Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe, Ultimo

First time I went to Essen was last August for my brother's birthday, don't know why but the post on that visit is still in draft mode, pictures are all ready to go but never gotten round to the writing part.
So, it was just the right timing when Krissie from Wasamedia asked whether I'd like to review their newest client. 
It was winter when I went last year and the menu was more towards the heavier and warming, like goulash, roasted chesnuts and mulled wine.
I was looking forward to try out their new Summer menu :)

Formerly known as Una's Restaurant, Essen is well know for their big sized schnitzels, homemade potato roesti and what's a beer cafe without a range of beers !!
While their Austrian flavour still dominate their menu, they are extending their menu to cover regions outside Austria.

Love how their wooden chairs are decorated with Austrian folk designs, it gave that homely vibe to the restaurant I thought. 

Schofferhofer Hefe $10.00 ; Karamalz $4.50

The Frankfurter cloudy wheat beer was very refreshing with its clean and crisp flavour, whilst the Karamalz has a flavour that I didn't expect. 
Due to its zero alcohol content, kids and pregnant woman can consume this German malt beverage that is also known as kinder bier a.k.a. children's beer. 
I love Kinder Surprise (for the toys inside and the chocolate) and I drink kinder bier , I might as well go back to kindergarten again *sigh*.
Karamalz has this slightly sweet caramelic flavour to it, tasting a little like cola that has lost all its fizziness. Not too bad, but it is different. 

Rinder Kroketten (3pcs)  $10.00

A new addition to the summer menu is the crumbed and deep fried cylinders of Dutch style beef ragout, served with Dijon mustard on the side.
The croquette was amazing ! So creamy and just delicious, there was the right balance of the tender beef and the ragout. 
The dish could perhaps be plated better, putting few leaves on the plate for decoration is kinda pointless, it would be probably better off without them - the plate would have a more cleaner presentation. 

Camembert  $10.00

I was surprised when my friend, whom I drag along to the dinner, has never had deep fried camembert before !! She has been missing out BIG time !

Creamy camembert cheese, cut into wedges, crumbed and deep fried served with cranberry compote.
Though I had hoped that the inside would have been more melted, it is still deh-li-cious :D 
I could just had the whole plate myself....but must leave some room for more food.

Deep fried camembert....mmmmm......

Duo Herring and Lachs  $17.00

Szilvester, our charming waiter for the night with his distinct Hungarian accent, insisted that we must try this as it is one of their summer menu special.
I was a bit hesitant to order it at the sound of herring. Making pickled herrings as part of my study to become a food technologist has deterred me from eating herrings *shudder*
Even when I was at work's head office in Denmark, they always have herrings on rye bread in the canteen, the Scandinavians and some of the Western European just love this fish :)

A plate with 2 potted fish and freshly baked sourdough and rye bread's time...*gulp*

Herring to the left and Salmon to the right

The pickled herring in beetroot and apple was actually good - it is not fishy at all, on the contrary, it tasted clean and fresh. The sourish pickled beetroot and apple puree really made the it less fishy (make sense ?).
The poached salmon was buried under the creamiest home made dill mayonnaise. 
Out of the two, I prefer the herring better - as unbelievable as it may sound ! 
I found the potted salmon was too fishy to my liking, it is an oily fish and the eggy flavour of the mayonnaise enhanced the smell even more so. 
Even Szilvester was surprised when I told him I prefer the herring, apparently the salmon has been the more popular sister out of the two :P 

Schweinehachse  $29.50

We know this is going to be a big dish...just didn't expect it to be that big !!
Pork knuckle that has been roasted overnight arrived on a wooden board, complete with sauerkraut, fried bread dumpling and red wine jus.
"Don't worry, it's not burned" we were told, we must have had worried looked on our face *oops*
It has been glazed with honey hence the caramelized/burnt skin.

One huge knuckle

This is one hard piece of meat to tackle...we just don't know how to cut it, dissect it, or however you wanna call it.
The thought of just grabbing it by the bone and start gnawing did cross....
The skin was hard to cut through, but surprisingly crispy when eaten, not quite crackling but it still have that crunch. The meat was quite tender though I found it a little bit dry (I suppose roasting overnight will do that to a piece of meat ?)

