Sunday, 1 June 2014

Rockpool - 11 Bridge Street, CBD

Hi everyone.  Haven't blogged since Valentines! And since then, there was another occasion, my birthday in May.  Taking this opportunity I decided I wanted to go to Rockpool.  A Sydney institution of 25 years.  It has moved from the premises of George Street to now a heritage listed building with a big dark presence.  Through the large archway double doors I am instantly transported to an old school upmarket dining room with a masculine feel to it.  Service as soon as you step in is slick and friendly.
As my husband and I sat with the menus we are asked if we would like to have a look at the Champagne trolley . . . umm yes please!  The Champagne man wheeled the trolley over and gave us his rundown on all the bottles on offer.   I choose carefully from all the beautifully recited descriptions of each.
The dinner menu consists of 8 small bites, the you can choose if you want 1, 2 or 3 more courses.  We decided to share 1/2 a dozen of the Sydney Rock oysters a special of the night plus a smallish meal and then have a larger dish as a main each.
Oysters and champagne was the perfect way to start that I forgot to take a pic of them. 
Here are the dishes!

Chargrilled prawn with shiso and nam prik, and on the right tempura prawn with daikon and soy.  I didn't take a photo of the prawn being grilled at the table on a tiny clay grill with the special flavoured smoke billowing into the dark atmospere.  I can't remember what was creating the smoke though. The prawn was ok, had a strong grill flavour, I was worried it wouldn't be cooked enough as it only had about 2 minutes on the grill. . .

Chicken wings with egg butter and konbu butter. These were so tasty, the chicken was crisp and the butters, wow, they packed a punch so creamy and "buttery", lucky there were only two wings I could've eaten more but then wouldn't have had room for the rest of the meal.

The pork slider was unusual in this setting, as you know, this would be more at home at the The Carrington than here.  Anyway I was looking forward to this flavour combo; pork belly, chicken parfait and chilli on a rice roll.  It was 3 lady like mouthfuls of happiness!  The rich parfait mixed with the soft pork was on the money.  Can I have this as a normal sized burger please?

Spanner crab with scallop mousse and steamed bun, although it wasn't really a steam bun, more like a small square of white toast.  The mousse was scallopy, nice and light.  Again I could have had a bigger portion of this to taste more of the seafood.

Chirashi of sushi of tuna, trumpeter and squid.  Deconstructed sushi at it's best.  All the little bits that I can't remember added so much to each mouthful.  The edible flowers making it ever so pretty and the best looking dish of the night.  Loved the shell dish!

Snapper with clams and parsley butter.  Perfectly cooked piece of snapper.  Combined with some mini clams it was a clean, subtle flavoured, refined dish.

Honey and spelt bread served with Rockpool butter and fresh ricotta.  The red sauce on top of the ricotta was tomatoey, but really subtle.  The butter by far was the spread of choice, it was so light and fluffy, that little bit on the dish was not enough.  I could've spread all that on one piece of bread alone!

This was our small share dish - Sterling caviar with soft poached egg, crispy potato and allemande sauce.  Allemande is based on one of the French five basic sauces, Veloute, but made thicker with eggs.  This was a pretty rich dish, and lucky we shared as I was getting full and mains were yet to come.  The caviar was not of the pop variety, but still the balls of saltiness were delicious and went perfectly with the egg and crispy spud.

Pigeon with strange flavour sauce.  I can't really remember what the waiter said when I asked what the strange flavour sauce consisted of, but it had Szechuan pepper and five spice in there somewhere.  The pigeon is served pink, so be warned.  I was sceptical as I usually only have pigeon the Cantonese way which is crispy skinned and usually dry.  Eating it like this was different, I would've preferred it to be cooked a bit more.  They encouraged you to eat with your hands, which I did, but I still felt a bit funny in the posh environment of the place holding the leg and ripping the meat off it with my teeth!

My husband had the braised beef cheek sukiyaki with winter melon, gem lettuce and tendon.  This was strong flavoured and really really good.  I had food envy.  Definitely better than my pigeon.  The beef was soft, the tendon, gelatinous and all tied in with the not too sweet sauce.  I really like the use of cheap Chinese ingredients in this modern twist.  I guess that's what Neil Perry has made his name from. 

