Review: Jamie’s Italian, Sydney

How many times would you try to get into a restaurant before you give up? Since it opened a few years ago I’ve tried numerous times to get into Jamie’s Italian for an evening meal, but have never been patient enough to wait the two or three hours for a table to open up. It probably doesn’t help that I generally try my luck on a Saturday night after a day spent in the city, and spend my time jostling in the line with a hundred other people who had the same idea!

Finding myself in the city during the day recently, I had the bright idea of jumping into Jamie’s Italian for lunch rather than battling the dinner crowds. And finally, I was successful in my quest for a table!

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Posh chips with truffle oil and parmesan, $6.50

I started my meal with a side of the posh chips with truffle oil – I’m a real sucker for truffle chips and this menu item really called to me. The chips were hot with a really satisfying crunch – the parmesan was a fantastic touch, but I would have preferred more truffle oil! This is a great choice for a single side serve, and perfectly sized for a single person.

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Jools’ Favourite Sicilian Tuna Fusilli (main size, $18.50)

I’ve always admired Jools Oliver since seeing photos like this – she seems very real, very down-to-earth, and not at all like the usual celebrity wives that you might find in magazines. It’s very naive of me of course, to believe that a ‘celebrity’ is the same as their carefully crafted public persona, but I’m a real sucker.

In any case, if Jamie Oliver was going to nominate one single dish as his wife’s favourite, then I was going to try it! After all, why not trust the judgement of the woman who gets to eat chef-quality dishes every day? I definitely made the right choice – a tuna pasta may sound boring, but it had a real chilli kick that turned it from something simple to something simply scintillating. The herby crumbs on the side also added extra flavour to the dish.

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Ji Warm Brownie, $9

Delicious, rich, chocolatey goodness with bursts of sweet raspberries throughout…this brownie was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Combined with the creamy house-made vanilla ice-cream, was absolutely to die for. It’s the type of simple brownie that everyone should know how to make as a standard household recipe!

Overall, I rate Jamie’s Italian a strong 9 out of 10.

Attentive service, good presentation, casual chatty atmosphere and impeccable food combine to create a reasonably-priced and memorable dining experience.

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Review: Pins on Lurline, Katoomba

Our hosts at Lurline House in Katoomba spent some time introducing us to the area, providing guidance on local sightseeing and dining options. One of their top recommendations for a good dinner was Pins on Lurline, conveniently located only a few doors down the road.

When I looked up their website, I was a little bit hesitant to visit for a meal as it sounded like the restaurant didn’t quite know what their niche was. Judge for yourself:

Run by owners – Japanese Wife/Scottish husband, the food is an eclectic menu of Italian pastas, rice dishes and Japanese noodles, with a few contemporary Australian dishes thrown in for good measure.

Italian, Japanese and Australian fusion? I’m all for diversifying and bringing two seemingly diverse cuisines together and creating a new menu of taste explosion, but surely one has to draw the line somewhere? Wrong!

I’m glad I quieted that dissenting voice in my head though, as K and I had a thoroughly enjoyable meal at Pins, and were really looked after by our waiter on the night.

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Avocado cured ocean trout sushi salad with a wasabi yoghurt dressing, $13

We shared an entree to start – a fresh sushi salad with a healthy dose of avocado and trout. I’m not normally a fan of wasabi as I find the taste quite overpowering without the tingling delight of a proper chilli sauce, however, the wasabi in the yoghurt salad dressing was quite subtle and actually quite enjoyable. Perhaps I need to experiment with more subtle uses of wasabi in future dishes?

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Tsukimi noodle soup with chicken, shallots and poached egg, $17 main

K ordered a udon noodle soup for his main, and enjoyed his choice. I tried some of the soup, and found it light, flavourful and refreshing, with just the slightest lingering tang at the end. The udon noodles had a great texture as well, and were the real highlight of the dish. The restaurant reportedly make a fresh batch of noodles everyday as their specialty, so it’s well worth trying the noodles if you end up visiting.

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Healthy Asian risotto with Japanese mushrooms, miso, bean curd and wakame seaweed, $17

I was determined to try the most eclectic fusion dish I could find on the menu, and a Japanese interpretation of a traditional Italian risotto fit the bill best. While I enjoyed the dish, I did find the blend of textures and flavours quite strange – if not for the risotto, the vegetables and stock would have made an ideal Asian style soup. At the same time, if not for the tofu and Japanese mushrooms, the arborio rice would have made a fantastic Italian risotto. Perhaps I’m close-minded, but I think I would need to experiment with this particular blend of ingredients and flavours in my own kitchen until I found a blend that makes sense to my palate.

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White chocolate creme brulee infused with lime and fresh ginger, served with home-made honeycomb ice-cream, $12

When K saw this on the dessert menu, he left the restaurant and ran up the street to our B&B so that he could grab his Lacteeze tablets, which allow him to consume dairy products despite his general intolerance to lactose. His all-time favourite sweet dish is creme brulee, and this modified version with hints of lime threw him into an ecstasy of amazing desserts. I have to give points to this dish as well, as both the creme brulee and ice-cream were smooth, creamy, and delicious.

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Bombe Alaska – Home-made nougat ice-cream on macaroon base topped with baked Italian meringue, orange caramel and thick cream, $12

Just as K finds it hard to look past creme brulee, I can rarely walk past a good meringue without drooling slightly. This baked meringue was perfectly proportioned, and beautifully presented with the flavoursome nougat ice-cream that went incredibly well with the orange caramel. My hat comes off to the chef for creating a dessert that’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.

Overall, I rate Pins on Lurline an 8 out of 10. They have a very unique menu, and can offer a dining experience that can be hard to find in Katoomba. Do book ahead if you get a chance, as they can get quite busy – we went on a Tuesday night, and the restaurant was still packed full.

Recipe: Chorizo Risotto

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In our attempt to make Australia Day slightly more sophisticated and better representative of the multiculturalism of our society, K and I chose to barbecue spicy Spanish chorizo instead of plain sausages.

Two days later, I chose to make a simple risotto with what was left over from the chorizo, using some leftover frozen veggies from my freezer and risotto rice (which should be a staple in anyone’s pantry!). It was tasty, but buyer beware – the strong flavours of chorizo can easily overpower the other ingredients, so adjust your usual risotto cooking method accordingly!

Ingredients

  • Risotto rice
  • Cooked chorizo, diced
  • Frozen mixed veggies, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken stock, diluted
  • Herbs, salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan, and quickly warm up the risotto rice. Pour in a cup of heavily diluted chicken stock and let it simmer slowly so that the risotto absorbs the liquid.
  2. Throw in the diced chorizo so that the chorizo flavour seeps into the risotto with the chicken stock.
  3. Keep adding diluted stock and water to the pan (to taste) as the rice continues to absorb in the liquid and flavours. Keep stirring continuously as the risotto may otherwise stick to the pan.
  4. When you estimate there’s about five minutes left of cooking time, add the frozen diced veggies and season with salt, pepper and herbs to your own liking.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

It’s a super easy recipe which you can adapt as needed, with more or less vegetables, different proteins, etc. A few days later, I added some extra sweet corn kernels to the leftover risotto at about a 40/60 ratio. This made the leftovers super crunchy and tasty, and more of a corn salad than a risotto. It was a really nice way of freshening up a familiar meal, and still making it exciting and different!