Monthly Archives: December 2011

Best Restaurants spends Christmas lunch with the families of children suffering from cancer

Celebrity chef and cancer survivor, Alessandro Pavoni, joined forces with Best Restaurants of Australia yesterday to bring Christmas cheer to a small group of parents and kids who have been affected by cancer. Channel Ten and Woman’s Day came to show their support for the event, which was held at Alessandro’s restaurant, Spiedo, in the new Westfield complex.

The children helping Alessandro make gnocchi

Talking to the parents, they said it was a special occasion for themselves, and their children, as many do not have the opportunity very often to go out for a meal as a family. Everyone was full of praise for the superb meal that Alessandro prepared and Alessandro’s wife, Anna, deserves a huge thanks for not only organizing the event but also, taking time the time to talk to the all the gorgeous kids.

The families enjoying Alessandro's gorgeous food

There was lots of giggles as the kids helped Alessandro make gnocchi and when Santa (aka Scott Winter) came out with a sack of presents.

TOP 10 Editor Scott Winter presenting the gifts

I was delighted to present a $5,000 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card to Anastasia Sokolova from the Cancer Council, to go towards fundraising for cancer research and to give families the opportunity to spend some quality time together by going out to a restaurant.

Chef Alessandro Pavoni and Maureen de Groot with the $5,000 gift card

After the meal, Alessandro was whisked off to Dawes Point to be interviewed by the stunning Magdalena Roze, just prior to the weather broadcast on Channel Ten at 5.50pm.

It was truly one of the most delightful and gratifying events that we have been a part of and we are very pleased to be able to help the work of Cancer Council Australia.

For further details and to make a donation go to www.bestrestaurantscard.com.au.

To watch the event on video, click here.

Have a very Merry Christmas,

Maureen

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Where the buzz of Tokyo meets a Sydney beat – Sokyo

Don’t enter from the street; take this opportunity to walk through the hotel lobby because, if you’re like me, this will probably be the closest you will ever get to The Star’s new five-star hotel, The Darling.

This little taste of the high life sets the tone for the evening. Black polished wood, stainless steel globe lighting and Japanese artworks adorning the walls completes the fit-out at Sokyo. It’s dark and sexy in its minimalistic modernism. A quick glance at the drinks menu at the bar confirms an inspiring cocktail list, however, we skip the martini and take a seat at the hotly-contested sushi bar. It is here that we get an uninterrupted view of ex-Nobu Chef, Chase Kojima, as he sharpens his sushi knives and yells orders in Japanese.

Sokyo

The restaurant is almost empty but what it lacks in full tables, it more than makes up for in atmosphere. Sokyo was the first restaurant on my list to try at The Star. And while it hasn’t had much media attention, it seems other members of society were as equally excited as I. Leonardo DiCaprio and his hat-wearing entourage swaggered past to occupy the private dining area at the back of the restaurant and, on leaving the restaurant; we almost bumped into none-other-than, Spider Man, (Tobey Maguire). Just behind us was a tableful of foodie representatives from Gourmet Traveller, Time Out Sydney and various freelance food writers. This star-studded affair created an excited vibe in the restaurant – as though we were all on the cusp of discovering something truly special. Expectations were high.

Due to indecisiveness, we choose a selection of small dishes, to get a taste of everything. We started with Kojima’s famous Moreton Bay bug dish, sashimi style, with Vegemite croutons. The fleshy creaminess of the bug, with the textural addition of the vegemite croutons, is well thought out and intriguing; however, the winner of the dish is the mayonnaise calligraphy of Japanese hiragana characters spelling out ‘Sokyo’. Chef Kojima has pushed culinary boundaries with this dish –subverting Japanese flavours by adding something as strong and raw as Vegemite. The seared salmon sashimi arrived next, with a delightful wasabi crunch and a Korean spice paste.

Seared salmon sashimi

Then the Ocean Trout sashimi, grilled eel unagi sushi, fatty tuna maki and crispy rice tuna. And this is when I stopped being inspired. The dishes were pleasant but without stirring much passion. Fois gras stuffed Wagyu beef skewers, with fresh figs and a plum sauce, reinstated some faith, however the overall experience was underwhelming. Especially for the price.

You can’t fault the service – the staff are efficient and friendly and the atmosphere is excited and buzzy, despite the restaurant being half-full. But the menu lacks an oomph – it is too safe. Sydney diners are ready for a change, which is why David Chang’s Momofuko Seiobo has caused such a thrill.  Or, perhaps, this is just the result of when you have such high hopes – that all the excited anticipation lessens your ability to honestly appreciate what is in front of you.

Anna Lisle

DETAILS

Sokyo is located in Pyrmont at the $850 million refurbished casino called The Star (formerly Star City). 10 minute walk from the city. Five minutes from Darling Harbour. Other restaurants in The Star include David Chang’s Momofuko Seiobo, Stefano Manfredi’s Balla and Teage Ezard’s BLACK by Ezard.

Sokyo on Urbanspoon

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Sydney’s new sweetheart: The Bridge Room

Every restaurant should be just like The Bridge Room. It’s a big call, I realise this. So big that you probably think I’m joking. But I’m not. At all.

When I sat down to write this review – there wasn’t a bad thing to say. I couldn’t even find a snooty waiter on the floor to bring these guys back down to earth. And trust me, when I go to a restaurant that has only had good reviews (even from Terry Durack), I’m desperately searching for the flaws.

So let me share with you all the things that make this my rock-star of restaurants. Let’s start with the restaurant’s design. My dining partner described The Bridge Room as exuding “Scandinavian-chic”  – and after chatting to Ross, it appears my friend has an eye for detail. Design-brand, Funkis, has been, in fact, asked to develop a line based on Ross’s designs. The interior is minimalistic with a pale-oak theme with the only lashings of colour coming from the huge cactus-type plants lining the restaurant and the retro-coloured water glasses. And yet, despite the simplicity, it was not sterile at all. Just warm and friendly.

The Bridge Room

Bubbly waiters bounced around the restaurant, eager to please the tables full of men in suits. On what I thought would be a quiet Tuesday, the restaurant was full to the brim, with a youthful energy that is hard to avoid. I looked around, trying to work out where this liveliness was stemming from. On several occasions through our meal, I looked up to see Ross, smiling over the restaurant, from the open-kitchen at the back.  The decor adds something but it is the people inside it that make the most impact. Some places just have a little bit of “oomph”.

But, to the food. This is when The Bridge Room went from John Farnham prominence to The Beatles stardom. An entree from the specials menu set the standard for the meal. Six sizeable prawns arrived in a cast-iron hot pot.  The garlicky oil base of the dish highlighted the sharp flavours of the crunchy fennel salad. Topped with crisp basil leaves and scattered with fresh dill, it was the perfect harmony of Modern Australian and Asian flavours.

Salad of oysters and red leaves with pork cheek lardo, blood orange, citrus dressing

If ocean trout is ever on the menu – I have to order it. Call me boring but no other dish will ever compete. There is something about the richness of the ocean trout that just brings its sister-fish, salmon, to shame. And Ross’ ocean trout did not disappoint. Placed on top of the crisp skin was a diced mussel salad, that, combined with the tomato and cumin thick broth-type base, worked like magic. The Mediterranean flavours of the grilled capsicum and tomato base cut through the richness of the fish. Then, there was the crunch from the skin, the smoothness from the tomato base, the graininess from the mussel salad and the creaminess from the fish flesh. I experienced every type of texture in that one dish. I wish I could elaborate on every dish we experienced but it is all gush, gush, gush. In fact, I could gush all day long about The Bridge Room.

DETAILS

Chef Ross Lusted, of Rockpool fame, with his wife, Sunny, opened The Bridge Room with the Fink Group in mid- 2011.

Anna Lisle

The Bridge Room on Urbanspoon

Read more about The Bridge Room here

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