Monthly Archives: November 2013

Quattro Paste, Balmain

This tiny Italian 40 seater is in the quieter part of Balmain, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the friendly staff who’ll kiss your babies and squeeze your cheeks. The menu, like the restaurant, is compact and not overly fussy, and what you’d expect to find at a neighbourhood trattoria in Italy, with a blackboard sketching out a few extras.

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We start with some stuffed zucchini.  I’ve downed a good few of these in my time, but I’ve never had a creamy potato and eggplant filling, and it’s delicious.  The four are great value at $15.
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This is followed by a fritto misto, mostly calamari and a few prawns.  The calamari is a little chewy but the flavour is good.
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Then onto our pasta choices for the night.  I loved the terracotta dishes they served them all in. First is the tagliatelle with ragu.  The tagliatelle have great consistency and are well cooked. I had high hopes for the ragu sauce, but it lacked the depth and flavour of say Sopra, Gatto Matto or A Tavola.  A good smattering of parmesan helped.

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Gnocchi (with the same ragu sauce) – again the gnocchi are excellent little pillows with good consistency. Certainly this Tuscan mob know how to make pasta.
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Ravioli with Burrata.  This dish was unfortunately a let down. First the serve was very small compared to the other dishes.  The amount of burrata inside was also very small and hard to taste, and the sauce was very salty.

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And finally a mushroom risotto  – well flavoured and an easy eat.

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Then onto the sweets.  I have to give the tiramisu a whirl and out comes a big bowl and our waitress scoops out a generous spoon.  And its an absolute knock out, pretty much up there with my Mamma Rosa’s.  I was tempted to ask the waitress to leave the whole bowl!

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We also tried the chocolate and pear cake.  This was very very dry, you really needed to mix it with the gelato.  The vanilla gelato seemed to have a hint of lemon or something, and was delicious.

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It is reasonably priced, you can eat here for $40-45, and there is a selection of Italian wines by the glass or carafe. Its not quite the suburban Italian gem, but has a lot of potential.

Quattro Paste, 85 Reynolds St, Balmain, Ph 02 9810 9125
http://www.quattropaste.com.au/

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Today’s cake – cream cheese pound cake

Pound cake reminds me of my grandmother.  While she was an excellent savoury Italian cook (no one will ever surpass her meatballs), Nonna was never one for making desserts or biscuits – her staple dessert was affogato.  So she always used to buy us pound cake.  This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s new Cakes book.  What I like about a lot of her loaf cake recipes is that they make two cakes – which is great as it means you can freeze one, or better still, give one to a friend.

I’ve done some rounding on measurements converting from imperial to metric. Recipe suggests cooking for 70 to 85 minutes, but I found mine was slightly overcooked by 70. If you find they are browning quickly, cover with foil.

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Ingredients
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
330g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups caster sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oil cooking spray

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt
3. With an electric mixer on high, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar gradually, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each additon. Mix in vanilla.
4. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in two parts, beating until just combined
5. Divide batter between two pans. Smooth tops with knife or spatula. Bake until golden and a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs attached, 70 to 85 minutes.
6. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes then turn out to cool completely.

Liquid nitrogen “snacks” @ Alchemy, Brisbane

After a very pleasant meal at Alchemy in the Brisbane CBD overlooking the river, the waiter comes by to offer us dessert. We are comfortably full and decline.  And he suggests, would you like to try some of our liquid nitrogen snacks, they are a small treat? This sounds interesting and we take him up on the offer. We accompany him to a separate section of the restaurant, where, donned with gloves, one of the staff picks up a mother of tank of liquid nitrogen and pours it into a bowl.

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First, there is a honeycomb.  It goes into the nitrogen for 20-30 seconds then is served to us on a little tray.  Its crunchy and delicious, and eating it is hilarious, we have smoke coming out of our ears, mouth and nose and can’t stop laughing.
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Next is a chocolate tiramisu mouse.  The mouse is sprayed into the bowl from a dispenser, and quickly turns into a frozen delicious ball.
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But my favourite is an mascarpone orange mousse with Grand Manier (which I adore in desserts).
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For $8, it was good fun entertainment.

Alchemy, 175 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Ph (07) 3229 3175
http://www.alchemyrestaurant.com.au/
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Mango and vanilla parfait

I love mangoes, and all things mango. This is a great dessert to prepare in advance if you’re having guests over. Serves 6.

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Mango parfait
250g mango puree
2 tablespoons sugar syrup
80ml milk
3 egg yolks
170ml whipping cream

Vanilla parfait
80ml milk
1 vanilla bean
50g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
170ml whipping cream

Making it
For the mango parfait
1. Mix the mango puree with the sugar syrup
2. Whisk milk, sugar, and egg yolks together in a bowl over boiling water unil the mixture thickens. Set aside and allow to cool.
3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream and mango puree into the egg yolk mixture
4. Divide among your serving glasses and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Once frozen, make the vanilla parfait

For the vanilla parfait
1. Cut the vanilla bean down the centre. In a small pot over low heat, place the milk and vanilla bean. Bring to a gentle simmer for 1-2 minutes then remove from heat set aside for 10 minute.
2. Whisk milk, sugar, and egg yolks together in a bowl over boiling water unil the mixture thickens. Set aside and allow to cool.
3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream with the vanilla mixture.
4. Pour over the top of the frozen mango parfait, and return to freezer for at least another 2 hours.

Serve as is or garnish with some fresh chopped mango on top.

Ananas Bar and Brasserie, The Rocks, Sydney

029French food – I’m thinking foie gras, confit, tarte tatin. Pineapples – I’m thinking Hawaii, cocktails, Summer. So where the name Ananas, the French word for pineapple, fits in, I’m not quite sure. I ask the question and apparently in France in the 1700’s, pineapple was considered a luxury item. This provided the inspiration for this upmarket French brasserie in the Argyle building in The Rocks, with an attractive bar space which you walk through to get to the restaurant. The atmosphere is great, and the music pitched at the right volume, so you can actually talk to people and hear them. Ananas recently scored a Hat in the Good Food Guide awards.

As I arrive there is no one at the door, and I’m left waiting for quite a while before I begin to wander to find a staff member. It’s a small oops in an otherwise great evening – through our meal our waitstaff that evening are attentive, polite, and well informed, and the restaurant manager comes by later in the evening to check we were happy.

It is difficult to decide on entrees because they all sound appealing, so we decide to try more of those and only one main course. We start with duck liver & armagnac parfait and rabbit rillettes, accompanied by toasted brioche. The parfait has great texture and I love the rillettes, fantastic flavour.

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We follow on with a brandade of house salted cod, baby fennel, softly poached quails egg, which has a nice hit of citrus and is pleasant to eat.

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The lobster ravioli with the tomato is an almost perfect dish, and I mop up the delicious bisque with my bread, not wanting to leave it on the plate. What stops it from being perfect is the unexpectedly cold topping, I would have prefered it all to be hot.

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The only let down of the entrees was the wild mushroom pappardelle with hen’s egg and truffle – way underseasoned and bland, needed a punch of something. You could smell the truffle when it was set down on the table, but couldn’t really taste it while eating it.

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For our main course we debate between the lamb and the snapper, and the waiter strongly encourages the latter. The snapper comes with a blue swimmer crab and squid risotto – it’s a stand out dish, with perfectly done fish. (Hey, I rhymed!)

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When it comes to dessert, the waiter does point out the eclairs – “we want to do for eclairs what Zumbo has done for the macaron”, but we aren’t feeling eclair-ish that night. I have my eye on the Ananas four ways (chip, sorbet, consomme, caramelised) with the coconut mousse, and I love it, it is fresh and unique.

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We also opt for the Snickers Revolution, a chocolate and peanut dish. Beautifully presented; chocolate desserts aren’t really my thing, but if you like chocolate, you will love this.

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I forgot to order the truffle pomme puree which a friend said was the Best. Ever. Truffle. Mash. Oh well, next time, and I’m pretty sure there will be one.

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018035Ananas Bar & Brasserie, 18 Argle St, The Rocks, ph (02) 9259 5668

http://www.ananas.com.au
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Sushi e, Establishment, Sydney CBD

I’ve been to Sushi e more times than I can count over the years. It is seriously good Japanese. But it also comes with an accompanying serious price tag. If you don’t mind that, pull up a seat at the bar if you’re on your own or with a friend; or grab a table for four or six; or, if you feel like settling in for a while, take a seat on one of the plush lounges at the adjacent Hemmesphere and kick back – its quite easy to pass several hours there, with the dulcid tones of Al Green, or other great music from the Hemmesphere CD selection, in the background, cocktail in hand.

Over time, I’ve probably worked my way through most of the menu. I always order the sashimi, it is first rate, and the delicious prawn shumai with the ponzu sauce. I could eat trays of the shumai, but at a hefty $18.50 for six, one tray has to do (Shaun Presland, who started here, also does a similar version at Sake). One dish I hadn’t tried before which I really liked was the crab san choy bow – recommended.

But….I don’t know what was going on with the kitchen that day, but we had to repeatedly ask for our food – we were about to keel over with starvation. Kitchen mix up, our dishes went to other tables, we had all sorts of profuse apologies, we got there in the end but it was a dampener on an otherwise excellent meal – I hope it was just a one off.

Assorted Sashimi
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Prawn shumai
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Soft shell crab san choy bow
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Salmon belly
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Salt roasted duck breast with sansho pepper, ginger, shallots and baby broccolini
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Grilled scampi finished with a spicy lemon garlic sauce, sautéed baby spinach
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Beef tataki with soy dressing
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And a little complimentary dessert, panna cotta
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Sushi e, Level 4, Establishment, 252 George Street, Sydney ph (02) 9240 3000
http://merivale.com.au/sushie

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