Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Katsura - Neutral Bay

Katsura - japanese hall

Not having enjoyed Japanese for a long long while, dinner was booked at the Japanese restaurant - Katsura. Being super hungry after work/uni, my partner and I ordered many many dishes. One down side (or upside) of this restaurant was they bought out our dishes one by one. Maybe that's so that we can enjoy each dish in its entirety. However, it also meant that people like me who like to jump from flavour to flavour cannot be completely appeased nor could I be swept away by a table-full of food. Also, it means that you and your dinner partner need to have good conversational skills, otherwise, it will be a long boring dinner~

The first dish that arrived for the night was the seaweed salad ($9.50). The crisp greens and yummy seaweed was drenched (but not overly drenched) in a vinegary sauce (not unlike the vinegar which put into sushi rice).

Seaweed salad - $9.50

After the healthy appetiser, along came the unhealthy deep-fried dish. The soft-shell crab kara-age ($12.50) was unexpectingly good. The aroma of this dish was crying out "eat me! eat me!" and with just the first bite, I knew that the delicious scent was not trying to deceive me. The legs were light and crunchy and the meat was juicy and super tastey! It was like a combination of crispyness with juicy tenderness! Mmm... I could definately eat more of this.

Soft shell crab kara-age - $12.50

A dish which blew me away even more was the Grilled Cream Oysters ($16 for half a dozen). Whist no aroma's wafted from this dish, it was so amazingly good! Carrot and white radish ribbons were embedded below the cream chese, providing a contrasting yet complementary texture to the smooth and slimyness of the oysters (which were cooked - not overcooked). The flying fish roe on top accentuated the flavours of the cheese and oysters. Yummm! I could have this everyday!

Super delicious grilled cream oysters - $16

The oysters deserved a close-up

Being a cold night, I also got the miso soup ($2.50). The miso soup here was nice - but like any other.

Miso Soup - $2.50

Then came the Tokujyo Yaki Wagyu ($36). This was beef with a super marbled score of 9+. I have to admit, my first bite of this was met with disappointment. The outer layer (the cooked bit) was rough whilst the middle (raw bits) were smooth, creating an interesting, but not entirely enjoyable feeling in my mouth. However, the sauce (soy + sugar + mirin) is awesomeness. The second thought which came to mind was that I was being unreasonable and comparing it to Kobe and Matsuzaka beef we had in Japan (which is a superior grade beef for a sky-high price). So with that in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed my next slice of Wagyu. It was definately a lot more tender, rich and flavoursome compared to your average steak.

Wagyu beef (marble score 9+) - $36

Feeling still kind of hungry by this stage (and with just one more dish to come) my partner and I decided to order a hand roll each. As I was facing the sushi chef all throughout dinner, I saw him "play" (yes - literally play) with our food. He wrapped, unwrapped, re-wrapped, and wrapped the seaweed on this handroll repeatedly! omigosh ~ why would he do that??? When the hand roll arrived at out table, the mystery was solved. The holes for the hand-roll holder was TINY - there is no way the hand-rolls would fit in unless they too, were tiny. And hence, the hand roll was quite disproportionally tiny and squashed at the bottom (not that the hand roll itself was big). The salmon and avocado hand roll ($5) was good ish. No soy sauce was provided (wierd). The avocado was nicely ripe, the salmon however, was a bit chewy. The rice was deliciously and almost perfectly vingared. And the seaweed? Yes, it was definately tough and chewy (the chef did play with it for prolonged periods of time). No complaints on the unagi hand roll ($6) from my partner apart from the obvious seaweed issue.

Handrolls - $5-6

And... by the time we finished our hand-rolls, we felt the food slowly creep up on our stomachs. We did, however, still manage to finish off our last dish for the night - the seafood butter yaki ($13) which is assorted seafood pan-grilled with a soy and butter sauce. Mmm... buttery... The seafood was fresh and the butter aroma was satisfying.

Butter seafood yaki - $13

Overall, the food was good - a bit slow in coming out - but good nonetheless. The waitresses always addressed us politely with Jap-accented English. The restaurant is split into the Yakiniku (BBQ) side and the Japanese hall. Our side of the restaurant was peaceful and quiet - perfect for a chill-out dinner.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 7.5/10
Overall - 32/40

Katsura Japanese Restaurant
11/129-133 Military Road
Neutral Bay
NSW, 2089
tel: (02) 9904 5755

Monday, April 20, 2009

Norwest Fresh Seafood - Norwest

Norwest Fresh Seafood

After last weeks fish and chips overload in Wollongong, I felt as though what I truelly miss is the local fish and chips shop - which appears much healthier (as the fish is grilled instead of deep fried) and just as yumminess (if not more so). What's also awesome about this place is that they put vinegar on your chips (upon request) and allow you to swap normal ceasar/greek/green salad with awesomeness seafood salad!

Perch Chips and Salad - $10.90 (+ $1 for seafood salad)

With nice and cheap fish, chips and salad packs (ranging from $8.90 - $12.90 depending on the fish type) it is the filling and economical option for lunch. My favourite fish at this shop tends to be the perch - which is thick, juicy and tender. The meat just falls from the fillet, onto my spork, and into my mouth - yumm.

Sea Perch

And the seafood salad? Yumminess! The seafood extenders are tastey and the prawns and fresh. And it's all mixed with mayo and seafood sauce. Mmm...

Seafood Salad

So overall - apart from Maccas and KFC, this place has to be one of the yummiest local takeaway shops.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 6/10 (it's takeaway!!!)
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 30/40

Norwest Fresh Seafoods
T30a Norwest Marketown
4-6 Century Circuit
Baulkham Hills
NSW, 2153
Tel: (02) 8850 4588

Won Jo Korean Restaurant - Strathfield

Won Jo Korean Restaurant

An unexpected visit to a Korean restaurant in Strathfield means that my photos are going to be quite shoddy (as they are taken with my phone). That, however, does not mean that the food was shoddy.

Array of appetisers and sauces

To start off with, my friends and I were quite hesistent when entering a Korean restaurant as none of us were Korean (and Korean restaurants tend to rip off non-Koreans). Nonetheless, these owners were nice enough to provide us with the yummy appetisers despite us not being Korean. Particularly, I love the seaweed salad ... mmm... mildly chilli, seaweedy and delicious! The others are just kind of average ish.

kimchi fried rice - $12

Kind of ugly in appearance, the Kimchi fried rice ($12) was a scary-looking shade of redness. However, to my surprise, it wasn't too chilli and was mild enough for even me the tolerate~! I have to admit, however, that it wasn't the best tasting fried rice I've had. They put in all these little seafood prawns and oysters (which seemed to be of the tiny frozen variety and not seafood tasting at all) and the egg is all spoilt >.< As it was my first experience of Kimchi fried rice, I can only assume that the weird aftertaste in my mouth is only normal... ?

fried dumplings - $10

We ordered 2 platefuls of dumplings. The dumplings were crispy skinned and super super crunch. Each little crunchy crispy little pocket was filled with veges, vermecilli and tasted really quite deliciousness. The only downside to this tastey treat is the oily-ness factor of this dish.

fried chicken - $18

Another yummy yet unhealthy dish is the fried chicken ($18). Super crunchy and goldenly deep fried, the chicken inside was still tastey, tender and juicy. Mmm... adds to the fat around my stomach. hehehehe

beef rib soup - $14

We also ordered the beef rib soup ($14). The soup was very rich and flavoursome and slightly on the salty side. In it, there were beef ribs (which appeared super tender), and yummy potato noodles. Some of my friends put rice in the soup, which they claimed to unsaltiness the soup - but the thought of soggy rice did not appeal to me. Apparently, this soup is something people should drink when they're sick because it makes them feel all warm and comforted inside :)

raw fresh meat bimbimbab - $13

When this dish first came out, I was a bit surprised (or shocked) because the raw beef had this white frosting on it (as if it came fresh from the freezer). Expected it to be slightly rock hard, it was surprisingly tender, chewy and okay-tasting. Mixed bimbimbab it's still a nice shade of red and again, luckily - not too chilli (and able to be eaten by me).

sweet potato noodles with veges - Medium $20

Of super yumminess, yet nothing special in presentation, was the sweet potato noodles with vegetables (Medium $20). The potato noodles were immersed within the sweetness (yet not too sweet) liquidy-thick sauce. The veges were also super-flavoursome as a result. I could eat this by the plate-fuls!

