Value Dega @ Bishop Sessa, Surry Hills

Date of Visit: November 1 2013

Ever thought of naming your restaurant after your favourite game?  Well, Chef Paul Cooper did.  His restaurant at 527 Crown Street, Surry Hills is named after Sessa, the inventor of the game of Chaturanga, an ancient Indian strategy game which is the common ancestor of the board game of chess which he is fond of.

Tonight’s night-out was a 6-course dega meal ($69).   I did not opt for wine matching this time because I was on a ‘diet’. Nevertheless, dinner is not dinner unless there is a glass of wine, so lieu of 6 glasses of wines for wine matching (+$50), I ordered a Spanish white -Marques de Tezona Macabeo ($7.50) – which was rather dry and quite minerally.

Bread was served while we waited for our meal to start.  Since part of my diet was the minimise unnecessary grain and gluten intake, I only looked at it…

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Bread + Olive oil

Course 1

Albacore comes from the tuna family which has reached a fashionable status in regards to its sustainable status.  In Course 1, the delightful albacore tuna tartare was matched with  sweet pea puree and creme fraiche in a cute mason jar.  The pale pink tartare was sweet, clean and delicate on the palate.  The addition of cracker and crispy rice puffs added a crunchy mouthfeel – hmm… rice puffs are called woba in Shanghainese which remind us to one of our course – Scallop – at BO Innovation in Hong Kong (review here)

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Mooloolaba Albacore tartare, peas, fennel, creme fraiche, lemon

Course 2

Course 2 mimicry the arrival of summer with its appetisingly refreshing smell of fresh cucumber juice.  Creamy scallops and creamy avocado paired with icy cold ginger sorbet hidden under the wispy rice cracker.  I particularly enjoyed the sorbet for its Japanese-pickled-gingers-taste served at the sushi bar.  A very refreshing and neat dish that I simply had to lap up the cold cucumber juice.

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Scallop ceviche, cucumber,avocado, ginger beer sorbet

Course 3

The pork belly has to be the best pork belly we had ever eaten!  A hot fatty piece of meat with perfect crackling that literally melted in our mouths!  The pickled calamari sliced thin like fettucine was a palate cleanser with its pleasant acidity. The sweetness of corn kernels rounded out the flavoursome combination.

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Corned pork & local calamari, barbecued corn, lemon verbena crackling

While waiting for Course 4, we saw The NSW Mounted Police on their horses.  By the way, do you know that The New South Wales Mounted Police Unit is the oldest continuous operational mounted unit in the world?  Fancy that!  Check out their website (here) for free tours and museum visits every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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The New South Wales Mounted Police Unit

Let’s continue with dinner…

Course 4

We moved into the heavier French-inspired course 4 for our duck cooked 2 ways – roasted duck breast and confit duck sausage roll.    Whilst I enjoyed the duck breast paired with the orange & onion marmalade jam with slivers of orange peels, I found the duck in the puff pastry too gamey for my liking.  The roasted carrot in balsamic was interesting.

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Roasted Ayelsbury duck breast, confit duck sausage roll, orange & onion marmalade

Course 5

The Wagyu course had the same accompaniment as the duck course, which are sauteed silverbeet (cooked in balsamic reduction?) and pumpkin puree.  Unfortunately, very lackluster being overly sweet.  The ‘steak’ came packaged in biscuit-like potato pastry, it was bits of pulled beef seasoned in herbs, but liven up by the vinaigrette-y, mushroom pate.

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Potato wrapped slow cooked Wagyu, pumpkin, mushroom vinaigrette, silverbeet

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Potato wrapped slow cooked Wagyu, pumpkin, mushroom vinaigrette, silverbeet

Course 6

Dessert was a course I could – and should – do without!  But hey, it’s a Friday night – chillax – so I devoured chocolate mousse and brownie –  cleaned the milky ice-cream and the works!  I couldn’t recall anything special about this dessert except the marshmallow tasted weird in grainy sugary texture.

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Chocolate chip parfait, chocolate mousse, caramelised pop corn

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Chocolate chip parfait, chocolate mousse, caramelised pop corn

If you are looking for fine dining in the area, I will suggest Bishop Sessa.

