Categories
Café

Social Society – Zetland NSW Cafe Review

//SOMEWHERE IN SYDNEY, 2019//

A man sits in a dark room, lit only by the warm f.lux glow of his curved computer screen. A bead of sweat runs down his face. He’s opening up a new restaurant and the business side of things wants a name to get to the promo and design guys as soon as possible. He loads up cafenamegenerator.com. He selects the two word setting – it’ll roll off the tongue more than a longer name – and hits enter.

SOCIAL” is the first word.

The computer thinks for a second.

SOCIETY” is the second word.

He looks at the time. 11:59PM. Just one minute until his deadline.

Good enough.

//ONE YEAR LATER//

The first thing you notice walking into Social Society is just how pink it is. This small cafe in a recently developed area of Zetland is set out like a movie cotton candy store, all baby pink, with internal seating in a U shape around a central coffee preparation area (there’s also outdoor seating for the COVID wary.) It’s noon on a Friday but the cafe is bustling with patrons. It looks like mostly young professionals on their day off. One pair, we imagine, is a medical registrar on her day off having lunch with her mum.

Social Society – Seafood Indulgence

The Seafood Indulgence ($28) is first and foremost, fantastic. A generous serving of salmon is grilled to be perfectly crispy on the skin, and perfectly tender and medium rare in the centre. The grilled prawns, one of which is head one, are sweet and tasty. The roe is creamy, not too salty, and adds a nice third dimension of seafood flavour. The Parish mash potato is rich and creamy, and delicious mixed with or dipped in the mouth-wateringly umami saffron seafood reduction, which itself has a strong prawn head taste. The gremolata and cherry tomatoes add a degree of zest and sourness, providing a foil for the rich seafood sauce. It’s been a week since I’ve eaten this and I’m still thinking about it. I really can’t get over this sauce. It’s so good.

Bone Marrow

We thought we would enjoy the beef shank Bone Marrow ($16) but unfortunately we did not. It was a bit too oily for our tastes, however we don’t have much of a reference point to compare it against. I was grateful for the serving of charcoal garlic toasted bread, which helped to mop up the fattiness from the bone marrow. The herb and pickled eschalot salad on top did double duty in providing a different flavour and a further foil for the fattiness of the bone marrow. This dish was not personally to my taste.

The R-Rated Eggs & Beans ($18) + Chorizo ($5) was my partner’s choice of main. The R-Rated Eggs & Beans by themselves are similar to a vegetarian shakshuka with a large portion of sumac flavoured whipped goat’s cheese, so I’m not sure why it is restricted to adults only. It may be the two chilli symbols on the menu, however the spiciness of the dish was far overstated – it was more tomatoey. My partner thought that the goat’s cheese was too goaty, but otherwise enjoyed this. My personal opinion, not being a connoisseur of shakshuka, was that it was OK but nothing to write home about. I didn’t really like the taste of the chorizo, but understand that its course texture was a hint that it was more authentic and perhaps housemade compared to the Don Chorizo you get from the supermarket.

The chocolate milkshake ($6) was thin and watery and not so good. We didn’t add the extra dollar to turn it into a thickshake, but even then I think a milkshake should not be this loose.

UPDATE 8/12/2020

We went back for a second round. The gentleman who appears to be running the place greeted us with a “welcome back”, but I’m not sure if he really recognised us. If he has I’m sure he hasn’t yet linked us with the blog.

Pannacotta

Social Society’s Pannacotta ($14) is quite a large and elaborate dish for the price. The vanilla based pannacotta was nice and bouncy with a flavour that was not too sweet. The lemon meringue and lemon curd was however a bit sweet for me, but provided a nice sourness to the dish which was nicely offset by the salty pretzels. I quite liked the preserved slice of citrus as I thought it had good depth of flavour, but my partner thought i was intolerably sour. Overall this was multiple times better than the $16 panna cotta at Ripples Chowder Bay in Mosman.

Fries (truffled with parmesan)

The truffled fries with parmesan ($12) are a monster serving. The fries are mega thick and large, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The parmesan was a welcome addition, however towards the middle of the dish I felt like I was fenced in by the sheer volume of potato. This is definitely one to share between 4-6 people, not just two.

