Game of Thrones Dinner at Gastro Park

Friday, 18 July 2014

Every year, for a few weeks, Gastro Park does a special Game of Thrones themed dinner to celebrate the season premiere. In March I checked the website constantly to find out when the dinner was but there were no details at all so I thought they must have decided not to do a GOT dinner, and was very sad and consoled myself by going back and stalking Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella’s photos from 2012.

Luckily I was wrong!

They had GOT dinners in June, and then one final one on Tuesday, which I was lucky enough to be able to go to.

Gastro Park is in Potts Point, just down the road from Gazebo, and there was a movie/TV show/something being filmed on the corner so we had something interesting to watch in between courses. The restaurant is dimly lit with appropriate music from the GOT soundtrack playing. A tree sits on a table in the middle of the room, with a jug leaking dry ice smoke to impressive effect.

Our menus came rolled up in scrolls, coffee-stained and tied up with twine, as GOT menus should be, on dragon's egg shaped plates. 

I really loved all the table settings at Gastro Park. The food descriptions were deliciously vague and we spent a good amount of time debating what we thought each course would be.

The first course comes fairly quickly, in about ten minutes. 

We have house baked sourdough, whole roasted garlic, and ‘dripping’.

This is not a candle. It is the dripping. Beef fat (yeah, what?) that they have somehow candle-ised, and you eat it as it melts into the balsamic vinegar. It is delicious, and 100% unhealthy.

The garlic is soft and mushy from being roasted, and we smear it onto the sourdough (crunchy on the outside, super soft on the inside) before dipping it into the fat. I’m not even going to pretend to call it anything else, because it really is. When some drips onto the table, it hardens into a small, round pool of wax-fat, and we pretend not to think about it going down. It’s worth it.

Earth tarts and raw flesh.

The earth tart shell is made of thinly shaved truffle with cheese gratin and is the most heavenly little bite.

And the raw flesh kangaroo carpaccio is just as good, perfectly flavored and not too chewy.

We can’t wait for the next course – ‘Fish on hot rocks (you will cook your own)’. We speculate – maybe it will be like a bibimbap? Maybe we will get a tiny stovetop grill?

After 30 minutes, the fish arrives, and it is literally, on rocks. Thin sushi-like slabs of jewfish on large, smooth pebbles, in a bowl of smaller pebbles, with half a king prawn for each of us. There is also ‘broccoli mud’ that looks like tiny godswoods. We are told to flip the fish so in 30 seconds so it can cook, so we do just that.

The jewfish is delicious – melt in your mouth. We only get one little slice each, so we savour it as much as we can. The broccoli is perfectly crisp and goes perfectly with olive tapenade mud, which is just the right amount of salty.

When we came in, there were a table in front of us who had started just before we did, so their courses were coming a few minutes before ours, so we could see and speculate what everything was before ours came. A second table arrived midway through the bread and dripping, so their first and second courses were about 10 minutes behind us. However, the arrival of our third course represented a shift in our food order for the rest of the night. Half an hour after the fish on rocks, a waitress comes out with three platters of the third course, but our table had not yet been cleared, although we had finished quite a while ago.

Instead of putting our dishes down and clearing the table, which would have taken about a minute, she gave our food to the next table, who somehow had already had their fish on rocks cleared. She left, and ten minutes later our table was cleared. It was another 15 minutes before our blood cake and bitterness arrived, and the other table had already finished eating. By this time, it is already 8.30 pm, which meant it had taken 2 hours for 3 courses to arrive. Don't worry, I assured everyone else. It'll be fine, we only have two more courses left.

The blood pudding and roasted beetroot is served on a stone chunk of treetrunk, and is not bitter at all, but really delicious. The boys, who declared that they had been apathetic to beetroot, confessed that they enjoyed it thoroughly, and gleefully examine the blood red colour of the dish. 

Another 45 minute wait before we finally get onto our main course. The kill of tonight is goat, quail, and lamb. The meats are served with a barley risotto and sautéed kale. 

The goat is absolutely divine. It is in some sort of heaven sauce (really, I cannot describe, and we weren't given anything more than a rudimentary elaboration of 'it's goat', so I really have no idea. But trust me, it was good), which goes perfectly with the warm and comforting barley risotto.

The quail (we were apportioned half a quail each) has crispy skin and is perfectly cooked, and we speculate over the decorative leaves on the plate (probably picked from outside?). 

The lamb doesn't arrive until we are almost done with the goat and the quail, without an apology or explanation, but we are more preoccupied with how it is served. On a stone, but there are only two cutlets for three people. It takes five minutes to flag down a waiter, who confirms that there should be three, and disappears into the kitchen. A replacement lamb dish arrives 15 minutes later, after we have awkwardly divided the two cutlets into 3 portions. It is very rare, but good, and I find myself almost full after it, but I'm much smaller than the boys. They discuss stopping for kebabs on the way home. By this time, the two tables that were in front of us, were onto their 'Final Bites'.

The super rare replacement lamb.

Dessert arrives half an hour later, at around 10 pm. It's a chunk of the wall, with the menu printed on it, which the waitress extracts from a smoking container of dry ice and places onto our plates. 

The menu is printed on rice paper, which is then placed on top of meringue and then frozen. Unfortunately two out of three of our menus are broken, but is still delicious. The dish also incorporates yuzu ice cream, coconut foam, pineapple and basil seeds, and is absolutely divine. The flavours are perfect, and the chunk of wall, has to be broken up into little chunks due to how frozen it is, so you get a little mouthful in every bite.

We wait excitedly for our final bite, as it is getting quite late. The two tables in front of us have paid and gone. The two tables on either side of us, who arrived an hour after us, are onto their dessert by now. Still no final bite. At 10.30 pm, a waiter emerges, and serves the table to our left their final bite, and we finally decide to ask where ours were. They're on the way, we are promised.

Fifteen minutes later, our final bites emerge. The couple on the left have already paid and gone. The final bite is carrot sorbet with toasted marshmallow, served on a tiny stone pillar. I think by this time I was too tired and frustrated to enjoy it properly, and found the sorbet to be too overly carrot-y, and the toasted marshmallow tasted like Pascall's.

Another 5 minutes of hand waving to get someone's attention to ask for the bill, another 10 minutes before the bill actually arrives. We left Gastro Park at around 11 pm, from a 6.30 pm reservation. While the food was amazing, bar the carrot sorbet, the service was unfortunately, quite horrible. There was no explanation or reason as to why tables that had arrived later than us were served quicker, and managed to leave significantly earlier than we did. The mess-up with clearing the tables was one problem, later exacerbated by giving us 2 lamb cutlets although we were a table of three. So while I really enjoyed the ingenuity and deliciousness of the food, the competency of the front of house staff make it doubtful that I will ever eat at Gastro Park again. Which is a shame, since I love A Game of Thrones, and the feast was delicious.

The Game of Thrones menu costs $110 per person, 
not including drinks. 
A glass of Vale Ale cost $10 each.

5-9 Roslyn Street, Potts Point
Sydney, Australia
Ph: 02 8068 1017


Carrot, Walnut and Oat Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My best friend's mom made the best carrot cake when we were in junior high. And I mean the best. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but it was the perfect mixture of carroty-walnut-moist-spongy goodness. And that icing. So. Good. We would just sit in front of the TV eating it before we had Science tutoring classes, and it almost made those lessons worth it. Almost. I was/am terrible at it. 

Her mom made amazing food generally as well, but I can't pinpoint exactly what, only that it was good. One of my clearest memories, though, is that we used to eat spoonfuls of condensed milk, straight from the tin. Judge me, I don't care. It was delicious. I feel happy thinking about it. Although I do remember that we were only limited to one spoonful each. If that counts for anything.

Anyway! They now have a bunch of restaurants with lots of amazing Malaysian treats and food, but no carrot cake, as far as i know. And, there aren't any branches in Australia. Sad face. 

These cupcakes are not quite as good, sorry, but they are still good. And you can smother as much cream cheese icing on as you like. I decided to make these because:

(a) I have four big end-of-semester essays to write;
(b) In my procrastination I made some juice (apple, orange, carrot, strawberry, pineapple - it's delicious, and you'll feel much better making it at home than paying $7 at a juice bar) and felt bad about wasting the juice pulp/whatever that leftover stuff from juicing is called, so had to use them for something. 

So these are made with that pulpy stuff! You can, of course, just grate some carrots, but if you have a juicer and you like carrot juice, go for it. Also, I'm a very lazy human. I though the muffins might be a bit dry because the pulp is de-juiced, but they weren't at all. So that's good.

You can substitute a lot in this recipe. Walnuts can be substituted for almonds, or macadamias - probably any kind of nuts, but I've only tried it with those two so I can only guarantee they are great. But I'm sure any nuts would be fine. I used honey because I didn't have enough sugar, and I used oats because I didn't have enough flour. So, yes, that was probably a sign for me to get back to writing my Environmental Law essay, but I didn't take it and these turned out great. Anyway - you can substitute honey for sugar, and oats for flour, if you like. 



Mixed Noodle Salad Bowls

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

This is a really easy and delicious dish that was created when I was about eight years old. We had leftovers that had to be used up, and I really loved grating things.

It became a staple for many years, until somehow we forgot about it and it wasn't included in any meal rotations while I was in high school. I think this was because when we moved to Australia, chilli oil was not as readily available as it was in Malaysia, and my mom couldn't be bothered making it from scratch. 

But one day a few years ago, my chilli plant had an abundant flowering and fruiting one summer, and we had an overload of chillies. So I made some chilli oil and it was delicious, and sparked memories of these noodles. So they're a frequent and much loved staple now. 

(And yes, I do realize now that you can just buy chilli oil at an Asian store or at some fancy delis. But home made is always better!)

You can basically add whatever you like to these bowls, depending on what you have. The staples are the noodles, cucumber, carrots, some kind of protein, and the sauce - particularly the chilli oil and garlic. In a dire situation, you can just use these, and it will still be delicious.



Almond, Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Muesli Bars

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

When I was in school, I was always really excited to go away on school trips - especially camping. Not because I love camping (I do) but because I was allowed to buy whatever I wanted for snacks, and it would be that single, rare occasion where I would be allowed to buy all sorts of junk food/unhealthy treats that I wouldn't usually ever be allowed to have. 

Instant cup noodles? As many different flavours as I liked! Pringles? Why not! Marshmallows! To make s'mores, of course! It was fantastic. I also used to get Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Topped muesli bars when I went camping. Strawberry. And I really loved them, but they were, very decidedly a "treat". So once every year (or maybe twice, if I was lucky) I could have all these treats and it was a really exciting moment for me. 

Strangely, even now that I am an adult, I avoid all these "treats" (except, they're not, really) unless I am going camping. Or on a road trip. I seriously just bypass them in the grocery aisle, although it is one day my desire to go to an Asian shop and try all the flavours of instant noodles. 

I guess it's because I just prefer making my own food (cooking for me is ultimately the best form of procrastination. Because you have to eat, so why not do it in the most excessive way possible? .... Right?) and maybe a little bit of classical conditioning due to my mom's strictness when I was little. 

Anyway these muesli bars are definitely not a "treat", but they are a treat! Super easy to make and very delicious, and customizable! This batch is almond, cranberry and vanilla, but you can use whatever nuts and dried fruit you like. They are also no-bake, which is always nice. So once they are set, you just slice them up, and then grab them whenever you need. I love them for breakfast on the run, or with steaming cup of tea for an afternoon snack.

Almond, Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Muesli Bars

- 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats, toasted*
- 1/4 cup desiccated coconut, toasted*
- 1 cup whole almonds, toasted*
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted*
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup goji berries
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup peanut butter 
- 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
  1. Heat the honey, peanut butter and vanilla in a small saucepan on low heat until it is runny. Set aside to cool.
  2. Put the oats, coconut, almonds, white chocolate chips, chia seeds, sesame seeds, goji berries, and cranberries into a large bowl.
  3. Pulse the dates in a blender until it can be shaped into a ball.
  4. Mix the dates with the remaining ingredients in a bowl and then press loosely into a slice or brownie pan lined with baking paper. 
  5. Pour the honey mixture over and then let it set in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Cut into bars and wrap in baking paper. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. 
*I just throw the oats, coconut, sesame seeds, and almonds onto a baking sheet and put it in the grill for about 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, or I put them into a large frying pan and heat. 

xx gee