ARIA, Sydney

Last week my partner surprised me for my birthday with dinner at ARIA in Sydney. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when we turned the corner and I saw their sign.

ARIA has a pretty large dining room, but appeared to be sectioned off to instil a relatively intimate atmosphere. We were lucky enough to be seated in the area that had a panoramic view of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The view is stunning and the tables of two around the windows are angled towards the harbour.

ARIA Welcome Page

ARIA Welcome Page

This restaurant has a very romantic setting and was a perfect place to celebrate my birthday. The wait staff are incredibly efficient and informative albeit a little cold. However this could also be due to the fact that my partner and I could have been projecting very much a ‘we’re here to enjoy each other’s company’ so could have been just leaving us alone. This idea is also supported by the fact that seated next to us was a young family and the waiter was very engaging with them.

The Sommelier was by far the best of our servers on the night. He was incredibly engaging and genuinely seemed to love his role in describing the wine to people. He even gave us tasting notes for our wine upon departure.

As it was my birthday, we elected to have the tasting menu with matched wines. Now as it was my birthday, I was pretty busy celebrating and unfortunately can only really mention on the meals that really stood out to me.

The menu started off with king salmon confit with horseradish, brook trout caviar, apple and dill. The salmon was full of flavour and was incredibly soft, it almost tasted like it had cooked ceviche style. My partner loved it and was one of his favourite for the night.

Second was wagyu beef cured and smoke with pickled cucumber, dijon mustard and rye bread. Wagyu is such a beautiful piece of meat and to have it infused with all of these flavours was absolutely divine. However, this was improved (and it was very hard to improve on this dish) was the 2012 Golden Ball ‘Cherish’ Rose. I never would have thought to pair a Rose with Wagyu, but it works and the flavours from the wine complement the dish whole-heartedly.

Next was roasted scallops with Coorong pipis, calamari, celery and hazelnut oil. This was definitely a highlight of the menu. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the lightness of the dish was a perfect mid way point for our menu.

Following the scallops was john dory with mascarpone, fennel, verjus and semi-dried salted grapes. This was amazing, the semi-dried grapes worked fantastically with the john dory fillet.

Next was probably my least favourite dish kipfler potato poached in buttermilk with brioche, shaved truffle and roasted onions. I found with this dish to be quite strong with the buttermilk flavour and found its placement in the menu odd.

Last of our main dishes was the Moran’s Family lamb loin with salt baked celeriac, sunflower seeds, lemon aspen and saltbush. This was an absolute standout, the lamb was cooked perfectly and was the ideal way to finish off the main component of our menu. My partner also still talks about the 2005 Zitta ‘Greenock Shiraz’ that accompanied it.

Moran's Family Lamb with salt baked celeriac, sunflower seeds, lemon aspen and saltbush

Moran’s Family Lamb with salt baked celeriac, sunflower seeds, lemon aspen and saltbush

Dessert was black sesame see parfait with passionfruit jelly, yuzu and almonds. I love black sesame desserts so this was a fantastic way to finish off the tasting menu.

To top it off was a selection of petit fours. 

Petit fours

Petit fours

I loved ARIA and would definitely go back again. It is quite expensive though so would probably only go back for special occasion.

ARIA Sydney

1 Macquarie Street Sydney

02 9240 2255

Chinese Kitchen, Canberra

Yesterday for a quick bite, I headed to Chinese Kitchen with my partner.

Everyone has they local Chinese restaurant and this is mine. Previously I used to love going to Ginseng at the Hellenic Club, but I found for a quick bite over Summer,  I was never in the adequate foot ware (I usually wear thongs during Summer) for the Hellenic Club which is how I found Chinese Kitchen. Chinese Kitchen is located on the strip at the top of Westfield Woden near Nandos and Grill’d.

This place is very relaxed and you never really have to make a booking. I find that the restaurant usually is busy unless you go at the very end of lunch (Chinese Kitchen stops serving lunch at 3pm). Despite this, seating is never an issue due to the availability of their outside seating.

Chinese Kitchen has a good mix of Westernised Chinese food and traditional food. They have an abundance of roast pork and roast duck which makes for a brilliant quick take-away.

My partner loves their soup and I love their soft shell crab (for those who have read my other posts, you may realise that I love soft shell crab). On this occasion we had shantung chicken, squid in x.o sauce and soft shell crab.

Their shantung chicken I find can be a little hit and miss. On this occasion I found that the spices were a bit lacking and didn’t have as much sauce as I would’ve liked however the skin of the chicken was quite crispy.

