Sunday, July 26, 2009
Sure, it's hibernation weather right now, but it's worth bracing snap-freeze temperatures to secure a take-home hot chocolate pack from Boon, Darlinghurst.
For $8.50, you get a little bag with two 'hot chocolate popsicles'. Melt the choc in half a cup of milk and add the remaining half-cup when the choc starts slinking off the paddle pop stick and swirling through everything.
I like to add cardamom to the mix, just to give the drink some minty bite.
Although it's not as lovely and decadent as lounging in the Boon upstairs salon and having the hot chocolate served on a platter (with a mini-mousse and praline for $7.50), it's definitely a winter-redeeming nightcap.
Boon Chocolates, 251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 9356 8876, www.boonchocolates.com.au
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It's easy to miss the kilometre of string above your head as you enter Yulli's in Surry Hills. Cleverly lit and lined in graphic red rows, the thread looks nothing like a daggy sewing basket staple.
This visual trick is by architect Joe Snell, who was asked to create a striking interior effect on a micro-budget. The string – long enough to run from this wine bar/eatery to Taylor Square – only cost $177 and is a clever, cheap way to lower the roofline of an otherwise tall, cold-looking building; it also adds warmth to the cheap fluorescents used as lighting. Yulli's smart fit-out also features inventive use of fairy lights, astroturf and milk crates - proving that you don't have to splash out on yuppie Italian marble and stainless steel to make a wine bar look cool.
If you don't notice the string, you also might miss the fact the menu is covert vegetarian (or vegetarian undercover, as I like to call it). In fact, it was a steak-loving friend who first recommended Yulli's to me, noting that the menu was so tasty that she didn't even realise there was no meat on it until she stepped out the door.
This is probably my favourite kind of vego menu - the type that would win over skeptics while also bypassing the brainwash that meat-free diets only encompass saintly wholegrains, lentil slop or sprouts. I know some people like eating timid food that tastes like it's from a Buddhist retreat but I think most vegetarians would prefer meals that have zip, verve, zest and full-volumed flavour.
So Yulli's is the holy grail for herbivores – it's a place where the options extend beyond deathly garden salad and mushroom risotto (often the only things you can ever order in some joints!). In fact, it is a little dizzying to be able to pick from so much when you're used to having nano-choice when eating out. It's also an eatery you can safely take your meat-loving friends without apologising profusely for the menu – because it actually has a wealth of inviting, inventive dishes to choose from.
There's food for sharing, although you might need to channel your inner-math-teacher to decide who gets the last piece of Panfried Haloumi ($10.50), Steamed Leek & Ginger Dumplings with Fresh Plum Sauce ($10.50) or the ever-crusty Salt and Pepper Tofu ($15.50), which comes with a sharp papaya salad. Next time, I'd love to try the Mixed Chip Plate ($12.50), which is a cluster of sweet potato, lotus root, Spanish onion, taro and beetroot crisps, or the Baby Burrito Plate ($15.50), because who doesn't like the sound of tiny tortillas?
There are also some clever mains on the board, such as the Eggplant Involtini with Lemongrass and Tomato Sauce on Roti ($17.50), which tries to be a culinary smartypants by merging an Italian dish with an Indian flatbread and a key ingredient from Asian cooking – and yet it totally works. The heavy tomato sauce is lightened by dashes of sweet, tropical lemongrass, while the crisp roti makes the dish even more winter-compatible.
Similarly, there's Pad Thai Linguine ($16.50) and a Massaman Curry Pie with Mashed Potato ($15.50), presented with such a generous scoop of buttery soft starch that the dish looks like an endearing snowman.
Yulli's has often been described as a wine bar that serves boutique beers, which might mislead people into thinking there isn't much to eat, but there's an extensive selection of courses to pick from – and sugar hits are on the menu, too.
Listed as "Sweet Yum Yums" are excellent desserts such as the Ladyfinger Banana Fritter with Raspberry Mascarpone and Honey (on special) and Mango Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Ice Cream.
