Saturday, October 31, 2009

SIFF: Meet 2008’s Best Young Chef for lunch at Lotus

This post could not wait. We had the most fantastic lunch today at Lotus. The weather was so pleasant (we sat outside), and we just watch the locals go by. I used to work in Potts Point, so sitting outside on Challis Ave brought back some pleasant memories.

Dan Hong, the winner of the Best Young Chef award in the Good Food Guide 2008, hosted a subscriber-only lunch at Lotus bistro on 24 and 31 October. I've been wanting to come here, especially after hearing about his take on the Hot Fudge Sundae. This lunch was a 5 course degustation for $60.

Tartare of NZ King Salmon with sweet wasabi and soy truffle vinaigrette
beautiful fresh flavours - that sweet wasabi cream was subtle, without the usual burning aftertaste of intense wasabi

Caramelized Pork Belly with watermelon, goats curd and endive
The pork belly (2 pieces) was wonderfully sweet, and crispy all over - just the way pork belly was meant to be.
The watermelon was a nice refreshing partner. I'm not usually a fan of goats curd, but this wasn't too overpowering. This was my favourite savoury dish of the day...

Steamed Snapper with jalapeno, crab and ginger
Sweet tender white fleshed fillet, with a gingery sauce, served on a bed of al dente noodles and mushrooms. The jalopeno was nice and spicy surprise.
This was my husband's favourite dish of the day.

Crisp Pastilla of Lamb, quinoa, beetroot puree, spiced lamb jus

I was starting to get full at this point, and I definitely wanted to leave room for dessert. But the lamb inside the Pastilla was lovely and tender - it was like having a rich stew in a spring roll.
The jus was a rich gravy, and the beetroot bright dots on the plate.

Hot Fudge Sundae with honeycomb and raspberries
Ice cream on a bed of berry puree, topped with whipped cream with shards of honeycomb, and dotted with two raspberries. On the side was a thick warm fudge sundae.
Yes, this was the highlight of the meal, and I want to go back there and devour another plate sometime soon.
I love when chefs take a simple classic and take it to another level without over-complicating things.

Here's a shot of the pouring of the fudge sauce...yummm!

22 Challis Ave, Potts Point 2011
ph: (02) 9326 9000

Sugar Hit: Perama

Very good value sugar hit, busy and loud atmosphere.
I'd be keen to come back here and try the savoury stuff...

(From top left, clockwise)
1. Patchavoura - Northern Greek slang for wet rag ; a soggy baklava really, not my favourite on the plate, but that's a personal thing. The thing I like about baklava is the crispy pastry.

2. The whole dessert plate

3. Semolina Milk Pudding - A classic from old Constantinople of halva pudding made from milk, almonds, semolina and currants. Served with classic buffalo milk anglaise. This was the sweet of the night - it was delicious, smooth and served warm.

4. Greek Coffee Chocolate Tart - A Greek coffee chocolate mousse cake with a cinnamon shortcrust base.

5. White Chocolate Chamomile Gelato Fingers - Gelato is sandwiched between lemon flavoured shortbreads with a poppy seed sprinkle.

88 Audley St, Petersham NSW 2049
ph: (02) 9569 7534

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flying First Class

Have you ever wondered what it's like to fly first class? So have I.
We were fortunate enough to do so on the way back from the States.

Here's what it's like to travel on the brand new Qantas A380, and on their sensational new first class. It was absolutely great service

The seat, and it rotates and transforms into a flat bed, that the flight attendants make up for you with a comfortable quilt.

The huge tv, and you can start watching as soon as you get on the plane, without any interruption

Greeted by name, and given a light snack and a drink.

I got to sit and have dinner with my husband in his "suite". They set up the table with a crisp tablecloth and nice cutlery (but plastic knife)
In the shot, is my husband wearing the pyjamas given to all first class passengers, designed by Akira Isogawa.

They take your order like in a restaurant.
You order from a small selection on a printed menu.

Bread roll with olive oil and balsamic

Entree: Cauliflower Soup

Entree: Prosciutto & Rocket Salad

Main Course: Rosemary Chicken

Main Course: Salmon with white beans

T2 Green tea

Dessert: Pear and toffee tart

Dessert: Fruit Salad

Breakfast is served a couple of hours before landing.
Again, I had breakfast with my husband, and they took our orders and
we settled in for a three course breakfast....

Breakfast: Granola

Breakfast: Fruit salad in juice


Cinnamon Scroll

Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, potato cakes, toast

Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, potato cakes, toast and relish
The first class experience was sensational, and the new A380 was very very nice. The service was excellent, but I guess it's what you should you expect in first class. Bring on the next trip!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This was our last stop in the States. Why Texas? Well, one of our good friends moved here to study, and we'd promised we would visit her. She kindly took us around, and indulged me in my photo taking before meals. Thanks Jenny!

One thing I noticed is that food is quite cheap here. You can get a huge appetizer for $7. Huge meaning, a main-sized meal. Some of the places I went to offered unlimited soft drink refills, or if not, the drinks that came to the table came in a medium bucket. You can be full for a very small cost.

Our friend took us to the Stockyards in Fort Worth, and a Fort Worth institution, Riscky's.

140 E. Exchange Ave, Historic Stockyards in Stockyards Station Fort Worth, Texas 76164
An authentic Texas BBQ restaurant, in a historic setting. And you just have to have BBQ ribs when in Texas...

Riscky's Famous Pork Spare Ribs $10.95
Grade A pork spare ribs rubbed with “Riscky Dust” and smoked for hours over a wood fire and served with Texas toast.
Very different from Hurricane's here, but delicious and smoky.

Riscky's Famous Sliced Beef Brisket Sandwich $6.99
A generous portion of trimmed juicy beef brisket served on a toasted bun.

Texas Mess $7.95
A combination of nuggets of corn, stuffed jalapenos, cheese sticks, and barbequed shrimp.

Babe's Chicken
1006 West Main Carrollton, Texas 75006 (and various other locations)
Comfort food at it's best (as far as my limited knowledge of comfort food goes). This was a favourite of Jenny's friend who has been in Texas for the past decade, and loves food.

I have a colleague who goes on about Southern comfort food and I never really understood what the big deal was, but after trying Babe's, I finally got it, it is absolutely wonderful stuff - fattening - but realllllyy good stuff.

Vegetables and Breads (From top left, clockwise)
Green Salad, Homemade biscuits, beans, Grandma's Corn (creamed corn), mashed potato, gravy (not pictured)

These dishes were unlimited, as much as you wanted.
Once the plate was finished, you could get some more, excellent deal!
And eating the biscuits with honey, so good!

Main Dishes
Each person chooses a meat dish from a selection of Fried Chicken, Chicken Fried Steak, Fried Chicken Tenders, Fried Catfish, Smoked Chicken, Pot Roast and Hickory Smoked Ribs

Chicken Tenders and Fried Chicken
This fried chicken was just so darn good. Better than the best KFC or any kind of fast food fried chicken I've ever had. This is what fried chicken was supposed to taste like!

Smoked Chicken
Smoky, tender chicken, with a tasty marinade.
Banana Pudding
A mushy, custardy banana dessert with a meringue topping.
It was sickly sweet, but apparently a must have when in Texas.
Pineapple Upside-Down Pudding
This was an unexpected delight!
The pineapple cake was served warm, and the cake was moist and the pineapple a tangy accompaniment.
Next Post: First Class Travel!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Las Vegas

I was surprised at how much I liked Vegas. I do love the movie "Oceans Eleven", but I don't gamble at all; but just the whole vibe of the place, and how everything is just so over-the-top, made me really enjoy our stay here.

One of the best things about Vegas is the heavily subsidised buffets at various hotels. We managed to squeeze two buffet meals in...

The Bellagio
This is supposed to be the best buffet in town, with the weekend gourmet buffet being a popular choice. We weren't here on the weekend, but the regular buffet dinner costs about $28, and this includes unlimited soft drinks and juice - alcoholic drinks are extra.

The best thing about this buffet was the desserts. Creme brulee, creme caramel, tarts, sorbets, chocolate dipped strawberries, caramel bananas....

Check out the vol-au-vent
They have a special station making them, and you can choose the fillings and sauces you want in it. This was a spinach and scallop one.

MGM Grand
We were around this end of the strip during lunchtime, so we thought we'd step in for a lunch buffet. This buffet was pretty good value for a lunch buffet for about $18. It wasn't as complete as the dinner buffet, but the pickings were still good. Pasta, pizza, ribs, some seafood, and same deal of unlimited soft drinks and juice. Oh, and some pretty decent desserts as well!

The funniest thing was that there was a sign where you can sign up for an all day pass to the buffet. That's right, breakfast buffet, lunch buffet and dinner buffet. $33 Mon-Thur and $39 Fri-Sun.

Key Lime Tart

Dinner: Woo
We were staying at the Palazzo, and we got a voucher to use at one of the restaurants in the hotel. It was described as a progressive Chinese restaurant, so kinda Chinese fusion?

Peking Duck Profiteroles
These were slightly disappointing. I think you can't beat the traditional pancake to go with the duck. The duck was more meat than the traditional peking duck (no crispy skin!)

Baby Back Ribs with honey tamarind glaze
This was finger licking good. The ribs were crisp on the outside with a sticky sour glaze.

Stir Fried Scallops in Szechuan Sauce
great scallops, not as spicy as I expected, but a decent stir-fry.
And yes, it was a small portion for a main meal.
Lobster with Thai Basil Chilli Sauce
Tasted similar to the scallops so not very Thai tasting, but the lobster was beautiful. Good produce cooked well. Just not Thai, really.

Next stop, Texas!

Friday, October 16, 2009

San Francisco - Day 2 (Part 3)

We planned one fine dining experience during our quick trip to the US, and I knew we wouldn't get to go to The French Laundry in the Napa Valley, so we decided on something in the city.

I had read a few good reviews of Jardinière, and I felt it was a safe bet being near the symphony/opera/theatre area of SF.

We rocked up without a reservation, but we came at the right time, as the theater/opera goers were on their way out. Apparently, they offer the full menu at the bar & lounge, which is such a great idea, especially for single diners who would like to enjoy a two or three course meal without the conspicuous empty chair across the table.

300 Grove St, San Francisco, CA, 94102
Excellent service, an elegant dining room. I was not at all disappointed with our experience at this restaurant. The food was sensational, not unlike something you would find at a good fine dining restaurant here in Sydney (like est.). The interesting thing about the restaurant is that they have no specials, because they say the menu changes daily.

Entree: Confit Duck Salad
We decided to share an entree and a dessert. When our entree arrived, it came on two plates - that had split the entree for us! I loved this gesture - they didn't scoff at us for sharing an entree and listened to us when we said we'd share, how lovely!

Main: Short Rib
Sorry about the lack of descriptions - I was remiss in not writing down the menu items, but I can tell you that the meat on this plate was so tender - it literally fell apart on the plate and melted in the mouth.

Main: Pan fried halibut on a bed of bell pepper puree
The fish was lovely, well seasoned, not overcooked, golden brown on top. The puree was this intense capsicum flavour, unexpected but a nice accompaniment to the fish.
Dessert: Dessert platter
Mint creme brulee, opera cake, little lemon tart, vanilla tart, shortbreads, chocolates.
The mint creme brulee was surprising. The soothing flavour of fresh mint in the creamy custard was actually quite nice. It's definitely a recipe to experiment with.

And there is our food adventure in San Francisco!
Next stop: Las Vegas

San Francisco Trip so far:
San Francisco Day 1
San Francisco Day 2 (Part 1)
San Francisco Day 2 (Part 2)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

San Francisco - Day 2 (Part 2)

The Mission district is an eclectic neighbourhood, and still has marks of the Spanish/Mexican influences of the past. The district has heaps of taquerias (taco shops) scattered around the place. About a block away from Tartine, there's a little place called El Toro Tacqueria that I had been told serves very good authentic Mexican food. That's right, tacos that taste nothing like the Old El Paso stuff.

I only had one taco - I had more food adventures for the rest of the day and needed to reserve room in my stomach!

Morning Tea: El Toro Tacqueria
598 Valencia @ 17th St San Francisco
Simple, authentic Mexican, a must try!

A taco with Carnitas (slow roasted pork) with a side of corn chips
The pork meat was delicious, and the salsa was so fresh and tangy.

For more morning tea adventures, we hopped back on a Muni to the Ferry Building. We arrived and to my delight some Farmers' Markets were on outside the Ferry Building. I wished I was staying longer in SF and not in a hotel, so I could buy some fresh produce and actually cook something. Maybe something to do for next time? :)

The Ferry Building is filled with specialty food shops - bread, cheese, delis, patisseries - to name a few. There was a shop that specialised in just mushrooms; it was fascinating to see the different kinds of mushrooms - I had never seen lobster mushrooms before!

But we really only had one destination in mind, a sweet little patisserie called miette.

Morning tea 2: miette
Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop 10, San Francisco CA 94111
This kind of shop makes me giddy with happiness. Is it being around so much sugar? Looking for beautifully crafted cakes, sweets and tarts, this is one place you can't not visit in SF.

I bought some macarons, but the little treat that I indulged in straight away was a vanilla bean panna cotta.

Vanilla panna cotta
It was served in an adorable little jar, with finely diced strawberries on top.
Deliciously smooth and sweet offset by the slight sourness of the strawberries.

After this sweet treat, we headed to Ghirardelli Square for a cupcake treat (yes, another sweet treat!)

Morning tea 3: Kara's Cupcakes
Ghiradelli Square, Plaza Level, 900 North Point, San Francisco, California 94109
A lovely little cupcake store with cupcake flavours such as fleur de sel, chocolate velvet and peanut butter milk chocolate. I opted for a Meyer lemon cupcake, and it had a scoop of lemon curd inside the cupcake. I love anything lemony...

Lunch: Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's Wharf
160 Jefferson St. San Francisco, CA 94133
San Francisco is apparently the home of sourdough. Each loaf of Boudin's sourdough is supposedly started with a portion of the mother dough. The Boudin Bakery was established in 1849, so I was looking forward to trying some of their sourdough.

At their Fisherman's Wharf branch, they actually have a Boudin museum, but it was closed when we were there :(

Crab Cake Sandwich
I guess it's a SF specialty? But I wish they had more crabcakes here in Sydney, these were full of crabmeat and were perfect in lovely airy sourdough, toasted.
Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl
We devoured this dish. Not so much clam, and more cream, but it was cool outside, and this warmed us up quite nicely.

After this was a trip to Alcatraz, so we did get some sightseeing done!

Next post: Some fine dining on our last night in SF.

San Francisco Trip so far:
San Francisco Day 1
San Francisco Day 2 (Part 1)

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