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@ ! Restaurant, Crows Nest

21 Nov

I have been quite addicted to Groupon vouchers lately, mainly because of the various restaurants being advertised. One of them was @ Restaurant. Located on Pacific Highway in Crows Nest, it joins a vast number of Japanese eateries already in the neighbourhood. I’ve walked past the shop many times before but noticed one day it was under renovation and wondered if it is operating under a new owner and yes it was! Ex-Merivale Chef Atsushi Saito of sushi e and Sushi Choo have moved into the premises bringing his famous sushi skills with him.

With my voucher in hand, thinking no booking is required on a Sunday night, the place was filled with a mixture of Japanese families, flatmates and couples. I didn’t read the fine print and needed to call ahead to book to use the voucher. Undeterred, we decided to try their normal menu offered as I was in the mood for some Japanese. Specials of the day are written on the window and on the back wall which consists of the freshest fish of the day, personally sourced by Chef Saito at the fish markets in that morning.

I was suffering from a hangover and for some reason beer is what I have been craving for afterwards. Noticed that there was a Sapporo bullet can and it was an immediate win!

Sapporo Silver – $12.50

The slices of snapper were sliced generously and were seasoned with white soy and lime dressing. Never had white soy before and it was slightly sweet with no strong saltines you would get out of regular soy.

Snapper with white soy – $12

Next up was the Wagyu thin skirt steak. This dish was very textural with tender tataki style pieces of Wagyu topped with crunchy potato shreds.

Wagyu Think Skirt

I took a risk in ordering the cheese gyoza as Mr Dough isn’t a big fan of cheese. Much to my surprise he really enjoyed it! The gyoza filled with bococcini style cheese and chopped chives, deep-fried so that the cheese was all molten inside.

Cheese Gyoza

I was also a bit sceptical about the prawn skewers on the menu as I thought it was very simple. The prawns were amazingly springy and had just the right amount of chilli sprinkled on top.

Grilled Prawn Skewers

We played Russian roulette with the hot peppers as we didn’t know which one would contain the most seeds. Chicken mince was stuffed in hot peppers, tempura style and the dish reminded me of Chinese style fish paste in capsicum but this had the heat to back it up.

Stuffed peppers

Another special of the day was tempura cuttle fish legs. I love cuttle fish legs purely on the basis that it is crunchy and meaty.

Tempura Cuttle Fish Legs – $12

We toyed with the idea of trying some sushi to finish and Mr Dough was adamant he could finish it. And of course since he is famous for his sushi!

The small sushi set arrived  and I was immediately impressed that the prawn sushi was a fresh prawn made in-house and not one of those frozen packets that most sushi train uses. The sushi rice was nice and warm with just the right amount of vinegar. Each sashimi slice was quite thick and fat and you could definitely taste the freshness of the fish.

Small sushi set

For my next arrival, I must sit on the sushi bar and befriend Atsushi so he can just whip up any type of sushi he feels like!

@ ! Restaurant (At Restaurant)

477  Pacfic Highway

Crows Nest NSW 2065

+612 9437 5285

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Hong Kong Eats – Part 2

3 Nov

I’m back in the motherland once more to attend yet another friend’s wedding. Trips to Hong Kong mean a few things to me: eating, drinking and shopping. It is the city that never sleeps and during all hours, you are able to find some tantalising cuisine to satisfy any kind of appetite.

Cuttlefish noodle soup (my must have) – Tak Cheong Noodles

HK BBQ Meats – soy chicken, suckling pig, roast goose

First cab off the culinary rank is Sunday brunch. Sunday brunch in Hong Kong is a bit of an institution whereby you meet up with a bunch of friends, eat, drink and catch up on news. I did some research on where to go and decided to try Whisk at The Mira. The spread was impressive. Buffet of appetizers (cold seafood, 3 types of caviar – accompanied by Skyy vodka, salad bar, cold cuts), BBQ station (suckling pig, grilled prawns) and dessert bar. On top of that there is a 3 course menu selection, cooked to order which includes egg, soup and a main dish. But wait, there is more, free flow Verve, wines, cocktails and soft drinks/juices are all included in the package price. I was a bit carried away that day and all I managed was 1 photo!

My first plate of buffet selection – Whisk

Beef brisket noodle is something which I always go back for. In my last post, I went to Sister Wah but due to sibling rivalry there is a similar shop next door Tai Lee. We thought we would try this one and compare notes. The broth did not contain the strong beef flavour as Sister Wah and even though compared to Sydney standards the beef brisket is tender, Sister Wah’s was more melt in your mouth. I ordered dry egg noodles as egg noodles in Hong Kong are something which I treasure, they are much thinner than what we get in Sydney and it retains a chew when in soaked in soup.

Beef brisket dry noodle – Tai Lee

October is big gate/hairy crab season in Hong Kong and I was super excited that I could try it this time around. The crab is considered a pest species in Northern America and Europe as they destroy local native wildlife and are quite resilient in any environment. The origins of this crab are from Shanghai in the Yangcheng Lake and it is considered a delicacy due to the extraordinary amount of roe contained within.

We venture out to Lei Garden (North Point) which received one Michelin star and it is there, our own little crab degustation begins.

Utensils required

To start hairy crab Shanghai little soup buns/dumplings. It contains a combination of crab meat, crab roe and pork. One bite into the bun and the sweetness from the crab meat juices oozes out. I pause to think, the ones we get back in Sydney does not contain as much crab meat as they do in Hong Kong.

Crab Xiao Long Bao – Lei Garden

Nothing but crab

Next on menu is stir fried shark’s fin with crab meat with broth. I usually have shark’s fin in soup but not stir fried. Stir frying the shark fin really showcases the skill of the chef as shark fin is really delicate. Verdict? I loved it! The shark fin was chewy not gluggy and I loved the char on each individual fin.

Stir fried shark fin with supreme broth – Lei Garden

Obligatory close up shot

Halfway through the meal, we reminisced the crispy roast pork we ate last year and decided to order it. The crispy roast pork comes in a cute little square with bite sized pieces (like a checker board). The pork does not contain any layer of fat and it is pure succulent meat and crackling.

Crispy roast pork – Lei Garden

For the grand finale, the crab! We ordered the smallest one as we weren’t sure how we were going to fare with all the rich dishes. The waiter asked if we wanted to cut it open ourselves and we politely declined. A few minutes later the following arrived.

Helloo my pretties

Look at all that gold!

I scooped up all the roe and savoured every little morsel. The roe was rich, buttery and I could feel my cholesterol climbing by the second.

If only all rainbows let to this

Randomly read up on what locals eat and found Lan Fong Yuen in a laneway, nestled in between market stalls. It is a really old school style HK style cafe whereby they serve up HK style milk tea. HK style milk tea is traditionally Ceylon tea brewed and pulled through a stocking. The pulling of the tea allows the tea leaves to loosen and infuse. It is then topped off which carnation milk and gives it a really silky finish. Hungover and determined to make the most of my limited days of eating, I dragged Mr Dough. Walking in, the place was packed after lunch with a mixture of locals and Taiwan tourists all wanting a cup of milk tea and mixed dry instant noodle.

Within minutes of ordering, the dish came. I looked at it and thought, this is really simple but it is often the simple things which are the best. The chicken is pan-fried with the skin on, spread on top of Nissan Instant Noodle, garnished with green onions and ginger. There is not much sauce accompanying the noodle and it has light drizzle of sweet soy.

Green scallions chicken dry Instant noodle – Lan Fong Yuen

Mr Dough had wedding duties and I ventured out to try Butao King. They are famous for their ramen with pork bone broth. They use 35 pig’s heads a day plus pork ribs to produce a velvety, rich pork broth. The queues here are legendary and I purposely went out of peak hour to minimise the wait. A waitress hands out a menu so you can order your noodle and once seated, your noodle arrives. It was all in chinese and because you can choose the soup base, thickness of noodle and the chewiness in noodle, I thought this would be an interesting experience as I randomly circled items.

Soy egg, woodear mushrooms and seaweed

My noodle arrives and ended up with the Red King which uses the pork bone broth, but the chef adds into the soup mature miso and hot spices. A reddish-orange miso ball is placed in the center of the bowl, which immediately reminds one of the sun.

Final result – Red King

Verdict? Even though you can’t tell with all the spices but the broth is ridiculously rich with the pork collagen. The red colour is highly deceptive and is not at all spicy. The miso ball in the middle consists of meat which reminds me of dan dan noodle. The soft-boiled soy egg is soaked overnight so maximum flavour permeates through the egg. When mixed through the broth, it enriches the broth.

My messy egg

My last meal in Hong Kong was hidden at the back of apartment buildings in Tin Hau. Make shift restaurant with tables and chairs sprawled out in the laneway, they only serve runny egg rice with various toppings. It is essentially runny egg omelette on top of boiled rice. The egg being halfway cooked means you can use the egg juices as sauce for the rice.

Runny egg with BBQ pork rice

Runny egg with prawns rice

Tak Cheong Noodle

G/F, No. 75, Electric Road, Tin Hau

Whisk

5/F, The Mira, 118 Nathan Road, Tsim Tsa Tsiu

Tai Lee

G/F, 15 Electric Road, Tin Hau

Lei Garden Restaurant

Block 9, City Garden,North Point

Lan Fong Yuen

2 Gage St, Central

Butao Ramen

G/F 40 Tang Lung St, Causeway Bay