Manpuku, Chatswood

With an increasing number of ramen places opening up comes more competition. Chatswood used to be a dead spot for ramen but there’s now several options to choose from, including a newly opened Ippudo in The District, and Manpuku.


I’ve heard good things about Manpuku in Kensington, so I was excited to see that it had opened up closer to home for me and I could finally taste for myself how it stacks up to other ramen places in Sydney. The location is a bit of a walk away from the main shopping precinct, but this hasn’t deterred people from coming. I’ve been a few times now and it’s very popular especially during weekend lunchtimes – so be prepared for a short wait.

Manpuku gyoza – $6.90

Apart from ramen, there’s also some tasty side dishes like takoyaki ($5.50), karaage ($5.50) or mini rice bowls. We start with the Manpuku gyoza – a pork pan-fried dumpling topped with Spanish and spring onions. On my most recent visit, this didn’t seem like it was on the menu anymore, but I can attest the plain pork gyoza is just as good with a nice crispy base and a tangy dipping sauce.

Tonkotsu shoyu ramen – $14.50, with extra egg – $2

There’s a few different types of soup bases to choose from, including chicken soup, pork bone tonkotsu soup, and miso. For most of the soup bases, you can also chose between salt (shio) or soy (shoyu).

The tonkotsu soup is creamy and rich but not too thick. The tonkotsu shoyu is a bit salty for my liking, but the shio version which I’ve had on subsequent visits, has a pleasant balance of saltiness and umami. Both come with two slices of cha shu, bean sprouts, cabbage, black fungus and a sheet of nori.

Shio gara ramen – $13.50, with extra egg – $2
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Monopole, Potts Point

When our group of girlfriends started treating the birthday girl to dinner in lieu of birthday presents, I realised what a good opportunity this was to finally check off some restaurants which have been on my go-to list for a long time…

Monopole was FeFiFoFum’s choice for her birthday dinner, and I was secretly pleased because it was a place that I had been wanting to visit for a while. The outside of the restaurant was so dark and inconspicuous that we nearly walked right past it, but when we finally opened the door, we saw that the dark exterior was matched by the “mood lighting” on the inside.

Luckily we had phones to light up the menu, which was split into cured meats, shared dishes, cheese and desserts. Instead of choosing a la carte dishes though, we went with the Monopole menu, which gave us 7 courses for $65pp.

Cured duck breast, cured pork neck, cured Rangers Valley tri tip

We started with three cured meats arranged on a wooden platter with some pickled vegetables. We had the cured duck breast (foreground), cured pork neck (background left) and cured Rangers Valley tri tip. The duck breast was probably the chewiest out of the three, with a slightly more gamey flavour. While others preferred the tri tip bresaola, I relished the silky fatty texture of the cured pork neck.

Cured trevally, pickled cucumber, smoked yoghurt and sea greens

We continued on with a cold course of cured trevally, which was served with discs of pickled cucumber, blobs of smoked yoghurt and sea greens. It was a light and cooling dish, with the slight acidity of the pickles tempered by the smokey yoghurt.

Rangers Valley beef tartare, egg yolk, mushroom and crisp potato skin
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Mrs Mi, Chatswood

I was waking up from an epic sleep-in on Saturday morning when I got a text from Captain Awesome.

“Hey are you going to that robot restaurant today??”

I usually consider myself relatively informed about new restaurant openings, but this I hadn’t heard of. Captain Awesome filled me in on the new Chinese restaurant in Chatswood which has a robot chef, and that as today was their opening day, they would be giving out free bowls of the signature pork mince noodles to the first 88 customers.

I was sold, and clearly Captain Awesome was as well as she’d been waiting for them to open since 10.30am that morning. So we drove out to join her to check out this robot chef in action.

The interior of Mrs Mi

Captain Awesome and a few others had already snagged a table by the time we got there, so we walked right on in, missing the robot chef, and joined them. The restaurant was pretty full and busy, with lots of staff on the floor to help out on the first day of trade.

The menu consists of Northern Chinese specialties, with a focus on dumplings and handmade noodles. We each chose a noodle and also ordered some dumplings to share.

Mrs Mi xiao long bao – $9.80

The xiao long bao were the first to arrive – there’s some stiff competition in the XLB arena in Chatswood with the likes of Din Tai Fung and New Shanghai, but Mrs Mi’s XLBs are damn good and are a serious contender. The dumpling skins were thin, with several pleats at the top, yet were sturdy enough to hold the flavoursome soup inside.

Braised pork belly with noodles – $13.80

All the noodles at Mrs Mi are sliced by the robot chef into a pot of boiling water. There’s a choice of having your noodles in broth or dry. The braised pork belly noodles had some fatty and tender pieces of pork, and some green Chinese vegetables thrown in for good measure. Even though this was a “dry noodle” dish, it still had enough of the braising liquid to coat the noodles with sauce.

Braised beef brisket, and tendon noodle soup – $14.80
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Kujin, Elizabeth Bay

Hand-eye coordination is definitely not my strong suit. There have been countless times where I’ve been presented with the challenge of catching multiple bowls of rice or eggs at a teppanyaki restaurant, only to have most of it land on me and my clothes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the chefs are actually trying to get food on you sometimes, but it’s safe to say that teppanyaki restaurants aren’t really my favourite.

That’s not to say that I don’t love food that is cooked on a teppan. I love the way that the Japanese expertly cook steak, vegetables, noodles and okonomiyaki on a hotplate, and part of the reason why I love it is because the food is cooked right in front of you, allowing you to take in and observe the chef in action.

Cooking at the teppan

Kujin is my kind of teppanyaki restaurant – there’s no food throwing of any description! The menu covers a broad selection of Japanese dishes, from small izakaya-style share plates, tempura, kushiyaki skewers, sashimi, and of course, dishes cooked on the teppan.

Tsukune and chicken thigh skewers – $3.50 each

We start with some kushiyaki skewers that are cooked on a charcoal grill next to the teppan. Both the chicken thigh and the tsukune chicken meatballs are basted in a sweet teriyaki sauce.

Soft shell crab salad – $14
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Elephant Cupcakes

I’ve noticed that as I’ve become busier in other areas of my life, I’ve found less time and less inspiration to challenge my baking skills. I’ve tended to bake old favourites which I know are easy enough that there’s pretty much guaranteed success.

But I know that it’s good to occasionally push the boundaries and do something new, so when Cake Decorating Store offered to send me some surprise baking goodies with the challenge to whip something up with them, I said, ‘Challenge accepted!’

When the package arrived, I opened it and saw some cute jungle animal cookie cutters, an edible ink pen, and a packet of coloured fondant.

So many options, so many choices! I gave some thought to what I could do with the materials and remembered that L’s birthday was coming up. She loves elephants so I stole a bit of inspiration from the back of the cookie cutter package and decided to make some little blue elephants out of the fondant, and attach them to the top of cupcakes.

I’d never worked with fondant before so I read up on how to handle it, how to blend colours and how to roll it out. It turned out to be easier than I expected, though I found out the hard way that it can be quite brittle once it’s dry and crack if you’re not careful! I also learned that I needed to keep the fondant wrapped well when not using it, otherwise it will dry out and become difficult to work with.

While the toppers looked great, I’ve never really liked the taste of fondant so the cupcakes themselves were the real star for me. I made some lemon cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream icing and gently pressed the cupcakes toppers on the icing. I loved the zesty flavour of the lemon cupcakes, but most importantly, the birthday girl loved them too!

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