Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ipoh on York: Malaysian, CBD Sydney (20, 26 Mar 2012)

LG, 89 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9299 0001

A quick taste of Malaysia

If you’ve had the sneaking suspicion that Ipoh on York had the same owners as Jimmy’s Recipe Malaysia in The Galeries you’d be half right. Apparently it’s owned by one of the brothers but I believe the businesses are run separately so there might be differences in the menu. For a start there’s no bain-marie yet service turnaround is still very efficient and my Seafood Laksa ($11.50) comes out at a frightening speed after I’ve ordered. Streamlined service like a mean lean laksa making machine. I liken the counter experience to visiting a McDonalds store but these guys seem faster and of course it’s Malaysian. The laksa broth has good depth of flavour and similar to my experience at their sister, or should I say brother restaurant, Jimmy’s. I’m suspecting it’s the same recipe. There’s a good choice of ingredients including a mussel, fishcake, squid, fish, fish ball, tofu and my much loved seafood extender that unravels like pappardelle.

On my second visit I try the Chicken laksa ($9.50) which had the same depth of flavour tipping towards a curry style laksa. Chicken was tender with fatty goodness similar to Malay-Chinese and service was very quick again leaving me little time to even put my wallet back in my pocket. My colleague ordered the Wonton laksa ($9.50) which took a little longer to prepare but still in timely fashion which had the same flavoursome broth but unfortunately the wontons were way too firm to the bite. I predicted we could have played a game of ping pong with them if only we had some paddles. I much prefer the silky and soft wontons at Yummy Cuisine — if they were like this then it would have been a much more enjoyable laksa. I’m not sure what the other dishes are like but the only dish I’ve enjoyed at Jimmy’s has been the laksa so I’m suspecting the same might be the case here unless they cook them differently. There’s plans for a dessert counter so I’m hoping they’ll do a good ice kacang and chendol in the near future.

PROS: Plenty of seating which seems to be kept clean, Quick and efficient service, Decent sized laksa serving, Toilet available, Air conditioned, I'm assuming you can book for large groups
CONS: Wontons were unfortunately too firm in the laksa, I'm suspecting laksa might be their only strength dish but happy to discover others
MUST TRY: Seafood and chicken laksa

Dishes served on clean tray mats with cutlery

Seafood Laksa ($11.50)

Chicken laksa ($9.50)

Wonton laksa ($9.50)

Wonton filling way too firm — I could have possibly played table tennis with them

Menu board

Plenty of seating

Potential dessert counter on the right to be confirmed — I hope they do a good Ais Kacang

Toilets available although I'm sure there's a better spot to keep their cleaning clothes — how about some orchids instead to brighten up the place

Some outside covered street seating

Sunday, March 25, 2012

est: March into Merivale $33 Meal Deal, CBD Sydney (21 Mar 2012)

Establishment Hotel, Level 1, 252 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Beautifully presented to please

est is one of those restaurants I’d love to visit more often if I had the money to burn. Being a 3 hatted restaurant it’s definitely not cheap with entrees starting at $35, mains at $55 and dessert at $28 hence why the only times I can afford to visit is during March into Merivale and Let’s Do Lunch as part of Sydney International Food Festival. I figure if I’m going to go to one of these meal deals I might as well go to the most expensive one of them all for the same price. Fining dining restaurants always seem to provide complimentary bread and est is no different which also helps to fill you up. As we perused the menu choices for March into Merivale Meal Deal ($33 including glass of wine) the restaurant manager Carissa Teeling informed me Chef Peter Doyle wanted to provide a complimentary dish for our table to try which ended up being the Green tomato gazpacho, poached scampi, grilled sourdough, black olive pearls ($35). We all agreed it was beautifully presented with a nice balance of flavours. Quite a light dish which I thought could have benefitted with a bit more grilled sourdough, perhaps on the side, to help soak up more of the gazpacho.

I love how est serve the dishes all at the same time for diners — a bit of theatrical dining makes the experience extra special. I chose the Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough to go with my Pan roasted palmer island mulloway fillet, zucchini, heirloom tomato, chilli, tapenade ($33 inc glass of wine). Crispy skin as hoped and a nice balance of flavours in the dish. The tapenade seemed to be served on the skin but I might have just preferred it on the side to maintain the skin crispness more. The Ginger glazed pork neck, compressed cucumber, pickled chinese cabbage, mustard seed ($33 inc glass of wine) was well-flavoured and the Fillet of veal, dutch carrots, green peas, baby onions, thyme consomme ($33 inc glass of wine) had very tender meat as hoped. Seasonal vegetables ($12) and Mash ($12) were kindly provided also with compliments by the kitchen which filled out the lunch nicely amongst the five dining topped up with Petif fours (compliments of the kitchen, usually $8 with coffee). For those looking for a light lunch you might not need to order sides but the two course option for $55 is tempting to include a dessert which I’m sure would be very enjoyable.

My fellow diners feedback:

“The room is beautiful and I loved the gazpacho with prawn, sweet pea flowers and smoky sour dough bread.”

“The gazpacho was my favourite too – clean, fresh taste and the flowers added unusual tastes – looked pretty too. Very good acoustics in a relaxed space.”

“The food was great, the staff were attentive and I loved the theatricality of the simultaneous food service.”

“The mulloway with its crispy skin was sensational – nice clean taste of the fish complemented well by all the other elements on the plate. The potato mash was silky smooth without being overly creamy. However was let down very slightly by the side vegetable accompaniment – the purple beans were a bit tough.” — I agree about the purple beans

Other visits to est.:
21 Mar 2012 - March Into Merivale $33 Meal Deal
17 Oct 2011 - Let's Do Lunch $38 Menu
5 Oct 2010 - Let's Do Lunch $35 Menu
12 Mar 2010 - March Into Merivale $33 Menu
30 June 2009 - Winter Feast Menu

PROS: Sampling of a 3 Hatted Restaurant at a reasonable price, Nice decor, Professional service, Well-presented dishes, Complimentary bread, Finally no Bvlgari soap cakes in the toilets
CONS: I find their forks very awkward to hold, A one hour time slot is allocated for March into Merivale lunch but might extend depending on how busy they are on the day, Can't afford to really visit at other times
MUST TRY: Visiting while March into Merivale is still on

March into Merivale menu: one course $33, two course $55

Selection of complimentary breads — I enjoyed the sourdough

Green tomato gazpacho, poached scampi, grilled sourdough, black olive pearls ($35, compliments of the chef)

Black olive pearls were a nice touch

Pan roasted palmer island mulloway fillet, zucchini, heirloom tomato, chilli, tapenade ($33 inc glass of wine)

Ginger glazed pork neck, compressed cucumber, pickled chinese cabbage, mustard seed ($33 inc glass of wine)

Fillet of veal, dutch carrots, green peas, baby onions, thyme consomme ($33 inc glass of wine)

Seasonal vegetables ($12 compliments of the chef)

Mash ($12 compliments of the chef)

Petif fours (compliments of the kitchen)

Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough; Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’ Pinot Noir, Martinborough

Dining theatre: I love how service staff place the dishes at the table all at the same time

Am I the only one that finds their forks very awkward to hold and turn in the hand?

A la carte menu

Dining room

Nice decor

Interesting carafes

Toilet — thankfully no sign of cake soap this time like previous visits

March to Merivale food festival 16 Feb - 5 Apr 2012

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Helm Bar: Cocktail tasting blogger event, Darling Harbour (24 Mar 2012)

Aquarium Wharf, Wheat Road, Darling Harbour NSW 2000

Cocktails & Bloggers Ahoy!

Thanks to George Redmond from Wasamedia for inviting me along to a cocktail making and tasting blogger event at Helm Bar which is located in a prime location for attracting tourists around Darling Harbour. I learnt three things on the day — firstly, my PR contact George was actually a woman — secondly, it’s interesting taking photos of people taking photos — and finally, Helm Bar had an interesting repertoire of cocktails that were different from just the usual classics. Also I reckon Terry Durack would have had a chuckle seeing so many FABs (Female Asian Bloggers) today — the term he mentions in his Jamie's Italian review. From the description I thought it was going to be partly a cocktail making class where we actually got to make the cocktails ourselves but this task was left in the good hands of our competent bartender Matt so it was more a tasting class. The Espresso Martini ($17) was justified at around 11 am due to containing coffee — which was also supported by Smirnoff Vodka, Tuaca and Kahlua. Nice balance of flavours for those missing their caffeine hit and needing the hair of the dog. The Senorita Margarita ($16) was very limey for me and unfortunately the sampler didn't have a salted rim although I've never been a fan of margaritas so I didn't mind. I'm not a bit fan of cocktails with tequila or salt for that matter except the taste of olives in a martini. I'm suspecting margaritas are an acquired taste for me.

For those not adverse to a bit of heat the Sexy Saint ($18) with St Germain liquor shaken vigorously with a mix of chilli, lemon juice & honey set my taste buds alive. I didn't mind the chilli although I'm not sure if I could have finished a whole one. The Ginny Hendricks ($18) sounded like my kind of cocktail with Hendricks gin & Aperol, muddled with cucumber, lime juice & sugar syrup, strained & topped with ruby red grapefruit juice. It had refreshing flavours although I think I needed more than a little taste test to fully appreciate the overall balance of flavours in the cocktail. The Oriental Sweet Tart ($17) had potential with Plymouth Gin, lychee & pear liqueur but I found the orgeat syrup overpowered the cocktail just a bit too much with the almond flavour for my liking. The final Mystery Cocktail prepared was not yet on the menu as they're still wanting to find a name for it. Mixed with Disaronno, Citrus Vodka, lime and passionfruit it looked pretty good served in a tall glass. I was thinking 'Pash Me Now' or perhaps even 'Pash Me After' once you've had one.

After the sampling of cocktails it was time for lunch with platters of assorted food coming out in plentiful supply — I'm sure everyone was full to the rafters with the generosity. My favourites were the tasty duck pancakes, crispy tempura prawns even though a little oily and the carved steak platter which I didn't think needed the scattering of fries over it as part of the presentation, but loved its flavour and tenderness. The only thing missing to complete the lunch was a cocktail of choice, bottle of wine or even jug of soft drink to share on the table to help wash all the food down. With plenty of seating, covered alfresco views of Darling Harbour and weekly specials priced to please it seems Helm Bar is geared to attract the hungry and thirsty tourist or even after work city local looking for a place to catch up with friends. It's probably a bit off the beaten track for me but if I'm in the area again I might be tempted to explore more of the cocktail menu.

Other visits to Helm Bar:
• 24 Mar 2012 - Cocktail tasting blogger event
16 Apr 2010 - Drinks

PROS: Water views, Interesting cocktail menu, Plenty of seating, Bistro menu seems reasonably priced
CONS: Only small tastings today but a cocktail is best fully appreciated drinking as a whole from the correct serving glass, Drinking before 12 noon might be frowned upon by some
MUST TRY: Espresso martini for the caffeine addict, Ginny Hendricks for the gin lover, Visit on Tuesday for $7 cocktails all day

Meet Matt the bartender

Espresso Martini: A good old serving of the daily grind with Smirnoff Vodka, Tuaca and Kahlua ($17)

Senorita Margarita: Jose Cuervo Traditional & St Germain Elderflower Liqueur shaken with lemons, limes & a dash of agave nectar served straight up or on the rocks with salt ($16)

Sexy Saint: St Germain liquor shaken vigorously with a mix of chilli, lemon juice & honey ($18)

Ginny Hendricks: Hendricks gin & Aperol, muddled with cucumber, lime juice & sugar syrup, strained & topped with ruby red grapefruit juice ($18)

Oriental Sweet Tart: Plymouth Gin, lychee & pear liqueur with a balanced serving of lemon juice and orgeat syrup, shaken & served low ($17)

Name this cocktail — how about 'Pash Me Now' or 'Pash Me After'

Antipasto platter with Peking duck pancakes

Tempura Prawns w/ soy & wasabi mayonnaise

Chicken Chimichanga w/ spiced avocado

Wedges w/Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream

Garlic bread

Fish of the Day (Salmon) w/Crushed Kipfler Potatoes, Fennel Olive and Chilli Salsa (Tasting Size)

Scotch Fillet w/ Cafe de Paris Butter (Sliced)

Sichuan Salt & Pepper Calamari w/ thai dipping sauce

Lunch time views

Time for cocktail sampling

Photographers in action

The lengths bloggers will go to get their shot

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Balcony seating

Weekly specials