Sunday, June 29, 2014

Candelori's Ristorante e Bar, Smithfield

Italian cuisine has always been one of my favourite cuisines since I was a kid. Even though it's heavy on the carbs, you just can't resist the al dente pasta or the melting cheese from the pizza as you pick up the slice. Recently, I was kindly invited by Wasamedia to the relaunch event of Candelori's in Smithfield. It's a suburb known for housing numerous industrial companies and warehouses as well as being located close to the rising foodie suburb of Fairfield in the Western Suburbs. Even though Smithfield is not too far from where I live, I was surprised to hear that this family-owned institution had actually been around for 15 years and had only recently underwent a renovation by DS17 (the same team who designed the layout for Casa Ristorante Italiano, Alpha, China Republic to name a few). By the way, can you believe that 1999 was actually 15 years ago?!?! Feels like yesterday. Gawd I feel old.

Candelori's was owned by the Candelori family who originally opened this restaurant in Smithfield to deliver authentic, no-fuss, simple and delicious Italian food with a welcoming atmosphere for those who found it hard to travel to Leichardt, Haberfield or the Stanley Street, Darlinghurst areas at the time. While there was a red carpet and expensive-looking cars sighted at front, the down to earth service and the hearty Italian food fare was evident once you enter the doors. 

The layout was spacious enough to fit a few large functions including the main dining room at the front, the private dining room on the left and the marbled open kitchen adjacent to the dining room where the diners can witness the cooking magic taking place. There's even a giant wheel of grana padano cheese!!! 

I was fascinated by the sample tastings provided by various local food producers featured at the launch event including olive oil, olives and wine.

Olive Oil from Finnis Estate

Olives tasting(!!!)

Lots and lots of wine from Fermoy Estate

Although there were a number of delicious produce, what got the crowds going was the people making the buffalo mozzarella and burrata cheeses fresh on the spot. There was also a solid crowd observing a machine cutting the prosciutto into thin slices (sadly I forgot to take a photo of this). 

If it wasn't a full house, I would gladly have second servings of the creamy cheese and eat ALL the prosciutto because they were soooo goood!

Clockwise - Top to Bottom: Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzarella, Burrata

After the tastings we were seated at our table where we were treated to a shared degustation consisting of a extensive selection of classic Italian dishes from Candelori's menu. While there were a number of traditional favourites like margherita pizza and antipasto, there were also a couple of plates that I have not tried until that night. 

Mixed Bruschetta 

We began our degustation with a couple of starter plates (also known as Struzzchini). The first plate that was delivered to the table was a mixed plate of bruschetta. I always enjoyed the traditional tomato, basil and garlic on ciabatta bread (left on above picture) that was filled with juicy, ripe chopped tomatoes flavoured with olive oil. On the other hand, the woodfire-roasted capsicums on ciabatta bread (right) was a mouthful of flavours. Although the toppings remained on top for a while as the other dishes began popping up, the bread remained crusty as I finish off each bite.

Crumbed stuffed green olives filled with goat's milk feta and snap fried 

While I've heard about crumbed stuffed olives in cookbooks, magazines and a few other restaurants, this was actually my first time trying it especially with feta. Since it was deep fried bread-crumbed olives stuffed with cheese, it was no surprise that they got quite addictive. 

Complimentary bread and butter

We also had bread included though I tried to stay away in order to prepare for the main dishes. I did end up grabbing a slice and was wowed by how freshly baked and soft that the bread really was. 

Antipasto board 

Been developing a strong appreciation of cheese and cured meats lately so I was extremely excited when this platter showed up. The antipasto board consisted of San Danielle prosciutto, salami casareccia, wagyu bresaola, Sicilian green olives, Sardinian crisp bread and parmigianno regianno. So much excitement on a plate that you don't know where to start! Think I may have gotten a bit greedy with my share...

Octopus Carpaccio

For a lighter option, we got to try out the octopus carpaccio, which was something I do not usually see at many Italian restaurant menus but has become one of my faves from this degustation. The octopus was thinly sliced and marinated with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), lemon, dry chilli, parsley, orange zest, lemon thyme, baby capers and pomegranate seeds to deliver a burst of zesty flavours. Wouldn't mind ordering this again.

Buffalo mozzarella caprese

Of course you can't go wrong with a simple dish like this. While the sliced tomatoes were ice especially when seasoned with EVOO, the hero of the dish was of course the creamy buffalo mozzarella. 

Oven baked figs

By this point, I was slowly getting full and we haven't even finished the entrees. In fact we're only halfway there! *insert lyric from a certain Bon Jovi song*. And if you had not been sick of prosciutto by this point (really? dude...) then check out these oven baked figs wrapped in prosciutto like parcels. Personally it made me love prosciutto even more. Was surprised that the gorgonzola cheese wasn't as strong as I expected. Which is a good thing for me. Around the table, I overheard fellow blogers praising this dish so it was certainly a highlight of the night.

Zucchini flowers filled with ricotta cheese and spinach

And then there was even more cheese in the form of ricotta stuffed in fried zucchini flowers. I do love zucchini so eating it when battered and fried was a good experience. Tasted even better with a squeeze of lemon.

Gamberi in tegame

I have often drooled at seafood stew on Italian cooking and travel shows as well as cookbooks in the past so I was incredibly excited to try out this dish. The pomodoro sauce was had a tangy flavour due to the chilli (not very spicy btw), garlic, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and parsley. Plus the tiger prawns was absolutely succulent and fresh. 

Gnocchi with duck ragu - 

The following dish had a rustic texture with its slow-braised duck ragu and the shaved cheese (parmesan?) scattered on top. Enjoyed the thick ragu sauce as well as the gnocchi dumplings though they did get too soft a bit quickly.

Woodfired Pizza Margherita D.O.C

I do love a pizza with minimal toppings. Especially something as simple as a traditional, good old-fashioned Margherita pizza. The toppings consist of tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil; which all tasted so well together. Only tried one slice and was satisfied by the thin crisp base that didn't go soggy even when I took a mini break from eating for a few minutes. It definitely reminded me of the amazing pizzas I had in Italy two years ago (take me back!). 

Crespelle - mascarpone crepe with warm Belgian dark chocolate and crushed hazelnuts

By this point I was absolutely stuffed but you know what we say about our stomach when it comes to dessert. I managed more than halfway through this dish thanks to the pool of dark chocolate coated with crushed hazelnuts and icing sugar however the food coma took over eventually. *sighs*. Loved the deliciously cooked crepe though.

During the night, me and a few bloggers were busy going crazy at the free photobooth at the back of the restaurant. So much fun times! 


While Smithfield isn't a suburb I would go to very often, I wouldn't mind considering this option next time the folks want to eat out somewhere different for a special occasion. Would definitely like to return to try more of the options from the very extensive full menu that weren't available on the night. I was satisfied that a restaurant serving a range of authentic Italian dishes (and not just pastas and pizzas) exist in the heart of the western suburbs. The food producers demonstrating the sample tastings were amazing and the service was prompt throughout the night. In terms of pricing it's not the cheapest especially for a restaurant in the given area so I would recommend it for a special event or the occasional social gathering. Whether you are working in the area or catching up with family or friends, Candelori's is one to look out for especially with the family friendly atmosphere and impressive dishes without the need to travel so far for affordable, fine quality yet casual dining.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie was invited to the Candelori's relaunch night as a guest, courtesy of Wasamedia. Opinions remain personal.

Candelori's Ristroante e Bar
685 The Horsley Drive, Smithfield NSW 2164
(02) 9729 1155
Lunch: Mon-Fri 12:00pm - 3:00pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Candelori's on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2014

West Juliett, Marrickville

In a continuation of my brunching adventures around Marrickville, we stopped by West Juliett for lunch. Unlike Cornersmith, West Juliett is located in the quieter streets of the suburb near Enmore Park. While it is not too far from the nearest bus stop, it is still a bit of an effort to get there if you rely on public transport compared to Cornersmith which was only minutes away from Marrickville train station. On the other hand, it is really easy to get parking which is a huge bonus.

Mocha ($3.50)

I ordered my usual mocha, which had a creamy and frothy texture with a milder flavour but still very nice to have especially on a cool day. For those who know their coffee lingo, West Juliett uses White Horse Coffee blend from Sutherland - which is roasted locally.

Watermelon, Pineapple and Lemon fresh pressed juice ($4.90 / $5.90)

CC was very satisfied with her pressed juice that she was keen for seconds. Not overwhelmingly sweet too. Perfect to have on a nice sunny day. Missing those summer days again right now to be honest.

Bowl of hand cut chips with crisp herbs ($5.90)

We literally devoured all of these chips in a flash! They were nicely crispy and not too salty. Also the chips went really well with the herbs which mostly consisted of fried sage leaves, basil and rosemary to name a few. Would order this again next time.

Soft scrambled eggs with cured salmon, sorrel, yoghurt, fennel on toast ($15.90)
- with a side of bacon ;) ($3.90)

I'm not a morning person so an all-day breakfast menu in addition to a lunch menu is enough to get my undivided attention to try out a cafe without the need to get up so early on the weekend. The scrambled eggs were certainly very soft, flavoursome, creamy and milky especially when paired up with the yoghurt. For me, the winning elements were the cured salmon to balance the flavours with its smokey and salty taste as well as the fennel and veggies for that added crunch when it got overwhelmingly creamy. A great dish to have if you love scrambled eggs.

Twelve hour pork sandwich with peach mostrada, pimenton aioli and rocket ($12.90)

I spent a good amount food envying CC's twelve hour pork sandwich. It was seriously one epic sandwich consisting of two very thick slices of (sourdough) bread stacked with loads and loads of pulled pork. Because it was stacked so high, I was wondering how on earth you could hold that sandwich together but CC managed it with little mess. Did not have much but from what i tasted, the pulled pork was quite tender. Would definitely order this or the pork salad next time.

Pink salt chocolate chip cookie ($3.80)

Before coming to West Juliett, I check out the food on instagram (as you do lol) and saw that nearly every photo linked with this cafe was simply just a chocolate chip cookie. Not just any choc chip cookie but a gigantic pink salt choc chip cookie! I know what I will be getting for my sweet tooth. Sure enough the cookie did not disappoint us. While it was a tad crispier on the edges, it was soft, chewy and gooey as you take more bites into this. If pink salt cookie sounds a bit random for you, fear not! It was actually tasted quite sweet and not too salty. Could buy a couple more of these next time. There are also plenty of baked goods and pastries at the front cabinet near the register if you are opting for other sweet treats. And they are all baked in-house!

While there was still the usual hip vibe from the general crowd, the atmosphere was quiet, chilled and cozy. There was also a few families when we were dining there at the time as well as customers with dogs at the outdoor seating area. Service was lovely, polite and accommodating to our needs. Though the stand out for me was the massive servings for their dishes with very reasonable prices that will keep you full and satisfied for hours. My only qualm is that West Juliett does not open on Sunday which is a bummer if you are working during the week. Looking forward to making another trip back here for the famous pulled pork salad sometime soon.

West Juliett
30 Llewellyn Street, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 9519 0101
Mon-Sat: 7:00am - 4:00pm
West Juliett on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cornersmith, Marrickville

How good do those eggs look? Can you believe that you will get amazingly poached eggs in places like Marrickville? If it was 5 years ago I would be very surprised actually. Back then, Marrickville was renowned for their cheap Vietnamese feed for anyone who did not want to travel all the way to Cabramatta, Canley Heights or Bankstown. These days, there are plenty of cafes serving perfectly poached eggs like these bad boys. With all the cafes and casual dining joints sprouting up around this suburb, you might think that it's becoming as hipster as Surry Hills. Almost.

One of the cafes that has been putting Marrickville into the Sydney cafe scene was Cornersmith. When I first heard about it, I thought it was another hipster cafe joint serving yummy brunch food. What stood out was its focus on sustainable and ethical produced ingredients, including their house-made pickles. When you are waiting to be seated, just write your name and the number of people on the chalkboard then wait for your name to be called out when the table is ready. Most days I've been there were quite busy, however it's quiet on weekdays if you end up having a day off.

Mocha (S - $4.00, L - $4.50) 

Very pleased with the coffee here. Got the right balance in terms of sweetness from the cocoa and bitterness from the coffee beans. Plus it delivered a smooth texture and it has certainly got me energised for the day since I was very tired that morning. And the coffee art is very pleasing to the eye to the point that I did not want to ruin it. If you are a fan of Mecca coffee then you will be very happy to hear that Cornersmith sources their coffee beans from them.

Chai Tea ($4.50)

Did not try the chai but it had a fragrant aroma when I was able to smell it from across the table. CC was quite pleased with this version.

Soft Poached Free Range Eggs with Sourdough Toast and Green Tomato Relish ($9.00) plus Kale and Apple Salad, and Pasture fed Ham ($5.00 per side)

So glad with my dish choice this time. I was seriously amazed at how these eggs were poached perfectly especially with the egg white casing itself around the soft-cooked egg yolk. Just makes you feel reluctant to cut into it but then you gotta have the runny egg porn goodness, which was thankfully worth it. I was pleased with the sides as well. The kale apple salad and the green tomato relish delivered a combination of sweet and sour touches to the whole plate. Plus the pasture-fed ham tasted so good with the egg and toast. Wouldn't mind coming back for a second serving. My only minor issue with this dish was that the sourdough toast was too hard for us to cut so we eventually ended up picking it up by the hand. Apart from that, I was happy with this dish and would certainly order this again at a later visit. 

