Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Food Highlights

What a year its been. Yes there has been lots of great food and new places to try, but it is not just the food, it is also about what it represents – my husband and I celebrating something special or simply enjoying each other’s company, our kids daring to try something new, catching up with friends I haven’t seen for a while, thanking clients for their business, a birthday, an anniversary, a Christening, a home baked box of biscotti to say thank you or I’m thinking of you.

So here are some of my food highlights from 2013, my favourite dish of each calendar month. And with that I sign off for the year, and wish you all a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. We will, as is the customary tradition, be enjoying an Italian-Australian style Christmas – the fresh prawns, the turkey, alongside the lasagne, arancini and tiramisu, and at least twenty other dishes. And of course we will eat way more than is good for us.

Thanks to all of you around the world who have read, followed and commented throughout the year, and I wish you all the best for 2014!

January – the pork buns at Ippudo. A great, juicy snack for $4
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http://www.ippudo.com.au/

February – the fresh Egg Squid Ink Linguine with crab meat at Cucinetta. This restaurant was a bit of a mixed bag experience, but this dish was spot on
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http://www.cucinetta.com.au/

March – the strawberry and balsamic vinegar gelato at The Cow and Moon. Wow, and this comes from someone who doesn’t eat strawberries
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April – the blue swimmer crab and corn congee at Rockpool. Rockpool have since moved to new digs on Bridge Street; I hope they have kept this on the menu
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http://www.rockpool.com/sydney/

May – deep fried custard with silky ricotta ice cream at A Tavola. I adore custard and I love ricotta, so to me this was an irresistible combination
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http://www.atavola.com.au/

June – the shredded duck, dried chestnuts and black fungi with Pixian chilli paste and fried tofu at Spice Temple – a perfect combination of spice and texture
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http://www.rockpool.com/sydney/spice-temple/

July – this was a hard one. I had so much good food in New York. Scarpetta was one of my favourites (I even subsequently bought the cookbook), so it has to be one of Scott Conant’s dishes – his polenta with mushrooms almost had my husband and I licking the bowl
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http://www.scottconant.com/restaurants/scarpetta/new-york

August – the octopus with potato skins, white corn, and piquillo peppers at Hartsyard. Lots of clever, delicious food happening at this Newtown homestead, and recommend it if you haven’t been already
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http://hartsyard.com.au/

September – the prawn dumplings at Lotus Dumpling Bar. This little newcomer to the dumpling scene has plenty to tempt.
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http://lotusdumplingbar.com.au/

October – the mango sago at Palace Chinese. Even when I’ve overdosed on shumai and gow gee (which I inevitably do when I come here), I always manage to find some room for the sago
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http://www.palacechinese.com.au/

November – Ananas four ways at Ananas Bar & Brasserie.  A fresh, unique, and delicious dessert

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http://www.ananas.com.au/

December – Wok-Fried Prawns with Fresh Crab Meat in Spicy Sauce at Lung King Heen
A great mix of seafood and heat overlooking the Hong Kong lights.
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http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/lung_king_heen/

Three Michelin Star Chinese? Lung King Heen, Hong Kong

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I’m thinking that if a restauarant is Three Michelin star, then, as we’d expect from a Three Hatter in Sydney, it has to be the whole package – unbelievable service, a beautiful room, and sublime food.  Can a Chinese restaurant, often associated with a casual and cheap meal, deliver the package? For Australian readers, I suppose the benchmark has to be Melbourne’s Flower Drum.

The view is indeed beautiful looking out across the river, but the restaurant space itself is nothing memorable. There is a good amount of space between tables so you don’t have to hear your neighbour’s conversation (in Hong Kong this is probably priceless given the tiny apartments they live in!) As I sit down the waiters provide a little stand for my handbag, so it doesn’t have to sit on the floor, which is a nice touch. And the service, while pleasant, does not have the finesse and extravagance of Flower Drum.

On the menu that night:

Amuse bouche (not sure what the Chinese equivalent of that is so going with French!) of fried bean curd – surprisingly delicious

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Wok-Fried Prawns with Fresh Crab Meat in Spicy Sauce.  This is a fantastic dish – flavoursome rather than knock-you-out heat, tender crab, large prawns; I wanted to sabotage the lazy Susan so it couldn’t reach anyone else. Also, see the little condiments tray in the background – they contain sauces which are certainly Michelin-worthy, especially the XO sauce (in fact it has received its own award!).

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Roasted Eggplant and Scallops in Spicy Plum Sauce. The eggplant was slightly undercooked making it chewy, and the sauce was a little on the sweet side.

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Sautéed Duck with Hazelnut and Ginger.  I was looking forward to this, and it was really disappointing.  The duck was tough and the flavour was nothing special.

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But the Wok-Fried Lamb Shin with chilli was fantastic, well flavoured and tender.

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Next, Stir-Fried Minced Vegetables with Nuts in Lettuce Wraps, which was also delicious and came with a great seafood sauce to put on top.

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Then Lung King Heen Lobster Fried Rice with Seafood – awesome fried rice.

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Then a noodle type dish – wok-Fried Rice Rolls in X.O. Chilli Sauce.  We reach another high in this dish, reminds me of top notch hawker style noodles with a great hit of chilli.

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For dessert, its Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo.  All this really tasted like was pureed mango.  That didn’t stop it from being delicious, but if you’re after sago texture and flavour there’s not much of it.

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So was this what I would perceive as a Three Michelin Star – probably not (maybe two!!), but it is still damn good Chinese with a spectacular harbour view.

Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hong Kong, Ph (852) 3196-8888

http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/lung_king_heen/

Sydney’s best cake?

We are spoilt for choice in Sydney when it comes to sweet treats.  They reflect both the wonderful multi-cultural environment we live in, and a commitment to quality.  Here are a few of my picks, or ones I read about and had to try. I don’t really eat chocolate desserts, so I’m sure there are a few iconic chocolate treats missing from the list! I also have to go on a new hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli.  My favourite have always been the cannoli at Sulfaro Pasticceria at Haberfield.  No one has been able to match the crunch, flavour and thinness of their casings.  But I recently learned that they have sadly closed down….so need to find some new ones.  Blue Star at Five Dock is pretty good and Marineve, also at Five Dock, has been recommended so I will have to try those. (See my subsequent searches here and here)

Ricotta Cake at Pasticceria Papa, Haberfield
This one has stood the test of time. I’ve been eating this for years, and each time I do I remember why I love it so much.  The recipe is more closely guarded than Colonel Sanders’ KFC 11 herbs and prices, or the formula for Coca Cola.  Many have tried to replicate it, and failed.  Just head on over to Haberfield and be transported to ricotta cake bliss. 014
Pasticceria Papa, 145 Ramsay St, Haberfield, Ph (02) 9798 6894 http://ppapa.com.au/ Pasticceria Papa on Urbanspoon

Ginger tart at Bourke Street Bakery
How something so small can hold so much delicious is a feat in itself. And at $5.00, its a steal of a dessert. 002
Bourke Street Bakery – Surry Hills, Alexandria, Neutral Bay, Potts Point http://bourkestreetbakery.com.au/ Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Lamingtons at Flour at Stone, Wooloomoolloo
I’m going to say something really Unaustralian. I can’t stand lamingtons. There’s something about dessicated coconut that disturbs me (also don’t bring Cherry Ripe or Bounty anywhere near me. Shudder.). But there has been so much talk of Flour and Stone’s lamingtons that I thought I might be converted. I’ll have to defer to the verdict of Lamington Lovers United on this. I still don’t like them. But the apple tart there – now that was devine. 001
Flour and Stone, 53 Riley St, Woolloomooloo, Ph (02) 8068 8818 http://www.flourandstone.com.au Flour and Stone on Urbanspoon

Watermelon Cake at Black Star Pastry DSC02386
Like Flour and Stone’s lamingtons, this is another cake that seems to have a cult following. But this one I understand.  The layer of cream, the cake, and then the freshness of watermelon. Winning. Black Star Pastry, 277 Australia St, Newtown, Ph (02) 9557 8656 http://www.blackstarpastry.com.au Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon

Hazelnut cake at Kraving K, Sydney (now closed)
For hazelnut lovers, a delightful mixture of hazelnut and chocolate from this up and coming Sydney patissiere.  A crunchy base, layers of hazelnut with vanilla hazelnut cream and hazelnut chocolate dacquoise, with a glossy chocolate finish on top. Her chiffon cakes are gaining quite a following too. kravingkhazelnut By special order from Kraving K http://www.kravingk.com

Pistachio and Rosewater Cupcake at Ghermez, Sydney (now closed)
This little parcel of Persian influenced deliciousness has a silky smooth buttercream over a moist cupcake with pistachio texture.  The amount of rosewater is just right – a sweet hint without overpowering everything else.  Its my favourite of all Ghermez’s cupcakes, with the Dulce de Leche a close second. IMG-20131015-00134 Ghermez- Alexandria, Chippendale, Sydney www.ghermez.com.au Ghermez Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Vanilla Slice at The Cake Man, Lane Cove
Is there a quintessential vanilla slice in Sydney? The Cake Man, in a nondescript arcade in Lane Cove, has a pretty good go at it. Flaky pastry, oozy custard, and not too sweet. Get there before lunch or you won’t find any. 3napoli 001 The Cake Man, 5a/23-25 Burns Bay Rd, Lane Cove Ph (02) 8021 6195 The Cake Man on Urbanspoon

Sfogliatelle at Pasticceria Tamborrino, Five Dock
The best sfogliatelle I ever had were in a tiny, out of the way shop in a back street of Venice.  I spent over an hour the next day trying to find it again to buy some more.  In the absence of that, come to Tamborrino in Five Dock.  Endless layers of crisp, light pastry with a ricotta and orange peel filling. Gorgeous. The rum baba here are pretty good too. 3napoli 002 Pasticceria Tamborrino, 75 Great North Road, Five Dock Ph (02) 9712 1461 http://www.pasticceriatamborrino.com.au/ Pasticceria Tamborrino on Urbanspoon

Date Tart at Lorraine’s Patisserie, Sydney
The date tart that Lorraine Godsmark put on the Rockpool menu in 1984 – and continues to be so – is now made by Lorraine in her Palings Lane bakery. This means you don’t have to shell out a princely sum for an entire Rockpool meal to get to the tart at the end. It doesn’t come cheap though, at $15 a takeaway slice, and with a reserve list to boot. Lorraine herself makes it a couple of times a week. The pastry is amazing, the custard silky, and there’s a fine layer of cake on top. 017 Lorraine’s Patisserie, Shop 5, Palings Ln, Sydney, Ph (02) 9254 8009   http://merivale.com.au/lorrainespatisserie/‎

Kurtosh at Kurtosh Bakery
For something a little different, give these traditional Hungarian “chimney cakes” a whirl. They are made to order, a flaky and not too sweet pastry, and flavoured with pistachio nuts, nutella or cinnamon. They also sell a variety of slab cakes which you can buy by weight.
kurtosh

Kurtosh – Crows Nest, Darlinghurst, Randwick and Surry Hills

If there are any other great signature cakes out there, please share them!