Monday, 28 December 2009

sake @ argyle st., the rocks

For my birthday, my friend K organised for 12 of us to have dinner at Sake @ The Rocks; a most recent addition to The Rocks precinct. Getting to The Rocks, I was actually curious as to where the restaurant was and was much surprised to find that the restaurant had opened up where my best friend got married earlier this year. What was previously The Argyle Function Centre is now home to Sake.

It was actually a little strange walking in to the restaurant given the last time I walked through the doors I was linked arms with one of the groomsmen and had about a hundred pairs of eyes following me as we progressed to the bridal table. Well this time round, I found myself dazzled at how the place had been transformed. I could still make out the venue from my last visit in May but what was once an empty space was now a bubbling, decked out restaurant. Thumbs up to the design team that created the space.

Greeted by the menu as you sit down. Usually when you eat out in a group of 12, you expect to be quite squished at the table, it was quite the opposite at Sake where we ended up having the waiter's take one of the joining tables away so that we could sit a bit closer together.
It took us awhile to get through the menu and to finally decide what to order. When K made the booking, they did suggest that we take the banquet menu but we'd decided to order separately to try a few more dishes. What we ended up doing was order a handful of entrees to share and each ordered a main each. Here's the Kingfish jalapeno - not spicy at all and was a great way to start the meal.
Spicy Miso Chips (with diced tuna & salmon sashimi, coriander & kogichun miso). Again, not spicy but beautifully presented and I wish there were more on the plate!
Nasu Miso (Grilled eggplant, sweet den miso & sesame seeds). In this case, I think the photos speak for themselves; if only there were a few more pieces on the plate to eat!
Miso butterfish (miso marinated butterfish with pickled ginger and lime). This one was actually a main that we ordered to share as my friend L had highly recommended it. After eating it, I would definitely recommend it myself.
Beef teriyaki (beef sirloin cooked medium rare, served with daikon radish, chive & yakiniku sauce). To be honest, I didn't quite expect the beef teriyaki to come out looking like this but it was a lovely dish nonetheless. This was probably one of the more generous servings out of the mains ordered at the table.
The platter of rolls! Actually, this was actually four orders put on the one platter.
Sushi Set (chef's selection of nigiri-8pcs, tamago, classic thin roll-6pcs and miso soup). The sushi is great and probably something to order if you need food to fill you up (as most of the other dishes on the menu are quite small) but I don't think it stands out enough for the price you pay for it.
The miso soup.
I think part of the reason why it took so long for us to order was that we ended up getting quite distracted looking over the desserts (well the girls anyway). Between the 12 of us, we ended up ordering 4 of the 5 desserts. Here's the green apple mille-feuille (green-apple mousse with layers of crispy thin pasty and vanilla bean sauce). One for the sweet tooth as the green apple syrup that comes with it can be tooth achingly sweet. Also the pastry isn't quite in the traditional sense of a mille-feuille so can be a bit of a let down.
Matcha bombe alaska (green-tea ice-cream wrapped in sponge & meringue, baked and served with white chocolate sauce).
Deconstructed russian cream (buttermilk panna cotta, raspberry jelly & raspberry coconut salad). If I were to order any of the desserts again, it would have to be this one.
Chocolate fondant with white sesame icecream. The fondant was unquestionably delicious, as was the icecream but I found it too filling to end a Japanese meal.
Service varied throughout the night. From being attentive and friendly to a bit scatty later in the night. Could be cause the restaurant started to fill up but then I can't quite explain why we had to ask twice for things (which they apologise for in the first instance) and well, there was the case of the overcharge. When we booked, K had to put down a deposit and this was not taken off at the end of the meal. Could have been a slight oversight but well, meant that most of us were reluctant to tip at the end of the meal.

On the whole, it was a great place to celebrate a birthday and I couldn't have asked for better company. Thanks K for organising and for everyone that came!

sugarcane @ reservoir st., surry hills

The last month has gone by in a bit of a blur, it started off with my b'day, then all of a sudden it was Christmas and now it's just the last couple of days before 2009. Well I managed to finish all my Christmas cards today so apologies for everyone getting late cards in the mail (it wasn't Australia Post, it was me finishing and posting them after Christmas). As for this blog, I said to J that I probably should skip some blog posts and get to the Christmas ones but he's been quite adamant that I do things in order and do it right. Anyway, here's where I went for my b'day...

Offering a cross section of south-east Asian cuisine stands Sugarcane on Reservoir St. in Surry Hills (just across the road from Central Station). You probably would miss this place if you were walking by as the entrance to the restaurant appears to bury itself flush against the outer wall of the building it's in. The sign 'sugarcane' is discreet, that's until you hear the noise from within when the place fills up. My b'day was on a Thursday this year and on a Thursday night, all the tables were quickly filled up.

Roti with curry sauce, cucumber & chilli. The roti was fluffy and well complemented by the cuts of cucumber and fresh chilli.
Crispy skin chicken with blood plum sauce and shallot. This was my favourite of the night, so tasty and a most generous serving. We ended up doggy bagging half of this for home.
Duck curry. There were two duck legs in this curry. It was because of this dish (a duck leg each) that we ended up doggy bagging the other dishes home.
Stir fried Chinese broccoli with silken tofu and yellow beans. Again, half of this went into the doggy bag but wow, how silken was the tofu!

Service was friendly and the dishes got to our table rather quickly. We had trouble getting everything onto the table at one stage but the waitress kindly helped us move things around to accommodate. Thanks to the lovely waitress who more than eagerly helped us take a photo. I had a fantastic evening and b'day thanks to everyone at Sugarcane.

Thanks J for the choice of restaurant and all my b'day pressies. Loved the roses but I'm even more in love with my copy of the Larousse Gastronomique!!

chicken with soy & balsamic dressing

When I don't eat out at Jap restaurants, I do enjoy cooking Jap at home. One of my favourite Japanese food authors is Harumi Kurihara. She's actually just realeased a new cookbook which I'm eager to get my hands on but the other two which she's published, they both sit prominently on my bookshelf. I haven't tried that many recipes from them but they are probably one of the most well-thumbed books that I own. The photography is stunning and each recipe is so tempting to try. Here was a recipe that was meant to serve 4 but ended up serving 2 greedy food enthusiasts.

Marinate 500g bite size pieces of chicken thigh in 2tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 clove sliced garlic and ground black pepper for 30 minutes.
Roughly chop the cabbage into large pieces. In a wok, heat 1tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp butter and saute the cabbage. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken, turning half way so to brown both sides.
Place the cabbage on a serving dish and then arrange the chicken on top. Garnish with basil leaves (to be honest, the basil leaves can be optional - they don't add a whole lot to the dish aside from the presentation).
Serve with rice.
Like I said, this recipe was meant to serve 4 but J&I found it quite easily to gobble our way through it all. I can't remember us even being that hungry! Some advice from me is to make sure that the cabbage is cut evenly so that you don't have big chunks. I found that some of the pieces in my dish were just a tad too crunchy and big. Anyway, stay posted for more recipes from Harumi!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

jurin @ pacific highway, crows nest

If you eat around Crows Nest, you're more than likely to bump into me. There's just so many restaurants to try and to date, all of the ones I've been to have been top notch. Amongst them all is the one-hatted Jurin. Many a time have I rocked up at the door hoping to get a table and well, it doesn't work that way. You need to book for either the 6 or the 8pm sitting. J&I finally made a booking for a Friday night and managed to dash there after work for the 6pm sitting. I don't question why this restaurant got a hat, I think they deserve another one or two - dinner was absolutely superb!

J does the responsible thing and orders a smaller beer cause he's driving. He felt a bit silly because this beer was really small!
Cooked pork belly Okinawa style. It's only a very small dish but these pieces of pork belly are so juicy and full of flavour that one piece each is more than enough. They're actually not too fatty either (so I'm guessing they're either serving a leaner cut of pork belly or they're trimming some of the usual fat you would see off).
Homemade Gyoza.
Torched Salmon with Avocado Sauce. This dish made me curious when I saw it on the menu (I wondered what 'avocado sauce' would taste like) but it's actually a salmon and avocado salad (the avocado comes in chunks).
Assorted Sashimi. The fish was fresh, the presentation stunning - exactly what I'm looking for when I order a plate of sashimi.
Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet).
Green Tea Icecream Tempura. This dessert was a mix of savoury and sweet, the flavours were well balanced and made for a great way to round off the meal.
This was the azuki daifuku. I hadn't quite expected it to look like this. Instead of the glutinous rice, it was actually a sticky rice encasing a red bean filling. It's the perfect size for one person and great enjoyed with a cup of green tea.
Service throughout the night was friendly and meticulous. Dishes arrived at the table in a gradual manner so we didn't feel rushed throughout the meal. At promptly 5 to 8, they did bring around the bill but by that time, we were planning to head off anyway (I find that in a lot of other restaurants when you're in for the first sitting, you get dishes piled on on your table and the service leans towards getting you out as quickly as possible), it was definitely not the case here at Jurin and hats off to you for it. Food was superb and the atmosphere here was relaxed, what a great way to spend a Friday night!! Your one hat is truly well deserved!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

jonah's @ bynya rd., whale beach

This post is a month and a half late but I've managed to get to it which is the important thing. J keeps reminding me that my blog posts are going to build up at the rate I'm going but between the lethargy of coming home from work, writing X'mas cards, doing more cooking/baking, and just spending time not doing anything, I've been finding it hard to be a good blogger. It'll be one of my resolutions for the new year to get up to scratch (fingers crossed).

So anyway, let me to tell you about Jonah's @ Whale Beach. It was the second last day of October and a friend of a friend had organised for a group of us to make the trek to Whale Beach for Jonah's Sugar Hit. Yep, I'm probably the last person in Sydney to blog about this year's Sugar Hit but well, the trek to Jonah's ended up being a mix of Sugar Hit and trying out a selection of the other desserts on their menu so hopefully this post is still relevant to some of you out there. The following pics should speak for themselves :)

Pouring over the menu...
There was one other table at the beginning of the night but they left shortly after we sat down. We basically had the whole place to ourselves - super!
Complimentary chocolates.
Brown Brothers Dessert Wine served as part of Sugar Hit.
Jonah's signature dessert, also their Sugar Hit offering - Vanilla panna cotta, fresh pomegranate and lavender honey. I'm sure most of you would've seen Suze's youtube clip with her wobbling a plate of this, it's exactly as wobbly as it looks (much to everyone's amusement on the night).
Caramelised pineapple and passionfruit creme brulee napoleon. I was expecting the pastry to be a bit more fluffy but this was quite a simple and refreshing take on the classic napolean. Not the easiest dessert to share because once you start to quarter it, it looks a bit like mush.
Strawberry, mascarpone and brioche pain perdu, sable biscuit stack with fresh strawberry and vanilla cream, dried strawberry, ricotta cheese and pistachio filled cannoli. In the words of my friend A, 'I love cannoli'.
Orange laced chocolate mousse, cocoa meringue, mocha rum sauce and chocolate brownie cake. This one was down the other end of the table so didn't actually get to try it but I love how the meringue looks like little mushrooms! I was assured though that this one is one to order next time I'm back.
J thought it was wrong to take this photo. I love how the panna cotta wobbles!
I say that a dessert at night is best enjoyed with a cup of tea.

Thanks E for organising the evening and thanks to the two drivers on the night. It was a good 50 minute drive to get there but it was well worth it in the end. It's a shame that we couldn't see much of the view at night so for those keen on coming here for dessert, I suggest you go during the day to make the most of the restaurant's view.

Anyway, thanks to all the other foodbloggers out there who blogged about Sugar Hit this year. It was good to read about all the other offerings and hopefully next year, I'll manage to get to a few more!

Monday, 7 December 2009

sakana-ya @ pacific highway, crows nest

A friend had mentioned Sakana-ya awhile back, highly recommending the place for good, traditional Japanese food which whilst pricey, is well worth trying. From that conversation, the place was always at the back of my mind and it was only a matter of time before I went there to check it out myself. I love Jap food and it seems that a good majority of my time is spent eating it (to the point where the boy has been trying to wean me off it suggesting that we should eat something else). Just the last week, he asked me, 'Are you sure you want to eat Jap again?' Of course I replied yes.

J&I ended up going to Sakana-ya on a Saturday night. En route we discovered a small restaurant called 'Not Bread Alone' (which was almost the same name as the book I was reading 'Bread Alone') but decided that had to be another night; I was set on Jap food. We hadn't actually made a booking at Sakana-ya but were ok for a table when we got there.

Between their various menus (they have a proper menu + their daily specials which are printed on a double sided piece of A4 paper), here's what we ended up ordering. To start off, chicken skewers; slightly sticky but absolutely full in flavour.
The large sashimi platter - definitely some of the freshest sashimi I've had in Sydney. The cuts were generous and made for a good start to the meal.
This was the priciest dish we ordered that night; the very belly tuna (it was part miscommunication that we ordered this but we weren't too fussed; I'm usually quite easy when it comes to food and I tend to forget things when it's good food!) To describe this cut of tuna sashimi; it was fatty, reminded me of a eating meat but was actually tuna and till my last piece, I was still thinking the same thing, this tuna reminds me of eating meat. You'll need to try it to see what I mean.
Tempura with green tea soba noodles. By the time this got to the table, the tempura had half soaked through in the soup. I suggest you eat this one quickly.
I'd say my favourite from the night was this Wagyu Beef Don with just the tiniest slither of butter sitting on top for flavour. The waiter suggested we order the half size (after ordering all the dishes above) and golly, was this a big half size. I wonder how big the full size would be? Highly recommend ordering this dish; one word, yum!
Of course, no dinner is complete without dessert! Behold the matcha pudding with azuki bean, and the sesame pudding with brown sugar sauce. Both desserts had just the right amount of sweetness and were a great way to finish the meal.

I think some of you might fall off your chair if I told you how much dinner costed for the two of us. Definitely not cheap but if you're after some good, solid Japanese food, you don't need to look elsewhere, come here. Waitstaff are attentive, there's a good mix of couples and young families who come here which make the dinner experience pleasant and relaxed, food is unquestionably superb and well, if you come here once in a while, it shouldn't leave too big a dent in the wallet.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

raspberry coconut slice

Slowly and steadily, I'm cooking my way through 'In the Kitchen'. Recipe #17 was the raspberry coconut slice which I made whilst waiting for the raspberry friands to cook (last post). I was actually quite looking forward to this one (it was one of the recipes that got bookmarked when I first went through the book) but somehow took 16 other recipes to get to. Well, I can finally cross this one off the list. It wasn't a huge success as I hoped it to be but I did learn a thing or two.

The recipe called for raspberries, I used frozen raspberries. In most cases, this is fine but not for this slice. Once baked, the combination of melting water and bubbly jam make for a watery/soggy mess. Best to use fresh raspberries.
So the recipe asked for a lamington pan. I thought I'd chosen a big enough pan but alas, it was not the case. Yes the pan I had was just big enough to hold the recipe, but it was definitely not a lamington pan. The confusing thing is that after making the mistake, I googled to see what a lamington pan was and a couple of forums were commenting how there's no standard size. If anything, this so called 'lamington pan' had to be at least 30x20cm for the slice to have turned out ok.
Baked the slice for it's alotted time slot - 40 minutes.
Here's the watery/soggy mess I was talking about.
Here's evidence showing that I used the wrong pan. What I baked was more of a cake than a slice. Way too thick and the texture of the whole thing was more like a sponge cake.
If anything, I guess this post reiterates how small compromises when baking can lead to drastic consequences. I'll probably revisit this one at some point, probably even buy myself a lamington tin for X'mas and hopefully I have better luck next time. Oh well!