Anmitsu Mihashi, Tokyo Japan

Let me share one of my favourite places for Japanese mochi and sweets in Japan. Mihashi is a kanmidokoro, a cafe selling all my favourite traditional sweets which opened in Ueno during the Edo period (it now has multiple stores in Japan).

We came here for their signature anmitsu dessert but I also wanted to havve some mochi. A light second lunch before dessert if you will.
We traditionally eat ozoni at the start of a New Year when we make our own mochi (using a machine, we don't pound it with a wooden hammer here XP) from scratch and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it runs out. Ozoni is a light bonito dashi broth with mochi, chicken, shiitake, prawn and a fluffy egg. I loved how there was a garnish of mitsuba (I'm yet to find this herb locally) which made a subtle difference to the broth. Mum also ordered the isobeyaki which is grilled mochi brushed with soy sauce and wrapped in seaweed.

Anmitsu is a traditional Japanese dessert with small cubes of agar jelly, a mitsu (brown sugar syrup) is poured over the jelly and eaten with red bean paste, fruits and sweet gyuhi mochi. I chose the Shiratama Cream Anmitsu just in case I hadn't had enough mochi…an anmitsu served with vanilla soft cream, shiratama (rice flour dumplings) and mandarins.

Mihashi
 
Ozoni
   
Isobeyaki
 
Shiratama Cream Anmitsu

Mihashi is the best place for anmitsu and their menu consists of variations of anmitsu with seasonal fruits, strawberries, shiratama, green tea, soft serve etc. The most popular dish here is probably the Matcha Anmitsu, anmitsu with bitter sweet green tea ice cream which is handmade.

Mihashi
Tokyo Station
Ichiban Gai

Juha Coffee, Nishiogikubo, Japan

I've been back for less than three weeks from my recent spring holiday in Japan but I'm already aching to go back already. We spent a bit of time wandering around the suburbs that my mum lived in when she was a child – Nishiogikubo – laneways lined with old ramen resaturants, cosy cafes, quirky little shops.

Nishiogikubo
 
 
 
 
In the afternoon we stopped at a tiny door of a tiny cafe. Inside it was cosy and charming, jazz music played and postcards laid out on the counter. The friendly and chatty barista brought us blankets to warm up our laps as we perused their handwritten menus with polaroid photos of the menu. A cup of hot alcohol Irish coffee warmed my uncle right through to his bones while I had a cup of mild coffee. A plate of light and moist apple cake with a dollop of fresh cream and a baked American cheesecake – a perfect way to end the afternoon.
Juha Coffee
 
 
Juha Romance Music
 
Cream jug is WAYYYY TOOOO CUTTTEEEE
 
Irish Coffee
 
Apple cake
 
American Cheesecake
 
Though the neighbourhood has changed so much since my mum was 7…it was really nice to wander through the streets listening to her and my uncles stories of their past ๐Ÿ™‚

Kitchen By Mike

The new warehouse canteen Kitchen by Mike (85 Dunnings Ave, Roseberry) was the light at the end of my working week – quite literally with it's high celiings and airy open space. It also provided the happiest moment of my Sunday when I snagged the last order of sourdough pancakes with lemon curd, it was just the dish to brighten my day.

The food at Kitchen by Mike is simple and unpretentious using the freshest produce sourced by Mike each morning, thus the menu changes daily and can be found at their Facebook page. We didn't know this when we headed there for brunch but were pleasantly surprised as we peered into the open kitchen and walked past the display of vibrant salads, rustic pizzas and freshly made juices and smoothies. We made our way through the queue and sat with our enamel tin plates at a communal table, grabbed our cutlery from an old can of tomatoes, taking in the rawness of the warehouse. Satisfied with our selection of a slice of Mike's freshly woodfired sourdough bread, fluffy and was delicious with a slather of PepeSaya butter and had us going back for a second serving. I let Bill enjoy his roasted pork belly with chutney which he found so good he would happily eat here each weekend, while I had a selection of a few of the salads on offer which were packed with flavour and well balanced.

I was keen to try the breakfasts here and I absolutely had to share Kitchen by Mike with someone else so brought the mother the following weekend, knowing she would also appreciate Koskela more than Bill did. It was noticeably more busy and my heart raced as I neared the register to order my breakfast, as I ordered the last sourdough pancakes and they crossed it off the specials board – sorry to anyone who was queueing behind me, I know my heart would sink. Mum had the baked chickpeas, chorizo with a egg which was perfection wobbly and gooey from being poached slowly for 30mins while we watched the open kitchen change from breakfast to lunch.

Kitchen By Mike
 
 
 
Freshly squeezed orange juice
 
 
Mike's woodfired sourdough bread with Pepesaya butter
 
Roast pork belly $12
 
Plum, walnut & blue cheese
Tomato, watermelon mint salad
Corn, lime & chilli salt
 
Sourdough pancakes with lemon curd
 
Baked chorizo, chickpeas with poached egg

Next door is Koskela which sells the enamel tin plates used a Kitchen by Mike and other Australian goods – we picked up some lovely smelling hand wash used in the bathrooms too as gifts for our relatives overseas. The staff are friendly and passionate, we both loved the open space, the simplicity of it all and the concept of using fresh and seasonal produce daily and we're trying to enjoy it as much as we can before the inevitable influx and appearance of beautiful people and hispters XP The food here can be a little pricey especially when you try and order a bit of each, but it is reflected in the freshness of ingredients and the quality of the dishes produced.

Kitchen By Mike on Urbanspoon

Reuben Hills

One thing I've learnt from full time work is that your weekends are sacred and to be celebrated. So last weekend we indulged in a very decadent late lunch at Reuben Hills (61 Albion Street, Surry Hills). Reuben Hills is a newly opened warehouse turned cafe and coffee roastry upstairs and a menu with a Latin American influence.

