Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mehmet’s Meyhane & Grill
115 Clarence St
NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9262 1800

En route from A to B, as it were, I found myself (not unexpectedly) passing cafe after cafe, the breakfast menus becoming a homogenous blur before my eyes, my five active morning neurons starting to protest.

Finding myself on Clarence St, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a breakfast menu listing items such as Sultan’s Breakfast, Menemen, Sujuk Yumurta, Cilbir and every Sydneysider’s favourite market munchie, Gozleme.

By this time I had about two neurons firing, but they decided that the Sujuk Yumurta ($8.50) was exactly what I needed, so in I went.

Sujuk (or “sucuk”) is a spicy sausage filled with ground meat (usually beef) and spices such as cumin, sumac, garlic, salt and red pepper. The sausage is then dried for several weeks. Eaten sliced, like chorizo, it is eaten at all meal times including with eggs for breakfast. Sujuk Yumurta is essentially eggs with sausages but happily, spicy sausages.

Armed with their SMH, ready to read Good Living, I was automatically given a bottle of (tap) water, and then offered some Turkish tea.

Turkish tea, or “çay”, is a black tea. It is typically prepared using two stacked kettles (çaydanlık). Water is brought to boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle, into which you put several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving the drinker the choice between strong (koyu) or weak (açık).

The tea that I was given was quite mild, and I was told that there was a touch of Earl Grey in it, but this must have been a very small amount indeed, as insensitive palate though I have, Earl Grey is hard not to pick up and I didn’t notice any hints of it in my glass.

Usually when I think of Turkey I think of tea rather than coffee, but it turns out that they are a nation of tea drinkers. In 2004, they had the highest per capita tea consumption in the world (2.5kg per person) and were also one of the world’s biggest tea producers, producing 6.4% of total production. Most of the tea plantations are situated along the Black Sea region, centred around the town of Rize, whose first tea factory was built in 1947. Until 1984, tea production in Turkey was a State monopoly.

Turkish tea is always offered in little tulip-shaped glasses. You can add sugar in it but no milk, and as the gentleman at Mehmet’s taught me, your tea will be refilled until you signify that you have had your fill by laying your spoon upside down on top of the glass.

Enough about tea, onto the food!

Served with a dash of Sumac flakes on top, the sujuk was mildly spicy, enough to flavour the egg (not overcooked, still with some soft yolk evident) but not overwhelm it. The bread was fresh and soft, though given the inherent oiliness/ richness of sujuk, an extra slice of bread would not have gone astray. I also pondered about whether I should have asked for the bread to be lightly toasted, just for that bit of crunch; I think that I may ask them for this next time.

Oh, and “Meyhane” means “wine house”. A meyhane is a traditional tavern or bar in which wine and meze are served. [AP]

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Snacks on One
The Bowlers’ Club
95-99 Kent St
NSW 2000

Lunch : 16 June 2009

Due to an unexpected set of circumstances, Tart Co-Pilot Tom and myself managed to meet up one day for a horological session of visits to a watch retailer/ watchmaker and another watchmaker, followed by a lunch which surprised me.

Watchstop the first was for me to pick up a vintage Vulcain Cricket which I had purchased from a seller (not in Australia) from whom I will never buy from again, as the watches that I purchased from him on my single visit, all of which I’d been assured were serviced and a-okay, were not, resulting in a not insubstantial further expenditure on my part in order to get them functional. Two of the watches were purchased as gifts, including this Vulcain.

The Vulcain Cricket was introduced in 1947 as the world’s first mechanical wristwatch with an alarm. Their marketing campaign as “the President’s watch” lies in the tradition of each US President since Harry Truman having been given one as a gift. Upon his inauguration, President Obama received an Anniversary Heart, a model celebrating Vulcain’s sesquicentenary, but with a specially engraved Presidential caseback.

Robert Ditisheim, designer of the alarm, used a cricket’s prominent chirp as his inspiration, designing a resonance chamber formed by fitting a two part back to the watch case. The inner part of the back is responsible for the alarm sound when it is struck by the hammer. The outer part of the back allows the sound generating inner back to oscillate freely.

After picking up the Cricket, we walked a little way to visit Max, where I picked up my “Devil’s watch”, as one of the Tarts refers to it as being. This kind moniker is due to the the rather bizarre way in which its crystal broke in December last year. Max had put in a new crystal, and after a very long and protracted farce of ridiculous proportions with Jean Richard and their local agents Avstev, I finally had my watch back!

It being lunchtime, and I being in need of sustenance, Tom took me to the nearby Bowlers’ Club, where another Tart had taken him for lunch in the past. Going upstairs to the Snacks on One, I admit that I was feeling somewhat apprehensive, as what little experience I’ve had with “club food” has been rather forgettable, to put it mildly.

What do watchnuts do when they are waiting for food? They take table shots of course!

