Categories
Asian Fusion Bakery Market Stall

Pantry Story – Wolli Creek NSW Restaurant Review

Pantry Story is one of those out-of-lockdown success stories where a person with the right combination of timing, skill, and social media knowhow is able to launch a brand straight out of their apartment and into an internet base of hungry gourmands. It’s a phenomenon well covered by New York’s Eater, but somewhat less common in the more suburban sprawl of Sydney.

Operating the odd market stall around Sydney’s suburbs and also doing the intermittent batch of pickup orders out of her apartment in Wolli Creek, Mutiara Putri Sucipto draws on her Indonesian heritage to create pan-Asian inspired baked treats of both the sweet and savoury varieties.

This 3 days kimcheese honey focaccia ($7) was really good. The bread was airy and spongy, with a good crispy top layer with a coating of cheese. The kimchi was flavourful but not too strong, and importantly spread not only over the top but throughout the entire loaf. The slight hint of honey added a bit of depth to the saltiness of the cheese and the funkiness of the kimchi without being overpoweringly sweet. Just a great piece of bread.

The 3 days chorizo with sake sauce focaccia ($7) is a newer addition to the menu, and while also good wasn’t as phenomenal as the kimcheese honey focaccia. The quality of the bread remains, this time flavoured with a spread of oven crispied chorizo slices and a light but appreciable sake sauce. Unlike the kimcheese honey focaccia, the flavourings of this one were more limited to the top layer rather than mixed in, hence having less of a lasting and permeating impact on the enjoyment of the whole loaf. Not bad, but second out of the two.

This pandan java cookie ($5.50), like most of Pantry Story’s other cookies is a combination between a cookie and mochi. I seriously enjoyed the soft and thick texture of the cookie, as well as the textural interest added by the layer of mochi within. The flavour was sweet but not too sweet, and ultimately quite pleasant. This was my favourite of the three sweet treats we tried.

The banana bread that started it all, the banana bread with cheesecake filling ($6) was soft, moist, and not too sweet, with a swirl of cream cheese through it. This was an alright banana bread, though not significantly better than the banana bread I’ve had from other places or even made by friends. If I’m being honest the cheesecake swirl did not leave a lasting impression, and perhaps there could have been more of it, or it could have been flavoured more strongly. I wonder if this would’ve been better heated up.

The strawberry milk brochi (brownie-mochi – $7) was the weakest of the bunch. For starters I felt like it was too sweet, both overall but particularly from the pieces of white chocolate spread throughout. The slab of mochi was a bit thicker in comparison to the brownie than it was in the cookie, and whilst that’s probably the point of the fusion item I thought the ratio was better in the cookie. This was also my partner’s least favourite of an otherwise good meal, though her additional complaint which I don’t completely agree with was that she couldn’t actually taste the strawberry in it.

OVERALL THOUGHTS Our haul from Pantry Story was mostly pretty good. The kimcheese honey focaccia and the pandan cookie were the standouts, but generally a strong showing for someone operating out of their apartment. I will watch her career with great interest.

Pantry Story
Various market stalls across Sydney
Pickup at 15 Guess Avenue, Wolli Creek, NSW

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Japanese

St Kai – Mortdale NSW Restaurant Review

We had a really great meal at St Kai, a Japanese-inspired cafe with great food, but not that many Japanese people on its staff.

The tantanmen ramen with miso pork ($22) was a really good bowl of ramen. The broth was incredibly thick and rich, heavy on the umami and heavy on the creaminess, with the perfect amount of spice from Mama Liu’s chilli oil (thinking about this now, I might actually pick up a jar for home). The noodles were very jīndao 筋道 (a term which I think is being slowly eroded by the increasingly popular “Q” of Taiwanese origin) in texture, with great chewability and springiness. I enjoyed the included greenery (seaweed and bok choy), and there was plenty of meat in the bowl for neither of our two adult humans to not feel like we missed out. An additional thoughtful touch to our experience included the provision of a pre-warmed share bowl, which I have a photo of but will only post on request because that’s not why you’re here. Overall a great bowl, quite elaborate for a breakfast, but actually somewhat breakfasty in its flavour.

Next, the first of two breads. The folded dashi eggs on soft milk toast ($21), allegedly with flying salmon roe as per the menu but thankfully with non-flying salmon roe in reality was a treat. The eggs were perfectly cooked, just a little bit runny but still with some of its own structure. The dashi and bonito powder added a high degree of umami to the meal, whilst the generous serving of ikura, juicy and salty, was perfect to flavour the dish. I don’t know if the shokupan is made in house or if it’s from elsewhere, but found it to be nice and sweet with a good toasting around the outside but still soft on the inside. Very good.

Next, a sweet dish. The french toast with black sesame butter & miso caramel ($18) was at its base essentially the same as the dashi eggs on toast, with what is probably bread cut from the same loaf. Where it differs is in its taste and execution, a real testament to how versatile bread as a vessel is. This was a sweet dish, highly buttery and decadent from the mass of butter served. The black sesame itself wasn’t particularly sweet, if at all, and indeed they also add some of it to the tantanmen for extra sesame-ness. Most of the sweetness of this dish came from the miso caramel, which all added up was just the right amount of sweetness (ie. not too sweet) for my mood that day. My partner actually got bored of all the bread, but I did not. Very good. Love bread.

The Ichigo Tokyo Milk ($4.50) tastes like steamed Big M and I have regrets.

STRAY THOUGHTS I don’t know who Peggy Gou is or why she features so prominently on St Kai’s promotional material. Do they have a commercial arrangement in place, or are they just fans? Another stray observation I will make is that during our one our stay at the restaurant, all tables inckluding our own were inhabited by Asians, but none of the locals who were just dropping by for a quick coffee were. Does this say something about Asian-Australian yuppies (another dead word) as a social group? Who knows.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS We enjoyed our meal and recommended St Kai to our friend and colleague BJCHC. Who would’ve thought such a place would exist in a small side street of Mortdale?

St. Kai
38 Balmoral Rd, Mortdale NSW 2223

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Italian Korean

Firestone – Eastwood NSW Restaurant Review

We were baited to Firestone by the promise of some truly delicious looking Korean-Italian fusion food on their social media accounts. It turns out all that stuff was on an old menu. This is what we found instead.

I will start with the best dish of the day, the Truffle Mushroom Risotto ($21.90). This vegetarian dish was packed full of different types of mushrooms and truffle oil. It was creamy and umami, and even though it was vegetarian I did not miss the meat at all. Additional sliced or grated truffle was on offer for a supplement, however we declined. While it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, this dish was very good. I can recommend it.

The Chilli Dog ($12) was chilli only in so far as the sauce was chilli. There was no chilli con carne component, which is what you would expect to get if paying $12 for a hot dog named “chilli dog”. A no go.

I was really not a fan of this miso salmon benedict ($18.90). Unlike most miso salmon dishes on the streets of Sydney, this particular miso salmon was raw salmon, thick-cut, marinated in miso and mirin. It had a too-fishy flavour that kind of repulsed me. The rest of the eggs benedict was absolutely fine, but the salmon left a taste in my mouth that I can still recall to this day (about two weeks down the track).

This iced soy taro latte ($7.70) was solid. Not too sweet. Quite refreshing.

Standard teal cup large soy cappuccino. ($5.50) .

VERDICT
A tough sell. Perhaps their Hornsby branch has a more enticing menu.

Firestone Eastwood
62/80 Rowe St, Eastwood NSW 2122
(02) 8387 3624

Categories
Asian Fusion Chinese Japanese

Supernormal – Melbourne VIC Restaurant Review

Supernormal was our most highly-anticipated meal of our 2022 Melbourne trip, and boy did its expression of predominantly Chinese-marketed-as-Japanese fusion cuisine not disappoint.

We started our meal with this excellent raw bar starter of nori cracker, seared tuna, and bonito ($14 for 2 pieces). The cracker was similar to the tempura seaweed snacks that you can get at the Asian grocery store, but with greater substance and rigidity suited to holding its toppings. The seared tuna was fresh and tasty with a good texture (contrasting to other seared tunas we had on our trip, for example at Lover), and while the topping of ginger was perhaps over-represented, overall both the flavours and textures of this starter were excellent. This was perhaps the most Japanese dish of our pseudo-Japanese fusion meal.

The soy-roasted pumpkin seeds, a complimentary snack, were sweet, savoury and had a great crunch. Good to pass the time between dishes, not that there was much delay at all.

The Hunan-style beef tartare with fragrant chilli oil ($20) was again excellent, with a title reflective of its inspirations. It was fresh and spicy, with a flavour profile highly reminiscent of liángpí (凉皮), but with a rawness that most Chinese people would traditionally not touch. This tartare was one of the better of the many we had in Melbourne, with quite innovative flavouring and good quality meat.

The sesame flatbread with whipped cod roe ($12) was another outstanding showing. It’s almost crazy to think that you could find the Platonic ideal of shāobǐng (烧饼) at this Asian Fusion restaurant that pretends that it’s not Chinese, but that’s exactly what this is. The flatbread was fragrant, soft, and warm, aided by a very generous sprinkling of toasted white sesame seeds. The bread, though excellent itself, was brought to a whole other level entirely by the whipped cod roe dip, which was impossibly creamy and umami. The green oil on top of the dip, for those who are wondering, was explained as the oil of scallion, though to me tasted like nothing. Even if the greenness is just for aesthetics, I don’t think you can walk past this dish. It is a great bread.

As an aside, the diners on the table adjacent to us asked the waiter if roe was a type of sauce, and the man also remarked to his dining partner “I know this will probably scare most people” as their bread arrived. I am glad they are trying.

We interrupt this food review for a photo of Super Soda ($11), a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.

Though I have much praise for many of Supernormal’s offerings, I must say that the New England lobster roll ($18) was not extraordinary. While the buttery, lightly-toasted brioche bun was excellent, the taste of the lobster itself (presumably the star ingredient) was very mild and smothered by a large predominance of mayonnaise. The bun was quite small for $18, and sharing this roll between two people was ill advised.

The duck bao ($32) with twice-cooked duck leg ,vinegar & plum sauce was very good. The duck leg had a salty and hard exterior with crispy skin, which cracked open to reveal moist flesh within which paired well with the fresh cucumber and tangy sauces. The “bao” of this dish was bao in the same sense as most Western iterations of the word – folded white steamed dough – a form I don’t believe actually exists in China. We found that, given the abundance of duck, a superior topping to bread ratio could be achieved by splitting the “baos” in half. Very good.

Another dish, another focus of Chinese inspiration. The slow-cooked lamb shoulder with eggplant, Yuxiang sauce, crispy garlic with a cabbage salad (small serve, $42) exhibited a strong Sichuan influence, rather than anything Japanese. Though our waiter helpfully suggested this half-size given how much other food we ordered, we found that even this small portion was quite large. The dish was replete in both má and là, with an additional element of tomato or vinegar flavour which was reminiscent of mápó tofu (麻婆豆腐). The lamb had a crispy semi-melted fatty layer atop which made for a good texture, especially combined with the crispy garlic coating. The eggplant was soft and flavourful, being an excellent soak for all of the sauce and juices, while the cabbage salad, seasoned with cumin, was just a bit too weird for me to want to eat it in any large amount. I don’t think cumin cabbage should be a thing.

For dessert we had the peanut butter parfait ($18), featuring a dark chocolate mousse that surprised me with its lack of coldness (I had misidentified it as an ice cream). It was good. It was all good.

For second dessert we got this massive box of Pocky ($2) from the vending machine downstairs. It’s actually cheaper than your local Asian supermarket?

THOUGHTS
We had a great meal at Supernormal, easily the best of our 2022 Melbourne trip. The dishes were hit after hit after hit, melding familiar Chinese flavours with new ingredients and ways of cooking. My one very significant complaint would be how this restaurant markets itself as Japanese-fusion, with its use of katakana in its branding and promotional material. I feel that, based on the selection of dishes that we tried as well as the wider menu on offer, Supernormal should be considered pan-Asian-fusion at broadest, and honestly probably Chinese-fusion for the most part. I think at the end of the day it’s just unfortunate that it’s harder to convince someone to spend $100 per person on “modernised/Westernised/fused” Chinese cuisine than on Japanese.

Go though, you will enjoy it.

Supernormal
180 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 8688

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Chinese

Coffee Trad3rs – Castle Hill NSW Restaurant Review

Another weekend, another brunch. This week’s victim was Coffee Trad3rs, a large, family friendly cafe with plenty of interior decoration and a pan-Asian inspired food menu.

This short rib burger was pretty good, if simple. The beef rib was tender and plentiful, though without much variety in flavour throughout the dish I did get a bit bored towards the end. The chips were freshly fried and good.

This miso salmon soba salad is the latest in a string of recent miso salmons for me. Excitingly, this was served with soba and a light salad rather than the standard rice. While the salmon didn’t do that much for me (I thought that the miso-ness of it was a bit too subtle), I really enjoyed the fresh salad and the cool soba, which had a great slippery mouthfeel.

Not one to say no to fried chicken, my girlfriend had to order the Taiwanese fried chicken cubes. This was similar in concept to large fried chicken but served in bite sized pieces, I imagine to fit the needs of the various children around the place.

Some kind of white drink.

I thought about not including a review for this item due to not having a very good photo for it, but I just have to mention the milk tea swiss roll cake. The flavour of this creamy swiss roll perfectly simulated that of a pearl milk tea, with the light and delicate sponge melting into the mouth almost as if it were liquid. It is a top tier dessert, to be sure.

SUMMARY
I think that most of the food at Coffee Trad3rs is quite reasonable, and there is a certainly a broad Asian-fusion menu with constantly evolving specials on offer. If you’re in the area I’d definitely recommend giving them a go – if you’re far away though, I wouldn’t necessarily say drive across the city for it. Overall good. Avoid if you hate families and kids.

Coffee Trad3rs Castle Hill
1/8 Victoria Ave, Castle Hill NSW 2154
(02) 9894 7876