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 clich├ęd 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 [?]

Izakaya Fujiyama on Urbanspoon

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.