I was too full for a proper dessert, which was fine as you still get the famous Date tart as the petit four with the pre dessert of yoghurt sorbet with vanilla, white pepper, grapefruit and thyme honey granola.  An interesting mix but just what we needed to end on a sweet note.
I thoroughly enjoyed  my experience at this 3 hatted restaurant and was not let down after having wanted to dine here for over 10 years.  All the food had significant and memorable flavours and there was no dish that was a thumbs down.  I definitely recommend Rockpool for a special occasion.
Rockpool on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Apollo - 44 Macleay Street, Potts Point

Ahh Valentines Day, the day to show your loved one how much you love them and shower them with gifts so everyone else can see how much they are loved.  Yeah right.  This day is an excuse to go out for dinner, stuff the roses!  I just wanted to go to a nice restaurant and eat a nice meal with my husband.  So I took the liberty to book a restaurant (yes how romantic "I" booked it) I have been meaning to go to since it opened a few years ago as, Greek cuisine would  remind us of our honeymoon.

The Apollo is a restaurant that serves Greek food in Australia in a modern way, put simply.  Using ingredients that are in season in Oz but go well with Greek staples like octopus and lamb.

To start off with we had the grilled octopus with cucumber, oregano and some thin potato chips, $26.  The octopus had a great charred flavour and the cucumber soaked up all the juices, very tasty.  We said we could have had a plate each. 

Next up we had the rabbit salad with charred radicchio and manouri cheese, $33.  This was a yummy salad, lots of rabbit meat.  I was trying to come up with an adjective that differentiated it from chicken.  I couldn't really.  It's just very similar to chicken.  The dressing added the saltiness along with the shaved cheese, a bit creamy which balanced out the sight bitterness of the raddichio.

Then we had the fried okra with mint and vinegar, $12.  I only ever had okra once Egyptian style in more of a stew so I decided to give it a go as a side to the main.  Okra is kind of like a seedy, less meaty zucchini I guess.  The vinegar and mint went really with it.

And the pièce de resistance!  The oven baked lamb shoulder with lemon and greek yoghurt, $38.  Oh my how I love this dish, anywhere in the world!  The generous piece of  meat was cooked perfectly with the crispy bits on top and the melt in mouth fat under the skin.  With a squeeze of lemon and the yummy thick yoghurt peppered with cucumber each mouthful was insanely delicious. 

I highly recommend you try The Apollo.  Great service and food.  Lots more I could try on the menu.  Thank you to the waiter who chased us up the street to give my husbands bag back when we left without it!

The Apollo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Wooden Whisk - Shop 8, 38-46 Albany Street, St Leonards

To find a café where you can book I think is quite rare.  So when Wooden Whisk took my booking for a Saturday brunch I was well surprised especially for 5 adults and 2 kids.  This is definitely a kid friendly café as they have a play corner with toys, which is hard to come by in Sydney. 
It's a cute cafe, with coffee bean scales as the main tables centre piece, cool herringbone wall tiles and bench style seating around the walls of this café which is under a big office building. It was pretty busy despite the eerie weekend CBD feel in this part of St Leonards.
The menu has great choices from "Organic maple crunch granola"  to "Croque Monseur" to good old "Eggs Benedict".  Swift service and coffee wasn't too bad either, which to you coffee aficionados out there, they use Single Origin Roasters blend.
Ok so this is what we all had.  Consensus was that the meals were good but not memorable despite the good sized servings.  It takes a bit to make a memorable breakfast.  For example I had the "Sautéed field mushrooms with garlic, truffle butter, marinated fetta, smoked pork, poached egg and toast."  Sounds amazing right?  Totally my type of dish - truffle butter and pork!  But alas it was lacking that punch.  Not enough truffle butter  to tie it all together perhaps?   Only a slight shortcoming but it was overall pretty good for only $15.90!
Wooden Whisk is a must try if you live on the North Shore.

My mushroom dish, $15.90

Corned beef and potato hash, fried egg, sautéed spinach,  oven roasted tomato, hollandaise. $14.90

 Fried eggs with grilled tomato and bacon on sourdough toast. $13.90


Wooden Whisk Breakfast - two free range eggs, bacon, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, Spanish style beans, toasted sourdough, $16.90

Eggs Benedict with ham, $15.

 Brioche French toast with fresh banana, strawberry, mascarpone and maple syrup, $14.50.


