Posts tagged Degustation

En Toriciya, Crows Nest

Oven Baked Truffle Cabbage: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog Review

I’ve always had a healthy respect for Japanese chefs and their craft – there’s something about the quiet reverence that they have for each ingredient, and all their techniques are based around elegantly bringing out unique flavours and textures that naturally occurs in the food. So when I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Chef Hikeaki Fukada of En Toriciya, I was absolutely ecstatic.

…Of course, it had nothing to with the fact that he fed me dinner as well. 😉


The Order:

En Toriciya Degustation, $60/pp ($80/pp with matching sake):

Kingfish & Jalapeno Carpaccio
Kasujiru Vegetable Soup
Oven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage
Yakitori (Momo and Tsukune)
Popcorn Prawn
Charcoal Grilled Black Cod or Wagyu Steak
Sushi Moriawase (+12 to upgrade sushi)
Chefs selection of dessert (Matcha Creme Brûlée and Adzuki Custard)


The Food:

Holy. Smokes.

I was not prepared for this. I walked into En Toriciya expecting a smart casual dining restaurant, only to be presented with a close-to-fine dining experience. The only thing missing was the lack of pretentiousness, which I was very happy to do without. I was also informed that Chef Fukuda was also a sake sommalier, and our dinner would be matched with different sakes of his choosing.

I was certainly not expecting the sheer education I was about to receive.

Kingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio

We started with a very simple Kingfish and Jalapeño Carpaccio – thin slices of kingfish were dressed lightly and topped with a small dab of what looked like jalapeño purée. Very refreshing, and just enough to whet the appetite. I was quite surprised by the Danemon sake that came with it – the richness was meant to bring out the flavour of the kingfish, but for my palate, it was oddly heavy to start the meal with. Still, an interesting choice.

Kasujiru Vegetable Soup: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewKasujiru Vegetable Soup

Then we moved on to the Oven baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage and Kasujiru vegetable soup. It is here I learnt that if it looks like miso, and smells like miso…well sometimes it’s not miso. Chef Fukuda shows us just how passionate he is about sake…by using the lees (sakekasu – residual by products from making sake) to thicken and flavour the soup. No waste!

Oven Baked Truffle Cabbage: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewOven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage

The Oven Baked Truffle Savoy Cabbage was so magnificent that I wondered if he was going to peak too early. With humble beginnings as a staff meal (where chefs are forced into ingenuity to make delicious meals for the restaurant staff out of whatever ingredients they have on hand) this cabbage dish has risen into such magnificence it should be called Daenerys. A soft truffle aroma laces through the robust char on the cabbage, which is then balanced by a tangy salty-sweet dressing.

This course was had with Asabiraki sake from the Iwate prefecture, which I’m told is famous for their rice. Fitting, then, that a complex sake plays a supporting role to such complex food. There is a typically Japanese sense of balance at play, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Tsukune (Yakitori): En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewTsukune (Yakitori)

Chicken Thigh (Yakitori): En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewChicken Thigh (Yakitori)

Next course: yakitori. Literally translating to “barbecued chicken”, we get two types for dinner – tsukune (chicken meatballs) and momo (chicken thigh). All fairly simply prepared – salt, smoke, and in the case of the tsukune, a light brush of glaze. Chef Fukuda tells me that he uses binchotan instead of regular coals – these Japanese “smokeless” coals hold the heat longer and more steadily, producing a better dish.

Popcorn Prawn: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPopcorn Prawn

The Popcorn Prawn follows, and although it’s a fun dish topped with generous lashings of mayonnaise (oh Mayo, how I love thee), it wasn’t quite as finessed as the other dishes seemed to be. Some bits of the batter were a touch underdone and a bit gluey at the end of the mouthful, which I noticed only because the standard of his other dishes were so high to begin with.

Charcoal Grilled Black Cod: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewCharcoal Grilled Black Cod

We then moved right back up the scale, though, with Charcoal Grilled Black Cod and Wagyu Steak. I’m not entirely sure whether you’d usually have to pick one or the other for your degustation, but I know my life is much better for having tried the both of them. The Charcoal Grilled Black Cod was appropriately dark from the smoke and Saikyōdzuke, a miso-like paste made by fermenting sake lees (At this point, Chef Fukuda is starting to look more and more like a man obsessed…something which I wholeheartedly appreciate), whilst still keeping the soft silky flesh that makes this my favourite way to have my favourite fish of all time.

Wagyu Beef Steak: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewWagyu Steak

The Wagyu Steak was no slack either – medium rare pieces of tender steak were topped with moromiso, which is a chunky miso condiment. Rich/salty/sweet bites had pieces of cucumber to cut it, and it was over all too soon.

