Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I heart Hartsyard :)

So the awesome foursome EMC² were at it again, this time at Hartsyard, Newtown!

I had been really excited to try this place since trying their delicious banana sundae on a late night dessert run and seeing everyone around me order super delicious looking savoury dishes, namely po boys and poutine! But I'll get to that later!

When I walked into Hartsyard, my first impressions were mixed.  It was too crammed for my liking but at the same time there was a very comfortable and relaxed vibe that you might just want to sit and kick up your heels and zone out. But there was no zoning out for me that night, we were on a mission, to eat everything on the menu, and more. Haha we did still chill out all night long though, all the way til our last chilly dish ;)

I was actually one of the latest to arrive, but it didn't take me long to scour the menu and know what I wanted.  Luckily we all had similar dishes in mind which was awesome, except maybe the duck pate that the others wanted to order.  Eehh I really dislike pate, any form of pate, even if it is duck.  And I love duck.  I have had people try to convince me to eat pate in the past and "grow to like it because it gets better the more you try" and lemme just say, nope.  Never have never will haha. In saying that however, it turned out that Hartsyard's duck pate was a different story...but more of that later.

EBHO: Best dish

So first came our entrees, starting with these beautiful morsels, the Oyster Po’ Boys and the only boys I was excited about :P  They were toasty English muffins stuffed with battered oysters, coleslaw and Old Bay mayo (not sure what mayo that is but my guess is that it is more creamy than usual probably originating from the States- but that's just me!). And you know what, not only did these  Po' Boys live up to my expectations, they went above and beyond! I had not imagined the buns to be so light, fluffy yet crispy!  The softness of the buns made all the elements of the dish fuse together like a hand in glove :) 

Up next, was the duck pate.  It was called Duck, Duck, Duck.  Honestly, I don't really know how to describe this dish, as previously mentioned, I don't know much about pate, but here goes! Hahaha

So there were two big crispy balls filled with rillette (pate), which to my utter surprise, was delicious.  The pate was subtle (at least I thought so) and had a hint of berry in it! The pate was all shredded and soft and went nicely with the crispy outer layer.  The rilettes were surrounded by a garden of leaves, crispy almond flakes chilling out on a bed of mulberry sauce! I am looking at the picture now and it looks like there was some purple powdery stuff on top, I have no idea what that was but I imagine it to be mulberry powder! Haha. Anyway, this was probably the first time I actually enjoyed pate, so Hartsyard, you have earned my respect!

Then came one of the star dishes of the night, the Raw Mushroom and Artichoke Salad.  I had heard about this dish but I must say I was skeptical.  I just couldn't imagine how great a mushroom salad could be!  But I have decided that this dish was for me. Why? Because the mushrooms were soft, smooth, mixed with artichokes and tossed in a beautiful creamy sauce which somehow worked really well together.  We were trying to figure out what the sauce was...mm I thought it tasted a bit like Caesar salad sauce..but not quite that either...maybe a little sweeter?  OH! I almost forgot to mention, there were shards of cheese snaps slotted into the salad, kind of like little dividing walls!  We loved those cheesy snaps and found that they were a great way to break up the creamy sauce! Speaking of dividing, I must hand Crystal an award for best service provided!  She divided all the dishes up for us with such grace and detail! She's such a sweetie :)

Mm these were the Crispy Pig Tails and I thought that they were quite a disappointment.  The fried balls were stuffed with pig tails which was all mushy and tasted so bland. I didn't like it. There were also pickles on the side which I thought were a strange addition to the dish, mm maybe for aesthetics?  The buttermilk dressing was nice but still didn't make up for the rest of the dish.

While patiently waiting for our mains, kinda haha I noticed that the music being played in the restaurant was an interesting mix of classical, rock and uhh slow hip hop? Think killing me softly!  I quite liked the music :)

The first main that came out, was the Ricotta Gnudi (like a pasta dumplings).  It was a mix of prawns, onion, tomato and fennel sitting aside a pond of crab brisque. I must say when I saw it on the menu I thought it looked awesome.  And to be fair, the seperate elements of the dish were good, like the prawns were bouncy, ricotta gnudi pillowy and the crab bisque yummy but they just didn't mesh that well together! Oh yeah and see that beautiful purple flower? It had my name all over it until SOMEONE took it. Yes I am looking at you crispy! Hahaha

