Archive for February, 2010

Nick’s odyssey with the ghost begins: bhut jolokia, part 1

I love chilli.  I can’t get enough chilli.  Nothing is ever hot enough for me.  I used to go into Indian restaurants and ask for them to make their vindaloo as hot as they possibly could, and then some.

So I’ve decided it’s finally time to eat something which I know I can’t handle, and will hopefully shut me up about needing something hotter forever.

This is the bhut jolokia, also known as the ghost pepper.

It is certified as the hottest chilli in the world by the Guiness Book of World Records, after tests performed by the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, apparently the most authoritative academic source of information on chillies in the world.

You can’t seem to buy these things as chillis in Australia.  I’m assuming that there would be such a low market for something like this, that the things would be off by the time they’re sold.

I’ve found it is possible to buy seeds on eBay, however…

Read more

Mitzu

You may have guessed, I have an almost unhealthy obsession with sashimi, and to a lesser extent sushi.

Since my office moved to North Ryde, I’ve been meaning to try Mitzu, the sushi train joint at Macquarie Centre.  At first look, the idea of a sushi train inside a shopping centre doesn’t exactly instil a lot of confidence.

I went there on my own yesterday, and I have to say it was one of the better sushi train experiences I’ve had.  I eat at sushi train places every now and then, but more out of convenience than seeking brilliant, fresh food.  I’ve never eaten at a sushi train that can compete with a proper Japanese restaurant that specialises in sashimi & sushi such as Toko in Surry Hills or Kokoroya in Maroubra.

As far as sushi trains go however, Tomodachi at Broadway & Rhodes are quite good, as are Sushi Rio on Sussex Street and Makoto in Chatswood.  Mitzu was probably at this same level.  The produce was nice and there was a nice range to select from.

The salmon and kingfish sashimi was cut well, and was good quality fish.  It did taste warm and not too fresh, no doubt a result of the standard sushi train problem of the food going around in circles for quite some time before it’s eaten.

Next, I decided to try the salmon aburi (grilled salmon on a bed of rice, basically salmon nigiri but slightly seared).  This was quite nice.  The fish wasn’t flaky and falling apart like it often can be when salmon is cooked.  This was a nice recovery from the not so great sashimi! Read more

Bent

Bent at Surry Hills’ Belvoir St. Downstairs Theatre is an effective, at times emotional look at a part of the holocaust some may still not be aware of.

In 1930s Germany, Hitler and the Third Reich started a crack down on gay people, and they were arrested and sent to concentration camps or worse.

The story starts off in Berlin, watching the relationship between Max, the protagonist, and his boyfriend, Rudy (aka the dancer).  Things start to go horribly wrong when someone they’ve just met is arrested in their apartment by the Nazis.

They learn of the crackdown, and flee Berlin, for a short time living in an unemployment camp before being arrested and put on a train to Dachau.

Max is told on the train that pink triangles (the symbol used on the clothing for gay prisoners) were treated worse than anyone in the prison, even the yellow stars (Jews).

Max is forced into a barbaric and painful act to prove he doesn’t know Rudy, and is actually straight.  He earns his yellow star, and forces all thoughts of Rudy out of his head.

He then falls in love with a fellow prisoner, very slowly until he eventually performs a final act of sacrifice to be at peace with himself.

During the last 10mins, I was fighting back a few tears.  The intimacy of the Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir helps make you feel more involved in what you are witnessing.

Nick’s rating: **** (four out of five)

China Doll

Once in a while a restaurant comes around that totally blows me out of the water.  Tonight this happened.

My friend Kurt has been raving about China Doll being his favourite restaurant for years, and though I’ve taken it on board, I’ve never acted upon it.  Tonight, Mikey & I finally did.

The restaurant is in Woolloomooloo in Sydney, on the wharf in a picturesque surrounding.  There are a number of nice looking restaurants all lined up along the wharf, somewhat reminiscent of Opera Quays.

Upon being seated, the waitress asked if we’d dined here before.  She then proceeded to explain to us that they recommend sharing all the dishes to get a broad taste of what is available.  This idea worked very well.

Before I continue, I do have to apologise for the quality of these photos.  I don’t like taking cameras to restaurants, so I’ve been using my iPhone which, to put it kindly, has very poor low light abilities.

We started off with the chilli salt squid and the sashimi of Hiramasa kingfish & ocean trout with blackened chilli dressing.

Fantastic is all I can say.

Both were absolutely divine, and I doubt could be improved upon.  The chilli salt squid was cooked to perfection, Mikey did find one piece that was a little bit chewy, but when eating squid to only find one piece a little chewy is really quite amazing.

The sashimi was prepared to spectacularly.  The blackened chilli dressing was a very nice, refreshing, almost zesty flavor enhancer, and a welcome change to the standard (but still quite nice) soy & wasabi mix. Read more

Bakehouse Garden

It has been months since I’ve had Korean BBQ.  I’ve had a hankering for it for ages, and so last night we decided to do it.

Strathfield is as close to Little Korea as Sydney gets, in fact the Sydney Morning Herald called it “Sizzler Central”, referring to the innumerable number of Korean BBQ joints there.  Having only eaten à la carte at Strathfield Korean restaurants before, we figured this would be a great BBQ opportunity.

After a quick Google, we discovered Bakehouse Garden in North Strathfield.

George St in Strathfield is a very surprising find.  Full of nice looking restaurants and people dressed well, you would swear you weren’t in the western suburbs (albeit the inner west).  Nothing against Sydney’s western suburbs, of course!

The restaurant looked chic and modern (at least for a Korean restaurant), and there was a pretty even mix of Koreans and Caucasians.  This at first was a little concerning, as generally a majority Korean mix tends to be indicative of a good Korean restaurant in Sydney.

Let me tell you though, this was completely unfounded! Read more

Medusa Greek Taverna

Medusa only popped up a few years ago on the corner of Market and Kent Streets in Sydney.  I didn’t think it would last in the position it was in.

Thankfully I ate my words last night, the third time I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Medusa.  It was packed.  It is always packed.  At lunch it’s packed.  At dinner it’s packed.

This is a good sign of the quality of food to come.

We started off with some dips and warm pita bread.  The four of us shared melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), fava santorinis (chick pea dip) and tzatziki.

Dips are one of the things I absolutely love about Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.  They did not disappoint last night.  They were full of flavour, and plentiful!

For the mains, three of us ordered the same thing, Medusa’s arni sto fourno, which is a slow roasted side of lamb, served with potatoes cooked in lemon butter.  The meat literally just fell off when you went to cut it, and seemed to melt in your mouth.  It was amazingly tender.

Later in the evening, Peter Koutsopoulos, the owner was talking to us about his secrets.  He says that he hates modern ovens, especially fan forced ovens and uses only old fashioned ovens in his restaurant kitchens.  He has a more modern oven at home, and can never cook the lamb as nice as he does at the restaurant. Read more

Ristorante Fellini

Last weekend we went up to the Gold Coast for Danny’s birthday.  So, on the Saturday night we went out for a birthday dinner for him to Ristorante Fellini at Marina Mirage on the Gold Coast.

Mikey and I had eaten here once before, a couple of years ago and recall it being a very pleasant experience.

The wine list is quite comprehensive, and the menu had quite a few options (the majority being entrées which can be ordered as a main size).

This time, I opted for the filetto di manzo, which is the scotch fillet, I asked them to cook it rare.  There were eight of us this night, and it took close to an hour after ordering for our food to be on the table.  We were enjoying the conversation, so this was no big deal for us this night.

When it arrived, it was nice.  It was cooked perfectly, and the steak was a nice enough cut, however there was a bit too much really chewy fat for my liking.  It was served with some sort of subtle smoky, BBQ like sauce which complimented it well.  It was served with mashed potato, and an eggplant and capsicum timbale (the vegetables baked in a round mould). Read more

Taiyoh

My uphill epic battle to find gastronomic solace in my new work suburb of North Ryde in Sydney took us to one of the better places today.

Kev, Craig and I paid a visit to a place we’d been meaning to for some time now, Taiyoh on Coxs Road for lunch.  It’s a tad too far to walk from the office, so Kev drove us down.

The menu was comprehensive, and had all the favourites, along with some specialities of their own.

We decided to go with edamame (salty steamed soy beans) and beef tataki (slightly seared raw slices of beef) for entrées, and a deluxe sashimi plate and spicy salmon roll for our mains, accompanied by Asahi to drink (bottled). Read more

Akaneya

Akaneya on King St in Sydney has long been one of my regular haunts.

The food is good, it’s not too expensive, and it used to be close to where I worked, which meant the occasional lunch, but more often I’d go there for a quick dinner, and quite often takeaway when working in the office late.

I have several friends who also independently love this place.  I went there last night for dinner with Jamela and Stu, two of the aforementioned friends.  This is the second or third time we’ve been there together, and it’s becoming almost a tradition!

We started off with edamame (salty whole steamed soy beans) which was still nice and warm when served, I hate it when it’s served cold.  I always find edamame so addictive, to use an old marketing cliché, once you pop, you can’t stop!

For other entrées, we also had the gyoza which is nice but pretty standard, the deep fried soft-shell crab which is always lovely, and nasu dengaku which is grilled eggplant with an interesting miso based sauce.  I’m not usually a big fan of eggplant, but this is one of the exceptions.  It’s always piping hot when you get it, too hot to eat straight away, and the sauce and the flavour is exquisite, enough to overlook the texture of eggplant that I don’t usually like!

Next, on to the mains.  I had the sushi & sashimi combo, which is quite a large wooden boat filled with different types of, you guessed it, sushi and sashimi!  It had two different cuts of kingfish sashimi, two different cuts of salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi, scallop sashimi, salmon nigiri, kingfish nigiri, prawn nigiri, beef tataki nigiri, cooked tuna sushi and salmon sushi.  What a mouthful!  It was also served with miso soup which I never drink anyway so I can’t rate it.

The sushi and the sashimi were quite pleasant, as they always are at Akaneya.  It didn’t taste as fresh and amazing as Kokoroya in Maroubra that I raved about on this blog recently, but it’s still a good, dependable tasty meal. Read more

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