The Magic Mushrooms ($21) with thick cut bacon ($5) was a stunner. The real star of the dish, strangely absent from its name, is the delicious truffle infused folded eggs. It is a very thick egg omelete, cooked to a medium degree and delicately folded. It is extremely moist and buttery, and topped with mushroom and chives. The assorted sauteed “forest mushrooms” that the dish gets its namesake from were juicy and not overcooked, but the folded egg was definitely the best part of the base dish. The thick cut bacon was a very welcome add-on. The bacon was essentially 3-dimensional, a bacon so thick that I’ve provided a cross section. It was more like rashers of pork belly with a deliciously caramelised taste. This dish, along with the seafood indulgence, make what is in my opinion Social Society’s “must tries”.

UPDATE 17/12/2020

Salmon ramen with hot smoked salmon and crispy salmon

My third visit to Social Society was alone. I took the opportunity to go by myself to try out the Salmon Ramen ($28 with crispy skin salmona nd house hot-smoked salmon) whilst my other half was at work. The salmon ramen is generally offered with a choice of the crispy skinned grilled salmon or the house hot-smoke salmon, but not wanting to go again I asked for both. The promise of an 18-hour seafood broth was alluring, and I had expected something similar to the sauce that was on the Seafood Indulgence, reviewed above. Unfortunately what I found was a thin and quite sour soup, which didn’t have the rich seafood flavour that I had been expecting. The fried onions were soggy on serving, and the thin soba noodles were a bit floury. While the crispy skin salmon was good, I didn’t enjoy the smoked salmon so much. Unfortunately I had high hopes for this dish but I was well disappointed.

VERDICT

Despite the silly name, Social Society really does do a good brunch. The seafood indulgence is my pick of the bunch, but there are several more dishes I’d like to go back and try. While I didn’t take advantage of this, I also like that there is no additional charge for non-standard milks. As a genetically inferior lactose intolerant person I’ve never enjoyed paying an additional 50 cents for a soy milk that is not really much more expensive than normal milk. I’m glad that these guys are leading the way for the bean rights movement.

4.5/5. Can recommend. This place offers something special.

Social Society
7 Ebsworth St, Zetland NSW 2017
(02) 7903 0693

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

Categories
Modern Australian

Ripples Chowder Bay – Mosman NSW Restaurant Review

In what was sure to be an unexpected outcome for Sydney Dining Group, the recent mention of Ripples Milsons Point amongst Sydney’s latest COVID-19 hotspots actually helped bring the Ripples brand to prominence, one of a few reasons why we chose to dine at Ripples Chowder Bay for dinner tonight. We felt that Ripples’ ability to avoid a major catastrophe with their previous COVID-19 case meant that the restaurant was likely to have good ventilation and hygiene practices. It was, after all, our friend’s first time out since we ate at Acre in June.

Of note, street parking was $18.50 for 3 hours. We overstayed (it was difficult to predict how long we’d be) but were not ticketed.

We were initially seated in a spacious dining room inside, but moved outside to attempt to find more cross ventilated pastures on the deck. Unfortunately, because of the adverse weather, the deck was covered in a thick plastic shroud – something I had experienced at one of Sydney Dining Group’s other restaurants, Aqua. This meant that the outside dining area actually put us in far closer proximity to other patrons, without an increase in air changes per hour – something that greatly worried one of my senior colleagues.

We started with a plate of Chorizo & Mozzarella Arancini (5 for $16). I enjoyed the arancini but found it difficult to spot the chorizo. My partner, a big-time arancini fan, was not impressed. This was, believe it or not, one of the best value dishes of the meal.

These king prawns with orange, fennel & chervil ($28) were such bad value that it should have been criminal. What we got for $28 were three little cooked prawns, and a bit of citrus salad. I savoured my $9’s worth of prawn, which I found to be sweet and yummy, as well as my few allocated orange and salad bits. Our consensus opinion was that this starter was OK in taste, AWFUL in value. I think any reasonable restaurant with a sense of decency would hesitate to charge more than $15 for this tiny dish.

My gastroenterology colleague’s pick of main was the Confit Duck with cabbage, wild rice & red wine jus ($38). I thought this duck was very good, however judging from the size it must have come from a very small duck, perhaps one that had just hatched not too long ago. This is the best confit duck that my partner and I have ever had, although that’s not saying much as we have tended to avoid confit duck from Western restaurants ever since our first few attempts. I enjoyed the tender and juicy nature of the meat, as well as the delicious red wine jus.

Whole Market Fish (baby snapper), Tomato, capers & zucchini ($42)

My senior colleague’s pick of main was the Whole Market Fish, Tomato, capers & zucchini ($42). The market fish of the day was baby snapper. I enjoyed this dish and had this the most as it was closest to me. I liked the generous serving of vegetables, as well as the nicely oven roasted white flesh. Quite wholesome and good value compared to the rest of the meal.

Lamb Rump with peas, zucchini, mint, yoghurt & lamb sauce ($38)

Our next main was the Lamb Rump with peas, zucchini, mint, yoghurt & lamb sauce ($38). I had only a very small corner piece so it is a bit difficult for me to describe it. I thought it was nice, however, for them to have cut it up into bite sized slices. I thought that the meat was better, more flavourful, and more tender than that at COOH, a recent comparison.

Green Beans with crispy eshallots & lemon oil

A side of Green Beans with crispy eshallots & lemon oil ($12) was shared, however my colleagues did not seem to keen for it. I was personally grateful for this high greenery dish.

The Soy Panna Cotta with pineapple, coconut, sugar sauce & coconut gelato ($16) was my senior intensive care colleague’s first introduction to the concept of panna cotta, but otherwise not memorable.

The White Chocolate Mousse with chocolate crumb, passionfruit & mango sorbet ($16) was memorable for its strong sour passionfruit taste, small size, and large price.

The Lemon Tart with pistachio, meringue & pistachio gelato ($16) was not bad, however not as good as similar lemon tarts at around the $7 mark.

Ripples at Chowder Bay was an expensive but ultimately forgettable meal. Whilst I enjoyed the roasted baby snapper and confit duck, pretty much everything else could have been skipped. This is especially true for the desserts, which were all boring and expensive. We paid $291 between the four of us for the above listed foods and a $65 bottle of middling red wine, and a bit of condescension from our waiter when we asked for a recommendation for said wine.

Ripples Chowder Bay was fine only in terms of the price.

3/5, don’t recommend.


Ripples Chowder Bay
Building 7 C, Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman NSW 2088
(02) 9960 3000

Categories
Café Modern Australian

A1 Canteen (Revisited) – Chippendale NSW Brunch Review

When we heard that A1 Canteen in Chippendale was closing down, we knew we had to visit again to try their famous curry eggs before they disappeared off the face of the planet. These were the same eggs that mesmerized me during my previous visit to A1 Canteen back in July.

Armed with months of insider parking knowledge, we booked ahead and found street parking early in the day. This was a much less awful process than last time.

Curried scrambled eggs

While visually arresting, the curried scrambled eggs ($19) were ultimately a bit of a disappointment. The dish basically consists of three elements – egg, sausage, and muffin. The egg is meant to be the star of the dish, but I found it the weakest component. Despite its orangey look, the eggs were in fact not that curried. The curry flavour was quite weak, and did not live up to the expectations set by the eyes. They were cooked just fine, but definitely were not as light and perfect as those at Dopa. The muffin component was superb. They were toasted to a crisp ideal of perfection, contrasting synergistically with the runniness of the eggs. The sausage, which is from local delicatessen LP’s, was complexly textured and enjoyable. My partner specifically remarked how nice it was to get a normal sausage as opposed to a chorizo which she feels is a bit overdone in the brunch scene.

Panna Cotta

A1 Canteen also served me my first ever Panna Cotta ($13) with stewed rhubarb ( I thought it was strawberry), long pepper, and olive oil. I thought it was fine. My partner was more enamoured with it than me, so I will let her explain in her own words: “The olive oil added a lot to it in a surprising way. It was creamy and yummy and I really liked the olive oil and it was not something I thought would go with it, but it really brought out the flavours. I never experienced such an olivey flavour before.”

Overall I was again a bit disappointed by A1 Canteen, but I would’ve been equally disappointed if they had closed down without me every trying the curried eggs. Go if you want.

A1 Canteen
Ground 2/10 Kensington St, Chippendale NSW 2008