The Sydney Good Food Guide award winners have just been announced and I'm all excited because the 'eating season' is just about to start again. I think there were many deserving winners this year - The Bridge Room, Momofuku Seiobo amongst others. There were a couple of good and bad surprises though - I thought Sixpenny would have received more than 1 hat because of the hype around them when they first opened, Tomislav would certainly sit comfortably among the 2-hatters based on a recent visit and I personally think Honeycomb should get one hat since Cafe Sopra has one because the quality of Andy Bunn's food is much better than what Cafe Sopra now serves. Moreover, was the 1-hat based on reviews of all Cafe Sopra branches? I think Quay is absolutely worthy of being Restaurant of the Year and although I'm still bummed that Tetsuya hasn't got its 3rd hat back (yet), winning the Diner's Choice award confirms his place in Sydney's food scene. And his star is also shining brightly in Singapore's dining scene with the excellent work he's put in at Waku Ghin. More on that to come but first, this year's winners list in the city area.
Est, Marque Restaurant, Momofuku Seiobo, Quay, Rockpool on George, Sepia
Aria, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, The Bridge Room, Buon
Ricordo, Claude's, Four In Hand Dining Room, Gastro Park, Guillaume at
Bennelong, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Longrain, Ormeggio at the Spit,
Pilu at Freshwater, Porteno, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple,
A Tavola, Aki's, The Apollo, Arras, Assiette, Balla, Bar H,
The Bathers' Pavilion, Billy Kwong, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode CBD, Black
by Ezard, The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay, Buzo Trattoria, Cafe Sopra,
Catalina, China Doll, Chiswick, Clareville Kiosk, The Devonshire, Fish
Face, Flying Fish, 4Fourteen, Foveaux, Glass Brasserie, Jonah's,
Lucio's, Ms.G's, The Ortolan on Bayswater, Oscillate Wildly, Otto
Ristorante, Pendolino, Sake Restaurant & Bar, Sean's Panaroma,
Sixpenny, Three Blue Ducks, Tomislav, Uccello, Ume, Xanthi
Pier Restaurant (closed) 594 New South Head Road Rose Bay, NSW 2029
It's with a very heavy heart that I'm writing this entry. As the words are being typed, Pier would have closed its doors for good. One could be positive and celebrate all the good years it's had, the wonderful plates they served. But I'm sad because Pier is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney and a place which holds special memories for me.
Yup, in case you're wondering. I do watch Masterchef. Although I don't follow the series religiously and there are bits about it that I don't particularly fancy, it's hard for me to stay away from it since it's Australia's biggest reality cooking competition on TV (and plus I pretty much watch whatever reality cooking competitions I lay my hands on). I won't say I'm a huge fan but I do have my favourite contestants - people who I've felt are worthy winners. And my all time favourite is season 2 winner, Adam Liaw. So when the Masterchef pop up came along, I thought it would be a great idea to sample his food since it didn't seem like his restaurant was going to open anytime soon. And since Da knew who knew Adam Liaw (because of the Masterchef phenomenon that had swept through Asia), she decided to join in for the novelty of the pop-up experience during her one week visit.
So I finally made good on my promise to return for a regular meal on a regular night after the interesting Just Desserts event I attended during Crave Sydney last year. For me, Tomislav always seems to slide slightly under the radar because many other chefs who seem to have the same calibre as Chef Tomislav Martinovic spend quite a bit of time under the media spotlight these days. So to be honest, it wasn't my idea to pay a revisit. R was the one who did the googling one day and thought that I would like the current menu at Tomislav — a table was immediately booked.
I get why some restaurants do extremely well in this city. And I get why the Merivale Group is thriving - new concept restaurants opening one after another when many in this city are doing the opposite. And it's meals like these that while simple, helps to keep things interesting. Having seen success with the previous events, The Hangover was back for a 3rd installment. I thought the whole concept of serving food that's great after a hangover was a cheeky and really fun idea.
We started with the creating of our own Bloody Mary at the bar. Shots of vodka were poured into tall glasses lined with celery salt by the bartenders and the rest was left up to us. A buffet spread of limes, lemons, tabasco sauce, worcestershire sauce, chilli, beef stock (!), tomatoes, wasabi, fresh celery, cucumbers, tomato juice etc. were all laid out to be part of our concoction. I wasn't so adventurous (thank god!) cos R who decided to go out on a limb with the beef stock ending up with a pretty savoury drink which wasn't too appetising.
Twitter is a very essential form of social media these days. I don't think anyone who runs a restaurant or has a Twitter account would disagree with that. Unlike Facebook which I use to keep in touch with friends that do not live in the same country as I do, I use Twitter primarily as a news source where I can get the latest information on anything that I'm interested in. And needless to say, I follow many accomplished food writers, chefs and other bloggers so that I can get first hand information to what people are eating, who's got a new menu about to launch, an upcoming pop-up dinner and of course, the newest and hottest new restaurants. And that's how I came to know about Hartsyard. It was just simply too difficult for me to ignore the draw of fried chicken after seeing Pat Nourse's tweet.
But of course, there were other things that spoke to me on the menu so I swiftly called up Hartsyard and scored a reservation just after a few days it opened. We were received with great hospitality by the staff and especially by Naomi, co-owner and wife of Chef Gregory Llewellyn. You can read more about both of them here. Whilst waiting for the food to arrive, I saw Naomi and her team explaining dishes and engaging in small talk with the customers. It was really pleasant and as a customer, I loved that there was so much pride and effort put in to making sure that the service was matched with the food that they were proud to serve.
Pei Modern is Mark Best's foray into the Melbourne dining scene but if you're expecting what Mark Best does at his 3-hatted Sydney restaurant Marque, you're certainly at the wrong place. Granted that there are some dishes that were carried over such as the caramelised tomato dessert, the almond gazpacho and dutch cream potatoes dish which blew me away at Marque but Pei is the simpler and less formal sister of Best's flagship restaurant.
The horrid and cold weather today reminded me of 2 things in Melbourne - how we braved the rain in windy Melbourne just to get food off a mobile food truck and how comforting the warm gumbo with rice was in the cold.
A week ago, I was off to Melbourne for one crazy weekend of eating again. And this time, I spent a little more time south of the Yarra River. I like the South Yarra area very much. There are nice cafes, shops and is generally just a nice place to walk around. If I was living in Melbourne, I reckon that I would love to stay not too far from the area.
South Yarra is certainly not lacking of good food. I've heard loads about Dainty Sichuan before this trip. J had been asking us to pay a visit since over a year ago when R & I first went to Melbourne for a short getaway. And then there's Anthony Bourdain who's featured this place on one of his popular TV shows and tweeted about it recently when he was in Melbourne for the Food and Wine Festival. Since Melbourne has countless exciting cafes to check out, Sichuan food is usually not on the list but I figured it was time to find out what the hype was.
Having been to Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Inc. and Cutler & Co. on my previous visits to Melbourne, I made sure to include Golden Fields on my dining list when I was in town for a wedding. The menu at Golden Fields has an Asian slant and I was keen to find out how it fared against his other establishments considering that the rest focus on modern Australia type cuisine.
As expected, McConnell’s newest venture is hip and cool, just like the other 2 establishments he has. The dining room is contemporary and large. Somehow, all of McConnell’s restaurants have an edge – the high ceilings and the sleek décor. Golden Fields has a fairly large amount of bar seating that is ever so popular today and we were lucky enough to plonk ourselves on those high bar stools to watch the chefs at work.
A case of indecision and bad traffic brought an unexpected visit to Honeycomb one night. And I think it turned out to be a night of pleasant surprises. Honeycomb, opened approximately 6 months ago, is owned and run by Andy Bunn of Café Sopra fame. He was known for creating Sopra’s straightforward Italian (with a modern Australian twist) menu. And where do I begin about that famous Banoffee Pie?!
The Dip at GoodGod 55 Liverpool Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Tel: +61 (02) 9283 8792 Website: http://thedip.com.au/
It’s funny how I’ve never been to Claude’s on days when the regular menu is served. The first time I visited was over a year ago for a special Hakka dinner during the Crave Food Festival which you can read about here. Then I returned again a couple of nights back for one of the special dinners that’s leading up to their closure for renovation. This time, it was an American-themed dinner which featured a collaboration with Andrew Levins from The Dip. There seemed to be quite a bit of hype built up for the event probably because it was mentioned on the papers. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the type of food that was going to be served. And because of that, I was pleasantly surprised to see a menu of American favourites when we got to Claude’s.
I’ve seen a whole lot of Matt Moran on TV but have never tried the food at his restaurants. However, when I learnt about the impending opening of Chiswick, I got excited. The menu isn’t fancy but what you will find there are comforting favourites and are pretty much the kind of food you could have all the time, again and again. And that was enough to catch my attention. You see, as much as I like to wine and dine at the fancy places, I love a casual place where I can just enjoy the food (especially over lunch) and the atmosphere with good friends. And I think Chiswick fits the bill here.
I visited Four in Hand 1.5 years ago and to be honest, I wasn’t completely bowled over. However, I like what Chef Colin Fassnidge has done with his newest venture, Paddo Arms. The space at the back of the bar enjoys good light, has high ceilings and is an extremely inviting and cosy space. It just has all the makings of a great place for Sunday lunch with good friends or family.
Roast Bone Marrow with Celeriac Remoulade & Grilled Bread
Special: Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables
The food was on the whole, pretty enjoyable and had reasonable prices. I loved the celariac remoulade that came with the bone marrow and the fish wasn't overcooked. The only criticism I have is that the Onion Rings and Fish and Chips were a tad too oily. Perhaps, the kitchen could have left the oil to drain a little before putting the dishes on the plate because the chips that sat under the fish became soggy as a result of the excess oil. That said, the food was straightforward and comforting. Kinda like the food that you want to have when it’s gloomy and rainy outdoors. If you live around the area, this is the ‘local’ that you’ll want to go to again and again.
House Made Onion Rings with Hot Sauce & Coleslaw
And maybe, a return trip to Four in Hand is in order.
A failed attempt at getting us a table at The Press Club left us with a reservation at Hellenic Republic, another one of George Colombaris’ establishments. It only seemed apt to have a taste of Greek cuisine considering that we were in Melbourne which has the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece.
If you’ve been following for a while, you’d know that I like a good breakfast. R and I sometimes lament about how it gets pretty similar after a while especially after having magnificent and creative breakfasts in Melbourne. So when I caught wind that Orto Trading Co. was going to open for breakfast, I went online, perused their menu and quickly proceeded to put them on my ‘to go’ list.
Hot-smoked fillet of ocean trout with heirloom tomato bruschetta,
fresh lime and a poached egg
I really enjoyed breakfast and could possibly make it my “regular” brekkie/brunch spot. Apart from the eggs being slightly over and a little missed bone, I really loved the ocean trout although R didn’t fancy the coldness of it. When it arrived on the table, the colours just looked so appetising. It might be weird for some to have fish in the morning but hey, it’s like having a whole chunk of smoked salmon! And technically, since I can eat Nasi Lemak in the morning for breakfast anyway, fish for breakfast? Not a problem!
Boston baked beans served with maple glazed pearl onions,
chorizo and a poached egg
R’s order of Boston baked beans was a hearty start to his morning. Again, eggs were slightly overdone but the dish was nonetheless tasty and made a good breakfast option. I love the space that Orto is in and on a day with good weather, it’s lovely to sit in the outdoor courtyard and watch the world go by. I’ll definitely be returning to Orto for breakfast again soon and considering that the food is pretty decent, a dinner at Orto should be making its way on my ‘to go’ list… right about now.
I know that this comes awfully late because I haven’t had much inspiration to put any words down. In fact, other than checking my email, FB and Twitter feeds (which I can pretty much do with my trusty iPad), I haven’t been spending much time with my computer. Well but as they say, it’s better late than never. And I had already missed doing one of these lists for 2010, how could I miss out on doing a recap of 2011 – the year of eating?! So I thought about different ways I wanted to present this but I figured that my top 10 food-worthy moments should be an appropriate way to pay homage to the awesome year past.
My visit to Michel Bras was one of the highlights of 2011. The planning of the trip and everything around it to make sure R & I made it there, the train and car ride, the first time we spotted Bras in the distance as we were driving in the country, the beautiful scenery, the food, the service, the refillable mini-bar, seeing Sebastian Bras in the kitchen. The list goes on really and I hope to put it all down in one entry. For now, I’m just terribly grateful that we made the trek down to the middle of France for this experience. Yes, it took terribly long – hours on the train and car. Plus, a left hand drive needed some getting used to (thank god we had an automatic car). But it was a trip well worth it and if I had to, I’d do it all over again. Or rather, I’d choose to do it all over again just for a bottle of their inhouse lemonade.
Everyone who I’ve spoken to about my trip to London has heard about my experience at Ducasse. My first full experience to a renowned 3 Michelin Star restaurant was full of little anecdotes. From the moment we walked through the doors of the Dorchester until we were seated at our table, we must have met at least 3 or 4 people who ushered us along. And then we had delicious French cuisine and in particular, the chicken and lobster dish and an awesome cheese platter which made me discover a new found love for blue cheese. To top it off, we were offered to doggy-bag our mignardises home because we were too full plus we were gifted with a little cake to have for breakfast the next morning! What I regret though was playing it safe with the tea I ordered. If I only knew before hand that someone was going to push a trolley of plants to my table and make me tea from there, I would have ordered that!
Meeting David Chang in person at the opening service of Seiobo and having him bring food to our table was in itself a huge highlight. R had swooned relentlessly over those famous pork buns that Dave Chang had become so renowned for and it was that night that I finally understood the hype. Who doesn’t love a tasty piece of pork belly in a soft bun?! I know I did and I’m so glad that I can now have it anytime I feel like it. There were many other standout dishes that night – the crab and Yorkshire pudding, the pasta dish, marron with lemon, the miso ice cream and the oh-so-delicious bo-ssam at the end. A welcomed addition to the Sydney dining scene? Most definitely.