Runny egg porn

Ploughman's Plate (Single - $18.00, Shared - $30.00)

The Ploughman's plate was an organic feast consisting of pasture fed ham, Maffern cheddar cheese, pickled beetroot, Pepe Saya butter, pickles, radishes, grapes and toast. During my last few visits here, the ingredients in this platter has changed depending on what's available in stock on the day. I tried a bit of the cheese which had an aged vintage taste as well as the pickles, beetroot and the grapes. Both CC and I thought that each element on the platter was a tasty, refreshing, healthier and surprisingly not too heavy feed. It's a good way to explore the various homegrown food produce available at this cafe.

This is a great place to go when you want a healthier meal with freshly made ingredients that is ethically sourced from local food producers. There are also plenty of vegetarian dishes and salads, which is great for your non-meat eating friend. The serving sizes were reasonably substantial though not overwhelming and the prices were actually quite cheap for most of the menu items. You can even buy one of their pickles, honey jars or other food produce in store to take home. The menu at Cornersmith changes regularly depending on what produce is available in stock at the time. This ensures that everything served here is freshly sourced. Because of the constant menu changes, it will certainly keep me coming back to see which fresh produce is available in store next time.

EDIT: At the time of this post, it has just been announced that Cornersmith was awarded Best Cafe at the SMH Good Food Cafe Guide Awards 2014. Congratulations to the Cornersmith team for this achievement! :D

314 Illawara Road, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8065 0844
Mon-Fri: 6:30am - 3:30pm
Sat-Sun: 7:30am - 3:30pm
Cornersmith on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 9, 2014

Casa Ristorante Italiano, King Street Wharf

When you contemplate on dining at King Street Wharf, the first thing that comes into mind is overpriced and average food that is better suited to tourists than locals. Usually I hang around King Street Wharf whenever one of my friends is having a birthday at places like Cargo Bar or Bungalow 8 but rarely for lunch or dinner. At times when I have tried food in the King Street Wharf or Cockle Bay Wharf areas, it did not stand out to me as much compared to many other restaurants elsewhere. Recently I received an invite to check out the reopened Casa Ristorante Italiano (previously known as Casa di Nico) and its revamped menu.

Casa Ristorante Italiano was owned by The Platinum Restaurant Group who oversees numerous other waterfront restaurants including Cockle Bay Wharf's The Black Bird Cafe and Manly's Whitewater Grill to name a few. The renovations for this restaurant was designed by the team at DS17 (who also looked after the fit outs for Alpha and China Republic), which now includes a woodfired pizza oven and a grocery display near the kitchen.

Affettati Misti ($23.90)

Olive e Capperi - young olives and capers marinated with chilli, garlic and sage ($6.00)

As always, it's lovely catching up and meeting fellow food bloggers as we dig into the anti-pasto platter of cured meats, pickled vegetables, cheese and olives. Was so good that I nearly got greedy especially with the cured meats and the olives - but resisted temptation knowing the feast coming up.

Before we were seated at the private dining room to begin the Italian feast, we were treated to a pizza spinning demonstration by Sicilian-born pizza chef, Salvatore D'Avola. And by pizza spinning demonstration, I also meant juggling, acrobats and even breakdancing. With pizza! OMG. Salvatore himself said that he had been spinning pizzas for more than 20 years and self-taught himself to perform all those acrobatic moves.

Spicy Lychee Martini 

Strawberry Daiquiri

Even though it was only around 1:00pm, I could not help but order a couple of sneaky cocktails to start off my day. The massive chilli for the spicy lychee martini definitely packs a punch although it was surprisingly sweet at the same time. Also grabbed a strawberry daiquiri, an old fave of mine from my younger drinking days. Definitely one of the better versions I've tried thanks to the sweet flavour that will be perfect on a warmer day - and it looks so pretty too!

Arancini ($16.90)

We started off with fried arancini balls with pumpkin and smoked mozzarella which was incredibly tasty and addictive. While it had a nice crumbled coating, the texture of rice was creamy but not too hard nor was it too soft. It also had a sweet and lightly spicy finish when dipped with the chilli mayo on the side. 

Capesante Scottate ($19.90)

Personally, I really enjoyed the seared scallops with parsnip puree and garlic which was topped with caper berries and homemade crumbed potato chips. Seriously, I had no idea that the crunchy topping was potato chips (thought it was breadcrumbs or pangrattato) but it worked perfectly with the juicy scallops.  

Fiori di Zucca ($16.90) 

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the zucchini stuffed with goat's milk fetta black olives, semi-dried tomatoes and chilli jam. It was more saucy and less cheesy than I expected thanks to the tomatoes and olives.

Calamari Fritti ($19.90)

I enjoy eating calamari wherever I go whether it's at an Asian restaurant or a European one. The calamari served with chilli, basil, parsley and aioli at Casa's was very popular at the table that it was nearly gone by the time I got my hands on it. It was full of flavour especially with the seasoning and the crispy batter was so good that it just makes you want to try more and more.

Aragosta and Granchio Ravioli - Lobster and Crab Ravioli ($29.90)

After the shared plates of entree dishes, we all picked a main dish of our own choice from the menu. So much to choose from though my main dish choice was surprisingly good. Regular readers or those who know me personally will most likely know two things. First, I do not like creamy dishes including pastas. Second, I LOVE crabs and lobster. So when I encountered a dish that has crab and lobster but is also cream-based, I gave in . While the shellfish butter sauce was thick and rich than what I'm used to, the pasta was well cooked and bitey. Plus the crab and lobster filling was packed into the pasta in generous amounts which puts a smile on my face. 

Romagnola Pizza - aged parma prosciutto, semi-dried tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, napolitana sauce, pear, parmesan and fresh rocket ($27.90)

The only other main dish that I tried was a couple of slices from the Romagnola pizza that Irene from Irene's Getting Fat ordered. After seeing the pizza demonstration, we were curious to see how it tasted after that workout. While it was too big for us to finish (especially since everyone else was getting full), the pizza was satisfying for me with the thin crust and the generous but fresh toppings. Wouldn't mind eating more of this if I wasn't having a food coma by this point. 

Maialina Pizza - aged parma proscuitto, fresh tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, napolitana sauce, mascarpone ($25.90)

Spaghetti Marinara - fresh mixed seafood in squid ink sauce, shaved baby fennel and parsley ($30.90)

Tenderloin Medallion - slow-roasted at 65 degrees and served at medium rare with truffle mash, caramelised onions, pancetta and jus gras ($39.90)

Crispy Pork Belly with truffle mash, seared scallops and cabbage finished with apple mousse and cider reduction ($32.90) - this dish got everyone staring and drooling!

Classic Tiramisu ($12.00)

I was unsure if I could handle dessert but I was glad when I saw what was offered. There were three dessert dishes which all looked indulgent no matter which one ends up on my side of the table. I ended up with the tiramisu which was creamy, rich and not too bitter. I especially loved scooping up the chocolate soil decorated with edible flowers. One of the better tiramisu dishes that I've tried so far. 

Warm Chocolate Tart with strawberries, pistachio and salted caramel ice cream ($12.00)

This dish also looked very appealing to try since I love my chocolate. This was well complemented with the salted caramel ice cream and the strawberries to balance out the rich, sweet and bitter flavours from the chocolate.  

Sticky Date Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream, nougat and caramel sauce ($12.00) 

The dish that got the most attention from everyone was definitely the sticky date pudding. The texture was so soft and fluffy that it crumbles as you sample the dish. What made it even better was seeing the caramel sauce pouring on top of the pudding like a waterfall. Regardless of which dessert we got, they were all amazingly delicious finishes to the entire dining experience. 

Overall, I found that Casa Ristorante Italiano has been one of the better waterfront dining joints that I've tried especially with the quality, presentation and taste of the dishes. Even though I probably would not be back as often since the prices are still at the more expensive end (though standard for tourist, waterfront restaurants), I would love to return back again to try more of the dishes from the menu especially the desserts, pizzas and that pork belly. Would recommend this for special occasions such as birthdays, farewells, date nights or even just a taking your friend or family member from out of Sydney while making the most of the scenic views. 

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Casa Ristorante Italiano, courtesy of Wasamedia. Opinions remain personal.

Casa Ristorante Italiano
Building 42-48, The Promenade, King Street Wharf
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9279 4115
Mon-Fri: 11:30am - late
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - late
Casa Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon