Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘fish

I’m comfortable with dining alone. If I’m out and about on errands during the day I will have lunch by myself. There are many restaurants with counter seating which is perfect for one. I will perch on a stool and scroll the news headlines on my mobile as I eat. These contemplative meals tend to be at casual eateries so I was apprehensive about my booking at The Ledbury in London.

Chef Brett Graham is Australian and The Ledbury piqued my interest during the London riots. The restaurant was attacked by a mob and the staff armed themselves with kitchen accoutrements to defend patrons. There is an Aussie larrikin spirit to that!

I browsed the shelves of Books for Cooks, had coffee and brownie at Ottolenghi, and whiled away the morning wandering the streets of Notting Hill.

With two Michelin stars, The Ledbury has a prix fixe lunch menu at the bargain price of £35 for three courses. The stately dining room was decorated in warm tones with chandeliers, mirrored walls draped with curtains, tablecloths and upholstered chairs.

It was a full lunch service. There was a group in a business meeting, a family celebrating a birthday, and tourists in shorts and visors.

An amuse bouche of foie gras mousse on hemp biscuit was the centrepiece on a rustic ceramic plate.

Speyside and Glenlivet are words I associate with Scotch but the area is also a pristine source of natural spring water.

A wicker basket cocooned warm onion and bacon, sourdough, and malt bread rolls. The onion and bacon scroll was dense and savoury.

The first course was a salad of spring vegetables with crisp pheasant egg and Parmesan. There was a collective gasp from the adjacent table when this was presented. It was an artistic arrangement of tender batons. Vibrant radishes, carrots, asparagus, beans, peas and micro greens complemented the richness of the Parmesan encased pheasant egg.

My entrée silverware with replaced with a spoon. I was pondering how to cut hogget with the blunt, round edge when a shallow bowl was served. The waiter announced it was a pre-course of Cornish brill with radishes, barley, shellfish consommé and cream of white beer. Delicate and flaky, the white filet paired well with the briny broth. This was an ode to the ocean.

A serrated knife was swiftly set. The waiter wryly described hogget as middle aged sheep. The plate was a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. A wedge of aubergine glazed in black sugar and garlic, dots of green tomato juice and flecks of dried olive were in a jus with three cuts of unctuous heritage prime biodynamic hogget.

A shot glass was layered with passionfruit jelly and vanilla cream, a sweet and tart palate cleanser.

Dessert was a vivid parfait of dried flowers topped with gariguette and wild strawberries, and white chocolate. A puddle of warm tapioca was textural and temperature contrast to the icy smooth parfait.

Petit fours from left to right: eucalyptus chocolate, earl grey biscuit and mandarin jelly.

Lunch was nearly three hours and I read that day’s Guardian newspaper in between courses!

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din·ner
(noun)
The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
From Old French disner

I’m a frequent snacker. I enjoy long, leisurely meals but at home I munch on McVitie’s, fruits, nuts and muesli bars throughout the day. It’s both sustenance and habit.

With a 9:45pm reservation for our anniversary dinner, I had to prepare for a late night meal. I had a substantial lunch, potato crisps from the minibar and a Kind bar in the afternoon, and napped prior to going to the Mandarin Oriental for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. We waited for our table at the bar with a glass of wine and nibbled on a bowl of rice crackers in a lively atmosphere.

Dinner is the younger sibling of Heston Blumenthal‘s famous The Fat Duck. It has one Michelin star and debuted at number nine, the highest new entry, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Named for ‘British quirky history and linguistic playfulness’, Dinner’s menu is a homage to traditional recipes cooked with modern techniques and local ingredients.

An elegant dining room with a panoramic view of Hyde Park, chocolate furniture and ivory walls complemented the high ceiling.

Clusters of jelly moulds made whimsical lights on pillars.

Nearing 10pm and feeling hungry, I was delighted to nibble on complimentary bread. I love the succinct menu in the format of dish, year originated, components and price.

Circa 1730, the hay smoked mackerel was garnished with lemon salad and gentleman’s relish, and drizzled with olive oil. The greens tempered the pungent, oily fish.

A couple of seasons ago MasterChef Australia contestants had to replicate several of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes and I was fascinated by meat fruit, circa 1500. A sphere of chicken liver parfait is dipped in glossy mandarin jelly. I discarded the authentic stem, and cut into the skin and flesh of the meat fruit. Spread thickly on grilled bread, the silky smooth parfait was tinged with citrus notes. It was soft and rich, best shared with the complimentary bread.

The Hereford ribeye, circa 1830, was the star of the plate. A tender cut, the beef was seasoned and perfectly medium rare.

The steak was paired with triple cooked chips and mushroom ketchup. Crunchy and luscious, the chips were starchy batons of joy.

Our waiter explained that umbles are offal and the phrase ‘eating humble pie’ is derived from the medieval specialty of umble pie. Morsels of umbles dotted the powdered duck breast, circa 1670. Portions of succulent duck and supple confit fennel were in a pool of savoury jus.

Fresh and bright, a side of green beans and shallots was the requisite vegetable.

On a wooden board was a Staub cocotte of brioche and a strip of spit roast pineapple. Circa 1810, the tipsy cake was ethereal and aromatic. Sweetly caramelised, the tropical fruit was a textural contrast to the custard soaked brioche.

We had watched the nitro ice cream trolley being wheeled from couples to groups all evening and I gleefully replied ‘yes please’ when asked. Liquid nitrogen is poured with a flourish and the handle cranked to churn the vanilla ice cream. Scooped into a dainty thin sugar cone, the ice cream was dipped in a selection of toppings. The freeze dried raspberries had a concentrated flavour and the popping candy was fun!

Our celebration concluded with chocolate ganache and caraway biscuit, courtesy of the chef with exquisite penmanship.

It was midnight, and patrons lingered at the restaurant and bar as we exited into the cold London spring, contented by the Heston Blumenthal experience.

It was a glorious Monday in London and we spent the only clear weather we had outdoors. I gallivanted about Westminster in the morning fending off tourists with unwieldy maps and gargantuan DSLRs. We merrily roamed Kew Gardens in the afternoon, steamed in Victoria era glasshouses and felt the spring blades of grass between our toes.

Famished and fatigued, dinner at Nopi was a nourishing conclusion to a lovely day.

A lampshade of rustic bronze leaves greeted patrons.

The glare of the all white interior was diffused by the lighting creating a warm ambience.

A beautiful bouquet in pink hues marked the serving table where platters of salads and loaves of bread were displayed in a front corner of the dining room.

On the left was the grapefruit and lychee cooler, a fruity cocktail of lemon infused vodka, lychee and grapefruit juices, lemon, sugar and mint.

The menu was categorised into vegetables, fish and meat. We agreed to let our waiter order for us and our group of seven had nine dishes family style.

The first was roasted aubergine with black garlic, harissa and pine nuts. Eggplant halves were roasted until silky, its soft flesh contrasted with the crunch of the pine nuts.

I’m neutral on lentils so I only had a tiny spoonful of these green ones with shaved beetroot and radish, and berbere croutons. An African spice blend, the berbere was an appetising seasoning for the bland but nutritious lentils.

Sambal rubbed gurnard was wrapped in banana leaf. The fish fillet was succulent and fiery.

A sphere of burrata was paired with slices of blood orange and coriander seeds. The squeaky mozzarella oozed with cream, and the herby and citrus notes tempered the richness.

Portions of twice cooked baby chicken was dipped in chilli sauce and sprinkled with lemon myrtle salt. The distinct Mediterranean flavours were bold and vibrant.

A cube of pork belly was in a pool of grape mustard jus. The fatty meat was balanced by the wedges of caramelised nashi pear.

In a skillet was seared prawns tossed with feta, fennel and Pernod.

Two golden orbs were courgette and Manouri fritters. Dipped in a cooling lime yoghurt, the mixture of zucchini and Greek cheese were savoury bites.

The last of our waiter’s selection was a ‘cheesecake’. Valdeón, a Spanish blue cheese, was baked in a copper pot and garnished with pickled beetroot and thyme honey. I prefer this version to dessert cheesecakes!

This scoop of sorbet was the essence of pear.

A classic English treat, this Eton mess of meringue, sumac and rose syrup was topped with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet.

Delightfully warm and fluffy financiers were shared.

The Brits love Yotam Ottolenghi and a meal at Nopi epitomises his food philosophy.

It’s been nearly two months since our meal at Momofuku Seiōbo. David Chang‘s first restaurant outside of New York City is located in The Star. The owners of the only casino in Sydney spent one billion dollars on the refurbishment over two years.

Torrential rain and peak hour traffic had us worried we would be late. We walked briskly, determined to be on time. Except we didn’t know where we were going. Located on the ground floor, there were no signs to direct you through the labyrinth. I recognised the names of the new restaurants and when we stopped outside Adriano Zumbo I panicked as we were at an exit. I looked left and right, and finally spotted the signature peach.

A wall of white slats and tinted glass was the exterior of Momofuku Seiōbo. We stared at the mirrored peach, squinting for an inside glimpse and I hesitated on how to enter the restaurant. Push or pull? And on what? Thankfully the door was opened for us!

A little flustered, we sat at the bar for an apéritif as we waited for our dining companions. We had returned from Brisbane that afternoon and we got into a confusing conversation with the bartender and maître d’ about where we were from and how far we had travelled for this dinner!

The half a dozen tables in the dining room were empty as patrons were seated at the counter of the open plan kitchen. A modern design of concrete walls and slate tiles, the interior was accented with artwork.

The dim lighting and muted tones showcased the open plan kitchen, radiant in stainless steel and a mirrored ceiling. Four of us sat at a right angle corner with a perfect view of the busy but quiet kitchen. An eclectic soundtrack of eighties and nighties pop and rock played in the background.

There was no à la carte menu at Momofuku Seiōbo. The fifteen course tasting menu was AU$175 per person and an additional AU$95 for beverage pairings.

Snacks were eaten by hand. Clockwise from top right: mochi, shiitake chips, nori and unknown. I did not take any notes and some of the courses were different on the printed menu and thus, my apologies for the unknown which was listed as smoked potato.

I had been to Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momofuku Má Pêche in New York but the pork bun eluded me. Wedged in a pillowy steamed bun was tender pork belly garnished with cucumber and hoisin sauce. A cute bottle of Sriracha was optional condiment. If David Chang opened a pork bun food truck, people would queue for blocks for these. Christina Tosi bakes crack pie, David Chang makes crack bun.

Our first course with cutlery was lightly cured striped trumpeter with blood orange jelly and dusted with nori. Ethereal and fresh, this whetted our appetite for local ingredients.

Spears of caramelised white asparagus and green onions accompanied a lump of marron sprinkled with Szechuan pepper.

We were enjoying watching the chefs cook, plate and serve. We noticed a man at the back mixing a vat of by hand and we speculated that it was kimchee. The man looked up and we gasped. It was David Chang! He was in the kitchen most of the evening, supervising, tasting, steering. The chefs huddled and listened intently when he spoke.

In a large ceramic bowl, a beautiful layer of radish and edible flowers shielded mini cubes of beef, fermented black bean and burnt watermelon oil. It was pungent and had a distinct Chinese character.

Beneath charred chunks of Jerusalem artichoke were slivers of smoked eel and pink grapefruit.

There was a collective sigh as we ate our first bite of swimmer and spanner crab in butter and pepper sauce with Yorkshire pudding. It was delicate yet intense, an accent at the half way point.

Silky steamed egg custard was simply enhanced by toasted rice and brown butter broth.

The hand torn pasta was a curious but delicious course. Wide ribbons were covered with pickled cherry tomatoes, whipped goat cheese and deep fried basil leaves. Spiked with chilli and mint, it was a tangy, textural combination laced with heat.

After nine courses a glazed pork shoulder appeared at the plating station under a heat lamp. Various chefs took turns staring at it. We glanced at it between courses and mused that it could be a staff meal.

An encore from the striped trumpeter manifested as a fillet with fennel and wakame.

Seared lamb neck, halved pickled turnips and a quenelle of roasted puréed daikon was elegant. The acidity and bitterness balanced the meaty medallion.

A whimsical interpretation of cheese course, the sharpness of finely grated Pecorino was tempered by honey liquorice and bee pollen.

The first of two dessert courses was shards of chanterelle shaped milk skins stacked atop the wattleseed meringue, a native Australian bush food, and malt ice cream.

Asian cuisines are not known for desserts and I was surprised that there were two on the tasting menu. Separately, miso ice cream, pickled strawberries, toasted rice pudding and mochi seemed like a flavour sampler. Mixed together though and it was a delectable medley of sweet, sour and umami.

The degustation had progressed at a steady pace and the wine, beer and sake pairings were exceptional. We had whiled away two and a half hours and we were considering digestifs when we were presented with the slow cooked pork shoulder that we had been greedily eyeing! In a shallow pool of marinade, we gently pulled at the caramelised pork with our fingers and it was the perfect conclusion.

A printed copy of the tasting menu was souvenir for an impeccable experience.

Sydney has a high cost of living and this was the most expensive meal we’ve had. It’s been a challenge to articulate the details so please read the professional reviews by Pat Nourse and Terry Durack. Momofuku Seiōbo was my highlight of 2011!

I miss Asian food. I still cook stir-fries and curries at home but we’ve rarely eaten Thai, Chinese, Indian or Malaysian, all favourites in multicultural Sydney. I’ve been feeling dejected about having to cross the border to sate my love for these cuisines. With the exception of Din Tai Fung, the American palate for Asian food seems sweet.

Naomi gathered a group of intrepid food lovers on a weekday evening for a family style dinner at Chiang’s Gourmet (敘香園).

Located on Lake City Way with plenty of parking, Chiang’s had a bright and spacious dining room. Chinese watercolour paintings and calligraphy decorated the walls. To go orders were brisk business as we perused the Chinese and American menus. I giggled at the American menu of sweet and sour pork, and lemon chicken.

Tea was poured as we chatted and the lazy Susan was full of dishes as the waiter shuffled plates and bowls. An apt name, the spicy hot fish fillet on Romaine lettuce (水煮魚) was fiery and appetising. Succulent white fish fillets were doused in a saffron coloured sauce, its heat tempered by crunchy cos leaves.

Flatbread filled with minced green onions, the green onion pancake (蔥油餅) was light and crispy.

The enoki and black mushrooms wrapped in bean curd (素黃雀) was plain in appearance. I could eat half a dozen of these flavoursome, wrinkly parcels.

Served in a basket lined with aluminium foil, there were equal qualities of chicken and chilli in the five star spicy hot chicken (辣子雞). Similar to popcorn chicken, the morsels were coated in a spiced batter and despite the amount of chilli, were surprisingly mild.

The requisite mound of sautéed green vegetables was refreshing.

Tender and earthy, pieces of tea smoked duck (精緻樟茶鴨) were wedged in steamed buns and eaten by hand.

A platter of homemade pan fried noodles Shanghai style (上海粗炒麵) was rustic comfort food. Dense noodles were tossed with slivers of pork and spinach.

A literal translation, steamed tofu of strong odour (蒸臭豆腐) was a bubbling crimson pot. You can smell the fermented tofu before you see it and it is a traditional street food of Hong Kong.

From Xinjiang, an autonomous region of northwest China, the spicy hot lamb with cumin flavour (新疆羊肉) was pungent. Slices of lamb, onions and chilli were homely and warming.

And lastly, a side of steamed corn bread bun (窩窩頭). Steamed in bamboo, the cone shaped corn bread was hollow for scooping up sauces.

Our delectable feast concluded with fortune cookies from Tsue Chong. I will have an opportunity!

Sincere thanks to Naomi for introducing me to Chiang’s Gourmet!

It snowed in Whistler on Christmas Day and I loved it. Snowflakes zigzagged gently from the sky and dusted every surface. I was delighted with my first white Christmas. The powdered slopes were serene and the magic carpet was quiet. We skied in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon.

Bearfoot Bistro was recommended by Naomi and was conveniently located across from our hotel.

Survivor like torches guarded the entrance of the restaurant.

A cascade of glass globes were strung together as a sparkling chandelier.

The interior was warm and welcoming. On the far left was a champagne bar and Belvedere Ice Room. The main dining room was buzzing with families and friends celebrating Christmas. We were seated at a table with a view of the busy kitchen. Service was traditional fine dining style with a cocktail cart, sommelier and a plethora of staff.

Enticed by the cocktail cart, we ordered apéritifs as we composed our three courses. The bartender was a little absent minded. Ms S asked for recommendations for a refreshing cocktail and he referred her to the menu. Intrigued by dehydrated beer as an ingredient, Mr L ordered a Caesar. Unbeknown to our group of Australians, Caesar is a Canadian cocktail with Clamato juice which was not listed. We had the same expression after one sip each and it was abandoned.

An amuse bouche of salmon tartare whetted our appetite.

My first course was arctic char. From left to right: gravlax and celeriac, tartare and blini, and smoked and sorrel. Similar texture and milder flavour to salmon and trout, the morsels were perfectly paired.

Photographing was a challenge in the dim lighting! Ms S selected the Pemberton beets and carrots with shaved ricotta salata, spicy greens and white balsamic. It was artistically presented and I sampled a lump of white beet which was sugary.

The gentlemen had the wild mushroom soup with truffles. Poured at the table, the soup was a thick liquid with an earthy aroma.

A tangy citrus granita was the palate cleanser between courses.

The sommelier recommended a local wine, Foxtrot 2008 Pinot Noir. It was a classic match for our game main courses.

Three rare slices of Yarrow Meadows duck breast rested on a plump duck confit ravioli, squash purée, cauliflower florets, beets and pumpkin seeds. The dish was well seasoned and the meat tender, and the components were a delectable combination.

Mr S chose the wild game tasting plate of wild boar wrapped in venison and braised bison short rib with wild mushroom and heirloom bean ragoût. The other couple picked the chef’s Christmas special of goose.

We spotted a cheese cart and the fromage expert was friendly and helpful. We shared a bleu, a local cheddar and a semi soft, with raisins, candied walnuts, fig jam and crisp fruit bread.

I was determined to photograph dessert and I persisted with the single flickering candle as my light source. Served on a slate plate, the geometrical coconut and pineapple had frozen coconut mousse, Meyer lemon and kafir lime sorbet, pineapple and espelette jelly, rum caramel macadamia and cilantro. It tasted like a sophisticated piña colada!

A deconstructed St Honoré was a log of vanilla crème chiboust, coffee Chantilly, crispy malt Irish cream and brown butter milk jam.

On a rectangle of bourbon cake, the apple and caramel had a wheel of salted caramel maple parfait, apple pavé sour cream ice cream and crumbled bacon.

Petit fours concluded our Christmas dinner. From left to right: nougat, peppermint bark, ginger snap and hazelnut ganache.

It was a fun festive season in Whistler!

I walk through South Lake Union several times a week. The neighbourhood is busy during the week, especially on the Westlake thoroughfare from Whole Foods to Harrison. I noticed the construction site on the corner of Harrison and Terry many months ago and didn’t know it was Cactus until recently. I love the pink window frames!

Next to the trio of Tom Douglas restaurants in the Terry Avenue Building and opposite Portage Bay Café, it is an emerging dining hub. The eateries already do brisk business on weekdays but foot traffic is minimal on weekends.

Cactus is located in an elongated room with a high ceiling. A bar is at the entrance and the dining room splits to the right and left. A private function room is on the mezzanine level. Floor-to-ceiling glass filters in natural light and patterned cylindrical lampshades are elegant and muted in contrast to the colourful furnishings. Chairs were painted and upholstered in azure, lime, saffron and copper.

We were seated at a booth on a quiet Sunday lunch service. Hand painted motifs featured on each wooden table. The modern and vibrant space is welcoming and cheerful.

Mango agua fresca, a fizzy beverage of agave nectar, fresm lime, mango, mint and sparkling water was refreshing.

The other Cactus restaurants are in Alki Beach, Kirkland and Madison Park and each has a unique logo which is printed on the serviettes.

We nibbled on salsa, guacamole and corn chips while we perused the menu. The salsa casera, homemade salsa, was appetisingly piquant.

A basket of warm corn chips was plentiful for the bowl of guacamole. Avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, serrano chillis and pico de gallo mashed together as a chunky dip.

Mr S selected the fajitas with grilled skirt steak. A plate of condiments and warm flour tortillas accompanied the sizzling skillet of Spanish rice, cumin black beans and caramelised onions. There is a rustic charm in wrapping ingredients and eating it by hand.

There are two tacos per serving and the kitchen kindly accommodated my request to mix and match. Spanish rice and cumin black beans were requisite for a Mexican meal.

On a house made white corn tortilla, the pescado had a fillet of battered fish, coriander and pasilla coleslaw, pico de gallo and buttermilk crema. A little soggy, the flaky white fish absorbed the tangy flavours that were tempered by the squirt of buttermilk crema.

The second taco was carnitas Yucatecas, Carlton Farms pork in achiote marinade and roasted in banana leaves, caramelised pineapple, Cotija cheese and red onion escabeche. It is a delectable combination of tender meat, sweet pineapple and pickled onions.

Flan is a one of my favourite desserts and this three milk Cuban flan is one of the best I’ve tasted. The sepia toned custard was poised in a puddle of sticky sauce. It was firm, smooth and creamy, topped with a vanilla speckled layer of caramel.

Cactus is a welcomed addition to South Lake Union!


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