Tastevin Bistro and Wine Bar, Darlinghurst

Tastevin is one of those restaurants that I’ve walked past time and time again, each time making a mental note to myself to go there but never actually getting around to do it. After passing it several times (and exasperating Sir D with my repeated comments about wanting to eat there), I finally made a booking. This time, instead of walking past the inconspicuous door, we opened it and traipsed up the stairs into a quaint little French bistro.

It was still early on a Friday night and we were the first to arrive at the restaurant. There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to try, so we decided to get a starter, two entrees, a main and a dessert. Our waiter was friendly and chatty, and when we told him that we were sharing all the dishes, he was more than happy to have the kitchen bring them out one by one so we could savour each dish one at a time.

House made bread with French butter – $4

We started with the house made bread with French butter. A basket filled generously with bread was brought to the table along with some olive oil and balsamic and a stick of French butter wrapped in a silver foil. The butter was a bit too cold when first brought out, making it difficult to spread, but after a while it warmed up and was a lightly salted, creamy spread for the two types of bread that we were provided with. One was a plain white baguette, which had a bit of a chewy crust, and the other which we both preferred had fennel and poppy seeds and a nice crunchy crust.

Gnocchi à la Parisienne, sautéed mushrooms and white truffle mornay (entree) – $17

The first entree to be brought out was the gnocchi à la Parisienne. Instead of your usual potato gnocchi, these gnocchi are made from choux pastry and are poached in water to cook them. They’re lighter and fluffier compared to their Italian counterparts and beautiful with the mushrooms and cheesy white truffle mornay. The earthy, pungent truffle flavour is subtle but present in the dish. I almost wish I’d ordered the main size of the gnocchi because it is so delicious!

Snails Pithivier, parsnip puree with parsley and garlic butter – $19

Both Sir D and I are total pastry fiends so we can’t pass up the offer of snails pithivier on the menu. Inside the dome of puff pastry are the snails which are tender and moreish, especially with the parsley and garlic butter. The parsnip puree lends some creaminess to the dish and the curls of parsnip leaning on the pithivier are like chips – crunchy and addictive!

Pan-seared silver dory fillet on a mushroom duxelle tart fine, Jerusalem artichokes and a duck and chicken jus – $31 (half portion pictured)

For the main course we go with the special main of the day which is a pan-seared silver dory fillet on a mushroom duxelle tart fine, Jerusalem artichokes and a duck and chicken jus. They have kindly divided up this dish in half so that we each get a plate with half the portion on it. The fish is mostly soft and flaky except for some of the parts at the edges which are a bit chewy. The tart fine tastes much the same as the snails Pithivier which is what you get for ordering two pastry dishes I suppose. Not that I’m complaining though because the pastry is still flaky and light. By this stage I am getting quite full from the richness of the dishes and I’m glad I didn’t order the main size gnocchi because of the dessert.

Which includes FIRE!

Yes, I couldn’t resist the theatricality of the crepes Suzette in which a Grand Marnier sauce is poured over the crepes and set alight at the table. The fire stayed alight for quite a while as well which makes me wonder how much alcohol they put in it…

Flambéed Grand Marnier crêpes Suzette with vanilla bean ice cream – $13

But anyway, the crepes are folded into neat little triangles and drenched in the Grand Marnier sauce which has the sweetness of oranges and also a slight bitterness. The vanilla ice cream is flecked with vanilla bean and helps to overcome some of the bitterness of the Grand Marnier. Sir D doesn’t particularly take to the orange flavour but I love the layers of crepes with the orange-flavoured sauce. And I like the fire too hehe

As we’re finishing off our dinner the dining area has become full with other diners who are chatting away and enjoying a nice meal. I spy some other enticing looking dishes that other diners have ordered and wish that I had the stomach space to try them. I know I will probably say it again and again before it happens but I will definitely be back one day to sample more of their menu!

Tastevin Bistro and Wine Bar
Level 1, 292-294 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9356 3429
Open for lunch from 12pm, Thursday to Sunday
Open for dinner from 5pm, Monday and Wednesday to Sunday

View Larger Map
Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Passionfruit Butter

Have you ever hung around someone who likes a food that you don’t particularly like, and somehow over time you gradually get converted and end up a big fan of the food? This is what happened to me and passionfruit. I never hated the stuff, but I just didn’t particularly enjoy eating it, especially the crunchy seeds.

But Sir D loved passionfruit and he absolutely couldn’t get enough of the stuff. He’d buy it when it was cheap at the supermarket and we’d end up getting passionfruit gelato whenever we went to eat ice cream. And he converted me – I don’t know how it happened but I’ve developed a love for passionfruit, and now I’m the one who insists on getting passionfruit gelato when we go out.

I first came across passionfruit butter at my school’s Garden Party (read: posh term for school fete) where they sold it at the Jams and Preserves stall. I bought a jar home for Sir D and while we spread the liquid gold dotted with black seeds on toast and savoured the sweet passionfruit flavour, I thought, why can’t I make this myself?

