Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Jugemu & Shimbashi, Neutral Bay

Handmade cold soba noodles?

IMHO the best okonomiyaki in Sydney?


Hot day and beer?


A while ago I came across Simon Thomsen's review of Jugemu & Shimbashi while I was trawling through the web at work. What made its lasting impression in my mind was the mention of soba noodles made on premises by Chef Masahiko Tojo, and let's be frank here, who doesn't love the bite of freshly handmade noodles?

Before I create any confusion here, let me just take a moment to explain the unique structure of the restaurant. Essentially it is one restaurant split into two distinctive sections, each with its own style of decor and character. Jugemu is in the style of a Teppanyaki bar, while the side which JL and I were seated was Shimbashi, decorated in a traditional noodle bar fashion. It's still the same restaurant though, and dishes may be ordered from both sides.

In the front of the restaurant is a small room dedicated to soba-making. Flour is milled fresh on premise only hours before it is cooked to order. This gives the soba noodles a distinctively resilient bite and quite a rustic texture on every strand.

Mixed Sushi Platter - $28

We started off the evening with a plate of Mixed Sushi Platter. While the photo may not show it, but these were perfect bite size pieces of Tuna, Salmon, Kingfish, Scallop and Prawn Nigiri. In one corner were six salmon mini-rolls -- also bite size pieces.

Kamo & Kimoko Soba Noodles -$23

Being an avid duck lover, my pick was obvious - Kamo & Kimoko Soba noodles (Duck and Mushrooms).

The broth was beautifully tasty, and surprisingly light and non-oily given that it's duck. The duck meat was tender, though I wouldn't say melt-in-your mouth, but it was nicely seasoned with natural sweetness of duck and not overly rich either.

The noodles come out separately in a fan shaped dish lined with a bamboo mat. The way to eat it is you pick up a few strands of noodles with your chopstick and gently dip it into the salty broth, before slirping the goodness up. Once the noodles are finished, you are served a small pot of soba water (the water they cooked the soba in), and you pour it into the salty broth to dilute it to a level where you may drink the broth to finish off your meal.

It's an art I tell you...

Tempura Soba - $19

JL couldn't get past the Tempura Soba (and with good reason too). The tempura were all lightly fried and fresh. We're usually so used to seeing Tempura Udon, but I must say that to have it with Soba is definitely a lighter option.

Jugemu Special - Prawns, Scallops, Calamari - $20

Lastly, we had...

Ok I'm not exaggerating when I say this...but it really was the MOST DELICIOUS OKONOMIYAKI I've had in Sydney.

I'm not even a fan of the stuff usually, but this one here definitely blew my mind away. I was a tad sad that I didn't save enough stomach for it (soba is surprisingly filling...and beer too). The cabbage was sliced ever-so-finely and there was a perfect sauce-to-okonomiyaki ratio. The shrimp were bursty and the scallops were just cooked and still sweet and delicate. The okonomiyaki is actually quite thick compared to what we're used to seeing around the place and diehard purists would mourn the death of authenticity, but I think the thickness brings out the natural flavours of the ingredients and retains a good texture so much more than thin ones. I'm usually disappointed when I get to a point where I feel as if I'm eating more sauce than the okonomiyaki itself, but not this one.

We were sad to not be able to finish the plate, but we doggy bagged it so it wouldn't go to waste.

Would I revisit? Definitely. Especially since I've yet to discover the other half of the restaurant.

Jugemu & Shimbashi
246 Military Road
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Tel: (02) 9904 3011

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dear Readers: We want your say!

We've been getting a lot of emails and comments from you all about what you think is good and bad about our food blog. Some have made comments about the layout, some about the content, others about the commenting system or the information we have on the sidebar. As we mentioned earlier, we are planning to revamp the site and move to a more user/reader-friendly blogging platform amongst other things but I just thought, as we're going through that process, I'd love to hear more from what you guys want. We made this blog and write our entries for every one of our readers so please, if you have anything you'd like to see an improvement in or a particular foodie subject you'd like to read about, feel free to leave a comment!

:) I'll keep you up to date with our upcoming revamped website!

Send emails to

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review: Gumshara Ramen, Haymarket

So, after hearing all about the EPIC ramen at Gumshara in the Eating World Food Courts here, here and here, there was little I could do to control my urges and take a visit myself....and drag a few friends along while I'm at it.

I may just be reiterating what everyone already knows, but for those who don't - the pork stock used here is made from 120kg of pork bones and water bubbled for seven days! The store prides itself in its MSG-free stock, and the end result is a stock that comes out rich and thick with collagen.

Trust me when I say that your skin will say thank you afterwards.

On the down side, it may have just been the night we went to visit, but Dixon Street Food Court was emanating with a strange odour which made the eating experience somewhat less pleasant than what it should be. It was also quite busy on the night, and tables were simply not being cleared fast enough for the number of people there.

Nevertheless, we were there for the ramen, and ramen we got.

Hakata Style Ramen - $8.50

Luckily I had run into a fellow Japanese high school friend JP who gave me a little guidance as to what I should try at Gumshara. Apparently Hakata is a region in Fukuoka which has developed its own version of Ramen which features the milky and rich pork broth (tonkotsu broth) with thin noodles.

JP had warned beforehand that the ramen here at Gumshara would taste distinctively less salty than what most Sydneysiders are used to thanks to the likes of Ichiban and Ryo's. If I were to put the three on a spectrum from least salty to most, it would go something along the lines of Gumshara - Ryo's - Ichiban (a place which I have to eat ramen with an extra bottle of water on the side).

*jiggle jiggle*

The stock was thick, but not as sticky as I expected it to be. I have a strange feeling that it was a bad luck of the draw on the night, as I gave it the leave-it-still-for-5 minutes-and-see-if-a-skin-forms test, but to no avail.

On the bright side the pork was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth. They were sweet and ridiculously tender in an I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter fashion. The soft boiled eggs ($1.50) which I added to my bowl was also spot on, and my only beef with it is that I didn't get enough of it.

Tonkotsu Ramen - $8.50

The ramen here is very soft and slippery - and lots of slurping gets involved in the process. AY tried his luck at ordering the Pork Spare Ribs Noodles ($13, only 10 bowls per day) and unfortunately missed out. Considering the fact that we were there way past 7:30pm, I must say I was actually rather relieved that there was none left - if you get my drift.

It's also another excuse to come and revisit.

Gumshara Ramen
Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street
Haymarket, NSW
Tel: (02) Does anyone know?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Carpaccio, Leichhardt

"Italian food - where should we go?"
"Let's go to Leichhardt!"
"Okay! But where?"

Being the aspiring food blogger, I was entrusted with the task of answering that question. Once I found the place- it was all settled. Let me give you guys a bit of a background - briefly. I'm Asian. I have an Asian family. They don't like to (normally) try new stuff. They don't like driving to places far away. In my world, going to Leichardt and that we were trying something so unfamiliar, was a foodie miracle!

So after reading countless reviews and blogs, I was down to two - Castel Mola and Carpaccio. The final decision was Carpaccio, made by my cousin KL who reasoned that it would be a better, quieter atmosphere for a family dinner.

We arrived relatively early at 6pm for a 6:30pm booking so we managed to take a sneak peek at the nearby 'Italian Forum' - an area which mimics the traditional Italian architecture and houses a residential area, retails shops and various eateries - which in foodie terms, was extremely appealing to me. I've already got my eyes set on a couple of places to dine and consume dessert at!

Italian Forum

When it was about time, we made our way around the corner back onto Norton Street towards our nominated restaurant of the night. My cousin was spot on with his 'atmosphere' prediction. We were seated outside, right next to the fountain and the slow running water was quite a soothing background for the family to converse in and scrutinise the menu.

To start, we ordered from the Sputini (sharing plates) menu and chose a garlic wood fired pizza crust with bresaola, rocket, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil. When it arrived, I actually thought that the bresaola was proscuitto! similar taste and a delicious combination with the crust!

Garlic Woodfired Pizza Crust $18

This was followed by the mains. We decided that we'd have two pizzas and three mains to share amongst the seven of us so that we could fit down dessert later. The pizza selection was quite extensive so we chose one vegetarian, Giardino and one meats pizza, Bologna.

Giardino $22

The Giardino was topped with eggplant, red capsicum, red onion, ricotta and house-made basil pesto. The vegetables weren't too dry and sat nicely on the thin and crispy base. As with all vegetarian pizzas that I've tried, it was a light alternative and delicious too!

Bologna $22

The Bologna on the other hand, with its selection of sliced beef fillet, grille chicken breast, pepperoni, pork sausage and sprinkled parsley, was a lot more aromatic and filling. Having had a meaty pizza earlier in the day, I was relieved to find my carnivorous needs being satisfied without having copious amounts of oil deposited in my stomach!

What followed came from the Primi Piatti lis, from which we chose a delicious ravioloni filled with roast duck (nomnomnom!) and porcini mushroom mousse served with pomegranate which we upgraded to a main size.

Raviolini $23 + $5 upsize

I'll have to admit that having never tasted pomegranate seeds in dish before, it added a lovely flavour and gave a nice touch of colour to the raviolini. My recent love affair with roast duck might have helped too! =)

Moving on, we ordered two more items from the Second Piatti - the veal escallops pan friend in white wine & tarragon cream topped with char-grilled king prawn.

Veal Escallops $32

and the balentino of chicken filled with sultana and pistachio served with King Edward potato veloutte.

Balentino of Chicken $28

I actually wanted to order the rabbit dish too (as cruel as that may sound) but I don't think that really appealed to my family.

Both dishes were very well presented and I don't know about you guys, but the description was genuinely mouth-watering in itself and the dishes were no exception. The veal escallop was absolutely delicious, exceeded my expectations (being the amateur that I was, I stupidly thought we had ordered scallops!) and matched beautifully with the white wine sauce and king prawn. The balentino of chicken was tender and had been cooked long enough to soak up the flavours while not turning it to mush. So in a word - yum!

Having finished our little feast, we decided that five dishes was not quite enough and went for one last dish from the Primi Piatti - the spaghettini with blue swimmer crab meat, in cherry tomato, chilli, garlic and white wine sauce.

Spaghettini with Blue Swimmer Crab Meat $23 + $5 Upsize

My first impression, when I saw this dish, was that it was just normal spaghetti and wouldn't be particularly delicious. When I tasted it however, I really loved it! Unlike normal spaghetti, this was closer to angel hair with the thinner strands which was a lighter alternative and in combination with a nice tomato sauce and the chunks of crab meat, it was definitely a tick from me.

After all this food, we decided not to have dessert at the restaurant after all and went to just grab some take-out tiramisu to eat at home. Although I've never been to Italy, I think that tonight's meal was one of the closer encounters I've had to authentic Italian - but I might be wrong when I ever make that trip halfway across the world to try the culinary delights over there. It was a worthwhile trek and I can't wait to return to the area to dine at the other yummy Italian places!

Shop 8, 39-45 Norton St
Leichhardt, NSW 2040
Ph: (02) 9550 9365

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Sushi Rio, Sydney

I think I've just found my favourite Sushi Train.

Last week MS and I decided to hit up town for a post-exam catchup. Both of us have been busy all semester with random tidbits here and there, (though I must say his busi-ness outtrumps mine in terms of importance by a billionfold), and so what better than to chill out in front of a a rotating train filled with delicious sushi right?

We chose Sushi Rio because if you remember our trip to Takumi, MS was there when we ran into the big poster on the windows of Sushi Rio stating "$3 per plate Lunchtime special". Ever since that fateful day we've been waiting to come for a visit.

Grilled Scallop Roll

What really struck me as I stepped into the restaurant was actually the pleasant ambience of the place. Despite being stuck on the corner of two very busy streets in the middle of the city, the place felt somewhat secluded from the hustle and bustle. The place felt clean, and was thoroughly enjoyable to be in.

Another big bonus was the large variety available on offer. There's nothing worse than a sushi train where you just sit there and wait, and wait, and wait some more just for a particular dish you're after, or even sometimes just for something different. Sushi train is all about variety, choice, and feeding not only your stomach, but your eyes as well.

The Grilled Scallop Roll (pictured above) had a nice smokey flavour from the grill. It was juicy and moist still on the inside, definitely not overdone. As you will soon discover, I practically OD'ed myself on scallops in this place.

Eel Roll

This place has one of the NICEST cream cheese to go with their eel rolls. It is so incredibly smooth and creamy, and went perfectly with the almost melt-in-your-mouth texture of the eel. And this is coming from a person who usually picks out the block of cream cheese to have separately from the eel.

Salmon Nigiri

Jellyfish and Sharkfin

Even if it is not real sharkfin, I still love the stuff. It also rests better on my conscience than the real stuff. Bonus points to that.

Scallop Nigiri

The first time I ever tried scallop nigiri was at Sushi Tengoku in Kensington. It was one of the few left over from our Mixed Sushi Platter which JL and I were a bit reluctant about. I pawned half the plate off to him, and ended up with the scallop nigiri which, I must admit, I utterly, utterly, utterly fell in love with.

This one here at Sushi Rio hit my craving right on target. I could have probably had another 2 plates of scallop on my own...

Oh wait, I did do that.

Lobster Salad Sushi

MS loved the Lobster Salad which were on offer. I don't know whether it was the real stuff or not, but either way it was beautifully creamy and tangy.

Prawn Tempura Nigiri

My usual favourite made its appearance. The prawn was perfectly deep fried, but the tartare sauce which came with it was not as tasty as the one at Tomodachi in Rhodes. Definitely a more-ish dish.

Grilled Scallop Nigiri

I have no idea how it happened, but another plate of scallop nigiri somehow managed to find its way to my table. Despite being my 3rd plate of scallops, I demolished it good nonetheless.

By the end of our little adventure, both MS and I had eaten to be point of near-explosion, and the bill made barely a dent in our wallets. Overall the experience could only be described as excellent. I can't wait to come back.

Sushi Rio
Shop 7, 337 Sussex Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9261 2388

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: Ash's Table, Manly

Just a quick note that I’ve been overwhelmed with work and focussing on the organisation of setting up a brand new food blog server for all your readers out there so my posts are a bit delayed! Sorry! So anyway…=) I've lived in the Northern Beaches region for the large part of my life and but I've rarely eaten around the area. My frequent haunts are all around the Sydney CBD area or Eastern suburbs, especially when it comes to brunches and lunches. Everyone's been on hardcore exam study sessions lately, leaving me with no one to hang out and eat with! I chose all assessment based subjects this semester so I didn't have exams, which most consider to be lucky but at the same time, I have to spend all my free time with myself anyway! It just so happened that a large gap appeared in AW's exam timetable and since we live quite close to each other, we decided that Manly would be a nice place to satisfy our tummies.

As always, AW was running late, so by the time we found parking on the beach side of Manly, it was already 11am. Having both skipped breakfast - we were pretty much ready to devour anything. It was an overcast Sunday morning but there were plenty of people walking around in wetsuits, pushing prams and just enjoying the relaxed beach lifestyle - so it was only natural that every cafe or restaurant we could see in the distance was bustling with crowds of people. Briefly glancing at the menu, we were greeted warmly by the owner (I assume), who happened to be pinning up the lunch menu, and so not really wanting to keep walking in the rain we settled on eating at Ash's Table.