The menu looks deceivingly simple with a handful of items to choose from, but we've both never heard of many of the items! In the end I was swayed by the little blurb in the 'About' section of the menu and had a baleada – one of the most popular foods originating in Honduras. A warm, soft and thick wheat flour tortilla arrives generously filled with delicious black beans, free range eggs and a beautiful creamy, crumbly and soft queso fresco cheese. It's a little messy to eat but so friggin tasty it didn't matter. Unfortunately by the time we had lunch the Reuben, which Bill was so keen on, was sold out so instead he had the 99 Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was absolutely delicious, a tall burger with a brioche bun, chorizo and crispy onion, Bill proclaiming "all chorizo should be cooked like this". I was dying to try the Doggs Breakfast and it did not disappoint – an ice cream sandwich with a dollop of salted caramel (great balance of salty and sweet!!) which had me scraping the plate really hit the spot, while Bill got his fix from a creamy smooth and sweet Salted Caramel Milkshake.

The service was really friendly and everyone is genuinely nice! Reuben Hills also hold public coffee cuppings on Friday's each week for free and everyone is welcome. Unfortunately for us we probably won't make it to the coffee cuppings upstairs but Bill's eager to try their Reuben sandwich and I'm looking forward to trying their Black Sesame milkshake next time. Anyhoo it was definitely a great way to end our weekend!

Reuben Hills
 
 
Love love love the quirky bottles of water!
 
 
Free range eggs, queso fresco, black beans baleada
 
99 Breakfast at Tiffany's – Chorizo inside brioche bun w ranchero sauce & crispy onion
 
Salted Caramel Milkshake
 
Doggs Breakfast – Ice Cream Sandwich with salted caramel

Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon

Bread & Circus

I'm a girl who loves her veges and grew terribly jealous at the sight of my friends posting on instagram, delicious wholesome looking salads, so much so I had to get down to the new "wholefoods canteen" in Alexandria last weekend.
Bread & Circus (21 Fountain Street, Alexandria) is hidden behind Don Campos in the corner nook of a large warehouse, a beautiful and relaxed space and airy, getting plenty of sunshine. The atmosphere here is casual and natural where an assortment of stools and chairs surround communal wooden tables adorned with pieces of fruit as still life, recycled jars, baskets of serving ware and pretty bowls contained unrefined brown sugar. Just as the name suggests, it is quite the quirky canteen and I completely fell in love with the decor from the warm pastel plates, brightly coloured potted plants to the rustic buckets contained serviettes.

Each visit to Bread & Circus is made exciting with the menu changing daily. Bill and I decided to share a regular salad plate where you can choose all or one of the salads on offer. The salad combinations are different to your plain old caesar salads or garden salads and use market fresh produce:
Baked golden maple peaches with champagne puy lentils, blue cheese and chive
Smoky flamed eggplant with a light fragrant sort-of salsa verde
Slow roasted sweet balsamic tomato, torn basil and olive oil farro

(Our salad consisted of the top three)
Olive oil couscous with steamed broccoli and two kinds of beans in orange minted yoghurt
Cinnamon sea salt baked golden sweet potato with garlic olive oil and agave
Caramelised apple-cider fennel and orange in black quinoa coriander and champagne vinegar

The plate is a very generous serving size, each salad packed with flavour exploding in your mouth and absolutely scrumptious. I especially loved the juicy chunks of smoky eggplant and the combination of blue cheese with the peaches and lentils.

Thinking that sharing a regular salad plate wouldn't be enough for the both of us we also ordered a Circus soup served with wedges of sourdough and organic butter. The regular bowl of Super-green soup with creamy smooth broccoli kale & almond which was creamy smooth, hearty and absolutely delicious and great for dunking our wedges of bread into. We also received a complimentary side bowl of Balsamic roasted three tomato & banana chilli with swirl of biodynamic basil yoghurt since they accidentally forgot to bring out the soup we ordered until Bill reminded them. It was spicy and had a good kick to it which was balanced by the sour yoghurt, but we both agreed we the super-green soup had won over our hearts.

Bread & Circus
 
 
Daily Plate Salad
 
Balsamic roasted three tomato & banana chilli with a swirl of biodynamic basil yoghurt
 
Sourdough and organic butter
 
Super-green soup with creamy smooth broccoli kale & almond
  

Though quite busy multitasking (they mentioned they were understaffed that day) the staff were really quite sweet. As we were leaving they apologized again for the mix up of the soup being missed and gave us a complimentary organic orange and bran muffin to take away which we happily accepted and enjoyed with a coffee from Don Campos as we left feeling full, nurtured, super healthy and hearty. We can't wait to revisit and try more salads! And perhaps adding delicious extras such as char grilled haloumi or a boiled biodynamic egg.

Bread & Circus on Urbanspoon

Tetsuya’s

Just a little over a month ago I celebrated my birthday…and I'm still getting used to the number 24. We celebrated my birthday (for yes a second time) at Tetsuya's (529 Kent St, Sydney). Tetsuya's one of S.Pellegrino's World 100 Best Restaurants, once the Best Restaurant in Australasia has always been on my wishlist since forever and has held the Good Food Guide's three hat status for just as long, but as I'm waiting for my booked date to arrive, in 2011 Tetsuya's lost one hat – perhaps he is concentrating on his Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin, but none the less I was still as excited!
Having walked past Tetsuya's countless times, once you step past the gate on Kent Street, you're transported out of Sydney city and into a quiet and serene Japanese town and reminds me much of our stay at a ryokan in Arima Onsen, Kyoto. The restaurant is a maze, the dining rooms are large and decorated with artworks, we're seated by the window and the Japanese zen garden.

I'm sure you have heard all the amazing things about Tetsuya's Unsalted Butter with Ricotta and Truffles and it's true, it's light, airy and simply delicious. Bill was sensible, not wanting to fill up on bread and stopped at one bread roll, I on the other hand could not resist slathering it on my warm crusty roll white bread with fluffy inards…and then order another roll of rye bread…I just love great butter with good bread.
To whet our appetite we started with Chilled Pea Soup with Mint. The next dish was a supplementary item which we nodded our heads furiously to when offered by the waiter, Pacific Oysters with Rice Vinegar and Ginger. I love the acidity from the rice vinegar which complemented the fresh creamy oyster well and was well worth the additional $18 for four oysters.
I'm always super excited when chawanmushi is served and it was no different this time when the Savoury Custard with Sea Urchin arrived, the silky smooth custard in my favourite dashi broth melted in my mouth but I much prefer the texture of raw sea urchin than steamed. Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange was the perfect harmony of flavours, the tartness from the mirin and blackbean drizzled on the firm Kingfish sashimi. Next, a beautiful piece of Grilled Scampi with Chicken Liver Parfait brought together with a light walnut dressing.
The next dish is Tetsuya's signature dish and remains the only constant on his menu throughout the years. Now admittedly I was afraid of this dish just in case I couldn't finish it, you see I don't enjoy salmon and ocean trout sashimi. Despite this though, I absolutely loved the Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Shaved Fennel with Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar. Being Japanese, kombu is a staple in our diet, but for Bill it's unfamiliar and strange. Kombu is a seaweed or kelp and is used to make dashi broth, you can also have it dried and eaten as a condiment to the humble bowl of rice. The confit of the ocean trout created an interesting texture, the fish was flaky but firm as you cut into it, a melting mouthful against the crisp kombu crust adding sea saltiness to the freshness of the fish. And of course the fish roe added popping fun and deliciousness. It's no wonder this is Tetsuya's signature dish and if I'm to eat ocean trout again it'll have to be Tetsuya's.
Our last of the seafood dishes was the Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab with Bean Curd, Foie Gras and Junsai, a delicate and sweet terrine of spanner crab and silken tofu with subtle foie gras and hints of junsai a sprout covered with a jelly like texture.
Onto the meat courses a pink and crispy skin covered Duck Breast with Pickled Beetroot. Much to Bill's delight we're served a substantial piece of Grass Fed Angus Beef and Tendon with Wasabi and Mustard Seeds, rare, tender and soft, one of the best pieces of steak we have had in a while and perfect with the mustard seeds.
Our refreshing pre dessert of Ginger Ice Cream with Lychee Granita served as a palate cleanser. Tetsuya's Bread and Butter Pudding similar to a creme brulee, a sweet concoction of creamy vanilla custard and cinnamon. My birthday warranted a special dessert a Chocolate Fondant with Hazelnut and Praline, a gorgeous warm centered fondant oozing warm chocolate flecked with salt pieces paired with a quinelle of creme fraiche ice cream and candied hazelnuts. While the Mister has a Chocolate Pave with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Cinnamon Twigs, a dense rich mousse, dark and bitter chocolate balanced by the tanginess of the cream cheese ice cream. I was too busy immersed in my chocolate fondant that I didn't get to try any of the cinnamon twigs ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
And just in case we weren't full enough we're served petit fours of hazelnut chocolate to finish our night.

Tetsuya's
 
Warm crusty white roll with fluffy innards
 
Rye bread roll
 
Unsalted butter with Truffles and Ricotta – absolutely heavenly
 
Chilled Pea Soup with Mint
 
Pacific Oysters with Rice Vinegar and Ginger
 
Savoury Custard with Sea Urchin
 
Sashimi of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange
 
Grilled Scampi with Chicken Liver Parfait
 
Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab with Bean Curd, Foie Gras and Junsai
 
Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Shaved Fennel with Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar
 
Breast of Duck with Pickled Beetroot
 
Grass Fed Angus Beef and Tendon with Wasabi and Mustard Seeds
 
Ginger Ice Cream with Lychee Granita
Tetsuya's Bread and Butter Pudding

 
Warm Centred Chocolate Fondant with Candied Hazelnut and Cream Fraiche Ice Cream
 
Chocolate Pave with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Cinnamon Twigs
 
Mr. Wakuda and I
Our Tetsuya's experience was heightened even more when Tetsuya himself came by our table and had a chat with us which I thought very charming and nice of him. The degustation was simple using fresh produce from around Australia, I hear Tetsuya has a trout farm and buys his Japanese vegetables from one Sydney farm, each dish cooked perfectly and presentation was outstanding. We could not fault the dishes nor the service which was impeccable.
Dear SMH GFG…Surely the exceptional and delicate, melt in your mouth confit of Petuna Ocean Trout alone is equivalent to the third hat …no?

Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon

Les Creations de Narisawa, Aoyama, Japan

I hope you all had a Happy New Year! This will the first post of 2012 and what better way to start 2012 then with my most memorable meal of 2011.
I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at two fabulous Japanese-French restaurants this post will be about the first – Les Creations de Narisawa (Aoyama, Tokyo). The restaurant has been awarded 2011 Acqua Panna's Best Restaurant in Asia and Number 12 on the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, it was easily the menu which had the most lasting impression for all the right reasons.

Dining here was truly an experience as the world of Narisawa is inspired by landscapes and changing seasons aiming to bring nature onto the plate with themes of soil, water, fire, charcoal and forest. It's a little hard to find hidden under a building, we are gently ushered into the restaurant through automatic sliding doors from the waiting room and into a dark, elegant restaurant with plush leather arm chairs. At our table setting we have a glass slab etched with the restaurant name which was verrry cool and are given a rather vague menu Autumn Collection 2011 Evolve with the Forest. The waiter kindly explains to ensure customers are surprised, the menu gives each dish a "poetic title" and only lists the main ingredients, also the dishes won't be arriving in order according to the menu.

Les Creations de Narisawa

 

Excited we put our bellies in the hands of Narisawa and the first dish presented on our table appears to be an autumn themed candle holder wafting scents of cinnamon, adorned with autumn leaves to the untrained eye but is in actual fact a little cyclinder of yeast. Once the yeast has been left to ferment in the water bath, a waiter came by with a trolley decorated with autumn twigs and placed the dough into a 300C stone bowl which is covered and left at our table to bake.
Whilst our bread is being cooked we're served with a Gift from "Satoyama" appearing to be sumi (charcoal) a bite sized piece of black crust made from chargrilled leeks encasing a soft piece of onion. Next to arrive is the Gift from the Sea "Sawara" Spanish mackerel from Aichi with citrus, green pepper leaf sauce. The saba was fresh, firm and went lovely with the sauce which cut through the natural oil of the fish.
By this time our "Forest 2010" Bread of Autumn Forest has baked under the heavy wooden lid and we're served with a soft, freshly baked cinnamon and chestnut bread. The waiter suggests having it on it's own and it is absolutely "autumny" and heart warming. We were also served bread (not baked at our table) which came with an adorable pot of what appears to be dirt with seedlings growing. Fear not, the pot contains whipped butter covered with a dehydrated blueberry crumb.
While enjoying our bread a dish with a whole grilled squid is set down and my eyes light up because I absolutely love grilled squid and the portion was huge! But before I could take a photo I'm distracted by yet another trolley bringing forth a concoction surrounded with a hazy mist. The waiter explains that a ground mixture of red peppers, oil and lemon juice is frozen in the liquid nitrogen and in the blink of any eye gently blankets my squid with this newly formed black frozen "ash". This dish "Ash 2009" Wind of Basque was my favourite with the cold sandy ash, tender squid in a red pepper sauce the perfect plate of landscape through ingredients, smell and texture.
Le Potager an Autumn garden was a plate of 19 different Japanese vegetables in season – we did try to find all 19 but it was tad too hard.
The inner chemistry geek in me squeals in excitement as this time we're presented with what looks like a science experiment, five test tubes and two filled with liquid. This dish "Luxury essence 2007" Langoustine the superior liquid broth is made from a Chinese jin hua ham and pork is poured onto the langoustine dish. It is indeed very delicious and find myself scraping every last drop.
The final dish from the Gift from the Sea is a perfectly cooked flaky, fleshy fish dish "Amadai" Snapper, Hagi, Yamaguchi and Maitake mushroom steamed in a bag with a light duck and pork broth.
The final main Gift from the Forest is presented as a piece of charcoal on a block of wood aka In Narisawa's world, "Sumi 2009" Hida beef. The waiter explains that this dish has been made through a process of basting the wagyu covered in a leek crust in olive oil and butter continuously for an hour. The end result is an evenly pink piece of beef, tender and juicy complemented with a red wine sauce and green peppers. Marking the end of our mains we are served a palate cleanser of a sake granita which was too potent for me to polish off.
So far so fannntastic, thoroughly satisfied and basking in the pleasantness of the evening I'm super surprised and ecstatic when the waiter wishes me a happy birthday along with a cake arrives complete with a candle. Not surprisingly the vanilla sponge cake is one of the best I've had and the loved the little jube holding up my card. After finishing off our extra little dessert we're served a small pre dessert of "Waguri" Chestnut pannacotta, chestnuts and caramelised chestnuts oh god this was good, layers of chestnut pannacotta, chestnuts and caramelised chestnuts..I love chestnuts so I was eager to take a spoonful of Bill's too.
Finally our dessert was presented in a beautiful glass bowl with a mixture of "Yuzu", Pear, "Buntan" with pieces of mochi and muscat, a clean and refreshing way to end the dinner.
Now usually tea and petit fours would end the night but once again excitement started to well up inside me as I spied another trolley coming towards our table from the corner of my eye. This was the prettiest cart ever, adorned with leaves, seeds, twigs and autumn motif with bite size pieces of petit fours laying amongst the forest. The waiter starts to explain each petit four and to name a just a few there were green tea macaron, peanut creme brulee, muscat mochi, sugar cane cake, pumpkin cake, mitsu cake, green tea mochi, pumpkin fudge, galettes and finally Narisawa's signature gradation of petit macarons. While my head is spinning from the spectacle of a dessert cart the waiter casually mentions "you can choose some or ALL" as he prepares to plate up our choices…. say whaattt?! I am near crying tears of joy and happiness…seriously ALL? Have you ever heard of such a thing?! Obviously we had to call upon our separate dessert stomachs.

Autumn Collection 2011
 
Gift from "Satoyama"
 
Evolve with the Forest
 
 
 
"Forest 2010" Bread of Autumn Forest
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Sawara" Spanish mackerel from Aichi
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Ash 2009" Wind of Basque
 
"Le Potager" Autumn garden
 
 
Gift from the sea – "Luxury essence 2007" Langoustine
 
Gift from the sea – "Amadai" Snapper, Hagi, Yamaguchi and Maitake Mushrooms
 
…not a piece of coal
 
Gift from the forest – "Sumi 2009" Hida beef
 
 
Gateua a la Vanille
vanilla sponge, white chocolate, rich creme chantilly, creme brulee, butter caramel
 
"waguri" Chestnut
too small me thinks
 
"Yuzu" Pear "Buntan"
 
Dessert Cart
 
Selection of Petit Four
Green tea mochi, muscat and mochi, galette, peanut creme brulee

 
Les Macarons
White Chocolate Lavender, Cafe Creme, Caramel Vanilla, Caramel Salt, Chocolate Rose, Cacao 41%,, Cacao 66%, Cacao 72% and Cacao 80%
The service was top notch and each dish unique and presented beautifully using the freshest seasonal ingredients to illustrate and reflect a story inspired by nature. It was the most memorable dining experience of 2011 which could be attributed to Narisawa's idea of the season permeating throughout the menu and the anticipation of what the next dish offers and the surprise of techniques used to just simply having the "evolution" of bread as it baked at your table with a cute little pot plant. And how could I forget the dessert cart of my dreams and the lovely birthday cake which made this dinner a bit more special. Easy to see why this restaurant has won so many accolades year after year, I cannot wait to go back and delve into the world of Narisawa, perhaps in another season.

Bloodwood

So within the very hectic last month and a half, I also finally have settled into a new office in the CBD (woo moving on up in the world!) from my previous location in Newtown. However this also means missing out on a lot of great (and cheap!) lunch time eats such as Luxe Bakery, Atom Thai, Kammadhenu and Ramen Bar. I also no longer have a weekend parking spot in Newtown so I miss out on brunch spots as well, such as Bloodwood.

Bloodwood (416 King Street, Newtown) is a particular favourite of mine for brunch not because of their courtyard which is delightful to laze about in with a cider on warmer days but because I have found the perfect version of my idea of a summer salad. The interior is a mix of industrial and retro and even sport a few inverted doors hanging from the ceilings. On this occasion I left it to the bar to create a Bloodwood mocktail for myself which was refreshing mix of apple, lime and mint while Bill had a cider. A dish I spotted at almost every table was the polenta chips with gorgonzola sauce which were incredibly light and fluffy and the gorgonzola sauce very rich and creamy. Funnily enough the gorgonzola sauce was all a bit too rich for me but Bill easily polished these off. The perfect aforementioned summer salad is the grilled cuttlefish salad with a cucumber and herb salad drizzled with mustard cream. The cuttlefish was cooked perfectly and the fresh cucumber gave the salad a beautiful crunch and the mustard cream was just made for my palate. We ended our brunch with the Bloodwood trifle a cup of passionfruit, pound cake, port wine jelly, honeycomb anglaise and vanilla bean pannacotta which though looked quite simple, it was to die for and absolutely fan-friggin-tasty with the combination of textures and flavours…we were each fighting spoonfuls of this trifle…next time we'll just order one each for ourselves ๐Ÿ™‚

Bloodwood


Bloodwood Mocktail $8

Polenta chips and gorgonzola sauce $9

Grilled cuttlefish salad $19

Bloodwood trifle $14

Though Newtown isn't as easily accessible as it was before, it won't stop me from revisiting Bloodwood for my favourite salad and trifle…just make sure to arrive early as they have a no bookings policy and the restaurant filled up pretty fast while we were there ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bloodwood on Urbanspoon

Merry Christmas Deco-Roll cake

Hellooo it has been a while hasn't it…

Finally it started to look like summer on Christmas Day and just like all the other mad people with their ovens turned on, I did the same and made another deco-roll cake which turned out perfectly! Yay me!


Christmas Wreath deco-roll cake

Anyhoo apologies for the lack of posts as of late…blahh so I'm back from my holiday in Hong Kong – Shanghai – Japan, celebrated our 9 year anniversary, turned twenty four, survived Christmas and ate a whole lot of chocolates! Annnnd enough with the excuses I'll leave you with a few photos from the last month and a half from Instagram.





Now to bring on the New Year…I'll try and bake a New Year themed deco-roll cake too in a few days and possibly start the New Year with a few posts from my travels. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜‰

La Bodeguita del Medio

Have you ever had Cuban food before? I've walked past La Bodeguita del Medio (125 York Street) plenty of times as it stands in a heritage building opposite the Queen Victoria Building but I've never stopped to take a look inside or peruse their menu until last week. Who knew that in the heart of the CBD there would be a lively Cuban restaurant, vibrant on a Thursday night, atmosphere a buzz with crowds gahtering for the $10 Mojitos. As soon as you step into the grand restaurant fitted with dark furnishings it is as if you've been transported to Havana, Cuba with the lively music, photographs on the walls and hospitable welcoming service.

Ordering cocktails was easy – LBDM is the "home of the mojito" and Hemingway coined the term "mojito in La Bodeguita" so mojito it was! The mojito was very refreshing and had a great balance of mint and limes. While Bill of course went for a girly pink drink the Quaker which was absolutely delicious. It took us a while to decide on what dishes to order, our friendly waitress was very helpful in this department interpreting the menu from Comestibles (size between tapas and entrees), Entradas (entrees), Fondo (mains), Carnes (meat) and Para Acompanar (side dishes). In the end we took our waitresses suggestion on board and had the Ceviche del dia, a Peruvian style ceviche which was lively and  had a great kick to it. I especially loved the vinaigrette and was tempted to sip out of the bowl! We also ordered the best sandwich ever the Pan Con Lechon (pan means bread – same in Japan) with a generous piece of kurobuta pork, melty cheese and onion salsa had us salivating. All this eating did make us thirsty so it was time for another drink and I went for another rum based cocktail the Nacional which was delightfully fruity that Bill also wanted one ๐Ÿ˜› For the mains I could not go past the Pato con Chocolate beautifully pink tender slices of duck breast on top of a sweet potato croquants with chocolate sauce. The skin on the duck breast was crisp and the chocolate sauce was subtle and sweet – a delicious combination. Bill had to have the porterhouse steak Lomo de res served with rosemary and garlic roasted potatos. The steak was so wonderfully charred and grilled and had a smokey aroma that Bill obviously hasn't been able to get off his mind as he has been talking about it all week. We also wanted to order something "Cuban" as the menu has alot of South American influences so we had the Tostones of fried plantains (green bananas) with Cuban aioli which was like savoury banana fritter and almost resembled a potato… The portion here are very generous but we still had room for dessert ๐Ÿ˜‰ I was curious about the La Lechera  described as "a class…LBDM style" and as soon as the waitress said "condensed milk bubbles" I was sold, yes I do need that much calcium.Though presented more simply than Bill's dessert there was a chocolate caramel condensed milk semi freddo in condensed milk bubbles topped off with a banana and chocolate swirl. Surprisingly the dish wasn't overly sweet and I loved the difference of playful textures between the airy bubbles and smooth semi freddo and the chocolate, banana and milky flavours.Bill opted for the special that night which was Dulce de Leche (a caramel from Latin America) inspired special with vanilla sponge soaked in pineapple juice with pineapple jelly, custard vanilla and a strawberry and mint sorbet. It was presented very prettily and the thin sheets of pineapple jelly were intriguing but best of all was the custard and caramel which we would happily lick the plate for.

I loved how the restaurant has committed to transporting you to Cuba with the menu, mojitos! music, atmosphere and furnishings such as portraits and hanging signs. I even spied a rum locker as I walked to the unisex bathrooms. I can definitely say that we've both has a taste of Latin American food and can't wait to try a few more items on the menus as sadly we didn't order any of the entradas. They also have a fully serviced bar downstairs with live music which could possibly become my colleagues and I next local watering hole with the happy hour $10 Mojitos.

La Bodeguita del Medio


Mojito
Havana Club Rum, Fresh Mint & Lime, Soda & Sugar 14

Ceviche del día
Peruvian style ceviche 15

Pan con Lechón
Kurabuta pork, sweet potato crisps, onion salsa 18


Nacional
Club Havana Rum, Apricot liquer and a couple of splashes of Pineapple Juice. 15
Quaker
Havana Blanco Rum & Cognac shaken with raspberry syrup & fresh lemon juice 17

Tostones
Fried plantains with Cuban aioli 8

Pato con chocolate
Duck breast, sweet potato & spinach croquants & chocolate sauce 36

Lomo de res 300g
O'Connor premium pasteurised porterhouse steak 42 All steaks are served
with Rosemary & Garlic roasted potato & house made condiments

Dulce de Leche (a caramel from Latin America) inspired
special with vanilla sponge soaked in pineapple juice with pineapple
jelly, custard vanilla and a strawberry and mint sorbet

La Lechera
a class…LBDM style. 15
(chocolate caramel condensed milk semi freddo in condensed milk bubbles topped off with a banana and chocolate swirl)


you can even leave your mark with scribbles on the wall

Ayana dined as a guest of La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio on Urbanspoon

Nok Nok Thai Eating House

Back in my day it was called Tumbalong park and opposite it was Sega World, now the area has been newly finished and is known as Darling Quarter featuring lines of cafes (most with al fresco dining – perfect for the upcoming summer months) overlooking the huge funky playground.  Nok Nok Thai Eating House (Shop 9 Darling Walk, Darling Quarter) is one of these new establishments.

The decor and beautiful presentation  of the space of Nok Nok really excited me with sky high ceilings and mirrors making it look even more light and airy, the pale marble-like walls  provided a lovely contrast to the elements of greenery of hanging potted plants and trees sprouting from the banquet table – it reminded me of  British India.On Saturday night the restaurant was a buzz and most of the booths were reserved so we were seated on the communal banquet table (just make sure your group is not separated by the tree in the table).

As an appetizer our friends ordered the Guay Teaw Lord ($8.90) a wide rice  noodle roll wrapping pieces of chicken, tofu, egg and dried shrimp (?) similarly to the rice noodle rolls served at yum cha. Tonight most of us  ordered noodles Gauy Teaw Kua ($13.90) a soy based stir fried flat rice noodles, chicken Pad Thai ($12.90) thin rice noodles fried with tofu, egg, garlic, chives,  bean sprout and crushed peanuts and I had the Kee Mao ($13.90) a wide rice noodle with holy basil, chilli in a dark soy base. It had a good spicy  kick to it which was easily offset by the light and refreshing lychee frappe ($4.00) I ordered earlier. Instead of noodles Bill had the Duck Red Curry ($18.90) which came in a very generous portion, eggplants, bamboo shoots, basil and green beans swimming in a light curry. As we were finishing our dishes we realise our order of Pla Meuk Yang ($15.90) a grilled whole squid had not yet arrived so we opted to cancel  this dish…boo because I was  really looking forward to this dish as I love the grilled calamari from Chat Thai. The front "kitchen" is an open plan and I spied a massive bowl of mangoes and I knew exactly what I was having for dessert. The Keo Neow Ma Moung ($8.90) mango was fresh and meaty and the sweet sticky  rice seemed lighter than that of other Thai restaurants, needless to say we easily polished dessert off.

Nok Nok Thai Eating House

 
Communal banquet table

Booth dining

Chicken Pad Thai

Chicken Ki Mao

Duck Red Curry

Keo Neow Ma Moung Sweet sticky rice with fresh mango

The atmosphere at Nok Nok is nice and the menu quite extensive featuring some dishes such as the wide noodle rice not commonly featured at other Thai restaurants. The food was great and 'll head back again and hope to be able to try the grilled whole squid soon, the outdoor dining area also seems nice for those balmy summer evenings…there was even a jazz band playing outside on Saturday night.

Nok Nok on Urbanspoon

Sushi Buffet Course at Sushi Samurai

My ears perked up at the thought of a sushi buffet… for only $24.80 that sounded like a bargain. We frequent Sushi Samurai (14 Bunn St Pyrmont) whenever we feel like casual Japanese and the sashimi we've had there is always really fresh (previously posted here)…probably because its so close to the Sydney Fish Markets.

The Sushi Buffet ($24.80) runs for 90mins (after you've ordered) and is only on Saturdays for lunch and I highly recommend you to book – if you've ever been, Sushi Samurai is a pretty tiny space and fills up very fast and they also have a few seats outside. Now before you can order all the sushi you can stuff into your belly (big or small) you first need to finish a Starter Plate which is between a choice of two sushi platters either nigiri or rolls and they both come with two pieces of karaage chicken, agedashi tofu and miso soup. Set A is a platter of nigiri – salmon, tuna, kingfish, scallop, egg, prawn, sea urchin and salmon roe boat and two pieces of karaage chicken. Set B I believe is to cater more for the westerners or non-raw seafood eaters and has 8pieces of roll sushi, 2 pieces of salmon aburi, tuna and prawn nigiri and two pieces of karaage chicken. Once your starter plate is finished the real buffet begins and your free to order unlimited numbers of nigiri and rolls! They offer the usual nigiri salmon, sanma (?!), kingfish, tuna, prawn, squid and egg. Don't fret they also cater for roll lovers offering salmon avocado rolls, tuna salad avocado rolls, vegetarian rolls, California rolls and salmon avocado rolls. I was so happy that they also have aburi sushi which I lovee and ordered loads of scallop aburi, kingfish aburi and salmon aburi. There are also a few items which you are limited to a max 2 piece per person including the scampi nigiri, sea urchin boat and salmon roe boat.

I was a tad sad they didn't have natto rolls and my favourite squid was sold out but the variety they have on offer was amazeballs for a buffet. I had the Set A – I liked the idea of a starter plate, it was like a taster so you know what you might want to order more of. The tuna wasn't bad but the best items on the menu were the scampi and scallop which were both plump and firm and of course the delicious aburi sushi. I thought this buffet was great in terms of affordability, variety and freshness. Personally I thought 90mins was enough and we were all stuffed to the brim, but if you don't think the sushi buffet is enough… you can always order the Sushi Buffet Deluxe course ($29.80)…which includes the same as the Sushi Buffet but you can also get unlimited orders of sashimi (salmon, tuna, kingfish or mixed), takoyaki, karaage chicken, tofu seaweed salad, crispy gyoza, deep fried fish head (salmon or kingfish) and deep fried oyster.

Sushi Samurai (Pyrmont)

Starter Plate A
Salmon, Tuna, Kingfish, Scallop, Egg, Prawn, Sea Urchin, Salmon Roe and 2pcs Karaage chicken and sushi rolls.

Agedashi Tofu

Waiting for our unlimited sushi order making chopsticks holders

Tuna and Kingfish nigiri

Scallop aburi, Salmon aburi and Kingfish aburi

Scampi

Sushi Samurai also have a branch in Neutral Bay, however I'm not sure if they're also offering the Sushi Buffet for Saturday lunches.

Sushi Samurai on Urbanspoon

CRAVE SIFF: Quarter Twenty One Let’s Do Lunch & Azuma Kushiyaki Sugar Hit

It's already the 2nd week of October which means the CRAVE Sydney International Food Festival is in full swing with restaurants all around Sydney offering food events.

Not working in the CBD means I'm not usually able to enjoy Let's Do Lunch offered during the weekdays but this year I was lucky enough to visit Quarter Twenty One (Level 5 Sydney City Westfield) for their Let's Do Lunch offering on the public holiday Monday. Even more awesome was that there was no public holiday surcharge! Though we were also able to order a la carte from the menu, we were both in the mood for the Let's Do Lunch slow cooked short rib of beef, spring vegetable ragout and fondant potato which also came with a glass of Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio for me and a Coopers Beer for Bill. The beef was so tender and melted in our mouths and we each had a generous amount of beef as well. I loved the fondant potato and the spring vegetables brought the dish together with the colours. We also ordered side dishes of veges and hand cut chips thinking it may not fill us up, but in hindisght the main dishes were enough. We even planned to order a dessert (the banana creme brulee was calling my name) to share afterwards but were way too full… not to worry Bill has promised to take me back ๐Ÿ˜€

Quarter Twenty One

Warm crusty bread

Let's Do Lunch
Slow cooked short rib of beef, spring vegetable ragout and fondant potato which also came with a glass of Brown Brothers wine or Coopers Ale

Later in the week I indulged in yet another CRAVE SIFF event with my fellow sweet-a-holic girlies – a Sugar Hit offering a late night dessert during 9pm-11pm with a glass of Brown Brothers dessert wine or green tea at Azuma Kushiyaki for $20. Betty kindly organised a Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki an East meets West dessert tasting plate which I thorougly enjoyed at least years SIFF Sugar Hit though it had more Western influences than Eastern. However this year we were presented with the desserts which had a stronger Japanese influence and again presented in a two tier box. On the bottom tier we had a white sesame ice cream which had a subtle nutty flavour and a bowl of anmitsu. Anmitsu is a Japanese dessert meaning to top with red bean which was atop a small bowl of assorted seasonal fruits with tapioca pearls and my favourite shiratama rice dumplings covered with kinako powder. This dish was clearly loved by everyone in the group but the texture of the shiratama was a little rough for my liking and I suspect it has been made earlier and then refrigerated.On the top tier we had a yuzu sake, green tea tiramisu, sake sponge bites and a piece of dark chocolate praline. I absolutely loved the yuzu sake and could have had a few more glasses it was refreshing, deliciously citrusy and went down easily, I loved every single drop of it. The green tea tiramisu was my favourite the matcha layers of whipped cream and between them soaked sponge fingers though there was only a hint of shochu and marscapone. The sake sponge bites definitely had been soaked with sake more compared to the shochu soaked sponge fingers. The dark chocolate praline was the Western dessert a soft piece of chocolate encasing pop rocks. We all agreed the dessert here this year was better than last years and I have a feeling that I'm going to return again before the end of October.

Azuma Kushiyaki

Yuzu sake, green tea tiramius, sake sponge bites and dark chocolate praline

Homemade white sesame ice cream and anmitsu

We're now in the second week of October so you have three weeks to loosen your belts and enjoy some of the CRAVE SIFF offerings. Psst….the night noodles markets started this week at Hyde Park.

Quarter Twenty One
Quarter Twenty One on Urbanspoon

Azuma Kushiyaki
Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon

Kani Douraku, Osaka Japan

It was hard to miss and resist with their giant 6m mechanical crab calling us in. Kani Douraku is a mega crab chain and before you poo poo a chain restaurant…STOP because it was amazing each dish was presented beautifully and the ingredients were handled gently with care and effort going into each dish. The restaurant has a few levels and we were seated on the first level in a booth with a view of Dotomoborigawa.

They were offering a seasonal spring banquet but I opted for the 10 course crab banquet for 6000Y and Bill had a 13 course crab banquet for 8000Y. Both of our banquets had the same dishes except for a few and Bill's course had two servings of crab – zuwai crab which is the Japanese snow crab only harvested in the winter months and taraba crab which when cooked is a vibrant red. Both are deliciously sweet but I think the taraba crab meat was more chunky and satisfying.

If you enjoy crab cooked in a variety of methods and want to try different kani-meshi (foods with crab) you have to go to Kani Douraku. The crab were of high quality the meat plump and flavourful and each dish carefully complemented the crab and brought out the sweetness of the meat. And it's really great value we both left super full and happy with all the dishes.

Kani Douraku
 
 
Crab with ponzu sauce
The first course was my favourite because the crab was served just the way I liked it plainly boiled crab dipped in ponzu sauce – I love the silky firm texture of crab cooked like this and you're able to appreciate the sweetness of the meat when dipped in vinegar. I was also really glad Bill really enjoyed this course too.
 
Ostukuri
Otsukuri which is crab sashimi was our next course. I was a little apprehensive about my crab sashimi because it looked so much like a tongue but the sashimi was melt in your mouth soft and really fresh.
 
Ostukuri
Bill's otsukuri course had a different type of crab sashimi using the zuwai crab called kani sashi where the crab meat is immersed in cold water so that the muscles shrink and become firm and shrivelled which was also very soft to eat.
 
Chawanmushi
We both each had a crab chawamushi mm.. I love my egg custards and so wanted to eat Bill's serving too.
 
Yakigani and kanimiso
Yakigani (grilled crab) arrived in an unexpected form of kanimiso (crab guts) in a shell which once boiled had shredded crab added and mixed into the kanimiso. The kanimiso was pleasant and sort of like sucking the miso from prawn heads.
 
Amiyaki
Instead of yakigani Bill had amiyaki which we grilled ourselves. The legs had plump meat easy to take out of the shell and we just dipped it in a pinch of salt and you could really taste the smokiness from the amiyaki.
 
 
The crab tempura was lightly battered yet crunchy and suprisingly the crab meat was not dry.
 
Suimono and crab sushi
By now we were both very full and the crab sushi don't really stand out in my mind but the suimono was pleasantly subtle with a few small pieces of crab meat. For dessert we were thankful we were given small pieces of fruit which was refreshing and cleansed our palates.
 

Kuidaore in Dotombori a food mecca

Through the Shinsaibashi shopping arcade and under the flashes of neon lights, gigantic billboards and mechanical mascots lies the food mecca of Osaka, Dotombori located in the minami area of Osaka. Compared to the Kita Osaka, Minami Osaka is where you'll find the hustle and bustle with restaurants, bars, karaoke, clubs, pachinko parlours lining and squeezed in every nook and cranny of Dotombori.

Dotombori has a food culture and of course there is an abundance of food everywhere to satisfy any of your food cravings. There is saying in Osaka "kuidaore" which means to 'enjoy and eat food past your hearts content' until you ruin yourself and wallet – sort of like the food version of 'shop til you drop' ๐Ÿ˜› So we did just that…gorging on Osaka's street food.

We enjoyed walked along Dotomborigawa (river) which is said to have inspired Bladerunner and watched the dazzling lights of the billboards (though not all of them were lit up to conserve energy and respect Northern Japan), listened to the buskers on Ebisubashi bridge and people watched the young fashionistas. I loved the liveliness and the fun atmosphere of Dotombori and it's vibrance where here the flashiest seems to mean the best.


Shinsaibashi the start of the 600m roofed shopping arcade

Lotteria Ebi (prawn) Burger
Lotteria is a burger chain in Japan where I had an Ebi Burger (290Y) better than KFC Shanghai and Bill had a Cheeseburger set with melon soda and a juicy fried chicked for around 870Y and fought over a crispy sausage roll…in hindsight t was only 190Y so we probably should have gotten two… Overall Lotteria burgers are good but I still prefer the burgers at Freshness Burger which is another burger chain in Japan.

Glico Man of Glico candy

Tsubora-ya famous for you guessed it fugu!

Otakoya
No they don't really sell takoyaki in Coke cups but in boat cups for only 300Y (not $8AUD like in Chinatown). Instead of takoyaki again we shared an ika-yaki which is a deliciously baked squid encased in a cracked egg.

Ika-yaki

Glico Confectionary
Glico produces many of my childhoold favourites including Pocky, Caramel and Bisco which are bite size wheat germ crackers with a milky cream filling.

Coco-Rico crepes

Banana Strawbery Chocolate Crepe


Giant Takoyaki Pretz and Green Tea Pretz

You'll come to realise Japan loves limited editions and seasonal items so there are Pretz flavours you're only able to buy in certain areas like the takoyaki flavour and okonomiyaki flavours are only sold in the Kansai region.