May 29, 2012

Mother's Day Dinner @ Simple Bistro

I was out of ideas for where to go for Mother's Day, so I randomly selected a restaurant that had availabilities from Dining Date Night. We haven't had French food for awhile, so I picked Simple Bistro, which I've read good reviews on yelp.
The complimentary bread was super dense, so we didn't enjoy it very much.  Even the delicious butter couldn't save it.
My mom loves oysters, so we ordered the feature of the day- Beau Soleil Oysters ($9 for 3). I can't recall what's in the mignonette, but I remember that the oysters were sweet and fresh.
Grilled Ontario Harvest sweetbread with roasted St. David's red pepper marmalade ($14). We loved the red pepper marmalade. The sweetbread was fine, but I prefer the deep-fried version.
Everspring Farms duck terrine with Bumper Crop asparagus, pickled rhubarb, Kozlik's mustard, toast ($11). The duck was quite pleasant, but the mustard was really intense- one little dab of it overwhelmed everything!
Wild Atlantic diver scallops on barley and nettle risotto, samphire, double-smoked bacon crumble ($26). This was my favourite course of the evening. The texture of the barley was perfectly for a risotto, and I loved that delicious green sauce. The scallops were cooked nicely and the bacon crumble provided a nice crunch.
Pudding Chômeur- Warm nutmeg cake, Calvados maple cream, brown butter ice cream (normally $9, but if you order an appetizer and main course, they'll take $5 off your dessert!) I can never resist ordering a pudding chômeur because of my love for warm gooey desserts. This one was a lot better than my experience at The Drake Hotel last time, but it didn't blow my mind away either. I guess I'm still on the search for the perfect pudding chômeur!
Simple Bistro on Urbanspoon

May 25, 2012

Breakfast @ BangBang Espresso Bar and Cafe (Sydney)

Another breakfast in Sydney, another uphill trek. (Next time I'll choose a hotel that's not situated at the bottom of a hill...) This time, I chose a cozy neighbourhood cafe nestled in a terraced-lined residential street in Surrey Hills.
Did I mention that I love decor? The large windows allow maximum sunlight to flood into the room. And best of all, there's a gigantic painting of headphones with the cord stretching across the interior of the cafe.

I can never resist getting coffee in the morning because they're always so darn delicious! This was no exception. My mom opted for a cappuccino this time, while I had my usual flat white.
I was saving up room for an epic lunch so we only ordered one thing to share- sweet corn fritters topped with 2 poached eggs, crispy pancetta, and a drizzle of maple syrup ($16.90 AUD). We also added a side of bacon for $4.50 AUD.
This was possibly my favourite breakfast dish out of my entire trip! The corn fritters were absolutely delicious! I'm the biggest fan of the sweet and savoury combination, and this dish was the perfect showcase of that. The eggs were poached perfectly- egg yolk oozed over the corn fritters like a golden, creamy sauce. The pancetta- artistically fanned out on top of the eggs- added a crispy textural component that contrasted well with the rest of the plate. Of course, I might've tipped the balance off to the savoury side by the addition of extra bacon, but they were delicious nevertheless! Overall, it was a sensational breakfast dish!
What a fantastic breakfast to start off a long day! I think I miss this place already!
Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

My other Australia posts:
My other Australia posts:
Cafe Ish
Uchi Lounge
Red Door Cafe
Lindt Chocolate Cafe
Momofuku Seiōbo

May 22, 2012

Dinner @ Fabarnak

Fabarnak is a super casual eatery located inside a community centre in the Gay Village. According to their website, at least 60% of their menu is sourced from local farmers and producers and they want to establish a menu that is "delicious, adventurous, fun and ethical". On this occasion, they were very kind with accommodating our party of 11.
Braised range-free chicken ($12 for some and $17 for more) - house pasta, white wine, stewed tomato, baby leeks, caponata, pecorino. I had a couple of bites of the pasta and I liked it very much. The pasta was slightly on the softer side, but by no means mushy. The tomato sauce was also very tasty.
Beef brisket ($12 for some and $17 for more)- field mushroom potato hash, caramelized onion, and fried egg. I can't remember whether this was the some or more version, but the flavours were very bold, especially the curry-like sauce on the potatoes.
Most of the party opted for their signature square peg, which is Fabarnak's version of a bento box. The square peg comes in two sizes ($10 for "some" and $15 for "more") and the offerings change on a daily basis. For that day, we had (counterclockwise from top right) duck liver parfait on toast, seared beef with pickled cucumber, potato salad, and finishing with devil's food cake for dessert. I was already sold upon hearing duck liver! Pictured here is the bigger size.
Starting with the duck liver spread on toast- I thought the bread was slightly stale, and I would've liked it better had it been toasted some more. The potato salad was tasty, though perhaps a little too heavy on the mayo. The beef had great flavour, but I had difficulty chewing through it, so I ate one piece and gave the rest of my friend (and traded him for some pasta). The chocolate cake was also too sweet for me, and I gave most of mine away as well.
I really loved the whole concept of Fabarnak, but sadly I wasn't a big fan of my square peg that night. That said, the prices are very reasonable, so I would definitely give this place a second try, but I'd probably order a sandwich instead next time.
Fabarnak Restaurant and Catering on Urbanspoon

May 20, 2012

Bar eats @ Momofuku Seiōbo (Sydney)

I have to admit that I didn't make plans to visit the Star Casino until I found out that David Chang opened a Momofuku restaurant there! Yes, I know that Momofuku is coming to Toronto soon (so excited!), but since I've never been to any of them in NYC, I wanted to try it out. Reservation availabilities are released 10 days ahead online, and it's notoriously difficult to get one. I wasn't particularly interested in their tasting menu since I was saving up for a more spectacular meal later in the trip. To my delight, they had a little known 5-seat walk-in only bar table offering an à la carte bar menu, which worked out perfectly for me.
I showed up at 7 pm on the dot when the restaurant opened to ensure that we wouldn't have to wait for a seat
The small bar menu consisted of 6 items, and we only ordered 4 of them. First, we started with pickled eggs ($4 AUD), which was pleasantly tart to whet one's appetite. The golden yolk had that perfect, half-cooked consistency.
Momofuku is perhaps most famous for their pork buns ($14 AUD for 2), so naturally I had to try it.
The pork buns were everything I dreamed of and more! The warm bun itself was amazingly soft and everything kind of just melted into a delicious mess in my mouth. I loved the contrast of the tangy Sriracha against the fatty pork belly, and the combination worked incredibly well. The flavour profile reminded me of Peking duck wraps (which I adore), so next time I might be tempted to squirt some Sriracha onto my Peking duck.
Next up, spanner crab roll with celery salt chips ($19 AUD). I loved the contrast between the cold crab-mayo mixture and the toasted buttery bun. My only complaint was that the bun was slightly greasy. The chips on the side were very crispy, though I couldn't detect any hint of celery (which was good news to me).
And lastly, we had an order of confit chicken wings ($16 AUD). The portion was noticeably larger than the other dishes, so we were definitely full by the end of this.
The chicken wings were sticky, sweet, and makes you want to lick your fingers clean. All in all, they were very tasty, though not quite as unique as some of the other items that we tried that night. 
I definitely had a very positive experience with the bar menu at Momofuku Seiōbo. The food was delicious, the prices points are much lower than the tasting menu, and best of all, you won't have to go through the painful task of getting a reservation. Note that momofuku cookbooks and the lucky peach magazines are also sold here. I'll be checking out momofuku's Toronto outposts for sure!
Momofuku Seiōbo on Urbanspoon

My other Australia posts:
Cafe Ish
Uchi Lounge
Red Door Cafe
Lindt Chocolate Cafe
Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe

May 16, 2012

Dinner @ Woodlot

I've been dying to go to Woodlot for a long while, but it never works out, perhaps because it's ridiculously difficult to get a reservation there on short notice. Generally, you leave them a voice mail and hope that they call you back with your desired availabilities. Luckily, Julie wanted to go there for her birthday, so I didn't have to be the one calling the restaurant for a reservation.
The interior exuded a rustic, communal vibe that felt very welcoming. We sat at the upstairs dining area which overlooked the entire open kitchen, as well as their famous wood-burning oven. There was also a roof window which allowed plenty of sunlight to brighten up the space.
I wasn't feeling for anything alcoholic that day, so Jeremy and I each ordered a house-made soda ($3 each). He chose the cherry flavour, and I went with the white soda, which was an elevated version of a Sprite. The sodas were very delicious and refreshing, and they're a great alternative to cocktails.
The rest of the party was more than half an hour late for our 6 pm reservation, but thankfully, the staff was very gracious about it. I've previously had some bad experience with another restaurant's staff giving me attitude when I was 20 minutes late for a reservation, so I really appreciated the staff's understanding here. Once everyone placed their orders, we were given a basket of Woodlot's sourdough bread. I'm a huge fan of sourdough bread, especially served warm with butter!

For starter, Jeremy and I shared a baked caramelized onion soup ($11) with aged gruyère and red fife sourdough bread.
This onion soup certainly wasn't lacking in onions! There were heaps and heaps of sweet caramelized onions with every spoonful of soup! I also liked that the soup wasn't overly laden with cheese, which made it less heavy. Of course, French onion soups are extremely rich in nature, so sharing is highly recommended!
Two of my friends shared ember grilled hen-o’-the-woods mushrooms ($13) with wild rice, black walnut, mache and balsamic vinegar. The portion looked rather small, but I was told that it was actually quite filling. I didn't try any but heard good feedback about this starter.
The birthday girl ordered whey-fed pork chop ($28) with prune, bacon, brown bread and walnut sauce. This was an outstanding dish, both in flavours and presentation. I sampled one piece of pork chop and it blew my mind off. I hardly ever order pork chop at a restaurant (unless it's deep fried) because it's often dry and bland. But Woodlot's pork chop was moist, flavourful, and just truly delicious. I'll definitely be coming back soon to order this for myself.
I was quite tempted to order russet potato gnocchi ($23) with roasted aubergine, graine de paradis, chili, lemon and ricotta salata. But I ended up choosing something else, which was unfortunate because I really enjoyed the piece that I tried. The texture was perfect, and the flavours were bold and bright.
A couple of us ordered naturally raised flat iron steak ($29) with mixed mushroom and béarnaise sauce. It was another stunning presentation on a wooden plank. I also thought that the steak was very tasty, and the béarnaise sauce was a lovely complement to both the meat and earthy mushrooms.
After a lengthy debate, I opted for chicken and porcini mushroom pie ($27) with sherry cream, sunchoke, parsnip and parsley root.
The pastry was tasty and flaky, but the fillings didn't wow me. I actually liked the parsnips a lot, so I thought that there was too much chicken and not enough veggies, especially mushroom. Perhaps I'm not a big fan of chicken pot pies in general, but I preferred all the other entrées over mine.
In spite of the fact that we had two birthday cakes to devour later, we still ordered dessert- spiced bread pudding ($11) with chocolate chantilly, candied pecan and brown butter. At first, I mistook the chocolate chantilly for ice cream, and I think ice cream would've been a better pairing here. The chantilly was too rich on top of the dense bread pudding. In all honesty, the dessert was quite similar to a chocolate muffin, and it certainly wasn't as good as the chocolate bread pudding from Mildred's Temple Kitchen
I feel a deep need to come back to Woodlot as soon as possible because I truly loved everything except my own entrée and the dessert. All in all, the food and service were fantastic, and the restaurant definitely lived up to my expectations!
Woodlot Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon

May 14, 2012

Breakfast @ Bills (Sydney)

According to my research, Bills is a breakfast/brunch institution in Sydney, famous for their fluffy ricotta hotcakes and sweet corn fritters. I was warned about long queues on the weekend, so I decided to go on a weekday.
When we arrived, I was starving because we had walked uphill for 20 minutes to get here. My mom was not happy at all about the pre-breakfast uphill trek.
My mom wanted something lighter, so I ordered her two soft boiled eggs with buttered sourdough soldiers ($11.50 AUD).
The first egg was cooked perfectly with a beautiful runny yolk. I also loved the crispy sourdough soldiers which were cut to the ideal size for dipping. Unfortunately, the second egg was a tad overcooked. Not sure if it was because we let it sit for too long while finishing the first egg.
I was eyeing Bill's famous ricotta hotcakes ($18.50 AUD) from the very beginning, served with fresh bananas and honeycomb butter. I didn't care much for fresh bananas, but the honeycombe butter was divine!
The hotcakes were gloriously light and fluffy with a lovely, slightly crisp exterior. What made it better was the melting honeycombe butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. Honestly, I wanted to stuff my face with these hotcakes all day long! These were by far the best hotcakes I've ever had, and I actually cleaned my whole plate, a rare feat for me. Thankfully, there was a whole lot of walking for the rest of the day to help me burn off the meal!
Bills on Urbanspoon

My other Australia posts:
Cafe Ish
Uchi Lounge
Red Door Cafe
Lindt Chocolate Cafe
Momofuku Seiōbo
Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe


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