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

 

Liiiiisa, why would you eat me? 6 hour roast lamb

I like the concept of roasting low and slow. That you can take a cheap, shitty cut of meat and turn it into something truly wonderful. Something, juicy, tender and altogether moreish. I recently had a whole day of having to stay at home, studying. What better way to pass such a hideous day, than to have wafts of lamb floating through the house throughout the day. And what better way to achieve such wafts than cooking lamb over the course of an entire day. Well, half a day, because battling inner-city supermarkets at 9am is a several-hour mission in itself.

Anyway, the lamb. I bought a nice, big fat piece of shoulder from the butcher and roasted it at 120 for 6 hours with various flavours added along the way. The concept is that you get a shitty old piece of meat that has heaps of fatty bits and sinew running through it, which all render out and / or go all tender and melty and by the end you have this absolutely delicious piece of lamb on your fork – knives need not apply because this baby just falls apart in your mouth.

You will need:
– 1 piece of meat. You could use pork, beef, lamb, whatever. The idea is just to get one of the cheap cuts. These are the ones that benefit from the long, slow roast. Premium eye fillet ain’t got no home here. I chose lamb shoulder, as mentioned, about 2kgs
– 1 cup of dry white wine
– 1 cup of stock
– a couple of bay leaves
– 4 cloves of garlic
– a few anchovies (optional!)

Phase 1 – get stuffed: The first thing to do is trim up your meat. You don’t want to be too harsh – some of that fat and sinew in slow roasting is a good thing. What you want to remove is that really thick, pale yellow fat that looks like it could clog up your arteries with just one glance. After you’ve spent a bit of time doing that, place a few incisions nice and deep into your lamb shoulder. In it, slide a few slices from the garlic cloves and, if you like, a little piece of anchovy – don’t worry, it seems to mellow and break up during the cooking process. Turn your oven up to 120 degrees at this point. Then you want to get a pan nice and hot with a little oil. You want to brown the lamb shoulder in said appropriately sized pot (because it ain’t gonna get nice and brown cooking at 120 degrees). It’ll take about 10-15 mins and when you’re happy with the golden-ness, deglaze that hot mess by adding your wine and stock to the pot. At this point, add your bay leaves (oh and I also added half a leek, chopped in half…though I’m not quite sure what this added. Sweetness of some variety).

Lamb - phase one complete

Lamb – phase one complete

Phase 2 – hot hot heat: Into the oven goes your lamb, in the pot, lid on. That is all. Seriously, leave it there for the next 6 hours, perhaps turning ever couple of hours. I did the cartouche thing – i.e. putting a piece of baking paper over the lamb so it loses less moisture.

Phase 2 - complete

Phase 2 – complete

Phase 3 – get some lamb (or pork) on your fork: all you need to do now is let your lamb rest in the pot for about half an hour. This is coincidentally the time it takes to organise some epic roast pumpkin / potatoes. Then get your fork out – save the knife – and go mental

Phase 3 - get it in ya

Phase 3 – get it in ya

Moar chickin of the preserved lemon variety

It seems like I’m on a roll. A chicken roll. Actually, speaking of which, I could go a chicken roll right now.

Luckily though, this post is not about chicken rolls, notwithstanding their deliciousness. It is about another equally delicious, scrumptious, fulfilling and generally delectable chicken recipes that I stumbled across a little while ago. It involves preserved lemons – not a quick thing to make, but definitely an easy thing to make (don’t be that loser that pays $11 a jar in a gourmet deli!)

Today’s recipe is chicken with preserved lemons! It takes a little while – like a Sunday afternoon project – but do it, it’s worth it 🙂

You will need:
A marinade in which to let your chicken hang out for a while:
– 1 clove of garlic, chopped
– 1/4 of a preserved lemon (see note!), finely sliced and only the rind – ditch the flesh
– 1 onion, chopped
– 2 tsps smokey paprika
– 2 tsps cumin
– 1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander (you can use the stalks)
– 1 tbsp chopped parsley
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 tsp saffron threads that have been soaked in a tiny bit of water (not absolutely necessary, but does impart a nice colour and flavour)
– 50ml olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste

The rest of the meal!
– 500 grams of chicken (I used thigh)
– 1 tomato, sliced
– 1 more onion, chopped)
– a couple of potatoes, chopped in fairly large pieces
– 100g of olives
– a good handful of chopped coriander
– about 100mL of water (maybe more – depending on how dry it’s all looking when it’s all cooking)

A note on preserved lemons:
Preserved lemons are super easy to make, although they take a fair few weeks to make. Get yourself a clean glass jar and enough lemons to fill it. This is harder to estimate than it sounds, so as a guide I went with one of those larger pasta sauce jars that I had lying around and about 4 lemons (maybe it was 5…). You’ll also need a fair few tablespoons of salt. Cut your lemons in quarters and then the idea is to place a lemon quarter in the jar and then squash the hell out of it. I use a rolling pin to really get in there and squash it down. Put a teaspoon of salt in. Then another lemon quarter, squash again. Another teaspoon of salt. Repeat until you’ve filled the jar with some seriously squashed lemons and however many teaspoons of salt the number of lemon quarters equate to. It should end up that the lemon juice covers the lemon quarters; if not, get some extra lemons and squeeze just the juice out until everything is covered. Seal her up and whack at the back of the fridge for the next month. Don’t freak out if it develops a little white mould…it’s all good, just scrape off when you use the lemons.

