Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A touch of Manhattan at Bowery Lane

Posted by Hendy

At the ground floor of the still gleaming new renovation and refit of 1 O'Connell Street in the Sydney CBD, Bowery Lane is the newest entrant to the evening dining scene on the suits-abundant street.

Just off the building's lobby entrance, the modern, Manhattan-inspired interior provides a sense of alignment, if not aspiration, in the heart of corporate Sydney.

A glass of Bannockburn Douglas 2010 at Bo wery Lane, O'Connell Street, Sydney
Named after the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island, New York, Bowery Lane has extended its existing breakfast and lunch services to offer a different menu for the evening alongside a short, eclectic wine list, a selection of craft beers and chic cocktails.

A number of craft brews come from the Big Apple, including the Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. The wine list features a number of increasingly popular blends, like the multi-varietal Bannockburn Douglas which was pleasantly aromatic with its blend of cabernet, shiraz, merlot, malbec and pinot noir.

Manchego croquettes with smoked chilli aioli
Bowery Lane's dinner menu of snacks, entrées, shared dished, sides and mains are more wholesome options than its lunch options, taking inspiration from Manhattan in that rustic-mod way that Sydney's so good at.

We started with golden crumbed croquettes filled with Spanish manchego cheese from the snacks menu. Served with a smoked chilli aioli, the croquettes were delightfully light and soft within while the creamy aioli brought a lingering heat.

House smoked hickory salmon with puffed wild rice, bottarga salad, burnet
We opted for three entrées to share, including the house hickory wood-smoked salmon. Plated in coils with puffed rice and shaved bottarga cured mullet roe, the smoked salmon was light and creamy with a subtle smokiness. The dish was paired with salty bottarga-topped crisps in delicious contrast to the soft, velvety texture of the salmon.

Jamon serrano with buffalo mozzarella, witlof rocket and shaved pear
The jamon serrano cured ham was another light entrée served as a salad with radicchio, pear slices and rocket leaves. Having been sliced so thinly, the jamon serrano could have been mistaken visually for radicchio leaves while I thought the dish could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil.

Master kobe skirt wagyu (marble score: 9+) with chermula and lemon
To follow two lighter entrées, we had the kobe skirt wagyu which is one of the many meat based dishes that feature on Bowery Lane's dinner menu.

Lightly seared and topped with a chermula marinade, rocket and radish slices, the beautiful slices of high quality wagyu beef took on a lot of the chermula's tanginess which added a necessary overtone to the fat-marbled skirt steak.

1kg braised wagyu short rib with horseradish cream and roasted garlic
Continuing on the wagyu theme, for mains a 1-kilogram braised wagyu short rib was the first shared main dish to arrive.

Slightly charred on the surface, the braised wagyu short rib was beautifully cooked and looked, and felt, as if it literally had fallen off the bone.

Two whole roasted garlic bulbs were popped alongside the large serve of short rib, waiting to be peeled and smooshed for their caramelised sweetness alongside the zingy horseradish cream.

Whole BBQ organic chicken with lentils and grains and smoked yoghurt
The next shared main was a whole BBQ organic chicken, served in pieces with lentils and various grains mixed through smoked yoghurt.

A great, homely sharing dish, the lentils and yoghurt gave the comfort food, family favourite a new lease on life that was still utterly comforting.

Tempura soft shell crab burger with Asian slaw and miso mayonnaise
Two burgers feature on the dinner menu, including the towering soft shell crab burger. The undersized burger bun attempted to hold in a whole, tempura-battered soft shell crab, an Asian style cabbage slaw and what looked like half a bunch of coriander - a win for coriander lovers.

Complemented with a Japanese-style mayonnaise with miso, the salty, crunchy soft shell crab pieces were large enough to be eaten in a 'deconstructed' manner which is always easier for burger towers.

Barramundi fillet with king brown mushroom, smoked leek jus gras, parsnip
The barramundi fillet provided a lighter option for mains. With crisp, golden skin, the nicely cooked barramundi flaked easily and worked well with the parsnip puree and leek jus, and surprisingly, the king brown mushrooms.

Old Fashioned
On my visit the standalone bar at Bowery Lane wasn't yet in action, but it will surely be a popular one to prop up against for the building's suited tenants when the bar stools and seats are in.

With a good range of bourbon whiskies, to finish the night I opted for a good ol' Old Fashioned cocktail with Bulleit Rye whisky from Kentucky, which features on the cocktail menu in the Wall Street and New York Sour cocktails.

Bowery Lane
So realistically, Sydney mightn't be in the same ball park as New York but with Bowery Lane doing breakfast, lunch and dinner with some NYC inspiration and enthusiasm, we might just have a touch of Manhattan in our midst.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Bowery Lane as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia.

Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

A slice of Cipro – pizza al taglio

Having been asked quite a few times about my favourite dining experiences in Sydney recently, I was surprisingly short on answers. For anyone who asks now, it's without a doubt a recent early dinner at Cipro – pizza al taglio in Alexandria.

Cipro is the casual Italian brainchild of former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef Khan Danis and partner (and creator of Rockpool's famous date tart) Catherine Adams. It seemingly followed into south Sydney in the footsteps of fellow Rockpool alumni Mike McEnearney's Kitchen by Mike in nearby Rosebery.

Cipro's pizza concept strays from the Sydney norm of thin-based, round Neopolitan style pizzas to a Roman style on a thick base, still baked by wood fire but formed into large rectangular slabs to be served by the slice.

Pork sausage, spicy peppers and olive pizza from Cipro – pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
At $12 a rectangular slice, it's some pretty extravagant pizza to be had in a converted warehouse space. Pre-prepared and displayed mouthwateringly behind a glass cabinet, there are a number of colourful topping options that seem both modern and very Italian.

Dining in the airy restaurant space looking into the large open kitchen, we opted to share the fennel scented Italian pork sausage pizza slice with colourful, softly roasted capsicum and pitted Sicilian olives. The pizza slice gets reheated and dressed up with fresh parsley and olive oil, going some way to justify the price tag.

I hadn't had a thick-based pizza for years and the last one I did have was probably a franchise-delivered one. Cipro knocks thick-based pizzas out of this world. With a well-crisped bottom, the thick base is unexpectedly airy, softly chewy and not at all unbalanced in ratio to its toppings.

There's a seriously good, herby tomato sauce beneath the toppings and the thick slice is capable of holding more toppings than your Naples-style thin base – they certainly load them up at Cipro although a lot of it falls off when you pick up the slice. I resorted to cutlery to slice through the crisp-bottomed base, remembering that thick bases weren't so bad after all – in fact, the pizza was sublime.

Caprese salad
Not wanting to fill up on pizza only, we explored the rest of the quite substantial and relatively standardly-priced menu, with a full page of desserts that I regret not leaving room for. But at least I was able to discover what has to be Sydney's best take on the classic Italian insalata Caprese or Caprese salad.

Featuring a ball of fior di latte mozzarella, torn and scattered over beautifully ripe, tri-coloured heirloom tomatoes, topped with young basil leaves; I think it was the quality of tomatoes, the addition of pitted Sicilian olives and pickled onion rings, and the finally the balsamic vinegar dressing that made the salad simply spectacular.

Wood fire grilled lamb loin chops with caponata and crispy polenta
A lot of the main meals feature a stint on the wood-fired grill or oven, which I hadn't entirely expected but certainly wasn't complaining about. Lamb loin chops are rarely seen on dinner menus outside of the home so it was a delight to receive three of them off the wood fire grill, burnished with a charred aroma that had us salivating.

Much like very well-seasoned lamb chops off a barbeque, there was a pure homeliness about battling the tendons and fatty rind for the tender meat on the bone. The lamb loin chops were served dry with three perfectly golden, crisp cubes of deep fried polenta and a smattering of mushy diced vegetables in a sweet caponata.

