Categories
Japanese

Lantern by Wagaya – Sydney CBD Japanese Restaurant Review

The third convening of the Intensive Care Japanese Cuisine Research Society occurred on the 25th of October 2020 at Lantern by Wagaya in the Sydney CBD. The location, a mixed-purpose karaoke bar and Japanese restaurant run by Chinese people was chosen as it was one of the few venues that could accommodate us late in the evening. Our original plan was to choose a place that would be suitable to host our colleagues finishing work at 8:30PM, and while the kitchen at Lantern closes at 9PM, the venue itself is open until 2AM.

Ordering was via a touchscreen tablet system. There was an extensive alcohol menu which we did not really partake in. This same company runs Sushi Hotaru in the Galeries, which is as far more sushi focused venture.

The wagyu beef skewers (2 for $13) were miniature and expensive. One of my colleagues said that he enjoyed the tender texture of the meat, but I couldn’t really tell that it was wagyu. Nothing to write home about.

The agedashi soft shell crab with tofu ($11.30) was a good size for the price and venue, however I felt like the flavour was lacking. The crab did not feel fresh to me, and I wouldn’t recommend getting this one.

The salt garlic fried chicken (karaage) ($10.50) was also a good size, however I did not enjoy it either. My colleague who enjoyed the wagyu skewers was quite keen on this and wanted to order more, but personally I did not think it had a fresh taste to it either. I would go so far as to say that it didn’t taste or feel like it was freshly fried, but I wonder what shenanigans would have to be going on behind the scenes for that to be the case.

I feel like a broken record but I don’t think the takoyaki ($7.90) was special either.

I actually thought the homemade dumplings (5 for $8.80) were quite good. Probably a reflection of the staff’s Chinese background.

Chicken yakitori was, similar to the wagyu skewers, small and expensive. I did enjoy their taste however, and thought that the chicken was tender and cooked well. I guess it is something that’s hard to do too badly.

The Salmon Chazuke ($8.50) was one of the stars of the meal. It consisted of a bowl of rice, topped with salmon, soaked in hot tea, and came strongly recommended from my senior colleague who had seen something similar in the TV show “Tokyo Midnight Diner”. I really enjoyed the warmth and wholesome feeling that this bowl gave me. It is great value, and a must try at Lantern.

The aburi salmon nigiri ($11.50) was good and priced reasonably. The portions were large, and the flavour was not muddled by excess sauce, which is a problem many restaurants face. A recommendation.

I could’ve lived without the dragon roll ($14), which was eel sushi topped with lotus root. It was my first ever fried lotus root and not that memorable.

I enjoyed the seared kingfish handroll ($4.50). One of my colleagues ordered a chilli cod roe and tuna hand roll ($4.50) – reportedly middling, and the other the soft shell crab hand roll ($4.80) – unreported.

Our first big ticket item was the assorted daily sashimi ($40.80). Unfortunately it only came with 3 pieces of the fish and egg, so I can only do a partial review from personal experience. I enjoyed the salmon – I thought the quality was quite good. The octopus had a nice sweetness to it, as did the scallop. The oyster was served natural, however both myself and my intrepid colleague added in our own lemon sauce vinaigrette. The tamago was soft and passable not not a specialty. My partner did not enjoy the tuna sashimi however I cannot say on personal experience. I do not know about the scampi and was too afraid to even ask about it as I did not want to get a sympathetic allergic reaction.

The large beef sukiyaki with extra beef ($34.50) was an unexpected hit with the boys. We were treated to a large bowl of tofu, mushrooms and vegetables, and 12 slices of beef in total which we cooked ourselves. The taste was good, however I would recommend asking for some rice to go with it. I would also recommend loading up on extra beef, especially if you’re not going to get a mountain of other dishes that we got. Every $5 gets you 4 slices of beef.

Overall we spent $225 between the four of us on the food listed above, as well as an additional ume chazuke ($8) and a yuzu sparkling jelly sake 180mL ($9.80). I thought that most of the entree-style food was a bit middling, but the sukiyaki, sashimi, and chazuke were good. I was initially keen to get a booth for more privacy, however they were offered at $6/person/hour, which was too much for us, especially as we had no intention of doing karaoke. The restaurant was pretty empty though, and it didn’t really make a difference in the end.

While I had a good time with my friends and colleagues, the good time did not stem from the food itself, but rather the company. I would think twice before bringing colleagues back to Lantern by Wagaya.

2.5/5 carrots.

Lantern by Wagaya
591 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 8828

Categories
Bakery British Café

The Tea Cosy – The Rocks NSW Cafe Review

When my partner told me we were going to The Tea Cosy in the Rocks I imagined an Importance of Being Earnest-style meal with thick white tablecloths and cucumber sandwiches. What I didn’t expect was a water gun fight with a flock of pigeons in outdoor-only seating.

One of the little terrorists

Our meal was had in an outdoor courtyard, on nice marble-style tables with good cross-ventilation. Service was fine but not great – when asked for water we only received one glass of tap water, and it was only on our second request that we received a jug – this time chilled (so why wasn’t the first?)

We had the Grand Stand ($28), a set of four freshly scones with double thick cream and a selection of two jams (we chose Raspberry & Vanilla and Lemon Curd) as well as six ribbon sandwiches of three flavours (choice not offered – we received smoked salmon, curried egg, creamy tuna).

The scones were large, warm and fresh, coated in a thin layer of sugar. My partner told me these reminded her of the ones she had at her Merrill Lynch cadetship orientation back in 2011, before she decided she wanted to be a doctor. She had, until now, not had scones as good as those, and was chasing the high to fill a hole that The Tea Cosy’s scones fit into perfectly. The serving of cream and jam was entirely adequate for these scones. My pick of the two would be the raspberry and vanilla, though the lemon curd (a bit sweet) was good too.

The sandwiches were pretty middling. The smoked salmon and curried egg ones were probably the strongest of the bunch. I wish we had been given a choice, as the jam and ham sandwich that they offer actually sounds a bit strange and potentially wonderful. Bread was soft and crust was pre-cut to suit the tastes of the upper echelon (not us).

We were a bit full by the time the New Zealand Style Scones with salami, fresh tomato, and Pepe Saya butter ($14) arrived half an hour later. This scone was more of a savoury cake or even a non-eggy quiche than a scone, with lots of cheddar, parmesan and spring onions packed in. The salami wasn’t special and seemed rather like the stuff you get at the deli counter at your local national supermarket chain. The Pepe Saya butter, of which we were given two, was the highlight. I wouldn’t get this again.

The Mint and Lime Iced Tea ($7.50 glass) was quite good, not too sweet, very fresh tasting. It was a hot day and I wish we had gone for a jug instead. The coffee was just coffee.

VERDICT

Visit The Tea Cosy if you’re chasing a 9 year memory of the perfect scone, or if you’re particularly fond of shooing away pigeons with a provided watergun. Skip the New Zealand style savoury scones.

4/5

The Tea Cosy
7 Atherden St, The Rocks NSW 2000
0401 730 504

The Tea Cosy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Categories
Chinese

Marigold – Haymarket Sydney CBD NSW Yum Cha Review

For most Sydneysiders Chinatown’s Marigold, a yum cha institution of 40 years, needs no introduction. This was not true for me, an ex-Western Sydney local whose yum cha haunts centered around Parramatta and Auburn, and who only heard about Marigold for the first time this year.

We often think about what is in a name, and when one of my colleagues first mentioned Marigold I took note of the distinct lack of the words “Golden”, “Jade”, “Empress”, “Dragon”, and “Seafood” and doubted its legitimacy. How wrong I was.

We dined on a weekday lunch in December 2020 with a group of our learned friends. Around us were tables mostly of middle aged Chinese people, as well as the odd group of young Caucasians. We were the only young group of Chinese-Australians in the expansive level 5 dining hall, and while we were all doctors we probably still disappointed all the aunties and uncles around the room when we ordered in English.

Rather than go through each dish in detail I will tell you just about a general vibe. Every little steam basket and plate of food we had was good. The selection was reasonably varied, and there was nothing that we craved that they didn’t have. Service from the ladies wheeling around the trolleys was a bit pushy, but that’s how yum cha operates and was fine. One of the waiters kindly obliged when I asked for a knife and fork for my chopstick-capable colleague as a joke – and this ended up coming in handy to cut the egg tarts.

On the note of egg tarts I didn’t think these were the best I’ve ever had. They weren’t fresh, and the pastry was not as light as they could’ve been. Marigold was, apart from the egg tarts, one of the better Yum Cha restaurants I’ve been to, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

Parking was $9 for 2 hours in the CBD on a weekday. Pretty good.

5/5.

Marigold
683 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9281 3388

Marigold Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Categories
Café Japanese

Cafe Oratnek – Redfern NSW Restaurant Review

I first visited Cafe Oratnek in May 2020, before this blog existed. The height of the COVID-19 pandemic back in May meant that Oratnek was open for takeaway only at that time, and it was not until very recently that I had an opportunity to have an eat-in meal.

The main stars of the Oratnek menu are basically the same as that at its sister store Kentaro, a mere 1.2km away. The wisdom of opening two of essentially the same cafe within a 15 minute walk of each is, in my opinion, questionable, however both establishments seem to have a healthy amount of patronage. If I were in their shoes I would have rather done a North-South thing like Cool Mac and Kurumac (though there’s a lot of competition for Japanese food North of the bridge), or even have opened up the second store in an affluent, Asian-centric area like Eastwood or Strathfield.

There is plenty of outdoor seating for the COVID-paranoid, but the lack of cover over the courtyard of this terrace-style house means that the sun is very much blaring and angry. Something to be aware of – you might want to wear sunscreen.

Port Katsu Sandwich

Oratnek’s pork katsu sandwich ($16) is essentially the same as Kentaro’s – a thick pork cutlet, lightly battered and deep fried for a juicy, tender outcome sandwiched between Japanese bread, cabbage, and mustard. Compared to Kentaro’s I think that Oratnek’s is not as oversauced and has more cabbage, but I’m not sure which one I prefer more. Both are delicious.

On my second visit to Oratnek I recommended the pork katsu sandwich, a known quantity, to my senior intensive care colleague and ordered myself the Salmon Rillettes & Legumes On Toast ($16.50). Unfortunately for me I didn’t really realise just how much legume would be involved. There was really only a smattering of salmon rillette, which in my opinion wasn’t quite enough for the thick toast. The sheer greenery and legumery was overpowering, and I found it a marathon to finish all of the crisp legumes provided to me. While some Japanese chefs may have earned the title “Legume Magician”, I would hesitate to offer this title to Oratnek based on what was presented here. Given the weighted composition of the dish I would more readily recommend it to a vegan rather than someone with no dietary restrictions.

Matcha Brownie

The matcha brownie is yum. A little bit bitter, sweet but not too sweet.

The mentaiko linguine ($22) I had back in May was the first time I had had mentaiko anything in Australia. The mentaiko topping was creamy, and enough to coat all the strands of pasta. I really enjoyed this dish, however after the past six months of tastemaker development I now consider this to be a bit overpriced. Cod roe is readily found at Asian grocery stores and isn’t that expensive.

The Kobe Hayashi Rice ($23) I didn’t really enjoy. It may very well have been the travel time, though the lukewarm onion beefiness was quite disappointing to me. Reasonable to try again fresh.

My partner enjoyed the Classic Omurice ($20 – no pictures) but hilariously told me that she didn’t think it was quite a classic, authentic omurice (not knowing the name of the dish).

VERDICT
Oratnek and Kentaro have the best pork katsu sandwiches I’ve ever had in Australia. In that sense they offer something special and are worth paying a visit to. A few of their other dishes are a bit hit and miss, but it’s likely that you will find something else you like in Oratnek’s diverse Japanese menu.

A recommendation. Bring a hat.

Cafe Oratnek
4 Pitt St, Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 8394 9550

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