Moon Park

Saturday, 20 December 2014


On an unassuming corner block, fringing the dodgier end of Redfern is Moon Park. With a name like that, you probably couldn't get any more Korean if you tried. And that's the aim, to deliver a decidedly modern and refined take on Korean cuisine in the heart of Sydney. South American food and BBQ was a bit of "a thing" some years ago, now there has been a resurgence of Korean venues with Ko&Co, Kim and Danjee leading the charge. Hello, kimchee and soju!  

Sea urchin and black garlic on seed biscuit. The first morsel to land on the table - a rather beautiful amuse bouche that ticks all the boxes. Salt, texture and delicate - you must have one each!

Once you ascend the winding staircase to the first level dining room, one is met with a pared-back fit out with accents in dark timber and tables winding around the outside verandah (surprisingly noisy). It's small, cosy and has homely vibe (a.k.a. wouldn't you love this to be your dining room) which suits to a tee. The front of house staff were great and really added to how enjoyable the meal was. The overwhelming feeling of the place was of a 'calm', perhaps 'before the storm' yes but everything was handled with efficiency and a smile. What more does a diner want?    


The dynamic duo in the kitchen: Ben Sears and Eun Hee An, both of whom are alumni of Claude's Credit: Anna Kucera for Time Out Sydney

The food takes traditional Korean and elevates it with stunning results. Small share plates are the name of the game, because you'll want to try a bit of everything. If one was feeling rather indulgent, you could take on the tasting menu which is the chef's selection from the menu. Vegetarian options abound and are pretty much encouraged. Everything looks enticing, just ask for some recommendations and you probably won't be disappointed.  

Charred eggplant, egg custard, pickled garlic scape and lotus jorim (left) and cauliflower with royal pine nut sauce, ohiji and charred ssamjang (right). Every element contributes something to the dish. The egg custard was wobbly and delicious with the lotus root

Bibimbap: oxtail and rice, walnuts, kohl rabi and cured egg yolk. Perhaps one the of my favourites. Underneath the layers of garnish was a delectable mix of perfectly cooked rice and meltingly tender oxtail. I would go back for this, in a heartbeat. You can find the recipe (and all its secrets) published at Gourmet Traveller

1/2 a BBQ holmbrae duck with blood sausage, pine nut and perilla leaf kimchi. The main event, the duck was cooked slightly under, the fat not quite rendered enough. Admittedly we were in a bit of a RUSH (first world problems) so probably couldn't allow enough time for the duck to rest etc properly (all those tedious things). I am certain under other circumstances they would have nailed it

DOLCE (Sweeties)

"Moon pie": prune, muesli marshmallow, ginger jelly and white chocolate pudding. Totally winning with this one. A bit of this and that but even better when combined. The ginger jelly and white chocolate pudding were subtle in flavour and definitely not too sweet (something I greatly fear!)

Patbingsu: pear, red bean, shaved milk ice, burnt honey & bee pollen. This mushy bowl of ice is to be devoured in a matter of seconds (before it becomes a sloppy mess). A nice combination of ice and very Asian ingredients to make a refreshing palette cleanser

The quiet appreciation across the dining room, speaks volumes and the service was an absolute delight. I'm always on the look out for little restaurants like this, little gems I file away in my head. Maybe it's just me but some of the ridiculousness about securing a table for dinner these days has made me a bit non-plussed and perhaps even wary (beware the hype machine!). I just want to eat out and enjoy...it's really that simple! One of the lovely things about this place is its originality. Not many restaurants are delivering such unique and elegant food as this. Moon Park takes the essence of Korean food; balance of flavours, carefully thought out presentation to give us a distilled version of the original. Definitely worth a visit.

The minimalist but sleek dining room - job done. Credit: Anna Kucera for Time Out Sydney

Thanks for reading another instalment!
xGourmand
Moon Park on Urbanspoon

Ester

Tuesday, 9 December 2014



Ester, supposedly an organic compound but there's a bit more to it than that. Taking the Sydney dining scene by storm last year, Mat Lindsay's Ester has already been named Restaurant of the Year by Time Out. The praise is coming in thick and fast and so are the punters. Ester is running white hot - and it doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. It was my third time lucky, trying to get a table and that is absolutely no exaggeration! It. is. getting. ridiculous. Why Sydney, why?


Ester, rather luminous a.k.a. the failings of my point & shoot

To be fair, I'm just going to put it out there and say Ester is good. Very good. I'm always astounded by the quality of restaurants that Sydney is producing, not just now but for the past few years whilst I've had this little blog. Even after travelling a wee bit, I always come back appreciating Sydney's gems (or should I say, gold mine?) just a little bit more. Having booked a month in advance (aye, with a heavy heart), and for a special occasion (naturally) - we were inclined to order the set menu. If you can stomach that much delicious food, you should definitely go the whole hog. It's well worth it if not for the generous portions. A veritable feast awaits.

Golden arches, indeed. Photo credit: Peter Bennetts for Architecture AU

Ester's origins were rather transformative (to say the least), with Anthony Gill Architects doing up the space from its humble origins as a loading dock (er, wow). With references to an old Greek taverna, it holds just enough industrial elements to cry out 'modern'. Ester sits on Meagher Street in Chippers as a beacon of light, bringing joy amongst the hipsters crowding the inner west. Thing's ain't looking half bad either; with neighbours in Brickfields, Freda's and  The Chip off the Old Block. Why not let the good times roll?

Roasted oysters (left) and duck and pistachio terrine (right). I could have oysters anytime anywhere, lightly roasted - they tasted quite different to what I'm used to (but in a good way). A few weren't too game on the terrine, I was just trying to save room for what lay ahead...

The menu certainly leaves on intrigued, to say the least. Reading as a quizzical list of ingredients - it serves as a checklist, rattling of some soon-to-be favourites. Already Ester has a few signature dishes, including their roast cauliflower which is a must-order, okay? Mat Lindsay's pride and joy sits as the centrepiece of the kitchen, a wood fired oven which is used to great effect throughout.  Most plates are designed for sharing and are the perfect accompaniment to some fine glasses of vino. No doubt you'll be craving to try more by the end!

Pippies/cabbage/nori butter. An early favourite, for sure. The tiny amount of meat (for all that shell) was coated with nori adding another element from the sea. A lovely and light dish.

Crispy pig's tails (left) and calamari/peas/green goddess (right). What that final ingredient was I had no idea...but have since done my research - a tangy dressing made with lots of fresh herbs. The calamari was cooked well and gelled together well with the other elements. The pig tails were tasty, for what meat there was (warning: bones)!

Cauliflower/almond/mint. A ha! So this was what all the fuss was about. A whole roasted cauli served with almond sauce, roasted almonds and mint. Quite impressive but also sneaky - was the half head thrown in the fire for the 'wow' factor? Nevertheless the flavours work really well, the slightly charred and textural cauliflower is a nice pairing with almond. Over boiled brassicas be gone!

Fish fillet/onion/saltbush (left) and chicken/garlic bread sauce (right). For the final two savouries you can't fault the cooking of the protein. It's nice to see the use of Australian natives (in saltbush). The garlic perhaps doesn't come through as hoped, but a little smear from a roasted garlic clove fixes everything

LA DOLCE VITA

Salted caramel semi-freddo, dusted with black sesame sugar. Sharing is caring, but perhaps not the case here. Dive in - before it's GONE. Another recipe to poach from Gourmet Traveller

Ester has certainly added a dash of excitement to the dining scene in Sydney, just as Berta, Apollo and Nomad have also done (the list hardly ends there either...). Ester's made a cracking statement, all with their trusty wood fire oven and the team should be immensely proud. The food is the perfect stepping stone short of fine dining; the communal experience that we've grown to adore. What could be better than having a rollicking good time without the fuss? If you feel so inclined to recreate your Ester experience (because let's face it, you've already had a hard time trying to secure a table); catch the recipe for their famed roast cauliflower here on Gourmet Traveller. Make Ester your New Year's resolution.

"Three milks" - cow's milk panna cotta, sheep's milk yoghurt foam and goat's milk dulce de leche 

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Ester on Urbanspoon

A Film About Coffee

Monday, 1 December 2014



And here we have, a visual interlude. I'll be the first to admit it, I love to harp on about coffee. I constantly find myself in pursuit of the best - wherever I go it's sort of an unofficial mission (and a heap of fun. See here and here). It's a drink that most Aussies will claim to be an expert in, and to be quite honest - we've got it pretty good Down Under. Coffee can be one of many things - the push to get up and go, a quiet moment shared in the afternoon or a battle cry against a hectic day. Filmmaker Brandon Loper has produced a film paying homage to that which we hold dear, A Film About Coffee.

A botanically inspired poster

Tracing the organic origins of the humble bean to the slow-mo pour over into your glass (at your favourite hipster cafĂ©) every shot is to be savoured. This is an ode to the power of coffee across the globe - in culture, trade and economics. Journeying from Honduras and Rwanda to New York, Tokyo and Portland; Loper's goal of capturing the world of specialty coffee has been stunningly realised. Now drip, chemex and espresso fiends alike can enjoy this on their screens - it's the stuff of a coffee aficionado's dreams. View the trailer below or the film is available for rent or purchase online here.



Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
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