Nomos Orion Rose-Gold, Vulcain Cricket, JeanRichard Bressel Classic, Patria

The paper on which the watches are placed are the instructions for operating the Cricket, kindly provided by watchmaker Geoff. Trust me, you need instructions!

And then it was time for lunch! I had the Ciabatta Open Steak Sandwich & Chips ($14.50)

which was described as “Minute Steak w baby rocket, oven roasted tomato, caramelised onion, garlic mayo”, and Tom had a Barbequed Ranch Burger & Chips ($13.50) -

- a “grilled beef pattie (sic) served w lettuce, tomato, bacon & homemade chutney”.

Well I learnt my lesson about being presumptive about club food, as my steak sandwich was good. Steak sandwiches are one of my favourite things to eat, and I still have fond memories of what was then considered (by Canberra standards) to be an expensive steak sandwich (at some $4) served at a small cafe in the suburban Jamison Centre shopping precinct when I was young.

The ciabatta was nicely toasted, with crunchy crust and chewyish innards. The oven roasted tomato was a nice change from the usual tomato slices that I seem to encounter, the baby rocket etc fresh, the steak itself decent, and the garlic mayonnaise arguably the thing that kicked it into the “goal!” area for me. I love garlic, and having garlicky bread made it almost seem as though I was having a sort of semi garlic bread steak sandwich. I know that this might not work for everyone, but I can say that it worked for me, and that on those days when I am simply in the mood for a solid sort of a sandwich, I’m going to head here. It beats the last steak sandwich I had, which is the double decker one at the Sanctuary Hotel, hands down, and the chips weren’t bad either!

Oh, and I am reliably informed that the burger was tasty too.... :) :)


Monday, June 22, 2009

James Smith & Sons

James Smith & Sons Ltd
Hazelwood House
53 New Oxford Street
(Cnr New Oxford and Bloomsbury St)
London WC1A 1BL

June 2009.

This store is just unreal, and it was so much fun taking a peak for in the store after all these years of just passing it by.You do step back in time when entering (which I approve of), as store shopping is being otherwise very dull these days.

As you see from the pictures, the art of Umbrella making hasn't changed much since 1830. The internet site pictures also give the feeling that its the type of place Sherlock Holmes would feel very comfortable in!

To the equipment: This is wide and varied, with 90% of the shop selling its traditional wares with the other 10% being the new ready made almost disposable type ;-) of umbrella and walking canes.

The range of materials for these masterly works of art (umbrellas and walking canes) seemed endless, from standard wood types, horns and metals to the more exotic materials from 'other worlds'.

I was there to review a few umbrella types for a good M8, including Elsbeere, polished Hickory and Plank Ash. We were also lucky to be shown the last of an Old Oak end of line. The Elsbeere is very reddish, the Hickory a dark brown, the plank ask was a layered burnt Ash and the Old Oak a rich dark brown/black wood. All very exquisite and I don't think you'd go wrong with any of them.

The assistant (John) showed us the many varied colours of coverings but the main choices for the gentleman being black, dark blue and dark green. These umbrellas are not cheap but I guess we all know that quality goes a long way and it's not like you will ever buy another brolly like this!

If ordering, they do need to know your height, as the umbrellas come extra long at the tip and are adjusted to suit. I should add the ladies' umbrellas are just as amazing and my guest for the tour was very taken by their delicate construction. I fear ;-) we will return to this store very soon.

Next time you're in London, its worth a checking out just for the atmosphere.

;-) Jp

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Rockpool Bar & Grill
66 Hunter Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 8708 1900

Lunch : 18 June 2009

I had finally decided to go to Rockpool Bar & Grill to try their famous Wagyu burger, purported to be the best burger in Sydney (and Melbourne, for Rockpool at Crown Casino). Sometimes I wonder whether burgers are one of those food items where I like the idea of them more than I seem to like the reality of them or whether, in fact, it’s just that I inevitably feel so full after I finish one that it can easily be half a year before I have another.

People match food with wine so why not try to match a watch with a meal? Some of the men of Tarts obsessively match the metal of their watches (and even watch straps) to the metal of their belts, but how would I match a watch to a burger?

It was raining the proverbial cats and dogs but I was determined to finally take the wagyu burger plunge, wearing my red 12 Vostok.

Vostok (Восток), meaning “East”, has its origins in 1942 when the plants of the First Moscow Watch Factory were evacuated to Christopol, a small town on the Kama River in Tatarstan. During those war years, the factory only produced defense equipment, but watch production commenced post WWII, although they weren’t properly called “Vostok” until the 1960s. In 1965, the company was appointed official supplier of watches to the Soviet Ministry of Defence. That year also marked the launch of the "Komandirskie" (Commander) watch. By 1980, Vostok Watch Makers were producing 4.5 million timepieces per annum.

It was 1.40pm or thereabouts when I arrived at Rockpool, only to discover that not only was the Bar area full, but that I’d have to wait for about 15mins if I wanted a table. Well I was damned if I wasn’t going to get my Wagyu Burger so off I went to browse nearby (including an unsuccessful attempt to track a copy of “Blogger for Dummies” at the nearby Dymocks LOL), returning at about 2pm.

There were now two tables free at the Bar, but it didn’t appear that the GFC was affecting the main Rockpool dining room much that day, as it was pretty much near capacity when I arrived.

The Bar area is a smallish cosy area, surprisingly understated in its decor and service that was welcoming and professional. As soon as I took off my raincoat someone was there to take it and return with a claim ticket, and within mere nanoseconds, the phone book sized wine etc lists and the smaller menu, were put in front of me.

I have some half a dozen odd “red 12” watches, but have yet to definitively figure out whether there is a significance to the red colour. One of the theories is that the colouring was to allow the wearer to see, at a quick glance, the location of the number 12. This was because many of the early forms of wristwatches did not have a standardised location for “12”, especially in relation to the position of the crown. Further, many early (or “transitional) wristwatches, were simply pocket watches which had been adapted to wrist use.

Often “red 12s” seem also to be called “trench watches” or “officer’s watches”, linked with WWI being the first war in which wristwatches appeared in “the trenches”, as it were. There seems to be a common thread of “red 12s” being of military origin but then again, there are many trench watches without red 12s, and I have read of and seen one or two pictures of early women’s wristwatches with red 12s.

Here is my earliest “red 12” watch, which I purchased from a Sydney watchmaker.

and here is its more modern Soviet descendent, which dined with me that day :

I chose the Vostok to match the Wagyu burger because I liked the irony of a Soviet watch with a premium burger, and because I was hoping that this much vaunted burger would in fact be somewhat “red” inside.

Feeling as though I should order more than the burger, which did not come with any sides, I decided to take the plunge, although every fibre of my being protested at the idea of paying $12 for a serve of chips, and ordered them as well.

After an extraordinarily short wait, which suited me just fine, out came my very own inaugural David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ( $18)

upon whose arrival the waiter asked me whether I would like some tomato sauce (yes please – why do they call it “ketchup” on the menu?)

and followed shortly by my hand cut chips

The verdict : Now THAT is a burger. A brioche like bun, lightly toasted, a juicy patty still pink inside and a bit crusty around the edges (yum), an unexpected thin slice of zucchini, just enough cheese to add to the taste of the burger but not overwhelm it. The slices of tomato and lettuce on the plate were a bit unexpected but the former were sweet and both the tomato & lettuce was lightly salted and peppered. The burger seems small in size but it’s actually quite filling.

The tomato sauce, made in house, was smoky and quite pleasant, but I have yet to meet a tomato sauce which matches my personal favourite, from the Little Hand Stirred Jam Shop in Berrima.

The $12 hand cut chips? Well yes they were good chips, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside etc, but the burger would have been more than sufficient to fill me up, and good as they were, I’m not sure that for me at least, they were $12 worth of tasty.

The verdict? I learnt that yes, burgers are definitely one of those “eat infrequently” things for me because they seem to fill me up more than many other foods, but the OMGthisisgood response when I had my first bite, which remained until the last bite, means that I’ll definitely go back. There were two literally small things that detracted from what would have otherwise been a 100% burger for me but hopefully next time All Will Be Well. Next up, Plan B’s Wagyu Burger! [AP]

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Westpac Place
(Entry on Sussex Lane)
NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 9299 0888

Breakfast : 9 June 2009

After the experience at Tastevin three days earlier, I decided to head back to Taste on Sussex Lane to see if they still had Croque Monsieur on their menu. The link to their menu was not working (and as at today, it still isn’t) so I decided to take the punt.

It was probably the coldest morning in Sydney this year and perfect for a nice hot chocolate and a CM. Or so I thought.

To say that I was disappointed to see that it was no longer on their menu would be an understatement. “WHY?!?!?” I wanted to wail, “WHY?!?!?!” but then I realised that as it had been umm quite a while since I’d been there, I was hardly in a position to make any justifiable comments on menu changes LOL :)

I decided to have the French Toast with Banana, Ricotta and Kangaroo Island Honey ($12).

Made with taste’s own Raisin & Nut Loaf, the bread itself was really very good, but I wish that they had been a bit more generous with their serving size, and had two slices of bread instead of one. There was more than enough banana for two slices, and at $12, it was a little steep for what it was. Basically, it was let down by the rather meagre serving, and the fact that the bananas were so cold that I thought that they’d come straight out of the fridge.

Whilst waiting for my breakfast, I took some photos of the watch I was wearing that day, a Patria (about which I’ll blog about at a later date), with a new book that I had been given as a gift.


