Bread & Circus

I'm a girl who loves her veges and grew terribly jealous at the sight of my friends posting on instagram, delicious wholesome looking salads, so much so I had to get down to the new "wholefoods canteen" in Alexandria last weekend.
Bread & Circus (21 Fountain Street, Alexandria) is hidden behind Don Campos in the corner nook of a large warehouse, a beautiful and relaxed space and airy, getting plenty of sunshine. The atmosphere here is casual and natural where an assortment of stools and chairs surround communal wooden tables adorned with pieces of fruit as still life, recycled jars, baskets of serving ware and pretty bowls contained unrefined brown sugar. Just as the name suggests, it is quite the quirky canteen and I completely fell in love with the decor from the warm pastel plates, brightly coloured potted plants to the rustic buckets contained serviettes.

Each visit to Bread & Circus is made exciting with the menu changing daily. Bill and I decided to share a regular salad plate where you can choose all or one of the salads on offer. The salad combinations are different to your plain old caesar salads or garden salads and use market fresh produce:
Baked golden maple peaches with champagne puy lentils, blue cheese and chive
Smoky flamed eggplant with a light fragrant sort-of salsa verde
Slow roasted sweet balsamic tomato, torn basil and olive oil farro

(Our salad consisted of the top three)
Olive oil couscous with steamed broccoli and two kinds of beans in orange minted yoghurt
Cinnamon sea salt baked golden sweet potato with garlic olive oil and agave
Caramelised apple-cider fennel and orange in black quinoa coriander and champagne vinegar

The plate is a very generous serving size, each salad packed with flavour exploding in your mouth and absolutely scrumptious. I especially loved the juicy chunks of smoky eggplant and the combination of blue cheese with the peaches and lentils.

Thinking that sharing a regular salad plate wouldn't be enough for the both of us we also ordered a Circus soup served with wedges of sourdough and organic butter. The regular bowl of Super-green soup with creamy smooth broccoli kale & almond which was creamy smooth, hearty and absolutely delicious and great for dunking our wedges of bread into. We also received a complimentary side bowl of Balsamic roasted three tomato & banana chilli with swirl of biodynamic basil yoghurt since they accidentally forgot to bring out the soup we ordered until Bill reminded them. It was spicy and had a good kick to it which was balanced by the sour yoghurt, but we both agreed we the super-green soup had won over our hearts.

Bread & Circus
 
 
Daily Plate Salad
 
Balsamic roasted three tomato & banana chilli with a swirl of biodynamic basil yoghurt
 
Sourdough and organic butter
 
Super-green soup with creamy smooth broccoli kale & almond
  

Though quite busy multitasking (they mentioned they were understaffed that day) the staff were really quite sweet. As we were leaving they apologized again for the mix up of the soup being missed and gave us a complimentary organic orange and bran muffin to take away which we happily accepted and enjoyed with a coffee from Don Campos as we left feeling full, nurtured, super healthy and hearty. We can't wait to revisit and try more salads! And perhaps adding delicious extras such as char grilled haloumi or a boiled biodynamic egg.

Bread & Circus on Urbanspoon

Tetsuya’s

Just a little over a month ago I celebrated my birthday…and I'm still getting used to the number 24. We celebrated my birthday (for yes a second time) at Tetsuya's (529 Kent St, Sydney). Tetsuya's one of S.Pellegrino's World 100 Best Restaurants, once the Best Restaurant in Australasia has always been on my wishlist since forever and has held the Good Food Guide's three hat status for just as long, but as I'm waiting for my booked date to arrive, in 2011 Tetsuya's lost one hat – perhaps he is concentrating on his Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin, but none the less I was still as excited!
Having walked past Tetsuya's countless times, once you step past the gate on Kent Street, you're transported out of Sydney city and into a quiet and serene Japanese town and reminds me much of our stay at a ryokan in Arima Onsen, Kyoto. The restaurant is a maze, the dining rooms are large and decorated with artworks, we're seated by the window and the Japanese zen garden.

I'm sure you have heard all the amazing things about Tetsuya's Unsalted Butter with Ricotta and Truffles and it's true, it's light, airy and simply delicious. Bill was sensible, not wanting to fill up on bread and stopped at one bread roll, I on the other hand could not resist slathering it on my warm crusty roll white bread with fluffy inards…and then order another roll of rye bread…I just love great butter with good bread.
To whet our appetite we started with Chilled Pea Soup with Mint. The next dish was a supplementary item which we nodded our heads furiously to when offered by the waiter, Pacific Oysters with Rice Vinegar and Ginger. I love the acidity from the rice vinegar which complemented the fresh creamy oyster well and was well worth the additional $18 for four oysters.
I'm always super excited when chawanmushi is served and it was no different this time when the Savoury Custard with Sea Urchin arrived, the silky smooth custard in my favourite dashi broth melted in my mouth but I much prefer the texture of raw sea urchin than steamed. Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange was the perfect harmony of flavours, the tartness from the mirin and blackbean drizzled on the firm Kingfish sashimi. Next, a beautiful piece of Grilled Scampi with Chicken Liver Parfait brought together with a light walnut dressing.
The next dish is Tetsuya's signature dish and remains the only constant on his menu throughout the years. Now admittedly I was afraid of this dish just in case I couldn't finish it, you see I don't enjoy salmon and ocean trout sashimi. Despite this though, I absolutely loved the Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Shaved Fennel with Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar. Being Japanese, kombu is a staple in our diet, but for Bill it's unfamiliar and strange. Kombu is a seaweed or kelp and is used to make dashi broth, you can also have it dried and eaten as a condiment to the humble bowl of rice. The confit of the ocean trout created an interesting texture, the fish was flaky but firm as you cut into it, a melting mouthful against the crisp kombu crust adding sea saltiness to the freshness of the fish. And of course the fish roe added popping fun and deliciousness. It's no wonder this is Tetsuya's signature dish and if I'm to eat ocean trout again it'll have to be Tetsuya's.
Our last of the seafood dishes was the Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab with Bean Curd, Foie Gras and Junsai, a delicate and sweet terrine of spanner crab and silken tofu with subtle foie gras and hints of junsai a sprout covered with a jelly like texture.
Onto the meat courses a pink and crispy skin covered Duck Breast with Pickled Beetroot. Much to Bill's delight we're served a substantial piece of Grass Fed Angus Beef and Tendon with Wasabi and Mustard Seeds, rare, tender and soft, one of the best pieces of steak we have had in a while and perfect with the mustard seeds.
Our refreshing pre dessert of Ginger Ice Cream with Lychee Granita served as a palate cleanser. Tetsuya's Bread and Butter Pudding similar to a creme brulee, a sweet concoction of creamy vanilla custard and cinnamon. My birthday warranted a special dessert a Chocolate Fondant with Hazelnut and Praline, a gorgeous warm centered fondant oozing warm chocolate flecked with salt pieces paired with a quinelle of creme fraiche ice cream and candied hazelnuts. While the Mister has a Chocolate Pave with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Cinnamon Twigs, a dense rich mousse, dark and bitter chocolate balanced by the tanginess of the cream cheese ice cream. I was too busy immersed in my chocolate fondant that I didn't get to try any of the cinnamon twigs ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
And just in case we weren't full enough we're served petit fours of hazelnut chocolate to finish our night.

Tetsuya's
 
Warm crusty white roll with fluffy innards
 
Rye bread roll
 
Unsalted butter with Truffles and Ricotta – absolutely heavenly
 
Chilled Pea Soup with Mint
 
Pacific Oysters with Rice Vinegar and Ginger
 
Savoury Custard with Sea Urchin
 
Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange
 
Grilled Scampi with Chicken Liver Parfait
 
Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab with Bean Curd, Foie Gras and Junsai
 
Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Shaved Fennel with Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar
 
Breast of Duck with Pickled Beetroot
 
Grass Fed Angus Beef and Tendon with Wasabi and Mustard Seeds
 
Ginger Ice Cream with Lychee Granita
Tetsuya's Bread and Butter Pudding

 
Warm Centred Chocolate Fondant with Candied Hazelnut and Cream Fraiche Ice Cream
 
Chocolate Pave with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Cinnamon Twigs
 
Mr. Wakuda and I
Our Tetsuya's experience was heightened even more when Tetsuya himself came by our table and had a chat with us which I thought very charming and nice of him. The degustation was simple using fresh produce from around Australia, I hear Tetsuya has a trout farm and buys his Japanese vegetables from one Sydney farm, each dish cooked perfectly and presentation was outstanding. We could not fault the dishes nor the service which was impeccable.
Dear SMH GFG…Surely the exceptional and delicate, melt in your mouth confit of Petuna Ocean Trout alone is equivalent to the third hat …no?

Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon

Les Creations de Narisawa, Aoyama, Japan

I hope you all had a Happy New Year! This will the first post of 2012 and what better way to start 2012 then with my most memorable meal of 2011.
I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at two fabulous Japanese-French restaurants this post will be about the first – Les Creations de Narisawa (Aoyama, Tokyo). The restaurant has been awarded 2011 Acqua Panna's Best Restaurant in Asia and Number 12 on the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, it was easily the menu which had the most lasting impression for all the right reasons.

Dining here was truly an experience as the world of Narisawa is inspired by landscapes and changing seasons aiming to bring nature onto the plate with themes of soil, water, fire, charcoal and forest. It's a little hard to find hidden under a building, we are gently ushered into the restaurant through automatic sliding doors from the waiting room and into a dark, elegant restaurant with plush leather arm chairs. At our table setting we have a glass slab etched with the restaurant name which was verrry cool and are given a rather vague menu Autumn Collection 2011 Evolve with the Forest. The waiter kindly explains to ensure customers are surprised, the menu gives each dish a "poetic title" and only lists the main ingredients, also the dishes won't be arriving in order according to the menu.

Les Creations de Narisawa

 

Excited we put our bellies in the hands of Narisawa and the first dish presented on our table appears to be an autumn themed candle holder wafting scents of cinnamon, adorned with autumn leaves to the untrained eye but is in actual fact a little cyclinder of yeast. Once the yeast has been left to ferment in the water bath, a waiter came by with a trolley decorated with autumn twigs and placed the dough into a 300C stone bowl which is covered and left at our table to bake.
Whilst our bread is being cooked we're served with a Gift from "Satoyama" appearing to be sumi (charcoal) a bite sized piece of black crust made from chargrilled leeks encasing a soft piece of onion. Next to arrive is the Gift from the Sea "Sawara" Spanish mackerel from Aichi with citrus, green pepper leaf sauce. The saba was fresh, firm and went lovely with the sauce which cut through the natural oil of the fish.
By this time our "Forest 2010" Bread of Autumn Forest has baked under the heavy wooden lid and we're served with a soft, freshly baked cinnamon and chestnut bread. The waiter suggests having it on it's own and it is absolutely "autumny" and heart warming. We were also served bread (not baked at our table) which came with an adorable pot of what appears to be dirt with seedlings growing. Fear not, the pot contains whipped butter covered with a dehydrated blueberry crumb.
While enjoying our bread a dish with a whole grilled squid is set down and my eyes light up because I absolutely love grilled squid and the portion was huge! But before I could take a photo I'm distracted by yet another trolley bringing forth a concoction surrounded with a hazy mist. The waiter explains that a ground mixture of red peppers, oil and lemon juice is frozen in the liquid nitrogen and in the blink of any eye gently blankets my squid with this newly formed black frozen "ash". This dish "Ash 2009" Wind of Basque was my favourite with the cold sandy ash, tender squid in a red pepper sauce the perfect plate of landscape through ingredients, smell and texture.
Le Potager an Autumn garden was a plate of 19 different Japanese vegetables in season – we did try to find all 19 but it was tad too hard.
The inner chemistry geek in me squeals in excitement as this time we're presented with what looks like a science experiment, five test tubes and two filled with liquid. This dish "Luxury essence 2007" Langoustine the superior liquid broth is made from a Chinese jin hua ham and pork is poured onto the langoustine dish. It is indeed very delicious and find myself scraping every last drop.
The final dish from the Gift from the Sea is a perfectly cooked flaky, fleshy fish dish "Amadai" Snapper, Hagi, Yamaguchi and Maitake mushroom steamed in a bag with a light duck and pork broth.
The final main Gift from the Forest is presented as a piece of charcoal on a block of wood aka In Narisawa's world, "Sumi 2009" Hida beef. The waiter explains that this dish has been made through a process of basting the wagyu covered in a leek crust in olive oil and butter continuously for an hour. The end result is an evenly pink piece of beef, tender and juicy complemented with a red wine sauce and green peppers. Marking the end of our mains we are served a palate cleanser of a sake granita which was too potent for me to polish off.
So far so fannntastic, thoroughly satisfied and basking in the pleasantness of the evening I'm super surprised and ecstatic when the waiter wishes me a happy birthday along with a cake arrives complete with a candle. Not surprisingly the vanilla sponge cake is one of the best I've had and the loved the little jube holding up my card. After finishing off our extra little dessert we're served a small pre dessert of "Waguri" Chestnut pannacotta, chestnuts and caramelised chestnuts oh god this was good, layers of chestnut pannacotta, chestnuts and caramelised chestnuts..I love chestnuts so I was eager to take a spoonful of Bill's too.
Finally our dessert was presented in a beautiful glass bowl with a mixture of "Yuzu", Pear, "Buntan" with pieces of mochi and muscat, a clean and refreshing way to end the dinner.
Now usually tea and petit fours would end the night but once again excitement started to well up inside me as I spied another trolley coming towards our table from the corner of my eye. This was the prettiest cart ever, adorned with leaves, seeds, twigs and autumn motif with bite size pieces of petit fours laying amongst the forest. The waiter starts to explain each petit four and to name a just a few there were green tea macaron, peanut creme brulee, muscat mochi, sugar cane cake, pumpkin cake, mitsu cake, green tea mochi, pumpkin fudge, galettes and finally Narisawa's signature gradation of petit macarons. While my head is spinning from the spectacle of a dessert cart the waiter casually mentions "you can choose some or ALL" as he prepares to plate up our choices…. say whaattt?! I am near crying tears of joy and happiness…seriously ALL? Have you ever heard of such a thing?! Obviously we had to call upon our separate dessert stomachs.

Autumn Collection 2011
 
Gift from "Satoyama"
 
Evolve with the Forest
 
 
 
"Forest 2010" Bread of Autumn Forest
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Sawara" Spanish mackerel from Aichi
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Ash 2009" Wind of Basque
 
"Le Potager" Autumn garden
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Luxury essence 2007" Langoustine
 
Gift from the sea – "Amadai" Snapper, Hagi, Yamaguchi and Maitake Mushrooms
 
…not a piece of coal
 
Gift from the forest – "Sumi 2009" Hida beef
 
 
Gateua a la Vanille
vanilla sponge, white chocolate, rich creme chantilly, creme brulee, butter caramel
 
"waguri" Chestnut
too small me thinks
 
"Yuzu" Pear "Buntan"
 
Dessert Cart
 
Selection of Petit Four
Green tea mochi, muscat and mochi, galette, peanut creme brulee

 
Les Macarons
White Chocolate Lavender, Cafe Creme, Caramel Vanilla, Caramel Salt, Chocolate Rose, Cacao 41%,, Cacao 66%, Cacao 72% and Cacao 80%
The service was top notch and each dish unique and presented beautifully using the freshest seasonal ingredients to illustrate and reflect a story inspired by nature. It was the most memorable dining experience of 2011 which could be attributed to Narisawa's idea of the season permeating throughout the menu and the anticipation of what the next dish offers and the surprise of techniques used to just simply having the "evolution" of bread as it baked at your table with a cute little pot plant. And how could I forget the dessert cart of my dreams and the lovely birthday cake which made this dinner a bit more special. Easy to see why this restaurant has won so many accolades year after year, I cannot wait to go back and delve into the world of Narisawa, perhaps in another season.