Sushi Samurai, Neutral Bay

Queen Chu is one of my best friends. The reason why we work so well together is because we’re both obsessed with food. We both love to cook, we both love to read cookbooks, and, of course, we both love to eat. Unfortunately since uni started this year, there hasn’t been much time for us to do any of those things together because we are both drowning in the seemingly insurmountable workload that comprises an honours thesis. Somewhat amazingly, along came a weekend when we were both relatively free and immediately we began brainstorming places to eat. We rounded up a group of 6 and headed to Sushi Samurai to catch up over some sushi.

Luckily I had made a booking earlier in the day because when we arrived at 7.30pm on a Saturday night it was completely packed and they were turning away people who had rocked up hoping to get a table. The restaurant was quite dark which made it difficult to read the extensive menu as well as take photos. We were also seated under the air conditioner which was dripping water occasionally onto the table so we made sure we didn’t put any of the food in that spot!

Agedashi tofu – $6.80

The food came out quite quickly considering how busy they were. We started off with two serves of the agedashi tofu. Each serve had three pieces of tofu which was perfect for sharing.

The tofu came topped with sesame seeds, spring onions and finely grated daikon radish and they sat in a rich soy and dashi broth. The deep fried potato starch casing became sticky and glutinous as it soaked up the delicious broth.

Cream croquettes (crab flavour) – $5.80

As soon as I saw cream croquettes on the menu I had to order them. Who could resist crumbed and deep fried batons with a creamy filling? I couldn’t detect much of a crab flavour to them, but that didn’t matter because what I was really after was the super crunchy outside and the creamy insides. These came with a sweet chilli sauce but we all preferred the Japanese mayonnaise, especially MB who made sure every last bit of it was consumed.

Karaage chicken (6 pcs) – $8.80

Karaage chicken is one of my benchmark dishes when I go to Japanese places and this one hit the spot. The chicken was juicy and tender and the batter on the outside was crunchy and well-seasoned. Again it came with the sweet chilli sauce but we dipped it in the small dollop of Japanese mayonnaise.

Eggplant with sweet miso sauce – $6.80

BLT and Queen Chu requested the miso eggplant and although I don’t usually like eggplant, this one was delicious and I kept going back for more. The eggplant was soft and yielding and smothered in a sweet miso paste. Definitely something I would order again.

Sushi and sashimi combo – $38.80

Seeing as we had quite a few sushi and sashimi lovers, we went ahead and ordered the sushi and sashimi combo which was a long platter filled with salmon avocado roll, assorted nigiri and fresh sashimi.

There were some oohs when this large platter was placed on the table and we eagerly dug in. The sashimi slices consisted of salmon, kingfish and tuna, and the nigiri included prawn, cuttlefish and egg amongst others. There was a long silence while everyone ate their sushi and sashimi, which I took as a sign of enjoyment. The platter also came with two bowls of miso soup (not pictured).

Tiger roll – $13.80

We also ordered the tiger roll which was a tempura prawn inside-out roll which was topped with thinly sliced avocado, sesame seeds and squiggles of Japanese mayonnaise. It was satisfying but couldn’t quite compete with the enticing fresh sushi and sashimi platter.

Tempura (main) – $18.80

Last but not least, the tempura arrived in a basket and was still hot and fresh from the deep fryer. The tempura serving was very generous, with two prawns, two pieces of fish and lots of vegetables. The batter was very light and crunchy which is exactly how I like it.

It turns out we ordered the perfect amount of food, as everyone was full and satisfied but there was no leftover food on the table. Both Queen Chu and I had satisfied our sushi cravings, and after a night of food, fun and laughter with friends, we parted ways to get back to the ominous mountains of honours work awaiting us at home. Until next time.

Sushi Samurai

Shop 3, 197 Military Road
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Ph: +61 2 9953 4059
Open 7 days, 11am-2.30pm and 5.30pm-10pm

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Lime Soufflés

I always like to finish off my meals on a sweet note. It just doesn’t feel right sometimes to eat all that savoury food for dinner and not enjoy dessert at the end to balance it all out. But I hate when I’ve eaten way too much food and then out comes this rich, cloying dessert which I struggle to finish – not because it doesn’t taste awesome but because even my reserve dessert stomach is reaching its limits. Sad, but true.

That’s why this lime soufflé is so great – the tartness of the lime means it’s not sickeningly sweet and the light, marshmallow texture of the soufflé almost makes you think you’re eating lime flavoured clouds which melt away in your mouth. Better still, it’s the dessert which I can eat heaps of without feeling like I’m going to explode afterwards.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can pretty much use whatever fruit you have on hand, just adjust the amount of sugar according to how sweet the fruit is. My favourite part of making soufflé though is taking them out of the oven to see them standing tall and proud above the edge of the ramekin and the lovely golden brown tops. And then eating them afterwards!

Lime Soufflé

100ml lime juice
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon water, extra
5 egg whites
1/3 cup caster sugar, extra
Butter, melted, for greasing
Caster sugar for dusting

1. Place the lime juice, 2/3 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over low heat and whisk to dissolve sugar. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, combine cornflour with 1 tablespoon extra water and mix to form a smooth paste. Whisking constantly, add paste to the pan and cook for 1 minuteuntil slightly thickened. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 180ºC. With the melted butter, grease 6 x 3/4 cup capacity ramekins and dust with caster sugar. Place the egg whites into a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the extra 1/3 cup of sugar, beating until glossy. Stir 1/4 of egg whites into the cooled lime mixture, before adding remaining egg whites and folding gently to combine.

3. Distribute mixture evenly among the ramekins and level. Wipe the rim of each ramekin with your finger to ensure a clean rise. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until risen and golden. Serve immediately.

Rise, Darlinghurst

One birthday celebration simply isn’t enough. After celebrating Sir D’s birthday at Masuya, we celebrated again with more food of course at Rise in Darlinghurst, who has (in my opinion) one of the best value degustations in Sydney.

China Blue: a mixing sensation of grapefruit juice and paraiso – $10

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday nights, Rise offers their 7 course degustation at 25% off the usual price, for just $48pp, which is fantastic value. Of course we took up this offer, and we arrived for at the first 6.30pm sitting on a cool Tuesday night.

Spicy pork belly salad with tofu and bean sprouts namuru

The first course is the spicy pork belly salad, which is a soft square of tofu holding up some peppery rocket, slices of roast pork belly and topped with a pile of bean sprouts. Although the pork belly is nice, what really wins me over is the combination of the bean sprouts which have a lovely sesame flavour and the cooling sensation of the tofu.

Sweet corn soup with scallop mousse

The next course is a soup and tonight they are serving sweet corn soup with a scallop mousse. The soup is delicious and I particularly like it because I love corn! It’s light and creamy and flavoured with dill and at the bottom of the soup are some small dried berry-like things. The scallop mousse reminds me of a chunk of scallop boudin blanc, a melt-in-the-mouth, creamy soft sausage made from scallop.

Assorted fresh market sashimi

My favourite course of the night is the sashimi and it’s something I look forward to everytime I come to Rise. Tonight we are served (left to right) kingfish with mustard vinaigrette, ocean trout with wasabi and soy, and fresh oyster with Thai style fish sauce. The kingfish is lovely with a nice tang from the mustard vinaigrette sauce but after the second slice of kingfish I start to find the sauce overpowers the delicate flavour of the kingfish. With traditional accompaniments of wasabi and soy, the ocean trout cannot go wrong and it’s very fresh. I was surprised at the oyster since I’m not a big fan of Thai flavours but I found I really enjoyed the dressing on the oyster, it was very subtly flavoured and still allowed the natural flavours of the oyster to shine through.

(L-R) Blanched scampi, green papaya and citrus pepper mayo; Soy milk flan, shiitake sauce; Rice paper roll of cured salmon and mango

Next is a platter of mixed entrees and I’m very excited to see scampi on the menu! The plate of bite-sized morsels is beautifully presented and I never know where to start with these kinds of tasting plates.

Blanched scampi, green papaya and citrus pepper mayo

I decide to taste the scampi first which was probably a good choice since it was the least flavoursome of the three. I didn’t detect any citrus or pepper flavour in the mayo so the whole spoonful ended up being quite bland. Sir D thought it didn’t taste like anything and I have to agree that after blanching, the scampi seemed to lose its natural sweetness that is present in its raw form which was a bit disappointing.

Rice paper roll of cured salmon and mango

I tried the rice paper roll next which had a chunk of cured salmon, a small piece of mango with lettuce and radish as fillers. Although it wasn’t anything spectacular, the mango and salmon paired well together and it was nice and fresh.

Soy milk flan, shiitake sauce

The soy milk flan was my favourite of the three, with an intense broth of shiitake mushrooms on top of the soy milk flan. I loved the flavour of the shiitake sauce and although it was a tad salty by itself, when eaten with the flan it was perfect. There were also thin slices of shiitake mushroom and some goji berries on top of the flan.

Tempura oyster and soba salad with ponzu sauce

Starting to get into some more substantial dishes now, we are served a tempura oyster and soba salad with ponzu sauce. The tempura oyster has a lovely crisp tempura batter encasing a soft creamy oyster. I love the ponzu sauce and the bits of seaweed alongside the cold soba noodles and only wish that this dish was a bit bigger!

Roasted duck breast, stuffed zucchini flower and Hoisin sauce

The main dish is a roasted duck breast is cooked perfectly and the slices of pink meat with a small layer of fat is absolute heaven to eat. Underneath the slices of duck are the deep fried stuffed zucchini flowers, rocket and deep fried eggplant. Neither Sir D nor I usually enjoy eggplant but I suppose everything is better when it’s deep fried because we devour the eggplant with no problems whatsoever! This dish is also served with rice which is perfect for getting all the duck juices and sauce.

The desserts take a while to come out and we soon realise why. They have arranged a special platter of desserts for Sir D’s birthday and written “Happy Birthday” on the plate in chocolate. It’s brought out with a lit sparkler over to our table which is a nice touch.

The dessert as part of tonight’s degustation is a coffee pannacotta with tapioca pearls and a coconut granita. I’m not a big fan of the granita but the coffee pannacotta is smooth and a touch bitter and I love the chewy tapioca pearls.

We also receive some extra desserts on top of the usual one served with the degustation as part of the birthday dessert platter. In the foreground is a frozen white chocolate mousse wrapped in persimmon, and in the background is a rum and raisin ice cream on top of some sort of fruit slice that has dried apricots and sultanas in it and a puff pastry base. I have to say that desserts definitely aren’t Rise’s forte but we did get bonus desserts so I’m not complaining :)

Rise is one of those places that I will keep coming back to over and over again because it is such great value and the food is great. I’ve never been disappointed by the food or the service here and although the portions are quite small in the end the total amount of food is substantial. But of course, if you’re still hungry, Gelato Messina isn’t too far away ;)

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I did go to Gelato Messina and I tried the pavlova flavour that night for the first time – it was amazing with chunks of meringue and ripples of berry and passionfruit throughout the ice cream!

23 Craigend Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9357 1755
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm-10pm

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Apple Cinnamon Tea Cake

Dad: “Bake me a cake for afternoon tea!”

This is what happens when people start realising that you can bake half-decent cakes. You get requests for healthy birthday cakes and spontaneous afternoon teas.

My dad requested I make him a cake for afternoon tea one day after my parents had come back from shopping and were unsuccessful at purchasing any afternoon tea-worthy from the shops. I happily obliged – any excuse to get out of doing uni work to bake! I noticed that we had a lot of apples in our fruitbowl so I decided to make an apple cinnamon tea cake.

This cake has a slight spicyness from the cinnamon and an almost crunchy crust. But the inside of the cake is lovely and moist with surprise slices of caramelised apple hidden away at the bottom of the cake.

I cut myself a warming and comforting slice when it was still fresh out of the oven and it was perfect for the chilly weather we’ve been having in Sydney recently. Serve thick slices of warm cake with a cup of tea, and you have one content Dad :)

Apple Cinnamon Tea Cake

adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine

4 apples
30 g unsalted butter, softened
330 g (1½ cups) caster sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
300 g (2 cups) self-raising flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Peel, core and quarter apples, then thinly slice lengthways. Heat a small amount of butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add apples, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and sauté for 8 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Cool to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale, add sugar and beat until well combined and doubled in volume. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to incorporate before adding the next. Add vanilla and whisk to combine.

3. Sift flour, sea salt and cinnamon over batter and gently fold until combined. Spoon half the mixture into a lined 26cm diameter cake pan. Spread apples evenly over batter and top with remaining batter.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer draws clean. Stand for 10 minutes then transfer cake to a wire rack to cool.

Masuya, Sydney

It appears I am being stalked. Or even worse, it is me who is the stalker! Because even though it had only been three weeks ago that I happened to bump into Ellie from Almost Bourdain at Quay restaurant, there she was again sitting across the room from me at Masuya on this very night.

Gyokuro Green Tea Shake – $5.80

We’re here tonight to celebrate Sir D’s birthday, and we start off with some drinks. The green tea shake is a frothy, milky drink topped with a swirl of whipped cream and sweetened red bean. I wish I had ordered a couple more of these because they were so good I could drink them all day! The shake was quite sweet from the Tasmanian honey in it but still retained the subtle bitterness of the green tea.

Sashimi Platter Special – $58.00

The first thing to arrive was our platter of sashimi – something I had been looking forward to all day! This plate was completely packed with fresh slices of salmon, tuna, kingfish, hokki, scallop and scampi.

There was no doubt that the sashimi was top quality, and it was deceptively filling even though we shared this between 4 people. My favourites were the super sweet scallop slices and scampi, but everything on the platter was delicious and fresh.

Sushi “O’Connell” – $19.80

Since we ordered a large plate of sashimi, we decided to get a small plate of sushi. The Sushi “O’Connell” was a combination of traditional and modern sushi and I was particularly keen to try out the aburi sushi. I loved the spotty grill marks on the aburi salmon nigiri but they only had a very subtle smokey flavour which was a bit disappointing.

Beef Tataki – $13.80

The beef tataki consisted of seared rare grain-fed beef slices sitting on top of a bed of onion and a side of ponzu sauce. It was going to be hard for this dish to live up to the high standard of the sashimi platter, and I found the beef a tad dry although the ponzu sauce and a squeeze of lemon definitely helped things.

Katsutama Pork Loin – $21.80

Moving on to some more filling dishes, we begin with the Katsutama pork loin which is comfort food at its best. A deep fried crumbed pork loin, covered with egg and onions sitting in a sweet soy sauce arrives on our table and we dig in enthusiastically and although the crumbing of the pork isn’t that crunchy anymore, it tastes wonderful having soaked up the sweet soy sauce. Even better is when you take spoonfuls of the sauce and drizzle it onto a bowl of rice and eat it with the succulent crumbed pork. Bliss.

Jewfish Masuya’s Way – $23.00

The next dish which is delivered to our table is met by peculiar looks from us as the waiter tells us this is jewfish. Where is the fish?

Cutting through the crispy potato net reveals a fillet of jewfish encased by finely sliced potato which have been oven baked until they are like crunchy french fries. This dish is a new twist on the traditional fish and chips, with the perfectly cooked fish being baked inside the ‘chips’, and served with a dill lime butter sauce and soy infusion. The ‘chips’ in the potato net are addictive, and I can’t help picking them off one by one and crunching on them.

Wagyu Beef Miso – $32.80

Sir D loves his wagyu so we order the wagyu beef sirloin with miso paste flavouring. The chunks of beef are so, so tender and biting into it releases the flavoursome juices and fat from the marbling in the beef. The sweet miso paste is a nice complement to the beef, and the dish includes some green beans, cauliflower and wasabi mashed potato. Although this dish wasn’t as stunning as that sashimi platter (nothing comes between me and sashimi!), it came a very close second and I was sad when the last piece of beef was eaten because I just wanted more and more!

When I mentioned that it was Sir D’s birthday, the staff kindly put a few candles in the desserts when they came out which was a nice touch, even if Sir D thought they looked funny.

Tofu and Cream Cheese Cake – $6.80

The two desserts we ordered came out on a nice plate with some fresh fruit. The tofu and cream cheese cake sounded intriguing and unfortunately that’s all it was, because it was just a combination that didn’t turn out quite right. I thought it was going to be like a cheesecake that was flavoured or made with tofu, but it just ended up tasting like a sweetened, dense cream cheese layer on top of a thick layer of not so fluffy sponge cake which was inside the ramekin. Most of this was left behind.

Green Tea Brulee – $6.80

Luckily the dessert was salvaged by the green tea brulee which had a nice toffee layer that cracked under the spoon and an intensely green tea flavoured custard underneath. I loved this dessert and would definitely get it again – Sir D and I were almost fighting for the last bits! I was very glad that we finished with this dessert to end the meal on a pleasant note :)

Despite a few hits and misses with some dishes, most of the food was fantastic. But what you really come here for is the seafood, particularly the sashimi, which is possibly one of the freshest and best in Sydney. It probably wasn’t such a strange occurrence bumping into Ellie at Masuya since I understand she is a regular visitor. And it’s not hard to see why – when you are tempted with awesome green tea shakes, perfectly cooked Wagyu beef and super fresh sashimi, it’s almost impossible to not keep coming back for more.

12-14 O’Connell Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9235 2717 / +61 2 9231 0038
Open for lunch, Monday to Friday, 12pm-2.30pm
Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday, 6pm-10pm

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