Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A familiar Taste of Sydney

Taste of Sydney, 13-16 March 2014, Centennial Park, Sydney
For its sixth year in Sydney's Centennial Park, Taste of Sydney once again battled with the weather gods to mostly prevail as one of our city's favourite outdoor restaurant and wine festivals.

The parklands were abuzz with stalls on the opening Thursday night with a host of familiar faces and a few new, with the Best in Taste Awards again hosted in the Taste VIP tent.

G.H. Mumm champagne in the Taste VIP tent
With bubbles on pour all night, it was a jovial forum to see the Best in Taste judging panel - including Gourmet Traveller's Pat Nourse, television cook Lyndey Milan, Time Out's Myffy Rigby and Broadsheet Sydney's Sophie McComas - award their picks of the festival.

The Best Dressed stall was deemed to be Rojo Rocket from the rotating Destination Dining restaurants; with the award accepted gleefully by the Taste first-timers. Another festival newbie, Aki's Indian Restaurant, took out third in the Best in Taste, with their poori offering.

Perennial favourites Porteño placed second with their charcoal grilled wagyu skirt steak, and the Best in Taste award went to old-but-new Taste participant Chow Bar & Eating House, with ex-Claudes' owner and chef Chui Lee Luk's 'Beggar's Chicken'.

Taste of Sydney - opening night
While I managed to taste two out of three of the judges' Best in Taste, my Sunday plans for Taste round two were scuppered by a pretty epic storm that's becoming all to common in Sydney town these days.

Porteño's tent kitchen charcoal grill
Luckily we got to crowd-favourite Porteño on the first night; unmissable with all the "faces of" and a huge, open kitchen tent stall that sent charcoal smoke signals direct to Taste's hungry stomachs.

Charcoal grilled entrana - wagyu skirt steak with BBQ peppers and chimichurri from Porteño
Grabbing silver in the judge's awards, Porteño's charcoal grilled wagyu skirt steak was a smoky-flavoured and tender delight of a cut of beef, sliced and topped with a zingy chimichurri herb sauce and settled upon soft cooked red capsicum.

Charcoal grilled lamb rib with marinated eggplant, anchovy
and rosemary pound from Porteño
But it was the charcoal grilled lamb rib, with crunchy pieces of skin and smoky fat covering soft lamb flesh, that had my attention; perfectly spiced and served with meltingly soft eggplant and creamy squiggles of a sauce of anchovy and rosemary.

Porteño's woodfired asado
The beauty of the Porteño approach is that they bring the restaurant to Taste, not just a festival-friendly sample. Four asado woodfire grills were set up around a pit next to the main tent, just like they have at the Surry Hills restaurant, except all lambs splayed for Taste.

Woodfired lamb from the asado with potato salad and chimchurri from Porteño
Having not tried Porteño's woodfired lamb from the asado before, it was the perfect opportunity to have their Taste Icon Dish, served atop a creamy potato salad with the same chimichurri sauce.

The succulent cuts of lamb (leg?) were tender if not a bit one-dimensional, although I did spy various other cuts of the Icon Dish, as it is in the restaurant, that offered more colour and varied texture.

Crispy pork belly with chilli caramel, aioli and mint slaw from Chur Burger
Over at 'Taste veteran but in a new guise' Warren Turnbull's Chur Burger stall, it was a range of miniaturised burgers, also ubiquitously known as sliders.

The pork belly was a winning combination of a crisp hunk of roasted belly with crackling, cabbage and mint slaw, aioli and a sticky chilli caramel; somehow all balanced within a cute, little burger bun.

Kinkawooka mussel fritter with spiced remoulade and dill pickled cucumber
from Chur Burger
The same buns also held two unique-sounding Kinkawooka mussel fritters; a little pikelet-like and floury but lifted by ribbons of dill-scented pickled cucumber and creamy remoulade as a sauce.

Crispy king prawns, green chilli, lime from Longrain
We moved on to Taste (and festivals generally) long-timer Longrain and their irresistible whole fried king prawns, dressed with a refreshing lime and mild green chilli sauce.

With very well-trimmed heads (no dangerous, sharp bits), it was much like eating whole fried school prawns but better, with a crisp, well-seasoned flour coating and that fabulous, firm texture of large crustaceans.

Hay smoked chicken legs - cured and smoked chicken, corn and local garlic creme
from Biota Dining
We continued on the large, fried things path with Biota Dining's cured and hay smoked chicken drumstick.

It was an impressively large chicken specimen with a crunchy crumb coating and soft yellow cream of corn and garlic that's right up there as one of the most expensive chicken drumsticks I've ever had.

Dahi sel poori - crispy wheat pockets with spiced potato and yoghurt from Aki's Indian Restaurant
I knew I wanted to try the podium-winning dish from Aki's Indian Restaurant: dahi sel poori hollow fried wheat pockets, filled with a mix of fragrantly spiced potato and natural yoghurt, garnished with coriander.

Eaten in one or two mouthfuls, the poori was an intriguing sensation of warm and cold, soft and crisp, spice and sourness that was gone all too quickly.

Ceci e tria alla Pugliese - pasta strips cooked two ways, chickpeas, pecorino mousse
from Popolo
The only pasta offering at Taste this year was Popolo's ceci pasta strips, served as a crisp wafer with sharp pecorino mousse, and more classically with a creamy, not-necessarily-photogenic chickpea sauce.

Taco de Cochinito - pulled pork taco, corn puree, salad and salsa rojo from Rojo Rocket
The Avalon-based Rojo Rocket put up tacos, including a pulled pork one that didn't quite look like all the other ones around town.

With a puree of corn, watercress leaves and tasty namesake salsa rojo, the tortilla didn't get a chance to go soggy, scoffed within a minute or so.

Suckling pig on the spit at 4Fourteen / Four in Hand

Otto Ristorante's head chef Richard Ptacnik in the Taste Kitchen

Country Kitchen seating area
The usual Taste features - Taste Kitchen, chefs' talks, wine masterclasses, cocktail classes - were all present as too a few cooking class demonstrations and the new Icon Park restaurant/bar crowdfunding concept, making it an increasingly familiar Taste, with an annual twist. See more photos on my Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes attended Taste of Sydney as a guest. All food and Crowns were paid for independently.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...