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
European

Contact Bar & Kitchen – Woolloomooloo NSW Restaurant Review

My partner and I recently had the chance to eat at Contact Bar & Kitchen in Woolloomooloo for a weekday lunch.

To our surprise, there was plentiful street parking, however limited to only two hours per section. It was a very wet day, and it was nice to get out of the rain and into the warm restaurant. Service was absolutely impeccable. I believe our waiter was Diego (but it may have been Stefano – he had the less hair of the two, but an amazing eye for service.)

We settled in for a long lunch, and on the advice of our waiter had our dishes staggered.

Amuse-bouche: spinach, zucchini, and celery soup

We were started with this Amuse-bouche – a spinach, zucchini, and celery soup served in a small beaker with single crouton. I enjoyed this thick and flavourful soup, and the crunchy texture of the crouton. This amuse-bouche came as a complete surprise to us, and if we had known we were going to get we may have not ordered the next dish.

Half portion of pea, spinach, white pepper, herb croutons, goat’s cheese

Our first dish was the pea, spinach, white pepper, herb croutons, goat’s cheese soup ($16). As we were sharing all of our dishes, our waiter made the thoughtful suggestion of splitting the soup into two separate bowls for each of us. Pictured above is half a serve. I enjoyed the thick pea texture of the soup, and thought that the addition of goat’s cheese in some mouthfuls made it basically two soups for the price of one – the goat’s cheese being transformative whenever it entered the mouth. A special mention to the herb croutons which sacrificed themselves to suck up the soup flavour to a high degree. Very absorbent.

Squid ink Spaghetti with seafood

Next came our Squid ink spaghetti with sea mullet, salmon, mussels, clams, octopus, bonito, furikake, cherry tomatoes ($33), and probably the start of our downfall. I had convinced my partner that based on available information online that the dishes would be small, and that we would have plenty of room to fit two pastas, two mains, and a soup. How wrong I was. The pastas at Contact Woolloomooloo are actually quite huge. The fact is that the utensils provided to serve the pasta (photographed) are actually huge themselves, as is the massive prawn centrepiece. It is therefore difficult to get a good perspective of the size of this pasta dish visually from a photo.

I actually really enjoyed this squid ink spaghetti with seafood. I liked that the sauce was creamy but not heavy, and translucent rather than opaque. I liked that it was thick enough to coat the spaghetti, but not so thick that the sauce felt like a meal in and of itself. I absolutely loved the interplay between the tomato and the sauce base, and enjoyed the fresh seafood as well. The octopi were my favourite element of this pasta, and I’d probably get one just with octopi by itself if I could – they were just so delicious. I can whole heartedly recommend this dish – just don’t go in thinking that it’s small – it’s either a full meal for one, or half a meal for two.

Truffle Coxetti (Spaghetti)

Next on our culinary journey was the truffle spaghetti (usually a coxetti) with forest mushrooms, roma tomato, brie, garlic, white wine, truffle oil ($28). This pasta was a very creamy celebration of truffle and mushroom flavours. My partner really enjoyed this pasta, however again it was an absolutely huge serving. We saw the writing on the wall, and after each sampling a serving we asked for it to be packed for takeaway, a nonstandard request which the staff thoughtfully obliged. Our waiter commented that chef was very generous with his servings, and we agreed.

Poached Yellowtail Kingfish

Next was the Poached Yellowtail Kingfish with broccoli, soy, pearl cous cous, ginger, viola ($36). Two confounding factors make my review of this dish less reliable. The first is that after two soups and two pastas I was already reaching my limit of abdominal distension. The second is that we had just about reached our 2-hour parking limit for Zone 28, so I had to venture out into rain and move my car around the corner into a new parking zone. The fish was served whilst I was away, although our very helpful waiter did offer to keep it under heat until I returned. My partner, who had the opportunity to eat this dish from hot, thoroughly enjoyed it. She isn’t usually the biggest fan of fish, and the last time she had cooked whitefish that wasn’t toothfish she hated the texture. This was the first time that either of us had had kingfish that wasn’t at least a little bit Japanese – we mostly have kingfish either raw or aburi as sashimi or sushi. I personally found the kingfish a bit tough this time – a texture that was accentuated by the thick cut of the portion that we got. Perhaps I wouldn’t felt differently if the fish had been cut into thinner steaks, but we will never know. My partner enjoyed the soy bath, pearl and cous cous, and ultimately the dish as a whole more than me. While I understand that this kingfish wasn’t given all of the opportunities in life that it could’ve, I wouldn’t order it again.

Black Angus sirloin

Our final dish was the Black Angus sirloin with portobello mushrooms, thyme, pumpkin-potato, horseradish, rosemary, black mustard seeds ($35). I find it very hard to judge this dish fairly. On one hand, I was absolutely stuffed from the preceding five courses. On the other hand, it is true that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had expected from reading the other online reviews. What I can tell you was that the pumpkin-potato mash was absolutely divine, very creamy and not overmashed. The portobello mushrooms were grilled to perfection and remained juicy enough to provide umami bombs with every mouthful. The beef itself we had medium-rare, and while I did enjoy it I didn’t feel like it was anything to write home about. We did appreciate the plating, of course, and my partner actually did like the beef a lot more than me.

