Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Watermoon, Potts Point

Last Saturday I went to the Cremorne Orpheum to watch a French movie, a series of which were being screened in various independent cinemas. This particular movie was called Un Plan Parfait, or 'Fly Me to the Moon', which starred Diane Kruger and was lumped into the romance category. Though the description sounded like your typical chick flick, only in French, it was more comedic than romantic, as well as utterly hilarious! The movie ended pretty late but we decided to check out a particular joint in Potts Point. Sadly, when we arrived some time past 9.30pm they were still full and we were told that we would be given a table in an hours' time!

Needless to say, our dismay and hunger led us to venture elsewhere for food, and Watermoon happened to be in great shape to receive us. With the kitchen closing at 10pm, we had to decide on our order pretty quickly - though the waitstaff stressed we could take our time, we felt bad for showing up so near to the closing time. It was just as well we couldn't go through with the original plan, anyway, as I left my camera at home.

 We decided on a bunch of dishes to share with a bowl of rice each to accompany the meaty side dishes. The rice was standard Japanese rice, boiled just fine (if they don't stuff up plain rice you can't say much else about it!).

Rice ($2.00)
We ordered the chef's special of roast duck, which was a dish of moist and tender duck meat with a smidgen of fat attached. The sauce was sweet and light - it was served at room temperature, so it was a bit cooler than I would have preferred.

Roast duck ($7.80)
Next up was the geso karaage, a mass of battered squid legs with a serving of tartar sauce. The tartar sauce was creamy, so don't expect a kick out of it - tangy, spicy or otherwise. The squid legs were crisp and great with the spicy sauce from the chicken dish. There was also a lot of it, considering it was priced at less than $6. We were struggling to finish it off at the end.

Geso karaage ($5.80)
The spicy chicken was probably my favourite of the night. The chicken was only slightly oily, yet quite moist, and the spicy sauce was actually spicy.

Spicy chicken karaage ($7.80)
 The takoyaki (octopus) balls were quite mushy and soft, lacking the crispiness that some other restaurants lend to it. There also wasn't much substantial meat, so if you're used to chewy octopus inside, you might want to pass on this one.
Takoyaki ($4.00)
 We also ordered a marinated squid, the sauce of which moistened the rice perfectly. The squid was nice and springy - just be careful when eating this one because they leave the tough membrane inside which can lead you into temptation to choke!
Marinated squid ($9.80)
Verdict: Great prices, friendly staff, nice food.

Watermoon on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Forresters, Surry Hills

About a month ago I decided to check out The Forresters (having done the opposite thing to what everyone else has done and visited Queenies first). To my dismay, the entire premises was swamped with people and I thought that getting a table (even for 2) would be hard. However, we grabbed drinks and hovered around a particular spot until a table cleared. This method was successful as we only had to wait for about 10 minutes. Due to how busy it was, the cutlery and serviettes weren't replaced so we picked some up from the kitchen when we retrieved our food.

And I know the photo below suggests that there's a castle/ dungeon vibe going on, I would have to say it's not really themed - just a casual bar with good food and plants.

The popcorn squid was salty and lightly battered. The squid was nicely tenderised and the green peppercorn mayo helped to lessen the impact of the squid being deep fried.

Popcorn squid ($14.00)
 There was a lot of chicken nugget - pretty much battered chicken, much like with the popcorn squid. The chicken wasn't overly dry like I expected, but it was incredibly salty. I don't think I would order it again. Portions are really generous - the both of us were really struggling to finish this and the squid.

Chicken nuggets ($10.00)
 The pulled pork slider contained peanut mayo and Korean slaw. The pulled pork was a little dry and I was disappointed by the dryness of the miniature burger buns - it's the same texture you get from leaving white bread out for a day.

Pulled pork slider ($5.50)
 The fish tacos were the highlight of the visit - the corn, slaw, guacamole and wedge of lime provided enough juice to make this truly enjoyable to eat. The fish didn't taste too much of seafood - in fact, it integrated so well amongst the other ingredients that it was hard to tell it tasted of fish.
Fish taco ($5.50)
I also had a ginger beer based cocktail. Loved it.
Chicky babe ($10.00 a glass)
I personally prefer the dining at Queenies because of the greater variety of dishes to choose from - as well as the fact that much of the food at the Forresters is too strong - in salt, oil and dryness. I guess they appeal to different crowds. The Forresters is good for those mainly there to drink and mingle with groups of friends with a bit of food on the side.

The Forresters on Urbanspoon

Selah, Circular Quay

Selah is situated about a minute's walk away from the high-tourist-density part of Circular Quay. It comes across as providing business-casual dining at a decent price, and if I were to go by the photos on the website alone, I would wholeheartedly agree and wonder why they aren't hatted. Upon visiting, I felt let down by the flavours - the portions are reasonable and the food is tasty, but the dishes lack that special something which makes you excited about the prospect of returning. I did, however, have a really nice glass of pinot noir, which makes me want to go back to sample more of the wines on their list.

The word 'selah' is used frequently in the Old Testament book of Psalms. It indicates a pause which one should use for reflection and deep thought. Selah the restaurant indeed cultivates a relaxed atmosphere, with its gentle lighting and simple furniture. As I visited at dinner time, we were amongst the non-corporate patrons, who filled the place with a gentle buzz. The waitresses were friendly enough... Just not as polished as the other higher-end restaurants I've visited recently (I do appreciate my constant refills of water).

First, the wine. I hadn't had a good red in quite a while and I settled on the 2011 Holm Oak pinot noir. A rich, bright red in colour, it was smooth on the palate and had a light fruity scent. Delicious and pleasant to drink.

Pinot noir ($11.00 a glass)
The soft and dense bread that arrived next was not bad. We were served organic sourdough, served with parmesan oil (cheese steeped in olive oil for a lengthy period of time) and little bits of rosemary.

Sourdough ($4.00)
I have started to refrain from eating all my bread before the entrees and mains in order to better utilise precious stomach space and any tasty leftover sauces from my mains. Which is why I am glad I could eat some of it with my entree. My friend and I shared an entree because we were scared we wouldn't be able to stomach 3 courses each. We were nearly right - 2.5 courses sufficed to make me really full. The entree that arrived was large and made us glad we decided to share - we had also mentioned our intention to do so to the waitress, so I'm not sure if they had thoughtfully adapted the entree to suit sharing or if it already comes like this. In any case, I think this was a highlight of the evening.

Trio of tuna ($22.00)
The spring roll pastry was not like the conventional deep fried vietnamese skin - it was crisper, breadier and thicker. It would have made quite a nice canape with the pairing of the skin with the threadlike meat of tuna. The spring rolls were served with a mayo-like rouille sauce.

Spring roll
I next tried the tuna tartare with cucumber. The tuna was fresh and similar to sashimi, except sliced into cubes and compacted into a little slab.

Tuna tartare
Finally was the seared tuna. The tuna itself was, as with the tartare, fresh. However, the tuna slices were a bit dry, which I thought was a pity.

Seared tuna with sesame & herb crust
My main was pan-baked saffron snapper with scallop stuffed zucchini flowers, quinoa and fennel salad, and vanilla bean shellfish bouillon (a broth). The fennel & quinoa salad were served at room temperature and quite refreshing for a warm night. The stuffed zucchini flowers were by far the highlights of the dish, crisp and lightly battered. The snapper itself was cooked well, but the bouillon sauce tasted slightly strange at first. I got used to the flavour quickly and found it enjoyable eventually, but that relates to my first paragraph about the flavours not being fantastic. At the risk of sounding like a certain judge on MKR, I enjoyed the generosity of the sauce on the plate. You can guess what the rest of my bread was soaking up!

Saffron snapper
For dessert, I ordered the hazelnut baklava, crunchy filo pastry with nuts inside. It was accompanied by slices of fig, vanilla bean ice cream, and Pedro Ximenez syrup. I loved the syrup, the baklava was crunchy and mouthwatering, and the figs helped to balance off the high amount of sugar I was enjoying. I have no complaints about the vanilla bean ice cream.

Hazelnut baklava ($15.00)
I also ordered tea - gunpowder tea! For a type of green tea, it was pretty thick and strong, but it went surprisingly well with the dessert.

China gunpowder tea ($4.00)
For completeness, these are my friend's dishes:

Spatchcock ($34.00)

Apple caramel custard, apple gel, butterscotch mousse & oatmeal ($15.00)
Verdict? It's alright.

Selah on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Diethnes, Sydney CBD

Diethnes is situated in a basement without reception or wireless. In any other situation, fears of isolation from watching too many Hollywood movies would kick in, but I was there with friends and there were a few groups of other diners inside. It probably wasn't purposeful, but the lack of mobile phone usage actually helped to perpetuate the atmosphere of being a guest at someone's home and sharing a meal with their family.

The decor is quite old-fashioned and the lighting is dim, but the person serving us was warm and friendly. Given we satisfied the minimum requirement of 4 for the banquet menu, we opted for the $35pp menu. When I think of Greek food, I think of feta cheese and moussaka, but that's about it. It was interesting to have a broader experience of Greek cuisine.

Bread basket
Greek salad
The loaf of white bread and Greek salad were standard - not great but not bad either. They were accompanied by grape vine leaves stuffed with sticky rice and herbs and tzatziki. I'm not a big fan of dips, but the cool grape vine leaves were soft and tasty (with a sour tinge from the lemon).

Taramosalata with grape vine leaves
 The entrees to ensue were placed directly on our dinner plates by the waitress with pairs of metal thongs. The spanakopita was spinach and cheese sandwiched by soft pastry. It was probably not the most authentic version, as you're supposed to use crisp filo pastry (or an equivalent crunchy pastry) while this one was soft. Nevertheless, it was quite enjoyable to eat.

  The pan fried eggplant arrived with a very light skin of batter on the outside. It was immensely hot when it arrived, so I had to wait a bit for it to cool after burning my tongue. The eggplant inside was soggy and it reminded me a bit of eating tempura.

Pan fried eggplant
 The tiropites involved more filo pastry and cheese - a recurring theme that night! This course was crispy.

 I had no idea that pan fried calamari (kalamarakia tiganita) was a Greek dish. It was sadly disappointing, as the batter was not crispy when it arrived. The calamari was not that tough, though, which I was happy about.

Pan fried calamari
 By this time we were all feeling pretty full. Then the lamb came. The bits of roasted pumpkin were sweet and really delicious. The roasted potatoes weren't so tasty - there was a bit of lemon juice that raised its head after swallowing each mouthful. The lamb itself was made well - tender, juicy and falling apart. Probably the highlight of the banquet.

Baked roast lamb
 While eating the moussaka, you could really taste the nutmeg. It came with rice, which I thought pretty odd. I was pretty disappointed, because I think the mousakkas that I have eaten in non-Greek restaurants tasted better.

 After we finally had our fill of the main meal, we awaited dessert. The dessert was filo pastry around cream cheese with cinnamon on top and a lot of syrup soaked through. It was pretty heavy, but thankfully our slices weren't too big. It was nice with coffee.


Flat white

The quantities here are definitely generous, but the flavours are a bit hit and miss. Considering the other nearby Greek restaurant, Xanthi, is hatted and therefore a fair bit more expensive, Diethnes is a great venue for having dinner in a group.

Diethnes on Urbanspoon

Universal, Darlinghurst

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Universal restaurant, which has graced Sydney with flavours from all over the globe (and, of course, its fancy twist on the Golden Gaytime), will no longer exist as at the end of April. It is thus why I responded enthusiastically in the affirmative when a friend invited me along on a last minute weeknight venture there.

