Saturday, June 30, 2012


After failing to find a parking spot around Potts Point last weekend, our original dinner destination, we decided to head towards Bondi, and as luck would have it, we drove by CHISWICK, which instantly became our dinner venue for the night. 

Communal table and open kitchen
Co-owners Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan have certainly put some thoughts into Sydney's hottest new restaurant. While reservations are taken for the main dining room, a large bar area caters for walk-ins, where causal communal dining is the way to go. There are also outdoor seatings, which would be perfect when the weather warms up.

Once the garden of Chiswick, a mid-nineteenth century private house, the grounds are lush and beautiful. It was too dark and cold for me to try to get a glimpse of the 150sqm kitchen garden that's unique to CHISWICK, but it's good to know that what we get on our plates are fresh and home-grown produce.

Greeted with a warm smile, we were quickly seated in the bar area. Just looking at the dishes coming out from the open kitchen had us salivating in no time.

CHISWICK Bloody Mary
The drink list caters for just about anything you'd want, be it cocktails, beer, cider, wine, spirits or even home-made sodas. I could not resist the CHISWICK Bloody Mary (Belvedere Bloody Mary vodka, tomato, chilli, celery salt & cucumber) and my friend went for The Bold & The Beautiful (Marker's Mark bourbon, chestnut liqueur, earl grey tea & fresh lemon). When our drinks arrived I had to do a double take on mine, yep, the glass was rimmed with chilli flakes! Very cool in my books.

The food menu is divided into sections, so you can order your food depending on how hungry you are. We skipped "Nibbles" and went straight to "Small Plates" and zoomed in on the Chicken liver parfait, date puree, grilled bread and Salad of beetroot, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, feta. It was harder to decide when it came to the "Mains", while the Roasted snapper fillet, celeriac, walnuts, bois boudran sauce caught my eyes, the Wood roasted Moran family lamb, chick peas, mint from the "To Share" section won us over.

When taking our orders, our waiter kindly warned us that the lamb dish is rather big, so we decided to pass on the chicken liver parfait for the time being. In hindsight, we probably should have left out the Hand cut chips, thyme, black garlic aioli too. You should have seen our faces when the lamb was brought to our table. My concept of a "to share" dish is for two, but looking at the whole lamb shoulder that was sitting in front of me, I was sure it could feed a family of four!

Wood roasted Moran family lamb
Roasted on the bone in a wood-fired oven for 8hrs, the lamb shoulder is served with a knife and fork stubbed into it. Very dramatic presentation. The meat was juicy and tender, simply fell off the bone with the slightest touch from your fork.

The Salad of beetroot, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, feta was delicious but not what we expected, both of us thought it'd come with some green leaves, perhaps the Steamed broccoli with garlic and chilli would have been a better choice.

Even though we barely finished the lamb, good effort we were told, I just couldn't resist ordering the Rhubarb éclair, with poached rhubarb, custard apple. And am I glad I ordered it. Soft and creamy, sweet and tangy, oh it was heavenly! 

I really enjoyed the casual communal dining environment, but next time I think I'll give the main dining room a go, just to experience the difference. Plus I already picked out the dishes I want to try: Char grilled scallops, artichokes, burnt butter, tarragon and Beef, pearl onions and ale pie; I may be swayed to try the Poached quince crumble with ginger ice cream, but it may have to be on top of a serving of the Rhubarb éclair!

CHISWICK: 65 Ocean Street, Woollahra, NSW 2025  Chiswick on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jamie's Italian, Sydney

There has been a lot of buzz around Jamie's Italian ever since it opened last year, While most comments I've heard are positive, there were a few that weren't so kind. Keeping an open mind, I arrived at the restaurant with a group of friends. The couple in front of us was told there is an one hour and 20mins wait for a table, thank heavens we had a group big enough to make a reservation.

We were seated upstairs with a view of the open kitchen below. The whole place has an industrial feel to it, dark, lots of metal, graffiti walls, red banquets, wooden tables and metal chairs.

To kick off our meal, we ordered a meat plank and soon enough the waiter came around our table with two giant cans of Italian tomatoes. A few brows were raised, eyes met and the question "what are we suppose to do with these?" hung in the air.

Antipasti Meat Plank
The mystery was solved when our waiter brought the plank to our table and balanced the long wooden board on the cans, and all of a sudden we had an antipasti feast in front of us: cured meats (San Daniele prosciutto, Wagyu bresaola, finocchio & capocollo), cheeses (Buffalo mozzarella & pecorino with chilli jam), pickles (curly green chillies, green & Gaeta olives & caper berries) and a lovely crunchy salad (shaved root veg with chilli, lemon & mint).

What I love about Italian food is the way you eat it. It's all about sharing, and a big group means you get to try a bit of everything. The stand out dish of the night was one of the antipasti plates, Crispy Stuffed Risotto Balls (smoked mozzarella & porcini arancini), luckily we didn't have to fight over the last one as we had just enough to go around the table.

Opinions on the mains were divided, the general consensus was that the pastas were well made, be it the Wild Rabbit Tagliolini (Slow-cooked McLeay Valley rabbit ragù with garlic & herbs, mascarpone & Amalfi lemon), or the Tagliatelle Bolognese (old-school classic ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & Parmesan with crunchy herby breadcrumbs). However, when it came to the Angus Sirloin Steak (Aussie pasture-fed Sirloin with grilled mushrooms & dressed peppery watercress), I was told it was rather ordinary and since the guy who ordered it does eat steaks often, I don't imagine he'd be far off with his taste buds. I could even hear the disappointment in his voice.

Dessert was well received by the whole group, the Ultimate Brownie (Chocolate, raspberry & amaretto brownie with vanilla ice cream) and Tiramisu (Coffee-flavoured trifle with orange mascarpone & chocolate) definitely worth a mention. They are must tries for chocolate and coffee lovers!

I do love watching Jamie Oliver's 30-minute meals on TV, but honestly, it'll probably require quite a bit of practice before I could do one of those meals so quickly and having them turn out looking just as good. The best solution? Dine at one of his restaurant.

Jamie's Italian: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Chefs Club

Westfield Sydney recently launched The Chefs Club, where each of the participating restaurants would offer a $30 menu on Tuesday nights, giving us a chance to try restaurants headed by the top chefs on a budget. Along with live entertainment and $10 valet parking, I think we can forget about cooking at home on Tuesdays for a while. 

Participating restaurants:
  • Cara&Co Restaurant
  • Chat Thai 
  • Chinta Ria...Mood for Love 
  • Quarter Twenty One
  • Spiedo Restaurant & Bar 
  • Xanthi Restaurant & Bar

New addition from July: 360 Bar and Dinning

The Chefs Club: Level 4 - 6, Westfield Sydney. Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St, Sydney, NSW 2000