Rockpool est. 1989

Saturday, 10 October 2015

In the fish bowl. Mitch Orr, Dan Hong and a few other familiar faces! Clearly loving it.

The scene was set. Seven of Sydney's hottest cheffing talents were ready and raring to go. The occasion was the Josephine Pignolet 25th Anniversary Young Chefs Dinner. And I couldn't think of a finer place to host this special dinner other than Rockpool which, in its new incarnation on Bridge Street oozes style and substance. A handful of the previous winners were charged with delivering a dish each representing them and just how far they've come. It's a tough game, the restaurant business.

Let the games begin!

Established in 1990, the Josephine Pignolet Award recognises the accomplishments of young talented chefs. The award was named after the late Josephine Pignolet, the wife of Damien Pignolet, and cook herself. Going from strength to strength, the award is coveted and includes a placement in an overseas kitchen, flights and a substantial cash prize. Tonight, was all about celebration - reaching a silver anniversary and a showcase of the finest and innovative food in town. Following is a snapshot of some of those delicious eats. Enjoy.

Rockpool was in charge of the canapés and boy did they rock our socks off. Sea urchin on squid ink cracker and black garlic purée. Umm, okay Rockpool - this was kind of amazing

Drunken Storm Clam - yep, it just got better. I must admit many of us were scratching our heads as to WHAT this was (mollusc wise) but it tasted awesome, and the slightly tangy dressing made it a complete package. Possibly the best canapé I've had in my LIFE.

Mitch Orr - ACME, Rushcutters Bay
Burrata, burnt bread, tomato. Mitch Orr is certainly making a scene in Rushcutters Bay at ACME, reviving a little pocket of undiscovered 'hipster' Sydney. This dish was an exciting way to start - the burrata had an irresistibly creamy inside and the burnt bread an intriguing addition to the light tomato infused dressing

Dan Puskas - Sixpenny, Stanmore
Poached potato with oyster and mushroom. Daintily covered in razor thin slices of mushroom, the potato was covered in what can only be described as beurre blanc goodness. The powdered oyster had an extremely subtle flavour as a dusting

Hamish Ingham - Bar H, Surry Hills
Mooloolaba Bug Tail, pickled celtuce, yuzu kosho & wasabi leaf. I asked myself one thing eating this dish. Why the heck haven't I been to Bar H?!?! Silly woman. This was proabably my favourite of the night. The slightly cured bug (but essentially raw) was accompanied beautiful by an explosion of textures and flavours with a hint of chilli. Bravo

Dan Hong - Mr Wong, Sydney
Double boiled soup with kangaroo tail and baby abalone. It's bound to happen, you start to pit the dishes against one another and unfortunately this wasn't up there. The soup was consommé clear but there was a bitter taste to the broth that I just couldn't shake. Perhaps it was touch of pith from the lime? Not sure. The tail meat was lovely and tender, the abalone was decidedly not.

Mark Best - Marque, Surry Hills
Mark Best was almost like the captain of the cricket team tonight. A sort of mentor like figure who was commanding this ship. His effort was Bar cod, fish & milk scales, pickled shiitake. What a pretty little thing. The cod was amazingly soft and cooked well, pity that it was lukewarm! The garnish tasted very, how should I say this? Green.

Phil Wood - Rockpool est. 1989, Sydney
Hot and sour oxtail with prawn and coriander. Well, well, well, can't menus be deceiving. This was the most deceptively complex dish of the night. The soft, shredded oxtail meat had been stuffed in a prawn MOUSSE which was then poached. It was pretty damned impressive (but also needed to be hotter when it hit the table).

Lauren Eldridge - Marque, Surry Hills
Also, this years JP Award winner!
Blue Mountains wildflower honeycomb and cultured cream. This was a pretty clever little dish. Kept it simple, stupid. A premade honeycomb (mind you a pretty bloody AMAZING one at that) sitting on a dollop of cultured cream. Smash it all together and you have two elements marry together perfectly well. A winner amongst diners.

