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Monthly Archives: December 2011

‘Tis the season! The season to eat too much, to clink glasses, to post-lunch doze on the verandah, to get a squeeze of lemon with that, to warm your legs in the hot summer sun; the season for long coastal drives, prawns in wet paper packaging, morning swims, mango juice dribbling down chins, ice cold beers, sweet oysters, getting sand EVERYWHERE and amusing tan lines.

Have a great Summer boys and girls!
Dee

Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets
a. Austin Avenue Flemington
t. 1300 361 589
w. www.paddysmarkets.com.au

Myalls Lakes National Park
a. Mungo Brush Road, Myalls Lakes
t. 6591 0300
w. www.environment.nsw.gov.au

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Infatuation is so intoxicating most of us (guiltily) wish for the object of our delirium to undergo some form of mitosis so we can prolong that giddy feeling. As many fans of Bodega already know, Kenji Maenaka has split from the colourful Commonwealth St restaurant to setup his own Japanese tapas bar on the Waterloo food-power-block and we’re all dead keen to try this oriental relation.

While waiting for my friends, I hole up at the library and coincidentally find a manga all about…that’s right Izakayas! Oishinbo follows some food obsessed journalists tasked to create the “ultimate” menu; cue very long educational tales about the history of Sake, and the purity of authentic Japanese food, all from a pretty annoying stuck up young gun. I did learn about Junmai though: the premium Sake created without any alcohol additives, its flavour and pedigree largely determined by the percentage of grain they polish off before fermentation (the highest grade is at 50+%). The protagonists also wax lyrically about the serving temperatures of different sakes and the function of an Izakaya as a relaxed Japanese pub where easy and simple food is served to compliment the drinks.

Clearly now an Izakaya cognoscenti after reading a single manga tome, we rock up eager to dig into some Asian pub fare. I immediately love their logo and exterior signage, the slanted thick type reminiscent of the fonts Osamu Tezuka used for his famous titles (Astroboy, Kimba the white Lion).

We step inside and motion for a four seater, it’s still early and we snag a spot sandwiched between the large glass panes and a sneaky view of the bar. I’m also falling in love with their hand written calligraphy specials menu and the small touches of hot hand towels and unique hand made plates (somehow I imagine an old Japanese man somewhere hunched over his pottery wheel and hand painting these cuties).


Fried calamari: Deep fried SA calamari with mayonnaise $18

What better way to start then with some sake and fried calamari, golden curls which we slather in the Kewpie mayo.


Kenji’s Fried Chicken (KFC): Karaage chicken with mayonnaise $14.50

The cheekily named KFC follow shortly, the karaage chicken is a pleasent crunch of comfort which makes me start regretting not ordering a Sapporo.


Grilled Fish Head (Market Price): Yellow Fin Tuna Jaw $32

All this though is just nibbles to whet our appetite for the big flashy number: the grilled Yellow Fin tuna jaw. It arrives with some soy, ponzu & grated daikon and we start hacking away at it with forks, chopsticks and ultimately, fingers.


Fatty tuna cheek flesh with a drizzle of ponzu

As all good ethnic kids know, the best meat is in the cheek and jaw and this Tuna gives way to pockets of smooth and smokey fatty flesh.


Teriyaki Beef Kalbi: Glazed grilled beef ribs with green chilli relish $27.5

After wrestling with the seafood we relax with a little pot of teriyaki beef kalbi which turned out to be the star of the evening – the tender fall-a-part flesh dripping in a thick dark glaze and offset with a hit of chilli relish. We gave up on manners and picked the bones clean (elegance is not always our forte).


Pork Belly with Miso: Steamed pork belly with hoba miso and baked eggplant $22

The pork belly was last to arrive, a simple dish presented as a mound on a lone lotus leaf. The eggplant cooked in miso was a nice contrast to the steamed pork but I found the two elements didn’t seem to want to work together.


Love Koikawa (special): Almond cake with Koikawa ice cream and poached Granny Smith $13.50

Maenaka seems to have brought his famed chocolate Yogo with popcorn over him from Bodega but we opt for something new and decide to share the special dessert of almond cake and poached granny smiths: it’s light and goes down well. The others opted for Tea Ceremony, a fairly traditional combination of ice cream and stewed sweet beans.


Tea Ceremony: Vanilla bean ice cream with red beans and green tea kokuto syrup $11.50

The noise in the room’s slowly nudging itself into a turtle paced crescendo and as we get ready to leave it becomes quite busy. A few ladies are debriefing at the bar over some cocktails whilst friends and couples share some beef and tuna, although it’s still a bit rough around the edges it’s a sweet concept Sydney needs a few more of.

Three out of five

The Verdict
Most people walk in expecting a Japanese style Bodega and whilst there are echos of greatness in some of the dishes, this may be one comparison that’s hindering rather than aiding Fujiyama. For an Izakaya or a bar for that matter the dishes are quite expensive and although we left full we burned a sizable hole in our pockets. Nevertheless it’s a great atmosphere with a decent Sake collection, order the pub-style foods (beef, fried items) and you can’t go wrong.

Izakaya Fujiyama
a. 52 Waterloo St Surry Hills
t. 9698 2797
w. www.izakayafujiyama.com

Izakaya Fujiyama on Urbanspoon

He stared into my eyes as he spoke, his mouth suddenly started to form those familiar shapes and my heart faltered for a moment, pausing to hear those three magical words out loud.

All. Day. Breakfast.

Seriously though what’s with cafe’s trying to offer you lunch when it’s pretty obvious there are bacon shaped silhouettes in our eyes as we sit down: luckily the folks at Revolver have cottoned on to this or most likely they’re all weekend breakie types too.

A large group of us had gathered outside late one afternoon: we were in town for a wedding at the beautiful Hunter Baille Memorial Church and hoped to snag a table to while away the hours between the ceremony and reception. Since we arrived so late the heritage ex-corner store was a little less frantic and us food tourists were able to squeeze in without much of a wait.


Strawberry frappe $5.50 + Iced Coffee $5.50

The interior is an eclectic mish-mash of graffiti art, bar stools, kitchen tables, a wooden divider and a marble bench top laden with baked goodies piled onto cake stands. The big decorative draw card here though are the tea cups, with everyone I know who’ve visited Revolver gushing over the vintage porcelain beauties.


Mango frappe $5.50

We’re told their frappes aren’t simply a few pieces of fruit thrown in with ice but whole fruits frozen and then blended (take note a certain popular chocolate chain store who happens to make frappes out of ice and Cottee’s cordial), the result is liquid gold and probably takes your daily fruit intake up to 7.


Top: Scrambled eggs, roast tomato, avocado & Danish fetta & toast $14.50
Bottom: Small fresh house squeezed orange juice $3.50


Revolver Vegie Breakie: two baked eggs in house-made beans, buttered mushrooms, roast tomato, avocado, Danish fetta, hummus & toast $16.50 with extra bacon $4.00

Everyone’s here for the big breakie with possibly every hot breakfast item imaginable stirred through together in a delicious tomato covered orgy and topped with a beautiful sneeze of parsley.


Ricotta hotcakes with berry compote & maple ricotta $14.50

Another crowd pleaser were the hotcakes, slightly crispy on the outside smothered in a generous amount of fruit compote on cute-as-pie granny plates.


Revolver big breakie: two eggs baked in our house-made beans, honey cured bacon, roast tomato, mushrooms, pork fennel sausage & toast $16.50


Special: Crushed Kipfler potato with organic Chorizo, scrambled eggs and roast tomato relish $16.50
with extra bacon $4

However the biggest fan favourite of all was the special of the day, a promising concoction of potato, Chorizo and egg: all the foods Fiona’s picky husband adores.


Small house made spiced Chai $4.00

As the hoard dug into our feast we all mumbled affirmations in between busy mouthfuls of soft Chorizo, egg and bacon, sweet berries and toasted sourdough. It’s not always easy to say but Revolver breakfast:

I. Love. You.

Three out of five

The Verdict
It’s no secret this down to earth cafe is a local favourite with a seemingly small crowd of hungry fans permanently stationed outside. The non-descript location evokes an easy going country town vibe with dishes portioned using a generous hand. If you manage to swing by don’t miss out on ordering the house big breakie and a coffee, organic tea or frappe to wash it all down. An unfortunate downside is that service is not always consistent, with a warm manager welcoming you in but lacking follow through. Three of us were overcharged for our meals and it took some sleuthing to realise we were given (and charged) for bacon despite never asking for any extras. However disregarding these niggling aspects, the food is an innocent and has done no wrong. You’d also be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t love Revolver; after all love is kind, it keeps no record of wrongs so can this be love?

Revolver
a. 291 Annandale St Annandale
t. 9555 4727
w. www.revolver.com.au

Revolver on Urbanspoon

[Warning: photo overload below]

I don’t know what your day job is, but I’m sure whatever you do somehow shaped your world view. Maybe you believe in structure, meaningful discussions, the purity of an idea, risk aversion, absolute justice or absolute liberty; I believe in fun.

Just a skip and hop away, almost close enough to fall in the infamous Coke sign’s long dusk shadow is Tomislav: the large balcony of this cosy restaurant a rusty freighter’s hull run aground on Kirkton Road’s footpath. Our little trio hesitate for a moment before pushing through the glass door and walking into Tomislav Martinovic’s intimate dining room (it seats a tiny 36 heads). A large portion of the restaurant is the open kitchen where Martinovic is working away with his small team of cooks whilst the rest of the room is filled with wooden tables and country-chic cross-back chairs. Despite our late booking we’ve managed to score one of the best seats in the house next to the northern window (the two photo nerds of the group beamed).

Ponte di Piave Prosecco, Treviso Italy (Normally $12)

We were here for a one night only Entertainment book promotion whereby we can opt for a Fish or Game set menu with matching wines for $105. As we settle in and fan our faces from the heat, our waiter sails over and pours us each a glass of cool sparkling.

Rice Crackers: sea salt & vinegar (Normally $10)

The Maitre d’ soon brought us something to start: Martinovic’s play on the traditional salt and vinegar chips. The thin bubbling sheets of fried rice crackers were feather light and almost dissolved on the tongue. We were instructed to spray about three pumps from the vinegar bottle before eating, but we took turns completely dousing our crackers (and ourselves) in the sour mist.


Sour Potato: lime and honey

Our first course arrived in a exquisite multifaceted glass bowl, the dish a simplistic new take on the humble mash: any doubts regarding the flavours were silenced as we delved into each sweet spoonful.


Complimentary sourdough

Hand churned butter

Perhaps more than any other element, the complimentary bread and butter were a beautiful reflection of Tomislav’s dedication and style. The perfect quenelle of butter is hand churned each morning on the premise and given a small creative injection. It was proudly displayed on a tall granite block and appeared like it belonged at the MCA, our waiter challenged us to guess what they’ve added and after much speculation (“hazelnut?” “no it’s so sweet”) Cathy pinpointed the nutty aroma of coffee.


Test tube of gazpacho

The fish-course entree arrived first, with a flourish the waiter produced two thin orange test tubes and proceeded to pour the soup around the plate of cured John Dory.


Clear pumpkin gazpacho: cured John dory, wasabi, sour cream, caperberries, chives with garlic bread (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Thomas ‘Braemore’ semillion, Hunter NSW

The three word title of this dish gave nothing away, I side stepped the fish menu because I’ve never been a big fan of gazpacho but this was no ordinary gazpacho: the thin slices of John Dory and sour cream slipping down the tongue in a tumble of mellow and sweet.


Roast Red Gate Farm Quail: foie gras, watercress, poached rhubarb with a pine nut puree and red wine reduction (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Four pieces of tender quail plated in a tumble of watercress and foie gras crumbles was superb. The cellophane square of rhubarb shavings appeared painted on the plate and the gloss of the sauce coating could only be described as Cover Girl perfect.


Signature chips $10

The Maitre d’ had urged us to order their famous chips, thrice cooked following Heston Bluemental’s method (boiled, cooled, fried, chilled, fried) but crinkle cut as a nostalgic reminder of Martinovic’s suburban Sydney childhood.


Roast Murray Cod: tomato, salt caramel, grilled baby leeks with asparagus puree and baby coriander (Normally $40) Served with 2011 Port Phillip ‘Salasso’ rose, Mornington Victoria (Normally $11)

The skin was crackling crisp and decorated with a few simple flakes of salt, the main surprise were the small lumps of porous salted caramel scattered along the asparagus puree.



Pasture fed Burrawong duck breast: Thai style with coconut, chilli, grilled pineapple and baby coriander (Normally $42)
Served with a glass of 2008 Longview ‘Yakka’ shiraz, Adelaide Hills SA (Normally $12)

I was a bit skeptical about the prospect of some “Thai style” duck but I shouldn’t have worried. A titan warm slate arrived bearing a playful garden of slightly dehydrated prawns, baby herbs and peas interrupted with a few stepping stones of coconut pudding. Although picturesque these were all just compliments for the best duck I’ve ever had, the gorgeously juicy and plump meat rounding off a cheeky dish dedicated  to Sydney’s Thai obsession.

The open kitchen with Tomislav Martinovic (far right)


Juniper Estate ‘Cane Cut’ riesling, Margaret River WA (Normally $14)
Monichino Botrytis semillion, Geelong Vic

Our glasses of dessert wine were poured first, the Riesling pear sweet and fruity whilst the Monichino was honey sweet, syrupy with a butterscotch finish.


Vanilla Cheesecake: basil ice, grilled strawberries, rhubarb sorbet (Normally $18)

We were hit with another name-not-matching-face moment when the cheesecake arrived and if I was an alien I’d be questioning why this in no way resembles the picture on my flash card, but this is what dining here is all about. The speckled orb of cheesecake is light and soft hiding a pile of cookie crumbs underneath and retains a light sour taste.


Compressed Fig: apples, popcorn milk, caramel ice cream (Normally $18)

Last to arrive was my fig dessert, a splat on my dark plate with ice cream and popcorn milk beginning to puddle over it.

This style is the food I love: a strong playful concept made real through dedication and flawless execution. Surprises, theatricality and a sense of place are built into the presentation of each dish, and as many noted such strengths must be lasting remnants of Martinovic’s time at The Fat Duck. The atmosphere is anything but stuffy as we trade laughs with our neighbouring table and waiters alike before eventually rolling out back into the windy Kings Cross night.

The Verdict
A surprisingly casual atmosphere serving whimsical and creative food which invites diners to marvel and explore what’s on the plate. Execution is polished and consistent with ingredients respectfully plated to look their very best. Although we dined here as part of a special offer, the prices for the a la carte options are a bit steep having jumped up 25% since last year with the mains now hitting $40 a plate. Having said that Tomislav is definitely worth visiting if only at least just once; no one can say it’s too high a price to pay for such fun.

Tomislav
a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535
e. info(at)tomislav.com.au
w. www.tomislav.com.au

Tomislav on Urbanspoon