Categories
Japanese Korean

Tomoya – Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

Tucked within one of the entrances to Strathfield Plaza is Tomoya, a Strathfield rendition of the classic Korean-run mixed Japanese and Korean diner. Tomoya follows the widespread tradition of Japanese cuisine served by Korean people, providing authentic East Asian food at a relatively affordable price compared to many fully-Japanese eateries.

We visited at around 2PM on a Monday afternoon, at which point the place was absolutely packed. The two waitstaff rostered to tackle this problem looked like they were completely run off their feet tending to Korean and Chinese aunties and uncles of varying shapes and sizes talking about classic Korean and Chinese auntie and uncle topics – we heard the words “James Ruse” mentioned more than once from a neighbouring table.

It took a while for the extra-busy staff to take our orders, and even longer still for banchan to be served. Looking around the room it seems like they have made a conscious decision to only serve banchan once the food is being served also. This doesn’t make that much sense to me, as it means that we lose out on banchan-eating time whilst waiting for our food.

This Chicken Katsu Dolsot ($19.50) was quality. It was the only Japanese-ish dish that we ordered within our mostly Korean meal, and quite a good one at that. The chicken was moist and tender within its blanket of crumbs, and the dish was just adequately sauced so that every bite had flavour. The bottom of the rice was crispy as expected, and this was overall a well priced and well tasting dish.

I’ve always wanted to try Haemul Sunbudu Jjigae (soft tofu spicy soup with seafood) ($21) but I’ve always avoided it as a kindness to my partner, who doesn’t really like most seafoods. I seized the opportunity today, however, and ordered, knowing that even though she wouldn’t want it she would be happy with her non-seafood based chicken dish. Unfortuantely for me it appears that Tomoya has recently hiked up its prices, with this particular dish previously being sold for a whole $5 cheaper on menus available online. Perhaps it is merely COVID related inflation, but I doubt we will ever see prices come down again.

The soup, to be honest, was really only OK. There was a heavy focus on tofu and octopus legs, with a couple of pipis and mussels thrown in, as well as half a crab. The flavour was quite light – not as spicy or sour as I had expected, and the soup in general felt a bit watery. As this is my first time having this kind of soup I must admit that I don’t have anything to compare this to. What I do know is that I probably won’t be ordering this again from this particular restaurant.

The seafood and shallot pancake ($21) is actually one of the best I’ve had in recent times. There is a distinct seafood scent and flavour that permeates the entire pancake, from the first bite to the last, that is present even in parts of batter with no seafood. The batter itself is extremely crispy on the outside, whilst retaining a degree of softness and palatability on the inside. The shallot is generously distributed, adding a fresh umami flavour to the mostly octopus based seafood. This is a really good quality seafood pancake, but it’s a shame that, similar to the stew, this has also increased in price from its previously advertised price of $18.

VERDICT
Overall I think the food at Tomoya is pretty alright, but the experience is significantly weighed down by how understaffed they are. Recent significant (10-20%) price hikes across the menu are also quite disappointing, and unfortunately take Tomoya outside of that sweet spot in terms of price and quality that Korean-Japanese cuisine can sometimes hit.

4/5 , good variety, good pancake.

Tomoya
Strathfield Plaza, 34/11 The Boulevarde, Strathfield NSW 2135
(02) 9746 8877

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Japanese

Rising Sun Workshop – Newtown NSW Restaurant

Rising Sun Workshop, half motorcycle garage and half cafe, has been on my radar for some time. Embarrassingly enough I had avoided it as I had confused it with the similarly named Rice Workshop, a chain of cheaper Japanese diners predominantly based in Melbourne.

While Rising Sun Workshop offers both food and motorcycle related activities, it seems rare that one would partake in both on the same occasion. Indeed whilst I was eating lunch there was no point at which I felt like I was able to access the motorcycle portion of the establishment. This is in direct contrast to the Naked Racer in Cheltenham VIC (a recommendation, by the way), where patrons are able to both eat and peruse a motorcycle themed museum.

The Burnt Ends ($19) were kind of like a radish cake omurice. It was basically sweet-soy glazed pork belly atop a radish cake wrapped in scrambled egg, served with a side of pickle and sambal sauce. The radish cake was sweet, fluffy and soft, unlike radish cakes common to Shanghainese cuisine which tend to be a bit fried and harder. The egg wrapping was quite thin. The sambal sauce was a milder sambal than I’ve been having at Indonesian restaurants – more sweet than spicy, which was not so much a problem as it does make the dish a bit more friendly to a wider audience. While the portion was small the Burnt Ends was quite yummy and I can recommend it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

While I enjoyed the Burnt Ends, there wasn’t really anything else on Rising Sun Workshop’s brunch menu that looked like it would travel well enough to bring home for my sleeping night shift girlfriend. I opted to bring her one of these chocolate chip cookies ($5 each) instead. I thought this was quite good. It had a nice three dimensional structure to it, which I tried to capture in the photo. The chocolate chips were quite melty and gooey, and the cookie itself not too sweet. The half of the cookie I saved for my partner split in half during the car ride, and she sleepily told me that she enjoyed the first cookie as well as the second cookie (don’t worry, she didn’t aspirate). They were two quarters of the same cookie.

CONCLUSION

I enjoyed my expensive and small meal at Rising Sun Workshop. There are a few other things on their dinner menu that I’d like to try, which are again small and expensive looking. The land of the rising sun generally refers to Japan however Rising Sun Workshop’s offerings look to have both Korean and Japanese influences. There is in particular a cauliflower dish called the “Korean Fried Cauliflower” in “Dear Leader” sauce. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone call Shinzo Abe “Dear Leader”.

4/5

Rising Sun Workshop
1C Whateley St, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9550 3891

Categories
Café Japanese

Sandoitchi – Darlinghurst NSW Cafe Review

You will recall from that last week I visited Cafe Oratnek in Redfern, where I ate a very green and legumey meal whilst I watched my senior intensive care colleague chow down on a deliciously juicy pork katsu sandwich. What you won’t recall (as I haven’t told you yet), is that I was struck down by such an acute and severe pork katsu sando envy that I went to Sandoitchi to get my hit the following day.

Pork sando

The pork katsu sando ($13) was disappointing. Where the katsu sandos from Oratnek and Kentaro are all thriller no filler, warm and delicious, Sandoitchi’s has more than its share of filler. The cold slab of cheese and various salads do nothing but ruin the temperature of the sandwich. The pork itself was nowhere near as juicy as its competitors, and the presentation also left something to be desired. I can’t recommend this sandwich.

Swordfish and bacon sandwich

The swordfish and bacon sandwich was actually very good. The swordfish was nice and tender, even for my partner, which was a major sticking point the last time she had swordfish. The bacon added a degree of salty umami that complemented the swordfish quite well, and this was overall a very nice package. I can recommend this.

The strawberry sando ($13) is pretty authentic to the classic Japanese convenience store strawberry sandwich, only at around four times the price. The strawberries are quite tart and don’t have much sweetness, but this is made up for by the sweet cream.

Coffee is by Single O, and just fine.

OVERALL
I came looking for a classic pork katsu sandwich, and in this regard I left disappointed. What did appeal to me, however, was the swordfish and bacon sandwich, which I hadn’t expected (it’s not on the online menu). If you’re looking for your classic pork katsu sando I think you’re best sticking with Kentaro in Surry Hills or Oratnek in Redfern. If you’re looking for something a bit different, Sandoitchi in Darlinghurst is a reasonable bet.

3.5 sands + 0.25 spooky witches / 5

Sandoitchi
Shop 3/113-115 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
0491 092 958

Categories
Café Japanese

Cafe Oratnek – Redfern NSW Restaurant Review

I first visited Cafe Oratnek in May 2020, before this blog existed. The height of the COVID-19 pandemic back in May meant that Oratnek was open for takeaway only at that time, and it was not until very recently that I had an opportunity to have an eat-in meal.

