sushi e, Sydney (March Into Merivale)

There really is such thing as a free meal! Thanks to the Tweet to Eat competition as part of March Into Merivale, I was lucky enough to score a free voucher to eat at one of nine Merivale restaurants offering $33 lunches and dinners, which include a main meal and a glass of wine or beer.

Deciding which restaurant to go was probably the hardest part, even with the help of the $33 menus available for viewing on the website. We ended up at sushi e, located in the Establishment building of the Merivale empire, and were seated on stools at a marble bar surrounding the sushi chefs, which allowed us to watch head chef Nobuyuki Ura in action.

We started off with a steaming bowl of miso soup (included in the $33 menu), which was very welcome on this dreary, rainy evening. The broth was more bland than I’m used to, and in the soup was deep fried tofu, spring onions and mitsuba leaf.

New style salmon sashimi

The menus at sushi e include a salad or sashimi dish, followed by a main dish, and so the first thing to arrive at our table was the new style salmon sashimi. Eight slices of salmon were drizzled with ponzu and garlic oil, then seared with smoking hot olive oil to cook the salmon just slightly. Each slice was also decorated with chives, sesame seeds and a paper thin piece of ginger. This was my favourite dish and I couldn’t get enough of the citrus tang of the ponzu paired with the salmon.

Tuna and cuttlefish salad

The tuna and cuttlefish salad also did not disappoint. I was expecting this to be full of rabbit food (leaves) with not much fish at all but it turned out to be quite the opposite! There was a very generous amount of raw tuna and cuttlefish throughout the salad along with some colourful capsicum and cherry tomatoes. The salad itself was quite large and it was dressed with a lemon and lime dressing and toasted sesame seeds.

Roast pork, asian greens, ginger and shallot dressing

The roast pork was also an enormous serving, with tender slices of roast pork (not unlike those found on top of ramen) sitting on a bed of salad and asian vegetables. Although the pork was quite lean, it wasn’t dry and there was still small ribbon of delicious fat on the edge of the slices to give it a burst of flavour. The ginger and shallot dressing was very tasty and Sir D proclaimed this is favourite dish of the night.

Miso mulloway

Unfortunately the miso mulloway paled in comparison to the roast pork, not only in portion size but in taste. The fish had been marinated with miso which imparted a slightly sweet flavour to the fish, but the fish was cooked a little inconsistently so that the parts near the skin seemed to be moist and tender but the flesh away from the skin was a bit dry and rubbery.

Spider roll (soft shell crab)

For an extra $16 we could select extra entrees from the menu from the sections of the menu entitled kitchen appetisers, salads and sushi rolls. Sir D was feeling rather peckish before the meal so we ordered two extra sushi rolls to act as fillers (although we did end up over-ordering since we underestimated the size of the dishes). We were able to watch the talented sushi chefs construct the roll right before our eyes and within minutes they presented it to us fresh on a wooden plank. The spider roll consisted of dry fried soft shell crab, cucumber, jalapeno mayo rolled inside-out with spicy tobiko (flying fish roe) and chives. The soft shell crab was nice and crunchy and there was a generous amount of tobiko which was quite spicy but this was cooled by the cucumber in the roll.

Spicy scallop tempura roll

The spicy scallop tempura roll on the other hand was not spicy at all, even though I watched as a ‘spicy red sauce’ supposedly containing togarashi chilli was squeezed on the seaweed. This didn’t mean it wasn’t a delicious tasting sushi roll though, with the springy cooked scallop encased by a crunchy batter of tempura with thinly sliced cucumber and loads of tobiko.

Russian cream dessert

A small dessert was also included with the $33 menu. It was called a Russian Cream dessert on the menu but the waitress introduced it as a vanilla pannacotta with raspberry coulis. Despite its small size, it was a delicious morsel of sweet and sour with the sweetness of the pannacotta combined with the tartness of the raspberries.

March Into Merivale runs from 15th February to 16th April, with $33 lunch and dinner offers available Monday to Friday from 12-2pm or 6-8pm. Check out the restaurant menus here. The Tweet to Eat competition is still running until 14th April, so you still have a chance to win a free $33 voucher! For more information, visit the March Into Merivale website.

Penguin says Feed Me received one $33 meal courtesy of Merivale. All other food and beverages were paid for by Penguin says Feed Me!

sushi e
252 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9240 3000
Open Monday – Friday, lunch and dinner; Saturday, dinner only

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All You Can Eat Ribs at Waterfront Grill, Darling Harbour

When planning a birthday celebration with food bloggers, one always needs to consider the food. Will it taste good? Will there be enough? Thankfully this was not an issue when I celebrated my 21st birthday with a giant horde of super hungry food bloggers craving for ribs at Waterfront Grill.

Raspberry iced tea cocktail (Thanks Leona!)

The amount of food was never going to be a problem since what we were there for was the All You Can Eat Ribs for $29pp, available on Tuesday nights from 5pm. And although there were some inconsistencies with some ribs being a bit drier than others, when they did arrive smothered in BBQ sauce they were delicious!

Even though every seasoned all-you-can-eater knows that carbs are stomach fillers and products of the devil, the steak fries that came with the ribs were so addictive. They may have actually been better than the ribs themselves! We all dug in with gusto but most of us were defeated after two plates of ribs. Richard the eating machine didn’t quite make it to the 6 plates he was aiming for but nearly finished 4 plates so good effort!

Despite how full we all were, we still had enough room for some crack (pie). Ellie kindly brought along her rendition of the Momofuku Crack Pie as a birthday pie. And you know this is a good thing when Helen travels 40 minutes just to have a slice of pie :)

After tasting it, I know now why it is called crack pie… because it is completely addictive like crack! The pie was gooey, sticky and caramelly with a crumbly cookie crust and I practically licked my plate clean because we wouldn’t want any of the crack (pie) to go to waste now, would we? Thank you so much for sharing the pie with us Ellie! (scroll down for more shout-outs)

Waterfront Grill
Shop 289 Harbourside
Darling Harbour 2000
Ph: +61 2 9280 4994

Open Monday – Friday, 7.30am-10.30pm; Saturday – Sunday, 7am-11pm

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Apparently a birthday celebration doesn’t happen without gifts, and thank you to all the people who got me a present even though I completely wasn’t expecting anything! Your presence was more than enough :) So here are shoutouts: here I introduce to you two new penguins joining the Penguin says Feed Me team – thanks Richard and Suze for the “penguin” bank on the left and Minh for the penguin on the right which she knitted herself!

And some candy from Sticky also from Richard and Suze. I love candy!

More penguin stuff – silicone moulds this time thanks to Billy. Billy – did you know that some of the penguins are dead?! Look at the Xs on their eyes! Haha

Karen and Steph went crazy at a Japanese store and came out with a lunch bag (which says “Lunch time will make everyone happy” – it certainly makes me happy!) and a cute pink lunch box complete with spoon, fork and chopsticks hehe.

Also in the bag was a strawberry ice cube tray, cupcake cases, a cake keyring and the cutest star shaped pan which I have yet to use but I wonder if you can fry an egg in it and have only the star bit with yolk… Thanks Karen and Steph!

Howard and Linda try and fatten me up with two boxes full of goodies from The Fudge Shop which will definitely serve me well in this long and arduous study year I foresee! I’ve barely made a dent in the English Toffee – thanks guys!

Last but not least comes a Gordon Ramsay cookbook courtesy of Simon – your hint was duly noted ;)

Thank you to everyone who took the time to come along to celebrate my birthday. I never thought I would have met such an awesome bunch of people through food blogging and as per Simon’s gift, I will cook for you all one day!

Bills, Surry Hills

Bills is somewhat of a breakfast institution in Sydney, and it shames me to admit that, even though I am a born and bred Sydneysider, it was only a few weeks ago that I first visited Bills for brunch. We arrived at 12 so they had already progressed onto their lunch menu, but luckily for me all of Bills classic breakfast dishes were also offered for lunch :)

Sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon – $18.50

To be honest, no matter how much hype I hear about the scrambled eggs, I simply can not bring myself to pay $13.50 for scrambled eggs and toast (especially when I know the secret ingredient is lots of cream!). Instead, I opt for the sweet corn fritters, which are two lovely crisp patties of pop-in-your-mouth corn held together by an eggy batter. Sandwiched between these tasty fritters are pieces of juicy roasted roma tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and the best bacon I have tasted to date! The bacon wasn’t particularly crispy but it just had the most amazing smokey bacony flavour. I don’t know what kind of bacon I’ve been eating in the past but this is what REAL bacon should taste like! Needless to say I ate every last bit of this dish.

