Thursday, May 26, 2011
The Dip is named after the substance that kills cartoons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but its effect on humans is pretty awesome. Run by Levins, (DJ and Weber-blitzing ace) and Bianca Khalil (sandwichface.com), this canteen inside Goodgod inspires "I'm so glad this exists" gratitude.
The golden-brown, addictive fries are piled with fresh salsa (the jumble of tomato is such a great enabler of eating more chips), the Double Bean Nachos ($14) is a fine napkin-messing mass of smoky, earthy pinto and black beans, shot through with salsa, spicy chipotle and tangy lime cream. One bite into the Southern Smoke ($12) sandwich, which is loaded with 12-hour-smoked pulled pork and apple/cabbage slaw, Will made a face that can only be translated via exclamation marks. And choosing between the Ice Cold Guac ($10) and the Cookies & Cream ($10) is like the dessert equivalent of Betty vs Veronica or Brooke vs Taylor. The for and against arguments will continue for ages, although the fact that the salted caramel ice cream (nicely wedged between choc-molasses biscuits) will now be sprinkled with crunchy toffee shards probably means it will narrowly out-ace the avocado ice cream and strawberry-mint salsa with waffle chips.
This is the first time I've mentioned an eatery on the blog where I am friends with the people behind it (and declaration: I had two complimentary mini ice-cream sambos at the launch!), but I would still love The Dip even if we were strangers. I think the fact that this place happened to be packed on a bitterly cold Wednesday night – the first Wednesday since it opened – and the vibe rated pretty highly on the "how good is this place?" scale, I think that says a lot. Plus, it's so reasonably priced and it's fast food with heart and wit (inspired by everything from Vietnamese avocado smoothies to Ron Swanson). Unless you're a cartoon, try The Dip.
The Dip at Goodgod, 55 Liverpool Street, Sydney NSW thedip.com.au
Sorry for the accidental blog hibernation – I've been crazy-busy cranking out copies of my latest zine, which is about food.
If you're at all zine-curious, this issue features a ton of great people in it, including interviews with Lemonpi, Nick Palumbo of Gelato Messina, Angie Schiavone of Everyday Eats, Levins of The Dip and Alon Sharman of Restaurant Arras.
Peach writes a fun piece about what it was like to carry out a marriage proposal in a restaurant and Blake Thompson details his epic attempt to eat at Noma in Copenhagen. I also love Al Grigg's two cents on why he loves "crap food". Dave Regos picks out some memorable meals from on-the-road travelling in the USA (some memorable for extraordinarily wrong reasons). Mark Drew scavenged for something to eat during the quake crisis in Tokyo.
There's also ace artwork by Greedy Hen, Grace Lee (see below!) and Will Reichelt.
And there are a few bits I wrote for it (and cut/folded/stuck/stamped for it, too). If you're in any way keen on a copy, you can get it online for $10 (plus postage) here. Thanks to all the people who dropped by at the MCA Zine Fair to snap one up on the weekend, you're all exceptionally ace!
Normal transmission resumes soon …
Saturday, May 14, 2011
A 220km round trip is a long way to chase a meal, but Biota Dining in Bowral is not just a standard place to sit down for dinner. Giant rocks of pink Murray salt frame the open kitchen where renowned chefs James Viles and Shaun Quade transform empty plates into culinary wildcards. There's a glasshouse in the garden that lushly grows over 40 ingredients – some from Europe, some from a much more walkable distance. A sprawling tree plays the role of sculptural attention-seeker in the restaurant's centre.
And the food – from a "pre-teaser" that is shot out of a cream gun, Star-Trek-style, and served into a glass on your table (it's a futuristic swoop of rhubarb cooked for 25 hours and elderflower) to a green tea cake with Pacojet roast coconut milk, pineapple "surprise", pomegranate underneath and sprinkling of fennel pollen – it all fizzes, pops, snaps, tingles or just leaves a memorable medley of all-in-one sensations. Less tech-driven approaches also make an impact: mushrooms, slippery jack and pines, foraged by the chefs, are served with garlic crumbs and parsnip so fried and thin it's like a cracker – delicious. At play is a simple trick that requires no fancy gadgetry: the chefs simply add lemon because a squeeze of citrus makes the mushrooms taste more "mushroomy". It's a flavour-charging effect.
