15 May 2011

a tale of foodie fate at yen for viet

Let me set the scene for you. It was a cold windy Wednesday evening and the Mr and I were quite keen for a Winter warmer. Having a bit of a pho obsession, as you may already know, I suggested we take the trip to Marrickville to try Yen for Viet.

We seem to arrive with another 50 people keen on warming up that night, could it have anything to do with a certain review the day before?

We line up expecting a wait and in front of us, couple after couple are leaving after being told that no booking means no table. We persist, optimistic, that perhaps we won't have to wait too long. It gets to our turn and the waitress is called to the kitchen before we can mutter the answer to her question "no, we don't have a booking", she tells us to wait just a moment and walks away.

In the meantime, a table for two is leaving and another waitress comes along and tells us to be seated. I refuse to decline and we take a seat. Dumb luck or foodie fate? I'll let you decide.

We peruse the menu and after a bit of the time, our order is taken. The waitress apologises for the delay and assures us that in a few weeks the waiting times won't be so long.

We start with some entrees, before our much needed pho.

Crispy squid stuffed with prawn, pork mince and black fungus
We both found the squid in this dish to be quite tough but the filling was delicious and so were those pickled vegetables to eat it with.

Crispy pancake stuffed with bean sprouts, mung beans & duck
I'm a little but fussy when it comes to fried food so I was a bit weary when this came out looking a little oily. The duck inside was cooked perfectly though and even though it was still quite heavy for my liking it's balanced out nicely when picked up with those fresh mint leaves and dunked in the sauce, a combination of chilli, lime, garlic & fish sauce.

Pho bo with wagyu beef
And at last I can tell you about the hero, the pho bo with wagyu beef. The soup is seasoned so perfectly and of course served to us with fresh basil, bean sprouts & chopped fresh chilli. I love the wagyu in this, the fat is marbled through the tender beef and adds a beautiful flavour to that broth without making it oily. The ingredients are noticeably fresher than any other pho I've tried.

This gorgeous Vietnamese restaurant is most definitely worth a try for that warm bowl of pho alone.


09 May 2011

magnolia bakery, sex and the city & snow - my american adventures pt2

It was Spring in New York when I was there, having never really been to a cooler destination I was expecting a Sydney style Spring. You know those days right? Crisp sunny mornings, warm days and cooler nights. Well, as I experienced, a New York Spring is not that at all. On most days the temperature would reach a high of 6 degrees celsius and that was a good day.

Now on one particular frosty day (-1degrees) I decided it was the day I would visit Magnolia Bakery, it is iconic after all. So with the lure of cupcakes I dragged my mum and sister along, we put on every layer we had and headed downtown. At first they weren't particularly impressed as there was a line around the corner and as soon as we started to line up the heavens opened with rain and yep, you guessed it, snow. I would like to point out that I don't own warm clothes for the snow, I don't like the cold and I tend to act like a princess around July in Sydney so this isn't ideal when you're lining up for about 30 minutes in the cold, without an umbrella.

The line outside Magnolia Bakery
Apologies for the blurry photograph, I was literally shivering when taking this shot because everytime I used my camera I had to take off my warm woolly gloves.

Outside Magnolia Bakery 
Once inside, the store is very cute, crowded and cluttered. There were gorgeous lace curtains, fresh flowers in jars and cake and cupcake displays everywhere. There aren't any seats inside, they wouldn't fit as the store is tiny and generally packed with people, plus there's a section inside just for merchandise!

Cupcake aprons for sale
The gorgeous cakes on display, reminds me of a country bake sale
Now, after that long wait I had worked up quite an appetite and I'm convinced that the cold makes you more hungry so I was ready to eat. I was very excited to see my favourite red velvet cupcakes on display and mine for the taking as I here they are often sold out and unavailable.

Our gorgeous box of goodies - red velvet cupcakes, vanilla with chocolate icing and caramel with buttermilk icing
So excited I finally made it, I had to take a picture of the box
That gloriously RED velvet cupcake before I'm about to dig in
The cupcake was delicious, it had layers of light creamy icing and fluffy, red moist sponge. I'd like to take this moment to thank Jen from http://www.lifeslikeacupcake.com/. She is obviously a cupcake lover and an amazing cupcake creator and I wouldn't have gone there if it wasn't for her. I could literally hear her voice in my mind saying "never mind the cold, red velvet cupcakes are inside!".

Now if you head out of Magnolia and turn left just down the street you'll arrive at a very famous building - Carrie Bradshaw's apartment block where almost every episode of Sex and the City was filmed.

That famous apartment block in downtown NYC
The apartment is blocked off, as there are people actually living there, which meant no Carrie photos at the top of the stairs waiting for Big's car to come down the street. It was a shame really.

So glad I got to see this gorgeous part of New York, cold or not it was worth the visit downtown plus now I'll never complain about Sydney winters again!

The beautiful Perry Street
Magnolia Bakery - 401 Bleecker Street, New York City www.magnoliabakery.com

04 May 2011

a night to remember at tetsuyas

When a meal starts with truffle butter, you can think either two things: the first is that the restaurant could be compensating for something or the second, that you're in for a treat.

I was definitely in for a treat, an 11 course treat, complete with matching wines, sake, a chocolate dessert to die for and a very famous piece of Ocean Trout.

I'm just going to take a short break from my USA posting for one very special post. Since I can remember I have wanted to visit Tetsuya's. I've never been mainly because of the time and money factor, but through my job and just a little bit of luck I finally got to go.

The restaurant is beautiful, set on a renovated heritage listed site on Kent St it is complete with serene Japanese gardens, white tablecloths and beautiful silverware. I know that modern dining is taking a step in a different direction right now but it's still nice to sit down and experience one of the 'original' fine diners in Sydney.

Now I'm going to give you the photo log from the night and talk a little about my favourite bits even though it was impossible not to choose them all.
Chilled cucumber soup with sheep yoghurt ice-cream
Pacific oysters with rice vinegar and ginger
Sashimi of yellow fin tuna with shishito & garlic chips
This was quite possibly the freshest tuna sashimi I've ever tasted and I loved the combination of flavours. The shishito chilli's were grilled and quite smoky and were a lovely addition to the tuna. You would think the garlic chips would be a strong flavour, especially with those chilli's, but they were light and crispy and complimented both elements of the dish.

Marinated NZ scampi with curd and junsai
Confit of ocean trout with konbu, celery & apple
I was so excited to just look at this dish as I've seen it many times before but here it was in front of me, the signature dish at Tetsuya's. The ocean trout was absolutely divine and I loved the celery, apple and roe as a combination but I found the konbu to be quite bitter, it is a form of kelp after all.

Steamed Murray cod with blackbean & bacon
I love that this beautiful piece of fish was steamed because it soaked up all the heavenly flavours from that broth. That crispy piece of skin on top was delicious and loved the blackbean and bacon together, such a simple dish but one of my favourites.

Braised Ox tail with sea cucumber & lotus root
I don't even know how to describe the flavour of sea cucumber, it's a little like a chewy seafood jelly, very interesting substance actually. The braised oxtail was incredibly soft and tender while the lotus root was quite crunchy.

Pancetta wrapped quail breast with pine mushrooms & chestnuts
When this came out, it almost looked raw but the quail was tender and the pancetta added a beautiful saltiness. That medley of vegetables was a highlight, I loved the mix of chestnuts, mushrooms and sweet potato cooked in what seemed like duck fat, just sensational really.

Cootamundra de-boned rack of lamb, eggplant & white miso
Another favourite for me, this piece of lamb was tender and easy to slice through but I especially loved the combination of eggplant & white miso it was served with, creamy but with a hint smokiness. A Japanese interpretation of babaghanouj perhaps?

Now is a good time to introduce you to our dessert courses, starting with a light palate cleansing sorbet with poached apples layered at the bottom.

Green Apple Sorbet
Pear Tarte Tatin
This was more of a deconstructed Tarte Tatin with each element muddled throughout the glass including that dark sticky caramel, pears, crispy pastry & ice-cream. I love tarte tatin and this one didn't disappoint, quite possibly my favourite dessert of the night.

Valrhona chocolate pave with cream cheese ice-cream and cinnamon twigs
Firstly, how beautiful is this? That gloriously glossy pave was divine, the rich sticky chocolate coating opened to a creamy, almost mousse like filling. The cream cheese ice-cream was a perfect addition, what's not to love about this dessert?

The night ended with a visit from the man himself, Tetsuya Wakuda and I got to say a quick hello to tell him I'll be back there as soon as humanly possible!