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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Cafe Paci, Newtown

Maltagliati with sweet corn, basil and walnut at Cafe Paci in Newtown

He's back. It's been four years since Pasi Petanen shut the doors on Cafe Paci, his pop-up restaurant in Darlinghurst that ran for two years. Diners were won over by a menu of interesting and experimental dishes, like his pho-tato Scandi-Vietnamese mashup and desserts of carrot sorbet with licorice cake. Petanen draws on influences across Asia as well as his Finnish heritage, finessed with fine dining expertise (Petanen was the former head chef at former three-hat restaurant Marque).

Cafe Paci has now opened in permanent digs in Newtown, neatly tucked in between Bella Brutta Pizza and Mapo Gelato. It's a win for everyone.

Dining room at Cafe Paci in Newtown

The long and narrow dining room feels more like a European wine bar. Long banquettes along the wall are lined with tables and bentwood chairs. High stools at the bar are ideal for walk-ins and single diners. And the former set menu structure has been casualised in favour of a la carte. That means diners can pop in for a snack or stay for a full meal.

Potato and molasses bread with butter at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Potato and molasses bread with butter $4 per slice

Petanan's potato and molasses bread has thankfully been revived. It's impressively soft and fragrant with a gloriously sheen to its glaze. On the side is a swipe of whipped butter, interspersed with flecks of brown butter. It's so addictive we run out of butter and plead for more. We're rewarded with an even bigger portion that we down with glee.

Bloodcake with whipped lardo and pickled onion at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Blood cake with whipped lardo and pickled onion $20

Blood cake is a hearty disc of earthy satisfaction. The pure-as-snow whipped lardo belies its mouth-filling decadence. Petals of pickled onion provide welcome acidic relief.

Raw beef with smoked tomato and parmesan at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Raw beef with smoked tomato and parmesan $26

Raw beef with smoked tomato and parmesan is Petanen's take on steak tartare. It's not quite the pizza-inspired mouthful he presented at Rootstock and then Cafe Paci in 2014, but there's plenty to like about this tender raw beef enhanced with the umami of smoked tomato and fresh parmesan curls.

Maltagliati pasta with sweet corn, basil and walnut at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Maltagliati with sweet corn, basil and walnut $24

If you like corn, you'll love the maltagliati with sweet corn, basil and walnut. It's beautifully balanced in sweetness, and boosted with the slightly bitter crunch of toasted walnuts. The maltagliati pasta sheets are whisper thin and silky. Next visit, I'd be happy to eat just this with a glass of wine.

Potato dumpling with XO trout at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Potato dumpling with XO trout $26

Is there a difference between potato dumplings and gnocchi? Methinks not. What these potato dumplings do offer is a cloud of fluffy lightness. XO trout is a little harder to grasp if you're used to, and expecting scallop and prawn hit of traditional Hong Kong-style XO sauce. This trout version is obviously fishier, with less of the traditional garlicky shallot sweetness.

Flounder with sauce Florentine at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Flounder with sauce Florentine $38

Whole flounder is something you should order, cooked to just the right level of fork-yielding tenderness. Its mild sweet flesh is perfect for soaking up the lake of creamy sauce Florentine, speckled with mustard seeds.

Dutch cream potatoes with potato anglaise at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Dutch cream potatoes with potato anglaise $10

And on the side, a serve of buttery soft Dutch cream potatoes, doused in butter. C'est bon!

Carrot sorbet with yoghurt and licorice at Cafe Paci in Newtown
Carrot sorbet with yoghurt and licorice $15

One of Petanen's signature dishes, the carrot sorbet with yoghurt and licorice, has survived the move. This felt like a nonsensical and crazy dessert when we first ate it in 2013. It's just as enjoyable and enigmatic today. The cloud of yoghurt foam envelopes a quenelle of carrot sorbet like an egg white eiderdown. The licorice cake on the bottom is ridiculously more-ish.

It's a surprisingly accessible menu from Petanen, which is perhaps one of its only disappointments. The former set menu format forced everyone to join a wild ride, as Petanen ignored conventional flavour combinations and applications. Is this a more economically sustainable option for inner west diners? Maybe. But I'd happily pay more for Petanen's playful whimsy in a heartbeat.

Bar seating at Cafe Paci in Newtown


Cafe Paci Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Paci
131 King Street, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9550 6196

Opening hours
Lunch Saturday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 5.30pm til late


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1 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/19/2019 12:25:00 am


Thursday, October 03, 2019

All-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro, Surry Hills

All-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney

What's better than grilled cheese? ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT GRILLED CHEESE. Imagine a landslide of molten cheese, scraped onto a plate of potatoes, bread and charcuterie. With endless cheese. Yep. Unlimited. Non-stop. Never-Ending. Unrestricted. You know you want it.

Melted raclette cheese at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Melted raclette cheese

Live out all your wildest cheesy dreams with the all-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro, a quaint French bistro in a converted terrace in Surry Hills. The front dining room is tiny but the courtyard out the back - accessed by a scenic walk through the kitchen - is much more airy.

The all-you-can-eat raclette menu costs $49 which is pretty darn reasonable. That includes unlimited raclette, boiled potatoes and salad. You also get a serve of bread and charcuterie. And friendly staff to serve you all night. And do the dishes. Not bad considering raclette itself costs $55/kg.

It happens every Tuesday and Wednesday night and, unlike most other raclette offerings in Sydney, runs throughout the year.

Raclette cheese under the grill at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Raclette cheese under the grill at Loluk

Raclette is a Swiss cheese by origin, popularly melted by a campfire or grill and scraped onto bread. It began as an easy and mobile meal for cow herders, but today it's enjoyed as more of a social event, much like fondue.

Boiled potatoes for all-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Boiled potatoes (unlimited)

At Loluk, the carriage of choice for your melted cheese is the humble potato (unlimited as part of the raclette all-you-can-eat). While the cheese is melting in the kitchen, diners are instructed to start cutting up the boiled potatoes on their plate.

Scraping all-you-can-eat raclette cheese onto potatoes at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Scraping melted raclette cheese onto potatoes

Staff will then come around and scrape lashings of gooey molten cheese all over your potatoes. It's wondrous.

All-you-can-eat raclette cheese on potatoes at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Melted raclette cheese on potatoes

There's a nutty, slightly acidic flavour to raclette, not dissimilar to Gruyere. It languishes with ease across the potatoes. The potatoes, I have to say, are impressive too, with a waxy lusciousness that makes them ideal for melted cheese.

Charcuterie plate, part of the all-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Charcuterie plate for four

Alongside your potatoes, you'll score a charcuterie plate - a selection of prosciutto, saucisson, coppa, white ham and bresaola served with pickled onions and cornichons. Additional serves of charcuterie are available for $8 but we don't need any more, especially since we're intent on filling our stomachs with cheese.

Salad as part of the all-you-can-eat raclette at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Salad (unlimited)

Salad is unlimited too. Sure it's only a simple salad of leaves tossed with dressing, but trust me, you'll be relishing a mouthful of greens as a much-needed palate cleanser between all the cheese.

Grilled all-you-can-eat raclette cheese at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Grilled raclette cheese

"More cheese?" The staff are super keen to keep on plying you with cheese. I'd expected the restaurant to try and discreetly restrict cheese consumption, but the staff on the floor merrily oblige you with as much cheese as you can stomach. Literally.

And there's seriously something so mesmerising about watching the cheese river slide off the half-wheel and cascade onto your plate.

Gooey and crisp all-you-can-eat raclette cheese at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Gooey and golden raclette cheese on potatoes

Glorious cheese. Our table is divided over whether people prefer their raclette all soft and melty or tinged with golden and caramelised edges. I'm all about the latter.

All-you-can-eat raclette cheese with potatoes, charcuterie and salad at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Potatoes and raclette cheese

How much cheese can you eat? It all depends on your greed. And lactose tolerance. I manage five serves of raclette before I have to wave the white flag. And loosen my belt.

Profiteroles at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney
Profiterole with ice cream and chocolate sauce

Dessert is included, a profiterole with ice cream and warm chocolate sauce. I wish I could say it's incredible. It isn't. The pastry feels forlorn and the ice cream is low in butterfat.

Not that we needed any more dairy products at this point.

Staff at Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney

But the raclette is good. And plentiful. And the staff are a friendly bunch too.

Loluk Bistro Surry Hills Sydney


Loluk Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Loluk Bistro
2/411 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 7900 6251

Opening hours
Lunch Friday - Saturday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6pm-10pm


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2 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/03/2019 09:39:00 pm


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Arthur Restaurant, Surry Hills

Chocolate cake with rhubarb and peach dessert at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney

Ten dishes for $70? Surely this is one of the best value dinner treats in Sydney. Treat yo'self for cheap at Arthur, a small and cosy restaurant in Surry Hills. You'll find it an intimate spot for date night but it's relaxed enough, too, for a special catch-up with friends.

Degustation restaurant Arthur in Surry Hills Sydney

Heading up the kitchen is Tristan Rosier whose cooking pedigree (ex-Biota and Est.) is reflected in his seasonal, local-focussed, plant-friendly cooking. The menu includes a detailed note of thanks to a broad list of suppliers, acknowledging the use of produce from Living Earth Organic Market Farm in the Southern Highlands, native ingredients from Outback Pride, Wollemi Honey from Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains, and fruit and vegetables from Rosier's own mum and Nan's garden.

Open kitchen pass at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney

Ten dishes will arrive in pairs, a five-course meal that the restaurant warns will take about two hours. The duration feels like the ideal compromise, long enough to feel memorable without the oftentime drawn-out arduousness of a 15-course degustation.

Housemade sourdough with cultured butter at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Arthur's sourdough with cultured butter

We start with housemade sourdough, deliciously crusty on the outside with a mattressy softness.

Raclette gougere with truffle and honey at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Raclette gougere with truffle and honey

Our starter counterpart is a plate of raclette gougeres.

Inside the raclette puff with truffle and honey at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney

These are far tastier than you first expect, the golden brown choux pastry boosted with aromatic truffle, the nutty cheesiness of raclette and a floral hint of honey.

Scallop with globe artichoke and verjuice at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Scallop with globe artichoke and verjuice

The following three courses pair a protein dish with a vegetable-based one. Raw scallops offer a gentle sweetness against pickled globe artichokes and a sunshine yellow splash of verjuice dressing.

Ricotta with broad beans and brussels sprouts at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Ricotta with broad beans and brussels sprouts

Ricotta with broad beans belies its understated appearance. The milky creaminess of ricotta works terrifically with tender double-podded broad beans, hidden beneath a forest of charred brussels sprouts leaves. We drag our spoons through the ricotta island, scooping up as much vivid green fennel oil as we can. It's one of my favourite dishes of the night.

Kangaroo with bush tomato and peppers at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Kangaroo with bush tomato and peppers

Course three includes a giant raviolo of kangaroo, the silky pasta draped with roasted red bullhorn peppers and bush tomatoes.

Cabbage, fennel and sorrel at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Cabbage, fennel and sorrel

On the side is a thick wedge of cabbage, roasted to a blackened caramelised sweetness, the green quotient bolstered with fennel and lemony sorrel butter.

Spatchcock with cipollini and brassicas at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Spatchcock with cipollini and brassicas

Our final savoury course proffers spatchcock, brined and cooked to an impressive succulency. On the side are candied cipollini onions and a tangle of cavolo nero.

Jerusalem artichoke with macadamia at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Jerusalem artichoke with macadamia

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes are my other highlight of the evening. They're addictively sweet and nutty, smashed and fried so that obtain a blistered crisp at the edges. And then there's the macadamia sauce, velvety in texture and lush in its nutty richness.

Wattleseed, blood orange and strawberry dessert at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Wattleseed, blood orange and strawberry

A wattleseed parfait provides a palate-cleansing segue into dessert. It's a clever dessert, balancing the creaminess of parfait against the refreshment of blood orange with strawberry and the sweet hit of caramelised white chocolate smithereens.

Chocolate cake with rhubarb and peach at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney
Chocolate, peach and rhubarb

And while we're relieved there's a chocolate dessert too, this one isn't intense or heavy. There's a deftness of touch that tempers a flourless chocolate cake with peaches and rhubarb. Lashings of cocoa dusted cream hit the satisfaction button.

It's a thoughtful and elegant meal although our only quibble is that our table of three consistently receives a single dish to share the entire evening. That would be fine if the dish - normally designed for two, based on our observation of the next table - was increased proportionately, but many looked to have been left as is. It's a small point, but worth noting if you plan to dine with an odd number of people.

Dining room at Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney

Entrance to Arthur Restaurant in Surry Hills Sydney


Arthur Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Arthur Restaurant
544 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (0)468 991 088 

Opening hours
Lunch 
Saturday and Sunday 12.30pm (Fridays from 11 Oct)
Dinner 
Wednesday to Sunday 6pm
Wednesday to Saturday 8.30pm


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4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/19/2019 10:07:00 pm


Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Gardener's Lodge vegan cafe, Camperdown, Sydney

Vegan lasagna at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney

You can't even tell it's vegan. Seriously. There's been a lot of hype about the lasagna at vegan cafe Gardeners Lodge. Believe the hype. It's every bit as cheesy and meaty as any Nonna would make. But vegan.

Outdoor seating in the park at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney

You'll find Gardeners Lodge in the quaint sandstone building that sits on the edge of Victoria Park. You know. The huge park opposite Broadway Shopping Centre. On a sunny day, it's a glorious spot to soak up some Vitamin D and admire the tranquility of Lake Northam.

Vegan desserts at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney

Otherwise you can take a seat inside the building, a mix of small tables and communal seating with a close-up view of the dessert shelf lined with treats.

Vegan zucchini fritters at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney
Zucchini fritters $16

The menu offers a mix of cafe staples with Italian favourites. You'll find zucchini fritters on the all-day breakfast menu, alongside avocado bruschetta, cheese and (plant-based) ham toasties, and an acai smoothie bowl.

The fritters are generous with zucchini but perhaps not as crisp as expected. There's plenty of health-reviving zing on the plate though, with dairy-free feta, peppery rock leaves, fresh lemon and a good splodge of avocado to smear on sourdough toast.

Vegan lasagne lunch at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney
Lasagne $18

The lunch menu kicks off at 11.30am. Ordering the lasagne is pretty much mandatory. You're score a magnificent slab of oozing lasagne that could almost pass as a meat version. It's satisfyingly savoury (hello umami), amped up with mushrooms, lashings of bechamel sauce and enough dairy-free cheese to make you want to kept digging that fork in for more.

It'll be no surprise to learn that there's some serious pedigree behind the lasagne. The recipe is by Marco Matino, the chef behind Gigi's in Newtown, the pizzeria that switched to an all-vegan menu in 2015 and hasn't looked back. Marco is the brother of Jessica Matino Ndibe, the co-owner of Gardener's Lodge.

Vegan Caesar salad with plant-based schnitzel at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney
Caesar salad $14
with plant-based schnitzel $5

On the salad menu, the most substantial offering would be the Caesar with added plant-based schnitzel, over the mixed salad and the pumpkin salad. We're not quite sure what's in the smoky rashers nor the schnitzel but they're eerily uncanny in similarity of appearance and texture to bacon and chicken. There's a great crunch and toothsomeness to the schnitzel, although we probably could have done with half as many croutons.

Vegan mushroom sandwich at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney
Mushroom panini $17

There are sandwiches too. Panini are made using Brickfields ciabatta. The mushroom one is worth trying, if not just for the dairy-free blue cheese playing off against pan-seared oyster mushrooms and the slight bitterness of crisp radicchio leaves.

Not convinced? Try the melanzane grilled eggplant, plant-based schnitzel or tomato and olive bruschetta.

Stools and water station at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney

Vegan cheese fridge and groceries at Gardeners Lodge vegan cafe in Camperdown Sydney


Gardener’s Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gardener's Lodge 
Victoria Park
Corner of Parramatta Ros and City Road, Camperdown
Tel: +61 (0)425 334 023

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 8.30am-3pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am-3pm


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/03/2019 12:23:00 am



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