Prawn linguine with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and parsley
The generous prawn linguine was hands-down the best seafood pasta dish I've had – ever. Without the support of a tomato base, a lot of prawn and shellfish pasta dishes are insipid at best with bits of garlic, parsley and white wine for flavour.

Cipro's prawn linguine was a superb dish in its own right and not just the pasta category. Brimming with chunky pieces of fresh prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas, it was properly seasoned with loads of parsley, garlic and a whole red chilli.

Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – firm, sea-fresh prawns or juicy tomato quarters – with the well-olive-oiled linguine. There was nothing that could be improved, save for an addition Cipro's sensational house-made chilli paste for those wanting a bit more of a spice kick.

Their opening hours – recently updated to midday till 9pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am till 9pm on Saturdays, and 10:30am till 6pm on Sundays – indicate that the owners have some more family-friendly hours than the industry generally, which rather suits the casual air of Cipro being more the neighbourhood restaurant. With its serious restaurant quality, Cipro has certainly captured my slice of the local dining pie, or should I say, pizza.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sustainable Table launches Give a Fork campaign

Posted by Hendy

As part of Good Food Month this October, we the masses are being asked to give 'a fork. Sustainable Table - a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne - uses food to explore sustainability issues, like seafood last year. This year, they're asking people to 'Give a Fork!' about waste, particularly food waste.

The 'Give a Fork!' campaign encourages us all to think about the environmental impacts of our groceries choices - how we shop with our eyes and not our tastebuds, or brains really - and how we can each wholly use the produce we use in our cooking (think off-cuts, carrot tops, onion peel etc).

Shopping with your tastebuds and picking visually imperfect produce provided by Harris Farm Markets featured at Sustainable Table dinner for Give a Fork launch, 14 October 2014, Studio Neon, Waterloo
And why we should give a fork? Australians, on average, discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, amounting to around one out of every five bags of groceries we buy ending up as landfill.

This is costing the average Australian around $1,000 annually, which translates to around $8 billion worth of edible food that is thrown out each year throughout the country.

When we throw away food, the food rots with other waste in landfill and produces methane - the potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than the typical carbon pollution we all experience on our roads.

Dining space at studio NEON, Raglan Street, Waterloo
To start the discussion on the major environmental issues of food and packaging waste, Sustainable Table hosted a simple, minimal waste dinner at the eccentric, eclectic warehouse dining venue, Studio Neon in Waterloo.

The goal of the night for chef Aaron Teece was to create a multi-course meal using produce supplied only earlier in the night and to create a meal with minimal to zero waste.

Cassie Duncan of Sustainable Table
To kick off the night co-founder and general manager of Sustainable Table, Cassie Duncan, was joined by the equally passionate Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

Cassie and her Sustainable Table team partner with restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney to help raise awareness of the food and packaging waste issue through the Give a Fork campaign.

Carrot with organic yoghurt and black olive crumb
The dinner showcased a number of dishes that make the best use of the produce available on the night. The pre dinner canapés were simple and made full use of a handful of ingredients, namely roasted heirloom carrots and a bread crumb of olives.

Baba ganoush, dukkah, crispy skin on crackers
The second set of canapés that followed made full use of eggplants. The soft. mushy flesh of the eggplants was used with onion and garlic to make the traditional eastern Mediterranean baba ganoush dip, served on a small cracker topped with nutty dukkah and a crumble of eggplant skin, crisply dried.

Smoked onion risotto with organic 62 degree hen egg
The main course for the night was risotto made with a stunning smoked onion base stock, which made use of whole onions including the onion skin. The risotto was complemented with a soft and delicate organic 62 degree egg.

The dish was then garnished with a host of different herbs donated by OzHarvest from their kitchen garden in Alexandria, as well as leftover onion skin not used in the stock which was dehydrated, powdered and graciously strewn over the risotto.

Launch of 'Give a Fork' Campaign Dinner
The former journalist, now blogger, media personality, wellness coach and Give a Fork ambassador Sarah Wilson spoke about the different ways each of us can help to reduce food waste.

She shared some tips on making full use of the produce we buy, including freezing onion skins with other vegetable off-cuts in a zip-lock bag and using the bits later on to enhance any base stocks with a simple, nutritional and flavoursome boost.

Tim Silverwood of Take 3, Campaign Ambassador
We also heard from Tim Silverwood, another Give a Fork! campaign ambassador and co-founder of the Take 3 not-for-profit organisation. He spoke about how we all can play a part in reducing beach waste by picking up three waste items each time we visit the beach and being mindful of our use of disposable plastics.

Tim also reflected that waste is often tied with what we consume and how we consume; reiterating a number of the earlier messages around how we can improve the way we consume the produce we buy.

Imperfect orange dessert
Capping off the night was the dessert which was aptly named, imperfect orange. Making use of what is termed as second grade oranges - oranges that might not look their best on the outside yet taste equally as amazing as those that do look perfect on the outside.

The dessert plate comprised orange zest sponge, orange rind purée and Janni goat's curd. The notion of making use of the whole fruit extended to the use of the orange pits which were water soaked, dried, powdered and made into a slightly bitter garnish, cleverly balancing the sweetness of the sponge and tanginess of the curd.

The meagre residual waste from the dinner service
The night ended with Cassie presenting to the dinner the residual waste from the dinner service. What was left was a few egg cartons and the used vegetables from the stock - both of which can be re-used again.

Reflecting on the night, the 'Give a Fork!' campaign made me ask what we can each really do to help tackle the food and packaging waste issue. Sustainable Table have shared a few ideas:
  1. Plan ahead and plan better, being mindful of what we are using and what we are throwing out;
  2. Start a compost bin to generate some fertiliser that can be re-used to grow your own produce;
  3. Get involved with the 'Give a Fork' campaign and get your friends, families or colleagues together to organise and host a 'Give a Fork!' themed, waste-free dinner (or lunch or brunch), and raise awareness and funds for Sustainable Table; or
  4. Give a fork at participating local Sydney restaurants through their #wastefree 'Give a Fork!' specials offered at those restaurants.
Given the seriousness of the issue at hand, we can all play a part and make the decision to 'Give a Fork!' See the Give a Fork website for more information and our Facebook page for more photos of the dinner.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the 'Give a Fork' campaign as a guest, with thanks to New Future PR.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cloudy with a chance of Original Meatball Company

Posted by Kath

For anyone feeling nostalgic about past New York forays, or if it's just cloudy out and you're hankering for some meatball action, roll on in to the Original Meatball Company on York Street in the Sydney CBD - for weekday lunches or dinners on Thursday and Friday nights.

Dining area of the Original Meatball Company, York Street, Sydney
The quick service New York style meatballery bustles with the CBD suit set during weekday lunch hours, with diners lining up to try the creative range of traditional and untraditional meatballs on offer, either atop soft sub buns or the healthier option of green vegetables.

Meatball subs on the pass
For those that aren't able to make it during lunchtime, the Original Meatball Company is open on Thursday and Friday nights until 9.30pm (and they were waiting on a liquor licence when we visited but now they're serving balls and booze!).

The Yankee - Beef balls with American mustard, ketchup, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, onion, shredded iceberg lettuce, served on soft brioche
Being a New York themed eatery we couldn't go past The Yankee on a soft and sweet brioche roll. It was jam-packed with tender beef meatballs, pickles, onion, shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese, all slathered in ketchup and tangy American mustard.

The Yankee sure brought back memories of New York street vendors in its appearance and flavour, though not so much the brioche.

Mama's Balls - Pork and veal balls with ragu sauce, melted provolone cheese, dressed rocket leaf, served on rustic white
Mama's Balls took us to a classic Italian flavour combination. Served on a soft white roll were tender pork and veal meatballs covered in comforting ragu sauce with melted Provolone cheese and rocket to freshen things up.

OMC Fries Poutine - fries with ragu, parmesan cream sauce, caramelised onions
Another famous dish that Original Meatball Company have reinterpreted on their menu is the OMC fries poutine.

I was looking forward to the promise of golden french fries covered in a meaty ragu sauce, sweet caramelised onions and parmesan cheese cream. While the portion size was most generous, I'm sad to report that the flavours didn't quite hit the spot.

Rosemary fries
Our last stop on this journey of flavours was a simple yet delicious side of rosemary fries, which were crispy and laced with just the right amount of rosemary and salt.

So it's not quite New York but on a cloudy day, I'm sure there's a chance of meatballs to cheer you up, especially on a post shopping or drinking Thursday or Friday night.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Original Meatball Company.

Original Meatball Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gyuzou yakiniku: A barbeque in any language

It seems a barbeque in any language is a good reason to get together with people and have a good time eating meat around a heat source. Opened just last week, Gyuzou is the newest yakiniku Japanese barbeque restaurant to hit town in that somewhat stranded area north of Chinatown but not quite CBD.

Taking over the two-storey shop that was once an ice creamery, accessed from Harbour Street rather than Sussex Street, Gyuzou offers Japanese style barbeque or yakiniku, which literally translates to "grilled meat".

Yakiniku Japanese barbeque and sauces at Gyuzou, Sussex Street, Haymarket
While it looks most similar to what we probably know in Sydney as Korean barbeque, yakiniku differs in that the raw meat for cooking on the barbeque is not marinated. Instead, simply seasoned, it's cooked and then eaten with dipping sauces, of which Gyuzou offers three as standard: chilli, salt and a sweet soy yakiniku sauce.

Gyuzou specialises in wagyu beef and even has an opening month special of half-price wagyu yakiniku dishes for the whole month of October 2014.

Upstairs dining area
The fitout is more refined Japanese than the usual cheap and cheerful Korean barbeque venues, with lots of dark wood offset by gorgeous Japanese fabrics.

Part of the Yes Food group of Japanese restaurants (which also owns Wagaya and many others), Gyuzo also uses the iPad ordering system made infamous at Wagaya many years ago. As such, it's pretty easy to go nuts on the menu, especially if you're ordering as a group as we were.

Cinderella cocktail
With a range of large range of 'cocktails' on the menu, we couldn't go past the sweet lychee liqueur based Cinderella with a literal base of blue curaçao and a prettily contrasting red grapefruit and mint garnishes.

Lime chuhai
The shochu-based highball with fresh lime was more my pick, with a refreshing sweetness that was ideal in front of the barbeque.

It's always a good idea to order some starters that are ready-to-eat in these self barbeque situations. At Gyuzou, the menu runs from sushi and sashimi to noodles and soups and a large range of side dishes/appetisers, in addition to the yakiniku items.

We started on okonomiyaki savoury pancake which tasted freshly made beneath its usual condiments of okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi bonito flakes but not overly exciting.

We also grabbed a side of takoyaki octopus balls which were pretty decent deep-fried versions, slathered in the same condiments.

The small bowl of the Korean yukke raw beef salad even looked like wagyu beef, with the thin strips of raw beef marbled with fat.

Served with julienned cucumber and a raw egg yolk all stirred through at the table, the yukke made for a nice precursor to lots more wagyu.

Menu excerpt showing cow/beef parts
(image courtesy of SD Marketing)
I always like seeing a meat map as it reminds me of muscle structures and why certain cuts are the way they are. Gyuzou's printed menu is most helpful on the cow front and also shows a marbling level for each cut on offer.

Wagyu chuck tail flap
I like a moderate level of fat marbling so the wagyu chuck tail flap was my pick. From the shoulder region (thanks, cow map), it was tender and juicy - even without one of the dipping sauces.

Wagyu oyster blade
The yakiniku sauce was the easy, cover-all sauce while the chilli was relatively mild and the salt sauce better with non-beef items, I thought.

Wagyu short rib
For the full-on, fatty wagyu experience though, it has to be the short rib which has some pretty impressive marbling. I managed to cook out a fair bit of the fat on the barbeque but it was still a buttery mouthful that almost just melted on the bite.

Vegetables for cheese fondue
For a vegetable fix, definitely go the option that comes with a 'cheese fondue' for dipping. Put the metal cheese tray on the grill and separately cook the vegetables, then dip into the almost liquid cheese. It's like the cheese of packaged mac'n'cheese and it's so very good, with almost anything off the barbeque.

Wagyu ox tongue
Wagyu ox tongue is becoming one of my favourite cuts of offal and when it's as tender (with a slight bounce) as the dish at Gyuzou, it's as glorious as some of the more expensive cuts.

Yakiniku barbeque
Most of the dishes arrived with a garnish of mushroom but we added a side order of the buttons, pearls and king browns too, given the ease of getting carried away with fatty, juicy meat.

Wagyu rib finger
Speaking of fatty meat, the wagyu rib finger topped the list. Coming from the part right on the rib, they were cubes of almost pure fat with some meat marbling, and certainly not for the dieters.

Pork cheek
Neither was the pork cheek which rendered down nicely on the barbeque, leaving just a touch of meat with the caramelised porky fat.

With scampi on the menu it was a no brainer but when it arrived (three serves pictured), it was more a question of: to cook or not to cook. The beautiful specimens looked sashimi-friendly but we compromised with a short stay on the barbeque for that rare-cooked sweet and creamy scampi flesh.

Raw scallops for the barbeque arrived rather theatrically huddled in a shell, like the greatest scallop ever found with six pieces of the sweet, sweet mollusc. I found these particularly nice lightly grilled and dipped into the salt sauce.

Pork sausage
I can't go past a good pork sausage and the chunky filled, smoked ones here were pretty decent and just needed a touch of mustard for that authentic izakaya feed.

Corn butter
While I've had mushrooms and garlic cloves cooked in butter over the grill, corn kernels were a new one. Forever forgetting that stuff cooked in, basically, boiling butter are equally boiling hot, these sweet little kernels were dangerously tasty.

Mountain chain
I've left the most interesting (read: strange) and unique dish till last. The dramatically named 'mountain chain' is a muscle attached to the cow's rumen and forms a type of tripe, quite literally a few steps before the honeycomb tripe that's much more common in various cuisines.

With a dark 'skin' like outer and various tube-like pieces, the mountain chain is not for the faint of heart, nor the hard of chewing, as we found out. Flavour-wise, there's not much going on; hence the marinade probably, but the texture is that of the chewiest muscle you can imagine, then with a chewy skin layer on top. One for the thrill-seekers, I think, and not one I'll be having again.

Seafood barbeque action
On the cooking front Gyuzo has invested into some pretty high-tech ventilation that's built right into the barbeque unit. No visible ventilation hoods hanging from the ceiling here, but just the small holes in the ring of the barbeque, sucking in smoke before it has time to infiltrate all your clothes and hair.

I was noticeably less smoky-smelling than when I normally leave Korean barbeques, but also quite possibly due to the fact that the meat wasn't marinated and thus did not burn its marinade on the grill as is common in Korean barbeque, emitting plumes of smoke usually.

Green tea parfait (front) and berry parfait (back)
After all the grilled protein, some might jump at the opportunity for sweets, which are fairly basic at Gyuzou. Most elaborate are probably the parfaits which feature ice cream, fresh cream, conflakes (which is such an adorably Japanese touch) and a topping like the green tea syrup or berry syrup, with fruit and wafer garnishes.

Full as a boot with Gyuzou's yakiniku offerings, particularly its so-tender wagyu cuts, dinner at Gyuzou certainly confirmed that a good time will be had at a barbeque - and that's a good time in any language.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Gyuzou as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

Gyuzo on Urbanspoon


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