Selection of sushi: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSelection of sushi: Otoro

And when you think you can’t eat any more, out comes the plate of luxurious sushi. Sea urchin, fatty tuna belly, and engawa (flounder fin – a recent obsession I picked up from my trip to Japan) were one of many pieces that lined the plate. Simple, and yet such a perfect way to end the savoury courses. And it didn’t even matter that I was fairly full: I always have space for sushi.

At this point, we were treated to Daikoshu, a sake that actually HAD THE WARM HONEY NOTES OF WHISKY. Mind blown. This super aged sake (no joke, Daikoshu translates to “very old booze”) was older than I am, and defied all my previous Riesling-like experiences with sake. Where it was usually fresh and dry, this was voluptuous and almost caramel – like in its dark sweet notes. Very delicious, and an absolute eye opener.

Matcha Creme Brûlée: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewMatcha Creme Brûlée

Adzuki Custard: En Toriciya, Crows Nest. Sydney Food Blog ReviewAdzuki Custard

Fitting, then, that we should sip it right before dessert. A Matcha Creme Brûlée and Adzuki Custard completed our meal, both with silky creamy textures and a sweet finish that wasn’t too cloying. With all the big hits through the evening, the dessert course didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but then again, I’d be asking for too much if I was expecting it from En Toriciya. A stellar performance: one I’m hoping to repeat.


The Service:

It’s not often that a restaurant’s service matches the quality of the food, but I’m very glad to report that at En Toriciya it’s a FULL experience. There was one waiter that really REALLY knew his shit. There was no question that we could throw at him that he couldn’t answer, and he only lacked a small nuance in detail compared to Chef Fukuda’s answers. Service that parallels the level of what I’ve had at Tetsuya’s, but in a much more comfortable setting. Love it.


Value for money:

At $60 per head for the degustation experience at En Toriciya, I think that you get more than your money’s worth. I was positively rolling out the door at the end of the meal, and my mind was still buzzing with the sheer variety of food that I was treated to. Chef Fukuda clearly puts a lot of thought into curating an array of treats, and like a good story, it leaves you walking away satisfied.


The Vibe:

En Toriciya is a fine dining restaurant hiding in humble surroundings, and that can be a little jarring for some. There isn’t a clear theme to the place, and for the uninitiated, you might even mistake this for just another local eatery where you can just pick up some hearty Japanese curry and make your way home. It’s clean and charming, but I wouldn’t expect theatrics and fireworks walking in. It’s very clear that the focus at En Toriciya is on the food and drink, the way Chef Fukuda wants it to be.


And finally,

I’ve always known that Crows Nest is home to some hidden gems (I’ve been to a few, lately) but I never expected to find a diamond quite like En Toriciya. Everything about this restaurant just resonated with the chef within me – the philosophy, the food, the single-minded obsession – and somehow they manage to artfully show off without the pomp and circumstance of other eateries with half the talent.

An absolutely stunning experience, and one I’m looking forward to repeating again and again.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of En Toriciya and Washoku Lovers.
En Toriciya
100 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9438 1738
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/En-Toriciya/607809672663924

En Toriciya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Good Food Month 2015: Art Meets French: Ananas, The Rocks

Salad of Baby Beetroot, Goat Cheese Crumble, Beetroot Vinaigrette: Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog Review

As a foodie who was once a stingy Uni student, Ananas has always been just out of my reach. It falls into the fine dining category for me, with their champagne brunches and classy locale, and I never found the right occasion to justify splurging, even though I’m no longer at Uni.

But when Good Food Month calls, you answer, and this was the perfect excuse: an invite to an Art Meets French set dinner, where large artworks get exhibited on huge easels, for you to enjoy right next to the artwork on the plate in front of you.


The Order:

Carpaccio of Freemantle Octopus, Chorizo

Salad of Baby Beetroot, Goat Cheese Crumble, Beetroot Vinaigrette

Pan-seared Salmon, Fresh Pea and Spec Ragout

Long Vale Duck Breast, Confit Rhubarb, Pastille

Pan Seared Loin of Lamb, with Herb Crust and Cauliflower Purée

Classic Apple Tart Tartin, Cinnamon Ice Cream


The Food:

I wasn’t joking when I said that its artwork on a plate – Ananas served up a beautiful array of dishes full of vibrancy and colour, carefully arranged to convey a certain aesthetic.

Carpaccio of Freemantle Octopus, Chorizo: Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewCarpaccio of Freemantle Octopus, Chorizo

The Carpaccio of Freemantle Octopus with Chorizo started off the evening: octopus tentacles of varying thickness gets rolled into a log and sliced thinly to create a bubble-like motif, and dressed lightly with a lightly tangy salsa to show you just how far off the mark your average supermarket tub of marinated octopus is. The circle falls apart into tender pieces, and really whets your appetite for more.

