Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Baraka, Leichhardt

It's very hard to give a moderate review to Baraka as it's one of my favourite restaurants and close to home being in the Italian Forum. Generally restaurant staff in the forum will bark at you in an attempt to entice you into the restaurant, when you live in the building this is wearing especially when so few of them remember your face. Originally we went into the restaurant on the strength of this fact alone and it firmly placed itself in our hearts ever since.

At the end of last year, when the restaurant was called Sahara, it shut its doors for renovations and then after a length delay re-opened as Baraka with the Safari Bar next door. The boy had his nose pressed to the glass willing them to complete renovations the whole time. The new dining room is warm and inviting and heavy on the dark woods.

To be honest I don't think the timing was the best and I fear they are suffering more than others in a hard economic time. I am rather hoping that my review will convince some people to go as the food is so amazing that word of mouth is sure to follow. Baraka is firmly Moroccan fare, with some concession to flavours brought in from Spain and France. The sauces are heavenly and the food warming but not overly heavy.

We decide to start in the bar with some African alcohol now that the bar is full service, all in the interest of food exploration of course!

South African Beer - Windhoek $7.50

South African Wine - Nederburg $40

Serengeti Lager $8.00

Salaam! Espanola $14 - spiced rum with blended mango and peach with slices of fresh strawberry

The boy sure is confident in his role as my wife - this is his very girly cocktail while we all sip on beer and wine. It's got a punch but its light and fruity and he seems rather happy with himself even while we jibe him about needing an umbrella in it.

Sahara Bread $4.90

Sadly they have changed from using turkish style bread so this is crustier now than I like however the spices and excellent quality olive oil still make this a real treat and worthy of using the stomach space.

Salt and Pepper Calimari $15.90

This has a more mediterranean feel than the Asian salt and pepper squid you may be used to. The squid is fresh and cooked to perfection and though the boy and I are not big seafood people we all fall on this delighted. The home made mayonnaise based sause is also light and well seasoned and it is served with a dressing made of that Moroccan staple - preserved lemon.

Merguez Sausages $14.90

Home made sausages with harissa and preserved lemon are grilled and served on top of a chickpea ragout with a light sweet curry flavour, heavy on the cinnamon and very addictive. What seemed like an 'uneventful' entree ends with all the party scraping the bottom of the bowl to get at the remaining sauce. If there'd been any bread left it would have been used to mop up the remains.

Barilla $16.90

This is one of their stunning signature dishes which is so unique and unusual to other restaurants that it simply must be ordered. Light filo pastry is filled with chicken and almond and flavoured with cinnamon and orange blossoms. Around the dish a heady aromatic sauce made with a heavy hand of rose water; it rounds off the palette with a sensual mouth feel and musky flavour that lingers while managing to not be heavy. Every member of the party makes unintelligable noises of delight and surprise when they put the sauce in their mouth and then the elbowing fight begins to ensure each gets their own generous serve.

Sahara Feast $24.90

Chicken is marinated in morroccan spices and grilled over kebabs. This is well spiced and light and served with a fresh citrus salad but really isn't my favourite of their dishes, though it is good lacking the mouth-gasmic sauces of the other dishes it leaves me wanting. I think the price is a little rich when compared to the other servings.

Fez Chicken Tagine $23.90

You really can't eat Moroccan food without trying a traditional tagine casserole dish, especially as they come out served in their little chimneyed pots and are whisked off to reveal the steam and spices below!

This is their dish that won me over; chicken is stewed on the bone in both thigh and breast pieces in a light sauce of strong preserved lemon with olives and onion. The olives take on the sauce and explode with flavour in your mouth, the chicken falls off the bone in a satisfying way and the whole dish is both warming and yet still light. Preserved lemon is not as sharp as fresh lemon and gives a different flavoursome approach, definitely worth trying if you haven't before.