Phố Gia Hội Traditional Vietnamese Restaurant

Phố Gia Hội Traditional Vietnamese Restaurant
711 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9211 0221

(Branches also in Canley Heights and South Bankstown)

Much to my consternation, my preferred Bahn Mi place on George St had disappeared without my even registering its replacement with a new Vietnamese restaurant.

A very Bright Orange Vietnamese restaurant.

So far I have visited twice, once to have a Bahn Mi (costing a full dollar more, at $4.50) which I didn’t like as much as its predecessor. The second time was for a random dinner, when the queue at Chat Thai at 5.45pm on a Sunday (tried to get in early to get a table) was already some two dozen people long. I am beginning to despair of ever actually managing to get to Chat Thai!

Anyway, it was an early dinner because I had thought that it would have to be. As it turned out, there seemed to be a surprisingly large number of early dinner customers at Phố Gia Hội.

Dinner #1 was Bun Mang Vit, Duck and Bamboo Shoots w Rice Vermicelli Soup ($9).

I am told that the duck was room temperature and bit on the bland side, possibly as a result of having been used in flavouring a broth. It certainly didn’t look terribly inspiring. The vermicelli in soup itself was of a surprisingly modest quantity but the broth was said to be mellow, subtle, and enough to compensate for the meh-ness of the duck.

Dinner #2 was Banh Canh Cua Chao Tom, crab meat, minced prawn with udon soup ($10). This was chosen because diner #2 has a tendency towards wanting whatever is spiciest or most chilli on the menu, and this seemed to fit the bill.

The response to this was also a bit on the meh side, partly because it was a bit oily, and partly because there was nothing all that inspiring about it.

My choice seems to have been the pick of the night – the Bún Dac Biet, or Special Vietnamese Noodles ($11). I often order Bún chả giò, which is spring rolls with vermicelli, but decided to go with this variation tonight.

Lots of orange...

The dish itself.

As well as spring rolls, there was also grilled pork, some sausage, and what appeared to be a sort or pressed crabmeat or fish meat.

If you want a quick meal for $10 and under then this isn’t a bad option to consider but I’m not sure that I’ll head back there again. There just wasn’t enough to draw me back. [AP]
Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar
Level 1
292 - 294 Victoria St
NSW 2010
Ph : (02) 9356 3429

So I got a call from RE asking me if as a thank you for helping when I actually didn’t realise that I had, she could take me out to lunch.  But you really don’t need to, I naturally replied. Nonono, she insisted, lunch for you!


I had been actually craving some Soupe a l'oignon and Croque Monsieur (in the one meal) for some time, and my attempt at Weight Loss Through Healthier Eating was, after it’s initial buzz, getting a bit old. I wanted some cheese in some manner or form, and I wanted it NOW!

I had browsed Tastevin’s website numerous times but like so many places, just hadn’t made it there. There was also the minor Issue of Bunnies. They didn’t have bunnies on the menu on all the occasions I looked, but I had a fear that at some point they would. Sure, it’s all just in my head, but I have never been able to think about the poor wee things as food, especially after one of my sisters had a pet dwarf grey called Niki who had way too much personality for one small rabbit (including peeing on the laps of people she didn’t like).

I did a quick check of the website and it seemed to be bunny free. At least temporarily, so I went to meet up with RE.

It was during that unexpectedly hot period at the beginning of June, when it felt more like Spring than Winter. The crowds were outside in force dining on Victoria St, but when we headed up the stairs, there was no-one there, so we wondered whether in fact they were open, though they were clearly meant to be.

Happily, they were, and even more happily, I recognised the person coming over to greet us. I don’t get out and about dining as much as I would like to, but despite not having seen me for really quite a while, I was astonished that owner Natasha, who used to be at Bambini Trust, actually remembered me! I definitely remembered her from my various visits to Bambini over the years, and was even more pleased to find out that Tastevin was her and her husband Alex’s.

Alas my soup plans went to pieces, as it seems that it wasn’t ready yet, but Natasha offered us the option of a Cauliflower Soup w Boudin Noir instead. Well obviously that sounded like a good option so I ordered the soup plus the Croque Monsieur w Green Salad and Dijon Vinaigrette ($14) and the evidently not hungry RE just ordered the soup and some of the house bread with olive oil and French butter.

We enjoyed having the dining area to ourselves and being seated by the window. It is a welcoming room, full of natural light in the day time, and providing some peace from the bustling crowds below.

And so to the soup.

We were actually happy that serendipity lead us to this soup rather than what we had been hoping for. It was quite subtle in taste, no overwhelming cauliflower, and one of those dishes where the more you have of it, the more pleasure you seem to derive from it, and the more you want. The Boudin Noir and toasted almonds on the top provided some nice crunch and body to it.

RE, who basically ate her way through a rather large bread basket despite having stated that she was not hungry, became enraptured by the accompanying olive oil.

Now, what I had been hanging out for, my Croque Monsieur.

