Japanese Korean Uncategorized

Hiroba – Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

My partner was keen for some Japanese and I some Korean – from the outside, Hiroba’s little shop hugging the wall of Strathfield train station seemed like the perfect compromise.

Following in the tradition of Korean people serving Japanese food, Hiroba offers an extensive Japanese menu with the addition of some Korean restaurant staples. The Japanese izakaya style decor and Japanese translations on the menu provided an illusion that did not last long, shattered as soon as we unexpectedly received banchan upon ordering.

We initially pondered ordering a sushi or sashimi set, but decided on a la carte nigiri instead, making sure that our food was all thriller and no filler. The salmon, salmon belly, tuna, and snapper nigiri was all good and fresh, with thick and generous pieces of each. The tuna I thought was a bit expensive, coming in at $8 for two pieces, whilst the rest was reasonably priced ($5 for two pieces).

The mixed tempura (medium size) came with three tempura prawns and a mixture of what was mostly tempura tubers. Though freshly cooked, i thought the quality of the tempura was only middling, and felt that it was not as light and airy as good tempuras can be. We were saddened by the lack of variety in the tempura vegetables, with mostly root vegetables on offer. The only thing that really stood out was a single piece of tempura enoki – otherwise all of the tempura vegetables were quite samey.

I didn’t really like the flavour of the Ox Beef Soup, though if I’m being honest that could very well be more of a personal preference. The entire soup had a smoked taste, owing to what looked like sliced silverside beef on the inside. The overall theme of this soup could be described as wholesome feeling but not great tasting, though I did catch the chef having his own sit down meal of this soup. I assume the chef wouldn’t eat something not good, so it’s probably just our own preference that led us to not like this.

While the sushi at Hiroba was indeed good, would I go back again? Probably not. Strathfield holds a huge untapped potential of East Asian cuisine, and Hiroba just didn’t stand out enough for me to go back. I’d rather try something new.

1 Albert Rd, Strathfield NSW 2135
(02) 9763 1222


My Mother’s Cousin – Bexley NSW Restaurant Review

As a disciple of New York City food videos and pizza in general, My Mother’s Cousin has been high on my list of restaurants to visit for a little while now. Moving to the vaguely inner, vaguely South, vaguely West of Sydney has finally given me opportunity to go. As someone who’s never been to New York and whose only New York style pizza has been a single slice of Marinara from Frankie’s back in 2017 I really had no idea what to expect, and probably thanks to my partner’s choice in pizza I still don’t know what to expect, even having been.

I am grateful for my partner arriving at the restaurant before me, and ordering pizza so that I could inhale it and make a mad dash to the other side of the city for my night shift. Her choice of pizza was the Snag-a-Relli ($27), a 13-inch pizza with fior di latte, “pomodoro” which I think is just Italian marketing speak for tomato, Italian sausage, Smoked housemade “MMC” sausage, parmigiano reggiano, and pickled Jalapenos. It’s not what I would’ve chosen, but I sent her with no instructions, and again I am grateful.

This pizza, if not the Platonic ideal of the New York City Slice™, was still a pretty good pizza. The pizza was highly moist with a structure that didn’t quite stand up to it, resulting in some drips and some sagging of the very thin base of the slice on holding. This sagging was aided by the superior, top-heavy topping to base ratio, with plenty of toppings on board for maximal (but not supra-maximal) flavour. It reminded me of the meaty pizza with Jalapenos that my mum would order from Domino’s or Pizza Hut Wentworthville back in the early 2000s – though I think in the context of their last fifteen years of health kick (metabolically they’re doing great for their age) I don’t think either of my parents have had pizza in a very long time. Despite these comparisons, MMC’s Snag-a-Relli was a decidedly elevated adventuer over the old $5-with-coupon deep dish pizza (more bread for the same money!) from back in the day.

Having said all of this nonsense, my overall feedback is that the Snag-a-Relli is a good pizza, and well topped to boot. I particularly liked the texture of the sausage topping (it remains unclear at this point which pieces of sausage were Italian and which were Martian), which I felt was quite moist, as well as its taste, which I found to be not too salty (frequent readers of this blog will understand that this is quite a compliment from me). I don’t know that I would even change anything – it’s just not what I wanted in my mind, but did not convey with my words to my partner.

The hot honey with parmigiano reggiano wet wings ($12 for 6) was our other pick. They were my consolation prize for not being able to have the hot honey and pepperoni pizza, but sadly not as good as I expected. I felt that the honey was sweeter than I would’ve liked, and I was also surprised that “hot” meant warm rather than spicy. My partner enjoyed these wings, and I must admit that perhaps part of why I wasn’t so enamoured by them was the rift between expectation and reality.

Pretty good. I also like that they have separate handwashing facilities inside, because they know you’re going to make a mess. Can recommend.

My Mother’s Cousin
9 Shaw St, Bexley North NSW 2207
0410 913 335


Dong Ba – Cabramatta NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve been searching for a good bun bo hue ever since my initial transformational experience at Nem Kitchen in Waterloo back in 2020, and judging from the all the internet hype surrounding Dong Ba’s reportedly authentic food I thought I had finally caught the dragon. It is a shame, therefore, that I didn’t really think the bun bo hue was all that great.

The bun bo hue ($14) was quite a disappointment. I thought that the soup was a bit watery, and nowhere near as rich as I had remembered or expected. There was plenty of meaty fillings and fresh herbs and bean sprouts to dunk in, but the thin, low-taste broth really kind of let it down. All of this was also worsened by the fact that we had a piece of plastic in our bowl, and judging from the complaints from this Chinese woman who insisted on speaking Mandarin to the proprietors of a Vietnamese restaurant we weren’t the only ones.

Luckily the banh uot cha lua ($13) was actually quite delicious. The rice noodles were very thin, soft, and delicate, and there was a huge mountain of herbs hidden underneath that gave it an amazing fresh and herbacious flavour. The cha lua was nothing particularly special, but portioned well so that each mouthful could be had with some rice noodle, some herbs, and some pork. The dipping sauce added a nice flavour but also importantly moistness to the meal, and though I don’t really remember what the red thing is (I did at the time), it was also a nice addition. Overall this was a good dish, much better than the bun bo hue whose name is hung on the wall.

The avocado shake (?$6) was actually also quite good. It was very thick with an avocado flavour as well as a white sugar flavour, and extremely cold so I suspect there is some ice blended in also.

Two cats from across the road.

I went to Dong Ba for bun bo hue, but what I found was that their banh uot cha lua was much better. I had hoped that this well known Cabramatta restaurant would become my go to, but unfortunately I’d advise any bun bo hue pilgrims to keep looking.

Dong Ba (John St)
5/117 John St, Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9723 0336


Chungking Malatang (渝人麻辣烫) – Burwood NSW Restaurant Review

Chungking Malatang in Burwood, not to be confused for Chungking the formal sit down restaurant, has a few things going for it.

While I don’t have any photos of the fridges and freezers of base ingredients that one has to choose from (amateur move from me), I did feel like Chungking offered a wider than average selection, almost equal to a larger Yang Guo Fu Malatang outlet like the one in Kingsford. One specific innovation that caught my eye at Chungking was the use of not only fridges but freezers to hold ingredients, particularly the raw meat rolls, in order to maintain their freshness for longer. This approach really does make sense if you think about it – these meats generally come frozen regardless – and I’m quite surprised that I’m yet to run into another restaurant that does this. It sure beats watching staff smell the meat at Number 1 Malatang in Kingsford (now permanently closed).

The second thing that’s a bit different about Chungking is the availability of premium ingredients for a premium price – mostly seafoods like scallops and salmon – that occupy a separate fridge in plates akin to those at a sushi restaurant. Though I didn’t partake myself, this does add a bit of a high brow quality to this store.

We enjoyed both the standard spicy malatang as well as the preserved vegetable soup base. There’s no point really in commenting on the bowls themselves outside of the soup, as we essentially just got what w liked. Unlimited coriander garnish was on offer, which is excellent.

On a subsequent visit I had my meal stir-fried. It was alright, a bit spicier and saltier than I would have wanted, and with a degree of strictness of minimum portions even though my partner had ordered a huge wet one (pictured below).

Chungking Malatang in Burwood is a pretty strong contender for best Malatang in Burwood, especially as the Yang Guo Fu near the plaza has made way for a different company. Chungking’s extensive opening hours (closing for dine-in at 11:30PM most nights) and frozen meat fridge might just give it the edge over its nearby competitor Zhangliang.

Chungking Malatang (渝人麻辣烫) Burwood
158 Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW 2134
(02) 8385 2444


Paste – Mittagong NSW Restaurant Review

Operated by celebrated chef Bee Satongun and her Mittagong local husband, Paste’s Southern Highlands venue follows Michelin-starred and otherwise successful ventures in Thailand and Laos. While I would argue that the vast majority of Asian restaurants in small rural towns in Australia are mostly visited by accident, Paste holds a distinction for being not merely an afterthought, but a destination.

The Tropical Pomelo Salad ($45) is an somewhat misleadingly named but delicious dish consisting of two slipper lobsters (I believe them to be Moreton Bay Bug) and a few wedges of pomelo in a deliciously rich citrusy sauce. While much of the promotional material for the overseas version of this dish shows the bugs deshelled, our bugs came split in half with shell on, somewhat hurting the appearance of this dish, but at the same time providing diners with the valuable choice of picking their own saucing coefficient. The protective layer of shell meant that the bugs could not possibly come oversauced, but that we were able to decide exactly how much of it we wanted – a touch we found very thoughtful. The de-albedod pomelo portions were fresh and mildly sweet, however they alone were not enough to make this a salad. Given the dominance of sauce in the dish we would consider this more of a regular main than a salad, and would recommend an order of rice to go along with it to soak up all the flavours. Ultimately though I longed for more bug meat at the end of this dish.

I’ve been on a bit of a duck hunt recently, and Paste’s Half Crispy Duck ($44) was my latest attempt at capturing a juicy, meaty duck with crispy skin. While not all of these criteria were fulfilled (I think I just need to go to a standard Cantonese BBQ restaurant), Paste’s duck was truly quite special in its own way. This half duck came bathed in a sweet, clear broth of herbs and aniseed, and while the broth itself soaked through what might have otherwise been quite crispy skin, the interesting and complex flavours imparted by it were more than worth it. The citrus flesh and rind were delightfully fresh, and I particularly enjoyed mouthfuls with them and the contrast they provided against the otherwise herby broth.

The Smoky Southern Crab Curry ($43) was again interesting and unexpected. Unlike the pomelo salad, the shellfish of this salad was completely deshelled, with Australian blue swimmer crab meat on show in the bowl, making it an ideal dish for people who are generally too lazy to excavate for their own crab meat. The placement of the crab meat was again surprisingly thoughtful, with it all lumped together so that not all of it was submerged in the sauce. Not only this, but the meat was even layered so that it was not lost in the sauce as flakes, but safely secured and edible in whole spoonfuls. Magic. Truth be told though I thought that they yellow curry sauce was pretty standard, no more than well-executed, but not so special. It was all in the construction.

Rice was rice but expensive.

The Tamarind Cheese Cake ($23) with jasmine cream was very good. The cheese cake itself was a densely packed bar, again with a lot of citrus flavour. The biscuit crumb was just a little bit salty, and the dessert overall was not too sweet. The jasmine cream, unbelievably light and delicate, contrasted well with the heavy cheesecake. Each spoonful of the jasmine cream was an absolute delight.

These chairs were something else entirely. Excellent comfort with a reclining feature.

I admit this was probably a bit rambly. I wrote it over the course of two night shifts, surrounded by pinging alarms and with inadequate rest. I haven’t proofread it, but if you take anything home from this review it should be that Paste’s food is not only very good, but thought and care goes into not only the cooking but also the plating every dish. Though their prices seem to have increased 30% since they opened six months ago, they remain worth a visit.

Paste Australia (Southern Highlands)
105 Main St, Mittagong NSW 2575
(02) 4872 2277