Monday, March 18, 2013

N2 Extreme Gelato, Chinatown

With the abundance of gelato vendors and ice-creameries, as well as the sudden fro-yo boom in Sydney, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to frozen sweets. My favourite place though, hands down, no contest is N2 Extreme Gelato. And yes, I have tried Messina, Rivareno, Cow & the Moon, and any other place you can throw at me.

You may go purely for the science-lab chic concept and spooky nitrogen SFX novelty, but the gelato is legit, real legit. If you haven't heard about it by now, N2 is an ice-cream parlour with a difference - all gelato is made to order, mixtures of fresh ingredients are churned with liquid nitrogen until frozen. The set-up is laboratory-like, with stainless stell counter tops and perspex shields, the ice-cream mixtures stored single-serve in dozens of conical flasks. The staff are dressed in kitschy lab coats and nerd glasses, surrounded by a constantly streaming mists of nitrogen vapour.

Lab counter, N2 Extreme Gelato

Liquid nitrogen churning, N2 Extreme Gelato

The idea is that since liquid nitrogen freezes things ten times faster than a conventional ice-cream maker, using it to make gelato reduces the formation of large ice particles and results in a smoother texture. Although the wait is a little longer than the old scoop and scoot, the wonderful fresh flavours and beautiful consistency is completely worth the extra couple of minutes. The gelato is served straight from the mixer, and made with real ingredients such as fresh fruit, cookies, chocolate... the list goes on. Best thing is, they're open every day until 11PM which makes for the perfect late-night snack or a cheap and sneaky post-dinner dessert. All scoops are $6, and the richness renders a single serving more than enough for one person.

Ice-cream cone, N2 Extreme Gelato

The weekly rotating menu showcases new flavour concoctions and occasionally an old favourite. The combinations include popular classics such as peppermint choc chip as well as unique and exotic inventions with cheeky names such as the Mardi Gras special, Golden Showers (lime sorbet with mixed pepper, salted rim, tequila spray).

Some of my most memorable flavours incude: creme brulĂ©e (my personal favourite flavour, with a torched sugar crust), refreshing avocado & mint, smooth and decadent sour cream chocolategrey soybet (soy milk sorbet infused with earl grey tea), buttered popcornRosemary's Baby (rosemary & honey gelato), cigar-smoked Hainanese coffee, and the savoury salt & pepper calamari (milk gelato with Szechuan pepper and sea salt, topped with dehydrated calamari).

Conical flasks, N2 Extreme Gelato

43/1 Dixon St , Sydney 2000

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cara&Co Restaurant, Westfield Sydney

If you don't know about it by now, let me inform you. Cara&Co is one of Joseph and I's favourite stores in Sydney. It's a unique concept store, filled with beautiful items of luxury garments missing their brand labels, eccentric artwork and antique furniture. In the belly of the store is the Cara&Co RestaurantLast time we visited, we were astounded by the equally beautiful standard of food and lucky us, owner Rosa Alpert was lovely enough to invite us back to try their new menu.

Amuse bouche

We started our evening with a cocktail each and two types of amuse bouche. The one on the right was an absolute standout, a black olive cake topped with a capsicum jelly, cream of bonito and lemon and a crumble of fresh olives. Sounds like a strange combination but it was beautiful of flavours and textures, even Joseph, who lists capsicum and olive at the top of his most-hated foods list, loved it.

Behind the Iron Curtain Almond Soup $14

With pleasant memories of the green apple soup we had as an amuse bouche last time we were here, we decided to try the new selection of cold soups before entree. I go for the Behind the Iron Curtain Almond Soup, it's impossibly smooth, with creamy flavours of potato and cucumber, decorated with with rings of onion, miniature mounds of salty Avruga caviar and little tips of dill.

Ten Peas in a Soup $12

Joseph's choice is completely different in nature, the Ten Peas in a Soup is light and refreshing in a lovely bright green colour. The asparagus and peas taste fresh and crisp, there's also the saltiness of capers and crumbled Wagyu bacon, rounded out by the milk foam.

Scampi Grapefruit Rhapsody No. 1 $40

The Scampi Grapefruit Rhapsody No.1 as his starter is absolutely stunning, like a melody of fresh flavours and bright colours and excuse me for my poetic license. The scampi is gorgeous, plump and fresh, seared on the outside. The cherry tomato and pink grapefruit lend a tangy sweetness, with the warm aroma of cardamom. There are also small blobs of savoury parmesan parfait, the creme fraiche adding a lovely creaminess to the dish.

Rump Kissed by the Sea $28

The Rump Kissed by the Sea was my favourite dish of the night. The melty Wagyu beef was perfectly cooked with a lovely pink centre, and it was topped with rich drupelets of blanched egg yolk. I love a good runny egg yolk and rare meat so this was heaven for me. It was topped with caramelised fennel, on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with sea urchin folded in. The sea urchin was also simmered into a butter drizzled over the top of the dish, making entirety of this plate to die for.

A Lamb's Neck of the Woods $40

Onto mains now, and Joseph goes for A Lamb's Neck of the Woods. There's two lovely cuts of lamb cooked pink and soft, topped with a crumble of crunchy pistachio. There's fresh green broccoletti draped over what I believe is anchovy puree and shaved kohlrabi.

When Bull meets Goose $60

I am absolutely in love with my main, When Bull meets Goose. The beef tenderloin is once again perfectly link, the meat juicy and succulent. The foie gras lends a rich creaminess while the earthy mushrooms are a perfect complement. There's also artichoke puree (I think?) and onion rings and everything is tied off with a pour of a lovely jus.

Petit fours

With no room left for dessert, we finished our meals with a pot of soothing peppermint tea and a selection of petit fours. It's a delightful finish to what was a hedonistically decadent dinner.

Level 4, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt St
(02) 9226 9988

Cara&Co Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Figs & Brie dined as a guest of Cara&Co.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Din Tai Fung, World Square

When your traditional Chinese parents aren't so great at traditional Chinese cooking and tell you that this year you're too old for red money envelopes, the best thing to do is drown your sorrows with dumplings and comfort food. Thankfully, I was invited to down to World Square to celebrate the Chinese New Year with lion dancing festivities and lunch at Din Tai Fung.

Xiao long bao, Din Tai Fung
Xiao long bao (pork dumplings)

The crowning glory and pride of the restaurant is their xiao long bao, Shanghainese pork dumplings delicately steamed and bursting with soup. You can watch the hypnotic methodical work of the dumpling chefs in the open kitchen, folding and pleating like machine-people. Ding Tai Fung boasts the precision of their dumplings, with each having to meet the criteria of diameter and weight. They taste amazing too, perfect pleats in the soft pastry encasing pork filling with that magical burst of soup inside.

Pork Chop Noodle, Din Tai Fung
Pork chop noodles

The pork chop noodles are one of my ultimate comfort foods. I remember growing up in Shanghai being the pickiest of eaters as a little kid, and my aunties would always make me a simple bowl of noodles with fried pork chops on the side to shut me up. The noodles here are fantastic, in a clean, light broth with shallots, served with the most succulent pork in a crunchy crumbed coating on the side.

Vegetarian dumpling, Din Tai Fung
Vegetable dumplings

The vegetable dumplings are a thing of beauty, with perfect uniform pleats and slightly-translucent skin showing the lovely vegetarian filling. 

Wonton noodles, Din Tai Fung
Shrimp and pork wonton with tangy sauce and dry noodle

The shrimp and pork wonton with tangy sauce and dry noodle is fantasticly flavoursome with just the right amount of spiciness.

Truffle dumpling, Din Tai Fung
Pork and truffle dumplings

The newest introduction to the menu is the pork and truffle dumplings. The flavour combination was surprisingly fantastic, the earthy aroma of the truffle an interesting twist on the traditional xiao long bao.

Ice-cream, Din Tai Fung
Green tea, taro and black sesame ice-cream

We finished our lunch with some green tea, taro and black sesame ice-cream, served with strawberries and red bean. Yum.

Level 1, World Square
644 George St, Sydney 2000
(02) 9264 6010

Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

Figs & Brie dined as a guest of Niche Marketing