Thursday, December 26, 2013

Four Friends Cafe, Crows Nest

Hand-made Beligian chocolates

Other goodies
What makes meeting new people very special is hearing their personal stories and Katze, owner of the Four Friend's Cafe in Crows Nest, did just that. Having battled and overcome the life-threatening disease Scleroderma, Katze is now a strong woman who believes lifestyle affects how you live and that if you have love, respect, and are grateful for the everyday small things, your life will be much sweeter. And for those reasons, Katze closed her old cafe and decided to pursue her true passion in creating chocolates!

Organic loose-leaf teas

Cute tea set!
What makes Four Friends different from other chocolaterias is Katze's dedication to using fairtrade organic ingredients and her willingness to support small businesses. What's a few extra dollars when you will be helping those small businesses to continue trading? Her chocolate is imported straight from Belgium and everything she knows about making chocolate is self-taught. The internet's great for everything now isn't it? :P She believes in freshness of the final product, so everything is made on premises and things will be thrown out after just a few days.

Macaron tower
Of course, eating dessert isn't an everyday kind of activity, but Katze instead believes that everything in moderation will keep you happy and sugar should definitely be had once in a while to keep your life sweet! For this reason, Katze had decided to personally make and donate chocolates for every single child in four different shelter homes. That is a lot of chocolate she's handing out! And a very generous gift indeed.

The upstairs seating is quite spacious and my friend and I settled down comfortably into one of the cushiony sofas. Ahhh, squishy.

Chocolate frappe, $7.50 & rose milkshake
To begin, we had some nice refreshing drinks to start off with. I was a huge fan of the dark chocolate frappe! Chocolate, creamy, and just all-round decadent, I couldn't stop drinking this.

Planet tasting plate, $28.00
I loved her concept behind the Planet Tasting Plate - that despite everyone's differences, we should all end up getting along together just like one happy family because in the end, we are all live upon the same planet, do we not? :)

We started off with the licorice macaron because to be honest, I'm not normally a fan of anything licorice flavour. But this one was quite mild and actually enjoyable! Katze loves experimenting with flavours and I could tell as I tried the apricot fig macaron - it had a crunchy sugary coating on the outside and a fruity fig filling. Yum. And the last macaron was banana and that has not been a flavour I've seen anywhere else!

Next we tried the chocolates and I was surprised by the first one I tried. Hello, gingerbread! Huge fan of this one because I am an avid lover of spices :D Katze has been making her chocolates to suit the festivities season, also proof in the second chocolate we tried that had a smooth mint filling. And I couldn't go past the roasted almonds dusted in cocoa. Almonds are too addictive. Though the biggest surprise had to be inside the kitty. Popping candy! It brings out the child in all of us hehe.

The tarts were easy bite sized morsels that were gone much too quick - much like the cheesecake! Katze mentions she has tried minimalising how much cheesecake she makes because her husband can demolish half of it in one sitting! :P

The last part of the tasting platter was the chocolate lava cake. My oh my was it decadent and so delicious. Katze is keeping her little secret of how they manage to get the ganache in the middle of the lava cake all to herself, so if you want to experience how delicious it is, better order it when you're at Four Friends!

If you're in the area and are craving some good quality chocolate, why not settle down with a cup of coffee and sample the desserts at Four Friends? And have a chat with Katze - she's absolutely lovely!

Crystal Noir and friend dined as a guest of Four Friends Cafe courtesy of polkadotPR. All opinions however, are Crystal Noir's own.

Four Friends Cafe
5/29 Holtermann St
Crows Nest, NSW, 2065

Opening Hours
Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Sunday: Closed

Four Friends on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jones The Grocer, Sydney CBD

The following day after I came back from my trip to Korea, I caught up with one of my friends at Jones the Grocer inside Westfield Sydney, which currently resides where Justin North's Becasse used to be. I've always walked past this restaurant that sits in the corner of the food court, but have never ventured inside until now.

Pear & blueberry cordial, $5.00
For drinks to start off with, our super friendly waitress recommended the pear and blueberry cordial as a personal favourite, and I decided to take it with sparkling water. The bubbles made it taste like a softdrink! It was sweet and really quite lovely.

Mixed board for sharing, $45.00
Our eyes zoned in on this as soon as we read it on the menu. We were warned that it really was quite huge and is normally shared between two people as an entire meal! That didn't deter us though because cured meats and cheese is a combination that's just meant to be. It really was spectacular when it hit the table simply because of the sheer size. There was proscuitto, fennel and garlic salami, wagyu bresaola, mild chorizo on the meat platter and I really loved it together with the marinated goat's cheese and bread which is all house-baked. The marinated mushrooms were also surprisingly tasty and mildly sweet to counteract the saltiness of the meats.

Soft herb risotto with fresh asparagus, taleggio & black truffle oil, $19.00
I'm a huge risotto fan when it's done well and I loved, loved, loved this one! It took me on a rollercoaster of flavours from the hit of truffle when you first take a spoonful of the rice, which slowly dissolves into something wonderfully creamy and cheesy. Yet it didn't feel heavy at all because the final flavour which lingers on the palette is the freshness of the herbs and asparagus. Definitely could not get enough of this one!

Angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab, chilli, rocket, garlic & grand padano, $22.00
The angel hair pasta pales in comparison to the risotto. Get this if you're a fan of crab! I personally kept going back for the risotto because the flavour intensity was much stronger ;)

Warm sticky date pudding with salted caramel sauce & vanilla bean ice-cream, $12.00
At this point, both of us were stuffed. And guiltily staring out the window at the gym across Pitt St Mall right in our line of sights. But we were encouraged to get dessert because the sticky date pudding is apparently to die for! And boy were they right. Just look at the pool of salted caramel it's sitting in! It was so rich and moist and amazing of all sorts... We polished it all off despite mentioning we were full beyond relief just 10 minutes prior hehe.

Young coconut rice pudding with mango & almond crunch, $12.00
The other dessert we ordered was the young coconut rice pudding which was nowhere near as rich as I expected it to be because young coconut juice is used instead of the heavier version of coconut milk. The rice still retained a bit of bite - thank goodness it wasn't overcooked like the mushes some rice puddings turn out to be. I very much felt like I was eating a Thai dessert!

They nicely offered to pack away our antipasti boards to takeaway as we could not finish it no matter how hard we tried - there's only so much two Asian girls can eat! But I know I will be back to try the dinner menu as the beef rib is tempting me :P Along with many other things! And situated so conveniently in the city, how can you not make a stop by?

Crystal Noir and friend dined as a guest of Jones The Grocer thanks to Jessie Hargreaves of Cav Con

Jones The Grocer
Cnr Castlereagh & Market Streets
Sydney, NSW, 2000
Level 5 Westfield Sydney

Opening Hours
Monday - Saturday: 8:00am - late
Sunday: 8:00am - 7:00pm

Jones the Grocer on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sepia, Sydney CBD

Sepia is one of the three hatted restaurants that had caught my eye after reading raving reviews from numerous bloggers as well as critics. So naturally, it was an easy decision to make a dining reservation here a week prior in order to celebrate my younger sister’s 19th birthday accordingly. I wanted her to have a wonderful time to call her first fine dining experience!

The interior décor itself is very contemporary and quite dark. Quite the atmosphere for a date night I say. It was an easy decision to choose the spring set menu as there were two options per course, which meant between the both of us, we could try eight dishes all together for $140 per person! Too perfect.
Bread & butter
We were served bread and we ooh’d and aah’d over the perfect sphere of butter. It’s so round!
Amuse bouche
The amuse bouche was a jelly of sorts with little bursts of fish roe, all sitting on eggplant puree. Can’t say I was the biggest of fans of the flavour but I can appreciate the technicality of the dish.
Sashimi of Big Eye tuna, steamed Japanese omelette, white soy, apple and sheep yogurt cream, puffed buckwheat, wasabi
The first dish was the sashimi of big eye tuna. Normally, my favourite kind of sashimi would have to be salmon, but this slice of tuna was beautiful. It was cut wonderfully thin so that it almost dissolved on the tongue with the sweetness from the white soy, apple and sheep yogurt cream. Whilst I did love those elements along with the textural addition of puffed buckwheat and slight kick of wasabi, I cannot say I loved the steamed Japanese omelette that the tuna sat on top of. I would’ve preferred it if it was just plain egg, as opposed to the strange mix of flavours in this omelette that didn’t sit quite as well with me.
Poached Scarlet prawns, shiso jelly, cauliflower miso, rye, smoked salmon roe
This poached prawns dish blew me away by both its prettiness and flavour. I never knew prawns could be cooked to that level of tenderness. The cauliflower miso that the prawns were bathed in was spectacular in every way and the cubes of shiso jelly along with the surprise burst of saltiness from the little beads of salmon roe when you managed to spoon some altogether really united all the components.
Miso black cod smoked over Japanese charcoal, nori, wasabi rice vinegar, tonburi, artichoke, tree spinach
When this dish was served, the elaborate deep-fried paper-thin wafers of nori definitely made an impression. Don’t they look gorgeously crispy? These delicate morsels lived up to expectations that it would simply fragment into tiny pieces upon touch and melted on the tongue. The smokiness of the miso black cod definitely shone through with its fragrant charcoal essence and flaked beautifully as it was cut into. The creaminess of the artichoke puree really offset the  sweet acidity of the wasabi rice vinegar surrounding the miso cod.

Bonito, flavours of roasted chicken, umeboshi, upland cress, green tea, nori
I wasn’t quite expecting a bonito piece that was quite this slender but I could see why when I dug my fork into it and it just pulled away like it was butter. It was a trippy course to eat. It had the texture of sashimi but it tasted like chicken. The sprinkling of green tea powder also added a slight bitterness that was welcome to the tastebuds when eaten with the slightly tart umeboshi cream on the side. Very enjoyable to eat!

New Zealand Scampi cooked over charcoal, peas, shellfish mousse, sudachi, shiso caramel, shellfish powder
Scampi was something that I was looking forward to as it was not a shellfish I had eaten yet. It had a texture not unlike prawn or lobster, and rather reminiscent of a mix between the two. Whilst the shellfish mousse was interesting (I love how they make purees and mousses out of everything here), I cannot say I am a fan of the strong fishy flavour that it encompassed and preferred eating it without. The shiso caramel was powerfully sharp, though it was a shock that was not unwelcome and the citrus flavour was enjoyed quite thoroughly in smaller quantities.

Seared rolled David Blackmore wagyu beef, chestnut mushroom, roasted red onion juice, wasabi fried potato and kombu crumb, citrus soy
I love nothing more than a piece of perfectly cooked beef and this was just so. The wagyu beef was sliced ever so thin and then rolled up so the outer could be seared yet the centre remained medium rare. Scattered amongst the kombu crumbs were morsels of chestnut mushrooms which were gratifyingly juicy. The wasabi fried potato was converted into a puree that was silky smooth and I couldn’t help but lay it on top of every bite of the beef along with the citrus soy for that hint of tartness.

This pre-dessert in the shape of a mountain really reminded me of Christmas! Don’t you think it looks like snow? Though I have to say it was the combination of gingerbread crumbs and green herb that looked like a Christmas tree that really gave me that idea. In the midst of all that powder was a tangy lemon sorbet to cleanse our palettes in preparation for our next dessert course. Dessert stomach space activate!

Caramelised apple, house made clotted cream, malted meringues, salted buckwheat toffee, muscovado blackcurrant and sorrel leaves
Ah, this contemporised version of apple pie was quite nice. Presentation was stunning and it instantly reminded me of a forest, no? The caramelised apple pieces were extremely soft and so sweet that it was almost too sweet, but the clotted cream and salted buckwheat toffee really pulled it down a notch.

Frozen strawberry, champagne chiboust, alpine strawberry jelly, strawberry sherbet, pistachio
But out of the two desserts, this one really won me over. I would have to say it was the dish of the night! I was wondering how they managed to de-seed the strawberries and hollow them out at the same time so that they could be filled with the champagne cream. It really just blew my mind thinking about it. So crafty of Sepia! Everything from the strawberry jelly and sherbet to the strawberries and pistachio crumbs was just so fabulous and melded together so well that my tastebuds were doing a happy dance. What an outstanding way to end our meal.

All in all, most of the dishes were executed pretty much perfectly and I was impressed with our four course meal. My sister was very happy dining at Sepia and it surpassed her expectations – her enjoyment was all I could ask for!

Sepia Restaurant
201 Sussex St
Sydney, NSW, 2000

Opening Hours
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday from 6:00 pm.
Lunch Friday & Saturday from 12:00 noon

Sepia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lygon St, The Little Italy Of Melbourne

I am slowly going to make my way through my Melbourne trip which occurred early August so that was a while back! One of our nights there, my friends and I decided to explore the Little Italy of Melbourne. Café Corretto was definitely one of the busiest Italian restaurants along Lygon St though to be fair, many of the restaurants were overflowing with customers. We waited for around half an hour before we were seated so I suggest you get there early if you plan on not waiting around!

Blue Heaven, $5.00
We noticed they had a drinks section dedicated solely on spiders and we clapped our hands in glee upon noticing the name blue heaven. Instant order! Turned out to be lemonade with blue flavouring, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I like spiders way too much! Yes, I will forever be a child.

Cardinale, entrée size for $13.00
This would have to be my second time trying gnocchi and I have to tell you all that I think I’ve fallen in love. The pasta is all freshly made in store and these little potato-y pasta gems were so soft and wonderfully pillowy I felt like I was eating clouds. It was very different from the slightly chewy version I had at Black by Ezard. The cream sauce was incredibly rich and indulgent but the hint of the tomato based Napoli sauce made it lighter and not as heavy from the repetitive flavour that you sometimes get from sauces based solely on cream. Chicken pieces were scattered thoughout, along with avocado pieces which were cooked. Can’t say I’m the biggest fan of cooked avocado in general, but give it to me raw and I can eat it any day! The serving sizes were also huge where my guy friends struggled to finish their mains serving size :P

Café Corretto
225-227 Lygon Street
Carlton, VIC, 3053

Opening Hours
Sunday - Thursday: 11:30am - 1:00am
Friday - Saturday: 11:30am - 3:00am

Café Corretto on Urbanspoon
Just down the road is Brunetti - a cafe with the biggest Italian dessert selection I have ever seen. Cakes, biscuits, cannoli, cookies, more cake! It was everywhere! The display wowed me and I was overwhelmed by choices. Thanks to A for introducing this place to me, you fellow Melbourne-sider! The cafe was extremely busy and popular from the looks of it and completely packed. Service was hard to snag at the counters due to the crowds of people so it took a while to let them know of our selection choices and to order.

Pear & cheese crumble, $6.50
I was blown away by what was essentially a cheesecake with a twist. The poached pears and blackberry jam lent this slice of cheesecake a sweetness and juiciness that toned down the richness of the cheesecake. Of course, the choc chip biscuit base totally threw all that out the window, but I must say, the base of a cheesecake is one of the things I love most :P

Dolce amore, $6.90
Isn't this the cutest cake? My friends and I were enticed into ordering this slice because it looked like a strawberry. It was just too cute to resist. It was a light cake, with a soft coconut sponge that encased a strawberry confit and strawberry cream interior with a red velvet mouse surrounding it all.

Lemon brulee tart, $6.50
We were tossing up between the lemon meringue tart and the lemon brulee, with the latter winning because I do love myself a nice crunchy toffee top. However, I found this slightly a bit too tart without a sugary meringue cloud to balance it out. I do love lemon, however this was a bit too much. Not to say it wasn't a nice tart though!

Raspberry & white chocolate opera, $2.00
There are also bite sized options for those who have difficulties choosing from the range they have to offer and want to try a bit too much of everything or for those who haven't quite managed to activate their emergency dessert stomach. This was a nice option, with raspberry and white chocolate being a classic dessert flavour pairing however, it was nothing special.

New York baked cheesecake, $2.00
This was the pick out of the mini desserts though! The little slice was deceivingly rich and creamy with the wonderful denseness that you can only achieve through baked cheesecakes. Ah good old cheesecake, you always win me over, time and time again.

We stumbled back to our humble student accommodation, our stomachs filled to the brim. Trust the Italians to know how to feed us!

380 Lygon St
Carlton, VIC, 3053

Opening Hours
Sunday - Thursday: 6:00am - 11:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 6:00am - 12:00 midnight

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe, Melbourne CBD

Walking around the unassuming streets of Southern Cross Station, we discovered a little Japanese café just on Collins St. And with a name like Purple Peanuts Café, how could we not enter?

Tuna onigiri, $4.50
I couldn’t help myself but order the tuna onigiri. The little triangles looked too tempting. And at $4.50, how can you resist the cheap deal? We had a choice to douse it in chilli, sesame or teriyaki sauce and we went with chilli. The onigiri itself had been fried to give a nice brown hue so that the rice had crunch with every bite. The chilli sauce wasn’t that spicy, but instead provided more flavour which had me coming back for more.

Katkuni pork $9.50
Ah, pork belly, one of the fattiest cuts of meat but also one of the most delicious. This particular dish comprised of pork belly that had been braised over several hours so the fat simply dissolved on your tongue and the meat was so tender.  Ah,it was bliss to eat.

Goma bean salad, $4.50 for a small
Coz we had to make up for our unhealthiness from the pork belly, we got a side of vegetables too. Carrots and beans mixed through sesame sauce.

They also sell some interesting desserts like matcha tiramisu and green tea chocolate that they make themselves! A bit on the pricey side, but you wouldn’t expect things to be cheap if they were handmade.

We stayed for a while, discussing our group project and weren’t pushed to leave. It was relatively quiet though they still had a steady stream of customers. But I was very happy with the discovery of the pan fried onigiri – that is something I ought to experiment at home with! Maybe after I learn to make the actual onigiri first :P

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe
620 Collins St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Opening Hours
Monday - Saturday: 9:00am - 8:30pm

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Choc Pot, Burwood

I have personally been just a little bit of a chocolate addict for a short while now. Ok, I lie, it has probably been years. There's just something extremely comforting about it. It appeals to your sweet taste buds and it's oh so incredibly velvety as it melts in your mouth. Don't you agree? Luckily, I was able to indulge in my sweet tooth to celebrate the completion of my bachelors. Guess who's a postgraduate now! :D

Walking into The Choc Pot, a new chocolate bar located just opposite of Burwood Plaza, I couldn't help but be wowed by the deco. There were sweet little shelves and pots everywhere. And who doesn't love a faux brick wall just to make it look that little bit more special? :P

Though what I was really wowed by was Ash's background story to opening up this little cafe. We got chatting as he prepared our desserts for us and he told us a little bit about his background and how he dappled within many different courses in uni and finally ended up in the midst of a medicine degree. However, he found that it wasn't truly his calling and his passion and love for sweets and dessert conquered all. It was decided then and there that he gave up studying medicine to pursue his love of cooking.

It was upon discussion about his use of jersey milk and our combined knowledge of agriculture that I discovered he graduated from the same high school as me - one year before I went in for year 7. Small world, huh? The milk from Jersey cows is supposedly higher in fat content making the milk creamier and resulting in richer desserts - all the better for us dessert fanatics! I was very happy to hear that they used quality ingredients such as Cellbaut chocolate, free-range eggs and unrefined caster sugar and everything is made fresh from the man himself! I was informed that they underwent an intense testing period of all their desserts on the menu with their friends and family to determine whether it was menu-worthy or not.

White choc strawberry smoothie, $8.00
 On this sweltering hot day, the fruity smoothie was definitely a refreshing treat.

White chocolate pannacotta splice, $12.00
What made this pannacotta so special definitely had to be the pineapple and mint sauce. It was sweet but not overly sweet with a slight tang from the pineapple. I thought the white chocolate pannacotta would be a bit much paired with a fruity sauce but that was not the case and it paired together surprisingly well! So well that I pretty much poured that extra little jug of sauce all over the pannacotta. Yum.

Chocolate souffle with salted caramel, $12.00
The chocolate souffle had a lovely oozy centre that was wonderfully rich. How can chocolate not be so? And of course there's just a little extra serving of salted caramel on the side to make things just that little bit more indulgent.

I was very tempted to try many of the smaller treats in the cabinet but I will save that for another time. Perhaps after I've had a gym session down the road :P

Crystal Noir dined as a guest of Ashley & Deirdre of The Choc Pot. All opinions however, are my own.

The Choc Pot
7/1 Railway Parade
Burwood, NSW, 2143

Opening Hours
Monday - Wednesday: 8:00 am - 10:00 pm
Thursday - Friday: 8:00 am - 11:00 pm
Saturday: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm

The Choc Pot on Urbanspoon