For a long time, the only cheese I knew about was the plasticky slices of Kraft Singles. I remember trying to make grilled cheese as a kid and wondering why my cheese didn’t ooze and melt under the grill quite like the ones I saw on TV.
It wasn’t until later on in life that I realised that there was a whole world of cheeses beyond Kraft Singles, all with different flavours and textures. I soon discovered that soft, creamy cheeses like brie and camembert, and stretchy, mild flavoured cheeses like mozzarella were amongst some of my favourites, and sought them out like they were going out of fashion.
It wasn’t long before I found out about burrata, a stretchy pouch of milky mozzarella that holds a surprise flowing river of rich thickened cream inside. When I saw it on the menu at Buffalo Dining Club, I knew I had to have it. The other cheeses would have to wait because the burrata was calling my name!
All the cheeses at Buffalo Dining Club are $20 each and come with a choice of two sides. We decided to get the potato croquettes and honey baby carrots to go with our cheese. The plate also comes with some bread and nduja, a spicy sausage that you can spread onto the bread.
Because we have a decent selection of spirits and mixers at home, we rarely go out to drink. Making drinks at home gives us the flexibility to make what we like, when we like – without the hefty price tag that often comes with cocktails. But sometimes, it’s worth the money to get the professionals to make something different that just might surprise and delight you, and we definitely found that at Pocket Bar.
We arrived at 7pm on a Friday night, and the place was already buzzing. The alcohol shelves behind the bar hold a massive range of spirits, and the extensive drinks list reflects that.
It takes us a while to read all the cocktails on offer but eventually we choose our poisons of choice. Sir D chooses “Day of the Dead” – a tequila-based cocktail with grapefruit bitters and vanilla sugar. The 1800 anejo tequila is aged so doesn’t have the same harshness as white tequilas, and you can taste citrus notes from the grapefruit and orange peel. Call me a sucker for novelty, but I’m most impressed with the sphere of ice that swirls around in the glass. Having the ice in a sphere shape cools your drink without diluting it as much as ice cubes. Genius!
It’s a bit early in the night to be saying “take your clothes off” but if you want this cocktail, you’ll have to say it to order it! This is another tequila-based cocktail, but this time it is the un-aged blanco tequila that is used. I usually find this a bit strong, but the agave honey, lime juice, pear puree and cinnamon tones it down and makes it quite easy to drink.
Jaypee decides to go for the Tiki Times (in the English undergrowth) cocktail which is mai-tai inspired but given a gin twist. The Appleton rum base is mixed with Haymans Old Tom and sloe gins, and ruby grapefruit juice. Despite the 3 spirits within this cocktail, it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of alcohol and is actually quite sweet.
We decide that it’s best to get some food in our stomachs before all the alcohol goes to our head, and there’s lots to choose from on Pocket Bar’s menu. The menu is inspired by street food from all around the world so it’s a great snack-like accompaniment to the drinks. First up are the cassava chips with salsa huancaína. We had no idea what salsa huancaína was but it turned out to be a spicy cheese sauce with queso fresco and aji amarillo chili peppers. It was a bit pungent for some but I loved it, especially with the fat fried batons of cassava.
I’ve blogged about RiseRestaurant twice previously, and so I was sad when I heard that it had closed down at the end of 2010. Thankfully, it was re-opened by Kevin Seo, who was worked previously as a sous chef at Yoshii. Rise has always been a great value restaurant and despite the change in ownership, it has stayed that way, with a 7 course tasting menu being offered for $65pp.
Tonight we’re dining on a Groupon voucher, which is $69 for two including the 7 course tasting menu and a glass of bubbles. The first course is a gratin oyster, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that we get two oysters each! The oysters are quite large and blanketed in a miso-flavoured, cheesy and creamy gratin. It’s a delicious start to the meal and has me waiting in anticipation of what is to come next.
I’m sure many of you will recognise the signature starter of Tomislav. Even though we’ve been here before, it’s hard to forget Tomislav’s quirky and fun take on food which begins right from the start of the meal. Tomislav’s rice crackers are made from rice paper that is deep fried to a light, crispy pappadum-shaped cracker, and the sea salt and vinegar version is served with a spray bottle containing a vinegar solution. It’s hard not to delight in the unusual experience of spraying liquid onto your rice cracker, and it allows the diner to control how much or how little vinegar they want on the cracker.
Tonight we’re at Tomislav for one particular reason – to pig out on scampi! Those that know me will know that I am an absolute seafood fiend, and scampi (also known as langoustines) is something I’ll always choose if I see it on a menu. I remember the first time I tasted scampi was at Makoto, and I fell in love with the sweet flavour and plump texture of the raw scampi. The first dish of the scampi degustation ($95pp including matched wines) tonight is a scampi carpaccio and it reminds me of the first time I tasted scampi. The scampi flesh is sweet and slippery, and obscured by a sheet of parsley puree, nubbins of white onion and caperberries. The fresh flavours of the onion, parsley and caperberries are balanced enough as to not overpower the delicate flavour of the scampi, and there is a hint of wasabi to add a little kick. A baton of fried bread also sits on the side as a buttery accompaniment to the dish.
I love it when people get excited about food! For as long as I’ve had this blog, Sir D has been my dining companion, occasional photographer when my hands are unsteady and also very patient as he waits until I finish snapping away before digging in. It’s not often that he will actually get excited about what we’re eating or where we’re going, but when this steak, chips and bone marrow dish was placed in front of him, his eyes widened and he grinned at the prospect of devouring it all.
We’re dining at the East Village Hotel tonight as guests in the warm, comforting decor of the dining room. It’s located one floor up from the bar area below and is decorated with wines along one wall and banquette seating along another, complete with homely cushions.
As soon as we’re seated, the waiter brings out some warm cheese and tomato scrolls from the kitchen with some extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The dough is soft and light, making it the perfect start to the meal. Continue reading The East Village, Darlinghurst→