Friday, July 29, 2011

Scallops for Saturday lunch in Far North Queensland

We're up in Mission Beach (1 1/2 hours south of Cairns), so any seafood is necessarily frozen (unless you actually go fishing).  We bought a dozen scallops in Innisfail, together with a kilo of frozen green large Endeavour prawns for a later dish.   We had the scallops as a starter before we have a very late lunch of Roasted Pork Belly! 

Firstly I lay the scallops out to thaw, which they did in about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile I made the dressing.  A dash of White Vinegar (I used Champagne Vinegar), a dash of Sake or Mirin (I used Sake - see below), a few drops of Sesame Oil, a dash of Light Soy Sauce, a large splash of Fish Sauce, a tablespoon of Palm Sugar (which I grated), finely grated carrot and finely chopped green onion. 

To be truthful, it wasn't just Sake that I used.  As we drive through Cairns we always stop at 'Uncle Dan's' where the wine choice is far superior to anything in Mission Beach.  I bought what I thought was just Sake, but is actually 'Shiro No Takumi' - Japanese Rice Shochu which is a spirit filtered in bamboo charcoal - 25% Alcohol I hesitate to add.   Beautiful clean flavor just like a really good expensive Sake!

Then I set the table.

I then pan fried the scallops in a few drops of sesame oil and some olive oil.  While they were frying I wiped the shells and arranged on a platter.  I turned the Scallops after about a minute and sprinkled with freshly cracked black pepper.  After another minute I removed from the heat and arranged on the shells, spooned over the dressing, and served - with a glass of the Shochu over ice with a dash of freshly squeezed lime.  Absolutely delicious.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dinner - Pony Lounge and Dining, Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay

We met our son for a quick drink next door to Pony at The White Hart.  Interesting bar which the Designer Paul Kelly describes as a modern take on the unique classic English Ale House.  Trying a bit too hard?  Shame about the huge pillars in the middle of the lounge section.

We ran next door to Pony ducking to escape the rain and wind.  Unusual use of the long space, but pleasant and warm on a freezing wet Sydney winter's night.

The food was a cross between Mediterranean and South East Asian, and the menu by Damian Heads was interesting.     Lovely selection of small plates to share. 

There are two Pony Lounge and Dining - one in the Rocks and one in Neutral Bay, which is why the odd address on the menu.

Because two of our party had already decided on the Firstlight NZ Wagyu Scotch Fillet (250g) with Potato Dauphinoise, Eschallots, de Puy Lentils,  (which came perfectly cooked and I am told were incredibly tasty) we only ordered two of the small plates to taste: the Pan-Seared Calamari, Rocket, White Beans and Chilli, Saffron Aioli - which was delicious - looking more like a salad.  The dressing was very moorish.  And.... we just had to also have the Italian Pork Chipolatas from 'Victor Churchill', served with a small bowl of French Mustard - one each.  We love these sausages, having bought them before from Victor Churchill in Woollahra.  They lived up to their reputation and were tasty with the smooth mustard.    I could not contemplate a full main course so ordered a small plate of Seared Sirloin with Soy, Lime, Chilli and Lemongrass dressing which was really lovely and just what I felt like.  I also ordered a leaf salad, but obviously the waiter didn't hear me correctly because we were served Spinach Sauteed with Garlic and Chilli - which was piping hot and excellent.  I also ordered the Leaf Salad with Grape Tomatoes, which is what I really felt like.  The dressing was very pleasant, but the Spinach was actually better.

We wanted to sample their desserts, so agreed to share the Apple Flan, Apple Caramel with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.   This was demolished in seconds!  The Coconut Panna Cotta, Rhubarb, Ruby Grapefruit and Kataifi Pastry looked amazing as it passed by! Next time.

They had a big crowd for a cold, wet Tuesday night.  Cost was $246 for three with two glasses of wine and three beers between us.  We were impressed overall, and would definitely recommend it. 


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday lunch - Roast Pork Ribs

Cooked a delicious lunch yesterday.  I wouldn't normally include an 'ordinary' meal like this, but I have received a few recipe and food idea requests.

A cold drab Sunday.  The fire was lit, and I started to prepare the food - always enjoyable.

We had bought a superb piece of Pork Ribs from Hudson Meats - quite large, but there were three of us.  I dried the skin then rubbed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and salt for the crackling.  As we are leaving town for a few weeks, the usual game of emptying the fridge is on!  This dictated our vegetable choices.  I had somewhere seen a recipe for onions that I wanted to try - Spanish Onions cut in half and put in a dish cut side down.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sprinkle with freshly ground Black Pepper and Salt, strew with Bay Leaves, sprinkle with Brown Sugar and then splash generously with Port.  I covered these with foil for the first half hour, then removed the foil for the last 15 minutes or so.   Of course we had to have crunchy roast potatoes cooked with the Pork.

I put the Pork on first in a very hot oven for 30 minutes, then reduced the heat and added the potatoes to the pork pan.  This is when I also put the onions into the oven.  I also sliced a Red Capsicum in two, drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and black Pepper and added that to the oven.  I then cooked a whole cauliflower, which is virtually steamed as it sits up on its stalk, then just before serving covered it with 'Doodles' Aoli and freshly cracked Black Pepper and Salt.  A little disappointing - good idea, but maybe the good old cheese sauce would have been better.  It was also a little undercooked - my fault.  Then I briefly tossed some Kale in butter with pepper and salt.    Of course no meal is complete without PEAS, which I cooked with heaps of fresh mint, a sprinkle of sugar, salt and pepper, then drained and added a dollop of butter.

Unusually I had to help the crackling along by putting it under the grill  - which worked - thankfully as that is of course the best part.  I made a gravy, using all the vegetable juices with a splash of Kecap Manis for colour, then served. 

Tetsuya's - 35th Wedding Anniversary

We were given a $1,000 gift voucher for Tetsuya's, and decided to use it to celebrate our wedding anniversary which was actually Saturday night.  After much toing and froing, the very helpful girl who handles bookings got us in on the Friday night - which was perfect for us.  We had been to Tetsuya's many times before, but only once at the current city location - the rest at Tets' first restaurant in Rozelle.  I must admit we weren't too impressed the last time we went which was in April two years ago.   The food was virtually all cold and mostly raw, and the service was just so up itself it was painful.  We were made to feel we should stop having fun and just concentrate on the dramatic entrance of every course.  Since then they have lost a hat, and maybe this was just the kick they needed.  The attitude was much lighter and friendlier on Friday night.  We were immediately offered a mineral water and ordered a very dirty Belvedere Vodka Martini - which was very good indeed. We had to ask what the 'deal' was so we could decide how to get through the $1,000.  The food (10 courses) was $210 per head so that knowledge was immediately put to good use and we ordered a 2004 Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz from the Eden Valley (SA).  Nearly blew the guest certificate there are then - but oh so worth it! 

Were were offered a choice of two breads - white or sourdough roll with amazing butter mixed with Ricotta.   I only had a little taste knowing what was coming.   Then the food began to arrive.  First a Warm Chestnut Soup with Smoked Cream.  Delicious.

 Then the Sea Urchin Custard - served on a special board - very clever dish.
Then the Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange.  Superb.

Then Tetsuya's signature dish of Confit Petuna Ocean Trout with Konbu & Shaved Fennel.  We had this last time and it was delicious.  It came with a salad, but by now we were being very cautious knowing this was only the 4th dish!  Shame as the dressing was terrific.

 Next came John Dory with Ajo Blanco & Pil Pil.  No idea - but very nice.

Then came the Queensland Spanner Crab with Tofu and Foie Gras.  Terrible memories of Foie Gras from London, but.......  It was amazing.
Somewhere around here we ordered a second bottle of wine.  I know!!!!  This was recommended by our waiter and was excellent - a 2007 Kalleske Johann Georg Shiraz from the Barossa Valley (SA).

Then came the Breast of Spatchcock with Manjimup Truffle, Nettles & Hazelnut.  We both really enjoyed this dish.
Then the Shabu-Shabu Style Wagyu Beef with Braised Daikon, Ponzu & Wasabi arrived.  Well - we both literally fell on this dish and completely forgot to take a photo.  Delicious.
Next was a cleansing Hay-Infused Milk Ice Cream with Sorrel Granita.  Very unusual, but enjoyable.
This was followed by Bread & Butter Pudding and Tarte Tatin.  If only I could be bothered to cook desserts like this!
And then the finale - Spiced Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Salted Peanuts.  What a clever dish, but not my favourite.

That really stopped us in our tracks.  They very kindly printed us out a menu complete with our wine selection, called a taxi and then escorted us out to the waiting taxi.  Off home to a warm house - groaning with a really full stomach.  But what a fabulous meal.  Not something you want to do too often, but for special occasions it is highly recommended (surprisingly).

I would have to rate it


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another quick lunch at SakeSake

We popped in to SakeSake Isakaya at the Stockland Centre, Cammeray, for a quick lunch today.   Figured they deserved another visit and we wanted to stock up at Hudson Meats.  Very efficient and quick, although the staff are all Japanese and sometimes have trouble understanding.  We ordered the Bento Box this time - Sashimi of Tuna, Salmon and Kingfish (so fresh and tender), California Roll (rolled in crunchy roe), Chicken Teriyaki on a bed of salad vegetables (really tasty), Assorted Tempura (light and crunchy)  and Baked Kingfish with a Miso Glaze with some delicious slices of Tofu.  A cup of warming green tea with that popped/toasted rice taste was included.  We also made the mistake of ordering a side salad, but it was too big and we just couldn't finish it.

The Bento Box is not cheap - $28 each, but it is very generous.

Points slightly lower today - familiarity breeds contempt???


Points System

It's been suggested that I add a rating system for the restaurants we visit - obviously not the food I cook as that would be 10/10!  So, I think I will.  Which means going back and adding my points.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dinner at Wharf Restaurant

We were taken to dinner last night at the Wharf Restaurant, Pier 4, Walsh Bay.  Amazing location especially at night with views to die for - so pretty with all the lights. 

Long long walk to the end of the pier, and a lovely place to dine on a nice sunny day or warm night.  But last night it was rather quiet (not like the picture below), and absolutely freezing.  You are surrounded by glass, and the wind just blows under the floorboards.  Even with heaters (but not enough of them), it was freezing.

We were a table of 9 - not always easy, but the service was good, and efficient.  I started with the Crystal Bay Prawn Cake with Roast Cherry Tomato & Marinated Feta - looked pretty, but the 'cake' was very ordinary and rather tasteless, so I left most of it.   And I was starving!  Pretty is not enough.

I then had the Roast Farm Chicken with Sage, Almonds and NZ Yams (which were weird).   I can't say it looked pretty and the chicken was cold in parts and the strange too thick slice of breast(?) on the top was inedible.  Very very ordinary.

The Herb Crumbed Blue-Eye Trevalla on Spinach with a Lemon Mustard Dressing again looked good, as did the Steak, and I think both were enjoyed.  Guess I made the wrong choices!!!

So I think even on a lovely sunny Sunday you wouldn't get me back there.  Chefs Aaron Ross and Tim Pak Poy need a bit of a kick!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday night Chicken Dumpling Noodle Soup

What do you feel like on a cold winter's night after a hard day at the office?  A delicious Dumpling Noodle Soup.   So quick, easy, healthy and light.  I always make enough for lunch at work the next day.

Ingredients:  Chicken Stock, Noodles (I used Rice Noodles), Dumplings (I used Chicken and also Pork and Chives), Chinese Cabbage, Mushrooms, Bean Sprouts, Spring Onions, Chillies, Coriander and Thai Basil.

And I seasoned the chicken stock with a few drops of Sesame Oil, a good splash of Chinese Rice Wine and a big glug of Fish Sauce.  I add the HoiSin Sauce at the end.

My process - heat the chicken stock and sauces, add a handful of chopped spring onion, coriander and all the chillies (I used three), together with the mushrooms.  Meanwhile add the rice noodles to a pan of boiled water until separated.  Add the dumplings to the soup, and the cabbage. 

Place a handful of rinsed bean sprouts into the serving bowl, add a large handful of the drained noodles, then spoon over the soup, dumplings and vegetables, then sprinkle with chopped Spring Onions, Coriander and Thai Basil.  Add a dollop of Hoi Sin Sauce and extra Chilli Sauce if desired. Yum.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Lunch at China Doll, Woolloomooloo Wharf

Beautiful lunch at 'China Doll' yesterday.  Haven't been there since they first opened, and had judged them quite harshly.  Our memory of our first and only dinner there was their use of waaay too much soy sauce.  Not so yesterday.  What a perfect way to spend a sunny (albeit with a bit of wind) Sydney winter's day, with a gas heater helping the full sun keep us warm.  Spectacular views.  I've always loved the feature 'Willow pattern' wall, and the same patterned plates used as door handles in the loos.

The food is described as Modern Asian, but incorporates dishes from Japan, Hong Kong, China and SE Asia.    The Executive Chef is Frank Shek.   I think I want to take him home!

Whilst waiting for our guests - who were running late (family visiting from Melbourne), we ordered two excellent very Dirty Belvedere Vodka Martinis, with olives of course, and the Sashimi of Hiramasa Kingfish & Ocean Trout with Blackened Chilli Dressing (and pickled ginger).  Absolutely delicious, and one of the best sashimi dishes I have had in Sydney.  Once everyone arrived we ordered way too much food (what else is new?).   Steamed dumplings of Prawn & Green Soy Bean w Tobiko & Red Vinegar, Pork Prawn Scallop & Shiitake Shu Mai with Chilli Oil, Chilli Salt Squid, Sichuan Salt & Pepper Prawns with Chilli & Garlic, Duck Pancakes with Hoi Sin, Cucumber & Shallots, Crispy Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel and Nam Pla Phrik, Slow Cooked 200 day Grain Fed BBQ Beef Short Ribs w Pickled Cucumber, Whole Spice Crusted Fish w Thai Flavours, Barbeque Pork & Prawn Fried Rice, Steamed Broccolini w Oyster Sauce & Garlic and Jasmine Rice.  Phew!  All absolutely amazing, with the Pork Belly and the Ribs being the standouts.   Two brave souls ordered dessert - a Mille-Feuille with Apple Custard - almost too pretty to eat, but very delicately apple flavoured.   All enjoyed with excellent wines, and finished with a glass of 'Sticky' and - Expresso Martinis, which were very good indeed!

We loved the fact that they offered everyone sunscreen and a choice of sunglasses.  How thoughtful is that!  And some hilarious choices available!

The staff were extremely professional, and our waiter was the perfect blend of sense of humour, knowledge, efficiency and professionalism.

Not cheap - $1,200 for 6 adults and 2 kids.  Bloody Martinis!!  Thoroughly recommended.  We will certainly be back.