Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oui, Oui, Oui - All The Way Home (aka Tabou, Surry Hills)...

Delusion. Don't listen to your friends, a little bit of delusion goes a long, long way. That guy you slept with on the first date (before you threw up all over him) might call you back. You could very well win the lottery next week. And just maybe, hopefully (God willing) Shane Warne and Liz Hurley might both become celibate some time soon and go to live on separate sides of the earth, far away from each other, cameras and all of disgusted society. Yes. Delusion is what gets us up, what keeps us going and what holds us together. Like a quick nip of vodka when the day has been a little too long, delusion blankets us from the harsh westerlies of unbridled reality. Like a glue for the divided self. 
I mean, if you ever stop to think about it (and the paranoid among us often do) we're all going to die one day and in the meantime we sit in our cars on traffic logged highways headed towards jobs we can't stand so we can all afford houses with people we secretly want to kill on some tiny corner of a universe that is constantly expanding into God knows what and God died in the 20th century. I mean, really. What's a girl to do? Delude herself into a happy, cosy, fuzzy little corner of her mind and go on, that's what. Everything will be okay in the end. Delusion, people. That's what i'm talkin about.
If anyone were to ever ask me I would say that I hardly ever eat bread. That I steer away from cheese. That I only have hot chips and chocolate once in a wee lithe, little while. That I only go through stages with coffee. I believe all this. Delusion was doing its deft little job and to myself (if not to others) I felt like my alimentary canal was mary magdalene sweet. Shit catches up to you in the end. And like let-'em-have-cake Antoinette this idea of myself was guillotined in one fell swoop. She lost her head for treason and I lost my head (and my foodie amnesia) at Surry Hills maison d'awesome feed: Crown Street's Tabou. 
After years of wanting to try this stylish little slip of Surry Hills Francais for years, Tat's farewell from Sydney lunch became the excuse to collage a la fromage. Tabou is a classic little dining spot that hasn't changed much in its time. While Crown St twists, cavorts and gyrates to ever happening foodie trends, Tabou has remained true to its origins: classic, stylish and simply tres bien. It's not where you eat in Surry Hills if you want to be seen. It's where you eat to see: the cheese-dripped light.
After exquisitely buttered chunks of biblically baked sourdough, I get the closest I am ever going to get to skydiving in this life. I don't often do reckless, but what other word is there for the souffle aux fromages? Taste Bud Translation: the twice baked gruyere and goat's cheese souffle. Calories, who? You know it's going to hurt, but you also know it's going to be totally worth it!
This steaming, saucy little concoction is cheese meets dripping, light frothy so-so-souffle warmth. This meal is decadent, classic and unapologetically marvelous. It might also be genius, as well. The lightness of the souffle is perfect, like a prayer on wings it is winsome, gentle, fully formed and fledged from it's own mousse-esque levity. A dalliance in twice baked cheese. This is creamy, soft-burnt-dripping and utterly startling. Smooth and rich and light and heavy and all at once. A nose-in-the-air-blue-blood's answer to the humble cheese toastie.
The only feasible way to consume this entree is either while on treadmill or doing squats. Or possibly doing both, if you can muster the balance. Reckless and ruinously ravenous, try it once in your life at least. Or have it once a merry month and let your Delusion collect the tab. With an entree like that, I opted for a more frugal of calorie, but nonetheless delicious main.
The Roast Mulloway w Saffron Tomato was a delicate and brothy fish. Beautiful and light and crispy skinned. It was paired with flavours that Tatsu thought tasted quite Japanese (subtly sweet). Hai! The plate was bursting with reds and oranges and greens, generous and pretty and lovely. 
Tats said au revoir to Sydney with the Darling Downs Angus Grain Fed Scotch Fillet perfectly sauced, succulent and tender and medium-rare with divine exclamation points as fries positively burgeoning from the side of the happy plate. Fries. Oh my Fry. No matter how arrogant the French are, every iota of that arrogance becomes justified when you have the perfect frites salting up your maddened molars. The mass of the serving made me love Tabou. They seem to understand that fries and moderation, like John Howard and G-strings, don't really go together.
Crispy and thin and oily and golden. Crunchy and a little soft. Perfect to paint with mustard and pepper sauce and ketchup, but most bloody beautiful in a bearnaise malaise. Humanity achieved perfection in the hot chip. I really don't understand why we are still trying.
Almond spangled broccoli is our token and tantalizing green, as is a little smart-sharp salad, alive and perky and perfectly finished with all of the oiled-vinegared spirit of a great French dressing. The greens were the reprieve. That little moment when you think the storm has passed, but the eerie calm tells you you're standing right in the eye of it...And then it strikes...
There are several ways you can choose to die. Hanging, jumping off a bridge, sleeping pills, telling your conservative relatives you're living with your boyfriend...but none of these are as deliciously death defying as tabou's truffled potato puree. This is the rolex of sides. It is heavy, creamy, gently salted potato, writhing in burnt butter and twirling around in a dizzy dance to a triumphantly be-truffled tune. This is oh-mon-dieu on a silver spoon. Each breathless bite unleashes a potato-pureed electricity upon your tongue and throughout your shattered being. So deep and rich and buttery, so gorgeously heavy. Each tiny bite weighs you down. You let the puree melt into you, you close your eyes, you sigh, you swoon, you falter, you recover. And then you go again.
That oily, ghostly orb that the truffled potato puree left on the paper-topped table says it all. This is for the brave and for the true and for no other. The perfect meal is a like a Chanel suit, you want to accessorize well. We kept it simple and chic with the following:
An immaculate Single Origin short black (Tatsu raves about the long blacks here)... 
...A complimentary chocolate jewel of a chocolate coated truffle... 
...a powdering of the nose and you have everything you could ever want in life: cheese, potato, cheese, bread, butter, cheese, chips, steak, chocolate, coffee. If this one doesn't get le diable to respect you, then nothing will.
Tabou happens at 527 Crown St Surry Hills, 9319 5682, website here. The wine list stands up to the menu and any experience here should be something to remember. Especially when you can't really eat again the next day. Try what I have heard is an amazing steak tartare and flicker through some sweet finishes a la creme brulee, chocolate mousse or an apple tatin bathed in iced-melting vanilla cream. Remember to forget. Food and Delude. You'll have a happy belly and a clear, clear conscience.

Tabou: It's tres francais, all the way.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sticking It To The Man

I really do hope that it's not only myself I speak for when I say that there's something really, really cool about stuff being impaled. There just is. I don't care what it is, but put a stick through it and it suddenly becomes more interesting. Picture the most boring thing you can think of. For me, it's listening to an interview with an Australian cricketer. Cricket kills me. Cricketers kill me again. Borrrr-ing. Now, picture that same interview, but where the cricketer and the interviewer (pick any annoying current affairs personality) are both doing exactly the same thing, but impaled: much better. What it is about the idea of a sharp, straight, metallic length piercing humble flesh that is so agreeable, we'll probably never know - but when The Flavour of Brazil in Leichhardt offers those who want a beastly churrasco-fiasco in 20 speared courses, it's like cupids arrow through a foodies heart... 
The Flavour of Brazil offers a slightly more upscale/quality version of Brazilian all-you-can-meat. It's practically every animal on El Old MacDonald's rancho, marinated, charred and sliced, plate-side, off a skewer that is attached to a tall, dark Brazilian waiter. What's not to like! In an age of veganism and sustainable eating, churrasco is about as wonderfully inappropriate as food gets. At $42 per carnivorous, environmentally-oblivious, cholesterol infused head, you get...

Garlic Bread - pao de alho
Rump Cap (in yo ass) - picanha
Beef Sirloin - contra file
Beef with mustard - fraldinha na mostarda
Beef ribs - costela
Pork ribs - costela de porco
Prawns - camarao
Octopus - Polvo
Beef w Garlic - picanha no alho
Pork neck w Honey + Chili Marinade - Paleta de 
porco com mel e chili
Rump tail w Butter - maminha na manteiga
Beef flank - fraldinha
Pork leg - pernil de porco
Chicken Maryland - sobre coxa de frango
Lamb w Mint - carneiro com menta
Chicken Hearts - coracao de frango
Lamb w Orange - carneiro com laranja
Pork Sausage - linguica
Grilled Cheese - queijo grelhado
BBQ Pineapple w Brown Sugar + Cinnamon - abacaxi

