I had been eager to try Cho Cho San ever since it opened and a workmate's farewell was just the right excuse to venture to this Potts Point eatery. Things did not go exactly to plan as we were told our table was given away, despite us being on the phone with the restaurant just minutes earlier telling them we were on our way. They did seem rather apologetic and after a drink at The Bourbon, we eventually got our table right alongside the bar. I loved the interior of Cho Cho San - it has a very minimalistic yet elegant feel. For ease of ordering, we opted for the $65 Feed Me menu.
First up was the pickled vegetables which was tangy and refreshing, and whetted our appetite for more.
Miso and eggplant is a wonderful combination - Nasu dengaku is one of my favourite dishes to order at a Japanese restaurant. Cho Cho San has done a different take on these two ingredients - teaming the lightly fried egglant which is satisfyingly gooey on the inside, with a tasty miso sauce. It is the ultimate bar snack and I had to stop myself from eating the whole plate.
Next up was the Petunia ocean trout. The photo doesn't really do it justice. Thickly cut, the fresh sashimi was superbly balanced with just the right amount of soy, mirin, black pepper and wasabi. Normally, I am not a big fan of wasabi but in this case, it did not overpower the dish at all. This is one of the dishes I could order again and again.
The King prawns with Kombu butter was slightly hard to eat elegantly with the utensils provided, but oh so tasty and charred just the right amount.
The udon noodles, pork and chilli sauce was a very hearty dish and devoured by all. The chilli sauce had quite a kick to it and the udon noodles still retained a springy texture. The whipped tofu (which at first I thought was egg white) added a nice contrast.
A giant plate of iceberg lettuce then landed on our table. Extremely simple, but somehow still rather tasty. The ponzu dressing imparted a fresh flavour onto the dish and was a good palate cleanser before we moved onto dessert.
Just when we thought the food was over, one of savoury dish arrived and it was the Japanese style charcoal chicken. The yakitori glaze on the chicken was amazingly flavoursome and I have no idea how they managed to keep the meat so tender.
All night, we had seen scores of the Green Tea Soft Serve waffle cone leaving the kitchen and finally, it was our turn. The green tea ice cream had a good hit of matcha although I would have preferred it to be slightly less sweet. It was a refreshing end to a very satisfying meal.
I am eager to come back and try the a la carte menu next time!
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The Night Noodle Markets, as part of Sydney's Good Food Month, gets bigger and more popular each year. Visiting on a Monday night, I was still surprised at just how many people there were roaming around Hyde Park in search of a good feed.
My aim this year was to try places that I have never tried before. First stop was Wonderbao which I had heard lots about and also had one of the longest queues. We got the 1 x Braised Pork belly, 1 x Twice Cooked Pork Belly bao and 1 x Nai Wong Bao (egg custard bao)....and the verdict? Amazing! The pork belly baos are on par to the ones I had at Momofuku recently. Great combination of flavours and the pork belly is to die for. The egg custard bao was not as gooey as I would have liked it on the inside, but still of very high quality.
We followed the smoke and ended up at Hoy Pinoy, another Melbourne institution, who were serving up ginormous Filipino chicken and pork skewers. By the time we got there, only the BBQ Chicken variety was left. I'm not sure what made it Filipino but the skewers were delicious. The meat was very tender and the marinade extremely tasty. We finished it off in a flash.
The next stop was Poklol, serving up Korean fusion. Whilst the Korean Freid Chicken was tempting, we opted for the KBBQ Tacos (1 with Bulgogi Beef, and the other with Chilli Pork). The tacos came with a generous serving of Kimchi slaw and spicy mayo and was very, very flavoursome.
Our final stop was to be Messina, but sadly they had closed shop :( Will have to wait till next time!
Tasting the famed pork buns for the first time at Momofuku ssam bar in New York is one of my favorite food memories. When my friend M (who I shared the said pork buns with) told me they were recreating their 2007 Ssam Bar menu at Momofuku Seiobo as part of Good Food Month's Hats Off Dinner, I thought this was one opportunity not to be missed. The event was on for one week only, from October 13 to October 18.
Having heard about the massive queues through the week, M, my bf and I arrived just before 5, on a Saturday afternoon, and were happy to find ourselves near the front of the queue. Luckily, there was a Gelato Messina nearby to help us kill time (any excuse for Messina!). Time in the queue also gave us plenty of time to ponder what to order from their a la carte menu.
We started with the Tasmania sea urchin and whipped tofu. The light texture of the whipped tofu was a wonderful contrast to the rich intense flavour of the sea urchin. At the base of the dish were some tapioca balls, more commonly found in pearl milk tea, which was a hidden surprise in the dish. It was an appropriate first dish as it whetted our appetites for more.
