Monthly Archives: April 2013

Rockpool, Sydney

Rockpool on George was Neil Perry’s first baby from which his empire spawned.  It was one of Sydney’s early fine diners, and has had its ups and downs.  Three hats, lost hat, gained hat, closed and re-opened as a “casual” place, Rockpool Fish café (I went, didn’t like it, neither did everyone else apparently, it closed), back to being fine dinner, back to three hats.

I’m here with a dear friend, my food soul-mate, and neither of us have been here for a good few years.  Like me, she’ll drive across the Sydney metropolitan just to get that one key ingredient needed for a recipe, or go to a restaurant just to try that one special dish.  And I’ll admit I’m here tonight to try a particular dish, the layered pork tart with the chicken liver parfait (Rockpool doesn’t do takeaway, or I would have ordered it to go).

It’s a simple pricing structure at dinner, two courses, $110, three courses $135, four courses $155.  This is seriously expensive three hat dining, if you compare it to Est’s nine course degustation for $175.  Or Claude’s eight course $140 menu. And Momofuku’s 14 courses for $175. Or Marque‘s ten courses for $160. But I digress.

The menu is divided into four sections, but they are totally flexible about how you choose your courses which I really like.  So even though you go the four course option, you can choose one dish from section 1, two dishes from section 2, and one dish from section 4, or whatever other combination you prefer. This worked well because ‘section 2’ had the biggest hit rate of what we wanted to try.  What I also liked was that our charming waiter said he would tell in each section what was the ‘signature’ and what was the ‘most popular’ – interesting the divergence between the two.

So would you walk out of here and say this is a worthy three hatter? I really think it depends on your luck with the ordering. Some of thedishes were just outstanding, some ok, and some had one particular element of the dish (I hate saying ‘element of the dish’, sounds like one of the used-to-death Masterchef phrases but I can’t think of an alternative at the minute, so forgive me – incidentally, what’s with that whole “boys versus girls” Masterchef thing? Really? It appeals to my 8 year olds, but not sure of the demographics beyond this) that was outstanding and the rest so-so.  So if you got pot luck and ended up with all the outstandings, you’d walk out pretty impressed. Overall I think the Asian inspired far outweighed the others so go down that path if you end up there.

I also noticed a little card when they gave us the bill – they have a 3 classics dish Friday lunch for $65 – this is great value if you want to give the place a whirl.

To start we were given a canape of Queensland Spanner Crab, parsley, egg and fennel fondue. A nice little introduction but not particularly memorable. (Please excuse my photos, had my old camera which was on its last legs).

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Then onto what we chose:

Blue swimmer crab and corn congee, almond tofu, star anise scented peanuts, fried bread and chilli oil (section 1 signature). Wow. What a start. This definitely fell in to the totally outstanding category. Try this dish.

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Goats cheese lasagne, muntries, lavender kipflers, pangrattato and broccoli sauce (section 2 signature).  This was the ‘outstanding elements’ rather than overall fabulous. The actual lasagne itself was a bit of a shoulder shrug. But those potatoes. And that sauce.

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Quail with daikon, tong ho, nori and chilli condiment (section 2). Beautiful quail and the chilli underneath – again flavour. Neil knows his Asian flavours. Almost had a Julia-Roberts-slippery-little-sucker-Pretty-Woman moment with the radish though.

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Chicken parfait inside a one thousand layer pork tart (section 2). The dish I came for. The pork layer – fabulous.  But something was going on with the parfait.  It was overpowered with something acidic, I couldn’t quite tell what, but I could not taste the parfait just an acidic tang – it was really disappointing. It was also a runny parfait compared to most I’ve eaten, and goodness knows I’ve eaten a few.

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Lamb rolled saddle, bo ssam shoulder, celery, wheat infused soy beans, tea smoked mussels (section 3 signature). Bo ssam shoulder, mussels, magnificent. Lamb saddle nice and tender, but soy beans too hard.

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Whiting grilled over rushes (Japanese weedy things), squid, iceberg lettuce, pearl balls, onions and red date infusion (section 3). Squid, pearl balls, lettuce yum, beautifully cooked fish, a well put together dish. [Here’s the recipe if you want to have a go at it http://www.foodservicenews.com.au/news/coorong-yellow-eyed-mullet-grilled-over-rushes-squid-iceberg-lettuce-pearl-balls]

whiting

Date tart (section 4 signature) – a lovely tart, and apparently its Neil’s 1984 original. My first attempt at making it was ok, with practice it will be stellar.

date tart

Vacherin pandan custard, coconut parfait, jasmine sorbet and lime granita. Wow. I thought it was in a little ceramic dish but it was actually in a edible feather light meringue bowl.  There were flavour explosions going on everywhere here. Loved it.

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Petit fours to finish!

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Rockpool on George, 107 George St Sydney, ph (02) 9252 1888
http://www.rockpool.com

Rockpool on George on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Apple and Grand Marnier Cake

Perfect for afternoon tea. Recipe by Neil Perry.

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Ingredients
2 large or 3 medium sweet red apples
Juice of 1 lemon
150g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar, plus 25g extra
5ml vanilla extract
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
4 eggs
200g plain flour
5g baking powder
pinch of fine salt
60ml milk
30ml Grand Marnier
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1.Peel and core apples. Cut into quarters then cut each quarter into 4 pieces. Toss apple slices in lemon juice to prevent browning.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 22cm round cake pan; line the base and sides of pan with baking paper the side of pan.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla extract and orange rind until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the flour mixture to butter mixture and stir well. Add milk, liqueur and remaining flour mixture, and mix until batter is smooth. Spoon batter into prepared cake tin. Combine extra sugar and toss with apple slices. Overlap apple slices in a concentric circle over top of batter.

5. Bake for 50-60 mins, or until cooked when tested with skewer. Stand in tin 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool.

6. Dust with icing sugar and serve

Jamie’s Italian, Sydney

I came here a little reluctantly for a second visit. My view was tainted by a prior lunch, where upon being seated and being greeted (barked at) by an (un)friendly waiter, we were told that there was no pasta that day. Having recovered from our disbelief, the shocked murmurings started around the table. “No pasta?”, “but this is Jamie’s Italian”, “are you sure, there’s a chick churning it out in the window down the front”. “Ok, ok, ok”, says the waiter, “there is pasta, but you’ll need to wait at least 45 minutes for it”. Surely he could have just told us that and let us make up our own minds if we wanted to wait or not.

Fast forward a few months and I’m hoping they are a bit better organised. The fervour has died down, the lunch queue is no longer down the street (although it does fill up quickly, you still need to get there by 12.15 at lunch for quick seating), and also Mejico has opened up right next door which provides a bit of competition, although a very different cuisine.

This time we have a friendly  waitress who doesn’t halt any pasta supply.  I can see why this place is popular – other than the obvious reason that its part of the Lovely Jubbly empire – you can be in and out quickly and easily eat for under $30.  Between four we had 6 antipasti/entrees and 2 meat mains and it was $112 – bargain really. But if you’re after ‘proper’ Italian food you won’t find it here – this is Jamie’s spin on it, and personally I found it average. That won’t stop the place from pulling crowds given the price point, accessible location, and claim to fame.