AHA! Then came the much anticipated Fried Chicken! Crispy and I were actually talking on Sunday at the Bloggers Xmas Picnic 2014 about how great these chicken pieces were and why.  We decided it was because the chicken skin was a thick kind of crispy batter, not like the crispy chicken you find from Chinese restaurants, but a thick batter that was oober crispy but did not just shatter into a million bits when once bitten.  Mm confusing but yeah I thought their chicken was right on the mark- but that's just me! With the sausage gravy though, I wasn't impressed.  Apart from providing some textural variety to the dish, that was pretty much it...it was like a salty creamy mush drenching a biscuit (kind of like a scone).  I didn't like that biscuit either.  It was dry and crumbly...and even the gravy couldn't mask that! 

Ah, the Pulled Pork.  Now this I liked.  You see, I have a thing for most things, pig :) And this was pig to the tee.  A massive block of juicy shreddy pork topped with  maple bacon. In case you are curious as to what maple bacon is, as am I, it tasted  like bacon that has been smothered in maple syrup, fried with crispy caramelised edges. Well that is what I think anyway :P 

Portioning this dish took calculations, permutations and problem solving.  Finally, we figured it out and Crystal did the honours in handing out our portions.  Now I did the honours in eating my portion of maple bacon, yoghurt, crackling and apple. I chose to eat everything together and I thought it worked wonderfully as strange as it may sound.  Crispy, sweet, mushy, salty, creamy- it was all there in my mouth :P

Siiiide on!

The Poutine was our final savoury dish of the evening.  It was a metal bowl filled to the brim with super thick cut fries, braished beef shin and beer and cheese sauce.  Gosh this was good but really rich and salty! Actually I reckon it would have been better if it was served to us earlier on in the night so we could pick at it throughout our meal!

I remember everyone saying they were super stuffed at this point, but never too stuffed for desserts! :) We ordered the all and powerful...
Almond Dacquoise soft serve.
x 3 of course :P

I had been hearing Crystal and Crispy talk about this a few days prior to this dinner.  I heard it was a soft serve version of Black Star Pastry's famous watermelon cake and I was quite interested to see what it was about!  

And what can I say? Looks wise, it was a work of art. Taste wise, it was just like Black Star Pastry's cake, with crushed pistachios, macerated strawberries and watermelon and rose granita. It was so light and refreshing, and I especially liked the granita! 

There was a bit of a debate going on at the table as to the creaminess of the ice cream.  I thought it was more icy than your usual soft serve (I am thinking Maccas though).  Personally I like creamy more, but I think some of the others liked this version!  Now truth be told the dessert I truly wanted that night was their special pie of the night!  However, they told us that they only serve their very special pies from Friday- Sunday. Devastating I know, buuutt now I am even wiser ;) 

Overall, I had loads of fun at Hartsyard with team EMC²!!  The service was also very good, the waitresses were attentive and helpful, especially with giving us plenty water! Everyone who knows me well knows my thing with water haha. The foods were mostly awesome and came out surprisingly fast despite the restaurant being packed! Will definitely be going back some time for some pie and maybe another dose of those sexy po boys ;)

Notes: EBHO (Ellies Belly's Humble Opinion)

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I have a riddle for you!

Here's the ridddle:

On a peculiar day,

We drove down a black lane.

We were looking for a boat,

But the roads were insane.

So narrow and black,

We could hardly see,

But we found a place,

For our car to be!

We walked and found the boat that we sought,

And it was more beautiful than we had ever thought!

Why you ask, did we go so out of the way?

Because it happened to be my happy birthday!

Birthday flowers, wattles could be the way?

Just something light and fun would make my day.

So take a guess, my learned friend, 

Where did we dine that night?

I know you're smart and wont take too long,

To guess this delicious site!

[So there it is, see if you can figure it out! I have something special for the first ten of you!]

Luckily my sister made a booking because the restaurant was packed!  We ordered our food quickly as we were starving and we were soon brought a bowl of sourdough bread with a nice big tub of creamy butter and a glass of sea salt flakes.

The sourdough was lovely, so fluffy and fresh that we ended up ordering another bowl!

We welcomed a nice big plate of Hand Cut Chips, my hands trembled all the way to picking one up--

Trembling with delight I daresay, this chip was one fascinating chip and a delight on my lips!

It was so crispy on the outside and sooo fluffy on the inside-- you see, I have a thing for fat chips.  There is something really satisfying about eating them...I like chips to either be super chunky, or super skinny but that's just me.

