I was on the lookout for a new Japanese restaurant to try but being Monday night, the options were rather limited. A quick scour of the internet led me to Sakana-Ya in Crows Nest, nestled in the raft of restaurants along Pacific Highway. The interiors are simple and unassuming, and on the night we dined, we were the only non-Japanese customers which is always a good sign when looking for authentic fare. The menu was very quite large for a Japanese restaurant, with the specials alone being two pages long!
The Beef tongue was thinly sliced and perfectly cooked, and just completely melts in the mouth.
The Japanese style omelette with scallop was very smooth with a distinct sweetness. There were chunky pieces of scallops interspersed within it, making for an excellent, light dish.
The Grilled black cod was one of the best that I've had, it was incredibly smooth and almost buttery. The flesh was flakey and had a lovely miso flavour that I just wanted more and more of.
The Deep fried baby purple eggplants comes dressed with three kinds of miso sauce. There were white miso, red miso and one that I couldn't remember. They were tasty, but a little bit too salty for my liking. I did love the soft and gooey texture.
I love salmon belly in sashimi form, and discovered they are just as tasty when simmered in a sweet soy and sake broth. The salmon was incredibly tender and the flavour of the broth was perfect.
Sakana-Ya is definitely a neighbourhood gem. Some of the fresh seafood dishes seemed a bit on the pricey side but there were lots of well-priced dishes to choose from. The service was friendly and I will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu.
I had walked by the Taiwanese eatery Bao Dao on several occasions wanting to try it, only to be deterred by the queue outside. Having dined there, I now understand that the queue isn't just due to the small interior, but also because their food is delicious and great value!
There's a two page menu showcasing pictures of each dish and ordering is done at the counter. We started with a couple of small plates. The Braised eggplant was a cold appetiser - soft and gooey with a tasty sauce, we devoured it in a flash.
Next was the Stewed tofu in a soy broth, which had a lovely velvelty texture.
The Taiwanese, like the Koreans, also love a food fried chicken. I loved Bao Dao's take on it, with incorporated fried basil. The batter was very light, the chicken very tender with just the right amount of seasoning.
The Handmade pork dumplings were also a highlight. It was clear they were freshly made - with an almost translucent skin and a plump filling, these dumplings were just what was required in this cold weather!
The portions are small (and cheap) so you can order a lot of different things to try. It's a great place to go to experience some authentic Taiwanese dishes. I will definitely be back to try their pork buns next time!
Tucked away inside The Star is the acclaimed Japanese restaurant, Sokyo, helmed by Chase Kojima. Unlike many fine dining restaurants, it does not offer a degustation...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we get to pick exactly what we would like to try tonight.
Our first course was the Scallop ceviche, topped with crispy potato, micro herbs and a tomato medley. The dish was super light and fresh, a perfect way to start the evening. The thinly sliced scallops went really well with the yuzu dressing, and the crispy potato adds some good texture and flavour to the dish.
Salmon belly is one of my favourite cuts of sashimi and I was not dissappointed. Not only did it look amazing on the plate, it was gloriously fatty and tastes ridiculously good. We could definitely have done with another plate of that!
The Short rib beef skewers grilled on a robata grill just utterly delicious and completely melts in the mouth. I love the eschallots wedged in between the wagyu which gave a dose of crunch and sweetness.
The Kurobuta Pork Belly skewers were just as mouth watering. The combination of the rich and tender pork belly and the juicy daikon is simply divine.
We rounded out the savoury dishes of the night with the Spicy tuna sushi roll. It was very tasty and the quality of the fish is undeniably good, but it didn't have the wow factor of the other dishes.
Onto dessert and Goma street is perfection on a plate. The waitress advised we should smash down the tower, so we can mix in all the textures and flavours together. It was almost too pretty to touch but we did smash it down and I loved all the elements. There were discs of dark chocolate layered with a sesame filling, topped with black sesame crumble. It paired really well with the velvelty smooth black sesame ice cream and caramelised white chocolate crumb. Definitely one of the best desserts I have had.
Our second dessert was the Tofu cheesecake with Thyme sugar and strawberry consomme. It reminded me of the tofu pudding (tofu-fa) you find at yumcha restaurants. The cheesecake was light and fluffy, though I did wish there was a little more strawberry consomme.
Sokyo is now one of my fave restaurants in Sydney, a sophisticated dining space, perfect to celebrate a special occasion. Whilst it is somewhat pricey, we left with very full stomachs, spending less than what you would normally for a degustation at a fine dining restaurant. I would love to go back and maybe nab a seat at the sushi bar to see the chefs in their element.
St Leonards has been curiously devoid of restaurants, relying on the neighbouring Crows Nest to offer a diverse range of cafes and restaurants. So I was very pleased to hear The Rice Den had set up shop on Chandos Street in St Leonards, offering modern Cantonese cooking. The decor is bang on trend with wooden interiors, exposed bulbs and quitessential Asian ingredients neatly arranged on open shelving. I also loved the use of an abacus feature framing the window, looking into the open kitchen. The restaurant was full and buzzing on a Friday night.
We started with the Roast duck san choy bao. The duck was well seasoned and the pinenuts added a nice crunch, but at $15, I was hoping for a little more.
The Crispy lamb spring rolls were a lot better value for money. The pastry was super crispy and gave a very satisfying crunch, and the lamb filling was full of flavour. The sour plum sauce was just the right condiment to go with them.
Moving on to the bigger plates, we opted for the special of the night - Crispy pork belly with caramelised eggplant and pickled ginger mayo. The presentation resembled more of a Western dish, complete with knife and fork. The pork belly is beautifully tender and the strips of skin was oh-so-deliciously crunchy. The caramelised eggplant reminded me more of traditional Cantonese cooking and I loved its soft, gooey texture.
The Steam broccolini had that lovely vibrant green colour and was a good cleansing dish before dessert.
There's a choice of two desserts on the menu and we opted for the Ovaltine pannacotta served with a whisky glaze, strawberries and roasted chestnuts. The pannacotta had just the right amount of wobbliness and the ovaltine flavour was quite pronounced, a refreshing alternative to chocolate. The strawberry and chestnut mixture was a great accompaniment, and ensured the dessert was not too sweet.
The Rice Den is a welcome addition to the lower north shore dining scene and offers a fresh take on Chinese cooking. The restaurant also has a fully licensed bar with a range of Chinese inspired cocktails, so come hungry and thirsty!
The Sichuan duck and tofu lo mein wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was anticipating actual slices of duck, rather than the minced variety. The noodles were cooked well and had that bouncy bite. The dish had a big punch of flavour, but the sichuan spice was a little overpowering for me.
Opened as a pop up bar, Merivale's Work in Progress helmed by Patrick Friesen, has been so popular it's now staying open indefinitely. The menu is dominated by Asian favourites, such as Lo Mein, fried chicken and wontons.
First to arrive was the Pork and prawn wonton. In the menu, the description of the dish included 'strange flavour'. I wasn't exactly sure what was so strange about it, but it was definitely tasty - a mixture of soy, peanuts and spices. The wontons were silky and plump with a delicious filling.
Every second restaurants seem to be serving fried chicken these days. I was eager to see how WIP's version measure up. With four varieties to choose from, we opted for the Fried chicken with ginger nuoc cham which comes with a side of pickled diakon, cucumber and kimchi. The batter was crispy and the meat very succulent, another great rendition of fried chicken.
Work In Progress is a great, casual place to go after work with friends (and they do a good cocktail too!) Let's hope they stay open a little while yet.
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