Monday, August 18, 2014

So cool, SoCal

When SoCal opened in Neutral Bay late last year, it was really one of the first all-out themed bars to hit the lower north shore. Decked out in a Southern Californian beach style with bearded and floral-shirted hipster staff at every turn, SoCal has certainly hit a chord with the themed-bar-starved locals, who flock to the upstairs and half outdoor bar and restaurant through the week and especially on weekends.

Cocktail samples at SoCal, Young Street, Neutral Bay
I'd been to SoCal once before for a quick margarita in warmer times, enjoying the casual outdoor terrace vibe amid some very dressy groups of girls. The venue's fitout and music does well in transporting people to another place, far away from the thoroughfare that is Military Road.

As does a fun cocktail list which we sampled parts of at a recent SoCal Social event. Misbehaving foams were the name of the game with a fun, flirty and citrusy orange-red tequila cocktail by bar manager Joe Worthington.

Crab and sopressatta tostadas
Given its proximity to Mexico, the Southern Californian theme sees a Mexican tinge through the menu including plenty of tequilas on the back bar and a unique Californian slant to the wine list.

The food started with a bang and a crunch with a board of tostadas delivered by chef Zac Smart himself. Crunchy chip circles were topped with a zingy, flavour-packed combination of two of my favourite things: crab flesh and sopressata salami. Rich yet moreish, this really was the ultimate tostada and a good sign of things to come.

Chicken sliders: marinated chicken breast with avocado and chorizo
Sliders make a menu appearance, along with fellow-everywhere buddies tacos and quesadillas, but these aren't your average mini burgers.

Maybe it's been a while between sliders for me but I loved the juicy chicken fillet with avocado on the little toasted burger bun although the chorizo didn't really register.

Frisco Pisco cocktail
The sliders were paired with the Frisco Pisco cocktail – a jalapeño chilli-infused Pisco shaken with egg white, elderflower liqueur, lime, sugar and muddled cucumber and perfectly garnished with a touch of cracked pepper.

Seared salmon with broccolini, chilli and coriander salsa verde
To the more substantial share plates, we had the delightfully seared salmon with broccolini, the crunchiest sweet potato crisps and a smashing chilli and coriander salsa verde.

It was perfection with the salmon just a little rare in the middle, and matched with Dry Creek Fume Blanc from California's Sonoma region.

Slow roasted lamb shoulder with faro, freekeh, quinoa and kale
Next was the slow roasted lamb shoulder - itself a very 'now' protein offering served on a superfood medley of old grains faro, freekah and quinoa with diced kale, topped with an enlightening gremolata of chopped parsley and citrus zest.

This was pretty much the ultimate new take on a rustic dish that fits right in with modern Australian cuisine and was paired with Bliss Pinot Noir.

Scotch fillet with chimmichurri
And if that wasn't enough red meat pleasure, our final shared savoury dish was a very rare scotch fillet steak, sliced to share, with tangy chimmichurri that could go well with really any protein though I would have been happy to have the steak on the grill a minute more.

Mushroom and bean salad
The steak was served with Dry Creek ‘Heritage’ Zinfandel, also from the Sonoma region, and a mushroom salad with plenty of beans and spinach.

Chocolate, pistachio and tequila brownies with chipotle cream
The night finished on a high of several kinds, especially the fudgey chocolate, pistachio and tequila brownies served with a squizz with chipotle cream. While I'm not a dessert person, if there's a sweet I can never resist at least tasting, it's a brownie.

Espresso martini
The decadent brownie was matched with an equally rich salted caramel espresso martini of Ketel One vodka, Galliano Ristretto, salted caramel and espresso (decaf on request for those who can't sleep after espresso martinis). Garnished with a crumble of honeycomb chocolate, this is definitely a great dessert cocktail with both a sugar and caffeine high.

The people behind SoCal (and Bondi Hardware and The Botanist) are spreading their brand of casual but fun cool all across Sydney and for Neutral Bay locals, it must be so cool to have SoCal in the neighbourhood.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the SoCal Social as a guest, with thanks to Pendulum Communications.

SoCal on Urbanspoon


Ramen Raff said...

hahaha love the the title post! Them sliders look delicious and love seeing quinoa in restaurants now! I too love a combo of lamb with quinoa.

Annie said...

loved that espresso martini that night! went back again recently with a friend to try the tacos and she's been craving about going back to SoCal since then :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I like Bondi Hardware and The Botanist so I think I'd enjoy it here too!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

The scotch fillet looks delish but the lighting at So Cal is definitely a food blogger's nightmare! lol

Tina said...

Hi Raff - Thanks :) Yeah, the lamb was gorgeous with all those grains. Modern classic material!

Hi Annie - some great drinks matches, weren't there?

Hi Lorraine - I'm actually yet to check out the other two venues...!

Hi Helen - Er... could you tell from my photos? :/ It was rare but it was a bit hard to tell at first glance in the dark/red light.


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