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
Fine Dining Modern Australian

Babyface Kitchen – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

New South Wales comes out of its lockdown and our first fine dine of the season is at Babyface Kitchen, one of only three or four restaurants in the Illawara region to boast a tasting menu.

We start off with the classic sourdough bread and cultured butter. This was exactly as advertised, with nary a hint of innovation.

The snacks course was next.

My favourite of this was the honey bug in bug sauce, grilled over charcoal. The meat of the bug was very similar to other bugs, but what stood out was the deeply umami sauce that surrounded it. It was so good that I actually chewed and ate much of the shell just so that I could taste the sauce that coated it. My girlfriend made fun of me for this, before succumbing and having her own nibble. It’s all just chitin and calcium carbonate after all, and probably not even 1.2g BD of the stuff.

The deboned chicken wing on wasabi leaf didn’t quite do it for us, which was surprising as chicken is my most commonly eaten source of animal protein. I think that outside of extreme desert dryness chicken is something that’s easy to do reasonably well, but I also think that the strength of the mighty chicken wing is not only in its quality but also in its quantity, and the fact that you can just eat like ten or fifteen of them in one sitting. While I understand the whole concept of serving small foods in large plates, having half, maybe one chicken wing fried in a way that did not excite and sitting pretty on a leaf just doesn’t do it for me.

The beef tartare tart was not only a mild play on words, but also the first time I’ve had raw meat in a long time. I trust a restaurant’s ability to not give me EHEC much more than I trust my own. My only complaint here is that it came and went too quickly.

The tea light I accidentally knocked and spilled into the pool of water surrounding it. Tell me you’re poor without telling me you’re poor.

Our snack course was followed by an oddly-timed palate cleanser of fresh pineapple topped with passionfruit lemon myrtle sorbet and zest of blood orange. My partner enjoyed this fresh tart treat (mostly enjoying being able to eat pineapple without the drama of cutting it open and preparing it), but personally I didn’t feel like my palate was so dirty after a piece of bread and three snacks that it needed cleansing.

Our second bread of the night was made of 50% potato flour and lathered in marron butter. I was quite happy with this bread, and found that it had an unsurprising blini like quality. I was however an idiot and ate most of the bread by itself, rather than with the rest of this course.

The aforementioned bread was served with Western Australian Marrow in XO Sauce. I have some feelings about this dish, but the general vibe is that I felt much less spoken down to than when I went to Quay, which was the last time I had marron at a restaurant. Positive elements of the Babyface dining experience included the larger size of the marron, the interesting and fresh tasting accompaniment of white asparagus, Newcastle greens (a microgreen growery), and ice plant (wow! it looks like it’s covered in ice! You can feel the ice buds with your tongue!), and the fact that no one tried to explain to me that yes, we are indeed in Australia. The sauce was enjoyable and had good umami flavour, however in no way would I describe it as an “XO” sauce, a label which generally hints at a bit of spice and a whiff of scallop. I also found myself wanting for a spoon, a utensil that was provided in plenty at the bread and snack courses but not at the course that actually had a bit of soup. My fault for not saving my bread to mop it up.

These skewers of Port Lincoln squid and pork jowl were seriously good. The Port Lincoln squid offered a creamy texture with just enough crunch, whilst the pork jowl absolutely melted in the mouth. The smokiness of ironbark and the natural umami of the squid was amplified by the delicious squid ink sauce underneath, and possibly a hint of black sesame too. This was really top tier, and even my seafood-averse girlfriend eventually grew to enjoy it, even if she needed a bit of coaxing to actually put it in her mouth.

The squid and pork skewers were accompanied by this buckwheat noodle, sauced with black garlic and covered in pecorino. I must admit that while much care seems to have been taken to prepare them, these did not really enthuse me. I thought that while they probably had enough random complexity of flavour, they didn’t actually have enough general flavour to ward off the tastelessness of the soba. I ended up mixing the leftover squid ink sauce from the skewers into my noodles.

Our main course was based around a piece of 7-day aged lamb rump from some kind of station, presumably in the Australian Outback. It was served medium rare in a pool of its own juices – tender, but not really with any other flavour. The lamb rump was accompanied by the most beautifully caramelised piece of fermented pumpkin, however, which really stole the show.

The main course also featured some potato ?accordions in a strange white sauce that my partner enjoyed far more than me. She loves potato.

The salad, composed of green asparagus, Newcastle greens, and flowers in a bread sauce, was a nice and fresh reprieve from the lamb jus. I could eat this every day.

Time for dessert now, and this cracked puff filled with pistachio cream was excellent. They The exterior had a slight pineapple bun quality, but was more structure and much better than the pastry of every other cream puff I’ve ever had. The pistachio cream was nice and not too sweet. They even poked a candle into one of them to mark the occasion. The girls on the table next to us shared one cream puff and sent the other back. They were full, or should I say fools.

I didn’t care much for the second dessert, a malt ice cream on top of chocolate mousse and mulberry. I thought that while the malt ice cream was good, the white slabs were just a bit too sweet.

So this is actually revolutionary. Babyface Kitchen gives you a little take-away dessert snack to have at home following your meal, or even the following day as a little extension to your culinary adventure.

COMMENTS
I had a great time getting back into some tasting menu dining for the first time in over five months. Not every dish was perfect, but I very much appreciated the variety of tastes and experiences on offer. $110 per person was a reasonable price to pay for this meal in regional NSW, but I do hope I will get the chance to return for their cheaper and ever changing a la carte offerings in the future. I also enjoyed the very bare minimum of conversation we had with our waiters and waitresses, who were frequently drawn into deep conversation by the middle aged woman on my left. Her poor husband.

Babyface Kitchen
1/179 Keira St, Wollongong NSW 2500
(02) 4295 0903

Categories
Bakery

Black Star Pastry – Rosebery NSW Bakery Review

The birthday cake of my childhood was always Savoy’s taro cake. The birthday cake of the last couple years, however, has been from Black Star.

I will try to avoid burdening you with yet another review of Black Star’s famous watermelon strawberry cake. Instead, I will describe to you two less popular cakes.

The dragon cake was low in taste. Didn’t hit the spot.

The pistachio lemon zen cake was quite sweet. Didn’t hit the spot.

The black sesame yuzu cake was good. Not pictured, but we had a whole one last year.

The Japanese chicken curry pie was surprisingly good for a non-Japanese store, but quite expensive at around $9. I enjoyed the cripsy pastry and weird star-like shape.

The custard flan is delicious, lake a large Portuguese tart. I’ve had one every time I’ve been to Black Star over the past few months.

The rose-scented vanilla and strawberry and watermelon soft serve takes a cue from Black Star’s famous strawberry and watermelon cake. It is delicious, albeit a bit too sweet. A must try, especially with its dark chocolate waffle cone.

This Summer S’more, exclusive to the 2020-21 summer season was good! I loved the flaky croissant pastry and the filling of almond and vanilla custard creams. The marshmallow itself was not essential to the piece.

This slice of blueberry pie was also beautiful. The blueberries were huge and so juicy. So good.

4/5 – Custard flan good. Watermelon strawberry stuff good. Most things good. Not cheap.

Black Star Pastry Rosebery
C1/85-113 Dunning Ave, Rosebery NSW 2018
(02) 9557 8656

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
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