Friday, August 23, 2013

Of Kale Chips and Mermaids

Have you tried making Kale Chips yet?
Feel vibrant, healthy and virtuous with just one little bite!

Food fads are a funny thing. Twelve months ago, you might have suspected (rightly) that kale was akin to rabbit food, ie. eaten only by bunnies. Now, since being written about on food blogs everywhere, kale is being sold, pre-washed, in plastic bags at the supermarket - you know you've made it as a super-vegetable when you are displayed in bright pink baggies in Woolies!

Actually, kale chips are best made from leaves off the stalk, rather than baby kale or packets. I've done it using both and found that the leaves shrink quite a bit during cooking, so start with a large leaf. In fact, just tear off the top part of a leaf of kale, and then tear off the bits around the stalk. You want a large leaf area and no thick stem, which doesn't dry out and goes mushy. 
Add lots of salt flakes then scoff down these melt-in-the-mouth morsels by the bowl. It's very easy to do.

Kale Chips
makes 1 bowl

1 small bunch kale
olive oil or other oil spray
sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 170C/338F
2. Remove the kale leaves from the stems and tear into large pieces
3. Spray a large baking tray with oil and place the leaves on tray in a single layer. Spray leaves with oil. Not too much, not too little.
4. Sprinkle with salt and bake in oven for 10 minutes, checking after 8 minutes to prevent burning. Remove from the oven when the leaves are dried. Add more salt before serving.
5. Repeat with remaining kale.

Kale chips are best eaten as soon as they are made.

Lovely see-through crispy kale leaf

Do you remember when Chinese restaurants served "mermaid's tresses" back in the 80s?
Kale chips taste like those deep-fried seaweed memories, except you can make them at home, they taste better, are better for you, and no mermaids were hurt in their creation.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Momofuku Seiōbo followed by Zonut Cronut

I booked a meal at momofuku seiōbo and survived.

And, no, it wasn’t that difficult – or I was just lucky – to get a spot for the day and time that I wanted. The occasion was the other half’s birthday, part two, with part one being the traditional dinner at Ocean Room (that meal was the 12-course degustation, good value and service).

To make a booking for momofuku seiōbo, you need to first set up an online account, which gives you access to all of the Momofuku restaurants around the world. Then, you go to the reservations site and try your luck at getting a table. Fortunately, the booking window is now 20 days ahead, so I was able to nab a table for lunch on a Saturday. And, really, it is luck of the draw, because when people cancel a booking, it comes back into the reservations system for someone else to get.

momofuku seiōbo is located at the back of The Star (casino), so if you’re feeling doubly lucky, you can try your luck at the casino tables beforehand. And, if you enter through the casino and you wear spectacles, the security staff there may give you a piercing look to check that you don’t have ‘smart glasses’ on.

The staff at momofuku seiōbo are much friendlier. Try and get a seat at the counter of the open kitchen so you can watch them put your meals together. However, it’s more like food arranging rather than food preparation, as not a lot of cooking takes place. This doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the experience, as the dishes are very prettily arranged by the chefs and then they bring it over and tell you what it is.

The food is exceptional: top quality, beautiful, clear flavours. The signature steamed pork buns are ethereally light, miles away from the mass-produced efforts of other local restaurants. Portion sizes are reasonable, though if you are particularly hungry, you may have to stop for a burger and chips on the way home… I took the Cronut route - see further down.

There seems to be a shift away from high-end fine dining in Sydney, what with the imminent closure of restaurants like Claude’s and Guillaume at Bennelong. What’s left if you want a special place for a celebration – Aria, Rockpool, Quay, Tetsuya? All in the CBD, interestingly, unlike the more hip places in Surry Hills, though the hipster joints do not seem to have the staying power of the fine diners.

momofuku seiōbo sits in between ‘hip’ and ‘high-end’, I think. You won’t feel out of place if you don’t wear a jacket and tie here, but it’s definitely not bistro or dude food. The overall vibe is ‘upper middle smart-casual’, despite the high price tag ($110 per person for the 8-course lunch). There is a 5-seat bar area that has a separate small menu (there was a tasty-looking terrine that seemed very popular when we were there), so they may be covering their bases in regard to the mid-to-high end of the dining scale. You don’t need to book for the bar, so maybe you could take a chance there if you don’t succeed in the momofuku seiōbo booking lottery.

 Smoked potato cream in a crisp shell, with apple jelly
 The momofuku Pork Belly Bun
 Striped trumpeter (fish) with celery leaves and mustard oil

Potato balls with mullet roe and parson's nose
Onion, various ways, with burnt leek and egg yolk (that's the round thing with black on top)
Eel dashi jelly with octopus and almond milk (my dish was missing the almond milk)

Striped trumpeter (again!) with fennel and dill
Pork neck, squash and kombu

It's very Intensive Care Unit in the open kitchen
Goat's curd with crushed blackcurrant and mint (two dishes, here. Looks like Eyes!)
Pear with honey cream and muntries (Australian native berries)

Petits Fours: Canelé, and caramel with kombu

Cheers, Angus.
Au revoir, momofuku seiōbo, I'll be back.

And because I was not completely full after lunch at momofuku seiōbo, and because Adriano Zumbo's patisserie was just across the way...

I got a Zonut cronut to have a little later.
This flavour was Pina Colada. Tasted just like a finger bun, only greasy.

Momofuku Seiōbo on Urbanspoon

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier on Urbanspoon