Now to the recipe:
Step 1 – rate and marinate: chop and mix all of the marinade ingredients. Let the ingredients get to know each other for 20 minutes or so. Phew, that was easy. Now get your chicken ready. Massage it all in and let the chicken sit there for a good coupla hours

Marinate me.

Marinate me.

Step 2 – finger licking good: Tip the chicken and the marinade into a pan on low (…or a tagine if you’re organised). Add the tomatoes, onion and potatoes and mix in with the marinade. Dot the olives around and tip in the water, along with half of the handful of coriander. Cook over a super low heat until the chicken is cooked. Check the water and add more if needed. Estimate that it takes around 1/2 an hour or a little longer. Top with the remaining coriander and serve with whatever you like – quinoa, cous cous, rice, vegies…nothing…anything…

Rahhh I'm going to eat you like a lion

Rahhh I’m going to eat you like a lion

Two for the price of one – baked lamb meatballs and baked eggplant extravaganza

We recently had a (relatively) bloody cold day in Sydney, even though getting into summer the temperature should be hovering around the high twenties. Realising this was probably my last chance to eat warming, scrummy comfort food before the onslaught of what is an Australian summer hits, I took the opportunity to cook up a storm – baked lamb meatballs, and also what I would like to call a baked eggplant extravaganza. I give you good deal – two for the price of one.

I actually only took a picture of the lamb meatballs as both dishes looked approximately exactly the same – various delicious goods baked in a hearty tomato sauce and topped with stretchy, gooey mozzarella look the same – whaddaya know.

First up – the lamb.

You will need:
– Lamb! I baked enough for about 3 or 4 people and used about 500 grams of minced lamb
– 1 onion, diced (I used half in the meatballs and half in the tomato sauce)
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (because everyone should get more bullish about garlic) – half for the meatballs, half for the sauce
– salt and pepper to taste
– a nice handful of basil
– 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
– a couple of those little baby eggplant (or half a big eggplant), cut into small (say, 1cm) chunks (optional)
– tomato paste
– 1 nice, hot red chilli (optional)
– mozzarella (however cheesey you like your food) – I used about 4 of those bocconcini (the smaller mozzarella) balls

Step 1 – mary had a little lamb: in a bowl, mix your lamb, half the onion, half the garlic, salt and pepper and half the basil. Get your hands in there and really give it a good mix. Roll these into little spheres – however big you like (I went for golf-ball sized) and, if you like, stuff a tiny cube of mozzarella into each ball. Make sure you seal the meat around the cheese well!

Gettin’ friendly

Step 2 – if at first you don’t succeed, then fry, fry again: heat some olive oil in a saucepan on a med-high heat and place your beautiful meatballs in to fry, turning as each side becomes golden.

Lamby goodness

Step 3 – mamma mia: once your meatballs are golden (don’t be too worried if they’re not cooked through at this stage), add your eggplants (if using) and fry off for a couple of minutes. Tip in a can of diced tomatoes, the remaining basil, some tomato paste and chilli, if you want a little heat. Let these simmer away for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates.

Simmer away, my little lamby friends

Step 4 – wakey bakey: you could stop at step 3 and have a delicious dish – a really great pasta sauce, even – but in the words of some wanky chef, somewhere, I’m going to take this one to the next level (I got this). Tip your meaty lamby mixture into a casserole dish, top with carelessly torn mozzarella, strewn at random, and bake at about 200 degrees celcius until the mozza is melty and slightly goldy.

Baked lamb droolballs

Second up… for those Sunday nights when the depression of the coming work week hits its hardest, you’ve come off the back of a busy, fun filled weekend of running around, hanging out in the sun and having a brewski or two…and all you want is dinner on a plate, in front of your, not in an hour… now.

You will need:
– the rest of that pack of baby eggplant you bought for the lamb meatballs recipe… (I used about 5 or so)
– bacon! I used about 5 rashers, chopped
– half an onion, chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
– the rest of the mozzarella (if you like getting cheesey)
– a tin of diced tomatoes
– basil, a nice handful

Step 1 – there’s really only one step: heat a saucepan – you don’t really need oil, some will come from the bacon fat (yes, gross, but delicious). Chuck in your bacon and onion and fry until the onion is translucent and the bacon with nice little golden bits on it (oh, and until any bacon fat renders). Add your garlic at this point, and also the eggplants, halved. Fry your eggplants until they’re nice and golden and gettin’ squishy. Tip in your tomatoes and basil. Simmer until some of the water has evaporated. Then, if you like, tip into a baking dish, top with mozzarella and bake at 200 degrees until it all looks nicely golden and melty. That’s it! That’s all.

