Quay has been on my wish list for a while and I finally got the chance to cross it off my list. We were lucky to get one of the tables on the mezzanine floor of the restaurant, with uninterrupted, sweeping views of the Sydney harbour and the Opera House. This really is dining with a view!
Dining with my parents and my boyfriend, we opted for the four course menu for $175pp. We figured that if we each get different dishes, it's like one big degustation!
The Amuse Bouche was Almonds and squash seeds with cultured cream and verjuice. Light and tangy, left me wanting for more.
For the first course, I got the Mud crab congee (est. 2003). Congee is not something you would find in a Western restaurant, let alone a fine dining one. So I was intrigued. Firstly, it smelled amazing. The congee itself was a bit more watery than the versions I am used to but tasted absolutely superb. The mix of the slightly salty egg yolk emulsion with the sweet crab meat really elevated the flavours.
The Raw smoked Blackmore wagyu had a subtle smokey flavour which went very well with the golden enoki mushrooms and the lightly spiced horseradish cream.
The Smoked eel and black beef pancetta were a wonderful pairing, and the fermented mushrooms really accentuated the dish.
For the second course, I chose the Wild black lip abalone, fermented chawanmushi, smoked pig jowl, roasted Komi and sesame. The chawanmushi was silky smooth and the abalone was very tender, but the star of the dish was definitely the pig jowl. It was simply divine, like eating the fattiest slice of tuna belly.
The Slow braised quail with brioche, grains, hazelnuts and coco button mushrooms delivered on both flavour and texture. The dish had a lovely crunch and each mouthful had so much going on. I was expecting the quail to be the star of the dish but actually, it was just a smorgasbord of ingredients all working together.
Compared to the other dishes, the XO Crayfish wasn't at the same lofty standards. The XO sauce lacked a bite and was more salty than anything else. The crayfish was very well cooked though.
Onto the third course and I had chosen the Blackmore wagyu with black rice miso, white maitake and black garlic. Cooked perfectly pink and tender, I don't recall eating a better piece of steak. The black garlic puree was out of this world delicious.
The Roasted masterstock duck had a great profile of flavours. I only wished it came with crispy skin.
...and onto desserts! Like many, I had watched the finale of Masterchef Season 2 and wanted to have the Snow Egg experience since. Today's version was nectarine flavoured. I went in with super its expectations and I got to say they were met. The presentation of the dish is stunning and almost too beautiful to eat. The egg sits on a bed of granita (today, it was nectarine flavoured). To eat it, you tap on the 'egg' to crack it open and out oozes the gooey centre. At first taste. I found the 'egg' a bit too sweet but when I took a little bit of everything in one spoonful (the ice cream filled meringue, the super refreshing granita, the malt biscuit) that's when the magic happens. So much is happening texturally and flavour-wise, I can see why it's now such an iconic dessert.
We also ordered Quay's other signature dessert, the Eight Textured Chocolate Cake. It's definitely one of the best chocolate desserts I've had. I can't say I made out all eight textures, but it tasted so damn good, it doesn't really matter. At the table, hot chocolate sauce is drizzled into the dark chocolate top coat, creating a hole in the cake. It's a great touch of theatre. The cake is rich and decadent, and we scrape the plate clean.
Dining at Quay was truly a memorable, three hat worthy experience - everything from the view to the service to the food. There were some truly outstanding dishes like the Blackmore Wagyu, the snow egg and the chocolate cake that will stay with me for a long time.
Kensington Street Social is Michelin starred chef, Jason Aterton's first foray into Australia, located in the hotspot of dining in Sydney right now -Chippendale. Arriving for a late lunch, we were seated at the bar with a full view of the frenetic action in the kitchen. The menu is designed for sharing according to the waitstaff but frankly, some of the dishes were so good I wanted it all to myself.
We started with the English breakfast tea and toast which was not what you would normally expect. It came complete with its own two tiered stand. The tea was actually more akin to a mushroom consomme, which was deliciously rich and earthy. Poured into the little cups of Parmesan foam, it was gone all too quickly. To accompany the 'tea' were super thin sourdough crisps topped with creamy bone marrow butter and gentlemen's relish (i.e. the original HP sauce). Definitely a little bit fancy!
The vine tomato stuffed with burrata inside is another must-eat. Dressed with a 25 year aged balsamic vinegar, and together with the semi dried tomato seasoning hidden inside, it was one tasty dish.
We love a good tartare and KSS's veal tartare did not disappoint. The egg yolk jam mixed in with the veal have it a good creamy texture and it was packed full of flavour.
Our next dish, Slow cooked organic hen's egg, sweetcorn, seaweed, parmesan, sage, chicken scratchings, comes with a little jug of chicken gravy poured at the table. The combination of the different textures and flavours just hit all the right notes. Salty, crispy chicken scratchings paired with the sweet, juicy bursts of corn; the umami of the seaweed and parmesan and of course, the gooey egg yolk!
For the last of our savoury dishes, we opted for the Paroo Kangaroo with soured sweet potato, cider poached pear, wattle seed, and land cress. It's easy to overcook kangaroo but in this case, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare. I don't think I've ever had such succulent kangaroo before. The jus that was poured on was delicious and I quite liked the sour sweet potato puree, which cuts through the richness of the meat.
Olive oil cake, where have you been all my life? The cake was incredibly moist and full of olive oil flavour. Served with a scoop of coconut sorbet, diced mango and passionfruit granita, it was a light, refreshing and seriously delicious dessert.
I was mightily impressed by Kensington Street Social - everything from the ambiance to the service and most of all, the food. It was exciting, and everything on the plate had spectacular flavours. Yes, portions are a bit small but on the upside, you have an excuse to try more dishes!
It's hard to believe 2015 is nearly over. I thought it would be fun to take a look back on my ten favourite dishes of the year in Sydney. Narrowing it down to ten proved to be a much more difficult task than I anticipated, hence I ended up with eleven :) From entrees to desserts, Asian to Moroccan, these are the amazing eats I had the pleasure of consuming.
#11. Snap Crackle Plop - Chicken rice with onsen egg - Kin by Us, Macquarie
Why? Comfort food at its best with a perfectly cooked soft yolk egg
#10. Korean steak tartare with pear. Devon by Night, Waterloo
Why? The combination of the Korean soy sesame dressing with the sweet slices of pear, egg yolk and succulent tartare just works
#9. Goma Street - Sokyo, Pyrmont
Why? Art on a plate - the mix of textures and chocolate and sesame flavours was delightful
#8. Turkish coffee tiramisu - Moorish Blue, McMahons Point
Why? Loved this take on a tiramisu - velvelty smooth with an intense coffee flavour
#7. 48 hours slow cooked Riverina short rib, Gastro Park, Potts Point
Why? Incredibly impressed by this most delicious piece of beef cooked for 48 hours which completely melts in the mouth and is still pink in the middle!
#6. Cheeseburger spring rolls - Ms Gs, Potts Point
Why? The ultimate fusion food, combining the cheesy goodness of a cheeseburger with the crispness of a deep fried spring roll
#5. Chocolate fondant with salted sesame ice cream - Tokonoma, Sydney CBD
Why? Chocolate oozing out from the centre, a perfectly cooked fondant paired with creamy salted sesame ice cream
#4. Savoy cabbage - Toriciya, Cammeray
Why? The aroma of the truffle was intoxicating and the citrusy soy dressing and saffron made this my favourite vegetarian dish of the year
#3. Carrot, yoghurt, liquorice - Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst
Why? Judging from the ingredients of the dish, I did not have high expectations... but I was proved wrong and it was one of the most refreshing dishes I had all year and lit up my taste buds. Excuse my half-eaten shot!
#2. Butternut gnocchi - Gastro Park, Potts Point
Why? The pure joy of having the gnocchi pearls filled with creamy pumpkin soup burst in the mouth AND the amazingly flavoursome mushroom consomme
#1. Duck, hazelnut, raddichio, raspberry - Cafe Paci, Darlinghurst
Why? Visually stunning and with the flavours to match - at times, I felt like I was eating a dessert
Looking forward to another year of food discoveries!
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!
Bao Dao, Chatswood
I had walked by the Taiwanese eatery Bao Dao on several occasions wanting to try it, only to be deterred by the queue outside. Having dined there, I now understand that the queue isn't just due to the small interior, but also because their food is delicious and great value!
There's a two page menu showcasing pictures of each dish and ordering is done at the counter. We started with a couple of small plates. The Braised eggplant was a cold appetiser - soft and gooey with a tasty sauce, we devoured it in a flash.
Next was the Stewed tofu in a soy broth, which had a lovely velvelty texture.
The Taiwanese, like the Koreans, also love a food fried chicken. I loved Bao Dao's take on it, with incorporated fried basil. The batter was very light, the chicken very tender with just the right amount of seasoning.
The Handmade pork dumplings were also a highlight. It was clear they were freshly made - with an almost translucent skin and a plump filling, these dumplings were just what was required in this cold weather!
The portions are small (and cheap) so you can order a lot of different things to try. It's a great place to go to experience some authentic Taiwanese dishes. I will definitely be back to try their pork buns next time!
Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Tucked away inside The Star is the acclaimed Japanese restaurant, Sokyo, helmed by Chase Kojima. Unlike many fine dining restaurants, it does not offer a degustation...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we get to pick exactly what we would like to try tonight.
Our first course was the Scallop ceviche, topped with crispy potato, micro herbs and a tomato medley. The dish was super light and fresh, a perfect way to start the evening. The thinly sliced scallops went really well with the yuzu dressing, and the crispy potato adds some good texture and flavour to the dish.
Salmon belly is one of my favourite cuts of sashimi and I was not dissappointed. Not only did it look amazing on the plate, it was gloriously fatty and tastes ridiculously good. We could definitely have done with another plate of that!
The Short rib beef skewers grilled on a robata grill just utterly delicious and completely melts in the mouth. I love the eschallots wedged in between the wagyu which gave a dose of crunch and sweetness.
The Kurobuta Pork Belly skewers were just as mouth watering. The combination of the rich and tender pork belly and the juicy daikon is simply divine.
We rounded out the savoury dishes of the night with the Spicy tuna sushi roll. It was very tasty and the quality of the fish is undeniably good, but it didn't have the wow factor of the other dishes.
Onto dessert and Goma street is perfection on a plate. The waitress advised we should smash down the tower, so we can mix in all the textures and flavours together. It was almost too pretty to touch but we did smash it down and I loved all the elements. There were discs of dark chocolate layered with a sesame filling, topped with black sesame crumble. It paired really well with the velvelty smooth black sesame ice cream and caramelised white chocolate crumb. Definitely one of the best desserts I have had.
Our second dessert was the Tofu cheesecake with Thyme sugar and strawberry consomme. It reminded me of the tofu pudding (tofu-fa) you find at yumcha restaurants. The cheesecake was light and fluffy, though I did wish there was a little more strawberry consomme.
Sokyo is now one of my fave restaurants in Sydney, a sophisticated dining space, perfect to celebrate a special occasion. Whilst it is somewhat pricey, we left with very full stomachs, spending less than what you would normally for a degustation at a fine dining restaurant. I would love to go back and maybe nab a seat at the sushi bar to see the chefs in their element.
The Rice Den, St Leonards
St Leonards has been curiously devoid of restaurants, relying on the neighbouring Crows Nest to offer a diverse range of cafes and restaurants. So I was very pleased to hear The Rice Den had set up shop on Chandos Street in St Leonards, offering modern Cantonese cooking. The decor is bang on trend with wooden interiors, exposed bulbs and quitessential Asian ingredients neatly arranged on open shelving. I also loved the use of an abacus feature framing the window, looking into the open kitchen. The restaurant was full and buzzing on a Friday night.
We started with the Roast duck san choy bao. The duck was well seasoned and the pinenuts added a nice crunch, but at $15, I was hoping for a little more.
The Crispy lamb spring rolls were a lot better value for money. The pastry was super crispy and gave a very satisfying crunch, and the lamb filling was full of flavour. The sour plum sauce was just the right condiment to go with them.
Moving on to the bigger plates, we opted for the special of the night - Crispy pork belly with caramelised eggplant and pickled ginger mayo. The presentation resembled more of a Western dish, complete with knife and fork. The pork belly is beautifully tender and the strips of skin was oh-so-deliciously crunchy. The caramelised eggplant reminded me more of traditional Cantonese cooking and I loved its soft, gooey texture.
The Steam broccolini had that lovely vibrant green colour and was a good cleansing dish before dessert.
There's a choice of two desserts on the menu and we opted for the Ovaltine pannacotta served with a whisky glaze, strawberries and roasted chestnuts. The pannacotta had just the right amount of wobbliness and the ovaltine flavour was quite pronounced, a refreshing alternative to chocolate. The strawberry and chestnut mixture was a great accompaniment, and ensured the dessert was not too sweet.
The Rice Den is a welcome addition to the lower north shore dining scene and offers a fresh take on Chinese cooking. The restaurant also has a fully licensed bar with a range of Chinese inspired cocktails, so come hungry and thirsty!
Work in Progress, Sydney CBD
The Sichuan duck and tofu lo mein wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was anticipating actual slices of duck, rather than the minced variety. The noodles were cooked well and had that bouncy bite. The dish had a big punch of flavour, but the sichuan spice was a little overpowering for me.
Opened as a pop up bar, Merivale's Work in Progress helmed by Patrick Friesen, has been so popular it's now staying open indefinitely. The menu is dominated by Asian favourites, such as Lo Mein, fried chicken and wontons.
