April 22nd, 2008

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Aki's

Aki's is an understated, almost shy restaurant that fills the breach at the top end of Sydney’s Indian dining scene. It's on the popular Woolloomooloo Wharf with Manta and Otto Restaurant. The city view, and the sport of people watching are definite attractions of the space. For chef/owner Kumar Mahadevan, this is the second of two outlets, both named for his sons. The first he opened in North Strathfield, and it's called Abhi’s.

More so than most Indian restaurants, this has the look and feel of a fine diner. Before our drinks have arrived we're given a complimentary amuse bouche.  The views of the city, amuse bouche and palate cleansing tonic between courses make one inclined to linger at their al fresco tables; and ease the higher prices.

Begin your journey into the contemporary cuisine with an Indian Mule ($15) – a refreshing (and original) blend of Vodka and Sake, flavoured with Coriander Root and Ginger. Later move on to explore the excellent wine list, designed with Indian flavours in mind. I also tried a Cardapirinha ($16) which had cardamon-infused 42 Below Vodka, muddled limes, vanilla sugar and mint. The Indian Mule was by far the better cocktail - the cardamon was a bit strong in the other one. The signature entrée of Crab Podimas with Iddiappam ($23) sees you pour a fragrant coconut broth over string hoppers, topped with shredded Blue Swimmer crab tossed with black mustard seeds, tomatoes and ginger. It originates from Kerela in Southern India.

Vegetarian diners are given a range of options, including a substantial entrée of Palak Patta Chaat ($13). It originates in the west of India in an area called Rajasthani. Basically it's crisp spinach leaves that have been coated in a lentil batter on top of beautifully cooked chickpeas topped with yoghurt, date & tamarind and chilli & mint sauces

We then received a complimentary palate cleansing tonic before our next course - I think it was pink grapefruit and mint, but I might be remembering incorrectly. With many dishes, subtlety is the name of the game, but the Hyderabadi Murg ($25) is a very spicy chicken dish. It was made with fresh green chillies, roasted red whole chillies, garlic and cumin.

The Braised White Rabbit ($34) with coconut, fennel, cashew and poppy seeds was beautifully cooked in a stunning sauce that begged to be mopped up with a Naan ($3); and it improved overnight, justifying their unexpected offer of a doggy bag!

The weakest dish was a side of Kerrai Porial ($14) or English spinach with mustard seeds, onion & coconut. We also had a serve of Saffron Pilau Rice ($3/ person) but after all that, found ourselves too full for dessert. However I think I would like to go back to try their version of a creme caramel ($13) using palm sugar, coconut, cardamon and cashew. A good experience that I would be happy to repeat.

1/6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
Ph: (02) 9332 4600
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Sydney Tower Restaurant

After meeting the publicist of  Sydney Tower Restaurant I was invited to dine with a guest, and a child. When you dine here, you get more than just a meal – it’s also an attraction. You feel like a king as you take a separate (uncrowded) lift to the impressive slowly-rotating, modern dining room. Interestingly they are double-decker lifts and the people going to the attraction side of it are above you - they are crammed in like sardines, and your lift shows them on a small screen. You can wave at them, and they wave back - a fact that delighted my young companion, and distracted him from trying to press all the buttons in the lift.

The restaurant is decorated with a simple black and white mural, but the view is the real show-piece.  As I mentioned, I was asked to take along a child, as the restaurant is particularly of interest to children. So this is Jett, he's two, and he was particularly excited by seeing six excavators (his favourite type of vehicle) from above in a building site. Of the food, his preference was for the cherry tomatoes, and the chocolate off the top of the profiteroles.

I will say that buffet style eating often means disappointment, but when you dine here, you’ll be surprised at the quality and premium range on offer. I tried a number of things for an appetizer - the best were the shell-your-own prawns, but the oysters from their own lease in Esperance Bay, Tasmania were much better quality than I expected. 

Move on to a constantly refreshed selection of Asian and Mediterranean dishes; or step up to the carvery for honey glazed baked ham, rare Terra Rossa Beef and less common selections like Kangaroo and Camel. You also can see a steamed pork bun, and a pork and mushroom wonton. I mostly tried the big hitting dishes, but rest assured, there was a salad bar, and vegetables available.

My other dining companion, often known as Jett's Mother, is a vegetarian, though through her pregnancy she began eating fish again, and this has continued. Her selection included whole baked salmon from the carvery, roast vegetables, a lovely fish and prawn curry and a spinach and chickpea curry. I suspect if she had only wanted vegetarian dishes, she might not have been quite so well catered for - there was enough (just) without much choice.

Linger over a plate of cakes, slices and fresh fruit as the city turns round. I tried a Cherry Ripe Slice (intensely sweet), a Caramel Slice (nice with a buttery biscuit base), a Lamington (excellent) and a Strawberry Profiterole topped with white chocolate (nice) plus some fresh fruit.

By the way, at the beginning of the meal, our waitress quietly whispered that ‘nuggets and chips’ were also available - this was done without Jett overhearing, allowing us the option of trying to get him to eat the more healthy and diverse food available on the buffet. The staff, and specifically our waitress (a veteran of ten years at the restaurant, and even longer in their combined restaurants), were particularly warm to my young dining companion. Nothing was too much trouble – a booster seat, and even cleaning up a smashed wine glass he smashed. You definitely won’t be embarrassed to take your kids here.

As for the price, for lunch adults pay $49.50/head, and children from 3-12 are $24.50. For dinner, the prices are higher, but according to our waitress, the menu remains the same. Might be one to hit for lunch.

Sydney Tower Restaurant
Centrepoint, Gallery Level, 100 Market Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8223 3800

Sydney Tower on Urbanspoon