Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A touch of Manhattan at Bowery Lane

Posted by Hendy

At the ground floor of the still gleaming new renovation and refit of 1 O'Connell Street in the Sydney CBD, Bowery Lane is the newest entrant to the evening dining scene on the suits-abundant street.

Just off the building's lobby entrance, the modern, Manhattan-inspired interior provides a sense of alignment, if not aspiration, in the heart of corporate Sydney.

A glass of Bannockburn Douglas 2010 at Bo wery Lane, O'Connell Street, Sydney
Named after the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island, New York, Bowery Lane has extended its existing breakfast and lunch services to offer a different menu for the evening alongside a short, eclectic wine list, a selection of craft beers and chic cocktails.

A number of craft brews come from the Big Apple, including the Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. The wine list features a number of increasingly popular blends, like the multi-varietal Bannockburn Douglas which was pleasantly aromatic with its blend of cabernet, shiraz, merlot, malbec and pinot noir.

Manchego croquettes with smoked chilli aioli
Bowery Lane's dinner menu of snacks, entrées, shared dished, sides and mains are more wholesome options than its lunch options, taking inspiration from Manhattan in that rustic-mod way that Sydney's so good at.

We started with golden crumbed croquettes filled with Spanish manchego cheese from the snacks menu. Served with a smoked chilli aioli, the croquettes were delightfully light and soft within while the creamy aioli brought a lingering heat.

House smoked hickory salmon with puffed wild rice, bottarga salad, burnet
We opted for three entrées to share, including the house hickory wood-smoked salmon. Plated in coils with puffed rice and shaved bottarga cured mullet roe, the smoked salmon was light and creamy with a subtle smokiness. The dish was paired with salty bottarga-topped crisps in delicious contrast to the soft, velvety texture of the salmon.

Jamon serrano with buffalo mozzarella, witlof rocket and shaved pear
The jamon serrano cured ham was another light entrée served as a salad with radicchio, pear slices and rocket leaves. Having been sliced so thinly, the jamon serrano could have been mistaken visually for radicchio leaves while I thought the dish could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil.

Master kobe skirt wagyu (marble score: 9+) with chermula and lemon
To follow two lighter entrées, we had the kobe skirt wagyu which is one of the many meat based dishes that feature on Bowery Lane's dinner menu.

Lightly seared and topped with a chermula marinade, rocket and radish slices, the beautiful slices of high quality wagyu beef took on a lot of the chermula's tanginess which added a necessary overtone to the fat-marbled skirt steak.

1kg braised wagyu short rib with horseradish cream and roasted garlic
Continuing on the wagyu theme, for mains a 1-kilogram braised wagyu short rib was the first shared main dish to arrive.

Slightly charred on the surface, the braised wagyu short rib was beautifully cooked and looked, and felt, as if it literally had fallen off the bone.

Two whole roasted garlic bulbs were popped alongside the large serve of short rib, waiting to be peeled and smooshed for their caramelised sweetness alongside the zingy horseradish cream.

Whole BBQ organic chicken with lentils and grains and smoked yoghurt
The next shared main was a whole BBQ organic chicken, served in pieces with lentils and various grains mixed through smoked yoghurt.

A great, homely sharing dish, the lentils and yoghurt gave the comfort food, family favourite a new lease on life that was still utterly comforting.

Tempura soft shell crab burger with Asian slaw and miso mayonnaise
Two burgers feature on the dinner menu, including the towering soft shell crab burger. The undersized burger bun attempted to hold in a whole, tempura-battered soft shell crab, an Asian style cabbage slaw and what looked like half a bunch of coriander - a win for coriander lovers.

Complemented with a Japanese-style mayonnaise with miso, the salty, crunchy soft shell crab pieces were large enough to be eaten in a 'deconstructed' manner which is always easier for burger towers.

Barramundi fillet with king brown mushroom, smoked leek jus gras, parsnip
The barramundi fillet provided a lighter option for mains. With crisp, golden skin, the nicely cooked barramundi flaked easily and worked well with the parsnip puree and leek jus, and surprisingly, the king brown mushrooms.

Old Fashioned
On my visit the standalone bar at Bowery Lane wasn't yet in action, but it will surely be a popular one to prop up against for the building's suited tenants when the bar stools and seats are in.

With a good range of bourbon whiskies, to finish the night I opted for a good ol' Old Fashioned cocktail with Bulleit Rye whisky from Kentucky, which features on the cocktail menu in the Wall Street and New York Sour cocktails.

Bowery Lane
So realistically, Sydney mightn't be in the same ball park as New York but with Bowery Lane doing breakfast, lunch and dinner with some NYC inspiration and enthusiasm, we might just have a touch of Manhattan in our midst.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Bowery Lane as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia.

Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

A slice of Cipro – pizza al taglio

Having been asked quite a few times about my favourite dining experiences in Sydney recently, I was surprisingly short on answers. For anyone who asks now, it's without a doubt a recent early dinner at Cipro – pizza al taglio in Alexandria.

Cipro is the casual Italian brainchild of former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef Khan Danis and partner (and creator of Rockpool's famous date tart) Catherine Adams. It seemingly followed into south Sydney in the footsteps of fellow Rockpool alumni Mike McEnearney's Kitchen by Mike in nearby Rosebery.

Cipro's pizza concept strays from the Sydney norm of thin-based, round Neopolitan style pizzas to a Roman style on a thick base, still baked by wood fire but formed into large rectangular slabs to be served by the slice.

Pork sausage, spicy peppers and olive pizza from Cipro – pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
At $12 a rectangular slice, it's some pretty extravagant pizza to be had in a converted warehouse space. Pre-prepared and displayed mouthwateringly behind a glass cabinet, there are a number of colourful topping options that seem both modern and very Italian.

Dining in the airy restaurant space looking into the large open kitchen, we opted to share the fennel scented Italian pork sausage pizza slice with colourful, softly roasted capsicum and pitted Sicilian olives. The pizza slice gets reheated and dressed up with fresh parsley and olive oil, going some way to justify the price tag.

I hadn't had a thick-based pizza for years and the last one I did have was probably a franchise-delivered one. Cipro knocks thick-based pizzas out of this world. With a well-crisped bottom, the thick base is unexpectedly airy, softly chewy and not at all unbalanced in ratio to its toppings.

There's a seriously good, herby tomato sauce beneath the toppings and the thick slice is capable of holding more toppings than your Naples-style thin base – they certainly load them up at Cipro although a lot of it falls off when you pick up the slice. I resorted to cutlery to slice through the crisp-bottomed base, remembering that thick bases weren't so bad after all – in fact, the pizza was sublime.

Caprese salad
Not wanting to fill up on pizza only, we explored the rest of the quite substantial and relatively standardly-priced menu, with a full page of desserts that I regret not leaving room for. But at least I was able to discover what has to be Sydney's best take on the classic Italian insalata Caprese or Caprese salad.

Featuring a ball of fior di latte mozzarella, torn and scattered over beautifully ripe, tri-coloured heirloom tomatoes, topped with young basil leaves; I think it was the quality of tomatoes, the addition of pitted Sicilian olives and pickled onion rings, and the finally the balsamic vinegar dressing that made the salad simply spectacular.

Wood fire grilled lamb loin chops with caponata and crispy polenta
A lot of the main meals feature a stint on the wood-fired grill or oven, which I hadn't entirely expected but certainly wasn't complaining about. Lamb loin chops are rarely seen on dinner menus outside of the home so it was a delight to receive three of them off the wood fire grill, burnished with a charred aroma that had us salivating.

Much like very well-seasoned lamb chops off a barbeque, there was a pure homeliness about battling the tendons and fatty rind for the tender meat on the bone. The lamb loin chops were served dry with three perfectly golden, crisp cubes of deep fried polenta and a smattering of mushy diced vegetables in a sweet caponata.

Prawn linguine with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and parsley
The generous prawn linguine was hands-down the best seafood pasta dish I've had – ever. Without the support of a tomato base, a lot of prawn and shellfish pasta dishes are insipid at best with bits of garlic, parsley and white wine for flavour.

Cipro's prawn linguine was a superb dish in its own right and not just the pasta category. Brimming with chunky pieces of fresh prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas, it was properly seasoned with loads of parsley, garlic and a whole red chilli.

Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – firm, sea-fresh prawns or juicy tomato quarters – with the well-olive-oiled linguine. There was nothing that could be improved, save for an addition Cipro's sensational house-made chilli paste for those wanting a bit more of a spice kick.

Their opening hours – recently updated to midday till 9pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am till 9pm on Saturdays, and 10:30am till 6pm on Sundays – indicate that the owners have some more family-friendly hours than the industry generally, which rather suits the casual air of Cipro being more the neighbourhood restaurant. With its serious restaurant quality, Cipro has certainly captured my slice of the local dining pie, or should I say, pizza.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sustainable Table launches Give a Fork campaign

Posted by Hendy

As part of Good Food Month this October, we the masses are being asked to give 'a fork. Sustainable Table - a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne - uses food to explore sustainability issues, like seafood last year. This year, they're asking people to 'Give a Fork!' about waste, particularly food waste.

The 'Give a Fork!' campaign encourages us all to think about the environmental impacts of our groceries choices - how we shop with our eyes and not our tastebuds, or brains really - and how we can each wholly use the produce we use in our cooking (think off-cuts, carrot tops, onion peel etc).

Shopping with your tastebuds and picking visually imperfect produce provided by Harris Farm Markets featured at Sustainable Table dinner for Give a Fork launch, 14 October 2014, Studio Neon, Waterloo
And why we should give a fork? Australians, on average, discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, amounting to around one out of every five bags of groceries we buy ending up as landfill.

This is costing the average Australian around $1,000 annually, which translates to around $8 billion worth of edible food that is thrown out each year throughout the country.

When we throw away food, the food rots with other waste in landfill and produces methane - the potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than the typical carbon pollution we all experience on our roads.

Dining space at studio NEON, Raglan Street, Waterloo
To start the discussion on the major environmental issues of food and packaging waste, Sustainable Table hosted a simple, minimal waste dinner at the eccentric, eclectic warehouse dining venue, Studio Neon in Waterloo.

The goal of the night for chef Aaron Teece was to create a multi-course meal using produce supplied only earlier in the night and to create a meal with minimal to zero waste.

Cassie Duncan of Sustainable Table
To kick off the night co-founder and general manager of Sustainable Table, Cassie Duncan, was joined by the equally passionate Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

Cassie and her Sustainable Table team partner with restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney to help raise awareness of the food and packaging waste issue through the Give a Fork campaign.

Carrot with organic yoghurt and black olive crumb
The dinner showcased a number of dishes that make the best use of the produce available on the night. The pre dinner canapés were simple and made full use of a handful of ingredients, namely roasted heirloom carrots and a bread crumb of olives.

Baba ganoush, dukkah, crispy skin on crackers
The second set of canapés that followed made full use of eggplants. The soft. mushy flesh of the eggplants was used with onion and garlic to make the traditional eastern Mediterranean baba ganoush dip, served on a small cracker topped with nutty dukkah and a crumble of eggplant skin, crisply dried.

Smoked onion risotto with organic 62 degree hen egg
The main course for the night was risotto made with a stunning smoked onion base stock, which made use of whole onions including the onion skin. The risotto was complemented with a soft and delicate organic 62 degree egg.

The dish was then garnished with a host of different herbs donated by OzHarvest from their kitchen garden in Alexandria, as well as leftover onion skin not used in the stock which was dehydrated, powdered and graciously strewn over the risotto.

Launch of 'Give a Fork' Campaign Dinner
The former journalist, now blogger, media personality, wellness coach and Give a Fork ambassador Sarah Wilson spoke about the different ways each of us can help to reduce food waste.

She shared some tips on making full use of the produce we buy, including freezing onion skins with other vegetable off-cuts in a zip-lock bag and using the bits later on to enhance any base stocks with a simple, nutritional and flavoursome boost.

Tim Silverwood of Take 3, Campaign Ambassador
We also heard from Tim Silverwood, another Give a Fork! campaign ambassador and co-founder of the Take 3 not-for-profit organisation. He spoke about how we all can play a part in reducing beach waste by picking up three waste items each time we visit the beach and being mindful of our use of disposable plastics.

Tim also reflected that waste is often tied with what we consume and how we consume; reiterating a number of the earlier messages around how we can improve the way we consume the produce we buy.

Imperfect orange dessert
Capping off the night was the dessert which was aptly named, imperfect orange. Making use of what is termed as second grade oranges - oranges that might not look their best on the outside yet taste equally as amazing as those that do look perfect on the outside.

The dessert plate comprised orange zest sponge, orange rind purée and Janni goat's curd. The notion of making use of the whole fruit extended to the use of the orange pits which were water soaked, dried, powdered and made into a slightly bitter garnish, cleverly balancing the sweetness of the sponge and tanginess of the curd.

The meagre residual waste from the dinner service
The night ended with Cassie presenting to the dinner the residual waste from the dinner service. What was left was a few egg cartons and the used vegetables from the stock - both of which can be re-used again.

Reflecting on the night, the 'Give a Fork!' campaign made me ask what we can each really do to help tackle the food and packaging waste issue. Sustainable Table have shared a few ideas:
  1. Plan ahead and plan better, being mindful of what we are using and what we are throwing out;
  2. Start a compost bin to generate some fertiliser that can be re-used to grow your own produce;
  3. Get involved with the 'Give a Fork' campaign and get your friends, families or colleagues together to organise and host a 'Give a Fork!' themed, waste-free dinner (or lunch or brunch), and raise awareness and funds for Sustainable Table; or
  4. Give a fork at participating local Sydney restaurants through their #wastefree 'Give a Fork!' specials offered at those restaurants.
Given the seriousness of the issue at hand, we can all play a part and make the decision to 'Give a Fork!' See the Give a Fork website for more information and our Facebook page for more photos of the dinner.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the 'Give a Fork' campaign as a guest, with thanks to New Future PR.

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