Tuesday, August 30, 2011

St Katherine's

26 Cotham Road
Kew, 3101

Normally when I venture in to a restaurant like St Katherine's it's snap, eat and get it on my blog asap. For some reason though, St Katherine's just doesn't seem to inspire "Tell the world", at least not with any sense of urgency.

St Katherine's is the latest in the production line of restaurants opened by the Calombaris empire and is a joint venture with Shane Delia of Maha.

Entering the doors of St Katherine's one is confronted with an expansive dining room which has more of a school hall cafeteria feel to it, light, airy, noisy and cutlery in old tomato cans. The menu for St Katherine's is lengthy and mainly Greek influenced. Being a quick lunch, we opted for the rotisserie of the day set menu which was made up of appetisers and roast chicken.

The daily bread - Hommus smoked almond vinaigrette - Tuna basturma, tzatziki, dill, cucumber

Appetisers got off to a good start, spicy tuna bastuma in tzatziki, smooth hommus and zingy pickled vegetables. All of this was served with bread that was delivered in a bag to the table and was titled as "Our daily bread". It was about here the penny dropped, St Katherine's is just a bit too smug and is trying to be a bit too clever for my liking. Seriously "Our daily bread"? I am sure they thought it was clever when they launched, just as I am sure that the wait staff suppress their inner groan every time they take this to the table. I also wonder why they think it is a good move to serve bread in a paper bag that has to travel all the way from the kitchen to our table. I'm certainly no greenie, but sheesh!

Rotisserie Chicken & Pilaf Rice

Anyway, now that I have got that out of the way, I can comment on the roast lunch. The rotisserie chicken in my opinion was perfect. Very moist, very tender and sections were roasted off to the point where the meat was brown and crunchy. Some would call this burnt and it could be construed as such, but they push it to the limit and do it well.

So given St Katherine's isn't exactly around the corner in a part of town that I do not frequent too often, I can't say that St Katherine's is worthy of a detour. The $25 lunch is reasonably priced for the standard of food, but it could be argued that similar food elsewhere would be sub-$20. I guess that is the price for dining in the presence of Calombaris, well perhaps not George himself, but there are plenty of his cookbooks at the door for sale to remind you exactly who runs this place.

St Katherine's - 3/5
St Katherine's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 28, 2011


336 Pacific Hwy
Crows Nest, 2065

Whilst not hidden away in Crows Nest since it is on the rather busy Pacific Highway, Sakana-Ya is almost anonymous along a very busy strip restaurants competing for dining dollars. On looks alone, the exterior and interior could be described as "plain as an arrowroot biscuit" which may be harsh but accurate.

However, like many things in life, appearances can be deceptive and in the case of Sakana-Ya very deceptive.

Kingfish Sashimi

The menu of Sakana-Ya would lean towards Izakaya style dining and as soon as the small plates come out one could almost be convinced they were in Tokyo. The first plate of Sashimi Kingfish was brilliantly plated almost looking like a mini Opera house. The fish was ultra fresh and high grade, definitely top class and certainly not arrowroot biscuit plain!

Yakitori - Chicken Balls & Chicken

Chicken yakitori is also another favourite of mine, one of my enduring memories of Japan is yakitori in Ginza and while not overly complex to cook, I am often disappointed by local yakitori. Sakana-Ya nails it, in fact I could have stuck with the sashimi and yakitori all night and left a very happy man.

L: Kingfish in Soy & Mirin
R: Tempura Crab

Fortunately for me though my fellow diners wanted to try the Kingfish in soy and mirin, another smash, the subtle sweet/salt of the sauce matched the fish and delivered perfect balance. The crab tempura was a treat with the lightly battered and perfectly cooked claws delighting all.

Sakana-Ya - An excellent Japanese dining experience and given the number of ex-pats in the room, I suspect the owners are quite happy flying under the radar and sticking with near flawless Japanese cooking at a reasonable price.

Sakana-Ya - 13.5/20
Sakana-Ya on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pommery pop up bar

Located in the newly refurbished Westfield centre point, this bar is uber cool serving Pommery Champagne for a mere $15 a glass.

Shame today its it's last day.

Hopefully it pops up again soon, preferably in Melbourne.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


320 Crown St
Surry Hills, 2010

With short notice, it is hard to get in to the better known Sydney restaurants. Marque - fail, Becasse - fail, Sepia -fail, Tetsuya's - fail. After discussing my challenges with the receptionist at Becasse, I was put on to Bentley and after a quick check online, we were booked.

Bentley is a few minutes out of the CBD in Surry Hills and manages to run a fine dining establishment out of an old bar with a certain relaxed feel to it. In fact it would be similar in feel to anyone who has been to Cumulus Inc. or Cutler and Co. as the same design team put this together and I have to say it works.

Arriving a bit early, there was space at the bar to enjoy a cocktail and take in the atmosphere. For a restaurant with two SMH GFG hats, it is very relaxed with a great buzz. No stuffiness, no preciousness and everything seemed to run smoothly which is always a good sign.

L: MUD CRAB with Sweetcorn, Ham & Prawn
R: KING FISH with Roe, Juniper & Baked Potato Broth

Once seated and presented with the menu, it didn't take long to order "Tasting menu with matching wines thanks" and with that dinner commenced.

The first two courses came out in relatively quick succession. The mud crab started proceedings and set the bar high. Delicious crab mixed with sweetcorn puree sandwiched between two layers of brik pastry. The pastry was the key to bringing this all together, good stuff indeed.

Next was the kingfish, this too was a smash, with the lightly poached kingfish enhanced by the roe and broth surrounding it.

L: JAMON POACHED TUNA with Khol Rabi, Squid Ink & Black Sausage Crumbs
R: BALMAIN BUG with Lamb Sweetbread, Black Bean & Coconut Curd

After a solid start, things got a bit rocky with the next two courses. The jamon poached tuna seemed a bit lost with the tuna not really benefiting from any of the accompaniments. Perhaps it is my love of simple tuna sashimi that meant that the treatment of the tuna was a bit lost, or perhaps it was the piece being an off cut. In fact one of the two plates had a seam of sinew which is not expected at a restaurant like this.

The Balmian bug similarly seemed a bit lost, the delicate meat was overpowered by the strong flavours of the sweetbread and blackbean. At this point, I also wondered if there was an aversion to cooking anything "well" in the kitchen. The bug was translucent and while I appreciate sous vide techniques, precision control and cooking until protein sets, I do wonder if at times this is done to the detriment of what actually tastes best.

After a solid start, things were getting shaky.

L: PORK BELLY with Wattle, Garlic Milk & Rhubarb
R: FILLET OF BLACK ANGUS BEEF with Carrot, Azuki Bean & White Sweet Potato Cake

Fortunately things turned around with the next two courses, the pork belly with wattle and garlic milk was a good example of complimenting rather than overpowering. The Black Angus beef offered similar balance with an element of surprise, the small pile of licorice powder offered a chance to mix two flavours most wouldn't dare, beef and licorice and surprisingly it works.

CREAMED CHEDDAR with Pretzel & Vegemite

Next came the segue from savoury to sweet. Years on from dining there I still recall how appalled I was with Attica's "Terroir", so my skepticism level was high with this course. Once I got me spoon in to it though, there was no need to worry. The shiny shards of Vegemite mixed perfectly with the cream cheese and pretzel. The quince at the bottom then brings sweetness as you get to the end of the dish. Clever, inventive, delicious.

L: CARAMELISED PINEAPPLE with Barley Cream & Beer Sorbet
R: LIQUID MANDARIN with Liquorice & Dark Chocolate

Finishing off the meal we were treated with two deserts, first off the palate cleanser of caramelised pineapple with beer sorbet. I loved this dish, the beer sorbet offered sweetness upfront but had a definite hop bitterness at the end.

The final course of Liquid Mandarin with Licorice and Dark chocolate was a perfect way to finish. The liquid mandarin was encased in the chocolate cylinder, with a crack of the spoon the plate was flooded with mandarin sauce. The ice cream, the freeze dried mandarin, the chocolate and licorice all combined in to one of the best desert plates I have had.

Complimenting all of this were matching wines from Australia, France and Italy. Each course was paired with its own wine and they all brought something to the dishes served, great value and definitely recommended.

So my final thoughts on Bentley are a conflicting, the food was quite good value for Sydney dining, but when there are some dishes that are a let down that lowered the overall satisfaction. I would recommend it and at the price it is a more palatable option than the likes of Quay which is now $225 for food alone vs $190 for food and wine at Bentley. I would also go again, but with more notice though I most likely end up at Marque or the ever elusive Tetsuya's

Bentley - 15/20
Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon


Level 5, 689 George St
Sydney, 2000

For all the concerns held over Google and privacy, there are moments when I think "Google, I could kiss you".

The cause for my Google joy was courtesy of results provided from searching "Best yum cha in Sydney". The results displayed on my android hand set led me to a SMH article and of the 10 yum cha restaurants listed Marigold was the closest to satisfy my dumpling craving.

Situated on Level 5, there is no street frontage and no way that an out-of-towner like I would walk by and think "That looks good, I'll give that a go". In fact the short elevator ride gives no clue as to what you will enter when the doors open. A massive dining room that can seat up to 600 diners and a parade of yum cha carts slowly circling the buzzing restaurant.

Prawn Dumplings

Somehow we managed to time it for instant seating and almost immediately we were asked if we would like some prawn dumpling from a lady carrying these by hand rather than by cart. These set a high bar, light smooth filling, well seasoned and cooked perfectly.

Sticky pork short ribs

Along with the usual yum cha carts, there were a few carts that offered less common yum cha fare. The station serving sticky pork short ribs is an example of this and I have to say I wish it were more common. The ribs were cooked to pull apart tender and coated in a sweet sauce that bordered on crystallizing with the amount of sugar in it, but they were simply amazing.

Siu mai and Steamed BBQ pork buns

Over the course of yum cha, there was nothing to disappoint. No gristly fillings, no over-steamed dumplings and a ton of choice.

Egg custard tart

Chinese cuisine in general is not known for great desserts, finishing the meal with the desert cart is always a risk of leaving with disappointment. The egg custard tarts at Marigold definitely do not disappoint, served nice and hot with a good amount of sweetness, they finish the meal perfectly.

Thanks Google and thanks Marigold for some great yum cha

Marigold - 13.5/20
Marigold Citymark on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Charlie and Co.

86-100 Market Street,
Westfield Sydney
Sydney, 2000

Spot the trend, tired run down establishment spends a bomb on renovation, relaunches with celebrity chef as a drawcard.

Star City isn't the only place in Sydney spending up on renovation, Westfield Centrepoint has spent around 1 Billion renovating and bringing with it big name stores like Prada, Chanel, Miu Miu and big celebrity chef's like Justin North.

One could almost call Level 5 in Sydney the North level with Becasse Restaurant, Becasse Bakery, Quarter 21 and Charlie and Co taking up a good percentage of the floor. Charlie and Co is Justin North's premium burger outlet named after the alleged inventor of the hamburger Charlie Nagreen.

The Federation Burger.
Seasoned Angus beef pattie with tomato relish, tomatoes, lettuce, aged cheddar, fried egg, bacon, sautéed onion and aioli.

There are options to eat in or out and there is a small licensed section so one can enjoy a burger the way they are meant to be, with a beer of course.

Now I am a bit sceptical of the gourmet burger restaurants, especially after my Grill'd experience. Fortunately Charlie and Co is a step above. The brioche buns baked in the Becasse bakery are outstanding and the meat is well seasoned. Almost every component is spot on, the only negative in my Federation burger was the egg which was cooked solid. I would have really enjoyed a bit of yolk runniness, perhaps they are risk averse to customers dripping egg yolk down their new Miu Miu outfit.

The Wagyu & Co. Burger.
Wagyu burger with beetroot relish, pickled gherkin, lettuce, aged cheddar and aioli on a sesame bun.

Sampling the Wagyu burger, there is a noticeable difference between the meat in this and the federation buger. I would say less seasoned and less chew more fat, either way I would be happy to go back for either.

Onion Rings

Of course a burger and beer also needs fries, we opted for the regular non-truffle fries which were hot, light and crispy, but these were outshone by the onion rings. The onion rings at Charlie and Co are perhaps the best I have had. The onion was cooked until sweet with a thin extra crispy shell.

So despite some initial skepticism, Charlie and Co is worth a look to satisfy a burger craving. Now if only I could get a table at Becasse as easily....

Charlie & Co - 4/5
Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

Fat Noodle

2 Levey St
Star City Casino Sydney, 2008

The casino that is commonly referred to as Australia's biggest league's club is undergoing change. A lot of change, $1 Billion of change in fact.

Part of the change alongside the facelift which is coming together nicely is to take Crown Casino's lead and build up foodie interest with some celebrity chef restaurants.

The first of these is Luke Nguyen's Fat Noodle. Located in the gaming floor of Star, it is a busy restaurant catering to gamblers in need of a recharge rather than a degustation marathon. Fat Noodle's fitout is smart and in the general theme of the new gaming floor with a menu offering a broad range of Asian dishes.

FAT PHO NOODLES - Chef Luke’s signature Beef Broth, thinly sliced Angus Sirloin & Brisket, fresh Chilli, Thai Basil, fresh Mint, Bean Sprouts, Rice Noodles

Looking over the menu, it is hard not to gravitate to the Fat Pho noodles after all it is the signature dish of the restaurant and it is hard not to like them. The generous bowl of Pho contains a great beef broth that allows one to create a "choose your own adventure" soup by adding in components as you go. A squeeze of lemon? Some mint? Chilli? All add a touch to this dish and at the risk of sounding all masterchef-y the acidity from the lemon seems to really add something to the broth.

At $17 for a bowl of Pho that I could probably get for 5 in Victoria St Richmond, it isn't cheap. But the quality is there, the extra slippery glassy noodles and tender beef make it a dish worth having if in the area. It also decisively beats anything in the food court too, until we get celebrity chef burgers in there.....

Fat Noodle - 4/5
Fat Noodle on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

La Belle Miette

30 Hardware Lane,
Melbourne, 3000

A friend of mine was bemoaning the mainstream success of the macaron, to a certain extent I could see where he was coming from. At the same time I also felt that this was a bit of "We hate it when our friends become successful" envy.

The truth is the macaron is as ubiquitess as the muffin or the cupcake and like all things that explode in popularity, some are winners whilst others are a fail. Quantity over quality and trying to do many flavors rather than focus on the fundamentals seems to be a problem.

Le Belle Miette seems to have it about right. Le petite shop leaves you with no ambiguity on what it is there to sell as one walks in to an array of visually perfect macarons. The level of surface gloss on some of these are bordering on reflective and the flavor combinations are all tempting rather than challenging.

In my first of what is likely to be many visits to La Belle Miette I tried four macarons. 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela), Caramel a la Fleur de Sel, Violet & Blueberry and Raspberry.

On the positives, they all had a delightfully thin and crispy shells, the almond meal ground to the point of no coarseness and all four had divine fillings. The standouts were the salted caramel and the violet & blueberry.

If I were to identify any negatives, it would be the level of chewiness was a bit wanting. The salted caramel was about right, but would have liked more in the others. It is a very minor criticism in what were otherwise great macarons.

La Belle Miette - Recommended.
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

Prawn Star