I'm always extremely grateful that when cafes, or any other eatery for that matter, keeps their breakfast menu available for most of the day. Well-cooked breakfast is something I think that I'd be willing to eat no matter what the hour! Going through the menu, AW and I were quick to decide that we would pick one breakfast item and one lunch item and with tummies madly grumbling at our neglecting them, we promptly selected a pizza most appropriately named The Meaty - tempting me with bacon, pepperoni, chorizo, mushroom and capsicum on a sweeeeet chilli jam base topped with mozarella cheese - as well as a classic Sausage and (Scrambled) Eggs served on sourdough.

The Meaty (small) $18.00

Sausages & Eggs with Sourdough $12.00

On top of that, we also ordered a Mango Smoothie and a Latte :) For the amount of people in the cafe, I was quite impressed at the quick service we received. The waiters didn't stand there and leer at us, but did periodically check with us to see if we were ready as they rushed around serving other customers. My only criticism would be the relatively long wait for drinks to arrive - they were on our table with only a few minutes to spare before the food came which caused a slight raise of the eyebrow. Having said that, my Mango smoothie was yummy and refreshing (I love mangoesss!) and after AW's initial puzzlement over how to consume her piece of biscotti, she seemed quite satisfied with her latte.

Mango Smoothie $6.00

Latte $3.00

So what about the food? Well boys and girls, I am currently doing a marketing placement for a large bread company and just recently, happened to be involved in taste testing of various sourdough and let me tell you – the sourdough served here was really just plain bread. There was not even the slightest hint of a sour note – not in the first bite and it didn’t build up to anything either. The bread itself was also slightly stale. The only item I appreciated was the scrambled eggs which, although not brillant, still filled my tummy with protein goodness. And what of the pizza? Well it was indeed, extremely meaty. The layers of meat far outweighed any previous encounters I’ve had with self-proclaimed ‘meaties’ from the popular fast food pizza outlets and definitely satisfied my carnivorous yearnings. But…yes, there is another ‘but’…it was wayyyy too oily. Literally dripping with it. When something is that oily – you just feel sick. That’s probably why AW only ate a little and delegated the rest to my mouth and stomach.

I think I’ve been quite harsh with this little review. I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere, service and just the idea of a little lunch near the beach even in the dreary weather – but when it came down to the food…it just didn’t quite cut it. I will however, revisit that strip of cafes and try my luck at another one next time.

Ash's Table
93 North Steyne Road
Manly NSW 2095
PH: (02) 9976 3382

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Rhodes Phoenix, Rhodes

Once upon a time I read a newspaper article on how much lard goes into make all the individual dishes at yum cha. Being a young woman growing up in the 21st Century, I should be madly taking mental notes in order to live up to my supposedly image-obsessed self. To that article, there is only really one thing that could describe my reaction.


In fact, that's my reaction to most articles about which blame obesity on possibly every other factor except the one thing that really means - self-control. That's not to say that informative articles are a waste of time altogether - in fact, I think exactly the opposite. It's always good to know what you're eating, but when it comes to controlling obesity, I really think people should stop pointing the finger at KFC and Maccas and spend more time encouraging people to manage their eating habits and doing more exercise (something which I definitely need)...


Steamed Tripe

To be honest I don't know why I went on that rant. Perhaps someone could gather up some sort of quasi-Freudian explanation for me so that life makes a little more sense. Either way, some things just don't need that, much like steamed tripe. This is my mother's favourite dish. Chewy and slightly crunchy, it is little wonder why this is considered a delicacy to most Asians.

Steamed Rice Noodles with Prawns

Steamed Rice Noodles with Prawns
makes the usual appearance on our table. The noodles are slippery and soft, and the prawns inside perfectly bursty. When done right, it's just one of those few things you can't really get sick off.

Eggplant with Minced Prawns, deep fried in Tofu Skin

This was actually my favourite for the day. It is eggplant with minced prawns, wrapped in tofu skin and deep fried. It bursts with a wonderful amalgation of flavours with every bite.

Deep Fried Savory Dumplings (Crescent Dumplings)

The Deep Fried Savory Dumplings are also regulars on our table at yum cha. I find the ones at Rhodes a tad poor with the dough-to-filling ratio. The dough is also sweeter than most other yum cha's that I've been too. Nevertheless it's still delicious.

The Banquet of Yumminess

This stuff I can only call Kuih, even though that's the Malaysian name and I could be very misinformed about the minor differences between real Kuih and what is presented here. Oh well, what's in a name anyway? Despite the green in this glutinous dessert, it is not made from Pandan, but actually Green Tea. For those who have followed this blog will note my strange lack of fascination for sweets in general, but AW and my mother both loved this very much.

Rhodes Phoenix once again did not disappoint. Being so close to where I live, this place will undoubtedly be revisited many times on future Sunday mornings.

Rhodes Phoenix
Level 5, Rhodes Shopping Centre
1 Rider Boulevarde
Rhodes, NSW 2138
Tel: (02) 9739 6628

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Review: Sushi Tei, Sydney

Everyone has been amidst exams this past week – except me. What’s the point of being free from the evils of academic life when no one else has the time to hang out with you? After many rejections from studious geeks and nerds, of course including my foodie comrade WX, my pleas were finally answered when a little outing to Sushi Tei was organised by FW.

I’ve always walked past this corner restaurant opposite the Chifley building, but never once set foot inside. Although it was Monday, there were a fair few people already seated when we walked in with no reservation but we still managed to score a table for five. I think post-exams and post-work really helped out appetites because even before the fifth member of our dining crew, SY had arrived we had already ordered several items from the Happy Hour menu and quite a few from standard one too! You’ll have to forgive me for poor quality photos – my hunger got the best of me! Mind you, by the time I took the first couple of shots, FW, EL and FYL had practically demolished the appetiser dishes Chuka Wakame (a type of seaweed, Chinese styled) and Gyoza (panfried dumplings). In dire times of hunger, this restaurant performed beautifully in the 'quick service' category - everything we ordered came swiftly to the table - another reason why my photos could potentially be blurry as I scrambled to take my share of the food!

Chuka Wakame $3.00

Chicken & Pork Gyoza $4.80

Next up, the Beef Tataki (semi-seared beef), Chawanmushi (egg custard) and Ikura-Chawanmushi (egg custard with salmon roe) arrived in quick succession. I'm not a huge fan of chawanmushi but I love ikura by the mouthful but because everyone just wanted to try some, we eat had about a spoon each from the tiny little cup.

Beef Tataki $10.80

Ikura Chawanmushi $8.80

Chawanmushi $4.80

What followed was literally a huge party in our mouths - all at once! From my experience, there are several varieties of Karaage Chicken (friend chicken) in terms of the type of batter used and I'd have to say, this wasn't the best. Everything else was delicious, especially the tempura and our final bill wasn't too expensive either - considering the amount of food we stuffed into ourselves!

Sanshoku Hana Salmon (3 kinds of roe) $5.80

Tempura Moriawase $11.80

Ebi Don $13.80

Soft-shell Crab $11.80

Salmon Skin Spicy Roll $4.80

Karaage Chicken $4.80

Ebi Avocado Ebikko Maki $4.80

Aburi Salmon Roll $14.80

Apologies for the long line of photos there - just the proof of how much we managed to order amongst the five of us. Food always makes me happpppppyyy! :)

Although I can't say that this was the best Japanese food that I've had (and I've had a lot) it is definitely one that falls into my re-visit category and doesn't necessarily bankrupt me. The atmosphere and ambience is great - perfect for a night out with friends just to catch up and enjoy life (even though most are still having exams).

Sushi Tei
Chifley Square Ground Floor
1 Cnr Elibeth St & Hunter St
Sydney NSW 2000
PH: (02) 9232 7288