EEiiiEEiOh my God. That has to be pretty much every animal that roams the earth, and every part of those animals in one gobsmacking, bile-threatening, chargrilled, bird-flipped-towards-vegetarianism luscious, fiery line up. It is flame licked lashings of luscious meat in amounts that are supposed to hurt you. Don't worry, the stomach is designed to expand, you're just giving it the excuse to. A word of advice to delay the onset of heart disease by 8pm, there's a swathe of tempering salady-sides such as Brazilian rice, tomato salsa, cinnamon crumbled banana, potato salad, cassava chips and mixed greens. The problem is that these are all you can eat as well. This is definitely the type of meal where there's safety in numbers...
Jamie, Dan and my own, personal South American Authenticity Police: Janine, vouched for the meat I could only watch. Janine vows that this is the best churrasco she's tried, with a quality of meat that puts a stick straight into the competition's heart. Salted, oiled, sizzlingly-skinned torsos of ill-fated, flamed beasts still makes my mouth water, even if it only ever touches my eyes and nose. It's a good thing I have a large nose. The aromas were unbelievable. Smoky and deep and full. To watch a dazzling blade cut into golden-sable-flickered skin and reveal the gentle pinkness of tender, juicy, marinated flesh makes life as a pescetarian seem really, really unfair. Maybe I should be chowing down on goldfish instead of Barra, at least that way I probably wouldn't have the memory of all that meat still twisting and turning in the part of my brain that dreams.
Between the golden, cinnamon-speckled sweetness of the burnt-crumbled banana, rice and salad, I barely had room for the menu's consolation prizes of prawns and cheesy-tomato-eggplant. The moqueca de camarao is a Northeastern Brazilian offering of coconut-milked king prawns with palm oil, capsicum, onions and spices. If the Devil served appetisers, this would have to be one of them. It's an edible hot tub, a furious confusion of deep, dark, orange-red milky, spicy tomato-spangled soup and seafood. Salty and rich and kicking like a bull.
The sides were laid out like beautiful archipelagos of flavour. Vividly varied in colours and textures and (with all of that cheese and meat) somewhat resuscitating to the body, the spirit and the will. Churrasco is an art. A bit like approaching a relationship with a man who waxes his chest, you have to take it slowly and steadily and figure out how much you can handle in order for the experience to not be tragic. Set your foodie nose a couple of degrees closer to the ground, get over the fact that it's all you can eat (quantity is usually the enemy of quality), get over the fact that it's in the Italian Forum (shudder). Contrary to every pre-conception I had, The Flavour of Brazil is seriously amazing food - if you're yet to churrasco, let it be here.
Come in a big group and leave over 2 hours for the meal, you have to be able to settle in between courses to make the most of it. The staff is lovely and attentive and if you pace yourself, you really will get a lot of moo, oink and baa for your stingy little buck. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try the legendary BBQ pineapple with brown sugar + cinnamon, everyone raves about this so do like we didn't, and make sure there's room enough for it at the end.
The Flavour of Brazil happens at shop 20, 23 Norton St Leichhardt.  Call them on 9572 9479 to secure a spot on busy, busy Brazilian weekends. Nissa tells me her lovely Zumba teacher puts a very flashy show on for diners on Friday and Saturday nights. I don't think it'll actually burn any calories watching someone else rip up the restaurant floor, but hey, it can't hurt, can it?

Churrasco. Jesus Christ! Prometheus might have given the world fire, but it's taken those amazing latinos to do something really special with it. There are too many overpriced, crappy places in Sydney. It's refreshing (in a flame-grilled, parmesan crusted-fat dripping kind of way) to experience affordable, fun and exotic quality. If you're ever going to let anyone stick it to you Brazilian style, make sure it's these guys. 

when my belly, when my belly smiles at me I go to Rio... 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why Did The Chickens Cross The Road?

I've given up chicken in real life, so it kind of seems right to let them go from the banner. the cake + the knife will be getting a much needed face-lift and (even more needed) banner reduction surgery over the coming weeks. Talented friends have been enlisted to tart the site up, I can't wait to see the results, even if you can. Until then, there's bound to be some unsightly swelling, but I know you're not superficial. Tell me it was the personality you were after, and not the looks x A.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shot Through The Mouth + You're To Blame...

Annandale. A post office, an intersection that inspires multi-lingual profanity even on a good day, a pizza shop and a busy roundabout adjacent to a purveyor of well priced manure. Let's face it, Annandale was never where anyone ever went to rock or roll. It used to be where recently married 30 year old somethings with a slight artistic bent who (in the hopes of a different kind of enrichment) traded in spectrum for the domain and went to have well adjusted, dairy-intolerant children behind moderately sized white picket fences. But that's just the edifice, step into a little backstreet off Johnston and you might find a little revolution afoot. Shot through the mouth, and you're to blame ...(Revolver), you give other cafes...a baaad nammme. 
CakeKnifeWives, it's time I took you for a little turn, roughly 360 degrees around, all the way towards Revolver, Annandale. All the way behind and deeper into the chirpy suburban backstreets lies this renovated little denizen of drool that houses some of the most intense caking, coffeeing (and pickling) the Sydney cafe scene has to offer. It's a secret the locals were trying to keep under well-fed wraps, but word about revolver is definitely out-and-very-about. If you haven't gotten your molars dirty, Revolver style, then you're just not being very nice to your teeth. Well. What are you waiting for? Are you ready to Yumble?
In a culinary epoch that offers the dubious virtues of soy cheese, vegan chicken, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and people who count the calories in their spittle, think of the existence of the ultimate cheeseburger w smoked mozzarella old school pickles + rosemary salted chats as Foodie-Soul-Redemption. There is something so 70's/80's about this burger. It reminds me of milk bars and pocket money and pinching boys you liked. It belongs to an era when the only artificial thing that touched a cow was a milk maid's hand cream. OldSchool and real. Its intense meaty, smoked-cheese-tart-homemade-pickled-relishedness isn't for just anyone. Like war, love, and the manual settings on an SLR camera - it's only for The Brave. Who among you will answer its call?
Celeste did. And she testified that it was a gorgeous gob-glob of earthly juiciness. Luscious meat and fresh, wet tomato packed in oh-so-delightedly-tightedly with a good honest slice of garish beetroot makes for old school burgering that will possibly make your eyes drool more than your mouth. It is foxy, creamy and stunning, the bread is the perfect cradle for the beautiful slab of not-too-cooked beef and salad and sticky sauces. The epic amount of smoked mozzarella layers the deep, rich meat in clouds and clouds of salty, subtle creaminess. Upon returning again to revolver I tried a big section of burger without the meat... and died. These are singlemouthedly the most exciting pickles I have ever had. They make them in the kitchen and they should feature within the top 5 on any list of things to do before you die. You honestly won't believe that the depth of taste that emanates from the slithering saltiness of one of these home-made pickles actually belongs to what was once a humble cucumber. If a burger before 10am isn't your style, then how about this:
Dad and Dan were both man enough for revolver's big brekkie. On wooden slabs in heavy black pans is exactly where you want to wake up. It's a cosy bed of two baked fresher-than-a-fourteen-year-old-at-the-movies eggs in house-made baked beans, with honey cured bacon, roast tomato, pork-fennel sausage and toast. Vegans and Muslims. Don't even think about it. You'll hurt yourself, you will. Delicious and sizzling, it's absolutely divine to watch the intense orange of a burst yolk spilling into the tomato and beans. The veggified version with danish fetta and hummus is a more pig-friendly option that doesn't sacrifice anything in deliciousness.
Summery special salads abound as well. This was the trout-flickered brown rice with roast vegetable and papaya. A chilled, oiled, gorgeous mess of rice and fish, with the roast vegetables to break up the colour and flavour. Salty and crunch speckled with the cool, chilled pink of tantalizing troutliness.
The tasmanian trout on sweet corn rosti w caramelised onion, avocado + lemon fetta was like finger painting on a plate. The tasmanian trout probably heard about how nice the rostis are at Revolver and decided to swim directly across the Bass Strait and up the East coast all by its forward-thinking-self.
The corn-spangled rosti plays cheeky hide-and-seek with you under layers of peaceful avocado, parsley-speckled-trout and dreamy dollops of fetta. And the purple splash of caramelised onion is perfect.
This is delicate and light and beautiful. One of my favourite things about this dish was the composition. Each flavour and colour kept to its own little section, it made the contrast wonderful and allowed you to work your way through different textures and tastes without having to suffer a standard bite of everything. It's so lovely and rustic to serve food this way.
The eggs benny are pretty famous, as well. As is the 9 hour roasted lamb bruschetta. However, both of this dishes suffer from one common, fatal failing: they're savoury, not sweet...and sweetness (at some point in every good girls day) just becomes down right necessary...
Rodney, the man behind the Revolver gun, knows a good cake. He does after all claim the earthly fortune of calling the baker-heart-breaker Barbara, Mum. All you have to do is see one of these taunting, tawdry treats to be glad as hell that they kept it in the family. The desserts are unapologetically classic: 1960's OldSchool mouth-pow-wow. We all go in for the pannacottas and the tirimasus, its so-souffle and beacoup-bruelee to do foreign sweet-somethings these days. We might have forgotten our cakey roots, but thank god Barbara hasn't...
Australians all, let us rejoice. The Vanilla Slice. It's back, Barbara style. The humble pie-shop smoko treat has gotten a new lease on its cakely life under the masterful direction of this woman who knows how to make an incendiary, frenziedly texture cream.
As soon as the vanilla slice appeared at the table (like prince charming on a gilded plate headed for the fairy tale of my stomach) I had the girls at the next table asking if it was my first time. Yes, yes it was. I was about to be touched for the very first time.  The Vanilla Slice Groupies started frothing at the mouth about how unbelievable this treat was and advised me to fetch a sharp knife - posthaste - so I could cut into the almost bovinely dense pastry-body of this sweetly saccharine seraph.
Think stodgy, sticky, tricky vanilla insanity as cream. It is dizzying sugared-velvet on a stupefied tongue. Denser than denial but twice as custardly-comforting. Real whipped eggs. Layers upon layers of honeyed confusion. Lightness and heaviness all swathed in a sure, strong vanilla mouth-slick.
The crowning layer - like Colin Firth's Darcy's brooding brow - almost defies penetration. A dumbstruck butter knife has to beat into it with ever quickening force to separate the gorgeously honeyed velour of those syrup-sticky-stuckity-stuck layers. This spins on your fork. It dances and sparkles and smiles. Barbara's addition of real passionfruit in the icing is the culinary equivalent of being on an operating table and moving slowly towards the light: intoxicating, overpowering and celestial. Glorious, glorious passionfruited vanilla heartsong. The SharpSlapTang of the passionfruit laces the sugary-vanilla-cream with just the perfect amount of twist and spike to leave you in a dizzied jumble of your own abandoned passions.
The orange syrup cake is just as lovely. Dipping a sly fork into a wedge of this will leave beautiful spider-web-like strands of syrup tracing behind the dazzled fork in the shy morning light. Sparked with orange, zesty and fresh and moistly-rich, astounding cake. Celeste loved the no-nonsense chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and Mum and Dad edge closer and closer to a diabetic coffin with ample helpings of the daily muffins.
Chuck one of the best lattes I have had (and consistently) into the mix with some home-made tea blends, fresh juices and quirky sodas, and it really is enough to make your toes scrunch. This is an impeccable translation of dream into reality. You can tell that the owners have put all of their ventricles and aortas into the design of the menu, the design of the space and the way they bring it all artfully together. Here's to taking your imagination out for a walk in the real world! Well done, Rodney + Crew.
Revolver happens at 291 Annandale St, Annandale. Ph 9555 4727. It's Monday - Sunday 8am to 4pm.

Seriously, get here. Even if it's just for the coffee alone. This is a great place for breakfast and lunch, the more mature crowd is actually a nice change from SurryHillsBondi tweens and their partially exposed punk-rock derrieres. Besides. Older crowds make me feel younger! The prices are pretty impressive when you consider how ample the serves are - and how superior the ingredients. The space has a really lovely feel, clean and buzzing but peaceful outside, and with a very attentive, cheerful service. The love is there in the coffee, in the food, in the did-it-themselves renovations and in the fact that Barbara is usually around giving Rodney a helping hand on busier days. Aww, shucks. Where would we be without our mums? Come, then, come one, come all, and come now.

Revolver: it's totally Bang-Bang!