The main stars of the Oratnek menu are basically the same as that at its sister store Kentaro, a mere 1.2km away. The wisdom of opening two of essentially the same cafe within a 15 minute walk of each is, in my opinion, questionable, however both establishments seem to have a healthy amount of patronage. If I were in their shoes I would have rather done a North-South thing like Cool Mac and Kurumac (though there’s a lot of competition for Japanese food North of the bridge), or even have opened up the second store in an affluent, Asian-centric area like Eastwood or Strathfield.

There is plenty of outdoor seating for the COVID-paranoid, but the lack of cover over the courtyard of this terrace-style house means that the sun is very much blaring and angry. Something to be aware – you might want to wear sunscreen.

Port Katsu Sandwich

Oratnek’s pork katsu sandwich ($16) is essentially the same as Kentaro’s – a thick pork cutlet, lightly battered and deep fried for a juicy, tender outcome sandwiched between Japanese bread, cabbage, and mustard. Compared to Kentaro’s I think that Oratnek’s is not as oversauced and has more cabbage, but I’m not sure which one I prefer more. Both are delicious.

On my second visit to Oratnek I recommended the pork katsu sandwich, a known quantity, to my senior intensive care colleague and ordered myself the Salmon Rillettes & Legumes On Toast ($16.50). Unfortunately for me I didn’t really realise just how much legume would be involved. There was really only a smattering of salmon rillette, which in my opinion wasn’t quite enough for the thick toast. The sheer greenery and legumery was overpowering, and I found it a marathon to finish all of the crisp legumes provided to me. While some Japanese chefs may have earned the title “Legume Magician”, I would hesitate to offer this title to Oratnek based on what was presented here. Given the weighted composition of the dish I would more readily recommend it to a vegan rather than someone with no dietary restrictions.

Matcha Brownie

The matcha brownie is yum. A little bit bitter, sweet but not too sweet.

The mentaiko linguine ($22) I had back in May was the first time I had had mentaiko anything in Australia. The mentaiko topping was creamy, and enough to coat all the strands of pasta. I really enjoyed this dish, however after the past six months of tastemaker development I now consider this to be a bit overpriced. Cod roe is readily found at Asian grocery stores and isn’t that expensive.

The Kobe Hayashi Rice ($23) I didn’t really enjoy. It may very well have been the travel time, though the lukewarm onion beefiness was quite disappointing to me. Reasonable to try again fresh.

My partner enjoyed the Classic Omurice ($20 – no pictures) but hilariously told me that she didn’t think it was quite a classic, authentic omurice (not knowing the name of the dish).

VERDICT
Oratnek and Kentaro have the best pork katsu sandwiches I’ve ever had in Australia. In that sense they offer something special and are worth paying a visit to. A few of their other dishes are a bit hit and miss, but it’s likely that you will find something else you like in Oratnek’s diverse Japanese menu.

A recommendation. Bring a hat.

Cafe Oratnek
4 Pitt St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 8394 9550

Categories
Bakery Japanese

Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake – Sydney CBD NSW Bakery Review

Next to Event Cinemas on George St and very close to Wang’s Dumplings is the Sydney branch of Uncle Tetsu’s multinational bakery project.

During our first visit we had the original, matcha, and red bean cheese tarts.

Each cheese tart was delicious with a more cooked exterior layer and an interior runny gooey centre.

On our second visit the red bean flavour had been discontinued for a strawberry flavour for Christmas.

My favourite was the original flavour, however all four I’ve had have been quite nice.

I would rate these much above the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart in Australia. They are not as good as the cheese tarts from BAKE in Japan, and they’re also quite expensive at $3.90 a pop.

Unlike the cheese tarts I cannot really recommend this weird, watery, vanilla custard.

4/5

Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake Sydney
501 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

Uncle Tetsu’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato