Dinner @ Orana (Adelaide, Australia)

September 20, 2020 in Australian

After I arrived in Sydney in July ’19, I didn’t do much interstate travelling except for a trip to Canberra in October. You see… My flight tickets were mostly all bought for 2020. So while some of my trips were cancelled because of COVID-19, I was fortunate I managed to travel a bit before the lockdown (in April ’20). So yes, I’m actually very thankful I got to head up to Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

  

For my dinner reservation in February, I made mine in December ’19 through Orana’s website since Orana accepted reservation up to 3 months in advanced. And as taken from their website, Restaurant Orana is home to chef-owner Jock Zonfrillo’s intimate dining room where he uses Indigenous ingredients to showcase Australia’s modern gastronomic identity.

The accommodation that I stayed in Adelaide happened to be within walking distance from Orana. And if one’s headed to Orana on a weekend and in summer, I recommend reaching the area earlier to check out Ebenezer Night Market too. It’s a pretty small market, but I walked away with 3 pairs of earrings. Haha.

I arrived at the restaurant punctually for my 7pm dinner. And as I took my seat, I noticed every unoccupied table had what looked like dough proofing in banneton baskets. And true enough, the staff said the dough would be taken to the kitchen be baked. Pretty awesome, I got to say.

The degustation menu named ‘Alkoopina’ meant snacks in Aboriginal language. And yes, ‘Orana’ had a meaning behind its name in Aboriginal language too. ‘Orana’ meant welcome. And I commenced my dinner menu, AUD295 with:-


  

1) Potato damper & lamb butter (above) – Placed on hot coals, I was told to turn the potato damper on lemon myrtle branch skewer around after 5 seconds. Unfortunately I got a little carried away with my picture taking which explained why mine turned out to be more charred than it should be. Though the staff did come over with tongs to help me remove the burnt bits and excess ash. A neighbouring table got equally carried away, but theirs probably couldn’t be saved because the staff had theirs replaced.


2) Macadamia & native thyme (topmost, right) – And this was certainly interesting; Warm macadamia milk with native thyme oil.

3) Scarlet prawn, crocodile lardo & boab (above) – A close-up of the dish revealed boab powder, deep-fried-till-crisp prawn legs and thin layers of lardo placed over the prawn flesh. In fact, the slices of lardo were placed slightly overlapping one another to replicate a prawn shell. The attention to details was simply amazing. And this tasted so good too. Was also told to suck at the prawn head.

4) Streaky Bay abalone & gubinge (above)


5) Murray river cod, succulents & eucalyptus (above)

6) Bunya nut, wild salmon roe & long yam (above)

7) Set custard, Coorong mullet bottarga, bunya & saltbush (above) – And this staeamed egg (chawanmushi) dish was a surprise in terms of plating. The staff removed the lid to reveal the bunya nut miso and saltbush leaves ‘stuck’ to the bottom of the lid.


8) Surf & turf (above) – Smoked over coals, this was supposed to be cubes of blue-fin tuna belly with Davidson plum curry and wagyu beef with Dorrigo pepper. But because I don’t take beef for religious reason, the beef was replaced with mushroom.


9) ‘Tongue in cheek’ roti (above) – Jerked lamb tongue & leather jacket cheek. This was enjoyable, although I wished the roti was a little less oily.

10) ‘Soup soup’ (above) – Crocodile with Australian botanicals.

11) Kohlrabi, quandong, lemon myrtle & dorrigo (above) – Pickled kohlrabi discs rolled into tiny cones, and held together by chilled burrata foam within. Topped with pickled quandong strips, and each cone piped with lemon myrtle and dorrigo dressing.


12) Return of the bread (above) – With native thyme & macadamia butter. And yes, this was from the same dough that was proofing on the table under a glass cloche. Bakers would know we sometimes have our ‘off baking days’, yet Orana boldly placed the balls of dough on every tables. And that to me spelled confidence.

13) Marron, Geraldton wax & wild plum (above) – Orana usually served this dish with green ants. But I must have come when ants weren’t in season. Although to be very honest, I think I was secretly happy I got the ant-less version. Keke.

14) Quail, minya, Ngeringa farm greens & bunya nut shoyu (above)


  

15) Coopers sparkling ice-cream pop, paperbark ice-cream sandwich & Orana vovo (topmost, left to right)

16) Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus (above)

17) Twin Lakes Mob Jillungin tea (above)

18) MacRobertson chocolate – Freddo Frog (above)

It was a fun and interesting dining experience at Orana. I did a little research and realised bush damper is part of the Aboriginal culture. So yes, it’s pretty amazing how head chef Jock designed the dish to allow us to experience a little of the Aboriginal culture by getting us to ‘cook’ our own (potato) damper. So if I could say… The meal doubled up as being educational too. At least forty seasonal Indigenous ingredients were used. And the restaurant was decorated with different pieces of Aboriginal artworks and native flower arrangement.

One definitely has to give it to head chef Jock. Even though he wasn’t born here, he chose to take on the task of preventing the Aboriginal tradition and culture from being wiped out. I read from an article that he first came to Australia in 1990s. After a few years, he left before returning in 2000 because his fascination of Australia refused to swindle. And it was his past conversation with an Aboriginal man in 1990s that inspired him to establish the Orana Foundation. Wow. And the Orana Foundation is a non-profit venture that works with Indigenous communities to preserve and promote Indigenous food and culture, and share skills training and employment opportunities.

No surprise that 2 sachets of native tea leaves were in the souvenir bag, which the staff passed to me as I made my way to the exit. And it’s a pity head chef Jock wasn’t at the restaurant during my meal. It’s only later that I realised it’s probably because he was filming MasterChef Australia: Back To Win, which premiered on 13 April ’20.

Do I recommend Orana? Oh yes! It may be pricey than other fine-dining restaurants, but I feel it’s justified. Please dine at Orana and experience the incredible things that head chef Jock and his team are doing!

RESTAURANT ORANA
1/285 Rundle Street, Adelaide, SA, Australia
+61 8 8232 3444, Website
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Lunch @ Sixpenny (Sydney, Australia)

September 9, 2020 in Australian, European

Was chit chatting with my colleagues when our conversation shifted to food. And they were raving of their respective meals at Sixpenny. So it was only natural that I quickly made reservation for a weekend lunch. And 2 days before my meal, I received a text message reminding me of my reservation and asking for my dietary restriction.

The restaurant was a short 5 to 8 minutes walk from Stanmore station. And as I opened the entrance door, I immediately stepped into the main dining area. It being a pretty small space, there was no reception counter or waiting area. It was an awkward 5 seconds (although it felt like a good long minute) as I stood there alone, unsure who to speak to.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

Upon seated, I was told there wasn’t any physical menu at Sixpenny. The staff continued to mention there would be 5 savoury dishes and 2 desserts, with 2 add-on options; Oyster & dry-aged duck. I went with the latter only. And I commenced my lunch course, AUD175 with:-


1) Snacks, Complimentary (above) – Multi grain cracker with dried tomato and parmesan cream, and pai tee with tuna tartare.

  

2) Bread, Complimentary (above) – Sourdough bread with mascarpone butter.


3) Savoury #1 (above) – Cured coral trout with white peach, horseradish and kholrabi. And when the dish was placed in front of me, I thought the top layer was jelly. But no, it was actually fish! Placed like a disc over cubed vegetable and fruit. Wow.

4) Savoury #2 (above) – Kangaroo tartare, sweet potato crisp and dried cheese.

5) Savoury #3 (above) – Poached squid from Spencer Gulf with sweet peas and tomatillo (green tomato) broth.

6) Bread, Complimentary (above) – Yesterday’s sourdough. Was told the leftover dough was dried, powdered, mixed with new dough and coffee powder, and then (re)baked. And this tasted more sour than the first bread, which I actually preferred! So nice!

7) Savoury #4 (above) – Bass grouper from New Zealand with spinach, champagne butter sauce and cauliflower purée.


  

8) Dry aged duck, AUD30 (above) – So glad I ordered this an additional a-la carte dish. Amazing, amazing, amazing! The smoked duck breast was very aromatic and its texture was great. I was also told the cherry-braised beetroot was treated for 8 to 9 hours. So much hard work to produce this amazing dish! Loved this dish, lots. Was also surprised to see 2 other duck dishes served alongside the duck breast. Liver parfait with cherry and mustard jelly, and duck heart. Duck heart? Like what!?! I was impressed!


  

9) Savoury #5 (above) – Dry aged Borrowdale pork loin, mushroom and marsala demi-glace. This was a real stunner. From the looks to the taste. Pure perfection.

10) Dessert #1 (above) – Strawberry consommé, frozen strawberry and mead vinegar custard. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the dish introduction, I thought there might be frozen pomegranate too. I saw pictures of this prior to my visit and was hoping it would be on the menu when I came. And I was so glad it was because it was so good. A beautiful balance of sweet and sour.

11) Dessert #2 (above) – Red Anjou pear ice cream with toasted milk, caramelised white chocolate and warm salted dark chocolate sauce.

I enjoyed myself immensely at Sixpenny. There’s no doubt about the food. It was executed beautifully. It’s hard to pick a favourite cause every dish was so good.

And the thing about dining solo was that I had lots of time to observe my surrounding. And I thought Sixpenny had a pretty interesting way with their table arrangement. Instead of sitting opposite each other, customers in pairs sat beside each other to face the centre of the dining space. So it was almost like we were all eating together at one big dining table. Though I did find it odd that for a fine-dining establishment, we weren’t given stools to put our handbags on. Most ladies placed theirs on the floor while I hanged mine on my chair.

Would I recommend Sixpenny? A big yes. Definitely deserving of their 3 hats by Good Food Guide (2020).

SIXPENNY
83 Percival Road, Stanmore, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 9572 6666, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Sat – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Wed – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Tues

Dinner @ Nel Restaurant (Sydney, Australia)

August 30, 2020 in Australian, European

I was doing my usual surfing on instagram when I came across the post by Nel Restaurant with the caption ‘It’s back! The second chapter of once upon a time returns from 4 August. Urban List Sydney has said it might just be the happiest degustation on earth. And don’t we all need a bit of happiness this year.’

Interested, I did some research and realised the Disney-inspired menu was first launched last year. No wonder this year’s menu had a ‘Chapter 2′ in it! I guess one could say this year’s is like a sequel to last year’s!

It was definitely a “wow” moment to arrive at the restaurant and be welcomed by the gorgeous, magical entrance. Located in the basement, I honestly thought it was an ingenious idea that they dolled up the staircase landing just behind the entrance door, before one headed down to the main dining area. Coloured lights were used to create a purple-blue hue. And it was definitely an artistic touch with the overhanging branch because it resulted in a silhouette on the full-height entrance glazing from the backlight.

As I entered through the entrance and went down the stairs, a staff greeted me and checked my reservation details. But I was slightly embarrassed shy when the staff led me to my table. “Front row seat”, the staff said. I definitely appreciated the thought that went into the assigning of my table. I could tell that they equally welcomed solo diners just by the restaurant’s mere gesture of not tucking me away at a corner table. Thank you!

After settling down, the staff gave me a quick introduction of the degustation menu. I opted to order my wine by the glass instead of going for the pairing, and went with the additional caviar for my fish dish. And shortly after, I commenced my ‘Once Upon a Time – Chapter 2′ menu, AUD135 with:-


  

1) Eat me (above) – Alice in Wonderland. The staff elaborated the dish was inspired when Alice went down the rabbit hole. But in place of many potions, the kitchen have popping candy within the snack instead. Cool! On the cookie/biscuit were the words ‘eat me’ although only the ‘me’ was readable. And within the cookie was filling made with parmesan cheese, chive, finger lime and… Just a little popping candy.


2) Dragon fire (above) – Mulan (and her fire dragon). This dish came with the charcoal lit, but the fire died once it was placed on my table. I noticed the staff would torch the charcoal at the kitchen. Maybe they should consider lighting the charcoal only at the customer’s table? But no surprise that the pork-chicken dumpling was a hot dish. Served alongside a lime dipping sauce.


3) Runaway to the circus (above) – Dumbo. Deboned chicken wing on a bed of peanuts, in a Dumbo cup.


4) You shall go the ball (above) – Cinderella. Pumpkin brioche served in a pumpkin! “Here you go, Cinderella”, the waiter said as he placed the huge pumpkin onto the table before removing the lid to reveal the bread within. And I liked that bread was still warm.

5) Bambi + Thumper (above) – Bambi. Venison carpaccio served with, mushroom, sorrel, fried forest leaves and rabbit croquette.


6) Steal from the rich, give to the poor (above) – Robin Hood. This was really cool. The staff poured the mushroom broth into the bowl of alfalfa sprouts, potato, onion and golden jelly. Oh yes. Golden jelly. Not sure what it was exactly, but the jelly melted upon contact with the warm broth, and the broth became this really gold-shimmery soup.

7) Just keep swimming (above) – Finding Dory. Pan-fried John dory with fennel and soy protein foam (to look like ocean). And of course, a spoonful of caviar (additional AUD18)!

8) Donald a paris comprised of:

  

(A) Part 1 (above) – Donald Duck. The staff humourously said “Although it’s served on a foot, it’s meant to be a finger food.” And I enjoyed the ball of duck confit.

(B) Part 2 (above) – Was told that the duck was dry aged for 7 days before it’s roasted and pan-seared. Served with potato galette, carrot and duck broth. This was really good.


9) Melted snowman (above) – Frozen. Black garlic ice cream and rum baba beneath yogurt, topped with a carrot nose and iced eyes. How cute! And really good too.


11) Roses are red, beasts are blue (above) – Beauty & the Beast. Rose lychee cake with dried rose petals. And for a dramatic effect, the rose petals with dry ice were dropped from a height. And I must say… It was a tad too dramatic. Normally, most would drop these from the customer’s eye level. But the really tall waiter dropped it from at least his chest level. So when these hit my plate, some bounced off and landed onto the table… And yes, on me too. But that aside, this was a really good dessert.


12) Imagination (above) – Peter Pan. Blueberry cheese custard tart.

It was definitely a fun meal! And the restaurant helped to set the mood by playing the various Disney movies’ theme songs. Which got customers to hum and even sing along to the chorus. I didn’t recognise all of the songs though. Maybe it’s time to get Disney Plus to re-familarise myself with all my childhood movies? Keke.

  

Bill was presented in yet another book. “Final chapter”, the staff said. How cute. And yes, we were also given a sachet of Australian grown tea leaves (daintree black tea, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle and wattleseed)!

Would I recommend Nel Restaurant? Oh yes, I would. But do note that the ‘Once Upon a Time – Chapter 2′ meny is only offered from 4 August to 7 November before chef-owner Nelly Robinson updates the menu! Apparently the restaurant does these themed menu, with the theme changing every 10 weeks.

NEL RESTAURANT
75 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 9212 2206, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 17:15 – 21:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.