Hidden in a laneway in Circular Quay is Tapavino, a charming Spanish restaurant. As I stepped in, for a moment, I felt like I was in one of the tapas bars in Barcelona or Madrid. Everything on the menu sounded delicious so it was hard for my friends and I to decide what to eat. The wine list is extensive to say the least so we asked the waitress to help us with our selection.
We started with the Braised chicken, tomato salsa and paprika mayo. The meat was perfectly tender and the sauce was incredibly tasting without overpowering the chicken.
The Blood sausage is served with manuka honey and walnuts. It was again packed with flavour and had the right hits of sweet and salty.
The Braised chorizo was a hearty dish, served with a side of sourdough which came in handy to soak up the wonderfully thick tomato sauce.
Tapavino's menu features an entire section devoted to jamon. We decided to go with the Jamon, mushroom & black truffled tart with shaved manchego. The tart was hidden under a generous pile of beautiful, melt in your mouth jamon. The flavour combination of jamon with truffles and the manchego cheese was incredible. I could have happily devoured the whole dish.
For dessert, we couldn't go past the Chocolate terrine, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. The terrine is very rich and the olive oil and the sea salt flakes complemented the intensity of the chocolate flavour beautifully.
The Dulce de leche tart was accompanied by a generous dollop of cream. A simple dessert flawlessly executed, definitely worth saving room for.
I highly recommend Tapavino if you are a fan of good Spanish food and wine. Servings are generous and the atmosphere is unpretentious and has a definite buzz to it.
Automata is situated on one of the hottest foodie streets in Sydney - Kensington Street in Chippendale. It offers only one menu option - a five course tasting menu plus snacks for $88 (with an optional beverage pairing for $60). My friend and I were sat at the long communal table, with a view to the open kitchen.
We kicked off with the snacks for the evening. The Salmon skins with mustard mayonnaise and shiso were super crispy and simply delicious. The Wagyu tongue was incredibly tender and paired very well with the enoki and miso sauce.
The first proper course was the Raw kingfish with creme fraiche, pomelo and shiso. I am a big fan of kingfish but for me, the dish lacked balance. The fish was nicely treated but the pomelo did not provide the sweetness that I was expecting.
The next course, though, was absolutely spectacular. The dish smelled incredible as it hits our table. Pulling back the roasted seaweed was the steamed hapuka. The fish was perfectly cooked, tender enough to flake apart at the slightest touch. The roe emulsion packed an incredible amount of flavour and really enhanced the dish. It was definitely a case of something tasting much better than it looked.
Duck hearts is not a common ingredient found on menus but I quite enjoyed Automata's creation. The duck hearts were delicious and the seasoning hit all the right notes. The fennel added a freshness to the dish and the red cabbage puree was just the right accompaniment.
The Smoked lamb neck was chargrilled to order. It was beautifully soft, paired with delicious fried capers and red witlof. Everything on the plate just worked together.
My friend and I decided to share the optional cheese course. The Quicke's cheddar is a cow's milk cheese from Devon. It was crumbly with quite a mild flavour. The caramelised kiwifruit added a nice touch of sweetness.
Dessert was the Yoghurt sorbet with meringue, persimmon, finger lime, rosemary and sumac. The yoghurt sorbet was tart and creamy, with discs of persimmon crusted in sumac perched on top giving it a lovely sweetness. I loved that there were so many different textures and flavours - the pearls of finger lime, the freeze dried plum and the fragrant rosemary oil made this a joy to eat.
All in all, I had a great time at Automata. The food was interesting and exciting and the service was very professional. I didn't leave feeling overly full, but with Koi dessert bar just around the corner, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
When I think of Salaryman, I think of men in grey suits being stuck in their office cubicles, working till the wee hours of the morning. This modern Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills must be the type of place they crave going to after work. The venue was slick and modern, with neon lights and dripping wall art. The menu was really interesting, and definitely not one you would find in your local Japanese eatery. It was a tough choice narrowing down what to eat.
My friends and I started with the Chicken liver parfait. The parfait was silky smooth and rich, and paired perfectly with the yuzu syrup and the buttery madeleines. It's definitely a dish that I would order again.
Next was the Prawn toast okonomiyaki, which tasted as good as it looked. The okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and mayonnaise were great accompaniments to to the crunchy prawn toast.
I love bone marrow - it's rich, gelatinous and luscious. Spread onto the deep fried milk bread, it's like butter but a creamier version. The serrano ham added a salty touch but I must admit, it did get a bit rich towards the end but still, oh so delicious.
Salaryman's Pork and pippies ramen is made with a pork and chicken broth, with cha shu pork, wood fired pippies, burnt garlic and sesame oil, spring onion and pickled egg. The broth is rich and creamy and the noodles had a nice springy-ness to them. I enjoyed the addition of pippies in the ramen,
For dessert, we got the Croissant taiyaki - a fish shaped pastry filled with gooey chocolate custard. The pastry was buttery and flaky and the richness of the custard was offset by the ice cream. It was hard not to reach back in for another bite.
I am a big fan of persimmon so when I saw a dessert featuring persimmon on the menu, I had to order it. The persimmon was sweet and juicy, and teamed perfectly with the delicate sable (a French shortbread) and the creme fraiche ice cream.
I was very impressed by Salaryman overall, the ambiance is great, the food is top notch. Definitely one to visit again!
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!
Spice Alley brings a taste of Hawker centers found in South east Asia to Chippendale. There's a range of Asian food stalls on offer, ranging from HK to Malaysian to Thai cuisine. On a warm summers' night, the place was bustling with diners enjoying their meal under the hanging lanterns.
From Alex Lee Kitchen, we got the Chatterbox Chicken Rice, Lee's take on the Hainanese Chicken Rice. The boneless chicken was silky smooth, with an almost gelatinous skin. It was served with chili ginger, dark soy sauce and a flavoursome chicken soup.
We also sampled the Cheese roti from Alex Lee Kitchen and were pretty happy with our choice. You can't go wrong with buttery and cheesy layers of flaky roti! The curry sauce and sambal were just the right accompaniments.
I've been missing my Char Kway Teow ever since I came back from my holiday in Penang last year - the ones I've had just haven't lived up to standard, but I was very impressed with Old Jim's Kee version. There were generous servings of prawns and the Chinese sausage, and the dish had a smokey flavour synonymous with the ones cooked on the streets of Penang...so delicious!
I love the concept of Spice Alley and being right opposite UTS, the prices are fit for a uni student's budget. I will definitely be back to try some of the other dishes.
Lotus has opened in the Galleries Victoria in Sydney CBD, an offshoot of the popular Lotus Dining Bar in Walsh Bay. It's a vast space but they have managed to create a cosy feel by dividing the space into several dining spaces, ranging from bar seats to private dining rooms. The interior is sophisticated and beautifully styled. Food-wise, the menu is Modern Chinese peppered with native Australian ingredients.
For starters, we opted for the Crystal Ice Plant Salad with Cucumber, Enoki and Black Vinegar Dressing. The salad was delightfully refreshing and no doubt, the crispy iceplant (a West Australian native with little clear raised beads on the leaves) was the star of the dish. It was dressed in the zingy black vinegar, soy and sesame concoction which definitely wakes up your palate.
There was a good selection of dumplings on offer and we opted for the Steamed violet dumpling. The skins were thin and delicate, with the striking violet (or more accurately, the dark red) tint coming from beetroot juice. Inside these morsels were Argyle beef, spring onion and baby bok choy - a flavoursome combination.
For mains, we opted for the Wok-fried Wallaby rump. First time eating wallaby and I was very impressed by how tender it was in texture. The meat was accompanied by sweet bean paste and salt bush, continuing the use of native Australian ingredients.
We also ordered the Crispy tofu with salt and wide fire dukkah. The lightly fried tofu was surprisingly light and the spice mix was delicious.
Lotus is a great addition to the CBD dining scene. The service was very efficient and the food was of high quality, managing to weave native Aussie ingredients seamlessly into Chinese cuisine.
Ester is a restaurant that has been on my wish list for a little while now. I finally had the chance to visit with my family and it lived up to its expectations. With a wood-fired oven as the focal point of its kitchen, the flavours of the food really shines through. For ease of ordering, we opted for the $72 set menu.
Starting off with the Squid dumplings, the appearance of the dish was quite jarring (courtesy of the squid ink). I loved the chewiness of the dumpling skin and the cutlefish and pork filling was quite tasty.
Next was the Wood-fired roasted Rock oysters. The oysters still retained the texture normally associated with a raw oyster but with the additional smokey flavour. Despite not usually being a fan of horseradish, the horseradish emulsion went quite nicely with the oysters and definitely whetted our appetite for the food to come.
The Blood sausage sanga is definitely a step up from the average sausage sanga! The blood sausage had incredibly tasty, served on a fluffy steamed piece of white bread with aioli and caramelised onions. I could have downed a few more of these!
