With a two week trip to Tasmania in the twilight days of December, the (primarily downhill) roller coaster that was 2016 concluded with good company and thankfully, adequate sleep. Nevertheless, I still managed to find time prior to the Tassie trip in gorging on far too many cakes and other sweet things in Sydney. We’re talking about beautiful creations by the talented @stephwoon, (not so) new products by Uncle Tetsu, and a few other sugary tidbits from various other locations – it was after all, Christmas (fatmas)! Fortunately, I did occasionally manage a savoury meal or two – read on for the full slice!
Locations Visited: Uncle Tetsu’s, The Morrison’s, Devon Cafe at Barangaroo, The Q on Harris, Rustic Pearl
Quick Bites posts cover a whole bunch of eats (and interesting things to see, if applicable) over a given time period – all in one post. The overall post can be long, however individual sections will be short reads. Hopefully.
Each venue won’t get the same level of detailed coverage as a full-blown post, such is the compromise. However, if you have any questions on a particular dish/venue, please do not hesitate to reach out with a comment. While Instagram in many ways already serves as a “quick bites” platform, it’s still missing substance – substance which can only be found in a blog. I hope you like the format – and I’m more than happy to hear feedback on these installments, thank you!
Quick Bites December Contents
Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake Shop – Matcha Madeleines and Way Too Many Cheese Tarts
With half of Sydney’s population having lined up at one point or another for Uncle Tetsu’s now-famously fluffy cheesecakes, you’d have to be a lactard* not to have sampled what the Fukuoka-originated institution has to offer. While I wouldn’t queue for any meaningful length of time (just go during off-peak guys!) I do like their product – especially if served slightly chilled so its signature fluffy texture takes on some density, substance and a more concentrated flavour.
*If you are a lactard, my thoughts are with you.
But hey, you know this already – the cheesecakes have been around for ages. What’s (relatively) newer are their madeleines. These are basically nutty sponge cakes, though Uncle Tetsu’s aren’t “true” madeleines in that they don’t exhibit a madeleine’s distinctive shell shape. That’s of little importance – as the quality does all the talking. They’re essentially bona fide muffins, with a mediocre taste owing to more dryness than I would have liked.
That changes if you have them freshly baked, or microwaved for about 20-30 seconds. In doing this the madeleines took on a whole new level of flavour that pretty much ensured I’d never have a room temperature madeleine again. Rich, moist – and in the case of the matcha madeleine – almost oozy at the centre, this is the only way to enjoy them. In terms of flavour, honey is my go-to flavour, with the chocolate a bit plain and matcha too weak.
While Uncle Tetsu’s madeleines are a worthy eat (when warm), their killer product is undoubtedly the triple-baked cheese tart. Released early December, these parcels of heaven have – in my eyes – instantly become their flagship product. To put it this way, I bought a half dozen with the intent of eating one and gifting the rest, but half were demolished not long after I got home. Oops.
These are the “real deal” – whatever that means these days. Made with Australian cream cheese, the tarts are triple-baked, resulting in a friable tart base and cheesiness that tastes out of this world – regardless of serving temperature:
Frozen: like a mildly cheesy ice cream with a crumbly cookie base.
Hot (preferred): creamy, oozy decadence redefines pleasure. Not too sweet, not too rich (since it’s a light cheese to begin with), it’s Goldilocks.
Room temperature: a bit boring, but still a very tasty number even if the flavour is a bit muted.
Given that they’re inexpensive compared to Tetsu’s own cheesecake, it’s a no-brainer of a purchase.
When you’re reading this Uncle Tetsu’s will have released matcha cheese tarts/cheesecakes. And of course, you’ve already bought some ;). I don’t blame you – I already have too 😛
The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room – Pasta, Steak & Oysters Make A Splash (invite)
I was invited to The Morrison’s, so The Usual Disclaimer applies.
Commonly known as “the place that does $1 oysters on Wednesdays” and winner of the Sydney Food Bloggers’ award for best oysters, The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room has a reputation to live up to. Seems like they understand this as well, signalled by their invitation for me to come in to try some of their shelled goods.
Of course, I ate a lot more than just oysters, though they are a good place to start the discussion. With Pacific (clean and refreshing), Rock (sweet & buttery) and Angassi (very meaty) variants on the plate, representation was solid. However, I wasn’t too impressed with the overall product – though it wasn’t because of the oysters themselves. They were just served with way too much sediment in them. Perhaps a bad day, but my friend and I both remarked that the experience would have been a lot better if we didn’t have to spit out residue so often.
Sean’s chicken lollipops made for a inviting snack – being fried chicken, why wouldn’t they? There’s a fair amount of crunch in the skin, which worked well whether with or without the thick, bitter-sweet molasses sauce (also quite a good flavour enhancer for the steak dish below!). One aspect that let me down was that the skin, despite its crunch, was quite tough and leathery at times.
A well-cooked, tender and meaty sirloin on the bone was sadly let down by a paucity of flavour intensity. A surprise in and of itself, given the expectation that anchovy butter would be an unquestionable choice for flavour impact. Molasses sauce, to the rescue!
The best dish I tried the day was undoubtedly the chilli crab linguine. Well-cooked pasta is simply a godsend and The Morrison’s has nailed the brief. Al dente pasta, tender and sweet crab with a solid chilli kick, this did pasta justice. It very oily (my god, the pool of butter at the end), but share it and that’ll be a good compromise between cravings and the waistline.
Devon Cafe at Barangaroo – Don’t Go Past the Sandos
Ever since my initial visit to Devon at Barangaroo (full post here), I’ve returned 4-5 times just to keep on trying their sandwiches (or “sandos”). Hey, I’m a simple guy. Specifically, the ebi katsu and the egg lava jaffle are worth mentions. I’m not even going to bother explaining with words and let pictures do it justice:
WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT EGG YOLK! There’s a very pronounced sweetness to it that just works, though might not be to everybody’s preference. Worth a try? Only three or four times…
WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT CRISPY CRISPY EBI!
Best katsu sandwich I’ve had in Sydney, and a lean, mean jaffle is all I’ll say. If you’ve yet to visit Devon’s Barangaroo outpost, what are you waiting for? (if you want more info, please refer to the full post!)
The Q on Harris – An Amazing Matcha Cheesecake and Asiatic Fare (invite)
I was invited to Q on Harris, so The Usual Disclaimer applies.
You might not have given this much thought, but it’s quite rare that a cafe producing good food goes unnoticed by the major food publications (think Broadsheet, Gourmet Traveller, Good Food etc.) However this peculiar scenario is indeed what has unfolded for Pyrmont’s Q on Harris.
Undeserved, as this Asian-inspired cafe is churning out all sorts of delicious eats – and quite possibly one of Sydney’s best cheesecakes.
Savouries first, however – you won’t want to skip straight to dessert while Q on Harris’ pastrami sandwich is in play. In Sydney’s attention-deficit cafe clientele, a vanilla copy of a ubiquitous sandwich just isn’t going to cut it. Q on Harris does what needs to be done – substituting pillowy soft Japanese bread instead of sourdough or rye, and using house-pickled veg instead of sauerkraut. Most importantly, it uses pastrami that is smoked in-house. In fact, all of their smoking is done in-house, quite a laudable effort.
And it showed – the sandwich was absolutely delicious. Everything was in balance, had oodles of flavour, and was just a bloody satisfying bite. Smoky-sweet, tender beef, gooey cheese and soft bread a grand combo makes.
And then there’s kabuki fried chicken and waffles. While Q on Harris isn’t the first to do fried chicken & waffles, their take using honey fried chicken was a key differentiator. The result was fried chicken that’s more akin to sweet honey chicken you may find in Chinese restaurants but with a spicy kick. It’s not to my tastes, but that may have something to do with overeating the stuff at way too many questionable Chinese eateries when growing up.
The waffles were mostly on the soft side, with a bit of a crunchy exterior that did an acceptable job in mopping up the honey and chilli dressing. As far as waffles go, these were run-of-the-mill.
And then there’s the matcha cheesecake. Featuring a cookie base, matcha cream cheese main layer and then a matcha ganache on top, it is perhaps one of the most decadent cakes I’ve had in a seriously long time. Don’t let the large plates fool you – this was a huge slice and is designed to be shared (macro counters – you’re looking at something in the region of 700 calories right there).
That said, despite its richness, it was so delicious I had to exercise Buddhist-levels of restraint not to do the dishwashing for the cafe (if you get what I mean). That matcha flavour was just SO GOOD – strong, unapologetic, velvety matcha goodness. The ganache carried a hit of lemon zest for a bit of subtle acidity, and the cookie base was good enough to have by itself. It’s essentially the antithesis to an Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake in terms of texture, but variety is the cake of life!
Rustic Pearl – Decadent Abalone & Lobster Eggs Benedicts
Mediterranean-inspired Rustic Pearl’s always held a spot in my heart as the only cafe in Sydney to successfully transmute what I consider a dreaded, prosaic poster child of uninspiring cafe dishes – eggs benedict. How about abalone eggs benedict instead?
Yep, you heard that right – Rustic Pearl makes no pretenses with a luxe version of eggs benedict using chunks of butter pan-fried abalone instead of salmon/ham. Not only was the result something appreciatively different, but also amazingly tasty. The rubbery, chewy abalone really shook things up and introduced a stronger oceanic feel to the dish. Plus, there’s just something about abalone and mushrooms that works. Needless to say, the eggs were also rendered perfectly with not a hint of overcooking in sight. A flavour bomb of a benedict dish, without having to use a ladle-ful of hollandaise to prove its point (thank goodness!). $30 is a lot to ask for, but uh, abalone.
Or, if you’re visiting Rustic Pearl for the first time, you’ll probably have eyes set for their Bosphorous benedict, which is their signature dish – a lobster eggs benedict.
It’s a nice number, but let me tell you after having tried it twice, the abalone benedict is the superior pick. There’s more flavour, more “oomph”, and more textural gusto. While lobster benedict is something you could brag about (and hey, it does have the “it’s not a Sydney cafe dish without avocado” while the abalone does not), it’s just not all that delicious, tasting more dominantly of butter than anything else. Share it, perhaps – but you’ll be asking for the abalone plate back from your mate soon enough.
A Christmas High Tea at Shangri-La Sydney
I was invited to Shangri-La for the Christmas High Tea, so The Usual Disclaimer applies.
Being December, it only made sense that some Christmas content was coming. Shangri-La thankfully took care of the Christmas itch with their high tea offering, commemorated with a gingerbread house made with two tonnes of gingerbread men! As you’d expect, only the playful genius of pastry chef Anna Polyviou could have taken up the endeavour, and the result was a sight to behold (sorry I forgot to take a photo where I wasn’t in it, so please see the link).
The high tea itself was not too shabby either – Moët started things off quite nicely, and a decent assortment of sandwiches followed. However, the real stars were as usual, the sweets (and. In particular, the bonbons!). Thanks to Anna, Shangri-La is usually where it’s at when it comes to satisfying the sweet tooth – multiple high teas have pretty much cemented that reputation.
Steph Woon’s Stunning Cakes
So here’s something – the lady in my life happens to be a damn good baker. That definitely introduces interesting conflicts with my goal to lean up, but sometimes, a calorie that’s worth eating is a calorie that’s worth eating. Here’s a sample of the cakes that she’s made in December (yeah, I’m just showing off now).
Man, that’s a lotta cakes…good thing I went off to Tasmania for two weeks of hiking – now that’s good timing!
And that’s it for my December eats; the January edition will be up some time in February. If you’ve any feedback, holler!