Archive for March, 2011

March 23, 2011

March into Merivale’s Abracadabra Lunch by Dan Hong

by minibites

Abracadabra! Dan Hong kicks start my Saturday morning with a 5 course lunch degustation for his contribution to March in Merivale. Lotus was decked out with card houses, silver stars, magic wands and rabbits in hats. Also complete with quick hands magician, Liam Power who wows and woos the crowd. He came around table by table showing us card tricks and coin tricks. So amazed. I think I still am.

Belverdere Flaming Moe

To kick start the lunch, it’s a liquid meal called the Flaming Moe, Belverdere grapefruit vodka shaken with nashi pear and Cinzano Bianco; an Italian brand of vermouth, of the sweeter kind. We’re wow’d because the waiter brings you a cocktail on arrival and the garnish is a flaming orange peel. In a poof of smoke, the peel disappears… into thin air. And all you smell is the amazing citrus aftermath. And still wondering where it’d all go.

Sashimi of sea scallops, foie gras, avruga, hazelnut oil

First up was were sashimi of sea scallops topped with foie gras, avruga caviar and surrounded by hazelnut oil. I’ve never dared to try raw sea scallops so I admit that I was slightly unsure by how I’d react. But with a complete bite with everything, it works. The simplicity and rawness of the scallops was balanced with the pungent foie gras, bursts of avruga (a caviar made from herring), sweet hazelnut oil and the crunchiness of the apple. A very interesting opening dish.

Spanner crab, dashi custard, asparagus, ginger consomme

Moving along was my favourite dish of the afternoon, as well as my fellow foodie companions’ pick. It had an amazing mix of flavours; a wobbly dashi custard topped with slices of spanner crab, sprinkled asparagus and spring onions sitting in a ginger consomme. The ginger consomme was subtle enough to mix well with the dashi custard. Delicious!

Pork belly, almond gazpacho, watermelon, chicharron

And it seems that no degustation is fulfilled without a pork belly dish. Dan Hong serves up crispy, caramelised pork belly that sits on cold almond gazpacho and watermelon spheres topped with crispy chicharron, made from pig’s skin that is dried, fried and puffed. Not a huge fan of chicharron, but definitely adds an interesting texture.

Rangers Valley wagyu, spiced beetroot & white fungi

The last of the savouries was a generous portion of seared wagyu beef with wedges of spiced beetroot, beetroot puree and white fungi. White fungi isn’t commonly used in Western dishes, but definitely seen in the sweeter Asian dishes. I particularly enjoyed how instead of a potato mash, this was served with good ol’ bright red beets and a contrast of white fungi.

Lime creme, chocolate & vanilla meringue, coconut sorbet

Dessert rolled along and presented in a gorgeous arch of textures, flavours and surprises. There was a fluorescent lime creme base with light chocolate and vanilla meringue pieces, crunchy cookie crumble, a scoop of super cold coconut sorbet and hidden amongst it all… popping candy! The end of our lunchtime conversations were interrupted by random burst of crackles and pops.

Petit fours

And just before we left, some complementary petit fours; wobbly peach jelly cubes, very moist chocolate brownie triangles and fluffy cloud tasting tonka bean marshmallow cubes. Tada!

Most of these dishes are on the daily Lotus menu, so it’s not too late to go and have a taste.

Abracadabra event was apart of March into Merivale 2011.

Lotus
22 Challis Ave
Potts Point, Sydney
www.merivale.com/#/lotus/lotus

Lotus on Urbanspoon

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March 20, 2011

Taste of Sydney 2011

by minibites

It was time once again to whip out the picnic blanket, loose shirts and expandable pants because it’s Taste of Sydney!! A showcase of Sydney’s top restaurants offering mini versions of their best.

