Nomad

Tonight I took myself on a rather lovely date to Nomad Sydney. To begin with, it always excites me to see a kitchen with an open charcoal grill. There’s a certain magic and flavour that charcoal cooking imparts that is just impossible to imitate in any other way.

It’s always hard when eating alone at a sharing style venue because you want to eat everything, but you can’t. Nonetheless I made a valiant effort…

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Zucchini flowers
Initially I thought these were on the pricy side for zucchini flowers, but I was pleasantly surprised by the generous serve. They came completely laden with pecorino, and the truffle honey is pleasant and subtle. The flowers themselves were ultra crispy under their cheesy blanket.

My next dish was a smoked brisket empanada, which had a sweet smokey aroma, with a more savoury flavour when initially tasted. The pulled brisket is wrapped in a rich crumbly almost shortcrust style pastry. The empanada is served with a house made hot sauce which smells red and piquant, but tastes surprisingly green. It has a bit of a kick and when added to the pastry, really brings out the sweetness in the brisket that was previously smelt.

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Next was the spanner crab croquette. Small in appearance but big in flavour, this dish was rich and creamy with a taste of the sea that lingers and grows in the mouth, yet is also fresh and has hints of citrus.

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My final dish was the house made haloumi with wood roasted heirloom tomatoes. This was such a simple but incredible dish, and probably my favourite of the night. The tomatoes are rich and intensely flavourful with a subtle smokey smell. The house made haloumi is incredible, and cutting through the crisp top it just oozes and stretches apart in the most heavenly way. I also really enjoyed the fresh herbs, which included the largest flat leaf parsley I’ve ever seen and just explosively flavourful fresh oregano. Did you know that dry oregano in Australia contains mostly filler? A recent scandal report states that some brands are just 11% oregano, which explains the poor flavour… If you haven’t ever tried fresh oregano I highly recommend it. This is a dish that is worthy of pause. Take a moment, savour the smells and tastes, even close your eyes and discover the depths that are possible, but not commonly found in such a seemingly simple dish. Its a testament to quality Australian produce and I’m so glad I decided to try it.

The smokiness in the tomatoes and juice was also brought out beautifully with a small chunk of their sourdough. This is a true sourdough with a dark, slightly bitter crust, made in house with a surprisingly short 3.5 hour rise! I’m told the secret is hand kneading and using 3 different strong yeast cultures – regardless, it works. From what I observed sitting near the pass the brioche they serve looked just as good too.. Mmmm.

And now.. Dessert. The point where you should stop before you explode and resolve to just have something light, at least until you see… This

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This valhrona chocolate just glistened. I could almost see my reflection in it. Filled with a chocolate, raspberry and coconut cream and surrounded by chocolate crumb and fresh raspberries with an awfully romantic rose leaf garnish, this dessert is rich, smooth and just overall delicious. It’s quite rich, so you could share it, but I wouldn’t judge you for keeping it all to yourself!! (Admittedly, I couldn’t quite finish it)

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Overall I highly recommend Nomad, and will definitely be back on my next trip to Sydney to try some of the dishes that I saw in passing!

Macchiato Sydney

I started the night looking for tapas. Let me tell you this – it’s not easy looking for a table for one in Sydney CBD on a Saturday night. Particularly if you are someone that likes to have a bit of everything. I quickly discovered that all the tapas menus were designed for groups – perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, but some places do have smaller tasting plates or even single serve options on the tapas/bites portion of the menu. So changing course I set sail for a woodfired pizza restaurant, with no clue as to why I suddenly branched into nautical metaphor.

I eventually drifted into Macchiato, a large and bustling Italian restaurant and coffee roaster (not being a 9pm coffee girl however, I sadly can’t report on that aspect).

Despite plans to increase the habit, I admittedly don’t dine alone often, and it has usually been in hotel restaurants where business travellers are common place, so I was a little daunted by the prospect of heading out to dinner in the city on a Saturday by myself. I needn’t have worried.

The cheerful barista quickly flagged down a waiter, immediately recognising me as a solo diner and saving me from having to actually ask for a table for one, I was seated promptly. Again lamenting that I could only really fit in one thing, I eventually settled on the truffled Bresaola pizza, and sat back to wait, fiddle with social media on my tablet, and people watch.

That was also when I first noticed the oven.

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This thing. Is. A. Beast. It looks like a space ship about to take off (with our pizzas, noooo!) and judging by the speed I could see those delicious doughy discs whizzing through, I can only imagine the temperatures it must reach. Sadly, my phone camera does no justice to the red hot glow emanating from its.. Portholes? (ah, that’s where the nautical metaphor came from).

