Let’s face it – life’s short. In between full-time work, having a social life, travelling and of course – eating, there can only be so much time for the blog. Sure, there’s my Instagram account which covers material I might not otherwise blog, but the reality is I want to share all my discoveries with my readers. Time is however, a luxury. Thus, going forward, I’m introducing a new series called “Quick Bites”. Read on to find out more!
Quick Bites posts cover a whole bunch of eats (and interesting things to see, if applicable) over a given time period – all in one post. The overall post can be long, however individual sections will be short reads.
Each venue won’t get the same level of detailed coverage as a full-blown post, such is the compromise. However, if you have any questions on a particular dish/venue, please do not hesitate to reach out with a comment. While Instagram in many ways already serves as a “quick bites” platform, it’s still missing substance – substance which can only be found in a blog. I hope you like the format – and I’m more than happy to hear feedback on these installments, thank you!
Quick Bites November Contents
Japanese Omakase – Kabuki Shoroku
Cuckoo Callay – New Summer Menu (invite)
Hoost Restaurant – European & Asian Fusion
Chanoma Cafe – Matcha, Red Bean & Black Sesame Soft Serves
Kin By Us – My Kitchen Rules Alums Uel & Shannelle Still Got It
Belle’s Hot Chicken – Still the Best Chicken Tenders in Sydney
Sokyo – When Seven Times at the Sushi Counter Isn’t Enough
Cafe Rumah – Where Malay Bak Kwa Meets French Toast
BlackStar Pastry – Do I Need to Say More?
Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition at the MCA – When You’re Not Eating…
Japanese Omakase at Kabuki Shoroku
Long time readers know that I have a thing for Japanese, particularly ramen and sushi. It would be an understatement to say that I’ve eaten out at a lot of Japanese restaurants. Just when I was struggling to find new places, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Kabuki Shoroku. Even more shocking was realising that this restaurant has been operating for more than 15 years!
Kabuki Shoroku is what you would consider a mid to high-end Japanese restaurant. With a spend of around $80pp, it’s not a casual dinner joint. If you ask specifically for either a kaiseki or sushi omakase booking, you’ll be seated at the counter and be treated to their high-end menu for around $120-$135 depending on your pick. For the kaiseki option, this includes either many small dishes not unlike a Japanese degustation or, in the case of sushi omakase, fewer starters and a whole heap of sushi. While I love kaiseki, sushi occupies a similar place in my heart – and as I haven’t had a real proper meal of the latter since Hana Ju-Rin, a sushi omakase was the way to go.
Clockwise: counter seating; sashimi platter w/tuna, salmon, squid & alfonsino; barramundi & clam soup; assorted tempura w/matcha salt; prawn & tamagoyaki, duck & scallop
The appetiser courses at Kabuki Shoroku were on point; I didn’t have serious issues with any of them. The sashimi was fresh and tasty (particularly the fatty alfonsino), the barramundi soup clean and fresh (though perhaps just a tick overcooked), and the crunchy tempura was a natural pairing with matcha salt. The one oddity I couldn’t help but notice was Kabuki Shoroku’s choice in serving a tamagoyaki (egg cake) at the beginning of the meal – it’s always been at the end in my experience, so that was a bit of a flip. Nonetheless, it was dense and sweet, and the juicy scallop and savoury duck completed the meal’s start to great satisfaction.
As for the sushi courses, they comprised of garfish, uni, various types of tuna and shrimp. Flavours were a bit on the light side, with some pieces needing more seasoning. On the other hand, textures of the fish were ace – seafood preparation was not a skill the itamae(s) at Kabuki Shoroku are lacking. Just check out the scoring work! My favourite pieces were the uni and tuna courses – ah, so predictable. What can I say, I know what I like!
Our dessert for the meal was a panna cotta w/red bean, a surprisingly rich way to finish. It was a very tasty panna, but also “I don’t want to know how much much cream is in this panna” level of creamy. I didn’t think it fit the role of a post-sushi dessert very well.
Overall, a restaurant that, despite some quirks in choice of courses, served up a solid when it comes to Japanese food – worth putting on your list.
Cuckoo Callay’s New Summer Menu
The staff at Cuckoo Callay invited us in to try their summer menu, so the Usual Disclaimer applies.
Cuckoo Callay just keeps coming clucking back with each change of the season – having now debuted their summer menu. However, don’t expect it to be forgiving or refreshing – this is after all, the cafe that brought us a bacon festival with a menu that to date remains a paragon of respect for all things pork. What’s more, they made it work.
Let’s see what they’ve got then!
While a matcha latte isn’t my idea of cooling down from the sun, I couldn’t pass up the chance to be suckered into cute latte art! While pretty, the latte itself was below-average: you can see the visible lumps of matcha at the bottom of the cup, and the clustering of green powder near the top.
Leaving the detail aside, the top pick was once again the luxuriant, OTT bacon macdaddy. People have described the dish as a “monstrosity” or a “health risk”. But in the end, pick your macros and live with it. A delicious number, I ate far more than my fair share. The dish is already a well-established mainstay and it shows – there’s not much room for improvement. One change since my last visit was the addition of fried onion, adding an ever slight touch of Asia into the mix.
The piggy lily and sideways shuffle were interesting plates in their own right, though shared similar traits of being “croquette-like”, involved avo & egg, and thus weren’t nearly as interesting as the newcomer of the mah-sriracha. The tenderness and sweet sauce in that beef will blow your mind, as it did mine. Not much of a chilli kick though.
A separate picture is what the MAC CosmeChips deserves – it’s MAC ‘N’ CHEESE CHIPS BABY. What else can I say? If anything, it needed even more cheese sauce on it because hey – if you’re intent on getting this, you may as well swim in the stuff.
Something Different at Hoost
You ever had that feeling where you read a menu and have no friggin idea what you should pick – everything looks equally good? We’ve all experienced menu paralysis at one point or another. Hoost (meaning “harvest” in Danish) Restaurant’s trick to combat this was by serving just one main course per day. Want steak? That’s Wednesday. Pasta? Better leave some stomach this Saturday!
At least, that was the concept. While intriguing, it must not have work out – when I visited, I was greeted by an an la carte menu like any other. However, all’s well and good, as what followed was an array of dishes with various European/Japanese/Chinese influences that surprised me at almost every turn. A restaurant worth trying for that alone.
We’re talking plates like juicy & meaty corn dogs but with yuzu and panko breadcrumb. Or a trip back to my home country of China with authentic & highly aromatic Sichuan dumplings w/chilli oil. Alternatively, go European with rich bone marrow – deep fried w/sweet brioche if that’s your thing. Hoost does all these, and you’d never think they’d belong on the same menu.
For mains, we sampled a spinach pasta that was definitively Italian, with its briny clams and heady parmesan & pancetta broth. But then this was contrasted with an indisputably Asian bowl of Sichuan salt & pepper quail, one of the most flavoursome fried chicken dishes I’ve had in recent times. A cornucopia of soy-heavy mushrooms rounded out the sides, followed by a simplistic blueberry & meringue dessert. While basic, it hit the spot – especially as I’m a fan of goats cheese.
Want to try something different? Harvest yourself an appetite and book yourself into Hoost.
Matcha, Black Sesame & Red Bean Soft Serve at Chanoma
There’s only one photo here, but I just had to share it: Chanoma Cafe has finally released, in addition to its stalwart matcha soft serve, black sesame & red bean flavours. This news is actually months old, but having only discovered it recently, I couldn’t help but feel like “that” guy who’s on the butt end of multiple rounds of “oh you only discovered that now?”
REGARDLESS – GET YOURSELF SOME OF THE GOOD STUFF. Chanoma has always made amazing matcha soft serves. Seeing this carried through to black sesame and red bean flavours is happiness in a cone x2. If you’ve yet to jump on this bandwagon (tut tut – even later than me?), it’s not too late – Summer’s only just begun!
A Rich Feed at Kin By Us
I haven’t really talked about Kin By Us ever since my initial blog post on Uel & Shanelle’s post-MKR project, but I’ve actually visited 3-4 times since then, only to continuously lavish praise on this Macquarie Park eatery. The food’s always hit the spot, and that’s despite the frequent changes to the menu.
On a recent road trip back from Caves Beach, we had a chance to drop by to see what’s changed since my last visit around 10 months ago. Turned out, almost everything.
Kin By Us has also embraced the burger craze, with their own specialty take on it with the kincheese burger. Soft-centred, crispy-edged waffle buns, real smoky and juicy double beef patties and cheese everywhere made for an excellent feed. Yes, you could argue it’s over the top – but the burger was physically quite small, and only 2-3 bites when shared!
The only real downer was not being able to taste much of the promised kimchi flavour. In that respect, it was more a really nice burger that happened to sport very eye-catching buns. Not complaining – a good burger’s a good burger.
Uel & Shannelle’s talents extend to pasta as well, with a tasty rendition in the so-true-it-hurts name of pass-tha crab. Indeed, while the pasta itself was well-cooked to an al dente and carried the sambal-like chilli sauce as naturally as if it were always the case, it was the gorgeously crispy and juicy soft shell crab that stole both my heart – hence pass-tha crab, will you?
With this visit marking my 4th, I can confidently say that Kin By Us continues to deliver steady & dependable Asian fare. That the cafe was nearly packed even at 2pm is testament to that!
Fried chicken at Belle’s Hot Chicken
You don’t even have to be into food to know a thing or two about Belle’s Hot Chicken. Melbourne-born, Nashville-trained fried chicken master Morgan McGlone knows a thing or two about rubbing hot sauce onto chicks.
In all seriousness, Belle’s is the only place that serves Tennessee-style chook in Sydney. Despite some cramping issues with consistency of the food over multiple visits, the fact stands that the chicken tenders are pretty much Sydney’s best off-the-bone fried chicken. On-the-bone fans may not be swayed, but there’s something to be said about being able to eat glorious chunks of red hot goodness without getting half of it onto your face. You don’t want to attend your next meeting wearing Nashville hot sauce makeup now, though it might make you oh so attractive among fried chicken fans.
Pro-tip: the chips are also friggin good, and the salad is actually worth getting.
Sokyo Omakase (again – 7th time now?)
Do I even need to explain this one? Once again, Sokyo’s omakase experience is unparalleled. Yes, I’m still not a fan of the loud music and the overall ambience of the restaurant. However, everything melts away when watching Sano-san work pure magic with nothing but knives, chopsticks and fish.
As usual, we got a ton of appetisers with some new ones for the season including fresh kegani (hairy crab), sweet iwashi (sardines) and even shirako (snapper egg sacs). Everything was at a minimum, marked with a seal of approval.
And of course there’s the sushi itself. There’s no point commenting here, as I’d just be repeating myself from my previous postings.
The desserts have also been revamped, with the introduction of a marshmallow-soft yuzu soufflé and a Sokyo banana, a banana-puree filled cake that was a most welcome addition to the family.
Such is the demand, that the next available sittings for Sokyo’s omakase are now in April 2017. If you want a Friday night booking, you’re looking at May or June 2017!
Suffice it to say, if you’re serious about Japanese food but yet to visit Sokyo, then are you truly serious about Japanese food?
Breakfast at Cafe Rumah
Cafe Rumah (meaning “home” in Malay) is a new-but-not-really Malaysian-inspired cafe that I’ve been meaning to visit for far too long. Food is based on traditional Malay, as well as family recipes passed down through the generations. While there are some twists in the dishes giving traditionalism a bit of a finger flick, it’s still distinctly Malaysian. Given the lack of such cafes in Sydney, that’s absolutely fine by me.
You might be thinking kaya toast when thinking Malaysian breakfast (and you’re right – it’s on the menu with their housemade coconut spread), but we had eyes for their take on an Asian French toast sandwich with bak kwa. This is a toughish, Malay-style marinated pork jerky with a distinct flavour of five spice and fruity sweetness. There’s kewpie mayo and a fried egg, with slightly moist, bouncy French toast bread to bring it all together.
It was goooooood.
Alternatively, give their newly-released shrimp on toast a try. The shrimp “slices” have the consistency of firm tofu and are tasty in their own right, but what really shone was that bacon jam. It wasn’t even a fair competition to begin with.
Rumour has it you should visit Rumah.
Cake Party with BlackStar Pastry
This one was totally a spur-of-the-moment thing: I decided to buy nearly $70 worth of BlackStar cakes just to do some photography. Letting the creativity (and sugar) flow, as it were. Let me know what you guys think and which one you prefer! 😀
FYI: we did totally demolish the cakes after consumption – don’t you worry about that!
Tatsuo Miyajima Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Wait whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat – something not food related? Calm your farm – one has to do something in between all that eating, right? Tatsuo Miyajima is known for his work with LED lights, creating exhibitions that not only look amazing (and cool!), but are sublime metaphors for the passage of time, as well as the fleeting nature of life and its inevitable end. His exhibition “Connect With Everything” is his first in the Southern Hemisphere, and the MCA has done a marvellous job of showcasing every last watt.
If you have a Citibank card, you can buy a 2-for-1 ticket at $22 ($11ea). The exhibition runs till 5 March, 2017 and is part of the Sydney International Art Series.
And that’s all from me folks – a selection of my November eats plus a little something more. Let me know how this went for y’all and I’ll be sure to respond to everyone’s feedback! Until then, stay hungry!
All meals and events featured in this post, with the exception of Cuckoo Callay, were independently paid for.
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