Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So very Sydney - part 2 of Westfield Sydney's Level 5 food court

Get your scrolling finger ready for the epic post that is Stage Two of the Level 5 food court at Westfield Sydney, which opened alongside the noise of the Zara store opening around Easter time.

Light tree at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
In the newly-opened area of Level 5 beside the food court space opened in November last year, gourmet eats now extend across the entire floor with impressive offering after offering, more food court seating and a tag as a serious foodies destination.

Dry aging beef at Quarter Twenty One, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Head up the escalators on Pitt Street mall next to Sportsgirl for the bullet train equivalent straight to the food on Level 5 (rather than negotiate the twisty turns of escalators inside the shopping centre) and you’ll first see Justin North’s corner of Becasse, Becasse Bakery and the ultra-glossy Quarter Twenty One.

Charcuterie at Quarter Twenty One
Be greeted by the fridge cabinet of dry aging beef or house-made charcuterie (including suckling pig prosciutto!), or in our lucky case, Justin North and a glass of champagne.

Justin North in the Quarter Twenty One cooking school
Like a proud father, North shows us around his quarters which include an intimate, stainless steel affair of a cooking school (Cook for the Soul); a gourmet providore sourcing goods from all over Australia and international and local wines (Shop for the Soul); self-catering section of ready-made meals, butcher’s cuts of meat, herbs and other vegies (Feed the Soul); and the new modern European restaurant, Quarter Twenty One (Eat for the Soul).

Quarter Twenty One providore

Quarter Twenty One ready-to-eat and meats

Quarter Twenty One restaurant, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Quarter Twenty One is the more casual modern European eatery to North’s existing fine diner, Becasse, which is hidden away next door behind a leafy gate after its move from Clarence Street.

Becasse entry hallway
They’ve gone all out on the 25 seater restuarant: after the dramatic, changing-seasons forest/garden entryway, the gorgeous sandstone-walled Becasse reveals itself as a picture of opulence away from the shopping centre hustle with generously spaced velvet chairs and lounges, black leather-topped tables and pink velvet-topped handbag stools.

Becasse dining area

Becasse kitchen
North calls his a “cold kitchen”, all kitted out with Fagor stainless steel but no open flames; thus substantially lowering the heat in the kitchen (Quarter Twenty One has a traditional kitchen; that is, warmer and somewhat less serene). I imagine it also makes for a more pleasant chef’s table experience (seats eight).

Private dining room at Quarter Twenty One/Becasse
North also employs the clever idea of a multi-use private dining room which can be booked for Becasse or Quarter Twenty One – depending on the customers’ preference (and budget).
Mero Mero at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Reluctantly removing ourselves from Quarter Twenty One, we amble over to Mero Mero where a dazzling display of baked goodies gets the mouth watering.

Baked offerings at Mero Mero
Macaron tower aside, there are scrumptious looking tarts and pastries, as well and pre-made sandwiches and coffee. And I highly recommend the lime and cracked black pepper macaron – just don’t inhale the pepper like I did.
Phillip Blanco of Snag Stand at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
At the Snag Stand, we stop in for that quintessentially Australian meal/snack. Here termed a “haute dog”, Phillip Blanco (who is/has been part of Gloria Jeans in Australia, T2 retail outlets, Firefly Wine Bars and Mad Mex) sources gourmet sausages from a range of local butcheries (AC Butchery and Pino's to name a couple) to serve with specially-baked buns for your sophisticated sausage sizzle experience.

Pork and fennel Italian sausage from Snag Stand
For example, the Italian sausage roll I sampled featured a thick pork and fennel seed-dotted sausage, paired with grilled capsicums, onions and balsamic glaze on a brioche roll – and utterly delicious.

Other gourmet sausages include wagyu beef; a veal, parsley and onion weisswurst; chicken and rocket; turkey; Bangalow pork, German bratwurst and South African boerewors.

Chips and dipping sauces from Snag Stand
I think these fried bits of potato are going to give Justin North’s Charlie & Co. chips a bit of competition – super crunchy on the outside and completely fluffy within, they’re complemented by a range of dipping sauces including mayolive (olive dotted mayonnaise), Sriracha mayonnaise, fragrant truffle aioli and curry ketchup that reminded me of Maccas' sweet and sour sauce.
Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
And from one classic Aussie dining option to the next – the huge variety of gourmet pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse.

Kangaroo and red wine pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse
Peking duck, lasagne (imagine: the bottom half a normal beef pie then a sheet of pasta topped with tomato-ey beef sauce and cheese), Szechuan pepper wagyu beef, massaman lamb, and chicken with avocado and cranberry sauce are among some of the more exotic fillings, while good ol’ beef pies, sausage rolls and quiches are on offer too.

Petite pies from Pie by Mick’s Bakehouse
Petite pies are a cute option for trying a few more flavours, or for sharing at events – bigger than a normal party pie with a smaller selection of fillings, but still some of the more unusual ones.
Nick and falafels at Sabbaba, Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Having recently dined at the Newtown outlet of Sabbaba, it was great to see the bright colours of the modern Middle Eastern casual eatery here, also with freshly-made falafels on sample with tahini dip

Sabbaba display cabinet
The baklava display is going to mean trouble for mid-afternoon sugar hits, while this store seems to have a smaller menu than the full store and also pre-made sandwiches and rolls.

Sabbaba salads and vegetables
Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
A definite attraction for the city’s corporate crowd is Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar. For starters, getting freshly made pasta at a reasonable price was pretty much limited to the David Jones Food Hall (and their six seats) before.

Now there’s a genuinely exciting option from the same guys from Via Del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé, also on Level 5.

Wine and cheese platter at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar
Further to fresh pasta, there’s the wine and cheese or antipasti platter option for that after work tipple and nibble – great on a Thursday night when the shopping centre closes at a later 9pm but just a tad limiting on the usual 6.30pm close.

Cured meats and cheese cabinet at Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar
Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
At Din Tai Fung we watch mesmerised for a few moments at dumpling skins expertly rolled to paper thinness before being stuffed with minced pork filling.

Dumpling skins and filling at Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar
Owner Vera Handoko informs us that each wrapper weighs 4.8–5.2 grams and with stuffing comes in at about 20–21 grams (from memory). Precision food, indeed.

Xiao long bao, or pork soup dumplings, from Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar
Vera goes on to show us how to eat one of the steaming hot soup dumplings properly (and I thought I already knew).

First, with your dumpling on a soup spoon, use chopsticks to pinch a little hole in the dumpling skin and let all the soup run out onto the spoon.

Vera of Din Tai Fung shows us how to eat an xlb
Drink the soup from the spoon, then lightly dress the dumpling with a mix of soy and vinegar sauces (to taste, or 3:1 vinegar to soy, I think Vera recommends), a few shreds of the ginger and consume your way to xiao long bao yumminess.
Asahi on tap at Sushi Hon at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Sushi Hon claims to have the longest sushi train in the southern hemisphere, but that’s probably not so important once you see the sushi and sashimi options to chow down on at Sushi Hon.

Maki sushi from Sushi Hon
It doesn’t seem to be run-of-the-mill stuff, for a refreshing change, particularly if the futomaki sushi take-home pack is anything to go by. 

Salmon sashimi from Sushi Hon
The salmon sashimi taster we’re provided is also pretty unique, with flying fish roe and a secret Sushi Hon dressing that’s at once light and sweet.
9 Marys at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Continuing the trip around the food court world, the Indian options at 9 Marys feature authentic dishes and naan breads fresh from the tandoor oven.

Stuffed mushrooms and chicken tikka from 9 Marys
We’re treated to button mushrooms stuffed with potato and spices, deep fried in an impossibly crunchy chickpea batter, as well as tender and juicy chicken tikka pieces that are bursting with spices.
Thai Riffic at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
Ever popular Thai cuisine comes from Thai Riffic, which has a great, long communal eat-in table inside a temple of sorts, with a silver idol at the end overlooking proceedings, or so it seems.

Noodles are the highlight here, where diners can choose a noodle type and a sauce to make a Thai Riffic concoction of their own.

Duck with plum sauce from Thai Riffic
We sample a tasting spoon of duck with salad, the roasted brown duck skin a feature alongside the sweet, syrupy plum sauce; all washed down with refreshing Thai iced tea.
Simon Goh at Sassy’s Red at Level 5, Westfield Sydney
We end the tour (yes, there was an end) at Sassy’s Red by Chinta Ria, where the inimitable Simon Goh greets us like family. And in that I mean endless offerings of food and drink, like a Chinese grandmother.