Survived! It was a wonderful show of skill and teamwork too. The collegial spirit in the kitchen was so great to see. Hats off to them for a fantastic evening. Wow.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Rockpool Est. 1989 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ACME

Saturday, 15 August 2015



Reviving this shabby corner of Rushcutters Bay, ACME makes a statement below the rooms of Bayswater Boutique Lodge. Credit: Luchetti Krelle
For months and months, ACME has literally been a dangling carrot. I walk past a lot, and every time it seems to be pumping with a crowd that is the envy of Sydney. Opening late last year, Mitch Orr and co. (Andy Emerson, Cam Fairbairn and Ed Loveday) have combined powers and initials to create ACME. Before you start having  pleasant flashbacks to Looney Tunes cartoons (and Roadrunner dropping anvils off precipices), ACME is all about business. The business of having a good time.


Distressed walls and hanging pendant lights are the handiwork of design firm Luchetti Krelle Credit: Luchetti Krelle
Head chef Mitch Orr has been around the traps of Sydney establishing his rep in a number of Italian restaurants including 121BC and Buzo.  Branching out on his own, Orr's menu is a collision of Asian and Italian flavours which may go on to raise a few eyebrows. But why the hell not? Fortune favours the brave. The results on the plate triumphantly raise a flag for CARBS. The menu is very laden with pasta, that's all been made in house (is there any other way?). Coeliacs, you have been warned. This is freestyle cooking with a heady soundtrack of rap (the language might frighten the oldies :P).

Baloney sandwich (left) and pencil leeks, seaweed butter (right). The perfect bar snack, the sliders are chock full of mortadella and a zingy tomato sauce. The bun was so light, you almost forget what you've just consumed. The charry leeks are quite difficult to eat, unless you ram the whole lot in your mouth. The nori butter is umami heaven, I tell you!
The restaurant itself is a very polished outfit of distressed concrete walls and dark timber floors. The interiors are the work of  Luchetti Krelle who are also behind the design of Momofuku Seiobo and The Butler. The rather compact space maximises dining potential, and even has a more private banquet table downstairs for all your "occasion" needs. And can I just make a comment on those awesome indigo/denim napkins? They pretty much rock my world and wouldn't be out of place worn as bandanas (no kidding). On a slightly more serious note, the service was great and pretty seamless. I did notice there is a 10% surcharge for groups over 6, which seems a bit counter intuitive let alone steep. Despite this, it's all pretty irresistibly cool at ACME; and would sit perfectly in the skinny jeans pocket of your bearded hipster man-friend. Now to the eats...


Fried parsnip, jalapeño cream. Definitely an early highlight, you can fry just about anything and put smiles on faces. These parsnips crusted and golden whilst still being tender inside, all you need is the tiniest dab of jalepeño cream (only mildly spicy) and you're cooking

Fusilli, broccoli, salsa verde. This dish was a little ho hum but will please the veggos. Freshly made fusilli with a green sauce and a sprinkle of quinoa for texture. Can I just emphasize that THIS is how you cook pasta. All nicely al dente, you want to keep it bitey!

Linguine, black garlic, burnt chilli (left) and spaghetti, calamari, Korean bolognaise (right). That black garlic sauce has a nice hum of salt and chilli and is pretty pared back, no nonsense cooking. The Korean style creamy spaghetti was very light on calamari which was a shame, because it was actually very tasty. The chilli in the sauce was a win

Macaroni, pigs head, egg yolk. Probably one of the most memorable savoury dishes I've had in a while. Once given a stir through, the egg yolk makes you go weak at the knees. Rich, glossy and entirely delicious. My bits of pork were a tad on the chewy side, almost like floss

Grilled radicchio, farro, capers (left) and shaved Brussel sprouts, walnuts (right). The sides have plenty of credibility and lots of flavour. The bitter radicchio leaves were offset with the crunch from the grains. Shaved baby sprouts - probably the most under appreciated vegetable of all time. And so good, when paired with walnuts like this

Truffle ice cream, candy apples. Probably the most decadent (and expensive) dessert, the candied apples were the perfect accompaniment. The truffle garnish is definitely for wow factor, with the flavour only barely coming through (Nooooo)
The portions may tend to be on the smaller size but that's made up for in the variety of dishes and original ideas. Creativity is abuzz and that really shines through in the food. Perfectly cooked pasta is sexed up with notes of chilli and umami. For every adventurous diner keen on pairings of drinks and food to share, ACME is your place. It's all a pretty sleek operation and you'll be pleased to know that they take reservations so you can make a night of it (or perhaps a Saturday lunch). Orr and his team have pulled off a restaurant with plenty of staying power. Cheers.

Malteser ice cream, candied bacon (left) and coconut rice cream, white chocolate (right). They certainly weren't skimping with these sizeable desserts. The maltese ice cream was a winner from the get go, but the bacon crumb needed to be more crispy - or otherwise a candied rasher would do just fine. The rice cream was raved about around the table, enough said.
Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Click to add a blog post for ACME on Zomato

LuMi Bar & Dining

Saturday, 2 May 2015



Hello Munchkins!
I'm back and I must confess it was a little harder than usual to get back into the blogging groove. This year has been fast paced, hectic and jam-packed with foodie amazing-ness that I can't wait to share. And how is it already May, pray tell?! First up is my peek at LuMi Bar & Dining, which has revived the obscure Pyrmont wharf where it can be found. P.S. get ready to feel zen at this incredible absolute waterfront that money can't buy (especially not in this town).


Veal tartare: a technicolour treat of veal, tarragon emulsion, roasted capsicums and buckwheat. Such a stunner, one of my favourite dishes of the night, brought to life with the textural buckwheat and astringent tarragon purée. You already had me at tartare...


Your first task is to locate this little restaurant, where few Sydneysiders have ventured before. It is tucked away with little signage from the main walkway along the water but the glow from dozens of light globes may be a clue (like a moth to a flame). The dining room clearly takes a leaf from the Scandinavians (devotees to minimalism), with a simple, modernist fit-out in hues of purple and green and looong open kitchen. The galaxy of bulbs that glow above you during your meal are more than perfect for the aptly named restaurant (which actually combines the names of Chef Zanellato's daughters Luna and Mia).


"You are confined only by the walls you create" - a window safety warning gets all philosophical on us. Now this is a room with a view

Chef Federico Zanellato had been honing his skills as head chef at top notch restaurant Ormeggio at the Spit before paddling out to have a crack himself. I think Italian-Japanese fusion is an interesting point of difference although Zanellato plays to his strengths with strictly Italian flavours (and I'm grateful for that). Although, the spin on chawanmushi was pushing the boundaries a little too far for me. With plenty of carbohydrates to keep myself happy, the eight course tasting menu flowed seamlessly and the service was outstanding.


Some snacks to accompany the first round of cocktails: cheese tartlet and corn, pistachio and horseradish on cos lettuce and potato and rosemary focaccia (left). Salt and vinegar rice chip (left). A few tasty morsels to get the tastebuds going - the rice crisp was by far the best

Chawanmushi: a Japanese inspired steamed custard, that brings together classic Italian flavours of tomato and basil. Mind-bending but I can't go past the original I'm afraid!

White cucumber with apple and sour cream. Someone has gone to town with a disc cutter here! A gorgeous dish that evokes Disney princesses and fairytales.  A lovely and light salad with sweet and sharp notes

Spelt ravioli with pumpkin, burnt butter, avruga (caviar, darling) and chives. Isn't this simply spectacular?! The pasta was definitely the star of the show, little translucent delicacies that explode their pumpkin filling in the mouth ¡Ay, caramba! 

Spaghetti alla Chitarra: scampi, bottarga (salted fish roe) and orange beurre blanc. A rich and creamy spaghetti that is not for the faint hearted. The scampi, scarcely cooked singing with notes from the sea (thanks to the bottarga). The pasta itself, silky and jet-black. So. Delicious.

Pork jowl with spinach, celeriac and quinoa. After those pasta dishes that took the cake, it's hard to keep up that level of excitement (for me anyway). The jowl, although cooked perfectly was a little lack lustre in terms of the completeness of the dish. It misses that imagination and creativity captured so well with other dishes. The portion size was also rather small

And then there was, DOLCE.


'Evergreen' - sorrel, lemon basil, mint shiso and parsley (left) and ginger ice cream, white chocolate, passionfruit and yoghurt crumble (right). The first dessert went a little stir-crazy with all the herbaceous inclusions. Although keeping to a theme, each element was competing on the plate and clashed. It needed another element to mellow everything out. The ginger ice cream was definitely a step up with a subtle, more muted flavour. Just a trace... 

LuMi Bar & Dining certainly sets its heights high with a bold fusion menu that intrigues. Chef Zanellato and team have ambition written all over this project and are to be commended on their efforts. The pasta dishes were easily a stand-out and show off the obvious talent in the kitchen. LuMi is an exciting addition onto the Sydney scene that is groaning with all the burger joints and barbecues cropping up everywhere. Enter a class act with plenty of finesse. Prego!

Thanks for reading gang!
xGourmand
LuMi Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

Brunchcity

Sunday, 22 February 2015


There's nothing much that beats a lazy loll about on a weekend, particularly with a Sydney brunch (I am most definitely biased). Happily, it seems the nation's past time has many incarnations across the globe. In a fresh collaboration by two artists titled Brunchcity, brunch is celebrated in all its glory. Combining Bea Crespo's talents in illustration and with Andrea Portolés behind the camera lens, Brunchcity has come to fruition with a dash of whimsy and fun. Taking inspiration from key cities around the world and the beauty in a simple meal, each brunch takes on miniature skyline cut-outs released in fortnightly instalments. The results are adorable, let alone delicious. As if the travel bug hasn't already bitten hard! 

Take a sneak peek below:

Barcelona *in your lispy best*, one of the best cities to explore (and eat) your way through Source: Brunchcity

The Big Apple, where brunch is a Saturday phenomenon often with a cocktail in hand! Source: Brunchcity

Athens, a place I'm yet to visit but is up there on the list. Just look how lush that yoghurt looks... Source: Design Boom
Lisbon. Does somebody say Portugese tarts?! Source: Design Boom

Brussels, best for waffle-y goodness Source: Brunchcity

Roma, the famed Olympic torch of gelato topped with none other than the Colosseum Source: Brunchcity

Here's hoping an Aussie city makes the cut one day! Just a quickie from me, more to come soon ;)

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand

Chiswick at the Gallery

Saturday, 17 January 2015



It only feels like yesterday that I was reviewing Chiswick on the leafy streets of Woollahra. As with all restaurant empires; one has the irrepressible desire to divide, multiply and conquer. Matt Moran has seized a rare opportunity to give the restaurant at the Art Gallery of New South Wales a timely revamp, opening Chiswick at the Gallery late last year. For years I had ignored the fact there was an upstairs restaurant - reserved for the likes of functions and weddings. The Caesar salad from the café downstairs was starting to look like an old friend. But times are a changin'!


Props. A complete transformation of what was already a prime location overlooking the Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf Photo credit: Chiswick Restaurant

Moran has injected the gallery with a bit of the Eastern suburbs Chiswick vibe and I'd say it's pretty welcome. One of the most pleasing restaurant interiors I've seen in a long time, not a sprig of rosemary is out of place nor a picture frame askew. It's freakishly perfect here. And light! There is light streaming in from the two sides of floor to ceiling windows. A great relief from the squinty darkness we have been enduring for ages in many (too many) establishments.  


Petuna ocean trout gravlax, fennel, mustard, dill. A started which was flying out of the kitchen. The gravlax was divine, and the fennel salad a low-key side. I could eat this kind of thing all day every day

Perched high on a stool at the communal table we had a view into the kitchen - this is usually a favourite spot of mine to dine were it not for the constant, sometimes frantic cry of "Service!". Under the pump, the noise emanating from the kitchen competes with the dining room. It got a little distracting I must admit. To the menu, and all the Chiswick tried and tested favourites reappear like the slow-roasted Moran family lamb. It's got signature written all over it, if you can look past the $72 price tag. That's like 72 killer pythons from the old days (imagine the possibilities). There's a decent range of dishes on offer, so you can build up your own menu or try the set menu which often includes an entry ticket to the gallery. As an aside, the Pop to Popism exhibition was a nice meander through the decades of pop art.


Pumpkin ravioli, broccolini, lemon, raisins. Delicate house made ravioli with a sweet pumpkin filling and buttery sauce. Faultless. MAJOR highlight/deliciousness going on here

Battered flathead fillets, chips, tartare sauce. Ever trusty on a summer Sydney menu, this generous serving definitely hit the spot

Pan-fried salmon fillet, fennel, quinoa, dandelion. This mesmerising piece of tableware detracted from the beautiful simplicity of this dish. The salmon skin was lovely and crispy, albeit a bit overcooked on the inside (for me anyway). More fennel on the side tick tick tick

And a sweet to finish:

Chiswick chocolate mousse cake with candied orange peel. A layered mousse cake hides under the dusted outer shell. It's a winner for texture and a sure-hit with chocolate lovers (raise your hands)

Modelled off the Woollahra, kitchen garden prototype - the ladies who lunch will be very glad to have a CBD outpost a stone's throw from the botanical gardens. Chiswick may appear elitist but it exudes an easy-going attitude that makes you feel at home instantly.   Now that the AGNSW has a restaurant to rival The Pavilion across the road, those enviable views just got a little bit better. It'll cost you a pretty penny - but what doesn't these days.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Chiswick at the Gallery on Urbanspoon

Civilian Bar & Kitchen

Monday, 12 January 2015



Happy new year readers! After a brief hiatus, I am ready and raring for a new year of foodie adventures. Let the games begin...

Say hello to your new friendly neighbourhood restaurant. Taking up residence where Universal left off (the old digs of Christine Manfield), Civilian Bar & Kitchen takes the fancy down a notch to deliver clever no fuss dining designed to share. Situated in the Republic 2 courtyard, along with the relentlessly packed Phamish; the outlook ain't half bad with an indoor/outdoor dining room and bar. With a relentless appetite for the 'next big thing', Sydneysiders are always on the lookout for one more bar/restaurant to have up their sleeve. Civilian certainly fits the bill.

Perfection from a dinky pork belly dish. Good stuff! Source: Mitch Lui for Broadsheet Sydney

It all starts with a pretty great cocktail menu. Divided into Darlo, Surry Hills, CBD and Bondi sections - there's something for everyone and for every mood. Personally I think I hit the jackpot ordering the Smoke n Salted Passionfruit Sour, but I'll let you be the judge.  
With arguably tremendous shoes to fill, Chef Andy Ball (ex-Claridge's and Bel Mondo) does an admirable job delivering a nice range of dishes to tickle the palette ranging from bar nibbles to larger dishes like Burrawong Gaian chicken with chermoula, espellette pepper and kohlrabi remoulade. It's already sounding excellent. 

The adorable menu holders, a nice touch for all the design geeks like me (left) and Smoke n Salted Passionfruit Sour (right). Coming from the killer cocktail menu, this was a vodka/mescal/lime juice/agave/passhionfruit concoction topped with salted caramel foam. Did you get that? Salted. Caramel. Foam. 

Snow crab, avocado purée, watermelon, radish and crisp rye (pwetty). This was a delicious crab salad type of dish. Ticking all the textural boxes - the threads of crab still took centerstage

Scallops, sudachi (citrus), sesame, edamame, yuzu mayo. The scallops were some of the plumpest things, and perfectly cooked. I could easily have gone for more of that mayo too, delicately piped onto the plate. Totally moreish

And once again for luck, pork belly with spicy miso, fennel, pear, coriander and mint. The pork as expected, was lovely and tender - the miso a nice, slightly spiced accompaniment that works well

The amazing house made Gnocchi with rosemary, artichokes, fennel, spinach and reggianno. This was utterly delicious - the gnocchi were a standout each light and fluffy with a delicate olive oil based sauce with artichokes (another favourite ingredient). So perfect and YUM!

DOLCE


Chocolate tart, hazelnut, salted caramel, banana and nutmeg ice cream. I always think of desserts as a bit of a puzzle, each element needs to sit just right and work into the dish as a whole. The nutmeg ice cream was a nice twist

Vanilla pannacotta, strawberry, meringue, pistachio sponge, lemon curd and raspberry. Unfortunately the panna cotta was not set properly and rather runny. The other elements were pretty solid however, all manner of sins hidden under all the toppings!

Civilian has hit lots of right notes with their impressive range of dishes (and let's not forget those cocktails) that deliver on texture and flavour. The service was friendly and attentive and the setting oh-so-relaxing. In the dog-eat-dog nature of the restaurant industry these days, I hope that Civilian gets the quiet recognition it so deserves. I'm sure the Darlinghurst locals will happily oblige.

Set up camp and while away the hours. You can't help but feel like you're on an island holiday. Don't mind if I do...

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Civilian Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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