Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Aylesbury Restaurant & Rooftop

Location: 103 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 3000
Phone: (03) 9077 0451
Cuisine: Spanish

Another Melbourne trip, another foodie adventure with V. This time, we were headed to the newly opened Aylesbury, before the foodie crowds got wind of the place.

The menu (not available online) is a simple one. It simply lists two or three of the key ingredients, and doesn't give away how it is going to be cooked, or what else it might have. If asked, the waiters are able to give you a detailed description. Otherwise, the not-knowing makes dining tapas style that little bit more exciting.

complimentary bread and olive oil
Unlike Legends, the Aylesbury (as with all good tapas places) served complimentary bread from the start, and continued to top it up a few times during the meal.

Wagyu, bone marrow, morcilla
The Spanish definitely know their charcuterie. Thin slices of cured wagyu were served with small nuggets of bone marrow and a sprinkling of morcilla (blood sausage). The wagyu had an intense saltiness but with a delicate smokiness. The saltiness was nicely offset with the creamy bone marrow. Not the biggest fan of blood sausage, I was glad the morcilla was subtle and not overpowering. Everything was then topped with fried breadcrumbs and edible flowers, to add another dimension of flavour to the already flavour-packed dish.

Prawn, corn and coriander
A beautiful combination of flavours - the prawns were well seasoned, and deep fried to the point where the entire prawn could be eaten, shell and all. The sweet corn puree worked brilliantly as a sweet and creamy contrast tot he crunch of the prawns. The coriander added that final freshness and bound all the flavours together. 

Lamb ribs, pea & lemon
The lamb ribs were a hit. The fatty parts were well seasoned and rendered to produce a slightly crispy coating. Definitely needed the lemon to cut through the fattiness of the lamb though.

Sous vide Aylesbury duck with beetroot puree and dehydrated beetroot
Our 'large' dish for the night was the Aylesbury duck. The duck was beautifully cooked, retaining its slight gaminess and cooking juices, and appeared to have been finished off in a pan to produce a nice crispy skin. Beetroot and duck pair so well together, and the puree added a fresh sweet contrast to the duck. The dehydrated beetroot packed a punch, with an intense flavour condensed into powder form.

Pink fur potatoes, duck fat
These were no ordinary chips or wedges. Duck fat just seems to make everything taste so much better. Delicately seasoned and a sprinkling of fresh herbs just rounded out the meal.

Citrus: Montenegro pannacotta, fruit salad with tuile, grapefruit sorbet
And then who could go past dessert? Having read about this dish on MoMo & Coco's Dessert Correspondence, and then hearing our waiter's description, we couldn't go past it.

Just as well I had read that blog, because our waiter also failed to mention the order in which to eat the various components of the dessert. We followed the advice by MoMo and Coco and started with the grapefruit sorbet and worked our way through the salad and finally the pannacotta. 

Fresh and zingy, the sorbet was definitely a palate cleanser, and really enticed us to move onto the next component. The fruit salad was fresh, nothing extraordinary (it was simply pieces of fresh fruit). The tuile passed the 'snap' test and added a nice crunchy texture to the salad. And then there was the pannacotta. It was beautifully smooth and creamy, I was looking for something extra in terms of flavour - as a stronger flavour wouldn't have gone amiss. (Although, I should probably disclose that my standard for a 'good' pannacotta has gone up ridiculously since I had Sarti's pistachio pannacotta with salted caramel popcorn, so I may be a little biased.)

Service was fast and friendly. Perhaps a little too fast. One thing I've learnt from tapas style eating is that it works best when the dishes come out one after the other, degustation style. Instead, the prawns arrived before we were even halfway through the wagyu, and the lamb arrived shortly after the prawns. The unfortunate result was a choice between eating a bit of everything all at the same time, or letting the dishes cool down as we worked our way through them.

And to finish the meal, we headed upstairs to the rooftop bar for a drink. There was a nice atmosphere, which was quite pleasant. Not the biggest range of cocktails, but some pretty decent ciders and a very extensive wine list.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
The Aylesbury on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Legends Spanish Restaurant - Livingsocial Tapas Deal

Location: Capitol Theatre Centre, Franklin St Manuka, ACT 2603
Phone: (02) 6295 3966
Cuisine: Spanish

A couple of months ago, Livingsocial had a deal for Legends. $40 for six tapas and a jug of sangria. The idea of tapas was too good to give up, and given each tapas dish on their menu was priced around the $15 mark, the deal was definitely good value for money.

So after work one Friday, four of us headed out for a drink and a light dinner.

Almejas - Pipis in olive oil, garlic and chilli
I have always loved pipis, but my experience with eating them has mostly been confined to Asian style cooking (asari sake, pipis with basil and chilli) so this was something a little different.

And it was amazing. The natural saltiness from the pipis countered the richness of the olive oil and garlic. The dish was a little light on the chilli, but it gave the requisite 'kick' when it comes to seafood.

Chorizo - Traditional pork and paprika sausage
When I think Spanish, the first things I think of are jamon and chorizo. The chorizo at Legends was beautifully cured with an aromatic smokiness. There was a little more excess oil than usual, which would have been fine had there been bread, but without the bread, the dish bordered a little on the greasy side.

Champigñones - Mushrooms cooked in olive oil, garlic and chilli
These mushrooms were simple, with only a few simple ingredients. The mushrooms were cooked until soft, then smothered in olive oil. As with most of the dishes, the garlic and chilli just added that extra 'kick'.

Falda de Cerdo - Caramelised pork belly served with apple cider sauce
Pork belly is one of those dishes that are ridiculously hard to perfect, and to date, I have yet to find one that matches, let alone beats, the pork belly at Red Spice Road in Melbourne. This one was a little disappointing, there wasn't much crackling and the fat had not been rendered down properly. That aside, apple cider sauce was sharp and fresh, providing a nice contrast to the fatty meat.

Pinchitos - Marinated chicken kebabs –grilled tenderloins
Chicken kebabs. Not exactly my idea of Spanish, but it was on the menu and we thought we would give it a shot. The chicken was a little dry and overcooked, but the marinade and the flavours were quite good.

Pulpo a la Brasa - Grilled baby octopus, marinated paprika & oregano
The baby octopus were well cooked and tender. The paprika and oregano added a nice smoky aroma in addition to the chargrill effect. A squeeze of lemon just completed the dish.

Service was decent. Some great dishes, some not so great. But for $10 each, and including a jug of sangria, it was definitely a good way to end the working week.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Legends on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mamak Roti House

Location: 121 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 6257 9688
Cuisine: Malaysian

Having been thoroughly impressed with Mamak in Sydney, E, Y and I decided to give this relatively new (or at least it was at the time of dining) place a shot.

roti planta - roti canai with margarine

First up, some roti. You can't go to a Malaysian restaurant without ordering roti.

This one was nothing like the one we had in Sydney, which had been served in a cone-like shape and was more flaky and crumbly than this one. But nevertheless, it was still pretty good.

The roti was crisp on the outside, and when torn into, the inside layers were soft and pillowly. The one mistake was ordering the planta instead of the canai, because there was definitely an overload of margarine by the time we finished it.

beef rendang curry
The rendang was average, nothing that special, but the beef was tender. Went well with the roti.\
Mamak mee goreng - hokkien noodles wok fried with chicken, tofu,
onions & tomatoes, in a blend of sweet & spicy sauce
The mee goreng was pretty good. A good generous serve, tender chicken, fresh vegies and noodles that were coated in a flavoursome sauce. There was even a hint of the smokiness from the wok.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Mamak Roti House on Urbanspoon

Farmers Daughter

Location: 27B Bentham Street, Yarralumla ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6281 2233
Cuisine: Breakfast

Being stuck in Canberra on a long weekend is never fun. Being stuck in Canberra on a long weekend with temperatures more akin to winter, and three assignments to write, is even less fun.

So with that in mind, I sacrificed my usual weekend sleep in to go out to brunch with P and we headed to Farmers Daughter in Yarralumla.

Farmers Daughter is a fairly recent addition to the Canberra breakfast scene and has started to make a name for itself with foodies. Having been once before and found the lunch menu quite impressive (they stop serving breakfast at 11am and we arrived just after then), we decided to return this time for breakfast. 

And this time, breakfast was served.

First up, a mocha. Ever since starting work, I've picked up a bit of an amateur coffee drinking habit. Amateur in that I tend to play it safe by ordering mochas. The coffee used is Campos coffee (which might mean something to coffee connoisseurs out there). Not quite the mocha I'm used to, not enough chocolate, and needed extra sugar. I think I'll stick with Pork Barrel's 2-4-1 coffees.

'eggs how you like them' - scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough
P opted for scrambled eggs on toast. Can't go wrong with that.

'no ordinary soldiers' - (left to right) prosciutto & romesco,
parmesan & rocket, smoked salmon & crème fraiche
I was a little more adventurous. Having read some pretty decent reviews about the soldiers, I decided that despite my dislike for rocket, I'd give them a go and was rather impressed by the dish when it came out.

The sourdough soldiers were crunchy and toppings were very well matched - the perfect marriage of smoked salmon with crème fraiche and prosciutto with romesco worked as expected, and even the rocket wasn't too overbearing for me and balanced very nicely with the parmesan infused cream cheese. 

Whilst I'm on a roll with the reviews, here's a snapshot of what's on offer with the lunch menu from our last dining experience at Farmers Daughter...

BLT with dijonaise on caramelized garlic bread
The BLT was not your usual BLT. Served on caramelizeed garlic bread, P was thoroughly impressed with it. 

potato and bacon frittata with Caesar salad
My potato and bacon frittata was also quite tasty, with a nice crunchy crust on the top, and creamy potato slices in the filling. The bacon imparted a subtle smokey flavour through the layers of potato. Then there was the side salad. My experience with side salads has mostly been a measly pile of random green leaves and possibly a wedge of tomato or a smattering of shredded carrots. Not quite that at Farmers Daughter - here you get a choice of Farmers salad, vegetable salad or Caesar salad, and the serving size is quite generous!

And as an added plus, they have macarons! (But don't expect the waiters to know what flavours they have on hand, it obviously isn't something that was included in their job description.)

The service is generally quite good, although slow at times given the place is fairly packed come midday. The waiters are pleasant and mostly polite, and the atmosphere definitely provides a nice and casual place to kick off a lazy long weekend.

Overall Impression: 9/10
Farmers Daughter on Urbanspoon