SoCal – Neutral Bay

Alex: Neutral Bay, a sought after location that is home to numerous restaurants and cafe’s alike. Southern Californian themed restaurant and bar with the very simple and obvious name of SoCal has joined the ranks, and what an addition it is to the north shore food scene.

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I had the opportunity to represent For Food’s Sake at the first ever SoCal Sydney Social. The event was an intimate Cali-inspired sit down dinner hosted by Head Chef Zac Smart and Bar Manager Joe Worthington. The dishes were skilfully paired with matching beverages, and Zac and Joe talked through each dish and drink to us salivating food bloggers throughout the night.

The restaurant itself is larger than I expected, with a large inside seating area that is very dimly lit as well as an outdoor heated terrace. All the staff at SoCal were extremely helpful and aided in any questions that we had. It was obvious that everyone paid particular attention to little details and that was really nice to see.

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We were welcomed with classic margarita cocktails, (yay alcohol!) Generally margarita’s would be the last thing that I would order at a bar. The thought of tequila and lemon juice makes me barf, perhaps I’m just looking back on past experiences… Anyway moving on. This margarita was actually really refreshing. There was just the right amount of lemon juice to balance the strong burning sensation of the tequila, with the salt rim creating a fun, fresh texture.

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Already placed at the table were Corn Chips with guacamole and salsas including a delicious diced tomato and red onion salsa spritzed with lime juice and a dashing of salt. A perfect amount of acidity that created an explosion of flavour once mixed with the guac and corn salsa. Who knew that some salsa and chips could already begin to win me over?!

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Before we were meant to eat our first course (oops) we were instructed to gather around Joe’s ‘mobile bar’ in which he demonstrated a fun cocktail experience. He whipped up some egg whites and fumes of beautiful citrus smells enveloped the area as he peeled some fresh oranges and created his tequila based cocktail concoction.

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The first course was Crab and Sopressatta Tostadas, which was delivered personally by Head Chef Zac Smart. Thanks Zac! Those that know me are aware that fish doesn’t bode well with me. This, thankfully, was delicious! The crab didn’t have that overpowering “fishy taste” that I hate and was possibly suppressed by the heat of the chilli and sopressatta (an italian style salami) Luckily I had half left so that way I could have a bite followed by a sip of the cocktail. Indeed it did go well together. Something I noticed with all the drinks on the night was that they helped to remove the chilli that a lot of the dishes had.

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The second course for the night was one of my favourites. Chicken Sliders,  marinated chicken breast with avocado and chorizo; This was probably one of the best Chicken Sliders/Burgers I’ve ever had! The marinade on the chicken was so beautiful and flavoursome. Having it paired with the avocado created some killer flavours. The chicken itself was succulent and juicy. The chorizo was quite thin so I couldn’t really taste the smoky flavour that it normally brings out in a dish, but that worked out well, because I’m not really a fan of chorizo. A nice messy hearty dish which is clearly the epitome of good bar food.

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The Sliders were paired with a Frisco Pisco Cocktail. A chilli infused Pisco, egg white, elderflower liqueur, sugar and muddled cucumber. Some strong flavours came through in this cocktail. It definitely played with your mind as well. At first it was refreshing and light and then pow! The chilli hit. I love a good chilli cocktail.

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The third course of the night was the Seared Salmon with broccolini, chilli and coriander salsa verde. Let me just say that the broccolini was probably the most flavoursome brocollini I’ve ever had. I took a bite and was literally blown away by how mouthwatering and juicy it was. The fried crisps on the top were also delicious and created some much needed crunch to the otherwise very soft dish. The salmon itself, beautiful. The salsa verde was really refreshing and a great combination between the salmon. The dish, while it was flavoursome, was probably my least favourite of the night.

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The samon was paired with a Dry Creek, Fume Blanc, Sonoma white wine. Refreshing and light. A beautiful wine that is a must for a fish dish.

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Next on the menu was the Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with faro, freekah, quinoa and kale paired with a glass of Bliss Pinot Noir. The Roasted Lamb, along with the Chicken Sliders was my favourite of the night! Literally pulling away from itself as I stuck my fork through it, the lamb melted in your mouth and the flavour was sweet and homey. The accompaniments to this dish were all top notch and helped to create numerous grainy textures that further explored a sense of mouthwatering flavours.

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The last savoury dish for the night was the Scotch fillet with chimmichurri and mushroom salad. The Chimmichurri was spicy and the colours that were displayed were vibrant and pretty. The flavours were pleasant and lingering but unfortunately, for me, the Scotch Fillet was too chewy and fatty for my liking. Mushroom Salad was actually really good! I never eat mushrooms but I thought I would give a try, and lucky I did! The beans added a nice crunch to the very summery and rustic dish. The Dry Creek ‘Heritage’ Zinfandel, Sonoma Red Wine that accompanied this dish was very earthy and really heated you up. A beautiful wine and a great way to clear the palate.

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To finish off the night, and after a range of savoury dishes, the time that I had been waiting for finally arrived!  SoCal went with chocolate, pistachio and tequila brownies with chipotle cream to finish of the night; served with a salted caramel espresso martini that consisted of Ketel One, Galliano Ristretto, salted caramel and espresso with honeycomb. Wow, let’s just take a breather. First I’ll start with the cocktail. The past month and a half I’ve sort of gone on a Espresso Martini craze trying some from the likes of Hartsyard, Hotel Centennial just to name a few. The added honeycomb – brilliant. I much prefer the honeycomb to actual espresso beans, The flavour of the espresso was great. Really sweet and delicious but after a few bites of the brownie it made it very difficult to drink. It all became too sweet and turned into a kerfuffle. So on it’s own, great, but with other sweets, a bit too much. The brownies were good, really moist on the inside, and crisp and crunchy on the outside. Just how a good brownie should be. The chipotle cream was another ingenious idea. I actually thought the brownies had a bit of spice to it which I loved! I honestly would of preferred the churros that I saw on the menu, but don’t worry I’ll save that for next time!

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Well SoCal, you’ve certainly impressed me! Great music, great atmosphere, perfect location, what more could you ask for? The service was top notch and it’s clearly evident that the restaurant is a winning formula in the hot spot area of Neutral Bay. The summery/sandy vibe actually made it feel like it was a hot night…until I walked out and faced the cold.

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Until next time!

Alex Squadrito

V.B.A

*Forfoodssake attended the SocalSydneysocial as a guest of pendulum communications, all opinions however are independent and our own.

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Author: forfoodssake

A Sydney food blog.

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