Saturday, July 23, 2011

THE LINKDOWN: Five Food Links

Monteiths: A single source of bastardry
Interesting beer story from New Zealand that has been getting a lot of press in the beer circle. Essentially, Monteith's have trademarked the name of a well-known style of beer and have gone to some lengths to stop other people from using the name. I'm not sure what leaves a worse taste in the mouth: this story or the actual taste of radler beers.

The Serious Eats Guide to Taco Styles
Food site Serious Eats takes a look at tacos. A very, very detailed look at tacos. Styles, types, flavours, whatever. This article is foodgasm stuff.

The Beer Diet!
A man lives on a diet of nothing but beer for 46 days. Interviewlarity ensues.

Marco Pierre White to Heston Blumenthal: The ten greatest chefs by Raymond Blanc
Legendary chef Raymond Blanc rattles off a list of who he thinks the 10 best ever chefs are.

The Congo Cookbook
African food is severely unexplored in this country, which is a shame because there are some absolutely killer dishes that originate from the continent. This site is an excellent resource for recipes from all over Africa.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


It's become something of a tradition that I take my mother out for dinner for her birthday. I think it started a few years back when I didn't have any ideas for presents and thought that a meal out with the world's greatest son in the world would compare favourably with Ferrero Rochers and nighties with pictures of dogs on them.

I can safely say it has become a tradition because as early as a month out from her birthday, my mother was already asking leading questions about where I'd take her this year. My father also looked on eagerly, again hoping to tag along and score a free meal. I struggled this year because it's not an easy question to answer.

My friends and I have grown up in the cultural melting pot that Sydney has become in the last couple of decades, so there are nearly no cuisines or dishes that are off limits. But my parents are of another generation. Entire countries are ruled out for how unusual their trademark flavours are for people not accustomed to them. A hint of pink in a steak can cause a fear in my father so palpable that I can momentarily hesitate from sipping red wine, for fear that it's only red because it's full of botchelism.

So when I decided to take them to Sepia for my mum's birthday, I was stepping out on a bit of a limb. Any red meat would be... well... red, ingredients that weren't present in suburban Sydney in the 60s would be on the plate (probably emulsified with rare meat) and there was the off chance that communists would be somewhere in the restaurant. And if my memory from history class is correct, everyone that grew up in the 60 just plain DISLIKED communists.

I'd been to Sepia twice before, but both times for the business lunch. So even though I kind of knew what I was in for. I also kind of didn't.

Would I be kicked out of the family because of an offensive gel?

What I was pretty confident of was that the service would be excellent: both of my previous visits had been punctuated by warm, friendly service. This time, no difference. The staff are all so calm and friendly that you feel comfortable from the minute you walk in.

There had been a small change in the kitchen, with former head chef (and ex-Fat Duck chef) Graeme McLaughlin having headed to Melbourne to head up Guillaume Brahimi's Bistro Guillaume at Crown. But with Martin Benn and Daniel Puskas in the kitchen, the food is still going to be spectacular.

On my previous visit I'd tried the Spanner crab and buckwheat risotto. It's still spectacular. Rich and full of shellfish flavour, but light enough so that you feel like you could happily eat it for the rest of your life and not get tired.

A take on scallop sushi is art on the plate, with droplets of avocado cream and pickled ginger sauce the only distraction from a few plump scallops, cooked perfectly and totally black from what appears to be a dusting of nori.

Jerusalem artichokes are a fantastic combination with egg and mushroom, so it's no surprise that the dish is delicious. While the slow-cooked egg is perfect and incredibly tempting, it doesn't wow me like the other two entrees.

To avoid any red meat awkwardness I'd sold my parents on Sepia having spectacular seafood, being backed by George de Costi and all that. They take the bait (ed: terrible pun) and it's seafood all round.

The scampi tail and murray cod with a shellfish jus is spectacular. Perfectly balanced between the sweetness of seafood and the richness of the jus. It just "works" on the plate and it's probably my pick for dish of the night.

Slow cooked ocean trout is perfectly executed and the combination of flavours excellent. It's an exciting dish, proving that it's possible to do a dish of confit of ocean trout in Sydney that's actually exciting.

My choice of main was probably the worst dish of the night. King George whiting with broad beans (I think) and tapioca pearls sounded like the sort of thing I love, but was the lacking flavour that every other dish had. It was made interesting texturally because of the tapioca pearls and the fish was perfectly cooked, but that was about it. It made me think back to the mulloway I had at Bentley a couple of days earlier and how much I preferred that, which probably isn't a good thing.

A side of roasted kipfler potatoes was delicious, with a hum of vinegar giving it that extra kick.

Sepia's chocolate forest dessert is fairly well known, so that was a no-brainer. It's a deconstructed black forest cake that looks like a delicious forest. And it tastes like a delicious dish, with so many textures that every bite is an experience. It doesn't quite reach the heights of the terroir dessert at Attica in Melbourne, which set the benchmark for edible forests for me, but that's nitpicking.

The "weiss" bar combines different textures of white chocolate and raspberry, and totally wins because of the awesome dehydrated chocolate mousse on top.

I'm a huge fan of savoury/sweet dishes, so the candied beetroots on the dessert menu call my name. It combines beetroot in different forms (cake, sorbet, whole baby beetroot, sauce) and it's an excellent combination of textures, flavours and inventiveness. The savoury "root" flavour of the beetroot still comes through which I thought could put some people off, but my parents both enjoy it, which speaks volumes.

We head out and I appear to have solidified my position in the family, which is great news. I've also gotten a fantastic meal in the process.

While I wouldn't rate Sepia as highly as the likes of Quay and Marque (my clear top 2), it sits with the best of the rest. I can see myself coming back soon to finally have the degustation. And for the business lunch. And for the wine bar. And maybe again for the a la carte.

RATING: Will return to [?] (unchanged)

Sepia on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

RESTAURANT: Bentley Bar and Restaurant

This is my second return to Bentley. Check out the review from the first visit.

We decided to play things a little differently on this visit. The first time we went all out with the degustation with matching wines, cocktails to start and after dessert drinks and coffees. This time we decided to go a la carte. A somewhat scary decision, since whenever I hit up restaurants like this the kneejerk reaction is to go the deg with wines.

Would the a la carte be enough food? How would we go with the limited choice? When will that rash clear up? So.many.questions.

The answers would be yes, very well and it depends on whether this new cream will work or not.

Instead of getting an entree each we get 4 of the dishes from the appetiser section and split those. They're refined tapas and they're pretty bloody good. The kingfish ceviche is light, tangy and herbal, which is a pretty ace way to start. Beef tartare with spherified wasabi is delicious, beautiful to look at and moreish as hell (which is moreish, from all reports). Smoked eel parfait succeeds because of it's clarity of flavour and mix of smooth and crunchy texture. Foie gras parfait with puffed rice and pickled raisin is a total stunner: smooth, crunchy, sweet, savoury, fatty, acidic. Probably the dish of the night.

The wine list has the whole range of champagnes from Jacques Selosse, one of the best, most unique small houses on the market, so we opt for one of those. And it's spectacular.

For mains we go for the capsicum and pepper flavoured lamb with chick peas. Like a homely stew in terms of components, but with an excellent clarity of flavours that gives the dish real excitement. The other option is the mulloway with a whole bunch of things I forget. It's perfectly cooked, light, excellently balanced and delicious.

To finish, the date custard with musk meringue and rockmelon sorbet has a great balance of flavours and textures, but my vote goes to the liquid mandarin which combines mandarin done in various ways with chocolate. A perfect expression of winter.

We finish and realise that even though we went a la carte we tried 8 different dishes and spent more all up. A curious result that will require more testing in future.

Excellent flavours, casual vibe, solid staff, excellent wine list. Bentley is still not up there with Marque and Quay in my opinion, but it's one of the best of the rest.

RATING: Will return to [?] (unchanged)

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 03, 2011

THE LINKDOWN: Five Food Links

British farmers forced to pay the cost of supermarket price wars
Great piece in The Observer about UK farmers getting screwed by their major supermarkets over there. Awfully familiar...

Junior Masterchef – Would You Sign The Contract?
Some of the details on the contracts that contestants (or, more accurately, their parents) are having to sign for the next season of Junior Masterchef. A lot of it is standard legal speak, but it makes me feel pretty creepy that there's the chance that some of it could actually be enforced.

The July produce report from Market Fresh (a really handy site if you want to cook seasonally). A quick run-through of the key fruit and vege in season with some good trips on how to prepare them.

10 worst food trends
Jonathan Gold, one of the top food writers in the world, compiles the 10 food/restaurant trends of 2011 that annoy him the most. Most seem to relate to chefs acting like divas and ignoring what customers want.

Beer History: The 'Other' Sour Beers
Sour beers are starting to undergo a real resurgence in the craft beer scene. This article has a look at some of the lesser known sour beers.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


I had my heart broken a while ago.

It was a busy Thursday night and I was out with a couple of friends looking for a meal. Everywhere was full and we were starving. Waiting was

We went to Shinara, our favourite Korean BBQ joint for their legendary all you can eat BBQ treats. And we found out that it was gone. Some new buffet shit was there and the grills were shit and everything was shit.

During it's heyday, Shinara was fucking insane. You paid $40 or so for all you can eat food and cooked it on your BBQ. Seafood, wagyu, yuukwe, pancakes, gyoza, ALL THE MEAT IN THE WORLD. I nearly died there 3 times. But then it started slipping; the food became more and more frozen. By the end, it was becoming borderline. And when the new management took over and the shitty buffet thingy happened I think I actually cried real meattears.

Only now have I felt ready to get back into Koreanbarbequeing. And what better place than Madang, the alleyway joint that has been named as Sydney's best too many times to mention (in all honesty I can't be bothered researching that).

So we go there and order and it's not all you can eat but it's still okay. I have to get over that. The BBQ is fired and straight away I see it's the perfect temperature: searing hot but with some cooler spots.

We get some meat and some yuukwe and some pork and kimchee and it's so good. And then the meat arrives and we cook that and it's awesome too. Better than any of the other KBBQs I've been to.

They have bukboonja (raspberry wine) and bak se ju which I see as essential KBBQ companions.

And the prices are okay for the quality and the service is good for a KBBQ and you just chill out and smash some meat and enjoy. They could improve on the quantity and quality of the sides that come with the meat (need more kimchee and more lettuce and not shit lettuce), but that's my only criticism. Madang is great.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Sydney Madang on Urbanspoon

Shinara Grill & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 01, 2011


Church St, Parramatta. The home of evil food. And here I am at an Italian restaurant with a lunch special that is way too cheap ($9.90 for a main dish WITH a drink).


I opt for the ragu with fettucine because it's one of my favourite dishes around. I know I'm setting a high bar.

And it doesn't really make it over the bar. The fettucine (which is apparently homemade) is nice. But the sauce isn't a ragu. It's a tomato sauce with chunks of dull veal in it.

The price is good and the serving is huge. To pay $9.90 and get a meal and a glass of wine is good in anyone's book. But it's not great. The restaurant is so-so. The staff are "okay".

If you want some cheap, decent Italian then it's a good place. Otherwise, I don't see the point.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Lianas on Urbanspoon