Chicken lo bak from Sassy’s Red
We start on sugar cane juice of a slightly unappetising green-brown hue but true sweetness, quickly followed by plates of what Goh called chicken rolls and the menu lists as loh bak.

Chewy, deep fried bean curd skins held a filling of minced chicken, tasty but improved with a dab of Lingham’s Chilli Sauce, which Goh insists is a must (a mild and sweet ketchup-like chilli sauce).

Takeaway mee goreng from Sassy’s Red
We also receive paper-wrapped packages to take home – some mee goreng as above, but mine a fabulous “yellow rice” fragrant with turmeric and coconut, highlighted by pickled vegetables and several pieces of seafood – excellent warmed up the next day.

Roti from Sassy’s Red
Goh continues with the food when just a few of us remain: hot teh tarik, then roti sprinkled with sugar followed by a dousing of condensed milk at request.

Sago gula melaka from Sassy’s Red
And then sago pudding with a liberal application of gula melaka, or palm sugar, syrup. This is one of my favourite desserts – probably because of the coconut flavouring (in this case, a pool of coconut milk) as well as the fun, bubbly texture of the sago.

And what a fantastic ending to a few hours of tasting from the newest offerings from Westfield Sydney’s Level 5 – a veritable trip around the (Westfield) world. I don’t think I’ll be short on any options come lunch time, and nor should the queues outside Zara go hungry.

Thanks to all the participating eateries on Level 5 Westfield Sydney, and Liquid Ideas for organising the tastings.

Mero Mero on Urbanspoon Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Pie by Mick's Bakehouse on Urbanspoon Sabbaba on Urbanspoon

Ragu Pasta & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hon on Urbanspoon Nine Mary's on Urbanspoon

Thai Riffic Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon Sassy's Red by Chinta Ria on Urbanspoon


Simon @ the heart of food said...

Love the new expanded area. So much variety of delicious food to choose from, more so from the existing, likewise delicious options :)

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

Great wrap up and photos, Tina! It's all making me hungry again.

So glad we met that evening :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

A friend of mine saw you guys taking photos on your tour! I was waiting for this to come up as I had no idea what Quarter 21 would be like!

Maria said...

Nice tour! I still haven't been to the food court, but looks like there's quite a lot under one roof!

Jenny said...

Oooh I love this wrap up. I'm heading over to Quarter Twenty One tomorrow!

Mary @Delightful Bitefuls said...

Nice tour! All that delicious looking food is making me hungry!!

New to your blog; happy I found you!

Mary xo
Delightful Bitefuls

Anonymous said...

I really need to pay a visit to the new phase of this food court. I want to take a bite of the pork and fennel sausage.

Adrian in Food Rehab said...

Oh my..this post is certainly EPIC!!! I've only had the Charlie and Co burgers when I was down in Sydney. Will have to check out the rest now!

Tina said...

Hi Simon - Yep, it's gonna take a few lunches to get through it all...

Hi Corinne - Lovely to have met you too :)

Hi Lorraine - Yes, we're not an inconspicuous bunch when there's a group...

Hi Maria - There's tonnes, seriously.

Hi Jenny - Hope you enjoy!

Hi Mary - Welcome!

Hi Ellie - Twas a very good sausage; but so many varieties at Snag Stand!

Hi Adrian - I wasn't kidding at the top, was I? :)

thang @ noodlies said...

Wow, Westfields have done well to get some great names here, really does lift it beyond the usual Westfield food court.

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Love how it's not your average food court! I believe Westfield have even beaten their previous standard of the harbour view food court at Bondi Junction which features no fast food chains.

Dressed and Eaten said...

Great post! So much to check out. Great to see Westfield make this into something. Gone are the days of avoiding the Centrepoint food court!

Tina said...

Hi Thang - It's worlds away from average :)

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - It's a few notches above WBJ, I think ;)

Hi Dressed and Eaten - Oh yeah, I barely remember that now...!

sydneycool said...

Becasse is the global fine dining in Sydney. I was skeptical about a fine dining restaurant in a shopping mall - but there are others arund the world which are top of the line - like Per Se in New York.

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