China Doll at Woolloomooloo combines modern Chinese cuisine with alfresco dining. On a sunny but very windy day, we were seated on one of the outside tables with a great view of the Sydney skyline.
The Cured Hiramasa Kingfish was a perfect way to kick start our meal. It was light, fresh and tangy and got us wanting more.
The Fried Tofu with Five Spice Salt were beautifully crisp on the outside and silky smooth on the inside.
I had been to China Doll years early and remembered the Tea Smoked Duck as a highlight. Of course I had to order it again and it was just as good as I remembered it. The aroma of the tea was evident as the dish hit our table. It had a distinct smokey flavour and together with the crispy skin, mandarin segments and the plum and tamarind sauce, made for a stunning dish.
The side of Broccolini with Oyster Sauce & Garlic was simple and gave us our veggie intake for the afternoon.
The Penang Curry, whilst not the most photogenic dish, delivered in terms of incredible flavour. The beef shin was tender and falling apart, soaking in the curry sauce which was salty, tangy and sweet.
We also ordered the Steamed Market Fish, which today was a Snapper. It is cooked in the traditional Cantonese style, topped with shallots, ginger and soy sauce. Whilst not as bold in flavour as the duck or beef curry, it was a very comforting plate of food.
For dessert, we were treated to the Large Dessert Platter (we had ordered the Small but the server upgraded it for us as we were celebrating a birthday). The platter consisted of the Sago pudding with Vanilla Coconut cream and passionfruit coulis, Raspberry and Mango sorbet and Black sticky rice with cris corn and poached pear. Each was very enjoyable in their own way and I especially loved the Sago pudding which had a great balance of salty, sweet and tangy flavours.
China Doll is one of the few fine dining Chinese restaurants that I feel is worth going to with fantastic food, attentive service and water views.
Among the line up of restaurants on the waterfront in Barangaroo is Zushi, a modern Japanese restaurant. With a view of the glistening harbour, we couldn't go past the Sashimi boat. Zushi's version certainly did not disappoint. The sashimi was wonderfully fresh and the variety reminded me of what you would find in Japan. The sea-urchin and scallop were some of my favourites.
Continuing on with the seafood theme, we had the Kingfish carpaccio with red grape and finger lime. The dish was vibrant, fresh and a delight to eat.
Zushi's version of agedashi tofu with Silken beancurd was delicious.
The Teriyaki salmon was perfectly cooked and I enjoyed the charred leeks.
You don't often find wagyu beef in a sushi roll. It's hard to see why as it works beautifully. I loved the addition of the sweet potato batons on top which gave it a hit of sweetness and crunch.
The Twice-cooked pork ribs was tender and flavoursome with the balsamic glaze. The little cubes of crispy tofu was a nice surprise and the dish had a great balance of sweet and savoury.
Great food and a delightful ambiance, Zushi is a top spot if you are looking for some Japanese eats in the city.
Located in St Leonards, Mas.Que started popping up on my Instagram a few months back and I had been eager to try their Asian fusion fare since. Starting off with the drinks, I was intrigued by the Black Tea Latte which allowed you to draw your own art. The "ink" was some charcoal and beetroot essence and I had fun making my own creation. The latte had a very strong tea flavour too which I enjoyed.
The Brulee latte is essentially a cross between a creme brulee and a latte. It had the hard crack of a creme brulee and a cinnamon stick, which you use to stir the latte one the top layer is gone.
Onto the food and we got a load of dishes to share. The Wagyu Tataki and Soba noodles was a light and refreshing dish. The noodles came with a very flavoursome handmade sauce and an onsen egg that was perfectly cooked. Topping this off was a generous portion of thinly sliced Wagyu beef.
The highlight of the meal for me was no doubt the Soft Shell crab on Golden Sand Congee. It looked spectacular when it landed on the table. and was backed up by its taste. The congee was deliciously thick and had a lovely golden hue thanks to the split mung bean and the cordyceps (a type of fungus). It was topped with a crunchy Duck Yolk golden crisp with the piece de resistance, the soft shell crab, sitting on top. The crab was stunning and the dish was the perfect winter warmer.
The Taiwan Classic Bowl with braised pork and egg rolls was moreish and packed full of flavour. It's comfort food at its best. The side of Taiwanese fried chicken was crispy and succulent.
The Truffle pasta was a simple dish with only a few ingredients on the plate but done exceptionally well. The pasta had a good bite and I loved the truffle flavour that was present throughout the dish.
The Flaming bowl came with Truffle kombu sauce comes with wagyu beef, seared right in front of you. It's like a little set menu and comes accompanied with a soft boiled egg, fried tofu and pickles. The Truffle kombu sauce was full of umami flavour and it was another very fun dish to eat.
With so many cafes and restaurants in the lower North Shore, Mas.Que manages to stand out with its inventive cuisine, backed up by flavor.
Blanca's concept of Japan x Mediterranean fusion was one that piqued my interest. Located in the Hall St dining precinct, the restaurant offers a la carte or a selection of degustation options (seven, eight or ten courses). Eager to try as much of the menu as possible, we opted for the ten course option.
We started with the Sydney Rock oysters which were given a hit of citrus flavour from the mandarin-szechuan pepper mignonette and these were quickly downed in one gulp and left us wanting more.
The slices of Raw aged beef were very tender and came served in a sesame leaf, which you roll up to eat. Together with the pickled radish and wasabi mayo, it made for a very tasty yet delicate dish.
The Bonito Pastrami looked like a painting on a plate and was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The bonito was cured and blow-torched giving it a smokiness, soaking up the umami flavours of the Yuzu-soy and brown butter dressing. This was offset by the yuzu cream which gave it a great touch of freshness.
The Peking duck croquette was exactly how you would imagine it - crunchy coating with the most delicious filling of duck, almonds and cinnamon cream inside.
The next dish of Blanca Black Bun looked just as impressive when it hit our table. The first thing that I noticed was the sheer size of the soft shell crab. They definitely didn't scrimp on the crab and the batter was super crispy. I would easily come back just for this dish.
Moving to a more Mediterranean flavour, the Grilled Octopus was served with a rich romesco dressing, garlic confit and thyme. The octopus was very tender and I especially loved the intensity of the sauce.
The Monkfish took us back closer to Japanese flavours with the white soy-wasabi dashi packing a punch. The roasting of the cabbage really brought out its sweetness.
The Pork ribs cooked in miso caramel was eaten in the form of a san choy bao. Like all the other dishes, it was full of flavour and the pork had wonderful caramelization, but unfortunately the meat was a little dry. The dish was accompanied by Crispy Blanca potatoes. Topped with aioli, furikake and a chii pickle sauce, the cripsy potatoes were irrestible and despite being quite full at this point, I couldn't resist eating them.
The Matcha Tea & Strawberry dessert was a great combination of textures and flavours, executed with great balance. The star of the dish was the sorrel sorbet, a unique flavour that was very refreshing.
The final dish of Bondi Sands with Chocolate and vanilla cream was very rich and I would have loved a few more segments of mandarin to cut through the richness.
The dishes at Blanca was an eclectic mix and I enjoyed the diversity. Service was knowledgeable and friendly, and I still can't stop thinking about the soft shell crab.
Pilu at Freshwater is an Italian fine dining restaurant on the Northern Beaches, with a focus on Sardinian cuisine. The day we visited was unfortunately a rainy one, but it was still a very picturesque setting overlooking Freshwater beach. I could only imagine how amazing it would look on a summery day.
Perusing the menu, we opted to go for the 7-course degustation ($125pp) but decided to start with half a dozen of Sydney rock oysters. These gems are from Pambula and are served with apple cider and cucumber. Sweet and plump, they were gone in a flash.
Soon after we were presented with the complimentary flat bread with house made ricotta and truffle oil. The flatbread was deliciously crunchy with a good sprinkling of salt and rosemary, perfectly paired with the creamy ricotta.
Onto the first course and it's a Smoked mullet and celeriac panada with Dill oil, apple and cucumber gel and horseradish cream on the side. An interesting blend of ingredients, the dill oil together with the horseradish cream tied the dish together.
The Ravioli of ricotta with a sea urchin emulsion and tarragon oil was unfortunately a little underwhelming. The ravioli is a traditional Sardinian version, quite different to the shape of the usual ones you see in an Italian restaurant. The skin was a bit too thick for my liking and the sea urchin flavour wasn't as strong as I had hoped.
The Fregula risotata is a toasted Semolina pasta and together with the pecorino cheese, charred onions and wild garlic puree made for a very tasty vegetarian dish.
The Barramundi in smoked ham consomme was delicious and I enjoyed the unusual textures of the sea herbs. The smoked ham consomme was crystal clear and packed full of flavour.
The Roast suckling pig is one of the signature dishes at Pilu and it's not hard to see why. The suckling pig has the great mix of crispy crackling and tender meat. The accompaniments of black olive tapenade, poached paradise pear helped in countering the richness of the dish, and I loved the flavour of the pistachio mortadella.
The palate cleanser of Pimm's and strawberry consomme, cucumber granita and mint delivered - it was light, fruity and refreshing.
The final dish of our degustation was a Sardinian pastry filled with ricotta and sultanas, drizzled with honey from nearby Forestville. The pastry was delightfully crispy and the flavours of honey, the dehydrated orange and ricotta blended superbly together.
It's the perfect place for a lazy long lunch at a beautiful location. I enjoyed some dishes more than others, so would probably opt for the a la carte option next time.
A Tavola in Bondi is the second restaurant of its name, after the much-loved original in Darlinghurst. The restaurant looks bright and inviting, with giant copper lights and a long marble communal table which is also where the pasta gets made daily.
Before getting to their famous pasta, we opted for a couple of entrees to whet our appetite. We started off with the Burratina, which was paired with dehydrated beetroot, fennel, orange segments and pea shoots. It was a light, summery dish and I couldn't get enough of the creaminess of the burratina.
The Lamb involtini was a delicate dish, with tender pieces of lamb backstrap stuffed with Tuscan kale. The salsa verde also managed to pack a punch of flavour.
The Squid ink ravioli looked striking as it hit the table. It definitely tasted of the sea and the mussels were incredibly plump and tender.
The Pappardelle with wagyu ragu was definitely the highlight of the meal.
The pasta was silky smooth and the ragu was wonderfully rich, and a very generous serving too. It was one of the best pasta dishes I've had in Sydney.
The Red Cabbage Salad with raisins and walnuts was incredibly tasty and a great play on textures. It has just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the pasta dishes.
A Tavola is a great spot if you are looking for some amazing fresh pasta in Sydney.
Having heard rave reviews about their Fried Chicken, I couldn't help paying Paper Bird in Potts Point a visit. Having been to their previous restaurant, Moon Park in Redfern, I had very high expectations. My friends and I decided to go with the banquet menu, which at $60 offered very good value given the amount of food on offer.
We start off with the Ddeokbokki, Korean glutinous rice cakes. They are crispy on the outside with a kick of heat thanks to the red chilli paste Gochuchang.
Next was the Menbosha, a modern take on prawn toast. The toast was deep fried goodness and the filling of prawns and cabbage was creamy and delicious.
The dish of Pork and squid ink sausage, grilled calamari and almonds looked simple but was bursting with flavour - a truly great stir fry dish.
The Eggplant with black pepper sauce and cashew was expertly cooked, almost taking on a meaty texture.
The signature dish - the Shrimp brined fried chicken - lived up to all expectations - a crunchy coating on the outside, succulent on the inside. The syrup drizzled on top added just the right balance of sweetness to the dish.
The Jeonbokjangbap which consisted of abalone slices, rice, nori, egg yolk and cucumber kimchi was another delight in terms of flavour and texture. The thinly slices of abalone could easily have been overcooked but were just perfectly tender.
Turning our attention to desserts, we started with the Coconut rice, lychee, strawberry & hazelnut. The combination of the lychee with the stawberries was spot on.
The final dish of Milk bingsu, green apple, melon sorbet & white chocolate was a refreshing way to finish off the meal. Bingsu is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert and Paper Bird's version was light and fluffy.
The food of Paper Bird is fresh and exciting, offering a great modern Asian menu with heavy Korean influences. I'm looking forward to coming back and trying their brunch menu.
Cod's Gift is a restaurant focused on sustainable sourced seafood in Dural in Sydney's north west. The interior is beautiful and lush, with velvet, brass and marble featuring heavily among the blue and green tones.