The Kingfish sashimi was beautifully fresh and combined beautifully with the charcoal nori sauce, the smooth bonito emulsion and the orange zest powder. All the flavours just worked when mixed with one another.
The King prawns were chargrilled to perfection and tasted divine with the capers and generous lashings of brown butter. Definitely a dish to savour!
The Peas/ lardo/ corn dish was not very inspriing on paper but it most definitely delivered. The lardo mixed with the fresh peas and corn made this a mouthwatering dish (though most definitely not the healthiest!).
The wood-fired Cauliflower is Ester's signature dish so I was definitely eager to see what all th fuss is about. The cauliflower is ginormous and the time in the wood-fired oven gives it a lovely smokey and sweet flavour. Together with the creamy almond emulsion, toasted almonds and mint, it made cauliflower one amazing tasting vegetable!
The Flank steak was marinated in fermented rice and was wonderfully tender and juicy. I loved the accompaniments to the dish too - the sweet, falling-apart leek and the smoked onion puree.
Onto desserts and the Salted caramel semi-freddo had the balance of sweet and salty just right. I'm a sucker for anything with black sesame so the sprinkling of black sesame powder took this to another level.
Our last course of our very filling menu was Three milks, which consists of a cows milk panna cotta, a sheep's milk foam, a goat's milk dulce de leche, olive oil biscuit crumbs and rosemary. It's best when all the components are mixed together as you get the lightness of the yoghurt, the sweetness of the dulce de leche and the creaminess of the panna cotta. Overall, it was a bit too sweet for me but I really admired their creativity.
I had a great time at Ester and will be back for sure to try the rest of their menu (the bone marrow is calling me!). The use of the wood fired oven injects amazing flavour to the dishes and I love the rustic nature of the food. It's definitely a place meant for sharing so bring your friends or family along!
After my delicious meal at Sokyo at The Star, I was keen to try out head chef Chase Kojima's Sokyo Ramen pop-up. With a neon sign and posters of Japanese culture covering up the wall, it was hard to miss.
There are four styles of ramen on offer, including a cold version for the hot summer weather. We opted to start with the Umami tonkotsu 2.0 Ramen. I liked the use of the pork cheek chashu rather than the pork belly commonly found in other bowls of ramen. The cheek was very tender and juicy, and the soft boiled egg added an extra creaminess to the dish.
The Yuzu Shio Ramen was unlike any bowls of ramen I had eaten before. It was incredibly light and refreshing - the broth was very easy to drink and had an element of zestiness that you don't usually find with ramen. It smelt wonderfully fragrant too!
We were here for the ramen but couldn't resist a serving of Fried Chicken. And a wise decision that was - the fried chicken were a crispy golden colour with just the right amount of crispy batter and tender meat. It was accompanied by a spicy mayo and a fresh salad with yuzu dressing - well worth the $9.
If you are a fan of ramen, get down to Sokyo Ramen before the pop up is no longer! As the hashtag on the seaweed says, #noramennolife.
All things green tea flavoured are celebrated at One Tea Lounge on York Street in the city. Owner David Yip is responsible for bringing the ramen burger to Sydney a couple of years ago and here, he has opened an Asian fusion restaurant with a hint of the theatrics.
My friend and I started with the Tea smoked octopus with avocado. It came to our table with a cloche over the top, surrounded by a mysterious white fog. Once it dissipated, we dug into the dish and it was one of my favourites of the night with a great intensity of flavours. The creaminess of the avocado went really well with the smokey, tender cubes of octopus.
The popcorn curry chicken had a good crispy coating and were the perfect snacks to go with our drinks. The curry powder was not spicy at all, more like a Japanese style which I enjoy.
The Salmon Tartare came in a glass served on a bed of dry ice which kept the dish very cool. The fish was very fresh and went well with the avocado, cucumber and tobiko.
With the sliders, we had the option to mix and match the bun and filling. We had the Ramen Burger with the wagyu beef - the patty was juicy and the ramen burger was crunchy enough. The Rice Burger lacked flavour and the use of Matcha Boager, whilst tasty, didn't really wow me. I still prefer a good quality brioche bun any day.
Onto baorgers of a different kind - Ice Cream Baogers! We opted for the Green Tea and Black Sesame varieties (sadly they were out of the lychee flavour). Both the ice creams had excellent rich flavours and the boagers reminded me of having a deep fried ice cream. Sadly, I was a little too full to fully appreciate it.
One Tea Lounge is definitely worth a visit. The way they incorporate matcha is quite creative and I love the theatre of some of the dishes as well. Be sure to try their cocktails too, which also heavily features green tea!
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