Restaurant Atelier, Glebe

There it was. Out of the blue. An invitation to dine at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe last Friday night. Incredible! Having lived in Glebe in my first year in Sydney, walking past the terrace restaurant sometimes multiple times per day, I had been wanting to dine there for ages.

Facing the not particularly difficult choice of two degustation menus (4 or 7 course), we took the option that a quick race is a good race, and decided on the 4 course dinner ($65). Immediately a cute plate of black and green olives were plonked down on our table, their slight saltiness making my mouth water in anticipation.

Soon after, we were presented with a pretty large serving of the warmest, crustiest, most delicious sourdough I have had in a while. I know I made the same claim about Soffrito’s bread a couple of weeks back, but there is a new king in town. I don’t know if they actually make it on site, but it was fantastic. And even better served with a little Pepe Saya butter (apparently the only butter we are supposed to eat these days…). But it was warm…and the butter was melty and, yes, we unashamedly ate the whole plate. Who are you judging?

Bread head

Bread head

First up for our epic meal – the Atelier hen’s egg, a smooth custardy creamy “yolk” with kombu, foie gras, ocean trout roe – bursting (literally) with flavour – and little micro herbs for that bite of freshness. I enjoyed the exciting burst and saltiness of the roe (yes, I’m a food nerd. The bursting roe was indeed exciting). The foie gras was super creamy, really rounding out the dish. A really great, delicate introduction to the meal.

A hen's egg is a chicken's egg, people!

A hen’s egg is a chicken’s egg, people!

Next up, an admittedly terrible photo, which I put down to excessive excitement about the dish placed in front of me. Cured kingfish, confit yolk, potentially shiitakes and a light mushroomy shaving. Yes, I was definitely so excited by the dish that I forgot what was in it. Useless. The central concept that was it was super fresh, lightly cured fish, with various delicious condiments that went really well. Part of the fish was actually relatively tough and hard to cut through! But that is potentially just me not understanding that type of fish. Another winning dish.

Here fishy fishy

Here fishy fishy

Onwards and upwards to number three. After two fairly light dishes, it was comforting to see a nice, hearty, powerful-looking plate in front of me. So it was basically aged mutton cooked two ways. The pink piece in the centre was a beautifully flavourful seared few mouthfuls of lamby goodness. There’s another one of those hidden under the foliage. The second way was a fantastic slow roasted rib of the meat. Falling off the bone and incredibly tender; the fat melting through the meat and adding a sticky deliciousness to the whole thing. Some asparagus and baby turnips, as well as some form of tasty moussey stuff accompanied, and it really was satisfying.

Little lamby

Little lamby

Winding down towards the end of the night, satisfied but also sad that there was only one more dish to round out the night at such a great restaurant (with solid service, too!), we were presented with dessert – a banana souffle, caramel milkshake and yoghurt sorbet. I think Atelier has had a few iterations of this dessert with various flavours, but I think we landed on a winner. The souffle had chunks of caramelised banana at the bottom and we were advised to tip a little of the caramel milkshake into the souffle – a quality suggestion indeed. The yoghurt sorbet added a nice slight tartness to the dish and even with bursting tummies, the plates were licked clean.

Bananarama

Bananarama

All in all, a great night was had at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe. The service, despite a fairly full restaurant and only two waiters, was spot on. I really liked the touch of being explained the various components of the dish (although, as illustrated, through my excitement the detail was somewhat lost on me). The portion sizes were sufficient so that by the end of the four courses I was pretty full – a good taste of everything. I liked that the food was delicate and of top quality.

Restaurant Atelier
22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Food? 9/10! Tasty, good quality, a great succession of meals and tastes. Was it French? Well…probably not specifically…but it was good. And you can’t go wrong with starting out with great quality, warm, crusty sourdough.
Drinks? I actually have to admit that, having had about 84 beers earlier that evening, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. What a fail.
Atmosphere? The restaurant is set in a beautiful sandstone terrace, which was very comfortable (although as with all terraces, when sitting next to a…gaggle of cackling women (as we were), you should probably bring some earplugs or fear a rapid onset of deafness.

Restaurant Atelier on Urbanspoon

 

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Soffritto, Newtown

It’s been 4 years since I spotted some cute looking guy kayaking towards me, trying to teach me that paddling in a straight line isn’t THAT hard. I still haven’t got it yet. But after countless adventures, numerous camping trips, bazillions of uni exams, temper tantrums on the ski slopes (well, from my part), transitions to becoming fledgling adults and four years that I wish I could joke about and say they were the longest of my life….but which have absolutely flown by like a non-crashing Concorde…here we are. And what better way to celebrate than to head to a beautiful little restaurant, down towards the quiet end of King Street in Newtown, Soffritto.

We opted to go for the three-courser, $55, with around half a dozen options for each course. Shortly after ordering, we were presented with a plate of house made sourdough and olive oil. The bread was much in the style of damper, but had a great crust, and the olive oil was fruity and zesty.

For entrees, DF went for the mushroom and truffle gnocchi. It was quite light and did have a noticeable truffle flavour. The finishing of parmesan went down a treat. Quite a generous serving, as well. I actually really like it when gnocchi is finished off in the pan to give a lightly crisp finish, though even without this, it was a solid dish.

Gnocchi me out

Gnocchi me out

I opted for an oft-reviewed duck tortellini, served with a beautifully nutty burnt butter and crisp sage sauce. There was literally nothing I could fault about this dish (well, maybe only the rush with which the waiter brought the dish, messing it up a little, but that’s just getting nit-picky). It was fantastic. Five plump tortellini, almost bursting with duck, and cooked until perfectly al dente, and finished off with a few crispy sage leaves and a good shaving of parmesan, along with that nutty burnt butter. Could have eaten about four of these.

Lucky ducky

Lucky ducky

Mains up next and DF opted for the crisp skin barramundi, served with baby leeks and almond quinoa. It was a crying shame that DF doesn’t like fish skin, because it looked super crisp and delicious (and socially awkward for me to reach across at a nice restaurant and eat it). He liked the almonds that accompanied the quinoa (though it did look like they could have been slivered or something). The fish was cooked perfectly.

Barra

Barra

I chose the roast fillet of beef wrapped in pancetta with garlic spinach (I think there were supposed to be mushrooms involved, although there was no sign of this) and mash. The beef was cooked perfectly – I like it quite rare, and that it was. Very tender. The spinach was deliciously garlicky. We also ordered some (pretty unnecessary) roast potatoes, which were stellar.

High steaks

High steaks

With tummies rapidly filling, we were surprisingly still looking forward to the desserts, expecting big things. DF went for a creme brulee with pear compote. Solid crackly top; thick and smooth custard and a sweetly tart pear. He complained about the absence of ice cream, as the resident ice cream freak, but apart from that it was gobbled up in a matter of minutes.

Creme of the brulee variety

Creme of the brulee variety

And last but not least, I went for death by chocolate – a warm chocolate fondant with ice cream and berries. There’s really no way you can stuff up a fondant. You essentially just undercook a chocolate cake. I don’t know who came up with it, but they’re a bloody genius. In fact, in hindsight I think this may have been described as a chocolate pudding, in which case, yes it was legitimately undercooked. Either way, I’m going with the theory that it was on purpose. Big blob of ice cream on top – the hot, the cold – and you’re laughing.

Fon-don't make me stop eating this

Fon-don’t make me stop eating this

Overall, a great experience was had by all. The restaurant was absolutely bustling (people were being turned away!), the food was of a high standard and the service was pretty consistent and charming (especially considering the diner to waiter ratio – far in favour of the diners). A nice place to go for a special occasion and I will be back.

Soffritto Newtown
367 King St, Newtown

Food? 9/10. My go-to dish is absolutely the duck tortellini. No complaints about any of the others. Generous servings, good ingredients. More care could have been taken with the dishes during the journey from kitchen to table, but the food itself was overall really very good.
Drinks? Not too bad. A few wines by the glass and a few bottled beers (though I believe you can also bring your own wine).
Atmosphere? I liked it. It’s a fairly small restaurant – perhaps 10 tables – and it was bustling. The decor is quite nice, the waiters dealt with the busy-ness well and it was overall a good night. Entrees came out strikingly fast as well.

 Soffritto on Urbanspoon

An elegant taste test of frozen dumplings aka I go dumpling crazy

It was a need that had been brewing in my mind. I had been thinking about it for a while. A problem that had to be solved; that wouldn’t just go away. A fundamental problem? Perhaps. But one that I could manage? Not alone. It was, scary, it was ever present…and it had to be managed swiftly.

I needed dumplings.

Fundamental indeed. This problem in mind, a brave dining friend and I ventured far into the night (Burwood) and into Sydney Dumpling King. Looking at the extensive array of dumplings, I briefly felt we had bitten off more than we could chew (and then realised that there were essentially about 5 ingredients on high rotation to make up the 28 varieties of dumpling on offer). We chose a half-half dish of boiled dumplings – fish and coriander / prawn with eggs, chives and wood-ear mushrooms, as well as a half-half dish of fried dumplings, pot-sticker style – beef with celery and pork with zucchini (feeling experimental). Each had 15 dumplings and were reasonably priced – $14 for the seafood; $11-ish ($9-ish plus a $2 frying fee) for the beef/pork versions.

The two ladies hand-making all of those dumplings were the fastest-working people I have ever seen in my life. Who rolls out and fills dough that quickly? Anyway, they were mainly delicious. The pork and zucchini was, somewhat expectedly, kind of bland. Both seafood versions were great and the beef and celery was surprisingly tasty. I did prefer the texture of the fried, but that’s just me. And it was reassuring to see those ladies and know that it was not mystery meat in the dumpling.

I'm pretty much dumpling royalty

Various seafood dumplings

Nicely fried beef/pork dumplings

Nicely fried beef/pork dumplings

Like some slow rolling dumpling train on the verge of picking up even more dumplings I felt the undying urge to perpetuate this dumpling-foolery. I proceeded to the closest Asian grocery and stocked up. Yum Cha weekend bonanza!

The cheong fun was pretty sad. Three dried out prawns in each of the thick, dried out pastry. Skip this one and hold out for yum cha.

Cheong fun or cheong sum? I can never remember

Cheong fun or cheong sum? I can never remember

The har gau was more like spinach gau, sadly! The pastry was similarly fairly thick – a common theme in the world of frozen dumplings. Again, one to hold out for yum cha.

Spinach gau?

Spinach gau?

The surprise winners of the day were the shanghai-style dumplings. I bought pork and vegetable, pork and coriander and then some form of mystery meat “juicy buns” aka everyone’s favourite xiao long bau. Again, the common theme of fairly thick pastry continued but the dumplings contained a nice soupiness (and also can be steamed from frozen in 12 minutes or less). Winning. Oh and for c.$4 per packet, who is complaining?

Dumpling mania

Dumpling mania

I also bought a few mystery sauces…

XLB

XLB

I also bought a pack of frozen green onion pancakes. Now, I’m not sure if this is testament to the quality of the product…or a reflection of the (sub par) green onion pancakes of meals past. But these were one of the best I’ve ever had. Check this flakiness (ignore the kind of burnt bits):

So flaky

So flaky

Anyway, this weekend has been a total yum cha bonanza. I’m pretty sure my nutrient levels are 100% depleted, but it sure has been a delicious couple of days…

 

 

 

Y’all come get some grub: the story of American food night

So a coupla friends, a boyfriend and I are heading over to the good old US of A in a handful of months time to get some snow action on. I take this as a 6 month training opportunity. In food, that is. Epic.

And what better way to spend a Saturday night than having a bunch of friends ’round, tucking in to great food, great drinks and fun times.

For our “taste of America” (yes, I realise this is about as cliche as it gets!) we went for a one-two beef / pork ribs combo, beef brisket sliders (on home made buttermilk rolls), hot wings with blue cheese sauce, a rocket pear blue cheese and balsamic salad (you need to eat your greens!) and the tried and true mac’n’cheese.

I have to admit – it did take a good whole day worth of food shopping and cooking. Though I have to say, with a glass of wine, it was strangely therapeutic. Thanks Sara! Here are some pictures of the feast:

1) Ribs: before and after

Marinated over night in a mixture of a dry rub (sugar, smoky paprika, sweet paprika, garlic, pepper, a little rosemary) and, wait for it, a bottle of coke. Seriously. It works. Roast low and slow and finish off under the grill, baste regularly with epic home made BBQ sauce.

Humungous beef ribs

Humungous beef ribs

Ready for demolishing - thanks Dave and Linda!

Ready for demolishing – thanks Dave and Linda!

2) Beef brisket sliders with home made buttermilk sliders and my ad hoc rendition of chunky bbq sauce

Brisket turns out to be one of the easiest meats to cook. Whack in an oven bag (if you don’t already use them, get on that) – again, low and slow, for about 4 hours. We deiced to mix our brisket in with a chunky BBQ sauce to serve with the sliders. Chop roughly, mix and serve.

The sliders are equally simple, with the lengthy prep time really only attributable to rising time. For these great rolls, you need:
– 5gm instant yeast
– 290gm baker’s flour (I use Laucke; it comes with a sachet of yeast)
– 190mL buttermilk, warmed slightly
– 1.5 tbsp caster sugar
– 1/4 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 cup canola oil
– egg wash / sesame seeds for baking

In a bowl, whack in everything but the egg wash and sesame seeds. Mix and then knead for a few minutes or until the dough is nice and elastic. In a bowl, in a warm and non-draughty area for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. Knock back. Form into little balls (say, 2 inches across) and lay on a tray lined with baking paper, about an inch or so apart. Let rise for another hour or until doubled. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle a few sesame seeds – more to convince everyone it’s an actual hamburger than anything else – and bake at 205 degrees C for about 15 mins (or til nice and golden!)

BBQ sauce is basically just a mix of an onion, a teaspoon of smoky paprika, 2 cloves of garlic and a chilli, fried in a few tablespoons of butter – then pureed in a blender til nice and smooth. Return to the saucepan, add 1 tbsp each of dark brown sugar and treacle, then a can of diced tomatoes and a few tablespoons of tomato puree. Along with this, add 3 tbsp white wine vinegar, a good few swigs of worcestershire and a little hot sauce. Turn the heat looowwwww and stir regularly (I learned this the hard way when the bottom burned)

Buttermilk sliders

Buttermilk sliders

Holy slider!

Holy slider!

3) Mac n cheese (complete with weirdly foggy camera lense)

Made by boiling macaroni to just before al dente. Make a roux by melting 6 tbsp unsalted butter until bubbling and adding to that 1/2 a cup of plain flour, stirring for a minute or so. Add 3 or so cups of milk gradually until the whole lot thickens. To that, add a good few cups of cheese – I used a mix of mostly cheddar and a bit of parmesan. Whack in a couple of pinches of nutmeg, pepper, salt and cayenne as well. I also added an optional extra few rashers of bacon fried with a couple of cloves of garlic. Mix the roux and the bacon with the macaroni and top with a little more grated cheese. Bake til browned at about 190 degrees C.

It's a macaromance

It’s a macaromance

4) Hot wiiiingsss and blue cheese sauce (just in case you thought your heart was going to get off lightly)

For the wings, make a mixture to suit your taste of melted butter, salt, garlic and hot sauce. We ended up adding some random ingredients including hot paprika, balsamic, honey…whatever. The point is, make it nice and hot with those core ingredients to suit your taste. Marinate for as long as you’ve got, and grill a good 5 inches from the grill til done!

The blue cheese sauce is made by combining 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup mayo, 1/2 a lemon juiced, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp shallots, 1 clove of garlic and a good few tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese. Stir vigorously.

Fly me away

Fly me away

And there you have it. Our “American feast”. Great food, great company, great times.

Fasta pasta @ The Italian Bowl, Newtown

Every time I walk past The Italian Bowl on the perpetually bustling King Street, it is jam-packed. Well, not every time. There’s about an hour between 3 and 4pm when it finally dies down. One night, while walking past rather late, my dining friend and I spotted an opening and somewhat athletically jumped at the chance.

It’s cheap and cheerful; it looks like a takeaway joint and to be honest, from appearances alone, you probably wouldn’t think the pasta would be particularly good. You know those ones…Step 1: pick your pasta; Step 2: pick your sauce. Nevertheless, when in doubt, follow the masses – that many people can’t possibly be wrong…can they?

We kicked off our Italian fiesta with a…sadly uninspiring herb bread. The bread itself was fairly nice and crusty, but at the end of the day, it was just 2 slices of bread, smacked with butter and a sprinkle of McCormick’s finest mixed dried herbs. And not really enough of it. That said, it was $2.50. Does anyone really have the right to complain at that price?

Garlic breath, let the night begin

Garlic breath, let the night begin

Fortunately, the tides had turned by the time the pasta dishes were revealed. My dining friend went for his boring usual, chicken risotto. The risotto was delicious. There was a healthy amount of chicken (although I can’t help but think how much nicer it would have been for some freshly grilled chunks of the meat to be sitting on top as well), but in terms of the rice itself, it was quite….solid. You know how they say the perfect risotto is supposed to not really form a mound on the plate (but at the same time, not be a rice stew) – well, this one definitely had a backbone to it. That said, it tasted pretty good and the rice was nicely (if not ever so slightly overdone) cooked. I can empathise, in the sense that risotto invariably takes far too long to cook, especially for what is essentially a “fast” pasta restaurant, so they’ve obviously had a pot of the stuff hangin’ around for a while…still, it was solid. $16 regular; $23 large (we…mistakenly got the large)

Rice-a-riso (not really)

Rice-a-riso (not really)

My pasta was a fettuccine marinara – my favourite. The pasta was deliciously al dente; the seafood was plentiful (prawns, calamari, little chunks of fish) and the sauce not too heavy, but altogether garlicky and flavourful. Once again, made the mistake of getting the large ($16 reg; $23 large) and couldn’t finish it. The seafood was well cooked too.

It'sa marinara!

It’sa marinara!

Bonus points for The Italian Bowl – they don’t have fake parmesan in their shakers! I don’t know why I’m so impressed with this, but it’s such a small thing that makes such a large difference. The meals came out fast, they were hot and delicious – decently large serving and nicely flavoured. We didn’t try any of their meat dishes, but there are definitely some refinements that could be made to the dishes we tried.

The Italian Bowl
255 King St, Newtown NSW 2042

Food? 7/10. A decent, casual eatery. Lots of traffic, a good “fast food” option. Meals are fairly unrefined….but perhaps that’s how mama likes it
Drinks? N/a – we had a coupla cans of lemon squash and they were as good as any lemon squash I’ve had
Atmosphere? 6/10 – nothing special. The restaurant is long and thin so you often feel as though there’s not enough room to sit more than a couple of people at a table. Service was friendly and efficient though.

 
The Italian Bowl on Urbanspoon