You can’t see a pizza oven like that and not get a little excited. When the chosen Bresaola appeared let me say it did not disappoint. Whenever I order something with truffles, I’m caught between the fear that it will be either over powering, or that the truffle will be an untasteable slither designed as an excuse to add 25% to the price. This was neither.

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The Bresaola may look scarce but it spread out and was flavourful enough to match the base well. Likewise for the truffled mascarpone. As soon as it arrived at the table I was overwhelmed by the absolutely divine smell. This has to be near the top of my list of most aromatic truffle infused dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of ordering. With only trace amounts of vegetables (admittedly I wouldn’t have minded a little more tomato) this is a pizza that could have ended up overly salty, but it wasn’t. The truffle mascarpone adds a creamy richness that is still light and fresh.

The base as well was very enjoyable, crisp on the outside with that course floured texture that comes from a great fired pizza, but still with a little chewy softness on the inside, I’d imagine due to the speed at which they are cooked.  My only complaint would be that with such a crispy base, a sharper knife could be handy as I was really struggling to cut through it and not just give up and use my hands.

Overall it was a thoroughly satisfying pizza experience…  But nonetheless, you must be wondering, what kind of restaurant review only talks about one single dish? And the answer to that is, the kind that would rather stress how wonderful the customer service was.

As mentioned I was somewhat uncomfortable with my solo dining venture this night, but during my meal, despite being busy, no less than five separate staff members, including the manager, came by to ask me how I was going, if I enjoyed the pizza, and to top up my water. And every single one of them had a warm genuine smile on their face.

On top of being made to feel incredibly welcome, all the staff seemed to be having a great time, had a great level of camaraderie and I even caught one of the bar tenders humming alone to the music.

Well done Macchiato on providing one of the best and most friendly customer service experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Sezar

Down a little alley way just off Russell St (that’s so Melbourne) is Sezar. The only thing visible from the main street is it’s door, as the restaurant itself sits tucked perpendicular to Russell in the adjoining building. It sits on Melbourne Place next tot he Kelvin Club, one of the last remaining private clubs in the city.

The cuisine is one you may not have tried before – Armenian – the cuisine of a small country on the north east border of Turkey, that shares a small border with Iran. It’s a Christian country and has in the past, been a member of the Soviet republic. So whilst you might expect the food to contain some familiar middle eastern elements, don’t expect the heavy spice use found in Arab cuisine.

I can’t speak for traditional Armenian food – Sezar positions itself as modern, and the food features fresh, light local produce. The menu is sharing style – we had the grain salad featuring toasted nuts and labneh, pork glazed with pomegranate molasses, and shepherds salad with radish and herbs, along with a side of Armenian flat bread. As usual, I prove myself to be the worlds worst foodie, completely unable to capture mouth watering photography of the meal.

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This is the sort of restaurant it’s safe to go to if you want to feel a little indulgent, but not leave at the end of the night feeling weight down and regretting your decisions. The food was simple in its complexity, reminding you of a long cultural past of living with the land. The ingredients are unassuming but come together beautifully, and everything was flavourful yet somehow fresh. Even the pork with pomegranate molasses, which can be incredibly sweet, was not overbearing. The bread was soft and light, not overly filling, and overall the whole meal felt nourishing and comfortable.

Leaving us plenty of room for dessert – when the waiter asked if we’d like anything, our first question was “Does the tasting board have a little of everything?” “Yes” “Ok, then that!”. The desserts were probably a little too modern – I’d have liked to see something more traditional since it was a cuisine I was unfamiliar with – the deconstructed baklava for example really didn’t resemble baklava at all, despite being delicious. Honey featured, as well as persian fairy floss and flavours of pistachio, berries and other nuts. All chocolate presented was of the dark and rich variety, and overall the board was very enjoyable, although some items are very sweet and should be eaten last so as not to over power the lighter flavours.

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Another side note was that we accompanied our meal with orange wine – another thing that was new to me, being at the beginning of my wine journey (and not an overly common item on wine lists in Melbourne). I can say that if you haven’t tried it, you should. Being a somewhat niche product it’s pretty unlikely that it would have been produced by a low quality wine maker, and its flavour profile is really quite interesting. If you’re wondering, no, it’s not made from oranges – the production process makes the wine orange, just as Rosé is pink. You might think it would be sweet, but it starts with an exceptionally dry mouth feel, before leaving a complex lingering flavour of musk and rosewater.

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Overall I highly recommend giving Sezar a try, particularly if you’re after something a little different, or a fine dining experience that is light and fresh. I’ll also definitely be on the look out for more Armenian restaurants.