Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Oscillate Wildly, Newtown

The natural light was enough to light up the entire upstairs dining room at Oscillate Wildly. It's quiet, calm and still. The benefit of being the first ones for the evening is you walk in, the kitchen doesn't sound chaotic, the waitstaff aren't overwhelmed with the diners and everyone is excited for what the rest of the night may hold.

Our friendly waitress greets and informs us of what to expect for our evening meal. Eight courses, optional additional cheese course, and matching wines for those ambitious, non-driving, alcohol-tolerant people. We opted out of the matching wines which meant we could soberly immerse ourselves into the food, giving it our full attention.

The food would be a mystery for the evening as we weren't given a menu and would only receive one at the very end with our bill. It made it all that more exciting and engaging.

Snacks to start

Before our official eight courses started, out came an intriguing array of 'snacks'.

Oven roasted taro root with smoked butter
The taro root pops out of its skin easily, just as the waitress said, and inside is a warm, very light lilac piece of taro. We dip it into the smoked butter that gives it necessary flavour and seasoning. The texture of the taro root is quite starchy and it gets stuck to my teeth and the walls of my mouth. 

It's always a bit more enjoyable when you're presented with food that requires you to use your hands. It adds a further sensory feature to the eating experience.

Sugar cane infused with Gin & Tonic
This was a fun addition to the meal as it was innovative and creative. We were told to bite into the piece of sugar cane and draw the gin & tonic out. The sweet sugar cane juice mixes with the liquid to create a great little something to kick off the rest of the evening.

Homemade sourdough
The bread isn't very sour but it has a great crust to it. The quenelled butter is smooth and spreads easily onto every bite of the bun. It's hard to not eat it all at once as I do try and eat it sparingly in case I need to use it as a sauce soaker.

Swordfish, Meyer, Finger lime
The swordfish belly is slimier than I anticipated and tastes like it was lightly cured by the meyer lemon as it ever so slightly sour. The citrus flavour is reinforced by the finger lime pulp buds.

The finger lime resembles caviar as you bite into them, they would pop and juice would come bursting out. The flavour also has accents of grapefruit in among the lime. 

And from this course forward, I learnt every course would be too beautiful to not take more than one photo.

Kingfish, Kombu, Shiso
The waitress described this course as 'deconstructed sushi'. It was beautiful to look at and amazing to eat. Above the piece of nigiri sushi is a wafer-thin crisp dusted with kombu and shiso powder. I forget which flavour made up what component but it was all very delicious. 

The kingfish itself is cut into thin layers that cloaks the well-seasoned sushi rice. Though I did find it slightly awkward to eat sushi with a knife and fork, the delicate flavours were too brilliant for the mechanics to matter.

Beneath the crackle
Pumpkin, Buckwheat, Molasses
This wasn't my favourite dish of them all as nothing stood out, it needed something a bit punchy. The pumpkin (I believe it's a specific type but I've forgotten the name of) is cooked to soft and the flavours are sweet yet rather mild. The molasses isn't as sharp as I thought it might've been and comes in a foam-like texture. I did enjoy the puffed buckweat however it is softened by the molasses and no longer retains its crunch. There is also a black garlic paste on the base however I wasn't able to taste it.

Bug Tail, Beetroot, Rosella
I couldn't believe how picturesque this dish was, I loved the intensity of the colour and flavour of the beetroot smear, which I think was a puree. The Moreten Bay bug tail is just cooked, slightly transclucent and the flavour is delicately sweet. It's balanced against the dusting of sumac, beetroot and the chervil. I don't remember how the rosella fit into it but it wasn't prominent.

Chicken, Potato, Aji-Verde
The chicken isn't particularly flavoursome but it's just cooked through, perhaps poached, allowing it to be how chicken is supposed to be, soft and tender. It is the chicken skin that holds most of its flavour which I try to divide into every mouthful. 

The opaque crisp film is potato, strong in flavour and gave crunch against the soft meat. Beneath is potato puree and the aji-verde, traditionally a Peruvian herb sauce made with mayonnaise and jalapenos paired with roast chicken. 

However in this case the sauce has been deconstructed, the potato puree acts as the creamy component and the herbs emulsion is created as is. I enjoy this modern interpretation as the sauce can be enjoyed warm and forms a finer form of the original.

After the chicken meal, the sun had set and I didn't want to use my flash on my camera to take photos of the food as the upstairs was a small and intimate space of 5 or so tables. But my partner volunteered and took some great snaps using his phone. 

Beef, Turnip, Lardo 
Even though the beef was noted as David Blackmore Wagyu Grade 9+, I wasn't quite convinced as it wasn't buttery or melting if it had been. But of course it was brilliantly cooked to medium-rare and juicy. The ribbon of turnip was thin and crunchy, adding an extra bit of texture against the beef. 

I didn't want to eat the two together because I thought either one of them would distract the other but when I gave it a go, the two married well. I don't distinctly remember eating any lardo but perhaps it was in the crumb that was sprinkled over the dish.

Gouda, Coffee, Cipollini
This was an optional course to the nine courses of the evening, an additional $10. We were told that the 'cheese course' consisted of cheese and onion, but we did not imagine that this would be brought out. Like the other courses, when the waitstaff described the dish to us we listened intently but when they mentioned 'coffee' and we were perplexed and intrigued. 

On the top layers lies the shaved gouda cheese, sharp, rich and melting. Then below had cooked cipollini onions, not to the point of complete caramelisation, but enough to be sweet yet keep its bite. The specific type of onions used are common in Italian cooking which is elevated by the coffee infusion. 

The whole experience is completely different, somewhat conflicting as you are hit with all of those flavours in various stages of consumption. At first it's creamy yet sharp from the cheese, then the coffee taste hits you slightly, followed by the crunchy and sweet onions, then going back to the coffee and finishing with the onion taste. It's not a familiar flavour combination, not sure if I enjoyed it, but it was definitely fascinating to try.

Milk, Blueberry, Licorice
I wasn't an instant fan when I heard there was licorice but it's subtle and I could only taste it on the first bite. The blueberries are fresh and not at all sour nor too sweet. The milk ice cream is smooth and tastes heavily of churned milk, definitely a noticeable difference to the usual vanilla ice cream. The two are great pairings but not necessarily as ambitious as the other courses have been.

Young Coconut, Mango
We both fell completely in love with this dessert. The twigs are made out of black sesame ash and it dissolves instantly once it touches the tongue. The coconut is the white light airy feature, which I don't know exactly how they made. Under it all us the black stick rice in a sticky, melted mochi-like formation. The elastic texture is weird and wonderful and is contrasted with the mango ice cream that tastes exactly like mango, no artificial sweeteners or flavouring. All of it makes up the perfect ending to a fantastic evening.

Petite fours
Or so I thought... In came the waiter with a plate of petite fours and a brightly candle, but sans the awkward happy birthday song, thank goodness. To the right are blackcurrant gummies, covered with sugar on the outside. It's delicious as the black currant is intense and I very much enjoy the texture as it's a much more solidified jelly. I take little bites, savouring the candy to try and make it last. To the left are chocolate truffles that slowly melt in the mouth to reveal a hazelnut. 

Oscillate Wildly was the perfect venue for my birthday this year. The food was outstanding. The atmosphere was casual but sophisticated. The service was kind and attentive. I had a smile on my face the entire time. The beauty about this place is that they continue to innovate so just because I've dined before, I can always return as I guarantee they'll have a different menu next time. 

A special thank you to my partner for surprising and spoiling me.

275 Australia Street, 

9517 4700

Oscillate Wildly on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Angry Fish, Crows Nest

When my dear dear mother gifted me and my partner a Groupon voucher many thoughts ran through my mind during that instance:

Will I receive attitude from the staff? 
Will the meal portions be smaller?
Is the food actually any good? 
Why did the restaurant decide to put themselves onto the website? 

Ultimate thought: Will they spit in my food?

But I gave my mother the benefit of the doubt, since she assured me she and Dad had been there before and had high compliments. 

So I embarked on another Groupon journey.

The meal consisted of ten courses. A complete mystery to me as they don't have a website or menu online. But this was also good fun because too often I try remembering what I read from the menu and anticipate what may come.

The restaurant is empty when we arrive. The usual reason for this is we're just old farts and like to eat our evening meal earlier than people our own age. Either way it's pleasant to have the whole place to ourselves.

Asahi and Green tea
As part of the meal, we each receive a beverage, either a cold Asahi from the tap, or Japanese green tea. The hot drink isn't my preferred beverage for a hot 30-something degree day, but the flavours are calming and cleansing.

The wait was short before the dishes started coming at us.

Shira-ae also known as 'mashed tofu salad', doesn't sound amazing, nor does it look particularly appetising but it's certainly a refreshing start to any meal, or accompanying as a side dish. The tofu is mashed and resembles a creamy salad dressing than as a main component. It dresses the cooked spinach that is still crunchy and sweet, drizzled with sesame oil. It's addictive and there's surprisingly a few mouthfuls.  

Sashimi salad
The two salads were brought out at the same time and the sashimi salad was a nice contrast as it was definitely more tangy. Layers of lettuce lay at the bottom of the bowl, then seaweed, avocado, tomatoes, and a selection of salmon and kingfish, all covered in that vinaigrette. I've had that dressing many times but I can never quite put my finger on what it's made of. Any knowledgeable people out there who know the recipe?

Aburi salmon nigiri
This was no doubt the highlight of the meal. The salmon is seared just enough so there's still textures and temperatures of cooked and raw fish that simply melt into each other as you chew through. It's coated with a terriyaki-like sauce that also manages to flavour the sushi rice. The thinly sliced red onion adds freshness and crunch and it really all just works too well with each other. 

After the aburi sushi, it seemed like the dishes just seemed to go downhill and it was quite unexpected considering how well they started off.

Beef tataki
The plate was cold when the beef tataki arrived at the table which made me immediately think that this was pre-made and chilled. Nonetheless, we dived in, trying to ignore first impressions. The marbled beef was cold, despite looking like it had been seared. The slices were also rather thick, making it difficult to chew, or rather a tear off. Scattered all over were slices of red onion and fried garlic but didn't give the dish much since the beef just wasn't quite prepared properly. I couldn't quite make up what the sauce consisted of, but it was certainly tangy and might've had some sesame oil too.

Seared scallops
This was another cold plate and despite scallops tasting sweet, the sear marks weren't going to fool us this time. Each scallop had a dollop of Kewpie mayonnaise which wasn't enough to impart any extra flavour to the heavily scattered mustard seeds that accompanied the soy vinaigrette

Vegetable tempura
Finally a hot dish - all the vegetables were cooked perfectly and the tempura batter was crisp. Between the pumpkin, sweet potato and eggplant, it was hard to choose a favourite as I've always preferred these vegetables tempura-ed than others, like capsicum or carrot.

Sushi and Sashimi
It always makes me ponder when food comes out in servings of three when it's a table of two. It's not that I have a problem with sharing but it doesn't seem fair that someone might miss out or if you're in a bigger group of people after everyone's eaten their share, the odd piece ends up uneaten out of politeness.

As I was saying... The sushi rolls weren't particularly thrilling. The piece with wrapped in the nori was dry and gave the impression it was a cut off from a larger sushi roll that didn't get sold during the day. But I think that wasn't the case since I tend push my imagination. Unfortunately, the nigiri sushi was a bit ordinary when comparing it to the aburi nigiri we had earlier, it was temping to ask if the chef could flame torch it. 

The sashimi pieces of salmon, kingfish and tuna were categorised as a separate course despite being brought out together. They were fresh and chilled. But I was again, thinking I would have much preferred if they flamed them too. 

Salmon teriyaki
Just as we sat down at the table before the start of our meal, we were given the choice for the main, salmon teriyaki or chicken teriyaki. Overlooking the servings of three, the salmon was nicely cooked and the terriyaki sauce wasn't too salty or sweet. Even though all the courses thus far were designed to share, by the time the main arrived we were full and the presence of three rather large pieces of fish seemed daunting.
Black sesame and Green tea ice cream
The final meal of the night was also decided by us, either black sesame or green tea ice cream. One of each had to be ordered because I dislike black sesame and love green tea and my partner is vice versa, so what could be better? The green tea ice cream... That's what could've been better. It was a bit of a disappointment because I had been craving for it and the flavour was lacking - it didn't taste like anything. I tried some of the black sesame for comparison and it was very flavoursome - it even had the char taste that I sometimes associate with black sesame.  

All-in-all I was definitely glad I had the opportunity to visit Angry Fish as there were certainly highlights throughout the courses that made the meal worthwhile. I could not get enough of the aburi nigiri sushi we had that is worth returning for. I believe that the Groupon voucher is still running so I do recommend it despite some of my comments. It's great value for a generous ten-course meal with drinks.  

Angry Fish

130 Willoughby Road,
Crows Nest

9438 4900

Angry Fish on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

El Loco at Slip Inn, Sydney

I always do some research before I go to a restaurant. Whether it's going somewhere completely new or returning to an old favourite, I have to look up how it's rated on Urbanspoon. I just have to. It's a sickness really. So upon returning to El Loco at Slip Inn, not to be mistaken with the El Loco located in Surry Hills (both by Dan Hong), I check out their the ratings and the reviews. Unfortunately I had to brave my visit, having low expectations and high hopes.

The Mexican restaurant is still as colourful and swinging as I remembered it since my last visit which was over a year ago. My photographic evidence doesn't quite show that I know, but it was 6pm. On a Monday night. 

Last time I was with a group of friends where we dined outside in the large open space that certainly caters for loud hysteria and those who bless Daylight Savings, having been stuck in offices all day. In fact there's a whole other bar outside downstairs which means if you've found a perfect spot, you can sit tight and not have to run back up to order.

Since this was an all important, much delayed, highly anticipated catch-up with an old friend I hadn't seen for years, we opted for a quiet corner in the restaurant to focus on each other and the food we were about to devour. 

Let the feast begin!
'Secret taco', $6.50
El Loco has 7 kinds of tacos and to just be interesting, I thought I'd choose their 'secret taco', a flavour that changes daily which they are very reluctant to reveal. I ordered it, didn't think much of it, I didn't ask what was in it. When it arrived to the table, I asked the waiter and he said to me "You'll just have to wait and see..." 

I mean if I've bought it already, don't I get to know what it is!?

I have NO idea what was in it. The red that you can see, I think was tomato salsa, similar to the one that came with the corn chips. Beneath that is cabbage, a couple sad leaves of coriander and spring onion (these staples all come with every taco) but way way down below was a very odd protein. 

My immediate thought was chicken testicles?? They had the same shape as rissoles but they had a very smooth texture. It didn't feel like it was made out of mince, perhaps it was very very fine mince mixed with water. The protein was very springy. It may have been a combination of chicken or pork? Maybe? I have no idea...

And I guess the secret will remain a secret. I think I'll just tell people that El Loco fed me chicken testicles - it's more fun that way and it makes me sound adventurous.

As a whole, the taco was pretty small and wasn't very good value - when I finished, I was left unsatisfied (flavour wise, not fullness - I knew I wouldn't be full from one taco) and confused. It was also a bit difficult to eat as I lifted the taco from its little container, there was a great deal of tomato-y liquid at the bottom. You've been warned, it's messy.

Chorizo, jalapeƱo and cheese quesadilla with chipotle mayo, $7.00
Of course this photo isn't particularly inspiring but unfortunately the taste isn't far off. I taste the chorizo, the jalapeƱos and the cheese. So I guess I'm not getting ripped off but there aren't any surprising flavours beyond its description on the menu. That's not to say it's not a good classic combination but I think I was hoping for a little more. It's paired with a super generous portion of chipotle sauce, which had a good kick to it but I think i needed more quesadilla to finish it all off. 

El Loco salad, $16.00
The moment the salad came to the table I thought, and actually said aloud, 'it looks like a Tim Burton haunted house'. This was my friend's salad but I've also had this before so I can speak from experience that it's a great textural salad. Below the tortilla crisps and cheese, lies the protein of your choice, chicken, beef, pork, prawn or tofu, as well as cabbage, fennel and radishes. It's like a salad that keeps on giving because after you've eaten all the salad bits, you find yourself nomming on the crisps, making it surprisingly filling.

Corn chips with guacamole and salsa, $6.00
The corn chips was a great side to share (meaning I was gobbling on it all) because I can never resist not ordering anything that has avocado. The guacamole is reasonable, would have preferred more avocado than the sour cream/yoghurt but it's light, refreshing and it does the trick in being the perfect accompaniment to the salsa. The tomato has been chopped finely (so much so that it looks almost minced) and has got some tang to it. It's the ideal side to have at a Mexican feast.

El Loco is definitely somewhere great to visit with a big crowd or a catch-up with a friend (on those quieter weekday nights) as it's so festive and lively! The venue is spacious so their 'no booking' policy (under groups of 10) isn't a huge deal, even for after work drinks and nibbles. The food is fun and the vibe is casual - a relaxed pub alternative. If you're up for something a little more hipster, check out their Surry Hills location, same same but different. 

El Loco at Slip Inn
111 Sussex Street, 

El Loco at Slip Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 8 January 2015


It looks like I decided to skip the entire 2014 and jump straight to 2015!

I went to some fantastic places last year, whether it be locally, in other states in Australia or even overseas - it was a great year of eating and treating ourselves to incredible food. Of course every time I ate out I kicked myself for not blogging the meal I was about to eat, but it was a nice long break to have before getting back into things again this year! 

I'm sure it's obvious that this is part of my new years resolution, to start blogging again... but I truly want to get back into it, at least for the sake of writing. 

To start things off I'd like to share some of my eating-out-on-a-budget suggestions:

I think we all remember in primary school where we would get a little pamphlet to take home, asking if anyone in our family wanted to purchase the very heavy gold book. Little did I know that I'd be buying the giant thing as an adult (and constantly storing vouchers in my wallet) for 4 years in a row now.

Every year around May, fundraisers, companies and schools start bringing out the new Entertainment Book, valid for the next 12 months (June-July). The book costs $60, but trust me, it's very much worth it. 

Every region in Australia and New Zealand has its own book, mine being Sydney & Sydney North. Usually Sydney is separated from Sydney North but as the year (2014) was its 20th Anniversary, they decided combine the two, resulting in a 5kg brick. 

The book is divided into various categories such as dining, shopping, local services etc.
Within dining, there are 5 sections: Fine Dining (hatted restaurants, degustations, very fancy food), Contemporary Dining (meals for special occasions, romantic dates, some white tablecloths), Cafe and Bistro Dining (nice respectable places for a meal out), Casual and Bistro Dining (easy and affordable, convenient lunches), and Informal and Takeaway (fast food joints and takeaway joints). 

There are two types of offers: BOGOF and 25% off. 
BOGOF: Buy-one-get-one-free, either for a main meal (up to a certain amount) or an item (e.g. at Subway, if you buy one foot-long sub, you get another one free). This is of course the better value of the two offers when you're dining with 2 people. 
25% off: Self explanatory, except it's only up to a certain amount of your total bill, each establishment is different. 

The beauty of these offers is that you can use one voucher between 2 people, so if you're going out for dinner with two others and they also have the voucher, when the bill arrives you can use both vouchers! Bargain!  

The Book has allowed us to try out various restaurants all over Sydney. Unfortunately over the years we've noticed they've taken off exceptional restaurants off the book or limiting them to just 25% off. There's not much we can do about that and I'd still buy it again this year because I believe you get your money's worth in just a couple of meals! You can always have a look on their website for the restaurant list before you purchase to see if you're enticed at all. 

The catch: there are certain days of the year that the offers are not applicable like Mother's Day, don't forget to read the fine print.

I don't think Urbanspoon needs any introduction but if you have no clue, it's a website where users can post reviews, photos etc of restaurants, cafes they've been to.
By signing up to Urbanspoon, every Tuesday you will receive an email with the 'Urbanspoon Specials' of the week, notifying you of the two selected restaurants you can receive 50% off your food bill.

Need I say anymore? Get on the Urbanspoon train!
Not every restaurant catches my eye but when they do, it's exceptional value! The best restaurant I went to that offered 50% off the food bill deal last year would definitely be The Public Dining Room - incredible food and an amazing view, though I do admit we went a little crazy but it was good fun! 

It's always handy to be on the look out because you never know what might show up!

For those who don't know Dimmi, it's a restaurant reservation website that allows you to make bookings online. This is probably most certainly just me but I feel very uncomfortable and awkward when I call up a restaurant to make a reservation - I get very skirmish and can't articulate myself. Then things go downhill when the person on the other line doesn't catch my name so I have to spell it out and it's just a mess (these days I just give them my partner's name, it seems like it's just easier that way). So hallelujah for online reservations!

Tangent finished..

If you sign up with Dimmi, you receive the same notifications as what you get with Urbanspoon. I like signing up to both because I like reading the restaurant reviews straight away so it's convenient in that aspect. And if you want to be precise, I think I receive the Urbanspoon email sooner than Dimmi...

But the other thing that Dimmi does offer is a $50 meal voucher when you participate in their point system.
For every restaurant reservation you make or review that you write about that dining experience, you receive 1,000 points. Once you've accumulated 8,000 points you are able to choose from a solid list of restaurants for you can dine at and you will receive $50 voucher towards that meal.

I am yet to use my reward but I should choose somewhere soon as it expires after 12 months. Keep you posted on how that goes!

So those are my 3 go-tos for a good deal when I struggle to find somewhere to eat. I hope they help you find new places to visit and inspire you to explore other suburbs and cuisines.

Here's to 2015! To a blog post every week! And to lots of delicious food to come in the new year!

*Disclaimer: None of these organisations are sponsors of this blog post. These are my own strategies and ideas to enjoy a meal out without having to splurge too much whilst trying out new places.