four in Hand; 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder, minted crushed peas and feta dressing

Meat that melts in your mouth definitely shows signs of some good love cooking. As Jamie Oliver once preached, the shoulders of an animal need to be treated with greater care and love than back meat and this dish definitely showed that it received some tender loving care. Not so much a fan of the feta dressing but the lamb and minted crushed peas were a treat. It’s also refreshing to see some greens on the plate to help with all of the meat digestion.

El Toro Loco; Paella a la maestre

This paella missed the mark for me. Great flavours and colours, but it missed out the best part of a paella, which is fighting over the burnt bits at the bottom of the pan!

Plan B; Organic grass fed Wagyu beef burger

Becasse; Chocolate souffle

The Wagyu beef burger was simple – quality meat, a dash of sauce, crunchy bread and well melted cheese. Wonderfully cooked but sadly it wasn’t one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, could it probably that it was a little too simple? The chocolate souffle on the other hand, was moist, soft and gooey but its presentation with the vanilla cream resembled the chocolate fondant from Restaurant Balzac a little too much…

Bird Cow Fish; Braised cape grim beef cheek and glazed onion pie in a sour cream & puff pastry case topped with red wine veal jus

A challenge to bring a pastry to a festival event but this dish was absolutely delicious. Think a crispy puff pastry hugging tender meat, with delicious comforting flavours and just the right proportion of sauce – not too heavy, not too light.

Danks Street Depot; Beef ribs smoked in watermelon with a watermelon and avocado salad

The combination sounds bizarre but it works. It takes a little love and appreciation but the freshness and sweetness of the watermelon somehow goes hand in hand with the smokiness and heaviness of the tender beef ribs. One of my favourites but not for my foodie companions… more for me!

Flying Fish; Grilled king prawns with black pepper and curry leaf sauce steamed rice and curry leaf malum

Flying Fish; Yellow fin tuna with sweet pork crackling and ruby grapefruit

Overall, this restaurant impressed me the most – both dishes were mouthwatering on the menu and in my mouth. The grilled king prawns were a little too chilli but the kick was fantastic and welcomed, bite by bite. The rice was a little overcooked for my liking but the flavours from the prawns were seriously addictive. Not a fan of sashimi, but the yellow fin tuna turned my mouth into a party – wonderfully seared with sweet pork crackling and sweet fresh grapefruit to complement.  It just shows fruit can be weaved in a savory dish.

Jonah’s at Whale Beach; Vanilla panna cotta with lavender honey and fresh pomgranate

Presentation wise, this dessert hit it into the ballpark. Cheeky presentation that brought along many naughty jokes and laughs. Taste wise, there was a little something missing – and many of my foodies were complaining of sourness of the lavender honey and the texture of pomegranate. In hindsight, it does take a while for your palate to appreciate the texture and occasional sourness of pomegranate – I enjoyed it.

Guillaume at Bennelong; Pistachio macarons

Macarons, the new craze of the dessert world, but unfortunately these did not beat the wonderful macarons I have sampled at Lindt Cafe and Cupcake Family. The flavour of pistachio was definitely subtle but there was nothing that kept me wanting more.

Longrain; Tapioca pudding with poached jackfruit & lychees

Longrain; Ping Pong

Longrain’s dishes of flavours were so refreshing for my palate – the Tapioca pudding became a little too sweet by the end, it was definitely one of my favourite dish and desserts of the day. My Ping Pong cocktail were lychees and passionfruit shaken with 42 Below Vodka with a dash of fresh lime juice; light, refreshing and fruity.

We also scored some free tickets to Jamie in the Park, where it was transformed into Jamie’s kitchen as he cooked up a storm. He’s such a wonderful chef and entertainer, and that addictive British accent….

Taste of Sydney
March 11-14th 2010
Centennial Park, Sydney

March 11, 2010

The Commons Local Eating House

by minibites

This little humble space of The Pond has recently been revived and renamed. Inside, you still find the comforting interiors of a stonewall styled cottage space with fresh flowers, wooden decor and friendly inviting staff. It has kept the same concept as The Pond with a constantly changing daily menu composed of fresh ingredients of the day. Improvisation in the culinary world is definitely something exciting, new and fresh.

House fettuccine served with fresh basil pesto

Crisp-skinned snapper, consomme and brandade

Seared duck breast served with pine mushrooms

My colleagues and I dive into three dishes; the house fettuccine, crispy-skinned snapper and seared duck breast. The fettuccine is definitely fresh, soft and perfectly cooked – for my liking, although the sauce was a little under-seasoned and it became tiresome, but a dash of sea salt slowly kept me twirling my fork up for more. I’d love to see this pasta matched up with a heavier sauce with protein, like a boscaiola with chicken, tons of bacon and mushrooms.

Not a fan of fish, but I did enjoy the crispy-skinned snapper dish. It was cooked perfectly with the right crisp in skin and the consomme added a pleasant balance of sweetness. The brandade, which I was oblivious to what it really was, surprised us by adding a simple fresh flavour and saltness to the dish. The seared duck breast was definitely my favourite of the three – tender and light soy like sauce complements the wonderful nutty flavour of pine mushrooms perfectly.

Definitely comfort food in a homely abode.

The Commons Local Eating House
33 Burton St
Darlinghurst, Sydney

The Commons on Urbanspoon

March 7, 2010

Melbourne, February 2010

by minibites

Honey, I’m home! I’m back again from my spontaneous weekend getaway in Melbourne. This time I was joined by my fellow foodie lover so be prepared for posts for some oldies, new finds and great alleyway bars. Melbourne simply takes my breath away!