Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ormeggios at the Spit

Had a spur of the moment lunch at Ormeggios at the Spit yesterday following a business meeting over that way, which just happened to finish conveniently at lunch time.  Have lunched at this location before but it was a different restaurant then,  however we had heard great reports about Ormeggios and also his latest venture at the new Westfields in the city.  Ormeggios at the Spit has one Hat in the Sydney Morning Herald 2012 Good Food Guide and is proud of being awarded this two years in a row.  The word ormeggio means 'mooring' or 'berth' in Italian - very appropriate for this site right on the d'Albora Marina.
Lovely dining room on a superb hot Sydney day.  By the end of our lunch, it was quite busy too with several large tables.

Chef Alessandra Pavoni previously worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in France, and was the chef at the Park Hyatt in Sydney.   His partner here is Fraser Guthrie, an old friend and colleague.  It is described as contemporary Italian cuisine with food from Brescian born Alessandra's home region of Lombardi.  There is also a charming Kiosk right beside the restaurant on the wharf.
The service was particularly efficient and pleasant.  Within minutes we had soft, warm bread and dipping oil on the table, and a caraffe of lovely Italian wine.  Clever idea as it allows a glass and a half each for $37, as against $15 a glass.  Perfect too for the nominated driver!  The wine was very good indeed - need to remember this one.
We both felt like the Ravioli filled with Romanesco Broccoli, anchovies, capers.   It was such a surprise - really unusual, light but tasty broth - very delicate and clever.  Excellent.  
For main course I ordered the Smoked Biodynamic Veal Rump, Vegetable Ash, Spring Onion, Bone Marrow, Thyme Oil.  Wow.   You immediately taste the smokiness, which then disappears and blends into all the other tastes.  The wedge of Veal was just 'melt in your mouth' and full of flavour with a hint of the Bone Marrow on the top.  The spring onion was a nice garnish, and the crispy fried Flat Leaf Parsley was a lovely addition.  Not mad about the Vegetable Ash but it looked good. 
 Hal ordered the Pork Scotch Fillet, Blood Orange, Hazelnut Puree, Walnut Crumble, Snow Peas.  Again, a surprising dish with lovely light and delicate flavours.   The Walnut Crumble was superb.
We ordered sides of Roasted Chat Potatoes with Rosemary (of course we did), and a Tomato, Olive, Spanish Onion Salad.  The Potatoes were delicious, and the Salad was a standout - light and tasty and simple with small slivers of olives.
Because the food was so good, we had to try a dessert.  We ordered the 'Egg on the Nest' - Mango Puree, Coconut Mousse, Milk Chocolate, Vanilla Fairy Floss. 
What an amazing dish.  They thoughtfully split it into two dishes, as it comes with two egg halves.  The chocolate shell and 'egg nest' was perfect, the 'egg' filled with the Coconut Mousse (egg white) and the Mango Puree (egg yolk).  The Fairy Floss just melted and the tiny mint leaves were really refreshing.  Extremely clever and impressive.

We ordered coffee - which was very good, and with it came these superb sweets.  Tasted like you were eating real fruit.
Hats off to Alessandro.  What a lovely surprise this lunch was.  Have to try his Westfield restaurant now.
My only criticism was the size of the dishes.  At $39 for a main, the meat served was very small.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Relaxed Sunday lunch at home

Had a very relaxing lunch at home yesterday.  The menu was:

Marinated BBQ Quail, Pan Fried Red Snapper on a bed of Runnerbean Stew, Roast Chat Potatoes with Olives and Capers, followed by Passionfruit Souffle with Passionfruit Icecream.

I cut the Quails in half, and marinated overnight in chopped Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh chopped Oregano, Fresh chopped Italian Parsley, 1 sliced fresh Chilli, Lemon Juice and freshly cracked Sea Salt and Black Pepper.
We BBQ'd them, placed on a platter of Rocket, splashed with fresh Lemon Juice and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo, but they were moist, tender and delicious.

I made the Runnerbean Stew that morning.  Very simple really.  It's originally a recipe I saw of Jamie Oliver's and I have cooked it several times, sometimes with Chicken.  Basically Anchovy Fillets and their oil, Chilli, Garlic, Fresh Rosemary, Oregano and Flat Leaf Parsley, Beans that have been put through a 'beaner' (gives you lovely strips without the 'side seam'), a large jar of Passata (Tomato Puree) and Salt and Pepper.  Just simmer till the beans are tender, and squeeze over the juice of one lemon. 
I then prepared the potatoes.  I can't remember where I saw this recipe, but I thought it sounded lovely (basically what potato doesn't!) and would be perfect with the Fish and Runnerbean Stew.  I boiled the Chat Potatoes then crushed slightly with a fork, tossed them in a bowl with Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Capers, Pitted Black Olives, fresh Thyme and Rosemary and placed on a baking tray covered with baking paper.   Then poured some White Balsamic Vinegar and more Extra Virgin Olive Oil over them.   Don't know why it's taken me so long to use baking paper, but it was the perfect way to cook this as the ingredients don't stick to the pan and you end up with all the crispy bits (and its so easy to clean the tray!).
They took about 45 minutes in the oven after this stage, which means they are out of the way while you prepare the fish.

I always pre-chop everything so I can spend time with my guests, so I had prepared a bowl of Basil Leaves and the Gremolata (finely chopped Garlic with salt, Italian Parsley and finely grated Lemon Zest) (both ready to scatter over the finished fish dish).   I also pre chopped some extra Italian Parsley to scatter over the Potato Bake.
I then cut the seasoned Red Snapper Fillets in half
and pan fried them in a tiny bit of butter.  I poured the bean stew on a large serving platter, topped with the Snapper, then the fresh Herbs.  Same with the Potato Bake.   I have to confess the photo below is not my dish - I completely forgot to take one.  In the one below which I found on the internet, they have used Purple Basil which explains what I thought were the 'missing' olives!
Before our guests arrived I had also prepared all the ingredients for the Souffle.   This is the fiddliest part but makes it so easy to finish - separating the eggs, buttering the dishes, preparing the passionfruit, which are always expensive and a bit time consuming to strain, but I love the taste.
After about 15 minutes in the oven, they were perfect!
I dusted with Icing Sugar and served with Maggie Beer Passionfruit Icecream.  Really delicious, even if I do say so myself!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Wonderful Thanksgiving dinner last night with my brother-in-law, American/Romanian sister-in-law and my two gorgeous nephews.  What a feast.   Pate to start, Roast Turkey with superb Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Creamed Spinach, Gravy (okay, it might have been more of a Jus!) and home made Corn Bread. 
Wow - did we do this turkey justice?
Followed by Pumpkin Pies and Cream
Then Cheese - if you had the room!  All accompanied by good wine.  What more could one want?  I could get used to this Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pork with Peppercorns

I saw this recipe by Bill Granger in Delicious magazine (which I really like), and thought it looked like a delicious and easy mid week meal.  Not a big fan of green peppercorns per se, but.... thought I would give it a go.
If you click on the picture, you should be able to easily read the ingredients - which are Pork, Green Curry Paste (I used Charmaine Solomon), Olive Oil (I used Peanut Oil), Green Chillies, Green Beans, Coconut Milk, Fish Sauce, White Sugar, Green Peppercorns and Basil Leaves.

When I try a new recipe, I like to 'sort of' stick to the suggested ingredients to see how it turns out.  However, I had to add one White Onion, sliced into eighths and two chopped Garlic Cloves - no question about it.  The rest I followed as per the recipe.

With a few changes, this is a lovely dish which is why I have included it in the blog.

First of all I only had Pork Loin Steaks which I sliced.  Next time I would use Tenderloin Fillet - wouldn't be as 'firm' when cooked.

Secondly, as I suspected, replace the green peppercorns with coarsely chopped black peppercorns.  Much softer and less bitter.

I served the dish with Quinoa cooked in chicken stock.  Delicious meal, but would be much better with black peppercorns.   Will try it again and let you know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ms. G's - Victoria Street, Potts Point

Been meaning to try Ms G's since it opened.  Am a big fan of Dan Hong's and Jowett Yu's food, especially when they were at Lotus (another Hemmes restaurant).    Dan is Vietnamese and Jowett is Taiwanese - so looking forward to this combination. 
Spur of the moment dinner last night with our son, who suggested we try it.  Good one!  Busy Thursday night, and parking around there is really difficult, so two of us headed inside expecting to queue while a car park was found.  Our name was taken, and we were directed to the bar upstairs whilst awaiting our third party.  As soon as Hal had parked and arrived, he was taken to the table, and the very efficient young Maitre D' came to collect us and our drinks, and took us to the table.  Very impressive for her to remember who 'Di' was amongst some ten groups at the bar!
This place has been through many incantations, and I love the old worlde rustic Vietnamese feel of the decor.

The staff here are amazing.  Extremely efficient, constantly roaming the room with eyes wide open, filling water glasses, removing empty plates, anticipating your wishes!  Very impressive.

We didn't want a huge meal so ordered the Mini Banh Mi-Crisp Pork Belly (mini bread rolls with
chicken liver parfait, twice-cooked pork belly and pickled veggies, dribbling with Sriracha chilli mayonnaise).  Really delicious and the perfect size.  No wonder these are so popular in Vietnam.
Then Prawn Toast (Yuzu Aioli, Herbs).  Crisp fried bread with a heap of Prawn Mouse covered with Uyzu Aioli.  Again, delicious and tasty.  Way too much Vietnamese Mint for me - it has that particularly strong flavour and I just am not a big fan.  A little goes a long way.   Unlike Thai Basil which I really love.
We then tried the Salad of Grilled Calamari, Crispy Pork Belly, Bacon Chilli Jam.  Not my favourite - the calamari a little tough although it looked great - all criss crossed.  The Pork Belly was very good.  Sorry - no pic of this dish.

Then Nigel's famous Wok Fried Lamb Noodles.  Lovely flat rice noodles and very tasty, but the lamb was so tough you couldn't bite it.
Then the Braised Wagyu Beef Shin 'Pho Style', Konnyaku Noodles, Thai Basil, Aromatic Beef Broth.
This was the standout. The beef melted in your mouth (perfect after the lamb), and the broth was so spicy and tasty. 
And lastly the Grilled King Prawns with 'Sambal Matah' Eschallot, Lime & Chilli Relish.  These huge prawns came with lettuce leaves for wrapping with a dash of the Sambal, but again, too much Vietnamese Mint.  I was able to rummage through the leaves and find plain old mint leaves where were the perfect addition.
Very trendy, very noisy, but quick and efficient service.    I just can't lose the memory of the too strong taste of the Vietnamese Mint.  Hopefully it's seasonal, and won't be around if I visit again!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eveleigh Markets and JohnandPeter Canteen at Carriageworks

Attended our first markets here last weekend.  Been meaning to visit for so long, but........  Wish we had!
It's a true Farmers' Market and everything is freshly grown.  They are also open every Saturday.  There is an amazing collection of stalls, all under cover in a gorgeous old railway workshop.  Buskers and musos, so many 'tastes' you could do without breakfast.  Too easy to buy too much - which of course we did. Chicken Fillets, Lamb Backstraps, Striploin steaks, Pork Sausages, fresh Fetta, real Butter (and she threw in Buttermilk and her pure Milk), Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh extra large Eggs, huge Avacados and more!
We will be returning very soon. 

And the best part is the opening of JohnandPeter Canteen at Carriageworks.

Such a lovely space, very bright and open, with the breeze softly blowing the long white fringe. It's actually a huge old warehouse and its only when you look up that you see all the extremely butch and industrial metal scaffolding and hoists.
Former Onde chef Laif Etournaud and chef Genevieve Copeland (formerly of Lotus) are part of this new restaurant venture. Johnandpeter catering, best known for creating the menu for Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s wedding, have created a glamorous and sophisticated dining space. Sharp, friendly service complement the equally impressive fine-dining Italian menu.

Three of us decided  to try lots of little dishes, which are designed to be shared:
Roast Brown Onions Burrata; Broad Beans with Ricotta, Lemon and Mint; Shaved Brussels Sprouts; Squid Ink Linguine; Roast Chicken; Pork Belly.  All really lovely.
We decided to have a dessert to share, and ordered the Mango Parfait, which turned out to be a glass of sliced fresh Mango, which they then covered with Champagne.  Light, but a bit disappointing.

We would return, and maybe even for dinner.  But certainly after our next market experience.

The Darling, Pyrmont

We flew back from Los Angeles last week, and ended up staying at the brand new The Darling hotel, part of The Star (Casino) in Pyrmont - after an $850m redevelopment.  Along with all the PGA golfers including Tiger Woods and Greg Norman.  In fact Tiger's huge 'goons' obviously thought I was a security risk to him as I seemed to be waiting for someone every time he was in the foyer.  Due to a mix up, we were given a gorgeous two room suite, with the largest bathroom/dressing room.
So we decided to try all the new restaurants in the newly revamped casino complex.

Sokyo.  We visited Sokyo restaurant twice.  Fabulous bar right off the reception foyer.  Amazing decor.  Trendy vibe.
Fabulous food - nearly as good as Nobu LA, and certainly fabulous for Sydney offerings.  No surprise to find out the Chef is the ex Worldwide Nobu Head Chef - at 29 years of age!
As it was over a week ago and we did go twice in the same week, I really can't remember all the dishes we had, and regretfully I didn't take photos.   On both occasions we also left our choices up to our waiter.   The standout for me was the Spicy Tuna on Crisp Rice and the Lamb Cutlets.  The fresh fish was so amazing.  Every dish was a surprise.  And they served warm Saki in a small clear glass, which was a lovely way to drink it.