 Located in a little open square that I didn't know existed, Universal visually stands out from the other restaurants with that distinct orange glow. The random brass statue right next to it is also a great conversation filler. Gravitating towards the light, we claimed our table and perused the menu. Our waiter explained that unlike other restaurants, Universal does not do degustations, but that people order a number of dishes a la carte. The list of savouries are arranged such that the lightest dishes are at the top and the heaviest are at the bottom - with a separate one for the vegetarians.

The recommended number of dishes per person is 3 savouries and 1 dessert, but being a small eater, I stuck to 2 savouries and a dessert. Wise choice in the end, as I was feeling pretty stuffed after the second savoury.

Universal has a pretty extensive drinks menu, but I settled on a detox virgin (mocktail) they called "Ruby Baby". Containing raspberry sorbet, grapefruit, cranberry and lemonade, it was sweet, tart and useful for clearing my palate throughout the night.

Ruby Baby ($9.00)
Next came the complimentary bread, which looked and tasted like brown rye. The accompanying olive oil had a light, bitter aftertaste.

My first savoury dish was the lamb rump, served with roasted pumpkin, saffron rice and spiced chickpeas, smoked almonds and bits of juicy pomegranate. I loved the flavours of the spices, but the lamb was quite rubbery. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the portions were also really small for the price charged - I know saffron is expensive, but it's not that expensive.

Lamb rump ($31.00)
My second course was roasted snapper immersed in a curry gravy and accompanied by cubed tomatoes, spanner crab (sprinkled on top), mint salsa and spiced coconut. The curry was spicy, slightly creamy, and slightly sour. The spanner had a nice flaky texture, made flavoursome on top of its bed of sliced young coconut.

Snapper ($32.00)

 With my whole table ordering the Gaytime Goes Nuts, I decided to deviate from the norm and ordered the Mocha Bomb. Which led to extreme sugar overload. The mocha bomb was a cube of cakey chocolate mousse, espresso ice cream (sandwiched by more dark chocolate), and 2 or 3 balls of chocolate hidden inside. It was probably better to share this one with someone (with a light dessert to balance out all that cocoa).

Mocha Bomb ($20.00)

Interior of chocolate bomb

I sampled bits and pieces of what the others had (including the Gaytime Goes Nuts, of course). Here's what they consumed:

Rabbit ($29.00)
This dish was slow braised rabbit with chorizo, swiss chard and a gruyere cloud. It was encased inside potato and leek pastry. I refused to eat this one because my brother's "children" are rabbits. If you're like me but want to have the cloud, they do have a vegetarian equivalent.

Risotto balls ($28.00)
 This was one of the vegetarian dishes - 3 sizable risotto balls covered in an avalanche of roasted cashew salad.

Duck ($32.00)
I had someone strongly recommend this duck dish to me, so I couldn't resist and stole some. It was sichuan spiced duck with a giant seared sea scallop, asparagus, lychee and smoked eggplant sambal. My forkful didn't contain any eggplant sambal or scallop  but the duck was crunchy and moistened by the fresh lychee.
Venison ($31.00)
This was rare roasted venison with beetroot and horseradish spelt risotto and a goats cheese cigar. I really liked this dish because of the tender but substantial texture of the venison. The risotto was also really tasty. Had a bit of food envy.

Gaytime goes nuts ($25.00)
 The famed tower of gaytime. They really boosted up the price on this one, but considering it won't be around for much longer they could charge $30 for it and heaps of people would still order it. I think what makes it so distinctive is the hazelnut caramel inside and the crunchy tuille skirt. I only had a spoonful and really want to go back and have a whole dish of it, but I was told that after a while it's too sweet and rich. Probably another dessert for sharing.

Little miss sunshine ($20.00)
 The little miss sunshine was a really light dessert, consisting of passionfruit banana and yoghurt sorbet, coconut cloud, papaya, pineapple and passionfruit. It was overall nice and summery, but as much as I love papaya, it was the sore thumb of the dish - too dense and distinctive to match everything else.

Overall, Universal has good flavours and friendly service, but the food is kind of really overpriced.

Universal on Urbanspoon