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.
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.
The Butler, Potts Point
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!
Expectations were high when I was heading to Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco - a six month pop-up from the creators of the famed Pinbone and Merivale. The eatery is located in an old drive through liquor shop in Mascot, not where you normally expect to have a top-notch dining experience.
Upon entering, I was struck by the disco balls, the music videos being projected onto the wall, the hand drawn cartoon drawings and the neon lights. There's a walk in fridge for you to pick your own alcohol or you can also order at the table. The menu is concise but everything on it sounds delicious.
I opted for the Beef tongue, porcini and tomato as a starter. The thin slices of beef tongue was simply divine, perfectly seasoned and just melted in my mouth. The porcini topping was packed full of flavour and I couldn't help but have a smile on my face as I demolished the dish.
For mains, I chose the Spatchcock with lemon and tarragon butter. Little did I know I would get an entire spatchcock - a very generous serving. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked with crispy skin, soaking up the lemony and buttery sauce. Next time, I would probably get a side to go with it as I felt it needed some vegies to complete the meal.
Sadly I was too full for dessert but all the more reason to come back before this pop up closes. Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco has a fun vibe and offers a great dining experience.
Yellow, Potts Point
Yellow in Potts Point manages to showcase how delicious vegetarian food can be in a fine dining setting. We tried the five course tasting menu and it was a wonderful play on flavours and textures throughout.
We started with a little appetiser to warm up our taste buds: Peruvian potato chip with black garlic sauce and Szechuan pepper salt.
The first course was Avocado, pinenut and lime served with melon segments and a kaffir lime oil. Given the sky-high popularity of avocado these days, it's not surprising to find it as the centerpiece of a dish. The kaffir lime oil was very fragrant and went brilliantly with the creaminess from the avocado.
Next was the House made cultured curd, with chargrilled cucumber wrapped in a sesame leave. It was a pleasant dish but lacked the boldness of flavour that permeated though the other dishes.
On the other hand. the Zucchini, Sunflower, Quinoa and Green Juniper delivered in terms of contrasting flavours. The zucchini was creamy and rich, and I enjoyed the toastiness of the sunflower and quinoa crumble.
The Eggplant, sweet corn and miso is a combination of some of my favourite ingredients so not surprisingly, it was my favourite savoury dish of the meal. The eggplant was topped with crispy puffs of wild rice, accompanied by a ginger, garlic and yuzu broth and served up with the most silky sweet corn puree.
Fittingly, the dessert of Mandarin, coconut and toasted almond with verjuice granita and bee pollen carried a few shades of yellow. Such a variety of flavours and textures, it tasted amazing when you took a mouthful with a bit of everything.
The food at Yellow is creative and beautifully presented. The service was not very attentive on this occasion but whether you are a Vegetarian or not, Yellow is definitely worth a visit.
ACME, Rushcutters Bay
I had tried ACME's amazing brunch dish of Fried chicken, ube waffle and maple syrup a little while ago, so was keen to check out their restaurant in Rushcutters Bay. All the dishes are made for sharing and my friends and I opted for the Crush Me menu at $65 per person.
First dish was the Baloney sandwich. A beautiful potato milk bun, paired with a house made tomato relish and delicious slices of mortadella - a very satisfying snack.
The Grilled shitake were perfectly tender and dressed with a bone marrow vinaigrette which provided some robust, punchy flavours.
ACME's version of the Japanese miso Roasted eggplant dish was delicious, with some added crunch provided by the puffed rice.
The Lamb tartare was tasty but didn't reach the heights of some other dishes. It was missing a creamy element for me, although I did enjoy the freshness provided by the artichoke and mint.
Then onto the pasta and it's clear that this is where ACME shines. We started with one of the vegetarian options: Fusilli with jicama, chestnuts and sage. The pasta was al dente firm and the chestnut puree worked well with the crunchiness of the jicama (Mexican turnips) chestnuts and sage.
The Fettucine with the octopus puttanesca was equally delicious. The puttanesca sauce with capers, olives and tomatoes was very aromatic and the octopus was beautifully tender.
