Categories
French

Restaurant Hubert – Sydney NSW Restaurant Review

My partner and I recently became engaged, and Restaurant Hubert, with its 15% public holiday surcharge, was where we chose to eat afterwards. Prices as mentioned in this post are as-paid inclusive of this surcharge, but even without this surcharge it looks from other places on the internet that prices at Hubert have risen a healthy 30% over the last few years.

I’ve been trying to stay away from alcohol recently, but from the single sip that I had I can confirm that this Campari Grapefruit ($17.25) was pretty fresh tasting.

We started our night with roe boats ($17.25 each) – expensive little pastry tarts topped with trout roe, sea urchin, and avruga. I enjoyed the thin, dual layered pastry as well as the oceanic flavours, with the sea urchin being particularly noteworthy with its unusual funky fungi like flavour. It was like tasting three different parts of the sea. Just a shame that it didn’t last.

The Pâté en Croûte ($31.05), a dense buttery but cold pastry baked around a similarly dense pork terrine, was up next. We battled our way through the interesting and varied textures of this dish, with no idea as to which part of the animal any particular mouthful or mouthfeel came from. Ultimately whilst the pastry flavour was just right, we felt that the terrine was too salty, and that while the dill pickle was nice and sour, its use was limited when paired with something that was already so flavourful. This is one dish that we just didn’t finish, and I would recommend avoiding this if you’re only dining as a party of two. There’s more variety to be experienced than to be so invested in the incredibly dense plate.

This Prime Beef Tartare ($33.35), made from wagyu topside, was just so fresh. The seasonings, including the included capers and pickles, reminded me of a raw cheeseburger, but not in a bad way. The mini French fries, fun as they were, made the dish a little bit difficult to eat, and furthered this cheeseburger (or should I say royale with cheese) motif. Though some past online reviewers have heaped criticism on this tartare, either it’s improved greatly in the intervening time or I just don’t have as refined a palate. Either way, it’s a recommendation from me.

My partner is known to enjoy a good potato, and though I wasn’t nuts for the Pommes Anna ($18.40), she loved it. These potato towers, cut with slices through them to maximise exposure to oil in the deep frying process, were cooked deliciously crispy on the outside with an appropriate remnant of moisture and softness on the inside. They came bathed in a beurre blanc sauce, and honestly what non cardiovascular related wrong has ever come from the combination of potato and butter?

This was my first time eating snail, and though I had some mild initial apprehension towards Hubert’s Escargot XO ($33.50) they turned out to be a reasonably soft introduction. The snails were a bit smaller, shrivelled up and tougher than I had imagined, with not a lot of inherent flavour, rather taking on the rather pleasant (though not very spicy at all) XO sauce. The XO sauce was particularly good with the bread.

The baugette and butter came with our order of escargot, but can also be purchased separately for $8. It may be that this was the first time that I had had bread in some time, but I absolutely loved it. It was just so good. The crust to middle-bread ratio was optimal due to its size. The bread was dense near its crust but also inside. The butter was salty, dense, heavy, and just right. We both enjoyed eating the bread with the sauce from the pommes anna as well as the escargot’s XO sauce.

The Mille-Feuille ($32.20) was alright, but represented pretty poor value considering it was essentially the same price as the tartare or escargot and was a mere dessert.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
We had been meaning to eat at Hubert for some time, and our dinner did not disappoint. I did feel that overall the food was a little bit too salty for my taste (except for the bread), though this was more a problem for our waiter who had to be constantly back and forth with the water. Though some have complained, we had no problem with the 90 minute seating, as we were hungry enough to scoff down all of our dishes within the prescribed time limit. The presence of live jazzy music was definitely a point of difference, though I think the very fact that such a large and grand subterranean space could exist at all in the Sydney CBD, in a state of constant night, and with a single door as a point of ingress and egress is perhaps the most interesting part.

Would come back.

Restaurant Hubert
15 Bligh St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9232 0881

Categories
European Fine Dining

LP’s Quality Meats – Chippendale NSW Restaurant Review

It’s been about a year since I first tasted LP’s class-defining mortadella, and about a year that I’ve been dreaming about dining at their Chippendale smokehouse and restaurant. After a couple of setbacks and false starts we finally found the opportunity to go last night, taking advantage of the tables left free by those spending Good Friday at home with family.

We chose the $65 tasting menu with the addition of a serving of smoked chicken. Whilst the serving sizes are in general fine, certain fixed serving sizes, for example for the pork loin, are not adjusted for odd numbers of diners, meaning that it is better value to go in a group of four rather than the five that we had.

The first item on our menu was the malted sourdough & butter. There was nothing really special here. The bread was crusty on the outside and a bit gooey on the inside, possibly reflecting its malted nature. The ratio of butter to bread was adequate.

