Monday, June 14, 2010


It had started with a recommendation about some dumplings we needed to try which, as far as I'm concerned, is a great way to start anything.

Miss Chu is a Darlinghurst-based catering company serving up delicious sounding Asian (predominately Vietnamese) finger food. But every weekday, the kitchen opens up and operates as a hawker style cafe.

Oh, and it's pretty damn good.

Great balance of ingredients in the rice paper rolls, where some places go a bit too heavy on the bean sprouts. Steamed dim sum-style dumplings are fantastic, and melt in the mouth once you bite in. Spring rolls are also deliciously crisp. There are other items on the menu I can't wait to go back and sit on the milk crates and try, like peking duck pancakes, BBQ pork buns, vermicelli salads and pho.

This is quick, delicious eating. It's not a fancy restaurant and it's not a place to go if you want to linger over your food. It's the place to go if you find yourself nearby and in the mood for a quick (and tasty) bite.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Miss Chu on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 11, 2010

BEER OF THE WEEK: Mikkeller - Beer Geek Brunch (Highland Edition)

New feature! Yay!

Each week I'm going to bring you a beer that requires particular attention. And then you're only allowed to drink that beer until I tell you what the next one is.

I've decided to start this segment off with one of my favourites of recent time:

This beer is nuts.

It's a 10.9% abv imperial oatmeal stout made with the infamous civet cat coffee (aka the world's most expensive coffee, aka coffee shat out by rodents), aged in whiskey barrels and retails for around $40.

Still reading?

For those that don't know Mikkeller's beers are some of the most extreme, loved, confusing, delicious beers in the world. Mikkeller is a gypsy brewer, meaning he travels the land and uses spare tanks from other brewers. The Beer Geek Brunch was brewed at the equally loved Nogne brewery in Norway (which just picked up the top award at the Australian International Beer Awards).

This beer is simply mind-blowing. It pours jet black and thick. Beautifully powerful nose. Dive right in and enjoy huge flavours of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt and scotch. The length on the palate is tremendous.

This is a beer for people that love their beers big and packed with flavour and those that want to appreciate a superb craft beer. It's a beer to sit with and savour for a long time.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

WINE OF THE WEEK: Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2004

Really solid wine. Retails for around $100.

The highlight is the balance. For me, the perfect amount of rich, juicy (yet still quite lively) fruit--blackberries, blueberries--with a little spice--pepper, clove, anise--and enough oak for structure. Nice length on the finish.

I rated it: 92%

Monday, June 07, 2010


Full disclosure: I'm not the sort of person that would be caught dead in a place like this. But a work lunch would cause the fates of mine and Hooters Parramatta to collide on rainy afternoon.

And as the rain fell, this place would totally fuck with my head.

It's set out like a nicely appointed, American sports bar. Heaps of TVs playing sports, a bar, typically American bar food menu, wooden furniture as far as the eye can see, etc, etc, a pool table, etc. The difference between your typical American sports bar and Hooters is that one is designed to make men happy and comfortable, the other one is Hooters.

I'd seen everyone work themselves up about this place, preparing to do some epic ogling. I was picturing a scene in my head where everyone in the restaurant was just objectifying the women, treating them like shit.

But we get there and it's the women that are in total control. Sure, the guys have a look, probably even have a chat about how they rate each waitress. But the chat is hushed, and once they have the look there's nothing left to do.

It's probably the greatest business plan of all. Tempt guys in with the promise of a fleshy, sporty, manly paradise, deliver merely a glimpse of it, then charge them huge mark-ups on food and beer. $6.50 for the cheapest tap beer? $20 for a fairly basic burger? $50 for a rack of so-so ribs (hey, guys, lets make a joke about "full rack!")? Genius. Then also sell merchandise, perpetuate the manly story on the menu, serve slowly so they burn through the beers and snacks. But won't that objectify women if they wear skimpy clothing? Nope, you see the beauty is that the women are in total control. Guys will think they will be in control here, but they will be reduced to blubbering idiots. It's 3000 years of de-volution as soon as you walk through the door. But this time (in 1000 BC?) the women are in charge.

The food? Basic bar food with a decent markup (especially the beer). Not bad, but nothing to write home about. While I never would have taken the initiative to come here before, this did nothing to change that decision. That said, I now don't want to go there for entirely different reasons to those I had before.

RATING: Will probably not return to [?]

Hooters Parramatta on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 05, 2010

New Features

There are going to be some new features coming soon to the blog, which I hope you'll enjoy.

The aim of these features is an entirely selfless one: to add some structure and discipline to how I write this blog.

Rather than the current strategy of writing a little something whenever I feel like it, there will be 5 main columns/features:
- Wine of the week
- Beer of the week (I think they're pretty self explanatory)
- Restaurant review (hopefully 1 or so per week)
- Recipes (probably one every fortnight)
- Other articles (travel diaries, thoughts on the food scene, etc)

Should be fun.

(I give it 6 months before we're back to normal aka never posting)

Friday, June 04, 2010


I don't think I'd ever gone to the upper levels of the Strand arcade before. I didn't even know there was a third level. I also didn't know there was a decent Italian restaurant in the CBD. Truly a night of firsts.

Let me backtrack. I have grown to heavily dislike Italian food in Sydney. Too many overpriced meals, not enough simplicity. Perhaps the two are linked. Italian cuisine is blessed with a wealth of ingredients, a wealth of classic recipes and flavour combinations. Why is it so hard to do this, and do it simply?

Thankfully, things are changing in Sydney. An Italian revolution is happening. Pendolino is a part of that.

I dip the bread in the selection of olive oils and ponder what has been one of my toughest menu decisions of recent times. There is too much that I want to eat. My stomach is rumbling with delight at the mere thought of these dishes.

I start with a dish that I love and that I cook often. It's a take on an insalata caprese, that ultra-fresh combination of basil, ripe tomato and buffalo mozzarella. It's a dish that is so blindingly simple, yet so many restaurants have failed to execute it well. Pendolino gives me the best version I have ever tasted. Instead of the buffalo mozzarella we have some burrata (mozzarella with cream), we have some pieces of bread as croutons, some cress and it's all in a pool of what I think is burrata cream. It's classy, it's fresh, it's obscenely delicious.

I also have some of the air-dried wagyu carpaccio. It's quite nice, but the peccorino it's served with overpowers the subtleness of the beef a little. Still, a solid dish.

Main course time and shit gets real. Saffron risotto with slices of a pork and fennel (I think) salami. The dish is placed down and I wonder if they've forgotten to put something in the bowl. It looks sparse. I try it and realise that it has everything it needs. Possibly more. This is one of the best risottos I've ever had at a restaurant. Granted, most of them have been horrible, but Pendolino's version nails it. The texture is runny, but not soupy. The grains of rice have a sublime texture. Every single one is a joy to eat. The few slices of salami on top add another rich, aromatic layer. I savour every spoonful.

I almost don't want to risk getting dessert, in case it ruins the rest of the meal. But I'm greedy so I proceed. The campari poached pear tart. And I'm glad I risked it. Simple, but elegant. A great balance of sweet (the pear, some cream), savoury (a biscuit base) and sour/bitter (a slight hint of campari on the backpalate).

But as we wait for the bill it all kind of hits me. It's not a great restaurant, despite the food.

The service has been a little clumsy, for a start. They all try their hardest but it just doesn't quite work. The special is forgotten, the sommelier arrives at the wrong time, the staff speak loudly at the open kitchen, the olive oil is taken while bread is still there to be dipped (in our hand, no less), water isn't topped up fast enough. They're small things, but they add up. It all feels too complicated for the food.

And the prices. Yes, the ingredients are excellent and the food was superb, but entrees are $20-25 and mains are around $30-40. I don't see the value. The value that would keep me coming back over other new Italian restaurants popping up. It hasn't stopped the fashionable ladies out on the town for the night, but they've never been great judges of anything, really.

Like the pendulum swinging back and forth, I swing between love and slight disappointment with Pendolino. The food is superb, but the experience is unfulfilling. Maybe this isn't the Italian restaurant I'm waiting for? Maybe I need to wait a little longer for an Italian place that has food like this (maybe less refined) that has happy, laid-back staff and mains closer to $20. Maybe the noise and the darkness of the room is dragging me somewhere I don't want to go?

Will I be back? Probably. But when? I don't think I'll rush back. But that food! That menu! I think they have two options for where to take this place: drop prices by around $5 for the entress and mains, relax the staff, aim for smart casual. Or they could tighten up the service, introduce a tasting menu and aim for 2 hats.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Pendolino on Urbanspoon