Category Archives: Two Hats

Restaurant Hubert, Sydney

Push open the heavy door. The sound of Jazz music comes up the spiral staircase.  Descend said stairs past thousands and thousands of mini-bar style bottles.  To my right is a queue of people waiting for a spot at a cosy bar with its own bar menu.  To my left is the restaurant, full of relaxed, post work chatter.   A grand piano sits on a small stage, red curtains behind it.   It is waiting for someone to belt out some Gershwin or Piaf.  Welcome to Hubert, dripping in atmosphere and conviviality.

Hubert was one of the hottest openings of 2016, it was near impossible to get a spot unless you were willing to get there for a Nursery Hour dinner or, at the other end of the spectrum,  at the time you’d usually be lining up at Golden Century for post drinking salt and pepper squid.  The website had people cursing in frustration – in the first few months there was no menu to peruse, no bookings except for 6 or more and only allowed within a certain number of days in advance, no phone number if you needed to make a change, dinner only, lunch mas non, and truly suboptimal lighting for ‘Grammers.  Other than the booking policy and the lighting, the other things have thankfully changed.

On my first visit I thought that the place was perhaps a wee bit overhyped.  On my second visit though, coinciding with their one year anniversary, I bought into the dream. There’s some pretty fine French fare going on here so take a bunch of your friends so you can work your way through it, some of the plates are too big for two to share.  There was a wonderful sounding whole duck special that night, but designed for 3-4. No surprise that the place got a two hats debut.

The very long wine menu makes for some entertaining reading, peppered with a staff Q&A. There are several pages just of whisky, so my friend thought that no pinot gris by the glass was a little black cross.

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The bread bought to the table is just excellent, and so is the butter; it would be easy to gorge on it.  But I’m surprised that it is what goes with the smooth and delicious duck pate, I would have preferred some thin crisps instead.

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Love the wagyu tartare (what’s left of it, I forgot to take a photo); unusual combo with the French fries, which are smattered in herbs and finger licking good

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The Clams Normande come in a light buttery fish stock, I dip the bread in so as to soak it all up.

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The pickled octopus with kipfler is a bit too acidic for me, but that’s my fault for not reading the word pickled on the menu.

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I’m also not that big a fan of the much talked about Malakoff, a deep fried gruyere.  One mouthful does the job, it is quite rich.

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But I love the lobster spaghetti, done in a lobster sauce with cherry tomatoes and chives.

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The John Dory provencal is simply done, poached with a topping of tomato, olive oil and basil.

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The crew put their own spin on Pommes Anna, taking the potatoes vertical instead of the typical French horizontal.  Ah that beurre blanc.

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On my second visit though the four dishes my friend and I had ordered were bought to the table all in extremely quick succession and we ran out of room, perching one precariously on a wooden divider. Gotta turn those tables folks. Long and leisurely is not the name of the game if you eat before 8.30pm.

I did love both the desserts I tried.  They are very generously sized, and easily shared between two.

The Santa Claus melon with finger lime, sorrel jelly and young coconut sorbet is wonderfully refreshing.

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Having had a few enjoyable vacherin desserts in my time – typically layers of meringue and cream – I decide to try theirs.  It makes me chuckle, it looks like it should have a barbie doll sticking out of the top of it – remember those barbie toilet roll holders? Lurking behind the cream is the meringue, which when smashed though reveals a delicious combination of sauternes ice cream, honeycomb, lemon and mandarin.

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There’s a private dining area available and also a banquet menu for groups.

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Restaurant Hubert, Basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney
Ph 9232 9881
http://www.restauranthubert.com/

Restaurant Hubert Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An evening with George Calombaris

He’s a pretty chirpy bloke, our George. And what’s not to be happy about, with a string of hit restaurants, a hugely popular TV show, and getting to do what he loves every day. “I’m pretty lucky” he tells us, standing in his Projects Kitchen, a small experimental space where he and his team combine science with creativity and the whimsical. And indeed it does look like a bit of a science lab with centrifuges and distillers, and a couple of oversized operating table type lights he tells us he got from a hospital in Brisbane.pressclub (12)

He’s hanging on to fine dining –the decline is a global trend not just an Australian one in his view – loving that it enables him to test the boundaries of what is possible with food, to take simple childhood memories and turn them into something new and inspired. He tells us of one afternoon when he walks into the Projects Kitchen and finds Luke Croston, his head chef, trying to make a cocktail that comes down a long string.

While he and Luke are chatting to us, along with one of his waitstaff from Press Club – who incidentally, are an impressive and incredibly professional lot – they whip up some goodies. Luke comes up with a meringue (created using dry ice) rolled in beetroot then puffed wild rice on the outside, while George gives us these delicious little lollipops of chicken liver mousse, which he pipes onto another piece of heavy duty science equipment which freezes them almost immediately. If only Chupa Chups were like this.

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After having a chat and a bit of a laugh, we move next door into the Press Club. He renovated in late 2013, with a bit of musical chairs – putting Gazi in the large space where Press Club used to be, and turning what was a bar into the intimate fine dining space which became Press Club mark two, a degustation only 38 seater.

We start off with the “Hills Hoist” series of snacks – George tells us it is a throwback to his childhood, when he used to get in trouble from his mother for running around pulling the clothes line. Working our way along the pegs we find a sweet potato crisp, puffed black rice puff with miso melitzanosalata (my favourite), kolrahbi, pear and walnut cone, sesame pastelaki with fennel seed fetta, and finally a saganaki crisppressclub (1)

Of course one of our group (not naming any names Ed) can’t resist doing this…..pressclub (2)

We then move to one of my favourite dishes of the night, a crunchy black taramosalata with fine ribbons of cuttlefish.  I love the contrast in texture and the flavour combination.pressclub (4)

The vegetarian option is eggplant done with sagepressclub (3)

Meanwhile, through a small window we see the kitchen is running like clockwork. From the outside, it seems intense yet calm and measured, everyone knows exactly what they are doing and does it with precision.pressclub (13)

Our next course is prawn with almond milk and strips of whitebait.  The mosaic type layer on the plate looks like octopus but is in fact finely sliced prawn.  It gives the previous dish a run for its money.pressclub (5)

Then we have the Greek Green Salad that appeared in Masterchef. A few of the table proclaim this their favourite, saying that they’d never had good tasting Brussel sprouts before, but for me it had pretty steep competition from the dishes above.pressclub (6)

Our last course at Press Club is the Winter Greek Salad (Horiatiki) with some wagyu braesola. George tells us that his traditional Greek customers that come in often give him a hard time. Where’s the tomato, they ask him, Greek salad must have tomato. Like most chefs George runs with seasonal produce, and you won’t find good tomatoes in Winter. “But Coles has them”, his cheeky Greek clients quip.pressclub (7)

Our final stop that night is Gazi, his thumping Greek street food venue; it is constantly busy, and it is most likely this that funds the fine diner and the Projects. We are all really full by now and can’t imagine eating the nicely sized soft shell crab souvlaki that is placed before us. But then we all take a bite and realise how delicious it is, and proceed to polish it off. Such feather light pita, crispy crab and a great sauce, I love it.pressclub (8)

We are seriously bursting now, but there’s a grain salad, some tuna done on the woodfire gril, some chicken done on the spit and chips sprinkled with feta.pressclub (10)

And finally a Bombe Metaxa, theatrically set alight at the table.pressclub (11)

…with an Espressotini to wash it all down. It’s a great night of Greek hospitality, which is what fundamentally George wants to share with his guests, whether its street food or high end. We look forward to seeing what he comes up with in Sydney at his Surry Hills venue mid next year.pressclub (9)

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http://www.thepressclub.com.au
http://www.gazirestaurant.com.au

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Young Guns dinner @ LuMi Dining

The Young Guns series is a clever collaboration between four Italian restaurants and their four great chefs – Federico Zanellato (LuMi), Victor Moya (Ormeggio), Matteo Zamboni (Pilu), and Mitch Orr (ACME) – with hosts Alessandro Pavoni and Giovanni Pilu. Each restaurant is taking a turn at hosting a dinner and showcasing dishes. The degustation was $80, or $125 with matching wines, so it was a great value – and delicious – evening. There was an extra dish on offer for $10 which we readily agreed to.

First Course: LuMi “snacks”
Salt and vinegar rice chips – heavenly lightyoungguns (2)

Porcini Brisee with Marscapone and a Macaron with onion and chicken liver. Loved them both; the porcini brisee had a beautiful crumbly texture and was something new and different, as was the savoury macaron.youngguns (3)

Jerusalem artichoke chips – very clever. I love Jerusalem artichoke but would usually use it four puree or soupyoungguns (4)

And of course LuMi’s signature Chawanmushi. The last time I came here I had it with tomato water; this time it was with an onion consommé and a little caviar. The texture on that custard! I have to say that LuMi has been one of my favourite dining experiences so far this year and the meal that night reaffirmed it.youngguns (5)

This was followed by some warm delicious bread and grissiniyoungguns (6)

Second course: Ormeggio roasted capsicum and mozzarella salad with Mediterranean herbs. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The texture of the balls reminded me of the liquid gnocchi at Gastro Park. Very clever and freshyoungguns (7)

Third course: Pilu’s Cappelletti with lentils, red wine and vegetable broth. Zamboni explained to us that this dish was completely vegan, not something you find often in Italian cooking. It was an interesting dish and with each mouthful you could taste different elements of the flavour.youngguns (8)

Fourth course: ACME’s pig’s head with cime di rapa and condiments. Don’t think too much about the fact that you are eating a pig’s head and dig in! Loved the flavour combination here; rich juicy pork cut through with the bitterness of the rapa, and I particularly loved the soy and vinegar dipping sauce, which Mitch told us was actually based on a Filippino sauce.youngguns (9)

Fifth course (extra course): Lumi Burrata, honey, rosemary and vinegar meringue, served with casarau. Oh! This was a table favourite. Devine! What a combination! And then if you threw in some crispy bits of casarau, a specialty Sardinian crispy bread, it became even better. This could have passed as a dessert.youngguns (10)

youngguns (11)Sixth course: LuMi’s Yuzu with licorice and mandarin curd. The plate was freezing cold and Federico tells us that it has been put in the blast chiller at -25 degrees. This was wonderfully light and fresh with a good amount of acidity and those wafer like pieces of licorice adding texture.youngguns (12)

Some pictures of the Young Guns and hosts. Zanellato’s brother Riccardo is all boyish charm; Matteo is sweet and softly spoken and Giovanni Pilu is quick to point out that he is already married ladies! (there’s A Tea with the Queen next to Signore Pilu). I ask Mitch if he’s considered an honorary Italian – “I’m pure Inner West” – he tells us. Alessandro is as effervescent as always. A really great evening – there are two more Young Guns dinners in the series.youngguns (14)youngguns (1)youngguns (13)

LuMi Dining, http://www.lumidining.com
Ormeggio, http://www.ormeggio.com.au
ACME, http://www.weareacme.com.au
Pilu, http://www.piluatfreshwater.com.au

LuMi Bar and Dining, Pyrmont

With a name like Federico Zanellato you couldn’t be anything other than Italian. But don’t go to LuMi, Pyrmont’s new waterside diner, expecting Fede’s take on Nonna Rosaria’s gnocchi or Zia Maria’s tiramisu. Having worked in some fine dining establishments in Italy and throughout Europe, followed by Japan and most recently as head chef at hatted Ormeggio, Australia is now his adopted home – how fortunate for us. He realised our multicultural and food adventurous society would be willing to explore a fusion of Italian and Japanese, which on the face of it sounds a little worrisome. But any concerns are completely unfounded. He pulls it off. Beautifully.

Dinner is an eight course degustation for $95. Waterside, with nicely spaced tables, lovely crockery, and handsomely plated food, it is well worth it. In the style of Momofuku, the chefs deliver the plates to you and talk you through the course, which sound so much better accented with Italian (Zanellato’s brother is also in the kitchen, and his wife on the floor). And we both agree we’d rather come here than Momofuku across the road, which is double the price, any day of the week.

First up is a plate of “snacks”: a cheese tartlet with corn and parmigiano; salt and vinegar rice chips; and a potato and rosemary focaccia, the last probably being the closest thing you’ll find resembling traditional Italian. I enjoy them all, and the interesting flavours and textures make you look forward to what’s coming.

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Chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard, in a savoury style with tomato water. Texturally perfect custard with a tomato accent, I love it.

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White cucumber with apple and sour cream. So pretty on the plate and a refreshing dish.

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Veal tartare with tarragon mayo roasted capsicum, buckwheat.  This is the only one that didn’t do it for me (and normally I love a good tartare) but just a personal flavour preference, my partner in crime thought it was great.

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The fragrance as each of the pasta dishes hits the table is incredible. Our first pasta course is spelt ravioli with burnt butter, pumpkin, Avruga caviar, and chives. Its a rich dish so just the right size.

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Our second pasta dish is spaghetti alla chitarra with orange buerre blanc, bottarga, and scampi. “Alla chitarra” refers to how the pasta is made, a stringed contraption that looks like a guitar (chitarra).

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We adore the Pork Jowl with, Celeriac, Quinoa, hidden under a layer of spinach. It’s a knockout dish and one of the stars of the night.

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The “Evergreen” pre dessert – Sorrel,Lemon Basil, Mint, Shiso, parsley – is like walking in to a delicious cold pressed juice bar, imparting a feeling of good health.LuMi (11)

Zanellato generously sends over an extra dish, his take on strawberries and cream – strawberry granita with whipped cream and ice cream. It’s a good lead in to dessert.LuMi (12)

To finish is a ginger ice cream, white chocolate, passionfruit, yoghurt crumble. Its thankfully not too sweet and the crumble gives it texture. LuMi (13)

I doubt I’m making a big call when I say there’ll be a hat or two coming LuMi’s way in the next Good Food Guide line up. The phones will start ringing like crazy when then happens, so go discover it before then.

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LuMi Dining, 56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, (02) 9571 1999
http://www.lumidining.com

LuMi Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

Toque Time (Sydney) – The SMH Good Food Guide 2015 Awards

2015awardsHot on the heels of the Melbourne Awards  last week comes the Sydney session.  The Good Food Guide turns 30 this year. It is quite extraordinary to think that 30 years ago, there was no such thing as “Modern Australian” food – instead it was called “Anglo Saxon” cuisine; and a meal at a three hatter would set you back $29.  Over the years the GFG has gotten bigger, more powerful (some would say that’s a bad thing), and the toques are always a cause for debate amongst restaurant goers like me….especially for places like Marque (sorry I had to throw that in, but really?) So who were the casualties of war in the last 12 months? Well Guillaume at Bennelong closed, refusing to become a more casual, 7 day a week, breakfast-lunch-dinner bistro as requested by the Opera House Trust, and re-opened his fine dinner just a few weeks ago in Paddington, merci beaucoup.  Claudes shut down, with Chui Lee Luk opting for the more casual Chow Bar & Eating House, serving modern Chinese.  Xanthi went into liquidation, succumbing to the Fine-Dining-In-A-Shopping-Centre-in-Australia-Doesn’t-Work curse; Buzo is now Pinbone, though they recently taunted diners with a pop up serving THAT lasagne and the cabbage salad (when will you open that whispered CBD site?), and Foveuax and Tomislav are no more.   That’s a total of nine hats. In all, 40 of the restaurants that were in the 2014 guide closed. As we hear all the time, it is a tough gig in the hospitality game.  Having said that, 80 new restaurants have appeared in the Guide this year.

Drumroll please…..and the winners are

Restaurant of the Year – Sepia

Best New Restaurant – Ester

Legend Award – Peter Doyle (Est)

Chef of the Year – Brent Savage (well deserved in my view, loving Bentley at the moment)

The Hatters – City

Three Hats

Momofuku Seiobo, Quay, Rockpool, Sepia

Two Hats

ARIA Restaurant, Bentley Restaurant & Bar (re-entry), Berowra Waters Inn (up a hat), The Bridge Room, est., Ester (new hatter), Gastro Park, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Lucio’s Italian Restaurant (up a hat), Marque, Mr. Wong, Ormeggio at the Spit, Pilu at Freshwater, Porteño (up a hat), Rockpool Bar & Grill, sixpenny (up a hat), Spice Temple, Tetsuya’s

One Hat

4Fourteen (up a hat), Aki’s Indian Restaurant, Alpha (new hatter), The Apollo, Arras, Bar H Dining (re-entry), The Bathers’ Pavilion, Billy Kwong, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode CBD, BLACK by Ezard (up a hat), The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, Buon Ricordo (down a hat), Cafe Paci (new hatter), Cafe Sopra, Catalina, China Doll, Cho Cho San (new hatter), Clareville Kiosk, Cottage Point Inn (new hatter), the devonshire, Farmhouse (new hatter), Felix (new hatter), Fish Face (new hatter), Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, Four in Hand Dining Room (down a hat), glass brasserie, Hartsyard, Jonah’s Restaurant, Kepos Street Kitchen, Longrain (down a hat), Lox Stock & Barrel (new hatter), Monopole, Moon Park (new hatter), MoVida (down a hat), Ms.G’s, Nomad (new hatter), Oscillate Wildly, Osteria Balla (new hatter), Osteria di Russo & Russo (new hatter), Otto Ristorante (re-entry), The Restaurant Pendolino, Saké Restaurant & Bar, Sean’s Panaroma, Sokyo, sushi e (new hatter), Three Blue Ducks, Uccello, Ume Restaurant, Vincent (new hatter), Vini (new hatter), Yellow (new hatter)

Lost hatsAnanas, Popolo, Gowings Bar & Grill

Regional Hats

Two Hats

Biota Dining (Bowral), Muse Restaurant (Pokolbin, up a hat), Subo (Newcastle West)

One Hat

Bistro Molines (Mount View), Caveau (Wollongong), Cupitt’s Kitchen (Ulla-dulla, new hatter), Darley’s Restaurant (Katoomba), Eschalot (Berrima), Fins Restaurant (Kingscliff), Harvest Cafe (Newrybar, new hatter), Lolli Redini (Orange), Manfredi at Bells (Killcare Heights), Muse Kitchen (Pokolbin, new hatter), Restaurant Como (Blaxland), Restaurant Mason (Newcastle), The Stunned Mullet (Port Macquarie), Tomah Gardens (Mt Tomah, new hatter), Tonic (Millthorpe), Town Restaurant & Cafe (Bangalow), Wharf Rd Restaurant & Bar (Nowra), Zanzibar Cafe (Merimbula)

Toque Time (Melbourne) – The Age Good Food Guide 2015 Awards

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And yes, here we are again at Award time. Restaurant “Award Season” is in full swing, with Gourmet Traveller releasing its 2015 Restaurant Awards last week, and The Australian coming out with its Hot 50 list.

 

Lest you think these awards don’t actually matter, this is what happened to Saint Crispin in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood last year after it won New Restaurant of the Year:

‘Scott Pickett, the chef and co-owner,…….arrived at the restaurant on Tuesday (the day it’s closed) at noon to find 198 voicemails and 78 emails inquiring about bookings. ”By the time we got through them all at 3pm, we had another 138 messages to address,” he says. By Wednesday, Pickett had employed a second staff member ”to manage calls and bookings”. Other winners on the night also saw a peak in phone and email activity when they arrived for work on Tuesday’ (Good Food, 3 September 2013). 

Extraordinary, no?  But at the end of the day for everyone who lovesloveslovesloves restaurant x, there will be someone who can’t stand it, because that is what makes the world go round. One can’t help but wonder though, if The Age has struck a deal with Tourism Victoria – most of the new hats are to regional restaurants, which will see foodies (did I mention I hate that word?) around the country piling into their cars driving around the state and throwing around superlatives.

And the winners are…..

Restaurant of the Year – Brae, Birregurra (watch the population of this town go up in coming months. Does anyone actually know where it is?)

New Restaurant of the YearSupernormal (really?)

City

Three Hats
Attica, Flower Drum, Vue de Monde
Two Hats
Cafe Di Stasio, Cutler & Co, Ezard, Grossi Florentino, Matteo’s, MoVida, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Rosetta, Saint Crispin (up a hat), Spice Temple
One Hat
Bacash, Becco, Bistro Guillaume, Bistro Vue, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, Centonove, Circa, Coda, Cumulus Inc, Da Noi, Dandelion, Donovans, Easy Tiger, Epocha, Estelle, The European, The Grand, Hare & Grace, Huxtable, Il Bacaro, Kenzan, Longrain, Maha, Merricote, Moon Under Water, MoVida Aqui, No. 8 by John Lawson (new hatter), Noir (new hatter), 
Pei Modern, The Point Albert Park, The Press Club, Pure South, Sarti, Shoya (new hatter), Stokehouse City, Supernormal (new hatter), Tempura Hajime, Tonka, Town Hall Hotel, The Town Mouse (new hatter), Union Dining (new hatter), 
Woodland House (new hatter), Yu-u
Regional

Three Hats
Brae (new hatter)
Two Hats
Gladioli (up a hat), Jim McDougall in Stefano’s Cellar, Lake House, Provenance, Royal Mail Hotel, 
Ten Minutes by Tractor
One Hat
A La Grecque, Annie Smithers Bistrot (new hatter), The Argus Dining Room (new hatter), Chris’s Beacon Point, Du Fermier (new hatter), Eleonore’s, Healesville Hotel, Kazuki’s, Montalto, Paringa Estate, Port Phillip Estate (new hatter), Simone’s Restaurant, Tani Eat & Drink (new hatter), Terminus at Flinders Hotel, Terrace Restaurant, Tulip (new hatter)
Lost Hats
Albert St Food & Win, Bella Vedere, Brooks, Grossi Florentino Grill, Nellsons

 

Yum Cha @ Spice Temple, Sydney

Spice Temple recently introduced yum cha style options for lunch – which is great because down that end of town there is very little of it other than Mr Wong. And yes I know people will say ‘you could get that for half the price in China Town blah blah blah’ but this isn’t mass-produced-sitting-around-in-a-trolley type yum cha – it is Neil Perry yum cha, made to order and using some great ingredients.  I’ve been to Spice Temple a la carte several times, so was keen to try the dumplings.  The optimal group size though, seems to be 3 people, as that is the serving size of most of the dumplings. They won’t up it to four, so if everyone wants to try one and you’re a foursome, you’ll need to order two serves.  Tasting it, it is obvious that this is premium stuff, you just need to get your head around the association of yum cha = cheap.

The standouts for me were: Gua bao with roast pork belly and chilli paste ($9 each), which you order individually (spice, texture and flavour), the lobster siu mai – $12 for two – (such luxury! And just devine), the Wagyu beef and chestnut siu mai (not too often you get beef in dumplings, and these were delicious), and the Pork balls with XO sauce (oh that sauce! Give me a bowl of it with some steamed rice). Excuse the pics – Spice Temple lighting is not conducive to good photos!

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We also tried the Har Gow steamed prawn dumplings (these were probably the only ones we tried which didn’t stand out in particularly versus say Palace or other yum cha), the Prawn and scallop spring roll, and the Lamb and cumin pancake

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To finish, we had the three milk cake (normal, condensed and cream I think) with raspberry, pistachio and almond, with meringue on top. It had a slightly Middle Eastern bent with the rosewater and pistachio, and the milk was just delicious. I could happily skip the meringue and just have that gorgeous cake with lashings of the milk mixture. Any chance of a recipe, Neil?

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Spice Temple, 10 Bligh Street, Sydney ph (02) 8078 1888
http://www.rockpool.com/spicetemplesydney/