I really enjoyed the [TOYS] event earlier this year in March that I was determined to go to the next one. So when I found out they were holding another event I couldn’t say no. It was at Porteno – one of my favourite restaurant, and the theme was ‘Old Dogs, New Tricks’, chef partnerships between [TOYS] and their mentors. Huge ‘cast’ of chef, I had high expectations – love majority of the chef and well, it did not disappoint. At $220 per person, for six courses, it was expensive as hell but worth every penny! Loads of food and flowing alcohol, as each course was matched with wine and thank goodness I didn’t drive!
The event started at 6pm, I ‘dragged’ the gym enthusiast, S with me and at 6 on the dot we were there. I knew both M and Y were also attending. We started with a cocktail by Luke Ashton: New Sensation which is Laird’s applejack apple brandy, aperol, bespoke mandarin syrup and pimento dram. It was STRONG – kind of burn sensation and not great if you are thirsty – it’s one of those drinks that you drink slowly – sip by sip (well for me anyway!).
Canapes by Morgan McGlone (ex Flinders Inn, it is his last TOYS event as he is moving to New York! So cut I didn’t get to try his restaurant!) and his inspiration Mark Holmes, ferran prawn dumplings which was tortellini with prawns inside. It was tasty and I could have easily eaten half a dozen on my own.
Unfortunately, I didn’t try the boo-kaki and not even sure what that is! I love the layout of Gardel’s Bar which can be found above Porteno restaurant, we chatted, drank, ate canapes and after about an hour, we moved downstairs where the feast was to start!
Started with trumpeter fish by Hamish Ingram (Bar H, Surry Hills) and Damian Pignolet. Such a simple and refreshing dish, the sashimi was fresh and the celery, radicchio and chervil a wonderful complement. It was the perfect start.
Red Herring, pickled stalks, mackerel, smoked pine curd by Darren Robertson (ex Tetsuyas) and Dave Pegrum (also ex Tetsuyas, then moved to Forbes and Burton and now head Chef at the Bronte Road Bistro). This was another light dish, served at room temperature, the mackerel was deliciously sour, a little slimy for some and the dollops of goats cheese gave it that extra flavour. Y didn’t enjoy this as much as M, S and I. There were mix reviews amongst the diners, but it was a definite winner for me.
Ham, cheese and eggs by Mitch Orr (Duke, Darlinghurst) and Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater) was probably my least favourite. I can see what Mitch was trying to do – shaped like an ‘egg’, the white layer is actually pecorino and it was strong, salty and extremely cheesy! TOO strong for my liking, I loved the ham stock, full of flavour and I have to admit, it did complement the cheese, but it was just a little too much for me. It was a love or hate dish and Y certainly enjoyed it more than the rest of us.
The truth by Thomas Lim (Duke) and Jeremy Strode (Bistrode, ex Bentley), Pig’s trotter stuffed with veal sweetbreads, chicken mousse, shiitake and ginger, garlic chive, pickled onions, beer mustard was divine! Both M and I were a little ‘nervous’ as his last dish at TOYS event wasn’t a favourite of ours but we were both pleasantly surprised.
The trotter was SO tender it just melted in my mouth. The beer mustard excellent and pickled onions a wonderful complement and I really couldn’t get enough of it. Could have definitely eaten another serving!
Tastes like Chicken by Joel Humphries and Nick Wong (Bodega, Surry Hills) and Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz (Porteno, Surry Hills), New Zealand milk-fed lamb, smoked eggplant, flatbread cooked in its own ash was TO DIE FOR!
You all know how much I don’t like lamb, but this was moist and deliciously tender and as M said ‘true to it’s name – tasted like chicken!’. I couldn’t help but have a couple of pieces and could have happily eaten more!
The sides – where do I start? The eggplant puree – magnificent, but it is the flatbread that’s like icing on the cake. It was just SUPERB! Seriously superb and should definitely be on the Porteno menu! M managed to sneak in an extra piece of bread from Joel! Believe it or not, for both M and I, this was a standout dish and this is coming from two girls who does not love lamb, and would avoid it like plague!
