The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Elegant’

Harbour Kitchen & Bar

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 2, 2010

When planning our whirlwind vacation to Australia, I realized that we would be in Sydney around the time of Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24 (check out foodbuzz.com if you’re not familiar with it).  The Husband and I thought that dining in Australia might be competitive for this competition so we searched for interesting and unique restaurants and menus to submit for our idea.  We found that the Harbour Kitchen & Bar at the Park Hyatt at Sydney Harbour had a fantastic degustation menu with the option of Australian wine pairing.  We submitted our idea, but unfortunately didn’t get selected.  However, we had already made a reservation just in case and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and took the Husband’s brother out for his birthday instead.

After enjoying the weekend markets at the Rocks on what was supposed to be our last day in Australia, the Husband and I headed to the hotel and got dressed up for the first time in weeks 🙂 The Husband’s brother met us there and we walked the few blocks down to the water to the Park Hyatt.  We entered the lobby and were shown the direction to the restaurant.

IMG_2341 Our reservation was for 6:30pm, I believe when the restaurant opened for the dinner, so it was generally empty when we arrived.  As the night went on, the restaurant was full!

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The restaurant’s main wall was all glass and overlooked the harbour and opera house.  We were seated directly next to the window and had a wonderful view. IMG_2344

IMG_2345 Harbour Kitchen’s menu offered a variety of options to choose from, but the three of us had our eyes and stomachs set on the Degustation Menu plus wine pairings.  The waiter left our menu propped up on the table so we could refer to it if we forgot what we were tasting 🙂

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While waiting for our wine and courses, we were brought individual rolls and butter.  I enjoyed the view behind my roll 😉

IMG_2350 Although we were doing the wine pairings, we decided to start with a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout the meal.  The Husband chose the 2006 Yering Station Chardonnay from Yarra Valley, Victoria.  He knows how much I love chardonnays and since we didn’t get a chance to get to the wineries in Yarra Valley, this would be a substitute till we could get back.  It was light yet flavorful and a perfect match throughout our meal.IMG_2351

Up first, we had the Lightly grilled tuna with green beans, olives, and crisp potato.  The plate seemed to be dressed with a mayo (or something similar) and some oil and there was also an egg (quail?) and some greens garnishing the dish.  The flavors melded well together and we enjoyed the different textures of the various ingredients. IMG_2352 It was paired with the 2009 Charles Melton “Rose of Virginia,” a Shiraz Grenache from Barossa Valley, South Australia.  During our visit to Hunter Valley, I learned that I really like the Grenache grape, particularly in a Rose, and this one was no different.  It went very well with this first course and we were looking forward to the other three.

IMG_2354The sommelier Nicolas Deradin was incredibly informative and friendly.  With each course, he brought us out our matching wine and explained to us the different flavors of the wine as well as additional information regarding how they matched the food and the wineries themselves.  We asked a handful of questions throughout the evening and he answered each one for us.  I attempted to take some notes and share those here where I can.

The second course of the degustation menu was Toasted fregola cooked as risotto with Western Australian yabbies and puffed pork.  (Typing that up, I realized that I have no idea what a yabbie is.  According to a quick Google search, it’s an Australian fresh water crustacean.  Fregola is a pasta similar to couscous.)  This dish was much larger than a lot of tasting menu courses.  It was savory and flavorful.  We could taste the toasted flavor like a risotto (as described).

IMG_2357 This dish was matched with the 2007 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (the one on the left).  Since we were enjoying a bottle of chardonnay as well, it was a fun opportunity to try the two.  Nicolas advised us that this wine is oaked with some French oak and some New oak.  We could certainly taste the difference between the two chardonnays (the other one is unoaked).

IMG_2358 Our third course was Free range chicken with celeriac cream, pumpkin, and carrot.  The chicken was very tender.  This was the Husband’s favorite course 🙂 The picture didn’t do it justice!

IMG_2360The wine pairing with this course was the 2008 La Linea Tempranillo from Adelaide Hills, South Australia.  This wine was juicy with plum and licorice flavors.

IMG_2362 A quick break here in the food and wine porn… the night of this meal, March 27th, was the celebration of Earth Hour.  The restaurant was adorned with candlelight in anticipation of their participation in Earth Hour at 8:30pm.  As the sun went down, my picture quality was limited with my photography skills.  We enjoyed a couple photo though while it was still light enough in the restaurant 🙂  Earth Hour did afford us a wonderful view of the Harbour and Opera House as the lights slowly dimmed to a nearly-imperceptible  glow, adding further to the backdrop of our fantastic meal.  As the lights were off, I didn’t get any pictures.IMG_2363

Our fourth and final course was the Vanilla creme brulee with rosemary sorbet and strawberries.  This was my favorite creme brulee ever! The rosemary sorbet and strawberries went so well with it.  It was a great final taste to this meal.

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Our final wine pairing of the night was the 2009 Mr. Riggs “Sticky End” Late Harvest Viognier from McLaren Vale, South Australia.  Its name says it all.  As a dessert wine, it was very sweet and sticky.  If you like dessert wines, you would likely enjoy this one. IMG_2366

To end the meal, I had a pot of tea while the boys had long black coffees.  We were also served chocolate truffles. IMG_2367 Overall, this meal exceeded our expectations.  We were very happy that we decided to go with both the degustation menu and the wine pairings.  This restaurant can be quite expensive but is great for a special occasion.  The atmosphere, service, food, and view are all wonderful.  Although we were disappointed to not be selected for Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24, we wouldn’t have found this restaurant without the research done for our proposal and we are glad for that.

(This is the last of our food and travel posts for our vacation to Australia.  If you missed any posts, be sure to check our “Where We’ve Been” tab above to check out other restaurants, hotels, and cities throughout eastern Australia!)

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Andrew Blair’s

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on August 8, 2009

Last weekend, the Husband and I and friends got together for dinner at Andrew Blair’s.  Andrew Blair’s opened last year and we first visited during Charlotte’s restaurant week earlier this year (coincidentally with one of the couples we ate with last weekend).  We were happy to discover this restaurant during restaurant week and looked forward to going again with our friends that were visiting from out of town.

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During restaurant week, they offered wine flights and I looked forward to having one this time around.  Unfortunately, I learned that that was a special for restaurant week and during the rest of the year they only offer them on Wednesday nights.  The Husband decided to still get a glass of wine – a glass of the Red Dust Shiraz from Australia.  He really enjoyed it!

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After looking through the wine list, I took a quick look at the martini list and found that they had a French Martini.  I had just been telling the Husband earlier in the day how these used to be my favorite so I knew I had to have one.  It was perfect!  For those unfamiliar with them, they are vodka (vanilla vodka in this case), chambord, and pineapple juice.  Yum!!

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Each couple decided to start with an appetizer or “small plate.”

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The Husband and I went with the Risotto.  It included shaved asparagus, prosciutto, and a fried egg.  It was enjoyable but didn’t hit the spot for me :-/

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One couple had the pimento cheese dip.  They really enjoyed it.

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The third couple went with the oysters (no pic) and enjoyed their appetizer as well.

We also received a basket of rolls: cornbread and little rolls with pimentos.  I enjoyed a roll with butter but didn’t try the cornbread.

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Then came the entrees…

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The Husband ordered the Shrimp and Scallops with cheese grits.  He and one of our friends (who also ordered it) loved it!

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I went with the AB Burger.  It was freshly ground chuck, ribeye, and brisket with pimento cheese, a friend egg, fried onions, lettuce and tomato.

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Unfortunately, this also didn’t hit the spot for me 😦 I think the meat may have been cooked more than I had asked for.  I originally planned on getting the gnocci so I definitely want to go back to try that.  Everyone else at the table loved their meals so perhaps my taste buds were just off for the night.  Oh, can’t forget the mac n cheese (in the background).  The Husband and I shared a side and he really liked it.

Andrew Blair’s is a bit more upscale than the restaurants we go to usually and has a nice atmosphere for a date night.  I really enjoyed the wine flight last time, so perhaps we’ll be back on a Wednesday night 🙂

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The Melting Pot

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 12, 2009

As is consistent with our tradition of hitting the Melting Pot for Christian holidays, we made reservations for 3 for tonight. Unfortunately, our third couldn’t make it, so it was just the two of us.

My recommendation: If you’ve never been to the Melting Pot, you’re missing out. High quality food, consistently great service, and wonderful ambiance. Just be sure to bring your credit card, or some serious cash, cause it’s not a cheap dinner.
Overall: The service tonight was particularly spectacular, and the food was excellent, as expected.
Ambiance: Quiet, secluded, and personal. Individual booths with individual burners for keeping your personal fondue pot going. The music tonight was a smooth jazz sound; I think I heard Sade twice. It’s the kind of place you should consider having an intimate dinner at, regardless as to how many you have in your party; they can accommodate large groups well, too.
Menu: It’s all fondue, really. Take your pick of any cheese (appetizer), salad, entree, and dessert, as a complete meal. They have complete meals for 2, or individual meals for the loner (or third wheel). They also have an extensive wine menu. I’m not a huge wine guy, mostly beer (in case you missed it), but I do like a nice glass of wine from time to time, and they’ve got them all, I think.
Something you won’t find on most menus: About everything, except salad.
Service: I commented to Amanda how the service is always excellent, but tonight our server, Adam, went above and beyond. Aside from being friendly and personable, right to the point you think he’s going to be intrusive, and then breaking away just in time to be the perfect level of approachable, he provided any number of great recommendations. Our biggest problem with Melting Pot is that we leave stuffed, usually. After the questionable weekend of dining in Asheville, we wanted to go easy, but still have a great meal. He recommended splitting a fondue for two, which we didn’t know that we could do. He basically told us that they can customize anything on the menu, based on what the customer is looking for. Based on his recommendations and accommodating attitude, we were able to get out without totally gorging ourselves.
Food: Tonight we had Swiss cheese “traditional” fondue, Caprese salad, “The French Quarter” (Cajun meat selection) entree, and the S’mores chocolate dessert fondue. One of the things that makes it particularly good, is the cheeses, meats, chocolate, and vegetables are all of very high quality. Altogether, we spent ~$80, but the service was so damn good, we gave him a 25% tip, so we rounded out at $100. Since the evening was pretty slow, the waiter came back and gave us some chocolate-covered strawberries for take-out. Evidently, you can call ahead and get chocolate fondue to-go, and if you’d like to get chocolate-covered strawberries, you just need to call a day ahead.
Note: Since our waiter was so spectacular, I will pass on two more sales pitches he commented on (I think I’m getting them right). First, Tuesdays all wines under $75 are half price. Full-bottles and half-bottles. Second, chocolate and cheese fondues are half price before 7 at the bar, Monday-Thursday. So, if you’re just looking to TRY the Melting Pot, without the commitment of a full meal, try a cheese fondue one evening, just to see what it’s all about. Enjoy!
901 South Kings Drive
Charlotte, NC 28204

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Crave Dessert Bar

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 5, 2009

Some friends invited me to go to a dessert bar in Uptown named Crave. It opened last week (31 March), and we thought we would give it a try.


My recommendation: No. It was their first weekend open, so I may give it another try after awhile to give them some time to mature, but the train wreck of service I received didn’t leave me with a positive opinion.

Overall: To say the least, I was underwhelmed. The service was crummy. They were out of LOTS of items on the menu. The dessert I did get was good, but not really worth the $8 it cost. I also didn’treally care for the music, which I endured for two and a half hours while we waited.

Ambiance: It has a modern lounge kind of atmosphere, like a martini bar, but not quite what I would call a meat-market.

Menu: As its name might suggest, mostly desserts. The menu is broken up by the type of dessert, for example, “cheesecake” or “chocolate.” Most things appeared to be in the~$8 range. Unfortunately, what is listed on the menu may not actually be available. There is also a complete wine list and drink menu.

Something you won’t find on most menus: Cupcakes. Not just standard “Betty Crocker” cupcakes (not that there’s anything wrong with a Betty Crocker cupcake), but what looked like high-quality, freshly-made, hand-frosted, gourmet, artistic cupcakes. I only got to see them at other tables, though, as all the ones that we ordered, 3 different kinds in total, I believe, were not available.

Service: Poor. I want to be generous here, but they really didn’t give me much to work with. The waitress, while cordial, was horrendous. To be fair, she had two things working against her; she clearly hadn’t had enough time with the menu, and the kitchen ran out of several items. As simple statistic, I believe at least 50% of the table ordered something, and then 15-20 minutes later was told it was not available. This REALLY extends the time it takes to get your dessert. It got to the point that one couple completely cancelled their order, and the General Manager came out to acknowledge that the service was, in fact, unnacceptable. As far as I know, however, no reparations were made. I can’t be sure though, because on of our friend’s mother’s picked up the tab (thanks, Karen!). Either way, it was a rough two and a half hours for a scoop of cheesecake!

Food: I eventually did receive the “Oreo Cheesecake,” I ordered (third item I picked off the menu). It wasn’t served in the typical “slice” form, though, but more like a medium-sized scoop. It was tasty, but not quite as advertised. The description said it would have an Oreo crust, but there was no crust at all; just Oreos (Oreoes?) mixed into the cheesecake! It was good, but I’m not certain it was worth the ~$8 it cost, based on its size OR its flavor.

Of note: As I’ve mentioned before, Crave is new. It was their first weekend. The bar service was fine, but the table service was ghastly. Perhaps, with time, they’ll get the supply-lines hammered out, the service will get some experience and sense of responsibility, and the experience will improve.

I would print the address here, but the web page doesn’t tell you where it is. Good luck finding it.

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