Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Cut, The Rocks

The first thing I will say about this post is that it seems that the trend has changed in Sydney restaurants. Once you couldn't get a booking for love or money on a Monday night, and now it seems Sunday is the day of rest. The restaurants we had originally picked out for my birthday dinner were not bookable and so it was further afield I looked, The Cut didn't disappoint.

Sadly the ambient lighting while well suited to the environment didn't take the best picture on my camera without a flash, but the heavy wood furniture and throne style chairs were perfectly suited to the type of restaurant. Also note the group tables perfect for a family or work dinner for 8-10.

Sourdough, butter and oil complimentary with dinner

Good simple bread, the oil was fresh and excellent, worth a dip.

Not pictured: 2006 Cloudy Bay Pelorus Marlborough, NZ $18

Stupidly I forgot to take pictures of the wine, this is actually one of my favourite non French sparkling wines if you see it on a menu choose this over another tired Champagne. Crisp lively and fresh it lacks the heavy toasty of some Champagnes but is an excellent drop in the Southern Summer.

Chicken Liver Pate, Pickled Peach Sorbet, Jamon & Mache $20

The liver pate itself was very well done, not strong on alcohol flavouring as I prefer but smooth and heavy.  Despite the pate itself being excellent the accompaniments let it down. Liver parfait is best served with a sticky sweet accompaniment, the cleansing sorbet neither accompanied or cut through the fat it just sort of... melted away leaving too clean a taste behind. The brioche too seemed dry and rather stale, if they make it in house I will be shocked. If you want great pate go to Danks St Depot or Glass, this is good but the sides are not worth it.

Charcuterie Tasting Plate $26

The charcuterie tasting plate was excellent. Serrano Jamon de Jabujanes Gran Reserva,
Prosciutto di San Danielle, Calabrese Salami and Papandrea Fennel Sopressa served with candied mustard fruit and plenty of cornichons. I would have preferred the wait staff to realise that we needed more than 1 slice of bread to get through this pile of meat though.

2008 Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Carménère Conchagua, Chile $98

Usually I like a granache with a steak but the choices we'd made had me hanker for something different. This is a smooth and fruity wine with a freshness familiar to those who like new world wine and the Carménère should be enjoyed by those who like Cabernet.

4-hour Slow Roast Sher F1 Wagyu Standing Rib 400g $56

All prepared to eat his usual dish of grass fed rib eye my partner was distracted by a waiter bearing very shiney things: a side of slow roasted 7 score marbled wagyu. The waiter was kindly enough to give an honest answer on the richness of the food and the serving size that should be ordered. This 400g piece was far too much for my food loving other half, I would suggest instead ordering a 300g ($42) for most. With a similarly excellent salt crust and moist melt in your mouth fatty richness, the rendered fat simply oozing juices from the meat left a very happy boy wishing he could fit more in.

Riverine 150-day, Grain fed Fillet 280g $45

This is probably the best steak I've eaten in Sydney. Grilled to absolute perfection with a crisp caramelised crust, salted just enough, the dark crust hides a perfect medium rare steak. The aged grain fed fillet was tender and the knife slide right through it, this is a steak to savour. I ate it simply with a little lemon and some dijon mustard, the meat is good enough not to require a sauce. Veal jus came with it but was not more exciting than a similar jus at any good steak grill. I will come back for this steak alone, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfectly rested, excellent aged meat treated the way it should be.

Mixed Leaf Salad with Herbs & Lemon Vinaigrette $9

We have learnt not to order rich sides with this kind of meat any more, it goes to waste and leaves us beyond ill. Instead salads, for the boy a mixed leaf salad, nothing special but well done.

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes with Balsamic, Spanish Onion, Radicchio & Goats Cheese $9

Now I like a salad with a bit of difference and this was one fantastic salad. The radicchio had a bitter crispness that really cut through the rich meat, Jerusalem artichokes are quite frankly excellent with everything and pattered with roasted nuts and slices of a mild goats cheese? Just perfect and a great accompaniment in summer.

Affogato $9 Or with your choice of Frangelico, Amaretto or Baileys $14

To be honest the desserts left me a little cold so instead an affogato, Amaretto for preference. A small serve of rich real vanilla bean ice cream with very good quality ristretto makes me suspect their patissier has an Italian bent. Well done and a suitable end to the meal without being cloying.