Lamb Tajine $25.90

The other tajine we order is a lamb shank stewed in a sweet but not overly hot curry; in fact most of the food at this restaurant is aromatic but not overly spicy. Moroccan is strong on cinnamon and clove but not on chilli, leaving a lot of intense flavour but not the heat that turns some off. You can taste every last bite of the food and you really want to! This curry is mixed with stewed prunes and the sweetness of the prunes with the rich tender lamb on the bone mixes well with the woody spices of the sauce.

Fig and Date pudding $11.90

You can see from the corner cut out of it that it was so enticing I couldn't stop people digging in before I got a photo. As expected after the rest of the meal the sauce is just amazing, the pudding rich and moist.

Creme Caramel $11.90

Another dessert classic done well, you can tell that some of the staff are Spanish as this has the real toffee flavour of flan with dribbles of deliciously light sugar sauce.

Minted tea $4.50

After a rich meal a tea doesn't go astray and this is served in delightful silverware and Moroccan glassware topped with fresh mint.

Tawny Port $7.00

And why not a port to finish off? It is Winter after all.

The sauces here are amazing and the food inviting and memorable, not to mention something a little different in the Italian heavy Leichhardt. They have tried to insert some more mediterranean food into the menu, presumeably to get more customers in, but ignore this you can get that kind of food anywhere in the Forum. What makes this place stand out and where they shine is the spiced and fresh Moroccan food.

Sadly my favourite Maitre'D seems to no longer work at the restaurant, I wonder if he didn't have a fight with the management about the menu additions; still the service is attentive and the chef is a god. I highly recommend taking a few friends and sharing the dishes. Here we had 3 entrees, 3 mains and 2 desserts between 4 and were dying at the end of the meal, but never ever once thinking we could stop eating. Add in a couple of bottles of wine and some good friends and this is the perfect informal foodie delight.

Restaurant Baraka and Safari Bar
Shop 2-3, Level One, Italian Forum
23 Norton Street
Leichhardt NSW 2040

Fully licensed
No reservation necessary, though they tend to close the kitchen early so arrive before 8:30

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recipe: Lemon Curd Pie Filling

From Lemon Tart

Lemon Curd Pie Filling

100g butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
3 lemons
2 tablespoons corn flour
Additional sugar to taste


  • Separate the eggs - this recipe uses only the yolks. 3 egg whites is enough to make a good meringue if you wish to make this into a meringue pie.

  • Grate the rind of the lemons, then cut in half and juice.

  • In a pan melt the butter on very low heat, then add the rind and the cornflour, stirring continuously.

  • Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue stirring, note that the mixture will not take on all the butter.

  • Slowly add the lemon juice stirring as you pour, the acidity will cause the butter to homogenise into the filling.

  • Once all the juice is added and the mixture is a smooth texture add the egg yolks one at a time.

  • Use a smooth stirring action and very low heat to ensure the eggs do not curdle.

  • Taste and add additional sugar as required, I do not generally use extra sugar as I like a tart filling and the condensed milk takes much of the edge off.

  • Continue stirring over a low heat until the mixture is of a consistency desired; ideally a teaspoon should hold its contents upside down for around 2 seconds, more than this will be too thick once it has cooled.

  • Spoon into a blind baked pie case and serve on its own or with cream.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A dinner party inspired by Emiglia-Romagna

Having been unwell all week my diet hasn't been altogether that exciting and featured heavily in the cups of tea and medication department. However by the weekend I was champing at the big for some socialisation and headed to my good friend 's house for some chat and some nosh.


Il Coroncino Verdicchio

Red wine and rosemary risotto

Capel Vale 1998 Merlot

Pan Roasted Chicken with fresh Basil and Balsamic Pesto tossed beans

Galway Pipe Tawny Port

King Island Dairy Roaring 40s Blue and Double Brie, Margaret River Smoked Cheddar and my lemon curd tart

There were actually another couple of wines in there including a 2007 Flying Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and Penfold's Club Port but as we finished a bottle of each of the wines mentioned here between 4 of us and I was medicated for my cold I rather forgot to keep taking pictures. On the plus side at least we didn't make it to the point that drinking the Stone's seemed like a good idea.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aroma Festival @ The Rocks, Sydney

Today we went to the Aroma festival at The Rocks in Sydney; a celebration of 'coffee, chocolate and spice' that definitely fits well with the cold Sydney winter weather.

Unfortunately the crowds were ridiculously big and given that I have a terrible head cold I wasn't in the best of moods. It was difficult to get at many stalls and by the time I left my medication was wearing off and so was my patience with people stopping in front of me and parents driving double wide prams headfirst into crowds.

Given that it was free to attend and in the city I don't regret going and I had a good time but my mood didn't make it the best day despite the excellent crisp weather. I think if anything my largest complaint is that the festival was so close to the Good Food and Wine Show and shared many of the same exhibitors.

There was quite a bit of coffee and tea going but there's only so many hot drinks you can put in yourself so you'll note that most of my pictures are of various sweets; most of which I brought home rather than ate as I had that "sick, don't want to eat" feeling and instead held out my stomach space for soothing vegetable ramen after the festival.

Just a few people, the crowds like this stretched for about a kilometre.

Anyone need sweetener?

The Pony Lounge

Gumnut gourmet chocolates $6.50 for 3

Gumnut Chocolates lured me in with free samples and we walked away with Chilli Cinnamon Chocolate and the Coffee Lovers Trio

Voodoo slices $2.50

Voodoo make a range of classic slices that are to die for including a rich creamy caramel and my favourite; a lemon and coconut slice with a crisp citrusy icing that I can never go past.

Voodoo Dark Hot Chocolate $4

This hot chocolate was amazing and I suspect that it was simply watered down couverture. Thankfully the boy and I had agreed to share a cup because by the end this was getting a little too sweet but it was warming and sticky and delightful for a sick person!

Italian nougat and gingerbread

Flavoured marshmallows from Sweetness the Patisserie $12 for a mix pack or $3.50 for two large marshmallows

Sweetness are a bit of a local legend and make a variety of seasonal fruit marshmallows, I walked away with some gorgeous passionfruit mallows containing real fruit and a fresh tangy flavour.

The Cupcake Bakery $3.50 per cake

I walked away with a Red Velvet cupcake and a Carrot Cake cupcake but there was a chilli chocolate that looked right up my alley; at 3.50 a cake though you really need to pick your flavours.

Giant cupcake!

Ghermez Cupcakes $3.80 each

I think Ghermez suffered for being at the far end of the festival past multiple other cupcake vendors, sadly by the time I got there they were sold out of all the flavours I was interested in but they certainly looked worth a future try.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review: White Cockatoo Pub Bistro, Petersham

A friend of ours had read an article on "giant food" servings in Sydney and found mention of the bistro at this pub so suggested that we head off to the White Cockatoo pub in Petersham.

The main schtick of the pub is its "loaded schnitzels" and though there are any number of other standard pub meals on the board we all order a variation on the schnitzel. Having read the review we knew to order one meal between two, but really even this was far too much and by the end of the meal we still can't finish the serve.

Apologies for the quality of the photos, I forgot my camera and so these were snapped on someone's phone in poor lighting with no flash.

Hawaiian schnitzel - Ham and Pineapple with cheese - $18.90

The coaster is provided for a size reference more than anything, keeping in mind that the coaster is 4 inches wide this really shows how ridiculously big the meal is.

Mediterranean schnitzel - Mozzarella, cream, pinenut and parsley - $18.90

Boscaiola schnitzel - Cream, mushroom, peas and bacon $18.90

Cheese schnitzel - Ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar and feta $18.90

All of the schnitzels have much the same review; they're absolutely huge, far too big for the oversized platter and far too big even for two people. The schnitzels are thick and juicy, well breaded and and not too oily, the chips are unnecessary but well made. Despite the size of the meal we all fall on the side salad that someone ordered just for the freshness and acidity after the richness of the food.

The loaded toppings are divine for the first few bites and become almost painful at the end; not because of poor quality but because the meal is so large and so rich. By the end we each leave a piece about the size of a normal schnitzel on the plate and are glad for a walk home in the cold. I don't know that anyone could finish one on their own without having drunk a small ocean of beer first, however with a relatively cheap bar in the pub, a wide screen TV pumping out sports and a welcoming open fire this may not be an issue. We decide to return without a doubt, but vow next time to order the schnitzel plain with lemon or at best with gravy in the hope we may finish the meal.

While eating we are interested to note that the chefs at the bistro are Spanish through and through and we spy an excellent looking tortilla in the window and check excitedly for the listing of flan on the menu (though finding space for dessert may be hard). It's a short walk from home and as good as I'm going to get short of flying home to my grandmother's food.

All in all the first meal was far too heavy but we've learnt what to order now and the price, size and quality make this a standout pub counter meal worth a walk in the cold.

White Cockatoo Pub Bistro
30 Terminus Street,
(02) 9569 4675
Opposite Petersham Station

Fully licenced, pub atmosphere
No reservation necessary

Chinese style mango pudding

And yes, I've justified myself by saying that since it contains milk and fruit that it *is* an acceptable breakfast food. ;o)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: The Point, Broadway

A long time ago I went to The Broadway Cafe with a few friends to discover they had the most awesome possible range of hot chocolates including a chilli hot chocolate that made my burning spice addict brain tingle with delight. All of last winter we would ride past on the bus and say "we need to go there this winter" but we didn't, and then this year we made it a vow that we would.

Unfortunately when we arrived we discovered that it's not actually the same cafe any more and is now "The Point" a bustling inner city pizza and beer join aimed squarely at the financially mobile student populace from nearby UTS and USyd. Having been undecisive about dinner and gone on a magical random bus trip (I'm easily excitable especially when it comes to free council buses) by the time we arrived we were starving; we were eating *here* and *now* no matter what was on the menu!

For a Thursday night it was really quite packed and every outside table was full, something you can't see all that well from my dimly lit picture.

Most of the menu is either pizza or sort of pub classics; steak, schnitzel, burgers and fish and chips but with a distinctive increase in quality from the $5 pub meals nearby. I will say that I rather wish I drank beer as they had a lovely array of beers at really affordable prices including a "bucket of beer" for $20 - an ice bucket full of beer bottles at your table which looked mildly tempting, if only it had been cider! We decided to buck our standard ordering approach and stick to what the venue appears to do best - Pizza!

"Shark Island" $12.90 - Salmon, Avocado, Red onion, Brie, Capers and Mozarrella

The boy and I ended up ordering quite similar meals really, but they were both damn tasty. The individual size is $12.90 though a large pizza to share could have been purchased for $22.90. The base was freshly made and quite soft and tasty, not too thick and just the right level of chewy and fresh. Unfortunately on this pizza the salmon was rather overpowered by all the cheese.

"The Alley" $12.90 - Chicken, Asparagus, Avocado, Mozzarella, Brie

My pizza is really quite similar, though I wish I'd had the foresight to add the red onion to my pizza as I love it to bits. The brie sits beautifully with the avocado and chicken, I'm not sure that the additional Mozzarella was really necessary but it's not overpowering or heavy handed so I let it lie. The Chicken has evidently been prebaked and diced and may be a little dry for some, but its hardly the worst chicken I've ever had on a pizza.

The thing that I must say about this meal was that it sat amazingly well on the stomach, I left satiated but not bloated and stayed that way for several hours to follow; the kind of mid week casual dinner date that fits perfectly into a modern inner city lifestyle.

The Point @ Cafe Broadway
166 Broadway
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9212 2010

Fully licensed
No reservation necessary