It's that time of the year again. And I'm not just talking about March into Merivale or NSW Wine Festival or Parched March or even the new ArgyleXchange! I'm talking about Taste of Sydney! If you ask me, I think March has become the new Sydney Food Month at least until the Sydney Crave International Food Festival in October arrives. If you have not been there, it's an annual festival where you create your own degustation by checking out the participating restaurants and sampling some of their food.
At Taste of Sydney, the food are priced as crowns which are basically $1 = 1 crown with the majority of dishes ranging between 6 to 12 crowns. Many of the restaurants also offer Icon dishes for a higher price (some as high as 36 or 40 crowns!) and limited quantities. While crowns used to be stored as coupons in previous year, in 2013 they decided to store crowns digitally into a Crown card similar to a credit/debit card. I actually liked this method better because I kept losing some of my Crown coupons last year. Also at the end of the festival this year, I finally finished with 0 crowns remaining!
This year, my schedule was a bit more restrictive due to work and CC's very unpredictable birthday plans. Eventually we found the right times to check it out while it's still on. Anyway enough ranting and raving. What has this year's Taste of Sydney offered?
Well The Four in Hand has brought back the spit-roast pig!
As of 2013, Taste of Sydney has been operating for 5 years (where has the time gone?) and it is stronger than ever with well known restaurants like Porteno, Four in Hand, Sake Restaurant and Three Blue Ducks getting involved in delivering some of their nourishing dishes to the hungry masses. There is also a pop-up Malaysian Kitchen featuring Malaysian restaurants like Ipoh on York (Thurs and Fri), The Malaya (Sat) and Jackie M (Sun) as well as demonstrations from Jackie M herself and Masterchef Season 1 runner up Poh Ling Yeow. There is even a pop-up Destination Dining area featuring restaurants from regional NSW including Biota Dining from Bowral (Thurs and Fri), Jonah's from Whale Beach (Sat) and Muse Dining from Hunter Valley (Sun).
Some delicacies at the Malaysian Kitchen
A cute little garden at the Sustainable Living Area
There were tastings from various exhibitors ranging from wine, cheese, dips and olive oil producers to dessert businesses. One of the more crowded stands that I've noticed was the Salt Meats Cheeses stand (its shop is based in Alexandria next door to The Grounds of Alexandria) where there were tastings for various meats and cheeses or a combinations of both. Definitely will check out the store next time I head to The Grounds.
Saw this great lump of ham at the Salt Meats Cheeses stand
One of the most recognisable feature areas of the last few years at Taste of Sydney was the Rekorderlig Cider tent where you can purchase drinks or chill out and soak up the atmosphere on a bean bag or a fold up chair with a plate of food. Very refreshing though the cider drinks got us bloated very quickly. Something that I would recommend after trying out as much food as you can handle.
Rekorderlig Strawberry Lime Cider
The Rekorderlig Cider Tent
On my first visit, I was too full to try out the food at the Argyle Stall where it hosts three restaurants from Argyle Street at The Rocks: Ananas Bar and Brasserie, The Cut Bar and Grill and Sake Restaurant. When we attended the final session on Sunday, we arrived too late as most of the dishes at this stall has sold out! Thankfully the one I was keen to try out was still available which was the Salted Caramel Eclair by Ananas Bar and Brasserie. I've heard so much praise about it on instagram and other food blogs and it really is worth the hype. What makes this dish was the huge chunk of creamy salted caramel custard oozing out of the choux pastry as well as the slab of salted caramel on top. Also it didn't taste as salty which is what I preferred.
Salted Caramel Eclair (6 crowns) - FAVE
Claude's is one of the new entries in Taste of Sydney this year where they deliver French cuisine with a Chinese-Malaysian twist though the restaurant have been around in Paddington for a while by now. They delivered some nice treats but one that stood out for me was the Slow Braised Pork Cheek and Black Fungus Relish rolls. It may not sound too appealing but it does deliver on image and taste. Thought that the bun was fluffy and sweeter than I expected.
Slow Braised Pork Cheek and Black Fungus Relish rolls (6 crowns)
Confit Ocean Trout, Saltbush, Anchovy Dashi (12 crowns)
Lemon Curd, Muscovado Crumb, Coffee Meringues (6 crowns)
Last year, Efendy won the Best in Taste Award for their Traditional charcoal BBQ lamb and veal kebap, smoked eggplant and Chobani Greek yoghurt. This year, they offered two dishes with similar ingredients as the 2012 award winning dish. Lots of smoke came from the charcoal spits at this stand which produced a very tempting meaty smell around the area. The Ilci Kofte aka lamb shoulder and walnut stuffed Bulgar shell with yoghurt and chilli oil was very appetising but I thought there was too much yoghurt covering the remaining ingredients. CC tried the Cha Begendy which was tender and perfectly cooked and seasoned. At this point, we were in the middle of eating these delicious offerings when the wind got too strong and the dust from the bin nearby us flew onto us and we weren't too keen to eat them anymore. Damn you strong winds.
Left: Cha Begendy - Scotch fillet cha kebap on charcoal spit, eggplant and kashar puree (6 crowns)
Right: Ilci Kofte - Lamb shoulder and walnut stuffed Bulgar shell with yoghurt and chilli oil (12 crowns)
Popolo was on my wish list for a while mainly for its Fregola dish. While Italian food is everywhere in Sydney, very few places offer dishes containing Fregola pasta, which is a type of Sardinian pasta. The fact that this came with saffron and suckling pig ragu is enough to seal the deal for me. Yum!
This year, this dish was awarded the Third Prize for Best in Taste 2013 and well deserved too. This heart-warming dish was mouth watering and every ingredient just melts on your tongue. I was so sad when I finished this dish as it was so good. There seriously needs to be more places serving Fregola pasta in Sydney.
Saffron infused toasted Fregola Pasta with Suckling Pig Ragu (10 crowns) - FAVE
If there is any restaurant that has been attending Taste of Sydney for as long as I can remember, it has to be Longrain Restaurant which seems to be appearing on each year's restaurant lineup since I first attended the festival in 2010. I'm guessing it's because of it's the one restaurant where you get the option to try both the food and drinks at its nearby bar stand. This year, Longrain was the runner-up for Best in Taste for its Turmeric chicken with rice noodles, wild ginger and Thai basil. The noodles were very slippery that when CC tried it, a bit of the sauce fell onto her blouse! Thought that the taste was quite strong with the turmeric and ginger flavours throughout this dish.
Turmeric chicken with rice noodles, wild ginger and Thai basil (8 crowns)
It is no surprise that Porteno won the first prize for Best in Taste this year for their BBQ Wagyu Brisket with BBQ sauce and Pickle. Not only did they gain enough recognition and praise before signing up for the festival; they deliver seriously good Argentinian BBQ food like the infamous 8 hour Woodfired Pig. Unfortunately that wasn't at Taste of Sydney but what they did deliver was just as amazing. Also the queues at Porteno were crazy but quick. Here, you see the head chefs Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate and their crew cooking up on a stove shaped as a steam train called 'Jack the Ribber'. How cool is that?
I'm a sucker for chorizo and chimmichurri salsa. Plus I have tried Porteno's version of chimmichurri salsa at the restaurant which tasted amazing. While it looked a bit more boring than the other dishes, it is quite juicy and more tender than some of the chorizo sausages I've had at some Spanish restaurants
Chorizo with Chimmichurri (6 crowns)
Now for the award winning Wagyu brisket yummm! There was the slices of Wagyu brisket cut piled onto a heap of coleslaw with a pickle on the side. The texture of the meat was incredibly soft to the point that it falls apart as you chew it. It also tasted amazing with the smokey homemade BBQ sauce. Plus the coleslaw and pickle helped in balancing the meaty flavours. It is no wonder this dish won the Best in Taste Award. It would be a bigger surprise if they did not win any awards at Taste this year.
BBQ Wagyu Beef Brisket with BBQ Sauce and Pickle (12 crowns) - FAVE
We spent a great amount time Four in Hand/4Fourteen this year. Once again, the crowds gather for the roasted suckling pig on the spit which is one of Four in Hand's signatures. I wanted to try the Crumbed Pigs Tail but it sold out pretty quickly. Initially I wasn't sure if I wanted to try the suckling pig since I had almost the same meal last year so I chose the Spring Bay Mussels with Chorizo and Prosciutto broth after seeing the chefs making the mussels in a paella-sized pan. There was so much large-sized mussels piled into a small bowl. I was not too sure if it was as well-cooked as I would have liked but it still tasted plump and juicy. There wasn't much chorizo or prosciutto but I loved the savoury broth.
Spring Bay Mussels with Chorizo and Prosciutto broth (10 crowns)
Eventually I gave in because that damn pig looks sooo delicious. While it was very similar to last year's Four in Hand's suckling pig dish, this year it was served with roasted potato on the side instead of onion rings. Oh my gosh this was just as good as Porteno's wagyu beef brisket. The incredibly tender meat tasted amazing especially with the hot sauce and the coleslaw. I cannot get enough of this. To be honest, I'm surprised this dish has not won any awards at Taste this year or even last year (can't remember who came second or third last year for Best in Taste). One of my favourite dishes at Taste last year and once again, a stand out for me this year.
Spit Roasted Suckling Pig with Coleslaw and Hot Sauce (12 crowns) - FAVE
CC was looking forward to this dish the most so we ordered this as well at the Four in Hand stall. I didn't think it looked like white chocolate nor did it look like an ice cream sandwich. But it was still yummy. It was sweet, not too creamy and tasted more like caramel or honeycomb. I also loved the crumbly topping on the ice cream. Loved this heavenly dessert so much that I was almost eager to eat the whole thing instead of sharing it with my mate.
4Fourteen White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich (6 crowns) - FAVE
We didn't end up trying out the food at Kitchen by Mike but we did notice the unique, DIY layout of their stand. They ended up winning the award for Best Front of House Display. This is no surprise as the display does have a sustainable and relaxing vibe with decor consisting of pots of plants and a red scooter that I'm sure the young and the young at heart would love to ride on.
One restaurant that I've been hearing a lot over the last year was Three Blue Ducks from Bronte whom I first heard when they did the Friday night Sustainable Pop-Up at Taste of Sydney last year. When CC and I arrived, we saw a familiar face and eventually realised it was Andy, the winner of Masterchef 2012! We didn't end up getting a picture though. We weren't sure if he's working with TBD or just helping out (especially since there were many past contestants of Masterchef and MKR looking after various stalls at Taste of Sydney) but either way it was pretty cool spotting him there. The dessert here was a mouthful of tastes from the creamy yuzu curd to the smooth dark chocolate, the crumbly butterscotch and the zesty citrus on the plate. It was a pretty rich dessert to handle but every element on this dish is just one surprise after another for your taste buds.
Chocolate, Yuzu Curd and Miso Butterscotch (6 crowns)
Samples of Braised Pork, Radish, Lemon Vebena Caramel (10 crowns)
We were really really stuffed and it was close to closing time but we wanted to find a way to use up the final crowns. Plus we haven't tried anything from The Woods Restaurant yet. This is owned by Hamish Ingham who is also currently running Bar H and Grain Bar. Very busy guy! We were eager to try the Chocolate Swiss Roll mainly because of our love for chocolate. The quality and texture was so much better than your average swiss roll with the rich chocolate combining with the creamy mint ice cream and the sweet juiciness from the cherry.
Chocolate Swiss Roll with Cherry and Native Mint Ice Cream (8 crowns)
And what's Taste of Sydney without the celebrity chefs! You can see many of them wandering around or giving cooking tips at demonstrations on stage like at the Bertolli Taste Kitchen, Malaysia Kitchen, Dilmah's Chef Skillery and Tasmanian Pavillion.
Somer Sivrioglu (Efendy) at Bertolli Taste Kitchen
Colin Fassnidge (Four in Hand/4Fourteen) demonstrates...
how to butcher...
a suckling pig!
Hamish Ingham (The Woods) at Bertolli Taste Kitchen
Hamish Ingham's very tasty finished product. He said it is currently unavailable at his current restaurants but he hopes to bring it out soon. Fingers crossed!
Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong) at the Tasmanian Pavillion
Sadly it's over for another year. As always, this has been an amazing and fulfilling experience in tasting the brilliant dishes that some of Sydney restaurants offer. Poor CC was temporarily sick of sweet food and was craving for something savoury after the festival. And my weight survived at the food festival for once! Can't wait for Taste of Sydney to come back next year.
Disclaimer: The Random Foodie attended Taste of Sydney (Sunday session) courtesy of Jennifer from Jenius. Many thanks for the double entry pass! Everything else including entry to Thursday evening session was paid independently.
Taste of Sydney