Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kong BBQ - king of meat, Korean style

Bringing a new perspective to the barbequed meats trend that's so in right now, Kong BBQ in Melbourne introduces us to Asian barbeque and smoking techniques under a cutesy Japanese-styled panda logo.

Inside Kong BBQ, Church Street, Cremorne, Melbourne
By the same group behind the always popular Chin Chin in the Melbourne CBD, Kong BBQ in the inner Melbourne city suburb of Cremorne was impressively busy for our late lunch drop in, with plenty of couples seated around the open kitchen counter seats and groups contentedly hoeing into meat platters.

Kong house kin chi
We started on the house pickles and kim chi fermented cabbage; the latter full of crunch, squish and chilli heat. I adored the pickled carrot strips alongside interestingly soft walnuts, while daikon white radish rounded out the pickled offerings.

Wood grilled edamame with chilli and salt
Giving the usual edamame soy beans a new wood grilled look and taste, as well as keeping on the barbeque theme, the heavily salted edamame continued to ramp up the meal's spice levels.

Hot wings with gochujang and chipotle
Chicken wings were irresistible given a whole menu section dedicated to the boney cut and we opted for the saucy gochujang Korean chilli paste and chipotle variety.

Deep red and garnished with extra fresh chilli slices, the wings weren't overly spicy and featured some very juicy midwings.

Nasu miso - miso eggplant
I couldn't pass on one of my favourite vegetables, served with a twist on the traditional Japanese nasu dengaku style, in a lettuce leaf in Chinese san choi bao style.

The hunk of soft eggplant, beautifully caramelised and packed with miso flavour, was adorned with sesame seeds, fried strips of something and coriander in a clever fusion offering.

BBQ baby back pork ribs with Kong 'crazy horse' chilli
Our barbequed pork ribs selection seemed to feature the same red chilli sauce as the chicken wings, with the same chilli, spice and all things apparently "crazy horse".

The tender ribs on the bone made for an ideal lip-smacking, finger-licking main dish to share - carbs on the side would be ideal.

Bossam BBQ tray
Continuing on the sharing trend, the bo ssam BBQ tray was definitely the way to go for most groups and even some couples.

Served in the same style as American-style barbeque platters with a selection of meats on a metal tray, the platter arrived with kim chi, pickles, pork crackling and butter lettuce and perilla leaves for wrapping and eating in traditional Korean ssam style.

Bossam BBQ tray
There was smoky chicken breast, pulled pork, pork belly and my favourite, beef brisket - each with a slightly different cooking method, sauce and personality as part of the platter.

Between four of us and all the other dishes, we completely cleaned up the tray of meats.

Spicy cabbage salad with pickled veg and Kewpie mayo
We supplemented our meat-fest with a very well-executed cabbage slaw, with spice, pickle and Kewpie mayonnaise making it one of the more impressive slaw salads of recent times.

Bar and open kitchen
While it's so on-trend that it almost hurts, Kong BBQ is doing its Asian barbeque well with a sense of fun and a modern, casual approach. Meat and the charcoal grill are king at Kong BBQ, and it's so hot right now.

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Signorelli Gastronomia: Genuine Italian in Pyrmont

Finding restaurants for large group dining in Sydney is hard enough but add the limitations of budget and Pyrmont – and it's a whole next level.

Luckily for me, taking a punt on the literally hidden gem of Signorelli Gastronomia in the Accenture/Google building on Pyrmont Wharf paid off way more than the nearby casino could ever, despite the latter's ability to draw in the masses, including the fine dining and post lock-out crowds.

Shelves at Signorelli Gastronomia, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Owned and run by the group behind functions venue Doltone House, the entrance of Signorelli Gastronomia is like a hidden, back door, mouse hole into the corporate building, with a dark hallway revealing a cornucopia of Italian gastronomic delights: a warmly-lit open kitchen, shelves filled with pasta and Italian groceries, and dining tables in and around the wine cellar, cool room and other food-centric spaces.

Crispy skin snapper, caponata, sultanas and parsley puree
For large groups there are two set menus available, each with 2- or 3-course options – we went for the Long Table menu with its shared main and dessert platters, which make group dining a breeze, particularly when there are no or limited dietary requirements.

We started on great, big platters of snapper fillets, elevated from the table to a mouthwatering eye-level. Paired with a soft, sweet caponata medley of vegetables and a sprightly sauce of parsley puree, the crisp skin and perfectly cooked flesh of the snapper were utterly delightful and as satisfying as fish dishes come.

Braised beef cheek, polenta ‘Mugna’ button mushrooms and lardons
Alongside the snapper were hearty serves of tenderly braised beef cheek atop polenta with a rich mushroom sauce. As lovely and comforting as it was, it didn't feel like a spring-appropriate dish especially on a humidly warm night out.

Roasted potatoes
Sides included gorgeously crisp roasted chat potatoes with plenty of salt and rosemary, and a rocket and pear salad with walnut, parmesan cheese shavings and balsamic vinegar reduction as a dressing.

Rocket, pear, walnut and balsamic reduction

Butternut squash risott, leeks foam and confit lemons
Last to come out, pretty much after the other two mains were done which was unfortunate for the vegetarian, was the creamy pumpkin risotto that was beautifully rich in hue, texture and flavour. Sweet, creamy and with a bit of bite, it was about one of the most perfect risottos I've had around town.

Amaretto and Montenegro semifreddo
The Long Table menu's dessert offerings cater for both sweet and savoury preferences with a house Italian cheese selection and a platter of semifreddo wedges. The latter was like a particularly rich ice cream, with a subtle nuttiness that accentuated the velvety but saccharine dessert.

The cheese plate was initially served without crackers, which was interesting, though I couldn't quite reach the full selection of cheeses across the long table; probably for the better since I went pretty hard on mains earlier anyway.

Signorelli Gastronomia is a real deal, genuine Italian restaurant in an area that sometimes lacks authenticity and warmth. Fantastic for groups (and apologies to the couple near us who would have had to endure endless girly photos) and family dining, it strives for simplicity done well, and genuinely achieves its goal.

Signorelli Gastronomia on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ajó: A slice of Sardinia at the Welcome Hotel

Posted by Kath

Head down any one of Balmain's winding backstreets and you're sure to stumble across one of the many local pubs that the area is famous for.

One of these historic pubs is the Welcome Hotel which was founded in 1878 and still retains a local charm, with the benefits of a recent make-over and the brilliant introduction of head chef Daniel Mulligan (previously head chef at Pilu at Freshwater).

Entrance to the Welcome Hotel, Evans Street, Balmain
The pub recently welcomed Ajó restaurant into a cosy and sophisticated dining space, with sheltered outdoor seating to be enjoyed in the upcoming summer months.

Chef Mulligan brings a Sardinian inspired menu to the backstreets of Balmain. At a glance the new menu of regional Italian fare looked to be an exciting journey into one of my favourite cuisines. Accompanying the new menu is an impressive list of Italian and NSW wines with an equally impressive array of local craft beers for the beer lovers.

Freshly shucked Pambula oysters with shallot jelly
Being a newly converted oyster lover, after years of being put off by some lacklustre offerings, the freshly shucked Pambula Lake rock oysters were a fantastic indicator of what was in store for the night.

Adorned with delicate cubes of slightly zingy white balsamic vinegar and shallot jelly, they were fresh and creamy, making them a delight to eat with or without the jelly.

Marinated W.A sardines with charred foccacia
The majority of the dishes served up from the Ajó menu this night were largely seafood based, which I definitely had no complaints about.

To keep on theme our next dish was a row of thinly sliced and marinated sardines hiding under an eye catching bed of refreshing herbs and flowers. The oily goodness of the sardines and the refreshing salad of fennel, parsley, capers and flora were accompanied by some charred focaccia slices which provided the perfect vessel for consumption.

Queensland spanner crab, fregola, almond and marjoram
Highlighting the Sardinian influence on the menu was a moreish dish of fregola - a type of Sardinian pasta like large couscous grains.

This dish basically had the whole table silently enjoying the slightly chewy consistency of the pasta which was infused with the creamy flavour of sweet spanner crab and marjoram, with an added nuttiness from a smattering of almond flakes. I could have had two of these if only it wouldn't have called for a double dose of antihistamine.

Huon salmon, slow cooked peppers and vongole
Next up was a perfectly cooked piece of salmon on a bed of deliciously sweet peppers and onions, speckled with a few little clams. The skin on the salmon had a lovely crispness to it while the flesh flaked away and melted in the mouth.

The salmon combined with the sweet peppers made this one of my favourite dishes of the night, with the clams being a potentially unnecessary addition to the already wonderful flavours.

Mutton, baby artichokes, broad bean and olive caramel
The last main of the night was a surprising dish of mutton. I found the salty and sweet flavour of the olive caramel to be a welcome combination to the juicy pieces of medium rare mutton, pureed broad bean and slight tang of the artichokes.

Eton mess, strawberries and pistachio
To cap off the night we were presented with a not-so-Italian but spectacular rendition of an Eton mess. It was a cloud of delicious whipped cream studded with tiny pops of sugary meringue which had just the right amount of crunch and chew. Sliced strawberries added a refreshing tartness to cut through the delicious mouthfuls of sugar and cream, while the pistachios added another level of crunch and flavour that went beautifully when all combined.

Throughout the night we were plied with many a fine wine from various regions of NSW and Italy that were matched exceptionally well to each course by passionate owner Liam O'Keefe. This passion obviously extends across the whole offering at the Welcome Hotel, particularly within the casual elegance of the Ajó dining room - making it an enviable place to call your local.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ajó as a guest, with thanks to The Cru Media.

Ajo on Urbanspoon

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