Like any menu chasing high-thrill pursuits, a few dishes are more ambitious than successful – but you're mainly glad that it's going full-throttle and ignoring the middle of the road. Biota Dining's still a worthwhile adventure.
Biota Dining, 18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral NSW (02) 4862 2005, www.biotadining.com
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Gastro Park in Potts Point converts each plate on your table into a playground – ingredients flirt with the colour wheel and inspire stomach-flips and early-childhood thrills. Surprise textures and flavours are part of the adventure.
This is the new restaurant for Grant King, who was head chef at the acclaimed Pier. From the Ralph Steadman-like logo for Gastro Park to the see-through cutlery holders made out of gel and odds-and-ends, everything is spiked with a sense of fun.
Dishes include Wagyu Grissini flavour-coated in savoury crumbs and shreds of cheese; a ready-for-blast-off Gazpacho served with an avocado "sandwich" (made with lacey-crisp wafers); a Zucchini Tofu accompanied by a "garden" (cucumber ribbons, dried zucchini slices and zucchini powder round out the "greenery"); and Potato "Churros" (golden, crisp-edged and impossibly fluffy and light – the greasy-fingered guilt of eating one is offset by the cheeky joy of it).
Will loved the Tagliatelle entree, its tangled strands full of resounding flavour thanks to the "textures of duck" and slippery jack mushrooms ($26). His main, Saddle of Lamb was supercharged with cauliflower slivers and wild mushrooms ($38).
My Morel and Truffle Cheese Macaroni ($35) was also brilliant – the intensely savoury "tubes" were ready to be coated in a rich egg yolk confit. A handful of salad leaves and tart Jerusalem artichoke fragments kept it from being overlavish.
The wonderland quality of Gastro Park is most obvious with the desserts. The Mandarin and Chocolate ($20) is a mini-sculptural installation, with fizzy powder, chocolate shells, parfait and mandarin sauce either hidden or displayed in eye-catching configurations.
The highlight, though, is the Nitro Pavlova ($18), which is a frosty remix of the Australian staple. Dig your spoon right in, and you may scoop out some bracing guava sorbet, coconut "bubbles", basil seeds or lush shavings of pineapple. It's a light-headed marvel and light years from the pav you'll find at a local bake sale.
Another aspect of Gastro Park we really enjoyed: the service. Especially Julien, our waiter, who previously worked with Grant King at Pier. Not only was he knowledgeable, good-humoured and accommodating, he also wrote down a music recommendation for us when we were trying to case-solve what song was being played as we ate (Shazam had let us down and so had our hopeless brains; we guessed the track to be by Kings of Convenience, Julien corrected us by pointing out it was The Whitest Boy Alive – of course, Erlend Oye's other band!). It's an excellent thing that he's the custodian of the restaurant's song choices.
Also, the ever-changing menu contributes to the unstaid, playful atmosphere. The head chef decides on what to serve depending on the day's available produce and seasonality. While key dishes will stay, the not-set-in-stone openness adds a jolt of adventure and invention. The vegetarian menu I chose from was still being finalised at quarter to six before the evening's service.
Gastro Park is newly opened – it's only been around for over two weeks. It's a great counter-argument to people who assume that crowded restaurants are the best and empty ones are to be avoided. There weren't many other diners when we were there, mainly because the place's profile is still low. It's not going to stay that way for long, given the reputation of its kitchen and the quality and originality on show (also, it's going to land a major newspaper review rather soon).
This restaurant reminds you that it can be worth taking on that childhood habit of spending hours in a Park.
Gastro Park, 5-9 Roslyn St, Potts Point NSW (02) 8068 1017 www.gastropark.com.au.