Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RESTAURANT: Umi Kaiten Zushi

Type: Japanese
Location: 477 Pitt St (Corner of Hay and Parket St), Haymarket
Booking Required: No bookings, may need to wait

I don’t really like sushi trains, so going here was a risk. The cost of getting a good filling and the overabundance of boring/tasteless dishes always turned me off.

But this place was fantastic. It’s such an unassuming location (across the road from the Capitol Theatre) to have such an experience in. Amongst the nicely decorated walls and huge fish tank (score), travel delicious places of sushi along a huge, winding train. It’s a bit more than your average sushi train (the good plates costing between $3-$5), but the quality, range and flavour is undeniable.

Next to us were two businessmen sitting before what must have been 20 plates. It sounds excessive, but once you start trying the sushi on offer, you can understand how they ended up with that many.

If the food on the train wasn’t enough, they also have some great dishes on offer. Wagyu beef curry udon was a combination of flavours I hadn’t tasted before, but was sublime. Even their miso soup seemed a step above the norm.

If you like finishing your meal on a sweet note then their range of desserts is fascinating. Green tea cheesecake and pumpkin crème brulee are just two examples.

At the end of it all we were stuffed. Something interesting to eat is constantly travelling past or sitting on a menu near you. And the staff on hand always seem more than willing to bring it to you, even if it isn’t the most polished service.

It does cost a bit more than the normal sushi train, but it’s good value for the quality on offer. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better sushi train in Sydney.

RATING: Will return to

Umi Kaiten-Zushi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WINE: PARKER Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Type: Red
Origin: Coonawarra, Victoria
Approx Cost: $35

I have a buttload of cab sav on hand that I need to get through, despite not being a big fan of cab sav (or maybe because of not being a big fan of cab sav). Nevertheless, I was looking forward to trying this because of the reputation that the Parker First Growth has.

Rich in colour. A nice aromas of plum, blueberry, tobacco and spice. Nice, well-rounded palate of blueberry, plum, mulberry, spice, tobacco and dark chocolate. Good length on the finish. Quite a lot of alcohol to it.

This isn’t a great cab sav but it is a good one. I don’t think 02 was their best vintage so pick up a different year if you’re going to try it. Regardless of what year you do get, it will need a few years in the cellar to develop.


Monday, May 28, 2007


Type: Thai/Asian
Location: 95 Oxford St, Darlinghurst
Booking Required: No bookings

I like the idea behind Snakebean, the cheaper cousin of RQ. It’s a no fuss, BYO (bottle shop next door, yay), Asian eatin-in/take away. The food is simple, tasty and fairly well priced and the service is friendly and attitude free.

That said, the food isn’t sensational and it’s good as a quick eat or take away but nothing more. Chicken larb was nicely flavoured but lacked flair, entrees (chicken and mango rice paper roll, chicken dumplings, roast duck pastries) were pulled off well and the slow cooked beef stew was nice and warming.

What I did find odd was the almost communal aspect of it all. Nearly everyone who came in the restaurant wanted to know what we were eating so they could get that too. Strange.

I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to eating there again, especially for take away, but I won’t go out of my way to go back.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Snakebean on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2007

WINE: Starve Dog Lane Sparkling 2000

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Adelaide Hills, SA
Approx Cost: $30

I spontaneously decided to pick up this bottle while I was in the grog store looking for a bottle of red for dinner. I hadn't tried a mid-range Australian sparkling for some time and I figured nows a good opportunity!

No prize for guessing the combination of grapes in this wine! Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier combined to produce a nice bright coloured sparkling. The nose possessed a light aroma of fresh fruit and bread. Fine bead. Taste was delicious, a combination of apple and light citrus flavours with a crisp and solid finish. Very enjoyable.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this wine - value wise it does not compare with the likes of Blue Pyrenees which retails at roughly $10 less a bottle.


