Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sydney’s must have pasta dishes

I have an obvious inherent bias towards Italian food. Due to my very traditional father, it was the only cuisine I experienced until I was about 18 years old. This wasn’t exactly a hardship, with things like fresh pasta, homemade salami (I still can’t eat shop bought), roast quail, osso buco, braised artichokes, knockout tiramisu and the like being regular features on Mamma Rosa’s menu.  But I’ve decided that Australia over the last 30 years, also has developed this bias.  I recently have been sending these write ups to a friend in London who left Australia some years back and other than Tetsuyas, the names he recognised, or asked if they were still around and got a positive, were the Italian ones – Australia’s love of Italian food has led to some impressive longevity in the restaurant stakes. In the inner city, Buon Ricordo, Lucio’s, Beppi’s, Bambini Trust, Buzo, Otto, A tavola, for instance, have all clocked up serious mileage, some of them two decades (do restaurants starting with B have higher survival rates?). And then you’ve got all the suburban staples like La Perla, Il Piave, Grappa, Il Perugino, La Rustica, Il Vicolo, some of which have been open since my parents migrated here.

These are the pasta dishes to look out for, in no particular order

The slow cooked 24 hour ragu Bolognese at Sopra

The vincisgrassi at Buzo (worthy of a scene from When Harry Met Sally)

The truffled egg fettucini at Buon Ricordo

The timballo Napolitano at Buon Ricordo

(And while you’re at it, the rigatoni with salted rock cod at Buon Ricordo, not always there but appears annually)

The pappardelle with bone marrow ragu at Pendolino

The crab tagliolini at Lucio’s

The white mushroom, burnt butter and truffle pecorino risotto at Mercato e Cucina

The pappardelle with oxtail ragu at Via Alta

The fresh egg tagliatelle at my mothers (I’ll let you know when I get it right, WIP)

And on the off chance that Giovanni Pilu reads this, keep that malloreddus with crab and guanciale please.

Now I usually get abuse / looks of horror when I say this, but Sydney Italian is better than Melbourne Italian. Stop it, yes it is. Try as I might, I can’t come up with a list of ‘go to dishes’ in Melbourne like that. I adored the crab and nettle pasta at Bottega, went back a couple more times especially for it, and the duck risotto at Lupino was fabulous, why did you take them off the menu? I’m not saying there aren’t good Italian restaurants, there are plenty, but not the stayers on the menus (fickleness down south, or boring-ness up north?).  Speaking of Melbourne, if you do want some of the great Calabrese cuisine I’ve grown up with, Sarti gets a big tick from me.

I had the pleasure recently, thanks to a dear friend, of attending a small dinner with Antonio Carluccio. He was very charming and entertaining, clearly a huge ladies man back in the day, and it was lovely to hear his life story. That night we had this wonderful Pasta Forno, and the recipe actually appears on his website. I had a go at making it on the weekend – its not a pasta dish, its an extravaganza. It got thumbs up all round in the Napoli Household.

While I’m at it, might as well turn this into a bumper Italian issue.  Fabulous summary in the SMH recently.  Yes, Pasticceria Papa’s ricotta cake is the best you’ll find anywhere in Sydney. Love Tamborrino’s rum baba.  Surprised they didn’t mention Sulfaro’s cannoli? And I’ve been going to Ranieri’s deli with my mum since I began to walk.  Do yourself a favour and get some of their truffle pecorino.

Have a fabulous week. Buon appetito!

Buon Ricordo 108 Boundary Street Paddington  ph (02)9360 6729

Cafe Sopra 7 Danks Street Waterloo ph (02) 9699 3174

Lucio’s Italian Restaurant 47 Windsor Street Paddington  ph (02)9380 5996

Pendolino 412-414 George Street  Sydney  ph (02)9231 6117

Buzo 3 Jersey Road Woollahra  ph (02)9328 1600

Via Alta, 197 High Street, Willoughby, Ph (02) 99581110

Pilu at Freshwater Moore Road Freshwater  ph (02)9938 3331

Buon Ricordo on Urbanspoon

Today’s cake – flourless almond and blueberry cake


1 125g punnet fresh blueberries                                       6 eggs

165g caster sugar                                                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

125g butter                                                                         250g almond meal

Pinch of salt                                                                        Icing sugar for dusting


Prep Work

  1. Separate the eggs
  2. Melt the butter
  3. Set aside 50g of the blueberries
  4. Grease a 20cm springform, line base with baking paper

Making it

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees
  2. Beat eggwhites on high, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat until soft peaks form
  3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks and sugar on high until nice and creamy. Reduce speed then add butter and vanilla extract, and then the almond meal.
  4. Fold in the eggwhite mixture
  5. Pour batter into tin, evenly scatter 75g of the blueberries on the top  and bake for an hour, covering with foil about half way if its getting too brown
  6. Cool in tin, turn out and top with remaining fresh blueberries and cream or sweetened yoghurt

Momofuku Seiobo @ Star

So, after watching the time counter on the website with the intensity of a shark watching its prey, and clicking at the right millisecond we finally got a booking. I just had to see if this place lived up to the hype.

Now at $175 per head for 14 courses, I’m thinking Tetsuyas, Vue due Monde, Claudes. Fine dining this is not, in fact we all did a bit of a double take at the ‘casualness’ of the place. No tablecloths, the chefs wearing baseball caps, and very few staff attending to your every whim. In fact the chef who makes each course brings it straight to the table to serve it when ready, which minimises the staffing, but they could use some elocution training to talk up the dish they have laid in front of us. We often had to ask them to repeat themselves. Its like the distinction between Sales and Trading in FX.

You don’t get a menu, so you don’t know what’s coming. They do give you one at the end with the bill but it only contains two or three words for each dish listing the ingredients and not a description of the dish (so I’ve done my best with names). The dishes don’t have the ‘wow’ presentation of say a Gastro Park, Bentley or Vue Due Monde – and so the bursts of flavour do surprise – and there is none of the kitchen theatre and artistry you see in the latter – its a quiet, calm, orderly place (except for the booming music).

First we had a little ‘snack plate’: Snacks of shitake chips, mochi, nori and smoked potato. (‘ma’am we don’t allow flash photography here’ – really? Are you kidding me? Hence the photos are a bit dark). Some really interesting flavours and textures here.

Then here is what we had on the savoury side:

Steamed pork bun – pork belly, cucumber and hoisin sauce (soooo good could have had 10 of these)

Striped trumpeter with blood orange (nice, but not better than you’d get at any good Japanese)

Marron served with fennel and a squid ink puree (beautiful fresh flavours)

Beef with radish and fermented black bean (the beef is hidden under the radish….good but not outstanding)

Smoked eel, Jerusalem artichoke. If you’re a Jerusalem artichoke fan you’ll like this, so I did.

Mud crab with butter, pepper and pudding. Flavour flavour flavour – an outstanding dish.

Egg with toasted rice and brown butter. Unusual dish, I liked the toasted rice.

Pea angolotti with a parmesan foam. I loved this, like the crab dish, flavours going on everywhere, and the texture of the parmesan was amazing.

Mulloway – cant remember what this was served with, but this dish was a stunner, 12/10.

Lamb neck with cauliflower and mustard. Bit disappointing, lamb was overcooked, nothing special.

And on the sweet

Pecorino with honey licorice and bee pollen (really unusual flavour combination), Poached peach with rose wafers, miso icecream with cherries (hidden underneath). The textured stuff on top of the icecream – not sure what it was – was fantastic.

Overall I wasn’t particularly impressed by the deserts. They were unique but not tantalising, but I did love the rosewater wafers.

Just when we said we were all totally full, there was a surprise dish, number 15, a candied 8 hour slow cooked sweet pork, which isn’t even listed on the menu they give you later on. We devoured this so fast (you have to eat it with your fingers, don’t wait for cutlery), we forgot to take a photo. It was melt-in-your-mouth devine. They kindly offered us a doggy bag if we were too full but there was no chance we were leaving even a morsel on that plate.

So the verdict – at $175 I think its a bit punchy, I’m thinking its more a $130-140 menu and set up. But as it only seats 30 odd people, they’ll be able to stretch this pricing out for a while till everyone who wants to go does. Would I go back? Maybe. But its not a once a year thing, maybe every couple.

Momofuku  Seiōbo on Urbanspoon

Is Via Napoli Sydney’s best pizza?

Via Napoli Pizzeria happens to share my surname. It also happens to be a couple of kilometres from my house, so I can pick up a metre long any night of the week (and I’m not talking about the stocky Italian wait staff). But unlike Luigi and his crew, I hail from further south, but thank the Napolitani for the invention of an Italian staple.

Many have claimed that Via Napoli is a contender for The Title. The place has been getting a tonne of press lately with all the big name Italian Chefs – Armando Percuoco, Adriano Zumbo, Alessandro Pavoni, and Giovanni Pilu for starters – showing up and giving it a plug. With a metre long pizza for $60, as opposed to Criniti’s $95, they pack them in night after night. There’s also a Fantasy Pizza (they really must change that name, sounds like a bad movie) every night, which is a random that pizzaoili feel like whipping up ….if you can, whisper to one of them find out if its the one with a heap of fresh seafood on it.

So does it get my vote? My favourite is still Lucio’s at Darlinghurt (sorry Luigi, but I still want to know where you got those briscola themed espresso cups) – the base, the quality of the toppings, the Lucio half pizza/half calzone – devine. The antipasto platter is great too. Via Napoli in my view has the stone oven – brought in painstakingly from The Motherland – temperature just a little too high, which can lead to a bit too much charring around the edges for my liking, and a softer centre. But its still on my list. I also like the calamari and the croquettes here.

There’s also RossoPomodoro at Balmain (don’t ask for an ‘alf and ‘alf, or pineapple, or any additions or changes for that matter, you’ll get a death stare from these pizza puritans), Popolo at Potts Point (on my to do list), Cavallino at TerryHills, and Pizza Mario in Surry Hills. I also used to be a fan of La Disfida at Haberfield, but I have not tried it since it changed hands.

In other news, no need to go to Melbourne any more, Movida has opened in Sydney! Hopefully Frank has the liver parfait with the PedroXiminez foam on the menu, and the Jamon croquetas. If not I’ll start a petition.

Have a great week

Via Napoli Pizzeria, 3/141 Longueville Road, Lane Cove, ph  (02)9428 3297

Lucio Pizzeria, 1/248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, ph  (02) 9332 3766

Via Napoli Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Lucio Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Gowings Bar & Grill

03 Oct 12 – If you’ve grown up in Sydney, you’d remember walking past the Gowings building on George Street. The store that always had the grey trackies, a Hawaiian style t-shirt for the office Christmas party, and a tent for the weekend camping trip. It was a time warp type store and it was iconic, until it went into receivership a few years ago. The tents and trackies are gone now, but the heritage exterior maintained and the interiors replaced by a shiny, quirky, retro-ish, eclectic mixture of places – a coffee shop, a couple of bars, the grill, and a 200 room hotel. Not sure if it’s a coincidence, but they paid $69 million for the building, and spent another $69 million doing it up….or maybe that just sounded good for the press. If you don’t go to eat or drink, go to look around – Robert, love what you’ve done with the place. We ran out of time but they offered to give us a sneak peak of the hotel rooms, all of which aren’t open yet.

As for the Bar & Grill, there were problems from the start. The first problem was that I wanted to order pretty much everything on the menu – it really all sounded good. Eventually I ‘settled’ on the Marinade of Blue Eye. Now sorry to sound like your nearest teenager, but Oh-Em-Gee. Divinely fresh and flavoursome. Then onto the half duck from the woodfired rotisserie, beautifully tender, on a bed of low fat Paris mash. I also sampled a companion’s quail – plump, moist and plain delicious. And if you go on a Friday there is a roast suckling pig (Lunch Only!). Then came the second problem – with the generous portions, I was too full for dessert, and I really wanted to try that zabaglione – oh well, I’ll just have to come back. And the acoustics were decent, we could actually hear each other talk. 

Pricing is a little punchy so its not going to become the new local (even a main course salad is $35), but for the right occasion it merits a visit. There’s also clearly been some bulk deal done on menu styling in Sydney – it’s the same style as the Morrison which is the same style as Felix – the whole ‘French bistro menu look’ – but in Bar & Grill’s case its backed by a colourful, playful board.

You can also do a spot of shopping on your way out and pick up some catwalk knock offs at reasonable prices – Top Shop opens on the ground floor tomorrow!

Enjoy the rest of the (wonderfully short) week

Gowings Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

The Hats and the Hat Nots

10 Sept 12 – The foodies among us always eagerly await each new release of the Good Food Guide, nodding our heads vigorously on the awards we agree with and wondering ‘who did they pay’ on others. I once watched a great doco on SBS called Heat in the Kitchen, which tracked three restaurants in the months leading up to the awards. The first was desperately trying to get back a lost hat, the second was just going about its business and was damn delighted to have one, the third didn’t even know what a hat was.

Win hat, phones ring off hook. Lose hat, stare at empty tables. Quite extraordinary the power these little toques have. So here’s a wrap up of this year’s notable changes

Debut Hats
Momofuku – three! – you’ve seen my previous Momofuku write up, think this is a little generous
The Bridge Room, two – its on my Overrated List
Balla, two. Its good I suppose, simple Italian food well executed, but I’m sure you could find a Nonna working in a restaurant in the outer suburbs producing the same at half the price. Or you could just to go my mother’s.
Xanthi, one – oh, that Baklava ice cream!
Apollo, one – keen to visit. Banquet looks like remarkably good value.  No bookings except for big groups, get there early apparently.
4Fourteen, one – my colleague to my right recently gave this place the thumbs up, both food and decor. He suggests you take at least 3 friends for optimum sampling
The Ortolan – need a Frenchie volunteer to vouch for its authenticity
Chiswick – one hat. Really?

Ups and Downs
Ormeggio, up a hat to two. Just lovely for a summer lunch, and well priced for the quality of food. I’ve heard whispers that the Eastern Suburbs set sneak OTB to try it
Buon Ricordo – up a hat to two. A long standing favourite of mine. Everyone should experience Armando’s truffled egg pasta at least once in their lives
Lucio’s – down a hat to one. The two decade long Armando/Lucio friendly rivalry continues.
Ms G’s, one hat. This place is great fun.

Quay took out restaurant of the year (again). Now I don’t know about you lot, but I find this place terribly overrated, and whoever keeps choosing their carpet really needs to rethink their calling.

Have a great week.

Barrafina on Bligh

03 Sept 12 – Looking for something to eat, three hungry people saw a bright yellow sign labelled Barrafina Tapas.  In we went.  Its namesake sits in the West End in London.  The owner assured us he’d been to that one “at least 600 times” and was determined to replicate it in Sydney.  He himself is a Greek from Bondi, but he’s imported a couple of Spaniards to keep it real.  I dare say they’re happy to have their hands on a 457. It’s an interesting yet familiar tapas menu, croquetas, jamon, chorizo, pork belly.  All got the thumbs up and the pricing is incredibly reasonable , giving us some respite  in this era of Austerity Measures. No doubt we’ll be back to work our way through the list on the blackboard . Given its pricing and proximity to the banking sextet, or however many of us are left in the surrounding block these days, it should do very well.  The takeaway jamon bocadillos at $10 look a steal, but we’ve been advised to call ahead and order before 12.30pm. If you go in with a hangover  (to pick up a Spanish style breakfast BLT with machengo), take your sunnies, the yellow stools and walls might knock you about a bit.

I’ve also got my eye on Bar H at Surry Hills.  The menu looks quirky and creative, and in the land of $45 mains, an 8 course banquet at $75 is a welcome relief.  Hamish’s pedigree is solid, including Chez Panisse , Milsons and Billy Kwongs. They also run cooking classes which look like fun.

Oh, and by the way, that suckling pig at Pilu on the weekend – the crackling was superb. But for me the dish of the night was the Sardinian pasta malloreddus with spanner crab, guanciale and crispy bread – worth a try if you happen to find yourself in Freshwater.


Have a great week

Barrafina Tapas Bar, 2 Bligh St, ph 02 9231 2551

Barrafina Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

The Morrison, Chiswick and other news

27 Aug 12 – The Morrison has just opened nearby on George St, Its Sean Connolly from Astral – he of the $1,000 a head menu fame – so should be ok. Looks like a direct competitor of Felix, even the menu styling is the same, though I don’t think its under the Merivale umbrella. Personally I love the atmosphere and room at Felix, but the food is just stock standard, so I’ll be interested to try this, and especially compare the duck liver parfait.

There’s also an Asian push happening in the CBD, with China Lane (sister of China Doll), The Century at Star, Red Lantern on Riley (love the look of the interior), and Mr Wong all opening, the latter reportedly costing $4 million to fit out. They’ll need to turnover a few XO pippies for that.

As for the restaurant du jour, Chiswick, the surrounds are just gorgeous, go for lunch not dinner. Its a beautiful light filled space surrounded by garden and grass. But the food to me was just so so. The crab sliders, which sounded exciting, where doughy and bland. The signature dish Moran family lamb which lines Matt’s daddy’s pockets was sublimely tender but lacked a punch on the flavour stakes.  It is however the place To See and Be Seen (mwah mwah daaaling), if you can manage to snare a table.

Off to Pilu this Saturday where I have my eye on the roast suckling pig. Have a great week

Chiswick, 65 Ocean St Woollahra, ph (02) 8388 8688

Chiswick on Urbanspoon