Japanese Korean Uncategorized

Hiroba – Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

My partner was keen for some Japanese and I some Korean – from the outside, Hiroba’s little shop hugging the wall of Strathfield train station seemed like the perfect compromise.

Following in the tradition of Korean people serving Japanese food, Hiroba offers an extensive Japanese menu with the addition of some Korean restaurant staples. The Japanese izakaya style decor and Japanese translations on the menu provided an illusion that did not last long, shattered as soon as we unexpectedly received banchan upon ordering.

We initially pondered ordering a sushi or sashimi set, but decided on a la carte nigiri instead, making sure that our food was all thriller and no filler. The salmon, salmon belly, tuna, and snapper nigiri was all good and fresh, with thick and generous pieces of each. The tuna I thought was a bit expensive, coming in at $8 for two pieces, whilst the rest was reasonably priced ($5 for two pieces).

The mixed tempura (medium size) came with three tempura prawns and a mixture of what was mostly tempura tubers. Though freshly cooked, i thought the quality of the tempura was only middling, and felt that it was not as light and airy as good tempuras can be. We were saddened by the lack of variety in the tempura vegetables, with mostly root vegetables on offer. The only thing that really stood out was a single piece of tempura enoki – otherwise all of the tempura vegetables were quite samey.

I didn’t really like the flavour of the Ox Beef Soup, though if I’m being honest that could very well be more of a personal preference. The entire soup had a smoked taste, owing to what looked like sliced silverside beef on the inside. The overall theme of this soup could be described as wholesome feeling but not great tasting, though I did catch the chef having his own sit down meal of this soup. I assume the chef wouldn’t eat something not good, so it’s probably just our own preference that led us to not like this.

While the sushi at Hiroba was indeed good, would I go back again? Probably not. Strathfield holds a huge untapped potential of East Asian cuisine, and Hiroba just didn’t stand out enough for me to go back. I’d rather try something new.

1 Albert Rd, Strathfield NSW 2135
(02) 9763 1222


Chaco Ramen – Darlinghurst NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve been craving a good noodle, and our proximity to Darlinghurst post-floatation pool in Bondi made for a good opportunity to try out the ramen at Chaco Ramen, a place that had mainly been on my radar because of the yakitori at their sister sibling Chaco Bar. Little did I know (stupid) that there is literally a Chaco Ramen in Bondi Beach. We needn’t have detoured, but at least we didn’t have to pay for parking.

This photo of Morgan McGlone’s Hot Chicken ($9) is not the most attractive, but I think people actually come here to look at what’s inside their food, and I will have you know that I am classically trained and have a university education in dissection. Boasting about my mad pencil grip knife skills aside, I actually didn’t love this chicken. It is probably my own fault for reading “roast chicken” and being surprised when it came – as advertised – roasted. The skin just didn’t have the texture that I imagined when I read the word “hot chicken”. While my partner liked the mildness of the chilli sauce, I found this to be another weakness. As a chicken fan, I prefer ATL Ayam Tulang Lunak Crispy‘s equally priced marylands over this.

This chilli coriander special ramen ($27) was a beast of a bowl in terms of size and taste, featuring a mixture of both soft poached chicken and chashu pork. The broth, chilli and coriander in flavour, was quite reminiscent of Chinese mala hotpot, which kind of made it less special to me because that’s something we eat all the time, though my partner absolutely enjoyed it. The egg was soft, the bamboo shoots were tasty, and overall there were enough different elements to this bowl to retain our interest throughout its consumption. Pretty good! Pricey.

I didn’t feel the need to upgrade our fish salt ramen ($20) to the special, as unlike the chilli coriander ramen this one came with chashu pork at the base level. In addition to the pork are a couple of john dory and prawn wontons, which were quite tasty and enjoyed by both my partner and myself, even though she did NOT enjoy the soup and the overall taste of this ramen, which she found to be too fishy for her. It should go without saying that yes, a ramen called the fish salt ramen might be a bit fishy for the anti-fishers out there, but I’m happy to report that as a pro-fish advocate I did enjoy this fishy and milky broth.

I enjoyed both ramens that we tried at Chaco Ramen, though if you’re someone who eats a lot of Sichuan Chinese food I think the chilli coriander ramen won’t quite feel as special. If skipping the fish salt ramen, would recommend getting the john dory and prawn dumplings on the side. Yum.

Chaco Ramen
238 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 9007 8352


Sashimi Shinsengumi 刺身新鮮組 – Crows Nest NSW Restaurant Review

My partner took us to this paint and sip thing in Crows Nest, which was great because it meant that I finally got to try the Sashimi Shinsengumi takeaway platter from around the corner. Though I’ve never gotten my act together or friends in a row to book out their restaurant for omakase, this $140 of nigiri (2x$50+1x$40 sets) made for a reasonable substitute. While I think that a little bit of variety would have been nice in the form of temaki or other things, the price to performance ratio here was pretty good, with generous servings of all fish provided. My partner, who I think has a bias against sushi that’s not eaten within a restaurant, would tell you that the sushi lost points the moment it left the door, but I think it retained its freshness and quality by the time we ate it.

This was way better than the other paint and sip ladies’ cheeseboards.

Sashimi Shinsengumi 刺身新鮮組
5/7-11 Clarke St, Crows Nest NSW 2065
0402 359 697

Asian Fusion Café Japanese

Koku Culture – Ashfield NSW Restaurant Review

Koku Culture is home to one of the best brunches I’ve had all year. I’ve never been shy about my love of Japanese-fusion breakfast and brunch foods, and Koku Culture’s tiny Ashfield store fits the bill completely.

The Torched Confit Ora King Salmon Fillet with 63 degree egg ($24+$2) was sublime. Ora King Salmon is always a treat, featuring a rich oiliness and delicate mouthfeel far beyond your average grocery store Tasmanian Atlantic salmon. I try to order some Ora King salmon every now and then from the popular online fish delivery services, and even when cooked inexpertly by me at home the difference is noticeable. Koku Culture’s torched confit king salmon fillet definitely lived up to expectations – tender inside with a slight char on the outside reminiscent of aburi sushi. The miso dressing was tasty but not overpowering, and the green tea soba salad surprisingly refreshing, especially with the egg (a $2 supplement but important) and miso mixed in. This has to be a must-order dish from Koku Culture.

This Crispy Rice Cheeseburger ($15) with Chips and their secret sauce was also fantastic, but in a completely different way to the salmon. Where the salmon felt clean and healthful, this was perfect in terms of sheer debauchery. The rice “buns” were perfectly cirspy and fried out the outside, with a light but slightly sticky texture on the inside – a bit “QQ” as we would call it in terms of Chinese food. The seafood was similarly crispy, enjoyable and not merely for decoration. I opted for an extra patty ($5)(probably wasn’t necessary in this case, and I’d just stick with a single patty in the future) , and both beef patties were cooked to a delicious level of juiciness, mixed in with their special sauce and fresh lettuce. Even the chips were good.

The matcha affogato, which I can’t see on their menu any more, was pretty OK. The ice cream was good, the coffee was black. Mixed together it remained a bit black for my taste.

That’s a good Matcha Brownie right there.

I enjoyed Koku Culture. Definitely worth a visit, but make sure you budget in some time for the queue outside.

These guys are now closed forever, before the publication of this review. This is part of why I’ve pushed this review far into the future in terms of scheduling – they’re not going to get more dead. Hopefully Kenji Okuda and Donna Chau can bless us once again something good.

Koku Culture
1/355 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW 2131
0402 697 475

Japanese Korean

Suminoya – Sydney NSW Restaurant Review

My partner’s younger brother took us to his favourite Korean-run Japanese BBQ restaurant in Sydney. We had the $89 pp deluxe BBQ buffet with a 70 minute ordering window and a 90 minute seating time and access to the restaurant’s full selection of meat and non-meat foods. The meat quality was good, and he ordered a literal kilogram of wagyu straight off the bat, which was definitely too much, and kept us well occupied throughout the entire meal.

Alternative meats were of course available, and we did sample some pork jowl as well as some duck. I didn’t love the duck, which I found chewy. but respect that this could’ve been a result of my poor cooking skills.

We did eat other things. We had an unusually large amount of aburi wagyu nigiri (too rare for me), aburi salmon nigiri, one single slice of salmon sashimi (my partner had difficulty understanding the ordering quantities), some mushroom, some garlic butter, and all of the available desserts, of which the calpis jelly was our favourite.

It was overall a good experience, though I have a major complaint about this seemingly unnecessary charge for a new grille. Rather than pay the $2-3 per BBQ grill change on top of our already $267 bill between three, we just chose to have more cancer.

Why nickel and dime?

1 Hosking Pl, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9231 2177