Biota Dining

Date of Visit: August 5, 2012

Biota Dining has to be one of my most memorable meal of 2012. Thanks to my FB page, where I had posted some pictures and notes, I still have the sweet memories to share in my blog.

In the days of yore, before the petrol price rocketed sky-high, my family would often go for long country drives. Nevertheless, last August, when my mom got her hot new European SUV, so we decided to take the car out for a spin. I had read the rave reviews on Biota Dinning, so booked a table online.

The drive from Sydney to Bowral took around 2 hours.

We got a bit of a ‘fright’ when mom pulled up into the parking lot in front of a motel and asked, ‘Are we dining in a motel?’. I hoped not, but hopped off the car to check the situation (I was a bit worried, because I have had made a few bad dining recommendations before). To my relief, 2 country-gentlemen came out from another walkway and said to me, ‘This is the best restaurant in Bowral!”. Phew! What a relief!

We were the first to arrive at 12 noon. A lot of reviewers referred the decor as ‘Scandi-chic’, but I thought ‘Bondi-chic’ – well, never mind, both tastes rely heavily on natural wood, white washes, striped cushions in a somewhat large bare-minimalist room. I think the ‘naked’ light-bulbs for lightning looked fun though.

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Main dining room

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The kitchen ‘theatre’

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The ‘Bar’ with a huge branch and tin bucket for cooling wines – pretty rustic

Quirky touches everywhere… on the wall

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Quirky chicks

…on the table…

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Egg shell resting on hay – deco only – do not eat!

Righto! To the food…Amuse Bouche and the customary bread and butter…

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Amuse Bouche: Salmon jerky impaled by thin rod in Himalayan salt

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Whole meal damper – butter served on stone, nice touch

ONE

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Pulled beef with beet root

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Picturesque Scallop with celeriac purée, zucchini and peas

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Duck egg on smoked puffed rice (a must-try)

TWO

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Lamb rump

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Pork neck painted in ash! So this is what the New York foodies are raving about ‘food with ash’!

Our Wine

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New wine discovery from Canberra – it has a good hint of pepper!

THREE

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Chocolate (Before)

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Chocolate (After)

Tea with Petit Fours

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Tea with Petit Fours

Just checking out the rest of the place..

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Informal dining area where they serve tapas and lighter plates

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Chill-out lounge with fire place (view 1)

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Chill-out lounge with fire place (view 2)

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Outdoor terrace with a real stove to make pizza (for summer)

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More outdoor sitting

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The garden with the famous resident geese

On the way home, we detoured to the tourist drive to check out the view of Bowral… Biota Dining was simply awesome and we will definitely be back!

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View of Bowral

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Quay Restaurant

Wow! After 3 years of dreaming the famous Snow Egg from MasterChef, I finally got to savour it! Did Peter Gilmore float my boat? Read on!
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Date of Visit: January 23, 2013

The Quay Restaurant at Circular Quay is No.29th in S.Pellegrino’s World Top 50 Restaurant (2012). It is the only Australasian restaurant included in the ranking. To get a table at Quay for a party of 2 to 4 would need at least 3 months reservation, however, because we are a party of over 5 people, we got a table with relative ease.

Since we entertaining guests from overseas, we look for location and accolades. What is a more iconic setting than the night time views over the waters of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge? Fret not, the cruise liner parked at the Overseas Terminal usually sets sail around 6:30pm – but do enquire when you make reservation.

The decor of the restaurant is nothing to gush home. Blue carpet, mirrors on the ceiling and walls. The bar looked rather nice, except when I looked closer, it’s just a drinks prep area. AnywaZ, I was given the honour to choose the wine for the table. Since I’m an adventurous drinker, I chose a white and a red varietal from Portugal:
2010 Dona Paterna (Alvarinho), Vinho Verde A$80 – floral varietal akin to sav blanc but with more weight
2006 Niepoort Vertente (D.O.C Douro), Douro Valley A$128 – light chocolate cherry, smooth with some age

I am very pleased with my choosing. I must say that the wine list is very good and easy to navigate, perfectly structured with international selections in magnums and half bottles too.

Our table decided on the 4-course dinner menu (A$165).

FIRST UP

Amuse bouche was goat’s curd, tomato, crunchy fennel seed – my taste bud is getting tickled… loving the texture…mmm… looks like the stage is set for a rather fine meal.

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Amuse Bouche

Just being a country bumpkin here, got to take pics of everything including butter and salt for the bread! LOL

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ONE

My choice of salad did not disappoint. See how beautifully it was presented? Sweet juicy cherries, tangy beets and smooth creaminess of the creme fraiche are beautifully balanced with savoury ‘toffeeish’ crunchy croutons

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Salad of preserved wild cherries,
albino and chioggia beetroots, radish, crème fraîche, violets

Beautiful presentation

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Fragrant poached chicken,
white radish, sea scallops, smoked eggplant cream, pea blossoms

Bugs Bunny’s Delight

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Carrot seedlings, white lentils,
almonds, Reggiano emulsion, cumin, daylilies, Job’s tears, coriander flowers

TWO

This is where service falls short… 3 persons at our table (including me) ordered squid without thinking that the squid will be replaced by scampi tonight. We thought that it was only for the tasting menu. So a mistake was made when the waiter who took the order did not clarify with us again that squid is also off the 4-course menu when we ordered ‘squid’ (and I had also informed the waiter than I am allergic to shellfish!). In my opinion, a restaurant of this calibre, should simply reprint the menu. How much does an A6 reflex paper cost?

Back to the story…When the replacement scampi arrived, I could immediately smell that it’s crustacean which I am highly allergic to. (And if I can smell crustacean, it only means that it is not fresh, that’s how sensitive my nose is!) A little disagreement ensued with the waiter who brought out the dishes…yadda..yadda… to cut the story short, the waiter should have just removed the plate and not argue with the client! Duh?!

Picture of the wrong order: My source told me that the scampi was ‘mushy’ no ‘crunchy freshness’

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Scampi, squid ink custard, society garlic, pink turnips

I’m happy with my replacement. It looks fancy. Puffed quinoa and nuts on the thinly sliced squail (master knife-work here). The brioche came across as dry. Since I can never ever taste truffles no many how many times I have tried, it is perplexing to me why truffles are so highly regarded.

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Coturnix quail, farro, hazelnuts, quinoa,
steamed truffle brioche, egg yolk confit, Vin Jaune cream

THREE

Look at the tiny onions! Too cute to eat. But the rice in broth was a tad too salty for me

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Korean green rice,
mountain spinach, barletta onions, green radish
asparagus, chestnut mushrooms

Dining source’s comment on the lamb was that it was sinewy and not ‘that great’

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Suffolk lamb loin,
eggplant skin and olive purée, sheeps milk crème fraîche,
fresh and preserved flowers

Looks like a chocolate cake. Dining source’s comment was that the beef was bland. Oh well… course THREE was only so-so.

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Poached Rangers Valley beef,
bitter chocolate black pudding,
morel, ezekiel crumbs, shaved mushrooms

FOUR

Dessert time! This is THE moment!

Eight texture chocolate cake is the latest signature dessert of Quay. The 8th texture was actually the hot choc sauce served at the table. (Note it melting in the middle). It was a very rich and powerful – me likey!

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Eight texture chocolate cake

What it looks like in cross-section. Check out the DIY video here.

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Eight texture chocolate cake

This is the moment I have been waiting for! MY Snow Egg arriveth! Apparently, they change the flavours seasonally. They have done jackfruit and guava previously. The process of making the Snow Egg is highly technical. Ice-cream inside lightly poached meringue and encrusted with very thin caramel, resting on cherry granita with bits of dehydrated coconut. Check out the DIY video here

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Cherry and coconut snow egg

What was my verdict of the Snow Egg? I liked the presentation but apart from the cherry and coconut granita, I couldn’t remember what was the flavour of the supposed yolk, and whether it should be ice-cream or cream since it was a sludge when I cracked open the egg.

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Cherry and coconut snow egg

I saw people from the next table having the ‘Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts, ethereal sheets’, also on the dessert menu. The presentation looked ‘deconstructive’ with the sheets wedging into the cream and sorts. I’m sure it must be delish too!

Finally, some chocky with our nightcap

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Petit Fours – extra A$10 with coffee/ tea

So, did Peter Gilmore float my boat? Needless to say, the presentations rocked and the techniques involved in the desserts could not be faulted. Unfortunately, for the main meals, there are other places that offers better. If I am coming back, it will definitely be for the desserts.

Degustation menu (updated)

Degustation menu

Degustation menu

FYI and comparison sake, do check out Andy Hayler’s review here.

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