The oysters with mignonette dressing were fresh and delicious, though not differentiable from any other inner city oyster. When ordered a la carte, these oysters are $5 each, which is quite expensive.

While I can’t remember the name of this off-menu metal dish of vegetables, it is probably LP’s rendition of giardiniera, a classic Italian salad. It is essentially a vinegar-marinated combinastion of cauliflower, capsicum, carrot and onion. Quite the tangy palate cleanser, paired with the salumi.

LP’s salumi plate, featuring fully in-house smoked and prepared (though not husbanded) mortadella, salami cotto, and saucisson was a treat. You’ve heard me wax lyrical about LP’s mortadella more than once now – this soft, mild smoked pork sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted. The salami cotto and sauisson were also good, both ssavoiding being too salty or overflavoured, as salumi often is. Whilst LP’s cold and cured meats are also available for sale from their in-house deli, the price of their mortadella at $77/kg was no cheaper than when I had bought it from Woollahra luxury butcher Victor Churchill, and I chose not to further indulge.

LP’s grilled beef tongue with smoked beef fat vinaigrette is one of their signature dishes, and for good reason. Unlike most renditions of beef or ox tongue, LPs slices theirs longitudinally rather than transversely, the end result being a visually arresting, tongue shaped tongue meal. The tongue is extremely tender, falling apart with minimal fork-based instrumentation, which is actually fully different to the hard and chewy mess that I get every time I try and cook it at Korean BBQ. Each mouthful is an umami bomb, thanks to the smoked beef fat, though perfectly tempered and matched by the tanginess of the salsa verde and vinaigrette components. This is a truly next level dish that I can recommend as a must try.

I’m not normally the biggest fan of mussels, but these steamed mussels in nduja were actually very good. There was none of the feared grittiness present in most low-tier mussel dishes, and the sauce was both umami and lightly spicy. This dish would’ve been even better with some bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

The pickled beetroot salad was very tangy. Not the most enjoyed dish around the table, but then again it’s LP’s Quality Meats, not LP’s Quality Beets.

The 800 gram pork chop with mustard sauce and grilled onions was pretty good, but not something I’d necessarily mention in a letter home. The meat was cooked well, the sauce was inoffensive, but apart from the size and spectacle of an entire giant pork chop cut and rearranged into shape there was nothing truly special about it. It’s sad that with 5 people we did not get a 1000 gram pork chop.

This mesclun salad, mixed herbs, palm sugar vinaigrette was pretty unexciting, and definitely not as exciting as the name.

This smoked half chicken in sauce pearà ($31 supplement) was an add on from the a la carte menu. I had heard a lot about the chicken at LP’s, and this dish certainly did not disappoint. The skin of the chicken was crispy, whilst the meat of the chicken was soft. The smoked flavour, mixed with the creamy flavour of the sauce pearà made for a mouth-watering, umami-filled dish. This chicken was well received around the table, and would be my other must-have at LP’s.

This dish of ember roasted pumpkin, chard, and anchovy did nothing for me. I thought that the flavours were too strong, with the pumpkin being particularly oversalted.

The chocolate tart with chantilly cream was made of very dark, semi-sweet chocolate. I liked it, and I think my girlfriend would have enjoyed this too, but she didn’t go so we will never know. It was a divisive dish, as a few of our friends did not like the bitterness.

The savarin au rhum, essentially wet sponge cake, was also just fine. The cream in both of the desserts was quite good, described aptly by my colleague GL as tasting of a melted vanilla ice cream.

VERDICT
Thank you for reading my pegfeed. The chicken and beef tongue were truly standout dishes that I would recommend a visit to LP’s for, whilst some of the other dishes – salads, mostly – did nothing for me. I had a good time, but would’ve had just as good a time ordering the big hitters off the a la carte menu.

4.5/5

LP’s Quality Meats
16/12 Chippen St, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 8399 0929

Diners: JW, HWJ, NT, GL, CJP

Categories
Asian Fusion Fine Dining Modern Australian

Odd Culture – Newtown NSW Restaurant Review

Fermented things have recently and unfortunately become my enemy, and so naturally one of my last dines of the year was had at one of Newtown’s newest wine bars with a focus on cultured and fermented foods.

The Beer Bread ($5 for 3 pieces) was your classic house-made sourdough with salted cultured butter. It wasn’t mindblowing, but it did actually have a bit of a beery flavour to it, which made it many times more interesting than yet another bread. And a soft, salted butter and bread is always a winning combination.

The delightfully small and expensive fish on toast ($10 each) was an interesting and probably South East Asian inspired mouthful of mango and fish. The toast base was extremely buttery, with a mouthfeel that reflected its many unseen layers. The scallop sashimi, as well as possibly some other white fish, was soft and sweet, and complimented by the soft ripe mango. The jalapeno advertised was not easily found. This was a really great snack, but I wish it were a bit larger or a bit less expensive.

The beef tartare ($20) was a bit different to the normal formed slab of raw meat, instead in this mixed in with puffed rice and seasonings. Herbs were used to great effect in this dish, imparting a unique flavour. It was however a little bit physically difficult to eat, and a bit of cracker would’ve gone a long way.

Recently burned by a $12 fermented tomato, I was a bit hesitant and wary about the tomato dish, ($22). It turned out however that I was foolish in my concern, as one taste of this tomato dish was able to justify their price. The tomato in this dish was fresh but umami, and delightfully sour but also tempered by the creamy soy milk yoghurt on top. It was an unexpected but wonderful fresh type dish, even suitable for vegan-types.

The chicken liver pate ($16) was really good. I particularly enjoyed the thick cut and lightly salted potato crisps, which had such an amazing crunch that is probably better than any other potato crisp I’ve ever had. They had the perfect size and structural integrity to scoop up (probably too many) gobs of rich, silky smooth chicken liver pate and deliver them to my mouth. The fish sauce caramel base was inventive and delicious, and while my girlfriend didn’t like this dish she was wrong. I only wish that these same chips could’ve been available to scoop up the beef tartare.

The blood pancake ($26) with pork jowl, fried egg, and maple syrup was much sweeter than I thought it would be. Looking at the photo and ingredients list you would likely imagine a savoury dish, but the truth of the matter was that even if the pancake had been savoury in and of itself, the swimming pool of maple syrup would’ve taken care of that. Despite the pork jowl and blood, the pancake was ultimately only a little bit savory, the majority of the flavour coming from the maple syrup which soaked through the entire cake. While I did enjoy the interesting texture, I think ultimately this leaned too much into the sickly sweet side of the flavour scale.

The koji roasted chicken ($42) was good but not a revelation. Juicy, succulent and tender, the chicken was well cooked, with a koji-miso flavour. I didn’t realise that there was congee in the dish, which I am only just seeing now looking at the photo. That might have added something to the experience, but really (and my girlfriend will attest to this) I can cook something similar and not spend $42 doing it.

This semifreddo ($16) with black sesame and white chocolate was very good. Specific details escape me but even the bed of crumbs was delicious.

The panna cotta ($14) with fig leaf and blueberry was visually interesting but orally mediocre. A good choice if you like juicy stewed berries, but a boring choice if you can choose the semifreddo instead.

COMMENTS
Overall I quite enjoyed our meal at Odd Culture. Many of the dishes were very good, and even the least good dishes were at least OK. I’d probably not go again until their menu changes, but could recommend it to a colleague or friend. The chairs were sadly not comfortable.

Odd Culture Newtown
266 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8317 3057

Categories
Fine Dining Modern Australian

Babyface Kitchen – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

New South Wales comes out of its lockdown and our first fine dine of the season is at Babyface Kitchen, one of only three or four restaurants in the Illawara region to boast a tasting menu.

We start off with the classic sourdough bread and cultured butter. This was exactly as advertised, with nary a hint of innovation.

The snacks course was next.

My favourite of this was the honey bug in bug sauce, grilled over charcoal. The meat of the bug was very similar to other bugs, but what stood out was the deeply umami sauce that surrounded it. It was so good that I actually chewed and ate much of the shell just so that I could taste the sauce that coated it. My girlfriend made fun of me for this, before succumbing and having her own nibble. It’s all just chitin and calcium carbonate after all, and probably not even 1.2g BD of the stuff.

The deboned chicken wing on wasabi leaf didn’t quite do it for us, which was surprising as chicken is my most commonly eaten source of animal protein. I think that outside of extreme desert dryness chicken is something that’s easy to do reasonably well, but I also think that the strength of the mighty chicken wing is not only in its quality but also in its quantity, and the fact that you can just eat like ten or fifteen of them in one sitting. While I understand the whole concept of serving small foods in large plates, having half, maybe one chicken wing fried in a way that did not excite and sitting pretty on a leaf just doesn’t do it for me.

The beef tartare tart was not only a mild play on words, but also the first time I’ve had raw meat in a long time. I trust a restaurant’s ability to not give me EHEC much more than I trust my own. My only complaint here is that it came and went too quickly.

The tea light I accidentally knocked and spilled into the pool of water surrounding it. Tell me you’re poor without telling me you’re poor.

Our snack course was followed by an oddly-timed palate cleanser of fresh pineapple topped with passionfruit lemon myrtle sorbet and zest of blood orange. My partner enjoyed this fresh tart treat (mostly enjoying being able to eat pineapple without the drama of cutting it open and preparing it), but personally I didn’t feel like my palate was so dirty after a piece of bread and three snacks that it needed cleansing.

Our second bread of the night was made of 50% potato flour and lathered in marron butter. I was quite happy with this bread, and found that it had an unsurprising blini like quality. I was however an idiot and ate most of the bread by itself, rather than with the rest of this course.

The aforementioned bread was served with Western Australian Marrow in XO Sauce. I have some feelings about this dish, but the general vibe is that I felt much less spoken down to than when I went to Quay, which was the last time I had marron at a restaurant. Positive elements of the Babyface dining experience included the larger size of the marron, the interesting and fresh tasting accompaniment of white asparagus, Newcastle greens (a microgreen growery), and ice plant (wow! it looks like it’s covered in ice! You can feel the ice buds with your tongue!), and the fact that no one tried to explain to me that yes, we are indeed in Australia. The sauce was enjoyable and had good umami flavour, however in no way would I describe it as an “XO” sauce, a label which generally hints at a bit of spice and a whiff of scallop. I also found myself wanting for a spoon, a utensil that was provided in plenty at the bread and snack courses but not at the course that actually had a bit of soup. My fault for not saving my bread to mop it up.

These skewers of Port Lincoln squid and pork jowl were seriously good. The Port Lincoln squid offered a creamy texture with just enough crunch, whilst the pork jowl absolutely melted in the mouth. The smokiness of ironbark and the natural umami of the squid was amplified by the delicious squid ink sauce underneath, and possibly a hint of black sesame too. This was really top tier, and even my seafood-averse girlfriend eventually grew to enjoy it, even if she needed a bit of coaxing to actually put it in her mouth.

The squid and pork skewers were accompanied by this buckwheat noodle, sauced with black garlic and covered in pecorino. I must admit that while much care seems to have been taken to prepare them, these did not really enthuse me. I thought that while they probably had enough random complexity of flavour, they didn’t actually have enough general flavour to ward off the tastelessness of the soba. I ended up mixing the leftover squid ink sauce from the skewers into my noodles.

Our main course was based around a piece of 7-day aged lamb rump from some kind of station, presumably in the Australian Outback. It was served medium rare in a pool of its own juices – tender, but not really with any other flavour. The lamb rump was accompanied by the most beautifully caramelised piece of fermented pumpkin, however, which really stole the show.

The main course also featured some potato ?accordions in a strange white sauce that my partner enjoyed far more than me. She loves potato.

The salad, composed of green asparagus, Newcastle greens, and flowers in a bread sauce, was a nice and fresh reprieve from the lamb jus. I could eat this every day.

Time for dessert now, and this cracked puff filled with pistachio cream was excellent. They The exterior had a slight pineapple bun quality, but was more structure and much better than the pastry of every other cream puff I’ve ever had. The pistachio cream was nice and not too sweet. They even poked a candle into one of them to mark the occasion. The girls on the table next to us shared one cream puff and sent the other back. They were full, or should I say fools.

I didn’t care much for the second dessert, a malt ice cream on top of chocolate mousse and mulberry. I thought that while the malt ice cream was good, the white slabs were just a bit too sweet.

So this is actually revolutionary. Babyface Kitchen gives you a little take-away dessert snack to have at home following your meal, or even the following day as a little extension to your culinary adventure.

COMMENTS
I had a great time getting back into some tasting menu dining for the first time in over five months. Not every dish was perfect, but I very much appreciated the variety of tastes and experiences on offer. $110 per person was a reasonable price to pay for this meal in regional NSW, but I do hope I will get the chance to return for their cheaper and ever changing a la carte offerings in the future. I also enjoyed the very bare minimum of conversation we had with our waiters and waitresses, who were frequently drawn into deep conversation by the middle aged woman on my left. Her poor husband.

Babyface Kitchen
1/179 Keira St, Wollongong NSW 2500
(02) 4295 0903

Categories
Bakery Café Chinese

Bengong Black – Darling Square Haymarket NSW Bubble Tea and Bakery Review

Let me tell you about a vibe.

Back when my partner worked in Concord, she would often come home with milk tea from Bengong. We always enjoyed their milk tea, imbued with a stronger tea flavour than most outfits. We were therefore suitably surprised and a little bit proud when we found that they had opened up a branch in Darling Square. The Concord Hospital boba tea shop had finally made it.

I really enjoyed this Tea Cube Milk Tea when I first had it. I was confused when they asked me to choose a flavour, and I chose lychee. I thought it was so cool that they had somehow created this drink where they put concentrated tea into jellies. I went back a couple of days later and asked for one but without fruit flavouring, and the staff member looked at me as if I were crazy but was ultimately happy to oblige. What I got was a simple milk tea with a lot of ice. I was an idiot. The tea cubes weren’t actually tea cubes, merely fruit cubes.

The Wuwu Oreo Sundae was pretty good! Just a soft serve over hot brown sugar and boba syrup, with an oreo on top. It melts quickly so be sure to eat it just as fast.

Bread is bread. This particular strawberry flavoured bread was not that good.

Bengong Black Haymarket
91 Harbour St, Haymarket NSW 2000