Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Alchemy- Dining in the Dark.


I went on a blind date

And I liked it.


That got your attention didn’t it?
Yeah I’m no Katy Perry but hey girls just gotta have fun!

Ok ok, I’ll stop with all the lyrics.

Let me clarify now that I have your attention. It was not the typical getting set up with a member of the opposite sex blind date, instead it is a dining experience in the dark.

Confused?  Read on.

Dining in the dark is a rather new concept outside of Europe’s fine dining scene, but alas not everyone is lucky enough to have travelled to Paris to try out said dining experience. So when a friend of mine told me the Hong Kong’s French creation Group had such dining experience available at their French restaurant, The Alchemy I took up the opportunity to check it out ( I still want to see Europe though!)

The restaurant is easily missed if you don’t know the area well. Tucked up in one of the quieter streets of the Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s nightlife area and with minimal signage, do make sure you consult the trusty Mr Google before you head up there!


The entrance ( photo by Love bites HK) 

The entrance to The Alchemy  lives up to its name, you are greeted by mock medicinal cupboards and walls apothecary jars, with the low light exuding a sense of mystery. A sense of nervousness is upon me as I walk through the camouflaging front door and into the upper level of the establishment, the Alchemy Gastro Lounge.


The Gastro lounge ( photo by Love bites HK) 

Unlike the exterior, the Gastro Lounge is warm and rich in gold and browns with an occasional sprinkling of dark greens. The Gastro Lounge is opened for lunch and dinner and has a rather cosy lazy Sunday afternoon feel to it. I’ve been told that they do a lean mean brunch here, definitely something I’m keen to check it out when I’m next back in Hong Kong!


Drinks in the Gastro lounge (Photo by dining partner) 

We are here for the Dining in the Dark experience so we only briefly stop in the Gastro lounge for a drink to calm our nerves and a quick orientation of the night ahead of us. Being the one with almost zero alcohol tolerance, I opted for the mystery mocktail. The drinks here are innovative and the menu is constantly changing. The mocktail was quite enjoyable and whetted the appetite.

So after all my yabbering, you must all be wondering how dark the dining venue was?
So when I say dining in the dark, I mean pitch black dark. It is so dark that wearing white won’t make you visible. Hence the blind date. This dining experience is definitely not for the nyctophobics but a worthy contender for actual blind dates so you can easily make a quick escape!

To create this pitch black environment, we were guided down the lower level of the establishment to a dimly lit locker room where we were instructed to leave all our items behind and lock up all your valuables including your watches. The lockers were really tiny though, I could barely fit my clutch sized bag inside. I guess it reflects how space conscious Hong Kong is ;)

Next we are introduced to our guide for the evening, Keith. Keith like all other wait staff in the dining in the dark component of the establishment is visually impaired, but  Keith knows the place back to front and navigates us through 3 layers of black out curtains to our table with no trouble(Hold onto the shoulders of the person in front of you!) . As diners we managed to knock over things a few times but Keith can even pour wine and top up our water glasses without a spill! Wow much?

As we are in the dark, you can simply call out your wait staff’s name if you need anything, this includes escorting you to the bathroom, which thankfully was NOT in the dark!

Without further adieu, let me delve into the food.

At The Alchemy, you can opt for anything from 3-5 courses starting at $500 for 3 courses and an optional wine pairing for an extra $200 HKD. We opted for the 3 course and the dining partner had the wine pairing. There I also no service charge and 5% of the profits go to The Hong Kong society of the Blind. So not only do you get a dinner experience, you are allowing restaurants to give back to society. Definitely a worthy cause!

When you can’t see, all your other senses go into ninja mode and are more heightened. I found myself paying more attention to the difference in texture of the foods, listening out for the smallest of sounds.

As each course is served, Keith guided our hands to the cutlery and where our “glasses” (all drinks are served in plastic for safety reasons) but after a feeble attempt to use the said cutlery I succumbed to using my hands for majority of the meal (So wash your hands beforehand!).
For us fortunate people who take sight for granted, being unable to see meant a sense of uneasiness and nervousness descend upon us. I felt myself sitting rather rigid and only making very small movements to locate certain items on the table.

So how did the food look?



no need to refresh the page. 
This is what being visually impaired is like, they may not be able to see but they are quite strong- willed and lead normal lives like all of us!

As each course is served, Keith guided our hands to the cutlery and where our “glasses” (all drinks are served in plastic for safety reasons) but after a feeble attempt to use the said cutlery I succumbed to using my hands for majority of the meal (So wash your hands beforehand!)

The good thing about dining in the dark is that there is nothing to distract you, no looking for eye candy waiters, no looking at your neighbour’s dishes or technology to fiddle with, meaning you can have an undistracted and meaningful conversation with your dining partner. But with the darkness there is also a sense of eeriness and intimacy.

 I personally was rather nervous when we first dove into darkness but as the first course arrived I soon forgot I was eating and chatting in total darkness. I think the initial nerves are mainly due to not knowing what you will be presented with and that you can’t see a single thing.
As it is completely dark in there, I found that closing your eyes instead of straining them to make out where things were much more comfortable.

After your dining experience, you are guided back upstairs where one of the upstairs staff will show you what items you had consumed during the evening. To our surprise, although we couldn’t see the food, Chef Pascal had still put so much TLC into the presentation of the courses.

We were stuffed full of food (and drinks) and were a bit buzzed after our experience by the time we were leaving the venue, but we left the venue being more thankful than ever for still being able to see the world around us.

So guys, are you interested in trying out dining experiences like this? and if you already have, what are your favourites?  Let me know below! 



Till next time,


Milkteaxx 



                                                      Say hi on social media, I only bite food! I can be found on Instagramfacebook, twitter and Google+

Friday, 20 March 2015

Mr Crackles, Darlinghurst.

Mr Crackles is not new to the Sydney food scene, but it has taken me this long to get myself over there, yeah shame on me. (My stomach didn’t know what it was missing out on until now!)

Mr crackles is the dream comfort food for many, be it you’ve had a bad day and you need something crunchy and salty to tantalise your tastebuds, you have gone out clubbing and drinking and is now terribly hungover (Move over kebabs!) or you are fall in the last group, namely known as “ project devour all pork belly and crackling!” yeah that’s me…..

So I first heard of their amazing work of art back at the Sydney food bloggers picnic 2 years ago where they sponsored us 25kg of crackling, yeah 25kg, that’s how I ended up with a massive slice to take to my friend’s birthday as I forgot to get her a cake.

I have since been back a couple times and have ordered the favourites a few times over.

Ready to crackle?



crackling cup 

First up is of course their famed crackling cup, an audible crunch can be heard when you bite into this with shards of it landing on the front of your clothes too, perfect work accessory no?

 sweet potato fries 

They also do really good sweet potato fries which look more like wedges. The “fries” here is crispy and ridged on the outside but still so fluffy on the inside, it is not one bit soggy or greasy and is naturally sweet from the sweet potato itself, big thumbs up from me!



meat and salad

Now comes my favourite item on the menu. You guessed it, the meat and salad (Irene you need to stop judging my love for salads). A generous serve of roast pork is paired with a delicious crunchy salad with a tangy dressing (can I assume there roast pork juices it in?!?!), I could easily eat this salad for lunch everyday!




crackles classic 

For those who want something more filling (no, I’m not spruiking low carb diets here, I love my carbs!) you can opt for the crackles classic. A fresh baguette is loaded with some greens and a good serve of roast pork, you can also add chilli for an extra flavour kick! 



 crackling porn 

If you have a party planned, you can also order a whole roast piggy from them! *insert high pitched squeals and heavy breathing* just give them 3 days notice!
If only Mr crackles wasn't so out of the way for me ( I used to work a block away before they opened!) I’d be visiting it much more often. On the (not so) bright side, I’m sure my waistline and arteries are silently thanking me.

So guys, are you more team crackling or team roast pork? Let me know below!


Till next time, 

Milkteaxx



Mr Crackles on Urbanspoon



                                                                  Say hi on social media, I only bite food! I can be found on Instagramfacebook, twitter and Google+







Monday, 16 March 2015

Taste of Sydney 2015

Brace yourselves, the Taste of Sydney posts are coming!

Not that it's a bad thing because so many outstanding dishes were beckoning our stomachs (and crown card) towards them, giving us the chance to sample some of Sydney's finest restaurants offering.



Taste-y!

This is my first time at Taste of Sydney, and like previous years it is held at the Brazilian fields at Centennial Park. Sure you can drive there but given the traffic, it is highly recommended that you catch public transport or get dropped off right out front.



The hungry crowds

We arrive early for the saturday evening session and it is already in full swing when we arrive. What we learnt (the hard way)? gotta arrive early and beat the queues!

Another thing to keep in mind? Have a plan of attack, the menu is available online so take a quick squiz and pick out the dishes you want so you don't blow the budget!

Oh and also there are heaps of brands doing tastings and chefs doing demos, so check out a few of those and you may score some tasty treats!




porteno's icon dish is the BBQ'd porchetta with chilli, silverbeet & truffle pecorino 

So with our plan of attack and a map in our hands, we dove straight into the food, because heck we were starving!

A long queue is not exactly a bad thing, not when it is a Porteno’s to get their famed porchetta. I kid you not when I said their queue stretched across the field. Although the wait to order was long, the pick up of the food was really efficient, with a plate off that porchetta in our hands in under 5 minutes!

So how good is the porchetta? Friggen amazing!
The meat was tender and flavoursome and the crackling was crunchy and all things amazing, I however didn’t like the silverbeet as I’m not a fan of overcooked greens . The truffle pecorino however made everything all good if not better!



cured huon salmon with smoked oyster creme fraiche on a hash brown

also from porteno is the cured huon salmon with smoked oyster creme fraiche on a hash brown. The salmon is deliciously fatty and salty and goes really well with the smoked oyster crème, even a person who doesn’t normally go near an oyster with a 10-ft pole (me) liked it!
 


Iced Hazelnut 

A drink was needed after polishing off some delicious dishes from porteno so I quickly consulted the guide and spotted Piccolo me, needless to say I powerwalked over to their stall. It was a warm evening so I decided upon a cold drink, an iced hazelnut.

Their iced hazelnut is the bomb, creamy and caffeine-y, one of the best pre-packed iced coffees I've had, but at $7 a pop it is a bit on the steeper side.



Cha Kebabi- Flinders Island lamb, purslane, saj bred, pickles, smoked yoghurt.

We had originally planned to get Efendy’s Icon dish, but they had already sold out when we got there so we ended up ordering the lamb, the lamb was thinly sliced and cooked till edges were charred and crispy, the smoked yoghurt was really good but I thought the saj bread was a tad too chewy.



Bang Street Food's Bang boti kebab- Cape Grim hanger steak, roti, daikon & yogurt.

One of the rotating restaurants of the evening was Bang Street food, a Bangladeshi casual eatery from Surry Hills. I had heard amazing things about them so it would be a no brainer to not try one of their offerings. A quick look at the menu and it was almost love at first sight when I saw the steak and roti combo.

Till today, I still can’t believe how tasty this little morsel was, the buttery roti encasing the juicy tender steak, offsetted by daikon and yoghurt. Simple but so good, I could easily eat half a dozen myself!



Popolo's Pork & Nduja- roast pork neck, spicy salami paste, percorino salsa, kale

I love pork neck because it is tender and has just the right ratio of fat to flesh, however I found this roast pork neck to be a bit dry and overcooked, all the other elements were fabulous though, especially the spicy salami paste in the pecorino salsa! I wish I had some bread to mop up all the sauce with!



Jonah's milk chocolate and rosemary ganache, sweet corn custard & salted caramel popcorn

When a dish is awarded third best in Taste of Sydney you know you need to look beyond the simplicity of the name. The name does not encompass how much presentation and flavour is in this tiny bowl of goodness. The sweet corn custard was wobbly and subtly sweet, the ganache was intense in chocolate with a subtle hint of rosemary but also insanely creamy. The last component however was amazing, I know it is JUST salted caramel popcorn and I know you can’t really say much about salted caramel popcorn but boy this component bought the dessert together perfectly!

This was the perfect finish to such a great evening out at Taste of Sydney and well worthy of a Taste award!



Did you grab your fork? :D







Till next time, 
Milkteaxx

Jonah's on UrbanspoonBang Street Food on UrbanspoonPorteño on Urbanspoon
Efendy Restaurant | meze bar on UrbanspoonPopolo on Urbanspoon








Say hi on social media, I only bite food! I can be found on Instagramfacebook, twitter and Google+

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Spiced apple and mixed berries crumble pie - International Pi Day 2015


All the big holidays and celebrations no longer appeal to me as I get wiser ;) 
instead, celebrations like International bacon, pancake and chocolate day tickle my fancy more. 

But there is this one holiday that I've been wanting to celebrate for a while, yup you guessed it, nerd alert!

International Pi Day!


source: image from google 


This year is an extra special year because 3.14.15 is something that won't occur for another century! 
(not that I needed an excuse to eat pie!) 

So without further adieu, let me introduce you my version of Pi ...e!

Ok, I lied, this isn't quite a pie per se, it is more like a makeshift cheats pie that I made on a whim with whatever I had in my freezer and pantry, so here you go, check out this cheats spiced apple and mixed berries jam pie!



Can I tempt you with a slice?



Move over Apple! 

So this pie came about because I had an abundance of apples sitting in the fruit bowl. One gets sick of juicing fruit once in a while so I decided to turn it all into a pie filling! 

Its really easy I promise! You can in fact make this today and still celebrate international Pi day! Really!

Ingredients

pie filling 

6 -8 apples depending on size 
1/2 cup of jam 
1 cup frozen mixed berries
2/3 cup brown sugar 
squeeze of lemon juice 
30g butter 
1 tablespoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon allspice 
1 teaspoon oil 
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

pie case 

2 sheets of ready made puff pastry 

crumble topping 

1/2 cup oats 
20g butter 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 

Method 

1. peel and core the apples and cut into small even sized cubes 



stew apple stew! 

2. heat oil and add in apples, spices and butter, cook on high for 2 minutes and switch to low for another 2 minutes. 

3. add in sugar, lemon juice, jam and frozen berries to the apple mixture and cook until slightly thickened, add in flour to adjust consistency. 



Filled pie case

4. thaw 2 slices of puff pastry and line the pie tin, using a fork, poke holes into the pastry and bake for 5-7 minutes, until slightly golden. 

5. take pre-baked case out of oven and spoon in apples and berries mixture. 



crumble crumble!


6. combine all of crumble ingredients with your fingers until it resembles a crumb, drop clusters of the crumble on top of the pie filling. 


7. place pie into pre-heated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes at 180 degrees or until pastry is golden. 

8. serve warm (ice cream is optional but highly recommended!) 

So guys, are you a sweet or savoury pie person? For me I prefer the sweet in summer and savoury in winter! Let me know below! 

Once again, happy International Pi y'all! 

Till next time, 

Milkteaxx 

Say hi on social media, I only bite food! I can be found on Instagramfacebook, twitter and Google+

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Nomad- Surry Hills


I have always been a bit sceptical when a restaurant brands themselves as modern Australian, to me Iconic Australian is the good ol’BBQ. But in the last couple of years, modern Australian has rapidly emerged and left a foot in the dining room door.

So what is modern Australian you ask?

I believe modern Australian is all about the fresh produces Australia is blessed with, our abundance and easy access to seafood, fruits and veges as well as our native plants and herbs.

This concept is deeply inscribed at Restaurant nomad, asides producing their own wines( they have a nomad cellar door) their menu is focussed on seasonal fresh produces showcasing some of Australia’s finest.



Nomad

This may be a big claim, but Nomad has had to be one of the best restaurants I have visited in the last few months. The menu is diverse and fresh and some dishes showcase a distinct Middle Eastern flair.

The venue is spacious and moody, it is decked out with a cellar door feel with plenty of glass to allow natural light in. This would be a perfect venue for a cosy group gathering or date night.


interior

Now on to the focus of the post, the food!

We were dining as a group of 7 that day and when you’ve got a group you got to take advantage of all the stomach space available and order as much of the menu you possibly can.

And that’s exactly what we did.


custom wine glasses and our attempts to take pictures of them 

We start off with a few entrees to whet our appetite. The first one up is the scallop tartare with preserved lime salsa and coriander. I know this gets old but scallop! No one ever comes between me and my scallops!



scallop tartare

First of the bat and I had my mind blown already. The scallops were perfectly tangy, a bit spicy and simply divine. Let’s also not forget the lovely presentation! A bit early in the meal but I crowned it my favourite dish of the whole meal!



 goat cheese churros

Next up were the goat cheese churros with truffle honey. It was the promise of truffle honey that we ordered these. The churros were freshly fried and crunchy and the truffle honey was great but I personally didn’t think they worked too well together, maybe I was still in scallop heaven…


freshly shucked oyster

A fellow diner opted to skip scallops and have an oyster instead. I have no comment. 


kingfish, harrisa, blood orange and fennel

Another must order for me is kingfish, I know most people rave about salmon when it comes to raw fish but I much prefer the kingfish for its firmer texture.

The kingfish here is served with harissa, blood orange and fennel, the fennel gives it a nice contrast in texture but it is the citrusy tones in the blood orange that goes really well with the kingfish.



grilled ox tongue

We also ordered the grilled ox tongue for blogging purposes. Ox tongue is a favourite of mine and I tend to order it whenever I see it on the menu. Ox tongue can be a bit hit and miss but nomad did a good job of it.

When these gorgeous skewers hit the table, a flurry of camera activity started (well…. It happens whenever anything edible hits the table). The ox tongue here is finely sliced and grilled to perfection. Minimal flavouring was used so the beautiful natural flavour of the ox tongue shined through! Delicious!



Arabic beef tartare

Next up was the beef tartare, I normally have issues with completely raw red meat so beef tartare are a no go for me, but since it was ordered and everyone was raving about how good it was I gave it a try. For someone who doesn’t like raw meat, this was pretty good, none of the raw meat taste and was an almost like a party in your mouth with the myriad of seasoning used.


housewife 101


beef tartare served with potato crisps


moreton bay bug 

Moreton bay bugs seem to always be overshadowed by its cousin lobster, but the flavour in the bugs are definitely more pronounced and sweeter, which is why I prefer them over the lobster.

Nomad’s version does them proud though, a strong flavoursome base with chilli and pepper still allows the sweetness of the bug’s delicate flavour to shine through. I wish there was more of this!




BBQ half chicken


cauliflower salad

One of the most raved about dishes from Nomad is their BBQ chicken. To me BBQ chicken seems rather mundane to me, it’s not really a dish that many would write home about (unless it is Ester’s garlic bread sauce version! post to come soon!), the chicken at Nomad is an exception to the above though, tender juicy chicken flesh made me want to eat the whole chicken myself! But it was the cauliflower salad that came with the chicken that had everyone raving, the addition of spices, pomegranate and nuts to the salad made it very moreish and had people scraping the plate for the tiniest bits left behind.


wagyu hanger steak


butter poached radishes

Last but not least, we ordered the wagyu skirt steak. The skirt steak is delicious and we also fought over who would get the remaining odd piece. It is nice to see more people use skirt steak than the more traditional cuts nowadays. The steak comes with some delicious butter poached radishes which were sweet and slightly tangy but most importantly creamy from the butter poaching. It isn’t often that I give thumbs up to radishes that aren’t pickled!


spiced lamb ribs

Continuing with the protein, we move onto the spiced lamb ribs. I love gamey taste of lamb but it is definitely an acquired taste for most. The lamb here is coked perfectly, still slightly pink and was not one bit sinewy, and spices surprisingly went well with the burnt honey and the house made yoghurt.


roasted bone marrow

Nomad is also known for their roasted bone marrow. I personally am not a fan of it, I find that it has a similar texture of slime and just not very palatable, but when you’re dining with a table of food bloggers, you know you have to try a bit of everything, to confirm my suspicions, this is not something I'd order again.  

We had no room left for desserts as we had demolished most of the savouries on the menu, but I can assure you that this would be  restaurant I’ll return to as their foods are pretty outstanding. (Also a chance to check out the dessert menu too! #priorities)


Till next time, 

Milkteaxx



Nomad on Urbanspoon


Say hi on social media, I only bite food! I can be found on Instagramfacebook, twitter and Google+