Pho - a patience test

I had lots of fun creating one of my favourite dishes. It’s not particularly hard, it just takes time. Lots of time. In fact I think I spent 10 hours end to end, but most of it was watching the broth simmering away.

I was pleased with the lightness and clarity of the broth thanks to my over zealous skimming and cleansing. Probably binned two soup bowls full of grease and scum that would’ve ended up in arteries. I was surprised how much fish sauce and salt is required to bring the broth to a seasoned state!

The ultimate critics being my parents thought it was a good first attempt. I sense that there’s more to improve on!

Tips for next time:
- use more beef bones
- use ox tail bones
- simmer the spices in the last 2-3 hours as the aroma seems to be all lost if you simmer in the beginning
- char the aromatics more

Saikyo miso “cod”

25 minutes at 50 degrees in sous vide. Perhaps a tad longer next time. I’ll try 35 minutes. The fish was charred with a blowtorch at the end.

No black cod so Ling was used instead. Ling was marinated for 6 hours however flavour didn’t penetrate through as much as hoped. Perhaps doubling this will improve it.

Next day tweaking

Another 24 hours in the marinade (30 hours in total) together with 35 minutes cooking time yielded interesting results.

- Improved miso flavour penetration. A full 24 hours is worthwhile.

- Ling remained very firm and didn’t flake away as desired. Try a different fish next time.

- Try a different miso paste next time.

My first sous vide experience

Salmon brined for 4 hours in 5% salt solution.

In the bag: EVOO and a sprig of thyme.

Cooked for 20 minutes at 50 degrees. Skin was crisped on hot pan for 30 seconds on grape seed oil.

Nice flakiness and cooked through beautifully, but pale in colour. No fishyness.

My first sous vide experience

Salmon brined for 4 hours in 5% salt solution.

In the bag: EVOO and a sprig of thyme.

Cooked for 20 minutes at 50 degrees. Skin was crisped on hot pan for 30 seconds on grape seed oil.

Nice flakiness and cooked through beautifully, but pale in colour. No fishyness.

Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Sydney

Confident, assertive, suave and at times, daring. These are all terms to describe me on RSVP, but I’ve found a restaurant that fits the ‘perfect gentlemen’ bill - Bentley Restaurant and Bar.

Styled like a Seal concert, Bentley is dark, moody and very swanky indeed. The food ups the ante with clever use of science, left-of-field ingredients (e.g. Kangaroo, riberries) and technique to craft stunning food. A mound of freeze dried foie gras shaved over sashimi scallop and a dusting of dehydrated raspberry exemplifies this on a plate. Wickedly good.

Service still had a few wrinkles to iron out: rushed explanations, erratic and slow pacing of dishes are a little concerning at this level. But all is quickly forgotten as you conclude with the delights of aerated chocolate with lemon aspen. This place is palate swagger left, right and centre.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Grano, Wetherill Park

Nestled in the middle of industrial suburbia is Grano: styled like a backyard garage sale for a ladies tupperware party, it breaks the mould of the concrete jungle that surrounds it. The owners clearly saw something we didn’t.

You get all the hipster touches from mismatched furniture, herb garden beds and food served in pots and pans that seem to consume precious table real estate more than anything. Thankfully the food does make up for the clutter. It’s no gourmet’s dream, but for a fresh and rustic take on Italian classics, it satisfies like the duck ragu with gnocchi and broccoli salad with ricotta and walnut.

Grano’s generosity on the plate means this place is best shared amongst your tupperware party to get a spread on the expansive menu. At least you can chat about spring blooms whilst munching on a pizza.

Grano on Urbanspoon

Sagra, Darlinghurst

Just look at those plates, all you see is 2 or 3 things on it - that’s it. None of that heavy sauce, foams or garnishes that some chefs seem to get carried away with. The kitchen is intuitive in creating a tight seasonal menu that just knows when to give and when to stop. Impressive.

The best way to enjoy Sagra is to get a spread over the nibbles, house made pastas and then moving onto the bigger plates. The portion size might upset a nonna but the prices are a steal - $18 for a bowl of tagliatelle ragu? Hell yeah! The menu changes frequently which means that your favourite today may never return, but it’s certainly reliable when it comes to taste and service.

Sagra is the simple crowd pleaser to shake up the Italian institutions of overpriced red sauce and cheese joints. It’s like the iPhone of Italian restaurants in Sydney, with lots of ‘bon appetito’.

Sagra Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bau Truong (Quan An), Canley Heights

How do you stand out amongst Vietnamese restaurants on the golden mile of authentic Asian restaurants? For a long time, most restaurants specialised on a certain dish, brusk service and a loud neon lit dining atmosphere akin to a disco in Hanoi. Bau Truong is one such operator that has had a change of outfits for 2014.

The interior decor is transformed into a modern Asian canteen with communal tables, stools and bright splashes of pastels on corrugated iron. It stands out. The menu hasn’t seen the same changes besides the cardboard its printed on: all the reliables are still around which is a relief for some and a disappointment for those wanting a pork belly bun.