Assisette; Crispy pork belly, cashew nut caramel with palm treacle and roast cashews

District Dining; Spicy free range Lilydale chicken with lime aioli and coleslaw

To kick start us off, it was first up to Warren Turnbull’s Assisette and District Dining. Pork belly was slightly undercrisp on our dish, but the watermelon, cashew nut caramel and mint all worked wonderfully. Would have been perrrrrfect if only the pork belly was super crispy! Next up was District Dining’s famous fried chicken, and mmmm! Everyone loves a slightly healthier version of KFC. Great tender juicy chicken on the inside with a spicy crispy outer and cooled down with some lime aioli and fresh coleslaw.

Four in Hand; Confit pork belly, squid, chorizo, chickpeas


Four in Hand; Dark chocolate snickers

To feed our expanding bellies, is another pork belly. This dish was a meaty delight with the pork belly, tender and falling apart and sitting in a bed of Mediterranean flavours. Their deconstructed dark chocolate snickers was a chocolaholic’s delight with warm caramel, oozing chocolate, nuts, ice cream.

Etch Dining; Seared scallops with cauliflower bhaji and curry

Justin North presents this seafood delight that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and palate. It had wonderfully seared scallops with a little curry oil and cauliflower bhaji; an Indian vegetable fritter filled with herbs and spices.

A Tavola & Omerta; Potato gnocchi with slow cooked lamb ragu

The Italian duo, A Tavola & Omerta from Darlinghurst, presented an amazing dish of super soft melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with creamy also melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked lamb ragu. Delight! Also, on a random note, they own Messina on the same street (Victoria St), and it has the absolutely BEST gelato in Sydney.

L’etoile; Slow cooked shoulder of lamb, smoked potato puree and jus

We definitely couldn’t go pass the opportunity of sampling Mr suave French man, Manu Feidel’s L’etoile. Manu serves up a generous portion of slow cooked lamb shoulder on a bed of smoked potato puree (amaaazing!) and they were a little light handed on the jus, I wanted more! He also stopped to take a breather by taking photos with the swarm of girls (and men!) making their way towards him. Sweet!

Flying Fish; Black pepper and curry leaf prawn skewers with lime & fresh coconut

Flying Fish; Seared petuna ocean trout with a white curry sauce, jasmine rice, raw vegetable sambal

Last year, Flying Fish had my favourite dishes of the day with prawns and tuna with crackling. This year, they’ve done it again – bringing generous portions of black pepper and curry flavoured prawns and ocean trout. This year, the prawns were nicely skewered, and topped with lime and fresh coconut. The second dish was a slightly seared trout sitting on a bed of fluffy jasmine rice, white curry sauce. Slightly seared meant the fish was tender and soft on the inside. Can I say amazing any more times in this post?

For the first time, Taste brought along the Sensology Bar; with the option to have your cocktail made or learn to make your own! With the classic Pina Colada song pumping in the background, we learn in a quick 15 minute class the basics of cocktail making, the equipment and ingredients for our Pina Colada. Muddled fresh pineapples and coconut juice, sugar, ice, rum and shake, shake shake! Top with more ice and a pineapple leaf and viola!

Bird Cow Fish; Tiramisu roulade with caramel sauce

I’ve always been a fan of tiramisu so I definitely jumped at the opportunity to try Bird Cow Fish’s tiramisu roulade. Simply delicious, with the perfect balance of chocolate, coffee and marcarspone – even my fellow anti-coffee foodie granted it a “mmmm!” and took a second spoonful.

Victor Churchill; Creme brulee

Lucky last, one of the best desserts is Victor Churchill’s creme brulee. For those who haven’t been to Victor Churchill, it’s definitely worth an excursion. This butchery (yes, butchery that makes desserts) shows others in town how to make raw meat look super sexy by hanging hams and pork legs elegantly behind glass cabinets. On a totally unrelated talent, Victor Churchill makes one of the best creme brulees I have devoured. A crunchy sugary top protecting a chilled creme brulee with hints of vanilla bean baked through.

Another year gone, can’t wait till next year!

Taste of Sydney
March 10-13th 2011
Centennial Park, Sydney

March 11, 2011

Ms G’s

by minibites


Walk into the world of modern Asian fusion dishes and inspired cocktails. Ms G’s been on the block for quite some time now, with people spilling through the doors. Ms G’s has ulitised the space wonderfully with 4 levels of goodness. We’re stationed on the rope level decked out with hanging ropes of course, graffiti on the walls and amazing views overlooking into the cityscape.

Mini banh mi

The girls kick start the night with the infamous mini banh mi filled with chicken katsu or pork belly topped with a tangy yet slightly spicy sauce. Banh mi are Vietnamese baguettes filled with pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, coriander, soy sauce and meat slices. Simply ingenious to put pork belly in a baguette.

Grilled calamari, black pudding, coriander salsa verde

For shared mains, the night kicks off with good ol’ calamari, fancy style. It’s slightly grilled sitting on a creamy and flavoursome coriander salsa verde. On its own, it doesn’t work. But all together in one whopping bite, it does. I’ve never been a fan of black pudding, or otherwise known as blood sausage, as my palate never understood the strange texture, smell or flavour. I did try it though, just a little… teeny bite.

Braised pork belly “hue style”, konnyaku noodles, lemongrass, chilli broth

This was one of my favourite savoury dishes of the night. The fatty, tender pieces of pork belly are braised in a hue styled broth; both light and spicy. The best noodles are used to top it off, little knots of light konnyaku noodles; which are Japan’s super health noodles (low carb, low calories and high fibre!) and are made from the konnyaku potato. Delicious!

Stir fried rice noodles, grain fed beef, chilli, herbs, peanuts

Our final main is a little on the plainer and uninventive end, and sadly disappointing. The rice noodles are tossed together with some light sauces, herbs, peanuts and topped with slightly overcooked beef cubes.

Green Iced Tea, Ms G’s Famous Yuzu Slushee, Pina “Pearls” Colada

After a painstakingly long week, it didn’t take long before four little girls indulged in over half of the entire cocktail list. As my cocktail palate prefers fruity cocktails, my favourite of the night was the Green Tea cocktail served in the bubble tea cup with a mix of Zubrowka vodka, cloud & mist tea, grapefruit bitters, green apple and soda. The Polish vodka works here, it’s dry and has an unique fruity, fresh note.

On the sour end of cocktails, the Yuzu is a favourite; the limoncello (a Italian lemon liqueur) works well with the vodka, yuzu juice and orange bitters. The Aloe Vera and Choya Cobbler were also causing “mmms” and licking lips around the table.

Stoner’s Delight

A night out with the girls never ends without dessert. The Stoner’s Delight catches our eye and it’s a crazy (good) mess of banana ice cream, chocolate, crushed pretzels, peanut brittle, toasted marshmallows and chocolate rice bubbles cubes. It’s not a high class dessert, but it works, particularly with the Gen Y’s, bringing back memories of school fete days filled with peanut brittle pieces, rice bubble crackle filled patty cases and toasted marshmallows.

Ms G'sPandan Chiffon Cake

But the hero of the night is the pandan chiffon cake, which by this point, the combination of darkness and tipsyness equals blurry photo. Imagine a warm yet light and fluffy pandan chiffon cake sitting on a bed of sweet sago, all topped with a freezing cold scoop of coconut sorbet and finally garnished with sweet strawberries. Mmmmmm!

Get in early to kick back over bubble tea cocktails, banh mi and lipsmacking desserts.

Ms G’s
155 Victoria St
Potts Point, Sydney
www.merivale.com/#/msgs/msgs

Ms G's on Urbanspoon

March 7, 2011

Greenhouse by Joost, Sydney

by minibites

I love a Sunday that starts off with sunshine, an exciting brunch and a wander around art galleries, the markets or just lounging around. This Sunday instead of typical bacon and eggs, it was at the new pop-up in town, Greenhouse by Joost. Facing Sydney’s greatest icons is the Greenhouse made from recycled/able materials transported most quickly and efficiently and leaving the smallest ecological footprint as possible.

Walk into a room filled with words wall to wall, coriander bouquets in jar vases, seats made from aluminium pipes and saddle leather offcuts and plenty of natural light (yay!!).

The menu is short and simple. Its philosophy is to be as “waste free” as possible, by making breads, pizza bases and pastas as they go, freshly squeezed juices and a menu based on seasonal ingredients, and most importantly what is available locally.

Seared mullet, mixed tomato salad

My fellow foodies weren’t hyperventilating when they saw the seared mullet on the menu, but their minds did change when they tasted it. The fish was perfectly seared with a crisp skin and soft, lean fish. The dish was fresh and simple with the fish lightly seasoned and tomatoes just lightly tossed with olive oil.

Wagyu beef gerello, green papaya, peanut, tamarind

The beef is a little tough to cut, but considering we’re using a blunt wooden knife…. The meat was still wholesome and juicy, with the perfect bite of papaya salad.

Artichoke, mozzarella cheese & chorizo pizza

The pizza is one of the simpler dishes on the menu, with the pizza base made from flour milled inhouse and cooked just right in the woodfire oven; leaving the pizza crispy yet nice and doughy on the inside.

Raspberry & chocolate macarons, caramel fudge

Peaches & cream

Brunches that end on a sweet note are always better. The macarons are surprisingly one of the best I’ve had with a gooey centre, and the slice of caramel fudge reminded me of the soft Werther’s Originals I used to eat as a little girl.

The peaches and cream is an interesting dessert but it works, the peaches are poached in the sweet wine, Moscato, and sits on a bed of vanilla bean mascarpone with crunchy toffee and crushed pistachio. Delicious!

Even though it’s brunchtime, there’s always a time for cocktails! For gin lovers, it’s a delight to see half of the menu is based on gin. Cocktail #1 is for the traditionalist; mixed with gin, elderflower, citrus juices, cucumber and parsley and for those who love a twist, #2 is the pick, with gin mixed with homemade marmalade, basil and lime.

Make sure the eco friendly adventure ends up at the rooftop bar, to soak in the view and smell the amazing herbs growing. Look for the orange storage containers and walls of strawberry pot plants from afar!

Greenhouse by Joost
Campbells Cove
The Rocks, Sydney
http://greenhousebyjoost.com

March 4, 2011

QVB Tea Room High Tea

by minibites

Instead of the chicken roll Saturday morning with the boys, it was a pleasant change to have high tea brunch (or otherwise known as a fast paced gossip session) with the girls. “High tea” originated in the 17th century, where the Duchess would invite her friends over to have a meal of breads, small cakes and tea. Queen Victoria later made it popular but high tea was actually enjoyed by the working class, and low tea was served to the rich.

We didn’t don any pearls or high button silk blouses, but opted for the elaborate QVB tea room. The QVB tea room is amazing gorgeous; naturally lit, floral tea sets and goodies served on the traditional 3-tier Royal Albert silver sets. It is a set menu with a 3-tier set of savories and sweets and a tea of your choosing.

I choose an Earl Grey tea, many hate the smell of it, but I love it! There’s something that reminds me of having tea with my grandma.

The savoury tier

The savoury tier was filled with cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches, egg sandwiches and a platter of buttery scones with a platter of fresh cream and homemade strawberry jam. Being my first high tea, I have to admit that I’m not a complete fan of cucumber sandwiches… perhaps my tummy was feeling tipsy turvy that morning. I did love the scones with unstrained and lumpy sweet strawberry jam.

The sweet tiers

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, so the glistering lemon & almond babycakes, vibrant fruit tarts, artificially looking macarons, sugar dusted passionfruit shortbread and dark tiramisu sponge cake all sat there waiting for me to gobble them all up. The tier with the tiramisu sponge was my favourite, with just the perfect amount of bite sized pieces. The second tier of sweets were very disappointing, with a unsatisfying macaron and passionfruit “sandwich”.

It was a lovely way to start the weekend, but the hunt is definitely on to look for more high tea places!

QVB Tea Room
Lvl 3, North End, QVB
455 George St, Sydney
www.thetearoom.com.au

The Tea Room, Queen Victoria Building on Urbanspoon