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.
VERDICT 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.
Hiroba 1 Albert Rd, Strathfield NSW 2135 (02) 9763 1222
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?
Suminoya 1 Hosking Pl, Sydney NSW 2000 (02) 9231 2177
Sushi LAB is a local inter-Sea of Japan collaboration serving a mixture of Korean and Japanese dishes in a family-oriented vibe, complete with children playing on iPads sipping from juice boxes and very nice service.
The deluxe sashimi ($37.50) was a well priced assortment of 15 pieces of seafood. I enjoyed the surprising inclusion of marinated octopus, though was not so fond of the giant oysters. The surf clam I felt was a bit icy at service, so I left my second piece (my partner does not eat such unfamiliar sea creatures without a fight) until the end of the meal to allow it to thaw a bit. Overall I felt this was well priced with good quality of salmon in particular.
I enjoyed this dragon roll ($20.80), though some may scoff at the choice. Sometimes you just need a dirty, non-traditional snack of tempura prawn, crab salad, eel, and teriyaki-mayonnaise to ruin your macros.
This wagyu beef ramyun (spicy, $17.80) was actually great. The flavours of the soup, though not very spicy, were very enjoyable, as was the bean sprout which inspired me to cook some more bean sprout related dishes at home the next few days. The beef was tasty and not too fatty, and the noodles, though probably not super special in and of themselves, were cooked to a degree of perfection unknown to this blogger’s girlfriend who do anything with instant noodles except immerse them in hot water.
OVERALL I think we had quite a nice meal at this small family restaurant, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
It was a true crime that I was only allowed to try two things at Bakemono, because both things were good and there was therefore a high likelihood that any third thing would’ve been good as well.
This blueberry & custarddanish ($7) was just delicious, with a large heaping of juicy blueberries and just the right amount of sweetness in the custard and pastry to put it into the prime zone. The soft custard, crispy exterior pastry and cloud-like interior pastry all conspired to make a great little treat.
The honey, sesame, and sea salt scroll ($4.50) was also good, though not as perfect as the above mentioned danish. I enjoyed the sweet and sticky honey coating, which had a distinctly Korean feel to it, especially together with the sesame seeds. Though honeyed, the good combination of sweetness and saltiness makes this a scroll not merely for dessert fans, but all bread fans in general.
OVERALL With only a little bench outside for seating, Bakemono serves up delicious little pastries with a Korean and Japanese inspiration without the long wait of a certain Fitzroy-based bakery. Though their selection is limited, I would definitely suggest this place as worth a little swing-by for bready breakfast, maybe to be eaten on the State Library lawn.
I’ve been trying to arrange an all-purpose wedding and interview suit for a few weeks now, a process that has involved several trips into the city, with at least one more to come. On my first trip into the big smoke I wanted to try one of Yeongjin Park’s (ex-Lode) famous pastries at Picco Leo, however arrived there only to find that he had left the previous week, with his specialties off the menu and probably never to return. It was a dark period for the pastry community, with us adherents left in limbo as he moved his operation from the CBD to his new Darlinghurst digs, Tenacious Bakehouse.
I was able to visit Tenacious Bakehouse as a bit of a sidequest from my second of three attendances at SuitSupply. Incredibly small and nondescript, I actually walked past it and around the block through some garbage-smelling alleys before I was able to find what I was looking for.
This Portuguese Tart ($12) was the only thing that I knew I wanted before I went. I’m generally someone who enjoys a Portuguese tart, and this had come highly recommended by some of the city’s top pastryheads (though not the top pastryhead, who I believe is yet to go). Tenacious Bakehouse’s Portuguese Tart has a super-crispy multi-layered pastry, with a deep cup accommodating a huge mass of runny eggy custard. The egg custard filling was softer and runnier than your usual pastel de nata, but not to its detriment, just different. It was not too sweet, one of the defining positive characteristics of any Asian-influenced dessert or pastry. While I enjoyed the unexpected crispiness of the pastry, I did feel that the pastry got a bit bitter towards the edges. It’s certainly baked to a dark brown, as you can see from the photos, and I think probably a little darker than most normal food is baked. Was the pastry a bit burnt? Was it a bit of over-enthusiastic caramelisation? Was it completely intentional? I don’t know, I’m not an expert. Either way, it was easily overlookable, and didn’t really detract from the overall positive experience.
The Pork Mandu ($10) was actually very good. It was like a three-way cross between a croissant, one of those Maltese pastizzi things filled with ricotta and spinach from the freezer aisle at the supermarket, and a Chinese pork bun. (Understanding totally that this is a Korean bakery with Korean staff and literally told to be to be Korean in inspiration by the very nice Korean woman manning the counter, I just haven’t had that many mandus in my time to reference back to, and none that have tasted like this). The pastry here was absolutely top tier, soft, flaky, delicate, oily, and buttery. There was no suspicion of burning, only a sense of suspicion about how they managed to make bread and butter into something so good. The filling was delicious mix of pork and vegetables, with plenty of moistness and rich and savoury umami flavour. Officially/unofficially it was described as a big dumpling, and I love dumplings. I approve of this message.
Next was the extremely unassuming and unattractive Red Bean Pandoro ($10), also recommended to me because I look like I enjoy a good Asian snack. I think the majority of disfigurement comes from the surface layer dusting of yellow powder (I think it might be soy based, I have asked for further clarification – EDIT: Scarlett replied, it is injeolmi based, a Korean rice cake covered in red or mung or azuki or other bean powder), which fills in the Viennoiserie’s natural crevasses. Never having had a pandoro in my life and knowing what they are only from a quick Google, I think I would describe this more as a filled cronutuffin than anything else, with buttery laminated croissant pastry, custard cream filling reminiscent of a filled donut, and in the shape of a muffin. Shape analysis aside, I again quite enjoyed the richness and velvetiness of the internal pastry, which was complimented by this time a sweeter combination of custard cream and red bean paste. The custard cream was surprisingly light and not very viscous, while the red bean paste was more substantial, both in flavour and in texture. The red bean tasted a little bit different to what I had imagined from just looking at it – I wonder if this is because Korean red bean paste is different to Chinese red bean paste, or just because I haven’t had red bean in years because my partner refuses to have it. Either way this dessert as a whole was a little bit sweeter than the Portuguese tart, but very good, possibly better. I couldn’t tell you. I liked all three.
SECOND VISIT, OCTOBER 2022
I found myself back in the area, this time with my partner in tow, and took the opportunity to go back. We had this blueberry tart ($12), laminated pastry with a frangipane filling topped with pastry cream and plump and juicy blueberries. Interestingly the frangipane was a bit herbaceous, kind of basilly, though I am yet to get confirmation. Confirmation received, it was mint.
The other thing we had on our second visit was this banana tiramisu tart ($11). This was pretty good, essentially banoffee, I don’t know what the difference would be between something you’d call banoffee and something you’d call banana tiramisu. It was only whilst looking at my card transaction summary later on at home that I realised that I spent $11-12 a piece on a couple of pastries. I think that it’s easy to ignore the price when you’re there and buying it and then outside and munching it, but that actually is a bit of money, and perhaps why half a decade in the workforce and making a liveable wage (though not by the standards of for example someone even a couple of years into certain fields of finance) we have nothing to really show for it.
All in all, I think you should go. I think there’s probably a bit of a renaissance of Korean-run Viennoiserie on the East Coast at the moment. Maybe it’s my own personal bias as an Asian person, but from Bakemono in Melbourne to Tenacious here in Sydney, some of the highest quality and most interesting pastries are coming from Korean bakers who are able to create both excellent renditions of classics, as well as top-notch fusion offerings.
I’m going to recommend Tenacious Bakehouse to my friend, housemate, and colleague who works down the street at the local faith-based healing service, but he’ll probably tell me he’s had better tarts at some monastery somewhere. Can’t please that guy.