Semolina-crusted calamari with lemon, parsely, green beans and fennel – $19.50

Tasha decided to pick something from their lunch menu and chose the semolina-crusted calamari, which was supposed to come with green beans and fennel but it looks like it got replaced with a spinach salad of sorts. Not to worry though, because the calamari was fabulously tender with just the lightest coating of semolina which gave it just that little bit of crunch. It also came with a side of tartare sauce, which imparted a touch of tangy-ness to the dish.

Ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter – $17.50

Carol, a girl after my own heart, skipped straight to the sweets and went for the famous ricotta hotcakes. These were gooooood… the hotcakes were nice and thick with blobs of ricotta scattered throughout. Sadly there was no thick wad of honeycomb butter on top of the hotcakes as I’ve seen in the past but it seemed to have been melted and used as some sort of sauce. Nothing that some good lashings of maple syrup couldn’t fix though. It was almost a struggle to finish this because it was so filling but we eventually managed some mouthfuls in between some chatting and laughing over fond memories, and soon, it was all gone!

359 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9360 4762

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Taste of Sydney 2010

I’m sure this is the millionth blog post about Taste of Sydney, but don’t worry, I’ll keep it short and sweet :) This is mainly a photo post, with the exception of when I simply have to rave on about how good something tastes. But we’ll get to that later.

5.30pm, and the gates are opened!

The currency of Taste of Sydney is Crowns, where 1 Crown = $1.

Aria: Cured ocean trout with cucumber and horseradish – 10 crowns

Restaurant Balzac: Crispy wagyu beef with wild mushroom and truffle foam – 10 crowns

If you’re wondering where the beef is, it’s inside the ‘spring roll’ type thing. The pastry was super crunchy and the wagyu beef was nice and tender.

Restaurant Balzac: Saddle of suckling pig with garden peas and smoked bacon jus – 12 crowns

Continue reading Taste of Sydney 2010

Quay, The Rocks

With unparalleled views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with some of Sydney’s best food by head chef Peter Gilmore, Quay is definitely a place best reserved for a special occasion.

View from the restaurant

This is exactly what Sir D and I did one weekday lunchtime, when we headed to Quay to celebrate our anniversary. We were greeted by friendly waitstaff who took us through the spacious dining area, where the afternoon sunlight beamed through the glass walls of the restaurant, revealing a clear blue sky and stunning views of Sydney Harbour. Whilst settling in at our table, who should I spot but the lovely Ellie from Almost Bourdain! If you haven’t already, check out her spectacular tiramisu inspired by one of Quay’s signature desserts :)

Although it is definitely not cheap, Quay offers what is said to be one of the best value lunches in Sydney, with 2 courses for $75 or 3 courses for $95. We opted for the 3 course lunch and as we made our choices from the menu, my stomach was already quivering in excitement for the gustatory pleasures to come.

Amuse bouche – Tuna tartare with smoked eel tapioca and horseradish cream

We began our meal with the amuse bouche – a tuna tartare with smoked eel tapioca and horseradish cream. The tapioca had subtle flavours of smoked eel, not too much to overpower the delicate flavour of the fish, but enough to make its presence known. The horseradish cream added a smoothness to the dish and provided a bit of tang to complement the other flavours. I savoured every last bit of this and only wished that there was more.

Sea Pearls – (left to right) Sashimi tuna, smoked eel and octopus, abalone, sea scallop

But not to worry, because the entrees were coming. And what is a visit to Quay without trying their infamous sea pearls? These handcrafted gems of the ocean are delicate, each with their own unique flavour. The tuna one is soft and yielding, studded with herbs and filled with a touch of the horseradish cream from the amuse bouche. The smoked eel and octopus sea pearl is quite chewy and has a unique texture and smokey flavour. The abalone sea pearl is combined with dashi, a Japanese stock made from konbu and bonito, and we find that it very strong on the dashi flavour making it quite salty and masking the taste of the abalone. My favourite by far is the scallop sea pearl encasing lime cream and topped with edible silver. The scallop is sweet and the lime cream imparts a bit of tartness.

Mud crab congee – Hand-shelled mud crab, palm hearts, Chinese inspired split rice porridge

We order the mud crab congee as well, served in a large bowl which houses a broth bounteous with crab meat, split rice and topped with a circle of creamy egg emulsion. Definitely not your usual congee, but it is a beautiful take on a traditional Chinese dish with fresh, clean flavours from the crabmeat and the broth. The egg emulsion is a welcome addition of rich creaminess from an otherwise light dish, and the split rice at the bottom of the bowl is delicious, having absorbed the flavours from the broth.

Roasted fillet of New Zealand pink snapper, tomato and mussel confit, octopus, chilli threads, rocket and fennel flowers

Entrees like that are hard to beat, but the mains don’t fail to tantalise our tastebuds either. The roasted fillet of New Zealand pink snapper sits on top of a colourful seafood, vegetables and flowers. The fish is cooked to perfection, remaining juicy on the inside with a crisp outer layer. Underneath lies a myriad of flavours and textures, including some tiny mussels in a rich tomato sauce, tender octopus pieces with a creamy mayonnaise-like dressing as well as wilted rocket and other crunchy baby vegetables. The dish is well-balanced allowing all the flavours to shine through and not having any that are too overpowering.

Crisp pressed duck confit, kabu turnips, winter melon, hasuimo, garlic chive buds, sea scallops, duck juices

Ask Sir D about the duck confit at Quay and he will wax lyrical about it, about how scrumptious it was and how it was his favourite dish of the meal. Despite it looking quite dry when it was placed in front of us, we were blown away by how tender the shredded duck flesh was and how crisp the skin was. The vegetables were crunchy and especially delicious with the duck juices, and the scallops were soft and sweet. Sir D was very reluctant to hand over my half of the duck and I can totally see why – it is quite possibly the best duck I’ve ever had.

The eighth texture…

After a brief respite the desserts arrive and this is what I have been waiting for all day. We order the eight texture chocolate cake and it is truly a spectacle when the waitress pours the hot chocolate sauce on top of the cake as its eighth texture.

Eight texture chocolate cake, featuring Amedei ‘Chuao’ Chocolate

The chocolate sauce melts a hole into the cake like hot lava and although I’ve already tried the seven-textured version of this cake before at the Sydney Food and Wine Fair, the eighth and final texture really brings another dimension to the dessert, adding a bitterness to an otherwise sweet and sugary cake. The cake has a melt-in-your-mouth tempered chocolate disc on the surface, underneath there are layers of chocolate in mousse-y, fudge-y, crunchy and biscuit-y textures. A truly indulgent and decadent way to finish off a meal.

White peach snow egg

If you’re after something a bit lighter, then why not try another of Quay’s signature desserts, the snow egg. A white peach snow egg was our other dessert and it was a pretty pink dish with the ‘egg’ surrounded by granita ice crystals and sitting on top of a creamy vanilla anglaise.

The snow egg itself is a masterpiece of malt encasing a soft, fluffy poached meringue. Inside the meringue is yet another surprise of a small ball of ice cream. The dessert is very refreshing and the white peach flavour is delicate but manages to permeate through the whole dish.

We manage to sit and enjoy the views, the food, and the company for 2 hours, and at no point did we feel rushed or unwelcome. The service was informative and courteous and there were enough waitstaff for us to easily flag someone down if we required anything. We even caught a glimpse of Peter Gilmore himself – it’s always good to know that the head chef is actually there at the restaurant when you dine. It was an amazing experience to dine at one of Sydney’s best restaurants and we’ll definitely be back (once we save up some money!).

Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9251 5600
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday, noon – 2.30pm
Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 6pm-10pm

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