It's bracing to see a vego menu that is adventurous and inviting to all appetites (regardless of diet), in a warm space that you would want to huddle around with your friends. Yulli's is an affordable refuge on a street known for its overpriced/overhyped restaurants, and is casually stylish in a friendly way (you don't have to have a designer closet to eat here).
How nice is this place? How long is a piece of string?
Yulli's, 417 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW (02) 9319 6609
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I know Adriano Zumbo in Balmain is so heavily blogged about but I couldn't pass up the chance to use these eye-stunning pictures.
A few weeks ago, Will rang me to ask which food items he should shoot for his last photo lighting class. Without a beat, I knew where he had to go. Adriano Zumbo can always be relied upon for its million-dollar-looking, haute-couture-like patisserie creations.
These pictures are from Will's final lighting class. (PS. Stylist's tip: a cheap sheet of cardboard always makes for a handy backdrop.)
This looks like a space-age helmet and has the potty-mouthed name of Uranuse ($7.75). The crouton-like studs are made of pain d'epices. Locked inside is mandarin mousse, sour cream jelly and other ingredients that sound a lot sweeter than its
You wouldn't wan't to crush the Escape From a Columbian Rainforest ($8.75) treat with your foot and then throw it into your recycling bin ... Its cola-like resemblance suitably contains a cherry and cola jelly & liquid centre, but the rest is mainly uncarbonated chocolate.
Will's favourite was Ed Rock the Cradle ($7.90), which is meant to look like an upside down baby-rocker. On top is a caramel and a baby bottle sweet but I think these infant allusions went past Will's non-clucky head. He was too busy concentrating on the milk coffee cheesecake and chocolate and coffee mousse, which seemed perfectly engineered for his caffeine junkie self.
PS. We squished in another visit to Adriano Zumbo this weekend and suffered mild shock from seeing the long, snaking queue. They'd run out of the infamously good salted-popcorn macarons, but Will was happy with the rice pudding ones as consolation. (Also, the few macaron crumbs left for sale seemed to prove Tabitha's long-held prediction that macarons would be the new cupcakes. Especially as Black Star Pastry today also had been wiped out of the ganache-filled treats too.)
Adriano Zumbo, 296 Darling St, Balmain, Sydney, NSW (02) 9810 7318, www.adrianozumbo.com
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Over the years, I've kept circling back to Satellite in Newtown.
It was Tabitha who introduced me to this cafe, many menus ago. During my uni days, many sleepy weekends were jumpstarted by the mega pile-up that was Satellite's vego breakfast option. (The mountain of toast and sides was impossible to scale, let alone finish – although a patch of cleared-plate would always appear where the mashed potato was placed; it seemed criminal not to eat all of that airy-soft potato, no matter how full I was.)
Despite the occasional visit though, I've been a bit of a Satellite no-show in the last while – new cafe discoveries had diverted my attention (and appetite) elsewhere.
So in one of those funny life-going-full-circle coincidences, it was Tabitha who convinced me to add Satellite back to my breakfast patrol.
Everytime we were at Vargabar, we would see Tabitha and Nathan pass by, on their way to Satellite. She even left a message on this blog which said:
LTL, you have to veer away from Vargabar one morning to try Satellite, which has changed hands and is better than ever! It has this potato, olive and red onion breakfast, and an incredible omelette with caramelised onion, and delicious baked beans, and soda pops with fresh fruit, and is as cheap as always!
I'm glad she singled out Satellite for re-trying because everything she said is true. The menu includes Lemon and Ginger and Lychee, Raspberry and Boysenberry fruit sodas ($5 each) and Orange Pash Ginger and Apple Lemon Mint fruit whips (also $5 each). Sipping on them make you feel like high school students from a Betty & Veronica comic.
