Monthly Archives: November 2012

MoVida Sydney

Frank, welcome to Sydney! Its great to have you here. The MoVida “empire” is growing, with three MoVide (I’m making up my own plural) in Melbourne, a bakery and taco offshoot, and even a bar at Tullamarine airport. Rapid expansion can be worrying, so of course an investigation of the family’s new addition was required to ensure it was all up to scratch.

Geez, 10 minutes to noon on a Friday and already a queue is forming out the door.  Like the Hosier Lane original, the place doesn’t have a lot of seats.  But the other good copy cat feature is that there is a section for walk ins. If you time it right (ie camp out) you’ll snare a seat.  This may be the way to go, as I hear dinner bookings are already very hard to come by. Also familiar are the booths for the bookings, and the bars and stools for the walk ins. I love the rich wood they’ve used for the tables and seating.

Our waiter advises that they’ve bought a few dishes across the border, but that they are trying to create something different and distinctly Sydney. I was hoping to see the pate with the Pedro Ximinez foam (devine) but it seems that one unfortunately didn’t get a passport.

One thing I’ve always really liked about MoVida is that you can order individual tapas items, rather than a serve. This means that when I’ve been with my vegacquarian husband, I can still indulge my carnivore tendancies and get to try a few different things.

Value, as always, is excellent, the food was less than $45 a person and I was comfortably full.

On the menu:

Zucchini filled with crab served with pea and mint gazpacho. A gorgeous fresh dish, almost a Japanese/Spanish fusion in my mind. Big tick to begin.

Burrata (roll those r’s baby) with vegetables, a special.  Nice and creamy, as burrata should be, but not as good as what I’ve had at some Italian restaurants.

Jamon Croquetas, a visiting special from Melbourne. Crunchy outside, creamy and flavoursome inside

Beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez with cauliflower puree. Silky smooth puree (a bigger dollop next time please) and fall apart tender beef. The beef on its own is very rich, but combined with the puree it is just right.

Spicy Pork Ribs on Charcoal. Finger licking good as ribs should be.

Charcoal grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce. The Romesco was a standout, could have had a bowl of that alone to spread on some fresh sourdough.

Really, we could have stopped here, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try desert. Leche meringue with candied almonds and caramelized fig, a special. While they called this a meringue, it was sort of a cross between a sorbet and an ice cream. It worked, especially with the gorgeous crunchy almonds.

Eyeing off the dishes of neighbouring tables, I’ll have to come back and try the zucchini flowers and the pork belly and the bocadillos, for starters.

Melbourne, we’ve sent you down Neil Perry, Mark Best, Shaun Presland, and Martin Boetz to name a few, thanks for sending Frank Camorra our way.

MoVida, 50 Holt St Surry Hills ph (02) 8964 7642
MoVida Sydney on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel

I had to have a go at making these Amish cakes that have had a revival.  I think I’d prefer a vanilla rather than chocolate flavoured biscuit.  Loved the salted caramel.


1 ¾ cups plain flour                          1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking powder                       1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup softened butter                   ¼ cup Dutch process cocoa

½ cup brown sugar                          ½ cup caster sugar

Whipped cream, to serve

1 egg

Salted Caramel

200g caster sugar                             200ml cream

140g butter                                         ½ tsp good quality salt

1tsp vanilla extract

Making it

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until pale, then and sugars and beat until light and fluffy
  3. Add egg, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well
  4. Add flour, baking powder, and cocoa and beat until smooth
  5. Using an icecream scoop, form balls of dough leaving a few centimetres in between
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly firm, then cool on a wire rack
  7. To make the salted caramel, place the sugar in a heavy based saucepan on medium heat and stir until melted
  8. In a separate saucepan, warm the cream, then gradually add it to the sugar. Be careful as it will bubble up.
  9. Turn to a low heat, add the vanilla and salt, then gradually add the butter and stir well until smooth.  It will seem runny but will thicken once cooled.
  10. Place in a glass bowl and cover tightly, or a sealed jar, and refrigerate
  11. When ready to serve, fill the biscuits with whipped cream and caramel, dust with icing sugar

China Lane, Angel Place

The first time I walked passed China Lane I almost missed it.  You see tables, but no obvious sign and no China-ish theming outside.  I looked at the menus people had on the tables outside to determine that I was at the right place. Look up though, and you will see a fabulous menagerie of birdcages.


If you’re going during warm weather, ask for a table outside on the cobbled pathway and people watch a little. The other reason that I prefer outside is that the inside is well, meh.  Its a 70’s look, wood laminate type walls, some green vinyl looking couches, a little dark. Not quite sure how it all ties together.

On both occasions its been a little hard to get the energetic waitstaff’s attention, they are all zipping around all over the place. But once you do have it, they are all gushing and friendly.

Its reliable modern Asian here, fresh, well executed, and I’m sure it will become a CBD regular, in part due to the fact that you can get out there for $50-60 a head if you want to fairly easily.

On the menu:

We began with crumbed duck (a special). Gorgeous presentation, but didn’t taste “ducky” enough, could have been any crumbed and fried meat.


Then the prawn san choy bau (also a pork version available) – very flavoursome


Then sichuan chicken salad with cherry tomato, chilli & black vinegar….ok but wouldn’t order it again. Chicken tasted like standard smoked chicken rather than sichuan.


Next a grilled dory with coconut sambal. This was my favourite, a delicate sambal that did not overpower, and finely shaved cruncy coconut for texture. However it is a fairly small piece of fish if it is meant to be a main course. (On my second visit we ordered another fish dish and that was also a very small main).


Then a rich soy braised crispy pork belly with chilli caramel, not for those watching their calories…..


And finally desert – strawberry Sichuan meringue with rose hip, hibiscus jelly & white chocolate, beetroot and ice cream. Lovely, light summery dish.  I liked what they had going on with the beetroot, wasn’t sure it would work but it did. And very pretty to look at.


On my first visit they ‘misplaced’ some of our order, and generously threw in three deserts and offered us a champage.  On this visit they unexpectedly also bought a complimentary sago and a black sticky rice with mango – thanks, nicely played!

They also offer a good value banquet if you’re with a group.

China Lane, 2-12 Angel Place  Sydney, ph (02)9231 3939

China Lane on Urbanspoon

Today’s cake – New York Cheesecake

Always a crowd pleaser.


200g Nice biscuits                                           75g unsalted butter

750g cream cheese                                         170g caster sugar

4 eggs                                                              3 egg yolks

3 tsp vanilla extract                                          1 ½  tbsp lemon juice

Top Layer

500ml sour cream                                            1 tsp vanilla extract

30g caster sugar                                              cocoa powder, for dusting

Prep work

  1. Grease a 23cm round springform pan.  Place 2 layers of foil on the outside of the pan (this is to prevent water getting in as the cake is cooked in water)
  2. Melt the butter
  3. Crush the biscuits in a food processor

Making it

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Combine the biscuits with the melted butter and then press into the base of the cake pan
  3. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, caster sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Process until smooth
  4. Pour mixture over the biscuit base
  5. Place cake pan in a large roasting tin, fill with boiling water until about half way up the pan, and bake for 45 minutes
  6. Meanwhile, for the top layer, beat sour cream, caster sugar, vanilla extract and pour over the cake.  Bake for a further 10-15 minutes
  7. Remove from oven, set aside to cool in pan
  8. Once cool, refrigerate overnight, and dust with cocoa powder when ready to serve

Gatto Matto Trattoria, Five Dock

Great name, Gatto Matto.  It’s Italian for “crazy cat”.  And when you meet the chef and owner, Paolo Gatto, you can see a little of the crazy – and I mean that in the nicest possible way (after all, he is Sicilian). Exuberant and welcoming, Paolo wants you to feel right at home in this light filled space nestled behind Five Dock library, and you know that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy.

Paolo and the team are one of the “next generation” of young Italian chefs opening trattorie around Sydney, with a slightly modern take on the great Italian classics. The menu is in Sicilian dialect, and I dare you to have a go at mimicking some of the guttural sounds.  Its got a nice selection of antipasti, pizze, paste and mains, so plenty to please a varied crowd if you’re going with a group. Incidentally, while I like it, how does the Venetian wall paper fit in?

We began with Nzalata di Puppu, octopus salad with fennel and oranges. A lovely and fresh combination of flavours.

Funci chini, stuffed mushrooms with smoked eggplant. A couple of these would be a nice little side with a steak.

Nannata, white bait fritters served in a bed of salad.  Mamma Rosa was like “why you ordering these, I made them last night, why you no come over?”.  And I must admit, hers are better, but it’s a different technique. Lovely salad dressing though.

Tubi, home made fresh pasta with Sicilian ragu`. A beautiful sauce,  “deep” as promised on the menu, with succulent chunks of pork sausage.  The pasta however was a little too on the al dente side for me.

Pappardelle a Marinara. Well executed, and as with the previous pasta dish, a generous portion.

Pisci Mistu arrustutu, grilled mixed seafood on a bed of rocket salad. Again, well cooked, and more of that flavoursome salad dressing.

We also had a sample of the pizza and the base was light and excellent.  So if you weren’t up for a full meal, it’s a pleasant environment to pop in for a quick pizza.  Overall, if I lived in Five Dock surrounds, I’d be a pretty happy local to have this in my corner.

Gatto Matto Trattoria, 2/4 Garfield Street Five Dock, ph (02) 9712 7770

Gatto Matto Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Sticky Pork Ribs


2kg pork ribs                                      olive oil

2tsp Sichuan peppercorns            8tbsp honey

2tsp dried chilli flakes                     5 whole star anise

300ml soy sauce                               3 cups Shaoxing rice wine

3 cups chicken stock                       medium knob ginger, peeled and chopped

5 tbsp rice vinegar                           3 spring onions, sliced, and one additional for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Heat a roasting tray on the stove top, add the olive oil, and brown the ribs on all sides, ensuring they are well caramelised
  3. Add the chilli, peppercorns, star anise, and honey and cook for further two minutes
  4. Add the soy, vinegar, and rice wine and bring to the boil
  5. Add the chicken stock and spring onions and bring to the boil
  6. Place in the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour
  7. Remove from the oven, place ribs in serving dish,  and return roasting pan to the stove top, reducing the reserved marinade for 10 minutes.  Coat the ribs with the marinade and garnish with additional spring onions

Serves 8-10

Today’s cake – blueberry, mango and praline trifle



200g liquid glucose                        500g caster sugar

150g slivered almonds                   2tbsp lemon juice

250ml Marsala                               500g fresh blueberries

5 eggs, separated                         1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

500g mascarpone                         1 pandoro

2 mangoes, sliced

Making it

  1. Place lemon juice, 125g caster sugar, and 125ml marsala in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Add blueberries and simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool
  2. Place glucose and 250g caster sugar in a saucepan over low heat, stir till sugar has dissolved and then increase heat , stirring occasionally, until a golden caramel forms ( 5-10 mins).  Add the almonds, stir through then pour onto some foil.  Allow to cool then break into rough shards. Reserve a handful to garnish, place the remainder in a food processor and pulse until a fine powder forms
  3. Place egg yolks and remaining 125g caster sugar in a bowl and beat until thick and pale.  Add the vanilla and mascarpone and beat until soft peaks form.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggwhites until soft peaks form
  5. Gently fold eggwhite into mascarpone mixture
  6. Place a layer of pandoro in a serving dish, drizzle with some Marsala, then spread with one third of the mascarpone mixture. Top with on third of the mango, one third of the blueberries, and some of the crushed praline. Repeat the layers
  7. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours
  8. When ready to serve, garnish with the praline shards

The original recipe appeared in Delicious magazine.

Gastro Park – seriously edgy food

I remember when this place opened. Oh, the endless jibes about the name, what were they thinking? But go there and you’ll forget the innuendo and realise exactly what they are on about.  Its a gastronomic playdate for your senses.  This is clever, creative food at its finest, and I’ll be back to experience it again.

It was a lunchtime visit, and I have to say the service was a bit slapdash and overfamiliar.  We also had to almost jump up and down to get their attention on occasion, hopefully they’ve got it together since then.

Given its proximity to Kings Cross, I’ve heard a dinner visit can be, ahem, colourful, with more than the food to look at. Kings Cross restaurants have been doing it tough of late, with Bistro Ortolan sadly closing and other restauranteurs saying they are finding it difficult.  I just don’t think its appealing as a suburb when you’re going out for fine dining. Hopefully this place does not have the same fate.

The photos of the food speak for themselves:

Puttanesca wafer

Foie Gras, Wild Hare and Beetroot

Mushroom and onion macchiato

Slow cooked egg, trompette sauce and fresh truffle

Liquid butternut gnocchi with mushroom consomme

Textures of duck with wild mushroom tagliatelle

Slow cooked quail breast

Smoked mash potato with truffle sauce

Nitro pavlova, mango, pineapple, coconut

Pain pardu with caramelised apple and balsamic ice cream

Gastro Park, 5-9 Roslyn Street  Potts Point, ph (02) 8068 1017

Gastro Park on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Classic Carrot

This has A LOT of ingredients, but its an awesome cake.

Ingredients – cake

150ml olive oil                                               
150ml grape seed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract                                        
4 eggs
300g dark brown sugar                                 
3 carrots
100g sultanas                                               
75g walnuts
50g pecans                                                   
50g pistachios plus extra for sprinkling on top
300g plain flour                                              
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda                             
Pinch of salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon                                 
100g apricot jam

Ingredients – Frosting
180g unsalted butter                                     
180g cream cheese, softened
350g icing sugar, sifted                                 
zest of 1 lemon and a tsp of lemon juice


Prep work

  1. Peel and grate carrots
  2. Finely chop walnuts
  3. Coarsely chop sultanas
  4. Finely chop pecans
  5. Coarsely chop pistachios
  6. Grease a 23cm round cake pan, and line base and sides with baking paper

Making it

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Combine oils and vanilla extract in a jug
  3. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high until thick and pale.  Reduce speed to low and add oil in a gradual stream
  4. Add carrots, sultanas and the nuts.  Sift over flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, spices and a pinch of salt.  Fold until all combined
  5. Spoon mixture into cake pan, bake for 45 mins.  Cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until skewer in the centre comes out clean
  6. Cool completely in the pan
  7. Meanwhile, to make frosting, beat butter on high speed with an electric mixer until pale. Gradually add cream cheese and continue beating until fluffy. Reduce speed to low, gradually add icing sugar, then lemon zest and juice
  8. In a pan, place apricot jam and 2 teaspoons of water over low heat, and simmer, stirring until its like a syrup.  Brush the glaze over the top and side of the cake and allow to cool.
  9. Spread the frosting on the cake and sprinkle with extra pistachios.