Friday, February 27, 2009

The Oriental

This is a popular weekend watering hole that busies up as soon as office hours end. Make the perfect entrance cirqua 6.30 and casual-chic is the look that most people rock at this trendy resto-bar. The open-air courtyard with ample sunshine pouring in paired with the Indonesian inspired island cane furniture exudes a laid-back charm. Placing an order however is far from a relaxing jaunt with at least a good 15 minutes minimum to process the mandatory self-placed orders. The day I was there the Riesling I had wanted was out of stock and the wait-staff just took their own sweet time! Hiking up to the bar to fetch your own bottle is just all too much effort for me, after all what makes it any different from your corner bottle'o? I'm especially averse to this when the bill is running $ 40 upward per head!

Finally armed with a bottle of chardonnay I can rest my tushy, looking forward to a truly Asian adventure!
Oysters Naturale. The woven steamer basket is just for aesthetic value.. love it or hate it? Is rather misleading and a very feeble attempt at trying to add Asian inspiration... try harder!

My mate's salt and pepper squid, a classic Aussie favourite, notice the side of rocket, carrot, cherry tomatoes, lemon wedge, steamed rice and sweet-chilli sauce.

Pan-Seared Thai spiced Barramundi Fillets with pretty much the same sides as the other dish!
It's been a year since I've been living Down Under, and believe it or not, I still haven't tried Barramundi, which is ridiculous since it is a national obsession. This experience however was far from what I had in mind. Overall a very passe` evening and the service not worth mentioning. A classic example of the majority of Australia's run of the mill restaurants serving Modern Aussie grub... uh huh, not my cup of tea!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sparrow Bar & Kitchen

Kate and Jackie were my dinner compadres helping me get into the groove with the Adelaidian restaurant scene. In the three months while I was away it seems that the cities restaurant frontier has taken a beating. A combination of a decline of customers and the increasing difficulty of paying bills, staff and meeting deadlines has become excruaiting thanks to the hard hitting effects of reccession. Travel and Living's, My Restaurant Rules 2003 winners, Greedy Goose (also where I did some part-time work) on Melbourne Street shut down over Christmas as well as Number Ten, a chic Italian restaurant on O'Connell Street. The Sparrow Bar & Kitchen seems to have sprouted up overnight in the place of Number Ten. Boasting an open air courtyard in pale blues and greys, the place is super-chic and very inviting with the view from the trendy suburb making it a definite place for the cities 'it' crowd to be spotted.
The place piqued my curiosity over the weekend when I popped up in to the neighbourhood for weekly groceries. The very same week I was experienced a truly unforgettable tasting menu.
Having taken the time to browse through the menu the day before I had a narrowed my selections down to a few with much difficulty. This is always a good thing in my opinion - visiting a restaurant and being spoilt for choice that is. If a menu can tease you and entice you back for more this can only mean one thing - the beginning of a new relationship!
Accompanied by food loving friends a unanimous decision to sample the tasting tapas platter at $ 65 per head settled our dining arrangements for the evening. With that, we sat back realizing on a bottle of fine Spanish Wine that Jackie ordered after consulting Dan the friendly in-house sommelier.

Tuna tartare, carrot and ginger emulsion

Perfectly balanced the ginger is not overwhelming, instead interestingly it adds complexity to the simple yet fresh carrot flavour. The texture of the firm tuna bits in this dish is an extraordinary contrast to the smooth emulsion of root veggies and the highlight in this appetiser.

Octopus carpaccio, potato foam, paprika

The paper thin slices of octopus carpaccio showcase the chef's mastery and skill of his knives. The beauty of this dish lies is in the unique subtlety of taste. Potato and octopus are naturally mild in flavour, potato starchy at most and octopus more radiant in terms of texture. However the addition of just the right amount of paprika brings the dish to life, accentuating dimensions to the dish that seem to be underlying, yet dormant without the activation of the spice. This clever combination of potato puree on top of the slippery slivers of octopus and finished with paprika is the penultimate textural marvel and most unique component of the tasting menu.

Duck doughnut, porcini salt followed by Gorgonzola arancini

The duck doughnuts will blow you away. The meat is packed with smoky flavours and eaten with the porcini salt you will die and go to heaven! The deep-fried Gorgonzola dumplings were tasty, but too heavy for my liking.

Chicken liver parfait, fig and fennel crostini, pickled walnuts
Normally not one for chicken liver pate I was bowled over by this ultra-smooth pate. Served up with the most delightful combination of fig and fennel crostini and pickled walnuts, the flavour is sublime and powerful you hesitate to try anything else for fear or the taste leaving your palate.

Smoked eel croquettes

A crisp, golden breaded crust yields a soft, fleshy bite of eel, and with a generous dip into the garlic aioli dip you will be hooked.

Salt cod puree, mache salad, cornet
The filling of salted cod puree is just so good, however unfortunately the dish fails to come together because of the cornets. The pastry is too buttery and this reflects in a salty, rich contrast all too overwhelming for the cod to hold its own. Replacing the cornet with a crisper, thinner cracker would do the dish much good.
Beef crudo, 62 degree egg

Love at first sight: I am a fan of anything tartar so this dish is God sent. I am still inquisitive though why 62 exactly?

We enjoyed not just one but two bottles of the 2006 vintage, Telmo Rodriguez ëLZí Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain

A peppery pick the bold flavours held their own against they array of samplers we experienced over the course of the evening. A lovely food wine, perfect for bold meaty dishes, so it fared very well with our mains.
Braised rabbit leg, gaunciale, tomato, chorizo, raddichio

Braised pork tail, pedro ximenez, bay, thyme, petit herbs

Braised goat leg, green olive, sherry, parsley, shallot

We tried one of each and got tasting platters to try a bit of each. The goat was fabulous, the tender melt-in-the-mouth meat blowing me away. The rabbit was just passe, actually far too reminiscent of chicken. Lately, I haven't enjoyed a good rabbit dish! The pork was absolutely hearty and the textured fat on contributed deep and intense smoky flavours.

Gorgonzola ice cream, pickled celery, muscatel followed by Churros, gianduja chocolate sauce
To finish the night in the luxurious style that we relished our meal in we opted for a beautiful regional South Aussie Tokay to accompany our multiple dessert platters. Just when I thought life couldn't get any better the chef invented Gorgonzola ice cream - hello, this is just beyond amazing. Forever perplexed with the option of dessert or cheese I just found the answer to my prayers! The churros were marvellous, perfectly hot, sugary, delightful with a bit of chocolate.
Torched to a gentle brule ressembling crust the lemon tart was a perfect treat and is well balanced with just the right amount of sweetness! Go ahead, don't think about, book a table quick and try the mind-boggling menu for yourself...

Lemon tart, mascarpone

Sparrow Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Touchdown Adelaide, first stop Harrow Road

After a three month sabbatical it was time to return to South Australia and resume working on my dissertation. Jackie and her family were their usual hospitable selves inviting me to join them for dinner on Sunday night.

The snappy chef: Jackie in her summer gear and hard at work!
Gorgeous Green Garden Salad with Chinese Red Cabbage and a rustic Italian inspired platter of Sliced Grape Tomatoes, Vine Ripened Sliced Tomatoes, Roasted Artichokes,Torn Basil and Shredded Balls of Bococcini.

Can you think of a more appropriate Aussie welcome? Beef steaks says it best I reckon!

Golden-Brown to perfection, Roasted Potatoes

Decadent beyond belief: Nigella Lawson's Simple Sponge cake soaked in Ginger Wine, topped with Rich Cream liberally drizzled with Passion fruit and Raspberries.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just Oriental v.s Mainland China

Chinese food in Bangalore, well actually to be precise all over the sub-continent has taken on a rather unique twist. It is a classic example of hybridisation at best! In this case Indian-Chinese food is inspired by the Chinese concepts of cooking, the direction of the flavours however overwhelmed by popular local preferences in which chilli masks various subtleties unfortunately, or fortunately in the eyes of other. Over spicing across the board and heavy, thickened gravies are de rigour.
But for gourmets out there ready to dismiss Indian-Chinese cuisine as a joke, as I used to, stop and realise the reach it has. Indian-Chinese has become so popular it transcends far beyond India's borders and can be found in Toronto so my friends have reported back to me!
Of course though, all things fair and equal it would be nice to be able to relish bites of China in its truest form if at least at one or two establishments... As for now all I can do is hope and long!
Chung Wah are perhaps the biggest chain of dine-in and take-away Indian-Chinese food, Taipan, Continental and Hong Kong institutions that have been bumped out of the rapidly developing city, making way for bigger food chains like Blue Foods with Noodle Bar and BJN Group with Aromas of China and Bamboo Shoots. Mainland China is another growing Chinese food corporation that is taking the city by storm. As far as Chinese food is concerned in Bangalore city, the key to success seems to be franchising.
These Indian-Chinese corporations feature extensive menus however generic favourites remain the Lemon Chicken, Sweet n Sour Pork, Chicken Momos, Sliced Lamb in XO sauce/ Oyster Sauce/ Schezwan Black Pepper Sauce and of course beloved Crispy Hunan almost always accompanied by Hakka Noodles, Chowmein or Fried Rice.
Buffets are essential to the Indian-Chinese dining experience, with the afore mentioned Chinese restaurants battling out with stiff competition in terms of prices and dishes on offer for the buffet lunch special. At Rs. 275/- per head Mainland China offers you your choice of soda beverage, soup, starters, mains (4 non-veg and 4 veg) and dessert including fresh fruit. Now that's a steal!

Chicken coriander thick soup and Chicken Winglets, Fried Spinach Wontons and Chicken Dim Sims

Burnt-Ginger-Garlic Fried Rice, Hakka Noodles, Kung Pao Chicken, Hunan Crispy Lamb and Sliced Tenderloin with Greens

Delicious Darsan: Deep-fried noodles coated in honey and sesame seeds served with vanilla ice-cream.

I cannot trace the origins of this dessert, but I must admit that I'm hooked!

Just Oriental at the dodgy Mota Royal Arcade is new location of Chi, formerly situated on Edward. The food standards have waned, dilluting their claim to serving authentic 'Chinese' food. An unusual meal to say the least, the food was unable to live up to recommendations and the laud critics had awarded the place. However, it is a definte spark of hope on the radar of Chinese food in India. The highlight was undoubtedly the pork belly.

Stir-fried Bok Choy with Straw Mushrooms and Baby Corn in Oyster Sauce.

Gently Braised Pork Belly

Crispy Beef Medallions infused with caramelised Orange-Chilli

Sweet-Chilli Crab: Coated with Flour to thicken the sauce unfortunately

Peking Duck, or so they claimed - What a flop! That duck must have been at least a month old!

Best Ribs: Bobby's at Chijmes

Bobby Runbinos as it was formerly known, now just Bobby's is the best place for American style BBQ ribs and all the trimmings. American expats in the city flock here for the lengthy list of beers from around the world as well as the fabulous baby backs.

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing and Breaded Calamari Rings with Garlic Aioli
1/2 rack of baby back pork ribs with hickory barbecue sauce, blackened on the grill, served with french fries and garden salad.

Raffles Bar and Billiards Brunch

As soon as your travel plans are underway to Singapore an absolute must is procuring a reservation at Singapore's absolute must-do culinary indulgence - Brunch at the prestigious Raffles Bar and Billiard Room. Securing a booking here can be quite a task, and therefore it is always advisable to book up to one month in advance.
The hotel is a Singaporean institution that dates back to the days of British colonisation. The heritage and history of the hotel is indeed most worthy of a trip to better understand the transition in time that Singapore has made from its heyday as the principal colonial hub serving England to the throbbing cosmo heart-beat of Asia it is today, as a major financial player

Plate # 1: Eggs Benedict, Buttery Croissant with Bacon Rashers, Several kinds of cheese including Brie, Ashed Chevre, Gorgonzola, blue veined and a Blueberyy muffin.

Plate #2: Norwegian Smoked Salmon, Pickled Japanese Octopus, Sliced Baguette with Foie Gras, Russian Prawns in light mayonnaise dressing, lightly buttered, lemon Cod and Scallops on the shell.
Plate # 3: Rock Oysters Natural, Alaskan Steamed Crab Claws, Steamed Japanese style Mussels, Salmon, Tuna Belly and Snapper Sashimi.

Plate # 4: From the live grill outside, Two whole Goose Livers with Apple Chutney... Pure Ecstasy. Beef steaks, Pork Chops, a variety of sausages and grilled Chicken were also available.

Plate # 5: Asian Inspired: Deep-fried Soft Shell Crab, Scallops with lemon grass and ginger on the spoon and the best Chinese style BBQ pork ribs.

Plate # 6: Super, Sweet Ending: Lavender Panacotta, Carrot Cake with Yogurt Frosting, Chocolate Mousse Square, Chocolate filled Eclair, and Crepes with Almond Ice Cream.

Food @ East Coast Seafood Centre & fuel @ New Asia

Chilli Crab has put Singapore on the world's food map in a big way. Since the cosmopolitan city most famous for its booming restaurant culture offers an infinite number of eateries across the island specialising in the cuisines of Egypt, Vietnam, Creole, Hungary and everything in between, and that too through shockingly 'authentic' and unique forms, exacerbated by the fact that the city has few dishes to call its own, Chilli Crab is Singapore claim to fame!
A hybridisation of local culture, tradition and customs from the multi-cultural Indian- Tamil, Chinese and Malay communities have contributed to the development of an eclectic local cuisine. Nonya cooking is a creation, or rather a hybrid cuisine formed with the merger of Malaysian and Chinese ingredients, styles and flair, amounting to an interesting and unique plethora of dishes. While this coming together has been given a name, other hybrid cross-cultural adaptions remain largely unclassified, unexplored territory. Char Kweo Theow, Chicken Rice and Nasi Goreng are some examples of these Singaporean favourites.
The flesh of Singapore's world famous chili crab is incredibly sweet, solid, juicy meat. However, ironically the crabs are not local. Shockingly all the crabs consumed in Singapore are imported from the Indian Ocean. Most restaurants openly admit to their crabs coming from Sri Lanka, but having done some research it seems that only 8 per cent of total crab imports in 2007 were from the island, while Indonesia at 36 per cent and India at 25 per cent remain the highest exporters of crab to Singapore!
The crab is cooked completely in the shell, the meat most probably steamed to relish the ultra sweet flavour in contrast to the piquant deep orange sauce that the crabs are drowned in. Sweet meets spicy in this tangy gravy that is truly mind-blasting. (Russell Peter.)

Singapore's uniquely tangy, and absolutely delicious Chilli Crab

You truly can't get enough of this sauce, so these deep-fried buns are your best friend, really coming in handy to mop up all that sweet-chilli goodness.

Another must try, especially if you are chilli aficionado is the Chilli-Pepper Crab that is just a way to over-the-top spicy for me to handle. But if spice is your thing, you just simply cannot and will not go wrong with this one! It is packed with intense bold, flavours that are complex and fulfilling to the palate.

Chilli-honey glazed frog legs

For all of you that think that frog's legs are gross and just well icky-yucky weird and should not be eaten... boy are you wrong! The most satisfying meat I have got my teeth on for a long time. The froggie I must have gotten was a plump, juicy bugger and the sticky, sweet sauce had a tinge of fruitiness, perhaps a bit of hoisin in there (plum sauce) and brown sugar that adds a touch of beautiful caramelising to the dish. Simply out-of-this-world it is a must try. Sadly, this dish is not as popular nor publicised as Chilli Crab, but I have taken it upon myself to be the new mouthpiece for Singapore's frog legs! Long live frog legs! Three cheers...

A memorable experience: Frog legs in Subtly sweet- fiery chilli sauce

The magnificent chandelier at New Asia, located on the 75th floor of the Stamford Grand Hotel.

This ultra-chic club is very exclusive and with the spectacular views of Singapore by night. The views extend over the busy city district's nightlights to the harbour and port beyond. The views paired with the high-profile guest list and absorbent prices make this a must see on your Singapore travel list for a slice of local luxe life.