Spago, Beverly Hills

My friends and I used to walk past Spago, back when it first opened on the Beverly Hills strip.  We would peer in through the windows and look at the menu outside before turning to each other and tut "This place is too fancy for Beverly Hills!" Fresh pasta and a pasta machine in the front window, newly designed interiors, mural on the wall and wine racks at the back.  During these early days, the restaurant would often be empty and I silently thought to myself that it would most likely shut down soon, a victim to low patronage.

Fast forward a bit in time and Spago did some Cudo deals.  I didn't use any vouchers but it seemed a lot of them were sold because Eatability reviews were popping up from people who had used the vouchers. 

Now it's 2012 and I have finally gone to Spago.  Not once, but twice within the space of two weekends. And both times that I have been, on Saturday nights, the restaurant has been filled to capacity.

What was the motivator for finally trying it?  It's in the Entertainment Book!  It is one of the restaurants listed at the start of the book, meaning you have to show your card for the offer.

I was surprisingly pleased with the food on the first visit, so much so that I returned the following Saturday night.  This post shows what we had over the two visits - the funny thing was, the menu changed slightly between the visits and the prices had gone up slightly as well!  So I've listed the 'new' prices with each dish.

Entrees

Baby Octopus Salad ($15)
Char grilled baby octopus with chili and garlic, tossed with cherry tomato, red onion, rocket and balsamic reduction


The serving size of this salad was incredibly generous and there was a healthy dose of balsamic dressing smothering the salad.  The octopus had a lovely grilled flavour and was very tender.

Lobster bisque ($13)
Creamy seafood soup, cooked with lobster shells and fish stock, served with king prawns and crab meat



If you don't like the taste of 'fishy' soups, then this wouldn't be for you.  As it was, I love seafood flavours and found this to be a tad too salty.

Char grilled mushrooms ($12)
King oyster mushrooms with chili, garlic and extra virgin olive oil




These mushrooms were ordered on both visits.  This dish changed between the visits - initially served with some rocket but served with haloumi on the second visit.  I preferred the haloumi.  

To be honest, I normally wouldn't order a vegetarian dish from the menu but these mushrooms were absolutely delicious.  Grill marks scored the mushrooms and it had an amazing charred flavour. 

 Angus beef carpaccio ($13)
Thinly sliced Angus beef tenderloin with horseradish, truffle pecorino and truffle oil
 

Now this is definitely a fancy dish that you wouldn't normally see in Beverly Hills.  I loved the light truffle flavour covering the paper thin beef slices and the pretty plating too. 

 Mains

 Special of the day - grilled ocean trout with mussels, prawns and saffron stew

Lobster bisque risotto ($28)
Aborio rice cooked in lobster bisque, blue swimmer crab meat, scallop, king prawns and marscapone cheese
 


Fettucine marinara ($27)
Fresh black mussels, king prawns, squid rings, crab meat, scallops and Napoletana sauce


 Pumpkin Agnolotti ($24)
In-house made ricotta cheese and pumpkin, burnt butter sauce, sage and walnuts


The serving sizes for the mains were also quite generous.  My friend could not finish her giant plate of spaghetti marinara and the waitress kindly packed it to go for us.

Chips with truffle aioli ($6)

 

These chips were addictive.

Last but not least, desserts.

 Affogatto ($6)

 Pannacotta with mixed berries coulis ($9.50)

The vanilla bean pannacotta was smooth and gave a great end to both meals.

I'm so pleased to have discovered this little gem in Beverly Hills, I hope it sticks around for a bit longer!

Spago on Urbanspoon
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The Village, Potts Point

Recently I was invited to try the new Ladies Lunch menu at The Village in Potts Point.  I was excited because the Ladies Lunch seemed right up my alley - a set menu available on Saturdays and Sundays between 12pm - 4pm for $39 per person, which includes a glass of wine or champagne.

I hadn't been to The Village before, but heard from friends that it becomes a great bar at night. I was surprised to discover how cute and cosy it was during the daytime - it can actually fit up to 400 people. There was a lovely courtyard outside (would be great in the summertime) and we sat near a large window that allowed the sunshine to come streaming through.

There are chalk scribblings on the wall and if you look upwards, they're even on the ceiling.


There was a large jug of Pimms to start off the lunch.  What better drink to accompany a ladies lunch?  I love Pimms, it's so sweet and refreshing.  

 

First up was an antipasto plate to share.  There was an assortment of tasty nibblies on the plate including olives, zucchini, capsicum, proscuitto, hommus, beetroot dip and toasted herb bread.


The colours on the plate made for great food photography and I loved how it was served on the wooden board.



After that, more plates of food started to come out in quick succession and we were overcome with how much there was to eat.

Crispy salt and pepper squid 
sprinkled with sea salt and accompanied by rocket, lemon and chili aioli


This was one of my favourite dishes.  I love salt and pepper squid (I've learned how to make it at home too!) and this was very well done.  The squid tasted fresh with a hint of spice, and it came out piping hot.

Roasted pumpkin with pine nuts, baby spinach and marinated feta


This salad was surprisingly good.  I had expected it to be rather standard but instead it had a savoury dressing that added a lot of oomph.  I should mention that on this occasion, I had my friend Pro with me (we call her Pro because she could have been played Pro Netball...instead she is a lawyer now) and this salad was Pro's favourite dish of the day. 

Sicilian arrancini, spinach and smoked mozzarella



The arrancini balls were quite substantial in size and we generously smeared the tomato sauce and cheese over each ball before heaping it back onto individual plates.

Margherita pizza




Margherita pizza is always a classic crowd pleaser.  I would have liked more basil on the slices in order to add more flavour because I find that it often cuts through the density of cheese.

Tomato with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive and balsamic


This was a very simple dish and the tomatoes tasted incredibly sweet. The plating was interesting - the drizzles of balsamic reminded me of how chocolate sauce is typically drizzled onto dessert plates!

Dessert in the Ladies Lunch is served by alternate drop but we were awfully lucky and got to try both options.

Chocolate fondant with berry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream


Oh my....this chocolate fondant was deliciously gooey in the middle.  There is no better dessert for a cold winter's day and we literally polished off the entire ramekin.  The vanilla bean ice cream also went down well - as always, I love seeing vanilla bean flecks as a sign that I'm going to be tasting real vanilla.

Apple and berry crumble with vanilla bean anglaise


In comparison, the apple and berry crumble didn't have quite the same effect on us but that might have been because the chocolate fondant was so delicious.

I think $39 is quite a reasonable price for all the food that you receive in the Ladies Lunch.  What a great find for a yummy feast while catching up with the girls!

The Village
1 Kellett Way
Potts Point 2011
Ph: 8084 6057
www.the-village.com.au

The Village on Urbanspoon

We dined at the Village as guests of The Mews.
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Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant, Hurstville

Lobster is a rare and special treat in my household.  We don't have it often but that only makes it more delicious.

For your viewing pleasure, here is almost 3kg of lobster cooked with garlic and shallots that we recently enjoyed at Sunny Harbour:



Can you say YUM?  There was so much on the plate, I ate chunk after chunk of delicious lobster flesh.  One of the best things about lobster is the ease of eating - no fiddling around like you have to do with crab.  And the lobster legs are so meaty!

Some of the side acts to this dinner:

Mushrooms and choy


Minced chicken with spicy tofu


Fried rice


And the complimentary red bean dessert.


They all pale in comparison to the glorious lobster.
 

Sunny Harbour Seafood on Urbanspoon
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4fourteen, Surry Hills

4fourteen is a new, hip restaurant in Surry Hills.  It even has a cool, hip name.  4fourteen.  Rolls off the tongue.  And it's the new creation from Colin Fassnidge, chef at Four in Hand.

Like any food blogger, I was keen to try out this new joint and convinced my friend Mobblees to join me.  Conscious of the crowds that flock to new restaurants, I made a booking for lunch at 1.30pm on a Saturday.

In the interests of exercise, we decided to walk the short distance from Central.  Which meant that we arrived there at about 1pm, earlier than anticipated.  At this stage, the place was mostly empty and I wondered to myself whether I had needed the booking at all but determined that the reservation was a good idea because: 1. We perched on coveted seats looking into the kitchen and 2. The spacious dining area quickly filled up within the hours with hungry diners (this had the added bonus of the kitchen being busy, which in turn means more viewing entertainment).

I loved the high ceilings, exposed beams and arty on the walls.


Looking into the open kitchen from our stools


The pig's tail on the menu quickly caught my eye and it caught the eye of Mobblees too.  Like any good eating pals, we decided to share so we could try another dish from the menu.

Lunch menu (click to enlarge)


When the food came out, I was a bit surprised at how small the portions were.  They were not tiny, but I had imagined them to be bigger.


Crumbed pigs tail, crab and corn salad, avocado puree ($22.50)




The pigs tail tasted like shredded meat that had been crumbed and deep fried.  Needless to say, this is a winning combination and it was yummy.  However, for me, the star of the dish was the crab and corn salad.   The little bits of crab flesh was sweet and when combined with the sweet corn - let's just say that I could have happily eaten a whole bowl of this.

On a side note, I did not like the garish orange plate that it came out on.  This was so random and made me feel like I was eating food from an old 80's kitchen.

The other dish that we decided to share was from the 'fish' section of the menu.


Warm crab roll ($14.50)



For size, it was a little mini burger with a diameter about the same as the palm of my hand.
 

The soft, grilled bun and taste of crab inside reminded me of a fillet o' fish.

All of the desserts on the menu looked good!  We were torn between ordering a malt sundae but it was ultimately thrown to the curbside in favour of trying the following two desserts.


Bounty ($16)


The deconstructed interpretation of a Bounty was definitely the winning dish between the two desserts that we ordered.  The roasted shards of coconut went so well with the creamy chocolate layered at the bottom of the plate.

Roast Pineapple with Cinnamon and Star Anise ice cream ($14.50)


Silly me - when I ordered this dessert, I thought it was a three flavoured ice cream - pineapple, cinnamon and star anise.  

The pineapple was sharp and tangy in the mouth and the ice cream rapidly melted all over the plate due to the heat of the pineapple.  The savoury taste of cinnamon and star anise in the ice cream was interesting.

I loved the casual, relaxed vibe of a sunny Saturday lunchtime here but I don't know when I will be back again.  Although the dessert servings were ample, I fear that I would need to order two 'mains' and a dessert to fill up my stomach! Maybe on a day when I am not that hungry...

4Fourteen on Urbanspoon
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