Wooden Whisk on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 5 January 2014

House of Crabs - Level 1, 305 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

First of all, Happy New Year!  I have been slack lately and have not posted as much as I would have liked.  Anyway I hope you still like reading my reviews and will continue to do so in 2014.  There is still a mighty long list of new places I want to try and write about.  So please stay tuned.

Ok so finally I went here just before Christmas and after all the fun pics that I had seen on social media I was really hoping it was going to be a good night of good food! And. . . it didn't disappoint! As soon as you walk upstairs from the Norfolk pub you are transported to an interior filled with fishing paraphernalia. Nets hanging down from the ceiling with buckets, shells and specials written on blackboards. Quirky and fun. Lots of groups. Being a super hot night though it was quite warm up there!
There were 7 of us so it meant we could taste all the four different sauces: Cajun, Mexican, Oriental and Lemon Pepper and a variety of the tasty shellfish on offer. Of course we had to have the King Crab x2, the most meatiest, followed by the Snow Crab x2 and the Queensland prawns x1 topped off with the special of yabbies x1. But as we were a hungry bunch we also ordered starters of Crab, black bean and chorizo balls, fried chicken, lobster fries x3 and the Southern Romaine salad for a bit of green factor. And dessert for a few of us.  All of it including beers was only $45 or thereabouts per person.  Pretty good I say for all that fresh seafood.
The weighed out portions of crab come in clear bags filled with the tasty sauces and the delicious shellfish. Bibs are a must as it is a messy ordeal. Shell goes everywhere. The scissors are genius! So easy to cut the soft shell of those long legs and pry it open with your plastic glove covered fingers to get to that juicy sweet crab meat out and into your mouth. Mmmmmmm. I must say the Cajun sauce was my fave. Lemon pepper at the bottom. Anyway here are the pics of our seafood feast.

 Romaine salad, my only gripe of the night, was it was a bit exxy for what it was at $16.

Fried chicken times four big pieces.  Crunchy and tasty especially the mayo. $18.

The Lobster fries were amazing for $12.  Very American.
The crab chorizo and blackbean balls were a tad salty.  But were well received. $15

The yabbies (Didn't get the price of this special)  were not very meaty but the prawns ($25)  were huge! 

The King Crab!  So good!  $45 per bag of 500grams of crab heaven.

I was too full for the dessert but here is the Waffle Sandwich, good for $12.  It was huge.  I had a bite and it was good.  Not much to add as I'm not a dessert fan.
I totally recommend this joint. If not once, then twice.  I'm planning my next trip back already!
House of Crabs on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pintxos Perfection - San Sebastian, Spain

For those who haven't been to the beautiful, best in-city beach destination of Europe, you have to go! It's got my two loves side by side.  Golden sand and turquoise water along with an array of yummy food to boot!  San Sebastian is split into the new and old town.   The old town is where you want to be near as this is where you wander around the streets eating pintxos and drinking at all the different pintxos bars.  So the difference between pinxtos and tapas is that pintxos is pierced with a toothpick and the others are tapa.  Tapas from my understanding is a more general term for small plates of various dishes.  Pintxos is more popular in the Basque country.

There are plenty of different pintxos bars to wander into and after 4 days we definitely knew which ones were our faves and went back to for a pintxos or two.  Here is a pictorial list of all good ones we went to.  Some we just ate 1 or 2 pintxos and then left as it didn't have an atmosphere that made you want to stay.  Most of them were the ye oldy ones with not much variety of dishes so they didn't make it to this post.

Ok, so this was the first one we went to as it looked modern and interesting and funnily enough plonked ourselves next to a table of Aussie guys!!!

Beti Tai Berria - Address below
Pintox Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10
Positives: Had my first Kalimoxo (pronounced kali mutcho)! A recent icon of Basque culture.  Equal parts Coke and red wine.  My fave drink along with another traditionally Basque drink, you'll see later on.

Baztan, Calle Puerto 8, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. 9/10
Pintxos Variety: 8/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Was the first pintxos bar that sold meat pintxos!  The deep fried pork and chicken wings were delicious!  The staff were the friendliest and we ordered our own bottle of Txkaoli  (cha coli) which is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content.  Since we got back we have been searching far and wide for this drink, but no one imports this.  There are similar ones but damn just not the same.  We wish we brought some back with us.


Bar Zeruko, Calle Pescaderia 10, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain
Pintxos Variety: 10/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives:  It is great to see someone push the boundaries of pintxos.  This was one that I had found online before this trip and had it on my list to visit.  They have won awards for their innovation.  Naturally you order what everyone seems to be ordering.  So I ordered this amazing dish of smoked cod with a biscuit covered with sweet jam and cheese followed by a chaser of cucumber juice!  The smoke filled the bar and as each new group of people came in they asked the very switched on people behind the bar  what that smoky tapa  was and ordered this dish.  That's what I did! 

The guy that served us all night was amazing.  Each time you grabbed some pintxos from the bar you showed him and he would take back any that needed to be heated up and then serve to your table when it was done.  He kept tabs on everything.  Again we had kalimoxto, quite a few and stayed there for quite a few hours, people watching and eating amazing food.

Amazing sea urchin roe was so deliciously salty and creamy.  This was one that was at the bar but had to be heated up.  They disappeared quickly.  Hot tapas of tender beef with roasted capsicum sauce ordered from the menu.  Beautifully tender.

This dessert below was another one of their signature dishes.  It was a flavour bomb, literally!  The yolk like bulb was filled with a strong peachy, orangey liquid that was super intense.  I quickly spooned in the cream to balance it out and then ate the sponge with it.  The two little things on the side were a sticky date thing and the centre of a flower which was super peppery and again strong with a lingering numbing feeling in you mouth, kind of like Chinese Szechuan peppers.  The guy told me to specifically eat it at the end.  I wish I didn't have it as it took all the sweetness away.  But it was certainly a taste sensation.  And glad I tried it.  An American lady walked by and said she was watching my expressions as I ate it as she said she did the same thing and commented on how the flower bud tasted. 
This is a must stop by in San Sebastian.

Tamboril, Pescadería, 2 - Donostia
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10 more for old local men
Positives: Cheap.  This little tapas bar was standing room only and specialised in mushrooms and stuffed peppers. We also found out that the pintxos from the menu were mostly deep fried.  The pintxos on offer ranged from the traditional omelette to a few strange ones like a fish roe one, see below in the middle bottom row.  The veins made it a big gruesome but it actually tasted nice and fresh with finely sliced onion and a kind of vinegary dressing.

La Cepa, Address below:
Pintxos Variety: 9/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Lots of space to stand at bar or sit down.  Restaurant area at the back.  A la carte, and lots of large and small plates made to order.  This is where we tasted different grades of Iberico ham!  OMG, melt in the mouth meat!  I never really felt like dessert but had dessert here and chose the the chocolate mousse.  It was to die for, I can still taste it now as it wasn't super sweet just rich in cocoa flavour and super creamy!

Bartolo, Calle San Bartolome / San Bartolome Kalea, 15
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Positives: Friendly staff who were happy to explain what each pintxos on the bar was.
Negatives:  Filled with young tourists as tourist groups walk by and the guide stops outside this one.  We witnessed and heard the spiel.



La Mejilonera, Puerto, 15 - Donostia
Pintxos: 9/10 - the quality of mussels were so fresh, plump and juicy.
Traditional: Standing space only
Positives:  Fast and tasty.  They pretty much only serve up mussels and seafood.  You can pick from about 6 types of toppings for the mussels.  I'm trying to remember what they were.  Top one was served cold.  The creamy looking one was warm white sauce with a bit of chilli sauce.  This was my fave.   They also put this sauce on top of patatas bravas. The green sauce, have no idea what the flavour was.  Bottom left, we had a plate of plain ones then the red sauce was tomato and capsicum sauce.  Washed down with another Kalimotxo, it was a perfect pit stop before we arrived at the next bar!


A Fuego Negro, Calle 31 de Agosto
Pintxos: 7/10
Positives: If you are after more modern Basque pintxos then go here.  It has a more touristy and cool vibe than the others and prices more expensive and small serves.  We only had 3 plates as the kitchen was closing for the afternoon before opening again later at night.  The rabbit was tasty but tiny, liked the playboy bunny touch.


I took so many food pics that it was very hard to cull and edit this San Sebastian post.  Please feel free to email me if you plan to go and need some more advice on anything food or about planning your itinerary.


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