We walked past many enticing restaurants this morning to eat at Boon Cafe, a Thai cafe, restaurant and grocery store in the Sydney CBD.
Boon Cafe has minimal dining space, we counted a total of five tables and not much room for expansion. The tables were small, but somehow able to fit all of our food, condiments, and even some flowers snugly.
We started with a Pork Skewer ($3.50), which was pretty standard fare. I found the skewer a bit too tasty/salty to eat by itself, and think it would’ve been better with some rice (which luckily they offer as a meal) .
I really enjoyed the Chicken and Ginger Congee ($12), to which we added a Century Egg ($3). They got the flavours just right, with a generous serving of ginger. The century egg I would regard as essential for this dish, to add another dimension of umami flavour and texture. We found that the congee was very wholesome and warming, and can strongly recommend this. My girlfriend remarked that as a child she hated congee, but as an adult, getting to eat these wholesome and varied congees has really taught her to love it.
The chicken wings were nothing to really write home about but not bad either. They were a little on the dry side, but the flavours were good, as was the dipping sauce. They were split in half for ease of consumption, which was a nice touch.
The Khao Dtom Sen ($14) is a member of the Winter Special menu, and not to our taste. I thought that the soup had a bit of an undesirable coat-your-mouth feel, and my partner thought it was fishy however I suspect that’s just her brain’s explanation of something she doesn’t like.
I ended up quite liking Boon Cafe, in particular the congee. I would definitely consider going back and just getting more congee! I wouldn’t stray too far from that though (although I can’t speak for the lunch or dinner menus).
It takes good planning, a childhood spent spamming clicks into party quests in MapleStory, and a generous helping of luck to secure a spot at Kuon Omakase, one of Sydney’s newest and at $200, most expensive omakase restaurants. With only two seatings of eight per night, it is an experience so exclusive that multiple senior medical colleagues expressed their dismay at not being to secure a visit for themselves in the weeks leading up to our visit. One of these colleagues even offered to pay a 40% premium to buy one of our seats. Essentially it is Japanese Dorsia.
Executive Chef Hideaki Fukada started the night by introducing us to his lobster friend, who would soon be taken into the back room and slaughtered to produce our first dish of the night: Ise Ebi Sashimi (live lobster) with toro and caviar. Premedicated with loratadine and with adrenaline in pocket, I dug into the sweet, fresh flesh of the lobster, the delicious fatty umami of the tuna belly, and the actually pretty-soft saltiness of the osetra caviar. This was, overall, a good dish to start – even if I was extremely nervous about having an allergic reaction with the first bite of a $240 meal.
Second on the menu were Aomori Hotate, sauteed scallops with butter garlic soy sauce from the Aomori region, on the northernmost part of Honshu. These were lightly flavoured, slightly tougher than I expected, and really didn’t do anything special for me. In fact, they got me a bit worried about the meal to come.
The Traditional Chawanmushi, an egg custard with fish cake, chicken, scallop, prawn, and gingko nut was next – a warm bowl of subtly flavoured goodness. The egg custard was soft and silky, and I felt like I could eat bowls and bowls of it on its own. As for the embedded proteins, the prawn was large and sweet, but unfortunately there is nothing much more to say about the chicken, scallop, or fish cake.
The kusakari tsubodai tatsuta age, fried armorhead served with a slice of okra and a slice of lemon, was really also just fine – though it doesn’t look like armorhead is a commonly eaten fish. The subtle layer of batter helped to seal in the fish’s moisture and sweetness, though at the end of the day this dish didn’t feel much more elevated than any other battered and deep fried fish that I’ve had in my life.
The uni tempura wrapped in shisho leaf was a $20 supplement and one of the best morsels of the night. The Hokkaido sea urchin was plump and creamy, with not even a hint of bitterness. The warmth added to the sea urchin through the tempura process helped make an already melty snack creamier than I could have even imagined. A must get add-on.
This giant abalone was flashed before our eyes five minutes before our next course. This is apparently the amount of time it takes to slice, dice, steam, sauce, and plate abalone.
The steamed abalone in Saikyo miso sauce was generally poorly receieved among our party. Though we appreciated the theatre of seeing the entire abalone, the complex, slightly bitter sauce was certainly very divisive. While I didn’t hate the sauce, I also didn’t really feel like this was anything above and beyond what you’d get in a standard Chinese seafood restaurant.
The Wagyu dish, a full blood MB9+ wagyu strip loin with optional foie gras ($20 supplement), was divine. The juicy meltiness of the beef paired perfectly with the rich umami of the foie gras and the semi-sweet berry sauce. Each bite of this was treasured, though I think it would’ve been just as good without the foie gras.
A fresh yuzu sorbet was offered as our meal transitioned into the nigiri zone.
Executive Chef and Owner Hideaki Fukada, caught in a non-photogenic moment, displaying his box of treasures.
The ten-piece nigiri omakase was overall an excellent journey through the Sydney Fish Markets’ best buys of the day. While it makes for a very poor food blog reading and writing experience for me to not know what exactly each piece was, our friendly chefs also did not make a huge effort to tell us. One tiny bone I have to pick is that the chef made a point to tell us that particular bites cost him $200/kg from the supply side. As a group each paying $240 for much less than a kilogram of fish, it felt like these pricings almost cheapend the experience.
Our selection was essentially an assortment of cuttlefish, o-toro, chu-toro, cuttlefish, calamari, prawn, marinated akami, imperator, tamago, and this most fabulous piece of rich and umami fatty tuna neck that I’ve chosen as the highlight photo. Each bite was a delight, but this piece really took the cake as something special to remember.
Back to our regular programming, this lobster miso soup was delicious and warming. Unfortunately no tools were supplied with which to eat the our lobster friend’s meat, and while I can infer from this that it wasn’t meant to be eaten, this didn’t stop us from trying.
The star of the night and Chef Fukada’s specialty is this amazing temaki of uni, toro, and ikura. Essentially my three favourite sea products into one, each bite of this hand roll was bursting with oceanic umami flavours. Absoutely amazing.
A hot cup of matcha green tea signified the end of our main course, and the beginning of dessert.
Our dessert was a matcha white chocolate mousse, topped with boba with a side of sliced strawberry. Small and delicate, like the rest of our meal.
VERDICT Kuon, by virtue of its exclusivity and unparalleled price-tier, is difficult to consider objectively. Most of the food, especially the bits that involved sea urchin or tuna belly, was certainly very good, however there were still some misses, not just for me, but also for the rest of our group. Comparing it to other Sydney fine dining establishments in this top-tier price range, I’d definitely consider Kuon ($240) to shoot above Quay ($290), and probably also Tetsuya’s ($250). Comparing it to other omakase experiences I’ve had in Sydney, however, I’m not sure that I can definitely say that our meal was worth three times that of our also-excellent omakase experience at Yachiyo ($80). That said, it’s probably the uni-toro-ikura hand roll, and the fact that my partner missed out (dutifully doing a locum in Victoria), that means I’ll probably be back at Kuon in due time.
Kuon Omakase Shop 20/2-58 Little Hay St, Sydney NSW 2000 0488 688 252
Having to drive my previously-slightly-inebriated partner to work following a night out meant that I had an excuse to try one of our local cafes on the way back home. Pochito, one of Sydney’s few homes of empanadas and other Chilean cuisine, was next on my hit list.
Pochito, as the story is told by its owners, means the feeling of sleepiness induced by a meal. While I can’t find such a translation online from Spanish, what I can find is that pochito means kidnapping in Russian. Something to think about.
After having a seat at a table of my choice (all tables were free), I indulged in three of Pochito’s specialty empanadas.
The four cheese empanada ($5) was too cheesy for me. It’s a stupid thought to put down on paper, but I’m sticking to my guns. Apart from the cheesiness there was not much other flavour. The chicken and mushroom empanada ($6) was quite creamy, not bad, but not as good as our third contestant. My partner thought that both the four cheese and chicken and mushroom empanadas were missable.
The traditional beef empanada ($6) was by far my. It had a tasty filling of beef, egg, and onion, as well as some olive and sultana that I wasn’t quite able to appreciate. This was served with a dish of coriander salsa, which was delicious.
The Lomito Sandwich ($12) is a Chilean specialty, and really delicious. Included within its milk bun was a generous serving of marinated pork loin mixed with smashed avocado, a tasty, juicy slice of tomato, and a lot of mayonnaise. I actually ordered the lomito after I had finished my half of the empanadas, as they had not quite hit the spot. I’m glad that I did. The lomito sandwich really is special.
Pochito is a family run business, and during my visit I interacted with multiple family members, who were all quite nice and welcoming. At one point during my meal the owner of the restaurant came by and asked me if I was a foodie. I must admit that I was too embarrassed to say that was, and basically lied through my teeth and told her no. She said something along the lines of “I guess everyone needs to eat to stay alive though.”
We recently had a late dinner after a run of days at Nick & Nora’s, a rooftop bar on level 26 of the SKYE Suites building in Parramatta. Nick & Nora’s is beautifully decorated inside, with a wide bar backed by an extensive collection of liquor and beautiful amber lighting throughout. The view of the (limited) Western Sydney skyline is equally lavish, and on taking everything in we felt immediately underdressed in our scrubs. Perhaps noticing this, our waitress did her best to make us feel welcome with a couple of flirtatious comments directed at my junior colleague DTC.
A side effect of waiting ten days to write this review is that most items that didn’t stand out at the time are merely forgotten. This baller board ($100) of the chef’s selection of cheese and charcuterie was memorable mostly for the pricing. Whilst in fairness the board is quite large and extensive in its selection and it’s difficult to please everyone, nothing on this board really wowed me.
We ordered three servings of the feed me menu ($55 each) to go along with our giant cheese and charcuterie board. Whilst I normally like to go through each item in detail, most of the elements of this tasting menu were simply not that memorable, though special mentions go to the:
Moreton Bay Bug Sliders with cellariac rémoulade and rhubarb sambol in toasted brioche , which were really creamy with an excellent bug to bread ratio. These were a standout of the meal, and probably better than any other lobster or crustacean roll I’ve ever had, not the least owing to the fact that the bug was actually intact and not some minced monstrosity (cf. 101kissa)
Crispy Prawns with lime aioli and finger lime, which were large and juicy, and enjoyed so much by my prawn-averse girlfriend that she actually had 2 instead of her customary 0.
Tequila Compressed Watermelon, which was just a fun new concept that I hadn’t experienced before.
VERDICT I think that while we visited Nick & Nora’s as a restaurant, it’s more of a rooftop bar with food as an afterthought rather than a focus. The Moreton Bay Bug Sliders were great though, and at $11 I would not hesitate to get them as takeaway in the future.
Our recently dog-positive Redfern based friend took us to one of Redfern’s many dog-positive night time venues. We had the $65 per person feed me tasting menu, with the addition of a round of raw beef toast for the table.
I’m not very well versed in olive culture, but these green Sicilian olives were pleasantly crisp and only lightly salted. Not bad, but not something I’d willingly order from the a la carte menu for $5.
The ricotta, potato & leek fritter with smoked tomato sago and aioli was the first non-olive dish of the night, and also the start of what was essentially an abuse of shaved pecorino. Whilst I’m usually quite anti-fritter, these frittery balls were coated in a nice tomato sauce, with good internal texture and flavour. Not bad.
This visually interesting dish is Bart Jr’s kingfish & scallop crudo with yuzu kosho, buttermilk, cucumber, poppy seeds, and dill. I’m pretty sure there’s some salmon and pomegranate snuck in as well. This was a fresh tasting sashimi based dish, and whilst many of the ingredients – for example buttermilk and poppy seed didn’t make a huge difference in flavour, the dill really shone through. Dill generally pairs quite well with seafood, and this was no exception. Well liked around the table. Pretty good.
The raw beef toast with duck dripping, chives, pecorino di fossa, and crispy onion atop grilled garlicky sourdough ($9 supplement each) was not included in our tasting menu but probably the best morsel of the night, and a must get. Each bite of these juicy, thickly topped slices of sourdough was extremely decadent, with the cheeses, sauces, and raw meat all melting together in the mouth. A nice hit of umami that I wish there were more of. A really elevated snack.
The sheep’s halloumi in rosemary butter with burnt honey, verjuice, currants and hazelnuts is the rare sweet halloumi dish. Despite the multiple sources of sweetness and the contrasting innate saltiness of the halloumi this dish was able to avoid being over-flavoured. It was pretty nice, but I think a bit of bread served with it would’ve gone a long way.
Speaking of bread, the next dish on the menu was the rosemary and garlic focaccia with fermented chilli butter and olive oil. My feelings towards this bread dish are not as fond as some of our friends. I think that the fermented chilli butter, whilst good, was wasted on the focaccia which was already quite adequately flavoured and salted on its own. I would’ve preferred to have the chilli butter (as well as the preceding halloumi) with some more plain bread so that it could’ve been enjoyed more on its own merit. The combination of bread and chilli butter was, in my opinion, the combination of two strong and non-complimentary flavours.
The pasta formosa with lamb shoulder ragu, green peas, pecorino and pangrattato was the third appearance of Bart Jr’s overreliance on pecorino. The pasta was quite al dente, moreso than I normally like, but still pretty good. The serving of beef was generous, and while the ragu flavours were good, they were no more special than any other ragu at any other restaurant we’ve been to recently.
The salad dish was made of baby gem leaves, eschallot vinaigrette, pecorino, and fennel seed pangrattato. Are you starting to see a trend? Maybe pecorino was on sale at the supplier.
Whilst I didn’t really enjoy the roasted hasselback potatoes with creme fraiche and aleppo pepper, thinking to be a bit too dry even with the sauce, my potato-positive partner thought that it was “a fine potato”
The charred ocean trout skewer with caramelised fennel, harissa, yoghurt, and mint was NYL’s least favourite dish, and in my opinion probably the weaker of the two options for mains. It is a 200 gram skewer of trout cooked in a Middle Eastern style. The fish is well cooked, to a safe degree whilst still retaining a semi-rare moist inside. I wasn’t a big fan of the fennel, however, and I thought the harrisa-heavy flavour, though not bad on its own, was a bit incongruous with the tone set by the rest of the meal.
I get highly anxious about driving after any quantity of alcohol, so this Heiwa Shuzo ‘Tsuruume’ Yuzushu was perfect as an inclusion on Bart Jr’s tasting menu. It was pretty tasty and refreshing (tart, not too sweet), but takes this somewhat disordered journey from Italy, to the Middle East, and now Japan.
VERDICT Bart Jr’s was generally pretty good, with the major standout being the raw beef toast. They have a minimum spend of $60 per head, so you might have to get some other food and drinks unless you want 7 pieces.