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
Bakery Café Korean

LAB Bakery – Strathfield NSW Cafe Review

My partner’s recent obsession with bingsu took us to Strathfield’s LAB Bakery for our fourth snowy treat in as many weeks.

Unfortunately LAB Bakery’s freaky looking Oreo Bingsu was the worst that we’ve had in recent memory. Visually it was quite striking, but not in a good way. The dish essentially consists of a bowl of milky shaved ice with layers of oreo crumb and chocolate sauce, topped with an additional layer of the same. Above this there is a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the choice use of mini oreos and chocolate sauce to make a spooky looking face.

Despite its nightmarish appearance, this bingsu’s edibility is its biggest problem. Crumbs of oreo do not, in fact, mix well with milk snow, nor do they mix well with the back of the throat. Each mouthful was like choking on a glass of sandy unmixed Milo, and unlike Milo there was no flavour hit to numb the pain.

As hinted to in their name, LAB Bakery does not only do bingsu, but also does breads. We indulged in two of their cream puffs ($1) each, which were room temperature pastry balls filled with a vanilla custard cream. These are a bit larger than the puffs at Emperor’s Garden, and their filling is cold, not warm. They are tasty and priced at just the right price point for a small afternoon snack.

VERDICT
Do not get LAB’s Oreo Bingsu. Just don’t do it. Get anything but it. Get some of their breads instead.

LAB Bakery
4 The Boulevarde, Strathfield NSW 2135
0450 593 522

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Korean

SOUL Deli – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

The husband and wife magicians behind Surry Hills modern Korean restaurant SOUL Dining have done it again with SOUL Deli, a still-Korean but less formal café and deli space just blocks away from the mothership. Where SOUL Dining succeeds by delivering a variety of quite substantial dishes cooked with fusion principles and a view for sharing, SOUL Deli’s offerings are more café-oriented, with single person servings that still retain some of that fusion touch.

The SOUL Galbi Bowl ($28) was the highlight of our meal. The star ingredient, black angus short rib, was delightfully tender and fatty inside with a good char on the outside – the result of a prolonged sous-vide process and high temperature grill finishing. Each bite of this prized beef showcased both the meat quality as well as the soy-pear marinade, delivering distinctly Asian flavours and showing that often it’s more about cut and culinary technique than whether or not the cow was born in Japan. The soy egg had a great umami flavour, and the pickles, kimchi, and fresh broccolini added a freshness that balanced out the meat. Last but not least was the fresh tomato, which was not only fresh but also added an additional glutamate enriched hit of umami which synergised well with the meat. Very good.

The Omelette with Korean “Caviar” ($24) was quite a nice demonstration of SOUL’s intersecting Korean and French cooking techniques. The omelette itself was delicate and moist, though I felt that the salted pollack roe within didn’t quite pack the punch that was expected. The trout roe atop omelette was fine, though there could’ve been more – there’s a difficult balance to achieve here with a relatively expensive ingredient that adds only a fine and subtle flavour. The beurre blanc, a sauce that some but not all French mothers teach their children added a creaminess that complimented the egg with its mozarella stuffing. It was a great sauce to mop up with the surprisingly decent sourdough bread. This omelette was overall a lighter tasting dish than the galbi bowl, but still good.

This Korean Fried Chicken piece ($8) was expensive compared to your regular serving of fried chicken, but quite good. The exterior was crispy, well sauced but not overflavoured, while the inside was juicy and tender. Served with some pretty high brow kimchi.

I enjoyed this Korean donut ($4.50), which was a slightly oily, slightly sweet dough twist.

This oat cookie ($4.50) was also not bad.

This was a fresh and fizzy Omi ade – a kind of Korean bberry drink. It is available also with alcohol but we tried very hard to be adults about our breakfast.

VERDICT
We really enjoyed the fresh Korean-fusion flavours at Soul Deli. The dishes are on the expensive side, but well worth it. A fitting sequel to Soul Dining.

Categories
Asian Fusion Korean Latin American

Vecino – Canterbury NSW Restaurant Review

It’s far too common to find Asian fusion cafes, particularly in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, owned by people with no cultural ties to the food being served, and it really warms my heart to see a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant owned by Asians and run by both Korean and Spanish speaking waitresses, chefs, and carpenters.

