Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Surry Hills

Who knows what kind of Blumenthal wizz bangery lies behind the kitchens of Bentley? At least that's what I'm thinking when I walked into one of the rare restaurants in Sydney known for molecular gastronomy. I'm often fearful of this sub-strand of food. Sub-strand... sounds like it belongs more in a science book than a restaurant. Food should be food and there shouldn't be too much messing around with quality ingredients. But there is that element of whimsicality that just seems so exciting to pass up and hey, I'm willing to try anything.

Friday, 23 March 2012

est. Colonial Gastronomy, Wynyard

Bring in the heritage listed site, add a few decorated columns here and there, an elegant crystal chandelier or two, suit up the waiters, bring in white linen then get some candle and flower action going on and you have est. And they really know how to throw a special dinner. We came up through the elevator to be greeted by a fully dressed coloniser playing the drums. It seems to me from past experiences that est. is the penultimate in the traditional fine dining experience, along with the negatives and positives of that. 

I should really invest in a better camera soon but my trusted Olympus has never failed me... until that day because I forgot to charge it. So that was my fault. I thank A for my pictures tonight, without which, you would be currently looking at a boring bunch of words. Now it's a boring bunch of words with pictures! But i'd like to think that I write half decently right?


We started off with a warm very colonial damper which is denser than usual bread but still very delicious.

wallaby tail consommé, native pepper berry

In the description that came alone with this it said "The tail of the forest kangaroo in particular makes a soup which, both in richness and in flavour, is far superior to any ox-tail soup ever tasted"- Edward Abbott 1864. I couldn't agree more, it by far the best tasting consommé I've ever had. It had heady notes of slight gameyness, perfectly seasoned and was well balanced in flavour. The wallaby tails similarly were just as perfect; marvellously tender with the residual consommé heat finishing it off. Add in pepper berries, little baby turnips all prettily arranged and it would seem like the Australian Bear Grylls collided with a modern kitchen.

sydney cove shellfish

The oysters here were a real stand out. They say the bigger the better. I say good things come in small packages. These were fresh, salty, plump just as a proper oyster should be. It pains me seeing A just 'drink' the oyster because she loathes them, her loss. Clams were just as good, dressed in a tart sauce and echoed freshness again.  

collared sydney harbour whiting, stewed cabbage, savory

Afterwoods a 2nd course of whiting was presented to us. Honestly it was quite average. Yes, the simplicity is meant to be a reflection on the time period, however accuracy shouldn't come at the cost of flavour and excitement, especially at a high end restaurant.     

roast quail, melted butter sauce, warrigal greens

Everyone gets a whole quail to themselves! And who says you leave fine dining hungry. Quails on the other hand, were a little more exciting, mainly because I love anything with a beurre blanc; with the tartness offsetting the richness. I thought it was a pain having to take apart the quail and get between the bones being lazy and all. But no pain no gain and I thought the gain was quite a good trade off as the entire quail was terrifically well cooked to a medium and delicious.

Trust me, these seats filled up quick

Est. have mastered the whole table swoop. It's really quite a sight seeing 12 waiters come out at once and just place plates in front of ever diner at the same time. You won't see that anywhere else in Sydney. And it's the little things like that that make it special. For a table of 8, 8 waiters come out at once with dishes, then another 2 with accompaniments AT THE SAME TIME. 

rack of lamb and lamb sweetbreads, lily pilly jelly, stewed cucumbers, turnips

A generous serving of lamb is presented to us afterwoods, well cooked to a medium rare although it was quite tough and you really had to knife at the thing to eat it. The inclusion of lily pilly jelly was quite interesting. I found that you can basically find these growing anywhere, but you really have to cook it down to reduce the bitterness. Well... it tastes like Fountain steak sauce.

very good old fashioned boiled custard

When I was eating it then, I just kept thinking about how disappointing simple it was. Now that I reflect back, I realise how ignorant I was; it's the most perfect boiled custard I've ever had. The simplicity highlights how well done it is, yielding to the spoon, just set and literally dissolves on your tongue. It was exceptionally balanced in sweetness and flavour with just enough liqueur underneath to give it a little kick and the toasted almonds provided a welcomed nuttiness and bite.

quickes cheddar, stilton, rum biscuits

I'm usually not a big fan of Stilton, or any blue cheese for that matter. I tried making a pie once using Stilton as the base sauce and even a tad little bit is very punchy. Don't get me wrong, I love cheese in general: a camembert fondue, a little shaving of parmesan on scrambled eggs, gruyere on onion soup, it's just blue cheese I dislike. I found out the secret to enjoying it is to ADD FRUIT. Yes i'm aware, I'm very much a cheese noob. The cheddar and stilton goes beautifully with the biscuits and grapes which I otherwise would of not enjoyed. 

savoury entremets
Jerusalem artichokes, anchovy toasts, watercress, radishes

Wait what... Savoury after sweet? And here I was expecting petit fours. Well these are the Colonial days after all, not that I'll pretend to know anything about it. I really wish I had a do over again with this dish. Really, really, really. A told me that apparently you're meant to eat the artichokes with the pickled onions. Why did I not think of that. Come to think of it, the artichokes were quite bland but would of paired beautifully with the incredibly tart pickled onions. I've never been a fan of radishes but the anchovy toasts were the perfect way to finish off the evening.

A did opt for matching wines but being a wine novice, I felt a lot of the flavours detracted from the over flavours of the food. A very amusingly compared to the lemon z liqueur paired with the custard to detergent. I very much agreed, so much so that the even couple beside us also agreed. She did enjoy the james squire 'chancer' golden ale though heh heh. I remember.

The Colonial Gastronomy dinner is certainly interesting and I really enjoyed the night, but a lot of that est. finesse with everything is lost; from your multiple delicate flavours to intricately plated dishes, flowers and all have gone missing. I guess I was just expecting too much. It's certainly made me glad food has evolved into the 21st century. 

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

District Dining (closed), Surry Hills

Seems like a lot of the restaurants these days have a bar on the side. It's a nice touch having daily specials scribbled on the mirror behind, watching the barkeep flip a cocktail or listening to the therapeutic sound steaming of steaming milk. 

I decided to take an old friend along to dinner and I was really intent on her trying a degustation. It's the must have experience for any Sydney foodie but unfortunately budgets can be quite limiting. I thought of Vini and their $50 regional dinner but they were booked out weeks in advanced and I hear Jamie's Italian can be quite the nightmare to get seats for. Fortunately being the planner I am, I have multiple backups and we were soon on our way to District. Sorry for the weird angles and everything, I'm still trying to learn how to use a camera.

District crispy chicken wings, chilli caramel 16

We started off with chicken wings. Yeah I know anyone can basically make chicken wings and these were pretty ordinary if not for the amazing caramel that came with it. Seriously forget bottled sweet chilli sauce, this chilli caramel was so good I could drink the stuff. It gets better when it starts slowly crystallizing and you get all these little crispy bits along with the aromats like ginger, lemongrass, chilli, sesame oil and other asian flavours. The lemon water on the side is a clear indicator you should use your hands to eat these, I mean how else would eat chicken wings?

Seared Scallops, cauliflower, chorizo, Pedro Ximénez 22

Cauliflower puree, pork and scallops are best friends. How could you go wrong with them? This was well executed and the scallops were cooked to perfection, seared on the outside and opaque in the middle.

Kingfish, wasabi snow, soy tapioca, radish

You get kingfish cooked two different ways, fried and seared. Personally I'm one for searing fish, it's basically two textures in one, your seared cooked outside and your fresh sashimi in the inside. Wasabi snow was pretty cool, hot and cold in the same mouthful and it really plays with your mind. That and a generous serving of big roe and you get a wicked dish. I usually loath the use of radishes in general because I find them overpowering but these were used sparingly enough that their flavour was very subtle.

Duck Confit, ras el hanout, carrot, orange, ginger 28

Duck was deliciously cooked, skin crisped up and all with a really warming blend of spices, although the meat could use a few more hours confiting to ensure it's more fall apart. Add carrots and a parsley oil and you have the perfect autumn dish.

Peanut Butter Parfait, chocolate cookie crumble, banana 14

Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter, I love Peanut Butter. It's Peanuts and It's Buttery and that equals happiness and obesity. That was an unintentional rhyme, I swear. I see anything with these words and I immediately order away. Speaking of which I bought another 3 bags of Reeses so there goes my anti sugar diet. Anyway this was delightful because peanut butter and banana are the perfect match. The parfait was dense and smooth and bruleéing the tops of the bananas really adds a simple unique texture to bananas. The banana puree brings it all together and the cookie crumbs are really there for an extra texture.

Blueberry Eton Mess, blueberry sorbet 14

I've had a fascination lately with anything Eton Mess ever since Montpellier's version of it  (Refer to Montpellier Eton Mess). There something about a deconstructed meringue that really appeals to me. Blueberries were superfresh, sweet and soury and the meringue had just the right amount of sweetness but that quinelle of blueberry sorbet was really something else. Watery and sweet, yet distinctively blueberrily, it just lifts this to a whole new dimension.

Remove the white linen, throw in some wooden boards, plank floors, retro colours, abstract art, hard wooden chairs and a serve-it-your-own jug of water and basically any restaurant calls itself casual dining. The food certainly has that Assiette vibe. Despite the restaurant bistro fit out, the food doesn't really pull off the rustic look all that well. Give it a wooden board and it's still meticulously plated and the food can get quite busy at times. Nevertheless the food is delicious and well thought out and the produce is very fresh and seasonal. I'd happily come back here again in a heartbeat.

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Saturday, 17 March 2012

Taste of Sydney Food Festival, Centennial Park

When the annual food fest rolls around the corner, I can't help but get all excited. Free crap, stalls, food at a price cheaper than in the restaurants, no bookings, parklands. Yes please. Don't expect any lineup equivalent to Future, Stereosonic, Soundwave, Super K-pop fest etc though, instead, all the up and coming restaurants take the opportunity to showcase all their best plates, where the only weed in sight is the rare occasional shrub growing out of the otherwise unblemished lawn and your legs get sore rather than your ears getting sore. What both have in common though is alot and alot of alcohol. Alot.

Thursday rains threatened to ruin the day; my uni even had their football fields turn into a pool with ducks swimming and dogs paddling in it and all, I shit you not. We were on the news. But it turned out to be a gorgeous day, not a cloud in sight. Optimism does that. I rather ambitiously organised a group of 15 to turn up to the event but we ended up just splitting into groups and roaming the parklands seperately. A kind thank you to the wonderful Syl for providing me these photos. Had I the exact same camera, they wouldn't of even remotely turned out as good.

Kadayif Wrapped King Prawns, Walnut Capsicum Muhamara (Efendy) 

Traditional Charcoal BBQ Lamb and Veal Kebab, Smoked Eggplant and Chobani Greek Yoghurt (Efendy)

Pistachio Trio of Traditional Baklava, Dolma and Kadayif (Efendy)
Pan Fried Lamb Testicles with Almond Tarrator (Efendy)
Apparently these taste like fish balls but I didn't have the errr... balls to eat this so I wouldn't know.

Fried Hawkesbury School Prawns, Proscuitto and Rouille (Quarter 21) 

People sometimes get iffy about having prawns, shells and all. When I was young, I cut my lip once because some of them are really sharp and I was too lazy to remove the shells so I just ate the whole thing. Lesson learnt. Today, no makeshift blades left in this pot of goodness fortunately, but you still need to be careful. Rouille was delightful and with the smoky salty proscuitto makes a wicked combination.

Salt Cod, Potato and Truffle Fritters with Tarragon Mayonaise

Give me this everyday and I'll be happy. Crisp on the outside and impossibly soft in the inside, the potato permeates with the slight flavours of earthy truffle making this a real winner.

Salmon Crudo, Baby Beetroot, Yoghurt, Olive Dust (Ormeggio at the Spit / Spiedo)
I really liked this. Brilliantly done combination with ingredients changed into interesting forms with an unparalleled clarity in flavours. Wasn't what I was expecting but still thoroughly enjoyed.
Gundoee Wagyu Sirloin, Slow Braised Brisket,
Honey Roasted Carrots, Royal Black Quinoa & Truffle Butter (Agapé Organic Restaurant and Bar)

Had this next but I ended up being dissappointed, especially from the asking price of 20 crowns. There's a lot going on in this one dish and everything worked so well together, carrots well cooked, braised rib deliciously fall apart and surprisingly the licquorice adds an welcome aniseedie, earthy dimension but the sirloin was overcooked to the point of medium well and you lose alot of that supposed meltingness that you would associate with wagyu. The truffle was disappointingly lost throughout all the flavours.

Ping Pong:
Lychees and Passionfruit Pulp are added to Erinstoff Vodka, Lychees and Fresh Lime Juice (Longrain Bar)
I abhor alcohol seriously. The smell, the taste. It bemuses me how some people could drink the stuff on a daily basis. I suppose one day I'll grow up to enjoy it. But not for now. Ping Pong however was delightful: fruity and sweet with lychees and passionfruits and only a little kick of vodka to remind you it's a cocktail and you're there to get giddy.

Slow Cooked and Caramelised Short Rib with Bone Marrow Persillade (Quarter 21)

Free Yoghurt! It was okay
We were offered both desserts at Montpellier for a 14 for 2 price saving us 8 crowns which was an absolute no brainer so we immediately took it.

Eton Mess (The Montpellier Public House)

Eton mess was simple, but as a classic should also be; it was also delicious. The right amount of sweetness from the meringue and chantilly really to showcases the quality of the strawberries.

Pepe Saya Buttermilk and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Poached Fruits (The Montpellier Public House)

The pannacotta was also a winner, melting and wobbly, dosed with a generous amount of vanilla seeds and again highlights the tart and sweetness of the berries and coullis. 

At the end of the day, it really is all about trying everything possible rather than making an effort to really think about the food itself. But it's good to have that opportunity to not need to think so hard and just eat things cause they're handed to you for free. More than excited to go back next year. Here's to me hoping that all the expensive restaurants sign up again so we get to try cheap food again. Some of the restaurants have dishes at their stands where the normal price would be 2 or 3 times more expensive. The food is admittedly good, though not great. If you want the restaurant experience, go to the restaurant. I think I'll be giving Montpellier a visit soon.

My tips:
1 Get there early so you don't have to fight for shady spots.

2 Plan your day out according to what events you want to attend beforehand

3 Know what you want to eat from the menu so you won't walk around aimlessly 

4 The 30 dollar entrance fee can be a bit criminal but look around and you'll find that there are deals around. We got our tickets on ticketek for 35 for 2 which was pretty awesome

5 THERE ARE MANY FREEBIES if you know where to look for them. And they're pretty decent as well. Crowns are overated when you can just raid store to store for yummy samples. But of course half the point is trying the restaurants at cheaper prices so do buy a few.

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Friday, 16 March 2012

Bodega Tapas Bar, Surry Hills

When people ask me "Hey, where should we eat today?", without a second thought I'll reply Bodega immediately. It's one of those places I've grown to love because how well they do their food. It's ability to get friends together and stimulate conversation is unparalleled and when you get a spot on top of the bar, you get to see how genius translates from kitchen to plate.

We started off with Sonoma bread and fruity olive oil. Key note: do save some of the bread because they you'll have something to mop up the deliciousness later on.

Mushrooms with Garlic

I apologise, this is the half eaten plate because in all my excitement I forgot to take a picture. I've had a lot of mushrooms in my days as a foodie, but none are done as brilliantly as this. These are done to perfection, garlicky, oily, nutty and just so bloody deliciously. Bread comes in handy to mop up the creamy sauce and oil. Be a little brave and pop some of the garlic out of their skins. Your taste-bud's will be rewarded.

Fried Spiced Calamari with Aioli

What separates this from other plain old fried calamari is a little spiking of paprika. Simple as that. What results is a heady intoxicating perfume that's just as delectable as it is aromatic. A generous blob of thick aioli does wonders to the dish as well.

"Fish Fingers": Kingfish Sashimi on Garlic Toast with Cuttlefish Ceviche and Mojama
This has to be one of the most intelligently constructed bites i've ever had. You get an intentionally blackened sour dough, generously rubbed with garlic and doused in olive oil. Layer that quality kingfish sashimi, a cuttlefish ceviche punctuated with flavours of coriander and acidity, just enough raw onion and mojama and you have a very scrumptious different version of your traditional deep fried "fish fingers".

Slow Cooked Lamb Loins with Criolla Salsa, Roast Garlic Miso and Olive Crumbs

I initially ordered something with salmon but I changed my mind halfway after seeing how these ribs were prepared. Pretty glad I did. Smoky lamb crackling hides a gorgeously fatty interior and tender meat. Give it traditional Argentinian flavours like eggplant puree, salsa and olive crumbs and that makes nearly everyone happy. Probably not the best ribs I've had (Refer to Lamb Ribs at Ms G's) but pretty damn close.

Cheesecake with Carrot Icecream, Crumbs and Blackcurrant Reduction
This was all sorts of wacky though not particularly in a good way. The flavours do go well together though it would seem they belong more on a savoury plate than a sweet. I've never been a big fan of Bodega sweets because of it's heavy handedness with certain flavours and this didn't change my mind.

Bodega is anything but flawless, but what does do right far outweighs what it does wrong. All dishes pleasantly surprise with whimsical and clever combinations, rustic and shareable. Some work, some don't, but that's half the fun; going through the menu and trying something just because another table ordered it, then figuring out whether that was a good idea. Be careful though, I remain adamant that you can leave with a relatively small $30 bill each but that aforementioned dish spotting enthusiasm can really make the bill shoot up. There's not an ounce of stiff pretension; loud music and and a lively modern appearance contribute to the bouncy and fun ambience. I'll be the first to say, chef hat or not, this place is one of, if not my favourite restaurant.

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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.