Monday, March 31, 2014

Taste of Sydney 2014, Centennial Park

Once again, another March full of so many food festivals and special events had come and gone. This means that Taste of Sydney is over for yet another year. It's one of those events where you know that it will do so much wallet damage but you just want to try everything that your stomach could handle.

Like last year's event, Taste of Sydney 2014 used crowns as their main method of payment for food and drinks with money being transferred and stored in a Crown Card. The general dishes were priced at 6 to 12 crowns while the Icon dishes were much higher such as Jonah's fruit de mar seafood platter costing 40 crowns!

There were the usual favourites such as the Taste Kitchen and Chef's Skillery table where chefs share their culinary dishes and cooking tips. Some of the chefs could also be found doing presentations at the Tasmanian Pavilion, which showcases various food and wine producers across the Tasman sea. There was also cooking classes and wine/beer/cocktail matching master classes if you want to a more hands-on experience.

Rowie Dillon at Taste Kitchen

There were also the usual drinking areas like the very popular Rekorderlig Cider Bar where you can try as many ciders as you want (or your tummy and wallet could handle). You can also try the alky at other drinking areas like the Galliano tent, the Patron XO stall and the Bundaberg Distillatorium whether you want vodka, Patron Margaritas or beer. If you just want to try the wine, there are various stalls across Taste of Sydney which did wine tastings. They also use only crowns which can either be good if you have a few crowns remaining and you are too full, or frustrating if you wanted to use them on the dishes which were expensive enough already.

Rekorderlig Tent (ordered an Apple and Blackcurrent cider but forgot to take a photo...sorry guys)

Strawberry Margarita with Patron XO

Entertaining the customers at the Galliano Tent

There was even numerous food exhibitors appearing at the festival for your shopping needs whether you want olive oil, sauces, sweet treats, herbs and spices and cheese. The Salt Meats Cheese stall was one of the more crowded stalls where you get to taste and buy olives as well as cheese and/or meat platters.

There were lots of new restaurants featuring at Taste of Sydney this year with many of them taking out the top prizes. A shoutout to Chow Bar and Eating House for coming in first in the Best of Taste award with the Beggar's Chicken with silken lemon tofu and vinegar red peanuts (Icon dish - 12 crowns). ToS fave Porteno came in second for the charcoal grilled entrada (more on that later in the post) and newcomer Aki's Indian Restaurant were placed third. 

At first, I wasn't sure if I should have the famed suckling pig by 4Fourteen/Four in Hand again since I've had similar dishes over the previous years but it just looked so appetising after observing so many people ordering this dish as well. Once again, the suckling pig was juicy, succulent, sweet and great to share. The girls really enjoyed it though personally I preferred more crushed apple or the previous year's version with coleslaw and hot sauce for the extra flavour boost as it didn't taste as flavoursome as I would have liked.

Suckling Pig with Smoked Potato Salad and Crushed Apple (12 crowns)

The below dish from regionl NSW restaurant, Biota Dining, popped up on my instagram feed quite heavily over the duration of the festival so it was no surprise that I had to get it. Plus it looked like hot and spicy chicken from KFC or the fried chicken at Naruone and Hartsyard (and you all know what I think about fried chicken ;)). While it may not be your usual fried chicken with its use of cornflakes for the fried batter, it was incredibly thick, crunchy and crispy - plus very messy to handle! Because of the crunchiness, the corn and local garlic creme balanced the overall texture with its smooth, thick and creamy sauce.

Hay Smoked Chicken Legs - cured and smoked chicken with corn and local creme (12 crowns)

Chur Burger was one of those stalls with incredibly long queues thanks to their delicious burger offerings and the recent gourmet burger popularity. It's one of those stalls where you really want to try everything off the menu. My pick was their Icon dish, the wagyu rossini burger with shaved fois gras, truffle and Madeira jus. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) the truffle ran out so they decreased the crown payment from 18 to 8 crowns. This didn't bother me because I love wagyu beef anyways. The brioche bun was soft plus the beef was juicy and cooked medium rare and was quite rich and filling. While I ended up paying 8 crowns instead of 18 for this burger thanks to the lack of truffles, the serving size was small especially when you can get bigger burgers at the restaurant for $10. 

Wagyu Rossini Burger with shaved fois gras, truffle and Madeira jus (18 crowns with truffles, 8 crowns without truffles)

Another Taste of Sydney fave, Efendy, plates up some tantalising Turkish dishes including the intriguing panfried lamb testicles (10 crowns. I'm not joking about this dish). I decided to be tame and went with the charcoal lamb kebap instead which was delicious, flavoursome and easy to fall apart. It was matched with warm hummus that was tangy and added a spark to the overall dish. One of my faves from this year's festival. 

Charcoal Lamb Kebap, Warm Hummus, house pickles, organic chickpeas and pastirma (12 crowns)

Because fregola dishes are hard to find, the below dish was one that I was looking forward to the most. I really enjoyed the fregola dish that Popolo did last year but this year's offering was a bit ordinary in terms of flavour and too creamy and lumpy for my liking. The seafood parts including the calamari, prawns, cuttlefish and mussel were the saving grace for the dish though.

Fregola, calamari and cuttlefish ragu, prawns and mussels (16 crowns)

When I attended ToS on Friday night, the one stand that had the insanely longest queues was of course, Porteno - even longer than Chur Burger. There was porbably at least 100 people waiting to get served so sadly I bailed out for this session. Returning back again on a wet, damp and muddy Sunday, there was no queues (yay!) but my feet did not survive the muddy grounds.

It was fun watching the staff at Porteno including chefs Ben and Elvis working hard at the grill. 

Looking at the dishes, it was no surprise that there was so many people lining up for the many delicious offerings. I was initially planning to get the lamb from Asado but the award winning charcoal grilled entrana wagyu skirt steak ended up being my dish of choice. Cooked medium-rare, it had a tender yet slightly chewy texture as I cut through the meat though it was also so yummy to eat. Loved the zesty chimichurri and the sweet peppers for the extra flavour to this succulent and droolworthy dish.

Charcoal Grilled Entrana - Wagyu skirt steak with BBQ peppers and chimichurri (12 crowns)

Since I go weak at Mexican food, Rojo Rocket was too far for me to get to and it was on Thursday and Friday nights only, I pretty much pigged out at this restaurant. With the cheery staff and colourful costumes and decorations, it was no surprise that this restaurant won the Best in Taste award for 'Best Dressed'. The sashimi tuna tostada was refreshing to have on a warm evening though it was quite spicy as well.

Tostada de Atun Fresco - Sashimi Tuna Tostada, avocado, onion and chipotle (12 crowns)

The pulled pork taco was juicy and not too soggy. The restaurant used soft corn tortillas which is my preferred way of eating tacos. Gobbled this up so quickly that I didn't realised it was gone so soon.

Taco de Cochinito - pulled pork taco, corn puree, salad and salsa roja (6 crowns)

This year, Taste of Sydney hosted IconPark, an online restaurant and bar concept funded by the people aka YOU. Hundreds of entries signed up for their chance to launch their own restaurant on East Sydney's 78 Stanley Street in the duration of 3 months but there is sadly only one winner. There were six finalists showcasing their dish at Taste of Sydney for the hungry diners to decide online including Blackcats, British India Trading Co, Min Joo Social, Ruby's BBQ, Sedgwick Ave and Stanley Street Merchants. As of today, the winner has since been announced which was Stanley Street Merchants. Looking forward to trying the food and drinks at this joint when it opens in April. Personally I think they are all winners.

The IconPark marquee tent has attracted countless attendees and has been one of the biggest hits at Taste this year. You do have to decide on which dish you want to get before entering inside the tent. My first choice was Ruby's BBQ for their serving of Southern USA smoked BBQ. Ruby's BBQ reminded me of Porteno with an American Hartsyard-like touch with their smoked BBQ beef dish. The beef was so tender that it fell apart instantly as my fork touched it. Though there didn't seem to be as much sauce as I thought, the coleslaw was much needed after consuming so much meat. 

Ruby's BBQ: 16 hour slow smoked BBQ Beef with Coleslaw and Ruby's Homemade BBQ Sauce (10 crowns)

Another finalist that I was keen to try was British India Trading Co (cool name btw) mainly after seeing a bit of presence from fellow bloggers. This concept is more unique whereby it serves a fusion of British and Indian-inspried plates and ingredients. While the short-rib was well-cooked, the overall spicy flavours with the combined use of okra, cardamon, ginger and tamrind sambal were quite strong and exotic for my tastebuds. 

British India Trading Co: Cardamon and Ginger Spiced Short Rib, Mustard, Carrot Butter, Okra and Tamarind Sambal (10 crowns)

By the end, we were so stuffed but you know what we all say about desserts. The Cut Bar and Grill's cherry ripe dessert had been on my mind for the entire festival. And it's only 6 crowns! So glad that I got  to ordered this. When you bite into the coconut coated chocolate bar, you can taste that lovely crack from the hard chocolate coating and the smooth chocolate (mousse?) and cherry filling inside. Sooo good! 

Cherry Ripe - Chocolate sphere, coconut and cherry (6 crowns)

With my stomach having a massive food coma, I can say that I really enjoyed the many dishes, drinks and various products that Taste of Sydney offered. I have noticed that there didn't seem to be as many sweet dessert dishes with only a handful of restaurants offering them while others delivered an entirely savoury menu. Since it was pouring on the weekend, it would be nice to see more seating areas especially on wet days but I guess there would be so much logistics involved in making that happen. Since there is already an entry fee, I personally found it to be an expensive event especially when you want to try so many dishes from numerous restaurants. Having said that, I did have loads of fun trying and exploring everything that the festival offered and will definitely return when it comes back next year. Looking forward to see what's next in store for Taste of Sydney 2015. Bring it on!

Check out my recaps of Taste of Sydney 2013 and 2012.

Don't forget to hit up The Random Foodie on Facebook for more photos on various dinner outings and events as well as the occasional news.

Taste of Sydney
Brazillian Fields, Centennial Park


  1. It's a great event and the quality of food and restaurants is high but it is so expensive for an outdoor event where you queue and serve yourself. Still, it gives you a chance to try the restaurant's food. Biota is definitely worth a trip :)

    1. def agree with you with that. so expensive if you want to try many dishes on top with the entry ticket and dealing with queues and not much seating too

  2. i missed it 2 years in a row but i think thats a good enough excuse for me to visit each of the reataurants!

  3. That cherry ripe looks good and so does the smoked chicken legs!! OMG ... mmm~~~

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