WINE: LILLYPILLY Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2002

Type: Sweet White
Origin: Riverina, NSW
Approx Cost: $20 (375ml)

Straight away I’ll admit that I love the stickies, so this is right up my alley even though it was my first botrytis sav blanc. Still, a lot of surprises in store when I tried it.

A luscious deep gold colour. A sexy, sexy nose of apricot, peach and citrus peel that is really inviting. I could smell it all day. But no, I mustn’t. I must taste it too. The palate is equally nice. The fruit peel really dominates with a little spice and some juicy apricot. It finishes off with a pleasing, sharp tang.

The Sauvignon Blanc really stars here. It’s lighter and slightly more tart than a botrytis Semillon tends to be. Interesting and delicious, like an upsidedown cake (“Holy shit, this cake is upsidedown. Oh, and delicious (like a cake)!”)

I can’t recommend it enough.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

WINE: MOSS WOOD Amy's Cabernet Sauvignon 2005


Type: Red
Origin: Margaret River, WA
Approx Cost: $30

Jobe decided to palm off the other half of his bottle of wine (refer ISBR #2). His excuse for this was that he wanted me to participate in the ISBR, but after tasting the wine, I wonder if he didn't have ulterior motives.

When I received this wine, it was well below room temperature - however I have a feeling this only benefited the wine because drinking it cold hid many of its imperfections, unfortunately not all of them.

I haven't got much to say about this wine, frankly it lacked depth and I wasn't impressed.


Friday, May 25, 2007

RESTAURANT: Wok Station Pyrmont

Type: Thai
Location: 2/135 Harris St, Pyrmont
Booking Required: Sometimes

The wall says No Bullshitting, No Gossip, No Backstabbing, No Smoking Area and I think that works well for pretty as a picture Pyrmont.

A really nice place for lunch on a warm Sydney day with the wind blowing the breeze from Darling Harbour up the square and into the restaurant. Good looking people walk by and equally good looking plates of food scurry back and forth.

The menu is a bit odd. It looks like a Myer catalogue and the names of dishes is all mixed up. Chicken larb is known as BCP. No explanation is offered as to what BCP stands for. Brown Chicken Plate? Whatever it was, it was pretty nice.

BYO which is good, although they didn’t have any flutes for our champagne so we had to drink them out of normal wine glasses. Service is pretty frantic and without fuss as you’d expect.

While there are better Thai joints around Sydney, if I ever was in Pyrmont and looking for a bite to eat I would consider this place. Good food, good prices and no bullshit.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Wok Station on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

WINE: MOSS WOOD Amy’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2005


Type: Red
Origin: Margaret River, WA
Approx Cost: $30

After Sam’s review I couldn’t help but crack my bottle of this to see if it was any good or not. Just to be on the safe side I gave it plenty of time in the glass, which was probably wise because it smelt like a punnet of mouldy berries that had been sitting at the back of the fridge for months. That must have been the greenery that Sam mentioned.

After a little time in the glass the first few sips were nice enough, so I left it a bit longer to see where it was headed. Bad move.

Light but uneven crimson. An inviting nose of blueberries, plums and spice. But we come to the palate and it all falls down. The fruits are terribly stewed now with a background of oak and spice. Ackh. That mouldy punnet of berries is looking appealing...

Some people really like this style of Cabernet, but I’m not one of them.


Monday, May 21, 2007

WINE: Moss Wood Amy's Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Type: Red (Cabernet Sauvignon)
Origin: Margaret River (Western Australia)
Approx Cost: $25-$30

When it comes to straight Cabernet, Moss Wood is one of the leaders in Australia. Their premium label is consistently awesome and is one of the few premium Australian reds that is really approachable whether it is young or 15 years old. Initially I selected this because I wanted something that I knew would be available in Sydney (so we could conduct another ISBR), but also, as a serious fan of the premium label, I was hoping the Amy's would dazzle me.

It failed.

