Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RESTAURANT: Rockpool on George

I've never really been able to make my mind up about visiting Rockpool on George. On the one hand I love Bar and Grill and Spice Temple, but on the other I just haven't been able to see the differentiation between Rockpool on George and it's rivals in that fine dining bracket.

But with a birthday happening and it's ascent to 3 chef's hats (making it the card in that pack I was yet to see) I decided to give it a whirl.

The room is nice, classic. It feels like a fancy restaurant felt like a few years ago before insane fitouts and "dark and moody" started to happen.

I'm not sure if it's the ceremonial feel of all of the white, but I feel like we've come to worship at the cult of Perry. The waiters start by asking us if we've been to Spice Temple or Bar & Grill. And which one, in which state, because they're all so different. Then we're handed the menus and presented with a list of all of the suppliers. (Hint: Because Neil likes people to know)

You can choose between having 2, 3 or 4 courses, but all start with an amuse of spanner crab and jerusalem artichoke. It's a sneak peak of things to come; a strong French backbone to the dish but an emphasis on delicate flavours, texture and bringing everything out of the ingredients on hand.

My first chosen course is the chirashi zushi which I'd heard a fair bit of. The best way to describe it is if someone took a really good bento box, one made with fish of superb quality, exploded it, and added a few dabs of chilli sauce. The rice is beautifully cooked and all of the seafood (tuna, kingfish, snapper, etc) is excellent.

Though the pick of the main courses has to be the blue swimmer crab and corn congee. Praise Perry, this is a great dish. It's a haute congee with superb ingredients and a huge emphasis on texture. It's probably the dish of the night. I want this. In a bucket.

Not far off is the chicken "terrine" that sits on a bed of custard with fragrant and medicinal "precious herbs". If  the chicken wasn't impressive enough on it's own--it kind of takes different cuts of the chicken and assembles them to make it look like a piece of pork belly--the custard is soft and the precious herbs are all perfectly cooked and round out the dish.

Desserts were all solid for this level; nice representations of flavour, texture and temperature.

I've found it hard to write about this meal. Most of the time I'll just shit something out pretty soon after the fact, either loving or hating the place, riding on the wave of emotion that I felt. But with this write-up I've been tinkering with it for a month or so, struggling to find the words that can convey my experience. But I suppose that's really the conclusion here: it was a meal that took me a month to write up. A month to continually force myself to write something, then get disinterested, then write some more.

There's no denying the food is good. But it left me feeling a little like I did when I went to est: I enjoyed my time, I didn't regret my time by any stretch, but perhaps next time I'll spend my money elsewhere. I can't fault this place, but I also can't get as excited about this place as I can with others at this price point. Maybe it's me. Definitely it's me.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Rockpool on George on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 22, 2012

RECIPE: Dinich Wat (Ethiopian Potato Stew)

I still remember my first taste of Ethiopian food. It was from a stall at the Fox Studio markets, before heading to the SFS for a game of footy. We got it as a joke, thinking that Ethiopia isn't really known for it's cuisine.

But it totally floored me. There was such complex spicing in the dish. It was earthy, yet extremely fragrant. It wasn't hot or heavy. There was the spongey pancake that came with it that I would later learn is called injera. And there was a small squeeze of lemon that gave everything even more depth. I was in love.

I'm pretty sure I made this dish because someone at work was discriminated against.

See, big companies are always making their staff fill out surveys and questionnaires to see if their staff are happy and committed to doing a good job. Because less than 100% of people voted that there was no discrimination at work, people decided that it would be swell to recognise other cultures by having one of those international food things that all the kids are talking about these days.

Only, it wouldn't be a normal food day where everyone brings a dish. It would be a battle. A gauntlet would be laid and one cuisine would battle another.

Someone said they'd lead a team to cook Indian food and everything went quiet. I thought it would be funny to flex Ethiopia's muscles (and all 10 dishes in their culinary repertoire) against what many consider to be one of the great cuisines in the world.


One thing on the table will be this dish. Kind of a side dish, but Ethiopian food is usually a huge injera with half a dozen or so different stews (wats) or stir fries (tibs) stacked on top.


Dinich Wat

1. Wrap half a garlic bulb in foil and put it into a 200oC oven until the cloves are soft (~45 mins). Once done, remove from oven and leave to cool.

2. In some sort of vessel (I make a sort of bed of foil) put 1T berbere, 1T curry powder, 1t cumin seeds, 1t coriander seeds, 1t fenugreek seeds, 1t salt, 1t black pepper, 1t fennel seeds, 10 or so curry leaves. Put it in the oven with the garlic for around 5 mins or until fragrant. Allow to cool then blend in a spice mix or mortar and pestle.

3. Puree 1 celery stalk, 1 medium red onion, 1 big thumb sized piece of ginger, 1 big thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric (otherwise, add 1T to the spice mix in step #2). Cut the garlic in half horizontally and squeeze out the cloves. Add this to the puree.

4. Clean and peal 1 carrot and 3 large potatoes (I used the equivalent in kipflers). Cut into even chunks around 2cm square.

5. In a large pot over a medium heat add 2T ghee (can sub with grapeseed, coconut or palm oil) and the blend from step #2. Stir then add the puree from step #3. Mix for around 5 mins, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.

6. Add the potato and carrot and stir. Keep stirring for around 5 mins or so.

7. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables and reduce the heat to low. Cook uncovered until the vegetables have softened. If it's getting too dry, add more stock.

I served it with old sourdough bread in lieu of injera and topped it with a fried mixture of green chilli, onion and curry leaves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I was going to name this post "BITES and Pieces" but then I'd have to commit seppuku. So the post is left with a bland title and my bowels are left where they were before (elbow?).

Here are a few things I've eaten lately that took my fancy, in a way that only things can do.

Cough Syrup Ice Cream @ N2 Extreme Gelato

For a while I wondered what the hell the name meant and what made it so "extreme". This was knowing full well that they make their ice cream a la minute upon ordering. Oh, yeah, with liquid nitrogen.

Honestly, I only just got the name 5 minutes ago.

Nevertheless, I always liked cough syrup as a kid so the idea of a cough syrup ice cream had the fat child inside me jumping smiling with joy. That kid sure loved both ice cream and cough syrup. Remember when Pepsi brought out all of those flavours in the late 80s/early 90s that were cherry and strawberry and all that and no one liked them because they tasted like medicine? I DEVOURED them.

There's a cloud of smoke from the LN2 and then the blender whirls and then you have your ice cream. It's almost sorbet-esque as I think it's more milk based than custard based. And gosh it's as nice as it is fun.

I would have tried another scoop but they don't do double scoops. Next time, a milkshake. The place has only just opened up in the non-touristy section of Dixon St. This is going to be CHOCKERS in summer.

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Preserved Egg and Pork Congee @ Super Bowl

From the non-touristy section of Dixon St we head to the touristy section.

I have a memory from childhood that I can't shake. Before a Sydney Kings game at the Entertainment Centre (remember when basketball was popular?) my parents took me here and we ate what westerners eat and one of my parents said "now you can tell your friends you've been to the superbowl".

It sounded weird so I didn't.

Years later and Super Bowl is the sort of place I go to when I have a craving for their signature dish: congee (which is about once every 2 years).

Stacks of flavour in the bowl, awesome fried bread, mega servings. I wasn't that hungry but GOD DAMN did I enjoy this bowl.

Super Bowl on Urbanspoon

Feijoada @ Cafecito

I moved offices at the start of this year which meant that my morning commute took me straight past this fairly nondescript cafe in a fairly nondescript arcade that ajoins Town Hall where every shop seems to go bust within 6 months.

I saw the Brazilian flags hanging proudly and wondered if they have good coffee, basically daily. It wasn't until recently, when I gave up coffee, that I started wondering if they had one of my favourite dishes of all time: feijoada.

Turns out they bloody well do.

HOLY HELL do I love feijoada. Unfamiliar with it? It's basically Brazil's national dish, a stew of pork offcuts, chorizo, black beans, herbs and spices that gets cooked for hours until the fatty pork breaks down and the pot turns a kind of deep purpley black colour. It's almost like cassoulet, but somehow packed with more flavour.

I've made it a few times myself out of desperation, not having anywhere to provide it to me. Now, I have Cafecito. Their version comes with the traditional sides of collared greens, friend cassava flour, rice and orange. It's very, very tasty.

With plenty of other Brazillian dishes on the menu I'm a certainty to return. Unfortunately, they only open for lunch and breakfast, so you'll need to get there early(ish) for your fix.

Cafecito on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012


When Sushi E opened, it felt like a game changer for Japanese food not just in Sydney, but all over Australia. I can't think of any other places around at the time that threw themselves so far in to serving up exceptional quality sushi and sashimi and did it so well.

It was one of the reasons why I chose Sushi E as one of my first "fine dining" destinations when I was first getting into eating out. It was a funny night, looking back. We ordered the second cheapest bottle of wine (which was still bloody expensive at nearly three times retail), I didn't know how to pronounce ceviche when I ordered it, we hadn't figured out that food can be shared and we had to stick with cheaper dishes that would get us full before our money ran out.

I still remember the food well. The tuna ceviche was bright, sharp and studded with chunks of exceptional tuna. The rolls were perfect constructions of taste and texture. The sashimi was of a quality I never thought was possible.

As great as it was, I knew it could be better. It was here, at Sushi E, that I decided that eating out shouldn't have limitations. If I couldn't afford to go to a place and order what I wanted, then I'd go somewhere else. It might mean having a few more cheap nights out before you can afford the big one, but it makes the experience that little bit sweeter knowing that if you want something, you can have it. It's greed, basically.

And now, years later, I'm back at Sushi E for my second go. I think I'm probably even more excited this time.

We get a seat at the counter, in nearly the same spot as last time. To complete the loop, the person I went with all those years ago is here tonight too. We start with a bottle of champagne. Last time we did the same, but it was when you could call sparkling wine "champagne" (remember that?).

From what I remember of it, the menu hasn't changed much. If at all.

We kick off with sashimi, as is required at a place like this. My eyes aren't quite as wide to the joys of raw fish as they were on that previous visit, so I'm not as impressed. There's no denying the quality of the fish here, but it's not mind-blowing and might not even be world class. Still among the best in Australia? Probably, though it isn't as peerless as it once was.

The spoons also arrive early. Delicious bites of salmon tartare, spicy scallop and a few other things. The appetite is in high gear.

Tuna tataki arrives on a bed of mixed leaves with a sharp yuzu dressing. The slices with the charred outside go down exceptionally easy.

The same salad is back for the spicy scallops, which are quickly seared with the blowtorch with some mayo and miso. A great flavour combo.

Chicken kara age is solid, with a crunchy, powdery coating over marinated chicken. Not mind-blowing, but above average.

I know how to pronounce ceviche now, so a return to the tuna ceviche is a must. It's exactly how I remember it, with big chunks of magnificent tuna, ripe cherry tomatoes, micro leaves and a sharp citrus punch.

Onto the rolls. The spider roll, filled with crispy soft shell crab, is pure enjoyment to eat. The dynamite roll has heat coming from every direction, but still keeps the flavour of the tuna.

It's all washed down with an excellent drinks list, which is what we'd expect from a Merivale establishment.

While it was excellent to return to Sushi E and the meal was extremely enjoyable, I can't help feel that the old girl is looking a bit tired. The menu hasn't changed in the slightest and feels out of touch, service is a bit slow and the quality is there but it's in danger of losing out to places like Sake and Sokyo who seem to be pushing forward. And you get the feeling they don't care about it. Diners (and their expectations) have changed rapidly over the years; Sushi E hasn't kept pace.

I'll come back again, with far less of a break between visits, but I'm not sure how long it will be before Sushi E becomes an afterthought when people talk about great sushi in Sydney.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Sushi E on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I've walked past it dozens of times and seen the roaring lunchtime trade it does, but it wasn't until this week that I dove in to Takeru to see what all the fuss is about.

The fuss is, at many Japanese places in the city at lunchtime, about bento boxes.

For around $13, Takeru dishes up a pretty solid bento box with choices like teriyaki fish, grilled eel and grilled beef.

The cooking wasn't flawless (the meat was occasionally overcooked or not that great quality), but the selection in the box is good and you leave with the general vibe that you've gotten a nice, light meal at a pretty good price.

With the bento boxes locked in as decent bets, the wider (and fairly huge) menu deserved an exploration. A normal dish wouldn't do. I needed a dish that was made and then wrapped in an omelette. Omu soba:

It's effectively a stir fry wrapped in egg. And the portion size is HUGE. This could easily feed two people.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a great dish. The stir fry was a bit boring and the chicken tasted pretty average.

All up, it's a solid casual Japanese eatery near Chinatown with fairly comfortable seating, decent food and good prices. I'd go back there again, but I didn't feel anything made it better than the dozens of other Japanese places like it in the city.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Takeru on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 25, 2012


She's baaaa-aaaack.

Last year I managed to get my first taste of Nail Brewing's hugely regarded and hugely limited "Clout" stout and was totally blown away by it. It was a long wait, but it's back for another year.

I was excited. My camera was also so excited that the battery drained itself and all I could managed with the camera phone was this abysmal effort:

It hardly does it justice. It's like taking a photo of Helen Mirren using a piece of plywood and your fist.

Some facts:
- Limited release of 600 bottles.
- 750ml bottle
- 10.8% abv
- RRP of around $75 (yes, that's for ONE bottle)
- Gold medal, Best Australian Stout, Australian International Beer Awards

This is one for savouring. This is one for the Russian Imperial Stout believers.

Packed with malt. Obscene amounts of malt. There's no surprise that you get a lot of cocoa, chocolate, vanilla and malt. The strong fruit presence is the surprise: red berry, mandarin, plums.

The depth of the flavour is insane. Sure, you can pour you and your mates a tall glass and enjoy it develop as it opens up in the glass, but why not take the whole bottle down yourself and go far, far down the rabbit hole.

If price wasn't a factor, I'd call this Australia's best beer and one of the best stouts in the world. Dollar for dollar, it's still way, way up there.

And if you have the patience to cellar this one for a few years, do it: it's going to get even better.


Saturday, August 18, 2012


You walk in and the ridiculously expensive fitout has done it's job: you definitely feel transported to another time. Wood everywhere, a mountain of steamer trays, staff in classic suits.

I'm not sure if it's because it's this end of the CBD or because the restaurant is part of the Merivale group, but this "other time" we've been transported to is full of wankers: Nearly every table around us is waiting for someone to arrive before ordering, another table takes (I kid you not) an hour to decide on what to order and another table of over-privileged rich fucks decides that this is a nice setting to take a lazy 50 photos of their happy family gathering (flash on of course; this dark lighting produces horrible photos (see below)) in between sips of champagne and tosses of the overly-maintained hair.

It's almost enough to distract from what is a seriously good effort from Dan Hong and his team.

Almost. It ticks so many boxes: late night sittings, modern chinese, live seafood, BBQd ducks and pork, dumplings, good service, good cocktails, great wine, awesome fitout and good food.

Apart from feeling contempt for my fellow humans, I'm here for the food. Lunch is a dim sum heavy fare, with dinner offering a sort of best of selection of steamed and/or fried (above) dim sums. Never one to shy away from dim sum, we go for the "and". It's up there with some of the best dim sum in Sydney, and still shows more promise (the Chinese mushroom dumpling, for example, was a little starchy). Anything of the dim sums that include seafood are generous, perfectly cooked and excellent quality. A lot has been said of their interpretation of prawn toast, which includes foie gras. But, as with most Australian restaurants, there isn't that much foie gras to write home about. I'm more impressed by the crunchy coating and the chunks of prawn.

While the menu has more of a Canton vibe about it, there are greatest hits from all over China.

Sichuan steak tartare managed to yell louder than some of the tempting items on the menu. It's a nice mound of steak with a sichuan spiced cracker, that could probably benefit from a slightly lighter cracker and less supurfluous cucumber on the side of the bowl to allow the excellent meat to star.

Remixing drunken chicken by boning out the chicken and rolling it is a nice touch, with a couple of minor missteps in a piece of bone and a bit of blood being present. Small problems that the kitchen will iron out with time.

Ducks sway seductively in the breeze, calling my name. But, no, must be strong. The char sui pork gets the nod over the duck and there are no regrets. Sweet, well cooked and packed with flavour. Great with the super light rice on offer.

If there's one dish the rice was designed for it has to be the mapo tofu. This is a pretty strong version, with a steamed egg custard under the stew replacing the traditional chunks of tofu. It's silkier to eat and the differentiation of flavours is better. The stew itself probably isn't as good as some of the great Szechuan restaurants, but it's certainly above average and definitely something I can see myself getting again and again.

A side of fried green beans with pork is generous and nicely done, but, again, might fall a little short of some traditional places offering this dish. Though there's no denying the quality of the produce is better.

Dessert time and the fried ice cream is a gimmick that can't be resisted. Unsurprisingly, it's a big step up from the suburban Chinese takeaway version. A fluffy, crunchy batter covers perfectly textured ice cream and it all sits in a nice butterscotch sauce.

All of this we decide to have with some cocktails off their list which offers a taste of various Chinese provinces with the added benefit of making the table taking photos a lot more tolerable.

All up, a welcome arrival to the Sydney dining scene with good food, good booze, good service and a huge menu which demands you explore it in detail. Some of the dishes may not be any better than the traditional places, but the setting and the quality of produce more than makes up for it. You get the feeling it's what they set out to do, and that's definitely what they've achieved. With time his place will get even better.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 06, 2012

RECIPE: Numbing Beef and Bean Stew

Chinese based, Indian technique, Italian tweaked. Fusion gone mad.

For 5 minutes, dry roast 3 tablespoons of szechuan pepper, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, 1 star anise, 1 quarter of a cinnamon quill. Blend to a fine powder.

Wrap a head of garlic in foil and roast until soft. Cut in half and squeeze out the goodness. Discard the badness. Blend with 1 brown onion, 1 thumb of ginger, 1 deseeded red chilli and 1 deseeded green chilli.

Brown off 1 kilo of thick chunks of stewing beef (rump) over a high heat in a large pot. Prior to removing, add a splash of soy sauce and shao hsing rice wine and a sprinkling of the spice mixture, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Once done, deglaze the pot with rice wine. Pour this over the beef, which is sitting aside to rest.

Head some grapeseed oil in the pot and fry the onion/garlic/etc mixture over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add the remaining spice blend and mix. Add the beef and mix.

Add 150mls of dark soy, 50 mls of light soy, 50 mls of rice wine and enough weak beef or vegetable stock to cover the meat. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for approx 4 hours or until the beef can be split easily with a spoon.

With around 20 minutes remaining, add a can of canellini beans, 1 tablespoon of fermented black bean and generous splashes of sesame and chilli oil.

Serve with coriander leaves and finely sliced spring onions.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

RESTAURANT: Paul's Famous Hamburgers

With The Shire coming along and killing everyone's perceptions of the shire, I've been thinking a lot lately about the good things that I remember about God's Country.

I could only think of one thing...

That white bag. With that blue text. With that pineapple crush lurking.

If there's one thing that the internet has been good for, it's been to display the opening hours of Paul's. I haven't been there for around 15 years but what I remember of the place is that it was seemingly never open when I wanted it to be. I still have countless traumatic childhood memories of convincing my parents to take me there, only to get there and find it closed.

Some things, therapy can never fix. Even though the internet told me I had until 3 to get there for a burger, the cold sweats started when the clock struck 2:18 and we were still a good 10 minutes away. MAYBE EVEN A GOOD 15 MINUTES.

The works.

Would it live up to the memory? I've had some pretty nice burgers in the 15 years since my last one at Paul's, maybe my idea of a "good burger" has changed?

Nah, it's still a great burger.

These burgers aren't about high grade, medium-rare wagyu meat or housemade relishes or brioche buns that have had a stick of butter fucked into them. These burgers are about fresh ingredients because of high turnover; well executed fried eggs and bacon; well done meat that tastes like it should have, before we knew we could eat burgers medium rare; juicy pineapple; and lightly toasted buns that are only designed to hold together for a minute or so, until the juiciness of all of the ingredients overwhelms them.

Is the burger on par with the likes of Rockpool's? Of course not. That's not the point.

These are takeaway shop burgers done really well and with really clean flavours and at a reasonable price. Worth the ridiculous queues? Maybe. Everyone is here to relive a memory so vivid you can bite it. Whether they got their burgers at Paul's as a kid or not, Paul's is one of the best places to have captured it and wrapped it in paper.

Oh, and who can forget the pineapple crush, so thick and refreshing. My dad always tried to talk up the milkshakes, but I knew I was on to a winner with the pineapple crush. The apple fell far from the tree as far as pineapple crush is concerned.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Paul's Famous Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 04, 2012


It has been a while since I got my beertalk on around here. I suppose I've just been so busy not posting about other things that it has trickled through the cracks.

Another, more likely reason, is that I've been I've been sucked in by the immediacy of Untappd. For those not in the know, Untappd is a combination of Foursquare and Facebook, but for beers. Drink a beer, check it in, write a tweet-sized review and wait for random people to toast your choice. All that in the time it took to even think about writing a blog post about it.

I'm also a big fan of it because the data analyst in me loves knowing how many beers I've had, how many unique ones I've had and how long it took me to have them. So far, all signs point to me being a raging alcoholic.

Anyway, if you're a beer fan I recommend getting the app. If you're already on there, why not add me as a friend or some shit.

So, this beer.

HaandBryggeriet are four Norwegian guys from Norway (authentic) that seemingly get together when they feel like it and fuck around and make whatever type of beer they want. Thankfully, the beers are, generally, awesome.

This time, they felt like making a sour beer with a sweet edge and then chucking it in some French oak barrels for a lazy 18 months.

As soon as you pour it, being careful to negotiate the stream of froth, and the first slash hits the side of the glass, the sour smell crashes into your nose. It's not a harsh sourness like some of the bigger Cantillons or Belgians, but there's no escaping the tartness.

The sweetness on the palate is, thankfully, not artificial like with so many other sour beers. It's used sparingly and really only to help the first sip go down easily. It quickly dissipates and brings the sour to the fore, along with some herbal, woody and dark berry notes. The finish has a little medicinal/paracetamol kick that isn't great, but isn't too offensive.

Overall, another lovely beer from Norway.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

RESTAURANT: Delima Restaurant

Despite being fairly similar to Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine, Indonesian food has been lagging being it's friends in setting up a strong foothold closer to the CBD. Instead, most of Sydney's Indonesian eateries are located around Kingsford and Randwick.

oh gado

Delima is different. It sits on the One Dixon block, around solid eateries like Uyghar Cuisine, Crazy Wings and Kura III, which perhaps explains why they need two spruikers out the front to entice you in. It's an odd dance: they hold the menu out and ask you if you want to eat, but if you say "yes" it will only cause confusion. Do as most people seem to do and just walk straight past them, up the stairs and into some faux tranquillity.

If the fish tank near the entrance wasn't enough there is also a pond filled with more fish. Any restaurant this keen to show off fish is alright in my books.

We're not so much shown to our table as we are shown to our little room. For two people, the room--which easily seats four--is equal parts excessive and excellent. We have our own pot plants and our own window which peaks through to the monorail which is directly on the other side of said window. It's not loud and it's not distracting. If anything, it makes you feel like you've stumbled into some sort of hidden bar near a Tokyo train station.

The menu is a little confusing, with entrees and mains of all type scattered seemingly without reason throughout the book. Though with every dish having an accompanying picture and description, you get pretty comfortable pretty soon.

Bintangs hit the table, along with some complimentary prawn crackers to get the party started. A lot of tempting choices, but we kick off with tempe tahu kuning. Seasoned and deep fried tofu and fermented tempeh with sambal, and definitely not a tribute dish to the nondescript Sydney suburb. There is surprising a hell of a lot of flavour in the tofu and especially in the tempeh.

Tahu kipas--crunchy, puffed tofu, stuffed with vegetables and prawns--has the feel of a lighter, more textually interesting spring roll and is another solid starter. Lumpia udang too is as solid as prawn mince put in pastry and deep fried can be, proving to be an adequate bed-fellow for another round of Bintangs.

Gado gado is one of the better known Indo dishes and this one isn't a bad attempt. PLenty of textures, plenty of crunch and a nice sweet/savoury sauce to bring it all together.

It's oddly difficult to find great rendang in the city, but Delima's is bloody nice. It's the wetter style and the sauce has a lot more spicing than some of it's contemporaries. The chucks of beef, of course, break apart with a spoon.

Not that we had room for it, but we decide to give desserts a shake. Es cendol and es kampur are both nice offerings, with shaved ice and palm sugar combining well with jellies and other toppings.

The restaurant advertises itself as fine dining, but you'll struggle to drop more than $50 a head here. With that you get good food, comfortable surrounds and friendly service. In a city lacking many other Indo offerings, I can definitely see myself coming back here for more.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Delima Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012


"CANBERRA: I hope you had an okay-ish time"

I went down to Canberra this weekend with some friends to see a friend of ours that moved there for work. It's only taken 4 years for us to get around to doing it, which makes us Good Friends (TM).

We originally planned to head down to 2-hatter Aubergine but, through misadventure and some external factors, ended up at sister restaurant Courgette (not knowing they were related at the time).

Dinner is a four course menu for $75 (plus wine and all that jazz), with four or five choices for each course. The dishes themselves read a little odd, with something like "crisp skin local snapper with poached moreton bay bug, clam, garlic mussel emulsion" sounding like an error at the printers where they put two dishes together on the same line.

I start with the blue swimmer crab with avocado, tomato jelly, celery and lime mayo (above). It's an excellent start with it's classic flavour combinations and crystal clear flavours. It's just a shame it took over an hour between walking in the door to this arriving on the plate.

The second course is a difficult choice, with everything on a similar level of temptation. I opt for the quail with scampi, corn mousse, peas, sesame wafer and truffle (yes, a lot of ingredients). It's interesting to see scampi and quail on the same plate, but the dish seems to work. It's not an amazing dish but I enjoy how broad the flavours are, yet still integrated.

The third course brings beef with an oxtail "cigar" and potato mash (above). It also says "sugar snap pea salad" but as it's half of one pea I refuse to acknowledge it.

It's a good dish, with all of the elements being tasty. Again, not amazing but still solid.

The fourth course is dessert, but cheese spoke to me so I went in that direction. Its's a decent cheese course, with an (perhaps over)abundance of crackers, fruit and nuts to call upon.

Service is excellent, though let down by the slow execution by the kitchen. Food is good and worth the price. It won't set the world on fire (my world was at room temperature at the end of the meal), but for some fine-dining at a price that won't break the bank, Courgette provides a good option.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Courgette on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 10, 2012

RESTAURANT: Albee's Kitchen

A friend of mine has been talking about a Malaysian restaurant in Campsie ever since it opened. Not being one to frequent Campsie (I doubt I'd be able to pick it out on a map), I've never been. He's taken other friends have shared his enthusiasm, which has made this place somewhat mythical. But it's not as simple as just going to Campsie and trying the food. No, one must first become a man before going to Campsie and eating Malaysian food.

Apparently this place gets packed during peak times, so it was fortunate that we went between lunch and dinner and could spread our wings. The menu is bloody massive, covering the standard Malay dishes like char kway teow, laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, satay and fish head soup, and stuff I've never seen in writing before, like butter oat chicken, milky creamy pork rib and marmite chicken.

Curiosity orders the latter, which turns out to be a nice crunchy chicken, almost like a sweet and sour chicken. We also start with curry puffs which are huge, stuffed with egg and vegetables, and delicious. The pastry is perfectly crunchy.

Pandan wrapped chicken sounds like a winner and comes highly recommended, but I'm turned off by a few pieces being undercooked which causes a pool of blood to form at the bottom of the bowl.

It's hard to go past char kway teow, so we don't. It's a decent version with the big plus of added clams, but not one that will set the world on fire. A little char missing, the chinese sausage not integrating with the rest of the dish and average prawns add up.

Though it's better than the hokkian noodles (pictured), whose tasty noodles are let down by a sauce none of us really enjoy and tiny shrimp with little flavour. Not even chunks of pork lard could save it.

A visit to a Malaysian joint isn't complete without an order (or more) of satay. Here, they're well marinated with turmeric dominating and come with more, peanut heavy sauce on the side. Very tasty all in all.

On the side we also get the four treasure--two types of beans, eggplant and okra stir fried in a pungent sambal--which is quite tasty.

A few hits and a few misses, but it's still easy to see why this place is popular. Good prices, authentic food, quick service and a mind-boggling selection of dishes for the local Campsians. Though, I feel that the standard of Malaysian food has been rapidly increasing lately and at the moment this place doesn't quite have enough to make me want to make a special journey for it.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Albee's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 08, 2012

RESTAURANT: Bodhi in the Park

I've been curious about checking Bodhi out for quite a while, since it always seems to pop up on all of those derivative "best of lists" as a sort of whacky yum cha/vegetarian/alternative setting sort of place. I hadn't really known it was full on vegan, organic, etc, etc, but that's not the sort of thing that will phase me; I'm not the sort of person that needs to eat meat with every meal.

No one mentioned that there were French waitresses. This seems like an oversight. Your heart will immediately melt like butter. Which is ironic, given that vegans don't eat butter.

We kick things off with a bunch of entrees, many of which are from their lunchtime yum cha menu (albeit at a higher price at dinner). Salt and pepper faux prawns appear to be something of a signature dish here. It's a tasty, fried dish, though the prawn flavour definitely isn't a fresh prawn flavour, which strikes me as odd given they could manufacture any flavour.

Steamed sticky rice flower buns and the assorted steamed buns are winners, with nice texture to the bun and good flavour to the filling.

Tempura mushrooms in BBQ sauce are pretty much that and, while nice and fried, aren't anything that will set the world on fire. Better is the smoked tofu and pineapple on betel leaf, which comes packing some great flavour, albeit not as much as many other meat-laden Thai betel leaf starters I've hard.

Steamed sticky rice parcels are nicely filling among a bevy of protein based dishes, packing a good texture and a very tasty filling.

On to mains and we kick of with another apparently signature dish of peking faux duck. It's a pale imitation of a peking duck proper, with the faux duck really only resembling duck that has been overcooked and deep fried to the point of not being duck. Pancakes look a little sad and sauces aren't anything special.

All is forgotten when the stuffed mushrooms arrive and they're bloody amazing, filled with something creamy and salty and covered in some black bean dressing. They also come with stuffed capsicums that are similarly successful.

Though all is forgotten with the faux duck salad with watermelon. I did not care for this. At all. Faux duck, with a few sad cubes of watermelon and some lettuce leaves. Presentation wasn't great, with the salad sitting in a small bowl on a long plate, with a few cubes of watermelon and drizzles of dressing at the other end. For around $20 for a handful of food, it didn't scream good value either.

Stuffed and fried eggplant came well recommended from the staff, but fell a little flat. The stuffing was nice, but the rest of the dish tasted a bit like oil and lacked flavour, as eggplant often does.

I could see myself returning here for the yum cha lunch, especially when the weather is nice and the outdoor seating is viable, but I could never see myself--a person that eats anything--returning for dinner.

The food wasn't really filling and the prices seemed high for what we got. Service was attentive but probably over enthusiastic, with the wait staff being almost cloyingly sweet, overpractised and helpful at times. And the place had a bit of a weekend cafe vibe about it, with loud voices echoing along the narrow room and vegan kids roaming unchecked.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Bodhi in the Park on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 07, 2012

RESTAURANT: Petaling Street

No doubt inspired by the success of places like Mamak and the insanity that the yearly Night Noodle Markets are bringing, a bunch of new Malaysian places have opened recently to cater for a Sydney public that obviously can't get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Petaling Street is one of the newer entries, popping up around 6 months ago and being nearly immediately inundated by hungry beasts.

And I dare say the inundation is warranted. On my first visit I popped in for a quick iced tea (tasty) and one of the best char kway teows that I've had in Sydney. Chunks of fat, pippies, chinese sausage and a massive serving. I was as satisfied as I was full and lethargic at work for the rest of the day. Which is to say, very. The only thing keeping it from being a truly epic CKT was that it could have done with a little more wok char on the day.

My other visit brought out a mee goreng that was just as enjoyable as the CKT on the previous visit as well as every white guys favourite: massaman curry. Advertised on the menu as super hot, it was (perhaps thankfully) no hotter than any other massaman I've tried to say. Which is to say, not very. While it was a solid dish, and one I'd happily eat again, the beef was a bit too fatty and the curry lacking in some spices.

All up, solid food that seems to arrive in an instant. With the added benefit of being able to book, so you don't have to brave the insane lines like you would at Mamak.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Petaling Street: Malaysian Hawker Food on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 02, 2012


I've never really been a person moved my sentiment. People, animals, places, all are just dust in the flux of life. To look back upon them and feel for them almost feels like a fear of progress. Forget the past, ignore the bridges, reach for the future.

It's a nice theory, but one that gets completely destroyed when your favourite all you can eat Korean barbeque joint falls into the hands of new management and everything that made it great disappears overnight (looking at you, Shinara).

It happened a few years ago and ever since I've been looking for a place that will let me cook my own meat and will let me eat as much as I want for a fixed price. Just thinking about all of that meat would leave me with a huge hole in my stomach. It was a special place reserved for copious amounts of meat.

So Suminoya had a hell of a lot to live up to. They're from the same restaurant group as the lovely Menya and Mappen, so there was promise.

While it's only a short stroll from Martin Place, you'd never think that there was anything at the end of the nothing-street the restaurant is in. Even when you approach it, knowing it should be there, it doesn't reveal itself until the last minute.

You walk in and the flames and sparks from the chef's grilling station spit and crackle at you to reward your frightening journey down the frightening alley.

Slide into a booth and order the 750ml bottle of plum wine. Anything else is foolish.

There are two menus: premium and gourmet, but different ones are available on different days. Or something. I don't care. There is the promise of unlimited meat so I'm already in the hazy meat zone. You pay your fee, order as much food as you want in 60 minutes, eat as much as you want in 90 minutes, leave and feel uplifted, despite the additional kilograms you're now nursing in your body.

Before the meat arrives, there's a good chance to test the sides for quality. Seaweed salad is delicious. Yukke (often served frozen at other places) arrives as a bowl full of fresh, ruby meat, egg yolk and everything else that makes yukke such a great tartare-esque dish. Kimchees are all solid and are an essential side to counter the meat that's about to arrive. The higher priced gourmet menu comes with sashimi with isn't bad at all, if slightly tired looking.

Portion sizes on the first order are tiny, so order a lot.

The meat and the grill arrive and it's so much better than the weak gas at a lot of Korean BBQ places. The charcoal of the Japanese yakiniku grill promises to get hot as hell and impart an awesome flavour.

And, indeed, it isn't too long before the fat dripping off one of the meats turns the grill into an inferno. It's thrilling and delicious at the same time, which is the best kind of fun.

Our allotted ordering and eating time is a blur of flame, meat, deliciousness, smoke, additional plum wine and general Good Times. The quality of the food is great for the price, the service is attentive and the restaurant is nicely designed.

I may have found my new muse. Now the restaurant just needs to try and survive for a while with me and my friends trying to eat it into the ground.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Suminoya Japanese on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I haven't written about Mamak before because, quite frankly, there's very little point to it. The place is constantly chockers and anyone who wants to get good Malay or Singaporean food in Sydney knows about it. Chances are most of the people reading this have already spent a large amount of time waiting in that line, hoping to get a taste of their pillowy roti canai or one of their extremely solid curries.

But I'm going to write it anyway because I have an opinion and a keyboard and a blog and a cat that does magic (the keyboard is not wireless)

There's no denying the food at Mamak is good. The rotis are pillowy, the curries are definitely packed with flavour and tender meat. But is Mamak worth the reverence? Is it even worth waiting for? For mine, maybe not.

Though I love their rojak. Such a great mix of fresh, crunchy vegetable with deep fried tofu, egg, the satay-esque sauce and whatever else they chuck on there. It's too good to be considered a salad.

The murtabak has great flavour and excellent pastry, but sometimes questionable meat on the inside.

Satay is always a yardstick in a Malaysian restaurant and theirs is pretty solid, if tiny and lacking a little more char. I never know if it's a good or bad thing that there is always more sauce than is required. It always tends to find itself onto other things on my plates. Without complaint, I should add.

Kangkung belacan and kacang panjang belacan are trustworthy sides and succeed in making greens sexy.

Everything else is solid. The rice dishes, the noodle dishes, the desserts, the drinks, the super quick (if at times hard to get the attention of) service, the prices.

But is the at-times-50-deep queue really worth it? I don't think so. You're in Chinatown; you don't need to blindly follow the Mamak scripture. Sydney is great because you can get such an insane variety of good, authentic food.

Mamak is just one example of so many. But one of the only ones with such ridiculous queues. Sure, you get great food at the end of that wait, but you can get great food without a wait nearby.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 28, 2012

RESTAURANT: Sake Restaurant and Bar

I'll come right out with it: the main reason I've wanted to come to Sake is because of the sashimi tacos on the menu. Everything else looks fairly "modern Japanese" and not entirely unique. Not that that's a bad thing, it just means there's competition with other modern Japanese places as to where my disposable income goes.

I think it was the sake list that tipped me towards this place. It's a strong list, with plenty of options at different sizes. Plenty of sake with plenty of sashimi is usually a recipe for a good meal.

And what of the sashimi tacos? You get two per serve--one tuna, one salmon--and a side shot of sake. They're tiny to the point that you can easily eat them in one bite, and moreish to the point that I could easily (and happily) eat 50 of them. Of course, other things need to be ordered.

Beef tataki is a fairly classic dish, twisted slightly here with some tomatoes and garlic chips going with the seared, thinly sliced beef. It's a solid interpretation.

The sashimi combo brings 18 pieces of said sashimi, with your obvious offerings like tuna, salmon and kingfish, as well as some more seasonal fish. It's fresh, good quality and very tasty. Maybe not the best in Sydney, but still very good.

Chicken nanban is surprisingly excellent. The juicy, twice-fried pieces of chicken are cooled and paired with a bonito broth sauce and earthy chillis.

Sake seems to have been adopted as the model and celebrity restaurant of choice, probably due to the painfully attractive staff and the extreme levels of cool that the place (and the design) give off. But that's not to say it's pretentious.

A good example of the approachability is the kushiyaki offerings. I'd find it fairly unlikely to see a model stick a chunk of tender pork belly in her gob, but for someone like me it's bliss.

As good as it is, it's probably outdone by the excellent tuna ceviche. Big slices of delicious tuna, sharp dressing and a great balance of flavour. It all combines to make for a dish you want to eat a lot of.

They also have a fairly large selection of hand rolls. For those wanting some carbs in their life (which is foolish; you're robbing yourself of previous sashimi-based protein), you shouldn't be too disappointed with the spicy tuna dynamite roll. The stupidly named "S express" is nice, but doesn't blow me away.

The whole time the sake is flowing (the sake are fairly knowledgeable on the subject) and life is good. The earlier sittings generally seem to have 2 hour seating limits, but that should be plenty of time to get in, smash some fish and sake and head out.

I wouldn't put it up as Sydney's best modern Japanese or best sushi/sashimi but it's not far off. Where this place shines is in the vibe: it's coolness is a commodity and even if you don't give a shit about things like that you know you can put it aside as a place to impress people/muses/lovers and get a smashing meal at the same time.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Saké Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2012


The promise of burgers, hot dogs and nachos is enough to stir any man. So I'm not entirely sure why it's taken me so bloody long to get down to The Dip to stuff my face full of some healthy treats.

Lev's dawg is everything you want in a hotdog. Smokey meat, mayo, mustard, spicey salsa and a steamed bun.

The pulled pork nachos are in a similar boat, it sounds great on the menu and it tastes great in the mouth. The juicy pulled pork renders the corn chip soggy fairly quickly, but I've always been a fan of nachos that descend into cheesy, clumpy, slightly crunchy mounds.

Pulled pork rears it's head also in the southern smoke, a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, beans and sauce. It's messy to eat but extremely delicious. I picture myself trying to eat a ridiculous amount in one sitting.

That's until the young cheesy arrives and takes it's place in the fantasy. It's a damn fine cheeseburger with some chilli on it. The whole thing is a juicy, grill-smoke delight to eat.

Not far off it is the watermelon and bacon burger, a stupidly good mix of grilled, sweet, salty and savoury flavours. Think of a Hawaiian pizza in burger form and you're getting there. Bloody nice.

Chilli fries make a nice side, the chilli sauce a perfect blend of spice, heat, meat and salt. The chips hold form for a while, before giving up the crunch and absorbing the sauce. Soggy chips are a pretty acceptable thing when they're soggy with chilli.

Grilled corn is another solid side with the big grilled flavour going nicely with the lime mayo and salsa. Some fresh lime would be nice too, but it's no major gripe.

If you're still hungry, they have desserts covered well too. There are only 2 choices-a sort of deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some guacamole ice cream with berries-but they both add a nice sweet note to the end of the meal.

Being part of a bar means drinks are covered too. Jugs of cocktails are a good bet with creations like the black sangria, chevy chase and cherry moon all hitting the spot and giving you the courage to go back and order more (and then more) food.

All up, a fun place to get some really well executed American fast food items.

RATING: Will return to [?]

The Dip @ Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

RESTAURANT: Chat Thai Westfield Sydney

Chat Thai's original branch in Haymarket is a pretty classic restaurant. Along with Spice I Am it's probably one of the best examples of Sydney Thai (TM) you can find and the answer to which is better will depend on who you ask.

For me, I've always preferred Spice I Am for the (slightly) less cramped surrounds, (slightly) more forgiving wait times and (slightly) more interesting dishes. But that's not to say I haven't enjoyed a spicy embrace with Chat Thai Haymarket from time to time. Chat Thai at the Galeries even became a bit of a lunchtime favourite for a while.

So to the more upmarket surrounds of Westfield Sydney doth the tentacle expandeth and I finally get to find out what a slightly more upmarket version of Chat Thai is like.

The answer is dark lighting, (slightly) less cramped surrounds (though you're still cheek by jowl with the neighbouring table), a few more Isaan style dishes, more booze and plenty more of that great food that has made Chat Thai so beloved.

"Fresh" spring rolls are a nice starter, with some rice paper coming filled with smoked fish, chicken and crab. So too the delicious fermented pork sausages (pictured). Chicken satay is always a popular starter but this version is more good than great.

I always love to see the green papaya salad with fermented crab on a menu, so the no-joke one here was a define pleaser. It's hot as hell and the salty/spicy/sour flavours are massive.

Panang curry was good, if slightly sweet.

There are a lot of grilled items on the menu, but the gai yang (grilled chicken) has to be a solid order. The chicken was packed with a herbacious, lemongrass flavour, well grilled and still juicy. I could have eaten a tremendous amount of it.

The dessert menu is fairly large, so you could do worse than to leave a bit of room for something sweet at the end. There are various ice/syrup/fruit combinations available (think ice kachang), but my preference was for the young coconut icecream with sticky rice, candied palm seeds and peanuts for more of a textural experience.

All in all it's more of the same Chat Thai goodness, albeit in a nicer, more expensive setting. The service is still shakey and the seating still a little cramped. Most importantly though, the food is still pretty great.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Chat Thai Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 19, 2012

RECIPE: Meatballs

Last weekend by dad turned 60. To celebrate the occasion and his upcoming retirement, we gathered up his friends and family and threw a surprise party. In all, around 60-70 people.

The reason I mention it is that, due to some sort of jedi mind trick performed by my mother, I ended up doing the catering for the party. Food for 60-70 people and, oh yeah, it all had to be finger food.

Oh, and no, I don't have any cooking or catering experience. Oh, and I'll only have 3 hours of prep on the day and the assistance of one of my sisters. Piece of cake and all that.

Of the 20 things I put on the menu on the night, one of the more substantial dishes (in terms of size) was meatballs with pasta. Easily mass-produced, easy to warm up and serve on the day, good for kids and adults of all ages, not overly expensive, delicious.

Thankfully, they seemed to go down pretty well on the day and I wasn't disowned by the family for ruining the night.

I'm constantly tweaking my meatball recipe, but I'm pretty happy with where it's up to now.

The Balls
- In a pan on a low-medium heat add some butter. Add 1 finely diced eschalot and half a finely diced carrot. Cook for around 5 minutes until the eschalot is translucent.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried Greek oregano (rigani) and 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds and stir. Cook for 1 minute. Set mixture aside to cool completely.
- Combine 1 kilo of beef mince with half a kilo of veal mince. This will vary depending on how fatty the mince is. If you can get really fatty beef mince then use all beef. If the veal mince doesn't look fatty enough then use pork mince. Try not to use too much pork mince as you dilute the enjoyable beefy flavour of this dish. If you want supersoft meatballs then use a 50/50 blend of beef and pork.
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt, a good pinch of cracked pepper, a teaspoon of smoked paprika and the cooled eschalot and carrot mixture. You can add 1 cup of grated parmesan if you want cheesy, softer balls. Don't add breadcrumbs or eggs as they will toughen the balls. If you want supersoft meatballs then soak chunks of stale bread (crusts removed) in milk, squeeze dry and add to the mix.
- Mix the mixture only lightly. Overmixing will toughen the balls.
- Shape the meatballs into your desired size and put them on a tray in the fridge for an hour.

The Sauce
- Blend together 2 ecshalots, 2 celery stalks, 1.5 carrots and 1 head of garlic (roasted in the oven until soft).
- In a large pot on a medium heat, add a good splash of grapeseed oil. I use grapeseed because of the higher smoking point and neutral taste. If olive oil goes too high you lose a lot of the health benefits of it and it makes the dish taste like burnt olives.
- Add in the blended vegetables, a good amount of cracked black pepper, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't catch on the bottom.
- At this point, take the balls out of the fridge to warm up a little.
- Add 1 cup of red wine and mix. Then add 2 cups of beef or veal stock and mix. Cook for 15 minutes then add 2 tins of tomatoes (san marzano are the best) and a teaspoon of tomato paste and cook for a further 15 minutes.

- Add the balls to the sauce. No need to prefry them as this can dry them out.
- Add enough weak vegetable stock to cover the balls well.
- Bring the mixture to the boil then immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook uncovered for around 6 hours or until the sauce is rich, thick and the balls are soft.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

RESTAURANT: The Carrington

The Carrington is one of the 62 or so pubs in the inner west to undergo a bit of a makeover in the kitchen recently. Rather than going the typical gastro-pub or "dude food" route (quick, argue about which phrase is more irritating; I only use them because you love them so much), they've instead followed the more meritorious (and merry) path of chucking some Spanish food out the back.

How good is Spanish food, guys?!

The fairly tired, watered-down tapas joints of Liverpool St in the city are still going strong, but they've been joined by places like Miro and Kika which dress things up a little bit and places like Bodega, which reimagines, adds other influences and executes perfectly.

Beba Y Cene is the name of restaurant out the back of the pub and the menu is a pretty tempting, Spain-wide split between meat and cheese plates, pintxos, tapas and main plates.

The jamon iberico is really quite delicious (and hand-sliced by the looks of it), made even better with some poached pear and toast to bring it together. It's the first of many dishes that will use the savoury/sweet contrast that brings Spanish food to life and excites the palate.

Excellent chorizo, poached with pear in pear cider plays on the other Spanish philosophy of keeping food simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. It's an uncomplicated dish, but totally delicious and warming.

You don't see pintxos around much, so it's great to see them here. While all of the ones we tried were good, the star of the show for me was the chicken liver parfait, spread thick over the toasted bread, with a little pear chutney on top to add that sweet kick.

Another hopelessly moreish dish is the croquettes filled with jalapeno and smoked cheddar. Squeeze a little lemon on it and you'll find it simultaneously frustrating and fortunate that there is a finite amount of them in the bowl.

From the main plates section, it's hard to ignore the appeal of beef cheeks poached in pedro ximenez with corn puree and parsley salad. While the cheeks were perfectly rich and fall-apart tender, I would have liked the sauce to be a bit "bigger". After a parade of savoury/sweet items, some sticky, sweet pedro ximenez gravy to kick the meat up a gear would have gone down an absolute treat.

The dessert menu is pretty small, offering the standard choices of creme catalan and churros, as well as a more elaborate banana split. They're a good end to the meal, but the savoury menu held a lot more appeal for mine.

Drinks are another highlight, with a short wine list offering some nice offerings, a solid list of cocktails (by the glass or jug) and plenty of different beer.

The Carrington appears to be aiming for solid Spanish food with a few little twists, filling that gap between the more standard Spanish elsewhere in Sydney and the more refined offerings at Bodega. That they definitely achieve, making the place a very solid visit. Their pintxos specials on Tuesday look like an awesome reason to visit too.

RATING: Will return to [?]

The Carrington Specialite: Beba y Cene on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I used to love the Kura franchise. There was Kura 1, the tiny corner noodle and misc outlet that only sat 12 at a time. Kura 3 was always good for a seat and a good meal. No one ever saw Kura 2. And that's the way it was.

Then a couple of years passed and I decided to get back into Kura. Kura 2 was okay. I guess. I just didn't feel the same spark.

So I decided to hit up Kura Kura, the newer, upstairs-from-Kura-1, more comfortable joint from the Kura folk.

The menu is fairly similar to Kura 3, but a bit clearer and maybe a few bucks more. This means a mix of teriyaki and don bowls, udon sets and sushi/sashimi sets.

On the pro side, the restaurant is a significantly more comfortable setting than the other Kuras and moves past "quick meal" territory. Drinks come with it. The matcha iced tea is nice, and sake sounds tempting.

But the food still doesn't do it for me like it did a few years back. The sushi is decent, but not enjoyable. The teriyaki fish looks decent, but not overly tempting. For the price and setting it's a good meal, but that's probably about it. My love affair with the Kuras has waned.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Kura Kura Japanese Casual Dining on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 23, 2012


Queue at Mamak getting you down? It's hard to resist the call of the corner-Malaysian one-two punch of More More Cha and the slightly fancier and slightly more upstairs Nonya.

Cheated out of Mamak yet again (since when do they close at 2.30 for lunch?) and craving some Malaysian food, we brave the lights and cross the road into More More Cha territory. The amazing spinning roti man is nowhere to be seen, but at least we have some Beyonce on the TV and loud-speaker to entertain us.

We order food and, to be honest, it's hard to comment on it. Everything we get, from the chicken satay to the oyster omelette to the nasi lemak to the kankung belacan, is par for the course. So to the fried soft shell crab, the roti canai, the ice kacang, the ice cendol. It's decent Malaysian food, it just won't set your heart aflutter like Mamak or another, great Malay place.

On the plus side, the open courtyard seating is a big plus when the summer months come and the restaurant is packed and humming along.

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

More More Cha on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 22, 2012

RESTAURANT: Umi Sushi & Udon

I've been a big fan of Umi Kaiten Zushi near the Capital Theatre since I first went there years ago. The sushi and sashimi on the train is good quality, the a la carte options are all pretty good and they have a massive fish tank to look at.

The launch of the Darling Quarter precinct down near Tumbalong Park has brought with it a number of really solid eating options. Umi Kaiten Zushi's sister restaurant, Umi Sushi & Udon, is one such eating option. Obviously, because it would be weird to mention a totally unrelated eating precinct.

Dark timber, swivelly stools and an open airy front wall make for a relaxed and comfortable eating experience. Though, from what I saw, a fish-tank-less eating experience.

The menu is pretty similar to the Capital Theatre restaurant, with maybe less a la carte specials. Prices, too, are fairly similar, but slightly higher because of the Darling Harbour postcode.

Quality wise, not a lot has been lost in the run through the photocopier. The sushi tastes fresh and the plates on the train are well put together. I could be wrong, but it looks like their tea game is even a little more serious than the sister.

They do bento boxes as a lunch special, which look a good bet. They also do takeaway from the train: grab a box and fill it with what you want.

All up, it's more quality from the kids at Umi. Whether you want a sushi train fix, a bowl of noodles or a bento box you should enjoy it.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Umi Sushi & Udon on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

WINE: ARRAS Brut Elite Cuvee 401 NV

A few years ago, you'd be pretty hard pressed to find much Aussie sparkling wine over the $40 mark. Like Aussie brandy, there seems to be a perception that you can't try and compete with the French offerings at a certain price point.

But a lot has changed since then and, at around $65 retail, this offering from the House of Arras is now competing on price with the likes of Moet, Tattinger, Veuve and various Heidsiecks. And this isn't even Arras' most expensive wine.

It has taken years of quality releases to make this sound more acceptable than fascicle.

An odd playoff between floral and mineral. It results in an extremely round, full palate.

Beginning with almond, marzipan, rose, lemon tart. Giving way to sharp lemon and citrus notes. Finishing with salty-sweet minerality.

Despite the minerality on the finish, a full and rich wine. Very nice and a worthy competitor at the price point.


Friday, April 20, 2012

RESTAURANT: Izakaya Fujiyama

I wanted to start the review by saying "I really like Izakaya Fujiyama" but it sounds like such a clichéd thing to say. So, instead: I FUCKING HATE IZAKAYA FUJIYAMA.

Just kidding, I like it. Really.

I think I realised it around halfway through the meal. After starting with a beer we'd launched ourselves into the 85-strong sake list (all in 100ml serves so you can try different ones), so we were a few deep already. The sashimi had been good, as had the agadashi tofu (nice layering of flavours), as had the kingfish nuta with fried tortilla. Then the oxtail dropped. Exactly how a fatty, lesser cut should be cooked. It fell off the bone into the rich sauce beneath, that was saved from being too rich by some apple.

More sake. Crispy pork belly has to be the dish to get here. As you pick it up with your chopsticks it threatens to disintegrate back onto the plate. A squeeze of lime to liven it up and a hot green chilli relish to add even more flavour. A lot of places "do" pork belly. But rarely is it this good.

Sadly, while the flavour in the teriyaki beef ribs is exceptional, the meat is a little tough. Coming after the pork belly only compounds the matter. Still good, but not great.

It was at that point I was satisfied. Maybe digest over a couple more sakes then call it a night? No, apparently not. Something had gotten inside one of my dining companions and he was ravenous for anything he could get his hands on. I've never shied away from eating.

Miso cured tofu isn't bad. Would be a good starter. So too the house made fish balls.

Now we're done.

No? Okay. Sorry. More sake. And one of the best known dishes: grilled kingfish head. Perfectly grilled fish head with the meat still succulent. Pick it apart, dip it in some soy or ponzu and go nuts. A brilliant dish with sake, with the smokey, grilled, salty flavours driving you to drink.

Finally he's really to move to dessert.

I'm not, though. While the dining companions order off the dessert menu, I don't really feel it speaking to me (after a lot of sake the menu will talk to you) so I stay savoury and grab the fried chicken. I nab a taste of the dessert later and it confirms to me that I've made the right call. While the desserts aren't bad, this place works best when you're drinking sake and eating something grilled, fried or braised.

If you want to finish on a sweet note then finish on the Ni Wano Uguiso tokubetsu junmai sake, a slightly sweet, porridge-like sake. It's as different and odd as it is tasty.

With so much sake and crazy animal parts flowing, it's hardly surprising that this place gets a little loud, a little fun and a lot delicious. The sake and beer lists are a strong point, as are the grilled, fried and braised menu items. Everything else is good, but doesn't reach the same level of rowdy satisfaction.

I will be back. There is much sake and much animals to eat.

RATING: Will return to [?]

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Friday, April 06, 2012


2003 was a pretty sucky year, weather wise, for champagne growers with grapes having to be picked much earlier than usual. With many producers not even bothering to declare a vintage that year, Dom Perignon took a risk and decided to have a crack.

Maybe not as floral as usual. Big, sharp, intense flavours of grapefruit and a lot of minerality. A little lime and honey.

Could have a bit of potential. Not the best Dom that I've had, but perhaps one of the most interesting. And of course, still a quality wine from this maker.


Monday, April 02, 2012

BEER: BREWDOG Paradox Jura

Scotland's BrewDog have built their name by brewing in your face beers that are packed with flavour. The Paradox range has been running for a while with imperial stouts weighing around 10-15% being aged for a few months in different whiskey casks.

Being a huge fan of this style and of the previous versions I've tried (Speyside and Isle of Arran), the new release coming from Jura casks was most tempting and I was most pleased when the Pumphouse in Darling Harbour came up with the goods (albeit at the scary price of $45 a bottle).

It's 15% and packed with sweet malt, milk chocolate and roasted nuts. It's definitely big and sweet but there is some restraint to it so it doesn't become overpowering and the other flavours provide plenty of interest so your palate doesn't get bored, which is a risk with big stouts. The background heat from the whiskey is all there on the mid and back palates, but thankfully isn't as over the top as in some beers of this nature.

It needs to be sipped slow and savoured. Probably not best suited for a hot Sydney weekend arvo, but nonetheless I enjoyed it tremendously for the textbook scotch-aged-imperial-stout that it is.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

WINE: VILMART & CIE Grande Reserve Brut NV

Quite a lot of fuss about this producer. 11 hectares, with a lean towards pinot noir. Their vines are a few decades old and these guys are big on ageing the win in oak.

The Grande Reserve Brut is their entry level wine.

70% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay. Oak aged.

It pours with almost no mousse and a barely visible bead.

Thankfully there's great carbonation on the sip.

It takes a little while to open up, but once it does it reveals quite an excellent wine for "entry level".

Extremely floral with a good backbone of oak. It also has lemon, macadamia, finger lime, cherry. Tremendous length. Punches above it's weight at around $75.