$69 Lunch Deal @ est., CBD Sydney

Date of Visit: November 21 2013

Thought I’d spend a nice day at home packing before I take-off again tomorrow but that was not to be… a last minute call to show up in the City for a meeting came at 9am, so off I went to the City – but before that, a quick call to make a reservation for lunch at est.!

est. is a 3-hat restaurant in the city, head-chefed by Peter Doyle – is he related to the famous Doyles fish and chips joint in Watsons Bay, I don’t know.  All I am sure of is that at this moment, they are running a $69 2-course lunch deal.  est. is a firm favourite with the suiters crowds, set in a heritage room with highly decorative ceilings supported by luxe corinthian colums.

20131121-144529.jpg

Dining room

20131121-144535.jpg

Marble bar at the back

20131121-144540.jpg

My seated view

As soon as we were seated, a champagne trolley was wheeled over to take our champagne orders – which we declined.

With our lunch order taken, a bread sommelier showed us a tray of breads, there were choices of sliced linseed bread, rye or sourdough dampers.  I chose the sourdough damper which was somewhat disappointing being cold.   I am sure I would have enjoyed the bread and finished it if it was warm!

20131121-144232.jpg

Sourdough damper

20131121-144238.jpg

Sourdough damper

A bowl of chips as starters!  Hot and crunchy with fluffy insides, perfect accompaniment to my 2010 Niepoort ‘Sempar’ from Douro Valley, a Touriga wine varietal from Portugal.  This is a medium-bodied, plummy-tobaccoey, dry tannic wine which opens up after decanting.

I’m an adventurous wine drinker and  tend to order exotic foreign wines that I have not heard of, as part of my continuing professional development (CPD) in wine education!  Moreover, I can always get ‘Ossytrayian’ wines from the bottle shops!  (I did do a quick wiki on what touriga is before I ordered, apparently this is the finest varietal from Portugal and used to make ports.  The current trend however, is to use it to blend with other wine varietals)

20131121-144244.jpg

Chips ($11)

This is seriously the best wagyu sirloin I’ve came across – meltingly soft-tender-fatty beef from Tassie!  Paired with the beef is an assortment of 4 very delicious grilled mushrooms.  The 2 deep-fried crumbed sticks were turnips, I presume… the shiso leaves added both colour and a bitter kick.

20131121-144252.jpg

Robbins Island Wagyu scotch fillet, grilled mushrooms, caramelized shallot

20131121-144456.jpg

4 Mushroom accompaniments.

As always, dessert is a highlight.

My dining companion chose est.’s signature dessert, the Passionfruit Soufflé.  It was very, very sweet – too sweet to finish.  A pity since it had risen up to a perfectly formed soufflé.

20131121-144503.jpg

Passionfruit souffle, passionfruit sorbet

I, on the other hand, truly enjoyed my dessert – bittersweet valrhona chocolate with sour cherries.  The chocolate fondant was bitter and had kirsch cherries hidden inside, the sorbet was sour and paired with fresh firm cherries and  chopped up nuts and coca nibs. (The tart sour cherries went well with my touriga too!)

20131121-144510.jpg

Bittersweet valrhona chocolate and griotte fondant, sour cherry sorbet

We finished with coffees and complimentary petit fours.  I enjoyed the malt-rye macaroon and the crunchy sea-salt peanut cookie, not sure about  the green-colured gelée and the chocolate (which had fennel seed gelée in it).  All-in-all, a perfect and very satisfying lunch!

20131121-144524.jpg

Coffee

20131121-144516.jpg

Petit Fours

At the time of writing, est. scored 88% out of 471 votes (+ an extra 1 from me!)

Est. on Urbanspoon

Well, with my review done, I am going back to finish my packing now.  Do you find that half your luggage is always taken up by computer cables?  Anyway, if I forget anything, there is always online shopping!

A Dieter Goes Lunching @ Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

Date of Visit: November 14 2013

Dining out when one is on a pseudo-diet is kinda hard. How do one choose what to eat from the long list of deliciousness? E-A-S-Y! That is, if one has a checklist of what one can and cannot eat – i.e. a limiting factor as a guidance to make choosing off the menu a breeze.

Today I am going high protein, so no carbs for me… although I did cheat with a glass of buttery cold chard from Western Australia… c’mon, it’s been quite a stressful day, a glass can do not harm, right? 😉 Nevertheless, this is my survival story…

20131114-143005.jpg

Crusty sourdough for my eyes to feast on…

Sitting through Starters, watching and smelling one’s dining companions’ foods can be a torture, but with the right mindset, watching people enjoying their food and being able to participate albeit only by watching is priceless (no weight gain!) One can play the part of the interviewer querying, “How’s the food? How’s the taste? You like?”

The French Onion soufflé smelt very good, exactly like the french onion soup except in the pudding/ soufflé form and surrounded by grilled cheese. Totally decadent…mmm… but of course my mind started berating: “Do you want to jiggle like the soufflé?” My strategy was to satisfy my inner cravings by inhaling deeply …ommm, namaste!

20131114-143012.jpg

French Onion Soufflé

Same goes for my strategy on my other dining companion who had Chicken Liver Pate with the accompaniments of melba toasts and 3 cherries. I used the visualisation cue – imagination.. And that’s what I did, I imagined myself in my companion’s shoes, spreading the thick malleable creamy chicken liver over the charred melbas…

20131114-143018.jpg

Chicken Liver Pate

Finally, plates were cleared, our Mains arrived.

Sirloin steak and shoe string fries for the gentleman. Thank Heavens, I was busy with my own food that I did not even attempt to nick a fry! Good self-control by way of a pre-occupied mind! (See my dish below)

20131114-143031.jpg

Sirloin steak and shoe string fries

Salmon for the other lady companion. Now, remember, people are often very generous with their food and will offer you a tasting bite. Say: “NO! Thank You!”

20131114-143037.jpg

Salmon

Unfortunately, the translucent potato chip piqued my interest. Check out the ‘fossilised’ parsley! So, I let my guard down and took one… Anyway, no point in beating oneself over the gluttony, as the saying goes, “start afresh, tomorrow is another day!”

20131114-143042.jpg

Potato Chip

My ‘pre-occupation’ was in the form of the delectable Pork Belly & Pork Loin paired with baked apple, walnuts and braised savoy cabbage. I practised mindful eating at this point – slowly devouring and savouring each mouthful of the perfectly cooked and very succulent pork. You know what? Baked apples is so much more filling than apple sauce, and it was nice to be cutting up the apple and spreading it on the meat!

20131114-143048.jpg

Pork Belly & Pork Loin

Since I took a rather long time to polish off my meal. We were not tempted by the desserts – the limiting factor here was the 2 hour car parking – we did not want a ticket from the parking ranger!

As you can see, strategic planning by arming oneself with limiting factors such as what one can or cannot eat, not wanting a parking ticket; the right mindset; cueing with visualisation and eating mindfully played an important role over my lunch today. Practise it often, and one can survive a darn good lunch!

(Past visit at Bistro Moncur here)

Hot and Cold… Frozen and Crumbed @ Tomislav, Darlinghurst

Date of Visit: November 1 2013

Like most ambitious young chefs, Chef Tomislav Martinovic went abroad and worked in many kitchens including the highly esteemed Heston Blumenthal’s. So when my friend, Side-Kick Chica (she writes a travel blog here), said that she missed out on dining at Fat Duck when she was in UK recently. I told her we have a Fat Duck alumni here! No need to travel all the way to Bray in Berkshire county – a 50 minutes journey from London’s Paddington Station and why bother figuring out the logistics and lodging simply for dinner?! Duh!!

So a Saturday lunch at Tomislav was settled…

The restaurant is a leisurely 10-minutes walk from Kings Cross Station – one can also trek up William Street, if one is up to it – like we were going to, except it was a 30C Saturday…

We had the 4-course set lunch at $95 (no other options). We parked ourselves at a table for 4 on the balcony, enjoying a partial view of the Bridge and a partial view of the Coca-Cola sign blocked by the trees and the magpie that swooped in for a visit…but mostly entertained by the sound of traffic…

As we waited for our 1st course, we snacked on rice crackers with sea salt (+$10) which we spritzed vinegar from an atomiser – so deft! The rice crackers were apparently “simply brushed with egg white and deep-fried for two to three seconds, resulting in paper-thin scrunches that look like dropped hankies. They stay crisper than crisp even when sprayed with the little atomiser of vinegar, a move nicked straight out of Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen/laboratory” (much quoted sentences from food blogs).

P1000912

Rice crackers with sea salt and vinegar.

P1000913

Rice crackers

P1000914

Lemon, lime and bitters and Tap water

The affable Ann- Maree, looked after us well. We had house-churned butter and frozen chocolate presented on a granite plinth accompanies our complimentary sour dough. What a kooky idea to blend choc-ice with butter! Interesting chocolate bread idea, but I preferred picking and eating the choc-ice instead!

P1000918

Chocolate-ice and house-churned butter

Our Amuse Bouche was the triple cheeses onion toasties. The cheeses were marshmallow-ishly soft and tasted cheesey, accentuated with bits of caramelised onions and fragile crackers.

P1000916

Triple cheeses onion toasties

Course 1

My Choice (Kickass Chica): A light summery dish of thinly sliced Spanish mackerel carpaccio covered in finely chopped salad of burnett – the herbs tasted very fresh, reminiscent of cucumber – and when paired with celery sorbet makes a good transition to the crackers held in place by creamy mackerel mousse. Should I have broken the quail’s egg to mix with the carparccio? I am not sure since it is ALWAYS my habit to always eat the yolk whole without breaking it.

P1000919

Spanish mackerel carpaccio, salad burnette, mackerel mousse, prawn crackers

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

P1000922

Roast Kurobuta Pork Belly, anchovy juice, raw cauliflower, poached cuttlefish

Course 2

My Choice: A fan of offal and eggs, roast veal sweetbread with poached quail yolk – again? – foie gras was my ideal choice. I enjoyed the sweet caramelised sweetbread against the bitter charred pieces of spring onions. The frozen and crumbed foie gras was a novelty – creamy and smooth for me to smear over my sweetbread. The grilled mango was presented in the form of a streak on the plate – from my fading memory, I recalled popping candies of dehydrated cranberries and a couple of thinly sliced radishes as well, however, I may be proved wrong…

P1000927

Roast Veal Sweetbread, poached yolk, grilled mango, foie gras crumbs

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

P1000923

Butter poached scallops, peas shoots, broccoli cream, cyrstal bay prawns

Course 3

(Both Side-kick Chica and I had the same course).

The pairing of coconut pudding with the roasted Riverina lamb neck piqued my interest so I decided to order it to see how well they matches. Overly contrasting and perhaps mismatched, I can only describe the pairing as ‘interesting’. The lamb neck was faultless but I ate the coconut pudding – basically tapioca sago cooked in milky coconut – separately as dessert.

Hmm… we have another play of the ‘frozen and crumbed’, now in the form of frozen mustard.

P1000929

Roast Riverina Lamb neck, frozen mustard, pickled radishes, coconut pudding

Course 4

My Choice: I had the lemon cheesecake which Tomislav described as his perfected version of Wow Cow yoghurt. An interesting deconstructed cheesecake with lemon mousse studded with cheese on a sable base; a pink quenelle of strawberry sorbet sitting on the crumbed sable with salt; green frozen and crumbed mint on the yellow grilled pineapple – added a contrast of colours to the dish – oh, and not forgetting the 2 deep-ruby berry drops on the plate.

P1000932

Lemon cheesecake, mint crumbs, frozen yoghurt, grilled pineapple

Side-kick Chica’s choice:

P1000934

Chocolate and Caramel Cake, coconut ice, chocolate biscuit, roast apple ice cream

It was definitely a very technique-driven lunch of flavoured frozen crumbs on hot dishes. I am sure Chef Tomislav had made good use of his paco-jet machine to the delight of us all, his customers!

While browsing though my pictures, I was thinking how the choice of plates made for interesting and psychedelic plated dishes!

I also have to praise Ann-Maree for her fantastic hospitality which added to our luncheon enjoyment! 😘

At the time of posting, Tomislav scored 91% from 136 votes!

Tomislav on Urbanspoon

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…

P1000899

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)

P1000898

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.

P1000901

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.

P1000902

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.

P1000906

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.

P1000905

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.

P1000907

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

P1000909

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.

P1000910

Chocolate chip parfait, chocolate mousse, caramelised pop corn

20131104-190958.jpg

Chocolate chip parfait, chocolate mousse, caramelised pop corn

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

20131101-204513.jpg

Bishop Sessa – more tables upstairs

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

Bishop Sessa on Urbanspoon

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.

P1000865

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.

P1000869

Flos Lighting

P1000868

Long tables to cater for large parties

P1000873

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

P1000874

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.

20131026-221715.jpg

Stone-cold bread ($3 pp)

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

20131026-221721.jpg

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‘.

20131026-221729.jpg

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?

20131026-221739.jpg

Assorted Oysters ($4.50 each)

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

20131026-221745.jpg

Duck and pork terrine ($19)

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

20131026-221755.jpg

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

20131026-221801.jpg

Bowl of Chips

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

20131026-221808.jpg

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

20131026-221820.jpg

John Dory

The waitress had to be reminded of our salad…

20131026-221826.jpg

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.

20131026-221832.jpg

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

The Woods on Urbanspoon

Value Dega Deal @ WaQu, Crows Nest

Date of Visit: October 28 2013

I have driven past WaQu along Pacific Highway, maybe a zillion times.  I had wanted to try out the Japanese cuisine there but had never got around to checking it out until last Sunday evening.  Perhaps due to stiff competitions along the numerous Japanese eateries along the strip, the  establishment is currently offering a 6-course degustation meal at $58, which is $10 off – perfect to spend on a glass of wine to accompany the meal!

For the wine aficionado, an additional $45 will get you 6 different wines to match with your meal which I went for.  Otherwise, a glass of 2009 Dourthe  ‘Terrasse de la Jalle’, a Cabernet Savignon from Medoc, France ($12)  comes highly recommended by my Mom who appreciates robust red wines.  I had a sip, and found the wine to be pleasant with soft tanins (e.g. not bitter and dry).

First up, was my sake – Toyo Bijin, a sake in DaiGinjo-style from Yamaguchi Perfecture, west of Japan. This style of sake is made of highly polished rice – up to 50% – and added with additional alcohol.  It is a light, crisp and fruity varietal that paired well with my amuse bouche and first course to come.

Amuse Bouche for the table was sushi rice wrapped in charred zuchini and Japanese basil. The inclusion of the herbaceous Japanese basil or shiso – as it is commonly known – together with the chopped up hazelnuts gave a unique and vibrant taste that I can only describe as citrusy and nutty.

20131027-214735.jpg

Zucchini Sushi

Course 1

Soup of the day is chilled pumpkin soup infused in coconut milk and onion with a generous douze of lemon oil on top.  A truly delectable milky sweet soup, with barely a hint of onion.  Paired with the acidity of the fruity fragrant Toyo Bijin sake, the umaminess of the soup is extenuated, thus making this combo akin to an aperitif.

20131027-214744.jpg

Chilled pumpkin
soup

Course 2

The sommelier, now wearing his waiter-hat, explained the cooking method of Su-Jime Salmon Sashimi which came beautifully plated in a glazed stone bowl with mango sauce, myoga salad, lightly fried wild rice, green tea salt. The raw salmon has been macerated in Japanese rice vinegar to cook and it is akin to Peruvian cerviche without the sourness.  Mango sauce went well with the sashimi . The myoga salad was basically spring onions if I recall correctly.

To drink: 2008 Frogmore Creek, Cuvee Evermore from Coal River Valley, Tasmania

20131027-214754.jpg

Su-Jime Salmon
Sashimi

Course 3:

Scallops + Beans is a platter of 2 big juicy scallops accompanied by peas of sorts. There was a big broadbean hidden under the prociutto crisp. Light-flavoured peas puree together with peas and yoghurt mousse provided additional richness to the scallops, but I prefered the robust crunchy sweet peas instead.  Not sure about the macadamia nuts dusting though as it rendered itself quite tasteless, but quite made a pretty heap.

To Drink: 2013 Brindabella Hills, Rieslings, Canberra ACT.   Canberra is an emerging wine district, and this riesling is akin to the floral minerally Austrian riesling with good acidity.

20131027-214804.jpg

Scallops + Beans

Course 4  (2 choices to choose from)

My Bro had the Pan-fried Barramundi which came accompanied with grilled eggplant nibitashi (that means eggplants that have been grilled, then stewed in soy and mirin sauce), cucumber and zuchini puree.

20131027-214815.jpg

Pan-fried Barramundi

While my Mom and I had the Pan-fried Kingfish.  True to the Sommelier-waiter explanation, the skin was indeed the best part of the fish.  I also enjoyed the salty bacon foam which contrasted well with the bitter watercress puree.  The steamed white asparagus were lightly charred and were delectable to help cut the flavoursome taste of the fish  off my palate.  Not sure about the roasted soba seeds though – but interesting to see they looked like rice! 😜

To Drink: A dry-medium bodied  2012 Hamelin Bay Chardonnay from Margaret River, WA.  A nose of bitter almond and sweet pineapple, it has a hint of cashew nut, clean and crisp without any butteriness.

20131027-214840.jpg

Pan-fried Kingfish

Course 5  (3 choices to choose)

Bro chose Tajima Wagyu Sirloin Steak, this incurred a surcharge of $8.  The accompaniments were  celeriac puree, rocket puree, apple sauce, potato gratine, mustard seeds.

20131027-214848.jpg

Tajima Wagyu Sirloin Steak

My Mom chose Roast Rack of Lamb which is accompanied  by purple carrot and almond  puree, mung bean sprout salad, potato confit.

20131027-214908.jpg

Roast Rack of Lamb

I chose the Thirlmere Corn Fed Chicken Two Way.  The roasted chicken breast was not as tender as I liked, but the skin was fantastically thin and perfectly crispy.  I used the parsnip ginger puree as ‘lubricant’.  The chicken thigh was juicier and stuffed with a roulade with cauliflower and black truffle which smelt heavenly.

To Drink: 2010 Shadowfax ‘Minnow‘, a Cinsault Mataro Carignan from Mornington, VIC which is  herbaceous with a nose of lavender and rose berry.

20131027-214916.jpg

Thirlmere Corn Fed Chicken Two Way

 Course 6

My final wine pairing for the night was the Ume-no-yado, a plum sake from Nara Japan.  This is an unfliltered sake thus the cloudy look.  It has the honey plum nose as well as taste.  Sweet!

20131027-214925.jpg

Ume-no-yado

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry signalled the end of our meal.  This is a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake… Strawberry cheese cubes, strawberry mousse, sweet macerated strawberries, sable crumbs, nougat pieces and cream sauce… I especially liked the herb-infused strawberry sorbet which is utterly refreshing, adding a summeriness to the mouthfeel – so let’s not about the unpredictable weather in Sydney now – blowing hot and cold – making me take a lot of guesswork in my ward-robing!

20131027-214932.jpg

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry

20131027-214942.jpg

Strawberry x Strawberry x Strawberry

A swig of coffee, a moment to digest, then we are off!

Service was pretty good in general, although there was a hiccup in our reservation.  I booked through Dimmi and received a couple of reminders and even a text inquiring dietary requirements, yet we arrived at the restaurant, our booking was not on the clapboard and raised a pair of well-groomed Japanese meterosexual male eyebrows.  Otherwise, service was attentive whereby the waiters took great pains to explain each dish – in this instance the sommelier was the star!

This is truly an upscale modern Japanese -Australian fusion dining sans the price.

20131031-113955.jpg

Quick iPhone shot of the moody timber interior.

WaQu scored 84% out of 204 votes at the time of posting

Waqu on Urbanspoon

Offal Nom Noms @ Bistrode CBD, Sydney

Date of Visits:  Too many times

I was looking through my collection of gastronomic escapades on my iPhone where I have stored over 4,000+ photos when I came across my album on Bistrode CBD and realised that I have yet made a post on Jeremy Strode who is my favourite chef in Sydney.  Bistrode CBD is a fine dining restaurant in Sydney and currently sits at No 65 on Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine’s Australian Top 100 Restaurant Guide 2014.   He  also manages The Fish Shop in Potts Point under the Merivale’s wing.

I first came across Jeremy’s cooking at MG Garage; and when he opened Bistrode in Surry Hills with his wife, Jane in 2005,  my family and I became their frequent diners and would receive a  pot of their delicious home-made chutney at Christmas. Now that they have moved to the City, we visit less often but still make a point to drop in  whenever we are in the vicinity.  His restaurant is always busy and reservations is advised, however, since we are regulars, we are always welcomed by the staffs and would usually get a table.

Jeremy is known for his classic English fare focusing on secondary cuts of meats and offal executed with French cooking techniques. Techniques he learnt while cooking for well known French masters including Chef Michel Roux at Waterside Inn at Bray in Berkshire, Roger Verge at Le Moulin de Mougins at theFrench Riviera and  legendary Chef Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire.   Black-and-white photos of his mentors adorn the walls in his monochromatic coloured restaurant.

As an offal enthusiast myself, I must-order is organ meats and there are always some kind of offal on the menu.  My favourite is Calves Livers, pictured below:

OFFAL
Calves Livers

20130418-172359.jpg

Calves Liver: With beef and caramelised onions

Do enjoy the rest of the photos from my iPhone photo collection – these are the dishes that I have thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend.

Tripes

20130802-140926.jpg

Tripe, Onions, Chilli & Black Vinegar

Pork trotters stuffed with Sweetbreads with a side of mash

20130418-172927.jpg

Stuffed Pigs Trotter

20130418-172941.jpg

Stuffed Pigs Trotter: Sweetbreads inside

Jeremy’s Signature:  Lamb’s ‘Hearts and Minds’

20130418-142132.jpg

Lamb’s ‘Hearts and Minds’: Crisp crumbed brains, grilled slices of heart with bitter leaves and almodns.

Bone marrows are cleverly matched with a meaty slab of steak or a fish with a side of greens

20130802-135527.jpg

Chestnut Fed Rump Steak (250g), Bone Marrow & English Condiments
20130418-142157.jpg

Blue eye and bone marrow

20130418-142203.jpg

Bone marrow

Grills

20130418-142144.jpg

Grass-fed Steak

20130418-172908.jpg

Grass-fed Steak

20130802-135537.jpg

Pink Snapper Fillet, Clams & Samphire

20130418-142138.jpg

Kubuta Pork Chop

20130418-173126.jpg

Thirlmere Duck Leg Confit, Bacon, Gizzards, Smoked Breast & Beetroot Salad

STARTERS

20130802-135513.jpg

Beetroot, Blood Orange, Hazelnut & Witloaf Salad

20130802-135519.jpg

Ham Hock & Lentil Soup Cup

20130418-172955.jpg

Blue-Eye Brandade, Boiled Egg & Asparagus

20130418-173157.jpg

Rock Oysters

SIDES

20130418-173145.jpg

Chips

Last but not least, DESSERTS created by Jane

20130802-140938.jpg

Ricotta Cheesecake, Crumble Crumb & Glazed Quince

20130802-140947.jpg

Warm Chocolate & Coconut Pudding

At the time of posting, Bistrode CBD received 81% out of 75 votes
Bistrode CBD on Urbanspoon

Breakfast With Ashton Kutcher… @ Three Blue Ducks, Bronte

Date of Visit: August 17 2013

If you are reading this post, because I mentioned ‘Breakfast with Ashton Kutcher’, then I’m sorry – I lied, I didn’t.  I went there because I read that many Hollywood stars had dined here, including Aston Kutcher (goss here)

But if you insist, I did see a well-know chef there – she’s Asian and there’s only a couple of famous Asian female chefs in Sydney, so go figure!

But if you insist still, I have done a few spin sessions at the gym with Nicole Kidman… dined with a movie star (here) and royalties (here)…

Alright, I sound though I’m gearing up for a bragging contest, but I’m really, really not.  The reason, I’m doing this way-overdued post on Three Blue Ducks was my craving for something hot, sweet and filling.  *Blinkers on* I remembered the awesome dessert-ish breakfast porridge I had there.

The black rice, tapioca and quinoa porridge is something very Asian (reminiscent of Thai)  that I can replicate here in Borneo – black rice and tapioca are  easily accessible here and I have brought with me a pack of quinoa from Sydney. Although the TBDs’ recipe called for poached fruit, yoghurt and honey, in my version, I can use fresh tropical fruits, coconut milk and palm sugar!  Likewise, I can also toast some nuts and coconut flakes to make my dessert smelling as sublime!

This is a picture of the Thai-ish, dessert-ish, warm winter breakfast porridge I had – gosh – 3 months back!

20130817-125652.jpg

Black rice- tapioca and quinoa porridge with poached fruit-yoghurt and honey (A$16)

Since, it’s a Friday today, this is my plan hatched for the weekend – watch this space for my version!

**********

But before I sign off for my grocery-run, let me give a brief intro of Three Blue Ducks which opened its doors in 2010.

A super busy cafe – a businessman thinks and a businessman does – expand and acquire the adjoining shop!  So, on this morning, when we dropped in for breakfast,  we sat in ‘quieter’ room which I assume to be the dining room of the cafe with a corner wall heaving with booze.   Now, isn’t this a clever  and versatile restaurant idea?  Caffeine to work through the day and ample of spirits to propagate a jolly night?

20130817-125206.jpg

A very hardworking young apprentice (next MasterChef contestant?) busy at the Bar

20130817-125214.jpg

Liquours

I especially like the funky rustic vibe in combination with colourful wall murals and raw materials such as timber and bricks.  I was extremely impressed by the colourful duck in flight, but unfortunately, my iPhone could not capture the colours properly.  Well, to be fair, the duck was in full flight and was in a hurry – no time to stop to pose for me!

20130817-130240.jpg

Interior: Wall-mural

So instead, I focussed on a more sombre drawing of a man reflecting in black-and-white – who had his attention totally focused at the bar – betcha he’s waiting for nightfall!

20130817-130253.jpg

B&W Wall Mural

The other side of the room was lined with timber planks and had bric-and-bracs of household stuff.  The one below had bottles, wooden ruler, box and spindles.

20130817-125155.jpg

Bric-a-bracs

Since breakfast is served until 11:30am, we better hurry along to order our brekkie…

20130817-125706.jpg

Logo Design on cover of Menu

My 2 sidekicks, Mom and Bro chose Paleo to power up their day…

Bro had  Scrambled eggs with black sausage, dill cucumber yoghurt salad and red currant jam ($21.50).  The black sausage is supposed to be the stand-out dish there.

20130817-133337.jpg

Scrambled eggs with black sausage, dill cucumber yoghurt salad and red currant jam

Mom had Coddled eggs with chorizo, pulled pork and cannellini baked beans.  The eggs were awesome,  you can ask for gluten-free sprouted bread here.  Pulled pork and baked beans were rich and sweet to kickstart a perfect weekend!

20130817-125645.jpg

Coddled eggs with chorizo, pulled pork and cannellini baked beans

Needless to say, coffee was good – we ordered 2 cups each.

For those interested in sustainable living, TBD has a veggie patch at the back of their cafe, so feel free to take a look.

20130817-125726.jpg

Graffiti Alley

20130817-125733.jpg

Way out/ way in: Alley between the 2 shops/ rooms

Seeing how gullible I can be, on our way back home  at Bondi Road, in front of Kemeny’s , my Bro shouted “Hey, that’s Russell Crowe!”, he got me all excited, but nah, that fat man can’t be him!

At the time of review, Three Blue Ducks scored 79% out of 282 votes

Three Blue Ducks on Urbanspoon

Ending A Fine Chinese Dinner With Canned Longans Anyone? @ Toh Yuen, Hilton Kuching, Malaysia

Date of Visit:  September 18 2013

Toh Yuen is the in-house Chinese restaurant in Hilton Kuching.  I am guessing this restaurant is very popular with the business set (expensive) and had won quite a few tourism awards judging from the certificate it displayed very prominently on table at the entrance foyer.

20130918-161004.jpg

Toh Yuen’s Signage

20130918-160737.jpg

Entrance: Wall paper in Chinese calligaphy and little Chinese figurines flanking an tourism award certificate

Not a fan of dark dimly-lit restaurants, I worried that I might trip over uneven carpeting (again) – as I am still nursing my cut knee and ‘bruised wound’ of my ripped 3.1 Phillip Lim sandals that I’ve only worn for under 5 minutes  from the fall I suffered the other day (wounding more for sandals though).  Squinting my eyes to evaluate the interior design of the restaurant, I see red fabrics busily draped from the ceiling to the walls.    Some may call it ‘Chinoiserie-chic‘, but for the more imaginative – imagine a fabric-dye factory straight out a scene in a Chinese kung-fu movie where a swordsman come flying out from nowhere.   To further enhance the Chinoiserie-chic experience, lanterns with tassles and calligraphy-patterned wall-covering are used.

20130918-160813.jpg

Interior of main restaurant

Thank goodness we had a private room for dinner.   A brightly-lit festive room with a huge table with lazy-suzy, underneath a huge red lantern and calligraphy-patterned wall-covering for uniformity with the rest of the restaurant.  Even the red napkins and place setting evokes festivity in the room.  I instantly perked up.

On the table are the usual condiments of freshly chopped garlic and assorted chopped chili- red chili,  vinegared green chili, chili-padis.  We are also given sweet cooked soy sauce peanuts to snack on while waiting for the others to arrive.

20130918-160827.jpg

Place setting

First up, a Combination Platter of jellyfish, ham, rolled squid in beancurd skin, a salad of seafood mixed with melon topped with mayonnaise.  I am allergic to shell-fish so did not try the salad, not a big deal for me since I don’t like mayonnaise.  The things that I enjoyed most in the platter are the crunchy jellyfish and fresh cucumbers.

20130918-160840.jpg

Combination Platter

20130918-160852.jpg

Close-up of a few pickings from the assorted Combination Platter

We also had Chicken Soup with a few tough chicken pieces, red dates, fungus and ginseng.  It came piping hot and very tasty.   Something is telling me that this dinner is going to be very healthy… so let’s wait out!

20130918-160907.jpg

Chicken Soup

Steamed Cod in light soy sauce came next.  Our host asked whether we want rice to accompany our dinner.  None of us wanted any, and it seems that everyone is on a low-carb diet nowadays!  (Even older gentlemen! 😈 )

20130918-160917.jpg

Steamed Cod in light soy sauce

We also had Asparagus with whole garlics and fish jerky, which continued the health-vibe of our dinner.

20130918-160929.jpg

Asparagus with whole garlics and fish jerky.

Unfortunately for me, I could not try the Signature Buttermilk Prawns.  These are prawn balls deep-fried in buttermilk and very delicious I was told.  I did take a bite of the deep-fried basket the prawn balls came in to taste, let’s just say it’s for decoration.

20130918-160943.jpg

Buttermilk Prawns

Since dinner started late, at 8pm, we were very relieved when the dessert arrived.  Wait for it – Canned Longans in syrup added with coconut strips and fungus!  I find it very puzzling for a fine dining restaurant to be serving canned fruits.  Then again, I presume canned longans and canned lychees are made very popular  in Malaysia where the climate here is not inclined to producing these exotic fruits.

20130918-160955.jpg

Canned Longan

We also picked up a Hilton Kuching Red Bean Mooncake (RM24++).   A pretty pair of gold-fish embossed on salty baked skin infilled with sweet red bean paste and melon seeds.  It was ‘moreish’ – well, we were at Kuching airport, the Starbucks there didn’t cut it and we were hungry…

20130919-134534.jpg

Hilton Kuching Moon cake

20130919-134542.jpg

X-section: Hilton Kuching Moon cake

Meeting (or Rather ‘Staking Out’) The King and Queen of Malaysia @ Hilton Kuching, Malaysia

Date: September 17 2013

I spy, I spy with my little beady eyes (actually my eyes ain’t too small, only saying for dramatics), from the corners of my eyes I saw police outriders in their monstrous vintage motorcycles with sirens blaring, followed by a Silver Maybach coming to a halt in front of my hotel… and who’d pop out, but Their Majesties, The King of Malaysia and his Queen!

So thus began my 2 hours of stake-out on Their Majesties the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong of Malaysia, at Caffe Cino on the ground floor of Hilton Kuching (err, yes… I’m on a work meeting, but the next one doesn’t start until late so…) To while the time away, I had Iced Blended Coffee (Viennese, I believe with the generous serve of whipped cream on top), without sugar, which costed me an arm-and-a-leg at RM15++. Considering I just had lunch here for only RM17 . Nice Illy coffee by the way, a bit weak but no complaints.

20130921-195356.jpg

Iced Blended Coffee

I saw the famous white-haired guy with white whiskers and his young chesty wife (who gave me a little wave – thrilled 😄 ). They don’t need any introduction, so me no takey pictures.

And also this couple, Yang di-Pertua Negari Sarawak (TYT) and his wife. TYT is the Governor of Sarawak, appointed by The King.

20130924-123459.jpg

TYT and Wife

But I really wanted to snap a picture of Their Majesties. I checked with securities if I can take pictures of Their Majesties. The securities gave me some ‘do and don’ts’, then told me to stand at the bend of the red carpet, for the perfect ‘direct line view’ of Their Majesties as they emerge from the lift! After hanging around for 2 hours, I finally captured my Lumix moment!

20130921-195422.jpg

Their Majesties (in the middle) flanked by TY and his Wife

They were a lovely down-to-earth couples who shook hands with everyone! All you do is line on the the right if you want to shake hands with them or line up to the left if you want to take pictures of them! I chose to take pictures as momentos for my blog.

Since I am staying at Hilton Kuching, I might give a little run-down about the hotel. I got a room with river view

wpid-20130918_073702_1.jpg

Sarawak River

The rooms were a bit tired: Nice hard bed, not lumpy, I slept well. Air conditioning worked. Desk was spacious to scatter all my docs. Mini bar was empty. Tea, coffee and 2 bottles of waters provided. No slippers in room. No turndown service. Bathrooms old and needed refurb. No free wifi, broadband internet access costs RM35++ per day, very expensive (Digi Global Roaming is only RM33++!!) House-keeping have to keep up with vacuuming, I spotted a used candy wrapper on the floor.

20130924-123426.jpg

Twin Beds, brown colour scheme – macho-honcho

20130924-123439.jpg

Concentrate on your work, mama says ‘No TV watching while working!”

Nothing for the commoner to harp home about, still if The Majesties dropped by, that’s a implied royal seal of approval, right? 😈