The German cake is very similar to that of an Indonesian version of kue lapis and one of my favourite! So thin and soft and oh so frigging delicious. Inside, ice cream and chocolate and oh so good! The chocolate paddle pop like is actually vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and orange peanut brittle – oh dear god, I am certain I had a foodgasm! I didn’t know which one to eat first, the cake? the ice cream? the cake? It was phenomenal and one of the BEST dessert Zumbo has done!
To end, cocktail by Simon McGoram: ‘Till the Bitter End’ – espresso liqueur and my goodness, so strong that I could only have a sip and that was it. Each course was complemented by a wine – to be honest, I can’t remember the flavours of each, by the third glass of red wine, everything tasted wonderful!
Both M and I have similar taste and for both of us, the most outstanding dish of the evening definitely the Porteno’s lamb – I had great expectations from the Porteno boys and they truly did not disappoint! It trumped over the pig’s trotter and I LOVE PORK! Second was definitely the pig’s trotter followed by the mackerel for me, and silver trumpet for M. The dessert is really on a class of its own. If I wasn’t so full, I would have definitely gone in the kitchen and asked Zumbo for another!
Glad to have met the chefs, and chatted. Give me the trotter for entree, lamb for main and German cake for dessert anytime of the week and I will be ONE SERIOUSLY HAPPY GIRL!
Definitely the BEST TOYS event thus far! It will be hard to top the next event, it was ‘fan-bloody-tastic’. Very impressed with the food, service, alcohol, EVERYTHING was just magnifique and waddled to the car exhausted but extremely satisfied!
Again thanks to the chef and Mel for organising everything.
GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills 2010
I have wanted to go to [TOYS] collective event for a while now. I missed their previous events for various reasons, but I was determined to go to the next one. It was held at Ms G’s, the theme was ‘Ballz Deep’ which as Dan described ‘something the chefs can all relate too’. It’s a degustation showcasing the talents of four of the upcoming hot young chefs in Sydney. It costs $120 per head which includes matching alcohol with each course.
I went with the gym enthusiast, S. My dear friend, M was also there with her friends. Unfortunately we didn’t get to sit together. Once seated, we were presented with a cocktail each, created by Charlie Anisbury – he made 100 individual cocktails – I don’t think I even know 100 cocktails! Mine was the ‘Harvey Wallbanger’ – vodka, orange juice galliano and it was refreshingly delicious and light that it went down quickly and nicely.
S on the other hand had ‘Planter’s Punch’ – dark rum, lemon, sugar, angostura bitters. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one unfortunately, only because I don’t like rum!
We started with four different canapes, the first being deep-fried prawn balls, yuzu mayo by Dan Hong himself. This was absolutely delicious – pop in your mouth size, the prawn balls were crunchy on the outside and soft moist on the inside and the yuzu mayo was deliciously creamy and wonderful. I could have easily eaten half a dozen of this.
Next, banh mi of tete de porc, kim chi by Jowett Yu. Similar to the banh mi at Ms G, this was probably my favourite amongst the canapes. Served on a soft fluffy bun, the pork was crunchy and moist and the kimchi was subtle but wonderful. It was scrumptiously good!
Lamb’s balls, shiso pistou by Thomas Lim was nice but probably my least favourite. It was bite size thankfully, and I popped it in my mouth. I didn’t realise at the time, but upon biting, the lamb-y flavour burst into my mouth. It didn’t last long, as it was tiny but the shio pistou was a wonderful complement.
Lastly, steamed pork bun, miso, apple by Nic Wong reminded me so much of the Chinese dish that I love – pork with man tao. Tender, succulent shredded pork served with ‘soft bun, the apple inside was a nice crunchy surprise’. It was magnificient. Each bite was better than the next and the next thing I knew, I was eye-ing S’s pork bun!
Now the shared mains, first course was by Dan Hong entitled deep sea balls – sashimi salad of scallop, fish, tapioca, trout roe, crispy rice and finger lime matched with bishonen junmai ginjo shu sake. This was the dish of the night for me. Fresh sashimi, octobus, scallop, fish with different types of ‘balls’ – ocean trout, tapioca, and crispy rice. I love the subtle spiciness and the crunchy crispy rice balls and as M said ‘such perfect combination of flavours and textures. AMAZEBALLS’.
Jowett Yu combination balls soup – ‘balls’ of scallop, prawn, fish, pork broth served with ramen was probably my least favourite. The flavours didn’t work at all and the ‘balls’ were nice and moist but it really didn’t appeal to me. It was served with 2008 Dveri Pax ‘sivi pinot’ which I didn’t have as I am alergic to white wine (yes weird I know!).
110% Woman by Thomas Lim – chicken breast, oyster and seaweed. The inspiration came from his girlfriend. I know a couple of people didn’t enjoy this dish, they thought the chicken was tasteless and undercooked. The people around M’s table had to use Sriracha sauce to give it some taste. She could see what he was trying to do but it just didn’t work. I thought the chicken was soft and succulent, I enjoyed it and I love the combination of the red cabbage, mushroom and white fungus. Served with 2010 Foster e Roco Sangiovese Rose, Heath cote – Victoria – not my favourite but it did complement the dish.
Lastly, beam’n bone by Nic Wong – smoked pork ribs, chili, bourbon, pickled green tomato. The ribs were tender and had a strong smokey flavour which I loved. I noticed no one used cutlery – they were ‘seriously yummy and the smokiness and stickiness worked perfectly with the watermelon balls’. Two small ribs were defintiely not enough! I wanted more but was getting full by this stage.
The salad I loved. Pickled green tomatoes which was wonderful along with sweet ‘ball’ size watermelon. It was served with macs ‘Sassy Red’ Bitter, Nelson New Zealand.
Before our desserts came, we were presented with iced coffee. Even the iced coffee had a ‘ballz’ theme – PEARLS!!!! It was ridicolously sweet – so sweet that I had to pour water in it and even then it was still too sweet! The pearls were a nice surprise though – bit chewy and hard but a pleasant surprise.
To end, Great balls of fire (and ice) by Bernard Chu and Yen Yee – fried chestnut ice cream, salted egg yolk, liquorice and sour plum was one of the nicest deep fried ice cream I have had. I love good fried ice cream and this exceeded expectation.
The thin crunchy exterior oozed with ice cream and in the middle, a wonderful delight – salted egg yolk and WOW! EPIC! I loved it! I think this was a winner and the perfect way to end the delicious meal.
I am not sure if I liked the liquorice though, it reminded me too much of pi pa gao(Chinese cough medicine)! It seemed as though they have just poured it into a bowl – I was definitely not a fan! But the sour plum was incredibly sour and absolutely wonderful. M on the other hand though LOVED the liquoirce but then again, she loves the cough medicine!
Overall, it was a fun evening, S and I sat together but M who sat on the communial table got to meet new people. It was fun talking to the chefs and meeting their girlfriends, wives and others invovled in [TOYS] collective.
M thought it was a bit weird that they didn’t or couldn’t do anything about her prawn allergy – even if its an extra serving of something else to make for it, given it’s a set menu. She couldn’t eat any of the deep fried prawn ball – which was a shame, and the combination balls soup but don’t think she was missing out there.
I found out later on that each course had its respective music selected by the chef. I did enjoy the music – lots of different types of genre, some I even swayed and dance too!
Overall, it was a wonderful evening, though the delay between the dishes was a tad long. Especailly between the canapes and the shared main. It was still a fun night though and looks forward to the next one. Thanks to the chef and to Mel for a wonderful evening!
GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10
155 Victoria Street,
Potts Point, Sydney NSW