Friday, May 30, 2014

Chur Burger: where the burgers are chur, bro

It's taken me this long to get to Chur Burger in Surry Hills. I suppose I'm not that much of a burger person, but perhaps there was some underlying emotion for chef and restaurateur Warren Turnbull's former fine dining space that has held me back.

That said, the small space works well as a burger bar with low round tables, high communal tables and window bench seats offering the queue of diners a range of options, as well as takeaway, for burger scoffing action.

Beef burger from Chur Burger, Albion Street, Surry Hills
The classic beef burger has to be the benchmark for any burger. Chur Burger's version features a thick, medium-rare pink beef pattie with melted cheese in a grilled brioche bun. Well-considered condiments are a house tomato jam, thin-sliced pickles and a mustard mayonnaise, upping the richness.

While I probably could do without the mayonnaise (and brioche tends to overwhelm me), the beef burger gets a tick for its comfort-food flavours, juicy and tasty beef pattie, and overall size - more than sufficient for me.

Fish burger
I've got a thing for fish burgers so it had to be the crumbed (and unnamed) fish burger as well, served in the same buns with a cabbage slaw, pickled cucumber ribbons and a lemon mayonnaise.

With great flavours on paper, I found golden crumbed fish burger a little dry despite the oozy mayonnaise and slaw, and no competition to the beef burger.

Sweet potato fries
To our lunch burger order we added a salted caramel milkshake - which seem to be amazing anywhere I have them - and chunky, skin-on sweet potato fries served with salt but no additional condiments. With a mix of crisp and soggy ones, the sweet potato fries went sadly unfinished between two and two burgers.

Having finally visited the original Chur Burger, I can say it's definitely a place I would return to for a quick and casual burger fix, and after a taste of the beef burger, I may have to become a burger person. It's pretty chur, bro.

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coffee hits at Seven Seeds (Melbourne)

Posted by Hendy

A coffee sourcer, micro roaster and café, Seven Seeds is a short tram ride north of the heart of Melbourne in Carlton.

Sister café to Brother Baba Budan in the city, Seven Seeds has even extended its reach to Sydney with Double Barrel Coffee Merchants (across from Wynyard Park in the city) also offering the Seven Seeds coffee blends.

Seven Seeds, Berkeley Street, Carlton, Melbourne
Located on a relatively quiet street, close to the University of Melbourne, we had a short wait for our breakfast coffee hit at Seven Seeds.

Long black
Being in a specialty coffee house, and having tried the Seven Seeds blends previously, it was going to be all about the coffee.

A long black is my standard coffee order, and this was a clean, aromatic medium roast with hints of nuttiness.

Pour over coffee - Colombia Las Delicias
The pour over coffee was listed on the menu as a single standalone item, with the staff helping us out on the various beans currently on offer and suitable for filter. 

A little picture card comes with the pour over set, explaining the origin of the beans, the farm the beans were harvested from and a small description of the region. Our first pour over was the Colombia Las Delicias beans, which were produced in the Las Delicias farm in Gigante, Colombia. 

As the brew is poured from the small jug into the cup, the aroma of the coffee spreads across the table. As with pour overs more generally, this had a very clean and subtle taste with a hint of citrus tang.

Pour-over coffee, Colombia El Hueco
The second pour over coffee was brewed using the Colombia El Hueco beans from the El Hueco farm in another Colombian region, Tarqui. This had a much sweeter note and was most pleasant to drink.

House-smoked salmon, fennel & alfalfa salad, fried capers, almond skordalia, brioche crumb, poached eggs
Having travelled through the short and sweet coffee journey, breakfast arrived. The smoked salmon and poached eggs were presented immaculately across a bed of garlicky almond skordalia, topped with an alfalfa salad.

The salmon was subtly smoked and nicely balanced with fennel shreds and capers, making for a very clean and fresh breakfast dish.

Heirloom tomato medley on toasted Turkish bread with cauliflower cream, shaved pecorino & a poached egg
Another fresh and healthy option was the colourful heirloom tomato medley, served with warm Turkish bread and a light, earthy-sweet cauliflower cream.

The bread had a crisp surface and slightly sweet-soft insides, forming a filling base for the tomatoes, cauliflower cream, shaved pecorino and fresh basil leaves which brought even more colour to the plate. 

The industrial-esque interior of Seven Seeds
Whether you visit Seven Seeds in Carlton, or any of the other 15 cafés stocking its blends, don't miss out on having a great coffee hit.

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy 11th birthday to Kobe Jones

If there was a comparison, I think restaurant years would comprise more time than dog years. So the fact that King Street Wharf's Kobe Jones is celebrating 11 years at the waterside site this year, I think is more like celebrating a 90th birthday - completely commendable and worthy of respect in the Sydney dining game.

Miyamizu sake at Kobe Jones, Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
To celebrate Kobe Jones' entry to restaurant tween-hood (or nonagenerians) earlier this year, we were invited to indulge in an 11-course kaiseki set course meal featuring menu favourites from across the last 11 years. Indeed, a lot of these favourites remain on the menu today; a testament to the staying power of customer favourites.

We commenced with a celebratory "kanpai" before sipping the delectable chilled Miyamizu sake from the Nada region in Kobe.

Number One special
We started with one from the many of Kobe Jones' signature maki sushi rolls, the Number One Special, which arrives in a torched cloak of the restaurant's secret creamy sauce.

The large, at-least-two-bite sushi pieces comprise Hiramasa kingfish rolled with nori seaweed sheets, filled with creamy threads of a crab salad and avocado, and topped with smelt roe.

It was a full-on mouthful of seafood and creaminess; the latter a characteristic of the fusion Californian-Japanese style Kobe Jones is known and loved for. As a starter, this was matched with Wild River Sparkling Brut NV.

Seared salmon carpaccio (left) and tuna tataki Kobe Jones style
Sashimi took on a new form with slight searing of both the raw salmon and tuna slices in the next combined offering.

The salmon carpaccio, seared with extra virgin olive oil, was dressed with a mildly spicy wasabi and pepper sauce, garnished with microherbs; while the tuna, also seasoned with pepper, was topped with a special cream sauce.

The platter was completed with steamed mushrooms and poached asparagus spears, and matched with the sweet 2009 Xanadu Next of Kin Rose.

Yellow Submarine roll
With modern Japanese restaurants now doing all sorts of things to the traditional sushi forms, I was interested to sample Kobe Jones' Yellow Submarine Roll which is wrapped in a soybean "sheath" rather than nori seaweed.

Soft and smooth, the yellow soybean sheet loosely held rice and a filling of prawn, julienned cucumber and crunchy pops of bright orange fish roe, garnished with more salmon roe.

Calamari salad
Next, a not-so-healthy salad featuring thickly crumbed squid pieces dressed with Kobe Jones' own mayonnaise dressing.

The salad comprised mixed leaves, carrot, shallots and more fish roe and was an appropriate break from sushi and sashimi, although the heavily battered calamari was disappointing, albeit crunchy.

These two dishes were matched with the 2013 Peter Lehmann Pinot Grigio; one of my favourite drops of the evening.

Yuzu soy scallop
In another modern Japanese favourite, plump sashimi style scallops appeared beneath a tumble of microherbs; the molluscs marinated in yuzu and soy. I adore the sea-sweet flavour of scallops and these were no exception; absolutely highlighted by the well-rounded, citrusy dressing.

Lobster roll
The celebration of Kobe Jones' special creamy sauce continued with the lobster roll, which was barely distinguishable beneath the cavalcade of sauce, smelt roe, shallots. sesame seeds and soy glaze.

There was slipper lobster meat to be found under the sauce, and further in, crab and avocado rolls in another rendition of classic Kobe Jones contemporary sushi style.

Tempura prawn
Crunchy tempura fried tiger prawns didn't surprise anyone but they were done very well with an airy and crisp batter, perhaps a tad oily but still a satisfying few mouthfuls dipped into tempura sauce. These were paired with the 2011 Yangarra Estate Viogner.

Alaskan crab
The dish of the night for me was undoubtedly the Alaskan king crab legs, cooked on the robata grill and served simply in its shell with fresh lime.

Just cooked with a slight char flavour, the simple cooking process allowed the sweet crab flesh to truly shine. There was no greater pleasure than pulling out whole strips of crab leg and savouring each sweet bite slowly.

Wafu style grilled wagyu
Nine courses down and I was struggling to look at the wagyu steak; also cooked on the robata to a slightly more than medium point. Pre-sliced and served with a balsamic teriyaki sauce, a round of grilled onion, baby corn and mushrooms, it was a heavy, slightly chewy end to the savoury courses.

The steak was matched with the not-too-heavy 2009 Logan Cabernet Merlot.

Flaming anko
Having left the table for a short moment, I missed the flaming of the green tea crème brûlée which was designed to brûlée the toffee top. In addition to the well-flavoured custard, there was sweet mashed azuki red bean within the pot in a classic Japanese pairing.

We finished with delectable glasses of 2010 Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon, deliciously decadent and entirely appropriate for a birthday celebration. Happy birthday to Kobe Jones - here's to many more happy restaurant years.

Food, booze and shoes dined as at Kobe Jones as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

Kobe Jones on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vivid Sydney lights up Sydney - until 9 June

Sydney Opera House for Vivid Sydney 2014, 23 June - 9 May, various locations
It's been an unseasonally warm end to autumn and the month of May but with the kick-off of Vivid Sydney - the 2.5 week-long annual festival of lights, music and ideas - it's basically an unofficial start to winter in Sydney.

'Digital Forest' at Martin Place
This year the festival has expanded into the heart of the CBD, in addition to Circular Quay, The Rocks and Darling Harbour, with a bit of a hub of light installations, pop-up food stalls and a bar set up in Martin Place, to operate in the evenings for the duration of the festival.

CTA Building at Martin Place
My favourite light feature so far has been the light projection on the uniquely-shaped CTA Building in Martin Place. It's simply mesmerising to watch trees grow and birds fly around the surface of the round building.

CTA Building at Martin Place

Installation at Martin Place

British India jaffle from Jafe Jaffles pop-up in Martin Place
A number of Sydney's food trucks have set up pop-up stalls in the middle of Martin Place (between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets) to feed the light-watching masses.

It's hard to beat a hot, cheesy jaffle on a cool night with plenty of walking, and the British India flavour from Jafe Jaffles (sans Kombi van) hit the spot with butter chicken in crunchy, toasted white bread and a well-seasoned raita yoghurt dip.

Customs House for Vivid Sydney 2014

Sydney Opera House for Vivid Sydney 2014

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Museum of Contemporary Art for Vivid Sydney 2014

'The Pool' at Fleet Park, Circular Quay
There's plenty more to see and do during the festival. See more pictures from Vivid Sydney 2014 on my Facebook page (and Like it while you're there!).

Jafe Jaffle's on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Postcards from Rome - part II: Pipero al Rex

Posted by Jan

On a last minute whim I booked us in for dinner at Michelin-starred Pipero al Rex in Rome; a small restaurant within a hotel, with just six tables. Opened in late 2011, it received its first Michelin star within a year under restaurateur Alessandro Pipero and chef Luciano Monosilio

We were received by Pipero himself, who made it a point to chat with us about the menu, offering to tailor the tasting menu to our preference. He was more than happy to accommodate my request to try their famous carbonara as I was on a quest for the best carbonara in Rome.

Pata negra from Pipero al Rex, Rome, Italy
As a welcome we were presented with a complimentary glass of prosecco and a lovely nibble of pata negra Iberian cured ham with a dot of balsamic vinegar.

I love cured meats and the soft, salty fattiness left a wonderful aftertaste which only served to make me hungrier for the meal ahead.

Parmesan and cream marshmallows with hazelnut cream and orange twist
The tasting menu began with a series of appetisers which showed up in quick succession, starting with a parmesan cheese and cream marshmallow.

I adore all things dairy and this morsel of fluffiness was a light, savoury version of a marshmallow, garnished with a tuft of orange zest.

Blue cheese semifreddo balls with spinach cream and potato chips
Next was a foreign-looking green sphere that Pipero explained was a blue cheese semifreddo covered in spinach cream and squares of potato chips.

The blue cheese sphere was not too overpowering and had just a hint of the tang that I love about this group of cheese.

Waffles with chicken liver pate and sweet wine gel
The appetisers menu turned out to be a list of my favourite entrées. The chicken liver pate was creamy and mousse-like, offset by a sweet wine gel ball on a thin, crisp waffle base, and tasted as good as it looked artful.

 Crispy pork Chips with& yoghurt and olive oil Sauce
The final appetiser, and certainly the most unique for me, were the crispy pork chips. The circles looked like an emulsion of pork fat, of sorts, made into a crisp; reminding me of pork crackling but an extremely fine and light variation. I wish I could figure out how to make this.

Raw duck, mustard and apple cream
Moving on to the first and second courses in the tasting menu, we were presented with raw duck served with a mustard and apple cream.

I have never eaten raw duck before but I really liked the way the soft tartare was offset by the crunch of the crostini rounds. I've always associated duck with orange but apple turns out to be a pretty good match too.

Rabbit gravy 
If there ever is an award for best gravy in the world, the Rabbit Gravy dish would be a hot contender. A rich, hearty, broth-like sauce was served with fried potatoes and a goat's cheese sauce so good, I practically licked the plate clean.

Shrimp, coffee and milk
I hadn't expected raw shrimp would be a common dish in Europe but it showed up twice in different tasting menus I had in Rome.

The texture of the finely sliced shrimp takes a bit of getting used to as it can feel a bit slimy, but this was a pleasant combination of raw shrimp with a coffee sauce and a creamy milk sauce.

Tortellini with chicory, mozzarella and anchovies
The tortellini was yet another understated but tasty dish, with a unique presentation and construction of the filled pasta.

I particularly liked the smoked anchovy flavour that was incorporated into the dash of cream sauce, in addition to the segments atop the tortellini and mozzarella cheese.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
I was getting quite full at this point but miraculously, managed to eat all of the carbonara when it showed up. Pipero al Rex is well known for its spaghetti alla carbonara, which is normally sold by weight in 50-gram increments.

It was a rich and creamy dish with lashings of parmesan cheese and the typical Roman addition of salty and crunchy guanciale cured pork jowl. It was a great dish and definitely ranks among my top carbonara picks in Rome but still, it wasn't my favourite (look out for my next Rome post).

Lamb and smoked tea
I don't know how I ever made it through the whole tasting menu because by the time the lamb arrived, I was stuffed.

I powered through the lamb which was cooked rare, leaving it nice and tender, and enjoyed the gentle smoky flavour of the lapsang souchong tea against the raspberry and balsamic sauce.

Pipero returned at this point and kindly offered to pause the menu for a little while I readied myself for dessert.

Sandwich of tiramisu
The first dessert was an interesting take on the classic Italian dessert of tiramisu. I'm not sure what it was made up of entirely but there was a delicious combination of coffee and mascarpone, which was surprisingly a good palate cleanser for the next dessert course.

Apple, yoghurt and almond
The apple-based dessert we had was a great example of a few simple ingredients with different textures, made into something special. The apple gelees and pastes were joined by unsweetened dabs of yoghurt and almond gelato, coming together just right and not overly sweetly.

At this point, the hubby decided that he needed a whisky and ordered a 12-year old Ardbeg. We were so surprised when they poured him a generous serve, left the bottle at our table and asked us to top up as much as we liked. This generous gesture was invariably repeated a few times on our trip at different restaurants in Rome.

Petit fours
I just could not manage another mouthful, but was reliably informed that the almond, hazelnut and pistachio brittle was delicious, as too the almond cookie with dehydrated raspberries and raspberry sauce, and the unidentified geelee squares.

The tasting menu was an experience I would recommend to any visitors to Rome, pairing the many years of experience from restaurateur Pipero and the creativity from chef Monosilio.

Pipero al Rex was not our only Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome, but I felt it was much more representative than others of a blend of local cuisine, seasonal produce and new methods of cooking which seem to be the hallmark of new European cuisine.

More postcards from Rome come.


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