The Big Question –béchamel or no béchamel? I must confess that I prefer mine with, but obviously I’m not going to reject a CM on account of it not having any, if the rest of it is tasty. As you can tell, this one was sans béchamel.

The accompanying salad was generously sized and simple but satisfying but I don’t know...am I being too fussy? I kind of like my CMs to be slightly gooey from the cheese, so that I have to eat it with a knife and fork. It’s not that this was a bad sandwich, because it wasn’t, but it just didn’t quite hit the spot as I had hoped that it would.....

Would I go back? Yes, but not for the CM, but to try something else. The restaurant itself, the moreishness of the soup, and it being Natasha’s restaurant are enough for me to want to support it. I’ve subsequently read some reviews about it and will probably order quite differently on my next visit. [AP]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Red Chilli 2

25-29 Harbour St
NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 9211 8130

There’s food with chillis, and there’s Szechuan food. Although I’m not entirely sure as to where my tastebuds lie on the continuum of chilli tolerance, I love a chilli kick and get chilli cravings which generally require immediate satiation.

Despite having now been in Sydney for a decade, I had yet to make it to the Red Chilli Restaurant on Dixon St. Having only realised recently that there was a second branch, on Harbour St, I figured that it was as good a time as any to pay a visit to Red Chili 2.

Along with the very useful photos of all dishes in their menu, there are the little pictures of chillis to warn the diner about the level of chilli in certain dishes. That is, if you’re actually paying attention to minor details like that. If you’re not, then you end up ordering dishes all rated “2 chillis” (with one exception) without realising that 2 on their scale is more than 2 on other restaurants’ scales, and that this may possibly leave your tongue somewhat numb, and with lingering effects of numbness possibly even lasting for over 24 hours....

The first dish that arrived was the Dan Dan Noodles. Unfortunately, I had to take a call at that moment, and by the time I returned to the table, all but a little bit of the $6.50 worth of noodles was left, and well, there wasn’t much to photograph. This was the one non chilli dish; not like most other iterations of Dan Dan noodles that I’ve had, but definitely something worth returning for.

I have a general rule of thumb. When you find yourself launching a miniature chopstick search team for the actual non chilli parts of the dish so that you don’t consume nothing but mouthfuls of chillis, there’s probably too many of them. Especially when it seems that there are in fact about half a kilo worth of chillis.

Okay so that’s a slight exaggeration but the dish in question was the Stir Fried King Prawns w Cucumber in Hot Chilli Oil ($38.80). Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? Not only had I neglected to look at the Chilli Quotient, I hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual photo. Nor had the dining companions.

This was an extremely generously sized dish. It was also packed almost solid with chillis. I have never seen so many chillis in a single dish in my entire life. I spent half the meal goggling at it. There were a lot of prawns, and after we managed to get the obviously visible ones out and into our stomachs, it was like a ladle fishing expedition for the rest – ladle in, see what comes out. If you didn’t use the oil as some sort of a soup, which is what I half suspect that we were meant to do (why the need for a ladle if not for this?) then it was edible; but if you’d spooned even a little of that hardcore oil in, your tastebuds would have decided to temporarily quit. Mind you, I did take some of the leftover oil home afterwards to use as cooking oil. It’s going to last a looong time....

The next dish was Double Cooked Pork Slice with Dry Chilli and Garlic Choy ($18.80).

Double cooked pork is a favoured dish of one of the dining companions and he said that this was cooked in a more modern than traditional style with regards to the texture/ dryness level of the pork, and the plethora of chillis. This was a pretty hot dish. In its own way, more so than the prawns.

Dish the fourth was the Stir Fried Beef w Green Beans and Preserved Vegetables ($22.80).

This was meant to be “the vegetable dish” but we all agreed that we should have paid more attention and chosen a more palate neutral vegetable option.....!
The flavour of the beef and beans was actually to my mind at least, the best flavouring of the night. I just wish that they had used a few less chillis and more crucially, fewer Szechuan peppercorns. If I took random mouthfuls, about a third of each mouthful would be the peppercorns, and this somewhat dominated the dish at the expense of the actual flavours, which I really enjoyed. In the end I had to basically put a spoonful in my bowl and pick out all the peppercorns before eating the remaining beef & veg. It’s a dish that I’d be like to order again, but perhaps if I was feeling brave enough to ask the chef to reduce the peppercorn factor.... :-O

After the gallons of tea and endless bowls of rice, I needed something sweet to balance my tastebuds so yes, why not try some Szechuan Egg Puff Pastry ($8.80)?

I'm not quite sure where the "puff" bit came into it but they were enjoyable. Not too sweet and just hit the spot.

Would I return? Yes, but I’d order more carefully next time. It is a pleasant restaurant and the wait staff were really very good in the sense of being good enough for it to be noticed. Very thoughtful, attentive to the right degree, and wearing tops with these really cool little pen pockets on their sleeves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Ramen Gumshara
Eating World
Harbour Plaza
Dixon Court
25-29 Dixon St,
Closed : Mondays

Little did I know that this simple tweet :

Tonkotsu ramen at eating world again...it is the most chronic ramen in sydney... not for the faint hearted

by Dan Hong on May 29 would lead to half a dozen ramens eaten in a fortnight.

“Chronic”? What is “chronic ramen?” If it’s not for the fainthearted, consider me in.

So off I went to Ramen Gumshara to understood the true meaning of “chronic”. They warn you, the ramen masters at Gumshara.

All the ramen is made with the same broth. Dan Hong subsequently discovered that it takes seven days to make the chronic stock, which consists of only three ingredients – bones, water and soy. They use a truly astonishing 120kg of pork bones every day.

I ordered the tonkotsu ramen in its unadulterated glory. No extra eggs, no extra anything.

Well. The soup is absolutely "chronic". Dense, meaty, full to the gills of flavour. Not a soup to be wasted. On each of my return visits, every last drop has been finished, of course.

On my most recent trip, when I brought two others along, the soup proved too much for the one person I’d have thought would have relished its chronicness (or is that “chronicicity”?). On that occasion, there a serving of gyoza was ordered.

I love gyoza and these were fine examples indeed, but my heart belongs to the (original?) Chinese version, I am afraid.

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon
Perama Greek Restaurant
88 Audley St
NSW 2049
Ph : (02) 95697534
Open : Tues- Sat 6.00 pm - 10.30 pm

Yasou! It had been a long time since I’d been to Perama. Too long for admit to. The last time had been a large group and my enduring memory had been of the incredible caramel baklava ice cream. There was no rational reason for not having revisited, the only excuses I have are that for a non driver, Petersham just seemed awfully far to travel unless my usual dining companion was available or I could hitch a ride from a driver. I know a surprising number of non drivers....

After following Perama owner/ chef David Tsirekas on twitter for a while, I decided that it was definitely time to return. Unfortunately ABC was unavailable, he is so busy these days, so my food buddies T&M were to be my dining companions for the evening.

GFC or no GFC in Australia, Perama quickly filled up after our arrival (I won’t go into the drama of getting there, as competing navigational instructions in stereo almost caused the driver to implode) and we decided to have the banquet ($50pp)

First up came the trio of dips (Tarama, Tzatziki, Split Pea), plus Greek Salad and bread.

The bread was still warm and with a crunchy crust. We were asked whether we wanted the bread basket refilled, a touch that for some reason is not always the rule of thumb in restaurants. I have no idea why, but it goes a long way in my books! Of the three dips, my favourite was the tarama but then again, I do have a softness for it and have been known to consume vast quantities if given the chance.....

The accompanying salad was fresh and the tomatoes juicy and sweet. In fact they were the best tomatoes I’ve had all year, and I would have happily eaten more of them.

Next up came the Mixed Pickles of cabbage, mushroom and octopus.

For some reason, I neglected to ask T&M what their favourite was but mine was the octopus, which was tender and moreish. I thought of these dishes more as “filler” items, and was hanging out for the mains.....

Ah the BBQd Haloumi with Honey Peppered Figs....I’m well known for not being super keen on the combination of fruit and anything savoury (no, not even cheeses LOL), and M feels similarly. If I eat haloumi it’s mostly without any accompaniments as such, and though I know that haloumi and figs are known to pair well, I’d never actually eaten it. I now wish that I had tried this combination years ago, but suspect that T actually ate most of the honeyed figs but I’ll forgive him for that just this once.....

Next up came the Filo Pastries

I seem to recall once reading something in the SMH that David’s mother makes the filo, but I’ll stand corrected on that if it’s wrong. Whoever makes the filo, it is worth taking a moment to savour its lightness, and especially to make sure you get some of the sauce.

For some reason, at this point M, who had apparently had a large lunch, was starting to feel full. I asked her if she was kidding me, as we were only half way through!!! There was no way that I was going to let her get away with not eat some of everything....

I later found out that David’s mother makes Perama’s Dolmathes and the rice she uses in them has larger grains than the Dolmathes/ Dolmades that I have been accustomed to eating. For me at any rate, this makes a huge difference. I’m Chinese, I don’t mind mushy rice, I love congee (!) but now I know that I like my Dolmathes rice grains BIG, and cooked so that I can still distinguish each grain....mmm.....

I think that my dining companions and I were a Bit Slow that night. A plate appeared on the table with a flourish and announcement that it was Pork Belly Baklava from David. It took me a solid 10 seconds before it registered and I asked M whether I’d heard correctly. I think that I got a bit overexcited, as the photograph I took is a bit dodgy to say the least.