First to arrive was the Pork and prawn wonton. In the menu, the description of the dish included 'strange flavour'. I wasn't exactly sure what was so strange about it, but it was definitely tasty - a mixture of soy, peanuts and spices. The wontons were silky and plump with a delicious filling.
Every second restaurants seem to be serving fried chicken these days. I was eager to see how WIP's version measure up. With four varieties to choose from, we opted for the Fried chicken with ginger nuoc cham which comes with a side of pickled diakon, cucumber and kimchi. The batter was crispy and the meat very succulent, another great rendition of fried chicken.
Work In Progress is a great, casual place to go after work with friends (and they do a good cocktail too!) Let's hope they stay open a little while yet.
Danjee, Sydney CBD
Hidden in a laneway near Town Hall is Danjee, the sister restaurant of the ever popular Madang. A fancier version of some of the Korean joints found in Chinatown/ Koreatown, the setting is very roomy and the BBQ is confined to the kitchen and outside tables, meaning there won't be any smoky-smelling clothes afterwards!
Perusing the menu, I was intrigued to try the seasoned raw skate fish. I was imagining some version of sliced sashimi, but it wasn't that at all! They looked like meatballs and were quite chewy. They were flavoursome but a bit too hot for my liking.
On the other hand, the Sweet potato noodles in a cold beef broth was light and refreshing. I loved the slipperiness of the noodles and the broth was incredibly tasty.
We chose a couple of dishes from the BBQ section. Ox tongue is one of my favourite cuts of meats and it tastes especially good, fresh off the grill. It's rich and fatty, and wonderfully tender.
The Pork jowl (or pork cheeks) had great marbling and were perfectly cooked - so delicious!
One of the reasons I love going to Korean restaurants is the free banchan side dishes. As usual, there were plenty to choose from, including kimchi, pickled daikon and mung bean jelly, just to name a few.
There are many places now vying for the best Korean Fried Chicken and I think the Danjee Chicken has to be right up there. Everything from the golden, crispy skin to the succulent, moist meat were superb.
We also got the hearty Slow cooked beef ribs with chestnut, gingko nuts and dried dates, perfect for Winter. The sweet soy stock was packed full of flavour and the chestnut and gingko nuts added real depths of flavour. The beef ribs were superbly cooked and falling off the bone, soaking in the very aromatic stock.
Danjee is a modern Korean restaurant serving up fantastic food. I loved that you can choose to BBQ your meat or have it done for you, avoiding the smoky hair/ clothes aftermath. I will be back for sure.
Four in Hand, Paddington
The first course was the Pickled scallop and heirloom tomatoes and fennel in a clear broth. The dish was so tasty and mesmerising that I forgot to take a photo...which is a real shame because it was such a photogenic dish. The tomato medley, together with the micro herbs and scallops gave it wonderful colour and the broth was really delicate with incredible flavours.
Next was the Seared Albacore Tuna with Pickled Strawberries and Horseradish. I don't often order tuna at a restaurant because it's so easy to overcook, but this was done just right. The dish came with a pickled cucumber jelly and seaweed cracker which added to the texture, and I loved the pickled strawberries, which had this wonderful, intense sweetness to it.
For Valentine's Day this year, I was treated to a five course degustation at Four in Hand in Paddington ($95pp). I have enjoyed Colin Fassnidge's cooking at Four Fourteen so was eager to see what was in store.
We were offered a complimentary glass of champagne and an amuse bouche to start. The Whitefish and citrus soup with smoked paprika and basil was very flavoursome and definitely woke up our palate. Interestingly, the butter and salt was served in bone marrow - a nod to their nose and tail philosophy.
Next, we had the Bavette and Beef Cheek with Buttermilk Curd and Summer Greens. I had to google what a bavette was - turns out it is a French style cut, similar to a flank steak. Again, it was wonderfully cooked but the star of the dish was the beef cheek. The meat was falling-off-the bone tender and soaked up all the wonder juices from the stock.
Corned beef is not normally an item you would see on the menu of a restaurant, let alone a fine dining one. However, the Warmed corned beef with bresciola, buffalo curd and nashi pear was a revelation. The poached corn beef was moist and juicy, sitting atop a precisely cut block of nashi pear which provided the sweetness. Draped over the top was the house cured bresciola with shaved horseradish and a rich cheesy buffalo curd.
The dessert - Chocolate ice cream with pedro ximenz and macadamic nut with Brioche combined some of my favourite foods in the world - brioche, macadamia and chocolate. The ice cream was rich and velvety smooth and the chocolate flavours were everywhere but never overly sweet. I savoured each bite, not wanting the experience to end.
I was very impressed with the food overall. All the dishes had wonderful textures and balance of flavours. The service was friendly and professional too.
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