Categories
Café Japanese

Kurumac – Marrickville NSW Cafe Review

Kurumac’s hanging basketball

Kurumac is one of the first Asian cafes I ever visited, and one of the ones that got me hooked on the concept. An inner-west spin off of Kirribilli’s cool mac, Kurumac delivers some of the best and only Japanese-focused breakfast and brunch in the city, with the added benefit of not having to rub shoulders with the sleazy political types that haunt its North Shore sister. While most Asian cafes do their best to fuse both Asian and Western flavours, Kurumac proudly serves a focused Japanese meal.

Assorted sashimi seafood, sushi rice, miso soup

The Assorted sashimi seafood, sushi rice, miso soup ($19 when eaten in June 2020, now sadly $25 in December 2020) is a revelation. It was the first and still one of the best sashimi bowls I’ve ever had. The top layer of salmon sashimi is lightly grilled and slightly sauced to perfection. The salmon roe is delicious and it is clear that they took effort to source some high quality produce. The scallops are sweet and fresh, as are the cooked prawns. The miso soup was the perfect accompaniment to the remaining rice at the end of the dish. While not mini in size, I would consider this a mini-version of Simulation Senpai’s Hoseki Bako, very high quality but missing some of the luxury elements.

Grilled samlon congee, salmon skin

The grilled salmon congee with crispy salmon skin ($17) was so good that we had it twice. The congee is warm and wholesome, with a nice serving of grilled salmon and a topping of delicious salmon roe and shallots. The grilled salmon provides a umami flavour that permeates the entire congee, while the crispy salmon skin on the side adds a delightful crunch with an additional burst of salt. The preserved vegetables on the side are more sweet than salty and thus help to add balance to the dish.

The Pickled mustard, Cod Roe Omlette, Rice, Tonjiru Pork and Veg Soup ($19) is the weakest of all of the dishes I’ve had at Kurumac. The top half of the egg was nice, but it wasn’t immediately obvious that the cod roe would be in discrete parcels of saltiness and spiciness rather than mixed in with the egg – this led to lost opportunities as it was quite a while into the dish that I found them. The soup of strong onion and radish taste was a bit too salty and tasted a bit too agricultural for me. I wouldn’t recommend this dish.

Spicy cod roe melt

The spicy cod roe melt ($12) is an expensive but delicious piece of toast with a huge amount of heavy, rich spicy mentai mayo on top. This was one of the dishes that rekindled my interest in cod roe, and I actually tried to recreate it at home to much less success. Not Kurumac’s healthiest dish, but well worth a try.

Japanese Style White Toast, Seaweed Butter

While the spicy cod roe melt is a heavy and decadent piece of bread, the Japanese Style White Toast with Seaweed Butter ($6) is much lighter. This is a simple dish of a very thick piece of toast (in my opinion it is too thick) and a small bowl of seaweed butter. The seaweed butter provides a nice umami flavour, but in my opinion is a bit too mild to enjoy with such a large quantity of bread, even when fully spread over the toast. This would suit individuals with a more delicate palate.

The seasonal milkshake ($9.50) changes with the season. Mine was a large kiwifruit milkshake made with gelato from Newtown’s Mapo (one of my favourite gelato stores). It is huge and expensive, served within the metal milkshake tumbler. I would recommend the Hojicha Milkshake, available for the same price, if available.

The Latte ($4) is just normal coffee.

The Matcha Latte ($4.50) is quite good, served in a nice little stone cup. It is not sweetened.

CONCLUSION

You may be able to tell that I really like Kurumac. It’s one of my favourite cafes in Sydney, and I expect that as time passes and their menu changes you will also see new items added to this review.

5/5 basukettobōru.

Kurumac
107 Addison Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8593 9449

Kurumac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Categories
Korean

Hanok Korean BBQ – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

The state opening up hospitality and businesses to COVID-19 vaccinated patrons only really makes sense if these venues are doing their due diligence in checking that their patrons are indeed vaccinaed. It always makes me feel uncomfortable a venue, which has reopened under strict legal conditions to minimise the spread and harm of COVID-19 within the community fails to check my vaccine status on entry. It’s not that checking would affect whether or not I myself would be let it, it’s that it introduces the possibility that those dining around me might have slipped in unvaccinated. The imaginary bubble of safety has burst.