For a Vietnamese ‘canteen’, the prices do lean on the exxy side compared to its peers, but there is a bit more care in little details: fancy stone ware, freshly trimmed vegetables, extra crisp rolls and smoky grilled meats. It’s the case of trendy clothes for the new season, but same old man underneath.

Bau Truong (Quan An), Canley Heights

How do you stand out amongst Vietnamese restaurants on the golden mile of authentic Asian restaurants? For a long time, most restaurants specialised on a certain dish, brusk service and a loud neon lit dining atmosphere akin to a disco in Hanoi. Bau Truong is one such operator that has had a change of outfits for 2014.

The interior decor is transformed into a modern Asian canteen with communal tables, stools and bright splashes of pastels on corrugated iron. It stands out. The menu hasn’t seen the same changes besides the cardboard its printed on: all the reliables are still around which is a relief for some and a disappointment for those wanting a pork belly bun.

For a Vietnamese ‘canteen’, the prices do lean on the exxy side compared to its peers, but there is a bit more care in little details: fancy stone ware, freshly trimmed vegetables, extra crisp rolls and smoky grilled meats. It’s the case of trendy clothes for the new season, but same old man underneath.

Bau Truong on Urbanspoon

Three Williams, Redfern

Like me, Sydney has been through a recent renaissance over the last 2 years - a cafe renaissance! Cafe aficionado’s no longer need to spend hundreds of dollars to fly down to Melbourne for espresso and eggs. Thanks to people with sensibility, they setup some mighty fine cafes in Sydney like Three Williams.

Ok so the trendy new cafe is getting a little too formulaic, and Three Williams is no exception: chefs from hatted restaurants sick of fine dining, industrial warehouse interiors and a carbon-neutral coffee blend from a third-world nation. Yep, yep, yep seen it all before.

But lets not generalise here, Three Williams does an unstoppable roasted cauliflower salad good enough to convert carnivores and highly-addictive fish croquettes. Those ‘narnies’ aren’t bad either (a genius pun on a sarnie using naan instead) if you can brave messy hands and a unimpressed date.

Three Williams is yet another cafe success story for Sydney, so much so that Melbournians might start flying here. Good luck taking our beaches.

Three Williams on Urbanspoon

Tan Viet Noodle House, Canley Heights

There are a few constants in life: taxes, death and fried chicken. Tan Viet is an evergreen favourite among locals and Sydney siders seeking to quench their famished souls. As their rooster logo suggests, their crowing glory is their signature chicken with skin fried to a golden glass-like crunch that yields juicy meat beneath. It’s the Vietnamese take on KFC.

For first timers, order the ‘Mi Ga Don Kho’ which features the crispy chicken with egg noodles and chicken soup on the side. Not to mention, the wait staff will be impressed with your Vietnamese prowess. 

Aside from the crispy skin chicken series, the menu is relatively concise by Vietnamese restaurant standards which typically try to offer an encyclopaedia rivalling range of dishes on their menu. Tan Viet is focussed and their customers don’t seem to mind because it’s reliable and consistent. Can’t say the same about taxes and death though.
Tan Viet Noodle House, Canley Heights

There are a few constants in life: taxes, death and fried chicken. Tan Viet is an evergreen favourite among locals and Sydney siders seeking to quench their famished souls. As their rooster logo suggests, their crowing glory is their signature chicken with skin fried to a golden glass-like crunch that yields juicy meat beneath. It’s the Vietnamese take on KFC.

For first timers, order the ‘Mi Ga Don Kho’ which features the crispy chicken with egg noodles and chicken soup on the side. Not to mention, the wait staff will be impressed with your Vietnamese prowess.

Aside from the crispy skin chicken series, the menu is relatively concise by Vietnamese restaurant standards which typically try to offer an encyclopaedia rivalling range of dishes on their menu. Tan Viet is focussed and their customers don’t seem to mind because it’s reliable and consistent. Can’t say the same about taxes and death though.

Tan Viet on Urbanspoon

Cipro Pizza Al Talgio, Alexandria

Tired of the red sauce Italian joints with burly waiters, tacky tablecloth and artery clogging dishes? You really start to wonder what is really meant by ‘authentic’ Italian these days. Along comes Cipro, styled like a bakery cafe where you place your order at the counter, sit on communal benches, and not a Mario in sight. From first impressions, there’s nothing very Italian about it at all.

That is until you try the Pizza: it’s marvellous. Airy crisp base, with a hint of chew that’s generously topped with ingredients not commonly seen by a Pizza Hut employee. Whilst some will struggle without the Supreme or Hawaiian option, they’re all fresh, light and very very tasty. Don’t miss those golden arancini balls that are perfectly crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. A perfect starter.

To finish, there’s even house churned pavlova gelato. Told you it’s un-Italian. But you know what makes it Italian? The food comes from the heart - honest, satisfying and delicious. Grazie Cipro, you make a good pizza pie no?

Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon