Café Japanese

Tento – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

I’m a highly price-conscious consumer of food and other small luxuries, and while I will happily shell out for something truly special, sometimes I do need to be convinced that a meal is “worth it”.

I didn’t have any of this soy cappuccino ($4.50) as I was pre-nights but I really enjoyed the look and feel of this cup. They sell their mugs for around $50 on their Etsy store, and it looks like woman has bought 13 of their 16 items ever sold. I’m not currently in a suitable financial position to spend $50 on a small mug that I will never use (my mugs are in the litre-range, excellent for loading up on the disgusting but healthful material that is psyllium husk), but many of their creations are quite beautiful.

My partner isn’t usually an oyster eater, but these Magaki Pacific Oysters ($5 each) had enough random toppings on top to make her venture out of her comfort zone. These particular oysters were topped with salmon roe and flowers, which did add a nice fruitiness to the oceanic flavour mix. Again, love the bowl.

These Gobo Chips ($13.50) with wasabi mayo were a bit too fibrous and slimy for me. Any supposed health benefits, for example from burdock root’s relatively high fibre content were probably well balanced by the battering and deep frying.

We quite enjoyed the Snapper Ramen ($24), with its nice in house tonkotsu base, baby bok choy, and lightly seared fish. The yuzu kosho was described by our waitress as something we could use to add flavour, as was the vegan capsicum butter, which I felt was a bit redundant as that is the general purpose of any flavouring or topping. The flavours of the soup were nice overall, and perhaps the two above mentioned additions hindered rather than helped it. I enjoyed the fish but would’ve liked more.

The Area 51 ($36), a seared toothfish ochazuke was unfortunately quite similar in taste to the snapper ramen. It was probably our own fault for choosing both of these dishes rather than something different. My main complaint carries over from the snapper ramen, there being only a small amount of toothfish at this relatively large price, though my secondary complaint is the less than ideal broth to rice ratio. It tasted nice, but it just tasted like more of the same.


We spent $88 between the two of us, with one drink. While we did eat quite a bit of food, I still have difficulty reconciling the substantial price point for what was ultimately good but not super-special.

Cool crockery though

3/8 Hill St, Surry Hills NSW 2010


LODE Pies & Pastries – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

There is something very special and expensive happening at LODE Pies and Pastries, a venture born during the pandemic as online-order, bake-at-home versions of LuMi’s pies and now come of age as its own little Crown St pastry shop.

This sausage roll ($7) with its filling of differently textured bits of meat was good but did not blow my mind. It is at a high tier of sausage rolls, but it didn’t really do anything extremely special for me to grant it the rank of master.

Lode’s Fruit Tart ($10) changes on a semi-regular basis, and we were treated to this delicious mandarin version on our visit. This tart featured fresh mandarin atop a bed of semi-sweet creme patissiere, itself on top of a nutty and texturally complex mixture of mandarin jam and macadamia frangipane, all of which was encased in and supported by a base of multi-layered flaky pastry. This was a very strong sweet snack, and with Lode’s frequent iterations on the theme of fruit tart certain to be a recurrent drawcard for return visitors.

The Mr Peanut ($11), a log of sugar-dusted croissant dough filled with peanut frangipane, caramelised banana and a hint of dark chocolate was a bit sweeter than its fruity colleague, but still very good. This was an extra-dense log of sweetness and butteriness, with the tried and true breakfast combination of banana, peanut, and chocolate in the filling complimenting but not overpowering the pastry.

The LuMi Pithivier ($20), an unusually expensive pie with a pork and shittake mushroom filling in a laminated pie crust served with a chicken sauce is Lode’s flagship item, and ultimately not mind-blowing, especially at the princely sum commanded. The crust was clearly multi-layered and delicately built, but I didn’t feel that the flavours of the filling was good or special enough to earn it all the accolades heaped upon it online. Maybe the combination of pork and mushroom isn’t so much a novelty to my palate as it is to others. This pie, like the sausage roll, was good but just didn’t blow my mind.

COMMENTS: I thoroughly enjoyed the mandarin tart, as well as the bread-components of each pastry itself, but felt that the fillings of the savoury dishes didn’t quite tickle my fancy. Having said that, my partner is constantly wanting to go back (I resist), and that’s probably a market of goodness in itself.

Lode Pies & Pastries
487 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010


Social Hideout – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

Social Hideout is one of my least favourite cafes in Parramatta, and judging from the number of posts on this blog I feel like I have a broad-enough experience to hold an opinion on this. My first encounter with Social Hideout was in 2018, when my partner took me at the end of a run of ward cover night shifts (my last ever), at the start of my annual leave. Though this was well before the creation of this blog, and before I really started thinking about keeping track of what was good and what was bad, I remember my impression being that the cafe had seemingly spent a lot of effort in decorating, and perhaps could’ve better spent that energy into its food. I have the photos from that September 10, 2018 visit, though given it’s been so long and I honestly have no idea how it tasted I don’t think there’s really any point in my sharing them now. We had a red velvet latte, a taro latte, poached eggs on beetroot toast, and a french toast.

This first visit all the way back in my first year out in the real world of employment and dining out must have left a serious impact on my psyche however, as I spent the next four years trying to avoid going back, until I couldn’t. Dragged by my tail from the exhausted safety of my workplace Entrada Centre in Parramatta by a group of colleagues, I was to remember why I didn’t like this place.

The decor at Social Hideout remains as floral as ever, and though I had hoped that perhaps time and iteration might have resulted in some improvements in their food menu I was disappointed. The Lamb and Cheese Pot of Gold ($22.90) was an extremely salty mixture of tomato, slow cooked pulled lamb, beans, miso mushrooms, and labneh served with sourdough bread and butter. In my opinion this is definitely a dish that looks and reads better than it tasted – I just can’t understate how salty it was, the only saving grace being the bread, while it lasted.

I was glad to hear that opinions were not merely held by me, but also a number of my colleagues, who did not love their chicken-waffle dishes.

Ultimately I think that some cafe-goers want a place where they can take cute photos of their food with attractive floral backdrops, and some just want a place to have a nice meal. Some places manage to do both – the similarly named Social Society in Zetland (and actually quite close to Social Hideout’s Waterloo branch) comes to mind, but in my opinion Social Hideout just doesn’t cut the mustard.

My top alternative recommendations in Parramatta are Circa, Lil Miss Collins, and Homage.

Social Hideout Parramatta
2a/20 Victoria Rd, Parramatta NSW 2150


Ashfield Apothecary – Ashfield NSW Restaurant Review

Growing up Asian in Western Sydney and visiting only the highly-Asian establishments around the place I never really understood Ashfield as an “Inner-West” suburb. I think as the West has extended westward so has the inner-West, and places like Ashfield have transformed from a suburb of Asian grocery stores and Beijing roast duck restaurants to a suburb of cute little cafes with their own seasonal merch collection.

This pastrami sandwich ($16) was unusually priced but ultimately pretty good, I guess. The collection of flavours and textures with the overnight-cured pastrami, the crispy toasted and seeded bread, the mild Swiss cheese and the crisp sauerkraut was quite pleasant in the mouth, though not in the wallet. I feel like this would’ve been right on the money at $12, but $16 is a stretch.

A more substantial bowl at $22-ish, the roasted eggplant with halloumi was an oily mix of eggplant, walnut feta, and pomegranate, served with ciabatta. Though my partner did not like this uncharacteristically vegetarian choice, I found the mixture of flavours and textures (thanks, walnut) sufficient to maintain interest throughout the course of the meal. Pomegranate brightens up even the most eggplant everything.

Ashfield Apothecary
19 Charlotte St, Ashfield NSW 2131
0423 495 012

Australian British

Fish Butchery – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

We were excited to eat at Fish Butchery after reading some pretty glowing reviews online and glowing feedback from our friends about related restaurants Saint Peter and Charcoal Fish. Despite such expectations our moderately-long drive to Waterloo was sadly not met with as much joy as we had hoped.

While I’m not usually one to complain loudly about service, preferring to focus on the food, I think that the ultra-premium prices paid at Fish Butchery does invite greater reflection into what exactly one is paying for. The first red flag of our visit, apart from the prices of the familiar raw fish (Murray cod and Clhinook salmon) in the fishmonger’s display that were easily 50-100% greater than what you’d expect to pay from your favourite internet-based fish market delivery service, was that the staff seemed to be too busy to wipe the crumbs off the tables between customers until the new customer’s food was ready to be served. This meant that we sat with crumbs in front of us, not really seeing a staff member venture outside for about half an hour as we waited to be served.

Though Fish Butchery styles itself as a takeaway joint the reality of it is that it’s a restaurant, complete with both indoor and outdoor seating. There are just normal expectations around the cleanliness of tables when you’re spending $80 between two for lunch, and these weren’t fulfilled.

The Al Pastor Swordfish Tacos (2 pieces for $24) were not what I was looking for. Though grilled, they were not as grilled as I had hoped, and arrived to us lukewarm at best. The internal fish meat was on the raw to rare spectrum, which is not what I was expecting but did not cause any physical bodily harm. The flavours of this taco were highly mild, though the sweetness and juiciness of the grilled pineapple was a very welcome addition to what was otherwise a barren and expensive half moon.

The fish sausage roll ($22 with chips and a Strange Love soda) was the highlight of the situation. The sausage roll, filled with a mixture of Murray Cod, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, and cured Murry Cod fat had a very good depth of flavour and fatty moistness inside. The pastry was a crust above your average sausage roll, but to be expected given the asking price. The potato chips were unfortunately actually not very good, and even my potato fiend partner was unable and unwilling to finish them. The tomato sauce was rich and good. Unlike the rest of the things we had at Fish Butchery I could actually give a positive recommendation for this sausage roll, though by itself ($14) rather than with the chips.

I didn’t love this hyped up Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger Double ($20). I don’t think there was anything special about it apart from the use of fish over mammal, and I don’t think the flavour or texture really lived up to a burger made of methane-producing cow. The inside of these tuna patties was a bit rare, but I think that’s probably OK because we literally eat sashimi and these guys are the fish experts.

The regular salad ($14), half cauliflower and half eggplant was actually pretty good, if oily. A non-fish product that was not weighed down by fishy expectations.


I really wanted to like Fish Butchery, but outside of the single sausage roll nothing else that I had really wowed me, especially at its price point but even if they were more reasonably priced. I expected better from a guy who charges $150 for a piece of stainless steel specifically to weigh down cooking fish.

Fish Butchery Waterloo
965 Bourke St, Waterloo NSW 2017
02 8960 0903