Salad of Baby Beetroot, Goat Cheese Crumble, Beetroot Vinaigrette: Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewSalad of Baby Beetroot, Goat Cheese Crumble, Beetroot Vinaigrette

The Salad of Baby Beetroot, Goat Cheese Crumble, Beetroot Vinaigrette arrives next; the elements deliberately placed to resemble a sprouting garden (maybe intentionally, maybe not, but artwork is all about the appreciation, right?). The more subtle golden beets mingle with the heartier purple beets, and the goats cheese gives a light creaminess that act as a base for the salad.

Pan-seared Salmon, Fresh Pea and Spec Ragout: Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPan-seared Salmon, Fresh Pea and Spec Ragout

We then move on to the Pan-seared Salmon, Fresh Pea and Spec Ragout. My favourite of the lot – with silky salmon paired with a very light broth, keeping in with the airy and light theme so far. Not quite sure about any pan-searing, though.

Not that I can see or taste anyway.

Long Vale Duck Breast, Confit Rhubarb, Pastille, Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewLong Vale Duck Breast, Confit Rhubarb, Pastille

The next course gets heavier with the Long Vale Duck Breast, Confit Rhubarb, Pastille. I must admit, I had to do a bit of a google on what a Pastille actually is – thank goodness for modern technology. Apparently it refers to that cigar of herbs and pastry that accompanied the sliver of medium rare duck breast. The tender rhubarb added a touch of fruitiness to cut through the richness, and while it wasn’t as lovely to me as the salmon (if food types were children, salmon would be the golden child), the plate was executed very sophisticatedly, maintaining a delicate balance of decadence and restraint.

Pan Seared Loin of Lamb, with Herb Crust and Cauliflower Purée: Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewPan Seared Loin of Lamb, with Herb Crust and Cauliflower Purée

For me, this is where it started going downhill. The Pan Seared Loin of Lamb, with Herb Crust and Cauliflower Purée sat in a bit of a meh category to me – the lamb ,personally, was under seasoned and on the lean side of things (clearly I’ve been spoilt by years of chomping down on unctuous lamb ribs and shoulders), and while I thoroughly enjoyed the cauliflower purée, there wasn’t enough of it to tip the scales when the lamb wasn’t performing as I wanted it to.

Classic Apple Tart Tartin, Cinnamon Ice Cream : Ananas, The Rocks. Sydney Food Blog ReviewClassic Apple Tart Tartin, Cinnamon Ice Cream

And so we come to dessert: a Classic Apple Tart Tartin, Cinnamon Ice Cream. The pastry, while flaky, didn’t have the luscious soaked-in-caramel indulgence that I’ve come to love, and the cinnamon ice cream tasted more like plain vanilla when paired with the tart. It was very exquisitely presented, though, but for me this tart just wasn’t as hedonistically enjoyable as one that I had from La Grande Bouffe.


The Service:

As with all fine dining establishments that I’ve been to (save for one, but you always need an exception), the service was absolutely impeccable. Invisible waiters made sure that our drinks were topped up all night, and miraculously appeared right when I lifted my gaze for a little assistance.

They’re magicians, I swear.

There was also a hiccup with the booking, but they handled it all very graciously, and even though they didn’t actually have a table set for me, a space appeared and was set with a pristine white tablecloth and all the cutlery I would be needing that evening. They treated me with respect every step of the way, and I felt extremely accommodated.

Value for money:

Sure, the some of the food may not have been to my taste, but all of it was clearly laboured over. Couple that with the service and location, I think that it’s worth the above-average price tag for a special occasion.

Go ahead, treat yo self.

The Vibe:

I think the most appropriate word to describe Ananas (besides pineapple, teehee!) is ‘grace’. They are lovely, polite people, and the only times I felt a bit out of place and (dare I say) looked down upon was from the other guests. And they can’t help that.

The decor is elegant without being stiff, and the little dining alcoves that they’ve carved out make the whole experience very intimate. Great for a first date, or a second, or the 459th! Dining at Ananas feels like a treat in more ways than one, and it’s definitely much more than your spontaneous weeknight too-lazy-to-cook eatery. No, dining at Ananas requires planning, dreaming, and possibly some saving.

And finally,

The thing about fine dining is that you’re paying for a cohesive dining experience. Each element alone can only take you so far of the rest are not quite in the same league. In this case, the amazing service outshone the food, but – and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – the food was good enough to pull through. Every part of your experience is planned and deliberate, and for that, I think it’s worth the price tag. Go there to celebrate, go there to impress, whatever it is, find a reason to experience it just once. It’s definitely more affordable than the super high end dining in Sydney, and way more relaxed and enjoyable, in my opinion.

Oh and while you’re there, please do get the deliciously fresh pineapple juice. You are in Ananas, after all.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Month.
Ananas Bar and Brasserie
18 Argyle St
The Rocks NSW 2000
Phone: +61 2 9259 5668
Website: www.ananas.com.au/

Ananas Bar & Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fine dining in the country: Emerson’s, Lovedale

Review of Emerson's Cafe and Restaurant, Lovedale

I’ve popped my girls’-weekend cherry. No, get your head of
the gutter. Not that kind of girls’ weekend. The kind that is glamourised by the Britney Spears’ classic, Crossroads – where women go on road trips together to find adventure, and themselves.

Well we may or may not have found ourselves (I’m pretty hard to miss), but you know what we found? A restaurant so good that after we went for dinner the first night, we went straight back for breakfast the next day.

Uh huh, it was that good.

The Dinner

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantPork Croquette, Sauerkraut, apple gel

As foodies with eyes larger than our stomachs, the goal was simple: try as many things as we can stomach, and try not to walk away too broke to get home. So two entrees, one main and one dessert it was.

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantMiso cured atlantic salmon, pickled cucumber, soy jelly, seaweed dusted puffed rice, fresh horseradish cream

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantVenison Carpaccio with Apple and Sourdough Crisps

Of the entrees, the Miso cured atlantic salmon was my favourite. It was a very light plate, and even though the combination of miso and soy could have ended in an oversalted disaster, I felt like it was very nicely balanced. The Venison Carpaccio was a richer dish, and also very expertly executed, but not particularly outstanding to me.

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantDuck Supreme with Duck Hash, Carrot Crisps, Carrot Puree, Peas, Orange Sauce

The Duck Supreme was a throwback to the days of yore where serving a piece of poultry supreme – a breast with the drumlet bone still attached – was in vogue. So retro, like the term “in vogue”. Geddit?

But the old school concept was brought to the present with new school techniques, and the smallest details proved to be the most impressive. And I really mean the smallest details. The light-as-air carrot crisps involve dehydrating a sheet carrot puree, and then deep frying it for that otherworldly texture. The duck itself was tender and moist, and the whole plate came together very nicely with a balance of richness from the duck and sauce, and a lightness from the pea shoots and carrot components.

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantBanana Fritter, House made nulkaba farm honey ice cream, dulce de leche

And the final crescendo in the symphony that guarantees an exit with a bang, the dessert. We chose the Banana Fritter because well, dulce de leche makes us happy. Real happy. And this dessert hit all the rich, sweet notes that it was meant to hit. The honey ice cream was the most spectacular, with a very distinctive hum of honey through an otherwise vanilla base. And so smooth it puts a baby’s bottom to shame. Creamy and silky, and presented in a perfect quenelle.

And naturally, after having our fill of dinner, we went straight to making plans for breakfast.

The Breakfast

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantLamb’s Fry with Potato Rosti, Fried Egg, Caramelised Onion, Butter Fried Toast. Wilted Spinach, Extra Bacon

I’ve always preferred savoury over sweet, and I love seeing how uncommon breakfast ingredients like Lamb’s Fry is used at the breakfast table. Lamb’s fry was not quite a thing in Singapore whilst I was growing up – a feat considering how much offal I ate – but since moving to Australia I’ve come to understand it as Lamb’s brains, that is usually crumbed and deep fried. Like a parallel universe’s version of chicken nuggets. I quite like the creamy texture of lamb’s brains, so imagine my shock and horror when liver came out instead. Grainy, tough, unforgiving liver. Turns out, Lamb’s Fry can refer to all the offal of lamb, and brain just seems to be the one that I’ve been eating. And I just don’t like liver. I keep trying, and I’ll eat it, but I don’t have nice things to say about a slab of cooked liver. #sorrynotsorry

Pate, on the other hand…

Review of Emerson's Cafe and RestaurantFluffy Pancakes, Honeycomb Butter, Bananas, Extra Bacon

Thankfully Christine’s order of Fluffy Pancakes were exactly as we expected: fluffy AF, and fried in butter, with bits of caramel honeycomb dissolved throughout. Caramelised bananas and thick slabs of bacon completed the sweet/salty combo, and we walked away happy campers.

There was only one hiccup in all of this – the bread. Such a small thing, right? For dinner, we were asked if we wanted some house-made baguette, and I thought it was a nice question since a LOT of bread can get wasted if the diner didn’t actually want to eat it. So we said yes, and turns out, it wasn’t a question of food waste, it was an order. We were presented a $7 charge for an honestly fairly dense baguette, and quite a but of confusion in between. Thankfully they very readily took it off the bill when we explained the confusion, and we were still left with an amazing enough experience to come back again the next day.

Emerson’s was a very pleasant surprise considering that I wasn’t expecting too much out of country Australia, and definitely stiff competition for the Sydney dining scene. Worth the making a special trip.

Emerson’s
Adina Vineyard
492 Lovedale Rd
Lovedale, NSW 2325
Phone: 02 4930 7029
Website: http://emersonsrestaurant.com.au

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