Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the Kitchen by Mike

You'll be able to find Kitchen by Mike on a quiet (on the weekends anyway) industrial street in Rosebery by keeping an eye out for ironically-vintage-clothed hipsters heading through a large, gated driveway. While the south-east has been slowly stepping up in gourmet terms, Wayfarers are still a little foreign to the area.

The front 'porch' of Kitchen by Mike, Dunning Avenue, Rosebery
Kitchen by Mike is the casual eatery adjoining the new Koskela furniture showroom, which has some stunning Australian-made pieces by Russel Koskela (like the sausage dog inspired sofa) dotted throughout a spacious warehouse.

Prices are at the upper end of my spectrum, so I stuck to the food which happens to be on the pricey side as well.

Kitchen by Mike indoor dining area
Run by an ex Rockpool head chef, Kitchen by Mike doesn't have a menu - rather, the day's breakfast and lunch selections are determined by what the kitchen sources at the markets each morning.

Some of this produce is made available for sale, in addition to meats by Feather and Bone, cultured butter by the one and only Pepe Saya, and house-branded chutneys, jams and sauces.

Freshly squeezed watermelon and ginger juice
A rare sunny day at a brunch hour brought us to the outdoor seats, clutching a number of enamel plates with the help of a staff member as the dishes are all served canteen-style at the counter. Self-serve cutlery is available in the terracotta flower pots on each table, while the inside tables utilise recycled food cans as cutlery holders.

There were no smoothies available when we were there, so I settled for a freshly squeezed, blushing pink watermelon juice with the slightest hint of ginger.

Roast pumpkin, feta cheese, basil, pine nuts tartine
We seemed to have arrived at that awkward time between breakfast and lunch, which meant there was not yet any meat dishes displayed on the colouful counter aside from the bacon butties.

Nonetheless, it was a good chance to give our inner vegetarians what they wanted, including a picturesque tartine featuring some of the crunchiest bread ever (not recommended for false teeth). The pumpkin and salty cheese were perfect toppers, smooshed onto the bread, while the overall combination was very pleasant.

Spinach and cheese quiche
The just-warm quiche was light and airy inside, and not overly cheesy with a tart flavour to the spinach. Most impressive was the golden flaking pastry which left a mess all over the table, and a memorable imprint on my mind.

Onion foccacia with fig and caramelised onion salad
This definitely wasn't your typical Italian style foccacia, but more a cross between flat bread and Turkish bread; meaning it was airy and chewy, rather than soft and fluffy. And some darn good foccacia it was.

With sliced onion baked into the dough and a healthy helping of oil and salt flakes on top, the warmed up bread was sensational in terms of texture and flavour, with just a hint of sweetness from the onion. It completely outshone the small side serve of fig salad, which had well cooked vegetables tossed through.

Peach, celery and radicchio salad
The radicchio salad featured a couple of segments of the best peach I've had this season and relatively unexciting celery and radicchio pieces.

Cabbage, apple, hazelnut slaw
The portion of cabbage salad was noticeably larger than the other scoops of salad, and quite the refreshing dish too. Crunchy slivers of raw cabbage, slices of Granny Smith apple and the impossible to pick up hazelnuts and currant grapes were all lightly dressed, making for a particularly healthy slaw.

The light meal was followed by a stroll through the Koskela showroom - as I think most diners did - where I resisted the urge to buy a giant, smooth, wooden wombat. Both the showroom and Kitchen by Mike will draw in a new crowd to Rosebery, and introduce a new style to the industrial streets of the south-east.

Kitchen By Mike on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

NSW wines on our doorstep at Sydney Cellar Door

Sydney Cellar Door in Hyde Park South, Sydney
It was a glorious day that welcomed the Sydney Cellar Door event to this weekend in Hyde Park. It's the marquee annual event that kicks off the NSW Wine Festival that runs from today through to the end of March.

Wine stalls for Sydney Cellar Door
The two-day Sydney Cellar Door event features more than 90 NSW wineries from the state's 14 wine regions, including a large contingent of Hunter Valley wineries.

It's free to attend the event - and you can still make tomorrow's session - with wine tastings working on a token system. A single token worth $4 will get you about 60mls to taste at the wine stalls.

Free entertainment - Aston
Even though the day's all about wine, it can still be a family event with plenty a pram and excitable child spotted during the day. There's also free entertainment - some of it amazing like the 'Aston' group which covered pop songs with classical instruments - think Gaga's 'Bad Romance' and Beyoncé's 'Halo'.

Pizzas at Mad Pizza e Bar
And what's wine without food to accompany it? There are also 20 food stalls giving you the opportunity to do some wine matching on epic proportions: 90 wineries each with, say, eight varieties of wine - that's a challenge.

I've never seen Mad Pizza e Bar in festival mode before, but their super thin-based pizzas looked fantastic coming out of their row of portable ovens.

Gourmet wraps at the Wine Odyssey stall
It made complete sense to see a stall by Wine Odyssey in The Rocks, selling two varieties of wraps - meatball or chicken tikka. Wrapped up in foil, this was a clever, easy-to-eat-with-one-hand lunch. The meatball wrap didn't have the best meatballs ever, but the tomato sauce they were cooking in hit the spot.

Roast pork belly roll with BBQ leek, aioli and jalapeño chimmichuri from Porteño
I was most excited about the food offerings from Porteño, probably more than the wine although in my defense, it was indeed a NSW wine that I hit a little too hard the night before. The stall was fronted by the glamourous Sarah Doyle and with everyone's favourite rockabilly chefs dishing up tucker.

Quite substantial was the very popular pork belly roll, which starred a long strip of fatty, crunchy-skinned pork belly. The toasted bread roll also hosted a strong aioli, grilled and sliced leek as an interesting alternative to grilled onions, and a chimmichuri sauce with a bit of kick.

Smoked and fried free range chicken wings with house made hot sauce from Porteño
The equally popular box of piping hot chicken wings smelt enticingly smokey, split into the drummette and mid-wing plus tip sections. With a pale coating of batter, a liberal amount of red hot sauce and a scattering of thinly sliced shallots, this was definitely some finger-licking good chicken.

The actual flesh and skin had taken on a very noticeable smokiness although the downside was some chewy chicken skin. The almost-too-spicy hot sauce was worth every lick and scrape off the bottom and sides of the box.

Tony Bilson at Home by Moobi Valley stall
One of the busiest stalls all day was that of Tony Bilson's - his foray into market stalls launching this very weekend, I think. He was on site too, cooking and chatting to customers as they walked away with Black Angus beef burgers and lamb shanks even. It will be interesting to see his full at-home range of meals at the markets one day.

Gelato and brioche buns
After the pork belly roll it was too much to consider a gelato-filled brioche bun, but the classic flavours proved popular with the well warmed crowd. Both the lemon and mango sorbets were the perfect antidotes to 15 minutes or so in the searing sun.

Cake pops by Sweetness The Patisserie
It was great to see Sweetness The Patisserie there with almost their full range on offer, of course including their signature Sweet Mallows. Their brownie slices were selling like hotcakes while the bouquet of brownie-centred cake pops was irresistably cute.

Sydney Cellar Door, 25-26 February 2012, Hyde Park South
Sydney Cellar Door makes for a great event for wine lovers and learners alike. And if this weather keeps up, it's an unmissable opportunity to see and taste some of NSW's best wines in one leafy, sunny venue. See more photos from the day on my Facebook page.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good times collective #4

The plan is to make this year a little different from the last; a little more meaningful perhaps. While I work out how this is going to be achieved, the eats and drinks keep rolling in to keep me entertained.

Bloody Mary at Longrain Bar, Hunt Street, Surry Hills
Last year brought change to Longrain in Surry Hills, opening up lunchtime Shortgrain as well as a basement bar that's accessed from Hunt Street, right near the Hollywood Hotel. Bigger and better, the cocktail menu maintains all the Longrain favourites, plus what seems like millions more.

The Bloody Mary is fairly Longrain classic, with a chilli-infused Absolut vodka and Longrain's home-made Thai style Bloody Mary mix featuring more than a few tom yum ingredients. The result is fiery and extremely drinkable.

Cocktails at Longrain Bar
A tamer, girlier drink I ordered (name forgotten) had a chilli garnish and fragrant lemongrass-infused Absolut vodka. Ginger, mint, cucumber and a dash of chilli rounded out the cool cocktail which would have paired nicely with the very tempting bar menu.

Ox tail and pea arancini for Aperitivo at Spiedo, Westfield Sydney
While I've yet to dine properly at Spiedo (it would round out my Westfield Level 6 dining experiences), I've been for 'Aperitivo Hour' a few times, with mixed levels of service on the wine front. I'm a fan of Italian wines and with a good selection by the glass, the nibbles at Spiedo are just the icing on the cake.

One of my favourites has been the ox tail arancini, golden crumbed balls of beautifully rich, ox tail dotted rice atop a pea puree. It's reason enough to get there for Aperitivo.

Smoked salmon quiche, ready for the oven
Inspired by some office catering pre Christmas last year, I set out to make smoked salmon quiche as good as the ones I chased around the office roof terrace. I stumbled upon a fairly easy recipe and in typical style, made it as simple as possible with my limited kitchen skills.

I used a ravioli cutter to press out puff pastry rounds which were put into a mini cupcake pan. I skipped the cream cheese and went with pantry dried dill (which I regret), mixed into the cream and egg mixture with a few strips of smoked salmon per case.

Smoked salmon quiche, ready to eat
The result was cute, mouthful-sized puffy quiche that could have done with 20-times the amount of dill (but then again, I'm a nut for dill) and even the use of shortcrust pastry instead of puff. Nonetheless, it was an easy, stress-free canape in made in a handful of minutes.

Stitch Burrito at Stitch, York Street, Sydney
Late night stuffing-your-face doesn't feel quite so bad when you're not in a fluorescent-lit fast food franchise scoffing burgers and chicken nuggets. It's much better in a dark, underground bar where you can at least feel a little more hidden from public scrutiny.

The pile of curly fries at Stitch is the best greeting one could want after a few drinks (though I'm not sure if they're still on the menu), and the spicy Stitch burrito (also not sure if it's still on the menu) was the perfect thing to wake the under-the-influence tastebuds.

Hand cut potato chunks at Stitch
Definitely still on the menu are the fabulous potato chunks, roasted golden with whole garlic cloves and generously seasoned with rosemary salt. There's nothing much more satisfying than this simple, home comfort of salty carbs.

Chobani Greek Yogurt
(Food, booze and shoes received samples courtesy of Chobani)
Last month I received a generous sampling of a new yoghurt to the NSW market: Chobani Greek style yoghurt (or 'yogurt' as it comes all the way from the US). There are seven flavours available in select Woolworths supermarkets, including strawberry, blueberry, vanilla and peach which are fat free and 98% fat free pineapple, mango and passionfruit flavours (apparently the latter is an Aussie-inspired flavour).

They're a thicker type of yoghurt than I've been accustomed to, with a noticeable tang that's not covered up with helpings of sugar. There also seems to be more real and chunky bits of fruit than other fruit yoghurts, which is a nice change.

Longrain Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Spiedo Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Stitch on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Apollo: Definitely no ancient Greek

Another week, another new restaurant in the 2011 postcode. With chef Jonathon Barthelmess (ex Manly Pavilion) and Sam Christie (Longrain) at the helm, The Apollo is an exciting modern Greek opening in Potts Point with a corner, window-lined location that's attracting many a local.

The Apollo, Macleay Street, Potts Point
The arched windows are a fabulous feature of the space, allowing plenty of natural light and passersby to have a nosey look at this latest Potts Point restaurant. I'm a little in love with the decor too, which involves well-spaced tables, paint-peeled concrete walls and bare, unvarnished bentwood chairs (some with arms).

Nemea Driopi 2008 Agiorgitko
Greek wine is completely new to me, and somewhat new to the staff too, but we happily go with the recommendation for a red wine that's light and fruity. Turns out, Greek wine isn't all that different to Italian or Australian even, and this Agiorgitiko is well-balanced and an ideal partner to a lot of the food.

The dishes of food are designed to share, with a few appetiser-like dishes followed by the entreé-like ones, then "dishes cooked over wood and charcoal" and sides.

There's also a $55 banquet meal called "The Full Greek". Between two, we were very well advised to order one 'main' and a few of the smaller dishes to share.

Veal and sweetbread meat  ball, avgolemono
It was difficult to go past the idea of a veal sweetbread meatball, and I had wondered how the glands would be presented in the dish. One giant meat ball was served up, in a foamy pool of avgolemono lemon and egg sauce, which was light with citrus yet had meaty depth in the broth and was an unexpectedly excellent accompaniment.

The crumbly innards of the meat ball seemed to have been held together with a skin of some sort, while the sweetbreads were in a roughly chopped state that was still noticeable but not in an overwhelming manner.

Grilled octopus with chickpeas and cucumber
The octopus came highly recommended and I really hadn't expected it to look as it did. An entire small octopus, legs splayed and grilled golden all over, came resting on pylons of pickled cucumbers and a puddle of creamed chickpeas, while whole, golden-surfaced chickpeas rolled artfully around.

It was tender, for octopus, and the pairing with pickled cucumber was inspired while I'm not so sure about the chickpea partnership.

Pig's tail salad, walnuts, sorrel, currants, pomegranate, farro
I'm letting you in on a secret here - this is the best and probably naughtiest salad you're ever going to have. Indeed, farro (so much like barley) and sorrel are good for you, as too walnuts that add crunch - but not quite as much crunch as the pig's tail which has been flattened out and cooked as crackling.

Crackling salad - you read correctly. Sweetened with currants and pomegranate seeds, the jumble of farro hides a fair amount of the rectangles of pig's tail crackling which are devilishly satisfying, as can be expected. If modern Greek food is about putting pork crackling into otherwise healthy dishes, I'm in to it.

Slow cooked lamb rib and loin, lemon, Greek yoghurt
Not much was going to sway me from having lamb as the main which was a petite pile of charred meat in total food magazine style, served with a pot of tzaziki and a cheek of lemon.

We had some trouble moving the dish around on the table as we were still going on all the other dishes, so my first piece of lamb loin was probably not as hot as I would have liked. Nonetheless, the big flavours of a herby, lemony marinade just exploded in my mouth, even without the accompaniments.

The lamb loin was so very tender and easily one of the most outstanding lamb dishes I've had - Greek or not. The lamb rib, some parts without bone, were covered in a bit more fat, but tasty for it too.

Deep fried okra, vinegar, mint (half-eaten dish)
From the list of sides, we excitedly ordered the okra, or lady's fingers, which came lightly deep-fried with whole leaves of parsley and mint. The light vinegar dressing was just perfect for the seed-filled vegetable, which had none of its trademark inner sliminess, although some of the larger ones were stringy and tough to chew.

Rosewater jelly doughnuts with chocolate sauce
It took us a fair amount of time to get through the four dishes of dinner, as they seemed to be deceptively more filling than their sizes would suggest.

But I was convinced to share a dessert of rosewater jelly doughnuts, which rather resembled sugar-dusted arancini. Five of these hefty doughnut balls were served to share, with a delightful ceramic bottle of milk chocolate sauce.

Rosewater jelly doughnuts drizzled with chocolate sauce
The cinnamon sugar scented dough was a little heavy and chewy but revealed a solid cube of 'rosewater jelly' or indeed, Turkish delight. I might have thought the addition of chocolate sauce to the dessert would be sugar overload but it wasn't. Rather, the combination of sweet jelly, quality chocolate and doughnut dough was spot on in terms of flavours.

Throughout our (early arrival) meal, it was impressive to see how many people walked through the door, most sans booking given reservations are only taken for groups of six or more. The Apollo appears to be the latest restaurant hotspot, where the uber-cool factor is sky-high and there's not a touch anything ancient.

The Apollo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bruno's knows how to party, Hunky Dory style

It's already been a year since Hunky Dory Social Club (HDSC) and downstairs restaurant Bruno's opened their doors on Sydney's Oxford Street, bringing something different in a open rooftop bar made for lazy weekend afternoons.

A year later Bruno's has a new menu and chef, Daniele Trimarchi (formerly of Fratelli Paradiso and Icebergs, and heavily tattooed). A lot of my favourites from my last visit are still on the menu but gone are the indifferent pastas.

Pleasingly, the cow hides are still on the restaurant ceiling and the crocheted black tablecloths remain beneath the glass-topped tables.

Dinner tables for the "degustation" dinner at Bruno's, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Following icy Tommy's Margaritas and Honey Daiquris on the HDSC rooftop with a side of live music, a crowd of media/social media types were herded down the dark stairs to Bruno's where seats were taken at mostly communal tables in anticipation of a 15-course "degustation" dinner.

Not that Bruno's offers a degustation, it was more a sampling of almost the entire menu, share platter style as I'm sure nonna would approve.

While the restaurant walls are decked out in religious artworks (owner Christopher Cinerari calls the images "powerful"), the back of the menu features Botticelli's artwork 'The Birth of Venus' which also happens to be tattooed on Cinerari's calf (Venus is the Roman goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and military victory).

Olive misto - Pork & fennel stuffed green olives, Sambuca Gaeta olives and fennel &
chilli Sicilian olives
After the few drinks on the rooftop, most were starving and ready to rip into the 15 courses, starting with a selection of olives. While I nibbled on the fantastic grissini, I missed out on the stuffed olives which were apparently amazing. The small Gaeta olives were sweet with a light hit of Sambuca with nowhere near the flesh of the fat Sicilian olives.

Affetati misti - selection of Italian cured meats with an almond skordalia
The skordalia was the first of a few Greek hints on the menu, but the cured meats were a highlight of the evening. Truffle and fennel salamis shared the slate with bresaola, prosciutto and mortadella, all of which were superb (but granted I'm a cured meats fiend).

Nduja di casa - spicy cured pork paste, goat cheese, homemade wood-fired bread
I was super excited to see nduja come to the table, in a more presentable form than I last had (and listed in my favourite eats of 2011). This time they were three squat cylinders, garnished with almond flakes and served with the semi-soft goat's cheese and wedges of wood-fired bread.

And, as I warned those around me, it was just as spicy as I remembered and not something to be eaten while inhaling air, that's for sure. All the dishes so far were from the cicchetti menu, designed for sharing and snacking.

Insalata di lenticchia - blue lentils, goat's cheese, wood-fired baby beetroot, mint,
parsley, basil, Spanish onion, tomato
Salads made their way to the tables, starting with a lentil salad combining the classic partners of beetroot goat's cheese and an array of herbs and vegetables for a hearty side, all under squiggles of aged balsamic vinegar.

Insalata Primavera - Brussels sprout, walnut, parmesan, lemon, oil, balsamic
But I was most taken with the raw Brussels sprout salad, featuring the maligned vegetable shaved and tossed with lots of parmesan cheese, lemon and olive oil, scattered through with chopped walnuts. I don't think anyone would have trouble getting kids to eat Brussels sprouts this way.

Insalata Caprese - torn basil, buffalo mozzarella, tomato, Novello olive oil
The small Caprese salad featured diced tomato, big leaves of basil and what looked like melted mozzarella cheese. I don't know if it was a skilled hand in seasoning, but this was about the best buffalo mozzarella I've had in Sydney. I would have eaten this entire dish if it didn't seem rude in a share plates situation.

Ortolana pizza - tomato, eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, rocket, pesto
Having previously had and loved the pizzas at Bruno's, especially the bases, I think these were on par although admittedly, this was when I was starting to get distracted by the seemingly bottomless glasses of a New Zealand pinot noir.

The Ortolana pizza featured eggplant, capsicum and zucchini under a forest of rocket, and wasn't quite the best vegetarian pizza I've ever had.

Sporchino pizza - tomato, tallegio, asparagus, prosciutto, chilli
The Sporchino pizza was a simpler affair of salty prosciutto, tallegio cheese and thin rounds of asparagus. To be honest, I'm not sure if I liked the asparagus on pizza as it seems to develop a very particular, not subtle aroma.

Salmone curato con vodka - vodka & beetroot cured salmon, pickled beetroot,
watercress & horseradish cream
Almost unbelievably, the food kept coming. Thin slices of salmon cured with vodka one couldn't taste was an unexpected dish, livened by cubes of pickled beetroot and lines of mild horseradish cream.

Vitello tonatto - slow braise veal with an in-house tuna dressing
Pulling us straight back into classic Italian was the vitello tonatto: ridiculously tender braised veal smothered in a creamy, tin tuna-spiked sauce much like mayonnaise. It was so well executed that even the first-timers were nodding their heads in approval.

Calamari fritti - calamari, aioli, lemon
The convivial sharing continued as plates were passed up and down the table. The dish of lightly battered calamari strips were pleasingly soft, with a unique addition of round sweet potato crisps thrown into the jumble.

Haloumi grigliato - haloumi, roasted red peppers, salsa verde, olive oil, lime
The other Greek (technically Cypriot) touch of the night was the grilled slices of haloumi cheese, which is completely unexpected on a menu of salami and pizza. Even with salsa verde I struggle to see its place on the menu but I just can't say no to the firm, squeaky cheese.

Funghi della nonna - field mushrooms, gorgonzola, pine nuts, spinach
Grandma's mushrooms were definitely one of the more unusual dishes of the night, in a very good way. The grilled mushroom cups barely held melted gorgonzola cheese, sweetened with aged balsamic and ably supported by roasted pine nuts and wilted spinach. A vegetarian cheese-lover's delight.

Pancia di maiale - Twice cooked pork belly, braised moscato pears, pomegranate fennel
salad, crackling crumble
If the final dish wasn't pork belly, I might have said "no". However, it was pork belly so I had to manage at least a bite. The sweet, braised pear was a lovely match to the soft, fatty bricks of pork and a nice evolution from apple sauce.

Pomegranate fennel salad, served with the pork belly
At this point I barely even glanced at the pretty-in-pink pomegranate salad, and thanked my lucky stars that dessert wasn't on our menu.

The endless pinot noir continued, as did the conversation around the table, leading me to think that this was exactly what the HDSC boys had in mind.

Wining and dining at Bruno's
Tonnes of food to share amongst great company and wine, and perhaps topped and tailed with a few drinks upstairs while taking in the live music - that sure is a hunky dory night out.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Bruno's Restaurant relaunch party courtesy of Hunky Dory Social Club, with thanks to Bang PR.

 Bruno's on Urbanspoon


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