July 15, 2008

Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay

We've started to explore the nicer (called "flash" here) restaurants in Sydney. Previously we'd been to Tetsuya's, Bird Cow Fish, Danks Street Depot, and Atelier. This time we decided to visit The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay.

This is supposed to be one of Sydney's best seafood restaurants, so we concentrated on ... seafood! We started in the bar while we waited for our table with half a dozen local oysters and a split of Bollinger. The Pacific oysters were quite tasty, but the local bay surface oyster was huge and strong. Not a bad thing, but you have to love oysters to like them (which we do, and did.)

We were then shown to our table, harbor side with a great view of the Anzac bridge. We had a roasted beet, cress and goat cheese salad while Debbie had a NZ bluefish and I had local Spanish Mackerel. My Mackerel was very nicely done, moist (possibly poached) then finshed over high heat to crisp it (possibly with a torch?) Debbie's was probably just poached and not as spectactular.

The dinner was great and the view is superb, but the prices are comparable to some of the best restaurants in the world and the food is good but not in that league. We probably won't go back for dinner unless there's some special reason to go there. On the other hand, we may well go back just for the oysters.

Saigon Saigon

We've been trying out the restaurants near us, mostly on Glebe Point Road. Most recently it was "Saigon Saigon" a Vietnamese (no really) restaurant. It's slightly upscale, we started with the crispy pancake appetizer that was quite deliciously crispy and filled with bean sprouts, chicken, and other sauteed vegetables. On the side was a nice big pile of lettuce leaves, fresh mint, fresh cilantro, julienned carrots and sliced hot chili peppers to stuff it with. The contrasts of hot and cool, crispy and soft, sweet, tart, and spicy reminded me why I love good vietnamese food.

The second dish was a spicy beef salad, with nicely cooked shreds of lean beef on a bed of butter lettuce and piled with mint, cilantro, and more julienned vegetables. The description may sound similar to the pancake, but that's only because the condiments are similar. The dishes themselves are quite distinct, one being a hot crispy eggy crepe, the other a cold spicy shredded beef.

Finally we had a special salt and pepper soft shell crab. The crab was deep fried in a delicately flavored batter fragrant with pepper and nicely salty, sauteed with chilis and garlic, and served with the requisite garnishes. The crab itself was sweet and flavorful, though the oil was maybe just a little too hot - the crab was not overcooked but the batter was slightly overbrowned.

Accompanied by two traditional soda lemonades with mint, though you can BYO.

Din Tai Fung

There's a branch of the noodle/dumpling chain "Din Tai Fung" here in Sydney. Debbie and I went, and were very pleased. We had Dan Dan Mein, Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (Jiao Tze), and shanghai soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao). All of the dishes were excellent, though I prefer my Dan Dan Mein a little spicier, and my Xiao Long Bao a little soupier. Nevertheless we'll be back!

March 23, 2008

Craft Bar

We left Bangalore, visited Singapore, Darwin, Sydney, Mountain View, and finally New York. We landed on March 10th and started our culinary tour at Craft Bar.

Started with a Llopart “Leopardi” Brut Rose Cava.

Had a few small plates.

Duck prosciutto with arugula, soft cooked egg and a little orange zest. Nice combination, reminiscent of a nice salad frisee in some ways.

Fried Polenta, was like hushpuppies, the sauce was sweet and sour vinegar based with sultanas. Quite tasty.

Beef tongue in gelee, flavor of thyme and whole mustard seeds. Huckleberries on the side.

Fondue of pecorino, spicy toasted hazelnuts with honey. Melty cheese!

Sweetbreads breaded in panko crumbs and deep fried. Tender and juicy, nicely done. Crispy little sweetbread nuggets.

January 03, 2008

Just Oriental

The owners of T'Chi (previously reviewed) have closed that location and opened a new place on Brigade Road - called "Just Oriental." Last night Gautam, Madhu, and I checked it out.

It's a relatively small place, up on the first floor of the big mall near Residency Road (I think of it as "the Coffee World mall" but I'm sure that's not really its name.) The decor is quite nice, lots of plain wood, simple tables, with a decorative screen covering the windows that overlook Brigade Road. It felt elegant and restful.

I arrived early, and ordered a bottle of wine while I waited. The wine selection is nothing special, but the Grovers Viognier was pleasantly crisp and dry. We started with steamed dumplings which were reminiscent of shiu-mai, open on top and filled with spiced minced meat and vegetables. It was served with a custom made chili sauce that complemented it nicely. They were served VERY HOT which was good, but caused us a small round of "ow! That's hot!" and reaching for water glasses.

We asked the chef to just serve whatever was good, preferably Chinese style. He graciously agreed, and proceeded to bring us braised pork spare-ribs in a savory five spice sauce, glazed deep fried prawns with orange peel, ginger, and peppers, seared shredded beef in a Taiwanese sauce, Buddha's delight, braised pork belly, and Singaporean style noodles.

The braised ribs were tender and tasty, but as Gautam put it "this was a very small pig." Nevertheless I found it satisfying as a starter. The brown sauce had a lot of star anise in it and the dish was nicely complemented with fresh bean sprouts and slivered green onion. I find many braised spare rib dishes to be overly sweet, but this was not sweet at all - a welcome change.

The prawns on the other hand, were covered in a crunchy sweet glaze over batter fried prawns. The batter was a little thick, disguising the otherwise tasty prawns. The sauce included fresh orange peel, dried red chilis, and fresh ginger nice clean citrus flavors to complement the sweetness and bring out the prawn flavor. I'm sure this will be a crowd pleaser, though as I said I'm not really a fan of super sweet dishes (though I certainly ate all of mine!)

The shredded beef was tasty, with a shrimp scented Taiwanese sauce. The beef was unremarkable, which is remarkable in itself. Often beef here is tough, stringy, and overcooked. This was not. It was fairly tender, without gristle, and not dried out.) The sauce was interesting. I first misidentified the flavor as oyster sauce, and I'm a fan of beef in oyster sauce.

Buddha's Delight is a vegetarian staple, and easy to get wrong. It has a number of different vegetables, and fried tofu, in a slightly thickened sauce. If not prepared correctly the vegetables get limp and the flavors muddy. This one was done reasonably well, with fresh cabbage that was not overcooked, and a good balance of ingredients. I might have liked the flavors to be a bit brighter and stand out from each other more, but on the whole it was a fine dish.

The Singaporean style noodles were a mixture of fried thin wheat noodles, and rice vermicelli. It was unremarkable either pro or con, though I found it the tiniest bit oily.

The braised pork belly was good, and I'm happy to find pork belly anywhere in Bangalore! The sauce was properly gelatinous and the spicing let the flavor of the pork show through without drowning it out in chilis, sugar or soy. If there was one thing to improve about this dish, the meat was a bit dry. Cooking it longer over lower heat would cure that, but it was quite enjoyable just the way it was.

Three people, bottle of wine Rs 3000. About Rs 600 per person without wine. I'd go back.