Monday, 21 October 2013

Kobe Jones, Darling Harbour

 Quite a few months ago, I bought a $135 Groupon voucher for Kobe Jones' 13-course "Winter Romance" set menu for 2 with sake. It wasn't until recently that I remembered that it needed redeeming, so the Boy and I made a booking to go on a Sunday.

I didn't read any reviews until after I made the booking (I'd only heard of Kobe Jones through friends and family), so it was to my dismay that there were so many negative reviews, albeit prettyyyy contradictory.

The list of negative attributes that I gleaned from my 'research' is as follows:
  • Too much mayonnaise
  • Too much food
  • Too little food
  • Pacing is too fast
  • Food comes out too slowly
  • Service is bad, but food is good
  • Food is bad, but service is attentive
  • Loud doof-doof music
  • Waitstaff don't deliver the usual spiel when setting down the plates
Needless to say, I was thoroughly perplexed (and worried at the thought that what we were hoping would be a nice evening out could possibly leave us both hungry!). Thankfully, the only gripe was that our waitress never explained what we were going to eat - each time she just placed the dishes on the table, muttered the name, and walked off.

When we arrived, we were taken to our table, which looked onto the harbour. It got a little chilly at night, so I was glad I brought a jacket with me.

Nice views

The sake was delivered warm in a small sake flask with a couple of cute matching cups. We weren't told what kind of sake it was, so we just shrugged and poured it out. It was pretty low in alcohol content so we ordered a couple of cocktails as well.


First to come was the Number One Special - avocado, (fake) crab meat and their creamy 'special sauce'. I like crab stick, fake or otherwise, and it wasn't drowning in mayo like I feared, so it was a nice start.

Number one special (for 2)

More alcohol came! Was in need of a pick me up, so got the espresso martini, which had a nice strong coffee flavour/ aroma.

Espresso martini ($18.00)

Harlem Shake ($18.00)

A tasting plate (per person) of 5 items arrived:
  1. Never had a spider roll in my life. Soft shell crab was a little tough... 
  2. Had no idea what poke is, either, but apparently it's just a Hawaiian salad. Loved the juiciness and fresh flavours.
  3. Lollipop sushi: Raw fish on a stick with cucumber wrapped around it
  4. Wagyu tataki: Thinly sliced raw beef, dry
  5. Spicy ebi nigri: Don't remember it being spicy...
Sorry about the beef and ebi nigri photos! I was getting pretty hungry...

Spider roll

Salmon poke

Lollipop sushi

Wagyu tataki

Spicy ebi nigri
Surprisingly, the salmon tataki was one of my favourites that night. Possibly because the lemon juice brought out the sweetness of the salmon, partially because salmon roe is so fun to eat!
Jalapeno salmon tataki (for 2)

Panko-crumbed calamari. It tasted like it sounded. Not bad for a filler.

Pacific calamari fritto (for 2)

The volcano roll was like a more substantial version of the number one special. By this time, we were both becoming pretty full.

Volcano roll (for 2)

The tobanyaki was definitely meant to be a stomach filler - rice with crunchy fish flakes, seafood and mushrooms. It made for good comfort food. We managed to finish most of it.

Spicy seafood tobanyaki (for 2)

The Alaskan crab legs were about a forearm long each. There was surprisingly a fair bit of meat. Any fishy smell was killed off with the lime.

Alaskan crab (for 2)

Loved the novelty of the lobster hot rock - the only problem was that not all of the meat was cooked at the end (part of it a little cold).

Lobster hot rock (for 2)

Decided on the flaming anko - red bean and green tea brulee. Nice presentation when it arrived on fire. The taste? Well... the red bean was quite overpowering and there wasn't much crunch. It was around 9pm that fireworks began - quite unexpectedly, considering fireworks are usually only set off on Saturdays?

Flaming anko


Was it worth $326 for 2? I don't think so, but $135 was a pretty good deal.

Kobe Jones on Urbanspoon

Friday, 18 October 2013

Absinthe Salon, Surry Hills

I and my friend, CC, were greeted from the iron gate by a gentleman in a period costume. With a flourish, we were permitted into the foyer, the air of which was perfumed by the pungent scent of liquorice. A younger gentleman took on the role of escort and led us through heavy black curtains into the salon. Ornately decorated like a French cafe, we could easily imagine how 19th Century artists might have spent their days sipping absinthe and musing about their next work.

Our waiter, Nathaniel, introduced himself with a monocle and accent, providing an overview of what absinthe is, and the rules of the Salon. He told us that absinthe is made out of 3 main ingredients - wormwood, anise and fennel - and dispelled any misconceptions we had about absinthe being a hallucinogenic.

Nathaniel explained that there is a 3 drink limit and that the first drink must be ordered from a selection of absinthe with lower alcohol proof (around 45% - the maximum on the menu was in the area of 70%). I selected the Lemercier, a French absinthe ($15.00 per glass), while CC ordered a Swiss absinthe, the Kubler (also $15.00 per glass).

2-tap fountain

Nathaniel returned with our respective bottles of absinthe and poured around a shot of absinthe into each glass. He explained that, at Absinthe Salon, they use the French ritual. This involves placing a perforated absinthe spoon on top of the glass, putting a cube of sugar on top, and dripping cold water on top of the sugar (which helps to develop the absinthe and balances out the bitterness of the wormwood). As the water drips into the absinthe, the absinthe beings to "louche", or turn cloudy. The taps are turned off once the glass is half full.

Ice and water was added

Absinthe in general has a strong liquorice flavour, although the Lemercier was a lot lighter (and possibly less developed) than the Kubler in both scent and taste. The sugar becomes a little too overpowering towards the end, so CC finished off the little I had left in my glass :) The strength of the liquorice flavour and high alcohol content makes it necessary to nurse the drink slowly over an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

A sugar cube is seated on top of the glass

We were lucky that we had the place to ourselves for a while, as it prolonged the immersive experience - and it is indeed an experience. We shall be back!

Absinthesalon on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe, Sydney CBD

Visited Redoak recently because a certain someone absolutely adores beer, so I figured he would appreciate the products of an award-winning brewery. We ended up coming here for dinner and were seated in the dining half of Redoak (the other appearing to be your typical pub/ bar).

Redoak prides itself on producing premium beers without the use of additives and preservatives. In fact, they love their beers so much that they offer 'beergustations' - 4 beers and matching canapes!

For me, I stuck to one glass of honey ale, as I find it difficult to appreciate the mouldy taste of yeast in beer (even the light stuff) - albeit what I had at Redoak was particularly smooth and pleasant. Unfortunately, the one photo I took of my full glass is really blurry because I forgot to raise the ISO of my camera... Whoops.

Honey Ale, regular (~$7)

The two of us ordered a couple of platters to share, both of which consisted of bread, terrines and meat.

Summary of the platters:
  • Yummy! (and filling)
  • Bread was crisp on the ocean platter but soft on the charcuterie platter
  • Fresh ingredients
  • Advised that we could scrape off the buttery/ gelatinous (depending on the type) top layer of the rillettes. Once we did so for each pot, we found turkey, smoked salmon and some other fishy meat (couldn't identify the type)
  • Each platter had a large slab of roasted eggplant wrapped around capsicum and zucchini

Ocean Platter ($25.00)

Charcuterie Platter ($25.00)

If you're like me and become completely perplexed when confronted with a long long list of beers, it should be reassuring to hear that the staff were really helpful in giving their recommendations. Alternatively, one can always use the menu as a guide - a beer is matched to each food item on the menu.

Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 October 2013

Healthy cookie saga #1: The worst cookies I've ever had

Healthy Banana and Oat Cookies

Banana + oats.
There have been a load of 2-ingredient recipes floating around on the Internet, a summary of which can be found on BuzzFeed. In this case, I was lured into making the banana and oat cookies because I wanted to have a guilt-free snack to bring along with me beyond the confines of my home.

Without sugar and flour, people often wonder how the ingredients are bound together. Obviously it's not the oats... Bananas are probably preferred to other fruit because they are really starchy in consistency. So in that sense, the recipe works. However, it isn't very appetising.

The cookies were okay immediately out of the oven (albeit a little bland, so I drizzled honey over them), but give them more than a day, and the banana overpowers everything and turns the cookies into tough, chewy (not in a good way!) lumps.

I varied the recipe slightly by throwing in some nuts and another banana (they were small and extra starch was needed to bind the higher amount of dry ingredients). Other people add dried fruit, coconut... the list goes on.

  • 2-3 ripe bananas (depending on size)
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped pecans (best to toast them, though I forgot to do so)
  • Splash of vanilla essence
  • Mash bananas and add oats
  • Add roughly chop pecans and mix everything together
  • Scoop onto tray lined with greased baking paper (my mixture made 11 cookies)

Unbaked mixture
  • Preheat oven to 160°C (mine is fan-forced)
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your cookies)
  • Cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack

Finished product
Conclusion: Yucky. Never attempting a 2-ingredient baking recipe again.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Dip, Sydney CBD

After hearing various friends raving about the hotdogs at The Dip, I suggested to a couple of friends that we make that the venue of our next catchup. It was incredibly black in there, so it's a wonder my s110 managed to churn out a few half-decent photos.

Dark dark dark.

Two of us wanted cocktails so we shared a jug. I forget the name but it contained 3 shots of vodka, passionfruit, pineapple juice and a splash of lemonade. Easy on the tastebuds, my Asian flush quickly assumed its rightful position.

Cocktail jug ($30.00)

Much fuss has been made over the hot dogs, and while I agree that they're good, I don't think they're mindblowing. The sausage is aromatic, free from hard nerves/ fats and, I'm happy to say, not as dry as it looks in the photo. The salsa and chipotle gave it the moisture often lacking when white bread is concerned. They have the basics right, but there was nothing extraordinary.

Lev's Dawg ($12.00)

Not having heard about the nachos until one of my friends pushed us into ordering that to share, my expectations were non-existent - rather, I was prepared to dislike this dish because I've had so much corn tortilla lately and I'm not the greatest fan of pulled pork. Nevertheless, I have had to concede that they were a lot tastier than the hot dogs! It was probably because they had the corn chip to topping ratio perfected. The salsa, cheese, jalapeno cream and (of course) the pork minimised the dryness of the chips, while the meat didn't taste overly porky.

Pulled pork nachos ($15.00)

The music noticeably got louder as the evening progressed - we speculated that it's their strategy for achieving higher customer turnover.... It worked on us, anyway, because we scoffed down our food and fled to a nearby cafe to resume our chatter.

The Dip @ Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon