Restaurant Review: Manjit’s at The Wharf

Manjit’s at The Wharf is overlooking Sydney’s darling: Darling Harbour. They do a modern Indian cuisine style of food here which means they have a contemporary take on classic Indian dishes. It’s open kitchen so you get to see where your food is cooked and how it’s cooked. I must admit, it was quite an experience. Here’s how the night went for us:

First, we ordered our drinks as Manjit’s is not BYO. We both had TWR Toru which is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris. It’s from a certified organic, biodynamic producer in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was a great choice as it complimented spicy food very well.

The service at Manjit’s is quite friendly. We had more than two different waiters and they were all happy to wait on us, talk to us and explain all the dishes.

As for starters, we ordered Gol Gol Gappa and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb.

Gol Gol Gappa
A contemporary twist on a classic street food delight. I believe it’s pani puri. They are tiny, crunchy, puffed bread filled with spiced chickpea, potato, onion, herbs and flowers. It’s served with tamarind and amchur (mango powder) caviar. You pour it into the puris and eat it all in one go. It was very fresh and spicy. It tickled the back of my palate. Just the way I like it.

Manjit's

After Gol Gol Gappa, we were served complimentary poppadums and they were rolled! Please refer to the photo below.

Manjit's

Our second starter of the night: Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb
Grilled whole organic mushrooms filled with paneer, spiced corn and water chestnut.

Manjit's

As for the mains, we shared Phool and Kaju Ki Sabzi. Vegetarian dishes are marked with a V on Manjit’s menu and Kaju Ki Sabzi is one of their vegetarian signature dishes.

Manjit's

Phool is described as cauliflower pan cooked with coriander seeds, served on potato espuma and toasted cumin on the menu. Espuma is Spanish term for froth or foam, by the way. So, if you are expecting aloo gobi kind of dish here, you are in for a surprise.

Kaju Ki Sabzi (Signature)
Kaju Ki Sabzi is described on Manjit’s menu as “a preparation of cashew nuts sautéed with mixed spices, served with caramelized onion” but there is a surprise there. This sabzi is topped with a spinach kofta stuffed with paneer. It looks like a saag paneer scotch egg!

Manjit's

Desserts from Manjit’s
The dessert menu is actually a lot bigger than most restaurants offer. They do rasmalai, mango pistachio kulfi, kaala jamun, shahi tookra and more. When I saw jalebi on the menu, my decision was made. Even though, I was warned that it wasn’t like the classic jalebi, I still wanted to take my chance and hire the fat girl. It was different! I could taste jalebi but it was different. It’s actually made of thinly sliced green apple, dipped into jalebi mixture and fried and stacked up. At the top, there is a ball of white chocolate with rose cream inside.

Manjit's

Apple jalebi was my dessert, John, on the other hand, decided to have chai creme brulee.
Crispy green apple fritters coated in a fragrant saffron and rose flavoured syrup.

Chai Creme Brulee 
A soft, creamy creme brulee with a delicate hint of spicy chai finished with a caramelized crunch of toffee.

Manjit's

Manjit’s at the Wharf can be found at this address:
49 Lime Street, King Street Wharf
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9279 3379
Email: info@manjits.com.au
Website

Restaurant Review: Yellow, Potts Point – Sydney

Restaurant Review: Yellow, Potts Point – Sydney
When I did Bentley’s Bar and Restaurant review, I promised to go and try their sister restaurant, Yellow and tell you all about it. I am keeping my promise.

The Place
Even though it was our first time, Yellow has been around since 2013. However, in early 2016 it became exclusively vegetarian. The décor is quite contemporary with deliberately unfinished areas on the walls. Yellow is in Potts Point. Is there anything yellow in this place, you may ask? Yes. The walls outside.

The Wine
The wine list at Yellow is quite eclectic with a range of natural, bio and organic vintages from around the world. And, they complement the menu nicely.

The Food
The menu at Yellow is exclusively vegetarian. Peter, the assistant manager was kind enough to let me keep my copy of their menu so that I could match my experience with the dishes properly. It always helps when I write about it. Here, I typed in their 5 Course Tasting Menu for you:

5 Course Tasting Menu

Fennel + Fresh Curds + Apple
2014 Weingut Dr Salomon ‘Kogl’ Reisling from Kremstal, Austria
Grapefruit Spritz

Heirloom Zucchini + Pepitas + Juniper
2015 Partida Creus VN Blanco Field Blend, Catalunya, Spain
Turkish Apple Tea

Spaghetti Squash + Shimeji Mushrooms + Salted Egg
2015 Ruggabellus ‘Fluus’ Grenache Blend, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Pear + Yuzu

Forbidden Rice + Butter Beans + Smoked Yoghurt
2014 Moranza Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Apple + Beetroot + Carrot

Blood Plum Sorbet + Toasted Buckwheat + Wattle Curd
2014 Domaine Delevaux Coteaux Du Layon ‘Passerille’ Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Nectarine + Kombucha

Before the menu above was served, our dinner started with complimentary bread and butter, followed by Mexican Cucumber and Baby Turnip in Buttermilk and Toasted Black Sesame Seeds (see photo below).

Yellow

Fennel + Fresh Curds + Apple
This is a contrast of textures with the softness of the fresh curd, creaminess of the sauce and the crunchiness of the fennel and unexpected sweet bursts of cured and fermented apple. The dish was paired with 2014 Reisling from Austria. We are a huge fan of Austrian wines. This one is young and crisp with a touch of acidity and residual sweetness. Quite well balanced and it works well as a great aperitif. Perfect match!

Yellow

Heirloom Zucchini + Pepitas + Juniper
Zucchini, zucchini flowers: all the best of the zucchini family. Zucchini flowers are the male ones and the stem was used in this dish as well, not just the flowers. They were cooked to perfection; totally melted in my mouth. The dish was paired with 2015 Partida Creus VN Blanco Field Blend from Catalunya, Spain. And, it’s an interesting one. It is quite funky on the nose, almost like an orange wine. It is cloudy because the wine maker does not like filtering his wines very much. Fully biodynamic winery and this one in particular, almost sulphur free. Glen, the manager, told us that the little amount of sulphur which is added is in there for the sake of lasting the journey. This was my favourite wine of the night; it is vibrant, fresh with complex flavours. I will be talking about this wine for many days to come. However, our waiter, Ryan, was kind enough to give us the details of the wine company’s importer so we may be able to get some.

Yellow

Spaghetti Squash + Shimeji Mushrooms + Salted Egg
With this dish, you are moving on to more savoury notes and the portions are getting bigger, too. It is also the time that you feel you need to slow down. I absolutely loved the salted eggs and the sauce in this dish. It was paired with a blend of Mataro, Syrah and Grenache from Barossa Valley, South Australia. The first Australian wine of the night and the first red wine of the night, too. With its 13% alcohol, it is almost like Pinot Noir. And it complemented the savouriness of the dish very well.

Yellow

Forbidden Rice + Butter Beans + Smoked Yoghurt
This was quite filling and rich. The dish has black rice crisps on top (which you cannot see in the photo because I ate them) and cabbage powder around.

Yellow

Because the dish is quite rich, it was served with a palate cleanser: Heirloom Tomatoes + Grains of Paradise + Fresh Basil (photo below).

Yellow

The dish was paired with a 2014 Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain.

Yellow

Blood Plum Sorbet + Toasted Buckwheat + Wattle Curd
As you can see in the photo, this is the dessert of the night. It was quite refreshing after two savoury dishes. I personally loved the contrast of textures. It was paired with a 2014 Domaine Delevaux Coteaux Du Layon ‘Passerille’ Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France.

Yellow can be found at this address:
57 Macleay Street
Potts Point NSW 2011
Website
Phone: 02 9332 2344

Chatkazz Indian Street Food, Harris Park, Sydney

Chatkazz

I have been hearing about those places selling authentic Indian food in Harris Park but it was only last night I actually had a chance to experience it myself. And place turned out to be Chatkazz.

Our friends Madhu and Kushal took us to Chatkazz for a night of Indian street food. Chatkazz is exclusively vegetarian with Jain options, by the way. Being Indian themselves, they know what they are doing. Naturally! And, the whole experience was truly fantastic!

Chatkazz is such an incredibly busy place. With all the hustle and bustle, it actually feels like you are in India! You have to wait for a table, though. However, they have this system: they have chairs, menus, order slips and pens outside where you wait for a table. While you are waiting, you choose what you want to have and scribble it down on the order slip. Once you have a table, you hand over your order and fantastic Indian street food starts coming.

Chatkazz

Here’s what we had at Chatkazz:

ChatkazzSabudana Vada (above), also called sago Vada is a tapioca (sago) patties which is served with spicy green chutney and a yoghurt/curd based one. It is a traditional snack from Maharashtra. In certain parts of India, sago is a very common ingredient to make foods during fasting period. You can get it from street vendors in Mumbai. So, I’m told.

Chatkazz

Dahi Puri (above) These are small crispy puffed bread mixed with boiled potato, chickpeas and topped with chilled yoghurt and various chutneys.

Chatkazz

Chole Bhatura (above) comes from Punjab. Chole and bhatura are separate dishes that are eaten together and it is absolutely divine. It is served with mango chutney, raw onions and chana masala.

Chatkazz

Pani Puri (above) is one of my old time favourites. I was introduced to these at the time we were living in Melbourne. There was a Gujarati restaurant down the road where we had enourmous amounts of chaat. I still miss Smita’s pani puri.

Chatkazz

Khaman Dhokla (above) is another old time favourite. These are savoury cakes made out of besan (chickpea flour) and are served with sweet & spicy chutney.

Chatkazz

Chinese Bhel (above) was everyone’s favourite. I must admit, I LOVE Indo-Chinese dishes. I am so determined to make this one. This morning, I tracked down a recipe. The moment I put together all the ingredients, I am so making this.

Chatkazz can be found at this address:
Shop 4-6/14-20 Station Street East,
Harris Park NSW 2150
Website

Chatkazz

Chatkazz has a separate sweet shop, by the way. We thought the colours were so inviting.

Chatkazz

We came home with a great selection of sweets.

Restaurant Review: Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Sydney

Vegetarian degustation menu with wine pairing is becoming a bit of a theme for me and my husband. Especially, when it comes to celebrating our birthdays –which are only a day apart. This year, we decided to have our birthday dinner at Bentley’s.

The restaurant is located on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets in Sydney CBD. Although Bentley is attached to Radisson Hotel, it is actually a separate entity, meaning operating independently. Bentley is also the sister restaurant to Yellow and Monopole –Yellow being the fully vegetarian one in Potts Point. We are thinking of trying it soon. When we do, I’ll let you know Peoples…

The Place
As you enter, there is the bar on street level with almost-open kitchen where all the magic happening. The dining area of the restaurant is at mezzanine level. Arched windows and high ceiling tell me that it’s an old building. However, the décor definitely has a more contemporary feel to it. I absolutely adore the coloured glass lamps and black tubes, criss-crossing from the ceiling and creating a dramatic effect.

The Food
This was not our first time at Bentley’s; we celebrated our wedding anniversary here two years ago with another 8-course vegetarian degustation menu. The memory of a particular onion reduction stayed with me forever. We also pop in every now and then just for a glass of wine or two because their wine list is sensational.

Here’s the menu of the night:

BENTLEY’S VEGETARIAN MENU

Carot + Chamomile + Buttermilk + Grapefruit
2015 The Wine Farm ‘Pinot Gris Field Blend’, Gippsland Victoria
Citrus Quartet

Caramelized Macadamia + Mexican Cucumber + Macadamia Milk
2014 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc Chenin Blanc, Loirc France
Cucumber + Celery + Green Tea

Roasted Eshallot + Black Garlic + Nigella
2013 Weingut Huber Weisser Burgunder, Baden Germany
Darjeeling + Grilled Citrus + Honey

King Oyster Mushroom + Pickled Enoki + Eggplant + Broccoli
2013 Marechal Auxey-Duresses Pinot Noir, Burgundy France
Beetroot + Bayleaf

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke + Pickled Shimeji + Hay Oil
2014 I Fabbri ‘Lamole’Chianti Classico Sangiovese, Tuscany ltaly
Cherry Varenya

Heirloom Zucchini + Broad Bean + Puffed Rice + Jobs Tears
2013 Dalwhinne Moonambel Cabemet, Pyrenees Victoria
Verjus + Smoked Apple

Yoghurt + Black Olive + Lemonade Fruit
2012 Bemabeleva ‘Cantocuerdas’ Moscatel, Madrid Spain
Licorice Fizz

Violet lce-Cream + Gocoa Honeycomb + Blueberry
2013 Royal Tokaji Co, ‘Late Harvest Furmint Blend, Tokaj Hungary
Buttermilk + Wattleseed + West lndian Spice

Before the menu above was served, our dinner started with complimentary bread and butter, followed by Parmesan Puffs and Smoked Roast Potato with Cream Cheese and Chives.

Bentley

Of course, we didn’t touch the bread and butter despite being very tasty. Experience talking here Peoples; bread and butter fill you up!

Bentley

Carot + Chamomile + Buttermilk + Grapefruit (above) paired with bio-dynamic 2015 The Wine Farm ‘Pinot Gris Field Blend’ from Gippsland Victoria. Wine was quite clean, fresh and the citrus in it cut through buttermilk.

Bentley

Caramelized Macadamia + Mexican Cucumber + Macadamia Milk
Browned lettuce with a touch of fennel, caramelised macadamia nuts, and Mexican cucumber, all drizzled with macadamia milk. Don’t tell Donald Trump about Mexican cucumbers; he might try and build a wall around them. The dish was paired with 2014 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc Chenin Blanc, Loire France. Anjou is one of my favourite regions, by the way. This one was particularly rich and fruity with a dry finish that goes on forever at the back of the palate and strong acid cuts through macadamia milk.

Bentley

Roasted Eshallot + Black Garlic + Nigella (above) paired with 2013 Weingut Huber Weisser Burgunder, Baden Germany. In this dish, the sweetness of eschallot is balanced by the tartness of nigella sauce. I thought, the nigella sauce was very much like Turkish olive paste, just different texture.

Bentley

King Oyster Mushroom + Pickled Enoki + Eggplant + Broccoli (above) paired with 2013 Marechal Auxey-Duresses Pinot Noir, Burgundy France. The broth in this is made from fenugreek, coffee and aniseed. And that purple crisp on top is made of eggplant. As for the wine… It was the first red wine of the night. It was quite barnyardy with a very dry finish.

Bentley

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke + Pickled Shimeji + Hay Oil (above) paired with 2014 I Fabbri ‘Lamole’ Chianti Classico Sangiovese, Tuscany Italy. We are a huge fan of chianti. This one was old school chianti which went incredibly well with Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes. Bentley’s seems to be the only place they cook Jerusalem artichoke as I have never seen it at any other restaurant’s menu.

BentleyHeirloom Zucchini + Broad Bean + Puffed Rice + Jobs Tears (above) paired with 2013 Dalwhinne Moonambel Cabernet, Pyrenees Victoria. What I really enjoyed about this dish is that the mixture of textures; some crunchy like those zucchini crisps on top, some soft like rice puffs and the freshness of the broth is to die for. Cabernet was an excellent match, too.

Bentley

Yoghurt + Black Olive + Lemonade Fruit (above) paired with 2012 Bernabeleva ‘Cantocuerdas’ Moscatel, Madrid Spain. This was absolutely sensational! Lemonade fruits is somewhere between lemon and orange. Moscatel from Spain is an absolute palate cleanser. Now we are being prepared for dessert…

Bentley

Violet lce-Cream + Cocoa Honeycomb + Blueberry (above) paired with 2013 Royal Tokaji Co, ‘Late Harvest Furmint Blend, Tokaj Hungary. This was the lightest, fluffiest ice cream I have ever had in my life. By the way, those two sticks in the photo are meringue.

The Service
At Bentley, you see and experience attention to detail everywhere. The moment you enter the premises, you are greeted by a staff member. You may get served by different waiters/waitresses throughout the night but that doesn’t break the flow.

This time around, the service –and the amount of wine—was well paced over three hours and eight courses. The highlight of the service was for me, sommelier Marelius. He is from Norway and has an elegant way of explaining various elements of each glass of wine, regions, production or wine growing techniques and why they are paired with certain dishes. Thank you, Marelius.

Overall, the food at Bentley’s is innovative (even for vegetarians). It shows you what’s possible. I absolutely enjoy the incredible harmony of contrast flavours served with an artistic presentation.

Special Note: One of VegFusion Facebook page followers, Adriana Wall, informed me that Bentley Restaurant and Bar also has a full vegan degustation for those who don’t eat dairy or eggs. She says “It is a wonderful restaurant. It’s been our special occasion restaurant for years and when my partner and I turned from being vegetarian to vegan it was fantastic to still be catered for with the enthusiasm and exceptional dishes Bentley Bar has for alternative diets.”

Bentley Restaurant and Bar can be found at this address:
27 O’Connell Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8214 0505
Website

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant, Singapore

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant, Singapore
Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant is located on a busy Serangoon Road in Little India, Singapore. The place is not far from famous Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and that’s how me and my husband ended up at Big Bites in the first place. We were just visiting the area and suddenly hunger kicked in.

The Food
Big Bite’s incredibly extensive menu –including a section for children—seems to have pretty much every example of Indian food from idlis, chaats, dosas, oothapam, sizzler dishes to biryani. Indian bread section includes roti, naan, chappati, pratha and kulcha. Even the dosa section in their menu has a large variety of dosas which I have never come across anywhere else before. North and south Indian thali are also available although they call them meals.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

Although they call themselves pure vegetarian, it’s just vegetarian from what I observed. However, they have a sign saying “Jain preparation is available upon request” and that means they are capable of preparing vegan food. Jain food in India although being lacto vegetarian excludes dairy if animal cruelty is involved. So, vegans should be catered well hereat Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant.

The Service
I must admit, being an Indian restaurant, the service didn’t even have the smidgen of Indian hospitality or friendliness. We didn’t know that they had a variety of desserts downstairs which were not on the menu. So, we ended up buying sweets on our way out.

The Ambiance
Ground floor has some chairs and tables and a large buffet of Indian sweets. However, you dine upstairs. The dining area upstairs was quite stuffy but they didn’t seem to be using air conditioning. It’s not only you are in a humid climate but also consuming hot and spicy food. I think they should reconsider their cooling plan. Clearly leaving the windows open doesn’t help at all.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore
The Verdict
While Big Bites seems to be the only sensible choice when you visit Little India, the food is oily, the service is unfriendly and it is quite hot upstairs in the dining area.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant
70 Serangoon Road
Singapore 217975
No website
Phone: +65 6297 6297

Little India and Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Little India is the perfect place to buy little trinkets, souvenirs, Indian CDs, movies if you’re into Bollywood and gorgeous saris. I believe the best place for shopping is Little Indian Arcade which is located on Hastings Road. I remember buying incredibly colourful Indian bangles there.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

Food is a huge part of Indian culture and the shops around Little India have everything an Indian cook would need from herbs and spices to fresh produce. For everything else, locals go across to Johor Bharu, Malaysia. How do I know this? Because, we travelled to Johor Bharu with a local to buy some string hoppers.

There are a few Indian temples around the area. My favourite one is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple which is one of the oldest temples in Singapore. It was completed in 1880s and is dedicated to Kali: the goddess of destruction (Kali can be seen in the photo below: the upper right corner).

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

When we arrived at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, there was this full-on ceremony happening with live music. You can see the main worship hall in this short video below.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
141 Serangoon Road
Singapore 218042

Tian Vegetarian Restaurant, Vienna

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Tian Vegetarian Restaurant in Vienna was one of the most unforgettable culinary experiences I have ever had in my life. Being a Michelin star restaurant, this is exactly what you’d expect. However, Tian has some extras.

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In French, Tian is the name of a vegetarian stew and in Chinese, it means heaven. So, it would be safe to call Tian “a vegetarian heaven” because it truly is a vegetarian heaven; a classy one.

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The Menu
Every night, there are two set menus. You can choose dishes from both.
4 course menu is €136 with wine pairing and €91 without
6 course menu is €171 with wine pairing and €106 without
8 course menu including 2 surprise courses is €204 with wine pairing and €120 without

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Tian is a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. There are many items on their menu with “vegan possible” sign against them.

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Here, diverse flavours are well matched and the produce is sourced from local organic markets.

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Magnolia sorbet, served  as a palate cleanser (above).

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Complimentary butter, cress, three different kinds of oil and bread.

Oil in test tubes. Brilliant!

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The décor at Tian: sustainability and class come together in a sophisticated, stylish way.

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The service at Tian is quite elegant, too. It was paced well according to the number of courses. At the time of booking we had a chance to talk to Tian’s sommelier Christoph. Our waitress, Helene, was attentive without being intrusive.

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My desert (above).

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John’s desert (above).

Note: This is a belated post. I put off writing it and here’s why: When my husband and I were at Tian in June 2015, our lovely waitress Helene (I hope this is the right spelling of her name) gave me a copy of their menu, the exact one we had that night. I told her that I had a food blog and I would be writing a review for Tian, too. I wrote her name at the back of the menu and promised that I would mention her name in my review.

When we were in Berlin, we shipped two boxes of clothing, some souvenirs we picked up from other European places we visited and even some art pieces along with Tian’s menu. One of those boxes arrived two months later. However, the last box didn’t and Tian’s menu was in that box.

Yet, Tian deserves a good review. So I decided to write it anyway, without the menu. In case you’re wondering why I don’t have the names for the dishes or why this is a belated post, that’s why.

Tian can be found in this address:
Himmelpfortgasse 23,
1010 Wien
Phone: +43 (0)1 890 4665
Tian’s Website

The Malaya, Darling Harbour – Sydney

This year, my husband and I decided to do something different for New Year’s Eve and booked a table at The Malaya. We have always enjoyed their vegetarian banquet and because the restaurant is located at Darling Harbour, there is a good chance to watch 9 o’clock fireworks, too.

The food here at The Malaya is classic Malaysian food. However, the setting is quite contemporary with its large balcony overlooking Darling Harbour.

Our evening started off with a glass of bubbly each. NV Bailly Lapierre Cremant de Bourgogne from Burgundy, France to be precise. We immediately received New Year’s Eve Vegetarian Set Menu 2015 which stayed on the table all night long. I asked if I could keep the menu and I was told it would be just fine. That on its own made it easier to follow the courses during the night and of course it makes it easier for me to write the review which I am doing right now.

Here’s the menu they put together for the night:

Starters
Vegetable San Choy Bow
Salt and Pepper Cauliflower
Samosa
Sayor Otak

Mains
Szechuan Eggplant
Vegetable Singapore Noodles
Ma Po Tofu
Sayor Masak Lemak

Roti Canai (pan-fried Malay flat bread)
Steamed Rice

Dessert
Ice Cream Ball
Black rice Pudding
Tea or Coffee

Now, let’s get visual, shall we?

Starters

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Vegetable San Choy Bow (above)
Water chestnut, onion, mushroom, carrot and shallot stir-fried and served in a lettuce leaf. This may be the messiest thing to eat but it tastes sensational.
Matching Wine: Wagner-Stemple ‘Troken’ Silvaner, Rheinhessen Germany

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Salt and Pepper Cauliflower (above)
Floretts of cauliflower lightly battered, deep-fried and tossed in fresh chilli, salt, cracked black pepper and shallots. We’ve always liked this dish and it was even better this time around. Be careful with the chilli though; they bite.
Matching Wine: Frankland Estate ‘Poison Hill’ Reisling, Frankland River WA

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Samosa (above)
A mixture of potato, carrot, onion and spices wrapped in a light pastry skin and deep-fried. One of the nicest samosas we have ever had.
Matching Wine: Bruno Sorg Pinot Gris, Alsace France

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Sayor Otak (above)
Silken tofu topped with a blend of eggplant, mushroom, tomato, lemongrass and chilli paste, wrapped in a banana leaf and barbequed. This dish has layers and each layer is interesting once revealed.

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Sayor Otak, revealed (above)
Matching Wine: Clonakilla Viognier ‘Nouveau’, Canberra District ACT

Main Dishes
Main dishes are served with Roti Canai (pan-fried Malay flat bread) and Steamed Rice.

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Szechuan Eggplant (above)
Marinated eggplant stir-fried dry style with shallot, cashew nuts and dry chillies, served on a bed of Chinese water spinach. This is one stunning dish. It’s on the menu all year around.
Matching Wine: spinifex ‘Papillon’ Grenache Cinsault, Barossa Valley SA

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Vegetable Singapore Noodles (above)
Vermicelli rice noodles stir-fried dry style with Asian green vegetables, beansprouts, onion, shallot and chilli. I absolutely love my Singapore noodles and The Malaya version is a lot better than most. Those beansprouts you see in the photo? They are the crunchiest, freshest on the face of the earth. Not tinned or packaged. Absolutely fresh. I couldn’t stop picking.
Matching Wine: Bream Creak Schonburger, East Coast TAS

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Ma Po Tofu (above)
Silken tofu braised with mushrooms, garlic, chilli, black bean, shallots and peas. This is an incredibly balanced dish and one of the tastiest of the night, too.

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Sayor Masak Lemak (above)
Malay style vegetable curry cooked with fresh chilli, lemongrass and coconut milk. Medium hot. Fried tofu puffs used in this dish. Mop it up with Roti Canai which is pan-fried Malay flat bread.

Dessert

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Ice Cream Ball (Bite size ice cream ball dipped in chocolate) and Black Rice Pudding (Black glutinous rice cooked with Pandan leaves served with thick coconut cream, palm sugar and fresh fruit)
Tea or Coffee
Note: Although it wasn’t mentioned in the menu, we were served dessert wine too.

The Service
One thing I’d like to say about service –or maybe two—our waitress in the beginning of the night told us that the wines she was serving would go nicely both with scampi and crab, assuming we ordered the non-vegetarian menu. It would have been nicer if she checked first. At the end of the day, they have all-year-around vegetarian menu and it is quite popular. And based on our previous experiences at The Malaya, this wasn’t the first time she was working there.

The other thing was, although the wines were well-matched for the style of food at The Malaya, the ones which were served with our starters were served in pairs. As a result, it made it difficult for us to pace ourselves and identify each glass of wine as soon as the waiter left the table. Chilled wines also get warmer in Sydney weather.

The Malaya can be found at this address:
39 Lime St,
Sydney NSW 2000

Happy New Year, Peoples 🙂

The Elephant Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar, Ubud – Bali

I discovered The Elephant during the last week of my stay in Ubud because we moved hotels for my friend’s yoga retreat. It was just down the road basically. One day I popped in to have pad thai and on one of the nights we, as a group, had dinner there.

The whole restaurant with its bar on one wall seem like it is a wide balcony overlooking a lush ravine with a river and a rice field in the vicinity. The view is spectacular.

Everything on the menu is either vegan or vegetarian although most of the vegetarian dishes can be made vegan if you ask. The style of food is somewhat international, including vegetarian versions of some local Indonesian dishes.

I personally picked Ottolenghi’s Sweet Potato Fritters which was served with a yoghurt sauce and mango and radicchio slaw. Yes, the name caught my eye. It was nice and I passed down the information to one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s waiters at his Islington restaurant in London that a vegetarian restaurant in Bali has Ottolenghi’s dish on their menu. Small world, right?

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The service is slow but not too slow and everything is fresh so you don’t mind waiting a bit. The staff is incredibly polite even if you have someone rude in your group like we did. I must say, they handled it really well and I am not friends with that person anymore for many other reasons.

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The Elephant has its website and related accounts like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. However, their Instagram account is the owner’s personal account and is sometimes full of personal stuff like the photo of his pregnant wife wearing a bikini. I personally think that it is not professional and totally irrelevant. Especially when most of the food photos –which is supposed to be their main focus—are blurry.

The Elephant can be found at this address:
Hotel Taman Indrakila
Jalan Raya Sanggingan
Ubud
Bali, Indonesia
Website

Wrenkh, Vienna

I found Vienna quite surprising in many ways. It was my first time but I can safely say that I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. Vienna is full of art, music and incredible food. I must admit, it is becoming my new Paris or New York.

IMG_4338 (1280x960)Austrian National Library (the most impressive room I have ever been in my life)

Vienna is incredibly surprising, especially in food department. They are so switched on when it comes to vegetarian/vegan food. Every vegan or vegetarian restaurant has their own cookbook published traditionally and their bookstores are full of those local as well as international cookbooks (see below).

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I am a huge fan of German/Austrian cuisine. Mostly because I love how they do their potatoes. And the dumpling business is just divine. They call them dumplings but they’re very much like baked loaves like nut roast without the nuts but breadcrumbs instead. I believe they are their bread substitute. We had something similar in Prague too.

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At Wrenkh, you should ask for a menu in English and they give you this one with an “E” at one ear (like the one above), the left ear, to be precise. And definitely ask for wine recommendation; you won’t be disappointed. We fell in love with Austrian wines. Try Grüner Veltliner. You’ll thank me later. Actually, you can get Grüner Veltliner in Australia. I know it because we found some a few weeks after we got back.

Let’s talk about food, shall we? The menu is not exclusively vegetarian but mostly vegetarian. However, vegetarian dishes are marked well and explained well, even in English. I mean, you get an idea. We ordered two distinctive Austrian dishes so that we could share. It’s a great way of trying different dishes.

Dish number one: Creamy lentils in white wine sauce with roasted bread dumplings (below)
Laird lentils in “Veltliner” sauce with celery stalks and carrots, served with herbed bread dumplings.

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Dish number two: Wrenkh’s Erdäpfelschmarrn (shredded potatoes)
Grated crispy grilled potatoes with marjoram, oregano and thyme, served with roasted seasonal vegetables and herbed goat cream cheese-dip.

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Here’s the trimmings (above): Lightly cooked seasonal vegetables and cream cheese dip.

Wrench in Vienna is such an institution; they even have a cooking school (right next door to the restaurant). We noticed that the students were presenting their dishes to a group of judges outside. It is always nice to see young people showing interest in cooking.

If you ever find yourself in Vienna, give Wrenkh a try and when you’re there, make sure you talk to people around you; fellow diners, I mean. You’ll never know, you might bump into a really nice couple from Frankfurt like we did.

Wrenkh can be found at this address:
Bauernmarkt 10,
1010 Wien, Austria
Website

Restaurant Review: Aria, Sydney

For significant celebrations, my husband and I normally ask for a vegetarian degustation menu with wine pairing. As vegetarians, we hate to turn up and announce that we’re vegetarians at the last minute. So instead we ring ahead of time and ask if they can put together a vegetarian tasting menu for us and most upscale restaurants are quite happy to do that for you if you let them know upfront. Aria Restaurant is no exception.

After having suffered from the latest and the trendiest virus through our birthdays, we finally managed to keep our booking with Aria last Saturday. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we celebrate them together. We knew Aria is usually booked out so we made our booking one and a half months before our birthdays, not knowing that we were going to change it twice until we were finally well enough to enjoy our experience.

The Place
If you live in Sydney, Aria doesn’t need an introduction. If you don’t, here’s how the story goes… Aria is elegantly located at one end of Circular Quay. Therefore, the dining room has one of the most spectacular views that Sydney offers. It is owned by Matt Moran whom you may remember from MasterChef Australia series or may have already had one of his creations on your Singapore Airline flight. Aria is an award winning restaurant and holds two highly regarded Chef’s Hats as well.

The Service
I believe most restaurants give you a hint about your upcoming experience at the time of booking. I’m happy to say that Aria excels in that department. The first time we tried to book a table, they put us on their waiting list. We didn’t get the table in the end but when we rang for the second time to book for our birthdays, we didn’t have to go through the whole name and phone number process again because our details were already on their system. Now, that’s a good start.

We were given a copy of our menu including the wine – it’s called chef’s seasonal tasting menu. This is something you do not get everywhere because most places do not have an established vegetarian tasting menu. They usually serve your food and explain. Those are the places that I struggle to write review for because when it’s time to write the review everything I ate is digested and gone so is the memory of it. At Aria, I was even allowed to keep mine.

Service was well paced over four hours and seven courses. We even had the General Manager serving us at some stage and every other staff member we encountered was highly efficient and polite. The highlight of the service was the head sommelier, Paul Beaton. Mr Beaton has an elegant way of explaining various elements of every glass of wine and why they are paired with certain dishes.

And The Food
Truth to be told, Aria had some large shoes to fill as we recently had a 5 week European holiday and experienced incredibly well composed as well as interesting tasting menus. However, I personally appreciate the fact that they cater for vegetarians and the quality of the produce is high, I mean very high.

Now, here’s how our experience went…
We started off with complimentary smoked eggplant puree on chickpea crackers and some home baked bread with incredibly tasty butter.

Chef’s seasonal tasting menu continued with…
Salad of Australian green asparagus with cashew nuts and lemon (below) paired with 2008 Michel Arnould Grand Cru Reserve Brut, Champagne France. Those drops you see in the photo are full of delicate lemon and they were quite fluffy and buttery without being fatty. I believe adding lemon is the best way to freshen up greens.

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Fennel jam with heirloom tomatoes and flowering chives (below) paired with 2012 Lowe Nullo Mountain Riesling, Mudgee New South Wales. My husband doesn’t like fennel very much but we both appreciated the way it is used in this dish. Fennel’s aniseedy flavour is balanced with fleshy heirloom tomatoes and lightly blanched flowering chives.

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Confit egg yolk, kale, eshallots and baked potato (below) paired with 2014 Petit Chablis Christophe & Fills, Burgundy France. This is one of the most interesting dishes I have ever had in my life. There is an egg yolk under that coat which is slow cooked to perfection. The sharpness of kale is balanced with kipfler potatoes which are quite nutty and creamy and fried eshallots add some unexpected crunchiness to the dish.

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Warm smoked beetroot with pickled rhubarb and black pepper (below) paired with 2013 Trofeo Estate Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsular Victoria. This was an interesting ensemble with its continuous beetroot slices and pickled rhubard. Rhubard is something I haven’t been brought up with so I appreciate every variation of it.

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Charred artichokes with caramelised onions, toasted brioche and parmesan (below) paired with 2013 Langhe Cascina Ghercina Dedicato Nebiolo, Piemonte Italy. What I really liked about this dish is dryness/moisture balance. Usually, grilled vegetables are dry. So is toasted brioche. However, you get moisture from caramelised onions and parmesan water. Brilliant!

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Miso baked eggplant with hazelnuts, braised mushrooms and green shallots (below) paired with 2013 Caillard Mataro, Barossa Valley South Australia. I am well aware of the fact that miso baked eggplant has been done before. However, complementing it with hazelnuts is quite something different. You also don’t see in the photo but there are two slices of king mushrooms there as well. Mushrooms and eggplant: that actually doesn’t work in my mind but my taste buds certainly appreciated it.

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Strawberries and champagne with macerated berries and watermelon (below) paired with 2014 Dindima Moscato, Orange New South Wales. This was quite a refreshing dessert. I must admit, I do like watermelon desserts so I’ll say no more other than “Thanks to Aria Restaurant for making our (belated) birthdays special.”

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We also had a selection of house made petit fours which I do not have a photo of but they were also very nice.

Finally, my favourite wines of the night are:
• Petit Chablis from Burgundy in whites (actually Riesling was nice too)
• Nebbiolo from Italy in reds

We have always liked Aria’s wine list. Even if you don’t have dinner there, you could still have a glass of wine at the bar which is highly recommended -try a glass of white Burgundy and thank me later.

Aria Restaurant can be found on this address:
1 Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone: +61 2 92402255
Website: www.ariarestaurant.com