My partner and I had a late post-work dinner at Clove Lane recently after a difficult and scary medical procedure. While we were tempted to order their $99 per head tasting menu, we ended up choosing more granular control and picked some of our favourites from the a la carte menu. Any savings we might have gleaned by skipping dishes we weren’t interested in were immediately negated by the Clove Lane’s expensive but delicious Clovemopolitan cocktails.
The amuse-bouche, a very small pancake with baba ghanoush and capsicum, was an unexpected treat, though not very good. It was a soft and floppy pancake with very mild flavours that didn’t amuse the mouth but rather disappoint it. Luckily this amuse-bouche was not indicative of the quality of the rest of the meal.
The warm sourdough with whipped burnt butter ($8) was a wholesome start to the meal. Whilst not in-house, the bread was good quality, soft and warm, having being sourced from Iggy’s. The whipped burnt butter had a caramel-like aftertaste which I wasn’t a fan of but my partner enjoyed.
I enjoyed the stracciatella, confit cherry truss tomato ($18), especially eaten with the aforementioned bread. The stracciatella was nice, light, milky. While I was drawn in by the concept of confit tomatoes, it was difficult, when eating them, to differentiate these tomatoes from other tomatoes cooked in more traditional methods. The stracciatella was ultimately good, but I don’t think the confit process added anything special to the dish.
The seared scallops, almond, golden raisin, cauliflower ($37) was excellent. The base dish comes with three scallops for $28 though we added an extra scallop for $9. The scallops were huge, full and plump, though I thought their flavour was a bit mild on the seafood side. The sauce of chopped almonds, golden raisin and cauliflower was salty and sweet with a lot of umami. Though $37 for just four scallops the taste and presentation excelled and ultimately justified the price. I can recommend getting this dish.
My partner – a huge potato fan as readers of this blog will know – couldn’t walk past the roast kipfler potato with capers, shallot, truffle cured egg yolk ($12). I personally didn’t really like them. I thought they were too potatoey and not flavourful enough, however she thought that the capers provided enough variety and flavour to the dish and ultimately enjoyed five out of seven potatoes.
The roast pasture fed sirloin, green beans, butternut pumpkin in red wine sauce ($45) was another star of the night. The beef was soft, juicy, and tender, rested for 45 minutes prior to serving but still warm inside. There was very generous amount of the beautifully savoury red wine sauce, enough for the steak as well as the pumpkin and greens. I would strong advise against leaving Clove Lane without having had a serve of this sirloin.
The saltwater barramundi, du puy lentil, green apple, kohlrabi ($42) was the weaker of the two mains, with its light and subtle flavours. The fish was a little dry and had a very light taste only. It was only when combined with the lentil and kohrabi cake that the meal had any real taste to it. While more suitable for pescaratians I’d definitely pick a different main over the barramundi were I to go again.
My partner enjoyed the clovemoplitan ($20) so much that she got two. It was a bit tangy and not too sweet.
One negative aspect of our meal was that we did feel a bit conned into donating $4 towards DineSmart. The $4 donation came directly onto our bill without us being asked, and it was framed in a way where we would’ve had to ask them to produce a new invoice to remove it. While I have a no problem donating to social enterprises like DineSmart it did feel like our hand was forced in this, and that wasn’t really OK.
We had a good meal with good service and good food. While a 2% donation on our bill was definitely a very small amount of money, the way it was sought left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Arthur is one of the few – if not the only – Sydney fine dining establishments to be named after an animated aardvark. Located within what looks to be a converted house on a street corner Surry Hills, Arthur offers an ever changing and reasonably priced tasting menu with a focus on fresh domestic produce.
We dined in mid-December 2020 and took the liberty of adding on a few of the essential options to make a full menu at around $138 per head.
Arthur’s Sydney Rock Oysters with grape granita ($5.50 supplement) are on the pricier side for the Sydney restaurant scene. They were fresh, delicate, and of good quality, but we would usually not expect to pay more than $4 per oyster of this size. The grape granita added a new sweet and sour taste that I’ve not had with oysters elsewhere.
Both the bread and butter in Arthur’s sourdough and cultured butter are made in house. The bread had a nice solid crust but was light and fluffy on the inside. The cultured butter was a bit saltier than I expected, but still nice. One of my friends in particular was very keen on this butter, though in general I am more partial to unsalted or more lightly salted butters.
This kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare was quite good. I enjoyed the strong tomato flavours, and while one of my colleagues had initial misgivings about the gaminess of the kangaroo he too grew to like it. Kangaroo, for those not familiar, is quite a lean and somewhat gamey meat that can be had at very low prices. While the produce itself is not considered gourmet in Australia, it is certainly rare to have it served as a tartare.
The zucchini flower, scallop, shallot was a delicate dish of scallop and shallot stuffed inside a steamed zucchini flower. The flavours were very subtle, so much so that one of my colleagues did not realise there was scallop within his zucchini flower, even after he had eaten it. I think this was quite wholesome and healthy, though agree that the scallop was a bit hard to find.
I didn’t really like the calamari, macadamia, and daikon radish. The calamari was raw, fresh, and creamy, and all of the flavours worked well, except for the fact that certain mouthfuls had an unexplained bitterness that I could not reconcile. I don’t know what the bitter elements of the dish were, but they really hurt its quality for me. My partner who ate from a separate serving did not taste any bitterness at all. I wonder if it was an intentionally included flavour or rather a problem with quality.
The Moreton Bay Bug in carrot and saffron ($32 supplement per bug) is one of Arthur’s house specialties – a dish that persists throughout multiple iterations of the menu. The bug was large and generous, with all non-edible arms and other bits picked off and the cavity opened for convenience of eating. Another slight complaint with Arthur’s QA again here – the quality of meat was a little inconsistent, with some bugs more meaty and others a bit too soft. The sauce had a delicious strong seafood taste, quite similar to the prawn head sauce at Moxhe. We fell into the trap of only ordering three bugs between five diners as suggested by our waiter, but I think we really could’ve gone for one each. They are a high value add-on.
This is a little deep fried dough ball which comes with the Moreton Bay Bug to help soak up the sauce. The dough ball is very tasty, a little bit sweet, and very fresh on its own. I wish we could have had more of these. They’re little donuts.
We returned to the base set menu with the Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato. The kingfish was really delicious, with a tasty crispy skin and soft flesh with a delicate internal taste and texture. The natrutium, green tomato, and green sauce I thought was a bit unnecessary but in no way offensive. My one complaint with this dish is the miniature size of the serving we got to share between two. It was around one third of the serving our other colleagues received between three. Kingfish is really not an expensive fish and I think a bit more (or even a bit more care in portioning) would’ve gone a long way.
The third “bread” of the night was a potato scroll with silverbeet and black garlic sauce. I liked this. It had a nice savoury taste. The sauce which looked like chocolate was not.
The dry aged borrowdale pork loin was really good. The pork had a little bit of crispy fattiness around the edges, and was otherwise tender throughout. The sauce it was served in was full of umami flavours.
The plum and cherry with cultured cream was a tart little side dish served with the pork. Not super memorable.
Lettuce was even less memorable.
The tart of bruny island “tom” (apparently a sheep’s milk), apricot, and cultured cream ($7 supplement per tart) was really good. The cheesiness and the sweet and sour flavours of the apricot really melded together well. The pastry of the tart was thin and light, yet held its structural rigidity well.
The dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt was phenomenal. The mango and raspberry, with different crumbs dried to different degrees, provided a broad spectrum of sweet and tangy tastes to the yoghurt base. This was widely enjoyed by all colleagues around the table. Really special.
The final course was this housemade wagon wheel. It was a bit darker and less sweet than the wagon wheels from the supermarket but apart from that not really something to write home about.
We shared a bottle of Ngeringa Uncultured Cider ($50) around the table. It was pretty good, quite dry without much sweetness, but refreshing.
VERDICT I think that reading through this blog post I’ve indicated a few hits and a few misses, but ultimately the dining experience at Arthur was very good and cohesive with all aspects taken into account. It’s probably been one of our top meals of the year. I would definitely recommend splurging for the Moreton Bay Bug as it is one of the shining stars of the meal.
We paid $138 per person including drinks and it was money well spent. The base price for the meal is $90 per person but doesn’t include oysters, the bug, or the cheese tart.
In what was sure to be an unexpected outcome for Sydney Dining Group, the recent mention of Ripples Milsons Point amongst Sydney’s latest COVID-19 hotspots actually helped bring the Ripples brand to prominence, one of a few reasons why we chose to dine at Ripples Chowder Bay for dinner tonight. We felt that Ripples’ ability to avoid a major catastrophe with their previous COVID-19 case meant that the restaurant was likely to have good ventilation and hygiene practices. It was, after all, our friend’s first time out since we ate at Acre in June.
Of note, street parking was $18.50 for 3 hours. We overstayed (it was difficult to predict how long we’d be) but were not ticketed.
We were initially seated in a spacious dining room inside, but moved outside to attempt to find more cross ventilated pastures on the deck. Unfortunately, because of the adverse weather, the deck was covered in a thick plastic shroud – something I had experienced at one of Sydney Dining Group’s other restaurants, Aqua. This meant that the outside dining area actually put us in far closer proximity to other patrons, without an increase in air changes per hour – something that greatly worried one of my senior colleagues.
We started with a plate of Chorizo & Mozzarella Arancini (5 for $16). I enjoyed the arancini but found it difficult to spot the chorizo. My partner, a big-time arancini fan, was not impressed. This was, believe it or not, one of the best value dishes of the meal.
These king prawns with orange, fennel & chervil ($28) were such bad value that it should have been criminal. What we got for $28 were three little cooked prawns, and a bit of citrus salad. I savoured my $9’s worth of prawn, which I found to be sweet and yummy, as well as my few allocated orange and salad bits. Our consensus opinion was that this starter was OK in taste, AWFUL in value. I think any reasonable restaurant with a sense of decency would hesitate to charge more than $15 for this tiny dish.
My gastroenterology colleague’s pick of main was the Confit Duck with cabbage, wild rice & red wine jus ($38). I thought this duck was very good, however judging from the size it must have come from a very small duck, perhaps one that had just hatched not too long ago. This is the best confit duck that my partner and I have ever had, although that’s not saying much as we have tended to avoid confit duck from Western restaurants ever since our first few attempts. I enjoyed the tender and juicy nature of the meat, as well as the delicious red wine jus.
My senior colleague’s pick of main was the Whole Market Fish, Tomato, capers & zucchini ($42). The market fish of the day was baby snapper. I enjoyed this dish and had this the most as it was closest to me. I liked the generous serving of vegetables, as well as the nicely oven roasted white flesh. Quite wholesome and good value compared to the rest of the meal.
Our next main was the Lamb Rump with peas, zucchini, mint, yoghurt & lamb sauce ($38). I had only a very small corner piece so it is a bit difficult for me to describe it. I thought it was nice, however, for them to have cut it up into bite sized slices. I thought that the meat was better, more flavourful, and more tender than that at COOH, a recent comparison.
A side of Green Beans with crispy eshallots & lemon oil ($12) was shared, however my colleagues did not seem to keen for it. I was personally grateful for this high greenery dish.
The Soy Panna Cotta with pineapple, coconut, sugar sauce & coconut gelato ($16) was my senior intensive care colleague’s first introduction to the concept of panna cotta, but otherwise not memorable.
The White Chocolate Mousse with chocolate crumb, passionfruit & mango sorbet ($16) was memorable for its strong sour passionfruit taste, small size, and large price.
The Lemon Tart with pistachio, meringue & pistachio gelato ($16) was not bad, however not as good as similar lemon tarts at around the $7 mark.
Ripples at Chowder Bay was an expensive but ultimately forgettable meal. Whilst I enjoyed the roasted baby snapper and confit duck, pretty much everything else could have been skipped. This is especially true for the desserts, which were all boring and expensive. We paid $291 between the four of us for the above listed foods and a $65 bottle of middling red wine, and a bit of condescension from our waiter when we asked for a recommendation for said wine.
Ripples Chowder Bay was fine only in terms of the price.
A long-standing fine dining establishment such as Tetsuya’s hardly needs the insights of an unlisted food blogger with a cell phone camera and no hats to give, but this blog isn’t about what Tetsuya needs. It is about what I need.
Let’s first set the scene. Tetsuya’s tucked away behind a nondescript, kind of shabby looking former homeless shelter on Kent St. It would not be possible to tell, from the street, that there was a beautiful Japanese inspired building and one of the most expensive restaurants in Sydney just metres away.
Diners were seated around the dining hall, with two groups seated in the middle. There was ample room between us and the other diners, and we were seated in a way so as to face away from the other parties. Our seats were in fact arranged facing the window as opposed to the inside of the room, which helped create a sense of intimacy as well as a sense of insulation from the other diners. We had the opportunity to admire the serene Japanese garden for a few minutes before sunset.
Table water was ample, and surprisingly served with a slice of lime. It was at testament to the service that I only found myself wanting for water once during the entire three hour affair. Utensils were adequate.
Our waiter joked that Testuya’s Negroni (L) was the best in town, and that he wasn’t just saying that because he was Italian. This joke was lost on us, two casual diners who were not previously aware of the geographic origin of the drink. My partner just wanted it because it had cherry in it. I had the Kyoto Mule (R), which was a non-alcoholic, yuzu and ginger beer based mocktail. Both drinks were good.
The oysters were a $12 supplement (for 2 oysters each) per person. The citrusy dressing paired well with the fresh oyster meat, so much so that my partner even enjoyed them. You will know from my review of our time at MOXHE that she doesn’t like oysters very much at all. A worthy supplement, in my opinion. After all, when you’re spending $250 a head, what’s another $12?
One of the things that I quite enjoyed at Tetsuya’s was that each dish was served to us in the same orientation. That is, while my partner and I were sitting at right angles from each other, the dishes appeared the same for us. This was actually quite helpful for photography, as I did not have to turn the dishes to get the full view.
The first dish was “Sashimi of SA Hiramasa Kingfish with Sesame leaf and Daikon”. I cleansed my Kyoto Mule addled palate with some table water before digging into the daikon radish, however I found that this was pointless as it was marinated in prominent yuzu flavouring. Indeed the taste of the yuzu-marinated daikon radish was very similar to my drink. I found the kingfish to be fresh with its characteristic mellow and mild flavour, and we did note some flavour cuts in the sashimi itself to help accentuate its taste. This dish was ultimately good, however I did think that the strong yuzu flavour overpowered the delicate kingfish.
The Sancho Infused Corn Custard with Alba White Truffle was a disappointment and a half. The corn custard was very sweet and tasty, so much so that it made it very difficult to appreciate the subtle flavours of the shaved white truffle. The sweet corn was no more than just sweet corn, and neitiher my partner nor I were wowed. The custard was allegedly flavoured with sancho however it lacked both ma and la. This was the first dish that our waiter served without calling it memorable, and I stronlgy agree. A truly forgettable experience.
Whilst eating the above corn cream dish we were presented with this bowl of butter without explanation. I will reveal what it is later on, but for now I want you to feel the feeling of disjointedness that I felt on the night. My impression of fine dining is that the restaurant’s staff are meant to anticipate your speed of eating and deliver the dishes as you finish the previous one. This was not the case however, and I felt like I had to hurry through my disappointing corn cream as I wasn’t sure if they were about to bring the next dish.
The Confit Ocean Trout with Salad of Apple and Witlof is Tetsuya’s specialty, and it shows. Cooked in oil at a very low temperature, the trout maintains its raw, firm texture. We were instructed to cut the portion of fish up with our spoons and then eat it however we liked. The seaweed and spice crust was superb. The roe was deliciously creamy with a physically strong wall which required greater than average pressure to pop open. While a delight I can’t help but notice that we only received one scoop of roe as opposed to the four scoops of roe featured on Tetsuya’s website. The apple salad was fresh and tangy, and provided a good counter for the taste of the trout. Hidden underneath the apple salad was a smear of goat’s curd, a hidden ingredient if you will, which really elevated the dish to the standing of a specialty.
This is a pretty standard leafy green salad. It is not part of the written menu. It was served at the same time as the confit trout, however I do not understand how they fit together. Nothing to write home about.
Next was the Patagonian Toothfish with Asparagus, Smoked Pil Pil and Finger Lime. We’ve been having quite a bit of toothfish around the place as well as at home, and unfortunately I think that took away a bit of the magic from this dish. The serving of fish was extra small but quite nice. My partner very kindly said that it was not cooked as well as the toothfish I made recently at home, but I disagree. It was not faultable. I enjoyed the asparagus which was wrapped in seaweed along its stem but not at the head – a nice detail to add. This was my first time eating finger limes and I was surprised by how such small beads could pack so much sour flavour, however I didn’t think they went well with the more traditional flavours of the asparagus and toothfish.
Welcome back to the truffle butter, now with breads. We overheard the water telling the couple seated next to us that they had forgotten the bread, which was meant to be served at the start of the dish. They did not afford us the same courtesy of open disclosure, which was disappointing. The bread was served four courses in. It consisted of one piece each of loafy bread and one piece each of a seaweed flavoured scroll. Both pieces of bread were good. I thought that the seaweed scroll stood well on its own merit (with a bit of a vegemite scroll feeling) and did not benefit from the addition of truffle butter. The loafy bread did benefit from the addition of truffle butter, which we found to be very soft and almost foamy.
I really enjoyed the NSW Duck Breast with White Turnip, Kohlrabi and Pickled Garlic Capers. The duck was dry aged and had a delicious honey-soy like flavour. The skin was extra crispy, with a delicate layer of sweet fat underneath. The garlic capers added a fun zest to the flavouring, while the white turnip mash provided a mellow and sweet homey feeling to the dish. I didn’t enjoy the green garlic sauce.
I enjoyed the fatty marbling of the NSW Rangers Valley Wagyu Sirloin with pickled Shittake and Radicchio. The meat was cooked medium rare which was perfect to bring out the marbled texture. The sliced shittake was a delicious and perfect accompaniment. I did not care for the radicchio/chicory.
This Yuzu, Chartreuse, Apple dessert was a light and tangy and cold palate cleanser. I really liked this one.
This is a chocolate stone with honey and milk. We both really enjoyed the milk-flavoured ice cream. The chocolate was indeed a stone and the external layer required some force to crack. I did not find the chocolate circle to be any different to the chocolate on top of the chocolate stone, however I understand it must have been difficult to arrange.
These are the petit fours, however there were only two per person. The mandarin flavoured macaroons were some of the best I’ve ever had, however they were certainly very petit.
Happy birthday to my stupid and smelly girlfriend. The diners next to us did not receive such cake as it was merely their Scottish wedding anniversary. Their son, now 18 years old, stays inside his room all day playing video games. They are scheming as to how to get him out of the house – perhaps on a holiday (they seem like they can afford it – they ordered sparkling rather than tap water to drink), perhaps in a part time job.
Tetsuya’s 529 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000 (02) 9267 2900
The story as told is that Chase Kojima (of Sokyo fame) goes to the fish markets every weekend of the pandemic to handpick the freshest and best seafood for his new pop up takeaway sushi restaurant.
Simulation Senpai is open for business only two days a week (Friday and Saturday) and for only 3 hours on each of these days (12:30PM-2PM and 5PM-6:30PM). It is online pre-order only and takeaway only (food-court style seating available), but within these strict limits is world class sushi and sashimi at a reasonable price.
Chase Kojima was there to greet his customers when we came to pick up our order on a Friday night. We ate in surprisingly luxurious food court style seating, and I’m told there is a nice park outside for lunchtime picnicking.
The Hoseki Bako ($55) is, as advertised, a box of treasures. It features an assortment of fresh sashimi on Masshigura rice. Every single morsel is unique and delicious. The salmon roe and sea urchin were both perfectly creamy and sweet. The scallops were sweet and delicate, and all of the fresh sashimi was as well. The tartar of tuna and salmon added an additional dimension of texture to the meal and worked well with the rice. The seafood to rice ratio was just perfect.
The Zenbu Don ($65) is a true tuna fantasy box of tuna (akami), medium fatty (chu-toro) tuna, and fatty tuna (toro) on rice. The fatty tuna just melts in your mouth like a dream, and is the best fatty tuna I’ve had outside of Japan. The red portion of tuna (akami) was also the best I’ve had in Australia. I often find akami a bit too metallic tasting, but this was not the case at Simulation Senpai. I think the Zenbu Don is really the star of the show and I encourage anyone missing toro to give it a try. Again the fish to rice ratio is perfect.
The Yuzu Mango Tapioca Pudding ($6) is a surprising winner, with a mild, not-too-sweet flavour to cap off the sashimi. The cartoon label doesn’t do the complex flavours justice.
I simply cannot recommend Simulation Senpai enough. Chef Kojima has truly set the new standard for fast fine dining. I was initially nervous about spending $130 on food court food, but one taste of the toro was enough to put any doubts out of my mind. It is the best sushi I’ve had outside of Japan, and you need to go while you still can.