Monday, May 30, 2011

That Rocks

The Rocks Cafe
99 George Street, Sydney
It was a beautiful fall morning in Sydney and I was getting ready to scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So stoked! Upon being informed it was a thousand some steps to the top and back down, I was slightly less stoked and decided I need to have a champion's breakfast before my adventure.
Strolling over to the BridgeClimb headquarters at the south end of the bridge, I stopped by The Rocks Cafe to fill my tummy. The place was packed when I arrived in the morning. There was a huge lineup of patrons getting their early morning coffee fix.

After thoroughly reviewing the menu, I opted for the Rocks cafe organic granola. A bowl of toasted oats, mixed nuts and seeds arrived a few minutes later. Topped with strawberries, the toasted granola was crunchy with a hint of maple syrup. The granola was served with a separate vanilla yoghurt and mixed berry compote. It was pretty good.

Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. Small shop with elegant decor. Very inviting. The cakes featured in the window display all looked so tasty and amazing.
Food: 6 out of 10. Decent food. The granola I ordered was pretty simple to make. Should have tried something fancier.
Presentation: 6 out 10. Pretty average presentation but you can only present granola in so many ways; a bowl is always a good option.
Price: 6 out of 10. Average prices in line with most breakfast places I've been to.
Service: 5 out of 10. Average service. Nothing stood out as being spectacular or overly terrible.
Overall: 6 out of 10. Fairly average. Not exactly the champion's breakfast I was looking for but that was probably my fault.
The Rocks Cafe on Urbanspoon

The bridge climb was pretty amazing. I was clearly reminiscing my tasty granola in this picture.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Look at those Buns

Chefs Gallery
501 George St, Sydney
After another long day of exploring Sydney, we stopped by Chefs Gallery for some dinner. Chefs Gallery features a semi open kitchen so that patrons can see the noodle makers roll and stretch a blob of dough into stringy thin noodle pieces. It's a pretty neat experience if you've never seen it before. Unfortunately for us, we were seated on the other side of the shop so I couldn't see much of anything. We made our order and I tried my best attempt at creeper camming the action. Clearly didn't turn out as well as I had hoped.

The first to arrive was the plain grilled hand pulled noodles. Though simple, this dish presented the hand pulled noodles in it's purity. Garnished with fried shallots and served with soya sauce, the noodles was the star of the show. Rolled, folded and stretched when you order, the noodles had the perfect firmness, not too soggy, not too hard. The flavour was clean and refreshing. This was probably one of my favorite dishes of the night.

The next dish to arrive was the zha jiang hand pulled noodles. Served with minced pork and tofu in a zha jiang sauce and topped with carrots and celery, the flavour was much stronger than the first dish. I thought it was a bit too salty and was not a big fan of it.

Things began arriving quickly and I was having difficulties taking pictures between stuffing my face with the two bowls of noodles. The shredded pork and lettuce fried rice was the next to be brought out. For over $10+, the portions were looking awfully small, especially when compared to portion back in Calgary. It was decent but nothing about it stood out as spectacular.

The last non dessert item to arrive was the pan fried shrimp guotie (potstickers). I know y'all are thinking 'That doesn't look like a potstickers David...' But apparently it is. Sooo... Yeah. I was like 'WTF?' when the waitress dropped it off. I was fully expecting a dumpling looking thing. I did not expect it to look like some pan fried rice crepe. The shape totally threw me off. It was messed up I tell ya! Taste wise, it was decent so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.

So the main reason I decided to check out Chefs Gallery was because I saw a picture of their steamed sesame 'piggy face' bun. A favourable review on urbanspoon also helped. But look at it! It looks so cute! And tasty! I couldn't resist.

The spongy steamed bun is stuffed with a gooey sesame paste and decorated to look like a little pig. Awwww... Taking a bite unleashes the tasty savory goop on your taste buds. It felt like a party in my mouth. So good.

This is what I thought of it in these categories.
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. There were a lot of antiquey looking decor sitting around the restaurant. If the tables weren't around, I would have thought it was a museum or something. It had a nice inviting atmosphere. Which may explain the line up outside.
Food: 7.5 out of 10. It had it's ups and downs. Pretty good over all.
Presentation: 8.5 out of 10. Above average presentation. Points mostly coming from the sesame buns.
Price: 8 out of 10. One of the cheapest meals we had in Sydney. Not including the late night McDonald's run obviously.
Service: 6 out of 10. Average service. We had to ask for everything. But it's generally in line with most Chinese restaurants so I wasn't expecting much.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10. Above average. It's definitely got more ups than downs so I'd recommend it.

Chefs Gallery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Koalas, Kangaroos, Oh My!

12 Loftus Street, Sydney
Third(?) entry documenting the tasty meals I had while staying in Australia. It may be appropriate to point out that these entries are not in any sort of order. Especially chronological.
We went to Selah after a long day of getting lost on Sydney's transit system en route to the Koala Park. It might have been beneficial had I bought an up-to-date map with us. Or used the free one we received when we purchased our multipass. But maps are overrated anyways. I got where I needed to go and that's all that matters.

We arrived shortly after they opened for dinner service (like two seconds after), and not a moment too soon as it started pouring rain a few minutes later. We ordered the spicy salt and pepper squid to start. Served with a chili, shallot and soy dip, the aroma of grilled squid and various spices filled the air as it was brought out. As requested, it was only mildly spicy but still really good. The flesh was so succulent. Perfectly marinated.

For my main, I had the lamb. Served over a bed of chickpeas, goat's curd and finished off with a pomegranate dressing. It was probably one of the best lamb I've had in a while. The meat was so tender. The dressing was tangy and complimented the lamb really well.

My mom had the kingfish ceviche avocado and fennel salad (top), while my sister had the steak (bottom). They both thoroughly enjoyed their meals.

For dessert, we ordered the grilled figs (bottom) and iced nougat (top) to share. Of the two, my favorite was the iced nougat. Flavoured with passionfruit and oranges, the nougat was very zesty and fragrant. The pistachio crumble was flaky. Such a magnificent combination. It was too good to share. Unfortunately the hostess brought out 3 forks so my party helped themselves to my beloved dessert. The grilled figs were served with vanilla ice cream. Definitely not as cool as the nougat. It was good... But the nougat was better. You can be the judge.

So how does Selah rank on F-log for Thought?
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Nice intimate atmosphere. Simple and elegant decor. Kitchen is open with adequate ventilation so that you don't smell like you slaved in the kitchen for 5 hours to prepare dinner.
Food: 9 out of 10. Great food. Get the salt and pepper squid. It will change your life.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Some look better than others. Iced nougat looked like a work of art. Figs? Not so much.
Price: 8 out of 10. Decently priced. It wasn't cheap but the quality was there to justify it. Now that I think about it, nothing in Sydney was cheap. So maybe cross this category out...
Service: 8 out of 10. Great service. Staff was knowledgable of the menus. Water was topped up.
Overall: 8.5 out of 10. Very good overall. It was strangely quiet on the night that we went.
Awww... Look at these cute photos of koalas and kangaroos! It appears someone is tryin' to cop a feel there.

Selah on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Four Hour Affair

Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney
Nothing on my trip was set in stone except our lunch at Quay, followed by a ballet performance at the Sydney Opera House (Unfortunately, Opera season ended in April and doesn't start till June... Impeccable timing I know).
Coming in at number 26 in the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant (A one spot jump from 2010), Quay has been steadily climbing the charts in recent years and is a 'Three Hats' status award recipient for 9 consecutive years. Helmed by chef Peter Gilmore, Quay has been offering nature inspired dishes before it became the hot new thing. Two menu options were available; A 3 or 4 course menu with multiple choices for each course or the 8 course tasting menu. Searching through the Urbanspoon you will no doubt find several posts on the former. Though it all looks amazing and is very much drool inducing, I decided to go for the latter. As a wise friend told me (not in exact words) 'Go big or go home'.
So without further ado, I present to you the ever elegant tasting menu.
Situated at the end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal at The Rocks, Quay offers one of the best views of Sydney's most iconic landmarks- the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Upon arriving, we were seated by the window overlooking the Opera House. It was such an amazing view.

We were quickly presented with a seaweed pudding hors d'oeuvre upon ordering. Served on a shell plate, the pudding is garnished with sturgeon roe and leaves of baby arugula (rockets) and fennel. The combination was so flavourful yet very refreshing. If only the portions were bigger.

The first course to arrive featured thinly sliced pieces of Hiramasa kingfish sashimi with pickled kohlrabi, octopus, nasturtiums and white dashi jelly presented in a very tasteful manner. The little balls of dashi jelly have little leaves solidified inside. Biting into the jelly balls unleashed a flavour explosion unlike anything I've ever experienced. The kingfish was fresh and sweet. So good.

Course 2 features black lipped abalone and shiitake mushrooms braised in seaweed and oyster juice. It is served with a ginger milk curd and purslane. The abalone and mushroom were pretty amazing as it had absorbed all the tasty flavours of it's accompanying ingredients. The ginger milk curd was super smooth and not too gingery. A perfect mix in my mind. My dad used to make it at home but he always use too much ginger juice. I think the secret is to not boil the milk directly, provide passive heating over water instead.

Course 3 features native freshwater marron. Marron is a freshwater crayfish and, as such, exhibit a less salty and sweeter taste than their oceanic cousins. De-shelled and cooked to perfection, the flesh was sweet and succulent and the flavour was rich yet not overpowering. The dish is served with organic pink turnips, jamon de bellota cream, oloroso caramel, almonds and society garlic flower. I have no idea what half of those things are but it tasted super amazing. And that's all that matters right? 

A tea type drink was brought out for us to clean our palates after the marron in preparation for more tasty non seafood dishes. Slices of freshly baked sourdough bread were also brought out for us to savor as the remaining dishes were prepared.

Course 4 is the butter poached coturnix quail breast. Served over a pumpernickel and ethical foie gras pudding and truffle custard, the quail meat is then finished with crushed walnuts, quinoa and milk skin flakes. The flavour is much richer than the previous dishes. The quail breast was very tender which contrasted the crunchy walnuts and quinoa.

Pig jowl was the focus of course 5. Jowl is the lower part of a pig's cheek. Think bacon... But better. We were advised to pause and immerse ourselves in the rich aromas of the dish. The smell of pig fat and caramel filled the air, taking us to a whole new world of ecstasy. The meat was slow braised to an otherworldly state of tenderness. It would literally melt in your mouth when you take a bite. Topped with a layer of crispy maltose crackling (which also melted in your mouth) over a bed of cauliflower cream and prunes, it was simply amazing just like all the previous dishes.

Don't be fooled by the picture, course 6 was not the start of the desserts. It is in fact a giant chunk of wagyu beef poached in an oxtail and morel reduction and coated with farro and ezekiel crumbs over a pool of molé (chocolate) purée. It's a nice transition though. The beef was cooked to a medium rare. The molé sauce had a very strong cocoa taste but did not taste all sugary like a chocolate bar. It was pretty tasty but pales in comparison to the pig jowls and the quail breast in terms of flavours.

The start of the dessert began with the arrival of course 7. Under the recommendation of our hostess, we switched our first dessert from the jewel in the snow to the famous snow egg. Check out this sweet YouTube video on how it's prepared. He makes it look so easy. The meringue ball features a maltose biscuit melted around like an egg shell. This sphere of awesomeness is then placed on a bed of strawberry and guava granita (shaved ice). Cracking the shell reveals a sweet gooey custard. The meringue was so smooth and light. Words cannot describe how amazing the snow egg is.

Course 8 featured a caramelized white chocolate walnut palm blossom sugar brioche with a prune sorbet. It was decent but the snow egg was definitely the star of the show. They should have swapped the order.

Upon completion of our meal, we were offered a cup of coffee and a couple of bite size pieces of chocolate. The light brown ball was stuffed with a whole hazelnut with a hazelnut cream. It was pretty amazing. I forget what the other one was but it had a really rich cocoa taste.

This was by far the most amazingest meal I’ve ever taste in my life. It was also the longest. We arrived at noon and walked out shortly after 4. The staff was preparing for dinner service as we left. Speaking of the staff, the service was amazing! Water was consistently topped up, I don’t even recall my glass being less than half full. Ever. A brief description of the featured ingredients were presented to us as each dish was brought out. Annnd there was a mini vacuum like contraption that they used to clear the bread crumbs between courses. I’m a sloppy eater. Don’t hate. 
So what did I think of it?

Atmosphere: 10 out of 10. Amazing view! The interior was warm and inviting. The plush purple carpet was a nice touch. Do note - Dress for success at Quay. You will feel underdress in a golf shirt and chino pants. So if you plan on rolling in with a wife-beater and MC hammer pants. Don’t. Just sayin’. 

Food: A million out of 10. Delicious. Heavenly. Scrumptious! Soooo good! I would eat here everyday if I can afford to.

Presentation: 10 out of 10. Beautiful presentation. It looks too pretty to eat. So I captured the moment and chowed down. I'm not paying the big bucks to look at it.

Price: 10* out of 10. This is a very ambiguous category. If you look at the price, it is extremely pricey. But if you consider what you get, I thought it was worth every penny. All 22000 of them. Per person. It is really dependent on what you value more. If you are eating to not be hungry, then Quay is probably not for you. Would I do it again? That would seem unlikely. I would probably try the 3 or 4 course menus. But I will no doubt remember and cherish this experience for the rest of my life. 

Service: 10 out of 10. Impeccable service. The staff was professional and knew what they were talking about. Not like that fifteen year old who brought you your quesadilla at Applebee’s. 

Overall: 10 out of 10. Experience of a life time. Check out these sweet photos I took. No, I didn’t take these photos from a postcard! 

Quay on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I like it Raw

Masuya Japanese Seafood
14 O'Connell St
After a long day of wandering around the Sydney Central Business District, we stopped by Masuya Japanese Seafood for some dinner. Despite being located in the basement of a relatively quieter street, the restaurant was half full when we arrived shortly after 6. We were told that we needed to finished by 8. Pffft... If you can serve it in 2 hours, we can finish it in 2 hours. We quickly ordered some tasty looking dishes (the meal features photos of most items that actually look like the final product, unlike McDonald's).

The first to arrive was the organic tomato and green salad. It came with a separate lightly flavoured wafu onion dressing, which is a vinaigrette-style dressing based on soy sauce. Very refreshing.

The Nasu Miso arrived shortly after. This dish consisted of eggplants cut lengthwise and grilled. To finish it off, it is topped with a tasty house miso paste. The eggplant was very soft and mushy and the sauce was super flavourful.

The next to arrive was the rainbow roll. A California roll is topped with strips of salmon, tuna, white fish and avocado. The fish was really fresh and extremely tasty. 

The last to arrive was the sashimi platter. This massive boat of raw seafood made the small child in me jump and shout with glee (not literally). Packed with salmon, tuna, mackerel, scampi, fresh oysters, surf clams and several varieties of local fish, it was almost too much. Almost. We devoured the entire platter like champs. Not a single piece was spared. The fish was so fresh. The oysters, sweet and creamy. So tasty. *drools*

The we finished around 7 and were out there door by 7:15. Headed back to the hotel for a nap. Or two.
Anyway, here's what I thought of it -
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Nice restaurant. Very lively. Hard to find though. It's in the basement of some building with a dinky little sign by the entrance. Maybe it's because I'm a tourist? Though I did miss the street completely... Sooo...
Food: 10 out of 10. Amazing! Sooo good! So fresh. No funny fishy taste.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Above average presentation. The rolls were well made and did not fall apart when you try to pick it up.
Price: 8 out of 10. Maybe a little pricey but considering what you get, I thought it wasn't too outrageous.
Service: 7 out of 10. Average service. Did not stood out as being spectacular.
Overall: 8 out of 10. Awesome! Probably the best sushi I’ve had in a while.

Masuya Japanese Seafood on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Airplanes are not Shooting Stars

Do you base your flight options based on reviews of in flight meals by random strangers online? If the answer to the above questions is 'yes', then do you go anywhere?! The airline industry is not exactly known for their stellar in flight meal "options". The pre made meals generally look and smell like someone vomited in a dish. The quality has "improved" over the years, but it is definitely no 5 star restaurant. Hell, it's not even Applebee's. But you're hungry on your 14 hour flight and thus have to settle.
Flying on Air Canada for my trip back to Hong Kong (13 hours), we were offer three meals, which I've dubbed "this is slightly tolerable", "another bite will cause projectile vomit" and "I'm not eating that".
The first meal was a choice of chicken and pork. I had the pork. It came with a side of rice with hoisin sauce and mushy leftover vegetables. The rice was super crusty. There was also this corn salad type thing that tasted like it had gone bad last week. Oh and a block of chocolate fudge brownie. It was rock solid. It would probably be considered a weapon if it went through security.

For the second meal, there was a choice of chicken and beef. Except they ran out of beef. So I had the chicken with 5 spices. Which looked and tasted like the hoisin sauce pork I had a few hours ago. Maybe their hoisin sauce is made with 5 spices. Same crusty rice. Same meat texture. I swear I did not just take two picture of the same thing. The chicken came with a fruit cup which was definitely the highlight of the meal (all three meals actually).

Due to turbulence, the third meal was scaled back from a choice of instant noodles or sandwiches to just sandwiches with crackers. Which I didn't eat because I'm still scarred from the last meal. Only two hours till arrival. I can wait.
I wish I had more layovers.
Virgin Atlantic was the flight of choice when we flew down to Sydney. This 9 hour overnight flight featured 2 meals. The first meal, served shortly after takeoff, consisted of chicken with mash potatoes, salad and some fruit dessert brownie. I must say, I was super impressed with how it tastes. Though the bar was not set very high, I was pleasantly surprised. The chicken looked and tasted like chicken. It arrived in filet form too. Not a mish mash of chicken parts. It was tenderish and very flavourful. But not a “Can I get another gallon of water to wash down this dish of salt?” flavourful. The dressing for the salad came in it's own container which is nice. The dessert was interesting. The mandarins oranges didn't do it for me. It wasn't bad. Just meh.

The second meal was served just before arrival. It consisted of a sausage roll. I was like what? You're serving a hot dog for breakfast? Not quite. It was cut up pieces of sausages on a dinner roll. With sauce. It did not look at all appetizing... In fact, I would say that it looked pretty gross. I can't say I was a huge fan but it wasn't too bad. Best of all, it was served hot. So that was a nice touch.

So what did we learn after this entry? Virgin Atlantic is the way to go if you care what your in flight meal taste like. Virgin Atlantic doesn't offer flights to your destination? Then I guess you will have to go somewhere else. Or eat crappy airplane food. The choice is yours...