Categories
Australian British

Fish Butchery – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

We were excited to eat at Fish Butchery after reading some pretty glowing reviews online and glowing feedback from our friends about related restaurants Saint Peter and Charcoal Fish. Despite such expectations our moderately-long drive to Waterloo was sadly not met with as much joy as we had hoped.

While I’m not usually one to complain loudly about service, preferring to focus on the food, I think that the ultra-premium prices paid at Fish Butchery does invite greater reflection into what exactly one is paying for. The first red flag of our visit, apart from the prices of the familiar raw fish (Murray cod and Clhinook salmon) in the fishmonger’s display that were easily 50-100% greater than what you’d expect to pay from your favourite internet-based fish market delivery service, was that the staff seemed to be too busy to wipe the crumbs off the tables between customers until the new customer’s food was ready to be served. This meant that we sat with crumbs in front of us, not really seeing a staff member venture outside for about half an hour as we waited to be served.

Though Fish Butchery styles itself as a takeaway joint the reality of it is that it’s a restaurant, complete with both indoor and outdoor seating. There are just normal expectations around the cleanliness of tables when you’re spending $80 between two for lunch, and these weren’t fulfilled.

The Al Pastor Swordfish Tacos (2 pieces for $24) were not what I was looking for. Though grilled, they were not as grilled as I had hoped, and arrived to us lukewarm at best. The internal fish meat was on the raw to rare spectrum, which is not what I was expecting but did not cause any physical bodily harm. The flavours of this taco were highly mild, though the sweetness and juiciness of the grilled pineapple was a very welcome addition to what was otherwise a barren and expensive half moon.

The fish sausage roll ($22 with chips and a Strange Love soda) was the highlight of the situation. The sausage roll, filled with a mixture of Murray Cod, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, and cured Murry Cod fat had a very good depth of flavour and fatty moistness inside. The pastry was a crust above your average sausage roll, but to be expected given the asking price. The potato chips were unfortunately actually not very good, and even my potato fiend partner was unable and unwilling to finish them. The tomato sauce was rich and good. Unlike the rest of the things we had at Fish Butchery I could actually give a positive recommendation for this sausage roll, though by itself ($14) rather than with the chips.

I didn’t love this hyped up Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger Double ($20). I don’t think there was anything special about it apart from the use of fish over mammal, and I don’t think the flavour or texture really lived up to a burger made of methane-producing cow. The inside of these tuna patties was a bit rare, but I think that’s probably OK because we literally eat sashimi and these guys are the fish experts.

The regular salad ($14), half cauliflower and half eggplant was actually pretty good, if oily. A non-fish product that was not weighed down by fishy expectations.

THOUGHTS

I really wanted to like Fish Butchery, but outside of the single sausage roll nothing else that I had really wowed me, especially at its price point but even if they were more reasonably priced. I expected better from a guy who charges $150 for a piece of stainless steel specifically to weigh down cooking fish.

Fish Butchery Waterloo
965 Bourke St, Waterloo NSW 2017
02 8960 0903

Categories
Café

A Man and His Monkey – Randwick NSW Restaurant Review

We visited A Man and His Monkey on an extra-ordinary windy and cold day in June. Though allegedly outside of the peak COVID-19 season now two and a half years down the track, I made the decision to forgo the warmth of the claustrophobically packed café interior and sit us al fresco next to a non-functional gas heater instead. Some would later call this a mistake, but I would argue that the real mistake was that same person not bringing her own jacket and taking mine instead.

I really enjoyed this grilled salmon salad ($18.50), which truly exceeded all expectations and was exactly what my mouth needed at the time. The salad was a symphony of freshness, primarily composed of the flavourful herby green plants mint, parsley, coriander, spring onion, and a small amount of dill. There was no boring, garden-variety iceberg lettuce in sight, and as such each single leaf provided its own unique flavour. The grilled salmon was able to retain its presence despite being pulled into flakes, with just enough spread out throughout the greenery to exert a umami and fatty mouthfeel. The dried cranberries, another master stroke, provided a textural as well sweet tasting reprieve from the green in just enough quantity, and just when you thought the freshness might get too overbearing the bed of crème fraîche would swoop in with a save.

The poached egg, a $3 addon which I didn’t realise wasn’t part of the salad until re-reading the menu just now, was also excellent.

The men and monkeys of this café are masters of ratio, and all elements of this dish were in the right amounts in perfect harmony. There’s literally nothing that I could imagine that could have made this salad better, except maybe if I had had my jacket back.

Though I loved the salmon salad I didn’t really like the hummushuka with slow cooked lamb ($28). Not being the biggest fan of of shaks to begin with, this particular shakshuka appealed to me even less than normal, with a tomato sauce that was sweeter than usual, a very standard bread, and unfortunately quite unconvincing lamb for the $8 supplement atop the $20 base price. The one redeeming factor of this shakshuka were the again excellent eggs. Having said this, my partner, who chose this item from the menu, did enjoy this dish.

A soy cap for $4.40 is refreshingly reasonably priced these days!

COMMENTS
I don’t think I’ve ever stanned for a salad this much in my life. Make sure to make your partner bring her Eastern Suburbs standard-issue North Face down jacket or pay the price.

A Man and His Monkey
149 Clovelly Rd, Randwick NSW 2031
(02) 9398 3900

Categories
Café

Circa Espresso – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

We counted three visits to Circa Espresso in the 2018-19 period, with further visits in 2021 and more to come.

I’m not usually one to go for vegetarian dishes, but Circa’s Ottoman Eggs ($22) are in a league of their own. The eggs themselves are perfectly poached, served on a mattress of fried, crumbed eggplant, itself lying on a cloud of garlic labneh. The interplay of textures – the runny egg yolk, the crispy eggplant, the creamy labneh, and the housemade bread – is superb, as is the combination of tangy, spicy, and umami flavours. A really good dish that is a must-try.

The humpty doo saltwater barramundi en papillote ($26) was the most expensive thing on the menu, and also quite bad. The barramundi was very overcooked, with the skin soft and wilted rather than crispy. The salad of parsley and cucumber was hard and difficult to eat, and as such wasn’t really able to be eaten in conjunction with the fish. The flavours were overall mild and bland, and after the huge success of the Ottoman eggs these parcel baked fish bits were quite disappointing.

The wild ferment whole wheat pancake ($22) was a beautiful sweet dish. The thick but light wheat pancake was glazed in maple syrup, producing a hard, crispy skin and two separate textures per bite. The fresh, tangy peach provided a good foil to the sweet maple syrup glaze and the white chocolate creme fraiche, and the crunchy cocoa nibs and pistachios added a third texture to the meal. I don’t normally go for sweet dishes, but I could absolutely see myself ordering this again.

This lamb cutlet focaccia sandwich ($15) from the specials menu of Monday the 15th of March 2021 was really good. The meat was delicious, the bread was delicious, and the kaleslaw was fresh and crunchy.

An extra normal iced chocolate ($7). I could not stop my partner from ordering what was essentially chocolate milk with ice cubes.

Sujuk ($7) was served with a small amount of bread. Again quite expensive.

SPRING 2021

The dressed avocado ($18) is an interesting name for a dish where avocado is equal firsts in precedence with a number of other ingredients. The avocado headliner was in fact not more special than any other cut in half and pitted avocado, while its colleagues the cherry tomatoes were delightfully and unexpectedly bright and full of flavour. The avocado-cup of oil and aged balsamic vinegar and bed of soft white bean hummus added a depth of umami to balance the otherwise extreme freshness of this meal. A perfect low carb option, it’s just a shame that I had to ruin it with a deep fried eggplant.

The side of crumbed eggplant ($6?) was ordered as I wanted only the best part of the Ottoman Eggs while not committing to the full deal. Whilst the eggplant was as good as I remembered, it didn’t quite go with the freshness of the avocado dish, and having it alone really just highlighted how well the Ottoman Eggs works as a cohesive dish.