Osteria Balla.  Stefano Manfredi's latest venture was disappointing to say the least.

It looks pretty, especially on a full moon night, and if you read his CV, you would expect an amazing meal.
The bar is jammed into the side of the restaurant overlooking the huge casino entrance albeit with a good view, but is separated from the restaurant by a rather unnecessarily large bar preparation area.  Ditto with the restaurant.  The design was clearly altered to provide Stefano with a 'stage' kitchen almost larger than the restaurant where he can 'parade' at the pass - which he sure did.  Someone raised this entire area, meaning that lifts designed to open directly into the restaurant are lower than the floor, and the bathroom doors are also too low.  Our tall son had to duck to enter.  Huge areas of waste space - stupid really. 

The food was overall disappointing.  To start I ordered the Quaglie e cipolle all'aceto di Barbera
(wood-grilled quails, onions, Barbera vinegar) as did Hal.  Not bad, tender, but a bit bland and pale.     I then ordered the lamb, Spalla d'agnello al pangrattato (wood-grilled lamb shoulder, herbs, breadcrumbs), as did my son,  and that's what we got.  Lovely barbeque flavour, cooked perfectly and very tender, but dry.  A little Aoli wouldn't have gone astray.  Hal ordered Maccheroncini, gamberi di fiume e sesamo (maccheroncini, butter, parmesan, yabbies, sesame) which was apparently 'not bad'.  We did order Patate al forno (roast rosemary potatoes) - of course, and though delicious, it was a tiny serve.  We really should have been advised to order greens of some kind.

Wouldn't rush back.

Black by Ezard.  The restaurant is on the same level as Balla, separated by the huge three level atrium entrance for the Casino. Very cool, dark interior, but a lovely buzz as soon as you enter.  You feel like you are in good hands. 
The service was excellent.  We decided to order mains only and splurge on the sides, which all sounded amazing.  The note above the mains states "Our signature seafood main courses are poached in Hawaiian ocean water before being served".
The Blue Eye special with a Quinoa and coconut sauce poured over at the table - delicious.
Striploin - Grain fed Angus 350g  - cooked to perfection and apparently fabulous.
The Veal Tenderloin, sweetbreads, asparagus, mushrooms, natural jus
And the sides -
Spring Peas (Buttered, pearl onions, bacon)
Mushrooms (Ragout, fine herbs, golden pastry)
Asparagus (Grilled, crispy prosciutto, quail egg)
Tempura (Cauliflower, brocollini, gruyere sauce)
Baby Lettuces (Grapefruit, almonds, tarragon dressing)

Watercress (Apple, celery, walnut, blue cheese)
and of course, Fries.

As this was all so delicious, we had to try a dessert - Passionfruit Cream
(Macadamia financier, mango sorbet, dried coconut).    Really lovely.
We certainly were in good hands and congratulations to the Chef Teage Ezard and Executive Chef Michael Tripp.

Not cheap, but value for money.

Blue Eye Dragon.  As we could not get into Momofuku, we heard about a Taiwianese Restaurant across the road called Blue Eye Dragon run by mother and daughter - Jade and Muriel Chen.
 Fabulous entry gates.
It has many awards, so we can't believe we've never heard of it, especially as its speciality is dumplings.   And they sell them frozen for parties.  Forget parties, I could eat them morning noon and night!
And even has a cookbook, which I was tempted to purchase (before I tasted the food).
It's in an old church hall, and cleverly but sparsely decorated.
In all fairness, we had had a business lunch that day so were completely not hungry.  But we just had to order the dumplings -

Chicken Won-Tong with House Chilli Sauce - interesting but the sauce a bit too 'tomatoey'.  That is them on the front of the cookbook above.

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings with Chives, Ginger and Shallot - too 'solid' and very gingery.
Prawn Dumplings with Water Chestnuts, Shallots & Chinese Celery - again, very 'solid'.
 Salt & Pepper Prawns - plump generous fresh prawns
then a main of
Tofu Stuffed with Minced Pork on Hot Plate - the tofu just a bit too firm and
Prawn Fried Rice - which was delicious.

I have to admit I wouldn't buy their dumplings - much rather buy from Din Tai Fung which now has a shop in the food hall in the Casino, and in fact we bought some to take away for Sunday dinner.  They were fabulous and very moorish.

Food was okay, but I wouldn't rush back.  And I never did buy the cookbook.