Banchan was served with our waitress naming each individual side dish, something I’d not experienced before. Unfortunately no moves were made to refill these, despite them sitting empty for some time.

The marinated beef short rib was rock solid, as were the wagyu intercostals and pork jowl. While I can’t fault the quality of the meat on offer, it was clear looking at the prices that they were charging a bit more than you would expect to pay at the average Korean BBQ restaurant in Sydney.

The steamed egg rated low on my list of previously eaten steamed eggs. I didn’t feel like it was as soft as it could’ve been, but my partner could not pick the difference.

OVERALL VIBE
I think the overall vibe of the place is that the food is fine, but you would expect to either pay less or get more from a comparable restaurant in Sydney. In fact, BBQ Biwon in Strathfield (link will go live in like March 2022, the review is queued) will actually give you your steamed egg on the house if you order enough BBQ. Either way, I’m not pleased about the lack of COVID-19 safety.

Hanok Korean BBQ Wollongong
W119/200 Keira St, Wollongong NSW 2500, Australia
+61 433 962 959

Categories
Chinese

Mr Stonebowl – Burwood NSW Restaurant Review

My first experience with Mr Stonebowl was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when I ordered some dinner from their Hurstville restaurant that took around two hours to deliver and ended up being quite disappointing. My second experience, on the first day of reopening in October 2021, was much better, though not without its faults.

Our ordering was largely guided by my esteemed colleague JZHW, a Burwood local and Mr Stonebowl evangelist.

The garlic prawn with stir fried rice in squid ink ($19.80), a “must-order” per both JZHW and the staff at Mr Stonebowl, was a pretty reasonable dish. It was a large pot of dark-coloured rice covered in a creamy sauce and topped with some battered and deep fried garlic prawns. This configuration of white sauce atop rice was fusion in a sense reminiscent of Hong Kong cafe style cuisine, though no cultural inspirations have been explicity mentioned by the restaurant. Overall a large, economical, and good (if heavy) dish.

The chicken feet and bean silk in homemade sauce ($8.60) wasn’t really very good. This dish was the first indication that steamed yum cha style dishes aren’t really this restaurant’s specialty. While feng zhua (鳯爪) is typically steamed to the point where the meat and skin is falling off the bone and easily eaten off, these little chicken feet still had all of the connective tissues clinging to the bone. Unfortunately this made for a difficult to eat and less flavourful dish. A few extra minutes in the steamer would’ve made a lot of difference, and honestly this is an amateur mistake to make. I wouldn’t order this again.

The stew beef tendon with crispy quail eggs ($17.80) was alright. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavour, but I do like myself a bit of beef tendon in pho, in instant noodles, and just in general. The decision to slightly fry the quail eggs to make them crispy and dry on the outside was a strange one.

The special soup with fish fillet, prawn, razor clam, and quail eggs ($18.20) was surprisingly spicy, but had quite a good flavour. The nature of the fish fillets wasn’t clear but our JZHW’s Vietnamese partner thinks it was basa.

The pork ribs in Beijing style sweet and sour sauce ($17.80) were not, as I thought they would have been, Zhenjiang pork ribs. Instead they were your pretty standard sweet and sour sauce pork ribs with cubed pineapple in tow. They were pretty good to be honest, but not really traditional Chinese food. This would all be much easier if I could read Chinese.

The pork and chive dumplings ($8.80) were a standout. Very good, very authentic, and very cheap. I could recommend these to anyone.

The shumai ($8.50), conversely, were quite bad. They were very loose inside, packed with vegetables rather than the classic pork or prawn meat. Thematically they were more similar to the Australian “dim sim”, a fried mess of minced cabbage and mystery meat. I wouldn’t recommend these.

The prawn dumplings (xia jiao) ($8.50) were alright. They were plump and tasty, though I felt like again they could’ve been steamed for longer. The wrappers were just a bit too chewy in my opinion.

The Singapore style barramundi ($20.80) was, in my opinion, better than that at related restaurant Mr Stonepot in Eastwood. While I think the fish was probably leaner or smaller and the dish a dollar more expensive, I thought the sauce tasted better here.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I think that Mr Stonebowl does live up to its reputation for providing reasonable quality Chinese food at an attractive price. The four of us had initially set out for hotpot, but after finding we looking at paying around $80 pp for the only hot pot available in Burwood on the first night of eased COVID-19 restrictions we chose to dine here instead at the relative bargain basement price of $33 per person. There are certainly things I’d avoid at Mr Stonebowl, which generally includes anything steamed, but the rest of the food seems pretty reasonable.

Mr Stonebowl Burwood
GF 122, 122-126 Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW 2134
(02) 9745 1388

Diners – WKS, JW, JZHW +1

Categories
Indonesian

ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy – Mascot NSW Indonesian Restaurant Review

I will readily admit that certain East Asian cuisines hold the lion’s share of airtime on this blog. It’s not strictly abnormal to enjoy the kind of food you grew up with, and I’m not going to go out of my way to eat at and review a restaurant I don’t think I’ll like.

Indonesian food seems to be a particular victim of my East Asian-slanted palate, but in an attempt to broaden my horizons I have eaten at and will try and give a fair review of ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy, a local Mascot (ex-Kingsford) Indonesian eatery specialising in soft bone fried chicken.

Ayam Goreng Tulang Lunak

ATL’s main attraction is the Ayam Goreng Tulang Lunak (1/4 fried soft bone chicken, $9), served with sambal sauce. As with all of their chicken the diner is given a choice of thigh or breast piece, and I have chosen the thigh piece for all dishes of this review as it appears to be the more popular of the two. Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy’s chicken is first cooked in a pressure cooker overnight before finished off at time of ordering. It is this pressure cooking process that ensures uniform cooking of the chicken’s meat, as well as gives the bone ATL’s characteristic soft and edible nature. The chicken meat I thought was a tiny bit drier than the best fried chicken I’ve had, but more than made up for by the strange soft bone which was easy to chew and eat. The Ayam Goreng Tulang Lunak was coated in a large quantity of light deep fried batter, which was crunchy and tasty (though only of a salt flavour). I can recommend this dish, if only because I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Sydney to have deep fried soft bone chicken.

Ayam Goreng Telur Asin

The batter of the Ayam Goreng Telur Asin (1/4 chicken with salty egg sauce) was less in quantity than the Ayam Goreng Tulang Lunak, replaced somewhat by a salty egg sauce. This was a relief in and of itself, as I don’t think I could’ve had more of the high-guilt batter after my first piece of chicken. Though eggy, the sauce tastes more or less the same as that of the normal fried chicken – mostly a salt flavour. The rest of the details of the chicken are identical to the first dish.

Coconut Rice

The coconut rice ($4) was really good. It was topped with fried onions and possibly some other ingredients that added a umami kick. In a strange way it provided a bit of balance to the very oily chicken dishes.

The Tahu Goreng (fried tofu – $5) was nice and crispy on the outside with only a light thin batter, and soft and warm on the inside. My partner enjoyed the piece that I took home for her and so did I.

Interestingly my favourite morsel of the meal was actually the Ayam Bakar (1/4 grilled chicken in sweet soy sauce – $9) that I got for takeaway for the following day. Unlike the fried pieces this grilled chicken actually had a flavour other than saltiness, and it also felt less unhealthy. The sweet soy sauce flavour and sachet of chilli sauce provided a much more interesting flavour profile. The bone in this chicken is soft as well, so it would be my recommendation if you were to go to ATL and only wanted to order one thing.

CLOSING REMARKS
I don’t normally enjoy Indonesian food – more of an issue of personal tastes than a criticism of the entire country – but I did enjoy ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy. I think that while not every dish is amazing and it is probably not the most healthy thing you can eat, ATL does offer something that no one else does in their crispy boned chicken. Worth a visit.

ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy
1/702-710 Botany Rd, Mascot NSW 2020
(02) 8339 0660

Categories
Chinese

Taste of Nanking (老南京) – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

One tried and true formula for naming a Chinese restaurant is rolling the dice on different combinations and permutations of the words “Golden”, “Empress”, “Dragon”, “Jade”, and finishing off with ” Seafood Restaurant”. Another familiar technique is to name a restaurant after one’s hometown and append “Taste of” in front of it. Taste of Shanghai is one famous example. Taste of Nanking is another.

TASTE OF NANKING is located on Gadigal Avenue in Waterloo, a recently developed strip of Asian (mostly Chinese) restaurants and groceries with quite a few gems to find. It is somewhat down the street from U STORE, an expensive but fun Asian grocery store with a wide array of snacks and a good mix of not only Chinese but also Korean and Japanese goods.

Taste of Nanking’s Mixed Noodle with Scallion Sauce and Minced Pork ($13.80) was really good. It is a dry noodle dish with a delicious sauce base and a generous helping of mince. The serving is huge, and I enjoyed the addition of the steamed bok choy which provided a fresh and moist counter to the thick saucy noodle dish. There’s a chilli symbol next to it on the menu, but it has more of a sweet taste than a spicy taste. I can definitely recommend this one.

Crayfish topping on steamed rice (Luxury)

The Crayfish Topping on Steamed Rice dish comes in three different grades – Original, Luxury, and Supreme – denoting the quantity of crayfish topping added. I had the “Luxury”, level with 120 grams of crayfish topping, coming in at $22.80.

My feelings about this dish were a bit mixed. This was my first time having small crayfish like this, and I appreciated the small prawny flavour but wondered what kind of hell it was to have to hand peel these tiny crayfish that I was eating multiple of in each mouthful. Apart from the yummy crayfish, the sauce that swam in was a bit too salty and tasty for me, and in this sense the rice definitely came in handy. The egg was yummy, and the dish did benefit from the addition of extra egg. The preserved vegetables added a sweetness to the otherwise quite salty dish. Again this was quite a large serving and like the mixed noodles we took what we couldn’t finish home. If I had one alteration to suggest I would either only get the Original variation (assuming that with only 90 grams of crayfish topping there would be less salty sauce) or add some additional rice.

Nanking Special Egg

The Nanking Special Eggs ($2) were a little bit special. They are your classic marinated soy/tea eggs, served cold, and really good eaten with the mains.

The Braised Jumbo Meat Ball in Brown Sauce ($6.80) have a maximum order of 1 per customer, which I don’t really think makes sense unless there is a good reason for scarcity – normally more orders mean more income for the restaurant. They are a large ball formed out of minced pork. My partner quite enjoyed their soft internal texture, however I thought that they were a bit too salty to have on their own. They’re not bad, but if you are ordering these balls I’d highly recommend you have them with some rice.

Signature Nanking Soup Dumplings

The Signature Nanking Soup Dumplings (6 for $7.80) were pretty much Xiao Long Bao but without the folds in the pastry. I’m not really sure what else is different – perhaps a difference in the filling, but given the reasonably wide variation of XLB fillings in general I think it still fits in the same spectrum. The soup of Nanjing soup dumplings is also meant to be more prominent, and while these were quite soupy I think again they fall within the same spectrum as the XLBs of Sydney. They are cheap, juicy, and cheerful.

CONCLUSION

Taste of Nanking is not generally well-rated online, but I’m not too sure why. One one star review on Google Reviews was because their air conditioning wasn’t cold enough one Summer day, which I don’t really think is enough to poo-poo an otherwise good meal. Service seems to be another common complaint I thought the guy running front of house was really enthusiastic, although agree that it was a bit odd that we were given one cup to get water from the water cooler between the two of us.

Overall I think the food was good, and any of my gripes about it being too tasty could have been solved by ordering some extra white rice. Portions were huge and the meal was generally quite good value.

4.5/5 – Not for a business lunch or romantic date, but good for a quick casual meal or takeaway.

Taste of Nanking 老南京 Waterloo
1/18 Gadigal Ave, Waterloo NSW 2017
(02) 9313 8450