The nose was light and pretty much just had a hint of American oak. I thrashed it round my glass a few times to try and get some more out of it but I was pushing it. On the palate it started off really green with slight hints of stalks and spice, American oak prevailing with a pretty short finish. I realise it's only an '05, but that said, it lacks any mid-palate intensity that a wine with legs requires and good fruit is nowhere to be seen.

Apologies Jobe. Not a good start on my behalf.

Conclusion: Spend $100 on the good Moss Wood. Or get 3 cleanskin Margaret River Cab Sauvs


Sunday, May 20, 2007

WINE: TATIARRA ‘Culled Barrel’ Shiraz 2005

Type: Red
Origin: Heathcote, Victoria
Approx Cost: $20

Calypso tried to dodgy this one up. A couple of weeks ago he told me he’d ordered two bottles of a wine that sounded interesting. But he wouldn’t tell my why it was interesting or who made it, instead saying that he would serve it to me blind and tell me more about it afterwards so I didn’t prejudge it for being, as I now know, a culled wine. Going into it all I knew was that it came from Victoria, cost approx $20 and was Shiraz. I tried to coax the name out of him but it wasn’t to be.

Veeeeery dark black/purple in colour had me interested initially. It looked powerful but I had no idea that it was a 15.5% wine monster. Quite a nice spicey, berry-filled nose. Very different on the palate to a normal Shiraz. Plum, ripe, juicy currants and dark berries with a bit of spice and oak. Lengthy finish of pepper and edgy tannins. Didn’t show excessive alcohol, which was good.

Opened up quite well over the course of an hour or so, and would probably be even better with more time in the glass. I wasn’t blown away, but it was quite good for what it was. If I didn’t know the price beforehand I would have guessed it was somewhere between $30-40, so this is a very good value wine.


WINE: TATIARRA Culled Barrel Shiraz 2005

Type: Red
Origin: Victoria - Heathcote
Approx Cost: $20.00

I saw this particular wine during my occasional browsing of What drew me towards a purchase was the fact that this was a ‘culled barrel’ of wine, regardless of which, the wine had still been bottled. Apparently, 50 of the 130 barrels that were produced in 2005 were culled due to some form of imperfection; however, the 50 culled barrels were still bottled and sold at 40% of the price. The price of the bottle produced from the “Culled barrels” was still $20.00, leading me to believe that this could still be an interesting and enjoyable bottle of wine.

Well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed! – Very smooth wine with hints of liquorice, spice and blackberry made for a very enjoyable experience. This wine may have benefitted from an additional couple of years of cellar life to add maturity.



WINE: MOSS WOOD Ribbon Vale Vineyard Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Type: White
Origin: Margaret River, WA
Approx Cost: $25

Quite a nice blend of Semillon and Sav Blanc and a good introduction as my first Moss Hill wine.

Gold with lemon and limey-green hints. Lime, zest, grass and flint on the palate. Well balanced. A good sweetness and a nice, clean finish.

Nothing that will set the world on fire but not a lot to fault.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

RESTAURANT: The Nepalese Kitchen

Type: Nepalese
Location: 481 Crown St, Surry Hills
Booking Required: Usually.

For Calypso’s birthday we had originally planned to attend the wonderful Benzin, but arrived to find that someone had booked the entire restaurant out for a birthday or something. With the success of the evening on the line I had to think fast. I have to tell you, loyal readers, that I was stumped. Despite being in the middle of Surry Hills I couldn’t think of anything that would be appropriate. But then I spied The Nepalese Kitchen across the road. I’d heard good things. But I’d also heard that it was usually booked out. Do we risk it? Calypso says yes.

We walk in and manage to get a seat because we’re there so early. Initially, I was worried. The place looked a tad dingy and had that “cheap” smell about it. But we were there so we kept on.

After a quick trip to the nearby pub for some wines ($1 corkage isn’t bad) we returned to look at the menu completely stupefied. There were meats and descriptions I hadn’t encountered before. So we opted for the trusty banquet option.

And it turned out to be bloody tasty. Starting off with a trio of dips, chicken dumplings (very nice) and some samosa sort of things, all very excellent. Mains continued with the quality; a succulent goat curry, an amazingly tender chicken and potato curry, a nicely barbequed beef salad and a nice eggplant and potato curry, which was surprisingly good considering I’m not big on eggplant.

While it was all excellent, there wasn’t enough for us four strapping lads. So we decided to go dessert. But not normal dessert, no, we decided to go two desserts each. Your average waiter would probably freak out but ours kept his cool, confirming the order in a relaxed tone. A pyramid trio of ice creams was nice (but not outstanding) and the fudge thingy was also quite good, without being spectacular.

The bill came and we were delighted. Good value for the tasty food on show. Next time we’d probably avoid the banquet and order more food from the menu, but apart from that a very successful birthday celebration.

RATING: Will return to

Nepalese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 18, 2007

WINE: TYRRELLS Reserve Stevens Semillon 2002

Type: White
Origin: Hunter Valley, NSW
Approx Cost: $20

Hmmm I don’t know. I got this after trying Mount Pleasant’s Elizabeth last week, thinking that trying something from Tyrrells' lower-tier wines would prove interesting.

Didn’t start well with the cork fucking up beyond belief. I’m really becoming a fan of screwcaps for cheaper wines.

Green gold. Lime and mineral aromas. Opens with citrus and flinty minerals. A little toasty on the finish.

Ehhhh. It’s good, but nothing special.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

WINE: BRAIDED RIVER Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006

Type: Red
Origin: New Zealand
Approx Cost: $14

Berries on the nose. Underripe berries, rhubarb and anise on the palate. Very young and bursting with fruit like it was just picked yesterday. Sweet, unspectacular finish.

Not good, not bad. A cheap quaffer that won’t offend.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Type: Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $80

Enjoyed over a nice Thai lunch. The perfect accompaniment really. Mid to pale straw in colour. Mousse isn’t as fine as I’d expect but the bead was fine and persistent. Great lemon and citrus flavours with a toasty finish. Good lenth. Not as smooth or crisp as the top few NVs floating around, but it’s not far off.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WINE: TALTARNI Brut Tache 2005

Type: Sparkling Rose
Origin: Victoria (70%) and Tasmania (30%)
Approx Cost: $17

After the surprisingly pleasant Clover Hill Brut made by Taltarni, I was interested in trying something else. Enter the Brut Tache.

Pale gold with a hint of salmon. Quite a pleasing colour. The mousse is all over the place and the bead is fine but burns itself out pretty quick. Interesting palate. Strawberries, passionfruit, pink apple. The finish is long and smooth but the flavours that carry on aren’t great at times.

This wine was extremely influenced by the food that was eaten with it. It did well with a very lemony chick pea salad, but died in the arse when tried with a dish driven by a basil pesto hummus.

I’m still waiting for a sparkling rose to wow me. From what I’ve had so far they’re never as enjoyable as the normal sparkling whites and are even sold at a higher price sometimes. This wine is really no exception. It’s okay, but I’d really only recommend it if you’re after a nice midrange Aussie sparkling rose. Can’t see myself getting it again.


Monday, May 14, 2007

WINE: MAJELLA Shiraz 2004

Type: Red
Origin: Coonawarra
Approx Cost: $30

Majella is the man. There are some really tasty reds coming out of Coonawarra at the moment, but Majella is the one hitting the right notes for me. It’s such a delicious and distinctive taste.

The 2004 Shiraz is no exception. Nice and inky in colour. That very familiar Majella nose which you can almost bite into of blackcurrant, vanilla and mint. A palate which is just as expressive. Again, the juicy berry and currant fruits with a little bit of plum, oakey spice, mint and vanilla thrown in. Ah the mint. A nice finish which leaves you licking your lips.

It could probably do with a few years in the cellar but bugger it, it’s nice now.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

WINE: Yering Station Late Harvest Pinot Gris 2005

Type: White (sweet)
Origin: Yarra Valley, Vic
Approx Cost: ~$20

Excuse the graphic imagery, but I am currently averaging about three orgasms a minute. Sitting in front of me is a plate of crackers and healthy portion of Délice de Bourgogne, a triple cream French Brie and a glass of Yering's Late Harvest Pinot Gris (with Lyrical Commission humming in the background). I first tried the LHPG at Yering a bout 12 months ago when I went out there for lunch. Yering's whole operation is pretty spectacular. It's wines are generally very good, their marketing is smart and their winery/restaraunt/cellar door setup is amazing. I'm a bit of a fan of lighter dessert-style wines, I find they're like a palate cleanser and a good way to finish the night without feeling like you've over done it.

I really like the colour of this wine, it looks like it's a friendly kind of wine. Don't ask me how a wine looks friendly. It just does. The nose gives a similar impression to a botrytis-style dessert wine, with hints of confectionery kerosene, but signs of melon and stone fruit are lurking without sinister intent. The mouth feel is slightly buttery and it opens beautifully on the palate. It's got a real nice round sweetness, backed with the above mentioned fruits and some very fain floral orange flavours. Lovely length and slightly kerosene/Sauternes kind of finish. It's really nicely toned-down, with enough sweetness to compliment food, but without being dominant, providing the wine with a great deal of flexibility. I really like it. And it's fucking sex with this cheese.

This would be interesting to try with a savory dish in some sort of culinary experiment. It works well with blue and soft cheeses and would be a pleasure on it's own.


WINE: JOSEPH PERRIER Cuvee Royale Brut Rose NV

Type: Rose Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $70

I thought the normal Brut of this was a nice enough Non-Vintage so why not give the rose a go?

Very deep golden pink in colour; The mousse is fine-to-medium, pours well, with a fine, persistent bead; Quite powerful in taste, definitely not one of those subtle rose style wines; Green apple, rosehip, grapefruit; finish is a little confusing, toasty and acidic, muddled.

For $30 this would be a good rose champagne. For $70 I can’t see myself going there again.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

RESTAURANT: Devonshire Thai

Type: Thai
Location: 208 Devonshire St, Surry Hills
Booking Required: Rarely

The next stop on the Surry Hills Dining Experience (wow, that’d make a great name for a prog band) is… merry olde England? While the name may not be quite right at Devonshire Thai, the food certainly is.

After ordering a trio of starters—tofu with peanut sauce, prawn spring rolls and fish cakes—I was delighted to see them all arrive on the one platter. It’s only a little thing but it makes a nice difference to everything arriving separately on small dishes. They all tasted pretty good too. Perfectly fried but not at all oily.

Mains were also good. Beef jungle curry packed a fair amount of heat and plenty of flavour, and the chicken larb was very pleasing indeed with it’s citrus flavours.

All in all a nice meal and a nice, small place. A step above your average suburban Thai, but probably not as good as fellow Surry Hills Thai purveyors, Spice I Am and Benzin. Service was a tad clumsy but nice overall and the price was also pretty good. If this wasn’t near Spice I Am and Benzin then I’d come back to this place quite a lot, but, well it is. Can’t argue with geography.

RATING: Okay, may go back.

Devonshire Thai on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 11, 2007

WINE: MOUNT PLEASANT ‘Elizabeth’ Semillon 2002

Type: White
Origin: Hunter Valley, NSW
Approx Cost $15

After the delicious Lovedale the other day, I couldn’t pass this up when I saw it on the wine list at a restaurant.

Very dark straw with a bit of green in it. Nice floral and lemon nose. Palate has a big lemon and lime kick to it. Finish is okay, but a little jarring.

A good buy if you want a nice, cheap Semillon to consume and not think too much about, but nowhere near the Lovedale.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

WINE: Oakridge Estate Chardonnay 2005

Type: Chardonnay
Origin: Yarra Valley, Vic
Approx Cost: $15-$20

About two years ago this wine popped up on the radar after winning a plethora of awards at numerous respected wine shows. It had been ranked higher than some of the biggest names in Australian chardonnay, including Giaconda, Penfolds Yattarna and Bannockburn. At the time I was cynical and refused to be sucked in by the hype and I'll be honest, I'm not a massive chardonnay fan.

However I picked up a bottle of the '05 last night on the recommendation of a co-worker and had it tonight with a prawn and leak pasta dish. It was delightful. The nose smells like fresh bread and nuts, hints of oak and good rich fruit. The palate is long and refined with a small hint of butteryness. The balance between fruit and oak is exceptional and the grapefruit flavours linger, without any bitterness or unwanted acidity. It reminds me a little bit of bollinger, without the bubbles.

For the price, this wine is well worth getting. It'll hold up beautifully next to a plate of barramundi and it'll nicely compliment a plate of prawns. It's one of the few chards I've tried at a reasonable price that's really grabbed me.


WINE: MOUNT PLEASANT ‘Lovedale’ Semillon 1996

Type: White, Semillon
Origin: Hunter Valley, NSW
Approx Cost: $45

Well, with the hope of doing a kinda interstate simultaneous booze review (ISBR) with Jobe, I went to work (a bottle shop) with the ambition of buying a Lovedale Semillon. I asked the boss if we had any to my surprise he said: "yes." He went out to the dungeon where he stashes all the good shit and fetched me a bottle of the '96 Lovedale which had been sitting there for about 4 years, since the last owners had the place. He cut me a bit of a deal on it and told me it'd be looking pretty good. Jeremy Oliver's book (not the best) gave it 96/100 and recommend drinking 2008 onwards. 2007's close enough.

I went round to a friend's place after work with a pack of sushi and sashimi and opened the wine in time for the budget highlights. The good quality cork had shown no signs of deterioration and the opening nose was delightfully complex and interesting. My first impression of the taste was: "hey this thing's fuckin spritzy, it's got bubbles", my friend agreed. we poured a third glass and let it sit. After 10 minutes it had been lined with bubbles. How peculiar. Once the spritzyness had passed it left a pretty interesting, all be it short, palate of melon, honey suckle and some floral notes. The citrus Jobe experienced with the 2000 had softened and revealed a very elegant silkiness. It had probably gone in the cellar a bit long, or it could have been a dud bottle.

Overall there were definite signs of it being a really good wine. It had the characteristics of a really nice aged semillon. It had just passed it's prime by the time I got to it. Do as Jobe says, get as much of this and the Vat 1 as you can and enjoy some of the world's best value wine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

WINE: MOUNT PLEASANT ‘Lovedale’ Semillon 2000

Type: White, Semillon
Origin: Hunter Valley, NSW
Approx Cost: $35?

I’m comin’ straight outta the Hunter with a single-vineyard Semillon. Hmm doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the original. NWA were right to not write that song about this wine. Still, it does deserve some sort of musical dedication because it’s bloody fantastic.

Slight straw with a touch of green in colour. Aromas of lemon, lime and grass. And then the glorious taste. Lemon and lime with a hint of grapefruit and peach, all deliciously rounded off with some nice honey notes. Beautifully long, clean finish.

This is an outstanding example of why Hunter Valley Semillon is so highly regarded. Hard to pick between this and the also excellent Tyrrells Vat 1, so don’t even bother. Do yourself a favour, pick up both and fuck the police.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

WINE: D’ARENBERG ‘The Custodian’ Grenache 2004

Type: Red
Origin: McLaren Vale, Australia
Approx Cost: $18

I think this is the first 100% Grenaches that I’ve ever had. Inexperienced, but I’ll press on.

Inky purple with a bit of deep red. Quite a juicy wine. Lots of berry and currant flavours with some oak and spice thrown in, with a little vanilla and mint on the finish. I think this can do with a bit of age. The tannins are a bit sharp.

Tasted nice with a warm Indian curry. It was a pleasing experience for my first Grenache, but I don’t think it compares to other reds. If I find one highly recommended then