So I did. The next time I saw passionfruit on special at the grocery store I grabbed six of them and set about making my own passionfruit butter. I was surprised at how easy and simple it was to make and wondered about all the things I could use it in. You could smother some between cakes, put it in tart cases or sandwich it between macaron shells (yes that’s macaron, not macarOOn!).

But my favourite way of eating it is just spread simply on a slice of toast for breakfast in the morning. Mmmm yes, tastes like sunshine.

Passionfruit Butter
60g butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks (or 2 eggs), lightly beaten
pulp from 6 passionfruit
1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (optional)

1. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

2. Reduce the heat to low, and add passionfruit pulp and egg, whisking constantly until thickened. Add some lemon juice if it is too sweet for your liking. If you don’t like the passionfruit seeds, you can strain the mixture through a sieve to remove them.

3. Pour into a sterilised jar* and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 400mL.

*You can sterilise jars by boiling the jar and the lid in water for 10 minutes, then drain them by placing them upside down on a clean tea towel. Dry the jars thoroughly in the oven set to 150ºC.

Pie and a Pint @ Bungalow 8, King St Wharf

I’ve always had a love for pies, but it wasn’t until I started trying to make my own that I realised how awesome pies really are. Just think – a buttery shortcrust pastry or a flaky puff pastry encasing any sweet or savoury fillings that your heart desires! And with winter having well and truly set in here in Sydney, there are not too many things more comforting than enjoying a pie with a rich, hearty filling for dinner.

Bungalow 8 recently launched their Pie and a Pint winter warmer deal which includes your choice of Beef and Fat Yak ale, Chicken and Sweet Corn or Bungalow 8’s Fish pie with mashed potato and a pint of beer for $22.50. The lovely Sarah from Bungalow 8 invited me to try it out so Sir D and I headed down to King Street Wharf to see what they had to offer.

Bungalow 8’s Famous Fish Pie

We were seated outside and though there were outdoor heaters and a lot of people it was still quite cold. Thankfully our piping hot pies arrived quickly to warm us up. I chose the fish pie which had a pie crust filled with a creamy fish filling, topped with green spring onions and a dollop of creamy mashed potato. The pie lid was placed carefully on top. I really enjoyed the filling which had pieces of fish and vegetables such as peas, corn and carrots, together with a creamy sauce. The pastry was flaky but it would have been nice if was a bit more buttery, and a bit more sauce would have been nice as well to go with the pastry. The mash was nice and smooth served as a stomach filler. I left the pie lid behind because it was sort of like a crunchy biscuit, and it didn’t really appeal to me.

Beef and Fat Yak ale pie

Sir D ordered the Beef and Fat Yak ale pie and I immediately felt food envy. His pie looked warm and inviting and indeed it was. The beef was tender and had taken on the flavour of the sauce which was bold and rich. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this pie more than my own, with the pie sitting in more of the Fat Yak sauce which was great for slathering on top of the pastry and the mashed potato. Sir D managed to eat all of his pie which was not surprising since it definitely fit the bill of a winter warmer.

A pint of beer: Pure Blonde (foreground) and Fat Yak Ale (background)

Of course there was also the pints of beer – there was a choice of VB, Carlton Draught, Fat Yak Ale and Pure Blonde. Don’t be fooled by the small-looking glasses, there was definitely 570ml of beer-y goodness in those and since I’m not really a beer drinker I only got through about 1/3 of the glass. But Sir D was more than happy to finish mine off!

The Pie and a Pint winter warmer is available now for $22.50 at Bungalow 8. Penguin says Feed Me dined courtesy of Bungalow 8.

Bungalow 8
3 Lime Street
King Street Wharf
Ph: +61 2 9299 4660
Open 7 days, 12pm – 1am (open til 3am on Fridays and Saturdays)

View Larger Map

Bungalow 8 on Urbanspoon

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke, Sydney

I was intrigued by this new Japanese restaurant on George Street, which had taken the places of the oh-so-cheap watering holes Maloneys and Bar Ace that used to provide a starting point for some alcomohol-fuelled nights. I gathered some friends and we descended down the once-familiar stairs to be greeted by a giant lit-up cherry blossom tree and a labyrinth of booths. So maze-like was the layout of this place that latecomers had to make phone calls to determine the exact whereabouts of our table. Funnily enough there were two other food-bloggers lurking about Mizuya tonight, and it was such a coincidence to bump into both Leona and FFichiban on the same night (hai guys!)

Mizuya is another one of those Japanese izakaya style restaurants that has the touchscreen ordering system. However, unlike others I’ve been to they don’t seem to have additional hard-copy menus which makes it difficult for the people sitting on the opposite end from the screen to see what’s on offer. We started the night with some drinks, including this test tube shots which we ordered purely for the novelty factor. They mostly tasted like juice or cordial with perhaps only the slightest hint of alcohol.

Test tube shots – $18 for 6

We also ordered a cold sake to be shared amongst us and it came in a cool bottle that had a hole in it. Sir D found much amusement in this :)

Sir D finds it highly amusing that it looks like his finger is bottle…

But really there’s a hole to place the ice so it chills but doesn’t dilute the sake

The food arrived quickly and soon our table was filled with kushiyaki skewers and deep fried snacks.

Marbled beef fillet kushiyaki – $5.80

Beef inside skirt kushiyaki – $5.80

Beef with garlic shoots kushiyaki – $5.80

We ended up getting three types of beef kushiyaki – a marbled beef fillet, beef inside skirt and garlic shoots with beef kushiyaki. Although the marbled beef fillet was nice and tender, I think my favourite would have to be the beef with garlic shoots which provided some crunchiness.

Deep fried silverfish with seaweed salt – $5.80

Queen Chu wanted to get the deep fried silverfish with seaweed salt so we went ahead and ordered it. It was a nice crunchy snack but didn’t do much in terms of flavour with the seaweed salt just tasting like salt to me. I’m sure it would go down well with a nice cold beer though.

Crispy chicken skin – $3.80

But what would be even better is the crispy chicken skin! As if chicken skin wasn’t fatty enough in itself, they had to go and deep fry it which makes for super crispyness and addictive snacking! Hehe I couldn’t go past these on the menu but it really needs some more flavour besides just saltiness, perhaps some chicken salt?

Tempura prawn roll – $11.80

Agedashi tofu – $5.80

Onto some more substantial foods, we also got a tempura prawn sushi roll and agedashi tofu which were nothing special to what I’ve had at other Japanese restaurants.

Eggplant with sweet miso – $7.80

Home-made pork gyoza – $6.80

The eggplant with sweet miso was a crowd favourite with the smooth creamy eggplant and sweet miso combination being a winner for everyone. I was quite impressed by the home-made pork gyoza – they had crispy, burnished bottoms and the dumpling skins weren’t too thick or chewy.

Pouring the tea into the rice bowl

The ochazuke (rice with tea) was something I’ve never tried before, and we ordered a grilled eel ochazuke which arrived as a small bowl of rice with sweet pieces of eel, seaweed and a large teapot. We poured the tea over the rice and dug in.

Grilled eel ochazuke – $7.80

It reminded me of when I was young and I used to pour Chinese soup into my rice (I don’t know why, I think I just liked it). It’s sort of like drinking soup that has bits of barley or risoni in it except the ratio is more in favour of the rice than the liquid. The subtle tea flavour is quite nice with the rice and the little chunks of eel added little bursts of sweetness.

Assorted sashimi (main) – $26.80

An assorted sashimi plate was ordered and I wasn’t expecting too much but the sashimi wasn’t bad, it was fresh and there was quite enough for us to all share and have a bit each. There was salmon, kingfish, tuna, scallop, salmon roe and two types of raw fish that I didn’t know.

Chicken gristle – $5.80

I’m a bit wary of ordering chicken gristle because I’ve had some pretty bad ones that were really chewy and altogether unpleasantly difficult to eat. These ones were great though, similar to karaage but with a slight crunch from the cartilage and completely addictive!

Cheesy potato mochi – $5.80

We were still a bit hungry so we ordered to stomach fillers. The potato mochi was crispy on the outside with a mashed potato filling, and a cube of cheese melted inside. It came with some sweet soy sauce on the top but needed more sauce because after a while it became a bit too starchy even with the melted cheese inside. It was also very oily on the outside from the fryer.

Onigiri: salted salmon (left) and cooked tuna (right) – $3.80 each

Grilled miso onigiri – $3.80

We also got an assortment of onigiri. I didn’t try the tuna or salmon one but the grilled miso onigiri was quite nice with a sweet miso flavour where it had been grilled. Some of the rice was sort of half grilled so it was dry but not quite crunchy yet which wasn’t so great. It could have done with a little bit more of the miso paste but it served as a good stomach filler.

BBQ marbled beef steak – $14.80

The BBQ marbled beef steak was a dish we had to chase the waitress up on, but it eventually came and I’m so glad we waited for this! It was absolutely delicious with tender beef in a sweet soy sauce. It also came on a hot plate and had a little slab of butter on the top which melted from the heat. Alongside the beef there were also some roasted vegetables like sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin and also some mushrooms, broccoli and tomato. One of my favourites of the night.

Green tea shiratama sundae – $4.50

A meal isn’t complete without some sort of dessert and the ice-cream is really hard to pass up here. You can order the green tea soft serve by itself but for an extra dollar you get all sorts of goodies like red bean, a few glutinous rice balls, surprise cornflakes at the bottom and a wafer! The green tea and red bean are always a winning combination and the glutinous rice balls are nice and chewy. Cornflakes and ice cream go so well together and it’s a nice surprising crunchy texture you get towards the very end of your sundae since they’re hidden away at the bottom of the glass. Worth every penny!

Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke
Basement, 614 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9266 0866
Open 7 days, 11.30am – midnight

View Larger Map
Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke on Urbanspoon