@ ! Restaurant, Crows Nest

21 Nov

I have been quite addicted to Groupon vouchers lately, mainly because of the various restaurants being advertised. One of them was @ Restaurant. Located on Pacific Highway in Crows Nest, it joins a vast number of Japanese eateries already in the neighbourhood. I’ve walked past the shop many times before but noticed one day it was under renovation and wondered if it is operating under a new owner and yes it was! Ex-Merivale Chef Atsushi Saito of sushi e and Sushi Choo have moved into the premises bringing his famous sushi skills with him.

With my voucher in hand, thinking no booking is required on a Sunday night, the place was filled with a mixture of Japanese families, flatmates and couples. I didn’t read the fine print and needed to call ahead to book to use the voucher. Undeterred, we decided to try their normal menu offered as I was in the mood for some Japanese. Specials of the day are written on the window and on the back wall which consists of the freshest fish of the day, personally sourced by Chef Saito at the fish markets in that morning.

I was suffering from a hangover and for some reason beer is what I have been craving for afterwards. Noticed that there was a Sapporo bullet can and it was an immediate win!

Sapporo Silver – $12.50

The slices of snapper were sliced generously and were seasoned with white soy and lime dressing. Never had white soy before and it was slightly sweet with no strong saltines you would get out of regular soy.

Snapper with white soy – $12

Next up was the Wagyu thin skirt steak. This dish was very textural with tender tataki style pieces of Wagyu topped with crunchy potato shreds.

Wagyu Think Skirt

I took a risk in ordering the cheese gyoza as Mr Dough isn’t a big fan of cheese. Much to my surprise he really enjoyed it! The gyoza filled with bococcini style cheese and chopped chives, deep-fried so that the cheese was all molten inside.

Cheese Gyoza

I was also a bit sceptical about the prawn skewers on the menu as I thought it was very simple. The prawns were amazingly springy and had just the right amount of chilli sprinkled on top.

Grilled Prawn Skewers

We played Russian roulette with the hot peppers as we didn’t know which one would contain the most seeds. Chicken mince was stuffed in hot peppers, tempura style and the dish reminded me of Chinese style fish paste in capsicum but this had the heat to back it up.

Stuffed peppers

Another special of the day was tempura cuttle fish legs. I love cuttle fish legs purely on the basis that it is crunchy and meaty.

Tempura Cuttle Fish Legs – $12

We toyed with the idea of trying some sushi to finish and Mr Dough was adamant he could finish it. And of course since he is famous for his sushi!

The small sushi set arrived  and I was immediately impressed that the prawn sushi was a fresh prawn made in-house and not one of those frozen packets that most sushi train uses. The sushi rice was nice and warm with just the right amount of vinegar. Each sashimi slice was quite thick and fat and you could definitely taste the freshness of the fish.

Small sushi set

For my next arrival, I must sit on the sushi bar and befriend Atsushi so he can just whip up any type of sushi he feels like!

@ ! Restaurant (At Restaurant)

477  Pacfic Highway

Crows Nest NSW 2065

+612 9437 5285

The Italian, Willoughby

4 Nov

Local dining is improving and it does provide a lot of options when venturing out to the city proves a little too hard. The Italian is exactly that, it brings a little slice of Italy to the leafy suburbs of Willoughby. I have been meaning to try The Italian for a while now as I was drawn to their wood fired oven in their open kitchen when reading various reviews on the place.

This was a bit of an impromptu visit on a Saturday night with Mr Dough prompting me to make a booking or at least call ahead to ensure there will be tables. I assured him it should be fine as if we couldn’t find a table there, we could easily wander next door to High St Bistro or Goshico. When we arrived, the place was fairly packed! I was expecting to be seated outside but luckily they were able to find us a table.

I cast my eye quickly to the specials board along the wall and instead of eyeing out the food first, I had found my drink! The drink was like a fruit punch to me and I must remember to make it for Christmas this year.

Special Cocktail : peach puree, gin, mint & Prosecco – $16

There is an extensive selection of Italian wines and we randomly selected one to try. The wine was very easy to drink and quite light for a Merlot.

Bovale/Cannonau Merlot – $42

Me being greedy, I wanted to try everything on the menu BUT I have learnt to restrain myself and order what I think I can eat. In the end we settled for 2 pastas and a pizza. I made mine a kids size so I can eat more pizza!

The pasta I chose comes from the region of Puglia. The sauce made from anchovies, chilli and olive oil coated the little florets of broccoli which was then tossed in toasted bread crumbs. The anchovies did not over power the sauce and just provided with just enough saltiness to enhance the pasta. Mr Dough was won over by this dish as he normally isn’t a fan of anchovies.

Conchigliette alla Barese – $9.50 (kids size)

Mr Dough did the reverse of me and eyed out the food specials first instead of the alcohol and immediately wanted the pasta. The cockles are simply cooked in white wine amd chilli. The spaghetti is house-made with 100% durum wheat which results in whole wheat colour looking and much harder texture. The only minor improvement was a little extra salt for seasoning.

Special pasta of the day: Spaghetti with cockles – $24

The pizza is made from 100% organic, biodynamic flour and cooked in a woodfired oven which provides a smokey flavour to the pizza. The pizza menu is divided into 2: red and white. The toppings are all very simple and hearty. Since we there was no meat in our pastas, I chose pancetta as a topping. I saw a boscaiola as a topping and wondered if it was going to be rich and creamy like the pasta sauce.

The pizza base had a nice char but yet it was not burnt or too dry. The pizza dough was very chewy and the toppings was generous enough not to weigh down the base. We saw the pizza is finished off in the woodfired oven with the top of the pizza being held up at the roof of the oven to ensure all cheese is melted and cooked through. I would have prefered more chilli on my pizza but hey, that’s just me because I am a chilli fiend!

Pancetta e pepperoncini – $21

We still had half a bottle of wine left and decided that we could fit dessert in. I ordered off the specials menu (again).

The pannacotta wasn’t as light as I hoped as it was very, very creamy. I had to make sure each mouthful had some strawberries so it would counteract the richness. Something else which I wasn’t expecting from the pannacotta is the taste of honey!

Panacotta with macerated strawberries – $12

 

The wine is finally finished and a takeaway voucher was presented with the bill. Note to self: another good excuse to not cook on a weeknight and to try more pizzas!!

 

The Italian

191 High St, Willoughby, NSW

Bookings via http://www.dimmi.com.au