El Bulli Spanish Tapas

Earlier this week my family and I celebrated my graduation from Uni at Randwick’s El Bulli Spanish Tapas! I was really excited as I’ve wanted to dine here for ages but, because of its location (which is a bit far from where I live) its often been forgotten! Luckily though, mum suggested it and I am so glad that she did!

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When we arrived we walked into a dimly lit room, furnished with wooden style benches and a quaint little bar. It was warm and cosy (totally the opposite of the weather outside!) and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The seated us at a window table, sort of like a nook, where one side of the seating was a long bench filled with comfortable cushions and furnishings. Right from the outset, the restaurant smelt fantastic so I couldn’t wait to start eating! My family and I have been to a couple of Spanish Tapas style restaurants, so our rule is always to try to order a couple of different dishes each time that we go and with the menu presented to us we were spoilt for choice. Personally, I love Spanish tapas style food, in fact I would love to cook it one night for my family, although I’m not quite sure about the logistics of it for five people, but still, that would be a great night! So as a result we’ve only ever really eaten Tapas at a restaurant, which is a shame because it can be quite expensive. I will say that while the meals at El Bulli weren’t cheap, the food was fantastic!

We started off with some Sangria (of course!) and then ordered a selection of tapas dishes to share. Our first dish to arrive was the Pinchitos de Pollo ($16.50) which are essentially chicken skewers. These were beautiful though, moist perfectly cooked chicken skewered and marinated in chimichurri (a herby, green marinade common in Spanish cooking) before being grilled and drizzled with lemon and a light mayonnaise. Perfect little portions of tasty-ness!

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Following this, the Patatas Bravas ($12.50) arrived, with soft, pillowy potato quarters fried to give them a crispy outside, before being cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Yum Yum! We also shared the Empanadillas ($17.50)  (a personal favourite of mine) which are a deep fried puff pastry filled with mince, herbs and egg! Seriously crispy pastry filled with the most beautifully seasoned and flavoured mince, I could have eaten these all day!

One of the evenings specials was the Zucchini Flowers which were stuffed with a ricotta filling before being lightly battered and deep fried! I love zucchini flowers, and my boyfriend (whose never tried them before) devoured these ones! So crispy on the outside and stuffed to the brim with rich, creamy ricotta. The flowers were plump and fresh and had so much beautiful flavour to them!

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Now if that wasn’t enough, we then ordered a seafood Paella ($29.50) for one to share, which was divine! Perfectly cooked rice with a rich tomato and saffron flavour topped with flavoursome choritzo, chicken and fresh seafood including huge King Prawns, Octopus, Mussels and Clams! It never ceases to amaze me with just how much flavour some people can pack into such a little rice dish! Seriously good and highly highly recommended!

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The highlight dish for me though was one that I had almost told mum not to bother with; Zarzuela ($33.50) a dish I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Spanish restaurant before, but have heard of in cooking shows. Essentially, it is a seafood soup or broth but wow, I really don’t think I have ever tasted something so unbelievably flavoursome before. There were so many layers of flavours, salty, sweet, spicy and of course seafoody. It was all perfectly balanced and a perfect dish for such cold cold weather. I would highly highly recommend this dish, plus it was huge!! Even my dad loved this one, and he hates spicy food! The broth itself also had a light tomato flavour and just the right amount of spice to hit the back of your throat, but not overpower the soft flavours of the seafood. Now thats a dish I would love to learn how to make.

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We had hoped to order dessert (Churros) but at almost $17 per serve we decided to go to the Italian restaurant around the corner instead, which was a shame as churros would have been delish! Overall, we had a wonderful evening and the food was fantastic! It’s a shame they don’t have a set menu so that you could try more options (for a slightly cheaper price) but hey I’m not complaining, the food was phenomenal! If your ever in Randwick (or Surry Hills as theres another one there) then make sure you stop by!! You won’t regret it! Yum!!

Check out their website here….

 

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Brown Rice sort-of Seafood Paella

ImageEven though I love baking sweet treats I do spend the most part of my week cooking and eating as healthily as I possibly can. I often try to use recipes that are not so healthy and modify them to make them even better. This can often be tricky as I’m still trying to convince my parents that dinner can still taste great without potato!! But for the most part, they are pretty willing to try whatever strange concoctions I come up with (their pretty great!). So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try a healthy spin on one of my family favourite dishes, Paella. Now Paella in and of itself is pretty good on the health-scale but I of course wanted to see if I could go one better and make it with brown rice instead of a short grain (dad wasn’t too keen and couldn’t understand why I yet again had to change something that I know works perfectly well!) So off to the shops we went, purchasing some beautiful prawns, mussels, squid tubes and choritzo sausage! And then the cooking began. In true Mia style, I’ve researched a whole lot of recipes, putting together all of the best bits and overall I’m really happy with the base recipe. It seems long and fiddly but in reality its just got a few (maybe more then a few) easy steps, that, when put together have a beautiful flavour true to Spanish food.

Normally, (when I use a short grain rice such as arborio) the dish takes about 35-40mins to make but knowing that I was using brown rice I allocated 45-50mins. Off I went, cooking away and the smells and flavours were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I added stock and stirred and tasted and still after almost 45mins the rice was no where near cooked. My family was getting hungry, moving closer and closer to the kitchen so I knew I had to hurry up but there was just no way to speed up the process! I knew that the seafood wouldn’t take very long at all to cook, so I didn’t want to add it until that rice was cooked through. So there I was faced with an ultimate dilemma, keep cooking the rice and have a hungry/angry family or just stick the seafood in and hope that it cooks at the same time as the seafood. I opted for the second option which in the end was not as bad as I had thought. The rice was just cooked through, with a slight firmness to it, while the seafood cooked through perfectly. I’d have to say that the flavours in this Paella were my best by far. Sadly though, (and probably because of the length of the grains of rice) the liquid did not absorb as should happen in a Paella and there was no crispy bottom. As opposed to a traditional Paella, the dish was more a Spanish rice with seafood and tomato sauce, maybe closer to a gumbo then a Paella. That being said, it was absolutely delicious and even my dad (whose not such a fan of brown rice) thought it was great!

So here’s my recipe, I’d recommend it for sure but just allow at least an hour for the rice to cook through and remember that it won’t be exactly like a traditional Paella. But that just goes to show that you can make Paella with brown rice! Alternatively, you can still use this recipe with arborio or spanish rice (I’ve even used sushi rice before and that works a treat!) and could make it with chicken instead of seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

What you need:

500g Green prawns, peeled

1 Squid tube, cut into rings

1kg Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned

2 sticks of choritzo

1 cup brown jasmine rice

1 onion, diced

1 capsicum

1 tin chopped tomato

1L chicken stock

Smoked Paprika

pinch saffron threads

handful frozen peas

chopped parsley

What I did:

1. First off, chargrill your capsicum over an open flame on your stovetop. I literally leave it sitting on the flame, turning occasionally until the whole thing is black and charred. To remove the skin, pop it straight into a plastic bag and tie a knot in the top. The steam will help to remove the skin and then (while its still in the bag rub it all over to remove it. Take the capsicum out of the bag, rinse under cold water and remove the seeds inside.

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2. Using a food processor, blend your capsicum and diced tomato to make a saucy/liquid,

3. Heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil in your Paella pan and add your diced onion, cooking to translucent but not brown. Then add your diced choritzo sausages and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat up your stock in the microwave and add your saffron threads. leave them to “dissolve” and flavour. Add a good dash of paprika to your pan and cook out for 1-2mins, until it starts to give off a beautiful fragrant smell. Then add your brown rice, stirring to coat in the paprika. (I haven’t included a measurement here as its just to your taste).

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4. Finally, add the tomato/capsicum mixture from earlier and about half your stock, stirring it all to combine. Continue to stir your rice, adding more liquid as required for about 45mins (or until the rice is tender and just about cooked).

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5. At this stage, add half your seafood and stir it through, before adding the rest to decorate the top of the Paella. Once this is done, no more stirring, this will help to form a crisp bottom to the rice. Sprinkle with frozen peas and leave for 5 mins.

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6. Before serving, top the whole thing with lots of freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Mediterranean Stuffed Squid with Tomato Salsa

ImageCooking with seafood is often quite daunting for me, particularly because I’m not overly experienced with it. That being said, my family and I have always loved our Seafood and after a trip to Greece last year I reaffirmed my desire to try my hand at cooking stuffed squid tubes. The only thing I was missing was a great recipe (squid tubes are a tad expensive so I was keen to have a recipe that was tried and tested and that I’d know would be a big hit with my family) and luckily, after watching an episode of My Kitchen Rules I felt inspired. Two of the shows contestants cooked a beautiful Mediterranean style stuffed squid, serving it on a rich tomato salsa and a crisp salad. I knew this would be a great dish to cook for lunch for my mum this past weekend (here in Aus it was Mothers Day!). I did have a few variations on the original recipe which can be found here, so here is my take on the girls recipe! Originally I wasn’t going to make the salsa but in the end i am so glad that i did! It really lifts the dish and looks fantastic for presentation!

Hope you enjoy and happy baking!

What you’ll need:

  1. 5 whole baby squid, cleaned
  2. 1 tbs olive oil

Squid Stuffing:

  1. 120g medium grain rice
  2. 6 Green Prawns, peeled
  3. 2 tsp olive oil
  4. 250g chorizo, chopped
  5. 1 onion, finely chopped
  6. 30g chopped pine nuts, toasted
  7. 30g sultanas
  8. ¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Tomato Salsa

  1. 3 tomatoes diced into large chunks
  2. 2 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  5. 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  6. ¼ cup pitted black olives, chopped (I used mixed Olives)

What I did:

To make stuffing:

1. Cook rice in a saucepan of boiling until tender (about 10 mins). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add chorizo and onion. Fry until onion is soft and brown and then add your peeled prawns (cut into smaller chunks). Cook until prawn is cooked through before adding your cooked rice, pine nuts, sultanas and parsley.

3. Leave to cool completely.

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4. Once cool, spoon mixture into squid tubes, firmly compacting it and then seal the end with a toothpick.

For Salsa:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Place your diced tomatoes onto a tray, drizzle with a little oil and roast until tender and slightly collapsing.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook your onion, garlic and chilli until soft. Stir in tomatoes and olives. Season. I also added a little parsley and lemon juice for flavour but thats up to your tastes.

Cooking the Squid:
1. Rub squid all over with oil and season. Meanwhile heat your pan to a very high heat. Add the squid and cook for about 5 minutes, turning so that all sides are cooked through (you can tell that its cooked when it turns from translucent to a white colour). Ensure that you don’t overcook the squid. I found it hard to get the ends to cook as they couldn’t touch the pan due to the toothpicks. To overcome this, remove the toothpicks right at the end of cooking (by now the rice should be cooked and hold in place) and then tilt the ends so that they touch the pan and cook.
2. When serving, make thick cuts in each squid tube so that you can see stuffing, without cutting all the way through. Lay onto plate on top of the salsa

Enjoy!!Image

 

 

Risotto al Nero di Seppia…AKA Squid Ink Risotto

ImageOne of my most favourite dinner recipes to make in Summer is Squid Ink Risotto. While for some people, the thought of eating squid ink is a little odd, I absolutely love it! I’m not quite sure exactly how I would describe the flavour that Squid Ink adds to a dish other than that it is distinctly seafood-like without being overbearing or “fishy”. I think that part of the reason that I love this dish is because of the story behind the first time I ever encountered it. For me, this dish reminds me of my first time overseas when I travelled to Spain. Prior to this, I had never tried Squid Ink, come to think of it I don’t think I had even realised you could use it as an ingredient! But I saw it on a menu one night at dinner and thought “hey why not” after being told it was quite a traditional Spanish dish. When it came out to the table, I was presented with a beautiful white plate filled with plump little grains of black rice which was served with sweet juicy mango, fresh basil and ripe roasted tomatoes. I can honestly still taste the it! As I ate it all I could think of was “wow! I can’t wait to cook this for my family when I get home” and thats exactly what I did. Over the years I’ve found a few different recipes online which I’ve gradually adapted to match what I remember to be the flavours of what I tasted in Spain. So here it is, my recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppia (aka Squid Ink Risotto).

 

 

What You’ll Need: (Serves 4)

1 TBS Squid Ink (you can buy this from some deli’s, the fish markets or your local fish shop might keep them when they clean the squid)Image

3 shallots or 1 red onion (finely diced)

1 bay leaf

250g Arborio Rice (traditionally Carnaroli Rice is used)

250ml white wine

1L chicken stock

70g butter

125ml Verjuice/lemon juice

Grilled baby Octopus or prawns to garnish

Basil leaves (garnish)

Cherry Tomatoes (spray lightly with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30mins)

1 Mango cheek, peeled and sliced

What I Did:

1. In a large saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil and add your diced shallots or onion. Keep the heat low so that these soften without becoming browned or burnt. Heat your stock in a separate pan or in a container in the microwave.

