Crave Sugar Hits 2012 – It’s Time to Exercise [COMPLETE]

At least, that’s what I’ll need to do more of if I actually intend to see this through.

The Crave Sydney International Food Festival is an annual event which is ALL ABOUT FOOD. Check it out here. There are literally hundreds of events (the event program is over 50 A4 pages!) and there is no way for even a dedicated foodie like me to explore it all. One particular series of events I am intent on going after is the Sugar Hits. You might want to open that link up first.

Done? Yep that’s right – NINETEEN different venues will be offering a dessert paired with a dessert wine for the sweet tooth. I’m not /that/ much of a sweet tooth, but I suspect I’ll convert before long!

Yes, I intend to cover ALL 19 locations. It will take some time, but I’m sure I can do it. 

Naturally, this post will be continually updated to reflect these sugary adventures. Read on! =D

Well, in the end, it looks like I ended up covering 17 out of 19 locations! Tomislav was unfortunately booked out on the last day I could go, and Stock Cafe was just way too far away in Parramatta!

What were the highlights? What were the disappointments? Read on!

Sugar Hit #1 – Glass Brasserie

For the review of the restaurant itself, click here

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Chocolate delice with Iranian fig and candied nuts

And we’re off to a good start at Luke Mangan’s one-hatted restaurant. A review of the place itself will be coming eventually, we’ll just talk about the dessert here.

There is a thick layer of cocoa-rich chocolate atop a nutty base which has a great crunchy and chewy texture. How is it both crunch and chewy? Thanks to your good friend sugar glue (which I’m pretty sure has caramel hints in it!) It makes for a whole load of yum  yum and is MUCH better than just plain textureless chocolate. Though in this case, textureless can arguably be an advantage in that it’s very smooth.

The nuts provided an extra layer of sugary crunchiness on top and are just so fun to pop into your mouth. Nice touch.

That Iranian fig? Not sure what its role is meant to be…it looks very lonely off to the left. Oh well, I quickly solved that problem by eating it, where it can join the rest of its sweet brethren 😛
Yeah that’s kind of disgusting. Oops.

Anyways, I’m overall satisfied with this dessert, though it was really just a whole plate of sweet which might be a bit strong to many. The dessert wine certainly does not make it any better.

Seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10

Glass Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #2 – Sheraton on the Park – Gallery Tea Lounge

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Champagne chocolate marquise w/Crème anglaise & ground pistachios

I suspected Glass Brasserie might be a hard act to follow, especially as you’re competing on what is essentially chocolate. It’s not that the dessert was bad in itself, it just wasn’t particularly impressive.

The chocolate marquise goes through well, but doesn’t abound with any particularly noteworthy flavour. It gets forgotten rather quickly. The crème anglaise is actually the star – it adds a flavour dimension to the chocolate that just isn’t there if you had it by itself. It pretty much saved the dessert, actually. Rich, creamy and milky – it was the bomb.

Oh and the pistachios – they do actually matter in bringing some much-needed texture. Crunchy.

True chocolate lovers will probably find something to like (or might criticise it even more), but it’s a bit bland for general dessert-goers.

Five Caesars out of ten – 5/10

The Gallery Tea Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #3 – Azuma Chifley

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Kawaii Panacotta w/brown sugar jelly, seasonal fruit face & buckweat soba noodle.
Yuzu sorbet w/popping sparkles

Well how about that, Azuma breaks the trend of focusing on chocolate and delves into a very “East meets West” theme. For the most part, I love it – it definitely is the most innovative sugar hit I’ve been to yet. Variety is key here and they’ve delivered in spades – I needed to take two photos to get everything!

Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese and you can see why they called it that – they arranged the fruit into a face! Awwwww. So unnecessary, but so…cute!

The panacotta itself is of a decent calibre with the right amount of sweetness. It was a bit too creamy and tasted too aerated, but this isn’t a proper complaint as far as I’m concerned. Not sure what to feel about the brown sugar jelly at the bottom though – tasted a bit like medicine. Always awkward when I have to say that :O

Yuzu sorbet: <3
Love the stuff, easily one of the better sorbets out there with the right level of sourness and aftertaste. The inclusion of the crackling candy is just great. It’s always fun to experiment! Yum yum!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Marble Gateux cookies (out of focus)
Crave Sugar Hit #3 Gateux chocolat w/fresh cream, seasonal fruits & candied violet
Plum sake (out of focus)

This picture kind of failed as it only shows one thing in focus, but the others don’t make awesome pics in any case…

The gateux  chocolat is at the bottom of the cream and fruit and is barely visible. It had a rich taste to it that isn’t overdone, and is well complemented by the fluffy cream. Fresh fruit is always welcome. Makes me feel better for eating all them calories in the cream 😛

The gateux cookies requires you to eat them whole – no point in splitting them as they’re quite small and hard which I didn’t fully appreciate. It’s all good though – they’re bite-sized!

Unlike the usual dessert wine, I had the choice of picking plum sake instead. That was a nice change and was delicious – I haven’t had sake in a long time (some of you are going “but I thought you didn’t drink?” – yeah yeah, but I wouldn’t consider 0.5 std drinks “drinking”; not in a habitual sense anyway) and it was quite the refresher.

Eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10

Azuma on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #4 – Sydney Harbour Marriott Macquarie Lounge

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Blueberry and lemon curd tower enrobed in white chocolate leaf served with light mascarpone cream

A complete departure from chocolate, Marriott offers something else yet again. It’s quite elegant really – all those layers wrapped around in that white chocolate (looks yellow, I swear it’s not a white balance issue…*cough*)

Before I go on, I’ll show you a second pic of what it looks like cracked open:

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

White chocolate tower – cracked open

Looks pretty good aye. It really is I gotta say. It doesn’t punch you in the face like extremely rich chocolate does, but at the same time, it lacks the subtleties that are so nuanced with dark chocolate. Overall, the dessert comes off as very sweet and this may not work for you. For me, it worked quite well and I had a ball with this uniquely designed dessert.

Oh, the layers don’t /really/ complement each other, but that doesn’t matter – eat them individually; they stand up well to that kind of treatment.

Seven and a half Caesars out of ten – 7.5/10

Sugar Hit #5 – The Grace Hotel – Grace Brasserie

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Dark & white chocolate charlotte with fresh berries, topped with chocolate ice cream, a macaron & floss.

A charlotte is basically a mousse-like dessert. It involves a bready exterior filled with a custard or some such on the inside. In this case, chocolate mousse!

This dessert definitely takes the cake as the most beautiful looking. Just look at that – you don’t want to eat it just stare at it! We spent nearly 5min just taking photos of it. Luckily, we came early so there was no-one else in the place to be weird out 😛

Thankfully, the taste is almost as good as it looks – the chocolate base is hard enough to keep everything steady. The strawberries were a bit sour, but this is forgiven as it actually helps offset some of the sweetness of the rest of the dessert.

The charlotte mousse is textured like a chocolate pudding, which I haven’t had in awhile. It contrasted well with the cold ice cream, which was really refreshing to taste! The Macaron provided yet another texture change (it just keeps morphing!) and the sugary floss tops it all off.

Here’s a pic of its insides – admire the layering!!!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

It’s the best sugar hit I’ve had so far. Sure, it’s not as varied as Azuma, but my goodness it tastes like it’s a hundred different things even though it’s all chocolate-based!

Definitely highly recommended.

Eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10

Grace Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #6 – The Westin Hotel

Where the Grace Brasserie has the prettiest presentation, the Westin has the most unique.

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Chocolate gateux with vanilla bean ice cream & raspberry coulis.

See that pot of liquid in the middle? That’s a special type of tea that’s cooled with dry ice and it bubbles and steams (boils) for three minutes. We’re not meant to drink it – it’s presentation only. Man, you had to see it in person. It’s pretty cool I’ll tell you! A visual feast indeed.

The chocolate was not standout when compared to all the other sugar hits I’ve been, but it still complements well with the sweet quenelle and raspberry sugar crackling.

The vanilla ice cream tasted…different to normal vanilla ice cream. There’s a lot less sweetness and more creaminess. Not the soft-whipped cream style, but more like the thick and viscous type. It was kind of weird and I wasn’t used to it, but it worked well with the cracker underneath.

Oh and, who doesn’t like Pocky sticks :3

Seven and a half Caesars out of ten – 7.5/10

The Lobby Bar & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #7 – Spiedo Restaurant & Bar

For something that’s not chocolate based, Spiedo has you covered.

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Ricotta and lemon tortino, raspberry foam & pistachios

Cheese-based desserts are undoubtedly going to divide people and this one will be no different. You can definitely taste the ricotta in there with that hint of salty aftertaste. I like cheese-based desserts, but this one only somewhat worked for me. The pistachios add the required texture, and while the raspberry foam was the right level of sweet and sour, the tortino (think a dessert version of quiche) wasn’t really to my palate. It was mainly the result of that aftertaste overstaying its welcome as well as the taste itself which was rather lacking in impact.

Still, a good break from tried and true chocolate!

Six Caesars out of ten – 6/10

Spiedo Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #8 – Sofitel Sydney Wentworth

We return to chocolate again with the eighth sugar hit at Sofitel – a tasting platter!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Tasting platter – choc éclair, opera slice, choc mousse, choc macaron, choc cocoa tartlet

Sofitel have decided to play it safe by offering the usual assortment of goodies you’d find on a chocolate tasting platter. From left to right:

The chocolate cocoa tartlet tastes like what you would expect – dark chocolate in a tart pastry with a thin stick of white chocolate to balance things out.

The chocolate macaron was well made – the biscuit is perhaps a bit crunchier than the likes of Ladurée with the ganache being a standard chocolate ganache.

The opera slice is the best on this platter – the multilayering made it more unique than the others and added several dimensions to the flavour as well as the texture. Sweet, crunchy, with gold leaf to boot!

The mousse was disappointing – could barely taste it. I feel they had aerated it out far too much here…

The eclair has the classic cream puff chocolate taste, all well and good.

So you can see it’s a fairly standard dessert. So long as you don’t expect experimentation and wonders Sofitel’s sugar hit is a decent choice.

Six and a half Caesars out of ten – 6.5/10

Sofitel Wentworth on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #9 – Radisson: One on 1 Bar

Out comes a pretty darn awesome sugar hit by the Radisson hotel!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Handcrafted chocolate truffle bombe accompanied by a mixed berry zabaglione with passionfruit coulis

There’s a lot to like here and very little to dislike.

Let’s start with the zabaglione – basically an egg yolk/wine based liquid jelly. It had an awesome taste kind of like the mango tarts you get at yum cha, except in more liquid form and doesn’t really have the distinctive taste of mango.

Okay that makes it quite different, but basically what I’m saying is that it has a very nice taste – the lack of texture is the texture, with the sweetness at just the right amount. Importantly, it tastes refreshing which a is a great sign. And yes you can taste a hint of that classic custard coming from the egg yolks. Good stuff. The one bad thing is that the fruits served with the zabaglione were quite sour…tut tut.

The chocolate bombe (basically frozen dessert) was quite hard to break into, but once through the cocoa-rich chocolate shows for itself. It’s not by any means the best chocolate out there but is above average. Eat pieces of the white chocolate for balance.

For something more on the citrus side, have at the passionfruit coulis which, when taken with the other elements of this dessert make for a pleasing trinity of flavours. It’s a hint too sour, but what the heck you’ve got all that chocolate to balance it out.

Eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10

1 on 1 Bar & Brasserie, Radisson Hotel & Suites on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #10 – Ocean Room

The second panna cotta to hit the sugar hits after Azuma, Ocean Room whips up something special.

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Gorgonzola panna cotta with caramelised banana, Junmai jelly and shoyu caramel, topped with Persian fairy floss

Geez they really went out with the ingredient list here BUT, you might not even have noticed it…

Gorgonzola is a type of blue vein cheese with quite a distinctive salty taste. This was completely non-evident in the panna cotta, then again I’m unsure if that could be a blessing in disguise considering my reaction to Spiedo Restaurant’s offering. Still, it’s unfortunate I couldn’t taste an ingredient that was specified front and centre. Still, the panna cotta itself is a decent bite, but inferior to Azuma’s offering.

The Junmai (a brand of Japanese sake) jelly is very, very light on flavour. You’re going to have to try real hard to derive flavour from it. Guess the sake content was quite low and gelatin content quite high. Hmm, interesting texture though. It’s quite inventive, but needs more substance.

I was excited by the prospect of shoyu (soy sauce!) caramel but once again, I couldn’t taste a trace of it! It was just like slightly runnier caramel to me…

The fairy floss may actually have been the best part of the dessert if elements were to be taken individually. Soft but still packs in that sugar. Goes well with the bananas which were caramelised nicely, though perhaps just that wee bit too far (to the point where I can taste the slightest hint of burn).

It’s a very solidly unique effort by Ocean Room…they’ve got plenty to improve on for next year though!

Six Caesars out of ten – 6/10

Ocean Room on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #11 – Shangri-La Hotel Lobby Lounge

Easily the best chocolate-based sugar hit this year, Shangri-La has come up with a storm.

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Chocolate Tasting platter: Whisky candy bar
Rose macaron
Earl Grey Bonbon
Chocolate jaffa truffle
White chocolate & coconut lollipops w/chocolate vodka cream

Look at this beauty. Yes, Sofitel did a chocolate tasting plate too but the Lobby Lounge at Shangri-La ups it in every single way and then some. Its uniqueness in its choice of  presented items and the sheer taste of the items is just wonderful.

Starting from the left…

Whisky candy bar – a crispy feuilletine base topped with whisky infused chocolate and a puffed wheat crunch.
Feuilletine is thin ‘n’ crispy crepe pieces which are heavy in sugar. They taste delicious of course haha. This was my favourite one of the lot, with a rich nutty flavour coming out of the rich base that goes hand in hand with the vodka-infused chocolate up top. Granted, I didn’t really taste the vodka (not an alko I swear) but that didn’t matter. The candied puffed wheat then made up another layer of texture – beautiful!

The rose macaron is a very safe item which nevertheless still manages to hold its own in flavour. The biscuit is extremely crispy and will crack as nicely as a good crème brûlée. You have to like rose to appreciate this macaron. Oh and no I don’t know what a rose macaron is doing here on a chocolate tasting platter…

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Another pic because I can

Surprisingly, I was unable to discern the tea flavour from the chocolate Earl Grey bonbon. Odd as my friends could. Perhaps I went onto this dessert too quickly after eating the others. In any case, it was a decent piece, though ultimately not too impressive compared to the rest. Normal chocolate I suppose?

The chocolate jaffa truffle was really just a piece of chocolate with mandarin slices up top. The truffle ball itself is quite bitter, so dark chocolate fans rejoice!

For the sweeter-tooth, the white chocolate coconut lollipops are sure to delight – shaved coconut with white chocolate (with a white chocolate cream) makes for quite the delicious (and unhealthy!) combination. You can have it without the mousse just fine which by the way, tastes like normal mousse – again, no vodka taste.

Shangri-La takes the (chocolate) cake this year. Mmm mmm.

Nine Caesars out of ten – 9/10

Shangri-La Lobby Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #12 – Wildfire Restaurant

Wildfire this year serves up a classic sponge cake that’s sure to divide…

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Black forest syllabub – chocolate roulade sponge, cherry jam & griottine cherries w/dark chocolate mousse

Okay, so this looks pretty good, but I think it was a dessert built to fight my palate. The cherry jam – whoa it tasted like a sour tomato purèe. This was quite shocking and I definitely could not bring myself to like this. I finished it in the end, but only out of an obligation to clear the plate (as long as I physically cannot eat it).

Griottine cherries are cherries that have been soaked in kirsch (a brandy distilled from…you guessed it – cherries). This again fights my palate and I think it’s definitely something that has to grow on me. It’s just far too bitter/sour for me. To each his own!

The sponge cake was passable – it tasted a bit too spongy (as if the ‘sponge’ had soaked up too much moisture) but the inclusion of the chocolate cake and fruits (kiwi, strawberry) was not a bad move. Breaks up the monotony of a pure sponge. Here’s a shot of the innards.

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Man, you know the lighting is bad when you shoot at ISO6400 and still get a blurry shot because your shutter speed is metered to 1/60…

All in all, a disappointing dessert for yours truly.

Wildfire Sydney on Urbanspoon

Four Caesars out of ten – 4/10

Sugar Hit #13 – The Cortile Bar & Lounge: The Intercontinental

Here comes a very nice sugar hit from The Intercontinental Hotel:

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Ivory chocolate cheesecake, with salted chocolate caramel, poached strawberry and berry soil.

A very good, albeit safe sugar hit, the Ivory Cheesecake is sure to please assuming you like cheesecake. The texture is firm yet will cut through with just the right amount of force. The taste is very sweet but is kept in check by the right amount of that “cheesy” flavour (what word do the culinary buffs use to describe that flavour?).

As for the strawberries…why do people insist on calling the process “poaching” when not used to describe a method for cooking eggs? Poaching means to cook something without its shell. Since strawberries have none, can I say any method of cooking a strawberry is ‘poaching’? Just my musings…

In any case, this ‘poaching’ doesn’t seem to have done it much good – the insides are quite sweet (yay I got good strawberries this time!) but the outside feels a little too soft and ready to just turn to mush.

Berry soil – I can only imagine this describes some sort of super-dried fruit…it actually tastes like sweet bread. No joke it’s hard to believe until you actually eat it. Not sure if that’s what it’s meant to taste like but uhh…well it works well with the salted caramel!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Different angle = different picture? 8D

Overall, quite a fulfilling dessert!

Eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10

The Cortile Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #14: Scarlett Restaurant – Harbour Rocks Hotel

Another conventional dessert cometh the Harbour Rocks Hotel’s restaurant (seriously how many sugar hits are done by hotel lobbys/restaurants??)

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Walnut and semolina tart with honey oranges & yoghurt sorbet

The star of this one is actually the yoghurt sorbet – think of it as froyo and you’re pretty much set. Who doesn’t like froyo? The case has been made.

Well that must’ve been the shortest commentary on a sugar hit ever. Moving on…

Oh wait that walnut tart OOPS. Semolina is the innards of durum wheat. It’s essentially just another kind of flour that’s common in making dessert tarts. The walnut flavour is very evident when biting in. It’s quite soft yet retains the coarse texture of the semolina flour. Yum. (I like walnuts!)

There really isn’t anything wrong with this dessert – it just lacks wow factor.

Seven and a half Caesars out of ten – 7.5/10

Scarlett Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #15 – Front Restaurant at the Sebel Pier One

Keep the sorbet and non-chocolate based desserts coming!

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Blackberry parfait with lemon curd, chocolate fudge & raspberry sorbet

I always love the look of parfait – its definition is in its presentation. Do you see the chocolate fudge though? I didn’t…actually it’s on the inside centre but I forgot to take a picture of that. My bad.

The raspberry sorbet is as you’d expect – quite sour. Actually, it may have been a bit too sour for me – over that edge I was pushed. Oddly enough, I would prefer lemon sorbet but while that’s sourer, it’s a different kind of sour.

The lemon curd was much more amenable, and had a citrus-y custard-like taste. Bring that in with the chocolate fudge which tastes like…chocolate fudge with the blackberries and you complete the dessert.

Seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10

Front Restaurant - Sebel Pier One on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #16 – The Menzies Hotel: Piano Bar

Accompanying this sugar hit is some live piano music – what an apt name 😛
Just thought you’d like to know 🙂

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Vanilla-spiked tapioca pearl and fruit pudding with a side of chai latte ice-cream topped by crunchy honey naan

Definitely the most unique dessert of all the sugar hits in the sense that ordinary ingredients are used to produce not so ordinary dessert items. Oh boy where to start…

Everyone’s had Easy Way, Chattime or some other kind of pearl milk tea drink before. The pearls are made out of tapioca (which btw is very, very similar in composition to sago – to some it is considered equivalent). This is a pudding which is full of the stuff. If you’ve had those drinks or have had those Asian desserts where there’s those little transparent jelly-like balls in condensed milk this is essentially that. The fact that it’s in a fruit pudding takes it to a totally different level. The end result is a pudding with one hell of a unique texture! Always ‘interrupted’ by the relatively harder tapioca pearls, you feel the pudding will never get boring. The infusion of mango adds that extra bit to it as well and is quite pleasing!

Where common Easy Way pearls are used in this way, the staple bread of South Asian cuisine – naan is used to produce ‘honey naan’. Don’t get too excited here though – this was the weak point of the dish. The naan is way, way too hard and brittle and was very difficult to eat. The texture unfortunately will ruin the taste for you so be careful…especially if you have fragile teeth. Yeah it’s pretty bad. Still if you can get past that then crunch it up and give yourself some of that mango honey sauce and you’re good to go.

Chai latte – a super common variety of tea turned into an ice cream. Ohhh this was fascinating. I haven’t had chai ice cream before though I have had green/black tea ice cream. This was somewhat similar, but definitely has that spicy undertone to it that is hallmark of the beverage. And nope, it doesn’t fight with the other elements on the plate at all!

Eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10

Piano Bar, Menzies Sydney Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sugar Hit #17 – Otto Ristorante

I admit I was quite surprised when the one hatted restaurant Otto pulled out something as classic (and as basic) as this…

Crave Sugar Hits 2012

Pavlova with lemon curd and seasonal fresh berries

Oh well um…what can I say. Pavlova is that classic Australian (well, New Zealand) dessert. Everyone’s had it before and we all can tell what makes a good pav.

Otto makes a good pav, what more can I say? A pav is a pav.

Um okay well first of all – the crack. Yes this pav cracks like a good pav should, with a toughness that breaks like ceramic, yet turns to crunchy dust after a few bites. Tick!

Plenty of fruits! Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. Berry galore! And they’re sweet too! Tick!

Creamy custard on the inside, with that aerated texture that makes you think you’re eating less than there actually is. Mmm. Tick!

‘Tis good pav, but boy I wish they had done something more unique…leaves me wanting badly.

Seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10

Otto Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Wow holy smokes guys…if you read up till this point you’ve proven yourself strong over the course of 4000 words (yeah! That many!) hope you went to many sugar hits as well – eating it is always better than reading about it!

Thanks to Crave for organising this awesome series of culinary delights and until next year!

16 comments on “Crave Sugar Hits 2012 – It’s Time to Exercise [COMPLETE]”

  1. Gracie > Reply

    Ahhh so lucky to go to Azuma … I hear it has been totally booked out this month!!

    I shall be trying the Sugar Hit at Grace soon ^^

    • nclfrk799 Reply

      So the rumours are true? Wow, I’m glad I went early on! In the first week there weren’t many people at all!

      Azuma actually has several of their sugar hits items (the panacotta and yuzu sake) as regular desserts. Try them and you’ll get a taste of what the sugar hit was like.

      • Gracie > Reply

        ok coolies ~! Thanks for letting me know about Azuma ~! But will try my luck before this months’ end to get in haha!!

        Go try Intercontinental … me and my group still favour that as the top atm ^^

        • nclfrk799 Reply

          Indeed I shall try it out – I believe I’m going there next week!

          I’m a bit out of date with this post actually – it only shows my reviews for 6 but I’ve actually been to 11 as of today. I really need to get the ball rolling again…

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