Signorelli Gastronomia, Pyrmont

With the end of the work week approaching, a need to rediscover comfort eating nice and close to home and a voice in my ear saying “Itsa me, Mario” (that voice turned out to be my colleague finishing off an Italian meatball sub), I thought “what better way than to eat my way through pizza, pasta and all sorts of tricolore delicacies – all the while washing it down with a fine Chianti?”. The answer was nothing. I grabbed my dining friend, and off we set, a long walk into the sunset, towards Signorelli Gastronomia in Pyrmont – yes, the place that seemingly only serves the whole spit-roasted pig.

Lisa...why would you eat me?

Lisa…why would you eat me?

Having conducted earlier research in the hours of bludging that a Friday afternoon presents, I’d already gotten the salivation out of the way and worked out how to subtly convince said dining friend to order the many dishes I wanted to try – one of the few good tactics I got out of law school.

We started off with a Peroni ($7) and a glass from their really quite decent by-the-glass wine list of the Tedeschi Soave Veneto ($11). I only wish more dining friends enjoyed wine so I could have gone for the bottle – their 13 page wine list has decent varieties from Aus, Italy, France and Spain. We were also brought a basket of warmed crusty bread for dipping into a nice little pot of quality oil on the side – a great way to start.

Food-wise, we shared an entree of the salumi, prosciutto, bresaola, grana padano and parchment bread (a generous serve at $19). The meats were thin shavings of the flavoursome meats. Not as overpowering as some I’ve had, but a nice way to start. Equally, the grana padano was nice, sharp and bitey. As we eventually ran out the accompanying biscuits, we were swiftly presented with another serving of bread from our attentive waiter.

Probably too much for two people - not like that stopped us (me)

Probably too much for two people – not like that stopped us (me)

Having suffered immediate regret at our ambitious ordering of two mains to share, we gallantly pressed on. Our waiters appeared to see our visible fullness and gave us a pleasant amount of time to digest (or, perhaps they were temporarily flustered over the work christmas party that had just arrived, probably from the Google building upstairs or something).

The first of our mains arrived – the Italian sausage, mushroom and olive pizza ($24) – brought swiftly across from the pizza chap, working feverishly away in the corner. Which brings me to my next point: the travesty that is the open kitchen. Sure, it makes an intriguing spectacle of the chef. Sure it breeds hygiene as the result of nosy customers. But what about the chef? What about his privacy to wipe his sweaty brow? To pick up that piece of capsicum that fell on the floor – within the 5 second rule?  To scratch that itchy armpit? A travesty indeed.

Anyway, sweaty brow or not, the pizza was delicious. The crust with that sought-out balance of crispy / chewy with the little black spots and the sparse ingredients. Just the way I like it. That said, at $24, it was just a little bit rich for me.

I'ma Luigi

I’ma Luigi

Just to round out the Italian experience, for research purposes of course, our other main of potato gnocchi with calamari, buffalo mozzarella and zucchini arrived shortly after ($30 for main size). The gnocchi was surprisingly light and springy, which was a pleasant change from the stodgy experience of gnocchis past. The sauce that delicately coated eat morsel of the carb was so incredibly flavourful of seafood. It was delicious and really made the dish. I was somewhat disappointed with the calamari. Although it was well cooked, there just wasn’t a lot of it. Apart from the one curl, there were a few little “off-cuts” circling around the dish, but nothing much else to speak of; a similar thought with the zucchini flower. I thought they could have done more with it, and a blanched zucchini flower floating around just isn’t that overwhelming. The saving grace of that dish really was the flavour of the seafoody broth.

Gnocchi me out!

Gnocchi me out!

Overall, it was actually a really good experience. Our waiter was hilarious and personable. The restaurant, although increasingly busy, did not deplete the good service. My mini-rant about the gnocchi shouldn’t be taken out of context – the dish was absolutely delicious; just a few picky points here and there. The surrounding tables were lively, the atmosphere was this cool, dark, casual Italian kitchen – complete with “providore” section of various sauces, wines and I think a couple of cheese, from memory.

Signorelli GastronomiaGround floor of the Accenture/Google Building
Trouton Place, Pyrmont

Food? 8/10 – nice, decent quality ingredients, although value for money was a bit over the place
Drinks? 9/10 – a good list of (reasonably priced) wines by the glass and even better list of wines by the bottle
Atmosphere? 8/10 – sort of weird placement in that you walk through the foyer of an office block, but once inside, very nice.
Recommend it? Yes for a cool little spot to meet friends or go on a date. Funny, personable waiters, good service, good food and good times.

Signorelli Gastronomia on Urbanspoon

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The Everest Kitchen, Marrickville

One of my favourite activities, like all kids these days, is travelling. And whilst travelling to Bali and getting drunk under the full moon on a beach and waking up the next morning with a cracking headache has its merits, I’m talking of the kind of travel where you throw caution to the wind, don’t look back over your shoulder and head to the great unknown – the countries with few westerners, even fewer english speakers and lots of weird and wonderful experiences.

Having had a recent spate of itchy feet for a good old travel abroad, stymied somewhat by my depressing annual leave and bank balances, I grabbed a dining friend and off we set, towards the setting sun, to the Everest Kitchen in Marrickville.

For a Saturday night, the atmosphere was worryingly subdued, but nevertheless, we were seated in the nicely Nepalese-themed restaurant. Once again, the mistake was made in nominating me as the designated dish chooser, which due to my excitement in trying new things invariably results in gross over-ordering.

We kicked off the night with an entree of six buffalo momo ($9). We’d demolished half by the time I remembered I was in the business of blogging. They looked fairly gyoza-like although were steamed, not fried. Having only had momo once previously, many years ago in the cultural epicentre that was early 2000s Brisbane, I had a different image in my head of a palm-sized circular, taller, very meaty dumpling, but what we ate at Everest Kitchen wasn’t bad. The filling was tasty, and went well with the cooling coriander-y dipping sauce, although I can’t say that the flavour of the buffalo was particularly striking. The pastry had a sufficiently chewy texture, though.

Mo' momo

Mo’ momo

We also had the potato cake ($7), which although fairly standard, was demolished before I had a chance to photograph.

For the mains, we went with a gargantuan plate of Everest grilled lamb ($18). Majority of the pile of lamb was very tender (although there were a couple of grissly pieces that involved animalistic chewing somewhat reminiscent of Homer Simpson wrestling a pork chop – you know what I’m talking about:

Hey, that's my pork chop

Hey, that’s my pork chop

Nevertheless, the lamb had a nice grill-y flavour and was a very generous serve. I’m not exactly sure what was so Everest-y about it, though. And guys – if you’re going to go with the side salad, don’t pull it from some container that’s been sitting around, drowning in dressing for the last 8 hours. The slightly spicy, almost capsicum-y sauce to the left was a nice accompaniment.

Everest lamb

Everest lamb

As if that wasn’t enough, I had spotted the table next to us scoffing down a platter of several dishes ($23). We clearly had to get this

 

Traditional Nepalese dinner set

Traditional Nepalese dinner set

I felt it was a pretty decent representative sample. Clockwise from the suspicious greeny liquid to the back – a dhal which was disappointingly underwhelming, although which had a nice texture in that you could still tell the lentils existed. Then, pappadums – pretty hard to stuff those up. The forest green veg was next – I think these were mustard leaves and as anyone who knows what hell my parents inflicted on me throughout my childhood with their incessant love of mustard plant…I’m not a huge fan. They were cooked well, though, retaining their crunchy texture. Next up, a red plate of a pickly chutney of some sort. I was expecting it to be a little punchier, but it had great flavour. There was a cooling yoghurt next – nothing too exciting, but was a nice contrast. Then a very tender chicken curry with a decent serving of the meat – this was probably my favourite of the plate. Last up, a bamboo curry, which was actually pretty good. Not particularly hot, but retained the nice flavour and texture of bamboo shoots.

That was about all we could fit in and with satisfied stomachs, we rolled ourselves out the door and into the night. The Everest Kitchen was nice, homely, had good service and the food was quite good, if not a little patchy in some areas – but hey, doesn’t that all add to the charm?

The Everest Kitchen
314 Victoria Road, Marrickville

Food: 6/10
Drinks: a can of lift is hard to mess up, although they did have a couple of lassis available
Atmosphere: 7/10 – a nice, non-tacky selection of photos, prayer flags and other Nepalese ornaments
Recommend it? I actually think it’d be a cool place to grab a bunch of friends and have a bit of a birthday feast. It’s not too expensive, the look of the place is nice, the service is good. The food is generally pretty good, though not outrageously overwhelming.

 

The Everest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Fantastic Fairfield and colossal Cabramatta

A friend and I have developed a tradition of a mighty 2 trips of venturing far and wide, to the depths of Sydney’s culinary hot-houses. A little while ago, we had a ball in Lakemba and more recently we decided to explore again, heading out to Sydney’s own axis of evil, Fairfield and Cabramatta. Friends calls of “why the hell are you going to Fairfield?” “will we ever see you again?” fell deaf on these ears of mine, as I boarded what would be an hour-long train ride towards the west. With the idea in mind that we’d be having about four lunches, I budgeted early on, skipping breakfast.

This turned out to be a wise choice as we pondered the menu of the famed, the outwardly unassuming, the brilliant La Paula bakery. We (I) went empanada crazy, having recently recovered from the empanada-gorging incident of 2010 where a trip around South America rendered me almost unconscious from the vast amount of empanadas consumed. We went for a traditional – beef, onion, boiled egg, olive…

Brings back the memories...

Brings back the memories…

a ooey, gooey, melty cheese – the lava lamp of the empanada world, if you will

Cracking photo timing

Cracking photo timing

and a tried and true spinach and cheese

Safety in an empanada

Safety in an empanada

Safe to say, they were all bloody good. I have had better beef empanadas, I have to admit – I think it’s more from a chunky meat perspective, whereas this meat was a little bit “grissle ‘n’ gravy” for my liking. The cheese empanada was comfort food in a pastry envelope and was suitably delicious. The spinach and cheese also fared well, departing from the normal underwhelming cheese and spinach experiences I usually have – they actually put some flavour in this one!

Of course our South American experience was not yet over – deciding to do something wild and step away from empanadas, but not so wild as to forego my one true love, cheese, we went for arepas de queso – a dish that I can safely say would make me, though not my heart, particularly happy when I die.

Arepas

Arepas

The sauce on the right was somewhat underwhelming – I was expecting some punchy hit to the back of the nose with this one but it turned out to be a red coloured watery liquid. bizarre. The pickled veg was ok too. I don’t really get how arepas are cooked, this being my first experience. But it’s essentially a corn cake with cheese magically flowing all around inside it. It’s basically brilliant and whoever invented it should probably be prospectively awarded a victoria cross for peace-making efforts or something.

To wash it down, we opted for this kind of bizarre malt-tasting drink – sort of like a sweet, non-alcoholic beer. Look, it wasn’t great.

ahh me hearty

ahh me hearty

And lunch ain’t a lunch without a big slab’o dulce de leche cake. The first thing you see when you walk into La Paula is a 10m long bakery cabinet. The second thing you notice is that 90% of the contents is dulce de leche. A whole race of people dedicated to the pursuit of dulce de leche. Incredible. Anyway – we obliged – not being the British army, we decided that it wasn’t a wise move to argue with the Argentinians, and to just go along with it…

Lighter than it looks...

Lighter than it looks…

If not for the 24 thousand empanadas we had just consumed, we’d have probably enjoyed this one a lot more. Despite the generous amount of dulce de leche enclosed, the flaky pastry actually made this cake lighter than anticipated. Cheap as chips – the empanadas were about $4 each, the arepas about $6 (I think) and the drinks about $3 each. A whole box of little cakes and pastries set us back about $11.

Well that was Fairfield about done. We wandered the unexpectedly quiet streets and stumbled across a South American grocery store where I went crazy, buying hot sauce, paprika, tortillas, random little tubs of this and that….

….before we finally left to keep on track, swap South American for Vietnamese, and heat to Cabramatta.

First up – fish on a stick. I think that’s what the locals call it, anyway. Some of them have been known to call it Chạo tôm

Fish on a stick

Fish on a stick

Tender and grilly and served with various tasty dipping sauces it was good….if not slightly underwhelming. I thought the fish paste would have a little more flavour, although the novelty of chewing on a sugar can stick wasn’t lost on me.

Next up, a bowl of hot, steaming noodly, brothy (but not pho) dish.

Noodly brothy thing

Noodly brothy thing

I’m told the blood (the big brown thing in the middle) should have been more tender and less…block-like. But the herbs were a-plenty, the noodles chewy and with texture, the meat tender and plentiful and the soup slightly hot / sour and very comforting.

All in all, a very nice day had by all in the bustling suburbs of Fairfield and Cabramatta. Check it out – without fear of being grossly maimed or spat on. Be adventurous – you’ll be fine.

La Paula
9 Barbara Street, Fairfield NSW

La Paula on Urbanspoon

Contagious cauliflower

I’m going to put it out there. Throw out this little morsel into the wind: I’ve discovered the greatest way to cook cauliflower that man has ever known. Not the normal watery, bland, white, liquidy excuse for a vegetable. Oh no, I’m talking about golden, crispy, sexy cauliflower.

You will need:
– all the cauliflower you can eat
– a nice dash of olive oil
– salt and pepper
– about a tablespoon or so of balsamic
– a nice big grate of parmesan

Step 1 – what’s cookin, good lookin: preheat your oven to about 230 degrees – hawt. I actually like to put a baking tray in at this point so that when you put on the cauliflower, you immediately get this super sexy sizzle. Cut your cauliflower into little florets – bite sized and not too big so it doesn’t take hours to cook. Toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When your oven is hot, in goes your cauliflower. Cook for about 10 mins and then flip about – and then cook for another 10 mins or so or until bits are golden.

Step 2 – dress it like it’s hot: take out your crispy, golden cauliflower and then in the baking tray, sprinkle over some balsamic and toss the little florets around. The idea is to get these tart little areas of your floret…not to drown the things. Grate a healthy amount of parmesan over the cauliflower to it all starts to gently melt. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Eat meee

Eat meee