Hello there loyal Bon Vivants!
Some of you may be wondering where Danny and I have gotten to…
Without giving too much away, we feel you should know that there are some new and different things in store for us. More will be revealed in the not too distant future!
Exciting things are happening in both our lands and we look forward to sharing them with you all soon!
Thanks for the patience and general curiosity!
WATCH THIS SPACE!
109 Regent Street
Last Wednesday night saw fab new bar Freda’s officially open it’s doors for the first time. Danny and I were lucky enough to attend with a bunch of our mates to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Freda’s is the beloved baby of Simon Cancio, Marty Campaign and Ibrahim Kasif. The boys will be slinging high quality sandwiches during the day and at night Freda’s the bar comes alive, with bangin’ cocktails and tasty Mediterranean morsels to match.
Now there will be a full Freda’s write up in the coming weeks, but for us Wednesday night was all about celebration. I did manage to bring the trusty camera along however, so please take a look and enjoy the little photo journey that was the opening night of Freda’s! And more importantly get down and check it out yourselves, these guys are open every day (the saying ‘no rest for the wicked’ springs to mind!). They are really easy to find too (I won’t bring up my poor direction giving to some friends… there’s really no need) - look for the giant tongue (not a set of lips, as I assumed it was in my ‘Brooklyn’ state of mind) on Regent Street, then go down the little driveway - BOOM, you’re there! Order a Brooklyn, the superb pickled octopus and for God’s sake, mop up everything with some of the best bread in Sydney - so delicious!
Beautiful Freda’s - who doesn’t love open beams?
I don’t think there’s much more comforting than a really well stocked bar…
Chef, Ibrahim Kasif, doing what he does best.
The Brooklyn aka Becca’s Ruin: Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Luxardo Maraschino, Rosso and house-made amer picon.
Cocktail master Marty mixing a Brooklyn for yours truly.
Happy diners, being oh so happy!
Even more happy diners - a good lookin’ crowd at Freda’s that’s for sure.
Warm trout salad.
Smoked eggplant salad.
Arguably the happiest of diners - so many smiles!
What Freda’s is all about - good people, with good drinks, sharing good food.
Smoked mussels - our table’s favourite, unbeatable with a chunk of bread.
From what we saw at Freda’s the other night it is going to be the hotspot over summer, so get in now before all the hipsters find it! Chef Ibrahim Kasif is on Twitter, so get following kids. Freda’s can be found on Facebook also. Don’t forget to check back in a couple of weeks for the full Freda’s experience as seen through the eyes of this Bon Vivant. Viva Freda’s!
Have you been to Freda’s yet? Let us know what you think on Twitter or feel free to shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these photos, plus many others are also up on our Facebook, so feel free to pop in and say hello.
As I wandered down Castlereagh Street a couple of weeks ago I was feeling particularly spritely. Was it the new Bettie Page dress I was sporting? Or perhaps the 4 or so ristretti I’d downed that afternoon? My eyes wandered to a group of, let’s call them ladies, so scantily clad it would have made Ke$ha consider covering up. With those raised hemlines I had figured out the reason for my jauntiness: spring is here! Affirmed, I made my way to the Celebration of Spring tasting being put on by The Vine Press at The Castlereagh Boutique Hotel.
On show were a fantastic array of wines from Gosset, Lost Valley and the undoubted Kings of the night, By Farr. It was a very different wine tasting crowd to what I’m used to – perhaps I’ve been out of the corporate game too long (being the only girl in a 50’s dress, clutching a giant Nikon in a room full of suits is quite daunting). I confess, the excitement value was upped a notch when I realised the hotel was actually part of the NSW Masonic Centre. I couldn’t help but think of my 94 year old Masonic Grandfather shaking his fist at me for stepping on such hallowed grounds. And by Jove, if I didn’t come out with material for a preposterously poorly written conspiracy novel (that would no doubt become an international bestseller), then I couldn’t honestly call myself a writer, could I? All digs at Dan Brown aside, check out this fabulous chaise longue…
On arrival we were greeted with a much-welcomed glass of the Gosset Brut Excellence NV ($100), a wine I found really well balanced between lush creaminess and fresh strawberry like acidity. Spending 3 years on lees it really was quite a vibrant little number, but ran just that little bit sweet for me. The real knockout from Gosset, however, was the Grand Reserve MV ($125). It was everything you would expect from the oldest Champagne House in the world - finesse, elegance and far too addictive. A Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunieur blend from the 05, 06 and 07 vintages, it was full of rich peachy flavours and little fresh floral notes coming at you left, right and centre. The combination of 5 years on lees and no malolactic fermentation resulted in a wine of great length and intensity. I confess, I’ve never been a huge lover of Gosset wines (we all know my heart lies with Ruinart), but this Mixed Vintage really won me over.
Leaving France, I made my way to Victorian High Country to sample some of Lost Valley’s wares. It was here the whites really sang. Their 2005 Merlot ($30) was all right, and certainly one of the better Merlots I’ve tried in a while – some really grippy tannins – but just not for me, not at that price point. The 2008 Shiraz ($30) was very Rhone-like and ticked all the cool-climate boxes: dark fruits, white pepper and a few licorice notes. Not bad at all. Interestingly, they had their 2009 Cortese ($30) on show – not a wine I have encountered much in Australia. Piedemontese owner, Robert Ipasso, produced this as a tribute to his homeland. A very aromatic white, with strong stone fruits balanced out by some sharp lemon acidity – intriguing, perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but I would easily polish off a bottle (or two). But I am a Riesling gal really, and I was nothing but impressed by this, their first Riesling release. The Lost Valley Riesling 2010 ($20) was beautifully aromatic (so much orange blossom!), had a great zestiness on the palate and finished with that gorgeous minerality that I love so much. At this price, I have to say this wine was the bargain of the night. They say it has cellaring potential for up to 5 years, and it was one I would really like to put away and see how it develops, how honeyed it goes, but just know I wouldn’t be able to control myself!
The stars of the show were definitely the By Farr/Farr Rising wines from Geelong – and that’s not just because winemaker, Nick Farr, is uncomfortably good looking (I’m a girl, sue me)! A family operation, (“Mum does the books, I make the wine, Dad goes fishing,”), By Farr has a strong Burgundian influence in everything they produce, which one would expect, given that Nick and father, Gary have completed over 20 vintages at Domaine Dujac in Morey-St-Denis. Consequently, there is a strong focus on bringing out the best in what their terroir has to offer. For me, this means really earthy, savoury, lipsmackin’ and I daresay, gun-totin’ Pinot Noirs.
We mustn’t overlook their white offerings though! Newsflash: I’ve found a Viognier that I would actually pay decent money for!!! The 2009 By Farr Viogner ($67) is a spicy little number, I’ll give her that. It’s got these great ginger flavours, which bounce really well off the underlying apricot character to it. I really appreciated the fact that it didn’t have that oily texture that average Viognier’s get - borderline zesty I’ll say! The Farr Rising 2009 Chardonnay ($44) was an exceptionally fine wine, and I confess, I preferred it to their premium By Farr Chardonnay 2009 ($74). It really was a beautiful White Burgundy, abounding in stone fruits, cashew creaminess and minerality. Fermented with natural yeast the wine spent just under a year on lees in new French oak – bringing out a marvelous toastiness without becoming overbearing. Just gorgeous!
Coming to the business end of the evening meant only one thing: serious Pinot time. My heart jumped with joy (almost knocking over a spittoon in the process) at the sight of the By Farr Sangreal, Farrside and Tout Pres bottles in front of me. The Farrside 2009 ($76) is the one most ‘Aussie’ in style, that’s for sure – full on fruitiness, but still maintaining that French ‘texture’ if you will. It’s quite ‘big’ for a Pinot, and on the night it was a real crowd pleaser – for me, I’m after a little more earthiness. Brilliant segue to the By Farr Tout Pres 2008 ($120) – did someone say vive la France? This bad boy is super savoury, and you definitely get that before the fruit. It’s gamey, earthy and then rich with cherry sweetness. Supported by some fine tannins and a very subtle introduction of oak, the Tout Pres is really a knockout. Certainly the most well known from By Farr is the Sangreal ($80), given that Halliday has just awarded it 97 points and the “Best of the Best”. It’s uncompromising in it’s intensity and full of tannin, dustiness and spice, all the while backed with rich dark berry fruits. And it has an amazing balance between the fruitiness of the Farrside and the savouriness of the Tout Pres. Perfect fusion of Geelong and Burgundy I’d say. For me, I’d take the in your face Tout Pres over the other two any day of the week, but I can certainly see why the Sangreal is considered one of Australia’s best Pinots.
It was a truly great night and I feel privileged to have tried some of the best home grown Pinots I have ever encountered, even if I didn’t take with me a concept for a bestselling novel. Thank you to Vine Press for hosting such a wonderful evening, and to Alan Conolly and Liz Ramsay for inviting me along!
So where do you sit on the Pinot Noir fence? Fruity for the win or Burgundian gamey? Let us know on Twitter @bonvivantblog, Facebook or feel free to drop me an email email@example.com
302 Crown Street
302 Crown Street. Is it Surry Hills? Is it Darlinghurst? Who knows? Who cares! All one needs to know is that this is the home of the wicked Low302. I confess, Low302 lives in my mind in glorious infamy – there may have been a period a couple of years back where every Friday night either began or ended in this fine establishment. It’s your birthday? We’ll go to Low. Exams have ended/begun/are halfway through? Low302 it is. Your colleague’s sister bought a hamster? Low302, hustle! It’s a trendy spot and you will no doubt see a few of those pesky celebs (or people who wish they were) in there from time to time, but don’t let that deter you. My first ever trip to Low saw me drinking on Daniel Johns’ tab all night after he overheard me utter a horrendous expletive, entirely unbefitting a lady. I occasionally run into him around Darlo and I’m still met with, “HEY! You’re that girl who said #$%! at Low302!” But I digress.
After chatting with friend and Low302 manager, David Hernandez, about their new chef and new direction as a restaurant as well as hot cocktail bar, I knew it was time to revisit this old favourite. Like a fine wine I was glad to see that it had matured well with age. The design and general ambience of the place was still as cool and inviting as ever, with lush leather, hardwood floors and glorious down lighting (a gal’s best friend after a long day). The bar is absolutely stocked with premium spirits and is so damn tempting it fills me with a combination of joy and fear. With a cheeky grin from the bartender, you know this place has mischief written all over it. And with a revolving door of great local live acts and hot DJ’s, chances are you’re going to hear some pretty bangin’ tunes, whichever night you decide to go.
After a tiresome day of being Becca, I decided to meet a dear friend of mine for a few drinks and a bite to eat a couple of weeks ago. The worries of the day were soon washed away with a Creole Gimlet ($16). The ‘Creole’ness was coming from the inclusion of falernum, which added this fabulous dimension of spice. Along with gin, lime juice and lime syrup I found it an interesting take on an old favourite of mine. If you’re feeling fruity give the Cuban Cooler ($18) a go. Served tall, it combines Havana rum, Lairds Applejack Brandy, pomegranate syrup, lime and soda. On a night that didn’t know if it was hot or cold, it made me sit back and dream of summer.
My partner in crime was sticking to beer and the selection at Low is certainly of note. A great mix of local and international, they have some truly fabulous ales on show. The Hitachino White Nest Ale ($12) from Japan is a serious favourite amongst my buddies. Plus there are a couple of great dark ales to tempt you if you’re that way inclined, including the White Rabbit ($8.50) and the Little Creatures Dreadnought Stout ($12.50). The wine list at Low has a bit more of a local feel, of particular note a few seriously impressive Pinot Noirs. If you can splash the cash pick up a bottle of the Hans Herzog ($80) – it may be a Marlborough wine, but it’s liquid gold… don’t tell the Kiwis I said that.
Octopus and Potato Carpaccio
With all these delicious beverages coursing through us, some food was definitely in order. Share plates are, yet again, the name of the game in this neck of the woods. I couldn’t go past the Octopus and Potato Carpaccio ($15), purely out of curiosity. Pressed octopus and just cooked potato are thinly sliced and dressed liberally with preserved lemon, herbs and olive oil – served up with toasted pumpkin bread. It’s a dish of strong flavours, that’s for sure and the crispy bread is essential from a textural standpoint. I thoroughly enjoyed it though, but I respect anyone that gets creative with a cephalopod.
Twice Cooked Tempura Chicken Wings
When it comes to fried chicken, my friends and I consider ourselves somewhat connoisseurs. In this area of the city alone you have a couple of hot contests for the best fried chicken – namely Kenji’s Fried Chicken at Izakaya Fujiyama and of course the delicious treats put forward by the crew at Gardel’s. I can, however, say that the Twice Cooked Tempura Chicken Wings ($11) at Low302 blew both out of the water. Served up with lashings of chipotle mayonnaise, these wings were moist on the inside and incredibly crisp and delicate on the out. Thank the good Lord above that we were served an even number – this dish could tear apart even the best of friends I suspect. Congrats Low302 – you have won the 2011 Surry Hills ‘Dirty Bird’ Award!
Smoked Chilli Crusted Seared Tuna with Tamarind Sauce
From the delicious gluttony of tempura chicken wings we moved on to the ethereal beauty of seared tuna. The highlight of the meal, Low302’s Smoked Chilli Crusted Seared Tuna with Tamarind Sauce ($15) has got to be reason enough alone to pop in for a meal. Seared to perfection, with a fantastic blush of red in the centre, the tuna is not at all lost against the sweet chilli smokiness of its crust. Paired with a zippy tamarind sauce, this plate was gobbled so quickly we contemplated ordering another straight away. Take my advice – do it. David personally recommended this one to us. What can I say? The boy has good taste.
Not being much of a dessert girl (I’m sweet enough… *boom tish*), it really wasn’t essential to finish our meal with a sweet treat. Not essential, but entirely welcomed! I was very keen to try the Low’s take on the Wagon Wheel – but alas it was not available that night. Must get back to try though – who doesn’t love Wagon Wheels? We eventually settled on the Chocolate Assiette. A combination of dark chocolate ganache, chocolate sorbet and a seriously wicked brownie this dessert is really one for the chocoholics. An incredibly rich thing though, the two of us struggled through it (but we are wimps).
What can I say? I was always going to feel at home in a bar where the motto is ‘Aim high, go low.’ I’m glad to see Low302 is still the welcoming, elegant but always-playful nightspot I remember it to be. Moreover though I was impressed: impressed at the quality little restaurant it’s become. Well done guys, you really are on to winner. A big thanks to David for having us in, gracias hermano! So if you’re looking for a new place to try head to 302 Crown St, Darlinghurst…. Or is it Surry Hills? Aaah hell. Just go.
Been to Low302? What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @bonvivantblog or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org And don’t forget to stop by our Facebook to get a few extra tidbits!
52-58 Reservoir Street
As promised, this week in Bon Vivant land is all about part deux of our Single Origin Roasters 2-fer. Last week it was all about the Café and Chef Matt Rothman’s delicious winter menu, but now it’s time to bring it back to what first sparked my curiosity with this place: glorious, glorious coffee. I make no efforts to hide my straight up caffeine addiction. I daresay that when I gave up coffee for Lent this year I nearly lost my mind. But luckily I soon had the loving arms of the Single Origin Roasters Sideshow to fall in to – a place that is sheer decadence for a real coffee lover.
If you go for a wander down Reservoir Street, just past the Café you might do a double take and think you’ve stumbled upon a rather brazen meth lab (with elegant fittings and less… well… meth). On closer inspection of the Kono syphons and halogen heat lamps you will realize you have stepped into serious coffee territory (just in case you hadn’t noticed the monster espresso machine to your right). Housed in the front part of the Fracks showroom, Sideshow is a purpose-built coffee haven, specializing in Slow Brew methods to help showcase a plethora of single origin beans and of course, doing a roaring takeaway trade. Baristas Joe Cutcliffe and Charles Cameron generously gave up some time to give me the rundown on the ins and outs and the who’s and why’s of the Single Origin Roasters Sideshow.
Having opened up late last year, the 8 metre square space that is Sideshow has been making waves – and not just of the ‘Third’ variety. Arguably one of the best places in Australia (and most certainly Sydney) to experience coffee, the space was custom built for flexibility with no expenses spared on obtaining the finest, best-suited gear for the many extractions on offer. Unlike other boutique coffee establishments around town, there is a strong Japanese influence both in technique and equipment at Sideshow – something that must be attributed to Head Barista, Shoji Sasa and his extensive research. The guys exclusively import Kono syphons and pair them with locally produced, hand blown glass chambers. These balance over a rather nifty halogen heating system that is all about precision, allowing them absolute temperature control. It is a true science – and for a gal that did 12 units of major works and essays for the HSC, it really does wrinkle my brain. The latest addition of an industry-first milk tap, connected to a 20L tank in the fridge, full of farm-direct milk has also been getting quite a bit of attention. Removing plastic bottles from the equation means less stress on the old environment, which in turn means I won’t judge you as harshly for having milk in your coffee. Win/win.
Single Origin Roasters are obviously known for just that: premium, sustainably produced beans from a single origin (and if you’re lucky, a single Estate). While they have a pretty cracking house blend that has seen me through many a boring meeting, the singles and their stories are what intrigue me. Just this week alone my palate has been to Panama, Sumatra, Tanzania and Colombia. The team at Single Origin Roasters is uncompromising on the quality of their beans, it just so happens to be a major bonus for us ethically minded folk that their imports are always some form of certified organic, forest friendly or Fair Trade (and occasionally a combination of all three). In this respect they are certainly echoing a shift in the industry – it’s all about building relationships with the producers. It’s about being hands on, visiting the coffee regions regularly and not just picking up the best beans at the best price, but looking at what they can do for the entire community. Like everything that falls into the sustainable/ethical/happy category, you may pay a little more. But when you consider that 100 people have handled your coffee before it even hits the cup, it truly is a bit of a miracle at $4.
Charles and Joe are examples of a new generation of Baristas – these guys have picked coffee as their career. They are not just a couple of dudes who ‘work in a café’. They are Baristas of the highest quality and all the power to them I say. For the guys down at Sideshow it’s always about quality over attitude, it’s never about the ego. Joe and Charles believe being a good Barista is all about possessing grace under pressure. When push comes to shove though they know that their reputations are dependent on a solid takeaway coffee trade – especially now given Sideshow’s exposure and diverse clientele. On an average day they work through about 10kg of beans each, manage the Slow Brew methods and more often than not educate and explain them to their customers. All the while with a couple of cheeky grins and intimidatingly eclectic iPod selections.
SO what exactly is on offer at Sideshow??? Well aside from your takeaway espresso trade…
The syphon method of brewing coffee has been around since the 1800’s and involves heat and vapours and vacuums (oh my!). As the water heats in the lower chamber it travels up a nifty little pipe, and is combined with your tasty coffee. After a bit of stirring and a bit of cooling the end product coffee makes it’s way back down. Well that’s the way I understand it anyway – for all the facts it’s best to ask the guy making it! Shoji very kindly took me through three different singles in a bit of a syphon extravaganza last week (that left me buzzing for hours). For me, the Sumatran was off the chain.
The beauty of a pour over is that it’s effectively all about gravity and heat, and of course the adept skill of a Barista. A filtered style, it’s about the subtle introduction of water at a steady pace. The result is a coffee of great clarity that really brings out all those little nuances you would probably miss in your espresso.
Cold Drip coffee is just one of those things that I think is pretty rock and roll. And a good starting point perhaps if you’re not too familiar with it all. Coffee is steeped in water and effectively left to drip through a filter overnight. I find it actually quite sweet but remarkably refreshing – perhaps something to do with the fact that it never comes in to contact with heat, which in turn intensifies flavours. In the words of my 15-year-old brother, ‘It’s like coffee flavoured water – but good.’
The guys actually sell these little machines at Sideshow. It was invented by the guy who invented Frisbees (I thought Joseph was lying to me about that one, but you can A Current Affair FACT Stamp that… if you must). It’s similar to a plunger style of brewing but using air and pressure. The guys do things a little differently and actually invert the chambers. What results is a coffee that is lighter in colour but I think more complex in flavour, and with just a bit more clarity and brightness. Pretty nifty if you ask me!
So that’s the who, what, where, how and why of Single Origin Roasters Sideshow. A big thanks to Shoji for a fantastic syphon experience and of course to Joe and Charles for giving up their precious time, knowledge and patience for Miss Becca! You guys are bloody legends. It’s important to note that all of these extractions are available at the cafe also! So next time you’re in Surry Hills head down Reservoir Street, pop in and see the guys and let them rock your caffeinated world.
Been to Sideshow? What’s your favourite brew? Let me know email@example.com or on Twitter @bonvivantblog. And don’t forget to check our Facebook – more pictures, more laughs… just more.
60-64 Reservoir Street
One of the perks of working in Surry Hills at the moment is the ability to step not far out our door and stumble upon ‘one of Sydney’s best’ – be it bars, restaurants, pubs, or in this instance, cafés. Single Origin Roasters is so much more than a café – for that reason this is a bit of a Bon Vivant 2-fer! This week I’ll be focusing on the café and next week you must, must, must check back for an in-depth look at the ‘Sideshow’ – a specialty coffee bar, purpose built to showcase alternative brewing methods to bring out the best in single origin coffees.
Single Origin Roasters (SOR) has become a bit of a rockstar in the coffee scene of late. The work being done in the café, Sideshow, roasting house and wholesale business saw them awarded 3 stars in the SMH Good Café Guide and also picking up a shout for Best Boutique Roaster. I make no secret of the fact that I think this place kicks arse. I tend to be overtly critical of cafés as, in general, I think they kind of suck. It’s difficult to find a place that will simultaneously make a decent long black from good, recently roasted beans and produce something fresh and tasty to eat. And so my love affair with Single Origin Roasters began.
At the end of the day, these kids are serious about their coffee. The Single Origin lot source, roast and blend premium and sustainable beans – never compromising on quality. Chef Matt Rothman echoes these thoughts in his menu, changing seasonally and focusing on local and sustainable produce from some of Sydney’s best suppliers. What has made it for me is that there’s no cumbersome cabinet full of pre-prepared, depressed sandwiches and containers of questionable ‘bircher muesli’. Time and effort is being put in to your food.
In a nutshell the winter menu is just one big old cuddle. With breakfast only running until 11 and my stupid schedule I have actually only managed one brekkie trip (sans camera I’m afraid). It was a ghastly morning too, and the Persian Spiced Baked Beans with Feta and Flatbread ($13.50) were just what the doctor ordered. Aromatic, nourishing, there ain’t nuttin like starting your day with a whack of spice. My dining partner opted for the Ocean Trout, Avocado and Sour Cream Bagel ($13.50) – which looked suspiciously Glick’s like to me, which is by no means a bad thing at all. We did, however, gaze longingly at the House Baked Brioche, Chocolate Sauce and Seville Orange Marmalade ($10.50) that arrived at the table behind us. Next time, for sure.
Salami, Olive, Provolone and Nettle Melty
A couple of weeks ago I took my far too difficult to impress 15 year old brother for a bite. Incidentally, we happened to be there at the same time as two blokes some of you may know – Rene Redzepi and Mark Best. Just hanging out, drinking espresso on a rainy Friday. Whatever. My brother ummed and aahed and we eventually shut him up with a Meatball Sub – veal and ricotta meatballs, tomato sugo and grana padano ($15.50). The meatballs were so tender and soft from the ricotta, but with bags of juicy flavor and the odd fleck of sweetness from a few currants I believe. And while baristas Joe and Charles tried to corrupt him with ristys (ristretto coffees – minds out of the gutter kids), it was the cold filter that won him over (but more on that next week). I, on the other hand, was definitely corrupted by some espresso tequila and the Salami, Olive, Provolone and Nettle Melty ($14.50). A good toasted sandwich is a beautiful thing and this bad boy has it all – oozy cheese, salty salami, earthy olives and the ‘God I’m so badass’ factor of eating nettles.
Intensely refreshing, cold filter coffee
Nonna’s Sunday Roast
It’s difficult to go past Nonna’s Sunday Roast – a gorgeous combination succulent roast lamb, pearl barley, cavolo nero and little pea gnocchi type things ($17.50). This dish reaffirms a little saying I picked up when I was living in Italy: una buona nonna vale cento maestre – a good grandmother is worth a hundred teachers. I’ve also quite enjoyed the Open Lasagna of Wild Mushrooms and Polenta ($16.50), because, you know, carbs on carbs is only a good thing right? Such a generous serving too, it stopped me in my tracks – but my buddy Steve had no problem picking up where I left off.
Poached Salmon, Celeriac, Horseradish and Watercress Salad
For me, the absolute knock out item on the menu has been the Salad of Poached Salmon, Celeriac, Horseradish and Watercress ($16). Before Danny and his ‘you don’t make friends with salad’ crew come after me, this salad is a real meal and a delicious one at that. Beautiful warm salmon, combined with remoulade style celeriac, backed with some heat from the horseradish and all rounded out with peppery freshness of watercress. It is the perfect thing to eat when you know you have to go back to work and kick some ass. I’m not a huge sweets gal but there’s a daily selection of sweet and savoury muffins, as well as a pretty tasty brownie from time to time. I have also heard brilliant things about ‘Sydney’s best lamington’ but I have as yet, not been lucky enough to grab one.
The space is small and inviting, with a certain edginess in it’s art (minus the typical Surry Hills pretension). Little benches and tables are strewn haphazardly on the footpath and side alley – something I’ve heard people lament, but personally I love. Just be careful lest you trip over a hipster. There’s a fantastic energy to the place, something I think you can put down to the staff. From Japanese barista royalty and pretty ladies, to professional tap-dancers and rockabilly boys with Zappa tatts – and of course, a chef who really is just bang on the money. It’s a place that celebrates Christmas in July with mulled wine and hot ham rolls, to the backing of Tammy Wynette and a little dubstep for ‘good measure.’ Given all the media attention around this place and head barista Shoji Sasa, there are naturally a lot of people flocking to it – so you may need to wait a while for a table. But chill out, it’s worth it. Plus there’s not a tired looking salad wrap or Byron Bay Cookie Company jar in sight. #winning
I know I haven’t touched on the actual coffee side of things too much, but check back next week as I tackle the Single Origin Sideshow. Big love and thanks to Chef, Matt Rothman and Baristas Joe Cutcliffe, Charles Cameron and Shoji Sasa for keeping me caffeinated (and I daresay, sane) the past few weeks. All the ristys have given me the nickname ‘Energizer Bunny’ at work.
Been to Single Origin Roasters? What did you think? Let me know firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bonvivanblog. These and more photos are also now up on our Facebook. And don’t forget to come back for part two next week!
52 Waterloo Street
If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you may have read some rather rapturous/semi-delirious messages last Wednesday night. Namely about my new boyfriend. We have, however, hit a small speed bump in our relationship. There’s no problem embroidering Becca on the matching his and hers bath towels, but Izakaya Fujiyama’s Steamed Pork Belly with Hoba Miso and Eggplant simply would not fit. Perhaps it’s over before it’s begun?
All frivolity aside, I’d been looking forward to trying out Izakaya Fujiyama since it opened shop. There’s been a lot of chatter about it in the Foodie community and frankly I wanted to see if it was worth the hype. Situated in the latest trendy Surry Hills precinct, incidentally purely dedicated to share plates, Izakaya Fujiyama has some impressive neighbours. Having had a lovely meal at Orto Trading Co and all but taking up residency at El Capo on Friday nights, I was interested to see what the new kid on the block had to offer. Chef Kenji Maenaka comes from good and assuring stock (Porteno, Bodega, Four in Hand but to name a few), and what was on offer was a sumptuous array of small plates, select Japanese beers and more sake and umeshu than you could poke a stick at.
Izakaya Fujiyama is another one of those ‘no bookings’ places, so my intrepid group of diners went a little earlier than normal. Arriving at 6:30 we had absolutely no hassle getting a table for 7 people. But given the amount of people flocking to this area, and that the table behind us was occupied by ‘Jill and Terry’, I’m not sure how long that convenience will last. The space is welcoming and vibrant, all the while exuding that unmistakable Japanese elegance. There is a mix of tables and a glorious bar backed with a wall of rice and plum wines that you could gaze at, longingly, for hours.
We settled in with some Edamame – possibly my favourite snack ever – and a few beers. I went for the Yebisu Hop which was indeed, rather hoppy, but was all too enjoyable with my salty little soy beans (and just what a gal needs on a Wednesday night). Almost instantly out came our Fried Calamari with Mayonnaise – sweet, tender and so so crispy, perfect for the fine beers we were enjoying. Then our palate hopped over to the cool and serene with the Sashimi Plate and Pickled Cucumber. We were treated to tuna, salmon and kingfish sashimi – I have been and always will be a tuna fan, and this was superb. Market fresh, tasting of nothing but the sea, I was instantly transported to a place where smugness was allowed and I could feel superior for eating something so fresh and ‘good for you.’ The cucumber, pickled in sweet ginger soy sauce was a surprise hit amongst my end of the table – a testament to Kenji’s ability to not mess around too much with quality ingredients and still create something damn tasty.
My lovely friend Vanessa and I couldn’t go past sampling some of chef’s beautifully crafted Nigiri. I went for mackerel (feeling rather brave – I’d actually never had raw mackerel before), while Nessy opted for salmon. Raw mackerel was certainly an experience – don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but it is an intensely ‘fishy’ fish. It might be one that takes a little getting used to but hey a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. A bit of cross-culture dining presented us with the Kingfish Nuta with Tortilla. With lime-infused miso, raw kingfish and fried tortilla shards it was a rather interesting Japan-Mexico, meet me halfway ceviche. As tasty as it was, I felt it was a little confused in the grand scheme of things.
Agedashi Tofu is another favourite of mine and I think Izekaya Fujiyama’s was one the finest I’ve ever had. It’s a dish that is easily executed poorly, so I tend to order it with trepidation. Far too often am I served soggy, cold tofu, slimy mushrooms, swimming in a lackluster broth of some sort – all too reminiscent of having the flu as a child. Kenji’s Agedashi was full of flavour from the braised shitake and okra and the tofu was crispy, warm and truly a delight to eat. It got a pretty serious nod from my fellow diners and I couldn’t help but notice bowls of the stuff heading to just about every table in the restaurant.
Hoziakura Junmai Kimoto-Yamdanishki Sake
Things got way too real as the Sake list was passed around. I had immediate flashbacks from my birthday this year, drinking warm sake at Echo Point Karaoke around 3am. It tasted like NO! and smelled like vomit (though, in retrospect, that may have been the room). But the fighter that I am took the bull by the horns and had a try of the Hoziakura Junmai Kimoto-Yamdanishki. As someone who believes wine should be made from grapes, I was actually pleasantly surprised. It had quite a floral nose, and served room temperature it had a flavour that I could only liken to bananas. It certainly helped me get over my fear of rice wines!
KFC - Kenji’s Fried Chicken
Our evening was coming to a close and our final few dishes made their way out. We enjoyed a refreshing tofu salad with pickled daikon, carrot and mizuna, something I’m keen to try out at home actually. The hit amongst the fellas had to be the KFC – Kenji’s Fried Chicken (by God do I love a good pun!). The karaage chicken with mayonnaise was so moist, delicious and moreish, I was afraid the boys were going to come to blows over the last piece. As suggested though, my dish of the night had to be the Steamed Pork Belly with Hoba Miso and Baked Eggplant. God damn that’s a fine piece of cooking! The miso paste/sauce was punchy with a great kick of spice, the pork meltingly tender. The eggplant added a great ‘baby food’ feel to it all – which I think rocked. I mean come on, I’m willing to marry it – that’s got to say something, right?
Pork Belly with Miso
Izakaya Fujiyama certainly did not disappoint. Balanced flavours, incredible ingredients, elegant presentation – Japanese cuisine in a nutshell if you ask me. I think Kenji and the team are on to a seriously great thing here. People might lament the Izakaya style of dining (I’ve even heard people call it glorified bar snacks) – but winding down over a few drinks and some small plates is truly a beautiful thing. For those that are interested, we ate like Emperors and drank like Geishas (do Geishas drink? This one does…) and ended up paying just shy of $40 each. So go! Check it out and let us know what you think.
More photos from this fabulous meal are now up on our Facebook page if you fancy a gander. Why not ‘like’ us while you’re there? But as always you can give me a shout email@example.com or on Twitter @bonvivantblog
2 Huntley Street
ALEXANDRIA (entry from 41-43 Bourke Road)
Based on my Deckhouse experience I know that when Miss Gourmet Rabbit says ‘come for brunch’ she really means ‘come for a Bacchanalian feast of wonder, don’t eat breakfast and wear stretchy pants.’ This was certainly advice I heeded when I joined some fellow food bloggers at Alexandria’s new gastro pub, 4143 at the James Barnes.
Located in the middle of industrial Alexandria, 4143 is a visually incredible space, offering a cool outdoor bar (with a banging menu to complement) and a beautiful indoor bistro. Before people start questioning the location, yes, I concede it is a little out of the way. But as I (read: my GPS) navigated my way out there on Saturday I had some time to think about it. When all the yuppies couldn’t afford to live in Newtown, they spread to Redfern. Then Waterloo. And now, Alexandria. Before you know it, Zetland will be Enmore and the high rises will overshadow plumbing supplies warehouses. I’m not suggesting Botany Road is the new Crown Street, but when you think about it, it’s merely gentrification at it’s most lucrative. Further, I was reminded of all the workers in the area. My old company used to have a warehouse just a stone’s throw from 4143 and the boys were always whining about not having a decent place for lunch! This is where I think the 4143 will come into it’s own.
Wagyu Burger and Chips
But what of the fare? Chef Peter started our day off with the most popular item on the bar menu: the fated Wagyu Burger. Premium wagyu was loaded between fluffy brioche (courtesy of Fuel Bakery) along with melted cheddar, beetroot relish, aioli and gherkins like my Grandma used to make. After staying in on Friday night drinking cheap Western Australian SSB this was exactly what the Doctor ordered! Served with a mountain of fries, at $14 I thought it was the bargain of the day – and everyone agreed, a real contender for the next Burger Wars.
Seared Scallops on Pea Puree with Chorizo
We were next treated to a couple of selections from the entrée menu at the bistro. The Seared Sea Scallops on Pea Puree with Chorizo were cooked to perfection, and while it was a beautiful dish, I felt it lacked a little bit of oomph – nothing that a sprinkle of salt and pepper couldn’t fix though I’m sure. Along with this we tried the Caramelised Onion Tart with Goats Curd and Balsamic – a classic combination of flavours, executed well. And a very generous serving (in fact, the same must be said about all the dishes) – and certainly no skimping on the goats cheese. Let’s face it, it always comes down to the cheese.
Caramelised Onion Tart with Goats Curd and Balsamic
From the mains menu we sampled Duck Breast on Puy Lentils, Spinach, and Brussel Sprouts. The duck was tasty, but the lentil and spinach mix was the star of that plate. We were also treated to some pretty tasty sides of Roast Baby Beets and Beans, Buttered Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Roasted Chat Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary. I’m a fiend for al dente vegetables and for me the beets, beans and sprouts were all cooked perfectly. I felt the chats could have been a little crunchier though.
18-Hour Braised Lamb Shank En Crepinette
The dish of the day had to be the 18-Hour Braised Lamb Shank En Crepinette on Parsnip Puree with Muscatel Jus. Hot diggity it was delicious. As I said to Chef on the day, “I think I want to move in with it and see if it’s marriage material.” The lamb was tender and when you got into it out oozed a delicious spinach and parmesan concoction. Matched with sweet parsnip puree, roasted eschallots and muscatel jus it was some seriously divine eating. Interestingly, the mains menu offered a small ($16) and large ($28) serving option – not something I see a lot of these days. We were served small sizes, and I could honestly say they were no smaller than what you’d get anywhere else. This is certainly the place to eat in an abysmal economy!
Chocolate and Orange Mousse with Hazelnut Biscotti
And so we entered the magical world of desserts! By this stage I was more than willing to go home and have a little Nanna Nap, but the sweet treats twisted my arm yet again! A classic Tiramisu was definitely a crowd pleaser. The Chocolate and Orange Mousse with Hazelnut Biscotti was more than met the eye (and it was a pretty thing at that) – the inclusion of pop rocks sent our table in to fits of giggles like the naughty school kids I’m sure we all were. The mousse was thick and rich, too rich for me, but I’m not the greatest chocolate fiend. The Bread and Butter Pudding with Rhubarb and Macadamia Ice Cream on the other hand was something I had to beg my diners to take away from me before I finished the whole bowl. A perfect dish for a dreary winter’s day: the pudding wasn’t too eggy, yet quite firmly set, and alive with cinnamon and tart rhubarb. I’d encourage people to give it a go and at $10 a dessert you’ve only got things to gain – mainly calories, but that’s beside the point!
Bread and Butter Pudding with Rhubarb and Macadamia Icecream
My experience at 4143 at the James Barnes was a bit of an eye-opening one. I think it’s in an area that people overlook, but man there was some super quality food. And look, it’s about 5 minutes further down the road from Newtown, if you’re already driving what’s the harm in going that little bit further? A big thanks to the team at 4143, Denea and the good people at Dedes Group for hosting this unruly bunch.
What’s more important to you: location or quality? Let me know firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bonvivantblog
Lat Dior African Eatery
150 Enmore Rd Enmore (just up from the Enmore theatre)
I have been to Lat Dior twice in the past month and seeing how I haven’t written anything for The Bon Vivant for about the length of time (– Bad Danny) I thought I should share my experiences with you, the Bon Vivant’s loyal followers/readers/twitterers.
I am ecstatic about discovering Lat Dior. This is the kind of place which you very happily call one your local haunts. This is because Lat Dior has a lot of good things going for it. Firstly, it is relatively easy to find located on Enmore Rd just up from the Enmore theatre. Secondly, the staff at Lat Dior are friendly and attentive. Finally and perhaps most importantly however is that there is a good range of traditional offerings with all the ones I have tried being incredibly delicious and terrifically priced. They don’t even mind if you bring along a bottle (or two) of your favourite drops to enjoy with your meal either!
The menu itself brings you a large array of African dishes from all across the continent with dishes tradition to West Africa sit above or below dishes from Madagascar. Typically each dish is served with what Lat Dior calls a “starter” which is normally a healthy servings of greens. It is a good foil to each of the one of the mains where greens and other vegetables are somewhat lacking. These starters are fabulous – my favourite is the green beans which are served just how I like them, crunchy and covered with spices and sauce. It is light years away from having to force your greens down as a child.
