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
Korean

DonDon City – Sydney CBD NSW Restaurant Review

I remember it like it were yesterday, however this review has been sitting in my drafts since July 2020. I will first set the scene. I had eaten Korean BBQ with my colleagues from work the night before, and my partner had gotten jealous and demanded that we eat Korean again. We had tried to secure a last minute reservation at a number of Korean restaurants in the city, however due to quite strict COVID-19 regulations the only one we could book was DonDon City.

My partner made the choice adult decision to get a bit tipsy prior to even leaving home, leaving me to be the responsible adult for the night. Above is a photo of banchan as well as the soju ($15) she consumed at the restaurant, atop of her pregame.

Korean fried chicken ($24) was not bad, but not finished. A bit on the tasty side for me, but my partner liked it and subsequently finished it the following day at home.

Seafood pancake ($19) was again, not bad, but not the best I’ve had and nothing to write home about.

Bibimbap ($18) I thought was a bit below average. Visually good but the meat was dry.

I honestly can’t remember how this short beef rib soup ($20) tasted. It was eaten and promptly forgotten.

Overall I think DonDon City was a nonmemorable and middling meal. There was nothing wrong with it in particular, but also nothing very good about it. I remember being full, but not happy. I will do my best to not return (unless I can be promised bossam).

3.5/5

DonDon City
1/636-638 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9261 0023

Categories
Asian Fusion Fine Dining Korean

Soul Dining – Surry Hills NSW Tasting Menu Review

This is a review of the Soul Dining modern Korean tasting menu as at 13th November 2020. All portions shown were served for 3 people, at $65 per person.

Our first dish was Kingfish in kimchi water with avocado puree, white kimchi. We had six pieces between the three of us to be eaten in one mouthful each. The kingfish sashimi was tender and fresh. The avocado puree added a surprising dimension of creamy umami. The kimchi water added a mild tanginess that was not too kimchi for my partner (an anti-kimchi individual) to eat and enjoy.

The wagyu tartare with singo pear and egg yolk (yukhoe) served on tempura seaweed was special. The wagyu was soft and minced and the egg yolk mixed in expertly by my partner coated it with a level of umami. The tempura seaweed provided a nice crunch for a fun mix of textures. A great dish.

Kim’s grilled eggplant with anchovy paste, tomato jam, manchego

Kim’s grilled eggplant with anchovy paste, tomato jam, manchego was in my opinion the weakest dish of the meal . I guess I’m not a big fan of eggplant and the histamine feeling in the mouth and throat to begin with. I could not at all identify the anchovy paste. The manchego shaved over the eggplant provided a nice sweetness, and melted by the end of the dish.

Lamb backstrap in potato bun with cabbage salad, green tomato relish, cumin

The Lamb backstrap in potato bun with cabbage salad, green tomato relish, cumin was also a bit weak. The lamb backstrap was steak-form, not minced, and crumbed. It didn’t really feel like more than your standard burger. I wonder if our three person serving was the same size as the two person servings, but just cut in 3 pieces. My partner took a fork and picked up the middle piece first. She thought it was a bit too lamby and could’ve used more cumin, however both myself and her brother thought that the lambiness was just fine. This was one of the favourite courses for my partner’s brother.

The Half free range chicken ‘traditional way’ with Korean chilli glaze is basically Korean fried chicken with a twist. The chicken was fried but not battered. The meat was tender and juicy, and my partner thought it was more tender and juicy than the crispy chicken at Khoi’s Vietnamese in Surry Hills that we had had the previous night. The presentation was really nice with a nice mix of colours. A good dish.

Cinnamon Churros with espresso glaze, salted caramel ice cream, sea salt and coffee peanuts

The Cinnamon Churros with espresso glaze, salted caramel ice cream, sea salt and coffee peanuts would be my pick of dessert. The churros were nice and crunchy. I am not normally a fan of salted caramels and while it was true again today I did not mind it. I liked the difference in temperatures between the churros and cold ice cream.

Snow bingsoo with baked mango, mango sorbet, milk snow, honey and nutmeg

As a non-fan of honey, I actually quite enjoyed the honey in this Snow bingsoo with baked mango, mango sorbet, milk snow, honey and nutmeg. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the sheer volume of baked mango which added too strong a concentrated, sticky, and dry mangoness to this mango dessert. Despite this I enjoyed this bingsoo more than the last time I had bingsoo at Hello Happy in Strathfield.

The house provided this Green tea panna cotta with chantilly cream & strawberries, dango, rice syrup dessert for us for free. It was very generous of them to allow us to try all three desserts, as normally with two diners only one dessert is provided. It’s hard to judge this dessert as it was served last, after our palates had been sweetened by the previous two. The green tea panna cotta was not sweet.

The omija with five berries spritz was good. Not too sweet. The yuzu iced tea I thought was a bit too sweet, and not iced enough on serving. It could’ve done with a few more shakes to cool the liquid down a bit.

Overall we had a great meal at Soul Dining. Service from one of the Caucasian front of house staff was also very good. She was very friendly. $65 per person for a tasting menu of this caliber is also a very good price. I’d love to come back for a few more things on the a la carte menu, for example their octopus.

$210 for 3 diners including drinks
4.5/5 (lean 5)

SOUL Dining
204 Devonshire St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8593 4957