Monday, February 23, 2015

Ristretto and Co, Liverpool

A slice of Surry Hills in Liverpool all the way in South West Sydney? Say it isn't so! I can remember being disappointed by the lack of quality restaurants and cafes in the area. When Ristretto and Co opened its doors in 2012, it has built a solid following in the local community. This is perfect if you are like me, you have so much trouble getting up early on a weekend for a breakfast or brunch cafe outing and you have to travel 30mins-1 hour for all those renowned cafes in Surry Hills, Newtown, Alexandria...and even Parramatta!

Located next door to a hairdresser and a few blocks from Liverpool Plaza, you may think that it's one of those very small hole-in-the-wall cafes. When you step inside, you can see lots of tables located at the back of the cafe. From the fit-out in the outdoor seating area, it felt like you stepped into one of those old-fashioned garden courtyard complete with lots of wooden tables, barrels and even a bird cage. 

Skim Mocha ($4.00)

Ristretto and Co uses Campos coffee beans for their brew. Was quite creamy and milky compared to some of the other mochas I've had. Not too bitter either. Cute coffee art.

Iced Mocha ($4.00)

There were a few days where the weather was too hot to enjoy a hot coffee. So it's good to see that a few cold drink options are available. So far, I've tried the iced mocha. While it was the same price as a regular sized coffee, the serving was much bigger. It was pretty creamy as well with a good hint of cocoa. Great to have on a hot 35-degree Summer day. 

Cold drip coffee ($4.00)

I'mnot an expert when it comes to cold drip coffee but I've been curious to try for a while. Ended up ordering this on another hot day in Livo. Made some use of the syrup on the side for the sweetness but the drip coffee was a different experience. Not as strong as I expected.  

Uovo in Pomodoro - free ranged egg poached with chorizo, spinach and pomodoro sauce in a claypot served with toasted sourdough ($15.00) 

I LOVE my baked eggs. So when I first realised this signature baked eggs dish was available so close to home, I was already keen to pop by Ristretto and Co ASAP. The only problem is that the breakfast menu is available till 11:30am. Good since it's close to home but not so good because I still love sleeping till late on weekends. Compared to the baked eggs I've tried so far, the sauce was quite watery and the egg was slightly overcooked however it was still delicious and flavoursome. Great to dip with lots of bread. The pomodoro reminded me of a Bolognese/ragu type of sauce which certainly showcased the Italian inspiration in the cafe menu selection. At $15, it's one of the more expensive items on the menu but the serving size should keep you full and satisfied.

Corn Fritters with tomato, chutney, oven dried tomatoes and rocket ($11.00)

I also enjoy corn fritters so I was equally curious to try this as well. With lots of fresh corn kernels, flour and egg, the fritters delivered a more rustic texture to the dish. It wasn't as flavoursome as I would have liked but the extra condiments like the chutney and the tomatoes helped in boosting the overall taste.

Bresaola Panini - Pomodorini secchi, fior di latte, provolone and rocket on ciabatta ($9.00)

If you end up at Ristretto and Co after 11:30am, you will need to order from the lunch menu. This mostly consists of a selection of panini sandwiches and salads, including their popular 'Orecchiette Pasta Salad'. This sandwich may look simple, but it is also very tasty. The slices of bresaola worked so well with the fior do latte and provolone cheeses as well as the pomodorini secchi sauce. Sandwiched between two toasted yet soft slices of panini bread and you got yourself a winning sandwich. Extra points whenever the cheese gets stringy mmmmm.

While there was a couple of items that were slightly more expensive for what you get in the South West Sydney area, the menu prices were actually on the cheaper end of the scale compared to most cafes in the Inner Sydney/Inner West area. It's very popular on weekends especially in the morning with diners queuing up for a table. The service can be a mixed experience. Most of the time I found them to be polite and attentive but they can get iffy if you take photos around the cafe besides the food (I learnt it the hard way). Besides that minor mishap, it's a breath of fresh air to see a cafe like this opening up so close to home especially when I have brunch cravings and going to the city is too much effort. 

It's very close to Westfield Liverpool and Liverpool Plaza if you happen to be in the area for your shopping needs. It is good to see how successful it has become with recognition in the SMH Cafe Guide in 2013 and 2014 as well as a mention in the Cafe section of SMH's Good Food Guide 2014. Hopefully one day, the Liverpool food scene will grow in a similar vein to Parramatta in recent years. With R&C's second branch 'The Shed' opening its doors at Bigge Park last month, this growth is looking promising.

Ristretto and Co
158 Northumberland Street, Liverpool NSW 2170
Mon-Fri: 6:00am - 4:00pm
Sat: 7:00am - 3:00pm
Sun: 8:00am - 1:00pm
Ristretto & Co Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Japanese BBQ Yakiniku GYUZOU, Sydney CBD

Recently, I've been getting into the Japanese culture a lot more than before. Mostly because nearly everyone are going or planning to go to Japan this year. No idea why there's that sudden hype but now I've got the travel bug for this country. While sushi and ramen are probably the first things that pop into your head about Japanese cuisine, what about Japanese BBQ/Yakiniku (aka grilled meat)? This specialty is what the newly opened Gyuzou is known for.

What differs Japanese BBQ from Korean BBQ is that the meat isn't marinated/ and you cook it over a griddle so it has more of a grilled texture once it's cooked. While we were at Gyuzou really early on a Tuesday evening, it remained quiet by the time we left around 8pm. In fact I think we made a bit too much noise at the restaurant.

Like Wagaya and Mizuya, Gyuzou lets you order by touch screen so you can see what you have ordered and how much you have spent.

Lemon Lime Bitter Sake ($6.90)

While this drink tasted more like lemon lime bitter than sake, it was refreshing for me especially after eating all the meats. Wasn't strong at all which should be good if you prefer something more sweeter.

Complimentary Sauces: Chilli Oil, Salt, Yakiniku

Found these dips to be essential for that added taste to the meats after they've been cooked on the grill.

Assorted Wagyu ($25.50)

The food that has gotten me excited about Gyuzou has been the extensive wagyu menu. I can remember how rare it was to find a decent wagyu burger anywhere except for Rockpool Bar and Grill and Plan B by Becasse (RIP) when I just finished my uni studies. Now you can spot it at countless restaurants and bars around Sydney whether they are part of Japanese or Korean BBQ or a juicy burger at a bar or a casual dining joint.

Oyster Blade ($12.50)

Tri-Tip ($12.00)

Inside Skirt ($10.50)

Rib Finger with soy sauce ($8.80)

While the assorted wagyu platter doesn't include the highly rated and more expensive Short-Rib and the Chuck Tail wagyu beefs, I was still keen to try the platter in order to sample a variety of wagyu goodness. While each meaty delicacy was succulent, my faves would have to be Oyster Blade and the Tri-Tip for that rich, tender, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. The marbling also adds to that wow factor. This platter also came with a side of assorted veggies including mushrooms, carrots and cabbage. Will definitely return to try the Short Rib and Chuck Tail after hearing all the raves from other people who have tried it previously.

Pork Belly ($7.00)

While there was so many yummy options on the menu, I just simply cannot resist the pork belly. While on this rare occasion, it may not be the star of the show compared to the wagyu meats but I still thought it was done well with that nice fatty and grilled texture especially after it was cooked. You get a choice of coating your meat with salt or soy sauce. I decided on the soy sauce for that added flavour.

Ox Tongue ($7.80)

The ox tongue is actually another fave of mine whenever I go to a Japanese or Korean restaurant. When its cooked, you forget that you are actually eating tongue since it was thinly sliced. Slightly chewy but well cooked especially with the grilled edges. Out of the non-wagyu red meat options, I would definitely recommend this to try (unless you really don't like the idea of eating tongue...).

Seared Wagyu Nigiri ($3.30)

You can also opt for wagyu sushi nigiri if you prefer sushi or are in the mood for a smaller bite. There's heaps of sushi nigiri options on the menu including scallops, salmon, egg omelette and prawn. The rice was nicely cooked and the wagyu was just as tender. Great to have while you wait for the food that takes longer to cook. 

Assorted Seafood ($14.50)

V had his eyes on the assorted seafood when I was spending a lot of time browsing the menu. It was something slightly different for that extra variety from all the red meats. It was all delicious (especially the mussels and scallops) however it did take a lot longer to cook and it was harder to tell if it was cooked or not at one point. Despite that, we both really enjoyed this platter.

Crumbed Crab ($5.50)

This was a surprise fave of mine from the non-red meat dishes. Loved the crunchy and crumbed coating along with the thinly shredded crab meat filling. 

Okonomiyaki ($5.50)

In keeping up with discovering more Japanese favourites, I opted for the okonomiyaki. This was coated with okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and swirls of mayonnaise. Obviously by this point with all the other dishes we ordered, we were getting quite full (but still managed to get through most of this!). I'm not too familiar with this dish but I thought it was softer than I expected. Then again I have only tried the one at Ichiban Boshi a few years ago. Did like the outer crispness and the overall soft texture. 

Steamed Rice ($2.50)

Usually at most Asian BBQ restaurants, we ordered rice on the side. Looking back this actually wasn't needed because the meat and seafood held well on its own. Plus the rice was too soft for my personal preference. 

Berry Yogurt Parfait ($7.90)

I was too full by the end so my second stomach didn't make it to dessert but V decided to go for the berry yoghurt parfait. This consisted of ice cream, berry syrup, fresh whipped cream, ad fruit and wafer garnishes. At first I thought it would be too creamy for my liking but from the sample I've tasted, it was actually quite sweet in a good way. It did melt really fast so V had to hurry with finishing it up before it ends up like a puddle. I also enjoyed the wafer stick for the extra crunch.

If you are curious about exploring more about Japanese cuisine besides the usual ramen and sushi joints, Gyuzou offers that option especially if you love wagyu meats. While the prices were a bit more expensive, it is great to share with a larger group so you can try more and split the bill down. Looking forward to making another visit for that juicy short rib wagyu beef!

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Gyuzou, courtesy of SD Marketing. Opinions are however, my own.

Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Gyuzou
Shop 5, 339 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Shop Tel No: (02) 9268 0410
Booking No: 1800 924 292
Sun-Thurs: 5:30pm - 10:00pm
Fri-Sat: 5:30pm - midnight 
Japanese BBQ Yakiniku GYUZO on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Stinking Bishops, Enmore

Apologies for my lack of action in blogging lately. In the last few weeks, I have been settling back to full time work, getting active at high intensity training, attending bdays and various special events, and watching endless repeats of 'If You Are The One'. Mostly the latter. Got a few good reviews lined up especially for those who love Japanese food. But more on that later. This review is all about the cheese!!!

It may be hard to believe now but I actually despised cheese when I was a kid. In fact I still wasn't too fond of cheese until a few years ago when I visited Hunter Valley for the first time. That's where I tried some of the cheeses that I wouldn't have touched including washed rind and blue cheeses. Going to The Stinking Bishops in Enmore when it opened last year was when I really fell in love with the formaggio. Sounds cheesy (pardon the pun) but it's true. Even though the name of the venue itself may not sound as enticing since it's named after a washed rind cheese renowned for its pungent smell.

By now CC and I have probably visited The Stinking Bishops at least 10 times over the last year. We are both diehard fans of this cheese and wine bar since our first visit. Everything we've tried here has been incredible. The dishes mentioned in this post is just a sample of what we have tried during our many visits. Mainly because most of our visits were at night where the lighting wasn't as awesome. There's not much seating at the venue and it fills up quickly at night so there's often a waiting list for dinner.

Three Cheese Board - Clockwise from Top: Bert 3 Latte, Quickes Oak Smoked Cheddar, Epoisses ($29.00) 

Three Cheese Board - Clockwise from Top: Isle of Mull Cheddar, Cashel Blue, Bruny Island Oen 

The Stinking Bishops has a wide selection of different cheeses to choose from whether it's a hard/semi-hard, washed rind, white mould/surface ripened or a blue mould cheese. Despite the numerous visits, it is still very hard to narrow it down to a four cheese board (let alone three or two) especially with that many options. You can get a two cheese board for $20, three cheeses for $29 or four cheeses for $36. This was served with a basket of sourdough bread and crackers, muscatel grapes (had fresh and dried ones on separate occasions), quince paste and a slice of fig and walnut log. 

While I would suggest to try most of them, my recommendations so far have been the smooth and creamy Bert 3 Latte (with cow's, goat's and sheep's milk); the runny washed-rind Epoisses, the soft Bruny Island Oen wrapped in vine leaves, the hard, crumbled and smoked Quickes Old Smoked Cheddar, the semi-soft, milder Irish Cashel Blue. Others faves not pictured would be the bitey French Comte and the smooth and nutty Holy Goat Brigid's Wall. 

'Mr Crispy' Sandwich - Smoked Wagyu Beef, Le Gruyere, house made pickles and horseradish mayo ($12.00) 

Besides the platters, another fave of mine at The Stinking Bishops has been the 'Mr Crispy' toasties. I actually only started liking toasties recently thanks to this dish. The cheese was slightly stringy (the best part!!!), the beef was tender and smoked while the rest of the contents balanced the fillings to make this one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. Sadly it's only available for lunch but give it a go if you work around the area or pass by for lunch during the weekends.

Mac n' Cheese n' Onion ($21.00)

Personally I thought the cheese taste and smell in the Mac n Cheese was slightly too strong for my liking especially after digging into all the of the other cheeses. It was certainly a carb feast just going through the bowl. It's great dish to have as a comfort meal during the colder winter seasons. 

Pinot Grigio ($12.00/glass)

Pinot Noir ($11.00/glass)

Of course there was a bit of wine action when cheese is involved. Can't think of anything else more suited to each other than this. 

Other dishes I would recommend would  be the cured meat platters. If only I could do a combination of meat and cheese platter. Hopefully one day. The only qualms were that you had to get there early to get a table if you are there for dinner. It can also be quite noisy at times. Plus the prices aren't cheap which was to be expected for a boutique cheese bar.  If you love your cheese, The Stinking Bishops is a must visit. The staff are super friendly and they REALLY know their cheese! If you aren't a huge cheese fan, this may actually convert you. It certainly has for me. Looking forward to making 1000 more visits for 2015 and beyond hehe. 

The Stinking Bishops
Shop 5, 63-71 Enmore Road, Enmore NSW
(02) 9007 7754
The Stinking Bishops on Urbanspoon