Monday, September 1, 2014

I Dream of Pork - thanks to Bishop Sessa

I've been dreaming of pork since a themed dinner at Bishop Sessa in Surry Hills earlier this year.

And not just any pork - I'm dreaming of wonderfully innovative porcine creations like smoked bacon aioli and sweet pork fat fudge that came from chef Paul Cooper's kitchen in the underrated neighbourhood restaurant.

Pork terrine at the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa, Crown Street, Surry Hills
Located down the somewhat grungier southern end of Crown Street where Tabou restaurant formerly was for years, Bishop Sessa inexplicably flies under the radar.

Chef Cooper promotes a genuine head-to-tail philosophy, best evidenced in the restaurant's special degustation dinners held regularly throughout the year - like the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner I attended - in addition to its usual degustation offering.

Upstairs dining room
Restaurateur Erez Gordon plays the perfect host and sommelier who really shines during these dinners, selecting unusual drops to match with Cooper's exciting food and serving them generously during degustations. I've heard that at some dinners he'll even match two wines per course.

This neighbourhood-style generosity extends to the food - before we even looked at our first sip of booze at the pork-themed dinner we were presented with some of the best chicharrón pork rinds in town - light, airy, and all crunch - and then a chunky slice of excellent pork terrine on a bread crisp.

For the I Dream of Pork dinners the restaurant had sourced a rare breed black pig from John Corduke's farm in the south west of NSW - presenting the beast head to tail in a number of wondrous dishes and tastily cute add-ons.

Honey bread with smoked bacon aioli
Our appetisers were matched with the exotically dry Delgado Zuleta La Goya Manzanilla Sherry prior to the second mind-blowing moment of the evening - before the meal had even started proper.

Served with house-baked honeyed brown bread and butter was a small jar of aioli in a novel, on-theme flavour of smoked bacon. Almost everyone bypassed the butter for the ridiculously good aioli which was thoroughly smoky with the true flavours of salty, fatty bacon.

It was quite something, to start the night with a revelation like the smoked bacon aioli and indeed, there were requests throughout the room to bottle and sell the divine spread.

Salad of pork leg 'bacon', pine needle mayonnaise, wild flora
We progressed to our first course of a salad: of the best sort featuring pork leg bacon in both a cooked cured form and in crisp, browned nubbins. The pink bacon was delightfully ham-like, pairing well with the caramelised eschallot, soft parsnip and green-tinted pine needle mayonnaise while the crisp bacon was as good as it gets.

Our bacon salad was matched with the Bella Ridge Estate Trebbiano 2013 from Swan Valley, WA which was ideal to cut through the saltiness of the meat.

Corned pork jowl, jerusalem artichoke reduction, chestnuts, pickled pine mushrooms
I just couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the corned pork jowl - one of my favourite cuts of the pig post Italy and discovering guanciale. 

The salted hunk of pork cheek was finished in the pan for a golden top to its deliciously fatty and soft flesh, and was paired thoughtfully with a segment of pickled pine mushroom and a chestnut puree.

Matched with Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2013 from Margaret River, this was my favourite dish of the night (perhaps aside from the aioli).

House made pig's head black pudding, fermented cabbage, caramelised apple puree, pig trotter jus
Leg and cheek covered, we moved on to the pig's blood, head and trotter - both made into black pudding that featured a centre circle of pig's head meat.

While I have no issue with the fabulous, all-sorts type of meat from the pig's head, blood isn't really my thing although the rich, crumbly slab was one of the more refined and reserved versions of black pudding I've had.

The sauerkraut-like cabbage and apple puree were ideal for refreshing relief from the rich pudding and jus, as was the matched Opawa Pinot Noir 2011 from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Poached pork loin, red wine braised carrots, spatzle, quince, green peppercorns 
We were already getting seriously full by the time the last savoury dish arrived:  a thick slice of poached pork loin and a square of crackling topped pork belly, served with wintry red wine braised carrots and spatzle.

While both cuts of pork were beautifully prepared, it was almost a little unfair to put anything up against pork belly with crunchy crackling. The heavier Vina Tobia Seleccion Tempranillo 2009 from Rioja, Spain rounded off the savoury courses and propelled us to sweets - of the porky variety.

White chocolate and banana pork fat fudge, cinnamon toast, macadamia nuts
I wasn't sure I could handle the thought of white chocolate and banana flavoured fudge - made with pork fat. Turns out I could and it was luxuriously rich and creamy as anticipated.

Served atop a cakey version of cinnamon toast with creme anglaise, whole roasted macadamia nuts and a cracker that tasted like it was cooked in pork fat, it was a decadent dessert that ticked the pork box.

It was served with warmed glasses of Maxwell Spiced Mead from McLaren Vale, South Australia which is just about my favourite boozy discovery of the year. A honey wine, it exudes cinnamon, cloves and the spice warmth you associate with winter and mulled wine and was a beyond-perfect match for the pork fat fudge dessert.

Bacon doughnuts
But wait, there was more. There was one last porky surprise from the kitchen - petit fours, if you will, featuring bacon. Not in any way your typical doughnut, it was an almost fudgey chocolate cake 'dough' component with a white icing glaze in contrast to the lovely saltiness of the crisp bacon on top. I'm not sure if the doughnut glaze had any pork fat content but at this point, I didn't really want to know.

I certainly felt like a piggy rolling out of Bishop Sessa that night, but also one that was somewhat enlightened on the whole head-to-tail philosophy. As a neighbourhood restuarant, Bishop Sessa is doing some seriously spectacular things, especially in the pork department where the food is smart, considered and completely dream-worthy.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the 'I Dream of Pork' dinner at Bishop Sessa as a guest, with thanks to Savannah PR.

Bishop Sessa on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 29, 2014

Adamo's Pasta: fresh-made pasta goodness

I'm a total pasta fiend and seem to be able to eat endless amounts of it. In fact, I'm thinking about smashing a bowl of orecchiette bolognese as I write this post on Adamo's Pasta in Beaconsfield/Alexandria.

Located on a busy main road in a quasi-industrial area, Adamo's first started out selling a wide range of fresh uncooked pasta. It piqued a lot more interest when the narrow store added a dining area and started selling hot pasta meals to the local workforce that's rather starved of lunch options.

Beetroot gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce from Adamo's Pasta, Botany Road, Beaconsfield
I always tend to go for more exotic pasta options when I'm out, leaving the likes of spaghetti and fusilli for at-home cooking. The generously-sized dish of beetroot gnocchi certainly fit the bill with its ruby-red hue, served with our chosen sauce of gorgonzola and peas, freshened up with plenty of fresh chopped parsley.

There wasn't much beetroot flavour to the pasta, although its appearance compensated somewhat, while the rich gorgonzola sauce with bits of pancetta was a good match to the unique gnocchi.

Porcini mushroom agnoletti with ragu
Filled pasta like agnoletti are always a delight when done well, and these filled with a smooth filling of porcini mushroom certainly were. Perfectly al dente, the pasta parcels were plentiful amid the deep red ragu, with visible bits of soft beef and vegetables enhancing the pasta.

Pumpkin gnocchi with amatriciana sauce
Another option from the exotic gnocchi range was a pumpkin variety that was softer and sweeter than the usual potato version. With our chosen amatriciana sauce of tomato, bacon and chilli, the pumpkin gnocchi was a vividly filling lunch.

It's a shame that there aren't more places like Adamo's in the CBD where a quick, fresh, reasonably priced pasta offering would really be appreciated at lunch, as well as the opportunity to buy fresh pasta, sauces and other related grocery items before the commute home. So for now, I'll have to keep heading to Beaconsfield for fresh-made pasta goodness.

Adamo's Pasta on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dive in to Yurippi at The Cliff Dive

Remember last time you were on an underwater dance floor of a Papuan dancehall and you were peckish? It was probably at Darlinghurst nightclub The Cliff Dive which is now embracing the earlier evening crowd with a food offering in light of the recent lockout laws, introducing a street food concept that's as colourful and quirky as its fish-adorned dance floor.

Underwater themed dance floor at The Cliff Dive, Oxford Square, Darlinghurst
Called Yurippi at The Cliff Dive, it offers a short selection of grilled skewers throughout the evening till late, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights – The Cliff Dive's big nights where punters give the underwater dance floor a steamy workout.

Statue at downstairs entry
The Cliff Dive owners Alex Dowd, Jeremy Blackmore and Russell Martin (the former two who also own Surry Hills tequila and beer barn Tio's Cerveceria) had been looking for a way to improve and expand on The Cliff Dive's late night trade and perhaps pushed along with the new laws, recruited a former high school buddy to up the existing food offering.

The main bar
Yurippi chef 'Honky' threw in his full-time mechanical engineering career to focus on his Crows Nest market stall every third Saturday of the month and his new kitchen digs behind The Cliff Dive bar.

Inspired by his time in Japan visiting yakitori stalls, he's cooking up skewers with a twist to suit the island theme and rum-oriented back bar.

Yurippi kitchen window
With a bit of consultation help from chef friends at Longrain, the menu of five skewers takes cues from Thailand, Malaysia and other south east Asian regions to form an eclectic collection of sweet, sour and spicy flavours, with each skewer treated to its very own sauce.

Yurippi skewers
The Hungry Honky set basically offers the entire menu on a small board: all five skewers plus excellently tart, crunchy house-pickled vegetables and a firm-grained pandan coconut rice served in a bamboo basket.

The lemongrass chicken with peanut satay sauce was an easy favourite, as too the silken chilli tamarind tofu with som tum sauce. 

A whole baby octopus confit-ed in chilli oil and ginger makes for more an adventurous-looking skewer, while the wild ginger beef with caramelised sweet soy and the turmeric lemongrass pork with sweet tamarind sauce round out the offerings.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail
The new tiki-influenced cocktail list by bartender Michael 'MC' Chiem (ex Bulletin Place, Sokyo, Black) goes a little further than just Hawaiian resorts, tropical juices and tiki mugs – not to say that there's not plenty of the latter two.

Rooted in the traditions of Trader Vic and original man of tiki bars and drinks, Don the Beachcomber, the cocktail menu is almost exclusively tiki-influenced and is all hand-drawn pictorial fun.

We start with the pretty-as-a-picture Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail, served up with Bacardi 8, Cointreau, lime juice and a house-made falernum syrup that MC calls their "master stock" that goes into many of their signature, tropical-themed drinks.

La Florida cocktail
Next, the Jungle Bird which I'm reliably informed is Malaysia's national cocktail, created at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton Hotel's Aviary Bar in 1978.

A shaken mix of spiced rum, Campari, pineapple and lime juices, the refreshing, cinnamon-scented cocktail is served in half the woven, bamboo basket that Thai sticky rice is generally served in.

Don the Beachbomber's Zombie cocktail
The falernum also appears in the classic Don the Beachcomber's Zombie which is served in a green Easter Island statue-inspired tiki mug lidded with a cinnamon-scented orange slice.

With a mix of Bacardi and Appleton rums, Pernod liqueur and house-made grenadine with notes of cinnamon and star anise, the citrusy concoction really sets the tiki mood and isn't as boozy as some other Zombie's I've had.

Piña colada cocktail served in a pineapple
Last, but by no means least, was the classic Piña Colada served in a hollowed out pineapple with its core intact. With Bacardi 151 rum, coconut, Chinese five spice and a touch of salt to bring out the sweetness of the pineapple, the limited numbers of hollow pineapples per night make this a must-have.

Second bar
Open from 6pm Wednesdays to Saturdays, Yurippi offers a tasty precursor to the usual music and dancing at The Cliff Dive which kicks off at about 11pm and opens till late – just make sure you dive in before you get locked out at 1.30am.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at The Cliff Dive as a guest.

The Cliff Dive on Urbanspoon

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