Friday, February 17, 2012

In Love with... Cara & Co

Valentines. A delightful occasion to celebrate with our loved ones. My sweetheart generously agreed to go to anywhere I wanted. But finding the ideal place to celebrate Valentines was not an easy task. I had a few restaurants in mind, which have either been booked out or they have set degustation menus that didn’t appeal to us. Naturally I was ecstatic when I saw pictures of beautiful dishes from a mystic little restaurant that is part of a stylish concept store. Cara & Co concept store was first launched in Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary Art five years ago. August last year they opened up a second boutique in Westfield Sydney, located just beneath my much adored restaurant Becasse. The boutique indeed looks like a museum where garments and other fashionable items are exhibited gracefully throughout the store. They have a refreshing “No Logos Fashion Only” philosophy. You won’t find labels anywhere but everything in the store is for sale. They source their stock from a range of international designers and only three of each item is ever stocked. They obviously know how sophisticated shoppers like you and me respond to the magic words “exclusive” and “limited” LOL!

The catwalk pathway inside the store leading to the restaurant

Entrance to the restaurant, well hidden inside the boutique

As we walked through the store and into the restaurant, we instantly felt the resemblance between the two – retro yet contemporary, stylish yet elegant, cool yet inviting. The illuminated glass floor, quirky lights, leather seats, antique machinery and the black and white movie (Breakfast at Tiffany’s I believe) playing on the wall projector appealed to all senses to create an unique dining experience. 

Natural woods and quirky lights

Black and white movie projected on the wall

Antique machinery

The candle and rose petals on our table signalled tonight was going to be special, and it truly was. We had the Valentine’s four course set menu, with welcome drinks, as well as tea/coffee and petit four to finish. The food was created by renowned Belgian chef Dave De Belder (a Michelin star holder) and it can be described as innovative gastronomic cuisine. The dishes were unique with complex food combinations that worked surprisingly well together. They were presented spectacularly like artwork on a plate. The flavours were punchy and the textures were unusual - everything was memorable, with some being exceptional! 

Tonight's special four course menu, with candle and rose petals

The service was impeccable at Cara & Co. Right from the beginning when I made the reservation, they kindly offered alternative dishes to cater for my “fish allergy”, they patiently directing us to the restaurant when we couldn’t find our way in Westfield Sydney after hours, to serving us with big smiles and carefully explaining each dish to us. The only peculiar incident was when one of the waiters poured water over something on our table which made them grew without telling us what they were, leaving us amused by these mysterious white objects for the next 15 minutes or so. After which we found out they were actually napkins (thankfully we didn’t try to eat them thinking they were marshmallows).  

Watch how these grew!


It’s always great to start a meal off with warm bread and butter with a drink or two. And it goes without saying, complimentary canapés are always welcomed in my world. We were served a creamy scoop of cauliflower bonbon and a tasty horseradish crisp with soy wasabi mayo and crunchy wild rice soil.

Spiced Cherry Sidecar
Cognac, grand marnier, homemade spiced cherry syrup, lemon juice

Cauliflower BonBon with Herring roe and wasabi mayo
L Loves... Soy wasabi mayo with wild rice soil and horseradish crisp
After the two adorable canapés, my beloved boy wondered if we were getting fed on petite model size servings as he thought these were the two entrees listed on our four course menu. "No my dear, I will not let you starve on Valentine’s Day!" I said :P Swiftly they brought out our first entrees. “In tune with tuna” for my boy and “Smoke a crab cigar” for me. Oh how I love these playful names. As for the food, they were amazing! The flaky crab cigar was light and fresh, and the spinach cream was a fine pairing to the crab. Mr M confirmed the tuna dish tasted as beautiful as it looked.
In tune with tuna
Textures of tuna, all kinds of tomato, cream of verbena, puffed wild rice

L Loves... Smoke a crab cigar
Crab cigar, spinach cream, basil oil, parmesan jelly, nitrogen grapefruit

Our second round of entrees consists of snappy snapper and flower child risotto. Mr M was all praises about how magnificently the snapper was cooked, leaving it so succulent and no awkward fish smell at all. He was also eyeing on my risotto, which was topped with delightful summer vegetables and packed with flavours from butter, parmesan cheese and vegetable stock.   
Snappy snapper
Concentrated tomato cream, ratatouille jus, broad beans,
white asparagus, Black olive tapenade 
Flower child risotto
Summer vegetables, parmesan, herbs and flowers 

From then on, there were no more fish dishes so I had the same main and dessert as Mr M (and everyone else there on Valentine’s night). Our main was an exquisite array of beef tartare and sirloin, as well as its accompanying friends consisting of glazed potato, lettuce and pickled tomato. The waiter then came to pour the amazing gooey, creamy Béarnaise sauce over it. The sirloin was cooked beautifully, with a slight crisp on the outer layer and tender throughout. The glazed potato was lovely and sweet, but the pickled tomatoes put a slight frown on my face, but that was just because I don’t like anything pickled in general. There was already too much good food for me by this point I’m happy to skip the odd tomato here and there. 

Our main is served... Beef story (part II)
A closer look at the quail egg on top of the fillet tartare

Beef story (part II)
Fillet tartare, slowly cooked sirloin, glazed potato, 
lettuce, pickled tomato, Béarnaise sauce 2012

I couldn’t be more impressed with the creativity of the dessert brought to us. Not the usual chocolate themed Valentines dessert, but a romantic combination of rose, lychee, raspberry and white chocolate (oops, so there is chocolate, but it is Valentine’s afterall :P). This dessert is so elegant in taste and in presentation. I mistakenly thought the round centrepiece was a ball of chocolate, but it turned out to be full of lychee flavours and was almost as soft as a marshmallow, only slightly smoother and creamier. The raspberry gelato ice cream was so delicious and the white chocolate rose was rich and dreamy. All the elements worked well together as we polished off the whole plate before we knew it. After desserts, we were served tea/coffee and petit four. The Tonka bean madeleine was buttery and sponge like, with a slightly crust on the outside. It was a sweet ending to our lovely meal. Thanks babe for such an amazing Valentine's dinner and for putting on an extra 0.5kg for me :P

L Loves... The beauty of rose
Lychee, raspberry, white chocolate rose
Ultra indulgence, perfect for Valentines :)

Petit four 
Freshly baked Tonka bean madeleine, pitted fresh cherrie, 
dark chocolate fondant chocolates with raspberry filling
Pitted fresh cherrie, 
dark chocolate fondant chocolates with raspberry filling

Macchiato and petit four
Chocolate gift to take home :)

Spotted on our way out... An awesome retro gaming machine!!

L's Verdict:

·     Taste: 8/10
·     Ambience: 4.5/5
·     Value: 4/5
·     Service: 4.5/5
·     Creativity and other WOW factors: 5/5 

Overall rating: 26/30
Cara & Co
Level 4, Westfield Sydney
Shop 4001 Level 4, Westfield Sydney
188 Pitt Street Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9226 9988
Trading hours: 12pm - 12am
Visited February 2012

Friendly advice: Spare some time to shop around the boutique, you might find yourself some pleasant surprises, including vintage pieces of accessories, high-tech gadgets, exclusive fragrances, luxurious furnitures, and even a retro gaming machine!

Cara&Co Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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