Monday, July 27, 2009

Caesars - Leichhardt


On a somewhat dreary wet Sunday night, I found myself in the Italian Forum needing to make the ultimate decision on where to eat. Having eating at Caesar's previously (probably a little over 4 years ago) and having found it pretty good, I was still a little nervous when I made the decision to step into the restaurant (cos there was no one in there!!!).

One of the waiters was nice and friendly - and most importantly, offered us a free bottle of wine. The other waiter was... umm... very noob and didn't really know what she was doing half the time. Nonetheless, the important thing is, our orders were taken and food arrived.

A garlic pizza was ordered to share as an appetizer. This was very flavoursome. The vertex of my slice was crunchy and biscuit-like. If I closed my eyes, I would have thought that I was eating Cheddar Shapes. The "crust" or the arc bit tasted like a normal gourmet pizza. Interesting and quite yummy.

I have no idea why this photo is so yellow.
Garlic Pizza

I ordered the fettuccine with chicken and mushrooms in a cream-based sauce. I was surprised by the size of my pasta and the amount of mushrooms in it~ Quite nice and very herby flavoursomeness. The chicken was also very tender. The only criticism of this dish lay in the sauce. It was not cheesey or creamy enough. Instead, it had a very oily taste to it.

Fettuccine with chicken and mushrooms

My partner had the pasta of the day which was penne with chunky beef. My partner very much enjoyed this. The beef was the chuncky braised typed - which my partner likes, and the pasta was al-dente and my partner gave the dish a rating of 9/10. Again, the downfall was in the amount of oil which was used.

Pasta of the day - penne with chunky beef

My mum shared what looks like a clam risotto and the pappardelle al funghi with a family friend. No complaints from their side of the table so I assumed that all was in order.

Clam risotto (?)
Pappardelle al funghi

Other dishes ordered on the night include the lasagne and the steak (cooked medium and with mushroom sauce). My dad commented on the awesomeness hand-cut chips crunchiness. Again, plates were cleared and everyone seemed to enjoy their meals.

Steak with mushroom sauce

Now onto dessert, which was a slightly different story. The vanilla cannoli deceived our fellow diners. Whilst we assumed that the outside would be crispy and the inside would be smooth, it seemed to turn out bland and somewhat tasteless.

Vanilla Cannoli

As for the gelato that we ordered - they ran out of the restaurant to the gelato shop upstairs to get it for us!!! Oh well... I guess by ordering it in the restaurant, we get it in a glass with two added wafers. When the noob waitress put it down, I asked her which one had what flavour in it (they were different) and the waitress had no clue. If we just wanted any flavour, you'd think that we wouldn't have to pick the flavours from a list~ Nevertheless, gelatos were yummy. And cold.


Despite having very little patrons in the restaurant, I think that the food was overall, quite decent. Large portions, came out hot, and everyone cleaned their plates. The service by the good waiter was quite good, and the service from the noob waitress... well... it was probably her first day :)

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 8.5/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 32/40

The Italian Forum
Shop 30
23 Norton Street
Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
tel: (02) 9569 0444

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zenya - Eastwood


Lunch at 2pm after church took us to Eastwood's Zenya for ramen. Having been here previously when it first opened and finding it not too great, my expectations were quite low.

My partner ordered the Tonkatsu ramen ($13.80) with pork soup and added extra of Gyoza and salad ($3). The greens were lightly seasoned with the Japanese vinegarette - garlicy and tasty. Would have been even better with a bit more dressing.


The gyozas were also average tasting. Pork flavoured... nothing out of the ordinary. But I guess gyoza and salad for $3 is a reasonable price too.


No complaints were filed from my partner's tonkatsu ramen. The semi-thick pork soup made me reminisce the awesome tonkastu-based soup from Ryo's.

Tonkatsu Ramen - $13.80

I ordered a miso ramen ($9.80), also in pork soup. This soup was ... um... redder than I imagined. It's also the only place where the miso soup is chilli. I swear that the chilli factor was not detailed in the menu. Nonetheless, it did have a decent portion of bean sprout, bamboo shoots, corn and roast pork on it - along with my favourite nori and boiled egg.

Miso Ramen - $9.80

Overall, for a quick lunch (when hungry), this is not a bad place. The soup is also okay. Unfortunately for the service people, they left off one of our orders and then tried to blame us for the fault !!! grrrr....

Food - 7/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 27.5/40

217 Rowe St
NSW 2122
tel: (02) 9874 2122

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rockpool - The Rocks


Being too late in booking Tetsuya, my partner and I settled for dinner at Neil Perry's Rockpool. We were greated by friendly staff and whisked away to our table. The staff kindly took away our coats and they waited patiently until we called them over to make our order. We ordered the grand tasting menu and my partner got it with matching wines.

We were first served with bread. There were two choices - the Ficelle, or the sour-dough garlicy one. I chose the latter, which means my partner had the ficelle.

ficelle - bread

Yummy bread and butter

The bread was yummy, soft and super fresh tasting. Heaped with the Échiré butter, which had a smooth, subtle, creamy, somewhat delicate taste, it was deliciousness! So much so, in fact, that my partner had seconds and thirds of the ficelle bread on top of our 9 course meal.

Our first course comprised of sterling caviar on prawn toast, Ortiz "family reserve" salted anchovy with tomato confit on toast, and bluefin tuna with ginger, soy and yuzu jelly. Matching wine for this course was a champagne from France - the Le Brun Servenay Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. The sommelier was super nice, friendly and smiley. He had a nice story to tell us when introducing each of the wines. Unfortunately, with my shoddy memory, these storys basically went in one ear, and out the other.

As far as tastes go, the bluefin tuna was fresh and tasty. The ginger, soy and yuzu jelly added a delicate and subtle taste. The jelly simply melted in our mouths, complementing the tuna quite well. The caviar on prawn toast, however, was slightly chewy. It was tastey. Yet, it was not awesomenessly so. As for the anchovy with tomato... it was soooooo salty!!! Yes, anchovies are meant to be salty and fishy tasting... but it was slightly overpoweringly so. However, it did have an interesting texture. The anchovy on top was firm, the tomato was squishy and the toast was hard. Mixed in together, you get a crunchy saltiness.

Le Brun Servenay Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Ortiz "family reserve" salted anchovy with tomato confit on toast

sterling caviar on prawn toast

bluefin tuna with ginger, soy, and yuzu jelly

The second course was a crab broth with hand picked mud crab, dashi custard, tapioca and wild bamboo pith. Put simply, it's a crab chawanmushi with crab broth poured on top. Personally, it's the first time I've had tapioca balls in soup. I found the soup fragrant and pepper-tasting-like. The crab also bought with it a subtle sweetness. The bamboo pith added texture. I'm not sure what the tapioca adds... On the other hand, my partner did not taste any of the flavours which I described. So either, there were inconsistencies in our dishes - or - my partner's taste buds are shot :P

This course was served with a white, again from France - the Joseph Cattin Gewürztraminer. The wine was quite fruity-tasting and sweet. Mmmm... has my approval and my partner's disapproval LOL.

Joseph Cattin Gewürztraminer

Crab broth with hand picked mud crab, dashi custard, tapioca and wild bamboo pith

On with our third course - lobster, abalone mushroom, tea smoked duck procuitto and asian peer with pepper caramel dressing served with a white from USA - Stags Leap Viognier. My photos of this course is quite poor. Nevermind - let me describe it to you. A piece of nicely cooked lobster sat on top of a slightly sweet tasting sauced abalone mushroom. Complementing this was an extremely tea-tasting procuitto (much like the chinese tea-egg flavour) - quite mind-blowing, and also a thinly sliced nashi-pear piece. Nicely presented and nice tasting but not yet over-the-top WOW factor.

Stags Leap Viognier

Lobster, abalone mushroom, tea smoked duck proscuitto and asian pear

I love scallops and so, I was much awaiting the next course of grilled scallop with stir fried southern calamari, smoked bacon and squid ink noodles. The smiley sommelier served up the Farago Hill 'George Ellis' Pinot Gris, a wine from the Southern Highlands, NSW. The scallop was quite perfectly cooked, slightly salty and very yummy. What the drew the attention of my partner the most were those tiny little yellow cubes (I think you can just identify them in my photo) which tasted sooooo bacon-like. Omigosh - so much bacon taste in a tiny yellow crunchy cube (and I thought they were croutons at first!).

Farago Hill 'George Ellis' Pinot Gris

scallop with squid ink noodles

The next dish was absolutely mind-blowing and was what my partner and I decided to be the highlight of the evening. Seemingly simple, the crispy skin murray cod with celeriac, olive and three variations of artichoke was filled with omg-ness. The cod was cooked to perfection~! The fish so super fresh, tender, smooth and the skin was aweseomely crispyness. Not too salty, but very very tastey. I also loved the white pureed artichoke sauce upon which the fish sat upon. Mmm... my mouth salivates at just the thought of this dish. The fish was complemented by the Yarra Yarra Sanvignon Blanc, Sermillon from the Yarra Valley, Victoria along which the friendly sommenlier told us the sad story of how this wine owner lost most of his vineyard in the Victorian bushfires.

Yarra Yarra Sauvignon Blanc, Sermillon

Crispy skin murray cod with celeriac, olive and three variations of artichoke

Now on to the red meat. Our next course was the seared and fried quail with chinese black bean, radish and black olive salsa and hunan style dressing. This bought with it a distinctly asian taste. The white saucey thing had added a tinge of peanut taste. What I didn't appreciate was the quail eggs. It had a deep-fried layer on the outside, and yet, was mushy mushy on the inside. The worse thing was, it didn't even taste like much! Ugh - not my cup of tea. This dish came with the first red of the night - the Brezza 'Cannubi' Barbera d'Alba from Italy. I think it was around here that my partner felt a bit light-headed~

Brezza 'Cannubi' Barbera d'Alba

Quail with chinese black bean, radish and black olive salsa

This next dish is strangely reminiscent of chinese beef brisket. The red braise of rangers valley short rib, tendon (singular!!!), and shiitake mushrooms with flowering garlic chives and crispy sichuan shallot cake was highly liked by my partner... and kicked down to the normal realm by me. Seriously! It might look different to my mum's beef brisket, but it sure tastes similar! I have to ammend, however, that the beef was extremely extremely tender. So tender that it does slightly give that 'melt in your mouth' feel. The crispy shallot cake was an interesting (yet somewhat useless) addition to the plate. It added... umm... crispiness? The dish was served with a high quality red - the Hewitson 'Old Garden' Mourvèdre from South Australia. The grapes supposedly grew on 100 year old vines, according to the story-telling sommelier. The taste was very pure.

Hewitson 'Old Garden' Mourvèdre

Red braise of rangers valley short rib, tendon, shiitake with crispy sichuan shallot cake

We also got greens tossed in vinegarette. This was again, very average.

fresh green salad

Now onto the first of our desserts. The Vanilla panna cotta with queenslad strawberries and rose granita was surprisingly yummy. The rose granita was sooooo over the top rose-flavoured. Appreciated by my partner. But I felt as though I was eating rose petals - just in the form of icey cool shaved ice. When eaten in small portions along with the candied strawberries, however, it all complemented the vanilla panna cotta quite well. This dessert was served with what I consider the yummiest wine of the evening - the Pizzini Brachetto from Victoria. This wine just tastes like sparkling strawberry yummness. Expectedly, my partner did not appreciate the wine.

Pizzini Brachetto

Vanilla panna cotta with queensland strawberries and rose granita

Unfortunately, we did not appreciate the final dessert quite as much. The turnover of caramelised apples and calvados mousse with "granny smith" sorbet did not pique my fancy. The caramelised toffee-looking top and bottom deceivingly crunchy bit was not at all crisp. Rather, it was pastry-like and caramelised. The mousse was also not spectacular and it did not appreciate the caramelised mushiness of the apple nor the apple jelly thing. It was all a bit too sugary. The only bit I liked was the granny smith sorbet which was refreshing. The wine which complemented this was the Michel Torino 'Don David' Late Harvest Torrontes which supposedly tasted appricoty.

Michel Torino ' Don David' late harvest torrontes

Turnover of caramelised apples and calvados mousse with "granny smith" sorbet

Coffee and petit-fours finished the night. My partner's cappuccino was introduced to us as a "flat white", whilst I ordered a skim mocha. And oh my~ This coffee was amaaaazzzing! Up to my Melbournian-converted partner's standards and better tasting than my campus coffee. Wow. I think we need to return to Rockpool, even if it is just for the coffee. My only complaint would be the lack of coffee art - but I guess things just need to look good when they aint good tasting.


Skim Mocha

In terms of petit fours, there was white chocolate with candied cherries, sponge-cakey things, passionfruit marshmellows, and home-made toffees. I liked the white choc - but not the candied cherries on top. My partner was very amused by the marshmellows and gobbled up quite a few.

White choc with candied cherries, sponge cakey things

passionfruit marshmellows and toffees

In all, ambiance of this place was super. The service here was also immaculate. Most waiters were smilely and friendly - the sommelier particularly so - and the waiter non-stopedly topped my glass of water when it ran low. Food-wise, I guess I expected to be more "WOW"ed away given it was a 2-hat. The cod was easily the best dish of the night, but other than that, things were good but not spectacular. Overall, it was a great dining experience but I think we'd need to check out other degustations before giving this a second go.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 9.5/10
Ambiance - 9.5/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 35.5/40

Rockpool Sydney
107 George Street
The Rocks
NSW 2000
tel: (02) 9252 1888