Vecinos’s expansive menu features both classic breakfast favourites as well as their signature Korean-Mexican menu of Korean fried chicken, tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Set within a small space across the road from the neighbouring Woolworths (and free parking lot), Vecino features an unusual collection of steampunk or plumbing inspired furniture, apparently assembled in house by Vecino’s very multitalented crew.

We had a selection of tacos and Korean fried chicken for our midday meal.

My first delicious taco was the Baja Taco (2 for $14.50), filled with a battered fish fillet (of unknown species), cabbage, dill ranch sauce, pico de gallo, and lime juice with salsa and jalapeno. I had been craving a sashimi taco for some time, having been recently denied one at Osaka Trading Co by my friends who weren’t too fond on the idea, and while this was no sashimi taco it hit the spot perfectly. The fish was freshly fried and very crispy, with the mild sauces adding a creaminess and the salsa adding a freshness. This taco was simple to eat and a recommendable pleasure.

The Bulgogi Tacos (2 for $14.50) with marinated soy beef, cabbage slice, pico de gallo, teriyaki sauce, sour cream and guacamole with salsa and jalapeno sauce were a wet and delicious mess. After experiencing the sensible tastiness of the fish taco nothing could have prepared me for the deluge of sauces and delicious liquids that poured out of this taco as I bit into it. The beef was sweet but not overpoweringly so, with each bite a delicious fusion of familiar bulgogi flavours with the freshness of the salsa, guacamole, and lime juice. A really good fusion taco.

Unfortunately I think Vecino’s Honey Cream Prawn Tacos (2 for $14.80) didn’t quite meet the expectations by the previous two tacos. Each taco featured a number of small prawns in a very hard honey glaze-crust. Unfortunately this hard glaze made these particular tacos far more difficult to bite through, chew, and eat than the others. This, coupled with what I think is less interesting a flavour makes these tacos a pass from me.

We also had half a Salsa Picante Chicken, which is a fusion take on the usual Korean Fried Chicken, topped with salsa picante and salsa de mango. While I was initially a little hesitant, the sweet and spicy salsa flavours actually complimented the fried chicken very well. I also found the side cabbage to be better than most others, I think owing to the lighter flavours used in the dressing compared to most Korean restaurants. I thought the hot chips served with the chicken were quite good, likely triple-fried with an exterior batter, but ultimately completely unnecessary. I would’ve liked the opportunity to order the chicken without them rather than be locked into eating them and possibly missing out on other tasty menu items.

A perfectly adequate cappuccino was had in Grounds of Alexandria turquoise.

VERDICT
Vecino is Asian fusion done right in every sense. The combination of Mexican and Korean flavours provides an experience that can’t be had anywhere else in Sydney.

4.5/5 . About twice as good as Costas Arepa Bar.

Vecino
Shop 1/1-3 Charles St, Canterbury NSW 2193
0456 416 749

Categories
Café Dessert Korean

Cafe Crop – Strathfield NSW Restaurant Review

Teeming with high school kids on a weekday afternoon, Cafe Crop in Strathfield provides quite good quality, bat-adjacent bingsoo,

We had a mini mixed fruit bingsu ($11.50), with our mini size served within a plastic container while larger sizes are served in Pyrex measuring cups. The shaved ice had a nice creamy taste to it, and we really enjoyed the assortment of fruits – strawberry, melon, grape, mango, (and unfortunately seemingly canned pineapple) – that was included. The addition of some mochi (rice cake) and what I’m pretty sure is Milo cereal also added a nice variation in textures and flavours. The squeezy container of condensed milk was left essentially unused, as the dessert was tasty and sweet enough without it.

On a subsequent visit we had a small mixed fruit bingsoo ($21), a larger, pyrex cup variety of the same one that we had the first time. The scoop of ice cream in the medium size is decorated with milo cereal to form a spooky but cute pig face.

While I thought the bingsoos were good and good value, the pomegranatade coming in at $7.50 I thought was much worse value. While I don’t know the intricacies that go into it – perhaps they have a staff member squeezing the juice out of each pomegranate pip in painstaking fashion – what it tasted like was cordial and in my opinion not worth the price.

VERDICT

Bingsoo good. Pomegranateade bad.

Can recommend.