All things considered we had a very nice and luxurious two and a half hour lunch at Contact Bar & Kitchen in Woollomoolloo. The servings were very generous and the service was second to none, so much so that we actually ended up tipping more than we ever have for any meal – including $500+ degustations. I would definitely recommend paying Contact a visit, especially if you can book a 30% or 50% off slot, but even if you can’t , their lunch specials ($25 for wine and a meal) are a good deal.

4.5/5

Contact Bar & Kitchen
88 Crown St, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
(02) 9281 2114

Categories
Modern Australian

Arthur – Surry Hills NSW Tasting Menu Review

Arthur is one of the few – if not the only – Sydney fine dining establishments to be named after an animated aardvark. Located within what looks to be a converted house on a street corner Surry Hills, Arthur offers an ever changing and reasonably priced tasting menu with a focus on fresh domestic produce.

We dined in mid-December 2020 and took the liberty of adding on a few of the essential options to make a full menu at around $138 per head.

Arthur’s Sydney Rock Oysters with grape granita ($5.50 supplement) are on the pricier side for the Sydney restaurant scene. They were fresh, delicate, and of good quality, but we would usually not expect to pay more than $4 per oyster of this size. The grape granita added a new sweet and sour taste that I’ve not had with oysters elsewhere.

Both the bread and butter in Arthur’s sourdough and cultured butter are made in house. The bread had a nice solid crust but was light and fluffy on the inside. The cultured butter was a bit saltier than I expected, but still nice. One of my friends in particular was very keen on this butter, though in general I am more partial to unsalted or more lightly salted butters.

Kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare (pictured serve for 2)

This kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare was quite good. I enjoyed the strong tomato flavours, and while one of my colleagues had initial misgivings about the gaminess of the kangaroo he too grew to like it. Kangaroo, for those not familiar, is quite a lean and somewhat gamey meat that can be had at very low prices. While the produce itself is not considered gourmet in Australia, it is certainly rare to have it served as a tartare.

Zucchini Flower, Scallop, Shallot (pictured serve for 3)

The zucchini flower, scallop, shallot was a delicate dish of scallop and shallot stuffed inside a steamed zucchini flower. The flavours were very subtle, so much so that one of my colleagues did not realise there was scallop within his zucchini flower, even after he had eaten it. I think this was quite wholesome and healthy, though agree that the scallop was a bit hard to find.

Calamari, Macadamia, Daikon (pictured serve for 2)

I didn’t really like the calamari, macadamia, and daikon radish. The calamari was raw, fresh, and creamy, and all of the flavours worked well, except for the fact that certain mouthfuls had an unexplained bitterness that I could not reconcile. I don’t know what the bitter elements of the dish were, but they really hurt its quality for me. My partner who ate from a separate serving did not taste any bitterness at all. I wonder if it was an intentionally included flavour or rather a problem with quality.

Moreton Bay Bug (pictured $32 supplement)

The Moreton Bay Bug in carrot and saffron ($32 supplement per bug) is one of Arthur’s house specialties – a dish that persists throughout multiple iterations of the menu. The bug was large and generous, with all non-edible arms and other bits picked off and the cavity opened for convenience of eating. Another slight complaint with Arthur’s QA again here – the quality of meat was a little inconsistent, with some bugs more meaty and others a bit too soft. The sauce had a delicious strong seafood taste, quite similar to the prawn head sauce at Moxhe. We fell into the trap of only ordering three bugs between five diners as suggested by our waiter, but I think we really could’ve gone for one each. They are a high value add-on.

This is a little deep fried dough ball which comes with the Moreton Bay Bug to help soak up the sauce. The dough ball is very tasty, a little bit sweet, and very fresh on its own. I wish we could have had more of these. They’re little donuts.

Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato (pictured serve for 2)

We returned to the base set menu with the Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato. The kingfish was really delicious, with a tasty crispy skin and soft flesh with a delicate internal taste and texture. The natrutium, green tomato, and green sauce I thought was a bit unnecessary but in no way offensive. My one complaint with this dish is the miniature size of the serving we got to share between two. It was around one third of the serving our other colleagues received between three. Kingfish is really not an expensive fish and I think a bit more (or even a bit more care in portioning) would’ve gone a long way.

Potato scroll, silverbeet, black garlic (serving for 1 pictured)

The third “bread” of the night was a potato scroll with silverbeet and black garlic sauce. I liked this. It had a nice savoury taste. The sauce which looked like chocolate was not.

Dry aged pork loin (serving for 3 pictured)

The dry aged borrowdale pork loin was really good. The pork had a little bit of crispy fattiness around the edges, and was otherwise tender throughout. The sauce it was served in was full of umami flavours.

Plum, cherry, cultured cream

The plum and cherry with cultured cream was a tart little side dish served with the pork. Not super memorable.

Lettuce

Lettuce was even less memorable.

Bruny island “tom”, apricot, cultured cream

The tart of bruny island “tom” (apparently a sheep’s milk), apricot, and cultured cream ($7 supplement per tart) was really good. The cheesiness and the sweet and sour flavours of the apricot really melded together well. The pastry of the tart was thin and light, yet held its structural rigidity well.

Dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt

The dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt was phenomenal. The mango and raspberry, with different crumbs dried to different degrees, provided a broad spectrum of sweet and tangy tastes to the yoghurt base. This was widely enjoyed by all colleagues around the table. Really special.

Housemade Wagon Wheel

The final course was this housemade wagon wheel. It was a bit darker and less sweet than the wagon wheels from the supermarket but apart from that not really something to write home about.

We shared a bottle of Ngeringa Uncultured Cider ($50) around the table. It was pretty good, quite dry without much sweetness, but refreshing.

VERDICT
I think that reading through this blog post I’ve indicated a few hits and a few misses, but ultimately the dining experience at Arthur was very good and cohesive with all aspects taken into account. It’s probably been one of our top meals of the year. I would definitely recommend splurging for the Moreton Bay Bug as it is one of the shining stars of the meal.

We paid $138 per person including drinks and it was money well spent. The base price for the meal is $90 per person but doesn’t include oysters, the bug, or the cheese tart.

Arthur
544 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
0468 991 088

Categories
Asian Fusion Fine Dining Korean

Soul Dining – Surry Hills NSW Tasting Menu Review

This is a review of the Soul Dining modern Korean tasting menu as at 13th November 2020. All portions shown were served for 3 people, at $65 per person.

Our first dish was Kingfish in kimchi water with avocado puree, white kimchi. We had six pieces between the three of us to be eaten in one mouthful each. The kingfish sashimi was tender and fresh. The avocado puree added a surprising dimension of creamy umami. The kimchi water added a mild tanginess that was not too kimchi for my partner (an anti-kimchi individual) to eat and enjoy.

The wagyu tartare with singo pear and egg yolk (yukhoe) served on tempura seaweed was special. The wagyu was soft and minced and the egg yolk mixed in expertly by my partner coated it with a level of umami. The tempura seaweed provided a nice crunch for a fun mix of textures. A great dish.

Kim’s grilled eggplant with anchovy paste, tomato jam, manchego

Kim’s grilled eggplant with anchovy paste, tomato jam, manchego was in my opinion the weakest dish of the meal . I guess I’m not a big fan of eggplant and the histamine feeling in the mouth and throat to begin with. I could not at all identify the anchovy paste. The manchego shaved over the eggplant provided a nice sweetness, and melted by the end of the dish.

Lamb backstrap in potato bun with cabbage salad, green tomato relish, cumin

The Lamb backstrap in potato bun with cabbage salad, green tomato relish, cumin was also a bit weak. The lamb backstrap was steak-form, not minced, and crumbed. It didn’t really feel like more than your standard burger. I wonder if our three person serving was the same size as the two person servings, but just cut in 3 pieces. My partner took a fork and picked up the middle piece first. She thought it was a bit too lamby and could’ve used more cumin, however both myself and her brother thought that the lambiness was just fine. This was one of the favourite courses for my partner’s brother.

The Half free range chicken ‘traditional way’ with Korean chilli glaze is basically Korean fried chicken with a twist. The chicken was fried but not battered. The meat was tender and juicy, and my partner thought it was more tender and juicy than the crispy chicken at Khoi’s Vietnamese in Surry Hills that we had had the previous night. The presentation was really nice with a nice mix of colours. A good dish.

Cinnamon Churros with espresso glaze, salted caramel ice cream, sea salt and coffee peanuts

The Cinnamon Churros with espresso glaze, salted caramel ice cream, sea salt and coffee peanuts would be my pick of dessert. The churros were nice and crunchy. I am not normally a fan of salted caramels and while it was true again today I did not mind it. I liked the difference in temperatures between the churros and cold ice cream.

Snow bingsoo with baked mango, mango sorbet, milk snow, honey and nutmeg

As a non-fan of honey, I actually quite enjoyed the honey in this Snow bingsoo with baked mango, mango sorbet, milk snow, honey and nutmeg. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the sheer volume of baked mango which added too strong a concentrated, sticky, and dry mangoness to this mango dessert. Despite this I enjoyed this bingsoo more than the last time I had bingsoo at Hello Happy in Strathfield.

The house provided this Green tea panna cotta with chantilly cream & strawberries, dango, rice syrup dessert for us for free. It was very generous of them to allow us to try all three desserts, as normally with two diners only one dessert is provided. It’s hard to judge this dessert as it was served last, after our palates had been sweetened by the previous two. The green tea panna cotta was not sweet.

The omija with five berries spritz was good. Not too sweet. The yuzu iced tea I thought was a bit too sweet, and not iced enough on serving. It could’ve done with a few more shakes to cool the liquid down a bit.

Overall we had a great meal at Soul Dining. Service from one of the Caucasian front of house staff was also very good. She was very friendly. $65 per person for a tasting menu of this caliber is also a very good price. I’d love to come back for a few more things on the a la carte menu, for example their octopus.

$210 for 3 diners including drinks
4.5/5 (lean 5)

SOUL Dining
204 Devonshire St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8593 4957