I am in a blogging hiatus at the moment. Blogging resumes in September. But guess which city I am now!
As per myhongkonghusband’s request, a bigger picture on a smoggy day
I am in a blogging hiatus at the moment. Blogging resumes in September. But guess which city I am now!
As per myhongkonghusband’s request, a bigger picture on a smoggy day
Date of Visit: August 20 2013
Today I was introduced to Georges at Piccadilly in Sydney CBD by my family auditor (called George). One doesn’t get taken out to lunch by an accountant often, so I was curious to see where an accountant eats. Georges sits on the ground floor of a shopping centre, doing brisk business with silver-haired patrons. The hearty traditional menu is similar to the menu at Cosmopolitan Cafe in Double Bay I was told and they used to belong to the same owner. (FYI, Cosmopolitan is a rather posh cafe for the Double Bay set to rub shoulders when I was still at school, ‘whoever was anybody’ dines there).
Owner Leo, ever hard-working was on his feet making sure everything is in order.
Georges menu are traditional casual lunchtime fares consisting of sandwiches, melts, salads, steaks and seafood. Sandwiches and toasties are popular for the older ladies whereas the gentlemen preferred their heartier steaks or huge plates of fish and chips to go with a glass of vino.
I ordered Moussaka with a side salad. It was huge slab of minced meat and eggplants sandwiched between a potato base and the creamiest, thickest layer of belchamel cheese. It was slightly spiced, however leaning to sweet which I assume to cater for the older tastebuds. It was lovely nonetheless. With the temperature taking a sudden nose-dive today, the pipping hot moussaka was moreish, I guiltily finished it all.
Coffee, though was a tad weak and very milky to cater for its set of clientele.
Date of Visit: August 18 2013
It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday and the plan was for a drive to Rose Bay for a lunch at The Sailors Club. I guess we were not the only ones with the same ideas as the restaurant was fully booked. So without a booking we were asked whether we would like to put our names down for a 3:30pm sitting (a 3 hours wait) or to go downstairs to The Swimmers Club for coffees and more casual fares.
The Swimmers Club is a revamp of the old Rose Bay kiosk. It has been done up very nicely, a sleek shed with motorised shades to block out rain, and sittings along the dining bench along the deck. It was packed, but we managed to get seats at the dining bench.
It was very idyllic sitting under the sun – catching warm sea breezes, watching activities on the sea and checking out people walking along the shores. Occasionally a sea gull would swoop in to perch on the balustrade, probably looking for a bite. All-in-all, a fantastic place to while away the hours – however, not if you are hungry and waiting for ages for food to arrive!
When food finally made their appearance after a very patient 40 minutes wait, I am sad to pronounce it ‘subpar’.
The omelette was more like a fritata with potato and extremely salty. The lamb pie was a ball of tough pastry with only a tiny chunk of lamb in it, and very sweet with sautéed tomato/capsicums/onions mix – incidently also cameoing as a side. The bread and butter pudding slice was quite inedible and the worst I had ever tasted – I couldn’t comprehend the taste, except it’s custard-ly sweet, doughy, not fresh and topped with oily stale bread chunks with a sprinkling of icing sugar for deco.
Nevertheless, the saving grace was the coffees and the views. I won’t say never, but if I come back next time, it will only be for coffee.
The Swimmers Club: 594 New South Head Road, Rose Bay, NSW
Date of Visit: August 11 2013
On the inaugural City-2-Surf Day last Sunday, my family decided to head to the Middle Heads for our Sunday Lunch to avoid traffic in the City. The City-2-Surf is daubed as one of the world’s largest fun run inspired by San Francisco Bay to Breakers Fun Run, attracting 85,000 registered participants. For the seasoned runner, 14km from the City to Bondi Beach is a walk in the park, except that there’s a 2km of steep uphill, nicknamed ‘Heart Break Hill’, to contend with – that is, if the runners had not already passed out with their pints at Golden Sheaf Hotel at Double Bay.
I am all too familiar with the Heart Break Hill, I have walked this route nearly everyday from home to school, nearly a million years ago, with my heavy school bag slung over my shoulders – for which I blame for my uneven shoulders. The bending road is very steep and there has been incidents where vehicles veered off the road and rolled down into my school’s oval – nothing serious, just a fright and a couple of dents in the vehicles. What jest!
Our original plan was to have the degustation menu since we had the whole afternoon. But after perusing the lengthy degustation menu, and thinking of our waist-lines, we decided to go for 4-courses instead ($95 pp) .
There are 4 slices to the sourdough bread. They came presented on a timber board with freshly churned sour butter and sea salt. The breads were warm, very soft, fresh from the oven. Very nice.
We had tapioca crackers sprinkled with fine-grounded powders and deep-fried super creamy mushroom croquettes (or crocchette) which were compliments from the kitchen.
Dining out with my family give me ample time to take snaps of the food when they arrive. And since we tend to order different items from the menu… we have here, the near-complete current a la carte items on the menu at Ormeggio!
Bro ordered the salt baked celeriac – percorino – slow cooked hen egg yolk – hazelnuts – fresh australian perigord truffle artistically arranged on the plate. His clean plate meant that he enjoyed it.
Mom ordered ling fish baccala – polenta croutons – dutch cream potato, which I had a taste of. This is a calorically dense dish of smooth creamy puree of potato, cream and butter which tasted very decadent with chunky pieces of ling fish under. I do not recommend for those on a diet.
Steak tartare was an acquired taste to me. This a very old-fashioned dish and the first time I ate it was also my last (I was about 12 – yuck!). Nevertheless, raw meat is now back in vogue, my friend told me that she ate raw horse meat and raw whale meat recently in a Japan. So I was excited when the waiter explained that Wallaby battuta is “Wallaby sashimi” (raw meat). I immediately ordered that to add to my brag-list. How exotic! The strips of wallaby meat were soft yet firm, seasoned with very finely diced spanish onion and topped with amaranth and chorizo powder. I’m glad to have opted for the black truffle shavings ($15) for additional aroma and flavour. I highly recommend this!
Mom had the agnolotti filled with veal – onion consommé – shallots crisp, she gave me an agnolotti to sample. Agnolotti is ravioli made with small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over with a roast veal. It was very good.
Both Bro and I had carnaroli risotto – saffron – liquorice – duck. There was duck liver plated under the creamy risotto cooked in saffron and topped with the softest duck tongues that literally melted like jelly! The liquorice sauce gave a sweet astringent kick to the tongues. I’m not a fan of liquorice, but I tolerated the sauce well and quite liked it. I even ran my finger over the medicinal liquorice powder dusted on the plate. Anyway, here’s a link to the health benefits of liquorice – it prevents cancer!
Bro’s dish of charcoal waygu beef flank. Interesting ‘charcoal’, I hope it’s not real charcoal, charcoal is cancerous! *Eeek*
Mom’s mulloway. This is another fattening dish with the creamy sauce over the fish.
I had the braised lamb – cauliflower – silver beet – horseradish. The lamb came covered under the silver beet. The sauce was cauliflower puree and the horseradish was freshly grated. Under the silver beet, was the most tender lamb ever. I guess the crouton bits are for crunchy mouthfeel.
I am thrilled with the advant-garde desserts at Ormeggio utilising garden herbs and spices. Very forward-thinking!
Amadei tuscan black chocolate – mandarin – cilantro cocoa has the classic chocolate-and-citrus pairing. A simple presentation of a scoop of chocolate ice-cream sprinkled with orange zest atop a mountain of crumbs and mandarins. Woody green notes of cilantro and fresh slices of mandarin stepped up the dish by giving a zesty edge to the mouthfeel.
The toasted rice gelato – rice and ricotta cake – earl grey – lemon, gave the classic rice pudding an interesting make-over. Ricotta was added into rice to make a rice cake, accompanied with toasted rice gelato, and toasted rice ‘pop-corns’, further freshened up by earl grey lemon foam for extra fun.
A unique sweet savoury dessert. The carrot- fennel seed ice cream – farro cream – vinegar caramel uses fennel seed ice-cream to enhance the steamed carrot cake by bringing out the sweetness of the carrots; and crushed fennel seeds with crumbs added interesting texture.
Our espressos were accompanied by complimentary melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles to send us off.
it was a purr-fect day for lunch by the water. How did I get the weather so right? Sparkling waters, boats cruising by, people kayaking powerfully, then a leisurely stroll along the waters after lunch.
Date of Visit: August 9 2013
Since opening in April 2011, Gastro Park has been awarded 2 chefs hats from the Sydney Morning Herald and 2 stars from the Gourmet Traveller. The owner-chef Grant King formerly worked at Piers, Rose Bay (my old hood), no wonder one of the waiters looked familiar, then again these professionals tend to move around.
As I was saying, I am back in Sydney for a bit of R&R – which it did not happen. On the contrary, I have early morning meetings to turn up to in the City and when I arrive home in the evenings, I have to attend to a slew of emails coming from Malaysia. I do protest – this is not R&R, as I understand!
Tonight being a Friday night, I was looking forward to end the hectic week with a relaxing dinner with my bestie. But at the eleventh hour, an ambiguous fax came through bearing bad news comparable to: the captain had abandoned his ship with all crews onboard! Astonishing! This irresponsible chap signed off a bundle of blank cheques and had left without leaving a successor! It was totally mind-boggling, so I had to stay back a little bit longer…
The interesting bit was, he engaged a KL law firm here to advise him on Australian law (?). The said Cheat Take and Sue Lawyers, (google the acronyms, you didn’t get it from me!) Now I understand why Malaysians get bad raps for credit card frauds, overstays and working illegally. Well, we have here, 2 Malaysian lawyers from KL working illegally in Sydney, advising/ acting on behalf of their client (without Australian license) and cooking books! No wonder we need tight immigration controls! This firm is notorious in KL for killing conveyancing deals, anyway, ”a fool and his gold is soon parted’, and this client was labelled the ‘pauper billionaire’ by BRW a few years back…
An interesting week ahead… now to DINNER!
Gastro Park is a short skip (3mins) away from Kings Cross Station. It sits on a triangular wedge of land, giving lookouts to the activities on the streets or traffic further down the road – remember, when looking at the pedestrians, no eye contacts!
The interior has a slightly goth edge to it. Sterile concrete walls, hardwood floor boards and timber furnitures. Mosses and lichens draping from dry branches on the center table and wall give elements of playground warmth. This is after all, a gastronomic playground as suggested by its namesake, Gastro Park with a swing dangling between the letters ‘A’ and ‘S’ in it logo.
Listen up folks, a thrilling ride through culinary technique, taste and texture is ensured.
The menu is divided into snacks, entrees, mains, cheese and dessert…(I forgot to take a picture of the menu to remind myself since I was so hassled from the prior events…)
There are 2 degustation choices: 7 courses or 10. However, since both of us are in portion control mode for the night, deg will have to wait another day.
To start, Peachy, gin with elderflower to soothe me down. Sweet and peachy like its name.
Complimentary natural, sour dough bread, apparently only made from flour, water and salt without any yeast (good, stomach will not bloat!)
Lobster consomme with ageshi tofu. The consomme came separately and was poured into the stone bowl at the table. The consomme smelt very strongly of shellfish, although I am allergic to shellfish, I still rendered the aroma to be very fragrant (and did not itch). In the bowl are mushrooms, and tofu. I presume potato starch is used to fry the tofu in because the skin stretched. My friend liked it.
For the Mains, my friend ordered Cod presented in splashes of sauces for artistic effect. He pointed out to me the interesting layering of the fish colour. The flaky flesh was white, then changes to orange and then to the black scales – very interesting. I can only say, the technique must be masterly to get the layering effects of colour.
For my Main, I ordered beef fillet with sweetbread. The reason I ordered it was for the sweetbread. All the mains on the menu looked good, making a decision very hard. Moreover, I was too busy to do background ‘food research’! (*Face plam * Eeek… how can? Me, a food blogger? No!) Onion skin filled with creamy white sauce, 2 mushrooms propped against the cube of beef fillet lightly caramelised and sprinkled with salt. The sweetmeat was firm, yet almost creamy.
My dessert was the cherry raw and cooked paired with vanilla sponge and sorbet. The vanilla sponge tasted like rye bread to me, there were sliced cherries and marinated/ stewed cherries accompanied with some sort of cream and cream sorbet. The most interesting bit was the ‘cherry’ in the forefront of the pic. It was actually a chocolate mousse inside a jelly skin! How deceptive!
It was a wonderful dinner, I enjoyed my food and a glass of red relaxed me and I felt happier. Watch this space for deg!
I’m betting my bottom dollar that most of you dudes and dudettes are fans of the Masterchef series.
How awesome was Heston’s Blumenthal’s week long appearance on Masterchef? I hope none of you missed out the fun-filled molecular themed episodes – with lots of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, spherications, smokes, etc. That particular episode on ‘Medieval Feast’ with the ‘vegetable patch’ reminded me that I have not blogged about my degustation dinner at Mandarin Grill + Bar in Hong Kong a couple of months ago.
Date of Visit: June 2 2013
Mandarin Grill + Bar is a 1-Michelin stared restaurant in Hong Kong synonymous for decadent dining – delicious food, sophisticated ambience, fantastic service, arty food presentation – all for HK$1,588+10% per person for the degustation. A dress code is in force. All men must wear a jacket and keep it on at all time. No torn ripped jeans even the designer ones. (Anyone remember Marc Jacobs’ kilts fiasco? He was refused entry to a restaurant because he contravened the restaurant’s dress code by wearing a ‘skirt’? It made news – and some noise!)
The gastronomy at Mandarin Grill + Bar has enough neologisms and touches of creativity to convince the most discerning food critic and yet mom would still be happy with the landings in front of her. Since I was hosting dinner for 6 on that night, I used my Samsung Note to take these quick blurry snaps and relied on my memory of the highlights of the night – so apologies for the horrible photos and sketchy food notes.
Under the guidance of the sommelier, my guest chose a Kabinett Riesling and a Nuits Saint Georges for dinner. I liked the French Burgundy, but found the German Riesling slightly too sweet as I refer drier varietals.
With our wines ordered, menus collected and everyone at the table comfortably settled, the waiters brought out a potted olive bonsai plant. A bit puzzling at first until the waiter said to imagine eating the spherifed olives under the olive tree. Visual aid is said to evoke our memory center in our brains which works by enhancing the flavour receptors in our taste buds hence making the corresponding food taste better. To be honest, I cannot remember how the spherified olives tasted like… The key of making ‘olives out of olives’ is to find olives that have a great quality juice that tastes great, here is a link of a tutorial by Ferran Adrian.
The melt-in-your-mouth gougères rolled in parmesan cheese (presented in a Mandarin tin box) and olive gougères on the other hand, were heavenly, I distinctively remember the sweet buttery aroma of cheeses in the crumbly gougères.
The warm soft breads were fresh out of the oven. A trolley of 5 types of olive oils were wheeled to our table. The waitress explained in detail the flavours and nuances of each type of oil hailing from different countries. I think I chose the French, although in hindsight, I should have chosen ‘Lambda’ from Greece, the world’s most expensive olive oil (read here)
The presentation of a Flower Pot for each of the diners marks the 1st course. It was accompanied by the ceremonial watering of the plant with a tea infusion from a watering-can! Inside the Flower pot was a small garden patch of herbs and sous-vided root vegetables stuck in a creamy concoction and edible soil. This was quite similar to the Masterchef contests’ vegetable garden whereby they used egg mayonnaise (for earth), topped with chopped-up dried olives and nuts for make-believe edible soil. I am not sure whether the same ingredients were used for the pot, but the pot was exceptionally divine – a bit too heavy and filling though.
