Category Archives: Pyrmont

A culinary journey to Piedmont, Italy at The Star

I was so pleased to be invited to Stefano Manfredi’s restaurant Balla at The Star this week to experience a culinary trip to Piedmont in Italy. With my daughter Yolanda heading to Venice on a superyacht from France this week, this was at least one way of experiencing a vicarious trip to one of my favourite holiday destinations in the world.

On the second Tuesday of every month, celebrity Chef Stefano Manfredi and Balla Head Chef Gabriele Taddeucci, hold a four-course dinner with matching Italian wines to showcase a menu representing each of the various culinary regions of Italy.

The stunning interior of Balla

Tonight it was Piedmont, in northwest Italy, an area where most of its wines are produced on family estates which are made up of relatively small parcels of land. Each dish served throughout the evening featured the very exotic truffle, which is now found in all states of Australia.

Throughout the evening Stefano mingled with guests in the dining room, sharing his many cooking influences and his knowledge on truffles. We were all encouraged to touch and smell these exotic food items and, of course, we were treated to an exceptional four course dinner with matching wines.

Chef Stefano Manfredi presenting the Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle dessert

We started off with antipasto which included vegetable puree with fontina and black truffle, followed by an entree of pasta, reggianno and black truffle. The main course, however, was the standout of the evening – Sella di coniglio al tartufo con lenticchie e cavolfiore gratinato – or, to us non-Italian speakers – rabbit loin with bread and truffle stuffing, braised lentils and Reggiano. This dish was simply spectacular. We finished the evening on a sweet note with an Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle which, again, impressed.

Other regions of Italy explored on the menu in the following months at Bella include Lombardia, Sicily, Emilia Romanga, Puglia plus a special ‘Buon Natale’ traditional Christmas menu. Highly recommended for lovers of Italian cuisine and Italian wines. Phone +61 2 9657 9129 for reservations or click through here.

Maureen de Groot

Read more about Balla here

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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.

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