Dad got this, it was the Roast Snapper chilling out in a buttery bean type of sauce- not too sure exactly what it was tbh and it was a special of the day so I can't even find out from their website.  Anyway, I did try a bit, and seem to remember the fish was very fresh though the sauce was nothing memorable. Overall it was pretty average.

Another fish was the Roast Cone Bay Barramundi that Mum ordered, but this time chilling on top of roasted carrots, hazelnuts and roast chicken juices. I liked this combo better, I think the hazelnuts and carrot gave it some textural effect and flavour and I found that it balanced the mild taste of the fresh snapper.

Ah the big fat king of the sea. What is this you ask? A special kind of pie (house favourite). I must admit I had never had this kind of pie before, I am more of a crust top crust bottom kind of girl, but this was something else entirely!  Imagine this- giant fish pie, like humongous say 3/4 the size of a football! And when I got my knife and tore into the super flaky and crispy top of my pie which I almost forgot to mention was infused with TRUFFLE OIL,  I was in fish heaven.  The crunch, the truffle aroma...and when we dug in further...

What did I find? I found a silky broth of chunks of fresh fish, smoked tomato and mashed potatoes.  Mind you, it was very hot so be careful.  Maybe wait about 10 minutes before eating it because you might burn your tongue like I did which might spoil the rest of your meal, not me though because I'm awesome haha and I just noticed something...that almost all the mains we ordered were seafood!  I guess it was a boathouse if you paid attention to my poem heh.  Though thinking about it more, one of my sisters did actually order a steak which turned out pretty lousy.  She had ordered it medium rare turned out to be more like blue.  Urgh so gross, but luckily they were helpful and cooked it a bit longer for us and even after they fixed it up, it was still only average.  So if you decide to visit, stick with the seafood and you'll be fine.

Another wondrous dish was the Brussel Sprouts dressed in not the usual way whatever that may be, for us it soy sauce, but instead this was dressed in...bacon cream! I wish I had that cool mobile emoticon atm, you know the funny one with the yellow face holding hands up to face with mouth wide open and a blueish hue to face? Hahaha yep it was good, the cream was fragrant not to mention the ooozy soft boiled egg they shoved in the middle for extra delightfulness which I mixed and messed into the rest of the dish haha it was fun!

Mm...I can't really remember what this dish was- I can't find it on their menu online which lemme just say is qualified because this was such a boring dish.  Not only was it boring but it didn't even taste good.  Let me explain.  There was broccolini which tasted boiled, topped with a blob of goats cheese- that was decent, and drizzled with some sort of tomato salsa oil type thing. FAIL,

In any case, most of the foods were very delicious and we proceeded to desssert!

Contrary to that weird dish, soon came our desserts.  I just have to say- this boat HAS SUBLIME DESSERTS.  Even more sublimeness when out came a romantically candle lit dessert-the Pistachio Cannoli.  WHO did this? My sweet sister :) My candle was sitting on top of rhubarb ripple ice cream and salted caramel.  This combo worked surprisingly well together, I think the sourness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the fluffy pistachio cream.  I really liked that cream.

When the candles faded, singing faded, cannoli faded and my blush faded...came the Banana Souffle- another house special!  If you don't know souffle, think giant banana flavour muffin but much fluffier and cooked in a cute iron cast pan! I must admit I was super excited when I first heard there was banana, cause I usually like my bananas, but I dunno..this was very light and the banana flavour really mild, and it tasted, i dunno, kinda bland.  But that's just me- I'm sure other people would like it.  I did like the peanut and chocolate ice-cream though, it was very rich and creamy and so much so that  I experimented with a bit, by digging a hole into the centre of the souffle and popping the ice-cream in, haha it was fun to watch it ooze into the souffle walls and achieve the balance I was looking for! :D

This however, was the highlight dessert of the night and my personal favourite. So pretty in pink was the Buttermilk Pannacotta topped with watermelon granita and strawberries.

Only qualm was that the strawberries weren't that fresh...we are strawberry snobs you see.  But it was still, delicious as can be! :)

My other sister's birthday is coming up...and I am crazily racking my brain for ideas. I want something that is fancy, not degustation fancy, more like Pendolino fancy, not too noisy- like a mild chatter, and most importantly serving meats or Italian.  I would appreciate hearing any ideas you may have!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Alpha and Omega.