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Bishop Sessa – more tables upstairs

At the time of posting, Bishop Sessa scored 90% out of  108 votes

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Burnt and Charred @ The Woods, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

Date of Visit: October 26 2013

Destination dining in hotel restaurants is very popular in Asia and  I am perplexed as to why it is not catching on in Sydney.  Perhaps, it has to do with the perception that hotels often overcharge – think bottled water.  I love good food, and do not mind paying extra for restaurant interiors (e.g. ambience).  My rationale is that, since I am already forking out for a grand night-out, I might as well get a great all-round experience which includes atmosphere and service.

Much has been written about the ‘new adventurous destination restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel‘ and its interior.  Moreover as a fan of the now defunct, very posh Kable’s, with fond memories,  I am eager to appraise whether The Woods matches the Four Seasons’ fine dining experience.

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The Woods located on the ground floor lobby.

INTERIOR

Described a festival of wood, there is a lot of Australian hardwoods in rich caramel and dark chocolate colours at work in its interior.   A beautiful space with a lot going on – wood-fired oven, open kitchen, ‘vertical herb gardens’, timber racks stocked with bottles and a ceiling with mural of recipes and diagrams to boot!  Unfortunately, the lightings were very dim and monotonous, thus made my eyes very tired.

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Flos Lighting

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Long tables to cater for large parties

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The quirky pots are actually assemblages of a ‘vertical herb garden’!

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Another section off from the main restaurant – for semi-private functions

Decor was nice but why seat our party of 3 to a table at the top of the disabled ramp away from the main restaurant? There were PLENTY of tables in the ‘main restaurant’ – PLUS I made my booking a week in advance!

Nevertheless, despite the lack of white tablecloths, I was anticipating a  Morton’s style of experience – not sure why, but to me, grills make uncanny references to American steaks.  I have made a point of dining at a Morton’s at any cities that has a Morton’s, much like Planet Hollywood in my younger days!  My menu was always  their pulled porked sandwich – call me silly! 😛

I digress…

Back to The Woods, this restaurant is helmed by rising Australian Chef Hamish Ingham of one chef-hatted Bar H fame.

Although The Woods made references to wood-fired oven, it was puzzling that the breads arrived stone-cold.

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Stone-cold bread ($3 pp)

Melted blob of house-churned butter – but no flaked salt in sight!  What about a candle for the table?

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Melting blob of butter

I am actually pretty impressed with the wine list.  We had an Italian Sangiovese – I seldom order Aussie nowadays when I dine out, I prefer to be ‘adventurous‘.

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I am uncertain as to where to put the menu at The Woods, whether a fine dining menu or a hotel menu.  It seems to me neither here nor there…

To kick off the lackluster night…

A plate of Oysters comprising of Petit Clair, Clair de Lune, Moonlight en Surface, Moonlight Kisses and Rusty wire.  I was advised to eat from the smallest oyster to the largest – delicate to the strongest.  My favourite in the assorted oysters was Moonlight Kisses, overall the oysters were very briney and had strong smells – might be off?

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Assorted Oysters ($4.50 each)

Duck and pork terrine accompanied by radicchio salad came across as dry…

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Duck and pork terrine ($19)

Hmmm… never encountered a sirloin steak with bone before… burnt and charred…

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Aged sirloin, cafe de paris & hand cup chips ($44)

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Bowl of Chips

Whole line caught John Dory Fish grilled over apple wood ­– serves 2… burnt and charred… (Can’t smell apple wood)

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Whole line caught John Dory Fish grilled over apple wood ­($49)

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John Dory

The waitress had to be reminded of our salad…

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Green Salad ($8)

Since October was Good Food Month, with a special Let’s Do Dessert segment, The Woods’ featured dessert was Wood-fire pear tart tartin with smoked vanilla ice-cream and verjuice caramel with a glass of Brown Brothers dessert wine, all for $20.  Whilst I enjoyed the caramelised pear segments, but I couldn’t detect any smokiness nor vanilla flavour of the smoked vanilla ice-cream – only milkiness… The thin base was akin to the flaky croissant.

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Wood-fire pear tart tartin

The Woods definitely does not fit into the  profile of a 5-star property such as Four Seasons.  It didn’t come a surprise to me that the contract is not being renewed (here).  This is more a tapas/ bistro joint – we quickly vacated when the boisterous private party crowd came at 8pm to be seated at the large tables near us.  To its cred, it IS an impressive place to hold parties!

At the time of writing, The Woods scored 86% out of 51 votes

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