30 April 2012

Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh: Italian, Waterloo (21 Apr 2012)

7 Danks Street, Waterloo NSW 2017

Fresh Italian brunching

Cafe Sopra is probably one of my favourite brunch spots in Sydney. The chalkboard seasonal menu always has tempting choices and seems mostly reasonably priced for the quality. Timing your visit is crucial in avoiding a long wait for a table, especially on the weekend. Stuffed zucchini flower with 5 Italian cheeses ($4.95 each) comes at a price but they're bursting with flavour in a thin crispy batter. The Vitello tonnato ($18) is an interesting flavour combo but not quite for me this time around. Flavours are good in the Frittata with goats curd and basil ($14.50) although I wish they'd have the toast on the side rather than buried underneath the dish. Some thicker crusty sourdough would be more to my preference. 

My Spaghettini with crab, chilli, & garlic ($29) could probably have done with a bigger kick of chilli and garlic to make it more noticeable for my liking and you can never have enough crab meat which was a bit on the sparse side in the dish. The pasta was cooked al dente as hoped though. I enjoyed the dressing in the Baby cos & cherry tomatoes with salad cream ($8.50). For dessert you can't go wrong with the Meringata with strawberry & chantilly cream ($14.50) aka Eton Mess, with its good combination of flavours. I didn't mind the Honey & rosemary semifreddo with baked plums ($14.50). The plums worked really well with the rosemary flavour and were nice and soft. The semifreddo was nice but I think I would have preferred a good vanilla bean ice cream with the plums. Torte di Verona with stewed blueberries ($14.50) had good flavour and the candied almond slivers worked really well in the dish giving it a bit of crunchy texture.

Other visits to Cafe Sopra:
21 Apr 2012 - Brunch
17 Sept 2009, 7 Apr 2012 - Brunch
22 Aug 2009 - Brunch

PROS: Fresh ingredients, Tasty dishes, Reasonably priced for the quality, Nice decor and open space, Efficient service
CONS: Very popular so best to arrive early to get a table, Hard to get street parking on the weekend
MUST TRY: Stuffed zucchini flowers but pricey, Meringata with strawberry & chantilly cream is a classic
BABY ON BOARD: Noisy enough to muffle moderate baby cries, Fairly spacious, Need to make your way up stairs though which could be awkward for prams
Fresh Sopra Juice ($6.50)
Stuffed zucchini flower with 5 Italian cheeses ($4.95 each)

Vitello tonnato ($18)
Frittata with goats curd and basil ($14.50)

Spaghettini with crab, chilli, & garlic ($29)

Parmesan crumbed chicken scallopine with sopra coleslaw ($25)

Baby cos & cherry tomatoes with salad cream ($8.50)

Meringata with strawberry & chantilly cream ($14.50) 

Honey & rosemary semifreddo with baked plums ($14.50)

Torte di Verona with stewed blueberries ($14.50)

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Cafe Sopra on Urbanspoon

La Bodeguita Del Medio: Cuban Restaurant & Bar, CBD Sydney (19 Oct 2011)

125 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Rum your way into Cuba

Thanks to Tony Maia (Venue Manager) of La Bodeguita Del Medio for inviting me as a guest to sample some of the dishes by Head Chef Danny Parreno and a few rum-based cocktails from the bar. You can’t go too wrong with the Mojito ($14) which is probably what LBDM are best known for but the Blood & Sand ($16) had well-balanced flavours which I probably enjoyed even more. The Ernest's Breakfast ($17) was pretty strong on the alcohol, the Clover Club ($16) was more subtle and the Nacional ($15) had fruity overtones. For a selection of cured meats the Embutidos ($22) did the trick. The chorizo was very spicy although I couldn’t work out where the pickles were as listed on the menu. The Half shell scallops, queso fresco & lime dressing ($21) were covered with plenty of topping which probably made the scallop secondary in the dish. The Empanadas ($17) of slow cooked oxtail were quite good although I would have loved the pastry to be a bit thinner to appreciate the filling more. A favourite for me was the Taro croquettes served with aji de gallina sauce ($15) which were very tasty and cooked with a crunchy shell. The Peruvian style ceviche ($15) was also very good although I would have loved a bit more salsa on top of the dish. The Ropa vieja ($24) seemed pricey but the braised lamb neck had good flavour and tenderness.

I was impressed with the amount of meat in the Langostino ($42) although the vanilla sauce was quite unusual and maybe an acquired taste for some to appreciate including myself. The chocolate sauce in the Pato con chocolate ($36) was noticeable yet subtle enough to still appreciate the duck flavour from the meat. My favourite main was the Bife Ancho 400g ($37) of tender and flavoursome meat helped along with house made condiments for extra taste bud enjoyment. I wasn’t a fan of the Tostones ($8) which I found a bit dry and tasteless although the accompanying Cuban aioli was really nice and actually went well with my potatoes on the steak dish. For dessert I mostly enjoyed the mocha dome in the Café y caramelo ($14) but didn’t really enjoy the salted caramel ice cream and would have preferred just a simple vanilla ice cream instead. The La Lechera ($14) was quite rich in flavours although I found the shape of the chocolate swirl a little disconcerting and unappealing — perhaps a quenelle shape instead. For afters a selection of the bartenders and waiters rum choices were offered. My preferred out of the three sampled was the El Dorado 12 YO ($13) which I found more drinkable over the Diplomatico Reserva ($12) and Havana Club Barrel Proof ($16.50) for my innocent rum palate.

Other visits to La Bodeguita Del Medio: 
• 19 Oct 2011 – Guest review of food and drinks 
16 June 2011 – Mojitos and rum cocktails

PROS: Lively atmosphere, Interesting and cosy décor, Friendly service (Lisa), Live entertainment although makes it quite loud, Extensive rum menu
CONS: It's hard to stop at just one cocktail in this place, Probably best to book ahead for a table as they seem to be quite popular
MUST TRY: Mojito, Blood & Sand cocktail, Taro croquettes, Ropa Vieja, Bife Ancho 400g
Table setting
Mojito ($14), Blood & Sand ($16), Ernest's Breakfast ($17), La Bodeguita Nojito ($6.50)
Clover Club ($16), Nacional ($15)
Mary Pickfair mocktail version: Pineapple juice, Maraschino liqueur served Martini style ($6)
2010 Santa Ines Savignon Blanc, Chile ($8.50), 2009 Altozano Tempranillo Castilla, Spain ($8), 2008 Perez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Maipo Valley, Chile ($12)

Embutidos: A selection of cured meats, arrollado & pickles ($22)
Vieiras Cubanas: Half shell scallops, queso fresco & lime dressing ($21) 
Empanadas de carne con pebre: Slow cooked oxtail with tomato salsa ($17)
Croquetas de malanga - Taro croquettes served with aji de gallina sauce ($15) 
Ceviche del día: Peruvian style ceviche ($15) — would be great if served with something like prawn crackers to put on
Ropa vieja: Tomato & yoghurt braised lamb neck, Cuban rice with black bean vinaigrette ($24)

Langostino: Tropical lobster, baby leeks, watercress & vanilla sauce ($42)
Pato con chocolate: Duck breast, sweet potato & spinach croquants & chocolate sauce ($36)
Sudado de Pescado: Market fish (Blue-eye Trevally), yucca, bugtail and roasted cherry tomatoes (MP) - seasonal scallops included, yucca replaced with potatoes
Tostones: Fried plantains with Cuban aioli ($8)

Bife Ancho 400g: 120-day grain fed dry age rib eye steak served with Rosemary & Garlic roasted potato & house made condiments ($37) 
Café y caramelo: Mocha dome with candied peanuts & salted caramel ice cream ($14) 

La Lechera: A classic ... LBDM style ($14)
El Dorado 12 YO, Guyana ($13)
Diplomatico Reserva, Venezuela ($12) 
Havana Club Barrel Proof, Cuba ($16.50)
Head Chef Danny Parreno (middle) with kitchen team 
Rum Tasting Sets 

Mojito time = Good time
Musicians — pretty loud though for talking over

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La Bodeguita del Medio on Urbanspoon

28 April 2012

Patisse: Patisserie & Café, Waterloo (28 Apr 2012)

Shop G01, PYD Building, 197 Young Street, Waterloo NSW 2017

Sugar hit in Waterloo

A casual afternoon tea brings me to Patisse for a sugar hit of Chef Vincent Gadan's cakes. By 3 pm it's unfortunately slim pickings from the counter display as most of the cakes seem to have gone for the day. The Opera Cake ($7.50) has the right amount of cake and chocolate for me which isn't as rich as the higher priced Valrhona Chocolate & Raspberry cake ($9). The Apple Tartin ($6) comes with a scoop of ice cream which hits the spot. The pastry is quite light although a knife would have made it easier to cut than using the fork supplied. The softness of the apple on top makes it very enjoyable to eat. My Hot Chocolate ($3.50) thankfully had a good depth of chocolate flavour which comes with the bonus of a marshmallow. If you want to be spoilt for choice then it seems it's best to visit earlier in the day.

Other visits to Patisse:
28 April 2012 - Cakes and Hot Chocolate
24 May 2011 - Croquembouche Masterclass with Vincent Gadan

PROS: Quality cakes, Fair amount of seating, Free street parking
CONS: Most of the cakes and pastries had run out by the late afternoon, Some cakes seem a little pricey, Can be hard to find parking especially when Hillsong is on just down the road
MUST TRY: Visiting earlier in the day to check out more of the cakes
Hot chocolate ($3.50)
Apple tartin ($6)
Valrhona Chocolate & Raspberry cake ($9)
Opera cake ($7.50)
Window with a street view
Seating and service counter
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Patisse on Urbanspoon

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