Searching out the woman who had presented us with the Pork Belly Baklava, I reinforced my massive Slow Moment and then, after getting her okay, tentatively made my way into the kitchen’s pass area. It was very quiet and busy in there, and I stood there sort of half shuffling from one foot to the other, eventually bleating out “David?” when I realised that I couldn’t stand there silently forever, hoping that he could read my mind.

What a lovely man is David. As I said hi and thanked him, he couldn’t have been more welcoming to me. Despite being so busy and having to cook for a full house, he was so approachable and happy to chat to me for a minute or two as he was cooking that I wanted to just hang out and watch and chat, which I obviously couldn’t. I did tell him that I was hanging out for the ice cream and he reminded me that there were several courses to go before dessert....

Described as “layers of flaky filo pastry, pork belly meat, date and pistachios, topped with crispy crackling and served with a date and mastic sauce”, it was subject to some debate with M as to how sweet it would be, it being baklava and all.

It was baklava and yet not baklava. T, whom I think was probably the biggest pork belly fan out of the three of us, managed to scoff most of the pork belly. I reckon I had more of the actual pastry and sauce.

By this time, M had declared that she could not possibly stomach another bite. We had all forgotten how many dishes there were in the banquet menu, and discussion about whether there might be one or two items left before the desserts really was, in retrospect, quite pointless, as I was going to finish it all, come hell or high water!

The next item turned out to be the Fried Calamari.

Now I am not a food Nazi, and my food knowledge really needs some more work. I am not as particular as some people about their calamari. I don’t mind if it’s a little chewy. In fact sometimes I like it a little bit chewy, especially in the case of salt & pepper calamari. I don’t think of T&M as food Nazis either, but they are more particular than I am.

I tried the calamari first and perhaps we should have been a little less liberal with the lemon (though I absolutely love the sourness of lemon and in fact tend to add more lemon to food than most) but really, there is nothing that I can say about this dish except to say that the calamari was cooked absolutely perfectly. T’s eyebrows raised as he had his first piece and he insisted that M try some. It was almost so tender that it required very little effort chewing. I want to be able to cook calamari like that. I don’t know who was responsible for it but you rock.

Mind you, that was nothing compared to the response to the next course, the Lamb Skaras served with baked potatoes and string beans with crumbled Fetta.

When it appeared, M declared that she was, as she is wont to say, “full to Pussy’s bow” and incapable of any more food. At all. End of story. The serving was huge. We looked at it agog. I reminded them about dessert, which I was still hanging out for.

M had to go to the car to get something so T and I dug in. One word – awesomeness. I eat lamb maybe twice a year at most but this lamb I could eat weekly. The menu describes it as “Slow braised shoulder lean lamb with oregano, olive oil, wine and garlic, then char grilled with a lemon, olive oil baste”.

After he took his first mouthful, T’s jaw dropped. I put a mouthful on M’s plate, along with a few beans and potatoes, because if there was one course that she could not miss, it was this one. I don’t know how many hours it had been cooked for, and the proportions of oregano, olive oil, wine and garlic which David used, but the result was meat so flavoursome and so tender that it melted in your mouth, perfect food on a cold night. The beans were cooked so that they still retained a crunch to them, so if you like your beans a little more cooked, that’s just too bad; I like my beans still a bit crunchy, and especially as a counterpoint to the tenderness of the lamb.

OMG the lamb. I am still craving it as I type, and in fact am trying to discreetly lobby someone to be my dining companion so that I can hopefully return to Perama within the next fortnight.

It was going to be a Secret, but I feel compelled to confess something that happened on that night to the lamb. It’s kind of embarrassing, and David, if you read this, I hope that you’ll understand....!

There was no way that we would be able to finish the lamb and still have room for dessert. I wanted to try to eat it all that night, but the other two simply couldn’t find the stomach space. We engaged in some vigorous debate about asking if we could take the remainder away; I thought “no”, on the grounds that well, I didn’t think that Perama did takeaways exactly, and that they probably didn’t have any containers. M chirped up with the suggestion that she had a clean container in the car, from lunch.

Well I think that it was done quickly and discreetly, as no-one came over and asked if we needed help, but I kept on thinking that OMG we were going to be discovered and......


The kind staff asked if we wanted a break before desserts and yup, we took it, hoping that we’d digest some food before my ice cream!

Oh yeah baby, come to Mama! Caramel Baklava Ice Cream (sliced layers of vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce and baklava) and their famous Bougasta (Mandarin flavoured milk semolina custard wrapped in filo. Served with a tahini and mint cream sauce).

For the final time that night, M insisted that she couldn’t fit in another mouthful, and T and I insisted that she did. I think that I said “do you see why I’ve been hanging out for dessert?!?” too many times and commend them both for not telling me to shut up and simply eat. I had more than my share but hey, someone’s got to finish it, right?

I had to virtually be rolled out the door, and M & I are absolutely convinced that the car tipped over to the left when two of us got in on the lefthand side....

Postcript : T was looking forward to a lunch of leftover lamb the next day, only to discover that it had mysteriously disappeared. M insists that she left one or two pieces for him. Weeks after the fact, it’s still a point of contention. [AP]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ikea Homebush Bay
Entry via Rhodes Shopping Centre
Off Homebush Bay Drive
1 Oulton Avenue
NSW 2138
(02) 8002 0400

Okay so I was suggestible. After having repeatedly read about the Ikea Sydney foodbloggers evening repeatedly, and thinking that a trip to Ikea can never go astray, off I headed for some meatballs!

I hadn’t been to Ikea for a long time, in fact not since they moved to Homebush Bay, as for someone without a car, it just seemed an awful long way to go given that the chances were high that I’d depart with armfuls of stuff to heavy to lug back on the train. But for food? I’ll travel....

It’s actually very accessible by train, and had I know earlier, I’d have probably made it there a long time ago. Naturally, my first stop was the restaurant.

Traditional Swedish Meatballs - Served with gravy and lingonberry jam with a side of chips or a boiled potato. $6.95 for 10 meatballs

I have to confess that the meatballs weren’t as good as I had remembered them. They were okay and are a deadest bargain, but I wasn’t sufficiently moved to buy any to take home, nor to think about ordering the next time I’m there. I should have tried the cinnamon roll; I have a weakness for Swedish Cinnamon rolls and can still remember the taste of some truly memorable ones I had in Stockholm. Due to my appetite for a bargain, I also had one of the $1 hot dogs.....

After loading up with various bits and pieces for myself and ABC’s shop, I hit greater gastronomic success in the shop, where I purchased some moose shaped pasta for TM, some herring for myself, and some Elderflower cordial which was very more-ish.

Ikea is probably not a food destination for me but would I go back to get some of the cordial and buy some bits and pieces? Yes. [AP]

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fix St James

Fix St James
111 Elizabeth St
NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 9232 2767

Meal : 27 May 2009

P had been given several CBD options for a special lunch, the geographical restriction resulting from his work commitments. They were all restaurants which he had not yet visited, and he chose Fix St James. I had been hoping for the possibility of trying the “Quick Fix”, and hoped that ABC would be open to this suggestion. Happily, he was!

There are two options to the “Quick Fix” – the first is five dishes to share at $35pp, and the second, at $40pp, includes a glass of house wine and coffee. These two deals are prominently promoted via a blackboard outside the restaurant, and GFC or no GFC, they seemed to be doing fairly well on the day that we dined, as well as on a subsequent date when ABC and I did a coffee pitstop there.

One of the beauties of the “Quick Fix” and its more expensive sibling the “Long Fix”, which consists of the “Quick Fix” plus pasta, main and dessert ($65pp) is that you don’t know what you’re going to get until it arrives. Unfortunately, this also means that if you dine there twice within a short period of time, there’s a possibility that you may encounter a certain amount of meal duplication. We weren’t actually asked by the staff about whether we had any allergies etc so I guess that the assumption is that you don’t have any food restrictions if you’re going to put your stomach in the hands of the chef!

I suppose that the first dishes came out quickly because it is a “quick fix” after all, but the simultaneous arrival of

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

Flash Fried Calamari w/ Aioli

Stuffed Zucchini Flower

meant that space was at a premium, and the plates, bread, glasses etc had to be juggled a bit. The stuffed Zucchini flowers were crunchy and delicate and of the two non salad dishes, probably my preferred dish because the calamari was slightly more chewy than I had expected it would be. The Panzanella was a nice contrast to the other two dishes; I don’t know whether it was simply a case of ABC having taken all the nice crunchy bread and the anchovy, but at the end of it I was trying to unsuccessfully conjure up some more of both!

The wait between these three dishes and the next one was less rushed than the initial one, and it gave us time to simply enjoy yourselves and me to take photos of ABC’s two Longines, a photo which unfortunately didn’t turn out very well...

The one on the left is the Longines Sports Legends "Legends Diver" L3.674.4.56.2 and on the right, the Longines Master Collection L2.717.4.78.5 Quadruple Retrograde.

The next dish to appear was the Beef Carpaccio, normally not a dish I order, but one which I do enjoy on the rare occasion that I eat it.

I quite enjoyed having the radish there as well as the baby herbs, as the radish gave the tender beef a nice crunchy textural contrast.

The final dish, and by this time ABC was sufficiently full to have been happy to stop eating, was Quail with Bacon & Cabbage.

The quail was very slightly pink in the middle, which is how I like it, but love quail as I do, for some reason the part of this dish which rocked my boat the most was the bacon and cabbage. I could have eaten bowls of it!!!

By this time we were “well full”, as they say, and there was no room for dessert, but I felt compelled to have a small sugar hit so we ordered two truffles with our coffee.

Would I return? Yes. The QF deal was a good one, and the food to my liking. Next time perhaps I’ll try something else.