La Botte Da Ercole, Willoughby

Alright, so I’m not really much of a writer (which is probably a good thing that I like to take photos). From now on, the focus will probably be on substance and content – straight to the point with some photos here and there (which is what life should be about!)

A few study buddies and I went to La Botte Da Ercole on a late Sunday night after working on our assignment – ah the “joys” of studying. Anyway, this little restaurant is quite close to where I live – I pass it all the time but it’s so small and cosy and you wouldn’t usually notice it if it weren’t always full on a Friday/Saturday night.

It feels like there’s a lot more than ten to twenty tables in the entire restaurant as the back wall is just one big mirror. You practically have to tip-toe around all the tables to get to your seat but once in, you’re nice and snug (heaven forbid if you need to use the bathroom during the meal!) There is an open kitchen area where pizzas and ovens are prepared which is pretty cool But a bad idea when you’re starving and keep hoping the next dish is yours!


Garlic Bread

I love my garlic bread! (Actually, I love anything with garlic *guilty*) So apart from being a bit hard to chew, the flavor was complete and there isn’t much I have to complain about (can’t say the same for garlic breath afterwards though).


Bruschetta

Overall I thought the meal was quite heavy as you can tell from the bruschetta – I don’t think I’ve ever had a cheese topping variation (or maybe I just haven’t tried enough bruschettas). But definitely something different and what’s even better, it was served with a garlic bread base!

Garlic Prawns – prawns, mushrooms, garlic & chilli

This dish wasn’t chilli at all (which really suits me as I don’t eat chilli – clearly not asian enough either) and I loved the abundance of garlic and mushrooms. The prawns were fleshy which was great – just mouthfuls and mouthfuls of flavor! This dish is served with some dipping bread which is essential otherwise the dish becomes too salty!


Tortellini Ai Funghi – Round pasta with veal filling, mushrooms, shallots & cream

The tortellini was a welcome change compared to the other, more oily, dishes. The tortellini was small and delicate and with a little – but right – amount of filling so that the dish was well balanced.


Penne Pesto – Basil, pine nuts, cream & parmesan cheese

The combination was good but definitely way too oily! The four of us struggled to finish this dish. Maybe I’ll try to Bolognese penne next time…

Ercole’s special – Tomato, cheese, ham, cabanossi, onion, capsicum & mushrooms

All my favourite ingredients combined into one! What more could I ask for! The base was nice and thin and the crust was puffy and crispy. I don’t normally eat pizza crust but I thought it wasn’t too bad.

Crème Caramel

No matter how full I am after dinner, there is always always always always room for dessert! I always thought small Italian restaurants limited their desserts to gelato – easy to prepare and serve. So I was quite impressed when the waitress introduced several home-made desserts. The crème caramel wasn’t pretty standard and the taste was a bit unique for my liking so I focused on the remaining desserts!


Vanilla Panna Cotta

I preferred the vanilla panna cotta over the crème caramel and when the others struggled to finish the desserts, I was more than happy to offer my assistance. Afterall, it’s what they teach you in school and what they want you to have at work: good: good team work skills (and the ability to step up… But let’s leave that for another time..)!


Mango Gelato

Delicious, mango gelato with white chocolate coating. However, diners beware! The honey is not enough to stick the gelato to the plate! My eager attack at the gelato almost landed it on the table! This was definitely my favourite dish of the entire night!

Perfect place for a casual night out and I would recommend making reservations!

La Botte Da Ercole
608 Willoughby Rd,
Willoughby
(02) 9958 6785

La Botte Da Ercole on Urbanspoon

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Chophouse, Sydney

It had been a while since my friends and I had gotten together for the sake of well… Getting together for a nice dinner and just chilling out. I had originally suggested Ripples at Milson’s Point since it was some place new for me and one of the girls wanted to stick to the Lower North Shore but we eventually went to the Chophouse after drooling over the review one of us had read on Chocolate Suze.

What was supposed to be a group outing for ten somehow dwindled to a mere triple date. Regardless, my friends and I were determined to make the most of the evening and it wasn’t too difficult as we discovered the Chophouse offered the perfect ambience for a variety of occasions.

At first glance, I could imagine the patio being a typical dim bar area where the hustle and bustle of grey suits and loose neck ties would gather on an early Friday night. However, we booked for a Saturday night so the atmosphere was quite different – just a few outdoor heaters and low hanging trees for that cool urban crossed over with nature kind of feel.

As our booking was relatively last minute, we were seated in the chilly outdoors. Luckily for us though, they weren’t too busy and we were able to use five of their seven outdoor gas heaters all to ourselves! I struggled to decide what to eat – partly because of the amazing menu but also partly due to the dim outdoor lighting (which is also why the photos are a quite poor… apologies!).

Anyway enough talking from me and let’s have a look at all the great food we ordered!


Complimentary Sourdough

If ever asked to choose between a white bread roll or sour dough – always opt for sourdough! I don’t know what it is about this bread that makes me like it so much… Perhaps the faint sour taste of the fluffy insides paired with it’s tough exterior… Anyway this bread was awesome! Lathered with lots of butter mmm.. What more could I ask for… (Hmm.. According to the pictures below… Clearly much more!)

Crisp Pork Belly & Sea Scallop – Chinese cabbage, coriander, pea shoots & soy vinaigrette

We shared the three entrees and this had to be my favourite! The best salads I like are those made with such delicate ingredients you never realize how much you’ve eaten until you stop! There was an abundance of scallops in the salad which was great because nothing angers you more when a restaurant is overly ungenerous on the good stuff.


Confit of King Salmon – crisp salmon stuffed zucchini fl­ower & beetroot

The only thing I remember about this dish is the thick oily taste of omega 3 as I chewed on the salmon. The taste was so rich I wanted to have more but needed to save my stomach for the mains!


Jamon & Italian Buffalo Milk Mozzarella – Roasted fennel, almonds, balsamic & herbs

When I had this dish I had no idea what Jamon was (for those of you who don’t know, it’s a type of dry-cured Spanish ham – I just googled it!). It went really well with the mozzarella which was light and fluffy unlike your typical Italian cheese.

 


Char-Grilled Petit Chicken – Butterflied spatchcock marinated in chimichurri, stuffed with fresh ricotta & charred lemon served with harissa sauce

Anyone who knows me well will know that there is nothing that I love more than a good steak! And dining in a steakhouse, one would expect me to order a steak. Perhaps it was the huge selection of steak that I couldn’t make up my mind? Anyway I chose the char-grilled chicken and was slightly disappointed… It didn’t seem that unique and the char-grilled taste was a little too strong.


Grain Fed T-bone – 600g Riverine District NSW Angus-Hereford cross150 days grain-fed

I started regretting my decision to order chicken as soon as the T-bone arrived. I mean, what was I thinking? The steak looked so awesome and when my friend offered me some it tasted just as tender and juicy as it looked!


Dark Ale Marinated Wagyu Steak – MB6+, 400 day grain fed, char grilled

The boy had this dish medium rare and in his own words, the choice of meant from the very beginning “has done wonders for this dish”. I had a taste and indeed it was cooked the way medium rare should be but the meat was a bit too chewy for my liking.


Pan Roasted Cobia Kingfish – Snow pea shoots, shitake & sesame salad


Onion Rings & Strings – parmesan salt


Potato Puree – Victorian Dutch creams

The boy found the potato puree one of the highlights (ah, so easily satisfied) of the meal though I can’t say I disagree. It was smooth and runny and definitely puree (don’t laugh – I’ve been places where they’ve tried to pass off mash as puree).

 


Bombe Alaska – Rum & raisin semifreddo, chocolate sorbet

Now I’ve never had a Bombe Alaska before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of taste. I’ve only every seen it on TV so was a bit disappointed when they didn’t bring out a meringue engulfed in flames. Other than that teeny tiny disappointment I really liked it. My friend rated it “five stars” and I have to agree. There’s a layer of chocolate sorbet which really helps balance the fluffy exterior of the dessert.

Rhubarb & Alpine Strawberries – Crumble, crème brulee and organic rose Chantilly

Two words: Super sour. Although the boy loved it, I honestly cannot handle anything that’s sour. The Rhubarb looks extremely enticing at first but wait too long, and the three layers begin to mix and step on each other to form a piece that resembles a fruity muesli porridge.

On the other hand, the crème brulee was fantastic! All of us looked on eagerly as the thick crunchy sugar coating was cracked – and then we all dug in!

 


Chophouse Swiss Milk Chocolate Block with Jaffa top deck

One of us had ordered their signature Chophouse chocolate. You might ask what’s so unique about a block of chocolate but the presentation was definitely interesting. It came out in one piece on a chopping board and the whole table watched on as the waitress chopped it all up for us. There are three different twists to choose from: caramelised hazelnuts, rocky road and jaffa top deck.

 

When the bill came I was unpleasantly surprised. It seemed a bit pricey for what we ordered but hey, at least the waitstaff were great – ranging from the perfectly timed interruptions to the light conversation touching on carrot fingers. And last but not least, you can’t buy company ;)

Chophouse
25 Bligh St
Sydney, 2000
T: 1300 246 748

Chophouse on Urbanspoon

Ocean Room, The Rocks

So before I actually start the post, I just want to apologise for the quality of the photos. It was one of those rare, nice night outs and carrying a big bulky camera did not go well with the outfit that was wearing, but I still wanted to share the experience. Oh the woes of being me.

In anycase we managed to find parking around The Rocks relatively easy considering it was a Saturday night. I guess we were just lucky, or that it was that cold out that most people preferred to stay indoors and away from the sea winds.

Ocean Room

We arrive on time, however the table that we’d booked was directly in front of the door which was used very frequently by the waitstaff, despite us having booked a week in advance. Not wanting the cold air to ruin our evening we asked to be moved to another table, since it was already 7:30 and the restaurant was relatively empty. We were told that the whole restaurant was booked out, but that they could place us two tables down, not much of a difference, but it was better than nothing and we didn’t want to push as they’d been so nice and accommodating about it already.

Ocean Room

The SO (significant other) and I had decided weeks beforehand that we’d definitely want try out their tasting menu (at $90pp), so we wasted little time informing our waiter after changing tables.

First items to arrive were drinks!

Ocean Room, Drinks

left: sake- Kikuisui ginjo, $23. right: Ocean Room Punch, $18
I am not a fan of sake, at all… I would not go so far as to say hate, but to me, this tasted pretty much like all the other sake I have tasted, in that it burns. But my SO assured me it was one of the better ones and has even become hell-bent on tracking it down and buying his own unlimited supply. The Ocean Room Punch was great! Loved it. Made up of things I love: passionfruit, peach, pear, Domain Chandon Sparkling and vodka. yum.

Ocean Room

OYSTER DUO
rock oyster with fresh chilli & lemon vineigrette, pacific oyster with shiso basil sorbet and konbu
Delicious oysters. Definitely prefer the chilli and lemon one, not that I’m saying the shiso one was bad, because it wasnt in the least. But the chilli one left your lips tingling afterwards.

TUNA CORNETmarinated blue fin tuna tartare in wrapped nori cornet
ANCHOVY & SORBETmarinated anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet
When I ate the anchovy I was definitely not expecting it to be as cold and as frozen as it was! Just a warning. Maybe the frozen prevented my tasting the overpowering fishy and saltiness I usually get from eating anchovies.

WASABI PRAWNcrispy king prawn with wasabi aioli petit wasabi croquette
SOFT SHELL CRAB TACOspiced soft shell crab, pickled vegetables in a taco shell
I’d have to say that the Wasabi Prawn was my favourite dish for the night. Pity there was only one ): (and we dont count dessert in the “favourite item” list do we?)

SAKE JELLY BAR CODseared bar cod with sake & plum jelly, sheer konbu
Now this one was WEIRD! But still tasty!

TUNA CREATIONtuna five ways, with five different condiment

Surprising and fun to eat. It came served with descriptions on a printout and consisted of:

  1. Oil blanched toro with chilli salt, fresh ginger and coriander
  2. Fresh raw chutoro with soy salt (light), wasabi and lemon zest
  3. Seared chutoro with soy salt (3yrs aged), five peppers and salmon roe
  4. Fresh raw akami with black salt, jalapeno and yuzu zest
  5. Marinated akami with truffle salt, fried garlic and fresh chilli

SAIKYO MISO CODsweet miso marinated cod fillet with ginger scented risotto
PRAWN SIZZLEpan seared green king prawn with coriander citrus sauce

SANSHO PEPPER BEEF STEAKgrain fed rib eye steak with sansho peppercorn jus
By this time I was getting pretty full and was basically just trying to finish everything on my plate because it was too good to go to waste. Lucky for me the SO also happens to be a bottomless pit and I to love test its depths. Much to his excitement, two-thirds of what you see in this picture he happily gobbled up.

SUSHI COLLECTION – THREEchef ’s daily recommendation three nigiri sushi
But no matter how full you are, you do not share sushi especially when there is only three (all different one) on a plate!

SGROPPINO FROM THE EAST $20Domain Chandon Sparkling, Sorbet champagne whisked together with a seasonal sorbet
A post-dinner, pre-dessert drink! Some bubbly to help digest, or so I tell myself. PS, I have no clue how to say “SGROPPINO” …anyone?

OCEAN ROOM ASSIETTE
and the course I waited 8 other courses for, dessert :) lets see… could there be anything the matter with dessert? Well, yeah, look at the teeny tiny portion. And of course I have the best person to share this course with – “not a dessert person”. Lucky me!

Ocean Room definitely makes for a great night out, but next time I will definitely remember to bring more than my point and shoot camera, because these pictures do no justice for the food that I ate. Good company, good food, good view, good service.

Ocean Room Sydney
Bay 4 – Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9252 9585

Ocean Room on Urbanspoon

Baroque Bistro, The Rocks

A few weeks ago I had the luxury of attending a client lunch with my colleagues at Baroque – a Bistro owned by the same family that runs “La Renaissance” – a patisserie at The Rocks with fancy cakes and colourful macarons enough to make you salivate just by looking. The interior is pretty much the reflection of a classy French dining but with a slight modern and casual touch. On one side of the restauraunt is a wall-sized black board listing their specials of the day. Situated just on the other side of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, our window seat had a nice view, albeit only a small glimpse of the Opera House and surroundings of Circular Quay.

Baroque A

Baroque B

Baroque C

Baroque D

I arrived early just as they were preparing for lunch bookings and so took a seat whilst mums and bubs were finishing off one of many leisurely brunches of the week. The staff were absolutely lovely and fun – the waiters fooled around behind the bar, mixing thier own drinks and the waitress came over to chat with me about the restauruant, food, photography, work and pretty much life in general.

Slow cooked corn fed chicken breast, celeriac, roasted corn, kipfler potatoes

This was my dish and I absoletely loved it! I don’t normally order chicken when I eat out as I tend to find they are usually overcooked but this dish was heaven! The meat was so succulent and tender and the corn on the side was quite an unusual combination but the different textures really heightened your senses. Highly recommended and I would definately go back to have this again!

Baroque FConfit Berkshire pork belly, heirloom carrots, tarragon, silverbeet

This was the client’s dish so I didn’t have the honour of tasting any. However I have to say I really liked the presentation – the mix of vegetables just made it look like a paint palette ready to be used (in this case, eaten)!

Baroque GVanilla crème brulée, pistachio ice cream

Creme brulee is my all time favourite dessert. Where there is creme brulee on a dessert menu, I will have ordered it. However, being so excited after the mains I decided to try something different this time (refer to next dessert) so I gave the creme brulee a pass this time round. Three out of the five people at the table ordered creme brulee and almost ended up licking their plates so I have to assume it was fantastic!

Riz au lait, candied hazelnut, hazelnut ice cream, raspberry sponge

‘Riz au lait’ – French for Rice with Milk. I’m a bit disappointed as I have to admit, it looks much better than it tastes. I was already full from the main course I guess choosing a rice pudding dessert wasn’t the best choice. The flavour was a bit bland even with the raspberry sponge which I found a bit dry and not very flavoursome. The candied hazelnut on the other hand was quite unique and I guess that helped save the dish a little.

Baroque IJasmine Macarons and Strawberry and Vanilla Macarons

I’ve tasted macarons a few times but never been sure what the expectation was. There seems to be a huge craze going on about macarons (fuelled further by the Adriano Zumbo Macaron Tower on Masterchef) but now I finally understand why. In a nutshell, the texture was crispy yet soft and fluffy but not too sweet.

Overall a brilliant experience not with my usual crowd. I’ve raved about this place to my friends and definately hope to go back again some time soon!

Baroque Bistro
88 George Street (corner of Hickson Road)
The Rocks, Sydney 2000
T: (02) 9241 4811

Baroque | Bistro Bar Patisserie on Urbanspoon