Sunday, 26 May 2013

MakMak Macarons, Newtown


MakMak (601 King St, Newtown) has finally opened a retail store in St Peters end of King St! Prior to this, MakMak was exclusively a wholesaler, so one could enjoy their macarons by pre-ordering or by going to one of the stores / restaurants / cafes they supply to (e.g. Via del Corso in Level 5 Food Court in Westfield Sydney or Sweet Infinity at the Strand). In a blind tasting test carried out by Timeout Magazine, Christine Manfield (Universal), Peter Gilmore (Quay) and Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room), rated MakMak as the best Macarons for texture, flavour, lightness and presentation (http://www.au.timeout.com/sydney/restaurants/features/11434/time-out-mac-down) . So it goes without saying that I was excited to hear that MakMak was opening a permanent retail store and would make a special trip to Newtown to finally try the famed macarons.

Running low on macarons! I came too late in the afternoon
The most impressive thing about the macarons at MakMak is the consistency. The biscuits are all the same size, the tops have a nice gloss and the crust are crisp like an egg-shell. And the fillings are so delicious and the flavours taste so natural and not artificial. The macaron is an enjoyable bite sized treat that is chewy and melts in the mouth! I too think that MakMak make the best macarons!          

The only flavours left...

Here’s what MAB and Qoo01 thought of the flavours we tried: 

(1) Peanut Butter and Belgian Chocolate (blue)
Very enjoyable flavours! We especially liked the actual peanut butter in the centre of the macaron.  Kind of like a Snickers Bar.
 
(2) Bounty (brown / white) 
Wow! Just amazing! This was the best macaron in terms of texture with the bits of coconut. Tastes just like a Bounty bar except better!     

(3) Pistachio (khaki green)
Good ol’ pistachio! Classic flavour that I love in macarons or gelato. This one is no different. Great rendition of the tried and tested goodie!

(4) Peppermint and Black Tea (pale green)
This was the consensus least favourite macaron. The peppermint was not overpowering, which I like. But the tea flavour doesn’t really shine here. Qoo01 says that the macaron reminds her of Chinese herbal medicine. Maybe this is due to her dislike of all things peppermint. I don’t hate this macaron as much as Qoo01.

(5) Passionfruit, Orange & Lemon Myrtle (yellow / orange)
A very very fruity macaron and enjoyable one. The passionfruit and orange flavours really shine here without being too overpowering or sour. Can’t really detect too much lemon myrtle though.       

Rankings
All in all, four out of the five macarons are very good. It is difficult to separate these and rank them as they were so good. So here’s what MAB and Qoo01 settled with

MAB
1. Bounty
2. Peanut Butter and Belgian Chocolate
3. Pistachio
4. Passionfruit, Orange & Lemon Myrtle
5. Peppermint and Black Tea

Qoo01
1. Pistachio
2. Peanut Butter and Belgian Chocolate
3. Passionfruit, Orange & Lemon Myrtle
4. Bounty
5. Peppermint and Black Tea

In other words, MAB and Qoo01 still have different taste buds!

Verdict:
Highlight: Bounty macaron was a hit in terms of flavour and texture
Lowlight: Peppermint and black tea flavour was a bit underwhelming.
Overall: Best macarons in Sydney! Enough said. 8/10 (Excellent)

MakMak on Urbanspoon

Quest for the best macaron in Sydney


I love a great macaron! I have a real weakness for those wonderful, colourful French confections: sweet, delicious and moist ganache filling sandwiched between two shells which are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The perfect macaron just melts in your mouth and leaves one craving for more! Listed below are my favourite macaron stores in Sydney. I will also put up more detailed posts about these stores when I find the time. This page will be regularly updated as and when I sample new and exciting macaron flavours!

My Top Three
1. MakMak (601 King St, Newtown): MakMak makes a consistently awesome macaron that are visually stunning, and have great texture and flavour. MakMak are always coming up with new flavour combinations that are creative and mostly hit the mark.
2. La Renaissance (47 Argyle St, The Rocks): Not as many different flavours as some other stores, but you can't go wrong with macarons at La Renaissance. They are very very good with the classic macaron flavours. The salted caramel is a real winner!
3. Cre Asion (21 Alberta St, Sydney): The place to go for wonderful Asian inspired flavours. I have found that there are some consistency issues as of late, particularly with the shells.

The Rest (in no particular order)            
Adriano Zumbo (various): Lots and lots of wacky flavours. I find Zumbo to be a bit hit and miss. Some flavours are really awesome (I still remember an apple and cinnamon flavour one I had years ago) and some flavours are just weird (and not in a good way).
Laduree (Westfield Sydney, Level 3): Pricey macarons that are made in Switzerland, frozen and shipped over to Australia. Think of all those carbon miles for a fancy little biscuit! I find the macarons here to be inconsistent. Some macarons are so delicate that they have fallen apart before you have even put them in your mouth.
Blackflower Patisserie (5/37 Ultimo Rd, Haymarket): Cute Asian-influenced macarons and cakes (they do a cheeseburger macaron) by Passionflower's sister store. Flavours are decent but there are some obvious consistency issues, in particular with the quality of the macaron shells in terms of size, gloss, and texture.    

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Mary's, Newtown - 24 May 2013



Mary’s is the talk of the (New)town! Mary’s is a new bar in an unassuming location off King St in Newtown (6 Mary St) that has only been opened for a few months. The word is that Mary’s do the best burger in town (according to Timeout Magazine). They also serve awesome fried chicken.  If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will probably walk straight past it. It’s next to Kelly’s on King and all you will see is a graffitied door – there is no signage. Or you can follow everyone else on Mary St because chances are they are heading for Mary’s.     

The other thing that has caught attention of many including myself is that there are some pretty big names. Jake Smyth (ex-Bodega) and Kenny Graham (ex-Gardel’s bar at Porteno) own the place. And Luke Powell, ex-head chef at Tetsuya’s is in charge of the kitchen. From fine dining to fried chicken and burgers, that’s quite a change!

Blackboard food menu: short and sweet (or greasy)!
Newtowner Pale Ale on tap: perfect with burger or fried chicken
Shroom burger with fries: wrapped in paper and served in a basket
Shroom Burger ($12): I can't believe it's not Macca's!
My wife ordered the Shroom burger, which came with a side of fries. Instead of a beef patty, you get a large slippery field mushroom that has been grilled. The flavours in this burger are just great. As my wife says, it brought her back to her childhood when she used to go to Macca’s and have cheeseburgers and French fries (before she turned her back on meat and became vegetarian), in a good way! The shiny bun was so soft and fluffy, slightly sweet and buttery. And the cheese was nicely melted onto the mushroom. And then there was the tasty special sauce that goes oh so well with the shroom and the melted cheese.     

Fried chicken, half bird ($16): finger lickin' good!
I had the fried chicken and opted for the half chicken on this occasion (obviously). Mary’s also comes through in the clutch like Larry Bird with 2 whole birds for larger groups. And did this fried chicken deliver! Like a thunderous slam dunk (maybe not from Larry Legend, but LeBron James)! The batter was nice and thin and well spiced. And the chicken was so tender, moist and juicy. The type of chicken that I want to get my hands straight into and greasy for. You can also dunk your pieces of chicken in the mash and gravy, which I didn’t order this time but I hear is awesome, or more spice from the Tabasco sauce in the Jack Daniel bottles. The best way to describe the experience is that it is like Hot and Spicy from KFC except infinitely better!             

Verdict
Highlight: Wonderful wonderful fried chicken
Lowlight:  The burger is not big, the size of a Macca’s cheeseburger
Overall: Whilst Mary’s is a bit run down,  quite dark and the music has been cranked up to full volume,  the vibe here is great  – it’s grungy, cool, and down to earth ! Mary’s is a great place to catch up with friends, have a few drinks and enjoy a (much more sophisticated) Macca’s meets KFC extravaganza! 7/10 (Great)

Mary's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Pork Belly Sliders @ Vella Nero, 22 May 2013

Vella Nero (259 Clarence St, Sydney) is the Sydney CBD café run by the sister team of Gina, Vicky, and Aileen. They are probably more known for their coffee (which they do very well), but today I was at Vella Nero to try out their latest creation, pork belly sliders. I don’t think these are a permanent part of the lunch menu (and I am not sure if that is the intention or whether these will be sold from time to time as a special), so anyone wanting to try the pork belly slider will need to track this through Vella Nero’s FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/vellanero).  

Crispy Pork Belly Slider ($7 each)
I ordered 2 sliders and this was good quantity wise for lunch. They were priced at $7 each which I felt was very reasonably priced. I really enjoyed these sliders. It’s really quite a simple yet sinfully delicious combination: crispy pork belly, with sweet and savoury hoisin sauce on a soft bun. The pork belly was really nicely cooked. The meat was tender, fatty and had great flavour. The crackling was just amazing! Very crispy but not so hard that my teeth would break from biting into it. And of course the hoisin sauce was tasty and works so well with pork belly. The slices of cucumber and the shallots add freshness to the slider. Whilst I enjoyed the soft, fluffy bun, which was served fresh and not toasted, I do wonder whether the slider would be even better if it was toasted?! It would definitely be interesting to do a comparison.  

These pork belly sliders reminded me of the pork belly bun sold at bar area of Spice Temple (see http://foodmab.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/guangxi-pork-bun-spice-temple.html), which is $15 from memory for a bun that is roughly the same size as the Vella Nero slider. Putting aside the obvious difference in the flavour of the different sauces, with Spice Temple’s being more spicy and Vella Nero’s being more sweet, I would say that the pork belly slider at Vella Nero is the more satisfying of the two pork belly buns. This is due to the fact that with $15, you can get 2 buns at Vella Nero. The pork bun at Spice Temple is not twice as good, if anything it is of similar quality.    

 Vella Nero Coffee Couture on Urbanspoon

Guangxi pork bun @ Spice Temple

Spice Temple Guangxi pork bun  ($15?)
I have never dined in the Spice Temple restaurant, just the bar area. Spice Temple is incredibly dark, making it difficult to take pictures. It kind of reminds me of an opium den (not that I have been in one)! One thing that I can recommend if you are dining at the bar is the Guangxi pork bun, which is only served at the bar. This is much less famous than the wagyu beef burger served at Neil Perry’s other restaurant, Rockpool Bar and Grill, and in some ways I prefer the pork bun. The pork belly was served on a sweet, buttery and toasted brioche bun. Very crispy pork crackling. I actually found the crackling to be a little bit too hard and hard to bite through in places. The meat was tender, fatty and delicious. The sauce was well spiced and had a nice amount of heat. The heat was well balanced with the freshness of the crispy cucumber slices and coriander.  

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Blancmange, Petersham - 2 May 2013

As soon as I heard that Pertersham favourite Blancmange Bouchon was closing after 8 years, I knew I had to make a reservation for one final hurrah. I wanted to try the Saturday 5-course degustation menu for $65 (which is a bargain) on the restaurant’s final day, but I was too late as it booked out within 24 hours of the restaurant announcing that it was closing down! So I had to settle for another day and the 2 course option available on weekdays for $45, which I had enjoyed in an earlier visit (see http://foodmab.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/blancmange-bouchon-1-march-2013.html).       

The closure of Blancmange is a sign of tough times for restaurants. It had already transformed from a fine dining restaurant to a more casual diner last year. The restaurant’s new owners will be opening as a cafe called the “Pig & Pastry”.

Blackboard menu and artworks
Starters
 
Bread, butter, chicken liver pate and pork cracker

Pickled vegetables and labneh
For starters, there was bread, home churned butter, chicken liver pate and the pork cracker (all of which I had last time). They are all just as good as I remembered. The bread was great and wonderfully crusty. The butter was so good that I wanted to ask for more bread but opted against it because I didn’t want to fill myself up before the meal even started!  And oh yes, the crispy pork cracker, which reminds me of prawn crackers but better. The vegetarian gets pickled vegetables and labneh.    

Entrees

Duck, onion, toast
How much duck fat can one have? My entrée was duck rillettes. Essentially this is confit duck legs and pork tenderloin cooked in duck fat. More duck fat is mixed into the duck and pork after it has been cooled to create the duck rillettes. The duck rilletes are spread onto toast which has been brushed with duck fat. The texture of the duck rillettes reminded me of canned tuna and it was quite tasty but I can’t help but wonder how many calories I just ingested!

Leek terrine
The meat version of this entrée comes with pickled herring but the vegetarian version comes with baby beetroots instead. This was essentially Marco Pierre White’s terrine that the Masterchef Professionals had to create minus the lobster (for recipe of Marco Pierre White's lobster and leek terrine, see http://www.masterchef.com.au/recipes/terrine-of-leek-and-lobster-with-a-water-vinaigrette.htm). For those that didn’t watch MCP, the terrine is created by placing bricks on top of the layered cooked leeks and leaving it for a couple of hours so the leeks bind together to form a terrine. It really is quite a visually stunning dish (unfortunately I did not get a picture of it as the wife had already started eating it!). It is clear that Sarah Knights (who was the head chef on the night as Nathan Brindle, another Masterchef Professional, had already left Blancmange) has mastered the terrine after MCP wrapped up. Whilst the leeks are well cooked and the terrine held its shape nicely, the dish is missing something. Leeks go well with something else (e.g. lobster in Marco Pierre White’s version), but on their own the dish seems to be missing something. Maybe the pickled herrings would have lifted the dish (I will never know).     

Mains
 
Chicken, lobster boudin
For mains I had the chicken and lobster boudin, a French skinless sausage. The sausage was a chicken mousse with small bits of lobster through it. The flavours of this dish were quite pleasant. The boudin had great flavour. There was not a lot of lobster (most likely due to the price of the ingredient). The artichoke cream was nice, as was the bed of chicory that was sitting underneath the boudin. However, for me, the boudin was grainy and not as smooth as other boudins I have had in the past (the scallop boudin that I had at Becasse years ago comes to mind).

Stilton tart, pear chutney
My wife had the stilton tart and during our last visit she had a goat cheese tart, which was amazing, so my wife was eagerly looking forward to this one. As the cheese used this time was stilton, the cheese was quite strong and packed a punch. The pear chutney is a great accompaniment though to cut through the cheese. The pastry was just as good as the first time. A nice, short pastry with loads of butter. This was another great tart, however my wife preferred the goat cheese version, as the goats cheese was more manageable.    

Sides
 
Potatoes and rosemary salt
We decided to order the potatoes and rosemary salt for sides (again).  We both enjoyed these potatoes. The potatoes are triple cooked (boiled, fried and then fried). Fluffy potato in the centre and nice crispy outside!

Desserts
 
Chocolate, malt, grape
This was a chocolate tart, with malt ice cream, peeled grapes and chocolate dirt. The pastry is similar, if not the same, as the pastry used in the cheese tart, so obviously it was good. However, in my opinion, the chocolate was a bit rich and heavy. The malt ice cream, which was quite delicious, melted very quickly unfortunately. I did enjoy the crunchy texture of the chocolate dirt though.


Poached quince and gingerbread
I love poached fruits and this was no exception. The quince, which is similar to pear, was poached perfectly and broke easily with just a spoon. The gingerbread cake was really quite yummy as was the ice cream. This was easily the better of the two desserts.     

Verdict
Highlight: Duck fat overload in the duck rillettes entrée.    
Lowlight: Bye Blancmange, I hardly knew ya :(
Overall: Farewell to a great restaurant. Another pleasant meal although the previous visit had the better dishes overall. I am a fan of the casual diner, where you can go in, get decently valued food that is well cooked in a relaxed environment. That is exactly what Blancmange Bouchon was and it will be missed! Will be on the lookout for where the talented Masterchef Professionals Sarah Knights and Nathan Brindle will be next. 7/10 (Great)

Blancmange Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Qoo01 Junk Food Posting #1: Some Japanese Kit Kats!


Funky Flavour Kit Kats from Japan
As you may have read, MAB and I went to Japan November last year. One of the quirks in Japan is that they sell area specialty junk food. Especially Kit Kat – did you know that they have released over 200 different flavours of Kit Kat in Japan? Their list of current area specialty can be found at http://d.nestle.jp/kitkat/omiyage/ (Japanese). These Japan-only Kit Kat comes in handy for souvenirs, so naturally I filled up my hand carry with heaps of them (no thanks to MAB – he was eyeing at me funny when I was grabbing them at Shinkansen train station platforms). These 6 below are the remainders of what has been handed out:

(1) Cinnamon Cookie (Kyoto) 


Kyoto Cinnamon cookies were big in Kyoto – we saw them everywhere in Kyoto in their curved rectangular form. So it’s no surprise that Kit Kat has a flavour to reflect this Kyoto specialty.
I found that the cinnamon goes very well with the wafer. Nice smell of cinnamon.

Qoo01: I like very much
MAB:  OK la
 
(2) Strawberry Cheesecake (Yokohoma)


Not sure why strawberry cheesecake is associated with Yokohoma – I mean, come on man, just about everywhere does strawberry cheesecake!
It tastes more like strawberry yoghurt (like, you know, those yoghurt coated nuts) than strawberry cheesecake. The name is very deceptive.

Qoo01: OK la
MAB: OK la
 
(3) Hoji tea (Kyoto) 


 
Apparently Kit Kat paired up with one of the famous Tea Shops in Kyoto, which is why it is a Kyoto specialty. Check out the poo-colour coating!
The Kit Kat has the burnt/smoky taste of Hoji Tea, but none of the tea flavour. A bit disappointing.

Qoo01: OK la
MAB: OK la

(4) Brown Sugar Syrup (Tokyo)


Japanese people love the brown sugar syrup with their desserts, especially with mochi (rice cake)-style dessert.
The Kit Kat is very syrup-y. It actually reminds me of cane juice, veering towards Chinese herbal medicine where they have a bit of sweetness. Not a good memory… MAB finds it too sweet for his liking.

Qoo01: weird
MAB: weird
 
(5) Wasabi (Shizuoka)


No brownie points for guessing that there’s a wasabi flavour. Japanese people probably use wasabi like Chinese people use soy sauce – goes well with a lot of food. Shizuoka is not far off from Mt Fuji, and is a tea growing area like Uji in Kyoto.
It smells like wasabi but just when I expect a spicy flavour to hit my mouth, throat and nose, instead I get white chocolate sweetness. Very weird… But MAB likes the fact that the wasabi is not overpowering.

Qoo01: weird
MAB: I like very much

(6) Rum and Raisin (Tokyo)


Just like the strawberry cheesecake, I’m not too sure what the association is between rum & raisin and Tokyo. According to Kit Kat’s website, rum & raisin oozes out the feeling of ‘fashion’ and ‘luxury sophistication’ of Tokyo. OK…

I can taste the raisin but not the rum MAB says that he can taste the rum but not the raisin.

Qoo01: Weird
MAB: OK la

Verdict: 
Qoo01 and MAB have very different tastebuds.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Ice Cream Sandwiches @ Kakawa Chocolates

Black sesame caramel with white chocolate ice cream sandwich
Kakawa Chocolates is my favourite chocolate store in Sydney. It is a tiny store run by husband/ wife team of David Ralph and Jin Sun. The main store is in Darlinghurst (147 William St, Darlinghurst) and recently they have opened a CBD store in the Gaffa Gallery (Ground floor 281 Clarence St Sydney), which is dangerous because it has become easier for me buy Kakawa chocolates as it is fairly close to my office.   
Today’s entry will be about my favourite post-lunch / work sugar hit in the CBD: Kakawa ice cream sandwiches ($5)! That’s right, delicious chocolate ice cream wedged between two chewy layers of chocolate cookie. Anyone that likes the ice cream sandwiches made by the renowned Pat and Sticks do, will absolutely love the ones at Kakawa.

The ice cream sandwiches come in a few different flavours:
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate with sea salted caramel
  • white chocolate with brownie
  • white chocolate with green tea
  • black sesame caramel with white chocolate (new flavour)
I have tried them all and they are all good! My favourites are the sea salted caramel and the black sesame ones, which I tried for the first time today.  And it was amazingly delicious! Being Asian, I love black sesame desserts. I just love the nuttiness of black sesame. I prefer the black sesame to the green tea, which I believe has been replaced. The green tea one could have done with a bit more green tea flavour. 

After you eat these ice cream sandwiches, you will never want to touch a Maxi-bon again!

Kakawa on Urbanspoon 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cornersmith, Marrickville - 11 May 2013

Cornersmith is one of the latest cafes to join the up and coming café scene in Marrickville, which already includes the notable Coffee Alchemy and Double Roasters. I had to drop my parents off at the airport on a Saturday morning, so I decided to head to Marrickville and then Newtown for a foodie morning. Cornersmith was the first stop for breakfast. We arrived the moment Cornersmith opened so we were the first sit-down customers.

Cornersmith (314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville)
Blackboard menu
I just love the concept at Cornersmith. They have their own beehives at the rooftop of the café, where they make their own honey. They pickle their own vegetables and you can see them stored in the numerous jars as you walk into the café. And they use local produce so the blackboard menu changes daily depending on what produce is in season.

Soft Poached Eggs, White Sourdough Toast, Eggplant Chutney with side of Kale, Pink Lady Apple, Organic Bean Sprouts and Seeds 
Today I ordered the poached eggs with sourdough toast, eggplant chutney with a salad of kale and pink lady apple with organic bean sprouts and seeds. The poached egg was just divine! Parcels of soft egg white encased the warm, oozing egg yolk. Just delicious with toasted sourdough. How I love something as simple as a nicely poached egg! The salad was great and was quite refreshing. The eggplant chutney was enjoyable also. Great to spread on the toast. It was well spiced and had the right amount of sweetness.

Bowl of Yoghurt, Breakfast Millet with Vanilla Bean, Poached Rhubarb and Nuts
My wife ordered the breakfast bowl of yoghurt, millet with vanilla bean, poached rhubarb and nuts. This was a bowl of deliciousness. I love the sweet and sour from the poached rhubarb. The breakfast millet, which reminded me of porridge, was a pleasure to eat when mixed with the thick and creamy yoghurt.

Quince and Apple Shake
I also ordered the quince and apple shake, which was served in a glass jar. I just loved it! So delicious! It reminded me of an apple pie. Like a liquid dessert. 

Verdict 
Highlights: Quince and apple shake. 
Lowlights: Nothing based on this outing. The space is not huge and I have heard that it can get very busy especially during weekend lunch (this was not an issue for us as we got there right when they open at 7.30). 
Overall: Cornersmith is a great suburban cafe with good breakfast and lunch options that Marrickville locals should be proud to have. 7/10 (Great)

Cornersmith on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Watermelon and Strawberry Cake @ Black Star Pastry, Newtown

Watermelon and Strawberry Cake
The watermelon and strawberry cake ($7.50) at Black Star Pastry (277 Australia St, Newtown) is simply amazing and one of my favourite cakes in Sydney. This is the most recognised cake in the store and its reputation is thoroughly deserved. Everything in this cake just works so well. One might think slices of watermelon in a cake is a bit odd, but it is perfect in this cake. The watermelon makes the cake refreshing. Then you get layers of almond dacquoise and rose scented whipped cream. The whipped cream is just wonderfully light. And on top of the cake there are fresh strawberries, pistachios and rose petals. Just yum! I know what I would like for my next birthday cake! 

There are other great pastries/cakes available at BSP (such as the lamb shank pie or the custard tart). BSP is seriously an awesome patisserie that I always make sure I stop by if I am in the area!   

Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon