Goodness, is it that time of the year already? It didn’t feel particularly long since I did my last Taste of Sydney post. The passing of 2013 really hit home after this. Still, things move on – there’s always something else to dump our crowns into.
For those who aren’t aware of what ToS actually is, do check out my 2013 post on it. Just read the part after the jump to get up to speed.
Or…if you’re that lazy, ToS is a:
- Food festival
- Stalls are set up
- You buy stuff from said stalls
- Stuff can be food, foodstuffs i.e. ingredients, appliances & food-related items
- You can also attend masterclasses on the day such as cocktail making
- The restaurant lineup is generally quite impressive, with the presence of many hatted restaurants
- Everything is paid with a special currency called “crowns”. 1C = $1. It’s a bit of a novelty gimmick, but the event organisers can always nab a bit on top if you can’t spend every last crown (they’re non-refundable)
Interested? Taste on – lots of juicy food awaits!
Festival Dates: 13-16 March 2014 (visited 15 March)
Address: Brazilian Fields, Centennial Park, Sydney
Standout Dish(es): Lamb from the Asador (Porteño), Beggar’s Chicken (Chow Bar), Pork belly Burger (Chur Burger)
The Usual Disclaimer applies to an extent for this post, as I was invited by Rekorderlig. That said, there’s not much going on as they covered my entrance tickets and got me a free cider – I paid for everything else.
I didn’t take many pictures of the venues and stalls this year compared to the last. The reason being that the set up is virtually the same, cosmetically speaking. It’s the same white tents and purple signs denoting the stalls. It works, so why fix what ain’t broke?
I don’t recall seeing the giant taste banner at the entrance last year, so I just HAD to take a photo in front of it. Immortalised!
Taste has two sessions a day – the lunch session from 12-4pm, and the dinner session 5-9pm (times vary slightly depending on day). My friends and I went in at around 12:25 (starts at 12) and the place was already filling up. What can I say – the weather was pretty darn good that day. A bit hot, but overall very conducive to an outdoor event.
Well, until about 5pm when it stormed like there was no tomorrow. Luckily the storm didn’t last very long, so hopefully the dinner attendees weren’t drenched too terribly.
Cooking classes like the one above aren’t free – they cost around 8-12C depending on the one you attend. As I only had limited time to eat everything I wanted to, I gave these a pass.
I already had a plan of what I was going to eat. Naturally, the moment I went in that kind of went out the window. There’s a lot of choice here, so eating with one’s eyes may be a better idea than most.
Surprise surprise, and we fronted up to Chur Burger of all places. I don’t have a post on Chur Burger, but I’ve actually been twice to the restaurant already. I do have a post on that coming up in the next week or so.
Chur is noted for cooking up delicious burgers, but at a stunningly cheap price of $10. If you’re used to eating Big Macs all the time you’re probably thinking how much of a rip a double-dollar-digit burger is. Go give Chur’s burgers a try. You may change your mind.
Why go to Chur again then? I’ve had all of their burger options (apart from the vegetarian version – my bad). Besides, their burgers are sure to be more expensive at ToS (I call it the ToS Tax).
This burger is the reason why. In the menu, I saw that their icon dish was a richly sounding wagyu rossini w/shaved foie gras, truffle & Madeira jus. To me, that generally reads either as “too fancy; won’t work; I’ll pass” or “an ambrosial flavour sensation.”
Ever optimistic, I gave Chur the benefit of the doubt and shelled out 18 giant crowns for this little burger. Though there isn’t much sense of scale – these burgers are quite small. I would say the size of a circular cup holder. Something like a giant slider?
It looks like any wagyu beef burger – you can see the black outline of the truffles, but not much else. This burger is meant to be tasted.
Conclusion: not bad. I didn’t receivethe nirvana I deluded myself into believing, but I got a pretty decent burger nevertheless. It’s quite juicy, so fears of dry wagyu were allayed. I couldn’t taste the truffles themselves, but I could taste their impact on the patty – there was a richer aroma there, but it’s quite subtle.
I was somewhat let down by the bun – it’s much better in the actual Chur Burger restaurant. At ToS, it’s a bit too insubstantial. That said, I always cut ToS restaurants slack because they aren’t able to use the exact same equipment/methods as they could at their respective premises. Go figure.
My last savoury dish at ToS was actually at Chur as well. After I made the rounds and the day was drawing to a close, I decided to get their pork belly burger. A friend had it earlier (when I chose the wagyu rossini) and it seemed like a good buy, especially given it’s a whole 10C cheaper. They really can jack up the prices for icon dishes.
I gotta say, I was unsure which burger I preferred. While the wagyu was a much richer experience overall, I find it hard to overcome my bias towards pork belly. Speaking of which – that belly wasn’t actually particularly soft. It was more stringy and crispy. I let that go because it actually tasted quite nice.
Overall, Chur does great burgers, but your best option is to visit the restaurant itself. That said, ToS gives you an indication of what they’re capable of doing.
Winding back in time now, we arrived at Iconpark as our next stop after the initial Chur visit. Iconpark is best analogised to a crowdfunding-style roulette:
- Hundreds of restaurants submit a restaurant idea
- The results are narrowed to the top 6 by a panel
- The top 6 showcase their restaurant concept, as well as food. The public decides which they are willing to back up
- The winning concept gets to launch their restaurant at the Iconpark venue (currently 78 Stanley St, East Sydney)
The dishes each served by each of the 6 Iconpark aspirants show themselves on a prominent blackboard. I decide to jump in and see for myself what venue I should back.
Having said that, I didn’t actually get a dish from each of the 6 restaurateurs – how I wish I had the stomach and crowns for that. I chose a dish from British India, while a friend chose a dish from Blackcats.
The kitchen is open on this one, so you can see everyone doing their own thing. With Iconpark, the more visibility, the better.
First up, we’ve got cardamom & ginger spiced short rib w/mustard carrot butter & okra in a tamarind sambal. A mouthful of words, and an equal mouthful in taste.
I liked the beef short rib – it was very tender, and tasted like a curry-but-not-curry kind of way. There’s the spices for the curry, but a lack of curry itself. It was interesting to say the least, but I would be willing to try another portion if it was served warmer. Overall, the dish was a bit colder than I’d have liked it to be.
I did not like the okra side though – it was way too slimy and left a terrible, goop-like texture in my mouth. Way too viscous, and not how I remember eating Okra. *shudder*. The okra prevents this dish from winning, I’m afraid.
From Blackcats, we’ve got steamboat Joe’s pork & prawn gumbo. This is a very hearty dish, with a tomato zing being the flavour base. The prawns and pork were all well done.
What this dish lacks is an x-factor. I sound like I’m talking out of my a** but in this case, I feel that’s quite important if you’re an aspiring restaurateur who wants to stand out, you gotta do something that gets your dish remembered.
I wonder what the other four places had in mind…
One thing’s for sure though – I’m going to pay a visit to whoever the winner is. May the best dish win!
At this point, it got hot enough during the day (it reached 30C!) that I caved and decided to redeem my free cider. Off to the Rekorderlig tent!
As usual, it stands out as it’s a particularly big one, and situated right in the middle of it all. Ciders were going for…6C was it? Man, I’ve got terrible memory.
I ended up getting myself something fruity, because screw this – if I’m going to drink, I’m going to drink it RED.
Rekorderlig is usually too sweet, but when half the cup is ice, that problem goes away. Too easy.
About half an hour of chilling on the bean bags later, we head off again for more eats. Aki’s, Sydney’s only hatted Indian restaurant makes its first appearance at ToS. I’ve been looking for more representation from Indian restaurants – Sydney has some good examples, but they’ve never really been put under spotlight attention. Time to change that.
I jump straight onto Aki’s icon dish – lamb biryani. This dish reminded me that I really need to eat Indian more often. It’s not the best I’ve had, but by the sheer amount of time since I’ve had it, it tasted superb.
A little lamb gave its life for this dish, but it wasn’t in vain.
I should probably pay Aki’s a visit. Hmmm…..
There are several several hatted restaurants outside Sydney and one of them is Biota Dining. I didn’t get their icon dish as it involved more lamb but I did get this amazing looking beast of a chicken leg.
I can see why lots of people are instagramming and talking this one up – the hay smoked chicken legs looks like quite the mouthful. Most people have a weakness for fried chicken, no? Can’t escape this humble way to cook a chook.
There are two elements that give this dish the hype it gets. One – the batter. It’s so crispy, it’s like eating potato chips. I’ve not had batter like this before.
Two – the garlic & corn sauce is delectable. It’s a masterly mixture of sweet and savoury, but not too much of either. It’s a very moreish sauce, which is dangerous given that it’s paired with fried chicken.
Those are the two positive points about the dish. Note that I didn’t mention the chicken itself? That’s where it’s let down. Texturally, the chicken is quite good – it’s not dry or anything, but it’s inherently flavourless. The simple solution here is to get a lot more of that sauce, but then it gets messy.
Dangerous game when you rely on a sauce to boost your protein’s flavour. I was unfortunately able to tell.
Still, a great sight and worthy of a photo. Clearly the sushi on my shirt don’t care – they just zzzzzz away as usual!
Up next are the bad boys from Porteño. Sure, they got demoted to a one hatted restaurant for the 2013-2014 Good Food Guide, but by all accounts they’re still serving the good stuff.
Still need to find the time to pay a visit. When you have a whole suckling pig on the menu well…you really gotta give these guys a second look.
This is quite possibly the most delicious thing I’ve had at ToS this year. No surprises that a similar, beef-based dish won best in Taste last year (handy link here).
The trifecta for this lamb is in place – it’s cooked beautifully, respecting the strong aromas of the lamb, while enhancing it subtly with a woodfired process and seasoning it with a delicious, give-me-more chimmichurri. The texture is what makes it really stand out – it keeps the tender parts tender, while the fat isn’t even a problem – in fact it complements the lean meat.
I can’t describe it too well, but it just works.
Bad luck to anyone after me who wanted to get it – after me, they put the “sold out” sticker over that dish! OUCH.
The day the earth ends is the day I go vego. Well, not really, but the description “pasta strips cooked two ways, chickpeas, pecorino mousse” sounded surprisingly delectable.
Taste-wise, a little less so. I did like how the pasta was literally cooked two ways – one was normally as you would, and the other turned into a “crackling” of sorts. I really digged that second method. It works quite well with the pecorino-based sauce.
Now, to visit the dish that won 1st in Taste this year – you know you’re there when you see the fortune cat!
I haven’t heard of Chow Bar before, but if their icon dish really is that good, then perhaps it’s time to pay a very hungry visit.
Speaking of icon dish, here it is – beggar’s chicken w/silken lemon tofu, vinegar & red peanuts. This dish is really good – there’s something about that sauce that makes me want to lick the plate clean. I didn’t have that feeling with any other dish I had on the day. A good sign!
The chicken was quite nice as well – I actually ate the skin for once, instead of discarding it. Tasted too good to waste.
As for the chicken itself, it was a bit dry due to the large chunks of it being served. Liberal amounts of sauce will help.
Holy moly, I ate a lot. Aside from one or two dishes, I ate all of the above…and I’m not even done yet. Loading up 100 crowns was just enough though, as I pay 4Fourteen a visit – my last at the festival!
Last year we had a white ice cream sandwich, which was the bomb. This year, we get a peanut butter popsicle. While I liked last year’s dessert better, this year’s is no slouch. Who doesn’t like peanut butter? A great candidate to be turned into a popsicle and it works so well. It managers to escape from the trappings of being too sweet by virtue of its inherent saltiness. The honeycomb crunch and dule de leche can be smeared on or off as you like – giving you regulation over the level of sugar.
Naturally, I lapped it all up. 4Fourteen’s still got it.
At this stage, I got really, really full. Stab me with a fork so all the good stuff can come out so I can eat more.
On second thoughts, maybe not.
Taste of Sydney 2014 is much like what ToS 2013 is – you pay a premium and accept lower-quality (and often below-ideal temperature) food (versus what you get at their respective restaurants) in exchange for the atmosphere, variety and purchasable goods.
All in all, a worthy day out if you deem it worth your budget.
Cya all at Taste 2015!
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀
- Variety, representation by big & famous names
- Atmosphere – a great way to spend a day with friends
- You can buy gourmet goods to take home! Not that I did…
Not so Awesome:
- It’s pricey – nobody pretends Taste is an affordable experience
- The food is often better at the restaurant itself (but there are valid reasons for this)