2. Turn the heat up to a medium-high level and add your rice, stirring through the onion mixture. This is called toasting the rice and is important as it will help it to absorb all the liquid later. Keep stirring until the rice becomes slightly translucent in the centre. 

3. Add your wine, deglazing the pan and let this simmer for a couple of minutes or until it is mostly absorbed.Image

4. Now for the boring part! Add your stock, ladle by ladle until it is absorbed. You need to stir the rice continuously so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Also add your bay leaf at this stage. This process should continue for about 14mins or until the rice has just a slight bite to it.

5. Add your squid ink (from this point on use a plastic spatula to stir the mixture. A wooden spoon will stain and trust me, it NEVER comes out!). Continue stirring and adding stock for a further four minutes

6. At the end of this time, your rice should be cooked through but still have a very slight bite to it (so its not mushy). Turn the heat off and add your butter and verjuice, stirring the mixture. Pop a lid on top and leave to sit for five minutes. Now would be a good time to cook your seafood or set yourself up for plating. 

7. Give it a taste and see if it needs any extra salt or pepper. It generally should be fairly well salted already from the squid ink and stock so I don’t normally add any extra, but its completely up to your taste. 

8. If your adding seafood, stir it in and then serve in a nice bowl, topping with fresh mango, roasted tomato and basil. (Note, don’t use tinned mango. I’ve tried it once before and it was way too sweet and a little slimy from the sugar syrup it was tinned in. For this recipe, fresh is best wherever possible! Also please please give the mango a go! I know fruit in a savoury dish is a bit unusual but it completely makes it! I promise!) 

So there it is! my favourite Summer recipe! Hope your adventurous enough to give it a go! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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Jamies Italian

ImageI have finally achieved one of my culinary dreams…dining at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant!! I have to admit that whilst Jamie Oliver himself wasn’t present, nor did he personally cook my meal I was so excited to finally dine at Jamie’s Italian in Sydney. Ever since I was a young kid watching The Naked Chef on TV I have dreamed of this moment (if you weren’t aware previously, I have a slight obsession with Mr Oliver and his cooking!) so needless to say I was like a little kid on Christmas when we arrived. 

I was having lunch with two friends from work and my sister and luckily you can make reservations for the lunch sittings for 2 or more people, whilst the dinner sitting requires a group of 8 to make a booking. That being said, you wouldn’t have a problem getting a table during lunchtime on a weekday because the table turnover is quite quick. Image

The four of us were seated downstairs, and I was very surprised at how long and narrow the restaurant was. All in all, it is actually quite a large space, which they have used very cleverly, including an upstairs dining area. The decor is very relaxed and rustic, with a collection of “mis-matched” chairs seated at wooden tables. The atmosphere is very welcoming and it’s really not that noisy (despite what other friends who have also dined there have said). The waitstaff are all very attentive and friendly, introducing themselves by first name when you are seated and continuously checking on you throughout. I have heard previously that the whole thing is a bit rushed, so as to turn over more tables and whilst this may be the case on a weekend or at dinner, my friends and I couldn’t have felt more different, sitting and chatting for almost four (yes four) hours! Another great thing about the staff here is that their knowledge of the menu is very thorough. They’ve all tried every dish on the menu and are more then confident to advise you on what’s great. 

ImageActually selecting what I wanted to eat though was a whole other kettle of fish! There were so many wonderful sounding, delicious dishes so it took me a little while and in the end my sister and I agreed to get two different dishes which we then shared (very clever if you ask me!) I also had to use a process of elimination, removing any dishes that I already have the recipe for at home! Personally, when I eat at an Italian restaurant I always order pasta! I really don’t know why but it’s the way I’ve always done it! For lunch I ordered the Prawn Linguini ($28 main) which was to die for. The Linguini was served in a rich tomato sauce with a slight hint of chilli and topped with big juicy Prawns and fresh rocket! What I loved most about this dish was the way the pasta tasted though. Perfectly al dente, with a nice bite to it and with that beautiful homemade taste and texture. The linguini was slightly thicker then your dried store bought pasta which i feel really added to the dish overall. My sister ordered the Wild Truffle Risotto ($25 main) which was again, just beautiful. Creamy, rich risotto that just melted in your mouth, topped with beautiful black truffles and strong parmesan cheese! MMMmmm yum!! Trust me, I had to resist the urge to lick my plate it was that good! I should also add that the serves were very big, and the two of us struggled to finish our meals together. Personally, I am not sure that I would be able to finish a whole main size of the Risotto, as the flavours were very strong and I tend to find truffle to be quite rich so it’s very filling.

That being said, we all had dessert (we had to!) and I wouldn’t regret it for a second. ImageThe four of us ordered the same thing; The epic Brownie ($10) (the name speaks for itself!). Oh wow! Even though I have the recipe for these exact brownies (best brownie you will ever taste) and have made them countless times before, this was a whole new level of yum! A rich, moist chocolate brownie topped with fudgy chocolate sauce, creamy amaretto ice cream and caramel popcorn! I could have eaten it all day long. Realistically, you could share this dish with two but hey, who would want to. You’d probably spend more time fighting over who got the next scoop so I’d recommend getting your own! 

Overall, a wonderful dining experience at my favourite chefs restaurant (I might be a bit biased but the rest of my party agree). I’m already planning my return for a couple of weeks time!! Highly recommended! 

Aria Restaurant, Sydney

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On Friday night my mum and I dined at Matt Moran’s Aria Restaurant, Circular Quay. We were on our way to see the Australian Ballet’s performance of Cinderella so opted for the three course pre-theatre menu ($89.00). We were seated at a table overlooking the Quay, providing us both with a stunning view of Sydney Harbour. I was really pleased as when i had made the reservation (online) I requested a window seat that overlooked the Harbour and thats exactly what I got! The waitstaff were very attentive right from the onset, without hovering or being invasive which was fantastic as mum and I had allocated plenty of time to enjoy the dining experience. 

One of my favourite things (aside from all of the food) about the fine dining experience is the fantastic service and attention to detail. Once seated and served our drinks, we were presented with a complimentary appetiser of ceviche and freshly baked bread rolls. I know it seems shallow, but wow that bread was good!

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For entrée, I had the Scallops which included plump, fresh scallops with calamari and clams floating in a fantastic green vinaigrette of celery, dulse and hazelnut oil. It was such a delicious combination of flavours and textures, both sweet and sour but perfectly balanced. My mum had the Salmon, pink, moist flakes of salmon accompanied by wedges of avocado and orange. It was such a fresh and vibrant dish with beautiful plating and balance.

Following this I had the Chicken for a main dish and wow, what an amazing flavour-packed plate! I would highly recommend this dish as it wont disappoint your taste buds. I was presented with a beautiful piece of perfectly cooked chicken breast, stuffed with sage, onion and brioche on a bead of truffled pearl barley and broccoli and accompanied with tarragon chipolatas. Everything about this dish was perfect to me so it’s lucky that it was such a big serve because I literally could have licked the plate! I’m not a huge fan of truffle as it can often be overused but in this instance it was a perfect balance of creamy rich flavours with the subtle crunch of broccoli. Mum chose the King Trout; a seared fillet with cauliflower, almonds, crab and radish which also looked and tasted divine. To share, we ordered the salad of green beans with quinoa and pear. Image

Because we were in a bit of a hurry to get to the ballet we were encouraged to opt for a slightly quicker dessert to prepare (so no souffle) but trust me, we were not disappointed. We both decided to go with the Chocolate which is honestly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever seen or eaten (and yes I did write seen because it was so yummy to look at I didn’t want to eat it at first..but i quickly changed my mind!). On a large round plate painted with dark chocolate was a slice of chocolate tart topped with caramelised hazelnuts. The vanilla choc-ice was presented in a log accompanied by two chocolate macarons. I could have eaten it all day long! mmmm just the thought of it makes me hungry again! So many smooth, rich, chocolatey textures with crunchy nuts and vanilla bean ice cream. And if that wasn’t enough, the chef sent us (and every other table!) petit fours which included a grape jelly, lime meringue tart, toffee brittle and chocolate truffle, so even if you don’t decide to order dessert, your sweet tooth will be amply addressed. Image

Overall, I would highly recommend a visit to Aria restaurant, Sydney as a treat. Fantastic food, exceptional service and a view that can not be beaten. Head to their website for more details or to make a reservation. I promise you won’t be disappointed!!

http://www.ariarestaurant.com/sydney/menu/dinner

Japanese Vacation

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So I must apologise for my absence these past two weeks, I’ve been away holidaying in Japan and wow what an amazing place!! My boyfriend and I spent the majority of our time in Tokyo but managed to fit in a day trip to Osaka to go to Universal Studios (the bullet train was a great experience in and of itself!) But of course my favourite part about the whole experience was the food! I am a huge fan of Japanese food; sushi, sashimi, udon, soba noodles, I love it all! On top of this is the added bonus that the vast majority of Japanese food is quite different to the dishes they serve here at home. Usually, Japanese restaurants in Australia serve a lot of sushi rolls (which I love) including those with chicken, cooked seafoods, beef etc. and stir-fried vegetable/noodle dishes but what we found in Japan is that the most common dishes are those that include sliced, fresh sashimi on top of a small mound of rice. As well as this I discovered a new-found love of soba noodles served cold and udon served in a flavoursome broth (I was travelling in Winter so these dishes really warmed me up!)Image

Another thing that really took me by surprise was the “obsession” with international foods such as pasta and pizza that many of the locals had (and I must add to this that they really cook their pasta well!)

Whilst exploring this beautiful place we came across so many wonderful, authentic Japanese restaurants serving fresh delicious food for such a small price. To try and name them would be unbelievably difficult as there wasn’t one place that we ate at that I wouldn’t recommend (also most of their names were in Japanese!) but two places that we did “accidentally” stumble across that are worth a mention are Bills and Gonpachi.

Bills, located in Omotesando, is a beautiful open plan location overlooking the bustling shopping district below. The restaurant is surrounded by long glass windows that allow the light to just spill in over their diners. I also loved the giant bookcase situated on the far left side of the space, I was so tempted to go over and find myself something to read but my boyfriend said no 😦 If you’re going to pay the restaurant a visit, beware that there will be a line, it seems its a local favourite but sometimes you can be lucky enough to snap up a table with very little to no wait time. For lunch, I had the prawn and chilli linguini ($13) which was huge and absolutely delicious. The prawns were large and plump and the pasta cooked al dente. The whole thing was tossed through a rich, tomato sauce with a hint of chilli and fresh rocket! My only complaint was that they didn’t have parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. My boyfriend also ordered the wagyu burger served with beetroot, zucchini pickles, tomato chilli jam and herbed french fries ($20) and the parmesan crumbed chicken schnitzel served with fennel slaw and lemon mash ($15.00). I had a little taste test of his schnitzel and mash which was moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. The mash was the highlight for me though being full flavoured, creamy and rich. Absolutely delicious! A lot of diners around us were also ordering the ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter ($14.00) but unfortunately we couldn’t fit it in our bellies (there is also a 25min wait time for these so make sure you keep that in mind). Overall, it was a wonderful dining experience that I would highly recommend. The prices especially are very reasonable compared to what I would pay for the same thing in Australia. Great service throughout the whole experience as well. I was quite taken that the waitress explained to us that certain dishes were big enough to share or not enough for a big eater etc.

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Fans of the movie Kill Bill will be familiar with Gonpachi (located in Ginza), which is where part of the movie was filmed (I have yet to see it so I’m not sure exactly what part but i believe its the big fight scene with Uma Therman). Anyway, when we entered we were greeted with a refreshing, zingy punch, complementary. As we hadn’t made a booking we were seated at the “bar” which encloses the kitchen. I actually quite liked this seat as I got to watch what was going on. Before I tell you about the food, I should probably preface myself by saying that Gonpachi is a very touristy restaurant and as a result the prices are a bit higher then that found elsewhere with smaller portion sizes. We also noticed that the turnover of tables is a lot faster then usual, so it felt a little like we were being hurried along and our dishes came out very quickly. Myself and my two dinner guests ordered a selection of dishes which we shared, again probably something that I would recommend. Two of my favourite dishes of the night were the Karaage (fried chicken) ($6.50) which was small pieces of moist chicken coated in a crisp flavoursome batter, and the Ebi Shinjyo (fried shrimp dumplings) ($3.80 p/p) which had a prawn filling encased in a lattice like pastry, deep fried until crisp and drizzled with yuzu and sweet chilli sauce. Yum!

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Another interesting dish were the Gonpachi Supreme Skewers ($35) which included three skewers of Toro, Fois Gras & Beef. It was very interesting to try fois gras for the first time and this was very rich and creamy but for $35 probably not the most worthwhile dish i’ve ever eaten. Overall, it was a really nice dining experience but just prepare for a larger bill then normal and a slightly emptier belly.

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I was so sad to leave Japan as it is such a wonderful, diverse place filled with the most well mannered and friendly people. I can’t wait to go back and explore the city some more one day soon and would easily recommend it to any other travellers out there! Does anyone else have some recommended places to visit in Japan?

Pasticceria Papa & Pizzeria Locale Reviewed

ImageEarlier this week was my Dad’s birthday so I made a little trip over to his (and incidentally my) favourite Italian bakery, Haberfield’s Pasticceria Papa!! I’m going to make a fairly big call here and say that this place makes what has got to be the best baked ricotta cheesecake and Cannoli in all of Sydney (see told you it was big). I love everything about Papa’s so it’s pretty lucky I live far enough away to not make regular visits! Buyers beware, it doesn’t matter what day you go, or what time, there will always be a line out the door. But never fear, aside from this being a fantastic sign of good food that the locals love, the line moves fairly quickly and gives you an opportunity to peruse the delicious assortment of cakes, biscuits, gelato and pastries that are available. 

So before I went I made a promise to myself that no matter what I would only purchase what I came for, Cannoli, not matter what temptations there were and trust me, there were plenty. One of the best things about this place (apart from the food) is the warm chocolate smell that greets you as you walk in the front door. Never in my life have I smelt something as good as this! As I mentioned before, I was on a Cannoli mission and because I’m the most indecisive person in the history of the planet I opted for the mini cannoli in both chocolate and ricotta (they also come in vanilla).

ImagePersonally, I would recommend….getting both! because who wants to miss out on anything and at around  $1.60 each who cares! Secretly and in hindsight I could easily have eaten two large ones. Nothing beats the crisp, fried pastry which encases the rich, creamy centre of the cannoli! Whilst I was waiting in line I discovered that they also now sell their traditional baked ricotta cheesecakes (in small individual  serves or larger cakes) with a nutella stuffed centre!!! I promise you it took every part of my self control not to buy a few extras!
For dinner we headed to another of my Dad’s favourite places Pizzeria Locale at Meadowbank (sensing an Italian food trend here!). Even though I’ve only been here a couple of times I love the food, which is very traditional, fresh and most of all is great value. The restaurant itself is family owned and run and so has a really great family friendly vibe. For a Wednesday night it was also very busy which goes to show that I’m not the only one who enjoys it.

ImageFor an entre we all shared the proscuitto pizza ($19) which would have to be my favourite flavour and I was not disappointed. The base was slight and thinly rolled with a crisp outside and soft centre, topped with thin slices of fresh proscuitto, crisp green rocket and shaved parmesan cheese. Absolute perfection!

ImageFor my main I had the Spaghetti Locale (about $25) which had a rich tomato sauce, pippies and prawns. I opted to get fettucini because thats my favourite but my sister had the spaghetti and both looked equally as good. My serve was huge!! I actually couldn’t finish it so I had to give it to mum. The sauce was really lovely though and had a little hint of chilli that gave a great kick!

My parents both got the snapper special ($27) which they both really enjoyed, although I think they were still a little hungry afterwards. That being said, the fish was cooked perfectly, with moist flakes accompanied by a date, rocket and pear salad!

ImageBecause Dad didn’t know about the cannoli surprise at home he also had the Cassata Gelato which is basically three flavours (chocolate, nougat and zabaglione) of gelato together. This was on the specials board and normally i don’t like Cassata but the gelato was lovely and creamy and I liked that the three flavours were separate (i’m not sure if thats the usual way to serve it). If your after a great dessert though I’d very much recommend the locale mess which has honeycomb, meringue, macadamia and salted caramel and vanilla gelato! ($13) mmmm yum!!

Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to either of this fine venues if your after a great family night out or good quality Italian produce at a decent price! You can’t go wrong!

Check out their websites for more details:

http://www.pizzerialocale.com.au/

ppapa.com.au/

Buon appatoto!!