The latest Sake Restaurant and Bar has opened at Manly Wharf, with an unbeatable harbour view. The space is huge and there are many seating options (booths, at the sushi bar, inside or out.
The Hiramasa Kingfish was beautifully prepared and you can't really go wrong with the jalapeno and the yuzu dressing.
The Sashimi cones of kingfish and salmon were tasty and fun to eat.
The Popcorn shrimp had a crispy coating and the batter was very light. dressed beautifully in the yuzu mayonnaise.
The Grandmaster sizzle is a Japanese take on a hamburger steak. It was strangely satisfying topped with daikon and paired with crunchy yam chips.
For dessert, we couldn't go past the Dragon Egg, a signature dish at Sake. As the waiter pours on the hot miso caramel, the egg begins to crack to reveal a white chocolate shell filled with roasted banana and a banana and hazelnut cream. It was rich, decadent and a great way to end the meal.
Serving sizes are a little small for the price but I guess you are also paying for the expansive harbour views. Sake Manly is a great place to unwind with some good modern Japanese food and cocktails to match.
Koi, established by Masterchef alumni Reynold Poernomo, is well known for its beautiful desserts and I've had the opportunity to try many of the cakes and pastries. This time, I was here to visit the upstairs restaurant where they do a mix of savoury and sweet.
We opted for the 5 course set menu at $80pp which consisted of one entree, one main and three desserts. The meal kicked off with a savoury snack, a Confit duck donut with berry jam. The donut was fluffy and I enjoyed the pairing of the duck and berry flavours.
For entree, we had the BBQ Moreton Bay bug with pickled kohlrabi and crispy sweet potato. The Moreton Bay bug was beautifully cooked and soaked up the delicious curry sauce. The crispy sweet potato added a great textural element to the dish.
The Sous-vide quail had a crispy skin and the eschallot and quail jus packed a whole lot of flavour. So far the savoury dishes have exceeded my expectations.
The Crispy duck breast was very tender, however, the purple carrot could have been cooked for a tad longer. The beetroot puree added earthiness to the dish.
The Murray cod was beautifully steamed but the highlight for me was the poached mussels. They were plump and juicy, and took on the umami flavour from the shallot dressing.
Onto desserts and we started with the Deconstructed carrot cake. I'm not usually a fan of carrot cake but in this instance, I enjoyed the interpretation. It was very light, not overly sweet and had so many different textural elements.
Next was the Vanilla mousse with Calamansi. Firstly, the dessert looked stunning as it hit the table, with the burnt honey mango resembling honeycomb. The mango sorbet was silky smooth and I enjoyed the pops of flavour from the compressed cumquat and pepperberries.
All in all, I was impressed by the quality of the dishes but would have preferred the ratio of savoury vs sweet to be reversed for a more balanced meal.
China Doll, Woolloomooloo
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.
Mas.Que, St Leonards
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, Bondi Beach
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, Freshwater
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, Bondi
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.
Paper Bird, Potts Point
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, Dural
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,
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