Lemon Custard on Sugared Puff Pastry, with Elderflower Marshmallow & Rose Geranium Pebbles $15

Take note aspiring chefs this is a supreme lesson in editing your food. What could have been simply a well done de-constructed lemon meringue pie obviously wasn't considered fancy enough for the menu. The Rose Geranium Pebbles were essentially a salted flower caviar gelee that had no purpose on the plate and frankly was a confusing and unnecessary addition that once tried was avoided. The texture alone was off putting let alone the salt, stop over thinking things and just leave a good dessert alone.

I'm not sure if The Cut is still trying to find its feet, there were some absolutely perfect pieces like the salad and meat with some confusing dashes around it like the brioche and the salted mess on dessert. What it does well though is its core business: great quality steak and sides.

Most of the serving staff were good but unfortunately I got the impression that our waiter doesn't like his job. He served out food like a silver service waiter but forgot to tell us about the charcuterie, interrupted our entrée to show me the wine for the next course when we had clearly just been served sparkling, looked miserable the whole time and couldn't make a suggestion about the desserts. Perhaps he wasn't meant to work a Sunday shift, I don't know, but perhaps one less waiter would have been a better experience than a bored one not interested in the food.

Nonetheless I'll be back, but possibly for mains only rather than a 3 course meal.

The Cut Bar and Grill

Up market steak house
Cosy ambience with excellent sound control, good for dates and groups

The Cut Bar & Grill
16 Argyle Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
T +612 9259 5695

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: Bel Mondo, The Rocks

December is simply filled to the brim with events and I had the good fortune of heading to Bel Mondo with a group of female engineers for a business lunch. Unfortunately I was too engaged in conversation to remember to take a picture of the dining room, a dark wood affair encased in a traditional Sydney stone building.

The meal we chose was a 5 Course Degustation, though being a work lunch we opted to order minimal wine rather than drink with every course - I had meetings to go back to after all!

They're currently doing a special that makes business lunches very affordable for a much higher class of food than the usual "red wine and steak" affairs one generally eats with clients. 2 courses $55, 3 courses $72, 5 course degustation $95 (with wines $145). I would definitely recommend this as a place to take your valued clients at the end of the year.

Amuse bouche: Basil Veloute

Tomato and basil consomme with Alaskan King crab, sweet corn and asparagus

Carpaccio of beef with saute mushrooms, wild rocket and shaved pecorino

Fillet of Cone Bay Barramundi with vanilla pomme puree, shaved fennel salad and sauce vierge

Slow cooked lamb shoulder with pea and mint risotto, caramelised garlic and honey puree.

Palate cleanser: Ruby grapefruit granita

Coconut and lychee panna cotta with macerated strawberries and freeze dried mandarin 

A nod to the staff for handling dietary requirements very well. Also a nod to my new phone the HTC Evo 3D which I am now using for food photographs as it now comes with dual 5MP high quality lenses and the added bonus of auto upload to Picasa via Google+

Bel Mondo

Formal dining, modern Australian
Book ahead

Gloucester Walk
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone +61 2 9241 3700 ‎

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The secret to my success

On a Sunday I love to make goulash when I can take the time to really let it simmer and develop flavour. I have discovered the perfect addition to the recipe which really adds depth and richness to the sauce.

Marco Polo Paprika Relish is almost pure roasted pepper puree - nothing nasty added just oil and salt. I found it in the import aisle of my local supermarket. Try it some time!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snapshot: Anita Borg Scholarship Cake!

If you're not already aware I work at the Big G, and periodically we get to do some awesome things... like host a women in computer science scholarship!

Today is the finalists retreat and we organised a special cake for the winners.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Gumshara Ramen, Haymarket

Sydney is one of the few cities in the world that is the perfect mix of East meets West. Like Singapore Asian, Western and Fusion food sit side by side in abundance and great quality.

Gumshara is one of the great examples of this, a tiny purveyor of noodles stuck in the side of a busy but not very fancy food court in Chinatown delivers some of the best ramen south of Osaka.

Tonkotsu ramen with roasted pork, chilli bomb and soft boiled egg $14.50

Like a good noodle store in Japan there's only about 5 items on the menu and they're all good. The soup is made in the traditional style with lots of bones for thick natural collagen. Add additional toppings like eggs, different vegetables or as I have a 'bomb' of high seasoning mixed into a small ball of minced meat. This makes the Tonkotsu above into an instant Spicy Tantan style ramen.

I still believe that the noodles at Ichi Ban Boshi are the best ramen noodles I have ever found - even in Japan (though no one does soba right outside that country) but the noodles here are still good quality, I'd just put a firm bet on them being bought in.

Gumshara is located in the Eating World food court on the Dixon St Mall, a real foodies paradise this is a place for those who know that the best Asian food often comes served on sticky tables where ambience is unrequired because the food is that damn good.

I have recently discovered that Eating World is a short walk from the light rail stop making this an easy meal to get to and return from within an hour long lunch time break from the office.


Eating World Harbour Plaza
Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street
(enter from Goulburn Street or Factory Street)
Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney

Shared table open foodcourt
Super casual - don't expect a real restaurant or table coverings

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Snapshot: Steerson's Steakhouse

I tend to eat at more places than I get a chance to review so I'm going to start  posting "snapshots" of meals I eat between full reviews.

Chicken Terrine with cornichons and grilled leeks $17.50

220g Eye Fillet Steak and Frites $38

Matching wine: Grant Burge Holy Trinity Grenache/Mourvedre blend $78

Steersons Steakhouse

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Nobu, Los Angeles

There are a number of restaurants on my 'food tourism' list that I slowly tick off as I travel the world and Nobu has been on this list for some time.

Nobu is the Japanese Fusion food mecha known more for its celebrity owners than its cuisine which is a shame since the food is amazing and unlike some other food tourism meals was everything I hoped it would be and more. I can say quite comfortably that this was one of the best and most memorable meals of my life and I shall be seeking out other Nobu locations for comparison.

The Los Angeles location is the home of the proprietor and much celebrated Chef Nobu who conveniently was in the kitchen on the date of our visit.

This was also Restaurant Week in Los Angeles; there was a special set menu and the option for an omakase chef chosen tasting menu but my knowledge of Japanese food and the palettes of my fellow diners meant that I custom chose our menu from amongst the dish types. It is worth noting that the Omakase chef's tasting was $150USD and our personally selected meal came to just short of this per person including a bottle of Piper Hiedsick NV at $75USD. If you have a member of your dining party who is familiar with such a menu you may wish to choose your own meal rather than have the chef do the same. The adventurous may wish to trust the chef, be sure to explain your allergies and tastes!

Nobu like to do their rotation in an unusual fashion and put the sushi/sashimi at the end rather than the beginning but as I like to leave any dish of toro till last this was fine by me.

We arrived early due to the chaos of Los Angeles traffic and so sat in the bar for a drink before dinner.

Lychee Martini $14USD and Yamazaki 12 year old $12USD

The dining room is subdued Asian stylings with heavy emphasis on privacy screens, presumeably to hide well known patrons from each other. Unlike other LA restaurants though Nobu seems to attract actual food fans and so there is a lack of the Size 0 brigade I have seen elsewhere which I am thankful for, the poor girls just make me want to feed them.

Arctic Char in a Yuzu Soy with fresh Jalapeno and Coriander (Cilantro) $22USD

This is Asian fusion done just right, in fact when the waiter explained that they are a fusion restaurant rather than pure Japanese I remarked "Oh well Yuzu and Cilantro were made to be together" and then found this on the menu. I was not let down, it is a food combination which always delights and combined with the delicious sashimi and spicy pepper was entirely memorable in a small bite. A great sign for the rest of the meal.

Shishito Peppers $7USD

My partner is very fond of hot food and had enjoyed the shishito at Inakaya so I ordered this. They were lovely and fresh however inconsistently hot and so we opted not to finish the entire dish of peppers for fear our palette would be ruined for the subtle food in the rest of the menu.

Heart of Palm Salad $12USD

After the spicy peppers this cold dish of shavings of heart of palm with pink peppercorns was a real refresher. Heart of palm is a favourite ingredient of mine often found in my father's pantry and glad to see it appear on an Asian Fusion menu.

Yellowfin Tuna Spicy Taro Chips $14USD

This is one of those dishes that is so good, so perfect, such a delight in one mouthful that you think about it for days to come, that all the diners at the table pause and close their eyes when it is mentioned. A sliver of taro perfectly crisped is topped with a spicy fermented miso sauce and a roll of immaculate quality raw tuna. Amazing, a mouthful worth a visit to the restaurant alone. 4 pieces for 3 diners though? Dangerous

Oshinko $8USD

It may seem funny to order pickles in a fine restaurant but I can't fathom a Japanese meal without them. These were all obviously made fresh on the premises and included a standard daikon, fresh water radish, carrot, cucumber, cabbage and an Asian spinach. Deeeeelicious!

Beef Kushiyaki $12USD

Good quality marbled beef is basted in a sweet mirin and umami filled fermented soy base and grilled to perfection. So good we ordered a second order of this dish.

Wagyu beef and Foie Gras Gyoza $6USD each (minimum 2)

As a woman obsessed with both Japanese food and liver I don't know that you could possibly tailor make a better dish for me. This was without a doubt the best dumpling I have ever eaten and the dish contained everything one could ask for in textures and tastes. Silky light dumpling skin was crisped to perfection, rich meat and smooth liver set off by a tangy Jalapeno dressing or a sweet caramelised garlic and ginger sauce. Unforgettable, and again; we ordered another of the same as soon as these were eaten.

Foie Gras Fennel and Apple Special $18USD

My partner fails to see the light when it comes to foie gras so there were only two bites but I cannot pass up any chance for real foie gras, banned in Australia and with a texture that sadly no humane feeding technique can reproduce. Shavings of fennel and apple are soft and crisp in turn with a sweet sauce, gone in a second but delightful nonetheless.

Tempura: Asparagus $4USD, Sugar Snap Peas $3USD and Sweet Potato $3USD

Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas are my favourites and unsurprisingly this is a fantastic rendition with light batter and not too much oil. There are any number of other seasonable vegetables on offer here and you could easily order a large meal of just tempura to appease the vegetarians.

Sushi and Sashimi: Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Toro fatty tuna belly $28USD, Magoro Bluefin Tuna $9USD, Cucumber Rolls $6USD, Avocado Rolls $6USD, Spicy Yellowfin Tuna Hand Roll $7.50USD each

The quality of the seafood doesn't fail to disappoint in the sushi course; the only let down here is that the hand roll is performed somewhat like hosomaki rather than the conical shape I am used to in Australia and Japan. This means that rather than the seaweed being crisp it is damp and clings to the sushi rice making it difficult to chew when it is multi-layered.

On the other hand the vegetarian rolls and delightful and light after the rest of the meal and the tuna is mouthwateringly delicious. For those who question the cost of two small pieces of fish I urge any foodie to purchase high end toro at least once, the fatty tuna belly is unlike any other sashimi you will eat. Like any good tuna the toro here lingers in the mouth after the fact and I am loathe to give up the taste to another dish... but there's dessert to be had!

Espresso Martini $14USD

Real coffee a rare delight in the US is made into a refreshing after dinner drink, not too bitter not tasting strongly of alcohol.

Ginger and Carrot Cake $13USD

A soft cake is surrounded by a soft cream cheese icing and topped with a ginger ice cream, accompanied with a salted caramel. Amazing.

PB&J Satandagi $12USD

I'm a sucker for peanut butter everything and the Americans really know how to treat their nut products but after a taste I'm glad I didn't order this as it was rich beyond compare and would have sat heavily after the light and floating meal. Light Japanese style fried dough is injected with hot peanut butter and dark chocolate sauce, accompanied by peanut butter ice cream topped with an ume shu jelly. An inspired fusion dessert.

Froyo Nobu Style $11USD

A light vanilla frozen yoghurt served simply with fresh seasonal berries and toasted black sesame.

Well... what do you say about a meal like this? Delightful, inspired, delicious and matched with immaculate service and surroundings. This is a restaurant worth travelling for and with locations in Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific one needn't go too far.

Nobu Los Angeles
903 North La Cienega Boulevard

Formal dining Japanese/Californian fusion
Vegetarian and allergen friendly if these are discussed with the server

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: BBQ City, Sydney CBD

Readers of this blog will know how much I like Korean food, but what then is my fallback, the restaurant I go to time and again? It's this one BBQ City, a rowdy staple filled to the brim with Korean students and their families merrily chomping away.

Like many of the best restaurants in Sydney it's not at ground floor, look up opposite the entry to World's Square on Liverpool St.

BBQ City is not the place to go for an intimate meal, it's rowdy and has a party atmosphere with lots of clatter and an army of staff. If you're looking for an informal dinner party or a shared team outing however it's a great option. Rather like yum cha the more people you add the better the experience and the wider the variety of the food.

There is a party room if you're so inclined but it books out in advance so be prepared to book it early and for tables of 10 or more only. If you do get it it's a formal Korean dining room rather like a tatami room at Japanese restaurants so be ready to shed your shoes and sit on the floor.

Assorted banchan - included with the meal

Banchan at this restaurant are varied, seasonal and can be refilled on request. There's usually some form of fresh seasonal vegetables such as radish or sprouts, a potato or pasta salad and the ubiquitous sweet simmered potatoes.

Kim chi jeon $18

The kim chi pancake is rather thick and heavy, no light start to a meal but crisp and not oily with plenty of chilli kim chi. A spicy vegetarian delight.

Mandu Fried or Boiled $18

The dumplings are akin to Japanese gyoza filled with pork, chives and glass noodles. They can be ordered fried for those drinking or boiled for those who are calorie conscious. They're both excellent and served with a umami dipping sauce that I tend to want to put on just about everything.

Spicy marinated pork stir fry $18

Chilli and fermented soy beans are stir fried with onion, carrot and large slices of green sprouts. This is moreish and the fermented soy adds an excellent umame savouriness that has me coming back for more time and again. It's particularly excellent served with the Korean plum wine and rice.

Tofu Hot Pot $21

Most people in the west associate Korean food with meat filled BBQ madness however most peasant dishes from Korea are vegetarian. If you can convince a vegetarian to come and watch you consume the meat dishes at BBQ City there are plenty of options. This hot pot is steeped in chilli and vegetables and makes a satisfying if adventurous dish. 

Gochujang tteokbokki with Cheese $22

This bowl is huge, enough to feed 3 on its own comfortably. You can choose to have it cooked by the kitchen or have them bring you the hotpot to cook yourself. While not my favourite rendition of this dish - Best Friend and Darling City take this crown for me in Sydney - this is definitely a solid rendition. Thick sausage like rice cakes similar to a gluten free gnocchi are served with fried fish cake, capsicum and carrot in a sweet ultra hot sauce and topped with cheddar cheese. Delicious - but sometimes regretted after the fact!

If the dish prices look steep please be aware that they are very hearty and not designed for one person, this is where having a large group comes in handy since the meals are mostly 'family style' and designed to be shared. 

But while I love some variety in my food surely you come to BBQ city for the BBQ...

Assorted meat platter $42

This is intended to share and this picture is after an entire BBQ has been filled with meat. There's easily enough meat to have 2 people eat 2-3 rounds of ssam or a larger group to each trial the meat. You can order meat dishes separately for around $18-$22 each. If you're taking this option I would recommend the pork marinated in wine, the kalbi marinated ribs and the thinly sliced pork neck. Alternatively for large groups I would recommend 2 meat platters to ensure everyone eats their fill.

The meat is cooked on small gas filled BBQs set into the table. I prefer to cook my own and this restaurant will happily leave you to it if they can see a leader performing the role well. If you're a little trepidatious they will cook it for you on request. Note the rolled out kalbi ribs with the bone still attached, just delicious! Mushrooms, onions and whole cloves of garlic can be added to enhance the experience.

Once cooked the meat is cut into small pieces with kitchen scissors, spread with sauce and wrapped in lettuce to be eaten. This is the source of the word ssam which means - to wrap. This is a food designed to be eaten with the hands and wrapped in leaves.

Here you can see three sauces, the light brown sauce is the standard ssam sauce which is partially mashed fermented soy beans. I've also asked for two types of chilli sauce, one which is a sweet hot sauce which may appeal to those that like American BBQ and the other is gochujang the hot hot hot sour chilli sauce that brings much of Korean food its flavour.

This is the sign of a Korean BBQ attended properly and with gusto. Lots of dishes everywhere and not much food left in sight!

This place is great for a party, they serve plentiful Korean and Japanese beers (including Sapporo and Hite for $8), bottles of soju for $12 and Korean Plum and Raspberry Wines at $22 a bottle. Highly recommended.

I eat out a alot, I explore restaurants a lot, and this is a favourite; not particularly outstanding in the world's food but a great example of its cuisine and solid in both food and service. It's good for a large party but not good for a quiet date. Unless you're super keen on Korean food as I am this is a terrible choice for summer since the number of people, the hot BBQs and the chili laden food make this an adventure in sweat during the Summer months. Doesn't stop me though... I just order more beers and carry a folding fan.

BBQ City

Rowdy fun atmosphere
Fully licensed, Asian alcohols only

116/120 Liverpool Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 5155 ‎

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