The famous steamed pork buns quickly arrived. The buns were as soft and pillowy as I remembered and the pork belly just melts in your mouth. It's such a simple dish when you think about it - pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumber and bun. But there are few places that do it as well as Momofuku, especially in Sydney.
Deep fried Brussels sprouts was a surprising highlight of the evening. The fish sauce vinaigrette had the classic Thai combination of sweet, salty and tang, and the puffy rice just added the right amount of pop to the dish. Who knew fish sauce and brussel sprouts could be such a great combination! Charred just the right amount, this side dish was highly addictive and I could not stop eating it.
The Apple, lychee and bacon salad with chilli sauce was very refreshing. The peanut added just the right amount of crunch. There was even lychee jelly to add another textural element to the dish. Will definitely try to make this at home some time!
I am a big fan of Chiwan mashi - Japanese egg custard. Momofuku's version comes with snails and truffle. The aroma of the black truffle is simply divine and the snails had a real meatiness to them. David Chang is known for his out of the box food combinations, and this was no exception.
The Marinated hanger steak Ssam was on every table and is fun to eat. We took the lettuce cups and packed them with the beef, the shallots and ginger scallion mixture and kimchi. The ginger scallion sauce is something I normally have with white cut chicken in Cantonese restaurants, but worked just as well on the steak. The beef was juicy and tender, and packed an incredible amount of flavour.
The finale to the meal was the Spicy honeycomb tripe. M and I had a tripe salad dish at Ssam bar in NY, so it is clearly a much loved ingredient at Ssam. This was a very different variation. The tripe was quite tender and the curry sauce as very flavoursome. The soft boiled egg added more richness to the dish. I would have loved a bowl of rice to soak all up the sauce.
My extremely high expectations of this meal was met and exceeded. I could easily eat all those dishes again and again. The service was fast and furious. Not your typical three hat restaurant standard as it turned into Ssam bar for the week, but it definitely did not detract from the overall food experience.
Over the years I have been to many Japanese restaurants in Neutral Bay, including Sushi Samurai which has been rebranded to Izakaya Samurai. It is actually the sister restaurant of Izakaya Yebisu in the city. Like Yebisu, the restaurant features touch screen menus which makes ordering ultra simple. Before we had finished ordering, our first dish had already arrived. Talk about efficiency!
First up was the lotus root chips. I am not a fan of lotus root generally, but it is a different story when they are deep fried! Unfortunately these were a bit chewy and not crispy enough.
Seafood carpaccio with Japanese ume dressing. It's like a Japanese take on ceviche, the tangy soy dressing went really well with the fresh sashimi. It was something different to the regular sashimi...which we also ordered.
The main sashimi plate comprised of tuna, snapper, kingfish, salmon, prawn, salmon roe and scallops. The slices were beautifully presented and were quickly chowed down.
I love agedashi tofu so was very keen to try this variation - Agedashi Eggplant. It was delicious and the sauce was really nicely balanced. The eggplant was amazingly soft and just melted in the mouth.
Not so impressive was the beef tongue, which was a bit chewy.
One of the dangers of a touch screen menu is that it is just too easy to order. No need to find a waiter/ waitress, one touch of the screen is all it takes. The food kept on arriving...The skirt steak was tender and the ponzu dressing really lifted the flavour. The grilled kingfish was moist and flavoursome, although by this stage, I was feeling rather full. The scallop and garlic fried rice, is an example of a simple dish done really really well. I was surprised at how much flavour they managed to pack into it!
For a Japanese restaurant, the dessert menu was quite extensive. The Earl Grey Brulee caught my eye and it did not disappoint - and very reasonably priced as well! The earl grey flavour was obvious without being overpowering and I enjoyed every mouthful. The Green Tea tiramisu was also very well made, although it didn't have the wow factor of the brulee.
Izakaya Samurai is a great place for a casual Japanese meal with an extensive menu, with the added convenience of a touch screen ordering system.
Zucchini chips? It was just too intriguing to pass up. We were at The Lodge for brunch on a sunny Saturday morning.
The zucchini chips were quite large and chunky. It was covered in a tasty spiced tempura batter. Texture-wise, the chips were crunchy on the outside but still a bit wet on the inside. I felt quite healthy eating these as it resembled more veggie than chips...I still prefer sweet potato fries any day.
The tea smoked duck salad with fig, Gorgonzola, pear and white balsamic reduction was beautiful. Can't really go wrong with that combination of flavours!
The mushroom arancini was gooey on the outside and had a nice crunch on the outside.
Service was quick and friendly. The place turns more into a tapas bar at night, will be back to try it!
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