Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Mad Cow (Merivale Winter Feast), Sydney

Oh gosh, I've been waiting for these photos. I forgot to pick up the DSLR from JL so I had to borrow SK's camera to take these photos.

A few weeks ago my boss SJ treated us girls at work to the glorious Mad Cow, situated within the Ivy. It was an occasion to farewell one of my best friend (and also my workmate) HH as she is jetting off to go on exchange in France.

For those of you wondering, yes, I've tried my best, in all my weird and quirky ways to convince her to pack me in her suitcase and take me with her.

At least now I know I'm less convincing than I thought I was...

Now, moving onto topic, as you walk into Mad Cow, it would seem that you are instantly taken away into a secluded garden in amidst the chaos of Sydney. The furnishing are vibrantly coloured, with splashes of yellow and grassy green all around the walls and lounges.

I know I'm stating the obvious when I call the design of the place classy. I mean, seriously, it's the Ivy and all...but the strange thing about Mad Cow is the quirkiness of an Alice-in-Wonderland type of feel which gives it the sort of character that distinguishes it from the general (and sometimes seedy) image of "class" you find around Sydney.

There was nothing to complain about the service here really. We were quickly seated, and the waitress and waiters were perfectly flexible and happy to cater to our requests. A multigrain bread was soon brought to us with a slab of smooth butter. At first glance it brought back memories of that delightful bread we had at Silk's in Leura. However, there was no scent of the sweet honey that lingered around the table, and I knew straight away that it was just not the same.

Still good bread though. I was perfectly happy to keep nomming.

Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks, Mushrooms, Celeriac, Broad Beans

For those who already know about Merivale's Winter Feast, you would know that for $35, the menu provided in each restaurant is fairly limited in selection, but embraces a large spectrum of tastes and styles. At Mad Cow, there was a clear standout in the menu (at least for our table). About 3 or 4 serves of the Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks were ordered and it was absolutely delightful. The meat was fork-tender and moist with a deep, robust taste of the red wine sauce it is braised in. I don't usually like broad beans, but heck, these little green pellets around the dish were sweet and just cooked and went perfectly with the meat.

Risotto of Pumpkin, Spinach, Sage, Parmigiano Reggiano

SJ had originally ordered the Beef Cheeks as well, but quickly changed to the Pumpkin Risotto upon seeing that everyone had ordered the same thing. She said she had done it for me (and my research purposes), so I was absolutely thrilled, even though deep down I regretted letting out a small whinge that everyone had ordered the same thing.

I was a little surprised by the presentation of the dish. It seemed rather out of character and below-par when compared to the other dishes that came out.

People say beauty is only skin-deep -- I extend that to the realm of food as I genuinely believe that some of the most ugly looking dishes are often the nicest tasting ones. This one was no exception. The idea of the dish is simple, subtle and understated, but the taste that comes from it is wonderfully generous and playful - if that's even a way to describe food?

I only had a small spoonful, but I think I would've probably licked the plate clean if I had ordered it.
Crispy Skin Ocean Trout Fillet, Olive Caper Tomato Salsa

SK ordered the Ocean Trout (also just to be different for research purposes). She said that the skin was really crispy and the salmon was flaky but cooked really well such that it wasn't dry nor undercooked.

I knew secretly she was waiting for dessert...

Crisp Meringue, Raspberry Sorbet, Blueberry Compote

And then it came to us.

I think at this point I nearly fell off my lounge, even though it was rather physically impossible. Doesn't the meringue and cream just look like balls of fluffy clouds, gently sustaining the quinelle of raspberry sorbet?

No complaints here, except maybe there was too little of it.

Single Selection of Local and Imported Cheese, Gala Apple, Walnut Bread (and Muscatels)

Others on the table opted for the selection of cheeses. Cheese is life in a really stinky package. Seriously. Some people love durian, I love cheeses.

(Pardon my forgetfulness, but I can't remember where these cheeses were from)
We received, in order from the top, a slice of blue cheese, a block of mixed goats and soft cheese (?), and a slice of pecorino.

The goats cheese was the outstanding winner of the three and I was tempted to ask for more. The pecorino was not so popular as it was a bit too strong and overpowering. And lastly, the Blue cheese was, is, and always will be a huge divider of the table. I personally liked it, but couldn't handle very much of it. It wasn't like the creamy goats cheese where I could simply just keep eating more and more.

Overall we had a great lunch there. SJ left us early to get back to the office, and the rest of us just sat around gossiping and wishing HH all the best in France. Like I said earlier, this lunch happened a while back, and HH had already hopped on the plane last Thursday.

It's only been a few days and I miss her dearly already. Au revoir mon ami.

Mad Cow
Level 1, 330 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9240 3000

Merivale Winter Feast @ Mad Cow :: $35 for 2 courses, $45 for 3 courses.
Includes glass of wine/James Squire

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