Categories
Asian Fusion Café Japanese

Devon – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

My partner and I are big fans of Dopa – Devon’s offshoot donburi restaurant in Darling Square. We’ve been going regularly over the past few months, however it had been a long time since we had dined at the mothership in Surry Hills.

We went suckered in by pictures of uni laden foods on instagram, and I made my partner promise me that she would let us leave and eat somewhere else if they had run out (as is often the case at Dopa, I’m sick of being baited and switched).

We dined on a Sunday morning in an empty restaurant, much different to how it was like when we had last dined in 2019. As predicted, they were out of uni, however a craving for a pork katsu sandwich prevented us from leaving.

My partner had a matcha latte while I, as an inferior Asian, had an iced matcha soy latte. While I can’t speak for my partner’s drink, I can say that my iced matcha soy latte was not as good as the one that I had at 101kissa. There was just something so powdery and nice about the iced matcha soy lattte from 101kissa, whereas this one was a weird blend of sweet and bitter that didn’t tickle my tastebuds in quite the right way.

Devon’s pork katsu sando ($16) is cut into two portions and served in a cardboard box. The sauce is spread evenly through the sandwich, which is a selling point, however this is where the compliments end. I felt that the pork itself was not as juicy or tender as in the pork katsu sandwich I had at Cafe Kentaro. I also felt that the sandwich was overbreaded, with the bread to filling ratio too great, adding an unneeded and unwanted blandness to the taste. The size and construction of the sandwich halves were also inferior to the three pieces at Kentaro, and made the sandwich difficult to eat.

While Devon’s pork katsu sando probably stands fine on its own to a person who has never had a good pork katsu sando, it fails in comparison to that at Kentaro, a few kilometres away.

I didn’t enjoy the salted egg yolk cheesy curly fries ($13). Perhaps it’s because we’ve had just so much salted egg yolk foods in the past few weeks that I’m sick of it, but I think the more likely reason is that these chips were oily but dry. Their thinness did not help, as the higher surface area to volume ratio increased the radiative heat loss from the food, making them too cool and yucky too quickly.

My partner ordered the omurice with salmon sashimi in ponzu sauce. We were quite surprised to find that the omurice was served separately to the salmon. The salmon was cold but the omurice was warm. While the omurice itself was quite delicious with its mushroomy gravy, I don’t think it really worked as a combination. I wonder if it’s the responsibility of the wait staff to sway you away from bad choices. Either way, that was not what happened here. What happened here was a thoroughly noncohesive dish.

I’m sad to say that I didn’t really enjoy our trip to Devon. While I love their rice bowls at their Haymarket offshoot Dopa, our trip back to the mothership was disappointing.

Devon Cafe
76 Devonshire St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9211 8777

Categories
Asian Fusion Fine Dining Modern Australian

Odd Culture – Newtown NSW Restaurant Review

Fermented things have recently and unfortunately become my enemy, and so naturally one of my last dines of the year was had at one of Newtown’s newest wine bars with a focus on cultured and fermented foods.

The Beer Bread ($5 for 3 pieces) was your classic house-made sourdough with salted cultured butter. It wasn’t mindblowing, but it did actually have a bit of a beery flavour to it, which made it many times more interesting than yet another bread. And a soft, salted butter and bread is always a winning combination.

The delightfully small and expensive fish on toast ($10 each) was an interesting and probably South East Asian inspired mouthful of mango and fish. The toast base was extremely buttery, with a mouthfeel that reflected its many unseen layers. The scallop sashimi, as well as possibly some other white fish, was soft and sweet, and complimented by the soft ripe mango. The jalapeno advertised was not easily found. This was a really great snack, but I wish it were a bit larger or a bit less expensive.

The beef tartare ($20) was a bit different to the normal formed slab of raw meat, instead in this mixed in with puffed rice and seasonings. Herbs were used to great effect in this dish, imparting a unique flavour. It was however a little bit physically difficult to eat, and a bit of cracker would’ve gone a long way.

Recently burned by a $12 fermented tomato, I was a bit hesitant and wary about the tomato dish, ($22). It turned out however that I was foolish in my concern, as one taste of this tomato dish was able to justify their price. The tomato in this dish was fresh but umami, and delightfully sour but also tempered by the creamy soy milk yoghurt on top. It was an unexpected but wonderful fresh type dish, even suitable for vegan-types.

The chicken liver pate ($16) was really good. I particularly enjoyed the thick cut and lightly salted potato crisps, which had such an amazing crunch that is probably better than any other potato crisp I’ve ever had. They had the perfect size and structural integrity to scoop up (probably too many) gobs of rich, silky smooth chicken liver pate and deliver them to my mouth. The fish sauce caramel base was inventive and delicious, and while my girlfriend didn’t like this dish she was wrong. I only wish that these same chips could’ve been available to scoop up the beef tartare.

The blood pancake ($26) with pork jowl, fried egg, and maple syrup was much sweeter than I thought it would be. Looking at the photo and ingredients list you would likely imagine a savoury dish, but the truth of the matter was that even if the pancake had been savoury in and of itself, the swimming pool of maple syrup would’ve taken care of that. Despite the pork jowl and blood, the pancake was ultimately only a little bit savory, the majority of the flavour coming from the maple syrup which soaked through the entire cake. While I did enjoy the interesting texture, I think ultimately this leaned too much into the sickly sweet side of the flavour scale.

The koji roasted chicken ($42) was good but not a revelation. Juicy, succulent and tender, the chicken was well cooked, with a koji-miso flavour. I didn’t realise that there was congee in the dish, which I am only just seeing now looking at the photo. That might have added something to the experience, but really (and my girlfriend will attest to this) I can cook something similar and not spend $42 doing it.

This semifreddo ($16) with black sesame and white chocolate was very good. Specific details escape me but even the bed of crumbs was delicious.

The panna cotta ($14) with fig leaf and blueberry was visually interesting but orally mediocre. A good choice if you like juicy stewed berries, but a boring choice if you can choose the semifreddo instead.

COMMENTS
Overall I quite enjoyed our meal at Odd Culture. Many of the dishes were very good, and even the least good dishes were at least OK. I’d probably not go again until their menu changes, but could recommend it to a colleague or friend. The chairs were sadly not comfortable.

Odd Culture Newtown
266 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 8317 3057

Categories
Asian Fusion Café

Benzin Cafe – Dural NSW Restaurant Review

  1. What are the main attractions at Benzin Cafe? (2 marks)
    People go to Benzin in Dural for one of two reasons. The most important reason, at least for me, is Benzin’s innovative and creative Asian-fusion food menu, cooked with flavours drawn from the owners’ and operators’ East and South East Asian heritage. The second reason, completely separate from the food, is the cafe’s prominence in the local car scene. The cafe is decorated with car parts and racing memorabilia, and for the time being even features a borrowed vintage 911 project car. The cafe also hosts regular cars and coffee mornings, and while both of these fall within my interests I am probably too shy to go to one of these with my stock miata.

2. What did you eat at Benzin Cafe? Would you recommend it? (6 marks)

We had the Brekky Tacos ($18), with pulled beef brisket in gochujang sauce, avocado, small cubes of roast potato, and tomato salsa with a whole perfectly not-too-fried egg in each corn tortilla. These tacos were absolutely packed with flavour and filling, with all elements generous for tortilla size but commensurate with price. The meat was well cooked, not at all dry or stringy, and the flavours were strong but not too strong. The fresh avocado and tomato salsa did well to balance the meatiness, though I wasn’t a big fan of the kind of sad looking low-turgor potato bits, and I didn’t really think they added anything of value to the dish. Overall these were very good tacos – better than though also more expensive than those at Vecino.

The Mushroom Tempura Bowl ($21) was also qutie good. The bowl features tempura mushroom and asparagus atop a bed of quinoa, avocado, cherry tomatoes, kale, corn, cucumber, and sweet potatoes. We optioned this dish with a piece of chicken katsu for an additional $5, though this made the dish worse rather than better. The chicken katsu was a very large piece of chicken breast (great value), however not very well crumbed and a bit overcooked. The rest of the bowl, with its tasty and moist tempura mushrooms bursting with umami flavour was very good. I can recommend this.

The Knefeh French Toast ($20) was a sweet dish that was above and beyond what we should’ve had for two people. Its constituent fruits were lovingly arranged into two symmetrical sides, pre-empting any potential hostility between my girlfriend and me. My favourite part of this dish was the crumble, which was dusted around the dish. The raspberry sorbet was quite good, and the fruits were just fine, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual knefeh French toast itself.

Gabriel Coffee is served, befitting the first man to summit Everest.

3. Would you recommend Benzin to a friend or colleague? (1 mark)
Yes. I can recommend Benzin to a friend or colleague.

Benzin Cafe
1/242 New Line Rd, Dural NSW 2158
(02) 9653 9370

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Vietnamese

KINX Cafe – Bankstown NSW Restaurant Review

Kinx is an absolute gem of a cafe tucked away in the culinary wasteland of South West Sydney. Kinx’s creative Asian-fusion brunch menu exceeded all geographic expectations, and our visit instantly propelled Kinx to the top of our list of cafes we enjoy in Sydney.

The Pho Beef Ribs were the reason we drove half an hour to go to Kinx in the first place, and boy did they not disappoint. Our waiter suggested a half serve ($20) rather than a full serve, as the kitchen was running low on ribs and we hadn’t had the foresight of booking ahead for this magnetic weekend special. The beef ribs were extremely tender and were in the perfect sweet spot where they fell right off the bone but retained enough internal structure for a good mouthfeel. The pho marinade was true to specification, with a delicious herbal umami taste. The rice noodle cakes, lightly deep fried were absolutely delicious, crisp, and soaked up the saucy marinade well. My partner thought that they had a much more delicate flavour and mouthfeel than just plain old rice cakes, and thought that they emulated thin noodles very well. The small amount of salad with bean sprouts, pickles, chilli, coriander, and Thai Basil was fresh and delicious, cutting through the strong umami flavours of the meat. Overall an excellent dish that I hope all beef-eating readers of this blog can have the opportunity to try.

The All You Can Beef Rice Bowl ($16), was nice but very much overshadowed by the pho beef ribs. The rice bowl features a smoky soy rice, 63 degree egg, and a wagyu beef hamburg katsu patty in bulgogi sauce. Whilst I enjoyed the menchi katsu (the first I’ve found outside of Japan), I thought that the smoked flavour of the rice was a bit too strong, and not to my taste. The 63 degree egg was excellent as always, and the bulgogi sauce was a good pairing for the patty, but neither of us ended up keen enough to finish the rice on account of its smokiness.

The Mama’s Siu Mai was essentially vietnamese pork meatballs in a tomato based sauce, served with bread – a Vietnamese spin on what you would often find on the menu of an Italian restaurant. The meatballs were yummy, as was the sauce and bread, though I think if I’m being honest we could’ve done with only one of this dish or the smoked beef bowl. My partner also wanted to get chips, and I’m glad I said no.

We also rolled for a wild card on the expensive but delicious Taro Coffee ($8). It is a very thick iced drink, of mostly taro with a hint of coffee mixed in, topped with some mixed cereals. It is a special and different experience, and quite good to boot. Sweet but not too sweet, kind of like the taro milk tea of your childhood but all grown up.

The regular coffee is regular.

VERDICT
Wow. What a wonderful place. You owe it to yourself to pay them a visit once the southwest is liberated.

Kinx Cafe
3/432 Chapel Rd, Bankstown NSW 2200
(02) 8772 5117

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Chinese

Quick Brown Fox Eatery – Pyrmont NSW Café Review

There are few things I love more in a café than a competent all-day menu with Asian-fusion dishes. Quick Brown Fox Eatery in Pyrmont, owned and run by siblings with a menu designed by consulting chef/wizard Tomislav Martinovic, fits the bill perfectly.

Quick Brown Fox is set up in what feels a lot like a gingerbread house, with both internal and outdoor seating. The café was decorated with lots and lots of Christmas themed decorations (in early January), and had a board which read “364 days to Christmas” in storage at the back between the main café and the restrooms. I’ve typically put off trying out restaurants within the CBD on weekdays, however there is surprisingly plentiful two hour ticketed street parking located within a short walk, and if you’re having problems there’s also the nearby fish market parking at a reasonable price.

The Koshihikari Rice Congee ($24.50) with confit ocean trout ($9) was expensive and delicious. It was warm and wholesome, as all congees should be. The general flavour of the congee was mild, not overseasoned, however with a hint of unexpected ma and la added by the fermented chilli relish. We loved the familiar Asian tastes of coriander and enoki mushroom, though thought that the chilli fried egg was just a touch too fried and wonder if this already very good dish would have been even better with a slow egg instead (a la 3 Rōnin). The maple glazed bacon was so thick cut that it was basically pork belly at this point, though no complaints from us at all. I think it was probably too much to expect that a $9 piece of confit ocean trout would live up to the standard set by Tetsuya’s, though a hungry man can dream. It was fine though – the serving size was a bit small, but the taste, especially the additional umami and variety it added to the dish, was good. Overall a really great dish.

The Buttermilk Pancakes ($23.50) were my partner’s choice, and in my opinion the inferior choice. It consisted of a very generous serving of 4 buttermilk pancakes (although for $23.50 what is generous and what’s just to be expected?) topped with toffee, blackberries, salted pecan crumble and served with some passionfruit ice cream. The pancakes were adequately sour, and the toppings did not make the dish too sweet. I enjoyed the pecan crumble and the ice cream, which were in a league of their own compared to the rest of the ingredients. My partner thought that the toffee sauce tasted a bit stale, and while I could see what she meant I’m not certain that that wasn’t just the intended taste. Faced with a number of delicious looking and sounding savoury items I wouldn’t order this again.

My partner did indulge in a pretty standard Mimosa ($13) whilst I as the very responsible designated driver had a very good soy latte. Quick Brown Fox does offer bottomless mimosas for $30 per person for 90 minutes, or bottomless cocktails (bloody mary, aperol spritz, espresso martini) for $40 per person however we decided against this as my partner never really uses up her full allocation of alcoholic beverages.

VERDICT

Part time chef, part time wizard Tomislav Martinovic has essentially done it again with a beautiful menu of Asian-fusion delights, even better than at Three Williams. There are many more things I’d like to try at Quick Brown Fox and I can’t wait to go back.

Five tomislavs.

Quick Brown Fox Eatery
22 Union St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
(02) 9660 6345