Billy Kwong, Potts Point

You get a prize at Billy Kwong if you can read Kylie’s specials menu. Actually no you don’t, but you should get a free dessert or something if you can decipher it all. I almost made it, our friendly waitress intervened and helped out, but my main concern was checking that Kylie’s signature duck with blood plums was on there somewhere.billykwong (1)

If you haven’t heard, Billy Kwong has moved to Macleay Street in Potts Point, seating triple or so what the Crown Street site did – and – woohoo – it now takes bookings, no more queuing or waiting at any nearby dodgy drinking establishments to get a call after you put your name down on the list. Those uncomfortable stools are gone as well (they seem to have been donated to Hamish at Bar H?).

There is a long long long bar counter that spans the large kitchen, which is great if you want to eat solo or as a pair, and I reckon the staff easily clock up their required daily FitBit miles walking the length of that counter a few times.

There were six of us and we opted for a la’ carte, but there is a “Kylie’s banquet” for $75 where they choose the dishes. I didn’t realise till I went through the photos just how much we ate – we gave that menu a good nudge!  I know that some people will say that you pay overs for Chinese here, but remember that everything in the restaurant is organic where possible, and all the seafood sustainably sourced.

Steamed mini steamed pork buns with Rooftop Honey. Mmmmmm. The Rooftop Honey comes from the beehives on the roof of the Wayside Chapel made by the homeless – Kylie has always been generous about helping those in need.billykwong (3)

Steamed Sydney Rock Oysters – simple and deliciousbillykwong (4)

Sung Choi Bao of Pork, Ginger and Mushrooms. This was probably the only slightly disappointing dish, it just didn’t have the zing and flavour of the others.billykwong (12)

Rice Noodle Rolls with Braised Beef Brisket, Black Bean and Chilli. These were a table fave, I was secretly hoping that someone would temporarily turn vegetarian so I could have two.billykwong (5)

Steamed Fish Fillet with Ginger, Spring Onions and Shiro Soyu – a classic Chinese dish well executed.billykwong (10)

Dry-fried Green Beans with Miso, Chilli and Sesame Seeds. I ordered these because I felt we should have some green vegetables, and they were really good!billykwong (9)

Crispy Skin Duck with Orange and Davidsons plum. This dish has been on the menu since the beginning I think.billykwong (8)

Deep Fried Fish Wings in Young Henry’s Pearl Ale. Something a little different and good flavour and texturebillykwong (6)

Cantonese style Fried Rice. A good pepper hit in here or some other spice?billykwong (7)

Ginger soy pannacotta. Everyone claimed to be too full for dessert so only two of us ordered one. However once everyone tried a spoon full there was almost some fighting at the table. Really smooth and a subtle ginger flavour. The Chinese may have claimed they were the first ones to invent noodles and pasta, but the Italians have one up on the pannacotta stakes!billykwong (11)

billykwong (2)Billy Kwong, 28 Macleay St, Potts Point, Ph (02) 9332 3300
http://www.billykwong.com.au/

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The Apollo, Potts Point

When The Apollo opened three odd years ago, it was hot hot hot. And it still is – totally buzzing on a weeknight, with most tables booked for two seatings. Jonathan Barthelmess continues to put some great modern Greek on the table, that a Yia-Yia would concede is worthy, even if it’s not the way her mother taught her in the village. I’m here with the gal pals from work, and we opt for the $55 banquet menu which leaves us rolling out of there, and the staff have kindly packed up the extras for us to take home.

We start with some fat, juicy olives, tangy taramasalata dip, and some delicious pita.The Apollo (1)

Then comes the sizzling saganaki cheese with oregano and honeyThe Apollo (2)

No Greek banquet is complete without a classic Greek saladThe Apollo (3)

Next is one of the stars of the night, a melt in your mouth delicious lamb shoulderThe Apollo (4)

Followed by some of the best roast potatoes I’ve ever hadThe Apollo (5)

And their roast chicken, deliciously flavoured but a little drier than the last time I had itThe Apollo (6)

We finish with a desert of walnuts, filo pastry and coffee cream, a bit of a modern spin on baklava. I find it slightly on the dry side but love the coffee cream.The Apollo (7)

The Apollo, 44 Macleay St Potts Point, Ph 02 8354 0888
http://www.theapollo.com.au

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Tokonoma, Sydney CBD

Whoever would have thought that Bridge Street would become a bit of a food strip? Hats abound, with the likes of Bridge Room, Rockpool, Sopra, joined by a few more casual eateries. Tokonoma is the new neighbour by the crew behind Surry Hills’ popular Toko. Opening just before Christmas, it is in a little underground space that I think used to be Indian. Sandstone tiled walls, concrete floors and subtle Japanese touches make for a pleasant environment and the staff are friendly and attentive. I’ve been a couple of times now and am quite keen to visit again; it is not necessarily innovative or new Japanese, but some of this dishes are done remarkably well and will entice me back. The punters obviously agree as the place has been packed both times. The serves are a little on the small side though so you may need quite a few dishes to fill you up which can make it pricey. They also offer a $98 chef’s banquet. Below are a few of the dishes I have tried, I also recommend the lamb and the scallops.