Another Friday night of fun eating, this time at Alpha, Sydney CBD.  This Greek restaurant is located on Castlereagh Street and though relatively new, it is super popular already!  Bookings are highly recommended, especially on a busy night like Friday.  I actually knew nothing of this restaurant until recently despite it's popularity...though I think I might have been out of the food loop for a while.  So how did I come to know of it? Well...let me tell you a story.

One night, I was doing a survey about cars, and one of the questions asked me to list brands of the most expensive cars I could think of.  I went with the usual Porsche and Ferrari however there was one I couldn't remember the name of. I only remembered that the name had the word ALPHA in it, or so I thought.  So I popped that into my Google bar and what do you know, I found Alpha Romeo and underneath,  Alpha Restaurant!  I looked at it, I liked it, I had a feeling about it. To be honest, after a little research, I was even more excited to see the interior of the restaurant than I was about the food! So that was the story. Heh.

Now back to dinner.  So when I arrived at Alpha, Mel had not arrived yet so I decided to do a little bit of sight seeing around restaurant. I have to say, I loved every inch of it.

Mm..let me try to describe the interior design to you so you can visualise it.  Imagine walking into a huge, dimly lit restaurant with ceilings high as the sky, tall white pillars, and whitewashed walls carved with Greek inscriptions.  I wish I could read the inscriptions...that would be so cool.  Those walls were so beautiful I actually went over to touch them. See the wall above? Yup, I had my fingers aaaalllll over it. Something about the lighting and the layout of the restaurant made it feel like I was in a secret tomb...looking for treasure!

While admiring the restaurant, Mel arrived.  We were seated promptly, and just as promptly ordered our food as we were famished!  Many of the menu items looked delicious, but we decided on just a few of our faaaavourite things! Or at least things that included our favourite things.

So what did we start of with? The Taramosalata .  It was a white cod roe's dip which was very tasty and so perfectly creamy.  See those pita bread slices behind? First of all, I would highly recommend getting them.  Secondly, we found one serving to be plenty for the two us.  But you might know better and order more because there were loads of other delicious sounding dips you might want to try!   We really liked the the pita breads.  They were warm, fluffy and pan fried with a little bit of olive oil.  The subtleness of the pita bread paired perfectly with he saltiness of the dip.  Oh, did I mention that they were really generous with the cod roe? 

Did I mention that our dishes came out really quickly? I hardly had time to ask Mel how her day was!  Literally, mid conversation we were presented with this beautiful plate, the Moussaka of Eggplant.  When I saw it on the menu, I knew it was a must.  We both love our eggplants, and this dish definitely deserved a lot of love.  The eggplant was nicely charred and crispy on the inside, yet super fluffy and moist on the inside.  It literally melted in the mouth when we bit into it.  It was topped with chunks of fresh tomato salsa, and you might be thinking, what are those white discs? They were seared scallops! They were chilling on top of a big fat dollop of natural yoghurt which was surprisingly a really tasty combination.  This was our favourite dish of the evening!

Next came our Spanakopita, a huge spinach pie filled with leeks, feta and other dill.

I must say, though aesthetically pleasing, that was where the pleasing ended.  I thought that the filling was bland and the pastry dry.  

However, we were really really impressed with their service, even from the beginning.  Our waitreess was attentive, our cups never ran dry and she even quartered the spinach pie for us!

Then came what Mel was really looking forward to, the wagyu beef keftedes with tomato salsa on the side.  These balls of fury were really tasty.  They were deep fried, which tasted particularly good with the coriander yoghurt they were sitting on. I personally liked having the balls with the salsa, as I found it refreshing, but I think Mel preferred them alone.

Despite being very full by the end of our mains, our oh mega bellies, knew they wanted dessert, heh.

We were a little hung up on which dessert to choose, but Mel wanted the Loukoumades, so we got that.  We were presented with a plate of eight gloriously fried doughnut balls topped with candied walnut ice cream (we ordered two scoops), spiced honey syrup and crushed pistachios.  I think Mel made a great choice because this was the best Loukoumades I had ever tried.  The walnut ice cream was a unique flavour of ice cream to put with the dougnhuts balls (usually they they are served with vanilla ice cream), but surprisingly it went really well! I guess it made it taste really special.  Oh and the spice honey syrup was like liquid gold. 

We left Alpha, happy as clams and rolled over to another venue.

Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Infiltration of The Ministry of Magic

Dear edible diary,

On a random Friday night, my friends and I had dinner at Gowings Bar and Grill.  I had stumbled across this restaurant somehow and it sounded like lots of fun to check out! The fun started with having to FIND the restaurant which was like a crazy maze!! But never fear my big genius belly *cough* brain led me to find it no problem! 

The entrance to Gowings was wedged in between the Theatre on Market Street and Topshop where there was an inconspicuous opening leading to an inconspicuous alley leading to a cute little coffee shop by the name of Parlour Lane. Faced towards Parlour Lane, I turned left to a set of lifts in a dark hall and discovered that Gowings was on level 1.  It was so mysterious and secret and totally felt like Harry shooting down  the telephone booth into the Ministry of Magic!

When the lift opened, I was presented with an empty dark room filled with old style furniture and shelves filled with random but interesting items, well at least I found them interesting as I am random.  I then headed into the bar area, which was crazy packed liked sardines and we had to make a beeline to the restaurant. Luckily we had made a booking otherwise we might have had to wait a while, and we were hungry.

What magically appeared before our eyes, was a complimentary basket of brown and white sourdough baguettes together with... wait for it..Pepe Saya butter to boot!

The baguettes were warm and crusty, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy watching our generous smears of butter melt onto their fluffy innards.  Though I didn't notice a huge difference between Pepe Saya butter  and normal butter at the time, I looked it up later and found some pretty cool facts on it.  It is basically cultured butter made with the best local ingredients, cultured (as shown in the pic below) making it natural and healthy. 

Check out this video from their website:

Our food arrived pretty quickly, starting with our hot beignets French market doughnuts heavily dusted in icing sugar.  I have a confession to make...these are actually on the sweets menu haha so if you can't find it on the savoury menu, you will know why!  I had tried these in America, and these were were just as good! They were slightly crisp on the outside like a cinnamon doughnut from Wendy's and oober fluffy on the insides, and not to mention springy! I liked these.

And then our sides apparated before our eyes.

This was a mini pan of brussel sprouts and double smoked bacon gratinated with 
Taleggio cheese.  Though sceptical at the time of ordering, the others were were very pleased with this version of brussel sprouts. I vaguely remember someone asking, err are these brussel sprouts?

We also ordered their fried onion rings, and though I was not sure what kind of fried they would be (could be fish style fried or schnitzel kind of fried) they turned out to be my kind of fried.

Next came The Mac n Cheese “Maccheroni con Formaggio e Tartufo” Black Truffle, Reggiano, Asiago, Taleggio,  Gruyère Cheese Sauce, gratinated with Pangrattato.  

The macaroni was cooked perfectly al dante and the much cheesiness was so aromatic but not so much that we couldn't taste the beaaautiful black truffle.   

I got us a seemingly healthy bowl of steamed whole and mashed peas, mint butter, it was very nice and buttery.

Between the two of us, we got the minute steak rib eye,  100% Black Angus, Darling Downs NSW, 180g anchovy butter, watercress, shallots, horseradish salad and shoestring fries.  I must say, I did not like this at all.  The steak was salty and wet. Hate wet steak with passion.  The watecress salad on the side was good.

The second steak we ordered however, was great! Shiro-kin Full Blood Wagyu 9+ Rump
Darling Downs NSW, 300g.  It also came with different kinds of mustards, which I only tried a teensy bit of and didn't like.  The steak was super tender and tasty, our knives cutting swiftly through the meat like butter! I lost half my marbles in the process.

In my blissful world of marbly wagyu, I still managed to try some of the mains that the others ordered.

There was the lamb shank braised with red wine and rosemary, mascarpone polenta, tiny whole shallot and parsley wine sauce which was pretty nice from memory!

Then there was the fennel and pepper crusted Yellow-Fin tuna steak served rare with parsnip purée and a warm salad of peas, chervil and red onion.  I don't recall much from this dish except that it was quite bland.

At this point we were really realllllyyy stuffed, like I am pretty sure we used up our dessert bellies and even I was contemplating skipping dessert! In the end, did we back down in the face of adversity? NEVER!  

So out came our delicious "My Trifle, Zuppa Inglese’’ lemon sponge, chianti jelly, vanilla mascarpone,  fresh raspberries, almonds and pistachios.

In honour of this dish, I pledge my allegiance to never doubting my belly again.

We left the restaurant, happy as clams, up the phone booth and into the wilderness.

Gowings Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon