11 March 2011

Taste of Sydney 2011: Restaurant dishes and free tastings guide, Sydney (10 Mar 2011)

Brazilian Fields, Centennial Park, Sydney NSW 2000

A tasting of Sydney restaurants

Thanks to Ashley Gatte from Stellar* for organising a VIP invitation for me to attend the Taste of Sydney Opening Night including a bloggers preview at 4.45 pm to visit Victor Churchill for some cured meat tastings, Sensology to learn how to make a piña colada and the kitchen tour of Restaurant Balzac plus access to the nicely air conditioned HSBC VIP Lounge where I had a refreshing PIMMS cocktail minus the usual cucumber and some oysters with Vietnamese dressing. It was a busy night of eating for me and I managed to sample 23 (plus 2 other dishes over friday and saturday totally 25) out of the 42 restaurants dishes on offer from the 14 restaurant stands — the majority of them were generously provided to me by the chefs which saved me a fortune in aid of my eating research purposes, thank you so much. Revisiting on friday I also tried the 3 noticeably alcoholic yet refreshing tasting cocktails made to order from Otto Bar along with the Scallops dish from Etch and on saturday I tried the tasty salmon and potato cakes from Bird Cow Fish. Since I didn’t get try all the dishes I can only make recommendations on the selection I sampled but some of the other dishes looked very appetising and if given half a chance I would have happily tried them all.

A Tavola & Omerta’s
Potato gnocchi with slow cooked lamb ragu ($12) had nice flavours but for dessert the Ricotta fritters with berries and honey ($8) stole my heart. Chef Miguel Maestre now has Apertif and still churning out large amounts of Paella ($12) with passion on those enormous pans. Freshly cooked up Churros con Chocolate ($8) are worthy of a try. The four Oysters with Vietnamese dressing ($10) from Assiette & District Dining are pretty good value and I’m sure the Spicy Free Range Lilydale Chicken ($10) will be a crowd pleaser although I wish the coleslaw had a more flavoursome dressing. Berowra Waters Inn are doing their popular Chilled Vichyssoise, Oyster Beignets, Salmon Roe ($10) which will set you back $30 in the actual restaurant so it’s a great opportunity to try them. Although I wasn’t a fan of the Fromart Raw Milk Alpage Cheese ($10) which was way too strong on the nose for my liking. The dishes from Bilson's & Number One Wine Bar looked pretty simple in comparison to other restaurant dishes. I enjoyed the flavours in the Apple Tarte Tatin ($10) although it didn’t really have that slightly caramelised crunchy base as hoped and the Merguez with Spiced Cous-Cous & Harissa ($12) was more dense than fluffy in density.

Chef Alex Herbert from
Bird Cow Fish was very busy in the kitchen with an abundance of people waiting for their dish orders. The Regal King Salmon & potato fishcakes ($10) caught my eye which I thankfully tried on my revisit on saturday — definitely worth having. I liked the look of the Hiramasa kingfish roasted in jerky & nigella seeds ($12) from Danks Street Depot & Cotton Duck and the cheeky Jared Ingersoll apparently has really good nuts to go with his own branded Cotton Duck Ale. There was no sign of Justin North at Etch & Charlie & Co but his Chips with truffle and parmesan still seem to be drawing the crowds. An easy dish to share without cutlery is the tasty looking Black pepper and curry leaf prawn skewers ($10) from Flying Fish which is freshly cooked to order and bursting with nice flavours. For chocolate lovers you might like Four in Hand’s Dark Chocolate Snickers ($8) although there seemed to be an unfortunate missing ingredient of peanuts to add crunch and flavour as expected. The 12 Hour Braised Lamb Shoulder with Pea and Feta Salad ($12) looked really good and perhaps worthy of a try. My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Feildel is in fine form at L'etoile posing for photos with fans. He’s dish samples are displayed on the counter as a helpful guide for customers which I think all restaurants should adopt. I was hoping he’d be doing more interesting dishes like a mini bouillabaisse, duck confit or crème brûlée but perhaps next year.

Rich enjoyable flavours are to be found in the
Dark chocolate and coffee 'Barbajada' with almond crumble ($10) from Ormeggio at the Spit and even though the Acquarello Risotto of beetroot and gorgonzola ($10) looks quite unappealing it promises rich flavours to those who dare. Otto Ristorante wins the trifecta for good looking dishes and the generous serve of Stracci with smoked veal ragout ($10) delivers on taste as well. Paper plates and plastic cutlery don’t to justice to the nicely presented Regal King salmon carpaccio with orange segments ($10) and the Amedei Milk chocolate mousse ($8) is one of my favourite desserts of the festival. Chef Matt Kemp from Restaurant Balzac is one of the first stands you’ll come across as you enter the grounds on the left. For the meat lover at heart you can’t go past the ample sized Crisp Wagyu Beef with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Foam ($12) rich in flavours and his Seared Regal King Salmon ($10) is simply
cooked to allow the salmon flavours to stand out in the dish as it should.

If you’re feeling a bit short on cash after paying for your entry ticket ($25 online, $30 at the door) then there’s some excellent complimentary canapés to be found at the City Tattersalls Club stand where the energetic and friendly staff will welcome you with great enthusiasm — these guys get my best customer service award closely followed by the effervescent and charismatic Chef Miguel Maestre from Aperitif. Also check out the
New Zealand stand for free tasting samples of Whitestone cheeses, Regal smoked salmon and Omega Seafood mussels and clams. There’s plenty of other stands providing free tastings including a coffee appreciation session by Nespresso for a caffeine kick to the heart and The Australian Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen is providing free live cooking demonstrations by the restaurant chefs of their signature dishes. Free demonstrations by Executive Chef Vincent Gadan of Patisse are also to be found at the De Dietrich Appliances stand and for only $6 you can book yourself into the Jaguar Gourmet Traveller WINE Theatre where you’ll get to sample some wines plus learn a thing or two about them.

Session dates and times:
Session 1: Thursday 10 March: 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Session 2: Friday 11 March: Noon - 4 pm
Session 3: Friday 11 March: 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Session 4: Saturday 12 March: Noon - 4 pm
Session 5: Saturday 12 March: 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Session 6: Sunday 13 March: Noon - 5 pm

Other visits to Taste of Sydney:
March 2012 / March 2011 / March 2010

Other blog reviews of Taste of Sydney 2011:

PROS: A taste test of Sydney's top quality restaurants, Meet the chefs in person, Lots of free taste samplings to be found, Free parking available inside the park gates but fills up quickly
CONS: Can end up being quite expensive if you want to try a lot of dishes, Weather permitting, Time limit per session, Can get crowded at times when a restaurant stand is popular, No seating around the restaurant stands, Fake grass tables could be cleared of empty dishes more quickly, High heels don't work too well walking in the grass for the ladies
MUST TRY: Checking out all the dishes and meeting the chefs



A Tavola & Omerta
Dish 1 Mussels steamed with chilli, white wine, tomato and parsley ($10) [sampled]

Dish 2 Potato gnocchi with slow cooked lamb ragu ($12) [sampled]

Dish 3 Ricotta fritters with berries and honey ($8) [sampled]

Chef Eugenio Malale and Me

Dish 1 Regal King Salmon Curado with Chilli and Star Anise ($10) [sampled]

Dish 2 Paella a la Maestre ($12) [sampled]

Dish 3 Churros con Chocolate ($8) [sampled]

Aperitif Chef Miguel Maestre and Me

Book signing duties

Assiette & District Dining
Dish 1 Oysters with Vietnamese dressing, crispy shallots & coriander ($10) [sampled] — Quite good value for 4 oysters

Dish 2 Spicy Free Range Lilydale Chicken with Lime Aioli and Coleslaw ($10) [sampled] – pretty much the same as I enjoyed at District Dining

Dish 3 Crispy Pork Belly, Cashew Nut Caramel, Watermelon & Mint ($12) [sampled]

Chef Warren Turnbull and Me

Berowra Waters Inn
Dish 1 Chilled Vichyssoise, Oyster Beignets, Salmon Roe ($10) [sampled] — Very good value considering it would cost $30 in the restaurant and it's essentially the same thing

Dish 2 Slow Cooked Fillet Of Ocean Trout, 'French Onion Soup' Puree, Peppered Oxtail 'Croustillant' ($12) [sampled] – sadly the fish was a bit undercooked but the overall flavours were good

Dish 3 Fromart Raw Milk Alpage Cheese, Sauvignon Blanc Poached Apple, Beetroot Oil ($10) [sampled] – the cheese was a bit too strong on the nose for my palate

Chef Dietmar Sawyere and Me

Bilson's & Number One Wine Bar
Dish 1 Chicken Liver Parfait with Brioche and Mesclun Salad ($8)

Dish 2 Merguez with Spiced Cous-Cous & Harissa ($12) [sampled] – a bit on the uninspiring side

Dish 3 Apple Tarte Tatin with Calvados Creme Anglaise ($10) [sampled]

Tony Bilson and Me

Bird Cow Fish
Dish 1 Regal King Salmon & potato fishcakes with tartare sauce; fresh lemon ($10) [sampled sat]

Dish 2 Boned and rolled roasted chicken stuffed with mushroom duxelle; pommes puree ($12) — looked pretty good and possibly worth trying

Dish 3 Tiramisu roulade with caramel sauce ($8)

Chef Alex Herbert and Me

Chef Alex Herbert book

Danks Street Depot & Cotton Duck
Dish 1 Stone fruit roasted with home cured pancetta, verjuice & chilli (vegetarian option is served with grana pandano instead of pancetta) ($10)

Dish 2 Hiramasa kingfish roasted in jerky & nigella seeds with heirloom tomatoes & basil ($12) — looked pretty good and maybe worth trying

Dish 3 Chocolate and rhubarb tart with rhubarb cream, chocolate mint and tonka bean ($10)

Cotton Duck Ale with Danks Street Depot's really good nuts ($10 or $8 with a dish)

Chef Jared Ingersoll and Me

Etch & Charlie & Co
Dish 1 Seared scallops with cauliflower bhaji and curry ($10) [sampled fri] – quite nice in flavours

Dish 2 Organic grass fed wagyu burger ($10) – was a pretty small looking burger and you'll get more at Plan B

Chips with truffle and parmesan ($6) – if you miss out you can always try at Westfield Sydney Charlie & Co

Dish 3 Caramel date tart, Earl Grey syrup and vanilla Chantilly ($10)

Flying Fish
Dish 1 Black pepper and curry leaf prawn skewers with lime and fresh coconut ($10) [sampled]

Dish 2 Seared Petuna ocean trout with a white curry sauce, jasmine rice and raw vegetable sambal ($12) – looked pretty good and maybe worth trying

Dish 3 The Wattalapam – Sri Lankan crème caramel with palm treacle and roast cashews ($10) – sounds really interesting

Chef Peter Kuruvita from Flying Fish and Me

Four in Hand
Dish 1 Confit Pork Belly, Squid, Chorizo and Chickpea ($10) [sampled]

Dish 2 12 Hour Braised Lamb Shoulder with Pea and Feta Salad ($12) – looked really good and maybe worth trying

Dish 3 Dark Chocolate Snickers ($8) – nice flavours but needed a peanut factor to make it more like a Snickers, perhaps chopped caramelised peanuts sprinkled on top

Chef Colin Fassnidge and Me

Busy kitchen keeping up with demand

Dish 1 French country style pate with sourdough bread ($10)

Dish 2 Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with smoked potato puree and jus ($12)

Dish 3 Raspberry bavarrois ($8)

Chef Manu Feildel and Me

Ormeggio at the Spit
Dish 1 Beef battuta with eshalots, crispy amaranth and mustard figs ($10)

Dish 2 Acquarello Risotto of beetroot and gorgonzola ($10) [sampled] – doesn't look that appealing but had rich bold flavours

Dish 3 Dark chocolate and coffee 'Barbajada' with almond crumble ($10)

Chef Alessandro Pavoni and Me

Otto Ristorante
Dish 1 Stracci with smoked veal ragout, eschallot puree, bresaola and parmesan ($10) – quite a decent sized portion

Dish 2 Regal King salmon carpaccio with orange segments, citrus and chardonnay vinegar dressing, shaved fennel, salmon roe, baby herbs and crispy salmon skin ($10) – looked really good but sadly was a bit hard to eat and appreciate with the paper plate and plastic cutlery

Dish 3 Amedei Milk chocolate mousse with salted caramel and fresh berries ($8) – the salted caramel really made this dish a winner

Chef Richard Ptacnik and Me

Otto Bar
Dish 1 Aperol Spritzer: Aperol, prosecco toped with soda ($10)

Dish 2 Campari Passion: Campari, passionfruit and orange juice ($10)

Dish 3 Otto mule: Vodka, ginger beer, mint, limes ($10)

Live music


Restaurant Balzac
Dish 1 Crisp Wagyu Beef with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Foam ($12) — definitely for the meat lover and a decent sized portion

Dish 2 Saddle of Suckling Pig with Baby Garden Peas ($12)

Dish 3 Seared Regal King Salmon with a Salad of Pomegranate, Mint and Feta ($10) – looked good and simply cooked to appreciate the salmon flavour

Chef Matt Kemp from Restaurant Balzac and Me

Ashley Gatte from Stellar welcoming bloggers on their preview tour

Victor Churchill stand: Darren O'Rourke slicing with the Berkel which is worth a cool $70K — I want one for Christmas

Victor Churchill stand: David Blackmore Wagyu Bresaola 9+ Marble Score tasting sample – this just melts in your mouth

Victor Churchill stand: Tartufo with black truffle tasting sample (around $60 per kg) – nice flavours

Victor Churchill stand: Biltong tasting sample

Victor Churchill stand: Crème brûlée ($8) [sampled] – Tried on saturday, sorry about the mobile phone picture

Victor Churchill Goodie Sample bag

Sensology stand entrance

Sensology cocktail mixing instruments

Sensology cocktail instructor and Shez from One Bite More

Sensology Pina Colada made with Barcade 30 ml, Coconut Water 30 ml, Pineapple Juice 30 ml, shaken with ice ($10)

Sensology Goodie Sample Bag

Food bloggers visit Chef Matt Kemp in the Restaurant Balzac kitchen


City Tattersalls Club competition: Win a dinner for 2 valued at $200

City Tattersalls Club complimentary samples menu

City Tattersalls Club Sangria, Mocha Martini (Free)

City Tattersalls Club Prawn Arancini with Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Aioli (Free)

City Tattersalls Club Apple, Cranberry and Cinnamon Dough Nuts with White Chocolate or Sour Cherry (Free)

City Tattersalls Club Hrous Spiced Lamb Kebab with Coriander and Mint Yoghurt (Free)

City Tattersalls Club Mini Lemon and Lime Meringue Tarts (Free)

Rochester Ginger and Dark Ginger — For lovers of great tasting ginger

Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen demonstrations

Barilla stand — Oops technical power problem but great place to see a cook off and taste samples

Nespresso stand — You get to make and try 3 coffees

Chef Alex Herbert at the Australian Gourmet Travellers Chef's Table

Jaguar Gourmet Traveller WINE Theatre

Be Enlightened stand — Simon's Award for the Most Out of Place Product at a Food Festival


Seating outside

Air conditioned inside

Wines on offer

Oysters with Vietnamese dressing

PIMMS and lemonade — very refreshing


Professional photographers at Sensology Cocktail session

Lots of dishes being consumed although quicker cleanups may be required

Map of Taste of Sydney

Entrance to Taste of Sydney


Simon @ the heart of food said...

Dude, you really put the word "comprehensive" to shame. This is one hell of a mega post!

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Comprehensive as always, Simon - thanks :) and good stuff getting shots with all the chefs!

Two many-hours-cooked lamb shoulders - I know which one I want.

And dunno about Bilsons' bangers and mash...

steph@chefsarmoury said...

The lineup looks even better this year.

Otto's offerings look particularly good.

Great post

Amy @ cookbookmaniac said...

Thank you for your thorough post of Taste of Sydney... I have written down some of your recs for my very first visit this year.

Now.. for next years consideration. Can you make your post into a pocket-sized guide for my convenience.

Love Amy

Jasmin said...

Mmm. I couldn't agree with you more - and I can't believe we didn't bother to pop into City Tattersalls!

But after all our hopes for the Snickers it was a bit of a disappointment and while a huge Manu fan - the lamb wasn't as great as it is at L'etoile - but the smoked Potato Puree was spot on.

BGDino said...

Super comprehensive post!! Looks like you had a good time.

Now I really want to eat at Otto...

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

That's a lot of eating, Simon!! We did our share of boozing :)

I really enjoyed Otto's dishes and Flying Fish but I thought some others were rather ordinary. It was good to see more samples on offer this year.

Brenda said...

Awesome post! Why I didn't think to check on you first before I went on Sunday?!? :( I would have been much better prepared for the freebies LOL!
I'll know to check with you next year ; )

Melissa@Melthefoodaddict said...

wow fantastic review and so many yummy food! so sad to miss it this time!

OohLookBel said...

Always impressed by your excellent photos and extensive coverage - and your grinning face =D And thanks for the link back, too.

Jenny (Figs and Brie) said...

This post is so incredibly amazing.

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Comprehensive coverage there Simon! Sad I had to miss out =( Always next year to look forward to though ;)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Honey @ honeyandsoy said...

WHOA! Our experience was much more relaxed (ie lazy) compared to your mega post! I am envious of your stomach space! Thanks for the link back ;)

Ms Darlinghurst said...

Great post Simon, love the shots with the chefs. How amazing was that beef spring roll thanks to Matt Kemp!? Are you on foodie detox after all of that food? Hope not, I'm looking forward to more foodie stories very soon!

xxMs D

Simon Leong said...

Simon, i try my best ;-)

Tina, i had to work hard and getting those chefs out from behind the kitchens but it paid off

steph, it definitely made me want to visit otto again

Amy, glad it helped out. i’ll think about doing a little pocket size guide next year. nice idea to download as a PDF perhaps

Jasmin, City Tattersalls is always great value — it’s free!

BGDino, otto for me too!

Corinne, good to hear lots of boozin was involved ;-)

Brenda, hopefully i’ll get a chance to go early next year too so you can be pre warned about the dishes.

Melissa, hopefully next year for you

OohLookBel, thanks for the kind comments about the photos.

Jenny, much appreciated the positive feedback

Angie Lives to Eat, there definitely is always next year. they were pretty lucky with the weather this year.

Honey, there’s always a bit of extra room for blog research eating

Ms Darlinghurst, i never seem to have time to detox. onwards and inwards :-)

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