SUMMER 2022

Another year at the largest healthcare campus in the Southern Hemisphere, another year of post-nights breakfast at local legend Circa. Though I’ve never been a mad shakshuka fan, I decided to step out of my comfort zone for these baked eggs with beef sujuk ($26), spending Valentine’s day breakfast with my colleagues rather than my partner. Though I easily could’ve ordered the old, trustworthy Ottoman eggs, I was inspired by my junior colleague TJB to try something new. These baked eggs turned out to be extraordinary, with a richness of flavour not easily matched elsewhere. The roma tomatoes, harissa gravy, and chilli flakes really brought out a rare depth of flavour, and paired with the runny eggs and feta made for the perfect topping and dip for Circa’s top tier focaccia.

A further visit in a further month gave me the opportunity to try this zaatar chicken salad ($26), an extremely healthful bowl which was a mixture of quinoa, seed mix, sumac, broccolini, pickled radish, cabbage, and (cold temperature) smoked chicken over a bed of baba ganoush. Though the flavour wasn’t amazing compared to all of the other delicious foods featured above, it was obviously very healthy and there is a value to that too.

$5.50 for a cold brew coffee with a giant ice cube is too much.

WINTER 2022

Another season, another menu, and more foods to review. The cuttlefish & chorizo salad ($28) was the first thing I tried on Circa’s Winter 2022 menu, and if I’m being honest it was quite a disappointment. Many of the components of this warm salad were fantastic – the roasted greens, the sourdough crumb (great texturally), the chickpea and roasted garlic hummus, but the combination of these, together with the extremely salty cuttlefish and chorizo made a bowl that I could not finish. Though I am a big Circa Stan and like most of the things they put out, the saltiness of this particular salad just didn’t do it for me.

I didn’t drink this shrub ($7 or something) but I do love the crockery. My colleague CSPH enjoyed it. It did come with a shrub.

SPRING 2022

I spent 3 months away from Western Sydney working on the South Coast, but came back in time to enjoy this crispy confit duck ($27) on their Spring 2022 menu. I shamelessly tucked into this very lunchy breakfast whilst four of my five other colleagues had their reliably good Ottoman eggs. Their all-day menu is, after all, part of why we keep coming back time and time again. I loved the colour and the crispiness of the duck, with its skin and fat and tender meat. The vegetables and lentils were mild but still delicious, with quite a tangy taste from the red current jus. I can recommend this dish, and it was truly much better than the similar confit poultry at Melbourne’s Hardware Société.

VERDICT
Eggs good. Many other things quite good. Some other things not good, quite expensive. My favourite café in Parramatta.

Circa Espresso
21 Wentworth St, Parramatta NSW 2150

Categories
European Fine Dining

LP’s Quality Meats – Chippendale NSW Restaurant Review

It’s been about a year since I first tasted LP’s class-defining mortadella, and about a year that I’ve been dreaming about dining at their Chippendale smokehouse and restaurant. After a couple of setbacks and false starts we finally found the opportunity to go last night, taking advantage of the tables left free by those spending Good Friday at home with family.

We chose the $65 tasting menu with the addition of a serving of smoked chicken. Whilst the serving sizes are in general fine, certain fixed serving sizes, for example for the pork loin, are not adjusted for odd numbers of diners, meaning that it is better value to go in a group of four rather than the five that we had.

The first item on our menu was the malted sourdough & butter. There was nothing really special here. The bread was crusty on the outside and a bit gooey on the inside, possibly reflecting its malted nature. The ratio of butter to bread was adequate.

The oysters with mignonette dressing were fresh and delicious, though not differentiable from any other inner city oyster. When ordered a la carte, these oysters are $5 each, which is quite expensive.

While I can’t remember the name of this off-menu metal dish of vegetables, it is probably LP’s rendition of giardiniera, a classic Italian salad. It is essentially a vinegar-marinated combinastion of cauliflower, capsicum, carrot and onion. Quite the tangy palate cleanser, paired with the salumi.

LP’s salumi plate, featuring fully in-house smoked and prepared (though not husbanded) mortadella, salami cotto, and saucisson was a treat. You’ve heard me wax lyrical about LP’s mortadella more than once now – this soft, mild smoked pork sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted. The salami cotto and sauisson were also good, both ssavoiding being too salty or overflavoured, as salumi often is. Whilst LP’s cold and cured meats are also available for sale from their in-house deli, the price of their mortadella at $77/kg was no cheaper than when I had bought it from Woollahra luxury butcher Victor Churchill, and I chose not to further indulge.

LP’s grilled beef tongue with smoked beef fat vinaigrette is one of their signature dishes, and for good reason. Unlike most renditions of beef or ox tongue, LPs slices theirs longitudinally rather than transversely, the end result being a visually arresting, tongue shaped tongue meal. The tongue is extremely tender, falling apart with minimal fork-based instrumentation, which is actually fully different to the hard and chewy mess that I get every time I try and cook it at Korean BBQ. Each mouthful is an umami bomb, thanks to the smoked beef fat, though perfectly tempered and matched by the tanginess of the salsa verde and vinaigrette components. This is a truly next level dish that I can recommend as a must try.

I’m not normally the biggest fan of mussels, but these steamed mussels in nduja were actually very good. There was none of the feared grittiness present in most low-tier mussel dishes, and the sauce was both umami and lightly spicy. This dish would’ve been even better with some bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

The pickled beetroot salad was very tangy. Not the most enjoyed dish around the table, but then again it’s LP’s Quality Meats, not LP’s Quality Beets.

The 800 gram pork chop with mustard sauce and grilled onions was pretty good, but not something I’d necessarily mention in a letter home. The meat was cooked well, the sauce was inoffensive, but apart from the size and spectacle of an entire giant pork chop cut and rearranged into shape there was nothing truly special about it. It’s sad that with 5 people we did not get a 1000 gram pork chop.

This mesclun salad, mixed herbs, palm sugar vinaigrette was pretty unexciting, and definitely not as exciting as the name.

This smoked half chicken in sauce pearà ($31 supplement) was an add on from the a la carte menu. I had heard a lot about the chicken at LP’s, and this dish certainly did not disappoint. The skin of the chicken was crispy, whilst the meat of the chicken was soft. The smoked flavour, mixed with the creamy flavour of the sauce pearà made for a mouth-watering, umami-filled dish. This chicken was well received around the table, and would be my other must-have at LP’s.

This dish of ember roasted pumpkin, chard, and anchovy did nothing for me. I thought that the flavours were too strong, with the pumpkin being particularly oversalted.

The chocolate tart with chantilly cream was made of very dark, semi-sweet chocolate. I liked it, and I think my girlfriend would have enjoyed this too, but she didn’t go so we will never know. It was a divisive dish, as a few of our friends did not like the bitterness.

The savarin au rhum, essentially wet sponge cake, was also just fine. The cream in both of the desserts was quite good, described aptly by my colleague GL as tasting of a melted vanilla ice cream.

VERDICT
Thank you for reading my pegfeed. The chicken and beef tongue were truly standout dishes that I would recommend a visit to LP’s for, whilst some of the other dishes – salads, mostly – did nothing for me. I had a good time, but would’ve had just as good a time ordering the big hitters off the a la carte menu.

4.5/5

LP’s Quality Meats
16/12 Chippen St, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 8399 0929

Diners: JW, HWJ, NT, GL, CJP

Categories
Fine Dining Japanese Latin American

Nikkei – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

After a couple of aborted attempts at eating at Nikkei over the past year, my partner and I finally made it over there to try their $88 pp Japanese-Peruvian tasting menu, inspired by the apparently quite significant Japanese diaspora in Peru. This is a restaurant from the group that runs Osaka Trading Co (which I did not love), but is much better.

The first thing I noticed and enjoyed was this sweet wooden communal dining table. It looked expensive, perhaps carved out of a single tree, and potentially a lot of money. I’d love to have one of these tables in my home one day, to entertain no one. The second thing was this nice drinks menu, bound in a very Midori Traveler’s Notebook esque leather covering, complete with a little bit of patina which I hope continues to develop as the restaurant continues to exist.

Our first little nibble were the empanada bites, two of which were allocated to each diner. These small deep fried bites were crispy and crunch, mostly unidentifiable generalised fried stuff (perhaps it is the edamame but reconstituted?) filled with a small amount of surprisingly large-grain choclo (Peruvian) corn and topped with parmesan cheese. The smoked mayonnaise topping and bottoming, which held the bites to their paper base, was well liked by my colleagues around the table.

These Hokkaido scallops were quite special, presented in a huacatay (Peruvian black mint) butter, tangy acevichado (ceviche-like) salsa, and tiny balls of arare cracker. The scallops were sweet with a nice torch-born sear to them. The sauce that they were bathed in was both creamy and citrusy, while the lightly puffed arare cracker added additional textural interest, like tiny rice puffs. I would recommend eating this with a spoon to not miss out on all of those beautiful flavours in the sauce.

While not all colleagues around the table were impressed by the ceviche de pulpo, I actually thought it was quite good. This was a classic-ish ceviche with a nice tender octopus instead of fish, bathed in a marinade of lime juice and spices, and served with cancha corn, or toated corn kernals. My partner, lover of citrus but hater of certain seafoods, enjoyed this dish, as did I. I thought the flavours were quite bright and fresh, and again enjoyed the variety of textures and flavours offered by the crunchy toasted corn.

The causa sushi is in my opinion an attempt to innovate just a little too much. On offer was a piece of scampi nigiri topped with ikura, and a piece of yellowfin tuna gunkan each. The twist here is that Nikkei has used a mashed-potato base as opposed to rice, an ingredient we were told is common in Peruvian cuisine. While I had a bit of hesitation to eat raw scampi (thinking back to this allergic reaction I had at Moxhe) I told my two anaesthetic colleagues that I was for full resus and went to town on the first scampi I’ve had in a very long time. I think I might have become desensitised.

The seafood was fine, the scampi was sweet and the cubed tuna a little spicy and actually quite tasty. Unfortunately I wish they had just stuck with rice though, as the texture of the causa just didn’t do it for me. Poor rice in sushi can mean the difference between good sushi and bad sushi, and not-rice sushi just makes it all that much worse.

The wagyu maki that followed renewed my sadness that the causa sushi was not just regular sushi. The rice in this was actually quite good. The lightly seared thinly sliced MBS8+ rib eye was well liked by one of my learned colleagues, though to be honest I was less of a fan of the meat itself, but still a fan of the overall package. I enjoyed the mixture of yakinku sauce and anticucho sauce, a sauce we were told was commonly used in Peru for grilled chicken, as well as the crunchiness of the vegetables rolled inside the warm sushi rice.

The chuleta de cerdo was again another dish that was well liked by all the friends around the table except me. I personally thought that the Tokachi-style kurobota pork rib eye was a bit too fatty for me – certainly there was enough lean meat to go around, but perhaps my first piece was just 40% fat and it just set a bad tone for the rest of the dish. I can’t criticise the meat’s tenderness or sweet-savoury flavour, but it is just unfortunate that the texture of the first bite was offputting. What I did enjoy thoroughly in this dish was the delicious sweet potato chips, which were thin, tasty, and went well with just a bit of the meat’s sauce. This dish was served with some charred lemon to squeeze onto the meat, but I didn’t find that it improved my experience. Again – the three other diners on the table universally loved this pork but I just need to tell you how I feel.

I wasn’t crazy about the ensalada de verano. I thought that while they did innovate a little with some spicy yuzu kosho, the leaves were a bit bitter. Whatever. It’s vegetable.

This matcha alfajor dulce de leche ice cream sandwich was actually quite good. A bit difficult to crack without smushing the ice-cream out from under the biscuit, but really quite pleasant tasting. Not too sweet.

THOUGHTS
I quite enjoyed the opportunity to eat all of these Peruvian ingredients (particularly interesting corns and sauces) that I’ve never had the chance to eat before. Some of it was quite different, but still tempered in the familiarity of all the Japanese food that my partner and I tend to eat. I quite enjoyed the raw seafood based dishes at the start, moreso than the cooked dishes towards the end, but I do think that overall Nikkei gets a recommendation from me. Many blessings to this crew. (I also enjoyed the unobtrusive but good and knowledgeable service.)

Featured colleagues: AG, LMMH

Nikkei Bar & Restaurant
216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8880 9942