Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cafe Sydney, Sydney

Cafe Sydney has been on me and my partner's Bucket Food List for as long as I can remember. Since we were pondering for a restaurant to celebrate my birthday, we thought, "Why not Cafe Sydney!?" There was no hesitation nor deliberation. It just made sense!

The view on the ferry to Circular Quay was spectacular and we could see the restaurant from afar. My partner made the reservation for 6.30pm, but the ferries weren't running on time so we got there around 7.00pm. We were told in advance we had to give back the table at 8.15, so they could have another sitting. We were pressed for time so we decided to just have two courses, so we wouldn't be rushed and perhaps go elsewhere for dessert. Our friendly waiter showed us to the best seat in the house. I love that it was still light so we saw the panoramic view of Sydney and also the grey clouds that floated graciously.   

We ordered the spiced caramelised onion naan ($3.00) which can only be slightly seen in this photo because I forgot to take one on its own. It's freshly made and the caramelised onion makes it sweet but the spices adds great flavour and makes it very addictive. 
Grilled South Australian squid, chorizo, baby zucchini, kipfler potato, chilli aioli, lemon, $26.00
When we saw the squid on the menu we knew we had to get it! The squid itself is soft and tender, perfectly cooked. The chorizo works so well with it, giving it a salty and smokey hit. They were grilled so all its spices and chilli oil emerged and flavoured the entire dish. The baby zucchini ribbons give freshness and another textural component. The aioli had the perfect amount of chilli to give it spice but also garlic aroma to the taste. We regret we didn't save some of the naan to soak up all the aioli and juices left! The kipfler potato is cooked so they have a good bite. The tomato salsa and lemon lifted the dish and gave it the zing. The only problem with this dish was there wasn't enough of it! 
Tandoori roasted Tasmanian ocean trout, spinach bhaji, spiced beans, raita, coconut, $39.00
Every mouthful of this dish was heavenly. I spent my entire time consuming this in silence as I needed to give the fish my full and undivided attention. The ocean trout is cooked to perfection; soft and melting in the mouth. The sweetness of the fish sings just as the tandoori cooking method does, giving it warmth and spice. The more I explore, the more elements I discover that show the chef's attention to detail and their understanding of the palette. The spinach bhaji are crunchy and empowered with Indian herbs and spices which compliments the fish so well. The raita gives it a nice tang to the velvety fish. The coconut salad is there for textural purposes as the coconut is subtle. The spiced beans are a nice surprise under the ocean trout and are soft and flavoursome. The best dish I've had so far in 2013! 
Crispy pressed Berkshire pork, crusted pork loin, morcilla sausage, butternut pumpkin, jus, $39.00
I spent most of the time during our mains, devouring my ocean trout that I didn't pay much attention to the pork. But my partner assures me that it's delicious. He manages to stop me when I'm between mouthfuls and I try some of the crispy pressed Berkshire pork. It is love, cooked till it's soft and the crackling makes a great crunch sound when I bite into it! He enjoys every component immensely! 
Mashed potato, $9.50
The mashed potato is beautifully silky and retains potato flavour. So often mash is drowned with butter and oil that all you can taste is that, but this makes sure the potato is still the hero! Mash is always great to have when there is sauces and jus left and cannot possibly be unfinished! But it's also necessary to have mash, because everyone loves mash.
Tomato, buffalo mozzarella, pesto, aged balsamic, extra virgin oil, $26.00
We also order the salad as a side since we only had one appetizer. The tomatoes are sweet and are just ripe enough. I prefer the green tomatoes as they are more rich in tomato flavour (if that even is possible). The aged balsamic and extra virgin oil make the perfect vinaigrette. The buffalo mozzarella is soft and creamy which compliment the tomatoes and pesto well.  

When 8.15pm creeps around, our waiter informs us of the time and happily suggests we can finish our night at the bar lounge to have our dessert and drinks. As a relief to hear we are not going to be rushed out we politely decline as we are very very full and cannot (yet) eat another thing. We decide an evening stroll along the quay would be perfect, before we set off and find somewhere for dessert (stay tuned!).

I applaud the creativity that is put in to make the dishes unique. The menu may sound ordinary and predictable, but when it comes to life before our eyes, the taste is impeccable and the presentation is flawless. It is a bit pricey, but the location, view, service and food explain why Cafe Sydney is the best of the best and it becomes justifiable. (Cafe Sydney is listed in the Entertainment Book with a discount of 25% off up to $50.00 value for those who have it or are considering to buy the 2013/2014 issue). I cannot wait to return to this place, to definitely try their desserts, enjoy the other appetisers and mains, and possibly eat the ocean trout again! I am so happy I had the pleasure to spend my actual birthday experiencing such a delight! 

Cafe Sydney
Level 5, Customs House
31 Alfred St

9251 8683

Café Sydney on Urbanspoon

Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney

The reservation was made weeks ago, outfits have been tried on and off, menus have been read several times but we still hadn’t come to a decision. The weeks of anticipation is coming to an end. Tonight is going to be the night.

As we walk up the steps towards the sails of the Opera House, the rain sprinkles lightly, the wind is blowing horrendously and I’m finding it difficult to enjoy the view while making sure I don’t fall flat on my face. When we reach to the top, I compose myself and take a deep breath before I enter Guillaume at Bennelong

It’s absolutely stunning inside, just as impressive as the exterior. I’m always intrigued and have great admiration for interior architecture, so I take a few minutes to enjoy the monument before going down the stairs to be greeted by the hostess. My partner bought me a camera for my birthday, Sony DSC-HX30V, with which I happily snapped around the room. The camera has an amazing scene selection, one in particular called "Gourmet" which is purposely created to take a "natural shot of food". You can really notice the difference in the quality of the photo when it is selected. I forgot to use it during entree but when I switch it on during mains and desserts and the photos come out sharper and brighter.

As we are fond of eating dinner early, my parents and I make reservations for the pre-theatre sitting menu ($66 for 2 courses, $78 for 3 courses). All the other menus, such as their tapas (choice of four $35, six $45, eight $55), à la carte (4 courses, $150) and degustation (8 courses, $195) start from 8.00pm. The hostess reminds us, as notified in the email, that we have to give up our table at 7.45pm. But after taking a quick look at the rest of the night’s list of reservations she informs us there isn’t a table waiting after us so we are free to take our time. This is music to our ears! We are also told that we can choose either the à la carte or the pre-theatre dinner menu. But we decide to stick with the 3 courses!

Complimentary sourdough bread and lescure butter

The sourdough bread roll is from Iggy's bread of the World at Bronte and Sydney lescure butter from Poitou, France. The butter is creamy, soft and perfect to spread over the bread. The roll is a bit hard as every time anyone cuts into it, crumbs fly everywhere and is a bit difficult to enjoy. 

Royale of asparagus, blue swimmer crab and shallot vinaigrette
I choose the royale of asparagus as my entree and it sings summer! The blue swimmer crab is light, sweet and perfectly cooked. The asparagus puree sits at the bottom of the dish and adds a smooth texture to the crab and herb salad. It is not at all pungent in its taste. The acidity from the shallot vinaigrette lifts the dish. The entire dish is refreshing and could possibly be recreated at home, substituting the crab with other crustaceans or scallops. 
Local rock fish soup, mussels, crab, scallop, croutons and saffron aioli
I was having a difficult time deciding whether I wanted the royale asparagus or the fish soup but I'm very happy with what I chose. Mum had the fish soup but I didn't really enjoy it. I wasn't expecting it to have that much of a fish flavour and is quite overwhelming. The scallop is cooked perfectly and the giant crouton is perfectly immersed in the soup to still be crunchy.  
Oysters, freshly shucked to order with shallot vinegar 
Dad had the oysters and thought they were fresh and sweet. They claim it to be freshly shucked and indeed it is because the oysters itself is stuck to the shell. 

Green beans with almond butter, $14.00
The green beans are cooked perfectly. They don't have a snap but are firm when bitten into. It doesn't taste raw which usually happens when beans are only just cooked, but they are tender and sweet. The almond butter made it very fragrant and nutty. It reminded me of almond short bread, slightly sweet but also savoury. 

Pyrenees of lamb, roast garlic puree, pickled shallots, lamb jus
Mum's lamb looked rare but to the taste, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It is very pink but when she sliced into it no blood came out which means it is rested enough for the juices to retain in the meat. 

Barramundi, roast fennel, oyster mushroom, clams and beurre blanc
The skin of the barramundi is crispy and the flesh is soft and silky. It couldn't have been cooked more perfectly. But I'm not sure whether I like the other components of the fish as it was giving an earthy flavour I didn't quite enjoy.

Rangers Valley sirloin (300 day grain fed), crispy kipfler potatoes watercress salad, béarnaise 
I regret not ordering the sirloin because it was delicious! Dad wanted it to be medium-rare and that is exactly what he got! The meat is tender, soft and didn't lose any of its beef flavour. The béarnaise is the perfect condiment for the steak. I've had some bad béarnaise sauce before, sometimes tasting like cheesecake, but at Guillaume, this was certainly made at its best. The chips are another highlight as the kipfler potato had its own sweet taste unlike regular potatoes which are quite bland. I also manage to steal a roasted garlic glove which is heavenly sweet and aromatic. 
Citrus tart, meringue and lime syrup

When Mum made the reservation, she was sneaky and told them it was my birthday so when my dessert arrived I got a little special message and a "the chef sends his regards" message from the waiter. The citrus tart is absolutely gorgeous and precisely what I had been craving for. The citrus layer is tangy but the meringue certainly sweetens and lightens the entire tart. Even though I am incredibly full from the first two courses I can not possibly let myself leave the restaurant with an unfinished citrus meringue tart! It is the perfect dessert for me because it is not overly sweet and I love meringue!  

Raspberries and rose petal macaron, vanilla bean cream and raspberry sorbet
The presentation of this dessert was so lovely and pretty! Mum gave me the macaron shell to eat as she finds them to be too sweet. I'm starting to lose my liking for macarons so I'm not that intrigued. It's alright, I don't taste any rose flavour. I don't get to try any of the dessert because she's already gobbled it up but she tells me the raspberries are ripe but the tang works perfectly well with the vanilla bean cream and adds to raspberry sorbet. 

Chocolate crème brûlée, cherry sorbet, chocolate crunch
The chocolate crème brûlée is dark and not at all too rich. The caramelised top intensifies the chocolate and makes it a great chocolate dessert. The cherry sorbet cuts through any richness. All of the desserts have fruit and a sweet component which I think is the perfect combination for a refreshing yet satisfying end of a meal. 

My adventure at Guillaume at Bennelong was not at all a disappointment. The food was amazing, the view was spectacular and the company was ideal. I couldn't have asked for a better place to celebrate my birthday with my parents as everything was perfect and delicious. It is definitely a place for a special occasion or if you're feeling very fancy! I hope to come back and taste their degustation or à la carte as they have so much more I want to try and explore. This two hated restaurant welcomes you into a new culinary experience! 

Guillaume at Bennelong
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point


9241 1999

Guillaume at Bennelong on Urbanspoon

Friday, 25 January 2013

Ippudō, Sydney

Every time we've attempted to eat at Ippudō there has been a massive line out the front. Today day is a bit different the line is acceptable! As I wait at the back of the line my partner asks the hostess for a table for two and then immediately signals me over to go straight into the restaurant. Dining for two has its perks! When we enter we are greeted with loud welcome chants by all the staff. There is an overwhelming amount of chefs and waitpeople in the restaurant who are constantly welcoming customers every few minutes. But this also makes it atmospheric and I'm eager to look at the menu and dig into their famous ramen!

Their menu isn't too ambitious, which means they are sticking with what they know and excelling at it. I am in ramen mode and only have eyes for it, forgetting they make anything else. I go for the shiromaru motoaji  ($15.00) and my partner chooses the akamaru shinaji ramen ($16.00). I look at other diners' ramen as I wait anxiously for mine! 

White pepper, black pepper and sesame seeds

Shiromaru motoaji ramen, $15.00

The soup is delicious! I enjoy soup bases that aren't too salty or rich in flavour so this is perfect for me! It's so light that it almost tastes like a chicken based soup. It's also nice and hot, which is essential! I grind some sesame seeds into my soup and it takes it to the next level. It is fragrant and adds a nutty flavour. The ramen noodles are soft and their texture is in between soba and egg noodles. I think I prefer the ramen noodles that are served at Ryo's in North Sydney, as they are chewy with more of a bite. But the broth is on close par. The pork loin slices are lean, which I enjoy much more than the pork that has rings of fat. The wood-ear mushrooms have good crunch but perhaps more veg would balance the amount of carbs. The bowl of ramen is rather deceiving as it looks small but is actually quite big and I can't even finish it!

Akamaru shinaji ramen, $16.00
When the akamaru shinaji ramen comes out we are told to mix the miso paste into the soup. I take a spoonful and it is very rich but I know this is perfect for my partner. He has a taste of my shiromaru motoaji and thinks it's a bit bland. We made the right choices for ourselves! I ask him how the nitamago (seasoned soft boiled egg) is, and he tells me it's more hard boiled but still good. I let him enjoy his ramen while i do the same with mine and feel very accomplished that we finally got to try Ippudō. 

It may be the most talked about restaurant in Sydney at the moment but I think diners should go to North Sydney's Ryo's and compare the ramen. There is almost always a line there, but the intimate and authentic setting of the ramen house and the thick rich soup is unbeatable. I'm glad we saw what all the fuss was about at Ippudō and will definitely need to try their pork bun as it did not even process in my head to get it until I saw another diner eat it. There may be long lines but they have a takeaway option during lunch time which means there are ways to work around the queues to get a taste of the mighty Japanese ramen empire!

Shop 5021, Level 5
Westfield Sydney
188 Pitt Street,

9573 0011

Ippudō on Urbanspoon