Chez l’ami Jean was the only restaurant during my Europe tour which I dined at twice. We had different savoury items on both consecutive nights but on the second night, we knew what we wanted for dessert – the renowned Riz Au Lait. In fact, that was the reason for our return even if it meant that I was going to have my dinner at 10.30pm. This dessert goes down in history as one of the best I’ve ever eaten and possibly the best rice pudding that I’ll ever have. It was light yet creamy and all of the accompaniments like the roasted pralines and salted caramel butter made the dish. I’ve recommended this to all my friends who’ve visited Paris recently and one of them who did pay a visit has also been raving about it too. If I manage another visit to Paris, you’ll know where to find me!
I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it to Sweden. And even if I do, I’m not sure I can get a table at Magnus Nilsson's 12-seater restaurant. Especially now that there’s this enamour with the whole Nordic, Noma-esque type of cuisine, I figured that the Magnus dinner during the Crave Festival was one worth going to. There were many “firsts” at this dinner. It was the first time I had ever eaten (raw) ox heart, got served a huge raw leek which was dangling off a plate because it was too big to fit, saw a couple take off after they realised they were seated at a communal table and witnessed a whole table take photos with (note WITH not OF) their food then took off for a smoke break, leaving the food untouched. These were a couple of standout dishes. The uni served in a mini pig’s blood cup was delicious and so was the ox heart tartare which was served with bone marrow that was sawed off right next to our table. The raw leek? Not so much of a fan and I’m not sure I would want to have such a dish again despite the delicious mullet roe and beer cream accompaniments.
If I had to name one meal where everything was spot on, this would be IT. It wasn’t a Michelin Star experience but the food at this little restaurant in a back alley of a neighbourhood far from the touristy spots of Paris was probably one of the best, if not the best meal we had all trip. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.
Unkempt and dishevelled from an almost 24 hour transit and plane ride, we arrived in London and had our first proper meal at Dinner. The lengths we went through trying to shift the itinerary which we had already planned just to make way for this last minute reservation was crazy, but we did it. And the food was every bit worth it. I loved the ‘throwback to the old days’ concept and the execution of every dish. I also loved the service and the dining room with high ceilings and full length windows bringing beautiful light - perfect for picture taking. Granted it was a little pricey but it was a meal well worth the experience for me. Well, since my visit, it’s earned its first Michelin Star so it must be doing something right.
I’ve dined at Torisho Taka a couple of times before and I’ve enjoyed myself every single time. It is probably one of my favourite restaurants in Singapore. I hadn’t visited Torisho Taka in maybe slightly over a year prior to my visit in 2011 so I thought it was going to be a great experience for R’s visit to Singapore since we don’t have many great kushiyaki joints in Sydney. The food didn’t disappoint and R enjoyed the food tremendously even though he was forced into trying raw chicken which he now raves about. That’s the dish that I always order, along with the pork belly marinated with miso and a delicious bowl of oyako-don. Meat on skewers does it for me everytime.
#9 Salted Egg Yolk Crabs at Beverly Hills Chinese Restaurant, Sydney, Australia
delicious looking picture courtesy of CL
This was probably one of the most delicious, decadent, rich and artery-clogging dishes I had in 2011 (the other would be huge pieces of foie gras in Europe). I love crabs, especially large, sweet and juicy ones. And in Singapore, there’s usually no shortage of it. There’s a famous place in back home serving Salted Egg Yolk Crab but this version that I had in Sydney, beats the one back in Singapore. Hands down. The crabs are usually large and juicy but the star of the dish is that savoury fried salted egg yolk which coats the lightly fried pieces of crabs. I usually even save the copious amounts of egg yolk to mix into my bowl of fried rice! A visit here is always about the crabs so imagine the horror from the boss when we ordered 8 crabs for 10 people. Believe it or not, we cleared it all up and went home with a few more blocked arteries but boy, would we do it all over again!
Like my dad, I’m a big fan of dips, pates and terrines. And I say that Hellenic Republic’s White Cod Roe Dip would have been right up my dad’s alley. R, my sis and I were extremely full from a wedding lunch but we powered through dinner here and as much as we knew that the flat bread was going to fill us up quickly and set us back for the rest of the meal, we couldn’t stop having it because of that delicious dip! The food was overall pretty enjoyable, save for the desserts which weren’t really the highlights of the evening. Prices are reasonable and I would eat there often if I lived in Melbourne. But since I don’t, I highly propose that George Colombaris packages this dip and sell them in delis or markets because I will be the first in line for them.
So that wraps up 2011 for me. We're almost at the end of the first quarter of 2012 and I've already had some wonderful things. It's time for me to play catch up (AGAIN!). Here's to more eating in what's left of 2012!