Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst
You know it's a good meal when you are still thinking about it weeks later, and that's the case with Cafe Paci. What started as a pop up has now been opened for two years, as Sydney has fallen in love with the creative dishes of Pasi Patanen. It was definitely one of the most inventive and creative meals I've ever had.
The meal started with a plate of snacks. The wafer thin oat crackers topped with oyster cream and black garlic were very tasty. The rye biscuit with lardo, kohl rabi and apple had a nice sweetness, topped with a sprinkling of bacon powder. But my favourite snack was the pastry tart with ocean trout fish floss and dill sour cream. The tart was the just the right amount of crumbliness and the fish floss really packed a punch of flavour.
Coming on a separate plate was the Rye Taco topped with rice pudding, egg butter and sour onions which was wonderfully buttery and creamy.
The bread then arrived and it was no ordinary bread - it was a Finnish Rye Bread made with Potato Flour and brushed with molasses, served with house churned butter. Served warm, it was quite dense and moist, and the molasses gives it a raisin-like sweetness. I knew I should have been saving stomach space for the rest of the courses, but I couldn't stop eating it.
The seasonal degustation menu details only a list of ingredients, leaving it to our imagination to figure out what we would be having. The Blue swimmer crab, pickled carrots with tarragon cream dish had just the right sweet and savory notes. The pickled ribbons of carrot were beautifully presented on the bed of crab meat and it must have taken incredible knife work to slice them so thinly. Meshed with the tarragon cream, it tasted like it came straight from the sea.
When the next dish hit the table, the collective reaction was "Wow". Combining some of my favourite foods on the world, the Duck, Hazelnut, Radicchio, Raspberry creation was visually stunning and definitely one of the highlights of the night. The Confit Duck, covered in Hazelnut Milk, Roasted Hazelnuts and Radicchio dusted with Freeze Dried Raspberry was a genius combination. The duck was juicy and tender, with the hazelnut adding both creaminess and crunch. The acidity in the raspberry and the slight bitterness of the radicchio really helped to cut through the richness and it was a real flavour explosion in the mouth. Interestingly, at times, it almost felt like I was eating a dessert!
The lofty standards were maintained with the next course: Cabbage, Mussel Butter, Bone Marrow and Pomelo. Cabbage can be pretty plain and boring, but when it is roasted in mussel butter, it is a whole different story. The cabbage was soft and tender, with a real sweetness. The mussels were incredibly plump and juicy, and mixed with the pomelo sauce, the bone marrow and the poached pork lardo was just so utterly delicious.
The menu said Photato. Was it a Pho with potatos? We were close...It was a modern take on the Vietnamese classic. There were the beautifully cooked slices of rare Wagyu beef, the chewy enoki mushrooms, garlic chips and of course, the super thin potato noodles which were served al dente. The broth was very flavoursome though I do think I prefer a traditional, hearty bowl of pho over this intepretation.
We took up the offer to share the optional cheese course between us, which involved Gorgonzola with prunes rolled in seasame seeds and crackers of dehydrated chocolate mousse. The dehydrated chocolate mousse was really light and airy, and paired perfectly with the gorgonzola which was really gooey and creamy.
And now we move onto dessert! The Carrot, Yoghurt, Liquorice combination was intriguing and not being a fan of liquorice, I was a little apprehensive about it. However, all my doubts were erased once I dug into the dish. The outer layer was a super light yoghurt foam, followed by a layer of carrot sorbet and finally, the liquorice cake as the base which had a mild aniseed flavour. It was a wonderfully balanced dish and really lit up our tastebuds, and we were craving for more.
The main dessert was Pear and Parsley with Poached Pear, Custard, Parsley Sorbet and Candied Parsley. I had never had parsley in a dessert before and the herbaceous tones really went well with the perfectly poached pear and custard. The quenelle of parsley sorbet was just ridiculously smooth.
The meal ended with the Petit Fours. The Pork and Fennel, being pork crackling coated in chocolate and fennel seeds was a daring combination. The pork crackling almost melts in the mouth and again had the sweet and savoury notes. The Corn and Butter was indeed fairy floss sprinkled with bits of pop corn. For me, it was a bit too much sugar and the only dish where we didn't wipe the plates clean.
All in all, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Service was great from the moment we walked in the door. Whilst the palette of the restaurant is predominantly grey, it is definitely not how I would describe his food - which is filled with bold dashes of colour! The menu is original and inventive, and really opened up my mind to a lot of flavour combinations that I had not considered before. Hopefully, it stays open for a little while longer!
The Missing Piece, Macquarie Park
I have tried most of the options at the newly revamped Macquarie Centre (Chef's Gallery, Ippudo, Papparich to name a few), so was keen to try something new which is how I ended up at The Missing Piece. Located outside DJs and Uniqlo, the cafe was buzzing on the Saturday we visited.
The Missing Piece is known for its creative drinks so I tried the Tutti Frutti (a white peach, passion fruit, raspberries and rock melon frappe) which looked spectacular and tasted just as good. I loved the fact I could pick out whole raspberries in the drink and it wasn't all just blended into a pulp.
My bf got the GoNuts milkshake - combining two of his favourite things (cinnamon donuts and milkshake). It was topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and came with a snake wrapped around the straw - a quirky but nice touch. The milkshake had a good consistency and wasn't too sweet, so was very easy to drink.
The Sea salad with wood smoked salmon, kale, quinoa, chia seeds, almonds served with a poached egg was delicious. The dressing was simple - just olive oil and lemon but it was all the dish needed, and the percetly poached egg topped it off.
It was only when the dish arrived that I understood why it was called Hashtag sliders (With the polenta chips literally forming a hashtag). I loved the sliders - the lamb was soft and succulent and the jalapeno mayo gave it a touch of spice, though not too much. The polenta chips had a nice crispiness, but could have done with a bit more seasoning.
It can get quite busy on the weekend, but service is pretty efficient, so the wait isn't too long. On the way out, we saw some delicious looking cronuts and pastries at the front counter...which we will be back for next time!
Kepos Street Kitchen, Redfern
Kepos Street Kitchen had been on my list of cafes to try for a while. After a 15 minute wait, we were seated inside - the sun filled room felt warm and inviting. The menu had Middle Eastern influences and it was hard to make up our minds on what to try.
We started with some iced teas/ mocktails, which looked amazing served in mason jars. I had the Pear and Elderflower spritzer and it was refreshing without being overly sweet. There was also a generous serving of fruit to go with our drinks. It's nice to see a cafe with not just your standard juice/ smoothie drinks selection.
The Tunisian style seared Yellow Fin Tuna salad was a spectacular dish packed with flavour. I loved the combination of the perfectly seared tuna with the eggplant, soft boiled egg, potatoes and the harissa dressing.
I have never been a fan of vegemite, but I was intrigued to try the vegemite tahini dressing that went with the Moroccan lamb and pinenut cigars with a soft boiled egg. The hint of vegemite was slight so did not overpower the dish. The cigars were crisp and tasty, and who doesn't love a good soft boiled egg.
My friend ordered the Southern Fried Chicken sandwich, which is basically a burger and it's huge! The coleslaw and Chermoula mayo goes really well with the crunchy, tender chicken in a delicious brioche bun.
For dessert, we were informed by the waitress that there is no point of putting the desserts n the menu as it's ever changing and best to be seen at the front counter. A clever strategy as after you have inspected the array of sweets on offer, it's simply irresistible. We opted for the Pistachio and date tart and it was both crunchy and chewy, and not too sweet.
In my mind, Kepos Street Kitchen definitely deserves its hat and it's no wonder there is often a queue out the front. Service is fast and friendly and the food is great quality. It's the perfect place for a catch up with family or friends, and it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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