Omakase Dinner, March into Merivale 2011

A birthday celebration isn't complete without a drink - Chandon NV (complimentary drink on arrival)

It was Sir D’s birthday 2 weeks ago, and to celebrate I decided to take him to one of the special dinners hosted by Merivale as part of the annual March into Merivale event. It was hard to decide which event to go to since so many of them sounded good but in the end I decided on the Omakase Dinner coordinated by the three Japanese chefs at Merivale – Nobuyuki Ura (sushi e), Akira Urata (Uccello) and Atsushi Saito (Sushi Choo).

Sakizuke - Tuna ravioli with nori seaweed sauce

The concept of omakase comes from Japan and leaves the chef to decide and select the dishes for your consumption rather than ordering from the a la carte menu. For someone who likes to check out the menu before visiting a restaurant, it involves a certain level of trust on the diner’s part that the chef will be able to surprise and excite your palate. Tuna ravioli didn’t sound particularly exciting but when it arrived on the table I was impressed by the use of thin slices of tuna sashimi as the casing for the ravioli and all the individual components of the dish which married well with each other. A creative and interesting start to the meal.

Zensai - Traditional tasting plate with grilled pacific oyster with cream miso sauce, persimmon and konnyaku with tofu paste and salmon roe, red miso lamb cutlets, ebi isoge age with green tea salt, miso cod
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Montagu, Crows Nest

There’s a few rules of thumb I use when venturing into unknown restaurant territory. One of these rules is: if there are lots of people dining there, it must be good. I have no idea whether there is any truth to this at all but this rule brought me to Montagu in Crows Nest.

Sir D and I have been apartment hunting around the area for ages now and while we have had absolutely no luck in finding a place to rent and are getting well and truly sick of going to inspections, I do like that there’s always lunch to look forward to afterwards :) One afternoon we stumbled across Montagu (right next to Mumu Grill) and saw lots of people sitting on little table and chairs outside eating delicious looking sandwiches so using my rule of thumb, we decided to try this place out.

Hot chocolate - $3.80

Being a cafe that primarily serves sandwiches, I think that the name Montagu comes from John Montagu, who is credited with inventing the concept of a sandwich. Inside the cafe are black walls with chalk drawings and a display behind the counter of all the different breads from Brasserie Bread used in their sandwiches. They also have a nice selection of breakfast items, drinks and salads.

Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce and cheddar on toasted schiacciata - $12.00
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Ribena Marshmallows

I think I’ve developed a slight obsession with marshmallows lately. Ever since I tasted the marshmallows from Sweetness the Patisserie I have been well and truly hooked on them (not the supermarket ones, the good stuff!) and on a whim I decided to have a go at making some of my own marshmallows.

My vision for my marshmallows was that they had to be pink and that they had to taste like the colour – to me it’s weird if the flavour doesn’t match the colour. I rummaged around for some fresh or frozen berries to flavour my marshmallows but as it often happens when you decide to do things on a whim, I had none. The bottle of Ribena was staring at me from the kitchen bench and I thought “what the hell” and chucked some of that in as my flavouring.

This marshmallow making business is hard work – an electric mixer in one hand and a saucepan full of sugar syrup that is supposed to be added in a slow and steady stream into egg whites in the other hand equals tired arms. Not to mention that the Italian meringue really did double in size and let’s just say my bowl was a little too small to accommodate its growth, which equals meringue everywhere. When I finally finished, I had dead arms and a meringue-flecked kitchen and was praying that my efforts had not gone to waste and that these marshmallows would turn out ok.

And they did! After allowing the mixture to set and cutting it up and dusting with snow sugar, I bit into one of them and they were soft fluffy pillows of Ribena! (and 4x the vitamin C of oranges!) They definitely weren’t as amazing as the ones from Sweetness but I was pretty happy with the final product.

If I were to make these again, I would probably put even more Ribena in it because it wasn’t as strongly flavoured as I hoped it would be. But now that I’ve made marshmallows once, I can’t wait to try experimenting with different flavours – the possibilities are endless!

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Taste of Sydney 2011

Yes, it’s time for Taste of Sydney again! I was lucky enough to win a double pass to Taste of Sydney this year – woohoo for competitions! This is the place to be to sample dishes from Sydney’s finest restaurants, try some food and drink from the exhibitors and also do a bit of celebrity-chef spotting. It’s always good to go with a bunch of people so you can share dishes and be hand models for each other hehe.

Assiette: Crispy pork belly, cashew nut caramel, watermelon and mint - 12 Crowns

The setup is much the same as last year with the restaurants around the perimeter of the outdoor venue and the exhibitors scattered around the edges and in the centre.

Bilson's and Number One Wine Bar: Chicken liver parfait with brioche and mesclun salad - 8 Crowns
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Crazy Wings, Chatswood

The newest addition to Chatswood’s Eat Street is one that you can smell from a few blocks away. Hang around the Railway Street side of Chatswood station and you will notice the lingering smell of charcoal and spices. Yep, that’s Crazy Wings you can smell, the restaurant right next to Mamak serving crazy meat, crazy vegies and even crazy honey toast – all on a stick.

(left) Hot Kid Milk Beverage; (right) Peach blended ice

We order some drinks in preparation for a chilli onslaught. Captain Awesome selects the interesting “Hot Kid Milk Beverage” which comes in a cute mini can and is filled with sweetened milk. The rest of us go for more mainstream items such as the mango blended ice and peach blended ice.

Honey soy crazy wings - $2.50 each (2 wings on each skewer)

You can’t go to Crazy Wings without ordering their crazy wings and so we order three of the seven flavour options available. The honey soy is more honey than soy but nevertheless still juicy and flavoursome.

Original crazy wings - $2.50 each (2 wings on each skewer)
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