Peruvian Immersion For A Day @ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Date of Visit: March 29 2014

If your much anticipated hiking trip to Peru is cancelled what would you do?  Well, Bestie and I made a road trip to Canberra to gawk at the exotic Inca treasures of the ancient Peruvian civilisation at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra – aptly called ‘Gold and The Incas: Lost World of Peru” (here).

The exhibition is a key component of Canberra’s centenary celebrations in 2013 and also significant in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Australian-Peruvian diplomatic relations, and is organised in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.  As such, the works of art are lent by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú and its fraternal collections, the Fundacion Museo Amano, the Museo Larco and the Museo Oro del Perú – museums that were on our trip’s agenda –  as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Would it  surprise you that the Inca Empire lasted only 100 years?  This is a very short time for such a vast and famous enterprise!

In a nutshell:

“The Incas conquered all of Peru and much of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador.  The state governed from the capital city of Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards.  20,000km of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication.

The Emperor was The Son of The Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society.  The Inca state region demanded scarifices, human and animal – even textiles were burnt as offerings to the Gods.  Architecture, e.g. the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of the Inca culture (and still is!).  Temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry.

Sadly, our knowledge of Inca society is filtered through the world view of Spanish chroniclers. The Inca state of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and new diseases, especially smallpox.  Perhaps 90% of the native population, more than 10 million people, was killed or died of disease and famine after the conquest.

Almost every artefact that survives – what we see at the exhibition today – was buried with their owners.  As the cult of the dead infers, both noble and common people were interred in different ways according to tiers of importance – from ruling lords, priests, military leaders and retainers – as exemplified by their respective accoutrements and placements in their graves.

A rather kooky rite is that adorned mummified Inca elites form part of annual postmortem ceremonies where their corpses were paraded around the city of Cuzco.”

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Poster Child of the Exhibition: Gold Relic of the Sun God

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Children’s’ Discovery Area where photography is permitted

In summary, this is a well-curated exhibition with over 200 objects showcasing  exemplary artefact from each period of the Peruvian civilisation  from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths.  So, don’t miss out!

*****

It is only appropriate to round up our excursion by having a Peruvian themed lunch at the Sculptural Garden Restaurant.

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‘Cones’ (Bert Flugelman, 1976/82) in polished stainless steel

Finding it needed a bit of detective work as it is located outside the gallery, tucked away to the side of the garden and in a tent by the Marsh Pond.

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Sculptural Garden Restaurant

In the Marsh Pond (part of the sculpture garden) is a powerful work by Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian artist based in Darwin.  The pond is filled with bronze heads with extra eeriness supported by the mist-maker.  His works speaks of victims of oppression and social injustice.  If I remember correctly, this piece, “Heads from the north’,  is about the genocide in East Timor.

(PS:  Would I want to hold a reception in the restaurant by a pond filled with heads?  Probably not!😰)

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‘Heads from the north’, Dadang Christanto (Photo credit: http://www.pbase.com)

For this special occasion in conjunction with the exhibition, the interior of the restaurant is styled by designer Megan Morton to play up combinations of colour, good times and of course, corn – to accentuate the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture delights in!

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Interior of Restaurant

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Maize ‘Chandelier’

Only Set Lunch is served in the restaurant.

What we got for our 2-course Set Lunch at $35 per person

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Wholewheat Damper

ENTREE

Presented on a wooden paddle pan as is very fashionable now,  we have Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander.

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Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander (GF)

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Jumbo White Corn

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Quinoa: Baked quinoa toped with avocado wasabi cream and a rocket leaf. This is bourgeois peasant food!

MAIN COURSE

Sometimes, it is best not to heed recommendation of a fellow diner who you don’t know…

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Twice-cooked Beef Short Rib with Chimichurri and Huancaina Potatoes.

This is a plate of disappointment of sorts:  The beef was dry – yet full of fat!  The most obvious explanation is that it is not a good cut of meat which has been pre-(over)cooked and reheated thus rendering it very beef-jerky-like in texture.  The exotic sounding ‘huancaina’ is basically a spicy cream which is otherwise ‘meh’.

Check out my leftover plate of fat!

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FAT!! Fat-Die-Me! 😱 😱 😱

Not a very satisfying lunch, so a Diet Coke at the Gallery Cafe is in order…

QF127 From Sydney To Hong Kong

Date of Visit: April 5 2014

I am a regular at the Qantas Biz Lounge because it code-shares with Cathay Pacific. Thus far, I’ve yet to take pictures of the lounge simply because it looked rather ordinary and overdue for a freshening up.

For this trip to Hong Kong, I took Qantas because I wanted to use my flight credits from my cancelled Peru trip – THE trip that I’ve been anticipating for over a year.  Why am I not going?  Because the travel agent made a mistake with my name thereby ‘lost’ my Inca hiking trail permit!  Either that, or she left it to the very last minute (end of January) to book when in essence any hikers would know that the permit is released in the beginning of the year!  Needless to say, due to reasons unclear to me, and I’ll just leave it at that and happy to get a full refund!

Seeing Marc Newson design early in the morning – 6am – is entirely different under softly-litted illumination.  I’d say the design looked good!

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Qantas Business Lounge designed by Marc Newson

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Bar Area

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Bar Area

I had my usual fruit muesli and yoghurt for breakfast from the self-service buffet.  As for reading materials, there’s nothing of interest for me.  I managed to find 2 copies of Australian Bazaar and Australian Vogue – both in Chinese language, mind you.  Intriguing since this is my first time coming across Chinese-Australian fashion magazines.  I guess the world is awash with Renminbi $$$ with the Mainlanders as consummate consumers.

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Muesli and Chinese editions of Australian Bazaar and Vogue

Once on board the QF127, I was offered beverages – juice, water or champers.

Food on-board is designed by Neil Perry of Rockpool fame… and the wine list comprised of Australian wine hall of fame, enticing enough for me to switch to Qantas from now on!

For my aperitif, I chose 2012 Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay from Orange, NSW.  Apparently Philip Shaw is the architect of some of Australia’s greatest chardonnays.  I find it tight but with a good acidity.

I also got a Kate Spade amenities bag!  I find it more useful (larger) than the Agnes B that Cathay Pacific disperses.

Lunch service started with a choice of sourdough or rye bread and green salad.

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Salad of Garden Leaves with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Sour Dough

I switched to Gewurtztraminer for lunch.  At the back of mind, I  remembered traminers as uncousously sweet wines, but surprisingly Cargo Road was rather dry with with a good line of acidity with notes of lychee permeating through both the nose and palate!

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Tasting notes for the Gerwurztraminer

SMALL PLATES

Mild, not sweet which I liked. Beef is a bit like beef jerky – well seasoned but not too dry. Bits of red chilli pepper flakes to lift the notes to the otherwise bland/ tasteless vermicelli . Some shredded carrots and cucumbers for crunch and juice -and of course herbs because it’s Vietnamese!  I like! 👍

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Vietnamese Style Salad of Beef Brisket, Fresh Herbs and Nuoc Cham Dressing

With Qantas, the wine pours are very generous with lots of wine top-ups, unlike some Asians airlines…also the wine glasses for lunch is larger than the aperitifs! 😄

MAIN PLATES

I chose the Big Bowl of Soup because I like root vegetables.  It’s a light but filling course with rich beefy (vegemitey?) savoury broth with sweet aniseedy/ herbaceous notes.  Risoni, kale, chestnuts and parsnips went well with Getwurztraminer!

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Big Bowl of Braised Lamb, RoastChestnuts, Parsnips and Orzo Soup

DESSERT

To finish – Lemon Curd Tart or Cheese?I chose the Cheese selection of goat’s cheese and cheddar, with accompaniments of candied pear and fig.  I was also given a Varholna dark chocolate baton to go with my Long Black.

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Selection of Cheese, Valrhona Chocolate Baton and Long Black

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Selection of Cheese, Dried Fruits and Crackers

After lunch service, we were offered T2 Apple Tea, but no thanks – too full !

PRE-LANDING MEAL

I opted for the Shanghai noodles with stir-fried mushrooms and snow peas with lots of puffed tofu.  This came in a Chinese take-away paper container.  It was very salty…I finished since I’m not going to eat dinner when I get home tonight!😜

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Shanghai Noodles Stir-fried Mushrooms and Snow Peas

So here I am, back in Hongkers!

Family Lunch @ Sepia Restaurant, Sydney

Date of Visit: March 15 2014

If you have been following my Instagram @OutForALongLunch, you can correctly assume that I’m back in Sydney – which I am – and I shall remain for a month for some business and R&R…

4 months away from Sydney, I am looking forward to a Saturday lunch with my family.  So here we are at Sepia (again!)

To kick-off we ordered a bottle of bordeaux (pinot noir) from Le Clementine du Pape Clement 2009,Pessac-Léognan.  We always order lighter styles of reds to compliment our meals so as not to over-power the cuisine.  We are really here to enjoy the food and the wine is only meant as accompaniment!

We ordered Oysters for palate starters (optional choice for $60).  The oysters with ponzu lime juice seriously openned up the tastebuds with the sweet acidic juice to ‘cut’ the very succulent and creamy oysters.

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Oysters

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Oysters

AMUSE BOUCHE:

This is a solid one bite wonder. A very dense piece of meat, was thinking perhaps it was cured meat?  I didn’t take note of what the waiter was saying as I knew from my previous experience (post here) that I shall be getting the menu later.  In any regards, it was swordfish rolled in the furikake of flavoursome umami of miso and peppers.

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Swordfish belly cured in barley miso, shichimi togarashi pepper, candied ginger

TWO

Sheep yoghurt rolled in a sashimi of yellow-fin tuna and sprinkled with green crackling.  The thick yoghurt and avocado are offset by the acidity of ponzu juice.

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Sashimi Yellow fin tuna, sheep yoghurt and wasabi, avocado, turnips, ponzu, crackling

THREE

A richly coloured powdered of dehydrated rhubarb, beetroot and rye on top of of jelly of rhubarb hiding a mould of cheese under.  Looking ornate like a pile of ruby dust, however as one digs into the pile, the liquidy rhubarb starts to ooze  out.  I took some cross-sectional pics with my iPhone, but iPhone being iPhone, the pics came blurry even though I held my phone very still…

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House-made chèvre, rhubarb, beetroot, rye, native violets

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House-made chèvre, rhubarb, beetroot, rye, native violets

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House-made chèvre, rhubarb, beetroot, rye, native violets

A third into lunch, we were asked whether we would like to take a break by munching on some bread?  Being carb-phobics, we think not, let the flow continues!

FOUR

This course reminded me that I have to buy some krill oil to take back to Hong Kong… yet also harkens back to the salmon roe rice at Kikunoi in Japan (post yet to be done!) – so stayed tuned! 😊  Basically a very rich risotto rice dish with ‘curdy’ egg yolk, topped with the fishy salmon roe.  I believe a high skill and superior technique is warranted so not to overcook the egg yolk.

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Egg yolk and miso rice, smoked salmon roe, wasabi

Finito! A clean bowl to show how I had appreciated this course!

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FIVE

While the others had Spanner Crab

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Spanner crab, pine mushrooms silken tofu, yuzu, wakame, freid garlic

 

…me, being allergic to shellfish – or rather, crustaceans – had Snapper with Salmon Roe.  I love the lovely ensemble of colours, but the fish was a bit over-cooked (a little tough) but the tiny dots of jelly sauces are very flavoursome and mouthwatering!

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Snapper, Salmon Roe, Jelly, Baby Radishes.

SIX

The wagyu beef were actually thinly shaved slices of beef with a shiso leaf sandwiched in-between.  Despite all the prep, the beef tasted ordinary.😁  The star of this course however, I believe is the tiny potatoes,  mukago potatoes which are a new species.  “Unlike typical potatoes they grow on a vine rather than underground. For this reason some people refer to them as ‘air-potatoes’. Mukago potatoes fall off the vine very easily when they are ripe”. (See more here.)

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David Blackmore wagyu beef, oba, daikon radish and citrus dashi, mukago potato

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Shiso leaf sandwiched between the slices of wagyu beef

SEVEN

This course exudes ‘Australiana’.   I like the sourish wonderfully tart lemon taste with a hint of grapefruit.  I also loved the red hue of the venison which was very tender. The additional of myoga (Japanese ginger) binds the different elements of the dish well.

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Seared Mandagery Creek Venison, pickled myoga, lemon cream, lemon aspen , liquorice

Optional:  Pyengana cheddar, plum wine and apple pectin, sheep yoghurt and apple cream – we didn’t take uo the offer as we were rather stuffed.

EIGHT: Pre-dessert

Well, well, well… this is the first of the 3 desserts.  Mmm… presentation looks kind of similar to course #3.   Frozen ice over jelly, pretty good.

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Peach Cream, Raspberry, Yukari

NINE

This is a light dessert.  Pumpkin ice-cream with miso is unusual, but the combination went well – sweet and savoury – and a bit herby from the sorrel.  Yuba which is tofu skin seems to be very fashionable as you will see in my Tetsuya’s post later… stay tuned! 😋

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Pumpkin and Miso Caramel Ice-cream, Popcorn, Yuba, Sorrel

Licked another plate clean!

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Clean plate

TEN

The finale:  “Autumn chocolate forest” consisting of soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond, lavender and honey cream, sour cherry sorbet, rose and violet jellies, green tea, liquorice, chocolate twigs.  This is Sepia’s signature – and one that I had in my first visit (here).

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“Autumn Chocolate Forest”

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“Autumn Chocolate Forest”

Unfortunately, at this stage, I am totally stuffed.  I cannot finish the final dessert.  On a personal note,  although I’m pursuing bodybuilding at the moment, I don’t think degustation is totally unhealthy (but don’t tell my trainer about it as he gets very annoyed – “Char-siu is NOT proper protein!  It’s coated with maltose!”)  Nevertheless, I find the meal to be well-balanced using fresh ingredients which I presume to be healthy – c’mon at  A$175pp, I’d say so! 😏

PETIT FOURS:

Complimentary dark chocolate with minty cream centers.  Perfect with a glass of cold-drip coffee from El Salvador ($10)

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After-Eights Mints

Overall a very Japanoise-skewed meal with literal uses of supplementary Japanese ingredients.  From my first visit last year, Sepia has transgressed from foam and sashimi to mushy curd and cream which is rather fashionable now (see my post on Sixpenny here).