Having worked in some of the top restaurants on Sydney's north shore, Chef Tomo has now opened his own restaurant in Cremorne called Plage, serving food with Japanese and French influences. We started with a snack of Smoked cod cream with squid ink and seaweed powder. The paper thin, squid ink wafers looked striking as it hit our table. They were a good carrier for the smoked cod cream which had just the right hint of smokiness.
The next dish of Black pudding, lime powder and anchoives packed bold, punchy flavours and really livened up my tastebuds.
The Aburi salmon was delicately handled and paired well with the black garlic and white miso puree. Again, it's a plate of few ingredients but all combining superbly to create a very tasty dish.
The Wagyu carpaccio in dashi broth was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The thin slices of beef arrive rare and is cooked in front of us as the dash broth is poured at the table. The rich aroma of the broth immediately hits my senses. Bursting with umami flavour, I was tempted to pick up the whole bowl to gobble it all up. Underneath the wagyu was a cured egg yolk with mushrooms and broccolini. It's like a refined, miniature version of hot pot.
Onto the mains, and we started with the Jewfish with celeriac puree, finger lime, Gai Lan finished off with a fish and lemon sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, matched by the smooth and velvelty puree. I also really liked the caramelised artichoke hidden underneath the Gai lan, which brought another flavour dimension to the dish. Such an underrated vegetable!
The Broccolini with Kipfler potatoes was a wonderful side, with the truffle sauce really making the dish sing.
The Roast chicken was very tender and came with a crispy skin. The caramelised carrots brought an intense sweetness which complemented well the pickled cherries. The dish would have benefited from a touch more sauce to give it even more flavour.
The Triple cooked chips comes with housemade aioli and tomato relish. It was tasty but felt a little out of place with our mains.
The dessert game at Plage is definitely strong. The Sweet sake mirin ice cream was out of this world delicious. My friend and I both had a big smile on our faces as we devoured this perfect quenelle of ice cream. It had the smoothest of textures and was a brilliant mix of salty and sweet, topped off with a miso crumb. It was so good that we unashamedly ordered a second one!
Our second dessert of White chocolate mousse with redcurrant sorbet and pepperberry meringue was just as spectacular. The dish was perfectly balanced with the tartness of the sorbet offset with the sweetness of the meringue and creaminess of the mousse.
I was impressed with the creativity and the flavour combinations, backed up by beautiful plating and friendly service. Plage is definitely a wonderful addition to the north shore dining scene. They also serve some amazing sake too!
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Plage. All opinions are my own.
Northern Italian smokehouse? I was immediately intrigued and decided to pay Grolla in Neutral Bay a visit. Nearly all the items on the menu have a smoked element, from appetisers to desserts.
My friend and I started with the Smoked duck breast. The smoked duck was beautifully prepared, paired with ricotta and a caramelised fig sauce. You can't go wrong with this combination.
The Smoked kingfish carpaccio is one of their signature dishes. The smokiness was subtle but noticeable. It presented beautifully with a drizzle of olive oil, flying fish roe and a sprinkling of beetroot powder.
Onto the mains and we went with the owner's recommendation and ordered the Smoked beef rib. The beef rib was incredibly juicy and melted in my mouth. The Mojo Verde packed a punch of flavour and really freshened up the dish.
Similarly, the Smoked pork jowl and cheek was infused with great flavour from the smoking process. Each mouthful, with the smooth, creamy cauliflower puree was a joy to eat.
Onto dessert and the food continued to impressive, both in taste and aesthetic appeal. A beautiful glass ornament landed at our table. Lifting the lid, we were greeted by our first dessert: Macadamia nut Lemon myrtle Coconut ice cream, corn puff, pistachio, smoked salted caramel. The ice cream was creamy and refreshing, and I loved the crunchy texture of the corn puffs. The smoked salted caramel tied the whole dish together.
The Mascarpone semifreddo looked equally stunning. The mango and lime curd center was simply divine. The semifreddo was topped with a sprinkling of the strawberry dust, and of course the smoked caramel sauce. I was impressed Grolla has been able to incorporate smokiness into desserts and actually elevate the dish, rather than being a distraction.
Grolla is definitely worth a visit, offering beautifully presented, fusion cuisine with unique flavours and personable service.
Why worry about Monday when you can have a Stressless Sunday? That's the premise at Ormeggio at the Spit, where you can have a six course dinner for $79. Amazing value for a two hatted restaurant. The beautiful view of Mosman Bay is not bad either.
The menu changes each week, depending on what seasonal produce is on offer. We started with some Sourdough and whipped ricotta with a sprinkling of chives. It's good quality sourdough, served warm and the whipped ricotta was a great alternative to butter.
We started with the Eggplant and tomato consomme, a very delicate and fresh dish. The eggplant was incredibly soft and the consomme, whilst there wasn't a lot of it, packed a punch of flavour.
Next was the Pan fried kingfish with puffed rice, broccolini powder and mussel water. The fish was cooked remarkably well and the puffed rice gave it a nice crunch. Although I didn't get much of a mussel flavour, it was still a very delicious dish to eat.
The Tagliolini was also cooked to perfection. Whilst the serving looked small, the mascarpone made it an incredibly creamy and decadent dish. I loved the hit of umami from the bottarga (fish roe) too.
The single meat dish of the night was the Lamb with coffee crumble. The lamb was braised, formed into thin sheets then fried, giving it a crispy crust on the outside. The coffee flavour was strong but not overpowering and worked in harmony with the sour cream emulsion and the black garlic puree.
Dessert was simply titled Textures of lemon and almond. It consisted a lemon and almond sponge, with almond ice cream lemon and almond puree, vanilla crumble and lemon granita. It was light and refreshing, but felt a little bit more like a palate cleanser/ pre-dessert than a full dessert.
All in all, Ormeggio is a great showcase of modern Italian cuisine. With friendly and professional service, water views, it's not a bad place to spend a Sunday evening.
Hidden away from the bustling Military Road in Neutral Bay is La Puerta, a great place to dine if you are a fan of Latin American cuisine. The restaurant design features red, black and dark wooden hues with a dramatic mural depicting two dancers in the midst of a tango.
The food is made for sharing and we started with the Tiradito. Thin slices of kingfish have been marinated with Aji Amarillo (a chilli paste), dressed with lime juice and red sorrel leaves. It's similar to ceviche, wonderfully fresh, tangy with a bit of heat.
I love my grilled corn and La Puerta’s Mazarcada Corn is just as delicious as the ones I’ve tried at Mamasita or Ms G’s. The corn was topped with a generous amount of grated haloumi cheese and a delicious spice mix.
For the bigger dishes, we opted for the Grilled giant octopus with chorizo and crispy potato. The grilled octopus almost tasted meaty, and the capsicum chutney together with the aioli made for a great flavour combination. It was definitely a moreish dish.
Can’t say I’ve tried Pork belly with avocado puree so I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be a great combination. The pork was incredibly tender with crispy crackling, and finished off with a chorizo crumb. The smoked potato and avocado puree provided a good balance to the bold flavours of the dish.
Onto dessert and the Popcorn and soursop ice cream sandwich definitely caught my eye. I love the taste of soursop, but have usually only found it in some Vietnamese restaurant as an ingredient to a smoothie. First time having soursop ice cream and it was very refreshing and perfectly offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche-laced popcorn brittle. It was definitely a fun dessert to eat.
La Puerta has a lovely ambience and it's definitely worth a visit to experience some South American cuisine, tapas style. There’s an extensive cocktails and wine list too, featuring mainly Chilean and Argentinian varieties.
Via Alta means High Street in Italian, so it made perfect sense that this restaurant was located on High Street in Willoughby. From the same group that brought us the fine dining Ormeggio, Via Alta is a more casual Italian trattoria serving some great seasonal fare.
We started with the Crab meat bruschetta. The crab meat was beautifully cooked and had a lovely flavour from the burnt butter sauce, complemented by the crunchy macadamias. It was a great teaser to whet our appetite.
Next was the Bresaola, a form of air dried beef, served with some caper berries. I love cured meats, and this had a nice saltiness to it without being overpowering.
Risotto, as we've all seen on Masterchef, can be easy to get wrong. This Saffron risotto had a great aroma as it hit our table. It was cooked al dente and was paired with the luscious, red wine braised beef cheeks. A simple dish executed to perfection.
The Grilled flank steak was another highlight of the night. The beef was just simply stunning, cooked to a perfect medium rare. The roasted beetroot puree added a great depth of flavour and I also particularly enjoyed the potato gratin. Often, it can be too creamy and heavy, but they got the potato, cream and butter ratio just right. The dish just tied together so beautifully.
For dessert, we opted for the Tiramisu. Again, it was beautifully executed. Not too sweet, not too much alcohol - the balance of the dish was just perfect and it was surprisingly light.
Via Alta is a great Italian eatery serving some beautiful dishes. It's worth the drive to Sydney's north even if you are not a local.
There's no shortage of cafes on the lower north shore but not many serve as delicious food as Cavalier Specialty Coffee in Crows Nest.
But first, the coffee. I decided to go for the Chai Latte and it was velvety smooth with just the right balance of sweetness and spice.
For the food, we decided to go with the waitstaff's recommendation and ordered the Juniper cured ocean trout and the Hand made burrata with smoked almonds and cucumber.
First to arrive was the Ocean Trout which looked almost too pretty to eat, almost. The trout was beautifully cured and egg was perfectly cooked, interspersed with the mayonnaise, the buttery crumb and shards of toasted rye. The sprinkling of caviar just added that extra touch of decadence.
The Burrata was another beautifully constructed dish. Burrata on its own is already pretty tasty, but the crunchy smoked almonds and the refreshing cucumber soup really elevate it to a whole other level. The waitress advised that it's best to be shared as it's quite heavy, but I probably could have eaten it all myself!
The dish came with a croissant and a slice of rye bread, perfect for soaking up all those delicious juices.
Service was friendly and enthusiastic. I will no doubt be back again to sample the rest of the menu. Seating is limited in this cafe so be prepared to wait for a seat if you come during peak times.
S'age Bistronomy has opened in Crows Nest, taking over the spot previously occupied by Waqu. At S'age's helm is the former head chef of Waqu, Tomoyuki Usui. As the name suggests, the type of food served is a combination of bistro and gastronomy. I went there with my family to try the Three Course Lunch Set Menu, at a very reasonable $49.
There are a selection of entrees, mains and desserts to choose from as well as a series of sides (which are not included in the set menu price).
For entree, I chose the Grilled lamb backstrap, aroma crumble and mussel emulsion. The lamb was well cooked, pink in the middle, and the aroma crumble gave it a great crunch and peppery note. The hint of mussels in the emulsion, however, was not very strong.
For main, I got the Smoked spatchcock. I was very happy with my choice. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked, succulent with a crispy skin. The nectarine and corn salsa give it a fresh twist and a lovely sweetness.
We decided to order the Charred cabbage with truffle ponzu as a side. It wasn't quite up to the lofty heights of Toriciya's Savoy Cabbage but it definitely came close. The miso crumble together with the ponzu dressing really lifted the flavour, though I would have loved a stronger hit of truffle.
Onto desserts and the Figs and berries, with pink pepper crumble and milk ice cream was a great combination of flavours and textures. My favourite, though, was the Mont blanc (chestnut cream cake) with mandarin puree and yoghurt ice cream. I enjoyed the intensity of the chestnut flavour and the yoghurt ice cream was very smooth and light. The mandarin puree really balanced out the dessert.
The food at S'age Bistronomy is modern and beautifully plated, with an interesting fusion of Japanese and French flavours and techniques. It's a welcome addition to the lower north shore.
I love the concept of a sushi train - no waiting for your food, ability to see exactly what you'll get and bite sized dishes which means more variety. Taking the sushi train concept to the Mediterranean is what MediTrainean in Crows Nest has done. On the conveyor belt are a selection of mezze plates (served cold) for diners to grab on their own. For hot dishes, these are made to order including several from the grill. The blue and white colour scheme helps transport the diners to the Mediterranean.
The first thing I grabbed off the train was the Zucchini parmigiana. It very much reminded me of the eggplant version, with the napoli sauce and gooey cheeses making it a tasty start to the evening.
The Pearl cous cous was a wonderfully light dish and one that tasted great at room temperature. I loved the incorporation of the orange segments, together with the spiced roast pumpkin, apricots and walnuts.
The Smoked salmon went beautifully with the harissa mousse. The pickled vegetables were an interesting accompaniment, but somewhat overpowered the salmon.
The Porcini and provolone arancini had a crispy coating and were delicious, a sign that the highest quality of ingredients must have been used.
The Scallops grilled under a dukkah gratin was my favourite dish of the night. The dukkah gratin was just bursting with flavour and the scallops was beautifully cooked.
The Meatballs were unfortunately a bit of a let down as some of the meatballs ended up being cold whilst the others were piping hot. We had to send it back to be reheated.
We opted for the Baked Ricotta cheesecake for dessert, which was nice but did not have a wow factor.
The small plates are suited to the sushi train concept and I enjoyed the experience. Service was a bit inconsistent, and hopefully will improve as time goes on.
Toshiya is a Japanese fusion restaurant in Cremorne, run by the man Toshiya himself, a chef with over 23 years' experience. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out some of his signature dishes, courtesy of Washoku Lovers.
We started with the Sashimi tacos, which were spectacular. The salmon and kingfish sashimi were incredibly fresh, and the crisp and light taco shell were a joy to eat.
The Soft shell crab had the combination you want in such a dish - meaty flesh with a light batter. The flavours of the chilli mayo and shiso soy dressing was on point and really completed the dish.
Onto the Salmon carpaccio with truffle oil. The salmon was sliced so thinly, it was enveloped in the beautiful sauce and melted in my mouth. I only wished there were more slices.
The Tuna tataki was beautifully seared and the chili garlic oil is a little different to the usual accompaniments but I didn't mind it.
It's hard to go wrong with Grilled scallops with garlic butter. Served in their shells, the butter sauce was well balanced and we mopped up every last drop.
The Poached salmon was beautifully tender with cubes of salmon sashimi wrapped in the middle, which was a nice surprise.
The Volcano rolls are one of the most popular dishes at Toshiya and it's easy to see why. Amongst the pyramid of sushi is tempura fried prawn, giving it a great crunchy texture. The sauce definitely packs a lot of heat but is seriously delicious.
The Pari Pari chicen definitely didn't look like a dish you would normally find in a Japanese restaurant. Encased inside the crunchy spring roll pastry was a piece of tender chicken with cheese, vegetables and tartare sauce. Together with a sweet chili sauce on top, it was super tasty and I enjoyed this novel combination of flavours. It is a rather rich dish so would recommend sharing this one!
For dessert, we sampled the green tea brulee. It had a strong matcha flavour and cracked easily with the tap of the spoon, which is just what you want. The other dessert was the Chocolate spring rolls - dark chocolate and strawberries rapped in a deep fried spring roll pastry. It was sweet but not overly so.
All of the dishes were beautifully plated and well executed. I really enjoyed the fusion aspects of the menu, so it's a great place to go if you are after something a little different from your standard Japanese cuisine.
As a Washoku Lover's member, you can grab an Assorted Dessert Plate for a discounted price.
Manpuku joins a growing list of Japanese eateries in Chatswood, specialising in ramen. The interior of the restaurant is simply decorated with wooden furnishings and ropes draping from the ceiling. They had some interesting drinks on the menu so we decided to order an Organic plum wine and the Apple jelly wine. Both tasted quite fruity and not too alcoholic, and I loved the texture of the jelly wine - it felt like I was eating a dessert.
For appetisers, we ordered the Octopus Karaage and the Wing Gyoza. The Octopus karaage was freshly cooked with a crispy batter. They were a great accompaniment to the ramen.
The Wing Gyoza caught my eye when perusing the menu. Upon enquiring, we learnt that it 's basically a fried chicken wing stuffed with a dumpling filling. What is not to love about that? The fried chicken wing had crispy skin and the dumpling filling actually felt like it belonged inside a chicken wing!
Onto the ramens and there were a few different soup bases to choose from - chicken soup, pork soup or a miso broth. We chose the Long Name Ramen, a suitable name considering the actual name of the dish consists 14 words. The ramen came with two slices of pork belly, bean sprouts, bamboo shoot, a seaweed sheet and a soft boiled egg. The broth was creamy and flavoursome, and the noodles were still springy with some bite.
The other ramen we tried was the Shio Gara which uses a chicken soup base and comes with medium straight noodles. This is great if you prefer something lighter and cleaner tasting, with a more subtle flavour. For an extra flavour kick, we added the special Gara pepper, which is a white pepper with dried garlic, bamboo and onion.
Service was efficient and friendly, and I'm glad I've found another place to satisfy my ramen craving.
One last thing - If you are a fan of Japanese food, do join Washoku lovers, which offers a range of benefits at a growing number of Japanese restaurants.
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Manpuku and Washoku Lovers. All opinions are my own.
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