I normally associate macaroni with mac 'n' cheese. ACME's Macaroni with pig's head and egg yolk has definitely taken it to another level. The meat from the pig's head is crispy, gelatinous and juicy, with a great intensity of flavour. There's a hint of sourness to the dish, which stops it from being overly rich. The egg yolk is an inspired addition and there's a hit of chilli just to give it an extra kick. It's clear to see why this is ACME's signature pasta dish.
It was time for dessert. The Parsnip ice cream was silky smooth but it was hard to pick out the parsnip flavour. The pear granita, on the other hand, was delightfully fresh and I discovered cajeta for the first time, the Mexican version of Dulce de leche.
The final dessert of Marshmallow, buttermilk sorbet and passionfruit was a great balance of flavours and texture. The combination of toasted marshmallow and sorbet is not one I've had before, and it works brilliantly.
Definitely not your ordinary pasta and wine bar, ACME offers top quality pasta dishes with a few Asian inspired twists. The Crush Me menu was good value and allow you to try all of their signature dishes.
Popolo, Rushcutters Bay
For Valentine's Day this year, my boyfriend and I decided to dine at Popolo, a restaurant focusing on southern Italian food in Rushcutters Bay. The restaurant had a special San Valentine five course menu. We both picked a different dish to try for each of the courses, so really it was more like a ten course degustation!
We started with the Seaweed fritters, offered as an apertivo. It looked like something from outer space - airy, green puffs on skewers. There was a subtle flavour of seaweeds and reminded me of eating prawn crackers, only in a spherical shape.
For Antipasti, we started with the Veal carpaccio. The thin slices of veal were succulent and went well with the gooey-ness of the yolk and crunchiness of the puffed rice. However, I was missing a little sprinkle of salt on this dish to really bring out the flavour of the dish.
The Spatchcock on the other hand, I had absolutely no complaints about. The char grilled flavour really came through and the accompaniment with the salsa verde gave it an extra kick of flavour. The roasted baby capsicums were some of the sweetest I have ever tasted. I could have definitely eaten this as a main.
For Primi, we opted for the Fregola and the House made spaghetti. The Fregola (a type of pasta from Sardinia) took on a stunning red colour thanks to the beetroot juice. Even though the truffle pecorino isn't visible on the plate, it definitely was the hero of the dish. The creaminess of the pecorino and the aromaics of the truffle really permeated through. We scraped the plate clean, it was that delicious!
The House made spaghetti with scallops, zucchini flowers and tomato was also one of the best pasta dishes I have had in Sydney. Again, it was simple with only a few ingredients but it was all cooked to perfection and brought together with generous lashings of olive oil.
Onto the Secondi... by this stage, we were already getting rather full! The Lamb backstrap was beautifully cooked but it did not have the wow factor of the preceding dishes. I did enjoy how the flavours all worked together with the sweetness of the confit cherry tomato and the smokiness of the eggplant.
The Duck breast was also very enjoyable to eat and I especially liked the roasted eschallots, which had an intense sweetness to them.
For dessert, we tried the White chocolate mousse with chocolate sand and balsamic macerated strawberries. The mousse was velvety smooth and well balanced with the chocolate crumbs and the strawberries (some of them macerated, others had a freeze dried like texture). It was a beautiful way to finish off the meal...
...together with our second dessert - the Cheese selection with house made fig jam.
For $95 pp, it was good value for the amount of food we ate. The service was efficient, but not as friendly as I was expecting, given the name Popolo means people in Italian. Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the food and especially the two pasta dishes, which are some of the best I've had in Sydney.
Gastro Park, Potts Point
For an early birthday celebration, I was treated to a 10 course tasting menu at Gastro Park at Potts Point. Helmed by Grant King, the menu showcased molecular gastronomy at its finest and each dish was intriguing and had a sense of fun.
Starting with the snacks, it took a few seconds to compute what has landed on our table. Perched on the black stones were a couple of slices of citrus cured salmon and an edible garden tartlet with pumpkin puree. The salmon was delicious with a hit fo zinginess and the tart was full of flavour with an extra crispy black wafer shell.
The last component of the snacks were the Wagyu beef grissini, which were a joy to eat. The beetroot powder and pecorino cheese made a great combination with the thin slices of smoked wagyu.
The scallop ceviche with pomegranate juice was one of my favourite dishes of the night. Firstly, the theatre the dry ice created was magnificent. Opening the shell revealed these delicate slices of scallop ceviche in a vibrant red pomegranate juice. The scallops were melt in your mouth tender and I could have easily drank a few shell-fuls of the pomegranate concoction.
The seared artic scampi was perfectly cooked with the coconut and apple adding a freshness to the dish.
Ever since seeing this dish on Masterchef, I had wanted to try the Liquid butternut gnocchi for myself and it definitely lived up to expectations. The pearls of pumpkin soup is held together by the thinnest of membranes, each uniform in size. Taking each gnocchi as a whole, the pumpkin soup just bursts in your mouth and is an absolute delight to eat. The consomme was equally divine - it's so intense in flavour I felt like I was eating a bowlful of mushrooms! The consomme was a little more cloudy than what I was anticipating, but the flavours were faultless.
The Jewfish had an extra crispy skin and was teamed with a rich roast bone sauce, fried enoki and a parsnip powder and foam which was again, so incredibly intense in flavour.
The pork belly was cooked perfectly, with a rich mixture of spanner crab and pork ‘pebbles’ which were basically like pork crackling broken down into a hundred pieces - heaven!
Cooked for two days in a sous vide water bath and finished on a robata grill, the Riverina short rib was nothing short of amazing. I didn't get a photo of the beef which cut as I was too busy devouring it, but it was still perfectly pink in the middle after 48 hours of cooking! The short rib had just the right amount of fat too and every accompanying element on the plate (the smoked eggplant puree, peas and pods) helped to enhance the star of the dish. My bf and I were so gobsmacked by the quality of this beef we started googling to see where we could buy a sous vide machine to recreate it at home!
On to desserts! The sheep milk's yoghurt, srawberry and pomelo icy pop was a playful palate cleanser.
My bf was trialling a non-dairy diet, and he got a Celery sorbet. I had my doubts but it was incredibly refreshing and I actually really, really liked it.
The Robata pineapple was another highlight of the night. It was beautifully caramelised without being overly sweet. The sorbet by itself was a tad overpowering but when eaten together with the shell and buttermilk, was just perfect. It's a very clean and refreshing dessert where all the flavours just work together. My bf got the coconut sorbet in place of the yuzu version, which was equally delicious.
The final dessert and course of the night is the Chocolate, honeycomb and vanilla sphere. Cracking the chocolate shell open, out oozes the vanilla and honeycomb lava. It's like a Cadbury creme egg but flavoured with cardamom, saffron and ginger - an extravagant end to an extravagant meal.
Gastro Park definitely deserves its hatted status. The food did take a little while to come out, but completely understandable given they often had to make a non-diary variation of each dish. Service was top notch and they were incredibly accommodating with the dietary requirements, offering alternative dishes that were just as high in quality as their standard menu. The food is inventive and creative, making for a memorable dining experience.
Waterman's Lobster Co, Potts Point
On my search for the best lobster rolls in Sydney, I ventured to Waterman's Lobster Co in Potts Point. My friend and I were seated on one of the outside tables, nabbing one of the last remaining tables on a busy Satusrday afternoon.
We started with the New England Clam Chowder which was packed full of flavours from the sea. The chowder was creamy and rich and I particularly enjoyed the meaty clams and the crunchy, buttery croutons.
The White anchovies with shaved beetroot looked spectacular on the plate. The crispy slices of differently coloured beetroot were artfully arranged, interspersed with the cured anchovies which had a great intensity of flavour.
And onto the lobster rolls! The 'Connecticut' style lobster roll came on a buttery toasted brioche roll, which was heavenly - crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The lobster meat has a subtle sweetness and there was a decent serving (knowing how expensive this is in Australia, it can't compare to the much bigger portions you get in America).
The 'Maine' lobster roll came with tangy Mayo and celery, which still allowed the lobster to shine. I found it hard to pick my preferred version, but in the end, I think the buttery roll of the 'Connecticut' style won me over. You can choose to add a side of crunchy fries (sprinkled with paprika) or pickles to the dish, both of which are great additions.
Good atmosphere and friendly service, I will no doubt be back to get my lobster fix.
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