Hiramasa kingfish, pickled daikon, ponzu, truffle – fresh and delicioustokonoma (1)

Sashimi omakase, excellent quality, and I love that it was served on ice, as I find some places don’t serve their sashimi cold enoughtokonoma (2)

Steak tartare, kojichan, fried capers, kataifi (little bit of Greek creeping in here and adding some lovely texture), quail egg. This was a favourite and certainly one to order.tokonoma (5)

King crab, soba noodles, tobiko, cucumber, saikyo miso – the only disappointing dish, I was looking forward to it but it was bland.tokonoma (3)

Scampi tempura, chili ponzu, ginger. A light hand on the tempura, not as good as Sokyo, but good all the same.tokonoma (6)

Black cod, saikyo miso, pickled ginger, hoba leaf – another must order. That miso sauce is something else.tokonoma (4)

Soy milk pannacotta, tropical fruits, black sesame. Loved this refreshing dessert too.tokonoma (7)

Tokonoma, 44 Bridge Street Sydney, Ph (02) 9251 8185 (entry via Lotus Lane)
http://www.tokonoma-sydney.com/
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Zucchini Parmigiana

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I saw this Neil Perry recipe in the Good Weekend magazine last weekend and knew it was something my vegacquarian husband would love. I did modify the recipe slightly though, as it used 1kg of fresh tomatoes, which I substituted with tinned, and I reduced the quantity of cheese from 400g to 300g.   I think some ricotta crumbled through the layers would also work beautifully. The breadcrumbs are a must, they add a wonderful texture to the dish. Aforementioned vegacquarian loved it.

Ingredients
Sauce
2 x 400g tins of whole peeled tomatoes
Salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
½ tsp raw sugar

Zucchini
6 large green zucchinis, sliced lengthways 3mm thick
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 cup plain flour, seasoned
Oil for shallow frying (I used canola)

 
100g parmesan, grated
200g mozzarella, grated
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, torn
1 cup stale sourdough bread, roughly chopped

 

Making it
1.  For the sauce, in a frying pan, heat the olive oil on a medium heat. Add onion and salt and sauté until soft. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, and fill one of the empty tins with water and add. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break down the tomatoes if necessary. Set aside.

2.  For the zucchini, whisk together milk, eggs, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Heat some oil on a medium heat in a large frying pan for shallow-frying. Working in batches, lightly flour the zucchini slices, then dip in egg mix and fry each side until golden (about a minute each side). Drain on paper towel.

3. Preheat oven to 180°C. Using a 2 1/2-litre baking dish, layer some of the tomato sauce mix on the bottom, top with a layer of zucchini, then with layers of parmesan, mozzarella and basil. Repeat until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of cheese. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.

4. Meanwhile, process bread to form coarse breadcrumbs. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and cook crumbs over a low heat until golden and crisp, set aside. Once the parmigiana is cooked garnish with the breadcrumbs and serve.

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Today’s cake – fig jam and ricotta torta

There are lots of nice figs around, so when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was keen to give it a try.  The recipe called for a 26cm cake tin, but once I’d made the batter I made a judgement call and went for a 23cm as I wanted a thicker, higher cake rather than a thinner, flatter one. I also think you could probably do another fig or two to get a more substantial layer of the jam.

figricottatorta

Ingredients
Fig Jam
500g fresh figs, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 5 large figs)
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon

Batter
300g plain flour
150g almond meal
1/2tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
210g unsalted butter, softened and room temperature
3 eggs

300g ricotta
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. First make the fig jam. Place ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until thick (about 20 minutes). Once ready set aside for an hour or until cool
2. While jam is cooling, place ricotta in a fine meshed sieve over a bowl and allow any excess liquid to drain. Then beat with a whisk until smooth.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, and line springform cake tin with baking paper. Place flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and process. Add eggs and process till batter comes together.
4. Place half the batter into the tin and press up the sides, about half way up. Top with ricotta, then fig jam, then cover with remaining batter.
5. Bake for about an hour – an hour and a quarter, should be a deep golden; if it becomes too dark and not cooked cover with foil. Remove from oven and leave in tin for 5 minutes before putting on a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

In My Kitchen, March 2015

We’ve somehow crept into another month.  Summer is technically over, but Sydney remains hot and humid, with the occasional cooler night.  I’m thinking about what I could plant in my small garden plot once my basil is gone.  But that’s outside, so here’s what is inside my kitchen this month.

An old pot of my Nonna’s.  When we were packing up the house when my grandparents passed away, I wanted a little kitchen keepsake.  She used to use this little pot, which is from sometime in the 70’s, to boil and egg or make a bit of tomato sauce.  I think of her when I use it, such a kind and gentle woman whose eyes lit up whenever she saw her grandchildren, and more recently her great grandchildren.

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Homemade vanilla extract – using vodka and vanilla beans.  Its about 3 weeks old in this photo, the beans need to have steeped for 3 months or so before its ready, but it already is smelling devine.  Apparently doing it this way gives a much better flavour than the store bought stuff (which apparently goes through all sorts of chemical processes) – I’ll let you know in June!

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Truffle butter.  The boys’ lovely Italian teacher was kind enough to bring this jar after her recent trip to Italy.  On my freshly baked homemade bread, its devine.

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And here is the aforementioned homemade bread.  My starter, La Figlia, a descendent of Priscilla, Celia’s starter (check out Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who hosts this In My Kitchen series each month), is going great guns and I now bake bread every Sunday morning. The boys love it.

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I also got some wicker bread proofing baskets, or bannetons as they are known in bread making circles. I made a small loaf of rye (that’s the rye on the right in the picture above) and left it to rise in one.

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In my kitchen you’ll find a food vacuum sealer, which Aldi had recently as a special buy.  Given my work schedule, I do rely on the freezer a lot (I figure its still better than takeaway) and my husband and I thought it would keep certain foods better (it does).

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And finally in my kitchen you’ll find a book I stumbled across, Amo la cucina Calabrese (“I love the cuisine of Calabria).  Calabria – the boot of Italy – is where my family hails from, and where my other Nonna (who I am named after) still lives.  This book contains some hardcore old school recipes.  Many of them are similar to Mamma Rosas in that they have no quantities and use phrases like “quanto basta” ie “add however much it needs”. Mamma Rosa’s recipes also contain “a piacere”, which means “however much you like”.  Both are very useful measures when cooking.

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What’s in your kitchen this Sydney Autumn?

Three Michelin Star Italian? Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong

It has taken me a few months to write this post up, which I suppose tells you something. I was in Hong Kong for a couple of days last December, and after a busy day of meetings, a few colleagues and I decided to try the Three Michelin Starred Otto e Mezzo Bombana, so named after Federico Fellini’s 1963 movie, and executive Chef Umberto Bombana.   It’s the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to get three whole sparkles, so I was expecting big things. It is in a shopping centre which does make for somewhat of an odd window view if you sit in that section of the restaurant; in Australian shopping centre fine dining has failed miserably.  But in places like Hong Kong, a city of giant interconnecting malls and hotels, that is where you’ll find a lot of the high end eats. There is an a la carte menu but most opt for the degustation, as did we. I wouldn’t call it traditional Italian, rather Italian influenced.

There were moments of brilliance, but only moments, and for A$280 each with only one glass of wine, we do much better in Sydney. Service was faultless which took it up a notch, but I doubt Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack would hand over three toques so readily.   So here was our menu:

Broccoli puree with house mortadella. Interesting combination – good as an amuse bouche – don’t think a big serve would have workedottoemezzo (2)

Seared red tuna with fennel pollen, tomato and citrus emulsion, calvisius elite caviar. Looked pretty, but unremarkable flavour. ottoemezzo (3)

Fresh porcini salad. I love fresh porcini, which had no doubt been flown in at great expense (this was an extra dish we ordered and not part of the degustation). I thought it had some kind of tiny egg on it, but it was actually a curd which I thought was unnecessary. ottoemezzo (4)

Artisanal trenette – scampi and Mediterranean flavour. I’m not quite sure what the “Mediterranean flavour” consisted of but this dish tasted strangely sweet, almost like it had sugar in it. Odd. One of our non-scampi-eating group had the ragu, and I had order envy – that smelt devine.ottoemezzo (5)

Roast blue lobster – winer salad, topinambur (that’s Jerusalem artichoke for the layman), lobster and mushroom jus. Nothing special here, the quality of the lobster was disappointing.ottoemezzo (6)

Maruya beef sirloin signature series – roast root, aromatic herbs and natural jus. Outstanding beef, perfectly cooked. Finally we’re talking.ottoemezzo (7)

Montebianco – marron ice cream, meringue and Chantilly. Loved this dessert, original, not too sweet, just the right size, good texturally. We end on a high note. What I did find odd is that an Italian restaurant would use marron in the name, the French word for chestnut, rather than castagna.ottoemezzo (8)   The price included some (fairly pedestrian) petit fours and tea and coffee.ottoemezzo (9)

Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong, Ph +852 2537 8859

http://www.ottoemezzobombana.com