Deep Fried Bread Dumpling

The fried bread dumpling, however, I liked very much :) Milk soaked bread, mixed with specks cubes and deep fried crispy !

Wurstteller  $26.50

What I thought will be a lighter main came as a plate of fat sausages, a thick slice of grilled speck, half a plate of roesti and the other half filled with sauerkraut...*gulp*
The brown and fat Swiss Cervelat was really soft and had a lovely smoked flavour whilst the Thuringer Bratwurst has a more robust flavour packed with lots of herbs and spices. 
The roesti was delicious, so buttery and soft, finely grated potato mixed with onion and pan fried golden. 


We opted for some House of Santian loose leaf tea to help settle the over filled tummies, we had the  strawberry black tea and peach green tea.
There are some alcohol spiked hot beverages if you feel for something with more oomph ! than the tea.
Cofffe with German brandy or the Jaeger Tea that caught my eye - rosehip tea with Stroh rum that has 80% is perhaps wise to pass on Jaeger Tea tonite...

Apfel und Birnenstrudel  $10.00

There is a 20minute wait on this dessert but it is worth every minute of waiting......
The apple and pear strudel arrived hot from the oven and the pastry was perfect, so flaky and crunchy. Filling was a compote of well stewed apple and pear, almost puree like and still have the tartness of the green apple. 
Served with vanilla cream sauce and vanilla bean ice cream....a perfect end to the night.


Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe is a perfect place to hang out with friends over beers and good hearty, homestyle Western European cooking. The service is friendly and welcoming, while the foods may lack in presentation they are definitely not lacking in the taste department. 
The foods are delicious and comes in generous portions, as you have seen:)

We didn't get the chance to taste the schnitzel this visit so we shall be back to try them soon. 
They also have a shorter take away menu for pick-up or delivery and yes....their schnitzels are on the list !

The close proximity to universities and student accommodations sees this place frequented by mostly students but we saw a few tables of business suits that night. 
The weather is getting warmer and warmer (to my dislike), so why not drop in for lunch or dinner, grab a pint of beer or maybe another one whilst chatting away with your dining companions :)

Love My Foods & Sugar dined as guest of Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe and Wasamedia. 

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Yuzu, Pyrmont

Craving for some sushi & sashimi for dinner on one warm Saturday night, we walked down to Yuzu which is only a stone throw away from where I lived. 
Yuzu first opened back in 2009 - back then katsu-sando (pork katsu sandwich) was on the menu and the complimentary appetizer was a deep fried prawn ball served in dashi broth with strawberries.


Since then there has been a few changes in management and the menu changes with it.
The current owner would have to be the 3rd one , at least that I know of. 
I'm usually not a big fan of Korean run Japanese eateries as there is always the high possibility that the food will stray far from what is is supposed to be in terms of the flavours. 
But I must say that the foods at Yuzu, though may not be 100% authentic Japanese, the flavours do most of the time stays within track.

Yuzu Tea  $2.50/person (refillable)

Naturally at Yuzu, yuzu tea or yujacha in Korean is on the menu. 
You can buy them in Korean groceries stores in a jar, made of thinly sliced yuzu, rind and fruit, mixed with sugar and honey to make a thick and very sticky syrup.
Making up the drink can't get more easier, add as much or little as you want to hot water. 
I love to drink it during winter time :)

Snapper Carpaccio  $18.00
(daily special)

Whilst the regular menu is pretty average, the daily special board had a list of more interesting dishes. 
The snapper carpaccio came with interesting accompaniments - fried brussel sprout leaves ??
Surprisingly the nutty flavour of the sprouts really goes well with the sweeter flavour of the mandarin segments and the sour dressing of yuzu and mandarin rind. 
Some pieces of the snapper sashimi are a bit sinewy, which was a pity but it was still a delicious combination of flavours. 

Onsentama Salad  $14.00
(daily special)

Onsen tamago got its name from how it was prepared, slowly cooked under the constant warm temperature of onsen (hot spring) water. It may take longer than boiling an egg but what you get at the end are perfectly half cooked egg with oozing yolk and slippery whites. 

How To - Onsentama Salad

After waiting ever so patiently for me to take photos of the salad, Ken, our waiter continued with preparing the salad for us.
Break the egss and toss it up and down, left and righ. 

Mixed and Ready

It may not look appetizing, but the salad were goooddd......
Mixed salad leaves, with chuka wakame (more commonly known as seaweed salad), cubed avocado, light citrusy dressing and onsen tamago.
The egg just made it creamy but still refreshing, a simple combination that worked well. 

Volcano Roll  $16.00
inside out roll w/ calamari tempura, cucumber, crunchy batter & wasabi mayo

I think one of Yuzu's specialties are their rolls - I usually have their Rainbow Roll (inside out roll with salmon, tuna, king fish, prawn, avocado and wasabi mayo) for takeaways and they have never failed so far - there were generous amount of sashimi and not too much rice, which is the right balance ;)

But today, we opted for something different :

Up close & personal w/ volcano roll

The calamari tempura was so tender accompanied by the contrasting textures of the crunchy batter and cucumber.
Served with a generous amount of wasabi mayo, some kind of sweet sauce (teriyaki-ish ?), flying fish roe and sprinkling of togarashi (chilli pepper). 
We were warned that this is a spicy roll, but it is not spicy at all for us :P

Kakuni  $24.00
(daily special)

Under the understanding that kakuni will always be made with pork belly, there was a slight sadness when this dish came out. Where is my fatty bits ??? T____T
This kakuni must be made from pig that has been on strict diet T____T

Sadness apart, the meat was very flavorful thought I thought it could be more tender (some fat would help isn't it ? LOL). 
Love the renkon (lotus root) chips , cut not too thin so you can still taste the root's flavour yet thin enough to be crisp.

The Kitchen

Having only had take-aways from Yuzu since they change management, dining-in gives you an opportunity to taste the daily specials dishes. 
A table next to us had the King Fish Head Nimono (simmered dish) that was on the special board, looked pretty good. One dish that was sold out from the board also was Snapper Head Agemono (fried dish) which I wouldn't have minded trying.

Waddling back home with full tummy...suddenly I remembered.....what happened to having sashimi and sushi ?
Oh's only a few minutes walk to Yuzu...*burp*

Yuzu Dining on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 10 November 2011

El Loco, Surry Hills

Let's go loco with a taco !!!

Or maybe 2, 3, 4.....or maybe the whole menu ?
Which was pretty much what we 2 girls ordered the night we visited El Loco.
This Mexican themed eatery, need no further introduction, a much more laid back and casual creation of Dan Hong of Lotus and Ms. G's.

Knowing how crowded this place can be, we decided to grab an early dinner on Sunday evening at 5.00pm - very early dinner :P

Rocked up to the register to place our food and drinks order. Being unsure on how to pronounce the name, I just ordered "the pink slushy drink".

Pink Cuco  $13.50
El Loco's house slushy of El Jimador Tequila, pink grapefruit and lime juices, homemade coriander and raw ginger syrup 

The pink slushy drink is not as girly and harmless as it looked - I can vouch for that !
I will always remember this as the drink that gave me the first over hangover and officially drunk for the very first time too.
It may be harmless for you lots who are expert drinkers but for me this is a killer - no more tequila ever !!
I would have stopped drinking it if it doesn't taste so good - it tasted like ginger ale and I love ginger....if only I can have a mocktail version of it..

Classic Margarita  $13.50
Herradura Blanco Tequila, Cointreau shaken w/ freshly pressed lime juice and organic sugar

Love the decor and furnitures

After a short wait , our first round of tacos arrived !

Tacos - Round 1 

prawn, salsa verde and pico de gallo

The prawns were done well, sweet and crisp with a strong coriander flavour. 

Al Pastor
spit roaster pork, pineapple salsa

The pork was nice, but pretty average.

Mystery Taco 

When we inquire what is the Mystery Taco for the day, we got "it's a mystery, so you'll just have to find out :D".
How can you not order it when you are challenged like that ? The mystery challenge is on dude !!
(Inside I was hoping it's not something too weird and adventurous as Dan Hong has tweeted about).

Thankfully the mystery filling is something safe and we are familiar with ! I may be wrong, but it tasted like falafel with spicy mayo sauce with salsa and lettuce. Quite delicious if I may say so. 

Queso de Soya
chilli marinated tofu, pico de gallo

This turned out to be one of my favourite one of the night, the tofu was dressed with sweet sauce. 
Love tofu....

Stormtrooper gone loco ?

I can see the light.....o_O

Feeling peckish still, we decided to go for another round of tacos and another tequila for my cousin - whilst I sat on the table, ready to pass out anytime soon.
It was winter still when we went and lo and behold, we are seated right under the heater. 
I would usually feel light headed in a heated room, add the drunk factor that nite...boy oh boy.....

Jalapeno Margarita  $13.50
Herradura Reposado Tequila, Cointreau, roasted jalapeno syrup, freshly pressed lime juice, wash of Ilegal Mezcal

Despite already drunk as, I cannot resist the urge to try what does a Jalapeno margarita tasted like - the verdict was that it tasted like cough syrup. 
Pink Cuco still triumphs..*slurp*

Carne Asada
lemongrass beef, salsa verde

The beef was very tender and much more flavourful than the pork to our surprise. The second fave of the night for me.

chicken, sweet corn salsa

The chicken was nice too, tender grilled chicken with gingery soy sauce marinade. 

We also got the Special of The Day : Quesadilla with pork, veal and salsa verde.
For the life of me, I have no idea what happened to the photo , did I take it or did I not take it ?
That is the question......

Now the next one....I LOVE !!! 

El Hot Dog   $9.00
grilled pork frankfurt on soft bun w/ pickled jalapeno, pico de gallo, mayonnaise and cheese

Our jaws dropped when this was placed in front of us *o*
All we see was creamy white.....if not for the 2 ends of the dog, we wouldn't have picked it for a hot dog LOL

It sure look damn good to me !! How can an avalanche of mayonnaise and shaved cheese can be wrong - NEVER !!! we grab it (if we can find a spot to grab it at) or be posh and ladylike ?

How to eat El Hot Dog - neat way

Call me crazy, but the hotdog tasted like fillet o did....
The bun was super soft and I am not complaining on the generous topping - love every single bite of this. A pleasant mix of salty, sour and hot from the Jalapeno. 
El Hot Dog - you made me go loco !!!

We definitely were satisfied after 6 tacos, 1 quesadilla and 1 hotdog.
At $5.00 each for the tacos, that is a very reasonable price and great snack sized meals to have while you are just hanging out with friends over drinks.

p.s. what happen after my drunken adventure here ? 
I got home at 6.30 - crashed till next morning - have the hives all over (thanks to my allergy to alcohol) that last for more than a week that not even anti-histamine tablets can help.
I am proud to say I am now a reformed alcoholic......

El Loco on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

BLACK by Ezard, Pyrmont

Ever since The Star has re-opened after a renovation period that seems to take forever, I've been a regular visitor there - not to gamble , but for the food of course ! Living only within minutes walk to Gelato Messina, Adriano Zumbo and Din Tai Fung definitely cannot be good for the diet - as has been proven by the readings on the bathroom scale T___T

Beside the fancy food court, there are a handful of more fine dining restaurants opening up which , hopefully, I will get to try them all...eventually.

So, first one up is BLACK by Ezard, Teage Ezard that is, of the award winning ezard in Melbourne. Whilst ezard has an Asian flavours, BLACK at The Star is a more what I'd call a steak and seafood restaurant :)

Mini Brioche Loaf, Butter and Black Salt
Within minutes of us being seated, a wooden slab of freshly baked mini loaf of brioche was brought to our table. 
I love brioche and I've been wanting to get my hand on these since I saw them in GastronomousAnonymous' post on this place.
The verdict - it tasted damn good !! 
(Ignore how your fingers are well moisturised as you tear the bread apart)


The brioche was warm, soft and fluffy, though it is already packed with buttery flavour, another lathering of butter and a sprinkle of black salt doesn't hurt, right ?

Drinks Menu on iPad

For drinks menu, we were handed a sleek BLACK black iPad - pretty cool menu :)
Peruse the menu, add your choice to the "shopping list", pass the iPad back to the waiter/waitress and wait for your drinks to come - simple.

Jack Rose   $18.00
applejack, lemon, house grenadine
Apani Sparkling Water  $10.00 for 750ml

Oysters   $12.00
yuzu and wakame jelly

We got the oysters to share, they are Mooney Mooney pacific fresh water oysters served with yuzu juice and wakame jelly.

The wakame jelly reminds me of moss on the rocks, or was it meant to resemble real wakame ?
I thought it could be presented in a more appealing appearance, although there is nothing wrong with the flavours. The combination of the jelly and yuzu compliments the fresh oysters. 

Spanner Crab  $29.00
avocado, butter lettuce, apple remoulade, parsley ginger meringue

The spanner crab salad is a plate of greens....the salad was creamy and sweet, the crunch of the green apple added a nice texture to the dish.
Also liked the parsley ginger meringue, the ginger flavour was quite distinct. 

Beef Tartare   $25.00
heirloom beets, mustard ice cream, puffed wild rice

Love the colours of my chosen entree, underneath the sheath of beet root jelly was the beef tartare.
It is quite creamy compared to beef tartare dishes that I've had before, my guess was maybe something creamy like creme fraiche was mixed with it ?

Steak Tartare

The tartare was well seasoned, the flavours were nicely balanced. 
The mustard ice cream was odd but surprisingly delicious ! It is creamy and cold like an ice cream should but with the flavour of hot mustard - worked very well with everything else on the plate. 
Loved the idea :)

Grass Fed Angus Fillet 200g  $45.00

My friend ordered the grass fed Angus fillet from the grill menu, I must say I am quite surprised it doesn't come with anything else on the plate, considering the price tag. 
The sauces were extra and we got the marrow and shallot sauce to accompany the steak. 

Marrow and Shallot Sauce   $4.00

The steak though cooked as ordered, was quite bland in flavour. The marrow and shallot sauce was a very rich sauce and I'm afraid the marrow had a very strong flavour, stronger than usual I thought. 

Veal   $45.00
tenderloin, sweetbreads, asparagus, mushrooms, natural jus

Luckily I had more luck with my choice of main. The veal tenderloin was indeed tender and had more flavour than the steak. The sweetbreads was lightly crumbed and fried, it is crispy on the outside although I felt that it was overcooked as it was borderline tough, not as creamy as sweetbreads should be. 

Jasmine Pearl Tea  $5.00

Lemon Curd  $18.00
citrus shortbread, candied endive, liquorice, pink grapefruit

We decided to order just one dessert to share , after much deliberating, we chose something that sounded different - candied endive ? Hmmmm....
Yet once again, a combination that sounded odd turns out to be great ! 
Served with apple calvados sorbet were the tangy lemon curd, along with broken shortbread pieces, bitter tart grapefruit wedges and the surprisingly delicious candied endive.
It was interesting, the bitter taste of endives then sweet , the liquorice crumbs was delicious as well, the taste is distinct yet delicate. 

The entrees and desserts are worth a try, however we both agree that the mains were passable. 
Service was a hit and miss, whilst they were polite and courteous, throughout the night our glass of water was only filled once, and we had to ask them twice before they got filled.
To my surprise they charged us for another bottle which I am pretty sure we didn't even finish the whole 750ml of the first one as they only fill 1/3 of our glass at each pouring. 
Pointed it out to the waiter and he took off the extra bottle without further questions, so that was cool.

So there you go, first of the fine dining restaurant at The Star that I've tried - what's the next destination ?

Black By Ezard on Urbanspoon