Bentley, Surry Hills

I had been scouting for a restaurant worthy of a special occasion dinner and was coming up empty handed.  After a lot of browsing and googling, my friend and I decided to try Bentley in Surry Hills.  With two Chef's Hats and a long list of awards listed on Bentley's website, my expectations were high - and how could it go wrong?

I made a reservation online for a Friday night dinner and Bentley called to double confirm on the day of booking. 

When we got there, the staff were very welcoming and the restaurant was quite full.  It was very, very dark inside - I am not a fan of restaurants with such extreme darkness.  It means you can't see the food!  I want to be able to see what I'm eating - especially if I'm paying for a high end meal.  As it was, I had to use the camera flash to take these photos and after taking each one, squinted at the screen to see what the dish looked like.  And a few times, my first picture was completely off centre because I missed half the plate.  Dislike dark restaurants!

We decided to try the $120 Retrospective Tasting Menu which featured dishes from Bentley's past. We started off with some drinks (not included in set menu price) and sourdough bread.

Pimms cocktail ($17) and Virgin Mojito ($8)

Sourdough and olive oil

The plates came out in steady succession although some took noticeably longer than others to arrive.  As it was a tasting menu, all of the dishes were quite small in size. 

Smoked Eel Parfait 
with white soy dressing

The eel parfait was very creamy inside and the flavour reminded us both of smoked salmon.  As you can see, the presentation of the plate is very pretty but completely useless in a dark restaurant!  Also I was fumbling a bit to figure out where to find the various bits and pieces were on the plate.

with roe, juniper and baked potato broth

When the waiter described the kingfish as being served with roast potato broth, I thought it sounded delicious.  Unfortunately the broth did not make me salivate at all - I couldn't taste the roast potato.  I did taste some root vegetable flavour but not the punch that I expected. I didn't like the baby radish served whole on the plate either - was hard and felt out of place.

Blue Eye Trevalla
with green garlic and jamon

The Blue Eye Trevalla was my friend's favourite dish of the night.  The fish flaked off nicely and the garlic sauce was a nice accompaniment. 

Spiced Heirloom Carrot
with pistachio, yoghurt and black olive

 I did not enjoy the spiced heirloom carrot plate, the dish tasted like a lightly spiced curry sauce with some vegetable peelings.  There were small yoghurt cubes covered in dehydrated black olives that added a sourness to the dish. 

Pork Belly
with wattle, garlic milk and rhubarb

 The pork belly was a bit lacklustre.  The meat leaned to the softer side without a particularly crunchy crackling.  There wasn't anything on the plate for me to rave about.

with red chard, horseradish and soy beans

My friend had requested an alternative to the pork belly dish and received the vegetarian option instead.  She said it was pleasant.
Roasted Duck Breast
with mushroom, cuttlefish and kombu

 The duck breast was overly chewy and lacking in flavour.  I did like the tiny pieces of cuttlefish which tasted very fresh.

Beer Sorbet
with caramelised pineapple and barley cream

As you would know, I am a dessert lover but this beer sorbet was so unpleasant!  The best thing on the plate was the scattered crumble.  I left half of this on my plate.

Liquid Mandarin
with liquorice and mandarin ice cream

The liquid mandarin dessert was much better but also did not blow me away.  The chocolate tube opened with a crack to ooze out a thin mandarin gel. 

Overall, we both found the meal to be hugely disappointing.  None of the dishes blew us away and it was like we kept waiting for the next dish to be spectacular.   Were my tastebuds off on this night?  Why was everything so bland?  Bentley has amazing reviews so I felt like I missed out on a great dining experience.

Having said that, the staff were really friendly and efficient.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Selah, Circular Quay

On my way to work in Circular Quay, I have walked past Selah many times without a second thought.  The outside of the restaurant doesn't look particular appealing and you really have to get up close to the window to peer inside before you realise it actually looks quite nice.

A lovely coworker took me there as a farewell lunch last week and I discovered that it is popular amongst the CBD crowd for a quiet business lunch. He joked that it was a place for the oldies!

Since it was a farewell lunch, we decided to go all out with three courses.  The service was friendly and the food came out quickly. 

 Salt and pepper squid with chilli, soy, shallot and five spice ($18)

Crispy duck hash, duck egg dressing and honey mustard zucchini ($19)

I chose the duck hash as my entree because it sounded interesting.  The flavour of the duck was lost somewhat among the potato-ness of the hash but I enjoyed the honey mustard dressing on the zucchini. 

Roast rack and belly, potato and carrot gratin, silverbeet and shitake ($36)

I was impressed by the presentation of my colleague's dish - it looked so earthy like the plate had just walked out of the forest.

Fillet of silver dory, lemon ash, Jerusalem artichoke and mussel chowder sauce ($36)

It is a shame that the fish is hidden under piles of Jerusalem artichoke in this picture.  The fish was the true star of the dish - it had been coated in some sort of spice rub and was cooked perfectly.   As for the Jerusalem artichokes, well, it always sounds so exotic on the menu and then I eat it and remember it's just another root vegetable. Needless to say I was spearing each piece and trying to coat it in the chowder sauce for more flavour.  Also I would have loved to have more than one mussel on the plate!

 Dark chocolate fondant, passion fruit ice cream and hot chocolate sauce ($15)

Warm date pudding, toffee sauce and date ice cream ($15)

Both desserts were comforting and homely, well-suited for the chilly Sydney weather.  There was a bit of theatrical presentation from the waiter at the table as he poured the hot chocolate sauce over the fondant.

We both left feeling very full and satisfied.  

Selah on Urbanspoon

Momiji, Burwood

There is nothing better on these cold winter nights than a steaming hot bowl of ramen.  On one such cold night, we had just finished watching Despicable Me 2 (which I loved by the way) and we were feeling hungry.  I recalled reading about an authentic ramen place on Burwood Road and whipped out my phone to google the location.

Momiji is a small Japanese restaurant next to the Westfield shopping centre - if you're leaving Burwood Westfield via Burwood Road, it is just across the traffic lights to your right.

The inside of Momiji is very no-frills with a simple laminated menu and Japanese signage scattered around.
There were only two other tables occupied and the restaurant felt very quiet.  A friendly waitress hurried over to greet and seat us with menus.

I had heard that their hand rolls were good so I ordered one to try as a little snack.

Prawn hand roll ($2.50)

The hand roll was REALLY good!  Warm rice, crisp seaweed and an unusual combination of prawn with cucumber and shitake mushroom. I could have happily ordered a few more to try, but needed to save stomach space for the ramen.

Pork Soup Sho-Yu Ramen ($8.80)

The noodles are buried under the toppings in this picture but they were the thin type ramen noodle.  The soup was rich and I liked it, but it wasn't mind blowing for me.

Ebi Tempura Udon ($10.80)

My friend ordered the udon and found it to her liking. The prawns were piping hot, as was the soup and the crispy coating melted quickly despite my cries for her to fish the prawns out of the bowl.

Soft shell crab ($13.80)

The serving size of the soft shell crab was generous and came out on a big bed of shredded lettuce.  It was mixed in with thinly sliced shitake mushroom and more of that mysterious sauce which had been on my prawn hand roll.  

Overall, their dishes tasted very fresh and service was friendly.  Prices were reasonable and ended up coming to about $20 per person. 


Rainford Street Social, Surry Hills

Recently I was invited to visit Rainford Street Social to try their new Winter Menu.  The restaurant is located on the corner of Rainford Street and Crown Street in Surry Hills.

It was a cold winter's night in Sydney and the air felt was so chilly outside, it was positively arctic. Opening the door inside felt like walking into a warm, cosy lodge.

It was more spacious inside the restaurant than I expected.  There was an open kitchen with seating along the bench, a little nook with a flat screen tv to watch sports and several tables scattered around. 

I was seated at a large table was tucked away in the back corner.  I liked the table because it felt very private and had the best lighting!

There were a lot of hipster decorative touches everywhere with different types of jars galore and carefully mismatched tableware.  I liked the overall ambience and thought the flowers added a very nice touch.

Since this was a tasting session, we were bombarded with different dishes to try.

First up were some cute meatball sliders.

They looked adorable with one big meatball stuffed in between the toasted buns.  I would have preferred them with a bit more sauce but happily gobbled it down nonetheless.

Sweet Pea & Jamon Broth, slow cooked egg

The broth was the perfect entree for a cold night. Hams and peas are such a classic combination and you can't go wrong with a gooey egg.  I don't know if I have tried sweetpea leaves before - they were quite hard and chewy.  My friend couldn't finish hers and I ended up eating the rest for her!

Next up were a round of dishes to share.

Rainford Meatballs, tomato fondue, swiss cheese and pine nuts

Cauliflower cheese

The cauliflower cheese was very comforting and reminded me of my cauliflower cheese that I like to make at home.

Grilled pumpkin with garlic yoghurt

I love roast pumpkin and was happy to see it on the menu.  Pumpkin has this lovely sweetness that really comes through well when roasting.  The garlic yoghurt was a good contrast and this was one of my favourites for the night.

Confit duck leg, white bean puree and spiced cherries

I know the photo looks like a lot of duck on the plate so I have to reiterate that this was a sharing dish!  I delicately extracted a leg for myself and had fun eating the crispy skin and meat off the bone. 

Grilled vegetable lasagne

Lasagne is another one of my favourite winter dishes and this vegetable version was very hearty.  Covered with stringy cheese and packed with winter veggies like eggplant, it filled us all up.

And last but not least, everyone's most anticipated part of the menu - dessert.

Gluten Free Chcoolate Torte with whipped cream

Upside-down Cheesecake, brown butter breadcrumbs

Banana cream pie

If I had to rank the desserts (and let's face it, who doesn't), I would announce the banana cream pie as the winner by a mile.  It was soooo yummy - the soft creamy banana, the caramel and the crumbly base all served with vanilla bean ice cream on the side.  I wished on the night that we weren't sharing the dish! I could have easily demolished one my myself.

Second place would be the deconstructed cheesecake which was light and fluffy with a hint of lemony tartness.

And I didn't forget the chocolate brownie - it was more bitter than I expected but I quite like dark chocolate.

I had a lot of fun at the dinner and really enjoyed trying all the winter dishes.  Now I just have to revisit for brunch one day!

The Food Book dined as a guest of Rainford Street Social and Cav Con.

Rainford Street Social on Urbanspoon

La Rosa Bar and Pizza, Sydney CBD

La Rosa Bar and Pizza is the sister venue of Pendolino and both restaurants are located in The Strand Arcade.  I have been to Pendolino a few times in the past and really enjoyed their food so I convinced my friend to try La Rosa with me.

It was a rainy Friday night and we walked into a packed restaurant.  There was a corporate function on that night and it was loud because we were seated right next to the party.

The first thing that I noticed was how dark it was.  Just like at Pendolino, you will need a reading light to see your menu and my friend commented that she couldn't see my face.  These photos are the result of holding the reading light over the table.  I hope someone out there will appreciate my efforts!

After a long week, I deserved a cocktail and ordered a Frangelico Agrumato.  My friend ordered a pineapple juice and when the waiter dropped off the drinks, he gave the cocktail to my friend and told her it was the pineapple juice.  A silly mistake to make! And then my friend had started sipping my cocktail before I tasted the juice and realised his error.

 Frangelico Agrumato ($17.50) and Pineapple juice ($4.50)

We were very hungry and ordered a fair bit between the two of us, starting with entrees. I was happy that the food came out quickly.

Vine Ripened Tomato and Black Olive Bruschetta with Salted Ricotta ($14.90) 

The bruschetta was standard, nothing amazing.  The ingredients did taste very fresh and I liked the grilled flavour of the bread.

Fried Baby Calamari with Fried Onions, Herbs and Olives and Spicy Cuttlefish Ink and Tomato Sauce ($17.00)

I expect fried calamari to be pretty oily but this surpassed even my expectations in oiliness.  There was a puddle of oil at the bottom of the small bowl. My friend and I noticed a lot of 'fillers' in the bowl as well e.g. cloves of garlic, bits of garlic skin, herb sprigs.  I could have done without all of that.  The cuttlefish ink and tomato sauce was too spicy for my tastebuds but I had a tiny taste and was impressed by how much flavour was packed into it.  

Gamberi e Zucchine
Prawns, Zucchini, Tomato, Mozzarella and Garlic ($27.50)

 Pizza Bianca with Porcini Puree, Portobello Mushrooms , Mozzarella and B├ęchamel ($25.50)
I had ordered the Funghi pizza after reading good reviews online.  I found it to be one of those pizzas where the first slice tastes great, the second slice tastes good but the third slice is a bit too much of the same thing.  There was a lot of oil dripping off the pizza and I ended up boxing the rest up to take home.

We were in the mood to indulge with ordering dessert and tea.

English Breakfast tea ($4.00)

Traditional Potato Dough Doughnuts with Vanilla Bean Gelato ($14.50)

Mixed cannoli with vanilla cream, chocolate cream and nocciola cream ($13.00)

Again based on reviews, I had ordered the Zeppola - and the waiter also recommended it on the night.  It did not disappoint - freshly deep fried doughnut with caramel and vanilla bean gelato.  Warm, fluffy dough that disappeared with a few spoonfuls.  Yum!

The total bill for the two of us came to $142.40 so it wasn't a meal for the poor but we did order a fair bit. I wasn't blown away by La Rosa so I think I will stick with Pendolino next time.

La Rosa Bar and Pizza on Urbanspoon

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