Monday, July 22, 2013

Waqu, Crows Nest

We went to Waqu to celebrate mum's birthday due to recommendations from relatives, and of course, other food blogs. We also managed to take advantage of the early bird special for their winter six course menu (discounted price of $58 per person, normally $68 per person), which requires you to book the table for a Friday or Saturday night at 6:00 or 6:15 and return the table by 8:00. Located on the intersection of Pacific Highway and Shirley Road, it's an added bonus that there's street parking on the relatively quiet streets nearby. Just putting it out there that this was the first degustation that I've tried so I may sound just a bit excited in certain parts of this post :D

We were one of the first tables to sit down, and we got a window seat too! As you would expect, the restaurant filled up after this photo was taken.

A complimentary plate of Puff Pastry with Cream Corn. Since I'm new to this degustation thing, I'm guessing that this is what you call the amuse-bouche right? XD

Maybe it was because I only drank one cup of soy milk for that day (had to save room for this degustation!), but I was super keen when dad suggested that we get the side of St. Honore White Sourdough ($2.80 each) in addition to the six course menu. The sourdough was warm, fluffy, and came with a perfectly crafted ball of butter.

Course One: Golden Sweet Potato + Leek Soup with pecorino romano essence. You know you're in for a superb dinner when the first course tastes so good. And honestly, if the place wasn't so fancy I would have drank the soup straight from the cup...

Course Two: Smoked King Salmon Sashimi with tomato coulis, dill cream, beetroot + apple râpées, and carrot + orange râpées. The delicate pieces of salmon were really fresh, and had just the right amount of smokiness to it.

Course Three: Scallop Confit + Tofu Ganmo with cauliflower puree, braised daikon, karasumi, and poached prawn. The two juicy scallops were yes, you guessed it, super fresh, and was made even better when eaten with the generous sprinklings of cauliflower puree on the tile plate, while the poached prawn (at the back of the photo) was pillowy soft.

There were two choices for Course Four: the first choice was the Pan Fried Barramundi with jerusalem artichoke puree, tofu almond paste, shun-giku and snowpea sprout. This has got to be the softest piece of fish that I have ever had in my life, and was perfectly complemented with the crispy skin on top.

The second choice for the fourth course was the Pan Fried Snapper with cumin spiced carrot puree and prosciutto broth with parsley oil.

When it came to Course Five, there were three choices. Mum and Cassie opted for the Tajima Wagyu Sirloin Steak, BMS 6+ with sansho pepper emulsion, dried olive crumbles and braised shiitake. (It's worth noting that there's an $8 surcharge for choosing this option). However, consider that $8 well spent, because I'm simply in awe at how the chefs can make a piece of meat so incredibly soft and tasty.

Dad went with the Roasted Thirlmere Corn Fed Chicken with mushroom puree, roasted celeriac, and chick peas tossed in parmesan cheese for his fifth course. Crispy skin + juicy chicken is always a winner.

And I chose the Cabernet Marinated Lamb with fig balsamic vinegar puree, chestnuts, fig fritter, and spiced bread crumbles. I'll admit that this wasn't the one that I was going to choose- I had my eyes set on the wagyu, but for the sake of this blog/research purposes I decided that all choices for the fifth course had to be tried. Good thing I picked the lamb though, because it was full of flavour, and special mention goes to the fig fritter- think of the beautiful coating of batter on the wu goks you get at yum cha and that's basically what was on the deliciously melty piece of fig.

Course Six: Chocolate Terrine with hazelnut praline ice cream, banana crumble, sake-kasu sauce, and mint olive oil. Loved the addition of mint olive oil in this because it actually tasted great and wasn't just added for the sake of trying something new. The chocolate terrine had just the right level of sweetness to it, and you really can't go wrong with ice cream :)

To be honest, I was initially concerned that the food would come out in a rushed manner because of the time restriction, but everything came out at a really comfortable pace, which made dinner even better. I really enjoyed it when the attentive and smiley waiters/waitresses explained the dishes as the food arrived to the table, and I must point out that they weren't just memorising the descriptions of the courses, they talked about heaps of stuff that wasn't listed on the menu too- I could listen to these people talk about the food for hours. I must say, I really like the idea of a degustation and can't wait to try another- it's going to be a very expensive habit :D Happy Birthday Mum!

This also happens to be the 100th post for this blog. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading my blog, it's nice to know that there are people out there reading the stuff that I post. I will continuously try to improve my writing style and photography skills so that you will (hopefully) have a more enjoyable time when you're checking out my blog! Thanks once again for reading, and happy eating :D

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Porteño, Surry Hills

When I'm on the bus going back to Central after a day at uni, this is the restaurant that I see every time- so when dinner was organised for a Friday evening at Porteño, I was really quite excited. Despite being open for a couple of years now, the hype has obviously not died down as there was still a line outside the restaurant at 6:00, as people were waiting patiently to go inside.

Let's leave the cooking of the meat to the professionals yeah?

As you might be able to see from my rather bad photo, the inside of Porteño is rather pretty, and is a place where one can observe the attention to detail applied to the decorations.

Managed to take this photo before the rest of our table arrived- everything is set out so perfectly.

Pan De Casa, house baked bread with olive oil and pork pate ($2 per person). The bread was fantastically soft, the olive oil had loads of flavour, and the pate was deliciously creamy. I sorta forgot what the other two bowls were, but the black pot was delicious on anything; bread, meat, you name it!

The Lengua En Escabeche, pickled veal tongue ($10) was not chewy at all, and was made even better by the subtly tangy puddle that it was sitting in. The day after this dinner, I read Grab Your Fork's review on Porteño and noticed that she saw tastebuds on the tongues when she ordered this dish- good thing the restaurant lighting was rather dim so that the tastebuds were not visible when we were eating; as they say, ignorance is bliss.

Empanada De Carne, beef empanadas ($6.50) and the Empanada De Brócoli Y Ricota, broccoli and ricotta empanada ($6.50). A little bit like a curry puff XD

Morcilla, blood sausage with red peppers in garlic ($12). This was rather interesting; and IMHO, I reckon it tasted a bit like the stuffing they put in roast chickens- which is no bad thing.

Remolachas Asadas Con Queso Feta Y Aceitunas, roast beetroot, witlof and housemade feta with pecans and stuffed olives ($26) was rather good, I mean, who can resist stuffed olives?

The Polenta, white polenta with provolone cheese, BBQ radicchio, rosemary and anchovy dressing ($16) was ridiculously smooth and cheesy. 

Entraña, Kobe Cuisine Wagyu Beef Outside Skirt Grilled Over Charcoal ($42). Juicy, bursting with flavour and ummm can we just order a plate of this for each of us next time? :D

On the left we have the Repollitos De Brusela Frito, Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts with Lentils and Mint ($16), while the dish on the right is the Cordero A La Cruz, 8 hour woodfired lamb ($46). Like many have said, those brussel sprouts are really tasty and have an amazing crispiness to them. The lamb was great, and sat in a pool of it's own meat juices which was great for dipping bread into.

Chanchito A La Cruz, 8 hour woodfired pig ($46) was nice, the meat was fantastically soft, and we couldn't get enough of that crunchy skin.

Time for some desserts after all that meat. First up, we have the Quince Empanada, which was the special for the day. When things aren't on the menu, I tend to jot them down on my phone so I know what the dish is called when it's time to blog about it- but I typed 'quince and panada' on my phone until realising it was an empanada when the dessert came to the table... Anyway, I reckon that this could be best described as warm and slightly tart quince jam wrapped in a buttery encasing that was somewhere between puff and shortcrust pastry in texture.

Leche Quemada, Burnt Milk Custard with Rhubarb, Fennel Ice Cream & Oats ($16). A very good looking dessert indeed.

Tarta De Chocolate Y Albaricoque Con Helado De Familia Marguery Secado Al Sol Moscatel, Apricot & Chocolate Tart, Familia Marguery Muscat & Creme Fraiche Ice Cream, Vanilla Chantilly ($16). Cassie thought this was 'yum' and 'sweet'.

I have the admit, the wagyu and the brussel sprouts were my favourite from the night, but that's just personal preference and all the meats are definitely worth ordering. Even though this is not the cheapest place to visit for dinner, the atmosphere, food and service would make this a great place to come to for special occasions, but I do suggest making a booking because the restaurant did fill up at a really fast pace as soon as the doors opened.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Excelsior Jones, Ashfield

Despite being hidden amongst a predominantly residential area within Ashfield, Excelsior Jones continues to enjoy immense popularity with hungry café goers in Sydney, once again proving how social media/word of mouth can spread news at an amazing pace. The outside of the café is rather discreet in appearance, which I guess is part of the appeal for some people.

There's a rather minimalist theme going on inside, with plenty of interesting touches scattered around the café- I thought the tap that was installed next to the coffee machine looked kinda interesting. Initially, we were seated at the kitchen counter area, but before we could mutter the word 'hipster', the friendly waitress asks if we would like to move to a table. How nice! After moving, we went over the menu and decided to share everything because we were still full from before so we could get a better taste of everything on the menu.

Iced coffee, earl grey tea, piccolo, and chai. If you've read my previous posts on café's, then you've probably realised by now that I have absolutely no idea when it comes to coffee/tea, so apologies in advance if the names listed here do not match the photo above.

The Mascarpone and Fig Tart was deliciously smooth and creamy.

The Lemon Tart was tangy and acted as a nice contrast to the tart mentioned before, and both had a pastry that was interesting in texture- although now that I think about it, it reminds me of cross between filo and the pastry you get on a sausage roll. These two tarts were located in a glass cabinet/counter next to the register, and, from looking at the photos on other blogs, it seems like the selection of sweets changes.

Sauteed field mushrooms on toast with fresh herbs ($13). Andrew seemed to enjoy this one, and it's worth mentioning that not only is there a variety of different mushrooms on the plate, but the toast is buttered too.

Cheeseburger with grass fed angus beef, gruyere, tomato relish, aioli and fried spuds ($16). Melty cheese + angus beef is always a good combination, and the soft bun tasted really good because some of the juices from the innards of the burger were absorbed into it. And the spuds? Super crispy on the outside and not oily at all- let's just say that we would definitely order this if it was offered on the menu as a standalone item.

Overall, it was a nice late lunch, and I can say that we were sufficiently full as we waddled walked back to the car.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bankstown Bites 2013

After an amazing bowl of pho, we walked straight to Bankstown Bites- having not been to many markets at all (does Parklea and Paddy Markets count? lol), let alone food festivals, I was rather keen to see what all the fuss was about. There were quite a number of stalls that day, which ultimately made choosing what to get even harder. I did have my eyes on the chips on a stick- I'm pretty sure every second person that we walked past was eating one, but the line for it was really long and we really couldn't be bothered waiting... maybe next year!

Bunny bloggers!! Casually walking around, a stall suddenly caught our attention. I clearly remember going to the easter show back when I was in primary school and eating those lime flavoured calippo ice creams in the shape of tiny green spheres, so imagine our delight when dippin' dots appeared right before our eyes.

Here we have cookies & cream, chocolate, and watermelon.

This is the Karam dosa from the Dosa Hub stall. On their sign, the description of it was 'a mildly spicy onion paste is spread on the Dosa. Served with chutney.' They were definitely very generous with the amount of chutney they put onto the plate.

Apparently, 10000 people went to the Bankstown Bites food festival last year, and after going this year, it's clear why so many people come here- it's a great excuse to eat/see lots of food and join the crowds on a lazy weekend!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

An Restaurant, Bankstown

I spy, with my little eye, an empty table in the photo above. That's right, even though it was only approx. 11:00, a lot of the tables in the restaurant were full, yet there was still a constant stream of customers coming in through the doors. And speaking of doors...

They have a super organised system where one door is used for customers entering the restaurant and the other is for exiting, which no doubt makes the place less crowded during peak times. It's ironic that this worked so well in the restaurant, because we witnessed some drivers being incapable of following 'no entry' and 'exit' signs in the car park that was near this restaurant... Anyway, An Restaurant serves up 15 flavours of pho, with 2/3 being beef. Some say that this place has the best pho in Sydney, so we came here to check it out before heading off to Bankstown Bites.

A plate of bean sprouts, lemon, mint and other herbs. As much as I hate to admit this, the mint does go to waste most of the time when I've eaten pho because no one eats it, so it was great that one of the Bunny bloggers finished it off this time :D See that bowl of chilli in the background? Well, more on that in a bit.

Our food came in literally half a minute after we had ordered. However, everything was still really hot, and one can only assume that when the waiter entered our order onto his electronic device, it goes straight to the kitchen. Here is Andrew's choice, medium Pho topped with beef combination ($13.50), which basically means you get the whole lot which includes rare beef, cooked beef, beef tendon and tripe.

Both Bunny bloggers go for the large Pho topped with rare beef ($14), which was massive in size and means you're getting maximum value for money.

I went with the medium Pho topped with rare beef ($13). Yes, I know it's only $1 cheaper than the large pho, but I had to save up some room in my stomach for later. Loved the delicately soft beef, which was complemented with just the right amount of onions and coriander. Remember when I mentioned the chilli earlier on in this post? I highly recommend putting some of it into your bowl of pho, as it provides a nice kick in addition to the already flavoursome broth.

Coffee with condensed milk and ice ($5).

From what we observed, it seems that each waiter/waitress has their own 'zones' to look after, ensuring that you never have to get their attention because they're always one step ahead. Admittedly, prices are not particularly cheap, but it is a premium worth paying for because you are getting excellent pho, an uncharacteristically clean environment, as well as amazingly efficient service.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix

I was looking at recipes for Japanese curry, but to be honest they all required ingredients that were not in my pantry. What was in my pantry though, was this beautiful box of Japanese curry, hidden behind all the random cartons on the top shelf. The box contains 12 servings, but the curry cubes are conveniently split into 2 servings of 6.

The following method is identical to the one on the back of the box (and their website), but to fill in some space on this post, I will post the recipe as well :D Cut 500g chicken/beef/whatever meat you want into cubes, and chop 2 onions finely. Cook that in a large sauce pan for 3 minutes. You can add other vegetables if you want, but for me, no carrots or celery hehehe. Add 800ml of water and bring to a boil before simmering with the lid on for 15 minutes. Afterwards, remove from heat, stir in the curry cubes until melted. Then, simmer for 5 more minutes while stirring constantly.

And there you have it, yet another quick and easy to make meal that tastes reasonably similar to the ones you get when you eat out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Scrambled Eggs with Spam and Onions

I have recently started cooking dinner again on some nights (about time!), and well, since I am still an amateur in the kitchen, I've figured that it's best to stick with 'easier to make' dishes at the moment so the family won't starve from not having anything edible on the dinner table.

Let's get started. Firstly, cook 1 can of sliced spam under the grill until both sides turn to that delicious shade of dark pink. I warn you now, it's all too easy to pop a few slices into your mouth, so it might be a good idea to exercise some self control or there will only be eggs and onions for dinner :D After grilling the spam, cut them into cubes. Scramble 5 eggs and set aside (adjust the number of eggs you put in so you get a spam to egg ratio that will make you happy). Finally, cook 1 diced onion in a fry pan on medium heat until soft (adding some water might help) and then chuck in the spam and eggs. Stir constantly for another minute before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nando's, Rouse Hill

The bus crew gathered for dinner at Rouse Hill, and surprise surprise, it was raining. Looking back at the number of rainy days in the past month has made me appreciate sunny days so much more! But anyway, enough of me being a grumpy old man complaining about the weather; after going through the options available that night, we settled on Nando's. It was an awesome dinner, but unfortunately Crystal couldn't stay for very long. Hope you've recovered quickly!

 To feed 7 hungry people, we got 2 whole chickens with 3 large sides (we went with 2 perri-perri chips and coleslaw). Pictured here is one of the two plates on our table.

The coleslaw that came with our order.

After dinner, we headed off to Oliver Brown for dessert- chocolate waffles with ice cream. Looked yummy, and apparently the ice cream was a bit like whipped cream.

Believe it or not, this was the first time that I tried Nando's (too be fair, I wasn't the only one that day), and it was actually quite good. Better late than never I guess XD