Hikaru Japanese, Newtown

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a nice connection with Japan throughout my life. When I was but knee high to a grasshopper, a Japanese kindergarten (yes – weirdly niche) opened up across the road from where I lived, so naturally that’s where I went. Our family formed a close bond with the Japanese chap that ran the place and he taught all of us kids the wonders of how to do cartwheels, eat raw eggs, balance a chair on one finger and do handstands. Oh, I also learned a bit of Japanese too, and this cool girl came over from Japan and homestayed with us for a little while. In primary school, I learned a bit more Japanese too and then in high school I was fortunate enough to go over there for a few weeks on a school trip. Last year I was lucky enough to go over there again for brief week of snowboarding a Tokyo-ing. And what’s more, I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with a family that loves Japanese food as well. I still remember rolling little sushis as a kid, getting rice stuck on the sushi mat, not rolling tight enough so the filling fell out, and Dad just sighing… 🙂

Anyway, the point is I freakin’ love Japanese food. I love the korokke, I love the ramen, I love the curry, I love the sashimi, I love the freshness, I love the cuteness – everything.

I’d often walked past this little Japanese joint, walking along King Street in Newtown. It’s just off the main drag and doesn’t look like anything fancy. But having had some of my best dining experiences in underwhelming-looking joints, my dining friend and I decided to give Hikaru Japanese a try.

Although the restaurant was busy when we got there at about 8pm on a Friday night, the waitresses were super polite and quick to fit us on a (really) little table in the (really) little restaurant 🙂

We started off with a couple of Japanese beers – obviously – a Kirin and an Asahi (about $8 each). Food-wise, well, we went a little mental. I won’t lie about that. As I was looking through the menu, I was thinking, “wow, if the dishes are this cheap, they’re definitely going to be really small” – boy are my estimation skills out these days.

First off the mark was edamame. Despite being what is essentially a plate of boiled beans, I actually really like the slightly salty little morsels with a nice, cold beer. For a mere $5 or so, these soybeans were a steal.

Foggy picture, but you get the idea

Next up, gyoza. I really enjoy a good gyoza – juicy, flavourful filling, steamed to perfection on the top and fried to a crisp finish on the bottom. The filling of these gyoza was so-so – nothing to write home about. But the biggest killer was the fact that they were totally fried – as in, deep fried. I get that there are different interpretations of gyoza – so I think this was more of a personal preference thing as opposed to a “they got it wrong” thing. I also didn’t love the generous smear of of mayo on top – it was a little bit of overkill. At a mere $5 or so for 3, it was again, a steal.

Gyoza – the garden salad underneath was kind of weird

Korokke. Now, I appreciate that this is a grossly westernised distortion of what should be elegant, fresh Japanese cuisine. But there ain’t nothin’ like a good old hunk of has brown, whatever the culture. A korokke is essentially the hash brown of Japan, but better, including a few specks of grated veg and meat thrown into the mix. From my hazy, hazy memory, this was approximately $6. Flavour-wise, it was good. Texture-wise, I have to admit I’ve had better in terms of crunch – this one was a little crunchy, but mostly just warm.

Korokke! (as in, croquet) – again with the sort of garden salad.

It was around this point that my lack of estimation skills became vividly apparent. Two dishes in and I was feelin’ pretty full, and realised we were about a quarter of the way through my lengthy, lengthy order (why do people even let me keep ordering??). I failed to take a picture, but the next dish up was the entree-sized mixed tempura (I think it was about $9). As one of the larger sized entrees I’ve come across, we were presented with deliciously lightly battered (but appropriately tender) brocolli, pumpkin, sweet potato, prawn, fish and calamari – about one of each – along with the requisite tempura dipping sauce. It was actually pretty good! The batter was light and the oil didn’t taste strong/old and it wasn’t too greasy. All of the components were well cooked – the seafood was still plump and juicy. Pretty good!

We also ordered sushi – two of my favourites (and altogether a bastardisation of Japanese cooking, again) – chicken katsu and tempura prawn. Below is a picture of the tempura prawn, topped with slices of avocado. Both were so good – crispy, perfectly cooked, a good rice-to-filling ratio and reasonably priced at $9.80.

Tempura prawn roll

Just as I was undoing the top button of my jeans, I realised “oh shit” there’s another dish. Chicken yakisoba. The dish was reasonably tasty, despite me not being a huge fan (I can’t get past those insipid maggi-inspired noodles). But the chicken was tasty and the vegetables were well cooked and dispersed. Unfortunately I was in a huge food coma by this point, so I picked around a bit before giving up. A huge serving at about $12.

Chicken yakisoba

All in all, I was very impressed with it all. The meals came out quickly (too quickly – but that was really our own fault for the over-ordering). The service was super polite even though the restaurant was packed!

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant
134 King Street,
Newtown NSW 2042

Food: 8/10
Drinks: we just had a couple of beers really, although there were a handful of sake options
Atmosphere: 7/10 – cute and Japanese, but a little cramped (I think we were approximately 7cm from the next table)
Recommend it? Yes, for a cheap, cheerful, filling feed – bring a few friends, share a few plates and head down the street for a good night out.

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon