Blanca's concept of Japan x Mediterranean fusion was one that piqued my interest. Located in the Hall St dining precinct, the restaurant offers a la carte or a selection of degustation options (seven, eight or ten courses). Eager to try as much of the menu as possible, we opted for the ten course option.
We started with the Sydney Rock oysters which were given a hit of citrus flavour from the mandarin-szechuan pepper mignonette and these were quickly downed in one gulp and left us wanting more.
The slices of Raw aged beef were very tender and came served in a sesame leaf, which you roll up to eat. Together with the pickled radish and wasabi mayo, it made for a very tasty yet delicate dish.
The Bonito Pastrami looked like a painting on a plate and was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The bonito was cured and blow-torched giving it a smokiness, soaking up the umami flavours of the Yuzu-soy and brown butter dressing. This was offset by the yuzu cream which gave it a great touch of freshness.
The Peking duck croquette was exactly how you would imagine it - crunchy coating with the most delicious filling of duck, almonds and cinnamon cream inside.
The next dish of Blanca Black Bun looked just as impressive when it hit our table. The first thing that I noticed was the sheer size of the soft shell crab. They definitely didn't scrimp on the crab and the batter was super crispy. I would easily come back just for this dish.
Moving to a more Mediterranean flavour, the Grilled Octopus was served with a rich romesco dressing, garlic confit and thyme. The octopus was very tender and I especially loved the intensity of the sauce.
The Monkfish took us back closer to Japanese flavours with the white soy-wasabi dashi packing a punch. The roasting of the cabbage really brought out its sweetness.
The Pork ribs cooked in miso caramel was eaten in the form of a san choy bao. Like all the other dishes, it was full of flavour and the pork had wonderful caramelization, but unfortunately the meat was a little dry. The dish was accompanied by Crispy Blanca potatoes. Topped with aioli, furikake and a chii pickle sauce, the cripsy potatoes were irrestible and despite being quite full at this point, I couldn't resist eating them.
The Matcha Tea & Strawberry dessert was a great combination of textures and flavours, executed with great balance. The star of the dish was the sorrel sorbet, a unique flavour that was very refreshing.
The final dish of Bondi Sands with Chocolate and vanilla cream was very rich and I would have loved a few more segments of mandarin to cut through the richness.
The dishes at Blanca was an eclectic mix and I enjoyed the diversity. Service was knowledgeable and friendly, and I still can't stop thinking about the soft shell crab.
Having worked in some of the top restaurants on Sydney's north shore, Chef Tomo has now opened his own restaurant in Cremorne called Plage, serving food with Japanese and French influences. We started with a snack of Smoked cod cream with squid ink and seaweed powder. The paper thin, squid ink wafers looked striking as it hit our table. They were a good carrier for the smoked cod cream which had just the right hint of smokiness.
The next dish of Black pudding, lime powder and anchoives packed bold, punchy flavours and really livened up my tastebuds.
The Aburi salmon was delicately handled and paired well with the black garlic and white miso puree. Again, it's a plate of few ingredients but all combining superbly to create a very tasty dish.
The Wagyu carpaccio in dashi broth was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The thin slices of beef arrive rare and is cooked in front of us as the dash broth is poured at the table. The rich aroma of the broth immediately hits my senses. Bursting with umami flavour, I was tempted to pick up the whole bowl to gobble it all up. Underneath the wagyu was a cured egg yolk with mushrooms and broccolini. It's like a refined, miniature version of hot pot.
Onto the mains, and we started with the Jewfish with celeriac puree, finger lime, Gai Lan finished off with a fish and lemon sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, matched by the smooth and velvelty puree. I also really liked the caramelised artichoke hidden underneath the Gai lan, which brought another flavour dimension to the dish. Such an underrated vegetable!
The Broccolini with Kipfler potatoes was a wonderful side, with the truffle sauce really making the dish sing.
The Roast chicken was very tender and came with a crispy skin. The caramelised carrots brought an intense sweetness which complemented well the pickled cherries. The dish would have benefited from a touch more sauce to give it even more flavour.
The Triple cooked chips comes with housemade aioli and tomato relish. It was tasty but felt a little out of place with our mains.
The dessert game at Plage is definitely strong. The Sweet sake mirin ice cream was out of this world delicious. My friend and I both had a big smile on our faces as we devoured this perfect quenelle of ice cream. It had the smoothest of textures and was a brilliant mix of salty and sweet, topped off with a miso crumb. It was so good that we unashamedly ordered a second one!
Our second dessert of White chocolate mousse with redcurrant sorbet and pepperberry meringue was just as spectacular. The dish was perfectly balanced with the tartness of the sorbet offset with the sweetness of the meringue and creaminess of the mousse.
I was impressed with the creativity and the flavour combinations, backed up by beautiful plating and friendly service. Plage is definitely a wonderful addition to the north shore dining scene. They also serve some amazing sake too!
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Plage. All opinions are my own.
Tokyo Bird is a small laneway bar in Surry Hills, known for its extensive collection of whisky and its yakitori menu. Not being a whisky enthusiast, I decided to settle for a cocktail instead. One sip of my Matcha milk punch cocktail and I was in heaven. It was like drinking a delicious matcha latte with a hint of alcohol, and the matcha cookie on top made it all the more irresistible.
The food menu is primarily bar snacks with a Japanese twist. The Lotus root chips were expertly fried. Thin and crispy, we gobbled them up in a flash with the chilli mayo.
The Cold udon noodle is another simple yet very tasty dish, with a lovely creamy sesame dressing.
The Katsu chicken nuggets were another deep fried highlight!
Onto the yakitori and we decided to try the Chicken tsukune which are essentially meatballs. The meat was moist and flavoursome, and I enjoyed dipping it into the sweet soy sauce mixed with the cured egg.
The Nasu (eggplant) yakitori was a little small but it had great umami flavour and I loved the texture.
Tokyo Bird is definitely a bar that puts as much effort into its food as the drinks. The food is kept simple but they definitely manage to make the ingredients shine.
S'age Bistronomy has opened in Crows Nest, taking over the spot previously occupied by Waqu. At S'age's helm is the former head chef of Waqu, Tomoyuki Usui. As the name suggests, the type of food served is a combination of bistro and gastronomy. I went there with my family to try the Three Course Lunch Set Menu, at a very reasonable $49.
There are a selection of entrees, mains and desserts to choose from as well as a series of sides (which are not included in the set menu price).
For entree, I chose the Grilled lamb backstrap, aroma crumble and mussel emulsion. The lamb was well cooked, pink in the middle, and the aroma crumble gave it a great crunch and peppery note. The hint of mussels in the emulsion, however, was not very strong.
For main, I got the Smoked spatchcock. I was very happy with my choice. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked, succulent with a crispy skin. The nectarine and corn salsa give it a fresh twist and a lovely sweetness.
We decided to order the Charred cabbage with truffle ponzu as a side. It wasn't quite up to the lofty heights of Toriciya's Savoy Cabbage but it definitely came close. The miso crumble together with the ponzu dressing really lifted the flavour, though I would have loved a stronger hit of truffle.
Onto desserts and the Figs and berries, with pink pepper crumble and milk ice cream was a great combination of flavours and textures. My favourite, though, was the Mont blanc (chestnut cream cake) with mandarin puree and yoghurt ice cream. I enjoyed the intensity of the chestnut flavour and the yoghurt ice cream was very smooth and light. The mandarin puree really balanced out the dessert.
The food at S'age Bistronomy is modern and beautifully plated, with an interesting fusion of Japanese and French flavours and techniques. It's a welcome addition to the lower north shore.
Umii bills itself as a modern izakaya, located in Drummoyne. The food tasted fantastic but there were a few issues with the food matching what was promised on the menu. We started with the Scampi with foie gras and truffle oil. The food looked amazing when it arrived at our table but the question that popped into both our heads was: Where is the foie gras? After asking the waitress, we found out they were the little shavings on top of the scampi. Funnily enough, the table next to us ordered the same dish and asked exactly the same question. That aside, the scampi, served raw, was delicious with the sauce. If only there were a bit more foie gras, it would have made for an even more decadent dish (and perhaps justify a bit the price of the dish).
Continuing with the crustacean theme, we got the Grilled lobster tail. It was one of the blackboard specials and stated it came accompanied with grilled fresh figs. With no sighting of the figs, we again raised the question with the wait staff only to be told they didn't know. When we enquired further, we found out the chef had changed the dish but they hadn't updated the menu! Whilst that was pretty disappointing, we actually couldn't wait to dig into the dish as it was incredibly tasty. The grilled lobster were plump and perfectly cooked and the mix of the sweet and spicy furikaki seasoned crumb together with the black sesame sauce was very addictive.
The Lamb cutlet served in a traditional Japanese charcoal pot thankfully came as it was described. The cutlets were very tender and seasoned superbly. The smokiness from the charcoal pot came through without being overly dominating.
To apologise for their menu discretions, we were offered a complimentary dessert so we chose the Matcha roll with waffle cone. The matcha roll had that perfect sponge cake texture, and together with the gelato, had a really intense green tea flavour which I love. Topped off with strawberries and a black sesame waffle cone, it was a great way to end the night.
I left Umii with mixed feelings - the food and presentation were beautiful and a great showcase of modern Japanese cuisine. On the other hand, the menu deviations were irritating and some of the service inconsistent. Given it's a relatively new restaurant, hopefully they were just initial issues which have now been fixed as I would love to try some of their other dishes.
Toshiya is a Japanese fusion restaurant in Cremorne, run by the man Toshiya himself, a chef with over 23 years' experience. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out some of his signature dishes, courtesy of Washoku Lovers.
We started with the Sashimi tacos, which were spectacular. The salmon and kingfish sashimi were incredibly fresh, and the crisp and light taco shell were a joy to eat.
The Soft shell crab had the combination you want in such a dish - meaty flesh with a light batter. The flavours of the chilli mayo and shiso soy dressing was on point and really completed the dish.
Onto the Salmon carpaccio with truffle oil. The salmon was sliced so thinly, it was enveloped in the beautiful sauce and melted in my mouth. I only wished there were more slices.
The Tuna tataki was beautifully seared and the chili garlic oil is a little different to the usual accompaniments but I didn't mind it.
It's hard to go wrong with Grilled scallops with garlic butter. Served in their shells, the butter sauce was well balanced and we mopped up every last drop.
The Poached salmon was beautifully tender with cubes of salmon sashimi wrapped in the middle, which was a nice surprise.
The Volcano rolls are one of the most popular dishes at Toshiya and it's easy to see why. Amongst the pyramid of sushi is tempura fried prawn, giving it a great crunchy texture. The sauce definitely packs a lot of heat but is seriously delicious.
The Pari Pari chicen definitely didn't look like a dish you would normally find in a Japanese restaurant. Encased inside the crunchy spring roll pastry was a piece of tender chicken with cheese, vegetables and tartare sauce. Together with a sweet chili sauce on top, it was super tasty and I enjoyed this novel combination of flavours. It is a rather rich dish so would recommend sharing this one!
For dessert, we sampled the green tea brulee. It had a strong matcha flavour and cracked easily with the tap of the spoon, which is just what you want. The other dessert was the Chocolate spring rolls - dark chocolate and strawberries rapped in a deep fried spring roll pastry. It was sweet but not overly so.
All of the dishes were beautifully plated and well executed. I really enjoyed the fusion aspects of the menu, so it's a great place to go if you are after something a little different from your standard Japanese cuisine.
As a Washoku Lover's member, you can grab an Assorted Dessert Plate for a discounted price.
When I think of Salaryman, I think of men in grey suits being stuck in their office cubicles, working till the wee hours of the morning. This modern Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills must be the type of place they crave going to after work. The venue was slick and modern, with neon lights and dripping wall art. The menu was really interesting, and definitely not one you would find in your local Japanese eatery. It was a tough choice narrowing down what to eat.
My friends and I started with the Chicken liver parfait. The parfait was silky smooth and rich, and paired perfectly with the yuzu syrup and the buttery madeleines. It's definitely a dish that I would order again.
Next was the Prawn toast okonomiyaki, which tasted as good as it looked. The okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes and mayonnaise were great accompaniments to to the crunchy prawn toast.
I love bone marrow - it's rich, gelatinous and luscious. Spread onto the deep fried milk bread, it's like butter but a creamier version. The serrano ham added a salty touch but I must admit, it did get a bit rich towards the end but still, oh so delicious.
Salaryman's Pork and pippies ramen is made with a pork and chicken broth, with cha shu pork, wood fired pippies, burnt garlic and sesame oil, spring onion and pickled egg. The broth is rich and creamy and the noodles had a nice springy-ness to them. I enjoyed the addition of pippies in the ramen,
For dessert, we got the Croissant taiyaki - a fish shaped pastry filled with gooey chocolate custard. The pastry was buttery and flaky and the richness of the custard was offset by the ice cream. It was hard not to reach back in for another bite.
I am a big fan of persimmon so when I saw a dessert featuring persimmon on the menu, I had to order it. The persimmon was sweet and juicy, and teamed perfectly with the delicate sable (a French shortbread) and the creme fraiche ice cream.
I was very impressed by Salaryman overall, the ambiance is great, the food is top notch. Definitely one to visit again!
Manpuku joins a growing list of Japanese eateries in Chatswood, specialising in ramen. The interior of the restaurant is simply decorated with wooden furnishings and ropes draping from the ceiling. They had some interesting drinks on the menu so we decided to order an Organic plum wine and the Apple jelly wine. Both tasted quite fruity and not too alcoholic, and I loved the texture of the jelly wine - it felt like I was eating a dessert.
For appetisers, we ordered the Octopus Karaage and the Wing Gyoza. The Octopus karaage was freshly cooked with a crispy batter. They were a great accompaniment to the ramen.
The Wing Gyoza caught my eye when perusing the menu. Upon enquiring, we learnt that it 's basically a fried chicken wing stuffed with a dumpling filling. What is not to love about that? The fried chicken wing had crispy skin and the dumpling filling actually felt like it belonged inside a chicken wing!
Onto the ramens and there were a few different soup bases to choose from - chicken soup, pork soup or a miso broth. We chose the Long Name Ramen, a suitable name considering the actual name of the dish consists 14 words. The ramen came with two slices of pork belly, bean sprouts, bamboo shoot, a seaweed sheet and a soft boiled egg. The broth was creamy and flavoursome, and the noodles were still springy with some bite.
The other ramen we tried was the Shio Gara which uses a chicken soup base and comes with medium straight noodles. This is great if you prefer something lighter and cleaner tasting, with a more subtle flavour. For an extra flavour kick, we added the special Gara pepper, which is a white pepper with dried garlic, bamboo and onion.
Service was efficient and friendly, and I'm glad I've found another place to satisfy my ramen craving.
One last thing - If you are a fan of Japanese food, do join Washoku lovers, which offers a range of benefits at a growing number of Japanese restaurants.
Sashimiso dined as a guest of Manpuku and Washoku Lovers. All opinions are my own.
I was never a fan of Hello Kitty growing up (it was too pink and girly for me) but decided to check out the hype around the Hello Kitty Cafe, recently opened at the Chatswood Interchange. I was intrigued to see what would be on the menu, especially as I had heard the burgers were created by the team at Chur Burger. To my surprise, it wasn't overly 'cute' and pink and the theme was quite understated. The restaurant is quite small with a selection of booths and seats at the counter.
The food was very much what you expect at an American diner: waffles, fries and milkshakes amongst the menu items, but with an Asian twist (e.g. Kimchi slaw and miso mayo).
I don't see any connection between lamb ribs and Hello Kitty but ... it doesn't really matter as these were amazing! The ribs were melt in your mouth tender and generously laced with a sweet sticky soy sauce and jalapeños. The dash of lime just topped it off.
The sweet potato fries were not as crunchy as I would have liked but the miso mayo was quite addictive - a delicious mix of savoury and sweet.
We agonized over which burger to pick and eventually settled for the Maple Burger which came on a delicious brioche bun. Overall it was a good burger without being phenomenal. I did like the inclusion of a thick slice of maple glazed bacon in between the pulled pork and slaw.
The theme was a bit lacking for a novelty restaurant but I will definitely be back for another serve of the lamb ribs and to try one of their interesting milkshake concoctions.
After my delicious meal at Sokyo at The Star, I was keen to try out head chef Chase Kojima's Sokyo Ramen pop-up. With a neon sign and posters of Japanese culture covering up the wall, it was hard to miss.
There are four styles of ramen on offer, including a cold version for the hot summer weather. We opted to start with the Umami tonkotsu 2.0 Ramen. I liked the use of the pork cheek chashu rather than the pork belly commonly found in other bowls of ramen. The cheek was very tender and juicy, and the soft boiled egg added an extra creaminess to the dish.
The Yuzu Shio Ramen was unlike any bowls of ramen I had eaten before. It was incredibly light and refreshing - the broth was very easy to drink and had an element of zestiness that you don't usually find with ramen. It smelt wonderfully fragrant too!
We were here for the ramen but couldn't resist a serving of Fried Chicken. And a wise decision that was - the fried chicken were a crispy golden colour with just the right amount of crispy batter and tender meat. It was accompanied by a spicy mayo and a fresh salad with yuzu dressing - well worth the $9.
If you are a fan of ramen, get down to Sokyo Ramen before the pop up is no longer! As the hashtag on the seaweed says, #noramennolife.
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