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.
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.
The empire of Fratelli Fresh seems to be ever expanding, including an outpost in Crows Nest on the bustling Willoughby Road. There are a few set menus available but we decided to go for the a la carte option.
We started with the Fratelli House Salad with butter lettuce, avocado, nashi pear, radish, gorgonzola and sliced walnuts. It was a refreshing salad, perfect for a hot summer's day.
The Beef Carpaccio was nicely seasoned but I felt the wild mushrooms didn't really complement the dish, so would probably have been better without them.
From the pasta section, we went with the Linguine with Prawns, Lemon, Pangrattata, Chilli and Garlic. Beautifully cooked pasta, sweet juicy prawns and a classic flavour combination - needless to say, it was delicious.
The Tuscan Kale and Oyster Mushroom pizza come with a creamy white base and is another exhibition of simple yet delicious flavours executed well.
For dessert, we opted for the Vanilla bean panna cotta with cherry sauce and crumbed brownie. The panna cotta had a very smooth texture and I enjoyed the crunch from the crumbed brownie.
Fratelli Fresh doesn't deliver the fanciest, most adventurous food, but it is consistently good. The fit out is great and bonus points for all the booth seats they have!
Having worked in some of the top restaurants on Sydney's north shore, Chef Tomo has now opened his own restaurant in Cremorne called Plage, serving food with Japanese and French influences. We started with a snack of Smoked cod cream with squid ink and seaweed powder. The paper thin, squid ink wafers looked striking as it hit our table. They were a good carrier for the smoked cod cream which had just the right hint of smokiness.
The next dish of Black pudding, lime powder and anchoives packed bold, punchy flavours and really livened up my tastebuds.
The Aburi salmon was delicately handled and paired well with the black garlic and white miso puree. Again, it's a plate of few ingredients but all combining superbly to create a very tasty dish.
The Wagyu carpaccio in dashi broth was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The thin slices of beef arrive rare and is cooked in front of us as the dash broth is poured at the table. The rich aroma of the broth immediately hits my senses. Bursting with umami flavour, I was tempted to pick up the whole bowl to gobble it all up. Underneath the wagyu was a cured egg yolk with mushrooms and broccolini. It's like a refined, miniature version of hot pot.
Onto the mains, and we started with the Jewfish with celeriac puree, finger lime, Gai Lan finished off with a fish and lemon sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, matched by the smooth and velvelty puree. I also really liked the caramelised artichoke hidden underneath the Gai lan, which brought another flavour dimension to the dish. Such an underrated vegetable!
The Broccolini with Kipfler potatoes was a wonderful side, with the truffle sauce really making the dish sing.
The Roast chicken was very tender and came with a crispy skin. The caramelised carrots brought an intense sweetness which complemented well the pickled cherries. The dish would have benefited from a touch more sauce to give it even more flavour.
The Triple cooked chips comes with housemade aioli and tomato relish. It was tasty but felt a little out of place with our mains.
The dessert game at Plage is definitely strong. The Sweet sake mirin ice cream was out of this world delicious. My friend and I both had a big smile on our faces as we devoured this perfect quenelle of ice cream. It had the smoothest of textures and was a brilliant mix of salty and sweet, topped off with a miso crumb. It was so good that we unashamedly ordered a second one!
Our second dessert of White chocolate mousse with redcurrant sorbet and pepperberry meringue was just as spectacular. The dish was perfectly balanced with the tartness of the sorbet offset with the sweetness of the meringue and creaminess of the mousse.
I was impressed with the creativity and the flavour combinations, backed up by beautiful plating and friendly service. Plage is definitely a wonderful addition to the north shore dining scene. They also serve some amazing sake too!
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Plage. All opinions are my own.
Northern Italian smokehouse? I was immediately intrigued and decided to pay Grolla in Neutral Bay a visit. Nearly all the items on the menu have a smoked element, from appetisers to desserts.
My friend and I started with the Smoked duck breast. The smoked duck was beautifully prepared, paired with ricotta and a caramelised fig sauce. You can't go wrong with this combination.
The Smoked kingfish carpaccio is one of their signature dishes. The smokiness was subtle but noticeable. It presented beautifully with a drizzle of olive oil, flying fish roe and a sprinkling of beetroot powder.
Onto the mains and we went with the owner's recommendation and ordered the Smoked beef rib. The beef rib was incredibly juicy and melted in my mouth. The Mojo Verde packed a punch of flavour and really freshened up the dish.
Similarly, the Smoked pork jowl and cheek was infused with great flavour from the smoking process. Each mouthful, with the smooth, creamy cauliflower puree was a joy to eat.
Onto dessert and the food continued to impressive, both in taste and aesthetic appeal. A beautiful glass ornament landed at our table. Lifting the lid, we were greeted by our first dessert: Macadamia nut Lemon myrtle Coconut ice cream, corn puff, pistachio, smoked salted caramel. The ice cream was creamy and refreshing, and I loved the crunchy texture of the corn puffs. The smoked salted caramel tied the whole dish together.
The Mascarpone semifreddo looked equally stunning. The mango and lime curd center was simply divine. The semifreddo was topped with a sprinkling of the strawberry dust, and of course the smoked caramel sauce. I was impressed Grolla has been able to incorporate smokiness into desserts and actually elevate the dish, rather than being a distraction.
Grolla is definitely worth a visit, offering beautifully presented, fusion cuisine with unique flavours and personable service.
Why worry about Monday when you can have a Stressless Sunday? That's the premise at Ormeggio at the Spit, where you can have a six course dinner for $79. Amazing value for a two hatted restaurant. The beautiful view of Mosman Bay is not bad either.
The menu changes each week, depending on what seasonal produce is on offer. We started with some Sourdough and whipped ricotta with a sprinkling of chives. It's good quality sourdough, served warm and the whipped ricotta was a great alternative to butter.
We started with the Eggplant and tomato consomme, a very delicate and fresh dish. The eggplant was incredibly soft and the consomme, whilst there wasn't a lot of it, packed a punch of flavour.
Next was the Pan fried kingfish with puffed rice, broccolini powder and mussel water. The fish was cooked remarkably well and the puffed rice gave it a nice crunch. Although I didn't get much of a mussel flavour, it was still a very delicious dish to eat.
The Tagliolini was also cooked to perfection. Whilst the serving looked small, the mascarpone made it an incredibly creamy and decadent dish. I loved the hit of umami from the bottarga (fish roe) too.
The single meat dish of the night was the Lamb with coffee crumble. The lamb was braised, formed into thin sheets then fried, giving it a crispy crust on the outside. The coffee flavour was strong but not overpowering and worked in harmony with the sour cream emulsion and the black garlic puree.
Dessert was simply titled Textures of lemon and almond. It consisted a lemon and almond sponge, with almond ice cream lemon and almond puree, vanilla crumble and lemon granita. It was light and refreshing, but felt a little bit more like a palate cleanser/ pre-dessert than a full dessert.
All in all, Ormeggio is a great showcase of modern Italian cuisine. With friendly and professional service, water views, it's not a bad place to spend a Sunday evening.
Hidden away from the bustling Military Road in Neutral Bay is La Puerta, a great place to dine if you are a fan of Latin American cuisine. The restaurant design features red, black and dark wooden hues with a dramatic mural depicting two dancers in the midst of a tango.
The food is made for sharing and we started with the Tiradito. Thin slices of kingfish have been marinated with Aji Amarillo (a chilli paste), dressed with lime juice and red sorrel leaves. It's similar to ceviche, wonderfully fresh, tangy with a bit of heat.
I love my grilled corn and La Puerta’s Mazarcada Corn is just as delicious as the ones I’ve tried at Mamasita or Ms G’s. The corn was topped with a generous amount of grated haloumi cheese and a delicious spice mix.
For the bigger dishes, we opted for the Grilled giant octopus with chorizo and crispy potato. The grilled octopus almost tasted meaty, and the capsicum chutney together with the aioli made for a great flavour combination. It was definitely a moreish dish.
Can’t say I’ve tried Pork belly with avocado puree so I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be a great combination. The pork was incredibly tender with crispy crackling, and finished off with a chorizo crumb. The smoked potato and avocado puree provided a good balance to the bold flavours of the dish.
Onto dessert and the Popcorn and soursop ice cream sandwich definitely caught my eye. I love the taste of soursop, but have usually only found it in some Vietnamese restaurant as an ingredient to a smoothie. First time having soursop ice cream and it was very refreshing and perfectly offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche-laced popcorn brittle. It was definitely a fun dessert to eat.
La Puerta has a lovely ambience and it's definitely worth a visit to experience some South American cuisine, tapas style. There’s an extensive cocktails and wine list too, featuring mainly Chilean and Argentinian varieties.
Via Alta means High Street in Italian, so it made perfect sense that this restaurant was located on High Street in Willoughby. From the same group that brought us the fine dining Ormeggio, Via Alta is a more casual Italian trattoria serving some great seasonal fare.
We started with the Crab meat bruschetta. The crab meat was beautifully cooked and had a lovely flavour from the burnt butter sauce, complemented by the crunchy macadamias. It was a great teaser to whet our appetite.
Next was the Bresaola, a form of air dried beef, served with some caper berries. I love cured meats, and this had a nice saltiness to it without being overpowering.
Risotto, as we've all seen on Masterchef, can be easy to get wrong. This Saffron risotto had a great aroma as it hit our table. It was cooked al dente and was paired with the luscious, red wine braised beef cheeks. A simple dish executed to perfection.
The Grilled flank steak was another highlight of the night. The beef was just simply stunning, cooked to a perfect medium rare. The roasted beetroot puree added a great depth of flavour and I also particularly enjoyed the potato gratin. Often, it can be too creamy and heavy, but they got the potato, cream and butter ratio just right. The dish just tied together so beautifully.
For dessert, we opted for the Tiramisu. Again, it was beautifully executed. Not too sweet, not too much alcohol - the balance of the dish was just perfect and it was surprisingly light.
Via Alta is a great Italian eatery serving some beautiful dishes. It's worth the drive to Sydney's north even if you are not a local.
There's no shortage of cafes on the lower north shore but not many serve as delicious food as Cavalier Specialty Coffee in Crows Nest.
But first, the coffee. I decided to go for the Chai Latte and it was velvety smooth with just the right balance of sweetness and spice.
For the food, we decided to go with the waitstaff's recommendation and ordered the Juniper cured ocean trout and the Hand made burrata with smoked almonds and cucumber.
First to arrive was the Ocean Trout which looked almost too pretty to eat, almost. The trout was beautifully cured and egg was perfectly cooked, interspersed with the mayonnaise, the buttery crumb and shards of toasted rye. The sprinkling of caviar just added that extra touch of decadence.
The Burrata was another beautifully constructed dish. Burrata on its own is already pretty tasty, but the crunchy smoked almonds and the refreshing cucumber soup really elevate it to a whole other level. The waitress advised that it's best to be shared as it's quite heavy, but I probably could have eaten it all myself!
The dish came with a croissant and a slice of rye bread, perfect for soaking up all those delicious juices.
Service was friendly and enthusiastic. I will no doubt be back again to sample the rest of the menu. Seating is limited in this cafe so be prepared to wait for a seat if you come during peak times.
S'age Bistronomy has opened in Crows Nest, taking over the spot previously occupied by Waqu. At S'age's helm is the former head chef of Waqu, Tomoyuki Usui. As the name suggests, the type of food served is a combination of bistro and gastronomy. I went there with my family to try the Three Course Lunch Set Menu, at a very reasonable $49.
There are a selection of entrees, mains and desserts to choose from as well as a series of sides (which are not included in the set menu price).
For entree, I chose the Grilled lamb backstrap, aroma crumble and mussel emulsion. The lamb was well cooked, pink in the middle, and the aroma crumble gave it a great crunch and peppery note. The hint of mussels in the emulsion, however, was not very strong.
For main, I got the Smoked spatchcock. I was very happy with my choice. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked, succulent with a crispy skin. The nectarine and corn salsa give it a fresh twist and a lovely sweetness.
We decided to order the Charred cabbage with truffle ponzu as a side. It wasn't quite up to the lofty heights of Toriciya's Savoy Cabbage but it definitely came close. The miso crumble together with the ponzu dressing really lifted the flavour, though I would have loved a stronger hit of truffle.
Onto desserts and the Figs and berries, with pink pepper crumble and milk ice cream was a great combination of flavours and textures. My favourite, though, was the Mont blanc (chestnut cream cake) with mandarin puree and yoghurt ice cream. I enjoyed the intensity of the chestnut flavour and the yoghurt ice cream was very smooth and light. The mandarin puree really balanced out the dessert.
The food at S'age Bistronomy is modern and beautifully plated, with an interesting fusion of Japanese and French flavours and techniques. It's a welcome addition to the lower north shore.
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