Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

La Renaissance, The Rocks

Hi all, this is my actual first post on petit fours. This post wasn't intended, so please excuse the lack of variety and photos.My friend P and I visited The Rocks in the hope to find some hipster, vintage cafe tucked away in forts of sandstone, somewhat nostalgic of the convict days (though I didn't always listen in history class to really know what I'm talking about). We spotted La Renaissance first so we stopped here for a light snack after a long walk at the Botanical Gardens. Upon first sight, my heart sank a tad when I noticed the four tables sitting idly at the entrance, all occupied. Of course, I wanted to sit and eat, not to take and go. Nonetheless, the patisserie itself was full of variety, and as indecisive we were, we pondered and pondered until I finally decided on a salmon baguette, only to find that their lunch menu stopped at 2.30pm. Great. We reverted once again to the wall behind and stared at the options. A bit frustrated, I asked one of the workers for a vegetarian option (yep, I'm pesco-vegetarian), and they suggested to try the leek quiche. As bland as it sounds, you'd be surprised.Most problems with quiches are their dryness. This was not. Moist, moist, moist. I know that word sounds gross, but the wobbly and somewhat creamy egg and cheese mixture being enveloped by the thin shortcrust pastry, made it pleasing to eat. While all this 'moistness' was happening, the softness of the leeks melted happily in my mouth.Of course, we couldn't deprive our sweet tooth either and opted for the 'brown thing' in between the yellow and pink. There was no tag labelling the dessert so I have no idea of the name. Perhaps Hazelnut mousse with raspberries? Well everyone loves hazelnut, and this was no exception. As creamy and smooth a mousse is meant to be, the hazelnut mousse was decorated with these soft toffee-like (though I really don't know what it is) bits that gave it that aesthetic appeal as well as something to roll around in your mouth because you'd be killing yourself trying to figure out what the hell this tiny soft thing is. Encased in all that good hazelnut mousse was, however not what I expected. To my disappointment, it was raspberry jam, except thicker. I'm not really a fan of jam in food, only on scones. Despite this, the raspberry does help cut the hazelnut flavour to balance it a bit and creates a rather smooth combination between the two. It eventually turned out to be a very pleasing and interesting dessert.
All this spooning (oh, get your mind out of the gutter!) occurred in a secret courtyard that was hidden behind the cafe; it wasnt't just those four tables at the front! You'd buy whatever, and take it to the courtyard that's connected through the counter area. Pretty cool right? I really fell in love with the courtyard, because one, I was surprised of its existence, and two, it was like it transported you back to the 19__'s (seriously don't know my history) where things were less modernised and more natural.
Please do pay a visit here when you're looking to rewind and relax for brunch, lunch or arvo tea. The colourful panels of macarons and desserts has already got me trying to set a date with another friend. Oh and NTS: arrive before 2.30pm for their baguettes!

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Restaurant Arras, Sydney

Arras Petit fours tray. The one sound that reduces grown men and women to hysterical, excitable children again. I didn't imagine that was how I would of reacted, but little did I know. Determined to try it, I have been continously roaming the internet weeks before, trying to find Arra's opening date to no avail. It seems nearly all hope was lost as the website updates about the opening kept being push back and back, but as soon as I discovered it was opened, I launched straight into a reservation.

There is an air of enthusiastic buzz as you enter into the newly refurbished restaurant with the wacky fluorescent painted walls, plush chairs and an aperitif table that looks like it came out of a Dr Seuss creation in contrast to the suited up, somewhat stoic front house staff and white linen table cloths. Contemporary modern chic meets traditional fine diner. You sit down but you can't help but admire how magical the transformation feels, take away the tables and replace the waiters with the cast of children's Macdonalds and you can host the best damn party any rich child is ever going to experience. With an environment like this, you know it's going to be a fun lunch. Admittedly there were fewer other diners than I would of liked, but that soon wasn't a problem.

Bloody brilliant bread. Unintentional alliteration aside, the description is the best I can put it. They were all fresh baked, warm and crunch, with soft and fluffy interiors that we were advised to just go caveman all over using our fingers. Multiple assortments of different sourdough as well as takes on British staples come out in the form of breads. Caraway seed was interesting and nutty, Happy Goblin beer bread is bread made from British 'happy goblin' beer. but my favourite was by far the onion sourdough which was distinctively oniony. It wasn't the harsh, raw type of flavour, but the slow caramelised, mellow and heartwarming flavour associated with a hearty onion soup. As good as the bread was, after 5 servings of the bread, you really begin regretting asking for more. But so good.

Amuse Bouche
A very refreshing, produce driven way to start off what's to come, the watermelon and pomegranate salad was super fresh and sweet, dressed up with little dots of cream. The onion was a tad overpowering in its harshness but it wasn't enough to spoil the excitement of what is to come. 

Snow Crab San Choi Bow
The crab san choy bow was zingy and punchy, the freshness is really quite welcome on a late spring day. Balls of carrots met perfectly together with the sweet generous shavings of Alaskan king crab. As tempted as I was to use my hands, we were advised not to later on after finding out how juicy it was.

Nettle tartar with quail egg and garnishes
Reminds me a lot like the traditonal steak tartare, this was one of my favourite dishes of the day. The risotto in place of the usual raw steak was perfectly al dente with a heartwarming flavour. Initially uncertain about how a raw quail egg would taste, mixing it through the residual heat of the risotto is enough to result in a gorgeously creamy sauce. Fried pieces of capers were well at home giving that necessary salty kick.

King George Whiting, cucumber, vermouth and broad bean
Little dots of pea puree were a sight to behold, and the fish, soft and deliciously cooked with the slightest bit of crispy skin, but as far as I'm concerned, that broad bean jelly won me over. It resembling an embryo didn't do much to invite the taste buds but it certainly interested me. A well balanced tart vermouth butter sauce was poured at our table and that's always exciting.

Milk-cooked pork belly, whey puree and cracklings
The pork belly was succulent and despite not liking pork, it won me over. I was told there were 3 different types of crackling: pork brittle made with sugar, pork crackling made into dust and pork crackling wizzed up with whey and they all gave out very different textures, with the brittle coming out with a resounding crunch.
Halfway through, you really start feeling that bread come in. Whoever says you leave hungry after fine dining has a stomach capacity I envy.

Marinated squid artichoke, scallop and apple
I. Love. Scallops. 2 plump ones were served and these were perfectly cooked, seared on the outside and yet opaque in the middle and were sweet and yummy. Apples in here gave it a real sweetness and balancing acidity. But underneath were the most thinnest ribbons of squid you'll find, tender beyond belief and really made a superb dish sing even louder.

Roast lamb saddle, aubergine, salsify and cardamon.
Plating of this was extremely generous, hearty with very earthy flavours. Salsify was unlike any vegetable I've eaten, a crunchy sinewy texture, with an almost seafoody, oysterie flavour? It's really playing with my mind. I didn't really liked the aubergine, had an odd texture whole, but the mashed one underneath reminds me a lot like eggplant and that was delightful. What I really do adore though, is that two beautiful cuts of lamb, the saddle juicy,  tender and deliciously marbled and the lollipop rib of lamb fall off the bone and scrumptiously salty.  

Pistachio and Pineau Trifle
A very cool take on the traditional trifle, this one comes deconstructed and ready for further taking apart. It was a real joy trying every single ingredient separately and then trying all the combinations, each bite yielding something new and exciting. The pistachio sponge was too dense for my liking but it had a definate pistachioey taste. But the multiple forms that the strawberry took was really something to behold. The Pineau macerated strawberries were superb, juicy, and ripe yet still retaining a bite, the tart pineau melding thoughtfully together reinforced by the SKINLESS grapes. It's an odd touch but I like it. Strawberry jelly was incredibly soft and yielding but held its shape, the strawberry 'skin' was a lot like fruit rollups, but whole lot less chewy and more so a melt in your tongue sensation was delightful and the strawberry sorbet had a clarity of fresh strawberry flavour.

White goats cheese, white asparagus and white chocolate
White asparagus in a dessert? But then again, if there were a time to try new things, it would be now. This dish was a textural marvel, you get that distinctive white chocolate in that sauce, a creamy white goats cheese ice cream, and that smooth asparagus cheesecake. I can't be quite sure, the asparagus flavour was almost undetectable. Odd flavours but they work! I can't quite decided whether I like the inclusion of the thyme, it's interesting but sorta feels misplaced and unnecessary.

We were given fluorescent trays, bewildering it might seem, but I already knew what they were for. The famous Arras petit four tray comes out shortly after and it took all my restraint to quell the excitement. This is the stuff of childhood dreams. "Are these all hand made?" was my question. "Why of course" was the response. You're invited to take as many as you'd like. Chocolate brownies dipped in marshmellows, strawberry chocolates, chocolate truffles in an assortment of flavours, home made lollipops, friands, home made ice cream cones, chocolate blocks of all types, honeycomb, lavender ganache, peanut brittle, jellies, liquorish snakes, caramel crunchy nuts, mini jafa cakes, it goes on and on and on. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Contemporary takes on traditional classics and well executed food make Arras a lot of fun and a thrilling ride from start to finish. Only certain front house staff were warm at times but all were consistently professional. Serving portions are generous, and it is probably the best bread I've had so far at a fine diner. Arras food is innovative and exciting and I can't wait till my next visit here.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tetsuya's, Sydney

Well by now you may have realised that I'm either really rich right, or really broke. I currently happened to be the latter. I was fortunate enough to go to Tetsuya's last year, however weeks before it happened to infamously lose it's 3rd hat. The hell with it. I found myself in utter confusion after that night as to why this may have happened. To summarise, my experience was truly magical, one of the best fine dining experiences I've been to, with every dish perfectly executed and the best top notch service to boot: warm, amiable and personal, yet professional and unintruding.

However, this night felt different. If there's one thing I've learnt to do before a really hype restaurant is to defuse that hype by disappointing yourself beforehand. Strange I know, but that way you really experience it as it is meant to be, without outside influences. That was impossible to do and I found last year's experience to be so flawless, I compared tonight and every other food outing with the night last year. That may have proved to be a mistake. A kind thank you to M for the gorgeous photos for tonight. A DSLR? That's more like it.

Oddly seems to be a pattern this year, but I came out to a cloudy, rainy and moody Spring day a short walk away from Townhall Station. I think I've used that same description about the weather for the past few posts. Blame the weather. One will never suspect that within the hustle and bustle at the centre of the CBD lies a random house with gates and traditional roof tops and all. And a valet. Inside it feels like the sort of place you should be on your best behavior. We are quickly greeted and seated, a verbal and informative menu given to us and with ready stomachs, onward we charged into the monster that is the Tetsuya degustation.

Your thinking it's just bread and butter, but I'm thinking it's also bread and butter hah! But it's the best you're ever going to eat. Best. You're given an option of Italian or sourdough and both are good choices so it's a good thing we went for seconds and thirds... and I was even considering fourths. Freshly baked individual rolls are warm, fresh and fluffy with a definite acidic touch. The butter is divine, aerated and whipped, it comes packed with flavour with a strong taste of parmesan and ricotta, cheesy with that delicate touch of the truffle earthiness, so good, it kept us eating butter and bread at a 2 to 1 ratio. Time for a run.

Corn Soup and Soy Cream
Incredibly sweet corn soup with a dense cream was a wonderful way to start the night, rich in flavour and light with just the right amount of cream.

Pacific Oysters with Rice Vinegar & Ginger
The sound of optional oysters were too good to pass up. It came served on a rustic ceramic plate and on a bed of seaweed. The vinaigrette, with its perfect balance of oil and tartness complemented the incredibly fresh pacific oysters. Shucked with not a shard of shell in sight, they were the right size, acceptably creamy and not with the usual unpleasant metalic taste present on most oysters.
Savoury Custard with Sea Urchin

The custard was creamy and melting, so much so, you could let it just sit on your tongue and let it disintegrate. It had such unmistakable clarity in flavour of dashi and was my favourite dish of the night. What had us bemused for quite a while was the use of a wooden spoon, ahhh the little things. The sea urchin was admittedly an acquired taste for some, but to me it had quite a peculiar yet pleasant texture, with a flavour almost buttery with a slight bitterness that was quite enjoyable.

Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean & Orange
One of the dishes we had last year and a favourite of my friends, the slices of kingfish were fresh and yummy, with a restraint use of mixed herbs created a different interesting flavour profile in every single bite. However the orange to black bean sauce ratio was inconsistent with my friend's dishes but there was a nice balance on acidity in mine.

Confit of Petuna Ocean Trour with Shaved Fennel
Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar
A signature of Tetsuya's; it's probably the most famous dish of Sydney and definitely worth it's hype. Confiting it in oil changes the texture of the fish to the point of almost flaking, yet retaining all of that sashimi freshness and it was such an interesting textural enjoyment with the quinelle of trout roe popping and delicious. The little salt row on the konbu crust provided a pleasant blast of saltiness that wasn't overwhelming at all and quite delightful. I was almost adamant that there was liquorice somewhere in that konbu crust, turns out after asking the waiter that the aniseedy flavour came from the shaved fennel. Embarrassing...

Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab with Bean Curnd, Foie Gras & Junsai
The sweet flakes of crab were quite generous with the delicate bean curd almost melting. One had to remark about the strange yet gratifying use of that junsai, a jelly like texture on the outside, and an almost mushroomy one inside. The restraint use of the foie gras gave it a slight oomph and was almost undetectable despite all the delicate flavours. Quite a lovely dish that just lifts the flavour of the crab.
EDIT: Seeing this dish a week after eating it on junior masterchef really enlightens me on the intricate nature and processes behind this dish. I really have to congratulate the 12 year olds on their remarkable prowess with being able to create such a masterpiece. Would of loved to meet the man himself.
Braised Veal Shank with Broad Bean & Smoked Bone Marrow
I was quite disappointed with this dish. I tried to trick myself into thinking the flavours were delicate but in all honesty, the flavour was lacking and bland, with the under seasoning not doing much to help. The meat was however, incredibly marbled, fall off the bone and melting and the bone marrow did its best to give off a certain heartiness but I was already over it.

Breast of Quail with Palenta Iberico & Garlic Puree
The exact same flavour profile of a dish we had last year, just differently plated, not too happy with that but nevertheless it was delicious. The quail looked dangerously raw but it was in fact wonderfully cooked and tender with a slight gamey flavour. Toasted rice and sprouts complimented the earthy flavours and the garlic puree wasn't overwhelming and combined the dish together. My friend enjoys her food a little more cooked to the well done side and we made that quite evident, however I guess that was lost in translation towards the kitchen. That palenta imberico inparts a deep and mysterious flavour to the whole dish.

De-Boned Rack of Lamb with Eggplant, White Miso & Blue Cheese
Same problem here where my friend had hers under cooked but I remain adamant that medium-rare is the only way to have lamb. It was tender and well cooked and the eggplant was creamy, with the controlled use of the white miso and blue cheese sauce making it a real winner.

Hay-Infused Ice Cream with Sorrel Granita
Bread & Butter Pudding
Man this dish was a real mind screw. The hay was barely detectable in the ice cream, to the point of non existent, though there was something nice in there that I couldn't quite detect but that granita was a real hero. It imparts a wonderful mysterious herby flavour that you can't quite put your finger on and it adds a unique twist to the usual sorbets I had last year. I have to say though, I liked the bread and butter pudding more. The bread pudding was soaked in a cinnamon mixture with dots of fruity sultanas and slight hits of vanilla with a creamy custard underneath. This is my sort of food.

Chocolate Pave with Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Cinnamon Twigs
The exact same dish as last year, one would think that a year later would come with the invention of a new sweet. Nevertheless, admittedly it was still delicious. Pave, mousse, delice, whatever you call it, this is probably the best you'll ever have. A chocolate sauce surrounds an interior of a dense, dark, rich and creamy mousse which is balanced out by that delicately flavoured cream cheese ice cream. The little crumbs felt unnecessary with the cinnamon twigs providing an interesting textural counterpoint. First you get that crunch, then that cinnamon hit comes in, able to stand on its own against all the flavours. 3 or 4 shards of salt on top of the delice were just enough to excite and cut through all the richness.

Macarons weren't that particularly great, with the coconut one lacking in flavour and the raspberry one only alright. The coffee was served in individualised mugs, each different from the other, really made you feel quite special. And instead of handles, there were finger grooves! Pretty cool. Tea was served in a woven teapot at the perfect drinking temperature, hot but not scalding and was full flavoured.

It was a beautiful night in a great restaurant however all in all, if there was one word to summarize my experience in comparison to last year, it would be underwhelming. The price of the degustation is unjustifiable, especially for repeat customers looking for a new Tetsuya experience and expecting perfection. Would I go to it again? Not for a long long while, not unless there's reason enough to believe the menu has changed for the better. With the promise of an 11 courser and instead only getting 10 had me disappointed which wasn't really helped with 4 repeat dishes I had last year.

None of it's dishes were particularly wowing, but with such consistently perfect execution of food, need there really be? Yes and no. Last year, it was acceptable because that restraint and balance and textures exhibited in his food was really quite new and excited me. This year, not every dish was perfect and I was hoping for a slight evolution in food with totally new dishes that exhibit his progression that still amaze which didn't happen. Tonight lacked that charm and incredibly affable nature that I had experienced last year and that to me was the highlight of that experience, more-so than the food.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the night, which I thoroughly did with very thought provoking, beautiful food and all, but I was just expecting a bit more. It's seems Tetsuya's presence within his eponymous restaurant is sorely missed and would do wonders to bring the excitement back in the restaurant. Here's to me hoping this fine diner will fight back for its place within the greats and re climb back to its former grace. Tetsuya's really is the once in a lifetime experience.

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No, we aren't the most amazing gastronomes or chefs. Heck, half our team doesn't even know how to cook... well. However, what we really love is eating. And lots of it. We enjoy that occasional freebie, filling up that craving for a midnight snack and finding a 20 in our pockets that we thought we never had, and using that as an excuse to go out eating. As we battle the ongoing war on uni student poverty, we'll bring you the most swoon worthy recounts of our latest foodie adventures.