In the mains I have sampled enough of them now to have my favourites. Here are some I reckon are definitely worth a trip on the 423/426.
Varenga: A beef dish, marinated overnight in African spices and then fried. A delightful dish if I do say so myself the beef is delicately cooked and the spiciness of the dish brings it to another level
Thiou: Slow cooked chicken marinated in African spices and served with a good bit of fried onion. Not as spicy as the varenga above but served moist not overcooked at all
Ndambe Lamb: My personal favourite, cubed lamb served with Red Kidney beans and lentils. The lamb is perfect –melt in your mouth stuff with the Red kidney Beans and lentils providing good crunch to the dish. I would probably say it is a little bit spicier than the Varenga but it isn’t a hot spice it simply adds more sensation to your meal.
Other important things worth mentioning are firstly the ginger drink which is a homemade mix of freshly squeezed ginger with vanilla sugar. If you are adventurous or you just like ginger beer give this a go. Initially this starts quite sweet on the palate with the Vanilla sugar component of the drink coming to the fore but then you begin to notice a zing from the ginger come through it starts off quite small but it builds significantly from there. A definite crescendo of flavour leaving you with lasting burst of ginger well after you have finished your drink.
Overall, I am very happy to add Lat Dior to my list of regular haunts. The food is fantastic and the value can’t be beat. The last time I was there I got away with an order for a main with a starter and the ginger drink for $20 which I think is cracking value.
Obviously given I have written anything here for a month or so I would love to hear your feedback on this. Are there any other African places that you have been to across SYdney that I should visit? Let me know at my pretty new email address – I can access it on my iPad now - email@example.com
Final Tip: Bring along a bottle of cool climate shiraz to enjoy with your meal. Think of regions like Orange (NSW), Heathcote (VIC) and Great Southern (WA) the spiciness you regularly find in these particular wines should add to the overall flavour of the dishes you choose. Afterwards, head across the road for Cow Moon Gelato – The lime in the coconut Gelato is to excellent.
It’s cold. VERY cold. Eat this and be warm.
I should probably say a little more than that, but that’s really the whole point of this recipe. For me this is such a Sunday lunch thing. It takes a bit of time, but really not much work. Slow cooking rocks, just put it on and let it do it’s thang. Fresh pappardelle is hands down my favourite pasta. It takes me back to my time in Perugia where the local specialty was wild boar with pappardelle spiked with spicy black pepper. I’ve run with it ever since! Alas, my local butcher was out of Umbrian Wild Boar (what are they good for, really?) so lamb shanks it is. But really, who can complain about meltingly tender lamb that you could eat even if you didn’t have any teeth? Not I.
Serves 4 hungry folk.
For the pasta:
Make the pasta in your preferred method. For me, it’s by hand. So combine all the dry ingredients and tip them on to your surface and make a well in the center. Crack in the eggs, then gradually work the flour into the eggs until you have a dough forming. Remember, every time you work with flour you may need a little more, or a little less. So feel the way your dough is coming together and incorporate the flour gradually. I work the dough for at least 10 minutes to get that gluten working – your dough needs to have some bounce back. Once it’s at that point, wrap it in cling and let it rest at least half an hour.
After it’s rested, either roll it by hand, or through a pasta machine ensuring you laminate (fold it over on itself) at least 4 times – again to help that gluten work. Once it’s gorgeously thin, cut it in to 1 inch/3cm ribbons and hang to dry. You can dust with flour and leave in clumps, but my kitchen gets so stuffy that it usually ends up sticking together if I do that. NOTE: the broom handle was cleaned prior to use! Now take a step back and admire your speckled ribbons of wonder!
For the ragu:
Preheat oven to 140 degrees. Over a high heat, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in large, oven-safe pan. Season the lamb shanks well and brown. Brown them really well; this will give you super flavor in the end product. Once browned, set aside.
Drop your heat to a more medium/high level and in the same pan, cook off the onion, celery, carrot, zucchini, garlic and anchovies with a little salt and pepper. There’s no need to chop the anchovies, they will just melt into the vegetables making them extra delicious. Once the vegetables are softened add the chilli flakes, porcini (and the water they were reconstituted in) and tomato paste and cook off for another few minutes.
Add your wine and cook to burn off the alcohol – at least until it’s reduced by half. Add the tinned tomatoes and bouquet garnet and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add your stock or water and stir to combine, and then add the sealed lamb shanks (plus any juices) back to the pan so they are submerged. Cover with a lid and place in the preheated oven. Allow this to cook, slowly for 2-3 hours or until the lamb shanks are falling away from the bone. Check on it every now and then to make sure it remains moist, if needed add a little water. You are after a thick, juicy sauce though.
When the ragu is cooked allow it to cool slightly before you remove the lamb shanks. Remove the meat from the bones and shred it back in to the sauce – not too finely though, you want it chunky and delicious. Check your seasoning – it usually needs some salt, pepper and a little sugar – then keep it warm while you prepare the pappardelle.
Cook the pappardelle in plenty of boiling salted water and combine with your luscious lamb shank ragu. This dish is so incredibly rich that parmesan at this point would be an absolute sin. Just some fresh flat leaf parsley and a glass of a Coonawarra Cabernet. I was lucky enough to enjoy this with a bottle of Murdock Reserve 2006 Cabernet – a beautifully layered wine with firm tannins and a great minty earthiness typical of Coonawarra.
Winter ain’t so bad, right?
What’s your favourite winter warmer? Let us know on Twitter @bonvivantblog. If you have any questions about this or other recipes just shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org