Categories
Italian

Kneading Ruby – Wollongong NSW Resturant Review

It’s hard for you to know this as all of my reviews are pre-written and scheduled, but this is actually the first review I’ve written in over two months. With the COVID-19 Delta outbreak in NSW and the subsequent lockdown there just hasn’t been much occasion or opportunity to go out and eat nice things. A recent government-sanctioned visit to my partner’s workplace accommodation in Wollongong provided a great opportunity to broaden my taste experiences outside of my 5km Western Sydney radius. Kneading Ruby answered the call of duty, not once, but twice.

My first bite of Kneading Ruby’s Pepperoni pizza ($24) with San Marzano tomato, fior di latte, pepperoni, and gremolata set the bar with quite extraordinary expectations for the rest of the meal. Their pizza bases are thin, but still retaining a good degree of crispiness and structural integrity. Their tomato sauce is fragrant and generous but not soggy, and the gremolata – a sauce of parsley, lemon, and garlic – was an excellent out of the ordinary addition to an already good pepperoni pizza. I enjoyed the slight woodfired char on the chewy, glutinous crust, and can find no faults with this pizza.

The Pork and Fennel pizza ($25) with pork and fennel sausage, cavalo nero, mozarella, and confit chilli was another delight. Each slice of pizza was apportioned with a generous amount of tasty sausage, leaving no mouthful sad and unmeated. The cavalo nero, a kale-like brassica, was a reasonable consolation prize for my partner who wanted to order some vegetables instead. The chilli sauce was good.

This DIY Garlic Bread ($10.50), presented as a cut up cobb loaf with a pot of garlic butter, was only OK. It could’ve used more garlic in the garlic butter, and more butter overall.

SECOND ORDER

Unlike my girlfriend, I’m not usually a fan of potato on pizza. The first time I had potato on pizza was at Lilly’s Cafe in Rhodes, an experience which put a sense of starchy fear in my mind that has lingered to this day. Kneading Ruby’s Pancetta pizza ($25) with pancetta, smoked buffalo mozarella, scamorza, potato, rosemary, and pepper made short work of these negative connotations. The pancetta was again quite plentiful, and the flavours of the meat, cheese, and rosemary synergised well with that of the potato. Though the potato didn’t have a lot of flavour on its own, it was most importantly cut thinly and did not have too starchy a feel. It was more crispy (though not crunchy) than starchy, giving it the feeling of a topping rather than yet another layer of base. Really well done.

I was a bit hesitant to order two white pizzas on our second time having Kneading Ruby, fearing that the Truffle Salami pizza ($24) might be too similar to the Pancetta pizza. My fears were allayed however, by the sheer difference in flavour between the two pizzas. The truffle salami pizza had a mild but solid blue gorgonzola flavour, which I think was far more dominant than any truffle flavour that may or may not have been in it. The crust of this pizza was a little more burnt that I would’ve liked, though you can see from my sample size of 4 that this is more an anomality rather than the norm.

THIRD ORDER

Keeping up a recent tradition for the third fortnight in a row, we again ordered two pizzas that we had yet to try from Kneading Ruby. Unfortuately as it were we had already tried the most promising looking menu items, and were therefore left with the Marinara pizza ($22) and the Gamberi pizza. Neither of these pizzas really lived up to the lofty expectations set by our previous orders. The Marinara pizza is a vegetarian pizza topped with san marzano tomatoes, other roast tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. The three different types of tomatoes on this pizza, while adding varied tastes and textures, did not do wonders for the structural integrity of the pie, which was somewhat soggy and floppy. Each slice of pizza was adorned by a full clove of garlic, which had been roasted to a pretty nice mild mashiness. This is not the pizza I would’ve chosen to begin with, but a reasonable option for someone with tick-bite induced meat allergy.

The Gamberi ($26) was really not that great either. I had expected a red pizza with some kind of sugo and a scattering of prawns. This is what was pictured on Deliveroo. What I got instead, pictured on the left, was a white pizza with a surprising dominane of zucchini, a small amount of scamorza and the occasional sundried tomato and green chilli. The flavours were mild, with the strongest component the slightly salted cheese flavour. I wished there could’ve been more prawn, but really I wish I could’ve just had what was pictured.

For reference, the right photo was the provided photo for the Gamberi in the Deliveroo menu. Much more appealing, but not at all what I got. (To be fair, incongruous with the written description).

The Cavatelli pasta with broccoli, lemon, pangritata and parmesan ($25) was alright. I liked the crispiness added by the pangritata, and thought that the sauce to pasta ratio was actually quite good for a delivered bowl. I’m just more of a meat guy myself.

VERDICT
I’m so pleased to have found such a nice gourmet pizza restaurant in Wollongong. The quality of their pizza challenges even some of my favourites in the big smoke. Definitely worth a visit.

