Encasa, Lane Cove
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.
Momofuku Seiobo, Pyrmont
You know a meal has been phenomenal when you still reminisce about it months later and that is exactly how I feel about Momofuku Seiobo at The Star. The 14 course Carribean-inspired tasting menu, the brainchild of Paul Carmichael, was creative and the flavours extraordinary. For something different, we opted for the non-alcoholic beverage pairing which was delicious in its own right.
We started off with the very tasty morsels of Bakes, abalone and lardo: Thin slices of tender abalone from Bateman's Bay, drizzled with pork larder and accompanied by a very light and fluffy Jamaican bread.
Sitting atop a collection of sea shells are three plantain tarts filled with finely shaved snail meat. It delivered both in presentation and in taste.
The Short rib with pickled onion was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Rangers Valley beef rib had been cooked for 36 hours so not surprisingly, it just melted in my mouth. The olives and pickled onion was great to cut through the fattiness of the short rib.
The next dish of Pickled pumpkin, caramelised pumpkin seed, zucchini and raisins were tied together by a special hot sauce. Hot and sour, it was a great pla on textures and flavours.
The Curred rice with crab smelled divine as it hit our table. There were plenty of crab meat and the curry emulsion was strong without being overpowering. The crispy bits of rice added a nice crunch to the dish.
I didn't document all the drinks from the non alcoholic beverage pairing but have to make a special mention of this Blood orange shrub. I discovered a shrub is not just a small tree. It's also a type of preserve, sweet and vinegary - made in-house, this blood orange version is one of the best drinks I've tasted.
The Marron cooked in koji butter on the charcoal grill was another exceptional dish. The marron flesh was so succulent and there was just the right hint of smokiness from the charcoal. The coconut flesh added a nice tropical element to the dish and I could have easily eaten another one!
To accompany the marron was the most buttery and flakey roti - I would rate it even more highly than the famed ones from Mamak. The other accompaniment was an onion dip with mini apples, adding a hit of sweetness. It was not what I expecting from this fine dining restaurant, but was very pleasantly surprised.
To round off the mains was the Pork loin with crackling, served with a side of Spiced pumpkin and split peas, and a Cabbage salad. The blushing pink pork loin had been aged over four weeks and carried incredible flavours, and the crackling had the perfect crunch.
Onto desserts and we start with the palate cleanser of Yoghurt sorbet with banana leaf oil and powder. Served in a coconut bowl, the yoghurt sorbet was delightfully refreshing and I loved the addition of the pink sea salt.
The Roast coconut ice cream with cocoa nib and a cashew crumb was divine. The ice cream had a great intensity of flavour, with more nuttiness than usual, and the crumb and wafer all worked well together.
I would have been happy to end the night at this point as I found the next desserts of Rum cake, marzipan and raisin too sweet for my liking.
The last sweet was a molasses toffee with coconut, lime and ginger. The waitress told us that half the diners love this and half don't. We fell in the latter category - I found it strange that they would end with such a divisive dish but aside from this hiccup, the entire meal has been amazing.
The staff was friendly and professional and I loved being able to look into the open kitchen to see the team of chefs at work. The flavours are bold and creative, and it was one of the most memorable and exciting meals I've had, different to any degustation I've had before.
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