CRAVE SIFF: Quarter Twenty One Let’s Do Lunch & Azuma Kushiyaki Sugar Hit

It's already the 2nd week of October which means the CRAVE Sydney International Food Festival is in full swing with restaurants all around Sydney offering food events.

Not working in the CBD means I'm not usually able to enjoy Let's Do Lunch offered during the weekdays but this year I was lucky enough to visit Quarter Twenty One (Level 5 Sydney City Westfield) for their Let's Do Lunch offering on the public holiday Monday. Even more awesome was that there was no public holiday surcharge! Though we were also able to order a la carte from the menu, we were both in the mood for the Let's Do Lunch slow cooked short rib of beef, spring vegetable ragout and fondant potato which also came with a glass of Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio for me and a Coopers Beer for Bill. The beef was so tender and melted in our mouths and we each had a generous amount of beef as well. I loved the fondant potato and the spring vegetables brought the dish together with the colours. We also ordered side dishes of veges and hand cut chips thinking it may not fill us up, but in hindisght the main dishes were enough. We even planned to order a dessert (the banana creme brulee was calling my name) to share afterwards but were way too full… not to worry Bill has promised to take me back ๐Ÿ˜€

Quarter Twenty One

Warm crusty bread

Let's Do Lunch
Slow cooked short rib of beef, spring vegetable ragout and fondant potato which also came with a glass of Brown Brothers wine or Coopers Ale

Later in the week I indulged in yet another CRAVE SIFF event with my fellow sweet-a-holic girlies – a Sugar Hit offering a late night dessert during 9pm-11pm with a glass of Brown Brothers dessert wine or green tea at Azuma Kushiyaki for $20. Betty kindly organised a Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki an East meets West dessert tasting plate which I thorougly enjoyed at least years SIFF Sugar Hit though it had more Western influences than Eastern. However this year we were presented with the desserts which had a stronger Japanese influence and again presented in a two tier box. On the bottom tier we had a white sesame ice cream which had a subtle nutty flavour and a bowl of anmitsu. Anmitsu is a Japanese dessert meaning to top with red bean which was atop a small bowl of assorted seasonal fruits with tapioca pearls and my favourite shiratama rice dumplings covered with kinako powder. This dish was clearly loved by everyone in the group but the texture of the shiratama was a little rough for my liking and I suspect it has been made earlier and then refrigerated.On the top tier we had a yuzu sake, green tea tiramisu, sake sponge bites and a piece of dark chocolate praline. I absolutely loved the yuzu sake and could have had a few more glasses it was refreshing, deliciously citrusy and went down easily, I loved every single drop of it. The green tea tiramisu was my favourite the matcha layers of whipped cream and between them soaked sponge fingers though there was only a hint of shochu and marscapone. The sake sponge bites definitely had been soaked with sake more compared to the shochu soaked sponge fingers. The dark chocolate praline was the Western dessert a soft piece of chocolate encasing pop rocks. We all agreed the dessert here this year was better than last years and I have a feeling that I'm going to return again before the end of October.

Azuma Kushiyaki

Yuzu sake, green tea tiramius, sake sponge bites and dark chocolate praline

Homemade white sesame ice cream and anmitsu

We're now in the second week of October so you have three weeks to loosen your belts and enjoy some of the CRAVE SIFF offerings. Psst….the night noodles markets started this week at Hyde Park.

Quarter Twenty One
Quarter Twenty One on Urbanspoon

Azuma Kushiyaki
Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon

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High Tea at The Westin Sydney

It was raining cats and dogs outside, but myself and 8 other girls were a world away, lounging in the relaxed atmosphere of The Westin Sydney (No 1. Martin Place) enjoying the Marie Antoinette high tea. We all opted for the offering of high tea, unlimited tea or coffee and a glass of sparkling rose for $45 (weekend price) part of Crave SIFF, which was a bargain considering the sparkling rose option is usually $51. The sparkling rose we were given was Brown Brothers Zibibbo Rosa – a really pretty pink colour with a fruity aroma and we were given a selection of JING teas to choose from – I chose the Lychee black tea which unfortunately didn’t have much lychee or fruity taste for that matter and also a pot of Dragon Well which was a refreshing green tea.

After getting settled in and waiting for the late-comers, 3 two-tiered high teas were delivered to us, one plate of savoury and a plate of sweets. Usually I start off with the scones at high tea but since there were none here, I went for the savoury, which I might add had no salmon and dill sandwiches yay!. I grabbed the blt and deviled egg finger sandwich because it was heart-shaped and oh-so-cute. I couldn’t discern whether it was some sort of choux or a piece of toast? but it was very tasty though I don’t think mine had any bacon in it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The avocado and shrimp tartar [not pictured] was my least favourite of the foods that day because the choux puff was immensely dry and was hard to eat by itself after I had already eaten the filling. My favourite "savoury" item would be the kiwi and orange croissant with mascarpone which seemed like a strange combination at first but was really refreshing and had well balanced flavours after eating it.  The slow cooked roast beef with creme cheese stuffed baby belle peppers was also very good, the roast beef was tender and I especially loved the tangy belle pepper encased in the middle.

 
We had finished the savoury plate but where was my scones…? It wouldn’t be a high tea without scones. We were well into eating the desserts when a plate of freshly baked, still warm scones with double cream and strawberry jam came covered in a napkin. Eagerly we unwrapped the plate and found petite scones as opposed to the rather dense and large scones that I’ve become accustomed to seeing. None the less I slather each scone with jam and double cream – delicious little morsels but was rather like a buttermilk cake texture. There were also scones with sultanas but I honestly cant remember if I ate it or not…so no comment.

After a break, we continued on and tackled the sweet plate. The chocolate cream with exotic fruit caramel and candied walnuts [not pictured] was my first pick, the exotic fruit caramel tasted like passionfruit and I don’t think mine had any walnuts in it either. It was really creamy and a little too sweet for my liking. The surprise came from beetroot and cherry cupcake which though did not have the dominating flavours of beetroot or cherry it was a pretty red hue and sweet to eat. The impressive Marie Antoinette fondant sitting atop the lime curd meringue tart was too pretty for me to eat, but I loved the tangy lime curd and the thick buttery tart – this was a huge serving. And of course, a Marie Antoinette themed high tea would not be complete without a macaron, I believe most of us saved this till last – the piece de resistance macaron with fresh blueberries. It was an alarming vibrant blue and extravagant with fresh blueberries offsetting a very thick chocolate ganache center.

Though the service was slow at times, our waitress was lovely, very accommodating and advised us kindly on what each type of tea was and never rushed us. We stayed well into the evening (until 6:30) lazing away the saturday afternoon over sweets, tea and a healthy dash of gossip all whilst growing our food babies.

 
Marie Antoinette’s High Tea The Westin Sydney

  

"there is nothing new except what has been forgotten"
 
 
blt and deviled egg finger sandwich

 
slow cooked roast beef with creme cheese stuffed baby belle peppers

 
kiwi and orange croissant with mascarpone

   
JING tea

 
scones with double cream and strawberry jam

"let them eat cake!"

 
beetroot and cherry cupcake

 
lime curd meringue tart


the piece de resistance
macaron with fresh blueberries

The Lobby Bar & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit x 2

October is always so much fun when the Sydney International Food Festival rolls into town because you’re so spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Unfortunately because I don’t work in the city I can’t really enjoy Let’s Do Lunch so I take full advantage of Sugar Hits on offer.

The first Sugar Hit I went to was just after the long weekend passed, having gone away for the weekend I though it would be nice to catch up with mum over an indulgent sugar hit. I decided to book Azuma Kushiyaki Bar & Grill (501 George St Regent Place)  rembering last year of its popularity, so much that they were booked out of Sugar Hit for the whole month of October, extending it into November. Azuma were once again offering an East meets West dessert plate, which I was really looking forward to as last year they served mochi – one of my favourite Japanese foods.

The East meets West dessert tasting plate was again served in the small bento boxes with a choice of Brown Brothers Orange Musct and Flora wine, Hennessy XO or Japanese green tea. Being the responsible desginated driver I opted for the green tea which was lovely and very refreshing after so many sweets, while mum chose the dessert wine. The box I tackled first included a Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis and a Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Coulis centre and freeze dried Raspberry Flakes. The panna cotta was disappointing for me as it didn’t have that jelly wobbly texture but was more a creamy, thick yoghurt texture. Poor mum, she loves panna cotta so saved it till last but was sorely disappointed too. On the other hand the chocolate mousse cake was fluffy with the raspberries balancing out the sweetness of the Belgian chocolate. After polishing those off easily I moved onto the other box starting with the Petit Almond Financier. The second box also contained a Green Tea Ganache Tart, Wasabi Ganache Tart and a macaron. The Green Tea Ganache and Wasabi Ganache tart were both encased in a beautiful buttery tart. The Green Tea Ganache Tart was full of green tea flavour which is sometimes lacking in green tea flavoured desserts. My favourite dessert of the night was the Wasabi Ganache Tart which the waitress warned us would be a ‘little bit spicy’, but I didn’t believe her until I was hit by this intense zing of wasabi followed by a mellowing rich chocolate ganache – it was delicious!!! I wish they would add this to their Azuma Patisserie Cafe menu. The last dessert was the super-Japanese-squeal-inducing macaron with a cute face. The macaron flavours changed depending on the day, I had a lemon macaron while mum had an orange macaron.I really enjoyed the Sugar Hit from Azuma and I would probably go back again just for the Wasabi Ganache Tart – it was that good.

 
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis, Belgian Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Coulis centre and freeze dried Raspberry Flakes and mum’s Orange Macaron


Green Tea Ganache Tart, Lemon Macaron, Wasabi Ganache Tart and Petit Almond Financier

 
The following night, looking for a place to try and also scoping out potential restaurants for our upcoming anniversary dinner, Bill and I ended up at the Ocean Room (Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay) for my second Sugar Hit. As soon as I walked into the restaurant I was in awe of the huge space, high high ceilings, pretty view and the huge chandelier above the bar. Not in the mood for wine, I asked if the wine could be substituted for a coffee but was turned down, so I ordered a latte (I was a bit miffed about being charged $4.50 for a latte, but it was really good coffee!) and Bill had the Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora. Their Sugar Hit was a Black Sesame Blancmange with Umeshu-marinated Forest Berries served on an interesting slanted plate. The blancmange was firm yet silky and had a sweet subtle black sesame flavour and was sitting in a pool of cream. It also came with a crumbly pastry sort of like a sable? The service was so-so (wham, bam thank you maam) as the waiter failed to tell us what our Sugar Hit consisted of, leading us to an intense guessing game and a quick check of the iPhone.

 
Black Sesame Blancmange with Umeshu-marinated Forest Berries
 
I guess I much preferred having a selection of desserts from Azuma or a dessert plate with different components rather than the un-described Sugar Hit from Ocean Room. I find it disappointing to see some restaurants this year offering Sugar Hit where you choose one of their desserts from their menu, I guess because I want to try a new creation or tasting plate it defeats the purpose for me, if I can have it anytime. I want to try a Sugar Hit from a hotel next! ๐Ÿ™‚  

Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon