Sunday, January 31, 2010

'Arrrrr', aka, Sailors Thai, The Rocks.

Recent reports on the rise of chlamydia in Sydney have only added to my general reluctance to have a good time with a sailor. Little did I realise that you can say 'Ahoy, there' to a great night of seduction, sailor style, and wake up the next morning with a fanci-full belly, a floating heart, and a swaying, mesmerized mind...and no STI to speak of! That's if your sailor is donning a hat. Oh get your mind outta the gutter. What I meant, was a chef's hat. Which can sometimes be as unreliable as a prophylactic. Anywaaaay...

CakeyKnifeyMateys! My ship has finally come in. I have conquered, upon the high seas of damn fine taste and spicy abandon, the desires and the delights of Sailors Thai at The Rocks. It was a long, hungry time coming, but two visits here in as many months have left me with more than just a little bit to tell you about. With my camera, my mouth and the life changing lingo I picked up ever since I set my facebook to 'pirate', I am set and ready to tell ye scurvey dogs the booty that awaits ye mouth. Sit back, grab ye some grog, hoist a bit of a jolly roger, and let this wench tell ye how it's done. Arrr.

All (tragic) jokes, aside, this is the kind of piece that makes me a little bit nervous to write. When I am so impressed with a place and can't flaw anything at all, I really want to do a good job telling you about it. This is hands down, belly up, my favourite new fine dining spot. The Sailors restaurant (as opposed to the george st bistro), is set upon a stage of two sunken, sandstone layers in a cosy crevice of pastel walled-shadowy lit loveliness. The feel of the place is precious, it's got atmosphere, but one you can still move around and be comfortable in. It's got drama, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's got charm and style and good taste, but it also winks and smirks at you, just a little. It's the type of place where you can seek out some impeccable food, impeccably served, and still have a bit of fun, god forbid. Avocado green walls play off strawberry pastels, and candles make the whole space feel like a bit of a shrine. Or maybe that was just because I left it worshipping.

But truth be told, the interior design aint got nothing on the service. That's especially not if tag team Janine and Jet have anything to say about it.

Wherever you eat in Sydney, service that comes with a nose in the air and a 9.4 foot pole partially lodged up a sigmoid colon always looks a tad contrived, and so out of place. Especially in Convict Country. Stuffy service usually ruins the lightheartedness of a good meal. Some places sadly equate The Snobby with The Good. Whereas good service is usually prompt, knowledgeable, kind and unassuming. From the heart, and never Down Ze Nose. There was no way Jet was ever going to be stuffy. We hit it off right away. Jet's one of those guys whose sheer playful craziness emanates from deep within his mind, through his skull, out of thousands of hair follicles and into a very quirky 'Do. One crack at his hairstyle was all it took to get him firing back. He's lively, cheeky, friendly and the best type of waiter: the kind who surprises you. You know what i'm talking about. Most waiters baulk when you tell him to bring you a bunch of the best stuff off a menu. Not our Jet, he doesn't miss a beat. After quickly inquiring as to whether there are any allergies, menus are whisked away, drinks are ordered, and we wait, hungry and anticipating, under his very capable command. Want to know what happened after?

Yamba Prawns, Peanuts, Chilli and Lime w Palm Sugar Dressing on Betel Leaves. I felt like The Hungry Little Caterpillar eating something so moorish on so vivid green a leaf. These are punctuation mark as prawn, so fucking delicious. I don't know what it is, but when prawns are really, really fresh they tend to have a fluffiness to them, the edges of them don't look so hard and set. These prawns looked as good as they tasted. So much so, that if someone told me I had a head like a Sailors Thai Yamba Prawn with PeanutChilliLime, I just might be flattered.

Stir Fried Asian Mushroom with Silken Bean Curd, Yellow Beans and Garlic Chives, all Coriandered to within an inch of its frothy, brothy, steaming life. Dishes like this are the only time I understand vegans. This was a perfect incarnation of madness as mush-fu. Fungtastic Stuff. It had the perfect balance between solidity and soup and leaves you with a feeling of something approaching gastric levitation. Thick, meaty, rich brown mushrooms and a tofu so delicate, against a salty garliced broth... We had this both times, don't skip it if you go. But then again, definitely do not pass up on this...

Jesus Christ has returned to earth as a Rich Southern Red Curry of Prawns. The second coming is way more delicious and less nail-y in the crucifix than the first, but it does involve quite a few resurrections of the taste bud kind. This is the best curry I have ever laid lips on. I'd happily run my family over in a stretch Hummer for one of these. One bouncy Bechara, by one. It is a dish whose elements meld so perfectly together that you'll really have a terrible, toothsome little time distinguishing any of the individual flavours - and this is often the mark of an amazing dish. Separate flavours become a composite, more than the sum of their spicy parts. This dish is packing more bass than Balzary. It's spiced and thick and laguid and slow and so so deep. The depth of the curry makes Jim Caviezel's eyes look like muddy puddles. This is Nietzsche deep. Deep end of the pool deep. DeepDeepDeep. Like an Emo who just had a genuine emotional revelation, Deep. The taste just goes down and down and further down. One or two mouthfuls eaten really slowly was all I got, but I will be taking the memory of them to the grave with me. It's a curry that tastes like the essence of curry. Curries seem quite hard to do well, sometimes a bit too much here and a little too little there, and they sink into their own blandness. Not this one, it's a dream to moosh up with some perfectly fluffy rice and spoon down into an biblically awakened mouth. No. 1 Crush Stuff. It's a smooth warmth you'll get lovingly lost in.

They like wrapping their food in leaves here, eh? Meet some Barramundi Grilled in a Banana Leaf w Red Curry Paste and some Pickled Ginger to boot. Boo-ya. Delicate, not too cooked, achingly molten fish with just a sparse pasting of fire as curry, the depth and heaviness of the fish cut with the spike-sharped sluice of some burning ginger. It's a stylish and satisfying combination.

Vast amounts of champagne, merlot and beer were happening while all of this food frenzy was going on. Simon pointed out how well thai/chinese food go with beer, and I have a nice photo of wine glasses and beer, so I just thought i'd advert to that. That's before, I advert, to this...

Okay. I know it looks like the embryo of a gremlin rolled in a couple of kooky sesame seeds, but this is the Hiroshima of all bloody mouth bombs. I've already told you that coconut and I have agreed to disagree. I looked at this dessert menu, and failing to happen upon the word 'chocolate', I was already a little heart broken. Let's say, I was definitely not expecting my mouth to be the scene of the wildest orgy of dessert flavours even known to mankind. It was like a Roman bath house around the reign of Nero, in there, with a lot less sweaty men and marble. This is the Candied Coconut Dumpling w Sweet Coconut Cream, and it was the end of life, as I knew it.

I must have been shaking a fair bouncy-bit with unbridled joy for this to be the clearest shot I got of the dumpling's delectable innards. Words fail me. How do I tell you what this tasted like. It was like burning and sugar and Platonic Sweetness against candied-smooth-shining-whining lustre with sesame crunch and coconut clouds spinning around and around. It was like swimming in clouds and drowning in music. It was like a mermaid for your mouth, with her Siren song echoing through and through. It is the most surprised I have been by a dessert in 29 years. I'm not messing with you, try this before you die or be gone!

Say goodbye to the earthly now the moment you bite into this, the whole world falls away as the first bite becomes a flavour cupid who sends arrows of piercing delight down your throat. Your shoes slip off, your chair falls away from under you, voices recede and vision blurs, you're falling, falling, falling and you're smiling, too. Your eyes have to be closed. Go inside and be present, cherish it. Savour it. Keep it with you and in you. I don't know if they actually inject crack into this dessert or not, it's simply stunning. It's something I could never recreate or understand, it's the first time in a while that i've eaten something that made me wonder again about how magical food is. It's mesmerizing. It's agonizing. It's mouth merlin. So, so SO Sticky-Chewy-Dancing-Prancing-Nutty-Sweet-Sweet-Sigh-So-So-Smooth-Swaying-Coconut-Breathed-Pale-Green-Golden-Browned perfection. It's like dying and being born and making love and kissing and poetry and music and suns rising and suns setting and distant oceans and faraway lands and The Sopranos, all happening at once, inside your mouth and your mind and behind your eyes. If this little dumpling had a ring finger, I would've Tiffany-15-carated-Engagement-Ring'ed all over that baby. I thought it just might be an accident, surely this entire 'not a whisper of chocolate' dessert line up couldn't be delicious as well?

That tapioca and young coconut pudding will make you think twice about judging little green spawn-ish globs with traces of milky white. Divine. Delicate and subtle and squishy and creamy. This was fun to eat. And weird, too. I smiled after the first bite.

The Smoked Coconut Ice Cream and Pineapple and Ginger Sorbet...my pinkies are twinkling just remembering this. The Coconut ice cream was gentle, it didn't have an overpowering coconut taste, so creamy and smoked and delicate, eyes will be crossed and drool will be chin-ed. The sorbet was as divine, Dan's a bit of an ice cream nut, he devoured both relentlessly. I almost got a bit jealous, actually.

The tasting plate also featured White Sticky Rice w Mango and Sweet Coconut Cream, little glistening jewels of rice infused with bewitching coconut and little slices of perfectly ripe, pert mango, it tastes like blushing, so easy to eat and so smooth. Beautiful lychees like little sweet sea creatures punctuated, in dazzling red, the flashes of orange and green and ivory. So tropical and winsome. So thoughtful and beautiful. So precious, like treasure. The plate was beautiful. I stared at it for a fair while before I attacked every last drop, glob and crumb.

Jesus Christ. Jet even brought out the best jasmine tea I have ever had, and perfectly made. Tea at good restaurants is usually a token add on to a menu, no one really cares about making it well. This was hot and sharp and bang on, and after the numbness of all of the wine and dessert and curry joy, it gave me red cheeks and a nice, slow, calm, warm belly. Can you just hear me sighing?

Sailors Thai. What more do you say? This is an epic experience, fun, surprising and commanding. The original owners actually made a point of going to Thailand and finding the authentic methods, techniques and styles that this wonderful cuisine finds its true expression in. This is standout thai, much more sharp and well put together than most of what's out there. Those of you who like something different should find a fair bit in the menu to play with. The food really dazzles and sparkles here, goddamn it, it speaks!

I asked the boys to pose like sailors out the front...? Should've sent this one to Davey Jones' Locker.

Sailors Thai in The Rocks happens Downstairs, at 106 George St The Rocks.

Thanks to Mr DCG, Yoni, Simon and Janine. Special thanks to Jet, you might be named after an awful band, but you're alright!

Get yourself to the restaurant at least once. For a cheaper but still delicious option, try the busy bistro upstairs.

It's Thai-tanic, with less Celine Dion - and thank fucking God for that!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Poor Man's Caviar, aka, Pendolino.

One of the reasons I love my father so much, is that he's a wee bit like a Goodfellas script. It's not so much because of the constant swearing, but because I always know what's going to come next. It's an old game with me and Johnny Boy. He always says the same things, in the same situation, I do the Big Old Eye Roll, and he smiles at what he perceives to be his own poetic brilliance. Given that he's been alive 72 years, and i'm clocking almost 30 k's (in a 20 zone) on the Highway to Death, we're pretty familiar with each others musings. Dad is forever telling me, usually in the context of a grossly over-priced lunch, that olive's are... the 'poor man's caviar'. God knows where he got this phrase, but I hear it. Every. Bloody. Time the man eats an olive. He offers me this little verbal gem as though his alacrity for these beautiful globs of mediterranean black and glistening green emanates from a preponderance with frugality. Truth is, he's just Arab through and through, and can't get enough of the slippery little buggers, or of fanciful ways of saying simple things. But then again, who can? What is it about olives that drives people bonkers?

Fat. Shriveled. Stuffed. Why is it that all these adjectives when applied to a person are foul, but when applied to an olive, are scintillatingly blingtillatingly salivatingly scrumptuous? Pendolino are a type of olive, appropriate, given that this restaurant is also a purveyor of boutique olive oils. The name is Italian for pendulum, and in a lovely shrug of etymological whimsy, it describes the swinging to and fro of the leaves of this tree. The pendulum had swung far too many times between the occasion when I first heard of Pendolino, and when I finally Got My Olive On. With Tats in tow for a bit of a birthday celebration, we spared no expense...

A little starter of oysters kept us sea-salty companion as we took in the dimmed and shadowy surrounds of this Strand Arcade Dining Spot. With Zimmerann, Haighs and The Corner Shop just downstairs, there was hardly any need for an aphrodisiac of any kind, but what the heck. Forget the oysters, though, the pearl was some place else, entirely...

Seriously, Fuck. I know it's a bad habit, but I have to ejaculate a swear word before I begin to talk about something that I am really passionate about. It drains me of some of my nervous excitement which actually allows me to then go on and tell you the story. So, once again, Fuck! I had to argue a bit with Tats to convince him to order this, i'd been here before with Miss EB and Josie, and this had been my beloved little menu bambino. Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato are the Bonnie and Clyde of Italian cuisine: they go together like an ooh and ahh, you've seen them one thousand times, and they steal your breath in the getaway car all the same. I've had this combination many times, I've loved it many times, but I have never, ever, had it like this. The Anatomy of The Cheese is a wondrous little tale, and we're going to take it apart, bit, by throbbing, bit...

Once upon a time, I pierced a delicate, dainty, slightly trembling skin of a shimmering mozzarella, just a little, with the silvered end of a curious fork, and I created a...tear. Oh, My. Just a tiny, benign tear. An almost not-there tear. And, then: unleashing and unfurling onto my tongue, rapunzel, rapunzel...slowly and languidly exposing a tender inside. BiteTasteBurstCreamSmoothScream. It's an inside job, guys. The heart of this Dante Divine cheese is a celestial smooshing of almost liquid mozzarella. Chewy and delicate and aching with the soul of a true, deep cheese, is the soft barely there breathlessness of the celestial inside, encased within the tender but giving mozzarella skin, like an innocent secret on the mouth of a playful child. Intense, edifying, passionate, it conclusively answers any philosophical enquiry into the meaning of life, and with a side of some delicious ripened tomatoes that carry the memory of a not too distant sun, slightly spattered with some crunchy, oiled breadcrumbs...it's like an angel, with a whip. So beautiful. No wonder those Italian's always seem to be having a fit of sorts. It sticks to the fork the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth, it's like eating something you once dreamt, without having to wake up.

That's Tatsu, recovering. Cut the kid some slack, it's a fair bit of action for one little dish. Over some very smooth merlot and pinot, we shared the Quail and a Squid Ink Ravioli, but they're not really want I want to tell you about. Main Shmains. You know I like to get to the heart of the matter, good food is good, but Good Dessert, is fucking Great. I come from the Old School, get to the restaurant, sit down, grab the menu, nod and smile and pretend to listen to what fellow diners are saying, flip to the back, jack. You don't read slowly, it's a race and you scan for the vitals: 'chocolate', 'vanilla', 'burnt', 'baked', 'sweet'. SugarPieHoneyBunch. I know that I love you. If Pendolino was a relationship, then I really wanted it to end this way...

If I could get that little piece of paper down there framed, i'd treasure it as though it were the only photo of a sacred, long lost, loved one. And in a way, it is. Upon thick, cream, line-embossed paper, precious with its own luxurious heaviness, with delicate letters of inked black, was captured a moment I hope I never forget. It wasn't just a dessert menu, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it was an invitation. We nearly didn't order it, dessert usually overwhelms me. I pick a top three, then ask one (sometimes, two waiters, especially if the first one seems shifty, you really can't trust anyone when it comes to dessert) which are the best two. I'd had my eye on this one as unusual, but was having trouble turning down a luscious sounding pear tart and a chocolate something-or-other. Thank God Tats pushed me away from that tart and into the direction of True Tongue Love. That tart just would of messed with me, but this fritter, it would love me forever.

Her name was: Milk Ricotta Fritter with Sour Cherry Ice Cream, and she had her absolute wild, wicked, and toffeed wanton way with a groaning me and a startled Tats. She was everything you could ever want her to be, and then, she was more. This is how to make a hoon swoon, like she's over the moon...Are you ready, sit up...it'll hurt, but you have to pay attention!

This, is The Knife...

...And this, is The Cake... Let's start just a little close, pushed right up there against that Sour Cheery Cherry Ice. So Snow White and thick and whipped and creamy. Fairy Tale on a Plate. Melting, sighing, winged seraph in the heavens down my throat. So delicate and dancing, Ballet in Sugar. She slept the word, singing God. Dancing, Spinning, Dreaming in slight vanilla RedRedRedBerryCherryBrightSweet. Stars bursting in your mouth!

A crown? A halo? Sugared Thorns? BiteCrunchBreakGasp emotionally delicate Splintering-Fracturing-Spectacturing CrazyInCaramel. Aloft an ice cream dome. FrozenBurntSweet against the gentle, cool, nullifying cream. SubtleSubtle with cherry, incandescent and honeyed scent...

On a mess of berry with insanely moorish blobs of ricotta doughnuttish fritter brilliance, deep and hot and rich and sweet, beautifully soft inside and crispy fried alive, out. The tastes were dizzying, I ate it so slowly and each bite echoed off of itself with spinning trails of wavering flavour. It tasted the way a photograph looks when someone spins a sparkler around in the dark. Everywhere at once, blinding, overwhelming. Beautiful. Beauty. Ah, fuck.

Lord. Bloody Tatsu and his goddamned birthday. So annoying, they happen, like every single year. Cause it was his birthday I had to share this doll, can you imagine? I had to part with my baby. That's the crappy thing about having really good friends, you can't sly them on the sharesies. You pull a shifty on something like that and the whole bloody friendship falls apart. Not only that, if you take more than half you feel some kind of bitter, pungent moral perfume layering itself all over that blissful sweetness. I did it, though. I deserve some kind of prize for going halves on this. Nobel, Australian of the Year award, whatever. I want my due.

Pendolino, Sway from where ever you are To here and back again into blissful, rhythmic abandon. A Tavola still remains my favourite Italian in Sydney, but the Mozzarella and the Ricotta dessert are really worth trying, they're spectacular examples of fine dining. The service can be a little more formal than I like, but the wine and the cheese will have your tootsies wiggling something fierce with joy.

Good for a special dinner when you're feeling a bit cavalier with the old cash. Wrap it up with a bit of blood orange campari and a short very, very black w biscotti.

Pendolino happens at Shop 100, Level 2, The Strand Arcade, 412-414 George St, Sydney.

Happy Birthday Tats! Didn't think you were going to leave the country without a proper goodbye, did you? After you fleeced me of half of that dessert, kinda wish you had!

Pendolino, I have two exams tomorrow, and no witty ending jokes about clocks x.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Body of Christ.

Young Street, Waterloo is a little neck of the woods, that offers a hell of a lot for the weary of stomach, and the weary of world. It may, to the untrained eye, appear to be just another morsel of colourfully cluttered Sydney urbania, but to those of us who know, it is much, much more. What, you ask! Well, I probably shouldn't be telling you, but Young St Waterloo is the cosmic configuration upon which lies the mystic interplanetary crossroad of the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Oh, My. No more messing about! The time is nigh, and the choice is now. The choice is between this life and the next, between the mouth, and the soul. Situated on this one street are all of the fleetingly full bodied glories of the decadent and earthly now, as well as all of those chaste virtues of the airy and carrot-dangling eternal. The choice is yours. Sonoma v Hillsong. Will it be a morning at the Hillsong HQ for some en mass spiritual shimmying to the Big Dude Above, or, will it be a visit to Sonoma HQ, for some delectable freshly baked dough-bauchery?

Sorry to be predictable, but fresh baked Sonoma Cinnamoned or Sandwichy Somethings take the almond and apple croissant for me, every.. single.. time. It's not that I have anything against God. But Why have the transubstantiated bread of the Eucharist, when you can have some Sonoma Kamut sourdough that was baked so recently that it's practically a newborn? Your central and lateral incisors are ready, but are you? Are you ready to...

...Meet your fellow sinners? Kathy, Hela, Jo and Celestial little Li Lay, the less that I say, the better. They all came to Sonoma to play Devil's Advocates, with their law degrees, their good looks and their reckless disregard for much else in the face of great food, there was no way they were ever letting us into Hillsong, but that didn't stop us from an epic dose of what I wish was daily bread. CakeKnifeSkians, Sin Is Bread. And Sin Is Good. And this is the Holy Communion.

A Sonoma Sandwich is the Chanel Suit of the foodie world. On the catwalk of your tongue, this is the only thing you want to be rocking. Classic, Classy, Delicious, luscious, moist, toasted, fresh and sourdoughy. Rich and yielding under willing teeth. Mmm-mm. Sonoma Sandwiches speak to the dedicated anglophile in me, Lady Amanda, who wants nothing more than Jane Austenesque picnics in an endless English verdancy with little straw baskets full of fat, luscious sandwiches, sticky-stick-stick, sweet somethings, countless pots of fine tea, social intrigue, subtle goings-on and some 18th century footsies with a Mr Darcy type. Happiness in marriage might be entirely a matter of chance, but happiness in lunch is most certainly not.

Gorgeous Sonoma sourdoughs are the canvas upon which Sandwichdor dali-icious creates surrealism all over your panting tongue. The ingredients are always pure and simple, and, as improper as it might be of me to venture this, what actually makes these sandwiches more delightful than any other is that they're...well...wet. Very few realise that the secret to a truly great sanga is texture. The dryness and chewiness of the bread wants an oiled and moist filling to rub up against. Never too complicated, great sandwiches are always the perfect creation of just a few, well chosen ingredients, and in the perfect amount. Amounts are crucial, too much here, too little there, and the whole operation falls to proverbial pieces. The Science of Sandwich has so many unspoken rules: never put tomato up against the bread itself, it needs a little avocado or gorgeous butter or oil to act like a barrier between it and the bready surface, otherwise you are doomed to wander like a lost and unsatisfied fool in the eerie Land of Sog. Ying goes with Yang. Sweetness needs saltiness. Lightness needs oiliness. Creaminess needs sharpness. They're an age old balancing act, sandwiches. The seemingly simple things in food and in life are always the most difficult to master, but so delicious when you do.

Over perfect pots of steaming green we tucked into a wonderous chicken with tarragon and just enough mayonaise, a beautiful fresh sandwich with creamy chicken cut beautifully with tarrgon kick (duh). We ordered this one fresh, but got the pesto, mozarella and eggplant toasted to within an inch of its perfect, oiled life. The little holes in the sourdough provided the perfect portal for some dreamy in green pesto ooze. They are so deep and rich, these sandwiches. It's not just the beauty of their wonderfully baked bread (of which the Kamut Sourdough still reigns supreme in my mouth), but the preciousness of the fillings. Sonoma never over fills their sandwiches, they are as thick with bread as they are with filling, and this is as they should be. Sandwiches are a way to enjoy bread, the filling is the accessory, but never the murderer. God, listen to me getting a bit preachy. Serves me right for making fun of Hillsong. This really is sandwich perfection, though, when I want an amazing sandwich I always go to Sonoma, and walk away happy and sighing. It aint all sangas, though.

The Honey Spice muesli, The Jessica Rabbit of the Breakfast World, which I have already raved about in a former post is also up for crunchy, munchy, nutty, mapled grabs, if you can handle treading water in your own drool, that is. Also about to be grabbed by sticky fingers are some delicious baked goods. 'Baked goods', fuck, I love those two words next to each other, they're a linguistic Romeo and Juliet. Baked Goods mean croissants, tarts, muffins, sticky somethings in shapes that are familiar with names I didn't bother finding out. All wholesome and cinnamon sprinkled, they look like they're made in the kitchen of a farmer's wife, rather than in a commercial kitchen. They beckon out to you, all in intense curves and shapes of luminous, sugared surrender. The gentle arc of a beguilingly buttery croissant (perfectly flat and low and never too puffy) ... the slight but sumptuously, saccharine summit of a maddening muffin, utterly undulating..the aimless ability to always abuse the arcane art of Amandaish alliteration...the architecture of my innermost desire. Oh, Sonoma. The first and still the best.

This is wholesome, luscious food, perfectly put together and lovingly prepared. It's rich food, but beautifully so, the quality of the ingredients is obvious even to non-foodies. When you eat here you eat well, I always enjoy a visit. The servings at Sonoma are never too much, it's the perfect place for breakfast, afternoon tea and general kind-treating of the belly. Tats saw these pictures and knew it was a Sonoma piece before I told him. Not surprising, the quality of the food and how amazing it tastes is all there in the way it beautifully looks.

Bread, love, Celeste and communal table. It's the stuff perfect mornings are made of.

I usually drop in at the glebe outlet, at 215 Glebe Pt Road. The Paddington store is a bit bigger, at 241, Glenmore Rd. And the Waterloo denizen of devilish delight is at 24/198-222 Young St.

Try a Sonoma sandwich at least once in your heathen life. It's like you died, and went to earth.

Anything else is just plain crummy.

ps..my normal lens is screwed, until it's fixed, it's all macro x.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Earth To Eggplant; aka A Study In How To Avoid Disappointment; aka Kammadhenu, Newtown.

The 31st of December is bad day for neurotics, melancholics, anxiety sufferers and persons who turn 30 the following calender year. Jesus Christ! The Pressure... it's unimaginable. What to Do. As if this question doesn't haunt me at the deepest level of my bloody being on the other 364 days of any given year. I'd like to say it was born out of willful and inspired genius, that great idea we had, but in all truth, Dan and I and the Glorious decision to spend the dreaded New Years Eve holed up with some DVD's and deliciously overpriced groceries in the bedroom I grew up in was more the sparkling result of sheer, stubborn and stupefying apathy than it was of any last minute bravado.

Between Zoolander, Back to the Future, Teen Woolf, a little bit of perfectly aged parmesan, a Seductive Red and some profoundly roasted vegetables with Meredith Valley goats cheese, I had the best night I have had in a long, long time. I even got a bit teary during the fireworks! Cake and Knifelings, make no mistake about the Jubilant Joys, the Tremorous Thrills, the Ardently Electric Spectacularity, of that downright brilliant of age old strategies, of Kings, and of Men, and of Middle Aged Women and other Malcontents... Cake and Kinfelings, I give you: Avoiding Disappointment. That's right. Setting your standards low, getting comfy, and just plain sitting back. Sometimes it just gets too much to live a full, blooming and billowing existence, and avoiding disappointment goes from being a bit of a Cop Out to being a holy epiphany drawn from life's Great Abyss. Are you just listening, or are you really hearing me? Avoiding disappointment is a philosophy you can apply to every facet of modern day living, none so much as to the realm that exists between Knife and Fork, that crazy little world of white: The Plate.

When I am hungry (often), when I am lazy (quite often), when I want something unbelievably effortless and delicious (always), when I do not, under any remote circumstances, want anything new and potentially disappointing (sometimes), I do the following: I waddle down to my car, I get into to my car, I traverse the 5 or so roadly minutes between my earthly abode and a little realm we shall call King St Heaven. I park, I get down, I walk to Kammadhenu, Newtown, and I order the culinary equivalent of a captured lion's roar: The Kammadhenu Eggplant Curry, and this is how I, Amanda Bechara, Avoid Disappointment.

Kammadhenu, for those of you who haven't lost your tongue already to one of these amazing eggplant curries, has a bit of a beautiful identity crisis: it offers Malaysian, South Indian and Srilankan cuisine. All in one place, and all for your wanton gobbling! I have tried a few dishes here, but none so dreamy as their Eggplant Curry. You will not believe that one little bronzed pot of vegetable curry can contain so much wonder, so much spice, so much ferocious and fervent intensity. It doesn't even come in a bowl. It comes hovering a top a black hole of cosmic, culinary deliciousness masquerading as a bowl.

Smell it. Look at it. Savour the moment, savour those precious few seconds before taste and bite and explosion, savour that fleeting Just Before. You're about to tuck in, and you know it's going to be good. You know it's going to be delicious. It might sting a bit, but you're staying true until the end.

Beautiful chunks of earthy eggplant with the shiny seal like whispers of their blackened skins sway languidly in a curry paste that is alive and singing with the fire of what it is. A deep, rich, heady, soulful curry. You work your way through it so slowly, one bite, with some rice, then another, a couple of moments to collect yourself and then back again. All of the herbs and spices mix wonderously into each other, it's only every now and then that the tail end of a fleeting flavour can be caught and stopped and isolated and named, before it dissolves blissfully, again, into the chillied fire-flickering heat of an orgasmic and tamarindishly twirling confusion. Step a little closer, now...

I was falling in love as I was taking these shots, the luminescence and magic of the delicate eggplanty flesh was almost God-like, it's like you can see the spices and the heat of it being betrayed upon its steaming, shimmering surface. So delicious. Helena, Celeste, Kathy, all very fussy girls, all so hard please, and all high priestesses of this most ardently torrid of tastes. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just the eggplant?

Being Lebanese almost makes it treacherous of me
not to order the garlic naan, and so, order it I do, and then I disappear. I disappear into the smouldering blackened-here, delicately doughy-there folds, curves and embraces of sheer garlic voluptuary. You tear at it and rip at it and wrap it all around itself, again and again and again, and then you... devour. So satisfying an earthly pleasure, I wish it was my Daily Bread.

Dosai, of decent stock, satisfies a very discerning Danny who still has a place in his heart for the now closed down
Sagar that one stood on Cleveland St. Danny loves it a la Masala, with steaming chunks of screamingly tumericked, mustard seeded potato, all clandestinely embedded in a beautiful lentil pancake. Golden and dancing and holy.

If you've never dosai-ed before, these giant lentil/rice pancakes are as fun to deconstruct as they are to commit, through the aid of exacting knife and fork, to the realm of alimentary oblivion. With about twenty types of dosai to choose from, you can have your filling almost any way you like it, and even with a little bit on the side...

Coconut and Chili chutney that is as delicate and luscious as babies breath. Douse a little crisp Dosai pancake quickly into and out of this little creamy pot and let the wonderful potato infuse itself with a coconutted cream craziness.

I got a little lost in all those Dosai dipping sides, they're like beautiful wallflowers for your taste buds to gaze at, and then to dance with, just a little, one, by delectable one.

I'll have to do a separate piece on the wonderful Hoppers one day. This really is a place to come, eat, drink and be merry, to your spicy heart's content. Cheap and so, so satisfying. I do prefer their vegetarian dishes, they stand out far and above the others, perhaps because of the Southern Indian influence. To cool off the fireworks in your mouth, there's a great selection of soft drinks, some local and some not, and a hell of a lot of beers. They even stock Indian Kingfisher. Beer and Curry and some surreptitious burping...isn't that what life's all about?

You just can't walk away from Kammadhenu disappointed. Time, and time again, we come, we eggplant, we love and we leave, only to come back again. If you're unfamiliar with this type of food, discover it, it's a wonderful way to eat lots and lots of vegetables and to learn about just how exciting they can be,
when you know what to do with them. Indian cuisine, especially, is fast colonizing my stomach, I fall in love with it a little more every day.

Kammadhenu happens, among another location at 12 Waters Rd Neutral Bay, at 171 and 377a King St, Newtown. The full menu can be lusted over here. ph: 9550 2611.

In 2010, even if the cup is half empty, make sure it's full of really, really rocking stuff. Disappointment, is like, sooo 2009.

Happy New Year, eggplants x