Tuesday, February 22, 2011
In case you ever get Dumpling Burnout in Ashfield, it's good to know that there's an alternative to jiaozi and wontons on Liverpool Road. A new Japanese place has opened and I sure hope it has a longer survival rate than the previous sushi and udon eatery that sprung up (and just as quickly vanished).
Called L & J Japanese restaurant, it doesn't depart wildly from the suburban Japanese template, but I did enjoy the ice-chilled soba, ready for dipping into a shallot and wasabi-spiked broth. It's incredibly simple, with zero trickery, but that's what I like about it. Something that stripped-back still contains a little punch.
And if you're really struck by painful Dumpling Withdrawal, I suppose you could always ask for some gyoza.
L & J Japanese Restaurant, 222 Liverpool Road, Ashfield NSW (02) 9716 0021
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Greenhouse by Joost has turned up in Sydney with some heavyweight publicity.
No surprise – its attention-seeking cleverness justifies all the high-exposure coverage. This shipping-container-turned-pop-up-eco-cafe has inventively reworked everything from jam jars (as lighting and drinking glasses), and conveyor belts (as flooring) and its inspired sustainability has you continually playing a game of "guess-what-this-was-before"? (Before: table; after: toilet door.) It's "clad" in a vertical garden of potted strawberries and there's a big focus on composting waste, minimising water use and relying on recyclable materials (the staff uniforms are even sourced from op shops).
For a project that makes a high-profile deal about sustainability, it would be awesome if there was more than just one take-it-or-leave-it dinner option for vegetarians. And yes, that dish is only – heart sink – a salad. Luckily though, it is a pretty damn fine salad – carrots and beetroot, roasted-through and flavour-glazed, with some pistachio crunch and generous smears of goat's cheese for extra savoury flourish. (If only it could be upsized into a bigger portion!)
The dessert is a Watermelon Jelly with a bracing rose-berry yogurt (so bracing that you may be grateful for the naturally occurring sugars in the fruit).
Joost Bakker's pop-up cafe (headed by Perth's Greenhouse's acclaimed head chef Matt Stone, who can be seen working both the kitchen and floor in Sydney) is only around until the end of March. Make sure to check it out (especially as the rooftop bar will soon open) before it leaves for Milan.
Greenhouse By Joost, Campbells Cove, greenhousebyjoost.com
Monday, February 14, 2011
It's hard not to be knocked out at Restaurant Arras. Every dish seems to blaze with high-resolution colour and the flavours are just as carefully, exquisitely rendered: elegant, playful and thrill-seeking.
I've already written about this great restaurant but it's difficult not to re-praise the people who cast this dinner-long spell on us: the incredibly inspired chefs and co-owners, Adam Humphrey and Lovaine Allen, and the highly likeable floor staff led by Alon Sharman (who deservedly won the Good Food Guide's Silver Service Award last year). The food is so eye-dazzling that one of the waiters even uses pictures of the dishes as his desktop wallpaper.
I'm not going into the mega-detail that I did in my previous review; instead, this is a grab-bag of highlights from our recent visit.
Like the buzz you get from clicking instantly with a book's first chapter, I love how the awesomeness of a restaurant's bread selection is a dead cert that the meal ahead will be pretty great. It's the best kind of spoiler alert. On offer at Arras was a fine array, including sushi bread (thus named because it's studded with sesame seeds and hides pickled ginger inside!) and the caramelised onion bread (I committed bread-plate theft for it, it was worth the charge of felony).
The amuse-bouche (top) was a smart and stunning take on witlof salad – a-swirl with flowers, Spanish blue cheese, seasoned pear and a painterly smear of avocado puree.
My entree, the Fruit and Veg was the sequel to the The Raw and The Cooked dish I had last time – a 14-part mystery that doubled as a gorgeous salad. Follow-ups usually struggle to live up to the original's glory, but the colour-blitzing Fruit and Veg, with its sculptural curls and spheres of tomato, cucumber, radishes and stone fruits, really wiped out its predecessor.
It was also a dish with viral pull – as soon as the neighbouring diners saw it arrive on our table, they ordered it, too. It's that visually entrancing. (Also, it reconfirms that Arras has dependably great and imaginative vegetarian options; there's no afterthought mushroom risotto on this menu.)
Although I'd wanted to return to Arras for a while, what fast-tracked our revisit was seeing this tweet by Gourmet Traveller's Pat Nourse:
Popcorn "cinematic" soufflé just one of the detour-worthy hits at Restaurant Arras. Definitely worth a fresh look if it's been a while.
It's true, the Popcorn Souffle is highly worth singling out: studded with puffed kernels, it also comes with a mini bag of popcorn and a scoop of popcorn sorbet. You tip a jug of caramel sauce into the souffle and the rich trickle is what makes the souffle disappear in about five record-breaking spoonfuls. All that's missing is a mini film projector. (And, sadly, this popcorn dish is not yet available in jumbo at your nearest cinema.)
Of course, the legendary petits fours plate is unmissable at Arras. It was impossible to pass up the passionfruit ganache, grapefruit jelly and (I couldn't stop laughing at this name) the sour "dib dabs". Such a feelgood ending to a night that was genuinely fun and thrilling; it was sad to walk out the door and, reluctantly, break the spell.
Restaurant Arras, 24 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW (02) 9252 6285, www.restaurant-arras.com.au