Saturday, December 23, 2006

WINE: WOLF BLASS Bilyara Sparkling Brut NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $15

After last weeks Wolf Blass gold label I wasn’t really keen to try more Wolf Blass. It wasn’t bad, just average. Nevertheless, I arrived to work to find a bottle of this on everyone’s desk because of our recent performance.

Pours with a decent mousse and heavy bead which quickly disappears. Similar to yesterday’s Chandon NV that was a poorer reflection of the Chandon vintage, The Wolf Blass Bilyara is a poorer reflection of the Wolf Blass gold label vintage, which wasn’t that good anyway.

It drinks fairly well with hints of fruit and oak, but it's a bit boring. The finish isn’t bad though.

80%

WINE: CHANDON Brut NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $20

If I’m not mistaken, the cheapest of the Australian Chandon range. Certainly cheaper compared to the vintage bruts, cuvee riche, etc. Unfortunately, it shows. Very similar to the vintage brut in style and look, but the taste isn’t as good. Less refined.I think I’d probably just splash out a little extra for the vintage brut instead.

83%

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Beer: Guinness Draught

Type: Stout
Origin: Ireland
Approx Cost: 2.5pound

One of the things I had to try while I was in the UK was a fresh pint of Guinness. Although it's from Ireland and I'm in Scotland, I figure it's fresh enough to successfully review it now.

Firstly, Guinness is perfect for the conditions. It's about 2 degrees outside, it's a social and festive time of year and I'll use any excuse I can to drink a beer. The Guinness is always poured properly here and allowed to settle. The head is like whipped cream and the beer is as black as the ace of spades. With Guinness in Australia, either from an imported can or off tap, it's always a bit bitter, it's not as creamy and it's just not quite as satisfying. Over here, however, it's like lining your insides with a fine layer of the smoothest creamy gold you can imagine. Not overly fizzy, and by no means is it "warm", it's the perfect winter beverage. I can go pint after pint and not suffer from the regular bloated feeling associated with excessive beer consumption. Instead it's a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

RESTAURANT: Zest

Type: Modern Australian
Location: City Tattersalls club, 202 Pitt St, Sydney
Booking Required: Sometimes.

Normally my instincts are pretty spot-on when it comes to things like restaurants. With Zest my instincts were telling me it was wrong right from the start. But Calypso had chosen the place and made a booking so backing out wasn’t really an option. Unfortunate, because Zest turned out to be rubbish.

Tucked away near the back of the City Tattersalls club in Pitt St, Zest tries far too hard for such a classless setting. We walked in to find that they had stuffed up the booking and it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, there were plenty of free tables so they could still seat us.

The ambiance is fairly poor. The d├ęcor is okay but the lighting isn’t right and a lot of other elements just seem cheap. And the air conditioning is turned up way too high. It all feels like a butchers cold room with some aqua coloured pieces of plastic lying around. Although I suppose the mostly 60-plus crowd wouldn’t be complaining as it probably helped slow their aging.

The menu is fairly standard for a modern Australian restaurant that is trying too hard. I started with the tomato & Mauri buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, basil, pine nuts and aged balsamic. Good on paper but not well executed. The balsamic is almost invisible and there is no harmony with the different elements.

The wine list was extensive and had a bit of everything but the markup was fairly high. We ordered a bottle of the Yarrabank Cuvee (over twice the retail price) but by the end of the entrees we were still waiting for it, with no explanation offered. Eventually we were told that the bottle was still chilling and would be a little longer.

It eventually arrived, still fairly warm. The waitress opened it and spilled roughly a glass worth. Although I do have to give her acting skills credit because she was pretending that nothing had happened.

Main was the pan seared salmon with baby cos, smoked bacon, parmesan and herb ciabatta. Also known as a piece of salmon with an egg on top and a Caesar salad. Overwrought items on menus piss me off. The dish failed to live up to expectations. The Caesar salad was good but put in a bowl so pretentious that it was incredibly difficult to access the food. The salmon was overcooked and the poached egg on top was such a bizarrely poor decision. It added nothing to the dish. I could make this dish better myself at home.

Dessert was a vanilla panna cotta that was, again, overwrought on the menu. It was good but nothing special.

For roughly $80 a head for three courses and a bottle of wine it’s not the most expensive modern Australian restaurant out there, but with food, ambiance and service this average, I wouldn’t bother. If I ever return I'll officially be 60 and have lost all sense of taste.

RATING: Will never return to

RESTAURANT: Jimmy’s Recipe Malaysia

Type: Malaysian
Location: The Galleries Victoria, Level Ground Floor, Shop RC16, 500 George St, Sydney (Opposite the outside part of Art House Hotel)
Booking Required: No.

Fast, good value Malaysian food in the middle of the CBD. The place resembles a food court so it isn’t a place for a romantic dinner, but for a quick, cheap, tasty laksa in the city it would be a good stop.

Still, not sure if I prefer this over the nearby Malay Chinese Take Away, which has, apparently, just moved to Hunter St or any of the many other Malaysian places in the city. Also, no fish tanks which is unfortunate.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Jimmy's Recipe on Urbanspoon

WINE: PETERSON HOUSE Sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon

Type: Sparkling Red
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $35

My mother took a trip up to the Hunter Valley recently and checked out some of the wineries around there. I was actually hanging out for something from Tyrrell’s but she didn’t get around that way. Instead, an interesting sparkling cab sav was collected from Peterson House.

Light and purple in colour, the wine pours with an impressive mousse but a bead that disappears quickly. Aroma of chocolate and forest fruits. Pleasant, mellow tastes of cherry, okay and sweet, juicy berries. Sharp finish, but disappears quickly.

Good wine, definitely different to the norm, but value is a little doubtful.

86%

Sunday, December 10, 2006

RESTAURANT: Ippon Sushi

Type: Japanese
Location: 404 Sussex St, Haymarket
Booking Required: No.

A couple of years ago I wasn’t nearly as keen to try new places as I am now. Ippon Sushi was probably the first place that inspired me to constantly return to and try different things. Calpyso was actually the one who introduced me to it.

As a poor uni student the value was the main appeal. The food is cheap and taste is quite good. The sushi is a bit touch and go but the ramen noodle soups are delicious, especially the miso ramen.

I’ve been back many times and it’s always good. Rarely crowded so the atmosphere is nice. When I’m in the mood for a quick miso noodle soup and some sushi I’ll always pop into this place or nearby Kura.

RATING: Will return to

Saturday, December 09, 2006

WINE: WOLF BLASS Gold Label Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2004

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $20

Wolf Blass has been one of the most well known houses in Australia for as long as I can remember. Yet I’ve never really been moved to drink a lot of their stuff. Out of a mixed dozen of different and exciting sparkling wines this is one of the last ones I pulled out.

Straight after the cork is removed I can smell ripe fruit aromas in the bottle. Bead is heavy but very persistent. Mid gold with just the slightest hint of green. Definitely not a mellow drink. Bold brioche and creamy yeast flavours. Also some strawberry and apricot. Fine finish. Wouldn’t work well as an aperitif but would go well with stronger appetizers.

A technically good wine but the flavour hasn’t impressed me. And really, if it doesn’t taste good why bother? Still tastes a little tight.

83%

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

WINE: Tyrrels Vat 1 Semillon 1998

Type: White
Origin: Hunter Valley, Australia
Approx Cost: $45

Semillon seems to be one of those varietals that goes below the radar. Which is a real shame because Australian examples tend to be extremely good value for money. As I mentioned in my last post, Tyrrells Semillon is the best example of its kind in Australia and '98 was said to be a fairly decent vintage (current vintage is 1999, which is meant to be exceptional). The number of medals on the bottle is nothing short of impressive (which these days may not say a great deal) so it's gauranteed to wow anyone you might be sharing it with (in my case it was my Dad, he was suitably wowwed). The first thing you get on the nose is the pungent burst of bright citrus and refined floral smells. It's colour is light gold and it leaves luscious long legs on the glass. Once it was in my mouth I found it had a silky smooth feel with a really nicely balanced acidity, delivering all the goodness of the lime and lemon citrus without being sour or unpleasant. There is a sort of dryness to it which leaves it lingering nicely, it's well defined without any any signs of bitterness or poor oak, which I find ruins some chardonnays. If anything it was probably a little too easy to drink and got through half a bottle without really thinking. I drank it with a chilli/garlic/cherry tomato/prawn and linguini scenario which worked fairly well. The thing is, if you wanted a chardonnay this good you'd be looking to pay a lot more.

92%