Sunday, 21 October 2012

Catalina - Lyne Park, Rose Bay

Oh Catalina, Catalina!  This meal was, I have to say a very much anticipated and a long time coming at this Eastern suburbs establishment of 18 years.  And yes again I came to dine here as a result of a special deal, this time by a company called Lime and Tonic.  For some reason I just haven't been able to make it here before now.  But after this great experience I admit without hesitation that I will definitely be back especially as the warmer sunny weather is upon us, with a view to die for, a large menu for me to try more of and it's proximity to home.   So yes looking forward to it again already, maybe for a long lunch next time on the balcony.

My husband who I'm going to call C from now on, arrived at dusk so we could enjoy the view for a few extra minutes before we slipped into some semi romantic candlelight ambiance.   This wasn't ideal for photo taking, hence the crap photos.  The restaurant was busy with businessmen, couples and groups of friends already, and had a buzzing vibe with waiters in abundance.  I did notice a lot of full paying customers and also voucher diners.  Again I don't think vouchers are a bad thing because they bring customers who probably wouldn't have dined their otherwise and if they liked it I'm sure they would tell of their experience and like me, will go back. It can be a bit embarrassing pulling out a piece of paper but this time it was specified that you didn't need to do this, which I think is smart as it is an easy thing to organise behind the scenes when making the reservation. Anyway back to it.. . . 

We got handed our selected menu on a piece of paper with the wine and also the a-la-carte menu in case we wanted to order extras.  The selection we got to choose from were the same dishes on offer to everyone else, just a smaller one.  But it didn't matter to me as I already had a look on line earlier and lucky me the selections were the ones I would've chosen anyway!  So I was very happy.

For beverages I had a glass of Janz sparkling, C had an Asahi and we also had a bottle of sparkling.

Crispy confit pork belly with seared sea scallops and cauliflower puree, shallots, port and pear jus, $31.  You guessed it, my entree.  I think I died and went to heaven.  Confit pork belly!!!  Cooked in it's own fat (not sure if it's actually pig fat or some other fat), it can't get any porkier!   The crispy crackling was thin but very crispy indeed and once it cracked under my knife the meat underneath was so tender it didn't take much action to cut into a moutfhful of heaven.  This pork belly was outstanding!  I was consciously trying to force myself to think about the taste of the other elements on the plate.  I tasted the pork by itself first, which was the best, then I mixed it up with a bit of scallop and then with a pit of pear and jus then the soft shallots and cauliflower puree.  There was only one bouncy yummy scallop not scallops as on the dish description though, but I can forigve that shortcoming as it is the star that shone.  I found it very hard to leave some for C to try.   9/10.

Catalina house smoked salmon with soft boiled duck egg, truffle mayonnaise and brioche, $30.  I don't know about you but my entree totally blew this salmon out of the water even by looking at my dodgy photos. The portion looked smaller than my pork and not as many elements, but that's not a bad thing as the salmon, mayo and egg are all very rich.  I had a mouthful of this and it was ho-hum.  I couldn't really taste the truffle in the mayo, the salmon did taste better than normal smoked salmon, the duck egg very fresh, can't put in words how it's different to chicken egg and the brioche was just posh toast to me.  I think I may have been still in pork heaven to have even thought about C's entree, there are better sounding entrees than this one.  

Not sure if you noticed in my blog that I don't rate C's dishes as I think you need more than a mouthful to rate it.  

Riverine beef tenderloin with fondant potato and truffle mushroom duxelle,  $46.  Another OMG moment, but not when I ate the beef, but when I ate some of that powerful, delicious truffle mushroom duxelle (chopped up mushrooms, usually with onion and shallots)!!!  You cannot not really see this flavourbomb mixture, it's on the right peeking out behind the beef, but it was super finely chopped and the winning taste of the night. Seriously it was amazing, even outshining the confit of pork!   The two rather big pieces of beef were cooked as expected perfectly to medium rare.  The potato fondant was fluffy with a crisp coating to it, not as buttery as I thought it would be, but that's probably a good thing though.  I was getting really full at halfway point.   We even ordered a side of garlic potato mash, and also received a salad which apparently was part of the deal I bought.  C managed to polish that off but not all the salad which was a mixed leaf one.  9/10.