The service here was not too attentive - I'm going to put it down to us being non-Korean. However, they gave us sauce when we wanted sauce, they gave us bowls (20 mins later) when we asked for bowls, they gave us water when we asked for water... what else can we ask for?

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28.5/40

Won Jo Korean Restaurant
33 The Boulevarde
NSW, 2135
tel: (02) 9746 7041

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Diggies - Wollongong


Exploring Wollongong beaches on a cloudy day - I figured that Sydney actually has some pretty good beaches.

We were checking out the menus of different places - and we stopped here, at Diggies, because I eyed one of the juices on the menu. This was the "Byron" ($6) - which essentially was pinapple, apple and ginger juice. My partner ordered this juice and it tasted very pineapple-y (to my partner) and also very gingery (to me). Not bad - maybe needed to be a touch colder.

The Byron - $6

I wasn't hungry on this particular day (due to a heavy breakfast) and opted for an ice-cold "Georgiacino" ($6) - an ice-coffee frappe. Mmm... very coffee-ish, reminiscent of StarBucks (which I do miss).

Georgiacino - $6

I also managed to sneak some of my partner's meal in my stomach. Interestingly (and against my will), my partner really wanted the classic fish 'n' chips ($18.50). I tried to direct him towards the yummy-looking all-day breakfast menus, but the boy wouldn't budge. So grenadier fillet deep fried in super crisp (and I mean super super crisp) batter with salad and chips it was~

It wasn't bad tasting - quite super super thick and crisp batter on the fish. The chips weren't as nice as LeVendi - but okay nonetheless.

Fish 'n' Chips - $18.50

Service was... hmm... somewhat lacking - but they came upon request. Situated beach-side, this cafe was definately a chillaxy.

Food - 8/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 28/40

1 Cliff Road
North Beach
NSW, 2500
tel: (02) 4226 2688

LeVendi - Wollongong


Treking down to Wollongong on Easter Sunday, my partner and I were cruising around looking for a nice cafe to lunch at. However, we didn't drive much further than LeVendi - we saw the crowds and decided that that was the place to be.

It was already around 1-2pm and it felt as if all of Wollongong was down at this small ish takeaway fish and chips joint.

A long look at the whiteboard menu and a long discussion after, my partner and I decided on the Habour Pack ($22.50). This pack had like... everything!!! 2 flathead portions (which ended up being 4), 2 prawn twisters, 4 squid tentacles, 2 salt & pepper squid, 2 crumbed scallops, 2 crab ragoons, all with large chips, lemon and tartare sauce. Seemed like a feast! (and it really was!)

The wait aside (around 20 mins), this feast was nicely tastey and super filling - and, as expected, we didn't finish it. But it sure did explain why this place was flocked with people - in fact, it seems that this place won the 2008 takeaway joint of the year (for Wollongong).

The Harbour Pack - $22.50

food - 8/10
service - 6/10 (a bit on the slow side... but they were super packed)

ambiance - 8/10 (ahh... beachside takeaway)

value for money - 7/10

overall - 29/40

Belmore Basin

Cliff Road


NSW 2500

(02) 4227 2989

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ramen San - Blacktown

Ramen San

Lunch on this particular day took my friends and I to Ramen San - the "noodle specialists" of Blacktown.

Being a noodle place owned by my partner's family friends who just so happened to employ a lot of my friends, I have to admit, I didn't pay attention to the menu - or really, the food.

One of my friends ordered what looks (in retrospect) like chicken and vege ramen in a soy sauce soup base with added boiled egg.

Chicken and Vege Soy Sauce-based Ramen

Another ordered the negi-miso ramen (spicy). My partner ordered the same thing - except asked for it chilli x10 (and it still wasn't spicy enough for his liking!!!). I think this was close to $12.

Negi-miso ramen
Negi-miso ramen (extra chilli)

Any myself? I ordered the miso ramen - which had pork, veges, seaweed and egg ($9.80). Taste-wise, it was a little bland. The noodles were... umm... well - I eat any noodles. The egg is just a regular boiled egg (not the flavoursome oozey boild egg you get from Jap Ramen places). But I guess, it wasn't too bad... given that it is Chinese-owned and not Jap-owned, the noodles bring an orient feel to it. Also, there are Chinese noodle dishes on the menu that you can't get from traditional Japanese Ramen shops.

Miso Ramen - $9.80

Service-wise, with the waitresses being our friends, I guess they were extremely friendly? Yet made us get our own tea. LOL

Food - 6/10

Service - 8/10

Ambiance - 6/10

Value for money - 6/10

Overall - 26/40

Ramen San
Shop 1005
Westpoint Blacktown
NSW, 2148
Tel: (02) 8814 8686

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cantina Bar + Grill - Darlinghurst

Cantina Bar + Grill

We visited Cantina Bar + Grill for a friends birthday. For a group booking of 8, we were forced to choose from one of three banquet menus. This was fortunate and unfortunate as it meant that we didn't have to spend hours pouring over the menu and deciding what we want, but also, we couldn't order some items that we really wanted to try (eg. paella).

Nonetheless, the $40 set menu was ordered and whilst we were thinking of ordering items on top of this menu, the nice friendly waiter advised us to wait til we were 1/2 way through the courses before deciding (wise advice). Lo and behold, we were stuffed by the set menu alone and additional items were not required.

So the first course of this set was a dip plate served with grilled olive sourdough bread. If you have been following my blog, you would know I am a picky eater. Hence, of the four dip choices, I tested the white bean and the chickpea, but left the beetroot, pumpkin and eggplant ones alone. My company, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed these dips and smashed it completely.

Dips with olive sourdough bread

The next to arrive on our table was the baby spinach salad. Comprised of baby spinach, roast pumpkin, goats cheese, grilled capsicum and pinenuts, it again, contained some forbidden items. Nonetheless, just the baby spinach and the pinenuts were tasty and flavoursome enough for me! The salad was definately one of the favourites of the nite, with my friends wishing there were more goats cheese~

Baby Spinach Salad with pumpkin, goats cheese, capsicum and pinenuts

Pan-fried haloumi served with char grilled marinated red peppers were absolutely delish! The soft, almost mushy, capsicum complemented the solid texture of the cheese well and the aromas were a great mix. Definately a dish worth trying.

Pan-fried Haloumi with red peppers

The chickpea salad looked amazing when it was first placed on the table. Chickpea mixed with cucumber, peppers, tomato and manchego cheese piled the plate. It didn't take me long to realise - chickpea is only nice in moderation. It is so completely completely filling. The texture of chickpea is so floury and dense - you really cannot eat lots of this (or else it becomes quite bland).

Chickpea Salad

Next came the potatoes (Patatas Bravas). These cruchy golden cubes of potato were soft and fluffy on the inside. Topped with onion, garlic and tomato sauce, they surprisingly bought along a touch on the chilli side - yet were absolutely delish! (maybe I'm just biased as I love potatoes).

Potatas Bravas

The most most awesomeness dish of the night were the pan-fried mushies. Tossed with garlic, parsley and jerez, every mushie was super soaked with flavour which just exploded in your mouth (or maybe that's just the oils). Health-issues aside, these were just super super tastey!!!

Pan-fried mushrooms with garlic, parsley and jerez

The dusted calamari served with chilli and lime mayo probably could have been a bit better. They weren't bad - but they were not spectacular. Crunchy and slightly chilli, at times I felt as though I was just eating batter as the calamari were so tiny.

Calamari with chilli and lime mayo

Grilled Spanish Chorizo lay ontop of romesco sauce. Being slightly oiled out by this stage, I decided to taste the chorizo withough immercing it into the oily sauce. The chorizos were... umm... normal? Just like any chorizo you would expect at any other spanish place.

Grilled Spanish Chorizo

Lastly, there were the meatballs which were made of lamb and pork and topped with garlic and tomato sauce. I can't really say much about these (as I don't do lamb) but the feedback I got from my friends was that it was filling.

Lamb and Pork Meatballs

In all, after my past experiences at banquet menus, I was genuinely surprised that it was a decent meal! The food was good and it was enough for my company of eight to walk out of the restaurant holding our stomachs. Our waiter was nice and friendly (I wish I could say the same for the manager). But in all, it was a chillaxy vibey spanish restaurant serving tapaz style food which left us full and satisfied.

Food - 7.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28.5/40

Cantina Bar + Grill
245 Oxford Street
NSW, 2010
Tel: (02) 9357 3033