Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Chef Next Door

Here's my story - I worked for Manta Restaurant for a day, then I heard China Doll was looking so I bailed and started at my current job.

It's not that the food was bad; it's just that their commitment to serving top level produce was not matched by the number of people eating at the restaurant - therefore, costs had to be cut elseswhere - no kitchenhands during the day, always running out of stock and produce when it gets surprisingly busy; things like that. Tough working conditions.

But I really wanted to dine and try the food; and a $447 bill between 3 covers later - I did; and it was good. I had to check if my wallet was still in my pocket walking back to the car, and one of my dining colleagues nearly had a heart attack, never having to pay that much for a meal in her life.

So why does it cost so much?

Let's start with some 'Manta Martinis' (martinis with lychee), and 2 glasses of cab sav, starting with angel fries: house-made fries generously topped with parmesean regianno and black truffles (thanks to knowing the guys in the kitchen, an extra handful of truffles). Pair that with some Clare de Lune oysters from Bateman's Bay, and you have something to enjoy the sunshine with.

Then, something from the kitchen:
Scallops on Jerusalem artichoke puree, minted peas, white asparagus. Very kind, guys!

A raw selection plate later (I ate it before taking the photo, but if you want to have a geeze, check out NQN's blog post on Manta), the main course (along with a side of fish and salad somewhere underneath that plate):

Oh yess - $210 worth of wagyu rib eye on the bone, with bone marrow and field mushrooms, sides of Bearnaise, salsa verde, mustards - more value than Rockpool at least.

Still, a bit shaken by the bill though. I *am* on a chef's salary.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Don Corleone's + learning a trade

Chef whites drying enjoying the sunshine

I am currently taking a journey; a self educated path in food Photography/food blogging with my new Nikon D90, and the no.1 lesson I have learnt is: no matter how good the food tastes, it doesn't matter if it doesn't look good in the picture (I get paid to cook, not to take nice pictures).

So with photos from my massive 17-300mm telemacro lens, I would like to show you one of my favourite places to grab some fresh meat. And cheese.
Welcome to Don Corleone's Delicatessen. The most authentic Italian Deli around, who's passion for their product is so true, that you can even see them arguing with flambe in front of the deli - Grandfather, sisters, mothers, brothers; all getting into the action - but of course, in front of the customer they're all smiles and good coffee.

Yes kid, I was also in awe when I saw the produce in here.

Look at that range of cheese; the Pecerino infused with black truffle is a must try, but they've got a great range of Spanish, French and Italian cheeses - and they make their own ricotta - comes in low fat, too!

The meats! Oh the meats - hams and prosciutto from all over Italy and Spain - All Freshly sliced to order! From your Jamons to a whole leg of ham on the bone! Nothing tastes as good as freshly sliced - I guarantee you*.

Gourmet antipasto galore! You know what I love? Ceasar Salads with white anchovies in them; oh yesss...

Yes Kid, I want some EVOO too, but which one? I like The Little General. Wait, that might have come out wrong.

Mozerella, Italian drinks, hand made pastas and pasta sheets, gelato - have I yet to mention the home made pastas, lasagna and stuffed cannelloni?

my tip: If you're having a bacon and egg roll from here (or with freshly sliced and grilled pancetta) - make sure you ask for some napolitana sauce on it - freaking awesome!

If you're in the area check it out:

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

China Doll

If they Head Chef asks you to come eat as a guest of the restaurant, you don't say no. As a matter of fact, if the Head Chef asks anything of you, you don't say no. Unless the question is about you doing something wrong.

So I brought my family to my place of work (after all that ranting about not eating where I work; I know - shut up) and have to say; I really enjoy the experience!

Somehow, the restaurant is busy on a Tuesday night - about 80+ in the restaurant while all the other restaurants were near desertion: The locals must really like chinese food.

"Don't order too much" Chef Frank says.

He hasn't met the stomachs of me and my sister.

After a beautiful apple and vanilla mojito on the house (and ordering a bottle of wine); we get started. And of course, due to my noobness to food photography, and also politeness to not let people wait while I take slow-exposure shots without a tripod, the following took place:

Meet John; your local fryer and wok chef.

Quiet before the (dust) Storm

Sashimi of kingfish and ocean trout with blackened chilli dressing, apple and microherb salad and homemade pickled ginger. Some days it tastes better with the kingfish, others the ocean trout - so don't ask which is better.

prawn, scallop and snake bean steamed dumplings

Szechuan style (hot and numbing) pork ribs - tasty. Szechuan-y.

Kurobuta pork and peanut San Choi Pow: if you don't know kurobuta - it's the wagyu of pork - if you're a pork lover: what are you waiter for?! go get yourself a belly!

On to mains:

We had this dish: And my photos of it are not any good - my sister's favourite.

I wish I had a photo of the Pork Belly w chilli caramel and Nam Pla Phrik - the bomb.

Back: Panang curry with wagyu beef shin - on the menu, it says Penang; so I was excited - but the flavours are Thai. So, not as excited.
Front: Tea Smoked Free Range Thirlmere Duck w Tamarind & Plum - the most awesome dish. On the Planet.

(Whas was) Dessert of Sago with passionfruit and coconut cream, and steamed banana pudding w chocolate ganache, choc sorbet and cardamon anglaise.

Finish with a dessert cocktail of VSOP Hennessy XO flamed with cointreau and star anise, clove, cinammon (don't sniff it, though *arf* what a kick!), and I leave, understanding why this place is so packed all the time... with corporates.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ever wonder...

...why Chef's do not eat at their own restaurants?

Yes, in some cases (more often than I'd like to admit); we know of the dodgy practices that go on in the kitchen; that chef that who never washes his hands, using the same chopping board for everything the whole day, the dirty sink used to wash dishes and defrost the squid. *vomit*

No, it doesn't happen at mine. As a matter of fact, I'm proud to tell you that we are so clean, we have to clean the whole kitchen 3 times a day! A bit of an overkill, but hey, if you have chefs in charge that like the place clean - I won't complain.

Back to why I don't usually like to eat in my own restaurant:

1. The magic is gone: Atmosphere is just as important as the food - you know what to expect, and you can meticulously and critically pick apart a dish because you know exactly what it's supposed to look and taste like, and where it came from - whether it was fresh or frozen, or 3 days old.

2. Working with people that you spend more time with than your family, you're comrades in arms whether you like them or not - being served by people you usually serve with does feels a bit awkward. It's like a slave being a slave to another slave.

Yes, strange imagery; but lets face it chefs and waiters - we're servants to the demanding masses that provide our paychecks.

3. I eat this stuff everyday; for free! why do I want to pay for it?

We like to eat, just preferably not where we s*it. Or is it the other way around? O.o - Dedicated to my Hayman buddies.:

How can you eat food prepared by these clowns? *doodoodoo*

Before the sexual harassment in the workplace meeting

It gets very hot in the grill section

As I said; once you know the real personality behind the food - will it taste the same? What things have you eaten, that at first tasted good; until someone said or you saw something that dramatically changed your opinion?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

To be one of Them

Signs that you are not a very good food blogger:

1. Your Iphone takes better photos than your digital camera.
2. You accidentally eat most of the dish before you realise that you forgot to take the photo
3. When dining with other food bloggers, you must muster all your will to not eat the food while they find the perfect shot.
4. You have no recollection of what you, nor what anyone else ate.
5. You post photos in portrait, all the time.

These are things I discovered over a very rare Friday/Saturday rostered day off work, dining with food bloggers and eating in recently-opened places.

I would like to notify readers that all photos on this blog were taken with an Iphone:

Bread and Dip @ Sahara Restaurant, Parramatta - the winner was definitely the spinach and ricotta concoction. The babaganoush and hommous had a very high 'meh' factor.

No one can go wrong with grilled lamb, yoghurt and mint on the same plate - awesome salad, too - fresh tomato and cucumber flavours with the right touch of lemon juice, oil and seasoning.

Turkish coffee and 'chewy' ice cream. The ice cream had the texture of a french kiss. A very, very, bad one. Couldn't finish... a whole spoon of it.

Moving on to the next culinary location;
@chocolatesuze's for cheese and an indescribable variety of prosciutto! At this point, I would like to publicly thank @thelonefoodie for his generosity in providing the more exotic cured hams - especially those jamons; that black one (excuse my ignorance for not knowing names, but my spanish is rusty) - poetry about the complexity and balance of swine!

On to a recently-opened Jap place in Maroubra: Kokoroya.

Located somewhere on the darker parts of Anzac parade; this place fills the Japanese void in that location - well done guys.

Edamame - this and Sapporo should replace the popcorn and coke at the movies.

Mixed Sashimi and Oysters $25 - nice portions and fresh

Kingfish head w salt $17.50 - would have thought a kingfish head was bigger, but very tasty.

Pork Belly in Soy - $8; great value!

Just remembered about taking a photo of the pork katsu ($12) in the knick of time

That, with a lemongrass liquor and fresh juice cocktail was enough to be very happy with this new Japanese addition to Maroubra.

It was a fun weekend, back to the food factory; double-shift Sunday, can't wait.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Go Hard or Go Home #2

The 2010 Good Food Guide is out. China Doll is not in it; again! Apparently the manager and some senior wait staff had a fallout with the editors - how funny.

In my last place post I said I would give my thoughts on CoChin @ Surry Hills. First, visit their website and read the reviews.

Now, I must say this to all restaurants out there: don't advertise what is not there. I was looking for the 'signature' slow cooked red duck in brandy tofu and cucumber, but was presented with 'tea smoked duck breast' (after being forced to order it when I really wanted the braised duck with orange), and the 'ground breaking' desserts, was a brulee. Milk. Without the vanilla bean dots.

Tea smoked duck with orange, prune port sauce

Can't go wrong with deep fried quails

Lamb that tastes exactly like the marinated stuff from the Vietnamese butcher

Tempura soft shell crab with papaya salad was one of the better dishes, but could have used some chilli to lift it to the next level.

I think the eating experience here taught me a lot about the eating culture of the East though; I think I know where I'm starting my first restaurant...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Go Hard or Go Home

That was pretty much the ultimatum my head chef gave me; to push myself to the absolute limit or just leave now. I was already pushed to the point of tears, and wasn't sure if I could keep up anymore. Somehow, most likely by divine intervention, I pulled through the tough weeks and came out stronger. To show for it, pulled off a 67 1/2 hour working week! (And father's day - OMG talk about non-stop ravage!)

To stay sane in that kind of environment however, I squeezed in some time to eat out at Subsolo @ King St and CoChin @ Surry Hills

Subsolo is a fantastic experience; I can see why the tapas trend is picking up so rapidly; and the competition is tight! I've been to tapas bars the likes of Emmilou, and they're all great!

I was at the restaurant and catering awards last year and they won 'Best Spanish restaurant of the Year' - and the owners were hot! I decided I had to check it out;

"I don't like warm olives.M. Said to the Roasted Spanish Olives.

"Just wait for them to cool down"

"Mmmm, much better."

These Crispy Gambas Fritas with chilli and lime aioli were awesome; I only wish they sold these in cinemas - fantastic snack food!

A.M: Me first on the Paella Valencia w/ Chorizo, chicken and mussels!

I'm on the hunt for good paella in Sydney so if you know one please don't keep it to yourself? Please? Although this was pretty decent - no crusty bottom though.

Conversation is dead right about now: Churros filled with dulce de leche, spanish chocolate and honey nougat ice cream.

And the Sangria is definitely the best one I've tried in Sydney (almost as good as mine haha... but seriously). As for the hot waitresses; maybe I'll try a weekday...

CoChin Review tomorrow...