Cone Bay saltwater barramundi with spanner crab parcel; sage and eschalot cream,  $46.  This dish, from earlier perousing of the menu was my main of choice, but I let C have it as he loves seafood more than me.  It looked very pretty indeed with the deep fried enoki mushrooms on top as a garnish.  They didn't taste like much but did the job of being eye candy.  The barra was really nice on it's own but I loved it with the cream sauce.  The spanner crab was wrapped in a cabbage which was a bit hard to cut for sharing, it was subtle in flavour and again tasted better with the sauce.  

Classic lemon tart with Marscapone, $20.  This was my choice as I can't pass up tasting another version of lemon tart.  Each chef/cook has their own special recipe and the taste can vary so much despite being such a simple thing.   I loved the simplicity of this presentation and the candle light made it look almost angelic.  The tart was soft and you could tell the mixture had been created with precision and of the most utmost care as there were no lumps in sight, it was the smoothest and lightest lemon tart filling that I've eaten.  I'm sorry to have to bring up a but, but it was a little too lemony for my liking.  It kind of made my eyes squint with sourness with each mouthful even with a bit of the Marscapone on each spoonful.  The base however was thin and soft which I loved.  7.5/10.

Salted peanut and caramel parfait.  I can't remember exactly what this was called as it is not listed on their a-la-carte menu but that's my guess.  This dessert was very very creamy and sweet.  The layer of caramel on top was so yummy with the salt element in it, that when mixed with the parfait it was a huge hit of sweet goodness.  You can't beat that combo.  Hmmm feel like a salted carmel macaron right now actually. .  The bit of dark chocolate on the left wasn't tempered chocolate as it wasn't crispy, it was hard to cut, but nevertheless a nice textural addition to the plate.  We had half and half of each others' dessert.  I don't think I could've eaten either dessert in it's entirety, the parfait, rich and the tart,  too lemony.  Ah the joys of sharing!

So all in all, the dishes were a definite hit and even if I was paying full price were worth it.  The service was casual yet polished.  No Eastern suburbs snobiness here either.  C and I came to the conclusion that the flavours, presentation and all round execution of these plates were leaps and bounds ahead of Foveaux considering the prices and the 1 hat rating both restaurants have.  Catalina's plates were offered with confidence and knew their purpose.  No experimenting or hesitation.  But I guess that is down to the age of the restaurants and the restaurants purpose.  

I highly recommend Catalina for a nice night out but expect to pay at least $200 for two sans voucher.

Catalina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Foveaux - 65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

The end of October was the expiry date for this meal voucher I bought for Foveaux,  so off I went with anticipation on Thursday night with my husband for a nice meal out.  I love eating out and was keen to try what Foveaux had to offer.  They are pretty low key not much hoo haa about them when they won Sydney Morning Heralds Best New Restaurant of the year in 2008 and awarded 1 hat this year!  I don't proclaim to be down with all the latest restaurants but how did I not know about this acclaimed four year old restaurant until I saw the deal pop up in my inbox!

Anyway as soon as we walked in we were welcomed by the friendly waiter who reminded me of Jonah Hill (of Superbad movie fame) and so straight away I found him jovial and he was at no way showing any sign of wanker hipster waiter syndrome which I hate.  

So the deal was to choose an entree and main for two for only $60!  Half price as all entrees were $24 and mains $36.  We had some sparkling a glass of wine each a side of potato puree which I didn't bother taking a photo of and then a dessert which was $16.

I was thinking we were only going to get a set menu but we had 5 choices for each course which was great. All were dishes with uncommon (venison leg, smoked hock glaze etc.) ingredients creatively described with more common things.  As in most fine dining restaurants you get an amuse bouche to kick-off your meal. And then it begins. . .

Tomato, fennel and onion starter with a parmesan crisp was so intense, hence perfect for amuse bouche. Served warm and very zingy!  I really liked this, like a very posh tomato soup!

Rabbit terrine, raisin, roquefort with a salad of walnut, endive, apple and celery.  This was my entree as I don't think I've had rabbit before.   But can I say there were no raisins and no walnuts.   Maybe it was in the dressing?  Not sure.  It was a good dish, but the endive greens were a bit old.  Well they weren't bright green and trimmed properly.  I had a bit of celery with the ends all brown, I'd expect it should've been trimmed off first before serving!  And I had a bit of white bone in the meat.  I didn't say anything but if it wasn't for those two negatives it would have been a very tasty and pretty dish.  So it only deserves a 6/10.

Caramelised venison tongue, nham pla prawns, crispy pork skin, cauliflower cream, cashew, shiso and mint.  This was my husbands entree and of course, I had to taste the venison tongue.  It was the first time we both tried this and to our surprise it was better than we thought.  It was rich and dense and probably like a hard piece of pate, also like a piece of steak but smooth, not with a grainy texture.

Roasted veal sirloin, caper and veal chip, white anchovy puree and Brussels sprouts.   This was my main and it was really really good.  I've had veal schnitzel and veal osso bucco but never just a good old hunk of veal.  So this was it.  The piece of sirloin was cooked to perfection, medium rare.  My friends and family know that I love a good piece of steak and I usually always order the meat main over a seafood one despite there being some good fish options that night, I'm glad I stuck to what I love.  The veal was so tender and eaten with the anchovy puree and jus it was melt in the mouth deliciousness, ooo I want to eat this again now!  The puree was not too strong at all.  I actually ate it by itself as I didn't get my meat to puree ratio right!  I needed more veal!  And another brussel sprout wouldn't have hurt, there was only a quarter of one or half of a tiny sprout on my plate. The croquette type thing was ok, the stringy veal bits tasty but were a little dry probably as it was fried a tad too much.  It didn't seem so fresh inside. . . 7.5/10.

Baked rainbow trout, celery puree, soya bean braised veal tail.  There was also something with hazelnut and something or rather but I totally can't remember.  This was the other main, bad pic, but it has the veal tail underneath.  I tasted the trout and it was unlike other trout that I've eaten before as it was quite subtle and really light on flavour, almost a bit watery tasting.  My husband said it was ok, not something he would order again.

Thyme parfait, lemon curd, blueberry sorbet, pistachio and dried lemon sponge.  I don't have much of a sweet tooth but I think it's slowly developing, or how can I put it, when having devoured an entree and main, a dessert is essential!  So I chose this dish as this was the most appealing and different sounding.  The parfait was beautiful and creamy, not that much thyme flavour but enough, and the blueberry sorbet definitely made the perfect match with it's tartness and burst of juice from the berries.  The dried sponge was unusual and looked like a sponge cake that was cooked in a microwave (thanks Masterchef for that little cooking technique, even though I haven't or probably ever will attempt it) but it was hard like honeycomb, a crispy texture like the inside of a Crunchie bar.  All the elements on the plate made for a pretty damn good dessert.  8/10.

I would definitely recommend people to try the creative, unusual dishes here, although I do think the prices are a bit much for what they are in terms of presentation and quality of ingredients in comparison to other restaurants charging these prices.  Maybe you should stick to the 6 course degustation they offer for $85. The service was great and the ambience was just ok.  Most people were there using their vouchers the night I was there as I heard the waiters explaining how it worked.  I hope they get more customers from this deal they put on. Overall I rate my experience at Foveaux a 7/10.  Let me know what you think. . .

Foveaux on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Taste of Shanghai - 200 Rowe Street, Eastwood

Another family dinner and yes we are on a roll, trying out another new restaurant!  The occasion was to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.  My whole life I have been celebrating this with a family dinner but hey do I know what exactly this festival is about?  No.  I ashamedly Googled this.  In summary,  it means to celebrate the moon as it is at it's biggest and fullest. This is on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month which is usually in October.  There is a love story behind it but you can look this up yourself it's a bit too long winded for me to tell here.

Ok, so we are back on the dumpling eating track.  Hand-made dumplings skillfully created in-house by these Chinese ladies.  Hundreds of them!  We got three types this time. . . 

Xiao Long Bao $8.80 - My favourite ones.  These came out in an industrial steel steamer and were seriously good.  Lots of soup which when I ate mine accidentally sprayed over the table as I didn't close my mouth fully enough.  Well, that was because it was so bloody hot!  The pork filling had just the right amount of saltiness as did the broth.   This time I didn't have any chilli with these ones only a dash of the dark vinegar.  8/10.

Pan Fried Pork Buns with Sesame $8.80 - These are a  bit more unusual and are much more doughier.  It is as the description says,  like a mini pork bun you get at yum-cha but pinched into a little dome rather than the open puffy cloud the Char Siu Bao's are.  Again these have the same filling and soup combo.  I added chilli to this one as there was more dough to it.  It's amazing how the soup just sits inside and doesn't get soaked up.  7.5/10

Pan Seared Pork Dumpling $9.80 - The Chinese name for these are War Tip.  I know,  funny phonetic translation but it's for real.  These are also a goody that you always get at yum-cha.  But these ones here are much bigger and have heaps more pork/chive mixture inside.  No soup in these, just the crispy thin dough and meat.  Love these coated in lots of chilli and vinegar.  8/10 

Braised Pork Belly with Fresh Steamed Buns - This dish is one of my all time favourite Chinese pork dishes.  I don't eat it often so this was a treat and boy was it tasty.   It's full of thin slices of pork belly in a rich kind of salty, vinegary sauce.  I didn't copy down the price or exact dish name but it's got bits of preserved cabbage underneath as well.  You have to mop up all the salty sauce with the sweet super soft bun, it's so good!  This one of my Dad's favourites also but my Mum hates it as it's so fatty.  9/10.  

Kung Po Chilli Chicken $15.80 - Bits of tender chicken stir-fried with red hot chillies, shallots and peanuts. Not sure how they get that hot stickiness of powerful sauce but this is a simple but great flavoured dish. 6.5/10.

Eggplant and pork mince in sweet chilli vinaigrette sauce $14.80 - This dish was my least favourite as it was too vinegary.  My Mum makes this way better.  Eggplant was nice and soft but yeah we were all a bit disappointed with this version.  4/10.

Live Barramundi in Sweet and Sour sauce $32.80 - This is one of the house specials and it did not disappoint.  They brought this little barra out to show us flapping away in a plastic bag to get our approval before being deep fried and coated in this lovely thick sauce and plonked on our table.  It really is a taste sensation.  The flesh is still juicy not dry and the sweetness and sourness of the sauce does not overpower at all.  Sweet and sour sauce is a flavour that enhances your appetite, this is what my Mum says and it's true.  I could just eat plain rice with some of this sauce as a complete meal if I had to, it's that good.  8.5/10.

Stir-fried Snow Pea Sprouts with Mushrooms $15.80 - As usual we have to order a vegetable dish.  You need a cleaner dish in amongst all these strong flavours.  I love these sprouts cooked this way.  6/10.

Braised Beef Fillet in Chilli Broth - This was my pick as I wanted to try something different.  Again not sure of the actual dish ingredients or name but it was packed with chilli seeds yet wasn't that hot.  If 10 was the mother of all hotness then this would only be a 3 I reckon.  In amongst this soupiness was the tender beef bits and to our surprise it also had vermicelli noodles underneath to help soak up some of that yummy sauce.  It was wierd though as they only gave you a slotted spoon and not a ladle as well as I would've drank more of it this for sure! . . Well mixed in with my rice and I could've made a chilli sauce congee!  Haha.  8/10.

This place was packed and lots of people waiting, so I suggest booking in advance, but make sure you check over the details with the person on the phone as they thought our booking was for the night before!  So we had to wait!

I would recommend Taste Of Shanghai if you want different Chinese food.   The prices are very reasonable.  If you aren't close to Eastwood there are other branches in the City World Square, Chatswood and Ashfield.

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon
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