Tuesday, August 28, 2012


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

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

Cough Syrup Ice Cream @ N2 Extreme Gelato

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

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

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

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

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

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Preserved Egg and Pork Congee @ Super Bowl

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

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

It sounded weird so I didn't.

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

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

Super Bowl on Urbanspoon

Feijoada @ Cafecito

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

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

Turns out they bloody well do.

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

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

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

Cafecito on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RATING: Will return to [?]

Sushi E on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 26, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RATING: Okay, may go back [?]

Takeru on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 25, 2012


She's baaaa-aaaack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, August 18, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RATING: Will return to [?]

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 06, 2012

RECIPE: Numbing Beef and Bean Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve with coriander leaves and finely sliced spring onions.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

RESTAURANT: Paul's Famous Hamburgers

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

I could only think of one thing...

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

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

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

The works.

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

Nah, it's still a great burger.

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

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

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

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

RATING: Will return to [?]

Paul's Famous Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 04, 2012


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

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

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

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

So, this beer.

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

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

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

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

Overall, another lovely beer from Norway.