Sunday, July 10, 2011

Becasse Bakery

Location: Level 5, Westfield, Pitt Street, Sydney 2000
Phone: (02) 9283 3440
Cuisine: Bakery, Dessert

An offshoot of Justin North's famous Becasse restaurant, Becasse Bakery caught out eye after we'd had our light lunch at Din Tai Fung and we couldn't help but stop for a sample.

the array of cakes

Opera cake
I ordered the opera cake, mostly due to recalling an episode of MasterChef which had featured this delicately  layered chocolate cake. I wasn't disappointed, the cake was light and airy, with each layer very distinct. The slice was decorated with a piece of white chocolate painted with a bar of music to add to the theme.

Mille feuille
H ordered this to compare with one she had had in Europe, and she was similarly not disappointed. In fact, she thought this was just as good as the one she ate in Paris!

Highlight of the trip was seeing Justin North at work through the temporary open kitchen door! Next time, we'll try the actual restaurant.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Becasse Bakery on Urbanspoon

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar

Location: Level 5, Westfield, Pitt Street, Sydney 2000
Cuisine: Chinese, Dumplings

After a couple of hours of shopping, H and I stopped for a light lunch at Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar, a food court version of the famous Taiwanese dumpling chain.

shrimp and pork wonton noodles
A beautifully flavoursome but light dish. The wontons were juicy with soft wrappers and filled with nice chunks of shrimp and well-seasoned minced pork. The noodles were cooked al dente, and the broth was subtle and packed with flavour.

xiao long bao
Good old xiao long bao, the one dish to judge any good dumpling place by. These were perfect. The wrapper was thin and delicate, filled with juicy minced pork. A Shanghainese friend once told me that the trick to eating these is to take a small bite and to suck the soup out first. And soup there was a plenty. I would rate these on par with Hu Tong, which are the best I've had in Melbourne.

Din Tai Fung definitely delivers above and beyond the quality typically expected of food court dishes. If the quality here is anything to go by, I just cannot wait to try the dumplings at the head restaurant!

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Adriano Zumbo Patissier

Location: 296 Darling Street, Balmain, NSW 2040
Phone: (02) 9810 7318
Cuisine: Desserts, Cakes

After all the hype on MasterChef, a trip to Sydney would not be the same without a visit to Adriano Zumbo's famous Patissier. 

Located in Balmain in amongst a strip of cafes, bakeries and little boutiques, Adriano Zumbo fits right in.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier - shopfront
We arrived rather early, and were pretty lucky that there wasn't much of a line. So we stepped inside to be greeted by a magnificent array of cakes, pastries and desserts.

delicious looking cakes and chocolates
cute little cakes
more cakes
sugar overload much?

After spending a considerable amount of time choosing what to purchase, I ended up going for the passionfruit tart.

tarte aux fruits de la passion - passionfruit curd and pâte sucrée
The tart base was sweet, delicate and crumbly. The filling was smooth and creamy and was topped with a fruity tangy passionfruit flavoured jelly.

And finally, the infamous macarons!

(left to right) strawberries & cream, caramelised palm sugar,
pandan, toasted white chocolate, kaffir lime & ginger, chocolate

I got a nice take home pack with a selection of six flavours. They also had satay, chestnut & mint and a couple of others. At $2.30 each, Adriano Zumbo's macarons are cheaper and far superior to the delice at Lindt Cafe ($3 each) and those sold at various other bakeries I have been to.

Overall Impression: 10/10
Adriano Zumbo Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pelagic Bar & Dining: $49 Seafood Meal for 2 Plus Wine Deal

Location: Shop 2, 131 London Circuit, Canberra
Phone: (02) 6162 0752
Cuisine: Seafood, Modern Australian

I had never heard of Pelagic until the restaurant cropped up one day as a LivingSocial deal. For $49, the restaurant offered two entrees, two mains and a bottle of wine up to the value of $45. Being a bit of a seafood fanatic, and having been fairly disappointed with the lack of decent seafood in Canberra to date, the deal was too good to pass up so I bought it.

J and I finally went to try out the restaurant the other night and it was well worth it. The entrees on the menu were priced at around $20 each, the mains were around $32 each. We ordered a bottle of Wily Trout sparkling to start.

Wily Trout sparkling
I'm no expert when it comes to alcohol, but J certainly is. And thought the sparkling wasn't bad. Especially for the price we were paying.

Balmain bug pasta
Pelagic haven't updated their online menu for a while so this entry is going to be somewhat lacking in descriptions. J was sufficiently pleased with her entree of Balmain bug pasta. There seemed to be a generous enough serve of bug, which was cooked just right, and plenty of pasta.

seared scallops with crispy pig ears and shaved fennel
This may look small, but it was absolutely deliciously. The scallops were cooked perfectly, with nice slightly charred edges and soft tender centres.  The pig ears were so crispy that they tasted more like crackling than like ears, and the shaved fennel added some freshness to the dish. I certainly wouldn't have  minded more, but for the price paid, it was totally worth it.

Yellowfin tuna with roasted tomatoes
From what I tried, the tuna was very well-cooked - and nothing like canned tuna! I have a tendency not to order tuna when eating out for fear it will end up tasting like the canned stuff, but J went for this one, and I think I may have been convinced that a tuna steak is actually quite decent.

haramashi kingfish with mushroom ragout and garlic crisps
Again, if the online menu isn't going to be updated regularly, then don't have one. I had decided on the seared kingfish as advertised on the website's menu, but turned up to find they didn't have the dish. The mushroom ragout caught my eye so I gave this kingfish dish a go. The fish was soft and again cooked perfectly, with a nice crispy skin that bordered a bit on being oversalted. The mushroom ragout was hearty and imparted a beautiful flavour to the fish. 

classic creme brulee
Despite the deal only covering two courses, I could not pass up dessert when I saw creme brulee on the menu. And it was a good decision. The toffee was perfect, making a nice crunch as I broke through the top layer to get to the creamy filling, and had just the right amount of burntness to give it a bittersweet flavour.

The deal was certainly well worth what we paid for it. I'm not entirely sure I would pay full price for the dishes, but I've been told that Pelagic does a decent $15 lunch deal during the week. Might give that a shot one day.

Overall Impression: 9/10
Pelagic Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

ARIA Restaurant, Sydney

Location: 1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9252 2555
Cuisine: Modern Australian

H and I went to Sydney on a feasting expedition and were lucky enough to secure a pre-theatre booking at Matt Moran's ARIA with just a few weeks' notice.

Just as expected, the staff at ARIA were polite and friendly the minute we set foot in the restaurant. We were escorted to our table, and seated next to a window with a breathtaking view of Circular Quay..

the amazing view from our seat
Whilst we were perusing the menus, our waitress for the night brought over a complimentary appetiser of mushroom soup with walnut foam.

mushroom soup with walnut foam
The soup was smooth, creamy and flavoursome and the walnut foam provided a rich nutty flavour. A perfect start to the meal.

After looking through the wine list (which was a bit pricey for someone like me who has yet to form an appreciation of good wine), we ordered some cocktails from a fairly extensive cocktail menu.

lychee ice tea and Poculant Pimm's

Both drinks were nice and fruity and went well with the view.

Next up, the entrees.

Peking duck consommé with duck dumplings, shaved abalone and mushroom
H's Peking duck consumme was pure brilliance. The broth was bursting with the rich flavours of shitake and abalone and a hint of duck. The duck filling for the dumpling was also quite flavoursome and had a nice soft texture.

Kurobuta sweet pork belly with pickled watermelon and crackling
Who could skip over a pork belly dish at one of the country's top restaurants? Not me. And it proved to be a good idea. The pork belly was cooked perfectly - the meat was tender and fell apart quite easily when cut. The crackling was light and very crunchy. The watermelon, although not quite so pickled as expected, was cool and refreshing and cut through the fattiness of the pork.

braised beef cheek with red onion choucroute, roasted chestnuts and puffed wild rice
I had half expected the main dishes to be quite small. However, I was proved wrong when the dish was set down in front of me. A very generous serve of tender flavoursome beef that just fell apart when cut rested on a bed of sweet roasted chestnuts and red onion and was topped with crunchy bits of puffed wild rice. Perfect winter warming food. I found the beef a little too meaty, but I suppose that was to be expected with the cut of beef.

slow cooked lamb neck fillet with potato purée, tomato and basil fondue and a black olive sauce
H's lamb was just as flavoursome, but less meaty than the beef. The potato puree was smooth and creamy and went well with the basil and olive flavours.

Being too full after two courses, we decided to skip on dessert and asked for the bill.  To our surprise, a waiter then brought over a palate cleanser to end the meal.

(from left to right) strawberry cheesecake, Bailey's chocolate truffle, pistachio macaron
So it turns out we didn't miss on dessert after all. These tiny morsels of cheesecake, truffle and macaron were a beautiful way to end the meal.

ARIA certainly lived up to its name and I would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates good food.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Aria on Urbanspoon