Saturday, April 28, 2007

WINE: MOET ET CHANDON Millesime Blanc 1999

Type: Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $100

A gift from some people at work. Wonderful. Moet is a champagne house that I have A LOT of time for. I believe the Millesime Blanc is made only during above average vintages and is supposed to be the best that the winemaker can do, but I could be wrong. I was never one for research.

I had this a few months ago and thought it was okay, but the place I got it from was a bit suss and nothing ever tastes great from there.

Mid straw with a green hue. Fine, persistent mousse and bead. Tastes quite nice. Green apples, pears, caramel and spice.

I like it, but I don’t think it really offers anything special. And for this price you want it to.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

RESTAURANT: Chilli Man Thai

Type: Thai
Location: 24b Letitia St, Oatley
Rooking Required: Usually.

My local Thai joint. Always packed out with people, but that has more to do with the lack of other options around here and the fact that the restaurant is tiny.

They do good food, but not great food, at a good price. If it wasn’t close to me I wouldn’t go out of my way to get the food, but at the same time I do enjoy eating it.

Good entrees, especially the golden bags and tofo tod. For the mains it really is trial and error about what to pick. I like the beef salad, chicken larb, pad thai, beef green curry, lamb basil and a few others. Duck red curry was a disappointment.

Service is pretty average so takeaway is a better option.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Victoria
Approx Cost: $18

The 2000 vintage of this was one of my favourite wines for under $20. It had a fantastic crispness and a great selection of fruit behind it. So I was nicely surprised when I noticed that the bottle I had in the fridge was the 2001.

I don’t remember the 2000 being closed by diam but I could be wrong.

Good mousse and bead for an Aussie sparkling. An attractive pale straw colour with a slight copper hue. Different taste. It still has all of the grapefruit, lemon, peach and apple, but it’s a lot sweeter; not as crisp. Finish isn’t great.

It’s still good, but just not as good. It’s almost like the tried to bring in more finesse with this vintage, but the crispness and bold fruit flavours is what made the 2000 such a good wine.


Monday, April 23, 2007

RESTAURANT: Shang Hai Yangzhou House

Type: Chinese
Location: 177 Forest Road, Hurstville
Rooking Required: No.

The last time I came here I enjoyed it but didn’t really notice anything special about it. But something was different this time. Maybe different food was ordered, maybe it was because it was dinner instead of lunch, maybe I was excited about the prospect of the 4 day Easter long weekend approaching when I went. But whatever it was, the second time around was an amazing experience.

The menu at this place is a monster. It has as many choices as most Chinese places (ie shitloads), but has a large picture for EVERY DISH on the menu. The resulting photo album is half the size of the table.

Went for the turnip cakes, fried dumplings, some sort of strange egg roll and a steamed dish I forget (dumplings?). All were fantastic. Chinese Noodle Restaurant were my favourite dumplings until now. A lot cleaner and crispier in taste. I couldn’t get enough.

Service wasn’t great but at places like this I don’t think you can expect much. Made up for it in value, which was nothing short of outstanding.

Two dishes into the meal Calypso and I began to debate whether or not to give out an illustrious “Will constantly return to” grading (only our second ever). When the dust settled and I had time to reflect, I decided that it was worthy.

RATING: Will constantly return to

Shanghai Yangzhou House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 22, 2007

RESTAURANT: Pizza e Birra

Type: Italian
Location: 500 Crown St, Surry Hills
Rooking Required: No bookings. Tends to get busy later in the evening.

Next step on the Surry Hills odyssey is the well-regarded Pizza e Birra.

Combining traditional, delicious pizza with Australian-style beer at a good price in a nice location sounded too good to be true. But it really wasn’t.

We entered the gorgeously renovated warehouse with dim lighting before the late evening rush and headed to our table with a more than healthy appetite.

A big stumble at the start of the evening with the waiters taking the order of tables that came in after us before ours, forcing us to wait for a while. But once we got past that the rest of the evening went smoothly.

A good menu combining all of the elements of Italian food: pizza, pasta, seafood, wine. But we were here for the pizza. Good wine list too. Some good local and Italian choices with a bit of a mark up. But we weren’t there for the wine. It’s all about the house beer.

We kicked things off with the perfect starter. An antipasto plate piled with cheese, bread and cured meat. I was concerned that because this place is fairly cheap they might skimp on the quality of their ingredients, but everything on the plate was good.

Great pizza too. The Proscuitto comes topped with plenty of slices of the meat, shaved parmesean and rocket. It’s a simple topping that I’ve had a few times before, but Pizze e Birra really nail it. Tried a couple of the others and they were also impressive. The bases are perfectly crisp when you bite into them, but aren’t TOO crispy or chewy like many other places that claim to be authentic.

The house beer (simply called ‘Birra’) isn’t bad. An Australian pale ale with some good fruity flavours and a lot of hops. Unfortunately a fair bit of sediment too. But you have to give them credit for at least having a house beer.

Finished off with the tiramisu, the yardstick for every Italian restaurant. Here it is pulled off very well. Also a nice Belgian chocolate torte with cognac custard on the menu that holds its own.

A good very nice evening at a very good price. While the service was a little sporadic, the food is fantastic and the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had.

RATING: Will return to

Pizza E Birra on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Tasmania
Approx Cost: $30

So the headline sparkling from out good friends at Taltarni wines. Okay, so maybe they aren’t really our friends and maybe there is no “us” just me. I don’t even know if this is the headline sparkling. And maybe I don’t remember if I like Taltarni wines or not. It’s safe to assume that I didn’t do my research here.

Anyway. I’m surprised by how fine the mousse and bead are. Rare for an Australian wine. Not super fine but still good. I forget the colour because it is now all gone and I forget to look at the colour. Mid straw from memory. The tasting notes on the website say it has a “Champagne hue”. For a sparkling white wine? How very odd.

The taste is overwhelmingly of dough and toast. There is the faintest of hints of stone fruits in there somewhere, like a peach rubbed against a slice of bread, but it’s barely noticeable. Long, bready finish.

I don’t mind this.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

WINE: GAPSTED WINES ‘Ballerina Canopy’ Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Victoria
Approx Cost: $30

An odd one. Towards the higher end of the Australian sparkling market. And no mention of this wine on their website.

Initially a fine mousse, which turns very heavy and dissipates. The bead also starts off fine but then grows and struggles under its weight. Light gold with a hint of green. Very fruity on the nose. Fruity on the palate. Citrus and peach with a little toasty kick towards the end. Creamy. Good length on the finish.

For $15 this would be a great wine, for $30 it is just middle of the class.


WINE: FOX CREEK ‘Vixen’ Sparkling Burgundy NV

Type: Sparkling Red
Origin: McLaren Vale, South Australia
Approx Cost: $20

Quite a unique blend, it’s made up of a mix of Shiraz, Cab Franc and Cab Sav. Wasn’t expecting much of this wine but it turned out to be very good indeed.

Midnight dark plum in colour. I think there is a bead in there somewhere but good luck trying to see it. Maybe it’s not, I dunno… Smells fairly herby, which is reflected in the taste. Blackberries dominate with a pinch of sugar, aniseed and assorted herbs. Reminds me a lot of the delicious Majella Sparkling Shiraz, but not quite as good.

I actually like the idea of this wine. It’s a unique taste and a well-made wine at a good price. One of the better Aussie sparkling reds that I’ve tried.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

WINE: BAY OF FIRES ‘Tigress’ Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Tasmania, Australia
Approx Cost: $20

I bought this wine completely forgetting that I have tried the headline sparkling from Bay of Fires (Arras) and wasn’t really impressed.

Very pale gold hue. It could do with a few days in the sun. Average mousse and a heavy bead which burns out fairly quickly. Orange and honey on the nose. Similar taste to the Arras, with the green apple and citrus to begin with, followed by a toasty finish. A bit of creaminess too.

I suppose it’s okay. I’d pick this up over the Arras, since it’s half the price and the quality is only just behind. But I wouldn’t pick it over many other wines.


Friday, April 13, 2007


Type: Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $50

I’ve had a couple of run-ins with Pol Roger and they were all positive. Definitely a consistent and value-for-money Champagne house.

That said, I wasn’t expecting this taste. Heavy gold/straw hue. Pours with a decent mousse and a bead that lasts well. But a lot more peach and toast than I remember. That’s followed by a sharp bite and a finish that is almost like beer. Very odd. Tastes like a mix between a Moet and Bollinger. It has both the crispness and the refined boldness.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WINE: D’ARENBERG ‘The Peppermint Paddock’ Sparkling Chambourcin NV

Type: Sparkling Red
Origin: McLaren Vale, South Australia
Approx Cost: $25

I fine d’Arenberg to one of the biggest hit and miss producers in Australia. They may some really great wines, but they also make some really mediocre wines. So I picked up this wine a little bit desperate, looking to fill up a mixed dozen of sparkling wines.

I think it sits in between their great and mediocre offerings. After spending a geat deal of time tempting the cork from it’s home, it pours a very vivid purple with a nice bead for a sparkling red. Smells like a red frog. Tastes like a mouthful of juicy berries. Blackberries, blueberries, mulberries. Very juicy and sweet with a little kick from the tannins. The taste of the colour blue is in there somewhere. Finishes a little dry.

Not too sweet and not too tart. A nice sparkling red that would go well in summer with some meat or berries. But not great though. Lacks anything special.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WINE: BIMBADGEN ESTANE Myall Road Botrytis Semillon 2005

Type: Sweet White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $17 (375ml)

I planned to make a pancake dessert lasagne so I needed a dessert wine to go with it. This seemed like the logical choice. First tried at the Sydney Royal Wine Show and then again at Fix St James, I was looking forward to have some time alone with a bottle to test it out.

This is really bloody solid wine. The colour of liquid gold mixed with olive oil. And a most delicious taste of peaches boiled in a sugar/honey syrup with a vanilla pod and some sultanas. Nice, smooth finish.

For only $17 this represents outstanding value. It’s sweet but not sickly and it works a treat with any sweet dish, particularly one containing cream.


Monday, April 09, 2007


Type: Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $45

Last time I tried this I wasn’t impressed in the slightest. Too much acidity and a strange herby taste to it that wasn’t very pleasing. But I decided to give it a go on the off chance that the bottle I had was tainted or my taste buds were a tad confused that night.

Nope. Same problems. The mousse and bead are a bit better, but the taste is still off. It’s a little better than last time, but still not a great champagne.


Saturday, April 07, 2007


Type: Thai
Location: 14 Lackey St, Summer Hill
Booking Required: Yes

Went with a large group to this tiny suburban Thai joint to find it absolutely packed. Squeezed in to the tiny chairs and tables and ordered a range of their dishes.

Delicious entrees from what we tried. Money bags with no seafood are different to the norm and tasty; and the tofu in tamarind sauce is the perfect texture and flavouring.

Mains are similarly pleasing, although a common trend throughout was a bit too much sweetness that many other Thai places suffer from. Also, they go heavy on the garnish (chilli, mostly) in some dishes, which is pointless.

I was really looking forward to the duck salad with coconut, but was disappointed to find only a little duck meat.

All in all not a bad meal. Good value, good food, nice d├ęcor, strange location that I will probably never go back to (since Newtown is closer and has more/better Thai), but nothing terribly exciting.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Thai Garn on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 02, 2007


Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $5

Last year some time I went through a period of drinking shit sparkling wines because the sparklings/champagnes I drank starting out were towards the higher end and I wanted to give my palette a bit of perspective. Looking at the list of wines I’ve rated, ordered by score, the bottles I purchased are all in the bottom 10 wines I’ve ranked.

Some how this bottle persevered. I got sick of crap wine and never got around to tasting this, so it just sat in a box of other wine for a few months gathering dust.

It pours like the retarded product of two-cousins fucking. The mouse and bead bump into the wall and become concussed then decide to stop. Pale gold with a hint of green. Smells like being stuck in an old train with a sweaty lemon tree carrying a bag of Greek food. Doesn’t taste too bad. Plenty of citrus on the tongue. Finish is pretty average. For this price it’s good. If you’re forced to put on a summer lunch for $10 and need to have a bottle of wine in the mix then this is would be a good option.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


Type: Italian / Modern Australian
Location: 111 Elizabeth St, Sydney
Booking Required: Lunch – Yes, Dinner – Rarely

I was so pumped for this place. Calypso had sent me the menu after he got it for a work lunch and I was drooling at my desk as I went through it. And then finding that they offered all of their dishes in a tasting size (think tapas) is what took me over the edge.

I was excited, dear readers.

We arrived to find the place empty but for 2 other diners and took our seats. The menu and wine lists looked great, so we went for it. The waitress was pleasant and helpful with ordering, offering to bring the dishes out in an order she felt appropriate. Although her reaction to our order of a pricey bottle of wine was a tad odd.

I think I’ll go dish by dish for this review. If that’s okay with you.

Duck and pork neck terrine with sourdough is good, if a touch dry.

Fresh figs with jamon is good, although a pretty standard menu item these days.

Seared scallops with cauliflower puree, pork crackling and an apple reduction is an odd combination of flavours which works, but not incredibly well. The entertainment factor is huge for this dish though as half of the pork crackling flies up 1 metre and across 1 metre and directly onto the floor when I try to cut it in half. The judges also enjoy the effort by Calypso to retrieve the half of pork crackling form the floor with no one noticing. A high degree of difficulty but he pulled it off. A real gold medal save.

If the fresh figs with proscuitto/jamon is becoming a restaurant staple then zucchini flowers stuffed with crab meat is as common as a bottle of wine on a table. At Fix, they’re nice enough but a touch oily and they lack a real smack of flavour.

Asparagus with fried cheese and fig jam isn’t bad but I don’t know if it’s the best piece of asparagus that I’m eating.

Duck ragout is tasty but the sauce is a little runny and the dish is lacking punch.

And the ever-preset mozzarella, tomato and basil salad is nice, but the tomato isn’t perfect.

For dessert, raspberry confit with mascarpone and raspberry sorbet is nice and the Bimbadgen Estate Botrytis Semillon is a good compliment.

Our waitress made a few strange comments throughout the night, almost indirectly commenting that we appear to be a bit young to enjoy such a meal. But that could just be us reading into it a bit.

A nice meal in a nice setting with a good wine list, good menu, nice food and an excellent concept (tasting plates) is the easiest way to sum up my Fix experience. There was nothing wrong with the evening, but I think the dishes lacked a wow factor for me to return there. If someone else decided that we should go there then I would be pleased, but I can’t see myself suggesting it.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Fix St. James on Urbanspoon