4.5🍕/5🍕

Kneading Ruby
5 Crown Ln, Wollongong NSW 2500
(02) 4229 7829

Categories
Italian

Mapo – Newtown NSW Gelato Review

Mapo is currently my favourite gelato in Sydney.

My first experience with Mapo’s gelato was during my first visit to Kurumac in early 2020, a Japanese cafe which offers a hojicha milkshake as well as a seasonal milkshake made from Mapo’s gelato. I’ve subsequently taken every available opportunity to get gelato from Mapo and have thoroughly enjoyed their selection.

My picks of the litter would be

  • Hojicha (roasted tea)
  • Fior di latte – a really creamy, milky flavour
  • Black sesame – basically any time I have black sesame it’s a blast to the past, evoking memories of that sweet black sesame slurry as well as black sesame filled tang yuang

Other flavours I’ve had are

  • Pistachio – Vegan, honestly pretty good for vegan ice cream, quite creamy
  • Kiwifruit (as milkshake at Kurumac) – Not bad

VERDICT

I would really recommend giving Mapo a try. They have somehow really mastered the art of turning Asian inspired flavours into ice cream, whilst maintaining a strong menu of more traditional flavours.

Mapo Newtown
123 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8937 4919

Categories
Italian

Westwood Pizza – Newtown NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve had Westwood Pizza in my Google Maps bookmarks ever since it opened, but with the fear of parking in Newtown in the evening and the stories of people lining up for two hours for a pizza I delayed and delayed and delayed my visit until I could no longer bear it.

Westwood is tiny, with one pizza oven and a dining room that seats barely ten at a time. It’s no surprise, then, that they’re set up more for take-away than for dining in, with even dine in pizza served in their cardboard boxes. My partner and I were lucky enough to snag a couple of seats without a wait at the start of the night, but the vast majority of patrons were pickups with orders made ahead of time via phone. Westwood needs no help from high-cut delivery services to sell their nightly run of highly sought-after gourmet pizzas.

The Garlic and Honey Pizza ($20) was very special. Fusing together the sweetness of honey with the garlicknyness of garlic (is there a better description), the spice of pepper, and the slight saltiness of the fior di latte and pecorino cheese, this pizza brings to the tongue truly novel flaviours. An original and inventive pizza, each bite of each slice of Westwood’s signature pizza excites and amuses. This pizza changed my view on what pizzas can be. The only excuses you could possibly have to miss this pizza is if you’re allergic to honey or you’re a cat who can’t have garlic.

The ‘Nduja, ricotta, and thyme pizza ($24) was our second and second favourite pizza of the night. It was a bit on the extra-flavoured side, with surprisingly spicy ‘nduja, especially given the not-so-spicy XO sauce that Westwood also sells (see below). The vanilla buffalo ricotta acted as a good milder foil for the stronger flavours of the pizza, providing a sense of balance with some bites that were not present in others. Though better than almost every other pizza out there, my partner remarked that if we had only had this pizza she would’ve had a much less rosy view of the restaurant in general.

Shifting slightly to the construction of these pizzas, I’m told that each pizza base is formed from a single-heritage wheat flour from Gunnedah, NSW. To be honest neither the geographic origin nor the pedigree of the plants that gave their lives for this pizza mean anything to me. What does matter to me and impress me are Westwood’s incredibly thin and crispy bases, that both have great mouthfeel and structural integrity. Even the crusts are delicious, especially when dipped in their Chilli XO ($4), a mild and not very spicy oil-based sauce.

OTHER COMMENTS
I’m sad that in my procrastination I missed out on Westwood’s smoked eel pizza, as that was one that I had been really looking forward to. Despite this, the offerings that we sampled were strong, and I’m happy to list Westwood as one of my top pizzerias in Sydney.

Westwood Pizza
245 Australia St, Newtown NSW 2042
0466 181 266

Categories
Fine Dining Italian Middle Eastern

Bart Jr. – Redfern NSW Restaurant Review

Our recently dog-positive Redfern based friend took us to one of Redfern’s many dog-positive night time venues. We had the $65 per person feed me tasting menu, with the addition of a round of raw beef toast for the table.

I’m not very well versed in olive culture, but these green Sicilian olives were pleasantly crisp and only lightly salted. Not bad, but not something I’d willingly order from the a la carte menu for $5.

The ricotta, potato & leek fritter with smoked tomato sago and aioli was the first non-olive dish of the night, and also the start of what was essentially an abuse of shaved pecorino. Whilst I’m usually quite anti-fritter, these frittery balls were coated in a nice tomato sauce, with good internal texture and flavour. Not bad.

This visually interesting dish is Bart Jr’s kingfish & scallop crudo with yuzu kosho, buttermilk, cucumber, poppy seeds, and dill. I’m pretty sure there’s some salmon and pomegranate snuck in as well. This was a fresh tasting sashimi based dish, and whilst many of the ingredients – for example buttermilk and poppy seed didn’t make a huge difference in flavour, the dill really shone through. Dill generally pairs quite well with seafood, and this was no exception. Well liked around the table. Pretty good.

The raw beef toast with duck dripping, chives, pecorino di fossa, and crispy onion atop grilled garlicky sourdough ($9 supplement each) was not included in our tasting menu but probably the best morsel of the night, and a must get. Each bite of these juicy, thickly topped slices of sourdough was extremely decadent, with the cheeses, sauces, and raw meat all melting together in the mouth. A nice hit of umami that I wish there were more of. A really elevated snack.

The sheep’s halloumi in rosemary butter with burnt honey, verjuice, currants and hazelnuts is the rare sweet halloumi dish. Despite the multiple sources of sweetness and the contrasting innate saltiness of the halloumi this dish was able to avoid being over-flavoured. It was pretty nice, but I think a bit of bread served with it would’ve gone a long way.

Speaking of bread, the next dish on the menu was the rosemary and garlic focaccia with fermented chilli butter and olive oil. My feelings towards this bread dish are not as fond as some of our friends. I think that the fermented chilli butter, whilst good, was wasted on the focaccia which was already quite adequately flavoured and salted on its own. I would’ve preferred to have the chilli butter (as well as the preceding halloumi) with some more plain bread so that it could’ve been enjoyed more on its own merit. The combination of bread and chilli butter was, in my opinion, the combination of two strong and non-complimentary flavours.

The pasta formosa with lamb shoulder ragu, green peas, pecorino and pangrattato was the third appearance of Bart Jr’s overreliance on pecorino. The pasta was quite al dente, moreso than I normally like, but still pretty good. The serving of beef was generous, and while the ragu flavours were good, they were no more special than any other ragu at any other restaurant we’ve been to recently.

The salad dish was made of baby gem leaves, eschallot vinaigrette, pecorino, and fennel seed pangrattato. Are you starting to see a trend? Maybe pecorino was on sale at the supplier.

Whilst I didn’t really enjoy the roasted hasselback potatoes with creme fraiche and aleppo pepper, thinking to be a bit too dry even with the sauce, my potato-positive partner thought that it was “a fine potato”

The charred ocean trout skewer with caramelised fennel, harissa, yoghurt, and mint was NYL’s least favourite dish, and in my opinion probably the weaker of the two options for mains. It is a 200 gram skewer of trout cooked in a Middle Eastern style. The fish is well cooked, to a safe degree whilst still retaining a semi-rare moist inside. I wasn’t a big fan of the fennel, however, and I thought the harrisa-heavy flavour, though not bad on its own, was a bit incongruous with the tone set by the rest of the meal.

I get highly anxious about driving after any quantity of alcohol, so this Heiwa Shuzo ‘Tsuruume’ Yuzushu was perfect as an inclusion on Bart Jr’s tasting menu. It was pretty tasty and refreshing (tart, not too sweet), but takes this somewhat disordered journey from Italy, to the Middle East, and now Japan.

VERDICT
Bart Jr’s was generally pretty good, with the major standout being the raw beef toast. They have a minimum spend of $60 per head, so you might have to get some other food and drinks unless you want 7 pieces.

Bart Jr.
92 Pitt St, Redfern NSW 2016
0401 899 845

Dog tax, mid-corkscrew vs giraffe toy

Diners: JW, PX, NYL and dog, LH

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Italian Vietnamese

Mentmore and Morley – Rosebery NSW Cafe Review

Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? 

Memento Mori is one of the spookiest cafes in all of Rosebery. The constant reminder of our impending deaths is something I usually only experience while hanging out with one of my senior intensive care colleagues. I never thought that such a feeling could be distilled into a cafe, but the wizards behind Mentmore and Morley named their restaurant just so.

Wow. Let me tell you about these textured plates. They’re from IKEA, but I couldn’t identify them on IKEA’s online store. Again wow.

While I cannot quite tell you the name of this veal scaloppine style dish with assorted vegetables, I can tell you that it was quite good. I especially enjoyed the tomatoes.

The seasonal special, pork knuckle with Vietnamese slaw was around $30. It was a whole pork knuckle, slow roasted with skin on. The skin was quite crispy and delicious, and the meat tender. I was initially skeptical of the Vietnamese slaw, but the acidic flavours helped cut through the fat perfectly. A good pairing.

Coffee was no better or worse than standard.

While the name of Memento Mori was spooky, this did not extend to the food, which was a mixture of Italian and Vietnamese cuisines. I can recommend going to get spooked.

4 out of 5 Yoricks.

Mentmore & Morley
Rosebery, 13/55 Mentmore Ave, Sydney NSW 2018
(02) 9697 3617