The Pan-fried Potatoes, Olives, Peas, Roast Red Onion, Parsley and Toast ($13.50) are awesome and a welcome breakfast alternative to the overfamiliar eggs-and-toast line-up. Other fresh twists on the usual suspects include Omelette with Semi-Dried Tomato, Marjoram, Confit Garlic, Haloumi, Shallots and Toast ($13.50), Marinated Mushrooms, Braised Leek, with Toast, Spinach and Sage ($14) and Avocado, Tomato and Coriander Salsa, Lemon on Toast ($12.50).
But if you love the comfort of ordering eggs and toast, and getting to bury the plate in sides, then Satellite still caters to that too. Will has had repeat servings of Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Ham, Tomato Relish and Toast ($13), which he likes (despite finding the relish a bit intense and being overwhelmed by the garden-bed of rocket that accompanies the plate) while I've enjoyed bulking out the Avocado, Tomato and Coriander Salsa, Lemon on Toast with the red-wine-stewed House Beans ($3) and the excellent offering of Mushrooms ($4). The latter isn't the typical butter-fried stack of buttons, but a well-braised mix that includes yummy enoki (which rarely makes cameos on breakfast menus – so good on Satellite for jazzing up a conventional side option with this inventive ingredient).
And even though we've ramped up our Satellite visits, there are still quite a few choices I want to try, such as the Spinach, Fetta, Tomato Omelette with Basil Mayonnaise Roll ($7.50). Bonus points to the cafe also for a menu that has good vego options aplenty.
Although sometimes there is a wait for food, the staff are always really onto it and apologetic and reassuring – so you don't feel like you've been forgotten (or victim of some order-shunned conspiracy).
Oh and the space has had a bit of an edgy makeover too – with a street art feel on some of the walls.
And while it's natural to disown some of the things you discovered earlier in your life – because it's now dated or embarrassing or an awkward fit (like outgrown clothing) – it's nice to know that some places actually increase in awesomeness and justify becoming a long-running fixture in your life.
Satellite remixes an old cliche by proving that you can like the new stuff better than the old stuff.
Satellite, Shop 8, 80 Wilson St, Newtown NSW (02) 9557 8698
I was lucky to recently receive a Japanese care package from Amy who runs the wonderful Pretty Pretty Yum Yum – a sugar-dazed blog full of the colour and hyper-charm of Osaka's food and fashion scene.
She also sweetly asked me to review some Kitkats that she kindly sent through, so if you're choc-curious, you can see what I've said about the Japanese-only Muscat of Alexandria and Uji Matcha varieties of the snack by clicking here.
And if you haven't already, you should spend some time lingering around Amy's great blog. It's delightful and full of surprises, like falling down the rabbit hole to an artificially flavoured wonderland.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I remember once being served Okonomiyaki by a waitress named 'Sushi Susan' – the Japanese pancake came accompanied by a small 'pirate ship' full of food. Around the table, we sliced up and shared the portions as a giant papier-mache squid hung above, like a marine chandelier.
Even if this hadn't taken place in an eccentric Japanese restaurant in Canada, I think I'd still remember it, because I can single out every instance I've had okonomiyaki. It seems to be a menu-shy dish, it's never listed as much as I'd like.
Luckily, it turns out you can get okonomiyaki for lunch at Cafe Ish (another long-time Sydney favourite that I blogged about last year; its highly original Japanese-meets-Australian cafe food is worth the return visits).
Cafe Ish's version is a crusty, thick stack of cabbage-and-shallot-embedded goodness, topped with shredded nori, wasabi dijonnaise and plum sauce – a winter-perfect mix that makes me instantly declare, "more please". You can get it like this for $11, or pile on extras (bacon & tasty cheese; salmon & organic feta).
There's no pirate ship in sight but I think even Sushi Susan could consider crossing the sea (with her papier mache squid) for this one. Another nice okonomiyaki memory to bank away – and not the last one, hopefully.
Cafe Ish, Shop 2, 102 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW (02) 9281 1688