Dinner by Heston, Knightsbridge (London)

When I was planning my visit to London, I knew that I wanted to try at least one fancy restaurant.

Dinner by Heston immediately came into mind and I swiftly made an online booking.  The reservation system was very simple and allowed you to look through available times and dates.  We wanted a lunch sitting and spaces for lunch were plentiful.  They send you a reminder email beforehand and also drop you a call a few days before your booking.  You do have to provide your credit card details and if I recall correctly, the fine print says that a cancellation charge may be made if you don't cancel your booking within a certain timeframe.

For those of you who haven't heard of it before, Dinner by Heston is Heston Blumenthal's second restaurant which opened in January 2011.  It is inside the lovely (and very fancy) Mandarin Oriental hotel in the Knightsbridge area of London.  The staff who we encountered upon entering the hotel were so polite and extremely helpful.

It has one Michelin star and is currently ranked number 9 on the San Pelligrino list of World's 50 Best Restaurants. The concept of the restaurant is to rework historical British recipes from as far back as the 14th century.  Each item on the menu has the date of the original recipe listed beside it.

Inside the dining room

Since this was a luxurious lunch, we ordered some wine and nibbled on bread while we perused the menu at length.

For my entree, I could not go past the meat fruit. 

Meat fruit 
Mandarin chicken liver parfait with toast (£15)

Slicing open the mandarin to reveal the parfait

It was amazing, it really did look like a mandarin. If you are not a gluttinous pig like myself, I would recommend sharing this entree because there is a substantive amount of parfait packed in there.  The waiter kindly brought over more hot toast after I found myself running out of toast to slather the parfait with.

Broth of lamb
Slow cooked hen’s egg, celery, radish, turnip and veal sweetbreads (£15)

Isn't that egg beautiful? And the dark colour of that broth.  Drool.

It was harder to decide what to have for my main.  Everything sounded too good.  In the end, I chose fish, and so did my friend.

Cod in cider
Chard and fired mussels (£27)

Given the brief menu description, I asked the waiter to describe the dish in a bit more detail before I ordered it.  He gave a very thorough description and I have to confess that my brain switched off a bit.  (Does that ever happen to you?  I half-listen to waiters wax lyrical on the description and all my brain listens for is anything contrary.  If I don't hear anything that I actively dislike, then I automatically agree to the dish!)

The cod was cooked to perfection.  Quite possibly the most perfectly cooked piece of fish that I have ever tasted.  And those mussels - so fresh.  I love fresh mussels - the taste is incomparable.

Roast sea bass
Leaf chicory and cockle ketchup (£32)

We also ordered a side of mashed potato which ashamedly, we were both too full to do any justice. 


Brown Bread ice cream
 Salted butter caramel, pear and malted yeast syrup (£9)

Taffety Tart
Apple, rose, fennel and vanilla ice cream (£9)

We didn't order the instant ice cream but the table next to us did, so we got to watch the ultra cool liquid nitrogen mixing.  Note that the ice cream isn't on the menu - they asked us if we wanted it after we finished our desserts - silly!

Lastly we were presented with a complimentary petit fours. 

It was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in London! 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Mr Wong, Sydney CBD

I went to Mr Wong before I left for holidays, a few weeks after it had initially opened.

Is it still the hottest spot in town?  Because when I went, it was near impossible to get a table for dinner with their no-booking policy.  My friend and I had planned to go one night at 7pm and were thwarted upon arrival by being told that there wouldn't be an available table until 9pm.  Undeterred, we left our number and went to amuse ourselves in the meantime.  At about 8.30pm, we were called and told there was a table free.

Apologies for the poor lighting in these photos - it was dim lighting inside!

Deep-fried Dim Sum Platter (8 pieces) ($32)
 Crispy beef roll, Lobster Mei Si roll, Pear taro croquette, Foie gras prawn toast

The deep fried dim sums were better than I expected.  I usually steer clear from deep fried dim sums at yumcha due to the unhealthy factor.  Mr Wong's deep fried dim sums add a little twist to the usual yumcha offerings.  Out of the selection here, I liked the spring roll filled with beef best.

Mr Wong's drunken chicken ($12)

The drunken chicken was served too cold for my liking.  Instead of being silky and smooth, the refrigerator temperature meant that the chicken was dense and unappealing.  I wouldn't order this again.

Salad of alaskan snow crab, chrysanthemum leaves, nashi pear and ginger ($19)

The alaskan snow crab salad, on the other hand - I loved.  It is definitely not for you if you don't like the taste of ginger because strong ginger permeates the entire dish.  The salad was fresh, delicate and topped off by salmon roe.

Textural salad of poached chicken, jellyfish and pig's ear ($14)

I gladly left the textural salad for my friend to consume - it was all a bit too rubbery for me!

Green apple ice, osmanthus jelly, water chestnuts and coconut sorbet ($14)

Roast white chocolate ice cream, yuzu curd, longans, and raspberries ($14)

Both desserts were exotic and different.  The yuzu curd left a savoury taste in the mouth and I'm not sure if I liked it or not!

Out of the dishes that I had, I would probably only order the alaskan snow crab salad again.  I would definitely revisit to try other items on the menu - if I can get a table!
Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York City

As you may have guessed from my radio silence, I have been on holidays travelling to NYC, Mexico and some parts of Europe. I thought it would be nice to have just a couple of posts on the foodie highlights of my trip before returning to regular programming.

When my local NYC friend asked what I wanted to do while visiting, I immediately thought of the food that I wanted to eat.  The list wasn't long - basically I wanted to visit some classic places that I didn't have a chance to visit last time I was there.  I recited to her - Shake Shack, Magnolia's, Serendipty and Momofuku's pork buns.  When she heard 'Momofuku', she immediately bemoaned "Not Momofuku! Everyone who comes here wants to go to Momofuku! I'm so sick of Momofuku!"

Oh to be so lucky.....

Thankfully for me, her obliging sense of duty saw us at Momofuku's noodle bar in the East Village one night - the first Momofuku restaurant opened by David Chang.  It's a casual walk-in restaurant that was filled to the brim when we walked in.  The diners crammed in, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and there was a line forming out the door.

We were fortunate enough to not have to wait in line - a space for two had just opened up next to a wall and we both squeezed in.  I remember knocking some people with my bag and maybe stepping on someone's foot too as I sucked in my stomach to reach our seats.

 The menu for the day

My friend wasn't particularly hungry but there were a number of items on the menu that caught my eye.  Given that I was on holiday, I ordered everything I wanted!

Heirloom tomato salad - watermelon, crab, avocado (14 USD)

Wow.  What a great start to the meal.  The chunks of plucked crab meat went so well with the variety of heirloom tomatoes.  I polished off the whole thing, marvelling the whole time at the variety of flavours in the dish.

Corn chawanmushi -  pickled chanterelles, arugula, cherry tomato (8 USD)

I'm used to the Japanese style of warm chawan-mushi so I was surprised when this dish arrived at our table.  It was cold and the corn mentioned in the menu description referred to that oil slicked on top.  I can't say that I enjoyed this dish but I ate the whole thing nonetheless (waste not!).

Pork buns (10 USD for two)

The famous Momofuku pork buns!  Secretly to myself, I had been wondering - how good could these be?  Isn't it just roasted pork in a soft bun?

Now that I have experienced the pork bun, I can safely say - they are pretty dam good. 

I can now see what the hype is about.  It is so soft, so gelatinous and so warm that every bite oozes delicious pork and hoisin sauce in your mouth.  So good!

Grilled corn - Benton's bacon, lime, cotija (10 USD)

I liked the idea of this dish but my low spice tolerance meant that I couldn't eat much of it.  My friend gladly took up the challenge and devoured it all.

Momofuku ramen - pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg (16 USD)

The ramen was good but I think we are spoiled by very good ramen that is readily available in Sydney so Momofuku's ramen didn't blow me away.

After finishing up here,  we ventured to Momofuku's Milk Bar in the East Village which was nothing more than a hole in the wall.  I picked up a cornflake-marshmallow cookie which, between you and me, I had for a sneaky breakfast the next day :-)

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Ocean Room, Circular Quay

Lately I have been feeling conscious of my budget and trying to limit my fine dining....to the extent possible.

Ocean Room would fall into a 'special occasion' category but for the fact that it is in the Entertainment Card book.  Cardholders receive 25% off the total bill and lucky for me, I know several people with Entertainment cards!

Ocean Room is located at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay.  Their seating style varies from cosy booths to tables for large groups.  It definitely provides a romantic setting, especially on a Friday night with candles flickering on each table.
All of their cocktails sounded delicious and it was hard to pick just one.

Nashi and ginger cosmo ($18)
Absolut pears vodka, Nashi pear nectar, ginger liquer, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice

This interpretation of a Cosmopolitan was divine.  It was sweet, but not sickly sweet and the taste of pears shone through.

Unfortunately I would have to say that the cocktail was probably the highlight of the meal.  Maybe I had high expectations for Ocean Room? Too high?  The food didn't blow me away and I'm glad that we had the Entertainment Card discount.

For my entree, I selected four items from their 'Japanese style tapas' section of the menu.

Left to right: Curry Pan (crispy bread filled with Japanese style waygu beef cheek curry) - $4.00
White Gazpacho (almond milk and tomato water, scallop ceviche and tomato sorbet) - $4.50
Soft shell crab taco (spiced soft shell crab, pickled vegetables, crispy taco shell) - $6.00
Calamari pops (tempura house-made calamari pops, green curry salt, crispy mint) - $4.00

What to say about this selection?  It was rather bland for my tastebuds.  The lowlight was the White Gazpacho, which had the consistency of a light cauliflower puree but tasted like..something very unpleasant.  The mixture of tomato water and almond milk did not go down well.

The calamari pops tasted like plain calamari that you could get from your local fish and chip shop.  The curry pan was cute and, along with the soft shell crab taco, probably the best out the lot but still nothing out of the ordinary.

My friend ordered the spider roll.

Spicy spider roll - soft shell crab sushi roll, fresh tomato salsa ($17)

Spicy potato fries - spiced french fries, shichmi pepper mayonnaise ($8)

Kamo-rosu duck 
Japanese style triple cooked duck breast, soy mirin jus, eggplant and pickled beetroot - ($39)

Chilli and garlic marron
South Australian whole marron, wok tossed with sea salt and live peppercorn blend ($36)

Toban yaki creme brulee
Classic creme brulee, pomelo marmalade, seasonal fruit compote ($18)

Chai tea

I probably wouldn't go out of my way to revisit although having said that, the atmosphere was very lovely and service was great too.

Ocean Room on Urbanspoon

The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room, Sydney CBD

As soon as I saw the Morrison's menu, I knew that I had to go try it - the food sounded yum! It's also in a convenient location on George Street where the old Brooklyn hotel used to be - now it has been revamped and renovated into a completely different look.

We went on a Thursday night after work for some drinks and nibblies. The place was jumping and despite the large dining areas, most tables were filled. The dim lighting and warm vibe felt inviting after a short walk in the winter cold.  I can definitely see the Morrison becoming an after-work favourite with the hordes of Sydney CBD workers.

There was a decent cocktail list and I ordered the Morrison's signature cocktail to sip on - freshly juiced Granny Smith apples blended with rye vodka ($15).   It was refreshing and not too sweet, with small slices of apple adding some crunch to the drink.

Given that the Morrison is an oyster bar, it seemed silly to not order some oysters to try!

We selected three different varieties to try and they each tasted extremely fresh.  

We were a bit perturbed at the menu which asterisked some items as only being available between 3pm to 6pm but the waitress assured us that they were available for dinner.  Yay!

Duck Liver Parfait with Pedro Jiminez jelly and toasted brioche ($15)

The star of this dish was not the duck liver parfait (because duck liver parfait always tastes amazing anyway) - but instead, it was the brioche that had me exclaiming how lovely it was.  It was incredibly soft, like a soft pillow.  Not what I had been expecting! As is often the case with pate and liver parfait dishes, I wished there was more bread. 

Split Garlic 'n' Pernod Prawns
cooked over coals with garlic, Pernod, parsley butter ($26)

These prawns may have been my favourite dish of the night.  How can you go wrong with garlic, parsley and butter?

Warm duck salad

I found the duck salad to be disappointing although my friend liked it.  The duck pieces were a bit tough and the salad a bit dry in general.

Caesar salad with 62 deg hen egg, white anchovy and jamon breadcrumbs ($20)

The egg is buried in this photo but take my word for it, it oozed out like nobody's business once I prodded it with a fork.  I loved everything about this salad - the crisp leaves, the plump anchovies, the smeared egg.  Would happily order this again. 

Overall I was very impressed with the Morrison and can't wait to return to try more of the menu.  I might make a booking next time though - I can foresee this place gaining even more popularity if it's first few weeks are anything to go by!

The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room on Urbanspoon

Lantern by Wagaya, Haymarket

As a fan of Wagaya, I was excited when I read that they had recently opened up a sister restaurant on George Street called 'Lantern'.   Mobblees and I decided to check it out one Friday night soon after it had opened.

It is located on the second level of the Sun Tower building, close to the World Square area of George Street.  We didn't make a reservation so had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table.  I didn't mind though because we ended up getting a great table overlooking George Street.

The layout of the restaurant was like a maze - deceivingly small as you walked down the hallway past the karaoke rooms, only to open up into a range of booths and seating that stretched out far.

View from our booth and the dimly lit interiors

Lantern has the same touch-screen ordering as Wagaya. It was a little bit glitchy and slow at times but still more convenient than having to flag down a waiter.

Seafood salad ($13.50)

The salad was a large size and slivers of salmon, kingfish and tuna sashimi were buried at the top of the salad.  A refreshing side to the meal.

Chicken namban with tartare sauce ($9.50)

Chicken namban is a great alternative to chicken karaage.  Lantern's chicken namban was thinly sliced and lightly battered, but still deliciously moist and juicy on the inside.

Lightly grilled salmon and scallop sashimi ($13.50)

Rainbow roll ($8.90)

The sushi was fresh and cheap too.  All in all, Lantern is a good addition to the Wagaya family - I'll just have to remember to book next time!

Lantern By Wagaya on Urbanspoon

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