Shantung Chicken

Shantung Chicken

The squid in x.o sauce comes out on a sizzling hot plate served with carrots and beans. This was probably my favourite dish today, it was full of flavour from the x.o sauce and the squid was tender. Also, I love having the beans with it because I can find with Chinese food it’s always good to have some vegetables!

Squid in x.o sauce

Squid in x.o sauce

The soft shell crab is served with salt and pepper, is crispy and the seasoning really lets the flavour of the crab come through. It provides a nice contrast to the squid which is quite soft and saucy.

Soft shell crab

Soft shell crab

If you’re looking for a quick bite in the Woden area, I would definitely recommend Chinese Kitchen. The staff are quick and are incredibly friendly once you’ve been there once or twice. I usually leave with a handful of candy or chocolate from the manager.

Chinese Kitchen

8 Keltie Street Philip

02 6260 4888

Sushi Bay, Canberra

Today my partner and I went and grabbed some sushi train at Sushi Bay in Belconnen, Canberra.

Sushi Bay is a chain (but there is only one in Canberra) and is located on Benjamin Way next to Chang and Co, on the outside of the Westfield mall. This was my first experience at Sushi Bay, but I had heard good things and it didn’t disappoint.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the availability of black rice sushi. Black rice sushi is supposedly the best type of sushi you can have (in terms of rice) due to the high level of antioxidants. There are more antioxidants in black rice than blueberries for those who want a comparison. Besides the benefits, it’s also pretty tasty. For those wanting to dip their toes in the water, I would suggest going for something that you’re familiar with, and choose black rice instead.

At Sushi Bay, they have cooked tuna, salmon and avocado, and chicken schnitzel rolls served with black rice. So far the only other place I have encountered black rice sushi is Sushi Smith in Manuka. Sushi Bay also offers Udon noodles for those who want something besides sushi as well as the usual fried delights: spring rolls, chicken karaage, vegetable tempura and prawn tempura.

Black rice sushi with tuna

Black rice sushi with tuna

 

Prawn tempura roll

Prawn tempura roll

I ordered the soft shell crab in addition to the sushi train, but was a bit disappointed. It was just one crab and the sauce it accompanied with lacked flavour. Stick to the train at this place.

Soft shell crab

Soft shell crab

 

Sushi Bay interior

Sushi Bay interior

 

About halfway through our meals, the restaurant started to fill out and so the deep fried hot food which was previously cooked to order, suddenly appeared on the sushi train so despite feeling a bit full, my partner and I grabbed a couple of spring rolls and gyoza which ended up being pretty good! Overall, I do think that this is one of the better, if not the best sushi train in Canberra. Definitely give it a go if you’re in the area.

Sushi Bay Shop 328 Westfield, 18 Benjamin Way Belconnen ACT 2616 (On the same strip as Cold Rock, Nandos, and Chang and Co)

02 6251 8833

CBD Dumpling House, Canberra

After watching the Lego Movie with my nephew and my partner, we headed to grab a bite to eat from the CBD Dumpling House in the Canberra Centre. The entrance of which is accessible from the street of Scotts Crossing. Whilst it was busy, we were seated straight away however towards the end of our meal we did see a line forming at the door. They definitely do turn over tables quickly here so a booking is not necessary unless you have a large group

This is the second time I’ve been to CBD Dumpling House and both times I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve never been to their sister restaurant though (Dickson Dumpling House) as I usually go to Shanghai Dumpling House since I live south side and Dickson is just that extra bit further. Since we were all starving, we had both entrees and mains today. 

 

For entrees we had the mixed entree (fried dim sim, spring roll and prawn toast), combination boiled dumplings (chicken and pork) and the pan fried pork dumplings. 

The pan fried pork dumplings were definitely my favourite of the entrees and they were also my nephew’s favourite. Chilli and soy sauce are available on every table and they serve the mixed entree with sweet and sour sauce. The spring roll was a bit of a let down (last time I had the duck spring rolls and they were also disappointing), but the dim sims and prawn toast were quite generous servings and are pretty tasty. 

I tried ordering another round of drinks to have with our mains, but this is definitely a get-you-in-get-you-out sort of place, so you’re best bet is to call someone down or wait until they come to your table with food.

 

For mains, we had sizzling mongolian lamb, honey chicken and soft shell crab in red curry sauce. I love the soft shall crab dish here, it’s very different from the standard salt and pepper soft shell crab that you see in a lot of restaurants (this is also available at CBD Dumpling House), but I quite like it with the red curry sauce and it was also one of my favourite dishes when I was travelling in Thailand (also I think its odd to have such a Thai dish in a Chinese restaurant, but hey whatever works!). Chin Chin in Melbourne have a similar dish and while it does not compare to Chin Chin, it’s pretty damn tasty! My nephew didn’t like it however as he is a massive fan of the salt and pepper combo. 

The red curry definitely does have some kick and this time I ordered it mild so my nephew could also eat it, but it was still a bit spicy so just be cautious of that. The honey chicken was quite good as well, it was a smaller serving than the other two dishes, but because we had so much food, this wasn’t an issue. The mongolian lamb was nice and was quite a large serving too. 

 

I definitely recommend CBD Dumpling House for a quick and cheap eat. I wouldn’t recommend it for a special occasion, but the food is delicious and the service is pretty quick. The staff, in my opinion, are a lot nicer than those at Sammys and although they are trying to get you served and out as soon as they can, there isn’t a feeling of being rushed out the door that you can get at Sammys. Perfect for a quick bite before a movie. 

 

For all the meals (2 x mixed entrees, combination dumplings, pan fried pork dumplings, sizzling mongolian lamb, honey chicken, soft shell crab in red curry sauce and large fried rice) plus four beers cost about $110 so quite decent.

 

CBD Dumpling House

Scotts Crossing, Canberra Centre. The entrance is on the street just up from the crossing near Papa Rich.

02 6262 8855

Sushi e, Sydney

My partner surprised me with a lunch at Sushi e in Sydney for my birthday last weekend. Sushi e is owned by Merivale and is located at level 4, 252 George Street in Sydney. Also in this building is est., Establishment Bar and Hemmesphere.

We had an early booking because my partner wanted to ensure that I would have enough time to digest before dinner (I should mention that this was my birthday and therefore would involve eating all day) and at 12pm on a Friday, we were the second group to arrive. This didn’t last long and soon all the seats were taken. I would recommend making a booking, but I’m sure you could take your chances.

Unfortunately as I was too excited, I didn’t take many photos, but hey there are enough on the website and google images to compensate for this. Plus, I really like to enjoy my company at lunch so try not to pull out the phone that often (food bloggers all shudder around the world).

Now, I love soft shell crab and there were at least four dishes on the menu that had soft shell crab. We ended up choosing two out of the four.

To start with, my partner had the Balmain Bug San Choy Bau and I had the Soft Shell Crab San Choy Bau (below is a photo, mine is on the left)…. (this is the only photo of our meals, sorry).

Sushi e San Choy Bau

 

We tried to share….it didn’t work, it was messy and he didn’t want to give up his, and I didn’t want to give up mine so it worked out well.

We then shared a Spider Roll (the second soft shell crab dish) and the Prawn Tempura Roll. Both were fantastic and could not be faulted at all. However as they were in between the San Choy Baus and the mains, they don’t seem to stand out terribly in memory. Please note that this is not to say they were forgettable, but when you have a four course meal, you are not going to have a strong memory of every course.

This then leads us to our mains, we had the Pork Belly and the Wagyu Beef. The Pork Belly is slowly braised in a broth with english spinach and Japanese mustard served with potato puree. The waitress recommended that we have rice with it and I am incredibly glad we did. The broth is amazing and does well to infiltrate the pork belly full of flavour. I was so in love with this broth that I started to drink it once the pork belly was finished. It is that good.

The Wagyu had a marble score of 7 and the spices were a great balance to the pork. The meat was well seasoned and full of flavour. It was also cooked to a medium rare which, in my opinion, is perfect for a meat like this.

Finally was the Yuzu Mousse which got demolished as soon as it came out. The waitress who was very warm and attentive during our service, placed a candle in my dessert as well.

With our food, we also enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 Grace Vineyard ‘Kayagakate’ wine which comes from near Mount Fuji. It was a fantastic complement to our meal. The wine was very light and was probably most similar to a Pinot Blanc and didn’t overpower the flavours of the food. The waitress was quite surprised we were ordering it and in fact asks the manager to come over to talk to us about it. She was also surprised we were ordering it. I Imagine that since Japan is not known for it’s wines and Sushi e has such a comprehensive menu, it doesn’t get ordered often, but if you go please give it a try. My partner had a bit of a gamble and wanted to try it for the novelty and it definitely paid off.

Sushi e, level 4 252 George Street, Sydney
http://merivale.com.au/sushie/
02 9240 3000