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.
I love the concept of a sushi train - no waiting for your food, ability to see exactly what you'll get and bite sized dishes which means more variety. Taking the sushi train concept to the Mediterranean is what MediTrainean in Crows Nest has done. On the conveyor belt are a selection of mezze plates (served cold) for diners to grab on their own. For hot dishes, these are made to order including several from the grill. The blue and white colour scheme helps transport the diners to the Mediterranean.
The first thing I grabbed off the train was the Zucchini parmigiana. It very much reminded me of the eggplant version, with the napoli sauce and gooey cheeses making it a tasty start to the evening.
The Pearl cous cous was a wonderfully light dish and one that tasted great at room temperature. I loved the incorporation of the orange segments, together with the spiced roast pumpkin, apricots and walnuts.
The Smoked salmon went beautifully with the harissa mousse. The pickled vegetables were an interesting accompaniment, but somewhat overpowered the salmon.
The Porcini and provolone arancini had a crispy coating and were delicious, a sign that the highest quality of ingredients must have been used.
The Scallops grilled under a dukkah gratin was my favourite dish of the night. The dukkah gratin was just bursting with flavour and the scallops was beautifully cooked.
The Meatballs were unfortunately a bit of a let down as some of the meatballs ended up being cold whilst the others were piping hot. We had to send it back to be reheated.
We opted for the Baked Ricotta cheesecake for dessert, which was nice but did not have a wow factor.
The small plates are suited to the sushi train concept and I enjoyed the experience. Service was a bit inconsistent, and hopefully will improve as time goes on.
Toshiya is a Japanese fusion restaurant in Cremorne, run by the man Toshiya himself, a chef with over 23 years' experience. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out some of his signature dishes, courtesy of Washoku Lovers.
We started with the Sashimi tacos, which were spectacular. The salmon and kingfish sashimi were incredibly fresh, and the crisp and light taco shell were a joy to eat.
The Soft shell crab had the combination you want in such a dish - meaty flesh with a light batter. The flavours of the chilli mayo and shiso soy dressing was on point and really completed the dish.
Onto the Salmon carpaccio with truffle oil. The salmon was sliced so thinly, it was enveloped in the beautiful sauce and melted in my mouth. I only wished there were more slices.
The Tuna tataki was beautifully seared and the chili garlic oil is a little different to the usual accompaniments but I didn't mind it.
It's hard to go wrong with Grilled scallops with garlic butter. Served in their shells, the butter sauce was well balanced and we mopped up every last drop.
The Poached salmon was beautifully tender with cubes of salmon sashimi wrapped in the middle, which was a nice surprise.
The Volcano rolls are one of the most popular dishes at Toshiya and it's easy to see why. Amongst the pyramid of sushi is tempura fried prawn, giving it a great crunchy texture. The sauce definitely packs a lot of heat but is seriously delicious.
The Pari Pari chicen definitely didn't look like a dish you would normally find in a Japanese restaurant. Encased inside the crunchy spring roll pastry was a piece of tender chicken with cheese, vegetables and tartare sauce. Together with a sweet chili sauce on top, it was super tasty and I enjoyed this novel combination of flavours. It is a rather rich dish so would recommend sharing this one!
For dessert, we sampled the green tea brulee. It had a strong matcha flavour and cracked easily with the tap of the spoon, which is just what you want. The other dessert was the Chocolate spring rolls - dark chocolate and strawberries rapped in a deep fried spring roll pastry. It was sweet but not overly so.
All of the dishes were beautifully plated and well executed. I really enjoyed the fusion aspects of the menu, so it's a great place to go if you are after something a little different from your standard Japanese cuisine.
As a Washoku Lover's member, you can grab an Assorted Dessert Plate for a discounted price.
Manpuku joins a growing list of Japanese eateries in Chatswood, specialising in ramen. The interior of the restaurant is simply decorated with wooden furnishings and ropes draping from the ceiling. They had some interesting drinks on the menu so we decided to order an Organic plum wine and the Apple jelly wine. Both tasted quite fruity and not too alcoholic, and I loved the texture of the jelly wine - it felt like I was eating a dessert.
For appetisers, we ordered the Octopus Karaage and the Wing Gyoza. The Octopus karaage was freshly cooked with a crispy batter. They were a great accompaniment to the ramen.
The Wing Gyoza caught my eye when perusing the menu. Upon enquiring, we learnt that it 's basically a fried chicken wing stuffed with a dumpling filling. What is not to love about that? The fried chicken wing had crispy skin and the dumpling filling actually felt like it belonged inside a chicken wing!
Onto the ramens and there were a few different soup bases to choose from - chicken soup, pork soup or a miso broth. We chose the Long Name Ramen, a suitable name considering the actual name of the dish consists 14 words. The ramen came with two slices of pork belly, bean sprouts, bamboo shoot, a seaweed sheet and a soft boiled egg. The broth was creamy and flavoursome, and the noodles were still springy with some bite.
The other ramen we tried was the Shio Gara which uses a chicken soup base and comes with medium straight noodles. This is great if you prefer something lighter and cleaner tasting, with a more subtle flavour. For an extra flavour kick, we added the special Gara pepper, which is a white pepper with dried garlic, bamboo and onion.
Service was efficient and friendly, and I'm glad I've found another place to satisfy my ramen craving.
One last thing - If you are a fan of Japanese food, do join Washoku lovers, which offers a range of benefits at a growing number of Japanese restaurants.
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Manpuku and Washoku Lovers. All opinions are my own.
Part wine bar/ part restaurant, Barrel Bar & Dining is perched on the busy Military Road in Cremorne. Seating options include high bar tables or a more relaxed atmosphere down the back of the restaurant which we opted for.
Not often is carrots the star of a dish, let alone having it pretty much be the dish. The carrots were prepared three ways - slow cooked for 24 hours, smoked and pickled. Every spoonful was a different mix of textures and flavours - sweet slow cooked carrots, smokey puree, crispy carrot chips, zingy pickled carrots sprinkled with salted honeycomb. It was a delicious dish and never had I enjoyed carrots so much.
The 12 hour cured Queensland king prawns with vanilla and coffee jelly sounded intriguing but sadly, it did not deliver. The overwhelming flavour I got was saltiness, which overpowered anything else in the dish.
On the other hand, the Chicken ballotine with pancetta, confit egg yolk, sweetcorn puree and onion ash was a very impressive dish. The ballotine itself was moist and tender. The sweetness of the puree balanced the saltiness of the pancetta, and the crispy onion ash added a new smokey element to the dish.
The Beef rib was tender and juicy, with a wild mushroom ketchup giving it a lovely richness. The crispy enoki and kale added a little lightness to what would otherwise have been quite a heavy dish.
Barrel Bar & Dining is a great place to go if you are after something a little more inventive and experimental. The plating was beautiful and the flavours matched (apart from that king prawn dish!)
So Cal, as the name suggests, offer a little of Southern California on Sydney's north shore. The venue is buzzing with an outdoor courtyard packed with diners on a warm summer's night.
After trying out their signature cocktails, we started on the scallop ceviche. I love a good ceviche and this was no different - fresh and zesty, though the flavours were a little muted.
The Fish tacos on the other hand were perfect little morsels - the succulent pieces of fish together with the flavoursome pineapple salsa were a delight. Even though they were a little messy to eat, we finished them in a flash.
The Smoked beef brisket was another highlight of the night. Superbly smoked with a great depth of flavour, the meat was tender but still holding its shape.
The Spicy wings had a crispy coating and together with the house-made hot sauce, were finger-lickin' good.
The Jerk chicken salad had crisp, fresh flavours and the chargrilled chicken went perfectly with the citrus based dressing.
We finished with the churros and unfortunately, it was a bit of a miss for me. I found it quite doughy and too sweet for my liking. I much preferred the savoury!
So Cal is a great place for a night out with friends. The vibe is casual and the staff is friendly. And if you need another reason to visit, they have a pretty extensive cocktail list.
Anyone familiar with Chatswood will know it has one of the best collection of Asian eateries on offer in Sydney. Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean...you name it, Chatswood has plenty of it. Chao Ba, a modern Vietnamese restaurant, is a welcome entrant to this jam packed dining scene.
I noticed this restaurant walking by the Concourse one night, and visited with a friend a couple of weeks later. The menu was quite extensive, ranging from small tapas style share dishes to more traditional mains.
We started with the Clear tapioca shrimp dumplings topped with crunchy fried shallots and chives. The dumpling skin was slippery and the right thickness to hold it together. The prawns were yummy and went well with the fried shallots and fish sauce which accompanied the dish.
The House special poached chicken salad was a little disappointing as I found the flavours a little bland. The crispy rice cracker on the side was unfortunately not very crispy.
On the other hand the Hanoi style crispy rice vermicelli spring rolls were beautiful, offering a lovely crunch as you bite into it. The pork and wood eared mushroom filling was flavoursome and even though it was fried, did not feel oily at all. I'd happily come back for these.
The Chargrilled beef wrapped in betal leaves with rice vermicelli was quite refreshing to eat. I loved the addition of the roasted peanuts and crispy shallots, and the betal leaves gave it an extra lift in aromatics.
Chao Ba is a great Vietnamese eatery with a casual vibe offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The dishes weren't all perfect but I am happy to go back to try out the rest of their vast menu.
Chinese restaurants seem to be getting fancier these days, with the likes of Mr Wong and China Lane setting a new standard. Following the same path is He Tai Open Kitchen in Macquarie Park. The setting is elegant and spacious, with wooden carved screens and decorative tiles adorning the restaurant. It definitely lived up to its name, with the dumpling masters and chefs plying their trade in full view.
Finding the restaurant was a little mission in itself. Whilst listed as being on Level 3 of Macquarie Centre, you actually have to walk through the carpark to enter from the outside of the shopping complex. Food selection is via a tick sheet, without the hustle and bustle of yum cha trolleys. The dimsums had five categories of pricing, ranging from small $6.80 to special $12.80. On first impression, the food was very pricey with only one dish classed as a small (the congee).
The Deep fried tofu had a nice crust and I liked the flavours of the spice mix.
The Prawn dumplings - so often an indicator of overall dim sum expertise - were great, but I was expecting for a little more 'wow'.
The Seafood fried rice with XO sauce was a generous portion. The XO sauce gave it a great flavour but my gripe is they didn't have enough seafood.
The Okra & Mushroom Dumplings with Squid Ink were somewhat of a novel item on the menu. I liked the texture of the filling and the dumpling skin wasn't too thick allowing the flavours of the filling to shine through.
The Snow mountain BBQ pork buns were probably the highlight of the meal. The buns had a flaky crust with a very flavoursome filling. Are they as good as the TIm Ho Wan variety? Almost!
The Vermicelli rolls with prawn were expertly made. The vermicelli was smooth and silky, a notch above the average yum cha fare.
Mango pomelo sago is normally one of my favourite desserts. I love the combination of pomelo, mango, sago and grapefruit. The colour of Open Kitchen's version is a lot more orange than I remember... not exactly sure why but it may have something to do with the fact they used canned mango instead of fresh - disappointing considering it is right in the middle of mango season!
Opening at the end of last year, the service was a little inconsistent - the wait staff were unsure of table numbers and end up walking around each table trying to deliver the dishes before they get cold. I did enjoy the ambience of Open Kitchen and the food overall was of god quality, but not so good to justify the expensive prices.
One of the greatest things about the Sydney dining scene is the ability to pretty much find any cuisine of the world, at a high and authentic quality. At Himalayan Grill in Crows Nest, we found ourselves digging into Nepalese cuisine. To start off with, we ordered the Pappadoms with spiced yoghurt which were light and crunchy.
The Himali chicken wings were deep fried in a chickpea batter and accompanied by a tomato relish. The coating was very crispy but I was hoping for something a bit more unique from a Himalayan restaurant.
The Chargrilled lamb was very flavoursome but the texture was somewhat consistent - some pieces were incredibly tender whilst others were a bit chewy. I did really enjoy the potato cakes though!
According to their menu, the slow cooked Masala beef cheeks featured on SMH as one of the best in Sydney and it's easy to see why. With great aromatics, the cheeks falls apart at the slightest touch and has a lovely gelatinous texture. We lapped up the sauce filled with Himalayan spices with our roti.
Located in a suburban shoppping arcade, it is definitely not a fancy place, but still worth a visit to try out some tasty Nepalese food.
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