On our menu that day:

Fried squid with mayo & lemon – nice and tender, good little starter.017

Pumpkin and Smoked Mozzarella Nachos with arrabiata sauce. Really, we should have known better to order something with nachos in the name at an “Italian” restaurant.  These were just plain weird and didn’t taste good. 019

Crispy risotto balls with smoked mozzarella and porcini.  Crispy, yes.  Bland inside, also yes. 020

Polenta chips with with rosemary & Parmesan.  These came out in little squares rather than the long chunky strips I had envisaged, but this was a good thing as it made it easy to eat. But polenta needs to be really really well seasoned otherwise it’s bland, and this did not have enough seasoning. 016

Wild truffle risotto with butter and parmesan.  Well flavoured, but a little too wet. 015

Tagliatelle Bolognese – ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & Parmesan with crunchy herby breadcrumbs.  The breadcrumb mix was really lovely and the pasta was silky but the Chianti just overpowered and the sauce just wasn’t right. 014

Steak tagliata with fennel and watercress salad.  This was actually lovely, really tender with a refreshing salad. Probably the best dish of those we had, and probably the least Italian! 013

Jamie’s Italian, 107 Pitt St  Sydney, ph (02) 8240 9000
http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/sydney

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Terrazza, Chatswood

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Full disclosure peeps.  The co-owner of Terrazza, Daniel, is a friend of mine.  He’s one of the funniest blokes I’ve ever met and should have his own Reality TV Show, or something.  I’m here with my big loud Italian family for my nephew’s birthday, as the place caters well for groups and has some very well priced banquets.

Terrazza is in the concourse development in Chatswood and opened about 18 months ago . It’s a wide open space which is great for the kids to run around.  There’s a handful of restaurants to choose from and a Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream.

All your Italian classics are here, antipasto, calamari fritti, a dozen or so different pastas, pizza and a handful of meat/chicken/fish mains.  The pizza bases are excellent, so I personally would stick with the ones with simple toppings with a couple of ingredients.  If you’re here with a few friends and share some entrees and have a pizza each, you’ll be out with $35-40 a person.  Kiddie meals are from $9.90-$15.90.  This isn’t a Buon Ricordo, but its classic neighbourhood Italian that will have something to please everyone.

Garlic pizza – my pick of the tapenades was the pesto
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Garlic Bread, light and fluffy
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Antipasto
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Calamari – super tender and a table favourite
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Pizza Diavola, with a bit of a kick
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Supreme Pizza
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Vegetarian
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Seafood Pizza – another table favourite
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Nutella Pizza – nice touch with the strawberries
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Terrazza Cafe Restaurant Pizzeria, Shop 3 The Concourse, 405-419 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, ph (02) 9419 5304

Terrazza on Urbanspoon

My simple morning coffee biscuits

These are easy to make biscuits that I have with my coffee. They aren’t particularly sweet. They aren’t hard like biscotti either, being more crumbly in texture.  Five ingredients – doesn’t get much easier than this!

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Ingredients

5 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
800-900g self raising flour

Making it

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
2. In an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high until thick and fluffy
3. Add vanilla and canola oil and whip for another 2 minutes
4. Fold in flour.  Depending on the size of your eggs, you may need a little more flour if it looks too sticky. Start with 800g then add more if needed.
5. Divide the mixture into 5 portions, roll into logs, place on baking trays lined with baking paper (don’t put more than two on a tray), and then flatten each log with the palm of your hand, to about 2cm in heigh.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from oven, reduce temperature to 160 degrees. Allow logs to cool for 5 minutes, then slice into biscuits and lay out individually on baking trays
7. Return to oven for a further 15 minutes

Palings Kitchen and Bar & Lorraine’s Patisserie, The Ivy, Sydney

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The Mad Cow is dead, long live the Mad Cow! Actually, the Mad Cow has been re-incarnated as Palings Kitchen and Bar. By the way, that’s pronounced Paaaahlings as in Daaaaahling and not Pailings as in bucket.

Its a great space – kitschy, fun, with a few bars, a restaurant, some Thai food, great cocktails, and sweets from Lorraine’s Patisserie downstairs. I won’t keep you in suspense as to what I think – my first impressions are this is a ‘go for the mood, not the food’ place. I’m not saying the food was bad, but no real culinary highs to be found. Have a drink, have a chat, order a few snacks, relax, and you’ll want to do just that if its a sunny day. You can grab a sandwich for $11, or up to $15 for the crab roll (and these days a lot of CBD takeaway joints charge $10-$11 for a sandwich, and you don’t get to sit in a cool looking place).

You can book the restaurant bit, otherwise just wander in grab a spot elsewhere.  Hemmesy himself was there today checking out the scene.  He’s pulled it off again in creating a attractive place to pass some time, and some reasonably priced, though not outstanding, food.

What we ordered:

Roasted cauliflower, pomegranate, fennel, and lime salad. The blogometer was high on this dish, but I didn’t think it was that great. Needed more pomegranate and it just tasted like something was missing.

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Croquette with jamon and manchego, quince. These on the other hand, I rated. Crunchy exterior, creamy inside.

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Southern fried chicken wings, ranch dressing….also good, juicy, spicy.

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Country terrine, liver pâté and mostarda. This was one of the more disappointing pates I’ve had, grainy and slightly bitter.

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Cheese toastie: Pyengana cheddar, leek, chicory and walnut on sourdough. This toastie has also gotten a few great wraps but I found it heavy and greasy.

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House pasta bake, cheesey breadcrumbs, that particular day it was with lamb and peas. Generous serve, nice cheese layer on top, nice tender lamb, but bland in between.

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Lorraine’s

We were pretty full by that stage, so instead of having our desserts there we picked them up downstairs at Lorraine’s to take with us. Lorraine’s is run by pastry maestro Lorraine Godsmark. Great little space with a fully open kitchen so you can see exactly what’s going on, and everything nicely on display. We tried the New York Cheesecake– right up there, great base, lush filling with a nice hint of lemon. And the strawberry mascapone which didn’t do it for me – there was coconut in it and it took away from the mascapone (and I’m not a fan of coconut). But there are lots of yummy things to try including THAT date tart, when you are lucky enough to get a piece (see my Sydney’s best cake post). The brown butter tarts are also amazing, as are the salted caramel and macadamia tarts.

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Palings Kitchen and Bar, Ivy – Level One 350 George St, Sydney Ph (02) 9240 3000
http://merivale.com.au/palings

Lorraine’s Patisserie, Shop 5 Palings Lane 320 George St, Sydney Ph (02) 9254 8009

Palings Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Lorraine's Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Neil Perry’s Chocolate and Ricotta Cake

I liked the look of this when I saw it in Good Food, so had to give it a try.  As this has very little flour (cornflour), the texture is more like a mud cake.  I skipped the candied fruit (not a fan) but a dash of Grand Marnier or similar would work well.

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Ingredients
9 egg yolks
365g icing sugar, sifted
12 egg whites
150g Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
45g cornflour dark chocolate shavings, to serve

Ricotta filling
250ml double cream
500g ricotta
150g icing sugar, sifted
100g mixed candied fruit, roughly chopped

Chocolate butter cream
250g butter
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp milk

Making it
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease and sugar 2 x 23cm round cake tins.
2. Whisk the yolks and 240g icing sugar to ribbon stage.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and 125g icing sugar to soft peaks.
4. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolks, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
5. Before they are completely combined, add the cocoa and cornflour and fold in gently.
6. Divide the mixture between the cake tins.
7. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C and bake the cakes for 20-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
8. Leave the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes to cool, then turn them onto racks to cool completely.

For the filling
1. Beat the cream until stiff.
2. Purée the ricotta and icing sugar in a food processor, adding the fruit towards the end.
3. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the cream.

For the butter cream
1. Beat the butter with an electric beater on high speed for 8 minutes, until pale and creamy.
2. Add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for 3 minutes.
3. Add the milk and beat again until well combined.

Assembly
1. Split the cakes in half horizontally.
2. Spread a bottom layer with one-third of the filling and repeat with 2 more layers. Top with the remaining cake.
3. Top with the remaining cake.
4. Spread the top and sides of the cake with chocolate butter cream and finish with shavings of chocolate.

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