Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BEER: Gouden Carolus - Cuvee van de Keizer Blauw 2010

Belgian Strong Ale
Approx $20
750ml, 11% alc

I'm a huge fan of the Gouden Carolus Classic, one of the nicest Belgian beers you'll ever meet. It's as hugely flavoured as it is hugely drinkable.

But... it has a big sister.

Meet Cuvee van de Keizer, a fairly similar beer, brewed yearly (for a while, I think. It may have stopped) on the birthday of Charles V, the "Holy" Roman Emperor who suffered from terrible gout.

If I was Charles V I'd be dead pretty bloody happy that someone had made such an exceptional beer for my birthday.

It has the same sort of pruney, spicey, sweet opening of the normal Carolus Classic, but it's just the little bit smoother. A bit sweeter too. Stacks of vanilla. More refined. The finish is sweet, rich and smooth.

Despite being 11% it's really (scarily) drinkable. Beautifully refined, smooth and sweet. Like a good dessert wine.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

RESTAURANT: Best Hand Made Noodle Restaurant

I love modesty. Which is probably why I find myself in yet another Chinese restaurant claiming to have the best noodles or dumplings.

Tucked away in an alley behind the Agincourt pub near UTS, Best Hand Made Noodle Restaurant (a name that rolls off the tongue: Bonus points) looks like a pretty cool place to eat. Like it could be a secret spot to destroy some noodles and dumplings.

I'm in a large group so we go into the upstairs room. I'll call it the party room because the high energy dance music being pumped out makes us all want to bust out the glow sticks and start off our meal with an entree of red mitsubishis.

We start off with a couple of noodle dishes and while they might not be the best hand made noodles, they are pretty damn good hand made noodles.

Unfortunately, that's as good as it gets. The dumplings appear to start their life frozen and don't offer much in the way of flavour. Shallot lamb is lacking some garlic or ginger and the meat is cut too thin to be enjoyable.

The xin jiang lamb skewers aren't good. Packed with MSG and lamb sliced too thin and oddly chewy from being coated in cornflour before cooking. The other night at Silk Road I ate 6 myself. Here, one is plenty.

Tea coming from a teabag and not leaves is also a little disappointing for me, much preferring the leaves.

While the noodles were great, everything else we had was either par for the course or below average. I doubt I'll be returning, considering how many great Northern Chinese restaurants are nearby. If I do return, I'll be leaning heavily towards the noodle dishes.

RATING: Will probably not return to [?]

Best Handmade Noodle Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

RESTAURANT: Opera Kitchen

I've never been a "touristy" sort of guy, which is probably why I felt dirtier the closer I got the Circular Quay. Partially dirty because I knew I was going to have to spend $4.50 on a bottle of water because I was thirsty.

There isn't enough steel wool in the world to get me clean.

I was there to see a movie that was showing at the Dendy (13 Assassins: 4 stars out of 7) and I FELT SO DIRTY.

Afterwards, the hunger pangs were almost unbearable. So we headed to the Opera Kitchen for some overpriced food in the shadow of the Opera House (do I need to capitalise that?) and in the shadow of tourists (fairly sure that doesn't need capitalising).

The great thing about Opera Kitchen is that they bring together all of these eating places--Miss Chu's, Cloudy Bay Fish Co, Becasse Bakery, Charlie & Co, Kenji--and you only have to order once. This is great for a fat dude like me because it means I get to start with Japanese food, move on the Vietnamese, then finish with burgers if I so wish. Oh, and (PS) I wished.

You order whatever you want, grab a seat and they bring it all out to you. Smart!

Kenji's nigiri was solid. Good quality. Tasty.

Miss Chu's was it's usual self. Which is good. And small in portion so you can smash heaps of stuff.

I got my first taste of Charlie & Co's chilli dog and it didn't disappoint. It wasn't perfect (the dog was a bit dry) but it hit the spot. Truffle (oil) and parmesan fries were also their dependable selves.

Yes it's all bloody expensive compared to the other locations of these outlets, but you get a view of the entire harbour, a cool breeze and the ability to create your own cross-cultural degustation. It's nice.

The tourists walk by awkwardly, looking for clues as to how to act in this mysterious land. You feel like a bit of a king. Because this view is yours. The cool breeze is yours. And you--you alone--decide if you want to give it out.

Oh. And you have a steamer basket in front of you filled with delicious treats.

Charlie & Co @ Opera Kitchen on Urbanspoon Miss Chu @ Opera Kitchen on Urbanspoon Kenji Japanese @ Opera Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

RESTAURANT: Black by Ezard / Balla / Messina

It's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open it's open.

It's open. Star City was a pretty good place to lose money and to drink overpriced drinks. No doubt about it. But when they announced they were going to undergo a huge development and bring in some of Australia's and the world's best chefs, I was suddenly contemplating a move to Pyrmont just to be closer to it all.

Had all of the restaurants opened up together, I was also planning on taking leave from work for a couple of weeks just to eat everywhere and not have to worry about getting up early. But alas.

While some of the other names are still yet to open (Zumbo, Chang, Golden Century, etc), the all shiny The Star has been launched with some excellent eating options. Yes, ones worth going to Pyrmont for!

So what better way to try them than in one night. One after the other?

I start things off at Black by Ezard because I'd checked the websites earlier and Balla didn't seem quite as busy as Black so I reckon I have a better chance of rocking up later without a booking. See, I'm a researcher and all that. I'm not some uneducated blogger spouting off at the... spout.

I'd visited Teage Ezard's Melbourne restaurants--Gingerboy and Ezard--and enjoyed them quite thoroughly, so Black was high on my list of anticipated openings.

The first thing you notice is that it's quite black. The designer that suggested a black colour scheme is a genius, because it looks sleek and sexy as hell. Dark wood, moody lighting and a communal table (aka slab of wood) all fit together nicely and do a bloody good job of making you forget you're in a sort of shopping centre section of a casino. At least, until the tourists come in wearing what appear to be tracksuit pants.

The ipad-housed wine list is tempting and thorough, but in the interests of a quick evening I don't waste any time locking in an awesome half bottle of the American Elkhorn Peak pinot noir.

To start, a poached egg with potato cream and what appear to be potato threads with a herb and truffle salad. Apparently, it's a signature dish of the place. Not apparently, it's bloody awesome. The crunchy threads on top, the perfectly poached egg in the middle, the cream on the bottom. Every mouthful has all of the textures covered.

You don't come to a steak restaurant without ordering steak, even if they do offer fish cooked sous vide in 2000 year old sea water. The wagyu flat iron (marble score 9+) gloriously satisfies the steak component. Perfectly cooked and incredibly rich. It's delicious.

A side of potato gratin is equally rich and delicious. It's cheesy, creamy and a stupid choice if you're thinking about eating another entire meal shortly.

The dessert menu is hard going. Of the half dozen or so choices, they all look great. I thought I'd decided on the chocolate dessert, before I decided on the apple cake, until I finally rested on "Honeycrunch", an exceptionally good honey parfait with great textures.

Petit fours took the form of a chilli and jam filled doughnut with a chocolate dipping sauce. Excellent.

The restaurant only opened last week but the staff are holding things up well. A few kinks to work out but that's totally expected at this early stage of the game. But at their best they're already friendly, charming and helpful.

Black is definitely going to get a revisit.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Black By Ezard on Urbanspoon

While it would have been nice to take a break after eating a full meal, I don't really get the option during the walk to Stefano Manfredi's Balla, since it's only 10 metres away.

Contrasting Black's (er) black, Balla is on the whiter side. This isn't very informative.

I walk in and it's immediately apparent that shit is hectic. A party of four have just been turned away, every table is full in the restaurant, the bar is busy, waiters and waitresses are furiously darting all over the place and staff appear to be doing a lot of what can optimistically be described as "prioritising".

I manage to snag one of the last seats in the bar where they, thankfully (for the sake of this experiment anyway), serve the full menu.

While Black did a great job of making you forget you're in a casino/shopping centre, the bar section of Balla is more exposed, with it's top to toe glass walls. Black gave me a view of a sexy dining room and a bit of the harbour, but Balla's bar view is mostly of the people coming and going from the casino. Admittedly, I was enjoying the people watching that it provided.

In the space of a couple of minutes, a whole heap of someone else's food arrives at my table, gets confusedly taken away, I get asked for an order before I'm given a menu, a waitress appears to be "checking with her manager" and the kitchen appears to be stressing the fuck out. Concerning.

But then it gets better all of a sudden.

I have a solid valpolicella in front of me one second, then I have a solid valpolicella and all of my food in front of me the next. Best.recovery.ever.

They have lardo. Oh dear sweet lord they have lardo. Cured pork fat. I haven't had it since I was in Italy, yet I still dream of it. The waitress warns/checks that I know that lardo is cured fat and I feel like laughing at her for delaying the delivery of my lardo with such nonsense.

It's shaved so fine that you can almost see through the fatty ribbon. I wrap some around some grissini, put it in my mouth and IT.JUST.MELTS. It's stunning. And it's only something like $7. It's a brilliant appetiser or bar snack. Get a bottle of sparkling wine and a bucket of lardo and you have a party.

Macceronchini with yabbies, butter and sesame seeds is perfect in its execution. Good ingredients that compliment each other, thrown together. A joy to eat.

Ox cheek braised in red wine on a pea puree is so soft that I have no idea how it has maintained it's structure. It's stupidly tender to the point of disintegration. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the big, rich flavour that the menu promised, but it's still a very solid dish.

Dessert time (again) and while I was tempted to just get another plate of lardo, the chocolate tartufo seems like it's worth a shot. Deliciously rich chocolate mousse encased in chocolate, surrounded by citrus segments. It's a nice dish, and good value, but doesn't really blow me away. Something about the combination of citrus segments and chocolate just doesn't quite work for me. It's the mouthfeel of thick chocolate with thin citrus juice. Just not right. But still a good dish as a whole and chocolate lovers will go nuts for how rich the non-citrus part is.

Similar to my journey to Spiedo the other night, there's a trolley full of grappa to choose from. I go for age again and this time it's the Nonino 12 year old that fills my glass. At $40 a glass you expect a lot and it delivers. Rich, robust flavours with a looooong finish. I could sit on it for a while if I didn't have to get some sleep before work tomorrow (should have taken that damn annual leave).

The service had some problems during the night but they'll easily sort it out with time. And it was partly my fault for rocking up right at the high point of a packed dinner service. The staff were friendly and seemed to be enjoying the place.

With it's reasonable prices, extensive wine list and tempting menu, I can see Balla being a good destination for some mid-range Italian food. Time will tell if it has to pull to drag me across the bridge--away from the likes of Pendolino and Spiedo--when I want good Italian food, but I'm certainly going to give it a few more stabs before I make my mind up.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Balla on Urbanspoon

For some stupid reason I leave Balla and walk another 10 metres to Messina, the new outpost of the Darlinghurst gelato store with a cult-like following. I've never tried their gelato before and I didn't want to miss another opportunity.

I see what the fuss is about. Excellently made gelato and a great range of flavours.

I can't wait to repeat this stupid journey once he next lot of restaurants at The Star open up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


With my level 6 cherry popped last week with Xanthi, I was back to Westfield for another turn. This time it would be at it's Italian next-door-neighbour, Spiedo.

I was pumped for this. With my love for Italian food and long held desire to try the much lauded food of Ormeggio at the Spit (and much hated travelling over the bridge for anything) there was much anticipation.

I'd seen a couple of reviews which had photos of the food, so I steered us towards a more substantial meal.

Pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta) is a favourite of mine, so having that as an entree was a no-brainer. With potato, cabbage, fontina and sage it's money-in-the-bank delicious. And significantly more substantial than the ox tongue with salsa verde and rainbow trout crude that my dining companions opt for (which admittedly looked delicious and got good reviews).

The wine is flowing, as with any good Italian meal. The northern-Italian-centric wine list is reasonably priced and full of plenty of tempting bottles. Any chance of it being intimidating is eliminated by the staff being so willing to assist and recommend.

A fan of all things slow-cooked, the bresciano with polenta was a no brainer. Slow roasted meat with a rich sauce over an awesome polenta? Brilliant. Delicious, tender, rich, soft, creamy. Everything.

The potato gnocchi with a wild boar ragout is excellent too, though, and nearly has me regretting my choice. For a split-second. Until I hoover another mouthful of meat and polenta.

We're fitting in as much bread as possible and picking at the tomato salad. And it's probably just enough.

Enough room for dessert and the homemade gelato, Spiedo tiramisu and a raspberry dessert all find good homes. The grappa trolley also arrives with a good selection and is readily imbibed. The tiramisu makes a nice change from the usual, though I'm not sure if I prefer it over the traditional version.

The "homebrew" grappa is worth a shot (pun intended), as is the insane, $55 a glass aged grappa that I forget the name of.

Spiedo is a great pick for regional Italian food in a CBD starved of choice. If you make sure you account for the smaller size of some dishes when ordering, you should be fine.

I get the feeling that this is only the beginning and, once the team settles in, we're going to be in store for some awesome dining.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Spiedo Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

RESTAURANT: Der Raum @ Marque

Twitter is great for sharing little tidbits of information contained in 140 characters or less. But it seems totally insufficient sometimes. I don't know how it contained the short tweet that I saw from Der Raum saying they were going to be doing a dinner at Marque restaurant in the new future.

Wait... what?

This is bigger-than-140-characters-huge!

Yes. A one off night from my favourite cocktail bar and my favourite high-end Sydney restaurant. Oh, and it would be on my birthday. If there is a God and he made this happen, then I have to give the dude credit for choosing excellent gifts.

The day of my birthday couldn't pass quickly enough.

My patience was rewarded with the first offering from Der Raum: sous vide chamomile with a chamomile fog, served in a transparent teapot that was left on the table to brood. Clever, since the first few sips were warm, but the liquid nitrogen in the teapot meant that the last pour was ice cold. Marque contributed an equally impressive appetiser in the form of a foie gas and olive truffle mousse sandwiched between two crisp shards of bonito. I wanted to eat approx 50 of them. That's how you have a mother fucking tea party.

The next dish was one of my favourites from my last visit to Marque. Almond jelly with blue swimmer crab, almond gazpacho, sweet corn and avruga is a beautifully balanced dish with excellent texture. It was matched with a sparkling almond cocktail from Der Raum that had a barrel aged sugar cube in it that slowly disolved. It was a fascinating drink that constantly evolved as the sugar disolved, but was a questionable match with the delicately flavoured dish because of how sweet and almondy it was.

A couple of good-but-not-wow dishes arrived before the mind-blowngly good/clear-winner of a course: smoked duck egg with sorrel, green strawberries, tea and toast. This was paired with what was probably my favourite cocktail when I visited Der Raum: the Bax Beat Pinot, a red wine made out of beetroot juice, citrus and fernet branca. The dish was rich but balanced and very moreish. The "wine" was delicious, very characteristic of a red wine and provided a minty finish to help get rid of any cloyingness from the egg.

Pigeon with mullet roe, sauteed lettuce, cucumber and dill was a very solid dish, held up by the slightly nutty flavour of the roasted lettuce. But it was around this time that I was getting a bit restless. Namely because I was still hungry. Not sure if it was just that day but I was perpetually hungry for the entire three hour dinner. Which was kind of scary, because it was the first time (from memory) that I'd felt that in my "dining career". My dining companions said they felt "content" from the dinner, but I just wasn't seeing it.

Before I knew it dessert was here. Firstly a delicious sauternes custard to set things up. Then the "tomberries" dessert, which was quite nice. Tomatoes stuffed with strawberries or something like that. With the creme fraiche it was refreshing, sweet and perfectly balanced.

Overall a bloody excellent way to spend a Monday night (and a birthday). While it wasn't as breath-taking as my last visit, overall the food and drink on offer was excellent. I can't wait for my next experience at either Marque or Der Raum or... dare I say it... both again...

Though next time I won't be rocking up starving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RECIPE: Baked Polenta and Meatballs

I made some meatballs in tomato sauce and had a bit left over. I soon found that there are only so many nights in a row that you can eat meatballs in tomato sauce before you get extremely bored of eating meatballs in tomato sauce.

So I decided to mix it up a little.

Start off with your sad old meatballs in tomato or your sad old ragu and put it in a baking dish (mood and age not a matter for concern). Whatever sad old thing you have, it has to be saucy. You want at least 3cm of liquid.

Coat it all with a dusting fine polenta (uncooked).

Add stacks of grated reggiano or pandano.

Drizzle with olive oil, crack on some pepper and put into a 220c oven until everything is golden brown (around 45-60 mins).

The polenta will suck up some liquid, the cheese will brown, meat edges will get crispy.

Add on some freshly chopped parsley if you have it. Drizzle with olive oil.

Serve with bread and a side salad and red wine and your boring old dish is suddenly new and sexy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Since it opened, the food court on Level 5 of the new Sydney Westfield has been my lunch destination of choice. So I thought it was about time that I gave the restaurant precinct on level 6 a shot. The fractionally small Greek part of me decided that Xanthi would be a good bet.

I'd never been to it's predecessor, Perama, but it was fairly well regarded. I was slightly sceptical though, based on my history of being generally disappointed by the quality of Greek food in Sydney (namely the CBD) that tends to verge on the tedious serving of a mezze platter, followed by slow cooked lamb and ended with baklava.

We kick things off with the delicious moked eggplant dip and a bottle of the respectable Lafkiotis Agionimo. Fried veal sweetbreads arrive too and they're superb: crispy, rich and stupidly more-ish.

Things were going well until the loukanika arrived. That made things go very well. Heavily herbed and spiced grilled sausage, delicious with a squeeze of lemon. I gave up dipping my bread in olive oil and dipped it in the fat that the sausage left behind. Insanely good.

The famous pork belly baklava is the sort of modernised Greek food that should happen in more places. Sweet from the date sauce, flaky filo, supported by the soft pork belly. It's a very nice dish.

Onto a bottle of the Domaine Sigalas Mavrottragano. It's among the most expensive on the (entirely Greek from what I can see) wine list, but with good reason. It's superb. Big fruit and gravel flavours, but with a smooth structure.

Lamb from the spit hits the table moments before our jaws do. The meat is tender, juicy, smokey, um.... delicious. A squeeze of lemon and a bit of tzatsiki and you're in heaven.

We also go for the Greek coleslaw and the tomato and white anchovy salad on the side to add a bit of balance to our diet. They're both very tasty.

The salted bonito arrives late and it's probably the worst possible savoury dish to end on. They're certainly not lying about the salted part, the fish is dredged in it. It's not to any of our tastes, but I could see some salt-fiends digging it.

Desserts are good but don't hit as hard as the savoury courses. Byzantine Ekmek is kind of similar to the BTS at House, but not as enjoyable. It's a pleasant and simple note to end on. Garden of Aphrodite is a stunning dish to look at and has it's strong points, but the taste doesn't quite live up to the look of the plate. Though it went superbly with a bottle of the delicious Samos Vin Doux.

Both desserts are only served with spoons, when forks would assist greatly. It was one of a couple of service missteps that night, but, thankfully, they didn't really detract from it being an enjoyable one.

Despite us going overboard on the food and wine, the bill was extremely reasonable considering how good the everything was. The food was excellent in most places, the menu is overwhelmingly more tempting than most Greek places in the CBD and the Greek-centric wine list is well assembled, good value and well worth exploring. While service had a few minor problems, they kept everything moving well and they've helped with the restaurant's lively, boisterous mood. In short, I can't wait to go back for more.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011


I'll never forget the time I was at the Excelsior, watching a band in the cramped uni-lodge-esque back room, and I saw convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson.

(Side note: This blog has been nominated for an award for "best restaurant review to begin with a reference to paedophiles". In a few days I'll post details on how you can vote for us.)

He was rocking the fuck out to some psychedelic prog rock, with no shirt, oblivious to the dozen or so guys in the audience that were plotting to bash him at the first opportunity.

Today at El Loco, that spot is occupied by an Asian family of all ages. There's about fifteen of them and they're huddled over the bright blue table, earnestly deciding what dishes to order.

I'm a few metres away on an equally bright red table, in the general region of where I was standing that fateful night last year, watching my friend portion out El Loco's hotdog. Part of me is being greedy and wants the whole thing, the other part is wanting to try even more dishes from the menu.

The Excelsior and the drab back room have changed massively since Merivale bought it out 9 or so months ago. And while my beloved post-rock may be gone, it has been replaced by fresh food, a breezy room and droves of hipsters. Hipsters aside, it's been a significantly positive change.

Tacos arrive. They're all good. Fresh and refreshing. The tofu taco is good enough to please meateaters too, so don't skip that one. On my second visit I skipped the secret taco, not being the most adventurous offal eater and not being convinced by the honeycomb tripe that was in the last one I had. Sometimes it's a bit hard to find the main ingredient of the filling, but it's no disaster.

I get my part of the hot dog and it's just as good as my last visit. A nice dog, piquant salsa, mayo and mountains of cheese.

The grilled fish with fennel salad and salsa verde is pretty awesome, held together by the deliciously balanced salsa. It's probably my favourite dish so far.

Corn chips with guac and salsa sit on the table and are great to pick at before, between and after dishes.

El Loco is the sort of place that Sydney has desperately needed for the last... oh... ever. Fresh, tasty, cheap, fun and non-stodgy Mexican food. The value is excellent and the venue is, to the best of my knowledge, now paedophile free.

RATING: Will return to [?]

El Loco on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 11, 2011

RECIPE: Smoked Chicken and Grilled Asparagus Salad

I'm such a smoked chicken fiend. That shit is amazing. And when I get some, I nearly always make a variation of this salad.

- 1/2 a smoked chicken breast, skin removed, sliced
- 1 T of chilli lime mayo
- 1 good splash of olive oil
- 12 cashew nuts, quickly roasted in a hot pan
- 6 asparagus stalks, woody stems removed, lightly brushed with olive oil and cooked on a hot pan or griddle pan then roughly chopped
- Some shaved grana pandano or reggiano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 poached egg (optional)
- 1/2 a stalk of celery, finely sliced (optional - not included here)
- Finish with a drizzle of olive oil

Monday, September 05, 2011

RECIPE: Beef Vindaloo

I remember when I was still relatively young an Indian restaurant and take-away opened up nearby. Considering the suburban ethnic diet for the past 50 years had consisted of honey chicken from the local Chinese restaurant, this was a big step.

For my father and I, this was a fairly exciting development. We'd made trying hot dishes and acting like it didn't burn us because we were men "our thing", so the prospect of eating firecely hot vindaloo represented something of a pinnacle.

I haven't had it much since then, preferring to opt for less intense curries that I can actually taste without chilli burning my tongue into oblivion.

But then I decided to make it.

Serves 6 with rice and naan. Medium heat.

- 1 T mustard seeds
- 2 T curry leaves
- 12 green cardamom pods
- 2 T black peppercorns
- 3 T cumin seeds
- 3 star anise
- 1 medium cassia quill
- 5 dried chillis
- 1 t turmeric powder

Roast in the oven until fragrant. Approx 5-10 mins.

Grind. Add 1 T sea salt.

- 1 head of garlic, wrapped in foil

Roast in the oven for around 45 mins until soft. Set aside to cool.

Cut open and squeeze out the garlic.

- 2 medium brown onions
- 5 red chillis, deseeded
- 2 green chilli, deseeded
- 3 thumb sized pieces of peeled ginger
- The garlic from the above

Puree all in a blender/hand mixer.

Beef Vindaloo

In a large saucepan on a medium-high heat add 3 T of ghee and allow to melt. Add the base and cook for 10 mins, stirring regularly so the mixture doesn't stick.

Add the masala and 1kg of diced beef. Stir until the beef goes brown.

Add 1.5L of vegetable stock and 1 t of palm or brown sugar (or jaggery).

Bring to the boil and reduce to a low heat. Cook, uncovered, for around 3 hours, or until the beef is fall-apart soft.

Add either 1/2 C of tamarid juice or 1/4 C of white wine vinegar. Stir.

In a saucepan, heat 2 T of ghee. Add 1 medium brown onion, sliced fairly finely. Add a good pinch of sea salt. Stir regularly until onions are brown. Add 1 T of dried curry leaves and 1 t of cumin seeds. Once cumin seeds are popping and curry leaves look fried, add to the pot and stir.

Serve with rice and naan.

Great the next day.

Maybe some mint sauce for a cooling hit (1 bunch of mint leaves, 1 small Lebanese cucumber without core or skin, 1 tub yoghurt, pinch of salt, blend, lemon juice to taste).

Maybe reduce curry further and shred meat and put inside Vietnamese spring roll wraps and fry if you want to go all next level.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


I've always had a difficult relationship with steak.

But we're working on it.

And it's getting better. Slowly.

ARTICLE: In Praise of the Rochefort 10

For a day that may have dramatically altered my life, I remember nearly none of it. Though that may be explained by the fact that the day contained beer. A lot of it. Maybe. I can't remember (ed: we established that earlier).

I don't remember why we were there, but we'd gone to the Belgian Beer Cafe in The Rocks with the promise of good beer. That was odd in it's own right because "good beer" around that time was mostly defined by how fresh the keg of Carlton Draught or Tooheys New was.

I think we started light and moved to the dark.

I don't think my preference for dark beers had been found yet.

We might had moved through the list and discovered sensational beers like the Gouden Carolous, the Chimay Blu or the Gouden Draak (which was extremely good because it had a golden dragon on the bottle). But there was a point when the Rochefort 10 was ordered. They didn't have the 6 or the 8, just the 10. It was one of the more expensive beers on the list for reasons which we didn't yet understand. Someone probably got it as a dare; to appear odd. Oh, you got that beer? Crazy. We're young men having the time of our lives. Let us high-five.

You can tell by the smell of it. Like a girl our age back then, wearing Impulse, mildly attractive; we new we wanted it. Even among great beers, the Rochefort 10 stands out when you smell it. It smells thick, caramelised, fruity, rich, complex. You get the hint of the 11.3% alcohol in there, but it's not a strong smell. It's like you're smelling a sultana that has been soaked in good brandy. It's a sultana that has been around and knows a few things.

The taste is borderline unbelievable, especially if you're use to Carlton Draughts and Tooheys News. It transcends beer. Think of the complex fruit and cake flavours of a great fruitcake, but turned to liquid and mellowed out. You're kind of there.

Even if you've never had a sip before, it brings back memories of family christmases; of great sandwiches, where the flavours and textures are in harmony; of chocolate cakes that are rich but not cloying so you feel like you could eat them forever; of your first crush because there is something raw and confusing about it; of your first love because it's familiar but it's your everything and you can't imagine a life without it.

I knew I liked it from the first bottle. But I didn't know how much I liked it. I was without context; I'd only had the most rudimentary of beers at that point. But as I explored beer in all it's shapes and forms, the Rochefort 10 has always been special.

In a word, those monks know their shit (ed: that's five words...).