Ad Lib Bistro | restaurant review

picture credit: The Sydney Tarts

Ad Lib Bistro has been on my restaurant “to do” list for ages. It opened a couple of years ago on a controversial site in Pymble (the former Tables restaurant which closed after a man died of food poisoning). The resume is formidable; it’s been on Australian Gourmet Traveller’s top 100 restaurants list for 2010 & 2011. The Executive Chef is former Berowra Waters Inn & Forty One‘s Dietmar Sawyere and Head Chef Crosby Mar also from Forty One.

It’s a strange place for a high end Parisian-style bistro; located about 20 minutes out of the CBD (depending on traffic) on the main road in Pymble on the North Shore suburb of Sydney, but what is lacks in suburb atmosphere it does fine with interior decor; bright and classically modern with polished wooden floors and crisp white tablecloths.

picture credit: Time Out Sydney

It was my pick for the last Dinner Club of 2011 and also our pre-Christmas celebration. It’s not fine dining but it’s on the higher end of restaurant fare and I would say ‘Bistro’ refers to the menu and not the prices as it takes a nice little chunk out of your wallet.

The food is generally good but the service certainly let’s the place down. On entry we stand waiting for a good few minutes while one of the waiters just ignores us, no word of hello and continues looking at the computer. Then we’re lead to our table and our waitress is one unhappy person. She is total bitch throughout service and seems annoyed by the fact that she is there. It’s as if we silently make an agreement not to let her terrible attitude spoil our evening.

the wine: Chateau de Sours

We order a deep rich Red from Bordeaux, France.

The entrée

Oysters

Janine has the Oysters which are presented on rock salt and served with condiments.

Steak Tartare

Ian & I both have the Steak Tartare which is a nice texture and is topped with a small quails egg. It’s under-seasoned though. A small bottle of Tabasco sauce is placed on the table and we use it generously.

Cured Kingfish

Jay has the Cured Kingfish which is carpaccio-style served on a salad leaf bed and salmon roe. The simple flavours are light and tasty.

Plat Principal

Grilled Sirloin Steak, Beurre Cafe De Paris

This is Janine’s steak which the waitress carelessly dumps in front of her. The presentation is poor and the ‘Beurre Cafe De Paris’ (Paris butter) is unimpressive.

Grilled Sirloin Steak, Beurre Cafe De Paris

My steak is better presented but still mediocre. The quality of the meat is really disappointing as it’s sinewy.

Spaghettini Pasta, Lamb Meatballs, Shiitake Mushrooms, Garlic, Chilli, Parsley

Ian orders the pasta and finds the meatballs overdone and generally underwhelming.

Peppered Fillet Steak, Baby Spinach

Jay is really happy with his steak which is a good cut and cooked medium-rare to his liking which has a bearnaise-style foam.

Sides

We share 4 sides; Cauliflower GratinRoesti PotatoesButtered Baby CarrotsFrench Fries. The Cauliflower Gratin is so creamy & delicious, the Baby Carrots are tender yet still firm and the Potatoes are so tasty.

Menu des Desserts

The Mousse preparation

Ian’s dessert comes with pompous ceremony that is completely pointless. The waitress comes out with a giant bowl of mousse, a little saucer of cream and wafer sticks which she silently and humourlessly prepares. I think it’s served like this to dress-up the fact that it’s chocolate mousse. In a bowl. At a french restaurant. The end result looks like this

the Chocolate Mousse
the Christmas Pudding

Janine orders the Christmas Pudding which is a menu supplement. She loves it, it’s like a Christmas pudding flavoured semifreddo.

Pear Tarte Tatin, White Chocolate Ice Cream

This could potentially be the best Tarte Tatin I’ve ever had. It’s the perfect balance of sweet buttery crispy pastry and perfectly poached pear served with white chocolate icecream. I don’t speak while I eat this as I’m in heaven!

Cognac

Jay has a cognac to finish.

Our consensus is that the desserts save the meal (but the service is still unforgivable).

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The take away: it’s a bit of a trek for those not living on the North Shore and you can get better food & service at Bistro Ortolan in Leichhardt (which also have 2 Chef’s Hats) but the Pear Tarte Tatine is amazing. The service stinks.

Food: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 1 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: clean & modern with medium noise. Mostly older crowd and well-to-do family dinners.
Value: moderate

Ad Lib Bistro | 1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble NSW
www.adlibbistro.com

12wbt group workout

To mark the close of the Michelle Bridges 2011 12WBT (12 Week Body Transformation), our illustrious leader held a mammoth training session in Centennial Park on the 10th December.

It was free for all the members and we even got to take along a friend/supporter/partner-in-crime!

Before the workout began there were stalls and fitness demos from Mish’s sponsors (like Triumph, Nature’s Way and Polar) that you could visit for product samples.

Then the workout began…

the stalls
Jay relaxing before the workout!
let's get ready!!!
12wbt trainers L-R: Jacqs, Steve, Mish, Gabi, Chris

That’s Michelle in the middle!!!

‘JFDI’ is Michelle’s mantra. It means ‘Just F-ing Do It‘!!!

Mich & some workout fans
the workout
1200+ people working out!
the workout
squats!
everybody workout! freestyle!
the main stage
waiting for a photo after the workout
we're sweaty! Jay & I after the workout
my workout calories & my JFDI wristband

The workout was amazing. It was a combination of Body Attack moves with running between the main stage and the 5 other satellite stages where we would do interval training before running to the next stage. It was 1 hour of intensity & fun! Michelle is insanely inspirational as well as being humble and down-to-earth. She has changed so many people’s lives (and helped drop over 100,000kgs through her 12WBT program) and I am just so grateful to be one of them!

The only negative was the waste…in the form of bottled water, which were thoughtfully (& gratefully considering the 28°C day) provided for free, but were nevertheless a huge contribution to landfill on the day. Hopefully next year there will be mobile water stations.

one wheelie bin filled with discarded bottled water
and the number of wheelie bins filled with discarded water bottles

But that’s a small criticism hidden within a huge thank-you to Mich and her amazing team for this kick arse workout! I’ve already re-signed for Round 1 2012 which starts pre-season on January 16.

Can’t wait!!!

♦♦♦♦♦

Picture credits: some (pics 4-10) borrowed from Michelle & Jacqs Facebook uploads.

Emon | restaurant review

For Janine’s dinner club in November we went for Japanese in Surry Hills at Emon.

Emon - interior

picture credit: here

It’s a small but cute little Japanese diner on busy Cleveland Street. The food is authentic and arrives at the table really quickly. The little Japanese waitress is so friendly and is full of recommendations.

Sapporo Beer
Shochu wine

Janine & I have a Sapporo beer but the guys go for the Shochu wine which is similar to Sake and is made from potato. It’s smooth and easy to drink but is potent stuff!

the table setting
Renkon chips $5.50
Edemame $5.50
Spider roll sushi $14.50
Ebi Gyoza $12

We share everything; the small dishes of renkon chips which are thin wafers of crunchy root vegetable like parsnip, the edemame which are soy beans and my most favourite, the spider roll which is freshly made with a combination of soft texture from the rice and crunchy texture from the soft-shell crab and the ebi gyoza which is filled with prawns, steamed and then pan-fried.

Waygu beef teriyaki $28.50

The waygu teriyaki beef is tender and succulent. The dish has a perfect amount of wonderful teriyaki sauce which we soak up our rice.

brown rice (genmai) $4.50
Chicken Kara-age $19.50

The chicken kara-age is also so tender. We wolf it down and wish we’d ordered more!

♦♦♦♦♦

The takeaway: a great place for Japanese food. It’s quick and delicious and the service is efficient and friendly.

Food: 4 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5
Atmosphere: busy and buzzing with after-work patrons and locals
Value: excellent

Emon | 432 Cleveland St, Surry Hills NSW
http://www.emon.com.au

the best of times, the worst of times

Each year Christmas for me is a mix of emotions.

Growing up my Christmases were hit & miss depending on the state of my father. My Mum would always remain cheerful to make Christmas Day the best she could but it usually ended up with alcohol-fueled family drama ending in tears.

Although I am now an adult with a happy home-life, I still find Christmas time hard to bare. It brings up old emotional wounds and I do try my very hardest to focus on the joys about the holidays; the sun, the break from work, the good food, catching up with family and friends, buying gifts for loved ones and the sales that come afterwards (!) but I generally spend the time focusing on keeping the knot in my stomach at bay.

In my family at least, the holiday brings together family members who live near and far and the expectation of good times put added pressure on everyone to enjoy themselves which usually brings to the surface drama & year-long tension that erupts in fighting. I guess you could say that it brings out the worst and the best in people. My family in particular.

This Christmas wasn’t any different. Actually, that isn’t exactly true; Jay, Harley & I spent Christmas day at home where we started the morning with a long run, then had a light lunch and spent the evening with his cousins and some ‘Christmas-orphans’ for a big Christmas dinner. That was fun. It was a good day.

Boxing Day we traveled a couple of hours north up to Mum’s where everything went to hell in a handbag. My stepbrother and brother were drunken idiots for 3 days. Not being one to bite my tongue easily, I fought with both of them over their behavior and then my stepdad over the confrontation. My poor Mum was stuck in the middle of a fighting family and my poor husband did his best at playing mediator. We came home late last night emotional drained.

Although it was emotionally messy it wasn’t all bad. I guess it’s like the calm after the storm; there is a lot of clean-up but you feel a sense of relief that it’s over and that you survived.

Here are a few pics of the good times over the last few days:

the NYC Ruben sandwich in Sydney

Jay & I did some shopping the day before Christmas Eve in Westfield. The Ruben sandwich has come to Sydney! Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed. Boo. Hiss.

Christmas Eve dinner

Jay & I went to the local pub The AB in Glebe for Christmas Eve dinner. Mmmmm burger.

Jay & me - Christmas evening
my Christmas cocktail

At Christmas dinner, there were two Mixologists who blended up some fine festive cocktails! Since I was driving home, I only had one but it was a good one!

cousin Rosie
cousins Lani (L) & Helen (R)
Rosie & Jay
the pav-off

Ricky’s pavlova was homemade. Mine was store bought. The general consensus was that Ricky’s pav was better but my topping was better (peach-liqueur cream & berries)! I agree.

Rosie, Erin & Jay

I put Erin’s overly-friendly goodbye kiss on my lips down to her having a few too many, but I later found out she thought I was hot!!! She’s the Bar Manager of the Kings Cross Hotel.

Our Keno ticket

It was raining on the 27th Dec, so we spent some time down at the Nelson Bay Diggers club. Mum & I giggled like school girls while we were playing Keno.

Redback spider

One of Australia’s most deadly spiders….the Redback. Needless to say, I squished it.

Stockton beach

We went 4WD-ing on the beach. The weather finally turned sunny & hot and it was great fun!

Jay & Harley on the dunes
Stockton dunes
Mum & I
the dune lakes
a sandy little Harley

And then we went home and got back to our exercise routine…

today's calorie expenditure

smashed it at the gym today!

◊◊◊◊◊

So there it is…my no-holds-barred, bleeding heart account of the past few days.

After baring my soul I feel so much better!

Happy holidays!

what do you call a crate of ducks?

Answer: a box of quackers!

Mwahaha! Now, that is my type of joke!

It came in the Christmas cracker that Neen & Ian gave us for Christmas.
Soooo funny!

Today is Christmas and while my onions are caramelizing on the stove for my caramelized onion & goats feta tartlettes I thought I’d post again with the day’s festivities so far…

My loot…

the hamper from the Jacksons

Includes the Michelle Bridges Calorie Counter book, some limited edition moisturizers from Kiehls, beeswax candles, a Babushka doll set, some cookies, detox tea, bath salts and my fave cartoon of all time Cyanide & Happiness.

Cyanide & Happiness
my new Nike workout singlet from Jay

Isn’t my new workout singlet pretty!!!! It’s so bright & summery that I had to take it for a spin….Jay, Harley & I went and did a 3km run before breakfast.

Narciso Rodriguez Black Perfume Set from Jay
Nike workout gloves from Jay

Can’t wait to try out my new workout gloves in Body Pump class! I’ve been increasing my weights and it hurts my hands now and gives me blisters, so these will help!

Harley's pressie from the Jacksons

Harley wasn’t incredibly impressed with the treats but he loved the wrapping paper which he attempted to shred! Check out this video clip of him and his Christmas treats…

Now we’re off to Jay’s big extended family dinner. I’ve made potato salad, turkey breast roast with cranberry sauce, caramelized onion & goats feta tartlets and pavlova with berries, kiwi, passionfruit and peach liqueur whipped cream!

goodness gracious me

I partied way too much in my early 20’s which has now lead me to hold a certain aversion to mammoth nights out on the turps.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a regular lover of a nice fat glass (or two) of red wine over dinner, the Sunday arvo beer and the occasional indulgence at friends’ birthdays, but partying into the early hours of the morning is so circa ’97-’03.

However, every year in December my inner demon comes out and I really let fly. As in two to three weeks of grotesque drinking. The kind of drinking that makes Jim Morrison look like a teetotaler and would put Mötley Crüe to shame!

I’d like to admit to all the copious occasions of alcohol induced fun I’ve had in the past 2 weeks… It’s not called the silly season for nothing!

  • Friday drinks after work just because
  • my work Christmas party (read about that here)
  • mid-week dinner club where I managed to drink more than a bottle of wine solo [can anyone say “stumble”!]
  • Mich’s birthday house-party

A party on Saturday night at a friends birthday was one such occasion.
But I’d go as far as to say it was my most favourite party of the year!

Bianca (aka "B"), Melly & James
Melly (posing for the camera of course!)
DJ JimSmiff mixing beatz
da Williams - Melly & Jay
James & B*

*a note: James is Jay’s best mate and B is my good friend (they aren’t together!)

the lovely B & Gen*

* Genevieve is my friend James’ (aka Jim aka DJ Jim Smiff) girlfriend. She & I are now friends and I think she is divine!

B, Mich (the birthday girl)* & me

*Mich is the gorgeous birthday girl 42 years young! She’s been in Oz 5 years now & she’s just as you’d expect a girl from Austin Texas to be; gregarious, confident & charming. I luuuuurve her!

Brenton & Jay
Melly & B

above: me & my mates…

Kerry* (aka "KK") & Amanda

*KK is Mich’s flat mate & graciously let us trash party in their apartment!

Geoff & Jen*

*new parent’s Geoff (ex-pat from North Carolina although we’ve adopted him as our own) & his girlfriend Jen came out for a big night together

Jared & Pete*

*Jared is one of my customer’s on my current project. He’s one of the most stylish men I know. I think he’s awesome! Pete is his equally awesome boyfriend.

Fritz & Michelle
The blur of Awesomeness! (Jim & Gen)
Melly & Jared
me, B & Gen
Adam* & Andrea

*Andrea bought her friend Adam to the party. I brought cheezels to Adam. Adam has cheezel fingers. The girls ate the cheezel fingers from Adam. Everybody is happy. Most of all Adam.

the bromance: Geoff & Jay

2am came & went…and just like good little vampires we returned home before the sunrise.

Moral of the story: I don’t recover as well as I used too!