The menu is definitely not your standard fish and chips fare. We started off with half dozen of the Sydney Rock oysters from Merimbula in NSW. They were dressed with a Caramelised cabarnet vinegar with escallot and native pepper; and house ponzu with finger lime. The oysters were plump and creamy and I would have been perfectly happy to eat them with just a squeeze of lemon, but the dressings added an extra dimension to them.
The Kingfish sashimi looked like a beautiful summery dish when it hit our table. It was dazzling with flavour from the watermelon, blood orange, pistachio and jalapeno combination.
Straying from the seafood theme temporarily, the Portobello mushroom was a bit milder in flavour compared to some of the other dishes. The buckwheat and crisp lotus were some interesting textural additions.
The Lobster donuts caught my eye when looking through the menu. The mini donuts were filled with rock lobster, tom yum mayonnaise, sweet corn and lemongrass salt. It was the perfect sweet and salty combo.
The Snapper with sage crumb was beautifully cooked with a crispy coating and still flakey on the inside. The shaved fennel added a touch of freshness and it was a very satisfying dish to eat.
For dessert, we couldn't go past the Figs with mango, sticky rice ice cream and black sesame tuille. It was quite a sweet dessert and I wished there was more of the delicious, locally sourced figs.
Cod's Gift is well worth the drive to Sydney's north west, with the seafood dishes definitely playing the starring role,
Finding a place with a gorgeous view and delicious food to match isn't always easy. The Butler in Potts Point is definitely one to add to the list. My friends and I got a great table in the terrace area surrounded by hanging plants and with an unobstructed view of the beautiful Sydney skyline. The food has strong influences from South America and is made for sharing. For stressless ordering, we went with the Banquet menu for $60.
First dish to the table was the Cured salmon, green apple, habanero, onion, citrus. The chunky slices of salmon was cured perfectly and combined with the apple and habanero had my tastebuds jumping.
Continuing the seafood theme was the Hiramasa kingfish ceviche. Again, it was a vibrant and fresh dish, with the kingfish beautifully cured in a citrus based marinade.
Next was the Sopa Seca, which I learnt was a Peruvian pasta casserole dish. It is served with Swiss chard, tomato and smoked cashew cream. The pasta has quite a bouncy texture and I enjoyed the flavour of the cashew cream.
The Pork & Chipotle empanada was packed full of flavour, seasoned well and the pastry was light and flaky.
I couldn't wait to dig into the Buttermilk fried chicken sliders when they landed on our table. The bread to chicken ratio was perfect, the chicken was crispy and moist and the peanut salsa was an inspired choice.
The final couple of dishes of Lamb Barbacoa and the Quinoa with orange, pickled red cabbage and mint was a great way to end the meal. The lamb shoulder has been slow cooked in a banana leaf with adobo, green olives & coriander - the meat was so juicy and tender, it falls apart with the lightest touch.
The Banquet menu was a great way to sample the menu at The Butler. Amazing views with the cocktails and food to match - definitely no complaints!
Encasa in Lane Cove is an outpost from the much loved original on Pitt Street in Sydney CBD. We started with the Marinated white anchovies with toasted sourdough. The anchovies were XL in size and very flavorsome, with strong hints of lemon.
One of my favourite tapas dish is croquettes and Encasa's version with jamon Iberico had the perfect crispy outside and creamy inside.
There's a whole section of the menu devoted to pickled tinned goods which I found intriguing. We ordered the Tinned razor clams, as it's not something that is easily available. The dish arrived with its packaging intact - in case you like it, you can pick it up at the small deli at the front of the restaurant. I think I prefer my razor clams freshly cooked, but the quality of the tinned version was surprisingly good.
Another interesting dish was the Octopus carpaccio with mustard ice cream, which was one of the specials of the day. The flavours of octopus and mustard surprisingly went well together, though the carpaccio was a little icy and not as tender as I would have liked.
We finished off the meal with Pork cheeks and potato puree. The puree was delightfully smooth and creamy and the pork cheeks simply dissolved in my mouth. A wonderfully moreish dish.
Encasa is always reliable for a good Spanish feed and it's great to have one north of the bridge.
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