Salmon and Caviar
I am assuming that the caviar was of the sustainable farmed varietal. Because I nipped off to the Ladies (there was an attendant stationed there to hand me a hand towel after I had washed my hands), I didn’t realise that we had to share a tin between 2 people. I only realised later when I had a good half of it. I think there was lobster boursin under the bed of caviar. It was very delicious. My apologies to my guest, but since she had recently attended a lavish wedding reception, she told me, that she has had enough of her share from the humongous bowl of caviar that is so de rigueur in Hong Kong society weddings nowadays.
The hedonistic salmons came out in style, smoking on a bed of herbs/hay. This is smoked-cured-salmon-heaven and very good!
5 slices of tender juicy beef arranged in a circle around different types of mushrooms, (and a piece of dehydrated mushroom) on a heavy timber board- the waiter gave us a tall-tale of “cows roaming in the woods”. Really? We all thought that the story-line could be improved with “deers roaming in the forest”. Whoever heard of cows in woods anyway? This came accompanied with mash potatoes and spinach
By the time, the cheese trolley rolled over. We were stuffed and had to wait for 20 minutes to digest before we can proceed any further.
We were served 17 types of Cheeses. Again, each piece of cheese was explained in detail by the cheese sommelier. We had some crackers, honey and pastes to go with our cheeses.
I had a Light Bulb for dessert! Really?! Yup, the light bulb was made of spun sugar and filled with coconut foam and paired with a quenelle of mango ice cream and a chocolate filament for extra panache.
The grand finale was the petit fours.
This is melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles presented on Mandarin Oriental’s signature edible chocolate ‘madolins’. I tried to scrap some chocolate bits off to try, but it was rock-solid hard. Better not risk a trip to the dentist, right? I should have asked for a doggie-bag too…
All-in-all a fantastic 4-hours dinner. A bit Downton Abbey-ish, served in full silver service.
I might have missed the Art Basel 2013 and the special menu designed in conjunction with it, but nevertheless, there is always next year. Here is a link to the astoundingly specially created menu here *Food Porn*
Date of Visit: May 31 2013
A visit to Hongkie Town would inevitably involve some time being spent in the company of Mom’s fabulous besties from her high school and their families. I really admire their enduring friendships, I mean how often do you get in touch with your friends all the way from junior high? They are women on top of their game – one of them who could not join us was a scientist at NASA, I’m always humbled by her remark that ‘anyone launch a rocket, it’s only when there is an emergency that you need a PhD!”, that is a very cool remark don’t you think?
I am always thrilled to meet them and knowing that we all love a good night out with good food and conversation, I chose Fa Zu Jie (法租界) – Chinese for French Concession – from Asia Tatler’s list of best private kitchens in Hong Kong. A marvellous idea since with Shanghainese background, no doubt these BFFs would have a lot of fun and personal opinions in regards to the French twist.
Our reservation was secured a month beforehand and we received an email from Chris (one of trio partners) regarding our menu and a detailed map on how to reach the elusive private kitchen a week prior. The trek to the 2nd floor private kitchen was not as difficult as anticipated, we walked into a stall selling plastic gears and followed the noise from the establishment of a popular new Mexican eatery at the back, then up the stairs to the white door on the 2nd floor.
The interior of Fa Zu Jie is intimately cosy with white walls and low ceiling, tables are set a respectable distance apart. Since we are a large group of 8, we took up for the central location in front of the open kitchen, with the another group of diners taking up the enclosed outdoor terrance at the back. There were bri-a-bracs of antiquities and old empty bottles of fine wines including magnums of Lafites lining the shelves and floors, making a pleasantly lived-in feel. The price of dining there is $578 per person with no corkage and service charge.
What is a ‘private kitchen‘?
“Well, private kitchens have a long history in Hong Kong forming part of the local dining scene which is being revived in earnest recently due to the high rental costs. They operate in a legal limbo: They’re not full-fledged licensed restaurants but they’re not shady speakeasies either. They’re typically small, serving between 10 and 30 diners at one set time, and located in residential buildings in less-expensive parts of town. Often they’re in converted apartments— sometimes even in the chef’s home.”
Without ado, when all the guests have arrived and seated, our first course arrived.
Shanghainese cuisine use alcohol liberally. Seafood and chicken are ‘drunken’ with shaoxing wine and are briskly cooked/steamed or served raw. The first course is a light and refreshing dish of carpaccio of drunken octopus, drunken abalone and drunken razor clam, whimsically named…
Sea Genius. Saint. Mr Da Lian. All are half drunk. It quickly became the darling of our table. This dish is a direct translation of Chinese to English. We were instructed to eat from right to left starting from the mild abalone to finish off with the springy and so SO delicious la mien in Chinese shaoxing wine. The sweet fragrant liquor reminded me of the drunken cockles that my grand aunty in Shanghai used to send me in Hong Kong.
The second play-on-name is on the country of origin. Straw Mushroom. Morocco. Shrimp Skin. You guessed it! Couscous! We have here a plate of Straw Mushrooms and mixed mushrooms marinated with Chinese vinegar, couscous, dry shrimp skin and Chinese celery, parmesan cracker. I find it unusual since I can’t recall either Shanghainese nor French ever uses couscous traditionally, but the mushrooms were very fresh with the parmesan crackers imparting the salty crunch.
The third course is a game on imagination. Ocean Front. A Little Hut with a Field. This is basically deep fried Miyazaki chicken, shrimp quenelle with seaweed and spring roll with kalimeris indica mashed potato. Miyazaki chicken is apparently the world’s tastiest chicken according to the article here. The chicken was succulent enough but as I had said earlier, dining with the BFFs will bring on some constructive criticism – Mom reckons that the spring roll with kalimeris indica mashed potato should use tofu skin instead. Kalimeris indica or ma lan tao is a popular Shanghainese cold starter, usually chopped very finely and presented as a mould. This is my favourite appetiser by the way (and I’ve found a recipe blog here)
We had a slight tweak to our menu for our fourth course. My Mom requested for Lion’s Head, which she reminisces. To make this meat ball perfectly required mastery. Here, we were all oohing and aahing the Jinhua ham consommé, which is full of depth and flavour (and aromatic to to boot!), the meat ball was made of hand minced pork and fat and crunch bits of what I presume to be water chestnut. It was very soft, fluffy and very porky.
Shanghai people are delicate eaters, so servings are usually quite small. However, if you have a big appetite and still have room for more… wait for our next course!
Braised pork knuckle is ubiquitous in Shanghainese cuisine and a firm favourite in our household. My gran would insist for one each week. Thus the mixing up of countries and their national dish is our name-game for our fifth course of Shanghainese Pickle. Italian Stew. German Rice. We have braised pork knuckle in Shanghainese style with risotto (Italian) and German sauerkraut. The pork was yieldingly tender and moreish when paired with the punchy sauerkraut. This dish really filled me up!
To round off our delightful meal, we were served traditional Shanghainese sweets with a twist. Fermented Sticky Rice. Preserved Plum. And More… marking our final time putting on our thinking hat for the night. Calamansi and jiuniang yoghurt ice-cream, preserved plum butter cake with almond and chocolate coating topped with sesame tuile. Jiuniang is sweet fermented sticky rice wine usually eaten with glutinous balls (one of my favourite dessert. I also mix jiuniang with yoghurt and muesli for a boozy brekkie sometimes!) The trail of finely grinded pistachio nuts is a whimsical play on the *dot*dot*dots* of ‘give me more’… And thus ended our fun night of guessing each course which were cleverly labelled with a play on words.